Monday, December 29, 2014

Yule log cake pretty and delicious

Starting my own Christmas tradition

We have a new Christmas tradition at my house. This will be the third year I’ve made a delicious yule log from Debbi Baker Covington’s cookbook "Celebrate Everything!” 

I like everything about this dessert. The spongy layer is light and tasty, the whipped cream is perfectly sweet and creamy, and the chocolate glaze is perfect. And it’s easy to make, really! 

I was unsure about trying the cake at first. I had never really made roll cakes. But Debbi assured me it was easy and worth the effort. 

I decided to cook my first yule log on Christmas morning two years ago. I know it sounds silly to make dessert on Christmas morning, but I wanted it perfectly fresh for the night’s special Christmas dinner. 

The layer, cooked in a large jelly roll pan, is very simple to make. If you follow the instructions for preparing the pan with aluminum foil and cooking spray, you should have no trouble removing the cake from the pan and rolling it in a tea towel to cool. 

While the cake is cooking or even cooling, you can prepare the whipped cream for the filling; it only takes a few minutes. Let it chill in the refrigerator until it’s time to use it. 

Once the cake is completely cool, unroll it and remove the tea towel. Spread the whipped cream on the cake layer and roll up again. I usually have some whipped cream left over. If you use too much, it runs out the end of the cake. 

Debbi’s recipe, which came from a French class at Fike High School, uses a different chocolate frosting or glaze. I use a favorite standby recipe that I also make for cakes and cupcakes at my house. It’s a very simple to make with ingredients I always have on hand: chocolate chips, butter, honey and vanilla extract. 

Once the cake is made, it’s very tempting to slice it immediately, but don’t. It needs to be refrigerated to completely cool. 

This cake is delicious just a few hours after it is made, but as it turns out, I didn’t have to make it the same day I wanted to serve it. We love it the next day and day after as well, if there’s any left! 

If you’d like to order a copy of Debbi’s book, visit www.cateringbydebbicovington.com or purchase through Amazon. 

New cookbook 

The Wilson Woman’s Club has a new cookbook, and I will be writing about it soon. But for now, you can purchase it at Fine Prints, Ross McDaniel Salon and Embellishments. You can also leave a message at the Wilson Woman’s Club, 243-3742 and someone will get back with you. 

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810 

Yule Log 

For the filling: 

1 cup heavy whipping cream 

1/4 cup powdered sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/4 cup chopped pecans (I omit the pecans) 

For the cake: 

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

1/4 cup cocoa 

3 large eggs 

1 cup sugar 

1/3 cup water 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

Powdered sugar 

For the thin chocolate icing: 

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

3 tablespoons butter 

1 tablespoon honey 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Chill a deep bowl. Place whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until stiff. Fold in nuts if using. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Can also make whipped cream while cake cooks or cools. 

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a jelly roll pan (151/2 x 101/2 x 1-inch) and line bottom with greased aluminum foil. Blend flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa, set aside. Beat eggs in large mixing bowl until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar. Blend in water and vanilla on low speed. Slowly mix in dry ingredients just until batter is smooth. Pour into pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. 

Loosen edges and immediately turn upside down on a tea towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove foil. While hot, roll cake and towel from narrow end. Cool on wire rack. 

When completely cool, gently unroll cake and remove towel. Spread with whipped cream filling. Roll again and place on a serving platter, seam side down. 

For chocolate glaze, pour chocolate chips and butter into microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir until chips are blended. Mix in honey and vanilla. Pour over cake and use a spoon or knife to cover and smooth. 

Let cool in refrigerator before serving. 

Serves 8 to 10. 

Adapted from Debbi Covington’s "Celebrate Everything” 

Christmas candy tradition

Mother and daughter make favorite holiday sweets

A cozy kitchen stocked with plenty of sugar, corn syrup, local pecans, butter and chocolate turned into a candy shop Monday morning with Brenda Bailey and her daughter, Candace Bailey, hard at work for several hours making fudge, crystal candy, divinity and butter crunch.

It’s a tradition passed down from mother to daughter in its fourth generation now with Candace’s daughter, Emma Renfrow: candy making, the good kind, and just in time for Christmas.

It’s been about a year since my high school friend Candace mentioned on Facebook that she had spent the day making candy with her mother. My first thought was that I had missed an opportunity to spend the morning with these fine ladies who could teach me a thing or two. My second thought? Tell Candace to invite me next year!

Lucky me; we both remembered.

The mother and daughter team started out making what they call "real fudge” — not the kind made with marshmallows, Candace said, although her mom loves that recipe as well!

Brenda pulled out a small, worn cookbook and flipped through the pages to find the handwritten recipe passed down from her mother, Beatrice Dixon, also known as Mama Beat. She’s the inspiration for this yearly cooking binge. Mama Beat used to fill a bedroom with candy for Christmas, the women said, and they love carrying on her tradition.

The fudge is made with cocoa, sugar, dark corn syrup, vanilla, butter and evaporated milk. Brenda came from a house with six children. When it came time to make candy, pies and even whipped cream, her mom didn’t want to sacrifice fresh milk on sweets and used canned milk instead.

"Therefore, I do the same thing,” she said.

As the fudge started simmering, the Bailey women kept a close eye on the candy thermometer. The enticing smell of dark chocolate filled the small kitchen. The anticipation of a pan filled with chocolate fudge made my mouth water!

Once the fudge had cooked and was cooling, Candace started assembling ingredients for crystal candy — or hard candy. Over the weekend she had made a batch of peppermint candy, not too strong — the way her daddy, J.W., likes it. Candace’s son, Graham Renfrow, suggested she make it blue. On Monday, we made cinnamon, my favorite!

This is the recipe I was most eager to learn, and I watched the process carefully.

The Baileys have been making crystal candy since 1984 when they saw the recipe in Southern Living. They’ve made butterscotch, clove and spearmint flavors as well. Once again, the candy thermometer came out. The candy must reach the hard crack stage, 300 degrees, before it’s poured into a pan to cool.

Candace and her mom, who lives in the Buckhorn community, have made this candy many times, so they know how to do it quickly. Once the bright red candy was poured into a glass dish and started to cool, Candace got to work scoring it over and over to make sure the marks stayed. She knew that would make it easier to break the candy once it was cool enough to handle. I loved helping with this process, taking off large chunks and breaking the candy along the lines Candace had cut.

When I ate the candy, I noticed the smooth edges from the marks Candace had made.

There’s plenty of experience behind the third candy of the morning as well: divinity or sea foam candy.

"The best thing my mother made was sea foam,” Brenda said.

Divinity is a favorite of many Southern families, but it is intimidating to many cooks.

Brenda and Candace worked as a team, watching the bubbling mixture reach 259 degrees and making sure the egg whites were perfectly stiff. Mama Beat never used a candy thermometer when she made her sea foam.

"My mom always made it spin a thread,” Brenda said, showing a string of the hot mixture extending from the spoon indicating it’s at the correct temperature.

Once the egg whites and nuts were beat into the hot mixture, the real teamwork started.

"We’ve got to do it fast,” Brenda said.

The two grabbed spoons and quickly scooped up just the right amount and placed the fluffy white pieces onto wax paper before the mixture cooled and hardened. The three of us couldn’t resist sampling the delicious white candy filled with fresh pecans. What a sweet, Southern treat!

Brenda’s main tip for making divinity is not to make it by yourself.

"You need help getting it out,” she said.

Also, when beating in the egg whites, beat only until the mixture just loses its gloss, she added.

Pay attention to the weather as well. It’s not a good idea to make sea foam candy on a damp or humid day.

"And if you don’t do it right the first time, try again,” she said.

Before we ate our lunch of Brenda’s delicious homemade vegetable soup, there was one more recipe to make, butter crunch, or toffee.

This is another of Mama Beat’s recipes that Brenda has adapted. Once again, a simmering pot of sweetness filled the kitchen, this time with the buttery smell of caramel or toffee. When the mixture had reached the correct temperature, it was poured onto a marble slab to cool. Pecans and chocolate chips were sprinkled on top, then the mixture cooled until it could be cut into pieces.

When the four recipes were complete, it was time to divide them into tins for the holiday season.Brenda gives away candy to neighbors and family. She also serves it as dessert at a family spaghetti party.

Candace, a professor at North Carolina Central University who also teaches music history at Duke University, often has a houseful of teenagers and young adults who love the candy.

"Mine will be eaten,” she said.

This candy making tradition is very important to both of them.

"It’s just what mom and I do at Christmas,” Candace said.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Real Fudge 

3/4 cup cocoa

3 cups sugar

Dash of salt

11/2 cups evaporated milk (not diluted)

2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped 

Stir cocoa, sugar, salt, evaporated milk and syrup in heavy pot with candy thermometer attached. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until mixture reaches 235 degrees. Remove from heat.

Add butter and let cool around 30 minutes or until cool enough to touch pot. Add vanilla and nuts. Beat fudge with electric mixer until it loses its gloss and firms up some. Pour into pan.

Brenda Bailey

Crystal Candy 

4 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 cup light corn syrup

5 drops or more food coloring of choice

3/4 to 1 teaspoon oil of cinnamon, peppermint or spearmint 

Combine water, sugar and syrup in saucepan or large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add coloring. Continue to cook without stirring until hard crack stage, 300 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in oil. Pour into well-greased 13X9-inch pan.

As it begins to cool, score candy to make it easier to break into pieces once it cools. When cool enough to handle, turn out onto parchment paper or other surface. Break into pieces. This can be messy as candy pieces break off and fly.

Adapted from Southern Living

*Note: It’s best not to make this on a damp or humid day. The flavored oils are sold in tiny glass bottles in cooking supply sections of some stores (I purchased some at Hobby Lobby) as well as from pharmacies.

Sea Foam 

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2/3 cup water

2 large or 3 medium egg whites

1 cup toasted pecans, chopped 

Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.

Pour sugar, syrup and water into heavy saucepan with candy thermometer attached and bring to a boil. Do not stir. Let simmer until it reaches 259 degrees.

Slowly pour mixture into mixer bowl with egg whites, with mixer running on medium; add vanilla and nuts and beat until mixture just loses its gloss. Do not overbeat.

Quickly spoon candy (about a tablespoonful) onto wax paper using buttered spoons. It’s best to have two people doing this to finish before candy starts to harden.

*Note: It’s best not to make this on a damp or humid day.

Brenda Bailey

Butter Crunch 

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon corn syrup (either light or dark)

3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

6 ounces of chocolate chips 

Butter marble slab or large cookie sheet, preferably one with a rim.

Melt butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Add sugar; stirring constantly, add in water and syrup. Cook over medium heat until reaches 290 degrees. Remove from heat and pour onto prepared surface. Have a spoon or knife handy in case candy starts to run off edges of marble if that’s what you are using.

Sprinkle nuts over surface of candy. Then add chocolate chips. As they melt, use a spoon to smooth evenly.

When cool, cut into squares or break into serving-size pieces.

Brenda Bailey

Tale of two sausage balls

The tale of two sausage balls

I don’t remember the first time Mama made sausage balls for our family Christmas Eve party, but I do recall the conversation when she realized she made them differently from everyone else by browning the sausage before she formed the balls.

It’s probably been 40 years. We were standing in the kitchen and she was holding an index card with the recipe written out in her handwriting.

"If I don’t brown the sausage first, it might not get cooked all the way,” she said.

She never made sausage balls with uncooked sausage. Instead, she cooked a pan of Bass Farm sausage (it was always Bass Farm, green package), drained it, and formed her sausage balls with Bisquick and sharp Cheddar cheese. Then she baked them or froze them for later use.

On Christmas Eve, right before we started opening presents, she’d put them in the oven. Before long, we could smell them. Oh my, what a scrumptious smell.

They’d be added to the party table, along with nutty fingers, salted pecans, a variety of cookies and fudge that family members prepared, all washed down with an icy fruit punch. No matter if the temperature was 20 degrees outside, we all insisted on the punch! (Still do in fact.)

Mama’s sausage balls were always a favorite of mine. They are almost like a biscuit and are so good at breakfast as well as parties. I love eating them while they are still piping hot and the cheese is gooey.

That’s not to say I don’t love them the other way as well!

Several years ago, our dear neighbor Betty Hayes shared a plate of sausage balls. They were made the traditional way, formed with uncooked sausage before baking. They were very small, and some of the edges were crisp from the cooked cheese. My daughter immediately devoured them and begged for more. The secret was out; she knew there was a second way to cook sausage balls.

Anna requests that I make our neighbor’s sausage ball recipe often. We don’t just make them for parties, we often make a batch and freeze the bulk of the recipe in small batches for breakfast. I’ve done this with Mama’s version of the recipe more times than I can count. For Mama’s version, I freeze them without cooking the sausage balls first. With the more traditional method, I cook them and then freeze them.

I cannot tell you what a treat it is to have my mama’s sausage ball recipe for breakfast. I put the sausage balls in the toaster oven when I wake up, and before I know it, the wonderful smell of Christmas Eve at Mama and Daddy’s house fills my own kitchen! Love it.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Sausage Balls

1 pound of bulk sausage, mild or hot (I often use breakfast turkey sausage instead of pork sausage)

1 pound grated Cheddar cheese or 4 cups (grate your own if possible rather than using pre-packaged grated cheese)

3 cups Bisquick

Mama’s recipe: Brown sausage. Drain fat. Once sausage has cooled enough to handle, pour into large bowl and add other ingredients. Use your hands to mix until combined. Form into balls a little smaller than a walnut.

If it’s difficult to form a ball, hold the batter in your hands for a few seconds as you are making each ball. The warmth of your hands will help the mixture stay together.

Place sausage balls on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes. Can also freeze sausage balls before cooking for later use. Mama always froze them in single layers in plastic containers, separating the layers with wax paper.

Makes around 30.

Traditional recipe: Mix uncooked sausage, cheese and biscuit mix in large bowl. Use your hands to mix until combined. Form into balls about half the size of a walnut. My family likes them very small.

Place on baking sheet (I don’t use cooking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until browned and cooked through.

Makes around 60.

Chicken pot pie

Love this chicken pot pie
New recipe for a family favorite dish

Chicken pot pie has long been a favorite menu item at my house. It’s comfort food at it’s best!

I have several recipes I turn to, depending on my mood! One favorite recipe is made with a buttery biscuit mix topping. Another is baked inside a frozen pie crust with another crust on top.

My daughter, Anna, requests pot pie often.

At a recent church dinner, I tried yet another chicken pot pie recipe. This one was made by church member Jean Lemmons. I added a serving of her pot pie (guess you could call it a chicken pan pie!) to my plate, ate it quickly and went back for more.

It was very good, with just the right combination of peas and carrots. She also added diced potatoes. I loved the potatoes and knew Anna would as well.

After the meal was over and we were cleaning up, I told Miss Jean how much I enjoyed the pie and asked if I could take a serving home to Anna. She encouraged me get some, and, as predicted, Anna loved it and wished I had gotten more!

I didn’t waste any time calling Miss Jean and getting the recipe. It turns out that her mother, the late Ethel Brame, used to make this recipe. She told me, over the phone, how she makes it and I jotted down instructions.

I was very thrilled to learn she used a refrigerated pie crust for the recipe instead of making one from scratch. I do not make my own pie crusts!

The recipe is very simple to make. The only time-consuming part is cooking the chicken and making the broth, which you could do the day before. And you could certainly use canned chicken or rotisserie chicken and canned broth to make it even easier.

I made my pot pie in a large casserole dish. The round pie crust didn’t fit, of course, so I just trimmed off the edges that were too long and used those pieces to make a full crust for the top and bottom.

I’ve made this pie twice already and know I’ll be making it again soon. I’m sure it would be delicious with turkey leftovers next week!

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Chicken Pot Pie

5 cups chicken broth

1 cup diced carrots

2 cups diced potatoes

1⁄2 cup Le Sueur sweet peas, drained

1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of mushroom soup (I use reduced fat and reduced sodium)

Pepper to taste

2 cups diced chicken

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 refrigerated pie crusts

Pour broth (either homemade or canned) into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add carrots and potatoes and cook until tender. Add in peas and can of soup.

In a bowl, mix about 1⁄4 cup broth with the cornstarch and add back into the pot to thicken. Stir in chicken, and add pepper to taste.

Place pie crust into bottom of large rectangular glass baking dish. Cut sides to fit and use what you have cut to cover bottom of dish. Use your fingers to pinch the dough together.

Pour in filling. The dish will be very full. Add top crust and repeat as with bottom crust to fit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until browned on top and bubbly.

Jean Lemmons

sugar coated peanuts

Easy way to enjoy peanuts
Sertoma Club fundraiser helps deaf and hard of hearing

My family definitely loves peanuts. We eat them boiled, roasted, straight from the can and in desserts.

So when Bruce Tingle with the Wilson Sertoma Club asked me if I wanted a bag of peanuts for a food column recipe, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

The Sertoma Club is in the middle of its annual peanut sale. They use proceeds to help improve the lives of the deaf and hard of hearing in Wilson County.

They are selling raw, blanched, honey roasted and chocolate covered, with prices starting at $6.50 a bag.

Bruce gave me a bag of 16-ounce bag of raw peanuts, prepared by Williamson Peanuts of Sims, along with some brochures and recipes. The peanuts are the Virginia-type grown in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

After reading through the recipes, I immediately knew which recipe I’d make from Virginia-Carolina Peanut Promotions. I choose the recipe for sugar-coated peanuts. I’m always drawn to sugar-coated peanuts at parties. I love the pale pink color of the sugar coating, and I love the sweet taste it brings to the peanut. But I’ve never known how they are made!

I read the recipe and was a little surprised with the process, but I followed it with very good results.

The peanuts are simmered in sugar water until all of the syrup has been absorbed. It took 30 minutes and plenty of stirring for the syrup to disappear when I made the recipe. Then the peanuts are transferred to a baking sheet and cooked for another 30 minutes until the sugar coating has hardened.

The recipe takes about an hour, and it’s time well-spent!

My peanuts were delicious, just like the ones I’ve had so often at parties. I will most certainly make them again now that I know how.

If you’d like to purchase peanuts, contact a Sertoma Club member or Bruce directly at 230-2883 orbbtwilson@yahoo.com.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Sugar Coated Peanuts

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

2 cups raw shelled peanuts, skins on

Dissolve sugar in water in saucepan over medium heat. Add peanuts and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until peanuts are completely sugared (coated and no syrup remaining).*

Bake at 300 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, stirring at 10-minute intervals.

Virginia-Carolina Peanut Promotions

*This step took around 30 minutes for me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy apple side dish

I’ve been finding all kinds of excuses to make baked apples the last few weeks.
I can’t help myself. I’m drawn to the displays of fresh apples in the grocery store and love to try different varieties. For baked apples, I usually buy Rome, but this year I’ve chosen smaller McIntosh apples that cook quickly and have a great flavor.
For years, I’ve been content cooking my apples the same way. They aren’t baked, actually, but rather cooked in the microwave.
I use my apple corer to scoop out the hard center of the whole apple, then fill it with a little butter and plenty of brown sugar and cinnamon.
But Monday night, I tried something different. 
I cut my apples in half and used a spoon to scoop out the seeds and hard core. I also removed the stem. Then I placed the apple halves in a microwave safe pie plate, cut side up. Into each scooped out center, I put a dab of butter (maybe a 1/2 teaspoon) and a small spoonful of brown sugar. I added a few dried cranberries and pecans to the top of the apple and then sprinkled cinnamon over the surface.
I cooked them in the microwave for 3 minutes, took them out and checked them. They were not as soft as I like, so they went back in for another minute. When I removed them this time, they were just right. With a spoon, I scooped some of the sweet syrup from the bottom of the pie plate and drizzled it over the surface of the apple halves before serving them.
We’ve always loved my simple, unadorned baked apples, but let me tell you, we loved them dressed up as well! The flavor was wonderful, and we loved the different textures from the cranberries and nuts. And, as always, the peel was  soft and delicious and coated with syrup, so please don’t leave it on your plate!
I’ve been thinking of other options for the apples including raisins, walnuts, even apple pie spice. I’ve also seen recipes that use granola on top. I will try that too.
These quick and easy apple halves will be on my menu again tonight alongside pork cutlets, field peas and macaroni and cheese.
This time, I’ve promised my husband we will each get two halves! One half was not enough Monday night.
lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Microwave ‘Baked’ Apples

Baking apples (I use Rome and McIntosh)
Brown sugar
Ground cinnamon or another spice or spice blend (such as apple pie spice)
Dried cranberries or raisins
Pecans or walnuts
Wash apples. Remove stems and slice in half from top to bottom. With a small spoon, scoop out seeds and hard core. Place apples, cut side up, into microwave safe dish with sides. I used a pie plate.
Into each indention, place a little butter (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) and some brown sugar. Place nuts and cranberries or raisins on top and sprinkle surface of apple with ground cinnamon or other spices. Add about a tablespoon of water to bottom of pie plate.
Cook in microwave for 3 minutes. Remove and check apples to see if the are as soft as you like. The four rather small apples I cooked required a total of 4 minutes. When cooking is complete, baste apples with syrup that has formed in bottom of pie plate.

Season for sweet potatoes

We eat sweet potatoes at my house all year long, but there’s something about the fall that makes us crave them even more.
In recent weeks we’ve had sweet potato fries, sweet potato casserole with a yummy topping and sweet potato biscuits.
Maybe it’s the power of suggestion that has made me want them more. In my travels around the county, I’ve seen many trucks packed high with sweet potatoes this fall.
More sweet potatoes are produced in North Carolina than in any other state; Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties lead the state in production.
If you’re not already incorporating sweet potatoes into your meals, you should start. I even add them to my vegetable soup as well as beef roast.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber as well as vitamins A, C and E. They are also rich in beta-carotene.
Have you ever ordered a baked sweet potato at a steak restaurant? They’re usually served with butter and cinnamon sugar. You can make those at home so simply. Either bake the potato in the oven, just as you would for a russet potato, or buy the pre-wrapped potatoes and cook them in the microwave.
Twice this past week, I cooked my sweet potatoes in the slow cooker. I washed them, leaving them slightly wet, and put them in the crock. The first time I cooked them on low for about 4 hours. The next time, I cooked them on high in less than 2 hours. (Just check the progress after an hour and judge the time needed; cooking time varies with the size of the potato and how many your are cooking.) The orange flesh from the potato was perfectly cooked in the slow cooker and ready for my recipes. The potatoes would have been equally good with a pat of butter or just plain, as we used to eat them when I was growing up.
Although I have my own favorite sweet potato recipes, I wanted to ask the sweet potato “experts” for some new recipes.
My sweet potato-farming friends Alice Scott with Scott Farms and Charlotte Vick with Vick Family Farms sent in several favorite sweet potato recipes, some they make and others given to them by friends.
At lunchtime Tuesday, I made Alice’s quick potato wedges. I didn’t place the potato pieces in a bag; instead, I put the potatoes in a baking pan, drizzled olive oil on top and tossed them with my hands to cover. The recipe was so quick, and the potatoes were delicious. I topped half of them with cinnamon sugar and the other half with salt. I liked them both ways!
I’m also including a sweet potato biscuit recipe I featured in my column several years ago. I made the biscuits Saturday night. I slice the leftovers and toast them. They are almost better as leftovers!
lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Sweet Potato Au Gratin

7 medium sweet potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pot in water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain, cool, peel and dice into 1-inch pieces. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray. Place the sweet potatoes in the dish and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Mix the cream and cornstarch together and pour over the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake for 15 minutes. Brown under the broiler for about 3 minutes.
Charlotte Vick

Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Pecans

2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup pecans
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss and coat sweet potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme. Place in oven on shallow-rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast pecans in dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside.
Before serving, toss with blue cheese crumbles and top with pecans. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Charlotte Vick

Baked Sweet Potato Wedges

3 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Peel the raw sweet potato and cut into wedges. Pour cooking oil into a zippered storage bag and add wedges. Shake until wedges are coated with oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After removing from the oven, sprinkle with sugar, salt, cinnamon or other spices.
Alice Scott

Sweet Potato Souffle

3 cups cooked sweet potatoes
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 stick margarine or butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring
2 eggs
Dash of salt
1/2 stick margarine or butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Rice Krispies
1⁄2 to 1 cup chopped nuts
Combine potatoes, brown sugar, milk, 1/2 stick butter, flavoring, eggs and salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
For the topping, combine melted butter, brown sugar, cereal and nuts. Add as a topping and bake for an addition 10 to 15 minutes.
Jennel Joyner

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Sift together flour and nutmeg. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Mix sweet potato, sugar and buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients until flour is moistened. This will make a sticky dough.
Turn out on a floured board and knead about 30 seconds.
Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased baking sheet in hot oven, 450 degrees, about 13 minutes.
Makes 12 biscuits.
Alice C. Beddingfield
Home Demonstration Club cookbook

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quick and Easy Recipes

New cookbook offers recipes for Southern tastes

Quick meals. Gotta love them!

Southern Living has a new compilation of comfort food dishes that can be made in 20 minutes. I’ve already prepared two very good recipes from “Super Fast Southern.”

Inside the book you’ll find the expected categories and recipes that can be made without much fuss or time. For instance, sweet potato soup starts with a can of yams. Shepherd’s pie is made in a skillet with packaged and refrigerated mashed potatoes, and easy Texas chili simmers for just 15 minutes.

The first recipe I tried was an adaptation of Waldorf spinach salad. The ingredients are simple enough and include an apple, celery, cheese and honey cashews. The simple dressing is mixed up in a matter of minutes. I’ve made this recipe twice now: once for a church dinner and once for my husband and me. I did choose Romaine over spinach as a personal preference and used dried cranberries instead of golden raisins, but I’m sure it would be delicious either way.

I also made the super-easy Tetrazzini as well, and I really loved it!

While the pasta cooked, I put together the rest of the non-bake recipe, which was really ready to eat in under 20 minutes. I have another favorite Tetrazzini recipe that I enjoy making as well, but it requires much more time to prepare and is not ideal for an easy, weeknight meal.

The new recipe is creamy, but not overly rich. It is also a good way to use either deli or leftover turkey or chicken (I used chicken). I enjoyed it for dinner the night I made it and as leftovers at lunch the next day.

I plan to pull out the cookbook again soon to prepare Gouda chicken sandwiches.

The cookbook’s list price is $19.95, but it’s less on online sites. I think it’s a good price for a book that’s packed with recipes that will help you bring homecooked food to your table in a reasonable amount of time.

NOTE: A few weeks back, I ran a recipe for salsa in this column. The tomato sauce was omitted from the recipe. I use an 8 oz. can. I’m sorry for any inconvenience. The corrected recipe is at lisabatts.blogspot.com

Waldorf Spinach Salad 

1⁄4 cup honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 garlic clove, pressed

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1 (9-oz.) package fresh spinach, torn*

2 large Gala apples, thinly sliced

4 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, shaved

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup honey-roasted cashews

1⁄2 cup golden raisins 

Whisk together first 7 ingredients in a large serving bowl until well blended. Add spinach and remaining ingredients, tossing gently to coat. Serve immediately.

“Superfast Southern”

* I used Romaine lettuce instead of spinach and dried cranberries instead of raisins.

Turkey Tetrazzini 

11⁄2 cups diced deli turkey breast (about 1⁄2 pound)*

1⁄2 cup onion

Cooking spray

1⁄4 cup milk

1 (103⁄4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup (I use Healthy Request low-sodium, low-fat)

3⁄4 cup (3 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

4 ounces spaghetti, cooked

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1⁄8 teaspoon pepper

1 (2-oz) jar diced pimiento, drained (I used chopped red bell pepper) 

Sauté turkey and onion in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until onion is tender. (I added red bell pepper as well.)

Stir in milk, soup and cheese; reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, 4 minutes or until cheese melts and mixture is smooth. Stir in spaghetti and remaining ingredients; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Diced ham can also be substituted for the turkey.

“Superfast Southern”

* I used leftover chicken instead of deli turkey.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Easy lunchtime pasta

Wednesday, October 01, 2014 8:19 AMEASY LUNCHTIME PASTA
Recreating a favorite restaurant dish

Anna and I went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch several weeks back. It was a very hot day, and we both wanted their very cold salad!

Specifically, Anna wanted the creamy pasta salad with ham and green peas.

We enjoyed our lunch, and several times since then Anna has mentioned that salad and how we should try to make it.

I finally got around to it Sunday afternoon.

I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find a copycat recipe for that salad, and I was right. There are many versions online and most have the same ingredients: rotini pasta, an equal amount of mayonnaise and ranch dressing, diced ham, green peas and seasoned salt. Some recipes also include sour cream and cheddar cheese.

I chose the basic recipe and used low-fat mayonnaise and green peppers. I also bought some seasoned salt. It’s not something I keep in my cabinet, but I decided to buy it for this salad.

This is certainly an easy salad to make. No complicated ingredients, no fancy instructions. Just boil the pasta, cut the ham and peppers and mix it together.

I do think it’s important to make the salad at least several hours in advance of your meal time because it is better cold.

This salad is very good. I especially love the crunch of the green peppers and the flavor of the creamy dressing. My husband and I enjoyed it for lunch yesterday, so did Anna, who prefers her pasta without the ham. Reggie and I like the ham and ate her share as well!

Next time I make it, I will increase the peas (at Anna’s request) from 1 cup to probably 11/2 cups.

Pasta Salad with Ham and Green Peas

1 lb. box rotini pasta, cooked and drained

3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3/4 cup ranch dressing (reduced fat is fine)

1 1/2 cups green peas, thawed (not cooked)

1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 to 1 1/2 cup chopped ham

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Cook pasta and drain.

In a large mixing bowl combine mayonnaise and dressing. With a spoon, mix in remaining ingredients and stir in pasta.

Chill before serving.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Love this mild salsa

Easy recipe, delicious results.


I’ve never liked salsa. Not at all. In fact, when my husband puts salsa on his eggs, I usually go to the other room! 

My daughter enjoys salsa, just like her dad. She had enjoyed a homemade recipe at her boyfriend’s house, and over the last few months has been making her own as well. Anna experimented several times until she came up with a recipe she really likes. And, here’s the kicker, I like it too! 

Anna’s salsa is a combination of canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, an assortment of bell peppers and sweet onion. The only other ingredients are vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. This is a mild salsa and doesn’t contain garlic, chilies or cilantro. I think those ingredients are the ones that most offend me in commercial salsas. 

When Anna makes her salsa, the house smells wonderful as the ingredients simmer for at least 45 minutes. 

There’s nothing complicated about this recipe. If you have a food processor or food chopper, it’s very simple to make. We have a small chopper, and it works just right for this recipe. 

On Sunday, while she worked on a sewing project, her dad and I made the salsa. It only takes a few minutes to put together, and we did it with no problem. 

Once the ingredients had simmered for 20 minutes or so, we spooned a little salsa in a small bowl to cool. Then we tasted it so we could adjust the seasonings. We ended up adding a little more vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Each batch you make will be a little different because the peppers will be a different size and have a different flavor each time. That’s our experience, at least. 

We love keeping bowls of salsa in our refrigerator and eat it with tortilla chips for snack, or even a light lunch. 

My next goal is to incorporate the salsa in to some recipes. I have to be fast, though, before it’s all eaten! 

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar 
8 oz. tomato sauce
Pour tomatoes into large pot and start cooking on low heat. 

Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and let cook, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes until thickened and 
cooked through. 
After the peppers and onions start to soften, taste a cooled sample of salsa and adjust seasonings accordingly. 
Anna Batts 
 | 265-7810