Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tip Tuesday–Cornstarch

That box or can sits on most of our pantry shelves, but do we really know where it comes from? Cornstarch is a finely-ground thickening agent made from the endosperm (a portion of the white heart) of the corn kernel.

In order to thicken properly, the cornstarch should be mixed with a cold liquid (this is called a “slurry”), then stirred into hot liquid, being sure to stir constantly to avoid lumps. Allowing the liquid to come to a full boil will bring the mixture to its full thickness.

Substitutions for 1 tablespoon cornstarch:

All of these work well as a substitute. Just be sure to stir well to avoid lumping.

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granular tapioca
1 tablespoon arrowroot

Nutrition:

One ounce of cornstarch contains 107 calories, 26g carbohydrates, 1% iron and 3 mg sodium, with no fat, cholesterol, calcium or protein.

Other Uses:

Cornstarch is sometimes used as a substitute for talcum powder as it is a more natural product.

Fun Stuff:

You can use cornstarch in a scientific experiment that kids will love – make a dilatant. Mix 1 part water to 1 1/2 or 2 parts cornstarch. When sitting, the mixture is a more liquid. But if you pound it or put pressure on it you’ll find it’s solid. You can, however, slowly sink your hand down into it.

Another way to use cornstarch is to make your own bath powder. Thoroughly mix equal parts baking soda and cornstarch. Add your favorite essential oil, a couple of drops at a time, mixing after each addition. Allow to sit for a day or two before using for best results.

Oddities:

There is a disease called “amylophagia” in which people eat cornstarch, often in large quantities. This is thought to be due to missing nutrients in the diet.

Recipe:

VANILLA PUDDING (BLANCMANGE)

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

Mix dry ingredients; gradually blend in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add vanilla. Pour into serving dishes; chill until set. 

Chocolate Variation

Follow directions as above, but increase sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1/3 cup baking cocoa with dry ingredients. Continue cooking as directed. 

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
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Looking on the bright side….

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”  
(A.A. Milne)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!




























Friday, April 18, 2014

Husband’s Choice–Stuffed Pizza

This week my husband’s cookbook selection was the Betty Crocker Ultimate Bisquick Cookbook, published in 2009. After selecting several delicious sounding recipes, he settled on Stuffed Pizza. Last night was the perfect time to make it since our older son was coming for dinner, which would mean not a lot of leftovers! Everyone loved it and said that it should be put into the regular menu rotation! Here it is….

SDC10323Just out of the oven.

SDC10326Time to eat.

This filling recipe is one I think you’ll enjoy. It doesn’t use a lot of strange ingredients, and the crust is made from Bisquick – what could be easier?

STUFFED PIZZA

1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
3 1/3 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup cold water
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (12 ounces)
1 jar (14 to 15 ounces) pizza sauce
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 9x13” baking dish with cooking spray. In skillet, brown sausage and ground beef, stirring often; drain.

In large bowl, combine Bisquick and water until a dough forms. Divide into 2 parts, with 1 slightly larger than the other. On a surface sprinkled with Bisquick, roll out the larger portion to a 14x16” rectangle. Fold crosswise into thirds, place in center of dish and unfold. Press on bottom and up sides of dish. On top of crust, layer 1 cup cheese, 3/4 cup pizza sauce, all the meat mixture, mushrooms, green pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese.

Roll the second dough ball into a 9x13” rectangle. Fold crosswise into thirds and layer over cheese. Press top and bottom crusts together, sealing well. Make small slits in top crust. Spread with remaining pizza sauce and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 22 to 25 minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from the Bisquick cookbook recipe. My husband doesn’t care for Italian sausage, so we substituted regular sausage. I had some trouble getting the crust as large as it needed to be (and in a good rectangle shape), but when the top crust was added I was able to pull everything together and seal it well.

This Exclusive Deluxe Edition hardcover cookbook is available at Amazon – new from $9.77, and used from $.41. Shipping rates vary.

This one was a winner - wonder what he’ll come up with this coming week??
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Today is Good Friday, with Easter on Sunday. I wish you all a Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is Husband Appreciation Day – and I certainly appreciate my dear husband of almost 47 years! He’s a faithful, caring husband and father. It will also be Record Store Day. On a similar note, I did a post about vinyl records, record players and a bit of history on August 12 of last year – check it out in the Archives.

Monday will be National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, and on Tuesday we celebrate Earth Day and National Jelly Bean Day.

Look for the rest of April’s observances on the “Holidays” page!
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The first grass cutting of the year is going on right now. He's out there riding around on the mower with a big smile on his face! It does smell so good out there, and the weather is absolutely perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. He's a happy man!

We're having our Easter dinner tomorrow since our daughter and her family have other folks to visit on Sunday. It works well for all of us.

The menu is: spiral-sliced ham, potato salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw, Watergate Salad, corn on the cob, a relish tray, dinner rolls. My daughter is contributing her "world-famous" baked beans and monkey bread. Yum! For dessert we have chocolate covered cherry cake and vanilla sprinkle bars.

I decided to go with a summer/picnic-style meal, and I think it will be a good one!

Now I'd better get to work doing some food preparation. Back later in the week.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Herb Series–Chives


This perennial herb, “allium schoenoprasum” is from the Alliaceae family, and is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It is a small edible onion, quite common and readily available. Chives grow from a bulb and have small lavender blossoms. The stems can be flat or tubular and grow up to about 20 inches long.

Chives are most often used as a garnish, and if used in cooking should be added at the end of cooking as they lose flavor if overcooked. They can be used anywhere a mild onion flavor is desired.

Cultivation:

Chives can be started from seed, and can be started in early spring since they are cool weather tolerant. Their shallow roots will require frequent watering. Patches of chives will spread, causing the plants to weaken, so transplant as needed. The plants need full sun and sandy, loamy soil.

Harvesting:

Chives can be snipped as needed. It’s best to cut chives with scissors – using a knife could bruise the stems. Typically they do not dry well, but can be chopped and frozen. The lovely blossoms are edible, too. Simply rinse off and add to salads or use as a garnish.

Nutrition:

Chives are said to provide many nutrients – beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and K, calcium, folic acid and potassium, just to name a few.

Medicinal Use:

Chives are a member of the onion family and have the same potential benefits for lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots. They contain allicin, which could lower LDL and raise HDL. Chives aid digestion by removing bacteria, fungi and yeast from the intestines. Glutathione produced by chives and working as an antioxidant may eliminate toxins that could potentially cause cancer.

So for very few calories chives pack a nutritional punch!
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In February I did a post about the "language” of flowers, but did you know that herbs also have meanings as well? Here are a few of our favorites:

Basil – good wishes, love
Bay – glory
Chamomile – patience
Chives – usefulness
Coriander – hidden worth
Fennel – flattery
Lavender – devotion, virtue
Lemon Balm – sympathy
Marjoram – joy, happiness
Mint – eternal refreshment
Oregano – substance
Parsley – festivity
Rosemary – remembrance
Sage – wisdom, immortality
Tarragon – lasting interest
Thyme – courage, strength

How about making a lovely bouquet of meaningful herbs for a friend? Or a living wreath? Simply use a floral foam wreath made for fresh flowers, insert the herb stems in an attractive design. Tie with a pretty bow and add a pair of scissors on a ribbon. They can snip the fresh herbs as needed in their kitchen. Of course, remind them to water or spritz the herbs from time to time to keep them fresh.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasting Vegetables

Oven roasting is a great way to cook many vegetables. It makes them so brown, crisp and flavorful that you just can’t turn them down! Have you tried it? I’ve done just about all vegetables in the oven, including beets and asparagus. All you do is drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then pop the pan into the oven. Be sure to watch them, though – if they seem to be getting too brown, cover them with foil until the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Here’s how to roast several of my favorites:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
 
Asparagus: Trim ends – roast 10 to 15 minutes.

Beets: Leave whole and unpeeled, stick several times with a fork – roast 1 hour, or until tender. Peel when cool.

Carrots: Cut into 1-inch pieces - roast 30 to 40 minutes.

Onions: Use jumbo onions and cut each into 12 wedges – roast 20 to 30 minutes.

Potatoes: Cut into 2-inch pieces – roast 45 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes: Cut into 1-inch lengthwise wedges – roast 30 minutes.

Winter Squash: Cut into 2-inch pieces - roast 40 minutes.

Zucchini: Trim ends and cut in half crosswise, then quarter each half lengthwise – roast 15 to 20 minutes.

Spread vegetables in single layer on flat baking sheet with low sides. Use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil per pound of vegetables, and season to taste. Stir or turn halfway through if needed.

One of my favorites is a mixture of white and sweet potatoes – so good! And roasted beets have such a great flavor. They’re quite messy to peel - you might want to wear food-safe latex gloves to keep your hands from being stained red for days!
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 Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Husband’s Choice

Happy Monday morning! It’s a bit damp here – there, too? It's a good day to stay inside with a warm drink and a good book! Or maybe do some cooking.

Last week I mentioned the new “series” here at From Grammie’s Kitchen, and this is the first installment. My hubby selected the cookbook, I chose several great recipes, and he made the final decision (I should have known it would be a dessert!).

Last night I made these delicious apple dumplings after dinner. It’s an unusual recipe, as you’ll see when you read the ingredients. And if you haven’t had these before you’re in for a real treat! They’re easy to make and just plain yummy. Most of us here had to have seconds! A scoop of ice cream melting on top just added to the great taste.

SDC10317After the butter & sugar mixture.
SDC10318After the Mountain Dew.
SDC10319After a sprinkle of cinnamon.
SDC10320Out of the oven!
SDC10321Yum!

APPLE DUMPLINGS

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 sections each
2 (8 oz.) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (12 oz.) can Mountain Dew
dash ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 10" baking dish and set aside.

Open the crescent roll dough and separate into sections. Wrap a piece of apple in each, beginning at the wide end. Place point down in prepared dish.

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and vanilla. Pour over dumplings. 

Pour the Mountain Dew over the dumplings, then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

This recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. The book is available at Amazon in both hard cover and Kindle editions starting at $10.90.

I’ve also seen the recipe online – and actually enjoyed these dumplings several years ago when an aunt brought them to a family reunion. You should definitely give them a try – both my husband and son said the recipe is a keeper!

Notes: It was easy to cut this recipe in half for our small household. I used granulated Splenda instead of sugar, and would have used a diet Mountain Dew if I had one. A 7x11" baking dish could be used instead of an 8x10" - I used a 2-quart oval.
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Today is No Housework Day - wish I could get away with that one! It's also Tater Day (It's Sweet Potatoes). Wednesday is National Cherish Antiques Day. We'll observe National Sibling Day on Thursday (Hello, Sister!). Have a grilled cheese on Saturday to celebrate Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, and follow it up with licorice candy for Licorice Day.

See the "Holidays" page for a full list of holidays and observances.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!