Sunday, December 25, 2011

Party Nibbles: White Trash

This recipe crossed my path at two holiday potlucks. It is yummy and seems easy to make. I also got a giggle at its name.

WHITE TRASH SNACK MIX
3 1/2 cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
16 ounces M&M's plain chocolate candy
2 1/2 cups salted mixed nuts
2 cups small pretzels
2 (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips OR 1 (1 1/2 pound package almond bark)


Dump the cereals, M&Ms, nuts & pretzels in a large bowl.
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Melt very slowly, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn the chocolate.
Dump melted chocolate over the rest of the ingredients and fold over and over until you have well-coated hunks and chunks.
Spread the whole mess out on parchment paper and set in a cool place until it sets up, then break it into pieces.
Store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers.

Variations abound and I've seen Golden Grahams cereal, raisins and mini marshmallows.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Candy: Peanut Clusters

This recipe is the newest I have added to my Christmas candy repertoire. My friend Melanie, with whom I attend Taste of Home Cooking School shows, shared this recipe, which is her Aunt Jean’s. She said her aunt does it differently than she submitted it to me and I made it still differently than that. What I have written below is what I did and it was yummy. The combinations of the two chocolates and the almond bark coating makes the candy’s taste is more complex than just “chocolate-covered peanuts”. I’ve gotten swoons from the people I’ve shared it with so far. It is so easy to make because a Crock-Pot melts the chocolate. All you have to do is stir and drop the clusters onto waxed paper.

PEANUT CLUSTERS
1 16-ounce jar salted dry roasted peanuts
1 16-ounce jar unsalted dry roasted peanuts
1 pound 8 ounces white almond bark, broken into chunks
4 ounces Baker’s white chocolate
12 ounces Baker’s German chocolate
12 ounces Toll House semisweet chocolate chips ( you could use milk chocolate)

Put nuts in Crock-Pot, then add white chocolate, milk or semisweet chocolate and German chocolate. Put the lid on and cook on low for 3 hours.
Turn off the Crock-Pot, remove the lid and let set for 15 minutes.
Stir and drop onto wax paper.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Eating Tips

Scrapbook Expo posted this on their Facebook Wall. I'm sure they got it somewhere else.

HOLIDAY EATING TIPS

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare... You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it.
Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.
This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.
Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Have a great holiday season!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Restaurant review: The Waffle Hut, So Bad It's Good

The Waffle Hut in Flatwoods has a lot of characters.

Yeah, that’s not a typo.

We visited twice this fall when we stayed in Flatwoods for a conference. Our first impression was marked by a guy on the phone who sounded like an amateur lawyer. He sat at the lunch counter in the lobby area in front of a coffee cup and a newspaper that I would’ve assumed was a racing form if we hadn’t been hundreds of miles from a racetrack. “That is illegal. I’m telling you that is illegal. Now calm down. Calm down! Listen to me. The cops cannot touch you first. It is illegal for them to put their hands on her first. They cannot lay one finger on her. Now I said calm down!”

It’s dim in the restaurant even when the sun is shining brightly outside. The dark wood paneling and booths suck up the light from yellowed lightshades of lamps resembling old gas lanterns on some walls and hanging from the exposed-beam vaulted ceiling in the main dining room. The wallpaper in the lobby I’m sure I’ve seen on my grandparents’ kitchen walls years 30 years ago. The silverware is wrapped in a paper napkin and slipped into plastic sleeves like an old-time cafeteria.

For a late dinner one night we had breakfast: cinnamon-scented French toast, $3.75; sausage, $2; perfectly crisp bacon, $2; Belgian waffle, $3.75; and three pancakes with bacon, $3.

A tough waitress took our order; a quirky one delivered it, calling it “Frenchie" toast and "pancakies."

Bottomless drinks for $1 are unheard-of anymore. I paid $1.99 for a drink with free refills the other day. The food portions are large. Children can get a meal of chicken nuggets or a hot dog with fries and coleslaw, cottage cheese or applesauce for $3.25.

While we waited for our meal the “lawyer” left but we were entertained by a man who had had too much to drink. He kept losing his way back to his table from the bathroom and his friends had to keep steering him -- but not before he fell into our booth.

We returned the next day for lunch on our way home and had the much-renowned Honey-Dipt Chicken for $5.50. It came with a salad, fries, coleslaw or applesauce or cottage cheese and rolls. A fruit fly came too and would not leave; it was off-putting. The honey batter on the chicken was thin and crackly and nothing to crave. The chicken seemed spindly, not meaty. The waitress was especially surly. And we bothered her for dessert, which was not worth remembering.

We will go back when we’re in the area again and we will order breakfast, which is served all day. It’s a dive but it grows on you. William and Shirley Squires own the Waffle Hut and there’s not another one like it – I can say with relief.

Comfort food: Meat Loaf

Most people think it’s called comfort food because it makes you feel warm and sleepy and comfortable when you eat it. That’s true. But I think comfort food is also food for which I have all of the ingredients at any given time and I can make easily on any day when I haven’t planned well. THAT is a comfort to me.
My husband got this recipe from his landlady when he was in college in Charleston, WV. I had always made meat loaf with the recipe on the Quaker Oats canister. Once I tried this recipe, I never made meat loaf with oats again. This serves four polite people or two hungry ones. If you want leftovers for cold sandwiches, better double the ingredients and make two. I usually do.

MISS BANKS'S MEAT LOAF
1 pound ground beef or venison
1 1 / 2 slices soft bread
1 / 2 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
1 / 8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 / 8 teaspoon celery salt
1 / 8 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1 / 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Tear bread and mix with milk. Beat egg. Mix bread, beaten egg, meat, onion, spices and Worcestershire sauce. Form into loaf in pan. Bake one hour.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We have a winner!

Sarah Jones of Sarah's Gourmet Cupboard, who also blogs at Leftover Makeover, was randomly selected today as the winner of the giveaway.

Sarah will receive an apron from Just A Pinch Recipe Club!

Congratulations, Sarah, and thanks for joining the conversation at Good Press. Visit again soon!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

Six inches of heavy, wet snow is forecast for my corner of West Virginia starting tomorrow morning. Maybe you're heading to the grocery store to stock up and you're wondering what warming comfort food you could make for dinner. When it snowed and stuck around last week, I made this divine and easy Crock-Pot meal: Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits.



My business partner at Mountain Mamas Retreats, Shelley Miller, shared the recipe (aka Italian Crock-Pot Chicken) after a scrapbooking crop we held at our retreat house. There, we served it with an equally easy Brussels sprouts dish brought by a guest. The flavors of the main course and the side set each other off perfectly. We had more creamed chicken than we had biscuits so we served it over rice the second time.



For dessert at the same meal I served vanilla ice cream with hot fudge cake (also made in a Crock-Pot). That recipe is from Taste of Home.

You wouldn't think Italian salad dressing mix would be a key ingredient in this but it's not tart like you'd expect. Shelley strains the broth in the Crock-Pot before she returns the chicken to the crock with the soup and cream cheese. I didn't and the flecks of seasoning weren't too noticeable.

CREAMED CHICKEN OVER BISCUITS
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
1 package Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
1 can cream of chicken soup (10 3/4-ounce size)
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened

Place chicken in Crock-Pot. In a small mixing bowl, combine chicken broth and Italian dressing mix (I did this in the measuring cup); pour over chicken. Cook chicken until done. (Mine was frozen and took about four hours.)

Take chicken out of Crock-Pot; cut into bite-size pieces.

Add soup and cream cheese to the broth. (Cut up the cream cheese so it will blend faster.) Whisk together until smooth. Put chicken back in Crock-Pot. Heat through (about 30 minutes.

Serve over egg noodles, rice, spaghetti or biscuits.



HOT FUDGE CAKE
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons baking cocoa, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups boiling water
Vanilla ice cream

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup brown sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the milk, butter and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Spread evenly into a 3-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. (My small slow cooker is 2 quarts so I allowed a little extra baking time, about 30 minutes, but you could check it at the 4-hour mark so it doesn't over-bake.)

In another small bowl, combine the remaining brown sugar and cocoa; stir in boiling water. Pour over batter (do not stir). Cover and cook on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm with ice cream. Yield: 8 servings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Feeling lucky? A chili cook-off, a cookie contest and a giveaway

Has your chili got game?

Are your cookies cause for celebration?

There are national contests where you can prove your culinary skills.

I've had a little success and a lot of experience entering local cooking contests.

I have won blue ribbons at the Buckwheat Festival and at a small pie-baking contest at the school's fall festival for Blueberry Dream Pie and my mom's butterscotch pie.

Almost four years ago I entered a chili cook-off. I think I had to make 8 gallons of chili and find ways to keep it hot while driving an hour and waiting to serve it. I took at least two electric roasters and a crock-pot. So did the 20 other competitors. All those current-suckers were too much for the mall's electrical system and breakers kept blowing. It's not an experience I have rushed to repeat. The most fun I had was dressing, with my little girl, like cowgirls and ringing dinner bells to draw attention.



I'm more familiar with holding or judging food contests. Being asked to judge the local chicken wing cook-off was my tastiest assignment ever.

When I was a newspaper food editor I had the idea to hold a holiday cookie contest. Readers submitted recipes for their favorite holiday cookies. The staff chose a batch and then asked those bakers to bring a dozen or two to the newspaper office. A group of readers called the Food Panel judged the cookies and determined a winner. The winner was announced and all the recipes ran in the Thanksgiving edition.

Now I am promoting two cooking contests -- in my first post that mentions my recent acceptance onto Just A Pinch Recipe Club's Blogger Brigade. To celebrate that good news, I am having a little giveaway here.

Just A Pinch Recipe Club is a vibrant online community for home cooks to share recipes, cooking tips and coupons. It is holding two national recipe contests and YOU can enter.

The deadline is fast approaching for the chili cook-off; contest entries are due Wednesday, January 4, 2012.
The home cook who submits the best chili recipe to the Second Annual Sporty Snack Showdown will get a home theater system valued at $4,000, just in time for the big game.

You have a little more time to perfect your cookie recipe; the entries in the Cookie Celebration are due by Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. The best baker wins a trip to Nashville and a $1,000 shopping spree of cooking equipment at The Viking Store & Cooking School!

Entries in both the chili and cookie contests will be judged on creativity, ease of preparation, presentation and pure deliciousness by the Test Kitchen.

Just a Pinch is supplying the prize for my giveaway -- this snazzy apron!



For a chance to win, leave a comment below. For an EXTRA chance to win, follow me on Twitter @CynthiaMcCloud. The contest will run until 8 p.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 6. I'll use random.org to choose the winner. Make sure you leave your email address (not published) so I can get your mailing address if you win.

Good luck! And be sure to tell me if you enter the cook-off or the baking contest, especially if you win!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday Night Special: Chex Mix

Saturday night I was cleaning -- wild times, I know! -- and I felt snacky.

I decided to make my favorite version of Chex Mix, which some people think of as a Christmastime treat. I eat it year-round. Especially since I found many variations on the original recipe.

When I was a kid in the 80s, there was the original recipe of Worcestershire sauce, seasoning salt, garlic powder, onion powder and butter mixed and poured over Chex cereal, pretzels, peanuts and sometimes crackers or bagel chips. There was also a sweet version called puppy chow (maybe because Ralston Purina, which invented Chex and then sold all its brands to General Mills), which Chex also called Muddy Buddies. It was made with peanut butter and chocolate and powdered sugar. Besides that the only innovations I saw were GM packaging the cereal with a seasoning packet at the holidays and marketing bags of ready-made Chex Mix, which tastes nothing like homemade.

Until I was an adult.

In the late 90s/early 2000 when giving homemade mixes as gifts was popular, I found a recipe for Goin' Fishin' Munchin' Mix, which incorporated Pepperidge Farm goldfish and some other things in the mix. I made a big batch and gave it to my husband's guy friends.

Two years ago, General Mills, the makers of Chex cereal, held a contest looking for variations on its Chex Party Mix recipe. I tried the Buffalo for New Year's Eve that year. I made the Deviled Chex Mix many times over the following year.

When I went looking online for the deviled recipe Saturday night, I found almost 75 recipes for the snack mix at Chex.com!

There are sweet mixes I want to try: Chai Crunch, Bananas Foster Crunch Mix, Ginger-Honey Crunch, Honey Nut-Cherry Crunch, Tin Roof Crunch, Coffee-Toffee and Hot Buttered Yum.

And there are savory mixes I want to try: Moroccan Crunch, Combo Curry, Chexicago (based on Chicago popcorn flavors that blend cheese and caramel), Chili & Garlic, Chili-Lime, Indian Spiced and Steakhouse.

Among the odd flavors are Margarita Fiesta and Loaded Baked Potato.

Winter is going to be fun!

Here's the recipe for Deviled Chex Mix because I have tried it and I like it. The recipes for the others I've mentioned can be found at Chex.com.

DEVILED CHEX MIX
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup assorted unsalted nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup miniature cheese crackers
1 cup miniature pretzels


In small bowl, mix sugar, paprika, chili powder, curry powder, cumin, coriander, pepper and salt; set aside.

In large microwavable bowl, combine oil and nuts. Microwave uncovered on High about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in cereals, crackers and pretzels until evenly coated. Stir in sugar mixture until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on High 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute, until mixture is thoroughly heated. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Recipe Keeping: The Cloud's the Limit

When I was in my middle-school home economics class, we got recipe boxes. I was so excited to fill mine like my mom's and grandma's. When I started seriously cooking as an adult, it was obvious a box wasn't going to cut it.

For a while, I printed recipes from the computer or tore out magazine pages and slipped the papers into page protectors and stored them in binders on a bookshelf in my kitchen. That worked to keep the recipes clean while cooking and all in one place. But I got busy (lazy) and started just stuffing recipes in there out of order or just keeping whole magazines.

It wasn't very organized and more than once I bought the ingredients to make something and couldn't find the recipe! Frustrating!

When I got really busy, I would stash the magazines I got from gift subscriptions in tote bags, boxes and shelves until I had a chance to read them. There might be something in there that I needed!

Well, three people and two dogs live in this little house and these old magazines have got to go!

I've decided to take advantage of the technology available to me.

This isn't new to me. For a few years, when I saw something online I liked and wanted to make, I would usually copy and paste and save it to a file on my computer. Or I emailed it to myself.

And I have long thought of this blog as a safe place to keep my favorite recipes. When I can't find the hard copy of something, I search my blog and pray I've recorded it here.

In my latest effort to declutter my house and organize recipes I love and those I'd like to try "someday", I am using Follow Me on Pinterest. When I see a recipe I would like to try, I pin it. As long as the link doesn't disappear, I can find it again when I'm ready to make it. When the recipe doesn't have a photo -- because that's what you pin -- I have been copying the recipe and pasting it. Unless the recipe comes from a website you can join and save recipes in a virtual box. I am a member of RachaelRayMag.com and TasteOfHome.com -- two sources for many of my favorite recipes. If I see a recipe in any of those magazines, I can go to their sites, look it up and save it there.

How do you store recipes?

Follow Me on Pinterest
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