Friday, August 27, 2010

Tales of a Junior League Drop Out

Cookbook: Las Vegas Glitter to Gourmet - Savory and Sensational Recipes from the Junior League of Las Vegas
Availability:, or various bookstores in Las Vegas
Shelf Factor:  Will be on the shelf FOREVER!  Keep reading to find out why.

Sad but true, I failed at being a member of the Las Vegas Junior League. Twice.

Yes, friends... twice. This is not necessarily something I am proud of, and I of course have excuses for.

But before I get into that, you must know that my mother, a.k.a. Martha Stewart, a.k.a. succeeds at all things, a.k.a. one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet, was a STAR Las Vegas Junior League member. My brother and I grew up going to committee meetings and helping out at the thrift shop. She lived and breathed Junior League for a while and almost became president.  This makes me practically a member from the womb!  I had to be a natural, right?  Wrong.

In my early twenties, I just started in advertising, and a lot of my friends at work were either in, or were joining Junior League. It was the societal thing to do, you know. So, I decided to give it a whirl.  I went to the meetings, I joined a committee, and while I was busy involving myself with the league, I was also busy involving myself with young men and dating. You can guess which won out.

I re-joined years later as a young wife and mother, but my little baby boy at home while I was at Junior League meetings won out. He was in the very capable hands of his daddy, but as a full-time working mom, I didn't want to have to part with him anymore than I had to. Hence, fail #2.

I know now that Junior League and I were just not meant to be... not then. Junior League did leave one long-lasting impression on me though... an absolute downright OBSESSION with their cookbooks! I happened to be on the cookbook committee during my first go-around, and was able to look through other league's cookbooks. They are all fabulous, and I have a theory that you will rarely ever find a bad recipe in a Junior League cookbook. It is an honor to have your recipe printed, and contributors being their A-game dishes. Before the recipes are even considered for printing though, they are all taste tested by about 50+ people, ranked, and hopefully deemed worthy of being a contender.

My goal (compulsion, maybe?) for quite a while has been to collect a Junior League cookbook from every state. After that, I want one from every city that has a Junior League. Once that is accomplished, I want a copy of every single one ever printed. Hm... I see a new bookcase dedicated to Junior League books in my future. I hope my husband isn't reading this.

I will eventually go through all of Junior League cookbooks I own and share them here, as they are the pride of my obsession, er... I mean collection. 
But, I have to start out with Las Vegas!

Why?  Not only do I live in Las Vegas, but lookie here... my name is IN the cookbook!

That's right ... above is my crowning moment of my Las Vegas Junior League experience.  Read it and weep.  Then, come back next week to see the delish dishes I am going to cook!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taffy Time!

Recipe: Honey Taffy
Source: The Essential Mormon Cookbook
Ingredients: Already in your Kitchen
Yummy in the Tummy Scale: 9

Let me start by sharing a lesson I re-learned with this recipe.  Listen to your mother, because she is almost always right.  Gah... did I just say that?  Yes... yes, I did.  I seemed to forget that lesson along the way, but I learned it quickly once more after making this recipe.  I asked my parents (who now live on the other side of the wall from me (love it... honestly!) to come over for dinner so my mom could then help me make the taffy.  My mother is an amazing cook, but had never made taffy before.  Just the thought of having her in the kitchen with me made me feel better, as I was prepared for a somewhat daunting, yet hopefully rewarding task.

The ingredients are so simple, I thought really... how hard could this be?  We started around 8:00 p.m., and my mom said "Don't you think it is kind of late to start this?  You know we are going to be up until midnight finishing."  Huh???  Midnight?  I immediately "pfffftttt'd" her and told her I thought it would take no longer than an hour.

Let me just say I ended up those words, along with some taffy.

I got my heavy duty pot out, poured all of the ingredients in, set the heat on low, attached my candy thermometer and stirred.  Eventually, the above happened.  It started to bubble slightly.  It took over a half hour to get to just this point.

I turned the heat up to medium-low, but no higher, as I didn't want it to burn.  Then, things started to happen... about an HOUR later.  Yes, you read that right... over an hour and a half of watching this get to the right temp.  As it got darker, it started to smell very strong, like it was burning.  It wasn't though, so don't be alarmed if this happens.

Once the temperature was right and the candy mixture was at hard-ball stage (all in thanks to my mom for being able to check that, because I sure as heck didn't know what to look for)... I did a happy dance, shed a few tears, and prayed to the taffy Gods for this to all work out.

Once it got just cool enough to touch, we started pulling, and pulling, and burning our hands in the process to get it back to the color it was when it first began cooking.  It was work.  And, my hands paid for it for the next few days.

My mouth though, was very thankful.  As soon as I took a bite and let the unique, sweet, taffy melt in my mouth, all of the pain of waiting and working was soon forgotten.  It was SO worth it, and SO time to go to bed, as it was 11:30 at night.  Technically, my mom wasn't quite right as she was a half hour off... but she was pretty darned close!

The taffy was wrapped up and left on the counter.  A few days later it still has a great consistency.  I would have given this a 10 because I love it but it is very sweet... too sweet for some, hence the 9.  This candy will show up in my house around the holidays for sure, if not before that!

Honey Taffy

2 c. honey
1 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream

In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Continue cooking, stirring as little as possible.  When mixture reaches hard ball stage (260 degrees), remove from heat and pour onto a shallow, buttered 9x13 inch pan.

Turn edges in with a spatula to prevent candy from hardening.  When just cool enough to handle, divide into 6 lengths and pull candy using buttered fingertips.  Continue pulling until light and fluffy.  Twist into ropes of desired thickness.  With kitchen shears, cut into pieces of desired size.  Wrap each piece with wax paper.  Makes two pounds of candy.

The next time I make this, I am going to cook over medium low instead of low to try and speed up the process.  I would also divide less than 6 strips... probably three.  You don't want the candy that you haven't pulled yet to harden while you are working.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Funeral Potatoes

Whew... I fell behind on blogging for a bit.  School started for Coop.. he is a big-time first grader as of yesterday.  We said goodbye to summer with a bang last week and went on all kinds of fun adventures around town.  Now, it is back to reality... and cooking!

Recipe: Funeral Potatoes
Source: The Essential Mormon Cookbook
Ingredients: Readily available
Yummy in the Tummy Scale: 5

I was intrigued by the name of this recipe, and I also love anything with potatoes as an ingredient.  I decided to ask my mom about the name... did she know where it came from?  My thoughts were that maybe you felt like you were dying after you ate suck a heavy dish... kind of like you were on the way to your own funeral.  She says though that this potato dish is easy to make, can feed a lot of people, and is readily available anywhere food is served... funerals, reunions, family dinner tables, etc.

The ingredients are simple, as is the preparation.  It smelled yummy in the oven, and we were excited to try it.  At first bite, it had potential... only to be followed by disappointment.  The flavor was very bland.  Maybe because the recipe calls for no salt or pepper.  My parents (whom ate over that night) thought it might have been due to the fact that I used low fat cream of chicken soup and low fat sour cream.

As we were eating, my mom asked me if I remembered the potato dish I made last year for Christmas breakfast.  I did remember once she mentioned, and it was very similar to this recipe, but much, much better in flavor.  Everyone raved about it.

I doubt I will make this version again.  It wasn't horrible, but not worth a second shot.  I will however, make my version again, probably for Christmas.  I will share both recipes, and you can decide for yourself!

Funeral Potatoes (cookbook version)

1 32 oz. bag frozen shredded hash browns
2 10.5 oz. cans cream of chicken soup
2 c. sour cream
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 c. crushed Corn Flakes
2 T. butter, melted

Put hash browns into 9x13 baking dish.  Combine soup concentrate, sour cream, cheese, the 1/2 c. melted butter, and onions.  Gently blend into potatoes.  Combine crushed Corn Flakes and the 2 T. melted butter.  Sprinkle on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Makes 12 servings.

Funeral Potatoes (my version)

1 32 oz. package frozen, shredded hash browns, thawed
10 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
16 oz. sour cream
2 cans condensed cream of potato soup
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the hash browns, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, onion, sour cream, and condensed soup.  Spread in a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Note: I usually turn the oven up to 400 at the end to brown potatoes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Herb Chicken

Recipe: Herb Chicken
Source: The Essential Mormon Cookbook
Ingredients: Readily available
Yummy in the Tummy Scale: 8+

Funny thing about the word "Herb".  Do you remember being little and pronouncing it like the man's name instead of "erb" with the silent "h"?  I still want to do that every time I see this word.  This section of the cookbook also included recipes for cheese with herbs, herb butter, salad dressing with herbs, herb croutons, and fresh lemonade with mint.  Makes you want to go out and buy a bunch of "erbs" right now!

I digress... back to the recipe!

This recipe was easy peasy, and oh-so-good!  The only reason it didn't get a higher score was that a couple of my chicken breasts were too thick and I should have pounded them first.  I had a little helper in the kitchen though, so I was trying to get this raw chicken in the oven pronto!

Speaking of funny things, I am a little bit funny when it comes to raw chicken, or any kind of raw meat for that matter.  I was married for two years before I would touch raw meat... I kid you not.  Even when I make it now I make the kids get out of the kitchen so they aren't anywhere near it, and I wash my hands about 10 times with scalding water.  Weird.  Well... I prefer to think of it as quirky.  I happen to have a lot of quirks!

There is is... in all of it's pre-baked glory.  Just don't touch it... it's RAW!  Blech!  So pretty though with that fresh parsley and ready to go in the oven!  This is great for a weeknight meal, and would be company worthy as well.  The herbs and butter really bring out a lot of flavor and the chicken wasn't dry at all.  My son who happens to not be a chicken fan unless it is followed by the word "nugget", ate this up and asked for seconds.  His words were "this chicken is goooooood!"

Herb Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 c. butter, melted
1c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 c. herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Rinse chicken and pat with paper towels to remove moisture.  In a small bowl combine all ingredients except chicken.  Stir together until well combined.  Place each chicken breast in herb mixture and coat on both sides.  Place on greased baking sheet and cook at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

I changed a few things here.  I only used four breasts instead of 6, as there are only four of us.  I also only used 1/2 c. butter, which was plenty.  Instead of using 1/4 tsp of sage and 1/4 tsp. of thyme, I used 1/2 tsp. of poultry seasoning since it includes both herbs.  I also pounded the stuffing into crumbs.  I didn't want big stuffing chunks on my chicken.  I ended up using my hands (blech, again!) to pat the stuffing mixture on the chicken to help it adhere.  This worked well and prevented a lot of the mixture from falling off.  And remember, if your chicken breasts are on the thick side, pound them out a bit before baking.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lemon Bar BOMB

Recipe: Lemon Bars
Source: The Essential Mormon Cookbook
Ingredients: Readily available
Difficulty: Easy (or so I thought)
Yummy in the Tummy Scale: ZERO (unless you ask DB)

One of the things about cooking from cookbooks is that not every new recipe is going to turn out great.  This is one of those recipes!  I will share the good, the bad, and the ugly here... and this is one of the uglies.  It all started out well... the kids were helping me, and they were excited...

REALLY excited...

First, we made our crust.  It turned out great.  See?

Then, we made our filling.  We poured it on top of our crust, and back in the oven it went.  The recipe said to cook for 25 minutes until golden and, golden it was.  It looked beautiful... see?

The recipe said to let cool, then cut into bars.  We let it cool all afternoon.  I then left to teach my cake decorating class, and told R that the kids could have some for dessert.  I got a text during class that the lemon bars were good, but they were also a bit runny.  This is what I came home to...

Whoa Nellie... you call that runny?  I call it complete liquid!  Something went wrong... WAY wrong.  And the poor kids... R made them each have a bite!  Coop or course hated it (who could blame him?), but DB, my little eater loved it, liquid and all!

Recipe is posted below, but DON'T make this!  Something you should know about me is that when a recipe goes wrong in my house, it becomes a mission of mine to not only fix it, but to perfect it.  No doubt, I will be back shortly with a new an improved recipe!

Lemon Bars

2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 c. butter or margarine
4 beaten eggs
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Sift together the 2 c. flour and powdered sugar.  Cut in butter with pastry blender or knives until mixture clings together.  Press into and 8x8 inch pan.  Bake at 250 for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Beat together eggs, sugar, and lemon juice.  Sift together the 1/4 c. flour and baking powder.  Stir into egg mixture.  Pour over baked crust.  Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes longer.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cool.  Cut into bars.  Makes 9 bars.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mormon Meals

Cookbook:  The Essential Mormon Cookbook: Green Jell-O, Funeral Potatoes, and Other Secret Combinations
Availability: or your local Deseret bookstore.
Shelf Factor: This one holds a lot of memorable food for me, so it's a keeper!

Let me start off by saying, I am not Mormon.  My mom is Mormon though, and I was raised Mormon when I was very young.  My mother's whole side of the family (well, just about) are still practicing members of the LDS church.  LDS members are some of the most down-to-earth, friendly, give until it hurts people you will ever meet.  And oh yeah... most of them really know how to cook!  Sometimes I want to be one of them... I really do.

I came upon this book while perusing my local bookstore.  I always like to look in the regional/American cookbook section, and I stumbled upon this one because of the spiral binding.  I pulled it out, and as soon as I read "Green Jell-O and Funeral Potatoes", I was hooked.  I hadn't come across these recipes in years, and boy did I ever miss them!  Well, one of them at least.  Hint: Green Jell-O will not be making an appearance on Cookbook Confessions anytime soon.  Or ever.  EVER.  Did I say "ever"?  Just want to make sure we are all clear on that matter.

Warning: This cookbook does not contain pictures.  Nope, not a single one of them.  Why that bothers so many people, I'm not sure.  So, if you want pictures of these recipes, the only ones you are getting are pictures of the ones I'm posting here.  Now onto the good parts of the book...

The book is set up to have the recipes divided into four seasons.  Above is a sample of the summer season header.  I love this!  Each section also has subsections that break out recipes by theme or by occasion.  It is a very family centered, celebration oriented book.  The recipes are simple, and the ingredients can be found at your grocery store.  They are also very yummy, and unique (hello... Funeral Potatoes???)!  I could review this cookbook for a month, there are so many great recipes... the winter section alone is a goldmine for sweet treats to give away as gifts.

Follow me this week as I visit the summer section of this book and cook up some goodies.  And speaking of sweet treats, I will be skipping ahead to the "Winter" section to make some addicting candy!