Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

We bought some seasoned pecans at a specialty shop in Gruene, Texas, last year and really enjoyed them. I've been trying to duplicate the recipe ever since. This recipe is a little different that the type we purchased, as they didn't have an egg white coating, but this looked interesting so we thought we'd give it a chance.

Preheat oven to 300°F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray

Combine:
1/3 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. chili powder
3/4 t. cinnamon
pinch cayenne

1 egg white

2 cups pecan halves

Mix sugar and spices together. Beat the egg white until frothy. Toss the pecans into the egg white and stir. Sprinkle with the spice mixture, stir to coat, then the lift the pecans out of the bowl one by one and spread on the prepared baking sheet, separating them as much as possible. Discard any leftover sugar-egg mixture.
You can use as little as a heaping tablespoon of the spice mixture, or all of it, depending on how flavorful you want the final product to be. A heaping tablespoon gives a nice lightly seasoned product enjoyed even by folks who don't like spicy foods.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to another baking sheet. Break pecans apart as necessary. When completely cool store covered in a dry place. Should keep for at least a week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crazy Larry's Crab Cakes

We've been in pursuit of the perfect crab cake for several years now. This recipe is from Weber's Bib Book of Grilling and is the best we've found so far.

For the crab cakes:
12 ounces fresh, frozen, or canned cooked lump crab meat
Drain in a colander, pat dry with paper towels. Flake meat with a fork, discarding any bits of shell. Add remaining ingredients.
3/4 c. plain breadcrumbs
1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper
4 green onions (white part only) finely chopped
3 T. mayonnaise
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. hot pepper sauce
1/4 t. Kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
Shape into eight cakes about 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Place on a plate covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. This firms up the cakes so they hold together on the grill.

For the dressing:
Mix together
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 t. white wine vinegar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Lightly brush or spray both sides of the crab cakes with vegetable oil. Grill over direct high heat until the bread crumbs are toasted (6 - 8 minutes) Carefully turn with a wide spatula halfway through the grilling time. Places two crab cakes on each plate with about 4 handfuls (about 4 ounces) of greens that have been tossed with the dressing. Serve with a lemon wedge if desired.

Pumpkin Roll

This has been a holiday favorite in our family for many years. It's easy to make, freezes well, and is always a hit at parties.

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Mix:
1 c. pumpkin
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. lemon flavoring or juice
1 c. flour
Pour into 11x17 greased jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until done (do not overbake!). Sprinkle with powdered sugar and roll from the long edge. Cool in refrigerator. When cool, unroll and fill. [I admit I've always been challenged by this step. The cake often wants to crack. I have had pretty good luck turning the cake out onto a clean dish towel - the smooth cotton type, or waxed paper - and rolling it with the towel or paper, which helps to keep it supported when you unroll it.]

Filling
cream together:
1 c. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
4 t. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon (I often use more, or include some grated zest)
Blend until smooth, spread on the unrolled cake and then re-roll.
Roll the completed cake roll in foil and refrigerate.

This keeps well, and freezes well, so is a great make-ahead for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nancy's Sweet Potato Delight

This has become a family favorite around Thanksgiving time. Not only for the official holiday dinner, but at our famous full-meal-deal Thanksgiving tailgate parties. This version of the popular dish is a bit lower in sugar than some.

3 c. sweet potato or yam, cooked and mashed
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. milk
Mix the above ingredients together and top with a mixture of:
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. butter
1 c. chopped pecans

Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes, or until the topping is crisp

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hays County Stew

Over the years I've accumulated three really interesting recipes for stew. Being a Libra, I can never decide which is my favorite, so I put them all together. The result is Hays County Stew.

My earliest favorite stew recipe is from "Manna:Foods of the Frontier" (Harris 1972) Son-of-a-bitch Stew (sometimes referred to as hunter's stew) is made with buffalo, deer, moose, bear, elk, and perhaps a beaver tail. Organ meats were included too, hot peppers if available, a pint of rum might be added but no other water or vegetables. After several hours of simmering a gravy was made if flour was available, and maybe dumplings on the top. Sturdy stuff for sturdy men! Although I never made this recipe as it appears in the book (I do like vegetables in mine!) I took the idea of multiple meats and have incorporated that into this recipe.

Inspiration for the name of this recipe came from Hopkins County Stew, from a book entitled "A Taste of Texas" (McDuff 1949). This stew is made with chicken (including giblets), bacon, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, turnips if you like them, and corn. The corn is the deciding feature. The basic stew is cooked seven hours, then the corn is added toward the end, so that only the kernels of corn retain their individual identity. This recipe contributes the basic cooking procedures and variety of vegetables as well as the corn.

My newest favorite stew recipe came from a country music magazine article on the Bellamy Brothers. Their recipe for Chili Stew (which I'll make another entry for) calls for the typical beef, potatoes and onions, with the addition of green and Serrano chilies, chopped cilantro, fresh kernel corn, and is served with cheese on top. I can't quite to the Serrano chilies, but the other south-of-the border seasonings appealed to me.

So, here's the process, and suggested measurements. As with all good stews, you adjust to suit yourself as you are cooking. If you are interested in dutch oven cooking this is a good recipe to try. Cook the meat over a fairly hot fire in the early morning, add the other items, cover and bury in coals and pull it out in the evening. Add the corn and reheat before serving.


*Hays County Stew

Calculate the basic ingredients - for every 5 people use
3 slices bacon
2 pounds of meats cut in 1 inch cubes
You must use at least three different types of meats. Beef steak, chicken, pork, game meats of any type, and meats that are spiced like brats or other cased sausages are great. Just slice them in roughly the same size as the other meats. The best batch of this stew we ever made had about six different types of meat.
4 potatoes
1 pound tomatoes
2 onions, chopped in small chunks
fresh garlic
preferred spices (thyme, basil, sage, bay, leaf etc.)
1 small can diced green chilies (more if you like, or use diced fresh and any type of chili you like)
4 ears of fresh corn (slice off the kernels), or one can whole kernel corn
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup of grated jack or cheddar cheese

Chop up the bacon and frizzle till the grease is all cooked out. Remove the brown bits and add the chopped meats. Brown, pulling of extra liquid as it cooks.
Save the liquid and chill it so the fat can be skimmed off, then return the liquid to the stew later.

Once the meat is brown add the onions and cook them until they start to become translucent, the add the potatoes, tomatoes and chilies. Add back in the liquid you saved (after skimming the fat) and the bacon bits. Reduce heat and simmer for several hours (5-6). If the pot becomes dry add a can of beer or additional water. Cover with coals if cooking this dutch oven style and let it simmer along without opening for at least 2 hours, then check to see if it needs more liquid.

As serving time approaches open up the kettle and stir in the cilantro and the corn (drain the liquid if using canned). Get the stew good and hot again, and top with the grated cheese when serving.

A salad and corn bread or baking powder biscuits complete the meal.

*Hays County, our place of residence in Texas, is named for John "Jack" Coffee Hays, famous Texas Ranger.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Breakfast Casserole

This is a really easy, prep-ahead dish that's great for times when you'd rather spend time visiting with the crowd than cooking. You can prepare most of the ingredients several days in advance, or even freeze, then add the egg and milk mixture the night before you'll be cooking the casserole. The ingredients can be embellished with extra ingredients like a can of whole kernel corn, or diced bell pepper or onion, as your taste dictates.

In a 9x12 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam layer:
6 slices bread, cubed
1 lb. sausage, cooked and crumbled
1-1/2 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

[at this point, if you're preping way ahead, the ingredients can be sealed in a plastic bag and frozen until you are ready for the next step]

8-12 hours before baking:
lightly beat 10 eggs (can be part egg substitute if you're watching cholesterol)
2 c. milk
1 tsp. salt, dash of pepper
1 small can roasted, diced chilies
Any other ingredients, such as the kernel corn, can be added at this point.
Mix all together and pour over the other ingredients in the casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes, or until it tests done by inserting a knife blade. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves about 6, with hash browns, toast and fresh fruit on the side.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Green Chile Cornbread Recipe

From my favorite cooking blog Simply Recipes
this recipe is rich and moist and full of interesting textures. Great on a cold day with a big bowl of chili!

If you use canned chiles and want the heat, make sure you look for the cans that say "hot", not "mild" on them.
Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs [or egg substitute if you're watching the cholesterol]
2 cups milk
2 cups of chopped, roasted green chiles (Anaheim or Hatch) (2 7-ounce cans of whole green chiles, drained, chopped)
1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (6 ounces)
[pepper jack is good if you want a little more heat]

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 8x12 inch baking dish.

In a large bowl mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and baking soda. Add the softened, unsalted butter, sour cream, eggs, and milk. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the lumps are mostly gone. Mix in the green chiles, corn, and shredded cheese. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 35 minutes, until top is browned, the center springs back when pressed down, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool almost completely before serving.

Makes about 12 serving pieces.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's Apple Harvest Time!

September is apple season and that means making as much applesauce and as many apple cakes and frozen pie stuffers as possible before the crop goes to waste. Of course, the cow next door (Larry) doesn't mind the windfalls a bit!
Last year my sister Darlene and I were making pie filling to freeze and working by oil lamp light, as the power had gone out! Fortunately it came back on just in time to freeze the pie fillings we'd assembled. The process is easy. Just line a pie pan with foil, fill with the chopped apples, spices and whatever thickener your recipe calls for. Then wrap tightly, put in an air tight bag and freeze. Just pop into a pastry shell and bake whenever you are hungry for a homemade pie!


Fresh Apple Cake (aka Apple Pudding Cake)

This was one of our Aunt Roberta's favorites.
Blend together 1/2 c. butter or vegetable oil
1-1/2 c. sugar (half white and half brown)
2 eggs (or egg substitute)

Stir in 4 c. shopped apples (1/4 inch bits)
1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
1 c. raisins
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. allspice

Thoroughly blend 2 t. soda with:
1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
Stir into the apple mixture. The apples provide all the moisture needed.

Spread in 9x13 prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the cake tests done.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Texas Caviar


We've made this a family tradition for the holidays.
The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.Common accompaniments include cornbread (representing gold) and cooked greens (representing paper money).

Ingredients:
4 cups of cooked black-eyed peas (or 2 16-oz cans), drained and rinsed of all juice
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 canned or fresh jalapeƱo chilies, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes or 1 ripe, chopped tomato
3/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and serve with your favorite chips, pita bread, or serve as a side dish.