Friday, December 31, 2021

Pioneer New Year Dessert - Shortbread

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~Pema Chödrön

 

This quote describes life in general, does it not?  A day, in the life, of any individual has ups and downs; some expected, some a complete surprise.  Through most of 2021, the Cokenour household coasted through the year.  In October though, we lost our 11 year old Australian Shepherd dog, Tippy.  11 years of having our “big puppy”, and suddenly he was gone; a victim of cancer that had ravaged his body.  Where had 11 years gone?  How had we missed his getting older, when he constantly acted like a young puppy!?!   Then, in November, we lost our Maine Coon cat, Monkey; 15 years old and the last of our pets from our life in Pennsylvania.  To say the Yule and Christmas holidays were swallowed up in sadness would be an overwhelming truth. 

As good as 2021 had been for us, it had no intention of letting us get away with an almost completely happy year.  But that is life in reality, full of ups, downs and all-arounds that have your heart, mind and soul permanently strapped into a Tilt-a-World ride.

Now here it is, the New Year, 2022; and still no flying cars as depicted in the cartoon series, The Jetsons.  Hello 2022, what new adventures will you be flinging our way?  That is correct, we will be welcoming the New Year with open arms, eyes and mind.  Taking whatever lessons the past year has ingrained within us, taking this new bull by the horns, and riding till our butts are thrown upon the ground.  Give up?  You do not know us very well then.  Oh no, we dust ourselves off, look that bull in the eyes and say, “Bring it on!”  So, to all of you who have had it bad, and wonder if life is worth going on, we say, “Yes it is, so get on your own bulls and ride!”

When it comes to cooking, many households, throughout the world, welcome the New Year with a specialty menu.  It is geared towards filling the senses with happiness, and bestowing luck onto all who partake of the meal. Of course, while New Year’s Eve is geared more towards the consumption of alcohol (what better way to forget the old year?), the Day might be geared towards relieving a hangover.  You do you, right?

Back to food, and wondering how the pioneers, of Utah, celebrated the New Year.  Reading through The Mormon Pioneer Cookbook, I discovered there were two versions; one British and the other Swedish.  Since we enjoy British recipes, this is what I focused on more.  New Year was full of music, drama, dancing; celebrating the accomplishments of the past year such as building homes and good harvests.  In 1852, Social Hall was built in Salt Lake City, and was reputed to be the first theater built, west of the Missouri River.  It became the center for all social activities in the ever expanding Mormon community.  For New Year’s Eve, a late supper (British menu) was held, dancing till dawn, and then breakfast (Swedish menu) served.  The meals were buffet style, with households preparing and bringing all the dishes to share.  The late supper consisted of Irish Soda Bread, pork pies, Cornish pasties, Wassail (a hot cider drink full of citrus) and Scottish Shortbread; amongst other homemade and delicious foods of British Isle descent.

Scottish Shortbread is a simple recipe containing three ingredients: sugar, butter and flour.  Traditionally it is baked in a rectangle shape, and then cut into rectangular “fingers”.  It is considered to be a biscuit, but has been described as a cookie, due to its shape being changed by manufacturers.  Think of shortbread as Scotland’s version of Italian biscotti.  Sometimes a simple design would be pressed into the shortbread, before baking, with a cookie stamp; or holes indented with the tines of a fork.  Eaten by itself, or smeared with a fruit jelly or curd, and the New Year will start off being very happy indeed!

 


Scotch Shortbread

(The Mormon Pioneer Cookbook by Daughters of Utah Pioneers, page 62)

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 and ¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

Preparation:

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually blend in flour, mix well.  Chill.

Divide dough in half.  Press into two 6-inch rounds on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Prick tops with tines of fork.  If desired, flute edges.

Bake in a 300F oven about 30 minutes or until delicately browned.

Cut each into 8 segments while hot.

Yield: 16 pieces

So, for 2022, I have been thinking to start the New Year with a bit o’ beef, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, new potatoes baked in butter, and, of course, Scottish shortbread for dessert.

From the Cokenour family to you and yours, Happy New Year!!!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Candy to Cookie Conversion.

“Sometimes you feel like a nut.

Sometimes you don't.

Almond Joy's got nuts.

Mounds don't.”

(Written by Leo Corday and Leon Carr and sung by Joey Levine)


Whether you enjoy eating coconut, or not, when this commercial for Peter Paul’s Almond Joy and Mounds candies comes on, bet you find yourself singing along.
  While the Mounds bar was a huge hit, with the military, during WW2; Almond Joy has been around just as long.  Originally called the Dream Bar, the candy confection was a mixture of sweet coconut and diced almonds, encased in dark chocolate.  Once the Peter Paul Company purchased it though, the name was changed, along with the almonds.  Instead of diced almonds mixed in, two whole almonds were placed atop the coconut, making each whole piece a two-bite candy.  Now owned by Hershey, the current slogan for Almond Joy is “Unwrap Paradise”, and that would definitely make it a dream bar, once again, if it gave us paradise.

From the professional baker to the homemaker, it is not unusual to try and create a bake good, from the perspective of a candy.  Perusing the internet, many a recipe can be found where a cake or cookie has been created to resemble a brand name candy.  Snickers cheesecake anyone?  So, is it any wonder that Almond Joy is now an easy to bake, 4-ingredient cookie?  In fact, the recipe is so easy, that the almonds and semi-sweet chocolate chips can be swapped out for other types of nuts and chips.

Alright parents, the children are home from school for the winter holidays, and they will enjoy making these cookies with you.  With the main ingredient of coconut, think about making these for Easter as well, if you cannot find, or make, coconut crème eggs. 

Oh, and I took this recipe one step further than just swapping ingredients; dipping the bottoms in melted chocolate!  Want to go even further, drizzle that melted chocolate over the cookie.  With chocolate, more is always more!  I recently made two separate batches, and a half of each batch was dipped in either dark or white melted chocolate.  I have received requests to, “Please make more, and they were so good!”  If you needed independent endorsements of this recipe, now you have them.

 


Recipe for Almond Joy Cookies

(Note: I could not find the origin of this recipe.  Each food site/food blog I checked claimed to be the originator of this recipe.)

Ingredients:

1 (14 oz.) bag sweetened coconut flakes

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup chopped almonds (lightly salted is preferred, but I used salted and still came out great)

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line aluminum/metal type baking sheet or pan with parchment paper (Note: this is a must if you want the cookies to cleanly come off the pan without crumbling.  Using silicone mats, or lining with wax paper, will cause the cookies to melt completely flat.)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; stir until well combined.  Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, place a dozen mounds on the parchment paper.  Have a small bowl of water nearby to moisten tips of fingers to slightly flatten down the mounds, and firm up the round appearance.(Note: if using a 1 and ½ inch cookie scoop, 3 and ½ dozen cookies will be created)

 



Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies turn golden brown.  Let them completely cool on the parchment before removing; they will peel off easily.  Store in airtight containers.

 

Makes 3 dozen.

 





My first batch was using this original recipe.  The second batch, I swapped out the almonds for chopped walnuts, and used cinnamon chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Again, 3 dozen cookies from the mixture.

 



Then I melted 2/3 cups of dark chocolate and white chocolate coating, in separate bowls (Ghirardelli brand, or almond bark works too).  I did intervals of 20 seconds, in the microwave, stirring after each interval, until completely smooth.  For the original recipe, I dipped half the batch in the dark chocolate.  For the walnut/cinnamon chip half batch, those were dipped in the white chocolate.  The cookies were placed, chocolate dip side down on wax paper and let cool until the chocolate hardened.

 


While the undipped cookies were definitely delicious, the dipped cookies went to a whole other level of awesome!  A simple 4-ingredient cookie which has so much potential to be more, depending on what ingredients are inside your baking pantry.  Bake ‘em up and have fun!

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Dear Santa, Please Fill My Stocking with Chocolate.

I like chocolate.  No, let me correct that. I LOVE CHOCOLATE!!!  Glancing at the typical food pyramid, one of the missing food groups is chocolate; the other is pizza. 

Cacao, by itself, is bitter, but the addition of fats, sweeteners and flavorings develop it into chocolate.  Eaten, in moderation of course, cacao is good for the heart. The beans are full of phytonutrients which act as antioxidants, and are rich sources of iron, copper, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

Chocolate as brain food?  In 2016, a study on Alzheimer’s patients was performed.  A group of 400 were given slight, moderate or large amounts of a chocolate snack, weekly.  Those of the moderate group saw a 40% decline in the illness, as opposed to the other groups.  (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad160142)

Mood elevation?  Personally speaking, if I am feeling a bit blue, sad, angry, or frustrated; I reach for a mini, maybe even a fun size, bar of one of my favorites.  Opening the wrapper, letting the smooth chocolate melt on the tongue, and the sigh of contentment comes.  It is not just a feel good time in the mouth, but it is an overall feel good.  Now, can one get high eating chocolate?

Chocolate contains substances that stimulate a euphoric mood in the brain, just as cannabis does.  Anandamides, and substances that have similar effects as amphetamine, such as tyramine and phenylethylamine, lift up our mood, but calms it as well.  To get a high though would require consuming 20 pounds of dark chocolate!

If anyone is truly interested in chocolate’s history, types and production of popular brands, I recommend reading Chocolate Facts, Effects & History, by Jessie Szalay (Live Science, March 27, 2018: https://www.livescience.com/61754-chocolate-facts.html)

For occasions like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special moment, boxes, or filled gift baskets, come with an assortment of fine chocolates.  The popular brands often advertised are Lindt, Ghirardelli, Godiva, and even Cadbury (some American candies are copies of these British confections).  Which got me to thinking about, “What does Utah have to offer in the chocolate department?”


Search, Purchase, Sample, Review.

In Monticello, I was able to find, at Blue Mountain Foods, Utah Truffles (https://utahtruffles.com/), each bar costing a reasonable price of $1.29.  Flavors available are Chocolate, Mint and Toffee; ordering from the company itself though will offer more variety.  100% gluten free, using all natural ingredients, the truffles are covered in a smooth chocolate.

The center is creamy, with the flavor coming through, slight at first, and intensifying with every little bite.  This is a truffle bar that is not to be gobbled, but eaten nibble by nibble to have an ultimate chocolate experience.

Available at the San Juan Record are Sweet’s Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Bears (https://www.sweetcandy.com/), $3.49 for a ½ lb., $6.99 for a full pound.  Cinnamon Bears, in themselves, have a moderate bite to the tongue from the cinnamon spice.  Covering them in chocolate gives a whole new heightened experience; sweet with the heat!  These are not the typical tiny gummy bears, where you need a whole handful before feeling satisfied.  Oh no, Sweet’s bears are one inch in height.  Getting frustrated with the family, coworkers, even customers?  Take a moment, breathe, chew on one of these tasty bears; and you are now in your Zen zone.

Needing some ideas for stocking stuffers this year?  Consider trying Utah’s own chocolate confections. I do not believe you will be disappointed.

So, Dear Santa,

While I admit I could have been better this year…oh who are we kidding?  Santa, I want chocolate.  Thank you, and maybe next year I will do better.  *snicker* Yeah, like that will ever happen.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Got Donuts? You've Got Bread Pudding.

That's right, this is about creating bread pudding out of donuts; not just any donut, but yeasty glazed donuts. Donuts made with yeast are light, airy and absorb liquid without becoming too heavy, mushy and falling apart. Glazed donuts are packed with sugar, so this is not diabetic friendly; however the brown and white sugars normally used for bread pudding are not needed. Will it be overly sweet?  Surprisingly not, but if you want "hurt your teeth sweet", than add sugar to the recipe.

Roy, my hubby, does not usually care for bread pudding, but he tried this and went wild for it.   I served a scoop of Tillamook's "White Chocolate Raspberry Yum" ice cream, available at Blue Mountain Foods, alongside, and not a crumb was left.

Basically what is a bread pudding?  The origin of this pudding, which is not a pudding by true definition, is traced back to 11th and 12th century England.  This dessert was an invention of necessity to prevent food waste.  Instead of throwing out stale bread that was hard to chew, cooks and homemakers soaked the bread in hot water and squeezed it dry.   Whatever sugar and spices were available were then mixed in, baked in an oven, and served up piping hot. 

By the 13th century, the recipe, called “poor man’s pudding”, due to being allocated to the lower classes only, started to evolve.  Eggs, milk and a fat were mixed together, poured over the stale broken up bread pieces, to be soaked up.  Now called “bread and butter pudding”, it became shortened to “bread pudding” and was served to any class of the populace, even royalty.  See, give a dish a fancier name, and now everyone thinks it is a must-have.

Why is it called a pudding?  The dish includes a cereal base (the bread), and has a soft and spongy texture after baking.  This simple dish of “rehydrated stale bread” has developed into a dessert that can be played with.  Any type of bread, made with yeast typically, can be used; additives such as dried fruits, nuts, honey and chocolate bring it to the next level.  Served as is, with ice cream, whipped cream, or a sauce makes it an ultimate dessert filled with comfort.

I've teased you enough, let’s get to the recipe.

 


Glazed Donut Bread Pudding

 Ingredients:

12 (yeast made, not cake) glazed donuts

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pecan pieces

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter

2 and 1/2 cups milk (2%) - creates a lighter "custard" which is best for the donuts

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 Tbsp. vanilla

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

 

Cut donuts in half; cut halves into thirds; place in large bowl with raisins and pecan pieces and mix. The glaze on the donuts will help hold raisins and pecans to the donut pieces. Spread out into the baking dish and top with any remaining raisins and pecan pieces that did not adhere to donuts.

 





In a medium saucepan, melt butter into the milk on medium-high; do not let boil and remove from heat when butter is melted. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

 







Slowly pour egg mixture into the butter/milk mixture and begin whisking immediately to avoid scrambling the egg mixture. Pour mixture over the donut pieces; use a spoon to work liquid between the pieces.

 











Bake for 40-45 minutes; top is a golden brown and sides are bubbling. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

 



Makes 12 servings.

This is a treat that can be served as a dessert after dinner, brought to a social gathering, or something to gnosh on while watching a favorite movie.    …and with the winter holidays fast approaching, wow your family, friends and guests.  Enjoy the treat, you deserve it!

Mary Cokenour

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Kentucky-Up Those Turkey Leftovers.

Thanksgiving leftovers stocked in the refrigerator, and the thought of one more cold turkey sandwich makes you winch a bit?  Now this scenario might not be an issue in your home, but for others it is, as they want the leftovers gone now!  Many, like myself, clean off most of the the meat and freeze for later comfort meals of turkey strata, tetrazzini or added to a hearty soup.  The bones themselves are simmered in seasoned water, strained, and the savory stock also frozen.

For many years, I watched many a show on Food Network or The Cooking Channel, and I gained truckloads of knowledge.  Well I should also admit to watching PBS cooking shows on Saturday afternoons, and this started well into my teens.  Once I moved to Pennsylvania, I would attend a “food-con” in Ephrata, and I attended demonstrations of many of my favorite PBS chefs.  Buying a latest cookbook, getting it signed, and speaking with the chef; oh I was wowed for days; and could not wait to attempt some recipes.

As with MTV (remember when it showed actual music videos!?!), I have noticed, that the channels geared towards food, are now more prone to game shows or competitions.  Too fast paced and definitely not informative enough for me.  Back in the middle 2000s though, there was one show that was a competition, but slow paced enough to allow the viewer to make notes, and learn.  Throwdown with Bobby Flay was looked forward to weekly, not just to see if someone could beat him, but what new recipe might be tempting enough to try myself.

Now why am I rambling on about cooking shows when I first began writing about turkey leftovers?  To share with you all a recipe, learned on Throwdown, tried out at home, and deemed most delicious!  The Hot Brown was featured (Season 2, Episode 13, Air Date: July 10, 2007); Joe and John Castro, chefs of the Brown Hotel in Kentucky, competed and won against Bobby Flay.  The Hot Brown could be considered a fancified version of an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, or, as the originator intended, the Welch Rarebit.  Originally created during the 18th century and called Welsh Rabbit, no actual cute, fluffy-tailed bunnies were used, so the name changed to Rarebit.  Welsh Rarebit is a British dish consisting of a hot cheese-based sauce served over slices of toasted bread, often topped with tomatoes and bacon.

The Hot Brown was created in 1926 by Chef Fred K. Schmidt; he worked at the Brown Hotel, located in Louisville, Kentucky.  “In the 1920's, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. By the wee hours of the morning, guests would grow weary of dancing and make their way to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Sensing their desire for something more glamorous than traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt set out to create something new to tempt his guests' palates. His unique dish? An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce.” (History of the Hot Brown: https://www.brownhotel.com/dining/hot-brown )

Here is that original recipe.

 


The World Famous Hot Brown

Ingredients:

Makes Two Hot Browns

2 oz. Whole Butter

2 oz. All Purpose Flour

8 oz. Heavy Cream

8 oz. Whole Milk

½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese

Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish

Pinch of Ground Nutmeg

Salt and Pepper

14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick

4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)

4 Slices of Crispy Bacon

2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half

Paprika

Parsley

In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape - then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Around the same time, I found a similar recipe, by Paula Deen, but the Hot Brown was made casserole style.  Since we held gaming groups regularly on Saturday nights, I used our players as guinea pigs, and happily there were no leftovers and only praises.



Paula Deen Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole

https://www.pauladeen.com/recipe/kentucky-hot-brown-casserole/

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups divided shredded Swiss cheese

1 cup shredded extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 slices thick sandwich bread, toasted

2 pounds thinly sliced turkey

1/4 teaspoon paprika

8 slices bacon, cooked and halved crosswise

Garnish chopped tomatoes

Garnish fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to broil. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in 1 cup Swiss, Cheddar, salt, and pepper until melted.

Place bread in prepared pan, overlapping as needed to fit. Top with turkey, cheese sauce, and remaining 1 cup Swiss; sprinkle with paprika.

Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Top with bacon and tomatoes. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

There you have it, two recipes to help those turkey leftovers have an original taste, and new recipes to add to your book or card file.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Homemade vs. Store Bought

When it comes right down to it, purely homemade tends to taste so much better than premade, packaged and store bought.  The majority of products are geared towards those of us who are alone.  Canned meals to plop into a saucepan and heat up on a stove top.  Frozen boxed meals that pop into a microwave for 5 minutes, ding, and it is ready to eat.  Of course there are the products pushed upon those wishing to lose weight, and, thereby, become healthier.  Atkins, Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine are the big three in this regard.  Unfortunately though, and this is my personal opinion on many products tried, the taste, smell and texture are quite questionable.  The ingredient list is usually long, but instead of food edibles, it is chemicals.

Now do I use products geared towards convenience?  Of course!  Whether it is time constraints, a spur of the moment recipe idea, or simply clueless as to what to make; these products help with these issues.  Take, for example, Campbell’s Soups, the creamed varieties especially, can be easily used to blend ingredients together into a hearty, tasty, and fulfilling dish.

Some time ago, an ad link popped up on Facebook and it referred to a recipe called "Angel Chicken".  Basically it was a crock pot recipe where Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup, a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, cream cheese and white wine cooked for about 4-5 hours and was then served over angel hair pasta.  Simple recipe and I was willing to give it a try; that is until I went grocery shopping.  Pricing out a 10.5 ounce can of the soup, at various stores, ranged from $1.50 to $2.19, and I became, well, indignant about it.

I went home, got online and looked up the ingredient list for the soup; salt and sugar were the first two ingredients and the listing of preservatives and chemical additives was longer than the natural ingredients.  Breaking down the basic ingredients, the beef broth already has salt in it; then came tomato sauce, white wine, a roux of butter and flour, water and mushrooms.  Certainly no need for sugar, or additional salt.

Whenever I see mushrooms on sale, I will buy a couple of boxes and dehydrate them for future usage, so I had those on hand; as well as the other ingredients.  The task to make a complete meal now turned into a two-fold project; making the soup, then making the chicken recipe.  The idea of deconstructing the processed soup, and then recreating from scratch was a pretty exciting concept.

As the cooking process of the soup commenced, the smell in the kitchen was heavenly; if the entire recipe tasted as good as it smelled, this would be one heck of an accomplishment.  Now unknowingly, I had run out of angel hair pasta, so served the chicken, mushrooms and sauce over linguine instead...it was amazing; simply amazing!  More work than opening a little can of soup? Oh yes, but so, so worth all the effort.

So sorry Campbell's, but mine is better.


 Golden Mushroom Chicken

 Ingredients:

8 Tbsp. butter

8 Tbsp. flour

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, cut into cubes and softened

1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth plus ½ can water

¼ cup white wine

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. each crushed, dried basil, thyme and marjoram

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat

1 lb. sliced white mushrooms

1 and ½ lbs. angel hair pasta (linguine can be substituted)

Preparation:

In a large saucepan, medium-high heat, melt butter and whisk in flour; add cream cheese and stir until cream cheese begins to combine with the roux. Add beef broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, garlic powder, herbs and black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; let simmer for 5 minutes.

Set 6-quart crock pot on low; place in chicken breasts, mushrooms on top of chicken; pour the sauce over all. Cover and let cook for 5-6 hours; until chicken is moist and tender.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; place a chicken breast on top a serving of pasta and spoon sauce over all.

Makes 8 servings.

With holiday meals being planned out, think about taking some time to figure out how to avoid using processed products.  Yes, it will be a little more work, but the smiles on family and guests faces will be quite worth it all.  Then again, maybe you have wanted to develop your cooking skills, or even begin learning how; so start from scratch!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

An Ear of Corn Speaks Volumes.

During the month of October, we were subjugated to Mother Nature experiencing the indecisive phase of menopause.  It started our seasonably warm during the day, and comfortably cool for good sleeping nights.  That was her version of sleeping with one leg outside of the blankets.  Suddenly, it became so cold that snow fell; then sort of cold with thunderstorms, and hail pounding the land.  Most days, we start out wearing a winter coat, switch to a lighter sweatshirt, only to be searching for that coat, once again, at night.

Here we are in November, the in-between of last harvest and the hibernation of winter.  It is also the month to begin planning for the holidays; feasting, presents, traveling and making resolutions for the New Year.  While the various Hallmark channels are playing Christmas themed movies already, 24/7, until sometime in January; Black Friday commercials have been running for weeks.  Basically, while sitting in your Halloween costume, you can shop for Christmas presents, and plan your Thanksgiving meal, all at the same time.  Bah Humbug, I say!

There is something important, that the past two years should have taught us all, and that is to savor every moment.  Correct, tomorrow is never guaranteed, but pushing everything together, just in case, leaves nothing to appreciate later on; like the simple things.

There are many things that are simply good as is, and you do not need a good reason to want them.  A bowl of steaming mashed potatoes, butter oozing over the creamy spuds.  A slice or two of toasted bread smeared with cream cheese and orange marmalade; fruity, rich and that satisfying crunch of the toast.  No matter the weather, no matter the season, or what holiday has rolled around; these are the things that make us feel good, and give us comfort.

Some of our most satisfying comforts come from a versatile vegetable, Corn.  Delicious freshly grilled and coated with garlic or honey butter; or boiled in milk to bring out that rich sweetness.  Or added to casseroles for the taste and crunch it can provide.  Around the world, corn is used, in various forms, to create a basic staple, or an awesome gourmet dish.

In our southwestern states, especially, white, yellow or blue cornmeal is a mainstay staple found in almost every pantry.  Cornmeal is corn ground to a fine consistency; used in baking, as in cornbread or hushpuppies; for dredging when frying, or the making of tortillas.

Grits, a word that comes from the Old English “grytta” meaning a coarse meal and as the name implies, gritty; these are a staple in most southern USA dishes; served for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Grits have a creamy texture similar to porridge or moist oatmeal.  This can be eaten alone, as a side dish, or as part of a larger recipe.

Polenta, what was known as a peasant food in Italy, was often cooked in a copper pot called a paiola; the grind is somewhere between the consistency of cornmeal and grits; used in baking, or a side dish similar to mashed potatoes.

Using the process of milling called “Stone Ground” retains some of the hull and germ of the corn, lending more flavor and nutrition to recipes. It is more perishable, but will store longer if kept in an air tight container and refrigerated.

Basic Grits

Ingredients:

4 cups water

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. salt

1 cup stone ground grits

Preparation:

In a large saucepan, on high heat, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Gradually add the grits, return to a boil; reduce heat to low.  Cook the grits, stirring occasionally, so that they do not stick or clump; they are done when the texture is creamy, about 25-30 minutes.  Season with additional salt and butter to taste, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Notes:

Additional seasonings:  ½ tsp ground black pepper or garlic

If adding cheese reduce water to 2 cups, add in 2 cups milk; cook grits according to instructions.  Add ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese plus 2 additional Tbsps. butter to grits; whisk to fully incorporate.

Basic Polenta

Ingredients:

6 cups water

2 tsps. salt

1 and 3/4 cups stone ground cornmeal

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preparation:

In a large sauce pan, high heat, bring water to a boil; add salt.  Slowly whisk in the cornmeal; reduce heat to low; cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter; stir until fully incorporated.

Makes 6 servings.

Notes:

Polenta can be served as is, or spread in a parchment lined baking pan, cooled in the refrigerator and cut into shapes.

Additional ingredients to make it more savory:  ½ cup of minced mushrooms, red onion or both; sautéed in butter before adding.

Use chicken broth instead of water for a richer flavor.

Reduce water to 4 cups; add 2 cups milk, follow cooking instruction; and then whisk in ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese.


 Cornbread

 This is a basic recipe for cornbread.  Chile peppers, such as jalapeno, and/or cheese can be added; the amount is up to the baker.  Personally, if making a cornbread with chile peppers, I only add one fine diced for each loaf being made.  I do not want the flavor of the cornbread itself to be overpowered.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. melted, unsalted butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups yellow cornmeal

½ cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups milk

2 large eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400F.  Brush two 9”x5”x3” loaf pans with the melted butter.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add in the cornmeal and sugar, mix well.  Cut the softened butter into the dry mixture until it forms a coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs; mix with coarse meal until a smooth batter forms.  Divide the batter between the 2 loaf pans.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes cleanly out of the center.  Cool the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning the loaves out.  The cornbread can be served warm or cool.  To store, wrap in plastic wrap and it will keep for 2 days in a cool, dry place; or it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 2 loaves.

…and if you are looking for a soup to serve at a holiday meal, something to warm up your bones, or even bring to someone feeling poorly, try…

 


Chicken Corn Chowder

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/8 tsp salt

¼ tsp. paprika and ground black pepper

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and large diced

2 stalks celery, large diced

1 small onion, diced

6 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. flour

3 cups milk

2 cups cooked whole kernel corn

2 hard boiled eggs, diced

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray roasting pan with nonstick spray. Season chicken with the salt, black pepper and paprika; roast for 15-20 minutes; juices in chicken will run clear. Remove and cut into cubes. While chicken is roasting, place potatoes, carrots and celery in a large pot, cover with salted water; cook on high heat until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, but retain 1 cup of water.

In the large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat, add onion and cook for 5 minutes; add in flour and mix thoroughly. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the flour is well incorporated. Add in milk, retained water and corn; bring to a boil, stir and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Mix in diced eggs and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour