Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Goodbye, July & Hello, August

The summer is slipping away, isn’t it? Soon it will be back-to-school time, fall soccer and football, then other fall and holiday activities. Those busy days getting kids ready for school are well behind me, but I find there are so many other things to do. I’m not wishing days away, but I do enjoy fall festivals, food and decorations. And love the cool, crisp weather.

But for now, let’s just look forward to August. We have a full month before Labor Day, so we should enjoy the relaxing, fun times before we all get very busy! I have so many projects  that I’d love to work on – some that need to be done, some just for fun – but for some reason I just don’t get around to them. Are you the same? I think there are just too many ideas floating around in my head.

Right now I’m drying basil in the dehydrator, and the house smells so good! The crop was terrific this year, and I need to do whatever I can with it before it goes to seed. I should probably make some pesto with it and put it in the freezer in ice cube trays. That fresh, fragrant concoction would be so great in the middle of winter in pasta sauces, salads or dips. Here’s a quick and easy recipe:

BASIL-WALNUT PESTO

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2  cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Combine first 4 ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper, then stir in Parmesan cheese.

Notes: If freezing in ice cube trays, omit the Parmesan cheese. It can be added later when pesto is used. Also, additional oil may be needed to get the proper consistency. Feel free to adjust garlic and salt to your tastes!

I’ve seen recipes for pesto made with spinach – might have to give it a try!


P.S. I made this basil pesto today (Thursday), and made a few alterations to the recipe. It seemed a bit thick, so I drizzled in more olive oil, to make a total of about 1/3 cup in the recipe. I also added another garlic clove and omitted the Parmesan cheese since I may freeze it. And here it is.....

It took just a few minutes, and I used the Magic Bullet rather than the big blender. It worked just fine! Yum!
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There are many unusual holidays listed for the month, and they are on my “Holidays” page. I will, of course, highlight some of them as they come along. Sometimes I might even add a corresponding recipe, story or quote. I was told the other day that I need to include some more stories, so I'm trying to lighten up a bit! Thanks for the advice, Sis!
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A Cookbook Review:

Are you a cookbook collector? I've lost count of how many are on my shelves, but no matter how many there are I’ll take more! I read them just as if they were fiction, and sitting with a good cookbook is one of my favorite ways to relax. I started looking at my older ones and trying to find the oldest in my collection. There are several from the 1960s, and I actually found a couple from the 1950s.

One is The Modern Family Cook Book by Meta Given, published in 1953. As you can tell from the photo, this book has been well-used. The outer spine is missing, and the pages are yellowed; however, no pages appear to be missing. The book belonged to my mother-in-law, and she gave it to me when moving out of her home several years ago. There are some personal notes and recipes written on several pages. I think she used it often!

This book contains both black-and-white and color photos. Recipe ingredients are in red print, with instructions black. It is full of basic information that would be perfect for the new cook but still applies to us who have cooked for years. We can all use a refresher course on the basics from time to time!

Some interesting sections include The Meal Planner’s Creed, The Food Shopper’s Creed and The Cook’s Creed, which includes “A well-prepared dish and an appetizing meal are a creative achievement; therefore – I shall derive happiness from work itself.” I think these would tend to illustrate the differences in our “jobs” from then to now. We’re all so busy with jobs, family activities and all we have to do that the sheer simplicity of that era seems far away.

This book is still available at Amazon starting at $5.95. You can go to http://www,thecottagepantry.com for a direct link to Amazon. I’d recommend it as one to add to your collection.
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Don't forget to get your FREE Christmas Cookies E-Book! It has 400 great recipes within 458 pages - and you can't beat the price! Simply email me at fromgrammieskitchen@gmail.com or go to www.thecottagepantry.com for an instant download.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Christmas in July!


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Everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon and doing “Christmas in July” specials, so I decided to join them. Today’s special is a FREE e-book – “400 Christmas Cookies”, a 458-page collection of recipes. Downloading today will give you plenty of time to decide on those special treats you’ll be making for family and friends this year.

How many cookies do you bake at Christmas-time? Until last year, my daughter and I would get together each December and bake 20 to 30 dozen cookies, besides what we baked individually. Now, though, that amount has been cut down drastically due to dietary restrictions. Some folks here can’t eat sugar, some just want to not eat as much!

And if there are yummy cookies sitting around, I’d be the first to dig in. After all, what’s better than a flavorful cookie and a cup of coffee or tea?

There are 2 ways to get your FREE e-book:

1) Send an email to fromgrammieskitchen@gmail.com, and it will be sent to you as an email attachment.

2) Go to www.thecottagepantry.com and download it immediately.

If you have any trouble accessing your FREE e-book, please contact me.

I hope you enjoy your recipe collection. And please let your friends know where they can get it, too!
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I made this pie for Saturday night’s dessert. It was a tasty treat!

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA PUDDING PIE
 
1 8” graham cracker pie crust (low fat if you prefer)
1 (1 oz.) package sugar-free vanilla instant pudding
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 banana, sliced

Prepare the pudding as directed on the package, adding the peanut butter. Whisk well for 2 full minutes. Pour half the pudding into the crust, top with sliced banana, and cover with remaining pudding.

Chill several hours. Serve topped with whipped topping.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Apple Dessert!

A couple of nights ago I tried this dessert, and it was a hit. It was easy to prepare – I mixed the dry ingredients together in the afternoon, then combined everything and put it in the oven while we were having dinner. It was warm, sweet and spicy, and tasted great with whipped topping sprinkled with cinnamon.

SKILLET APPLE BROWNIE
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place an 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet in oven to heat. Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.

Beat together eggs, vanilla extract and 1/2 cup melted butter. Toss apples and pecans in flour mixture, then stir into egg mixture until combined.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter to hot skillet, swirling to coat pan. Pour batter into hot pan and place in oven. Bake until sides are dry and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in skillet 20 minutes before removing and slicing.

(Recipe from allrecipes magazine, August 2013 issue, and at www.allrecipes.com. )

Notes: I used walnuts instead of pecans, and combined a Granny Smith and a Gala apple.

Give this one a try – it’s a keeper!

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It’s National Chili Day. Chili doesn’t seem to fit into our menu plans because it’s hot and humid these days, but maybe we can do it once. How about over spaghetti with cheese? Or topping a baked potato? Maybe chili cheese fries? Are we hungry yet?

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It’s also my grandson’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Nate!

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It was a gorgeous, cooler morning for my walk in the cemetery, and I went just over 3 miles. The cloudless blue sky was lit by bright sunlight, but the pale moon still hung in the southwest sky. The dewy grass was a lovely green blanket accented by bunches of bright flowers at gravesides. Rabbits, squirrels and birds of all kinds were out having their morning feast, and the quiet was only broken by the roar of airplanes flying overhead. What a way to start the day!

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gorgeous Grandma Day & Tip Tuesday

Today is Gorgeous Grandma Day – I wish you all a happy one! Whether your grandchildren call you Grandma, Granny, Mamaw, or Grammie (that’s me!), I’m sure you treasure every minute with those little ones. And no matter what we look like on the outside, we’re all gorgeous because of the love that our children’s children have brought into our lives.

So have a special day!
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It’s also Vanilla Ice Cream Day. Vanilla is my favorite flavor – what’s yours? Let’s all make a trip to the Dairy Bar for a cone today.
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TIP TUESDAYS
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Since today is also “Hot Enough For Ya Day”, the topic is hot peppers. There are many varieties of these flavorful additions to our food, and their heat ranges from very mild and sweet to extremely hot.

In 1912 a chemist named Wilbur Scoville developed the Scoville Heat Index, which rates the heat contained in peppers. They typically will range from 0 to well over 1,000,000.  The heat in the peppers comes from capsaicin, which is found in the ribs and seeds – removing them will reduce the heat. Capsaicin also has no flavor, so all you’ll do is feel the heat! Many arthritis creams and rubs contain capsaicin. And common pepper spray is 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 on the scale. 

The main tip concerning these peppers would be to always use gloves when handling the hot varieties – and refrain from touching your face and/or eyes.

Here are some of the most well-known varieties of peppers, along with their Scoville index rating:

Sweet Banana Pepper - 0
Sweet Bell Pepper – 0
Cherry Pepper – 50 to 500
Poblano Pepper – 500 to 2,000
Anaheim Pepper – 500 to 2,500
Jalapeno Pepper – 2,500 to 9,000
Serrano Pepper – 8,000 to 22,000
Tabasco Pepper – 30,000 to 50,000
Cayenne Pepper – 30,000 to 50,000
Thai Pepper – 50,000 to 100,000
Scotch Bonnet Pepper – 90,000 to 325,000
Rocoto Pepper – 100,000 to 250,000
Habanero Pepper – 150,000 to 325,000
Ghost Pepper – 1,020,000 to 1,578,000
Maruga Scorpion Pepper – an unimaginable 1,200,000 to 2,009,231!

These numbers, of course, may vary due to climate and growing conditions, but peppers will normally be in these ranges.

Hot peppers are very versatile, and their use will depend on your heat comfort level. Be sure when cooking with them that you are familiar with their heat so that your dishes will turn out as desired and not be so hot that no one can eat them. It’s good to start with a small amount, then add if more heat is needed.

These peppers are easy to preserve. Either can them in a brine solution or dry them. You can also cut them up and freeze them in freezer bags.

Whether you grow them yourself or buy them at your local grocery store or produce stand, be sure to give some of these flavorful peppers a try.

So - is it hot enough for ya?
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 19, 2013

National Hot Dog Day & More


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Tomorrow, June 20, is National Hot Dog Day. Do you know the history of the hot dog? Hot dogs, wieners, frankfurters or whatever you want to call them, are fully-cooked sausages, and typically served on buns. Other uses include corn dogs, beans & franks and any number of casserole ideas.

Around 1870 a German immigrant started selling sausages in rolls at Coney Island. There are also others who claim to have invented the sandwich.

The name “hot dog” came about because of allegations that the early sausages contained dog meat, which was possibly the case in very early Germany. In the early 1900s a cartoonist published a picture of a dachshund because he couldn’t spell the word, saying the sandwiches looked similar, thus promoting the term "hot dog".

The list of ingredients in wieners is sometimes questionable, but definitely less suspect than the early versions.

I do say that a good grilled hot dog with all the toppings is a treat, and that we should all enjoy that treat tomorrow!

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A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.
Humphrey Bogart
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Today's recipe is one I've made several times, and it would be perfect for these hot days. It's light, flavorful and quick to prepare.

GARLIC SHRIMP AND PASTA

1 can condensed chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti

In small bowl mix broth, water and cornstarch till smooth; set aside.

In skillet over medium heat in hot oil, cook garlic, parsley, lemon peel and cayenne for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp and lemon juice. Cook until shrimp are pink and opaque, stirring constantly.

Gradually add broth mixture to skillet. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Toss with spaghetti.

Makes 4 servings.

(A Campbell's recipe from an old cookbook. Their website is www.campbellsoup.com)

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Several months ago I decided that it was time to exercise more, so I started taking walks. There’s a cemetery next door that’s beautiful and quiet, so I took short walks there for a while. A couple of months ago they organized a walking club, and I decided to join. Now I’m doing 2.5 miles about 3 times a week, and really enjoy it. Not bad for a non-exerciser!

While walking I don’t think of the work that needs to be done or of any other problems or issues I may have because that is my “me” time. I enjoy the beautiful green space, the many varieties of trees, the lake and water features - and concentrate on my stride and breathing. The music on my MP3 player helps with that!

Of course, in this heat it’s more of a challenge, but I try to get out there early in the day. Today was especially hot and humid, but I feel better for doing it. 

Do you walk? Or do you exercise at home, at the gym or at the YMCA? 
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Have a wonderful day! Your suggestions and comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Frozen Bread Dough

If you haven’t tried this time-saving, convenient product – now’s the time! There are many national companies packaging frozen dough, but many grocery chains have their own “store-brand” product. The prices are reasonable, too. I hope you’ll try some of these ideas for using frozen dough and maybe get a bit creative yourself!


 
10 Things to Do with Frozen Bread Dough

Thaw as directed on package and…..

1. Just bake a delicious loaf of bread as directed on package. There's just nothing better than warm, fresh bread with butter!

2. Form into rolls, let rise and bake as directed on package. There are many shapes you can make, too. Simply roll into balls for plain rolls. For Parkerhouse rolls, flatten balls a bit, then fold over, bringing one half not quite fully across the other. For cloverleaf rolls, make balls of dough about 1” in diameter and place 3 into each greased muffin cup.

3. Deep Dish Pizza – press dough in bottom and up sides of lightly greased 9x13” pan. Top generously with your preferred toppings. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes. 

4. Sloppy Joe Cups - simply break off balls of dough and press into lightly greased muffin cups. Fill with sloppy joe filling, top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until dough cups are browned and cheese is melted, about 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Stromboli - roll dough on floured surface to approximately 9 x 13". Down center, layer your choice of sliced deli meats, cheeses, sliced onion, sliced green peppers. Spread pasta sauce over, then sprinkle with Italian herbs. “Wrap” dough across fillings, then close up the ends, sealing well. Place folded-side down on baking sheet. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with herbs of your choice. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, cool, then slice. A yummy sandwich!

6. Cinnamon Rolls - roll dough on floured surface to about 9 x 13". Spread with butter, then sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (use plenty!). Add chopped nuts if you’d like. Roll up, starting at the long side. Cut into 1” pieces and place in lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned. Remove and cool a bit, then drizzle with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and water, with a bit of vanilla. Yum! (I’ve found that cutting with a knife will tend to flatten the dough, so a piece of kitchen twine or invisible thread works well. Just slide the thread under the dough and bring the 2 ends up and across each other to quickly cut through.)

7. Fancy Deli Sandwich – make dough into a log shape, about 18” long. Form into a circle, pressing ends together well. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool and cut horizontally in half. Spread bottom with horseradish mayonnaise or your desired spread, then top with layers of deli meats, cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles – whatever you like. Add the top and cut into sections to serve. We call this one the "Big Sandwich"!

8. Garlic-Herb Foccacia – press thawed dough into lightly greased 9x13” pan. With end of wooden spoon handle or fingertip, press small indentations over dough. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic and your choice of herbs. Italian Seasoning would work well. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.

9. Calzones – divide thawed dough into 6 portions and press or roll out to 1/2” thick rounds. On one half of dough, add your choice of pizza toppings, fold dough over toppings and seal well. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds or herbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned and crisp.

10. Bread Bowls – divide thawed dough into 3 portions per pound of dough, roll into large ball shape and place on baking pan sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with a piece of sprayed plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. For brown and shiny outside, brush with egg white before baking. Cool, then cut off tops. Remove dough inside to form bowl shape (reserve dough for another use, such as bread crumbs or croutons), leaving a 1/2" thick shell. Use to serve thick soup, chowder, stew or chili.

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“I would say to housewives, be not daunted by one failure, nor by twenty. Resolve that you will have good bread, and never cease striving after this result till you have effected it. If persons without brains can accomplish this, why cannot you?”
’Housekeeping In Old Virginia' Marion Cabell Tyree ed. (1878)

“Good bread is the great need in poor homes, and oftentimes the best appreciated luxury in the homes of the very rich.”
‘A Book for A Cook’, The Pillsbury Co. (1905)

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard (1903-1985)

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



Monday, July 15, 2013

Picnics and Other Things

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Ours went by much too quickly, and now it’s Monday again. As we head back to our jobs and our busy schedules, let’s all take a minute out to consider this quote:

“Women are like tea bags: You never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

On the surface it’s a humorous bit of text, but if you think about it, it’s quite true. Women have so much responsibility – jobs, families, homes, etc. – and usually we handle it all well. However, when illness, family problems, financial problems or anything out of the ordinary happens, we simply add that to our daily burdens and carry on, dealing with everything the best we can. Personally, I’ve been surprised at some things that I’ve dealt with in the past few years, and feel stronger for it.

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It’s Tapioca Pudding Day! Do you love it or hate it? I love it – have since I was a child. Mom would make it on the stove and we would eat it warm, savoring that sweetness and the creamy texture. Today, you can buy the boxes of pearl tapioca and prepare it as directed on the box, but another option is the box of cook-and-serve tapioca pudding, which is quicker because everything but the milk is included. I should stop here – I’m making myself hungry!

Celebrate the day…

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Since many of us are having picnics, family reunions, etc. for the next couple of months, I thought a few reminders of food safety would be in order.

1) Wash hands often and use clean utensils and containers.

2) Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees or above) and cold foods cold (under 40 degrees). Wrap hot foods in layers of newspaper and carry in heavy boxes. Cover cold foods in the cooler completely with ice and frozen gel packs.

3) Keep raw meats separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.

4) Clean produce well before preparing it. Wash melons thoroughly before cutting.

5) On arrival at your destination, keep coolers closed as much as possible. It’s a good idea to have beverages in a separate cooler so the one containing food can stay closed as much as possible.

6) Serve dips and dressings and as many foods as possible in bowls over ice.

7) Keep foods covered as much as possible. No one wants those bugs in their food!

8) If cooking on-site, be sure to cook foods thoroughly. Don’t put cooked meats on platters that contained raw meats.

9) Mayonnaise has been blamed for illness over the years, but the fact is that mayonnaise is highly acidic due to the vinegar it contains, and wouldn’t spoil as quickly as we always thought. The culprit causing spoilage would more likely be mishandling of food in preparation or serving.

10) If the temperature outside is under 90 degrees, leave food out no more than 2 hours; if above 90 degrees, cut that down to 1 hour.

11) If the ice has melted in the food cooler, dispose of the food. If there is still ice, the food may still be safe to eat.

12) One good idea is to transport the cooler inside the car rather than in the hot trunk.

A short list of useful things to take on your picnic:

clothespins and/or masking tape (to help secure the tablecloths)
bottled water (there may not be water readily available at the site)
moist towelettes
paper towels
bug spray and sunscreen

Most of all, have fun! And don’t forget the camera.

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.”
- Anonymous
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Hoosier Cabinet

As mentioned in a previous post, one of my treasures is my Hoosier cabinet, a birthday gift from my husband several years ago. We saw it in a local antique mall and couldn’t stop thinking about it, so a couple of days later we returned to the mall, loaded it in the truck and brought it home. It fit into its kitchen space perfectly – as if it were made just for that spot! We’d seen Hoosiers in various states of disrepair, but this one just needed door/drawer handles and a good cleaning.

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The early kitchen was typically a mix of tables, freestanding cabinets, etc. In 1899 the Hoosier Manufacturing Corporation was formed in New Castle, Indiana, with John M. Maring as President. They produced the handy kitchen cabinets known from then on as “Hoosier” cabinets. There were other producers of this basic cabinet, such as Sellers of Elwood, Indiana, but the cabinets were always best known as "Hoosiers", no matter who built them.

This ingenious design came in 3 basic sections. The base was designed with drawers and/or doors, and was often on casters for easy moving around the kitchen as needed. Above that was the shelf – usually enamel – that was designed to slide forward, creating a convenient workspace. The top had doors that opened to storage shelves. Many Hoosiers had flour bins with sifters and/or sugar bins, as well as metal bread drawers. Sneath Glass Company made glass spice containers for the Hoosier, as well as cannisters and a salt box.












These cabinets were very popular through the early 1920s, when built-in cabinets became the norm. Production fell off, and now those lovely pieces of kitchen furniture are usually only found in antique or used-furniture stores, often at prices well above their original prices and often in less than perfect condition. We’ve even seen some that have been “refinished”, which negates any historical or antique value they would have and makes them much less attractive.

The pictures above are of my Hoosier. Do you have Hoosier cabinet stories? Did your grandmother or mother have one? If she did, I’m sure she counted herself a very lucky person to own a piece of history!

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Today’s Recipe Experiment:

HOMEMADE POTATO BISCUITS
1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup cold water
2 cups biscuit baking mix

Stir together the potato flakes, sugar, butter and hot water; stir in cold water and baking mix. Gently smooth dough into a ball on a floured board; knead 8 to 10 times. Roll out dough into a 10” x 6” rectangle; cut into 12 squares. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes until golden. Serve warm. Makes one dozen.

(Recipe from Gooseberry Patch Christmas Kitchen, published in 2008. This spiral-bound cookbook has hard covers, and includes 200+ pages of recipes in categories from “Food for Family and Friends” to “Sweet Memories”. All through the book you’ll find fun hints for holiday decorating, serving food and gifts. The book is available from Amazon starting at just $2.50.)

Note: These biscuits didn’t rise a lot, but had a nice texture and tasted really good!

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As a reminder, my website http://www.thecottagepantry.com is your easy connection to Amazon.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tip Tuesday


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As you can probably tell, the topic today is garlic. This is one of my favorite cooking ingredients, as it gives tons of flavor for so little cost. You can buy whole bulbs of garlic in the produce department or go for the chopped garlic in jars. I keep both on hand. And garlic comes in many other forms, such as powder, paste and dried.

The versatile cloves have been used medicinally since the Middle Ages, when monks used them to ward off plague. In WWII, garlic poultices were used as a substitute for antibiotics when necessary. Today we know that garlic is a powerful antioxidant, good for heart health. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and is a blood-thinning agent.

A bulb of garlic usually contains 10 to 20 cloves. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry, dark place. A few handy tips:

1) The smaller the garlic cuts the more potent the garlic flavor. That is due to more surface area exposed to the air.

2) One medium clove equals approximately 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic.

3) Easily peel garlic cloves by smashing with the broad side of a heavy knife. The peels will simply slide off the clove.

4) When cooking with garlic, be sure to avoid burning or over-cooking as it will become bitter.

5) To roast a whole bulb, cut off the top and place on a piece of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

6) One raw clove, finely chopped or minced, has more flavor than 12 whole cloves.

7) Did you know garlic can be frozen? You can wrap and freeze whole, unpeeled bulbs. Or wrap chopped or crushed garlic in plastic wrap to freeze. Another option would be to puree 1 part garlic to 2 parts oil, then freeze in ice cube trays.

8) Garlic-infused oils became popular a few years ago; however, they must be stored in the refrigerator and used as quickly as possible. Storing at room temperature can lead to botulism formation.

9) Cooking will normally reduce that strong flavor, making it mild, nutty and slightly sweet, but slow cooking intensifies it.

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A couple of my favorite uses for garlic are in Garlic Mashed Potatoes and White Bean Hummus.
The potatoes are basically the same as you’d normally make them, but add some whole garlic cloves to the water when boiling them. How many you use depends on how much garlic flavor you like. Do not remove the cloves when draining off the water, and they’ll whip up with the potatoes, adding a sweet, nutty flavor.

The hummus is a recipe I’ve had for a long time, and have no idea where it came from – it’s written on one of my many scraps of paper in the recipe files. I mix it up in the Magic Bullet, and it’s done in no time at all. It may not be “traditional” hummus, but is pretty tasty!

WHITE BEAN HUMMUS
1 (16 oz.) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Process until smooth. Store in refrigerator.

Notes: I have made this with great northern beans and with navy beans, and it works just as well. Bottled lemon juice isn’t as fresh-tasting, but can be used. If you don’t have fresh thyme, use about 1/8 teaspoon dried.

Great with cut-up bagels, tortilla chips, vegetables.

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For those of you in the area, the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival will be held July 26, 27 and 28 this year in Gilroy, California. Sounds like a good time!

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A couple of garlic quotes:
"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good!" - Alice May Brock

"A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat." - Old New York Yiddish Saying

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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

It’s Independence Day!

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On July 4th we in the United States celebrate our independence and freedom in many ways, but it’s typically a day for food, family and fireworks. Do we ever think about those who paved the way so we can enjoy our freedoms? Of the hardships they endured? Of the fear of reprisal? They all must have been very brave men to voice the desire for an independent nation, and fearful of how to proceed.

In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies (the Continental Congress) debated whether - and how - to state formally their independence from Great Britain. They voted in favor of a written document on July 2, and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4. From that date until the 1790s it was widely considered a joint work by the Continental Congress, but became known that Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the document.

Since then Independence Day has been celebrated, but was not an official federal holiday until 1941.
About 200 copies of the document were printed on the evening it was signed, but it is said that just 25 original copies still exist – 20 owned by America, 3 by Great Britain and 2 by individual owners.

Here you will find a copy that you can read and print. We hear about the document often, but how long has it been since we read it?


The second sentence has been used widely over many years to state basic human rights:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
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“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”
Theodore Roosevelt
26th President of The United States
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It's raining today, so we're having a "cook-in" rather than a cookout. We’ll have pulled pork, chicken wings, macaroni salad and chocolate pound cake, along with various snacks, salads, and fruit. All of it is extremely easy to put together - because I deserve a holiday, too! Here is the cake recipe:
CHOCOLATE POUND CAKE
1 box (18.25 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz.) chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a Bundt or tube pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. 

Place ingredients in large mixing bowl. Blend 1 minute, scrape bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. 

Spread in prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, then remove to finish cooling.

(Recipe adapted from The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn)

Note: I use sugar-free cake and pudding mixes. The cake will rise normally, but fall a bit when cooling, and will still taste great with a nice texture.

The cake is in the oven and smelling so good!
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A July 4th Centerpiece:
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These were actually made for my Dad’s 90th birthday bash, but would be perfect for today. He is a WWII veteran and just about the most patriotic person I know, so we had to go with the red, white and blue theme! To make the centerpieces, paint clay pots white, then fill them with red and blue tissue paper and shiny frills from the dollar store. Those balloon weights work well. Stick a small flag in each one. Cut curling ribbon into 12-18” pieces, tie around thin dowel rods or wrapped floral wire, then curl and add to center.
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I wish you all a very Happy 4th of July! Please stop by again - and be sure to check out the “Holidays” page. Also, my website is http://www.thecottagepantry.com, where you get direct access to Amazon.com – I’m an affiliate.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 1, 2013

July Already?

It’s hard to believe that the year is half over, isn’t it? And it usually seems that there’s hardly any time at all between July 4th and Labor Day. But there is a lot of summer left! Let’s begin with this week….

Thursday is July 4 – Independence Day. How do you celebrate? Do you go all out or do you keep it simple? We tend to stay home and relax with as many of our family as we can get together. This year our daughter and her family are on vacation, so we’ll miss seeing them, and our group will be smaller than usual. I’m still planning a cookout – weather permitting – and am working on a menu. It’s been so rainy here that we haven’t had the opportunity to grill for a while. I’ll post my menu and recipes soon. If you have recipes you’d like to share, please do so!

This was tonight's Sunday Supper menu: Shredded Beef Au Jus on buns, coleslaw, corn on the cob, roasted rosemary potatoes, fresh tomato with basil.

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SHREDDED BEEF AU JUS
1 boneless beef chuck roast, about 3 pounds
2 cups water
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
8 hamburger buns, split

Cut meat in half and place in slow cooker. Combine next 6 ingredients and pour over. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove beef, cool slightly and shred. Return to cooking liquid – skim off any fat if desired. Serve on buns.

(Recipe published in both Taste of Home and Country magazines.)

Note: I used garlic powder, thus eliminating some of the salt. This smells wonderful while cooking, and everyone loves it.

To prepare the potatoes, simply cut them into large chunks, about 1” or so. Place on large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, freshly-ground black pepper and dried rosemary (crushed). Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, turn and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until brown and crisp.

The coleslaw dressing is simple, and I actually don't use a recipe. It's mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar (I use Splenda), salt, pepper and celery seed. Keep adjusting until you get the right mix of tart and sweet. For a thinner dressing add a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil. Stir in a bag of coleslaw mix and chill for several hours. Actually, you'll need less dressing than you might think because the cabbage will release some of its liquid while chilling. Stir before serving.
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I did try using vanilla extract yesterday to remove a stubborn sticker from a candle holder. Just a few drops on a paper towel removed every bit of the paper and glue - and it smelled great, too. Give this a try!
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Please check the "Holidays" page for updated July holidays and observances.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!