Sunday, January 31, 2016

Nikki's Lentil Soup

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My friend, Nikki, has always made the BEST Lentil Soup. When we first met 40+ years ago, I was a brand-new, very young wife, married to an Air Force man and Nikki and I hit it off immediately. She too was married to an Air Force man, and was just a few years older than me, therefore wiser, right? She also had the benefit of growing up as the daughter of an Air Force officer. This was immensely beneficial over time as we both learned how to be Air Force wives.


Anyway, wayyyyyy back then she made this Lentil Soup. I had never heard of it, and to be quite truthful, the first time I saw it, it did not look that appealing ... I mean it's brown with small bits of ham and carrot in it. Seriously, her own two sons have always called it "mud soup," but they meant that in a good way, hahaha. And it isn't a pretty brown, it's kind of a nasty green/brown ... for some it's very hard to get past that color, but once you do ... oh my goodness, amazing flavor and taste.

Of course I had no idea then how frugal it was to make since lentils were fairly cheap and you used leftover ham pieces and a ham bone to create the soup. It was cheap to make, it fed a lot, was full of fiber and good for you, and also froze well. It fit the "then very tight budget" quite well.




I've tried honestly to make Nikki's Lentil Soup several times, but I have never been successful in making it taste like her's does ... ever. It might come close, but it's never quite the same. I can satisfy myself once in awhile with what I make, but mostly I look forward to getting some when Nikki makes it (at least once a year after the Christmas holiday).

Yep, I sure do look forward to the day a few frozen packs of that delicious soup make their way into my freezer, which is pretty easy since we've followed each other all over the world with military assignments, and she and her husband just live about 30-40 minutes away now. It's awesome to have best friends you've known your whole adult life.



Thursday, January 28, 2016

The BEST Chocolate (Texas) Sheet Cake

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Whoever first made this cake is pure genius! Rich, chocolate, gooey, delicious CAKE! The BEST, most moist cake I've ever eaten. It will have anyone you serve it to asking for more, and is one of those cakes you'll make time and time again ... it's that good.




Recipe

Ingredients

For the cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbls (heaping) cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

For the frosting:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1-3/4 stick butter
4 tbls (heaping) cocoa
6 tbls milk
1 tsp vnilla
2 cups (scant) powdered sugar

Method
Note: the recipe makes a 18 x 13-inch sheet cake pan, but you can use a 9 x 13-inch pan and  increase baking time  to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake for 20 minutes (or 30 minutes for 9 x 13-inch pan).

While cake is baking, make the frosting. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Cut into squares, eat, and enjoy this delicious chocolate decadence you just baked.




Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Slow Cooked Braised Lamb Shanks

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I grew up eating Leg of Lamb and have enjoyed preparing it myself many, many times. I have also enjoyed grilled Loin Lamb Chops and Rack of Lamb but until recent years, I'd never had Lamb Shanks. I'm not sure if that's because they simply weren't available as a choice back when I was a girl, or what, but I don't ever remember anyone even talking about shanks ... I mean what is a shank?

According to Wikipedia,  a meat shank or shin is the portion of meat around the tibia of the animal, the leg bone beneath the knee. Lamb shanks are often braised whole; veal and beef shanks are typically cross-cut.




















Some dishes made using shank include:

  1. Bulalo, a Filipino beef shank stew
  2. Ossobuco alla milanese, an Italian veal shank dish
  3. Persian Biryani, with different shanks
  4. Nihari a spicy national dish of Pakistan
  5. Cazuela with shank meat, popular in 19th century Chile during the nitrate boom

Of course after I found out what a lamb shank was, I realized it was the long narrow portion  on the leg of lamb. Ahhh haaaaa! Now I knew what it was and realized I had tasted it before, just never as a separate piece from the leg.

Like most less tender cuts of meat, a lamb shank is meant to be braised and slow cooked. Doing so creates the most flavorful dish I've ever had and the meat is falling off the bone tender. These lamb shanks came from my friends at Old McCaskills Farm and are so good.















Recipe

Ingredients
2 lamb shanks
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced

Method
Spray a large slow cooker with cooking spray. Place diced celery, onion and carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the tomato paste, minced garlic, oregano, thyme leaves, salt, pepper, red wine, red wine vinegar and chicken stock, stirring well to combine. Place lamb shanks on top and ladle some of the sauce over top.

Cover and cook on low 6 - 8  hours, or until the meat on the shanks is pulling away from the bone.

Serve shanks with some sauce over rice or couscous.

Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Super Soft Cinnamon Rolls

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I've been on a quest for the perfect cinnamon rolls for a long time. I've tried all kinds of recipes and, in fact, have a few others on my blog from Caramel Nut Sticky Buns to Cinnamon Rolls with Raisins and Pecans.  Don't get me wrong, both of those are very good too, but they aren't the ooey gooey cinnamon rolls I was after this time. Besides, you can never have too many cinnamon roll recipes, right?!?



This recipe is simple, straight forward and easy! Plus it's really, really tasty. Really, really easy, and really, really tasty! The dough is incredibly super-light and fluffy, and the filling uses brown sugar instead of white sugar, which adds more depth of flavor.


You owe it to yourself and your family to try these ... trust me! I know you'll be happy you did.


Recipe

Ingredients
For the Dough:
1 package or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbls ground cinnamon
Optional: add 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins and/or chopped pecans

For the Glaze:
3 tbls unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbls milk

Method
For the Dough:
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Pour in yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is easy to handle.

Knead dough in your mixer with the dough hook, or by hand on lightly floured surface, for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Once doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle.

For the Filling and Baking:
Combine melted butter, cinnamon and sugar, spreading all over dough. Beginning at the longest (15 inch) side, roll up dough and pinch edges together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the Glaze:
Mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whisk in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. (If you like a thinner consistency glaze, add more milk.) Spread over slightly cooled rolls, or drizzle over tops as shown above. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar if desired.



Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion

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I grew up eating Brussels Sprouts BUT they were frozen in a package from the grocery store and my mother boiled them ... always. We never had them any other way, and we definitely never had them fresh. This is probably because that's how she learned to do it from her mother. Don't you find yourself doing that too?

Photo from Bonnie Plants
My first recollection of fresh Brussels Sprouts was when we grew them in a garden and our children were still in elementary school. And, of course, I boiled them because that's the only way I'd ever seen them prepared. Who knew about roasting them? I certainly didn't, and after all my mother always boiled them.

Fast forward now about 30 years and I discovered ROASTED Brussels Sprouts AND they were fresh AND delicious. Thank goodness someone discovered roasting them because they are so much better cooked that way. So now I roast them, FRESH, never frozen, and enjoy them so much more.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Beef Bourguignon {Beef 'n Burgundy}

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Beef bourguignon is one of many examples of peasant dishes being slowly refined into haute cuisine. Most likely, the particular method of slowly simmering the beef in wine originated as a means of tenderizing cuts of meat that would have been too tough to cook any other way.
Over time, the dish became a standard of French cuisine. The recipe most people still follow to make an authentic beef bourguignon was first described by Auguste Escoffier. That recipe, however, has undergone subtle changes, owing to changes in cooking equipment and available food supplies. Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking describes the dish, sauté de boeuf à la Bourguignonne, as "certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man." (Source: Wikipedia)














Recipe

Ingredients
6 slices bacon, diced
1 lb. grass-fed Angus stew beef, cubed
1 medium onion, quartered
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. course-ground black pepper
2 cups beef bone broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups burgundy wine
1 lb. carrots, sliced into 1-inch chunks
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 cups egg noodles, cooked

Method
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a Dutch oven, cook diced bacon until crispy. Add beef and cook until browned. Stir in onion, garlic, salt, pepper, bone broth, tomato paste, thyme leaves, and burgundy wine.

Cover with lid and bake 2 hours. Uncover, add carrots and mushrooms (optional) and return to oven to cook 30 more minutes.

Remove from oven and serve over cooked egg noodles.

Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Devil's Food Chiffon Cake

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Oh my goodness, you owe it to yourself to bake this cake! When my friend, Kris, from Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies shared her Gram's Devil's Food Chiffon Cake I KNEW I was going to make one. To say this is a "showcase" cake is an understatement. Delicious, light and moist, this cake is an all around winner.

Look this cake is GORGEOUS before it's even decorated!






















Recipe

Ingredients
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
8 large farm fresh eggs, separated, reserving both whites and yolks
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In small bowl, combine boiling water and cocoa. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

In large bowl beat egg whites with cream of tarter until very stiff.

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large mixing bowl. Make a well in center, and add vegetable oil, egg yolks, cooled cocoa mixture, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Fold in egg whites until completely incorporated.

Pour into 10" tube pan sprayed with baking spray or lightly greased.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until cake springs back when touched. Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes then carefully invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Frosting
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tbls. cream or milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
toasted pecan pieces (optional)

Beat cream cheese and butter until well blended. Add confectioner's sugar, cream or milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth, creamy and spreading consistency. Frost cake and top with toasted pecans, if desired.






















Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Taco Soup

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This is a quick and easy soup you can easily put together and serve in no time at all. It relies on a few common pantry items, or some you put up yourself over the summer, and it's perfect for those cold fall or winter days.


Recipe
Ingredients
2 cups (16 oz) beef bone broth or stock
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbls. taco seasoning
2 cups salsa
2 cups milk
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 sliced jalapeno pepper
salt and course-ground black pepper, to taste

Method
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef; drain any grease and return beef to pan. Add next 4 ingredients and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and add cheese, sliced jalapeno, salt and black pepper. Stir until cheese is melted.

Taste soup and adjust seasonings to your taste. Simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring often. Serve hot with your choice of tortilla or corn chips.

Yield:  4 servings

Cooks note - recipe is easily doubled and freezes well.


Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Chocolate Chess Pie

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No one has ever been able to determine how chess pie came about its name, but the colorful explanations make for great table conversation.

Some say gentlemen were served this sweet pie as they retreated to a room to play chess. Others say the name was derived from Southerners’ dialect: It’s jes’ pie (it’s just pie). Yet another story suggests that the dessert is so high in sugar that it kept well in pie chests at room temperature and was therefore called “chest pie.” Southern drawl slurred the name into chess pie. Or, perhaps, a lemony version of the pie was so close to the traditional English lemon curd pie, often called “cheese” pie, that chess pie became its american name.

Chess pie may be a chameleon confection, but at its heart are always the basic four ingredients ... flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. And preparation is never much more than a little stirring and about half an hour in the oven.














“There are a lot of similar desserts that share the same ingredients,” explains cookbook author Jeanne Volz. “That’s because the South was at one time agrarian, and a farm woman had to cook with what was there ... things like eggs, butter, sugar, and cornmeal. She’d put it all together and try to make something out of it, and when it was good, she’d try to remember what she did.”

Of course, you can get fancy with flavorings such as lemon juice. Or add a dash of nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon. Sprinkle in some flaked coconut or toasted chopped pecans. Some believe a splash of buttermilk makes chess pie better; others swear by a tablespoon of vinegar. To double the already-decadent richness of chess pie, stir in cocoa powder. (source: Southern Living) 
Original recipe seen via The Southern Weekend


















Recipe
Ingredients

Crust:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbls. ice cold water
Pie:
1 stick of butter, melted
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
1 unbaked pie crust
Method:
Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl combine flour, salt and shortening. Using a pastry blender or fork, incorporate the shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add cold (ice cold) water and stir until dough forms a ball. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and using a rolling pin, roll dough out to fit pie plate. Place crust in pie plate, trim and crimp sides and set aside.

Combine all pie ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Scrape down sides and blend another time to be sure all ingredients are well combined and smooth. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Bake for 1 hour.

Yield: 8 slices













Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chicken Fricassee {Fricassee De Poulet a L'Ancienne}

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Many cooking references describe fricassee simply as a French stew, usually with a white sauce. To me it's the original French comfort food ... simmered chicken with hearty vegetables in a rich, silky sauce, that was also one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite dishes.























There are many recipes around for this one-pot chicken dish, but this combination of a bone-in chicken, with the veggies, wine, broth and spices is my favorite. It makes an easy and hearty meal for any night of the week, but is also pretty enough for Sunday supper or when company comes to visit.

Naturally, I always recommend using a pasture raised chicken from a local farm. This beauty came from my friends at Thames Farm.

Recipe

Ingredients
1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces (2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 breasts each cut in half)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbls. unsalted butter, softened, divided
1 tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
1 carrot, diced (1/2 cup)
1 celery stalk, diced (1/3 cup)
2 tbls. all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken bone broth
2 large farm fresh egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
2 tbls. fresh lemon juice

Method

Brown Chicken
Season chicken on both sides with 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Preheat a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the oil to pot. When butter melts and foam subsides, add half the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer; do not crowd pot. (If butter begins to blacken, lower heat.) Fry chicken, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes total, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Saute Onions, Carrots and Celery
Reduce heat to medium, and add mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) to pot, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown in places, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook until flour is absorbed by vegetables and is no longer visible, about 1 minute.

Pour in Wine and Broth
Add wine to pot, and bring to a boil, stirring until liquid just thickens, about 45 seconds. Add broth, and stir.

Simmer Chicken
Place chicken, skin side up, in a single layer on vegetables; pour juices that have accumulated on plate into pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover partially. Cook until internal temperature of thickest part of chicken registers 165 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a clean plate. Simmer liquid, uncovered, until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.

Make Sauce Thickener
To make the sauce thickener, whisk together egg yolks and cream in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, pour 1/2 cup cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, into liaison to temper it. Stir tempered sauce into pot. Return chicken to pot. Add tarragon, thyme, lemon juice, and the remaining butter. Bring to a simmer, stir gently to combine, and serve.



















Enjoy,
Mary

© Cooking with Mary and Friends. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cooking with Mary and Friends with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.