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The Secret Is In The Sauce

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North Carolina, United States

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1. All my posts are written for myself first (with my followers in mind of course). If I make money from a post due to third party advertising such as Google or Foodbuzz, then so much the better.
2. If I write about a product, cookbook or restaurant, chances are that I received the product, cookbook or meal for FREE.
3. If I write a review about a product, cookbook or restaurant that was not FREE, I will disclose that in my post. I will always write about local establishments and businesses (non-chain) gratis- I support local businesses and hope you will too.
4. FREE product does not guarantee a positive review.
5. If you are interested in sending me a book or product to review, or want me to review a restaurant, please know that I make every effort to post reviews within 4 weeks of receiving a book, within 2 weeks of receiving a product, and within 1 week of dining at a restaurant.
6. I write for several websites and print publications in addition to my blog and my writing interests are strictly food or cooking-related, so please make sure that your book or product is food-related in some way.
Friday, September 25, 2009

Taste of Home Christmas 2009

The other night when we got home from work, we found a package laying on the front porch. My husband, the accountant, immediately asked, "what did you order now?"(He suspected a cookbook purchase). Ok, so maybe I have a teeny little weakness (well...ok....giant weakness) for cookbooks, and he-who-knows-me-well was right to suspect a covert amazon purchase. However, as I informed him with self-righteous indignation, I had not purchased anything (that I could remember). Plausible deniability is a wonderful thing!

So the mystery package lay on the counter for a while as we both went about the usual home-from-work puttering that is part of our nightly routine. Feed the dogs and bird, take out trash, pack lunches, etc. An hour later, I opened the box, determined to send back whatever boon the cookbook gods had sent my way. This was bad. Real Bad. Inside the box was one of my particular weaknesses...a Christmas cookbook! I told myself I would just flip though it and then send it back. I told myself that if it wasn't too expensive, maybe I would consider keeping it. I told get the picture. My husband groaned when he saw the book. He knew right then our checking account would take a hit because, after all, it was "a Christmas cookbook honey"!

In a last-ditch attempt to save myself from temptation, I decided to open the envelope attached to the box. You know, just to see how much the cookbook cost so I could talk myself out of becoming too attached to it. Inside there was a letter. "Dear Mrs. Hawkins, You are receiving this complimentary copy of Taste of Home's Christmas 2009 cookbook as our thanks for your contribution. Your recipe/craft can be found on page 88". What's this? A FREE cookbook? And I'M IN IT?? Suffice it to say that I got a little excited. Ok...a lot. I'm pretty sure our neighbors heard me yell, and I know I scared our chihuahua because she avoided me for the rest of the night.

I had no idea what recipe it could be, mostly because I enter so many contests. I didn't want to waste time checking my contesting notebook, so, risking multiple paper-cuts, I quickly flipped to page 88 and there it was in all it's glory: my recipe for Tuscan Pork Stew! Like a proud parent at kindergarten graduation, I got a bit misty seeing my baby there in print. It was beautiful!

So all's well that ends well. I got a new Christmas cookbook plus bragging rights, our checkbook escaped unscathed, and you, my dear readers, get the Tuscan Pork Stew recipe! By the way...the book is terrific and full of wonderful recipes with full-color photos. Buy yours today at Taste of Home.

Tuscan Pork Stew
1 boneless whole pork loin roast ( 1-1 1/2 lbs.) cut into cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen pepper and onions stir-fry (or fajita) blend, thawed
1/2 cup dry red wine or additional reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
Hot cooked fettuccine (optional)
  • In a large skillet, brown pork in oil until no longer pink; drain. Place pork in a 5-qt. slow cooker.
  • In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, broth, vegetable blend, wine, marmalade, garlic, oregano, fennel seed, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes (if desired); pour over pork. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.
  • Mix cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into stew. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes or until gravy is thickened. Serve over hot cooked fettuccine (if desired).

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Time for Comfort Food!

It’s the time of year when the days are getting shorter and the evenings turning cooler, and I start craving “comfort food” again. I just love comfort foods because they include some of America’s best dishes such as chowders, stews and casseroles. Whether it’s grandma’s beef stew or mom’s chicken and dumplings, there is something special about these recipes that satisfies more than just my hunger.

At our house we LOVE comfort food and look forward to the arrival of the cooler weather that gives us an excuse to eat some of our favorites. The following recipes are for two of my family’s best-loved comfort foods. The first recipe, Mimi’s Famous Meatloaf, is moist and delicious and great for sandwiches the next day. Serve it with the sauce included in the recipe or covered in brown gravy. Either way, I promise your family will love this meatloaf! The second recipe, Mom’s Easy Macaroni and Cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. Tender elbow macaroni is baked in a gooey, tangy cheese sauce and topped with a golden-brown layer of even more cheese. It doesn’t get any better than that! It’s so easy to make that I often prepare two at a time and freeze one (baked or unbaked) for our next comfort food craving!

Both these recipes are super-easy, use ingredients you probably have on-hand right now, and are perfect for making ahead and freezing (baked or unbaked). The next time a comfort food craving hits you, try out these delicious recipes and satisfy more than just their hunger. Your family will be glad you did!

Mimi’s Famous Meat Loaf
1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef or ground chuck
1 egg
1 5 oz. can evaporated milk
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
6 Tbsp. onion -- chopped
1/2 cup water
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Place meat in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, use a wire whisk or a fork to lightly beat egg and milk.
Add dry soup mix and continue to whisk until combined. Pour egg mixture on top of meat.
Pour bread crumbs and oats on top of meat.
Using a fork, gently mix meat, egg mixture and dry ingredients together until well-mixed. Do not squish or squeeze the meat as overworking it compacts the meat and results in a dry meatloaf.
Place meat mixture into a loaf pan, using your hands to flatten and shape the meat into a smooth loaf.
Bake at 350 for approx. one hour.
While meatloaf is baking, prepare sauce.
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Pour 1/2 of sauce over meat last 30 minutes of baking; warm remaining sauce and serve on the side.

Note: If you plan to freeze the meatloaf (baked or unbaked), don’t make the sauce until the day you plan to serve it. Thaw frozen unbaked meatloaf in refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake and follow directions for sauce as usual. Thaw baked meatloaf overnight in refrigerator. Prepare sauce and pour over thawed meatloaf before re-heating in oven or microwave.

Mom’s Easy Macaroni and Cheese
2 tsp. butter or margarine
1/4 cup onion -- chopped
1 10 3/4 oz. can Cheddar Cheese Soup
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. Texas Pete hot sauce (optional)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (your choice mild or sharp)
1 cup shredded Colby-jack cheese
3 cups cooked elbow macaroni, prepared according to package directions (1 1/2 cups dry macaroni = 3 cups cooked)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.
Add onion and cook, stirring often until tender, 2-5 minutes.
Whisk in soup, milk, hot sauce (if using), and 1/2 cup each of shredded cheeses, stirring until cheese is melted.
Add macaroni, stirring well to coat with cheese mixture. Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch square baking dish.
Top with remaining 1/2 cup each of the shredded cheeses and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned on top.

Note: Thaw frozen baked or unbaked macaroni and cheese overnight in refrigerator. If freezing unbaked macaroni and cheese, put cheeses for topping (1/2 cup each cheddar and co-jack) in a zippered freezer bag and tape to the wrapped macaroni and cheese. Frozen baked macaroni and cheese should be thawed as directed above and then reheated in the microwave or covered with foil in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.

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Look Out World!

I have been serious about food-writing for over a year, but have never started a blog up until now. I'm not really sure why, except I guess that I've just been so busy writing for other people, I forgot to write for me. No deadlines, no assigned topics, just me and whatever I want to say. I find the idea of a blog both liberating and intimidating. In spite of the creative freedom it offers, the prospect of filling up all this blank space is freaking me out! Much like when I started the first chapter of my yet-to-be-completed cookbook, I am full of doubt. All that space! What if I have nothing to say? What if nobody reads it?

I relayed these feelings on Twitter the other day to a food writer and cookbook author I admire very much, Crescent Dragonwagon (yes, that IS her name...go ahead and Google it). She told me, "self-doubt is also part of the process. Have those feelings, don't deny 'em; but don't believe 'em, either". Thanks Crescent for your kind advice and the oh-so-gentle kick in the pants that I needed! of today, no more excuses....look out world here I come!

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Food for Thought:

"In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom."

- Barbara Costikyan


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