A Few Recipes From Other Blogs That I Tried AND Loved in 2014

I love visiting other peoples food blogs.  I love to see what they’re doing.  I love trying their recipes.  As 2014 came to an end, I was looking back through some of the recipes that I tried this year and thinking about which ones were my favorites.  This list is my family’s top 5.

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First up is what I considered to be a very weird combination, but it was actually quite tasty.  I didn’t actually cook this one for myself.  My friend prepared it one night while I was hanging out at her house waiting for feral cats to wander into a trap, so we could take  them to a local shelter.  She lives out in an area where apparently people love to abandon cats.  Since my friend has a kind heart, she feeds the poor pregnant moms who come to her house with their babies.  As a result, she had at least 10 feral cats living on her property at one time.  One evening, she invited me over to trap cats and eat dinner.  No, we didn’t kill and eat cats, but a funny thing did happen one night that I will have to blog about.

What she served up was a combination of lentils, greens, and chicken-apple sausage cooked up in a sauce that contained a sweet red wine.  I can’t adequately describe how well the sweetness of the apple in the sausage and the wine contrasting with the earthiness of the lentils and the verdant taste of the spinach came together in this one pot meal.   It was so good, and the dishes she served it in made an even prettier picture than the photo on the blog.  (My photo doesn’t do it justice.  I really need to improve my photography skills. )  The recipe can be found at KitchenHospitality.com.  Give it a try.

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Next up is a really strange sounding recipe that I found over at SimplyHealthyEats.com.  The recipe is a raw food chocolate pudding that’s made from avocado and coconut.  The picture looked so enticing, but the recipe sounded too weird to be good.  I had to try it.  It was a bit harder to put together than instant chocolate pudding from a box, but really it was only a little bit harder and this was made from real, raw food.  The resulting chocolate pudding was surprisingly good.   I’m very skeptical about “healthy treats”  The healthy ingredients took away any guilt I experienced from eating chocolate pudding.  It’s so healthy, you can probably eat  it for breakfast.  What’s not to love about that?

In stark contrast to the last item on my list, I really liked the recipe for Marboro Man’s Sandwich over at ThePioneerWoman.com.  (Sorry, no photo…no one got back to me with permission before I published this post.)  My husband was actually concerned when he entered our kitchen and saw so much butter softening on the counter next to packages of cube steak while I cut sliced onions.    He thought I had lost my mind.  The resultant sandwich convinced him that I wasn’t insane.  He really enjoyed it.  It was tender, and delicious, and though it won’t win any awards for being diet friendly, it got a big thumbs up from everyone who tried it.  Of course, what would you expect from a woman who has a show on  Food Network?

I kept hearing about Holy Yum Chicken.  People were pinning the recipe on Pinterest, other’s were mentioning it in their YouTube videos.  I  found the recipe over at TableForTwoBlog.com.  After reading through the ingredient list and realizing that the chicken was glazed similarly to a london broil that we had served for Christmas dinner several years ago, I decided that I would make Christmas dinner super easy this year and we would have Holy Yum Chicken with rice, or potatoes depending upon what my family chose.  This was such a simpled entree to prepare.  It came out perfectly, and it lived up to all of it’s hype.   The combination of the sweeness of the maple syrup, paired with the piquant taste of the mustard and the tanginess of the rice vinegar made our tastebuds do a happy dance.   Everyone loved our Christmas Dinner.  I’ve even added Holy Yum Chicken  into my rotating menus, so we will be eating it again in the next couple of weeks.  As Sue Chef likes to say, it makes my mouth happy.

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Lastly, we have a healthy and gluten free soup.  No one in our household has gluten sensitivity, but several of the women from my church and one friend at work have had some serious health problems that were diagnosed as celiac disease.  This means no gluten.  I love to cook and break bread with my friends and co-workers, so their health issues have become my kitchen challenges.  I was so glad when I found this delicious Gluten Free Minestrone recipe.  This recipe is almost exactly like the one served at a local Italian restaurant.  It’s chock full of healthy vegetables and has beans for protein.  It makes a great meal on its own and is great when paired with a salad.  It goes together quickly and like most soups, it tastes even better when you’re having the leftover soup the next day.  This is gluten free comfort food at it’s best.

There you have it.  Some of my favorite recipes from other blogs.  Please comment and share a link to your favorite recipe.  I’d love to hear from you.    Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

 

Tomato Soup with Lentils

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes topped with creme fraicheI have previously posted about how I am becoming better acquainted with lentils.   Since they pack such a nutritional punch, I decided to try adding them to a tomato soup recipe.  My hope was that the resulting soup would pass muster not only in my household, but also with some of my friend’s children.

My first attempt at this soup was served “rustic style”.  I cooked the lentils with the vegetables and served it up with all of them intact.  My daughter complained that when I told her I was making a tomato soup, she pictured something without chunks.  I realized that she probably had a point.  My solution was to stick my immersion blender into the pot of soup and blend it, but I had used brown lentils.  I won’t put a picture of the soup here, but it didn’t look very appetizing.  In fact, it looked like something that had already traveled through the digestive tract.  Since we eat first with our eyes, I couldn’t promote this ugly soup.

Undeterred, I returned to the drawing board.  The second time, however, I used red lentils.  This worked out very well.  First, the red lentils cook more quickly than brown lentils, and they practically fall apart when fully cooked.  This makes them great for thickening soups and stews.  The resulting soup was pretty and delicious.  Sue Chef gave it her seal of approval.  The next test was when I served some up to a friend’s son and grandson.  Both of them devoured the soup.  I considered that a success.

To make this soup come together quickly, chop your vegetables while the lentils are cook ing.   When you do this, the vegetables are ready to go into the pot as soon as you remove the lentils.  Once the soup has finished cooking, puree it with an immersion blender or puree it in batches in your blender.  Be very careful when pureeing hot soup in a blender.  Use a towel over the closed lid to prevent spillage.  You can be easily burned by escaping soup.  Once the soup is pureed, ladle it into serving bowls.

tomato lentil soup

Lentil Tomato Soup with a dollop of creme fraicheTop the soup with either a dollop of creme fraiche, or swirl some  around on the top of the soup.  I tried to make it pretty, but I wasn’t very successful.

tomato lentil soup with a failed swirl of creme fraicheThere are several recipes for creme fraiche available on the internet.  There’s even a recipe for a cashew creme fraiche for those who prefer to eat vegan.

The soup, without the creme fraiche, freezes well.  Here’s the recipe.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Tomato Soup with Lentils
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Lentils added to a simple tomato soup add protein without significantly affecting the taste. This recipe passed the kid friendly test with flying colors.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3½ cups tomato puree IIf you can't find tomato puree, you can substitute crushed tomatoes)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (If you don't have vegetable stock, you can use the appropriate amount of vegetable flavored "better than bouillon" mixed with 4 cups water.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup creme fraiche (optional. You can substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream if you can't find or don't want to make Creme Fraiche,)
Instructions
  1. Sort lentils and cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes then drain and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a 3 quart sauce pan.
  4. Add chopped onions and saute 5 minutes until onion is translucent
  5. Add carrot and saute 3 more minutes
  6. Add tomatoes, lentils, broth, and bay leaf.
  7. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer
  8. Simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until everything is soft.
  9. Puree with an immersion blender of in small portions in a blender.
  10. Serve topped with a tablespoon of creme fraiche.

 

Spinach Salad In A Jar

The wide mouth mason jars are sealed and placed in the refrigerator.I realize that I may be beating a dead horse here,but I still love those Salads in a Jar.  This time, though, I decided to make a spinach salad.  In fact, I decided to make this spinach salad.

Here’s the assembly instructions.  You will notice that I switched out some of the ingredients from my original post containing these salad ingredients to make this more diet friendly.

First, I put about 4 tablespoons of fat free Catalina dressing in the bottom of a wide mouth quart jar.

french dressing in the jar

I dropped about 8-10 grape tomatoes into the jar.

grape tomatoes in a jarChopped cucumber and julienned red onion were next.

cucumber and red onion added to spinach salad in a jar

This was topped with some part-skim mozarella and a tablespoon or two of those real bacon bits in a jar.  Believe it or not, a little bit of this pre-cooked and chopped bacon adds quite a flavor punch without adding a lot of calories.

chopped bacon and mozarella cheese were added to the jar

The Next ingredient is some chopped hard-boiled egg.

Chopped egg is added to the spinach salad in a jar

The entire thing is topped with a sprinkling of dried cranberries.

Dried Cranberries are added to the Spinach Salad in a Jar

If you’re watching your sugar intake, there’s even a light version of dried cranberries with reduced sugar.

Reduced Sugar Craisins

Finally, the remaining space in the jar is filled with spinach.  I prefer baby spinach over the full sized leaves, but either one works very well.

Spinach added to the remaining space in the jar

The jar is then sealed and placed in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it.  (For this salad, I recommend no more than 2 days.)

Fully Assembled Spinach Salad in a jar heading for the fridge.

The one worrisome thing about spinach salads is that spinach doesn’t seem to have as long of a shelf life as lettuce.  When I make a spinach salad in a jar for my work week lunch on Sunday night, I always eat it no later than Tuesday because I worry about the spinach starting to wilt and go bad.  I’m not going to insert a printable today because this recipe can be found in a previous post, here.   Of course, in that post, the salad was arranged in a dish instead of a jar, but I think you’ll be able to figure it out.  You do have the pictures.

Honestly, the Salad in a Jar is so versatile, you can pretty much make it to be whatever you want.  Give it a try, and thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

The Three Hundred Dollar Egg

$300 eggEggs are largely touted as an inexpensive source of protein.  Eggs contain 9 essential amino acids.  They may have gotten a bad rap a few years ago for containing cholesterol, but eggs are really our friend.  The protein in eggs is important to help sustain energy throughout the day.    This includes physical and mental energy.  Eggs also contain choline which helps promote normal cell activity.  Choline has also been associated with liver function, and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body.  Eggs are a great thing.

I really love eggs.  I like them over easy.  I like them in an omelet.  I like them deviled.  In fact, I like them so much that I co-authored a cookbook about eggs called “Get Cracking” with my friend, Angie, over at Kitchen Hospitality.com.  That cookbook is specifically about the uses for  hard boiled eggs, but it’s still about eggs.  (Click on the title of the book to be taken to a page where you can buy the e-book for only $.99.)

I try to be frugal with all of my grocery purchases, but once in a while, I hit a snag.  Once, I paid $300 for an egg.  It was a very  fresh brown egg from a free range chicken.  It’s the smaller, medium sized, brown egg on the left in the photo at the top of the post.  The egg was delicious, and I don’t regret the purchase for a minute.  If you think I’m crazy,  don’t be too harsh.  Wait until you hear the rest of my story.

Because of my love affair with eggs, I had the bright idea of raising chickens.   Of course, when raising chickens, I decided that the best idea would be to start with chicks.  Realizing that not every member of my family liked eggs, I decided that a maximum of 4 chickens would be sufficient to keep us in eggs.  I purchased three little chicks from the local feed store.  Each chicken was a different breed.  There was a Rhode Island Red, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, and a Golden Polish.  Two weeks later, we added a fourth chick, an Americauna.  (That addition is a funny story of it’s own.)

Initially, our expense for the chickens (and the eventual eggs) was $10 for the chicks and $5 for the food.  They lived in a cardboard box in my mother’s room.  She tended them and kept the cats away while she was recovering from surgery.  She loved holding the chicks and tending to them.  The problem with the chicks was that they were very messy.  As they constantly knocked over their water, turning their bedding into a disgusting foul smelling swamp.   In fact we started calling them the swamp chickens.

The cardboard box was replaced daily as was the bedding.  I got free boxes from work, so there was no cost for their housing.  The bigger they got, the messier they got.  We needed to get them outside as soon as they were big enough to not tempt the ravens that were in our area.

Feathered Chicks exploring the GardenWe took the chicks outside when we were working in the garden and allowed them to run around to scratch and dig.  The first time they were outside and the sun came out from behind a cloud, they all fell over on their sides, and I thought there was something wrong.  My mom,who grew up on a farm, assured me they were fine.    She said they were sunbathing.  Another time, while I was kneeling and weeding my garden, all of the chicks ran underneath me when they spotted a hawk flying overhead.

Eggs at $16.67 eachWe  didn’t have any scrap lumber lying around, so in order to build a chicken coop/house, we needed to purchase wood, etc.  By the time I got my first egg, we had spent $300.  Thus, we held in our hands a $300 egg.  Of course, when we got the next egg, the cost of the egg dropped to $150.  We waited to eat them until the cost was down to $25  per egg.  (In other words, we waited until we had our first dozen.)   By the end of the year, our egg costs were below what one would pay for free range eggs per dozen, and we had more than enough to meet our needs.  It’s just that the first egg was quite expensive.  Still, I don’t regret the experience or the expense.  That $300 egg was well worth it.

We still have two of our original chickens.  They still lay eggs, but not every day like they did when they were younger.  The girls are approaching 5 years old, and their productive years will soon be behind them.  They will continue to live out their lives here as pets instead of food animals.  Baker’s Man, who is  a total city boy, once asked me what the difference was between our chickens and the chickens people eat.  I looked at him and said.  Food chickens don’t have names.  He thought I was joking until I said “Who want’s to eat fried Buffy or Lacey and dumplings?  He realized my point.  The girls have names, so we plan for them to die of old age.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

 

Goals For The New Year

Every one knows about New Year’s resolutions. It’s that time of year.  Here at Patty Cake’s Pantry,  we are calling them our goals for 2015.

Patty Cake’s Pantry is only a year old and probably only has a readership of about 10 people.   Nevertheless, I intend to try and continue to improve the quality of the information that I am posting as well as increase the number of people who visit my blog.

It’s interesting how many different opinions there are floating around cyberspace regarding how to get traffic to your blog.  Some advocate the use of social media.   Others say that good content is king.  One site urges multiple short posts of 100-150 words each day.  Another says you can’t get noticed with posts shorter than 300 words.   There are others who recommend even longer posts. It can all be very confusing.

My approach to posting will be to write posts that are as long as they need to be in order to convey the information.   Some will be long and some will be short.  In other words, they are what they are.

I seem to have gotten off track.

Goals for 2015 are as follows.

1.  Increase the number of posts to twice a week.   This will mean that there will be a total of 104 posts for this year.

2.  Improve the quality of photos on my site.  This means that I will have to learn more about photography and get a DSLR camera.

3.  Begin promoting my site using social media in order to increase traffic.   I plan to add one new thing each month.

4.  I plan to explore ways to monetize my blog. I have no idea how to accomplish thus, but I plan to learn.

5.  Find a fix for that problem with the Easy Recipe plug-in so that my ingredients are not preceded by a subsection symbol and my instructions are not double numbered.

I’m hoping to stay focused and continue to learn more about blogging.   Sharing these goals on thr site makes me more acountable.  Here’s to a productive 2015.

Thanks for stopping by….

Hoppin John Soup

Hoppin John Soup is a hearty and delicious New Year's Day treatFor as long as I can remember, I have begun the new year with black eyed peas, cornbread and cabbage.  My mother assured me that these items were necessary for health and prosperity in the new year.  It was a southern tradition that I grew up with.

In my childhood, New Year’s Day  meant a pot of black eyed peas and stewed or fried  cabbage served alongside  some ham with a warm piece of cornbread.  When I left home, I continues the tradition, but my husband was not a fan of black eyed peas.  For him, I began making Hoppin’ John and serving it on top of rice, but he still wasn’t a big fan.  He ate it because I told him it was a tradition, and he loved me enough to comply with my weird traditions.

When the children came along, they sided with their father.  I knew I needed to up my culinary game to get them to eat black eyed peas and cabbage.  Since everyone liked Chinese food, I would make homemade chow mein which contained the cabbage, and I would mix in a few black eyed peas.  I would also make fried rice to which I added a few more black eyed peas.  The kids ate their black eyed peas and cabbage and everyone remained healthy and our needs were met each year.  I don’t know if the two things are really connected, but I’m not messing with success.

This year, it was so cold on New Year’s Day that I decided to make soup, soup and sandwiches.  I needed to make sure that we ate the requisite black eyed peas and cabbage with cornbread.  A side of coleslaw took care of the cabbage, and the black eyed peas were the star of this soup, which paired great with the cornbread.  All in all, it was a good New Year’s Day.

 

Hoppin' John Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Southern United States
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Traditional New Year's Hoppin' John in a warn and welcoming soup. Give it a try. It's delicious.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound of breakfast sausage with sage
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (4 ounce) package of long grain and wild rice mix, with seasoning packet.
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add onions, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and saute unit vegetables become tender.
  2. Add sausage and continue to cook until sausage is fully cooked.
  3. Add tomatoes, drained black eyed peas, chicken broth, and water.
  4. Add long grain and wild rice mix and seasoning packet.
  5. Mix well
  6. Bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

What I’ve Learned From My First Year As A Blogger

As I write this, 2014 is quickly coming to a close, and I have achieved my goal of publishing 52 posts in 2014.  Of course, my original goal was to publish one post each week, but life outside of cyberspace interfered with my plans.  As a result, I was 3 posts from achieving my goal when I woke up this morning.  I looked through the unfinished drafts waiting for me to complete them and selected two.  I knew that this would be the subject of my final post for the year.

I want use this opportunity to share a few of the things that I have learned and observed during my first year as a blogger.   Some of these things  I have learned through personal experience.  Other things I have learned from friends who are also bloggers.  This isn”t rocket science, merely observations I though I should share.

1.  BLOGGERS NEED TO BLOG:  I know this may seem obvious, but I know two ladies who were talking about blogging for longer than I have been blogging.  One of them has a website, but keeps adjusting the colors and fonts and has yet to publish a single post.  Another paid someone $1,000 to have a website built for their blog, but it has been sitting with an “under construction” sign on it for over two years because she doesn’t know what color scheme would work best.   Whatever your goals for your blog, you can’t achieve them if you’re not blogging.

2.  KNOW WHAT YOUR NICHE IS:  Have a definite plan for what type of content you will be providing, and know where you want to take your blog.   Patty Cake’s Pantry is a food and kitchen blog. I may blog about gardening, canning, budgeting, and other things that relate to what goes on in my kitchen, but I won’t begin blogging about  fashion just because it’s a hot topic that might draw more traffic.  Fashion is not what my blog is about.  Some blogs I visit are very disjointed, and confusing.  Before you begin, have a plan, and make that plan work for you.

3.   SET GOALS FOR YOUR BLOG:  It is important to have goals and actively work toward them.  If you someday hope to make money from your blog, you must treat it as a job. No more excuses for why you don’t have time to blog.   If you don’t create content, you won’t get traffic.  If you don’t get traffic, you’ll never make any money from your blog.   According to psychologists,  people make time for what is important to them. If you’re not making time to blog then you need to look at how important it is to you.  Can you give up an hour of television a couple of nights per week to devote to your writing?

4.    MANAGE SPAM COMMENTS:  When I first started blogging, I longed for a comment on my site.  I got one, and I was ecstatic.  Suddenly, I was getting lots of them.  Unfortunately, they were spam.  You absolutely must have a plug in on your site to block spam comments.  Without it, all of your time will be spent deleting spam, and you will have no time to blog.  Seriously, I was getting tons of spam comments.   I guess the positive side was that I was getting visitors to my site.  Unfortunately, I don’t want spam–unless, of course, I’m using it in the kitchen.

5.  EXPECT THINGS TO NOT WORK RIGHT:  The second part of this would be to not let it get you down.  If you look at any recipe published on my site since I installed the easy recipe plug-in, you will notice that all of the ingredients on the list are preceded by that subsection symbol and the numbers in the instructions are listed twice.  This has something to do with how the code in my theme interacts with the code in the easy recipe plug in.  I have tried unsuccessfully to fix it, but have been unsuccessful.  Instead of stopping, I have continues to post recipes while I look for a fix.

6.  CONNECT TO A BLOGGING MEETUP GROUP OR NETWORK:   A blogging network or meetup group can be helpful with keeping you focused on your goals as well as helping you learn the latest trends in search engine optimization, or SEO.  It was through a local meet up group that I learned a great deal about blogging, SEO, and using social media.

7.  BECOME PART OF AN ONLINE COMMUNITY:  Develop relationships with other bloggers who have similar interests to yours.  Visit and comment on their sites and give honest feedback.  On your own site, be receptive to constructive criticism.   When someone comments on your site, respond.  If they have their own blog, pay them a visit and leave relevant and edifying comments.

8.  DON’T JUST DELETE ALL NEGATIVE COMMENTS:  If someone calls you a doo doo head, or something nastier, by all means delete their comment.  Rudeness doesn’t need to be acknowledged or reinforced.  If, however, someone says that you have too many carbs in your diet, or that you use too much cilantro, acknowledge their comment and respond to it.  I know a blogger who automatically deletes any comment that isn’t 100% positive.  If you aren’t open to other people’s opinions, you may miss opportunities to grow and learn.

9.  FIND A GOOD MENTOR:  Ideally, you want to find a mentor who is successful at blogging and shares some of your same values.  Obviously, an atheist wouldn’t make a good mentor for a fundamentalist Christian.  Once you select a mentor, follow their recommendations for improving your blog.  I know a woman who spends a great deal of money to learn how to do things the way one mentor recommends. Yet, before she has even begun to implement the teachings of the first mentor, she spends money to learn from a second one.  This pattern continues, but she never incorporates any of the things she has learned into her daily activities.  She’s spending money but not reaping any rewards.

10.  KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY YOU CAN AFFORD TO SPEND TO BUILD YOUR BLOGGING BUSINESS:  It’s easy to spend a  lot of money on domain names, website hosting, themes, and plug-ins for your blog.  If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t go into debt to build your blog.  In the beginning, your main objective is to get readers to your blog.  Until people are visiting your blog and reading your content, nothing else really matters.  It’s a simple matter to start  your blog on one of the free sites (wordpress.com, blogspot, typepad, etc.)  Once you’re getting a considerable amount of traffic, you can switch over to a page that you are paying to host.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything I have learned over the past year.  For that matter, I’m definitely not an expert of any kind.  My Google page rank for this site is still a zero.  This is just a few of the things that I felt were worthy of sharing.  I hope you found them helpful.

A New Year’s Eve Tradition

The story goes that one New Year’s Eve before I was born, my mother and brother were sitting around with nothing to do.  My mom wanted to make the evening more memorable, but money was very tight.  There wasn’t enough money for anything extra, so my mother looked in the refrigerator and found 2 or 3 wieners (she called them “weenies,” but most people call them hot dogs), some cheese, and some dill pickles.  She also had toothpicks.

My mom had a great capacity to be creative, and my brother said at her memorial service that she could make a good meal out of practically anything.  That night was no exception.  What happened that New Year’s Eve became part of a family tradition that continues to live to this day.  Literally, to this day since it is New Year’s Eve as I write this.

My mom sliced up the hot dogs, the cheese, and the dill pickles and alternated the slices on the toothpicks until the toothpicks were full.  She then arranged her creations onto a plate and served them to my brother for their New Year’s Party.  When my brother asked what they were, my mother quickly replied that they were Hors D’Ouevres.

Fast forward several years.  Times were better.  My father had regular and stable work.  I had been born several years earlier and was old enough to be aware of what was going on.   My mother sat down at the table with a piece of ham, a block of cheese, and some dill pickles.  She sliced and diced and started alternating the ingredients on toothpicks.  I asked if I could help, and after ensuring that my hands were washed, she let me help her make the Hors D’Ouevres.  This became our tradition.  We would spend over an hour, sitting at the kitchen table, chatting while we assembled the little deli kabobs until we completely filled a plate with three layers.  The plate would be covered with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator until that evening when we would have our family New Year’s Eve party.

Often, the hors d’ouevres and chips and dip, along with Seven-Up mixed with whatever juice was on hand was the only food at our family party.  Over the years, we tried a few new things like caviar and cream cheese on a Ritz cracker or nachos assembled in the oven, but “The Toothpicks” always had a starring role.  The quality of the meats and cheeses used in our little toothpick treats changed from time to time, but they remained prominently displayed upon our New Year’s Eve table.   I think I was 13 years old before I learned how to spell hors d’ouevres.  Until then, I spelled it ordurves.

After I graduated from college and got my first job working at a large teaching hospital, I was invited to a holiday party.  We were instructed to bring a plate of hors d’ouevres.  It was with great confidence that I assembled a plate of toothpick kabobs and took them to the party.  I didn’t realize that the circles I now socialized in were a far cry from my simple, hillbilly roots.   Many people commented about how much time it must have taken me to assemble them.  Some people ate them, and voiced approval.  Others made snide comments.  My feelings were hurt, but least I wasn’t one of the three people who brought spinach dip in a bread bowl.

That was the last time my mother’s hors d’ouevres made a public appearance, until now.  They have, however, continued to be part of my family’s New Year’s traditions.  Each year, my children would wash their hands and gather around the table to help me slide alternating meat, cheese, pickles, and sometimes, olives, onto toothpicks until we have a large dinner plate filled with three layers.  The plate is covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge until the appointed time.  Each time we do this, I feel my mom sitting next to me, and remember all the talks we had while we assembled the hors d’ouevres.    When my kids eat one  before it makes it to the plate, I hear my mother’s voice as I good-naturedly tease them with the same words she always said to me:  “We’re never going to fill up this plate if you don’t stop eating them!”

I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year.  Thanks for stopping by.

A Trip To A Pizza Parlor’s Salad Bar In A Jar

a trip to a salad bar in a jarI know that I probably seem obsessed with Salad-in-a-Jar recipes, but they are so simple and good.  I even put together a salad in a jar that I poured into a serving bowl and served on Christmas Day.  It made the meal simpler to put together and it allowed me to make the salad on Sunday for being served on Thursday.

This salad was inspired from my adolescent memories of trips to the salad bar at our local pizza place.  I loved the salad bar at the pizzeria because it contained many things that weren’t ordinarily included in our family salads.  This Salad-in-a-Jar successfully captured those remembered flavors.  All I needed was a slice of pizza on the side for me to be able to imagine that I was in the pizzeria again.

I realize that everyone would select different things from the salad bar, so my choices may differ from what you would choose.  That’s part of the amazing part of this whole salad in a jar trend.  You can create whatever type of salad you want.  Let’s discuss how I created this one.

Once again, the dressing is layered into the jar, first.  In this case, I used ranch dressing, but you may use whatever dressing is your favorite from the salad bar.

tomatoes and dressing go into the bottom of the salad in a jarHearty ingredients that will hold up to being in contact with the dressing go next.  Here are some grape tomatoes added to the jar.

3 bean salad is added the jar for the salad.The three bean salad is added next.  It will hold up fine if it comes in contact with the dressing.

chopped cucumber added to the salad in a jarThis is topped with chopped cucumber.

Ripe olives and sliced radishes are added to the jarBlack olives and sliced radishes are added next.

sliced pepperoni and salami top the salad's other ingredientsThen some sliced pepperoni and/or salami are layered in.

Shredded cheese of your choice is added to the jarThis is topped with shredded cheese.

The remaining space is filled with lettuce before the jars are cappedFinally, the remaining space in the jar is filled with chopped or torn lettuce.

finished salad bar trip in a jarCap the jars and store them upright in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Before serving, invert jar so that dressing pours over ingredients and then pour onto a plate or into a bowl.  If you don’t pack the ingredients too tightly, you can use a long fork and eat from the jar.  I always tend to put too much stuff in my salads for it to work that way, though.

I hope you like it.

Michelle’s Simple Chicken Enchiladas

creamy chicken enchiladasI love enchiladas, but enchiladas can be somewhat complicated to make. Recently, while I was standing by the tortillas in my local grocery store,  I ran into Michelle, a friend of mine from church.  After a few minutes’ discussion, she and I realized that we were both making chicken enchiladas for dinner that night,  so we shared recipes.  I was shocked to discover that her recipe was composed from only 5 ingredients and that she didn’t use enchilada sauce.

I was intrigued,  so I made her enchiladas for dinner that night and they were a success.  Here is her top secret recipe.

First, cook 2 pounds of chicken meat.  Michelle just throws boneless and skinless chicken breasts on the grill and then chops them up.  I opted to use leftover cooked chicken that I removed from the bones and shredded.

Blue Canon Pictures 1579Mix your chicken meat with a 12-16 ounce jar of medium salsa.  Michelle swears by La Victoria, but I tend to use what I have on hand.  The salsa needs to be at least medium heat.

chicken and salsa mixture is spooned into corn tortillas

Once the salsa and chicken are mixed together,  fill corn tortillas with the mixture.

Frist rolled enchilada added to the panRoll them up and place them seam side down in a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Squeeze them together to fit as many enchiladas as you can into the pan.

Baking pan filled with rolled enchiladas.Once that pan is full, pour a quart of cream over top of the enchiladas and top with shredded cheese.

Enchiladas topped with cream and shredded cheese.Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes until cheese is melted and cream is bubbly.

Chicken enchiladas ready for ovenAllow to set for 5 minutes before serving.

Enchiladas fresh from the ovenThese enchiladas are definitely NOT a diet food, but they are definitely delicious.   Give them a try.  You’ll be glad you did.

Michelle's Simple Chicken Enchiladas
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Rich and creamy chicken enchiladas are easy to b put together.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
  • 1 16 ounce jar medium salsa
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces shredded cheese, Jack, cheddar, etc
Instructions
  1. Chop or shred cooked chicken
  2. Mix chicken with Salsa
  3. Spoon chicken mixture into tortillas and roll up, placing them seem side down in 9x13 baking pan.
  4. Once pan is full, pour cream over enchiladas
  5. Top with shredded cheese
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and cream is bubbly.
  7. Let stand 5 - 10 minutes before serving