Sunday, November 30, 2008

Homemade Drink Mixes

Today some friends and I were talking about homemade gifts.  I mentioned these drink mix recipes and Donna asked if I would post them.  Donna, here you go.  Enjoy!
Russian Tea
from:  Rae Ann
3/4 cup Instant Tea
1-1/2 cup Tang
1/2 cup lemonade mix
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
Mix well and store in a closed container. Use 2-3 tablespoons per mug of hot water.
Hot Cocoa Mix
from:  Good Eats
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2-1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.

Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.

Personal note:  I usually leave out the cayenne, but it's good if you want to add a little kick.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Father, We Thank Thee
For flowers that bloom about our feet,
Father, we thank Thee.
For tender grass so fresh, so sweet,
Father, we thank Thee.
For the song of bird and hum of bee,
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
For blue of stream and blue of sky,
Father, we thank Thee.
For pleasant shade of branches high,
Father, we thank Thee.
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
For this new morning with its light,
Father, we thank Thee.
For rest and shelter of the night,
Father, we thank Thee
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
"This three-stanza, 21-line poem has long been attributed to Emerson, but is definitely not by him. No author has been discoverd. It is widely reprinted in hymnals, and has been published separately as We Thank Thee (Racine, Wisc.: Whitman, 1955) and Father, We Thank You (New York: SeaStar Books, 2001)."*
My grandmother often used the last three lines of this poem as a blessing at meal time. We continue to use it today. It is one of the ways I use to keep her memory alive.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Approaches

This is my favorite time of year.  I love Thanksgiving, when friends and family take time to be together and gather around the table to celebrate all that we have to be thankful for.
As we make the arrangements for our respective feasts this week and think about our reasons for giving thanks, please remember those around us who may not have as much as we do.  Our Sunday School class is adopting a local family and providing the ingredients for their Thanksgiving dinner.  Others are inviting those without family nearby into their homes.  I know our local Rescue Mission is accepting donations to feed those in need a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.
There are many avenues available to helping those in need.  If you don't know of one in your area, there are links to a few options in the "Food Links" list on this blog (CROP Hunger Walks, Feeding America, and Habitat for Humanity).  Thanks!
Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Game Food

Congratulations Buckeyes on a great game and a great season!  We are proud of you all!  Good luck Seniors!  We will miss you!
Now, for the recipe I promised yesterday.  This dip is a household favorite and it is not unheard of for me to find out that this has been promised for a last minute get-together.  My mom made this one time when I was either in high school or college and had some friends over.  I have been making it since then.  It is extremely quick, easy, and versatile.  I have made it for guests, pot-lucks, movie nights, etc.  I hope that you enjoy it!
Layered Mexican Dip
1 block (8 oz) cream cheese
1 can (15 oz) refried beans
2 cups shredded cheese blend w/taco seasonings
Tortilla chips
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.  In an 8x8 baking dish layer the first four ingredients.  Spread the block of cream cheese evenly along the bottom of the dish.  Spread the refried beans over the cream cheese.  Pour salsa over the refried beans.  The amount is up to you, depending on how wet you want it to be.  I use about a 1/2 cup or so.  Top with shredded cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Use the tortilla chips to scoop up the dip.
Personally, I use reduced fat cream cheese, fat free refried beans, and reduced fat shredded cheese.  It still goes over well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

OSU Campus Food

The Game is tomorrow and the excitement has been building in Columbus and Buckeye fans everywhere all week (not to mention the rivalry jokes).  It's a home game this year and today my mind has been picturing the activity around campus today and tomorrow.  My parents will be there, so in addition to watching The Game on ABC, I am looking forward to first-hand reports.  I have to admit that as I think about the atmosphere in Columbus, I am a bit homesick.  How I would love to be immersed in the excitement of preparing to attend the game.  It looks like a cold one, though I've seen colder.  I've been bundled up so much that the only part not covered with wool or flannel was my eyes, which is all that counts in watching The Game.
So, what does all this have to do with food?  Tailgating is an obvious answer and I'm planning on posting a favorite dip recipe tomorrow.  However, today I thought I'd share some of my favorite campus restaurants.  Not surprisingly, there are several pizza places - it is a college campus after all and pizza is one of my favorite foods.  If you are in Columbus, or ever visit the OSU campus area, be sure to try some of these places:
Donato's – N. High St., so good that I have my dad bring some when he visits
Adriatico’s – 11th Ave., my favorite Sicilian pizza
Buffalo Wild Wings – N. High St.
China Garden – N. High St. and Lane Ave.
Tommy’s Pizza – Lane Ave, awesome pizza and Italian subs

Campus had some other awesome food stops, but things have changed a lot in the last "few" years.  Some of my favorites are gone and I hear that there are a lot of wonderful new places, I just haven't been there to try them lately.
Again, I hope to post a recipe or two tomorrow.  In the meantime, I'll be donning my scarlet and grey and preparing to watch The Game (noon ET on ABC)!  GO BUCKS!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Create-Your-Own Meat Loaf

I have a lot of cookbooks.  I love cookbooks.  I actually had to refrain from buying cookbooks at one point because I ran out of room on my cookbook bookshelf.  Okay, so I slightly refrained.  It's hard to resist a good cookbook.
I especially love cookbooks that teach about food and how to cook.  One of my favorite and most frequently used cookbooks is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  It often lists variations for its recipes, which has helped me learn what can be adjusted in a recipe and how to use my imagination more in my cooking.  The following recipe is a great example:
Create-Your-Own Meat Loaf
1 beaten egg
¾ cup soft bread crumbs (1 slice) or ¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup milk, beer, apple juice or water
¼ cup finely chopped onion or 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery or green pepper or shredded carrot; or one 2-once can mushrooms, drained and chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons snipped parsley (optional)
½ teaspoon dried sage, thyme, basil, or oregano, crushed; or dried dillweed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef, lamb or bison
2 tablespoons bottled barbecue sauce, chili sauce or catsup

In a mixing bowl, combine the first nine ingredients (egg through pepper).  Add ground meat and mix well.
In a shallow baking dish pat mixture into a 7x3x2-inch loaf.  Or, shape into a circle with a 6-inch diameter.  Form a 2-inch-diameter hole in the center of the circle.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes for the loaf (25 to 30 minutes for the ring) or till not pink remains.  Transfer to a serving plate.  Spoon barbecue sauce over meat.  Makes 4 servings.
Personal note:  I have also made this into 4-5 burger-sized patties or filled regular-sized muffin cups (straight in the baking dish, no paper) for individual servings.  They bake in about 20 minutes.  When I made this the other night, I needed some extra but didn't want to double the recipe to two pounds of meat.  So, I reconstituted about 1/3 cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein) and added that to the mixture before I added the meat.  It went over very well.
TVP can be found in the Whole Foods bulk section or possibly at your local food co-op.  It's a healthy and very inexpensive way to stretch the ground meat in a recipe or, in some cases, replace.  You take one cup of TVP and pour 7/8 cup boiling water over it and let it sit for 10 minutes.  You can add taco or other seasonings in the process.  It's like a blank canvas, so use your imagination.  You can also just add it straight to chili or spaghetti sauce, just keep in mind that it will soak up some of the liquid, so you may have to add more to compensate.  TVP is around $1.80/lb here.  One cup (about $0.35) is about the equivalent of one pound of ground meat.

In The News...

"Oil Tycoon's Wife to the Rescue of Wild Horses?"
"Bush Set to Relax Rules Protecting Species"
"U.S. Intel Office Adds Warming to Warnings"
OSU Honey Bee Lab Holiday Honey Sale

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston

I just finished reading The Wild Trees by Richard Preston. Preston is an excellent author of non-fiction books (The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer). He is able to write about history and science in a way that is entertaining and makes you want to keep reading.

The Wild Trees is about a group of "botanists and naturalists that found a lost world above California" in the canopy of the redwoods. Preston writes about how and why these individuals started climbing the redwoods and what they found in the canopy. We often hear about the abundance of life in the oceans and how our activities effect that life. What was not known until recently was how abundant life is in the canopy of an ancient forest. Researchers are consistently documenting new species or finding lifeforms 300 feet above ground that they didn't know could survive that high in a tree. The trees are so large that in areas where the trunk has split to form two or more trunks, there is enough space for fern gardens and huckleberry bushes to grow.

Through interviews and time spent climbing with the subjects of his book, Preston is able to tell the story of their individual lives and relationships, their search for the tallest tree on Earth, and their research documenting a newly discovered part of our ecosystem. These researchers literally risk life and limb in an effort to document and help save this environment. I recently compared this to storm research and tornado chasing only with trees and climbing instead.

As exciting as many of the accounts in his book are, I have to say that one of my favorite chapters is about how his personal climbing and research for this book inspired his children to climb with him. He tells about camping in the trees with his son and how his son was visited by flying tree squirrels. Also, one of his daughters became the youngest certified tree climber in the sport. He also involved his wife, parents, brothers, and their families.

For more information about The Wild Trees, visit

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Power Cooking/Once-A-Month Cooking

The following is from my friend Elizabeth R (thanks!).  I love Power Cooking!  I can buy in bulk, spending a morning putting the meals together, and have several future meals waiting for me.  This is especially helpful when schedules seem particularly busy (i.e. the holidays).
Preparing multiple meals at once saves time, money and energy. “Power Cooking” combines the tasks of planning meals, buying groceries, and slicing & dicing with FUN tools while assembling healthy meals for your freezer. With Power Cooking, you will save money by reaching into your freezer for your meal rather than reaching for the telephone for take-out.

Helpful hints to prepare for Power Cooking:

•Clean out your freezer and refrigerator the day before shopping.
•Plan to use containers designed for the freezer, or purchase Ziploc freezer-quality storage bags.
•Purchase a new, black permanent marker for labeling the bags or containers.
•Find a comfy spot and make your shopping list in pencil. Go through the recipes and list the ingredients. This list will be your Master List. Alter the quantity of items on your list as you reread each recipe so that you do not over-purchase. Then go through your freezer, fridge, and pantry and mark off items that you find. A primary goal of “Power Cooking” is to SAVE MONEY!
•Keep a copy of your list so that you do not have to recreate your list in the future.
•Shop the day before you plan to cook so that you have the energy to have fun in the kitchen!
•The night before your “Power Cooking” day, clear off your countertops; you will need the space. Disinfect your countertops, gather all your ingredients and group them by recipe. Make sure your tea towels and dishcloths are clean. Unload your dishwasher and empty your garbage cans, including your recyclables garbage can. In the morning, you will be ready to “Cook with Power!”

Helpful hints for shopping:

•Shop at your “bulk” store first and purchase in large quantities. Then shop at your regular grocery store and buy store-brand items.
•Shop the inner aisles first, produce next, then bakery and frozen foods last.
•Watch the “sell by” dates on the meat; always select meat from the bottom of the stack for freshest.

Helpful hints for Power Cooking Day:

•Begin by labeling your freezer bags or freezer-safe containers using a permanent marker. Write the name of the recipe and date it was prepared for the freezer. Also list anything that needs to be added from the pantry and/or fridge.
•Record the start and finish times of foods that are cooking at the same time.
•Fill the sink with hot, soapy water. Wash the dishes as you go. When you are completely finished using a tool, place it in the dishwasher for less cleanup later.
•Chop and grate all fresh foods at once and place in bowls on your countertop.
“Scoop” required amounts when assembling your meals. Freeze leftover veggies into 1 cup portions for later use (personal note:  small margine tubs are perfect for this).
•Cool your cooked ingredients in an area away from your prep area so that you can continue your recipes without feeling short on space. Pour cooled ingredients into freezer bags or containers that are appropriate for food quantity to avoid freezer burn. Squeeze extra air out of filled freezer bags.
•Pull tomorrow night’s dinner out of the freezer and place in fridge before bedtime.
This is one of my favorite Power Cooking recipes, also from Elizabeth.  I usually purchase a large tray of chicken (6 lbs) and bulk jar of salsa and make 3 of these at once.  You could also use a pork loin instead of chicken breasts.
Mexican Chicken
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins (fresh or frozen)
16 oz. jar mild or medium salsa
2-3 cloves freshly pressed garlic
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 1/2 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
sliced or grated Monterey Jack cheese

Place chicken into freezer bag. Add remaining ingredients except cheese.  Coat chicken well. Squeeze air out of bag and freeze. Chicken will marinate as it defrosts in refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove chicken from bag and place in rectangular baking dish. Pour excess sauce from bag over top of chicken. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for
45 minutes (30 minutes for tenderloins). Top with grated cheese; bake 10 minutes and serve.
Personal note:  I also love to put this in my crockpot on low first thing in the morning and let it cook until dinner.  Before serving, I use a couple of forks to shred the chicken.  Then I use it for tacos, burritos, burrito bowls (burrito ingredients in a bowl instead of a tortilla), etc.  I serve this with basic taco/burrito ingredients (pinto/refried beans, black beans, corn, rice, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc.)  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In The News...

"Times Square getting its first 'green' billboard"

"Wild horse advocates decry euthanasia option"

"Critics say Bush administration weakened lead pollution regulation"


I am a Buckeye, plain and simple. I grew up in Ohio and I went to The Ohio State University. I love my home state and my alma mater. Anyone who says "you can't go home again" didn't grow up going to Ohio State football games, go away for a while, and then return to go to a game. No matter what happens in the intervening years (stadium renovations, new players, new coaches), there is always a feeling of returning home as you walk through the tailgate parties, walk through the stadium gate, hike up to your seat, and watch as The Ohio State University Marching Band takes the field. You can go home again - especially if you are a Buckeye.

Therefore, I feel that it is only fitting that I start this blog, at the start of Michigan Week, with a recipe for Buckeyes. In case you are unaware, Buckeyes are candies that resemble a Buckeye nut from a Buckeye tree. It's always a treat to find a Buckeye tree in the wild and collect the nuts underneath. While Buckeye nuts are not edible, Buckeye candies are and they are a favorite of Buckeye fans everywhere. Many thanks to my aunt, who made sure to submit this for our church cookbook. I always know where to find it.


3 lb. confectioners sugar
2 lb. peanut butter
1 lb. butter or margarine
1 (12 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 bar of paraffin

Mix sugar, peanut butter, and butter (mixture will be very dense, I usually end up using my hands, even though I have a Heavy Duty Kitchen Aid mixer). Form into small balls. Melt over low heat in a double boiler, chocolate chips and paraffin. Keeping chocolate mix over steam (top of double boiler), dip peanut butter balls into chocolate with a toothpick till the balls are not quite completely covered (i.e. leave some peanut butter peaking out). Set out on wax or parchment paper until chocolate cools and hardens. Now, give half of them away!

These freeze very well and make excellent holiday gifts (or any time).

This is a great group activity, if you'd like to make a party of it. Also, kids REALLY get into dipping peanut butter balls into a small bowl of melted chocolate, just be ready to deal with the resulting mess and sugar high.

FYI - For those of you who are not up on college football rivalries, Michigan Week is huge! It begins as soon as the clock ticks down on the game before the Michigan game and the excitement builds as the week progresses. While the rivalry is always present, it is especially great this week. Many times, The Game has determined who will be conference champs and attend The Rose Bowl. Even if only one team is looking forward to the Rose Bowl or even the National Championship Game, the other team is looking to knock the other team out of contention. The competition extends beyond the football game too. Every year there is a blood drive through the American Red Cross to see which school has the greatest number of donations.