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Archive for May, 2011

W is for Water

May 30th, 2011 at 03:51 pm

If you are shaking your head, you are probably wondering how I'm going to talk about water and cooking.

Besides being the best hydration tool around, we use water all the time when we cook. We add water to a chicken, herbs, and vegetables and the amount determines whether we will roast (very little) or cook and have broth.

I made fresh squeezed lemonade and there was more water than lemon juice. Good thing or I would have quite the pucker.

We use water to cook pasta, boil eggs, and even make a simple bread.

Some folks put flavors in their water bottles to make flavored water.

I can't imagine not having water to make coffee or tea.

We are blessed to have water to use and often abuse. It hydrates us as well as cooks and clean.

V is for Victory Garden

May 28th, 2011 at 01:31 pm

During World War II, many people planted small gardens and called them Victory Gardens. With rationing and shortages, people wanted to show victory over the enemies, and probably victory over hunger.

My husband is a World War II buff. (He also likes the history of the Civil War and Lincoln.) His dad fought during WWII and was actually under George Patton. Bet you can guess who my husband's hero is, but that's another post. My husband's dad and my parents also almost always had a small garden of sorts during the summer. They still referred to it as a Victory Garden although the war had long been over.

Humans are creatures of habit and although we aren't fighting the Axis powers, we still call our garden a Victory Garden. Unfortunately we have to have it in the front yard because the back yard is too shady. Hubby has planted tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, radishes, and herbs. We had our first radish about a week ago. It would have been sooner except a bunny thought my husband had planted this wonderful garden all for him and he chewed the radishes and lettuce to the ground. Hubby bought some non toxic rabbit repellent and started over. Maybe he can claim "victory" over the rabbit.

There's something exciting about having your own vegetables. I've already used some onions and lettuce as well as some herbs. I'm looking forward to a summer and fall of wonderful things.

I guess our victory will be won over high grocery prices and junk food.

How about you? Are you planting a Victory Garden?

U is for Understated

May 19th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Most of the television chefs go on and on about how flavorful this is and how grand this tastes and how we need texture and color, and size. And I agree. To a point.

Some of my favorite recipes aren't the most exciting as far as all of the above mentioned. Some are just basic recipes that may be a comfort food, or something that we like.

Take for example mashed potatoes. Basically potatoes parboiled, mashed with something or other, and served either plain, with butter, or gravy. Unless they are dry, they are usually pretty good. My husband loves them made with heavy whipping cream. I like adding garlic when I make them with milk. I've made them with broth, as well as different types of cheese and even sour cream. Nothing glorious and earth shattering, but good, nonetheless.

I'm looking forward to this summer when we have homegrown tomatoes. Certainly not a gourmet dish, but a tomato picked fresh from the garden, washed, and with salt and pepper is delicous.

I like some of the fancier things here and there, but I think it is the common foods, almost the bland foods, that make the others more exciting.

I tried a new recipe that while not fancy cuisine, we both liked and I will make again. I can see where changing the cheese will certainly change the flavor. The recipe is from Ian Garten, a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa. I cut the recipe down and used common tomatoes from the store.

Tomatoes Roasted with Pesto



2 to 2 1/2 lbs large red tomatoes
3 T olive oil
2 t dried oregano
Kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Pesto
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425

Core the tomatoes and then slice them across (not through the stem) in 1/2 inch sliced. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a sheet pan. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, spread each with the pesto and sprinkle with the Parmesean cheese and bake 7 to 10 minutes until Parmesan is melted and begins to brown.

I like the fact I used store bought tomatoes that normally wouldn't have a whole lot of flavor and with a few simple ingredients, made them taste good, but wasn't incredibly fancy.

I've tried a lot of different tomato dishes and I'm pleased that most of them have been pretty good. Maybe tomatoes are like potatoes -- very versatile, if understated.

T is for Testing

May 15th, 2011 at 06:30 pm

I just typed the headline and chuckled to myself because if I were at work, someone would say, do you meant state tests or local assessments. But, no, I'm talking about testing recipes.

I like to read murder mysteries. One of my favorite authors is Joanne Fluke because I like her character, Hannah, but also because she has cookie recipes throughout.

I tested a cookie recipe today and I'm very pleased. It is for chocolate covered raisin cookies and they are pretty tasty. My husband liked cookies, but not raisins. I wanted to bake some cookies as a treat for my bosses for a meeting we have this week so I didn't feel guilty making these cookies and not leaving them for my hubby to enjoy. He's trying to cut back on the sweets a bit, so he's not tempted. I'm sharing it because I think you might like to try it:

Chocolate Covered Raisin Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 small package (makes 4 half cups) butterscotch instant pudding mix – not sugar free
½ cup white sugar (granulated)
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups quick rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup chocolate covered raisins (I used Nestle Raisinets, an 11 ounce bag. There was ¼ cup left)
1 cup butterscotch chips (6 oz package)
This makes a very heavy, stiff dough. If you have a mixer, you might want to use it!
Mix the softened butter, dry pudding mix, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat until creamed. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Add the baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Add the flour in half cup increments, mixing after each addition. Do the same with the oats.

By hand, add the chocolate covered raisins and butterscotch chips.
Drop the cookie dough by rounded Tablespoons onto cookie sheets. Works best if you have parchment paper on the cookie sheets.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool two minutes on cookie sheets and then move to wire racks to cool.


The author in her acknowledgement page thanked one of her in-house story editors who tasted everyone one of the recipes. Now, isn't that a sacrifice?!?

S is for "So Many"

May 10th, 2011 at 12:23 am

I was checking my list to see what I had put down for "S". What a list: spices, soups, stews, salad, salmon, struedel, sandwiches, salsa, star fruit, shrimp, scallops, subs, strata, squash, salt, sea salt, and a new word I learned: "stewp" which is a soupy stew.

I honestly don't know where to begin. Which of these gets the honor of representing "S"?

I guess I could do a little combining -- I can't imagine making a soup, stew, stewp, or strata without spices. It's interesting how a spice can change the taste. I like tarragon, especially when using potatoes. I use an awful lot of turmeric because it is supposed to be very good for you. I have been using sea salt in place of regular salt, because it supposedly means you can use less and get the same amount of flavor.

As for salads, growing up, I thought there was a green salad made with iceberg lettuce, and then a couple of salads like bean salad and potato salad. I tell you, I grew up kind of naive when it came to food. It's interesting to see how salads can be so different. And how a different type of lettuce can make it a different salad. Then there's the whole thing about mayonnaise salads and vinegar salads. It's almost dizzying to think about them all.

So, I'll admit it...I took the easy way out. Any "S" foods you care to add?

R is for Recipe

May 8th, 2011 at 08:53 pm

Recipes…I wonder if they are good or bad. OK, a weird idea, I know, but would we be more creative if we didn’t have them. How many of us follow them word for word? I know I do the first time, but after that, I usually don’t, unless it is a precise baking dish.

I have a few cook books and I use recipes from them, but I never did the experiment like the gal in Julie/Julia using every recipe. There are some things I’m simply not interested in. I have been creating my own cookbook by typing up recipes I try and like, and then put them in a three ring binder. Right now I have two binders, but I haven’t put everything in them yet.

I like trying new recipes because I like a challenge. I’m not a gourmet, but I enjoy working with something and seeing if I can make it come out. Then, if I like it, I try to tweak it and make it more personal.
I tried a new recipe yesterday for a cookie bar that has coffee in it. I think this is one of those recipes that can be as personal as you like it. I used sour cream, but I think next time I’ll use yogurt. I did use a flavored coffee and it did give it a nice little kick. I think this recipe could be changed to add cocoa as well as coffee and make it even more chocolately. I may try that.

My grandmother used to make fudge and peanut brittle around the holidays and sell it to make some extra spending money. I was a little kid then and remember they were pretty good. When my grandmother died, my mom got her recipes. She tried the peanut brittle once and burned it. She decided it was too hard. We made the fudge each year and it was pretty rich. A few years ago I asked my mom for the peanut brittle recipe and she let me use it on the condition I gave it back immediately. I thought that was amusing because she wouldn’t ever use it again, but I did as she asked. I basically made the peanut brittle for her anyway since she liked peanut brittle so much. I now have the peanut brittle recipe since my mom has died and I find it incredibly funny that she was so secretive. It wasn’t like it was the Coca-Cola formula or the secret spices for KFC. If anyone likes something I make, I’m happy to share the recipe because I think they are meant to be shared and enjoyed.

Since I wrote that, I’m sharing the coffee-chocolate chip bars and hope if you find time to make them, you enjoy them.

Coffee-Chocolate Chip Bars
¼ cup butter
¼ cup sour cream
1 egg
½ cup cold coffee (flavored is great!)
½ cup sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup chocolate chips (mini ones work great if you have them)
¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9 inch cake pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine butter, sour cream, and egg. Stir in coffee and sugar. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix gently just to combine. Fold in chocolate chips (and nuts). Spread batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until done with a cake tester. Place cake pan on a wire rack to cool. Cut into bars.

Q is for Quick Bread

May 4th, 2011 at 12:20 am

A friend of mine kids me she has a carb deficiency because she loves bread. I often share some different breads with her because she likes trying them.

I remember growing up we had that soft white bread...the kind you could make into a ball because it was so soft and smushy. My neighbor used to bake bread each week because her husband was diabetic and she had to watch what he ate. She had a special yeast recipe that she made for him so he had the bread for sandwiches.

I try to make bread each week for our dinners. I have made both yeast breads and quick breads. I "Googled" Quick Breads and Allrecipes.com claims 590 quick bread recipes. I would say cornbread and soda breads are quick breads. Banana bread is as well.

We went to a local bakery a couple weeks ago and I was astounded to see a loaf of pumpkin bread priced at $13. One loaf. That's a lot of money for a quick bread. Their other sweet breads were the same price. Granted, I'm not a professional baker, but I think about all the loaves of banana bread I've given away...apparently I've given away a small fortune!

I like trying new bread recipes and quick breads are usually pretty fast and easy.

All these choices and they are a long way from that "soft" white bread of my youth!