Southern Style Green Beans

May 14th is Mother’s Day here in the USA.  For all the mothers out there,  Happy Mother’s Day.  Hopefully, good food will be part of your day.

Mother’s Day is celebrated all around the world in different ways and different times.  Here in the USA, we celebrate the day by giving mothers gifts and flowers and a day off from cooking and other household chores.  My favorite way to spend Mother’s Day is with a family dinner of grilled burgers.

This recipe for green beans is in honor of my own mom.  It is not her recipe because she did not like to cook. Early on in my childhood she became the designated sweet tea maker while my dad did all the cooking.

She may not have cared for cooking, but she was one heck of a gardener. She grew the best green beans as well as many other vegetables. She also had a beautiful flower garden. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of any of her flowers or vegetables.  I wish I did.  I remember that she always grew Kentucky Wonder green beans.  Here is a picture of some Kentucky Wonder green beans courtesy of edenbrothers.com.

I am sure that my love of gardening came from my mom.  I don’t have room to grow vegetables but I do have a lot of summer flowers that I grow and enjoy.  I believe she would love all of them.  Here are a couple of pictures from last summer.

 

I love green beans cooked any way but I especially love them cooked the Southern way, which essentially means cooked to death.  These green beans will not have the bright green color that you get when cooking until just crisp-tender, but the flavor will make up for it.  This is a very easy recipe to make but it does take some time for the cooking process.  The aroma of these green beans while cooking takes me back to my Southern upbringing.

Southern Style Green Beans

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 pound of fresh green beans or 16 ounce size frozen green beans
1 1/2 slices of bacon, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

If using fresh green beans, wash the beans and snap the ends off.  Leave whole.

In a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan, fry the bacon until most of the fat has been rendered.  Add the onion and sauté about two minutes or until onion is translucent.  Add the green beans, stirring until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add one cup of water.  Cover the pan and simmer on low heat until the green beans are very tender, approximately one hour.   Check the green beans on occasion, and add more water as needed.  Before serving, drain if desired.  

Notes:
1.  When simmering the green beans, you will want a very low simmer and not a rolling boil.
2.  I like to snap the ends off the fresh green beans and cook them whole.  If using frozen, I buy the whole green beans.

 

Marbled Cupcakes

Soon we will be celebrating Easter which is a very important religious holiday on the Christian calendar and is celebrated worldwide.  Some of the folklore associated with Easter includes colored eggs and the easter bunny.  This may not be the Easter bunny, but here is a picture of a cute bunny rabbit that was recently in my yard.

Here in the US we have an Easter candy called Peeps.  It is a marshmallow type of candy and has been around for more than 60 years. Before automation, it took 27 hours to produce one marshmallow chick by hand with a pastry tube.  Now it takes only six minutes to create one Peep.  Whether you love or hate the Peeps, they do seem to symbolize the arrival of Spring to many people.  See just born.com for more fun facts about this colorful candy.  I always buy a few of the Peeps each Easter.

A lot of us will celebrate Easter with family gatherings and good food.  We nearly always have a ham dinner with a lot of side dishes and desserts.  This year I’m making colorful marbled cupcakes for one of our desserts.  Marbled cupcakes are typically ones that blend chocolate and white cake batters, but these cupcakes get a marbled effect from layering different colors of batter.

There are several recipes out there for this kind of cupcake.  I was inspired by the one made by two sisters crafting.  They used four different colors for their cupcakes.  I found that it was easier to only use three different colors of batter.  Check out their beautiful cupcakes and other recipes here.

I love the different colors in the cupcakes and the bright pink and blue frosting.  They are a perfect dessert for Easter or any family celebration.  I’m not good at cake decorating but I think the beauty of these cupcakes is in the colorful batter and frosting.

Marbled Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
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Marbled Cupcakes:

1 box white cake mix (15.25 ounce )
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1cup  milk
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Buttercream Frosting:

3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat the  oven to 350°F.  Place a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups and set aside.

For the Cake:

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend on low speed of mixer for one minute.  Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat an additional two minutes.

Divide the batter in 3 equal portions in separate bowls,  and tint as desired.  I used Wilton Color Rite Food Coloring and colored each bowl of batter as follows:  pink, yellow, and blue.

Use a small spoon to alternate small drops of colored cake batter into the individual cupcake liner.  Repeat until all cupcake liners are filled, filling each 2/3 to 3/4 full.  

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In a large bowl, with electric mixer at low speed, combine sugar, butter, cream and lemon. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, until creamy. Add more milk until frosting is of a spreading or piping consistency.  Tint as desired.  I used pink and blue colors. Use a Wilton 2D frosting tip to frost the cupcakes or apply frosting with a knife.

 

Notes:  Here are a few photos from the baking process:

 

 

Colcannon

You can celebrate the luck of the Irish on St Patrick’s Day by making Colcannon which is a traditional Irish recipe of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. It can be flavored with green onions, cream and butter.  Colcannon translates to white-headed cabbage.

Here in the US we celebrate St Patrick’s Day with parades, eating, drinking, and with really prominent displays of green. Chicago does it in a big way by dyeing the Chicago River green. Photo credit WGN-TV.

In Grand Rapids, we don’t dye the Grand River green but there is an annual St Patrick’s Day Parade with our own version of St Patrick.  Quite a handsome fellow.  Photo credit Lauren Petracca.

I remember as a kid hearing a story about my great grandmother dancing an Irish jig at some kind of town celebration.  I wish I could have seen that, and it makes me happy to know I may have an Irish connection.  On St Patrick’s Day, I think it is a day that we all wish to be Irish.

If you want to enhance your Irish experience this St Patrick’s Day, watch the movie Brooklyn.  It is a delightful movie about a young female Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn.  It takes place in both Ireland and Brooklyn.  Or perhaps you prefer to have a glass of Guinness Extra Stout.

I make Colcannon quiet often because it is a hearty and simple comfort food.  But if you plan to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a special Irish dinner, I can definitely recommend it as a side dish.

Colcannon

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup warm heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cabbage, thinly sliced and chopped (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons  butter (with extra butter for serving)
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Cook the potatoes in boiling water in a large saucepan until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the cabbage in 3 tablespoons of butter for about 1-2 minutes.  Add the water and cook until until cabbage is tender and water is cooked off, stirring occasionally.  Add the green onions and cook 1 minute more.  Set aside.

Drain the potatoes in a collander; return to the pan.  Add butter.  Mash potatoes until creamy, gradually adding milk.  Add the cabbage mixture; mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with a tablespoon of butter in the center.  

 

Notes:
1.  Leftover Colcannon warms up very nicely in the microwave.
2.  I used Kerrygold butter which is made in Ireland.  If you can find it at your local grocers, give it a try.

 

 

 

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

One of our Federal holidays  here in the USA is Presidents’ Day.  It is a celebration of two of our great presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Washington’s birthday was originally celebrated on February 22nd but was changed to the third Monday in February to include Lincoln.  This also allowed a three day weekend for Federal workers.  Presidents’ Day is also a time to remember all of our former presidents.

As a child, I always loved to read about George Washington and how he chopped down his father’s cherry tree.

Although he did not chop down that cherry tree, Washington was indeed fond of cherries.  The story about chopping down the cherry tree and not telling a lie about it was from one of his biographers, Parson Mason Weems (1759–1825). Mr. Weems  made up the story hoping to demonstrate Washington’s honesty.

If you want to learn more about George Washington, visit mtvernon.org.  This site is a great source about George Washington, Martha and the estate itself.  It also provides a look at the unfortunate slave population that was at Mount Vernon.  There are a few recipes such as the one for hoecakes.  Hoecakes were a favorite breakfast food of Washington.  He liked them covered with butter and honey.

I have been fortunate to visit most of our national parks.  One that really stands out in my memory is the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. It has the faces of four Presidents carved in the granite of Mount Rushmore. They are Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.  If you get a chance, be sure to visit this wonderful park.

Each of the four presidents were chosen because they represent some of the most important events in the history of the USA.  Washington’s face is the most prominent and represents the birth of the United States.  I visited long before the digital age of photography so here is a picture of Mount Rushmore courtesy of  NPS.gov.

Mount Rushmore

These Mini Cherry Cheesecakes are very easy to make and take very little time to prepare.  They are tasty and look pretty with the cherry topping.  Also, they are a perfect serving size for rich cheesecake.  If you want to celebrate Washington’s birthday with a dessert made with cherries, try this one.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

12 vanilla wafers

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 egges, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

cherry pie filling

Preheat the over to 325 degrees.

Line muffin tin with foil liners. Place one vanilla wafer in each liner.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

Add in the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix until well combined, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the vanilla wafers to 3/4 full.  Bake 18-20 minutes at 325 degrees.

Remove from the pan when cool. Chill. Top with about a tablespoon of the cherry pie filling on each cheesecake.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

Mini Cherry Cheesecake

Notes:
1.  It will only take about a cup of cherry pie filling for the mini cheesecakes so plan a use for the excess pie filling  (if purchasing the 21 ounce size).
2.  The mini cheesecakes are made in a regular sized muffin tin.
3.  Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes Cupid’s Cherry Cheesecakes and can be found here.

Coeur a la Creme

Valentine’s Day is next week and I am already looking forward to one of the heart shaped boxes of candy that is often received on Valentine’s Day.  Mine from last year.

Valentine's Day Candy

We can thank Richard Cadbury for these ubiquitous boxes of candy that appear on store shelves in early January.  Mr. Cadbury was part of a chocolate manufacturing family in the UK.  It is believed that he produced the first such box in 1868. These were pretty boxes and once empty could be used to store various trinkets from locks of hair to love letters.  history.com

Below is a photo of one of the Victorian heart shaped boxes by Richard Cadbury . Photo credit candyfavorities.com.

Victorian Heart Shaped Candy Box

While the Coeur a la Creme is not chocolate, I guarantee it will satisfy any sweet craving you may have.  It is a delicious and beautiful dessert made with cream cheese and whipped cream.  It is then served with a raspberry sauce.  For a French dessert, it is remarkably easy to make.

The name translates to “heart of the cream“.  It is traditionally served in a heart shape and usually prepared in a porcelain Coeur a la Creme mold.  I think I purchased my 7-inch mold from Amazon for about $13.00.  I recently bought a set of four  4-inch molds.  If you do not have the mold, simply line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth and set over a bowl so it can drain.

I find that this recipe makes more cheese mixture than will fit into the 7-inch mold.  I have used the fine mesh sieve to mold the excess cream mixture but for this post I used my recently purchased smaller molds for the excess.  The last picture of the Creme is one prepared in the smaller mold.

The recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home. It is one of my favorite cookbooks. One can sense her love of Paris and all things French. The book also has a lot of beautiful photographs and is a pleasure to read.

I have made this elegant dessert several times.  It is really easy to make and requires no baking.  With its heart shape and red raspberry sauce, I think It is a perfect dessert to serve for Valentine’s Day.

Coeur a la Creme

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Coeur a la Creme

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

Raspberry Sauce

1 -10-ounce bag frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Raspberry di Amore liqueur

For the Coeur a la Creme

Prepare a 7 inch Coeur a la Creme mold by lining it with a few sheets of cheesecloth so the ends drape over the sides. Place in a pan large enough to hold it.  Make sure that there is space between the bottom of the mold and the bottom of the pan for the liquid to drain. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  On slow speed, add in the sifted powdered sugar until combined.  Then beat on hight speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and beater.  Change the beater for the whisk attachment.  With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds.  Beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick and has a consistency like whipped cream.

Pour the cream mixture into the prepared mold and fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the top. Refrigerate overnight to allow the mixture to drain.

For the Raspberry Sauce

Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve, so that there won’t be any of the raspberry seeds in the sauce. Chill until ready to serve with the cream.

To Serve the Coeur a la Creme

Discard the liquid in the bottom of the pan.
Unfold the cheesecloth on top of the mold.
Place a serving plate on top of the mold and invert the mold.
Carefully remove the remaining cheesecloth.
Drizzle Raspberry Sauce around the base.
Serve with extra sauce.    

Notes:
1.  Original recipe calls for 1 half pint of fresh raspberries for the sauce.
2. Garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired.
3.  If you would like to omit the liqueur, replace with water or raspberry extract.
4.  I don’t care for raspberry seeds so I strain the raspberry sauce at least 3 times.

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Jalapeno Popper Dip

My best wishes to everyone for a wonderful and safe New Year.  My New Year’s Eve was very quite but it did include food, primarily appetizers.

Looking ahead to February, we have an event that is known as Super Bowl Sunday.  The televised Super Bowl is an annual American football game that determines the champion of the National Football League. The Super Bowl is also known for its fun commercials and half time shows with major entertainers.

On September 29, 2016 Lady Gaga tweeted that she will be the headline performer for the Super Bowl 2017 halftime show.  This will be the singer’s second time performing at the Super Bowl.  She sang the “National Anthem” last year.  I’m a fan of Lady Gaga and am really looking forward to seeing her perform.

While I may not be a big fan of football, I do enjoy the festivities and food surrounding the big game.  So like practically everyone else in the USA on Super Bowl Sunday, I will be eating snacks and watching the game.

According to the American Institute of Food Distribution, Super Bowl Sunday is the second highest event in America for most food consumption — following Thanksgiving.  Here are some other interesting and fun food facts about Super Bowl Sunday:

It is typically the number one most popular day for pizza delivery.

Americans will eat 1.3 billion wings during the game.

We will snack on 11.2 million pounds of potato chips.

We buy more veggies for the big day but it is probably just for the dips that are certain to be served.  This is a surprise (to me), avocados are a big seller for guacamole dip.

And don’t forget the beer.  We wash it all down with 325.5 million gallons of beer.

That is a lot of food and drink.  But if you are looking for another appetizer, try this easy, creamy, and delicious dip that is perfect for serving during the big game.  It has the flavor of jalapeño poppers but without all the work.

The first time I tried this dip was this past Christmas where it was served as an appetizer.  My beautiful daughter made it and used fresh jalapeños in it.  It was amazing with the fresh peppers.  However, I used canned jalapeños and chiles in my recipe.  It makes it so much easier than having to deal with fresh peppers and I am lazy.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Jalapeño Popper Dip

  • Time: 45mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Dip

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 – 4 ounce can diced jalapeños, drained
1 – 4 ounce can diced chiles, drained
6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

Topping

1 cup crushed buttery round crackers (such as Ritz)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 2 quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth and combined.  Add the Cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, jalapeños, chiles, and bacon.  Beat until just combined.

Spread into a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Mix the crushed crackers, Parmesan cheese, and butter together in a bowl; spread over the top of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake in preheated oven until bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes.  Serve with tortillo chips or Ritz crackers.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Notes:
1.  Leftover dip can be warmed up and is also good served cold on a Ritz cracker.
2.  Recipe adapted from all recipes.
3. Our Detroit Lions football team has never played in a Super Bowl game and unfortunately for fans it will not happen this year.  If you want more information about Super Bowl 51, visit the NFL web site here.

Snickerdoodles

We are into December and just had our first snowfall of the season.  It was very pretty but I was glad to be inside watching a Christmas movie and planning which cookies to make for Christmas.

Christmas Tree

When I want to bake an old fashioned cookie for Christmas, I immediately think of Snickerdoodles.  That is such a funny name for a very delicious cookie.  I have been baking this cookie at Christmas time for many years.  The recipe is in Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, a vintage cookbook first published in 1963.  I have a well worn copy of this cookbook that was reprinted in 1976 and passed down to me by a favorite aunt.

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Snickerdoodle is similar to a sugar cookie except that is rolled in a mixture of ground cinnamon and sugar.  It also has cream of tartar which helps to activate the baking soda.

Some food historians attribute the cookie as being a New England recipe [English origin] or from the Pennsylvania Dutch [German origin].  Printed recipes for the cookie appeared in the early 20th century.  One recipe that appeared in a 1902 cookbook: A Collection of Tried Recipes Contributed by Estherville [Iowa] Housewives is very similar to the one in the Betty Crocker cookbook, only it does not use shortening.  Source is The Food Timeline and can be found here.

However the cookie originated, I’m just glad we have this vintage cookie that will make you think Christmas.  You may just want to add this delicious cinnamon-sugar cookie to your Christmas cookie tray.

Snickerdoodles

Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Cookies

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then add to the butter mixture.  Beat  to combine.

Topping

In a small bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon.  Set aside.

Shape the cookie dough into 1-inch balls  and roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Arrange the dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are set. Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack.  These cookies will puff up at first, then flatten out.    

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

Note:
1.  Recipe makes approximately six dozen 1-inch cookies.
2.  The baked cookies freeze well.

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