Monday, October 27, 2014

Holidays Through the Decades - The 1960's - All About Me

As November fast approaches, I get very excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas being just around the corner. Our childhood plays a very important part in making us who we are today. From Thanksgiving to Christmas was a magical time at our house. It was filled with good food, lots of family visits, and cocktail and dinner parties.

My favorite childhood memories revolve around holidays during the 1960's. Times were changing. Modern day conveniences were quite common. Everyone I knew had color TV, air conditioning, a bouffant hair dryer, and at Christmas, a fabulous artificial tree - and if your mother was really modern and hip, your tree might have been silver or white. Perry Como's Christmas special was the highlight of the television season. Cocktail parties were an every weekend event, and we kiddos trailed along, eating Lipton's California Dip on deliciously greasy Charles Chips.

The mom's always had some type of sweet or sour concoction prepared. My parents and their friends all had several sets of cocktail glasses. There was a different set of glasses for each drink. We kids loved to drink our cola out of fancy long stemmed wine glasses. It always tasted so much better and more sophisticated. Mother would pour a little of the Maraschino cherry juice into our cola for a special treat. 

The weeks and days until Christmas were quite a hectic time, culminating with the Christmas Eve drive to my Grandparent's farm in South Georgia. Eagle Brand, sweetened condensed milk, was the magic product of the day. Mother's Magic Cookie Bars, Lemon Icebox Pie, and Holiday fudge were all favorites which have withstood the hands of time. All of these recipes will be included during the next few weeks. 
My mother was an extremely talented cook, but not such an accomplished baker. Once introduced to the "new and improved" boxed cake mixes, she was a believer. She could also do wonders with canned biscuits and crescent rolls. 
I hope to have fun sharing with you some of my favorite memories and recipes from my childhood. Life may not have been perfect, but my memories were.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Our Favorite Chili Recipe and a Halloween Tradition

I was very hesitant to even write this blog, as it seems so processed and unimaginative. But with Halloween quickly approaching, I've been thinking a lot about fun celebrations and trick or treating with the kids as the were growing up. Our Halloween tradition was pigs in a blanket and a bowl of chili served with saltines.
The pigs in a blanket were not the popular crescent roll variety, but a Lykes hot dog rolled with a slice of American Deluxe cheese in a slice of bread and secured with toothpicks. After trick or treating, we would place the pan of pigs in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the bread was toasted and the dogs were browned.

I have tried many chili recipes over the years, but our family favorite is still the French's Chili-O seasoning version. I make just a very few changes to the package directions. I like chunky Vidalia onions in my chili, but omit the onions altogether when preparing this recipe for the children.

Famous French's Chili-O Chili

2 pounds ground chuck or ground round, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 small Vidalia onion - coarsely chopped
2 packages French's chili-o seasoning mix - available at Winn Dixie or WalMart
2 16 ounce cans Bush's Chili Beans - mild or medium - available at Winn Dixie
2 141/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 small can rotel tomatoes - (optional) - if you want a little more spice

Brown seasoned ground beef with chopped onions in large skillet. 
Stir in the two packs of French's Chili-O seasoning
Place meat mixture into 6 quart slow cooker.
Add chili beans, diced tomatoes, and Rotel tomatoes, if desired.
Cook on low 4 to 5 hours, until heated thoroughly and flavors have combined. 

Serve with fresh saltine crackers and, of course, a pig in a blanket.

The French's Chili-O mix and the Bush's Beans are the secret to this recipe

I would love to read your comments concerning my shortcut chili recipe.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tuscan Slow Cooker Beef Stew

The humidity is lower in south central Florida and the temperature highs are only in the mid 80's. We are in the middle of our fall season which lasts from mid October - to late December. Then, we may run temperatures from lows in the 40's to back up in the 80's on the same day. But, we Floridians wouldn't trade the pumpkin patches, change of seasons, and autumn leaves for anything. We love our mild winters and short sleeve Thanksgivings. However, we do crave the fall comfort food that warms up our northern neighbors. And, I am considering our northern neighbors to include north Florida all the way up to Virginia and over to Arkansas and Texas. Anywhere north of those regions has a whole different outlook on food in general.

This morning, I put in my slow cooker all of the ingredients for a Tuscan Slow Cooker Beef Stew recipe that I found in Paula Deen's magazine from 2007. One stir and then it slow cooks for 8 to 9 hours. My slow cooker has about had the insides cooked out and I really want this Cuisinart model from Amazon.

Enough daydreaming. Let's get on to the goodness of this recipe.

Tuscan Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat- seasoned with salt and pepper
3 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 medium red potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
1 14.5 can of Itatlian style diced tomatoes
1 10 oz can beef broth
1 10 oz can tomato soup
1/2 cup red wine 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In an electric slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cover and cook on low 8 to 9 hours, or until beef and vegetables are tender. 
How easy is that!

Pinot Noir is the chef's choice for beef dishes. It was pretty good to the cook also, while awaiting the finished product. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Carolina Mustard Slaw for Hot Dogs and a 2nd Birthday

I had a great week visiting with both of my older children and grandchildren this week. Our visit started out with a fun 2nd birthday party for an adorable little boy. He really enjoyed his Mickey Cake with all of the colored icings. We are so lucky to have Publix here in Florida. The make great kids birthday cakes at a great price.
His Dad did a great job of cutting the cake and serving all of the cousins, grandparents, friends, aunts, and uncles. He also was in charge of the grill for the hot dogs and hamburgers. 
Yummy, Happy Birthday to Me!!
I pretty much got off easy. My only assignment was to prepare the Carolina Mustard Slaw for the dogs and burgers. I have several recipes, but chose this version, as I thought the children might like it. It has a little mayo and is not quite as strong as my other mustard slaw recipes. 
My son in law is from Venezuela and grew up eating potato sticks on hot dogs. They were also a must.
We ate our share of potato sticks as children growing up in south Georgia and central Florida also. Good things have no boundaries. 

Carolina Mustard Slaw - very easy 

1 bag angel hair slaw mix
1/4 cup Duke's Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
salt, pepper, and celery salt to taste

Mix the dressing - Mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and Dijon Mustard. Pour over slaw mix. Salt and pepper to taste. 
This recipe is delicious on hot dogs, hamburgers, or barbecue sandwiches. I have even been known to eat it with fried catfish, even though I usually make a more mayonnaise based slaw for fish. 

We enjoyed the slaw with hot dogs so much that I might be tempted to get this hot dog steamer for my older grandkids for Christmas. It is available at Amazon and shipping is free.