Thursday, April 30, 2015

A retrospective on cooking in the past

First off, let me say I'm grateful for so many things.

Electricity, running water, and modern cooking conveniences.

I may not love my electric stove, as I do prefer to cook  on a gas stove, but at least I can turn it on at will.  I don't need to split wood, or feed it with sawdust or get oil or ...

However, that being said, I did learn to cook,  somewhat,  on a stove very similar to this.
It had a gravity fed sawdust chute on the back of the stove, but then the stove was converted to use fuel oil and that made for better performance.  But I am still amazed at all the delicious meals my mother prepared on that stove.    The solid top held the heat and you could move the soup pot around to where it had more heat or less heat to cook.   I remember opening windows in the winter when we were making cookies, cause the heat from the stove heated the kitchen so very well.

And never mind how well the heat from the stove heated the upstairs in the farmhouse as well.   Which was fine in the winter, but the summer? not so great.

And how about trying to cook on this?
 Or this, but then again, this one does remind me of an Aga cooker, and is actually quite modern.

I was lucky enough to be able to tour the Billy the Kid Museum in Ft. Sumner, NM recently and took out my trusty phone and took pictures with that camera.

And why did I did I start thinking of how lucky I am?
Here's why.
A typical homesteader's cabin.  One room, and not much in the way of possessions, however, I'm betting they turned out some great food anyway.

I'll return you to my regularly scheduled litany of recipes soon.   I've got a few doozy's coming up.
But for today, I'm heading over to the Senior Center and I'm going to make some Mexican food in honor of Cinco de Mayo.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Senior Lunches for April

This has been a busy month for me.  I was on a business trip, then I ended up eating out a lot this month, and it feels like I've not been cooking a lot either.

Actually, I've not been cooking a great deal this month, but that's OK.

I had some great volunteers take over for me while I was gone and they produced two great lunches.

I did have a small part in one of them, I made up my Shepherd's Pie mix for them, and they finished it off for one of the lunches.
They served the Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie for the purists here along with a squash casserole and some quick pickles.   Actually in Danish they're called Agurk Salat.  I just make a variation of them when we get a lot of fresh cucumbers. 

And  then there was dessert.

Gotta have dessert.

And then made a really delicious Chicken  and Rice for another lunch.  Actually I was told it was really delicious.  I didn't get a chance to taste it, because I was out of town.

They also served cornbread and carrot salad alongside.

Last week I was back in the kitchen, and I got to get my hands into the food again.
I had found some great thick cut pork chops and I browned them briefly, to get a nice color on them, then I finished them off in the oven til they were just done and still moist and tender inside.
I made some Haluski to serve alongside, along with some Okra and Tomatoes.   I also whipped up a batch of chunky applesauce along with some Biscuits.     And can't forget the dessert.   We also put together some Banana Pudding and some Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes.

Tomorrow we're having a Mexican Fiesta, cause Cinco de Mayo is coming up and I wanted to make some Chicken Fajitas again.

And I think I need to make some and tell you all about them here, but I'll wait for a couple of days.

I also want to say THANK YOU to Lisa, Jon and the other great volunteers who put the lunches out while I was gone.  


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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Petoskey and Pine Morning Lavender Soap and Lip Balm

We interrupt the regularly occurring food posts for a review. 

I was lucky enough to score a bar of this soap by Petoskey and Pine.     They make Artisanal Bath Products and Lip Balms, from natural ingredients.

 I was one of twelve bloggers who were given a choice of a soap or a candle. 

There were a lot of choices on their website as to the scents, but I picked Morning Lavender.

What can I say, I love Lavender.

Let me share some of the ingredients in the soap.   They have Olive Oil, Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, Caster Oil and Mango Butter.   I mean, this stuff is really nice.   I won't say my hands are soft as a baby's bum, but they are softer, of course they're considerably older as well.  But...

And the soap fragrance was lovely, as was the soap.   I love how my skin feels when I use it.

Now, as for the lip balm, I didn't realize I'd be getting a lip balm along with the soap and have to say that the lavender flavour on the balm wasn't one of my favourite tastes, however, as a base for lipstick, WOW!!!
I was just in Las Vegas for a trade show and used the lip balm as a base every morning and was actually to wear lipstick the entire show.  Usually, I can wear lipstick for a couple of days, before my lips let me know they don't like all that stuff on them, but this time, it didn't happen.

I think I need a few of the lip balms in different flavours to keep on hand. 

I guess I've been spoiled soapwise the past couple of years, a friend makes a wonderful goats milk soap and I use that, and now I have another great soap to use.
Yay me.

Take a look at the website, and give them a try.   Apparently it is only available in the US however. 

***Disclaimer***    I received complimentary products from Petoskey and Pine for the purpose of review. I received no compensation for this post, and all opinions are my own.
And check this out, there will be a giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter Link and follow the instructions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Some cooking tips...

As I was making lunch yesterday at the Senior Center, I was wishing I had some of my reusable parchment paper there.   When you can just throw a sheet of this on a pan, then bake some pork chops and nothing sticks, cleanup is a breeze, it's almost a 'need to have' item.

My sister actually gave me my first sheet last year, and I promptly went out and bought another one.   I do have a Silpat that I love, but have never dared throw it in the dishwasher, which is what I do with these when I don't feel like washing them by hand.

You see I made some pork the other day for a batch of Chile Verde,
and I was tired when I finished, so I threw the sheet into the dishwasher, cleaned up the stove and sat down for a well deserved rest.
As you can see, just lift off that parchment paper, and a quick wash and the pan is clean.   And the reusable paper goes into the dishwasher or a pan of hot soapy water, your choice.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beef Fritters

Somewhere between the concept of a recipe and the execution of that concept lies reality.

Convoluted much?  Nah -  I got this idea of making a steak fritter and thought out all the parameters and yet...
It didn't quite work out.

The taste was OK, the appearance, not so much.

 I was looking for kind of a chicken fried steak thingy, but got a batter dipped steak instead.

Here's how I did it.
I found some thin cut eye of round steaks at the grocery store and pounded them out a little with my handy dandy meat mallet.  (great way to get out frustrations as well)
I wanted to tenderize them and that worked out very well.

I then took a page out of my Chinese cookbook and dusted them with cornstarch. 
Now cornstarch on chicken makes it velvety and tender and can do something similar with beef.

I mixed up a batter with some self rising flour and Italian Seasoning along with some fresh cracked black pepper and water.  Just enough to make a thin batter.  

1 cup self rising flour
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup water

I dipped the cornstarch dusted steaks into the batter and fried them in a little oil.  I think the batter could have been improved with the addition of some cornstarch, which I will try in the future.

They looked a little like pancakes at this point.    But the flavour was good and with the addition of some gravy on top, even better.    And they were also nice and tender.  
I served them with some oven baked french fries and some chicken nuggets I had in the freezer.
The chicken nuggets were my back up plan, just in case.  

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Coconut Surprise Pie

I can't believe it's been over a week since I updated here.

I have done some cooking but I've also been eating out a lot lately.  
Coconut Surprise Pie

I let my inner child out Easter Weekend though.

We were invited to a friends house for dinner and I offered to bring dessert. My DH loves Banana Cream Pie and doesn't get it often.
Banana Cream Pie

I bought enough Bananas to make two pies and then we proceeded to eat half of them.

They were so good. But it meant I needed to go to the store and buy some more.

Well... Guess what? They were out of Bananas. Not one single banana was left in the store.
NADA, nothing, zilch.

A lack of something at the store has never stopped me from making something. I changed gears, and decided on a Coconut Cream Pie.

It just so happens to be one of my favourite pies.

I knew I had some shredded coconut at home, so I picked up a vanilla pudding mix, some whipping cream for topping both pies and as I was checking out I happened to glance over at the candy display and picked up a couple of Mounds candy bars.

I thought maybe chopping them up a little and adding them to the filling might be an idea.

After I got home I put the Banana Cream pie together, but that's an easy thing to do. I buy the commercial banana cream and layer it with bananas in a prebaked pie shell. Just sayin... I then put it in the fridge to rest up til dinner.

I hurried up and made the vanilla pudding, but instead of using 3 cups of milk, I only used two. I wanted it thick enough to cut.
When I went over to check and see if it had thickened enough I discovered I'd accidentally bought the cook and serve pudding.
It wasn't thick at all. In fact it looked just like milk, with flavouring.
I proceeded to add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to a half cup of milk, stirred that into my unset pudding and cooked it.

Cooled it down, and then I added a surprise, some chopped up Mounds bars. Along with 3/4 cups of flake coconut.

I was in the spirit of Easter I tell you, I was hiding goodies in the pie.

I then dumped placed the thickened coconut filling into a pre-baked pie shell, and mounded it lightly, then changed my mind and smoothed it out a little. And put it into the fridge to rest up for a couple of hours.

After both pies had a chance to rest up, I whipped up a pint of heavy whipping cream, with a scant 1/2 cup of icing or confectioners sugar. I wanted it stiff enough to pipe, but not too stiff.

That was when I had fun.

Coconut Surprise Pie

I placed some of the whipped cream into a piping bag with a star tip and proceeded to decorate the pies.
As I said, my inner child got loose on Easter.

I did toast a little of the flake coconut in a pan, and I had a little of the green tinted coconut left as well.

I also had a few malted milk mini eggs, so...

I made a nest and put the eggs in it.
Coconut Surprise Pie

Recipe for Coconut Surprise Pie

1 large package cook and serve Vanilla Pudding
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 to 3/4 cup Flake Coconut
1 Mounds Bar, chopped up

1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped with 1/4 cup confectioners sugar.

Mix together until smooth and then cook until thickened. Set aside to cool.

When it's cooled, add the coconut and the Mounds bar and stir together. Pile into a pre-baked pie shell and then have fun decorating it.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Hazelnut Biscotti for Secret Recipe Club

 I was not prepared this month for my Secret Recipe Club reveal.

I'm still not, but I'm doing it anyway.

It's been a cray cray month for me, but I persevered and came out cooking.

The Secret Recipe Club are a bunch of bloggers divided up into 4 groups, A B C and D.   We are assigned a blog from our group and then have to find and make a recipe from that blog and reveal it on our assigned day.   Which is today.    

My assigned blog was Sweet as Sugar Cookies, and there was a surfeit of sweet recipes on her blog. Lisa does a lot of dessert/sweet treats and it was hard to choose.


I don't make a lot of sweets, but I do love a good Biscotti and I found a couple of recipes that I could try. 

My favourite Biscotti is Almond Biscotti, but I'm open to new experiences.   I was going to do a Cranberry- Ginger Chai Biscotti,  However, I found out I don't really care for the taste of Chai spices.   '
It just so happened that Lisa had a recipe for Almond Biscotti.

Hazelnut Biscotti

I was going to make some Almond Biscotti, but I had a, ummm, accident when I pulled the almonds out of my pantry.  I dropped them.  All over the floor.


Back to the drawing board I went.

Just to the counter actually.   I had a bowl of hazelnuts sitting there and decided that they were going to sub for the almonds.
Whether they wanted to or not.
So I got cracking and managed to fill a half cup measure with the hazelnuts (filberts).

Almond  Hazelnut Biscotti
  3 c. flour   (I actually added 1/2 cup more flour because I used some Jumbo Eggs and the batter was too fluid)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (omit the salt if using salted butter)
 4 Tbsp. butter
3/4  c. sugar
3 eggs  (I used Jumbo eggs)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped Hazelnuts

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture.  Mix in the hazelnuts.

 Spoon the batter out onto a silpat or parchment papered pan.  Make two logs, approximately 16x2 inches.  They will flatten out a little. 
Hazelnut Biscotti
Bake at 350F for about 25 min. until they are firm to the touch. 
Hazelnut Biscotti

Take out and slice into 1/2" thick slices  with a serrated knife.
Hazelnut Biscotti
Lower the oven temperature to 325F.
Hazelnut Biscotti

Place the pieces cut side up on a silpat or teflon coated parchment paper and bake 15 min. per side until biscotti are hard and dry.  (I like mine a little browned so added about 5 minutes to the cooking time and bumped the temp up to 375).

I just had a couple of slices with a cup of coffee.

Hazelnut Biscotti
I'm in trouble now.

I think I see an endless succession of Biscotti in my future.    

Now go ahead and check some of the other dishes our great bloggers made.  I know I want to see what everyone else made. 

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Bunny Cake for Easter

I think I've mentioned this about 15 or more times, but I volunteer to cook a lunch weekly at our local senior center.

Actually, I'm...

drum roll please...

the Kitchen Manager.

Impressed?   Nah, me neither.

But I do get to cook for a large group of people every week, make menus and try my best to serve not only healthy food, but good tasting food as well.

However, one of my secret passions is decorating cakes.

I'm not as good at it as my older sister or my SIL, but I like to play anyway.

Yesterday, I made a Bunny Cake for our cake raffle. 
Bunny Cake

And I didn't get pictures as I went along, cause I decorated it at 6 am and I was just barely awake.    I mean, I did get the turkeys into the oven to start them cooking for our lunch, but that was easy.   Little thought required there. 

To start with...

I bought a package of Pink Marshmallow Peep Bunnies and some mini malted milk eggs. 

I then made a white cake, frosted it with white frosting (icing if you insist). 

I tinted about a half a cup of shredded coconut with two (2) drops of green food coloring, shook it around, to disperse the food coloring evenly.   Debated on adding more food coloring, but decided it looked just fine.    I then put it aside to rest for a little while.

It was all shook up, after all.

Around the perimeter of the cake, I placed the dozen Pink Marshmallow Peep Bunnies evenly.  Well, pretty evenly. 

I then made a nest of the green tinted coconut in the middle of the cake, and placed the mini-malted milk eggs on top of that.
Bunny Cake
Some of them rolled off to the side, but I decided it looked OK.

I thought that the Bunnies guarding the eggs was a fun, whimsical idea.  
Bunny Cake
I guess our guests thought so too, I got a lot of comments on it.

So, if you're looking for a fun idea and and an easy dessert for Easter,  try this out.  

I had fun...

We served a full turkey dinner yesterday.
Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Vegetarian Stuffing, Carrots and Green Beans and Gravy...
Turkey and fixins for Easter Dinner at Senior Center
Gee no wonder I'm tired today.   But it was all good. 

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Ideas...

Easter's coming...

Really, next weekend and I'm actually ahead of the curve here.    Well, sorta.

I wanted to share what I did last year and will be doing a repeat of again this year, my Deviled Egg Chicks.
Deviled Egg Chicks

These were so cute and cuddly.

Not really cuddly but they tasted delicious.    And were just plain fun to do.

If you're like many people you'll also be making a ham, well, let me share my Special Sauce recipe for that.
Mustard and Brown Sugar Sauce

You just mix equal amounts of brown sugar and mustard together, and that's it. But, if you make it early in the day, the sugar crystals will dissolve into the mustard and create a totally wonderful experience.   I actually keep a bottle of this in my fridge cause it does go with so many other meats, like the Corned Beef I made last week.

And you could also make a Potato Salad.   I made some a few weeks ago using my MIL's recipe and had people telling me it was one of the best they'd had.

I just realized I've never shared that recipe.  Shame, shame, shame.

I'll just share a picture for now though.
Potato Salad

   I made it for our Senior Lunch a few weeks ago.   And it was good.  Along with the Deviled Eggs, Creole Succotash and Baked Chicken. 
Creole Succotash, Baked Chicken and Potato Salad

Well, gotta go and see if there are any eggs left at the grocery store so I can get some baking done.  

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