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!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cleaning Machines

We all take for granted those workhorses in our homes – the washer and the dishwasher. They work for us every day, and all they ask of us is that we take good care of them to keep them running. I’m as guilty as the next person of not regularly keeping the interiors of my machines clean and sanitary. It’s one of those jobs we just assume will be done by the detergents and hot water that we put into them.

They do, however, need our attention occasionally in order to do their jobs properly. Here is your Tip Tuesday information on cleaning them - and some of the other appliances around the house.

There are products on the market that can be used for these jobs, but we can do the same things without the use of chemicals and much less expensively!

Cleaning the Washing Machine
This should be done every month or two in order to keep the washer clean and fresh-smelling. Place 2 cups white vinegar, lemon juice or bleach in the washer, fill with hot water and run through a full cycle. Also, wipe down as much of the interior as you can and clean the softener receptacle. While the washer is running, clean the exterior, check hoses and connections. Always leave the lid open for a while after using the washer so it can dry out and prevent formation of mildew.

Cleaning the Dishwasher:
Unload the dishwasher and wipe out the bottom drain area. Place a cup of vinegar on the top shelf and run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle you have. Also, between uses pour a cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher to keep it fresh. Again, check the hoses and connections, and check the racks for cracks or breaks. You can leave the door open so the dishwasher will dry out thoroughly.

Cleaning the Refrigerator:
Wipe down interior sides, bottoms and racks. Remove and wash crispers. Use vinegar to clean the gaskets around doors and remove any mildew. Clean the coils and the drip pan.

Cleaning the Coffeemaker:
Pour a couple of cups of white vinegar into the reservoir and run it through a brewing cycle. Follow with a cycle of plain water. Check the cord for damage and wash the carafe and brew basket.

Cleaning the Furnace:
Change the filters on a regular schedule, and vacuum as much of the interior as you can. Removing the dust on the exterior won’t help it run better, but it sure will look better!

Homemade Drain Cleaner:
Mix and keep on hand:

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup baking soda
4 tablespoons cream of tartar

Pour about 1/2 cup into drain and follow with boiling water. Allow to work for a few minutes, then flush with cold water. Use this regularly to keep drains open.

I’m not a big fan of those chemical drain openers, although we do keep a bottle for emergencies. This helps to keep the drains running freely.

If you have secret cleaning formulas, please share them!
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Today is National Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, National Grammar Day and Peace Corps Day. Tomorrow is Discover What Your Name Means Day. On Thursday we’ll observe Oreo Cookie Day (yum!) and World Book Day (what are you reading now?). Please see the “Holidays” page for a full listing.
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“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”
(Phyllis Diller)

“Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don't do it. “
(Author Unknown)

“Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”
(Author Unknown)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!