Steak Pizzaiola!




I would say that next to down home southern food, Italian food is probably my second favorite and always has been.  I think it's because Italian food and southern food have a lot in common.  You are probably wondering what the two possibly have in common, but both types of cuisine take what you have available, season it really well and make the most out of it.  Both cultures also usually had really big families to feed with limited resources and knew how to stretch what they had to make that work.   A big Italian family has a lot in common with a big southern family.   Steak Pizzaiola always makes me think of the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" when Marie won't give Raymond's wife her Steak Pizzaiola recipe because it's Raymond's favorite and she wants to be the only one who can make that for him. That mother is so much like my own mother in a lot of ways, it's crazy. My mother doesn't like the comparison...lol.

Now, I do not have one drop of Italian blood in my heritage (that I know of), but I do love to cook and eat Italian food.   This steak pizzaiola is a bit of my own creation, because I didn't grow up eating this, so if you are Italian or have an Italian mother or grandmother who cooks authentic Italian food, you might want to stop reading this now.  I am sure it's far from what they called steak pizzaiola, but it is really good and it is at least similar to the authentic.  Here is what you will need:

4-5 steaks or about 2 lb.  (use a good cut like a strip steak, sirloin, or chuck eye) 
1 jar or can marinara sauce
1 medium sweet onion cut in rings (I used Vidalia)
1 green pepper cut in strips
1 cup sliced white mushrooms or a small can
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
garlic powder
2 Tbs butter
olive oil
1 lb pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, or egg noodles work best)




Saute onions, green pepper, mushrooms and garlic in a tablespoon of butter and a little olive oil until they are just crisp tender.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Use a pan that is safe for the oven because you will be running this in the oven at the end.


Add the rest of the butter and a little more olive oil to the pan, sprinkle the steak with salt, pepper, and a little garlic salt and cook them on each side for about 6-7 minutes.  Add the onions, peppers and mushrooms back to the pan on top of the steaks.   If you don't think your steaks are going to be tender enough or they are extra thick, you can cut them thin across the grain at this point and they will be really fork tender when this is done.  I used sirlion and they are better if you cut them thin across the grain before adding the sauce and cheese   A cut like a New York strip won't need this step though.


Pour the marinara sauce over the steaks. Add the fresh basil, oregano, and sugar.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes on medium low heat.  Top with the onions, peppers, and mushrooms.
Sprinkle the Asiago, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese over all.  Run the pan in the oven preheated to 450 degrees until the cheese has melted and browned.















It will nice and brown an bubbly when it comes out of the oven.  Cook the pasta according to package directions and serve the steak pizzaiola over it.

Steak Pizzaiola!



Collard Greens and Ham Hocks!

 
When I was growing up, we always ate greens, but not collard greens.  Everyone around here grew and cooked turnip greens and mustard greens or mixed them.  Some also ate poke on occasion.  I used to love poke salad when I was a little girl.  I had an uncle that really loved it and he and I were the only ones who would eat it, so my aunt would cook us a big pot or a 'mess' as southerners like to say and we would have contests to see who could eat the most.   I had forgotten about that until my mother reminded me of it the other day when we were talking about cooking greens.  
We started cooking collards after Paula Deen became so popular on Food Network and cooked them on there and my sister moved to Georgia where they eat collards and she found out how good they were and passed that info along. Also my sister, mother and I took a trip to Savannah, Georgia and ate at Paula Deen's restaurant and those collards were to die for. Anyway, long story short, collard greens are now our favorite greens, but we still eat the others also.  I love all greens cooked the right way.

This is how I cook my collard greens, but there are many variations and recipes and I know everyone likes their own so I am not saying this is the only way to do it.  This is a very tasty way to cook them though.   This is also not a set in stone recipe, you can vary the seasoning to your taste. There are a few musts when cooking greens to make them taste good though, use enough seasoning and you have to put some sort of meat grease in them.  Not a bucket full or anything, but you do have to put some bacon grease, ham hock, ham pieces...something.  It cuts any of the bitterness they might have.   Here is what you'll need:

2- 3 bunches of collard greens depending on how they are bundled, about enough to fill up a plastic grocery bag once they are cleaned
1 meaty ham hock or 2 if not so meaty (preferably a country ham hock)
1 Tbs of salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's) or seasoned salt if you don't want the spiciness
1 Tbs hot sauce (something like Texas Peete is good) 
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. bacon drippings


Wash the ham hock off really well then place it in a dutch oven or large pot.  I like to use my cast iron dutch oven for this.  Cover the ham hock with water (about 2 quarts).  Add  the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and hot sauce to the water.  Bring this to a boil then turn heat to medium and cook the ham hock for about an hour. 

Wash the collard greens by running them through about three changes of water.  Lift each green individually out of the water to a large bowl or colander.  Change the water and do it again.  Collards are usually a little dirty and can be gritty and insects love them and will cling to them, so washing each one is important.  Even the bags that are sold in the supermarket that say they are prewashed and cut need to be rewashed at least once.  That's just my opinion...for what it is worth...lol.   When you have them washed, strip the leaves off of the stems that run through the middle of the leaves.  That stem is tough and fibrous...not good to eat.   Stack the leaves in a stack of about 7-8 and then roll them up like a cigar.  Take a sharp knife and cut the roll in about 1/2 inch strips.
Place the cut greens in the pot with the liquid and the ham hock.  It will look like a whole lot, but they will wilt and shrink down as they cook.  Add the sugar and the bacon drippings  Cook on medium low for about an hour. 

Remove the ham hock after one hour to a plate to cool. When it's cool enough to handle cut the lean meat off of the bone, it should just about fall off,  discard bone and fat and return the lean meat to the collards and mix.  Cook for about 30 minutes more and taste for seasoning.  Some people make the mistake of cooking greens to death.  They do not need to cook all day long.  They should still be a nice green when they are done.  The bigger your collard leaves, the longer it will take to get them tender.  Taste for tenderness and you will be able to tell if they need more time.

Serve with vinegar, Vidalia onion, and of course hoe cakes!   


Sunshine Broccoli Salad!


 
We have been making this broccoli salad in our family for years.  Every time I make it to take to a potluck or something, it never fails that I am asked by several people for the recipe.  Now it seems that a lot of the delis and diners in our area are serving a similar broccoli salad and it is always one their most popular menu items.   Here is what you need for this salad:

Ingredients:
 
1 large head of broccoli (about 4 cups when chopped into bite size pieces)
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (I like to use the dried cranberries during the holidays especially)
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds (can substitute other nuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonaisse
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. white vinegar
dash of salt and black pepper
6-7 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Wash the broccoli and cut off the stems, chop the heads into bite size pieces.  You can chop some of the tender part of the stems to use also.  Discard the rest. Place the chopped broccoli and mixing bowl.  Add the chopped onion, raisins or dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. I add other nuts as well sometimes. as I did in this one.  Walnuts, pecans, almonds or even cashews are good.
 

Add the shredded cheese.  Mix the mayonaisse, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves.  Add a dash of salt and black pepper and stir.   Pour the dressing over the other ingredients and fold it all together until the ingredients are coated. 

You can then crumble the bacon over the top and serve.  You can make this several hours ahead of time earlier in the day and refrigerate, but don't add the bacon until time to serve so that it stays nice and crisp.

Delicious served with just about any main course!






Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole!




This is one of my favorite chicken casseroles.  When my son was growing up he loved rice (still does), but he didn't like any casseroles made with pasta, his father on the other hand wouldn't eat a casserole made with rice.  Do you see the dilemma I was in here?  It made cooking a real challenge.  This casserole is one that my son and I love though and it made enough for the two of us to have leftovers for a while from.  It's also a really good dish to take to a potluck or family dinner, because it travels well and can be made a day or even two ahead and then baked right before your event.   Here is what you will need:

3 bone in chicken breasts with skin
1 stalk celery
1 half onion
1 Tbs chicken bouillon granules or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
reserved chicken broth
1 box Uncle Ben's Wild Rice Blend (6 oz. size)
1 can cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 tsp. curry powder
seasoned salt
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt
black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve Ritz or Townhouse crackers, crushed
1/2 stick of butter





Place the chicken breasts in a dutch oven and cover with water.  Add the stalk of celery, onion, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and the bullion cubes or granules.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.  You can use 4 boneless chicken breasts instead, but add 2 Tbs. of butter in addition to the other ingredients if you do. You need a good broth and boneless breasts have very little fat in them.  Once the chicken is done, remove it to a plate to cool enough to debone and chop in bite size pieces.  Reserve the broth.

Prepare the wild rice mix according to the directions on the box, except instead of water use the chicken broth to cook the rice in.  When the rice is done add the soup, additional broth, half and half, the can of soup, sour cream, curry powder, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. of seasoned salt, and Worstershire sauce. Mix all of this together until it's well blended.


Add the almonds and chopped chicken and mix those in well.  Spread the mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed well with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over top of the rice mixture,  then sread the crushed cracker crumbs over the cheese.  Cut the butter in pats and lay them evenly over the cracker crumb  layer.  Place the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  The crackers should just be getting nice and brown.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole!











Ooey Gooey Banana Chocolate Chip Cake!



It's so hot in Kentucky right now I have been trying to not cook or bake anything that require turning the oven on for very long, but today I had to make an exception and bake this cake.  It just sounded so good and I was having a real need for something chocolate.   I also had some bananas that needed using.  This is one of the most moist cakes I have ever made and the glaze really makes it something else.  Here is what you will need:








A butter cake mix, eggs, oil, chocolate pudding mix, sour cream, mini chocolate chips, bananas,  butter, brown sugar, vanilla flavoring, and milk.
Mix the cake mix and the pudding mix.  I used chocolate pudding because I wanted more of a chocolate cake, but if you want more of a banana flavor use a banana pudding mix.  Next add in the eggs, oil, water, and sour cream.  Mix until well blended.  Mash two bananas and then mix them in until they are well incorporated.
Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
Spray a bundt pan well with nonstick cooking spray. 
Pour the batter in the pan and be sure to shake it back and forth to level it out in the pan.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 - 60 minutes.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it sit in the pan for about 30 minutes to cool, then turn it out onto a plate that is about an inch bigger than the cake all the way around.  The glaze tends to run over the edges and the plate needs to have room to catch any that runs down the sides. 
While the cake cools, melt the butter in a skillet and add the brown sugar, half and half and vanilla flavoring.  Bring to a boil whisking constantly and cook for about 3 minutes.  Turn it off and let it sit and thicken slightly.  Once it has thickened spoon over the cake. This is what makes the cake ooey gooey.  You can serve the cake without this glaze, but seriously why would you want to?  It's what makes the cake really something special.
Spoon the glaze over the cake.   This cake is really delicious sliced and served while it's still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but it will be just as moist the next day.



Ingredients:

1 yellow or butter cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 8oz. sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1 small box instant chocolate pudding (can use banana)
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
Glaze:
1 stick butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup half and half
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring





Cheesy Fresh Corn Fritters!



We used to eat at this little restaurant that served corn nuggets as an appetizer.  They were these wonderful little nuggets made of corn, cornmeal and cheese and then deep fried and served with a ranch dipping sauce.  This recipe for corn fritters reminds of those corn nugget appetizers.   These could be served as an appetizer or a side and they are really good with fried fish or seafood instead of hush puppies.   Here is what you will need:
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup fresh corn kernels (I cut off 2 ears for this or if you don't have fresh corn you could use frozen niblets)
1 cup chopped sweet onion ( I used Vidalia)
3 Tbs. butter
1  1/2 self rising corn meal
1//2 cup of flour
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Oil for deep frying


Cut off about two ears of fresh corn and chop the onion.

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the corn and onion and saute until the onion is just tender.
Mix cornmeal, flour, seasonings, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well mixed.  Add the corn and onion mixture and mix.  Add in the cheese last.  The mixture should be thick, but as it sits it will get tighter, if it gets too thick add just a tad of water.

Heat the oil in your deep fryer or pan to 375 degrees.  I use canola oil, you can use vegetable oil or peanut oil also.  Drop the fritters by about a tablespoon at a time.  You can use a cookie scoop or I use my small ice cream scoop and just dip about a tablespoon full.  Let them brown on each side, you will probably need to roll them over once to get them even and then remove to let drain on a paper towel lined plate.

 






Two Lowfat Salad Dressings...that actually taste good!



For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you know it is not exactly written with Weight Watcher's in mind...lol.   You also know I am not a big fan of lowfat, light, or fat free products to cook with most of the time even though I do offer those as a substitute in the recipes if at all possible.   To me, the lowfat or fat free versions of some foods are just full of water, sugar and other yucky things that might be just as bad for people as the fat.   However, I have done my fair share of dieting, especially in the last ten years since my metabolism seems to have gone on a permanent vacation and I don't think it plans on returning and I do know that cutting fat grams and calories does result in some weight loss.  Also, for those people watching their cholesterol, a lowfat diet is recommended.

 Therefore, if I can find a recipe that is lowfat that still tastes good and isn't full of fillers, I will use it.   Salad dressings of the lowfat variety are one of those things that can be very iffy.   I love salads and it really irritates me if I put a dressing on a beautiful salad and it tastes awful and ruins it.   I would usually rather just eat the salad plain than go to the lowfat varieties, so you can't imagine how excited I was when I made these two dressings, ranch and honey mustard, and they really are good!  The ranch dressing I saw on Pinterest and I only changed a couple of things about it which for me, is a record.  The honey mustard came about because of the ranch.  I had to play around with the honey mustard to get it to taste right without any of the whang (is that a word?) that most lowfat or light dressings have and actually the honey mustard ended up being my favorite of the two.

Lowfat Ranch Dressing

1 cup nonfat plain Greek Yogurt (it's important to use the Greek yogurt)
1 pkg Ranch Dressing mix  (do not use the dip mix)
1/2 cup 1% milk ( I used 2% because that is what we drink and had on hand)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. soy sauce ( use a good soy sauce like Kikkoman)

Mix all of the ingredients well and place in the refrigerator to chill.  This makes a thick dressing that is thick enough for a veggie dip.  If you want it a little thinner for salads, just add a little more milk to it.   According to all of those people who pinned this on Pinterest the entire jar contains 255 calories, 1.75 grams of fat, 42 carbs and 34 protein if made with the 1% milk.  The entire recipe has about 20 servings so you can see that is it almost fat free.   I did add the soy sauce and garlic powder, but that should not have changed the fat content.  Adding those two ingredients did get rid of any whangy taste it had and it did have a slight whang.   Once I added the soy sauce and garlic powder, it didn't and it didn't change the looks of it.   I have been eating this and I actually love it!




 Lowfat Honey Mustard Dressing

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup honey
1 Tbs. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 Tbs. yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. soy sauce

Mix all of the ingredients and chill for at least an hour.  This is not as thick as the ranch dressing, but it's the perfect consistency for salads.   This one took some trial and error and playing around with, but I must admit that I was shocked at how good this really is.  I will be making and using this from now on when I need a honey mustard dressing.  It was not as good until I added the garlic powder and soy, once again it got rid of the slight tang that lowfat dressings can have.

 

I don't know the calories and fat grams for this one, but it wouldn't be hard to figure out if you need to.  I am hesitant to give calorie and nutrition information or even servings calculations, because I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist and don't want to misinform anyone. 

If you are looking for a way to cut a few calories this summer, make these dressings and a nice big green salad and enjoy guilt free! 


Lowfat Honey Mustard and Lowfat Ranch Dressings!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins!



Since July is National Blueberry Month, I thought I should do some blueberry recipes.  Blueberries are one of my favorites and this muffin recipe is one I have used for years now.  It's basically foolproof and it is very versatile.  It only has five ingredients and you can use any type of fruit, fresh or frozen, in place of the blueberries.  You can even substitue chocolate chips, my son's favorite.   Here is what you will need:

Ingredients:

2 cups baking mix (like Bisquick)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

Lemon Glaze:

2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice (juice of 1/2 of a lemon)


Mix all of the muffin ingredients except the blueberries just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Do not over mix the muffin mix or they will not be light.   Place cupcake cups in a 12 cup muffin tin or spray the pan with nonstick spray.  Place muffins in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes.  Let the muffins cool slightly, then drizzle with the lemon glaze.  This recipe will make 12 regular size muffins or 9 large muffins.


Lemon Blueberry Muffins!







Cornbread Quiche!



This is a recipe that is the result of a request made by one of our regular "Sweet Tea and Cornbread" readers.  He asked for a  'breakfasty' recipe using cornbread.  At first, I was a little stumped, but after thinking about it for a day or two, I decided to do a 'cornbread quiche'.  We love quiche at our house, but I had never used cornbread in one before.  But, when you think about it, why not?  We ate this for dinner, but it would be great for a late breakfast, lunch or brunch.   Here is what you will need:
Ingredients:
1 lb breakfast sausage  (you could also use chopped ham or bacon)
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup half and half
1 can creamed corn
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated asiago or Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs. sugar
dash of salt
dash of garlic powder
a few drops of Tabasco sauce




Brown the sausage and chopped onion. Drain when browned.

I used this smokehouse sausage made by my favorite sausage maker, Purnell's.  I don't know if this is a new product on the market, but it's new here and I love smoked sausage.  You can also use regular breakfast sausage (try Purnell's if you can get it), chopped ham or even bacon would be great!

Mix all of the other ingredients except the cheeses...Jiffy cornbread mix, butter, creamed corn, half and half, sour cream, eggs and seasonings.  Stir until well blended and then fold in the shredded cheddar cheese.
Sprinkle the browned sausage in a dish you have sprayed well with nonstick cooking spray.  You need a deep pie plate for this or I used my Corning French White quiche dish.  You can also  bake it in  a 2 quart casserole dish and cut it in squares.


Pour the quiche mixture over the sausage and then sprinkle the top with grated asiago or Parmesan cheese.  If you don't care for asiago or Parmesan you could use some shredded Swiss cheese or even Monterrey Jack or more cheddar. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes.  Test at 40 minutes by inserting a sharp knife in the center and it should come out clean when done.  Watch to be sure the top doesn't brown too much.  Place it on the middle rack.  
COOKING TIP:  Before you fill your quiche pan or deep pie plate, place it on a large cookie sheet or pizza pan, then fill it. This makes the quiche cook more evenly and if it does spill over the pan catches it. It's also easier to move in and out of the oven without spilling.

When it's nice and brown, remove it from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
Cornbread quiche, fried potatoes and sliced tomatoes from the garden!






Country Ham Fettuccine Alfredo!



There used to be a little restaurant in a neighboring county that had two specialties that I absolutely loved...their angel biscuits and country ham fettuccine.  I have never seen it on any other restaurant's menu and since I really loved it, I had to recreate it at home.  This version comes pretty close to theirs and it's a quick meal to put together but is impressive to anyone who doesn't watch how easy it is.

If you do not have access to country ham in your area, since it is sold in stores fairly regionally, you can substitute a good smoked ham, tasso, or even just some leftover baked ham would work.   The country ham does give the dish a really rich flavor though so if you can get it, try it.   Here is what you will need:

Ingredients:

3 cups country ham, chopped
8 oz fettuccine pasta
1 jar Bertolli Alfredo sauce (I prefer Bertolli, but you can use your favorite)
1  8oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup half and half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder



Melt the butter in a deep skillet or dutch oven.  Wash the country ham off to remove the excess salt.  Chop it into bite size pieces, add it to the butter and saute it until lightly browned.  Country ham is very salty and usually has a little gritty saltiness on it so it's best to rinse it off.




Remove the ham from the pan and leave the drippings.  There won't be many drippings from the ham because you only use the lean.  Add the Alfredo sauce, the cream cheese, half and half, black pepper, and garlic powder to the pan, turned on low heat. Whisk to blend until the cream cheese has melted and blended.  Because of the salt content of the ham and the salted water you cook the pasta in, you won't need to add salt to the sauce.   I use a jar of Bertolli Alfredo sauce as the base of this sauce, because it's really good.  I have made Alfredo completely from scratch and to be honest Bertolli tastes just as good with a little help.  It is the only brand I use, but you might prefer another brand. 








 Whisk in the 1 cup of Parmesan cheese until the Alfredo sauce is smooth.
Add the cooked country ham back into the sauce.




Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, drain well and then add directly to the Alfredo sauce.


Gently toss the pasta with the sauce.  That's it!  Place in your serving bowls and garnish!  You can make this in less than 30 minutes...start to finish!  Add a salad or vegetable and bread and you have dinner!






I garnished with sliced green onions and fresh parsley, chives would also be great.
Country Ham Fettuccine Alfredo!