1/28/11

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (using brat patties instead of ground beef)

Last fall we bought a whole hog from my brother even though we weren't big fans of pork outside of bacon.  It was a hog raised by my godson and we knew it would be nice to buy one of them from them as they have to be sold after fair.  I had most of the meat made into brat patties but my family soon tired of the patties so I had to get creative in their use.

My favorite way to use the meat is to make sloppy joe's with it however when I came across an old recipe I had handwritten in an old binder that called for ground beef, I knew it would be perfect for the brat patties.  And?  It was!  It was so good that not only did I make a delicious spaghetti sauce, but I ate it the next day as a soup/stew.



Spaghetti Sauce

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
4 lbs. ground beef and/or ground pork or brat patties
2 lg. onions, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c flour
3 cans (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste (I didn't have this on hand so I used about a cup of tomato juice and didn't use the water)
1 c water
1/2 c white vinegar
3 T sugar
1 1/2 T worcestershire suace

Saute' onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil.  Stir in the flour.  Stir in tomatoes, paste, water, vinegar, sugar and worcestershire sauce.  Add the ground beef/pork and the bacon.  Bring to a quick boil.  Reduce to a simmer.  Simmer 2 hours uncovered.  Serve over pasta or enjoy as a soup/stew as I did the second day.



Browning the brat patties


Add the chopped and diced peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic

Simmer 2 hours, uncovered

Serve over any pasta
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1/25/11

Brussels Sprouts

You can call me an odd child if you want, but even as far back as I can remember I've loved spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, sauerkraut, onions, carrots....   even at 7 years old I was picking the chocolate chips out of my cookies during school lunches and trading my chocolate cake for someone's spinach.

This weekend I made a trip to Costco and came home with a huge bag of Brussels sprouts.  When I saw the sprouts in the cold room of the produce department I immediately thought of my favorite recipe for them and my mouth could almost taste the caramelized vegetable and garlic... 

Since I have a large bag of them I quickly glanced over my file of 'untried' recipes and spied this one; 




This one is from a whole foods healthy living magazine I pick up sometimes - it uses little butter and oil, some lemon and surprise; poppy seeds.  I thought it would be worth posting and after I make 2 batches of my favorite caramelized Brussels sprouts recipe (linked above in this post)  I may give this one a go!

Brussels Sprouts

1 lemon
1 lb. brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, finely sliced
1 T butter
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
 salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/4 cup chicken stock

Using a vegetable peeler, peel 3 long strips of lemon zest, avoiding white pith. Thinly slice zest; set aside. Squeeze 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and toss with brussels sprouts in a medium bowl.

Heat butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute sprouts for 2 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add salt, pepper, garlic, zest, and poppy seeds and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour in stock and cook 1 minute more.




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1/16/11

Faux Fondant


Over the past few years my readers have seen me work with fondant.  From birthday cakes to glitter stars, when I've had time outside of my 'other' job I've enjoyed using it to make beautiful cake creations for family.


The week after Christmas we have 4 family birthdays;  two are extended family and two are my own two daughters.  This makes for a lot of celebrating and double and triple the cakes.

I started to plan the cakes I would make this year for my daughter's birthdays, one of which was going to use fondant - but when I priced it at the store I was not impressed.  Fondant is just so very, very expensive in the stores now that television shows have make cake decorating so 'in'.  When things are in style or we are in the midst of a fad, you can tell because the prices go up!  Sure enough, the price of fondant has risen - as much as $3 per package at one popular store.

In the end the cakes the girls got for their birthdays this year did not require fondant and I never purchased it, but it did lead me to track down some of my old "faux" recipes - yes, even faux fondant.  I've never tried this one so I'm not sure how it compares to the real deal, but it's worth keeping in the files for a future day.   This one comes from a Southern Living recipe back in 1998.

8 (2-ounce) squares vanilla candy coating
1/2 cup whipping cream
Assorted colors liquid food coloring


Microwave vanilla candy coating and whipping cream in a 1-quart microwave-safe dish at MEDIUM (50% power) 3 minutes and 30 seconds, stirring once. Divide and tint with desired food colorings.
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1/14/11

So are those orange 'faux fries' healthier? Maybe Not.

If you have kids in the public school system you've probably noticed a turn towards supposedly 'healthier' eating in their lunch room to curb a national obesity problem. I could get all political here because I have strong opinions about how our school lunches are not the issue... but let's skip that go directly to whether or not what they are doing is truly better.

My own kids high school stopped serving french fries and instead serve yams and sweet potatoes cut up and baked as fake fries.

I personally don't like sweet potatoes.  Sorry all you yam and sweet potato fans out there;  I really don't.  I never have.  Ever.  Not even at Thanksgiving.  There is only one way I like them;  mashed and made into a 'sweet potato pie' like a pumpkin pie.  Other than that, I really don't like the taste of them. 

So I took note when the school stopped serving french fries in lieu of orange fries.  Instead of a nice crispy french fry they now serve wilted, soft, baked orange sticks they call 'fries' and 99% of the kids toss them directly into the trash.

I asked my two high schoolers how many kids are eating them - sure enough they see about 1 kid for every 2-3 large round tables of students in their lunch room. No one likes them.

This is just ONE example of the dumb changes implemented but when I read some information about sweet potatoes last week I found this interesting;


Myth #2: Sweet potatoes are healthier than white potatoes
Reality: They’re both healthy!


Sweet potatoes have more fiber and vitamin A, but white potatoes are higher in essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium.


As for the glycemic index, sweet potatoes are lower on the scale, but baked white potatoes typically aren't eaten without cheese, sour cream, or butter—all toppings that contain fat, which lowers the glycemic index of a meal.


So, if this true, the schools are doing little more than wasting tons of food. Their white potato french fries are not ate (in school) with sour cream or cheese. Kids eat them plain or with ketchup; so? Healthy enough in their own right and more healthy than throwing their food into the trash.

Hmmmm.
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1/10/11

Cream Puffs with Whipped Cream


My gracious it's tough to find enough time to update this site anymore!  I hope one day to be a full time housewife again and devote more time to making this site what it was a couple years ago, with more reviews as well as hints and tips and contests, but right now I admit that my schedule is a little hectic and crazy so finding enough time to take and upload, then crop and edit the shots as well as typing the recipes in all takes more time than I have. 

Worse?  Blogger (my site host) changed all their editors over to the 'new and improved' (cough cough) which I absolutely hate hate hate.  I have no easy control over the resizing of photos, the editor takes longer to load, takes longer to upload the photos and won't let me control the placement of the cursor like it did previously.

So...  everything takes longer.  Sigh.

But I AM cooking and baking - I swear!~  LOL.   Last night I whipped up some cream puffs and since I'm enjoying them right now with freshly brewed coffee it seems only fitting that I'd take the time to upload and share them with my readers.

Enjoy!


Cream Puffs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees while mixing the puffs

1 c flour
1/8 t salt
1 T sugar
4 eggs
1/3 c butter

Mix the flour with the salt and sugar.  Place 1 cup water in a heavy saucepan.  Add 1/3 c butter.  Bring to boil and stir in flour all at once.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.  Take off heat, wait for two minutes and add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each egg until the dough is no longer shiny.  Beat all well and place by tablespoons full on a greased or parchment lined sheet.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and continue baking 25 minutes more.  Let the puffs cool completely, slice open and remove any dough inside the shell.  Now they are ready to be filled with whipped cream or even pudding.



Mix until it comes to a ball and
pulls away from the edge of the pan

 

Place by heaping tablespoon fulls on a greased
or parchment lined baking sheet

Remove from oven and let cool completely
before filling

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1/7/11

Roast Pork Loin with Mushrooms, Garlic and Sage

Some of my readers will remember that we bought a 'whole hog' last Fall.  In my quest to find new recipes I added a number of them to my 'collection' to try.  This was one of them and now that we are in the midst of winter, it seems like a good recipe to post for a nice, cold, snowy day.


Roast Pork Loin with Mushrooms, Garlic and Sage


2 pound loin of pork, trimmed and tied
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
2 bay leaves, lightly crushed
3 sprigs sage
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper


12 ounces wild mushroom medley, such as morels, porcini, chanterelles and/or oyster mushrooms
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small shallot, finely minced
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
2 sprigs thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper


For the pork: Tie the pork loin with kitchen string; once lengthwise and every inch crosswise. Season the loin generously with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Carefully add the pork loin to the hot pan and sear on all sides until golden. Add the whole garlic cloves and lower the heat to medium low, cover and continue roasting for 25-30 minutes, checking occasionally and rotating as needed to prevent burning.

While the pork loin is roasting, prepare the mushrooms by trimming and cleaning all of the mushrooms. Heat a sauté pan with the oil and butter, add the minced shallots, garlic and thyme, cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender about 5 minutes. Set aside.

When the meat reaches 150 degrees F, transfer the loin to a cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Place the pan back on the burner over medium heat; add the bay leaves and sage and deglaze the pan with white wine. Reduce the wine by half then add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer and lightly reduce again. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the sauce and remove from the heat; let the mushrooms and sauce sit for about 5 minutes to infuse. Slice the pork loin into ½ - inch thick slices and lay 3 slices on a plate. Place the mushrooms over and around the pork loin, spoon the sauce around and serve immediately.
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1/5/11

Tortilla Spirals

One of those easy-peasy recipes that most of us have made without an actual recipe...  tortilla bites or 'spirals' that look great on serving platters, can be made in many different flavors and people love them.  Served with sauces, salsa's or plain, have fun and mix it up a bit!  Perfect some of those football game platters being made every weekend. 

 
Tortilla Spirals

10 large flour tortillas (try the flavored wraps!  Green, orange, red... flavors and colors)
2 boxes of cream cheese
1 cup pitted black olives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pimentos, finely chopped
1 pkg ranch dressing

2 tablespoons green jalapenos, finely chopped

Soften cream cheese Mix in the powdered Ranch dressing Add the pimentos, black olives and the jalapenos.

Spread evenly over the flour tortillas using a rubber spatula. Roll tightly in plastic wrap and chill for about one hour. Slice into 1/2 inch slices to form pinwheels or spirals. Serve this particular mixture with salsa.


*** Play with your food!  Using the above idea - mix and match;

ham
turkey
lettuce
onions
sprouts
green olives
anything else!

Roll tightly and slice as above - then serve.
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1/3/11

What's for Dinner? Chicken in Flat Bread with Tzatziki

The sun comes out and melts the snow and ice and the next thing I know I'm craving foods I normally want in the spring! Yesterday while at the grocery store I walked by the bakery and spied flat breads; delicious whole wheat and white flat breads. I instantly could taste the grilled chicken wrapped inside the warm bread with spoonfuls of a delicious cucumber yogurt sauce and lot's of tomatoes and onions!


Having just endured a whine from my 18 year old son about why I insist on buying wheat buns and bread when he loves white so much more, I gave in and bought the 'white' bread version of the flat breads, as a consideration to the fact that I knew Greek Gyro's were not his favorite foods in the first place!

When I flipped the package over I was surprised to see the Tzatziki recipe they gave on the back did not include cucumbers. Interesting. I've never made it without! But I decided I would try it without so I came home sans cucumbers.

In the end, my readers know darn well I didn't follow their recipe anyway, right? You know I use recipes as a source of an 'idea' and then I play with my food. I improvise - sometimes so heavily almost none of the original recipe exists! But I have fun. And I concoct some delicious meals!

Here is my improvised version.


Tzatziki

2 cups plain yogurt
2 t minced garlic
salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 t olive oil
1/2 t dried dill (optional to add 1/2 t more)


Mix and chill. Serve with Greek gyros or any other pita or flat bread sandwich, wrap or even pita chips.

*edited to add; at serving time, to cut the sour 'tang' just a little bit I added about 1 1/2 t Splenda and stirred it in. My personal feeling about this particular recipe is that I really like the addition of cucumbers to the sauce and next time I'll probably add one finely diced cucumber to this recipe.


Mixed and returned to the plain yogurt container
to chill until tonight.




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BBQ Beans using Black-eyed Peas and Sausage


While browsing for recipes for black-eyed peas to start the new year, I found a recipe very similar to how I make my own bbq baked beans for our family. The difference was their use of black-eyed peas... and sausage. I have always used bacon. I've never, not once, put sausage into my baked beans. It makes sense though I guess (although I love bacon far more than sausage). Of course I wanted to save it to my files for future use -after buying that 'whole hog' last Fall I am in need of more ideas to use up all that sausage and brat patties in my deep freeze!




BBQ Baked Beans

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
1 pound sausage
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce

Rinse, prepare, soak, and cook peas in about 3 cups water, following directions on the package. Drain and reserve half of the cooking liquid. In a skillet over medium heat, brown sausage and onions; drain off excess fat. Place peas in a 3-quart casserole; add sausage and onions. Stir in reserved liquid, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and barbecue sauce. Bake at 300° for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Serves 6.
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