Holiday Tips

The holidays are fast approaching!  I think all of us who cook or bake are well aware of this with Thanksgiving less than a week away and Christmas right around the corner.  The parties, the family dinners, the potlucks.  With this in mind, I have decided to share a list of tips you may not have really thought about to save a little money, prevent a little waste, or just mix things up a little.  I hope these are helpful.

 

christmastree

 

  • It’s a good idea to save the broken graham crackers and stale shortbread cookies.  The handful of crushed up cheese crackers, the last of the pitiful excuses for potato chips at the bottom of the bag, and pretzel pieces.  You can crush these up and put them in a resealable sandwich bag to use later as toppings for things, such as baked goods and desserts, or casseroles, respectively.  It avoids waste and it can save you time and money later.
  • Don’t waste oranges.  Don’t just eat them and throw away the peels.  Peel them and save the peels or zest them before you peel them.  Similarly, if you zest an orange, for goodness sake, don’t get rid of it.  You can either eat the orange, keep it for a short while in the rind, or juice it and put that juice in the fridge to use in a recipe later.   This is a food you can really get your money’s worth out of, especially during the holiday season.
  • Graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and quick cooking oats makes a fantastic topping for certain baked goods.  I used it with the last batch of orange cran-apple oatmeal scones I made.  It really adds a different flavor and it definitely enhances the smell of the scones baking!
My big, ugly, delicious orange cran-apple oatmeal scones with graham cracker, brown sugar, and quick cooking oat topping.

My big, ugly, delicious orange cran-apple oatmeal scones with graham cracker, brown sugar, and quick cooking oat topping.

  • For a tasty and pretty appetizer, serve cream cheese with fig preserves (for sweet) or red pepper jelly (for savory) this holiday season. You can serve them separately or you can pour the preserves or jelly directly over the block of cream cheese. Either way can be very pretty. You could even spread cream cheese individually onto crackers with a dollop of the preserves or jelly in the center of each.    Figs are a traditional flavor for the holiday season, and red pepper jelly can look so festive.  You may also be able to find green pepper jelly.
  • TangOrangeGlaze
    You can make a tangy orange glaze for scones, pound cake, donuts, etc., by combining powdered sugar and milk as one might normally and stirring in Tang drink mix to taste. Know that this will also color your glaze, which in some cases can be fun, and I think would be festive for Thanksgiving. I think this would also work well for butter cream icing, or even cream cheese icing. I also want to experiment soon with using it in sugar coating for donuts or cookies.
  • The price of butter has really been on the rise lately, and if you have a lot of of holiday baking to do on a budget, you may want to consider alternatives.  For instance, there are some recipes which require oil rather than butter, but more so than that, you’ll find that there are a great many options for vegetable shortening.  I’ve been experimenting with using butter flavored vegetable shortening in some of my favorite recipes and having much success.  I dare say the texture is even better with some things.  There are also many many wonderful recipes on Crisco’s website.  For instance, one of my favorites, Chocolate “Crackled” Cookies.

Cornmeal Breaded Pork Chops

Cornmeal Breaded Pork Chops

I got the idea to do this from the Better Homes and Gardens website.  Find their recipe and serving suggestions by clicking here.  I passed the idea on to my mom, we talked it over, and this is ultimately what came out of it.  It’s definitely being added to my recipe binder as soon as possible because I know it has become a fast family favorite.  Here’s how we’ll be doing it.

Ingredients:

Boneless Pork Tenderloin in 3/4 inch  slices

Seasoning  (We used season salt, but next time we’re adding cayenne!)

1 large egg (You might need two small.)

1 tablespoon water

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

Enough oil to coat the bottom of your frying pan.

 

Directions:

  1. Use a meat tenderizer to pound the tenderloin until it reaches 1/2 inch thickness, evenly.
  2. Season liberally with seasonings of your choice and allow to set for 10-15 minutes to absorb the flavor.
  3. Combine 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon tap water.
  4. Dip pork tenderloin slices into egg wash and allow excess to drip off.
  5. In a plate, dip tenderloin slices (now covered in egg wash) into corn meal on both sides.  Gently shake off excess.
  6. Fry in oil over medium heat until golden brown on outside with no pink remaining in the meat.

 

Suggestions:

  • Try adding hot sauce to your egg wash.
  • Garlic would also be a good seasoning to use for your pork.
  • Sometimes, I like to marinate my meats in seasoned buttermilk, which also helps to tenderize.  Make sure, if you do this, to start your battering process with dried off meat, (you can use paper towels) not wet with buttermilk.  Do not leave it too long, or it will begin to break down the meat.
  • Line your plate or platter with paper towel to absorb the excess oil when you remove your finished pork from the frying pan.  You can, and should, remove the paper towel before serving.  This helps prevent greasy meat and keeps it crispy.

 

Sausage Balls

This is a recipe for something I first had at a bridal shower some time ago, and was absolutely crazy about.  We’re talking love at first bite!  Sausage, cheese, carbs, what’s not to love?!  Part of the reason I’m sharing this now is because they’d be great as a finger food or appetizer for your holiday dinners and parties.

 

Ingredients:

3 C biscuit mix (I like Ginger Evans.)

1 Lb sausage (I like Swaggerty’s hot sausage.)

2 C shredded cheddar cheese  (Sharp is my favorite.)

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix together ingredients until well incorporated.
  3. Form into 2 inch balls.
  4. Bake until browned.  You can break one open to be sure.

Orange Creamsicle Hot Beverage

I know, I haven’t posted in forever and I’m sorry about that.  When I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve been making everyone’s standard favorites around here.  I just haven’t had much new to post here on the blog.  However, I do plan to try something new soon, and I’m also thinking I’ll share a recipe from my recipe binder project soon.  So, if you’ve been waiting, just keep hanging on, because it’s coming.  But today I’m just here to share an idea for a fun hot beverage I put together this morning.  It’s really very simple and a complete no-brainer so you may tar and feather me.  It’s something I never thought of and it made me pretty happy, so I’m sharing it with you anyway.

 

Orange Creamsicle Hot Beverage

 

Ingredients

 

Hot Water

Tang Drink Mix

Marshmallows

 

Instructions:

  1. Heat desired amount of water on stove or in microwave.  (It only has to be hot enough to dissolve the tang.)  For a coffee mug size, I usually microwave my water for about 2 minutes in our microwave.  More high powered microwaves will take less time.  Know your own appliance.
  2. Prepare Tang drink mix as directed for the desired amount of water.  If you like yours more or less strong, just adjust the amount of drink mix.
  3. Add marshmallows on top.  They give the tang the “creamsicle” flavor and a fun melted marshmallow top!

 

Alternative Suggestions:

  • Rather than using marshmallows, add whipped cream or cool whip to the top.  You could even use sugar free to make this just a little less naughty.  It is my understanding that it is possible to find sugar free Tang, but I’ve never had it so I can’t vouch for the taste, and I’ve never found it in stores.
  • Mix in the whipped cream or cool whip to make a more frothy drink, rather than using it as topping.
  • I think this would be a fantastic treat for Halloween!  Maybe add a ghosty Peep to each cup…  Or…
  • Prepare a punch bowl of tang, add a cloud of marshmallow cream in the center, and decorate with a couple of Peep haunts.
  • You could even decorate with sprinkles, or get creative and make whipped cream ghosts to top off the cups with edible googly eyes.
  • Consider coming up with a creative name for your concoction if you’re having a children’s party, like boo brew or ghoul juice.

 

Momma’s Simple Curry Chicken

This recipe is the product of my momma’s kitchen experiment.  We love curry chicken from our local Chinese restaurant, so when momma was looking for something quick and easy to have for dinner one night, she thought she’d give it a try at home.  This is the result.  It made a large amount, more than enough for a family of four to eat all that want and more than they should, lol.  But ultimately, I finished off the last of it later on that same night.  It was THAT good.  I think if you could stand to not eat it all that night like we did, it would probably be even better left over.

 

Ingredients

1lb package boneless skinless chicken tenders

1 lb package frozen stir fry vegetables

1 pepper of your choice, chopped or sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

1/4 head of cabbage, shredded

1/2 C-1 C chicken broth (preference)

2 Tbsp curry powder (to taste)

1/2 Tsp red pepper flake (to taste)

(cooked rice to serve over)

 

 Instructions

  1. Prep chicken and vegetables according to ingredient list.
  2. Stir fry chicken.
  3. Add in vegetables and cook until hot and slightly tender with onions being translucent.
  4. Do not drain contents of the pan.  Add approximately 1/2 c to 1 c chicken broth, to your preference.  This determines how “wet” your curry chicken dish will be.  If you want more sauce for your rice, you’ll need more broth.   Please note that the more broth is added, the more spice you may need.
  5. Add curry powder and red pepper flake.  Simmer to thicken juices and add flavor.  You may also want to thicken your sauce with corn starch.  To do this, mix 1 Tbsp corn starch and 1 Tbsp water.  Add to hot liquid and simmer until sauce is thickened and there is no starchy taste.
  6. Serve over your choice of cooked rice.  We prefer white rice.

 

Suggestions:

  • You might like to try doing a crock pot version of this.  I intend to try it using only the firmer vegetables.  (Ex: carrots, onions, peppers, and perhaps more hearty sized pieces of cabbage.)
  • You could of course serve this over brown rice, wild rice, or saffron rice.  You could also serve it with couscous, quinoa, or lentils.
  • Curry can be a more expensive spice than most of the powdered spices at the local grocery stores.  Check discount stores for curry powder.  There are decent sized bottles of curry powder out there for $1.  I even found this from a Google search.  Not sure about that site, but it gives you the idea that it is certainly available.
  • Use your own favorite mix of vegetables.  There are a lot out there.
  • You could absolutely do a vegetarian version using vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.
  • This would also be great with shrimp instead of chicken.

Peanut Butter Bread

My friend Matt and I taking a break for a new photo during our Christmas baking.

My friend Matt and I taking a break for a new photo during our Christmas baking.

My friend Matt came over again this year to hang out and do a little holiday baking. This time we tried an old recipe that is new to us. I found it while browsing my Fannie Farmer cookbook for potential holiday baking ideas. I haven’t made much bread. Mainly just cornbread, biscuits, scones, and banana bread. So, I was particularly interested in the quick bread section of my cookbook when I found this recipe for peanut butter bread!!! I had to try it. I love peanut butter fudge (though, I’ve never made it myself), and peanut butter bars, and every man in my life is a huge fan of peanut butter! Friends, family, David. They come out of the woodwork when the smell of peanut butter wafts through the air.  This one will be a true man pleaser!

I know David will love this, but I already have an order in for chocolate crinkle cookies for his Christmas treat this year. I’m making Oreo truffles for our Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s house. Matt and I knew we wanted to bake something so we decided this would be a perfect time to test out such an interesting recipe. And we were NUTS for this bread! Thank goodness we had dinner and games to play, because this bread was so easy, there wasn’t much for us to do! It takes no time to gather the few ingredients, and the clean up was a piece of cake. The smell was heavenly, the texture was surprising and delightful, and it tasted more like peanut butter than I even thought. Pleasantly sweet, but not overpoweringly so. It’s so much like just lightly sweetened peanut butter in bread form to me. I hope you’ll try it too!

pbbread

100_0052

Ingredients:

2 c all purpose flour

1/3 c sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c peanut butter

1 c milk

1 egg, well beaten

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a loaf pan.  (I use vegetable shortening.)
  3. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add the peanut butter, milk, and egg, and mix until well blended.
  5. Spoon into the pan and bake for about 50 minutes.
  6. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

What about the sugar?

I think this could be okay for those who are watching their sugar intake.  It makes a nice size loaf and you only add in 1/3 cup of sugar to make the bread.  With 3/4 cup of peanut butter, it also has a good amount of protein.  I think this and the texture and flavor of the bread also makes it a good choice for children, if you’re sure the child doesn’t have a peanut allergy.

Tips:

  • Matt and I sprinkled our loaf with brown sugar.  It was a very thin sprinkling, because the loaf bakes for around 50 minutes and we didn’t want it to burn.  I definitely recommend this.
  • I want to try using half brown sugar and half white.
  • I think this would be great with chocolate chips added.
  • I would loooove to try frying some bananas to put over top of this.
  • I also think this would be good with a glaze, or maybe even some cream cheese icing.
  • This is very easy and inexpensive and would be nice to give as a gift.

Corn-Sausage Chowder

I finally tried a new recipe today!  Huzzah!  I found the recipe on a magazine’s website: Midwest Living.  (Incidentally, this website is definitely worth checking out.  I think it’s a worthwhile magazine, for all its purposes.)  I’ve pinned several recipes from their website, but this was first on my list to try.  Corn-sausage chowder.  Potatoes, onions, corn, and sausage, what’s not to love?!

I apologize most sincerely for the lighting.  This one was the truest in color, so I used it despite the shadow.

I apologize most sincerely for the lighting. This one was the truest in color, so I used it despite the shadow.

See Midwest Living’s recipe for corn-sausage chowder here.

I do have some notes about this recipe:

  • I used a roll of spicy pork breakfast sausage.
  • I omitted the marjoram.
  • I am thinking of adding some garlic next time.
  • I think this would be wonderful served with garlic bread or garlic cheddar biscuits.
  • It’s great topped with cheese, but very very naughty.
  • This isn’t for someone with a sensitive stomach or anyone who is on a diet.
  • It’s very easy and convenient.
  • You could keep the ingredients on hand in your pantry, and if you cut the roll of sausage into patties or chunks to freeze, rather than a roll, you could keep it in the freezer and start with frozen sausage.
  • It’s a very inexpensive recipe.
  • This stayed warm for some time after taking it off the heat.  For this reason, I think it would be great to bring over to a friend or neighbor’s house.
  • If this makes 6 servings, they are very generous servings.

I expect to be making a variation of this soup soon with quite a few changes, lol.  Tweaking recipes is just bred into me I suppose.  When I get done customizing this one, it is definitely going into my recipe binder.