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  • A Smashing Dinner Party

    April 25, 2011

    I love to have people over for dinner.  I think hosting small dinner parties of four to six, is about the funnest thing you can do.  But, in all honestly, since Sean was born, I have not done as much of that sort of thing as I like to do.  I am out of dinner party shape.  But now that Sean is getting older, it’s a lot easier and so I have been trying to get back in the swing of entertaining.

    If you did not know, I am a bit of a foodie.  I like to feed people.  I love to buy food, I love to talk about food, I love to learn about food.  I read cookbooks for entertainment and about the only television I watch is the Food Network.  So it was weird that as I was planning my little dinner party menu, I was stumped.  I could not think of one thing to fix.  Even foodies get in a food rut from to time.

    Someone suggested that I make Lazy Chicken. Frankly that didn’t sound all that great for some reason, and I think it was just that the name evoked unpleasant imagery.  As does yogurt.  I don’t really care for yogurt and I think it is because the word yogurt is an ugly and unappetizing word.  Yogurt just doesn’t sound like something you oughta eat.  They should call it buttery creamy caramel toasted stuff. Then I would like it.

    Anyway, I looked around on the internet and this Lazy Chicken had a pretty good reputation, except for you know, being lazy.  So I went with it and followed the recipe without deviation.  But I had a not-so-good feeling about this dish all along.

    If you are interested, here’s the recipe:  Take a bunch of spices and coat the chicken, either frozen or fresh, and then bake it at 350.  So that’s what I did.  But when I pulled it out of the oven and tested a piece, my not-so-good feeling was confirmed: this chicken was not-so-good.  I just couldn’t serve it.  So I rinsed off all the spices, smothered it in salsa and covered the pan with heavy foil and set it aside to rest, to take a little power nap.

    I then said a little prayer that through a baptism of salsa, the not-so-good chicken might experience a trans-substantiation of sorts and turn into something not-so-bad. Salsa can cover a myriad of culinary sins.  And with the guests set to arrive in 10 minutes, there was nothing more that could be done.  I had to move on.

    And if the chicken wasn’t so great, then at least I had prepared other things.  Lining the counter and ready to go was some hummus I had made for an appetizer, a spring salad, creamy au gratin potatoes, clover leaf rolls and pretty little homemade cobbler topped with a dusting of sugar which sparkled in the glow of the under-cabinet fluorescent lights.  Pretty much, my entire meal was setting out on the counter waiting to be served.  All that was left to do was make the tea so I boiled some water in the microwave.

    When the microwave beeped, I popped open the door and retrieved a small pitcher of bubbling hot water.  But as I did, the pitcher caught on the heavy12-inch glass platter that rotates inside the microwave. And out it fell.  It first crashed onto the granite counter top and busted into a zillion pieces and then the rest of it crashed to the porcelain tile floor and busted into ten zillion pieces.  Granite and porcelain tile are not forgiving surfaces.  Keep this in mind should you be thinking of remodeling your kitchen.  One unfortunate incident and your grandmother’s china is history. As well as any food you may have prepared.

    When I opened my eyes there was glass everywhere. Every. Where.  For weeks after, I found bits of glass all the way into the breakfast room and even the den.  There was shards of glass in every dish I had prepared — everything that is except the stupid lazy good for nuthin’ chicken which was covered tightly with foil.  And my guests were set to arrive any minute.

    I wanted to cry big fat sloppy unappetizing snotty tears.  And I also wanted to bust something else and stomp my feet and maybe even shake my fist.

    But I didn’t do any of those things. I screamed for Sean to go get his father to help me clean up the mess.  My plan was to first clean up the glass and then figure out how to prepare another meal in six minutes.

    While AD swept up and wiped up and vacuumed up glass, I dumped all the food into the trash, dish by dish, making up new curse words in my head with every scrape.

    Then on to Plan B.  I always have a couple of blocks of cream cheese and crackers on hand, so I think I poured Somethingoranother over the cream cheese and put out some crackers and called it an appetizer.  Then I made a pot of minute rice and seasoned it with a leftover packet of Somethingoranother that I found in the freezer.  Then I opened a couple of cans of green beans, also seasoned with Somethingoranother and for dessert I pulled a Sara Lee Somethingoranother cake out of the freezer.  If you don’t stock Somethingoranother and salsa in your pantry, you really should.

    As luck would have it, our guests got caught in traffic and were a few minutes late and I magically pulled a meal together in time.

    When the guests I arrived I tried to forget about the fact that I had glass dust floating in the air, and just relax and enjoy their company, which wasn’t hard to do as they were a fun couple, good conversationalists with entertaining stories.  When they complimented me on the chicken I didn’t quite believe them because, in my opinion, it was really not very good. But they did clean their plates, so maybe they were sincere.

    I guess as is often said, all’s well that ends well and no sense crying over shattered glass in your entire meal and if it ain’t broke, then Antique Mommy hasn’t touched it. Whatever.

    So then, for a truly smashing dinner party, stock up on Somethingoranother and have Plan B. And maybe a dustpan handy.

    Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies

    November 24, 2010

    This morning I am making Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies to bring to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving.  They never allow me to bring anything — either because they are the kind of people who like to do all the cooking themselves (which I understand) or they don’t like my cooking.  Either way, as a naturalized southerner, it is not possible for me to show up at someone’s home empty-handed, so I am making cookies.

    Mexican wedding cookies are easy to make, not overly sweet, bite-sized and scrumptious. And great to bring to a gathering because they don’t require refrigeration, heating or a fork and plate – all of which are prime real estate at any get-together.  Just be sure to bring them on a pretty plate, ready for the hostess to unwrap and set out.

    Here’s the recipe:

    Maple Walnut Mexican Wedding Cookies

    1 cup (two sticks) of butter, softened

    ½ cup of powdered sugar

    2 cups of flour

    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

    1 teaspoon of Mapeline (or maple extract)

    1 cup of chopped walnuts

    Sift the flour and powdered sugar together.  (This makes for a lighter flakier cookie, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, add the powdered sugar to the butter, cream it and then add the flour a bit at a time.)  Add the sifted ingredients to the softened butter and cream together with an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and Mapeline.  Fold in the chopped nuts.  You can use a bit more or less of the extracts, depending on how much you like maple flavor.

    Drop by scant teaspoons onto an ungreased baking sheet.  You can also roll them into teeny tiny balls if you are so inclined.   Resist the temptation to make them too big – if you do it will take more than 40 minutes to bake.  Bake at 275 for 40-45 minutes. They should be firm to the touch when they are done but not necessarily brown.

    After the cookies cool just a bit (but are still slightly warm) toss lightly in powdered sugar.

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    Since Sean is allergic to nuts, I divide my batter in half before adding the nuts and maple flavoring.  Both versions are yummy!  And if you don’t add the nuts, you can pipe the dough onto the cookie sheet for a more uniform cookie.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Walnut Cilantro Pesto

    March 28, 2010

    So then, the other day I made some Walnut Cilantro Pesto and I thought I’ll bet this is something y’all would like.  And so I called to invite you over to have some with a little happy hour beverage, but you weren’t home. So, sorry I missed you, but here’s the recipe.

    Super super simple.

    You will need walnuts, cilantro, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic and salt.  You can add a few other spices if you want, because after all, it is your pesto.

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    Sean was my food stylist and he added the butter knife to the pesto tableau, which I think is a nice touch.

    I always add a drop or two of liquid smoke because I like a subtle smoky flavor to most things.  A dash of cumin and chili powder – the golden spice combo in my opinion – is a nice touch too. Some recipes call for jalapenos, but I say ix nay on the alapenos hay.  Jalapenos are wonderful, I love’em, but I don’t think they belong in Mediterranean influenced dishes.

    So then.  Dump about a half cup or so of walnuts into your food processor along with “some” fresh, course-chopped cilantro.  By “some” I mean a handful. And by “handful” I mean some. Or 2/3 cup or so.  Next add maybe 1/4 cup of olive oil.  You can drizzle in more as the food processor is running to get the consistency you want.

    After that I grate in some fresh Parmesan, about 1/4 cup. More if you like.  Do not use that sprinkle stuff that comes in can, never ever, anywhere, ever.  I’m not a food snob, but no to that.  Next add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and and 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic, although I sometimes use the powdered stuff.  Then grind it all up until you achieve the consistency of peanut butter, vibrant green peanut butter.

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    Now, how to serve this stuff?

    I don’t really care much for pesto on pasta; I really prefer it just served on crackers or toasted garlic bread with a nice glass of Merlot. I also like to spread it on a fillet of Tilapia, roll it up and bake it – even though it has cheese.  Some food snobs people think you should never ever mix cheese and fish, but hello! Fillet-o-Fish has cheese food product and everyone knows that FOF is a delicacy.  I like to tell the story of how when I was pregnant I craved McD’s Fillet-O-Fish and one time I went through the drive-through and ordered one, ate it, drove around the building and ordered another one. Yes, I know that relates to nothing heretofore but I’m in the mood to share.

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    And here’s the final dish.

    Many thanks to Sean’s Food Styling for making this post possible.

    Italian Pizzelles

    December 12, 2009

    When I was growing up in the midwest, our Italian neighbors always brought over a tin of pizzelles during the holidays.  To me, those thin buttery crisp waffle cookies symbolize holiday hospitality.

    When I moved out of my parent’s house, my mom bought me my own pizzelle iron and every Christmas I carry on the Italian tradition of bringing pizzelles to my friends and neighbors.

    Here’s what you will need:

    A pizzelle iron – mine is a 25-year-old Rival combo waffle/pizzelle iron.

    6 eggs

    1 1/2 cups of sugar

    1 1/2 cups of melted butter

    1 1/2 cups of flour

    2 teaspoons of baking powder

    4 teaspoons of anise extract.  I like to substitute Frangelica which is a hazlenut liquor but Grand Marnier works well too.

    2 teaspoons of vanilla

    powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of finished cookie

    *  *  *  *

    Whip the eggs and then add in the rest of the ingredients in the order listed.  The batter will be thick but still flow from a spoon.

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    Place a generous tablespoon or so of batter in the center of the hot iron, or two dollops of batter if you have a two-top like I do.  Close the lid and allow to cook until it stops steaming, about 45 seconds. This is a terribly blurry picture, but you get the idea.

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    This is what they look like when they are done, lightly golden brown.  Remove the very hot pizzelles with a fork and lay on a rack to cool. At this point they will be very maleable and you can shape them into a cylinder or a bowl or cone, but you will have to work quickly.

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    If you want to shape them into a bowl to serve ice cream in later — and might I recommend Blue Bell Pecan Pralines — quickly press them into a ramekin while still warm.

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    Or you can just place them on a rack to cool and sprinkle them with powdered sugar.  Aren’t they pretty?

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    I like to serve them after dinner with coffee or tea.  They are very light and not too sweet – the perfect ending to a heavy meal.

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    And this is how fast they come running when the pizzelles are done.

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    This recipe makes 40 or more pizzelles minus the 10 or 15 you won’t be able to stop yourself from eating.

    Winter Squash Enchiladas

    December 9, 2009

    I love winter produce and I love Mexican food and when you put them together you get Winter Squash Enchiladas. As we all know, a healthy diet includes lots of colorful foods and this is a great way to get some orange and yellow in your diet.

    Also, they are a great make ahead meal that will get you out of the kitchen and enjoying family and friends.  This recipe makes about 22 enchilads.

    Here’s what you will need:

    1 butternut squash

    1 acorn squash

    1 poblano pepper

    1 small sweet onion, diced

    1 red bell pepper, diced

    3-4 T of chopped cilantro (I usually use more because I love cilantro)

    1 cup or more corn (fresh, frozen or canned)

    1 – 2T sugar

    cumin, chili powder, garlic, liquid smoke, salt and pepper to taste

    About 3 cups of grated cheese – Monterrey Jack is best but Cheddar or any combination thereof will do.

    1 or 2 cans of green enchilada sauce depending on how much you use.  You can make your own tomatilla sauce if you want to be all Martha-y, and I used to do that, but now I have a six-year-old so most of the time I just use Old El Paso mild green chili enchilada sauce which you can find at nearly any grocery store.  The traditional red enchilada sauce doesn’t work well with the mild sweet taste of the squash.

    12-15 Corn Tortillas

    Sour Cream Sauce – sour cream, chicken broth, green chilis, spices

    * * *

    So then… start with two lovely sqaush like you see here, acorn in the back, butternut inthe front. Aren’t they purdy?

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    First, bake the squash.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. A grapefruit spoon works great for this task.

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    Place the squash cut side down on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 until tender, at least an hour, probably and hour and a half.  When they are done, the skin will be soft enough to dent with your finger and your kitchen will smell awesomely good.

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    Are they done yet?

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    The squash meat should be soft and will have a natural amber caramel glaze.  Set aside and let cool completely.

    Prepare a poblano pepper.  You can either do this on an open flame on top of the stove, on the grill or in the oven.  I like the oven because it is the least amount of trouble.

    Wash and dry your pepper and then place it on a foil lined sheet in a hot oven, about 425.  As the skin begins to char and blister, turn with tongs to allow it to roast evenly. When all sides are charred and blistered, remove from the oven and put in a zip lock bag to steam.  After it cools, remove the outer charred skin, seeds and top and then dice the remaining pepper meat.

    If you don’t want to mess with poblanos, a can of green chillis works too, but you can’t beat the flavor of a poblano pepper.

    Onion and Pepper Mixture.  Next, dice a small sweet onion and a red bell pepper.  (I didn’t have a red pepper,  so I used a yellow one.)  Cook on medium high heat in 2-3T of olive oil until tender.  Add garlic (I use garlic powder if I don’t have fresh which is often), salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke, all to suit your taste.  I realize that liquid smoke is probably a real blue collar ingredient, but I love the little bit of smokey taste it gives food without the trouble of grilling and I use it all the time.

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    When all of that is brown, toss in your corn and add 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue cooking until sugar is melted.

    Assemble and Bake. By this time your squash should be cooled.  Scoop out innards into a large mixing bowl.  Add the cooked onion/bell pepper mixture and diced poblanos and about 1 cup of grated cheese and mix well.

    Next, pour just enough green enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large glass baking dish to keep the enchiladas from sticking while baking.

    Microwave a stack of corn tortillas in a covered container for 30 seconds or until soft.  Some people lightly fry the tortillas before filling, but I think the microwave gets the job done with a lot less mess.

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    Place about 2 tablespoons of the squash mixture in the center of the warmed tortilla, roll it up and place seam side down in pan. Repeat until pan is filled. Top with a cup or so of green enchilada sauce and then sprinkle cheese on top.  You want to put just enough enchilada sauce on top to keep them from drying out. Too much and they will get a little soggy.  Although they will still taste good.

    Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and top begins to brown.

    You can make these a day ahead.  Take them out of the fridge and bring to room temperature before baking.

    Sour Cream Sauce. Now, when I made these the other day, I thought they needed a little sour cream sauce on top. A quick and easy way to do that is to take about a cup or so of sour cream and put it in a small sauce pan on the stove on low heat. Add some chicken broth to thin and then add some cumin, chili powder, garlic and green chilis or poblanos if you have some left over. Cook on low heat and stir until you get the consistency you want.  Drizzle over the top of the enchiladas just before serving.

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    Here’s the final product which doesn’t look all that yummy (there is an art to food photography which I haven’t had time to perfect) but trust me, they taste much better than they look.

    Salud!

    Crystallized Ginger

    December 3, 2009

    Today we are making crystallized ginger, also called candied ginger.

    About 10 years ago I found some crystallized ginger while grocery shopping around the holidays. I bought a small container of it but never really knew what to do with it until one day the spirit led me to plop a few pieces into a cup of hot tea. Okay, it wasn’t really the spirit, I just like to put sweet stuff in my hot tea like peppermints and orange or grapefruit slices and other odd things. But. I loved it.  It added just a little nip of flavor and sweetness and made my cup of tea special.

    But by St. Patricks Day, the little box of candied ginger was gone, and lo, there was none to be found throughout the entire kingdom, at least in my kingdom’s grocery store, and there was great sadness.  And hot tea was just not the same.

    So the next year around holiday time, the kingdom’s grocers once again put out candied ginger and I bought about 12 containers. But these too did not last the entire year. And again there was great sadness.  Many years passed and there was no candied ginger to be found and I so I tried to go on with my life.

    Then one day while in the grocery store I gazed upon a bin of raw ginger and it occured to me that I could probably make it myself.

    For this recipe you will need some fresh ginger root, sugar and water.

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    So then, buy yourself several hands of ginger.  Look for big flat pieces because you are going to have to peel these things and that will be a bit of  pain.

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    This is how much raw ginger the above three hands yielded.  I don’t know why I call them hands of ginger. Probably because they look like hands or maybe I heard someone call them hands.

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    Chop into small chunks or strips, whichever you like.

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    Cover with water and then boil, boil and boil some more.  Boil until they are tender, probably about 45 minutes.

    Now for some reason, at this point I put the camera down. Oh, now I know. Because I was going to have to stir boiling sugar.

    After the ginger is tender, drain and return it to the pan.

    Among candied ginger recipes, there is a lot of variation in the sugar to water ratio.   Some recipes tell you to weigh the ginger and then measure out an equal amount of sugar and then 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.  I don’t have a scale so I just guess on the sugar and add about 1/2 as muchwater.  Other recipes call for a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water.   Roughly, you want enough sugar to cover the ginger when it is in the pan.  I have found that in this recipe it isn’t necessary to be absolutely precise.

    If you want a chunky crystallized ginger, add more sugar and less water.  If you want more of a glazed ginger, get the sugar to water ratio closer to 1 to 1.

    I like my candied ginger chunky, so I used about 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water.  I am no Alton Brown. In my world, cooking is more art than science.

    Cook it all on low heat until the sugar is dissolved and then bring to a boil for about one minute, stirring constantly. Then reduce to a simmering boil until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. This will take at least 30 minutes, depending upon how much you are making.

    Remove the ginger with a slotted spoon and place on wax paper to dry.  When cool, toss with additional sugar if desired.

    Bonus:  I poured the left over ginger infused syrup over some Texas Ruby Red grapefruit sections (which are so yummy and in season right now!) And it was a delicious treat.  Also, did you know that ginger is often used to soothe an upset tummy?

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    Above is the full yield.

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    Candied ginger in a festive container makes a nice hostess gift.  Or if you have tea lover on your list, add a pretty tea cup and an assortment of teas for a gift that says “Hey! I know you like tea!”

    Crystallized (or candied) ginger keeps for six months (or more) in the fridge.

    George’s Pickles

    December 1, 2009

    It’s going to be photos and recipes this week because it’s that crazy busy time of year.  Hall decking leaves little time for my ministry of writing mediocre drivel for the world wide web.

    Tomorrow or the next day, because I like to be precise — and because I like you! — I’m going to show you how to make crystallized ginger which is lovely in a cup of hot tea.  It’s a bit of trouble to make but keeps well and I think it’s worth it.

    But today it’s about the pickles…

    This is a recipe that I got from my father-in-law George who has so many recipes in the church cookbook that they finally had to set a limit.  These pickles are super easy to make, keep well and make a nice little hostess gift for pickle lovers.  They are also great in tuna salad or in potato salad or just on the side.  Even people who don’t really like pickles usually like these.

    You will need three ingredients — pickles, sugar and Tabasco.

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    Take a regular old jar of pickles, any old kind will do. Drain off all the liquid.

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    Chop them into thick slices and return them to the jar.

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    Fill up the jar with sugar. It will seem like a crazy amount of sugar, but trust me on this.  This was a 46 oz. jar and I used at least three cups of sugar.  Add about 1/4 bottle of Tabasco for a 46 oz. jar of pickles — more if you like the taste of fire, less if you don’t.   In about an hour or so, all of the sugar will dissolve.

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    Set the pickles aside for one week.  I turn my jar from time to time throughout the week to distribute the sugar and Tobasco. George says you don’t have to, but it gives me something to do.

    I know they sound kind of awful and at first they even look kind of awful, but in one week and you will have a jar of delightful firey-sweet crunchy pickles.

    Frenchy Type Toast

    November 28, 2009

    With just three in the family and one us not terribly fond of food, it seems like when I open a can of biscuits, I always end up with one or two left over.  Recently I discovered that left over biscuits make really yummy crunchy French toast, so I started freezing them instead of throwing them out for the birds.

    Frenchy Type Toast

    2 beaten eggs

    1/2 cup (more or less) of  Half and Half  (any milk will work as well)

    1/4 cup or more of cinnamon and sugar mixture (easiest to use in a container that will sprinkle)

    3 or 4 frozen left over canned biscuits – previously baked (any kind, flakey or country style, will do)

    2T (more or less) vegetable oil

    Beat the eggs well and then add in milk and about 2T of cinnamon and sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.

    Slice frozen left-over biscuits into 1/4 inch rounds. Each biscuit will make 2 or 3 slices.

    Dip the biscuit slices in the egg mixture and then sprinkle one side liberally with cinnamon sugar.  Place sugar side down in a pan of hot oil (not smoking hot, but good and hot) then sprinkle the top with more cinnamon and sugar.

    When the bottom is brown and carmelly, turn the biscuit over and brown the other side.

    Serve hot with a dab of syrup or a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

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    Pumpkin Dessert

    November 21, 2009

    I am not a big fan of pumpkin pie, but I love this pumpkin dessert.  I’ve had this recipe since 1984 and have never once had to put away leftovers.

    I heard earlier in the week that there is a pumpkin shortage and it may not be possible to get canned pumpkin, so run as fast as you can to the store and pick up a couple of cans. Then again, maybe the pumpkin farmers started that rumor.

    At any rate, here’s a dessert that is always a big hit.

    Pumpkin Dessert

    You will need one yellow cake mix, three eggs, 1 1/2 sticks of butter (margarine will do), 3 cups of canned pumkin pie mix, 1 can of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon.

    Three easy steps:  crust, filling and topping

    Crust

    1 package of yellow cake mix (reserving 1 cup for topping)

    1 stick of butter, softened

    1 egg

    Mix together and pat into a greased 9×13 pan

    Filling

    3 cups of canned pumpkin pie mix (approximately one large can)

    2/3 cups of evaporated milk  (I use Pet Milk but any brand will do.)*

    2 eggs

    Mix together thoroughly and pour over crust.

    Topping

    1 cup of reserved cake mix

    ¼ cup of sugar

    1 teaspoon of cinnamon

    ½ stick of butter, softened

    Mix together and sprinkle over top of filling.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes for a glass pan, up to 50 for a metal pan.

    This recipe doesn’t call for chopped pecans on top, but I think they make a nice addition.

    Enjoy!

    * Evaporated milk that comes in a can, which you can find in the baking aisle. Don’t get it confused with condensed milk. Condensed milk is thick and sugary; evaporated milk is thin and milky – like milk!

    Mexican Chicken Soup

    November 12, 2009

    Another soup recipe from my big brown envelope for your fanatabulously awesome weekend ahead.

    This one is called Mexican Chicken soup. Here’s what you’ll need and how to make it:

    2 or 3 grilled chicken breasts, cubed.  You can also use the pre-grilled fajita chicken from the freezer case or you can use baked chicken, whatever works for you.  A lot of times I’ll use left over baked chicken.

    1 onion, diced – I like the Mayan Sweets

    1 poblano pepper, grilled, steamed and diced

    2 T of butter + 1T of olive oil

    1 clove of garlic (garlic powder works fine too)

    1 package of fresh sliced mushrooms, cleaned

    1 can of corn, drained

    ½ quart of chicken broth

    ½ quart of water, more or less

    1 16-oz. block of Velveeta, cubed

    3 tablespoons of corn starch mixed with 1 cup of warm water

    ¼ tsp of cumin + ¼ tsp of chili powder

    If you have a grill and it’s no trouble to fire it up, then grill two or three chicken breasts, one onion and a poblano pepper.  When the skin on the poblano is good and black, put it in a zip lock bag, seal it up and let it steam for about 20 minutes. Then peel away the charred skin, remove the seeds with a knife and dice.

    If you don’t want to mess with grilling and steaming a poblano pepper, a can of green chilis and a drop or two of liquid smoke is a nice substitute, but I don’t think you can beat the smokey flavor of a grilled poblano – worth the trouble in my opinion.

    If you are like me and don’t want to mess with the grill, then in a large pan, sauté the onion and mushrooms and garlic in the butter and olive oil until the onions are brown and carmel-y.

    Add the chopped chicken, diced peppers, corn and the chicken broth and heat to a simmer.

    Add the Velveeta, but do not let it come to a boil or bad things will happen to your soup, your pan and the ambience of your house.

    When the cheese has melted, mix the cornstarch in with the 1 cup of warm water and add to the soup to thicken, stirring frequently.

    Add as much of the ½ quart of water to get the consistency that you want.

    Season with cumin and chili powder and maybe a little salt or whatever else suits you.

    There is a lot of room for variation/substitution with this soup. If you aren’t opposed to beer, a half a can would probably add a nice flavor as would a 1/2 cup or so of cooking sherry.

    I would serve this with a pan-grilled focaccia bread.  You can get a loaf of focaccia bread for about $1.50 at the grocery store in the bakery department.  I slice it in half horizontally, slather the inside with butter and garlic powder and then put it face down in a hot pan until good and brown.

    Have a yummy weekend y’all!