9/30/11

Thank Goodness for Hotel Coffee Makers and Ramen


My regular readers might recall I'm traveling this week.

Our family has been transferred to a new state and are in the middle of relocating 1000 miles away.   We were blessed to get an offer on our current home so after trying for 3 weeks to get away and get to the 'new' city and state, I finally could not put it off any longer and left last weekend to travel to where my husband and 1 daughter have been living for the last few months, and go house hunting this week.

Our family travels by car a lot.  We rarely fly (who can afford it when you have a family of five?) So making a 15 hour solo drive across the country, I decided to do something I normally never do.  I made the decision to make it more 'leisurely' by only driving 10 hours the first day, stopping for the night and then continuing the rest of the way in the morning. 

Stopping only for gas twice and a quick bathroom break once; I munched on a peach and a banana on the way and drank the bottled waters I had brought with me.  I arrived in Tennessee and got settled into my hotel room around 7:pm and realized...  I was hungry.  Very hungry.

The last thing I wanted to do was get back into my vehicle to drive somewhere and pick up fast food.  I had no cash on me (only a debit card and credit card) so I didn't want to order pizza delivery, and although there was 1 full serve restaurant within walking distance of my hotel, I really didn't want to make eating that big of a deal nor do I like eating solo in large, busy restaurants.

Then I remembered;  I had slipped a package of Spicy Hot Ramen Noodles into my computer laptop bag!  It was a spur of the moment decision at the time, but I the packages are thin and easy to tote and I had put one in there, although at the time I didn't know why I did.  It was just a random thing I did at the time.

Then I laughed at myself.

I had Ramen but I had no bowl.  No fork.  But wait!  I had a coffeemaker a styrofoam cups in my hotel bathroom!  Bingo.



I broke the Ramen into quarters (the cups are small), added some of the Spicy Hot flavor packet and brewed a cup using the hot water from the coffeemaker by not adding a coffee packet.  I sipped it as soup and it was... delicious!

Hot and spicy.  Filling.  Just what I needed at the end of a long day having only had fresh fruit. 

Just as I keep an extra pair of flip flops in my truck, I guess I may just have to keep an extra package of Spicy Ramen in my laptop bag!
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9/23/11

Bavarian Spiced Baby Potatoes

Covered in olive oil, Bavarian Spice Mix, Rosemary and Thyme

Yesterday I had a bag of petite Klondike Gold Dust buttery yellow potatoes that I needed to use up.  I pulled out an electric dutch oven, put in some water, the potatoes, turned it on and boiled them while I decided how I wanted to make them.

One favorite is to partially cook them, then grill with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and olive oil.  As I opened the cupboard to get the rosemary and thyme I saw my container of Penzey's Bavarian Spice mix.   Originally I bought it for use on chicken but opening it and smelling the aroma of the spice mixture, I knew it would be wonderful on my potatoes as well.  Time to play with my food and see what I get!  It was... delicious!


Bavarian Spiced Baby Potatoes

Petite baby potatoes (come by Klondike in 1.5 lbs. bags - enough for 4 people)
2 t fresh minced garlic
olive oil - about 2 tablespoons - more for cook time
Salt and pepper to taste
Penzey's Bavarian Spice mix - about 2 teaspoons
Rosemary (fresh or dried) to taste (about 1 t)
Thyme (fresh or dried) to taste (about 1 t)

Pre-boil the potatoes.  Drain.  In a bowl mix the oil with the potatoes (you can cut the larger ones in half) and add all the spices.  Mix until well coated.   I like lots of flavor on my potatoes but if you like your foods a little more bland, go lighter on the spices and taste and adjust accordingly.  Cook in a pan or skillet over medium high heat until golden or my favorite - over a grilling rack on the grill.  About 3 minutes before you are going to remove them from heat, add the garlic, stir till the garlic is golden as well but don't let it burn.  You can add more oil during any time in the cooking process if it's used up.


Just starting to cook the seasoned baby potatoes
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9/21/11

Thick Sugar Cookies Like Lofthouse

My posts might be fewer during this crazy time of selling, house hunting, relocating; but my goal is to update as much as possible. Yesterday however, I ate more like a college student than a Mom! I even had hot spicy chili flavored Ramen noodles for lunch. Shhh!

This morning I'm sipping coffee now, but in 45 minutes my world gets busy. My parents coming to switch vehicles, the roofer coming with a truck load of building supplies for a new roof this week, relocation company is supposed to contact me regarding details and the loan 'guy' for the pre-approval paperwork.

I feel a little bad so as I looked through my files this morning I saw a recipe for a faux Lofthouse style Cookie with thick frosting and I knew I could post it as a "I'm sorry I'm so busy right now but here is a cookie!" offering to my readers.

Let me be the first to say that Lofthouse cookies on their own... aren't that great. If you scrape the icing off, you are left with a really thick, floury, dry cookie. It's the oh-so-thick brightly colored frosting that makes them taste good as it gives flavor and moisture to the cookie. So make sure you have plenty of flour on hand, don't over bake the cookie (they should not be browned at all) and do not attempt to eat with mounds of frosting or you'll be left with a lackluster, dry, floury vanilla cookie.




Cookies (similar to Lofthouse)

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla.Mix in baking soda, baking powder and enough flour to create a consistency for rolling. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out dough to a 1/4-to 3/8-inch thickness using a generous amount of flour. Cut out shapes and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 minutes. Cook on a wire rack. Frost and decorate as desired.



Frosting

1/2 C. Butter
1/2 C. Shortening
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 C. Powdered Sugar

Blend the butter, shortening, egg whites, and flavorings together in a mixer for 1 minutes. Add 1/2 the sugar and gently start to mix, then mix on high for 1 minute until smooth. Add the remainder of the sugar. Gradually increase your mixer volume to high as the sugar blends in. Beat on high for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides once during mix time. Use to frost cookies and sprinkle if desired.
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9/17/11

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Fresh Spinach


In the past I've always made this family favorite with a package of thawed frozen spinach.  No reason really other than the fact that buying chopped frozen spinach at the store and keeping it on hand for 'whenever' is just so easy.  When we would crave this tortilla and pita dip we would simply grab the frozen spinach out and make it.

This time around I was trying to 'use up' a container of fresh spinach.  I had bought it to make the Greek Pizza I'm so fond of but they sell fresh spinach in such large containers that I was then forced to think of what I was hungry for that used spinach (before it started to go bad!).  It was a toss up between Cream of Spinach Soup and this dip.  The dip won.

When I make this dip I make it 'a little different' every time based on whatever I happen to have on hand.  Remember what I always say;  recipes are a guideline but play with your food!  Don't be afraid to add or delete based on what you have or what you like or don't like (within reason of course!)

Looking in my cupboards and refrigerator I pulled out some basic ingredients and this is what I came up with!

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Fresh Spinach

1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise 
4 oz. cream cheese (you could use all 8 oz. if you want)
1/2 c fresh shredded parmesan
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 t minced garlic
4-5 artichoke hearts, barely chopped

1 large handful clean, loose fresh spinach leaves (maybe 2 cups if you were to have to measure)


Chop the spinach leaves and add to everything else in a lightly sprayed or greased casserole dish.  Bake at 325 or 350 for about 20-25 minutes until heated through.  You can also microwave it if you wish.  You can always microwave and then put it under the broiler for 2 minutes to give it a bubbly golden 'finished' look on top.  The finished photo above is what it looks like if you microwave it and do not finish under the broiler as it stays 'white' since the cheese does not brown.  You could also put this in the crock pot.  Serves well with tortilla chips and pita chips.




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9/16/11

For my regular readers and new readers who have stuck with me over the past couple months...

Look what showed up in my yard this morning!

It's been difficult to try to keep up my websites as well as getting two kids enrolled and off to college, one more enrolled and starting high school 1000 miles away and then getting our house ready to go on the market and finally... selling it.  But I've done it.  And it's hopefully going to start to get better within a couple months.

After the first part of November I can't wait to devote more time to cooking, baking and product reviews and become 'just' (eh) a happy housewife again!
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9/12/11

Comfort Food: Pork Chops with Mushroom Sauce (and yes I used canned soup!)


When life is full of ups and downs, sometimes you just start craving 'comfort foods'.   Typical comfort foods might be homemade chocolate chip cookies, hot macaroni and cheese, rice pudding, roast and potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna casserole...  things typically from your childhood that somehow make you feel better when you eat them.

This week I craved a food from my childhood that I almost never make anymore as my husband is not a fan of pork (outside of bacon, which he loves!).  Since he was currently working 1000 miles away and I could have anything I wanted for dinner without anyone else chiming in their opinions, I made myself pork chops with mushroom sauce... the same way my mother used to make them; with canned soup.

It was hot.  It was delicious.  It was exactly what I needed and wanted.  And the way this week is starting out?  I think I better go buy another can of soup and see if we have more pork chops in the freezer.  I think I might be in need of a lot more comfort food!

Pork Chops with Mushroom Sauce

2-4 pork chops (bone in or out - up to you but bone-in has more flavor)
1 can mushroom soup
salt & pepper
oil
water*

Heat about a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan over medium high heat and brown both sides of the pork chops, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  When they are golden brown with bits of dark brown, place them in an oven safe dish or pan.  Turn off the heat and immediately add about 3/4 c water to the frying pan to deglaze the pan.  As you scrape the bottom of the pan and stir the water it will make a wonderful sauce.  Add 1 can of mushroom soup to this mixture and pour over the pork chops.  Bake at 375 until the pork chops are done;  typically for my oven and meat it's about 35 minutes.  This pairs well with potatoes.

Deglaze the pan while hot

*use more water if the sauce is too thick. You can use up to 1 1/2 cups of water to a can of soup. When I make this for the whole family I double the soup and sauce and serve with mashed potatoes with the sauce as a gravy. Delicious!
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9/11/11

Passing Along the Information: Turkey Product Recall

Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. is recalling more ground turkey products because of possible salmonella contamination.

The company recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey last month after a salmonella outbreak that federal health officials say had sickened 107 people in 31 states by Aug. 11. One person died.

That recall covered products from Cargill's plant in Springdale, Ark.

The company shut down the plant but said Aug. 17 it had resumed limited production after the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved additional safety measures.

The USDA said Sunday that Cargill was recalling about 185,000 pounds of ground turkey products made after production resumed because a sample tested positive for salmonella. No illnesses linked to those products have been reported.
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9/8/11

Dark Sweet Cherries and Vanilla Ice Cream with a Sprinkle of Walnuts.... Mmmm


Cherries are a fruit my mother never bought when I was a child.  Cherries in our home came in the form of a can in ooey gooey glaze that she used to make Cherry Dessert.  That was it.  Nothing else.  Ever.  There are sour cherries and sweet cherries, and when the dark sweet cherries are in season and readily available in your grocery, it's time to enjoy a nice sundae or cherry malt on the deck, after dinner, as the sun goes down.


Although you can put the mixture into a blender, I've never found it necessary.  Instead, I scoop vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt into a glass, cut pieces of cherry straight from the pits (use a small paring knife and just cut around the pit, giving you about 4-5 perfectly sized pieces and then toss the stem and pit into the trash) and top with some chopped walnuts.  You can use whipped cream on top if you would like.  

As the ice cream softens I mix mine with a spoon while eating and enjoy a pink tinged 'cherry nut' ice cream that is so perfect on a late summer evening.
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9/5/11

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on the Grill with Sweet Onions on the Side

The night was clear, the sky was blue, the weather perfect.  I was craving shrimp and had a package of bacon thawed in the refrigerator as well.  I knew exactly what would be for dinner that evening.  Grilled Shrimp!   Incredibly easy and oh-so-good I have to admit something to you dear readers...  it looked and smelled so good I started to eat and forgot to take an 'after' photo!




Grilled Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
1 lb. bacon
2 lb. shrimp (shelled and deveined but with the tail on)
Optional:  yellow, red and green peppers, mushrooms, onions and zucchini - chopped large

I find this recipe cooks best if you precook the bacon for a few minutes so it is translucent and about 1/2 of the way cooked (and cooled a bit) before you wrap the shrimp but you don't have to if you don't have time.  I was really hungry this night and didn't want to but the bacon cooks more evenly and crisps better if you do.  Slice the bacon into thirds or halves lengthwise.  Wrap a piece of bacon around each shrimp and place on a tray.  When all are wrapped, drizzle with olive oil and season with a mixture of lemon pepper and garlic pepper mixes.  Chop vegetables on the side.  Place all on a grill pan with holes (I use a pan pizza style pan with the holes in the bottom) and cook over medium high on your grill, turning to get all sides of the bacon crisp.  If the bacon is not crisp enough but the shrimp is done, place on a metal tray and finish quickly under the broiler in your oven.   Do not over cook the shrimp or it becomes hard and rubbery (which is why I prefer to precook the bacon strips before wrapping).  Mmmm.


Bacon wrapped shrimp with chopped onions on the side

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9/4/11

Skunk Deodorizer

I can honestly say that in the past 5 years of running this website I've never featured a recipe for... skunk odor remover! And thankfully I didn't need to mix any up this weekend but a run in with a skunk during some errands made me look up the best 'odor deodorizer' I could find. This one seems to be the most popular and featured on a dozen of the most promising sites I researched.

The little guy that stalked me during one of my errands - yes in the day time and yes in the rain!

Skunk Deodorizer

1 quart hydrogen peroxide (3%)
1/4 c baking soda
1 t liquid soap - laundry or dish

Mix and use with a wash cloth to wipe down the pet or skin. For clothing and dark haired animals be warned that peroxide fades and causes 'red' hair or highlights.



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9/2/11

My "Fall Back" Food - Greek Pizza


My regular readers know life is rather crazy right now.  In the middle of selling our home and relocating 1000 miles away.. my husband and daughter are already in the new state so she could start school there and not switch mid-year.  I'm here selling our home and just got our other two kids off to their respective colleges.  We are currently in an odd (and new) chapter in my life when it comes to cooking.  It's no longer "How many extra are we going to have around the house at dinner time...."  to "I wonder if anyone but me will be here at dinner time...."

Everyone has quick and easy 'Fall Back" meals.  You know, the meal you 'fall back' on when it's dinner time and you are hungry and want something you know you have the ingredients for and it won't take long to make.  This Greek Pizza is one I've made for years (and blogged about numerous times) and I make it often... but I make it different every time based on what we have on hand!

If you haven't tried it yet, give it a go.  I can eat this twice a week;  it's that yummy and simple!

Greek Pizza
(I left the spinach off in the photo above and added artichokes.  Play with your food!)

1/2 c mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 c crumbled feta cheese
1 - 12 inch pre-baked pizza crust, homemade crusts or 2-3 thick flour tortillas
1/2 c oil packed sun dried tomatoes
olive oil (or oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
1/4 pitted Kalamata olives,, chopped or sliced
1 t dried oregano
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dry
1/2 small red onion, sliced into rings

Heat oven to 450.  Mix the mayonnaise with garlic and 1/2 cup feta.  Spread this over your pizza crust or over 2 or 3 thick flour tortillas.  Top with tomatoes, olives and oregano.  Bake until heated through.  Toss the spinach and onion with about 1 tablespoon olive oil or if you have it - oil from the sun dried tomatoes.  Tops the pizza with the spinach mixture and the rest of the 1/2 cup feta.  Return to the oven for about 3 minutes.   Slice and serve!



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