Monday, June 16, 2014

I’m Still Here…

Happy Monday morning! Just wanted to post a quick note to let you know I haven’t abandoned From Grammie’s Kitchen, although it appears to be the case. I’ve been sidelined by some surgery with chemo to come, so the site will probably be quiet for a while. I’m doing very well and thinking about ways to improve the blog in the future, but first things first, I suppose.  Everyone please hang in there with me (and think good thoughts) – I’ll be back soon! I truly appreciate you all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today I wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers, as well as the stepmothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers and all of those who help in the rearing of our children. You all play a vital role in their growth and development! I hope your day is a very special one.
roses-in-national-park_w725_h544

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

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Herb Series–Marjoram

This cold-sensitive perennial herb, “origanum majorana”, is a member of the mint family and grows wild in the Mediterranean. Marjoram has a spicy-sweet flavor with pine and citrus tones. It is often used in herbes de Provence, along with savory, rosemary, thyme and oregano, and many times lavender leaves are also added.

Cultivation:

Grow marjoram in full sun in well-drained, fertile soil. It does well in planters and will spread to cover the soil. Harvest often to promote bushy growth. Marjoram grows up to 18” with small clusters of flowers, and normally blooms in July. If you want to keep the marjoram plants over the winter months, simply plant in pots and move  indoors before cold weather.

Uses:

If using fresh marjoram, add the leaves at the end of cooking as heat will diminish its flavors. Marjoram does dry well. Good substitutes for marjoram are thyme or oregano, but they may be stronger in flavor so you would need less.

Marjoram goes well with egg and cheese dishes, soups, salads, chicken and sauces. It is also part of a seasoning blend for sausage, and is used in German and Polish cooking.

Marjoram oil is used to make soaps and cosmetics.

Medicinal Uses:

Various medicines are made from the marjoram leaves, flowers and oils. Marjoram tea is taken for digestive issues, mood swings, diabetes treatment, poor sleep and headaches, just to name a few. Marjoram is an antiseptic with healing and soothing properties, and is said to relieve fatigue, sore throat, aching muscles and joints.
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The new Husband’s Choice cookbook has been chosen, and now it’s just a matter of finding a recipe from that book. Please check back to see what we prepare!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo & Husband’s Choice

Today is “Cinco de Mayo”, which, of course, is Spanish for the 5th of May. We have seen all the recipes and celebration ideas for the day, but do we know what the celebrations are all about? Of course it’s a day for eating great Mexican foods, but there is a fairly serious background to the holiday.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the May 5, 1862 victory of the Mexican army over France at the Battle of Puebla, a small town in central Mexico. This battle took place during the Franco-Mexican War, which went on from 1861 to 1867. During this battle the loss of French troops was approximately 5 times the Mexican losses. This victory invigorated the Mexican troops, who finally received US assistance after the end of the Civil War.

The holiday, however, appears to be celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico, where it is not a federal holiday. In fact, in many places it is just like any other day. but it is celebrated primarily in the state of Pueblo. Here we celebrate in areas of high Mexican-American population with parades, mariachi music and festivals. And with great food!

Many people think this is a celebration of Mexican independence, but it is not. The Mexican Independence Day is September 16.

How do you plan to celebrate? We’re having a Mexican meal tonight – burritos, refried beans, nachos. Sounds good!
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Here comes the new Husband’s Choice recipe. You must try this one! It’s so incredibly easy and delicious, warm and full of fruity, nutty goodness!

This recipe called for a 4-quart slow cooker, so I pulled out my vintage 1960s model because it was the perfect size. This one, however, does not have the handy-dandy removable crock, so it’s a bit more difficult to clean. I love how they considered ease and convenience in the updating of our favorite small appliance.

IMAG0211Here it is, ready for action.
IMAG0209Ready to “bake”.
SDC10337After 3 hours – yum! Just look at that cherry nutty goodness and try not to drool…
SDC10338Time for dessert!

DUMP CAKE

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple (undrained)
1 (21 oz.) can blueberry or cherry pie filling
1 (18.25 oz.) box yellow cake mix
cinnamon to taste
1/3 cup light tub margarine
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Grease the bottom and sides of a 4-quart slow cooker. Pour in pineapple, then pie filling – do not mix. Sprinkle dry cake mix over top. Sprinkle with cinnamon, then dot with small margarine chunks and sprinkle with nuts. Cover and cook on High for 2 to 3 hours.

Makes 15 servings.

Notes: My changes included using pineapple in juice, a no-sugar-added cherry pie filling and a sugar-free cake mix. We had this with a dollop of whipped topping – delicious! It’s a definite keeper recipe.

The “Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook – Exclusive Edition” by Phyllis Pellman Good with the American Diabetes Association was published in 2005. This big hardcover book is available at Amazon starting at $3.44 (used). Shipping rates vary.

There are hundreds of recipes in this book, from almonds to zucchini. It also includes a weekly menu plan and answers to questions about diabetes. But even someone who doesn’t suffer with diabetes can benefit from the delicious recipes in this cookbook. The best part is that the recipes are easy to prepare, and most of them do not require unusual ingredients.
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So what’s happening this week besides Cinco de Mayo? If you check the “Holidays” page you’ll find listings of daily, weekly and monthly observances. Just a few this week are: 

Tomorrow, Tuesday,  is *No Homework Day, National Teacher Day and *No Diet Day. 
Wednesday will be the Great American Grump Out Day (do you know one or two??) and School Nurse Day. Thursday is VE Day and *No Socks Day. Friday is Child Care Provider Day and Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and on Saturday we’ll observe the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. So place those bags of food beside your mailbox and help out a lot of folks! Sunday, of course, is Mother’s Day  - it was on May 10 last year, and I posted some information about the history of Mother’s Day if you’d like to go to the archives and read it. Sunday will also be *Eat What You Want Day and *Hostess Cupcake Day.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Herb Series–Dill

Dill is a feathery plant from the family “Umbelliferae”, the genus “Anethum” and its botanical name is “Anethum graveolens”. It is an aromatic plant with wispy leaves that often grows to 3 feet tall. It is one of few herbs in which both the leaves and seeds are used – the leaves known generally as dill weed. The flavors of the seeds are stronger than the leaves, and are similar to caraway. Dill is most often an annual, but if left undisturbed it may reseed itself for the next season.

Dill is native to southern Russia, western Africa and the Mediterranean region. It has been used for many centuries, being mentioned in the Bible and in early Egyptian writings and was used in Greek and Roman cultures.

Cultivating:

Dill plants do not transplant well, so it is best to grow from seeds in early summer. The plants do well in most soils as long as they are not soggy, and they prefer full sun. Dill plants are good companion plants for cabbage and onions, but not for carrots. Keep watered well, but allow to dry well before watering again.

Start harvesting dill when 4 or 5 leaves have formed on the stem. Keep flower heads removed to extend the growing season. The more you pinch or snip the plants the fuller they will grow, so harvest often.

Try saving the seeds for next year – after flowering let the heads dry on the stem, then cut and dry thoroughly. Remove the seeds and store in paper envelopes or in glass jars. The dill seed is a brownish oval, flat on one side.

Medicinal:

Through the years there have been many medicinal uses for dill weed and seed. There are no known allergic properties to dill, but it’s said that pregnant women should not use it in medicinal amounts – but those dill pickles are okay!

Benefits include – anti-inflammatory (arthritis), anti-bacterial, bone health (high calcium content), digestive care (relieves gas pains and other stomach issues), insomnia, immune system care, headache, hiccups, oral care.

In ancient times burned seeds were applied to wounds, and dill tea was often used. To prepare tea, use 2 teaspoons dill seeds per cup of hot water, steep and drink.

Dill oil (an essential oil extracted from the leaves, seeds and stems) is often used for massage due to its calming effects. Simply add a small amount to a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, peanut oil, sesame or sunflower oil.

Nutrition:

1 ounce of dried dill weed (approximately 2 to 2.38 tablespoons) has 12 calories and contains no fat, cholesterol or sugars. Small amounts of sodium and carbohydrates (in the form of fiber) can be found. It contains high amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and potassium, as traces of several other nutrients.

Cooking Uses:

Dill is a prominent ingredient in pickles, and can be added to many foods including soups, dips, salads and vegetables. It is often used in cooking fish. There are many regions/countries that have dill as a favorite ingredient in traditional foods, including Germany and Scandinavia.

Add dill at the end of cooking as its flavor can dissipate with cooking. Also, it is best used fresh because it loses flavor when dried. Freeze-dried dill, however, will hold its flavor several months.

To dry your own dill place washed stems on paper towel and cover with a second paper towel. Place in microwave and use low heat for 2-minute increments until dry and crumbly. This will not give you the optimum dill flavor in most cases, but it is useable.

To make your own dill vinegar, soak dill seeds in vinegar for several days then strain into clean bottles.

I normally only grow basil in the summer, but think I just might try a packet of dill seeds!
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Check back tomorrow for the holidays and observances for May – you’ll find them on the “Holidays” page.
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Your comment and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Depression Glass

This clear or colored glassware was produced from the 1920s to the 1940s, and became quite popular during the depression, thus the name it was given. Many times it was free, being packaged in something like Quaker Oats or laundry detergent – wouldn’t it have been a treat to find a lovely cup or dish in something so everyday? Others were given away as premiums at gas stations, theaters, etc. It could be found in dime stores, often for as little as 5 or 10 cents. That small bit of color and shine brought a bit of brightness to those whose lives and livelihoods were deeply affected by the depression.

More than 20 manufacturers produced depression glass, with well over 100 patterns being made. Most of these companies were in central or midwest areas of the United States. Some of the more well-known glass producers were Anchor Hocking, Indiana Glass and Federal Glass Company. The glassware was produced mainly in clear, pink, pale blue, green or amber colors. Depression glass was mass-produced and inexpensive, often having visible flaws such as air bubbles or mold marks.

Do you collect depression glass? If you plan to start, be sure to do your research. There are numerous websites and many books available that will describe the patterns and tell you how to choose wisely. Be sure to watch out for reproductions – many were done in the 1970s and beyond. Also, check glassware well for damage such as chips or cracks.

These days collectors have driven prices of depression glass pieces well above their original prices, but they can still be found in antique stores and flea markets. Some people collect only one pattern while others collect pieces by color.

My sister and I were both lucky to find patterns with our names made by the Federal Glass Company, and over the years we have picked up pieces here and there. Here is most of my small collection:
SDC10328
Clockwise starting at the top they are: a clear cake plate (I have 2 – they make a cake look so pretty!), an amber cup and saucer set, a pink cheese dish, a blue butter dish (reproduction) and an amber serving bowl. In the center are salt and pepper shakers with zinc lids.

If you haven’t started collecting yet, why not pick up a piece or two of depression glass? It will add a pretty spot of color to your shelves!
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The month of April will be over this week – hasn’t it gone quickly? Check out the remaining observances/holidays on the “Holidays” page and look for the list for May on Thursday.
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The Husband’s Choice cookbook has been selected – watch for the results later in the week. It should be interesting!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Husband’s Choice–Cabbage Roll Bake

This is the second in the series, and he chose very well again! Those of you who have ever made cabbage rolls know they’re a lot of work. This casserole dish tastes just the same, but is so easy to prepare. It makes a huge amount – plenty for leftovers.



Just out of the oven!

CABBAGE ROLL BAKE

1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 small onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup long-grain rice, uncooked
1 (16 oz.) can sauerkraut, undrained
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Brown ground beef, onion and garlic. Drain; season with salt and pepper. 

Mix together sauerkraut, tomato sauce and water.

In prepared dish, layer as follows:

Cabbage
Rice
Meat mixture
Sauerkraut/tomato sauce/water mixture

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then cover and cook 60 minutes longer.

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Church Potluck Best-Loved Slow Cooker and Casserole Recipes, published in 2010. The book is available at Amazon in hardcover format, starting at $.50 (used) and $15.03 (new). Shipping rates vary.
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What will he choose next??? Check back next week!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tip Tuesday–Cornstarch

That box or can sits on most of our pantry shelves, but do we really know where it comes from? Cornstarch is a finely-ground thickening agent made from the endosperm (a portion of the white heart) of the corn kernel.

In order to thicken properly, the cornstarch should be mixed with a cold liquid (this is called a “slurry”), then stirred into hot liquid, being sure to stir constantly to avoid lumps. Allowing the liquid to come to a full boil will bring the mixture to its full thickness.

Substitutions for 1 tablespoon cornstarch:

All of these work well as a substitute. Just be sure to stir well to avoid lumping.

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granular tapioca
1 tablespoon arrowroot

Nutrition:

One ounce of cornstarch contains 107 calories, 26g carbohydrates, 1% iron and 3 mg sodium, with no fat, cholesterol, calcium or protein.

Other Uses:

Cornstarch is sometimes used as a substitute for talcum powder as it is a more natural product.

Fun Stuff:

You can use cornstarch in a scientific experiment that kids will love – make a dilatant. Mix 1 part water to 1 1/2 or 2 parts cornstarch. When sitting, the mixture is a more liquid. But if you pound it or put pressure on it you’ll find it’s solid. You can, however, slowly sink your hand down into it.

Another way to use cornstarch is to make your own bath powder. Thoroughly mix equal parts baking soda and cornstarch. Add your favorite essential oil, a couple of drops at a time, mixing after each addition. Allow to sit for a day or two before using for best results.

Oddities:

There is a disease called “amylophagia” in which people eat cornstarch, often in large quantities. This is thought to be due to missing nutrients in the diet.

Recipe:

VANILLA PUDDING (BLANCMANGE)

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

Mix dry ingredients; gradually blend in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add vanilla. Pour into serving dishes; chill until set. 

Chocolate Variation

Follow directions as above, but increase sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1/3 cup baking cocoa with dry ingredients. Continue cooking as directed. 

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
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Looking on the bright side….

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”  
(A.A. Milne)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!




























Friday, April 18, 2014

Husband’s Choice–Stuffed Pizza

This week my husband’s cookbook selection was the Betty Crocker Ultimate Bisquick Cookbook, published in 2009. After selecting several delicious sounding recipes, he settled on Stuffed Pizza. Last night was the perfect time to make it since our older son was coming for dinner, which would mean not a lot of leftovers! Everyone loved it and said that it should be put into the regular menu rotation! Here it is….

SDC10323Just out of the oven.

SDC10326Time to eat.

This filling recipe is one I think you’ll enjoy. It doesn’t use a lot of strange ingredients, and the crust is made from Bisquick – what could be easier?

STUFFED PIZZA

1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1/2 pound lean ground beef
3 1/3 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup cold water
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (12 ounces)
1 jar (14 to 15 ounces) pizza sauce
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 9x13” baking dish with cooking spray. In skillet, brown sausage and ground beef, stirring often; drain.

In large bowl, combine Bisquick and water until a dough forms. Divide into 2 parts, with 1 slightly larger than the other. On a surface sprinkled with Bisquick, roll out the larger portion to a 14x16” rectangle. Fold crosswise into thirds, place in center of dish and unfold. Press on bottom and up sides of dish. On top of crust, layer 1 cup cheese, 3/4 cup pizza sauce, all the meat mixture, mushrooms, green pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese.

Roll the second dough ball into a 9x13” rectangle. Fold crosswise into thirds and layer over cheese. Press top and bottom crusts together, sealing well. Make small slits in top crust. Spread with remaining pizza sauce and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 22 to 25 minutes or until edges of crust are golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from the Bisquick cookbook recipe. My husband doesn’t care for Italian sausage, so we substituted regular sausage. I had some trouble getting the crust as large as it needed to be (and in a good rectangle shape), but when the top crust was added I was able to pull everything together and seal it well.

This Exclusive Deluxe Edition hardcover cookbook is available at Amazon – new from $9.77, and used from $.41. Shipping rates vary.

This one was a winner - wonder what he’ll come up with this coming week??
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Today is Good Friday, with Easter on Sunday. I wish you all a Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is Husband Appreciation Day – and I certainly appreciate my dear husband of almost 47 years! He’s a faithful, caring husband and father. It will also be Record Store Day. On a similar note, I did a post about vinyl records, record players and a bit of history on August 12 of last year – check it out in the Archives.

Monday will be National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, and on Tuesday we celebrate Earth Day and National Jelly Bean Day.

Look for the rest of April’s observances on the “Holidays” page!
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The first grass cutting of the year is going on right now. He's out there riding around on the mower with a big smile on his face! It does smell so good out there, and the weather is absolutely perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. He's a happy man!

We're having our Easter dinner tomorrow since our daughter and her family have other folks to visit on Sunday. It works well for all of us.

The menu is: spiral-sliced ham, potato salad, deviled eggs, coleslaw, Watergate Salad, corn on the cob, a relish tray, dinner rolls. My daughter is contributing her "world-famous" baked beans and monkey bread. Yum! For dessert we have chocolate covered cherry cake and vanilla sprinkle bars.

I decided to go with a summer/picnic-style meal, and I think it will be a good one!

Now I'd better get to work doing some food preparation. Back later in the week.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Herb Series–Chives


This perennial herb, “allium schoenoprasum” is from the Alliaceae family, and is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It is a small edible onion, quite common and readily available. Chives grow from a bulb and have small lavender blossoms. The stems can be flat or tubular and grow up to about 20 inches long.

Chives are most often used as a garnish, and if used in cooking should be added at the end of cooking as they lose flavor if overcooked. They can be used anywhere a mild onion flavor is desired.

Cultivation:

Chives can be started from seed, and can be started in early spring since they are cool weather tolerant. Their shallow roots will require frequent watering. Patches of chives will spread, causing the plants to weaken, so transplant as needed. The plants need full sun and sandy, loamy soil.

Harvesting:

Chives can be snipped as needed. It’s best to cut chives with scissors – using a knife could bruise the stems. Typically they do not dry well, but can be chopped and frozen. The lovely blossoms are edible, too. Simply rinse off and add to salads or use as a garnish.

Nutrition:

Chives are said to provide many nutrients – beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and K, calcium, folic acid and potassium, just to name a few.

Medicinal Use:

Chives are a member of the onion family and have the same potential benefits for lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots. They contain allicin, which could lower LDL and raise HDL. Chives aid digestion by removing bacteria, fungi and yeast from the intestines. Glutathione produced by chives and working as an antioxidant may eliminate toxins that could potentially cause cancer.

So for very few calories chives pack a nutritional punch!
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In February I did a post about the "language” of flowers, but did you know that herbs also have meanings as well? Here are a few of our favorites:

Basil – good wishes, love
Bay – glory
Chamomile – patience
Chives – usefulness
Coriander – hidden worth
Fennel – flattery
Lavender – devotion, virtue
Lemon Balm – sympathy
Marjoram – joy, happiness
Mint – eternal refreshment
Oregano – substance
Parsley – festivity
Rosemary – remembrance
Sage – wisdom, immortality
Tarragon – lasting interest
Thyme – courage, strength

How about making a lovely bouquet of meaningful herbs for a friend? Or a living wreath? Simply use a floral foam wreath made for fresh flowers, insert the herb stems in an attractive design. Tie with a pretty bow and add a pair of scissors on a ribbon. They can snip the fresh herbs as needed in their kitchen. Of course, remind them to water or spritz the herbs from time to time to keep them fresh.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasting Vegetables

Oven roasting is a great way to cook many vegetables. It makes them so brown, crisp and flavorful that you just can’t turn them down! Have you tried it? I’ve done just about all vegetables in the oven, including beets and asparagus. All you do is drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then pop the pan into the oven. Be sure to watch them, though – if they seem to be getting too brown, cover them with foil until the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Here’s how to roast several of my favorites:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
 
Asparagus: Trim ends – roast 10 to 15 minutes.

Beets: Leave whole and unpeeled, stick several times with a fork – roast 1 hour, or until tender. Peel when cool.

Carrots: Cut into 1-inch pieces - roast 30 to 40 minutes.

Onions: Use jumbo onions and cut each into 12 wedges – roast 20 to 30 minutes.

Potatoes: Cut into 2-inch pieces – roast 45 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes: Cut into 1-inch lengthwise wedges – roast 30 minutes.

Winter Squash: Cut into 2-inch pieces - roast 40 minutes.

Zucchini: Trim ends and cut in half crosswise, then quarter each half lengthwise – roast 15 to 20 minutes.

Spread vegetables in single layer on flat baking sheet with low sides. Use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil per pound of vegetables, and season to taste. Stir or turn halfway through if needed.

One of my favorites is a mixture of white and sweet potatoes – so good! And roasted beets have such a great flavor. They’re quite messy to peel - you might want to wear food-safe latex gloves to keep your hands from being stained red for days!
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 Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Husband’s Choice

Happy Monday morning! It’s a bit damp here – there, too? It's a good day to stay inside with a warm drink and a good book! Or maybe do some cooking.

Last week I mentioned the new “series” here at From Grammie’s Kitchen, and this is the first installment. My hubby selected the cookbook, I chose several great recipes, and he made the final decision (I should have known it would be a dessert!).

Last night I made these delicious apple dumplings after dinner. It’s an unusual recipe, as you’ll see when you read the ingredients. And if you haven’t had these before you’re in for a real treat! They’re easy to make and just plain yummy. Most of us here had to have seconds! A scoop of ice cream melting on top just added to the great taste.

SDC10317After the butter & sugar mixture.
SDC10318After the Mountain Dew.
SDC10319After a sprinkle of cinnamon.
SDC10320Out of the oven!
SDC10321Yum!

APPLE DUMPLINGS

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 sections each
2 (8 oz.) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (12 oz.) can Mountain Dew
dash ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 10" baking dish and set aside.

Open the crescent roll dough and separate into sections. Wrap a piece of apple in each, beginning at the wide end. Place point down in prepared dish.

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and vanilla. Pour over dumplings. 

Pour the Mountain Dew over the dumplings, then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

This recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. The book is available at Amazon in both hard cover and Kindle editions starting at $10.90.

I’ve also seen the recipe online – and actually enjoyed these dumplings several years ago when an aunt brought them to a family reunion. You should definitely give them a try – both my husband and son said the recipe is a keeper!

Notes: It was easy to cut this recipe in half for our small household. I used granulated Splenda instead of sugar, and would have used a diet Mountain Dew if I had one. A 7x11" baking dish could be used instead of an 8x10" - I used a 2-quart oval.
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Today is No Housework Day - wish I could get away with that one! It's also Tater Day (It's Sweet Potatoes). Wednesday is National Cherish Antiques Day. We'll observe National Sibling Day on Thursday (Hello, Sister!). Have a grilled cheese on Saturday to celebrate Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, and follow it up with licorice candy for Licorice Day.

See the "Holidays" page for a full list of holidays and observances.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Cup of Coffee, Please!

cup-of-coffee
The week is almost over, and we’re heading for another weekend – I hope you all have plans to relax a bit and have some fun. As I stand here, large mug in hand while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I’m thinking about where that coffee comes from, its history and what we can do with it. And I’ve always thought it funny that a bean is harvested, dried, roasted, ground, water is poured over it, then we drink that water and discard the grounds.

There are many legends and stories about coffee’s origins, but it’s thought that those origins go back to about the 13th century. One story is that a goatherd in Ethiopia by the name of Kaldi found that his herd became more active after eating the berries from a certain tree in the fields. Wondering if the effect would be the same on humans, he tried one and found that he experienced the same feeling of exhilaration. Another legend is that a man from Yemen, while traveling in Ethiopia, noticed that birds gained energy and vitality after eating the berries and tried them himself with the same results.

The Arabs were the first to cultivate and trade coffee. From Ethiopia coffee traveled to India, then to Europe, then around the world. The Turks, in about 1453, are said to have been the first to actually make a drink from the beans. In Turkish law around that time it became legal to divorce a man if he failed to provide enough daily coffee for his wife!

At times throughout history the use of coffee was banned by religious or governmental authorities for different reasons.

The National Coffee Association USA was established in 1911, becoming the first trade organization for the US coffee industry and one of the first trade associations in the country.

Varieties of Coffee:

The 2 main types of coffee are Arabica and Robusto. The Arabica is known for its rich flavor and aroma, and is typically more expensive. Robusto is often used for instant coffee.

How It’s Harvested:

There are two harvesting techniques:

1) Strip Picking – all berries on the tree are removed, either by machine or by hand.

2) Selective Picking – only the ripe berries are removed, by hand, and the harvesting crew rotates through the fields as the berries ripen.

After harvesting, the pulp is removed from the berry to reveal the bean. The bean is then dried. Roasting then darkens the beans and releases the oils that give coffee its flavor. The roasted beans are ground, and the ultimate brewing method determines the grinding process – the finer the grind the faster the brewing preparation should be. A larger grind would be exposed to hot water for a longer period of time during brewing, whereas a finer grind would be ideal for a shorter brewing method.

Where It’s Grown:

Coffee is grown in several areas of the world – in Central and South America (Costa Rica, Columbia and Brazil), in Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia) and in the Far East (Vietnam and Indonesia).

Buying and Storing It:

Ideally, you should only buy as much coffee as you will use in a short time, maybe a week or two at most. Any extra coffee should be stored in a dark airtight container (never in glass) in a cool, dark place. It’s best not to refrigerate or freeze coffee in order to protect it from any moisture, which would degrade flavor.

Brewing Methods:

Over the years there have been several methods and types of equipment for brewing coffee. Long ago there were those sturdy metal coffee pots used on the campfire or in the fireplace. Then came the percolator, which was probably the first actual “machine” used to brew coffee. I remember having percolators, both aluminum and ceramic, that were placed on the stovetop. Then came drip coffeemakers, which many of us use these days. There are also the French Press and the Espresso coffee makers. The latest development in coffee machines is the single-cup brewer, which provides convenience and versatility. The individual cups are available in many flavors of coffee as well as teas and cocoas.

However we prepare it, most of us savor that cup of coffee first thing in the morning – and all during the day. Its health benefits have long been debated, but I say everything in moderation!
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Here are a couple of simple coffee creamer recipes and one for a flavored coffee mix. Any of these would make great gifts, too.

SWEET AND SPICY CREAMER

1 cup powdered creamer
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix a heaping teaspoonful in mug of hot coffee or tea.

MOCHA CREAMER

1 (16 oz.) jar powdered creamer
1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix for milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix and store airtight. To use: mix a tablespoon into 6 ounces hot coffee.

VIENNA COFFEE MIX

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered creamer
1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
4 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 cup instant coffee


Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix 2 to 3 tablespoons into one cup hot water.
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The new series called “Husband’s Choice” will start this weekend, with results posted early next week. My husband will, at random, select a cookbook from my bookshelves. From that cookbook I will select several possible recipes, then he will choose one to be prepared.
The book for this week has been chosen – The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. This talented blogger, photographer and Food Network chef is a favorite of mine, and her down-to-earth style appeals to so many of us home cooks.

The chosen recipe is under wraps for now. More to come….
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Saturday is International Pillow Fight Day, National Deep Dish Pizza Day and National Love Our Children Day. (They all sound good to me!) Sunday we observe Hostess Twinkie Day, National Student Athlete Day and "Sorry, Charlie" Day.

And check the "Holidays" page for even more!
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"Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee."
(Author Unknown)

"Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis - a good, hot cup of coffee."
(Alexander King)

"Do I like my coffee black? There are other colors?"
(Author Unknown)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool’s Day & Tip Tuesday

Happy April 1st! It looks as if spring is finally here, and we’ve certainly earned it. And can you believe that a quarter of the year is already gone? Time sure passes quickly.

Do you know the history of April Fool’s Day? This day is one on which people traditionally play pranks on others, all in good fun. The day is also sometimes called All Fool’s Day. This prank holiday dates back to the Middle Ages, and its origin is uncertain.

In France in 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day, which had always been a week-long celebration from March 25 to April 1, was moved to January 1. Due to slow communication at that time, many in rural areas (and some who were just plain stubborn and opposed to change) continued to celebrate as before, thus being ridiculed as “foolish”.

There are many references to the day in literature and in mythological lore. Over the years there have been some major media-wide pranks, such as the 1957 BBC news program that told of Switzerland’s great spaghetti harvest, which was due to the eradication of the “spaghetti weevil”.  It was so convincing that many people actually believed it!

Have you been pranked? Or pulled one on someone else? No pranks here…just information and a couple of recipes!
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Today’s Tip Tuesday is all about Yeast. The microorganism, “saccharomyces cerevisiae”, is a member of the fungus family and requires 3 things to grow – food, warmth and moisture.  Baker’s yeast is the variety used for baking, and is used to leaven dough. It works by turning fermentable sugars in dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol. The food that makes the yeast “grow” is either sugar, potatoes or the water in which potatoes have been boiled. Growth is inhibited somewhat by salt, fats or the sugar itself.

A Short History:

The use of yeast was recorded as far back as ancient Egypt, but its origin is uncertain. In the 1860s, after the introduction of the microscope, yeast was identified as a living organism, and it became possible to isolate and produce it. Production of commercial yeast was done by use of centrifuges in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Fleischmann’s developed active dry yeast during World War II for US armed forces because it had a longer shelf life and needed no refrigeration.

Types:

Cream
Compressed (cake)
Active Dry
Instant
Rapid-Rise

The Instant and Rapid-Rise are basically the same, and Rapid-Rise is used in most bread machines. Both are faster because they only require one rising.

How to Use:

Typically yeast would be added to a warm liquid (100 to 115 degrees F) and allowed to “bloom”, then added to the dry ingredients. Often the sugar called for in the recipe would be added to the liquid with the yeast. With the Rapid-Rise yeast, though, that extra step is usually not necessary as all the ingredients are added to the bread machine at the same time.

Yeast can be kept in the refrigerator, and some say it can be frozen; however, I did read that freezing the yeast would kill it. It is, after all, a living thing.

Nutritional & Other Information:

One teaspoon of yeast contains 13 calories, no cholesterol, sodium or sugar, 36 mg of potassium and small amounts of monounsaturated fat, iron, vitamin B-6 and fiber.

A 4-ounce jar of yeast = 14 tablespoons = 42 teaspoons
 
One package of active dry yeast = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce

1 cake equals a package of active dry yeast

Here are a couple of easy bread recipes that use yeast:

QUICK YEAST ROLLS

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl. Add mix and egg and beat well with a spoon. Turn out on floured board and knead about 5 minutes. Shape and pat with hands to about 1/2” thickness. Cut with 1 1/4” cookie cutter and put on greased baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until almost doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and done. Serve hot. Makes 2 dozen. (I wrote at the bottom of the recipe card that 1 1/4” was actually pretty small, so possibly use a regular biscuit cutter, which would, of course, yield fewer rolls.)

CORNBREAD MIX BREAD

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
approximately 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast; let stand a few minutes until beginning to bubble. Stir in salt and egg and beat well. Add cornbread mix and enough flour to make a dough which can be kneaded. Knead as for any bread, about 10 minutes. Let dough rise in greased bowl, lightly covered, for about 45 minutes or until doubled. Punch down to break up gas bubbles. Shape and put into prepared pan. Let rise again until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes if at proper rising temperature of 85 to 90 degrees F). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaf is beginning to pull from pan sides and gives slightly hollow sound. Remove from pan immediately and cool.

(I have no record of where these recipes came from – they are both written on old, yellowed recipe cards.)
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The new month brings a new list of holidays and celebrations. Please go to the “Holidays” page for the complete list of April observances!
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"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

(Abraham Lincoln)

"The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment."

(Poor Robin's Almanac, 1790)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Herb Series–Chervil

This delicate, mild-flavored herb, “anthriscus cerefolium”, is an annual and related to parsley. It has curly, 3 “prong” leaves and a mild lemon-anise flavor that works well with mild foods such as fish, eggs and salads. Chervil is one of the four herbs that make up Fines Herbes, along with chives, parsley and tarragon. The plants grow approximately 12-24” high and 6-12” wide and have small white blossoms.

Romans spread the herb across Europe, and it is now used widely. It is an important ingredient in French cooking, where they use it in sauces and other mild-flavored foods.

Medical:

There isn’t a lot of medical information about chervil, probably because treatments using herbs with much stronger properties were preferred. However, it was sometimes used to aid digestion and to lower blood pressure.

Caution:

The leaves of chervil closely resemble a distant relative – hemlock. Of course, hemlock is highly poisonous, so one must be extremely careful of harvesting chervil in the wild.

Cultivation:

Chervil grows best in cool, moist locations, so the best time to grow it is in early spring or late fall. It can also be grown in a greenhouse over winter. If growing from seed, sow the seeds where you want the plants to stay as they don’t transplant well. After cutting, chervil will only last a day or two. It does not keep well, so is best used fresh. Dried chervil tends to have very little flavor. Keep harvested so it doesn’t go to seed, also known as “bolting”.

Always add chervil at the end of the cooking process or use it as a garnish or in salads due to its delicate flavor.

If a recipe calls for chervil and you don’t have it, parsley can be substituted.
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On to another topic – baking! I just took a lovely Sugar-Free Pound Cake out of the oven, and it’s cooling for tonight’s dessert. The recipe was posted here at From Grammie’s Kitchen on October 12, 2012. It’s archived here on the left side of the page, so you should be able to find it easily; however, if you have trouble locating it, just let me know and I’ll be glad to email the recipe to you.
This cake is delicious alone, with a powdered sugar glaze, with fruit such as strawberries. Or with this delicious recipe:

FRUIT FOSTER

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packet
1 stick butter
1 (29 oz.) can pear halves, drained
1 (29 oz.) can peach halves, drained
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple slices, drained
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1 (6 oz.) jar maraschino cherries, drained

Mix brown sugar and butter over medium heat and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Place all fruit in 9 x 13” baking dish and pour butter mixture over. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

I have an old hand-written copy of this recipe, but I also just found it at several websites and at http://www.mrfood.com. This recipe makes a lot, but as a topping for ice cream or cake I might revise it as follows:

6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 (16 oz.) can pear slices, drained
1 (16 oz.) can peach slices, drained
1/2 of a 20 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained (or an 8 oz. can)
1/2 of an 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 of a 6 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained

Bake as directed above.

So, if you’re eating sugar-free cake under all this deliciousness, no problem! Right??
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“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
(Dr. Seuss)
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Coming next week:

1) Holidays and observances for April

2) A new series to get me back into new recipe mode – Husband’s Choice. Check back Monday for details!

3) Another in the Herb Series.

4) A little of this and a little of that.

Have a great weekend!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!







Monday, March 24, 2014

An “Antique” Cake

In early Appalachia,  families attending a wedding would contribute one layer to the wedding cake as their gift. In those times flour was expensive, thus just one layer was brought. The layers would be stacked and filled by the bride’s family with apple butter, apple preserves or dried and cooked apples. The number of layers would supposedly determine the popularity of the couple.

It has been said that the cake recipe was brought by James Harrod, the original settler of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, from his home in Pennsylvania. This flavorful cake with its pancake-like layers and spicy-sweet filling has been called “pioneer cake” and “washday cake”, and there are many recipes for it.

I recall a day when I was young that my mother, an aunt and I started to make this cake. Mom developed a severe migraine and went to bed. My aunt and I finished the cake – we worked well together, and it turned out great!

We love this cake with its gingerbread flavors and dense texture. The last one I baked had 8 layers and was served at our family reunion, where it did bring back some good memories.

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DRIED APPLE STACK CAKE

1 cup solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Cream shortening, molasses and sugar. Beat in eggs, and beat well. Mix dry ingredients and add alternately with buttermilk, beating well. Divide dough into 8 portions. Pat into lightly greased 9” cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until cake tests done. Layers will not be high and full of air, but flatter and more dense than traditional cake layers. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Dried Apple Filling:

8 cups dried apples
5 1/3 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix apples, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Stir in sugar and spices. Mash apples slightly to the texture you like. I like the filling a little chunky. 

Spread about 1/3 to 1/2 cup filling between layers, leaving the top plain. Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate – the flavor is better if baked the day before you need it. The cake layers will soak up the apple flavor and be moist and delicious!

Sprinkle the top layer with powdered sugar before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes: 

1)You can find dried apples in the grocery store, but they are rather expensive. I have a food dehydrator that works great for the apples. If you don’t have one, you can thinly slice the apples (any variety, but a mixture works well for good flavor), dip them in a little lemon juice and place them on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven till dry. They should not be brittle, but pliable.  This would probably take several hours. Long ago the apples were laid outside on tables with cheesecloth over them until they were dry and leathery.

2) I didn't have enough cake pans, of course, so I bought foil cake pans, and they worked great. I was able to bake 4 at a time.
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“The most dangerous food is wedding cake.”
(James Thurber)

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”
(Paul Sweeney)

This cake does take a bit of patience, but it is SO worth it!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Herb Series–Borage

This herb is one I’ve heard of but never encountered. I think I would, however, love to try some of its blossoms in a nice salad or glass of lemonade!

Borage (borago officinalis) is an annual herb that is native to the Mediterranean, but can be found in other areas as a cultivated herb or even as a weed. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and 1/2 to 2 feet wide, and grows best in full sun. It is often called “starflower” for its star-shaped flowers, which are primarily blue but sometimes are pink or white.

As a food, borage can be eaten as a vegetable or as a dried herb.  With a flavor like cucumber, borage leaves and flowers are edible;’ however, the stems and leaves are covered in coarse hairs, which are difficult to deal with, but will soften with cooking.. The flowers are often used in foods or as a garnish. Place them artfully on desserts, drop into drinks or toss into salads just before serving. You can freeze the blossoms, too. They have a sweet flavor, and will attract bees to your garden. Borage is a great companion plant for tomatoes, strawberries and spinach, and adds a lovely blue color to any garden.

Borage blossoms are prized for the oil that is produced from their seeds, and borage oil is used for many skin care products, including soap. Borage oil is a high source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Naturopathic specialists have used it to regulate metabolism and the hormonal system.

Borage is said to relieve gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Borage tea has been used to relieve colds, flu, bronchitis, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney inflammation.
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Warning:

If you plan to use any herb for medicinal or health purposes, be sure to fully examine its usage, effectiveness and side-effects. Also, check with your doctor before using any herb or supplement, especially if you take medications on a regular basis.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tip Tuesday–Olive Oil

I hope your day has been as pretty as ours here has been. It sure looks like spring is on its way – finally!
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Today’s tips are about olive oil, an ingredient that has become essential for cooking and many other uses. Information about the history, cultivation and harvesting of olives is quite extensive, and I’ll try to provide tidbits that you may find interesting. The picture above is of immature green olives.

Olives are a traditional Mediterranean product, and olive harvesting goes back as far as the 8th Millennium BC. They were turned into oil by 4500 BC. From the family Oleaceae, olives are the fruit of olea europaea. Olive oil is the fat produced by a procedure called “pressing”. There are many uses for olive oil, including cooking, cosmetics, oil lamp fuel, soaps and pharmaceuticals. Also, the oil has long had religious symbolism for different religions.

Olive oil is produced in many areas around the world. Spain does about 43.8% of the world’s production, Greece produces about 12.1%, Syria 6.1% and Portugal 5%. In the United States olives are grown in Arizona, California and Texas.

The oils are graded according to their processing and acidity, and there are several grades:

Extra Virgin – from the first pressing of the olives, with an acidity under 1%. This product is best for salads and drizzling, but not for cooking. It also can become rancid very quickly.
 
Virgin – 1 to 3.3% acidity, and can be from either the first or second pressing.

Pure – 3.3% acidity or less. It is extracted using heat or chemicals, and can contain refined olive oil.

Refined – heated to remove flavors, color and aroma.

Light – best grade for cooking. The term “light” refers to flavor.

The higher grades have more flavor due to being less processed, while the lower grades are milder in flavor.

Olive oil is best stored in metal containers or dark glass in a dark, cool place. Do not keep it near heat sources, such as the kitchen stove.

Health Information:

Olive oil has no cholesterol, contains monounsaturated fats (good for HDL cholesterol), provides antioxidants and vitamin E.  A tablespoon of the oil has about 125 calories, almost no carbs and no sodium.

Uses:

1) Rub paint or sticky substances off hands.

2) Put a little on a cotton ball to remove eye makeup.

3) Use a small amount as a skin moisturizer.

4) Use as a shoe polish or a leather conditioner.

5) Put some on a cotton ball to oil squeaky hinges.

6) Use the oil to put a shine on stainless steel appliances.

7) Use before shaving to soften and prepare skin.

8) Mix 3 or 4 tablespoons with your favorite essential oil for a soothing bath oil.

9) Use olive oil to remove stickers and their sticky residue.

10) Add 1/4 teaspoon to your kitty’s food to prevent hairballs.

11) Use as lamp oil.

12) Remove chewing gum from hair – just rub in and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes.

13) To coat and soothe an irritated throat, swallow about a tablespoon or so.

14) Warm a few tablespoons, rub into damp hair, massage in and leave on for about 30 minutes – makes a good conditioner.

15) Rub on to soothe psoriasis or diaper rash.

Cooking:

Olive oil is great for salad dressings. Drizzle it with some balsamic vinegar on a plate of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil for a delicious Caprese Salad. Mix oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and dried oregano (or Italian seasoning) for a dipping oil for ciabatta or French bread.
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One of nature’s mysteries! This little crocus grew right through the dried leaf in my front flower bed.
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Tomorrow is National Chocolate Caramel Day. Thursday is the Vernal Equinox – first day of Spring! Happy, Happy! Maybe that’s why it’s also the International Day of Happiness.

For the full listing of observances, please see the “Holidays” page.
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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Peanut Butter & Chocolate!

Last night we had our older son over for dinner, and while planning the menu I remembered these delicious squares that I made for the kids many years ago. I rummaged through my boxes and file folders of recipes until I finally found the recipe. These were quite tasty with our after-dinner coffee.


CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER SQUARES

Cookies:

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze:

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Drizzle:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x13” baking dish.

Cream butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; blend into creamed mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. Remove pan to wire rack and cool slightly. For glaze, blend sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. Spread over warm cookies. Cool. Melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave; drizzle over glaze. Cool completely, then cut into squares.

This recipe was in our local newspaper at least 25 years ago. (You'll notice I didn't get all fancy with the drizzle - just let it fall where it wanted to fall!)
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Monday is St. Patrick's Day - do you know its history? St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, but was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a 16-year-old slave. He escaped later, but returned and was credited with spreading Christianity throughout Ireland. He is believed to have died on March 17, 461.

St. Patrick's Day became a Roman Catholic feast day in either the 9th or 10th century, always celebrated on March 17. During the feast the restrictions of Lent were relaxed for one day only.

The first St. Patrick's Day parade was, however, held in New York City in 1762.

Corned Beef & Cabbage are not traditional Irish foods, but were invented here in the United States. The Irish immigrants wanted their traditional foods - mainly pork and potatoes - but they were both prohibitively expensive. So they settled for beef, which was plentiful and an American staple. Cabbage was less expensive than potatoes. The immigrants learned to make corned beef from Jewish immigrants, then combined it with cabbage for a tasty meal.

Did you know that the word "corn" in corned beef is actually an Old English word for a grain that still contains its seed? Those whole grains were used in the processing of the corned beef.

Whether Irish or American, that combination of flavorful beef and cabbage is delicious.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reusing Coffee Filters and Grounds

Before getting to today’s topic, I’d like to thank the new members of FGK. Welcome…I hope you find something here of interest and of value to you! Be sure to check out the archived posts. Please feel free to share the site with your friends and family. Also, if you’re new or have been here for while and haven’t yet requested your FREE e-cookbook joining gift, please email me and I’ll send you a list of the titles available. Simply let me know which book you want, and I’ll send it to you as an email attachment. All e-books are in PDF format and an easy download.

Thanks so much for your interest!
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If you’re like me you’re always looking for ways to save money, and finding uses for things other than their normal intention is a definite way to do that. What do you do with the coffee grounds when the pot is finished? Most of the time we dispose of them without thinking about other uses for them. Here are a few ways to give the grounds another life. Before use, dry the grounds by spreading in a single layer on a cookie sheet and letting air dry.

1) Pour the grounds in a bowl and place in the refrigerator and freezer – they make great deodorizers.

2) Feed your indoor plants with coffee grounds, and surround outdoor plants after planting. The grounds contain nutrients that help the plants grow, and they make an attractive dark mulch. It’s best, though, to avoid direct contact with the stems or leaves.

3) You can also spread the grounds on bare spots in your lawn to promote the growth and spreading of grass.

4) Pour grounds into nylon hose. Tie off the ends and place in shoes, in drawers and in closets. Will deodorize! Place one in your car, too.

5) Repel ants and small bugs. Simply spread some grounds in areas where they invade your home.

6) Before removing ashes from the fireplace, sprinkle them with coffee grounds. The grounds will keep the ashes from sending plumes of dust in your face!

7) Make a paste of grounds and a little water. Dab on wood furniture scratches with a cotton swab.

8) Remove garlic or onion smells from your hands by rubbing them with grounds, then washing.

9) Dye fabric with coffee grounds. Mix 4 tablespoons grounds with 3 cups boiling water. Soak to desired color and lay flat to dry.

10) Dispose of old medications by crushing the pills then mixing with coffee grounds. They will not go into the ground water or get into anyone’s hands.

11) Make a scented pin cushion, hot pad or mug mat. Use your favorite pattern and fill with dried coffee grounds.

12) Keep cats from using your flower beds as litter boxes – sprinkle with coffee grounds and orange peels.

13) Keep Fido clear of fleas! After bathing him, rub him down with coffee grounds.

14) Use as a hair rinse to enhance color – for brunettes and dark hair only. Simply mix 2 tablespoons and 1 1/2 cups boiling water, let cool and rinse hair. Let set about 5 minutes, then rinse out.

Coffee grounds provide nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and more.
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Those extra coffee filters can come in handy, too! And since they aren’t awfully expensive you won’t be wasting major funds. Here are some uses for them:

1) Put a filter in the bottom of planters before adding soil – it will let the water drain off without the loss of soil through the drain hole.

2) Place filters between dishes to prevent breakage.

3) Get creative and make a wreath! You’ll need a straw or styrofoam wreath form. Since you’ll be using hot glue on the wreath, wrap the form in ribbon of your choice. Gather 2 filters, fold and bunch at the center (bottom) and hot glue to wreath, packing tightly so wreath does not show through. Fluff the edges to make the wreath full and rounded. You could lightly spray the filters with floral spray or tea-dye them before using. There are also brown filters if you’re looking for the natural effect. The same process could be used to form a tree or a topiary.

4) Place herbs and spices of your choice in a filter or two, tie tightly with string and use as an herbal bath. Just toss it in as the water fills the tub.
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Check back Friday for a recipe and other fun things!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cooking Dilemmas

So are you all thrown out of kilter due to the time change over the weekend? I’ll admit I’m feeling a bit off, and that’s probably due to lack of sleep time. It shouldn’t last long, and we’ll soon be back to normal!

I’ve decided that I need to get back to trying some new recipes. Lately I’ve been stuck in the same old food rut, and need to dig my way out. The main issue with meal preparation here is that I’m often preparing 2 meals at a time due to certain dietary requirements. One person in the household has major food restrictions due to medical problems and personal preferences. That leaves the rest of us to either eat in the same manner (which we don’t really want to do) or eat what we like, thus causing the extra food preparation. Sometimes I can combine enough meal components to satisfy everyone without too much extra work, and at other times it leads to 2 completely different meals at the same time. Have any of you run into that problem? If so, what was your solution?

I bought some divided plates with lids and am trying to plan some meals that I can prepare ahead of time and freeze, then just thaw at serving time. That still wouldn’t cure the repetitious meal issue. For that I think I need to return to the Recipe Experiment that somehow fell by the wayside several months back. And with spring around the corner there will be so many great opportunities to try new, lighter fare!

Time to break out the cookbooks!
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Have you tried the microwave baked potato bags? I was very curious and ended up buying one at a local store over the weekend. Last night I planned baked potatoes for dinner and was looking forward to trying out my new “toy”. The directions stated not to use on High power, but there were no instructions at all as to what microwave power to use. Instructions said to wash the potatoes and put them in the bag while still damp. I put 2 potatoes in the bag and followed the instructions. After 4 minutes at 50% power, they were still hard. Incremental heating took about 12 minutes total, then I took them out and wrapped them in foil. They did turn out fine, but I’m wondering what would happen if I use 70% or 80% power next time. What has your experience been?

I’ve seen the bags at craft shows, and might just have to find a pattern and make my own if this one doesn’t work out.
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This week’s celebrations/observances:

Monday (10) – Fill Our Staplers Day, *International Day Of Awesomeness, Napping Day and *Salvation Army Day

Tuesday (11) – *Johnny Appleseed Day, Organize Your Home Office Day and *World Plumbing Day

Thursday (13) – *Donald Duck Day, *Good Samaritan Involvement Day and National Open An Umbrella Indoors Day

Friday (14) – *Potato Chip Day and *International Ask A Question Day

Saturday (15) – *Ides of March, National Quilting Day and Corn Dog Day

Be sure to check out the “Holidays” page for many more daily, weekly and monthly listings!
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Love Them Or Not?

Well, today I have definite proof that winter will end. There are tulips popping up in my flower beds, even though there is still a little snow on the ground. Thankfully, it is melting away.

A few nights ago I prepared something for dinner that might make a lot of the younger readers shudder…..fried chicken livers with caramelized onions. We like them but don’t have them often. They have a reputation of high fat and richness, and are a little tedious to fry, but they did taste good!

My sister and I grew up with a Mom from rural Kentucky who had grown up during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. She was a great cook, and we often had good old-fashioned things like beef liver and onions, bean soup with cornbread (known to country folks as soup beans and cornbread) and other good, hearty foods. She was even known to prepare rabbit or squirrel if one of her brothers had been hunting! I know…..

These days we are all trying to eat more healthy foods, which is good, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to go back to some of the old standby foods that we grew up with. Moderation is the key!

So how do you feel about chicken livers? Here’s how to fix them.

FRIED CHICKEN LIVERS

1 tub chicken livers, drained
Bowl 1: flour (season with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning)
Bowl 2: 1 egg, beaten with a couple of tablespoons water
Bowl 3: flour and cornmeal (season with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning)

Dredge the livers in flour, then the egg mixture, then the cornmeal mix. Heat a mixture of olive oil and butter in skillet over medium-high heat; add the livers and fry them until brown on one side, turn and fry until brown. You may need to do this in 2 batches – don’t crowd them in the pan or they will steam more than fry. This will take a few minutes because you want them completely done, but don’t overcook them. Remove to a pan and keep them warm in the oven while finishing the remaining livers and preparing the onions.

Note: For a touch of heat, you could add a couple of dashes of hot sauce to the egg mixture or some crushed red pepper to the cornmeal mixture.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS

1 very large onion, sliced and separated into rings
3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth
salt, pepper to taste
pinch of  sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Pour off grease in the skillet, leaving the browned bits in the bottom. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom. Bring the broth to boil and add the onion rings. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the  onions are soft, then remove the lid and let the broth reduce until almost gone. Season with salt, pepper and sugar; add butter and stir until melted.

Note: They say now that we don’t need to rinse chicken – that it spreads more bacteria; however, I just couldn’t handle the livers without giving them a good rinse! Just be careful not to splash.
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Coming next week: the third in the Herb Series, a birthday and some holidays to celebrate! And we'll all be loving the extra hour of daylight in the evenings after tonight's spring forward.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Just A Reminder


Tomorrow night/Sunday morning we spring forward to Daylight Savings Time. When you move your clocks ahead one hour, remember to also change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

I'd say this is a definite sign of Spring!

Have a great weekend.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Herb Series – Bay Leaves

This is the second in the herb series, and I’m sure many of us use these versatile leaves in our cooking. Bay leaves come from the bay laurel tree, of which there are several varieties. The most prominent here are Turkish Bay and California Bay. The Turkish leaves are more oval than California leaves, and have a slightly milder flavor. Native to the Mediterranean, bay leaves have been used since ancient times. Greeks used them in cooking, and bay laurel wreaths were placed on the heads of battle victors.

There are also Indian Bay Laurel, Indonesian Bay Laurel, West Indian Bay Laurel and Mexican Bay Laurel, and their leaves are used in many cuisines. Fresh leaves are mild, but develop stronger flavors when dried. Dried bay leaves are available year round and will keep up to 6 months in a cool, dry place.

Bay laurel trees can be grown indoors, but outdoors they can grow well over 20 feet tall. They grow well in part shade and need well-drained soil.

Caution: Do not confuse Mountain Laurel or Cherry Laurel trees with Bay Laurel trees – they are not related and are toxic!

Culinary Uses:

Bay leaves add flavor to meats, fish, soups and stews. They are often added to bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs that is placed in a pot of soup or stew and removed before serving. They are used often in floral arrangements and potpourri blends, as well as in herbal baths. Many pickling spice mixtures contain bay leaves.

Be sure to remove the bay leaf after cooking – the spiny edges can be dangerous to swallow and don’t soften much while cooking.

Bay leaves add vitamins A and C, iron and manganese to cooked foods.

Medicinal Uses:

Oil of Bay has been used to relieve the pain of arthritis, lower back pain, sore muscles and earaches due to its analgesic and warming properties. However, be sure to dilute well and use sparingly. Also, do not take internally and do not use at all if pregnant.

Household:

Bay leaves can be used to repel ants and small bugs. Leaves placed in dry goods (flour, cornmeal, etc.) can prevent weevils. They are sometimes used to keep mice away – just crush them a bit and place at known entry points.
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To make a bouquet garni, you can use either fresh or dried herbs. Classic elements are bay leaf, parsley and thyme, but the combination is purely your choice. Tie the fresh springs with cooking twine or place the dried herbs in a double layer of cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with twine. Remove after cooking.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!