This is a blog for people to discuss what they are eating. There is a theory that by journaling eating habits, people will eat healthier. I am trying to cook more at home and feed my family a wider variety of foods. People can just read or join as co-authors. Topics don't have to be recipes with nice photos. You can write about eating habits, special diets, culinary cultural differences, etc.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stuffing that I Like

Okay, lets begin by saying that everyone on the planet loved my Granny's dressing. Raw, cooked, everyone LOVED it. When she passed away the hunt began for something approaching her style of dressing. I guess my aunts have pretty much got it down by now. But... I have a confession to make... I couldn't STAND my Granny's dressing. I thought it was fairly nasty, actually. Too dense, too much sage, and I don't know... I just never liked it. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, I don't know. What I do know is that it made me find some other way to make it. So I did. And here is my little tutorial for my style dressing/stuffing:

1/2 of an 8" skillet of cornbread, crumbled (recipe follows)
1 6 ounce box of chicken or turkey flavored Stove Top Stuffing bread crumbs
1 15 ounce can chicken broth
1/4 cup butter (olive oil, margarine...)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole kernel corn (fresh, canned, frozen, whatever)
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 Tablespoons or more minced green chili pepper

Put everything into a large bowl, mix thoroughly. Spread into large casserole or baking dish (about 9x13 inches or so).

Do not press the stuffing hard into the pan, just smooth it out evenly.

Bake at 375 degrees until the corners get browned and crunchy (I like the crunchies). About 30-40 minutes.

As you can see, this stuffing is nice and light and fluffy. The additions are wonderful and give plenty of texture and taste. *Tip: use whatever additions seem good to you. Dried apples and walnuts; almonds and cherries or blueberries... whatever sounds good or maybe is a "traditional" flavor in your area.

This is my most favorite mix, tho. I love the sweet-tart of the cranberries, the heat of the chilis, the nuttiness of the pecans and the down home flavor of the corn which helps brighten and freshen the flavor of the cornbread. I think it's a fairly nice combo of "American" flavors.

Okay... here's the cornbread recipe. And damn if I don't make good cornbread (even if I do say so myself)

1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups fine yellow cornmeal (white if you just have to...)
1/4 cup sugar (or more to your taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
2 T oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 to 1 cup regular milk
1 cup pork cracklins (chicharrones), crushed if they are large ones

In large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well, drop in the oil and eggs. Beat the eggs slightly (don't beat them into the flour/meal yet). Add the milk, both kinds and whisk until smooth. Add the cracklins*. Let the batter sit while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees or 400 (depends on if your oven burns hot or low). Put a tablespoon or two of butter and of oil into an 8 inch cast iron skillet and put it in the oven while it preheats. When the oven is hot, remove the skillet and swirl the oil around to coat the sides. Add the batter all at once and return to the oven. Bake for half an hour or so or until a knife comes out clean. (push the knife blade in about halfway between the edge of the pan and the center)
*If your cracklins are especially hard, you can soak them in the milk for a while before adding them and the milk to your batter.

This recipe makes damned good cornbread. Try it with honey and butter for dessert. Keep out a little bit of batter and add dried blueberries to it and make cornmeal muffins... anyway... this is better for making stuffing if you keep a batch in the freezer for a few weeks before you make it. But then... every southern cook keeps cornbread in the freezer, don't they?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Minorcan Christmas Candy

I have made this coconut candy every Christmas for the past two decades (or longer). It is the one special treat that all my friends and family ask for. I have never met anyone who did not like it, even if they thought they didn't like coconut. There is some kind of magic that happens during the cooking. The flavor is sweet, but not overly so; buttery, although there isn't any butter in it; and the flavor of the coconut is just divine. It isn't hard to make, just a little time consuming.

3 to 3 1/2 cups shredded, fresh coconut (about one and one half pound of nutmeat)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup fresh milk
3 tablespoons white corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract *optional

Combine the coconut, sugar, and milk in a large, bright, heavy bottomed saute pan or Dutch Oven. Do not use a dark pan, which makes it difficult to see the colour of the candy as it cooks. I use a stainless steel Dutch oven myself.

As you can see, I sort of bypass the whole grate your own coconut thing and purchase it in the frozen fruit section of my local grocer (this was purchased at the Jinlong Oriental Market, but you can find it at your local mega-mart, too). Frozen works just as well as fresh for this confection. But make sure you do not try it with the sweetened flaked coconut that you use for making cakes.

Anyway... stir over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, then stir in the corn syrup. See? You push the coconut away from a spot on the bottom of the pan and look for sugar granules. If you don't see any, then its time to add the corn syrup.

Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook 2 minutes to dissolve any crystals that may have formed on the side of the pan. Uncover and stir constantly until the candy is thick, 20 to 30 minutes. Do not cease stirring for a moment. Keep the mixture moving around in the pan.

If it begins to turn the least bit ivory colored, stir in 1 tablespoon cold water and continue cooking very slowly. If it turns golden it will still be good. It just isn't right. The candy is ready when a teaspoonful dropped onto a waxed paper-lined tray stands with no syrup running from the edges. At this point you can add the vanilla, if using. I prefer not. It isn't really "traditional"

Not ready.

Ready. See? No syrup in the bottom of the pan.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined trays. If the candy should become too hard to drop, stir in a tablespoon cold water and stir over medium heat until liquid enough for dropping. Cool the candy. Store in cake tins in layers separated by waxed paper sheets.
This candy improves with age up to 2 or 3 weeks and remains in excellent condition for several weeks.

Okay... the recipe instructions say this candy will remain in excellent condition for up to 3 weeks. I don't know, I've never had any last around here that long. I generally end up making 2 or 3 batches of this stuff because my guys usually eat it up so fast I can't get it into the gift bags quick enough. That's okay, at least I know it's good when they do that.

By the way... if this stuff doesn't firm up after you drop it out you can chill it and cover it in chocolate (that almond bark stuff if you want) and voila Almond Joy! Also... I have added things like grated lime or orange peel to this. A very nice option is to make chocolate cups and fill them with the coconut and decorate with almond slivers and drizzled chocolate or any other little thing that strikes your fancy; candied ginger, maraschino cherries (well drained), preserved pineapple... but everyone's favorite way to have it is straight up coconut only. That's my favorite way, too.

A Little About the Minorcans in Florida

The candy got firm... but not firm enough to package well. So... I dipped the bottoms in chocolate and dang!!! This stuff is terrific! I used a mix of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips for the coating.

Better than any store bought Almond Joy or Mounds. I just love this stuff.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Foods odds and ends

Friend of mine holding a Beach Staple.. the wonderful Funnel Cake!

It's been eons since I posted anything on here so I figured we can bring it back with the holidays around! Just the other day hubby did a few dishes and arranged it in the plate all cute and asked for the camera.. LOL It's funny HE'S thinking of the blog and he doesn't even write on it! Anyway.. as I was checking the camera.. I noticed a few pics from back in July when we went to Ocean City, New Jersey!

Mmmmm... Pizza from Mack and Mancos

The first one was the beach pic. Outside of pizza from Mack and Mancos.. my favorite is definitely the Funnel cake (there are several locations you can get this). Other beach goodies are salt water taffy (usually everywhere on the boardwalk but we usually go to Fralingers), Johnson's Caramel Popcorn and fudge from The Original Fudge Kitchen.

Seafood Spaghetti

Back at home I do my normal stuff. This sucker I call Seafood Spaghetti though this time it only consists of Shrimp and Sea Scallops (my favorite over Bay though I never turn down those :p ) in a scampi/Japanese sauce + cheese.. yes.. I never said it was healthy.. I usually crave this sucker around 3 am when I'm watching anime :p

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice

Hubby's dishes are next. He made me a sweet and sour chicken. Most of it was from a dry mix we found but he did it all. Was so cute.. he did the whole thing.. arranged it on the plate and yelled for the camera.. LOL!! It was quite yummy though even after making it.. he insisted he can do better with his own recipe and quite frankly.. I agree.. he cooks spectacular.. just need to find a good recipe for it. In the meantime though, dry package was just fine.

Lemon herb marinated/grilled chicken

Hubby again cooking. This time it was chicken breast marinated in a Lemon herb mix I found in Wegman's with Rice and brocoli with cheese. I didn't mind that the chicken was a little overgrilled but it was still moist and yummy :)

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