Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I am back - physically - not mentally yet! It is so hard to get in the swing of things when you have been gone for a full week. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by taking my family and my brother's family to Disney World and the Disney Cruise. My children had never been, my husband had never been, and I was 8 when I last set foot in the enchanted world of the Magic Kingdom. I won't bore you with the 500 photos I took, or the stories of how the sea air shrunk all my clothes (If I never eat again - I will be just fine), but I do want to share one thing that tickled me to bits.
It happened on the Cruise. Every day when we came back to our room from our adventures there it was. Waiting, hanging out, just wanting to send a smile shooting across our face - and it never failed! Who knew towel animals possessed the power to make one person so happy?
and Monkeys were just some of the animals that made our day! How neat would it be to have this little guy hanging in your kids bathroom in the morning. Just hanging out - waiting to say good morning. Try it - see it if doesn't make their day - just like it made ours! Click HERE to find out how!
Friday, October 24, 2008
The day Robin Sue and I did our "2 Cheap Chics" Blog we started our excursion with a wonderful lunch at a little outdoor cafe in Reston. The Quiche I had that day (pictured above) was probably the best quiche I have ever had. That one little piece (Ok it was the size of my head) probably had enough butter in it to kill a cow - but it was AMAZING! I haven't really stopped thinking about that wonderful slice of heaven, and so I decide to quench my quiche craving by making one for my family dinner.
I dug through my recipes and decide on one that always comes out creamy, cheesy and plain old perfect. Don't be afraid when you see mayonnaise on the ingredient list - it helps to make this ham and cheese dish rich and wonderful!
Creamy Ham and Cheese Quiche
1 (9-inch) Pie shell, thawed
2 cups shredded sharp cheese
1 cup chopped ham
1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 375. Toss together cheese, ham, and onion. Spoon into pie shell. Whisk together remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over ham and cheese mixture. Bake 45 minutes, or until golden and knife inserted into center comes out clean.
It hit the spot on that warm October night - but I look forward to hitting that little lunch spot again some cold November afternoon!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
On his Birthday my Dad gets to choose whether or not he wants a Molasses Cake or a Butterscotch Pie. This year he chose the Butterscotch Pie and thus the blog that appears below. Strangely enough, my Mom and her Mom, as well, always chose a Butterscotch Pie for their Birthday. I wonder how long this recipe has been around?
It will remain on the A-list as it is goood - but then so is the molasses cake.
Put one pint milk in double boiler and when it is hot add:
1 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon flour (I do mean heaping)
3 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla and
yolks of 3 eggs which have all been creamed together.
Cook until thick then add 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Put in an already baked shell. Cover with meringue made with 3 egg whites and 1/2 cup
Sprinkle a few chopped nuts on top and brown in oven.
(375 degrees for five minutes)
Allow to cool well before serving.
After using this same recipe for years I read in a newspaper that one
Tablespoon molasses added to a butterscotch pie enriches the color of
the filling and blends with the sugar, butter and vanilla, giving the pie
a true butterscotch-candy flavor.
Happy Birthday Dad - I love you!
Monday, October 20, 2008
It is getting to be the time of year when children come back in the house to play. Days are getting colder and the kitchen table is more comfortable than the sandbox.
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 tblspn cooking oil
2 tsp. cream of tartar
Mix together, cook until dough comes away
from side of pan (about three minutes)
Cool slightly - knead - add coloring
(Can add coloring with the water)
This simple recipe for play dough is not only easy to make but keeps well and with the addition of food coloring is definitely for all seasons. My mom just made some to give to her "great" nephew and included a few cookie cutters. ( While Mom is making real Halloween cookies her son can make endless shapes and pretend cookies.) He will be able to make pumpkins and bats but put in green food coloring and he will be making Christmas trees. This play dough can also be used with the many play dough toys found in the marketplace.
Make it today and give it away or have it on hand when your grandchildren come over or if your children have a play date.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Saltine Toffee Cookies
My mother had her first bite of these two years ago at a neighborhood cookie exchange. She loved them and particularly enjoyed the fact that these could be made with matzoh crackers as well as saltines.
Remember, she grew up in the Catskills sometimes called the Borscht Belt and has friends that could appreciate this recipe. Don't wait for the Holidays or a cookie exchange- this recipe is good and easy for any occasion.
4 ounces saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in a single layer,
(I covered cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then sprayed with
3. In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil
for three minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread
to cover crackers completely.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven
and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for five
minutes. Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped
nuts. Cool completely and break into pieces. (Cool in fridge.)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Grocery Stores know exactly what they are doing! They put the candy on one side of the checkout line so your kids go crazy, and they put the eye candy (Cooking Magazines) on the other side so you go crazy. I hate it! I tell myself - I am not going to buy one more cooking magazine. I have an armoire - literally- full of cook books, but once I see the checkout line I start to feel the addiction. I tell myself I'm just going to take a peek. I just want one little peek. I'll be careful - I don't want to wrinkle the magazine for the person who is REALLY going to buy it. I'll just graze - slightly. Then it happens - I spot the perfect recipe for all the ingredients I have in my pantry already. The justification for the purchase starts - I wouldn't need to buy any ingredients - which is really SAVING my family money, and besides, this could be my family's favorite new recipe. Before I know it - that magazine has found it's way to the conveyor belt (on top of the groceries so as not to get water damage from the slightly damp belt) and I relapse.
Taming my addiction
I usually hold on to those magazines for about 6 months and then it is time to clean house. I go through each magazine and pull out the 6 or so pages containing something I think I will actually make. I then put those pages in page protectors and slide them into one of four binders. My largest binder holds just dessert recipes (go figure - oh wait - my figure's gone!) The next binder holds Chicken, Turkey and Pork recipes. The third binder holds Beef and Seafood, and the last one holds Pasta, Veggies, and Bread recipes.
These binders are so helpful when I have purchased Chicken Breast or Hamburger and want a new and fun recipe to try. I just pull out my binder and refresh my memory of what I wanted to make - 6 months ago!
How do you store your magazine clippings - and better yet - what is your addiction in the cooking world?
Monday, October 13, 2008
Fall is here...and how do I know this? It is this time of year that I constantly dress inappropriately for every outdoor event. At my daughter's cheerleading at 5pm I've dressed in fleece and jeans only to be met with blazing hot bleachers and direct sunlight. At my other daughter's morning Volleyball game I have managed to wear capris and a short sleeve shirt only to be sitting in a gym catching a cold and frost bite. Yes I love the fall - Mother Nature can't make up her mind (just like me)!
One thing I can rely on is my Plastic Pumpkin topiary. He patiently waits in the basement for the opportunity to show his little face for such a brief time. I can always count on "him" to let my neighbors know - Fall is Here!
Construction of this perfect fall decoration is easy. I just purchased 3 graduated plastic pumpkins from my local craft store. The smallest pumpkin gets a hole only in the bottom. The medium and large size pumpkins get holes in the top and bottom.
Insert dowel stick through all three pumpkins while leaving a little excess on the bottom. I hot glued some leaves around each pumpkin, since you are able to see quite a space because of the pumpkins stems.
My dad drilled a small hole in the bottom of the dowel to thread with a wire. He then tied a brick around some string and fixed it to the wire. The topiary is so light. This weight keeps it from flying away in the cold night wind!
I have had two of these pumpkin topiaries for 5 years now. I think they were definitely worth the investment!
Friday, October 10, 2008
OK moms and dads - let me see a show of hands of how many of you are already tired of making the kid's lunch?
Oh good, I'm glad it's not just me. Every summer I get so excited about all the fun and nutritious things I am going to do for my daughters and just about this time of year - I am TOTALLY over it! I psych myself up with cute new lunch boxes for the girls - but the excitement never seems to last. This year we are trying the "Lunchopolis" lunch boxes. I do love the fact that they are bag-less. They come with the containers shown below.
The bummer is I am constantly washing them to make sure they are ready to pack in the morning. I guess it is a small price to pay for saving the planet! One treat my girls love is devil eggs. I have found they never travel well - until I starting thinking "Inside the Box"!
I purchased an egg "cuber" years ago and just dug it out at the beginning of the school year. The eggs seem to travel great. No sliding upside-down, and the kids get a kick out of the unconventional shape.
For those of you who have never seen a "Cuber" - it is composed of 4 parts. The Cube, the bottom plate, the top "pusher", and the screw top. As soon as you hard boil an egg, while it is still warm, you peel the shell and put it in the container. Screw the cap on and watch it "Cube up"!
Stick it in the fridge overnight and presto change-o, a square hard boiled egg.
How do you think "Inside the Lunch box"? I would love to have some new ideas for this old chore!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
It's the end of the season and my mother feels like she is swimming up stream. It is time to close the cabin but what do you do with all the leftovers?? The flour, the sugar, the eggs, milk and butter are all waiting to be used up. Walla! – Anything chocolate is a winner in her home. In fact she just purchased yet another saying about chocolate –
“Every time I hear the word EXERCISE I wash my mouth out with CHOCOLATE !”
Dessert is made and the “larder” is getting empty and that is a good thing.
½ cup cocoa.
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup boiling water
½ cup milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspn. Vanilla
Put butter in boiling water to melt.
Add sugar and cocoa, eggs and vanilla
flour and milk.
Bake in 10 x 15 greased jelly roll pan at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
The best part about these fudge bars is that you can frost , powder, sprinkle, drizzle or leave them plain.
Adding whipped cream and a strawberry would be great but they are usually not in the fridg when you're cleaning it out for the winter.
Monday, October 6, 2008
When I was in my 20's and trying to find the perfect gift for my mother one year for Christmas - I had the brilliant idea of "Salvaging" her cookbook. It was a 1956 (or so) edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook. She had received it for a wedding gift and used it almost everyday for one thing or another. The pages looked like they had been loved for too many years and I was going to fix it for the perfect gift. I bought a bazillion page protectors and a binder and got to work. By the time I had inserted every page into that binder it was 3 times the original size and did not possess quite the nostalgia. My mother, being the incredibly sweet person she is, thanked me profusely and convinced me it was the best gift she could have ever gotten.
The next year Betty Crocker published the original 1950's cookbook - and as a surprise I put that under the tree for my mother. When Christmas day arrived we both had a chuckle as she had purchased the same gift for me! Ah - great minds think alike!
This is a picture of my copy which I refer to all the time.
I always get a chuckle at the pictures inside. This is the Appetizer section and this....
is the picture of the salad section. Everything looks plastic - like it should be under the glass of an old cafe with dust all over it. Although the pictures are quite dated the recipes are timeless. Everything is from scratch and just good, old, home cooking. This is the coffee cake my mother always made from her famous recipe book. Tasted just as good today as I remember it.
Thanks mom and Betty Crocker!
Prize Coffee Cake
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted gold medal flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together the sugar, butter and egg. Stir in the milk and flour mixture (flour, baking powder, salt).
Spread batter in greased and floured 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with desired topping. Bake until wooden pick thrust into center of cake comes out clean. Serve warm, fresh from the oven.
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Bake at 375 for 25 to 35 minutes!
Tastes just like mom used to make!
* For an orange variation of this coffee cake follow the recipe above - except use orange juice for half of the milk, and add 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind. Sprinkle top with Crumb Mixture, given above, adding to it 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Definition: Bored bread is any loaf of bread that you bake when you are bored and have nothing in particular to do that day.
Mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, showing patience while waiting for it to rise and then waiting, with baited breath, while it bakes, gets rid of the boredom for a good part of the day.
In this case, my dad, who used to have more vacation than he knew what to do with, decided one Christmas vacation, to learn how to bake bread. So, with nothing to go on except his memories of watching his grandmother make bread, he got a recipe and started the process.
Over the years, he has become comfortable with his ability to get the job done and now, if there is a rainy day or two in a row, he drags out the big bowl and gets “with it”.
This summer, such conditions presented themselves so when he decided to bake bread, he scavenged around for a recipe that used what he had at hand and started.
My dad is a sourdough fan. At any given time, you can find a jar of ugly stuff in the refrigerator that is his sourdough stash. Although he is not a pure sourdough baker, he does know how to use the starter, with a little help from some yeast, to create sourdough flavored bread. When he has used sourdough starter as the only leavening agent, it takes much longer to rise so he always gives it a boost with a dose of yeast. This is heresy in the sourdough culture but it’s the end product he cares about.
Dad's "ugly stuff"
To maximize the sourdough flavor, dad uses a diluted mixture of the sourdough starter and warm milk to substitute for the liquid required to make the bread.
It just so happened that on the back of his ever-present bread flour bag, a recipe was printed and all you needed was some oatmeal and bread flour to make a great loaf of bread.
This recipe, modified by dad’s sourdough starter liquid, turned into a beautiful loaf of some of the best bread known to man.
Even if you have never baked a loaf in your life, maybe now is the time to get started. You will love it once you know you can do it.
Oh, by the way, maybe I’ll do a blog on some of the things he has learned NOT to do when baking bread. He’s learned a lot on the way to here so there is much to offer.
Try this, you’ll love it.
Sourdough Oatmeal Bread
3 cups of Unbleached Bread Flour
1 cup of Oats—any kind
2 tablespoons of soft butter
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of instant yeast or 1 packet of active dry yeast*
1 ¼ cups of sourdough liquid**
*If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in 2 tablespoons of warm milk before combining it with the other ingredients.
** To make the sourdough liquid, take ¾ cup of your sourdough starter and combine it with ½ cup of warm milk. If you choose to make it without the sourdough starter, just use 1 ¼ cups of warm milk.
In a LARGE mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand for 10 minutes until it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl,( what he does is take the blob of dough out of the big bowl, washes the bowl with warm water, greases it and then returns the dough ball right back to where it started—no need for two bowls) cover with a dish towel and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it will become quite puffy although it might not double in bulk. Note: to create the desired consistency, you may need to add a little flour or warm milk to get that shaggy consistency. If there is too much liquid, the dough will be sticky. If there is too much flour, it will be too stiff. Getting close is good enough. Don’t worry about perfection, it’s rarely achieved!
When the dough has risen (thrill #1!), transfer the dough to a lightly oiled or flour dusted surface and shape into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased (he uses butter) 9 x 5 inch pan and cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours until it is crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the bread pan. (thrill #2!)
With your oven preheated to 350 degrees F, gently remove the plastic wrap and place the bread in the oven to bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If you peek at the bread after about 30 minutes, and it appears to be browning on the top too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes.
This makes 1 awesome loaf to brag about. (thrill #3)
Thrill #4 is when it cools down enough so you can cut it, slather it with butter and honey and slurp it down. What fun on a boring day.
When the bread comes out of the oven and has cooled just a little, rub the top with a stick of butter, that keeps it nice and soft. If you like your crust crunchier, don't do anything to it.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Not only am I lazy, apparently I am completely forgetful as well. I was telling Robin Sue, from Big Red Kitchen, that I was going to do a blog on a great tip - using a lazy Susan in your frig. She chuckled and told me she had passed that little tid bit on to me. I knew I had gotten that tip somewhere - well now I know! So for the record - this tip is from Big Red Kitchen!
My kids can barely reach that top shelf of the frig - let alone what is in the back of that shelf. Presto - Fix - o - The installation of the lazy susan! My kids can easily turn the wheel and get their favorite dressing, ketchup, or most importantly - Mommy's cream for her morning coffee! I told you I was lazy ;-)