Friday, December 30, 2011

Cola Roast

Cola roast is about as easy as it gets, and it gives good results, too.  All you need is a big hunk of meat, a can of cola (no diet!, though sugar soda is fine as opposed to hfcs soda), and some beef bouillon granules.  It's taken a while, but most of my kids like this now, and they can be a tough crowd.  Serve it up with a big pot of mashed potatoes, and add some veggies as a side, and you're good to go.  I like to buy the huge 5lb. chuck roasts when they're on sale, cut them in half, and toss them in the freezer.  On the day I'm ready to make it, I stick it in the slow cooker around 10 or 11 am, and it's ready for dinner at 7pm.  I take the roast out about 20 minutes before serving, so that it has some time to rest before cutting.  This helps keep your juices in where they belong.  I also spoon extra juices over the top, and cover it with foil before placing it on the table.  Serving extra juices on the side also helps keep the roast nice and moist.   I have made gravy from the drippings too, but my family isn't huge on gravy so I don't make it often.

1 large chuck roast, enough to feed your family with a few leftovers if desired
1 can Pepsi or Coke
Beef Roast Seasoning (available from Penzey's, it adds a nice flavor but the roast is fine without it too)
1-2 Tablespoons beef bouillon granules
1-2 Tablespoons dried minced onions
in place of the beef granules and onions you can use a packet of beefy onion soup mix, but I like a little stronger beef flavor

Place your beef in the slow cooker.  If it is frozen, I like to put it on high for an hour or two to get things going, and then turn it down to low.  Or you can put it in a little earlier, too.  It's pretty forgiving.

Sprinkle the bouillon granules and minced dried onions on the top (and beef roast seasoning if you have it), then gently pour the can of soda over everything.  Turn on the slow cooker and you're done. 

You want roughly 8-9 hours for this recipe, but play around with it a bit to see what works.  It's pretty forgiving, and you can go a little longer or shorter as needed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Strawberry Apple Jam

Strawberry Apple Jam is one of my most favorite jams ever.  Even more favorite than Strawberry Rhubarb, which is really saying something, because I just love Strawberry and Rhubarb together. 

Now, me being me and all, and not starting out with anything simple, this is one of the first jams I really tried to make.  I did attempt one batch of raspberry jam a long, long time ago.... but we'll just forget about that.

Moving on.  I chose this recipe, because I have a strawberry apple pie that is divine.  It has such a soft, sweet flavor, one that you wouldn't expect from a combination of Granny Smith apples, and strawberries.  But, the flavors balance out so amazingly, that you get a really beautiful, mellow flavor that is quite satisfying.

I did some digging, and found this recipe at Through My Kitchen Window.  It does not use pectin, so it's an older style recipe that cooks down the fruits until it's all soft and mellow and yummy.    I have found that with this recipe, it does require a bit of babysitting to really make it the right consistency.  It seems to take me longer than the recipe states, so you do need to do a bit of looking around on how to determine the right consistency of the jam once it's finished.

Oh, and don't throw your jam scum away.  Seriously, jam scum is the best.  It sounds awful, but tastes just as good as the jam.  It's nothing harmful, it just doesn't make your jam look as pretty in the jars.  And believe me, this is a pretty jam. 

A few other notes.... I tried reducing the water to make the jam cook quicker and thicken up better..... don't.  It was so sweet it was practically unusable.  I have one jar that I'm trying to find some way to use in a cake or something where the flavor will be mellowed.  It's unbelievably sweet though.  Another note... you can add in a vanilla bean for a bit of pretty flecks of vanilla, and to add to the soft, mellow flavor.  I admit to being a vanilla addict though, so this is entirely up to you. 

Lastly, this recipe does not have instructions for using a water bath, so I do half pints for about 15 minutes, and then cool.  Quarter pints make great gifts too, and are so pretty in their teeny little jars.  But, quarter pints are really only good for your friends who are single, or very small families who use jam very sparingly.  Or someone you want to tease to get them knocking your door down at 3 am looking for more of that jam because they had a craving for scones and jam.  Doesn't everyone crave scones at jam at 3 am?  I like my jam scum right about then, personally.

Strawberry and Apple Jam

500gm strawberries  (1 lb. plus 1 ½ oz.)
3 medium green apples
1/4 cup lemon juice
1kg white or caster sugar  (2.2 lbs.) (5 cups)
extra lemon

Hull and halve the strawberries. Cut out bruised spots and do not use any that are too ripe. Set aside in a clean bowl.

Get some lemons; if you're fortunate enough to have a tree, pick them straight from the tree as the pectin content will be at it's highest. Select lemons that are slightly underripe. You will get the best possible jelling results doing this.

Squeeze a whole lemon into a big bowl of water; peel and quarter the green apples; remove seeds and core; slice thinly. Place the apple slices straight into the lemon water.

Take some muslin fabric and cut out a small square. You only need enough to hold the pips from a couple of lemons.

Take a clean bowl; pour in some boiling hot water and place your muslin square into the water. This is the next best step to sterilising the cloth.

Squeeze a couple of lemons and reserve the juice.

Line a small bowl with the well rinsed muslin square and place all the lemon pips you can extract from the lemons.

Secure the pips well and tie a knot with some twine to create a small muslin bag.

In a heavy based pan place the strawberries, drained apples, muslin bag, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and three cups of water. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer covered for about 20 minutes or until the apples have softened. Take out muslin bag; pour the sugar into the center of the pot; stir gently till the sugar has dissolved then boil steadily for about 30 minutes or till the jam has set. I place a saucer in the freezer and test the jam by dropping a little onto the saucer; then pressing to see how wrinkled it looks. If it is quite runny then more cooking is required.

It is important to allow the jam to sit for about 10 minutes before pouring into sterilized jars. You risk the fruit sinking to the bottom if you pour it in right away. Make sure that any scum has been removed. You will find scum always rises to the top and moves to the sides of the pot so it is easy to spoon off. I use the pictured ladle to fill the jam jars. Seal while hot.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Morning

Around here, Christmas morning breakfast usually consists of, if nothing else, cinnamon rolls.  The kind that come in a can.  Although occasionally, I am able to get away with homemade cinnamon rolls.  It does take some arm twisting, and a promise of bucketfuls of homemade cream cheese frosting.

However, I believe that this year, I may be able to get away with something slightly different.  It's a Cinnamon French Toast Bake from Pillsbury.  And really, it is worth it.  With our family of nine (only eight of whom have teeth), we polished off two batches of this french toasty goodness.    My only change was that I used walnuts instead of pecans.  I'm not a big pecan person, but I do like my walnuts.  I'm sure almonds would have been yummy too.  I probably could even add apples, but I'll leave that for now.

I made this on Thanksgiving morning, because I do like having nice yummy things on holidays to splurge on.  And with 4 cans of cinnamon rolls in two batches, I did need to splurge, just a teeny bit.  But it was oh so worth it.  And it will be made again.  Soon.  Very soon.  Probably on Christmas morning. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Caramel Apple French Toast Strata

This is one of the best french toast casseroles I've ever had.  It's fairly versatile, too, which is nice.  I usually make two pans, one with apples, and one without.  Even with two pans, there are rarely leftovers. 

This is a good one for a breakfast potluck, too. 

Caramel Apple French Toast Strata

1 loaf French bread, cubed
2-4 oz cream cheese, cubed (according to preference... the original recipe called for 8oz, but I use much less)
2 apples, sliced
½-1 cup sliced almonds
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

¾ cup butter
¾ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup

Place half bread cubes into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with cream cheese cubes evenly.  Sprinkle with apple slices.  Top with remaining bread cubes and almonds.  Beat eggs, milk and cinnamon; pour over bread mixture.  (If making ahead of time cover and refrigerate overnight).  Make syrup by combining butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour over the top of the mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with syrup.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cheese and Rosemary Breadsticks

These have such a yummy flavor, that I love making them.  It's worth it to get the Gruyere.  You can always freeze it for later use.  I like dipping these in marinara.

Cheese and Rosemary Breadsticks

¼ cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup grated Gruyere
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 (11-ounce) container refrigerated breadstick dough (recommended: Pillsbury)
Finely ground sea salt, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°. 

Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with silicone baking sheets or parchment paper. In a food processor, chop the Parmesan, Gruyere and rosemary together until coarsely chopped. Set the cheese mixture aside. Separate the dough strips. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut each dough strip in half lengthwise to form thin strips. Working with dough strip at a time, coat each strip with the cheese mixture, pressing very gently. Twist each cheese covered dough strip and place onto prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with the salt, if you wish.

Bake until the breadsticks are golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the warm breadsticks to a basket and serve.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pineapple Strawberry Punch

This is one of my favorite punches to make.  I'm not really a big punch person though, so I suppose it would be more accurate to say that this is the only punch I make.  It's simple, it's sweet, and even though I'm not a huge fan of pineapple, I actually kind of like this.  I got it from a very sweet lady at church who shared it with us at a luncheon, and I begged her to give me the recipe.  My only change is that I don't puree the strawberries.  I like them intact.

Pineapple Strawberry Punch

2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen sweetened sliced strawberries, thawed
1 can (46 oz.) pineapple juice, chilled
4 cups lemon-lime soda, chilled

                In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries.  Pour into a large punch bowl.  Stir in the pineapple juice and soda.  Serve immediately.


Sunday, December 11, 2011


This recipe is one of my favorites, for a variety of reasons.  I love going to Maggiano's, as they have some absolutely amazing food.  My pocketbook doesn't allow me to go as often as I'd like, but I do make an effort.  Their marinara sauce is so good, I would drink it with a straw.  After having it a few times, I set out on a mission to make it myself.  After a few tries, I came up with something almost exactly like what they make at the restaurant.  I had the opportunity to speak with one of their very talented head chefs, and he confirmed that I was almost dead on.  The only difference is they use fresh basil as their only herb, and I use dried Italian Seasoning.  In any case, it tastes great either way.  This is another recipe I hope to use in my canner some day.

Shana's Marinara Sauce

2 Vidalia onions, finely diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 28 ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 -2 tablespoons sugar

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pot.  Stir in the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are very soft.  Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and stir well; simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, paste and sauce, and sugar.  Simmer on low for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  Run through a blender in batches.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shana's Chili

Now, this here is MY chili recipe.  Based off of several other recipes, but it's mine.  All mine.  And I love it.  If you love hearty chili, this is it.  You could probably make it spicier if you're one of those people who love really spicy foods, but this is just good old, yummy chili.

The beauty of it, is that it's so forgiving, and very versatile.  You have a good amount of wiggle room as far as measuring goes, so it's pretty easy to work with.  You can do it in the crock pot or on the stove top.  One of these days, I plan on canning it, too.  I'll let you know how that turns out.

So, here it is.

Shana’s Chili

1-2 pounds ground beef
2 chopped onions (white or vidalia)
5-6 cups finely diced celery
3/4 cup diced green pepper
2-3 cups tomato juice
1 can (28 oz) red beans, drained
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes (optional, I add it because I like a lot of tomatoes)
2 packages McCormick’s Chili seasoning

Brown ground beef, onion, celery and green pepper in a large skillet and drain.

Return beef to the pot, and add remaining ingredients.

Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.   

This recipe also works well in the crockpot on low, stirring every so often.  Just cook the meat first, and then toss everything in the crock.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Soft Butter Spread

I used to be a big fan of Country Crock.  Yes, I admit.  I loved that plasticy, fake butter taste.  Don't ask me why.  Eventually, I realized it actually was plastic, and switched over to real butter.  But the problem with butter, is that it's a bit flat tasting, especially when you're so used to fake plastic butter.

I found this recipe, and gave it a try.  I am hooked.  I love it.  It stays pretty solid in the fridge, but softens very quickly once you take it out for a bit.  I used to keep it in a sturdy glass container, until I realized the kids were banging the butter knife on it and chipping away at the glass (so that's why I was crunching glass the one day.....).  So, I need to find a better butter container.  Soon.  I miss my soft butter.

I have tried using coconut oil in place of the canola oil..... It tasted ok, but didn't behave quite the same.  It wasn't as soft right out of the fridge (it hardens at a pretty low temperature), and got almost too soft when it did soften up.  If you really want to use it, it is workable, but it will behave a little different.  I am fine with canola for now. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tasty Kitchen: Cornbread and Fluffy Honey Butter

This recipe is now my go-to recipe for cornbread. I have tried various recipes over the years, but this one is definitely the best by far. It is a Yankee cornbread, for all you silly southerners who don't like sugar in your cornbread. This is sweet, moist, cakey, and heaven on a plate.

With my family, I double this recipe. Every. Single. Time. If I didn't, the masses would probably start gnawing on chair legs or something, so I try to keep them happy. I don't usually make the honey butter, but I have, and it is good. I prefer a big pat of homemade butter spread (I'll post about that one next), and a big spoonful of pure honey. I eat it with a fork, just like it was cake.

If you love a good Northern cornbread, this is it. This is what you have been searching for all your life. Make it with a big, yummy batch of chili (that recipe will be coming soon enough), and you will love me forever. I promise.