Simple Pot Roast

I am a "pot roast queen." I make a meeeean pot roast. When I had two growing, hungry boys it was a "once a week" staple. Brian loves it and it is his special birthday dinner every year.

I found a new pot roast recipe recently and decided to give it a try. I have NO idea where I got it...probably off Facebook. I saw it and printed it. Typical.

I really should pay more attention so I can give proper credit!

Getting me to deviate from a "tried and true" dish is a real challenge...but I have forced myself to experiment a little just to get out of my 30 year rut...lol!

This recipe was worth it. SOOOOO simple! The recipe said to cook it in the crock pot for 8 hours on low, but it was more than done after 6 hours! 

Put one 1 Pot Roast in the crock pot...seriously, the cheapest pot roast you can find will work! (Who doesn't love a good recipe for inexpensive cuts of meat these days!)

Sprinkle a package of Hidden Valley ranch dressing and McCormick Au Jus mix on top.

Put a stick of butter on top.

Put about 5 pepperoncini peppers on top (I didn't have any...it was still good!)

Do NOT add water!

Cook on low for 8 hours (again, it was more than done after 6)

I made gravy with the juices. Put it over wild rice.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!! 

You could serve with noodles, rice or potatoes. Throw in a salad or veggie.

SOOOOO simple.

Just my kind of meal! 

 

The PERFECT steak!

Are you looking for the PERFECT steak? I found it...and I thought I had posted this recipe a long time ago but I guess I just "pinned" it! (Thank goodness for Pinterest...again! This was my 1st pin!)

I always grilled our steaks and I would have sworn up and down it was the BEST way to cook a perfect steak. 

I was wrong. (Not the first time!)

The "Pin" led me to this site. Amuse Bouche. Just in case this site disappears, here is a recap!

(I only use garlic, lemon, salt and pepper in my compound butter...I just zap the butter for about 30 seconds, mix in my seasoning and then stick it in the fridge to harden up a bit. As always, I tried the recipe and then tweeked it to my taste! I have used this method on ribeye steaks and it is just as good...just don't cook the steaks as long in the oven if they are thinner than filets! Also, I always let my steaks get to room temperature before cooking.)

Restaurant Style Filet Mignon

By Whitney

Ingredients:

Instructions:

DISCLAIMER: The reason this dish is so amazing is due mostly in part to having the very best, most fresh ingredients possible.  That means high grade salt, it means pepper ground right in front of you by a pepper mill.  It means fresh herbs and it means REAL BUTTER.  The good news is that these are all things you should already have in your house. Take 1/2 stick of butter, softened, and mix well with the peeled, chopped garlic, the chopped herbs, and the lemon zest.  Form into a log and refrigerate.  Generously season the filet's with salt and pepper, approximately 1 teaspoon of seasoning per side. Heat the remainder of the butter (1/2 stick) and the olive oil in a cast iron skillet to a screaming hot temperature.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.   Sear the filets in a screaming hot pan for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until a nice brown crust has formed. While the steak is searing, continue to spoon the residual butter in the pan on top of the meat while it's cooking.  Once both sides are seared, place in the center of the oven for about 6-8 minutes, depending upon how thick your steak is.  In the last minute of cooking, take the log of compound butter and slice a nice thick piece to place on top. Your steak will be ready when it is approximately 135 degrees in the center, or when you push lightly on the top center of the steak and it gently and slowly bounces back.  (Note, this is medium rare kids. Some people don't like to eat cows while they are mooing, so clearly you can cook longer if your afraid of the pink.)

There you have it...the PERFECT steak!

I'm sure the men in your life are growling at you and telling you how WRONG I am. 

Trust me...they know not of what they speak!

BTW, if you don't have an iron skillet, you can pick up wonderfully seasoned iron skillets at just about any flea market and Amazon carries "pre-seasoned" skillets! Definitely worth the money if you don't have one!

 

Squash Soup!

This recipe features a butternut squash base...perfect time of the year for it!

Truthfully, I've never been a "squash soup" kind of person...but this recipe convinced me that I was seriously missing out on some great flavors! And if you are a vegetarian, you can eliminate the meat and just toss in a few of your favorite veggies or beans!

It is GREAT for game day or family gatherings!

I have simplified the recipe as much as possible, but it still takes a little more time than my usual "dump and ignore" soup recipes.  

I precook everything, store it in the fridge and then mix it all in the crock pot about 4 hours before meal time. You can also prep everything and then immediately simmer it on the stove top for 20 minutes. Your preference!

As usual, I have changed things up a tad. Feel free to do the same!

The ingredients are highlighted....

Bake a butternut squash (3-4 pound) in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. Poke holes in it and put it on a baking pan covered in aluminum foil. (I cover my pans in aluminum foil for everything...just makes cleanup that much easier!)

While the squash is baking:

     Place one box of wild rice (I use Uncle Ben's and the seasoning) in 4 cups of chicken broth (1 box) Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes. When the rice is done, put it in a storage container and put it in the fridge.

    Saute onions (as much as you like) and fresh garlic (to taste) in about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When that is tender, add one kielbasa sausage (diced up) and 1 package of frozen corn. Saute for a few minutes. Put it all in a storage container and refrigerate.

When the squash is done, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds and goo. Scoop out the squash and place it in a blender...add one box of chicken broth (or 4 small cans) Puree until blended well. (If your blender isn't big enough, just puree the squash with a little bit of broth and then add the rest of the broth to the soup before cooking!)

If some of the squash is still a little "firm," place it in a microwave, cover and zap it for a few minutes...then add it to the blender as well.

Put the squash/broth mixture in a container and refrigerate.

If you are going to cook it in the crock pot, put the corn/sausage and the squash/broth in the crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours! Season to taste. (Remember, chicken broth can be a little salty so be careful!)

I add a can of black beans as well...just for a little more "substance." 

I add the rice and broth to the crock pot in the last 30-45 minutes just so the rice doesn't get all "mushy" when cooking so long in the crock pot.

If you are going to cook it on the stove top for 20 minutes, add it all together at once.

A few minutes before serving (20 minutes if crock potting) add a carton of half-and-half or 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream!

This recipe is a perfect way to use leftover chicken or turkey rather than the sausage...you can also throw in any veggies you like. In other words, add what you like! The broth/squash base is perfect for just about anything!

Serve with a little plop of sour cream...maybe some cheese...a little parsley...however you like to garnish your soups! 

Hearty, simple meal! 



MY beef bourguignon....just as good and easier!

Here is a LINK to my version of Julia Child's beef bourguignon. Easier to make, but in my opinion just as good!

I have learned over my 30+ years of cooking for a family that it isn't always the funnest thing to do. The planning, shopping, preparing, serving, cleaning...every day, day after day.

But I have also learned that if you HAVE to do something, learn to enjoy it...or at least something about it. I "tolerate" the process, but I love serving my family a meal they really enjoy.

It is kind of like Christmas...years from now they probably won't remember the presents they received, but they will remember the experiences...HOW THEY FELT!

Meals are the same...my kids may remember a few of their favorite recipes, but more than anything I hope they remember the "experience" of sharing a meal together most evenings...the brief moment in our busy lives when we come together as a family and have a real conversation!

Even if all you serve is sandwiches and a few veggies, make the meal an experience! 

Sit down at the table together. No TVs. No phones. No distractions. Those are our rules.

We may not get to do that EVERY night, but we try to do it as often as possible and I have no doubt they WILL remember how they felt to sit with their family and share!!!

CRISP CUCUMBER SALSA....TOO.DIE.FOR!!!

                                                                          Photo  and recipe curtesy of Tasteofhome.com

2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato (I actually used 2 cups...love tomatoes!)

1/4 cup chopped red onion (I grated mine REALLY fine and use a little less!)

2 tbs minced fresh parsley

1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

4 1/2 tsp minced fresh cilantro

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed (I used my "jar" garlic and ran it through the press)

1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp lime juice

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp seasoned salt (I used plain sea salt)

In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. 

You can serve it immediately or chill it a bit!!!

Great with chips, on a salad, in tacos or even fajitas! Awesome stuff!

 

 

Grandmother's Lemon Jello Cake!

My grandmother had 5 children and any woman cooking for 7 people on a military salary learns to cook. (My Granddad was career military!)

She gardened, cooked, refinished furniture and was her kid's mom. Sound familiar?

Handwritten recipe cards are one of the "Things I Love" and I proudly display! I always thought I was special because I had this original handwritten recipe of one of the family favorites. 

Silly me. This is how Grandmother shared her recipes. She hand wrote them on index cards and handed them out. Chances are all my uncles and cousins have many of her handwritten recipes.

Several years ago, I borrowed her recipe boxes and folders from my uncle and scanned every recipe she ever collected. Many went back decades...main dishes, casseroles, canning recipes, cookies, cakes, candies...recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines, many written on index cards by her own hand...hundreds. I have them all scanned and stored in my computer (and on a backup drive!). Someday I hope to put them all together in a book...someday.

For now I will share a cake that she served during EVERY family visit and gathering. This and her applesauce cake! Later I learned she would pre-bake the cakes and freeze them for when company came. Sounds like a great idea but I can honestly say no sweet would last long enough to freeze at my house! 

This is her recipe...word for word.

Lemon Jello Cake

3/4 cup cold water

1 package of Lemon Jello

Beat until Jello is dissolved! 

Add 1 package of any yellow cake mix and 4 eggs. Beat 1 minute.

Add 3/4 cup oil (like Wesson). Beat 1 minute.

Pour into greased and floured pan or line pan bottom with waxed paper.

(TIP: For you youngen's there was a time when we didn't have spray on PAM or Crisco. We had to grease and flour our pans. Since this was how my grandmother did it, it is how I do it! I wipe a thin coat of solid Crisco shortening on the pan with a paper towel and then dust it with flour! Never fails!)

2-9" layer -(or) 1 -9x15" pan -(or) 1 Angel Food pan

Cook 350 degrees  

9" aprox. 30 min

9x15" - 45 min

Tube- 50 min - 1 hour

Prick top lightly with fork-sprinkle juices 2 lemons over top then sprinkle w/ confectioner's sugar.

Me again! TIP: When using fresh lemons for the juice, microwave them for about 15 seconds, then roll them with your palm on the counter, cut in half and squeeze the juices through a small strainer. The strainer will catch all the pulp and seeds. I also use the strainer to dust the top of the cakes with confectioner's (powdered) sugar.

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I sprinkle the lemon juice and dust the confectioners sugar right after the cake comes out of the oven. As it cools, the sugar will kind of "crust."

You can also make a lemon glaze. Two cups of confectioner's sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Mix together then drizzle over the cake while it is still hot! Yummy!!! 

Both my mom and Sarah requested this for their birthday cake. In our family, this is one of those "traditional" desserts because we all remember having it every time we went to Grandmother's.

Super moist, tart and sweet!

Remember, traditions have to start somewhere with someone...start your tradition today!

This is a simple and totally yummy cake! Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

BTW, if you want to "pretty" this cake up, you can always add icing...chocolate or lemon or anything you like.  But trust me, it doesn't need it!

One Christmas, I stacked 2 9" cakes, coated it with a lemon butter cream icing and decorated it with fondant!




Meatloaf..."Ewwww" to "YUM!"

If you are like most, the only memory you have of meatloaf is that hunk of "meat looking" stuff that is slathered in brown gravy. Crackers, mustard, ketchup, ground beef...traditional meatloaf. 

I hated it. My grandmother didn't slather it in brown gravy. She made a slurry out of ketchup and mustard and brushed it on the hunk of meat-stuff while it was cooking. Grandmother was an awesome cook...but the meatloaf thing was nasty.

Believe it or not it doesn't have to be a slab of nasty "meat looking stuff." And it does have it's time and place...we all need a quick and easy ground beef recipe.

So if you are stuck with a couple of pounds of ground beef and don't quite know what to do with it AGAIN, try something new and jazzy!

Make "Italian" and "Mexican" meatloaf.

Crazy? Yes. Yummy. YES!!!!!!

So here is my "recipe." Again, I am a toss of this and handful of that...so just add whatever looks good!

A hunk of ground beef...1-2-3 lbs...depends on how many people you are trying to feed!  

ALL my recipe measurements are estimates.

For ITALIAN, I add the following: (about 1/2 cupish of each ingredient per pound of ground beef)

Parmesian cheese 

Feta cheese 

Finely crushed crackers or croutons (any flavor) OR Italian bread crumbs (major yummy!) 

Italian dressing

One egg (no matter how much you are making)

For MEXICAN meatloaf (again, about 1/2 cup of each per pound of ground beef)

Salsa or Picante Sauce or a can of Rotel

Cheddar or Mexican Mix shredded cheese

Finely crumbled crackers or croutons or even tortilla chips!

And of course, the egg.

Don't ask me why you have to add an egg...I think it binds all the bread-stuff and meat-stuff together!

Only way to mix it is with your hands! Loaf it up and throw it in a pan. Bake for an hour or so on 350 degrees. As you will notice, I always line my pans with aluminum foil...just makes clean up so much easier!


Since I am not big on "meatloaf gravy" I usually serve this with my "go to" potato casserole.

And remember, add what you like. I have been known to throw a few veggies in the Italian loafs...shredded zucchini, spinach, artichokes...another great way to make a "meal in one!"

Enjoy!



WHATEVER soup!

I say "whatever" because honestly, soup and stews are just a way of using "whatever." In other words, throw whatever you have in there and add some other stuff! I have used leftover roast to make beef stew, leftover meatloaf for chili and leftover chicken for whatever my favorite chicken chili or soup is at the time!

Not that I don't love a good soup or stew recipe.  But I always end up tweeking it...and of course there are always leftover meats and veggies you have to do something with! 

The other day my vegetarian daughter was making a vegetable soup and wanted to put some beans in it. Problem was, she started "cooking" dried white beans.

Just so you youngens' will know, you have to soak dried beans over night to soften them BEFORE you cook them all day.  Anyone who tells you otherwise will eat hard beans...not me! (They probably eat their pasta "al dente" too)

AND she opened a can of stewed tomatoes without realizing they were stewed with oregano, garlic and basil.  She wanted plain ole' tomatoes.

So I had white beans and an open can of "italian" stewed tomatoes...what to do, what to do! 

Soup.

I went ahead and cooked the beans in the crock pot and decided to make a "whatever" soup with them! So here is my "whatever" recipe.

The base to any great soup is always veggies...maybe a little garlic and onion.  For this soup, I sauteed onion, garlic, carrots and celery in olive oil. You can add just about any vegetable...potatoes, mushrooms, green beans, squash, spinach, etc. 

Some veggies (carrots and celery being two of them) take longer to "soften."  So I always saute them in olive oil along with the garlic and onions until they are tender before I add the precooked meats and "soft" veggies.

TIP:  Fresh garlic is totally awesome.  If the only seasonings I had to cook with were garlic, salt and pepper, I'd be good! But I don't like having to peel and chop garlic, or onions, every time I want to cook with them. And I HATE dried garlic and onion! So I cheat...I buy the jars of minced garlic in the produce section. Just as good as fresh if you ask me!

I like onion but mostly the flavor in soups, stews, and chili, and just a smidge. So I chop one or two or even three onions at a time, use what I need and stick the rest in a freezer bag and throw it in the freezer! Then when I need onion, I just break off however much I need!  Simple!

After the veggies were soft, I added frozen corn and sliced sausage and sauteed it another few minutes. I just happen to have some polish sausage...you could add chicken, pork or beef...or no meat at all!

I put all this in the crock pot with the beans along with the open can of stewed tomatoes, vegetable stock (I use the box kind) and a little bit of 1/2 and 1/2 to top it all off....season to taste! If you don't have half and half, you could always add some cream cheese...our sour cream.  But I would suggest adding the sour cream in the last 15-30 minutes of cooking time. 

TIP: After sauteing your veggies, you will probably have a bunch of "stuck stuff" on the bottom of your skillet. The best way to get rid of the "stuff" and make the pan easier to clean and pick up a little flavor... add some veggie stock (or chicken broth, whichever you are using) to the skillet and bring it to a rapid boil while scrapping the bottom with a spatula...then just add it to the crock pot. 

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Crock pot on medium all day or on high for 3-4 hours...depending on the time you have!

This is another one of those great "all-in-one" recipes.  Everything you need for a complete meal...maybe a small salad or a little bread.

It is also a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies. Do you have just a tad of veggie or meat leftover...maybe not quite a serving size?  Just throw it in a freezer bag, freeze, and then when you have several baggies of leftovers, throw it all in a pot and make "whatever" soup or stew!  Simple....

Honestly, this soup turned out pretty awesome.  I'm glad I wrote about it...otherwise, I would never be able to duplicate it! 

BTW, if you aren't big fan of beans, rice would be awesome in this soup! 

Caramel-Pecan Apple Pie....TO. DIE. FOR.

I'm not a baker.  I do bake a lot during the holidays, but during the year I pretty much stick to chocolate chip cookies and a few cakes here and there...box cakes!

Speaking of baking, and off subject, I ONLY use real butter now.  I know it is a bit more expensive than margarine, but sooo worth it...one of those little "luxuries" I afford myself! Especially after my daughter told me margarine is only one molecule away from plastic...ewwww!

I went through a phase when I was big-time into fondant cakes.  Fun little hobby but it was a little tough on my hands so I had to give it up!

So during the holidays I stick with pies...and cookies...and cheesecake (I have a to-die-for pecan pie cheesecake I will share someday!) In my quest to find the "perfect" pie during the holidays, I stumbled across this Caramel-Pecan Apple Pie. AMAZING!  Since I cut out the recipe and put it in my little "recipe book," I have no idea where I got it...I wish I could give proper credit!

Brian's "birthday cake" and Valentine's dessert has always been pumpkin pie...he loves it!  But THIS year he requested THE Apple pie.

This is not a simple recipe...a little more complex than your typical pumpkin pie or boxed cake. But if you ever want to really impress your family, this is the dessert that will do it!

I have tweeked it a bit...so here is my version! 

CARAMEL-PECAN APPLE PIE

PIE FILLING

5-6 cups peeled and sliced tart apples (I use Granny Smith...about 5)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature

1 unbaked deep dish pastry shell (I buy the frozen kind!)

3 tablespoons melted butter

* In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and vanilla.  Combine the pecans, sugars, cinnamon and cornstarch; add to the apples and toss to coat.  Spread caramel topping over the bottom of the pie shell; top with apple mixture (shell will be really full!) Drizzle with the butter!

TOPPING:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup chopped pecans

1/4 sugar

6 tablespoons cold butter (I zap mine for about 13 seconds just long enough to soften it a bit!)

1/4 cup (or more) caramel ice cream topping, room temperature

* In a small bowl, combine the flour, pecans and sugar.  Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling. (I kind of "pack" it on top of the apples with my hands)

BAKE AT 350 DEGREES FOR 60 MINUTES or until filling is bubbly and topping is browned. Immediately drizzle with the caramel topping when you take it out of the oven. 

Cool. 

Sit back and watch your family devour it!  If you want you can top it with vanilla ice cream.

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!


Super simple quiche....

If you think Quiche is just a breakfast food, you haven't been adding the right stuff!!!  It is a perfect "meal in one" lunch or dinner!!

Twenty years ago I picked up a little recipe book at a nifty tea room in Eureka Springs, The Victorian Sampler.

It has the most wonderful recipe for Quiche...actually several recipes...Mushroom, Ham, Crab, Zucchini, Seafood. But my favorite is Quiche Lorraine and the great thing about it is you can pretty much add whatever you have leftover to the "base" recipe.

The "base" consists of the following:

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups sour cream

Seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, garlic, tabasco, etc)

Wisk together then stir in:

1 1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (actually any "hard" cheese will do!)

Then you can add anything....mushrooms, bacon, any veggies, onions, green peppers, zucchini, spinach, leftover cooked chicken or ham, etc.  Whatever trips your trigger.  

I usually add 1 cup of mushrooms (sauteed in butter, garlic and onion), 6 pieces of crumbled bacon and 1 cup of chopped fresh spinach.  Meal in one!!!

(I would suggest sauteing any "hard" vegetable...just long enough to make it tender!)

Pour it all in a 9" pie shell (you can lightly brown it if you like...and I use the pre-made pie shells)  

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it is set in the middle, at 350 degrees!

This is a super easy recipe and one you can throw together quickly!!  

The secret to making great gravy!

There is an art to making good gravy!  In my opinion, it is not something you easily learn from a recipe.  It is something you almost have to learn standing side-by-side a woman who has mastered the art of making flour and milk taste like heaven!  

I remember my very first attempt at making gravy!  It came out green...and tasted like flour mixed with milk!  I'm sure the green color was from some spice I threw in there trying to mask the "paste taste."  Forget it...if you don't get the first few steps right, nothing you add is going to help it!

After 30 years of cooking side-by-side with some of the greatest "southern" cooks, and a lot of trial and error, I have mastered the art of making a very fine gravy.

Now here is the disclaimer...this is NOT for the dieter or anyone who needs to cut down on carbs, salt or "fatty" foods.  Because honestly, it has a lot of all three! I am, and will always be, a southern cook.  Which means lots of butter, salt, oil and carbs.  The trick with all three is moderation.  Something that is not easy when sausage gravy and biscuits are on the menu!

While I know it is impossible for you to stand side-by-side with me as I cook up a batch of my famous sausage gravy (known as "Grammy gravy" around here) I will do my best with written words and pictures.  

Keep in mind, a great gravy takes a lot of practice. I don't use measuring cups or spoons...it is the ultimate pinch of this and splash of that...but there are some hard rules to cooking good gravy!

In my book, gravy falls into two categories..."broth" based and "oil" based.  

For some it is brown gravy and white gravy. I can't think of the last time I made "brown" gravy.  What is the difference? Brown gravy basically uses water or broth whereas "white" gravy uses milk.  Both have their place in cooking, but southern cooks almost always make "white" gravy...unless they make a standing rib roast...but seriously, who can afford those these days!

Anywho, "oil" and "broth" based gravies are a tad different.  With oil, you add the flour directly to the oil in the pan. With "broth" you have to premix the flour with milk prior to adding it to the pan.

Examples of "oil" based....sausage, fried chicken, and fried pork chops drippings...basically anything fried that does not produce a lot of "juices" but leaves "oil" in the pan.  Examples of "broth" based would be pretty much anything you "bake" in the oven that produces juices...like baked chicken, turkey or roast.  Keep in mind, it still has to have some "oil" or "fat" in the drippings...if it doesn't have a lot, add some!

Today I am going to share some basic rules for "oil" based gravies and my "Grammy gravy."  The "hard fast rules" of gravy cooking generally apply to all gravy!

Grammy Gravy:

First, fry a pound of sausage in a large skillet.  Kind of like how you brown hamburger meat for spaghetti.  When it is all brown, add 2-3 tablespoons of plain ole' cooking oil (DO NOT use olive oil!) Brown some more, add a little pepper!  Adding the oil is important because you need "oil" to make a good gravy...and no matter what kind of sausage you use (and it really doesn't matter), believe it or not it doesn't produce enough oil!

Hard fast rule #1:  always cook gravy on full blast...you want the pan as hot as possible!

After the sausage is well cooked and the sausage/oil mixture is nice and bubbly, add about 2-3 heaping tablespoons of flour.

The "not so great rule of thumb" is equal parts oil to flour.  Not in my book...hard fast rule #2: I tend to stick more with a 2:3 ratio.  More oil than flour.  I want the oil and flour to be bubbly...not pasty and crumbly!!!  This is definitely one of those "trial and error" things.  Too much flour and the gravy will taste "pasty," not enough and your gravy will be oily! If you add to much flour and the mixture is more "crumbly" than "bubbly", this is the time to add a tad more oil!!!

Hard fast rule #3 ...Brown the flour/sausage/oil mixture to the point of ALMOST burnt. 

The only way I know to describe it is to cook it on high (stirring constantly) until it no longer smells like "flour" and smells more "toasty."  Right on the verge of burnt but not!  It will be dark brown.  This is when I add my pepper and salt....not a lot of salt, but be generous with the pepper.  Again, trial and error.  

Hard fast rule #4...Add a "splash" of milk...maybe 1/2-1 cup.  You want to "scald"  the first splash of milk and cook it until the entire mixture is "thick and bubbly."  


After you have a nice thick, bubbly "paste," start adding a little milk at a time...keeping the entire mixture bubbling!  Don't add too much milk all at once and you want it to be a tad thinner than you want the final gravy to be...it is going to cook down and thicken up a bit.  Give it a quick taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  (Don't even think about adding something else to make it "taste right."  It won't and it may end up green!) Reduce heat and let it simmer a tad.

That's it...those are the hard fast rules to making gravy.  Major browning and high heat!

The "broth" based gravies follow the same general rules with one big difference.

You don't add the flour directly to the oil and broth mixture. First, heat the pan drippings (oil and broth mixture) until it is rapidly boiling.  If the pan drippings don't have a lot of "oil," you might want to add a splash of cooking oil. 

Mix the flour with cold milk or broth or water!  I usually start with about 1 cup of cold milk and add 2-3 tablespoons of flour...a little salt and pepper....then mix it real well until there are no clumps. Then pour it into the broth/oil mixture!  Continue to stir while it rapidly bowls and thickens. Once that thickens and browns you can begin to add your additional milk (or additional broth/water).

Same rules...major browning and high heat.  Once the mixture is a tad thinner than you want, reduce the heat and let it simmer! 

One last hard fast rule...NEVER add oil or flour AFTER you have added the milk, water, or additional broth. It will not brown or incorporate and you will basically end up with a mixture that taste pretty nasty! Make all your flour and oil adjustments BEFORE adding the milk/water/broth and make sure you give them sufficient time to brown! 

There may be some southern ladies out there who will tell you to do one thing or another a tad different...taste their gravy...if you love it, make sure you are front and center every opportunity you get to learn the art!

Because let's face it...nothing saves dry poultry, over cooked roast or lumpy mash potatoes better than a good gravy!

 

 

Time to drag out the crock pot!

I am always on the hunt for a great crock pot recipe. I have several that are family favorites!  

These soup recipes are great to print out and put in a little "recipe book". You can buy one of the small scrapbook albums from you local craft store and slip your recipes in the page protectors.  This makes them easy to remove and toss if your family doesn't like the recipe and it also protects them from spills and splatters!  These books take up little space and you can change out the plain white paper for holiday craft paper if you feel that creative! 

When I find a recipe I love online, I "cut and paste" it to my word doc program, then print it out, trim it and slip it in my book.  It is perfect for recipes you clip from magazines and newspapers or ones friends and family have shared!

I have so many recipes in my one little book that I plan on getting another just for my desserts. 

Anywho, back to a few yummy crock pot recipes.  I will share more in the future!

I am a "pinch" and "toss" kinda of cook...in other words, I will pretty much follow a recipe to the T the first time, then I make little "toss and pinch" adjustments after that.  So feel free to add and delete to your family's taste! 

TORTELLINI SOUP: 

1 bag of frozen tortellini (we get the cheese...found in the freezer in the grocery store!) 

1 small bag of fresh spinach (I chop mine a tad) 

2 cans of Italian style diced tomatoes

1 box or 4 cans of vegetable broth

1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese (chunk it a bit)

Mushrooms...a "toss" addition to the original recipe.  We love mushrooms so I added them...maybe a cup or two! I sautee mine in butter and garlic before adding it to the crock pot, but that isn't a "have to."  Just wash, slice and toss!  

Toss it all in a crock pot and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  It really is THAT easy!!! 

 

Another family favorite is a super easy chili recipe my daughter gave me!  She calls it "chili soup" because you can add a can of corn to it and kind of make a "soup".  I just use it as my "go to" chili recipe.  Either way, it is another super-duper easy recipe. 

A little HINT here....when I cook hamburger meat for any recipe, I always cook 2-3x more than I need, then I put a "serving size" in a freezer bag, smash it out flat, and toss it in the freezer.  That way, the next time I need hamburger meat, all I have to do is take the precooked meat out of the freezer.  You really don't even have to thaw it if you are going to put it in the crock pot...just toss it in and it will thaw out while the recipe cooks...just make sure you stir it well after it all thaws! 

 

Chili

Hamburger meat (maybe 2 cups) 

8 oz of tomato sauce

1 can of Rotel

1 can of Ranch Beans (I get the kind with jalapeno in it)

1 can of red beans

1 package of taco seasoning (I use the taco bell kind but any will do) 

1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

(If you want "chili soup" throw in a can of corn of 1-2 cups of frozen corn) 

Put it in a crock pot on low for 4-5-6 hours...you are done! 

 

I will share more recipes as I go...feel free to "cut and paste" these to a word doc and print them out!  Trust me...you want these recipes!  Super easy and perfect for this awesome fall weather! 

 

 

Simple swiss steak....

One of my family's favorite meals, and by far one of the easiest to make, is swiss steak.  I don't know what "real" swiss steak is, but this is my tweek on one my mother use to make!

First, any cut of meat cut like a steak....chuck steaks, round steaks, tenderized steaks...whatever.  You are going to cook it to death, so it will be tasty and tender no matter what cut it is!

Put enough oil in a frying pan to cover the bottom.  Throw in some chopped gloves and onion and brown for a second.

(TIP...I cook with TONS of garlic and have found that the chopped garlic in the jars is just as tasty as whole garlic...and much easier.  As far as onion is concerned, we aren't big onion eaters, but I like a bit of the flavor.  So I will chop an entire onion, use the tad I need for whatever I am cooking and put the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer...then I can just "break off" a frozen chunk and use it as I need it!)

In a bowl mix some flour (maybe a cup or two), seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder (whatever, to your taste).  Coat the steaks with the flour mixture and brown them in the oil, garlic and onion.  Just a quick brown on both sides.  Then transfer the meat to a dutch oven, casserole dish or crock pot.

My rule of thumb is 1 large can of tomatoes per 2 steaks.  So add your whole or chopped stewed tomatoes (plain or one of the new fancy flavors...whatever trips your taste buds) to the pan drippings and just heat and stir it for 2-3 minutes to get all the "flavoring" off the pan.  Add some more salt/pepper/garlic powder/seasoning...to your taste!  Kind of "chop" up the tomatoes as you stir.  Pour that over the steaks....put a little water in the pan and swirl it and then dump that on the steaks.

Cover and bake on 325 for about 3-4 hours.  Or stick in the crock pot and cook it all day while you are at work....either way is good! Keep the lid tight and only check it once to make sure it has enough "juice."  If it seems to be getting dry, add a little water and stir.

Serve with rice, noodles of mashed potatoes (or favorite!), a veggie, maybe a salad and  some garlic bread.....soooo easy and delicious!

And here's a little tip....if you just don't have time to brown the meat in the pan before throwing it all together, that's okay....just put the meat and some garlic and onion in the casserole dish or crock pot, dump some stewed tomatoes and your seasonings on top, and cook the same.  In my opinion, it's not QUITE as tasty but an easy and good meal!

Yum......

"GO TO" family casserole!

Soooo easy...and it can be made as a side dish or you can throw in some chicken or pork and your favorite veggies, and make it a "meal-in-one."  I love meals that have everything in ONE dish!

1 lb bag of hash brown potatoes  (I take them out of the freezer and let them thaw a bit...easier to mix)

1 can of cream of mushroom

1 can of cream of celery OR cream of chicken...whichever you like

1 cup of sour cream

2-3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)

1 stick of butter  (notice I said BUTTER...NOT margarine...since my daughter told me margarine is one molecule away from plastic, I just can't eat it anymore...besides butter is soooo yummy! I coupon and I buy the generic brands of some stuff...I can splurge on butter)

Salt/pepper/season to taste!

Mix it all together.  Put it in a casserole dish.  Bake on 350 for about an hour, or until brown and bubbly.  Again, you can add chicken/pork and veggies to make a "meal in one."

Easy...and it is one of my kids favorites....and for those picky kids, it is a great place to hide veggies!!! 

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Spinach...seriously? YEP!

Getting kids to eat spinach is a trick...but an easy one at my house.  Every week when I do my grocery shopping, I buy a bag of baby spinach and a "bunch" of green leaf lettuce.  I don't use iceberg lettuce for two reasons...it browns quickly and looks nasty and it really has very little nutritional value.

But spinach does...so I chop spinach and leaf lettuce (about 50/50) and premake my salad for the week.  Mix it all up and stuff it into plastic zip bags.  Smash the air out of it.  The salad mix will last the entire week. 

BTW, don't use the word "spinach" around your children...I don't know what it is, but somehow they just hear that word and shut down!  So don't mention that you put in the salad, or on the homemade pizza, or in the stuffed chicken, and they will NEVER know!  If they ask what the "green stuff" is, just change the subject (always have a "change up" handy for when kids ask questions you do not want to answer!  Always....)

Sometimes I will add mushrooms or carrots to the mix and just serve it as a salad.  With the raw spinach in it, it makes a great "vegetable" serving!

Sometimes I brown ground beef, dump in can of red beans, throw in some salsa or picante sauce, and make "taco salads."  Just put some crumbled tortilla chips on a plate, top with salad, seasoned meat and some cheese.  Add your favorite dressing.  If you use the spinach mix salad, you have a complete meal!!  Easy!

Which brings me to another hint....I precook a LOT of ground beef and chicken.  I can use the precooked ground beef (frozen after cooked) for chili, taco salads, tacos, etc., and the precooked chicken can be used for all kinds of easy meals...chicken salad, chicken chili, chicken enchiladas, etc.  A whole roasted chicken will make at least 3-4 meals for us.

PRECOOK AND PREMIX as much as you can!  It will save you a ton of time and cut down on the temptation to eat out as much!!!   Save money and eat better!

Easy stuffed chicken, chops or steak!

My "go to."  Usually I do this with boneless chicken breasts, but you can do it with pork chops, little minute steaks, or any boneless meat.

Cream cheese, feta cheese, artichokes, garlic....mix it, stuff it, pin it with a toothpick.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic and bake at 350 for an hour or so.

The great thing about this is you can do it with anything....no feta, no biggy....use any cheese.  As long as you have a cream cheese base, you can add just about anything.  I have used asparagus instead of artichokes...my son uses green beans.  

I love garlic.  I cook with A LOT of garlic, salt and pepper.  But you can add any spice you like...cumin, rosemary, sage...whatever tickles your pallet!  

You will also find that I rarely, unless baking, cook by "recipe."  I will usually follow one fairly closely the first time around, but then I adjust to our tastes.  And I use a lot of "dash" and "handfuls" when measuring.  

Sometimes I think people don't like "recipes" because they don't adjust the to their own tastes...EXPERIMENT!!! Cook with the things YOU love!!!

Beef Bourguignon...well, my spin on it....

This recipe, in its original form, is NOT for the faint of heart...and honestly, neither is my take on it, but it is a teeny bit easier and IMO just as yummy!  For those who work during the week, this is a good recipe for the weekend, or to make ahead.  

It is not something you "whip together" after a long day at work...but for ANY person who dares to turn on their oven and attempt ANY recipe, you have to give it a whirl at least once in your lifetime.

I am notorious for trying a recipe to a "T" and then adding my own spin to it the next time around.  For example, there are certain spices I am not real fond of...but I LOVE garlic...so I often substitute garlic for say, cumin (ewwww) 

But Julia Childs recipe for Beef Bourguignon is one you must try verbatim, and then you can add your own spin to it. Google it...you will find it and after you read it, you will understand why I put my "spin" on it!

BTW, I got an "oven proof" dutch oven thingy for Christmas...truly awesome.  But you can do this in your skillets and casserole dishes or a regular dutch oven.  But again, not for the faint of heart and NOT a crock pot recipe!

Examples of my spin on this recipe.  

First of all, what the heck is a "lardon."  In todays world, and certainly in the south, we buy good ole' BACON.  So I take 6 oz of thick cut bacon, cut it into pieces and saute it in the olive oil.  Forget the boiling thing....just fry it in the oil. (Did I mention I am from the south...fry it baby!)

Lean stew beef...i.e. pot/chuck roast.  You cook this for hours...so any roast will be fine!

Beef stock...Campbell's soup beef consomme...seriously.

Herb bouquet...seriously, if you have cheesecloth laying around and want to make a "bouquet", be my guest...otherwise, throw it in the pot (besides, I don't like bay leaf and never use it anyway...but if you do make sure you fish it out before serving!)

Cloves of smashed garlic...I ALWAYS use the pre-chopped garlic you buy in the jar in the fresh produce section at the grocery store...always...and I use LOTS of garlic!

"Young and full bodied" red wine.  How about cheap and red? You are cooking it for 3-4 hours...trust me, nobody I know is going to know it only cost $4.99 at the grocery store!!!

A few other tips....I don't do the mushroom, pearl onion thing seperately.  I saute them in butter and olive oil, with some garlic, and then add them to the pot to cook with the roast.  

Also, no self respecting Southerner EVER drains or disposes of oil (either after sauting the veggies or cooking the roast) and I serve it with the carrots and onions...I don't drain them off.  Keep in mind, I added the mushrooms BEFORE I cooked it...so they are in there too.

I do drain the "juices" off the vegetables and roast into a sauce pan and make a "gravy" or sauce with it after it is all cooked...usually you can do that by adding a teaspoon or so of corn starch to it to thicken it up...then just pour it back over the meat and veggies.

Noodles, mashed potatoes, rice....makes no difference...you won't care what you eat this with.  

It is seriously awesome....

I can smell mine cooking now...can't wait!!!!