Countdown to Christmas (and Cookies!)

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

The countdown to Christmas is officially on!  A lot to do, you know, like decorating my tree with new unbreakable ornaments, for the little ones.  Last year’s tree was thankfully assembled and decorated by my daughter-in-law and her mom.  I left the boxes in the middle of the den as my sweet husband’s health took that unforgettable turn.  He was admitted to the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Less than 3 weeks later, we would return home with the help of all our family, friends and hospice.  Countless prayers and tears.  Precious moments and memories were mixed with what none of us could be prepared for in the short time that followed.  So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I need a giant umbrella for the imposing “rain”.

It was extremely important to me to have, what turned out to be, our last family photo with him.  I refused to take the tree down and was so sad to have missed the opportunity for the photo by Christmas Day.  As I was finishing preparing the traditional New Years Day lunch the phone rang.  It was my daughter saying she had arranged for a friend to come and take the photo I longed for.  The family arrived shortly afterwards, with the photographer friend in tow.  The boys helped my husband into a chair in front of the tree, and then the race was on to take the group picture and one with each family, as sitting up was becoming more difficult for him. Our last family photo is featured in this blog.  I know for some this would seem ridiculous and unnecessary, but not having that photo would have been a sad regret for all of us.

Family Photo

Cookies! Yep cookies!  My sweet husband loved all kinds of cookies.  He was the best taste tester of the tempting smells that wafted from my oven.  So, this is a great time to share some cookie recipes.  I believe baking can be therapeutic, and your house will smell wonderful without those cookie scented candles!  Bake and enjoy the smiles you will bring to people of all ages, especially during Christmas. Take time to make time for others.  You won’t regret it.

May God bless you and your family as He has continued to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Cookie Recipes

Blondies

Cheese Straws

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies-Std.

Cran-Cherry Cheese Bars

Lemon Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

Outrageous Brownies

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

Spiced Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Wedding Cookies

Thankful and Blessed

By Rhonda Woods

Hello everyone!

Cooler weather is moving in and Thanksgiving is a few days away.  Our family celebrates this gathering a little differently than most do.  Thanksgiving is generally held a week earlier, at my home or my sister’s. Somewhere to host the crowd. Most of the family travel to their extended families on Turkey Day or spend the long weekend camping.  This year, we celebrated even earlier, on Sunday, November 4 for both Thanksgiving and to honor my mama’s birthday.  All the counter tops in my kitchen were full of traditional and favorite dishes brought by the “designated” family members.  The birthday girl had requested a 6-Layer Coconut Raspberry Cake, which was topped by a large number of candles!  The Happy Birthday song was sung by close to thirty relatives and three of her great-granddaughters sitting on “Granny’s” lap anxiously awaiting the end of the song.  This is followed by the children plucking the candles from the cake to suck the frosting off the bottom of each one!  What a sight!  As I looked around the room, I could not help but be amazed at the growth of our family.  I joke and say, I was the one that started the whole mess, as the firstborn. Mama is pictured here with my children who are the parents of her five great grandchildren.  As her health deteriorates, it was important to celebrate her birthday with many of her favorite foods, laughter and lots of love.

The memories of my sweet husband and other family members who were not there with us brought back the “rain”.  The sting of reality. For a brief time, all was good as I buzzed around doing what I do best, cooking in my kitchen, my comfort zone.  Dressing, Herb Turkey Breasts, Southern Seasoned Butter Beans  Pistachio Salad, Butterscotch Haystacks, Sweet Tea, Cranberry Sauce and the birthday cake were my contributions to the feast.

My Mother-in-law and my Sweet HusbandSo, I am adding my often-requested Dressing, also called Stuffing, recipe which was adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe (pictured with my husband).  I am also adding some casserole favorites that I hope you will enjoy on your Thanksgiving table… or counter tops, as is tradition in our family. Some people ask what is the difference between Dressing and Stuffing.  Well, Dressing is baked in a pan and Stuffing is cooked inside the turkey as it bakes.  I could just hear my sweet husband asking about leftovers as we would get ready to “make a plate” to reheat for supper.

May God bless you and your family as He has blessed ours,

Chef Woods

 

Thanksgiving Recipes

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Corn Casserole

Macaroni and cheese with crumb topping

Pineapple Casserole

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

Stuffing

 

Fall Soup Recipes

By Rhonda Woods

20181020_162851My “rain” has ceased for a while and I am glad!  I was blessed to spend some time with my three oldest granddaughters this past weekend, ages 5, 4, and 2.  Car seats were 3-wide in the back seat of the pick-up truck and we were 4-wide in the king-sized bed.  Too funny!  I am amazed at the things they say and the knowledge they have gained in the short period of time they have been in this crazy world.  I was especially blessed to spend time with the 2 year-old (pictured enjoying a “kiki”).  20181020_185908Due to my sweet husband’s illness, we missed spending time with her most of those 2 years.  With the grace of God, I will not let those sweet moments slip by again with any of my “little blessings”.

So, how about this cooler weather….it finally feels like Fall!  This time of the year, my first year students are studying Stocks, Soups and Sauces, which means “SOUP WEEK”!!!!  This is a coveted week by our faculty/staff as we make a variety of soups and chowders with cups of these favorites sold by the bagful!

FB_IMG_1540412222774My sweet husband’s favorites were the Ham and Potato Chowder and the Taco Soup/Chili.  He made his “hunting club” version of the Taco Chili using ground venison.  It was always a huge hit for the hunters and my grandson (pictured with his Pop and big gobbler) and served with some cast iron skillet corn bread at the end of a long hunting day.  No matter which you choose, soups and chowders are comfort foods for everyone.

The trick to quick soup-making is the French term “Mise en place” which means to put in place or to have all of your pre-preparations done, such as peeling, dicing and measuring before you begin to prepare the soup.  This is time-saving and helps prevent mistakes.  Think of it as a Food Network or Cooking Channel food show.  The chef or personality has everything prepared or measured and ready to cook for their show laid out just within reach.

May God bless you and your family as He has blessed ours.

Chef Woods

Soup Recipes

Chicken Corn Chowder

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Ham & potato chowder

Minestrone Soup

Split Pea Soup.

Taco Soup

White Chicken Chili

Pie, oh My!

By Rhonda Woods

By the time you read this blog, it will have been nine months since my sweet husband was totally healed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  January 4 was the day everything in my life changed.  As I write this blog, I struggle every day to accept he is not coming back.  These are the days of “rain” as is the code for “I feel like I am falling apart”.  I have sorrowfully and shamefully questioned God, His plans and my decision to return to teaching so soon.   I guess this is a natural part of the grieving process. It is hard to see even a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, much less search for my purpose or happiness in my future.  My family, church family and friends are amazing support, but even they cannot fix the hole in my heart and the emptiness  I feel having lost my best friend soulmate of nearly 40 years.

Bent on my quest to update the house he built has, at times, taken its toll on my nerves and my OCD for cleaning any and all dust created.  My awesome contractor, Jonathan, who has become one of my sons, tolerates my constant cleaning.  The updating is beautiful and I know my sweet husband would be pleased with my decisions.  So, I ramble around this big house meant for a family of four or more with our two dogs, who look at me with questioning eyes as they miss him, too.

Anniversary Cruise and Desserts

So let me reflect on happier times when he enjoyed anything I cooked or baked!

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

The perfect husband to please with food, ladies, and you know that can be a challenge for both husbands and children.  He loved desserts, anything peanut butter, but sweets in general.  This time of the year, people are testing new recipes for church Homecomings and holiday gatherings.  With such an array of desserts to choose from on the bountiful tables, is just plain blasphemy in the south to put those little 6″ plates out when everyone one needs a full-sized one to “sample” a little bit of everything.   You know it is true, don’t deny it!  LOL.

Granny and her youngest great-granddaughter

My mother with her newest great grandchild named for my husband

So, I thought I would share a few pie recipes, especially the ones my sweet husband enjoyed the most; Peanut Butter Pie, Coconut Custard Pie (a prize winning one), No Milk Chocolate Pie (from a church cookbook a missionary contributed and my Mom’s favorite), Sweet Potato Pie (my adaption from a recipe in a cookbook my daughter gave me called “Sweetie Pies”), Pumpkin Cheese Pie and Lemon Cheese Pie (a favorite of my dear friend, Mrs. Betty).  I hope you will enjoy these recipes and will add them to your list of favorites, too.

 

May God bless you and your family, as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

RECIPES

Coconut Custard Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

No Milk Chocolate Pie

Sweet Potato Pies

Pumpkin Cheese Pie or Tarts

Lemon Cheese Pie or Tarts

Pie Crust

Graham Cracker Crust

 

 

Time for Fall Muffins!

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!  Whew….we made it through the “Hurdicane” as my granddaughter said! So blessed have been prepared and not have been in the path of destruction.  Please continue to pray for those who were.  🙏

20108503_10209856353749446_6815868200570077530_nSo, who is ready for some Fall recipes, not to mention some Fall weather!  When I think Fall, I think of quick comfort foods, such as muffins.  We prepare a variety of muffin recipes in class and my granddaughters love to making muffins in my kitchen.  Quick to mix and bake, as the name “Quick Breads” implies.

There are a variety of quick breads, including pancakes, biscuits, scones and muffins. The mixing method for making muffins is called the “muffin method” or “dump method” because all of the dry ingredients, including a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda-careful they cannot be used interchangeably as they will result in a failed recipe) are combined in a large bowl and the liquid ingredients are combined in a smaller bowl.  The liquid mixture is then “dumped” into the dry ingredients and mixed just until moistened.  Over mixing muffin batters causes “tunnels” or trapped air bubbles that try to work their way out during baking leaving tunnel-looking formations in the finished product.  This does not effect the taste.  For uniform sized muffins, a portion scoop is the tool of choice.  Remember, “looks the same, cooks/bakes the same”.  My granddaughters love to use portion scoops…of course with my help guiding the batter into the paper lined muffin/cupcake pans…oh, what fun we have!

OK, enough teaching!  Let’s get to some of my favorite muffin recipes.  I hope you will enjoy making these, and perhaps with your little ones, too. Zucchini, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Crumb Topped Pumpkin Pecan, Apple Butter, and Lemon Poppy Seed muffins are the top pics for today’s blog.  *Note, the format for the recipes are in “Standardize Format”.  This is how recipes used in foodservice are written.

May God Bless you and your family, as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Recipes

Apple Butter Muffins

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Crumb Topped Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Crumb Topping

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Zucchini Muffins

 

Salads to Share for Football Season

By Rhonda Woods

Hello everyone!  Well, it’s that time of year….yep, FOOTBALL!!!!!  Weather you are a USC fan, Clemson fan or all of the other college teams,  Football means tailgating or football viewing gatherings on the patio, garage or den. So, we need some recipes to feed the hungry fans to keep up their strength to yell and cheer on their teams.

Like many households, we were a House Divided with both USC and Clemson fans, with my “sweet husband” being one of the biggest Clemson fans I have ever known!  He would boast his devotion to his team, proudly wearing his orange attire, picking with his family and friends and enjoying both the triumphs and defeats.

In my class, we prepare Faculty/Staff lunches twice a month as well as the occasional catering opportunities and have found the following salad recipes to be a huge hit.  Our folks get some pretty good eats here and they are quick to praise our program. I think we have spoiled them just a bit.

May God bless You,

Chef Woods

Red Skinned Potato Salad with Dill

@12-15 servings

4 lbs. red skin potatoes, diced, cooked and cooled

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 rib celery, diced

½ c. pickle relish

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced

½-1 t. dried dill weed

Dressing:

½ c. evaporated milk

1 t. vinegar

2 t. sugar

2 T. prepared mustard

1 ¾ c. salad dressing (not mayonnaise)

Salt & pepper to taste

  1. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, celery, pickle relish, eggs and dill weed.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together evaporated milk, vinegar, sugar, mustard and salad dressing.
  3. Gently toss salad dressing with vegetables.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer salad to a plastic or glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.

 

Broccoli Salad

8-10 servings

Salad:

1 large bunch broccoli or 2 broccoli crowns, chopped (including the stem)

1 small red onion, chopped

½ c. raisins (white or dark)

½ c. pecans, chopped

Optional ½ c. shredded carrots

Dressing:

1 c. mayonnaise

¼ c. vinegar

½  c. sugar

¼ c. milk

Stir-ins before serving:

¼ c. Bacon Bits

  1. Soak broccoli in cold salted water for 5 minutes.
  2. Rinse broccoli in cold water and drain.
  3. Chop broccoli, onion, and pecans, placing chopped vegetables and pecans in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Add raisins.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and milk.
  6. Toss dressing with vegetable mixture.
  7. Put salad in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Before serving, stir in bacon bits.
  9. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

Pasta Salad

8-10 servings

1 gal hot water

1 T. oil

1 T. salt

16 oz. tri-colored rotini pasta

1-4 oz. can sliced black or Kalamata olives, drained

1 pkg. Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix

16 oz. Italian Dressing

Optional:

Peeled diced cucumber

Shredded Carrots

Halved Cherry tomatoes

  1. Heat water, oil and salt in a small stockpot until boiling.
  2. Add pasta, stirring to separate, and cook for 8-10 minutes-al dente.
  3. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool.
  4. Return pasta to the stockpot or a mixing bowl.
  5. Combine cooked pasta, olives, soup mix and salad dressing.
  6. Transfer to a plastic container, cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, or overnight for best flavor.

 

Marinated Calico Bean Salad

12-15 servings

¼ c. Sugar

½ c. White vinegar

1 t. Salt

½ c. Onion (yellow or red), chopped

½ c. Green pepper, chopped

½ c. Celery,  thinly sliced

1 can Cut Green Beans

1 can Yellow Wax Beans

1 can Light Red Kidney Beans

1 can Lima Beans

1 can Sliced Carrots

1 can Garbanzo Beans

  1. In a small saucepan, measure and combine sugar, vinegar and salt.
  2. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove and cool.
  4. Chop onion, green pepper and slice celery, then, add to the large mixing bowl.
  5. Open and drain all the canned vegetables in a colander, then add to the large mixing bowl.
  6.  Pour the cooled marinade mixture over the salad and gently toss to coat.
  7. Transfer salad into a large plastic container.  Seal with a lid and refrigerate overnight.

Kitchen Essentials

By Rhonda Woods

Hello!  I just want to take a moment to thank the Lexington Medical Center team for the beautiful video they produced for my initial blog.  I was so pleased and heard so many wonderful comments from so many viewers!  My “Sweet Husband” would be so proud of his “Bride”!

My next blog is about Kitchen Essentials.  Here is a list of smallwares I find the most useful in my kitchens, both commercial and home. This list can also serve as a wish list, because Christmas is right around the corner.  Yeah, I’ve got you covered, foodies!  I made a large plastic tote box full of baking essentials for my daughter, one Christmas.  She still has it and has added to her collection as well.

Food Thermometer (digital or bi-metallic)
Strainers, large and small (large can double as a sifter)
Bowl scrapers (I can never have enough)
Whisks (same as above)
Digital Food Scale (@ $20.00, battery operated)
Sheet pans-aluminum/stainless steel (heavier gauge or weight does not warp and last longer)
Heavy Aluminum foil
Plastic Wrap
Parchment Paper & Waxed Paper
Disposable Decorating bags OR Gallon Freezer bags
Zester
Vegetable Peeler
Dough/Pastry Cutter
Rolling pin
Set of biscuit cutters
Portion scoops (1 oz., 2 oz. & 4 oz.-make quick work for portioning cookie dough and muffin batters)
Electric mixer (counter or hand held-I love my “Big Red” Kitchenaid)
A sharp Chef and paring knife
Dry measuring cups (2-3 sets)
Measuring spoons (2-3 sets)
Food processor
Cutting boards, plastic-not wood, large & small
Mixing bowls
Cupcake pans (2)
9″ x 13″ pans
8″ cake pans (3 or more)
Off-set spatulas
Aprons (I collect them, cookbooks and magnets from my travels)

Can you tell I’m a smallwares collector…you should see my kitchen drawers and cabinets…just saying. We call them “Tools of the Trade!”

IMG_2877Here’s a picture of my “Sweet Husband” and me taken in front of the old truck he had when we first met.  It has since been lowered from the 4-wheel drive lift and repainted to cover the light blue color, named “Old Blue”  We now refer to it as “Old Blue-Green”, and it still roams the back roads of Green Swamp with a new generation of riders and hunters. 39745152_272914836856988_2960821067972608000_n

It’s hard to believe it has been almost eight months, and it does not get any easier.  Celebrating my “Big 6-0” in a couple of weeks just won’t be the same without hearing him say, “Yeah, you don’t look bad for 60!”  😇

May God bless you and your family,

Chef Woods