A’Tempting’ Tuesday: Cornbread Dressing and Memories

Cornbread Dressing

I started my love of cooking at a very young age. I remember making my mom lunch during the summers when she came home from work, probably at about the age of 11.  Back then, I’m told it was a lot of gravy and garlic.  Fortunately, things have improved.

Many of my recipes and favorite dishes were handed down from my Mother and grandmothers, many I’ve made up.  Quite honestly, most are prepared from memory.  This can be good and bad.  It’s quite convenient because I don’t have to keep up with a recipe for a lot of the things I cook often.   However, when someone asks how I’ve prepared something,

“a little of this, and a dash of that until it looks goods” is not a very good answer.

This happened to me recently when my aunt called and wanted a recipe for my mom’s Cornbread Dressing.  I make it like my mom did.  She made it like her mom did.  Basically, we take the ingredients, stir them together and taste until it’s right.  We bake until it looks good.  Really, that’s it.

While the ingredients remain the same every time, I have no recipe or measurements for said ingredients, only the memories of learning to prepare it with my mother and grandmother.  Even today, when reliving those days of my childhood when we lived next door to my grandmother, I can almost smell that dressing baking in the oven and begging to be covered in gravy made from the turkey drippings.  My grandparents, my mom, my sister and I, as well as my aunt and uncle spent many a Thanksgiving in that tiny house on Hickory Street in Marshall, Texas.  It’s funny how my aunt asking me for a recipe can bring back so many memories.

In the absence now of my mom and grandmother, I guess I am now the holder of the recipe.  I don’ t know whether to feel flattered or just old!  When my aunt wanted my mom’s recipe  I panicked a little.  I really couldn’t tell her to make some cornbread and throw a handful of a bunch of “stuff” in it and bake at 350 for a “little while.”

So, I put on my queen of everything hat and this is the recipe I came up with.

Keep in mind,  this is one of those “to taste” kind of recipes.  Many of the measurements are approximate and up to the taste of the cook.

Gram Gram’s and Mom’s Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing

  • Cornbread (I sometimes make it from scratch, other times I use whatever mix is on sale. A sweeter cornbread is really nice in this recipe.  Either way, I make two batches.)
  • 2-4 cups chicken or turkey broth (I make fresh broth by boiling a chicken, adding salt and pepper, chopped celery and onion — 3/4-1 cup each.  I debone the chicken and use that at another time). 
  • 4 tablespoons rubbed sage (or to taste.  I tend to go a little heavier on the sage)
  • 3 to 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 or 3 pieces of dry toast made from your favorite bread, crumbled (I dry on low heat in the oven and prefer plain old white bread)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I really like to use celery salt for added flavor instead of regular salt)
  •  2 Green onions, chopped (optional)

Prepare the broth.  I boil the chicken, adding chopped onion and celery as it cooks.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Better seasoned your broth, means less work on the finished product.  I often make the broth a night or two ahead of time, putting away the deboned chicken for another use.  If you are from the south and prefer giblet gravy with your dressing, the giblets can be boiled and chopped at this time.

Bake the cornbread, whether it be from a mix or from scratch.  I generally prepare two batches of cornbread using a large cast iron skillet.  I do this a day or two ahead if I can too.  When ready to prepare the dressing, finely crumble the cornbread into a large baking pan or 13X9 casserole dish. There is no need to butter or spray the pan.

Dry the toast  right on the rack in the oven.  Crumble and add to the crumbled cornbread.

Pour about 2 cups broth into the cornbread/toast mixture and stir.  Add more as needed.  You don’t want it watery, but you don’t want it dry either.  In the end, you want a firm, wet mixture.  You shouldn’t be able to pour off any liquid.  Add the rubbed sage, pepper and salt or celery salt to taste at this point.   Like I said, I stir and taste until I think it tastes good.  Any leftover broth can be put aside to use when making your gravy.

Stir in the chopped boiled eggs and green onions, if you want them.  Some people add the egg raw (especially those who make a more traditional stuffing), but I really like them boiled.  The green onion is not necessary, but I think it adds a little more freshness and color to the dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until it starts to dry and brown on top.  It should be a little moist, but not wet.  I start checking it at about 45 minutes, but it almost always winds up cooking for about 1.25 to 1.5 hours.  You can serve straight from the baking pan, with your choice of gravy available for topping.  (Gravy is a must!)

Cook’s Notes and Tool Talk:

  • As I said, you can bake the cornbread from scratch or use a mix. It really depends on your preference, your time and what you have on hand. We really prefer a sweeter cornbread for dressing. Jiffy in a box is an excellent choice. However, my hubby is now diabetic so I’ve had to adjust what I use. I just add a couple tablespoons of Splenda to my cornbread batter (scratch or mix). I think baking the cornbread in a cast-iron skillet is a must. The brown, crunchy texture the cast iron gives to the cornbread is perfect in the dressing.  My favorite skillet is one from one of my grandmothers.  I don’t even know how old it is.
  •  I generally keep a can of chicken broth on hand in case I run out of my freshly prepared broth.  Any leftover broth I use to make the gravy.  As we generally fry our turkey, I usually need extra when it comes time for gravy as there is no turkey drippings when frying.  To make the gravy, brown 2 tablespoons of flour in 2 tablespoons butter (not margarine) over medium heat until a light brown. It’s a good idea to stir constantly.  Add broth, about a cup at a time, stirring over medium heat until you reached your desired consistency.  If gravy is too thick, add more liquid.  If it’s too thin, you can thicken with a tiny bit of cornstarch dissolved in cold water and stirred into the gravy. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  • If you roasted your bird, you can thicken your drippings right in the roasting pan using the water/corn flour mixture.  Flour dissolved in cold water will also work.  Just make sure you dissolve the flour in the water before adding it to you hot drippings so you don’t have lumps.

I hope you enjoy.  I know this recipe is still a little vague.  However, short of burning it, you really can’t mess this up.  Writing this recipe down has actually started me on yet another Cooking, Crafting and Chaos journey.  My daughter may some day want some of these recipes.  My niece has asked me for a few.  So, I’m making a conscious effort to record how I prepare many of my older recipes.  Next, I think I need to record Banana Pudding, one of my daughter’s (and best friend’s) favs!  But first ….

NEXT TIME:  Crock Pot Candy

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Not much crafting going on … but a lot of making memories

Christmas with Taylor

It’s finally Friday, y’all!  I missed last Friday, but for good reason.

We had such a wonderful time over the Thanksgiving holiday visiting my husband’s family.  They just happen to live in the same city my daughter goes to college in, making it that much more enjoyable.

This is the first time we’ve gone away from home for Thanksgiving in several years,  so I didn’t plan well.  I came home already behind on holiday decorating, which I normally do the weekend after Thanksgiving.  One of the items on my Cooking, Crafting and Chaos “bucket list” is to have a holiday planner or binder for next year.  I’ve already made note to include checklist items such as preparing ahead of time for Christmas decorating should we travel for Thanksgiving again.    We also came home to an empty kitchen, so I think I should plan ahead for some meals on our  return as well.

It’s all good though, because it was well worth it.   I don’t have much in the way of new craft projects to share here, but  I was able to help my daughter decorate her first apartment for Christmas and do a little “crafting” for her bedroom.  She and I had so much fun with my mother-in-law working on these projects.  Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?  Crafting memories?

All is not lost!  I actually have a small craft to share with you after all.  I just got word from my daughter (after she reminded me she will be 20 in exactly one month!  Ugh!!  Where has the time gone?) that she received her finals week goody box, so I can share a card I included.  I thought it turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself, and was a fun way to tell her to just “hang in there.”

photo (6)b

You’ll probably see me share a lot of handmade cards. I love sending cards and I love making them.  I can usually make them from my stash of paper scraps, and they give immediate gratification when I need to get in a little quick crafting.

My “girl cave” is currently full of projects I’m working on.  I hope to finish them all soon and have photos to share.   My projects include a mini-album of our Thanksgiving weekend, a new holiday banner for our mantle and a “December Daily” album that contains a scrapbook page for every day in December.  You are my witnesses.  It’s written here, so I am committed!!

Projects are moving along slower than I’d like, but I am doing them.

Until next time…

Tool Talk:   I stayed true to my promise to myself on all the items I made to include in my daughter’s box of goodies.  I bought no new supplies.  I made the card using my Silhouette Cameo and a cut file purchased for a previous project.  I just used a basic kraft card base and envelope I already had in my stash, and paper from an older stack by K&Company.  The smaller accents were made from scraps.

A’Tempting’ Tuesday: A Very Christmasy Cookie

Cookies
Whew! I’m really behind. We traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday for the first time in years, so I am not only behind on blogging, but also decorating. I still have Fall pumpkins all over my house.

I am a firm believer in leaving the Fall décor until the day after Thanksgiving, but on that day we were six hours away from home. It was worth it though, as we had a wonderful time visiting my in-laws and spending time with our daughter in her college town.

But, now we are “that” house on the block with no lights up yet, or no Christmas tree in the window. Fortunately, my recipe for today is definitely a holiday one and has me in the mood to decorate.  Since it is now December 3, I must get a move on.  But, first the cookies!

I’m invited to a cookie exchange this weekend. I really wanted to do something festive that I haven’t done before. I definitely have some great cookie recipes that are always a go-to, but decided it was time to try something new. I had a “friendsgiving” get together at my house recently so in preparation for the exchange, I made my friends my guinea pigs.

I picked this cookie mainly because of its holiday ingredients and appearance.  It calls for candy cane “dust.”  Doesn’t that just bring visions of Santa’s elves hard at work in the North Pole’s bakery?

I also chose these because my son is very much a fan of chocolate, minty-type things. This recipe for Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Candy Cane Buttercream fit the bill. It is definitely minty, and is a very pretty and festive cookie. My photo here really does not do it justice. Its appearance just screams “holiday”. Crushed candy canes give the buttercream frosting that is sandwiched between to chocolate cookies a pink color, with little flecks of red running through.

Again, this recipe came courtesy of another blogger, who I think found it from another. You can find the post I got it from HERE.

This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir. Continue to melt in 30 second increments until fully melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.

With an electric or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Beat in the sugars, scraping down the sides every 10 seconds or so. The mixture will be granular.

Mix in the beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated.

Add the chocolate in a steady stream and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients on slow speed.

Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Scoop about 1 Tbsp of dough and roll into a slightly flattened ball.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft. They will firm up as they cool.

Candy Cane Buttercream
3/4 cup (1.5) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2.5 – 3 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk (I prefer heavy cream in frostings)
1/2 cup candy cane dust (about 8-10 candy canes ground to a fine dust in a food processor)
Crushed candy canes for rolling, optional (I did not do this)

Beat the butter for 1 minute with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
Add 2.5 cups of sifted powdered sugar and slowly mix on low speed.
Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 1 Tablespoon of cream/milk. Beat for about 1 minute.
Manually stir in candy cane dust.
If your buttercream needs to be thicker, add more powdered sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk/cream.

Frost the bottom end of a cooled cookie and top with another to make a sandwich.

Cook’s Notes: 

  • I premeasured everything before I began preparing the cookies.  I know this makes more mess to clean up, but baking is so much quicker and easier when I do this.  I don’t mind washing a few more prep bowls and measuring cups.
  • The original recipe I used called for sifting the ground candy canes before putting them in the butter cream.  I did not do this and it was fine.  If you pulverize it enough I don’t feel there is a need for the sifting.
  • This is a really, really sweet cookie.  Almost too sweet for my taste.  I do recommend using the dash of salt in the buttercream to cut some of the sweetness.
  • I did not prepare extra crushed candy canes to “roll” the cookie sandwich in.  I think for the exchange I will roughly crush candy canes of a different color, maybe green.

Tool Talk: 

  • I would recommend using a stand mixer with paddle attachment for the cookie dough if you have one.  (My Kitchen Aid Professional stand mixer is my pride and joy.)   It could certainly be done with a hand mixer, but the dough is really thick and is handled much easier with a stand mixer.

All in all, this batch of cookies was a success and I think they will work quite well for the cookie exchange.  As I mentioned above, it is a very sweet cookie.  Although they are good, one cookie is almost too much for my taste because of the sweetness.  I may try making smaller cookies for the exchange.

Hopefully by Friday, I will have some handmade tags for the cookie “packages” to share with you.

Until next time, enjoy….

Next Week:  Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing

I am a hoarder!

Hi y’all. It’s Finally Friday!

Let me introduce myself. My name is Shelly. I am a hoarder.

I admit it. I am a hoarder of craft supplies. I love trips to craft stores and scrapbook shops. I shop online. And, I am always on the lookout for a good bargain. Very rarely do I buy anything that is not on sale or that I do not have a coupon for. This is great; however, I have managed to amass quite a selection of supplies — mostly paper crafting.

There is a downside. Problem A — finding time to use all the supplies I purchase and collect. I am making a concerted effort to make time for projects and will share some of those as I go. Problem B — finding room to store all these supplies in an organized manner that makes using my “stash” easy and convenient. Quite often, problem A feeds into problem B creating a never-ending cycle.

When I have a project I need or want to do, I often just go buy more supplies as it’s easier than rummaging around in my girl cave looking for what I need. Thus, I have a spare “bedroom” (that no longer has a bed) overstuffed with an endless supply of paper, ribbon, crafting tools, embellishments and sadly, lots of unfinished projects.

As I am beginning my Cooking, Crafting and Chaos journey, one of my challenges for myself is to craft with what I have — not only do projects, but be very diligent in using the products I have, only buying something when absolutely necessary.

As I typed the last part of  the previous sentence I chuckled a little. I know, and those who know me know there will be trips to the craft store. There will be new styles and newfound bargains, and there will be that new product every now and then that “I just have to have.” I must be realistic.  I will make new purchases but I plan to keep myself in check and continue to use up my hoard.

My first project in this journey came out of necessity.  When I took the Halloween décor off my front door a couple of weeks ago, I had nothing to replace it with.  I had a tired wreath that looked absolutely awful.  I’m not sure what I put on my door last year, but I’m sure it wasn’t this.  I decided to make a wreath, and thought this might be the perfect time to repurpose the old one by joining it with some supplies I already had.

I did have a wooden door hanging and one roll of mesh ribbon that I purchased this season for half off at Hobby Lobby.  I used the hanging and a portion of the ribbon on my wreath.  In all, I think I spent about $6 creating this.

With glue gun in hand,  this is what I started with:

Fotor1115152022

I pulled the decorations off the old wreath.  I re-used the grapevine wreath and a couple of the floral picks.  I added some burlap ribbon I already had to the mix.

The bottom portion of the hanging looked a little blank, so I used some vinyl left over from another project to create a stencil using my Silhouette Cameo.  I also used Martha Stewart orange craft paint and some felt fall leaves left over from a Halloween costume.

Fotor1115152231

My door looks much better.  I know this was a simple project.  I am sure you’ve seen much better wreaths.  I have.  But,  I took the first step in a challenge I made to myself — to use what I had and to share my progress here.

Toolbox Talk: I cut the stencil using my Silhouette Cameo.  The Silhouette is one of my very, very favorite craft room tools.  The possibilities are endless with this electronic cutting tool.  I’ve helped my children make school projects.  I’ve scrapbooked.  I’ve created original art.  I’ve created stencils to use in etched glass projects.  I’ve used it to make patterns when adding rhinestones to clothing.  You will hear me talk about this machine quite often and I hope to eventually do some tutorials using it.

Look for some more favorite things and craft  projects on Fridays in the weeks to come.

Until next time….