Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Mini Hotdogs with Sauerkraut and Slaw

Here’s an easy recipe for a big crowd, either for home and family, or to take to a potluck. Great flavor and can be served up as a hot appetizer or main course!

  Mini Hotdogs with Sauerkraut and Slaw

In a crock pot (or a regular stove-top, deep saucepan with a lid), combine: Two 14-oz. packages of “Li’l Smokies” (mini hotdogs; you could also slice up 2 pounds of regular hotdogs, although the mini hotdogs look cuter)
1 quart sauerkraut
1 small, diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic (fresh or dried; I used dried)
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional; leave out if you don’t like them) Simmer for at least one hour in a crock pot or cook on your stove top for at least a half an hour on medium heat until everything is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are tender. If you cook on the stove top, you may need to add another 1/2 cup water (just enough to keep it from burning).

About a half an hour before you’re ready to serve it, add:
1 and 1/2 cups cold slaw mix (without dressing; just the shredded green and red cabbage with carrots). If you time it just right, the cold slaw absorbs the juices and cooks without losing it’s color. It can be cooked indefinitely, or reheated for another meal, and it doesn’t really effect the flavor, but it will lose it’s color, and it’s definitely most appealing when it has the green, purple, and orange-colored veggies mixed throughout!Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted” (Isaiah 49:13).

Savory Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions

Do you have a system for storing favored recipes? I have a loose-leaf notebook, but my mother had a recipe box with 3X5″ cards, which I inherited. The last time my oldest son was home, he was interested in enjoying a couple of her specialties remembered from childhood. One of our mutual favorites was a casserole made with french-style green beans, mushrooms and crispy onion rings on top. I altered it slightly, to include fresh mushrooms (rather than mushroom soup) and onion straws, but otherwise, this is an authentic throw back to days of yore.

Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms and Onions
(Serves 12)

1. Start preheating the oven to 350°F.2. In a shaker or other means of mixing well, blend:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup milk
(I also inherited my mom’s copper shaker, which has outlasted and worked better than the Tupperware shaker I bought as a newly wed!)3. In a skillet, sauté:
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

4. When the veggies are browned and tender, add:
The flour and milk mixture
1 tablespoon garlic  5. Heat until the flour mixture becomes a gravy, then add:
16 oz. frozen, french-style green beans
1/2 cup french-fried onion straws

6. Heat until everything is hot.
7. Pour into a 8X10″ baking dish.
8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350° F.
9. Remove cover and top with 1 cup french-fried onion straws.
10. Bake about 10 more minutes until the straws are a crispy golden. 11. Serve piping hot, hopefully having timed it to finish when you’re ready to serve dinner. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2).

Joel’s Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

One of our favorite winter suppers features butternut squash soup, and my son Joel has made it so many times that he’s got it down to an art. As with most recipes, it’s morphed from the template he used years ago into something that tastes even better than the original, so I want to share it with you today.

Joel’s Creamy Butternut Soup
(Makes 8-9 cups)

In a large saucepan with deep sides, saute:
1/2 stick (4 oz) butter
1 medium, chopped onion until tender.   Then add:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-2-inch cubes1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider
Enough additional water to cover the squash
4 chicken bouillon cubes    Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).  Add:
8 oz. cream cheese, and blend everything together with an immersion blender until it is completely pureed and smooth.  Heat to a simmer again (but don’t allow it to boil) and serve it piping hot! If you combine it with a tossed salad, fresh bread and cheese, with apples for dessert and a glass of water, it becomes a very nutritious and fairly low calorie but fully satisfying dinner!

He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?”
(Psalm 147:17)

Improvising on a Theme: Let’s Try It On Hungry Jack

This is an old recipe I learned years ago from a Southern belle! It’s super simple, inexpensive, and pretty much universally popular with kids. True comfort food!

Hungry Jack
(serves 12±)

#1. Heat oven to 375°F.#2. In a large frying pan, fry together until thoroughly browned:
1 pound ground hamburger
1 medium onion
8 oz. mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper #2.* Now, here is where I improvised, and you can too! I threw in some really tender leftover beef brisket, a few potatoes, and some leftover horseradish and sour cream sauce. (Obviously, I don’t do this if I’m serving company.) Hungry Jack is great just as is, but it’s also a good dish for adding any leftover beef, gravy, or veggies that you have in your refrigerator. Peas, corn, and peppers are a few veggies that are both delicious and nutritious additives. #3. Once everything is heated through, add a gravy made of:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup flour, and stir until everything is coated and hot.#4. Spread 1 large can pork’n’beans into the bottom of a 9X13″ glass baking dish and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. #5. Add meat mixture over the top of the heated pork’n’beans.#6. Sprinkle 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite) over the top. #7. Cover with one sheet of Pillsbury crescent dough or a package of biscuits pulled in half. I’ve changed the original recipe, which was named (I think) for Hungry Jack biscuits. I first learned the recipe as halving Hungry Jack biscuits and arranging them over the top, but lately Pillsbury has come out with sheets of dough, which work just perfectly and give a beautiful blanket effect over the entire casserole. #8. Bake in hot oven at 375°F. for 15 minutes or until golden on top. #9. Pull out of the oven and let it rest on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes. It should still be piping hot, but the gravy will be slightly thicker, and everything will come out looking especially appealing! I served it with hot, mulled cider, a tossed salad, and blackberries (but only because I caught the berries on a good sale; any fresh fruit works well).

Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea. For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance” (Job 36:30-32).

Buttery Caramel Pecan Rolls

Winter time is a great time to get together for brunch and prayer, and if you’re going to splurge a little, then it’s also a great time to make pecan rolls!

Buttery Caramel Pecan Rolls
(Makes 12 rolls)

I suspect culinary die hards would make their dough from scratch, and you can do so if you want to, but I’m very pragmatic, and I’ve found that frozen bread dough works just fine and saves me a couple of hours, so I start by:

#1. Defrost 1 pound of frozen bread dough#2. Cover bottom of 9X13″ baking dish with a mixture of:
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 oz. pecan halves#3. Roll out bread dough to an approximately 6X15″ rectangle
Butter liberally with 1/3 stick of softened butter (don’t go completely to the edges, or it’s hard to make the roll stick together tightly later)
Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar on top
Sprinkle liberally with ground cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon)#4. Crush 6 oz pecans with a rolling pin (while they’re still in their bag),  then spread them lightly over the bread dough.  Use the remaining crushed pecans to fill in any open spaces in the bottom of the baking pan. #5. Roll the dough up, starting with the long, 15″ edge.  You should end up with a roll about 15″ long and a couple of inches deep. Seal edges together by pinching them closed. (Don’t worry if they don’t seal tightly, and if you cut with the seam side down, they shouldn’t come apart much.) Slice with a sharp knife into twelve equal pieces. I’ve found it’s easiest to slice it once in the middle, and then into quarters,  and then each of the quarters into three smaller pieces. #6. Separate each pecan roll and place them evenly in the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight (if you want).  You can also set them on the counter to rise for several hours if you want to bake them that evening.  I usually serve them for breakfast, so I keep them in the refrigerator over night and then in the morning, I take them out of the refrigerator and let them rise for several hours before baking. (If you don’t have “several hours,” you can warm them in an over set to “warm” or 150°F, but keep the plastic wrap on and be very careful, because they can start to bake or dry out, and it sometimes makes the plastic wrap stick so it’s hard to get off before baking. If the wrap sticks, pull super slowly, using your fingers to protect the rolls if need be, or you might end up with the rolls deflating. 😦 )#7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. If the rolls haven’t risen enough on their own (such as on a cold winter morning), you can also encourage them along by setting the pan (still covered, so they don’t dry out) on the top of your oven if it is warm. #8. When the rolls are starting to touch each other, take off the saran wrap and pop them into the oven preheated to 350°F. and bake them for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. If you catch them when they’re no longer doughy but just starting to brown, I’ve found that they last longer without drying out. #9. Remove them from the oven and immediately overturn the pan onto a buttered cookie sheet  so the pecan rolls end up upside-down with the pecans and caramel on top. Scoop out any remaining caramel and nuts with a spatula and redistribute it over the top of the pecan rolls.  They are best served fresh out of the oven, although they are good all day. If you’ve succeeded in baking them through but only lightly, and you keep the unused rolls covered, they can be reheated and still taste fresh for a couple of days.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:
so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

Potato Peel Pie You Can Actually Serve for Company Dinner or Breakfast!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been so popular that people have been trying to figure out how to make potato peel pies. In reality, of course, they were fit only for the palates of those who were on the edge of starvation, but it did pique my interest. What were they made from, and could I make a version that would actually taste good? I looked online and learned that they were made from potatoes, a bit of beet, and a bit of milk, but the only actual recipe I could find called for frozen, shredded potatoes and no potato peels. That didn’t satisfy. Allrecipes.com sponsors recipes for sweet potato pies, but not potato peel pies. Therefore, I took up the challenge, and as it passed muster for my personal Bake Off judges (my husband and son), I’ll pass it along to you:

Perfectly Delicious Potato Peel Pie
(the way they might have made it if they’d had the ingredients)
(Serves 6)

Ingredients:
3 large potatoes
3 beets: tops chopped and boiled for 2 minutes in lightly salted water
1/2 pound bacon fried with one chopped onion
4 eggs whisked with:
2 teaspoons fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk

How to make:
#1.Preheat oven to 350°F.
#2. Peel potatoes and place peelings in an 9″ pie plate. Arrange.
#3. Slice potatoes into thin chunks and boil in salted water for 1/2 hour (until fork-tender).
#4. Boil the beets (washed but unpeeled) in slightly salted water for 45 minutes.
#5. Fry 1/2 pound of bacon with one medium chopped onion. Don’t drain off fat.
#6. Cook chopped beet greens for just 2 minutes in boiling water. #7.  Drain and rinse in a collander to remove juice and stop cooking process.
#8. Whisk together:
4 eggs
2 teaspoons fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
#9. Add cooked greens to egg mixture.
#10. Pour egg mixture and greens into pie pan.
#11. Spoon fried bacon and onions over top, complete with drippings.
#12. Bake uncovered in an oven at 350°F. for 1/2 hour. Remove from oven. If there’s any extra fat or juice, pour it into a small container to save for the beets.
#13. While the pie is baking, and after the potatoes are cooked, mash the potatoes with:
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
Whip in a mixing bowl until really fluffy (can add a little more milk if needed)
#14. After the pie has baked for 1/2 hour, remove and cover with mashed potatoes. Return to oven, kick up the heat to “broil” at 450° and bake until the top starts to brown, around 10-15 minutes, but lower your rack so it’s not the closest to the broiler, to keep it from burning (one slot down works best). Keep an eye on your pie, because it will go from not looking brown at all to being very brown in a matter of a few minutes.
#15. If you don’t like beets, then you’re done with your pie, but you need the greens and stems, so you may as well serve the beets while you’re at it! (Low high, high nutritive value!) To finish off the beets, pour out the hot water and rinse them in cold water for about 3-5 minutes until they’re cool enough to handle. By gently rubbing the skins, they will slide right off.
#15. Cut off the ends or any dark patches, and return them to the pan (to keep warm).
#16. Pour the leftover juice from the pie onto the beets to season them. If there wasn’t any grease bubbling around the edges, then you can also just add butter and salt to taste. (Some people like onion and garlic powder and pepper too.)
#17. Serve it up good and hot for dinner!  It’s almost a dinner in one, because it has your protein, veggies, and starch, but a few sides make it all the better!      Last night I served the pie and beets with a fresh fruit salad and mulled cider. The three of us ate half of it for dinner . . . and the other half this morning for breakfast with hot chocolate, English muffins, and the rest of the fruit salad.  Of course, during World War 2, I don’t suppose people had bacon, and the pie could be made without (or with a cup of cubed chicken, ham, pork sausage, or whatever you have on hand and like), but meat definitely adds to the flavor! If you try it, let me know if you like it, will you?

They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house;
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures
” (Psalm 36:8).

Ham and Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes: To Peel, or Not To Peel

I grew up peeling potatoes for mashed or scalloped potatoes, but when I asked my  mother why, she said it was simply considered “fashionable.” Poor people didn’t peel potatoes, because they needed the nourishment, but richer people didn’t have to use the potato skins. During World War 2, many people were starving and felt lucky even having potato peels to eat. As an adult, I’ve since learned that potato peels have no fat, cholesterol or sodium and are high in fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamins C and B, and are also rich in photonutrients (which may fight cancer and heart disease). In short, I started to peel the potatoes for this blog since “that’s the way you’re supposed to do it,” but then it occurred to me that I was being fraudulent, because I don’t peel my potatoes for the health benefits (as well as wanting to be a wise steward of my money). So, in the first photo, the potatoes are peeled, but in the next photo, the potatoes are not peeled . . . for the sake of health and thrift! So, take your pick, but never peel your potatoes unless you really, really want to!

If you (like me) tend to serve ham at some time during the holidays, you may end up with quite a bit of leftover ham. Our family’s favorite way to use the leftovers is to make a ham and cheese casserole. It’s easy, and only gets better the next day! The only trick is that it takes about an hour and a half to bake, so you have to prepare it by mid-afternoon if you want to serve it for dinner.

Ham and Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
(Serves 4+ [up to 6, depending on appetites])

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Layer in a 8X12″ casserole dish:
2 medium potatoes peeled (or not). Layer them in the bottom.Add 1 small (to medium) onion, also chopped into small chunks, and 16 oz. (2 cups) sliced, cooked ham, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 more medium potatoes sliced or diced and
1 cup gelatin from ham (optional, but it does add moisture, protein, and flavor).

Blend together:
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (Lawry’s or your favorite)
2 teaspoons crushed garlic (fresh or dried)
1/2 cup grated cheese
(your favorite; I used an Italian 6-cheese blend, but mozzarella is always popular, or some type of cheddar).
Pour mixture over ham and potatoes.
Cover with 6 oz. (1.5 cups) grated cheese (the rest of a 2-cup package).Bake it uncovered for an hour and a half in a hot oven at 350°F. I usually cover it with aluminum foil and then turn the oven down to 200°F. and let it continue baking until it’s time to put it on the table (but for no more than another half an hour). Serve it up with a few side dishes (I used leftover corn, homemade cranberry sauce, and a spinach salad with pecans . . . all super simple) and enjoy!  🙂

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). I suspect there may be health benefits in abstaining from certain types of meat—or all meats for that matter—but if you eat ham, I think you’ll enjoy this dish!