By Julie Culpepper
Being a Chef sometimes places unusually high expectations in the minds of people. That is a reasonable thing to do, I suppose, with all the competitive cooking shows on TV nowadays.
There’s so much more to the idea of being a Chef than the presentation of an entrée that looks like an artistic masterpiece. It’s also about desiring high standards of cleanliness, food quality and nutrition, professionalism, customer relations, and service.
And as I ride along in life I’ve realized that most people want simple meals that meet their everyday needs. Meals that need to be healthier, desirable for a group with differing palates, and that can be prepared and served in reasonable amount of time.
There’s always the time and place for a really great made-from-scratch meal that’s served beautifully in a special atmosphere. I love those kind of meals shared with people I love. But mostly, people just want ideas to get their families fed that meet the needs of everyone involved. So that’s been a challenge for my style of cooking that often involves extra steps to ensure freshness and higher nutrition.
I want to have the “Martha Stewart” kind of meal along with the atmosphere. But, the time spent talking and laughing with my people is far more important. I’m always challenged with the task of keeping balance in my cooking as with every other issue in life!
So if you haven’t tried the pressure cookers or insta-pots out there, I would encourage you to do so. They are super quick, easy to prepare and serve, and deliver really tasty results. Things like dried beans that would take all afternoon to simmer now take 45 minutes or less in my pressure cooker. So I can achieve my goals of fresh, nutritious, and tasty in a “balanced” kind of way!
Since wings are always a crowd favorite and good introduction to pressure cooking, try these at your New Year’s Eve celebration. You will have more time to enjoy your people and the good food as well as an easy clean-up after they are gone.
Pressure Cooker Wings
by LAURA TUCKER • www.southernmadesimple.com
Cranberries are a staple in my household during the holiday season. They transition flawlessly from Fall and Thanksgiving themed recipes straight into Christmas themed recipes, and the aroma that fills the home when they’re being cooked is unlike any other! Sometimes it’s hard for people to picture using cranberries outside of the traditional “sauce” to pour over their holiday turkey and dressing, but they can easily be the star of the show because of their versatility.
While I tend to mostly use them in baking or in desserts, I absolutely love to pair them with something savory to give the dish I’m preparing a layer of tartness. I could just die over a batch of fresh, slow cooked cranberry sauce drizzled over a thanksgiving turkey! This particular recipe is one of my family’s absolute favorite things to prepare and take to potlucks and Christmas parties during this time of year. It’s got a little bit of sweet, a bit of savory, a touch of tartness and a hint of spicy that marries together so beautifully, you’ll be back around for another helpin’- I guarantee it!
You can never go wrong with a party dip that has cream cheese in it, and this dip has a layer of fresh cranberries, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and bacon bits nestled over a bed of cream cheese that makes for one dynamic party dip! If you’ve got a holiday gathering or a special event coming up – be it for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or just a casual Tuesday, you won’t go wrong with this one!
Here’s the skinny! You’ll need to start preparing it a day ahead of time to let the berries, sugar and jalapeno juices meld together well, so keep that in mind! Trust me, it’s worth the extra time!
If you’ve got a holiday gathering or two this season, these two festive cranberry appetizer dishes will be the talk of the party, and they’re sure to make cranberries a staple in your own household during the holiday season, too!
CRANBERRY JALAPENO DIP
CRANBERRY CREAM CHEESE PINWHEELS
by Julie Culpepper
Recipes that can be used throughout all the holidays are a treasure. This is a recipe adapted from Food and Wine website that makes a wonderful side dish and can be made a day ahead if needed. It is fitting for the entire fall and winter season. It is tasty, filling and great for party appetizers or just a normal weeknight dinner. You could use a smaller size pastry for party appetizers. Just try to avoid overstuffing the pastries before cooking them. It will leak out in the oven if you put too much inside the pastry. Trust me, I do it every time until I figure out the right amount for the size pastry I’m using. You could also use leftover sweet potatoes for this recipe. Actually, any mashed root vegetable is great and even the kids like to pop these into their hungry little mouths.
Winter Vegetable Turnover
By Tracy Carpenter
I love, love, love this time of year. The spirits of the holidays are thick in the air and you can feel it in the people, the places, and especially the food. Nothing can compare to the holiday treats and all of the baking wonders that have come out of family kitchens for generations. I think almost everyone has a fond memory connected to baking in the kitchen, whether it’s a special meal, a dessert or being the quality control taster.
At our house, our holidays are filled with traditions. A unique combination of faith, family and food which cultivates happiness.
Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Happiness, sharing our time and love with our friends and family, making memories, and honoring traditions. One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking and decorating sugar cookies, wrapping them in cellophane bags, sealing them with festive ribbon and giving them to family and friends. Homemade food gifts are an act of kindness that will be remembered by both the giver and the recipient for years to come.
In a perfect world, cookie baking would be pure fun — you’d mix the dough in a favorite bowl while carols played on the radio and a log burned in the fireplace. But that’s not reality: More often than not, you whip up a last pan of lemon bars when everyone else is asleep, or squeeze in two batches between cleaning chores. It’s time to turn on the oven, line the counters with ingredients, mixing bowls, and aprons, roll up our sleeves and get to work and not let that happen this year.
Helpful Hints to Get Started
1. Don’t be afraid! Jump in there and do it!
2. Find a good cookie recipe. One that’s been tried and proven true.
3. Did you know that many cookie doughs, including sugar cookie, gingerbread and shortbread, can be made and frozen up to three months ahead of time? Double-wrap dough in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
4. Did you forget to take the butter out of the refrigerator to soften? No problem. Remove the wrapper from the butter and use a cheese grater to grate the butter. It will soften much faster.
5. Parchment paper can be your best friend when it comes to baking. It keeps your pans clean and there’s no need for greasing the pan.
6. Use 1/4” wooden dowels (found at your local craft store) placed on either side of your dough so that the rolling pin rests on them while rolling, to help make your dough an even thickness.
7. Instead of waiting for your cookie dough to chill for 2 hours, divide the freshly made dough in half and place between two sheets of parchment paper.
Roll it out to the desired thickness then place the dough and paper on a cookie sheet and pop it into the refrigerator. Chill for about 15-20 minutes, until the dough firms up.
Continue rolling out your dough between sheets of paper until you have used it all. Re-roll leftover dough and repeat the process!
An added bonus is that you are not adding any additional flour to your cookies. When rolling dough between two sheets of parchment paper, be sure to flip the dough over to make sure no deep wrinkles have formed on the back sheet. If you find that it has wrinkled, simply peel the back paper off and return it to the dough and carefully re-roll.
8. Cookies will continue to cook if you leave them on the cookie sheet so always put cookies on a wire rack to cool. Placing them directly on a platter will cause them to get soggy.
9. To make cleanup easier and faster, put cloth, paper or saran wrap down on the kitchen table.
10. Set up a cookie decoration station by setting out small bowls of candies, sugars and several colors of royal icing or frosting in plastic squeeze bottles or pastry bags.
11. Freeze baked cookies after completely cooled, for up to three months in airtight containers with waxed paper between layers. When ready to serve, put frozen cookies on a plate and let them come to room temperature.
To test it, I run a toothpick through the center of the icing. You want it to naturally fill that line back in, but not too quickly. It should actually need some encouragement from you to come completely back together. When I fill in the icing, it’ll mostly come together on it’s own but I use a toothpick to move the icing around and help it come together, careful to not make air bubbles.
This royal icing dries nice and firm, so you can easily stack the cookies, wrap them, whatever your preference and transport them.
To pipe the icing onto the cookies, you’ll need pastry bags, couplers, and icing tips. I used tip 3 for outlining and filling the cookie and tip 1 for the smaller details. I suggest having enough icing tips for each color so you aren’t needing to switch out the tip constantly. You will also want to use rubber bands to tie the bags closed. The rubber bands are important for keeping your icing from drying out while in the bags during your decorating session. The icing can quickly dry out and leave your tip clogged and hard to work with, so put a little water in a narrow bowl and keep your bags in it with just the very tips in the water to prevent this from happening when not in use. If that does happen, a toothpick can help remove the blockage.
Once you have your icing ready and into your bags, it’s time to get to piping!
You’ll want to keep even pressure on the bag as you squeeze out the icing. Don’t keep your tip super close to the cookie. Lift it up a bit so that the icing falls in a more natural, soft line around the cookie. Once outlined you can begin filling in the snowflake. Allow it to dry for about 15 minutes before adding the details.
You’ll want to think through the details before you start so you know what details you want to include. You’ll want to add the pearl candies while the icing is wet. I traced the snowflake cookie cutter onto a piece of paper then drew in the details with a pencil so I could use it as a reference while piping the design onto the cookie.
The first couple of times decorating sugar cookies with royal icing drove me crazy, but now I love it. If you aren’t in love with your cookies the first time, don’t give up. After a few tries, you’ll develop “your touch” and everyone will be begging you to make their cookies. Have fun!
by STACY PIRTLE • www.asoutherndiscourse.com
Wrapped in the magic of curly ribbon and sparkly lights, the Christmas holiday just beckons to be enjoyed with brunch. More of an experience than a meal, a good Yuletide brunch exists in that in-between place that conjures up images of leisurely time spent taking in the world at your own pace.
Yes, a Christmas brunch calls for us to slow down. To savor a little. To relax. A portmanteau of breakfast and lunch, we enjoy brunch whenever we like. Without any hustle or bustle. No getting up and hurrying about. And because of that, brunch is like a little Christmas gift in and of itself.
Hosting a Christmas brunch should be as enjoyable as being invited to one. Your menu choices don’t have to be fussy or fancy. But they should always be indulgent. Serve both savory and sweet, casseroles and finger foods. Breads, muffins, eggs, sliced meats, fruits, and a vegetable or two probably should make an appearance. Try to pull classic choices from both the lunch and breakfast spectrums. Your menu should be made up of a variety of versatile dishes that your guests like best. One of the best things about brunch is that it has a little of something that everyone can pick and choose from.
While the brunch menu offers a lot of latitude, a Christmas brunch’s presentation does come with some expectations. Remember, brunch is an experience. So, take a minute to create the atmosphere. This is no place for Styrofoam plates and plastic forks. You are a southern gal, for Heaven sakes. Most brunches are served buffet style, but that shouldn’t keep you from pulling out your nice dinnerware, real napkins, and maybe a
stem or two. Even the humble pig in a blanket gets an extra dose of holiday spirit when served on real dishes with festive flare.
A proper Christmas brunch is time well spent in a busy season that will have most of us on the run more than we’d like to admit. Even a simple brunch has a way of becoming something remarkable when surrounded by family and friends, filled with laughter and ease, and served up with a full helping of generous hospitality. And thank goodness those are things we’re never in short supply of here in the South, especially during Christmas.
It’s Christmas, and I am thinking gingerbread. And guess what? Gingerbread isn’t just for cookies, muffins, or breads… With the right ingredients, gingerbread is perfect for a Christmas crock pot breakfast. Topped with pecans, gingersnaps, and drizzled with real cream, this overnight gingerbread baked oatmeal is completely indulgent, fills the air with all the warm, wonderful smells of the holiday while you are sleeping, and is completely ready when you get up! Could it get any better? I say no.
Since breakfast on Christmas morning is one of my favorite meals of the year- everyone in pjs, wrapping paper and ribbon strewn willy nilly all about the living room, “Hark the Herald” in the background, a fire crackling in the fireplace, and family gathered all in one room- a batch of dessert-like overnight gingerbread baked oatmeal is at the top of my Christmas wish list this year.
Overnight Gingerbread Baked Oatmeal
Next to holiday finger foods (fondly just called ‘snacks’ at my house), Christmas brunch is my absolute favorite! Christmas brunch is also my favorite kind of holiday get-together to host. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because you get to have a little breakfast, a little of those fabulous Christmas finger foods, and a little Christmas dessert. I mean, where else can you get so much of all the things you love all in the same meal?
This particular recipe is a sweet standard on our Christmas morning brunch menu every year- a French toast bake, or casserole that can be made the night before or the morning of. All depending how much time you find yourself with.
Not to mention, this French toast bake is packed with all the flavors of the holiday- soaked in egg nog and topped with loads of cranberries, pecans and orange zest.
Wonderfully festive, beautifully indulgent, French Toast Bake with Egg Nog & Cranberry Pecan Topping is a Christmas showstopper, for sure. But shhh… don’t tell anyone… it’s not hard to make at all!
French Toast Bake with Egg Nog & Cranberry Pecan Topping
By Julie Culpepper
I wonder sometimes why turkey is only celebrated during the holidays. I guess anything besides the sliced deli style turkey is considered too much trouble. One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving past is my mom cooking Thanksgiving dinner. She always saved the little bag of giblets and simmered its contents with fresh celery and onion. I was the youngest of eight siblings while growing up. It was first come-first serve at my house-meaning that if you really liked something, you’d better eat it before someone else found it. It would spark trouble sometimes but most of the time we managed to share the spread pretty well. But for some reason, no one seemed to lay claim on those giblets. It was a free ticket for me as far as I can remember. It was so nice to eat as much of them as I wanted without having to compete for it! I even loved the veggies and broth that resulted from the long simmer. Now I’ve learned the health benefits of occasionally indulging in organ meats and the fresh homemade broth. There’s lots of things we ate as kids growing up in the country that I believe kept us strong and healthy and out of the doctor’s office to my mom’s relief. I loved to pick honeysuckle and many times tried to get enough of those little drops of honey out of it to drink a big sip from a thimble. There’s no telling what kind of antioxidants and nutrients are in honeysuckle droplets. We also knelt down often at a fresh water spring coming up out of the woods near the creek we played in for a deep drink. It grew lots of fresh water cress. I always tried to chew on some peppery sprouts with my cool refreshing drink of that water in the hot summertime. Those are great summertime memories for me. We were rich and didn’t know it. But my favorite cool weather memory is the giblets from a fresh whole turkey. I still don’t share with anyone except my dog, Ellie Mae nowadays! Since I’ve started using the wonderful Ultra-premium olive oils, I’ve created a simple, healthy rub for my turkey that is one
of the best ever. I don’t want it on my giblets, but I’ve created a new favorite holiday memory when it comes to roasted holiday turkey! I hope you enjoy it as you try some new holiday recipes.
No fuss No muss tailgating recipes
Snack sized bag of Doritos or Fritos
Seasoned Taco Meat
Crush up chips in bag. Open bag and either cut off top or roll it down. Add toppings of your choice. Mix it up, grab a fork and your ready to go!
PIGSKINS IN A BLANKET (An old faithful)
2 cans Pillsburry crescent rolls
1 pack of cocktail-sized sausages
mustard for topping
Heat oven to 375°F. Unroll both cans of dough and separate into 16 triangles. Cut each triangle lengthwise into three narrow triangles. Place one sausage on the thin point of each triangle and roll to the other end. Place seam side down on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 11 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to serving tray. Cool a couple of minutes. Squeeze mustard on top to make laces of football.
HAM & SWISS SLIDERS
1 stick butter (softened)
1 T 1/2 t mustard
2 T poppyseed
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 pack Hawaiian rolls
1 lb deli ham
1/2 lb swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 375º. Mix together softened butter, mustard, poppyseed, and Worcestershire sauce. Slice the rolls in half, put the mustard mixture on both sides of the roll. Put one slice of ham and half a slice of swiss between the rolls. Line the sliders on a pan and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes.
#tailgating #TracyCarpenter #QuickandEasyRecipes
Pepper Mozzarella Toast
Pepper Mozzarella Toast
1/2 (11.5 oz) jar of Jennifer’s Kitchen Pepper Jelly, Strawberry*
8 oz mozzarella cheese, diced
3/4 T olive oil + more for brushing
Aged balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
2 T heavy cream
fresh basil thinly sliced baguette
Preheat Oven 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Cut baguette into 1/2 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toast slices on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Mix chopped mozzarella, cream and olive oil in a small bowl to coat. Turn toast slices over and top with a spoonful of cheese mixture. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts.
Top with strawberry pepper jelly and a few slices of basil. Drizzle
a bit of aged balsamic vinegar. Yields: approximately 20 slices.
*works with any JK Flavor, We prefer Strawberry
Jennifer Lee is the owner of Jennifer's Kitchen, a gourmet jelly company based in Homewood, AL. She lives and breathes pepper jelly and is on a mission to teach people that pepper jelly is for more than just pouring over cream cheese!
Big games coming up this weekend and great weather for tailgating. Here are some recipes to add to your tailgate or football watching Saturday.
Recipes provided by Shea Goldstein, of Dixie Chik Cooks.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 T salt
1 T pepper
2 t cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 12 oz jar hamburger pickles
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large bowl.
Dip each pickle individually in the buttermilk, then dredge in flour mixture (I did mine twice to get a good coating on there).
Bring the oil to 350 degrees.
Fry the pickles in batches until brown, 1 to 2 minutes, and move to a paper
towel lined plate using a slotted spoon. Serve with Ranch dressing.
#Recipe #Appetizers #DixieChikCooks
Cheese Stuffed Meatballs with Salsa Verde Mayo
1 lb. ground round
2 T Moore's (or your favorite steak sauce)
6 T white cheese dip (make sure it's good and cold)
3 T mayo
2 T salsa verde
1 T olive oil
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped.
Combine the ground round and steak sauce in a mixing bowl.
Flatten into 6 discs.
Add 1 tsp cheese dip and bring edges up to make a ball.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Whisk mayo and salsa verde together; refrigerate.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add cold meatballs.
Brown about 3 minutes each side, rolling around gently to ensure they get done evenly.
Serve with salsa verde mayo and cilantro.
#Recipes #Appetizer #DixieChikCooks
Pepperoni Pizza Dip
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided in half
3 cups spaghetti sauce with meat (you could always use jarred sauce and add browned ground beef)
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Muenster cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded (or sliced, doesn't matter)
Pepperoni slices (as much as you like)
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the cream cheese, tsp of Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl; spread in a 9x11 glass baking dish.
Pour the spaghetti sauce over the cream cheese mixture.
Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese, Monterey Jack and Mueunster over the sauce.
Layer the pepperoni slices and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the pepperoni is starting to get a
little browned around the edges.
Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or whatever you want to dip it with_
Christmas time is fast approaching and as adults we can easily forget the wonder and anticipation of the lights, the decorations, and the excitement of having our material wishes fulfilled. The Christmas holiday season is nothing short of magical, especially for families with small children in the household. When I was a child, the magic of Christmas began on the day the new Christmas catalog arrived in the mail. I could hardly wait to sit with it and pour over it’s colorful pages to make my mental wish list. I got to relive that excitement when the boys started devouring every page and dreaming about what Santa might bring them.
Small children give Christmas a warm and joyful energy. This year there will be a little more of that warm, joyful energy felt as we welcome my first grandchild, Logan Riley Carpenter into the family. Logan was born in early August. We are all excited to view Christmas through the eyes of a child again. Doing so will bring back the simple pleasures of life and maybe some new traditions.
We don’t have many traditions on Christmas Day. The day is pretty relaxed and we just go with the flow. There is, however, one tradition for the day that we never miss and that’s a big breakfast! We have every intention of passing this tradition on to Logan and from how much I have seen him eat, he’s going to fit right in with the rest of the Carpenter boys.
On Christmas morning, I am not exactly sure what most people eat for breakfast, but the day has to start somehow. I mean, digging through stockings and unwrapping presents can’t be done on an empty stomach and it's Christmas, so it had better be special. That means no bowls of cold cereal or thin slices of toast.
I always make the traditional scrambled eggs, bacon, silver dollar pancakes, grits and jelly toast. However, each year I like to try one new dish to create a memorable Christmas. I’d like to share some of our favorite recipes we’ve had through the years -- homemade cinnamon rolls, hash brown casserole, sausage pinwheels, cheesy garlic grits, cheese bacon and onion quiche, and orange scones, blueberry sauce and homemade honey butter.
It’s my hope that your Christmas traditions will create magical memories that will last a lifetime. Remember to view them through the eyes of a child because doing so, the magic stays eternal.
The Christmas Breakfast Recipes Follow This Post or can be pulled from the Archive ... November 2014
Recipes and Photos by Tracy Carpenter
Baker and Home Cook and Regular Contributor to
Lake Wedowee Life and Southern Holiday Life magazines.