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.