Monday, December 27, 2010

Rest In Grease

My Momma's Skillet Cookies are not the only Christmas tradition in the McDougal household. Since my husband and I started dating, about six years ago we would travel to Nashville and enter the historic Ryman Auditorium to watch Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God. A concert of what I would call some of the best singer-song writers ever to come together to perform; taking the audience through The Old and some of the New Testament, beautifully weaving Christ, through song up to His glorious birth. It's a celebration of God's gift to us and Himself, told in some of the most beautiful lyrics and melodies ever sung. So for six years my husband and I have been blessed to go, sit, and listen to the greatest story ever told, and know that one day we will meet this great baby, the only reason we have Christmas, who lived and grew to become a man on this Earth He created, never sinned, yet died a sinner's death for the world so all that know Him can be freed of the sin that so enslaves us. So because of Him we live here temporarily storing treasures in Heaven, serving Him, as He prepares a place for us to dwell in the Heavenly realms to worship Him for all eternity.
There is something so entirely beautiful at the end of this concert as we all stand in this beautiful building with hundreds of people, and sing the historic lyrics to O' Come All Ye Faithful as it echoes, and reflects the true Beauty of God, who breathed Beauty into existence that cold night in David's town.
With this tradition my husband has begun to surprise me the last few years with a night away for just us and to wake the next morning or really afternoon, the one time a year we really sleep in, and go to downtown West End Nashville to eat lunch. We always venture to a different dive. This particular morning, we chose McDougal's, of course!
I don't think this food can be replicated (even if you do have the same last name and a food blog). The best dang chicken fingers I've ever had! If you're in Nashville you have got to venture over to this quarky little hut and feast on their fresh, fried chicken and hand-cut french-fries. I can now rest in grease peacefully.

This place totally looks legit.

It's hard to decide....I'll take the 3 piece platter.

So good....I cannot handle it!

I am about to have my way with you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookies with a twist

Here's a twist (literally) on the traditional sugar cookie; they're called Red-and-White Marbled Cookies. They look similar to over sized peppermint candies and look quite cute (if I do say so myself) wrapped in striped cellophane and tied on both ends like a piece of candy. This is another good gift idea (for those of you, like me who are frantically not done shopping yet and can't figure out what to get for those last couple of people on your list).
Christmas is only a couple days away! Shopping left or not, gifts to get or not; enjoy celebrating Christmas, Christ incarnate as the greatest gift ever given. Merry Christmas!

Red-and-white Marbled Cookies*

Red food coloring

  1. Divide Basic Sugar-Cookie Dough in half. On a cutting board, tint one half red by kneading in red food coloring, adding 1 drop at a time until desired color is achieved.
  2. Roll each half into a 1 1/4-inch-thick rope. Lay both pieces side by side on cutting board and cross red over white, then white over red until one larger, twisted log is formed. Gently knead to smooth out twist and incorporate colors for a marbled effect. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 4 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick cookies. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets until firm and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

I had to add about 12 drops of food coloring to achieve this color.


Told you it was a "twist" on the traditional sugar cookie....

It's easy. Slice, bake, and eat!

*modified from "Country Living" December/January 2011 edition.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowballs or soccer balls, whatever you prefer

'Tis the season for baking and I have fulfilled this calling, my feet and legs can attest to this statement due to the time spent cooking over the stove and standing in front of the uneven burning oven, but I think the pain is well worth it. I enjoy baking and making gifts for people with the homemade goodies, but I have to confess I like to eat the homemade goodies almost just as much. Before I knew it, during my baking marathon, I had eaten a half a dozen cookies completely without realization. When I go to the Y this month, I tell myself, it's all about maintaining my weight. Apparently I'm exercising in order to go back home and devour another half dozen of cookies, plus a cup of hot chocolate!
Oh well, as I said, 'tis the season, and I just made what has become a tradition in our home around Christmas time; what we lovingly call Momma's Skillet Cookies. My son calls them snowballs and sometimes calls them soccer balls for good reason. They are small round balls of outrageousness coated in awesomeness, well really Rice Krispies cereal, dates, sugar, and pecans coated in powdered sugar. It's like Christmas exploded in your mouth as soon as you take a bite! Try 'em, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. My momma's tradition is now my own. Once you have tried these you may want to make it yours too.....

Momma's Skillet Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup dates, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
powdered confectioner sugar, enough to coat cookies

Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Combine sugar and egg, mix well. Add sugar mixture and dates to melted butter. Cook 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring to keep from sticking. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, nuts, and cereal; stir until combined. Let cool, until able to touch. Pour powdered sugar into a small bowl and roll cookies in sugar till coated. Seriously, I'm telling you, Christmas in your mouth!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rockin' Around the Enema

An ugly brass foyer light fixture (actually it looked like it was taken out of our foyer), a grandmother's teapot in the shape of a rabbit, a cereal dispenser, a set of ornament tea lights, a half pound of Starbucks coffee Christmas blend, a travel mug, jars of hot chocolate mix, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer DVD, a polk-a-dot fleece blanket, shot gun shells Christmas lights, a photo of a couple that looks like they need therapy, some CD for women over 50, hot sauce and an enema, yes an enema. What do all of these have in common? You'll never guess....and if you do you can win a brand new crock pot!
Just place a vote in the comment box below with your mailing address, email, phone number, social security number, birthday, a photo of your family, license plate number, and......totally kidding! Sorry to disappoint those of you that may know the answer and really want a crock pot; you can borrow mine anytime if you want.
The common thread of the randomness are recent white elephant gifts of a Christmas party, and it was quite a rockin' party in my humble opinion (if you wanna see some pics from the bash check out my husband's blog SCC Worship Arts).
So after stuffing my face with some of the best appetizers ever had under one roof, stealing Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer DVD for my son from a dear friend that I felt kind of bad taking it from; really hoping my husband got the Starbucks coffee, but then rolling on the floor when he ended up with the enema. Such a proud moment! Not to mention recovering from the longest game of Mafia EVER, I am now currently ready to share with you an appetizer that you must absolutely take to your next holiday gathering. It was a pretty big hit at this party, and so easy you won't believe it. You may even want to consider doubling it because it was gone pretty fast.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Salsa*

1 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries
1/3 cup sugar
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Pulse cranberries and sugar in a food processor (about 4 times) until coarsely chopped. Stop between pulses to scrape sides. Add remaining ingredients, except the cilantro, and pulse about 4 more times, until chopped. Stir in cilantro and cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Serve with tortilla chips. Garnish with lime wedges for a festive look.
Note: To make ahead, prepare recipe as directed, omitting fresh cilantro. Freeze in an airtight container up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator 12 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

*Recipe from Jane Hoke of Birmingham, Alabama in "Southern Living" December 2010 edition.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Before the Candle Burns Out

With Christmas' countdown continuing if you guys are like us you have parties and gatherings galore to attend. For us the parade of parties start tonight and that means scrounging around for recipes that would be perfect for each party and it may mean baking for gift giving as well. Hopefully you can look no further than The Pennyless Cook for some ideas for both. For tonight's shin-dig I am making two appetizers and can't wait to share them with you; whether they turn out good or bad I'll let you know depending on how it goes after tonight.
So before the candle burns out (which it may have already) I want to keep my promise for anyone who cares or is listening out there what may favorite dishes were from this past Thanksgiving, and what I made. Some of you may even want to bring some of these dishes to your Christmas or New Year's parties that are coming up, who knows.
I had my indulgent of two, count 'em two Thanksgivings. One which I will forever treasure at my grandparent's house; it may be the last Thanksgiving we'll have with my grandmother as she is currently battling cancer. The cancer continues to win. So I am forever thankful to the Lord for His grace to me this year, and one way is He has blessed me is by the gift of time with Gigi.
Here we gathered with my family, in a way, honoring her. We set down to a massive feast. I contributed dressing made with my grandmother's cornbread recipe, spicy sausage, and sage. I also made my momma's spicy roasted carrots.
My favorites out of this night was probably my step-mom's green beans, yep just green beans, but boy they are good. Beverly's secret......bacon grease. Not good for the arteries, but so good going down! She said they cooked on low all day with sliced onion. If you're going to cook green beans for the holidays that's the way to do it!
My other favorite might be another surprise, my step-sister's banana pudding. It was a modified version of Paula Dean's Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding. Rich, delicious, creamy, delicious, did I mention delicious already? Jessica gave me a "pennyless" tip, she said instead of the Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies that the recipe calls for you can get a similar generic version at The Dollar Store. Those Pepperidge Farm cookies are good, but can get expensive.
After a second helping of the banana pudding, that I shouldn't have had; my bloated gut was quite content thanks to the elastic band in the leggings I was wearing.
The next day we woke up still full from the night before, but our stomachs were stretched out enough to inhale some more Thanksgiving goodness. Next stop, Sharon's house, my father-in-laws friend, where it has been to tradition to gather the last few years. It is always loud, fun, and seriously loving; I could not wait to have my take of her dressing and macaroni and cheese. Her dressing is so moist it almost melts in your mouth, and her macaroni and cheese is no ordinary mac and cheese. She's given me the recipe before, but I have never been able to quite duplicate it. I plan on trying again (I'll let you know how it goes), but I don't know if it will ever get to her caliber. The surprise for me when we sat down to eat was the creamed corn that we had. I assumed that Sharon and her mad skills made that too, and then I was taken back when I found out her son Scott had made it. It was so good! I didn't know he had culinary skills to this level. This corn tasted like the kind you have right off the farm that was creamed from a woman that has been cooking traditionally for 60 years; not from that of a young father that made it for the first time this Thanksgiving!
Have a great month celebrating with friends, family, co-workers and check back for more ideas to help you this Christmas. Have fun cooking and giving creatively, yet generously the "pennyless" way (that makes sense if you think about) this year! Let me know how it goes.

Momma's Spicy Roasted Carrots

1 lb. bag baby carrots
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp seasoned sale (I use Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning)
1 stick of melted butter

This is so easy! Most of the time I double it; usually the carrots are gone before I know it and people are asking for more! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss carrots in a large bowl with oil and seasoned salt. Spread carrots out on a baking sheet and pour over melted butter. Make sure the carrots are nicely coated. Bake for 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snow's Perfect Accompaniment

As soon as we crawled out of bed this morning, hair matted to our faces, rubbing the sleep out of our eyes we could not believe what we saw out our windows.....a beautiful, white, glistening sheet of snow that covered our entire backyard. Snow, you know the perfect kind for making snowballs, and snow men, and even apparently igloos (which is what my son tried to vigorously build the entire day). I absolutely love snow, if it's gonna be cold there might as well be snow! And what goes better with snow then hot chocolate. Face numb from the cold, and fingers frozen, there is no better way to warm up from head to toe then with a piping cup of hot chocolate.
It's a tradition with us to make hot chocolate mix every year, a tradition that my daddy started when I was a kid on those snow fallen days. Here is the recipe that takes me back to my childhood, the days where we made snowmen till we couldn't feel our fingers anymore. A recipe that I hope will one day take my son back to some of his favorite snow days with his family.

Daddy's Hot Chocolate Mix

1 16 oz. container chocolate Nesquick
1 8 quart box instant milk
1 large jar of powdered coffee creamer (daddy always said get the Creamora brand)
1 tbsp powdered sugar

Mix together in a ginormous bowl. Use immediately by filling a cup half full with mix and stirring in hot water, or store in an air tight container for up to 3 months.
This mix also makes a great gift; package thoughtfully with a coffee mug and you have a creative and festive present.

That boy looks like he needs some hot chocolate!

Simply mix with hot water.

Top with whip cream, yummy!

What a perfect snow day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turkey grossness put to good use....

I don't know if any of you have leftover bones and gross remains of your turkey, but if you do like I did put them to good use by making the best chicken stock you've ever had. Freeze it for future use and you will be thanking yourself for the time and money saved, not to mention the flavor that comes from what would otherwise go in the trash.

Pennyless Chicken (or Turkey) Stock*

Leftover turkey bones chopped
2-3 large onions, chopped (you can leave the skin on)
2 large carrots, chopped
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of whole pepper corns
2 bay leaves
small bunch of flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs of sage
3 sprigs of thyme
12 cups of cold water

In a large pot on medium-high heat combine turkey bones, carrots, onions, toss with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Let saute slightly for about 15-20 minutes stirring ever so often. Add 12 cups of water and remaining ingredients; bring to a rolling boil. Lower to a medium simmer and cover for 4 hours. Skim the fat off the top and cook for another 30 minutes over high heat or until reduced by half. Remove from heat and using a mesh strainer, strain stock into clean containers. Use immediately or store in sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.