Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prime Rib and Creamy Onion Gravy

Every year I make a prime rib dinner on the years that this meal is at my house.  Some years we have gone to family or friends and we enjoy turkey or ham dinners.  We love all three but the Prime Rib is different and so I think my family likes the change.  We have turkey for Thanksgiving, Prime Rib for Christmas and Ham for New Year's Day…this way no one gets left out and we don't get too tired of one thing.

This year I experimented with two new recipes.  Thanks to the suggestions of a friend, I aged my prime rib.  I was a bit scared because I had spent a hefty price on this piece of meat and I did not want to see it ruined.  I studied lots of recipes and suggestions and took from each of the best parts and did my own thing.

These are the steps that I took to prepare, age and roast my prime rib.

1.  I wrapped the prime rib in cheesecloth and bought enough to change the wrapping once in a 9 day period.

2.  I found a cookie sheet with a drip rack that I could place in my fridge to collecting any drippings from the prime rib.

3.  I let the prime rib sit for 24 hours undisturbed and checked on the wrapping of cheesecloth. I changed it this one time.

4.  I used our refrigerator downstairs that has very little use.  This allowed the temperature in the fridge to stay constant.  I did not return to check on the meat until Saturday.

5.  On Sunday, I removed the roast from the fridge, unwrapped the meat, carved off the hard exterior meat and fat, cut the meat out of the bones (see picture above) and trimmed some of the fat. I added salt, pepper, and some fresh thyme.

6.  I preheated my oven to 450 degrees.  Let the roast cook inside for 30 minutes.

7. Lowered the temperature of the oven to 325, inserted my thermometer and set the timer for 1 hour.  The time to cook your prime rib will vary based on its size.  A rough estimate is 15-18 minutes per pound.

8.  Once my roast reached 130 degrees, I removed it to the counter, tented it with foil and let it sit for 35 minutes while I finished the other dinner items.

The meat was tender and very flavorful.  I will definitely be doing this again with the other cuts of red meat that I get from the butcher.

There are other resources for the aging process for a prime rib in the refrigerator.  I will list a few here so that you can understand the process and this may answer any questions I did not cover in the above instructions.

Guy Fieri has this one  HERE from the Food Network.

Fine Cooking as this one HERE with some reasons as to why aged is better.

This is a great link to all things prime rib with excellent pictures, go HERE.

Recipe:  Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Garlic

1 large bag of brussel sprouts or a stalk (they sell them like this in my grocery store)
1/4 cup of EVOO
1 T. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
7 pieces of crispy bacon.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Toss the sprouts, EVOO, garlic, salt and pepper.  Bake the sprouts for 20-25 minutes until charred.  Do not over cook or they will be mushy and most people do not like them this way.  They should be like biting a nectarine…not hard like an apple and not soft like an overripe peach.

Remove from oven and mix with bacon pieces.  Serve immediately.

French Fries were not on the menu.  But things change.  I got a really cool device that takes a fresh potato and cuts it into french fries.  My son loves sweet potato fries and regular fries so he thought this tool would come in handy. It has!  LOVE IT!  I used to eat french fries in Texas with brown gravy and thought why not do this instead of a roasted potato.  I cut the potatoes and fried them in oil for 10 minutes.  I let them drain on a piece of brown paper bag, salted and peppered them and wallah…easy peasy.

 Yorkshire Puddings are something that my family absolutely would duel over, if we still practiced such a thing…LOl  I can never make too many.  Especially when served with gravy.  YUM
I used this recipe from About.com British & Irish Food, it was submitted by Elaine Lemm.  The directions and ingredient list can be found here.

 Recipe:  Creamy Beef Onion Gravy

Trimmings from the aged prime rib, I used about 1 cup full, very  little fat
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of chopped carrot
1/4 cup of chopped celery
1 small onion, cut into pieces
1 tsp. of beef flavoring (boullion, paste, etc…)
3 T. flour
1 cup of cream

I placed the first 6 ingredients in a medium size pot.  Brought to a boil, then let simmer for about 3 hours.  The broth reduced to about 2.5 cups and was a very rich brown.  In a small bowl I mixed the flour and cream together and added it to the broth.  I slowly brought it back to a boil and then turned off the heat.  We like our gravy runny…if you want it thicker you can always add more flour and cream and repeat the process to thicken your gravy.  (see picture below for gravy)

So there it is…our Christmas dinner and Prime Rib Feast.  We ate like kings, remembered our English and Scottish roots, celebrated with family and had the best day ever.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas have been a Watson staple for as long as we can remember.  When I married into the family almost 24 years ago, this was a favorite dinner.  We would have it served with pea salad and bread rolls.  Oh, we all clamored to get a seat up front and we always wanted leftovers.

I can't count the number of times I have made these for our family over the years.  I have shared this recipe with lots of friends along the way too.  I am shocked that I have not shared or posted this recipe in the past.

You can tell from the title that I changed one of the main ingredients…we wanted to try something different and so we did.  We took our beloved chicken enchiladas and made them into turkey enchiladas.

Oh, they were very good and we will make these again.  The turkey does have a stronger flavor than the chicken.  I don't mind this change.  I served the enchiladas with the yummy breadsticks from The Pizza Factory.  I make them myself and they are always an extra bonus for my family.

I will tell you though, I do not use store-bought Cream of Chicken soup anymore.  It has a funky flavor to me and I would rather eat something with fewer ingredients too.  I make my own cream soup and add this to the enchilada mix.  You can use mine or the canned version of cream of chicken soup.

For the cream of chicken soup:

6 T. butter
1/4-1/2 cup of flour (more for a thicker soup)  FOR GF- use white or brown rice flour
1 tsp. minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 cups of milk
2 cups of chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of chicken pieces ( I don't add this when making it for the chicken enchiladas though)

Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the garlic, onion powder and flour; cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly add milk and broth. Stir often and bring to a boil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  As the soup sits it will also thicken a bit more.  This will make 4 cups.  Always taste it before you use it to see if it might need a dash more seasoning.

Chicken or Turkey Enchiladas

2-3 cups of chicken or turkey pieces
1/2 cup of green onion
2 cups of cream of chicken soup OR 2 cans of soup, like Campbell's
2 cups of sour cream
3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (save 1 cup for the top of the enchiladas)
20-24 corn tortillas
oil to cook tortillas in

NOTE:  If you don't want to roll the corn shells into enchiladas the alternative is to make it like a lasagna...layer the chicken sauce with the tortillas.  It turns out just as good and takes less time.  Cook time is the same.

In a large bowl combine the first 5 ingredients.  Stir until well blended.  Try to save about 1.5 cups of mix for the top of your enchiladas (see picture below).

*If using the homemade cream of chicken soup, your sauce will be thinner then if you used the can.  If you used the can and you feel it's too thick, you can add milk to thin it a bit.

Prepare your corn tortillas by cooking them in oil for a few minutes and cooling in between paper towels to soak up any extra oil.

Once your mix is made and the tortillas are cooked, you can start preparing the enchiladas.  I use a scoop and add about 2 T. of mix to each corn tortilla and line them up in a baking pan.  I can fit 10-12 in each of my smaller pans or 20-22 in a 9X13 pan.

With the remaining chicken/turkey mixture, top cover all of the tortillas.  It does not have to be a thick amount, just enough so the corn tortillas do not get hard when baked.

Top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Fudge

I grew up with my Grandmother making fudge for every Christmas.  She shared it with her neighbors and friends and family.  When she passed away a year ago, we went through her things and I found this recipe that I had hand written for her.  I must have been 9 or 10 years old at the time and I vividly remember making it often.

The recipe on the left is one that my grandmother had written out in her "short-hand" method, but it was a recipe for Pecan Balls that I had given to her years ago.
With time and many moves, I had misplaced the original recipe and soon forgot about this once treasured treat.  Finding this mixed in with her hand written recipes was very special to me.  I must have learned my short hand approach to cooking from her too, because the recipe with came with only a few instructions.

I thought, what the heck, I am going to make it and see if it is as good as I remembered it to be.  I followed along and supplemented techniques that I had learned along the way and the fudge turned out perfect.

We gave this out this year in our neighbor baskets.  Today I heard a knock on my door and to my surprise there stood Rick, our next door neighbor.  He loved the treats but especially named the peanut butter fudge as being "the best they had ever had".  This made me smile.  He continued to say theat the plate reminded him of his grandmother and something that she would have baked.  I seriously thought I would cry at that moment.

Recipes and food tie families together forever.  Something as simple as a few cookies can easily flood your mind with memories of time gone by…this is a treasured gift to each of us.  I am thankful that my grandmother saved this recipe and that I was able to share it with a friend to remind him of his grandmother.  I hope that in the years to come that my own kids will make this peanut butter fudge with their kids and they will remember me.

Recipe:  Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of milk
dash of salt

Cook the above ingredients to a soft ball stage.

Cool and add:

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup of peanut butter
1 T. vanilla

Beat until thick…it will be very thick and crumbly looking.

Line your baking dish with parchment paper and butter the inside of the paper.

Pour into a baking dish.  Mine is 7x11.  If you use one that is smaller or larger, this will affect the thickness of the fudge but not the flavor.

Pat down the fudge into the dish.  Use the parchment paper to cover the top and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Crescent Dough

 I love being inspired by the foodie friends that I have on my facebook page.  They remind me of the recipes I used to make, inspire me to try new things and motivate me to think outside the box.  Last week while perusing through my home page I saw this beautiful Chicken and Broccoli Bread Braid from Pampered Chef Consultant-Carol's Corner and just had to give it a try.

I used to make these braids a while ago but just forgot about them.  In fact, my family was thrilled when it arrived to the table.  They too remembered those days from long ago.  My only issue with why I don't make them as often is buying the crescent dough in the cans.  To me it's insanely expensive.  This coming from a woman who spends $20 a pound for great salami.  It's not the price it's the markup.  It blows me away that a company can charge $4 a can when it's bread dough.  I guess it's the principal of the thing…LOL

Honestly, it never occurred to me to try and make it myself.  I figured it was some deep secret recipe and the market was taken and you just BUY your dough.  I was wrong.  YEP, I said it…WRONG.  In my desire to make Carol's yummy braid I did a search and found a recipe on allrecipe.com that had 5 stars and excellent reviews.  I proceeded to print, make and eat a very good homemade version of the crescent roll dough from a can.

It was easy, felt very similar to the original and tasted like the dough in a can.  The flavor is what got me…it was that same "crescent dough" flavor that is so familiar with this product.  I can only assume that the flavor is from the Crisco.

I will make this recipe again in the future.  A few notes before I share the recipe.  It makes a lot.  9 cups of flour should be your first clue…it should have been mine…LOL  I easily could have divided the dough into fourths and froze 3 for future uses. You can also make up the dough, make the crescent shaped rolls, freeze and have them for a later meal.  I found the original recipe to be a little bit weak in the salt department, so I have changed the amount of salt added to the recipe (shown in red).  I also changed Carol's recipe just a scosh (that's a little) because my family would not like the dill blend for the spread and I did not have sharp cheddar on hand.  Her recipe inspired me to begin, but based on what I had and what my family likes, it has been changed to fit our palette.

Recipe:  Crescent Roll Dough


2 cups milk
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 cup sugar (2 T. in yeast/water and the remaining sugar used in the creaming process)
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
6 eggs, beaten
9 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

 Heat milk to 110 degrees .

Add yeast and 2 T. of sugar; stir until dissolved.

Let set for 3-5 minutes until frothy on top.

In large mixing bowl ( I used my kitchenaid) , cream sugar, shortening and salt. Add eggs; mix well.

Alternate the flour and milk until all combined.

 Knead ( I used my Kitchenaid to do the kneading) until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.

Place dough in greased bowl; cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.

Divide dough into 4 parts. Roll each into a circle and brush with melted butter.

Cut each circle into 16 pie-shaped pieces.

Roll each piece into a crescent, starting at wide end.
I used the remaining dough and rolled them into the standard crescent shape and baked them.  My family loved the rolls.

To bake, place on greased baking sheet and cover; let rise until doubled.

 Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

Recipe: Chicken Broccoli Braid


2 cups  chopped cooked chicken breasts

1 cup  chopped broccoli florets

1/4 cup of chopped red onion

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup ranch dressing (recipe below)

8-10 slices of Jack or Cheddar cheese

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 of the dough from above

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F .   I used my round pizza stone.  You can have that pre heating in the oven while you are preparing your braid.

Prepare your filling.  Cook and chop your chicken into small pieces.  Steam your broccoli.  Chop your red onion and bell pepper.  Combine the chicken, broccoli, onion and bell pepper into a small bowl.

Make your ranch dressing (recipe below) and set aside.

Take your dough and roll into a rectangle on a slightly floured surface. If you use a piece of parchment paper then you can just slide the braid onto your cookie sheet or stoneware. I measured my stoneware and rolled the dough according to what would fit.  NOTE:  I noticed the dough doubles when cooked, keep this in mind when rolling out your dough.  If you want a thick crust, roll dough to 1/4 inch.  If you want a thinner crust roll the dough as thin as you can.

Start your braid by layering your ingredients.  I did mine this way: Ranch, Broc/Chicken mixture, salt and then cheese.

I used a pizza cutter to cut the slices on the side of my rectangle of dough.  I spaced the slices about every 1.5 inches apart.

My son said that I needed to be less stingy with the cheese..I thought this was a lot, but it would have been cheesier with a lot more and that is what they want next time.

To Braid:  Start on one end and pull the end up over the beginning of the braid (on your left).  Take the left side and the right side and fold over each other in a criss-cross pattern.  USE water if your dough is not staying in place.  Just dab a little bit where the dough touches and it should stay.  As you near the end, trim off any extra dough that might be too "thick" and fold the right end to look pretty.

Take the egg white and beat until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, spread the egg white on the top of the braid.  This gives it a nice golden and shiny crust.

Transfer the braid to the cookie sheet or stoneware and bake for 20-25 minutes.   Watch the top so that it does not get too dark…you can use a piece of foil towards the end so that you are sure to not over brown the top.

Recipe:  Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients together and store in refrigerator.  Taste to make sure the spices are how you and your family like your ranch.  You may need to add a bit more garlic or salt.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3 Easy Peppermint Recipes for Christmas

We love peppermint in our home.  We like to drink peppermint tea, especially Iced Tea.  We enjoy peppermint candy canes, peppermint truffles and mints and peppermint dairy creamer (this is our new favorite).  The creamer mixed with your coffee first thing in the morning is like having a jubilee chorus singing "hallelujah"... it's that tasty.  LOL

Over the last week I have played around with a few peppermint, easy and kid friendly recipes for the holidays.

I recently had peppermint bark and was immediately in love.  Why had it taken me so long to find this yummy candy.  I was having a moment and decided to make my own.  Super easy and what a fun gift for the neighbors.

Our next yummy treat is a Peppermint Pretzel Bite.   I first had these at a cute hotdog haus in a neighboring town.  I originally had them the pretzel dipped in cinnamon and sugar.  I thought I had taken a bite out of a piece of french toast, it was really good.  This was my original plan when I set out to make these last week.  As I was preparing the ingredients, I found the baggie of left over crushed candy canes…an IDEA popped into my head.  I could dip them into the candy cane and have a pretty treat.  It worked and they are so more-ish.

Finally, a cookie was to be made.  I saw these cute pink cookies dipped in white chocolate with peppermint sprinkles on them.  They sounded good, but they also looked so pretty!  I set out to make these and discovered that I did not have some of the ingredients and had to improvise.  I was so happy with the result that I will share them with you  too.  Cranberry Pomegranate Shortbread cookies are the perfect blend of sweet and tart….with a snap of peppermint sugar crystals…so good and yummy!

Recipe:   Peppermint Bark

1 cup of dark chocolate chips
2 cups of white chocolate chips or Baker cubes (2 boxes)
candy canes

Have a cookies sheet, lined with parchment paper, ready.  Crush your candy canes by placing 4 in a baggie and using a rolling pin, roll back and forth using your body weight.  You should be able to get very fine or chunky pieces, this is up to you.  I chose to have chunky pieces

Melt your chocolates in two different bowls.  You can microwave the chips in 30 second intervals, stirring each time OR use a bowl onto of a sauce pan with boiling water.  The water only needs to be an inch  and the chocolate should be stirred until melted.  Do not over cook or you will ruin your candy.

Spread the chocolate layer to a thin layer and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hard.

Melt the white chocolate using the same method above.  Carefully pour the white chocolate over the dark chocolate trying not to melt and swirl the two together.

Sprinkle your candy cane pieces over the white chocolate and gently using your palms, push the pieces into the white chocolate.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hard.

Remove from fridge and let the chocolate set for an hour.  The candy should peel away from the parchment paper and broken into bite size pieces.

Recipe:  Peppermint Pretzel Bites

1 Bag of Snyder's square pretzels
3 cubes of Baker's white chocolate or 1/2 cup of chips
4 candy canes
cinnamon and sugar mix (option)

Select a shallow bowl to melt your candy in so that when you dip your pretzels, you hands do not get messy. Melt white chocolate by using the microwave method or stovetop.

Crush the candy canes using the baggie and rolling pin method.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Dip a pretzel in to the white chocolate, half way, and then dip pretzel into cinnamon and sugar OR the crushed candy cane.

Place the pretzel on the cookie sheet and place in fridge when full.  Remove after 15 minutes.  These can be stored in a baggie.

Recipe:  Cranberry Pomegranate Shortbread Cookies w/ peppermint sprinkles

Original recipe can be found here by Better Homes and Garden.  I changed the ingredients, but the technique used in the original recipe is the same for both.

1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced finely
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup of fresh pomegranate juice
2 drops red food coloring (optional)

To decorate:

12 ounces white chocolate baking squares
Peppermint sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in cranberries and pomegranate juice. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. Melt chocolate by using the microwave method or stovetop. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off.  Roll edges in peppermint sprinkles. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. 

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cinnamon Pull-a-parts

Update 2-6-2014:  I recently visited a site that I have this recipe listed. I was a bit concerned with some of the comments suggesting the recipe did not work. Well, I am here to say that it does.  I made a fresh batch today and the recipe is spot on.  I don't know why some have had a difficult time getting this to work.  With that said, please keep in mind that we all cook differently, with a different skill set and different available ingredients.  Here is a picture of the batch I made this morning:  This picture has the full 2 cups of sugar and cinnamon (I noted below that the other pictures were made with half of this).

I will add that they are best fresh!  If they sit, they will get a bit firm but they can be microwaved for a few seconds to soften again.   Do not over bake them.

The recipe also works well to halve the ingredients to make one pie plate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

What is a pull-a-part?  It's a goofy name you give to something that doesn't fit the title of Monkey Bread or Cinnamon Rolls…LOL

Yesterday, I woke up thinking I needed something warm, gooey and doughy.  My kids have been asking for Monkey Bread for..well…EVER.  I keep forgetting to buy a Bundt pan and so I thought that maybe I could use a large Stoneware bowl that I own and put something in the middle, like a canning jar, and create my own Bundt pan.  WRONG.  I don't own any canning jars either.  I know, right, what is wrong with this woman who professes to be a cook and is missing two important things in her kitchen…LOL  This week that will be fixed. PROMISE.

So I did the next best thing, and decided that I would take a moment and create something that tasted the same as a cinnamon roll and pulled apart similar to Monkey Bread.  I will have to admit the Monkey Bread and all of it's gooey-ness is what I was craving but I endured the tasting and sampling of the pull-a-parts and did just fine.

I have been wanting to try my roll recipe that can be made in under an hour for this type of recipe.  I don't believe that one bread recipe is good for all things, but when your in a hurry and time is of the essence, I think this particular recipe worked great for rolls and cinnamon pull-a-parts.  It was airy, light, fluffy, and yet, dense enough to hold its shape to be pulled apart.  That was a good thing.

The next time I make these I will experiment more with adding cinnamon and sugar with a freer hand.  I was a little bit stingy because I did not want to over do it with the sugar.  I could have used 3x's as much and had them taste "really, really" cinnamony (is this a word?…lol)  That is next time though.  Yes, we will make these again because my family devoured them in no time.  I love surprising my family with these types of Sunday mornings.  Cooking is fun because I have a captive audience and they always make me feel like I know what I am doing, even if some of the time I am flying by the seat of my pants…like a monkey.

Recipe:  Cinnamon Pull-a-parts

Makes two 10 inch pie plates full of cinnamon balls

1/3 cup of sugar
2 T. yeast
2 cups of warm water
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
6-8 cups of flour (the dough should pull from the bowl and knead without sticking)

2 stick of butter

1-2 cups of cinnamon/sugar mixture ( I used a cup, but if you like a lot of cinnamon/sugar…add more) To make the cinnamon-sugar mixture for each cup of sugar I would add 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.

1.  Heat your oven to 400.  Preheat pans in oven while dough is rising.  Stoneware and glass pans work great.

2.  In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring device, add sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Let set for 5 minutes until frothy.

3.  In a LARGE bowl or large mixer, add your salt, eggs and water/yeast mixture.  Mix together.  Slowly start adding your 6-8 cups of flour.  The dough should pull away from the side of your bowl and combine all the ingredients together well.  Knead for 3 minutes.

4.  Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.   Melt 1 stick of butter in  a small bowl.  Combine sugar and cinnamon.

5.  Take preheated pans out of the oven and melt 4 T. of butter in each.  Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of cinnamon sugar on the bottom of the pan.  Start pinching of sections of dough and rolling them into a ball.   Coat each ball with melted butter and then the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

6.  Place each ball in the pan close to each other.  The heat from the pan will cause the dough to start rising.  Place your pan in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The rolls should be golden brown on top.  

**NOTE:  My dough sections when rolled, where the size of walnuts and this made for a 3.5 inch raised pull-a-part.  If you would like them to not be so tall, then make your rolled dough pieces smaller.  This may alter the cooking time a bit so keep an eye on them while they cook.

I served the pull-a-parts with a simple cream cheese frosting.

In a small bowl, I mixed equal parts butter and cream cheese, added a touch of vanilla.  With the powdered sugar, I continued to add enough until the consistency and flavor was what I wanted.  I have a small whip that comes in handy for this task.  ENJOY!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Simple Gyoza's (dumplings)

When Cory and I were first married we were young and trying to find our way in this life.  We were not sure what to do for careers but we knew that we needed to go to college.  Being young and having to support ourselves in school we did what we thought was best: we joined the Air Force.  We did this for two reasons: school and to travel.

Well, Cory got to travel.  He was gone for 2 of the 4 years while I got to see Texas.  He did get his education after we full-filled our commitment.  We were so grateful for our time spent in the military and that he was able to serve our country.  He was in the Gulf War for 9 months.   During our time in the military, we met lots of wonderful families and friends.

One of the couples we became friends with, had just returned from Japan.  This young man returned with his Japanese wife to a foreign country and she spoke very little English.  We immediately became friends because my husband speaks Japanese.  He lived there as a child and served a mission there for two years.

When we first met, you could see the loneliness in her eyes and when Cory greeted her in Japanese she immediately got this beautiful smile….she found some friends.  Of course, I do not speak Japanese, outside of the few phrases I have learned over the years.

Our two families spent a lot of time together.  In the course of our friendship, we cooked together.  It was something that we both loved to do and also something that did not require us to know the other's language.  I could watch and learn and I did.

When she showed us how to make the gyozas…we were in love.  Cory was taken back to his time in Japan…the smells were delicious in the air.  He said he could close his eyes and feel as though he was in a home in Japan.  This was a special moment for him.

I could not believe how much work it was to make the gyoza's and together we knocked them out quite fast.  From that short friendship and moment in our lives, this recipe has been made thousands of times.  In 25 years I  make this recipe at least 4 or 5 times a year and each time I make the recipe I prepare about 200-250 unless I am hosting a party and then the number turns into 400-500.  Yes, it's crazy but the smile on my guest faces when they taste them…it's worth it!

Over the years my recipe has changed.  Primarily because I could not always get the "original" ingredients.  I am finding myself in this situation now.  I have been wanting to make these and share them with you for almost 6 months but I have had one problem:  the gyoza wrappers.  I can't find them anywhere in our new location.  It's so maddening!  I can find wonton wrappers and I have resisted this buy for months, until this week.

I tried to order the gyoza's online but they want a fortune for shipping…75.00 to ship 12 packages.  OUCH!  I asked Cory what he wanted for his birthday dinner and this is what he requested.  FINE, I will buy the wonton wrappers and make them work…but I am NOT taking a picture of them and sharing on the blog…RIGHT!!!

SO, here I am with my wonton wrappers, recipe, and pictures.  I finally told myself that it's ok to share because maybe others can't find the wrappers too.  Honestly, they tasted great and I could hardly tell the difference.  To my Japanese friends, please forgive me that I have used another wrapper…but, I could not refuse the request of my hubby for his special meal.

If you would like to see the "real" deal along with beautiful pictures and an original recipe please visit my friend Nami from Just One Cookbook. She is Japanese and has an amazing recipe that you can also check out for Gyoza's.

Over the years we have loved having Japanese students living in our home.  We love this culture and find ourselves having strong feelings and an abundance of love towards the people, the culture and especially, the food.  This always made them smile when I would make gyozas.

This was also the first time that we involved our kids in making the process.  I thought that it was about time for them to understand the labor that went into making something that they loved so much.  It's kind of like catching your dinner and then having to kill, clean and cook it.  Although I did not make them kill the pig for the pork (my neighbor did that).  We had a great time.  I treasure these times with my kids, especially as I know that their time under our roof is limited.  We talked about how, one day, they will look back and remember the times we made gyoza's together and hopefully they will teach their kids and have the same bonding experience.

This recipe is a keeper.  It's work, but if your involve many hands, it becomes fun and memorable.

Recipe:  Gyoza's (simple recipe)

1 pound of ground pork
1 head of cabbage ( I have used Napa and regular green cabbage over the years)
1 onion
lots of minced garlic (3-4T)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 T. Mirin Sauce

Oil, for cooking
water, for steaming
3-4 packages of Gyoza wrappers (round ones if you can find them)

Dipping Sauce:

soy sauce

Your Gyoza wrappers should be set out at room temperature for at least an hour before you start to wrap the gyozas.  If they are cold the wrappers have a tendency to break or tear.  Just my opinion from over the years of making them.

You will want to shred your cabbage very thinly then make sure the pieces are small….do not use a food processor and turn your cabbage into mush.  It should be small pieces.  See pictures below to gage the size.

Finely chop your onion.  Add the onion, garlic, pork, cabbage, Mirin sauce  and soy sauce into one large bowl.  NOTE: I do not measure my ingredients for this recipe.  The soy sauce  is an estimate.  You want your mixture to look like it is coated with soy sauce, a light brown in color.  MIX all of the ingredients well.  I use my hands to do this because I want the pork and cabbage mix to be really combined.

This is the pork that my neighbor gave to us.  I also use ground pork from the butcher.

This really is a team effort.  We try to involve as many people as possible when making these morsels of yumminess.  I have a large bowl for the meat/cabbage mix and then each person gets a spoon, a small bowl of water and a tray.

With your spoon, take a small amount and place in the center of wrapper.  Wet the edges all the way around and fold over one side.  You can real fancy and put tucks into the edges or simply seal the wrapper.  For my immediate family we do not tuck, but for fancy dinners and guest…I tuck!

I have cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and start putting our creations into rows.  Without the parchment paper they will stick to the metal of the cookie sheet and get gooey.

Once your gyoza's are made you can start to cook them.  In the past I have had a large covered electric skillet.  This is the best way to cook them.  You can also steam or boil them.  My family does not like them this way so I don't use either of these cooking styles.

For this dinner I was forced to use two pans because my electric skillet died and I have not replaced it, plus I forgot about that until I was ready to cook them…LOL  Guess whats on my list to buy?

In your pan, put a small amount of oil.  Place your gyoza's and cook about 3 minutes on each side.  We do both sides because we like ours a little bit crispy.  After both sides are cooked, add 1/4 cup of water to each set cooked and place a lid on top.  You want to steam the gyoza's for a few minutes.

I usually set my oven to warm, place an oven proof pan inside, and add my batches until I have enough to feed my family.

I serve the gyoza's with white rice and the dipping sauce.  I like my sauce twangy, so I do a bit more vinegar than most.

Your house will smell wonderful, your friends and family will be stuffed, you will be eyeing the leftovers for tomorrows breakfast ( yes, because they don't make it to lunch) and you will already be planning when to make these again.

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homemade Dinner Rolls

'86.  This was a good year for me.  I graduated from high school,  spent some time with my Dad, started a new job and found a college to attend.  I would have to say that this is when my life got really good.  My memories are fresh.  The music was awesome.  My future was before me.

'11.  So many years later and never in a million years would I have been able to plan for the adventure my family has had!  Life is good.  We are blessed every day and are so thankful for each and every year we get together as a family.

November has a way of making you stop and think about the things you are grateful for.  I am glad that it's a month and not just a day.  Yes, we eat turkey on one day,  but really the whole month is a constant reminder that being thankful brings a person joy and happiness.

I have said this before, and will probably say it again, that I am thankful for this page and blog.  It is a great way for me to share with my family and friends wonderful recipes that have been shared with me and for this I am thankful.

The other day, Rye and I were making something that she loved.  She asked me if I was going to put the recipe on the blog.  OF COURSE sweet girl!  My kids are understanding, that the recipes that we eat and share as a family,  have memories attached to them.  That the recipes represent a time in their life when they will one day be able to relate it to an event, somewhat like music does.  When you hear a song, no matter where you are, it takes you back to a time, a place, an event…a memory.

I want my kids to have those memories because those will include me.  Our time spent together at the kitchen table, preparing our dishes, laughing and being together.  Our family time is precious and for this, I am thankful every day.

This blog allows my kids, nieces, and nephews, to have family recipes where ever they may live or be in their lives.  They can always call but having an index does come in handy.  I am thankful for technology.

These two recipes were shared with me over 20 years ago by some dear friends.  This was during a time when I was just learning to "really" cook.  That sounds odd, but this is the time that I learned the words "from scratch" and really embraced them.  I love to cook things with whole ingredients.  These recipes are not original to them ( I am sure they were handed down to them by their family) but they are just great recipes.  Easy and quick are two words, lately, that I have enjoyed in the kitchen.  I love my days that I get to spend ALL day making one dish; there is a time a place for all things.  I am thankful for all types of cooking styles, flavors, techniques, recipes, and cooks.  Together we make this "foodie world" wonderful!

Recipes:  Quick Dinner Rolls (32 rolls)

1/3 cup of sugar
2 T. yeast
2 cups of warm water
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
8 cups of flour
1 stick of butter, melted

Heat your oven to 425.

In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring device, add sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Let sit for 5 minutes until frothy.

In a LARGE bowl or large mixer, add your salt, eggs and water/yeast mixture.  Mix together.  Slowly start adding your 8 cups of flour.  The dough will be sticky.

Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.  Remove from the bowl to a floured surface and knead in enough flour to make it workable.  I add maybe another 1/2 cup to the whole process.  It should still be soft.

Once your dough is ready to be parted, cut into 4 sections and set them off to the side.

Melt your butter in a bowl.

Take one of the flour and roll the dough like you would a pizza crust, into a circle about 14 inches across.

With a pastry brush and using the melted butter, make sure the top is covered in butter.

I use a pizza cutter and cut the circle into 8 pieces, like a pie.

Start on the edges of each piece and roll to the center.  Place on a cookie sheet.  I line my cookie sheet with parchment paper, if you don't, I would spray Pam before laying the rolls on the cookie sheet.

Raise 20 minutes.  You can raise longer, they just get really airy.  Some people like this.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.


Recipe:  Chicken Alfredo

1 large chicken breast
1 cup of broccoli florets (optional)
1 box of pasta
1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of flour
2 cups of cream ( you can use half milk and half cream too)
1/2-1 cup of Parmesan cheese ( we like ours strong)
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut and cook chicken into pieces.  Steam broccoli and cut into small pieces.

Cook pasta according to directions on the packaging.  Drain.

In a medium-size pot, melt your butter.  Add the flour.  Cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add your cream/milk and bring to a boil.  The sauce should get thick within 6-8 minutes.  Be careful to not burn the bottom.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

This is a mild white sauce.  The cheese you use and how much cheese will determine how strong the flavor becomes.

I use two small baking dishes, but this will also fit into a 9X13 pan.  Toss the chicken, broccoli, sauce and pasta together.  Add to your baking dish.  Top with cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  It should be bubbly.  This makes excellent leftovers.

Written by Sherron Watson

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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