Friday, December 25, 2009

Crockpot Chili

1 – 1¼ pounds ground beef
2 15½-oz cans red beans, drained
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 16-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 c. chopped onion*
1 c. chopped green pepper*
1 c. chopped celery*
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder

*or one 12 oz. bag frozen Kroger Recipe Beginnings "Mirepoix Cajun Style Blend" for these three ingredients

In skillet cook ground beef until browned; drain off excess fat. (I often will cook ground beef in a covered dish in the microwave-this works well if meat is still frozen.) Transfer meat to crock pot. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 8 – 10 hours. Serves 10 – 12.

I started collecting cookbooks when I joined the "Better Homes and Gardens" Cookbook Club when I was in high school. The basis for this recipe came from the "Better Homes and Gardens Crockery Cooker Cook Book." Over the years I tweaked it a bit, so I guess you could call it my own recipe now. I figure it is pretty much a complete meal with so many vegetable in it, but good accompaniments are crackers, cole slaw, or what my mom served with chili: lemon carrot jello (lemon jello with grated carrot in it). Our son, Richard, has turned to the Hoosier way and likes spaghetti in it, so I'll cook him up some pasta, but don't mix it in my batch.

Since at one time I was on Weight Watchers, I figured up that 1 cup of this has 3 points.

This year, we actually celebrated Christmas with our kids on December 22, since Elizabeth and Toby were going to his sister's to be with his family on the 25th. So Gary, Richard, and I planned to go to a matinee movie today and I thought chili would make great meal for this evening. We ended up having two of our friends, Pam and Christine join us for the movie and I invited them over for chili. Pam brought some shrimp with her and we all feasted on chili and shrimp cocktail. It was so delicious, I have now declared that chili and shrimp cocktail is the official Law Christmas night meal! So Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Waffle Mix

1¼ c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
¾ c. nonfat dry milk*
¼ c. ground flaxseed
2 T. egg white powder
4 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. Splenda or sugar
½ tsp. salt

Measure all into bowl and whisk together blending well. Store in tightly sealed baggie or container.

To make waffles, beat together the following and blend into mix:

2¾ c. water
½ c. oil

Bake on hot waffle iron. I get 14 5-inch squares out of the batch.

I have always liked waffles better than pancakes, because they are crispier. This is my adaptation of a basic waffle recipe. I liked this recipe because it did not call for beating egg whites separately and folding them into the batter. It is just mix up and go! I was just experimenting with it when I came up with the idea of using part whole wheat flour and then ground flaxseed as part of the oil. I think it makes them a little healthier. Of course, my topping my baked waffle with peanut butter and syrup may contradict that. (Kind of like that Diet Coke with the burger and fries.) When I mentioned to Elizabeth that I decided my recipe could be made into a mix that could be made ahead and then just the liquid ingredients added, she immediately asked if Santa could bring her a batch in her stocking. It's waiting for you now, Elizabeth, Santa forgot to bring it to our early Christmas on Tuesday. The batch I made this morning turned out yummy, even if I do say so myself! Merry Christmas!

* Note: If you don't have nonfat dry milk, you can omit this and use 2¼ c. milk when mixing up batter with ½ c. oil and ¼ c. water.

05/01/10: Had the opportunity to use the mix I made up with nonfat dry milk on 04/01/10 (stored it in a baggie with directions to add oil and water). They turned out perfect!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hot Cocoa

½ c. sugar
¼ c. HERSHEY’S® Cocoa
Dash salt
1/3 c. hot water
4 c. milk
¾ tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in saucepan; stir in hot water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat and add vanilla. (I usually forget to add vanilla, but this tastes yummy, anyway.)

Elizabeth always requests that I make "real" hot cocoa (as opposed to hot chocolate) for Christmas, so I made it this morning as we celebrated Christmas a little early since she and Toby will be at his sister's in Illinois on Christmas Day. I had forgotten how absolutely delicious this hot cocoa is! (It's the recipe on the HERSHEY'S can.) It has a much richer taste that hot chocolate and is worth the extra time. Just remember to stir before serving in your favorite mug or, even better, a fancy tea cup. Leftovers can be stored in refrigerator and reheated. (If using microwave to reheat-use about 70% power for 60 seconds or less, depending on your microwave's power.)

When I was a child, my favorite breakfast was Cocoa and Toast. Mom would make this cocoa, make toast, butter it, and cut it in quarters (triangles, no squares for me!). I remember sitting at the kitchen table in my p.j.'s and dipping my toast in the cocoa. Now it takes a certain knack to dip buttered toast in cocoa, without ending up with an "oil slick" floating on your cocoa. You must hold the toast almost parallel to the cocoa and only dip the bottom of the piece of toast in. Since this takes great concentration, it was not unusual for my mom to have to encourage me on school mornings to eat just a little faster so I would not be late. As I recall there was just something very comforting and warm about sharing the table with Mom, she with her cup of coffee and I with my toast and cocoa. I guess it was just one of the ways she showed her love for me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cheese Balls

4 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, brought to room temperature (I use 2 regular and 2 fat
free – don’t use all fat free-makes mixture too soft)
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 small can chopped ripe olives
Large pinch of baking soda
1 c. finely chopped pecans

Mix all ingredients together well. Cover and chill a few hours or overnight. Form into 3 or 4 balls. Roll each ball in paprika. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Makes 3 - 1 pound balls or 4 - 12 oz. balls.

This recipe was given to me by Judy Beavers (now Hobby), a co-worker at the Peach County Department of Family and Children Services in Fort Valley, Georgia, where I worked as an eligibility caseworker from 06/75 to 07/79. Yep, we were "Welfare Workers." The thing I remember best and admire about Judy is that she certainly lived her Christian faith. She often invited me to come to church with her. When having dinner with Judy and her mom one night, I remember Mrs. Beavers saying "grace" before we ate. What astonished me was that is was not a memorized verse, but she truly just spoke to God and let me have a glimpse of what having a true relationship with Jesus could mean. It was an "a-ha" moment for me and important in my own Christian development.

You'll notice this cheese ball has black olives in it. What is funny is I really don't like black olives. Now, our daughter, Elizabeth, always tells me, "Don't remind me that your cheese ball has black olives in it, 'cause I don't like black olives!" However, she really likes this cheese ball. I often make a batch up at Thanksgiving, and have even kept one or two until Christmas (wrapped well and kept refrigerated). I made sure it was one of the things served at her "Last Day of 29" surprise party today. I'll give her one for the New Year's Eve party she and Toby will be attending. In February, I'll make another batch and shape them like footballs for Superbowl parties. They always seem to be a hit. I have to limit how often I make this recipe, because it seems to be addictive. I think the best crackers with this are Ritz, Wheat Thins, and Triscuit.

Another thing I will note about this cheese ball, is that I would not make it if I did not have my KitchenAid stand mixer; the mixture is so very stiff. Because I have the grater attachment for the mixer, I usually just put the pecans through that which does make for very fine pieces of nuts.

Hope you enjoy this treat!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

½ c. butter or margarine
½ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¾ c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400º F. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix together flour and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Dough will be very stiff. DO NOT CHILL.
Divide into 2 balls. On floured surface, roll each ball into circle 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes on top rack of oven. Remove from cookie sheet immediately. Cool. Ice with Cream Cheese Icing and decorate as desired. Yield: approximately 3 dozen, but this will depend on size of cookie cutter used.

Cream Cheese Icing: Mix together one 8 oz. package cream cheese, ½ c. Crisco, 1 tsp. clear vanilla and ½ tsp. clear butter flavor. (Crisco and clear flavorings are used to keep icing very white, thus if you color it, the color will be true.) Slowly add 1 pound sifted confectioner’s sugar and mix until smooth.

I discovered the recipe for theses cookies when I bought a set of Wilton Sesame Street Cookie Cutters in 1974 to make a cake for my best friend's 2 year old son, "Ronnie-Man." His dad's name was Ronnie, hence the nickname. I fell in love with this recipe because, unlike most sugar cookie recipes, you do not chill the dough. So once I start the mission to make cookies, I can work straight through. I think this cookie is just perfect for icing and decorating because it's not very sweet, so the icing tops them off perfectly.

The cream cheese icing recipe is one I adapted from another friend's Italian Cream Cake recipe. Elizabeth and Toby wanted Cream Cheese Icing on their wedding cake, so to keep it a lovely white, I used Crisco (the basis of most decorator icing), instead of butter or margaine, then added clear vanilla and butter flavorings.

Because almost anything tastes better with cream cheese icing, I decided to pair it with my sugar cookies, instead of a regular buttercream decorator icing and entered these in the Kentucky State Fair in 2006 and they won a blue ribbon in the Sugar Cookie Division! (By the way, they were cut in "Seashell" shapes.)

My favorite cookie shapes for Christmas with this recipe are Christmas trees, snowflakes, stars, holly leaves, and JOY. (Yes I have a cookie cutter that cuts out the word, JOY. It's one of my more recent acquisitions, and makes a striking cookie when I just use red, white, and green icing to trace the letters on the cookie.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spice Cookies aka "Spice Elephants"

2 c. packed brown sugar (I always use dark brown sugar-love the intense flavor)
1 ½ c. butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. baking soda

In large mixing bowl, beat together sugar and butter. Add egg; beat until light and fluffy. In separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add to beaten mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. (I often make up to this point and then put dough in Tupperware or other tightly sealed bowl and refrigerated until I’m ready to bake, up to several days, even.)

Preheat oven to 375º. On floured covered surface, roll dough to about 1/8 inch thick. (Best to do in small batches so dough stays fairly chilled-I generally roll out about a sixth to eighth of the dough at a time.) Cut with floured cookie cutter. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet about ½ - ¾ inch apart. (I do this with a small spreader.) Reshape trimmings into a ball and place back in refrigerator while cutting a fresh batch of dough.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before removing from pan. Finish cooling on rack or tea towels.

How many this makes depends on size of cookie cutter used. I generally get about 10 dozen spice elephants from one recipe.

This recipe comes from a cookbook I purchased from a Cookbook Club many years ago. (Great Little Sweet Treats by Vanessa-Ann; published by Meredith Press, Des Moines, Iowa, 1992) The recipe, "Sun, Moon and Stars," called for you making cardboard patterns of those shapes and even sculpting faces for the sun and moon cookies. Since one of my mottos is "Have occasion, have cookie cutter," Elizabeth and I decided just to adapt recipe to use whatever cookie cutters caught our fancy. Since Toby and Elizabeth spurred me to active Republican Party service, these cookies usually take the shape of the Republican Elephant, thus "Spice Elephants." If I have the time, these usually find their way to Republican functions. I teased Glenn when I made them for the "goody bags" for the Young Republican National Convention Selection Committee several years ago, that those cookies were the reason Indianapolis was chosen to host that event last year. For Christmas, I like to use my Pine Cone, Reindeer, and "Gingerbread Man" cookie cutters - those are supposed to be brown and require little, if any, decoration. People often tell me they love my "Gingerbread" cookies, but I have to correct them, since as you can see there is no ginger in them! Blessings to you.