Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Care Package



Several weeks ago, my sister had an accident that has put her out of commission for a while. I took food when she got home from the hospital and had planned to do it again last week. But you know how plans go---they went awry. So this week, I took enough food to last them several days. I did choose a couple of recipes that can be frozen for later, if that helps them. If she lived closer to me, I would divide meals and share as I cook for us. But she is just far enough away to make that impractical.

If you are like me, the hardest part of doing this is deciding what to make. So I'll tell you what I took. You might find a recipe here that you can use. Maybe you'll put it with one of your own favorite recipes. Factor in major dislikes (no olives or feta cheese will go to this house!) but don't get too crazy about "cooking to order" or you'll never do it.

Do take a minute to think about who is getting your care package. I'm taking this to a household of 2. That means I didn't make the whole 9x13-inch dish of baked ziti for them. As glad as they were to get some home cooked food, I know they didn't want to eat the same thing for a week. I divided the ziti into smaller foil pans—two small ones for them (one to bake, one to freeze for later) and a square pan for us.  If things might go into the freezer, wrap it so that it's ready to freeze and add the date. Make it as easy as possible for them.

And take just part of a meal if that's what you have time for. (This time, I was lucky to have most of the day to do this.) My brother-in-law did say that they are lucky to live where there are many restaurants so "it's easy to pick up food—but take-out meals get old pretty quick." So anything you've made will be welcome. A couple of weeks ago, I took BBQ chicken sliders, pasta salad and a bag of chips. (I cooked chicken breasts until tender, shredded them, and poured a bottle of bought "sweet & spicy" barbecue sauce over. I took that and a package of dinner rolls.) It was quick to put together, but it was greatly appreciated.

Here is what I took (with recipe links) this week:


Mason Jar Salads
While the water for the ziti was coming to a boil, I made these four pint jars because I realized that the container of baby spinach I bought was only enough for four jars. (I had planned to make some for us, too. Next time.) They will keep for five days. I added the "use by" date to the lids. I've done these before and they really do keep for days. And it's delish.


Baked Ziti
This recipe is a favorite of my family. It makes a huge amount. And we know it freezes well—either before baking or after. I divided it into two small foil pans to take and a square pan for us. I ran out of mozzarella when I was adding the cheese on top, so I finished up with a little Mexican cheese blend. Close enough.


Chicken Salad
I figured they can have sandwiches, or add a scoop of this to the mason jar salad to make that a complete meal. This will keep a few days, too.


Sloppy Joes
If you've eaten Manwich and decided that you don't like sloppy joes, this isn't Manwich (which I happen to like, but lots of folks don't.)  It freezes and reheats well. I packed this so that it could be frozen if they want to use it later. I divided the meat mixture and divided a package of slider rolls—half for them, half for us. Toast the rolls before serving.


Black Eye Pea Salad
Since this was going to my sister and brother-in-law, I figured I could experiment a little. This is a new recipe. I started with a recipe I found on Plain Chicken's blog, but then I drifted and changed it up a bit. Taste and adjust to suit you. You might like it a little sweeter. I'm thinking a little whole kernel corn would be a good addition, too.

BLACK EYE PEA SALAD

3 (15-oz) cans black eye peas, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Put peas, peppers, onion and celery in a bowl. Mix oil, vinegars, garlic powder, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend. Pour over vegetables and stir gently. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Longer is better.


Just to finish the cooler box up, I added a purchased container of fresh fruit, a container of sliced cucumbers from our garden and I tucked in a loaf of pineapple zucchini bread from my freezer. Now they are fixed for a few days and there is enough here so that I don't have to cook for us for a while. A definite win/win. Now, don't think I'm crazy, but this is how I do things. I typed up sheet listing everything I delivered, with preparation directions if needed. I even included an ingredient list, so they would know what they had. That's overkill, I know, but I was glad for an excuse to sit down and type after cooking all morning!

As we were leaving her house after the food delivery, my sister shouted out the door to me. She promised that if I fall down the stairs and break something, she'll bring me food. It's a deal.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend Doings



As soon as I had taken this chocolate chip zucchini bread out of the oven and it cooled off so that I could wrap it up, we headed to the lake for the weekend this past weekend. It was an unusually cool two days and a perfect time to be out on the water.


I didn't bother with many photos this trip. We just enjoyed some time together, mostly minus devices. Kindle doesn't count, does it? I read two books.


But I was happy I had my phone with me on the boat Sunday afternoon and could snap a few photos. Daddy-O pointed out the huge osprey nest on the top as we passed under the train trestle. Two huge ospreys were on the nest, not disturbed in the least by the water traffic passing underneath them.


And I couldn't resist this evening photo. After dinner out, Daddy-O grabbed his rod and reel and headed down to the pier for some moonlight fishing.


Here is the zucchini bread we took to the lake for the weekend. I liked the chocolate/cinnamon combination, but if you don't, you might try using a teaspoon of vanilla instead of the cinnamon. I haven't tried it that way. Yet.

CHOCOLATE CHIP ZUCCHINI BREAD

 3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 1-2 medium)
1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan, or use PAM
Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with mixer at low speed until well blended. Stir in applesauce.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cocoa thoroughly with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring until just moistened. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, place on wire rack and cool completely.



Our garden isn't producing nearly as much zucchini this year (which is okay since I usually have trouble using it up) so while I had zucchini on the kitchen counter, I made a second batch on zucchini bread—this time with pineapple—as soon as the chocolate loaf came out of the oven. I posted this recipe here last year. I wrapped the two loaves with pineapple and tucked them into the freezer for later. I'm not sure which zucchini bread is my favorite. They are both good.

ZUCCHINI PINEAPPLE BREAD

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini (1–2 medium)
1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup golden raisins


Mix first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. (I used a whisk to blend.)

Stir together eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and zucchini in a medium bowl. Pour into dry ingredients. Mix all together. Dredge raisins by stirring them with 2 teaspoons flour, to keep them from sinking to bottom of batter. Stir raisins into batter.

 
Pour into two 4x8-inch well greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. (I had to cover my pans loosely with foil midway through baking time because it was browning so quickly.)




The chocolate chip zucchini bread was ever bit as delicious as it looks! But I must tell you I plugged this recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and I hate to tell you, but using the applesauce in place of most of the oil, does not make this a low point recipe. If you cut your loaf into sixteen slices, it's 9 SmartPoints per slice. At twelve slices per loaf, it's 12 SP per slice. Yikes!  Enjoy it, but with the points knowledge to do it sensibly.


 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sandwiches For Supper


I needed an easy supper for a busy day last week. Daddy-O was in the hay field until dark, while I was still at work at the piano. (My days as pianist are done. At least for now.) I dug deep into my own recipe index here—yes, sometimes I forget to use what is at my fingertips—to find something I could pop into the slow cooker in the morning and have ready in the evening. Pepperoncini Beef sounded good.

BUT before I got started, I remembered watching Pioneer Woman make a similar recipe while I was babysitting a few weeks ago. The little grandchildren love watching Pioneer Woman.  And now Trisha Yearwood's cooking show is a new favorite. "What's Trisha cooking today, Mom?" asks five -year-old Little Sister many days. (Their television viewing is very limited, so these cooking shows are a real treat.)

My original plan was to make Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches that I posted here ages ago. But I changed my plan when I found the recipe from the Pioneer Woman TV show. Oh, the powers of Google! 

I made a variation of Pioneer Woman's Drip Beef, which is a cousin to my own recipe. The changes I made to her recipe were simply to use what I had in my pantry. It was too far to run to the store for a jar of whole pepperoncini when I could make do with sliced ones. It's that kind of recipe. Pioneer Woman's Drip Beef was a variation of someone else's recipe. So feel free to tweak it if you need to. I'm not even sure I'll make it exactly the same way next time either.

DRIP BEEF SANDWICHES

1 (3-lb) chuck roast, trimmed of fat
1 (10-oz) can beef consomme
1/2 (16-oz) jar whole pepperoncini, with the juice (I only had sliced)
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
crusty sandwich rolls (I used sandwich thins)
Provolone cheese slices

Cook in slow cooker on LOW for 8-10 hours, or until fork tender. Use two forks to shred the beef. Serve on toasted buns. Top with cheese, if you want. And you can dip out some of the juice and serve in little bowls on the side to make this "French Dip" style. 


Here is my original recipe, just like I've made it several times. It's good, too. This one is a little spicier because it uses the whole jar of pepperoncinis. They are both good. And check out Pioneer Woman's post for another no-pepper version. I'll try that one, too. It looked tasty in a different kind of way.

PEPPERONCINI BEEF SANDWICHES

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lb beef roast, trimmed of excess fat
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 16-oz. jar sliced pepperoncinis, undrained
crusty sandwich rolls
sliced Provolone cheese
Heat oil in a pot or high-sided skillet over high heat. While the oil is heating, combine the salt and pepper and rub it into the meat. Add more if necessary.

When the oil is hot, sear the roast on all sides so the outsides of it is browned and a little crispy.

Transfer the roast to a slow cooker and add the minced garlic and the entire jar of pepperoncinis (along with juice.)
Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or until the beef is 
fork tender.
 Drain and shred. Keep the peppers!

Toast buns. Pile drained, shredded meat on bottom bun and top with cheese. Put back under broiler just long enough to melt the cheese. 


Now...let me advise you. If you don't like "hot" you might want to use less pepperoncini in BOTH recipes. Or, make something else entirely. Daddy-O thought the Drip Beef was a little on the spicy side. I liked it just like it was. I am convinced that the hotness of pepperoncinis vary from jar to jar. Wikipedia says "its hotness depends on the maturity of the pepper, with the most ripe being sweeter than younger ones." So, you use the amount that suits you. Also, if you use the whole peppers, it's easy to leave them off the sandwiches if that suits you better.

And because there are only two of us here, I put two ziploc bags of drip beef in the freezer for other busy days. There will be a day coming soon when I'll be so glad I did this.


 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Because It's That Time Of Year

Morning Harvest

It's that time of year again. Cucumbers are ready to pick in the garden. In a few days, it will be cucumber overload time. I really think you could see them grow if you watched closely. They can be too small to pick in the morning and too big by evening. And like the squash and zucchini, there are either none or there are too many at once. They should have their own garden vegetable category..."Too Small/Too Big/Not Enough/Too Many." And it seems that all of that can happen within hours.

Cucumbers & Onion in Vinegar

So here is the most basic thing to do with cukes (as my grandmother called them.) And it's one of our most favorite ways to eat them, too. It's a standard item on summer tables here in the south. This recipe has been posted here before, but since I had to look it up for myself, I thought I'd save you the trouble and give it to you again. I know it's just vinegar, water and sugar, but I can never remember the proportions. So here you go....


CUCUMBERS AND ONIONS IN VINEGAR

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 slightly-rounded tablespoons sugar
sprinkle of salt 
cucumbers, peeled & thinly sliced
sweet onion, thinly sliced & separated into rings

Mix vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Put sliced cucumbers and onion in a dish. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers and onion. Cover, and place in refrigerator for an hour or longer before serving. Keeps in refrigerator for several days.


Feel free to make it sweeter, less sweet, or less vinegary or whatever to suit your family. Heck. Be reckless and throw in some fresh dill. This is just a "starting place" kind of recipe. I am 1,000% sure that my grandmother didn't use a recipe. Just mix it up to suit you.





Monday, June 13, 2016

Salkahatchie Salad

Garden Pasta Salad

Well, that is not really the name of this salad. But it could be. It's that time of year again. Early summer is when I usually make lots and lots of pasta salad for the summer work camp, (Salkahatchie Summer Service is a program of the United Methodist Church in our state) that our church hosts each year. This week, 80 teens and leaders are "camping" all over our church. There are sleeping bags spread out in every room. This will be home base for the week while they are in our community doing home repairs where it's most needed.

And I don't mean little repairs. They might be adding a porch or a wheelchair ramp. Or, re-roofing a house or replacing a floor. They learn many skills as they work and they learn much about life. They pay to come do this work for people who can't pay at all. Maybe people they wouldn't get to know otherwise.

For the record, this is one of many Salkahatchie sites across the state. And many of the adult leaders were teen workers a few years ago. That says a lot—that they choose to continue their service for years beyond participating as a camper. It's not easy. This is the deep South where the heat and humidity can be brutal . Temps this week will get close to 100 degrees. And yet they still come.

There is a crew of dedicated kitchen workers who keep these teenagers fed multiple times a day. A big breakfast is served at the church. Lunch is delivered to a church or community room near the work site, so they get a small midday break. (There are five different sites this year served by this camp, located all over the county.) And dinner is hosted by a different church most nights. That gives our own kitchen crew a little time off. And, then there are snacks. Lots of snacks. These are teens, after all. So I am happy to provide the pasta salad. It's a small contribution compared to many others that work every day.


This is a great "feed a lot of people" recipe. (Especially when you make it four times over, like today.) And one of the best things that it's better when it's made at least the day before. So, if you are not feeding a camp, keep it in mind for your summer get-togethers. No last minute prep here. It keeps for several days. We love to take it to the lake for July 4th. 

GARDEN PASTA SALAD

1 (16-oz) box of pasta -- rotini, bowtie, or penne
5 cups of chopped fresh vegetables
fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1 (16-oz) bottle Italian salad dressing

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water. Drain well. Put pasta and vegetables and parsley into a large bowl. Add salad dressing and Salad Supreme Seasoning. Toss gently until mixed well. Cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve. I like to make it a day ahead.

This recipe filled a 5-quart plastic container.


The only secret I know for this pasta salad to use a big assortment of vegetables. I try to get lots of color into my mix. This afternoon I chopped zucchini, carrot, celery, red pepper, yellow squash, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and broccoli. (We had zucchini, squash and cucumbers in our garden.) You can use any combination that suits you. For no particular reason, I didn't add any onion this time. Probably should have. I love to cook fresh corn and cut it off the cob. The corn adds a nice touch of sweetness.

Another hint is to put a large pot of water on to boil before you start chopping. A big pot of water takes forever to come to a boil. 

To keep from washing more pots, when the water for the pasta came to a boil, I dunked in the broccoli to blanch it for a minute. (Yep, I held it by the stem and dunked it.) Then I let the corn (on the cob) cook for five minutes and took it out. Then I cooked the pasta in the same water. Much easier clean up than usual.

 Make this before summer is over. You'll be glad you did.



I considered not posting this today after yesterday's tragedy that has dominated the news. I didn't have any words that could make sense of it. But this morning, when I saw the sun come up, I took a deep breath and decided that the best way for me to deal with this sadness and heartbreak was to continue on as planned. To live life and love others. To celebrate these young people who serve others. To remember this John Wesley quote that is dear to many of us:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. 
In all the ways you can. 
In all the places you can. At all the times you can. 
To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” 
~John Wesley 



 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Another Baby - Another Blanket


Another baby. Another blanket. This knitting project traveled around with me to several different places this spring. This is the fifth blanket I've made using this Pinwheel Blanket pattern.


It isn't the typical rectangular blanket. And it isn't really round. It is knit in ten sections. It still falls in the general category of "circular" though. It makes a nice blanket for car seats and strollers. I don't make these too big, but the way the pattern is written, you could just keep going as long as you want and make the blanket as big as you want to.


By now, this blanket pattern makes good travel knitting. The first time I made one, it took much more thinking and I made so many mistakes that needed correction. Knitting is like most other activities—it gets easier the more you do it. Now, I can manage to knit this pattern while singing "Old McDonald" and watching my own little cutie play.


Pattern: Pinwheel Baby Blanket by Genia Planck
Yarn:  Berrocco Comfort, Lagoon colorway
Needles:  size 8

The yarn I used can be machine washed and dried. I know people use many yarns for baby blankets, but personally, I'm not using anything that cannot go into the washing machine and dryer. Babies are messy little people. And new mommies are tired people.


I was happy to get a text message the day after the blanket arrived at its new home. Looking forward to meeting this newest family member, my great-niece.





Monday, June 6, 2016

Lemon-y Chicken

Lemon Pepper Chicken

Here is a perfect summer recipe. I saw this recipe on Plain Chicken's blog recently. She has many good recipes, but this one really sounded like one I wanted to try. I have been in and out of the house so much lately that the kitchen here at the farm has been a little quiet.

At the lake over Memorial Day weekend, we ate all of the meals right there, sitting on the screened porch. I kept everyone fed. Brought a few things from home, from the freezer. I did some simple cooking there. But it had been some time since I had really cooked.

So on my first full day at home last week, I made orzo salad and mixed the marinade for this chicken. Daddy-O did the actual grilling after he came in from moving hay bales out of the field. But at least I had everything ready to cook! The marinade was perfect. Lemon-y, but not too strong. Flavorful is how I would describe it. It was perfectly seasoned chicken.

You don't have to plan a day ahead to make this. This is not one of the "longer the better" marinades. The lemon juice will make the chicken "mushy" if it is left in the marinade for a long time. One hour is long enough.

I used bottled lemon juice because I had some that needed to be used up. (I think I bought it for another recipe that never happened. Do you ever do that?) I know fresh is always better. But the bottled juice was so easy and it was pretty tasty. Maybe one day, I'll squeeze a bunch of lemons and see how much difference it makes. 

I also pounded the chicken to make it thinner and easier to cook. Place chicken in a plastic bag (I like to use a freezer ziploc bag.) Leave the end open while you pound out the thick end to make it all one thickness.



LEMON PEPPER CHICKEN

1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 4, package weighed about 2-1/2 lb.)

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Pour over chicken and let it marinate for 1 hour (not longer) in the refrigerator. Remove chicken from marinade. Grill until chicken is done.


This was so good. I WILL be making this again during the summer. We enjoyed it along side the orzo salad. The leftovers were sliced to make grilled chicken salad. I would also consider putting the grilled chicken in the freezer for another time. My new vacuum sealer would work great. (I've worn two out over the years.) I am always looking for ways to keep my freezer stocked for those days that go crazy. Or, days I just don't want to cook. On those days, we still have to eat!