Monday, November 8, 2010

Prepared Horseradish & Shrimp Dip

Horseradish patch, June 2010
Last year we decided to grow horseradish, because we love it on sausage and beef.  We grew lots of tops, but the roots themselves were pencil thin.  We left it in the ground and were rewarded with thick, heavy roots when we harvested in October this year.  After washing, trimming and peeling, we had 2 pounds of horseradish root.  I went to my favorite internet site hoping someone had posted a recipe for prepared horseradish and wasn't disappointed. 

Walt used the fine shredding blade on our food processor, which made quick work of it. After shredding, he added the remaining ingredients and switched to the S blade to get a fine chop. It didn't process to a puree because the roots were older and a bit woody.   I can hear you asking: "Deb, you love to cook.  Why was Walt making this?"  It's because the fumes sent me running in pain several times.
See the lid in his hand?  He used it to keep the fumes somewhat contained.
We've already used up two jars and given away one.

I wasn't quite cautious enough when I opened the processor, so we labeled our jars Howling Wolf Horseradish.

We made this in 1 pound batches; one with and one without garlic.  Here is the recipe link: Fresh Horseradish Sauce, and here's how we did it:

Prepared Horseradish
1 pound horseradish root, well scrubbed and peeled (put them in a bowl of water to keep them from browning)
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, optional (don't substitute fresh garlic-there's a miniscule risk of botulism with it)

Wash and sterilize 8 4-ounce jelly jars (or 4 half pint jars).
Using a food processor fitted with a fine shredding disk, or a box grater, finely grate the horseradish.  I recommend you do this in a VERY well ventilated area (preferably outside). 
Pour into a bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. 

Switch out the shredding blade to an S blade, pour back into processor and process until it is as fine as you want it.  Older, woody roots will not puree, but you will get a nice fine mince.
Funnel into jars, cap and label with date.
Keeps in the refrigerator for one year.  It is NOT safe for shelf storage.
Yield: 4 cups

To make Horseradish Sauce
1 cup sour cream
2-4 tablespoons Prepared Horseradish
Stir together.  Serve immediately.
To make Cocktail Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/4 - 1/2 cup Prepared Horseradish
Stir together. Serve immediately. Horseradish loses it's heat if it's held in the sauce. To prepare ahead combine all ingredients and add the horseradish just before serving.
To make Shrimp Dip
1 8 ounce block cream cheese
8 ounces cooked, chopped shrimp (not from a can)
1 recipe Cocktail Sauce
Water crackers

Combine Cocktail Sauce and shrimp.
Spread cream cheese in a thin layer (1/4") on a serving plate.
Pour shrimp and sauce over cream cheese.
Serve with water crackers.

Crockpot Oatmeal & Oatmeal Muffins

My women's Bible study meets Wednesday mornings.  We all take turns bringing breakfasty treats.  Last week was my turn.  We had enjoyed a unusually warm early autumn until then, but Tuesday was looking and feeling like autumn.  It was briskly cool and windy, with low skies full of dark puffy clouds, hinting at the possibility of cold, soaking rain. All of which put me in the mood for oatmeal.

I've heard friends talk lovingly of crockpot oatmeal, but had never sampled it.  The recipe wasn't on the back of the oatmeal canister, so I hit the internet and found several.  None of them was quite right for what I wanted - basic creamy oatmeal.  I read the reviews of each, picked the most likely candidate and made it mine.  Here's the recipe I started with:  Crock Pot Fruited Oatmeal and this is what I did:

Basic Creamy Crockpot Oatmeal
Day 1 (the night before serving)
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup steel cut oats
Day 2
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1/4 to 1 cup water
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray the inside of the crock very well with nonstick.  Add all Day 1 ingredients, stir.  Cover. 
Use the delay feature on your crockpot and set it to cook on low for 6 hours, to be ready in the morning.  I don't have a delay feature, so I plugged my crockpot into a timer (the kind you use for holiday lights).
The next morning, stir in the Day 2 ingredients.  Use a much or as little as you like. Don't worry if you have a brown crust coating the inside of your crockpot.  It's not burnt.  Scrape a bit off and taste it to reassure yourself that it doesn't taste burnt.  Then scrape it down and stir it into the oatmeal.  It gives a nice toasted "oatmeal cookie" flavor.
Makes 5-6 1 cup servings.

I made a double batch, because my Bible study group has 12 members.  Unfortunately, only half of them attended last week.  I had 5 cups of leftover oatmeal.  BUT, I have a really great muffin recipe.

Oatmeal Muffins
1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts OR raisins OR dates
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup leftover oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place paper liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and nuts or raisins.  In another bowl, combine oil, eggs, oatmeal and vanilla.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill muffin cups two thirds full.  Bake 18-22 minutes or until muffins test done with a toothpick.  Muffins will be flat on top.
Makes 12 - 13 muffins.

I made 5 dozen muffins.  I used walnuts until I ran out of nuts, then raisins until I ran out of raisins, then finished up with dates; using up the last of the eggs, brown sugar, dates and oatmeal.  These muffins freeze well, and taste fresh baked when thawed.  Walt took a dozen to work, I took a 1/2 dozen to the Extraordinary Women conference and we have 3 dozen in the freezer.  The last 1/2 dozen?  Yum.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Love Dessert!

I'm famous for my sweet-tooth.  Chocolates are blissful.  I make my own at Christmas and I'll blog about my favorite recipes in a few weeks.  But, for everyday sweets, you can't beat sugary carbs.

 My very first successful  Cinnamon Rolls.  Found at Our Best Bites.  Soft, fluffy, moist, with cinnamony goo that stays inside the roll.  I have these filed under 'Breakfast', but they're good anytime.  Very easy to make!  Ask my daughter, I can't roll dough to save my life - except for these incredible rolls.

Ultimate Triple Berry Bars

This one is too easy.  Prepare Krusteaz Raspberry Bars according to the package, except scatter a 4 ounce package of dried mixed berries on the filling before adding the crumb topping. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Serve warmed with a scoop of ice cream.

Cake Mix Cookies
The basic recipe:
1 (18.25 oz.) boxed cake mix (any flavor)
2 large eggs
1 stick margarine, room temperature (You can use butter, but the cookies will be flatter)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups assorted dry mix-ins (such as chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, dried fruit) any combination

Combine cake mix, eggs, margarine and brown sugar. Stir in remaining ingredients.   Roll level tablespoons into balls.  Place onto greased (Pam) cookie sheets 2 inches apart; flatten and even up any ragged edges with your fingers.  Bake at 350F for 11 minutes, or until cookies puff.  Cool on pan 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Store airtight between wax paper.  About 4 dozen cookies.

Mix-in Variations:
Chunky Bar Cookies 
use a chocolate fudge cake mix
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped dried dates
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Black Forest Cookies
use a devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1 cup chocolate chips

Yum-Yum Cookies
use a yellow cake mix
1/2 cup cashews, salt rinsed off and dried
1 cup white chocolate chips

Chocolate-Chocolate Pudding
I don't have a photo for this, because it never occurs to me to get the camera before diving in.
Warning: You'll never be content with pudding mix again. 

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dutch processed)
2 tablespoons PLUS 2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk (can use reduced fat)
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Gradually whisk in half of the milk until smooth.  Whisk in remaining milk. Switch to a spoon.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until pudding thickens and comes to a boil, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Watch carefully, it can scorch easily.
Boil one minute longer, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; add chocolate chips, vanilla and butter.  Stir until chips melt and pudding is smooth.
If you don't like skin on your pudding, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.
Cool. If you pour it into serving bowls it will cool faster.  ;-)
Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Italian Crock Pot Chicken

Italian Crock Pot Chicken
It's autumn, the time of year when I start craving richly flavored slow cooked foods.  I wanted an Italian chicken dinner and daydreamed about a recipe I used to make a very long time ago, which contained stewed tomatoes, onions, garlic powder and chicken.  You plopped the chicken breast on a piece of foil, added the veggies, closed it up and baked it.  It was yummy, but didn't make enough sauce; and the 45 minute baking time seemed interminable after a long day at work.  I had a baby eggplant and some sliced cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms that needed to be used up.  Here's what I came up with:

The Ingredients
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes (about 1 1/2 cups), optional
1 medium onion, sliced in half moons
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
1/2 large carrot, sliced in half moons
1/2 cup coarsely chopped crimini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic*, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, still frozen
1 pint home canned tomato chunks or a 14 -16 oz can
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon garlic powder*
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 stem fresh rosemary
*we really like garlic!  Feel free to reduce the quantities.

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick.  Place onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms and eggplant (if using) in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place chicken breasts (still frozen) on top of the veggies.

In a bowl, combine tomato paste, tomatoes and their juice, tomato sauce, chopped garlic, garlic powder, spices and vinegar.  Pour over chicken.  Place rosemary stem on top.

Cook on High 4-6 hours, propping the lid open with a toothpick the last hour, to help thicken the sauce.
Serve over hot cooked spaghetti with slabs of fresh, buttered bread.

The aroma was mouth-watering!

The eggplant gives a slight cinnamony flavor when it cooks with tomatoes, which I LOVE and my husband tolerates.  The next time I make this, I will leave out the eggplant.

I was delighted at how well this turned out.  The chicken wasn't dry, because it goes in frozen on top of the veggies.  Bone in chicken would be even juicier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Think back to the last really good deal you got on laundry detergent.  How much did you pay for it?  Did you pay more than .29 a gallon?  I make my own laundry detergent, it cleans great and deodorizes - just like the stuff you buy in the store.  But, it costs 29 cents a gallon

Interested?  Here's how I do it:

The ingredients
That big chunk of soap was made by my lovely mother-in-law, Anna.  I have at least 5# left.  It keeps forever as long as you keep it dry.  You can buy Fels Naptha, which is the same thing.   I found the 20 Mule Team Borax and the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store.  The Fels-Naptha can often be found there or at the hardware store.

Your initial investment will be around $12.00 and will make a LOT of detergent.  This recipe will yield 2.5 gallons of liquid detergent.

Here's the math:
Fels Naptha Bar Soap  $1.75  makes 3.5 recipes  .19 per gallon
Washing Soda $4.95 makes 27.5 recipes .07 per gallon
Borax  $4.99  makes 76 recipes .03 per gallon
Save up some old laundry detergent or screw top milk bottles.

Use a box grater to grate 1.5 ounces of bar soap (not bath soap).  Put a cup of water in a very large stainless steel pot and add the grated soap.  Stir with a non-wooden spoon until the soap melts. 

Add 10 cups hot tap water, stir. 

Weigh out 2 ounces of washing soda onto a paper plate.  If there are any lumps, squish them out with your fingers.  Add to the pot, stir.  Weigh out 1 ounce of borax, remove lumps like before, add to the pot and stir.  Cook, stirring until both powders dissolve.

Add 10 additional cups of hot tap water and cook until it is all quite hot.  Cover, turn off the flame and leave undisturbed overnight.

 The next morning, there will be a thick layer of gel floating on top of liquid.  Whisk it very well until all gel particles are very, very small.

Look at your old laundry detergent bottles; how many ounces does the label say is inside?  You will fill your container with HALF that amount of water and the rest with the laundry detergent.  For best results, place the bottle in the sink and measure in the water and detergent with a measuring cup and funnel.  Adding the water first helps prevent foaming.  You want to be pretty accurate - too much water can affect how well the detergent works.

Testimonial:  I have been using this detergent for over a year now.  It's low sudsing and hasn't caused any problem with my front loading HE washer.  My whites get white and my pastels aren't muddy and my darks don't fade.  My clothes look great; they don't smell like anything but cloth. My husband doesn't smell like flowers and I don't smell like a pine forest. If you want scented detergent, you can add essential oil to the mixture. 

I don't use fabric softener, but you can fill your softener dispenser with white vinegar if your clothes are a little scratchy.
One recipe cost less than .72 and filled all these (the milk bottle is 1/3 full).
Here's the recipe in condensed form, which I adapted from The Dugger Family site:

Liquid Laundry Detergent
makes 2.5 gallons, 160 (1/4 cup) loads

1 cup hot tap water
1.5 ounces grated soap (Fel Naptha, Zote or homemade)
2 ounces washing soda
1 ounce borax
10 - 15 drops essential oil (optional, I don't use it)

  1. Put the hot water in a very large stainless steel pot.  Add the grated soap.  Stir continually over a medium-low flame until soap melts.
  2. Add 10 cups hot tap water.  Stir.
  3. Add washing soda and borax.  Cook and stir until the powders dissolve.
  4. If desired, add essential oil to scent the detergent.
  5. Add 10 cups additional hot water.
  6. Stir, cover and leave overnight to thicken.
  7. Whisk very well.
  8. Fill clean containers HALF full of water (measure it!); then fill with detergent (measure it).
  9. Shake container before each use, as it will gel.
Use 1/4 cup per load in front loading machines; 1/2 cup in top loading machines.

Remember, this is a low-suds detergent.  You will probably not see any suds.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

$51.02 in groceries for $11.85

 I got all the above (plus more) for $11.85!! 
 2 Hunts pasta sauce
5 lb. Gold Medal flour
2 pudding cups
12 oz.Gulden's mustard
12 Green Giant boxed frozen veggies
2 Pillsbury pie crusts
2 Pillbury crescent rolls
48 oz. Wesson canola oil
1 cake mix
The photo is missing the 12 oz. bottle of Gulden's mustard and the 48 oz. bottle of Wesson canola oil, which got put away by mistake before I could take the photo.

Jewel has a great General Mills deal going this month.  Purchase $25 of participating items, get $10 catalina for next trip. That term participating items fills me with dread.   It's very frustrating when I don't get a catalina because I chose the wrong item.  Something very minor in the wording on the box can make you think it's included, but it's not. Clicking around Jill Cataldo's site, I found a link  to a UPC list and took a look.  Turns out, there is a lot more included in the deal than is shown in the ad.  My goodness, pages and pages of items were available for this deal! I did a little copy and paste, printed it out (double sided, of course) and took it shopping.  I was able to check each item's UPC against the list and know it would count towards my $25 purchase.

Tomorrow, I will take those $5.00 coupons and buy more and get more groceries.  I don't know when this deal will end, but I have an upright freezer and we eat veggies every night.  Free veggies - woohoo!

We also visited Walgreens:

3 body wash for $4.00 total

2 shave gel for $2.00 total

2 Frizz Ease leave in conditioner for $6.19 total (sale price $6.79 BOGO1/2)
 Today my friendly deal finding bloggers have told me about some great deals for this week:
$ .29 Campbell soup
$1.00 Nivea body wash (for women)
FREE Nivea body wash (for men)
$ .51 CoffeeMate

FREE Mentos gum
$0.25 Duncan Hines cake mix

My favorite blogger, Jill Cataldo, won't have her deals listed until tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I'll check a few other spots.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Red Wine Hot Pepper Jelly

My husband harvested the remains of our garden this week.  Look at all those beautiful peppers!  My friends and family have been asking for my hot pepper jelly all summer.  It's very good on crackers with cream cheese, as a sauce for meats or as a sandwich spread.  For some reason, my pepper plants were very large, but didn't produce all that many peppers, just 2 or 3 a week.  Not enough to enjoy fresh and make jelly.  Well, now is the time! 

This jelly recipe is incredibly easy to make.  Start sterilizing your freshly washed jars, cut open the Certo pouch and place it upright in a mug - there won't be time for scissors when it's time to add the Certo. Chop the peppers finely,  (I use my food processor and pulse it), add them to a heavy pot along with sugar and red wine vinegar and bring to a boil.

Sterilize your jars. The water is 1" over the jar tops. The rack prevents breakage.

Starting to simmer, this is the time to taste for heat level.
 It will take a L-O-N-G time to come to a boil.  Keep stirring and DON'T walk away.  I opened a drawer next to the stove looking for a spoon rest.  I had a boil over.  We're talking lava surging over the sides of the pan.  I had to stop everything, pour out the drip tray, transfer the remains into a fresh pot and start heating it all over. That was after at least 30 minutes of wiping, rinsing the cloth, wiping, soaking the grates, wiping (you get the idea - learn from my mistakes).  I said it was easy to make, not idiot proof.  No, I didn't think to take a picture. 

When you can't stir down the boil, add crushed pepper flakes to taste.  Set your timer for 1 minute but don't press start yet.  Quickly squeeze in all the Certo and stir rapidly.  Start your timer.  Boil and stir until the timer goes off.  You can reduce the flame if it starts to foam up, but you want to keep it cooking as hot as possible for the entire time.

When the timer goes off, turn off the flame under the jelly and take your sterile jars from the canner.  Turn the heat up on the canner and cover it to get the water boiling while you fill the jars.  Add 6 lids to the canner. Jar lids can't be reused, so I wait to heat that last lid, in case I only get 6 jars.  Any last little bit goes in a plastic food storage container after it cools and into the fridge.

Ladle the hot jelly into hot jars.  A canning funnel will save you a lot of drips. Wipe the rims, add hot lids and rings. When the water in the canner is boiling rapidly, add the filled jars and process for 10 minutes.  Remove to towel lined heat-proof surface, cover with another towel and leave undisturbed at least 12 hours.  Then check for seal by pressing gently on each lid.  If a lid moves, you have a bad seal.  Refrigerate and use it.  It's safe to eat, just not shelf stable. Label the jars with contents and date. 

Here's the measurements:

Red Wine Hot Pepper Jelly
3/4 cup finely chopped hot peppers (I used 2 poblanos)
2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I used 1 bell pepper plus 6 banana peppers)

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 - 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 pouch liquid pectin (don't substitute dry pectin)

7 half pint canning jars
7 new jar lids
7 jar rings

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ground Beef Goulash aka Hamburger Helper

The nights are getting cooler, the days are getting shorter: Fall is on it's way.  While I love the green growing seasons of spring and summer best, fall is in third place.  I'm starting to want to smell comforting aromas in the kitchen.  This is a very quick variation on Goulash, which is slow cooked for hours.  The ground beef cooks up quick with lots of rich gravy and tender noodles all in one pot.

Kids of all ages love the comforting noodley goodness of this quick cooking, full-flavored meal.  It looks like hamburger helper - it's so much better tasting and better for you.

Ground Beef Goulash
1 lb. 90% lean or better ground beef
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 teaspoons paprika
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 tablespoon cold black coffee (you won't taste the coffee)

1 cup water
1 can (1 1/2 cups) beef broth
2 cups uncooked medium egg noodles
1 cup frozen tiny sweet peas

Spray a non-stick dutch oven with cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. Stir to break up the ground beef into small pieces.  Cook 6-10 minutes, stirring often to break up beef.  You want it to get brown (not just gray).

Combine gravy mix and water.  Add to pot with coffee, paprika and water.  Add uncooked noodles and stir to wet all noodles.  If necessary, add additional water so liquid almost covers the noodles.  Cover.  Bring to a boil; reduce to medium-low and cook 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Stir in frozen peas; cover pot.  Allow to simmer 2-3 minutes.  Stir well and serve.

Yield: 4 (1 1/2 cups) to 6 (1 cup) servings

Before you ask Why?:
- you can totally omit the coffee, but the gravy will not be as rich tasting. 
- using a high sided Dutch oven instead of a skillet helps contain spatters.
- not using a Hamburger Helper mix saves money, fat and salt.
- cooking the beef until it browns adds flavor because the natural sugars are carmelized.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Italian Vegetable Soup for the Freezer OMAC

Every summer I make this awesome soup and stash containers of it in the freezer.  Every winter, as I open the last container, I swear that NEXT year I will make more than one batch.  It is so very, very good.  It comes from the mom of a former co-worker at Sears.  I had huge zukezillas that I was trying to get rid of share with my co-workers.  And, this lady said "Can I take two?"  Me: "YES! Take them all! Um, I mean sure, help yourself."  She then went into a discription of the Best, Best soup her mom makes.  I'm thinking "Zucchini Soup? Ok, whatever floats your boat."  The next week she brought in a container of soup and gave it to me like it was an award.  And I'm thinking "Zucchini soup...".  I warmed it up and served it with dinner.  All I heard was "Umm! Yum! Wow! Is there more?" and slurp, slurp, slurp.  Then, "Did you get the recipe?"  My heart fell - "No.  I didn't think to ask."  Walt: "Ask."  So I asked, and gracious lady that she is, she pulled out a piece of scribbled notes with spatters.  Seems her mom is a pinch of this and a dash of that kind of cook and she was madly scribbling as the ingredients hit the pot.

Italian Zucchini Soup

2 pounds zucchini squash, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 green pepper, cut in 1/2-inch squares
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (from a tub, not a green can)
8 ounces green beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 large potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1can (15 ounce can) garbanzo beans, drained
1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (14 ounces) water
2 pints OR 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

Partially peel zucchini lengthwise, leaving 5 or 6 narrow strips of green, like stripes. Cut zucchini into bite-size pieces. If seeds are large, remove and discard before cutting up zucchini.

Warm oil over low heat; add onion, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Chop and add veggies as they're chopped. Stir in green pepper, green beans, potatoes and zucchini. Add crushed and diced tomatoes, water, garbanzo beans and cheese. Mix well. Bring mixture to a low simmer, cover and cook about 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Leftovers freeze well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Asian Meatballs and Rice

No photos this time, because frankly, it's ugly.  But, it's also tasty and has a soft texture that even kids will love.  This is a take-off of a dish my mother made when I was a child.  It consisted of ground beef, Beef Rice-a-Roni, chow mein noodles and soy sauce.  I loved it. I'm all grown up now.  Here's a slightly healthier adaptation.  Boiling the meatballs makes them moister and fluffier without being soggy.  It also thaws them and melts away some fat.

1 1b. Healthy Meatballs/Meatloaf  or supermarket traditional style frozen meatballs
Boiling water in pot big enough for meatballs and water
2 tablespoons butter
1 box beef flavored Rice-a-Roni
3 cups water
1/3 cup Ken's Lite Asian Soy and Sesame salad dressing
1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce (optional)
1 1/2 cups frozen stir fry veggies, thawed and roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced

  1. Add meatballs to boiling water.  Simmer while rice sautes.
  2. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Stir in rice and noodles from the Rice-a-Roni box.  Saute until lightly browned.
  3. Add 3 cups water, salad dressing, soy sauce and the seasoning packet from Rice-a-Roni; bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat, add drained meatballs and veggies.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve with low sodium soy sauce, if desired.  Yummy with a spinach/mandarin orange salad alongside.

Makes 6 (1 cup) servings.
Ugly, quick and tasty.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adventures in Couponing

I've been shopping out of my pantry, freezer, garage and former linen closet for a while now; buying mostly dairy, meat and produce. I've also been able to "shop" out of my garden quite a bit.  However, there were a few items I needed to get at Walgreens because the deals were really good and I was running low.  Crest 3D White toothpaste is my new preferred brand, ever since getting a free tube.  The bad thing is it retails for $4.49 a 5.3 ounce tube! Wags had a good deal going this week: 3 tubes for $9 with $4 register rewards.  AND I had a .75/1 coupon.  So that brought it down to $1.41 a tube!  I think I did really well there!
2 jars Skippy 2/$4 - $1/2 coupon = $3.00
3 tubes Crest 3D (3 month supply) $9 - $4.75 = $4.25
2 packages Vanity Fair napkins BOGO = $2.99 for both
Hallmark card (don't look Beatriz!) full price
sandwich bags $.99
Barilla pasta $.99
Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower $3.50- $1 coupon = $2.50
$17.57 for everything

Next up - Walmart

Reynolds Wrap $3.32 - $.75 coupon = $2.57
2 mentos gum $2.56 - $1 coupon = $1.56
Dentastix - $2.98 - $2 coupon = $.98
4 pack 3 blade razors $2.97 - $1.00 = $1.97
Bisquick $2.92 - $.50 coupon = $2.42
$9.50 for everything

My hints:
Buy it on sale and use coupons! Use the sites below to find coupons.
Watch out for things that are just pretending to be a sale.  Example: Strawberries for $3.99 on BOGO (buy one get one free).  Sounds good, BUT other stores had strawberries for $1.99.  Not really a sale, they're just getting you to buy two!
Load your loyalty card (i.e. Jewel's Preferred Card) by visiting the store corporate website and logging in your card number.  Up will pop a list of just-for-you deals that will load on your card (no clipping). The deals stay on your card 2-5 days, so do it on shopping day. While you're there, sign up for emails.  I got coupons for Free Bakery Bread and Free Produce one week!
Swipe your CVS card as soon as you walk in the door.  Extra just-for-you coupons will print, good for that day only. I've gone home and got manufacturer's coupons and gone back so I can stack them.
Stock up.  Grocery items are on a 3 month cycle.  At some point they're at their most expensive and at the other point they're at their cheapest.  If you are financially able, it's a good idea to buy 3 months worth of product at it's lowest price.  Not necessarily all at once, but stop adding to your stash when you have a 3 month supply. I don't want to see you on Hoarders.  For the next 3 months, you get to shop for that item from your stash.  Not everything is on the same 3 month cycle.  July was dairy. This month it was body wash, shampoo and razors. For September look for deals on lunchbox items, soup and organic items.
Buy only items and brands that your family will use.  Stock up time is not the time to experiment with new brands.  Try one; use it right away and if you love it, go back for more.
Know your weaknesses.  I love cleaning supplies.  If it says it'll clean it better, quicker or deeper I'm fighting temptation to try that new product that will revolutionize the way I think about cleaning.  I find that's rarely the case; and often old (really old) products work best.  How old?  How about these brands: Comet (great for toilets), Bar Keeper's Friend (iron stains), Spic n' Span (floors), Easy Off (gas stove tops) and Grandma's laundry detergent - she made it herself from lye soap and it worked really well!  I now make my own and I'll post about that in the future.
Yep, those shelves are stocked like store shelves. Behind each item are several of the same. Paper towels, cleaning supplies, pop and toilet paper are stored in the garage.

Recommended sites:  matches the Sunday sale flyers to existing coupons.  You click on what you want to buy, print it as a handy shopping list and then clip your coupons.  The coupon date code is on the list. I use this for Jewel, Target, Walmart (prices may vary), Walgreens and CVS.  search for coupons for anything you need that's not currently on sale.  I also double check for coupons for items listed at couponmom - sometimes it will find higher value ones than couponmom.  her blog lists the best deals and tells you how to find those coveted catalina deals. sign up for email alerts.
Free Stuff Finder: "Like" them on Facebook to find out about all kinds of stuff that's free just by asking for it. Usually, there's a clickable link to take you right to it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Crock Pot Thai Chicken

I found this recipe years ago; before I ever tried Thai food.  Last night I found this long-lost, untried recipe and printed it out.  Today was a busy day, and while taking the bread out of the oven, I was shocked to see it was 1:00.  I hadn't given a thought as to what to make for dinner, let alone take it from the freezer.  I pulled out this recipe and - YES! it uses frozen chicken!  I had everything except rice noodles, but we were going shopping after working out at the gym.  This could work.  I glanced at the clock. This would have to work.  I pulled out the ingredients:

The recipe called for chicken breasts and cooks on low for 8 hours.  I didn't have 8 hours; but I did have chicken tenders and adjusted the cooking time to 1 hour on high, then 4 1/2 on low.  It turned out GREAT!  A new go-to recipe, since I almost always have all the ingredients in the house.

Crock Pot Thai Chicken
4 servings
1-1/2 pounds (about 4) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, individually frozen, still frozen
3/4 chunky salsa (any heat level)*
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
Hot cooked rice noodles (I substituted angel hair pasta - have you seen the price of rice noodles lately?)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, optional
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (highly recommended)

* it will end up slightly less hot than the salsa used.

  1. Spray crock pot with non-stick.  Place chicken in crock pot.
  2. Combine salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.  It looks disgusting.
  3. Pour over chicken.
  4. Cook on low 8-9 hours or until chicken is done.
  5. Place on a mound of noodles on each plate, add a chicken breast (or 2 tenders).  Spoon additional sauce over chicken.  Garnish. 
I forgot to garnish before taking the photo, we used cilantro and it is perfect.  We didn't bother with the peanuts, because I couldn't find them in the fridge with all the garden vegetables in the way.


I served it with Garlic Green Beans, my own invention.  Well, really it's a copycat of the beans served at Asian Cuisine's buffet.  We keep going back for more, and more, and more - it's embarrassing.

Garlic Green Beans
serves 4-6 (or me and Walt)
2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon bacon drippings (or butter or additional oil)
1 teaspoon soy sauce

  1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat.  Add oil and drippings.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and immediately reduce the heat to low.  Cook, stirring 2 minutes.  You don't want the garlic to turn brown.  It will get bitter and ruin the oil. 
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and keep it for later.  You now have garlic flavored oil.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the green beans.  Be careful of spatters.
  4. Using tongs, turn the green beans to coat with oil and allow all beans contact with the hot pan.  Keep turning the beans for 5-7 minutes, or until beans start to change color slightly.  Taste a bean and see if it's cooked to your liking.  Some people like them crisper, some like them slightly wilted. Add the soy sauce and turn to coat.
  5. Remove from heat and add the reserved garlic, using tongs to turn the beans so it's well distributed.
  6. Serve.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Garlic Dills

Making pickles is pretty much foolproof.  Keep it sanitary, follow a recipe and you get pickles.  If you want to get good pickles, as opposed to pickles that are merely safe to eat, you have to try a few recipes and understand how the crisp gets into the pickle.  Cold will do it, salting before canning helps, but my secret is salting and using Ball Pickle Crisp*.

Cold pack pickles, such as Claussen, are put raw into cold sterilized jars, which are then filled with cold brine and the jars are refrigerated.  After a month or so you have great pickles.  The only problem is storage space.  I don't have room in my refrigerator for more than 2 jars of pickles.   My garden produces way more than 2 jars worth of cucumbers.  To keep jars of pickles safely at room temperature requires processing the jars in boiling water long enough to kill any bacteria and using a brine that has the proper pH.  Don't worry, you don't need a food chemistry degree.  You just need a recipe from a reliable source. 

Here's my favorite Garlic Dill recipe.  This recipe makes 2 quarts or 4 pints.  It's adapted** from The Complete Book of Year Round Small-Batch PreservingSmall-batch is important to me, because my cucumbers ripen in small harvests.  The best pickles are made from fresh cucumbers.  They're harvested and kept refrigerated until I'm ready to can, usually the next day.  I've adapted the recipe in that I salt the cucumbers overnight, and use dried dill weed instead of dill seed.  I also added Ball Pickle Crisp.

3 lbs. small pickling cucumbers, scrubbed in cold water
2 tablespoons pickling salt

2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 additional tablespoons pickling salt

To add to jars:
4 teaspoons dried dill - Quarts: 2 teaspoons per jar, Pints: 1 teaspoon per jar
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Ball Pickle Crisp - Quarts: 1/4 rounded teaspoon per jar, Pints: 1/8 rounded teaspoon per jar

Cut 1/4" slice from both ends of cucumbers and discard.  The ends of cucumbers contain enzymes that can result in soft pickles. Cut each cucumber into 6 or 8 spears and place in a non-reactive container large enough to hold them all.  Add 2 tablespoons pickling salt and toss to coat.  Cover and allow to sit at least 3 hours and up to overnight in a cool place.  They don't have to be refrigerated, I place it in my cool basement.

Last night that container was full of sliced cucumbers and 2 tablespoons canning salt - no liquid.  The salt has drawn off all that extra juice.  Getting rid of the juice will help make the pickles crisp.  The pickles are drained and rinsed in cold water three times, then allowed to drain in a colander while I wash the jars and heat them in the canner.

The Ingredients
Having everything set out and ready to go makes for a stressless canning session. Fill the canner (or large tall stockpot) with cold tap water, add a rack to lift the jars off the bottom of the pot and begin heating. Wash 2 quart plus 1 pint or 5 pint jars in hot soapy water, rinse well and place upright into canner, allowing them to fill with water. (I always prepare 1 jar more than I think I'll need, just in case). When it's simmering, make the brine.  Combine brine ingredients in a small, non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the jars are all full, you'll know how many lids to heat.  Heated lids can not be reused.

When the brine boils and the jars are simmering it's time to get started.  Take one jar at a time out of the canner and drain its water into a small pot.  You'll use it to heat your lids but won't need a fire under this pot.  The hot water softens the sealing compound on the jar lid so it will readily adhere to the jar.

Place the hot jar on its side on a towel lined countertop.  It's easier to fill the jar if it's laying down. Put the cucumber spears one at a time into the jar. When it's hard to slide more in, turn it upright and pack in more spears in between the ones already in the jar.  You want them to fit very tightly.  Add garlic, dill and Pickle Crisp and ladle in the boiling hot brine.  Use a long, thin, non-mettalic object (a spatula handle or chopstick works well) to 'bubble' the jars.  Wiggle it between the cucumbers and the inside of the jar to coax any air bubbles to the surface.  Top off the jars with additional brine to within 1/2" of the top of the jar.  Wipe the jar rim and rings with a damp paper towel to clean off any brine or seasonings.  Carefully add the lids, avoiding touching the inside of the lids and jar rims.  Add the rings and screw on until you just meet resistance.  Screwing it too tight will prevent the air from escaping, which it must do to form a vacuum. Other, more dire consequences are possible - see my Blowout post.

Have the water at a full boil and carefully lower the jars into the canner.  The water should be at least 1" above the top of the jars.  If necessary, add some of the hot water in the small pot back.  You'll see bubbles coming out of the jars - that's good. Begin timing when the water boils again. 

Ready for their nap.
When the processing time is finished, carefully remove the jars and place on a heat proof surface lined with a kitchen towel. Cover completely, top and all sides, with another towel. You want them to cool slowly. You'll hear the jars 'ping' as they cool, that tells you the jars have sealed.  Don't move the jars until they are completely cool - at least 12 hours.  Then test for seal by pressing gently on the top of the lid. If it moves, the seal failed; place the jar in the refrigerator and use like an opened jar. Don't forget to label the jars with contents and date.

My friends Penny and Leah wanted to learn how to can tomatoes.  We had a lot of fun!

*Ball Pickle Crisp makes pickles crisp without changing the pH of the recipe.
**You can safely add, change quantities or delete spices.  Do not change the quantities of salt, sugar, water and vinegar. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


BLT and Quick BBQ Beans
If it's summer, I have to make BLTs at least once a week.  Home grown tomatoes and bacon are the BEST flavor combination, but put it on homemade bread - yeah baby! 

But, here's the problem with bacon: cooking it.  I've tried cooking bacon so many different ways; each has it's own drawbacks.  Cook it in a skillet and some parts are overcooked and hard and other parts are flabby.  Microwave it and the slices stick to the paper towel.  Roast it and the outer slices overcook and the ones in the center of the rack are nearly raw. 

Well, I've found the perfect way to cook bacon.  Place your unopened package of bacon in the sink and run warm water over it.  Let it sit in the warm water for 5 minutes or so while you get out your pan and oil. Starting with everything at room temperature is the key to perfectly cooked bacon. Take a deep wide pan, like a dutch oven.  Put it on the stove, but don't turn on the stove yet.  Add 1/4 cup canola oil and the room temperature bacon.  Just open the package and slide the whole slab into the pan.  Now turn on the stove to medium low and begin separating the slices from each other and push them into the oil.  Let it cook low and slow.  First the brine will come out of the bacon and it will look pretty gross.  Let it cook, stirring it occasionally (yes, stir it).  Turn the heat down if it starts to spit.  After a few minutes, the brine will evaporate and the bacon will begin to sizzle.  It will look like a tangled mess.  Using tongs, turn the bacon every now and then.  It will begin to straighten out.  Slice your tomatoes and toast your bread.  When each bacon slice reaches the brownness you like, remove it to a paper towel lined plate.  Soon you will have a platter of bacon that is perfectly browned and crisp.  No hard burnt spots.  No white flabby spots.  Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.

We had BBQ Beans when we visited Andrea in Phoenix this spring.  This comes close.  They're even better the next day.

Quick BBQ Beans
Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy Barbeque sauce is spicy.  If you prefer a mild sauce, try Sweet Baby Ray's Original.

1 tablespoon bacon drippings (or oil)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 can (14.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy barbeque sauce (or your favorite)
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup water
Saute onion in drippings until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients.  Heat through. 

Oat Bread
This is a moist, slightly chewy bread that is very filling.
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick oats
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

This makes a 2 pound loaf.  If your machine will not accomodate a 2 lb. loaf, use the dough cycle. When finished, place in 2 loaf pans and allow to rise 45 minutes, then bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes.
Starting with 2 3/4 cups of flour, place ingredients in your bread maker in the order suggested by the manufacturer.  (I get the best results by putting all the liquids in first, then combining the dry ingredients with the yeast and adding it on top of the liquids).

Select the basic bread setting and medium crust color.  Check the dough after 5 minutes and add more flour or water if necessary.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chicken Curry and a Blowout

Curried Chicken (click for link to recipe) is such a simple recipe.  The flavors are amazing.  You take some ordinary spices, toast them in some oil, add onion and let it cook until the onions are soft.  Then add chicken, tomatoes (used my last jar of tomatoes from last year), potatoes and cilantro.  Let it simmer for 30 - 40 minutes and stir in some sour cream and raisins.  Oh my goodness!  Rich, creamy, a little spicy and tender.  I put it on rice to get all that luscious sauce. 

The recipe is also forgiving.  Don't have chicken breasts? Use boneless thighs.  Cut the chicken into bite size pieces if you like. Leave the onion in slices or chop it tiny.  No fresh ginger? Use a teaspoon of dried ground ginger.  No cilantro?  Use parsley - dried will work too.

The Blowout

I don't know what happened.  When I lifted the jar at the end of the processing time, the bottom had blown off and the contents spewed.  This is the first time this has happened to me.  Either I screwed the ring on too tightly which didn't allow the air to vent, or the bottom of the jar had a flaw.  Normally, a too tight ring would cause the metal lid to flex up and out of the ring. Since the break is so cleanly around the bottom of the jar, I believe that the jar bottom had some defect I didn't detect when I examined them.  Or, maybe I knocked that jar when putting it in the canner.  The end result is one less jar of tomatoes and a large mess to clean up.

This is what makes it worthwhile:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Canning - Bread N' Butter Pickles

When you have a garden like this, you have to be ready to make use of all God provides.  This summer He has provided lots of heat and rain, which resulted in baskets and baskets of tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, yellow squash and cucumbers.  No family, well other than the Duggers, could have used all my garden has produced this summer.  I don't have 19 kids, so I make pickles and relishes.   This week I made Zucchini Salsa, Lemon Cream (zucchini jam), and Bread N' Butter Pickles.

My love for kitchen gadgets is legendary in my family.  My husband firmly guides me past the doors of Williams Sonoma while half-jokingly telling me to "Resist!, Resist!"  Half-jokingly, because if left to my own desires, I'd be in there in a flash and stay for hours.  A few years ago, my heart was set on a mandolin.  I'd tell him earnestly about all the wonderful things I could make if I only had a mandolin.  I put it on my Christmas Wish List - and my darling husband gave it to me for Christmas, even though he couldn't understand why I would need such a thing.  I'm pretty good with a chef's knife.  These pickles are cut in perfect 3/8" slices - on my mandolin.

After the cucumbers are cut, the red peppers and onions are sliced by hand into 1/8" strips.  They all go into a very large bowl and are tossed with canning salt*, covered with a clean kitchen towel and allowed to rest at room temperature at least 3 hours.  The salt draws excess moisture out of the vegetables, which helps make them crispy in the end.  After the resting period, the vegetables are rinsed and drained several times.  Then allowed to drain very well.  I put the colander back into the large bowl and let them drip while I get my jars, brine and canner ready. 

Sugar, vinegar and spices are heated to a boil; the vegetables are added and it's brought back to a boil.

The hot vegetables are packed with a slotted spoon into hot jars, the brine is poured over and any air bubbles are removed by jiggling a non-mettalic spatula between the veggies and the sides of the jar.  Then the jar rims and threads are wiped clean, hot lids are placed, the rings are screwed on and the jars take a 10 minute boiling water bath.
When the timer goes off, the jars come out.

Aren't they beautiful?  Can't wait to open...
As you can see in the photo, my cookbooks have notations scribbled all over the pages.  As the years go by, I adjust the spices to suit my tastes.  However, it's important to never change the amounts of sugar, vinegar, salt or water in a canning recipe.  They are carefully balanced for food safety.

Here's my favorite Bread N' Butter Pickle recipe, adapted from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving:

4 lb. small pickling cucumbers (kirby)
2 onions, peeled, halved and cut into 1/8" half moons
2 sweet red peppers, cut in thin strips
2 tablespoons canning salt
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
4 cups cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Ball Pickle Crisp Granules

Scrub cucumbers well to remove grit and spines.  Cut a small slice off each end and discard them. (They contain enzymes that could cause the pickles to be soft). Cut cucumbers into 3/8" slices.  Place cucumbers, peppers and spices in a large non-reactive bowl and toss with canning salt.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Drain the vegetables in a large colander and rinse well with several changes of cold tap water, drain and leave in colander.  Place colander with vegetables in a large bowl to catch dripping water.  Allow to drip, shaking occasionally, while preparing brine and jars.

Fill your canner 3/4 full with cold water.  Place the rack inside the canner.  Place the clean jars on the rack, allowing the water to fill the jars. Cover and heat to boiling.  When it boils, reduce heat to a simmer.  Keep jars in the simmering water until ready to fill.

Fill a small pot with cold water; heat to a simmer.  After you've filled your jars, you'll know how many lids to heat.  Place the lids into the simmering water to heat.

In a pot large enough to hold vegetables and brine, combine the vinegar, sugar and spices.  Heat to a boil.  Add the vegetables (discard the water in the bowl), press gently into the brine and return to a boil. Boil 30 to 60 minutes, or until the cucumber skins go from bright green to olive green.  Reduce to a simmer.

Remove jars from the canner.  Cover the canner and increase the heat to bring water back to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon and a canning funnel, fill the jars with the hot vegetables, jiggling the jars to distribute evenly and pressing down with the back of the spoon to pack the jars well.  Spoon Ball Pickle Crisp on top of veggies (quarts = 1/4 teaspoon per jar, pints = 1/8 teaspoon per jar).

Ladle hot brine over the vegetables, remove air bubbles and top off the brine if necessary to within 1/2" of the rim.

Wipe the jar rims and threads with a hot damp paper towel to clean off any drips.  Add hot lids and rings; screw on to just finger tight.

Carefully place jars back into the canner.  The boiling water should be at least 1" above the top of the jars.  If not, top off with water from the small pot.  The water will stop boiling while you are adding the jars.  Begin timing from the moment the water starts boiling again.  Quarts = 15 minutes, Pints = 10 minutes.

Cover a heat proof surface with a clean kitchen towel.  When the timer goes off, turn off the flame and carefully remove the jars from the canner.  Place close together, but not touching, on the towel.  Cover with several more towels and leave undisturbed at least 12 hours.

Within a few minutes, you will hear the most delightful 'pings'.  That is the sound of success, as your jars announce they are sealed.

After 12 hours, remove the towels and check each jar for seal by pressing gently down on the center of each lid.  It shouldn't move.  If it does, place it in the refrigerator and use within a month.

Don't forget to label your jars with contents and date. 

*It's important to use canning salt for several reasons. Mainly, salt is not just salt. Table salt has iodine and anti-caking agents added to it, which will make your brine cloudy and give a metallic taste to your pickles. Sea salt and kosher salt have different weights than canning salt, so you'll end up with too much or too little salt. Since salt is an important preservative, too little can mean your pickles go bad.