Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to make great macaroni and cheese!

Beats the stuff in the blue and yellow box, hands down, in my opinion!
Boil 8 Oz. macaroni. Drain. Leave macaroni in strainer. In same pan, melt 1/4 cup butter. Once butter is melted, stir in 1/4 Cup flour and 1 tsp. salt. Cook and stir to a soft paste. Add: 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese. I have found the very best taste comes from using Monterrey Jack cheese, but you can use cheddar or whatever you like!. Once the cheese is all melted, add in the cooked and drained macaroni. Stir it all up, and enjoy! 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A couple good articles

Do recipes make you a better cook? The link will take you to a very good article that covers that subject. I think he brings up a lot of interesting points. Recipes are of course both necessary and unnecessary. Just like maps, to borrow a bit from the article. I can get to Canada without a map. But if I want to go to a certain place within Canada, I need a map, or someone that can go with me and show me the way. I don't need a recipe for meatloaf. But if I want to make meatloaf just like the meatloaf you made last night, I need to know what you put in it. If I want to make Hammelman's Vermont sourdough bread, I better have a sourdough starter, a recipe, and the know-how to follow it. (See picture at top of page)


An article that discusses the best kitchen tool of all. Your hands. He mentions watching his grandmother's hands as she worked in her kitchen. I too, remember with fondness watching the hands of my elders as they worked in the kitchen. Daddy's hands, which were used to all types of hard work with tools, as he expertly worked bread dough. Gran's hands, which had served her well in her nursing work, now filling boiled and halves egg whites with the yellow goodness for devilled eggs. Granny's hands, the hands that had started their cooking carrer at the tender age of seven, out of necessity, cutting up potatoes or okra to fry. Grandmoma and her biscuits... oh but thats another story.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lardy, Lardy, this is easy!

The hardest part about making your own lard is not the making, but the getting. Of the pork fat. For myself, its a drive to Amarillo, to Edes Meats. Which is ok really because there's always a few other things I like to get while I'm there. Steaks, sausages, cheese, everything is good at Edes Meats. They make THE BEST jerky.

You will need a source of pork fat. Some people like to buy fat from certain areas of the animal to make lard for different things. I hear the fat from around the kidneys makes the best lard for pastries. But I'm not a pastry maker. So I'm not picky about what kind of pork fat it is. Just good clean pork fat.

By clean I mean free of meat. If there is meat still attached to the fat, you will want to trim it off.

I usually use about 8 pounds of pork fat on a lard making day. From Edes, it comes frozen. You will want to thaw it partially. But if its left a little icy, its much easier to work with.

You need room to work and a good sharp knife. An apron is a good idea. You are gonna get messy.

There are several ways to do this. I use the slow-cooker method. Its easy-peasy.

Seriously, if you have fried bacon, you can make lard. All you are doing it cooking the fat out. Liquifying it, just as you do when you fry bacon. Only we're letting a slow-cooker do all the work.

Cut the fat into cubes. I cut mine into about 1/2" cubes. Put them in the slow-cooker. This does take some time. And it is messy. But so worth it.

Cut, cut, cut, toss. Cut, cut, cut, toss. Until the cooker is full. You can actually heap it a bit, as long as you can get the lid on.

Turn on to low. Stir occasionally. Slowly but surely the fat will release its liquid goodness. It is done when the fat cubes are browned and crunchy. Guess what! You made crackins! And they're good! Dip them out with a slotted spoon into a paper-towel lined bowl. Snack on them!

Shut off the slow cooker and let the lard cool a bit, for safer handling.

I have some screw-top zip-lock containers that I just love! I use them to freeze my chicken stock in, and I use them to freeze my lard in. Fill your freezable containers to within 1/2" or so of the top, and freeze. (Keep one in the fridge, it keeps a long time) I like to write the date and LARD on a strip of masking tape on the lid.

As the lard cools, it turns white.

When you heat the lard to cook, as it gets hot, you will notice the characteristic lard smell. This smell only lasts a short while, is faint, and you will not taste it in the food. I cook with this stuff all the time. Your food wont taste "like lard."

It makes the flakiest pie crusts (crisco has nothing on lard in this respect) and it is healthy for you, despite what the diet dictocrats would have you believe. Much healthier than man made stuff like crisco and vegetable oils. And because you made it yourself, its healthier than the lard you buy at the store. To extend shelf-life, ie: make it more profitable, the store bought lard has been hydrogenated. Hydrogenation creates trans-fats.

Lard makes the best fried chicken. MMM hhhmmmmm

Lard (and butter) make the best biscuits!

So now you know! Making your own healthy lard is easy as pie! See your butcher about some pork fat today!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Southwestern Meatloaf

This is something a little different, but still very comforting, like meatloaf just is!

3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 cup salsa
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove minced garlic
1 egg
1 T. chili powder
part of a small can of diced green chilis
dash cumin

Mix above together well, them mix in 1 1/2- 2 pounds hamburger. Place in loaf pan.

Bake in 400* oven for 1 hour, or until done. I like to take it out of the oven just as its about done and pour off the grease. At this time you can throw a little grated cheese on the top of it and pop it back in the oven until its melted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

great bisciits!

These biscuits are even better if you use only butter, the texture/consistency does not seem to be afftected, but the taste with using only butter is greatly enhanced!
Recently I wrote a post on my opinion of the different varieties of biscuits available.

Today, I will give you the recipe I have come to believe is about as near to perfect home-made biscuits as there is.

I'm pretty sure that if an English teacher would read that last sentence, it would have a lot of red marks all over it. Sorry.

Here's how you whoop up a batch of biscuits! You won't be needing a pastry blender. You sure don't need to get the food processor out!

Biscuits = SIMPLE!

You need a nice bowl. I use one that came from the second hand store and used to belong to an old mixer. The bowl made it to the second hand store, but the mixer did not. The bowl is heavy white glass and is wider than it is tall, which I like because it lets me get my hands in there to work the fat into the flour.

Set the oven to 425*

Pour one tablespoon less than 1 cup of milk into a cup. Add 1 T. white vinegar. Stir. Or, if you have it, you can just use 1 cup buttermilk, or you can use 1 cup milk or heavy cream, but I recommend the milk with vinegar, or the buttermilk. Set that aside.

Into your nice bowl, measure 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 heaping Tablespoon sugar, 2 heaping tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt. (if using kosher salt, as I do, use a slightly heaping 1/4 tsp) Combine these ingredients with a wooden spoon, or the tablespoon you measured with, or just your hand.

Now you need about 1/4 cup COLD butter and 1/4 cup COLD LARD** SEE NOTE AT START OF POST!. If your lard is not cold, its not the end of the biscuit world, but it really is best to work in if its cold. If you home render your own lard, (which I will post instructions for soon) you should keep it in the fridge anyway.

Place the 2 types of fat into the bowl with the flour mixture. I like to cut the butter up and drop it all around into the flour. The lard I scoop small amounts at a time out of the container I have measured it in. (more red marks from the English teacher) Once all of the fat is in the bowl, begin working it into the flour with your fingers. You want to work it in fairly well, but you don't want the finished product to be real consistent looking. You don't want it to resemble "course meal". It will look a little like that, but some of the fat will still be in pea to almond sized pieces. But all of it will be coated with flour. The whole process shouldn't take but maybe a minute or two at the most.

Now pour your buttermilk type stuff into the flour. +++EDIT: NOTE: ONLY POUR IN ABOUT 3/4 CUP! You might not need the entire cup. +++ You can use a wooden spoon, to combine it. Combine it just until it will sort of hold together. I use the spoon only for a few stirs around the outside edge of the bowl. As soon as there's no liquid swirling around in there, I dump the whole mess out on the counter and gently work it quickly into a mass. Knead very little, just enough to get it together. When it will hold together, stop. Remember, you are not kneading bread dough. Light and gentle is the trick here.

You will likely need a dusting of flour on your counter-top. I don't use a rolling pin. I just pat the dough until its about 3/4" to 1" thick. Cut it with a biscuit cutter. Press the cutter down through the dough, but DO NOT TWIST THE CUTTER! That seals the edges of the dough. Place them close together but not touching, in a 9X13 sized pan.

If your oven is up to temp, put them in there. If not, wait until it is. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Mmmm, I can smell them!

Just a thought, these are great with gravy made from bacon drippings!

A couple of variations:

for dumplings make the dough as above, but reduce the sugar to about 1/2 tsp. Pat dough out, and cut with biscuit cutter. Drop the biscuits into gently boiling chicken stew or beef stew, whatever. Put a tight fitting lid on the pot and do not peek for 15 minutes. You can also add a bit of parsley to your dumpling dough. Chicken and dumpling method coming soon!

for shortcake, the kind you might eat with strawberries and whipped cream: I would add another Tablespoon or so of sugar, and cut them a little bigger. These really are better than angel food cake for strawberry shortcake, IMO.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Biscuit theory

If you want biscuits, you have several choices. You can have biscuit mix biscuits, whompin' (canned) biscuits, frozen biscuits, or you can make them from scratch yourself.

Of the store bought varieties, I personally like whompin' biscuits for taste. I am not a fan of dry biscuit mixes, for making biscuits or anything else for that matter. I soured on the taste of bisquick years ago.

Not that I consider whompin' biscuits to be really biscuits. They are good, don't get me wrong, but to me they are not really biscuits. Although I'm not quite sure what they really are. But they are good in a pinch when one wants something like biscuits. They are especially good fried. Peel the can, whomp in on the counter, separate the biscuit-like thingies, and fry them gently in a small amount of butter. Yummy.

I have had the frozen biscuits, and they are good, but I like to avoid some of the questionable ingredients in processed foods.

The good news: really good homemade biscuits are quick and easy!

One thing to remember when making biscuits is that you are doing the exact opposite thing as what you are doing when making bread, rolls, ect. When making bread you will be kneading the dough until its smooth as a babys bottom. You work the dough with your hands, and by the time you are done, every grain of flour in the dough is familiar with the lines on your hands.

With biscuits, you want to handle the dough as if you have an aversion to getting your hands dirty. Now you will get your hands dirty. If you're like me, you will have flour and dough from head to feet. But I'm just gifted that way. I only have to look at flour to have a fair amount of it in my hair. But its worth it.

Anyway, picture a ball of well kneaded bread dough sitting on the counter. Its smooth and elastic, ready to become a beautiful loaf of bread. It's very proud. Now lets add a mass of biscuit dough next to the bread dough in our mental picture. The bread dough would move away, if it could, to the far corner of the counter-top. The biscuit dough is ready to become biscuits, but you wouldn't know that at first glance. Its not smooth, its a shaggy mess, barely holding together. You could work it a little more, to make it smoother, but don't. Its ready to be biscuits!

But the bread dough need not feel so haughty. His beauty takes time and effort. The biscuit dough will be ready to go into the oven before the oven is ready to receive them!

Get that oven set to 425*! Biscuit recipe coming soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pie Crust!

I used to make pie crusts in the food processor. (hangs head in shame)
That is unnecessarily time consuming and messy, not to mention overkill on a dough that should be worked gently and briefly as possible.

Pie crust is easy! Almost as easy as opening a box, cutting the plastic, and unrolling the already-made stuff.
Its also cheaper, and I would bet you, flakier!

All you need is:
2 cups AP (thats short for all purpose flour)
3/4 cups lard
1 tsp. salt
3 oz. ice water

(I fill a small glass with ice water, and leave it there until I'm ready to measure the water, then pour 3 0z. into my measuring cup)
(btw, 3 oz. is 6 tablespoons)

What you do is:
measure your flour and salt into a bowl. Add the lard. now take your hand and work the lard into the flour. When you have worked it in enough it will resemble a very coarse meal. I just work it in until theres no great big globs of obvious lard.
Now, pour in your ice water with one hand and work it in with the other. It may not take all of it! But it will take almost all. You want it to come together into a ball, a workable ball, but not a gooey-sticky ball. Once its a ball, let it alone. Dont overwork it.

At this point, you can roll it out on a floured surface, or refrigerate for a few hours then make your pie.

Either way, this is really good pie crust.

Pie Crust!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When life gives you stale bread....

MAKE BREAD PUDDING!!! you need bread that is stale or dried out. It can dry at room temp. just by hanging around a bit past its prime, or, you can dry it in a low oven. This is a very tasty way to use old bread. you need 6 to 8 slices. Can use white, whole wheat, or a mixture of different breads. I used homemade Oatmeal bread. Mmmmm..... Bread pudding is a very frugal, homey thing. Its not fussy. Just use what you have. Anyway, the bread needs to be "dried out". Then cut it up into cubes. Throw them in a 8" or 9" square pan that you have buttered. Throw in a handful of raisins. Or other dried fruit. Oven at 350*. In another bowl, pour 2 cups heavy cream. Or milk. Whatever. 4 eggs, beaten 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp. vanilla 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon Whip this mixture up good with a wire whip. Pour it over the bread and raisins in the pan. Pour a little melted butter over the top. Put it into the oven for around 45 minutes. Its good warm, cold, alone, or with this WONDERFUL caramel sauce I found the recipe for the other day. That caramel sauce.... you really need to click on that and make some. Don't let the buttermilk scare you. I feel the same way about buttermilk. Anyway, I had some of the sauce left over from waffles Sunday morning, and it is delectable on the bread pudding. GOOD STUFF! Good eating!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meat Loaf

My dear daughter Tabetha called today asking for my meatloaf recipe. This presents a bit of a problem. Which one? I use a variety of recipes, and I also use no recipe. Meatloaf is: meat, some sort of bread, eggs, seasoning, tomatoes (or not).

With these basic ingredients you can make meatloaf. Add to it, take from it as you wish.
But there are several recipes that I also use. I will start with this one, your basic Mom-style meatloaf. This one comes from one of my favorite cookbooks. Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. I got it used, and the covers have since fallen off. But it has some great recipes!

Meat loaf:
2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, diced (recipe says sliced, I always dice)
2 eggs, unbeaten
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard (you will find it in the spice aisle)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 c. stewed tomatoes (I just use the smaller can of diced tomatoes, no worries)
2 slices bread, broken into pieces
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 strips bacon

*combine all ingredients except bacon. Pack into a 9X5X3 loaf pan. Place bacon strips across the top.
*bake in preheated 350* oven 1 1/2 hours
Makes 8-10 servings
(leftovers will freeze)

Enjoy, sweetie!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A great pot of (pinto) beans doesn't have to take hours!

We eat a lot of pinto beans around here, as I'm sure you can tell from my posts. They are inexpensive, versatile, delicious, and keep indefinatly in their dried state.

But they take forever too cook. Used to. Not anymore.

I can start a pot of beans from dry, unsoaked, and they will be done in just about an hour.

Enter an old freind... the pressure cooker.

I know we have all heard horror stories of lids blown off and food permanently embedded in the ceiling. Modern pressure cookers are safe! More safety gadgets on them than a nuclear power plant.

Mine however, is about 20 years old. It has 2 safety gadgets. One locks the lid when there is any pressure at all, so you can't accidently remove the lid when you shouldn't. The other is a small rubber plug that will blow before anything else if there is a problem.

The best safety with mine is keeping close by and keeping a keen ear tuned to it. Once it has pressre and the regulator begins to rock, the sound (spt, spt, spt) should continue. If it stops making noise, it needs your immediate attention!

Now for the beans. Note, different size cookers can safely handle different amounts of foods. In mine, with beans, you never want to fill it more than half full, beans AND water.

Sort and wash your beans. Place in cooker, and cover with 2" of water. Remember, the beans and water should not fill the cooker more than half-full. Add salt and pepper, and some sort of oil. This keeps the foaming down, you do not want to omit this. I use bacon grease, about 3 tablespoons.

Place the lid securely on the cooker and bring up to pressure. Once it reaches operating pressure, on my cooker, I reduce heat to the point where the pressure regulator on the top of the cooker is gently rocking. Once operating pressure is reached, set your timer for 50 minutes.

When the timer goes off, shut off the heat and let the pressure drop on its own. When the pressure is all gone, remove the lid to reveal your pot of beans, ready to enjoy!

Serve with warm corn bread, or use the beans in other recipes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mexican Restuarant Beans

This is NOT refried beans.

We ate at a Mexican restraunt in Amarillo some time back, and my daughter got a small bowl of beans on the side. They were too hot for her, but I fell in love with them. I have tried duplicating the recipe, but to no avail.

These are not 100% the same, but they are OH SO good, I would have to say they are every bit as good as the ones at the restaurant.

I just threw them together, and so right now I am going to type out what I did.

I used canned beans! (GASP!!)

It was a large can of regular pintos, which I drained. I will use dried beans most likely next time.

I diced about 1/2 of an onion and 2 jalapenos (seeded) and sauted them in a little oil.

Then I added about 2 cups of homemade chicken stock, a dash of cumin, and some black -pepper, plus some Season-all PEPPER. Then I added about 2 chipotle peppers with some of the accompanying sauce. I dumped the beans into this mixture and heated well. Salted them.

I considered adding a can of drained rotel, but after sampling the beans, I decided they did not need tomatoes in them.

A little fresh garlic added the the saute just before its done would be good, but not enough to overpower.

I also added some cilantro to the small bowl I was sampling out of.

Yes, they are hot. But oh my gosh they are good! Of course if you make these you will have to play around with proportions as I will next time, as I will likley make bigger batches.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grandma Merri's Spanish Rice Dinner

Cooking was not one of my Mom's favorite things, but there were several things she made and enjoyed making. Spanish rice was certainly one of them, and I always loved it when she made it.
I have made it so many times myself that the little card it is typed on sits unused in my recipe file card box. Now I just make it as I do so many other things, adding this or that, changing something here or there.

This is a main-dish, not a side dish like Mexican rice. Its one of the very few things I find any use for "minute rice" for.

I'm reprinting the recipe exactly as it is on her recipe card. It is delicious.

1 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. crisco oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. green pepper
1 1/2 c. instant rice
Brown above until golden in color
1 c. HOT water
2 -8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. pepper
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 5 minutes.
She has a note that says: (I usually add a dash or so of catsup and stir it together before removing from the heat)

My own notes now:
Unless you buy really lean meat, you certainly don't need the vegetable oil. That stuff will kill you!
I haven't used sugar in it in years.
I often use diced tomatos in place of the tomato sauce.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

For the 4th of July... Mom's potato salad

In the spirit of this article by Garrison Keillor, lets make some potato salad for the 4th of July!
I know it would never occur to you to buy potato salad.... would it? Uh... I must confess to having bought macaroni salad before. From Walmart. I'm sorry. There's really no excuse for that, is there? Especially when homemade is so easy and so, so much better tasting and better for you. Yeah, better for you. Read the ingredient label on store bought macaroni or potato salad. I guarantee you will find stuff on the list that you would not put in your homemade salad. If its not something your great grandmother would have recognized as food, it probably aint good for you!
So! Potato salad! Lets make some!

Boil about 3 pounds of potatoes. Drain. Now you come to a fork in the road... do you like chunky potato salad, or do you like it smooth? Up to you here, whether you chunk 'em up or mash.
I like to add a couple stalks of celery, some onion, sometimes a couple hard boiled eggs, just whatever you like in there, add it!
Now in a bowl, mix some REAL Mayonnaise, around a cup, with a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard. Mix well, and add to your potato mixture. Mix well and add more if needed. Add salt and pepper, taste, add more if needed. Chill well, its better after it sits in the fridge a while. Good stuff, and if you have used REAL mayonnaise, Great Grandma would approve of it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Warning. Trust me on this one. These will ruin any former enjoyment you ever had of store-bought flour tortillas. There is simply no comparison. They are easy to make, and the more you make, the better you will get at it. I will admit, the art of making them perfectly round, well, I don't have that part down just yet. But then I've been making my own pie crusts a lot longer, and they don't turn out all neat like the ones on TV either. But they still taste good! And they ARE getting rounder each time!
Necessary equipment:
a rolling pin: note. I have a cut piece of a garden tool handle that I find is a lot better for rolling tortillas than my regular rolling pin
some sort of griddle than can be heated to a high temperature. Non-stick surface is NOT ok for this. A "lid" from an old cast iron stove, or a cast iron griddle. I use one of those cast iron griddles that fits over 2 burners.
If you have a scale, you need 500 grams of flour. 4 cups more or less.
a heaping 1/4 cup of lard. Don't go all wobbly on me here. Lard. Gotta be lard.
Do not be afraid!
Back to your scale, 17 grams of kosher salt. Doesn't HAVE to be kosher salt, but I love the taste of it so that's what I use. Around a Tablespoon. Regular granulated salt has a finer grain, and you might want to use less.
You can use a pastry blender, 2 knives, a fork, whatever. But you have to work the lard into the flour. I prefer just to use my hands.
Now add between 1 and 1-1/2 cups HOT water. Mix this up with your hands. Resist the urge to add too much water. Dough should form together, but not be sticky. Turn out and knead on counter just a few times, gently. Now leave it on the counter and cover it with the bowl. Let it set 30 minutes or so.
After the dough is relaxed, heat your griddle. Then divide into 10-12 balls and shape into a disk and set aside. When your done pre-shaping the last one, you can start rolling the first one. Keep the rest covered with a kitchen towell. Roll them out into as close to a circle as you can.
The griddle is ready when water dropped onto it immediatly evaporates.
Use no grease, and be very careful. Plop the first one down onto the hot griddle. Let it cook a few seconds and flip it with a spatula. Continue flipping until done on both sides. They will have dark brown spots across their surface.
I lay mine on a towell and flip half the towell over them to keep them covered.
Eat while still warm or seal up in a zip-bag and refridgerate.
Next time I make a batch, I will add some pictures.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Carne Guisada

My middle girl loves carne guisada. Its almost always what she orders at Mexican Food restaurants.
So, I set out through the deep waves, surfing the internet for a good carne guisada for her. There are as many ways to make carne guisada as there are cooks and food blogs!
So, I took what sounded good from several places, combined it with what I knew her likes and dislikes were, and created my own version of carne guisada.
Whoops. Forgot something! What IS carne guisada, anyway? I hear its not such a common dish outside of Texas.
Carne guisada is literally "stewed meat." We have ran across a few places that make it from pork, but usually it is beef, and that is what my daughter likes, so this one is beef. Beef cooked in a gravy with (not too hot for her) peppers, onions and a few spices.

Here's how I made it:
In a heavy (well seasoned cast iron is best) dutch oven, in lard (yes, LARD) saute 1 onion, diced, 1/2 or so bell pepper, and 1 or 2 jalapenos, all diced. When its about done, add a couple cloves minced garlic.
Cut up about 4 pounds of round steak, and dredge it through some all-purpose flour.
Remove the onion mixture from the pot and add more lard if needed, then throw in the meat and brown it. Add "some" cumin, and 4 cups beef broth. Now put a lid on that puppy and throw him in the oven at a real low heat, around 200*, for several hours. Get it out of there and give it a good stir once in a while and check its progress. The meat will be very tender when its done.

Serve with homemade flour tortillas, (have I posted that recipe yet?)
Homesick Texan's Mexican Rice and homemade refried beans.

Sourdough Bread

Several months back I posted about a new book that had come out, "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.' Great book, I highly recommend it.
That book inspired me to get back into more "hands on" bread baking, and I ran across a great site for bakers, The Fresh Loaf. Through that site, and a couple of excellent books I have gotten,
(Dan DiMuzio's Bread Baking) and (Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread) I have learned a lot of new info on making some very tasty "artisan" bread.
There are many opinions as to what constitutes "artisan bread", but to me it is bread made by a slower process than what I had learned when I first started making bread 20-some years ago. Then, the idea was to make the bread rise as fast as you could. With artisan the emphasis is often on slow fermentation.... allowing the bread to slowly develop, bringing out the subtle flavors of the grains. The exact opposite of "fast food." Often the loaves are hand shaped and baked on a stone instead of in a pan, though that is not always the case. I believe to, at least for myself, there is an emphasis on natural ingredients, you won't find the dough conditioners, high fructose corn syrup, or unpronounceable stuff that you find in store bought, mass produced bread.
Artisan bread can practically stand alone, the center of a meal instead of something to hold a sandwich together or slather with peanut butter and jelly.
Several times over the years I have tried to get a sourdough starter going. Each time I failed. I tried again a couple weeks ago. Due in large part to info and advice I received from The Fresh Loaf, and the books I now have, this time my starter succeeded! Its alive and well sitting on my kitchen counter.
Yesterday I used it to make a loaf of sourdough bread. I used Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough and I am pleasantly surprised not only in how it looks but also in the taste. This one is a keeper for sure!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cream of Spinach Soup

I really enjoy Mark Bittman's blog. He has a lot of good recipes and really good advice from time to time.
Last night I made Cream of Spinach Soup, which I got from his blog. It was absolutely delicious, and I will bet that the 1/4 cup or so thats left over will be on daughter # 3's mind as soon as we get home today.

1 # spinach (I used frozen. I would not recommend canned at all)
onions (he calls for spring onions or scallions, I had regular "spanish onions, and diced them up fine)
3 cups
homemade chicken stock
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to barely a simmer, cook about 10 minutes.
Add a pinch of nutmeg
Kosher salt
Blend the soup. (I used a hand blender, worked great)
Add a cup or so of cream, or as in my case, half-n-half


Monday, May 18, 2009

Chicken Stock

I made 5 1/2 qts of chicken stock saturday. I used a "recipe" (if it can be called a recipe, maybe its more of a method) from a guy named Michael Ruhlman, who is a food writer, and who has written a book called "Ratio" which I will be mentioning here on my blog in the following weeks.
Anyway, he suggests using a turkey carcass. I didn't have one, but I did have quite a few chicken backs.
When I make chicken, I frequently do not use the backs. Not much meat, WAY too many bones. I save them in a bag in the freezer, and when there's enough (backs and time) I make stock.
This time I used
Mr. Ruhlman's method and I really like it! Isuggest you try it too!

I have been on a "soup kick" for the last week or two, making vegetable soups, just adding some of this and some of that until it looks good. I will try to get a "recipe" written up for one or two of them so you can try them out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This is so easy and delicious!

You need a 9X13 pan. Set your oven on 350*. Take a stick of BUTTER and melt it in the pan. Now put brown sugar over the butter. "Some." I really don't measure it, just eyeball it. Enough to soak up most of the butter. Now, open a can of pineapple and drain it into a measing cup.
Your going to use a cake mix. Yellow cake. I like the "butter recipe" one. See how much water the recipe calls for, and use the juice from the can in place of the water. If there's not enough juice, add enough water to make up the amount.
If your using chunk pieapple, just distribute it evenly. If using rings, you may need 2 cans to make it look right. I like to add a marachino cherry to the centers of the rings when I have them.
Now mix up the cake as the directions say, spread on top of the pineapples, bake as directed, and when done, let cool about 5 minutes and turn out onto a cookie sheet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leftovers: Mashed Potato Soup

This is so good, you would not guess its made from leftovers. Leftover mashed potato soup!

I made
mashed potatoes the day before. Next day, I sauted some onion in butter, added the leftover mashed potatoes, a bit of ham cubed (leftover ham, as well) and added milk. A little less milk that potatoes. A little salt and pepper, and a shake or 2 of celery salt.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploding Enchiladas- A word of warning

We had gone to Oklahoma to see my Dad and step-mom in the nursing home. One thing I really wanted to do while we were there was cook up a batch of enchiladas for my brother and sister in law who also live in Oklahoma. I mixed up the dry ingredients for the sauce at home, and purchased the rest of what I needed at the local Walmart.

I made 2 pans, one of cheese enchiladas, one of beef ones. I buttered 2 pyrex baking dishes, placed the enchiladas in them, and placed them in my sister in laws brand new oven at 400*.

About 15 minutes later, and nearly time for them to come out of the oven, I heard a loud POP in the oven. I opened the door to see a terrible mess. The dish that the cheese enchiladas were in had exploded, and shards of glass and melting cheese were everywhere inside the oven, including in the other dish of enchiladas. There were some big peices of glass and there were tiny shards. It was all over the oven, including some that fell down below the "floor" of the oven, so that the oven had to be partly disassembled to clean it. What a mess!

Our dinner was ruined, and her brand new oven would require extensive cleaning. It was a horrible feeling.

When I retured home, I wondered if anyone had ever had a similar experiance with Pyrex or other glass type baking dishes. After a google search, I have learned that many people have had similar experiances, but quite a few of them have resulted in injuries due to broken glass embedded in them, burns, and cuts.

Many of the cases I read were simlar to mine, the pan exploding for no apparent reason while in the oven. Others explode when the door is open to check the cooking, others explode when set out to cool. Some even claim to have had them explode after having cooled. Some are new dishes, others are a number of years old.

Bad as the mess was in the oven, at least it was contained by the oven. I feel fortunate that no one was hurt.

If mine had been the only such experiance, I would chalk it up to bad luck, a flaw in the pan, ect. But I really believe Pyrex has got a big problem on their hands, and from what I have read, they are in a bit of denial about it. I just hope someone isn't seriously hurt or blinded before they do something.

I will not be using Pyrex or Fire-King glass baking dishes anymore. One pan of exploding enchiladas is enough for me.

You can
click here for many personal stories similar to mine. Unfortunatly, some of these folks got hurt.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Left-overs: Too much spaghetti or too much sauce

I never can seem to get it right. I either make too much sauce for my spaghetti noodles, or too much noodles for the amount of sauce I make. Either way, you have to figure out what to do with the excess.

So, here are two great suggestions for either scenario!

Too much sauce: Cut up a chicken, put in crock pot, and pour your leftover spaghetti sauce over it. Cook on low until done. Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese if you want. Very tasty!

Too much spaghetti: My family loves this one. Saute the noodles in a little oil. You can add a bit of diced onion if you want. You want the noodles to brown, but only slightly. Add vegetables, whatever you have on hand and want to use up. Then add a shake or two of soy sauce. Season with whatever you like. I am fond (as I have mentioned) of Peppered Season-all. Serve and enjoy! Good stuff!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap

A bit of a change here. This is not food, but a way to save money! I made a batch of this over the weekend, and was very pleased with the results on my husbands' work clothes as well as on all our clothes. The soap takes all of about 5 minutes to mix up.

There are many and varied recipes online for making your own laundry soap. Some are for dry powder type, some for liquid. I prefer the dry powder, so that is what I made.

Supposedly, about any bar soap will work. I bought 2 bars of ZOTE, but I think next time I will use Ivory, simply because its carried at the store I regularly shop at, and ZOTE is not. Most people recommended zote, fels-naptha, Kirks Castile, or Ivory, but several people said they save up their left-over soap bits and use them, using whatever type soap they had on hand.

I used a food processor to quickly grate a bar of ZOTE, then used the knife blade to further pulverize the soap. The whole process too under 5 minutes.

So here's thye recipe!
to 1 cup of the pulverized soap, add:

1/2 cup washing soda {note, all the recipes called for washing soda, however washing soda was not to be found in my town, so I bought a big box of baking soda instead}


1/2 cup borax {I bought 20 mules team borax, it is in the laundry aisle.}

Use about 2 tablespoons per regular wash load.

All together these 3 ingredients cost maybe $5.00, and there is enough soda and borax left over to make many, many more batches of soap.

This is incredibly less expensive that the Tide I have been using, and so far I am very happy with the results.

Mashed Potatoes

Put an 8 oz package of softened cream cheese into your potatoes as you mash them, and you will be suprised at the results. You will not taste the cream cheese, but will just notice that the potatoes are creamier and richer than usual.
To about 5 pounds, more or less, of potatoes, use 1- 8 oz package cream cheese.
Then of course use a stick or so of real butter and then add milk or heavy cream, salt, pepper. Fresh chives would be excellent in these, too.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Iced GREEN tea

I love green tea, its a great thirst quencher, not to mention its many health benefits.
Brewing iced green tea is about as easy as filling a pitcher with water. To make a good green tea to be drank cold, there is no need to heat the water or allow a steeping time. With hot green tea, steeping time can be pretty tricky. Too long of steeping time, and instead of a smooth drink you end up with something bitter.
And I don't know this for a fact, but I believe that the cold brew method might actually preserve more of the delicate good-for-you things in the tea, as opposed to subjecting them to heat.
So, here's how to brew a gallon of delicious, thirst quenching, good for you, green tea!

Simply put tea bags into cool water in a jar or pitcher! I use 4 tea bags to a gallon, but depending on your tastes and the size of your container, you may want more or less. Set this in the refrigerator, and it will brew on its own. In 45 minutes to an hour, its ready!
I leave the tea bags in there until its gone, then I start with a fresh batch.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


This is my most requested "birthday supper" for the girls. We LOVE lasagne around here. And, it fits pretty well into the heart-healthy mediterranean diet, especially if you use whole wheat pasta!

Meat sauce
1 pound ground beef (or more, I have made it with 2 pounds)
1 clove garlic minced (or more, its hard to get too much garlic, right?)
1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 pound can tomatoes (diced, or whole if cheaper and scrush 'em up yourself)
12 oz tomato paste
1 tsp. parsley flakes
Brown meat, add the rest, let barely simmer

3 cups small curd cottage cheese
2 eggs slightly beaten
2 T. parsley
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup OR MORE grated mozzerella
you can add some parmesan* to this as well

Lasagne noodles cooked al dente.

noodles, cheese mix, 1 # (or more) grated mozzerella, and meat sauce until all igredients are used up. A 9X13 pan struggles to hold it all. If you have a "lasagne pan" that's best.

Cover and bake @ 375 for 30 minutes. Remove cover for last 15 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving. You can make your garlic toast while its standing!

Serve with grated parmesan* cheese and garlic toast.
*I have taken to buying a solid wedge of parmesan cheese and grating it myself. Its easy to grate, and while, yes, its expensive, it keeps very well if well wrapped, and you are buying 100% cheese, not fillers, and "anti-caking" products.

Slice homemade bread, or store bought if you must... (see artisan bread in five minutes a day)
Set it under a broiler to just begin to brown.
Take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it over the surface of the toasted bread. This grates the garlic into it.
Now brush with extra virgin olive oil.
Most delicious!

Enjoy your lasagne supper!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

frijoles refritos

Refried Beans. What could be more simple, more down-to earth? They are good at any meal, and are a good replacement for mashed potatoes. They are a must have with tacos, enchiladas, ect. I like them with eggs at breakfast!

I much prefer homemade refried beans to anything in a can, and with a little prep work it dosn't take long to whip up a batch of refried beans.

Start the evening before:

First sort your beans. Broken pices are ok. Rocks and sticks are not. Then wash. How much washing depends on the beans. I have bought beans that I have taken outside in a collander and shaken to get a lot of the dirt out, then brought back in and washed many times. Others, a couple good washings did the job. Wash till the water in the bowl is clear.

Now, refill the bowl of beans with cold water, you want the water well over the beans, like a couple inches. I cover mine with a plate over the bowl. We have a cat. I also leave the bowl in the sink. You are done with the beans until morning. Goodnight!

Next morning, pour out the soak water and rinse the beans well through a colander.

Now you can cook them any way you want. Pressure cooker, stove top, crock pot. I usually use the crock pot.

Many hours later, at least 6 or 7 on low, when they are done, you are ready to make your frijoles refritos!

Drain your beans, reserving the liquid.

Now you need a large skillet, preferably well seasoned cast iron. If not well seasoned and large, large and non-stick will do. You need a good amount of fat in that skillet. I use lard and bacon grease. You don't need lots of bacon grease, but some to give flavor.

Get your grease hot. Put a spoonful of the drained beans in the hot grease. WATCH FOR SPLATTERS, and be careful not to heat the grease to the smoke point!

Now with a potato masher, mash this spoonful of beans, working quickly. When pretty much mashed, add another, continuing until done with all the beans. At this point, or before if they get too dry, you will want to use some of your reserved cooking liquid to make them the consistency you want.

Now, add your salt, and pepper if you want. I do not add any other spices to my refried beans except occasionally a hint of garlic.

As I said at the start, refied beans go good with many things!


More of a suggestion, really. Who needs a recipe for tacos? One of our favorite meals is tacos. There's just something comforting, homey, and yet festive about tacos.

There is a couple of things I do with mine that is different than the norm. I do not season the meat, unless you count salt and pepper. But the main difference is, I do not use the pre-bent, ultra crunchy tacos shells. I buy regular corn tortillas, the ones you have to bend yourself.

The beans are different at our house, too. I don't use canned refried beans. I use either dehydrated refried beans (located in the Mexican food section of our local Walmart) or I make my own.

Fry your hamburger. While its frying, either make your deydrated beans or re-heat homemade ones. (A recipe for homemade refried beans will follow soon) When everything else is ready, or being prepared by your helpers, (grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce...) fry your tortillas. In a small cast iron skillet, heat about 1/2" of oil or lard. Heat it up until a small drop of water pops and splatters.

Drop a tortilla in, fry a few seconds on one side, turn over with tongs, fry a few more seconds, then bend using your tongs. Hold in the oil at the angel you want it, flip over and fry the other side of the shell for a couple seconds, and finally set upside down in a pan lined with paper towels. Immdeiatly start the next taco shell. These do not turn our real crispy, just slightly more than softened. But the taste is uncomparable to the pre-bent store bought kind.
Enjoy your tacos!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Black-eyed Pea Soup

I have made this soup for many years, only and always on New Year's Day. This year I am omitting a ham bone because I don't have one.

Rinse and drain 2 pounds dried black eyed peas
Peel and grate 2 large potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water.
In a large soup pot, saute 1 or 2 large onion, some carrots, a couple stalks celery, and 1/2 pound bacon until bacon is cooked and onion is soft. When almost done, add 1 large jalapeno, sliced, and 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced.

Add the peas, drained potatoes, and meaty ham bone if you have one, to the pot. Add about 7 qts water. Since I don't have the ham bone, I added about 2 tsp. of "superior taste- better than bouillon" chicken base.

Add pepper and if needed, salt. I am fond of McCormick PEPPER season-all, and will add a few shakes of that when its close to done. It will need to cook about 4 hours.

I will serve it with warm corn bread.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chili Recipe #1

I am experimenting with chili recipes again. I just enjoy chili, and enjoy trying new ones. I have one lined up to try out on the hungry crew soon, but for today, I want to post my tried and true chili. This one is thick, meaty, and delicious.

Texas Chili #1
5 pounds hamburger (chili grind is nice, but too expensive unless you happen to find it on sale)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Brown meat with onions and garlic
drain if needed
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 can rotel (your choice on the heat level)
about 6 T. chili powder
2 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
4 T. paprika
2 tsp. "superior taste- better than bouillon" beef base- this is sold at Walmart and is right next to the cubed beef bouillon
several good splashes of Tabasco sauce
beans- sometimes I cook mine, sometimes I use canned. Whatever, just add as many beans as you like, or none if you don't think they belong in there
salt and pepper
Heat almost to boiling then cook over low heat.
If it dosn't seem tomatoe-ey enough, add a can of diced tomatoes
To make it hotter (this chili is not at all hot) you can add red pepper (cayenne) or several small whole red dried peppers, such as anchos, which really make it look good as well.

Very good served with fritos and a little cheese sprinkled on top.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day- a book review

I used to make bread, by hand, very often. I loved making bread. The whole process, even the kneading.
But making bread takes time, four or five hours or so from start to finish, and that kind of time is in short supply these days.
So, I make bread on special occasions. Rolls for Thanksgiving, that sort of thing.
For the most part, the smell of bread baking is gone from my kitchen.
Or should I say was.
In the last week I have made 4 loaves of fresh, French style bread, and it took me about 15 minutes of actual hands on time. The rest of the time, the yeast and time were doing all the work.

This is thanks to an an article in Mother Earth News reviewing a book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day".

The process is quite simple. Mix your dough, (about 5-10 minutes mixing time) which is much more moist than the traditional dough, and let it set. A couple hours on the counter, and then pop it in the refrigerator. With the basic "boule" dough, you can use it to make loaves of bread for 14 days. The idea behind the title is that it takes only 5 minutes of hands on time on baking day to get the dough ready to pop in the oven. I have found that to be very true.

When you want fresh bread, simply take the dough out of the refrigerator, (I keep mine in a big 1 gallon ice cream container) dust the dough with flour, cut off what you want, shape it into whatever shape you want, and pop it on a bakers peel to rise. You are done! It does the rest of the work! When ready, slide off the peel and onto your baking stone, and in 20-30 minutes you have bread that you would think came from an expert baker!

They do recommend you baking the free-form loaves on a baking stone, with a broiler pan underneath to fill with a cup of water at the last minute. This produces a steamy environment in your oven and gives the loaves a crisp, cracking crust.
I bought an unglazed ceramic floor tile for my stone, but it cracked in half on the first use. So I went to Tractor Supply and bought three fire-bricks, around $3.00 a piece. They have worked great so far.

Here is the basic boule dough recipe, which was in the Mother Earth News article. The book advises you to get familiar with the basic recipe before moving on to the others. I strongly suggest you buy the book, there is much additional info, tips, and many, many more recipes.

Basic recipe-
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Mixing and Storing the Dough

1. Heat the water to just a little warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded container (not airtight — use container with gasket or lift a corner). Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour by gently scooping it up, then leveling the top of the measuring cup with a knife; don’t pat down. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook, until uniformly moist. If hand-mixing becomes too difficult, use very wet hands to press it together. Don’t knead! This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough loose enough to conform to the container.

4. Cover loosely. Do not use screw-topped jars, which could explode from trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), approximately two hours, depending on temperature. Longer rising times, up to about five hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than room-temperature dough. We recommend refrigerating the dough at least three hours before shaping a loaf. And relax! You don’t need to monitor doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes.

On Baking Day

5. Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven.

Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece with a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four “sides,” rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go, until the bottom is a collection of four bunched ends. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it doesn’t need to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf will flatten out during resting and baking.

6. Place the ball on the pizza peel. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes. Depending on the dough’s age, you may see little rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf.

8. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing, serrated knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1⁄4-inch-deep cross, scallop or tick-tack-toe pattern into the top. (This helps the bread expand during baking.)

9. With a forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. With wet dough, there’s little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Refrigerate the remaining dough in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. Cut off and shape loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Next I will try the oatmeal bread and some of the others, like European peasant bread, deli-style rye, pumpernickel, and 100% whole wheat. There are many recipes in the book, including even some recipes for things to do with the bread, such as sandwiches, soups, ect.
There are also recipes for flatbreads, pizzas, panettone, and even sticky pecan rolls. This is quite a bread book, all based on the "five minutes a day" principal.

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois have written a revolutionary book with "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day!- The Discovery that revolutionizes home baking." I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Green Enchilada Casserole, aka "chip casserole"

This one is a real winner at our house, and has also been popular at any pot-lucks I have taken it to.

I have had this recipe since 1984, and have made it many times. It is truly one of our favorites.

Brown 2 pounds ground beef with a large onion.
Drain if needed.
Add 1 or 2 cloves garlic and 2 cans diced green chilis, salt and pepper.

In a 9X13 pan:
Layer the bottom with tortilla chips, crush them a bit into place.
Add a layer of the meat mixture.
Add a layer of grated cheese. Use lots of cheese. (I buy the grated "Fiesta Blend" cheese at Walmart.)
Add another layer of tortilla chips, pressing into place as before, more meat, cheese, ect, until all is used up.
Pour 2 cans of chicken with rice soup over the top. (store brand works fine)
Now add 2/3 cup water around the edges of the pan.

Bake at 400* until hot throughout, 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Aunt Nell's Curry Dip, aka " yellow sauce"

It's been called "yellow sauce" around our house for years. My first knowledge of it was that is was from Aunt Nell, although where it originally came from I don't know. Maybe Aunt Nell invented it.

It has been my experience with this stuff that you either like it, or don't. I have not encountered any in-betweens with this stuff.

We use it as a meat dip, a sauce to use especially with ham and turkey. In fact, I find it hard to eat either without this sauce.

2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. tumeric
2 tsp. curry powder
4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (I use real-lemon)
2 cloves garlic (1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
1/4 cup minced parsley

"Mix ingredients together and refrigerate. Will keep a long time."

Its also good as a sandwich spread for ham or turkey sandwiches.

I would also think it might be good as a vegetable dip.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Date Loaf Candy

This is a very old recipe that was common years ago, not as common today, but still just as delicious. Gran's tattered copy in her old wooden recipe box is yellow, splattered and torn. Well used.

I looked online for a little help, as her recipe called for "butter, the size of a walnut" and had you using the cold water test which I have had little success with. I found an identical recipe online (assuming a walnut's worth of butter is a tablespoon) but this one gave temperature readings instead of dropping into cold water.


2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 T. butter
In a large heavy saucepan, cook and stir until it reaches 235*.

Remove from heat, add:
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup chopped dates**
1 cup chopped pecans (Gran says walnuts, but I use pecans 'cause I don't like walnuts)
Stir, or better yet have someone else stir, for about 5 minutes. Have a damp tea-towell laid flat on counter. Form a log on the tea-towel, roll the tea-towel around it, and then wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate overnight. Slice. Dates are very good for you so this is considered health food.

** use whole pitted dates and chop them yourself, the pre-chopped ones are sugared and I think that would cause your candy to crystalize.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gran's Deviled Eggs

One of my earliest memories of my Mom's mom (Gran) was her taking a plate of deviled eggs to a sick friend. This had to be in about '66 or'67.

Gran's deviled eggs were the best, and I am so glad that I had her write it down, as it is one recipe that was not in her wooden recipe box, which I now have.

There are no exact measurements here, you just have to use your own judgement.

I usually boil 18 eggs, peel and cool, cut in half
Mash yolks, add a cup or so, give or take, of mayonaise. NOT miracle whip. Its easier to add more than to take it out if you get too much.
Now Gran used regular yellow mustard. I have taken to using spicy brown mustard. Either way, a little less than a tablespoon of it.
About a tsp. of salt, again, go easy, adding more if needed.
Now add a "little bit" of apple cider VINEGAR. I usually just pour a little bit into the cap.
Mix all up, put into egg halves.
Sprinkle with paprika if you want.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Cookies

This is an extremely easy recipe for Christmas cookies.

Take any flavor of cake mix. Add 1 pound butter. (yes, pound of butter). Add 1 1/2 - 2 cups flour, depending on the consistency you want. Mix up good. These can be rolled out and cut, rolled up refridgerator style and sliced, or put through a cookie press. Decorate as you want.

**You can add a tsp or so of peppermint extract to white mix and make candy canes.**

They are a shortbread textured cookie.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Apple Dumplings

These things might sound unhealthy, but they're not. They have apples in them, so how can they be bad for you? I made them for a church pot-luck not long ago and they were a hit.

2 granny smith apples
2 cans crescent rolls
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2- 1 tsp. cinamon
bottle or can of mountain dew

Butter a 9X13 pan. Peel, slice and core apples. Wrap each slice in one of the unrolled crescent rolls. Lay them all in the 9X13 pan.
In a sauce pan melt the butter; add the sugar. Add the vanilla. Pour this over the top of the dumplings.
Pour a cup or 2 of the mountain dew all over and around the dumplings. (drink the rest!)
Sprinkle with cinamon.
Bake at 350* for 35-45 minutes. You want it nice and crispy-browned on top.

We had a pot-luck at church a few months back and I took these. They were a hit.


Saturday, December 13, 2008


Pozole, posole... however you spell it, Pozole is "muy delicioso!"

Pozole is a Mexican stew. Pork and hominy stew to be a little more precise. Now don't run off! Its really very good! And it lacks the somewhat questionable ingredients of some other Mexican stews/soups. No tripas in here! Just good eating stuff!

Here is how I make my pozole:

I buy a good sized pork roast, cook it in the crock pot, and we have it for supper one night. The next day I use the leftovers to make pozole!

Saute 1 onion, and quite a bit of garlic. Add 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce*. You will want to mince the pepper a bit. Add about 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. cumin, and salt and pepper. Add about 2 pounds of the meat, cut up. Add more garlic. Add 1 can rotel (hot, regular or mild to your taste) 1 good sized can green chilis or a couple small ones, and 4 cups chicken broth. Now add 1 large can white hominy. Simmer a bit, then eat up!

There are many garnishes suggested for pozole, chopped onions, cabbage, many others. I haven't tried it that way yet, I think its complete just like it is.

*these are smoked jalapeno peppers in a rich tomato sauce. They are canned and should be in the Mexican section of your Walmart. You will only use a small part of a can for this recipe. The rest can be frozen by individual portions on waxed paper and then bagged for later use.

Try it, you'l like it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Corn Bread

The Carrot Stew (below) turned out delicious. I served corn bread with it. I made my usual corn bread, but substituted whole wheat flour for regular white flour. The result is a bit heavier than with white, and I actually like it that way. (If I was talented, I would add a picture here of a steaming slice of corn bread with buttter melting on the top. It would make you really want to make corn bread.)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup corn meal
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg

Mix it up, bake it in a 375* oven for 20-25 minutes. Use a greased cast iron skillet to cook it in. Nothing makes corn bread like baking it in cast iron!
Corn bread is quick and easy to mix up. No need for mixers or a lot of time. I like to mix mine up in a bowl with a humble wooden spoon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Carrot Stew, courtesy of Jenny

My first recipe to post, Carrot Stew. Stew, heavy on the carrots. Jenny, 13, came in last night with a Walmart sack full of carrots, carrot tops, and dirt.

A neighbor had planted a garden in spring. Illness in the family forced her to bequeath the garden to another neighbor. Later, that neighbor moved, and gave the dwindling garden to my youngest daughter. It was late summer, and we enjoyed several batches of cherry tomatoes.

Its December, and fresh, organic, healthy carrots sounded great. I washed them up in cool running water, no need to peel these guys and loose the vitamins in the peel.

This morning I cut up a small roast we had in the freezer, added about 3 pounds of carrots, a couple potatoes, onion, garlic, three stalks of celery, and a large can of tomato soup. Its in the crock pot right now, and I know the house will smell delicious when we get home.