And My Cornbread is Blue…Blue??

Now, last week it was chocolate in chili, and this week we’re talking blue cornbread? Really?

Well, yes. And it’s actually quite good. It’s another of those recipes that weren’t handed down from Grandmom to me, but it’s still special. And really quite delicious. And just a bit different.

It’s not your everyday typical cornbread recipe. Which is why I like it, because if I’m forced to cook, I don’t like to make ordinary items. I want them to be memorable enough for someone to ask for the recipe. Whether they really want it or not. Maybe they’re just being polite, but that’s fine. As long as they don’t tell me that’s the only reason they asked!

The first time I made it, Ben thought I was nuts. Well, that wasn’t the first time he’d said that, but I just ignored the comment, as usual. Then he tried a slice, and decided maybe I wasn’t quite as crazy as he thought, because he actually liked it! Ah ha! Another kitchen victory! (One of not very many, but that’s the way it goes!)

So if you’re adventurous, or really want to try something new and different, give this one a try.
blue-cornbread

Note: This recipe calls for buttermilk, and if you’re like me, you don’t want to buy a whole carton of buttermilk just to use a cup, so you can substitute 1 c. milk plus 1 tbl. vinegar mixed together. Let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the mixture.

Blue Cornbread with Pineapple (yes, pineapple!)

4 chopped dried pineapple rings (in the produce section of the grocery store)
1 c. dried blueberries (yes, dried, not fresh or frozen)
½ cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup blue cornmeal
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Stir above ingredients together. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or substitution above), 2 eggs, and 4 tbl. melted butter, stirring just til combined. Pour into an 8-9” square buttered baking dish lined with parchment paper. (I think the butter makes the parchment paper come out easier.)

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares, and serve warm with butter. You can also heat it up in the microwave later and it will still be good!

Let me know what you think!

Chocolate in My Chili

January usually means cold weather. Blustery winds and snow. Of course right now that’s not the case here in Virginia Beach, but I’m sure it’s coming. And as much as I say I really don’t want the snow, just a little bit would probably be nice.

And with that cold weather comes a lot of hearty soups and casseroles and of course everyone’s favorite (almost everyone-our daughter doesn’t like it at all) chili. Add a thick slice of piping hot buttered cornbread and you’ve got a great meal! Especially during those playoff football games!

Somehow I missed out on enjoying this great delicacy when I was growing up on the Eastern shore of Maryland. I guess we were too busy enjoying the steamed crabs, fresh fish, and fried chicken the area is known for.

I don’t remember when I first started making and enjoying chili, but I’m sure glad I did! I’ve made a lot of it, and played around with a lot of ingredients, but I’ve finally found the combination I like the best, and decided to share it for the new year!!

Before I give the recipe though, just remember, this should be used as a guideline for experimenting and coming up with your own variation. Recipe can also be doubled if you have a hungry crowd! I usually make it slightly different each time, but the main ingredients stay the same.


Especially the chocolate!

1 pkg French’s or McCormick chili seasoning mix (yes, the little grocery store packet!)
1 – 1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
14 oz can diced or choped tomatoes, UNDRAINED
1 can kidney beans, UNDRAINED
1 can navy beans, drained
1 can baked beans, undrained

Brown meat in skillet; drain off fat. You can also chop some onion with it and brown together. (I’ve also used ground venison mixed with the hamburger. That was really good!)

Combine meat, seasoning mix, tomatoes and beans in dutch oven or similar pot. You can also add a can of chopped mushrooms or a tablespoon or so of powdered mushrooms.

Simmer, on low, covered, at least an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Taste occasionally. Season more if desired.

Add a splash of red wine vinegar and simmer another 10 minutes.

Add 1/2 oz of UNSWEETENED baking chocolate. Stir well. Continue to simmer. This cuts the acidity and gives it a nice smooth touch.

I usually cook mine a total of two hours. And I usually make a double quantity, and end up adding an extra can of kidney beans. It’s basically a “taste and go” kinda recipe.

Serve into bowls and put out grated cheese, sour cream, crackers, and possibly chopped onion and chili peppers (for those who prefer it HOT) for toppings. Our son-in-law adds hot sauce to his. (He adds hot sauce to everything….)
McCormick Chili

I like to serve cornbread or corn muffins with it as well.

So what’s in your chili recipe? I really enjoy hearing new ideas. In fact, I may just have to make a pot tomorrow!

Candy Cane Snowball Cookies

Once again, this isn’t one of those family recipes handed down from my mother to me to Ashley, but they are so much fun and so Christmasy, when I found the recipe and tried them the first time, they became an instant favorite Christmas tradition!

I just can’t convince Ben not to try and eat them before the topping is put on. He always picks one up and complains there’s no flavor as he eats half of it and throws the other part away. Well, there’s a reason there’s no flavor to them because the main flavors are in the topping and you AREN’T supposed to eat them without it! But I guess scolding the husband is part of the yearly tradition of making them!

Another part of the fun of making these cookies is crushing the candy canes to make the topping. Ashley has always enjoyed this part…it’s a good way to take your frustrations out! We always use a small kitchen hammer. The best way to smash them is in a plastic freezer bag on top of a soft dish towel; NOT directly on your counter top, especially if you have granite countertops. It would not be a pretty sight. (We also discovered this year that if you buy the mini candy canes that are individually wrapped and smash them inside the wrapping, it’s easier, because you can just cut the wrapper open and dump the pieces into a bowl.

So give them a try. The worst part is you have to refrigerate the dough for some 3-4 hours after you make it before you can bake them. Don’t try to bake them without doing that, because you’ll have a mess, and won’t be able to shape them properly. Recipes have directions for a reason!

And don’t worry about completing them in one day. If you leave the dough in the refrigerator for a day or up to two, it will still be fine. Just not any longer.

Candy Cane Snowballs

2 c butter, softened (NOT margarine….only butter works)
1 c confectioner’s sugar
Cream together in large bowl. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla

Gradually add 3 ½ c all-purpose flour
Stir in 1 c chopped pecans; mix well

Refrigerate in bowl (covered with plastic wrap) 3-4 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough in 1” balls (dough may be a bit hard at first so you may have to use a spoon to get the right amount, and if it’s a bit bigger, it’s ok), Place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to wire racks and cool thoroughly.

Topping:

½ – ¾ c crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (I usually have Ashley crush the whole box of 12 candy canes. See instructions above.)

At least 1-2 packages of candy melts (sold in craft stores or specialty cake stores). Two packages are best because you can use two different colors for the topping – I like pink and red; white isn’t as festive.

In microwave safe bowl, melt about 1/3 c of the candy melts (1 color at a time) per package directions, stirring til smooth. Dip the top of each cooled cookie into candy coating, and then immediately into the crushed candy canes. Put them back on the wire racks to allow candy melts to harden and store in covered containers. They will keep for several weeks if necessary.

They are yummy and make 5-6 dozen! Enjoy!

Kool-Aid Cookies

All of us who grew up in a certain era remember the ads for Kool-Aid…that round frosted pitcher with the smiling face drawn on it in the condensation! It certainly enticed us to beg our mothers to buy a package and make up a batch! My favorite was the cherry, of course. But if it spilled…what a mess we had!

So when I found a recipe for cookies made with powdered Kool-Aid, or a similar product, they looked so good I had to try it out. So this isn’t an old family recipe by any means, at least not one that dates back to my grandmother or mother. But I can say it’s a recipe that will continue on every year as a new family recipe, because we all like them! And they aren’t hard to make at all. I even had Ashley making them this year, because, after all, she has to continue the Christmas cookie baking tradition now that she and her husband are having a little girl next year!

Even though I make them for Christmas, they do tend to remind me a little bit of summer, and one of these days I may actually make them to enjoy around the pool. But until then, here’s the recipe to try out for yourself! Enjoy!

Fruit Dream Cookies (or, as we call them, Kool-Aid Cookies)

1/2 c butter, softened (butter…not margarine! margarine doesn’t work)
1/2 c Crisco
Beat together in large bowl for 30 sec.

Add: 1 c sugar
1/2 c Kool aid sugar-sweetened or similar powdered fruit drink mix (I usually use orange, but cherry or lemon is good also) and do NOT use the sugar-free mix
1/2 tsp baking powde
1/4 tsp baking soda
Beat til fluffy, scraping sides of bowl.

Beat in:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Beat in 2 1/2 c flour

With mixing spoon, stir in 1 1/2 c white baking pieces (NOT white chocolate, but the white baking chips)

Cover bowl and chill dough for at least 30 minutes or til easy to handle.

Shape dough in 1″ balls. Roll in colored or coarse sugar (I use a combination of red and yellow for the orange ones). Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes at 375 degrees until edges are set (centers will be soft).

Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

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Ben’s Favorite Lemon Drops

My mother really loved her son-in-law, and she always tried to make him some of his favorite dishes when she knew we were visiting.

I don’t remember when she first found this recipe. It wasn’t handed down to her from her mother, like a lot of our recipes were. She probably found it in a magazine somewhere and just decided to try it one day when we were coming to visit.

Ben always made sure to go over to the kitchen counter when we got to my mother’s to see what goodies she had baked for us. And on one occasion, there were these yellow crinkled up cookies dusted with powdered sugar cooling on her old wire cookie racks.

Who knew they’d turn out to be one of his very favorites? And from that time on, we’ve always made these cookies at Christmas. And other times of the year, as well.

Ashley has been my official lemon drop cookie maker, though, because they’re a bit messy to make, since you have to mix them with your hands. And she really didn’t mind. At least I don’t think she did. Except now that she has her own home, who’s going to make them? Any volunteers before I have to do it?

So in our newest tradition of presenting weekly (hopefully) family recipes, here’s the super easy and quick lemon cookie recipe!

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 cup Cool Whip
1 ½ tbl lemon juice

Mix ingredients together by hand. Literally. Because they really won’t mix together well any other way. You can start out with a spoon, but once it gets mixed good, you gotta get your fingers in there! It’s also easier to coat your hands in flour or powdered sugar when you’re doing them, so you won’t have such a mess when you’re done!

After they’re mixed, roll in 1 – 1 ½” balls, dip them in powdered sugar, and place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 – 1 ½” apart. Make an indentation in the middle with your thumb, or whichever finger your prefer. We’re not doing fingerprints!

Bake in preheated 350 degree over 8-10 minutes until done. Cool on a wire rack, and store any that are left after they family grabs them in a sealed container. If they last long enough and start to get a little hard, put a slice of white bread in the container with them, and you’ll be amazed at how moist they become again!

Let me know how you like them! You can also use strawberry cake mix, or chocolate (add vanilla in place of the lemon juice) but I really like these lemon ones the best!

My Grandmother’s Fruitcake (Cookies)

In my recipe box, filed under “cookies”, there’s a tattered and yellowed sheet of paper, written in my grandmother’s old-fashioned handwriting, for a cookie recipe I never really thought I liked. Now I make them almost every year.

You all know about the tradition of fruitcake at Christmas. Did you know that it’s claimed that the ancient Egyptians actually placed an early version of fruitcake in the tombs of their loved ones? And please, no jokes about those same fruitcakes still being around now. I mean, really…. We’ve all heard the jokes about giving fruitcake for gifts at Christmas time. It’s an old joke that no one likes it.

Well, guess what! I actually do like it, as long as it’s moist and overflowing with that sweet, sticky candied fruit we can only find in stores at the holiday season. I’ve actually made fruitcake once or twice, but since I’m the only one in the family who eats it, I gave up. Plus, as much as I like to bake, I don’t enjoy baking cakes. Cupcakes, yes, but cakes have never been my specialty. Probably because I’m no good at doing the icing, but that’s a different story entirely.

fruitcake 3

Cookies are a different matter. They don’t have to look perfect, unless you’re doing those fancy cut-out ones, and that requires almost a degree in art, as far as I’m concerned, so I don’t make those. Besides, they never look like the pictures you see in the magazines.

But these cookies are more creative, because I discovered you can vary the type of fruit you use, and actually use what YOU like, rather than what’s sold pre-packaged in the grocery stores, so I can still add a bit of my own creativity. You can, too.

So if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try your hand at these cookies. Enjoy putting together your own combination of fruit, and see how they turn out. Add the nuts if you want, but since I don’t like nuts in my cookies, they’re all for you!

1 c. softened butter
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Cream these ingredients together. (I use a bit of extra brown sugar and dash of extra vanilla. And I MAY try a splash of brandy extract this year!)

Sift together and add to creamed mixture:
1 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix together and add to cookie batter:
16 oz. candied fruit (cherries, pineapple, apricot, etc. Add some lemon and/or orange peel if you wish)
1 1/2 c. finely chopped dates (I mix them half and half with golden raisins)
1/2 – 3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (I don’t use them…remember. Well, maybe I’ll try cashews…I like them!)
It’s a bit easier to dust the fruit with flour and then add it.

Mix together well and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool and store in tightly covered container. They’re good fresh baked, and even better after a day or two!fruitcake 1

Puffy Meringue Cookies

It’s traditionally now the start of the Christmas season, which in my household, always includes baking cookies. And usually a lot of them, not matter how many times I say each year I’m not going to make so many.

But they’re so good…….

Now I don’t remember who started the tradition of making these particular cookies, but I’m almost certain it was my mother. She was always finding the best – and delicious – cookie recipes that we all enjoyed. I always think about her when I’m making these. She always wanted to put walnuts in them, and since I don’t like nuts in my food, I never let her. But you can add a 1/2 cup of them if you want. Just make sure they’re chopped well.
DSCN7821

I’ve made these cookies for many years, and every time, they are the first to disappear from all of the filled cookie containers that line up across my kitchen counter. In fact, when I start my Christmas cookie baking, they’re one of the first kind that’s requested. They’re fairly easy, but also a little bit tricky, so be sure to follow the instructions closely

And be prepared to make more than one batch of them, but DON’T double the recipe as you make it, because it doesn’t work out too well…

2 egg whites, room temperature (save the yolks for other baking treats!)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat ingredients until stiff peaks form, using an electric mixer. I now have a Kitchenaid and it works great! Be sure beaters and mixing bowl are grease-free and room temperature if it’s a metal bowl!

Gradually add 3/4 c granulated sugar and continue to beat for about a minute.

Fold in 6 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Regular size works best; not the mini’s. And as much as you’re tempted, don’t add extra!

Line two rectangular cookie sheets with white paper or parchment paper. Drop cookies onto paper, about a tablespoon each. Space about 2” apart. Cookies do not spread. Try to get a point at the top. (And yes, that’s a rare picture of me cooking…or baking, which isn’t the same thing!)
DSCN7820
Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated 300 degree oven, until just slightly browned. Let rest on sheet about a minute or so until the cookies will lift off easily, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Store in lightly sealed container, but they probably won’t be around long!

Our Family’s Traditional Cranberry Sauce

It’s not really cranberry sauce, but my mother always called it that. Looking back through all the variations of it I’ve found on the internet, it’s most definitely a cranberry relish. But back then, we really didn’t know the difference! It was just good, because it was homemade by my mom!cranberries and oranges

My mother had this wonderful old food grinder she used to attach to a pull-out bread board my father had made in our little walk-in pantry, which was right off the kitchen. I always wondered why other kitchens never had such a wonderful feature. All you had to do was pull a little knob, and this great board came out, which my mom always used for rolling out pie crusts, her famous cinnamon buns, and cutting out Christmas cookies.old-fashioned-meat-grinder

But that old “meat grinder” as we called it, attached perfectly to it, and she used it for so many different things. (And yes, I still have it in my kitchen!) She used it to grind up leftover ham to make the best scrambled eggs and ham I’ve ever had.

She also used it to make a wonderful cranberry and orange side dish for Thanksgiving. She always called it cranberry sauce, but we always just enjoyed it!

It was just a simple combination of a bag of fresh cranberries, and a large orange that she cut up, removed the seeds, and then just ground them all up together in a bowl. She added about a cup of sugar, and it was ready to be refrigerated until dinner was served!

Today all the recipes call for putting everything in a food processor. Some suggest adding cinnamon, or chopped pecans, or even orange juice and/or orange liqueur to give it a more modern taste.
cranberry relish photo
For me? I think I’ll stick with tradition and get out that old meat grinder and attach it to the counter top! And surprise our daughter with a new dish for Thanksgiving!

Grandmom’s Oyster Dressing

One of the traditions at our family Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas as well, is actually a dish that not everyone likes. But it was always on every holiday dinner table when I was growing up, as well as our holiday dinner tables now.

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which is one of the greatest seafood areas in the country (yes, I will argue with anyone on that!), we always enjoyed a some of the best blue crabs, clams, oysters, and fresh fish I’ve ever had. One of the traditional Eastern Shore holiday side dishes was what we called Oyster Dressing, also known in other areas as Scalloped Oysters.

I’m not an oyster fan per se, but this dish is something I very much enjoy. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for it, especially since he’s allergic to oysters, but I’m thankful our son-in-law loves oysters, so I can still make it and have someone join me in eating it!

Traditionally my aunt always made the dish, and would bring it to my mom’s house just about ready to bake, so it would be piping hot when served. Since it’s just oysters, crackers, butter, and milk, she’d always bring her own quart of milk to pour into it right before she stuck it in the oven. Because she had to make sure the liquid covered all the crackers thoroughly so it wouldn’t be too dry, she always used a glass casserole dish. When we were kids we used to be fascinated by her pouring the milk in and getting the texture just right. Why, I have no idea; it was just one of those things we did…we were kids! And we didn’t have to help cook!

Jaimie Hanna 2
So for all of you who are curious, and sea food lovers, I’m happy to share the way we made this dish, and still do today. And please, use a round glass casserole dish…trust me, it’s easier!

Here’s all you need:

1 quart fresh oysters, rinsed and drained (check for any bits of broken shell!)
1 box of saltine crackers
softened butter
milk

Butter the bottom and sides of a round 1 1/2-2 quart glass casserole dish.
Crush some of the saltines and put in the bottom of the casserole dish, at least a 1 1/2 inch or so thick.
Place about 1/3 of the oysters on top of crackers, sprinkle with pepper, and dot with butter.
Repeat the process 2-3 times, ending with another layer of crackers, dotted with butter.
Cover with wax paper or saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Just before putting in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, slowly pour in milk in a circular pattern until crackers are soaked. (We sometimes used a knife to cut through the crackers to be sure everything got soaked really well!0
Bake 40-55 minutes until done. During baking watch to see that it doesn’t dry out; if so, add a tiny bit more milk.

Serve hot! And if you have leftovers, cover and reheat in the oven or microwave.