I don’t know if anyone else cooks as crazy as I do but I never fix things the same way twice. It’s not done on purpose and this probably explains why I’m not as good of a baker as I am a cook, baking has to be more precise. When you live far from a grocery store and have to depend on what you can pick up at the dollar stores or what is in your pantry or freezer, you sometimes have to make substitutions.
My Holiday Fruit Salad (correct version)
1 box red gelatin (I prefer strawberry but cherry or raspberry would also work)
1 cup hot water
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (you can use regular canned sauce or even homemade sauce)
*note: if you use homemade sauce be aware that you may need to cut back on liquids.
1 4-6 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1 12-16 ounce can pineapples (drained) or frozen pineapple
1 apple chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
In medium bowl (I use the same one I plan to serve in preferably glass) mix hot water and gelatin until completely dissolved. Add in cranberry sauce, mix well but don’t completely integrate. Stir in fruit and top with nuts. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
This year I wasn’t sure if we’d even be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner due to Covid exposure. I had half my planned groceries but not everything I usually purchase. So for my Holiday Fruit Salad I had to improvise.
I had strawberry gelatin but plain cranberry sauce. I had dried cherries but no celery. I thought I had pineapple in a can or frozen but no, I had frozen mango, so I tried it with mango. It was fantastic. I didn’t top with nuts this year but who knows what I’ll do for Christmas.
Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Do you improvise or does it have to be made a certain way?
1/2 a loaf of stale white bread (you can use any bread but this is what I used)
1/2- cup powdered milk
1/2- cup water
1- package of vanilla pudding (I used the cook and serve kind but instant will work too)
1-can pears (my husband doesn’t like peaches but that is what I’d prefer)
1- apple chopped
1/4-cup ginger liqueur
1/4-cup honey liqueur
Soak raisins and apple in liqueurs. You can use one liqueur or the other. I love the flavor of ginger liqueur but didn’t want to use all of the expensive booze for cooking. I prefer to drink it. You could also use a cinnamon or apple whiskey or brandy. After the raisins and apples have soaked for an hour or two, add canned pears.
Crumble bread into a bowl. In a separate bowl whip eggs with milk, water and pudding, stir in fruit with juice and liqueur, add bread. Moisten bread completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8 X 13 pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil to keep from sticking. Pour mixture into pan. Cook about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Should be brown on top, firm but still sticky in the middle.
Keep in the refrigerator, heat up or eat cold. Great for breakfast or snack. One of my favorite desserts.
To glam it up add vanilla ice cream and a boozy sauce of warmed liqueur with butter and sugar, maybe add some pecans.
1-cup orange juice 1/4-cup soy sauce 1-Table spoon corn starch
1-cup rice 1- bag of mixed vegetables
I use crock pot liners to keep clean up to a minimal. I hate to scrub a crock pot after it’s been cooking all day. So my first step is to place a liner in the pot.
Cook chicken, orange juice, seasoning in crock pot on low heat for several hours. I put it on in the morning before going to work.
When I come home I make a pot of rice. Two cups of water to one cup of rice, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring water to a boil. Then bring back to a simmer, cover with a lid, cook on lower heat 18 minutes or until tender.
Take the chicken from the crock pot and set aside. Make a slurry of corn starch and cold water (1 Table spoon corn starch to 1/4 cup water). Stir cooking juice and corn starch together and cook in a saucepan over medium heat. I like to add a package of frozen vegetable (California Mix with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and sweet pea pods).
Shred chicken combine with sauce and spoon over rice for a delicious, easy Asian-inspired dish.
My husband is surviving on leftovers and peanut butter. Y’all should feel sorry for him. This is what happens when you are married to an author who is trying to publish more than one book a year and take classes on writing and marketing, still work a full-time job, and oh yeah, co-chairing a conference and helping with a fundraiser. Did I forget anything? My head is spinning. I thought NaNoWriMo and the holidays were bad but I’ve pulled four 1 am nights and a couple of midnights recently. Boy, what was I thinking? I’m too old to keep this up.
We went grocery shopping today and hubby decided we needed a couple of frozen meals. I’m not sure if he’s trying to make me feel guilty or help me out. I’m going to say he’s being considerate of my busy schedule. I did come home and cook though, so maybe it worked both ways.
Cheese Ravioli and White Cheese Sauce
1 bag of frozen cheese ravioli
1 block of cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Roasted Red Peppers
Italian Seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil and rosemary)
1/2 bag of Spinach
I use an electric frying pan so I can do everything in one pan. I cheat that way. First bring about two quarts of water to boil. Make sure the water is well salted before adding frozen ravioli. Cook just a few minutes, I prefer about 2-3 minutes or when the pasta starts to look a little darker in color. From almost white to a creamy yellow. I then spoon up the ravioli into a bowl, I save a cup of the salted, starchy water in the pan as well as an extra cup on the side just in case I need to loosen my sauce.
In the cup of water left in the pan cut up cream cheese block and place in pan to melt. Stir. Add in Parmesan cheese. Let the cheese melt before adding frozen or fresh spinach. If you are using canned spinach put that in last. When spinach is nearly cooked add in roasted red peppers, basil pesto, and other seasoning. If your sauce is too thick add more of the leftover water before adding your ravioli into your sauce.
An abundance of cans of black beans and the loom of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) on the horizon, I decided to prepare a few meals ahead for those crazy weeks when I needed to write or attend meetings and my husband still wanted to eat. I’m not sure why he feels he should have to eat EVERY day but like the family pets, he begs for food and I can’t resist his sad eyes.
This one is so easy. While I prefer dry beans cooked in the crock pot until mush, the convenience of canned beans cannot be denied, especially when we are pressed for time. Even if you are not doing NaNoWriMo, you know time is something we all need more of.
2 pound package of ground turkey (you can use any ground meat you like but turkey and chicken make it lighter and you may need to add something for extra flavor.)
5 15-ounce cans of black beans
1 large (20 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of picante sauce of salsa or a can of tomatoes with chilies
1/4 cup plus a teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup plus a teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne powder
1-2 teaspoons cumin (if you like it)
1/4 cup oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (just a pinch brings out the tomato flavor)
2 teaspoons black pepper
I do not use salt much so salt as you need
2 teaspoons of oil (vegetable or olive oil if you are trying to keep it healthy)
In a frying or saute pan, heat up oil, add in ground meat, crumble to cook, and season with 1 teaspoon each onion, garlic and black pepper, add a little salt if you need it. Cook until browned. If you use fatty meats like beef or pork don’t forget to drain grease. If using chicken or turkey you probably won’t need to.
Drain black beans and put in crock pot or large pot to cook for a while. Tomatoes are best cooked low and slow. Anything made with tomatoes whether chili, soup or sauce is best cooked all day. Add in tomatoes and salsa. Season. I use a lot of seasoning. If I don’t think 1/4 cup is enough, I add more. You can also use prepackaged chili mix instead of or in combination with the seasonings. If you use prepackaged mix, cut back on the seasoning adding to taste.
Cook on low several hours.
I like to add cheddar cheese and sour cream to my chili and serve it with jalapeno corn bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.
I like to make a big pot and freeze half for later. This will be great for NaNoWriMo when I’m trying to make word count and need a quick meal.
“Yes, real men do eat quiche.” I never understood why men wouldn’t eat quiche, it’s little more than scrambled eggs in a pie shell, I mean really. A baked omelet! But I remember this add when I was a kid and I always thought that meant quiche was something refined and a bit too classy for the “meat and potatoes” type guys I knew. I am happy to tell you, my husband eats quiche. He turned his nose up at spinach quiche but I’ll bring him around just give me time.
Quiche Lorraine aka Quiche Sherri or Quick and Easy Quiche
Quiche Lorraine was the first thing I ever cooked that
my mother did not know how to cook. Thanks to my High School French class
assignment and my mom’s Betty Crocker
Cook Book, it turned out very well.
I have since tweaked the recipe and made it my own. As my children will tell you I cook like I’m on an episode of Chopped (I love that program). If I do not have the recipe’s required ingredient in my fridge or cabinet, I will find or make a substitute. Often my substitute turns the dish into something entirely different, sometimes better, sometimes <eh> not so much.
Traditional Quiche Lorraine calls for bacon, I use bacon bits, it’s real bacon and I can substitute turkey bacon for my son who only eats poultry and fish, and for Muslim friends. It also calls for onion powder and Cayenne, I use Cajun seasoning, a lot of Cajun seasoning, and also a little Cayenne.
If you are really good at making homemade pie dough,
please ignore my suggestion of finding your dough in the refrigerator section
of Wally World ( I even use their brand).
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Bacon bits (either crumble up three or four slices of
bacon or use real bacon bits).
½ cup sour cream
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
A lot of Cajun Seasoning
A little Cayenne if you want a little Zing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
I use a low-sided Corningware dish lined with
parchment paper, allowing about two inches on either side to hang over for
removing from dish. (It makes a prettier display for the holidays.)
Put cold pie dough in dish. (Cold dough is flakey
crust.) Don’t over work it but push it down flat around the bottom and pinch
the sides to make it stand up. (Over
working it can make it tough.) With a fork, poke holes in the bottom, I go all
around the bottom ring and into the middle to keep it from bubbling up.
In a separate bowl, crack eggs, whisk in half-in-half and sour cream, stir in seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
Put cheese and bacon in bottom of the pie shell, pour egg mixture over top. Bake until almost firm, may be a little jiggle in the very middle will continue to cook some after you remove from oven. Don’t over bake. Pie crust will be a pretty golden tan, the cheese will have started to bubble and crust at the top of the pie. Let cool, using parchment paper, lift from deep dish to a plate for cutting and display. It rarely turns out so well when you are expecting guests or wish to take it somewhere. Don’t worry, it still tastes good.
When your freezer dies a slow cruel death and you have to throw away two garbage bags full of food, you get creative on what you are able to salvage. The frozen vegetables at the bottom of the freezer, the extra blocks of cheese and the packages of Jiffy Corn Bread mix. I found jalapenos in the cabinet and sour cream in the fridge. Hmm, sounds like a meal to me.
2 packages of frozen broccoli (I used one of broccoli
and one of mixed broccoli, carrots & cauliflower)
2-Tablespoons of butter
2-Tablespoons of flour
¼ cup milk
1-teaspoon of corn starch
¾ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
¾ cup of half-and-half
1 can chicken broth with ½ can of water
2-quart sauce pan
In a 2-quart sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour.
Stir flour until it turns a pale beige, SLOWLY add in milk, stirring so it doesn’t
clump. Add cheese and stir. Mix corn starch to chicken broth and water, add to
cheese mixture. Add in broccoli. (If you use fresh cook first in chicken broth
until bright green and softened, then add to milk mixture.)
Cook on low heat until begins to thicken and vegetables start to break down. Add garlic and salt, loosen with half-and-half, cook until desired thickness.
¼ to ½ cup finely chopped jalapenos (I use jarred
pickled jalapenos, if you are using fresh, it’s best to roast them first.)
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup sour cream
2 packages corn bread mix (I use Jiffy or similar
½ stick of butter
Large mixing bowl
Line pan with parchment paper, I leave a little to
over lap the sides. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put stick of butter
in pan, set in oven to melt.
Add corn bread mix into large mixing bowl, with a
fork, get out lumps. Mix eggs, sour cream with corn bread mix, add in jalapenos
Using oven mitt, pull out pan, dump contents of bowl
into pan and smooth. Bake at 400 until golden about 25-30 minutes.
I heat mine up on a panini press with a little melted
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