Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Cookie Beauty Pageant

I can't believe it's already Thursday.  I went shopping yesterday and I accomplished nothing unless you count eating at the Grand China Buffet and getting a free wall calendar. 

I had my shopping crew of Amber, Brayden, and Amber's BFF, Brittany, with me, and we did have some enthralling conversation.  Yes, we thoroughly compared and contrasted each of our virus experiences.  And not only ours, but the experiences of the ones we love.  I'm thinkin' that Brittany is the winner of the "Most Pitiful and Sick Girl Ever" award because she actually went to the emergency room AND dropped twelve pounds in three days which has to be some kind of record. 

Congratulations, Brittany!

Enough about that virus.  This will be the last time I mention it until the next time I mention it.

In other news, guess who was asked to emcee the Millry High School annual beauty pageant also know as the Miss Green and White Pageant?  My husband, that's who.

So, in honor of that, how about a cookie beauty pageant?  Right here, right now.


Cookie number one hails from the test kitchen of Jif Peanut Butter.  This classic cookie is fun, chewy, and soft, and looks especially festive when studded with green and red M & M's.  She likes to be paired with a tall glass of ice cold milk and has been heard boasting "Santa likes me best."  Thank you, Miss PB M & M.



Our next cookie is Butter Brickle Espresso Biscotti, hailing from the Taste of Home test kitchen.  This crunchy cookie has a whole bag of toffee bits stirred in and has been enhanced by this blogger with a full tablespoon of instant espresso powder.   She likes to skinny dip in hot coffee and has been noted for saying "I'm twice baked and proud of it."  Thank you, Miss Biscotti.


Cookie number three comes to us from the Southern Living test kitchen and has her own layout in their December issue.  This cookie is extremely versatile and for today's pageant has been flecked with dried cranberries, orange zest, and in a surprising move by the blogger, a full tablespoon of chopped candied ginger.  She boasts of easy preparation and freezer friendliness.  Thank you, Miss Shortbread.




















Our last cookie also hails from the Taste of Home test kitchen and uses honey instead of sugar for it's sweet factor.  Butterscotch morsels and crispy rice cereal also make up this cookie's unique flavor and texture.  This cookie received two thumbs up just yesterday from cookie muncher Amber Odom, who was quoted as saying "I'm really likin' this cookie, Mom.  Is that coconut in there?"  Yes, Amber it is.  This cookie's platform is "Using up pantry items for a cleaner pantry."  Thank you, Miss Honey Crunch.

This concludes the 2009 Christmas cookie pageant.  They are all winners in my book. 

Notes about each cookie:

Peanut Butter With M & M's-Yes, this recipe is the classic Irresistable Peanut Butter cookie recipe that floats all over the internet.  It produces soft, chewy cookies.  I ate approximately 37% of the dough and contemplated forgoing the whole baking process and just rolling it into truffles. 

-I added in about 3/4 cup green and red M & M's.  I used a cookie scoop (1 tablespoon measure) and also pressed in a couple of M & M's into each cookie dough mound to make them pretty.



















See all the prettiness?  This one never made it the oven, though.

-Follow the directions and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack.  I removed one immediately and it fell apart.

-They should bake no more than about 8 minutes.  They did not look done, but they will firm up when they cool.

-I made some jumbo ones using a bigger scoop (held 3 tablespoons) and those baked approximately 12-14 minutes.  

-I did not criss-cross each mound with a fork (like the recipe says) and they turned out a little thick in the middle, which I really liked.

Butter Brickle Espresso Biscotti- This was my first time making biscotti but it turned out great, plus it looks really pretty in clear bags for gift giving.

-I stirred in a tablespoon of instant espresso granules.  I think it could have used a tad more.

-Shaping the dough into two logs was tricky.  I had to wet my hands to pat it out because it was stickier than I thought it would be.

-The logs really spread, so make sure they are far enough apart.



















-I dipped the ends in melted semisweet chocolate and sprinkled with more toffee bits.  Brittany made the suggestion to cover the entire cookies in chocolate next time.  I will take that suggestion into consideration, Brittany.

Cranberry, Orange, and Ginger Shortbread Cookies-I love all the variations with this recipe, but only got around to making the cranberry version.  I also love that the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen.

-I chopped some candied (crystallized) ginger and added a tablespoon to the dough.  Really nice and very Christmasy.

-I also left out the almond extract.  I just don't like it.

Honey Crunch Cookies- I really like the flavor of these.  I also love that there is no sugar in the recipe, just honey.

-If you make these, please don't do what I did.  I made the dough a couple of hours before I used it and the crispy rice cereal got soft.  They were not as crunchy as I would have liked them to be, but I think it was my fault.  I will definitely make them again to see if I can correct the problem.  They were still delicious with slight crunchiness.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

I've got a great recipe for you for this busy season.  I adapted this slightly from Robin Miller and I've been making it for several years now.  All you do is combine the ingredients in the slow cooker and turn it on low.  Then you can go wrap presents and bake cookies, which is way, way more fun than cooking dinner.

The original recipe is here.  Robin uses raw chicken, so if you don't have any cooked chicken, refer to her recipe.  I made this the weekend after Thanksgiving and I used some leftover smoked turkey and it was wonderful.  Leftover ham would be great thrown in there, too.

I have found that cooking it seven hours on low as she states in her directions is a little too long for my slow cooker, because the sausage gets a little mushy, so I reduced the cooking time a bit.  If all your meat is cooked going in, it just needs a thorough warming and a little time for the flavors to marry. 

I'm out the door in a few minutes for a big day of shopping.  I'm going by myself today and I'm looking forward to it. 

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Adapted from Robin Miller


1/2 pound andouille, smoked or turkey sausage, diced

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 medium onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (OR 1 cup water and 1 chicken bouillon cube )

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken

1 pound frozen peeled and cooked shrimp, thawed

Cooked rice

1.   In a slow cooker, combine the sausage, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, celery, and chicken broth. Stir in oregano, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, and thyme.

2.   Cover, and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2 1/2 hours. Stir in the chicken and thawed shrimp and cover and cook until the shrimp is heated through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves and spoon mixture over cooked rice. 


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Monday, November 23, 2009

My Thanksgiving Menu

For Thanksgiving this year, my husband and I are going to his brother's house, which means I won't be hosting the dinner, I'll just be supplementing. 

I am 39 years-old and I have never actually hosted a Thanksgiving meal myself.  Next year, it's my year.   Mark it down.  Put out the flyers.  Lorie's hosting dinner even if she is the only person who shows up.

But for this year, I have a list of things to bring and here they are:

Two smoked turkey breasts.  My hubby will do these.  And I say that very loosely.  I bought them, thawed them, will remove the wrapper, inject them, season them, clean up all the raw turkey blood/juice that will get on my counter and then he will put them on the grill and smoke them.   Then I'll insert the thermometer and let him know when they're done.  Then he'll remove them to a pan that I've handed him and he'll bring them into me and I'll cover them with foil.   Later on, I'll wash the pan.  I'll probably clean up the grill, too.  And he'll get all the credit.

Two coconut pies.  I've never made a coconut pie before.  I have a zillion recipes, but my hubby said he wanted an old- fashioned coconut cream pie with meringue.  I am a whipped cream girl, so after much searching, the two recipes I've settled on are both from Emeril Lagasse.  Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie for me because it has coconut milk in it and Coconut Cream Pie for hubby because it has meringue and seems old-fashioned.  I'll let you know how they turn out.  I have already made six Perfect Pie Crusts and they are waiting for me in the fridge and freezer.

Italian Cream Cake.  My brother-in-law Larry just has to have this at Thanksgiving, or so says my sister-in-law, Tamara.  My mother-in-law usually makes this but the torch has been passed to me.

Mashed Potatoes.  I would reeeeaaallly like to make these mashed potatoes, but my in-laws and hubby are really into traditional Thanksgiving food, so roasted corn in the mashed potatoes would probably not be a good idea.  I'll just make the regular ones.  You really should try them sometime, though.  I don't mean to brag, but they are really, really delicious.  You could leave out the cilantro and chipotle and they would be awesome covered in gravy.

Brown Gravy.  For my hubby.  He doesn't do giblet gravy.  My mom makes some killer giblet gravy and I love it.  But I won't be with my mom. :o(  I've already bought my McCormick brown gravy packets.  [Foodies shudder everywhere.] ;o)

Italian Salad.  Just wanted something fresh and raw.  I know it's not Thanksgiving-y, but oh well.

Here are a couple of other recipes I wanted to link you up to.  For the last three or four years, I have been eyeing this recipe in one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks, but have never gotten around to making it.  Last night at our Thanksgiving supper at church, the fabulous Tonya Bedwell brought one that she had made.  I seriously had to hold my self back from eating a second piece.  Total yumminess.

Also, my own sweet Amber made this Turtle Pumpkin Pie and even though I am temperamental about pumpkin, it was really, really good.   She's turning all domestic-y and the transformation brings me happiness, joy, and lots of snickering behind her back. 

So that's what I'm bringing.  I don't know if I'll be blogging this week or not.  Sugar Plum said she will be live pie blogging on Wednesday, so I'll be checking in with her as well as all of my other foodie friends.  If I was a decent blogger, I would live blog, too.  I'll have to think about it.

And for your viewing pleasure...

Barred-owl


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

From The Kitchen Of Zoe Grace...

My recent trip to Missouri was centered around a very special event.  My niece, Zoe, turned four-years old.  


When Aunt Lorie comes to visit, we always bake or cook something, so when I saw this adorable chef's dress-up costume, I just had to get it for her birthday. 

She loved it and immediately got her kid's cookbook off the shelf so we could pick out something to make together.  We wound up making these ice cream mice.


The important thing to remember when you're working with a four-year old in the kitchen is to just allow them to dive in and use their little hands. 

Give a kid a Tootsie Roll and they'll roll it into a rat's tail.  That's what I always say.

 
She had fun and Aunt Lorie had LOTS of fun. 

At the end of the stay, she asked me "Do you want to come back at criss-uh-mus?  You could help us put lights up."

I melted into a puddle of sticky sweet goo right then and there.  

Then she added that  "flying on a plane is much quicker."  She must have heard about our driving woes and wanted to give us a little tip.  Four-year olds have all the answers sometimes.

Ice Cream Mice

6 miniature graham cracker crusts

6 large scoops of vanilla ice cream

Round chocolate covered cookies, such as Reese’s cookies, or Keebler grasshopper cookies, for the ears

Chocolate covered peanuts for the eyes

Malted milk balls for the nose

Chocolate sprinkles for the whiskers

Regular sized Tootsie Rolls for the tails


1.   Place a scoop of ice cream in a graham cracker crust.

2.   Press in the cookies, chocolate covered peanuts, and the malted milk balls for the ears, eyes, and nose.

3.   Add three chocolate candy sprinkles on each side for the whiskers.

4.   Roll out a Tootsie roll on a cutting board until it’s long and thin like a mouse’s tail.  Press into the ice cream.  Refreezing at this point will cause the tail to break off, so you may want to add the tail right before serving.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

White Chocolate Macadamia Muffins And A Shout Out To Taylor


Sunday afternoon I was at home working on the computer and when I checked my email I saw that one of my Facebook buddies had written on my wall.  This is my Facebook buddy:


This was her comment that I have copied and pasted:

 "I just read through your ENTIRE blog. (The rice and beans one.) I am printing out some of the recipes. You are the coolest person I know."   (Emphasis mine)

Let me tell y'all, my head swelled to four times it's normal size and I was giddy the rest of the day.  You know you've really made it in life when a middle schooler thinks "you are the coolest person I know."  And for her to read through my ENTIRE blog?  I have no words, people....I AM QUEEN OF THE BLOGOSPHERE, I AM!!!!!!

Taylor, sweetie, I'd like to dedicate this entire post to you.  Keep cooking and maybe one day I'll be reading your blog, or better yet, watching YOU on Food Network!

The other day I was in Sam's and I was doing some major bulk shopping and while I was in the baking aisle I heard the faint calling of my name.  I turned around and it sounded like it was coming from a HUGE bag of roasted and salted macadamia nuts and then I heard it again and indeed, it WAS coming from a huge bag of macadamia nuts.  I quickly answered back, because, hello, I am not going to NOT answer someone who calls my name, even if it is a bag of nuts, so I said YES and put them in my buggy.

And I immediately went to Wal-Mart and bought several of these:

Because everyone knows that you just shouldn't have one without the other.  No.

Oh, I made cookies alright, but the real star has been the muffins.  This past summer I was in a little store in Georgia that carried imported items and right by a big jar of Nutella was what looked like a white chocolate version of Nutella, and I am SO kicking myself for not buying it because how good would that have been slathered on these muffins?  Note to self:  Work on a recipe for white chocolate butter.

If you make these:

-Take care not to overbake them.  I did once and they were just not as good. 

-I love chopping my own nuts because I like 'em kind of big, but you could certainly used the pre-chopped kind.

-I sometimes add in a whole cup of white chocolate chips.  I also used extra drizzle because I have a tendency to overdo things like white chocolate.

This recipe won me a second place prize in Taste of Home Magazine a few years ago.  I've copied and pasted the recipe below, but you can click here if you want to see how much fat and calories are in one muffin.  Beware.  It's not pretty.   

White Chocolate Macadamia Muffins

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup white baking chips

3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Glaze:

1/2 cup white baking chips

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chips and nuts.

2.  Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 400° for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

3.  For glaze, in a microwave, melt chips with cream at 70% power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over warm muffins. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Orzo With Basil Pesto

This is an easy, quick side dish that I make often.  No, it will not change your life, but it's good. I like to serve it with grilled chicken or fish.  And guess what, my hometown friends?  Wal-Mart has orzo now.   Check the pasta section.  

It's so easy, you don't even have to have a recipe.  Just cook some orzo (as much as you want) according to the package directions.  Drain all the water.  Drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Stir in some pesto (as much as you want-a little goes a long way).  The pesto has olive oil in it but I found the orzo needs a little extra olive oil drizzled into it to make it stir better.
 
So to recap: 

Cook (orzo)

Drain (water)

Drizzle (olive oil)

Stir (in pesto)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dara's Sugar Pigs


This little pig statue is probably one of the most sentimental items I have in my home right now.   I made this for my Aunt Dara when I was about ten or eleven.  She was absolutely my best friend at the time and we remained close until she passed away earlier this year.  I can't even tell you how much I miss her.  Before she died, she gave me this little pig statue back.  I had completely  forgotten about it, but I was so touched that she had kept it for so many years. 

She lived with my mother for a short time before she passed away and during that time I developed a cookie recipe for a contest and shared it with her.  She fell in love with these cookies.  I call them Sugar Pigs and they're oatmeal cookies with toasted pecans and bits of candied bacon in them and she requested them on more than one occasion.  Let me tell you, when a dying woman requests cookies, you stop what you're doing and bake cookies.  It was my pleasure, though.

Even though these cookies never won the contest, they are still a family favorite and I will never ever make them again without thinking of her.


Sugar Pigs

1 cup packed light brown sugar

12 slices plain bacon


1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon


1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla


3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 cup light brown sugar in a pie plate.  Place each slice of bacon in the brown sugar and coat both sides, pressing sugar into bacon and gently shaking off excess.  Place flat on a wire cooling rack in an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or until done.  Outside pieces may get done before the inside pieces, so remove as needed.  Let bacon cool completely, then finely chop with a knife; set aside.

2.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.  Beat the butter, shortening, 1 cup light brown sugar, the dark brown sugar, the eggs, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in the flour mixture until combined.  Stir in the oats, chopped pecans, and reserved chopped bacon.  Chill dough for one hour.

3.  Drop dough by a 1-tablespoon measure cookie scoop onto an ungreased baking sheet, spacing about 2-inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown around edges.  Cool on pan for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Drizzle each cookie with a small amount of maple syrup.  (Cool pan completely between bakings.)  About 5 dozen cookies.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Muchas Gracias!

I want to thank everyone who voted for my recipe in the Jose Ole recipe contest.  I was notified today that I am one of the fifteen first place winners and I received a $100.00 gift certificate to www.cooking.com.  Yay!!!!  

I couldn't have done it without your help.  Thank you.   I'm not sure who won the grand prize, but I'm sure they will be posting it on their website soon.

Now, I must shop... 
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Key Lime Pie

There are very few things that I am "foodie" about.  I break all kinds of food rules in the kitchen, I don't take myself too seriously, and I am not an uppity cook.  Hello, I use canned cream of mushroom soup--um, the off-brand--so I'm really, really laid back and not picky when it comes to cooking and eating.

There is one thing, though,  that I am very serious about and that is my Key lime pie.  I would never, ever serve it plain, but, I would never, ever top it with meringue either.  Yes, I would use bottled regular lime juice if I had to.  Yes, I would use a store-bought graham cracker crust if I had to.  But I would never put meringue on it.  Eeeew!  Key lime pie just cries out for freshly whipped and sweetened heavy cream in my book.  

We went to one of my favorite seafood restaurants back in the summer and for dessert, my husband ordered a piece of Key lime pie.  It came to him plain and although it was decent, I was completely disappointed that there was no whipped cream on it and I was really, really happy that I had ordered the mile high peanut butter pie  instead.

Here is my recipe for Key lime pie that I have tinkered with over the years.  I like my crust  thick, so this should deliver if you like it that way, too.  I know my son-in-law, Isaac, agrees with me on this. :o)

Here are some tips if you make this:

-I like to whip my cream until it's slightly stiffer than soft peaks, because it's going on a pie and I want a clean cut. (This is another one of those foodie rules I break, over-whipping cream, but hey, I like it slightly over-whipped on a pie.)  If you want to serve it on the side, it can be whipped to softer peaks.  I like my whipped cream spread on my pie because then I can take some lime wedges and a maraschino cherry and make a beautiful flower on top as a decoration.

-Key limes are much more tart to me than regular limes.  If you need to substitute regular lime juice, you can decrease the powdered sugar by 2 tablespoons.

-This pie freezes well.  Just let it thaw out in the refrigerator, then add a little garnish.  You know, like a beautiful flower made from lime wedges and a cherry.

-Yes, you could certainly buy the graham cracker crumbs, but I like crushing my own to get a variety of sizes within the crust.

-The zest of the lime is very important here.  I wouldn't skip it.

Key Lime Pie

Crust:

1 2/3 cup finely crushed graham crackers

1/4 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons melted butter

Filling:

3 egg yolks

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup key lime juice (Nellie and Joe’s is the brand I use or substitute with regular lime juice)

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup powdered sugar plus 2 tablespoons

The zest of one lime

Topping:

1 cup heavy cream, well chilled

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2.    For the crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Stir in the butter until well mixed. 

3.    Press the mixture on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch foil pie plate or glass pie plate that has been placed on a baking sheet for easier removal from oven. 

4.    Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven.

5.    Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, sour cream, powdered sugar, and the lime zest until smooth.  Pour into pie shell.  Pie shell will be full. 

6.    Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set in the middle.  Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until well chilled.

7.    Beat the heavy cream on high speed until frothy.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until medium-soft peaks form.  Spread evenly over pie, then garnish as desired.  Keep refrigerated.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

Turnip Green Pot Pie

This recipe ran in this month's edition of Today in Mississippi and I made it for dinner last week.  I always check out the recipes in this little publication and have cut out more than a few over the years.  I also cut out the turnip green soup recipe, but haven't made it yet. 

I was really pleased with the outcome of this pot pie.  That said, I did change a couple of things:   

-I swapped out smoked turkey sausage for the ham. 

-I added an extra 1/2 cup of chicken broth because the mixture was supposed to simmer for 10-15 minutes, but it was so thick I basically just cooked it while stirring frequently until the turnips thawed out. 

-And last, I was lazy and used a package of Martha White Cotton Pickin' Cornbread Mix, which was good, but I definitely could have used two packages.  Next time I think I will make the cornbread topping as directed in the original recipe.

A similar recipe ran in this month's Southern Living, but with collard greens.  I love turnips, though, so this recipe spoke to me.  This would make a good main dish or side dish, depending on how much meat is added. 

The only clear picture I took was a close-up of a bite; I know it looks a little messy.  The original recipe is here.  My changes are below. 

Turnip Green Pot Pie
(Adapted from Porches Turnip Green Pot Pie)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound diced smoked turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 (1-pound) packages frozen chopped turnips
1 (15-ounce) can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 packages cornbread mix, plus ingredients to make the cornbread
4 tablespoons melted butter
1.     In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the smoked turkey sausage and cook until golden brown around edges.

2.    Add onion, celery, and chopped red pepper and cook until soft.

3.    Add flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. 

4.    Add chicken broth. Cook, stirring often, until thickened.

5.    Stir in frozen turnips and cook for 10-15 minutes or until heated all the way through, stirring often.  Stir in peas and crushed red pepper.  

6.    Transfer to a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish and smooth out top.

7.    Mix cornbread according to package instructions.  Spread over turnip mixture. 

8.   Drizzle with melted butter and bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  If top is not golden brown, place under broiler for a few minutes. 
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