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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!


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 buy something, you get rid of something. Maybe this twofer is a better idea.

As with all things...moderation!


July 21st, 2010 at 02:08 pm

I just read the article about advertising:

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!