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Archive for April, 2011

P is for Pantry

April 30th, 2011 at 08:20 pm

Ah, the pantry! I have a love-hate relationship with my pantry.

I love having one, but wish it were larger. To be quite honest I have pantry envy when I see Ina Garten's walk in pantry or when we watch House Hunters and those big fancy houses have those large walk in pantries.

My pantry is pretty stocked. That's a good thing, I think. I keep pasta, beans, canned goods, sugar, crackers, and cereal on hand. I remember a few years ago a gal I worked with kind of looked down her nose at my wedding gift. She didn't cook a whole lot, but had put down many fancy dishes and pots and pans for her kitchen. I bought her the measuring cup she wanted, but then I bought her two large bags of groceries to fill her pantry. I purchased things like salt, pepper, lemon pepper, ketchup, mustard, canned soup, and crackers for the food part and then bought her a few cleaning supplies. She thanked me, but I could tell she wasn't thrilled. A friend of hers who was like a second mother told her that my gift was very generous and very practical. A couple of months later after she and new hubby started running out of items and she had to replace them, she realized that it wasn't such a bad gift after all.

When I got married over 20 years ago, none of us made a whole lot, so people did two things -- they chipped in and bought me a toaster and they filled a laundry basket with canned goods. What a terrific wedding gift! I was thrilled because I had already bought cleaning supplies for my house and I realized how expensive everything was. It also made me try things I wouldn't normally buy. What a blessing!

I know I've blogged before that my parents grew up during the depression and instilled in me the fear of running out of food. I think that's why I find it vital to keep lots of things on hand. I was reading Ina Garten's new cookbook (checked out from the library) and she said she thought a well stocked pantry made cooking easier, and I would have to agree. Not having to run out and buy a can of this or get some flour or sugar or a spice sure makes it easier to get a dish put together. Plus, I try to buy items on sale so I'm not paying full price. Just today the store I often frequent had a special on Hunts ketchup -- 69 cents a bottle. We don't use a huge amount of it, but I can store a bottle for a couple of months. I like saving money too!

I've been rolling along on this alphabet theme and I had a difficult time today choosing what I would put for "p" because I had lots of choices. I could put pasta, potatoes, pepper, popcorn, pineapple, pizza, pomegranate, peanut butter, peppermint, pretzels, pudding and peas. I am happy to say that other than the pizza and pomegranate and peas, I have all these other items in my pantry! Wouldn't Ina be proud?

O is for Onions

April 28th, 2011 at 11:50 pm

I've been remiss on writing on this blog, but life kind of got hectic...over two weeks ago hubby had a scare with chest pain. Since his family has a history of heart attacks, we went to the hospital. Fortunately he had a series of tests and they think they can control his heart rhythm problems with medicines. School got busy with lots of meetings and projects coming due. So, between work and home and trying to keep up the everyday stuff, I didn't get on.

As for my topic, I can't imagine not being able to use onions. I love the scent as they saute in olive oil. They add so much to soups, stews, meatloaf, even potato dishes. And adding them to salads is like adding a jewel. A couple of years ago I convinced hubby he should grow some onions and he told me he couldn't. I told him they were basically fool proof and he took me at my word. He has a green thumb to begin with and after he got the ground ready and planted them, he was amazed at the results. We enjoyed green onions through the summer.

I noticed they have come out with special goggles for those folks who don't want to cry as they slice onions...I'm not sure I'm ready to succumb and buy them, but I guess that's a good idea if one gets put off by the tears and won't use fresh onions.

In the movie "Julie/Julia", Julia's husband comes into the kitchen as she stands over mounds of chopped onions and his eyes water as he enters. I think that has to be one of my favorite parts of the movie -- she wanted to chop like a pro and stayed with it until she could. I sort of wonder what she did with all those onions after she chopped them!

N is for Noodles

April 17th, 2011 at 08:55 pm

It's funny how things go in cycles. For awhile the idea of eating bread was considered radical and horrible and now bread making has become somewhat popular again. Same thing with casseroles...I saw a bunch of casserole dish recipes in a recent cooking magazine.

I would say noodles are sort of becoming popular with some. Personally, I never stopped liking them. But, for some of my friends, they kind of looked down their noses that I would even think about fixing chicken and noodles or beef and noodles.

Recently our newspaper actually ran some noodle recipes in it and I figured being smack dab in the middle of the state of Illinois, if our paper is running noodle recipes, they must be popular again.

Am I the only one who remembers people making noodles at home -- ideally one a kitchen table with a metal top? My mom never made them, but the neighbors did and it was fun to watch. One of our local churches has a chicken and noodle dinner for a fundraiser and they have a large crowd, including folks who don't go to the church, just because they have this dinner with their homemade noodles.

I have a friend who claims she doesn't cook, but she does make her own noodles.

And it is fascinating to go to an Amish store and see various types of noodles that were made there...garlic noodles, whole wheat noodles, well, you get the idea.

I remember a few years ago it was a big thing to invite folks over to make your own pasta. Do people do that anymore?

People also used to say if you did something bright, that was using your noodle. That must have been when it was OK to eat those carbs!

However, Ramen noodles seem to be a big hit because of their ease. Did they lose popularity?

Do you have a favorite noodle dish? I would have to claim chicken and noodles as one of mine.

M is for Macaroni

April 16th, 2011 at 02:49 pm

Ahhh, the ultimate comfort food for me is macaroni and cheese!

I remember being in college and a friend of mine invited me over to her house and she said she and her mom had a surprise for me...homemade macaroni and cheese! Homemade anything was pretty darn good when you eat cafeteria food. I was in college in the late 70s and 80s where if you lived on campus, you automatically paid room and board. I'm sure it wasn't made with gourmet cheese, probably Velveeta, but wow, was it good!

I like experimenting with different cheeses for my own macaroni and cheese. I even like using different types of pasta. One never knows what one can come up with.

I often use the macaroni or elbow pasta for "goulash." My husband enjoys it and when we get a chance to visit his aunt and uncle, I try to make some before we visit because she likes it pretty well too. My recipe isn't anything extraordinary, but here it is:

Goulash
ground beef browned with chopped onion
elbow macaroni cooked
1 bell pepper chopped and sauted
can of tomato sauce

I add it all together and simmer for awhile. It is a good make ahead meal as well as a fast meal. I didn't put measurements because it all depends on how much I need to make at the time.

Speaking of macaroni, I never did figure out the line about Yankee Doodle...have you?

L is for Leftovers

April 15th, 2011 at 12:17 am

I think we should find another name for "Leftovers" because I think it the term, not the stuff, that turns folks off.

My husband wouldn't think of eating a "leftover" (I don't ask why he feels that way), but if I ask him if he's like to have me make a "TV Dinner" out of it for him to heat up for lunch, he's all for it.

My lunches this week have basically been leftovers from this and that. I had tuna from some tuna salad I made a couple of days ago. Before that I had those leftover kabobs from our meal on Saturday night. I will take little bits of this and that and make a soup or stew. I've brought home vegetables I couldn't eat and put them with leftover vegetables here at home and made a lovely vegetable broth.

If you ever read books about folks growing up with little, it is amazing what they did with leftovers. If you like an inspiring little tome, try "A Nickel's Worth of Skim Milk" where the author talks about growing up in a single parent household years ago. Cooking in that household was creative because it had to be!

There are some things that are just better "left over". I think a lot of stews are tastier the second day than they were the first.

So, do you use your leftovers?

K is for Kabobs

April 10th, 2011 at 06:51 pm

When I was growing up, kabobs or shisk-kabobs were something I knew about, but we never had. I don't know why. I guess my mom wasn't interested in making them or trying them or whatever. The closest we ever got to kabobs were cooking hot dogs on a stick.

I've been experimenting at a restaurant because every so often they have a special. Last night it was pork kabobs. It was pork tenderloin chunks, pieces of green bell pepper and pieces of red onion. I'm not sure what they seasoned it with, but it was prett tasty.

A few months ago they had swordfish kabobs. I had never eaten swordfish so I figured I was being experimental, but it was pretty tasty as well.

I really like grilled vegetables, so I'm thinking I need to invest in some kabob skewers -- either the wooden ones or the metal ones. I think I could have a good time coming up with different vegetables to put on them as well as different types of meat.

Do you have any favorite things for kabobs?

J is for Jelly and Jam

April 9th, 2011 at 08:55 pm

We don't eat a lot of jellies and jams at our house. I know I like it every so often with toast, and of course, if I take a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, it is useful to have it around. Although, I've gotten to where I like peanut butter and honey sandwiches as well, but I digress.

I remember years ago when I was living at home and we had an apple tree and the apples weren't really good for plain eating, yet they made delightful jelly. I would wash and peel and core the apples and cook them down. Then, strain until I had juice and add the pectin and sugar and put in sterilized jars. I remember admiring the clear beautiful jelly and thinking it was a good thing. I gave quite a bit of it away for Christmas, but we ate a lot of at home.

I have great respect for those folks who can and make their own jams and jellies because it is hot and sticky work. But oh what a reward when it's in those lovely jars!

I made grape jelly too because we had some grape vines, but unfortunately they weren't seedless. But the jelly was pretty good. My dad wasn't too keen on it. He explained when he was growing up during the Depression; someone gave his mom all the grapes they pick off the arbor. So she and my dad picked the vines clean and she made jar after jar of grape jelly. Back then refrigeration was truly an ice box -- a box with metal insulation and the ice man came and sold them a big block of ice. He said there were many meals that were basically grape jelly on bread. I can see where he got tired of it.

On another aspect, it's always interesting to see the jelly and jams offered at restaurants. Most will have grape and possibly strawberry. Every so often a restaurant that specializes in breakfast will have a bigger assortment.

I haven't bought a lot of jelly or jam or even preserves. I remember I made pork chops with apricot preserves a few times and it was pretty good. I guess I need to pull out that recipe and try it again, but I will need to purchase a jar of apricot preserves -- that's probably why I haven't made it lately.

I just checked our fridge and we have one bottle of jelly -- grape. Do people buy an assortment or just stick to a favorite or what's on sale? I know we used to buy stuff that on sale for our toast when I lived at home -- had to squeeze that dollar as best we can.

So, what's in your fridge?

I is for Ice Cream

April 9th, 2011 at 12:47 am

My husband says I'm boring. Maybe I am. My favorite ice cream is vanilla. During the summer I make vanilla ice cream and it is rich, creamy, and cold. I use the recipe that came with the stand mixer so it isn't anything special.

It's interesting that so many folks love different types of ice cream and Baskin Robbins has made a fortune on selling so many flavors. I know even the freezer at the store boasts many different types and flavors.

But, I'm boring and I stick with vanilla. It's not that I don't mind the others, but if I have a choice, that's my first choice.

Oh yeah, just as a note, hubby doesn't mind helping me eat that homemade ice cream, even if it is vanilla!

Do you have a favorite flavor?

H is for Ham

April 2nd, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Easter will be here near the end of the month, and it's a tradition we have ham.

We found one reasonably and it is safely tucked into our freezer.

I am not a huge ham lover, but my husband is. We try to find one that isn't loaded with sodium -- yes, I know they are salty to a degree.

I've tried different ways to fixing them. I think my favorite has to be with a can of soda.

I make a mixture with Coca-Cola, honey, and Dijon mustard and pour it over the top of the ham. I then put it on low in the Crock-pot (this is an already cooked ham) so it warms up. It seems to give it a good flavor and my husband really likes it.

What do you like to use with your ham?

G is for Gratin

April 1st, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Potato Gratin...all I can say is yum!

While in South Carolina, I saw a magazine in our hotel room and one evening I was leafing through it and found this recipe. I copied it down and tried it this week. My husband gave it two thumbs up after he had three servings.

Potato Gratin
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and halved
2 tsp salt
4 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 T olive oil
2 large onions, halved and and thinly sliced
2/3 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese

Boil potatoes until tender. Mash potatoes with butter, milk, and white pepper. Transfer to a greased deep casserole, leaving 1 inch on top. Heat oil and cook onions until soft and golden brown. Spread onions over potated and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until heating through and cheese is bubbly.

I actually made this ahead and heated it up a couple of nights later. I baked it a little longer since it was in the oven and covered it for part of the time. Wow, was it tasty.

I think you change the flavoring by changing the types of potatoes and cheese.