Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Baked Chicken Fajitas - Good To You and Good For You

This is not one of our family recipes or even one that we have developed. It is a recipe that is easy to prepare, delicious, and low fat and healthy. I am not sure where this recipe originated, but my girls love it and prepare it often for their busy families on weeknights. I know that you will want to add it to your recipe file for an easy go to meal that is great to serve to company as well.

Baked Chicken Fajitas

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
1 medium onion - thinly sliced
1 large bell pepper, seeded and sliced- use  1/3 green, red, and yellow for vivid color
Flour tortillas
Toppings that you like - such as sour cream - guacamole - cheese

Prepare the oven to 400 degrees.   Place chicken strips in a greased 13 X 9 baking dish. 
 In a small bowl combine the oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, and salt.
Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and stir to coat.
Next add the tomatoes, peppers, and onions to the dish and stir to combine. 
Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve on tortillas with desired toppings.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hello Dolly Bars and Magic Cookie Bars

Whether you call them Hello Dolly Bars, Magic Cookie Bars or Seven Layer Cookie Bars, they are decadent, easy to prepare, and a probably a family favorite. We have eaten these for years. My mother made them, my mother in law made them, my sister in law always has them at Thanksgiving and I usually have plenty on hand during the Christmas holidays.

This Christmas, I was at my daughter's and didn't have my recipe. I looked on Eagle Brand's site and pulled up the Magic Cookie Bar recipe. I thought that it was a little different, not in the ingredients, but in the way that the layers were built. The graham cracker crumbs were mixed with the butter and then the condensed milk was poured on this layer. I suppose that is was a cleaner and more precise looking cooking, but the toppings were not moist at all. The coconut was even a little chokey. I pulled out my original 1970 Eagle Brand recipe and made them this weekend. They were as good as ever, if maybe not as pretty as the new version. Sometimes, there is just no need to "fix it if it ain't broken". That is my stand on this recipe.

When the movie "Dick" came out in 1999, my youngest daughter was intrigued. She loved the 60's outfits, the whole Watergate mystery, and the Hello Dolly sampler on the wall. If you haven't seen the movie, two teenage girls, Betsy and Arlene, become dog walkers for President Nixon. They decide to bake him some cookies, Hello Dolly bars to be exact. They notice some green stems in the walnuts, but the older brother assures them that is just from the walnut package. Of course, we discover, that it is dried out marijuana leaves and the entire White House staff becomes quite silly. Please watch this movie if you have never seen it - if just for the 60's memorabilia.

Eagle Brand Magic Cookie Bars- Hello Dolly Bars- Seven Layer Cookie Bars

Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch X 3 bars

1/2 cup (1 Stick ) Butter, melted
1 1/2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs
1 Cup Walnuts - coarsely chopped
1 cup Nestle's Semi Sweet Chocolate Morsels
3/4 cup Nestle's Butterscotch Flavored Morsels
1 1/3 cup sweetened coconut
1 15 ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

Pour melted butter into the bottom of a 13 X 9 X 2 inch pan. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over the melted butter. 
Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over crumbs. Scatter chocolate and butterscotch morsels over nuts. Sprinkle coconut over morsels. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over all.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned on top. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Cut into bars. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Southern Fried Catfish and Childhood Memories

My mother grew up in Southwest Georgia on Lake Seminole. Fresh fried catfish and catfish suppers were always a special treat when we visited my grandparents in the summer. We would often journey out to the lake and eat at Paces Fish Camp. It was a simple building built on a pond. The catfish were all you could eat and delicious. There would be plates filled with dill pickles, cole slaw, and hand cut french fries set around on the table. The platters of fish would be delivered to the table and refilled when they were close to empty.

We moved to Clewiston, Florida when I was in the 4th grade. One of the first things my momma did was find a place to buy channel catfish. We went to an old houseboat that seemed ready to sink any minute. I remember my momma telling the man that she wanted "sharpies" small catfish, about the size of a man's hand. She could be bossy, when she needed to be, and told him not to dare slip in any "mud cats". She must have been pleased with his fish, as we shopped there at least once a month for catfish. Last year, 50 years later, I drove through Clewiston on the way to West Palm Beach and the houseboat was still there with a sign that said Catfish for Sale. I could not believe my eyes.

Momma had two electric frying pans that she set up in the carport on folding tables to fry the fish. Daddy, couldn't stand the smell and she didn't want to heat up the house. I loved those catfish fry nights. I got to eat my fill of dill pickles to with no questions asked. We would always have company over to eat- various and odd friends, from the president of the US Sugar Corporation to momma's teacher friends, to hunting buddies of daddy's.

By the time I was married, catfish fillets seemed to be the in thing - We lived in Americus, Georgia and would often get catfish from Lake Blackshear. They would be large and my husband would filet them. He could also cook some mouth watering fish. His secret was hot sauce and peanut oil. This is his recipe that we used on everything from catfish, to grouper, to mullet. I know that he will send his blessings down that I am sharing it with you. 

Fried Southern Catfish

Around 12 catfish fillets
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 (2 ounce bottle) hot sauce
Peanut oil
2 cups self rising cornmeal mix

Sprinkle filets with salt and pepper; place in a shallow dish. Add the hot sauce to fillets, turning to coat. Cover and chill for several hours

Pour peanut oil to a depth of about 3 to 4 inches in a large and deep skillet; heat over medium heat to about 375 degrees. 

Place cornmeal mix in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Add fillets, one at at time; shake until coated. A large paper grocery paper bag can also be used for this step. Fry fillets, in batches, around 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on a paper bag covered platter. Sprinkle extra salt over fried fish. Serve with lemon, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, or ketchup. We always just used ketchup for catfish. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Black Eyed Peas for the New Year -The Real Story

This New Year came and went and I slept right through the celebrations. I had been at my daughter's for Christmas and returned home December 29th. The flu hit me New Years Eve and I did not "fix" or eat the traditional black eyed peas. To tell the truth, I was just praying that I would live to see the New Year. Being, the traditional southern girl that I am, I made my Black Eyed Pea Soup this past weekend, almost into the middle of January. I also would love to share with you the "absolute true" story of the Southern Black Eyed Peas for New Year's tradition.

From November 15th - December 21, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led over 60,000 Union soldiers on the ever fateful "March to the Sea" from Atlanta to Savannah. His purpose was to frighten Georgia's population into abandoning the confederate cause. Being, a typical Northerner, Sherman underestimated the stamina and courage of the small town citizens and rural farmers in Georgia. Sherman raged a path of destruction, burning what he could, stealing crops, cows, food of all types. As the story continues, the only thing left for the people of the South were the black eyed peas still in the fields. Since the "less" intelligent Union officers didn't realize that they were edible. They thought that the livestock was the only thing that would eat the peas, hence the name "cow peas" was coined. The soldiers had stolen all of the livestock and figured there was no use for the peas.

And, thus since New Year's Day 1866, the people of the South have eaten Black Eyed peas on the first day of the year.
Here are some other Southern New Year's Day traditions:

Adding a penny to the pot of black eyed peas, before they are served. The person who receives the penny will be extra lucky, if he doesn't swallow the penny.

Eat exactly 365 peas on New Year's Day- if you eat too few, your luck runs out- if you eat too many, the extra peas will turn into bad luck - Yes, especially, since Black Eyed Peas are quite gassy!!!!

Leave one pea on your plate, to share your luck with someone else.

Served with greens, the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money.

Cornbread, often served with black eyed peas and greens, represents gold.

Black Eyed Peas cooked with tomatoes represent wealth and health.

Happy 2015 Everyone!

I hope that you enjoy this Black Eyed Pea soup. Remember that Black Eyed Peas are nutritionally excellent. They are low in fat, and contain no cholesterol. They are high in potassium, iron, and fiber. And, they are delicious and part of our southern heritage.

Black Eyed Pea Soup for the Slow Cooker

1 1/2 cups instant white rice
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion- Vidalia, if available
2 (15.5 ounce) cans Black Eyed Peas with liquid - choose Glory or Margaret Holmes if available
1 10.5 ounce can condensed beef broth
2 (14.5) ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 (4 ounce) can chopped chiles
1/2 cup water or as needed

Prepare rice according to package instructions, adding salt to the water, and set aside.
Salt and pepper the ground sirloin and cook with peppers and onions in a large skillet, crumbling beef, until no longer pink.
Drain off grease.
Place the rice and beef mixture in a 5 quart slow cooker. Add the black eyed peas, beef broth, tomatoes, chilies, and enough water to cover everything.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Serve with Cornbread.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Winter Fruit Apple Pecan Cobbler

My family has been making winter fruit cobblers for years. We use canned fruits and a boxed cake mix, butter and serve the cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I have recipes for peach, blueberry, mixed fruit (fruit cocktail), cherry, and this apple pecan cobbler. These cobblers are easy to throw together after work and can be a delicious treat for a week night. In the 70's, when these desserts were the rage, our choice of frozen fruit was very limited and usually had lots of sugar added. We were never able to get fresh fruit unless it was in season.  Therefore we always used canned fruit or pie filling for these desserts.

This apple pecan cobbler is made from pantry staples and 11/2 sticks butter. Any cake mix can be used, but the Butter Pecan is delicious with the apples. Please don't skip adding the extra pecans on top. They become toasted, and add a great crunch to the topping. It is also a great way to use up those extra holiday pecans that cost a fortune.

Winter Fruit Apple Pecan Cobbler

2 or 3 cans Apple Pie Filling - the pie filling cans are not as large as they were in the past, therefore, you may want to add an extra can

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 Teaspoon Allspice

1 box Butter Pecan Cake Mix

1 1/2 sticks butter - cut into small pieces and distributed over cake mix

1/2 cup pecans chopped

Spoon 2 or 3 cans of Apple Pie Filling into a 9 x 13 inch pan

Sprinkle cinnamon and allspice over apples.
Spoon cake mix evenly over apple filling.

Cut butter into thin slices and spread evenly over cake mix
Sprinkle chopped pecans over all.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, until topping is brown and crispy.

Enjoy warm with ice cream or whipped topping.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

While I was down in South Florida during Christmas Vacation I kept the grandkids overnight while their mom and dad went to several Christmas parties in Miami. We had a great time. We played games, practiced writing numbers, and watched the Wizard of Oz on TNT. I knew this was my time to slip in some real Southern cooking for those little ones. I wanted to try to fix my mother's baked macaroni and cheese. Her's was always gooey and creamy with tons of cheese, yet not baked hard like so many recipes that I have tried. I wanted to spoon it out of the bowl, not cut it in a square. This is the version that I prepared and they loved it - mom and dad did too!

Layered Macaroni and Cheese

16 ounces elbow macaroni
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese - divided
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook macaroni in salted water - remember to season as you assemble

Layer 1/3 of the macaroni in baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups grated cheese. Please grate your cheese. The quality and taste are so much better than the pre shredded packages. Repeat layers; top with remaining macaroni. Reserve remaining one cup cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper until blended. Pour over macaroni.

Cover and bake 45 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Uncover and sprinkle the remaining cheese. Cover and let stand 10 minutes before serving.