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Archive for July, 2010

Scored a HUGE Zucchini

July 31st, 2010 at 08:39 pm

We were out and about today and at one of our stops, someone had dropped off tomatoes and a zucchini.

The folks at this place offered us both the tomatoes and the zucchini. Right now we are good on tomatoes with my hubby's garden, but we graciously accepted the zucchini. It's funny, but I've been fixing zucchini at least twice a week in different ways or a couple of years. These young people just looked at me and said the only thing they could think to do with it was make bread. I suggested a couple of recipes to them, but none of them wanted to cook.

With great delight I accepted this large zucchini and it now adorns my countertop awaiting my cooking.

I measured it just to see how large it really is. It is 19 inches long and at its widest it is 14 inches. This is a large zucchini. I guess I can do a little weight lifting before I slice into it.

I checked out a cookbook last week from the library. It was Fanny Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe cookbook. If you remember the book or the movie, the cafe had down home southern cooking. It also gave some squash and zucchini recipes.

With this large zucchini I think I can make more than one casserole, so I'll probably use it for some other items, but this is something I'm looking forward to making:

Zucchini Sour Cream Casserole

6 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into ½ inch slices
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
2 T butter
1 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ t seasoned salt
¼ t pepper
½ cup crushed saltines or fine dry breadcrumbs

Cook zucchini in boiled salted water covered for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Preheat oven to 350. Combine sour cream and butter in a small saucepan and melt. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, seasoned salt, and pepper. Layer half of zucchini, sour cream mixture, and cracker crumbs in a greased shallow 1 ½ quart casserole; repeat layers. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot.

I had to laugh when we were talking to the "kids" at this place. The guy said he thought he might try his tomatoes "ghetto style." I asked what that was and he said, "You know, slice them and put salt and pepper on them."

I had never heard it referred that way; guess one learns something new every day.

Where's the Maid?

July 30th, 2010 at 07:58 pm

Where's that darn maid? Or the dish fairy?

These folks never seem to show up at my house. Of course dust bunnies seem to multiply without hesitation.

I'm trying to keep control of the dust, dirt, and whatever around here. The vacuum doesn't run itself. The windows aren't self cleaning and that oven...ha!

I guess I sort of know how Cinderella felt, except I don't have evil stepsisters and a stepmother hovering over me. Just my own steel will to fight the battle of dirt, grime, and the neverending dust bunny!

I guess I could say I'm saving money by not hiring anyone to clean for me. That's my story anyway.

Now, where's my cape?

Eat Like a President

July 29th, 2010 at 02:19 pm

Abraham Lincoln. What a famous man both in the states and in the world.

We visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL, yesterday. We are fortunate to live around 45 miles away and have made at least 5 trips there to get our Lincoln “fix.”

Most of us know about the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even his brutal murder.
But, do you have any idea of what he ate?

A couple of years ago a friend of mine knows our love of Lincoln and my love for cooking and gifted me a cookbook from the Lincoln Museum. There are recipes from the Lincoln era as well as recipes from volunteers at the museum. One in particular caught my eye. Apparently Mr. Lincoln had to be reminded to eat by his wife, Mary, but he did have a favorite cake. It was a white cake and the recipe was originally created by Monsieur Giron, a Lexington caterer. The recipe became a favorite of the Todd family and they requested it for family use.

Apparently this was a cake that Mary would bake for her husband. Think about it for a minute how hard it had to be to bake a cake in those cook stoves where you couldn’t regulate the temperature very easily. There were no electric mixers. Lots of hard work for a treat!

Here’s the recipe from the cookbook. It was noted that variations of the icing included the use of a sour cream icing. I’m going to give the cake recipe a try today, but think I’ll make a different icing since I don’t have the candied fruits. I'm sure if you want to order the cookbook, you can do a search for the Abraham Lincoln Museum and go to the gift shop.

Cake batter
2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
3 c. flour
1 T baking powder
1 c. milk
1 ¼ c. blanched almonds, chopped very fine
6 egg whites
1 t almond of vanilla extract
Cream sugar and butter. Sift flour and baking powder three times. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk. Add almonds. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Add extract. Pour into a greased and floured angel food cake pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour. Turn out cake on wire rack to cool.

Candied fruit frosting
2 egg whites
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 t vanilla extract or ½ tsp each of vanilla and almond extract
½ c diced, candied pineapple
½ c crystallized cherries cut in half
Beat egg whites until very stiff. Set aside. Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Boil until the syrup spins a thread about 5 inches long. Slowly add a few tablespoons of egg whites, 1 spoonful at a time, into the syrup. Then slowly, beating well, add remaining syrup into the eggs and beat until the icing forms peaks when dropped from a spoon. Add vanilla and/or almond extract. Fold in candied pineapple and crystallized cherries. Spread between layers of the cake and ice the tops and sides. The fruit may be omitted.

Here’s your chance to eat like a president!

Foodie Failures

July 27th, 2010 at 11:38 pm

It always hurts to fail.

I have shared many of my successes, so I feel it is only fair to share my failure as well.

I have tried one new recipe for the Crockpot and although adequate, I wouldn’t take the time to write it down and try it again. It sounded good. It was to be a type of chicken stew. You put in chicken (uncooked), potatoes, sliced onions, chopped bell pepper, a little chicken broth, and a can of tomatoes and cook 8-9 hours. It was edible, but certainly not delicious. The chicken was almost dried out. It shouldn't have been, there was plenty of liquid. It just wasn't yummy. This recipe will bite the dust.

Tonight I made stuffed peppers. My husband likes bell peppers. He likes ground beef. And rice. I chopped and sautéed some onion with the lean ground beef. Did what I was supposed to. It wasn’t bad. But he didn’t like it. Hence, another failure. I’m 0 for 2 so far this week.

It hurts to fail, but life goes on, and hopefully my cooking will too.

There are far bigger worries than two not wonderful meals, right?

Jeffrey's coupons and my challenge

July 26th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

I look forward to Jeffrey's posts and how he uses coupons to eat on a $1 a day. We don't have some of the grocery stores he has, but we do have a CVS. However, after looking at his blogs, I don't think I could cut the deals he has.

I discovered that different papers have different coupons. Some are better than others. Our local paper has a coupon insert or two on Sundays and they have some basic stuff, but my hubby also buys the Chicago Trib and often times the coupons are worth more or they might even have coupons that aren't in our local paper. They are put out by the same companies. I wonder if it is also a regional thing too.

That being said, I won't be eating on a $1 a day, but I am trying to make better use of the coupons we get.

Thanks, Jeffrey!

Anticipation

July 25th, 2010 at 07:05 pm

The more I listened, the more angry I've become.

I was minding my own business, working in the kitchen this afternoon, and my hubby was watching a program on HGTV called "My First Place." We've watched similar episodes and so many of these folks tick me off.

What irritates me is so many of these "kids" think their first home is supposed to be totally up to date with high end finishes, a basement to entertain in, a yard to show off and entertain in, a kitchen that a gourmet would be proud of, a master bedroom big enough for a ball room and a master bath that is not unlike a spa.

They grouse about so much being wrong or out of date or too small. When I write with something being wrong, I don't mean it is broken, but it doesn't look like the way they expect.

And these two guys weren't sure what they could really afford. One worked two part-time jobs and the other had a full time job.

This isn't the only show that is like this. House Hunters often has guests very similar. Granted, if I were giving big money for a house, I would expect certain things, but unless you get to build your house, I would think there is no "perfect" house.

I guess I'm tired of these folks wanting everything perfect right away. We've lived in this house for 12 years. We've updated and fixed things as we could afford it. Some of the stuff has been changed to match our personal tastes. I would love, love, love a walk in pantry because I have pots, pans, and assorted kitchen gadgets stored every which way to fit. But, I'm not giving up a room or building on to get this wish list item. I just drool when I see Ina Garten's organized pantry. I still have the room for my stuff, it just isn't as organized as I wish.

When we bought this house, we bought a house we could afford -- the bank told us we could borrow far more than we did. We did not buy the biggest or fanciest house in the neighborhood. In fact, it is a little smaller than the first house we bought and it wasn't huge. It is the smallest house on our court.

It's been fun planning and anticipating changes. Six years ago we replaced the kitchen cabinets. I still am thrilled with these cabinets. We kept the same layout, but these cabinets actually stay together when you open the drawers. I have a lazy Susan in the corner cabinet so stuff doesn't get lost in the dark abyss. We kept the counter top because we couldn't afford a new one. Three years ago we changed the counterop to a fancier laminate than we had. I like it, it cleans easily, and it doesn't over improve the house.

Two years ago we replaced the plywood bookcases in the family room with oak ones and had the fireplace mantel replaced -- the fireplace was rough brick and it had a big board that reminded me of one of the railboard boards under a track. Each day when we sit in the family room, I marvel at how nice this room looks. Would I do that if I moved into the perfect house 12 years ago? Probably not. I'd probably take it for granted.

So, I have released a little steam about these folks wanting everything immediately. Perhaps it's the way they have been raised -- they feel entitled to the very best. Or, perhaps it's at the urging of the television producers -- I imagine a lot goes on that we don't know.

For me, I know anticipation is part of the fun of fixing up my unperfect home.

Friday Night Weddings

July 24th, 2010 at 02:19 pm

Last night the national news had a story on a new trend: Friday night weddings.

Seems the couples and their families have found that many places and businesses are willing to cut a deal if you get married on a Friday night. They said the photographer gave them a huge percent discount, the caterer did as well and the reception hall was cheaper too. The broadcaster talked about how folks are making weddings more affordable.

The news cast said it was "thinking outside of the box."

I had to chuckle. Twenty years ago my husband and I married on a Friday night. Our wedding itself was very small -- just a few family members. We had a reception at a small place and had cake, punch, and a few munchies. Little did we know we were thinking outside of the box!

We had our small get together because my parents didn't have a lot of money and we were going to pay for most of it. I did without the big fancy dress and my husband did without the tux. My parents bought a sheet cake and paid the $15 to rent the area. I bought the rest of the stuff -- napkins, plates, punch, and even made some of my own munchies. My soon to be husband and I decided instead of paying for a big wedding, we would use the money for a downpayment on the house. We also paid, in cash, for a honeymoon in Vegas. We came back home to a house with more than a 20% downpayment and a little cash to buy paint to start decorating.

We were thinking outside of the box? I don't think so. I think we were actually just trying to be financially responsible.

As for the wedding...our vows must have stuck...we celebrated our 20th anniversary in June!

Too Hot to Cook?

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Is it ever too hot to cook?

I live in the Midwest and we've had a hot week. Today, at supper time, it was 92 with a heat index of 108. I know places are hotter, but it is just miserable. One of my friends said he wasn't sure what he and his wife were going to come up for supper because it was too hot to cook. She had boiled eggs and made a salad and that might be supper.

I don't know about you, but when it gets so uncomfortable and I don't care about eating a lot. I normally have a very healthy appetite, so I can always tell when it's hot.

Tonight we had beef and noodles. The beef and broth were left over from a roast I had in the Crockpot earlier this week. I sliced some tomatoes, had cottage cheese, fruit and some bread I baked earlier in the week. It was more than sufficient and I'm sure glad I didn't need to heat up the oven. We do have air conditioning, but I hate to tax it even more than need be.

So, was it too hot to cook where you live?

Clutter Crazy

July 22nd, 2010 at 01:54 pm

Took a trip to the library yesterday and hit a bonanza for newer magazines! Woo Woo!

I refuse to subscribe to a multitude of magazines for two reasons -- cost is one, but also, after reading them, what to do with them? I recycle them, but it seems such a waste. We get one magazine and it comes once a week -- a news magazine. After hubby reads it, I read it and then it goes into the recycling bin. Hubby said that although it is an interesting read, he doesn't want to renew the subscription. Fine with me!

However, what I really want to write about is the article in the "Saturday Evening Post" about clutter. The author said that we, as Americans, have more stuff than ever before. It was thought that perhaps we, in our minds, equate success with stuff and happiness with goods.

Good point, don't you think?

I think many people who lived during the Depression don't equate happiness with stuff, but survival with items. So many had so little and it is a fear they don't want to have again.

My parents would always say to me, "Don't get rid of that...what if we have another depression? You'd be happy to have it." It certainly taught me fear. Fear of being without.

I guess the key is to have a happy medium -- enough stuff to enjoy, but not too much.

I am working on decluttering at this house. We certainly have more things than we need. In fact, I'm kind of ashamed of all the stuff we have. I took some items to the auction last week. Not one item could I live without...raised $55.57 for my stove fund!

The article suggested as a decluttering idea was for every item you bring into your house, you get rid of two. I've heard the one for one equation...you buy something, you get rid of something. Maybe this twofer is a better idea.

As with all things...moderation!

Ads

July 21st, 2010 at 02:08 pm

I just read the article about advertising: http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2010/07/19/106329_becoming-ad-averse.html

I have to agree with Jennifer on many of the points. Advertising does bring up prices and make people think they need things they probably don’t really need.

I’d like to add to her story. I’ve been quite the skeptic for so long. My husband and I have “bets” (not with money) on how much the latest gadget will cost that is being offered by mail order…ever notice it always ends with a 9.95? Most are $19.95 and then there’s that “surprise” of “But wait…” OK, double the order … hmmm, wouldn’t that be a sign that the stuff is junk and if they can double it for the same price (plus extra shipping and handling) that is it a rip off?

My other thing is to look at the background of the ads for stuff. Most fast food/junk food stuff they are peddling is positioned in a high end gourmet kitchen. Granite countertops, high end appliances, everything is neat and tidy…and use that microwave to zap that convenience food! I realize that many gourmets probably do succumb to junk food once in awhile, but why would someone who has the wherewithal to have such a fancy kitchen zap fat and grease? No one has a typical middle class kitchen in these ads.

The car insurance commercial with the perky gal talking to two other insurance agents is interesting as well. Both of their suit coats, ties, and shirts are identical and bland. In other words, this insurance is more fun and exciting than theirs besides being cheaper.

Another insurance company features a stocky guy with a wonderful voice. Besides his reassurance of this company being one who cares, his demeanor and voice tell someone he’s a protector. Good choice of characters, wouldn’t you say?

One huge merchandiser has their ad campaign honed so well that at the end of it “Save money. Live better.” has been ingrained in everyone’s mind. I did a lesson on author’s purpose in the classroom last year and we talked about advertising as a persuasive piece. When I said the first phrase, “Save money.” The whole class in unison said the rest and added the name of the story. Cripes…what brainwashing! I’d say that company spent good money on that piece because everyone recognizes it.

Jennifer looked at ads a different way than I do. I enjoy picking them apart to see what kind of hidden message they are trying to tell us. Sometimes I even count how many are in between the program. I hate it when there is more advertising than program it seems. It’s become a game in our house to see what we can point out in the ad that is not being said, but implied.

And I’m going to save money because I’m not going to live better in that huge store!

Cast Iron Baking

July 20th, 2010 at 07:09 pm

I’m excited about trying a new bread recipe today. Besides the bread aspect, I like using my cast iron skillet.

Last week when we made a trip to the library, I checked out the book “Cast Iron Cooking for Dummies.” The author extols the wonder of cooking in cast iron and how many uses there are for the pots and pans. Although it isn’t my only source for pots and pans, I’ve had good luck using the ones I have.
There are some interesting recipes and one is for savory dill bread. I have it in a bowl rising as I type. Here’s the recipe:

Savory Dill Bread

¼ cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 cup creamed cottage cheese
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 unbeaten egg
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
¼ teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon instant oven
2 ¼ cups bread flour
Combine the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water in a bowl. Mix the cottage cheese, sugar, butter, salt, egg, dill weed, soda and instant onion into the yeast and water. Gradually add the flour, beating well after each addition. The dough will be a little sticky at this point, but it’s more manageable after the first rise. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Stir down dough. Turn the dough into a well-greased 3-inch deep cast iron skillet. Let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40-50 minutes. The finished loaf makes a hollow sound when you thump it. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with Kosher salt if you wish. Makes one round, 10 inch loaf.

Get out your skillets!

New School Year

July 19th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

There's something about the back to school sales that put me in the back to school frame of mind.

Fortunately I don't need to buy notebooks and pens and paper, but I need to gear up and think about what I'm going this year.

My job has changed and I'm delighted. I will be working with a lot of data. Hopefully my work with data and sharing it with staff will help them.

Sometimes we are data rich and although it sounds like a good thing, but if the data doesn't tell us anything, it's like eating too many candy bars. They were good at first, but boy, what a silly thing to do!

I am getting excited and thrilled as the school year approaches! It's like a New Year with all kinds of hopes and dreams!

What does Poirot drink?

July 18th, 2010 at 05:49 pm

We’ve been on a Hercule Poirot kick since last Sunday’s viewing of “Murder on the Orient Express.” We’ve been to the library and checked out DVD’s of past episodes and wait with anticipation to watch tonight’s offering, “Third Girl.”

After watching nearly 10 episodes, I asked my husband what kind of tea does Poirot drink? He said, “I think you need to go to your computer and find out.”
I did a search today and although there is not a definite answer, this site had the most interesting things to add about his drinks and food:

www.odzer.com/?p=1257

It’s funny to read about this picky little guy supposedly liked and how he thought Hastings ate stuff that wasn’t good for him.
I like the special cup or glass that Poirot uses too – it just seems to make drinking it even more of an experience. I can do a regular mug for coffee, but I really prefer a china cup and saucer when it comes to tea – I think it makes it more elegant. It probably doesn’t make it taste any different, but in my mind, I like it better.

Candied Carrots

July 17th, 2010 at 02:39 pm

No Bugs Bunny at our house munching on a carrot and asking, “What’s up, Doc?”

But last night we had some great carrots and if my husband and our friend could have grown ears to get more, they would have!

I’ve been checking out cookbooks from the library each week and I go through them and if I find a recipe I think I’d like to try, I type it up and print it out. If it is a success, I three hole punch it and put it into my cookbook notebook. If it isn’t a success, I don’t keep it.

I changed the recipe a little bit because we prefer our carrots soft, so I cooked them longer than the recipe, but everything else is the same.

Candied Carrots
½ lb. fresh carrots
½ stick butter
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Clean carrots and cut into bite-size pieces. Steam 10 minutes or until tender. Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add sugar and cinnamon. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add hot carrots, stirring well to coat.

So, do you think Bugs would approve?

Frugal Freezer

July 16th, 2010 at 02:10 pm

Do you have a freezer? A few years ago I saved up and bought a small one. I try to find things on sale to keep it stocked. I also put flour in it when I get it on sale so it doesn’t get buggy. I often freeze extra stuff I make in it as well.

Last night I was reading “Frugal Living for Dummies” – we had made a trip to the library yesterday, one of my favorite places. Most of the entries were items that have been written about on blogs and forums and articles here at Saving Advice.

I noticed the author had the biggest section about cooking and food. Seems she has authored quite a bit on making things ahead and freezing them before including them in this book.

She wrote about making the same dish but three times the amount and eating one and freezing the other two. Or cooking ahead for the week or month and freezing it until you need it. Over and over it was repeated how she saves money by having food available for dinner time so the temptation to go out isn’t really there.

It’s not anything new to most of us. I do the weekly thing on Sundays. I often make casseroles or put stuff together for the Crockpot so when meal time comes about after work, I can either pop it in the oven or put it in the cooker that morning for a warm meal.

I went out to the freezer the other day to get a pound of hamburger. My husband looked at me and when I came in from the garage and I joked, “I went shopping.”

He laughed with me, but I did go shopping. I went to the convenience of my freezer and got what I needed. I had bought the meat on the sale and it patiently waited in the cold box until I secured it. I didn’t have to make an extra trip to the store nor did I have to eat out.

So, I would say it truly is a frugal freezer.

Stove Shopping Blues

July 15th, 2010 at 06:28 pm

I hate to shop. I prefer to get in and get out. However, when it comes to big ticket items, I try to read Consumer Reports and also list what I want and don’t want in an appliance.

We went to the library today and I decided to pick up the Consumer Reports Buying Guide. I was reading about stoves. I want a stainless steel smooth cook top electric stove. I’m amazed that two by the same company have almost equal ratings but one is $2000 more. Maybe I don’t know what to do with one that has all these buttons on it, but for $2000 more, I think I can live without it. I want a stove that heats accurately and looks nice. I don’t need or want 20 other odd buttons. Maybe there's something wrong with me.

It’s just downright depressing when you look at all those models and it’s difficult to find what you want. Plus, very few places actually have a big inventory so it’s either looking on-line or through a catalog.

So, after figuring out what I think I want, I started looking on-line. I figure it gives me a true goal to save for. I have looked at the various on-line sites and I think I have found what I want and a store near us.

Now, the hard part…the actually saving. But, it’s also the fun part because every time I add a little to my total, I feel like I’m making progress.
According to the local price, I’m almost half way there so that’s a good thing!

Family and Friends

July 14th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

It's been awhile. You see, we try to visit my husband's aunt and uncle who live around two hours away, but it has been some time since we got a chance to visit. Between work and responsibilities, time has gotten away from us.

We did have the opportunity today. Schedules worked out on both sides and we went down and had lunch and a good visit.

The nice thing about these folks is if they weren't family, I'd still like them as friends. They are kind and considerate. And, I enjoy watching them together. You can tell they are still sweethearts after all these years.

He watches over her to insure her safety and she keeps an eye on him. She knows what he likes when it comes to things and tries to do things to please him.

Their considerations goes beyond themselves. He holds the door for others and lets ladies go first.

She makes sure everything is just right for us when we come because dressing up and cleaning the house makes a guest feel special.

It was a great visit; I look forward to the next one!

10

July 13th, 2010 at 02:18 pm

No, I’m not talking about the old movie with Bo Derek.

It’s what my hubby rated supper last night. He said, “On a scale of 1-10, this was a ten.” I would say he liked it!

I hate having the oven on when it is so hot, but I needed to bake some things as well and decided to fix a few things and get them out of the way. So, I roasted a chicken with potatoes and carrots. It was good and flavorful.

Roast chicken and vegetables
• 1 roasting chicken – whole (4-6 pounds)
• salt
• pepper
• rosemary sprigs
• 1 t turmeric
• 1 T lemon juice
• 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
• 1 large onion cut in half
• 4 carrots
• 4-5 medium russet potatoes, peeled, and cut in chunks
• 3 T Olive oil
• 1 T cornstarch
• 1 t butter
• ¼ c water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Take a Dutch oven, spray with non stick cooking spray.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the rosemary. Put the carrots, potatoes, onion halves, and garlic on the bottom and put the chicken on top. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together and pour over chicken. Sprinkle the turmeric, salt and pepper on top of the chicken. Add the water to the side.

Roast the chicken for 1 hour, 15 minutes covered. Take cover off and roast for another 15 minutes so chicken browns and it is cooked through or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes.
On top of the stove, take the Dutch oven and put over a burner on low heat. With the drippings, cornstarch, and butter, make a sauce.

Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables with the sauce.

Hopefully tonight’s supper will rate an equally high score…it might be a tough act to follow!

Sweet Mystery!

July 12th, 2010 at 03:00 pm

Ah, sweet mystery of life…anyone remember Nelson Eddy singing that?

I’m a sucker for a good murder mystery. I have some very favorite authors who write good mysteries that make me think.

That being said, there’s nothing like a master like Agatha Christie. Last night Masterpiece Theatre had David Suchet as Poirot in the new “Murder on the Orient Express.”

If you don’t know, Poirot is Belgian and very prissy. But incredibly smart…he uses those gray cells. He figures out by listening and observing.

For years, PBS ran Poirot on Mystery! However, for a few years, no one in American had any of the Poirot. Thanks to the Internet I discovered Mr. Suchet was still taping as Poirot, but it was only available in the United Kingdom. That was a mystery I solved, but not to my delight.

But last night that was changed. Poirot was back and we were delighted.

After the program they had a special of David Suchet’s ride on the Orient Express and how many of the cars are original Pullman cars of the era of the 30s when the show was to be shot. Talk about exquisite style and fancy food! It was wonderful learning the history as well background of the train and how it still runs today. Apparently Mrs. Christie rode the train and used it as an inspiration for her story. Although not on her trip, the train did get stopped by a snow drift for 10 days and it gave her the idea for the story and Poirot getting to ride and solve the murder.

Welcome back Poirot!

Being Nosy

July 11th, 2010 at 05:53 pm

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m nosy. Very much so. My husband calls me “Nosy Debbie” and then laughs because his name is George and of course we all know “Curious George.”

We watch some of the shows on HGTV like House Hunters and My First Place. A hobby of ours is to go through Open Houses on Sundays. We are honest if the realtor asks…we tell them we are being nosy. We sign in so they have proof that folks have browsed, but I don’t beat any bones about it…I’m not in the market for a new house. Our house is paid for, the taxes are decent, and the neighbors are nice.

We live in a typical middle class subdivision. Most of the homes out here were built in the 1970s. Many of them still have the avocado green and harvest gold fixtures too. Every so often someone will build a new house on one of the few vacant lots. There isn’t much room for growth because a few years ago a golf course and ball diamonds were constructed on the west side of the subdivision. No homes were taken, just farmland, but the subdivision is halted.

Anyway, now that I’ve given you a little background, I’m going through an open house. It’s a newer home…being the curious and nosy folks that we are, we sort of kept an eye on it when it was being built a few years ago and said we wished we could see it when it was finished. Well, be careful what you wish for…it’s for sale and there’s an open house today.

So, in a little while I’m going to be nosy and see what this house looks like. Part of me hopes I don’t like it because I don’t want to come home and feel dissatisfied with what we have. But, part of me hopes it is really nice because in the long run a nice house in our subdivision favors all of us with good housing values.

So, off to be nosy!

Super Sorbet

July 10th, 2010 at 01:38 pm

I’m a big fan of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network. I like looking at her kitchen and the fact that she never seems to get upset or irritated. In my mind I realize that her show is taped so if something goes wrong, we wouldn’t see her throwing a tantrum and having a cuss fest. I guess I like to dream a little bit and see the fancy kitchen, the big, wonderful house, the Hampton style living and her shiny hair. Granted, the last one it weird, but she has the shiniest hair for a person not in a shampoo commercial.

In one of her programs she made a mango sorbet that was then made into a bombe with two other types of ice cream and frozen, and sliced for dessert. The sorbet looked good and easy so I thought I could try it.

And I did. It was good and refreshing. My husband is a big frozen treats fan so I thought I’d make some and see what his reaction was. He was like Mikey in the old Life Cereal commercials: He liked it!

Unfortunately I had to change the recipe a bit because I did not have any orange juice. I added a teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/4 of a cup of apple juice in its place.

Here’s Ina’s recipe from the Food Network website:

Mango Sorbet:
3/4 cup sugar
5 large ripe mangoes, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Place the mangoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. You should have about 5 cups of mango. If you want a smoother sorbet, you can process the puree through a food mill fitted with a medium blade.
Combine the mango, sugar syrup, orange juice, and salt and refrigerate until cold. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. (The sorbet will be soft.) Serve directly from the ice cream machine.
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts; 6 servings

Now, if I can get the recipe for shiny hair, I’d be all set!

It's A Small World...

July 9th, 2010 at 01:54 pm

Bet you think I’m mean after this…

In your head, you will hear this song over and over once I mention it…”It’s a small world, after all.”
OK, don’t hate me too much for this, but I did have my class go on the bookmobile one day and sing the chorus to my husband who absolute detests this song because he can’t get it out of his mind. I can be ornery!

Alright, I digress. I am amazed that I can sit in my little house in Central Illinois and communicate with people from all over.

Last year my job changed and instead of working at one school, I was at three. I’m sort of a shy person so trying to get to know people was a challenge, but I met some wonderful folks and became friendly with one gal who has some of the same interests. This summer, she told a friend of hers about my blog and he has read it and contacted me through Facebook to be a friend. We’ve been keeping in contact and writing about different things. He has a girlfriend in Brazil and they have a love of food. Since I often write about different recipes, Don, has shared some with me that he said I can post in the blog. He says this is his and his gal’s recipe for antipasto.

Antipasto Italiano
2 oz salad vinegar
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 small jar of capers
4 oz (half a jar) stuffed sliced salad olives
1 small box of sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
2 medium sized or one large size Eggplant
4 or 5 medium sized tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 orange or green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 medium yellow onion
1 clump of fresh parsley
Oregano
Fresh garlic (crushed) or some garlic powder (not garlic salt)
(optional) raisins, about 1/3 of a regular box
Cut eggplant, onion and peppers in rings then slice into small chunks
Put veggies into a pot (Dutch oven size)
Add mushrooms and olives
Pour the vinegar and oil into the pot and then dust with Oregano and add the garlic (what ever form you have decided to put in – to taste)
Chop the parsley leaves on a cutting board with a good veggie knife and add to the mixture.
Stir everything together, coating the mixture with the vinegar and oil.
Either put in a glass or metal baking dish, cover with foil and place in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes
or leave in the dutch oven and place on a stove burner at about ¼ heat for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Let it cool a little and serve with pasta, bread or meat as a side dish.ipe for antipasto.

What amazes me is though this fellow I now have a sort of connection to a lady in Brazil - all because of technology. So thanks, Don, for the recipe! It is a small world, after all!

First Job Memories

July 8th, 2010 at 03:02 pm

Do you remember your first job?

I do. I was in high school between my junior and senior years. I was a sampler for Coca-Cola. On Fridays and Saturdays I would give out samples of Coke and coupons for the products. It was a good job – I learned lots about working on that job – dealing with grocery store managers, my boss at Coke, and my dad. You see, my dad had been employed at Coke and he’s the one who suggested I apply for the job. I’m sure it helped that the boss knew him for me to get the job, but it was up to me to keep the job. I had to show up, do the work, turn in a report, and keep everyone satisfied.

I thought it was wonderful – I worked two days a week and could go to school Monday through Thursday. I had learned earlier that school year that our local community college would allow you to take a couple of classes if you applied and got a letter of recommendation from the principal. So, I took two classes and worked two days a week. I made a whopping $4 an hour when minimum wage was just under $3 an hour. They even gave me money for lunch.
I won’t say it wasn’t hard – loading up product, and standing all day and being nice and friendly. But there were harder jobs and I knew I was fortunate. But, it was a job, I was inside, and in some ways, it was fun. It enabled me to save money for expenses and also for college. It wasn’t glamorous or exciting, but it was a stepping stone to future plans.

I did go to college. I worked in college to help pay my expenses. My folks were the working poor. Hard scrabble might be the term for it. Neither of my parents finished high school. My dad left school to work to help provide for his mom, stepdad, and brother. But, my parents were smart. My dad would talk to me about working and he said if an employer ever offers to give you training for anything, take it…you might be able to use it to either help yourself or in another job. My mom talked about how she went to a local business “college” to learn some office stuff to help her work. They kept telling me the more education I can get, the better off I will be.

So, that’s what I did. I took a class on office machines which was basically a class on using different types of adding machines and calculators. I can tell you with the world of technology, being able to use the number pad has helped me a lot. I took two years of typing in high school. This was before computers were around and using a manual typewriter was certainly a workout!

I’ve worked a few different jobs. Some were great and some were, well not so much. No job is perfect. I think we’ve all been there. My first job out of college, I made $1000 more than my dad who had worked at Coke for over 22 years. It wasn’t a fancy job and it wasn’t really for what I went to college. It was a job, I was employed, and I wasn’t a shame to my family.

I was looking at the SA forums and someone had an article from the NY Times where a college graduate turned down an entry level position that started out at $40,000 because he wanted a higher management job. He’s living at home and thinks because he has a college education he should get better than an entry level position. His parents are upset because they think he should view the job as an opportunity. That and the fact his parents are basically his meal ticket. It has been interesting to read what some of the other SA folks are saying. Most think this kid, in the world of so many people not having jobs, is pretty ridiculous. I would have to agree.

So, are you still working at your first job? Was it a job or an opportunity?

How Sweet They Are!

July 7th, 2010 at 08:33 pm

Do you remember items from your childhood? Or your teenage years? Ever wonder why things we took for granted then look so good when we see them now?

We went through some antique malls yesterday. Granted, a lot of the stuff wasn’t truly an antique, but hubby and I pointed out things we remembered from our childhood. I had a very special neighbor when I was little and she was like a second mother to me. I was a big fan of the 3 Chipmunks and somehow her nickname became Simon, her husband’s name was Alvin, and the lady who lived in the apartment above them was Theodore. Anyway, I learned a lot from Simon. Yesterday I saw a cookie jar that was just like the one she used to have on her kitchen counter. It gave me a warm feeling for a few minutes just thinking about that and the loving person connected to it.

My husband saw some glasses that were like the ones he and his brother drank from as kids. He told about how good the aluminum glasses felt with a cold drink on a hot day.

I saw a set of dishes that were like the ones my grandmother had...I remembered some of the good things she fixed for me. I think a lot of us remember something that tasted good from our past and we associate that food with a great feeling...a comfort food!

Then, because there wasn’t a whole lot on T.V. we wanted to see, we watched “My Three Sons” on DVD. We borrowed the first season from our library. Do you remember seeing this show growing up?

Perhaps that’s why many Baby Boomers like looking through flea markets, antique shops, garage sales, or swap meets. We like to see something that reminds of us a good thing in our past whether it is an item, food, or loved one.

What's old is new?

July 6th, 2010 at 02:39 pm

What’s old is new again.

OK, that’s a little trite, I realize, but the book I was reading, “Cheap Eating” has a copyright of 1993. I checked it out because it looked a little different. But what is funny is most of the stuff in the book is being published again in 2010. I do like the author’s style – kind of down to earth.
And, the author is realistic. Not everyone is going to do everything in the book. But these are suggestions made to help save money.

A lot of the items mentioned in the book have been on the Saving Advice forums or blogs. The nice thing is they are in one tome.

At the end of the book are recipes to help save money. Although the prices are outdated, she compares what a commercially made boxed dinner you mix with a pound of hamburger costs and what it costs to make from scratch. Plus, she talks about the fact eating homemade is far healthier since you aren’t eating lots of preservatives and fillers.

I enjoyed her writing as well. In the text, she talks about making a white sauce and says you put the dry ingredients with the water and “shake like the dickens.” Bet you don’t hear that on a gourmet cooking show! Later on in the recipes, she discusses using this white sauce or white gravy in place of some of the condensed soups we use for casseroles. I think it is worth a try, so I’m reprinting her recipe:

White Sauce (or milk gravy)
½ cup dry milk
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ¾ cup cold water
2 T margarine
Melt butter in a 1 quart sauce pan. In a covered jar or shaker combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add water. Shake until all ingredients are dissolved. Stir in flour-milk mixture and cook over low heat until mixture thickens and bubbles. Keep stirring.
To make the recipe to equal 1 can of cream soup she offers these measurements:
1/3 cup dry milk
2 T flour
Dash salt
1 cup cold water
1 T margarine

Some variations include:
Chicken sauce – substitute cold chicken stock for water
Cheese sauce – add ½ cup of shredded cheese to the 1 can recipe. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until cheese is melted.

Hey, I’m all for progress, but I also feel “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

The "High" Cost of Not Measuring

July 5th, 2010 at 02:02 pm

Measuring. Such a simple thing.

Last week on my trip to the library, I checked out an older book called "Eating Cheap". Last night after watching the fireworks on T.V., I was perusing some of it and one of the things the author brought up was to be sure and measure when you cook.

The author said we probably measure stuff most of the time, but how many of us have made stuff so often we just sort of dump things in. However, it was pointed out if a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and we just put some in and actually use a teaspoon, although it probably won't affect the taste, it eventually effects the pocketbook because if you do this consistently, you'll have to buy vanilla twice as often.

This goes for other things around the house such as laundry detergent or fabric softener. A few pennies add up to dollars very quickly!

How true!

Happy 234th Birthday, America!

July 4th, 2010 at 09:29 pm

Although I have a few students who might disagree, I wasn't around on July 4th, 1776, when the signers of the Declaration of Independence started signing the document that declared our freedom. I realize they didn't all sign on the 4th, but it the day the United States has chosen to celebrate.

It's funny that on the 4th most of us equate it with fun -- cook outs, family and friends get together, good food, and fireworks. It sure wasn't a picnic when those brave souls decided to give England a piece of their mind.

I believe we are indeed fortunate to live in a country that has so many freedoms.

We are celebrating with steaks, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, 3 grape tomatoes from my husband's garden, blueberry muffins, and strawberries, blueberries and bananas...the closest I can come to red white and blue salad. Sounds like party food to me!

Gourmet Kitchen Ramblings

July 3rd, 2010 at 02:42 pm

I just don’t know how I do it. That’s what I told my husband the other day. He just laughed because he knows I’m being my usual sarcastic self.

After watching some of the food shows and reading some magazines, I don’t know how I cook in my non gourmet kitchen! I don’t have the 8 burner professional stove, the huge side by side refrigerator, the walk in pantry, or the gourmet cookware. I do have a few fairly decent pots and pans and two of my favorites I inherited from my grandmother and they aren’t gourmet. Just well made and well taken care of – they are over 50 years old. And we won’t mention my cast iron skillet that was purchased used, OK?

I certainly don’t shop at the fancy stores or markets. And I don’t have a wine cellar. Egad! What’s wrong with me? How can I cook without all these things?!

I am thinking of doing a little remodeling in the kitchen area in the next few days. We bought a gallon of paint and a new paint color always seems to refresh. Granted, it won’t be on HGTV’s Bang for your Buck with the multi thousand redo, but it will probably work just fine. At least on my budget.
I guess my new excuse for not cooking is to tell hubby that I can’t cook in my currently outdated, non gourmet kitchen and that we either need to truly remodel or go out.

I don’t think he’ll believe it! He knows me too well.

All right, where’s that paintbrush?

Hometown Challenge

July 2nd, 2010 at 02:44 pm

Our hometown put out a challenge. The challenge was for people to spend so much a month in locally owned businesses. I don’t remember the amount, but it was not a huge amount …I’m thinking maybe $50.

I think it is important to try and support the businesses that are owned and run by locals. Although chains seem to offer lower prices on many things, it is the locals who truly support local economy because they live and work in the community.

We try to buy locally when we can. I like to see the little guy (or gal) become a success in business if they truly want to run one the right way. And, it seems most of these folks truly appreciate our business.

As we start the July 4th weekend, perhaps we can rejoice in the freedoms we have, and one of those is the freedom to patronize the businesses of our choosing. Although not in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution, it is one of our rights…we don’t have to, like the song says, “owe our soul to the company store.”

Saving for a stove

July 1st, 2010 at 02:40 pm

Only my husband knows my secret and until two weeks ago, he was blissfully unaware.

I want a new stove. Read…want, not need. My stove is a few years old and it works fine. I try to keep it very clean not only for appearance but also for sanitary reasons. I will admit I hate cleaning the oven though!

But, I want a new ceramic cook top stainless steel stove. I like sleek shiny items for the kitchen like many men like sleek shiny sports cars. I don’t have the room or the budget for a professional stove and with my asthma, I’m not sure I could have a gas stove anyway. Last summer we purchased a new fridge because ours was dying and it was old. We decided to get a stainless steel one since almond was a hard color to buy around here. That’s what we had before. We were limited to what we could get because in the 1970s when our house was built, they didn’t allow for huge refrigerators and we certainly aren’t redoing the kitchen for a fridge.

So, I have been saving a few dollars here and there to save up for this luxury item.

Yesterday we stopped by the auction and picked up $28 for the stuff we took there. We normally donate our items to a charity, but these were items I didn’t think they’d want or take so I have $28 to put in my stove fund. We plan on taking a few more items next week. We aren’t making a huge amount, but we are cleaning out the shed and the garage and getting rid of stuff and hopefully getting a little closer to my goal. I still have a ways to go.

My husband gave me his extra change and I have been squirreling change for the past couple of months and we took it to the bank to put in the stove account. He wondered why I was putting money into this little savings account a few dollars at a time. We keep a small amount of money in it as an emergency fund. So, I finally told him. And he’s gladly gotten on board because he says he knows he’ll enjoy my use of it when I get it.

I am up to $284.74. I have a ways to go, but that’s OK. I think saving for it will make me appreciate it that much more.

So now you know my secret! Maybe I should also save some extra to hire someone to clean the oven!