Friday, September 27, 2013

Soccer Moms!

Good Friday morning. I hope it’s as gorgeous where you are as it is here. What a lovely day – let’s all make the very best of it!

Last night my husband, son and I attended my oldest grandson’s high school soccer game. He’s a sophomore, and plays goalie for the varsity soccer team. It was a fun game, even though they lost by one goal. That boy, though, seemed to do 80% of the work in the game! At the end he was battered and bruised -and a bit annoyed that they’d lost the game. But it was still hugs all around.

What I’ve decided is that soccer moms are pretty much like a lioness protecting her cubs. They are ferocious! They yell and scream, urging the players to do better and the referees to make the right calls. The dads are loud, but the moms are louder!

A couple of weeks ago I went to the younger grandson’s soccer game at a local park, and came home to tell my husband that I was afraid of those soccer moms! Smile Last night confirmed it!
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My oldest son came for dinner last night before the game. The menu was purely a “comfort food” menu – meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, roasted carrots, salad, bread & butter. After dinner we rushed out to the game, and had dessert when we returned home. I had made a new pie recipe, and it turned out quite good. It's smooth, creamy and full of flavor!
PUMPKIN PUDDING PIE
1 16 oz. can plain pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 4-serving box sugar-free butterscotch instant pudding mix
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 graham cracker pie crust
Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed with mixer for 2 minutes, until smooth and thick. Stir in nuts and spoon into pie crust. Chill for at least 2 hours.

(Recipe adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe.) Give this one a try!
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Today is Ancestor Appreciation Day, Native American Day (4th Friday of September), National Walk to Work Day and Ask a Stupid Question Day.

We all appreciate our ancestors – without them we wouldn’t be who or where we are today. I certainly appreciate my Cherokee heritage, even though it’s just a small portion of my mixed-up ancestry.

I always walk to work because I work at home, and I’m always ready to ask a stupid question!

Over the weekend we’ll celebrate Love Note Day, National Good Neighbor Day, R-E-A-D in America Day, World Heart Day and National Coffee Day.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Caregiving

I hope you’re all enjoying this absolutely gorgeous day! It’s sunny and warm here. The trees are starting to show their lovely colors, and it actually feels like fall.

Today I’m thinking about the term “caregiving”. I’m sure many of you are one, in some form or other. Caregiving means being responsible for the care of another person who may not be fully able to care for themselves. This job (and it truly is a job!) may be done in your home, in the other person’s home or in an assisted living facility of some sort. You may be totally responsible for their care or be responsible for assuring that they are cared for in the best manner possible in their living facility. Your assistance may be shared with others who are family members or professionals.

My husband and I started this caregiving journey almost 7 years ago when his mother moved in with us. It was an immediate adjustment for everyone, as she sold her house and gave away belongings, pretty much closing the door on the independence she’d enjoyed for years. During the past several years there have been many ups and downs, as well as a lot of worry and frustration on all our parts. As her physical condition declines noticeably, we know those problems will continue to increase and our dedication to this task we’ve taken on will be stretched to the max. There will be difficult decisions to be made. There may be hard feelings due to those decisions. But we will hang in there as best we can, always having each other to lean on!

Here are some caregiving statistics that I found quite interesting:

1) The aging population (65+) is expected to more than double by the year 2030.

2) Caregiving services were valued at around $450 billion per year in 2009.

3) Family caregivers remain the largest source of long term caregiving.

4) There are approximately 65.7 million caregivers in the US, making up 29% of the adult population.

5) 52 million care for adults 18+ who have a disability or illness.

6) 43.5 million family caregivers care for someone 50+, and 14.9 million care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

7) Approximately 66% of caregivers are female.

8) Of those caring for someone over 65 years of age, the average caregiver age is 63, with about a third of those in fair to poor health.

Caregivers tend to shove their own needs aside while caring for the other person, often to their own detriment. Health problems are a definite side effect for caregivers, and that includes mental as well as physical health. Caregivers become more and more isolated as time passes, and that can lead to depression and anger. Marriages have been known to fail due to the pressures of caregiving. Managing a personal life, working, caring for another person, caring for your own home – all contribute to stress and worry, leaving little time for rest and relaxation.

But, as they say, we can’t take care of anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves! So if you’re a caregiver, too, please take care of yourself. Take a few minutes a couple of times a day to just sit and do nothing. Meditate or do some gentle exercises. Take a walk. Read. Do whatever calms you and puts everything back into perspective. And I promise to do the same!
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“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”  (Alexis Carrel)

“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (A. A. Milne)

“You cannot tailor make your situation in life, but you can tailor make your attitudes to fit those situations.” (Zig Ziglar)
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(Statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance, November 2012.)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Visitors, A New Recipe & Adventure

On Saturday my sister and her husband came for a visit. They live out of town, and we don’t get together nearly often enough. We always enjoy the “girl talk” and the “guy chat”. After a trip to the local mall for a bit of shopping and to check out the car show that was being held there, we returned home for dinner.

I had prepared this Spicy Burrito Casserole – a recipe I devised after reading many, many similar recipes – and had it chilling in the refrigerator. After letting it sit on the counter to adjust to room temperature for a few minutes, I placed the casserole in the oven. We were preparing the salad and Green Chile Rice when we heard a loud pop come from the oven. I turned the oven off and carefully opened the oven door, thinking the casserole dish had broken (as I’ve often read that they can do) and that I’d find broken glass and Mexican food all over the oven; however, the noise had come from my baking element, which was glowing and burning through in one spot.

What to do? I couldn’t continue to use the oven, but the casserole was nowhere close to being hot. We cooks do roll with the punches, don’t we? I cut the layered food into sections and heated it thoroughly in the microwave, and it turned out just fine.

Now I have no oven until we get a chance to go pick up an element and my husband installs it. Well, life is anything but boring, isn’t it?

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 SPICY BURRITO CASSEROLE

1 pound ground chuck
1 packet burrito seasoning mix
1 cup water
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 can refried beans, thinned with 2 tablespoons water to spreading consistency
8 flour tortillas, burrito size
4 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese

Brown the ground chuck and drain well. Stir in burrito seasoning mix, water, black beans and tomatoes with green chiles. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Lay 2 tortillas side by side in the dish and spread with 1/3 of the refried beans, then 1/3 of meat mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the corn and 1 cup of cheese. Repeat layers twice, top with remaining 2 tortillas, and sprinkle top of casserole with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. Let stand for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Top each serving with Chili Sour Cream – stir a teaspoon of chili powder into a cup of sour cream. 

Dessert was fun to prepare and to eat! These Banana Pudding Cake Parfaits in Jars were quite tasty. I simply baked a sugar-free yellow cake mix into cupcakes and prepared a package of instant banana pudding. Then I sliced the cupcakes crosswise in half and placed one piece in the bottom of a half-pint glass canning jar. The next layer was pudding, then a few pieces of banana, followed by a layer of thawed whipped topping. I repeated the process – cake, pudding, banana – then placed the lids on the jars and popped them into the refrigerator. At serving time I removed the lids, placed a big dollop of whipped topping on top and sprinkled with crushed graham crackers. Yum!
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Tomorrow, September 24, is National Voter Registration Day. Be sure your registration is up to date so you can take part in one of the great freedoms that living in this country gives us. In many areas there will be primaries and elections coming up this fall, and if you don’t vote you shouldn’t complain if you aren’t happy with the outcome!

Now I’ll get down off the soapbox…..
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tip Tuesday–Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

The holidays are on their way, and one of our favorite things to cook for those holiday dinners is sweet potatoes. Whether we roast, mash or candy them, these tubers are full of flavor and nutrients. The discussions as to whether we’re eating sweet potatoes or yams have been ongoing for quite some time. I’m hoping to provide some clarification as to which is which, along with some tips on selecting, storing and preparing sweet potatoes.



First, let’s clear up the questions as to differences between sweet potatoes and yams.

1) Sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. They are short with tapered ends and a smooth, thin skin. There are 2 types of sweet potato, those with white flesh and others with orange flesh. They have a sweeter flavor and creamy texture.

2) Yams are related to grasses and lilies, and come from the yam family. They are primarily grown in Africa and some tropical areas. They have an almost black, rough and scaly skin, and their flesh is either white, purple or red. Yams are cylindrical in shape and can grow up to 7 feet long. Their flesh is more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes. They are in no way related to sweet potatoes, and are usually only found in international markets – if you’re buying them in a supermarket you’re actually buying sweet potatoes!

The USDA requires “yams” to also be labeled as “sweet potatoes”, thus leading to more confusion for shoppers.

Selecting and storing sweet potatoes:

1) Choose dry, smooth, clean potatoes.

2) Do not wash until ready to cook as moisture will lead to spoilage.

3) Store in a cool, dark place approximately 55 to 65 degrees. I store mine in a peach basket in a corner of the basement.

4) Do not refrigerate until cooked.

A bit of sweet potato history:

1) The sweet potato dates back to around 750 BC in Peru. Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes when Columbus arrived in 1492. The sweet potato was introduced to England by Spaniards, and were a favorite of King Henry VIII. They were then taken to France, where Louis XV and Josephine enjoyed them for a while, but when they lost favor with the royals they virtually disappeared. Spaniards brought the sweet potato to the Philippines, then they were taken to the Pacific, specifically China, then to Japan.

2) In WWI there was a wheat flour shortage, and sweet potato flour was used as a substitute.

Interesting information:

1) 80% of the world’s sweet potatoes are produced in China.

2) North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, with Louisiana, Mississippi and California following close behind.

3) Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium. The vitamin A is great for your skin, and the potassium will help those pesky leg and muscle cramps!

I’m sure you have your favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes. I recently had company for dinner and made candied sweet potatoes. I boiled them in their skins, then peeled and halved them lengthwise when they were cool and placed them in a single layer in a large baking pan. I made a glaze of sugar-free maple syrup, Splenda brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and poured it over the potatoes, then sprinkled them with chopped nuts. All they needed was about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and they came out great.

My favorite sweet potato recipe, however, is one I’ve made numerous times, and the family loves it. It’s almost dessert!


SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE


4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 cinnamon stick
Boiling water to cover
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine sweet potatoes and cinnamon stick in the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and drain potatoes.

Pour potatoes into mixer bowl, and with a hand mixer at low speed add the brown sugar, syrup, butter, vanilla and cream. Switch mixer to second speed and add the eggs (potatoes should be cool enough not to cook the eggs). Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish, spreading evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe from the local newspaper several years ago, submitted by 2 chefs who were also local restaurant owners.

Notes: I usually sprinkle the top with chopped pecans or decorate with pecan halves. This one is a must-have at our Thanksgiving dinner!
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Today is Citizenship Day, Constitution Day and National Apple Dumpling Day. Tomorrow will be Air Force Birthday, National Cheeseburger Day and National Respect Day. And all week we celebrate Constitution Week, as well as National Indoor Plant Week and National Clean Hands Week. Be sure to check out the "Holidays" page for a full listing of the September observances.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

Today is a day set aside to remember a very sad day in our nation’s history - it's Patriot's Day. On this date in 2001, enemies of freedom and democracy attacked us on our own soil, killing many innocent people and causing scars that will last forever.

But  the grace and kindness of the American people shone through during all the days that came after the attack. People stepped up to do whatever they could to help others – people they didn’t even know. And, for a while, everyone was a bit more thoughtful and kind – and patriotic. Flags waved everywhere. After some time, though, we all went back to our complacent lives, but somewhere in the backs of our minds there was a small question: Could it happen again and if so, when?

We don’t have an answer to that question, but our best course of action would seem to be to live our lives. Simply live! Don’t let  the ones who would consider another attack see our fear or our hesitation to do things we’ve always done. Let’s celebrate as always, work as always, love as always.

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cookbook Bargains!

Last weekend I made a trip to the local Half Price Books store, mainly because they were having a 20%-off-everything sale. I love that store and could spend hours wandering through it, but I especially enjoy poring over the Clearance racks on the back wall. There are always several good buys on those shelves, and most of the time I have to restrain myself to avoid going crazy and spending more than I should! I did find 2 good cookbooks, though, as well as a novel for myself and one for my husband. (If there’s a Half Price Books near you, be sure to check it out!)

The first cookbook was a Gooseberry Patch cookbook, and has already become an enjoyable addition to my stack of GBP cookbooks. It’s called Family Favorite Recipes, with 200+ recipes that cover everything from appetizers to desserts. It was published in 2009, and includes hints and tips for gift-giving and decorating. The Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, including their Christmas series, are always a fun read!

The other cookbook is The Everything Cake Mix Cookbook, written by Sarah K. Sawyer and published in 2009. It is full of recipes that start with a simple box cake mix – more than 300 of them!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking through these 2 books, and hope to start preparing some of the recipes right away.
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When the seasons start to change, so do my floral arrangements throughout the house. Today I started removing the pastel summer flowers and replacing them with bright orange, yellow and rust colors. I do enjoy the creativity of placing the flowers in just the right spot for best viewing. And when these arrangements are completed they will be located throughout the house – autumn everywhere!

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Tomorrow is Swap Ideas day. If you have a great one, be sure to share it with others.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#100!

Well, here I am at Post #100. When I started From Grammie’s Kitchen, I didn’t even consider hitting a milepost – I just wanted to write a bit about things of interest that pertained to homekeeping. That’s what we do, you know. We’re keeping our homes and families in the best possible condition that we can – clean, well-fed, healthy. And I hope along the way we give ourselves a little pat on the back for a job well done.

To celebrate this milestone, I’m giving away another FREE E-Book – your choice of :

(1)  506 Pumpkin Recipes
(2)  250+ Pie Recipes
(3)  Classic Desserts

All you have to do to get your FREE recipe book is send an email to fromgrammieskitchen@gmail.com and tell me which one you’d prefer. It will be sent to you as an email attachment right away! Happy Cooking!
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I made these delicious brownies for Labor Day. Give them a try when you need something chocolate!

PRETZEL-CRUST BROWNIES

2 cups crushed pretzels
1 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 box brownie mix (8” pan size)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine the pretzels, butter and sugar. Press into an ungreased 8” baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on rack. Reduce oven to 350 degrees (or temperature given in directions for brownie mix).

Prepare brownie mix as directed. Spread over crust and bake for time given on box. Do not overbake. Cool on rack.

Melt chips and peanut butter in microwave, stirring till smooth. Spread over brownies. Chill for 30 minutes. Cut into bars. Store airtight.

(Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe)

Notes: I used Splenda instead of sugar and a sugar-free brownie mix.
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Today is Be Late for Something Day. Did you manage to do that? I haven't been out today - working at home - so I haven't been late yet, but there's still time.

It's also Cheese Pizza Day. 

Tomorrow (September 6) is National Lazy Mom's Day. I'm not sure where that one came from because the typical Mom is anything but lazy! We don't have time to be lazy. But if you get a chance, take a few lazy minutes for yourself tomorrow.

And since tomorrow is also Read A Book Day why not combine the two and really go for it? A few quiet minutes with a good book sound pretty good right about now.

Coming up....

Sunday is National Grandparents Day. Celebrate those special people in your children's lives. 
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"If I'd known how much fun grandchildren were, I'd have had them first!"

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tip Tuesday & Other Things

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! Everyone says Labor Day is the end of summer, but there are plenty of lovely, warm days left. Autumn doesn’t arrive officially until Sunday, September 22, but stores are full of fall clothing and home d├ęcor items in gorgeous fall colors.

We’re starting to think of fall foods – those that are more hearty and filling, as well as the wonderful fall harvest foods such as pumpkins, apples and squash. And who doesn’t look forward to a big pot of bubbly, fragrant chili or vegetable soup? Yum.

We had a simple Labor Day dinner last  night. My husband grilled the London broil, and it turned out perfect. Here’s the marinade that I made up on the fly:

QUICK AND SIMPLE MARINADE

3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
several basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Mix well and pour over beef, pork or chicken. Marinate several hours, turning occasionally.
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Now, on to Tip Tuesday!

A lot of you, I’m sure, have some pieces of silver. They may have been inherited or may have been bought at an estate sale or antique store. They’re beautiful, and you want to keep them that way. It isn’t an easy task. Air is the biggest enemy of silver – it causes the oxidation that leads to tarnish. Add to that any acidic foods that the pieces are exposed to, and you’re sure to find they don’t stay shiny for long.

There are several ways to clean the silver pieces, and all of them are time-consuming and not necessarily pleasant. Actually, it’s a pretty messy procedure, but one that should be done on a regular basis. Keeping the silver clean – and using it often – are the best ways to preserve its sheen.
After doing some internet research and reading books, here are some tips about cleaning and caring for silver. One book actually told how to oxidize silver – why would we want that? We want it shiny!

1) Don’t mix silver and stainless steel in the same storage container or drawer because the stainless steel will tarnish the silver.

2) Put pieces of chalk in the silverware chest and small chunks of charcoal in larger areas to absorb humidity.

3) Always wash and dry silver by hand – not in the dishwasher.

There are several ways to clean silver:

1) To easily clean silver jewelry, use either Alka Seltzer tablets or denture cleaner tablets. Drop a couple into a cup of water and carefully drop in your jewelry. When the fizzing stops, remove the sparkly jewels, rinse and carefully wipe dry. I’ve done this numerous times and it works great and makes those diamonds shine, too!

2) Toothpaste is mildly abrasive - simply rub on gently, rinse under warm water then dry with a soft cloth.

3) Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil in the kitchen sink. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons baking soda and fill the sink with hot water. Lay the silver pieces on the foil. When the tarnish is gone, rinse and wipe dry. Badly tarnished pieces should take about 5 minutes.

Tarnish prevention:

1) Wrap each piece carefully in 2 layers of plastic wrap before storing.

2) Clean with silver polish no more than once or twice a year.

Remember, the best way to preserve your silver’s beauty is to use it!

My Notes: I’ve never actually tried the toothpaste or foil techniques – always stuck with a good silver polish. So I decided to do an experiment. I have some very old berry spoons that, unfortunately, haven’t been used in some time. They looked like this:

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I polished one with toothpaste and the other with silver polish. Photo #1 is the silver polish result, photo #2 the toothpaste result.  #3 illustrates the distinct differences between the two results (the toothpaste-polished spoon is on top).
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As you can see, the toothpaste didn’t work quite as well, but there was an improvement. It could have been that our brand wasn’t abrasive enough or that the tarnish was just too bad for the toothpaste to clean. The silver polish did an admirable job, though, and the spoon looks ready to use!

If you try some of the other cleaning techniques, please let me know how they work for you. And if you have a good way to polish silver that hasn’t been mentioned, please share. Thanks.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!