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Archive for May, 2010

Happy Memorial Day Cooking

May 31st, 2010 at 06:22 am

Ah, itís Memorial Day - the unofficial kickoff to summer. People hope to fire up their grills and cook out and eat those foods they associate with summer.

If you have been watching the television ads, many show a staple of cook outs and that is baked beans. I know the grocery store ads had a well known brand on sale. And one brand even has a special grilling brand of them.

A few years ago I ran across a recipe for wonderful baked beans. It really isnít that much cheaper to make them if you get the others on sale, but they have a better flavor and are worth the trouble. However, if the items in this list are already in your pantry, it might be more economical. I let mine bake uncovered until the sides start to caramelize and boy, are they delicious! They really arenít a lot of work, just take a little planning, and you have homemade baked beans.

Baked Beans

Ĺ lb of dried navy beans Ė picked over and soaked overnight in water to cover and then drained
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 slice of bacon, chopped
1 cup of ketchup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
Ĺ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup of yellow mustard
1 teaspoon of black pepper

Drain the beans and then put in a pan with plenty of water and cook until beans are tender, for about an hour. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat the olive oil in a pan or large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. When oil is hot, add the bacon, onions, and celery and pepper. When onions and celery are translucent, add the ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar and stir together. Turn off heat and add beans, stirring carefully. Add the cooking liquid until the mixture is a little bit soupy Ė otherwise it will dry out when you bake it. You will have to basically eye ball how much liquid you will need.

Bake in the oven proof pot or Dutch oven uncovered for almost two hours or until it starts to caramelize at the sides. If it has dried out during the baking, stir in more cooking liquid to keep it moist.

If you havenít made your own before you might think this is hard, but other than the initial chopping and cooking the onion and celery and keeping an eye on it when it is baking, it really isnít difficult and it is flavorful. Iím sure you could experiment with different types of mustards or even onions and if you like some heat, could add cayenne pepper instead of black pepper. Anyway you try it, you can make it your own.

Besides, wouldn't it be nice to impress your friends and family and say you made it yourself?

Salt and Pepper

May 30th, 2010 at 11:04 am

I certainly have more than I use. Do you? What, you query? Iím talking salt and pepper shakers.

This came to mind as I filled up the old clear glass ones that look like tall, but small mugs. They are probably a collectible. I like them because they are easy to handle, easy to fill, and easy to keep clean. I have about 4 other sets and I donít use them. One set is really old and matches my Blue Willow dishes. I donít like the way the salt or pepper comes out. So, they sit in the hutch. I have another set that look like little Blue Willow coffee pots. I donít use them because they are a pain to refill and they donít hold very much. I have yet another set I bought my mom years ago at Carson Pirie Scott that looks like crystal. I thought they were the prettiest things I had ever seen. I was too young to realize they arenít the kind of things you set out when you are using plastic plates and plastic placemats and paper cups. Dumb me! We weren't fancy and these puppies are!

My mom and dad used to have a furniture store and then an antique shop and they bought and sold a bunch of things through the years. One of the things that was incredibly popular were salt and pepper collections. I remember ladies who had hundreds of them holed up in a China cabinet. The bobbers were kind of cool Ė they set in a base and you could take your finger and touch it, and they would bob up and down. I remember a lot of birds as bobbers. There were all sorts of things as salt and peppers, as they would call them. Iíve seen one that has the outline of Illinois for one and Lincoln as the other. Iím sure all states had something like that. Iíve seen plastic shakers, glass, China, metal, even cast iron shakers. I used to have one that was a Cherished teddie riding a polar bear. I used it until it was so chipped, I was ashamed to put it out. It was cute, but not really functional. Maybe collections are like that.

As much as I like to collect things, having a salt and pepper collection wasnít anything I was really coveting. But like most collections, everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Now days, I just want to add a little pepper to my eggs and Iím happy with a clear glass pepper shaker. Guess Iím not into the spice of life!

Memorial/Decoration Day Weekend

May 29th, 2010 at 01:36 pm

Decoration Day? My mom said Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day because it was expected that one would go to the cemeteries and place flowers for loved ones. Most of the time veterans would also have flags at their gravestones as well. Yesterday we put flowers on graves. One cemetery had many flowers on other graves, while the other cemetery had a few. I have a couple of theories on thatÖone is that many of the people who are buried in the second one may not have any living relatives left or they donít live in town. Plus, around here, I think very few people under the age of 50 actually decorate the graves. I was discussing it with my husband and some friends and we think that our generation of baby boomers may be the last generation to take flowers on Memorial Day. I hope we are wrong. I know the deceased arenít waiting on us, but I think itís a good way to remember our loved ones and our soldiers and stop and take a breath in our lives of always being so busy.

We went to the grocery store today and two veterans were selling poppies. I remember seeing a lot more of this going on in the past. Again, I wonder if the greatest generationís demise is causing this loss.

As you celebrate this weekend which has become commercial as any other holiday Ė the ads are proclaiming Memorial Day sales, please take a moment to remember the soldiers who gave their time and their lives and the family and friends who went before you. That is better than any sale or any ad.

Gadgets Galore

May 28th, 2010 at 06:37 am

Men have their gadgets. Iíll grant you, thatís a generalization, but many men really like gadgets. Well, I think women do too, but we call them different things and often rationalize our desire to own and collect them. I guess we feel we have to.

I am happiest if we are out and about, looking at kitchen stuff. This week we perused Kohlís on Wednesday because my husband could have gotten the seniorís discount. So, I happily made my way to house wares to fiddle with the pots, pans, appliances and gaspÖgadgets! Just for the record, we didnít buy a thing. But, I had a frenzy of looking and comparing!

My own kitchen probably has too many gadgets. I have 4 Crockpotsģ. Yes, they are Rival so they are truly Crockpotsģ.. And they are all different sizes. I use them for different things. My largest is usually used for a pot roast with lots of vegetables and potatoes so I can make 2-3 meals. My next largest holds a whole chicken with a few vegetables, again enough for a couple of meals. The second to the smallest is great for beef stew, chicken broth, or ribs. The smallest is fabulous for meatloaf, small pieces of chicken, or vegetable broth when I have a few vegetables on hand and canít use them for anything else. I donít use one of the tiny ones for dips Ė I guess if I entertained a lot it would come in handy, but at this point, I donít need it. Up until yesterday, I had 5 Crockpotsģ.. I took one away Ė it was a weird story, but I bought one at a garage sale and wound up being gifted with another one. I used to have one at school so my total did ring up to six at one time. I gave that one away. I figured, why not share the joy!

Up until a few months ago I owned a bread machine until it wore out. I have a coffee maker, a microwave, a tabletop grill, a food processor, a mixer, and a countertop oven. I also have a blender and bright shiny toaster. My husband gave me that toaster for Christmas a few years ago because he watched me covet it at the store. Some women like shiny jewels; I like shiny gadgets.

Now comes the rationalizationÖI feel I use most of these items frequently. The blender is probably the least used. The coffee maker is definitely employed the most. The counter top oven is large enough for a casserole dish so I utilize it when the days are hot and steamy so I donít heat up the house. I operate my mixer for my bread making as well as cakes and other things that need to be mixed or kneaded. The food processor handles lots of shredding and chopping that makes my life a little easier. Why buy frozen hash browns when I can use the fresh potatoes that are in my pantry? I can then chop some onions and put them in the hash brownsÖyum! Plus, I like zucchini cakesÖrun a zucchini or two in the food processor, mix with egg and bread crumbs and sautť Ö well, you get the picture.

As for my herd of Crockpotsģ. Öwell, I use them. A lot. Diamonds may be a girlís best friend, but I think a slow cooker is mine. Last night I made chicken broth. Quite a bit of it, in fact, so that I could cook some fresh green beans in it for supper tonight. The extra I will freeze for use down the line whether to use for soups, more green beans, and casserolesÖthe list goes on. I try to watch how much salt we use and my broth does not have added salt or preservatives. I put ribs in my slow cooker for tonight. Itís nice to use when the temps are hot so it doesnít heat up the kitchen.

So, I have gadgets galore. Hopefully I wonít have to attend a meeting for my gadget addiction. If I do, maybe Iíll whip up some snacks beforehand!

Bountifully Blessed

May 27th, 2010 at 05:55 am

Iíve been reading many blogs on this site and so many talk about groceries and personal items they get for free or next to nothing. And then thereís that delightful sentence that says that they will be donating extra to their local food pantry. Iím going to state right now that I think it is wonderful. Although this site is about saving money, there is the element of ďIím going to share my bounty.Ē

We have 3 full time food pantries in my city and I believe they are all busy on any given day. We have some churches that also give out food over and above this. One church, each Monday, gives a box of food that usually contains some meat of some sort whether it is a whole chicken or a couple of cans of tuna, some vegetables, and whatever else they have on hand.

If youíve been following my blog, you know that I do have a slight hoarding problem. I tend to overstock my pantry. I believe it comes from growing up with parents who grew up in the Depression and talked about not having enough to eat so they overstocked their pantry. I grew up with that fear ingrained into me.

Normally we donate money to our favorite food pantry because they can buy food for so much a pound. Iím not telling you that to brag. I feel that we have been very blessed and we should share what we can.

However, that being said, I wanted to go a step further, especially after reading the newsletter we received from the above mentioned pantry. It said they are giving out at least 100 food boxes a day. Our community probably has around 75,000 to 80,000 people if you include the small towns around and 100 people need food a day. I donít think the pantry is giving to the same 100 people Ė I think they have stipulations of how many times you can get food in a given month because of the need. Imagine, 100 boxes are given at this one pantry. The need is so great.

I work in a high poverty school which is very close to this food pantry. I have seen the faces of the hungry children who often depend on the free breakfast and lunch that the school provides. I would think that some of these families are getting these food boxes. At least if they need them, I hope they are doing so.

In America we should not have so many people in need. I know the economy has really hit so many hard. Here in my city, we usually have a higher unemployment rate because we went from having some major factories that were good paying jobs to just a couple. These were jobs that had decent salaries and decent benefits. We have plenty of fast food restaurants and two Wal-Marts Ė granted they give employment, but not big wages and benefits.

Anyway, Iíve decided to glean from my overstocked pantry some items to drop off today at the food pantry. Iím sure someone can use the soups and pasta and crackers. And I will rejoice that I have indeed been over blessed with my bounty.

Turn, turn, turn over????

May 26th, 2010 at 07:24 am

Years back, the Byrds had a popular song called, ďTurn, turn, turn.Ē It talked about having a season for everything:
The chorus:
ďTo everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven.Ē

For those of you familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible, the lyrics come from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. Now, Iím not going to be doing a sermon here.

However, I am going to say the song should have had a line about a time to rest and a time to go. I can write this because I did get some restÖI slept over 8 hours last night. It was rest I truly needed. And Iím not apologizing for it!

Why is it society has made resting something for which we are ashamed? I believe in working hard. The Protestant work ethic was drilled into me at a young age by my father. He grew up in the depression and he always worried about losing his job as an adult. He said you should go to work earlier than they expect you to and do more than what they asked.

But when did we get so confused about resting? Or sleeping for that matter? I hear people bragging how they were up very late and got up very early like it was a medal of honor. With some of the folks I know they think it is ridiculous to get 8 hours of sleepÖthey have too much other stuff to do or so they say. If anyone talks about going to bed early they get a look like ďGosh, you are a lazy bum.Ē

I know others who think they have to work 12 hour days. Not because they work for a company that requires it, but because they like talking about it. They complain nonstop about doing it, yet they do it again and again. They donít have a time clock to punch, but I truly think they get some pleasure out of ďcomplainingĒ about working so many hours. Are they truly getting that much more done? I read an article last week that said folks who work 12 hour days consistently arenít as alert and are harming their health by not getting enough rest.

I know if I donít get enough sleep, Iím not at my peak. My body tells me by not being alert and then as the day goes on, my joints ache. I see some of my on the go friends constantly struggling with colds or other illnesses because they arenít taking care of themselves. A good sleep heals the body and mind.

I know there are folks who donít need 8 hours of sleep. But for those of us who do, we need for society to quit brow beating us about this and making us think we are lazy. We arenít. We are doing what our bodies need. We need to quit feeling ashamed of it.

So, Iím adding to the song:

A time to rest and a time to go
A time to play and a time to sleep
A time to work and a time to think
A time to be and a time just for me.

That said, I think maybe itís time for a nap!

Is it a girl thing?

May 25th, 2010 at 04:31 pm

This may be a girl thing. But then again, maybe not. I imagine some men are the same way.

What am I talking about? Iím writing about the concept of ďFood is Love.Ē I really enjoy treating my husband to a meal I know he will like. I get the same pleasure of doing the same for my friends. My baking banana bread is also to give away. I like doing it because people seem to like getting it. When I baked bread with some students at my school, they loved the experience and really loved eating the bread. It was a nice time all around.

A lot of the time when I would bake bread at school in bread machines, people would stop by my room just for a sniff. With that whiff came a recollection of someone baking in their lives and they shared it. And it was a good memory that brought some joy to their faces. Again, ďfood is loveĒ rang true.

So, maybe itís the maternal part of me that loves to cook and share, or maybe itís just a vital part that likes to love on someone with some edibles. I think men may have the same feeling so I donít want to say itís only a girl thing.

But it is, wouldnít you agree, a good thing?


May 24th, 2010 at 06:39 pm

Today was the second last day of school. I took some of the banana bread I baked and gave out to the principal and secretary and couple of others. It's one thing that most folks seem to appreciate.

I'm a little down because I received some news that although not unexpected, still wasn't what I wanted to hear. It's funny how we always want our way, isn't it? I'm sure it will work out OK, but I guess our selfish selves like having it our way. I won't be throwing a tantrum -- it's way too hot -- 91 today with lots of humidity. But, I think I can have a bit of a pity party.

I fixed pork chops, mashed potatoes, sauteed okra, sliced tomatoes, and fruit and sliced the Irish soda bread for supper tonight. It wasn't a bad meal.

My husband went with me to pack up a lot of my stuff tonight since I have to move. It's amazing what you accrue with a short time.

Hopefully I'll be in a better mood tomorrow.

Let them eat bread...

May 23rd, 2010 at 11:04 am

Bread seems to be a big deal at my house. More so than cake or cookies anyway, although they arenít total strangers.

And, Iím always on the lookout for new bread recipes. I think I found a good one. I baked it last night and after it cooled a bit; our dessert was a slice of warm bread with some butter. It was delicious. My eyes lit up when I thought about how I can possibly change the recipe to make it a little differently with herbs and spices. Although I have no problem baking with yeast, sometimes itís nice not to have to wait for the rising, and this bread uses baking powder and baking soda. It has a different texture and flavor of regular white bread, and it is rich with the butter. I imagine the cold butter put in the dough makes it pop in the oven when baking. Anyway, hereís the recipe:

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all purpose flour
ľ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Combine eggs, butter and buttermilk, stir into flour mixture until moistened.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 5-6 times.
Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into a round loaf. Place 6 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 2 loaves

Banana Fanana

May 22nd, 2010 at 06:50 am

Some say itís the perfect fruit. It comes ready to eat, has its own carrying ďcaseĒ, contains potassium, is naturally sweet, and is easy eat because you just peel. It is, of course, a banana!

For years I tried to get my husband to eat bananas. I like them, and they are easy to pack in lunches. They were my fruit of choice when I had braces because they were soft and unlike apples, I didnít have to cut them up Ė I was told not to bite into an apple with braces. Husband refused telling me he didnít like them.

So, being the sneaky wife that I am, I started cutting them up into the fruit salad I would make. Then, one day, I ran out. He asked me, ďWhereís my nany?Ē

Besides winning him over in the fruit salad, he had been reading of the health benefits of bananas. And he decided he liked them. Hmmm. So much so that he keeps watch over the fruit bowl on the counter and if we get low, heíll volunteer to get some bananas.

Bananas donít go to waste in this house either. Some ripen more quickly than others, or so it seems, so every so often we have overripe bananas. The perfect solution in my book is to make banana bread. And apparently many agree because people never turn down a loaf of banana bread. One friend of mine always tells me she likes it because she has a ďcarb deficiencyĒ that the banana bread seems to fill. One gal I work with said I should open up a shop and sell banana bread. Somehow I donít think Iím going to give up my day job to bake banana bread, but I do appreciate the compliments.

Hereís the recipe I use for banana bread:

Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 F

3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
Ĺ cup vegetable oil
ĺ teaspoon ground cinnamon
ľ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ĺ teaspoon salt
1 ĺ cups all-purpose flour
Ĺ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
ĺ cup chopped walnut pieces (optional)

Lightly grease 6x9 inch loaf pan with vegetable oil or butter

Peel the bananas, place in a small mixing bowlÖmash

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and sour cream and whisk until smooth

Add the cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, mashed bananas, and walnuts to the egg mixture and whisk to combine

Add the flour and stir until just combined Ė donít over mix.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until golden brown and it has risenÖabout an hour and 10 minutes.

Sloppy Toms

May 21st, 2010 at 05:00 pm

It was very tempting tonight. So very tempting. After a tiring day, dear husband suggested we go out and eat because I have been tired and stressed.

Iím proud of myself. I held out and said we should eat what we already have. Earlier this week I had fixed a turkey breast in the Crockpot and we still had some turkey left. So, I broke the turkey off into pieces, and sautťed some green onions and garlic, and mixed with a little barbecue sauce, ketchup, honey, and Dijon mustard. I don't know if the turkey was really a Tom, but I'm calling it "Sloppy Toms". We had leftover green beans so I heated them up and baked some potatoes. I served all this with sliced tomatoes, homegrown radishes, and fruit salad I had made earlier this week. I figure I saved us some serious money by not going out and eating what we had.

Plus, I had some control over what we ate. The buns were whole wheat. We had lots of fruits and vegetables and turkey. So, with hindsight Iím glad I didnít succumb to temptation. But I bet some local restaurants arenít sharing the same feeling!

Tea For Me

May 20th, 2010 at 04:52 pm

Somethingís brewing at my house. What you query? Itís tea!

A couple of nights ago we met some friends for dinner and their daughter-in-law works for a major department store as a buyer. Part of the perks of her job is she gets samples. And some of these samples were tea bags. How fortunate for me because she sends these wonderful teas for me to enjoy. I appreciate the generosity and thoughtfulness of this gal and her in-laws for making her aware of my tea habit.

I will admit I do drink coffee, so Iím just not a tea lover. But I like both iced and hot tea. And I truly enjoy brewing a nice cup of tea and enjoying it -- it's relaxing and in my twisted mind, makes me feel sophisticated. I'm probably not, but we all have an imagination.

According to some of the reports Iíve read and heard, tea is especially good for you. So, besides the wonderful aroma and flavor, thereís the health benefit. How many foods or drinks can claim that?
Itís a damp, dreary night here in Central Illinois and I have the hot pot ready. Iím getting ready to brew a cup of tea. I wish you could join me!

Innocent until proven guilty

May 19th, 2010 at 04:58 pm

Last Monday my husband cornered me with the newspaper in hand and asked me if I was guilty. Guilty? Me?

Well, it seems there was a letter in the Dear Abby column and he thought maybe I wrote it. Seems the person who wrote it told Ms. Abby that they had some friends over for dinner a few times and this couple has not reciprocated. What really frosted the writer was this couple will often brag about the other folks they have invited over and all the different things they served and how much fun it was. And the write explained how hurtful it was to them who have not been invited.

I am innocent. I didnít write the letter. But I could have. We know a couple just like that. Weíve had them as guests 4-5 times. Yet no dinner invite or meal out or whatever. But this gal brags nonstop about the meals she fixes when she invites these other people over. And it hurts. My husband says we must be pond scum.

Ms. Abby suggested they no longer remain friends with this couple. Sound great in print, doesnít it? But, friends are still to be cherished even if they arenít always kind. So, weíll remain friends with them. We just wonít invite them over again.

And that, my friends is my story and Iím sticking to it!

Talking Turkey

May 18th, 2010 at 06:47 pm

Thereís little fowl about turkey. At least in my book. We had turkey for supper tonight. I had put it in the Crockpot with some rosemary, a green onion, some spices, and water. It cooked all day on low and was sufficiently yummy! I took it out 45 minutes before I wanted to serve it, let it rest for about 20, sliced it, and then put it back in the broth in the Crockpot until I needed to plate it up. My husband and our dinner guest really ate it up. Sorry, I couldnít resist that line!

We had mashed potatoes made with a little cream cheese and milk, fresh green beans I had snapped and cooked over the weekend, along with some radishes from the garden. Our dinner guest brought a yummy strawberry pie he had purchased. It was delicious, but we decided thereís an art to getting a slice of pie out without it falling apart. It tasted scrumptious even in pieces.

It was a pleasant eveningÖno harm or no fowl!

Food and Friends

May 17th, 2010 at 06:08 pm

It seems that so many celebrations center around foodÖbirthday cakesÖretirement dinners, graduation partiesÖthe list is endless. Some folks give exquisite dinner parties with the fashionable settings and even more fashionable food. Iím not doing that Ė most of my stuff is pretty down home basic, but I feel anyone who comes to my home for a meal is fed, just not in a fancy way.

We met some friends to celebrate her birthday tonight. We had a decent meal at a local restaurant. It wasnít really the food we went for, but the company and the observation of another year passing. It was a good time and a nice way to catch up on our lives.

Tomorrow night we invited a friend to sup with us. Heís the perfect guest Ė he compliments anything we serve, offers to bring something, and always makes the effort to try things. He is a witty conversationalist and we look forward to having him. He doesnít mind the house isnít totally picked up and tidy Ė heís just happy to be invited and is good company.

Fortunately not all friendship depends on food, but it sure is a nice benefit, isnít it?

Burger Bonanza!

May 16th, 2010 at 04:57 pm

Ah, the scent of grilling meat! Weíve been walking in the evenings and the delicious aroma of meat roasting has wafted through the air and although we had just finished supper, our mouths would start to water. We kept saying we needed to get out the charcoal and do our own, but after I get home from work, it is a challenge to get the charcoal ready and the meat cooking and supper ready and still get to bed at a reasonable time. So, we would walk and covet.

But not tonight! Itís Sunday and we were home so although it was threatening to rain, I fired up the grill. I sliced Vidalia onions to cook on the grill as well as the Angus hamburgers. I even ďgrilledĒ the buns. We had roasted potatoes with rosemary, green pepper, and Vidalia onion (I fixed that in the oven, my grill isnít very big), sliced some tomatoes, and picked some radishes. What a delightful dinner! We took our after dinner walk and didn't haven't to covet someone else's grilling.

Maybe it was someone elseís turn to have their mouth water!

Hubby's Addiction

May 15th, 2010 at 07:10 am

My husband is an addict. Itís often not pretty and the ramifications are serious.

Dear husband went to the doctor for his physical. The whole ball of wax. Including blood tests and the ďglove.Ē Iím sure all men are cringing at the last part. Believe me, woman have their own trials. Anyway, I digress.

A few years ago when hubby went, his sugar was high and his cholesterol was really too high. The doctor gave him a glucose test and fortunately he wasnít diabetic. You see my husband has an addiction and itís a bad one. Itís ice cream. Creamy, smooth, sweet ice cream that melts on your tongue and slides down your throat making your tummy happy. And serving suggestions on sizes mean nothing to him. He usually uses a big soup bowl and piles it up and sits there enjoying himself. And, did I mention heís thin? Besides the fact it isnít fair he can be an eating machine and not gain weight, he thought he was safe from cholesterol and such. Well, that year he wasnít.
As with all things, ice cream has to be eaten in moderation. So, weíve looked for alternatives that he can enjoy in place of two gallons of the creamy goodness. Plus, he continues to walk five days a week. He always walked when he was working during his lunch time. Now that heís retired he can walk longer and he averages around 5 miles a day. And, our dinners have been filled with lots of fruit and vegetables. I havenít truly achieved the Mediterranean diet which is considered to be very healthy, but we are getting close. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and olive oils. Meat, cheese, and sweets are very limited. These recommended foods are rich with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Although the price of fruits and vegetables are more expensive than many of the cheaper filler foods, I feel we are saving money by not having to spend money on medicines and more health care. Apparently the doctorís tests agree Ė his cholesterol was 167 and his good cholesterol was at a good number as was his bad cholesterol. And his sugar was in the normal range. So, I feel our eating well has paid off.
As for his addiction, although itís not illegal or immoral, he has used moderation as a guide. And Iím proud of him!

Planning ahead for next week

May 14th, 2010 at 06:09 pm

Iím always interested in saving a little moolah here and there and assume if you are at this site, you are as well.

I get ready to start my grocery list for next week and my menu for the meals. We have 7 more school days which means I still need to plan a few more casseroles. I am, however, looking forward to making some other items since I will have time to cook things that are not casseroles. Donít get me wrong, I like casseroles, but sometimes itís nice to have other things.

My husband has been quite a gardener when it comes to vegetables. He always has had a green thumb, but claimed he couldnít grow vegetables. But, three years ago he tried tomatoes and was a success. Last year it was green onions, tomatoes, a few green beans, and herbs. This year he branched out to radishes and green peppers and a few more herbs. Many of these are in pots. The rest are in a very small space in our front yard because our backyard is way too shady. We laugh about the convenience of going to the front yard and pulling a few onions and radishes and getting some herbs to cook with. I guess people are growing their own food to save money. That is part of it with us Ė fresh vegetables and herbs are expensive. But thereís nothing like the taste of something homegrown. Heís all excited because his green beans are popping up. He has even resorted to talking to his tomato plants. Iím not real sure if they are listening because I think heís sort of threatening them. But, if they produce like their ďforefathersĒ did last year, weíll be happy campers with a healthy diet. Not to mention saving some money!

The Thrill of the Hunt

May 13th, 2010 at 05:12 pm

Some folks get a thrill from shopping. They say the adrenalin really pumps when they look and find something to buy.

I have a similar thrill, but it happens at the public library. I love books. And I love saving money. So, the public library is simply euphoric for me because there are so many books and so little time and I'm not spending a lot of money.

The public library also holds a special place in my heart. Over 25 years ago I met this fellow on the public library bookmobile. We became friends and then eventually started dating. We will be married 20 years this June. I can certainly say I ďcheckedĒ him out. But I have news for the libraryÖIím not returning him. Iíll return my books and magazines, but not my husband. Sorry!

Anyway, I digress. We stopped at the library tonight and I wandered around the stacks and looked at mysteries. If you read my previous blog I talked about mysteries that are also food related and how much I enjoy them. I might have found some new authors. Thereís one author who has mysteries that revolve around a tea room. How cool is that?

I then perused the cookbooks and found a couple of cookbooks to browse through. Then I hit the magazines. I love glossy, current magazines. Iím too cheap to buy them so itís a pleasure to enjoy them and return them. Plus, I feel itís good for the environment because Iím not buying them and throwing them away. Yes, I know we can recycle them, and I do recycle the one magazine we have a subscription to, but overall, I think itís nice that someone else can enjoy the same magazine.

So, I had quite a hunting expedition in less than 30 minutes and came home with quite a bounty. I feel I saved money because I didnít purchase books and magazines and made use of the tax dollars the library receives to purchase materials. Wow, two proverbial birds with one stone! So Iím either a great hunter or quite the successful gatherer. Itís up to you to decide.

Food and Murder

May 12th, 2010 at 05:25 pm

There's something appetizing about a great murder mystery when the protagonist has something to do with food. I know I like it when I can sink my teeth into a fabulous murder mystery (I know, I should be sorry about the pun, but Iím not, so get over it!).

I have become a great fan of Diana Mott Davidson. Her main character is Goldy, who runs Goldilocks Catering Ė where everything is just right. I love reading how she walks into her walk in freezer and plucks this and that out of it and makes her fabulous dish.

Then thereís Joanie Fluke. Her main character is Hannah who runs a cookie shop in Minnesota calledÖThe Cookie Jar. No, I donít make this stuff up. But itís fun reading the stories and how these gals get themselves into trouble and bake themselves out of it.

I just finished a new book called a Slice of Murder and the main character, Eleanor, runs a pizzeria. She delivers a pizza and finds a corpse. She and her sister have to solve the murder mystery because otherwise Eleanor is the main suspect.

All are good fiction and all have good recipesÖmaybe not so good to die for, but interesting nonetheless.

Besides the good food and the love of cooking, all these ladies are interesting and likeable characters. They are a down home kind of gals except for their little quirk of finding bodies. Dead bodies. And they have to cook for this and that ans solve the mystery besides. Talk about multi-tasking supreme!

I enjoy reading the mysteries, but I think if I were going to give a dinner party, these gals wouldnít be on my guest list. With their talent for finding dead bodies Iím not sure it would be good company. Not to mention finding it difficult to make a seating chart with folks dropping like flies. And, I certainly wouldnít want to have a reputation of having a recipe for murder. Bon appetití.

Hot Foot!

May 11th, 2010 at 05:34 pm

I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but I burnt the top of my foot. Not badly, but enough to make it a teeny bit sensitive.

I baked a new casserole tonight and I was getting ready to put some on a plate before I set it down and a hot piece of onion dropped on my foot. I couldnít very well kick and dance around because I certainly didnít want to wear the casserole, but I can say that the onion did retain the heat. Of course Iím barefoot because I usually kick off my shoes and socks when I get home unless the weather is frigid.

Other than having a hot foot, the casserole was good. I guess you have to pay for your thrills.

If you want to try the recipe, here it is, just try to be more graceful than I:

Zucchini, onion, and tomato casserole
Preheat oven to 350
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes with basil and olive oil
Ĺ cup Shredded cheese and ľ cup of shredded cheese

Toss the zucchini and onion in a greased baking dish and pour the liquid from the tomatoes over Ėtoss until everything is covered. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the onions and zucchini are soft.
Add the tomatoes and Ĺ cup of shredded cheese Ė mix. Bake another 20 minutes. Take out and put the remaining cheese on top and bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve carefully if you are barefoot! 

Clipping Coupons

May 10th, 2010 at 04:19 pm

One thing I enjoy about Sunday is the Sunday newspaper. As much as I enjoy the computer, there's something about having newsprint in hand. An added bonus is most Sundays there are coupons included.
I have always enjoyed reading about folks who use coupons and can get a lot of groceries and products for a great deal. Iíve never gotten close, but itís fun to dream.

But with most dreams there comes a reality. And Iíve discovered that in the Midwestern city that I inhabit, Iím limited by a few things that keep me from realizing the dream of getting so much for next to nothing. First of all, most of our stores do not accept Internet coupons. Their policies state that because people have cheated them, they wonít credit them. Bummer. Yet again a few have made it bad for the rest of us.

My husband splurges and buys the Chicago Tribune every Sunday. They also have coupons. A big discovery is that often times the Chicago paper has more coupons than our local paper and sometimes the cents off is even more. I guess that means Iím limited by my locality on how much I can save.

I have also found that most of the coupons available to me are for things I donít buy. Double bummer. Iím not going to buy something just to save a few pennies. I do some crazy things, but even Iím not that crazy.

As frustrating as it is, I guess I should look at the bright side and take advantage of the coupons I can use. Guess itís time for me to get out the scissors and start clipping for another week!

Happy Hot Dishes

May 9th, 2010 at 11:22 am

I was the Happy Homemaker yesterday afternoon. For those of you not old enough to remember, Betty White played the Happy Homemaker on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She showed how to cook and do things around the house on television, and chased men when not on the set. I did the former, not the latter, in case you are interested. And no, I don't make this stuff up!

I made up four luscious chicken casseroles yesterday. One is a chicken and dressing casserole. I found the recipe on a stuffing package, but changed it to make it a little healthier. I cook a whole chicken in the Crockpot with vegetables so I have a delicious broth. I then take the meat off the chicken and shred or cut it up for casseroles. The chicken and dressing is the chicken, dressing, cut up celery, spices, and enough chicken broth to make it really moist.

Another recipe is a new one -- it's a lemon chicken recipe. I tried it last week and it was a hit. I will tell you I didn't make as much as the recipe calls for because it's really a lot of casserole, but here is the recipe:

Lemon Chicken and Rice

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
ľ cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
1 cup broth Ė chicken or vegetable
1 cup long grain rice, cooked
1 pound cooked chicken breast, cut into Ĺ inch pieces
Juice of 4 lemons, reserved

Preheat oven to 400

Place the onions, mustard, olive oil, lemon zest and broth in a bowl and whisk together. Put rice in a 2 ľ quart or larger casserole dish. Add the mixture to rice and make sure all the rice is coated. Add the chicken and mix well. Pour the lemon juice over the mixture. Bake covered, for 50 minutes and uncover and bake 10-15 minutes.

Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

I roasted some vegetables: zucchini, squash, onion, celery, carrots, and green pepper with olive oil and some spices, and I used them for two other casseroles. One is a chicken and pasta casserole and the other is a homemade chicken pot pie.

I also snapped and cooked green beans in my homemade chicken broth and baked a loaf of herb bread. Other than cutting up some fruit for a fruit salad, the biggest share of my cooking is done for most of the week. I think I would have made the Happy Homemaker proud.

Watch out, Betty White!

Running on empty?

May 8th, 2010 at 07:42 am

It's oh so shiny and has chrome handles. The design is sleek and pretty powerful. And, it's almost empty!

Yikes...it's the end of the week and I need to restock the fridge. By Sunday afternoon the fridge is pretty full of dishes that I have made and use during the week. But by Friday night, the dishes have been consumed and it makes me think it's empty and lonely.

My romance with kitchen appliances is probably very similar to my husband's preoccupation with cars. When he was shopping for a new vehicle he checked out Consumer Reports. So did I. He went to look at different vehicles. I did that too. He test drove and then came home and thought about it. I sort of did that...can't actually drive a fridge, but did open stuff and measure. So when we bought our new sleek and shiny ice chest, it was a thing to behold.

Our old one was dying. I was finding food was not staying cool and it was pretty old, so we decided to buy an Energy Star appliance to replace it hoping to save money in the long run.

So last summer when the new one arrived, we bid adeiu to the old one and I gratefully used the new one. And it has been good.

But, as said, it's nearly empty. So, I guess I better quit blogging and get cooking!

Chicken and blessings

May 7th, 2010 at 06:07 pm

"A chicken in every pot!" was the campaign promise of Herbert Hoover when the depression was going on in the 30's. It's actually the 21st century, but I have a chicken in a pot, a Crock pot, that is!

It's Friday night and it just doesn't seem like home not to have a chicken being warmed and "loved" by that slow cooker wrapped in some vegetables to make a savory broth.

My husband said I get my money's worth out of that chicken. I make a few dishes ahead for the week with the chicken and the broth and add vegetables, pasta, or rice.

Unfortunately Hoover was a victim of his times -- the economy didn't turn around and many people didn't have a chicken in their cooking pots. My dad said he hated grape jelly because someone gave his mom a bunch of grapes and she made grape jelly and many nights that's what they had for dinner -- grape jelly sandwiches.

I don't think his family was alone. And I think during the current recession, there are families who are struggling to feed themselves. I know we are blessed to have enough and I can choose to cook chicken on Fridays to make all sorts of dishes for the coming week. At one of my schools, it is very high poverty, and the children seem hungry most of the time. I've baked bread with them as a way to show them that bread just doesn't appear at the store and also gives them some experience in measuring. They inhale the bread and butter when it baked. We made "Stone Soup" one time and not many of them turned up their noses at all the vegetables in the soup -- two huge Crockpots full and homemade bread besides - it disappeared within minutes. I had kids ask about the recipe and when I explained it was basically using some canned goods and broth, they all thought they might be able to help their mom or grandma make some!

I hope that if you are also blessed with enough food, that you will consider putting some nonperishable items by the mailbox tomorrow (Saturday) for the National Mailcarriers food drive. I know you will be aiding families who need a little help. God bless you!

Go Greek!

May 6th, 2010 at 02:08 pm

Greece may not be the most popular country right now due to the financial troubles and the fact it made the Dow drop big time, but ancient Greece has been considered quite the splendid civilization. Money aside, a lot of things we enjoy are from the Greek culture.

Tonight my dear husband and I are joining a friend to enjoy some Greek food at the local Greek church. The church does it once a year as a fund raiser and it is popular enough that the tickets are sold out in advance. They have a bake sale and I envy the baking skills of many of these Greek women. The intricate blending of Phyllo dough and honey that makes it sweet enough to enjoy and light enough to think you aren't eating a lot, but fills you up nonetheless.

Besides the delicious and mouthwatering food, they have a band from Greece and dancing. We enjoy dancing vicarously, especially after a big meal, but it is a lot of fun and nice to partake the gifts the Greeks have given us though the years. I'm not sure if other cities have such a privilege and delight, but I'm sure pleased we do. Opa!

Delightful Dinner Companions

May 5th, 2010 at 01:56 pm

It's nearly dinner time again, and I am pondering. I seem to think about a lot of things, especially the topic of meals. And I was just thinking if one could invite anyone one wanted to, what would make a great dinner party.

On the Food Network during the holidays they show some of the celebrity cooks getting together for this and that, but I always wonder if they really are as friendly as it seems. I mean, as good as Paula Deen is, would she really make the kind of food Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten would approve of? Not to mention health person Ellie Krieger. I can only imagine Ellie tch, tch tching Paula and the butter and fat in her foods. Emeril probably would like about anything he could "Bam" at, however. Alton Brown would probably like to either tell how something was made, grown, or created or else find out how it came into existence. And jumping off the Food Network, would the late Julia Child, if she were still around, enjoy the spicy Cajun and Creole dishes served? Not to mention the late Frugal Gourmet Jeff Smith -- would he partake of some of the many things served not stir fried? I always remember him and his Wok. Would he enjoy the temptations of fried food? Or even...gulp...Ramen noodles?

I'm not sure if it would be the friendliest of dinners once the oven mitts came off, but it certainly makes for some interesting thoughts. I guess I better go get dinner ready so my dinner partner doesn't go hungry tonight.

Rosy Radish

May 4th, 2010 at 06:05 pm

In the Bible Eve gave Adam a fruit and things were never the same. Unfortunately, that wasn't a good thing. But I like to think I have been a good influence on my man. Three years ago I talked him into planting a couple of tomato plants and he was super successful. Last year we branched out to tomatoes, green peppers, green onions and a few green beans. Well, bonanza...we have radishes this year. Supper tonight included some newly picked, chosen, and lovely cleaned rosy, robust radishes. Yum! We also had some green onions. Tomorrow my dear husband plants green beans and hopefully this weekend will be tomatoes, green peppers and herbs. There's something grand about fresh produce!

Pantry Ponderings

May 3rd, 2010 at 05:13 pm

I must be big into confession the past couple of days. I'm a hoarder. Not a TCL Hoarding: Buried Alive hoarder, but I hoard staples in my pantry.

I want to blame it on my parents. They grew up during the depression and always felt it was necessary to have canned goods and pasta in the pantry "just in case." So, I have followed suit.

Years ago Chicago columnist Mike Royko wrote about an experience at his home. He said week after week he would go to the grocery store and buy frozen pizzas, chicken, T.V. dinners, vegetables, etc. And he and the kids ate the convenience foods and left the other stuff. Soon his freezer was full of chicken parts and the vegetables would rot. He decided he would not go back to the store until everything was used. He commented that near the end of the cycle, his kids found elsewhere to eat. He, in turn came up with some creative, if not gourmet meals.

Unfortunately I am not as strict as good old Mike. I don't like using everything up and then going to the store. I like finding things on sale and stocking up. I don't like to waste things so I do use things. But, I do find uses for food. Just this weekend I substituted Ramen noodles for egg noodles in a casserole dish for two reasons. I wanted to use the Ramen, but I also didn't have the egg noodles and wasn't going to go and buy any when I had perfectly good noodles in my pantry.

I'm that way with stuff in the fridge as well. I made a casserole called "Hillbilly Stew". I didn't have the vegetables listed in the recipe, so used what I had. It asked for a corn muffin mix for the top, but I substituted a biscuit mix. My husband gave it 8 out of 10 for taste. So, I'll share my "tweaked" recipe.

Hillbilly Stew
1 lb. ground turkey, browned
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2-3 potatoes, cubed
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
steak sauce (optional)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
biscuit mix
olive oil
spices of your choice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour

Chop the vegetables about the same size. Put in a baking dish or baking sheet, and use spices of your choice. I used ground pepper, dried oregano, sage, and Turmeric. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until vegetables are nearly done. Remove from oven.

Brown ground turkey. I also added a little steak sauce when it was browning. I added the minced garlic near the end so it wouldn't burn.

Grease a baking dish. Put the meat and vegetables in the dish. Using the pan you browned the meat; make a roux of the butter and flour. Stir or whisk until it is creamy. Add a little tomato sauce to keep it from lumping. When it has become smooth, whisk in the rest of the tomato sauce until it all mixed in. Pour over the vegetables and turkey and stir.

Here's where the part of measuring goes out the window: I don't measure the biscuit mix. I put some in a bowl and add a little milk until it is smooth. I see if there is enough to go over the top of the dish. If not, I add more mix and milk. I pour on top and bake at a 350 degree oven for between 40-50 minutes covered. The last 5 minutes I take the lid or cover off so the mix browns.

I'm sure you can make this recipe your own with your own vegetables or even ground beef or chicken...check out your freezer or pantry!

Something's Rising Over Here

May 2nd, 2010 at 07:05 am

I am a self confessed murderer. Some people kill houseplants, I've killed bread machines. Three of them. Three delightful machines that only wanted to provide the delightful aromas of that staple we call bread. Three wonderful machines that would mix, knead, and bake, making home a happy place. Now that I have that off my chest, let me tell my side of the story.

This all started years ago when I was shopping with my mom and saw a bread machine on sale for under $40. I commented that for that price, I would really think about getting it. But, I didn't. However, for Christmas that year, my mom bought me that bread machine. And I was delighted. Oh, so delighted. The next day I went to the grocery and found the bread machine mixes and came home and fired that puppy up. Within a couple of hours the house had the pleasant aroma of homemade bread. My dear husband was ready to be the sacrificial guinea pig, armed with a knife and some butter. It was in a word, wonderful! I branched out and tried another mix and then another. But, the frugal instincts got to me and I thought, why am I paying so much for a bread machine mix? I looked closely at the instruction booklet and found a few recipes (remember this was years ago) and decided I would take the plunge into the unknown and make it from scratch. I had baked bread without a machine a few times, so it couldn't be THAT hard. It wasn't. We had homemade bread that was yummy for a fraction of the cost of the mixes. I branched out and tried whole wheat and other types. And it was good. Oh, so good. But then, the machine went kaput. It was a sad day. Hubby said, "Go get another, you'll use it." Of course, I will tell you that finding a bread machine after Christmas at department stores is a challenge. Before the holidays, they are plentiful. Afterwards, not so much.

But, I found a beauty. It was bigger, shinier, and fancier than the previous one. Of course it cost almost twice as much, but what a cream puff! And it was wonderful. Except after a couple of years of steady use, it expired. Mourning reigned in this household.

Again, hubby said, "Go get another. And do some research...find the best one." And I did. I just love the Internet because yet again the previous machine at the indignity of dying way before the holiday bread machine inventory was out. And this baby, ooo la la! It was longer, had two paddles, and was considered the very best. The loaves didn't come out tall, but like a "real" loaf of bread is supposed to. The recipe booklet was a dream come true. Ah, the breads that machine produced. Happiness again was abundant in our household. For awhile. Then things started happening. The "bread" didn't rise like it should so I bought different yeast. That didn't work. One paddle didn't mix as well, like it had been wounded in battle or something. It was getting to the point where I was taking the dough out, kneading it, and then putting it back into the machine. Finally, I decided this bread machine was ready for retirement...permanently.

So that's my story. But it doesn't end there. After enjoying the glory of homemade bread, I couldn't go back to...gasp!...store bought bread entirely. So, back to that lovely source of information, the Internet. I found some easy bread recipes. And then, lo and behold, I was reading the Chicago Tribune Magazine a few years back, and Leah Eskin had a recipe for No Knead Bread. It looks like a very rustic bread and was totally different than the bread pan shaped loaves I had been making.

Here's the recipe she had in her column:

No-knead bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 water
corn meal or wheat bran, optional

Mix in a large bowl: combine flour, yeast, and salt. Stir in water. Don't fret over the shaggy, sticky dough.

Rest: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature at least 12 hours, preferable 18. Dough is ready when dotted with bubbles.

Deflate: Lightly flour a work surface and scoop dough onto it, sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Shape: Dust dough lightly with flour, gently and quickly shape into a ball. Coat with a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked.

Bake: At least half an hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 4-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. Carefully slide pot out of the oven. Pull off the top towel. Slip a hand under the bottom towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Cover pot with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10 to 15 until beautifully browned. Cool on rack.

Since I've confessed my murderous ways, I hope you will grant me leniency, especially since I've shared some evidence of my rehab: a wonderful bread recipe that will rise to the occasion and make your house smell wonderful!

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