Food for Friday

Seriously, I really don’t know why I’m trying to make it summer already, when the kids have at least a month more of school (the World’s Greatest Niece graduates in exactly 30 long days!) and summer doesn’t come scientifically until way, way on over in June (the 21st.  at 7:23 a.m.).    It’s just so warm and sunny today (81 degrees) and we’re expecting that summer storm stuff tomorrow (hail, wind, tornadoes, cats & dogs from the sky, etc.).  Oh well .. you’ll just have to work with me.

Summer in the Country, from Gooseberry Patch, has the stuff I’m jonesing for, from  Sweet Summer Mornings and An Old-Fashioned Picnic to Come By For Pie … & More!  I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my blueberry crop this year, so I’m thinking an award-winning cake might be a good choice for today, especially one that incorporates my love of lemon, too.  Check out my blueberry blossoms – looks like a good harvest is on the horizon!

Blueberry Citrus Cake

1 package lemon cake mix
1/2 C plus 2 T orange juice
1 C water
1/3 C oil
3 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 C fresh or frozen blueberries
1 T orange zest
1 T lemon zest
1 C powdered sugar
Garnish:  lemon and orange zest

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, 1/2 cup orange juice, water, oil, and eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds.  Increase speed to medium; beat for 2 minutes.  With a wooden spoon, gently fold in blueberries and zests.  Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt® pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool completely in pan on wooden rack.  Turn out of pan.  Blend remaining orange juice and powdered sugar until smooth; drizzle over cake.  Sprinkle with zests.  Serves 10 to 12.

Wow, that sounds so light and refreshing and delicious!  I think I’d serve that as a special side bread with a light chicken salad (the kind you make with grapes and pecans, or maybe a curried chicken salad) just for fun!  (Okay, now I’m going home to make myself some chicken curry.)

I’m willing to stretch summer out as long as you’ll let me this year, especially on days like today.  Tomorrow, I may be making a hearty stew to combat the rain, but today .. today is for a slice of cake and a frosty lemonade on the patio at the end of the day .. enjoy!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

I have signed up to bring a dessert pizza to a gathering this weekend.  Please hold while I see if I can find a recipe for the same downstairs.

Hurrah for Paula Deen!  Found a wonderful little collection titled The Lady & Sons Just Desserts.  Oh yeah!  (I happen to love her Key Lime Pie , the one that uses four egg yolks is the best.)  Simply organized into categories such as cakes, pies, cookies & bars, and “More Sweet Things,” this cook book opens with three lovely family stories and a terrific section called “Hints & Tips” that includes instructions for peeling a coconut.  Good stuff!

Best of all, there’s a scrumptious recipe that I can use on Sunday.

Banana Split Brownie Pizza

20 oz box Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix (plus ingredients to prepare)
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained, juice reserved
2 T sugar
2 bananas, sliced and tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning
1 C fresh strawberries, sliced
1 C chopped nuts
Chocolate ice cream topping or chocolate syrup for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 15-inch pizza pan.

Prepare brownie mix according to directions on box.  Pour onto prepared pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until done.  Cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, pineapple, and sugar together in a bowl.  Use any reserved pineapple juice at this time if needed to soften mixture to a good spreading consistency.  Spread mixture over brownie crust.  Arrange banana and strawberry slices over cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts and drizzle with chocolate topping.  Refrigerate.

Slice like a pizza and enjoy!  Serves 8 to 10.
C = Cup; T = Tablespoon.

Yummy in my tummy, I’m thinking!

Enjoy the remaining sunshine and the crazy classic cars and have a great weekend, everyone!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Well, looking out the window this week, it really appears that half of America, at least the half we can see here in the South, is on the move again for 2010!  Lots of cars and conveyances, and with spring having sprung and grass having greened, lots of campers and RVs passing through on their way to our beautiful area campgrounds.  Down in the Gift Gallery I picked up a copy of the perennial favorite Easy RV Recipes by Ferne Holmes, an excellent collection for the traveling cook.

In addition to plenty of recipes for every occasion (including both cooking with fresh meat and cooking with canned meat, the challenges of which I had never thought about before), Ferne starts off with equipment suggestions, hints for traveling cooks, menu suggestions, and a complete pantry list with supplies for two people traveling for two weeks.  How helpful is that!  Of course, I have friends who spent about 10 years living & traveling in their RV – boy, do they have some great stories to tell!

So, I didn’t realize you can buy canned roast beef & gravy, I’m going to look for it next time I’m at the market, because you can use it for almost any beef dish and quite a few chilis, too.  As the title claims, these recipes are quite easy, and the lists of ingredients say that they are tasty, too.  I think that even folks cooking in kitchens without wheels underneath would appreciate a few of these easy recipes as well.

Chile Pie

1 can (16 oz) Chile con Carne with beans
2 T dried onion (minced or chopped
1 C cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/2 C buttermilk baking mix
1 C milk (fresh or canned)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)

Spread chile in an 8- or 9-inch pie pan and sprinkle with onion and one-half cup cheese.  Combine baking mix, milk and egg and mix well.  Pour over chile; sprinkle with rest of cheese and paprika.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes.  Knife should come out clean when inserted into middle of the pie.  Makes 3 to 4 servings.  [And I love that you actually cook it in a pie pan, since it’s called pie!  I never would have thought of that.]

Chicken Goody Hot Dish

1-1/2 C canned or cooked chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 C water
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 T soy sauce
1 T dried onion (minced or chopped)
1 T dried parsley
1-1/4 C uncooked instant rice
1/2 C cheddar cheese (shredded)

Combine first eight ingredients and mix well.  Pour into greased casserole.  Sprinkle with cheese and paprika.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Makes 4-6 servings.  [I don’t often prepare baked dishes that have mayonnaise as an ingredient, but I’ll bet it gives this casserole a really nice zip.  I would definitely try this at home!]

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon

If life puts you on the highway this year, I hope it winds through East Tennessee ~ and if it happens in the next few weeks, please come and enjoy the dogwoods & azaleas with us!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

There really is no such thing as a simple gumbo, is there?  I’ve been in the grip of a wonderful chest cold all week ~ hurrah for the first week of real spring weather and being hit by the Mack truck of colds! ~ and longing for a delicious bowl of gumbo to restore my senses and my spirits

.. but all the recipes I have found call for about fortyleventeen ingredients, and I don’t have the strength to stand up long enough to measure and chop all that stuff!  I’m even looking at a recipe that calls for peeling and deveining a pound of shrimp and ends 20 ingredients later with fresh crabmeat and a jar of pimentos.  What’s wrong with these chefs?  I’m weak, weak I tell ya’!  I need something easy.

Crockpot time!  I grabbed a copy of the Best of the Best from Tennessee Cookbook, and found an easy one-pot soup that should get me through the weekend.  It’s not gumbo, that will have to wait for now.  Maybe a reader has an easy gumbo recipe to send me?

Five-Can Slow-Cooker Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 can pinto beans
1 can ranch-style beans
1 can tomatoes with chiles
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can corn (creamed or whole kernel)
1 packet ranch salad dressing mix
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2 T chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
(all cans approximately 15 oz size)

Brown the ground beef and onion in a skillet, stirring until the beef is crumbly; drain well; spoon into slow cooker.  Add, without draining, all the canned ingredients.  Stir in seasoning packets and cilantro and mix everything well.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Delicious with corn bread and a green salad.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I think I can stand long enough to open 5 cans and cook the beef.  This sounds pretty tasty, really.  I’m intrigued to find out how the flavors of the seasoning packets blend with the vegetables and beef during the slow cooking process.  And it’s great that we have so many more canned options available these days, like the seasoned tomatoes – a real time-saver.

Another extraordinary day here in the valley – I said I’d report on the high mountain white stuff – still a few stubborn spots lingering up there, but I know they’ll be gone soon.

I hope it’s an extraordinary day and weekend wherever you are!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Yay!  It’s almost Monday!  Are you excited about that, too??  Well, I plan to watch me some basketball this weekend – Go Butler Bulldogs!  They pulled off a big win (upset!) last night, and I sure hope they can continue in the NCAA  tournament.  Oh, and of course, the Tennessee Vols are playing tonight.

I was thinking about all the game-watching that will be happening this weekend, and the volume of chips and salsa that are likely to be consumed .. which sent me in search of a quick recipe for homemade salsa.  I have a couple of friends, a brother & sister, who like to compete on the quality of their homemade salsa ~ the trick being that they get to use ingredients they’ve grown fresh in their gardens!  I am hoping to learn about gardening this summer from Sam & Marie, but until then I’ll have to use my local grocer instead.

Already thinking about summer gardens, I found this Gooseberry Patch volume down in the gallery:  Farmers’ Market Favorites.  Of course, it includes ideas for everything from Sunny Starters for the Day to Sprouting Sandwiches and Fresh Baked Desserts.  I pulled this recipe from Farm Kitchen Snacks & Beverages.

Quick & Easy Summer Salsa

Farmers' Market Favorites

10 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 C fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 C red onion, chopped
1 T vinegar
1/2 C olive oil
juice of 2 key limes

Combine all ingredients (except chips) in a bowl.  Stir to blend.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups.  Serve with tortilla chips.  It’s also terrific if you can’t wait for the chilling ~ enjoy it warm from the garden.

Here’s a Gooseberry Patch note:  Almost any fresh veggie can be added to a favorite salsa recipe.  Try stirring in chopped peppers, green onions, minced garlic and sweet corn.

If you’ve got a hearty supply of chips, you might also want to try Lynda’s Spinach-Feta Dip, made with Greek yogurt, feta cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and fresh spinach and dill weed.  Or, Veggie Mini Pizzas made with pita rounds for the crust, topped with fresh spinach and plum tomatoes.  Yum!

Good luck to your team if you have one in the running, and I’ll be waiting for the farmer’s market.  I have a feeling that Sam & Marie will just be starting me off with weeding in that garden …

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

While looking through an old collection of recipes last week, I came across one that a friend from Indiana shared with me some years ago.  It’s been so long, I don’t even remember which friend, but I remember that it’s delicious.  This take on cabbage salad has an interesting twist ~ it does include Ramen noodles, but you toast them for an extra crunch and snap of flavor.

Oriental Cabbage Salad

Salad Base
1 bag coleslaw mix
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Mix together in a large bowl.

1 stick butter/margarine
2 bags Ramen noodles, crushed (do not use spice packets)
1 small bag slivered almonds
1 T sesame seeds
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add remaining ingredients and toast until golden, stirring very frequently.  Drain and coll on paper towels.

1/2 C sugar
1/4 C vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2/3 C oil
Combine sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small pan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Add oil.

Keep all your elements separate until just before serving.  Add the topping to the salad base; shake the dressing well and pour over the top.  Toss all together and serve.

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon

Keeping the ingredients separate and mixing single salad servings makes for better leftovers with this salad.  I know this is one I’ll be serving again and again this spring – I’m so glad to have rediscovered it!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place


Food for Friday

I’m sure you’re mostly out there gleefully spending your tax refunds on the most delightful things this year .. but for those who owe, there’s another way to go.  Dinner$ on a Dime, from Gooseberry Patch, offers frugal recipe options for feeding the family.  Chapters include Shoestring Suppers, Cent-sational Sides,  and Cheap Sweets.

By the way, I just noticed that on their website,, they accept recipes, tips, crafts, and memories for possible inclusion in future publications.  Kind of fun!  No surprise that they always have the best stuff in their wonderful books.

Have you got a party coming up on the calendar?  Here’s a cute recipe from the Budget-Friendly Gatherings chapter.  I just love the name:

Texas Cowboy Caviar

15 oz can shoepeg corn, drained
16 oz can black-eyed peas, drained & rinsed
16 oz can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
16 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 onion, chopped
1 C celery, shopped
1 C green pepper (or red/yellow/orange), chopped
Optional:  4 oz jar pimentos, drained
your favorite corn chips (Janet likes blue corn chips, fyi)

1 C oil
1 C white vinegar
1 C sugar

Combine all ingredients except corn chips in a serving bowl.  Combine dressing ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling.  Cook until thickened; remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Drizzle  dressing over beans and vegetables, toss to mix.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour to overnight; drain any liquid before serving.  Serve with corn chips.  Will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Sounds like an easy and fun way to feed a crowd!

Well, the rain has finally arrived, just in time for the weekend – and the Holly and Shamrock Parade tomorrow in Gatlinburg!  I hope St Nicholas and St Patrick  can agree to share an umbrella – I’m sure it will be great fun, whatever the weather.

Have a great weekend – and don’t forget to check out the 16th Annual A Mountain Quiltfest here in Pigeon Forge, too.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

I found this pretty little cook book in the gallery this afternoon, Best of the Holidays, by Dot Gibson.  It’s a best-of collection from three other volumes, and it’s all about sweets and treats for holiday celebrations and gift giving.  No main dishes here, just great choices for parties and snacking, heavy on the appetizers, cookies, and candies, with beverages, breads, cakes, pies, and muffins for good measure.  Have you ever had “Better Than Robert Redford”?  It’s in here, under an assumed name, of course.

Many of the recipes are quite easy and elegant, and this would really be a go-to cook book if you like to entertain – even year round.  Why use all those pans only in November and December?

I thought I’d share two recipes, one because I’ve never heard of the idea; the other, because it’s one of my favorite sweet treats.

Mayonnaise Biscuits

1 C self-rising flour
1/2 C milk
1 T mayonnaise
2 T butter, divided

Put 1/2 teaspoon of butter in each muffin tin.  Place in oven until melted.  Mix flour, mayonnaise, and milk; pour into tins.  Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?  Sounds so easy and kind of interesting ~ I really wonder what shape and texture they have.

The next recipe requires a candy thermometer ~ luckily I happen to have one ~ to go along with my sweet tooth .. like this new elf from Mark Roberts’ collection.

Louisiana Pralines

1-1/2 C granulated sugar
1-1/2 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 C corn syrup
1/8 t salt
1 C evaporated milk
4 T margarine
1 t vanilla
1-1/2 C pecan pieces

Combine the sugars, corn syrup, salt, milk, and margarine in a large, heavy saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Stir frequently until mixture reaches 236 degrees on candy thermometer or until it forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water.  Remove from heat and cool for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and nuts and beat with wooden spoon until mixture begins to thicken.  Quickly drop by spoonfuls onto greased foil.  Allow to cool.

Yuuuummmmmmm .. I have nothing more to say.  I once took a pralines tour of all the sweet shops in downtown New Orleans.  That was a great day!

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = teaspoon

We’re looking at some really sweet weekend weather here – hope you are, too.  Spring is coming!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

So, earlier this week our complex manager and January’s employee of the month, Diana, not to mention any names or anything, asked for a recipe with five ingredients or less!  Apparently, she’s a little tired when she gets home from managing the staff and guests for this whole place, go figure ..  So I thought for sure I’d find one of those 5-ingredients cookbooks down in Mrs. Claus’ Parlor ~ but no luck.

Luckily, I found Fast-Fix Meals from Gooseberry Patch, so problem solved.  From “Sizzling Skillets” to “Simmering Soup Pots,” “Dinner on a Bun,” and even “Desserts in a Jiffy,” this volume has got you covered.  Some of the recipes list more than five ingredients, but they all promise to go from refrigerator to table top, passing through appropriate appliances along the way, in 30 minutes or less.  (Try Grandma Goldie’s Sketti  or Husband-Pleasin’ Dirty Rice” for a couple of quick choices!)

Here’s one that should be served with hot buttered rolls and some wicked-good coleslaw that a friend of mine makes – one day I’ll get that recipe!  One day!

Connie’s Skillet Meatloaf

2 lbs lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1 potato, peeled and shredded
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
15-oz can tomato sauce, divided

Mix all ingredients together, reserving half the tomato sauce.  Pat into a lightly greased electric skillet.  Pour reserved sauce over meatloaf.  Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes at 350 degrees; cover and simmer an additional 15 to 25 minutes.  Or, simply pat into a greased skillet and cook on the stovetop over medium heat, as directed.  Serves 6.

Okay, so you’ve already counted and you know that it has 6 ingredients, not five.  I think that, since 2 of the ingredients require no preparation at all (crackers & sauce), this should not count against me.  I think I can rationalize away this problem of the extra ingredient!  I think she’ll be too tired, she just won’t notice.  I think I’ll shut up now.

If the workday or work week leaves you a little short on energy for dinner preparation, this is the cookbook for you – proven family recipes that are a snap to assemble and yield delicious results.  Remember, it’s usually the case that the freshest ingredients prepared in the simplest way give the best outcome.

The sun is still shining here in East Tennessee – no more snow (until Sunday morning, maybe…).  I’m going out to enjoy the afternoon – hope you do, too!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave or on Mars or under the sea for the past twentyleven days, this Sunday is Valentine’s Day, time for all things red and sweet and chocolate.  And since everyone agrees that breakfast is the most important meal of every day, how about starting the morning with a bit of all three?

I found these sweet recipes in the Tennessee Cook Book, a collection of recipes from across the state, including many from private family collections.   Alongside the  unique dishes and interesting ingredients featured in the book, you’ll find interesting Tennessee highlights covering the state from east to west.

From Judy & Robert Hotchkiss, the proprietors of Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast in Mountain City, comes a recipe for Strawberry Crepes with strawberry filling and sauce.  I’m going to suggest that you go daring and pair this with Sharon Spears’ Chocolate Biscuit Gravy for a special treat!

Strawberry Crêpes


6 eggs
4 t sugar
1 t salt
2 C flour, sifted
2 C milk
1-1/2 C chopped fresh strawberries
Mint or parsley sprigs for garnish

Strawberry Filling:
3 10-oz cartons frozen strawberries in juice
1/4 to 1/3 C sour cream

Beat together eggs, sugar, and salt.  Add flour and milk alternately, beating til thoroughly incorporated.  Heat skillet over medium to high heat (remember the old electric skillet??  Perfect for crêpes!) and pour 1/4 cup batter into center.  Cook until lightly browned, turn and brown the other side.  Remove the crêpes to a flat work surface.  Place 1/8 cup strawberry filling along one edge of each crêpe.  Add a layer of chopped strawberries, then roll crêpes and place on serving plates.  Garnish with strawberry sauce, Chocolate Gravy, and mint or parsley.

For strawberry filling, defrost strawberries overnight.  Warm thoroughly in microwave and then mash and drain through a sieve, reserving the juice separately.  Stir sour cream to taste into mashed berries.

For strawberry sauce, place reserved strawberry juice into a microwaveable container; add 3 tablespoons cornstarch and whisk together.  Microwave in short intervals until sauce thickens, stirring often.

Chocolate Biscuit Gravy

1 C sugar
1 T (heaping) cocoa
4 t flour
2 C milk
1 t vanilla
2 T butter

In a skillet, mix sugar, cocoa, and flour; add enough water to make a paste.  Cook over medium heat, adding milk and stirring until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.  Serve over strawberry crêpes.

Is this too decadent??  To me, it sounds delicious ~ and I don’t often like chocolate for breakfast.  I may have to set the clock a little early on Sunday and give this a try.  I’ll add a dish of savory eggs & cheese on the side.

It’s snowing in Pigeon Forge again, looking quite beautiful as the flakes drift onto the garden pine trees and garland and bows on balconies over at The Inn at Christmas Place (we really do have a great view across the street from our store!).  Not much accumulation is expected, so enjoy the icing while it’s hanging around today.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

 C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = Teaspoon

P.S. I tried taking a picture through the glass – too bad the city hasn’t put the electrical lines underground yet!

Snowing on The Inn at Christmas Place

Snowing on The Inn at Christmas Place