November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Sweet Tater Bake

Every year the holidays seem to go by faster and faster the older I become...

I’m sitting at my in-laws home with the smells of pumpkin pie and turkey among me and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

My husband and I awoke early this morning to drive to southern Missouri to kick-off our Thanksgiving visits with family and friends. When I arrived to my mother-in-law’s (Josefa) home we began cooking up a storm.

I brought her 5 cups of pumpkin puree I had made with pumpkins that my father grew in his garden this year to make pumpkin pies. She had already made the dough, so I had to do was roll out the pastry dough and make the pumpkin filling for the pies. When I finished that I started on what I think is one of the BEST side dishes I have ever made.

This Sweet Potato Bake has to be the most delicious dish ever!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family this holiday…and be sure and thank God for his many blessings and thank our troops for serving and protecting this great county that we are able to enjoy everyday!

Sweet Potato Bake
3 c. peeled sweet potatoes
1/3 tsp. salt
1 stick of butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. pecans or walnuts
1/3 c. flour
5 T. melted butter

Cut the sweet taters in quarters and place in a large pot of boiling hot water until tender.

Drain and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix all ingredients together and stir to mix well.

After the taters have cooled, slide the peeling off. (By cooking the taters the skins will easily slide off.).

Grease a 2 qt. dish. Mash the potatoes well, with a hand mixer. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cream and topping mixture and beat until smooth. Add the cream and mix. Add tater mixture to the greased dish. Sprinkle the topping over the potato mixture.

Bake for about 30-35 if served warm.

November 20, 2007

Try Some Missouri Native Pecans

If you plan on making a pecan pie this Thanksgiving or Christmas then look no further for the best pecans Missouri has to offer.

Missouri Native Pecan Growers can provide consumers with the best native pecans around. And if you are looking for organic pecans, they offer that choice as well.

My mother an I recently attended the Missouri Chestnut Roast, where Missouri Native Pecan Growers exhibited a booth. We left their both with 5 bags a piece of their pecans.

Missouri Pecans grow naturally in the rich river bottom soils of Missouri, in the northernmost region of pecan production. Although slightly smaller than pecans grown in the south, the unique sweetness and higher oil content of these pecans result in extremely flavorful nutmeats preferred by many.

You can purchase these organic pecans from the online store, by phone or email. Toll FREE 1-866-PECANS8

Texas Pecan Pie
By My Grandmother Pat
3 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 C butter
1 C. Syrup (1/2 dark and 1/2 white Karo syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the eggs well, add sugar gradually, 1/3 tsp. Salt, melted butter, add syrup and vanilla. Do not mix hard for a long time or mixture will become foamy. Pour onto unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle with whole pecans (about 1 C.) Bake at 375 degrees until nicely set and browned. The pie will be a little jiggly in the middle when you take it out.

November 19, 2007

New England Cranberry Duff

When it comes to finding a new Thanksgiving recipe to try out there is one place I know I can turn to for a new idea….Martha Stewart’s website.

The holidays are when man of us bring out those old classic recipes (Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Turkey), but I always try out a new recipe each year. It could be a new stuffing recipe, a side dish or even a delicious dessert.

This year I choose a dessert recipe from Marths Stewart’s Thanksgiving section.

To make this Northeastern interpretation of an old-fashioned upside-down cake, cranberries and toasted pecans are topped with buttery batter, then baked and inverted. The cranberries soften in the oven but the pecans stay crunchy, lending a textural flourish.

New England Cranberry Duff
Serves 6

1/2 cup unsalted butter, (1 stick), softened
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and halfway up sides of an 8-inch square glass baking dish using 2 tablespoons butter. Spread cranberries evenly over bottom of dish. Sprinkle pecans on top, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar; set aside.

Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; set aside. Put egg and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low; gradually beat in flour, and then salt. Pour in melted butter in a slow, steady stream, beating until smooth.

Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge to loosen, and invert to unmold onto a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

November 15, 2007

Food Trends for 2007

More Americans are cooking and eating meals at home and fresh, locally produced foods are becoming more popular, according to a list of 2007's top 10 food trends in the current issue of Food Technology magazine. It’s about time, right?

Among the trends:
Economic pressures are among the factors pushing Americans to prepare and eat more meals at home.

Word-of-mouth is a key factor in the success of new food products and celebrity chefs are encouraging more adventuresome cooking.

Reducing the number of steps in food preparation is a major way to increase sales of food products.

Texture, crispness and crunch are important.

Products free of undesirable ingredients are viewed favorably by consumers.

Fresh is the most desirable attribute in food and foods marketed as local, seasonal, hand-made, and natural are increasingly popular.

Food purchases are greatly influenced by shoppers' desire to lower their risk of developing health problems.

Trend 1: Home dinners – Dinner time at home is the new trend, seventy five percent of the people who were polled preferred to eat “in” as they believed in healthier eating and that’s good news for those who are concerned about the growing obesity problem.
Trend no 2: Food is entertainment - Demand for famous chefs is on a high as food channels compete to get them on their shows. Learning exotic cuisine and the art of food presentation makes it to the must-do list of food lovers.
Trend no 3: Convenient food products– People are getting busier by the day and convenience is what they are looking for when they buy food products. Fresh, ready-to-eat salads, precut veggies, pouches of tuna, skillet meals, single servings and 100-calorie packets are gaining popularity.
Trend no 4: Feel good foods – Aroma, crunchy, crispy, fresh- these are the words that’ll get attention when people buy food. Fresh herbs, floral scents like lavender and jasmine adds excitement on the menu.
Trend no 5: Kids diet – parents are getting concerned about the growing obesity among children and new tasty and healthy snacks and food products are being created especially for them.
Trend no 6 : Free is the word - Trans free, gluten free, caffeine free, no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, reduced sodium – the market for these products is accelerating as more people go on diet to reduce weight.
Trend no 7: Eating local – Organic, fresh and seasonal food gains popularity as the number of green foodies increase. “Foodmiles’ is the watch word among green foodies and locally grown produce is a hit among them.
Trend no 8: Medical conditions – Food purchasing will be made on the advice from health specialists; fruits, veggies and fortified products get top priority.
Trend no 9 : Exotic- is the word that every one loves; innovative beverages, organic energy drinks were the top gainers in the U.S food market last year.
Trend no 10: Snacks – the market for snacks sees the highest growth as snacking in-between increases with the increase in entertainment and television viewing times.

So, that’s the list and what’s your favorite food trend among these?

SIMPLE: Eating Local...supports our farmers and producers!!!

Locally Grown Foods
As people seek fresher foods, they have begun to connect with local family farms. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers' markets give consumers direct access to produce, meats, cheeses, breads, honey, and other foods that are produced in nearby communities. In the past 10 years, the number of local farmers' markets has more than doubled -- it is up from 1,755 to 3,706, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service.

Why it's here to stay: Because they are so fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables often have a nutritional edge over produce raised on "factory" farms. The latter, which constitutes most of the produce grown in the United States, is picked about four to seven days before it arrives on supermarket shelves, and shipped for an average of 1,500 miles before it's sold, according to Local Harvest, a nonprofit agricultural research group. All that downtime takes a toll. USDA researchers have found that if it's not handled properly, produce can lose up to half its nutrients in transit. Water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C are particularly vulnerable.

What it means for you: "Buying food from local vendors gives you input," says Gail Feenstra, R.D., food systems analyst at the University of California at Davis' Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. "You can find out how things were grown. You can also request varieties of fruits and vegetables that wouldn't be available elsewhere." And then there's the most important reason of all: Because of its freshness, locally grown food tastes better than produce designed to be shipped. "Growers' priority is on taste and texture versus transportation," Feenstra says.

November 14, 2007

Slow Food???

If you aren’t familiar with the Slow Food movement then you should be. This movement has caught on across the nation. The main point of Slow Food is educating people about their food choices. So that people know where their food comes from, how it was produced and supporting local producers.

From the organization’s website:

Living the slow life with food as the focus is as rewarding as it is easy, and it can be done daily by each one of us. Ultimately, it is about pleasure and taste, knowledge and choice. Once we begin to take an interest in the enjoyment of food, and in finding out where our food comes from, we can begin to see the effects of these choices. When we shorten the distance—both literal and figurative—that our food travels to get to us, we are participating in the Slow Food movement. Slow Food is about coming together as a food community—connecting producers and co-producers, coming together on the farm, in the market, and at the table—to create and enjoy food that is good, clean and fair.

Slow Food is also simply about taking the time to slow down and to enjoy life with family and friends. Every day can be enriched by doing something slow - making pasta from scratch one night, seductively squeezing your own orange juice from the fresh fruit, lingering over a glass of wine and a slice of cheese - even deciding to eat lunch sitting down instead of standing up. For example, here in the Slow Food USA office, we take a moment to eat lunch together every day!

If you have some time and you are interested in the organization…I highly
suggest wondering on over to the Slow
Food Blog as well.

This is a recipe I pulled off the Slow Food Kansas City website which ended
up being a great quick meal. This recipe is a spin on one of my favorite foods:

Mike's Artichoke and Mushroom Lasagna

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms,
3 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry vermouth

Béchamel sauce
4 1/2
tablespoons butter
4 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 1/2 cups of
whole milk
2 1/2 Parmesan Cheese
Ground nutmeg
1 9oz pkg. oven ready
lasagna noodles
1 lb whole milk mozzarella cheese

For filling:
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; sauté until mushrooms release juices and begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Add artichokes and vermouth. Cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

For béchamel sauce:
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens and lightly coats spoon, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups parmesan. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.

Spread 2/3 cup béchamel sauce over bottom of 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Top with enough
noodles to cover bottom of dish. Spread 1/4 of artichoke mixture over. Spoon 2/3 cup béchamel sauce over. Top béchamel with1/4 mozzarella.

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with enough noodles to cover. Repeat layering 3 more times, finishing with layer of noodles, then remaining béchamel.

Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.) Cover with foil and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 350F .Bake Lasagna covered with foil 1 hour (or 1 hour and 15 minutes if chilled). Remove foil. Increase temperature to 450F.Bake lasagna until golden on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Makes 8 servings.

November 7, 2007

It's Pumpkin Time

It's about that time isn't it? Pumpkin time. The leaves are turning and there's a bit of a "nip" in the air.

If you are going to make pumpkin pie this year for Thanksgiving dinner you have to try using real homemade pumpkin puree. No canned pumpkin can't quite compare to the real thing.

Refer to a previous post on How to Process Pumpkins. It's easier than you might think.

Let me know if you think there is a difference or not in the taste...I bet you'll agree that the real thing is much better than any canned pumpkin.

This recipe is my mother's that she came up with years ago when my parents first married. My mother only used fresh pumpkin when she cooked.

Pumpkin Pie
2 Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ginger
1/4 teaspoonNutmeg
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Fresh Pumpkin (key to making this pie the best it can be)
2 C. milk (1 5 oz can of evaporated milk fill rest with milk)

Mix well. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees. It will be done when you can insert a knife into the pie and the knife comes out clean.

Again, I can't stess how important it is to use only fresh pumpkin for this recipe. My father and I grow our own pumpkins and then process them. We have enough pumpkin left for the whole year. If you use pumpkins to decorate with in the Fall, process the pumpkin, don't waste it.

November 6, 2007

Your First Thanksgiving Dinner

When you think of Thanksgiving there is one main food dish you start imagining….the perfect golden roasted turkey. What would Thanksgiving be without the turkey?

I’ve found a very easy roasted turkey recipe that is simple enough for the amateur cooks and tasty enough to impress your guest at your Thanksgiving dinner this season.

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard, it should be fun and enjoyable, but many of my own friends think they don’t have it in them to cook an impressive Thanksgiving dinner. But they do.

If this is your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your loved ones try this recipe from Food Network.

Roasted Turkey
1 (8 to 10 pound) turkey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion, quartered

1 head garlic, halved

Several sprigs fresh herbs, such as; thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage

2 bay leaves

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Adjust a rack to lowest position and remove other racks. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove turkey parts from neck and breast cavities and reserve for other uses, if desired. Dry bird well with paper towels, inside and out. Salt and pepper inside the breast cavity and stuff the onion, garlic, herbs, and bay leaves inside. Set the bird on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; breast side up and brush generously with half the butter and season with salt and pepper. Tent the bird with foil.

Roast the turkey for 2 hours. Remove the foil and baste with the remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F and continue to roast until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees F in the thigh of the bird, about 45 minutes more.

Remove turkey form the oven and set aside to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Carve and serve with dressing.

Serve this Roasted Turkey with a Sage, Sausage and Apple Dressing:

16-ounce bag stuffing cubes

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan and topping

1 pound fresh sage sausage, casing removed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cooking apples, such as Gravenstein, Rome, or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 to 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted (See Note)

2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Put the stuffing cubes in a large bowl and set aside. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until it loses most of its pink color, but not so much that it's dry, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and pan drippings to the stuffing cubes. Melt the remaining butter in the pan. Add the onion, apple, celery, and salt. Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and parsley and bring to a boil.

Pour the vegetable mixture over the stuffing cubes and toss until evenly moistened. Mix in the walnuts and eggs. Loosely pack the dressing in the prepared pan and cook uncovered until the top forms a crust, about 40 minutes. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or melted butter over the top. Cook until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes more. Set immediately or warm.

Note: To toast nuts, spread them out on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree F oven until golden, about 7 minutes