Thursday, March 24, 2016

Madison County, Arkansas

Friday we started off on a little jaunt over to Madison County. I had the bright idea that it would be fun to take my Mother and Father-in-law to a great little cafe at Hindsville called the Valley Inn. It's been there a long time, alongside old highway 412 about halfway between Fayetteville and Huntsville, Arkansas. I had taken my Mom there on several occasions, it's one of those places with local flavor... waitresses that knew the 75 residents of Hindsville by their first names. In fact, they probably knew what they were going to order before they even opened their mouths! Hindsville is an old town, built in the 1890's. Still standing are a row of stone buildings that house an Arvest Bank, an antique store and the Valley Inn. We told them we were going to a NEW place to eat, but not exactly where! I knew they would love the food, homemade plates of chicken and dressing, meatloaf or ham and sweet potatoes with sides of greens, fried okra or butter beans.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and it was fun as we drove along enjoying the rolling hills and pastures with happy cows up to their bellies in green grass. It's a good time to be a cow in Arkansas right now with all of the rain we've had this spring!

We know highway 45 like the back of our hand, but when we got to where it joined the new 412 we turned right. After just a few miles, we knew we had went the wrong way. Just a spot in the road, it would be easy to miss. We turned around and went back, then realized that the familiar road had been bypassed by progress. In 2007 Highway 412 took a more direct route and left the quaint town of Hindsville. In the window of the Valley Inn was a For Sale sign. Sad for us and especially for the residents of this small community. For years they served delicious plate lunches or hamburger baskets, homemade rolls and pies to the hard working farmers or the lucky tourists passing by.

On that  fateful day when Mom and I needed a cup of coffee, but stayed when we realized they had homemade pie...Coconut Cream, Butterscotch with meringue piled so high it was sinful and Peanut Butter Pie. Not my choice, but Mom's favorite. We shared a piece that first visit to the Valley Inn.

Peanut Butter Pie
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 12-ounce carton refrigerated whipped topping (Cool Whip)
2 graham cracker pie shells

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and peanut butter together. Fold in the Cool Whip, reserving enough to decorate the tops of two pies. Pour the mixture into the pie shells and chill several hours. Top each slice with a dab of Cool Whip.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Do you ever look at the grower on that sack of potatoes you buy? I read everything on a label these days, from calorie count to country of origin. Maybe it's because my husband worked many years for a major food company, I do like to support America's farmers. What that makes me is possibly the worst kind of shopper to get behind in the grocery store aisle!

Potatoes make their way into millions of shopping carts every day. It's the old standby for most of us, it goes with practically any meal and there's hardly a person who dislikes them. I'm never without potatoes, I only vary the kind I buy. Right now we have baby reds and russets in the potato bin. How you store your potatoes makes a big difference in their shelf life. When you bring home a bag of potatoes, you need to go through them to make sure there aren't any green, bruised or soft ones. In fact, give that bag a good once over before you leave the store. You can easily spot a bad one. The best tip of all is to find a cool, dark place with good ventilation to store your potatoes. The ideal temperature to store them is between 50 and 60 degrees, the temperature of many garages in the winter is perfect. Transfer them to a brown grocery bag or a cardboard box to keep the light out. A single ripe apple will prevent the potatoes from sprouting since the apple produces ethylene gas and will lengthen the time you can keep your potatoes. Armed with all these suggestions, go ahead and buy that 20 pound bag of russets and reap the rewards of buying in bulk!

When we think of potatoes, Idaho comes to mind... but actually potatoes are grown commercially in 36 states. It's almost the perfect food; fat, sodium and cholesterol free, low in calories and loaded with nutrients. One medium potato has nearly half the day's requirement for Vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. A great antioxidant, potatoes contain glutathione that may help protect against some cancers. That's well worth the 110 calories! You thought there were more calories in there, didn't you? Well, it's what we do with the potato that gives them a bad reputation! By the time we load them up with butter, sour cream, shredded Cheddar and bacon bits... that healthy baked potato is now a full meal of calories! The russett also is the chosen potato for french fries and potato chips, all I can say is... "Thank you Lord" for the potato!

I want to share a great recipe that I found on Pinterest (duh!) It's a Pioneer Woman recipe so you can be assured it is slap dab delicious! She posted this one around Easter, perfect for our ham leftovers. I had never thought of adding meat to scalloped potatoes and serving as a main dish instead of a side dish. It was a BIG hit, what's not to love if you start with potatoes and cheese ;)

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham 

(adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman's recipe, I halved the recipe since it's just the two of us)

3 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes, Washed Thoroughly
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Yellow Onion, Diced
3 cups Diced Ham
1-1/2 cup Half-and-half
1-1/2 cup Heavy Cream (I used all half and half, I can't imagine how good it would have been w/whipping cream!)
1/4 cup Flour
 Black Pepper To Taste
1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Grated Monterey Jack Cheese (I used all cheddar, cause that's what I had!)
 Chopped Parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish. 

Heat butter in a large skillet. Add onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they start to turn translucent. Add ham and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine half-and-half and cream in a microwave-safe container and nuke for a minute or so, until no longer cold. Whisk in flour and black pepper until totally combined. Set aside. (You may add salt, but cheese and ham are salty, so add sparingly.)
Combine the two grated cheeses. Set aside.
Using a mandoline or slicer, slice potatoes into 1/8-inch slices (very thin.) Layer 1/3 of the potato slices in the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the ham/onion mixture, then 1/3 of the cheese, then pour on 1/3 of the cream mixture.
Repeat this twice more, ending with a sprinkling of cheese and a pouring on of the rest of the cream mixture. Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes at least, or until bubbly and hot.
Cut into squares and serve. Sprinkle on chopped parsley if you'd like!
(Note: To speed along the process a bit, you may boil sliced potatoes for 3 to 5 minutes before assembling the casserole. Just drain and slightly cool before assembling.)
I used Ree's tip on boiling the sliced potatoes for 5 minutes and it really does make them cook faster and have great melt-in-your-mouth texture. That CAN be a dangerous thing though!!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Recipe Puppy

Do you know about Recipe Puppy??? No, you won't have to worry about him chewing up your newspaper or tinkling on the carpet...this puppy is going to make your life EASY PEASY!!!

Recipe Puppy is an ingredient based recipe search engine built by Kris Brower. Recipe Puppy is a tool for finding recipes. Is your fridge nearly empty? You can use Recipe Puppy to find recipes that don't require a trip to the store. It can find recipes that fit your dietary requirements or combine two seemingly unrelated ingredients. Recipe Puppy makes it easy to find the recipes you actually want.

I accidentally found it while searching for something else, I don't even remember now what that was. But as soon as I realized I could type in a few of the ingredients of favorite recipes and it would pull them oh man....I was so excited!

What about that Poppyseed Chicken Casserole that Linda brought us when we first moved to Springdale, all I did was type in chicken, cream of chicken soup and poppy seeds...poof there it was!

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
6 Servings
1 Chicken, boiled
1 cn Cream of Chicken soup
1 ct (8-oz) sour cream
1 tb Poppy seeds
1/2 Stack Ritz Crackers(or a little more)
Pick chicken of the bone and tear into small pieces. Place in greased casserole. Mix soup and sour cream; pour over chicken and mix. Sprinkle poppy seeds over, and then cracker crumbs. You may drizzle with some melted butter, if desired. Bake at 350 deg. for about 25 minutes.

What about that Chinese Take-Out Orange Beef that I love so much? Just type in orange juice, beef, cornstarch and ZIP...I have the recipe for tonight's dinner!

Orange Beef
1 lb beef round steak or sirloin, thinly sliced and cut into 3-inch strips
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 organic oranges, + zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 cups vegetable oil
green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
1In a medium bowl, toss the meat with 2 Tblsp soy sauce, 1 Tblsp of cornstarch, and the pepper. Marinate the meat at room temperature while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
2Combine the orange zest, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and reserve.
3In a medium bowl, combine the remaining Tblsp of soy sauce, and the remaining cornstarch with the orange juice, sugar, sherry, hoisin and sesame oil. Set aside.
4Heat the oil in a heavy wok or pot to 360ยบ. Add one-third of the beef to the oil, one piece at a time (it's important not to add all the beef at once as the temperature of the oil will plummet and the beef will absorb more oil than necessary). Scrape the bottom of the pot as some of the meat may stick. Cook for 2 minutes or until crispy and brown. Transfer the meat with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and repeat with the rest of the meat. Discard all but 2 Tblsp of the oil.
5Add the orange zest, garlic and ginger mixture to the wok and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir the orange juice mixture and add it to the wok, along with the fried beef. Stir until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
6Serve garnished with green onions.
* For a faster dish with less fat, stir-fry the beef instead of deep frying it. It won't be crispy, but the flavor is delicious. You can also substitute chicken, pork, or shrimp for the beef.

Recipe Puppy, I love you little Buddy!
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