Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Moving On…

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. Ours was quite enjoyable, but now it’s time to move on to the next milepost – the new year. 2013 will be here before we know it! The Christmas decorations are still up, and I plan to take them down next week. That certainly will leave the house looking a bit drab, won’t it?

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? We are definitely not party people, so we spend our evening quietly at home with snacks and a movie. And we always watch the ball drop in New York City.

New Year’s Day is quiet as well, and we have the traditional “good luck” meal that we have every year. That menu started when I was growing up, and I remember it being the first food eaten on New Year’s Day. We would go to church, then come home and eat it before going to bed because it had to be the first food eaten in the new year. Now, though, it is just dinner – I don’t think I would want to eat it in the middle of the night!

I cook boneless country ribs in the slow cooker with sauerkraut, adding a chopped apple and a bit of brown sugar for sweetness. Sides include mashed potatoes and blackeye peas, along with cooked apples. The pork and blackeye peas are foods traditionally eaten for good luck in the new year, especially by southerners. By the way, our children always called the blackeye peas “dirt beans”, and would only eat one or two because Mom insisted! :-)
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Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? It is so easy to break them then be disappointed in yourself for doing so. I don’t make them, but always have a list of things I want to do in the new year. Several things on last year’s list fell by the wayside due to work, caregiving and other responsibilities. Those items have now been moved to my new list, so I’m hoping to accomplish some of those things this year. Some of my goals apply to this blog and to my other website, as I’m hoping to expand and grow them both. Wish me luck!
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Happy New Year, everyone! And as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Christmas Miracle?

World War I had been going on for about 5 months, and it was Christmas Eve, 1914. Shortly after midnight the German soldiers stopped firing their weapons and began singing Christmas carols, much to everyone’s surprise. Soldiers along both fronts joined in the singing. One can only imagine the thoughts that were going through their minds, being so far from home and newly engaged in war. Most of them were basically children, some away from their families at Christmas for the first time.

As dawn broke, many of the German soldiers came out of their trenches and walked toward the Allies, saying “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ languages. Upon realizing that the Germans were unarmed, the Allies emerged from their trenches, greeting and shaking hands with the German soldiers.   Gifts were exchanged – cigarettes and plum puddings – and more carols sung. An impromptu game of soccer is reported to have been played as well.  

Once Christmas Day ended the soldiers returned to their respective sides of “no man’s land” and the fighting continued.   This touching scenario would probably not happen today. The technology and weapons used would not permit such a person-to-person event. But it’s nice to imagine, isn’t it?
  
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On a different note: When re-reading my previous post concerning Christmas decorations, I realized I sounded a bit stuffy and obsessive when describing some decorative attempts. My comments were meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and everyone is certainly entitled to their own ideas and creative work. All in fun!!**************************************************************************
Please be sure to read the new posting on my "Holidays" page. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, as always. Thanks for reading!






Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Countdown

While out doing some errands this morning, I noticed some decorations that made me wonder what people were thinking. I’m not a decorating expert or anything, but I pretty much know what looks right and what doesn’t. Here are some of the things I saw:

1) Premade red bows just stuck anywhere – on fence posts, windows, shutters – all without being “attached” to anything like a wreath or greens. They looked as if they’d landed where they were thrown.

2) Poorly placed lights and roping, with very uneven loops or lights just draped all over with no obvious plan. Sets of lights on half the window or gutter – not centered. Guess they just ran out of light string and didn’t try to center it up.

3) The entire Christmas decoration inventory placed all over – snowmen beside the Nativity, Santas by the angels, etc. Obviously, it would have been better to leave some of them boxed up and put the rest in groups, designing scenes with some sort of plan.

Do you agree?

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Today’s Christmas Quote:
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year” –  Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
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Christmas Cookie #1 -
SPICE THUMBPRINTS
 
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all but flour in large mixing bowl at low speed for 1 minute. Do not overmix. Gradually add flour to mixture at low speed just until a stiff dough forms, about 1 minute.
 
Roll dough into walnut-size balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Using thumb, make an imprint in center of cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until puffy. Make imprint again immediately after removing from oven. Cool completely.
 
Fill cookies with your favorite cookie frosting and decorate as desired.
Makes approximately 4-5 dozen.
 
This recipe is on a piece of paper that was in Pillsbury flour back in the 1960s, and I’ve decided I’d better tape it together before it totally falls apart! It’s a family favorite, and I make them every year.
 
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Be sure to check out my Holidays page for more Christmas fun!
 
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Your comments and suggestions – and recipes – are welcome, as always. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pumpkin Goodness




I hope you’re all having a great week. It’s busy here, and sometimes I wonder if everything will be done by Christmas. It’s hard to believe it’s just 3 weeks from today! As it does every year it will go very quickly, then the new year arrives. But I always tell myself that if something doesn’t get done, it doesn’t need to be done. Right?

Over the weekend we brought in the Halloween pumpkin to cook. Most people will say they aren’t the good kind for cooking – that you need sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins or whatever – but I’ve done this for several years with good success and with lots of pumpkin for recipes. And just throwing the pumpkin away seems so wasteful, especially when there had not been weather problems to affect it outside.

Wash the outer skin of the pumpkin. Cut in half and remove the seeds and as many of the strings as possible, then cut into large chunks. Place in large roasting pan or baking pan and add about 1/2” of water. Cover with lid or with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until a knife goes through the skin easily. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully pour off water. Let the pumpkin cool until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin. Return the pulp to the pan and mash with a potato masher. Remove any excess water from the pulp. Then use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency. I pack it by 2-cup portions in freezer bags. Squeeze out the air and flatten the bags so they lay flat in the freezer.

To use in cooking or baking, thaw in refrigerator and drain in colander. I’ve used this for pies, breads and casseroles.

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Today’s Christmas quote:
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas” – Calvin Coolidge
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Please check the Holidays page for new information and goodies! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!







Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Christmas Time!

Yes, we are now in the busiest, most enjoyable time of the year. With all the decorating, baking, shopping and social engagements filling our days, hopefully we can all just slow down for a bit and spend a little quiet time. Watch a favorite Christmas movie. Read a good book. Listen to some great Christmas music.

And speaking of music, check out my Holidays page for some information about some of those songs we all love. I hope to keep adding to it as we get closer and closer to Christmas.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 19, 2012

3 Days….

Yes, 3 days until Thanksgiving. Are you preparing the meal? We’re having dinner here with our kids and grandsons, and I am really looking forward to it! It’s always a good time – noisy and crazy and filled with food. Perfect!

We all have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? No matter what our situation or problems or trials are, couldn’t they always be worse? I just look around and see so many who are not as blessed as I am and wish them well.

Our dinner will include a large turkey breast and a honey-baked spiral-sliced ham, along with many sides, salads and desserts. Our daughter will be bringing her yummy green beans and maybe a dessert. One of my favorite recipes is what I call “Heavenly Rice”. I haven’t made it in a long time, but it’s an unusual and delicious treat. Recipe is below.

Organization is key to doing a large dinner such as Thanksgiving. I thought I was really organized until I got home from 3 grocery stores earlier today and realized I’d forgotten the celery, of all things!

A few tips:

1) Make your menu and gather recipes early. And make it easy on yourself – stick to the old favorites, those tried-and-true recipes that everyone loves. This isn’t a time to rewrite the menu with all new foods, but maybe try one new item. Or try a twist on one of your usual recipes.

2) Make a shopping list from those collected recipes, then do a quick inventory of what you have on hand.

3) Do as much prep work as you can the day (or two) before. We may roast the turkey breast the day before – that works fine and frees up the oven for all the sides. Just drizzle a bit of broth over it, cover and reheat. Peel and cut vegetables. Brown the sausage for stuffing. Bake the cornbread for the stuffing, cool, then crumble or cube it – let dry overnight. Cube the bread for the stuffing and let it dry. Make the cranberry sauce and gelatin salads. Chill anything that needs to be chilled. Bake desserts if they’ll still be fresh-tasting the next day. Don’t forget the ice!

4) Don’t forget the celery! Smile

5) Schedule baking times and prep times so you can have everything done at the same time with a minimum of fuss.

6) Eat and enjoy!

Here’s a recipe from quite a few years ago – given to me by my Mother. It’s in her handwriting, and I treasure that well-worn sheet of paper!

HEAVENLY RICE
1 small box cherry gelatin
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup peaches, fruit cocktail or sliced bananas
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
 
Dissolve gelatin in 2 cups hot water (or the juice from the pineapple and enough water to make 2 cups). Chill until set. Whip gelatin and fold in remaining ingredients. Chill thoroughly.
 
This sounds a bit strange, but trust me – it’s so good!
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I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. And let’s all count our blessings.
 
As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Veteran's Day to all our veterans! We appreciate their service and the sacrifices they and their families have made. Remember to thank a veteran today - and every day.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just 2 More Weeks!

Two weeks until Thanksgiving! Are you panicked yet? It’s time to pull out those treasured recipes that everyone waits all year for. I’ve started working on the menu and gathered some recipes. There are a few menu items that are never to be “messed with”, but I like to try at least one new recipe or a twist on an old one.

If your family is anything like mine, you have a lot of people to please with your menu. In addition to dietary needs due to medical conditions, there are several just plain picky people! I look at this as a challenge rather than a problem, and it all usually turns out just fine.

This year I think I’ll be trying a few new condiments and salads, then stick to the traditional menu of turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, etc.

Give some of these a try. Happy Cooking!

EASY PICKLED BEETS

1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices

2 cups vinegar

2 cups sugar (or Splenda equivalent)

'1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

4 (16 oz.) cans sliced beets, drained (reserve 3/4 cups juice)

Wrap pickling spices in small piece of cheesecloth. In a large saucepan, combine all but beets; bring to a boil. Stir in beets and reserved juice. Pour into a 1 1/2-quart glass container. Cover and chill overnight. Remove pickling spices before serving.

PUMPKIN MARMALADE

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 cup orange marmalade

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine first 3 ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cover and chill – will keep up to 1 week.

(The recipes above are ones that I’ve had around quite a while, but I have no source information and cannot attribute them to anyone in particular.)

FRUITED PUDDING SALAD

1 (3 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding

1 (16 oz.) can fruit cocktail

1 (15.5-oz.) can crushed pineapple

1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Combine pudding powder with undrained fruit. Stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping and marshmallows. Chill until serving time. Makes 6-8 servings.

(Recipe from Lofino’s Market in Dayton, OH.) This one is really good!

I wish you all wonderful Thanksgiving meals and memories. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It’s a Soup Day!

It’s colder today, and a bit drizzly, which makes it the perfect day for soup. In my previous post I gave the recipe for my vegetable soup. I’m sure you all have your own versions of veggie soup, so I’m just hoping to give ideas to add to your recipe.

Today I have a 5-quart pot of vegetable soup cooking on the stove, and my husband just took a few photos.  Here’s that warming, comforting soup -

SDC10003

The vegetable assortment is a good one….potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, green beans, corn, peas, hominy, baby lima beans. And I failed to mention in the recipe that I add a 16-oz. can of beef broth to give it a “home-cooked” flavor, as well as a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. The perfect go-with will be cornbread.

This afternoon we’ll be going to our grandson’s soccer game, which will be a lot of fun. Hope they win - go Diamondbacks! We’ll definitely be wrapping up and taking along a thermos of something hot.

Have a great weekend! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. And thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall Musings

It’s officially fall, which is probably my favorite time of the year. The leaves are starting to show their seasonal colors. The cooler air is so pleasant after the heat and humidity of the summer, the colors get brighter and it’s time for wonderful fall foods. Festivals are continuing, and I’ve seen signs advertising upcoming Christmas events, in addition to the usual Halloween Haunted Houses.

Now I’ll be bringing out the warmer clothing and putting away the summer things. Those pretty sweaters have just been waiting for me!

Do you decorate for Halloween? Or just fall? I haven’t decorated for Halloween since our children were small – just go straight into fall with all the beautiful flowers and leaves in shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. Those decorations will take me through Thanksgiving. It’s such fun to do the floral arrangements and put out all the artificial pumpkins and scarecrows. And the crochet refrigerator magnets made many years ago – the witch is my youngest son’s favorite! :-)

I think everyone is ready for all the usual fall/winter foods – soups, chili, more hearty foods. This soup is one I’ve made countless times, and it’s always different depending on what I have on hand. I keep small bowls of leftover vegetables in the freezer just for soup. And I’ll clean out the refrigerator – we sometimes call it “Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup”. It does freeze well, but the potatoes could be removed before freezing because they tend to get soft.

SHARON’S VEGGIE SOUP

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

1 46-oz. can tomato juice

1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 medium onion, diced

any combination of vegetables you’d like (carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, corn, green beans, peas, etc. – no broccoli, cauliflower or beets)

1 16-oz. can great northern or other type beans (optional)

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley, rice or small pasta (optional – add during last hour of cooking)

salt

freshly-ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

2 tsp. dried parsley flakes

Combine and simmer for several hours – the longer the better. Remove bay leaf before serving. Delicious with crusty bread or spooned over cornbread.

Today is such a beautiful day that I think I’ll take a walk now. I hope you all enjoy your day and your week!

As always, your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Patriotism

I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day. I made the time this afternoon to take a long walk, and enjoyed the vibrant colors of the leaves and the bright, crisp air. What a gorgeous time of year!

A little while ago I read an article about a WWII veteran – many of you probably saw it as well because it has been all over the internet for several days. Even though he is in hospice care he made it a point to vote, no matter what. The story is touching, and his patriotism wonderful. Here is a link to the article: http://news.yahoo.com/photo-second-world-war-veteran-casting-ballot-captures-082154483.html

This also made me think of my father, who is a 92-year-old WWII veteran himself, and just about the most patriotic man I know! He proudly displays all his medals and mementos from his service, as well as the articles written about him and congratulatory birthday letters from dignitaries all the way up to the President. He was scheduled to go on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. next month, but has delayed it until next spring – when he’ll be 93 years old! I know the whole experience will be extremely touching for him, as it has been for all the veterans who have been able to take the trip to see their memorial. And he never fails to vote.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, these brave men fought for our right to cast our ballots. And many more men and women still serve all over the world today for our freedom to do so. The man in the article above – and my Dad – illustrate that there is no excuse for not voting.

And while I’m on this subject, I heard a recitation on the radio earlier by John Wayne called “America, Why I Love Her”, and it was very moving. You can view it on You Tube. Might be a good idea to have a tissue handy!

This post has been a little off my normal subjects, but was just in my head this afternoon. I hope you all celebrate this great country we live in, and be sure to vote.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. And thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tip Tuesday is Back!

It’s been a while since the last tip posting, and I thought I’d do a bit of a follow-up on a previous one. A reader recommended that I do one all about vinegar, so here it is!

I’m sure you’ve seen all the various types of vinegars on the grocery store shelves, and have probably tried a few. Apple cider vinegar is probably the most versatile and well-known, made from apples and processed to typically 5% acidity. Balsamic vinegar is a syrupy, flavorful vinegar, great for cooking and salads. It is made from the juice of sweet white grapes, and the true balsamic vinegar is aged for at least 12 years; however, there is a quicker version that is aged at least 3 years with a 6% acidity level. White distilled vinegar is the perfect solution for pickling and cooking. It is usually 5% acidity, and is possibly the least expensive of the vinegars. There are also cane vinegar, coconut vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, sherry vinegar and the favorite for fish and chips – malt vinegar. It is made from grains, primarily barley, and is 5% acidity.

There are many uses for vinegar – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. Here are a few uses:

HEALTH:

1) Researchers have found that 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar (any kind) can help control blood sugar. Simply sprinkle on salads or main dishes. Or stir a bit into water to drink.

2) Use on cuts and scrapes as an antiseptic.

3) Spray a sunburn with cold white vinegar to soothe the burn.

4) White vinegar can ease the itch of bug bites and stings.

5) To soothe a sore throat, mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a bit of honey and a cup of warm water. Sip or gargle.

CLEANING:

1) To open a clogged drain pour in 1/2 cup baking soda, followed by 1 cup vinegar. Flush with hot water after the foaming stops. Wait a few minutes then flush with cold water. To clear a slow drain pour 1/2 cup salt in drain, then 2 cups boiling vinegar. Flush well.

2) Remove stickers and decals by soaking them with vinegar then scraping off. Wipe with clean cloth.

3) Remove water rings from furniture with equal parts vinegar and olive oil.  Wipe with clean cloth.

4) Clean the microwave oven by placing a cup containing 1 cup water and 1/4 cup vinegar inside. Heat on high for 5 minutes, then wipe out loosened food residue with a sponge dipped in the warm liquid.

5) Run white vinegar through your coffeepot once a month or so to remove lime and mineral deposits. Follow with clear water.

COOKING:

1) Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to water for poached eggs – will help them keep their shape.

2) Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in a vinegar wash made of 1 gallon water and 4 tablespoons vinegar.

3) When making stews and dishes with meat add a tablespoon of white vinegar to help tenderize the meat.

4) If you’ve over-salted or over-spiced your dinner add vinegar, a teaspoon at a time, to counteract the salt or spice.

5) To freshen wilted vegetables soak them in a mixture of 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

These tips are just a tiny bit of the wealth of vinegar information and uses available. I hope you’ll try some of these tips and experiment with some new vinegars.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Family Reunions

It’s time for my mother’s family reunion again, and I’ve been going through a bunch of recipes trying to decide what to take. She’s been gone for 18 years, but the reunions go on because she made my uncle promise to keep them going. So they’re always the same day, same place, same time.

She always cooked for days in preparation for the gathering, and would end up taking a main dish, side dish, salad, dessert – and sometimes more than one of each, possibly thinking there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone. That is never an issue, though, because there are many great cooks in the family and plenty of food with leftovers!

This year I won’t have a lot of time to cook as we’ll be attending a funeral out of town on the day before, but I think I’ve decided what to prepare. Since there are always many meats and main dishes, I’ll do a couple of sides, a salad, and a couple of easy pies. At this point I’m thinking baked beans, corn pudding, coleslaw and peanut butter and apple pies.

The peanut butter pie is a favorite, and is very easy to make. I’ve made it dozens of times, and am often lucky to get a piece for myself!

PEANUT BUTTER PIE

1 9” unbaked pie shell

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 well-beaten eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In the large bowl, combine peanut butter and vanilla at low speed of mixer. Combine sugar and salt; gradually add and cream after each addition. Increase mixer speed to medium and gradually add eggs. Reduce speed to low, add milk and beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until filling is set in center and a knife stuck into filling comes out clean.

(Adapted from a recipe in “McCall’s Book of Cakes and Pies” published in 1965.)

Give this one a try – you’ll love it! The original recipe calls for creamy peanut butter, but we like the crunch of the peanuts. Also, I’ve made it with artificial sweeteners, and it turned out just fine.

Have a wonderful week and weekend. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Labor Day Past and Present

We all celebrate the day – always on the first Monday in September -  in some form or another, but do we really know its origins? Its history?

Working conditions in the mid to late 1800s were deplorable – and dangerous. Multitudes worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week. Children as young as 5 or 6 worked in mills and factories in very unsafe working conditions. People just did whatever they had to do to make even a minimal living for their families, and many died doing so.

On September 5, 1882 there was a huge march in New York City in which thousands of workers took unpaid time off to march for labor reforms. This was technically the first Labor Day parade. The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” took hold and grew to other areas of the country, and over several years many states passed legislation to recognize the day.

Congress legalized Labor Day 12 years later on May 11, 1894, after a brief period of strikes and labor unrest in the railroad industry. The identity of the actual founder of Labor Day is unclear.

Across the United States, Labor Day is celebrated with parades, speeches, fireworks, barbecues and celebrations in groups both large and small. To many, the day also symbolizes the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

As we all plan our activities for Labor Day, we should give thanks for all those laborers before us who paved the way for fair working conditions.

Our family will be having a picnic here, and I’m just beginning to think about what food to prepare. That’s always a bit difficult since there are people who like different foods and others who have certain dietary requirements. Pleasing everyone all the time would mean cooking a huge amount of food!

I do plan to make potato salad, though – the kind my mother always made. The kind my kids and husband love. There isn’t a specific written recipe but I’ll try to write it as concisely as possible. I usually make enough to fill a 5-quart ice cream tub!

MOM’S POTATO SALAD

Boil some peeled, cubed potatoes until fork-tender (Mom always boiled them with the skins on, then peeled them after they cooled). Drain and cool. Place in a large bowl.

Boil 3 or 4 eggs, then cool and peel. Separate the whites and yolks. Chop the whites and place in the bowl with the potatoes. Place the yolks in a small bowl and mash with a fork.

Chop onion, celery, green bell peppers and dill pickles. Shred carrots. Place in the bowl with potatoes.

For dressing, in the bowl with egg yolks, stir mayonnaise, yellow mustard and a little dill pickle juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually stir in a little chopped parsley and celery seed. Pour over the potatoes and vegetables and mix well.

I know this isn't so much a recipe as a method, but it's pretty easy to follow. And the creamy, "mustardy" flavor, along with the crunch of the vegetables, is hard to beat!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a great week to follow! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Amish Friendship Bread

This recent bit of cooler weather, as well as the fact that school is in session again, has brought on thoughts of fall baking, and especially quick breads for some reason. While looking through my many bread recipes, I came across this old familiar recipe. I know we all love it, but it brings its share of frustrations as well!
Amish Friendship Bread starts with a fermented blend of yeast, flour, sugar and milk, then is made into delicious loaves of bread in various flavors. The part that drives many of us crazy is sharing baggies of the starter with friends, family, coworkers - until no one will take them. I've even heard of bags of starter being left on neighbors' front porches! I guess it was a case of ringing the doorbell and running away!
I'm not sure of the origins of this recipe, but it's been around for quite some time. After doing some research, it may or may not have any links to the Amish; however, there is a German recipe for Herman Cake, which begins with a similar starter and could possibly be related. Also, the Amish do make sourdough bread.
This recipe does have milk in it, and some might feel squeamish about keeping milk at room temperature for so long. I've never had negative results, but have read that water can be substituted. I have no idea how that would work, but think it might not have the “body” that milk would give the finished bread.
AMISH FRIENDSHIP BREAD
1 packet active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110º)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in remaining ingredients. The easiest way to do this is to use a 1-gallon zip-close freezer bag. DO NOT use any type of metal spoon or mixing bowl. DO NOT refrigerate. If air gets in the bag during the fermentation time, let it out and reclose. It is normal for the batter to rise, bubble and ferment. It would be a good idea to write the date on the bag.
If you won't have time to bake the bread when you reach Day 10, the starter can be refrigerated or even frozen - it will keep for quite a long time.
However, if it should turn pink it has spoiled and should be thrown away.
This is Day 1.
Day 2: Squeeze the bag
Day 3: Squeeze the bag
Day 4: Squeeze the bag
Day 5: Squeeze the bag
Day 6: Add to the bag 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk. Squeeze the bag.
Day 7: Squeeze the bag
Day 8: Squeeze the bag
Day 9: Squeeze the bag
Day 10: Follow instructions below for delicious bread!
1. Pour the entire contents of bag into a non-metal bowl.
2. Add 1 ½ cups flour, 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 1/3 cups milk and stir with non-metal spoon.
3. Measure out four separate batches of starter, placing 1 cup each into 4 1-gallon freezer bags. Mark with the date. Keep one starter for yourself. Give the others away with a copy of the recipe (and maybe some of the finished bread!).
4. Heat the oven to 325º.
5. To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large box vanilla instant pudding mix (be sure to use instant)
6. In small bowl combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Grease 2 large (or 6 small) loaf pans and sprinkle with half the mixture.
7. Pour the batter into the pans, level and sprinkle with remaining mixture.
8. Bake approximately 1 hour. Cool in pans until bread loosens, approximately 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
There are many flavor variations online, starting with the flavor of pudding you use. Try chocolate, butterscotch, lemon, even pistachio. And you can stir in whatever you like – chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, mashed bananas. Or replace the cinnamon with another spice. Bring out your creativity!
I hope you'll give this a try. I haven't done it in several years, but just might have to do it myself!
Enjoy these lovely, cooler days! As always, your suggestions and comments are welcome. Thanks for reading!
































Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Surviving Emergencies

We all should be prepared for any emergency/disaster, but actually planning and gathering supplies often gets put on the back burner behind all the other things in our daily lives. However, it shouldn’t be such a daunting proposition with a little planning and organization. Make a list of what you and your family would need if you were to be without utilities at home or have to evacuate your home, then start putting your kits together. Maybe purchasing some items each week would help to spread costs a bit.

Make an emergency kit for home and for your car – you never know when or where you’d need one! And be sure to check expiration dates periodically and replace any items that have expired.

Here are some things you might need, but be sure to personalize it to your specific needs:

First, think of organization and storage systems. Plastic totes would hold most things, with smaller containers inside for special items. Plastic milk crates would hold gallons of water.

1 gallon water per person per day – plan on at least a 3-day supply

3-day supply of non-perishable food, hand-crank can opener

paper goods (plates, cups, plasticware, paper towels, toilet tissue, moist towelettes, trash bags, etc.)

heavy-duty flashlight, extra batteries

NOAA weather radio and a hand-crank or battery-operated portable radio, with extra batteries for each

first aid kit

whistle to signal for help

cash, change, money card

matches in waterproof container

medications (prescription/over-the-counter)

blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing

things to help pass the time – books, games, cards, paper, pencils, etc.

fully-charged cell phone with charger (some hand-crank radios have USB ports for charging)

infant formula, diapers, etc.

pet food, extra water, leashes, medication, etc.

feminine hygiene products

personal hygiene products

Very Important: personal and family documents (IDs, passports, deed to home, birth certificates, bank account information, insurance information and policies, medical information & doctors' phone numbers, list of medications & pharmacy numbers, emergency contact numbers, and anything you might need for insurance or proof of identity). Put this in a waterproof, easily-transportable container.

We should all plan ahead and prepare for any disaster that might strike. Have a good week, and take care. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

National Hot Dog Day!

Yes, it’s a day set aside to celebrate the hot dog. And there are many kinds of hot dogs, as well as multitudes of toppings that make them tasty.

Hot dogs have been around for quite some time, but one story as to their origin says they were “invented” in 1874 at Coney Island when Charles Feltman, a German immigrant, put a sausage into a bun. Wonder what toppings they used back then?

It really sounds strange and a bit awful now, but back in the 70s when our kids were small, I would roll  hot dogs in a mixture of mustard and ketchup, then in crushed potato chips and bake them. The boys liked them, but our daughter wasn’t thrilled with them. To this day, she will not touch hot dogs!

Here is a good recipe for hot dog sauce:

1 pound ground beef,cooked
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chili seasoning
1 Tbsp. mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large bottle Heinz ketchup

Brown hamburger in a medium saucepan. While meat is browning, dice up onion and add to meat. Cook meat and onion until no longer pink. (If meat is fatty, drain but leave some grease for flavor.) With pan on low heat, add the chili seasoning and mustard to meat mixture; stir well. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir this mixture slightly.

While stirring, add ketchup a little at a time to desired consistency. Cook for 45 - 50 minutes on low heat, stirring often.

Note: If you cook the sauce uncovered, it will become somewhat thicker.

(Recipe submitted to www.cooks.com by Ruscee Ferrell)

Around here we enjoy cheese coneys with Cincinnati-style chili, onions and cheese on top. Yum!

Have a great week, and, as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Independence Day – we’re so grateful for all our freedoms, and to all those who have sacrificed to make them possible.

Fly the flag proudly, especially today. Wouldn’t it be great to see a sea of flags waving all across the country?

I grew up in a fairly small town, and the 4th was always celebrated with a carnival and a fireworks show. And there was always a parade. My sister and I were always so excited to go see the marching bands, clowns, horses, the screaming fire trucks – all followed by the street sweeper driven by someone we’d known “forever”.

These days our celebrations are more quiet, and we stay close to home. The memories of great holiday times linger, and the feelings of pride and patriotism continue.

Due to the dry, hot weather, as well as community budget cuts, many fireworks displays have been canceled this year. They continue to sell fireworks to the public, and I hope everyone who uses them does so in a safe manner.

I wish you all a very happy, safe holiday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Notes and Tips

The past few days have certainly been challenging for many people, and may continue to be for many more days. The weather extremes have brought all sorts of trials, from devastating fires to scorching heat to storms and power outages for millions. We truly hope everyone comes through these troubles safely – and that it all ends very soon.

While sitting in a 7-hour power outage here the other night, and while bemoaning our lack of “comforts”, we began discussing how things must have been many years ago. Truthfully, we are all fairly spoiled these days. All the appliances, electronics and gadgets have become so commonplace that it’s hard to imagine life without them – and a few hours seem to be true deprivation. But when you think back a hundred years or more, our ancestors had no idea that all the things we find it so hard to live without would ever exist. They lived with fireplaces for heat, oil lamps and candles for light, and with no modern conveniences of any kind. And I’m sure even during times of extreme weather the work didn’t stop. I’m convinced they were a much hardier lot than we are!

Even as recently as the 1950s things were still what we’d call “primitive”. I can recall never having air conditioning in either our house or the car. And washing clothes using a wringer washer and/or washtub & washboard, then hanging them outside on a clothesline. That does give some indication as to my age, doesn’t it?

The internet, newspapers and television are full of information about surviving the terrible heat wave that’s blanketing several states, but I thought I’d put it here as well.

1) Wear light-colored, loose clothing. Avoid dark colors.

2) Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine. Eat light foods – avoid heavy, spicy, hot foods. This is a perfect time for salads and fruit!

3) If there’s a breeze at all, a spot outside in the shade could be more comfortable than inside the house.

4) Know the signs of heat exhaustion/stroke: headaches, confusion, red and/or hot dry skin, dizziness, agitation, breathing problems, lack of sweating. Seek medical help for these symptoms.

Also, be sure to check often on the sick and elderly in your family and your neighborhood.

Pets suffer in the heat as well. Make sure they have plenty of water and a shady place to rest.

Many people are buying and using generators, and they are certainly helpful in keeping comfortable and preventing the loss of food in the refrigerator and freezer. However, there are a couple of very important rules for using them.

1) Be sure to never use them inside the house or garage.

2) Keep them several feet from the house.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to prevent cooling loss. Food in the refrigerator will stay cool up to 12 hours or so, and in the freezer a little longer – if left unopened. Use a thermometer in the refrigerator, and when the temperature of the food inside drops below 40 degrees, dispose of its contents – they will no longer be safe. Food poisoning on top of the extreme heat is something nobody would need.

I’ve been thinking we need a disaster preparedness kit but, like many other folks, just haven’t gotten around to it. Now would be the perfect time to make that shopping list and stock up. Be sure to check back here for Disaster Preparedness 101!

Have a great day and keep cool. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. And if you have a super trick or idea for keeping cool in the heat, please share with the rest of us!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy National Peanut Butter Cookie Day!

Let’s all grab a couple of cookies and a cup of coffee or tea – and enjoy this gorgeous morning!

I hope all is well with everyone. Things here are pretty much the same as usual – busy. The days just seem to fly by so quickly, and it’s hard to imagine that the month is almost half over. Is it the same for you?

Our daughter and her family are on a fantastic beach vacation, and I’m hoping they’re all having a great time! She often makes something similar to these quick and easy peanut butter cookies.

1-2-3 PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES


1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg

Mix well. Shape into 1” balls and press with fork that has been dipped into sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

(Note: Any kind of peanut butter can be used, and any add-ins you like can be mixed into the dough before shaping.)
Recipe submitted to www.cooks.com by T. Cunningham.

Give these a try…and have a great week! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Another Tuesday–No Tips Today

I seem to have run out of tip ideas for the moment. My immediate thought was to write about collections. What do you collect? Where to you find your treasures? How do you store them?

I’m sure we all have a few of several different things, and I’m not sure just what constitutes a “collection”. If there’s a definitive number I haven’t heard it.

My collections seem to be growing, but the space in which to store them is not. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to expand your space?

One collection that everyone who knows me knows about is my Santa collection. I try to buy a new one each holiday season, and have nearly 50 at last count. Taking them from their storage boxes and putting them on display each November is such a pleasure!

I have the most collections, though, in my kitchen and dining room areas. There are the many salt and pepper shaker sets that I keep in an antique metal cabinet. It was always in my house when I was growing up, and I was lucky enough to get it a few years ago, painted it a bright yellow and it sits in my sunroom just off the dining room.

My teapot collection sits above the kitchen cabinets, and they’ve come from many sources. Some were my mother’s, others were gifts, others my purchases. On a wooden shelf unit are the sugar & creamer sets. A combination of the 2 is the teapot, sugar & creamer set that I bought with S & H Green Stamps many years ago. Remember those?

The number of cake stands is currently 9 – one of which was my grandmother’s and several were my mother’s. One is quite different – a square. What a lovely way to present a cake!

And my treasures in the kitchen are a cookie jar from my childhood and a Hoosier Cabinet (photo below) that my husband bought as a birthday gift 15 years ago. Are you familiar with them? Sometime I’ll do an article about them and their very interesting history.
SDC10004
I’d love to hear about your collections and treasures, particularly those relating to the kitchen! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a good week. Now that Mother’s Day and the last frost are behind us, it’s time to start planting. We planted some flowers yesterday, and have more to put in pots today or tomorrow. The flowers sure brighten up everything, don’t they?

Well, today there are several “holidays” on the list. It’s Nylon Stockings Day – does anyone wear those any more? It’s also Peace Officer Memorial Day, Straw Hat Day, International Day of Families and, last but not least, National Chocolate Chip Day!

I’ve been looking forward to grilling season, and thought a few tips might remind us to grill and prepare food safely.

1) Marinades provide great flavor and help tenderize meats. They contain an oil, an acid and herbs, usually in a 1/2 oil to 1/3 acid blend. Herbs can be whatever you enjoy, and fresh is best but dried will work. Prepare marinade and pour into zip-close plastic bag; insert meat, close bag and place in dish in case of leaks. Always marinate in refrigerator – never at room temperature. Discard marinade after removing meat to grill.

2) When using skewers, be sure foods are cut to similar sizes to ensure even cooking. The easiest way to cook meats and vegetables on skewers would be to cook them separately, allowing more time for the meat to cook and less for the vegetables.

3) Soak wooden skewers for about 20 to 30 minutes before using to prevent burning.

4) Add sauces toward the end of cooking time. If used too early in the cooking time they will tend to burn or brown too quickly.

5) Thoroughly clean grill surfaces before grilling, then coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil.

6) Keep children and pets away from the grilling area. Also, place the grill far away from structures, trees, etc.

7) Be sure to put grilled meats on clean platters – not on those that held the raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.

8) The right equipment can make the grilling process much easier and more enjoyable. Use heatproof, long-handled tools and a heavy glove. 

9) Dry rubs are another way to flavor and tenderize meats. They are usually a mixture of flavors, from sweet to hot, and can be made quickly. If you want to make your own “special” blend, here are a few possible ingredients: brown sugar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, chili powder, salt or seasoned salt, herbs such as basil, oregano or rosemary, etc.

10) Packet grilling can be fun and adventurous! Use a double thickness of heavy-duty foil approximately 12” x 18”. Add meat and/or vegetables with your choice of seasonings, a small bit of butter or olive oil. Wrap well, leaving room for expansion, and grill until done. Open carefully.

I hope you all have a great week! Break out the grill and have some fun. And, as always, comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Good morning! As we all know, Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday (May 13, 2012), but do we know its history? A day for honoring mothers has been around in many forms for centuries; however, in the 1600s a clerical proclamation in England included mothers in traditional celebrations honoring the church. It was known as “Mothering Day”.
The tradition was discontinued by settlers when they came to America. In 1870 Julia Ward Howe recommended a day to honor mothers, which was set for June 2, but it lasted only about 10 years and slowly died.

In 1908 Anna M. Jarvis created Mother’s Day to honor peace and her mother, who had recently passed away. The first official Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908. It was celebrated in Ms. Jarvis’ church, and each mother attending received two carnations – her mother’s favorite flower. The white carnation honored a mother who had passed away, and the pink or red honored those still living.

Mother’s Day became an annual observance when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national celebration in 1914, and it was to be held the second Sunday in May each year.

Since then, Mother’s Day has become a day celebrated in various ways in over 70 countries. Some complain that it has become much too commercialized, but the basic sentiments still apply. Mothers are, and always have been, crucial to the family’s development and well-being.

All that said, I wish all mothers a wonderful Mother’s Day, and I hope you and your families celebrate the wonderful women you are!

I’m sure many of us will be buying and planting flowers this weekend – finally! So my tips this week apply to gardening.

1) Place a coffee filter in the bottom of planters to hold in the soil and allow for good drainage.

2) Wipe down garden tools with an oily rag before storage to prevent rusting. Also, they can be stuck down in a bucket of sand for storage.

3) For an easy way to provide continuous water for your plants, poke holes in empty soda bottles, fill with water, replace the lid and place the bottles on their sides in the garden.

4) Remove flower blossoms that have faded and lost petals – the plant will be stronger, allowing nutrients to go to stems and leaves rather than trying to keep older blossoms. Also, that will prevent seeds from forming.

5) When buying plants, be sure to select strong plants with healthy-looking foliage. Avoid any yellowing or “floppy” plants!

6) If you sow seeds, be sure to thin the seedlings as instructed on the packet, as overcrowded plants don’t do well. The remaining seedlings will get more sunlight and nutrients for stronger, healthier plants.

7) Water plants early in the day so the water can evaporate. Watering in the evening could lead to fungus growth as the cooler air and darkness will not evaporate the water properly.

8) We’ve all planted things that didn’t survive…the best solution is research. Plant the right plants for your area and for your soil conditions, plant them in the proper sun/shade area, and care for them properly.

9) If you have poor soil, a raised bed works well. Use bricks, blocks or ground-contact wood for the outside walls. The best width for the beds is no more than 5 feet, allowing you to reach across without stepping inside. They can be made any length.

10) Above all, have fun! Gardening should be enjoyable – not a full-time job. Plant what you like to look at and what you like to eat. Let the kids plant some things of their own - maybe they’ll even eat veggies if they've grown them!

Have a terrific week. As always, if you have comments or suggestions, please send them.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Happy May 1st! I hope all is well with you, and that you find something interesting or useful in this post. I’ve been doing some research on holidays during May, and found some very strange ones!

The flower for May is lily-of-the-valley, and the stone is emerald. May is National Egg Month, National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month, National Salad Month, and several others. And each day seems to have several holiday observances.

In honor of National Egg Month, here are some tips:

1) If you need separated room-temperature eggs, separate them when cold then bring to room temperature.

2) For perfect hard-boiled eggs, place eggs in pan and add water to reach 1 inch above eggs. Bring to boil, cover and remove from heat. Let stand approximately 12 minutes for medium eggs, 15 minutes for large eggs, 18 minutes for extra-large eggs. Cool immediately.

3) To prevent egg shells from cracking while cooking, add a pinch of salt or a bit of vinegar to the water.

4) To make peeling those hard-boiled eggs easier, crack the shells and place in pan of cold water for a few minutes. Water will seep between the egg and the shell, making them easier to peel.

5) Eggs that are a bit older are easier to peel. Also, the whites of slightly older eggs will be more fluffy and higher when beaten.

6) To stabilize beaten egg whites, add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter per egg white.

7) If you have leftover egg yolks, you can use them in cooking. Simply substitute 2 yolks for each whole egg.

8) Be sure to “temper” eggs before adding them to hot mixtures. Stir a small amount of the hot liquid into the eggs in a bowl, then return to pan, mixing well.

9) Did you drop an egg and make a mess? Cover the spill with salt and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. It will be easy to pick up with paper towels.

10) There’s an easier way to take deviled eggs to an event. Do not fill them before you go. Place the egg filling in a plastic zipper-close bag and the white halves in a separate container. When you arrive at your destination, cut a small corner off the bag and pipe the filling into the halves. Garnish as desired, and enjoy! (Don’t forget the scissors!)

And if you have leftover boiled eggs or deviled eggs, make them into egg salad.

When growing up, we often had Creamed Eggs on Toast for dinner. Back then I didn’t realize that having it  meant money was a bit tight. It’s an easy one, with no definite recipe. Boil eggs – the number depends on how many you’re feeding and how hungry they are. Prepare a medium white sauce, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Cut the eggs into large chunks and add to the sauce. Pour over toast. That’s it.

I’m sure my non-egg-eating husband will cringe at that one! But my sister will enjoy the memories.

Have a joyous day! And, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tip Tuesday

It’s another gorgeous day here, although a bit cooler. The dreams of planting flowers and gardens have been put on hold a little longer – until at least Mother’s Day around our area.

One of my favorite summer foods is tomatoes – and they seem to be high on just about everyone’s "favorites" list. There appears to be no end to recipes and techniques for tomatoes, and some of the simplest are the best. How about just a plain tomato sandwich? Sliced tomatoes on good white bread with a little mayo, salt and pepper. Yum.

Here are a few tomato facts:

Tomatoes are a fruit and could also be classified as a berry because of their edible seeds. Most of us treat them as vegetables in savory dishes.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which is even more potent in cooked or processed tomato products. They also contain measurable amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium and iron.

It’s much easier to freeze fresh tomatoes than to can them. Simply wash and dry them well, place in zipper-seal freezer bag, suck out the air with a straw and place in freezer. No blanching or peeling needed.

Tomatoes have been grown as food since the 16th century, but often were considered poisonous. In the United States they were cultivated in home gardens as early as the 1700s, but really gained popularity in the 1800s. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes – choose your favorite!

A few tomato tips:

1) Cut tomatoes with a sharp serrated (or steak) knife for best results. A flat-blade knife could crush or bruise the tomato.

2) Store tomatoes at room temperature – not in the refrigerator – for best flavor.

3) Cook tomatoes in non-aluminum cookware since aluminum can change the flavor and color of the tomatoes, and the acid from the tomatoes may pit the cookware.

4) Add a bit of sugar to cooked tomato products to balance the acidity.

5) Canned tomatoes are a good substitute for those not-so-tasty out of season tomatoes.

6) Looking for the easy way to peel tomatoes? Simply cut a small “x” in the blossom end and drop them into boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, remove and gently pull skin away from the tomato flesh.

7) If not ripe, place tomatoes in a brown paper bag in a dark place for 3 or 4 days.

8) For sandwiches, slice tomatoes vertically to prevent seeds and juice from running out.

9) When buying tomatoes, look for those with smooth, unblemished skin. Also choose tomatoes that are heavy for their size.

10) To dehydrate tomatoes, slice them 1/2” thick and place on rack in baking pan. Preheat oven to 120 to 150 degrees. Place baking pan in oven with door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. The process may take 10 to 18 hours, depending on the moisture in the tomatoes. Rotate pans occasionally and turn tomatoes for even drying.

Now for a recipe I made the other night. I know there are tons of baked tomato recipes out there, but I just started mixing things together, and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

BAKED TOMATOES

4 large tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash salt & freshly-ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Remove small core from tomato and cut a very thin slice from blossom end so it will stand level. Cut out center of tomatoes to form a cup, reserving pulp for another use. Mix remaining ingredients well. Fill tomatoes with crumb mixture and mound on top. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Have a great week! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. If you've just found this blog, be sure to read the archived posts!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tip Tuesday


Hello, and Happy National Cheese Ball Day! Yes, it is a real, designated day to celebrate. According to some internet research, it’s been celebrated for years; however, it is not a federally-proclaimed holiday. So let’s all mix up (or buy) our favorite cheese ball, grab some crackers or veggies and enjoy!

Here’s a good recipe given to me by an employer over 25 years ago (Thanks, Barb!):

Vegetable Cheese Ball

2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups shredded vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, celery, green pepper)
garlic powder to taste
onion salt to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste

Mix all well. Form into ball. Serve with crackers. (Ball could be rolled in chopped nuts, chopped parsley, etc.)

Today’s Tips:

1) When chopping vegetables, don’t scrape them onto your knife blade to move them to your bowl or pan – that will dull the blade. Use the back side of the knife.

2) An easy way to fill deviled eggs – place filling mixture into plastic zip-close bag, cut a small portion off bottom corner, then pipe into egg halves.

3) To easily slice meat for a stir-fry or other recipe requiring thin slices, place meat in freezer for a few minutes.

4) Use an ice cream scoop to drop cookie or biscuit dough onto baking sheets. They will be of more uniform size and will all bake more evenly.

5) If a recipe calls for self-rising flour and you have none on hand, make your own! Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.

6) When baking in glass pans, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees.

7) When baking bread, place a small pan of water in the oven. Bread will not be dry or hard. This technique is good for baking cheesecakes, too. Simply place the springform pan in a rimmed baking pan and add about 1/2” water. This should keep the cheesecake from cracking.

8) To freeze fresh berries, do not wash them first. Place in a single layer on a flat pan and place in the freezer. When frozen, put in freezer storage bag or container. Wash before using.

9) It sounds strange, but bananas should not be stored in a bunch. Separate the bananas and place in bowl or basket. And do not store with other fruit, especially apples.

10) If you do have some of those bananas get too ripe, simply freeze them for baking banana bread. I’ve frozen them whole (peel and all) with good results. Or remove from peel, mash and add a bit of lemon juice.

I hope you all have a great week! Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tip Tuesday + 1

Hello, everyone! Yesterday was very busy, and around 9:00 last night I realized I hadn’t published anything. By that time I was just too tired and decided to wait until today. But my son said maybe the tips would be so good they’d be worth waiting the extra day!

I hope you’re all having a great day. It’s very pretty here, but much cooler than it has been for a while. We’re all just waiting for the warm temperatures to return!

This week’s tips are entirely different than the usual food-related ones – they are all about stain removal and laundry. We all have to deal with these issues unless we have household help (wouldn’t that be nice?) or take everything to a professional.

1) Do not iron a stained article of clothing – stain will be set.

2) Treat spots and stains as soon as possible.

3) Launder small or delicate items in a pillowcase closed with safety pins. Or look for mesh lingerie laundry bags in department stores.

4) To remove grease stains, sprinkle with cornstarch or talcum powder. Let set for a while, then wash.
5) Ink stains can be treated with hair spray.

6) Remove blood stains by soaking with peroxide for 10 minutes; rinse well with cold water.

7) To remove gum on clothing, put the item in the freezer. When the gum is hardened it should peel right off.

8) Ring around the collar? Brush on shampoo with a soft brush, such as a soft toothbrush. Wash as directed.

9) Keep the washer clean for best results. About every 2-3 months add a quart of white vinegar to the tub full of warm water. Run through a wash cycle without clothes.

10) To prevent musty smells in drawers, closets, linen closets, etc. place  fabric softener sheets in them. Unwrapped bars of scented soap work well, too.

If you have any hints or tips that work well for you, please share them with us – we’d all appreciate any help we can get!

Have a great week. And thank you for your readership and interest in this blog!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Well, these Tuesdays roll around quickly, don’t they? It’s a beautiful day out there, and I’m hoping to get out to enjoy it.

And April came quickly, too! We really didn’t have much of a winter, and the spring has been warmer than normal here, so we’ll see what April and May bring us. Hopefully, lots of flowers and green, growing things. I’m anxious to get to the garden stores for some annuals and vegetables. We really don’t do a big garden now since the squirrels and deer started eating it all a few years ago, but I love stepping outside the back door to pick a tomato or cut some fresh basil so I’ll put some things in pots this year and see what happens.

Here are a few tips for you….hope you find something useful!

1) Instant mashed potato flakes are great to keep around. They will thicken up soups and add a bit of body. They also make a great coating for chicken with some added herbs and seasonings.

2) Don’t dilute your iced tea or coffee with ice cubes – freeze leftover tea and coffee in ice cube trays.

3) Wait until the end of cooking time to salt your beans. Adding the salt too early will make them tough and hard.

4) Be sure your pasta pot is large enough. Pasta needs plenty of boiling water to keep from sticking together. Stir often. Drain but do not rinse if using with pasta sauce. If making pasta salads, rinse.

5) Apples will stay fresh much longer if refrigerated in a plastic bag – the bag they came in is fine.

6) No time to make a whole meatloaf? Put the mixture into greased muffin cups or shape into small, individual loaves. Adjust the cooking time accordingly. Kids will love them!

7) When making pie crust be sure everything is cold. Handle as little as possible. Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Handling the dough too much will warm the fat particles causing them to melt into one large fat "lump". And an easy way to get it into the pie pan once it’s rolled out - roll it around the rolling pin, place over the pie pan and unroll, then press into pan.

8) Be sure bowls and utensils are dry when making meringue. And use glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowls – not plastic. Separate eggs a few minutes before beating so whites are room temperature. Seal meringue to pie shell to prevent shrinking.

9) To unmold a jello mold, dip mold into warm water for about 15 seconds. Place on slightly moistened plate, invert, shake – mold should pop right out! If it sticks a bit, moisten fingers and gently pull the edges away from the mold.

10) Quick veggie pickles: place julienned carrots, onion slices, cauliflower, etc. into a jar of leftover  pickle juice. Let marinate in refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

I’m off to run some errands and enjoy the sunshine. Hopefully, those ebooks will be online this week, so check back.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Hello all! I hope the day is as lovely where you are as it is here. All the blooming trees and flowers are gorgeous, and the grass, trees and everything green are just so brilliant. And the yard work has begun! I can hardly wait to start planting flowers, but it’s still a bit early here.

Today I have something a little different. Do you ever look at foods, condiments, etc. and wonder how long they’ll be good? Here are just a few answers…

1) Salad dressings – in refrigerator up to 6 months.

2) Coffee – in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze.

3) Flour – stored airtight up to 15 months.

4) Granulated sugar – stored airtight up to 2 years.

5) Commercially canned foods – up to 1 year.

6) White rice – stored airtight will keep indefinitely.

7) Dried herbs – stored in cool, dark place up to 1 year.

8) Pasta products – stored airtight up to 1 year.

9) Oils (both olive and vegetable) – up to 1 year.

10) Peanut butter – up to 6 months (refrigerate in warm weather).

I hope you find this to be helpful. As always, if you have comments or questions, please send them to me.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Happy Spring! What a gorgeous day it is, too. It’s too nice to be inside working, but that’s what I do.

There are dozens and dozens of uses for plain old vinegar, but here are a few that apply to the kitchen:

1) To clean microwave, place a mixture of 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water inside. Heat on High for 2 minutes – mixture should be boiling. Let stand with door closed at least 15 minutes, then wipe clean with damp cloth or sponge.

2) Rub wooden cutting boards with vinegar to disinfect.

3) Add a little white vinegar to water when poaching eggs – they will hold their shape better.

4) When boiling fresh vegetables, add 1 to 2 teaspoons white vinegar to the water. This will help keep their color and crispness.

5) Use vinegar in meat marinades for tender meats.

6) To clear kitchen sink drain, add 1/3 cup baking soda, then 1/2 cup vinegar. Flush with boiling water. Doing this on a regular basis will help keep drains running free.

7) A good natural kitchen cleaner – equal parts vinegar and water.

8) When making molded gelatin, add 1 teaspoon vinegar. It will be more firm and hold up better, especially in the warm weather.

9) Per owner’s manual instructions, run vinegar through your coffeemaker to remove mineral deposits. Be sure to rinse well with water.

10) Add about 2 tablespoons vinegar to water in which you are boiling eggs. It helps keep them from cracking.

That was the “sour”, now for the sweet. I bought fresh pears a few days ago, and they all decided to get ripe at once. Last night I peeled them, cut them in half and cored them. Then I rubbed them all with soft butter, leaving a small portion in the cavity. On top I placed a mixture of Splenda brown sugar, a little cinnamon and some toasted slivered almonds. They baked in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Delicious! Especially with a scoop of ice cream. Give it a try.

I hope you all have a very good week. Take care.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tip Tuesday!

Hello, everyone. What a busy day it’s been…I almost missed working on this. But I wanted to keep the momentum going, so here goes.

A few tips that I’ve found helpful:

1) After cooling brownies completely, cut with a plastic knife. It won’t drag through and tear up the brownies, making them much more attractive.

2) When baking, be sure cream cheese, butter and eggs are at room temperature. They’ll blend much better.

3) To prevent strong odors when cooking cabbage, put a piece of lemon into the saucepan.

4) If you have fresh vegetables that are slightly wilted, pick off any blemished portion; soak in ice water with a little lemon juice for about an hour. They’ll come out nice and crisp.

5) When making an omelette, use water instead of milk. It will turn out fluffier and more tender.

6) Place carrots, potatoes and onions in the bottom of the roasting pan, then put the meat on top – all will be tender and flavorful, including the pan drippings. The vegetables make a great roasting rack for your beef or pork.

7) Place fish on a bed of onions, celery and chopped fresh parsley before placing in the oven. Again, a great and flavorful roasting rack. A few lemon slices would be great, too!

8) When freezing fresh berries, do not wash. Just place on a flat pan so they freeze individually. When frozen, store in freezer bags. Wash just before serving.

9) Roasting a whole chicken in the slow cooker is very easy. Make a ring of crimped aluminum foil and place in 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (big enough to hold chicken flat). Prepare chicken for cooking as usual, then place on top of foil ring. Season as desired. Cover and cook on Low heat for 4 to 8 hours (depends on size of the chicken), making sure to cook it to 165 degrees. After cooling, the meat can be pulled from the bones and placed in containers for immediate use or frozen for later.

10) Be sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace in freezer containers. Contents will expand slightly when frozen.

I hope there’s something here of interest. Give the chicken a try – it’s juicy and delicious! And the aroma in the kitchen is mouthwatering.

The warm days are bringing out the blossoming trees and flowers. The winter wasn’t terrible, but we’ve been closed up so long – it’s great to open up the house and let fresh air in!

Have a great week! Please leave comments or suggestions if you’d like.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Hello everyone! I hope you are all well, and that the terrible storms over the last several days didn’t bring you harm. My thoughts go out to all those who lost loved ones and/or property, and I hope they receive all the resources and help they need to survive and move on. We were blessed and lucky here in our area – those storms were predicted, but didn’t come near us.

Today I have a little different list of tips. It’s a list of common food substitutions. I’m sure we’ve all been in the same boat – you start to prepare a recipe and don’t have an ingredient but don’t have the time or desire to make an unscheduled trip to the grocery. The list here is just a portion of those that will soon be posted on my “Kitchen Helpers” page. Please check it for more helpful information.

1) For 1 cup buttermilk = 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar and enough milk to make 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir.

2) 1 whole egg for baking = 2 egg whites.

3) 1 tablespoon lemon juice = 1 tablespoon vinegar.

4) 1 cup unflavored yogurt = 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk.

5) 1 tablespoon baking powder = 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda + 1 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

6) 4 ounces baking chocolate = 3 tablespoons shortening + 1/3 cup sugar + 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

7) 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

8) 1 cup granulated sugar = 1 cup packed brown sugar OR 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar (not recommended for baking).

9) 1 small chopped onion = 1 teaspoon onion powder OR 1 tablespoon dried minced onion.

10) 1 tablespoon prepared mustard = 2 teaspoons vinegar + 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder.

I hope you find something here that is interesting and helpful. As always, your comments and input are welcome. And be sure to “join” the blog. Until next time, take care!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tip Tuesday…

Hello. I hope everyone is doing well. We’ve been busy with work and chores, but the highlight of the weekend was spending a day celebrating my father’s 92nd birthday with the family, with lots of eating, talking and laughing.

Today is Tuesday again – they do roll around so quickly, don’t they? Here are a few more tips and hints.

1) When baking cookies, always put cookie dough on cold cookie sheets – warm cookie sheets will make them spread.

2) An easy way to make drop cookies is to put the dough into a zip-close bag, cut the bottom corner off and drop onto cookie sheets.

3) For best results, always have butter, eggs, cream cheese, etc. at room temperature before mixing batter or dough.

4) Store soft cookies tightly covered and crisp cookies loosely covered. And always store them separately.

5) A slice of bread in the cookie jar will keep chewy cookies soft.

6) To measure honey or molasses for cooking, spray the inside of the measuring cup – the liquid will come out easily.

7) Always pack brown sugar into measuring cups and level off the top.

8) Do not pack flour into cups – just spoon in and level off the top.

9) For less mess when rolling out cookie dough, roll between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap.

10) No cookie cutters handy? Cut rolled-out dough into squares with a sharp knife or wash and dry cans of various sizes to use as cutters.

I hope you find something of value in these articles. As always, any comments are welcome. And if you have a great idea, please share it with us all.

Have a great day – and I hope the sun is shining where you are! It’s gorgeous here in Ohio, and getting warmer. Although it’s still February, flowers are coming up and I can see hints of green in the woods by the house.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

George Washington’s Birthday

Today is George Washington’s birthday, which was always celebrated on this day until 1971, when Congress began planning for federal holidays to be celebrated on Mondays.  Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays were combined to become President’s Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February each year.

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 to a Virginia plantation family. He became a surveyor and joined the military, being commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754. In 1775 he became commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and led his troops through the Revolutionary War, which ended in 1781.

He became our first President on April 30, 1789 and served two terms through 1797. He died on December 14, 1799.

Washington has long been associated with cherries, although he loved all fruits, nuts and fish. He chose to dine simply.

This cake recipe is one of our favorites – and he would probably have loved it as well. It’s another recipe I’ve had many years, with no idea where it came from.
CHERRY DELIGHT CAKE


1 box white or yellow cake mix (2-layer size)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs
1 can cherry pie filling

Pour oil into 13x9x2” baking dish. Add cake mix, water and eggs; stir just until blended. Scrape down sides of pan and spread evenly. Spoon pie filling on top and marble with knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Delicious with a confectioner’s sugar glaze.

Happy Washington’s Birthday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It’s “Tip Tuesday”!

I hope you all had a great weekend. Ours was busy and enjoyable, and now we’re well into another busy week. Today we’ve had some light showers, but the sun is shining beautifully right now. That makes any day much more pleasant, doesn’t it?

I’m off to run some errands, but wanted to post this first.

The plan is to have each Tuesday be “Tip Tuesday” – with tips, hints and other useful information. Some will apply to cooking, some to other household departments. Many of them, I’m sure, won’t be new to you - they aren’t to me either - but sometimes we all could use a refresher course!

Today’s Tips:
1) When you buy an unsliced loaf of Italian or French bread, slice it and place in zip-close freezer bag for storage. Much easier to slice before freezing than after!

2) If you buy sliced bagels to place in the freezer, put small pieces of wax paper between the slices – they won’t stick together in the freezer, and you can remove halves without a problem.

3) Don’t store onions and potatoes in the same storage bins – they will cause each other to soften and eventually rot. I store potatoes in a bushel basket (taken out of the bag they came in) in the basement. Onions go in the metal breadbox drawer in my Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen – it’s more suitable for onions than bread.

4) To keep brown sugar soft, place a small piece of bread in the container – or keep the sugar in the freezer.

5) Don’t store apples in the same bins as other vegetables and fruit. They give off an ethylene gas that will cause other produce to ripen faster.

6) Save those bits of leftover bread, unsweetened cereal, crackers, cookies, etc. Grind them up for toppings on casseroles or desserts.

7) To keep celery longer, remove from plastic wrapper and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. It will keep much longer in the refrigerator.

8) Wash fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, etc. just before serving. They'll stay fresh longer if left unwashed in the refrigerator.

9) Don’t store milk, eggs, etc. in the refrigerator door – that area is warmer than the interior. Some refrigerators come with egg storage bins in the door, but that isn’t the best place for them.

10) It’s best to tear – not cut – fresh greens for salads. Cutting with a knife will cause them to turn brown sooner.

And for produce I love the green or blue produce bags! Those from the dollar stores work just as well as any.

I hope you all have a great day! And if you have hints or thoughts to share, please send them to me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Birthday Party In The Works

Good morning! I hope everyone had a good week and has plans for an enjoyable weekend. Our week was pretty much the same as usual, and the weekend is looking busy but fun.

Sunday is my husband’s birthday, so we’re having his birthday dinner tomorrow night. The house will be full (2 sons, daughter & son-in-law, 2 grandsons, mother-in-law and the 2 of us), and I’m looking forward to it!

Today will be baking and prep day, as well as cleaning and grocery shopping. I’ll be baking an Italian Cream Cake and chocolate cupcakes, making some salads, and getting ready for the main cooking tomorrow. The main entree is lasagne, which is one of his favorites. I found this recipe in a cookbook given to me as a shower gift before we were married, and have made it many times. I did, however, make some slight changes to make it “mine”. Give it a try – I know you’ll like it!

LASAGNE

1 lb. roll hot sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. whole basil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 can (16 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (12 oz.) tomato paste
10 oz. lasagne or wide noodles
3 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
2 eggs, beaten slightly
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 lb. thinly-sliced Mozzarella cheese

Brown sausage and drain off fat. Add next 5 ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta as directed; drain and rinse.

Combine cottage cheese, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.

Place half the pasta in 13x9x2” baking pan. Spread with half the cottage cheese mixture, then half the Mozzarella cheese, then half the meat sauce. Repeat layers, ending with meat sauce on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

(Adapted from a recipe in The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.)

Many lasagne recipes use ground beef, but the sausage gives it a nice spicy flavor. And we like the cottage cheese rather than the typical Ricotta cheese because it isn’t as dry. Some recipes also recommend using shredded Mozzarella, which I think would probably work well, but I’ve always used the sliced.

So is it “lasagna” or “lasagne”? From some recent research I did, it seems the name for just a single piece of pasta would be “lasagna” and the plural name for many pieces in a dish would be “lasagne”. Either way, it’s delicious!

Have a wonderful day! As always, comments are welcome.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky. A Republican, he became our 16th president on March 4, 1861 at the age of 52. His presidency extended through the Civil War (which lasted from 1861 to 1865), and ended when he was shot at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865 and died nine hours later on April 15.

Below are a few of his many famous quotes:
  • Whatever you are, be a good one.
  • You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
  • With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.
  • I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
  • If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.
  • I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
  • I am not concerned that you have fallen; I am concerned that you arise.
Perhaps his most noteworthy achievement was the Emancipation Proclamation speech on January 1, 1863, which ended slavery in the Confederacy.

Although he was known for not being too interested in food in general, one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite recipes is below. This recipe is found all over the internet, but the version here is adapted from Lincoln’s Table by Donna D. McCreary.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s Almond White Cake

6 egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup almonds, blanched and coarsely ground
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray (or grease and flour). Beat the egg whites with a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff, about 4 minutes; set aside. Combine flour and baking flour; sift together 3 times and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk, beating after each addition. Stir in the almonds and vanilla.

Gently fold in the egg whites. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour, or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack 1 hour; remove and cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

A variation would be to bake in 9 x 1 1/2 inch pans and frost with either cream cheese or 7-minute frosting.

This information is just a small portion of the information available on one of our most renowned presidents, and I hope it leads you to research and read more about Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sugarless….

Now that we have a diabetic in the household, I’ve been making some changes in how and what I cook. The usual salads, entrees and sides don’t cause a problem. If they have sugar, just replace it with the proper amount of no-sugar sweetener (usually about half the sugar measurement).

I’ve found many good sugar-free pudding and gelatin mixes, and most can be substituted very easily in salads and desserts.

But baked goods have been a challenge! They don’t rise or brown as well when using the sugar substitute, so I switched to a half & half blend, which worked better. The brown sugar substitute is great, and I haven’t had problems with it. It is, however,  half regular brown sugar and half sugar-free, so is not totally sugar free.

One of the greatest prepared foods I’ve come across is the sugar-free cake mixes from Pillsbury. They come in yellow and chocolate, and the white mix is reduced-sugar. For any cake that starts with a cake mix base, this is the perfect solution!

Below are a couple of my favorite sugar-free dessert recipes. I hope to add many more soon!

SUGAR-FREE FRUIT COCKTAIL CAKE

1 box (16 oz.) sugar-free yellow cake mix
1 can (16 oz.) no-sugar-added fruit cocktail
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray.

Combine all in large bowl. Blend 30 seconds, then beat at high speed 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 45 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool completely.


SUGAR-FREE BASIC POUND CAKE

1 box (16 oz.) sugar-free yellow cake mix
1 box 4-serving size sugar-free French vanilla pudding mix
1 cup oil
1 cup milk
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray tube pan with cooking spray.

Place all ingredients in large bowl. Blend 30 seconds, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes, or until pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove from pan. Cool completely.

(This recipe adapted from a recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn.)

Note: cake may “sink” a bit while cooling, probably because it's sugar-free, but will still be delicious!

Either of these cakes is great by itself – but whipped topping, fruit or ice cream makes it a special treat. Try one soon.