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Tuesday, December 14

I'm Back and in the Kitchen Again!!

I'll admit it...I'm a lousy blogger.  I know I should have never skipped a day writing, cause it becomes a domino effect; miss one, then another, and suddenly, I've forgotten all about it.  I apologize profusely, not that that changes anything.  Even my roomies have "scolded me" over my lack of posting.  Hopefully, you all will forgive me.

Today, we're gonna address something that will warm everyone up...SOUP!!  Soup is a highly under-rated mainstay during winter, something everyone looks forward to on cold winter days.  My offerings to you in this post will be French Onion Soup, Beef Vegetable Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, Minestrone Soup, and Five Bean Soup with Ham. 

Thursday, December 2

The Season of Giving...LIFE

Christmas is the time of year when most of us are preoccupied with thoughts of what gifts to buy for family and friends.  Toys, appliances, and clothes usually top this list.  Well, I'm here today to say that there are better ways to "gift" others, and it won't cost you much more than simply an hour of your time!!  I'm talking about donating blood/plasma to your local bloodbanks. 

What could be MORE in the spirit of the season than to give a gift of life?  You never know when it will be YOUR turn to recieve that gift, either...food for thought, eh?  Face it, we ALL know how easy it is to be in an accident on today's roads.  Having worked at a bloodbank in the past, I've seen firsthand what one simple blood donation can do for others.   

Saturday, November 27

Christmas, Here We Come!!

Now that we've all survived the Thanksgiving tables, it's time to turn out sights on the next holiday that looms...Christmas!!  I've always been a huge fan of homemade gifts, something that really comes from your heart.  Sure...it takes some effort, but it's still a whole lot easier than fighting the crowds at the stores, isn't it?

I'll cover one of the simpler ideas today, and as we move through the month, we'll explore some of the more elaborate creations out there.  Simplicity first, though...after all, why overwhelm? 

Saturday, November 20

And So It Begins...

Hey, everyone!!  Thought I'd just do a quick check-in to let you all know what I'm up to.  Tomorrow, I begin the week of cooking for Thanksgiving dinner.  I know, it's silly...starting cooking 4 days BEFORE dinner?  For me, it's just simpler.  There's ALOT of work involved in a completely homemade holiday dinner.  Why spend one day sweltering in a hot kitchen when, with a little planning, you can make it a breeze by breaking up the work, instead?

Of course, there is one key element that makes it possible...my fridge.  By making things in advance, and keeping them in the fridge until the final cooking, it allows me to be part of my family on Thanksgiving day (which is sort of what the day is about, right).  While I know I touched on this several weeks ago, I thought I'd give a little run-down of how I do it again so that, if any of you wish to try my methods, you'll have a handy "itinerary". 

Thursday, November 18

Thanksgiving Q & A Session

Hey Everyone!!  I wanted to check in on you all, cause I know things are winding up for us all to get hopping for the holidays!!  If you are like me, you tend to let certain things slide when you are focused on preparations (hence my missing the last couple of days on here).  Rather than overload you with more recipes over the next week, I thought it would be nice to simply offer help.  Therefore, today I wanted to open a Q & A session for any last minute questions you might have for your Thanksgiving day meal.

Do you need to know what you can substitute for a specific ingredient, and achieve the same results?  Are you unsure what baking times and temps to use for particular dishes, so everything comes out at one time and is done?  Are you simply doing your first Thanksgiving, and need encouragement?  Anything you need information on, I can help.  Simply post it on here in comments or send me an email direct (ndars1@yahoo.com).  I am virtually always here, and can have your answer within a few hours, maximum.  On Thanksgiving day, I'll be on here ALL morning, too!!

Hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday next week.  ENJOY!!! 

       

Monday, November 15

Anyone for Hot Chocolate?

Remember when you were a kid in the winter?  You'd spend time playing with your friends, then when you came inside, your Mom would have a steaming cup of hot chocolate waiting for you to warm up with?  Even growing up in Florida as I did, I still have those memories...and for me, it was "love in a cup" (sounds funny, but it made you feel so special).

While I know kids don't play outside like they used to (what a shame), it's still easy to hand them your own version of "love in a cup".  Now, I'm not talking about warming milk and adding NesQuik, or some other premade mix.  I'm talking old-fashioned, do it yourself, Hot Chocolate.  It's not nearly as hard as you might think, and your family will love it!!  So, let's get out the board games, set up some munchies, and grab the mugs...it's going to be a great night of family, games, and some old-fashioned warmth!!

Thursday, November 11

Sourdough...A True Primer!!

Have any of you ever tasted fresh, warm from the oven, sourdough bread?  It has a singular flavor and texture.  If you haven't ever had this delicacy, I HIGHLY recommend you try some.  Oh...you don't have a bakery nearby?  Well, guess what...I'm going to walk you through making ALL of it, including the starter, the very thing that makes most people fear baking sourdough bread.

First off, let me explain (for those who don't already know) what a starter is.  Typically, when you use a bread recipe for home baking, it requires you to use active dry yeast to make it rise.  A starter takes the yeast's place.  Most recipes (there are exceptions) for regular bread CAN use a starter for the rise.  Normally, you simply exchange 1 cup of starter for each packet (about 1 tablespoon) of active dry yeast.

Wednesday, November 10

I'm On A Mission...

The other day, I received an interesting request...I was asked for a recipe for a food I've never tried (actually, I'd never even heard of it before!!).  The request was for a Mission-Style Burrito...a VERY distinct type of burrito that was developed in the Mission district of San Francisco in the 1960's, and pretty much can't be found anyhere else.  Hey...I LOVE a challenge!!

While the specific origins of this particular delicacy are still argued, one thing becomes clear from my research on this...it's considered a MUST TRY!!  The flavors give this burrito a very distinct taste. I have spent 2 days scouring the internet, and (keeping my fingers crossed) today you reap the 3 winning results...Wild Rice and Bean Burritos, Chili Cheese Rice Burritos, Beef Chipotle Burritos, and even a recipe for Pico de Gallo Salsa!! 

Tuesday, November 9

Brownie Time

One of the many requests I received the other day was for a really good homemade brownie recipe.  I love brownies...they are just yummy!!  So today, I thought I'd offer up 2 versions...a simple but delicious Brownie and a Marble Cheesecake Brownie version.  I'm also going to add on a recipe for a REALLY good Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting that works extremely well on almost any brownie (not to mention other sweets...haha).

Brownies come in many forms...cake-like, fudgy...even "blond".  While I admit that "blondies" are similar to brownies, they are technically a different type of dessert, which is why I'm not including a recipe for those today.  Certainly...if someone out there would like a recipe for them, I'll be happy to find one, but for this session, I thought concentrating on our gooey chocolate friends would be best. 

Monday, November 8

Drink Up!!

Well, I asked for suggestions...and you ALL came through with flying colors!!  Coming in the next few days, we'll run the gamut from Burritos to Brownies.  A little of everything, for everyone!!

First, however, it was pointed out to me that I was sadly lacking on one aspect of the holiday/party season...drinks!!  After all, when you throw a party or a big meal, don't drinks ALWAYS play a strong part in that?  Time to correct this, so today, I'm going to offer you some pleasant libations, both "dry" and "wet", to accompany your entertaining!! 

Sunday, November 7

Total Writer's Block

I suppose I could give an excuse as to why I haven't written in my blog for the last few days, but I got nothing.  It's just writer's block, folks...perhaps you can help me?

I need suggestions, or requests, to write about.  Is there a favorite dish, or something you've tried in a restaurant, or even something you heard about in a magazine you'd like to learn more about?  Do you have a family special, but need a new way to perk it up a bit?  Let me know, please.  I really want to keep this blog interesting to the ones who read it, and this would help GREATLY!!

Post a comment or email me...let me know what you want to hear!!!

Thursday, November 4

Pecan Surprise

Ok, show of hands...who out there loves Pecan Pie?  C'mon, I know there at least a few of you.  Well, we LOVE it here.  Perhaps it's southern...perhaps it's holiday...either way, it's just plain GOOD!!  And today...it's the centerpiece of the blog!!

There are lots of recipes out there for pecan pie, and they are virtually all the same.  Pecans, corn syrup, eggs...those are the basis for almost any pecan pie you've ever had.  So, if I were to tell you that you can make a pecan pie completely different from anything you've ever had, would you want to learn how?  Well, today I offer you a regular Pecan Pie, then two distinct variations...Mystery Pecan Pie and Chocolate Pecan Pie!!

Wednesday, November 3

The Perfect Bird (or Ham)

Has this ever happened to you?  You spend hours preparing a fabulous dinner for Thanksgiving...everyone crowds to the table...and when the time is right, you carve into the turkey to find it's dry and tasteless?  Face it, it can happen to ANY one of us.  Roasting a turkey (or ham) isn't always a simple process.

Well, today, I thought I'd go over some of the tricks that can make this a thing of the past, folks.  I'll cover both turkeys and hams, although it happens more often with poultry.  Why?  Simply because turkeys don't have the same texture or fluid content hams do.  Poultry tends to dry out easier during long roasting periods.

So...how to counter this?  There are several ways to balance the problem, and it will help you turn out the "perfect" bird, virtually EVERY time!!

TURKEYS

The three-fold requirements for successful poultry cooking are:
  1. Choosing a high-quality bird for the method of cooking intended.
  2. Careful and thorough cleaning and preparation.
  3. The correct cooking method and attractive service.
Choosing the poultry is of first importance, for the finished bird as it comes to the table can never be of any higher quality than the quality of the original poultry.  High quality poultry should be well-shaped, with a broad, full-fleshed breast, and a creamy white or yellowish skin which is glossy, soft, and slightly waxy to the touch. There should be few if any bruises and abrasions, no tears in the skin of the breast, and none in the back that are not sewed up, no broken wings or legs, and practically no pinfeathers.  If you've opted for a frozen bird this year (as most of us do), choose one from a quality producer, such as Butterball.

Cleaning and preparing is your next step.  Once the bird is completely unfrozen, visually inspect it for any adhering pin feathers, and remove them.  Wash the carcass thoroughly with clear water, inside and out.  If there is a package of innards, remove them (you have no clue how common it is for people to forget those silly things).  These are actually going to help determine how long you need to roast your bird...I'll explain shortly.  At this point, if you are planning on brining your bird, do so.  For information on how to brine, go here

Once you have finished your prep work, you need to truss your bird.  It's VERY simple to truss a bird, and it really does help keep the parts that stick out (legs, wings) from overcooking.  Trussing consists simply of binding the legs and wings closely to the body of the bird so that it will cook more uniformly, brown more evenly and have a more symmetrical appearance than a bird that is not trussed. A sturdy needle (6-8 inch upholstery needle is best) and a strong slender cord about a yard long are the only equipment required. Special trussing needles are also available at most department stores.


  1. Lay the unstuffed bird on its back with the tail to your right. Lift the legs so the drumsticks make right angles with the body (straight up), and insert the needle into the body, guiding it to come out at the corresponding place on the opposite side.
  2. Fold the wings to the tips lie under the back, turn the bird around (tail to left). Insert the threaded needle down through the angle formed by the wing at your right; then across the back and up through the angle of the other wing. (You should now have a loop from one leg, through body, around other leg, around wing, under back, around other wing). Tie string ends together; bringing thighs close to breast.
  3. Stuff the bird (if you prefer...I don't recommend it tho, it's not very safe), lace opening together with toothpicks.
  4. Tie drumsicks to tail opening, thus closing the vent opening.
  5. Fold neck skin to the back and tuck it under the cord and the wing tips. Fasten securely to the back with toothpicks.
Let me explain what I said about stuffing the bird.  By cooking a bird WITH stuffing, you alter the ability of the bird to cook thoroughly without burning or drying.  Heat can't move as freely through the center cavity, which means parts don't reach a high enough temp to be safe.  I HIGHLY recommend cooking stuffing or dressing in a separate dish.

So...now we have this pretty bird all ready for the oven, but how long to cook it?  Well, here's a little trick that works EVERY time, folks.  Remember those innards you pulled out earlier?  THEY are going to tell you how long to roast your bird!!  Most of us enjoy giblet gravy, so this will just help us along, too.  Place all the innards (except liver) into a medium saucepot, cover with water, and bring to a slow boil, covered.  Simmer for 2-4 hours, or until the gizzard is tender enough to EASILY poke a fork into it...I mean REALLY tender, folks.  Add the liver for about 10 minutes, then remove, let cool, and refridgerate until your ready to make your gravy.  REMEMBER HOW LONG IT TOOK THE GIZZARD TO COOK!!!  Add 1 hour to that time, and THAT is how long to roast your bird at 300 degrees.  So, that means...if the gizzard took 3 1/2 hours, you need to roast your bird 4 1/2 hours.  Simple, isn't it?  Not sure why it works, but it does...I've yet to dry out a bird using that method.  If you have a meat thermomenter, cook it until it reaches an internal temp of 175 degrees at the fattest section of the thigh (make sure you aren't touching bone when you check the temp).

Of course, there are a few other things that can help.  Periodically baste the bird, starting halfway through the cooking time, and repeating every 20-30 minutes.  Also, if it still seems the legs or wings are getting too browned, simply tent with foil.  Some people even turn their bird over halfway through the cooking time, but IF you are going to do that, it's advisable to start off with the bird upside down first, then flip to the back (which puts the breast upwards).  This allows for the color we all love to develop.  Only flip it once.  One more thing...IF you are using a roasting bag, please follow the directions on the bag package for preparing it (most say add a little flour, and cut a hole).

Seriously, if you follow these steps, you'll almost always turn out a wonderful juicy bird.  Now, let's turn our attention to hams.

HAMS

Ham has always been my personal preference for holidays.  Yeah, I'll admit it...I've never really been big on turkey.  But, since the rules for hams are similar for the rules for turkeys, it's easy to make the best of either one.

Again, the choice of ham matters in what the end product tastes like.  Cheap ham, cheap taste.  When choosing a ham, you want to look for one that is meaty, and has 1/2 inch or less of fat surrounding the outside.  While boneless hams are nice, I prefer a natural bone-in...the bone helps the cooking by radiating the heat to the center.  Then of course, you have to choose whether you want a natural or smoked ham.  Both cook up well, but natural hams take a little longer to cook thoroughly.  I am quite partial to Smithfield hams...they are always very meaty, and just taste scrumptious!!  I rarely ever mess with spiral-sliced hams, though...never been too impressed by them, and they are costly, too. 

To prepare a ham, you must wash it with clear water, then cut away some of the excess fat (not all...it will help with keeping the meat moist).  Using a quality sharp knife, cut lines into the ham, 1 1/2 inches apart, about 1/8 inch deep...first in one direction, then give the ham 1/4 turn, and do it again.  This will create a "checkerboard" pattern.  If you like, you can stud the ham with cloves where each line intersects...simply press one whole clove into each jointure.  Do this to every surface EXCEPT the face (the big flat part).  When it comes time to set it up for the pan, I have a great trick.  Pull off 5-6 pieces of foil...about 12"x12" square.  Ball them up...yeah, just scrunch them up into little foil balls.  Place them in the bottom of the pan you're using, then lay your ham FACE side down on top of them.  You want the ham to rest on those balls, and not touch the bottom of the pan.  Take another piece of foil, and tent the ham with it loosely.  This all will enable your ham to cook slowly and evenly.

Ready for the oven?  Cooking a ham is pretty much basic math.  You want to add about 1 inch of water to the bottom of your roasting pan after you put it in the oven (the foil will keep the meat out of it, but by raising the humidity in the oven, it helps keep the cooking even), then cook it for about 20 minutes per pound at 300 degrees for a bone-in ham.  If cooking boneless, I would change that to 25 minutes per pound, but make sure you have a meat thermometer to check the internal temp...you want a ham to reach a minimum internal temp of 170 degrees for safety.  If it's bone-in, make sure the thermometer isn't touching the bone when you check.  Remove the foil for the last 1 1/2 hours of cooking.

Now, if you would like to glaze your ham, it's really simple.  Some hams come with a glaze mix, or you can make one of your own using some of the recipes found here.  I highly recommend NOT adding any glaze until the last HOUR of baking, especially if the glaze has a high sugar content.  Sugar tends to burn, and burnt glaze is NOT appealing.  Rule of thumb...if the glaze contains more than 1/2 cup of any type of sugar, wait until the last hour.  Do NOT use the tent when glazing either...you want the glaze to crystalize onto the ham, and the foil will interfere with that.

As for basting, that's up to you.  Some people do it, some don't.  I don't.  I have, but it's not made enough of a difference that I bother anymore.  Also, if you are glazing, do not baste once the glaze is on, as it will just wash it off.

I certainly hope these tricks help you turn out the best bird (or ham) your family has ever had.  ENJOY!!!



Tuesday, November 2

Cranberry Heaven

I started thinking about some of the simpler things that go well with holiday meals, but tend to be overlooked the rest of the year, and surprisingly, there's ONE dish that is virtually ignored for mainstream meals...cranberry sauce.  Did any of you know that cranberries are one of only a handful of native fruit species to America?  It's true, yet they are also probably one of the most under-utilized fruits available!!

When most think of cranberries, they think tart, astringent, and inedible, but cranberries are fabulous for the human body.  They are EXTREMELY high in Vitamin C, which helps promote a healthy immune system.  They're high in citric acid, too...10 times more in 1/2 cup of cranberries than there is in 1 medium orange.  This helps tremendously with kidney function, and bladder health.  So why are they ignored more often than not? 

Monday, November 1

Cornbread Magic

I'm southern...which means I LOVE cornbread.  While I know it's made all over, the whole southern culture has truly embraced it, not just as an accoutrement to meals, but as an actual dish to be savored!!  It just screams home and hearth, and is a basic comfort food down here.

There are SOOO many ways to make it, too...with minor variations, you can tailor it to almost any meal.  So with that in mind, folks, we're going to explore the warm, wonderful world of Cornbread. 

Sunday, October 31

The Holiday Season Officially Begins!!

Well, it's time, folks.  Today is Halloween, which traditionally marks the start of the season of giving.  Once the "trick or treating" ends, most of us will turn our attention to getting through the next 2 months without either A)going insane, or B)going broke (hahaha).  Never fear...I'm here to help!!  I'm going to explain how to avoid both!! 

Saturday, October 30

As American As...

I got to thinking about it, and realized something.  I've covered alot of things, but I have completely ignored what is probably the most iconic food of America...Apple Pie.  I should be ashamed of myself, really.  Oh well...no time like the present to correct that.

Today, I'm going to offer you 3 pleasing pies to choose from.  First, of course, we'll have the Traditional Apple Pie, the all-time crowd pleaser.  Second, we'll add a little twist, creating a Caramel Apple Pie.  Finally we'll have what, to some, is the epitome of apple pie...Dutch Apple Pie.  Of course, there are dozens more out there on the web just waiting for your perusal, but I think these 3 are most definitely TOP of the list!!

Friday, October 29

Off The Wall...for 35 YEARS!!

Today isn't gonna be about food...it's going to be about a "right of passage", so to speak.  I would imagine that most of my readers have already had SOME interaction with today's subject.  After all...it's been around now for 35 years, and has become something of a legend to many.  Today, we're going to address something that is probably the MOST fun you can have in public...going to a LIVE presentation of Rocky Horror Picture Show!!

Rocky Horror (or RHPS) came out in 1975.  At the time, it was...well, it was a FLOP!!  Considered FAR too risque' for most, it didn't get much play time, and was removed from most theaters within 3 weeks of it's opening.  It really wasn't until 1976, when it was put back into theaters as a "Midnight Movie", that it started gathering it's popularity. 

Thursday, October 28

Scone, Anyone?

I have a slight fascination with scones.  They can be savory or sweet, which means there are a variety of ways to work them into your weekly menu.  They are quite simple to make, too...ALWAYS a bonus!!

I love sweet potatoes, too.  I can make a meal from just baking one, tossing on a little butter and cinnamon.  There are soooo many things you can do with them...from pie to muffins.  Well, today we're going to make scones with them, which would be a great addition to ANY Thanksgiving table!!  Sweet potato gives these scones a pale orange color, and they are meltingly soft in the center, just waiting for a dab of butter...YUM!!

Oops, I Did It Again!!

Apparently, I tend to get sidetracked.  That's really the only explanation I can give for not having done my blog yesterday, even though it's not a valid excuse.  But, at any rate, I'm going to try to make it up to you all...again.  Just please be patient with me.

So what shall we cover today?  Perhaps something comforting, or should we try to do something a wee bit more daring?  How about both?  Have you ever tried Mashed Potato...Dumplings?

Tuesday, October 26

Peanut Butter Bread

I just found something new, and had to share it!!  As some of you know, my roomie suffers from Crohns, and is limited on what she can eat.  Well, when researching Crohns, I found a great cookbook for free!!  I ordered it, of course, and it arrived over the weekend.  I immediately started reading.

I found the most MARVELOUS recipe for a quick bread made with peanut butter in there!!  For those who don't know...the difference between quick bread and regular bread is fairly simple.  Quick breads are made with baking powder, so don't require a rise time, and regular bread uses yeast, which does.  So, for those who want a FAST loaf of bread that is as yummy as it gets, you have GOT to try this!!! 

Monday, October 25

Building an Emergency Kit

It's 3:30 in the morning here, and I got a rather rude wake up call.  When I went to bed, I knew there were storms moving into our area, but all the warnings were just for severe thunderstorms...no big deal.  At least, that's what they were until about 20 minutes ago...when the tornado warnings went off.

We have 2 weather radios in the house.  One sits in our kitchen, which we can hear from the living room and dining room, and the other is in my bedroom, which we can hear from all 3 bedrooms as well as the bathroom.  Great thing to have, btw...I recommend that EVERYONE have at least one in their home.  Of course, here in Alabama, tornados are almost inevitable...it's just the terrain, I suppose, but we get some REALLY nasty tornados on a regular basis. 

Sunday, October 24

An Apple A Day...

We've all heard it..."an apple a day keeps the doctor away".  Have you ever wondered why that saying is so popular?  It's actually very simple...apples are absolutely fantastic for you.  Low calorie, satisfying, and rich in fiber.  The saying originated in 19th century Wales, but the health benefits of apples have a history dating back to the CAVEMEN!!  Seriously, there are actually cave paintings of apple trees and people eating them.

So, how to add more to your diet, without having to tote an apple everywhere you go?  How about applesauce...it's actually VERY easy to make, tastes how YOU want it to (just spice it how you like it), and if you use the RIGHT type of apples, there's very little added sugar. 

Now, for applesauce, you want to go with a sweeter apple.  No Granny Smiths for this, no sir.  While Granny Smith apples are the tops for cooking, they are rather sour, and require rather copious amounts of sugar to counter it.  No, for this, you want some of the sweeter varieties...and trust me, there are PLENTY to choose from.  Fuji, Jonagold, Gala, Red or Gold Delicious, Winesap, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady are some of the top choices.  Of these, the Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold are also the perfect texture.  For my recipe, I'm using Fuji...but that's just a personal choice.  Try different varieties, and find the one that just DOES it for you!!

You're next trick to remember is very simple...let the apples age just a little before using.  Put them in a bowl on the counter, and let them stand, room temp, for about 3-4 days before using.  This does 2 things.  First, it allows them to mature a little more, making them even sweeter, and second, it actually makes them slightly easier to peel.

So, do I have you all fired up to make some homemade goodness?  Let's go!!

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

4 large apples (I highly recommend Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and chunked
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup or less sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place the prepared apples into a good size saucepot (at least 3 quart).  Add the water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want to cook them until they are quite soft, and easy to mash.

Remove from heat, and add sugar, a little at a time, until it's the sweetness you want.  When you have it just right, add the cinnamon, and blend well.  Using a potato masher, mash the apples until they are how you like them...you can leave a few chunks, or smash away until it's completely smooth...the choice is yours!!  Makes 4 servings, or 2 cups of applesauce.

Now, for those who are priviledged to live close to apple country (or a local farmers market), apples are at the height of their season right now, and if you're like me, you plan for it...which means canning and preserving.  Making applesauce for canning is REALLY simple!!  All you do is this:

1) Choose how many jars you want to make (the recipe makes 1 pint, so simply)
2) Prepare your jars (check my link under Instructional)
3) Fill the jars to 1/2 inch of the top, and put on the 2-part lids, sealing to finger tightness.
4) Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (that's for pints...30 minutes for quart jars)
5) Remove, allow to cool, and check for your seal (centers of lids are depressed)

That's it folks!!  I'll have more apple recipes coming, but right now, I have 1/2 bushel of Fuji apples I need to get started on.  ENJOY!!





Roll...Pumpkin Roll

I goofed.  I forgot ALL about my blog yesterday.  I'm SOOO sorry, folks...but I'm gonna make up for it today, by doing 2 good posts!!  This first one is specifically aimed at those who are getting a tad tired of the same old desserts on Thanksgiving, but don't want to give up on flavors they know and love.  This post is about Pumpkin Rolls.

I tried making these for the first time last year.  It was a request from Trac, my roomie, and was SOOO worth it!!  These provide the traditional pumpkin flavor, but are a VAST change from the status quo.  The rolls are actually quite light in taste.  They're also fairly easy to make, and are sure to become a favorite if you'll just try them!! 

Friday, October 22

Meatball...PIE???

Who here hasn't had meatballs?  Meatball subs...meatballs on spaghetti...even Swedish meatballs...they're easy to make (or find frozen), and have TONS of applications.  I've even used frozen ones on pizza before!!  Gotta wonder though...how many of you have EVER heard of a meatball pie?

Meatball pie is a one dish meal that's sure to satisfy.  Basically, this is a cross between a lasagna and baked spaghetti and meatballs.  Noodles, meatballs, cheese, sauce...it's ALL there!  Seriously folks...if you like Italian food, you will adore the ease and convenience of this simple, yet satisfying, meal. 

Thursday, October 21

Dog-Gone It!!

I was doing some serious thinking about what to write today's blog about, and suddenly it hit me...why not write about something that's almost as American as Apple Pie?  I'm talking a food that brings back nostalgia, making us think of home-town carnivals or the circus?  I'm talking Corn Dogs!!

That's right...Corn Dogs.  They are actually fairly easy to make at home, and are a comfort food to many of us.  I know that, on days when I'm just not up to something elaborate, a couple of corn dogs are truly a gift in disguise!!  Everyone ready to head back to yesteryear?  Let's go!!

Wednesday, October 20

Cook Once, Eat Twice!!

I thought that today we'd do something a little different.  I know that, for many of you, there isn't always time to make a full meal every night.  Whether it's work, kid's activities, or just not being in the mood...sometimes you just can't, right?  Well, today I'm going to hand you a way to make 2 separate full meals from one simple recipe!!

Alright...show of hands...who loves chicken?  The recipes I have for you use chicken, which means economical...and tasty!!  First, we'll begin with a wonderful Chicken Cacciatore.  Then tomorrow, you can use the leftovers to make Chicken and Mushroom Polenta!!  Two completely different tastes from one dish?  Let's go!!!

Tuesday, October 19

Think Outside The Box

I know...sounds like a fastfood commercial, right?  Yet, fastfood is a large part of today's diets.  Hamburgers, french fries, tacos...so many choices, yet so little REAL variety.  Face it...a fastfood hamburger from one place tastes pretty much like one from another.  It gets a tad boring after a while, doesn't it?

So why not make a hamburger with an entirely new face?  Make one where everyone who tastes it will be exclaiming "WOW"!!  Wondering how to do that?  By not making a hamburger, that's how.  Instead, make soup.

Monday, October 18

Feeling Dippy?

I got to thinking about what all I've been covering so far, and realized that my Starters section was somewhat lacking.  Only 3 recipes...GAH...and the holiday season fast approaching!!  Well, I'm going to rectify that a bit.  After all, if we're going to be doing any entertaining, we need more variety, right?  So, let's step over to the marvelous world of DIPS!!

Dips are quite versatile...they can be hot or cold, sweet or savory, vegetarian or meaty.  Heck, some people make meals from certain types of dip (I know salsa and chips are a great lunch for me)!!  There will be several recipes today...Fruit Dip, Crab Dip, Smoked Salmon Dip, Hummus, Guacamole, Fresh Tomato Salsa, and the ultimate party dip, Mexican Seven-Layer Dip.

Sunday, October 17

Sausage Gravy

I don't do breakfast nearly as often as I should.  In fact, I'll freely admit that it's part of the reason I'm not exactly svelte in size...eating a healthy breakfast reduces your overall intake of calories per day, which keeps you slimmer.  Of course, there are other reasons...my fascination for cooking, for one...but we won't get into that.  I'm also not going to preach on what makes a healthy breakfast. 

What I am going to do, though, is explain how to make one of the easiest additions to almost any breakfast...sausage gravy.  Maybe it's a southern thing, but having homemade gravy over biscuits is VERY popular where I live.  There's a bonus to this, too...you can pretty much use this same technique to make ANY kind of gravy...chicken, brown, etc.  You know me...I'm ALL about versatile!! 

Saturday, October 16

Say CHEESE...Cake!!

I love cheesecake.  The creamy texture...the silky taste...cheesecake is probably the most DECADENT desert there is.  It's also very versatile, since simple alterations can drastically change the flavor.  All in all, it's a wonderful ending for pretty much any meal I can think of.

For all that, I've never quite had the nerve to actually MAKE one at home.  Oh sure...I've done that "no-bake" box kind...BLEH.  But an old fashioned, baked cheesecake?  Nope.  I'll admit it...it actually scared me.  Cheesecake just seems like such an intimidating, time consuming process.  Well, folks...not anymore.

I finally found a cheesecake recipe that tastes like the real deal AND is fairly easy to make!!  Scary thought, eh?  So, if you've ever wanted to give it a try, then today is your day!!  Cheesecake...here we come!! 

Friday, October 15

Hash It Out

If you're like me, there are certain "staples", or must-haves, that will always be on the menu fairly often.  Whether they are family recipes, or just simple fare, they are the turn-to item when you just don't really know what you are in the mood to eat.  For us, that would be potatoes, in some form or another.

One of my favorite things to make is hashbrown casserole.  It's simple, it's filling, and it's another of those comfort foods...just makes you feel happy.  I still remember where I first got hooked on it, too...my local Cracker Barrel.  It was years ago, and what they served then has changed with time, but that's probably the first recipe I actually learned to copy at home, and mine is like their's USED to be.  Filling, balanced...it's just a great meal. 

Thursday, October 14

Ciabatta, Baby!!

Ok, so I freely admit it...I am DEFINITELY an experimenter in the kitchen!!  I love new gadgets, new recipes, and new flavors.  It's fun...and with my roomies so willing to eat whatever I toss at them, my creative moods happen more often than not.

Well, today, I was going through a new baking cookbook that I got, and ran across a recipe for Ciabatta bread.  Ciabatta has a dense, chewy crust, but is very light and airy inside, having lots of nooks and crannies.  Among the many uses for it would be Muffalettas, a type of sandwich that will feed an army, because it's made with the WHOLE loaf!!  While this post will be mostly about making Ciabatta, I promise to include a recipe for a classic Muffaletta, too...it's SOOO worth the effort to make!!  One CAVEAT - the Ciabatta recipe won't be given in the typical fashion...this bread takes steps, so the ingredients will be given as each step is reached. 

Wednesday, October 13

Viva' CHILE!!!

Today's post isn't going to be about food...it's going to be about finding and knowing what's important in life.

At 12:11am local time, the first of the 33 trapped miners in Chile arrived at the surface of the earth, after having spent 69 days almost 1/2 mile underground.  I watched the feed on my computer, as I'm sure countless others did.  It was monumental...it was historical...it was humbling.  These men have surmounted nearly impossible odds.  From the day it happened (August 5th), they have proven that the human spirit can and will overcome anything it's presented with.  That ANYTHING is possible!!

Let's just talk about one of their accomplishments for a moment.  When the cave-in initially occured, they spent their first 17 days trapped in a small room in a shaft, not knowing what was happening on the outside.  These 33 men survived all that time on 48 hours worth of rations...2 days worth of food, divided between 33 grown men over 17 days.  Which of you would have remained calm?  Which of you would have been able to sustain any hope? 

Tuesday, October 12

When Life Hands You Lemons...

I woke up this morning with a notion of getting creative in the kitchen.  I waltzed in the kitchen, planning on grabbing some coffee and one of my cookbooks, thinking that I'd finish waking up while choosing what to make...when I heard a strange noise.  I searched around, and finally, under the sink, I found the problem...the cold water line to the sink faucet sprung a leak!!

We had to turn the water off to the whole house.  Off to Lowe's we ran, thinking it would be an easy fix, but no...we didn't know what size the fittings were, or where exactly the leak was coming from.  We ended up calling a plumber, and after $85 changed hands, we now have no leak (it was the saddle tap for the ice maker line...we thought it was something else completely, so good thing we got him).  Kind of a damper to the whole day, you know? 

Monday, October 11

Devil Eggs

I know I've mentioned that we own chickens.  We own 15, all dual purpose breeds, which means we can use them for eggs or meat.  Of course, since we are ALL huge animal lovers, it's doubtful we'll ever use them for meat...surprisingly, chickens have rather interesting personalities!!  The eggs, however, are another story.

So far, 4 of the "gals" are laying, but eventually, they all will.  For those who don't know, chickens lay, on average, one egg every 25 hours.  Do the math...when they are ALL laying, we'll average about 13-15 eggs per DAY!!  Yes, we have flyers up to sell some, but we still end up with alot of eggs, so of course we are always looking for great ways to use them. 

Sunday, October 10

No Muss, No Fuss Cookies

The other evening, I was sitting here piddling on my computer.  One of my roomies came out to the living room, and asked if I was willing to make something (which I'm pretty much ALWAYS up for doing).  She wanted some of those no bake chocolate peanut butter cookies.  Do you remember those?  Man, I hadn't made those in YEARS!! 

I used to make them alot when my kids were really little, but honestly, I had forgotten all about them.  Not sure why, either...they're quick, easy, and yummy as can be.  Well, to make a long story short...off to the kitchen I hustled, and within 30 minutes, had a full batch made.  I think they lasted us 3 days?  Like I said.....YUMMY!! 

Saturday, October 9

Online Radio Munchies!!

I listen to an online radio station, and many of my readers come from there.  If you would like to check it out, it's AllRequestRadio4U.  These really are wonderful people, and they are sooo friendly!!  They play what YOU ask for, and one of my roomies is a DJ for them (DJ Jabbers is her name there...here she's just Trac).  They have shown me so much support for this blog!!  A few listeners have sent me copies of recipes to use here, so I thought that I would make today's post about them.

First up, we have Bax (goes by Mr. Gigglelicious in the ARR4U chatrooms).  He has sent me 2 recipes (so far, but I know he's got tons more...don't you, Bax?)...Chili Verde and Pecan Tartlets.  Both of these recipes are delicious and flavorful!!  Let's get started, shall we?

Friday, October 8

More Halloween Goodies

A good friend's teenage daughter is having a Halloween party this year, and I promised I'd put a few more gross but yummy recipes up so that they can have LOTS of fun!!  Of course, I've included pictures...mwahahahaha!!

These really are simple to make, and make for one OUTLANDISH looking table!!  To make floating ice "hands" for the drink recipes, simply fill food grade plastic gloves with water and freeze.  Once needed, run under warm water for a few seconds, then peel the glove off.  You can also buy a package of those fake eyeballs or plastic bugs, and freeze those inside ice cubes...looks REALLY eerie staring out at you from a bowl!! 

My Grandmother's Magic!!

One of the things I vividly remember about my grandmother was her comfort in any kitchen.  Didn't matter who's...she was always able to make some of the most delicious food.  While she would allow the family to "help", she pretty well did ALL the cooking on holidays, creating feasts fit for kings!!  I'm nowhere close to her abilities, and may never reach them.  Oh, I try...ALOT...but I will probably ALWAYS compare what I do to what I remember her accomplishing.  

Take Thanksgiving, for example; our typical holiday meal (for 6 people) consisted of turkey or ham (sometimes both), dressing, giblet gravy, mac & cheese, a pot of slow-cooked green beans or turnip roots, homemade bread, asparagus cassarole, sweet potato cassarole, and desserts...apple pie, pumpkin pie, and always, ALWAYS...her sour cream pound cakeWith the exception of the desserts, she would make all those in ONE DAY (as mentioned, I take almost a week).  The desserts she made the day before ONLY due to lack of space in the oven.

Thursday, October 7

Brine Your Birds!!

If any of you are like me, you try to plan ahead for important dinners.  Many don't really plan more than a week or so ahead, but I usually start the month before...sometimes 2!!  For one, I hate leaving things til the last minute...for another, I really wasn't kidding when I said it takes me almost a full WEEK to make Thanksgiving dinner!! 

My typical run down for Thanksgiving is as follows:  On Sunday, I make things like bread crumbs/cubes, and I chop all my veggies I'll be using (celery, onion, etc).  Mondays are for making pie crusts and fillings.  Tuesday, I usually assemble and bake the pies/desserts, and bake any breads we'll be eating.  Wednesday, I assemble cassaroles, and do anything cold.  Of course, come Thursday, I cook my bird, cassaroles.....and we eat!!  This time plan works well for me...I'm not stuck doing everything all at once, and it's pretty leisurely. 

Wednesday, October 6

From Jack-O-Lantern To Pie!!

Last night, I posted on how to keep a jack-o-lantern looking good for a whole month.  I also noted how to turn those seeds (and there are soooo many) that come from just one pumpkin into a great snack!!  Well, today, I'm going to explain how to use the "meat" of a pumpkin to make one of the cornerstones of the holidays...Pumpkin Pie!!

Pumpkin pie is a simple thing to make.  Making the filling is just as easy, though typically, most of us use "canned" pumpkin when making them (or simply cheat, and buy a pre-made pie).  I freely admit...I've done it all three ways.  Basically, it comes down to time...how much I have.  But, in my humble opinion, NOTHING tastes as good as an old-fashioned, done from scratch pie.  It just oozes family and togetherness!!

Tuesday, October 5

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, EVERYWHERE!!

Halloween.  Just saying the word conjures up mental images of orange and black, kids in costume, and jack-o-lanterns.  Well...there is candy, too.  LOTS of candy!!  But, be that as it may, it's a nostalgic time for most of us, young and old alike.  Way back when (and I ain't saying just how long ago that really was), I can remember the excitement of dressing up, grabbing a pillow case, and ransacking the neighbors for what loot we could haul off!!

Of course, before we got to that point, lots of us would head over to our local "pumpkin patch", and pick up a couple of hefty ones for carving.  After all, a jack-o-lantern was all the rage, and any porch that didn't have at least one was thought of as the stingy house (haha).  Inevitably, we'd get them too early in the month, carve them up...and by Halloween, they were pretty well ruined, weren't they?  Soft...ugly...often moldy, too.  That's just how it was.  Except on our street. 

Monday, October 4

Martini Desserts

I run a group on Facebook, also called Twisted Moon's Kitchen.  It's a recent addition to my daily perusals...and makes it even easier for my friends to keep up with my blog.  My blog posts directly to it.  On the group, I welcome any and all requests for specific recipes (of course, you can always do that using comments here, as well).  Well, today I got a request from my friend Shake.  He asked me about desserts that would look really niced served in martini glasses.

I love a good challenge!!  I scoured my memory, the database on my computer, my cookbooks, and a couple of other sources, and have found three that would look absolutely DIVINE served in martini glasses.  So, Shake...here you are...Champagne Peach Sherbet, Chocolate Mousse w/Raspberry Sauce, and Slices of Sin!! 

Stuffing - Not Just For Holidays!!

Most of us, when we think of old fashioned homemade stuffing, think in terms of special occasions, holiday dinners, etc.  Stuffing seems like it can be a time-consuming process (unless you are among the "cheaters" who use things like StoveTop...you know who you are...).  It's really not, though.  Homemade stuffing can be made pretty much any time, and it's not all that difficult to do.

Today, I'm going to offer you three versions...a sort-of homemade version of StoveTop (for those who prefer straight bread taste), a cornbread version (for the traditionalists), and for those who like a blend of flavors, a dual version, which is what I make for Thanksgiving.  Each has it's own time table.  The first version takes about one hour, the second about 2, the third...actually, I'm not sure, because when I make that one, I usually do it over a couple of days (not due to work involved, but because it actually takes me a week to make a Thanksgiving dinner...I work on similar things at one time). 

Sunday, October 3

Potato Skins...Hooray!!

Yup, it's me again...haha!!  I got appetizers on the mind now, and thought I'd give another of my warm recipes, this time Potato Skins.  There is nothing like a plate full of crispy potato skins, filled with melty cheddar cheese, and topped with bacon bits, sour cream and green onions.

The first time I had these I was 22 years old, at an outdoor cafe down in Florida; I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Oh for the days of youth when one could eat potato skins with wild abandon! I could eat a whole plate back then (and drink a pitcher of beer along with it) and be none the worse. Sigh.

Pigs In Blankets, Anyone?

I love to watch certain sports.  I also like to entertain on occasion.  Of course, it's especially fun to combine the two into one event!!  So, when you think about warm appetizers that can be used for one, or both, situations, what comes to mind first?  Pigs in Blankets!! 

Now, when most think of pigs in blankets, they think a package of crescent rolls or biscuits wrapped around cocktail smokies, right?  What if I were to tell you it's almost as easy to make them homemade, and they actually taste better?  It really is, you know.  There's a fresh quality that you just can't get from pre-made dough, and those packs of cocktail weinies just have too much salt and not enough flavor for me. 

Anyone Feeling Clammy?

Have you ever woke up with a craving?  Just an all-consuming desire for a particular food?  I'm sure you have, most people do.  Well, today, I woke up with a hankerin' for some old fashioned New England Clam Chowder.  Lucky for me, I know how to make it!!

Probably the most popular of the clam chowders, New England style is only one of 6 different ways to make it.  Whoa...what?  SIX ways?  Most only know of 2...New England, which is cream based, and Manhattan, which is tomato based.  You also have Rhode Island and Outer Banks style, which are clear-broth based, and Minorcan, which is surprisingly out of Florida, and is another tomato base chowder.  Finally, you have Long Island style, which is a blend of New England AND Manhattan, making for a creamy tomato base.

Saturday, October 2

Halloween - Gross, Yet Yummy Party Foods!!

Aiight, everyone...the holiday season is beginning!!  Of course, what comes first?  Halloween!!  Now, you ALL have seen some of those cookie-cutter cakes and stuff you can buy pre-made for your ghoulish evening, but why?  Today, I'm going to give you 4 recipes sure to make your friends squeal with squeamishness, even while they scarf the food down!! 

What's going to make this page so much fun is I will post a pic of each treat so you can see just what these really look like!!  The recipes are called Slimy Gelatin Worms, Panna Cotta Brain MouldKitty Litter Cake, and Sticky Black Bat Wings.  I promise you folks...you'll get rave reviews of these recipes, and no one will forget your Halloween party for quite some time!!  I guarantee it!!

Challah Bread

Night before last, I posted pics of some Challah bread that I made.  The response to that post has been surprising...I've had quite a few people contact me asking when I'd have the recipe posted, because they got hungry looking at the pictures!!  Well, I'm not gonna keep you guys waiting any longer.

Challah is a very rich bread.  My version contains eggs, butter, and honey.  It isn't sweet, however...it's just a nuance within the whole.  It's a bread rich in history, as well.  Traditionally, this bread is served at the beginning of the Sabbath in kosher Jewish households.  According to their beliefs, the bread represents the manna that fell when the Jews were wandering in the wilderness after their escape from slavery.  Typically, two loaves are made at a time, and the recipe I'll give you does just that. 

Friday, October 1

The Mother Of Sauces

I'm sure that, if you've been cooking for very long (or watch Food Network), you've heard of the "Mother Sauce".  What seems to come as a surprise to many is the fact that there are actually FIVE mother sauces, and they ALL come from France.  Yup...the French REALLY know how to cook!!

According to Culinary Cooking School Institute (my source for this information), the development of various sauces over the years stems from the 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême who evolved an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified under one of five "mother sauces." Those basic sauces are the white sauce Béchamel, the light stock-based Velouté, the brown stock-based Espagnole; the two basic emulsified sauces, Hollandaise and Mayonnaise; and the oil and vinegar-based Vinaigrette

Tomato is considered to be among the 5 mother sauces, however, it actually came about later, although it certainly has earned the title, since it is the base for a large variety of sauces in today's cookery.  However, since Tomato sauces are so varied, I will address them in a separate post entirely. 

Today, we will explore ALL five sauces, including some of their variations.  With them, you will be able to create some truly magnificent dishes, and your family will clamor for more!! 

Thursday, September 30

I Gotta Share!!

While this isn't a recipe in itself, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all what I did this evening.  After having posted the recipe for white bread this morning, I'd been thinking about making some bread all day (actually got me drooling, just thinking about it!!).  Yup...I got FROGGY!!

I didn't make just the white bread, tho.  I decided to go for it, and I made my all time FAVORITE bread...Challah.  Now, for those who've not heard of it before, Challah is an egg bread that's braided, typically found in the Jewish culture.  Challah has been made for centuries, and is still found in most bread bakeries.

Enough chitchat.  The first picture I'm putting up is the bread just before baking...it's been braided, formed, and has an egg wash on top, which will give it a glistening golden brown color.  See for yourself...
What you are seeing is 2 loaves of bread, each made of 3 braids (so each loaf actually has 9 pieces of dough).  Two braids are laid side by side, and a third is laid over the center top.

The end result?  I'll let you all be the judge...here's a shot...

Yes, it IS just as tasty as it looks, too!!  I finished baking this about 7:45 this evening, and it's now 9pm, and half of one loaf is already demolished.  It's light, fluffy, and buttery in taste.  And yes, I WILL post the recipe for making it, probably in a couple of days.

Folks, this is what I love doing.  I adore seeing the end result of making something with my bare hands that can enjoyed so easily.  You can do it, too, I promise...it just takes a little elbow grease, a recipe, and some inspiration!!

ENJOY!!! 


Old Fashioned White Bread

Sorry, folks, but I gotta say it...ain't NOTHING says home like the smell of freshly baking bread wafting through the air.  And, since this will be my first post about bread, it's appropriate that it's the old fashioned, melt in your mouth, white bread that we all know and love.  No, I'm NOT talking about the funky stuff they sell at grocery stores, either.  I'm talking healthy, all natural, and to DIE for!!

There are probably thousands of recipes for bread on the internet.  The recipe I'm going to hand you today, however, is one that I've made MANY times.  It's fairly easy, too...even if you knead it a little too much, it still comes out yummy.  The other nice thing is this...if you don't have a big mixer to make the dough in, that's ok...this one can be mixed by hand!!  Yes, it will take a little longer that way, but once you get a taste of this homemade goodness, you won't ever want to go back to store-bought!! 

Wednesday, September 29

The Spice of Life!!

When I was younger, I loved watching my grandmother cook.  She had an almost encyclopedic memory for what spices were best with which dish.  I feel very lucky to have learned from her.  Not only on how to use spices and herbs, but how to store them, and more importantly, when to replace them.  Did you know that spices have a shelf life?  Like any other food, you are able to tell by the flavor and color if the spice is old, and should be replaced generally every 6 (at the longest - 12) months. Many of my spices don't last nearly that long, as I use them far before they would get old.  Well, today was spice cleaning day, which means a trip to the grocery store. 

While you might think you're just doing some shopping, when you are on that spice aisle, you're actually gazing at history. Herbs and spices are more than just aromatic, flavorful accents to dishes. They are symbols of economic trade, ancient cultures and political power.  Civilizations traded in spices more than 4,000 years ago. Five hundred years ago in what was known as the Age of Exploration, explorers sailed the seas in the hopes of finding the fastest trade route from Europe to Asia. Europeans had become enchanted with the exotic seasonings from the Far East.

Pop Quiz Time!!

I love writing this blog.  I have found that it relaxes me tremendously, and hearing back from the readers has put a smile on my face like you wouldn't believe!!   I suppose this means I'll have to thank my hubby now, since he's the one who encouraged me to start it.  I think I also owe each of my readers a HUGE thank you up front...I would imagine some of my posts have been horribly tedious!!  THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

I've been doing ALOT of thinking about the best way to go with this blog.  After all, I really want it to be a good source for anyone who uses it.  Since I'm still VERY NEW at this, I'm sure as time passes I will find ways to streamline everything so that finding what you want is easy.  But, for now, I thought I'd toss some ideas out there, and see what you, the readers, think. 

Pot Roast - YUMMMM!!

Aiight, folks.  This is going to be a post that sort of breaks rules.  While I will be listing it under the Easy Recipes (since Pot Roast truly IS easy), this is one that actually could be listed under Advanced as well, due to the time involved.  Ah well, no one ever said life would always be simple...

Pot Roast is another of the ALL TIME comfort foods.  Rich broth, tender beef, potatoes, carrots (or as the roomie calls them...yummy orange slimy things)...all served over a bed of fluffy rice.  Uh oh...give me a moment to find a napkin, cause I just drooled all over myself (ROFL).  Yeah, it's THAT good!!

Now, I could get really fancy with some recipe for it, but I won't.  Why, you ask?  Honestly, it's because of one thing...some foods are best left SIMPLE!!  They don't NEED fancy to BE fancy.  No fancy spices, no fancy cuts of meat.  Just ultimate simplicity at it's finest. 

Tuesday, September 28

Even Blogs Need Organization!!

Today, I learned a few new tricks to blogging...not the least of which was that I can have more than one page!!  Yeah...I'm not always the brightest bulb in the marquee!!  What can I say...it's a learning process!!

At any rate, with this newfound knowledge, I've made some changes to my blog that I hope make it easier for those who follow it to find what they need.  If you are reading this from the Home page, you'll probably have already noticed a menu bar across the top.  Under each of those links, you find quick connections to specific posts.  For example, under Instructional you'll find my Baking 101 series, whereas under General ChitChat you'll find posts just like this one (basically just me rambling on about nothing...haha).

It may take a little time for me to get ALL my posts listed under the correct topic, but rest assured...it WILL be done.  Meanwhile, remember that you can always look things up by the month written (that navigation is on the right side, under the Followers).  

To all those who've recently joined my blog...WELCOME and ENJOY!!! 

Monday, September 27

ONE Hour - Or LESS - To A Great Meal!!

Usually, I'm a no-nonsense cook.  I get in the kitchen and just do what I need to do.  While it's great to have fun and experiment, when you have hungry folks waiting, it's nice to have a collection of quick, filling meals that you can turn out within an hour or less.  Of course, it also helps that I'm quite comfortable in my kitchen...I know where everything is in relation to each other.  That is the KEY component to speed and efficiency in any kitchen...arrangement.

When is the last time you actually went in your kitchen and checked where everything is?  Looked to see where your most commonly used utensils are at?  Fact is, few do that...then when it's time to cook, they end up having to search countless drawers/cabinets to find what they need.  So...right now...go in your kitchen, and look around.  See where everything is.  Seriously, go do it...I'll wait for you.  GO!! 

Sunday, September 26

Viva Mexicana - Enchilada Heaven!!

Aiight...show of hands...who here LOVES Mexican food??  I'm not talking Taco Bell kinda Mexican (sorry Nick), but real, down to earth, homemade Mexican food?  Hmmmm...I see there's quite a few of you out there.  Well, we certainly do, too!!   

Hubby, especially, adores tamales and enchiladas, and I've even tried my hand at making tamales (to fairly great success). The only problem with making tamales is it's a 2 DAY cooking process, and the recipe makes about 50 tamales (which freeze well, but it will wear you OUT).  However, here is the link to the website I used for making those, because I think my hands would fall off if I tried to recreate it here...it's THAT involved!!!

So today, for Sunday dinner, I'm making enchiladas.  While it's NOWHERE near as labor intensive as tamales, the end result will make people think you slaved over a stove for HOURS!!  Yes, there's more than a few steps involved in enchiladas, too...don't think this is super fast.  But...OH MAN...the end result is SOOO worth it!!!  So, let's get cooking!! 

Saturday, September 25

My Best Spud!!

I love spuds...or potatoes...or taters...or any OTHER name you give 'em!!  Potatoes have to be the most versatile vegetable ever discovered, not only in name, but in culinary usage.  They can be a main dish, side dish...even dessert (ever hear of potato candy?). Definitely tops the YUMMY list!! 

Yes, the whole world loves potatoes.  Did you know that, on average, each of us consumes 73 lbs of potatoes EACH year?  I'm talking world-wide!!  Yet, for all it's popularity, it's relatively new on the culinary front.  Potatoes came from Peru about 4 centuries ago (they were cultivated there for centuries before that), and yet since then, they have been cultivated into over 5000 varieties (9 known species)!!  I'd say that's not too shabby for a little nub growing in the ground!!  What's really surprising is, considering their popularity here in the US, we didn't get them direct from South America...they came to us via Europe!! In fact, the Irish loved them so much that they were used as currency!! 

Friday, September 24

You CAN Can-Can - The Art of Canning/Preserving

I do alot of canning and preserving.  Salsa, jelly, jams, veggies...not only is it a great way to keep the summer freshness from fruits and veggies...to me, it's another way to show your family how much you love them.  Silly, I know, but it's really nice when a family member cracks open a new jar of preserves or salsa, and remarks on the fact that it still tastes like it was JUST made.  I can remember my grandmother doing this when I was a child, so it's homey feeling, too!!

Sure, canning can be work.  Since there's also 2 different ways to can (pressure canning and water bath), it can be a little complicated, as well.  It's also an investment, because you need certain tools to do it, and those tools aren't always cheap.  But...what I've paid out has been returned 10-fold, so I wouldn't change a thing.  I've made some mistakes, too...which is why I'm doing today's blog.  If I can save one person the headaches I went through when learning, that in itself makes it ALL worthwhile!! 

Thursday, September 23

Hail to the Almighty Meatloaf!!

Ok, laugh it up, people.  I know the title is goofy.  Aiight...you can stop laughing now.  I'm being serious.  Meatloaf is actually good.  I hear you scoffing, but it really is.  It's also a very versatile dish...it's another of those meals that's only limited by your own imagination.  I hear you laughing again, people...give me a chance to explain, ok?

Meatloaf is one of the "comfort" foods.  It's easy to prepare, and just screams family!!  But, it CAN get a tad boring, right?  I can assure you...if you get bored with your meatloaf, it's really easy to fix.  Like I said, just use your creative skills, and you'll never see meatloaf the same way again. 

Wednesday, September 22

Uh Oh...I Gots In Twouble!!

Yup, folks...I gots myself in a heap o' trouble.  Big time.  As in "all this time you've been doing a blog and not one peep about..." trouble.  Time to make amends.  I've told you about my roomie, Traci.  She's like a sister to me!!  Well, one of her favorite things on earth is homemade Chicken Pot Pie, and I try to make that for her fairly often.  I knew she periodically reads my blog, but she's been pretty mum on what she'd like to see covered.  Well, until last night, that is...haha!  So here's to you, Traci...I love you!!

Chicken pot pie is one of the all time comfort foods.  It's reminiscent of Sunday afternoon dinners with family.  Surprisingly, it's relatively easy to make, too.  You only need one medium saucepot and a 9 inch pie plate, so cleanup is a cinch.  It's also very forgiving, because you can put almost anything in it and have it still come out scrumptious!!  All year around, it's a simple way to tell your family how much you love them. 

Tuesday, September 21

Dem Beans, Dem Beans, Dem Dry Beans...

Yesterday, I got pulled into a discussion with some friends about beans.  How to cook them, how to season them...how they can affect you (haha...thanks for the laughs, guys!!).  What surprises me is that there are people out there who honestly don't know how to cook and use dry beans (no, not the ones I was talking with...others).

With the cooler weather fast approaching, I would be lacking if I didn't address this for those who need the info.  After all, what's better on a cold day than a hot bowl of tasty pinto beans and cornbread?  Maybe a pot of chili done the old fashioned way, but not much else.  Therefore, today...we talk BEANS!! 

Monday, September 20

I Need FEEDBACK!!

I started this blog with the idea that people would really want to learn more about food...it's culture, it's preparation, and it's enjoyment.  Food plays such an integral part in our every day lives, after all...it's simply something that none of us can live without.  Sure...I know...there are 1000's of blogs on food out there, so it's not exactly a stand-out idea.  Still, despite having only been at it for 2 weeks, I have gathered a few followers, which makes me feel pretty good!!

What HAS surprised me is the fact that I don't get many comments when I post.  Having read other blogs that allow commenting, I really thought that perhaps the comments section would help guide this blog to become what YOU want it to be.  Subject suggestions...help needs...just general banter...ANYTHING you want to hear or say will help make this blog better for YOU!!  Even negative comments help, because they will assist in making this blog what it's supposed to be.  Just remember...bad language WILL be removed, but anything else goes.

Sunday, September 19

Fish...A Singular Sensation!!

Hubby and I went fishing again today...didn't catch anything worth keeping, but it did make me start to want some to eat.  I'm not talking about hitting Long John Silvers or Cap'n D's either...I would rather hit the local seafood market, and cook it fresh!  Alas...we really don't HAVE a local seafood market where I live (Alabama boonies), so I have to make do with the seafood section at Walmart.  Limited choices, but better than nothing, because fish really IS one of the best gifts you can give your body!! 

Rich in Omega3 fatty acids (especially saltwater varieties), it's extremely heart healthy...studies have proven that consumption of fish at least 2 times each week SIGNIFICANTLY reduces development of cardiovascular illnesses.  That alone should be enough to convince you to eat more of it.  However, the most common reason given for not eating your fair share of it isn't cost...it's taste.  Most people simply say they don't like the flavor (or smell).  Well, today is your lucky day!!  With little effort, and even with limited choices, I bet I can change your mind.