Thursday, November 26, 2015

How to Make Real Homemade Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding - Grandma's Recipe

My Grandma made the absolute best banana pudding. I’m not really a banana pudding fan. But, if Grandma made the banana pudding, then I went wild for it.

The big difference between Grandma’s banana pudding and other banana puddings is that she actually made the pudding part. She did not buy a box of pudding mix. Grandma rarely ever bought convenience foods, so she made things that most people never think of making from scratch. In the case of pudding, the scratch pudding is much better in the banana pudding recipe.

Another thing I especially enjoyed about Grandma’s homemade banana pudding was her meringue. The pudding calls for the two eggs yolks, and the whites are separated out to make the meringue.

The end result here is the world’s best banana pudding. Sure. It takes a little time and effort. Most really fabulous dishes do. This one is worth every second.

Grandma’s Banana Pudding from Scratch

Basic Pudding Recipe

2 cups scalded milk (cook until it forms a little skin on top - careful and don't scorch the bottom)
¾ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup plain flour
2 eggs (only use the yolks for the pudding part of the recipe)
1 ½ tsp lemon juice (or vanilla flavoring is fine and what I use)


2 egg whites (left over from the two egg yolks used in the pudding)
2 tsp sugar
Other Items Needed
3 or 4 bananas
Vanilla Wafer cookies


First scald the milk. Heat it until it forms a little skin on top. Do not use high heat and burn the bottom of the milk.

Combine the sugar, salt, and flour and stir into the scalded milk. Pour this right in the pan where the meat has just been scalded.

Cook over low to medium heat until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency.

Take a spoon of the hot mixture and put it in a bowl with the egg yolks only (saving egg whites for meringue). This is done to keep the eggs from curdling or turning into lumpy little gross bits of egg that do not taste good in the pudding or anything else for that matter. Adding just a spoon of the hot mixture over allows the eggs to adjust to the temperature.

Once the hot mixture is stirred into the egg yolks, the egg yolks can be poured into the pudding mixture.

At this point, the pot is off the heat but it’s still pretty hot – just having been thickened.

Put the pot back on the heat and cook just a little longer to get the egg cooked and mixed well in with the milk mixture.

Get a large bowl out. A mixing bowl is fine, but you’ll need to cover the top.

Place a layer of Vanilla Wafers in the bowl on the bottom and up the sides as best you can. Some bowls are easier to line with wafers than others.

Cover the Vanilla Wafers with a layer of bananas.

Pour half the homemade pudding over the bananas. The homemade pudding will slowly engulf the bananas and cookies.

Layer again the same as above. Put down a flat layer of cookies and cover with bananas in what will be the center of the pudding bowl. Pour the rest of the pudding over this middle layer.

To make the meringue which goes on top of the completed pudding, beat the egg whites with a mixer and gradually add sugar. This will look a big like Cool Whip when ready.

Spread the meringue over the top of the banana pudding. Use fingers to press meringue to edge of bowls. Otherwise, it shrinks and doesn’t look as pretty.

Put meringue under the broiler in the oven very briefly. You just want a light brown on the edges and tips of the meringue.

That’s how to make my Grandma’s banana pudding. It really can’t be beat. I’m totally spoiled when it comes to banana pudding. This is the only one that I’ll eat really.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sweet Potato Casserole - Sinfully Rich and Yummy

 Sweet Potato Casserole Could Go on the Dessert Table

One of our favorite holiday dishes is Southern Sweet Potato Casserole. This sinful dish would work just fine on the dessert table, but we eat it as a side. Sweet Potato Bake is delicious with turkey or ham. Not only is the casserole rich and sweet, it adds some color to the dinner table or at a pot lot feast. This is one of my mom’s specialty recipes, and folks are always asking her how to make this dish.

Southern Sweet Potato Casserole

The Basic Casserole

•    sweet potatoes (3 or 4 medium potatoes – 6 inches long and 2 to 2 inches thick
•    1/2 stick butter
•    1/2 cup white sugar
•    1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
•    1/4 cup evaporated milk
•    2 eggs
•    1 tsp vanilla
•    1/2 tsp cinnamon

The Topping

•    1 1/2 cups crushed corn flakes
•    1/2 cup brown sugar
•    1/4 cup pecans


Boil sweet potatoes until they are soft when stuck with a fork. Let cool a bit. Peel. The peeling basically falls right off. Mash sweet potatoes until nice and creamy.

Add the casserole ingredients to the mashed sweet potatoes. The order isn’t critical. It does help to let the butter get pretty soft or even to melt the butter. Mix everything in well.

Spray a little Pam or very lightly grease a casserole in the 9 x 9 size range. Pour the sweet potato mixture in and smooth even.

Mix the topping in a small bowl. If you’re in a hurry, you can just put the topping on in the order listed.

Bake casserole for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. This crisps up the topping and has the filling piping hot.


Sweet Potato Casserole can be put together the night before and then baked right before the meal. Just tuck it in the refrigerator and pull it out the next day. Allow a little more cooking time if the casserole is fully chilled.

This casserole also warms up well in the microwave. You probably won’t have leftovers, but if you do, you’ll enjoy the sweet potatoes re-heated too.

How to Make a Pecan Pie

Traditional Southern Pecan Pie

We grew up with pecan trees in the yard, so we had pecan pies often. If mom was willing to make pies, all “the kids” were certainly willing to pick up and crack out the nuts. We went through a lot of nut crackers, and my dad kept buying new and improved crackers. As we grew up and moved out, he continued to crack out nuts with his various crackers. And, mom kept making pecan pies but mostly at holidays when the family headed back to visit.

There are loads of variations on the basic pecan recipe, but I’d say that I like the traditional southern recipe the best. It’s simply hard to improve on something so delicious.

Southern Pecan Pie

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup butter (softened)
• 1 cup corn syrup (Karo brand is common in the south)
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 tsp vanilla flavoring or extract
• 3 eggs
• 1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans
• 1 9-inch pie shell (deep dish is a good idea)


Cream the sugar and butter well in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Add syrup, salt, and vanilla. Mix again.

Add eggs one at a time and mix after each.

Stir in pecans (or you can place them on top if you want).

Pour mixture into pie crust. Do not bake the pie crust first for this one.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes.

Tips for Making Pecan Pies

The only real problem I’ve ever seen with pecan pies is them not “setting” (or firming up). I’m not completely sure why this happens. I think the pies are less likely to firm up if the corn syrup is old and also if the filling is not mixed well. I use fresh syrup and do not double the recipe. If I want two pies, I mix each up separate.

When using pecan pieces, stirring them in works well. They rise up to the top during the cooking. For whole pieces, you can do the same. But, you can get a nice, neat pattern if you place the nuts on by hand after pouring the sugar batter in the pie crust.

Some people like vanilla ice cream on top of pecan pie. Some just like it plain. It's great either way.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator (if you have any left over). Microwave a slice for 10 seconds or so to take the chill off.

How to Make Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge - Easy and So Yummy

Peanut Butter Fudge is the top pick at my house. My boys absolutely love this fudge recipe, and everyone goes wild for peanut butter fudge at any pot luck dinner.

I do have to watch this dish if I’m taking it to a dinner. I took the lid off at one Boy Scout meal, and I saw a little dip all around the edge of the fudge. Hum. It was quite obvious that some little finger had sampled around the edges. I only hope the finger was clean that did that. The joy of raising boys!

Fortunately the other boys (and parents) at the Scout gathering just overlooked this little obvious problem. I also began offering the pan for samples (like licking the bowl but using a spoon), so that it was not so tempting to secretly sample the fudge. That (and the lecture) appear to have worked.

This recipe came from my sister. My guys loved it so much that I had to start making this at home. I emailed my sis and got her to send her recipe over. She has a lot of good recipes, and she is always good about sharing. Thumbs up to my sister.

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cups butter or margarine (1 1/2 sticks)
2/3 cups evaporated milk (small can size)
1 (10 oz) pack of peanut butter chips (Reese’s brand come in this size)
1 (7 oz) jar of marshmallow cream
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
M&Ms or chocolate chips (optional but very good)


Spray lightly a pan or casserole dish 9 x 13 (or 9 x 11) with Pam or other vegetable cooking spray. The size can vary some. You do need a pretty good sized pan, though, or the fudge is awfully thick and harder to “set up.”

Put the butter in a large size pan on the stove top. Let the butter start to melt and then put in the milk and sugar. Heat on a high medium until it's boiling lightly (but not popping out and burning your hand) and then boil 5 minutes. Time and make sure you’re close to the 5 minutes. Don't have the heat too high (or you may scorch the mixture and also make the fudge too dry). Stir while boiling. This is really the only labor intensive part.

Pour in the peanut butter chips and then pull the pan off the heat. Stir until those are melted in or close. You stir more later, so it does not have to be totally mixed even.

Add the marshmallow cream and vanilla. Stir until this is well mixed. This is when you want to mix well.
Pour the mixture into the pan or casserole dish that you have ready and waiting that is sprayed with Pam. You’ll probably want to wear oven mitts. The mix is pretty hot, and most pans will also be hot at this point.

The toppings are not critical (plain peanut butter fudge is fabulous), but they do add to the taste and also to the look of the dish. You’ve got to put those on immediately, or they will not stick. Once you pour the fudge in the pan, sprinkle the M&Ms or chocolate chips on top. With your hand, lightly press them down so they stick and stay on the fudge. This is just a tap-tap thing.

I thought once that I would add the M&Ms in before pouring the fudge out. I put them in the hot pan with the fudge and stirred. They melted, and I had psychedelic fudge. The M&Ms melted, and make strange tie dye streaks all in the fudge. It did not hurt the taste, but it did not look so pretty like that. So, I will warn you on that one.

Let the fudge set (harden up) and then cut in squares. It's pretty rich, so small pieces are the best bet. I do them a bit larger than standard size dice. You can, if you like, cut them like brownie squares. But, that’s a lot of sugar for one serving.

Fudge Tips:

I think my sister stores her peanut butter fudge in the refrigerator, but I’ve never done so. We like it room temperature. If you use air conditioning or if it’s fall through spring, then this keeps fine on the cabinet.

I never make this on rainy days. It may be my imagination, but fudge just does not set up with too much moisture in the air. It’s OK when cloudy, but if it’s raining, I wait to make the fudge.

If you cut and store this treat, then put pieces of tin foil between layers of fudge. It can stick together if not separated. It’s not a huge deal, but the layers with foil do help.

How to Make Bisquick Sausage Balls with Helpful Tips

Learn How to Make Sausage Balls

We always mix up Bisquick Sausage Balls for the holidays. We take some to dinners and gatherings but also make up a batch or two for home.

The recipe is really easy for sausage balls — only three ingredients, but it can be a little confusing the first time making them. Once you get it all figured out, you can mix these up easily.

Bisquick Sausage Ball Recipe

2 cups Bisquick
10 oz. shredded cheese (or shred your own)
1 pound sausage

How to Make Bisquick Sausage Cheese Balls (with tips)

First measure the Bisquick into a large bowl.

If you're using pre-shredded cheese, pour that in with the Bisquick and stir. Shredded cheese is not as moist, so it stirs in easily and pretty evenly. I don't think it tastes as good though.

If you buy block cheddar, then grate around 10 oz. Since block cheese is moister, grate a little and fluff that to cover the cheese with Bisquick. Repeat. Repeat. This keeps the grated cheese from ending up as a big clump in the middle of the mixture.

Hand Grating Cheese for Sausage Balls

Once the Bisquick and cheese are mixed together, it's time to add the sausage. Use a good grade of sausage for tastier sausage/cheese balls. The cheaper meat is fattier and the sausage balls are greasy.

I'm using a local brand here that I love. It's Frank Corriher sausage. To find something similar in your area, look for sausage wrapped in paper or buy bulk breakfast sausage in the fresh meat section.

I much prefer hot sausage, but it's fine to use mild. I just like hot foods in general.

To mix in the sausage, you really need to use your hands. This is not much fun. It's pretty gross to squash flour, cheese and sausage, but that's how to get it mixed up well.

Mix Well

It takes a while to get the sausage mixture nice and smooth. This is a great job to put off on the kids if possible. I did not get so lucky. The boys were off and gone when I made this batch. I also forgot to take off my ring. That's a mess. Remember to take off rings before making sausage balls.

When the mixture is done, it should be one big smooth ball.

Once the mixture is ready, cover a cookie sheet with sides (so grease does not roll off into your oven) or a baking dish with tin foil. Sausage balls can be baked right on the pan, but that's pretty messy. I prefer to cover my pans with aluminum foil.

Sausage Balls on Aluminum Foil Covered Pan

Roll the mixture into small balls about the size of little ping pong or golf balls or walnuts and place them on the pan with a little room. They expand and spread out a bit when cooking. Not much though. You don't have to have a lot of space between sausage balls.

This recipe makes more sausage balls than might be expected. I use two small cookie sheets to make a batch of sausage balls.

Bake the sausage balls at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

The sausage balls should be lightly browned. Some spots will be a little darker than other spots.

Remove the pans from the oven and let them sit and cool. This is a good time to sample the sausage balls, because they are wonderful hot. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Once the sausage balls are cool, put them in airtight containers and store them in the refrigerator. Since they have meat in them, they need to be kept cold.

Sausage balls can be served cold and are good, but we prefer to heat them up. Sausage balls can be heated in the oven or in the microwave. If I have time, I like to heat them in the oven right before serving. The sausage balls are a little crispier on the outside when oven heated wrapped in tin foil versus when zapped in the microwave.

How to Make a Green Bean Casserole - Yes, The Classic One

Green Bean Casserole 

It just wouldn’t be a holiday without a Campbell Soup green bean casserole. There’s just something about this rich holiday side dish topped off with dried onion rings that works well for special dinners.

My aunt always made green bean casserole for family gatherings. This was mainly because she couldn’t cook much of anything else. She’s was also very slow at getting things done, and this side dish only takes a few minutes to stir together and then thirty minutes in the oven. There were a few times my aunt acutally made it on time, so we didn’t have green casserole for dessert or with the leftovers later in the day.

Now I generally whip up a green bean onion casserole for our holiday meals, because the kids and the men especially seem to like this side dish.

Classic Green Bean Casserole Recipe

2 (14.5 oz.) cans of green beans (French cut preferred but whole green beans are fine too)
3/4 cup of whole milk (regular verus reduced fat or skim)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/3 cup French’s Fried Onions (from the can)


First drain the water from the green beans. If you dump the beans in with the water, the casserole is runny.

In a mixing bowl, combine the drained green beans, milk, soup, pepper, and all but 2/3 cup of the dried onion rings (which are used later as the topping). You can mix this in the baking dish, but the soup and milk will splash a little up the sides of the dish, and then casserole looks kind of messy with darker splashes coming up the side when it’s baked.

Lightly grease an 8 x 8 (or close) casserole dish. Use a pretty one, because you’ll serve right from the dish.

Pour the bean mixture into the casserole dish and use a spoon to make the top even and smooth. Don’t mash. Just lightly run the spoon over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the reserved 2/3 cup of French’s onions on top.

Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes until the onions are lightly browned.

That’s it. Quick and easy. And, most folks do love this one (even if they don’t admit it).

How to Bake a Turkey for the Holidays

Here is How To Bake a Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey

It’s hard to document whether the original Thanksgiving feast included turkeys, but the turkey has certainly come to symbolize the American holiday of thanks. The USDA estimates that around 45 million turkeys are sold and eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday. Yes. We gobble up a lot of turkey on Thanksgiving, and most of those are baked in the oven though Fried Turkey is quickly gaining in popularity.

Fresh or Frozen?

The first decision to make is whether to get a frozen or fresh turkey.

A frozen turkey is generally less expensive. The sale prices close Thanksgiving can be amazing, and for folks with big freezers, stocking up on turkeys is a great deal. Turkeys do take up a lot of room both in the freezer and in the refrigerator, so do keep that in mind.

It takes a long time to thaw out a frozen turkey. The rule of thumb is that the turkey needs to be in the refrigerator thawing one day for every five pounds of weight. I generally add a day or two extra for good measure.

A turkey can also be thawed in a cold water bath. Fill the sink or a big pan with cold water and let the submerged bird sit and thaw. This method takes, on average, seven to eight hours. It’s important to change the water as it warms up. You don’t want to taint the turkey and make all the guests sick.

With a fresh turkey, you’re ready to cook immediately. You’ve got to place an order with the butcher though. Don’t expect to walk in the day before Thanksgiving and find a fresh turkey waiting.

Size of Turkey

A monster-sized turkey may look appealing when you’re out shopping. You’re thinking that you’ll make quite a splash with a huge bird. In fact, a gigantic turkey does make a statement. It may also make you curse as well.

Remember that the turkey will be in the freezer and the refrigerator taking up space when you’ve got lots of other items that will also need to be stored. If the turkey takes up half a shelf, then you may be stacking other foods. Trust me. Nothing stacks well on top of a turkey.

The other issue with a really big turkey is that it’s heavy. Seriously, it’s not much fun to wrestle a 25 pound turkey in and out of the oven. My mom (who does have ample storage space) got a huge turkey one year. I won’t quote what she said when trying to get the turkey out to baste. It was not the Thanksgiving grace though.

The bigger the turkey, the longer it takes to thaw and to cook. This may not be an issue at your home, but I’d rather do two smaller turkeys than a huge one. Actually, I’m more likely to do a baked bird and then a Crock Pot Breast. We like the white meat sliced on sandwiches, so the breast in the crock pot ensures that we have extra sandwich meat.

My pick for a whole turkey would be the 12-15 pound range. I’d especially recommend this size for beginners.

First Things First

As I mentioned, you need to make sure the turkey is thawed out. If it’s still a bit frozen, then give it a water bath. It’s really hard to cook a partially frozen turkey through. And, it’s not great to cut into the main dish and see that it’s still bloody.

Take the bag of spare parts out of the cavity. It’s a really bad surprise to find those after the turkey is baked. Also, you can use the neck to make the gravy, and some turkeys come with a gravy pack there in the cavity. In any case, pull everything out of the bird.

Wash the turkey inside and out with water. Pat it dry.

If you plan to stuff the turkey, you’ll want to do that at this point. You can make pan dressing if you’d rather not stuff the turkey. I especially like Southern Corn Bread Dressing. Or, you can plan to have both turkey stuffing and pan dressing.

Many turkeys now come with the legs hooked together with wire. Some also come with a thermometer installed. If you have a plainer bird, then you probably want to tie the legs together. Just pull them together and tie there at the bones. Otherwise, the turkey looks a bit wild as it cooks and the legs splay out.

Lathering up the Turkey

The first step to ensure a good moist turkey is to pull back the skin over the breasts and stick some butter or margarine under the skin. About 4 TBS of butter per side work well. Once you get the margarine or butter in, press the skin back in place.

Rub a little butter all over the turkey and then sprinkle on seasonings. I generally use salt, pepper, and lemon pepper.

Place the bird in a big pan if you’ve not already done that.

If you’re not using stuffing, then you can put some fresh cut orange slices in the cavity. That adds a nice little zing. I sometimes put onion slices inside and also a bay leaf. These are just for some extra flavoring and are not meant to be eaten later. In fact, take the extra flavoring items out before serving.

Get 3 or 4 cups of broth (chicken or turkey) and pour over the bird. This may wash off some of the seasonings on top. That’s fine. Sprinkle a little more on the bird.

Loosely wrap tin foil over the turkey and put it in the oven.

Baking the Turkey

The USDA previously recommended cooking a turkey to a temperature of 180 degrees F but now has lowered that to 165 degrees F. This is the first year with the new temperature recommendation. Stuffing in the bird (which is not recommended by the USDA) is also set at 165 degrees F. So, it’s easier to remember the target temperatures.

With the oven set at 325 degrees F to 350 degrees F, it takes around 3 to 4 hours to cook a 12 to 15 pound turkey. It’s a good idea to check with a thermometer stuck in the thick part of the inner thigh. It’s really hard to tell if a turkey is done just by looking at the outside. It may look nice and crisp and beautiful, but it may not be cooked through.

During the baking, baste the bird with the broth that is in the bottom of the pan. This helps keep the turkey moist.

Remove the tin foil during the last 45 minutes to an hour so that the turkey will brown and look pretty. If it’s getting too crispy or dark before reaching the desired temperature, then stick the tin foil back over the bird.

Now You’re Done and Ready for Your Turkey Dinner

Remove the turkey when it’s at 165 degrees F. The temperature will run a little higher as the bird rests. Letting the turkey rest a bit helps set the flavors, so don’t worry about rushing the turkey right to the table. Take your time on the other dishes. The turkey will be fine.

That’s it for making a basic baked turkey. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Once you’ve made one, you’re set. You can add all types of stuffings and seasonings to suit your tastes. But, this recipe turns out a moist and tasty turkey that looks great on the table.