Stick-A-Rounds

As I write this, we are a few days into December and Christmas preparations are … well, a little less than organized. The lights have been hung on the outside of the house and are working (the solar sensor isn’t but at least they turn on and off … by hand). We have our tree in the stand and half of the lights on it. Christmas music is streaming and my cards will arrive in time to be stamped and mailed.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas and into the New Year, it is always nice to have some options on hand for those last-minute guests, party invitations, and gifts. Homemade cookies, jams or jellies, quick breads, and candies are always appreciated. Sometimes though I like to go with a savory option and I thank my cousin, Brenda, for my obsession with these amazingly simple pretzels.

It was probably 15 years ago, at a family reunion, that I grabbed a handful of what I thought were regular pretzels from a bowl on our table. One bite told me that they definitely weren’t “regular” pretzels; they had been given some TLC. When I figured out which one of my cousins had made them, she said her family called them “Seasoned Pretzels” and laughed when I asked for the recipe. She said it was too easy for a recipe.

Bonus!

No baking. Simple ingredients. And addictive as …

Well, that’s the story of how these pretzels got a new name. I started taking these pretzels with us to baseball tournaments and tailgates. Once, when they were passed around, one of the dad’s said “Hey! Are these the Crack Pretzels?”

Huh?

“They’re so good! Once I start eating them, I can’t stop!”

It is true that it is hard to show restraint when it comes to this snack; but, I just wasn’t comfortable introducing them with a drug reference. Call me old-fashioned. I turned to my social-media-wordsmith son who immediately determined the name had to convey the addictive nature of the flavor. It took him about 30 minutes to come up with …

Stick-A-Rounds

I knew he was on to something when I looked at my picture (which he could not see at the time) and saw the stick pretzels, the round pretzels, and the traditional pretzels. Not that you have to use all three shapes … use what you want … they’ll still make people want to stick around.

You select the shapes, you choose the name, AND you are responsible for how many you eat!

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Stick-A-Rounds
These highly addictive seasoned pretzels will have all your family and guests "sticking around" the bowl until it's empty. Ranch, dill, and lemon pepper combine in this no bake recipe to make a perfect snack for tailgates, parties, and movie-night.
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour each bag of pretzels into a resealable plastic bag.
  2. Pour popping oil in a large measuring cup or small bowl and add lemon pepper, ranch mix, and dill weed: whisk to combine.
  3. Drizzle one-third of the oil mixture into each of the three plastic bags of pretzels.
  4. Seal the bags and gently turn the bags over and over to distribute the oil throughout the pretzels. Lay the bags on the counter and turn over every 15-30 minutes until all of the oil has been absorbed (no oil will be left on the inside of the bag).
  5. Wait one day to start munching for best flavor ... or dig in right away if you can't help yourself.
Recipe Notes

These pretzels will stay fresh for months if frozen.

As you can see in the pictures, when I made this batch I used three different kinds of pretzels. I also chose to use a big bowl for mixing and then divided them between the bags. The only reason to do this is to take pictures ... it only creates dishes so save yourself the work!

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I am happy to say that I have a bag of these safely stashed in my freezer. I may not be fully prepared for Christmas but I feel less pressure knowing I have a quick hostess gift or party contribution ready.

If I can maintain self-control. They go perfectly with Christmas movies, you know!


 

Cranberry Mustard Sauce

Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

This sauce is the perfect match for turkey, pork, chicken, meatloaf, and even roasted vegetables (like Brussels sprouts or carrots). It was created to compliment the sage and turkey in my Thanksgiving Meatballs.

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Cranberry-Mustard Sauce
Cranberry Mustard Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Cranberry Mustard Sauce
Instructions
  1. Bring cider to a boil in a sauce pan; add honey and cranberries. Return to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook cranberries 10-15 minutes.
  2. Cranberries will pop/break as they cook. Smash the cranberries against the side of the pan with a large spoon, if needed.
  3. Add Georgia-Mustard (or BBQ) sauce and stir to combine and heat through.
  4. Stir in a little more honey if you like a sweeter sauce.
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Stuffed Peppers Mexican Style

Last year, I introduced you to the giant poblano pepper plants that thrive in my garden. With a Scoville Scale rating that falls between a bell pepper and a mild jalapeno, poblanos provide the perfect “warmth” to Mexican dishes without threatening your taste buds.

Well … I guess that depends on the heat tolerance of your tongue.

And the inherent personality of the pepper itself, apparently.

I was struggling with what I could share with you in this post so I took a break … and looked for inspiration from one of my favorite sources: Chopped on Food Network. It came in the form of a basket ingredient. Not a poblano, but close. Hatch Chile Peppers. (Note: these peppers are from the same family but grown in different locations, they develop unique characteristics.)

As the judges were talking about the peppers, they mentioned the uncertainty of the heat levels from the pepper. This reminded me of a morning when my son’s girlfriend was visiting us and invited one of her friends over for brunch. We stuffed poblanos with an egg, cheese, and sausage mixture and I assured them the peppers would not be too spicy.

I heard a “cough” and I knew I was wrong.

Now before you picture two 20-something gals with tears running down their cheeks, gasping for air, it wasn’t that bad. I had, however unintentionally, served them something spicier than intended. The problem was quickly solved with two options:

  1. Ratio
  2. Selection

The first thing we did was to add more of the mild, egg filling to their plate. They were enjoying the overall flavor but needed to balance the ratio of the filling to the pepper. The second thing we discovered was that some of the peppers were much more spicy than others.

Taste.

This was what the judges on Chopped were discussing as they watched the contestants preparing their dish. When you look up a pepper on the Scoville Scale, you will find not one number for the heat units of the pepper, but a range. Some poblano peppers are hotter than others, even if they are grown in the same garden.

You must taste the peppers before you use them … certainly before you serve them to others.

Noted.

Do not let this uncertainty deter you from making this (or other) recipes with peppers. Just remember:

  1. Removing seeds and membranes from peppers reduces the severity of the heat.
  2. Taste food as you prepare it so you can make adjustments.
  3. If a dish turns out too hot/spicy, temper it with more filling or cooling condiments like sour cream or avocado.
  4. Should you encounter a pepper that is just too spicy for you, remember the filling is still good. You don’t have to eat the pepper to enjoy the meal.

Print Recipe
Stuffed Poblano Peppers
These stuffed poblano peppers add a little heat and a little spice to the traditional stuffed pepper recipe. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and lime for the perfect balance of flavors.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
Preparing Peppers
  1. Wash and dry peppers. Cut in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds and membranes. Place on cookie sheet, cut side down.
  2. Drizzle peppers with olive/avocado oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Broiler Method: Place peppers about 6" below oven broiler until the outside of peppers blister and char. Remove from oven.
  4. Grill Method: Place peppers cut side up on preheated (400 degree) grill. Remove from grill when peppers blister and char.
  5. Peppers should look like this ...
Preparing Filling
  1. Cook rice in chicken broth as per package instructions. A small amount of diced, fresh cilantro and lime juice can be added to the rice after cooking for a little extra flavor. Set aside.
  2. Brown ground pork with a little salt & pepper (1/2 teaspoon of each) until fully cooked; drain. Return pan to burner and add chili powder (and other herbs spices if desired); stir to distribute. Remove from heat when thoroughly heated.
  3. In a large bowl, combine rice, ground pork mixture, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Stir in shredded cheese.
Assembly & Cooking
  1. Spoon filling mixture into each pepper half.
  2. Oven Method: Place peppers on cookie sheet and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Grill Method: Place peppers on hot grill (350 degrees) for 8-10 minutes (indirect heat is best to avoid over cooking the peppers) or until filling mixture is hot.
  4. Remove from heat to serving tray.
  5. Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, salsa, avocado, and lime wedges.
Recipe Notes
  1. Bell peppers can also be used if poblano peppers are not available or in season.
  2. I like to add 1/2-1 teaspoon of some/all of the following to the chili powder: granulated garlic, dried herbs (cilantro, Mexican oregano, epazote), cumin, coriander, and chipotle powder.
  3. Leftover stuffed peppers freeze very well. Wrap individually (or in pairs) in plastic wrap and place in a large resealable plastic bag. When ready to use, remove from freezer and allow to defrost completely. Place peppers on a cookie sheet under the broiler (low setting) and watch carefully. Remove from broiler when filing is bubbly and heated through.
  4. Leftover peppers, topped with scrambled eggs, make a wonderful breakfast.
  5. Leftover filling can be used in tacos or soups.
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Special thanks to the Creator of this amazing pepper for working through Ted Allen and the Chopped judges to get me over writer’s block!



Kicking Up Pulled Pork

I love pulled pork as much as anyone. I don’t care if we’re talking Kansas City, Texas, Carolina … I love ’em all. But then I stumbled upon a Louisiana version and I found a whole new happy place!

Okay, so technically, I don’t know if this is authentic Louisiana cuisine but the recipe had the word “Cajun” in it and that was enough to get the attention of this Iowa girl.

Print Recipe
Cajun Pork Sandwiches
Prep Time 10-15 minutes
Cook Time 2-3 hours
Servings
servings
Prep Time 10-15 minutes
Cook Time 2-3 hours
Servings
servings
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper (this can be done several hours before cooking for better flavor).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Place meat in a large dutch oven and add onions; cover and place in oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Add jalapenos. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco sauce; turn pork over and move around to combine all the ingredients. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 60 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Using two forks, try to pull the pork apart. If the pork shreds easily, it is ready. If it resists pulling, return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
  7. Shred the pork and combine with remaining "sauce".
  8. Serve with pepper-jack cheese and/or pickles on buns or bread of your choice. Coleslaw is one of our favorite toppings/sides for these sandwiches. Find my recipe here.
Recipe Notes

1. Cooking times will vary based on the size of the roast or number of ribs used. If using a whole roast, cutting it into four equally sized pieces will reduce overall cooking time.

2. Boneless turkey breast fillets can also be used. Again, cooking times will vary.

3. You can simplify this recipe by using a crock pot or slow cooker. Simply combine all the ingredients (except cheese, pickles and buns, of course) in the crock pot and set it on low for 6-8 hours or warm for 8-10 hours. There will be a lot more broth produced this way. Remove about half of the broth before shredding and set it aside. If after shredding, the meat needs more moisture, add broth back in a quarter of a cup at a time. The remaining broth is perfect for reheating the meat another day or to add to soups.

4. Coleslaw is one of our favorite toppings/sides for these sandwiches ... find the recipe HERE.

5. Cornbread is an excellent accompaniment for this dish. For this post, I spread the cornbread batter (with diced jalapenos added) in a thin layer (3/4-1" deep) in a rectangular glass baking dish, coated with cooking spray, and baked it according to the recipe but for a shorter amount of time since it is thin. After it cooled, I cut it into large squares to act as the top and bottom "bun" for the sandwich.

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I have made this recipe several ways over the years: slow cooker/oven; pork/turkey; adding/omitting vegetables. One thing is certain … it always turns out delicious. The texture is different if it’s made in the slow cooker instead of the oven but it tastes great. The flavor changes with the choice of meat or vegetables but it tastes great. Whether I make a single or double (or triple) recipe, it tastes great! The only disappointment is when I don’t have leftovers to use in soups or salads.

This is the salad I made with the leftover pork. One of my favorite shortcuts is the Dole Chopped Salad Kits: a crunchy combination of cabbage, romaine, kale, carrots, and green onions. The Chipotle and Cheddar version also includes some tortilla strips, shredded cheddar cheese and a chipotle-ranch dressing. I add a few kernels of corn, some red onion, and fresh cilantro along with the leftover pork and … voilà!

I mean … BAM!

Couldn’t post a Cajun recipe without a tribute to Emeril, now could I?

 


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Pickled Carrots?

Oh how I love to find new foods!

By that, of course, I’m not claiming to discover new foods for the culinary industry or the world. I’m just happy when I try something for the first time and realize that my world has just expanded.

Growing up, if someone said “pass the pickles”, they were referring to pickled cucumbers. The response would likely be, “Dill? Sweet? Bread-and-Butter?” The only other vegetable we pickled was beets. And, really, if you are lucky enough to have a steady supply of all of these home-grown and canned pickles, what else would you need?

About 10 years ago, my farming family discovered pickled asparagus and green beans (mostly because we are also a family who occasionally indulges in a few Bloody Marys). With the usual gusto of those who have big gardens, asparagus and green beans ended up in jars in the cold room too.

A year or two ago, I started hearing my nephews and nieces talk … well, rave is probably a better word … about a small Mexican restaurant in the neighboring town called “La Juanitas”. I was hearing about the carne asada tacos, the sandwiches (torte), the burritos, the line out the front door … and I had to get there. And I did … a few times.

That’s not just the margaritas talking either, because they “don’t have time for margaritas!”

What they do have time for? Pickled carrots on the side.

These are so popular that the first side is complimentary but if you want more, there is a charge. Worth it!

I loved these pickles so much I had to figure out how to make them. Starting with a post on Pinterest, I made a few modifications for personal preferences like heat and texture and, after a few test runs, am thrilled with this recipe. Consider my world expanded … again.

 

Print Recipe
Pickled Mexican Vegetables
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
half-pint jars
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
half-pint jars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vinegar, water, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, salts, mustard seed, Mexican oregano, and epazote and bring to boil.
  2. Add carrots and simmer until tender.
  3. Add onion and jalapenos; return to boil.
  4. Remove from heat, add chopped fresh cilantro and/or carrot greens. Allow to cool.
  5. Ladle into sterilized jars.
  6. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  1. The spiciness of these pickles depends greatly on the jalapenos. If you do not want these to be spicy, remove the seeds and membranes from the inside of the jalapenos before adding to the recipe. This will greatly reduce the heat but still give the flavor and color of the jalapeno.
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Now that I think of it … these would make an excellent addition to my next Bloody Mary! 😉

ENJOY!

 


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A Pet Name, Vacation Destination, and Grandma’s Fancy Side Dish

You’re a peach!

I’m not sure if this is a common phrase outside the United States, or even outside the Midwest. If it isn’t, it should be. The phrase simply means that someone is sweet or thoughtful and often is in response to a meaningful gesture of kindness.

“You brought me coffee? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

“You did the dishes? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

“You’ll take my empty cart all the way back into Costco for me? Awww … you’re such a peach!”

Why a peach? Because it’s sweet? Because it’s cheerful? I don’t know.

Maybe because in the midwest (sans Missouri), peaches are rare? There just aren’t many peach trees around and the ones that do survive, seem to be very susceptible to the uncertain conditions. I never really understood why my mom, with so much canning to do from her own garden, would wait until the end of summer to BUY a box … or two … of peaches at the grocery store so we could can them in jars for the winter. Didn’t we have enough work to do with the produce we had?!?

And then I went to SW Colorado. At the end of August. To a fly fishing resort and organic peach orchard.

Of course they are better right off the tree but now when I see those boxes of peaches from the Palisade, Colorado region, I understand. And I buy them. I don’t can them in jars … only because I don’t have the storage capabilities my mom had. I do freeze them though.

But not before I enjoy one of my grandmother’s specialties. I call it a specialty because I never had it anywhere but at her house (and later at our house in her memory). It was a twist on peaches and cream but I liked it for three reasons:

  1. She always served it as halves of peaches, not slices (which seemed fancy to me).
  2. The idea that one would put mayonnaise on fruit seemed ridiculous.
  3. She had THE COOLEST peanut chopper for someone who was not into gadgets!

Grandma would cut the peaches in half, remove the pit, and peel them. Then she would mix up mayonnaise, orange juice and maybe a pinch of sugar to fill the gap where the pit was. She would then let me use this outrageous chopper to finely dice the peanuts she would sprinkle on top. That’s it. She would sometimes serve it as a side dish with our meal and sometimes it would be dessert. So simple but so elegant to me.

A few years ago, I discovered Greek yogurt. High protein, good source of probiotics, low-fat … and a great substitute for mayonnaise. So I’ve updated Grandma’s “recipe”. I also use honey instead of sugar and I add a touch of grated nutmeg. If I have orange juice or zest, I will add that too (but only a little or the yogurt will become too thin). And, ever since I received the recipe for Lori’s Sugar & Spice Pecans, I use them instead of peanuts.

Mostly because I don’t have Grandma’s cool gadget!

And because I like pecans better.

Print Recipe
Peaches and Cream Cups
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
peach halves
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
peach halves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, honey, and nutmeg.
  2. Place peach halves on platter or serving dishes and sprinkle the top of each with a little salt.
  3. Fill the center of each peach half with the yogurt mixture.
  4. Top with a pecan half or sprinkle with chopped pecans.
  5. Serve with a light drizzle of peach balsamic vinegar. Pear balsamic or white balsamic vinegar can also be used.
Recipe Notes

Peeling Peaches: After cutting around the perimeter, "Free-Stone" peaches, when ripe, will release themselves from the pit with only a gentle twist. They also peel very easily with a small knife. Alternatively, less ripe peaches can be submerged whole in boiling water for 1 minute, removed from the water, cooled slightly, and peeled.

Candied Pecans: For a sweet/spicy touch, make Candied Pecans in advance to top the peach cups.

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Another modification I made to Grandma’s recipe (that sounds like sacrilege, doesn’t it?), was the addition of a drizzle of a light balsamic vinegar over the top. I fell in love with a peach white balsamic vinegar I bought while on our trip to Colorado so that is what I use. A white balsamic works really well too and if you are fortunate enough to find a pear or a fig balsamic vinegar, they are wonderful as well.

It makes me smile to share the recipes and stories of my grandmothers. They taught me so much. But I think the biggest reason I smile when I have peaches around is because it reminds me that “Peaches” was my dad’s pet name for my mom.

“Hey Peaches! What’s for dinner?”

And he always knew it would be delicious.


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