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.

On Being Short….

Yes, I admit it. I’m short! My 13-year-old grandson is taller than I am. When I go to the family reunion a very tall uncle calls me “Shorty”. In school, when we lined up for anything by height, I was second to last – followed only by a boy named Lyle.

But I don’t really mind. If I can’t reach something in a store, I find a nice tall person to reach it for me. And buying clothes could be a problem, but thank goodness for Petites!

This brings me to some favorite foods…..shortcake, shortbread, etc. These treats are usually high in butter and lower in sugar. And their rich goodness is superb!

Here is a favorite bar cookie recipe I’ve made many times. I'm not sure where it came from - it's written on an old 4" x 6" index card. They’re very quick and easy, and delicious with a cup of coffee.

SHORTBREAD BARS

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup sugar blend)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Mix in vanilla extract. Gradually work in flour, a little at a time, without overworking the dough.

Turn dough out on lightly floured board, kneading in any remaining flour. Spread in pan. Lightly score where you want to cut after baking, and pierce each “piece” lightly with fork.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool in pan; cut where scored.
 
 
A variation would be to cut them into squares, then in half diagonally to form triangles. Dip one side into melted chocolate and place on wax paper until chocolate is firm. Or just drizzle them as I’ve done here. These may not be the most fancy-looking cookies, but they are yummy!
 
 
Give these a try and let me know how you like them. Enjoy your day!

SDC10013

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nate and Davey–A Fish Tale

Grandson Nate won a small goldfish at a church carnival last August. He proudly carried the fish home in its plastic water-filled bag and named him Davey. He didn’t profess to have high hopes for a long life for Davey – said he figured he’d only live a week!

Using his own money, Nate bought Davey a fishbowl, gravel and food. And he was vigilant about changing the water daily and giving Davey the proper amount of delicious food.

Davey was still there at Christmas, ready to celebrate with the family.
Smile
A couple of weeks ago – months after he went to live with Nate – Davey passed on to the big fishbowl in the sky. Or wherever fish go. Anyway, as he was flushed away Nate gave him a salute.

I don’t know if there’ll be a replacement, but the empty fishbowl is still around.

And it was mentioned that we could’ve had sushi – I don’t think so. It would have been a very small bite!

We’re having fish for dinner tonight – baked tilapia, very simply done as I sometimes do it - fairly plain with just a dab of butter and cajun seasonings on top. Other times I will cook it in a sauce or breaded and baked.

For quite a while we’ve eaten fish at least a couple of times a week. My husband would probably prefer fried, but most of the time it’s baked. According to recent reports baked or broiled fish is better for our brains and memory than fried. And we need all the help we can get!

What are your favorite fish dinners? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Please comment below if you like what I’ve written. And “Like” me on Facebook. Until next time……..
                                   cartoon_goldfish