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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Funnel Cakes!


I have a confession to make!  I love amusement parks and even worse, I love certain amusement park foods!  I know, it's all bad for you and I know it's even questionable at times, but when I go to an amusement park, I want two things before I leave...a corn dog and a funnel cake!    The corn dog thing started when my sister and I were just kids and we both still have to have a corn dog at an amusement park.  I am not sure when the funnel cake thing started, but it was later.  My niece, Whitney, loves a funnel cake also! 
Funnel Cakes are just fun!  I worked in a long term care facility (aka nursing home) for a few years as a recreation therapist.   I always tried to think of outings to go on so that the patients who were able could go out and do things.   Some of my ideas got some raised eyebrows from management, but overall, I have to say, they became more open minded and were very supportive.  Long story short, we went bowling sometimes and we ate lunch at the bowling alley, which to a person in a nursing home is a real treat...believe it or not. 
The bowling alley had two things they did and funnel cakes, so that is what we had every time and my nursing home friends were as happy as could be.  However, I discovered that most of them had never had a funnel cake!  I was so surprised!  Let me tell you, their first experience with funnel cakes was a good one.   They loved them and I had to even order a couple of extras they loved them so much!  They were so adorable with powdered sugar all over their faces and smiles from ear to ear.   They got a good laugh at the powdered sugar on my nose also! 
Here is what you will need for these yummy funnel cakes:
2 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/3 cup sugar
1  1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
powdered sugar
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the self rising flour, sugar, milk and eggs, beating until smooth.   Heat about an inch of oil in a skillet to 375 degrees.  
Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter in a kitchen funnel with a 3/8 inch opening.  Keep your finger over the opening until you start to drizzle the batter in the pan.  You can also use a squeeze bottle for this, but you will need to cut the end off some to make the opening a bit bigger. 
Drizzle the batter in a circular motion and fry until just browning on each side.  I made these extra big for the camera, so you don't need to make yours quite this big.  They will be easier to turn if not quite this big.  Do not turn until the first side is nice and done.  This much batter will make about 4 to 5 nice size funnel cakes. 
Remove to a paper towel lined plate while you fry the others and allow to cool just a bit.
Sprinkle well with the powdered sugar!  You can also sprinkle with a mixture cinnamon and sugar as an alternative, but I like the powdered sugar best! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Smothered Pork Chops!

In our family we do love our pork chops and I am always trying different recipe for them.   This recipe for "Smothered Pork Chops" is a favorite!  It is down home, comfort food at it's best. It's not a difficult recipe to make, but I will warn it's not a quick one either.   It takes some time to properly cook the pork chops and gravy!   Here is what you will need for these pork chops:
6 boneless pork chops (1/2 inch thickness is about right)
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere's)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated in rings
2 cups chicken broth
1  1/2 cups buttermilk
In a shallow pan, like a pie plate, combine the flour, Cajun seasoning, black pepper, and salt.  Rinse the chops with water.  This makes the flour stick better.   Dredge each chop in the flour and shake the extra off. 
Place the oil in a deep skillet that has a lid over medium high heat.  Add the chops and brown well on both sides.   Make sure your oil is hot when you add the chops or the breading will not stay on.  Once they are all browned, remove them to a plate.
Add the butter to the oil left in the skillet and loosen any bits that might be stuck to the skillet.  Add the onion rings when the butter has melted.  If your family is a bit onion phobic, like mine, you can diced the onion instead of using the rings and it will be more palatable to them.  Saute the onions just a minute or two. 
Add two heaping tablespoons of the leftover flour you used to dredge the chops in, to the skillet.  Cook for just a minute.   Whisk in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.  When it starts to thicken, lower the heat to simmer and whisk in the buttermilk.  I think the buttermilk is a big key to the flavor or this recipe, so I would advise using it, but if you don't have buttermilk you could use half and half or milk.   Add the pork chops back to the pan, cover and cook on low heat for about 1 hour.  The pork chops should be fork tender and the gravy nice and thickened!
These are good served with mashed potatoes or rice! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apple Pie Burritos!

This is a really easy and fun dessert that tastes delicious!  So it's a win, win, win kind of recipe!  This would be great on Taco Tuesday or to serve as the dessert on a Mexican buffet, but it's just plain good anytime really.  To be honest, I ate one of these the next morning for breakfast and it was yummy!  This is one the kiddos could actually help make too which is always fun!  Here is what you will need:
6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 (21 oz.) can of apple pie filling (you could actually use any type of pie filling you like...cherry, blueberry)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, cut in pats (1/2 stick)
1  1/2 cups Sprite (or any lemon lime soda)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Evenly divide the fruit filling between the flour tortillas and then roll them as you would a burrito.  Place seam side down in an 11"x7" baking dish you sprayed with nonstick spray.  Mix the sugars and cinnamon together and evenly spread over the top.  Dot with the pats of butter.  Pour the soda evenly around the edges of the baking pan.  Sprinkle the top with just bit more cinnamon if you really like the flavor like I did!  
Place in a preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until just browned a little. 
Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Not Your Grandma's Green Bean Casserole!

You know that green bean casserole that a lot of families always have for the holidays, the one with the cream of mushroom soup and the crunchy French's onion topping?  Well, this is not that   Actually, in our family, we never did have that casserole at our family holiday dinners.  Although my sister says she makes it for holidays and they love it!  Evidently, somebody does, because those onion thingies sell like hot cakes during the holiday season.   It could be that there are better recipes than I have had for the classic green bean casserole also. 
However, this lead me to seek out a better green bean casserole.  I saw a version that looked interesting on Pinterest.  The concept sounded really good, but the ratios didn't seem right to me, so I experimented and this what I came up with.  This is a really good green bean casserole and it will be  a wonderful addition to your holiday menu.  It's so good, I can eat it just by itself actually.  Another great thing about it is that it can be prepared a day ahead and baked on the day of.  Also, for those who are not fond of using the canned soups, this doesn't have any in it!!!    Here is what you will need:
3 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)
1 stalk celery, diced
2 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup half and half (can use milk)
2 cups sour cream
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans of French style green beans, drained
1 (15 oz.) can whole green beans, drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
3 Tbs. butter, for dotting top with
Melt the butter in a deep skillet or pan.  Saute the chopped onion, celery and the mushrooms just until softened a little.    Add the 2 Tbs. of flour to this and cook just a little to get rid of the raw flour taste.  When it bubbles add the half and half and stir until it thickens. 

Turn the heat down and add the sour cream and seasonings, including the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.  Mix well. 
Mix in the three cans of green beans until all are coated. You can use 3 cans of French style green beans, but I like to use two and 1 can whole green beans.  I think the texture is just better. Pour into a 2  1/2 quart casserole that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  This looks sort of yucky at this stage, but don't let the appearance fool you, it's gonna be good!

Sprinkle with the shredded cheese, crumbled Ritz cracker crumbs and dot with butter. 
Place in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  It should be hot and bubbly and the top should just be starting to brown.
Not Your Grandma's Green Bean Casserole!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Pork Loin with Mushroom Gravy!

This transforms a pork loin into something worthy of serving to company or special enough for your holiday menu, but it's so easy you won't believe it!  This is also a relatively low fat recipe, believe it or not with not very many ingredients!   Usually, anything with gravy, that is not the case!  I like this cooked in the oven, but you can use your slow cooker also with some adaptation, I will give those instructions at the end.   Here is what you will need: 
3-5 lb. pork loin
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. minced garlic
1  (10 3/4) oz. can  cream of chicken with herbs soup (I used Campbell's)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (I use a white button mushroom)
2 Tbs. soy sauce
3 cups water
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water

Place the pork loin in a roasting pan or heavy baking dish!   If you spray it with some nonstick spray it cleans up easier.  Sprinkle with the seasoned salt, black pepper and garlic.   Spoon the soup over the top of the pork loin.  You can substitute cream of mushroom soup or plain cream of chicken soup, but the cream of chicken with herbs gives the gravy a nice flavor!  
 Place the diced onion and sliced mushrooms over the soup.  Sort of press them into the soup so they stay on top for now.  Sprinkle the 2 Tbs. of soy sauce over the mushrooms.  I don't add a lot of salt to this recipe, because the salt in the soup and the soy sauce is sufficient with just the 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt.   Pour three cups water around the pork loin in the bottom of the baking pan. 
 Cover tightly with foil or if you are using a roasting pan, place the lid on and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.
Mix the 2 Tablespoons cornstarch into 1/2 cup cold water in a bowl or cup until there are no lumps and it's smooth.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven and take foil or lid off.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pan juice around the pork loin.  Turn the oven up to 450 degrees and place the pan back in the oven, uncovered for about 20 minutes.   This will thicken the juice and make your gravy.  It also sort of browns the top of the pork loin so it looks nice.
Plate the pork loin on a platter and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing in thin slices!  Spoon some of the mushroom gravy over the pork loin and place the rest in a gravy boat or bowl!  This make plenty of gravy for serving on the side! 
We like this served with mashed potatoes, but you could serve with rice or egg noodles also.  If you have picky eaters, you can leave the mushrooms out completely and it's still delicious! 
***Slow Cooker Instructions:   Follow all of the same steps above, except decrease the water in the crock around the pork loin to 2 cups.  Slow cookers do not allow for much condensation during cooking so you never need as much liquid. Cook on low for 8 hours.  
An hour before serving turn the slow cooker up to high.  Make your cornstarch slurry and whisk into the juices, cover and let it go for an hour on high.  Whisk at the end to be sure it's smooth.   This method doesn't produce as pretty a pork loin...can pork be pretty???  I think it!!!  However, it tastes just as good! 
 If you are serving this for company or a holiday meal and want a pretty presentation, you can place it in the oven at 450 degrees to thicken the juices and brown the top like I did in the oven method.  Some slow cooker liners are oven proof, but some are not, so be sure of what yours is before you put it in the oven at a high temp.  You might need to transfer the pork loin to a baking dish if go to this trouble.  
See, this is pretty pork!!!