Thursday, December 13, 2007

Potluck Etiquette

It has been really busy here at The Schmidt House. I did finally get our tree up, the house decorated and Gerald took care of the outside lights. The living room and the porch looked great, but for a few days, I had 2 rooms filled with half filled boxes of old decorations and just old Christmas junk spread out everywhere. Gerald says that's what doors are for, but I happen to know what's behind those doors and it makes me a little crazy. I do like it when everything is out and looking on purpose. I feel a real sense of accomplishment. So, our home is in full holiday bloom and I love it!
We had our little Christmas neighborhood Open house on Tuesday and that was fun. I made way too much food, but I get into it when I'm cooking and then it's overkill. The neighbors appreciated it though...they all had a nice little "Reindeer Bag" of leftovers to take home. Spreading the love!! I smoked a pork butt on Sunday for 4 hours and then finished it up, low and slow in the oven on Tuesday. It was (and still is) really good. We also had some Italian meatballs, Chicken Salad WonTons, too much chocolate, mini Red Velvet cupcakes w/ cream cheese frosting, and the ever present Bleu cheeseball and veggie tray. I did dig out an old recipe for Beau Monde Dip for the vegetable tray this year. I hadn't had it in years and folks, it is really good. I had found the Beau Monde ( Spice Islands Spices) at Publix. It's a nice little alternative.
My neighbor, Rhonda, who does not cook and is proud of it, brought a pan of pepperoni stuffed yeast rolls and Oh My Gosh...they were so-o-o- good! Maybe it's because I didn't make them that I enjoyed them so, but Geraldo was into them too. I'll share her recipe with you soon. It isn't written down and takes only 3 ingredients (5 if you count the pan and the oven.)
They're kinda like Pigs in a Blanket on steroids. I really appreciated Rhonda bringing something to our little soiree and that made me think about potlucks and how folks know to bring something or not. So here's some homegrown advice...............

* If you're bringing something to a potluck, let your host know what you are bringing and how many people you are expecting.
* Put your offering on a nice platter or bowl- as opposed to plunking down a plastic tub or container of food on the table or expecting your host to provide a dish or platter. And bring your own serving spoon, if needed.
* If you are bringing an appetizer, be sure to arrive on time.
* If you're hosting a potluck, have supplies on hand to wrap up food to take home.
* As for cleaning the serving dishes, guests should defer to the host ( Gerald will do it for you at our house!) Kisses, Geraldo! But if you are in doubt of protocol, rinse the dish, wrap it in a plastic bag and take it home to wash.
* And, if you want to know who gets the leftovers, they should be offered to the host. (I send anyone and everyone who wants a little somethin' somethin' a little something home.....hence the Reindeer Bags.)
As a Hostess, I appreciate any helping hand, but I want my guests to know that it is always my pleasure to spend time with good friends and neighbors. The food and prep is just how I say "Welcome to our home."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside!!

Wow! It's really cold outside today! How many of you immediately think of soup or chili as soon as we get that first blast of winter weather? I happen to be a big fan of soup on a year round basis, but it's almost a craving when the temperature takes a dive. Soups are also like a lot of one pot meals in that they taste better the next day, so that's definitely a time saver. Throw in a salad or sandwich, some cornbread or biscuits and you're a hero! There's just something that makes me feel l like I'm eating healthier, whether I really am or not. Anyway, I feel like I'm on the right track and doing something good for the family. My all time favorite soup is my Mom's vegetable beef soup. It takes her all morning to make and she starts out with beef ribs and when I was little, I remember her asking the butcher for "suet" to go in it. I tried asking for that last winter at my adored " Compton's Food Town" from Dale the Butcher (who is very accommodating) and he grinned at me like I had found out some big "Meat Thing" secret. He also told me that they didn't have any, as there was never any requests for it and so they just threw those good old pieces away. He agreed tho, that "soot" (suet) is indeed a mighty tasty ingredient. So suet-less, what do you do to beef up the taste? You cook the devil out of those rib bones and reduce the leftover liquid. I can't begin to write down how Mom or I make our vegetable beef soup, (and hers is always better), because that is one of those dishes that you just gotta work on and taste as you go. When it tastes right, it's done. Everybody has their own version and each one is right.
Here are a couple of recipes for Chicken Tortilla Soup that Linda had asked for. The first one is so easy and my boys really like it. I do substitute frozen corn and leftover rotisserie chicken for the canned, but have made it exactly like the following recipe and loved it. The next one is a little more involved, and definitely a little more revved up. Either one hits the spot when you're craving a little taste "South of The Border". Here you go, Linda.......let me know when you've tried them.

Six Can Chicken Tortilla Soup

( makes 6 servings, Ready in 20 minutes!!!!!)

1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can chunk chicken
(1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 0z) can diced tomatoes with green chili peppers (Rotelle, mild or hot) drained

1 Open the cans of corn, chicken broth, chunk chicken, black beans and diced tomatoes with chilies. Pour everything into a large saucepan or stock pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat until chicken is heated through.

I serve mine with baked Tortilla chips cut into strips that I have baked on a cookie sheet (at 350) until lightly browned. Sprinkle on top of bowl of soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 TBS Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10.5 oz) can chicken broth
1 1/4 Cups water
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1 cup white hominy
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro
Crushed Tortilla chips
Cubed Avocado
Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Sliced green onion

1 In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in
chili powder, cumin, tomatoes,oregano, broth and water. Bring to boil; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in corn, hominy, chilies, beans and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.Add cilantro just before serving.
3. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls and top with crushed tortilla chips, avocado cubes, cheese and green onion.

Hope you try one of these and let me know how you like it. That first one can't be beat if you're in a hurry or don't want to go to any trouble. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Won, Two, Three

After posting yesterday's blog, I got inspired and started going thru the mounds of recipes (bits and pieces, books, and folders) that I keep handy in a disorderly fashion, to look for more Won Ton ideas. Just like a lot of you who like to cook, we all can make our "go to dishes" by instinct, but it can be difficult to "explain" how you make a particular dish to someone. Especially when that someone hasn't prepared that dish dozens of times. I'm a firm believer in making each recipe your own, but let's face it, you better give someone a good foundation to start with and not leave out any part that would cause "structural damage." That's why I went to my treasure chest and found some of the "original great ones" that I count on. From here you can dress them up any way YOU want to. It's also painfully obvious that I really need to come up with a better plan filing recipes. Oh, well.......I'll do that this winter when it's cold and yuck outside.....yeah, just like last year.

Won Ton Basics

1/2 C finely chopped Napa or Savoy cabbage
Coarse (sea) salt
6 ozs ground pork (not all lean)
3 Scallions, finely chopped
1TBS finely chopped peeled ginger
1 Tsp soy sauce
1 Tsp Sesame oil

In a medium bowl, toss cabbage with 1/2 tsp salt. Let stand 10 min. Wrap cabbage in a double layer of paper towels: firmly squeeze out excess liquid. return cabbage to bowl: add pork, scallions, ginger , soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well with a fork. Makes enough to fill about 24 wontons. Refrigerate leftover filling up to 2 days.

Making Wontons
1 Work with one wrapper at a time and keep the rest covered with a damp towel. Spoon one rounded teaspoon of filling in center.
2 With dampened fingers, wet the four edges. To make a triangle, fold wrapper in half over filling, making sure the ends meet and the filling is centered; press edges down firmly to seal.
3 Moisten one tip on long side of triangle. Then bring together both tips on long side, overlapping them slightly, press tips together to seal.
4 Fold remaining top corner back. Transfer to an oiled plate; cover with damp towel to keep moist. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

Wonton Soup
Serves 4

24 rectangular or square wonton wrappers
1 recipe Wonton Filling
2 cans(14.5 oz each) reduced sodium chicken broth
coarse salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 to 3 tsp Rice vinegar
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 cups water

1 Make wontons (see recipe)
2 Make soup: in large pot combine broth and 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Add wontons, one at a time; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer till wontons are just cooked thru, 4-6- minutes. Stir in scallions, vinegar and sesame oil; season with salt. Serve


1 Make wontons (above 1-2)
2 In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 TBS vegetable oil over med-high heat. Add half the wontons and cook, turning once till lightly browned, about one minute per side. Carefully add 1/2 cup water (oil may sputter), cover, and steam until translucent and just cooked thru, 2-3 minutes. Repeat with remaining 1 TBS of oil and wontons. Sprinkle pot stickers with scallions and serve with soy sauce.

Don't be intimidated...these are really easy and so delicious. Really fresh and vibrant. TGIFriday's serves their pot stickers with red cabbage and hoisin sauce on the side, which is a really nice contrast for color. To freeze any wontons, place on a cookie sheet after filling and freeze, thaw in fridge and cook according to directions above. They'll keep up to a couple of months in the freezer.

TIP: Sam's Wholesale Club has frozen pot stickers available. They are quite good and very convenient for a Hot Appetizer option for any Holiday get together. Just follow the pkg. directions. Why kill yourself when you can buy greatness? Let's be reasonable here.

I've got a couple of recipes coming tomorrow per Linda's request for Chicken Tortilla Soup. One is super easy (you only open cans & it's really quick and good) the other is a little more dressed up, but still simple. Thanks for all your FEEDback. Have a WONderful day!!!

Check out "SIMPLY RECIPES" in The Profile section.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Countdown To Christmas....Appetizers!!!

I think that I would rather have a table full of "Finger Foods" in front of me, than a Steamboat of Beef on a steam table, any day. Hold on....this is entirely my belief and I know that in my own household, I am alone in this opinion. Therefore, we have BOTH!! Don't get me wrong, I am in the middle of all of it, but I love the fun and playfulness of those great little savory snacks, that seems like everyone has a different recipe for. You can taste a dozen new things and go back for seconds (and thirds) on the particularly yummy "Oooh, I love that!" tidbit. What a great way to try out new tastes. My girlfriend Beverly and I are real culinary team mates in every sense of the word. She and I have the best little get togethers and our husbands just sit back and reap the delicious rewards. One of my favorite dishes of Bev's is her Hot Spinach and Artichoke dip. I always ask for it anytime we get together where food is involved. I am of the consensus, that cheese makes anything better, and if cream cheese is involved in anyway...I'm in. Some folks stuff celery with cream cheese, but my vessel of choice is a spoon. More than once in the middle of the night, a butter knife has also worked. I'll ask Bev to give us her recipe, but as far as I'm concerned, she will always be the one who makes it for me. "Shout out to Beverly! me the recipe" . I'm gonna include her Quiche recipe this month soon, as it's a great brunch treat for the Holidays.

I'm going to share a couple of really easy and delicious favorite appetizers along with little lesson on Won Ton 101. The sausage ones were a big hit with Gerald's co-workers for their Halloween potluck and Connie from there has asked me for the recipe. It's taken me awhile as I literally was flying by the seat of my pants and came up with the filling from what I had available the day before. Getting this in a proper recipe format is not really my forte, but I'm not here to be graded...I'm here to share and have some fun. Let me just say that I do indeed have these ingredients on hand. I am a food nerd and like to be able to go to my pantry or fridge at anytime and find basic ingredients that are really a part of my food repertoire. I have a pkg of Won tons in my produce drawer as we speak and am never without ground pork, ginger or at least 5 kinds of cheese (in various colors and textures.) I realize this is not normal behavior, but I do keep an interesting pantry. Thanks for your patience Connie, this one's for you!!!


Preheat oven to 350
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Drsg mix (mix as directed)
1 lb Chorizo Sausage uncooked bulk ( Kroger) or pork , Italian or Hot Italian sausage
(I used the Chorizo for my last batch)
3 Oz. softened cream cheese
1 C shredded sharp cheddar
1 C Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack ( I used Pepper Jack)
1 Tsp ground Cumin
1 TBS Chili Powder
1 Tsp Granulated Garlic powder
1 Tsp Salt/1 Tsp Ground Black pepper
1 Pkg Won Ton Wrappers ( or can substitute egg roll wrappers, cut into quarters)

Brown sausage and mix in all spices and seasonings. DRAIN well. Set aside. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray ( I used the small sized cup muffin tin, but can certainly use larger one.)Put Won Ton squares in muffin cups, getting down to bottom of pan. Bake for about 5 minutes until a little golden. Remove and bake next pan. Watch as these can burn easily!

Mix together sausage, Ranch dressing, and cheeses. Spoon into Won Ton cups and return to oven till cheese just melts. I top off the Chorizo ones with a little dollop of Sour cream and a fresh cilantro leaf. The Italian or pork sausage ones, can be garnished with Green or Black olives slices (Italian) or dried cranberries or raisins on the pork. It's all up to you.
If you are going to travel with these ( for a potluck or whatever) line a crock pot with foil and place the Won Tons in layers (with foil between them) and turn on low when you arrive at your party. Always start out with a hot Crock pot from home, that way it doesn't take forever to heat up. Turn it off to travel and on low when you arrive. Wait to garnish till you set out your appetizers. These are a great room temperature food, so don't fret about keeping them piping hot. Remember this can be mixed and matched any way. You can also substitute Mozzarella for the Jack cheese for the Italian ones. That's what I do.

I hope you get a chance to try these out. I plan on making several batches this month. I also freeze the unfilled baked Won Ton cups to use for other fillings. I do a great Chicken Salad in them for my catering events. The empty baked cups can be frozen on a cookie sheet, removed and put into a moisture proof container and will keep in the freezer up to 6 months. Can be baked filled then frozen, same way and reheated in oven till hot. Will keep in freezer 3 months. Tomorrow, I've got a great Pot Sticker recipe that is an absolute favorite of mine.

Thanks to Linda and Amber for their comments on the fried turkey post. Linda, I will definately switch up on the oils to differentiate the poultry. And Amber, you are so right about the fried turkey being moist. Brining is also a great way to have a moist turkey, or chicken, too. Bev brined her turkey for the first time this year and is a convert. Just goes to show that we have so many more options today and how great it is that we can all share new and creative ways to enjoy old favorites.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Learned This Thanksgiving

Hello! I hope everyone out there had a beautiful and love-filled holiday! Mine was great as the boys and friends all stopped by and stroked my ego with their culinary compliments. It doesn't hurt that they eat out 99% of the time and most of those choices are decided according to a college student's budget. So when Mom lays out a spread of anything that remotely resembles a real meal, they dig in with "ummms and ahhs." It has taken years to reach this level of appreciation from them and I savor the moment.

I fried a turkey this year. My Master-Bilt electric deep fryer is a great piece of equipment and works like a dream. Preparing the turkey was easy, just got it ready the night before and let it do it's thing overnight. It was a moment of truth when Gerald and I lowered the bird into the hot oil and I was tickled to see all that hot, bubbling peanut oil cover that entire turkey. We were like a couple of kids with something new for a change. We set the timer and I went on with the rest of our dinner. Gerald kept an eye on the fryer, and one eye on football, so we wouldn't burn down the house. We did all this in the garage, as part of the beauty of the Master-Bilt is that you do use it indoors. I suggest you cover anything in close proximity of the oil, but other than that it was easy as pie.

The turkey came out 45 minutes later and I let it sit till the potatoes were mashed and we were all ready to sit down to eat. Prayers were said and we dug in. That's when the umms and ahhs started and "this is the best turkey I ever ate" was said around the table. All but for one. ME. This wasn't Thanksgiving turkey...this was a big fried chicken!!! Immediately I started thinking that my perfect roast turkey and cranberry sandwich was ruined. These leftovers were not going to work. I sat back and let the others enjoy their "turkey", and made plans to go to the grocery Friday while they still had turkeys on sale. That one I would roast.

I guess because I do fry chicken at least a couple of times a month and I do use peanut oil and I do brine it first, for me this was just a regular meal on steroids. I can certainly understand the hoopla, because everybody I shared my table with loved it. Craig, one of our boys best friends even called me on Saturday to ask if I'd fry a turkey for his Mom and then brought one over that I cooked for his family on Sunday. It looked gorgeous, too and Gerald and I cut off a piece to "test", (quality control you know) and it was great. By then I was over the Thanksgiving mindset and appreciated the fried turkey for just what it was. I did buy a 15 lb. turkey that is in the freezer and as soon as we finish this pork roast that I smoked on Sunday,(I was bound and determined to get some sandwiches out of this holiday) I roast it like always and I'll get my real turkey sandwich with a fresh batch of cranberry sauce and a big ole loaf of sour dough bread. There's alot to be said for tradition.............

So, I do like fried turkey, just not when it's the only poultry option and maybe not on Thanksgiving. I realize I'm in a minority here. But, it was great fun to try something new and if you are considering getting a turkey fryer, I highly recommend the Master-Bilt. It does a fine job and Gerald says it's easy to clean, too. (Thanks Gerald!) You can do all kinds of great meals with it low country boils, wings, etc. So let's move forward to Christmas and all those goodies. I'm working on some Christmas ideas and will be posting them soon. Please sign up and let me hear from you. I would love to be able to post some of your comments and get everyone involved. Have a great day and treat yourself well........................

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Getting Comfortable

The term Comfort Food refers to a style of familiar, simple food or drink that is usually home-cooked, or consumed in informal restaurants. Comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarity, emotional security, or as a special reward. The reasons a dish becomes a comfort food vary, but often include pleasant associations of childhood. Small children often latch on to a specific food or drink(in a way similar to a security blanket) and often request it in stressful situations. Adults eat comfort food for a sense of continuity.
Comfort foods are typically composed largely of simple or complex carbohydrates, such as sugar, rice, pasta, refined wheat, and so on. The word "Comfort Food" was added to the Webster's Dictionary in 1972. Various foods or beverages could fill the urge for a comfort food depending on a person's taste, but in any given culture there are foods that become universally accepted comfort foods. Seeing some of these foods on The Discovery Channel can be downright scary to us (Americans.) I can honestly say I've never craved a good hot Yak stew on a cold winter's night, but I'll bet somebody in the Himalayas has. This explains why there is no Yak section at the corner Kroger.
Many comfort foods are regional by nature, such as fried chicken and barbecue in the south, or a hotdish or other casserole in the upper midwest. Hoagies and specialty sandwiches are big in parts of the east coast. Chili, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and some version of a stew or heavy beef dish are comfort foods nearly everywhere. Many ethnic comfort foods have become mainstream and accepted as American fare and have become common American comfort food.
Comfort food has always been a staple of diners and other informal restaurants, as well as home cooking. Here in Nashville (and Tennessee) we all have a favorite "meat'n three" and by the number of Waffle Houses signs through out the southeast, many folks must get their breakfast fix " smothered and covered." Traditionally, there has been an emphasis on authenticity and low cost. One recent development, however as chefs have explored the roots of American cuisine and tried to define it as a unique style, is the advent of fine dining comfort food restaurants that feature more precise preparation, presentation, higher quality and fresh organic ingredients, thus, higher prices. But hold on...not everybody needs a roasted tomato and beef au jus surrounding our piece of meatloaf. Heck, I call that gravy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One For The Recipe Box

This is a great dish and you could easily substitute leftover turkey for the chicken. I love this gotta try it!

Chicken A la King

1/2 C (1 stick) butter 1 8oz pkg. sliced fresh button mushrooms
3 green onions 1/3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth 1 C heavy whipping cream
2 C chopped cooked chicken 1 2 oz jar diced pimientos, drained
Hot cooked rice or cooked egg noodles

In a large saucepan, melt butter over med. heat. Add mushrooms and green onions, cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sift in flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually add broth and cream, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Add chicken and pimientos, cook 5-6 minutes until thickened and bubbly. Serve over rice or noodles.
Makes 8 servings. Click on the ads below for great Thanksgiving ideas!!!!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Think I'm Going Nuts!!

Now that the weather is getting colder and all the leaves blew off the trees yesterday (there went Fall), I'm really getting into the Holiday Spirit.
We're going to have some friends and neighbors (they're not necessarily the same) over for a little pre-holiday get together. I want to serve something small and "Autumnal" (I love that word), so I'm thinking Nuts, but Savory nuts, not sweet, uber rich Pecan (Pe-caan, Pea-can) pie.
There'll be enough of that on Thursday.

So here's a quick appetizer that is always a big hit at the "Schmidt House." (yes, I know how that sounds......)

Blue Cheese Ball

8 oz. cream cheese 1 Jar Kraft Old English Cheddar
2-4 oz. Blue Cheese (crumbled)
Pinch of cayenne
Mix all together, form into a ball or log, and roll into mixture of chopped pecans and dried parsley flakes

I Think I'm Going NUTS!!!!

The weather is getting colder and I'm getting more and more into the Holiday spirit. We're having some friends and neighbors over early the week of Thanksgiving and I want to have some easy snacks available that are seasonal, yet not an early edition of their Thanksgiving Day dinner. I never understood why companies always had their big holiday meal on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving and it was always turkey and dressing, ham and all the trimmings. I don't want to spoil the anticipation of that first bite, so no rehearsals here.

So, I thought nuts, pecans (pe-caan, pea-can,) would be a good choice. Now I know pecan pie is probably a big part of the dessert table on Thanksgiving, but I'm talking "Savory" nuts here. These are a couple of my favorite appetizers. I hope you get a chance to try them and that you enjoy them as much as we do here in the "Schmidt House."


8 oz. cream cheese 1 jar Kraft Old English Cheddar

2-4 oz. (How much do you like Blue Cheese?)

Small pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 C chopped pecans

2 TBS dried parsley

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thinking Turkey!!!!

Hey it's time to dust of the gravy bowl and start thinking about the shopping list and menu for any cook's favorite holiday...THANKSGIVING!

I'm looking at some new ideas this year. I know they say to not screw around with a new recipe on a special occasion, but we have so many more options than we did "Back in the Day." I mean really....all the food shows, all the magazine covers are shouting "Eat Me" right now. I 'll stick with tradition, but I'm throwing in a couple of new dishes and maybe they'll become the new old tradition.

I have been brining my turkey for the past few years and if I can make one suggestion to really improve your bird, brining is the answer. Just water, salt and sugar. There are several brining recipes around, but keep it simple..enough water to cover the turkey, add a cup to 2 cups salt and 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. I use my big ice chest with a bag of ice inside because I never have enough room in the refridgerator to put a 14lb. bird.

This year Hubby bought me a big 28 quart electric Masterbilt Turkey Fryer so we're gonna crank it up this year, also. I'm researching different rubs and injections, etc, but I think I'm gonna play it safe first time out and do a creole butter injection and a commercial cajun spice rub.


Does it get better than this?




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