Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is it a Lost Art?

I think I've perfected the "art" of making pralines.  Now in case you think I'm being a little too cocky, let me explain.  There are many versions of Pecan Pralines out there.  Sugary, creamy, made with chopped pecans or made with pecan halves....I believe I make the "creole" version....yep, you guessed it....the way my momma made them.  No microwave pralines for this Louisiana gal!  It's a blend of certain ingredients....cooked to a certain stage....beat to perfection and turned out at just the right instructions...just trial and error.  I used to watch my mother, Elta Miller, make these mouth watering perfections from a child growing up in Destrehan, LA.  I even had the "chore" as a kid of being the stirrer of the mixture of milk, sugar, syrup, it bubbled it's way to perfection.  I hated doing that in those days....more years ago than I wish to admit!  My inheritance among other things, were the vast assortment of hand written recipes from Mother's kitchen.  That was the treasure I wanted the most...even though at the time I didn't cook or enjoy cooking the way I do now.  I guess I just knew that was where my desires develop the art of cooking as Mother had done.  She was not a chef....but was known for her wonderful meals and treats she often baked.
I found that praline recipe many years ago and only tried my hand at making the scrumptious treat once a year at the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holidays.  I failed many times.  Spooned  them out to "turn"...only to end up with taffy and not the smooth, melt -in -your mouth candy Mother was known for.  In an earlier blog I shared how I came about realizing that my recipe was flawed.  That was only about 7 or 8 years for about 20 years I've failed more times than succeeded with this candy.  But, now, I can whip it together and put out a praline...none like you will ever find in a local store or souvenir shop.

As I whipped up a "batch of pralines" (a term my mom used) last night before Thanksgiving Day.....I took some pictures of the progress which I will post in this blog along with the recipe.  The ingredients are's the technique that has to be ingredient list came with only one instruction.  I will try to give the reader of this blog a few more hints as I have learned how to perfect this art of making pralines.

1/3 cup light Karo corn syrup
2 cups white sugar
6 oz. evaporated milk (l/2 can)
pinch of salt
2 cups pecan halves (toasted at 200 degrees for 15 min.)
1/4 stick butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Put the first 4  ingredients in 3 quart. pot over med heat and stir till starting to bubble
Add pecans and continue stirring adjusting the temp. as to not stick....letting it boil gently
Let it cook to firm soft ball stage    (deep caramel color)
Take off fire and put on heat pad to "beat"...adding the butter and vanilla
You will beat till just before candy begins to "turn" then drop by teaspoon on to waxed paper

    (this is the tricky much to beat...if it hardens too much...add a (very) little more evaporated milk and return to stove to melt....then go back to dropping by spoonfuls)

cooking to reach the "perfect" stage

                                                       Just right "caramel" color  ready to 'beat"
"beating" to the turn out stage

                                                dropping by spoonfuls...not completed "turned"

If you decide to try your hand at this candy making family recipe....let me know how yours comes out.  I'd love to hear! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Early Thanksgiving

Friday, November 19th was Thanksgiving at our home this year!  My daughter, Alicia and her family were due to come in from California where they had been travel nurses for the past year.  Two days earlier she had text me and asked if I would make our "traditional" Thanksgiving meal on that day since they would only be in town for 2 days before having to leave again for their next assignment in Tampa, FL.    They would not be with our family for Thanksgiving, so she wanted her "momma's" Turkey feast!

Of course, like any mom who likes to cook would do, I text back...."sure"!  Here I was on a Wednesday.... not having the turkey or any of the fixin's that go with such a meal.  So, after my Mary Kay sales was a dash to Wal Mart and picking up a turkey and as I planned in my head the dishes they liked and what I needed....I shopped through the store at 10:00 PM picking out the bird, and the ingredients for:  Dirty Rice, Broccoli Casserole, yeast rolls, and.....of course pies.....that's it....I would make a simple meal...not one with 25 different dishes...just a simple family meal with the family's favorites.  Yes, I could do this in two days!!

When Friday arrived, the bird was thawed, the ingredients were gathered and after some last minute work in my home office, I closed the door and went into my kitchen to start the meal.  We would be eating around 7 PM since they would not be arriving in Sunset until around 4 PM.  They had been crossing the country since Tuesday in their motorhome stopping along the way with my husband, Wayne, to show him some of their favorite sites and experiencing their favorite Texas steakhouse....THE BIG TEXAN in Amarillo.
Here's one of the spots where they stopped:  The Meteor Crater in Flagstaff, AZ
Wayne had flown out to California 2 weeks earlier to spend the last few days with them there and ride home in the "bus" with them.

So, here I was in my theraputic kitchen....yes, cooking is my therapy....I know some of you may think I'm nuts, but I LOVE TO COOK!    I will post the recipes at the end of this blog....nothing elaborate just two of their favorites and I'll tell you what kind of turkey I buy and how I prepare to cook it.

Anyway, here's a look at Julia exiting the motorhome when they arrived:
She was very excited to be home and came running with arms wide open! Sorry for the iPhone is only a 3G!

Now, on to the meal and recipes:

Dirty Rice (family recipe and with more of a creole flavor then cajun flavor) 
1 lb. of Jimmy Dean pork sausage with sage (it comes in a roll)
2 lbs. of ground chuck
l pack of picsweet chopped seasoning (or if you want to chop yourself:  onions, celery, bellpepper
parsley (to taste)
3 cloves garlic
Tony Chachere's Creole (original) Seasoning
2 cups of rice(uncooked) I buy my rice at Sam's... the Basmati Rice in burlap sack....truly the best rice
Fry the pork sausage first...then add the ground meat...frying both together,  adding Tony's to taste (be carefull as it is salty)......then add the seasonings along with the garlic......frying all together until the seasoning is cooked with the meat....add fresh parsley to the mixture and cook slightly more.    In the meantime put the rice in a rice cooker and cook.  When done add the rice to the meat mixture and then you have "dirty" rice.

Broccoli Casserole (white sauce with cheese)
1 family size bag of frozen broccoli flowerets (you can steam fresh broccoli if you'd like)
1 lb. of cheddar cheese (your choice)  you may not use the whole block of cheese
white sauce....(I use the Better Homes & Garden's recipe for medium white sauce and double the ingredients)
salt for broccoli
Steam the broccoli.....grate the cheese.....make the whitesauce....adding grated cheese to mixture when done
Spread the broccoli in a 13"x9" baking dish...sprinkle salt over all (not too much)
pour white sauce mixture evenly over broccoli and then top with remaining grated cheese
bake till bubbly in 350 degree oven

My favorite is the ButterBall turkey...but any kind will do
I do not stuff my turkey
I bake it in a NESCO roaster....18 qt. size....frees up the oven for other things
After rinsing the bird and taking out the necks, gizzard, etc. I pat it dry with paper towels
sprinkle Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning all over as a the inside and under the skin
take softened butter and rub over the bird
(if cooking in a regular oven....put in now and bake about 15 min. per lb. on 325 or 350)
For cooking in NESCO I then put "browning sauce" over the entire skin of the turkey
put in roaster....cook for about 3 hours (12 lb. turkey)
comes out succulent....jucicy.....perfect!

I also made pecan pie and pumpkin pie.....recipe on canned pumpkin is the best
The pecan pie recipe is simple:

1 cup of pecan halves....toast them in toaster oven on 200 degrees for about 15 min.
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1 l/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat eggs.  Add sugar and syrup, salt, vanilla, and last, the melted butter.  Place the pecans in the bottom of a 9 inch unbaked pie crust.  Add the filling and bake for 50-60 min.

I did make a salad to go with this meal and of course, Rhodes Frozen Rolls.....
The best yeast rolls....found in the freezer at the supermarket...little balls of dough that you let rise for about 4-5 hours...I use muffin pans and put one roll per spot....or you can let the dough defrost in the frig over night and cut the balls into halves and put 3 pieces per muffin make cloverleaf rolls.....bake according to package directions.

So, that's simple, favorite Thanksgiving meal.  Wish I would have taken pictures to show...but, will try to remember next time.

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving.   I'm working on an "attitude of gratitude" this year and being content and looking to the simpler things in life.  God has trully blessed us and I want to give him all of the praise and honor and glory!