Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes

This morning, someone at church asked me about our Thanksgiving plans, and naturally our conversation turned to food (I’m sure I was the one to bring it up). She was intrigued by my talk of “hash brown casserole,” and I told her I’d publish the recipe here.

Several years ago the recipe for Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes came into our family. We don’t have an Aunt Pearl, and no one really knows who the heck she is or was. But, boy, do we love her potato casserole! It’s a treat to make this because we reserve it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It has become my job to make it because I’ll be the one with the biggest serving on my plate (turkey? who needs turkey?), and I’m the one who would complain the loudest if this dish wasn’t on the table. (And being the designated maker of this dish, I can make as much as I want and save some aside in my own fridge – who’s gonna know?)

We’re probably going to eat our main Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant this year, but do you think I’m going to miss an opportunity to make these potatoes? Well, do you? (I didn’t think so.)

So here it is, Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes. And for anyone looking for the nutritional content of this dish, just forget it. Even if we knew, we wouldn’t burden you with that here. It’s Thanksgiving – a time of year we forget we’re supposed to be sensible about food!

I’m giving you the recipe 1) below and 2) as a downloadable PDF. There are two identical recipes on the PDF (I hate to waste paper, so there’s one for you and one to share.) To download the PDF, click the link below, then click the icon; it will download to your computer.

Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes

2 12-oz. bags hash browns, thawed
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
16 oz. sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks melted butter (divided use)
2 cups crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In large casserole dish, mix first 6 ingredients (hash browns through salt) with 1 stick of butter. Sprinkle with corn flakes and drizzle with 2nd stick of butter. Bake for 1 hour.

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Holy cow! I’m in chocolate heaven!

I’ve been OD’ing on chocolate this weekend.

On Food Network, that is. I can’t say that I’ve indulged in much of the actual substance lately (yeah, chocolate is a substance for me – but not a controlled substance, if you know what I mean, so I have to be careful how much I keep around the house).

Because Valentine’s Day is just a couple of days away, my favorite TV network has been spreading it on thick. Many of my favorite Food Net stars have episodes this weekend dedicated to gooey, dark, wonderful, sweet (and even savory!) bits of chocolate perfection. And since my household recently upgraded to DVR service, I can watch these shows in less time because I can skip the commercials!

But who am I kidding? I have spent just as much time watching them without the commercials because I keep rewinding through the good parts. The many, many good and gooey parts …

Am I beginning to sound obsessed? Well … maybe just a little. (Any chocoholic should understand.)

Tonight, during Alton Brown’s special, Good Eats: Turn on the Dark, I nearly got up from my chair (where I ostensibly was working on our taxes), whipped out my stand mixer and started pulling out the butter and cocoa powder. But I didn’t.

I am trying to lose weight, after all.

That’s why I was so excited when my sweet friend – or should I say my sweets-loving friend – Betsy gave me her recipe for vegan brownies, along with all the ingredients to make them. No baking required.

Betsy had offered me one of these brownies a couple of months ago, on the drive back from Hot Springs (where she won some running awards). It was love at first bite – not only because they tasted good but because they were made with such good-for-you ingredients. So I made them last weekend and took one to work with me every day. I emailed Betsy and told her they got me through a very stressful week (big deadline at work, plus my mom was in the hospital).

I know what you’re thinking: “Vegan brownies? I don’t think so.”

That is, if you even know what vegan means. A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is a vegetarian on steroids (OK, not literally; that would defeat the purpose). A vegan not only doesn’t eat animals (or, as Mr. Rogers would say, “anything that had a mother”), he or she doesn’t eat products that come from animals – meaning no eggs or dairy. Some (all?) vegans will not wear clothing or use other products that came from animals.

I’m sure some vegan foods are not as delicious as the typical American would like for them to be, but I believe that many non-vegans (like me) would enjoy these brownies; heck, some of you may even be as enthusiastic as I am about them. Give them a try. You don’t even have to turn on your oven (but you will have to clean your food processor).

Note 1: Betsy brought me certain ingredients that I’m quite sure she bought in Little Rock; I’ve never seen pure stevia extract at a store in Batesville (you can buy the less-intense kind at just about any store here, though), and I’m thinkin’ cacao nibs would be on that list, too. But you can improvise or make a shopping list for your next trip to the big city.

Note 2: I found that these weren’t very thick in my 8×8-inch pan, so I made a second batch and spread them a little thicker. Feel free to experiment; the original thickness may be just fine for you.

Give these a chance, and let me know what you think.

Vegan Brownies

(All ingredients preferably organic, but you can substitute where necessary.)

1 cup walnuts
8 large OR 12 medium-size pitted dates (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 packet pure stevia extract (powder)
pinch salt
1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for sprinkling on top)

In food processor, grind walnuts into a “flour” (until it’s fine but grainy). Add dates and grind until mixture is relatively smooth (it will still be grainy).

Add remaining ingredients and mix in processor until well blended. Spread in ungreased 8×8-inch pan. Press cacao nibs on top.

Store in refrigerator.

If we hadn’t eaten all the brownies I were a really good photographer, I would have a great picture of this wonderful dish. But I am not, and I do not. Use your imagination. Or just make the brownies. Then you’ll know why there are none left. And if you make them and don’t like them, just drop them by the Oakley house; we’ll be happy to solve that problem for ya.

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3 cheers for Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

I found another great recipe a few days ago, you guys, and finally had time to bake it this evening. It’s delish, and you’d never know it’s “healthy.” (I tried to take a picture, but I don’t do so well with the lighting in my kitchen.)

If you like pasta – especially cheesy pasta, you’ll love this. If you want to get your kids to eat spinach, serve them this. Even though I love spinach in salads, I’m not a fan of the cooked variety, but with this dish, I eats me spinach (to quote a famous sailor man).

As usual, I modified the recipe a bit, but mostly just in portion sizes; this time I kept all the ingredients the same except that I added a bit of dried oregano and did not omit the salt when I cooked the pasta). It calls for an 8-inch-square pan, but I added extra everything and made more servings. (I’m giving you the recipe as I found it, plus the oregano; add to it as you like.) Also, now that I have a convection oven, I’ll be adding a note about baking temperatures to the recipes I post (you’re supposed to cut the temp 25 degrees because convection baking is more efficient).

Because I made extra, I’m going to freeze one of the cooked casseroles so that when life gets busier (as it will in a couple of weeks when my class starts), I can have a hearty dinner reheated in a flash. If you want to make ahead and freeze some of it, I’m sure you could do all but the baking step and put the frozen casserole in the oven straight from the freezer. The chicken is cooked on the stove before the baking takes place.

I also bought some whole-wheat hoagie buns (Kroger didn’t have whole-wheat dinner rolls), sliced them and added garlic butter and Parmesan before baking those garlicly wonderful pieces of heaven. (OK, so that part’s not as healthy, except to my psyche.)

Don’t  forget that I have a Recipes tab at the top of my blog now; this one’s going there. I haven’t posted a lot of recipes there yet, but this one will join them!

Dig in, friends.

Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake

1½  cups (12 ounces) multigrain penne pasta, uncooked
9-ounce package fresh spinach leaves
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
½ teaspoon dried oregano
14.5-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 ounces (1/4 of 8-ounce package) Neufchatel cheese
1 cup shredded 2-percent-milk mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. (For a convection oven, heat to 350 degrees.)

Cook pasta as directed on package, omitting salt and adding spinach to the boiling water the last minute.

Cook and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 minutes. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in Neufchatel.

Drain pasta mixture; return to pan. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Spoon into 2-quart casserole or 8-inch-square baking dish.

Bake 20 minutes; top with remaining cheeses. Bake 3 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.

Makes 4 servings, 460 calories each.

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Suzy’s skillet supper

This is what I made for dinner tonight.

Yes, I need to come up with a less-Denny’s-sounding name for it, but it’s almost bedtime. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. In fact, the only reason I’m posting this tonight is that I’ll forget the ingredients if I don’t record them now.

My favorite thing about this skillet pasta dish is that I was able to use a couple of items from my own back yard: fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Also, most of the ingredients were what I just happened to have on hand (I bought the broccoli, the spinach and the bell pepper over the weekend, and I opened my fridge and cupboards for the rest).

So here is the jumbly, hurried version of the recipe – for now. I’m going to let you figure out your own amounts, partly because I didn’t measure anything and partly because I’m about to go to bed. Also, I’ll clean it up and post it on my new Recipes page when I get a chance. (I haven’t formally announced it, but I created a page just for recipes; see RECIPES tab above.)

Suzy’s Skillet Supper

  • Whole-grain penne rigate pasta (or whatever kind you prefer)
  • Olive oil
  • A dash of chicken broth
  • Boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Fresh garlic (lots)
  • Red bell pepper
  • White onion
  • Fresh broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh baby spinach
  • Basil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook everything but the cheese in a big ol’ skillet, saving the spinach and the basil until nearly the end, dish it up, grate the cheese on top, and devour.

Serves a family of four, or Bruce and one small child.

Bon appetit, and good night!

 

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Salad days

Tonight the women’s running clinic did its monthly Miracle Mile. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays we’re in a scenic neighborhood (or cemetery), and on Saturdays we run at the BHS  track. Once a month, though, we run or walk a timed mile at the Southside High School track.

A month ago, I ran my mile in 11:47. Tonight I shaved 41 seconds off my time – I ran it in 11:06!

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you’re making progress, but the timed mile puts it in perspective. Bottom line: I am getting better (more fit).

When I got home tonight, I was so hungry and really wanted to go to Sonic for a grilled chicken wrap and a Route 44 iced tea, but Bruce had taken the car to church, so I had to make do with what was in the fridge.

I had just enough spring mix left to make one more salad, so I just dumped everything into the container it came in. I had almost all the ingredients I usually put into my all-time-favorite big salad. Here’s what I use (no amounts listed – I just keep adding until the bowl is loaded with veggies):

Suzy’s Spring Mix Salad

  • Baby spring mix (spinach, arugula, radicchio, romaine lettuce – some mixes include herbs, such as my favorite: cilantro!)
  • Onion, chopped (my favorite is red, but I also like green)
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Tomatoes (chop a big one or use cherry or grape)
  • Celery, chopped
  • Turkey lunch meat (all natural, no preservatives)
  • Slivered almonds (you can substitute chopped walnuts, which are also really good for you)
  • Dried cranberries (I use Ocean Spray Craisins) or dried cherries
  • Shredded cheese (Parmesan is my favorite, and I love to grate it fresh)
  • Low-fat or fat-free balsamic vinaigrette (my fave) or ginger-lime vinaigrette

Tonight I added a boiled egg, but I don’t often have those already prepared, so it was a bonus.

I usually put everything but the cheese and the dressing into the bowl, then chop everything again with my hand-held chopper. (It’s not as messy to eat when the greens are in tiny pieces, and the flavors just seem to blend better.) Then sprinkle on some cheese and drizzle on the dressing.

Delicious! My friend Betsy makes a similar salad, and maybe she’ll share her recipe with us.

This salad is fairly low in fat (depending on how much cheese, turkey and dressing you use) and has a good amount of protein, not to mention all the vitamins and other goodies in the veggies.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Please post a comment sharing your favorite salad or fresh-veggie dish.

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Spicy Sausage Jambalaya

Folks, here’s a great jambalaya recipe that’s healthy! Instead of using the typical andouille sausage, you use turkey andouille. And brown rice instead of white. And it’s wonderful!

In an unusual development, the only thing extra that I decided this might possibly, maybe, need is a dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce, although it’s actually pretty good without it. I did not add it to the pot, because Bruce said it was good just as it was, “although you’ll probably want to add something.” (I usually complain that these recipes are too bland, and I frequently will add garlic or some type of spicy ingredient.) But it’s great without it, although it would be a smidge – just a smidge – better with a dash of spice.

I think the spicy turkey sausage you choose probably makes a difference. I used Butterball, and I probably will continue to choose that brand because it was so delish in this jambalaya. But next time I go to Whole Foods, if I find a natural turkey sausage without all the additives, I’ll probably use that.

I made it yesterday afternoon for Super Bowl Sunday, and as the only guests at our “party” were Bruce, the Spice Dogs and me, there is  plenty left over! (I love leftovers!)

And you wanna know what the best thing is? It doesn’t take long at all to make. The only things you have to cut up are the meat (sausage, chicken), bell pepper and green onions. (I bought a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that were on sale instead of buying the more expensive, already-cut-up chicken tenders.) The rest is just dump and stir. But don’t make the mistake I did in not realizing that you have the long-cooking brown rice instead of the instant. I was ready to put the rice in and realized the recipe said instant rice. So I had to cook a pot of rice for about 35 minutes, then add it to the jambalaya skillet.

But it was worth the wait, and I know you’ve been waiting for a good, easy recipe like this one, which I got from Good Housekeeping. (The only modification I’ve made is adding the hot sauce. Oh, and I used a red bell pepper instead of green or yellow.)

Spicy Sausage Jambalaya
8 ounces turkey andouille sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
1  green or yellow pepper, chopped
1 14½-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice
8 ounces chicken tenders, each cut crosswise in half
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Dash of Louisiana hot sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

Heat 12-inch skillet on medium until hot. Add sausage and pepper, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes with their juice, rice, chicken, water, hot sauce and salt; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is just tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in green onions.

Serves 4.

Nutritional information (per serving): 265 calories, 6 grams fat (2g saturated), 73mg cholesterol, 830mg sodium, 30g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 26g protein.

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Cranberry Salad

My Aunt Judy wanted my family’s Cranberry Salad recipe, so I thought I’d share it with everyone (for you Fellowship North folks, just look in your new cookbook; it’s on Page 97).

My former sister-in-law started making this several years ago, and I have insisted we have it at Thanksgiving and Christmas ever since. Even when we decided not to do a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, I told Mom I was still going to make the Cranberry Salad and Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes (we love the potatoes even though we have no idea who Aunt Pearl is); it’s the only time of year I get to eat either of these dishes.

Bruce and I were just discussing how we should  try to come up with a different name for the cranberry side dish. Calling it a salad might lead one to think of a green salad with cranberries sprinkled throughout (I actually do love a green salad with dried cranberries and almonds or walnuts, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette – but this isn’t it). Calling it a congealed salad would cause some to dismiss the recipe without even trying it (it sounds like something your grandmother would take to a church potluck). The best way to go about it, then, is to eat it for the first time and fall in love with it, as I did!

On one of our local radio stations the other day, the morning hosts took a survey: canned cranberry sauce or fresh? I was surprised at how many loved the canned stuff. I was never much of a fan, although Dad liked it and we still put out a can of it every Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though Dad has been gone 12 years.

To those of you who swear by the canned stuff, I challenge you to try this:

Cranberry Salad

3 cups water
1 large OR 2 small packages cranberry, cherry or other red gelatin
¾ cup sugar
1 bag (about 2 cups) fresh cranberries, crushed in food processor or chopper
1 medium orange, cut into small pieces
2 medium apples, unpeeled but diced
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup pecans, chopped

In large glass bowl, microwave water until boiling; add gelatin and sugar. Mix. Let cool but not congeal.

Mix in other ingredients, and pour into loaf-size pan or individual custard cups (or both). Refrigerate until set.

Click here to download a PDF version of the recipe.

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Sweet Potato Waffles

Waffle lovers, try this recipe by my favorite Food Network chef, Alton Brown.

I made these a couple of Saturdays ago just for the sake of trying a new recipe (you know how much I love to do that!), and they were yummy for my tummy. Bruce liked them, too, although he is not one to rave about such simple pleasures as a breakfast waffle.

I like that the recipe uses sweet potatoes, which are so good for you. You can’t really taste the sweet potatoes – they simply give regular ol’ waffles an extra depth of flavor.

Of course I’ve modified it just a bit, as I often do.

Sweet Potato Waffles

1½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
2 cups all-purpose flour OR 1½ cups all-purpose and ½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup milk
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Cooking the potatoes Alton’s way: Put cubed sweet potatoes in a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of steamer. Allow potatoes to steam for 20 minutes or until fork tender. Mash cooked potatoes and set aside.

Cooking the potatoes, Suzy’s version: Cook sweet potatoes in a pot of water until tender (the way you normally cook them – you can even microwave them). Mash and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In another bowl, combine sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, butter and grated orange rind. Stir this mixture into flour mixture, and thoroughly combine.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg whites into batter, 1/3 at a time. The batter will be thick (mine wasn’t that thick, but they turned out fine). Pour batter onto a preheated, oiled waffle iron, and cook until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. (Makes 8 waffles.)

Serve with butter and maple syrup. YUM!

After you make these, which are perfect for a holiday brunch, let me know how you and your family liked them.

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