December 31, 2008

Corn Casserole in a Snap

I used to not be a fan of casseroles. Maybe because most of the casseroles I ate were tasteless, had too many canned soups in them or reminded me of something Rachel Ray would throw together. (If you like Ray’s cooking, sorry to offend, but I’m NOT a fan and never will be.)

Before Christmas, we had my folks up to the house. I cooked a beef roast and one side dish was a Corn Casserole. Now- let me set the picture for you. We (mom, dad, Charlie and I) were all sitting around the table just getting ready to dig in to the food when my dad says, “What’s that?” (Pointing at the Corn Casserole) I tell him what it is and he kinda shrugs up his face.

My dad is not a fan of casseroles either, as you can tell. But, I tell him to at least try it (just like he used to tell me when I was a kid and didn’t want to eat my Brussels sprouts or turnip greens), he might be impressed. (My father is VERY hard to impress, especially when it comes to cooking.) He took a bite and then another, tried the beef roast, the green beans, the taters…..then says, “Wow Lane you’ve learned cook!” Got to love dad’s, and one things for sure- I love my dad!

His favorite of the night was this casserole, which was on the Baldwin and McConnell Christmas dinner tables this holiday.

I make this a lot and it never gets old. Hope you enjoy it just as much!

Corn Casserole

by Lane
1 box of Jiffy Corn Bread
1 can cream corn
1 can corn
3 eggs, well beaten
Little over 1 cup of sour cream
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. seasoned salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small square casserole dish. Mix all ingredients well and pour into the casserole dish. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. The middle will be just a little soft and the top will be golden brown.

December 29, 2008

Three Meat Dish

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I love when a plan comes together. Christmas week was both wonderful and tiring. Wonderful because we spent the week with the ones that mean so much to us- our families and tiring because of all the cooking, cleaning and ensuring everyone was well entertained.

We started the week on Monday night with a long and late night’s drive to my folks house. The weather was supposed to get bad Tuesday morning, so we decided at the last moment to leave the night before. Tuesday was filled with lots of cooking for the Baldwin Family Christmas Eve Dinner.

I made a Southern Red Velvet Cake, Sweet Potato Casserole and a Corn Bread Casserole for Christmas Eve dinner. There were lots of presents opened Christmas Eve when my brothers and their families arrived and my niece and I spent some of the night practicing on her crocheting (part of her present that Charlie and I gave her was a crochet hook, yarn and a pretty basket to place everything in. She’s been begging her Auntie Lane to teach her how to crochet.)

Christmas morning my mother made her traditional Christmas pancakes and we all relaxed, joked and told old stories all morning long. Charlie and I had to leave later on that afternoon to drive back up north to Jeff City, because the McConnell crew was headed up to our house Friday night for family Christmas on Saturday.

I spent Friday cleaning the house, setting up the holiday table decorations and making pies. I make a lot of things the night before, so I could actually enjoy myself and not have as much to cook the day of the dinner.

Friday Charlie parents (Josefa and Raymond) plus his two twin nephews Michael and Stephen arrived. We did a simple grilled dinner that night (lamb chops, sirloin steak and chicken.)

Saturday went easier than I expected it would. Since most of the food was prepared (not cooked, just mixed up and in a dish) the day was very easy. You can tell from the Christmas Dinner Menu it was pretty extensive, but with some time put in the day before even this menu was easy. Charlie's sister and family came on up Saturday afternoon as well.

The Three Meat Dish was incredible. I could not even believe how tasty, tender and amazing it was. There were no leftovers at all! My gal pal Michelle, from Down on the Dairy called me about cooking this dish, so I thought it would be the first recipe I share from the Christmas Dinner menu. This is an easy meal, because you stick it all in a pan, cover and let it cook away. I think it’s important to use good meat though. With any meat – the dish will only be as good as the meat is.

Three Meat Dish
1 beef roast, about 2 lbs.
1 chicken, about 2-3 lbs.
1 ham or pork roast, about 2 lbs.
2 cups of dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup of fresh parsley, chopped very coarse
2 cups of carrots, chopped rustic
2 cups of celery, chopped rustic, plus all the leaves
4 bay leaves
2 small onions, chopped coarsely
Garlic powder, lots of it
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large roasting pan place half the celery, onions, carrots and parsley. Lay all three meats side by side on top of the freshly cut veggies. Add your liquids (chicken broth and wine). Place the rest of the veggies in the dish around and on top of the meats. Sprinkle the pepper, dried basil and bay leaves all around the dish. Then, take about 4 T. of garlic powder and sprinkle all over the meat. (This is a lot I know, but is key to the great taste of the meat.)

Cover the entire dish tightly with alumni foil. When I say tight, I mean tight! You don’t want any steam to get out.

For the pounds of meat that I have listed in this recipe your cook time will be about 4 ½ hours to 5 hours. This will all depend up on the pounds of meat you are cooking though! The meat is done when you can stick a fork in it and the meat falls apart! Cooking this dish slow on low heat is very important.

* You can also add potatoes to the dish as well.
* All three meats need to be around the same size, except the chicken can be a little larger. * Depending on how many you will be serving will depend on the size of your meats. I think the ham is the most delicious out of all three of the meats, but trust me they are all very good.
* This recipe won’t disappoint you!

December 22, 2008

Family Times and Fantasy Fudge

This weekend was almost a blur…Friday my friend Tyne and I went to Lake Ozark so she could finish up some Christmas shopping at the outlet mall, then we headed back to Jeff City because my folks were coming up for the weekend. When we got home they were already there with my husband enjoying in some wonderful Missouri wine, so Tyne and I joined in the festivities.

We had a wonderful pot roast that night and hung around the house that night talking about good ole times. My mother had brought me up a few little Christmas gifts, including some old Christmas ornaments from my childhood and an antique Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 1950’s. How fantastic, I love the smell of old cookbooks!

Tyne also opened her Christmas gifts from my husband and I…she was very excited!

Saturday, was just as hectic. The boys went fishing (which I don’t know how they could stand the cold weather and wind chill) at Lake Ozark, while mom and I headed into town to do some grocery shopping and a stop at Hobby Lobby to get some yarn for crocheting.

Saturday night I wanted to teach my mother how to make Paella, a Spanish dish. We only had time to make the quicker American version Paella though, since we had plans to go to the movies to see the movie Australia. (Which btw was wonderful. I spent time in Australia in high school and it brought back great memories and how can any movie go wrong with Nicole Kidman and Huge Jackman.)

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Sunday my folks left to go back to the farm and get things ready for Christmas this week. Charlie and I also got ready for Christmas around our house, since we are hosting the McConnell family this year for Christmas. We made some Baldwin Fantasy Fudge, so it would be one last thing we had to prepare for our Christmas party later on this week.

Which brings me to today’s recipe (that I’ve been promising to post.) This is my mother’s own recipe for fudge. I’ve always had great reviews from this fudge and it’s fairly simple to make. There are two ways to make it. Some folks like rich fudge, others like a milk chocolate fudge. Therefore, I’ve show the difference in making the two versions below.

Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!

Baldwin’s Fantasy Fudge
By my mother

4 cups white sugar
1 tall can of condensed milk (12 oz)
2 sticks of butter

Fudge Making

On medium-high and in a large pot, cook and stir constantly, until mixture forms a soft ball. Best way to do this is with a candy thermometer. But, be sure and continue to stir this all the way through the soft ball stage.

When a soft ball forms, remove from heat and add:
For milk chocolate fudge, (add 12 oz. of chocolate chips)
For richer, darker fudge, (add ¾ of a 24 oz. of chocolate chips)

Fudge Making

40 marshmallows
2 cups of nuts of your choice (pecans are the very best though)
1 tsp. vanilla

Fold mixture, until all dissolved. Cool fudge in a buttered 13x9 dish. You can freeze the fudge as well.

December 19, 2008

Crock Pot Roast...Ready When You Get Home

Last night was an interesting one. As I was making dinner my husband came in the kitchen with about four tackle boxes of stick baits and just smiled at me. I asked what he was up to and he said, “It’s stick bait time.”

I knew what he meant. My folks are coming up today to spend the weekend and he is taking my dad to Lake Ozark for some winter fishing. My dad is also an avid fisherman, as my husband is.

I knew that the fish at LO must be hitting a stick bait, as then my husband proceeded to fill up one side of my kitchen sink with ice cold water and when I say ice cold, I mean he placed ice cubes in the already freezing water. Guess this helps reenact the water temperature at the lake?

He then starting taking out every stick bait and placing them in the freezing water to see if they would properly sink or float. If the baits do not sink properly and suspend in the water, he then takes some of the weight off the bait.

(FYI: These stick baits are some kind of fancy Japanese bait that are terribly expensive. When I say they are pricy, I mean like $15-$35 a bait!) I told him he better not loose any of them while fishing because we would have to take a loan out to replace all these fancy little stick baits he has. Of course I was just joking though.

Fisherman…got of love them!

Today’s recipe is one of our favorites in my house. It’s simple, quick and cooking at my house right now for when my parents and best gal pal Tyne show u tonight.

Crockpot Beef Roast
By Lane

1 beef roast (I like to use chuck roast)
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 beef bouillon cubes
1 T. parley flakes
1 T. garlic powder
½ tsp. basil, dried
½ tsp. Lowery’s seasoned salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup of small baby carrots
1 parsnip, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine (omit this if you don't have any on hand)

In a large crock pot, place the onions, carrots and parsnips. Place the beef cubes on top, then lay beef roast. Add all the seasonings and the seasonings. Fill crock up with water – to barley cover the roast with.

Place crock on low setting and cook from 7:30 am until 4:30 or 5:00 pm, depending on the size of the roast.

*After the roast is cooked, keep those wonderful juices! Make some gravy with it, boil some penne pasta in it. You can also use the juice to make some wonderful beef soup.

*If you cook pasta in the juice, the pasta will make it’s own gravy because the starch in the pasta thickens the broth up. I like to then place the pasta in a casserole dish and sprinkle with some tasty feta cheese.

* Or freeze the broth to use another time.

December 18, 2008

Christmas Dinner Menu

Holidays in MissouriMany folks stress about the holidays and for good reason. Our country is in economic distress, food prices are sky high and Christmas is just next week…which means all those presents, decorations, wrapping paper that you paid for by credit will be coming to haunt you in January!

I have to make frequent trips to the grocery store during the holidays because all of the baking I do. I was there this week and could not believe just the few items I had totaled $69.54 – and I only had two bags! WOW – I was speechless.

Of course, looking back on the receipt I ask myself – “Did I really need those Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives, or the extensive selection of Spanish cheeses. Or how about those oh so tasty, but so darn expensive gourmet potato chips.” I did however skimp on some things: sour cream, cream cheese and marshmallows. But, it just goes to say that sometimes we splurge a little too much, when we could be more thrifty.

Saying that though, there are just some things I will never cut corners on – and that’s my Christmas dinner!

We are hosting the McConnell family for the holidays next week and I’m so very excited! Last year I hosted Christmas for my family and it was so much fun and less stressful. You see we live 3 hours from both sides of our family and our families live about 2 ½ hours apart. So, this makes for very long holidays and gets very tiring going to and from. This year though will be a piece of cake since we only have to drive south for one Christmas.

I finally have the Christmas dinner menu planned out (and as you can tell – I’m not cutting any corners on this menu). In my opinion when it comes to food, especially Christmas dinner – you can only buy the best in ingredients for the ones you care the most about!

Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!

McConnell Christmas Dinner Menu
Olives (Black, Spanish and Stuffed with Goat Cheese)
Spanish Cheeses, Burgers Smokehouse Sausage (local Missouri company) and Crackers
Spudmaster Potato Chips and a Dip
Rosemary Pinwheels

Three Meat Dish (Chicken, Ham and Beef Roast)
Holiday Sweet Potato Casserole
Country Green Beans
Pecan Grape Salad
Croissant Rolls
Corn Casserole

Southern Red Velvet Cake
Texas Pecan Pie
Very Cherry Pie
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes
Smooth as Silk Chocolate Pie

Be looking for these recipes to come…

December 17, 2008

Beef Tenderloin for Christmas Dinner

Why is it during the holidays we always cook up the traditional turkey and stuffing? Why not try something new?

I don’t know about you, but after having turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving dinners and then again at Christmas dinners – I’m turkey’ed out!

Now don’t get me wrong- I’m a huge fan of turkey and stuffing. I make chicken and stuffing throughout the year and occasionally splurge and buy a turkey, but there is nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit.

My family mixes it up during the holidays when it comes to the main course: sometimes wild turkey, venison, beef brisket or even pork loin (which I love).

A farmers’ market vendor in southwest Missouri passed along this recipe to me last year and it’s became one of my favorites. This makes a beautiful main course for entertaining special visitors and would be great for your Christmas dinner this holiday.

* Try and make this a local affair this holiday and try and buy local products.

Peppery Pinot Noir Beef Tenderloin
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature, divided
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cups Pinot Nor wine (try and choose a Missouri wine)
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (3- to 4-pound) beef tenderloin roast (try and buy from a local farmer)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 to 6 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons butter and flour; set aside.

In a large frying pan over low heat, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion, carrot, and celery; saute approximately 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste and stir until vegetables are coated. Add wine and boil approximately 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add chicken and beef broths; boil approximately 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1 1/4 cups. Remove from heat and strain liquid, discarding solids. Return liquid to pan; add butter/flour mixture and whisk over medium heat about 1 minute or until sauce thickens. Add heavy cream at the very end (do not overheat the cream). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bring roast to room temperature before cooking (usually about 20 minutes). Trim the tenderloin of fat.

Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Lightly oil outside of roast and sprinkle with pepper.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Without adding any cooking fat, brown the roast on all sides (approximately 10 minutes). When browned, remove from heat. Place the browned roast and cast-iron pan in the oven and bake, uncovered, until a meat thermometer registers desired temperature (see below).

Rare - 120°F Medium Rare - 125°F Medium - 130°F

Remove from oven and transfer onto a cutting board; cover with a tent of aluminum foil and let stand 15 minutes before carving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven).

In the cast-iron frying pan over medium heat, re-warm Pinot Noir Sauce over low heat; mix in any juices from roast.

Cut the roast into 1/2-inch slices and place them on a warm serving platter. To serve, spoon some Pinot Noir Sauce over the meat; pass remaining sauce separately. Serve immediately.

December 16, 2008

The Blog Game Begins

It’s a cold and snowy one in Jeff City Mo this morning, but so very beautiful outside. Most might not like snowy weather conditions, but I’m not one of them. I know how to drive, unlike most of the others that were passing me on the road this morning, driving way too fast. I love when the snow sticks to the trees, as it makes for a beautiful setting.

My friend and fellow blogger Kenzie tagged me in a little Blog Game. So, I don’t’ want to break the cycle so here we go:

Here are 7 random things about me (that you probably don't care about):
1.) I have two other blogs I author besides Home Cooking. A Look at Missouri Farmers’ Markets and Missouri Organics InterActive.
2.) My all-time favorite candy is Horehound, which is an old remedy that is soothing to the respiratory system and is a natural expectorant. The candy can always be found in my candy jar at work.
3.) I have an addiction to crocheting scarves. It’s all I do at night when I’m at home. Ask any of my friends, I bet they either have a scarf or a afghan I’ve made for them.
4.) The place I would like most to live overseas is Australia. I lived there for 5 months while in high school for a National FFA Exchange Program and I miss the people, the food, the landscape and most of all the beer.
5.) When I was a little girl I was the biggest tomboy! In fact, my mother stuck me in ballet and tap dance class because she thought it would help me be more lady like. I think it worked!
6.) I love to sing, but I’m not very good at it. (Ask my husband, as he is the only one that gets to see me in rare form) I sing all the time, especially during the holidays. The only music I listen to is holiday music. Even when it’s not the holidays and I’ve had a bad day I put in a holiday cd and jam out.
7.) I have a dream for my husband and I to start a peach and apple orchard in southwest Missouri someday. I want to also incorporate raspberries and blackberries and have a you-pick operation on the farm. Plus, I want the farm to be open to school children so I can teach our younger generation about the farming industry, so they know where their food comes from.

Now I’m tagging:
1.) Sarah: AgriMissouri Showcase
2.) Sarah: Front Porch Rocker
3.) Michelle: Down on the Dairy
4.) Steve: SMays
5.) Amy: Delicious by Nature
6.) Danene: Missouri Wine Girl
7.) JyLnC: A Cup of Joe With a View

Have fun with the game and don’t break the chain. Season’s Greetings Ya’ll!

December 15, 2008

Holiday Baking 2008 Gets Underway

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Today is goodie day…I’ve been dropping off holiday goodies I spent the weekend making to co-workers, friends and neighbors. It has become somewhat of a tradition in our house. I told my husband yesterday as I was making the last batch of pecan brittle that we needed some little ones in the kitchen to help out and make the experience even more of a family tradition.

Nothing beats receiving homemade goodies during the Christmas in my opinion. I would much rather someone give me something they spent time thinking about and making that any store bought gift.

It might be a lot of work for the cook, but making holiday goodies brings smiles to faces and joy to the heart!

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I switch up the menu each year when I bake. This year’s menu: Cashew and Pecan Brittle, Mini-Pound Cakes, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Almond Bark Popcorn (Pictured to the left), Fantasy Fudge and I still have three homemade Pumpkin Pies to make for some neighbors.

The Mini-Pound Cakes are my favorite because they are light and airy. The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, but of coarse!

Classic Pound Cake
Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside. Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack, and let cool completely. Before serving, dust cake with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, up to 3 days.

December 14, 2008

Where Did the Weekend Go?

Can the weekend really be over? I mean, just yesterday I was looking forward to a very long weekend and now it’s Sunday night.

One things for sure: this weekend was filled with “to do” lists. I was off Friday and spent the morning finishing up Christmas shopping (both at the mall and online, * note to self next year try to do as much online shopping as possible, it is so much easier and no crowds and cranky people to deal with). The afternoon was spent wrapping the final gifts and cleaning the downstairs of the house. I hadn’t realized how neglected our downstairs had gotten.

Saturday was spent getting Corn Beef and Cabbage in the crock pot and cleaning the rest of the house. Boy was I glad when my husband got home from a day at Lake of the Ozarks (he competed in another bass fishing tournament). The house looked amazing all decorated for Christmas and shiny and clean. (He commented on how pretty the house looked and thanked me for everything I do. Ladies we all know how sweet it is when our husbands notice things like that- I’m so lucky to have my keeper!) Later on that night we headed to the movies (two movies we want to see Australia and Twilight). We decided on Twilight that night, since my folks were coming up this weekend and we could take them to see Australia. For the record: I would give Twilight only a 6 out of 10. it was a typical teenage love story, but with vampires.

Now it’s Sunday! Today was spent baking all day practically. I did however get a couple scarves crocheted this weekend, which are Christmas gifts for a couple close friends.

I started baking around 10 am and just now finished and it’s 6pm. My feet hurt, my back aches, I’m covered in flour and smell like fudge, but it’s all worth it.

Check back tomorrow for photos of the holiday goodies!

(PHOTO: Christmas time is a special time at our house. I love having a tree in every room of the house. This is the "Red Tree" in the Dinning Room.)

December 10, 2008

Cranberries Make the Season

I love Christmas time because it gives me the chance to bake with cranberries (which are a great treat in any baked good). So, I was really excited when I saw that Farmgirl Fare had a post on Cranberry Christmas Scones (Photo by Faregirl Fare)

I love making all types of scones. According to, scones are believed to have originated in Scotland and are closely related to the griddle baked flatbread, known as bannock. They were first made with oats, shaped into a large round, scored into four to six triangles, and cooked on a griddle either over an open fire or on top of the stove.

Side Note: Cranberries also make a beautiful dinner centerpiece for your holiday table. Take tall glass vases and place fresh cranberries at the bottom and place a white piller candle on top of the cranberries. Set vases ontop f glass mirrors on tables. This looks very elegant and makes for a very festive touch! You can also float the cranberries in any glass vase or bowl, or try making a cranberry wreath.

Here is an easy recipe from Farmgirl Fare’s blog that I hope you enjoy this holiday!

Farmgirl's Cranberry Christmas Scones

Makes 12 Small Scones
2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder (make sure it's fresh!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled & cut into bits
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries (craisins)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons yogurt + milk to make 3/4 cup (or 3/4 cup buttermilk)

Optional Egg Glaze:
Beat well with a fork:1 egg & 2 Tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 2-1/4 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Using a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers, cut butter into the flour mixture until it forms coarse crumbles. Add cranberries and pecans (if desired) and toss gently until combined. Beat yogurt/milk mixture with the egg and gently fold into the dry ingredients, mixing lightly just until blended. Add up to 1/4 cup additional flour if dough is too sticky

On a floured surface, divide dough in half and gently pat each half into a circle 5 or 6 inches in diameter. With a sharp knife cut each circle into 6 wedges and place on a greased or parchment-lined.

Brush tops and sides of scones with egg glaze if desired and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container or freeze.

December 9, 2008

Holiday Candy Makin’

Do you remember when you were a child and you watched your grandmother or maybe even mother make candy for the holidays? Fudge, peanut butter cups, peanut brittle, sugared pecans, divinity…these are the types of candy I helped my mother make in our country kitchen.

I loved to watch my mother’s hands when she was cooking. I thought they were magical and it always amazed me how she could make such sweet tasting treats.

My mother would make goodies for neighbors that lived in the Ozarks that had helped us with farm chores, like getting cattle up to be worked, pulling a calf, or rounding all the cattle up when they got out. She would also make goodies for folks that provided great services like the postal man, hairdresser, school bus drivers and even the local 4-H leader.

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My mother still makes her holiday goodies each year, but now they are focused around her grandchildren (Sydnee, Hunter, Luke, Logan and Landon). She likes to make mini pumpkin breads, peanut butter cups, snowmen cookies and many other special treats for her grandbabies. Pictured to the right is Sydnee, Luke, myself and Hunter at Luke's 4th birthday party this past weekend.

One of my favorite holiday candies is brittle. I found this brittle recipe from the Martha Stewart website. BTW- there is no other site to log on to – to find the best in everything than Martha Stewart. I don’t care what you think about the lady- she is classy through and through and has helped me survived many dinners and holiday dinners.

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Nut Brittle
From Martha Stewart
Makes 1 1/2 pounds

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts, such as pecan halves, cashews, pistachios, coarsely chopped if large
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Spray a rimmed baking sheet and a wide metal spatula with cooking spray; set aside.

In a 2-quart glass measuring cup, combine sugar, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until sugar is moistened. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Stir in butter and nuts; return to microwave for about 5 minutes, until the sugar mixture is thick, bubbly, and very pale brown in color. Mixture is very hot; use handle when holding and pouring.

Remove from microwave, stir in vanilla and baking soda (mixture may foam up). Immediately pour onto prepared baking sheet, spreading mixture as thinly as possible with the prepared spatula. Let stand 20 minutes until hardened, then lift off sheet, and break brittle into bite-size pieces.

December 8, 2008

Get Your Wassail Here

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Christmas time is upon us. Yes, it's that time of the year already, it amazes me how quickly it comes each year.

Time for shopping for our loved ones, holiday baking for our co-workers and neighbors, trimming the tree, plugging in all the lights to see which ones work and which don’t, Christmas cards, table centerpieces made of holly, greenery and cranberries, choosing the perfect wine to accompany the perfectly planned out Christmas dinner and all the laughter and joy around the Christmas tree opening gifts and treasures. What isn’t there to love about Christmas!

I’ve been busy decorating our house since right before Thanksgiving. Yes, I’m one of those people that like to get a jump start on Christmas decorating. But, before you judge - let me explain.

I put out 10 trees (all with themes), plus outside decorations- so that takes a lot of time. My goal each year is to have the house decorated by Dec 1 and have Christmas cards mailed out the first week of December. Both of which I accomplished this year! Thank goodness. After I get all of that done I can kick back and relax.

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I always think how pretty our house looks with all the trees, stockings, lights and other décor – until I go to Silver Dollar City (SDC). Then I see real work at its best during the holidays.

My husband and I took a getaway this past weekend to Branson to “see the lights” and stay at my most favorite place in the world – Chateau on the Lake. SDC always gets us in the holiday spirit with the hot wassail, beautifully decorated trees, holiday music and Christmas parade (which is every night at 7pm). Plus, I always get great ideas for next year’s Christmas trees from walking through the Christmas ornament shop at SDC.

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So, in honor of our trip to SDC or “Steal Your Dollar Holler,” as my husband likes to call it – I’m posting a Hot Wassail recipe I know you will all love!

Wassail is a mulled cider type drink that is a holiday tradition in many countries. This hot, spiced punch is most popular at Christmas. It usually contains fruit juices, cinnamon, cloves and other spices.

McConnell Holiday Wassail
1 qt. apple juice
1 qt. orange juice
2 c. cranberry juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 T. honey
1 cup sugar
4 cloves
3-4 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice
Navel Orange Slices

Combine all ingredients in listed order to your crockpot, at least a 4 quart crock. Cook on low setting for about 4 hours or until heated to desired temperature. You may also cook it on high initially for an hour and reduce the heat to save time. This reheats well for 3 days, plus your entire house will smell like Christmas – what gets better than that!

December 4, 2008

Shrimp Etouffee Tonight

One of my very favorite meals has to be Shrimp Etouffee! The combination of shrimp seasoned with fresh ingredients like garlic, herbs, lemon zest, peppers…on a bed of hot rice just does something to a person.

The trick to good etouffee is a good dry white wine, clam juice, fresh shrimp and rice that isn’t over cooked! So many folks overcook their rice and stir it too much - breaking down the starch in the rice and making for sticky, slimy rice. I cook my rice according to the package (and I don’t buy that “cooks in 5 minutes” rice) and season it with a couple tabs of butter, some salt and parsley. Then stir the rice only at the beginning of cooking it, simmer according to directions and don’t stir again. All the water needs to be dissolved from the pot.

Now to the best part- the etoufee. Make sure you purchase fresh shrimp, but most of us in the Midwest aren’t lucky enough to have fresh shrimp. So, if you are going to buy frozen shrimp- buy the raw shrimp, not the already cooked shrimp. Why? Because the pre-cooked shrimp tends to get rubbery when cooking it in a meal and you loose the great taste of the shrimp.

Shrimp Etouffee
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
8 ounces clam juice
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (can also use frozen shrimp)
Hot cooked rice

First, season your shrimp with a couple of healthy shakes of salt, garlic and some pepper. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter; stir in flour and cook until bubbly. Stir in green onions, chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and basil. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring often for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Increase heat to high and add tomato sauce, wine, clam juice, water, Worcestershire sauce, white pepper, and Tabasco; stirring, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes or until thickened and reduced to 4 1/2 cups. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, and shrimp. Simmer approximately 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are cooked. Remove from heat and serve over hot cooked rice.