November 25, 2015

Pure Pumpkin

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Margaret's Morsels | Pumpkin Pie

This time last year -- the afternoon before Thanksgiving -- I realized I'd failed to buy a can of pumpkin pie mix at the grocery.  I couldn't go to the grocery because I was too busy baking biscuits and cornbread for Cornbread Dressing, making Potato Salad and Sweet Potato Souffle, cooking Aaron's Green Beans, whipping up a Chocolate Dream Pie and prepping ingredients for homemade rolls.  My then 16 year old only had his learner's permit so he couldn't go to the grocery for me.  I texted my husband and asked if he could pick up a can of pumpkin pie mix on his way home from work.  This meant it would be later in the evening before I could make the pie but, with the sugar and spices already added to the mix, it would be a quick task.

When my husband got home, he explained that the grocery was out of pumpkin pie mix and handed me a can of pumpkin puree.  He said he hoped it would be ok since he knew I kept a well stocked pantry.  I wasn't thrilled about making a pie from scratch --  after all I'd been cooking all day -- but I knew he was right.  This is how I'd always made Pumpkin Pie until a sister-in-law introduced me to timesaving pumpkin pie mix 20 something years earlier.

Margaret's Morsels | Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin, eggs, sugar, salt, spices and evaporated milk are mixed by hand with a spatula.  If you read my blog, you know I like to substitute healthier ingredients whenever possible.  However, this is one time I use regular evaporated milk instead of the fat-free version.  The fat in the milk helps make the pie firm which means the pieces hold their shape better.

The filling goes into a pie crust, but not just any pie crust.  My mother taught me to always use a deep-dish pie crust, no matter what kind of filling goes in the crust.  Not only does a deep-dish crust hold more of the scrumptious filling, it keeps the filling from spilling over into the oven.

Unlike my mother, I don't make my own pie crust.  I always use frozen store bought pie crusts, unless the recipe specifically calls for a package of refrigerated pie crusts.  However, I have a trick for making a store bought pie crust look homemade.  I transfer the pie crust from the foil pan to a pretty glass pie plate.

Margaret's Morsels | Pumpkin Pie

To do this, let the crust soften at room temperature for a few minutes.  Turn the pan over, letting the crust fall into your hand and transfer it to your pie plate.  If the crust doesn't fall out the first time, let it sit a few more minutes. Don't force the crust out, or you'll risk breaking the crust.

If you're transferring the pie crust, make sure to use a pie plate that's close to the size of the pie crust.  A frozen 9-inch pie crust works perfectly in my 10-inch pie plate.  My experience has been that the crust expands during baking and conforms to the size of my pie plate.

Put the pie plate on a baking sheet and add the filling.

Margaret's Morsels | Pumpkin Pie

Bake the pie an hour and then let it cool on a wire rack before storing it in the refrigerator.

I'm thankful pumpkin pie mix exists, but I'm also thankful for canned pumpkin puree.  Without it, I'd have to seed, cut, roast and puree the pumpkin before making the pie!

Pumpkin Pie
8 Servings

1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie crust
2 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk (not fat-free)

Preheat oven to 425°.  Lightly beat eggs.  Add remaining ingredients; stir until thoroughly combined.  Put pie plate on a baking sheet; pour filling into pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°.  Bake 45 minutes longer, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from baking sheet and cool 2 hours on a wire rack.  Refrigerate. 

© Margaret's Morsels

November 23, 2015

A Do Ahead Side

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Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans

A couple of years ago at a church potluck, I saw a bowl filled with green beans and onions.  Normally, I would have ignored the dish -- I don't like beans with onions -- but the beans smelled delicious so I put a small serving on my plate.  After one bite, two things were apparent.  One, the beans were flavored with something besides onion.  Two, I wanted the recipe!

As the potluck wound down, I watched as people collected their bowls and pans from the food table.  When I saw Aaron, owner of the now empty bowl, pick it up off the table, I walked over and asked how he made the beans.  He graciously shared the recipe and I made the beans for the first time a few weeks later for Thanksgiving.

The recipe starts with a can of cut green beans.  The liquid is drained into a saucepan with some water, chopped onion and -- the ingredient that makes the beans so good -- adobo all purpose seasoning.

Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans

I wasn't familiar with adobo so I looked it up on the Internet.  My search yielded a lot of recipes for making the seasoning using salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder and chili powder, or some combination of these ingredients.  I didn't mess with perfection and bought a bottle of Goya adobo all-purpose seasoning with pepper which is what was called for in Aaron's recipe.

Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans

I assumed the seasoning would be with all the other spices, but I found it in the aisle with Hispanic food.  The Goya brand is available in many different varieties!

Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans

The liquid, onion and adobo are brought to a rolling boil for 30 minutes. During this long boiling time, the liquid is reduced, thereby intensifying the flavor of the remaining liquid.  

Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans
After boiling for 30 minutes.

The beans are added to the pot and simmered over low heat for 15 minutes. You can add water, if necessary, but don't add too much or it will dilute the wonderful flavor of the beans.

Margaret's Morsels | Adobo Green Beans

The beans can be served the same day they're cooked, but I think they're better reheated the next day after the flavors have had time to blend.  You can reheat the beans on the stove, or in a crock-pot.  Using a crock-pot is a big help at the holidays, especially if there's not a spare burner available on the stove.  You also don't have to keep a constant eye on the beans since the crock-pot does all the work for you.

Green beans have always been on our Thanksgiving table, but now I fix them ahead of time.   When I'm cooking holiday meals, any dish that can be made ahead is something I'm thankful for!

Aaron's Green Beans
6 to 8 Servings

1 (28 oz.) can cut green beans
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp. adobo all-purpose seasoning
1 cup water

Drain liquid from beans into a saucepan; add onion, adobo and water.  Bring ingredients to a boil and let boil for 30 minutes.  If the liquid is reducing too quickly, turn the heat down.  Add the green beans and, if necessary, a little additional water.  Turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.  Let the beans cool and then store them in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to blend.  The next day, reheat beans in a crock-pot on low for 2 hours, or until heated through.

© Margaret's Morsels

November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

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It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is only eight days away!  If you're planning your menu or looking for something new to serve, here's some Thanksgiving recipes I've shared in the past.  I'm putting the finishing touches on two recipes -- one vegetable, one dessert -- I plan to post before Thanksgiving.  

Margaret's Morsels | Cornbread Dressing

Margaret's Morsels | Cranberry Orange Relish

Margaret's Morsels | Potato Salad

Margaret's Morsels | Carrot Souffle

Margaret's Morsels | Southern Cranberry Salad
Margaret's Morsels | Quick and Easy Candied Sweet Potatoes

Margaret's Morsels | Fruit Tea

Margaret's Morsels | Pecan Streusel Pumpkin Pie
Margaret's Morsels | No Bake Turkey Cookies

© Margaret's Morsels

September 14, 2015

Just Peachy

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Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

In late June, on her way home from Georgia -- a state known for its peaches -- a friend stopped at a roadside stand and bought several baskets of peaches fresh from the orchard.  My family was the lucky recipient of one of those baskets.  The peaches were juicy and delicious and we enjoyed peeling and eating them out of hand.  A few days later at a 4th of July party, I spotted a peach cobbler on the dessert table and knew exactly what I was going to do with the remaining few peaches.

Almost every church or school cookbook has a recipe for fruit cobbler.  A lot of times, the recipe has the word easy, simple, or like the one I'm sharing today, quick in the title.  All three are appropriate adjectives for this easy to make dessert, but I think versatile would be a better description.

Although the recipe I'm sharing is for peach cobbler, you can substitute other fruit for the peaches.  In fact, you can use fresh, frozen or canned fruit in the recipe.  If you're using canned fruit, be sure to use some of the juice or the cobbler will be dry.  If you're using fresh fruit, taste the fruit to see if you need to add additional sugar.  If so, add a little at a time until the fruit reaches the desired sweetness.    

Start by melting a stick of butter or margarine.  Instead of melting this in the microwave, I put the butter in the baking dish and set it in the oven while it's preheating.

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

The butter melts without me having to do anything and it keeps me from dirtying another dish.  

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

The sugar, self-rising flour, milk and vanilla are stirred together to make the batter.  If you don't have self-rising flour, you can substitute all-purpose flour and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Once the ingredients are combined, pour the batter over the melted butter.  Do not stir the two together!

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

If you're using fresh peaches, here's an easy way to keep the cobbler from being dry.  Put the peeled and sliced peaches in a saucepan and heat them on low heat for about 10 minutes.

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

When heated, the juice seeps from the peaches.  This sounds counterproductive, but it's actually the secret to a very moist cobbler, since the juice is distributed over the entire cobbler.

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler
Three peaches yielded almost 1/4 cup juice.

Spoon the peaches on top of the batter.  Pour the juice left in the pan all over the top of the cobbler.  Do not stir!!!  

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

The peaches will sink to the bottom and the batter will rise to the top and make a crust.

Margaret's Morsels | Quick Fruit Cobbler

The cobbler is delicious by itself, or served a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  Either way you serve it, it's just peachy!

Quick Peach Cobbler
6 to 8 Servings

1 stick butter or margarine, melted
3 fresh peaches, peeled and cut into slices 
1 cup sugar
1 cup self-rising flour*
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk

*One cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder may be substituted for self-rising flour.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Put butter in a 10-inch baking dish and set in the oven to melt while the oven preheats.   Peel peaches and cut into slices.  Put the peaches in a saucepan and heat on low heat about 10 minutes.  While the peaches are heating, combine remaining ingredients; mix well.  Remove baking dish from oven.  Tilt pan to distribute butter, if necessary.  Pour the batter over the butter.  Do not stir!  Spoon peaches over the batter.  Pour the peach juice over the top of the cobbler.  Do not stir.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the crust is brown.

© Margaret's Morsels

August 25, 2015

Back in the Kitchen!

Pin It Last November, I posted a blog explaining my seven month absence.  At the time, I truly thought I would resume blogging before the end of the year.  I even shared a recipe for Hoppin' John just in time for New Year's Day.  Unfortunately, after the first of the year, things got really complicated.  Each day felt as though I was taking one step forward and two steps back.  For the first time in over a year, I finally feel as though there's light at the end of the tunnel.

I've missed blogging.  In addition to being a creative outlet for me, I thoroughly enjoy sharing recipes and corresponding with readers.  Since things are brighter than they were this time last year, I'm ready to resume blogging.  To be on the safe side, though, I've already written my first four posts.  The hardest part was deciding which recipe to share first!

Since the beginning of my blog, I've tried to keep my personal life private.  As I've written more than once, I'd like to think what I write is more important than the one doing the writing.  I still feel that way, but I've had a change of heart.  So many of you have been with me from the very beginning, I'd like you to know more about who I am without going into too much personal detail.  It would be strange to interview myself, so a friend came up with the questions.  So, without further ado, here goes.

Who is Margaret?  I'm a wife.  I met my husband in college 29 years ago in a world politics class.  We've been married 21 years.

I'm a mother.  My oldest son died 19 years ago.  My middle son is a senior in high school.  My youngest son isn't related to us biologically or legally, but it's the feelings, concern and admiration between two people that creates ties that bind, not flesh and blood.  He considers me a mother figure in his life and I am proud to call him my son.  He's a sophomore in high school.

I'm an employee.  I've work part time for a cookbook publisher since 2007.

I'm a volunteer.  I serve on a church committee that provides opportunities for fellowship meals and events throughout the year.  I work in the church kitchen during our week long Vacation Bible School helping prepare snacks for the children.  Several times a year, my whole family helps other volunteers feed the homeless at a midtown church.  I donate my time and work experience to organizations I believe in that want to create a cookbook to sell to raise funds for a good cause.  I've been a volunteer field editor for Taste of Home magazine since 2003.

I'm a Southerner.  I say please, thank you and y'all.  My Southern roots run deep.  My ancestors settled in the South when they immigrated to America from Ireland six generations ago.  I've often wondered if they already knew someone who had immigrated to the South, or if they had plans to settle elsewhere, but fell in love with the South.  I'll probably never know, but I'm proud to call the South home, y'all.

Have you always liked to cook?  No!  Growing up, I would rather have washed dishes than cooked!  All that changed in my early 20's when I moved into my first apartment.  Tired of microwaving frozen entrees, I decided to utilize my minuscule kitchen.  I started by cooking the foods my mom cooked when I was growing up.  Once I'd mastered those recipes, I started trying new recipes and -- as my confidence in the kitchen grew -- experimenting with recipes and cooking methods.  As my passion for cooking grew, so did my cookbook collection! 

What do you love most about cooking?  I love using food to create family traditions and memories.  My favorite food tradition is a bunny cake I started making at Easter when my son was a toddler.  My family still expects to see that cake on the table every year at Easter.  When my sons are grown, they may not remember which family members were at the house each holiday, but they'll remember what foods we ate!

Why do you blog?  Most people know I love to cook, buy many don't know that I was a journalism major in college.  My dream job was to have a newspaper food column like the one I used to read in the city where I spent my formative years.  Unfortunately, cooking is a dying art and newspaper food sections are shrinking, or evenly disappearing entirely.  I decided if I wanted to write about food, a blog was the best way to go about it in the 21st century.  However, in an homage to the newspaper, I designed my blog -- from the title of each post to the content -- to resemble a newspaper food column.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading the entire post.  Now you know more about me, maybe more than you wanted to know!  I'm truly grateful to those of you who have followed "Margaret's Morsels" from day one and I welcome those of you who are new.  I may not post as frequently as other bloggers, but when I do you can be assured I've made the recipe numerous times and my family thinks it's a keeper.  I'm glad to be back and will be sharing one of my mom's recipes later this week.  It will be peachy!

© Margaret's Morsels

December 31, 2014

Lucky Legumes

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 Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

My husband isn't a superstitious person, except when it comes to New Year's Day.  For the 20 plus years we've been married, he's always requested black-eyed peas on January 1.  We live in the South and legend has it that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is supposed to bring a person good luck all year long.  Black-eyed peas are my least favorite legume, but I find them palatable when served as Hoppin' John, a Southern dish made with pork, rice and, of course, black-eyed peas.  After cooking feasts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don't want to spend New Year's Day cooking so I take a few shortcuts.

Instead of cooking a pot of dried black-eyed peas, I substitute a can of black-eyed peas.

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

Canned black-eyed peas are already cooked so you don't have to soak or cook them.  The peas need to be drained and, since canned black-eyed peas contain a lot of salt, rinsed.

Quite a few Hoppin' John recipes use ham hock, an approximately 3-inch piece of a hog's hind leg consisting of meat, fat, bone and connective tissue which adds a lot of flavor to beans.  This recipe skips the ham hock and uses bacon instead.  I cook the bacon in my indispensable Bacon Wave microwave bacon tray which gives, as advertised on the box, "The frying pan taste without the frying pan."

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

The bacon grease collects in the bottom of the tray and can easily be poured into a saucepan and used to saute the onion.

No matter what I cook, I like to do as much prep work ahead of time as possible.  There's not much I can do ahead of time with this recipe, other than cook the rice and put it in the refrigerator.  The rice is reheated when it's added to the saucepan with the other ingredients.

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

Not all Hoppin' John recipes use tomatoes.  I like to add them because they add a pop of color to the finished dish.  Some recipes call for garnishing Hoppin' John with diced fresh tomatoes.  Other recipes call for stirring a can of diced tomatoes into the mixture.  Instead of fresh or canned diced tomatoes, the recipe I'm sharing today calls for a can of stewed tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes and stewed tomatoes are not the same thing.

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

Unlike diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes are cooked before being canned. Stewed tomatoes are also flavored with herbs and spices.  Regular or classic stewed tomatoes contain bell pepper, onion and celery.  Mexican stewed tomatoes contain jalapeno, garlic and onion; Italian stewed tomatoes contain basil, garlic and oregano.  I don't recommend using Mexican or Italian stewed tomatoes in this recipe because it will give the finished dish an entirely different taste.  Another difference is diced tomatoes are -- like the name implies -- diced.  Stewed tomatoes are usually halved.

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

The easiest way to cut stewed tomatoes into smaller pieces is with a pair of kitchen shears.

This Hoppin' John is seasoned with Tabasco, garlic powder and pepper. You can skip the Tabasco, but I recommend adding it because it keeps the dish from being bland.  This is the only recipe I have that uses Tabasco and the only reason I have a bottle in my cupboard!  You don't need to add salt; the bacon and rice add enough.

Black-eyed peas are often served on New Year's Day with greens such as collard, turnip or mustard which, because of their green color, symbolize money.  We're not fans of greens so I don't fix them.  I keep the meal simple and serve Hoppin' John with corn muffins made from a packaged mix.

I'll never like black-eyed peas as much as my husband does.  However, after the year I've had, I'll gladly eat a plate of them New Year's Day, especially if it means better luck is in store for 2015!

Margaret's Morsels | Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John
6 Servings

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve drippings)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (15 1/2 oz.) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can stewed tomatoes (undrained), chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper

Saute onion in bacon drippings until tender; drain onion and discard drippings.  Return onion to saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients, except the bacon.  Cover and cook on low heat 8 to 10 minutes.  Spoon into a serving dish; sprinkle crumbled bacon over top.

© Margaret's Morsels

November 19, 2014

A Message from Margaret

Pin It For months, Facebook posted a daily reminder on my personal timeline the exact number of days it had been since I last posted on Margaret's Morsels Facebook page.  It's no surprise the date corresponds to the last time I posted anything on my blog.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know I don't reveal much about my personal life when I share recipes.  I'd like to think what I write is more important than the one doing the writing.  However, over the last few months, I've received emails from readers wanting to know why I stopped posting. After thinking about it, I decided I should explain my absence, especially since some of you have followed my blog since day one.

The last seven months have been some of the most difficult of my life.  I've reached an age where I look back on my life and question the decisions I made -- and the ones I didn't make -- and wonder if I made the right choices. This intense soul searching has been accompanied by a plethora of tears, stress, confusion and sleepless nights.  Unfortunately, my blog is a casualty of this rumination because, I discovered, I cannot write when I experience inner turmoil.  Believe me, I tried, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph.

If I can't write when I experience turmoil, why am I writing today?  Good question.  I actually started writing this message over a month ago, but couldn't find the words I needed to say.  Since I'm able to write something, I guess it's a sign things are getting better, although I still haven't found the answers I was so desperately searching for.  I'm still plagued on a daily basis with all the coulda, woulda, shoulda thoughts that have been an unwelcome constant companion since April.

I thoroughly enjoy blogging and deciding which recipes to share and when.  I thought, perhaps, I could ease back into blogging by posting once a week, just like a newspaper food section.  However, I'm not sure I want to be that rigid.  I really like the flexibility of being able to post when it's a particular food day -- such as National Peanut Butter Cookie Day -- or food is in the news like it was earlier this year when there was a shortage of Velveeta cheese.

Not too long ago, Facebook gave up and stopped telling me how many days it had been since I last posted on Margaret's Morsels.  Thanks to all of you for not giving up on me!  A special welcome to the new followers who have joined since April.  Thank you for your patience and understanding as I get back into a routine of posting new content.  I have a lot of tasty recipes I want to share and who better to share them with than people who like to cook.  I hope to see you soon.

                                              © Margaret's Morsels