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Archive for June, 2011

High School Lessons

June 29th, 2011 at 05:06 am

It is interesting that one’s high school experience can still forge one’s lifetime decisions.

For many, high school was their greatest time of life – making friends, going to dances and parties and growing up. I made friends and learned an incredible amount of the politics of society. I wasn’t in the popular crowd. I didn’t go to dances. Some of the folks who were in the popular crowd were pretty snobby. I had friends and we did things and it was OK.

I’m 50, yet I’m surprised at how some people my age are still trying to relive their high school days. Someone I work with was a wanna be, in other words, she wanted to hang with the ”in” crowd. Well, she is trying to relive this time because someone she went to school with is someone she now works with, and they are now “friends.” Yet she copies everything this person does, right or wrong, because she still wants to be what she perceives as the “in” crowd. It is kind of sad, really. This person’s “friend” is accepting of her because she is using her, not because she really likes her. How incredibly shallow. I guess everyone wants a peep or two. And this person still wants to be accepted by their “hero.”

Some folks talk about high school being the best time of their life. And I’m sure it was. It wasn’t for me, but I learned that being popular isn’t always the most important. Doing what they consider boring isn’t always boring. It is often lonely standing up for what is right. I learned that even when a school district has little money, they will save the sports program at all costs, even if it cuts into academics, and that there is a pecking order in both the student body and the faculty. I saw emotional turmoil and such hatred in those who vied for the popular status and the hollowness of those fake friendships. And one day they were friends, the next day they were back biting, venomous enemies, only to start over the vicious cycle. Yet, I saw the depth of the good people I hung with who were not considered popular – they were the ones who stood by their friends, even if it meant getting made fun of. I saw teachers fighting for what was right. There was both good and bad and so much to be learned besides what was in the textbooks.

Some of these were not fun lessons, but they were certainly life lessons.

Pie Crust Success

June 28th, 2011 at 06:35 am

I have been working on those homemade pie crusts. I used a recipe from Ina Garten for "perfect pie crust". I don't know if it is perfect, but it is pretty darn good. I made enough for two last week and we had quiche on Saturday for lunch. It was pretty good.

Yesterday I tried it again and made blackberry pie. I'm learning more each time I try. I think I got it a little thinner this time. The crust was flaky and good. I'm sure practice will improve and isn't it a shame my husband has to be the taste tester? :-)

Goal two accomplished...on to goal three: pizza!

Never Thought I Was Being Green...

June 26th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I was raised by frugal parents. They had to be, as their parents had to be.

My dad worked full-time and they also has a business on the side. For awhile it was a furniture store. Then it was an antique shop. We went to sales, auctions, etc., always looking for a bargain that could either benefit us personally or their shop financially. That was years ago and my parents have passed.

Last week we went "antiquing." I use the term loosely because many of the items in these antique shops really aren't antiques. We enjoy looking at older stuff whether it is from our childhood, or from over a generation ago.

I often buy my kitchen stuff used. Last year before Pyrex and Fire King and Corningware became popular again, I decided to try and get rid of most of the plastic containers in my kitchen. I keep a few, but for personal use, I use glass ones. I found some refrigerator dishes to store leftovers, and have found some Pyrex dishes for leftovers and some small Corningware dishes to bake in. I like using them because I feel a little safer -- the BPA thing kind of worries me -- but I also just like using glass.

Most of the casseroles and glass dishes in my kitchen were bought "used". They cleaned up great and I enjoy using them. Plus, being the klutz I often am, I figure if I drop one, I'm not out a lot if it breaks.

The other day I was remarking that I was also being a recycler of sorts because I was reusing something someone else didn't want. I don't care if my Pyrex or Corningware doesn't match. I got a great deal on a Corningware dish at the church's rummage sale: $1. It doesn't match anything in my kitchen, but it holds good stuff when I put it in there.

Since most of the stuff anymore isn't made in America, I like using stuff that had been, at one point, made in our country.

In a way, I'm being green. I use and reuse these dishes. I'm not throwing out disposables. And I adopted these unwanted items. I figure I save money by buying them used, and since I'm not buying disposable stuff, I'm not constantly replenishing it so I'm also being frugal. And, if I'm cooking at home, I'm probably saving some money there as well.

Attempting Pie Crusts

June 25th, 2011 at 07:39 am

I have three cooking goals this summer: 1)homemade noodles, 2)pie crusts, and 3)homemade pizza. Last night I worked on the pie crusts.

I have tried to make pie crusts and they weren't flaky and I think I didn't roll them out thin enough. I tried again last night. We are having quiche for lunch using one of them, so we shall see. I guess practice makes perfect.

Noodles!

June 22nd, 2011 at 08:01 am

I am almost ashamed to admit this, but I have never made noodles from scratch. I have three cooking goals this summer and one of them was to make noodles.

So, last Sunday, I looked at recipes, printed one off, and went into the kitchen. I mixed the ingredients, rolled them out as thin as I could, and cut them and let them dry. While they were drying, I put a chicken in the Crockpot with some vegetables and herbs to let it cook and make some broth. That evening when the noodles were dry, I cooked them in the broth and put the chicken in there. I let it simmer for awhile. I then let it cool and put it in the fridge because I knew I'd be working Tuesday and wouldn't have a lot of time to cook when I got home.

We had them last night. I wasn't sure if dh would like it, but he had three helpings so I think my noodle experiment was a success.

Yesterday I was talking to a gal who said she made her noodles and how she admired her mom's talent -- she didn't measure anything, just made a mount of flower on the counter, added an egg, water, and salt and mixed it without getting flour everywhere. She said it was a great way to fill people up on a budget and I'm thinking she is so right!

Here's the recipe I used:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 T butter

Mix, knead for 5 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out to desired thinness and cut. Allow to air dry before cooking.

I'm wondering what kinds of things I can add to make these noodles different...

Potato Casserole

June 20th, 2011 at 08:30 am

Two trips...that's how many times we've been to the library in the past week...and in my life, that is wonderful!

Being cheap and green, I prefer borrowing magazines instead of purchasing them. We hit the jackpot the other day and actually got some of the newer ones. But, even if I'm a month or two behind, that's OK. My world doesn't end if I'm reading something that's not the most current. Plus, when I enjoy the magazines, I return them and do not have to worry about storing them or recycling them.

One of the things I like to look at is recipes. Yeah, go figure, right? So, I found one with one of my husband's favorite food groups...potatoes. It's a type of potato cake. I changed it a little to make a potato casserole because I like my potatoes creamier than the recipe called for.

Potato Casserole

3 lbs potatoes peeled, and parboiled
1/2 cup milk or cream
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp seasoning of your choice
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/4 lb thinly sliced salami, ham or other meat of your choice (optional)


Topping: 1/3 cup grated cheese
1 T seasoned bread crumbs
1 T melted butter

Parboil the potatoes and mash with the milk or cream. Add the beaten eggs. Add the seasoning. Grease a baking dish and add half of the potatoes. Layer the cheese (and meat) and then top with the rest of the potatoes. Spread the topping evenly.
Bake covered at 350 for 30 minutes, and then 5 minutes uncovered to let topping brown a bit. Take out of oven and let it sit for a few minutes.

I think this could be a side dish if you don't add the meat, or a main dish if you do. The original recipe called for fancy cheese, but I used what I had on hand. I wasn't planning on making an extra trip to the store. We usually have potatoes, eggs, cheese, and milk around the house.

I wonder if it could be made ahead and frozen before baking...this might be something to try.

Friday Night with Friends

June 17th, 2011 at 09:18 pm

Our friends just left. We invited them over for dinner and birthday cake. Our friend's birthday is this week and we wanted to celebrate with him and his wife.

Last night we had another friend over for dinner. It's interesting that so many folks are no longer used to being asked. I think we, as a society, overall have gotten used to going out to see friends. I wonder if that is good or not.

We spent a little more than we would have if it had been just us, but in the long run, we still saved money by eating in. We really didn't do it to save money, but because I like to cook and I like to control what goes onto my dinner plate. I made meatloaf tonight and bought a pound of beef and a pound of sausage. I sauted' onions and bell peppers and added that to the meat with eggs, oatmeal, bread crumbs, sage, and oregano. I had enough meat to make two loaves, so I wrapped one and froze it for another dinner. I baked bread using the flour our friends had given us from their trip to Michigan, and baked a cake from scratch. It was a good dinner and I think the two guys liked the meat and potatoes aspect of it, although we did have green beans and fruit salad too.

Last night we had pork roast and I fixed a potato casserole and we had a salad and some of the homemade bread. We had enough roast left over to send a slice home with our friend with some of the leftover potatoes, and enough for me to shred to make pulled pork sandwiches later on.

I know the restaurant industry would probably prefer people eat out, but it was nice being able to relax and visit and not worry about staying too long or not having good service or even the noise of other diners.

Are you inviting anyone over soon?

Today is our anniversary

June 15th, 2011 at 08:33 am

Twenty-one years ago we took our marriage vows and today we celebrate that decision. I'm glad we did. I am married to my best friend and can't imagine my life without him.

Our wedding was not big. We had my mom and dad and godparents and his mom, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. We had a reception for family and friends. We married in his mom's back yard and the reception was at a local community center where my parents lived. My folks didn't have money for a wedding so we paid for almost everything but the cake -- two sheet cakes is what we had.

Instead of a fancy dress, I wore something I had. I bought the cups, plates, and flatware at a discount store, as well as the decorations. A friend and I decorated the room.

We used the money to put a down payment on our first house. When the bank asked us back then if we had 20%, they were surprised that we did. Our goal was to buy less of a house than we could afford, and fix it up and still do things.

Twenty one years later I think we did OK. We are still married, we have moved to another house that is paid for, and we can do things we enjoy.

Sometimes I wish I had the big church wedding because I see the ones on television and in the movies and think they are beautiful. But in the long run, I'm married and we are happy and I think a lifetime of love and security is worth far more than an album of pretty pictures and possibly debt if we had gone wild.

Guess I'm a pragmatist at heart.

I drive my husband crazy...

June 12th, 2011 at 02:34 pm

It's true. I drive my husband crazy.

When I get on a cleaning spree, I go nuts. Then I usually move things around. I tell him that it makes things look different and new and that I'm saving money doing so. He nods his head and agrees, but I really think he thinks I'm nuts. Maybe so, but I like to change things around. I used to change the furniture around a lot just to give rooms different looks. Our old house was a little bigger and I could do that. Can't do that so much with this house. Plus, my husband doesn't handle it when I move the bed because he says he can't find the bathroom at night when he's disorientated. I get that.

Yesterday I took orange oil cleaner to the kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and the woodwork in the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, bathrooms, and hallway. I was thinking how it seemed to refresh the wood and make it look nicer since it was cleaned. Although I spent the money on the cleaner, I felt like I saved money by taking care of something we have.

When I was growing up my parents instilled in me the idea of taking care of things. For example, you don't jump up and down on the sofa because it makes it eventually wear down. You don't do the same thing to a mattress because it can wear down the springs and possibly put too much stress on the rails. You use coasters when you have a drink so you don't have water marks. All these items are free, but can keep things looking nicer. I use trivets when I have hot foods so I don't burn my countertop or table.

I think taking care of things also saves money. I asked my husband not to beat on the wooden arm of his chair because he was scratching it. He thought I was being mean. He sat in my chair and looked at the arm and said, "You don't have have knicks or scratches on it." Yep, I don't. I try to take care of my chair.

During my first year of teaching we put up a tree in the room. That tree was a sorry example of a tree, but it was what was in the basement. I crocheted ornaments for every student to put on the tree and then take home, and we made ornaments. I remember this one student telling me it was the most beautiful tree he had ever seen. I took him seriously and asked why that was. He said that years before his mom had put up a tree, but he and his brother tore it up and mom said she wasn't going to spend money on another tree. I wonder if this student got the point of that lesson!

I may drive my husband crazy, but at least I save him money!

It's Saturday Night!

June 11th, 2011 at 01:28 pm

I remember an old Cat Stevens' song about it being Saturday night...guess I'm aging myself a bit. But, there's something exciting about a Saturday night.

Our Saturday nights are pretty tame. We usually spend the evening with Suze Orman and Gail Vaz-Oxlade. We listen to their discussions about money and budgeting.
It's kind of nice to relax. Usually we have most of our chores done by then and can look forward to Sunday.

Poor old Cat, in his song, said he had money but nobody. Hopefully you all, on this Saturday night, have both someone to love and love you back and some money too!

So, how's your Saturday night?

Z is for Zucchini

June 9th, 2011 at 05:24 pm

It's summer and it's zucchini time!

Actually, I buy zucchini throughout the year. I think I buy more when it is more reasonable.

Years ago a friend of my parents had a big garden and he gave them a zucchini. My mom passed it on and I fixed it. When he found out we liked zucchini, he always send along some because he had plenty. I thought that was very generous and I always made use of it. Fortunately there's usually a bunch of recipes to try. I've tried zucchini bread and even stuff zucchini where you take a large zucchini, slice it in half, carefully scrape out the zucchini, but leave enough so you have a large bowl, cook the zucchini with hamburger, add some cooked rice, mix together and put back in the zucchini bowl and sprinkle with cheese. Put in the oven long enough to melt the cheese and serve.

Until some kind soul gifts me with a large zucchini, I don't think I'll be making that again for awhile. It was a good meal. Now, I'm looking for other recipes for smaller zucchini. I think I found a good one:

Skillet Zucchini

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
6 medium zucchini, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
2 large tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 slices cooked bacon
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
Directions
1.Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Mix in zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper, and pour in water. Cover, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
2.Stir the bread crumbs and soy sauce into the skillet, and mix in Cheddar cheese. Cover, and continue cooking 2 minutes, until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

I just bought zucchini so I will be trying this soon. What do you think?

Y is for Yogurt

June 4th, 2011 at 07:37 am

Most evenings there's a yogurt commercial on. Usually one featuring Jamie Lee Curtis. But yogurt seems to be a mainstay of many women's dairy intake.

Up until a few years ago I didn't know something called "Greek" yogurt existed. It's a little thicker than regular yogurt and seems to be the darling of many television chefs. I'm not saying that to run it down -- I actually like Greek yogurt. I just think it is amusing how something becomes popular and they all sing it's praises.

Years ago when my mom was kind of failing and wouldn't eat a lot, she would eat sweet things. So, about every week I'd bake banana bread. Being the no holds barred person she was, she would critique it and usually tell me it was too dry or this and that. Then I found THE banana bread recipe. It had yogurt in it. I've included it in my blog, but I'm going to print it again because if you haven't tried it, and want to make banana bread, it's amazing. I've also tried adding part banana and part zucchini in the same recipe and it worked well too. It's very moist and although the loaf doesn't turn out as beautiful in shape as many other recipes, it's all about flavor for me.

Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 F

3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
¾ cup chopped walnut pieces (optional)

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

Peel the bananas place in a small mixing bowl…mash

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 combine – don’t overmix.

Our the batter into the loaf pan and baked until golden brown and it has risen…about an hour and 10 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes after removing from oven.


I was looking through my recipes and noticed that Emeril also has a recipe for blueberry muffins that incorporates yogurt. I've made them and they are pretty wonderful too:

Emeril’s Mile-High Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 F

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh for thawed frozen blueberries
½ cup whole milk

Line a 12 muffin tin or spray with non stick spray
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, and lemon zest.

Add the dry ingredients to the yogurt mixture and whisk just until combined, being careful not to overmix

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the batter, again being careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffing cups.

Bake in the oven until puffed up and golden brown, about 20-22 minutes

Remove the oven and let cool in the tin for about 5 minutes

X is for Xavier Steak

June 1st, 2011 at 05:09 pm

I will own up to the fact I really couldn't think of many X words when it came to food so I did an Internet search and came up with Xavier steak.

I have to admit, I'm kind of glad, too. It sounds delicious. There are a loaf of recipes out there -- some call for frying the steak. I kind of like this simple one four at this site:

http://www.food.com/recipe/xavier-steak-130590

We splurged and bought beef filets for the holiday, so I think I will put off making this meal for awhile. We've had our beef quota for the week. It's chicken and pork for the rest of the week and we had pork chops, so I guess it is just chicken.

Maybe I could make Xaiver chicken????