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

April 17, 2014

Hamming it Up

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Margaret's Morsels | Canned Ham

I always serve ham at Easter and this year is no exception.  However, I'm not preparing a shank portion like I normally do.  I'm only cooking for five people so I don't need that much ham.  Due to a time constraint of one of the guests, I need to have supper on the table at 5:30.  This is going to be challenging since I won't start cooking the ham until we get home from church.  I could cook the ham the day before and reheat it when we're ready to eat, but I don't like that idea.  Buying an already cooked spiral ham isn't an option because my family doesn't like them.  Fortunately, there's another choice.  This year, I'll be serving a canned ham for Easter.

Canned ham is exactly what it sounds like:  ham that is sold in a can.

Margaret's Morsels | Canned Ham

The ham is either from a boneless piece of meat, or pieces that have been combined and are held together with a gelatin mixture.  The brand I buy comes in three and five pound sizes, but the larger size is sometimes hard for me to find.  Canned hams are fully cooked and, as such, don't require additional cooking.  However, the flavor is greatly improved by heating. 

There are two varieties of canned hams:  shelf stable and refrigerated.  Shelf stable canned hams have been processed at high temperatures which allow them to be stored at room temperature.  This processing, which gives the ham a long shelf life, also makes the product less flavorful than its counterpart.  I avoid shelf stable canned hams and only purchase those that are refrigerated.  The taste and texture of a refrigerated canned ham are a little different from traditional ham, but that's a small price to pay for the convenience.  Unlike a shank or butt portion that can take hours to cook, a canned ham is ready in an hour.  It can also be cooked in a crock-pot which frees up the oven for side dishes and rolls.

Just because it's a canned ham doesn't mean it has to be served plain.  I serve it that way because that's how my family likes ham.  Canned hams -- like regular hams -- can be dressed up with the addition of fruit, liquid smoke or glazes.  A search on the Internet will yield lots of recipes and ideas for using canned hams.

Although I may take a shortcut with the ham this year, the rest of our Easter dinner will be the same as every year:  macaroni and cheese, green bean bundles, deviled eggscranberry orange relish, homemade rolls, an Easter bunny cake and, to wash it all down, a refreshing pitcher of fruit tea.

Canned ham might not be the first thing you think of serving for Easter, but it is an easy and tasty alternative when time is short, you don't need to feed a large crowd and you still want to ham it up!

Margaret's Morsels | Canned Ham

Baked Canned Ham
6 to 8 Servings

1 (3 lb.) canned ham
1/2 cup water

To Bake in the Oven:  Remove ham from can and place in baking pan.  Add 1/2 cup water to pan.  Cover pan with foil and bake at 325° for 1 hour, or until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 135°.

To Cook in a Crock-Pot:  Pour 1/2 cup water in bottom of crock-pot.  Wrap ham in foil; place in crock-pot.  Cover and cook on high 1 hour.  Reduce heat to low and cook 6 to 7 hours, or until ham is heated through.

© Margaret's Morsels

March 18, 2014

From Ho Hum to Wow!

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Margaret's Morsels | Marinated Green Beans

My husband and I like a lot of vegetables.  Unfortunately, we don't like a lot of the same vegetables!  I love lima beans, but my husband loathes the legume. He thinks black-eyed peas are the best, while I think they're best left at the grocery store!  I'm crazy about cabbage in any form except sauerkraut, but the only cabbage he'll eat is in the form of coleslaw.

One vegetable we agree on is green beans.  It's a side dish on our table more often than any other vegetable.  Most of the time, I just open a can of green beans and heat them in the microwave.  Since I fix green beans so often, though, I'm always looking for recipes that put an interesting twist on this old stand by.

When I first saw the recipe for Marinated Green Beans, I knew my husband would love it and I was right!  The recipe uses a lot of the same ingredients as the Green Bean Bundles I make every year at Christmas and Easter. Unlike bean bundles, the recipe is easier to prepare and less time consuming.  The beans need to marinate overnight, so you do need to plan ahead when you want to make these beans.

The original recipe called for canned green beans, but didn't specify what kind.  I use whole green beans because I like the size.

Margaret's Morsels | Marinated Green Beans

The recipe doesn't use Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, but the rest of the ingredients are identical to bean bundles, except for the amounts and method of preparation.

Margaret's Morsels | Marinated Green Beans

Instead of wrapping the beans in bacon and layering the ingredients on top, the butter, brown sugar, soy sauce and garlic powder are combined and stirred into the green beans.  The seasonings can be adjusted to suit your taste.  If you want sweeter beans, add more brown sugar; for spicier beans, add more garlic powder. 

Margaret's Morsels | Marinated Green Beans

The bacon is diced -- the easiest way to do this is with a pair of kitchen shears -- and stirred into the beans.  If you don't want to add meat, omit the bacon; the beans will still be delicious.  Once everything is mixed together, refrigerate the beans overnight.  To evenly distribute the marinade, stir the beans a couple of times while they're marinating.

The beans take more effort than simply heating a can of green beans, but it's worth the work!  The marinade melds together and transforms canned green beans into a sweet and salty dish with a hint of bacon flavor.  The finished product is so good, you'll forget you're eating a vegetable!

Marinated Green Beans
4 Servings

2 (14.5 oz.) cans whole green beans, drained
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 slices bacon, diced (uncooked)

Put beans in a mixing bowl.  Mix margarine, brown sugar, soy sauce and garlic powder together; pour over green beans.  Add diced bacon and stir until ingredients are combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, stirring two or three times while marinating.  When ready to cook, remove beans from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Stir the beans and put them in a greased baking dish.  Bake uncovered at 350° for 45 minutes, or until bacon is thoroughly cooked.

© Margaret's Morsels   

March 14, 2014

National Pi Day

Pin It That's not a typo in the title.  National Pi Day isn't referring to the sweet and savory pies we eat, but the Greek letter (π) used in mathematics to represent the numerical value of the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, approximately 3.14159....  Math is an important part of cooking -- just think of all the fractions!  Since today is March 14 (3/14), I thought it would be fun to use this play on words with pie recipes I've posted in the past.

Margaret's Morsels | Pecan Streusel Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Streusel Pumpkin Pie:  The addition of a streusel topping takes a plain pumpkin pie from ho hum to wow!

Margaret's Morsels | Banana Cream Supreme

Banana Cream Supreme:  This cool and creamy, no bake pie is a cross between banana pie and banana pudding.  

Margaret's Morsels | Lemonade Pie

Lemonade Pie:  What's more refreshing on a hot summer day than a glass of lemonade?  A piece of lemonade pie!  This beat the heat dessert gets its wonderful lemon flavor from a can of lemonade concentrate.  

Margaret's Morsels | Easy Peanut Butter Chip Pie

Easy Peanut Butter Chip Pie:  The pie is made with peanut butter chips and peanut butter.  If you love chocolate and peanut butter, top the pie with a bottle of chocolate Magic Shell topping!

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

Chocolate Dream Pie:  This no bake pie only uses four ingredients and half of them are chocolate!  

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Cobbler

Chocolate Cobbler:  This eggless cobbler makes its own chocolate sauce! It's best served hot from the oven with a scoop of ice cream on top!  

Margaret's Morsels | Cookie Apple Cobbler

Cookie Apple Cobbler:  This apple pie is super easy to make.  The crust is made with a package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough!

Margaret's Morsels | Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie:  The picture doesn't do this pie justice!  Refrigerated pie crusts encase a filling made with canned chicken, vegetables, soup, milk and seasonings.

Margaret's Morsels | Broccoli Quiche

Broccoli Quiche:  You don't have to make the pie crust, cook the broccoli or, if you don't mind spending a little extra, even grate the cheese!

Margaret's Morsels | Bacon Quiche

Bacon Quiche:  This quiche uses a package of refrigerated pie crusts and is baked in a 13 x 9-inch pan.  The filling ingredients can be assembled and refrigerated ahead of time.

© Margaret's Morsels



March 7, 2014

Top 50 Food Blogs

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I found out that "Margaret's Morsels" has been nominated as one of the top 50 food blogs on Voicebok.  Voting is currently talking place for the top 10.  If you have a minute, could you please vote for my blog?  Copy and paste the link below, scroll through the list -- it's in alphabetical  order -- and vote for me (please).  Thanks!!!

February 27, 2014

Almost Homemade

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Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls

I'm always surprised when people assume I cook feasts for my family year round.  I love to cook, but the only feasts I prepare are at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas!  Not only would that be too much food for a family of three on a regular basis, I don't have time to cook like that every day.  As I've written before, suppertime is the most stressful time of day for me.  This is why I'm always looking for shortcuts that will allow me to spend less time in the kitchen, while still making foods my family will eat and get supper on the table at a decent hour!

In the blogs I posted for Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Alfredo and Baked Ziti, I either mention adding garlic bread to round out the meal, or have a picture of the plated dish with garlic bread on the side.  Garlic bread is a packaged food I find convenient to keep in the freezer for nights when I need a quick bread to go with a meal.  Sometimes, though, I want to serve something that tastes homemade, but doesn't require the time and effort of making something from scratch.  What my family affectionately calls "Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls" meet all of these requirements.

The bread starts with a package of frozen rolls.  You've probably seen these in the freezer case at the grocery and wondered what to do with them.

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls

These rolls are a real time saver and can be used for monkey bread, cinnamon rolls and a myriad of other dishes.  They can even be baked as rolls!  Although I don't have to make the bread, I still need to plan ahead of time since the rolls have to be thawed overnight in the refrigerator.

A couple of hours before we're going to eat, I remove the rolls from the refrigerator.  While the margarine is melting in the microwave, I take the rolls out of the package and place them on a piece of waxed paper.

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls

You don't have to do this, but I find it faster than removing the rolls from the bag one at a time, especially if the rolls are stuck together.  Once the margarine is melted, stir in garlic powder and garlic salt.  These are the same seasonings used in equal proportions in Garlic Cheese Biscuits, but this roll recipe uses 50% more garlic powder.

The friend that gave me the recipe bakes the rolls in a Bundt pan.  I tried that once and thought the rolls were dry.  If you're like me and love the round shape, but don't have a ring shaped pan, you can improvise and make your own.  Grease a small, ovensafe cup or bowl -- this keep the rolls from sticking to it -- and place it in the center of a 10-inch round cake pan.  You now have a ring shaped pan!  If you don't want to go to that much trouble, use the 10-inch pan without the cup or bowl, or use a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan instead.

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls

Dip each roll in the melted butter mixture and place it in the greased pan, stacking the rolls in two layers.  If there's any butter mixture left, pour it over the top layer of rolls.

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls
First layer

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls
Second layer

Put the pan in a warm place free from drafts, cover it with a towel and let the rolls rise an hour.  After the rolls have risen, bake them for 30 to 45 minutes, or until brown.  When the rolls are done, put the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  If the rolls come apart when you take them out of the pan, you can separate them and serve them in a bread basket.

Margaret's Morsels | Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls

The frozen rolls make the finished product taste as though it was made from scratch.  People love these rolls and, unless they ask for the recipe, assume they're homemade.  I don't mind letting them think that since they're "almost" homemade!

Better than Garlic Bread Pull Apart Rolls
6 to 8 Servings

1 (1 lb. 9 oz.) pkg. frozen Parkerhouse style roll dough, thawed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt

Thaw dough according to package directions.  Melt butter; stir in the garlic powder and garlic salt.  Dip each roll in the butter mixture and place in a greased 10-inch round cake pan, or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.  Put the pan in a warm place free from drafts, cover with a towel and let rise an hour.  Bake the rolls at 350° for 30 to 45 minutes, or until brown.  Put the pan on a cooling rack and let cool 10 minutes before removing bread.

© Margaret's Morsels