Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Skillet Cornbread Recipe

"What I want to do is savor this life - 
my life, my children, my community, 
this gorgeous world God created." 
- Shauna Niequist, Savor

Above is a quote from my new daily devotional for 2016.  The concept of slowing down and savoring each moment is meaningful to me this year as I celebrate the holidays without my oldest child.  My daughter is studying abroad and backpacking through Europe with old friends and new.  I am in awe of the pictures she posts on social media; my daughter in a gondola, my daughter in front of the Eiffel tower, my daughter on a sea wall.  She's independent, beautiful, and smart, but I know that a tiny part of her would love to join us at our dinner table for a big pot of soup and a skillet full of warm cornbread.

I miss my adventurous offspring the most when our family is gathered at the kitchen table.  Whether it is a weeknight dinner, a Sunday breakfast, or a holiday celebration, her absence is most poignant when her dad, three younger brothers, and I are gathered for meals.  She loves to cook, loves to eat, and loves to talk.  My husband and sons are better at savoring the silence which I know is just as important, but is harder for me to embrace.

Recently on a rainy Sunday my husband made a pot of Black-eyed Pea soup and I baked skillet cornbread.  As the smells wafted upstairs, my sons unplugged and migrated to the kitchen.  On busy weeknights or for make-ahead meals, we will often make cornbread muffins.  This night, however, I afforded myself the extra time and care it requires to make this rustic bread in my iron skillet. The recipe comes from the back of the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal canister. Making, serving, and eating it reminds me to savor each moment no matter how seemingly insignificant.  I hope this coming year you will take time to savor meals with your family and friends which just might include an iron skillet full of cornbread.

Skillet Cornbread

     (adapted closely from the Quaker recipe)

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons shortening

  1. Place 2 tablespoon shortening in a 9 or 10 inch iron skillet or prepare a 9 inch square or round pan or prepare 12 muffin cups.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  If using an iron skillet, place it in the oven as it preheats.  The shortening will melt.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt).
  4. Whisk together wet ingredients (milk, oil, egg).
  5. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until mixture is just moistened.  Do not over mix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan.  If using an iron skillet, remove it carefully from the oven using hot mitts and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the melted shortening.  Pour the batter into the iron skillet.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes (adjust time according to baking pan) or until top is light golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Serve warm with butter and honey or cool to room temperature.

"Let's savor this day, the beauty of the world God made, 
the richness of family and friendship, 
the good gifts of creativity and work.  
-Shauna Niequist, Savor

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

7 UP Bundt Cake Recipe

My husband collects comic books, my son collects Pokemon cards, my mother collects antique yellowware bowls, and I collect cookbooks.  Although I enjoy all types of cookbooks, my favorites are the community ones.  You know the type. . . few pictures, ring binding, and real recipes that might be credited to your childhood best friend's mom, your second cousin twice removed, or a random lady that volunteered at the local fire company.  Long before people were bloggingtweeting and pinning about what they were cooking they were submitting directions for their best dishes to their town's church, P.T.A. or chamber of commerce.  These cookbooks were often sold as fundraisers and are sprinkled with heartfelt blurbs and historical facts.  I love to buy them when I'm traveling, receive them as gifts (thanks, Poppop), and curl up with them on quiet evenings.

My latest is the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District's Historical Cookbook.  I bought it at the end of the school year and set it aside until I could savor it during my leisurely summer.  This community cookbook commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Texas school district where I work and where my children attend school.  I love reading the history, seeing the pictures of the hardworking educators that have shaped this quality public school system, and discovering new regional dishes.  Who wouldn't love to make Mrs. Aragon's Seafood Gumbo, Mrs. Swenke's Oriental Chicken Casserole, or Mr. Goodson's Bread Pudding?

I chose to christen the newest addition to my cookbook collection by baking Mrs. Fiest's 7-UP Cake for my son's 16th birthday.  He loves a good bundt cake and, much to his sister's disapproval, isn't a big fan of icing.  This made-from-scratch cake is filled with the lemon lime flavor of 7 Up and has a pound cake-ish texture.  I adapted the recipe for the glaze by using more soda in lieu of water.  Due to the amount of batter, I ended up making a bundt cake which I glazed and a loaf which I left plain.

Of course, I don't need anymore cookbooks in my life, but getting a new one sure is fun.  I've learned about the rich history of my school district and acquired a new family favorite recipe; priceless!  Now I'm thinking I should start collecting bundt cake pans.

7 UP Bundt Cake Recipe

     (adapted from the Cypress-Fairbanks I.S.D. Historical Cookbook, submitted in honor of Bernice Russell Fiest by her daughter-in-law)

Cake Ingredients:

2 sticks butter, softened
1/4 cup oil
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 can 7 Up soda

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons 7 Up soda

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Prepare one bundt cake pan by spraying with baking spray and greasing and flouring.
3.  Mix the butter, oil, and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla and flour.  Pour in the 7 Up soda slowly.  Mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated.
4.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
5.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, check periodically after 45 minutes of cooking time.
6.  While the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and 7 Up to create a glaze.  Drizzle on the cooled cake.

Cook's Notes:  The batter puffs up when the 7 Up soda is added.  Because of this, I chose to place about two thirds of the batter in my bundt pan and baked the rest in a loaf pan.  This reduced the baking time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Old Bay Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

Let's face it, healthy foods are not as satisfying to prepare,serve, or ingest as decadent desserts and luscious main dishes. I receive super mom status when I make a pan of these or a batch of these, but when I lovingly arrange these on a tray and sit them on the table where the seemingly never ending Risk game is in progress, I get polite thank yous.  My household appreciates healthy options, they just aren't as excited about them as they are of a big bowl of this.

That is why I want to share my current healthy snack obsession - Old Bay Roasted Chickpeas.  These tasty and healthy bits satisfy hunger and the desire to ingest something crunchy and salty.  When done correctly, they can be enjoyed by ravenous swimmers, hungry America's Got Talent viewers, and starving Dungeons and Dragons players.  My family has even started searching for them in the snack cupboard and requesting them.  I knew they were blog worthy when one of my teenagers yelled, "Who ate all of those little crunchy things mom keeps making?"

It's true, I have been obsessively repeatedly making roasted chickpeas (and posting them on instagram) because, despite the thousands of recipes on the internet, it has taken me a while to get them right.  At first I didn't thoroughly dry the drained and rinsed chickpeas which are also known as garbanzo beans.  Placing them between two layers of paper towels for a few minutes was not enough.  That method resulted in a slightly chewy and very unsatisfying snack. I have found that the best crunch results when I place the rinsed chick peas on a sheet tray between layers of clean paper towels and leave them for several hours or overnight.  My second mistake was under seasoning.  Garbanzo beans have little or no taste on their own so they require an ample supply of your favorite seasoning mix along with an extra boost of Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Finally, I realized that I need to bake them until they are almost, but not quite burnt.  Careful monitoring is required.

Despite these obstacles, I persevered and have come upon our family's favorite version of the healthy snack, roasted chickpeas.  Being from Maryland, we, of course, gravitate to anything that is seasoned with Old Bay.  My family and I also embrace the mindless hand to mouth motion that is not great for diets, but is oh-so-satisfying while watching some mindless summer television.  As a mom, I enjoy the relative healthiness and ease of preparation of this economical and tasty snack.  Old Bay Roasted Chickpeas are now a regular occupant in our snack cabinet and a nice addition to our long list of summer snacks.

Old Bay Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

1-15 ounce can chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (or your favorite seasoning salt)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 chili pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper

1.  Drain and rinse chickpeas.
2.  Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Place drained and rinsed chickpeas in a single layer on the paper towel lined baking sheet.  Cover with more paper towels.  Allow to drain for a few hours or overnight.  Note:  The less moisture in the chick peas the crunchier they will be after baking.
3.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4.  In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil and spices.  Fold in chickpeas until they are coated with oil and spice mixture.
5.  Spread the coated chickpeas onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a silpat liner.  Shake the pan slightly so the chick peas are spread out in a single layer.
6.  Bake the chick peas for 15 minutes.  Toss the chick peas and continue baking for up to 15 more minutes checking and shaking pan every 5 minutes.  I know the chick peas are done when I can smell the Old Bay aroma and they are just starting to brown.
7.  Cool and enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chocolate Muffins Recipe

Summer Heidi is in full swing!  In the last month I watched my daughter walk across the stage of her high school graduation, supported my sons through standardized tests and final exams, said good-bye to my Kindergarten classroom, coordinated a family portrait for my family of 6, and threw a grad party.  All fun, all part of my abundant life, but all part of Working Heidi (a.k.a. Paycheck Heidi).  Now I get to slow my pace and live life at my leisure; leisurely waking up, leisurely walking my dog, leisurely organizing overstuffed drawers, leisurely chatting on the phone with family, leisurely drinking tea while reading, and leisurely cooking.

I kicked off my leisurely summer life with a pantry challenge.  This is something that was passed down from my mother and entails organizing and cooking, two of my favorite things:).  First, I take everything out of my pantry, one shelf at a time.  Next, armed with a small bucket of sudsy water, I wipe each shelf and assess its contents before placing all of the edible items back in an orderly fashion.  Last, I peruse my recipe box, cookbooks, and Pinterest pages to find recipes that utilize my newly organized pantry ingredients.  I repeat this challenge with my refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards.

My most recent pantry challenge inspired me to create Pumpkin Muffins (I must have been planning for Y2K when I purchased cans of pumpkin last fall), Roasted Chick Peas (a new go-to snack for my husband), Chicken Avocado Soup (a recipe I recently found through a Facebook share), Lemon Cheesecake Pie (I love finding a use for that random can of evaporated milk I always seem to have), and Chocolate Muffins.  Of course, my clan loves muffins, but, I must admit, during the school year I often resort to the boxed variety.  Summer Heidi has time to leisurely prepare muffins from scratch.

My Chocolate Muffin recipe comes from Nigela Lawson.  When my children were small and I was Stay-at-Home Heidi, I would corral all my little people into the basement family room, fold mountains of laundry, and watch cooking shows.  We enjoyed Nigela's cheerful kitchen, soothing accent, and tasty recipes.  Getting the actual recipes, however, was a bit of a challenge at the turn of the millennium.  Without the advent of internet and smart phones, I had to check out Nigela's cookbooks from the library during one of our weekly treks to story time and then copy down the recipes that I wanted to add to my repertoire.

This recipe is particularly appealing  because it can be served for breakfast, dessert, or a snack.  It enhances any cup of tea or coffee.  It also involves everyday ingredients like flour, unsweetened cocoa, and chocolate chips.  A perfect Pantry Challenge recipe!  I hope that this summer you will get to experience life at a leisurely pace and maybe even take the Pantry Challenge.

Chocolate Muffin Recipe
     (adapted from Nigela Lawson's "Feast")

1 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 egg
1 cup milk (whole or reduced fat, I used 1%)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons oil (I used canola)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips, plus more for snacking and sprinkling (semi-sweet or dark chocolate)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and unsweetened cocoa.
  3. Mix together egg, milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Gently combine wet and dry ingredients.  Batter will be lumpy.  Try not to over mix although if you are cooking with children you will surely have some over mixing happening.  It's okay.
  5. Fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.
  6. Fill each prepared muffin cup about two thirds full.  Use an ice cream scoop to neatly and evenly distribute batter.  Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on the top of each unbaked muffin.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out of the center of the largest muffin with only a few crumbs clinging to it.
  8. Cool slightly and enjoy.  You may also stored cooled muffins in an air tight container for a few days.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lemon Scones Recipe

This is a re-post from 2009.  Happy New Year!

"What would you like me to cook today?" Occasionally I pose this question to the members of my household. Sometimes I ask, "What would you like to cook with me?" Other times, however, I desire to prepare something by myself but enjoy taking requests from my family who range in age from four and a half to thirty nine and three quarters.

Glazed Lemon SconesLast week when I asked this question, three out of five of my family independently answered, "Lemon Scones". (I think it is so cute that a ten year old boy would request lemon scones as the thing he would most like his mom to cook. Awwwwwww!) I remembered that I had a few lonely lemons and some heavy cream hiding in the back of my refrigerator. The other two people in my family who had requested cars birthday cake and sushi were also big fans of lemon scones so we were all happy.

This recipe comes from a page I ripped from "Family Fun Magazine" in March of 2008. Some of my best recipes are from magazines. Before I ever put one of my periodicals in the recycling bin, I rip out interesting recipes. This is a habit I acquired form my mom and I'm so glad I did. Sometimes these clippings hang around my house for years before I actually get around to cooking them. Once I've prepared the recipe I either file it, if I like it, or pitch it, if I don't.

I filed this recipe for lemon scones because it produces a treat that can be made in less than a half hour with simple ingredients and because it is scrumptious. Although it has the texture of a great biscuit, it has the flavor of a delicious lemon cake. The addition of the lemon glaze makes it a favorite with the kids. My family and I often enjoy Glazed Lemon Scones on Sunday afternoons with a pot of hot tea, but they would be great for breakfast or, as Family Fun suggests, as part of a brunch.

Lemon Scones
    (adapted from Family Fun Magazine)

Scone Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch peces
1 cup whipping cream, plus more for brushing
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Tablespoons whipping cream

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or preheat a baking stone.
  2. Sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into large mixing bowl.  Add the lemon zest and gently toss together.  
  3. Using fingers or pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the cream, the yolk, and the vanilla extract.  Use a fork to blend the liquids within the well.  Use a wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients, just until the dough holds together.  Dough will be crumbly.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface.  Using floured hands, gently knead three or four times until a ball forms.  Flatten the ball int a disk about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut disc into 8 wedges (I use a pizza cutter).  Transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheet or preheated stone, leaving at least 1/4 inch between them.  Brush the tops lightly with cream.
  6. Bake the scones in the center of the oven until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.  Allow scones to cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
  7. While the scones are cooling, make the glaze.  Whisk together the powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, lemon extract, melted butter, and whipping cream.   Thin glaze with cream a few drops at a time to create a loose consistency.  Drizzle each scone generously with glaze.
Makes 8 scones.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

     Summer Heidi is making pesto!  Since returning to teaching full-time I have assumed two identities:  Working  Heidi and Summer Heidi. My family loves when Summer Heidi spends quality time in the kitchen baking this or giving guidance on how to make a pan of these, but they also enjoy the paycheck that Working Heidi provides. I am pleased with both. 

     Today I am embracing Summer Heidi by whipping up a batch of homemade pesto. Although Working Heidi will gladly use the jarred variety, Summer Heidi likes the process of picking basil from a plant in our backyard that my youngest son has been tending since April, carefully trimming the fragrant leaves, and being greeted by a container of this vibrant green concoction every time the fridge is opened. 

     My recipe is inspired by Betty Crocker, Pinterest, and Food Network. I started by adding two firmly packed cups of clean, dry basil leaves to my handy dandy blender. Then I layered on Parmesan Cheese, pine nuts, diced garlic, and a few pinches of kosher salt. Next I poured in some olive oil and began to blend. Whenever I combine ingredients in the blender I follow Alton Brown's advice of increasing the speed gradually.  My blender isn't one of the high end versions that has a dial so I have devised my own method:  pulse on low ten times, pulse on high ten times, blend on low for ten seconds, blend on high until a whirlpool appears.   When my pesto was fully combined I tasted it, added a bit more garlic and salt, and whirred it around on high for another minute. 

     Tonight Summer Heidi is using this fresh basil pesto to create Cynthia Sass' Savory Spaghetti Squash. Tomorrow she will probably make some pesto deviled eggs. After that, who knows? Summer Heidi has nothin' but time!  

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
     (makes about 1 1/2 cups of prepared pesto)

2 cups clean, dry basil leaves (firmly packed)
3/4 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 cups pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, diced (or 3 teaspoons prepared garlic packed in olive oil)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the clean, dry basil leaves in a blender.
  2. Addd the cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Blend, starting off slow and increasing speed gradually.
  4. Stop blender and scrape sides.
  5. Taste.  Add more garlic and salt as needed.
  6. Blend until smooth.
  • Refrigerate pesto for up to two weeks.  Freeze for up to six month.
  • Use pesto to top pasta, roasted chicken, grilled fish, spaghetti squash, and more.  Add to dressings, sauces, or deviled eggs.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Watergate Salad Recipe

Here is a classic recipe worthy of your Thanksgiving table or any festive gathering. Enjoy!

Watergate Salad Recipe

1 package pistachio instant pudding (3 ounces)
1- 9 ounce Cool Whip
1 can crushed pineapple (20 ounces), undrained
2 cups mini marshmallows 
1/4 cup maraschino cherries, drained

1.  Mix dry instant pudding, cool whip, marshmallows, and crushed pineapple. 
2.  Spread into a casserole dish. 
3.  Slice cherries in half. Arrange on top of mixture. 
4.  Chill for at least an hour or overnight.