Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gotta make some snow cream!

When I was growing up, I thought evaporated milk was good for one thing — making snow cream!
The familiar red and white Carnation can was always at arm’s length in the pantry at my parents’ house. Daddy kept several on hand so he would be prepared if we had enough snow to make snow cream.
Anytime a small snow was in the forecast, he’d spread a bed sheet in the front yard to make a barrier between the grassy surface and falling snow. He wanted clean snow, after all, for his snow cream. If a big snow was forecast, it was fine to get the snow from the top layer on the ground, the cars or the picnic table out back.
He’d go out as soon as there was enough to gather and fill large kitchen bowls with soft snow. Snow with ice crystals was frowned upon, but if it’s all we had, we made it anyway!
Some of the snow would remain in bowls on the front porch for later batches. The rest would be brought into the kitchen.
My daddy’s background was in dairy manufacturing, so he took anything that involved dairy products very seriously. When he made homemade ice cream, he would get out a commercial glass thermometer and check the temperature of the icy water inside the ice cream freezer. He would add cold water or salt to regulate the temperature he wanted.
He took his job of making snow cream seriously as well.
With Mama at his side helping, Daddy added evaporated milk, whole milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and stirred it until it was combined. Then he would start adding the snow, being careful to remove any grass or debris that might have made its way into the bowl of snow. It takes a lot of snow to make snow cream, and he’d keep mixing it into the milk mixture until he had it to the right consistency. He made the snow cream the consistency of soft-serve ice cream — not too thick and not to runny. All along, he and Mama and would taste it to make sure it was the right sweetness or texture. If not, they’d add what was needed to make it perfect.
We couldn’t wait to eat Daddy’s snow cream. The rich taste of the sweetened milk and vanilla is etched in my memory. We usually scooped snow cream into foam cups so it would stay frozen longer while we ate it, and, yes, Mama and Daddy kept foam cups in the pantry as well, just for snow cream.
What we didn’t eat went into more of those foam cups. Mama topped them with a piece of plastic held down with a rubber band. Then into the freezer they went. Sometimes they stayed in the freezer for just a few days. Other times, Mama would pull them out on a hot summer day and let them thaw a bit on the counter. Once the snow cream was softened enough, we would take it outside to the front porch and eat it, talking about the fun we had in the snow several months before.
Snow cream is not a lost art at my own house. Daddy wrote down his recipe, and that’s what we use every time it snows. My children love it the same way my sister, Susan, and I did as young girls.
Last Wednesday morning, I was heading out to work a little after 7:30. There was such a pretty coating of snow everywhere. I hadn’t planned on making snow cream for breakfast until my daughter, Anna, walked onto the front porch.
“Can we make snow cream?” she asked.
She didn’t have to ask twice.
lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Snow Cream
2 (12 oz.) cans evaporated milk
3⁄4 to 1 cup milk (I use skim; Daddy would have used whole)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix milks in a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and stir. Stir in snow to desired consistency.
L.H. Boykin Jr.
Note: I asked my friends for some variations to this recipe. Quite a few use condensed milk instead of evaporated and don’t have to add sugar. You might need to add water with condensed milk. Former co-worker Heather Wilkerson wrote, “I just use snow, whole milk, vanilla and Splenda. No measuring — just “eyeball it” as my grandma taught me!” Sandi Ingram wrote this: “One of my bosses didn’t have any of the above ingredients last time it snowed and just used her french vanilla coffee creamer and said it was delish!”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tasty side dish easy to prepare

My daughter, Anna, has a new love for zucchini. Over the last few years, we have tried zucchini in several forms. We’ve used them in casseroles and on the grill and ordered zucchini in restaurants. Her favorite way might be hibachi-style, with soy sauce and sesame seeds.
On her Pinterest page, she has pinned a number of recipes featuring zucchini, but one in particular caught my eye when we were looking at her page last week.
It’s a simple side dish of rice cooked in chicken broth with cheese and grated zucchini mixed in. 
This recipe pops up across the Internet, and there are a few variations. 
I only made a few changes to the recipe I chose, including cutting the butter and leaving out garlic powder. I’ve never been a fan of garlic powder!
I made this dish Monday night and served it with a chicken I roasted. It’s a very simple recipe and only takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
I had told my husband about the recipe the evening before, when I was picking out zucchini at the grocery store. He was skeptical. But it was Reggie who went back for seconds last night; he also claimed the leftovers for his lunch today!
There are so many ways to personalize this recipe. You could use vegetable broth, a different cheese, broccoli or spices to individualize it.
This recipe will stay on mind, and I feel sure I will be making it again soon.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 can (14.5 oz.) reduced-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1⁄2 tablespoon butter
1 medium zucchini, grated (can use food processor or cheese grater)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste (I added neither)
Heat the olive oil in sauce pan; add rice and toast, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Cook until rice starts to brown. Slowly add chicken broth (it will sizzle). Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover pan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed; add water if necessary.
Remove pan from heat and add butter, zucchini and cheese. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a little milk for more moisture, if desired.
Adapted from bunsinmyovencom

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Slimming it down the Southern way

For more than a week now, I’ve been wanting to make carrot cake muffins from “The Slim Down South Cookbook” from Southern Living.
I loved the idea of making the breakfast treat, packed with grated carrots and crushed pineapple. The day before I had made cinnamon swirl cake from this book, and it was very good, but I really wanted to make these muffins before writing my food column. So I did.
Not only are these tasty muffins a beautiful shade of brown, speckled with pineapple and carrot, but they are very good! Don’t make them thinking you will be sampling a slice of carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. This is something different. This is a lightly sweet cousin of that decadent dessert, and I enjoyed it Tuesday morning as my morning snack. So did co-workers I shared them with; several immediately asked how I made them.
Author Carolyn O’Neil has packed her cookbook with recipes that have roots in our Southern favorites. Her purpose is to show readers that favorite Southern foods can fit in a healthy, modern lifestyle.
“The stay-slim philosophy of ‘The Slim Down Cookbook’ starts with wholesome ingredients you should be eating more of, not avoiding. Fresh peaches, pecans, okra, greens and sweet potatoes fill Southern pantries with good health and great taste,” she writes.
O’Neil, a dietitian and food writer, offers plenty of advice along with her recipes.
She suggests teaming a healthy diet with physical activity and a few treats thrown in for good measure.
“The Slim Down South Cookbook” is divided by categories with an introduction at each chapter on ways to eat better. In the dessert chapter, O’Neil discusses the advantages of choosing desserts with fruit, serving smaller portions and making smart substitutions such as low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk.
In addition to the two recipes I’ve already tried from this book, I have marked a number of others, including chopped chicken sandwiches that are topped with crunchy pecan slaw. I really want to make this slaw that features Napa cabbage and apples with a sweet and spicy dressing. I’d also like to try her apple-a-day pork chops and the honey pecan chicken thighs in the entertainment chapter.
O’Neil’s book is more than a cookbook, really. It’s a guide to healthy eating and is enjoyable to read.
Throughout the book, O’Neil includes comments from food writers and others, who tell their stay slim secrets. Evelyn Crayton, a nutrition professor, says she makes it a rule to never fry food at home. Instead, when the craving hits, she goes to a restaurant.
As you start the new year and are trying to stick to resolutions to eat better, this book could be a good guide for some new recipes and inspiration.
“Slim Down South” by Oxmoor House has a $24.95 sticker price but is offered for less online.

Carrot Cake Muffins
  • 13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
  • 11⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans crushed pineapple in juice, drained*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • Paper baking cups
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
Whisk together oil and next 3 ingredients; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Fold in carrots. Place paper baking cups in 18 muffin cups and coat with baking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“The Slim Down South Cookbook”
*Notes: I had a 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple in its own juice. I took out a little of the pineapple for 16 ounces, but next time I will use it all. I “grated” my carrots in my small food processor; the author mentions you can buy carrots already grated to make the recipe even easier. I failed to spray my cupcake liners, and the muffins did stick. 

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Favorite recipes from 2013

I’m always a little surprised when I read back over a year’s worth of food columns. 
There are always recipes I have forgotten, such as a white pizza that my husband and I loved so much this past spring and Resurrection, or empty tomb, rolls that I wrote about at Easter. So many of you told me how much you enjoyed the very simple Resurrection rolls, that symbolize the empty tomb of Christ. Some said they made the rolls as a project with church youth groups.
Those two recipes are among my favorites of 2013, but there are a few more I want to remind you about as well.
Remember the baked mozzarella sticks from January? There are so easy to make. Just roll egg roll wrappers around a mozzarella cheese stick and bake. 
The sweet and sour meatballs that cook in the slow cooker were easy as well.
I have made the simple strawberry cake from May several times at my family’s request. That cake was also a reader favorite, so was the revival of Alma Barnes’ banana cake recipe and taco soup. I lost count of how many people stopped me at the grocery store or emailed me to say they had made that cake and easy soup!
I have made overnight oatmeal from Jamie Deen’s new cookbook many times since I did that food column in September. It’s a favorite of mine. I prepared it Monday night so I could have hot oatmeal on a very cold Tuesday morning.
The brisket recipe from my brother-in-law’s mother from this year has also become a favorite at my house. I’m no longer intimidated by that recipe.
And I was delighted with the response to my recipe for cheese biscuits. Mama would be so pleased to know that so many of you have tried her recipe, which has been a favorite of mine since childhood.  
So here are a few of my favorite recipes from 2013. I need to get busy cooking so I can fill my Wednesday pages in 2014 with yummy recipes as well!
lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Elaine’s Brisket 
Beef brisket (3 to 5 pounds)
3 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt or about half that amount of table salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
Pepper to taste
2 cups beef broth
3 carrots, sliced into large pieces
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
In a large pot, cook the onions in oil until soft, adding garlic towards the end. 
Trim fat from brisket. Cut into two pieces if too large to braise. Rub the meat with the combined salt, pepper and paprika and brown on all sides in a frying pan. Put meat into pot with onions and garlic. Add broth and carrots. Simmer, covered, over low flame for 2 hours or until meat is tender, turning meat once during cooking.
Remove the meat and allow to get cool enough to handle. Slice on the bias, or across the grain, trimming remaining fat.
Arrange meat in a baking dish (the deeper the better).
Before making the gravy, take out some of the carrots to serve with the beef. Blend together the gravy, onions and remaining carrots with the tomato sauce. (Immersion blender works well for this.)
Cover meat and carrots with the gravy, making sure all of the meat is covered.
Preferably, refrigerate overnight before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
If desired, parboil cut potatoes for 15 minutes and add to the meat and carrots for the final baking.
Elaine Hoffman
Notes: My brisket was a little larger than 5 pounds, and I did not alter the other ingredients. I cut some of the fat off before browning, but not very much because it’s very thick. I trimmed what was left as I sliced the beef. I used 2 to 3 cups of baby carrots and low-sodium beef broth. I have made the recipe several times. The first times I refrigerated several hours before baking; the last time I refrigerated overnight. I had excellent results both ways.

Night Before Steel-Cut Oatmeal
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups steel-cut oats
7 cups water
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt*
1 cup whole milk*
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the oats and toast them, while stirring, until they smell nice and nutty, about 3 minutes. Stir in 6 cups water and your salt and bring the oats to a boil. Once they’ve reached a boil, turn off the heat, give a final stir, cover with a lid and call it a night.
The next morning at breakfast time, remove the lid, stir in the milk and remaining cup of water and slowly bring the oats back up to a simmer, stirring well. Serve the oatmeal hot with whatever toppings you like. Cool down and wrap up any remaining oats in a covered container and place in your refrigerator. Reheat the oats in a saucepan or microwave (adding in a little milk if you’d like) for breakfast through the week.
“Good Food” 
*Notes: I used 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt and skim milk.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks
1 package Mozzarella string cheese (I will use 2 percent next time)
1 package egg roll wrappers (found in produce section)*
Olive oil
Marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place one egg roll wrapper on cookie sheet (line with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy cleanup). Position the wrapper so it looks like a diamond or kite. Brush a little water over wrapper.
Place cheese at the bottom point and roll to the halfway mark. Fold in corners and continue rolling. Brush olive oil over the wrapped cheese.
Repeat with remaining wrappers and cheese.
Bake at 400 for 10 minutes; turn after 5 minutes to brown on both sides.
Serve with marinara sauce.
*You can also use wonton wrappers, cutting cheese to fit.

Empty Tomb Rolls
Marshmallows (not miniature)
2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
2-3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (I didn’t measure)
1 tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
Set out two small bowls. Place melted butter in one and cinnamon sugar in the other.
Dip a marshmallow in the melted butter then roll in cinnamon sugar to coat. Unroll a crescent roll. Place marshmallow on roll and bring up sides to cover. Pinch seams to seal, making sure no marshmallow is showing. Lightly pat the roll in your hands to form a ball and place in muffin cup of a muffin tin. Repeat with remaining rolls. I added a little cinnamon sugar on top of the rolls.
Bake according to instructions on crescent roll package.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Meatballs
24 to 28 ounces of frozen meatballs (I use turkey meatballs)
1⁄3 cup vinegar
1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup brown sugar (I used 1⁄2 cup but will add a little more next time)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce (or to taste)
1 16 oz. can pineapple chunks in natural syrup, undrained
1 large or 2 medium green peppers, cut in bite-size chunks
Pour meatballs into slow cooker (I use a liner.) No need to defrost.
In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch and soy sauce until smooth. Add in pineapple juice drained from can of pineapple (reserving the pineapple) and whisk until incorporated.
Add green pepper and pineapple chunks to slow cooker, then pour pineapple juice mixture over top.
Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.

Anna Banana  Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box banana cream instant pudding mix
2 mashed (very ripe) bananas
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄3 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour tube or Bundt cake pan. (I used Baker’s Joy spray instead.)
Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Beat 4 minutes on medium mixer speed.
Pour into prepared pan. Smooth in pan with spatula. Bake 50 minutes to one hour.*
Cool 15 minutes on cake rack before removing from pan.
Alma Barnes
*The late Alma Barnes called this cake Easy Banana Cake, but we renamed it Anna Banana Cake. My cake, cooked in a dark Bundt pan, was ready in about 50 minutes.

Mama’s cheese biscuits
2 cups self-rising flour
1⁄3 cup shortening
3⁄4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Cheddar cheese cut in chunks about the size of a peach seed or a little bigger
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine flour and shortening with pastry blender or by other means. (I use the same chopper that I use for green beans.) Add buttermilk, starting with 3⁄4 cup; mix with spoon or hands until dough forms in a ball. Knead a few times until smooth, adding buttermilk or flour if needed. Don’t overwork dough.
Scoop up dough about the size of a small peach. Flatten a little bit in your hand and place a chunk of cheese in the middle. Bring dough up over cheese to cover. Roll dough into a smooth ball. (Again, don’t overwork.) Flatten a little bit on one end and place on cookie sheet prepared with baking spray. Repeat with remaining dough.
Place pan in oven on one of the higher racks. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until browned. I usually turn on the broiler for about 30 seconds at the end of baking time for biscuits to brown, but watch carefully if you do this.
Makes 5 to 6 biscuits.

Simple Strawberry Cake
1 box yellow cake mix (and additional ingredients as required by directions)
1 quart strawberries, sliced
3⁄4 cup of sugar*
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 medium-size tub whipped topping
Cook cake in rectangular pan as directed on box.
When cake is done and cooled slightly, punch holes in it with a fork.
Combine strawberries and sugar and let sit until juice is formed. Pour the strawberry mixture over cake.
Mix cream cheese frosting and whipped topping. Spread on top of strawberries and cooled cake.
Rudd Strawberry Farm
* I only used about 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup sugar. My berries were at room temperature (picked about 30 minutes earlier) and made plenty of juice with that amount of sugar.

Taco Soup
1.3 pounds ground turkey (this is the weight on the brand I purchase; could vary either way)
1 small to medium onion, chopped
1 envelope taco seasoning (I use reduced sodium)
2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used Rotel mild)
1 14- to 15-ounce can corn (undrained)
Grated cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips
In large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown turkey with onion. About halfway through cook time, add in taco seasoning. Cook until turkey is cooked through.
Add in other ingredients and simmer for about an hour. If you want your soup thicker, cook longer or add in tomato sauce.
To serve, provide sour cream, grated cheese and tortilla chips for garnish.

White Pizza
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 (1-pound) Italian cheese-flavored pizza crust (such as Boboli)
1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced shallots*
1⁄2 cup finely chopped spinach
1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup thinly sliced plum tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread cheese mixture over pizza crust, leaving a 1⁄2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with basil and next 6 ingredients (basil through garlic powder). Arrange plum tomato slices in a single layer on top. Place pizza on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes.
“My Recipes: America’s Favorite Food”
Originally from Cooking Light
*When I made the pizza, I omitted shallots, spinach, red pepper and garlic powder because I didn’t have them on hand and didn’t want to purchase anything else. I also used freshly grated parmesan cheese, which I already had. Next time, I will cut back on the black pepper.