Saturday, October 31, 2015

It's All in the Color


Since I had a new baby at the end of August, my holiday treat making has decreased this season. However, I had to do something fun for my boys. So, we had a movie night and watched a Halloween movie and ate their favorite kettle corn, dyed black and orange. I love this kettle corn recipe. It is so quick and easy. My boys ask me to make it for them all the time. It is fun to mix up the colors to go along with different holidays. A purple and green mix also would have been fun for Halloween, but my boys thought the black and orange combination was really fun.

Kettle Korn (Whirly Pop)


1/3 cup popping corn
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup popping oil (I only use about 1/8 cup vegetable oil...I just fill my 1/4 cup measure half-way)


Preheat electric stove (just above medium setting). For gas stoves, set low, never higher. Preheating is unnecessary. Pour all ingredients into popper. Stir constantly until kernels have finished popping. Quickly empty kettle corn onto cookie sheet. While the corn cools, take popper immediately to sink, run hot water into it with liquid detergent. Close lids on suds and let it soak for easy cleanup. When kettle corn is cool, break into pieces with a wooden spoon. Pick out any upopped kernels. Makes approximately 4 quarts of kettle corn.

To add color: Add a few drops of food coloring on the unmelted sugar when ingredients are put in popper. Don't squirt in one spot; it will lump. Dot small amounts around in 6 or 8 places. Store finished kettle corn in an airtight canister or jar.

To add flavor: Choose from coconut, rum, vanilla, almond, or other flavorings. Try 1/2 teaspoon in the first batch, and increase with each batch to suit your taste.

Source: This came from my Whirley Pop recipe booklet.

Notes: I use less oil than the recipe calls for because seriously, that much just isn't needed. It just makes your hands messier when you are eating it! Even with the Whirley Pop, the hot oil splatters (even through the lid of my popcorn maker). I always stir it while I am wearing oven mitts and an apron...and I stand as far back as I can!

Above: Originally posted here. Doesn't the color make such a difference? So fun to mix it up!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Taste of the South


My youngest brother served his mission in Mississippi, so we decided to have a southern food theme night to help him bring back some good food memories.


Glazed Cajun Meatloaf


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery (2-3 stalks)
1/2 cup finely diced red or green bell pepper
3 green onions (scallions), white and green parts thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup beef broth or milk
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Traeger Cajun Rub, or your favorite Louisiana-style rub
1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce such as Crystal or Frank's RedHot
1 tablespoon Creole-style mustard, brown mustard, or yellow mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound andouille or other spicy sausage, removed from casing
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup ketchup (for the glaze)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (for the glaze)
1 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce, or more to taste (for the glaze)
1 tablespoon white vinegar, or more to taste (for the glaze)
2 teaspoons Creole-style mustard, brown mustard, or yellow mustard (for the glaze)


Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray a wire cooling rack with cooking spray and set on top of the baking sheet. In a large frying pan, saute the onion, celery, bell pepper, green onion, garlic, and jalepeno(s) in the oil until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth, ketchup, Traeger Cajun Rub, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, mustard, and pepper, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, pork, and andouille sausage. Add the egg, bread crumbs, and the cooled vegetable mixture. Mix lightly but thoroughly with your hands until well combined. Form a rectangular loaf about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches high. Lay it on top of the cooling rack. When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Put the pan with the meatloaf on the grill grate and smoke for 1 hour. Increase the temperature to 325 and bake the meatloaf for 1 hour.

In the meantime, make the glaze: Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, hot sauce, white vinegar, and mustard in a small saucepan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the glaze evenly over the meatloaf, or brush it on with a pastry brush. Continue to cook the meatloaf for 30 minutes more, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part is 160 degrees F. Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: Traeger Grill website. You can find it here.

Notes: My brother has a Traeger Grill and as a result, he has gotten into a cooking craze of his own and contributes to our family Sunday dinners greatly with his amazing smoked meats! This was awesome. You can always bake this in your oven...but it won't have the same smoky flavor.



Authentic Louisiana Red Beans and Rice


1 pound dry kidney beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cups water
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
4 cups water
2 cups long grain white rice


Rinse beans, and then soak in a large pot of water overnight.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, bell pepper, garlic, and celery in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.

Rinse beans, and transfer to a large pot with 6 cups water. Stir coked vegetables into beans. Season with bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, parsley, and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

Stir sausage into beans, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. In a saucepan, bring water and rice to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve beans over steamed white rice.

Source:, submitted by MIAMI BEACH. You can find it here.


Kickin' Collard Greens


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh collard greens, cut into 2-inch pieces


Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon frm pan, crumble, and return to the pan. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant. Add collard greens, and fry until they start to wilt.

Pour in chicken broth, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.

Source:, submitted by Ken Adams. You can find it here.


Cajun Potato Salad


3 lbs. red potatoes
1/3 cup creole mustard
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning (or cajun spice)
1/2 cup green pepper, diced1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste


Add potatoes to lightly salted water; cover, bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and cut into 1" chunks (you can peel them or leave them unpeeled, according to your preference).

Combine mustard and creole seasoning in a medium sized bowl. Add warm potatoes. Toss to combine.

Add green pepper, green onion, and bacon.

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and sugar. Add to potatoe mixture and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours prior to serving.

Source: Recipe submitted by BakinBaby. You can find it here.

Notes: I always love potato matter the flavor combination! This was really good.


Sour Cream 7-Up Biscuits


4-5 cups buttermilk baking mix (like Bisquick)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sour cream
Up to 1 cup regular or diet lemon-lime soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk together the dry ingredients; add in the sour cream. Stir, adding in the lemon lime soda, a little at a time, until dough comes together and is shaggy. Add more baking mix if needed. Sprinkle a bit of the baking mix on the counter. Turn out dough onto counter and gently pat into a round about 1 inch thick. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter or a glass dipped into flour, begin to cut out biscuits. Place them on a half sheet baking pan that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, sides slightly touching for soft biscuits, or about an inch apart if you like the edges more crisp. Drizzle with melted butter, if desired.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Cook's note: Make sure you are using fresh baking powder, and also shake or stir it in the container before measuring out.

Source: Deep South Dish. You can find the recipe here.


Banana Pudding


3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups 2% milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces vanilla wafers (about 60 cookies), divided
4 large ripe bananas, cut into 1/4-inch slices


In a large saucepan, mix sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk a small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return all to pan, whisking constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish, layer 25 vanilla wafers, half of the banana slices, and half of the pudding. Repeat layers.

Press plastic wrap onto surface of pudding. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, crush remaining wafers and sprinkle over top.

Yield: 9 servings.

Nutrition information: 1 serving equals 302 calories, 7 g fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 206 mg sodium, 55 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find it here.

Notes: Great comfort food! Enough said!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

I've Always Wondered How They Do This

I love a good gyro. I craved gyros a lot during this last pregnancy. As I have mentioned before, I have a number of great Greek restaurants nearby...but I've always wondered how gyros were made. Now I know! This recipe is spot on. I think there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to packing the meat tightly, slicing it just right, and frying it so that it is crisp, but not too crisp, but I think practice will make perfect and I look forward to making these again and again until I am a pro. However, this recipe is also very forgiving, and even though some of my slices weren't perfect and I fried a few of them too crispy, it was still absolutely delicious.

I love how the author of this recipe stated that she slices the leftover meat in individual portions and freezes it for any time she craves a gyro. What a great idea!

Favorite Meat Loaf Gyros


1 egg, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef

Tzatziki Sauce:

1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


8 whole pita breads
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
16 slices tomato
8 slices red or sweet onion, halved


In a large bowl, combine the egg, garlic, oregano, kosher salt, and pepper. Crumble lamb and beef over mixture; mix well.

Pat into an ungreased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until no pink remains and a thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

For sauce, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Brush pita breads with 1 tablespoon oil; heat on a lightly greased griddle for 1 minute on each side. Keep warm. Cut meat loaf into very thin slices. In a large skillet, fry meatloaf in remaining oil in batches until crisp.

On each pita bread, layer the tomato, onion, and meatloaf slices; top with some tzatziki sauce. Carefully fold pitas in half. Serve with remaining sauce.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Taste of Home October/November 2006. You can find it here.

Notes: I used bottled minced garlic instead of fresh garlic (the bottle will tell you the equivalent of how much minced garlic you need to equal one garlic clove). I know it sounds like a lot of garlic and oregano, but honestly, the proportions are perfect to give you the flavor of a gyro that you would buy in a restaurant.

The meatloaf renders a lot of grease. I would suggest draining it before placing it in the refrigerator to chill for 1-2 hours.

The tricky part for me, as I mentioned above, was packing the meat into the loaf pan. I had a few air pockets, so when I was trying to slice my meatloaf thinly, it didn't work out as well as I had hoped. Instead of equal sized slices, some of my slices were different shapes. Also, you can't slice the meat too thinly because then the slices are prone to crumbling even if you packed the meat well. This is where the practice makes perfect part comes into play. I just need to try it a few more times before I get it right. At any rate, even if your slices aren't exactly the same and you end up with air pockets, it will still taste great (though it might not be as pretty as you expected).

Above: I took pictures with the pretty slices of meatloaf. Not all of the slices looked this good! Ha ha!

Now I Can Make it at Home!


I love Greek food. Luckily for me, there are a ton of Greek fast food places nearby...but sometimes you just want to know how to make it for yourself at home. I have a fantastic Greek cookbook that my mom bought me years ago. It is called Perfect Greek (ISBN 978-1-4054-8858-7). You can find it here. It is a really wonderful, authentic cookbook. Everything I have made out of this book has been spot on. I love the meatball recipe from this book (which I have already posted here).



Chicken Kabobs with Yogurt Sauce (Chicken Souvlaki)


1 1/4 cups authentic Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as oregano, dill, tarron, or parsley
Salt and pepper
4 large skinned, boned chicken breasts
8 firm stems of fresh rosemary, optional (I used bamboo skewers)
Shredded romaine lettuce, to serve
Rice, to serve
Lemon wedges, to garnish


To make the sauce, put the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well together.

Cut the chicken breasts into chunks measuring about 1 1/2 inches square. Add to the yogurt mixture and toss well together until the chicken pieces are coated. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before use.

Preheat the broiler. Thread the pieces of chicken onto 8 flat, greased, metal kabob skewers, wooden skewers, or rosemary stems and place on a greased broiler pan.

Cook the kabobs under the broiler for about 15 minutes, turning and basting with the remaining marinade occasionally, until lightly browned and tender.

Pour the remaining marinade into a pan and heat gently but do not boil. Serve the kabobs with shredded lettuce on a bed of rice and garnish with lemon wedges. Accompany with yogurt sauce.

Source: Perfect Greek cookbook as noted above. You can find the link in my introduction to this post.

Notes: I didn't have fresh herbs on hand, so I used 1 tsp. dried oregano and 1 tsp. dried dill in the tzatziki yogurt sauce.

I skipped the Romaine lettuce. Instead, we served our souvlaki with this recipe for Greek Festival Lemon Rice that we have posted before. I also served it with some of this Greek tzatziki. Finally, we put the chicken on top of some pita bread and served it with additional cucumber and tomato slices.

My boys loved this. Everyone gobbled it up. This was fantastic. Next time, I will double it. Also, I soaked the bamboo skewers for quite awhile, but they still smoked a bit when I broiled them. I had to cover the ends of the skewers with foil to stop the smoking and charring. Maybe someday I will have to invest in some metal skewers.