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Archive for January, 2011

Ping, ping, ping

February 1st, 2011 at 01:06 am

The little ice crystals are bouncing off our windows and the driveway looks like a skating rink...I think the winter storm has come!

I live in Central Illinois and we are supposed to have freezing rain and then a bunch of snow...possibly close to a foot by Wednesday morning. None of it sounds wonderful, but I'm just hoping the ice doesn't result in power outage. We had an ice storm a little over 4 years ago and it didn't take long for the house to get cold with no electricity. We had a fireplace, but it didn't put off a lot of heat. I know that little storm cost us extra money because we bought firewood and ate out as much as we could not because we couldn't eat what we had, but in an effort and excuse to sit someplace warm and thaw out.

Do you hear it, the ping, ping, ping of ice hitting my window?

Snow's a coming....glad the pantry is full!

January 30th, 2011 at 08:22 pm

We've been warned...Central Illinois is supposed to get freezing rain and snow in the next few days. The freezing rain scares me the most...we had the freezing rain/ice storm over 4 years ago and were without power over two days. Two cold, miserable days. I have new respect for those folks who heated with a fireplace -- I don't know how they did it.

The forecast is calling from anywhere between 10-20 inches from Monday evening to Wednesday. Then on Wednesday it is predicted we will have high wind gusts.

Thursday has equally good news...temperatures below zero and wind chills even lower.

A friend wrote as she talked about the weather..."if you were planning on doing your grocery shopping tomorrow night, you might want to do it today." Amen, sister!

I know a gal who rarely has anything in the house. She often says she has to go out to eat because she didn't have anything to bring for lunch. If she thinks of it, she'll stop at a convenience store to pick up a frozen dinner for lunch. (Can we say expensive?) Before Christmas we were supposed to have a bad storm and I suggested she hit the store before she went home and she said she didn't have time because some friends might stop by. I always wonder what she'll do if her car won't start. Snack on some tree bark? Eat a few weeds? OK, I digress....

We hit the store this weekend to pick up a few fresh things like milk and bread and a few items to replenish items I've used throughout the week. Granted, most of the stuff in my pantry would require some heating to make it taste the best, but as long as we have power, we could go quite a few days if need be.

I certainly hope the forecasters are wrong and we don't get that much snow. I am glad we have the convenience of modern heat and cooking. Those folks in log cabins and mud houses were made of stern stuff!

A new tax! Grrrr

January 29th, 2011 at 03:17 pm

The state of Illinois in a lame duck session, voted a new income tax in and yesterday's paycheck was the first time they took the additional tax.

It was sizeable. Like over $50. My last paycheck had me paying $12 more in federal tax. No, I didn't get a raise. I'm not really sure why I am paying more in federal tax and everyone I talked to said their pay was different too.

I get the purpose of taxes and normally I don't complain. But, what worries me is if the state doesn't handle the new tax any better than they handled what they previously had, will I be forking over even more in a few years?

Come on government have to do better! Fortunately I can handle less pay even if I don't like it, but I know there are people out there who can't. For some, that might be the money they are putting back to save and now it's gone. I'm beginning to think the government isn't helping people save money for themselves. What do you think?

The fridge is full and my apologies to Paula Deen

January 23rd, 2011 at 09:52 pm

Ah...satisfaction! I told my husband that it was nice to open the fridge and it is full. There's something gratifying about knowing I'm ready for this week with some meals ready to heat and eat.

I did my usual put the chicken in the Crockpot thingy Friday night. Saturday morning I had a cooked chicken with rich broth. It's cold here and cold air bothers my asthma so other than a quick run to the grocery store for a few items, we were home and I spent most of the afternoon fixing things.

I baked bread with rice flour. I like having different breads when we have supper and I hate to spend gourmet prices for stuff you can make for a lot less. I heat it a few slices when we are ready to eat and it usually tastes pretty good.

I am trying a new recipe. I was looking through a Paula Deen cookbook and saw this recipe with rice.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans green beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 (4-ounce) jar pimentos
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (6-ounce) box long-grain wild rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
Pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat butter or oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients to bowl and mix together until thoroughly combined.

Pour into a greased 3-quart casserole dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for a few minutes before serving

I'm going to admit that I didn't fix it exactly. The cookbook said to use a whole box of Uncle Ben's rice. I used the rice I had on hand.

I also used different vegetables. I roasted a big pan of celery, carrots, onions, zucchini and potatoes to put in a chicken pot pie so I used part of that. I like green beans, but I thought I'd use what I had. Why spend more than I need to? Hope Paula won't mind.

I also substituted the whole can of cream of celery soup with a half a can of cream of chicken (again, I used half of it for the chicken pot pie) and made up with it with plain yogurt. Sorry, Paula. I not only want to save some money, but cut out some of the fat.

I also shredded bits and pieces of a couple of cheeses that I had in the fridge. So, this is no longer a purebred recipe. Hope Paula understands!

I look forward to trying this recipe. As cold as it is, a nice hot casserole for supper will be yummy, and far more reasonable than going out! I just hope Paula Deen won't hate me forever!

Zucchini Casserole

January 22nd, 2011 at 03:00 pm

I tried a new recipe the other day.

I got it from the cookbook, "What Would Jesus Eat" by Don Colbert and the cookbook said it was adapted from The cookbook said it was an appetizer, but we don't eat courses, so I used it as a casserole.

Overall, it wasn't bad, but perhaps a bit bland. If I make it again, I think I might add some other herbs.

Zucchini Casserole

3 cups thinly sliced unpeeled zucchini
1 cup biscuit baking mix
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
4 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons snipped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoran or oregano leaves
dash of pepper
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the zucchini, baking mix, Parmesan cheese, onion, eggs, salt, parsley, marjoram, pepper, garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl; mix well. Spread the zucchini mixture in a greased 9x13x2 inch baking dish. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; cool slightly. For appetizers cut into 1x2 inch rectangles and serve. For a casserole, cut into squares.

On the bright side, it was filling and hot on a very cold day.

Oven Beef Stew

January 19th, 2011 at 12:37 am

I enjoy trying new ways of doing things. I've seen and read recipes for making stew in the oven and I thought, I ought to try that. I've made it on top of the stove and I've also put it in one of my Crockpots. Although the Crockpot is adequate, I really like it on top of the stove...but, I have another way I like it.

My basic recipe for beef stew really doesn't have any measurements. I used a cast iron Dutch oven. I started with a pound of stew meat and if you can get it tenderized, so much the better. I did try something a little different and that is I dried the stew meat off before sauteing it in olive oil in the Dutch oven. It did brown better (thank you, Julia Child). I then chopped an onion and browned it with the meat. I chopped a long stalk of celery and put that in. While that was cooking, I added a little Worcestershire sauce. When everything was really going, I added 1/4 cup of grape juice. I know some folks use wine. I know very little about wine, but we drink grape juice with our dinner so I thought, why not add it? After that I added two or three chopped carrots and 4-5 peeled and cubed potatoes. I know most folks prefer less potatoes, but hubby hasn't met a potato he doesn't like.

Before taking it off the top of the stove, I put in a large can of tomato sauce. I mixed everything together, added some tumeric and pepper, and then put the lid on and put in a 325 oven for 3 1/2 hours.

Wow. It was yummy. The juices blended and everything was cooked and delicious. I took a tentative bite, declared it was good, and then let it cool a bit and put it in the fridge.

Tonight I heated it up on a low simmer and it was delicious. I certainly would do it again.

Since it was pretty cold today, it made for a hearty meal with some fruit and whole wheat bread.

Three Dollar Pot

January 17th, 2011 at 04:26 pm

A few years ago we were browsing at one of these antique malls and I saw it. No, there wasn't a beam of light directing my was actually sitting admist a bunch of other stuff. It was a covered enamel ware pot. It was light blue and that is really what caught my eye -- I like blue. It was a size I didn't have in a pot or pan -- not huge and not tiny. I was thinking, hey, wonder what this costs.

As you may have already gathered, it was $3. No chips, it was clean, nothing burned on it. Looked like it hadn't been used, in fact.

Well, it became mine. And I've decided I got a bargain. I have cooked green beans in it. I have made soups in it. And I use it to bake no knead bread.

It's not fancy and I'm sure most chefs would turn their nose up at it.

But, for $3, it has been a workhorse for me and I'm glad I found it. I truly feel I got a bargain.

Dusting my kitchen

January 16th, 2011 at 08:24 pm

If you've never read any of the Amelia Bedelia books, the next time you are at the library or in a book store, be sure and find a couple of these books and read them. They are basically kids books about a gal who is so literal. I remember she was working as a maid at a house and the lady of the house left her a list and it said to "dust" rooms. Amelia didn't know where to find dust, but in the bathroom she did find some "dusting powder" and she went around and "dusted" the room. It's a great story to talk about what we are trying to communication and what it says and what it really says.

Well, I dusted my kitchen today. I didn't plan on it and certainly wasn't thrilled with the cleanup, but it happened. I was talking to my brother and he was talking about how he often stops and gets some fresh bread at a small town near here because he loves the flavor and the freshness. My brother and I did not grow up together so in the past couple of years, we are working on building a relationship. I thought I'd be a good sister and bake him a loaf of bread. I don't believe he reads my blog so I think the surprise is safe!

Anyway, the recipes calls for 6-7 cups of flour, but you don't put them in all at once. (I shared this recipe previously.) You put in some and then keep adding until the dough isn't super sticky. I had about 6 cups in and went to add about another half of cup. I turned off the mixer so I wouldn't have it all over. However, I guess the dough was up far enough that when I turned the mixer back on, the flour was thrown out and as you know, flour travels.

Well, my kitchen has been dusted and Amelia Bedilia is no where to be found!

Crockpot oatmeal

January 14th, 2011 at 12:35 am

It's darn cold here. I mean, bone chilling, wind whipping frigid. I'm sure it is worse some places, but I hate going out when it hurts to breath and getting up in the morning seems to be an challenge in either endurance or ignorance...those wood floors are frosty and we keep our house pretty cool.

As I get ready to go to work, cold cereal isn't making my day. I was looking at some recipes for using the Crockpot to fix oatmeal so it's hot and ready when I get up. One recipe said to add all the ingredients and put it on low...the thing that worried me was it said add the half and half. I thought that might curdle it or something. I looked at two other recipes and it mentioned just adding the oatmeal and water and then adding the half and half right before you eat it. I don't have half and half so it would be good ole' milk, but I think I might try that.

I'm thinking this might be a good, warm, cheap breakfast. One one of the sites, the person wrote that they make extra and put the leftovers in the fridge in a loaf pan. When it sets up they slice it and put it in the microwave for another hot breakfast.

Just wondering if anyone else has tried this.

A Winter Weekend

January 9th, 2011 at 07:59 pm

Here is it Sunday afternoon in January. It's been a busy weekend getting errands run and things done, including laundry. I put a whole chicken in the Crockpot Friday night and yesterday used it to make chicken and dressing casserole, chicken and rice casserole, and now I'm trying to figure out what to do with the rest. I can take the easy way out and have chicken and noodles with the chicken and broth, or make chicken stew with vegetables, or another chicken casserole. My hubby picked up the chicken at Aldi and I notice it was $4.71. Getting three meals for a chicken under $5 isn't bad! Plus it means the bulk of three suppers is basically taken care of -- I just need to either put the casseroles in the oven to bake or heat up the chicken and broth with noodles. I roasted a large pan of vegetables to add to the chicken and rice casserole so I can either heat them up as a side dish, or instead of the chicken and noodles, use the chicken, broth and vegetables and make chicken stew.

I made a loaf of Artisan bread this afternoon. My pastor has been experimenting with making Artisan bread so it reminded me of my No Knead Bread recipe so I pulled it out. I did put a little olive oil with some dried herbs on top of it while it baked. I'm pretty pleased with how nice it looks sitting on the cooling rack.

Other than a couple of things like writing a thank you note and filling out a deposit slip, the bulk of my work here is I can relax and enjoy the comfort of my home on a cold winter day.

Whew...what a whirlwind!

January 8th, 2011 at 02:58 pm

This has been a week to remember! My earlier blog mentioned my 50th birthday and many of you were sweet and wished me a happy birthday and some of you will be achieving the 50 spot as well! Thank you for your nice wishes.

Wednesday night was interesting...we had planned on eating at our favorite restaurant, but I was surprised because my sweet hubby had planned a surprise party. Our server had started to seat us at a table we often frequent and she said no, we don't have room, you have to come here, and there was family and friends waiting. It was a lovely party and my husband outdid himself. He tells me he can't plan things, but I think he did a fabulous job!

The only sad note to the day was a food pantry we support had a fire and had to close for this week. Fortunately some churches are holding a drive to replenish the food and clothing that was lost.

To say this has been a whirlwind week would be an understatement!

Fifty Years

January 5th, 2011 at 02:37 pm

Today is my 50th birthday. Although not ancient, it is still half a decade. I certainly hope I've learned something in these 50 years.

We recently viewed a DVD of Julie/Julia and I didn't think my hubby was paying that close attention. Apparently he was, because on my birthday card he wrote, "Paul Child said it are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life." Paul apparently said that as a toast to Julia. Wasn't that sweet -- for both Paul and for my husband to write on my card?

Ten Money Saving Kitchen Gadgets

January 4th, 2011 at 01:14 am

Here's an article right up my alley -- ten money saving kitchen gadgets. I'm proud to say I own 9 of them and use them.

I make use of my Crockpots -- yes, I know it is a brand name and mine are Rival Crockpots. I can't imagine trying to fix many of my meals without them. I make coffee in my coffee maker and brew my own tea as well because I am, well, cheap.

I grate my own cheese and I actually own two small cheese graters. One is better than the other, but I I've had one over 20 years so I think I've gotten my money out of it.

As much as I liked this url, I would say, unless folks actually use these kitchen gadgets or tools, they won't be saving anything. I made quiche again with some different ingredients this time and I grated my own cheese. I fixed coffee to go with it.

I know some folks just like to have the things, but not using them isn't saving money.

Can you think of any other kitchen tools that save you money? I would have to say my stand mixer saves us money. I've worn out three bread machines and finally gave up on buying another one, but I use it to mix my dough. I use it for other items as well so it's a multi-purpose tool.

We can certainly add to this list, can't we?

A new year of baking

January 1st, 2011 at 09:09 pm

Happy first day of 2011!

I hope you had a wonderful New Year's Eve and that 2011 is a blessed year for all.

We had a delightful time with friends last night. Our pastor and his wife had an open house and we enjoyed good company and yummy snacks.

My pastor enjoys cooking and baking besides wine making. We were talking about bread. He is currently baking artisan bread. We discussed some ways to add herbs. I told him I had a fabulous recipe for white bread I had just tried last week and my husband loved it.

Last week I had time to look through cook books and I was looking at Ina Garten's cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa at Home." The recipe is simple, but delicious.

Honey White Bread
Makes 2 loaves
c warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages of dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cups warm milk (110 degrees)
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (3/4 stick)
1 tablespoons honey
2 extra large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 egg white, lightly beaten

Place water in bowl and add the yeast and sugar allow to dissolve for 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix until blended. Add the egg yolks and 3 cups of flour and salt. Gradually add 2 more cups of flour. Add more flour if necessary. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter or oil and the put the dough in the bowl, then turn over so the top is lightly buttered or oiled. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise for 1 hour it should double in volume.
Grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place in a prepared pan. Cover again with a damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour until doubled in volume.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the tops with the egg white and bake the breads for 40-45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

I could see adding some different things to zip it up like rosemary or oregano or even garlic. I checked on-line with some sites and discovered I can probably freeze the dough after the first rise and have loaves ready to be baked. Now, wouldn't that be cool?