Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stress Free Dinner

Today my family celebrated Thanksgiving. We are going to be traveling over the actual holiday so we moved our celebration to today. I actually liked having it on a Sunday. I had all of Saturday to do my preparations and today was very stress-free. I know most people won't have this option for this Thanksgiving but my ideas could be used for other meals. Here are some things that I did this weekend that made things go smoothly:

1) I cut up all my veggies that I needed for my various dishes. I needed celery, onions and parsley for my dressing. I also made a roasted vegetable dish that required red and green peppers, red onions, cauliflower and broccoli. My oriental salad needed chopped green onions, so I got them ready also. And since I was already chopping, I cut up my veggies for the vegetable tray.

2) As previously mentioned I was making a roasted vegetable dish and I went ahead and put all my cut up vegetables into the dressing and let them sit overnight. They were ready to put on a pan and bake the next day.

3) I baked my rolls the night before. Usually the big hold up making the rolls is the time to let them raise. (I use Rhodes.) So I decided this year to put them out in the afternoon to raise and I baked them the evening before. They tasted just great - so I'll be doing this again.

4) I start my mashed potatoes several hours before dinner time. I prepare them as normal but I put them in a crockpot to keep them warm till dinner time.

5) This year for the first time I used crockpot liners. Wow. Talk about saving time during clean-up! I liked these alot!

6) I boiled my eggs for the deviled eggs the afternoon before. Then the evening before I cut them and mixed up the filling. I put the filling into a heavy duty zip lock bag and then didn't fill them till a few hours before dinner. Very easy and then throw the bag away.

7) And the biggest time saver of all - I roasted my turkey the day before. I use a roaster but it could be done in the oven just as easily. I let the turkey cool a bit and then refrigerated it. Then on the morning of the dinner I pulled the turkey out and sliced it and put it into the serving dishes. I covered them with foil and then put them back in the refrigerator till about an hour and a half before dinner. I put the turkey back in the oven at 200 degrees. (FYI - I made a 20 pound turkey and split the meat up into two dishes - white and dark meat.)

In case your interested this was our menu (incuding the items that were brought by family members):


Mashed potatoes

Party potatoes (brought by sister-in-law Beth)

Crockpot stuffing (already posted on this blog)

Sweet potato souffle

Herbed corn (to be blogged later)

Green bean casserole (brought by sister Patty)

Vegetable casserole (brought by sister-in-law Beth)

Roasted vegetables (to be blogged later)

Oriental salad

Apple salad (brought by sister Patty)

Grape salad

Deviled eggs (to be blogged later)

Buns (Rhodes)

Veggies, dip, pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, cottage cheese

Apple dumplings (brought by step mom Laurie)

Cherry pie (brought by mom-in-law)

Pecan/chocolate pie (brought by sister-in-law Beth)

Pumpkin pie dessert (to be blogged later)

We had 23 eaters but could have fed many more! Extras mean that food goes home with people and that is a good thing!

I'll be posting some of menu items that I made at a later time. So stay tuned!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cinnamon Fruit Biscuits

This past week we had our monthly potluck at work. Since hubby and I work together we have a period of months that we have to take 2 items. This month I was responsible for the breakfast and hubby was responsible for the entree. I didn't get any pics of the meatloaf that I made but I'm going to share that recipe also because it is very much a winner! I made two things for our breakfast, one sweet and one savory. Both were super easy, new recipes that I got out of Taste of Home's 5-Ingredient Cookbook. The first one that I'm going to share is the Cinnamon Fruit Biscuits. If you didn't want to spend alot of money but wanted to take something that will go over big - - this would be the ticket! This recipe definitely goes into the "keeper" recipe file!

Cinnamon Fruit Biscuits
(from Taste of Home's 5-Ingredient Cookbook)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
1 tube (12 oz) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, separated into 10 biscuits
1/4 cup butter, melted
10 tsp strawberry preserves

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Dip top and sides of biscuits in butter, then in cinnamon-sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheets. With the end of a wooden spoon handle, make a deep indentation in the center of each biscuit; fill with 1 teaspoon of preserves.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving (preserves will be hot). Yield: 10 servings

This is a picture of the biscuits before they went into the oven. Instead of using a wooden spoon handle I used the following kitchen tool. It made the indentation larger. (I used the smaller of the two ends.)

Here is a pic after they came out of the oven. They look like little kolaches don't they? But they definitely don't taste like kolaches. Much sweeter due to the sugar cinnamon coating. Feel free to change up the preserves based on personal taste.

These went over very well. I quadrupled the recipe so the guys at work could have a couple apiece. They taste best the first day, but are still eatable on the day after!

Cheese and Sausage Muffins

Personally, I don't each cheese so I can't even say that I tried these. But everyone that did said they were good. It probably would add to the flavor to add some grated cheddar cheese just to add to the cheesey taste. This recipe came together very quickly once you have the sausage cooked up. Mine weren't served warm because I made them the night before, but I'm sure they would be at their peak taste if served right out of the oven.

Cheese and Sausage Muffins
(Taste of Home's 5-Ingredient Cookbook)

1 pound bulk hot pork sausage
1 can (10-3/4 oz) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1/2 cup milk
2 to 3 tsp rubbed sage
3 cups biscuit/baking mix

PLUS (my addition) - 1/2 to 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese

In a skilled over medium heat, cook sausage until no longer pink; drain. In a bowl, combine soup, milk, sage and sausage. Stir in the biscuit mix just until moistened.

Fill greased miniature or regular muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Yield: 4 dozen mini-muffins or 2 dozen regular muffins.

TSR version of Boston Market Meatloaf

I've been making meatloaf for many years. In the early years I relied on the Heinz 57 sauce recipe and was very happy with it. Then in 2001 I found the following recipe. It uses no eggs or fillers (such as crackers or oatmeal). It moved into the family favorite category very quickly and now this is the recipe I use for meatloaf. The recipe came from the Top Secret Recipes (TSR) website. In the early days, this was a free website, which is not true anymore. It still provides "clones" of many popular food items from restaurants that we are all familiar with. This meatloaf recipe is supposed to be a clone of what they serve at Boston Market. I ate at a Boston Market restaurant years ago when my eldest was going to school at Iowa State in Ames. But they are no longer there and I haven't seen one of these restaurants since. I know they still exist just not in our regional area. So how close this recipe is to what they serve I can't tell you. I just know that it is VERY good!

I served this meatloaf at our company's monthly potluck. I mixed it up the night before and then took it to work and baked it there. As a result, no pictures. (Pictures of raw meat didn't sound appetizing.) I was asked to share the recipe which always tells me that it went over well.

TSR version of Boston Market Meatloaf

1 cup tomato sauce
1-1/2 TBSP Kraft original barbeque sauce (I use Cookies - no high fructose)
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1-1/2 pounds ground sirloin (10% fat)
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
dash garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat the mixture until it starts to bubble, stirring often, then remove it from the heat.

In a large bowl, add all but 2 TBSP of the tomato sauce to the meat. Use a large wooden spoon or your hands to work the sauce into the meat until it is very well combined.

Combine the remaining ingredients with the ground sirloin--flour, salt, onion powder and ground pepper. Use the wooden spoon or your hands to work the spices and flour into the meat.

Load the meat into a loaf pan (preferably a meatloaf pan with two sections which allows the fat to drain, but if you don't have one of those a regular loaf pan will work). Wrap foil over thepan and place it into the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take the meatloaf from the oven, remove the foil and, if you aren't using a meatloaf pan, drain the fat.

Using a knife, slice the meatloaf all the way through into 8 slices while it is still in the pan. This will help to cook the center of the meatloaf. Pour the remaining 2 TBSP of sauce over the top of the meatloaf, n a stream down the center. Don't spread the sauce.

Place the meatloaf back into the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes or until it is done. Remove and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving.

My notes:
I like to use fresh onion (1 small) and garlic (2-3 cloves), minced instead of the powder. I don't have a meatloaf pan, so I normally double the recipe and use a 9X13 pan.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crockpot Dressing, Crustless Pumpkin Pie, Butter Horn Rolls

I've been cooking all day! Our camping club had our annual Thanksgiving dinner together and eating was a big part of the agenda. (Although we did conduct a short meeting!). I had signed up to make a turkey (which I did in the roaster) and dressing (which I made in the crockpot). I started both of them this a.m. After an easy lunch (of Subway) I started itching to make some additional food items to take to the dinner. One of our family favorites is crustless pumpkin pie. The majority of the carbs in pumpkin pie is in the crust so if we cut the crust out of the picture then we can enjoy with less guilt! I found this recipe on the Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk can back in 2005 and have made it year round ever since! But that wasn't enough. I figured there might not be many rolls at the potluck, so I started hunting for a yeast recipe that wouldn't take hours and hours. I found one that I was able to throw together very easily - plus they were delicious. I love it when a new recipe works out. I'm going to share recipes for the dressing, pumpkin pie and the rolls.

Crock-Pot Dressing

1 cup butter
12 to 13 cups bread cubes (2 X 14 oz pkgs)
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
¼ cup parsley
2 beaten eggs
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp marjoram

Mix all ingredients together in crock pot. Cook on high for 45 minutes, then turn to low and cook 4 to 6 hours.

Variation: May add cut-up turkey or chicken, if desired.

Original recipe called for 1 (8 oz) can drained mushrooms.

Perfect “Crustless” Pumpkin Pie

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (2 cups)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (I used no fat)
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. With wire whisk or mixer, beat all ingredients. Pour into a pie pan (greased). Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F. Continue baking 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

The original recipe called for it to be put into an unbaked 9-inch pie crust.

Butter Horn Rolls
(from America’s Best Lost Recipes Cookbook)

Makes 24 rolls

12 tsps (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter – DIVIDED
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
½ cup sugar
3 large eggs
4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted one cup of regular for whole wheat flour)
1 pkg rapid-rise or instant yeast
1 ½ tsp salt

1. Lightly grease a large bowl with cooking spray. Melt 8 tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; let cool. Mix the melted butter, milk, sugar and eggs in a large measuring cup. Mix 4 ½ cups flour, the yeast, and salt together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low, add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. (If the dough is sticky after 3 minutes, add the remaining ½ cup flour, 2 tbsp at a time.) Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface, shape into a ball, and place in the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

2. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp butter over medium heat; let cool. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Working on a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece of dough into a 10-inch circle; brush with melted butter. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut each circle into eight equal wedges. Starting at the wide end, roll up the dough, ending with the pointed tip on the bottom. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and curl in the ends slightly to form a crescent shape. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and let rise until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

3. Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Serve hot or warm.

Everything turned out wonderful and tasted just great! The new recipe was the rolls and they will now move into the "keeper" recipe file.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Banana Nut Cake

I had three very ripe bananas sitting on my counter that were calling me to use them in something...anything! I've been making lots of banana bread this last year so I decided it would be a banana cake this time. I wanted to put it together quickly so I turned to one of my cookbooks that starts with a cake mix. I love these recipes! They come together quickly and I've yet to be disappointed in one. I would have loved to use black walnuts in it as the recipe calls out, but my hubby is not fond of black walnuts - so I went with the English variety. My other change was that I did not make the frosting that was recommended. I was trying to get this together quickly and I had some frosting in my freezer that was leftover from a baking frenzy several months back. It was a brown sugar frosting. I thawed it out, warmed it up and spread it on the warm cake. It was delicious.

Banana Nut Cake
(from Quick Fixes with Mixes)

1 (18.25 oz) yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
(I did not use)
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 ½ medium bananas)
1 cup chopped black walnuts
(I used English walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, milk and sugar. Beat on low speed to blend, and then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add bananas and beat for 1 more minute on medium. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into greased and floured 9 X 13 baking pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cake cool until just warm to touch, and spoon Dark Caramel Glaze over.

Dark Caramel Glaze

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup half-and-half
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla

In medium saucepan, melt brown sugar, half-and-half, and butter over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat; beat in vanilla. Spoon over warm cake as evenly as possible. To ensure adequate coverage, poke holes in top of cake with a toothpick or bamboo skewer before spooning glaze over.

The glaze will have the consistency of thick syrup.