Monday, November 30, 2009

Baked chocolate pie

One of the extra things I made for Thanksgiving was this baked chocolate pie. Everyone liked it so much that I had to bake another one on Saturday. I had been looking for a chocolate pie recipe and I ran across this one, hand-written in one of my old cookbooks. I don't know where I got this recipe but the verdict was: Yummy! I thought it was one of the easiest pies I have baked. I really liked that I didn't have to cook it on top of the stove.

I would definitely bake it again.

Baked Chocolate Pie

1 uncooked, nine-inch pie crust
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 level Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir in the dry ingredients until well blended. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 375 degrees until firm. Top with meringue or whipped cream when serving.


4 egg whites
1/3 teaspoon cream of tarter
8 Tablespoons sugar

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Beat egg whites and cream of tarter until they are frothy. Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Pour on top of baked pie and bake in the oven for three to five minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving craft results

I do realize that Thanksgiving is over, but I wanted to let you know how our crafts turned out. The cornucopias were really cute and lots of fun. I had the cones ready and we added melted chocolate and chopped almonds, then inserted the grapes. See previous post.

We had a camera-shy little girl and boy who liked them but didn't really have the time to pose for photos.

I had the turkey head and tail ready for pomegranate turkeys. The pattern was on the same website as the cornucopias. The kids just had to color their turkeys and we then assembled them. We also had paper and crayons at the table and the kids designed their own turkeys by outlining their hands and adding details. (Their idea, not mine -- wasn't that appropriate?) It was slightly hectic but much better than having them running around the table acting like wild Indians. (Also appropriate for Thanksgiving but not so easy on the nerves!)

I was glad we had the crafts for them and I plan to have crafts at Christmas family get togethers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving prep

Of course I know we are all in the process of getting things ready for the big holiday tomorrow. This year, I am also having out of town family/company so I am trying to get a few last minute things done before they arrive.

I have finished my centerpiece, above, in a big long white bread basket. It is hard to see the basket, above, but I think the white will look nice on my white tablecloth.

On the kids table I bought a tiny arrangement and placed it in a turkey napkin holder, see above. You can also see the pilgrim place mat -- very cute for reminding children the story behind the holiday. It's not just about turkey. I will also give them crayons and paper for drawing. Maybe it will keep them busy for awhile.

I have a couple of crafts for the kids. The ice cream cones/cornucopias above are from an idea from Martha Stewart living. I made the bend in the cones and flattened the bottoms with steam as suggested in the web site, see below. I do intend to make changes. One will be that I will use grapes and/or blueberries to put inside the cones instead of jelly beans. Kids really love grapes and why wouldn't grapes be a great choice? I also will dip the opening in melted dark chocolate and then dipped in chopped almonds. Not perfect, but much healthier. I wish I could show you the finished ones but the kids are not here yet.

I wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving and I know if you are like me, it is time to get back to work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Final garden tour -- probably

It is with regret that I give you the last tour of my garden for 2009. I know there will probably be a frost in the next few weeks that will nip the last part of the growing season in the bud -- literally. Of course I wouldn't mind if we had a few extra weeks of mild weather. I will enjoy watching things grow until everything freezes but I don't know what I should expect. It is after all, almost Thanksgiving.

But, what about my sugar peas? Aren't they great?

They are beautiful! We are having very large blooms all over our pea vines and I know this is one of the first things we will plant in the spring. They love the cooler weather.

They are sweet and crunchy in salads. I don't know how many we will have in the next few weeks, but we will enjoy every pod we can find.

Now this is a little frustrating. We have been waiting, and waiting and waiting for the pumpkin vine, above, to bloom and now that it is probably too late, what do we see? This pumpkin plant is a little tiresome! I admire your effort but your timing is just off!

These banana peppers just don't quit. They have slowed and I am still picking a few here and there.

The green beans, bless 'em. They just keep coming. I don't see any more blooms, and I will admit this wouldn't fill up even a small sauce pan -- but I just love their spunk. They just keep coming.

The kale is looking good. It really likes the cooler weather. It is perfect cooked, on a sandwich or in my green smoothies. It is so mild that everyone loves it.

Parsnips. I don't really know if we will have parsnips before it freezes, but if we do, I know they will be sweet and tasty.

The Cayennes are looking a little ragged but they are now turning red. I have been drying the last of them to put in shakers. I intend to shake them on pizza and add them to stews for a bit of spice.

This is a fuzzy photo of a Japanese eggplant (what was I trying to shoot?) and I am surprised they are still growing this late in the season.

The cherry tomatoes are still growing in bunches.

And the lettuce is simply beautiful -- and delicious. This butter lettuce is growing with a red lettuce variety. We also have some volunteer garlic growing in the lettuce row. I have been pulling it up and using the "garlic greens" in soups.

And finally. A butterfly on a weed in the garlic. This is the best kind of weed -- the kind that attracts butterflies and doesn't have thorns.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A great gift idea for cooks

If you love to cook, here's a great DIY gift idea for you. It's a cookbook website that lets you compile and print a cookbook for only $10.95. I included a link here.

My friend and colleague, Angela McRae actually clipped the info out of a Woman's Day magazine for me, thinking I would be interested. She was right. I think it's a great idea.

After exploring the website, I saw some drawbacks -- for me. Mainly, I would want to create a cookbook of my own recipes or the recipes handed down from my family. With this online cookbook maker, you have a section of recipes you must choose from Woman's Day recipes. Now I am not putting down their recipes, but I usually am more excited about Martha Stewart's or Southern Living's recipes.

Also, the 8 1/2 x 11, softcover book is more of a booklet because you can choose only about 20 or so pages, then you have about half that many pages of your own. If you go over the page limit, you will have to pay around a dollar a page more and the price can mount up very quickly. But if you want to give a personalized book with recipes and include a few of your own, this would be great.

I did find the prices were hidden in the site and I had to jump through hoops to find out what the prices were. If I seem a little vague about pricing, I thought they were, too. You do have the option of working on it, saving it and going back to it, so you don't have to do it all in one sitting. You can also upload some of your own images. I just don't really like having to use their recipes.

After that, I googled "make your own cookbooks" and found another site, based in Atlanta, called "Create My Cookbook." I have a link for you here. I plan to use this site in the near future to create a cookbook of my own. I am not sure I will have time to make my cookbook before Christmas this year, but I am thinking of making cookbooks for gifts next year, or even during the year.

On this site, you can create a cookbook from 6 to 100 pages for $19.99 and it is all your (or my) recipes. You can go back to it and take all the time you need to finish it up. This is a spiral bound book with a wraparound spine and they mention how it has protection from spills. You can use their stock photos or upload your own. I really loved this site and I am going to use it as soon as I can. I think it will be a great way just to organize my recipes.

There is a hard cover version for $34.95 but I think I would start with the spiral bound version. I really need to see what one cookbook looks like before I put very much money into it. I also liked the fact that it looks like you get a price break on 20 or more cookbooks, but I don't know what the break will be. I must contact them first. I will let you know how it turns out and I appreciate Angela for finding this great do it yourself project.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Caramel apple cupcakes

I know I said I wasn't going to make another cake until Thanksgiving, but I did have to make something for our office Thanksgiving feast and I have been wanting to make these for a long time.

Apple caramel cupcakes are a twist on a recipe that I already have. They have a hazelnut topping and a cream cheese frosting. My friend Kim once said that adding cream cheese to anything made it better, and I have to agree.

I decided to use Kraft soft caramels for the caramel part so here's the recipe.

Apple Cake w/Caramel Sauce

2 cups plain flour
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups grated apples
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cooking spray

To prepare apples, wash, peel and grate. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans. This recipe makes 36 small cupcakes or 30 large ones.

Combine vegetable oil, sugar and mix well. Add eggs and mix. Add apples, flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Blend until well mixed. The batter will be pretty runny. Ladle batter into cupcake liners, using a quarter cup measuring cup. Fill each liner 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes or until done. Prick the cupcake tops with a fork and spoon on the warm caramel filling, recipe below. Allow to cool. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting -- the recipe is below and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts or peanuts.
This will also make a three layer cake. If making a cake, be sure to line the pans with parchment paper and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Prick top of layers while warm and pour on caramel filling. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Caramel Filling
Melt 1 bag of soft caramels and 1/4 cup of evaporated milk
Microwave a minute at a time and stir well, until caramels are melted. It may take several minutes before mixture is melted.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
2 lb. Confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
1/2 cup of hazelnuts or peanuts, chopped

Mix cream cheese, butter and flavoring until creamy. Add Confectioners' sugar and mix on high until creamy. Pipe onto cupcakes using a pastry bag and large size coupler and tip. Top with nuts. This will make enough to generously frost a three layer cake. You may want to add another cup of nuts to top a cake.

Lower fat option: You can also substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce for 1/2 cup of the oil.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flu Patrol

We have heard all about the flu on the news, and depending on your area, the H1N1 or swine flu is either at its peak or just past it.

My concern, and the concern of many health care professionals is that another wave of flu is on its way. I just want to give a gentle reminder that you need to take the regular flu shot as soon as possible. Even if you have had the H1N1 virus already, you could still be hit by the second wave.

I do think it is time to get aggressive and be very careful to avoid the spread of germs. One of the best ways to do this is simply to wash your hands -- and do it often. I have read that hand washing is a lost art and I can believe it. Many feel that washing hands could significantly cut the spread of colds and flu. Also, consistently carrying wipes and using them before eating, touching others or your own eyes, nose or mouth would greatly reduce the spread of the germs that cause colds and flu.

A problem with using most commercial wipes is they really don't have what it takes to kill the spread of a virus. Wipes must contain at least 70 percent alcohol to kill these germs, so putting a little Purell on our hands might not be enough. (Most products don't contain that much alcohol.) Also, some products don't have any alcohol at all.

I recently heard a scientist speak on public radio about his flu studies. He said that according to his research, wiping alone, with nothing, was as effective as using a store-bought product, like Purell. So, just wiping can remove germs -- still hand washing is the best protection against disease. He also said that staying out of public bathrooms is a good idea. When that can't be avoided, use a towel or wipe to open/close the bathroom door and turn off the faucet.

I have a formula for making alcohol wipes you may want to try. I purchased some dry facial wipes in the cosmetic department at the drug store and a bottle of alcohol. I put the wipes in a baggie and poured alcohol over them. I then added a couple drops of orange essential oil just to pretty up the smell. I then double-bagged the wipes because I didn't want the alcohol to leak out. I carry this around to wipe my hands when washing is not an option. Read here about the CDC's hand washing suggestions.

Another thing I personally think is helpful is using a nasal rinse at least twice a day and whenever I feel I have been exposed to sneezes and coughs. I have blogged about this before. I like to use a pre-packaged rinse and, during flu season, I also add one (and only one) drop of grapefruit seed extract to the rinse. More than one drop could burn your sinues. This is strong stuff, but I think it is helpful for me. Your doctor may disagree, so please ask him before adding anything to your nasal rinse. Grapefruit seed is a compound that will work on mold, bacteria, virus germs and even candida. Many with sinus problems swear by it, but is potent so proceed with caution when using it. I have a theory that the warm water you use with a nasal rinse can kill germs. Germs don't really hang around in warm places, if they did, we would get the flu all year long.

So my suggestions for aggressively avoiding and preventing the spread of the flu?

1. Get a flu shot.

2. Wash hands often using guidelines of the CDC.

3. Sneeze into your sleeve, like Elmo.

4. Use alcohol wipes and wipe vigorously.

5. Avoid public bathrooms when possible and avoid touching door handles in public places.

6. Go to your doctor if you think you may be getting the flu. If you take Tamiful within the first 48 hours, the flu can be shortened significantly.

7. Stay at home if you have the flu or flu symptoms.

8. Wear a mask when around an infected person and, again, wash your hands after coming in contact with them.

9. I like to use Lysol wipes (see top photo) in my work area to keep germs at bay. Don't forget your phone.

10. Use wipes on shopping cart handles, and on anything people have handled.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkey deals

Please forgive me for the rather bad photo, but it is definitely the year to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. I just had to post this, just in case you missed the sales fliers this weekend.

I have not seen turkey prices this low in years. Last year the best price I found was 69 cents and this year you can buy turkeys for 37 cents per pound -- unbelievable. Now is the time to buy one for Thanksgiving, another for Christmas and another to give away. I have three turkeys in my freezer. Two of them were 40 cents a pound and the third I purchased at Whole Foods for $1.69 a pound and it was a free-range, antibiotic free turkey. The last time I checked on the price of those, the price was well over $2.00 a pound.

If you notice in the rather fuzzy photo above, a Butterball turkey is 77 cents a pound -- that's a 20 cent savings for each pound. Also notice that sweet potatoes are the same price as the turkey. I am fascinated by that.

Anyway, buy now and buy cheap. Worried about roasting your turkey? Buy one of those roasting bags and put it in and just don't overcook. A friend of mine was saying she always roasts her turkey at 250 degrees and cooks it overnight. Her turkey always falls off the bone and is very tasty. I think I am going to try that with one of my turkeys.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A break from the rain

We've had just about everything this fall. There have been some pretty days, but we've had some really bad weather, a hurricane in November and now, it feels like our first real stretch of extremely pleasant weather. I think that is only right after the last few days when it poured for two solid days.

I must say, I have missed the pretty fall days and am happy they will make a return appearance this weekend.

I am happy for my garden, too. My collards, greens, lettuce and snow peas really need this to produce. Every bit of the sunshine we see this weekend will make my collards that much better. I am hoping they will be ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green Smoothies

Today I am going to talk about something very healthy -- so if that is where you are, you will like this post but for those of you who aren't there, just cover your ears and hum something like -- The Battle Hymn of the Republic. If you're still with me, read on.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the concept of green smoothies. I thought it was a very interesting concept: Make a healthy drink by mixing fruit and vegetables together in a high-speed blender with ice cubes and you will have a good tasting, very healthy snack (or meal).

My daughter tried it, and loved it. She has been raving about how good she feels with smoothies added into her daily diet. I wanted to try it then, but I had one drawback. My blender had recently died and I just had not had enough time to replace it.

Last weekend, I bought an Oster Fusion blender. It probably won't last as long as the high powered Vitamix blenders but so far I really like it. It chops and crushes ice with ease. I'm not sure how long it will last but it has to last as long as my last blender. I figure I can't loose because the Vitamix is $300 + and the Fusion blender was around $50.

I am still amazed that my carrot, which is usually chopped (at best) in the blender was pureed so finely that I didn't notice any texture. Really amazing!

My recipe:

1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1/3 mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup almond milk
4 drops of liquid stevia
a handful of lettuce with radicchio

I mixed the carrot, mango, lettuce and almond milk until it was smooth and then added the ice and stevia. It was so creamy and smooth. I could not believe it.

You can add other fruits, especially frozen berries, peaches or/and seeded oranges.

Adding spinach, kale or watercress would probably be healthier than the lettuce, but I didn't have any. Wouldn't this be a good way to get kids to eat more greens?

I added stevia but you could start with Splenda. After you get used to the taste, you could use less and less sweetener.

The idea is to eat whole fruits and vegetables. I love fruit and vegetable juice, but they are not as beneficial as including the whole fruit with the fiber. The blender grinds it up so well that you don't know you aren't just drinking juice. Make sense? Try it. You may like it and you would be healthier for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All You Magazine

While I am recommending magazines, I thought I should include "All You." I found out about this magazine from Holly, my wonderful daughter-in-law, who is a legend in our family for saving money and coupon shopping. She tells me about the great deals she finds and saves me money every week.

This is a magazine that on the surface is not the most inspiring magazine I've ever seen, but it does have hundreds of tips about fashion, food, shopping, emotional issues and more. This issue has a great feature on new hairstyles and the recipes sound interesting.

But, the best thing about this magazine -- the coupons. Really, really good coupons for substantial savings that don't expire in a week. You can see on the cover that the coupon savings are $49.57, and I can see that. I like the coupons because they are for really useful products I use all the time. In fact, I just bought a 6-pack of Viva paper towels for under $4, thanks to a coupon I clipped from the latest issue.

The down side -- you really must read before you clip because as you cut out the coupons you cut out the helpful tips and recipes! It really does pay for itself in a very short period of time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Taste of Home magazines

I didn't want to get off the subject of "Taste of Home," without showing you some of their magazines. It looks as though they have extended their line of magazines in the past year or so to include the regular "Taste of Home" magazine plus a "Simple and Delicious" and a "Healthy Cooking" magazine.

Their parent company is Reiman Publications and they focus on target marketing, which means, for potential customers like me -- they find out what people want and give it to them. I will say that their cooking publications are absolutely filled to the brim with recipes. Each issue is cover to cover recipes, photos and tips. They don't have ads in their publications but I did notice they have coupons which is a little different from the past. In the publications I picked up at the show there are hundreds of recipes, plus every one who attended received a free magazine subscription. That made the ticket a great value.

They have a website with recipes, too. You can find it here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Working the cooking school

Every year about this time, Newnan Utilities and The Times-Herald sponsor the "Taste of Home Cooking School." It is a huge success each year in our community and is presented to a sold out crowd at The Centre for Performing Arts, in Newnan. This year Angela, the editor of Newnan-Coweta Magazine and I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes and we didn't hesitate to say, "Yes, we would love to work." You can read her account, plus more photos on ther blog.

Above, the show is about to begin and people are filing in over an hour before the start of the show. Outside the auditorium, vendors set up booths and people sign up for free drawings.

Michelle Roberts, a member of the "Taste of Home" staff travels all over the southeast, entertaining everyone while whipping up around ten dishes in front of the crowd, while handing out cooking tips and funny quips.

Above, Michelle does a last minute check before the show begins.

Local sponsors provide door prizes that are given out during the show. This year, the giveaways included a Microwave from Knox, many gifts from Newnan Utilities, a gift card from The Times-Herald and gifts from other local businesses. Roberts gives away a number of pretty cookbooks and the food that is cooked during the evening become extra prizes, given away on serving dishes. Everyone who comes is a winner because everyone automatically receives a bag full of "Taste of Home" magazines, coupons from local advertisers and samples from Viva and Ziploc.

Susan, above, was thrilled to also work behind the scenes. She is an avid baker and has attended the cooking school every year it has been held. This year, she was a part of the show. When we arrived at 8:30 am to help with preparations, we had to begin by washing dishes and then we chopped vegetables, cooked foods and measured out everything for the show. Some things we prepared entirely, other things were made while the audience watched.

We each took a tray with detailed instructions and scurried around getting ready, asking questions of Roberts to make sure we were right.

One of Angela's tasks was to make a cake to decorate during the show.

One of Taste of Home's field editors Kay Rainwater, from nearby Fayetteville attended and presented the recipe she is shown above preparing, during the show.

After many preparations were done, we took everything out of the refrigerator and then repacked it for the show.

The next thing was to get each tray ready for the show.

After a two hour break, we came back and met again to decide on tasks for the show and then we prepared our recipes and the tasks for the show.

Michelle and Angela are preparing for the show.

It all went so perfectly and even though we were all a little nervous before the show, it was easy and went off without a hitch. We worked hard and it was a long day that ended about 9:45 pm, when we had to repack all the items so Roberts could travel to her next show, but we all agreed we would be happy to do it all again.

See the photo of the "behind the scenes" group in our pretty red aprons we wore during the show on Angela's blog. We were excited to receive them as a gift.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Honey-Glazed Grilled Turkey

I only have one oven in my kitchen. This isn’t usually a problem, except for Thanksgiving Day.

A couple of years ago, my husband suggested grilling our Thanksgiving turkey to solve the oven dilemma and I nervously agreed. It was an experiment that turned into a tradition. Not only did we free up the kitchen, but the grilled turkey was tasty and even more tender than when roasted in the oven.

There are some items you will need before grilling a turkey. The most important is a meat thermometer.

The second is a foil pan with wire handles (the kind with the wire that goes underneath the pan). This adds stability when removing the hot turkey from the grill. You also will need large oven mitts, a basting brush and heavy duty aluminum foil.

It is also nice to have a small rack to place under the turkey. You can make one by covering a small metal pan or even a foil pie pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil and placing it underneath. This helps keep the turkey out of the drippings. The grill should be a four-burner covered grill, and it is helpful (but not necessary) to have a temperature gauge on the grill to make sure the temperature remains constant. One of the most important tips: always start with a full tank of gas.

If your grill has a top or warming rack, remove it for grilling the turkey. Use a foil pan with handles and prepare by inserting a covered rack or pan in the bottom of large foil pan. Pour 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the pan. Place turkey in the pan, checking to make sure all cavities are empty (unless of course you are stuffing the turkey).

Honey-glazed Grilled Turkey

12-pound fresh or fully thawed turkey, giblets removed
1/2 cup water
Pam or other cooking spray

Basting sauce:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter
Cook above ingredients in a saucepan until it comes to a boil and sugars are melted. Use in the last 30 minutes to baste the turkey.

Cover with aluminum foil that is sprayed inside with cooking spray, so it won’t stick to the turkey. To prepare the grill, turn all burners on until temperature is between 300 and 325 degrees. Turn off the inside burners and put the turkey in the center of the grill. Monitor the grill to keep the temperature around 325 degrees.

Cook the turkey approximately 4 hours and check temperature after about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The temperature should steadily rise. In the last 30 minutes of cooking, remove the foil and baste with the glaze.

Baste every 10 to 15 minutes and watch carefully that the turkey doesn’t get too brown. Remove when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Put on a plate and garnish with greens, herbs and small pears and apples.

I don’t generally stuff the turkey because I usually make cornbread dressing, but according to the USDA, the internal temperature of a stuffed turkey must be 165 degrees.