Waiting with Bated Breath

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Protestors, Ferguson, Missouri, usatoday.com

“Waiting with baited breath.” What a strange phrase. It’s probably not a phrase that is familiar or understood among the younger generation and when I was thinking about it, I wondered what exactly it meant. Going to the source of all knowledge (the internet, of course), I found a definition from Wikipedia that says “…refers to a state in which the speaker nearly stops breathing through fear, anxiety, awe, anticipation, or suspense”. That pretty well describes it. I, along with most of the Metropolitan St. Louis area, and maybe even the nation, wait with “bated breath” as the decision of the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown shooting nears.

What is going to happen and how bad will it actually be? As bad as anticipated? How will it impact the surrounding areas? Will anyone die? Will a police officer be killed? Will a police officer be forced to defend his life with deadly force? How many officers will be injured? How many innocent civilians will be injured? How many buildings will be looted or burned?  How many people will be threatened or inconvenienced? How long will it last? How will we deal with the aftermath?

Or will the pleas of Michael Brown’s family for peaceful protesting be heeded? For some it will, those people who respect the parents and understand that violence will only beget violence. But for others, I doubt it. Those people whose agenda it is to cause havoc, to loot and destroy, or even kill, don’t care that they are further defiling the memory of Michael Brown. He is just a pawn for their own personal agendas.

Headlines are everywhere, causing us to cringe and twinge. Facebook is full of them: “Rioters to Target Whites: “You will never be safe-Not You, not your children!” “Law Enforcement sources confirming the FBI arrested two men in connection with purchasing explosives to be used in pipe bombs during protest”; “Security Experts: what to do if protesters surround your car”, “Two with Black Panther connections charged in St. Louis in federal firearms case”, “Private Military contractors Hired to Move Guns and gold out of Ferguson”; “St. Louis County Police Prepare for Ferguson Decision: 650 Teargas grenades, 2,000 plastic handcuffs, 6,000 pepper balls, 5,000 hours of additional training”; “FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision”; “Jennings School district cancels classes Monday, Tuesday”; “Businesses and residents stressed over looming Ferguson grand jury ruling”; “RbG Black Rebels: If any store owner in Ferg/Stl shoots or harms any protesters promise your store will never open again. This is not a threat it’s a promise”; “Anonymous warns Ferguson police and KKK in new video: ‘We are the law now’”; “Missouri Governor declares state of emergency ahead of ruling on Ferguson shooting”.

Talk about ratcheting up the anxiety. Guess I should just stop reading my Facebook feed, but it’s sort of like a train wreck. Regardless of how gruesome it is, you just gotta take a peak. Like a moth to a flame; I gotta get closer even if it might burn my wings.

If the rumormill is to be believed, the decision will be announced early tomorrow evening. That would seem to set with the National Guard being deployed and on its way to the area and the Jennings School District cancelling their classes for Monday and Tuesday. That’s still a full 24 hours away; 24 hours to wait, worry and agonize. Maybe it’s like a cancer tumor. You dread the surgery, but you know you will never get better until they cut it out. The recovery will be slow and painful and getting back to normal may take some time, but in the end, hopefully, there will be a full recovery.

In the meantime, I wait with bated breath.

 

Green Tomato Salsa (Chow Chow)

One day after Halloween and the Christmas commercials have started. I really hate to see winter come. I like the cooler weather, the colorful leaves, (my husband going deer hunting) and even snow for the Christmas season, but after that, the months  leading up to Spring are just wasted time to me. I hate to see the growing season come to an end too. I don’t plant that many vegetables, but each year I plant tomatoes and green and jalapeno peppers. I can’t think of any vegetable I like better picked right from the vine than a tomato; any kind of tomato; Beefsteak, Roma, Grape, any kind, red and juicy. I rarely buy a tomato in the store during the winter. I find them tasteless, not to mention expensive. This year as last, when the first frost hit the area, I had an abundance of green tomatoes. I’ve gotten to the point where I hate to see anything go to waste so my husband picked all the tomatoes and I added store bought peppers and onions to make a green tomato relish, or Chow Chow.

Green tomatoes, red and green peppers

Chow Chow is one of those names that no one seems to have a concensus as to where it came from. Some believe the name “Chow Chow” comes from the Indian (as in India) word “chayote”. Others believe it is French “chou” meaning cabbage and still others believe it is either Chinese or the Hindu word “achar” for pickle.

“… Kevin West, the author of Saving the Season, explains that chow-chow is a relish traditionally made from end-of-season produce.

I call it a catchall relish because, although somebody might tell you that your grandmother made the one and only ‘right’ kind of chow-chow there is, in fact, there is no such thing as an objective standard,” West said. “You basically take whatever’s in the garden right before the last frost, and you grind it up.”

Then salt, vinegar, and spices like mustard seed, mustard powder, celery seed are added for flavor. The concoction is then sealed up in a jar and left to age.” (http://www.wnyc.org/story/last-chance-foods-chow-chows-southern-roots/).

Ingredients:
12 – large green Tomatoes, cored (about 20 small to med size)
3 – green bell peppers, seeded
1 extra large yellow onions
2 – red bell pepper, seeded
1 – tablespoon + 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 – tablespoons celery flakes
2 – cups apple cider vinegar
2 – cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:
Chop the tomatoes, peppers and onion. I use a wonderful invention called a “Vidalia Chop Wizard”. This neat little tool makes quick work of chopping. It took longer to core the tomatoes than it did to chop all the veggies combined. What a treat this gadget is. It is well worth it’s $20 price tag and gives you two different sizes to chop depending on whether you like your salsa chunky or not.

Vidalia Chop Wizard

Put the chopped vegetables in a large pot, add the mustard and celery, vinegar, kosher salt and sugar.

 

Adding vinegar to the vegetables in the pot

Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook stirring often and skimming as needed.

Simmer until the relish/chow chow cooks down and thickens into a relish, about 2 hrs.

I canned my relish using a hot water bath. It yielded six pints and two half pint jars. Unfortunately, I only had four new pint sealing lids, so two of the pints had to go in my refrigerator for use now.

Jars of canned green tomato relish

Recipe adapted from http://www.mommyskitchen.net/2009/07/tomatoes-tomatoes-everywhere-lets-make.html.

 

 

Mexican Chicken Casserole

I  love Mexican food. I don’t know what it is about it, but I would pick Mexican cuisine over just about anything else any day of the week. I love going into a Mexican restraurant and being served warm tortilla chips, the thinner the chip, the better. So it wasn’t any wonder when I saw a recipe on Facebook for a Mexican casserole, I knew I would have to try it. I changed the recipe up a little to better suit my family.

Photo of Mexican Chicken Casserole
Ingredients
1 lb. cooked chicken (breast or thigh) cubed or shredded
or 2-3 cans shredded chicken
1 packet taco seasoning
1 15 oz. can refried beans
2 cups Colby-Jack, Cheddar or Pizza cheese
1 can Rotelle tomatoes
1 (2 1/3 oz) can sliced black olives, drained
1/8 cup sliced jalapenos
2 cups crushed corn chips or tortilla chips
3 green onions, chopped
Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large skillet brown chicken in oil. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions by adding the amount of water stated on the package. Set aside. Heat refried beans in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until hot. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and can of Rotelle tomatoes., Stir until combined and cheese is melted.

Spray bottom of 8”x8” casserole dish with cooking spray and place crushed chips in the bottom of the dish. Pour bean mixture over the chips. Add taco meat on top of bean mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese on top of the taco meat and top the cheese with the chopped green onions, jalapenos and black olives.

Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and the caserole is heated through. Garnish servings with chopped tomatoes, sour cream and chips, if desired.

Yield 4 Yummy servings. My husband, son and I all loved this and it will be a definite to remake again (in the near future!)

To download a PDF version of this recipe, click here.

 

German Chocolate-Pecan Pie Bars

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
Two of my husband’s favorite desserts are German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting and Pecan Pie made from the old fashioned Karo Syrup recipe. When I saw a recipe on the web for these yummy sounding bars, I knew I had to give them a try. I love to bake, or to be more honest, I love to eat baked goods. But I’m truly into cutting corners whenever I can and making substitutions for whatever I may have on hand. It just so happened that I had a German Chocolate Cake mix on hand so instead of mixing all the ingredients for the cake which calls for unsweetened cocoa (which I have never had, bought, or even know really what is it–what’s the point if the chocolate isn’t sweet?) I decided to use the cake mix instead.

Yield: 24 bars (about 2-inch square)

Ingredients

3 cups pecan halves

Crust:
1 German Chocolate Cake Mix
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed

1 & 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or whatever chocolate you have on hand, or you can just omit then if you prefer)

3 large eggs
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Arrange pecans in a single layer of a shallow baking pan. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir halfway through baking. Obviously these pecans are not in a single layer, just all squished together showing other ingredients.

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Line bottom and sides of a 9″x 13″ baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two short sides. Grease foil.

Place the cake mix into a medium size bowl and combine butter with a pastry blender or knives or a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. (A pastry blender is definitely on my “to buy” list”.)

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Press mixture into bottom and about 3/4-inch up sides of prepared pan.
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Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over crust. Allow to cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.

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Place eggs in a large mixing bowl, and beat lightly. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour evenly over partially baked crust.

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Bake 28-34 minutes, or until edges are golden and filling has set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Then, refrigerate for an hour.

Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

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As I said earlier, I sometimes substitute whatever I have on hand. I didn’t have enough chocolate chips so I mixed milk chocolate chips with grated chocolate almond bark and sprinkled that over the baked crust. Personally, I think the recipe would be fine without any additional chocolate.

Both my husband and my oldest son loved these bars. I started to take them out of the glass pan, but realized it would be just as easy to remove the foil and leave them in the pan. I found it difficult when cutting the bars and cutting through a pecan not to squish the bar. I think next time (and there definitely will be a next time) after I toast the pecans, I will chop them for ease in cutting.

Adapted from Bake or Break German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Click here to Download a PDF of this recipe german choc pecan pie bars.

Crescent Cherry Cream Cheese Cobbler

Crescent Cherry Cream Cheese Cobbler

My husband and I own a camping lot in a rural recreation park about 100 miles away from our home. We have a pop-up camper that sits on the lot all year round and we try about once a month during the spring, summer and fall to spend a weekend there with our dogs, just communing with nature and mainly getting away from everyone and everything, especially the phone. Earl and "the girls"

Whenever we go, I like to make a couple meals ahead of time so all we have to do is heat the meal up in the microwave. (I didn’t say I liked RUSTIC camping!) So for this last weekend, I made a pot of chili, a breakfast casserole (Incredible Breakfast Bake) and this Crescent Cherry Cream Cheese Cobbler. My husband is always generous with his praise but I can tell the difference between when something is good (or passable–he’s a man, he will eat most anything) and when something is REALLY good. This dish rated a “Oh my gosh, this is absolutely GREAT!” I have to agree with him, and I don’t necessarily like cherry pie filling, but he and I finished off the entire thing in two days. Next time, (and there will definitely be a next time) I think I’ll make it strawberry!

Ingredients:

1 – 8 oz tube crescent rolls
8 oz block of cream cheese softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can cherry pie filling (or any flavor you prefer)
1/2 stick butter, melted (optional)

Icing:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbls. milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees
Spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Unroll the crescent rolls. Lay four (4) of the rolls in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread them out to cover the bottom of the baking dish, pinching the seams together as much as possible. Bake this layer for 5 minutes (this helps prevent the crust from getting soggy).

While this is baking, combine the cream cheese and 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth; add vanilla and beat again. Once the crust has cooled, spread the cream cheese mixture over the crescent rolls to within 1/2″ of the edge of the crescent roll.

Spoon pie filling over the cream cheese layer and spread evenly. Top this layer with the remaining four crescent rolls. Stretch the rolls as much as possible to cover all the pie filling. Pinch the dough seams and seal the top and bottom edges together.

Pour the melted butter over the crescent rolls, if desired. (I omitted this step to save just a few calories). Bake for 35-45 minutes (I baked mine for 40 minutes) or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cool, mix the remaining powdered sugar with milk, one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Either spread or drizzle icing over cooled crust. You can see from the photograph that I forgot to do that before I took the picture.

To download a PDF of this recipe, click here: Crescent Cherry Cream Cheese Cobbler photo

Adapted from thecountrycook.net