Peeps and Bunny Wreath!

I love this pink and green check deco mesh for spring and Easter!  I also found some cute Peeps to use at the Dollar Tree.  This wreath turned  out great and didn't cost a fortune to make.




Easter Peeps Flower Arrangement!

I am loving all of the ways I am seeing Peeps used for Easter this year!  Peeps have always been my son's favorite at Easter (he's 23 and he still loves Peeps).  I understand that most kids don't really eat the Peeps in their Easter baskets...so why do you keep buying them?  Because they are so cute and they fill the thing up I guess.  The funny thing is, my son ate the Peeps and left the big ole chocolate Easter bunny.  I ate that...lol, or his friends did when they all came over.  His friends never touched his Peeps though.  This is an idea for a floral arrangement using Peeps that I originally saw on Pinterest.  Next week, I am going to make a cake for Easter decorated with Peeps and Easter M&M's.  

I used branches from my dogwood tree for the flowers and jellybeans and two rows of Peeps for the vase.  Put a glass in the center of the bigger vase for your branches to go down in water. 

Deco Mesh Easter Cross

I have been making wreaths with deco mesh since before Christmas.  I love to work with this material and the wreaths hold up so well even in the harsh winter weather. I found this work wreath form for an Easter cross online and I had to make one.  I think it turned out pretty well. 


Bacon Wrapped Maple Glazed Pork Loin

 
 
The main course for the perfect special occasion dinner is a pork loin, wrapped in bacon and glazed with pure maple syrup.  I originally got this recipe from my sister, who is also a very good, southern cook.  She made this while she was visiting once and it was so good.  I did adapt it a little by adding the maple syrup because of something I had at a local bed and breakfast called Federal Grove.  Federal Grove is a civil war era, plantation style house that has been turned into a bed and breakfast, restaurant and an event venue.  It is also the southernmost maple syrup producer in the United States.  They have a maple syrup festival during the month of February and they feature dishes using the syrup.  It smells wonderful before you even get in the door.  They serve a maple glazed pork chop, which gave me the idea of adding the maple syrup to this.  I am going to visit Federal Grove soon and do an entire blog about it with pictures.  If you are in the area, you should go there to eat.  The house is also very interesting and furnished with all period antiques that are also for sale.  If you are ever in the area, make it a stop on your trip.  You won't regret it.


Here is what you will need for this delicious recipe:



Whole boneless pork loin, brown sugar, spicy brown mustard, bacon, soy sauce, Worcestershire, Federal Grove maple syrup, garlic salt, salt and pepper.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 whole boneless pork loin  4-6 lbs.
1 cup brown sugar 
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Worcestershire
1/2 cup pure maple syrup plus some or drizzling when basting.
10-12 bacon slices
salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste



Mix 1 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard, 1Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. Worcestershire, 1/4 cup maple syrup.  Remove the layer of fat on top of the pork with a sharp knife or most of it. Sprinkle it with salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Pour the brown sugar glaze over the top.




Wrap the pork with bacon slices covering it all.  Drizzle the top with the maple syrup.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.  Remove foil and with a spoon re glaze the top with the dripping in the pan.  Recover and cook for 30 more minutes.  Uncover and re glaze again with the pan juices, you can drizzle with more syrup if you like now also.  Cook uncovered until bacon is brown and crispy... about 20 more minutes.


This is your finished pork loin. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.

 
 
This will be so tender and will slice in nice thin slices.  You can put the pan juices over it after slicing or leave as it is.  Make sure each portion has some of the sweet, crispy bacon with it...that's the best part to me! 








Strawberry Spinach Salad with Praline Pecans!

 
I love spinach salads.  I had the idea for this salad several years ago, before so many served spinach salads with fruit and nuts.  I am not sure why I thought of it, maybe I saw something similar in the food magazines I constantly read, but I don't remember ever seeing this anyplace when I first started making it.  Now it seems everyone has some sort of spinach salad with fruit, especially in the spring.  It's just perfect for Easter dinner and I also serve it for Thanksgiving and Christmas sometimes.  I add the dried cranberries to it for those holidays and it's wonderful.
 
Here is what you need for this: 
 
1 bag baby spinach
1 bunch green onions
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups sliced strawberries
5-6 slices bacon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. half and half
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/4 cup honey mustard dressing
1/4 cup poppy seed dressing
 

 

 

 

Make the pralines first by melting 1/2 stick butter in a skillet with 1 cups brown sugar.  When melted add 1 tsp. vanilla and about a 1 Tbs half and half...2 if it seems too thick.



Cook this until it bubbles and stir constantly because it will stick.  It is also very hot so be careful.



Add pecans and stir to coat. Once coated spread on waxed paper or nonstick Reynold's Wrap.  These will need to sit and dry for about an hour. Once dry, break apart for your salad into smaller bites.


Next layer spinach, green onions sliced, Parmesan cheese, and sliced strawberries in a pretty salad bowl.

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels, add bacon and then praline pecans to salad. Wait to dress the salad at the table or right before serving.  Use 1/4/ cup honey mustard and 1/4 cup poppy seed dressing.  The two flavors really complement each other and are perfect with the salad ingredients.  No need to even mix them.  Just add separately and then toss the salad.
This salad will make spinach lovers out of people who say they do not eat spinach! 

 
 

Gettin' Ready for Easter!

I love Easter.  Next to Christmas it's probably my second favorite holiday.  I love all things associated with Easter.  It's springtime, it's pastels and fun things like Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny.  It's a season for rebirth and renewal and  of course, most importantly for celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! 

I decorate for Easter almost as much as I do for Christmas...well maybe not quite, but I do have a lot of Easter and spring decor.  I also have found several Easter crafts that are really nice to make.   For the next few posts, I am going to feature recipes that would make up the perfect Easter dinner and some of the decoration and craft ideas.   I am going to start with a springtime salad and a picture of my Easter Tree.  Yes, I said Easter Tree.  I keep this pencil tree up all year long and change it for each holiday or season.  I like to add things to it each year.  All of the kids that come over to our house love it, my husband on the other hand, thinks I am crazy...lol.  What's new, right?




Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti!

 

I love one dish kinda meals that make a whole lot and are budget friendly.  This one qualifies on all accounts.  It makes a ton of food and is good to take to potlucks or serve at big family gatherings.  Once I doubled this recipe and took it to a work potluck. It made two of those big aluminum roasting pans full and probably fed 40-50 people with other side dishes.   One recipe makes two 9"x13" dishes and with a salad and bread will feed  15-18 people easily.  If you don't feed an army for dinner, you can freeze one for a another night or take one to a friend or family member.  I made the second pan for my son and his friends to have.

I have seen so many different recipes for chicken spaghetti.  They all have little differences, but this one is my own take on it.
 
Here is what you will need:
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 lb. spaghetti
2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups pasta water with chicken bouillon
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp. Nature's Seasoning or salt and black pepper
1 tsp. Lawry's chicken and poultry rub (can substitute seasoned salt or Montreal seasoning for chicken)
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Tony Chachere's Spices and Herbs
1/2 cup green or red pepper
1 cup onion
3/4 stick butter

2lb boneless chicken breasts or 4 or 5, sour cream, Velveeta cheese, cheddar cheese, Mozzarella cheese, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 can cream of mushroom soup,  1 lb. spaghetti, butter, chicken bullion cubes, onion, green or red pepper, garlic salt, Nature's Seasoning, Tony Chachere's Spices and Herbs, and Lawry's chicken and poultry rub.
 

Most all of the recipes for chicken casseroles call for boiling the chicken, but unless you need a lot of rich broth, I prefer to roast my chicken.  I just think it has a better flavor and you can season it better.  So I sprinkle these breasts with the Nature's Seasoning (you can use salt and pepper) and the Lawry's chicken and poultry rub and the dot with butter.  These were very thick chicken breasts so I only had to use three, but a normal size chicken breast would require 5-6.  I cooked these at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, then turned them and cooked them for 20 more minutes.  A thinner breast would take less time.

When they are done, set them aside to cool so you can chop them into small pieces.


Melt 1/2 stick butter in a skillet and saute 1/2 cup red or green pepper diced in small pieces ( I used both) and 1 cup onion diced.  Sprinkle with Nature's Seasoning or salt and pepper.  You can add a cup of sliced mushrooms to this if your family like them.  Mine doesn't, but I do so I saute some separately and add them to my own small casserole.


I really like mushrooms so these are for me!



I get my pasta pot out for this, because it's big and it makes the mixing easier.  I put two bullion cubes and a couple teaspoons of salt into the water and bring it to a boil, then add a pound of spaghetti.  Boil it until it is al dente (still a little chewy)...about 9 minutes.  Pull the pasta strainer out and drain well. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and discard the rest.
 

In the pasta pan over low heat mix the two cans of soup, sour cream, 2 cups pasta water and 1 lb. cubed Velveeta cheese.  Mix until it is all incorporated and stir in the sauteed onions and peppers.  Add 1/2 tsp. Nature's Seasoning or 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper and 1/4  garlic salt.


Chop the chicken into bite size pieces and add it back into the pot with the spaghetti, mix it all together well.


Spray 2  9"x13" pans with cooking spray, divide mixture between two and sprinkle each with 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup cheddar.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until slightly brown on top and bubbly around the edges.

Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti! 
Ingredients:
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 lb. spaghetti
2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups pasta water with chicken bouillon
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp. Nature's Seasoning or salt and black pepper
1 tsp. Lawry's chicken and poultry rub
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Tony Chachere's Spices and Herbs
1/2 cup green or red pepper
1 cup onion
3/4 stick butter

Spring Has Sprung...

....As a matter of fact I think it sprang right on over to summer here in southern Kentucky.  It has been in the mid to upper 80's all week long and doesn't even get that cool at night.  I am not in any way complaining though.  This is my time of year...allergies and all.  This weather makes me want to do two things...get something cookin' on the grill and dig in the dirt.   So, I cleaned out my flower pots and planted some pansies.   It seems way too early to plant much else, but people are out buying plants and seeds and really getting things going.   I am going to start some seeds in some cups for some flowers and herbs so that I can transplant them once they come up.  It's so much cheaper than buying the bedding plants.  I am also thinking about a raised garden spot.  I just have to convince my husband to build it for me. That idea is still in the formative process...so many of my ideas never get past that...lol.  Actually, my father has the green thumb in the family and he grows a nice garden each year so we all have plenty of homegrown produce.  I did plant a couple of tomato plants  last year that did quite well and I always grow my own herbs.  There is just something to be said for being able to walk out the back door and grab a tomato or cut fresh herbs at the last minute.

Every year around this time, I think about all of the various winters we still have to go through.  If you don't have any idea what I am talking about, it's something my mother always says and I think it might be a Kentucky thing.  It would be warm and beautiful like now and then it would turn so cold and nasty overnight, and my mother would say "it's dogwood winter" or it's "linen britches winter" or it's "blackberry winter".   The problem is, I never know which winter it is.  I know what it means, I just don't get when they all occur.  I think dogwood winter is around the time the dogwoods bloom...around Easter.  Blackberry winter is when the blackberries bloom. Linen Britches winter is the last cold spell right before it really turns hot at the end of May or that is what wiki says.  Oh, I forgot one, "red bud winter"  which I would assume is when the red buds are blooming.   All older people raised in Kentucky seem to know these winters.  I worked in a long term care facility for a few years and the residents added to my education on Kentucky folklore and such.  It was fascinating for me to hear their stories and experiences of how they grew up.  We miss so much by not taking time to really hear what our older friends and family have to say.   Take time to visit your older family members and ask them questions about their lives.  It will make their day and it will make yours much richer also.

Now, to my grilling.  I like to grill as much of a meal on the grill as I can when I cook out.  In the summer, when the heat is so unbearable in the house, it keeps from heating up the oven.  Also, the cleanup is so simple.   This week they had flat iron steaks on sale at Kroger.  Beef has gotten so expensive, it has to be on sale or I don't buy it.  The key to flat iron steak is the marinade and cutting it thin across the grain.  We have a Japanese  restaurant in our city that has the best steaks, so I use most of the ingredients they use in this recipe for the marinade.  I call it Japanese Flat Iron Steak...I know, creative right?    I also made my grilled potatoes to go with it. 


Japanese Flat Iron Steak



Here is what you will need:

Flat Iron Steak about 2 lbs., 1/4 stick butter, 1 lemon, Nature's Seasonings, honey, chopped garlic, garlic salt, soy sauce, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce.




Mix all of the marinade ingredients except the butter, pour over the steak in a zip lock bag, add the lemon halves, reserving 1/4 of the marinade.  Place it in a dish and marinade in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.  The longer you marinade the more tender the meat.  When you are ready to grill remove from marinade and pour the remaining over the meat.  Grill over a medium heat to your degree of doneness.  When you remove from the grill, cover with foil for at least 10 minutes, then slice across the grain in thin slices.  If you slice this right off the grill, you will lose all of your juices. It has to sit.
Add the 1/4 stick of butter to the remaining marinade and heat for 1 minute in the microwave.  Cover with plastic wrap as this will pop and splatter.  Stir it up and pour it over the sliced meat.  This really adds flavor and makes the meat so juicy.


Japanese Flat Iron Steak!

Ingredients:

2lb. Flat Iron Steak
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp ground ginger or 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbs. garlic
1/2 tsp Season All Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Garlic Salt
dash of Tabasco Sauce
1/4 stick butter
1 lemon juiced





Grilled Ranch Potatoes

While your steak is in the final marinading stages, you can prepare your potatoes for grilling. I like to use the foil pans for grilling on the grill so I can throw them away.  I use a round cake pan for these potatoes.  You can get these at the Dollar Tree 3 for a $1.00.



Peel and dice about 4-5 potatoes (more if your family is larger).  Place in foil pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Stir together 1/2 pkg ranch dressing mix with 1/2 cup vegetable oil and pour over potatoes, toss. Sprinkle with Nature's Seasoning and Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and place on grill with steak over a very low burner.  Cook while your steak cooks.  These only take about 20 minutes.   Cook 3- 4 strips of bacon until crisp.  When potatoes are off of the grill, uncover carefully and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped bacon. 


Ta-Dah!  And I only messed up one pot and a cookie sheet!


Ingredients:

4-5 potatoes
1/2 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3-4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
Nature's Seasoning to taste or salt and pepper




Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls!

The yeast roll dough in the post before this one is very versatile and can be used for various other tasty recipes.  One of my favorites is homemade cinnamon rolls.  After making these, you will never want to open another can of cinnamon rolls again.  This is one of my father's favorite things that I make. He has always loved a cinnamon roll, a honey bun or a danish of any kind and he says these are some of the best!  He is the connoisseur of sweet rolls so to speak...lol.
  If you are serving these for breakfast, it's best to make them the night before and let them rise through the night, ready for baking when you get up.

 


Take 1/2 of the yeast roll recipe in the post before this one and roll it out into a circle. You can substitute a thawed loaf of frozen yeast bread like Rich's.  If you use the yeast roll recipe, you can freeze the other half of the dough in an airtight bag for up to a month or you can make dinner rolls for dinner and make the cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning.   Roll the dough somewhat thinner than you do for the yeast rolls.  Melt 1 stick of butter in a 9"x13 pan, pour almost all of it on the rolled out dough, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Spread the melted butter over the dough all the way to the edges.  Mix 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon.  Sprinkle this mixture over the entire dough circle covering it all.  Chop 1 cup pecans or walnuts and sprinkle these over all.  Now you start rolling it into a tight roll.  The dough will roll better if you get it cold in the fridge before rolling it out to begin with, but it isn't a must. 



With a sharp, serrated knife slice the dough into about 3/4 inch slices and place in the buttered pan.



These will need to rise again.  They should rise for about an hour or you can let them sit overnight and they will be fine.  Make sure your pan is deep enough to accommodate them as they will get big overnight.  Place them in a 375 degree preheated oven and let them bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned.  Mix 1lb confectioners sugar, 2 Tbs half and half, and 1 tsp vanilla.  This should be sort of thick.  Drizzle this over the hot rolls. 

 

Ingredients
 
1/2 recipe for yeast rolls or 1 loaf frozen roll dough thawed (Rich's)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick butter
1lb confectioner's sugar
1tsp vanilla
2 Tbs half and half
 
 
Here is the link for the Homemade Yeast Roll Recipe!



Easy Yeast Rolls!

 
My mother's yeast rolls are nearly famous...at least around these parts...lol.  She has made literally thousands of these wonderful rolls through the years and has the art down to perfection.  I use her recipe when I make them and they are pretty good, but nobody makes these rolls like my mother.  Yesterday, I watched her make them from step one, which I had never done before, and I think I might have picked up a few of her secrets.   I can now pass those tips on to you. 

Don't let the steps in this put you off.  There are several steps, but it is not really that complicated and well worth the effort and this is what you will get.




Here is what you will need:


All purpose flour (we prefer White Lily if you can get it in your area), vegetable or canola oil, sugar, yeast, salt, milk (not pictured) and water.
 


You will need to sift 5 of the 6 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl.  The bowl needs to have plenty of room for these to double in size when they rise.  Warm 2 cups of milk in the microwave for 5 minutes and let it cool to where it is just warm to the touch. 


Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Make sure the water is not too hot or it will kill your yeast.  To the warm milk add 3/4 cup oil, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 tsp salt.  Mix together and add to the flour.  Now add the yeast to this mixture and stir to blend.  This mixture will be very loose. Pour about 2 Tbs. oil over the top the dough and spread it around to coat it. Cover with a kitchen towel and let this rise for 2 hours. 


The mixture should almost double and look like this.  If your kitchen is cold or drafty, this will take much longer.  Sit the bowl near the oven if you are cooking and have it on to speed the rising.  Now take the other cup of flour, sifted and sprinkle 1/2 of it on the dough and 1/2 of it on a pastry sheet or wax paper.   Work the dough into a ball, but do not overwork it, unless you like a denser roll. 


It should look like this.  Now you are ready to flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out into a large circle about 1/4 inch thick.





Using a medium size biscuit cutter or a glass with a similar size, cut your rolls.  Melt about a 1/4 stick of butter in 4 round cake pans or 1/2 stick in 2  9"x13" pans.  Place your rolls in the melted butter turning them over to coat.  You should get 36-40 rolls.  They are best if allowed to rise again for 30 minutes to an hour.  They will double in size in the pan.  Don't let anything touch the tops of them or it will make them fall.  If it's warm in the kitchen, they will rise back up fast.  If it's cool it takes much longer.
 

Place in a 425 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until they are brown on top to your liking. Some folks like them really brown, we like them just browned slightly. 

 
This will be your finished product!  You can brush some melted butter on top when out of the oven or just leave them as is.  These are great for dinner, breakfast or to use for parties with sliced ham or turkey on them.  The dough is very versatile also.  Tomorrow we will use it for Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls!

Ingredients:
6 cups all purpose flour
1 pk. yeast (1/4 oz. packet)
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups milk
3/4  cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1tsp. salt


Cornbread Hoe Cakes

 
Since this blog is called 'Sweet Tea and Cornbread', I thought I might want to get around to talking about those things.  They are both pretty much staples of the southern table.  Hoe cakes are a type of fried, flat cornbread that look sort of like pancakes.  They are perfect with dried beans (pinto, white, mixed), soups, greens, and stews because they are so good for what really country, southern people call...soppin'.

The story is that the hoe cake came to be known as the hoe cake, because back in the day the field hands working in the crops had only some corn meal and water or maybe milk and their hoes to cook on over a hot fire. They would mix this mixture of corn meal and water or maybe milk up, clean their hoe off, and put it over a hot fire to cook the bread on  the flat surface.  Some even say it might go all the way back to the Indians who did make something very similar to the hoe cake, and many still do, called Indian fry bread or a Johnny cake.  However they came to be, done right, they are wonderful.

I see lots of variations on hoe cake recipes, but this is the recipe my mother taught me years ago.  I do add a couple of things she doesn't, but basically the same.




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Start by mixing together an egg, 1 cup self rising flour, 1 cup self rising corn meal, 1 cup milk or buttermilk, 1 Tbs sugar, and 1/2 Tbs baking powder.  If you use buttermilk, you might need to add 1/4 cup water because it makes it a little thicker.  Mix all ingredients well.


Heat vegetable oil in a skillet just to coat it on medium high heat.  When you pour batter in it should sizzle, but no smoke.  You can use a nonstick skillet or an iron skillet or a griddle if you have one.  I just use a nonstick skillet.  Don't crowd them because you have to have room to turn them.


Do not flip until they start to bubble and get little craters in them, then you can turn them without them falling apart.   They are pretty much done now and just need to brown on the other side.




Cook on the other side for about 3-5 minutes or until brown and you have delicious hoe cakes. Here is a helpful tip, do not be tempted to press down on these once you flip them.  They are not hamburgers and pressing on them will make them tough and dense not light.  It's a pet peeve of mine..lol.  I thought it must be a thing with just me, but I heard one of my aunts say that irritated the heck out her when somebody mashed on her hoe cakes after she flipped them. It's genetic...lol.  So many things are it seems.


Ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising corn meal
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 Tbs. sugar (optional, it's not enough to really make a huge difference)
1/2 Tbs. baking powder (you can leave this out, but it makes the hoe cakes rise up really nice)
vegetable oil
 
***If you cannot buy self rising cornmeal and self rising flour in your area, use all purpose and add  tsp. baking powder,  1 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. salt.   If you can buy self rising, invest in some, it just makes better cornbread.