Monthly Archives: December 2009

Mary’s Memo #2142


Last March I shocked Paula Deen fans when I said I didn't need to return to the Lady and Sons Restaurant in Savannah since I'd "been there done that" in February. Like many of her fans, I find Paula very entertaining on TV and I do make many of her recipes but I was still disappointed in the food at Lady and Sons. Not to worry, though, because I'm sure my opinion hasn't hurt the restaurant one iota!

That said, I did include a Paula Deen recipe on this year's Christmas sheet and I'm about to share a most unusual brunch dish to welcome 2010. What attracted me to the recipe is that it's presented in a bell pepper. Paula used yellow and I have since used all yellow and also red and green. This dish will cost more to make during the winter when bell peppers tend to be expensive but cheaper in the summer when they're on sale for $1.00 or less.

I had a lot of trouble getting peppers to stand up in a baking dish the first time I made them until a non-culinary friend suggested that I bake them in muffin pan cups and it worked beautifully! Another tip is to choose similar size peppers with level looking bottoms so they'll stand up on the plate after they're baked. Don't try leveling them with a knife or the filling may leak out. I prepared the peppers early in the morning and refrigerated until it was time to bake them. Also, I used precooked bacon that I crisped according to package directions in the microwave (two strips per pepper, chopped).


4 large yellow bell peppers (or whichever color you prefer)
1 cup frozen country-style hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large eggs
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup baking mix (like Bisquick)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Additional Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove top 1/2 inch of peppers. Discard tops and seeds. Place peppers, cut side up in muffin cups. Fill bottom of each pepper with hash browns and cooked bacon. In large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, milk, baking mix, sour cream, green onion, salt and pepper. Whisk until combined. Pour egg mixture evenly into each pepper. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out dry. Garnish with additional cheese and a sprinkle of paprika if desired.

Source: Adapted from Paula Deen recipe.

There's little doubt that dips and spreads are welcomed by football game spectators on January 1 and Three Cheese Appetizer Spread will score a touchdown with tasters. There's enough filling for a 4-cup mold but I prefer to serve it in smaller quantities and replenish as needed.


1 envelope + 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (like Knox)

1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup Light Hellmann's Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared salad mustard
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 cups (8-ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (reduced-fat kind if available)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 ounce crumbled blue cheese
1 cup whipping cream (not whipped)
Mayonnaise for coating molds

Fresh parsley for garnish Soften gelatin in water in small sauce pan; place over low heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well; stir in gelatin mixture. Lightly coat a 4 cup mold or 6 individual molds with the additional mayonnaise; pour cheese mixture into mold or molds. Chill overnight or until firm. Unmold on serving dish. Garnish with sprig of parsley. Serve with assorted crackers. This recipe freezes well. Unmold when set and freeze on a tray. When frozen solid, store each in a freezer bag until needed (thaw in the refrigerator, of course). Recipe serves 6. Source: Adapted from Southern Living 1980 recipe.


Studies show that tea drinkers may live longer, have a healthier immune system and may even have lower stress levels than non-tea drinkers. "There are two ingredients unique to tea that contain antioxidant properties," says Nicole Small, RD, CNSD, a clinical dietitian at Weill Cornell Medical College. "the first is catechin, a member of the flavonoid family." Small notes that some studies have linked catechin to a decreased risk of cancer and diabetes, as well as an improved immune system and reduced stress and it may help combat bad breath.

"The other beneficial ingredient in tea is the amino acid theanine," Small says. "Theanine may help the body's immune response to infection by boosting T cells, which makes it potentially beneficial for people with HIV and AIDS." And everyone can benefit from a strengthened immune system, especially during the cold and flu season, because it helps the body fight infection and ward off illness.

All teas contain some of the same ingredients although the amounts vary on preparation. As a result, it's hard to say if one type of tea is healthier than another, but loose teas are better than packaged teas because the packaging can contain chemicals and additives. Most black teas and some Oolong teas should be prepared with boiling water. Green teas, white teas and lighter Oolongs should be steeped in water no hotter than 180F.

Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Food & Fitness Advisor, December 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! Download PDF of Memo #2142

Mary’s Memo #2141


Let's face it, even the most efficient person has a last minute gift to buy. Since you'll be at Chief or Rays stocking up on groceries for the holiday meal, pick up a Chief or Rays gift card or fix up a basket of goodies from Chief and Rays huge selection of holiday foods. Suggestions include one with a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers or for someone who likes to cook, a recipe and ingredients to make it. Or pick a Chief or Rays readymade basket from a simple to elaborate selection. There's one for every pocketbook. Cooking gadgets are also available and make excellent stocking stuffers. Consider the Hutzler vegetable savers in the produce department. They're made of sturdy plastic and dishwasher safe and look like the vegetable that's to be stored in it. Choose from yellow or red onion, bell pepper, tomato and now an herb or asparagus saver. They range in price from $2.99 to 5.99.

I even have a last minute cookbook suggestion: 400 Sensational Cookies by Linda J. Amendt (Robert Rose, September 2009, $24.95/paperback). Amendt has written the book for home bakers of all skills. Winner of the 2009 National Best Book Award in the Baking/Bread category, the book is filled with recipes for every occasion, any time of the year. Linda Amendt is an accomplished baker and home canner. She has won over 900 awards in food competitions across America. She is also author of several best selling cookbooks.

I picked a slice-and-bake cookie to share with you. Be sure to finely chop the unsalted almonds and dried cranberries for easier slicing and to prevent dough from crumbling.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted almonds

In bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt until well combined. Set aside. In large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium high speed, cream butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat well. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. Scrape down sides of bowl. On low speed or using a wooden spoon, gradually add flour mixture, beating just until blended. By hand, fold in cranberries and almonds. Divide dough in half. Shape each into a log 2-inches in diameter. Tightly wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350oF. Working with one log at a time, remove plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/4-inch slices.

Place about 1-inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time in preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges start to turn lightly golden. Immediately slide parchment paper onto a wire cooling rack. Cool cookies for 5 minutes, then transfer from parchment paper to cooling rack and cool completely. Recipe makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

Source: Recipe from 400 Sensational Cookies by Linda J. Amendt (Robert Rose, September 2009, $24.95/paperback).


It is important to establish traditions while your family is still at home. Years ago, we began the tradition of having soup on Christmas Eve. We don't always have the same one but we do have a hearty soup. This year it will be Sweet Potato Minestrone. It doesn't take long to make and it is so nutritious! You'll never miss the meat because it's about as flavorful as it can get! The original recipe was made with vegetable broth but I opted for Swanson chicken broth without MSG. Best of all, it's inexpensive to make.


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large ribs celery, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 14.5-ounce cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
5 cups Swanson low-fat MSG-free chicken broth
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 large carrots, sliced thin
6-ounces fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except Parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Give each serving a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Recipe serves 6. Source: Adapted from recipe.


Turkey was always the meat-of-choice for any holiday dinners at the Smith's and it's still our choice at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perdue (1-800-473-7383) and Butterball (1-800-288-8372) are offering tips on cooking turkey this holiday season or get advice from the USDA's meat and poultry hotline at 1888-MPHotline.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! Download PDF of Memo #2141

Mary’s Memo #2140


Memo readers have long known about my weakness for potato chips. I can't have a bag on hand to eat with a sandwich because in between sandwiches, I eat a handful now and a handful then and surprise they're gone! Thanks to Frito Lay's 14-ounce bags of Santitas Authentic Mexican Chips for only $2.00 a bag, I've been buying them instead of potato chips because I don't eat them in between sandwiches, guacamole or salsa. Not at all sure Frito Lay will approve of why I'm eating their latest tortilla chip but let the chips fall where they may.

And speaking of guacamole, Chief and Rays now have Rick Bayliss Frontera Guacamole Mix. Bayliss is award winning chef of Frontera/Topolobampo in Chicago, also cookbook author and host of PBS Mexico - One Plate a Time. Frontera Guacamole mix is all natural with no preservatives. Just mash 3 or 4 avocados, add the mix and dig in! Trust me, it's the best I've tasted!


During the past two months I've reviewed a lot of cookbooks but haven't said anything about Thank You, I'm Glad You Liked It that's been available since December, 2003. What I regret most about my book is that I missed a number of recipes that should have been included. Because I wasn't getting any younger, there was an urgency to get it done. How many times have I said "this recipe should have been in the cookbook?" Last time Mary Ann was here she mentioned a barbecued beef recipe that was originally in a Fort Riley, Kansas, cookbook that was purchased at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene. Once it's made, freeze in portions you're likely to need for a meal. To cut cost, watch for sales on chuck or blade cut roasts. I made this a lot when we were a family of six.


4 pounds boneless chuck roast
1 large rib of celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
14-ounces ketchup
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce (my choice is Montgomery Inn brand available at Chief and Rays)
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups water

Before cooking trim as much fat from the beef as possible. Put beef in large roaster pan. Mix other ingredients together and spoon over beef. Cover tightly and bake in a preheated 300oF oven for 4 to 5 hours or until the meat is tender and shreds easily with a fork. Recipe makes 10 generous servings. Source: Adapted from Fort Riley, Kansas, cookbook in the 70s. PS: I started with 48 cases of 24 cookbooks per case and I'm down to the last two full cartons.I have them with me at the Bryan Chief when I'm working and they can also be purchased at the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce office and in the gift shop at Sauder Farm and Craft Village.


The CorningWare(R) many of us have had for years is no longer made in the USA. The company is now owned by World Kitchens. To avoid thermal shock be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for its use. No longer take a casserole from the freezer to the oven. Instead, make sure the food is completely thawed in the refrigerator before baking. I have two pieces of CorningWare(R) made in China. The one casserole dish has a cover and a gel-filled bag that can be heated for transport of hot dishes or frozen to keep dishes cold. I bought it specifically to use at Chief. The other one is ivy patterned 9x13-inch dish that doesn't have a cover or carrier. The problem is that World Kitchens has cheapened the process. The borosilicate used in America that is very resistant to thermal shock has been replaced with soda lime glass that is very inexpensive. Some of you who can afford safer alternatives might want to look at Emile Henry pieces made in France or Le Creuset stoneware both of which can be moved from the refrigerator or freezer with no problems. They also come in vibrant modern colors instead of boring white. Do I have either? The answer is no but they're on my wish list. Keep in mind, though, that in spite of my age, I'm still thinking young about anything for the kitchen! Look for Emile Henry and Le Creuset cookware at places like Williams Sonoma and Sur la table.


Chocolate Rum Mounds were also marked with a green dot to go into my cookbook.


1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons rum extract
1 3/4 cups unsifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Frosting Preheat oven to 375F. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Blend in chocolate and rum extract. Mix dry ingredients together and add alternately with milk to butter mixture. Mix in pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until firm to touch. Cool on rack, then frost. To make frosting, cream together 1 square of melted unsweetened baking chocolate, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon softened butter, 2 tablespoons light cream, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons rum extract. Recipe makes 5 dozen. They also freeze well between layers of parchment paper. Download PDF of Memo #2140

Mary’s Memo #2139


I may outgrow the excitement that comes with Christmas but I doubt it. It's an especially busy time for those of us who like to cook and bake. At some point this month I'll be cooking for more than me and that's a happy thought! It's especially fun to team up with Mary Ann who loves to cook as much as I do. The last few years we've made Christmas cookies Thanksgiving weekend for both of us, at least the kind that freezes well. She uses a different cut-out cookie recipe than me so we're on our own making those. Even though I have more cookie cutters than I can count, like Mary Ann I now make only a couple shapes. Last year it was a tree and a bell. It doesn't take as much time to frost them and time is of essence just before Christmas.

I do give away a lot of Daddy's Peanut Brittle and I've already started making it. The trouble is the people in our family are each of the opinion that their candy is best. What we need is a Bobby Flay "throw down" with an impartial panel of judges! The peanut brittle makers in addition to me include Mary Ann, my brother, my brother in-law and my nephew. Too bad Daddy isn't here to judge our efforts. However, I do know he's happy that several of us are carrying on the Smith tradition of giving many pounds away at Christmastime.


The food pantries can use money or food donations any time of the year. I know from talking to the Outreach people in Bryan that canned beef or chicken is especially appreciated. Now more than ever, they are in need of donations because the unemployed are having difficulty making ends meet. Proceeds from Cooking with Chief/Rays cookbooks are being donated to food pantries wherever there's a Chief or Rays. I have already given away one of the cookbooks as a birthday gift and I plan to give more. So help the food pantries and do some Christmas shopping at the same time. A few weeks ago at the Bryan Chief I served Corn and Sausage Soup from the new cookbook.


1 pound smoked sausage, regular or reduced-fat
1 large onion, chopped
3 large potatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups water

Cut sausage into small chunks and brown in a large heavy roaster. Remove from pot and saute onion. Return sausage to pan and add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove half the potatoes with a slotted spoon and mash with a potato masher. Return to pan. Add: 1 15-ounce can cream style corn 1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, undrained 1 12-ounce can
evaporatedmilk Stir and cover. Heat just to boiling. This soup does not freeze well but it is great reheated.

Source: Cooking with Chief, Favorite Recipes by Chief Family and Friends" via Margie Bentley, Celina.


One weapon against heart disease, a new study suggests, may simply be a positive attitude. Optimists were found to be less prone to coronary heart disease than people who are cynical and hostile. Hilary A. Tindle, MD, MPH, of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues looked at date on nearly 100,000 women who were initially free of heart disease and cancer. Two standard personality tests were used to assess optimism and "cynical hostility." The most cynical-hostile women suffered heart disease at a rate of 56 events per 10,000 women, compared to 44 for the least cynical hostile; rates also dropped as optimism scores increased. Dr. Tindle noted that optimists tend to cope with stress in healthier ways and to build strong social connections, whereas cynicism and hostility "may impair the stress- buffering effects of social support."

Source: Tufts Health&Nutrition Letter, October 2009.


It's been years since I've made Peanut Butter Temptations but I tried them again this fall. I first saw the recipe in Southern Living magazine but I'm thinking it was a Hershey recipe originally. If a Reese Peanut Butter Cup is one of your favorites this is a "must do" for Christmas!


36 unwrapped Reese's miniature Peanut Butter Cups (12-ounce package)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Jiff)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375F. Line small muffin cups (1 3/4 inches in diameter) with paper liners (Wilton has them with Christmas motif). In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape dough into 36 balls; place one in each prepared muffin cup. Do not flatten. Bake 10 to 12 minutes (I baked 10 minutes) until puffed and lightly browned; remove from the oven and immediately press peanut butter cup onto each cookie. Cool completely in muffin pan. Recipe makes 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from Southern Living recipe in the 80s (I think). Download PDF of Memo #2139