Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another week…

Well, Recipe Experiment #3 didn’t happen last week due to a number of circumstances that could not be avoided. Sometimes work and responsibilities derail all our good intentions, don’t they? I am, however, looking at recipes for this week. More on that subject to come.

I really don’t have a topic this week. Just some random musings, most of no real importance.

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What things have you found to be extremely useful in your kitchen? I’m talking about utensils, gadgets, etc. Two things I have found very useful and use pretty much every day are a roll of masking tape and a felt-tip pen. With those I can mark on packages the date opened so that I can track their expiration. I can label freezer containers so I can tell what they contain without opening them. Of course, I have a drawer full of odds and ends that I dig into on a regular basis. I’d bet most of you have one of those as well.

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I’m taking continuing education classes online, and realized just how difficult it is to study when you haven’t done it in several years! The first class is done, though, and I’m getting the hang of it.

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It’s just over 3 weeks till Spring! Won’t we all be glad when it finally arrives? The winter has seemed so long and so drab, and the early flowers and opening green leaves will be welcome sights. I’m looking forward to planting and working in the yard. Do you plant a vegetable garden? Long ago we had a very large garden, growing everything from corn to tomatoes. In our current location we gardened on a much smaller scale for several years, but the deer, rabbits and squirrels enjoyed the veggies more often than we did! So now we just grow flowers. I do miss my fresh tomatoes and peppers!

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Thinking of spring leads to thinking of spring cleaning! Do you do a full-scale spring cleaning? Even if we clean on a regular basis it seems that a lot of things like walls, windows, etc. just get put off until we have the time - or the inclination. I'm that way myself. I do dread it, though, and think I might try doing a room a week this spring. Of course, that involves getting all the supplies out several times, but my household and work schedules just do not allow for several days of cleaning at one time. Wouldn't it be lovely to have someone come in and do it for us?

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Well, that's all I have for now. As I said, it's a pretty random post, quite low on the importance scale! But I'm here, and just wanted to touch base with everyone. I'm working on the next new recipe on some other things for you, so I hope you'll check back often!

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Today's quote:

"It's spring fever...You don't quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart
ache, you want it so!"

Mark Twain

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Recipe Experiment & More

Good Monday morning!  And it’s President’s Day, so I hope we all take a moment to reflect on the progress made in our country because of the work of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The great difficulties that were endured in their times helped lead to our freedoms and democracy.
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This weeks’ recipe experiment went very well with positive results. The recipe I chose was Spicy Breaded Chicken Wings with a spicy dipping sauce. The wings were breaded then baked, which made them a bit more healthful. They came out with a little “kick” due to the cayenne pepper in the breading mixture, and the sauce was sweet with that same bit of heat. They did get thumbs up from everyone!
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SPICY BREADED CHICKEN WINGS
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
10 whole chicken wings
In a shallow bowl, beat egg and water. In another bowl combine the breading ingredients. Cut wing tips off, and separate remaining 2 sections of wings. Dip into egg mixture then in breading. Place on a greased 15 x 10-inch baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, until juices run clear.
DIPPING SAUCE:                  
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Combine in a small bowl and serve with wings.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipe from Taste of Home Contest Winning Annual Recipes 2012 (submitted to them by a reader in Texas)
My adjustments to this recipe: I made 1 1/2 times the breading mixture as I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough, and I did need it. Instead of dredging wings in the breading in a bowl, I shook it in a zipper-close bag.
A suggestion: Do not throw away the wing tips – save them for making chicken broth. Just stick them in the freezer until needed.
As I said before, everyone here liked these very much, and I will definitely make them again! Give them a try!
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As for the cookbook, it is a compilation of contest-winning recipes from Taste of Home readers across the country. It includes recipes from “Snacks and Appetizers” to “Just Desserts”, with a good amount of photographs. The recipes included are, for the most part, easy and manageable for any cooking skill level.
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Today’s Quote: “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” (Marcus Aurelius)
I’d tend to agree, wouldn’t you?
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Recipe Experiment

I’m all ready to prepare tonight’s new recipe, and will write about it in a day or so. But in the meantime I’ve been thinking about last week’s recipe – Beef and Broccoli Wellington. There seems to have been a couple of hiccups in its outcome or in my preparation of the dish. For one, I wasn’t pleased with the lack of crust because it showed that my version of the dish wasn’t all that colorful and attractive, especially with the missing portion of crust. The second is that it made so much there were leftovers that didn’t reheat too well because the crust was soft. It probably wouldn’t freeze well, either, due to the sour cream that could separate when thawed.

So I’ve come up with a revised version that would probably work great:

Revised Beef & Broccoli Wellington
 
3/4 to 1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 (4.5 oz.) can mushroom stems & pieces, drained
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 (8 oz.) pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 (8 oz.) tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
 
Brown ground beef with onion and mushrooms; drain. Stir in broccoli and cheese. When cheese is melted, stir in sour cream. Line a lightly greased 8 x 8-inch baking dish with one package crescent rolls, pressing together at seams. Spoon ground beef mixture over pastry; place second package crescent roll dough over top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Let set 5 to 10 minutes before cutting in squares to serve. Would serve 4 to 6.
 
(My adaptation of a recipe published in Homestyle Family Favorites from Gooseberry Patch and submitted to them by a reader from NJ.)
 
With this version there’s less filling and more crust, and with our family fewer leftovers. Either way, it’s a really tasty dish that you should try!
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Please check the “Holidays” page for information about upcoming holidays!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Recipe Experiment

As I told you all in a previous post, my sister and I are trying a new recipe each week. We’ll share with each other, and I’ll share with you!

Saturday was my night to be adventurous, and the recipe I made was well received – got thumbs up from everyone in the family. It’s a flavorful blend of beef, broccoli, cheese and sour cream, all  in a crispy dough. But unlike its very fancy namesake – Beef Wellington – this one is easy to make and family-friendly. And much less expensive.

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There is a story about the missing portion of crust. One person in the family doesn’t eat cheese of any sort, so I took one rectangle of the dough and placed it in a small ramekin then filled it with the filling before the cheese was added. That left the large dish looking a little bare, but she did get her no-cheese dish. I often have to make adjustments like that. So here’s the recipe:

BEEF AND BROCCOLI WELLINGTON
 
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (6 1/2 oz.) can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 (20 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. container sour cream
2 (8 oz.) tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
 
Brown the ground beef with onion and mushrooms; drain. Stir in broccoli and cheese. When cheese is melted stir in sour cream. Line a lightly greased 13’ x 9’ baking dish with one tube of crescent rolls. Spoon ground beef mixture over rolls; arrange remaining tube of rolls on top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 6 servings.
 
From Homestyle Family Favorites – a Gooseberry Patch book.
 
My alterations and suggestions:
 
I used a 4 1/2 oz. can of mushrooms. The broccoli I had in the freezer was a 16 oz. package and was large pieces, so after it was thawed I chopped it to finer pieces – much nicer in the dish and easier to eat than big chunks. I thought that a pound of cheese might be too much, so I added only about 12 oz. and everyone thought that was just right. The crescent rolls didn’t totally line or cover the dish, and I’m not sure if they could be stretched to make a full crust. Next time I may try substituting puff pastry or making regular pie pastry. Also, be sure to let the dish set for a few minutes to firm up after baking.
 
And if you aren’t familiar with the Gooseberry Patch books and products, be sure to check them out. They offer very good, family-style recipes done in a helpful and entertaining way. These ladies from Ohio started their business back in 1984 and are still going strong.
 
As for my sister – she was doing cinnamon rolls. I should find out her results today. Now on to look for another recipe for this week……….
 
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. And if you have a recipe to share, please send it. Thanks for reading!

A Quick Product Review

Last night I tried Fleischman’s Simply Homemade No Knead Bread Mix for the first time. The Country White version was very simple and quick, taking only about an hour to prepare. The rustic loaf was very tasty, and the butter melting down into it made it a real treat. 4 thumbs up from this family!

There are directions for using a loaf pan, but I preferred the loaf shaped on a baking sheet.

Other flavors include Italian Herb, Multi-Grain and Stoneground Wheat.

Give it a try when you want home-baked flavor in a short time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tip Tuesday

It’s time to get back to tips and hints. Today we explore baking soda. That little box that costs just pennies packs a powerful punch! You can find it in any grocery store or dollar store. And there are dozens of uses for baking soda beyond baking.

1) The most familiar use is deodorizing the refrigerator and freezer. Just open the box and place it on a shelf….done!

2) Freshen your carpets and rugs by sprinkling with baking soda. Let it set at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.

3) Make your own bathroom scrub formula by mixing 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 tablespoon liquid detergent.

4) To open a slow drain, sprinkle in 1/2 cup baking soda then follow with 1 cup vinegar. Let bubble – wait 10 to 15 minutes. Flush drain with boiling water.

5) Soak toothbrushes in equal parts baking soda and water overnight. Rinse.

6) Your combs and brushes get squeaky clean in a mixture of warm water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Soak, rinse, dry.

7) Sprinkle in the bottom of the laundry hamper to keep it smelling fresh until laundry day. Of course, at my house that’s every day!

8) And a pinch to a gallon of brewed iced tea to remove bitterness.
 
9) For a fluffy omelet, add 1/2 teaspoon to 3 eggs.

10) To wash fresh vegetables and fruits, mix 1/4 cup baking soda to a sink of cool water. Wash and rinse. This costs much less than buying produce wash.

11) To remove water rings from wood furniture, make a paste of baking soda and toothpaste. Dip a soft cloth in mixture and rub furniture gently.

12) Here’s a quick way to fill small nail holes in dry wall – use a mixture of baking soda and toothpaste. Fill hole and let dry. Sand when hardened, then paint.

And for a Baker's Dozen: Check the expiration date on your box of baking soda because it does become ineffective. Mix a small amount in a little white vinegar - if it fizzes, it's good. If not, dispose of it.

This is just the tip of the baking soda iceberg! There are many more uses, and I’m sure you’ve found others.

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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday Night Supper

Doesn’t it seem like no more than 2 hours from one meal preparation to the next? I often think that all we do is eat! And here we go again….

It’s a cold, snowy Saturday night, and I’ve just started dinner prep. My husband and son love spaghetti, and would eat it at least once a week. I have made my own spaghetti sauce in the past, but a lot of times I don’t have the time – or the inclination. Anyway, tonight we’re having my Jazzed-Up Jarred Spaghetti Sauce. It’s easy and can be changed depending on your tastes and what you have in the refrigerator.

JAZZED-UP JARRED SPAGHETTI SAUCE
 
1 pound ground chuck
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced Baby Bella mushrooms
1 26 to 28-oz. jar spaghetti sauce – your flavor choice
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
 
In a large Dutch oven, combine ground chuck, onion and green pepper. Cook until meat is browned; drain. At this point I do something my husband calls "whipping it into a frenzy" - he likes the meat broken up into tiny bits rather than large chunks. A whisk makes this job easy. Add remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low for 1 to 1/2 hours. If you find the sauce is too thick, you can add  beef broth or water as needed.
 
Serve over cooked spaghetti and top with shaved Parmesan cheese, along with salad and garlic bread. A tasty Italian dinner!
I hope you have a great weekend!
 

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

Out of the Cooking Doldrums

My sister and I have decided to do something to get ourselves out of the cooking doldrums. It seems we both have been preparing the same old dishes the same old way all the time. It sometimes is just so easy to cook old favorites and those that are familiar to us. Do you find yourself in the same rut?
We will be trying a new recipe each week and then will share the results with each other. I will also share the recipe with you, along with any comments or recommendations. And perhaps I’ll even do a cookbook review or two.

Looking forward to sharing new things with you!

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy February!

It’s hard to believe that we’re already into the second month of the year. And the cold and snow have me looking forward to spring. Enough winter for me. How about you?

I just checked out some weird holidays for today. Today is:

Bubble Gum Day
Car Insurance Day*
G I Joe Day*
Freedom Day*
Robinson Crusoe Day*
Spunky Old Broads Day*
Wear Red Day
Hoola in the Coola Day* (?)
Working Naked Day*

(*These are the same every year.)

And February is American Heart Month, as well as Black History Month, National Cherry Month, National Children’s Dental Health Month, Canned Food Month, An Affair to Remember Month, National Grapefruit Month, and National Weddings Month.

With all this going on, how could anyone be bored?

Our son was over for dinner last night. He’s single and lives nearby, so he comes over every couple of weeks for a “Mom” dinner. The menu was stuffed peppers, corn pudding, acorn squash, kidney beans, salad and biscuits. And, as I always make more filling than is needed for the peppers, I had a casserole dish of the filling. The recipe for the peppers is my variation on one I saw years ago, and the measurements are not exact – more to one’s own taste.

STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS
 
4 green peppers, halved and cored
1 pound pork sausage, browned and drained
2-3 cups cooked rice
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
 
Parboil peppers about 5 minutes; drain. Mix sausage, rice, tomatoes, 1 1/2 cup cheese and seasonings; fill pepper halves. Place in 9 x 13 baking dish and pour about 1/4 inch water in bottom of dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes; remove foil and top with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, another 15 to 20 minutes.
 
The sausage gives the filling much more flavor than ground beef! For a bit of heat use hot sausage and add a few drops of hot sauce to the filling. I used petite diced tomatoes, and the can didn’t have a lot of liquid. Only add as much liquid as needed to hold the filling together, not make it soupy.
I hope you all have a great weekend! Stay warm and safe.
 
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!