Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

I have been trying to go through a bunch of stuff from my mom's house and sort through it. One of the problems with that is I keep getting sidetracked. This recipe for example, I found this recipe on a recipe card tucked into one of mom's cookbooks. As soon as I read it I was not only craving it but I was remembering all those pot luck dinners that mom took this dessert to.

For a couple of years of my childhood and into my teen years whenever mom was called upon to bring a dessert to a potluck this was what she made. I think mainly because it was easy to make and carried well to these functions.

I really don't know what the real name of it was because she had just titled the card “refrigerator dessert” I don't know where she got the recipe from either. I just know that when I took a bite of it I was right back there at one of those potlucks surrounded by friends and celebrating whatever event the potluck was for.

I know that mom changed up the cake component depending on what was on hand. Sometimes she used angel food cake and sometimes she used a plain white cake or whatever she had handy I think. Feel free to use whatever your favorite plain light cake is.

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

1 package (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits
a couple of handfuls of slivered almonds, toasted

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cajun Stew

I was really at a loss for what to call this dish, I know what it is not (a jambalaya) but stew comes the closest to what it really is. I came up with this one all because of some sausage I tasted at a demo table at a grocery store several months ago. I needed to just pick up a couple of things and the parking lot at the store I normally go to was a zoo so I went to the store down the street that I don't go to very often. As I was walking through there was a very nice lady offering up samples of a smoked sausage from a company that I was not familiar with. I tried all the varieties and decided to take a package of the cajun spiced one home with me. Now I needed to figure out how to serve. I thought about it a couple of days and decided I wanted to play around with it a bit.

Since I live a ways from the nearest grocery store I always have stuff on hand in the freezer and pantry. When you live out here you don't run to the store at the last minute to pick up something for dinner. There is also no delivery any where near here. I started to think about what I had on hand. I knew there was some chicken breasts in the freezer (these are always in my freezer) and I had picked up some frozen shrimp a few days before. Hummmm.....

I mulled the choices over for a few days and decided to combine the sausages with both of the above meats. I knew I wanted to go cajun style so that meant onion, celery and green pepper. I had all of these on hand so now dinner was coming together. I wanted the chicken and shrimp to stand up to the sausage so I decided to coat these two items with some of my homemade cajun seasoning blend (I'll add that recipe at the end of this post). I knew it wouldn't take much of the seasoning, a little goes along way but it is so good on almost all meats. I had just picked up a bunch of cans of diced tomatoes and I like a tomato base to this kind of dish so that went on my mental list of ingredients. My fresh thyme was doing well at that time too and since there's dry thyme in my seasoning blend I thought that would be a good addition too (I like to add some fresh herbs in wherever I can)

The rest of the ingredients came about as I tasted the dish as I made it the first time.

Now all that being said the day I recorded this I couldn't get the cajun sausage and used some smoked sausage that was labeled Spicy Italian. It worked just as well. If you want to cut back on the spiciness of the dish use a smoked Polish type sausage. Really any variety of pre-cooked (smoked) sausage will work just fine.

We really love this one and it is really easy to make in a larger batch to feed a crowd. Since the different elements are cooked separately and come together at the end just increase it to fill up your crew. The recipe as written is plenty to fill up my son and myself and have plenty of leftovers for lunch.

On the subject of servings and more importantly how many servings my recipes make. That is a really tough question since I am trying to fill up a growing teenage boy. I swear at this age (14) they can eat enough for an army and still pop up for a snack 5 minutes later. He is currently 6' tall and still growing. So how many normal people will this feed?? You will have to be the judge of that one.

Cajun Stew

½ lb large shrimp (peeled, deveined and thawed if frozen)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning blend
½ lb spicy sausage Cajun style or spicy Italian smoked sausage
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 green pepper sliced
3 ribs celery sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
a splash of white wine (optional)
3 Tablespoons of a grainy mustard
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cajun Seasoning Blend

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon read pepper flakes

combine and store in a jar in a dark place. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pickled Red Onions

I discovered this little gem just a couple of years ago. It seemed like every time I picked up a cooking magazine or tuned into the Food Network I saw someone making/serving pickled onions. I tried a couple of recipes and we fell in love with this one. I think it is a combination of several I found in different places but I am not really sure. All I have is the recipe scribbled on a partial piece of yellow legal paper. I keep it tacked to my kitchen bulletin board so I can make these regularly. Truth be told at this point I could probably make them in my sleep though.

There is pretty much always a jar with some of these in our fridge. We use them all the time. They are great on sandwiches of all kinds and just as fantastic in a green salad. I have thrown them into almost every recipe that calls for pickles or pickle relish and so far they have been a huge hit every time. I know that both my son and I have on occasion just grabbed a few to eat on their own too. They really are that good.

I like to store ours in a quart size canning jar. I do this for several reasons first off I have a bunch of them around from the canning that my mom, my grandma and that I have done over the years. The jars are easy to clean and can withstand the hot brine solution going in with the onions. Also the lids give a nice seal so the pickly awesomeness doesn't invade the rest of the contents of the fridge.

I like to heat the brine up in the microwave for about 2 minutes. I tried doing them without heating the liquid up and we just prefer the results this way. The brine doesn't need to come to a boil, just get it hot enough to steam a bit and to dissolve the salt and sugar. I use Tabasco in ours but use your favorite hot sauce, after a batch or two you will know how much to use. I use about 3 or 4 good splashes of it and we find it to be perfect.

These really are best after a day or so, the onions need some time to get friendly with the brine and begin to break down a bit. I really don't know how long they will keep because they have never lasted long enough to find out. The brine is a wonderful addition to salad dressings and just about anywhere else you would use vinegar. It turns a very pretty magenta color from the onions and takes on the flavor of the onions very quickly.

Pickled Red Onions

½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cold water
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 or 4 dashes hot sauce (or to taste)
1 large red onion sliced

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stir and Drop Sugar Cookies

This is the very first cookie recipe I remember making as a young girl and I have made them on a regular basis ever since. I love how easy they are, no mixer required, and they still taste wonderful. I can have fresh from the oven cookies ready to serve in a matter of minutes. They have a wonderful hint of lemon but if you don't like lemon just leave the extract out, they will still be wonderful. The recipe makes a small number of cookies, I usually get between 24 and 30 per batch. The only down side I see to them is they do get stale a bit quicker than some of the other cookies I make but since they are so good they seldom hang around long enough for that to be a problem.

If you have never made cookies before these are a fantastic recipe to try as your first exploration of baking. Also if you have a young child that wants to bake cookies this is a good place to start. Adult supervision is necessary for getting the cookies in and out of the hot oven but other than that these are very kid friendly.

If you want to really make them special substitute some decorator sugar in a festive color for the sugar that you dip the glass in to flatten your cookies before putting them in the oven.

Stir and Drop Sugar Cookies

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp lemon extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

more sugar to use while flattening the cookies