Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!!

I hope that you all have a wonderful time ringing in 2010.  It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since we anxiously experienced Y2K.  I'm excited by the potential of the 2010s!  There are so many things to look forward to!
We are ringing in the new year very quietly here.  We had a light, celebratory dinnner that, in a way, incorportated some of our extended family.

Raspberry pie made with raspberries my grandpa gave us from his raspberry patch.  He brought a few bags of frozen berries when he came for Christmas.  Thanks Grandpa!

Bison salami (with crackers and cheese) from a gift box my sister sent for Christmas.  Thanks Sis!

Last, but not least, virgin Strawberry Daquiris made in the Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker my mom gave us for Christmas.  Yummy!  We've had this for less than a week and we've already made the daquiris, rootbeer slushies, and mixed berry frozen yogurt.  We're looking forward to some wonderful cool, healthy, snacks/desserts as we warm to summer.  Thanks Mom!
Once the house is quiet, I'm hoping to pop some popcorn and enjoy a movie.  Have a safe and happy night everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Most Expensive Coffee Cake I Will Ever Make

Certain foods have a history. They remind us of events in our past. They bring back memories and emotions. My mom’s coffee cake is kind of like that. It brings back sense of warmth and hospitality. I love my mom’s coffee cake. Okay, to be fair, it’s Better Homes and Gardens coffee cake, but my mom is the one who made it and taught me how to make it. It has always reminded me of when we had guests for breakfast. Now it has a new story.

I don’t make Mom’s coffee cake very often because, on a daily basis, I prefer something healthier. However, a couple of weeks ago I decided to treat the family and, in the process, see how I could play with the recipe to make it a bit better for us. In an unusual move, I served it from the table. Then we left for a while. I’m usually very careful about food on the table, and clearing it when we’re done. Unfortunately, it was a hectic morning, we were in a rush to get out the door, and I forgot about clearing the table. Well, remember this girl? She was more than happy that I didn’t clear the table. When we returned home, the ½ - 2/3 of the coffee cake that was left was gone and my slim 19 lb beagle was in her recliner looking like someone watching football after Thanksgiving dinner. Ordinarily our only problem would be an extremely stuffed Beagle – except that I had put raisins in the coffee cake.

We had heard how raisins can cause renal failure in dogs. I called the vet and we rushed her right in.  The interesting thing is that at this point it’s completely unpredictable. A dog can eat a ton of raisins and be fine or it can eat a single raisin and die. After the vet induced vomiting (hopefully getting all the raisins, but not sure), we were given the options of taking her home and observing her or putting her on a 48 hour IV flush, including emergency vet service for overnight observation. The problem with taking her home was that by the time we noticed something wrong, it would be too late. The problem with the 48 hour IV flush was that it may not have been needed, and it was a great expense (not that she isn’t worth every penny). We couldn’t go with the observation option because we couldn’t imagine being wrong and losing her, but, after discussing it with the vet, the 48 hour IV flush seemed like too much (esp. since we responded quickly, probably got all the raisins out, and there was no guarantee that it would work). So, we compromised. We did a 30 hour IV flush, one overnight stay with the emergency vet service, and a follow-up renal test a few days later. After an anxious 4 days, and many prayers, she received a clean bill of health.  Someday I will make the coffee cake again, but probably never again with raisins.

For your enjoyment, here is the recipe as printed in Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book (1989). Just please remember that if you decide to add raisins, keep it away from your dog, if you have one.

Streusel Coffee Cake

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
½ cup milk
¼ cup cooking oil
¾ cup raisins or semi-sweet chocolate pieces (optional)

Streusel Topping:
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter
½ cup chopped nuts

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together egg, milk, and cooking oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Mix well. If desired, stir in raisins or chocolate pieces. Pour into a greased 9x9x2-inch baking pan.

For streusel topping, combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in nuts. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake in 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Server warm. Serves 9.

Personal Notes:

  1. I used 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour
  2. I used 2 Tbsp. cooking oil and 2 Tbsp. plain, low-fat yogurt
  3. I added wheat germ to the streusel topping

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pumpkin Crisp

A friend and I were testing the Better Than Pumpkin Pie in the Deep Covered Baker a couple of weeks ago and we got to wondering if it could be made in a slightly healthier (but just as delicious) way.  We talked about a graham cracker topping, but suddenly one day I thought of a fruit crisp topping.  Why not, right?  Using a tip from the More with Less cookbook, I mixed up the pumpkin part using half the sugar.  Then I used the crisp recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for the top.  However, I multiplied the crisp part by 1.5, except for the butter and sugar, and added wheat germ.  It passed with flying colors - and I can have a mighty critical group at times!  So, here's the full-revised recipe.  Many thanks to Jahan for working with me on this!
Pumpkin Crisp

24 ounces pumpkin, canned
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs -- beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Crisp Topping:
3/4 cup regular rolled oats
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ (optional)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup nuts -- chopped

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugars, eggs, vanilla, evaporated milk and spices, mixing well. Pour into 13"x9" pan.

Using a pastry blender, combine all crisp ingredients except butter and nuts. Cut in butter then mix in chopped nuts.

Sprinkle the crisp topping on top and pat down.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Serve warm or cooled.

Personal Note: If you have a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker, you can cook this in your microwave uncovered for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

My mom made this one year for a family holiday gathering and we all loved it.  It's a great recipe for a crowd.  She found it in the Columbus Dispatch.
Better Than Pumpkin Pie 

24 ounces pumpkin, canned
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs -- beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup nuts -- chopped

In a large mixing  bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugars, eggs, vanilla, evaporated milk and spices, mixing well. Pour into 13"x9" pan.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix on top and pat down. Melt the butter and drizzle over the top. Sprinkle with nuts.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.
Serve warm or cooled.

Personal Note:  If you have a Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker, you can cook this in your microwave uncovered for 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes

Saturday mornings are pancake mornings around here.  We have a variety of recipes and mixes that we use, depending on how much time we have and how well stocked the pantry is.  As much as I love your basic pancake, I love to try to find a healthier twist if we are eating them this often.  Usually we add blueberries, apples, or something like that (chocolate chips:  not healthier, but a treat!).  However, with the arrival of fall, I went looking for something more fall-like.  I found the following recipe on and it received rave reviews, so I had to try it.  True to review, it has been very well received and has become a household favorite.
Pumpkin Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt, stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
Personal Notes:
  1. Due to the baking soda and vinegar, the batter will be very thick.  Again, do not over-stir and don't worry about thinning it.  Just spread it out a bit as you pour it into the pan.
  2. Immediately after pouring into pan, sprinkle with chopped nuts (I like pecans), for a little added nutrition and flavor.
  3. Great served with sausage:  links, patties, etc.  Recently I sliced some chicken-apple sausages in half length-wise and browned them cut-side down in a skillet.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween! Here are some pictures from our evening.

Pumpkin carving is always an adventure around here, as my husband gets REALLY into it. In the past we've had one themed "Snakes on a Plane" and also Bob Marley. This year it was "Scream".

The moon was beautiful and nearly full. We had a great view of it.

Now, to focus even more on what we are thankful for as we enter November.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stepping Outside

It is amazing what we find when we open our eyes to our surroundings. You don't have to hop on your bike or into your car and go somewhere to see something amazing (although it certainly can be fun). Sometimes all you have to do is step out your front door. Here are some of the sites I saw today...

I hope that next time you step out your front door, you'll take a moment to see the amazing sites that surround you (if you don't already).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In The News

Here are some articles I have been reading about our food industry and its effect on us and nature.  Some are quite lengthy, so grab a cup of coffee/tea and read away...
Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear - 5/08
Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch - 7/29/09
Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food - 8/21/09

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Countdown to Kickoff

Today's tailgating menu:
Beer Bratts (Bob Evans bratts imported from Ohio, boiled in Guiness Draught and then grilled)
Candy Buckeyes (of course)
Homemade Hummus and veggie sticks
Whatever else I have that I think to add to it. After all, we're tailgating at home.

Game's on ESPN at noon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

White Bean Dip with Pita Chips

A couple of years ago, my mom bought me Giada de Laurentis's book Everyday Italian.  I have leafed through it and used a recipe or two, but had not explored it in depth.  Then, I recently watched The Food Network's Chef0graphy about Giada de Laurentis.  Even though it was late, I was inspired to grab her book off the shelf and go exploring.  The next morning I made two recipes to eat at a picnic we were going to that day.  One of those recipes was the White Bean Dip with Pita Chips.  It essentially is the Italian version of hummus.  It is so incredibly good!  Last night my husband asked if there was any left to dip some vegetable sticks in.  There wasn't, but there is now.  I actually made a double batch.  I hope there's still some left by the time he gets home from work!  Just kidding.  It's tempting though.  It's also wonderful in tuna salad instead of using mayo.  It adds more flavor, not to mention nutritional value.
White Bean Dip with Pita Chips
1 (15 oz) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (or 2 tbsp dried)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except the olive oil.  Pulse on and off until the mixture is coarsely chopped.  With the machine running, gradually mix in the olive oil until the mixture is creamy.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Serve with pita wedges, toasted baguette slices, vegetable slices, etc.
Personal Note:  I substitute half the olive oil with plain, low-fat yogurt.  I also usually make a double batch since it goes so quickly

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I love smoothies! I especially love homemade smoothies. I know exactly what wonderful, flavorful, healthy ingredients the smoothie-of-the-moment is made of when I make it myself. Smoothies are a great way to enjoy seasonal fruit. Below is my basic smoothie recipe. Each smoothie tends to be unique, depending on what I have on hand (i.e. what is in season at the local farmer's market). Today we enjoyed blueberry smoothies and blackberry smoothies. The other day it was peach/blackberry smoothies. I have also been known to use frozen fruit from the grocer's freezer, but it's not quite the same. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

½ cup water or juice
½ cup plain yogurt (low or fat free)
½ banana
½ - ¾ cup fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, or pineapple, etc.), mix and match as desired
¼ tsp. cinnamon (optional)
2 tbsp. wheat germ (optional)


Personal Notes:
I add ice or use frozen fruit for a slushy smoothie.

I use water if the fruit is local and in season or a particularly flavorful fruit, juice if fruit is from the frozen section of grocery store.

If I use juice, I use apple juice with berries and orange juice with pineapple or

Sunday, June 28, 2009

World's Best Cookies

Summer and picnic season has me thinking about family.  My mom's family has a reunion every year.  Usually I am unable to attend, but I think about the whole family often.  One of my favorite summer/reunion time memories is my grandma making World's Best Cookies.  She would make these during the last week of July as my cousins were scheduled to roll in from where ever they were stationed at the time (my uncle was in the Army).  Then, on the first Sunday in August, we would pile into our cars, with the cookies, and caravan to Washington, PA for the family reunion.  Aside from the samples at Grandma's house, she would (try to) keep the cookies under tight wraps so that there would be some left for the reunion lunch.
Grandma got sick and passed away rather quickly in late 1997.  We didn't get a chance to ask her about every detail we now wish we had.  Several favorite recipes I think she had committed to memory and are now gone.  However, we did find this one and I made sure that I copied it for my files.  I have held on to it tightly.
Although we will not be able to make it to the reunion this year, I am looking forward to an upcoming picnic with my Mom and Grandpa.  My goal is to make a batch of Grandma's World's Best Cookies for dessert.
World's Best Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup corn flakes -- crushed
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup nuts -- chopped
3 1/2 cups flour -- sifted

Combine ingredients.  Shape into small balls.  Bake at 325 for 12 minutes.
This was all the direction that I found.  I start with softened butter in my mixer and gradually add the ingredients in the order given.  Years later I found this recipe in Southern Living's 30 Years of Our Best Recipes as Crispy Oat Cookies.  I was so thrilled to see it in published form that I bought the book on the spot.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


  Stainless Steel bud
  Olympiad blossom
I love flowers:  tulips, grape hyacinths, carnations, starburst lilies, roses...  They add such color and beauty to the world.  Each one also reminds me of various times in my life as they were notebly present during those times.  Tulips and grape hyacinths welcomed us to our new home when we moved during my elementary school years.  Carnations, the state flower of Ohio, always seemed present during my childhood and were wonderful for placing (white ones) in colored water for showing how xylem worked.  Stargazer lilies were carried by my bridesmaids.
Roses have also been constant.  Each color has a different meaning.  For Valentine's Day at my school, student organizations would sell roses for fundraisers.  Individuals would buy a rose to be sent to someone special and that person's significance was indicated by the color of the rose.  As an adult, the colors stir other feelings.  Yellow reminds me of our grandmothers because yellow was their favorite rose color.  Bright red reminds me of love, but also of home.  I am a Buckeye, and BCS or not, nothing is like a good ol' fashioned Rose Bowl at the end of the season.  Over the course of a few years, I was gifted with a rose garden.  It started as four rose bushes (two Oklahomas and two Olympiads).  Next we added three Stainless Steels.  Finally, the border was added.  I now have a beautiful scarlet and grey rose garden!  It's a touch of home built with a lot of love.
Many people tell me that they don't have roses because they have heard about how much work they entail.  Please, don't let this stop you!  They are really not that labor intensive and the reward is well worth the effort!  I spray my rose garden weekly and fertilize it monthly.  If it hasn't rained within the past week, I water it.  I honestly think the most labor comes from the harvesting, and that is labor well rewarded.  The other day I counted 50+ buds on my seven rose bushes.  50!  When harvested correctly (and it's not that difficult), each bush will produce dozens of roses each year.  We decorate the house, take them to work, give them to friends and new neighbors, etc.
There is also a certain zen in caring for a garden, be it rose, vegetable, or other.  It's a time of hands-on caring when you can reflect on life or just focus on being a caregiver to a silent, yet responsive, recipient.  It's almost like going for a long, contemplative walk in the woods.  It's very theraputic and well worth the effort.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I love going to the farmer's market this time of year.  The fruit is in!  For the last few weeks we've been feasting on fresh, locally grown strawberries.  Then, last week when I went to pick up some strawberries for jam, I was greeted with peaches!  I decided it was time to expand my jam-making experience.  My neighbor and I went to the farmer's market yesterday and loaded up on peaches.  We met in my kitchen this afternoon and now I have two batches of fresh peach jam cooling on my counter.  There's something satisfying in preserving food for the year to come and making jam isn't all that difficult.  There are also still plenty of peaches for dessert tonight and the next few breakfasts.  I also plan to chop some to freeze.  They will be great this winter for cobbler, served over Angel Food cake, etc.  We're also contemplating canning sliced peaches next month when the freestones are ripe (they are SO much easier to slice).  I haven't canned anything beyond jam, but it looks like it should be even easier.  In addition, we're looking forward to blueberry and, depending on supply, blackberry jam next month. 
By the way, I am looking for a good, juice-only, sweetened jam recipe.  If you know of any, please send them my way.  Thanks!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dutch Pancake

Are you looking for a new breakfast idea?  A friend of mine posted the following recipe on her blog and my family has been loving it (thanks Laura!).  I have seen it published under several names, but she calls it a Dutch Pancake.  It's quick, easy, and may be something new to add to the breafast (or breakfast for dinner) menu.  You'll need an oven-safe skillet approx. 9 inches in diameter.
Dutch Pancake

3 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. flour
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 T. butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet on the stove. In the meantime, mix remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.  When the butter is completely melted, pour the batter into the skillet and cook for 3 minutes on the stove.  Next, insert the pan into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. It will puff up real big and golden.  Slice in triangles, like a pie.  Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar or spread with applesauce or jam.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pasta Sauce

This is a sauce I adapted from Rachel Ray's Tomato-Basil Sauce recipe and the Spaghetti Sauce recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  To save time and money, I've started making this using the large cans of tomatoes from the local warehouse club (105 oz, I believe).  I just multiply the following recipe by 7.  This results in 20+ 3-cup containers in my freezer.  It's a basic tomato sauce that I add to depending on what is available, what's on sale, or whatever I feel like adding.

Pasta Sauce
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)
1 cup broth
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
2 teaspoons dried basil (or to taste)
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or to taste)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or to taste)
2 bay leaves

Saute onion and garlic.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer at least 20 minutes. Serve over pasta.

Beef Stroganoff/Pork Roast

This is a recipe that friends of ours introduced us to and we adapted.  They use it to make Beef Stroganoff, we use it to make Pork Roast.  It's great either way.
Beef (or Bison) Stroganoff/Pork Roast
1 lb beef/bison stew meat or 2 pound pork loin
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can French onion soup (or 1 envelope onion soup mix and 1 cup broth)
Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low for at least 8 hours.  If making beef stroganoff, shred meat.  Serve with rice.  Peas make an excellent vegetable side for this.
For power cooking, place all ingredients in a freezer container and freeze.  When ready to use, thaw overnight and place in crockpot the next morning.  Continue as directed above.

Adaptable Red Chili Sauce with Tomatoes

This is a very basic, versatile recipe from The Feast of Sante Fe.  We use this to cook chicken and pork.  We also dilute with 3/4-1 cup water and use it as an enchilada sauce.  It's a favorite at our house and I hope it is for you too.

Adaptable Red Chili Sauce with Tomatoes
2 pounds canned whole tomatoes, drained, or 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes packed in tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
4 Tbsp powdered red chili
1/2 small onion, peeled and cut into rough chunks
1/2-1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
salt and black pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Transfer to a saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice to prevent scorching, and cover the pan.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Use as a marinade, to moisten fillings, or dilute to use for enchiladas.

Personal note:  we didn't add the cayenne when we prepared this in our group.  Even the 1/2 tsp cayenne can make it quite spicy.  Use to taste.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches

This can be made with either pork or 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  It would probably work with beef or bison as well, but I have not tried it.
BBQ Pork Sandwiches
1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)
1-1/2 Tbsp Mexican seasoning
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp dry mustard
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
3/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin roast
8 (2-1/4 oz) whole wheat hamburger buns
Combine 3 tablespoons brown sugar, onion, and next 6 ingredients in a 3-1/2 quart electric slow cooker; stir well.  Combine remaining tablespoon brown sugar, pepper, and salt; rub pork roast with sugar mixture.  Cut pork roast into 4 large pieces; add to slow cooker, turning to coat with sace.  Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour.
Reduce heat setting to low; cook 7 hours or until pork roast is tender.  Remove pork roast from slow cooker, reserving sauce in cooker.
Shred pork roast with 2 forks.  Return shredded pork to slow cooker, and stir well to coat with sauce.  Spoon 2/3 cup pork mixture on bottom half of each bun, using a slotted spoon.  Cover with tops of buns.  Yield:  8 servings (serving size:  1 bun and about 2/3 cup pork mixture).
For power cooking, we just put all the ingredients (except buns, of course) into a freezer container and put it in the freezer.  The night before you want to cook it for dinner, pull it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.  The next morning empty the contents into the crockpot (even if it's still partially frozen) and cook as directed.
If you'd like, you can top your BBQ with the following coleslaw recipe:
Tangy Apple Coleslaw
1 (12 oz) package broccoli coleslaw
1-2/3 cup chopped apple (about 1 large)
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss well.  Cover and chill.  Yield:  8 servings (serving size: 1/3 cup).
Both recipes from:  Cooking Light Superfast Suppers

Barley-Black Bean Burritos

My friends and I have been power cooking again and I promised that I would post the recipes for our recent meals.  I have not made the Barley-Black Bean Burritos before so this is a new one for all of us.  We assembled everything except the vegetable broth, cilantro, tortillas, and cheese and put it in the freezer for future use.  The only reason we didn't add the vegetable broth is because I made my own at home last night, we were using it in several  recipes, and didn't quite have enough to go around.  This was the one recipe where we thought it would be okay to add later.  I'll include my vegetable broth recipe later in the entry.
Barley-Black Bean Burritos
1 cup uncooked fine barley
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (1/2 lime)
2 tsp Mexican seasoning (we used taco seasoning)
2 tsp bottled minced garlic (we used two cloves minced garlic)
1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz) can vegetable broth
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
12 (6 to 7-inch) flour tortillas
3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers
Shredded iceberg lettuce (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Place first 9 ingredients in a 3- to 4-quart electric slow cooker; stir well.  Cover with lid; cook on low-heat setting 6-1/2 hours or on high-heat setting 3 hours 15 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Stir in cilantro.
Heat tortillas according to package directions.  Spoon 1/2 cup barley mixture down center of each tortilla; sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese.  Serve on shredded lettuce and top with salsa, if desired.  Yield:  6 servings (serving size:  2 burritos).
From:  Cooking Light Superfast Suppers
Vegetable Broth
As I use onions, celery, and carrots, I take the scraps and store them in a container in the freezer (right now it's a gallon-sized freezer bag).  I place half the bag of frozen scraps in the crockpot, add about 3 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 3 peppercorns, and a bay leaf.  Then I fill the crockpot with water and cook it on low all night.  The next day I strain out the scraps and bay leaf.  Viola!  I have broth.  Sometimes I add chicken or bison bones to get a meaty broth.  Then I use the broth in various recipes or to make rice, barley, etc.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spring Garden

“For a while every season, I do try to keep the whole thing under some semblance of control, pulling the weeds, clipping back the squash so that the chard might breathe, untangling the bean vines before they choke their frailer neighbors. But by the end of August I usually give it up, let the garden go its own way while I simply try to keep up with the abundance of the late-summer harvest. By this point what’s going on in the garden is no longer my doing, even if it was I who got the whole thing rolling back in May. As much as I love the firm grasp and cerebral order of spring, there’s a ripe, almost sensual pleasure in its August abandonment, too.”
Excerpt from The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
I love this passage for many reasons, but mainly because it amazingly describes my garden. It’s nice to know that my garden isn’t alone in its spring order and autumn chaos. We finally had the opportunity to work on our garden this spring. My wonderful husband tilled, while I worked ahead to pull some of the bigger weeds and then behind to even out the soil. I love working with the freshly tilled soil. Our land is mostly (if not all) clay, so every time we decide to add a section of garden, plant or tree, we basically have to mix our own soil: sand, top soil, peat, compost, etc. I also appreciate my husband’s willingness and sense of urgency in getting it done in time to have a productive garden. Of course, he also loves to quote the book of Genesis ("cursed is the ground for thy sake") while he recovers from the hard work involved.

Since the garden was ready and the weather cooperative, I made a trek to a local farmer’s market to purchase seedlings and I spent the afternoon planting. I look forward to tending to our garden, watching it grow, and (at least partially) living off the summer and fall harvests: cherry tomato snack bowls (we have 3 varieties), fresh salsa, green beans, cucumbers, peppers (4 varieties)… I’m also anticipating the annual challenge of finding something new to do with the ever abundant zucchini and squash. I look forward to sharing any recipes I find with those of you who are facing the same challenge.

For now I’ll admire the order and simplicity of our garden while I can for this, like all things, will soon pass.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC Biscuits

Today is ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corp. From what I understand, ANZAC Day seems to be very similar to Memorial Day here in the USA. We've had family visit both Australia and New Zealand and my father-in-law introduced us to ANZAC Biscuits. Biscuits here in the USA are cookies. These are awesome and easy to make - and very forgiving, as I found out over Christmas. Everything I could do to mess up these cookies, I did. I was doing too many things at once and kept messing up the ingredients. First, I doubled the butter (because I'm used to making Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies and I let autopilot take over). Then, because I was force to double the recipe, I had to use molasses and sugar to make up for my shortage of brown sugar. They still turned out great. Then again, what else can you expect from a biscuit/cookie born out of war-time shortages.
There are various accounts of how ANZAC biscuits originated. Some say they were made by soldiers who made what they could with what they had. Others say they were made by the women back home who wanted to send sweets to their soldiers, but had to work with war-time rations (and the biscuits had to survive the long trip without going bad). Regardless of how they originated, they are a favorite treat in the Australia and New Zealand area and at our house. I hope you enjoy them as well.
ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats (regular oatmeal) uncooked
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 tbsp boiling water

Combine the flour (sifted), oats, coconut and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter and Golden Syrup (or honey) in a saucepan over a low heat. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter and Golden Syrup. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon tablespoon of mixture onto a greased cookie sheet leaving space between biscuits to allow for spreading. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and seal in airtight containers.
Personal Note: It isn't authentic, but if you don't like coconut, you can substitute chopped nuts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Arbor Day!

Happy National Arbor Day!  J. Sterling Morton founded National Arbor Day in 1872.  It is celebrated on the last Friday in April.  However, individual states celebrate it at various times depending on the best time to plant a tree in that area.  To learn more celebrating Arbor Day, tree replenishment programs, and to receive 10 free trees, visit the Arbor Day Foundation's web site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

Amish Friendship Bread is making the rounds again.  I actually love it when I receive a bag of starter.  I think last time I was able to keep it going for about 2 months, just trying out new flavors and ideas.  I love to make adjustments to the recipe and, since I have this blog now, I thought I'd share those with you.  I'll keep adding to this post as I try new variations.  If you have one that you would like to share, please feel free to let me know.  I'd love to try your suggestions.
Amish Friendship Bread
Basic Instructions, received with a bag of starter:
Day 1: Do nothing
Day 2: mash the bag
Day 3: mash the bag
Day 4: mash the bag
Day 5: mash the bag
Day 6: Add to the bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and mash the bag
Day 7: mash the bag
Day 8: mash the bag
Day 9: mash the bag
Day 10: Follow the directions below:

Pour all of the bag into a bowl. Add: ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ cup flour, 1 ½ cup milk. Mix.
Measure 4 batters, 1 cup each, into 1 gallon ziplock bags.
Keep one for yourself and give the others out with copies of this recipe (tell them what day it was).

Baking directions (do this every 10 days if you keep a starter for yourself)
Preheat to 325
To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil or melted butter
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 box instant pudding (any flavor)
1 cups raisins and/or nuts (optional)
Grease 2 large loaf pans and dust with cinnamon sugar.  Pour in mixture and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.  Bake for 1 hr, cool until loosens from sides.
  1. Use chocolate pudding and nuts/mini-chocolate chips instead of raisins.
  2. Use White Chocolate pudding and craisins instead of raisins.  Omit cinnamon and cinnamon sugar (Thanks Monica!).
  3. Use instant sugar-free pudding instead of regular (baked in less time).
  4. Use vanilla pudding with nuts and raisins.
  5. Make muffins instead of loaves of bread.  Each loaf makes about 12 muffins.
  6. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 2 mashed bananas.
  7. Replace 1 cup flour with 1 cup whole wheat flour.
  8. Use white chocolate pudding, and 1 cup chopped pecans.
  9. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup applesauce, reduce sugar to 1/2 cup.
  10. Use white chocolate pudding and 1/2 cup pecans.
  11. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt.
  12. Use vanilla pudding and 3/4 cup blueberries - I used small, Canadian (like Maine) blueberries that I found in the freezer section at Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that you are all able to find a way to celebrate our planet and the many gifts it provides.  In honor of Earth Day, here is a list of inexpensive, easy things you can do to enjoy our planet and maybe give back while you're at it.
  1. Take a hike and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Be sure to take a trash bag with you to pick up any litter you find along the way.  We go on "Rainbow Walks" to look at all the incredible colors surrounding us.  
  2. Go canoeing, kayaking, or rowboating - it's peaceful and doesn't polute
  3. Go camping
  4. Find a place outside to enjoy a good book (anything will do but I've listed some related ideas below)
  5. Go on a picnic
  6. Visit a local garden/arboretum
  7. Plant a tree
  8. Start/work on your garden
  9. Learn about ways to calculate, reduce, and/or offset your carbon footprint
  10. Attend an Earth Day event
  11. Learn and practice the principles of Leave No Trace
  12. Watch Planet Earth or Blue Planet*
  13. Go see Disneynature's premier release: Earth
Do you have additional ideas?  I'd be happy to add them to the list.
Just remember:  "Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
*I also highly recommend The 11th Hour and An Inconvient Truth, but I was going for more upbeat activities in the spirit of celebrating.
Book List
  • 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth by The Earth Works Group
  • 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by The Earth Works Group
  • Serve God Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD
  • It's Easy Being Green by Emma Sleeth
  • Saving God's Green Earth by Tri Robinson with Jason Chatraw
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Bars

This is my puppy dog!  Okay, she's not exactly a puppy.  She is an adventure though.  She rolls in dirt (not mud - I love the rain!), digs under fences, walks the deck railing, jumps on the compost bin in order to jump over the fence, traps cute little bunnies in the garden (where she cannot get to them), seeks out love and affection, gets excited at the sight of a sheet being placed on the couch, curls up on the sheet and sleeps while we read or watch tv...  The list goes on and on.  We call her our little circus dog.  Name a beagle trait.  She has it.  My neighbor clued me in to her tree climbing, but yesterday I witnessed it first hand.  There was something outside the yard and she wanted it.  She can be one very determined dog!  The branch isn't strong enough to support her escape attempts, but she tries anyway.  This inspired a YouTube search for Beagle antics.
Following is one of the treats for our K9s that I promised to post awhile ago.  My mother-in-law found it in the November/December 2007 issue of Dog Living Magazine and passed it on to me.  It was fun to make together and our pups loved it.  All the ingredients are "dog safe".  For a list of foods that are dangerous for dogs, see this page on
Pumpkin Cinnamon Bars
6 cups whole oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 1/2 cups water (substitution for water can be soy milk, yogurt, apple juice)
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  When mixed thoroughly, spoon mixture into an oiled or lightly sprayed 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mintues.  Let cool 10 minutes and turn out onto a cutting board.  Cut into squares, as big or small as you wish.  Keep refrigerated in a zip-lock bag or plastic tub with a lid.  These will be good for 6 weeks.
Note:  Pumpkin can be substituted for unsweet applesauce, peanut butter (natural, avoid the salt and sugar), cooked sweet potatoes, cooked chopped vegetables (not onions).
Don't have time right now to bake treats for your pup?  My girl loves to hear the vegetable peeler at work because she's hoping for carrot peelings.  She also loves cranberries.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


A group of us at church have started Power Cooking together.  We go in together on food to buy in bulk and then we assemble/cook the meals together in the church kitchen.  It is a great time to socialize, share ideas, and work together.  Plus, we get to mess up the church kitchen instead of our own.  We do clean it up when we are done!  I liken it to an old fashioned quilting bee only we are preparing meals instead.  We also plan to put together some extra meals to go in the church's freezer for the pastors to distribute as needed.  I will be posting recipes that we use for future reference and for you to try if you are interested.
One of the meals we assembled last week was Chicken Souvlakia.  I found it in the cookbook The Grecian Plate.  This is a church cookbook assembled by The Hellenic Ladies Society at Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Durham, NC.  It was first published in 1984 and has been through 10 printings.  It was the National Winner of the Prestigious R.T. French Tastemaker Cookbook Award.  This is an excellent teaching cookbook if you want to learn more about Greek cooking and food culture.
The recipe we used is for Souvlakia and calls for lamb.  While I would love to use lamb, it tends to be on the pricey side and the marinade also works well for chicken, hence the change to Chicken Souvlakia.  For Power Cooking, we placed the chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag, added the marinade ingredients, and put it in the freezer for future use.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I am sure we will.
1 (3 lb) leg of lamb, boned (or 2 lbs chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Marinade Sauce:
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 green peppers, quartered
1 large onion, quartered and separated into slices
12 cherry tomatoes
Lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil (optional)
Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a deep bowl. Combine all marinade ingredients in a jar; shake well. Pour over meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove meat; reserve marinade for basting, if desired. Skewer on a 12" metal rod the lamb, pepper, onion, and cherry tomatoes; repeat ending with lamb. Baste with reserved marinade, or beat a little lemon juice and olive oil together and brush on lamb and vegetables. Broil on broiler rack 3 inches from flame (or on the grill) for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Turn frequently. Serve with rice. Serves 6.
4/29/09 - This is also a great marinade for talapia!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In the News - Food Safety

I read these articles today on MSNBC and thought some of you might be interested.  We have a quote in our family for when food a food item has been in the fridge to long:  "There's shrimp, but they're off".  It 's one of those quotes from a real situation that has been adopted as part of our common vernacular.  I try to keep up with the food in our fridge, freezer, and pantry, but life moves fast and it's easy to loose track.  The masking tape and marker idea from the first article is a great one that I use.  It works wonders.  However, if something isn't labeled, or you don't remember when you bought or made it, just remember the title of the first article:
"when in doubt, throw it out."

When in Doubt, Throw it Out

7 Mistakes Even Safe Cooks Make

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bread Crumbs/Croutons

How many of us throw away leftover scraps of bread only to turn around and buy a package of breadcrumbs when a recipe calls for them or croutons the next time we fix a salad? I know I am guilty of this. In reality, how much sense does this make? We can save money and precious resources simply by making our own bread crumbs and croutons. All we have to do is save any leftover slices of bread, heels, rolls, uneaten toast, crusts, crumbs, etc. in a plastic bag in the freezer. Whenever the bag is full or you need crumbs or croutons, just follow the directions below for your own homemade variety.

Bread Crumbs:
Place a few slices of bread into a food processor and blender and process until all you have is crumbs. Store crumbs in an airtight container in the freezer.

Slice leftover bread into cubes. Bake in a 300-350 degree oven until thoroughly dry. Store croutons in an airtight container.

If you would rather not use freezer space to store your breadcrumbs, you can follow these directions from the More With Less Cookbook, published by the Mennonite Central Committee. This is one of my favorite cookbooks. It is a collection of recipes and cooking tips from Mennonite Missionaries around the world. I have learned a great deal about life and cooking around the world from this cookbook. While some of the nutritional information is a bit outdated (it was published in the late ‘70s), I still consider an invaluable resource in my kitchen.

Dry bread thoroughly in a slow oven, turning occasionally. Put pieces in heavy plastic bag and crush with rolling pin, or whirl in a blender. Put crumbs through coarse sieve. Toss hard pieces to the birds. Dry bread crumbs keep indefinitely on the shelf in a covered container. Add herbs and seasoned salt if desired.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cincinnati Chili with Lentils

I know there’s a group of Cincinnatians out there just cringing right now. I am messing with a classic. However, you probably weren’t too thrilled with my use of bison and TVP in my last entry either. This adaptation was inspired by a recipe a friend of mine e-mailed to me. It was another version of Cincinnati Chili with Lentils. It started me thinking about using lentils in the recipe in my previous post. So, I gave it a try and it turned out pretty well. No, it’s not exactly the same. However, if you are looking for a healthier, vegetarian, or a more economical alternative, this will work. It also passed with flying colors with the rest of the household, which is a major plus.

Cincinnati Chili with Lentils

3 cups lentils
9 cups broth
3 cups onion, finely chopped
4 ½ cloves garlic, minced
22.5 oz tomato sauce
3 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp chocolate chips
1 ½ Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1 ½ Tbsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 ½ tsp cumin
¾ tsp cardamom
3/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in stock pot. Bring to a simmer (you may want to save adding the chocolate chips until now) and let simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. When lentils are cooked, blend mixture. I used my immersion blender, but you can blend a bit at a time in a regular blender. This will give it the same texture as the original recipe.

Serve over spaghetti with the following toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese (for a 3-way) plus
Red beans OR chopped onions (for a 4-way)
Red beans AND chopped onions (for a 5-way)

*Pumpkin Pie Spice (substitute, 1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

While we all loved this, we are still playing around with the technique of making this recipe.  Why?  Because we think it's fun to experiment with different ways of doing things.  We're going to try running the lentils alone through the grinder to see what that does to the texture and I'm going to try making this in the crockpot.  I will ammend this post with the results of our effort - so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili is not your “typical” Texas-style chili. It is something completely different, originating, of course, from Cincinnati, OH. It is served over spaghetti and topped with shredded cheddar cheese, red beans and/or onions. Oyster crackers are often served with the meal. Cincinnati Chili is also used as a coney sauce, topped with shredded cheddar cheese. This can seem like quite the project, but it is never as difficult as I make it out to be before I get started. It also makes a lot of chili, so you’ll have plenty to either feed a crowd or freeze for future use.

Cincinnati Chili
3 lbs ground beef
3 cups onion, finely chopped
4 ½ cloves garlic, minced
22.5 oz tomato sauce
1 ½ cups beef broth
3 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp chocolate chips
1 ½ Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1 ½ Tbsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 ½ tsp cumin
¾ tsp cardamom
3/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Boil ground beef, onions, and garlic in water. Once beef is cooked, strain meat, onions, and garlic through cheesecloth or a fine strainer. Return meat mixture to pan and add other ingredients. Heat to simmer.

Serve over spaghetti with the following toppings:
Shredded cheddar cheese (for a 3-way) plus
Red beans OR chopped onions (for a 4-way)
Red beans AND chopped onions (for a 5-way)

*Pumpkin Pie Spice (substitute, 1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Personal Note: I usually make this with ground bison and I have even substituted one pound of ground bison for 1 cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein). I just put the TVP in the water about 10 minutes before straining the mixture through the cheesecloth.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sugar Cookies and Buttercream Frosting

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!!
The final "Sweets for your Sweet" recipe is your basic sugar cookie.  I received this recipe from a friend who found it in her Betty Crocker cookbook.  I made these for a Valentine's Day party and they were a big hit.  Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time staying out of the leftovers!  At least it's a beautiful day for a walk.  I can balance out those extra cookies!  I hope you enjoy these as much as we have and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Sugar Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen 2-inch cookies

1 1/2 cups powered sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mix powered sugar, margarine, vanilla, and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375. Grease cookie sheet lightly with shortening.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.
  1. You can sprinkle the cookies with granulated sugar before baking and forgo the frosting.  They will still be wonderful and a bit on the healthier side.
  2. These are great without sugar or frosting.
  3. I was short on time when I made these, so I rolled the dough into a log, put it in the freezer for 40 minutes then moved it to the refrigerator for 20 minutes.  When it came time to bake the cookies, I just sliced the log every 1/4" for a basic round cookie.
Buttercream Frosting (from the powdered sugar bag)
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Cream butter.  Add remaining ingredients and continue creaming until mixture is well blended and light and fluffy.  Will frost two 9" layers or one 13x9" cake.
This frosting literally takes minutes to make (faster than running to the store) and is better than what you would buy in a tub in the dessert aisle.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bunco Dip

In keeping with the "Sweets for Your Sweet" theme, here is a recipe that is sure to be a hit.  My friend Monica introduced me to this recipe.  She calls it Bunco Dip because she always made it for Bunco parties.  It is very easy, taking only minutes to assemble.
Bunco Dip
1 8-oz pkg reduced fat cream cheese
1/2-3/4 jar caramel ice cream topping (recommend Smucker’s, it tends to be thicker)
Mini-Heath bars - chopped
Apples, sliced (recommend Granny Smith)
Graham Sticks

Place block of cream cheese on a plate. Cover with caramel ice cream topping. Sprinkle with chopped Heath bars. Serve with apple slices and graham sticks to scoop up dip.
I imagine it can be adapted, but I have a hard time moving away from caramel and Heath Bars!  I have thought about using chocolate sauce and Butterfingers or Reece's Cups instead, for chocolate and peanut butter lovers.  If you decide to try to adapt it to your favorite flavors, I'd love to hear the results.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tar Heel Pie

I found this recipe on a North Carolina postcard and had to buy it just to try the recipe. It is basically a super-rich brownie pie! Needless to say, I love this pie! This is a great recipe for a gathering, just so that you are not tempted to eat too much of it yourself. It is very fudgy and I am always nervous that it isn’t done, but it is. Just watch for dryness around the edges and the crust to darken.
Tar Heel Pie
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, scrambled
Pour melted butter over chocolate chips and stir. Blend remaining ingredients into chocolate mixture. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes.
It's THAT easy!  It is great in the Pat-in-Pan Crust.
Tar Heel Pie Tarts

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pat-in-Pan Pie Crust

Valentine's Day is fast approaching so it's time for some "Sweets for Your Sweet" recipes.  Actually, this recipe is a prelude to the first "sweets" recipe.  The filling will come next.  If you love chocolate, you will love the next post.  However, first things first...

This is my absolute favorite pie crust recipe. It is from Cooking from Quilt Country, a cookbook about Amish life. I love this recipe because I don’t have to make a mess on my counter to make it. It is made directly in the pie pan. It can be used for any single-crust pie: pumpkin, crumb-topped fruit, quiche, etc. I have been known to add a bit of cinnamon with the flour if I'm making apple or pumpkin pie.  The only down-side to this crust is that there isn’t any leftover crust to make little cinnamon pinwheel cookies with afterwards.

Pat-in-Pan Crust

1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp cold milk

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the pie pan and mix with your fingers until blended.
In a measuring cup, combine the oil and milk and beat with a fork until creamy.
Pour all at once over the flour mixture.
Mix with a fork until the flour mixture is completely moistened.
Pat the dough with your fingers, first up the sides of the plate, then across the bottom.
Flute the edges.
Shell is now ready to be filled.

If you are preparing a shell to fill later, or your recipe requires a prebaked crust, preheat the oven to 425F.
Prick the surface of the pastry with a fork and bake 15 minutes, checking often, and pricking more if needed.

For a 10" crust, use 2 cups flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2/3 cup oil, 3 Tbsp milk

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Crockpot Cooking

My sister sent me this article about the economic and environmental advantages of using crockpots.  I love my crockpot, whether it's cooking dinner, keeping spiced cider warm (a Christmas eve tradition), or even cooking breakfast all night while I sleep.  It's awesome!  In the past week I've used it to make Chicken Cacciatore and chicken for burritos.  I even had enough burrito chicken to packages in the freezer for 3 future meals.  So, if you haven't already, dust off your crockpots and have dinner waiting for you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Refried Beans

I'm currently reading In Defense of Food:  An Eater's Mainfesto by Michael Pollan, in which he states "Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants."  It is the third book of his that I have started to read.  My problem is that I have been so busy lately that I get about 30 pages into one of his books and then I have to return it to the library.  I can't renew it because there's a wait list for it.  So far I'm doing much better with this one as I'm on page 69.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm dangerously close to just ordering them from Amazon so that I can read them at a pace that I have time for.
Michael Pollan is a Professor of Journalism at Berkeley and has written several books about food.  His books are easy to read and full of interesting information.  I recently read that someone took a class that included one of Mr. Pollan's books on the reading list and it was the most entertaining book they had to read that semester.
Anyway, we hear all the time how we need to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  Actually, Mr. Pollan would point out that we tend to translate this into the idea of eating more.  What we really need to do is replace some of the non-whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in our diets with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, thereby changing the ratio of the types of foods we eat.  This has me finally (again) trying to accomplish this feat.  Therefore, tonight's dinner was burritos made with homemade refried beans and brown rice.  As you sit there potentially thinking I have too much time on my hands if I'm making homemade refried beans, I am going to show you how simple it actually is and the taste is SO much better than what you'll get from a can.  I found this recipe in Huntly Dent's The Feast of Santa Fe.  I love this cookbook!  It not only has wonderful, authentic Southwestern recipes, but he does a lot of teaching about the hows and whys of cooking Southwestern-style foods (a major ingredient in an awesome cookbook - pun intended).
Refried Beans in Butter
3 cups cooked black kidney, or pinto beans, plus cooking liquid (a 27-ounce can, approximately)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Wedges of lime for garnish
Drain the cooked beans and reserve the liquid.  Combine the onion, garlic, butter and seasonings in a 10-inch skillet, stir over medium heat, and cover to allow the onion to wilt, about 5 minutes over low heat.  Uncover, turn heat up to medium, and add the beans.  Using a large slotted spoon, roughly mash the beans as you are heating them.  but not to the point that the beans lose all their shape.  Thin out of necessary with some of the reserved liquid.  Serve garnished with wedges of lime to squeeze on as the guests are served.
If you don't want to mash the beans yourself, you can also put half at a time into a food processor and pulse to the desired consistency.
Personal Notes:
  1. I have used canned black beans or pinto beans as well as dried beans that I soaked and cooked myself (the crockpot is wonderful for this).
  2. The amount of cayenne listed makes for quite the spicy dish.  I use about 1/4 of what is called for (i.e. 1/8 tsp)
Coming soon:
A series on potatoes (requested by my sister, who I'm sure is through her bag of potatoes by now - sorry!)
Treats for our K9 family members

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Macaroni and Cheese

Here are two more Macaroni and Cheese recipes that are favorites of mine.  The first is one that I imagine my grandmother made.  It is from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which has the lasagna recipe that I know she used.  The second recipe is Alton Brown's Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese.  While I love this one,  it isn't as healthy as the one in my previous post, so I don't make it quite as often.
Macaroni and Cheese (from The Better Homes and Garden Cookbook)
1 cup elbow macaroni (4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Dash pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups shredded American cheese (8 ounces)
1 medium tomato, sliced (optional)
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well.
Meanwhile, for cheese sauce, in a saucepan cook onion in margarine or butter till tender but not brown.  Stir in flour and pepper.  Add milk all at once.  Cook and stir until bubbly.  Add shredded cheese; stir till melted.
Stir macaroni into cheese sauce.  Transfer to a 1-quart casserole.  Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or till bubbly.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, arrange tomato slices atop macaroni, if desired.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Makes 4 servings.
Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese (from Good Eats)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fast-As-Boxed Macaroni & Cheese

This recipe is from The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers and was requested by my friend Anna.  While this book focuses on improving the way families eat, it is a great resource for healthy eating whether you have a family or not.  For more recipes from the authors of this cookbook, visit their website:  Meal Makeover Moms (the link can also be found on my list of food links in the side margin).
Fast-As-Boxed Macaroni & Cheese
8 oz dried small elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups 1% lowfat milk
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups preshredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
Return the saucepan to the stove (do not place over heat just yet).  Add the milk, flour, mustard, and garlic powder and whisk until well blended.
Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add the Cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until the cheese melts.  Stir in the pasta, heat through, and serve.
Update 1/15/08:  I made this today with a few modifications and it is getting good reviews, so I thought I would pass along the changes.  First, I used my cost-savings method of using reconstituted dry milk instead milk from the fridge.  I used 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup of dry milk.  Next, I opened my fridge to find that I was out of Dijon mustard so I used yellow mustard instead.  Finally, I added 2 slices of 2% Reduced Fat Kraft American Cheese.  I actually think I like this better!  I plan to post a couple of more favorite macaroni and cheese recipes later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Taco Soup

Tonight I spoke with a wonderful group of women about Budget and Power Cooking.  This has put me in the mood for sharing something that is budget friendly and easy to double or even triple so that you can freeze extra for future use.  This Taco Soup recipe is quick, easy, and delicious.  Our friend Judy served it for dinner one night and I had to ask for the recipe.  I believe she found it through Weight Watchers.  While it does not call for any meat, feel free to add ground meat or precooked chopped chicken.
 Taco Soup

3 cans beans, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can corn, canned, undrained
1 cup water
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix

Put ingredients into pot on stove.  Simmer about 20 minutes.
Top with shredded cheese, if desired.
Personal Note:  I also rinse my beans.  This is a great way to reduce your sodium intake.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Stromboli Supreme

This is one of my favorite dinners.  Why?  I love pizza and this is basically a rolled-up pizza.  It is also very versitile, which is great because then I can use whatever ingredients I happen to have on hand.  The recipe does list specific "toppings", but I am certain I have never used them as written.  Tonight we did ham and turkey pepperoni.  Sometimes I make it with turkey pepperoni, mushrooms and onions.  I have also made it with spinach, tomatoes and onions.  What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Try them.  Go wild!  Many, many thanks to my friend Laura who passed this recipe to me!
Stromboli Supreme
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsps olive oil
4 oz pepperoni
4-8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices ham, sliced into strips
4 Italian sweet sausages, crumbled and cooked
marinara sauce
mushrooms, onions, green peppers
Allow dough to thaw and rise.  Once it has risen, press and fit into a baking sheet.
Cook sausage.
In a small bowl, combine egg yolks, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, and olive oil.  Spread mixture over dough using a pastry brush.  Layer pepperoni, cheese, and other toppings.  Roll dough from long ended side, jelly-roll style, to enclose filling.
Place seem-side down on pan and tuck ends under.  Beat egg whites and brush over dough.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.
Personal note:  I have used Trader Joe's pizza dough (any flavor) and pizza dough made using the dough function on my bread machine.  Both work very well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!!

I hope that you had a fun and safe end to 2008 and beginning of 2009.  I was able to get out and smell the roses, so to speak.  I love taking some time to enjoy the natural world around me.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful scenes I witnessed.