Friday, November 28, 2008

Cranberry Fluff

EDITED 11/23/11: It is best to mix with an immersion blender in a very deep bowl, otherwise the counter, the floor, the chef, the dog, etc. are pink!

EDITED 12/8: Well, I found Cranberry Jello (yes, you have to but the brand name, which is more expensive, but hey, it's the holidays and a little treat every now and then is ok).

The cranberry jello is even better than the raspberry. This recipe is a "keeper" -- and next tme I want to do cranberry jello with cranberry juice for half of the water -- or maybe some of the cranberry flavored Sierra Mist soda that I saw advertised last night.

I'll keep you informed!

There's something about Thanksgiving that just seems to bring out the jello molds!

I really wanted to try something different this time, and since it was to be just two of us for dinner, and the DH is a willing guinea pig, this is what I came up with.

Since I wasn't making cranberry sauce, I wanted to have some cranberry ingredient, I went through the cupboard and found the craisins -- PERFECT!

Here then is what I did:


1 small package sugar free raspberry jello (this would be even better with cranberry jello!)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup ice water
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup craisins


Spray a small mold with cooking spray

Add jello powder to boiling water and stir until totally dissolved

Using a whisk, beat in cream cheese until well blended

Add ice water and craisins, mix well

Pour into mold and chill until set

Notes: next time I'm going to try this with cold cranberry juice instead of the ice water, and I think I'll pre-soak the craisins to "plump" them too

I'll let you know how that turns out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tamale Pie

We like one dish meals at our house. Not that making one actually uses only one dish, but we like the flavors of casserole type things, so we do them pretty regularly.

This one has been a favorite for a while, but I don’t make it real often. It is, however, one that most of the time I could just whip up out of what’s in the cupboard.

It’s a great recipe for one of those chilly winter days that just begs you to turn on the oven for some reason!

There are lots of variations to this, and I’ve added some of them. I’d love to hear what you do with it!


For the crust:
2 ½ cups water
1 tsp salt
½ to 1 tsp chili powder (if you like spicy, use a whole tsp)
1 ¼ cup corn meal

For the filling:
1 lb. meat (left over pork or chicken, shredded or hamburger)
1 can (15 oz) chili ready or Mexican style tomatoes (or a can of green chili sauce)
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
¾ cup frozen corn, rinsed and drained
½ onion, diced fine
1 tbls olive oil
½ to ¾ cup shredded cheese (cheddar or jack are best)


Turn oven on to 350 degrees

In a sauce pan, combine water, salt and chili powder, bring to a boil
Using a whisk, slowing add cornmeal, turn burner off and cover to thicken

Spray a 2 ½ quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread cornmeal in dish to entirely cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Technique tip: use a glass custard dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray to press the cornmeal mixture evenly into the casserole dish.

Set the casserole dish aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil.

Sauté the onions until they are transparent then add the meat. Technique tip: if you are using hamburger, scramble fry it in another pan first and drain off all the fat.

Add the tomatoes, beans and corn, mix well and bring to a simmer to heat all of the ingredients through

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the filling to the prepared crust (too much liquid is not desirable)

Top with the shredded cheese

Bake for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly browned

Serve with a side salad, guacamole, sour cream and black olive garnish

Enjoy (oh yes, any left overs that you reheat the next day are just as good!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pantry Fruit Dessert

You know the problem -- you need a quickie dessert, or something tasty to take to a pot luck -- you don't have a lot of time, and you don't want to make a trip to the store.

This just may be your solution!

Quick, easy and pretty much safe for any number of special diets as it has no eggs, no nuts and no gluten!

+Here's the recipe:

2 pints (or 2 small cans) peach halves (this could also be done with canned pears or apples, and slices or chunks work just as well as halves)
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not the steel cut ones, and no instant oatmeal packets!)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp corn starch
4 Tbls softened butter

How to:
Heat the oven to 425 degrees
Spray an 8x8 glass pan with cooking spray (for easier clean up)
Drain the fruit
Arrange fruit in the bottom of the pan
Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until well mixed
Spread mixture on top of fruit
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes

Serve warm -- it's really good with a little whipped cream or ice cream too


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Great Pumpkin Pie Puzzle

For a number of years we have had what can best be described as a love/hate relationship with pumpkin pies.

Personally, I love pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie too. Still slightly warm from the first day's baking or after it's been chilled, with whipped cream or without, it has always said "goodies for cold weather" to me.

But we have had "issues" with pumpkin pies. There was the year of the "I forgot to add the sugar", and the "why is there so much extra liquid".

Here then are some things I've learned about pumpkin pies:

* If you are starting with fresh pumpkin, after it's been cooked and the skin removed, you need to press it through a strainer to take out the extra liquid. And don't expect it to be as orange as the commercial puree -- for some reason, that just doesn't happen.

* Like with any baking, it's a good idea to put all of the ingredients out on the counter before you start and put them away as you add them to the recipe -- that way you know you have everything you need before you start (and don't have to make a run to the store in mid-mixing), and you'll remember to put everything into the mix (let us say that leaving out the sugar was a deal breaker!)

Here then are the two variations of pumpkin pie that we use at our house:

Heat the over to 425 degrees.

Put the pie crust in the pan (we always use a pyrex pie pan).

Mix all the other ingredients together until well blended and pour into the pie crust.

For Version I, bake for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 40 to 50 minutes.

For Version II, bake at 425 for 45 to 55 minutes.

To test for doneness, a case knife or a thin metal spatula should come out clean when inserted midway between the center and the edge of the pie. Carry over heat will finish the custard cooking and keep the pie from being dry.

Either of these versions can be made by substituting mashed sweet potatoes for the pumpkin puree -- and that's yummy too -- especially with a little drizzle of carmel sauce.

Anyone else have any "horror stories" about pumpkin pie?

Friday, November 07, 2008

We interrupt this healthy eating

for an old style southern dish

I know, we're trying hard to cut the fat, but even our doctor tells us you can occasionally have one of those "BAD for you" meals.

This dish is something I remember from my childhood -- my grandmother made it, and I loved it then too

Pork Chops and Grits

3/4 cup quick cooking grits
3 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbls butter

2 to 4 pork chops

In a sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Whisk in the salt and the grits, reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside.

Trim the fat from the pork chops. In a heavy skillet, render the fat (cook those little pieces of fat until they are like very crispy bacon). Remove the crispy pieces from the pan (I confess -- I eat them!). Sprinkle each side of each pork chop lightly with salt, and place in skillet. Brown each side, do not overcook!

In a flat baking dish, spread the grits in an even layer (spray the dish with non-stick cooking spray first for easier clean up!)

Place browned pork chops on top of grits -- don't overlap the meat -- then pour all of the pan juices over the grits

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on how thick the pork chops are and how "done" you like them)

Enjoy, ya'll!