Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions from a Southern perspective

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I don't keep New Year's resolutions. I am consistent in most things and very obsessive about many things. I'm eating healthy and exercising every January till March or April. Then Easter comes and I fall to my knees at the site of chocolate Easter eggs and jelly beans. I try to do my best to get back on track but then along comes the Memorial Day picnic and it would be wrong to not celebrate. I always start off with a healthy menu then someone says..."but we have to have..." and then we slide off into the depths of potato salads and baked beans for the rest of the summer. August, September and October are easy months to stay on the straight and narrow until Halloween candy has to be bought for the little ones...then it's a straight sugar slide into Christmas!

Thinking about this yesterday as I made the plans for New Year's Day menu. I made the choice to think healthy...well at least healthier. We are having Spicey Mama's Texas Chili with cornbread muffins, Texas Caviar dip and Blueberry Salad. My husand has requested that I make Fried Black-eyed Peas. I have never fried a black-eyed pea but I will tomorrow. We are all about the Rose Bowl parade and have always watched it together since we were married 33 years ago. This year I'm looking forward to the Rose Bowl game as well becaue the Texas Christian University Hornfrogs will be playing.

Whatever your plans are for tonight and tomorrow, be safe and enjoy. Make wonderful food to share together but mostly just make memories that last a lifetime! Happy New Year's from New Southern Pantry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Southern Orange Slice Bread

Southerners feel passionate about their food because it connects us to people and brings back wonderful memories. When I was a child my best friend's mom made these wonderful orange slice cookies. I loved those cookies and they remind me of her when I taste them. I went in search of a recipe that would combine those wonderful sticky orange slices with a sweet bread. After combining several recipes this is what we came up with. Having made it quite a few times now this is the final and well tested recipe. It is wonderful warm out of the oven, but I also like it cold too!...Not a recipe I would use year round because it has lots of calories and I can't stop eating it! Just make sure you have family or friends to help you devour this bread. I had a loaf that cooked to long and it was really dry so being the frugal person I am...I made french toast out of it!! I think if I did that again I would cut it into "french toast sticks" and chill it really well before dipping in egg mixture. Be sure to cut the orange slices into small pieces after freezing them, makes it lots easier and less messy. I use kitchen shears instead of a knife and be sure and flour the cut candies well before adding to the recipe.

Southern Orange Slice Bread
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter , at room temperature
3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup of coconut
2 cups of chopped nuts of your choice, we use pecans
8oz. chopped dates, can substitue 1 cup of raisins or any dried fruit
8oz. bag orange slice candies, freeze until ready to cut
1/2 cup flour for dusting orange slices

Preheat oven to 300 degrees
*If using dark metal pans, decrease oven temperature to 275 degrees

Bake for 80-90 minutes
Makes 2 8x4" loaves

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the soft butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each egg.
In a medium bowl stir together flour, salt, and baking soda
Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with the buttermilk.
Add vanilla, orange zest, coconut, chopped nuts and dates mixing well.
In a medium size bowl place 1/2 cup flour
Using kitchen shears, cut the frozen orange slices into small bite size pieces. Place in bowl with the flour and toss well to coat each piece.
Mix floured candies into the batter by hand and pour into 2 greased 8x4 in
loaf pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
This bread freezes very well. I wrap in foil after cooled and then place in gallon size freezer bags.

I combined several bread and cookie recipes for this , but I would like to give credit for the basic recipe to KISS Recipes website. Neat places for sharing family recipes. KISS stands for Keep It Simple Silly. Fun easy recipes with some old favorites.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Southern Women love to reign over their domain...

I love to be in my kitchen more than any place on Earth. I get up in the morning and can't wait to make coffee and sit at my computer and start my day. This morning I started out by breaking the glass coffee pot. Like any good southern lady...I had a replacement just waiting in the wings. I'm a newcomer to this coffee thing, when I lived in Texas I never drank warm things everyday. After moving north I started drinking more hot tea and then I found coffee. My life has never been the same since that little bean became my new friend.

I have only two other people that use my kitchen, my husband and my son when he is home from college. Evidently I have instilled a small element of fear in them from being a tiny bit neurotic about this room. Now I like it clean, but I use it alot so it's not always decorator magazine worthy. My countertops and my work island have to be free of all clutter when I am going to cook. It only took me a few years to get my family to realize ..if you want to eat don't leave junk on Mom's countertops! I also have certain places that I want things returned to and have been known to go a slight bit crazy when I am looking for an item, but as the years go by I have learned to let it go. I love those two more than my Calphalon most days...

I have been fortunate to have inherited lots of dishes..LOTS! I just can't let any of them go. I have a set of 1916 China that is just beautiful that belonged to my grandmother in law. It even has the salt dishes and placecard holders. The beautiful pink Azaleas remind me so much of the East Texas that I love. My most treasured piece is a silver Water Pitcher on a stand that tilts to pour into the cup. I think I just love the story the most, it was buried behind a plantation in Tennesse during the Civil War when the Union soldiers raided the house. Such great history and love is in each piece and I am proud to call them my treasures now.

Antiques and vintage items for the kitchen are so unique and easy to find still. I would rather have 1930's Fire King bakeware than brand new items. My grandmother had one piece of brightly colord enamel ware. I have found so many to match it and know I have some family's memories and feel proud to be the keeper of those treasures. When you go into an antique or collectible shop buy what you love. Don't look for the most expensive item or what you saw on the last decorator show,unless it's what you want. One of my favorite things from a shop was a bag of old cookie cutters with enamel painted handles...they cost less than $5.00 but they touched my heart. I use those cookie cutters along with others that I have purchased new. I hope one day someone finds mine in an antique booth somewhere when on vacation and says...."I have to have those for my kitchen". Then the love and the memories keep moving on through generations of people who love their kitchens as much as I love mine.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak Perfection

This blog post has been the most shared since I started blogging last year. Thought with the cool weather coming it was a good time to repeat it for those who missed it before. I will say that over the years I have become more open to trying all different types of foods. Once I even ate a Country Fried Steak with Brown Gravy.....

How do you make a perfect chicken fried steak? When we moved from Texas to Colorado in the early 90's I found out really fast to ask how a food is served before ordering. We went into a local chain restaurant that someone told us had great Chicken Fried Steaks. I was so excited, so we called up Texas friends who had moved with our company and went to dinner. We had moved about 2 months prior and I had been without this Southern delicacy for too long.

We were seated by the waitress and started searching the menu for the treasure of crunchy breaded goodness. I could just envision my plate coming out of the kitchen with a beautiful lightly browned, crunchy battered piece of hand pounded steak. My mind was swimming already in the sea of white creamy gravy. I saw the waitress round the corner with the huge tray up on her shoulders and we all knew the 4 Chicken Fried Steaks were almost to their destination. Slowly she lowered the tray and set the first plate in front of me. I try to keep decorum in most situations but before I could stop or my husband could throw his hand over my just came out. I blurted out ...BROWN GRAVY!!!! Everyone's face at the table fell and they seem to all be trying to decide who was going to tackle me and cover my mouth. I apologized to the server and told her in much longer detail than I'm sure she wanted to hear how REAL Chicken Fried Steak should look. She explained to me that if you wanted the thick white gravy you had to ask for that, brown gravy is what they put on their Country Steaks. My husband put his hand on my knee because he knew that this would send me into orbit. The menu said Chicken Fried Steak and then it's really thin cut sirloin in cracker crumb breading with brown gravy...16 years later and it still makes my heart race. Some things in life just shouldn't be messed with and don't mess with a Texas Girls Chicken Fried Steak! Needless to say when we went back there I tried Colorado specialties and really enjoyed them. Some things are sacred to a Texan and shouldn't be changed.

A real Southern meal would include Chicken Fried Steak that hang off the edge of the plates. There should be plenty of white, thick creamy gravy all over the steak and on top of the mound of mashed potatoes. Fresh green beans cooked in bacon, onions and garlic always goes with my dream meal. Got to have cornbread or yeast rolls with butter just to round out the plate! Some do Texas toast but I love cornbread baked in an iron skillet so we usually have that. So the next time you go to order a Chicken Fried Steak..take my advice and ask questions if you want it to be the real deal!

Texas Chicken Fried Steak

2 pounds of 1/2 in tenderized sirloin or round steak,cut into 4-6 pieces
2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1-2 cups Liquid oil or Shortening, I prefer canola or peanut oil

Cut steak into desired size pieces, salt and pepper and set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs with a fork until frothy, add 2 cups of milk and stir to mix. Add dash of salt and pepper to egg/milk mixture. In a large shallow pan mix flour and 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. In a deep skillet
(I prefer iron) add enough oil to cover 3/4 of steak while cooking. Heat oil over medium high heat until a tiny bit of flour sizzles when sprinkled in hot oil. While oil is heating batter steak dipping first in egg mixture, then flour, then back to egg and ending with flour. Place in skillet and cook 5 minutes on each side. Never cook fried food on low in oil, that's what makes it greasy and not healthy for you! When done take out and drain on racks over paper towels. Not a complicated recipe but sometimes takes a few tries to get it just right. Enjoy!

Texas Chicken Fried Steak on FoodistaTexas Chicken Fried Steak

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cookbook writing will make you fat!

I am writing a cookbook in celebration of Texas and Southern favorites. Being a perfectionist I have to cook all these recipes before I publish them to make sure they are right. My website is up but only has Spicey Mama's Chili Seasoning on it right now, but later today we will have 2 new dips. One is Chocolate Orange Cheesecake Dip, it's so addictive and the taste testing on it is completed. I took it to a party last Sunday night and it went over great so it's a keeper!! The other is a Loaded Baked Potato Dip that I'm still trying to give a better creativity is lagging. We have eaten too much of this one trying to get it just the way I want it. I made my husband's grandmother's Date Squares at Thanksgiving. They were good but something was not in that recipe and that happens alot with older recipes. They were good and we ate them but too dry..of course all the calories were there regardless.

I have been so lucky to have had great cooks in my family. My grandmothers both lived on farms in Texas and survived the Great Depression. My maternal grandparents lived in Dime Box, Texas and yes that's a real place! My paternal grandparents lived in Ben Wheeler, Texas. They have recipes that are so simple and have few ingredients but taste like pure heaven. My plan this Christmas is to cook several of their recipes so they can be tested for the cookbook. I also have had the privelege of knowing so many other Texas grandmothers that fed me well when I was young, they have to be included also! So by the time I finish with my test kitchen...I may have to live at the gym 24hrs/day for a few weeks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas cooking makes you happy!

Christmas is the best holiday in the whole world! I love the traditions that each family adopts for their own. There are no rules at Christmas. Some have turkey and some have ham, while some do expensive cuts of beef to celebrate. We have some things that just can't change on Christmas morning or my husband and son get a little out of sorts. We have to have eggnog with freshly grated nutmeg and orange juice with ginger ale. I love the fact that so many dairies now do a low fat eggnog so you feel a little less guilty. My husband and son would think I had been replaced by aliens if we didn't have Little Smokies and Orange Danish rolls from the can. I know, from the can isn't real creative but it's what makes them happy and that makes me happy! I don't do many prepared foods, but I make exceptions for the holidays on some things. This year I am going to stretch a little and kick up the orange rolls with a little toasted pecans. The little sausage are just begging me to do something to make them more festive but I'm still pondering that idea. I know I can leave those alone because Christmas dinner is all mine!!!

We start our holidays with Seafood Sausage Gumbo on Christmas Eve. Now finding the ingredients for this recipe in Nebraska can be a challenge. I have located a local sausage maker who does a fabulous Andouille sausage and our local grocery store is now carrying fresh raw Gulf shrimp. I know for those of you on the coast that doesn't seem like such a big deal, but for those of us in the landlocked's huge! Cajun food is all about using what you have to make something that warms your heart and soul. Texans are lucky to share so many cultures with our neighbors and I just call our food Southern Soul. If it warms your soul and makes you smile....then the cook is happy.

Last week my website was published on line. It's a very limited site right now but by next week should have more spices and dip mixes available. In hindsight I should have let someone else do the site and I should have focused on production of the products, but I have a teeny little control issue. My products are all free of msg, artificial colorings and preservatives. I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum and I will be donating a portion of the profits to several Autism groups. Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys according to Autism Speaks website. When it affects your family the statistics do not matter. The thing that matters are those sweet little eyes that look up at you and are trapped without words. As a nurse I know that genetics play a part, but I feel that removing or limiting preservatives and other additives in our food would be a place to start. The new catch phrase the last few years is "Old School" , well that's what home cooking is all about. Old School can be new school in an old way and that's why my company is called New Southern Pantry. Our grandmothers and mothers called it cooking from's more work but well worth the time. If we can do that more than 50% of the time then we are starting to make a difference in our families health.