Friday, July 19, 2019

Weekend Bonus Recipe

I don't usually post on the weekends, but tonight's dinner turned out really well and I want to get it here in the blog so I don't lose the recipe. That has been known to happen. If I post it here, there's not much chance that I can't find it next time.

Instant Pot Chicken & Potatoes
I had a dinner plan for tonight. But then I sat here all afternoon and knitted the same three rows over and over. And over. Note to self: do not watch intense drama at the point where I'm establishing the pattern repeat. And when episode 2 ended and I FINALLY got the pattern repeat right, I looked at the clock and I knew I needed to change my plan.

A quick Google search for "instant pot chicken & potatoes" led me to this recipe from Creme de la Crumb. This is a new-to-me site. I'll explore later when I have more time.

As usual, I didn't quite follow the recipe. But the basic directions were spot on. I only had two chicken breasts. I didn't have any thyme. And there was no parmesan cheese here. It was one of the most "instant" recipes I've made in the Instant Pot. I typically say the the word "instant" is a misnomer. It takes quite some time for the food to heat up and reach pressure even though the cooking time might be shorter.

Maybe it's because I was only cooking two pieces of chicken and fewer potatoes, it didn't take too long to reach the pressure point. When it was done, I sliced the larger breast and we shared it. It was actually easier to eat it after it was sliced. And that was plenty for us tonight. I made a plate with the smaller piece of chicken and the rest of the potatoes for Daddy-O to have tomorrow. I'm hitting the road early in the morning for a couple of days of Mimi duty.


INSTANT POT CHICKEN & POTATOES

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I only used 2)
2 lbs. red baby potatoes (I tossed in about 3/4 lb)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I didn't have any)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dry Ranch seasoning mix
1 cup chicken broth (I did use the whole cup)
chopped parsley, optional

Toss chicken breasts and potatoes in oil. Mix seasonings and sprinkle over chicken and potatoes and toss to coat. (I used about half the seasoning mix for my smaller amount of chicken & potatoes.) 
Pour chicken broth in IP. Put chicken pieces into broth and put potatoes on top of chicken. Fasten lid and close valve to seal. Set timer to MANUAL for 15 minutes.
When cooking time is up, do a quick release. Remove chicken and potatoes from broth. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.


This was ridiculously good for the effort that went into it. The potatoes were perfect. The chicken was moist and tender.  And I only had the one pot and one bowl to wash. You could certainly use different seasonings. It's the cooking directions that I was looking for.

Take a few minutes and go to the original recipe and then read the comments. Lots of other good ideas there.

Now I might better go throw a few things in a weekend bag. I'm leaving early-early tomorrow.



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Trying Something New This Week And BIG NEWS!


Had you given up on me? I nearly gave up on myself. After a hectic family week at the lake, we stayed on a few days more. But both of us were sick. Daddy-O, with one of those "non-specific viruses" that you just have to wait for it to get better. And I had another round of nearly non-stop coughing which has become a frequent problem. After a couple of weeks of listening to myself I gave up and made an appointment with the doctor. New doctor. New diagnosis. New meds. And I'm already feeling better. Enough better to get back in the kitchen. I haven't felt this good in ages.


I always think "next week" life will slow down. But looking at my calendar and jotting down dates my girls need me for Mimi duty, it might be more like next year before that happens. (I also found out after staying some extra days at the lake, that I like busy. It got harder and harder to just be.)

So today I decided to try freezer cooking—with a twist. Because I know I'll be away here and there for the next few weeks, I wanted to try freezing individual dinners. Kind of like the old TV dinners that hit the store shelves back in the 50s. I thought they were so exotic. Probably because we never had them. When I was on my own after college and cooking for one, I got my chance to try them. And to be honest I never found one I really liked. I think I pretended to like a couple of them. But they really weren't very good. The homemade ones will have to be better.

My normal freezing is in larger portions and I usually stick to entrees. By now I know what freezes well. And what we like. I always think the secret is in choosing recipes with a sauce or gravy (that includes soups and stews) to keep food moist and then being very particular about how I package them. Oh, breads and muffins are also good freezer items.

This morning's cooking is an experiment. We are looking for a complete—more or less—meal that Daddy-O can grab out of the freezer and heat for his dinner. He does know that the results will likely be better if he lets it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. We shall see how this goes.


Because this was something I decided to do last night, I made do with what was on hand. I'm not sure these are the ultimate dinners. But it will be better than pouring a bowl of cereal at night after working out on the farm all day. Because we were gone for two weeks at the lake, my cupboard looks a little like Mother Hubbard's. Bare.

I did have one can of mushroom soup and some breadcrumbs I bought a few weeks ago for another recipe. And I hate to say that I had just put eggs in the Instant Pot to cook when I realized I needed one for the Salisbury steak. So I turned the IP off, took out one egg, and started it again. THAT'S how empty my kitchen is.

For freezing purposes, I might double the gravy part of the recipe another time. This is an old, old recipe that I've made a good many times over the years. But with only two of us here, it now makes more than we can eat. So I packed four "steaks" and saved two out for our dinner tonight.

SALISBURY STEAK

1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef (I like extra lean) 
1/2 dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg, slighty beaten
1/3 cup water (for the gravy--not the meat mixture)

Mix thoroughly, 1/4 cup of the soup, ground beef, bread crumbs, onion and egg. (I used my hands to mix it.) Shape firmly into 6 patties. In skillet, brown patties (use a little oil if necessary and pour off excess fat, if there is any.) Blend remaining soup and the water. Pour over patties. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until done, stirring occasionally. 

Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.


I bought new "meal prep" containers at Target this week. To fill up that little side compartment I zapped some mixed vegetables in the microwave for one minute less that the recommended cooking time. We will find out if that works out right with reheating. I truly have no clue. I will let you know how it goes when he heats one up.

I found a YouTube video last night that really go me started thinking about this. A Peek Inside. Her video is very real, and very honest. I did get some ideas. (For a totally opposite way to freezer cook, this video was also fun! She cooks huge meals.) This morning I looked through all my freezer cookbooks and only found one that had any guidance for "TV dinners." Most freezer cooking is for the entree. And I'm good with that. So this is just something new for me to learn.

Busy days ahead. School started for the little girls on August 1. Big Sister moves away to college the next week. Jessica and Todd move into a new home that same day. I foresee a fair amount of time spent down their way until things get settled.

And I also anticipate some more knitting coming up. NEWS FLASH!!! It will be baby knitting. 🥰 Jessica and Todd are expecting a baby girl in January. That will be granddaughter #4!







Saturday, July 6, 2019

Lake Highlights, July 4th Week, 2019

In no particular order, here are some highlights of our days at the lake.
Precious family time. Lots of memories.


A week at the lake with family.


Boat ride before bedtime.


We've hosted a family dinner on July 4th for many years.
The covered dish dinner is awesome.


We filled up our porch with 28 cousins/nieces/nephews/siblings/spouses.


Porch play.


The pool makes it easy to keep an eye on the kids.


Hammock fun. 


Helping set up for the big day.


 Homemade hush puppies & low country boil.


Seven little cousins were here, ages 10 months to 8.


Our new (as of last year) overflow cottage. 


Kayak time.





Friday, June 28, 2019

Busy In Kitchen This Week


We have a new—well, it opened a year ago—local meat market in our tiny town. You can see the beautiful pinwheel steaks stuffed with spinach and provolone that I bought. (They were delicious!) But I also bought a tray of pre-sliced yellow squash and zucchini. I had seen a picture of squash and zucchini cooked like this a few days before. This was a good time to try it.


STAND UP VEGGIES

Arrange thin slices of yellow squash, zucchini and onion in a baking dish. (You can also add slices of tomato and/or eggplant.)
Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian seaoning and House Seasoning, or the seasoning of your choice.
Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. (I left this off since I'm currently counting WW points, but it could only be better!)
Bake at 375º for 30 minutes, or until you reach desired doneness.

Because I was cooking the pinwheel steaks at 350º for 30 minutes, I just put my veggies in with the steak. I did put the steaks under the broiler in the other oven for a few minutes to brown them a little and let the veggies keep baking a little longer.


The biggest squash hater in the world (Daddy-O) actually said—yes, said it out loud—that this was pretty good. He even ate some the next night. I think what he has not liked about squash for all these years was the squishy texture of cooked squash. This dish was not cooked long enough to reach the squishy stage. Big plus is that it looks pretty standing up in the dish.


My other purchase from the market was the chicken kabobs. I know this isn't a big deal to most of you, but I am delighted to have some pre-prepped foods available locally. I didn't have to make the kabobs. I only mixed the marinade.

I searched for a chicken marinade recipe and found several, all named "best chicken marinade ever." There were slight differences in all of them. I picked the one that contained flavors we all liked...and then made some slight adjustments to suit me. I'll bet one of those "best" recipes was the original one and the others were all riffs on the first one.

Here is what I mixed up. I'll be using this one again, for chicken pieces, chicken strips, etc. It was very good. You can decide about the "best" thing.

CHICKEN MARINADE. (makes about 1 cup)

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I got that from 1 large lemon)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, not packed down
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Pour over chicken. Let marinade at least 30 minutes. 4-5 hours is better. 

Last night I cooked the kabobs in the oven, in the dish I had used to marinate them in. The plan had been to grill them, but you know how plans go. If you are removing chicken from the marinade to cook, be sure to discard the remaining marinade. It's a big safety thing.


We celebrate Independence Day next week. Whatever your plans are, remember why we celebrate, stay safe and have fun. We are having our annual family week. I'll see you back here the following week.

Hydrangea at our back door planted by my mother-in-law so many years ago,









Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Getting Ready For The 4th

The July 4th week means family gatherings and big dinners and cooking out for many of us. Here are some recipes that you might find handy for those occasions.

Borrowed this photo from a previous grilling session.

Last night it was my turn to take supper for our Monday night group of friends for dinner and a movie. I decided that in the interest of undoing some of my overindulgences this summer, I would take something that was Weight Watchers friendly—grilled chicken salad.

I made a giant green salad, put homemade croutons, toasted pecans and fresh shaved Parmesan in separate containers so if anyone wanted to leave off ALL the point busters, they could. And Daddy-O, being the best of Daddy-Os, came in a little early on the tractor to grill the chicken for me. I took it and sliced it up after I got there.

I love this recipe and have used it so many times. It's quick to mix. Doesn't have to be marinated all day. And it gives the chicken a flavor boost but not an overpowering lemon flavor.

LEMON PEPPER CHICKEN

1 cup lemon juice (I used Sunkist bottled this time)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this time I used 8 smaller ones)

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Pour over chicken and let it marinate for 1 hour (not longer) in the refrigerator. Remove chicken from marinade and discard the marinade. Grill until chicken is done. Outdoor grill or grill pan both work. I've done it both ways.


Baby Girl likes her ice cream on the side.

And in the "not so healthy" category, here is a recipe that we made during Mimi Camp. (It's part of what I overindulged in.) I had planned to let the little girls make it. It's that easy. But I ended up and threw it together on the last day and we had it for our dessert. If you need a quick, easy dessert to take to a family gathering, you couldn't go wrong with this one.

PINEAPPLE-CHERRY DUMP CAKE

1 (20-oz) can pineapple tidbits, plus the juice
1 (21-oz) can cherry pie filling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box yellow cake mix (2-layer size)
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 2-qt. baking dish with butter. Place pineapple tidbits, cherry pie filling and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over the fruit. Pour melted butter evenly over dry cake mix. Use a spoon to spread it if necessary. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling.  We like to serve it with ice cream on top.

Confession:  I grabbed a 9x13 dish (3-qt) without thinking. There wasn't enough butter to cover that much more surface area, so I melted another half stick of butter to pour over the top. It was really good. ☺️

I'm sure you could switch out the cherry for another flavor pie filling. And I even wondered how apple pie filling and a spice cake mix would work. I haven't tried that, but after I've lived on salads for a few weeks, I like to.


Pasta salad will keep for several days so it's a good make-ahead dish.

Minutes after the girls left and headed home from camp, I headed to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my annual big pasta salad making. For years I have made a double—sometimes triple—batch for the Salkahatchie Summer Service work camp that is hosted by our church each summer. It keeps well, so they can use it at lunch for several days.

I have also made this many times for our July 4th week at the lake...because I can make it at home and take it and have enough for several meals. My family loves it. And the Salkahatchie kids must, too, because they keep asking me to make it. You've probably seen this recipe here before but it's good enough for a repeat. It's the perfect summer side for all your gatherings.

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 (I like Wishbone)

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 aim for lots of color in my mix. This time I used zucchini, carrot, celery, red pepper, yellow squash, cucumber, grape tomatoes, corn and broccoli.  You can use any combination that suits you. For no particular reason, I didn't add any onion this time. I love to cook fresh corn and cut it off the cob. (Dunk the broccoli in the boiling water first for a few seconds to brighten the color.) 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. 


There are other recipes here on my blog that would be good summer time picnic/covered dish recipes. I'll make it easy and add a few links.

Carol's Marinated Veggies (she brought this to our dinner-and-a-movie last night)

Indian Summer Salad (I love this salad. Keeps for days.)

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad (no mayo if egg allergy is a problem)

Blueberry Pie (easy to make—no fruit to peel)

Sweet Tea (you don't HAVE to buy it)


And a reminder that there is a recipe index at the top of the page, just under the name banner. All the recipes from this blog are there in categories. If you find something missing or out of place, let me know. Sometimes I forget to add a new recipe. Thanks.








Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Wonders Of Being A Grandmother


Just when I'm thinking "I have nothing to write about" one of my readers who is a frequent commenter does it for me. Thank you, Chloe, for your beautifully written words about parenting and grandparenting that you made on my last post about our Mimi Camp. Since they are already online for the world to see, I'm hoping you don't mind that I post them again.
Just when you think your own child has past the last fun stage of their lives and you no longer marvel at every new experience that they are going through - they go and have grandchildren and this time it is all fun and fresh and less responsibility. Thank you for all the wonderful ideas to engage our grandchildren at a time in our lives when it might be a lot easier to just sit on the porch and watch them watching Sesame Street. The scavenger hunt idea is just the best. I had forgotten things like that. Chloe. P.S. My one brainstorm was giving a Backwards Party for my daughter when she was 8. A good age for that!
Chloe is exactly right. My favorite line from her comment was "...and this time it is all fun and fresh and less responsibility." As my little campers were getting buckled into their carseats to head home, Baby Girl (she's 5) said, "I want to live here all the time, Mimi." And I told her that if she did live here, it would not be Mimi Camp all the time. Her older, wiser sister (age 8) chimed in, "That means no treats from Daddy-O every day." 

As a grandmother, I can bend the daily rules. Trust me, Mommy, I try not to break them. But the girls do get some special treatment when they are here. They get jelly on their normally plain peanut butter sandwiches. They stay up later at night. They get to drink pure cranberry juice for breakfast and not the usual, healthier juice/water mix. All the good healthy things they learn at home are stretched a little here. We say these are treats for Mimi's house. At home they go back to the regular rules.

Let me assure Mommy that they do not get unlimited treats despite what they may tell you. They do brush their teeth before bed. They do hear the word "no" every day. They do pick up their toys. They have vegetables at supper every night. We try to limit TV time and monitor what they are watching. It is not a free-for-all when we have them.  But, as it should be, the rules are different when they are with us. 

I take my role as grandmother very seriously. I feel like my job is to support the parents. To reinforce the values that these children are learning at home. To provide unconditional love for the grandchildren. But also to let grandchildren explore and experience and do things that make colossal messes. We want to have fun with them. To be silly with them. To hug them tightly. To enjoy every minute of this small window of wonder that grandchildren pass through. All too soon, they will reach the stage where the interaction will become, "Hi, Mimi. Bye, Mimi," as they come and go out to be with friends, head off to practice of some sort and do whatever teenagers do.

Make these memories now, grandparents, while these little people still think we are all-wise, all-knowing and completely wonderful!


P.S.  I love reading comments from you. I still cannot reply to any of them. I have tried every way I can think of on every device I own. Sometimes I know who you are, and sometimes I only know you from seeing your comments here, like Chloe. Thank you, Chloe, for being a regular commenter. Congratulations to "unknown" who told me she was going to be a first time grandmother in a few weeks. How exciting! And Jane and GoodnightGram and Buttercup and Missy and the other "anonymous" and "unknown" commenters, hello to you, all! 

P.P.S.  Chloe, what's a backwards party?









Monday, June 17, 2019

Mimi Camp Wrap-Up


Another Mimi Camp is in the books. "It was the best one ever!" declared both little campers. (I think we say that every year.)  Every morning at breakfast, they opened "the box" to see what the day's activity would be. That let me decide day by day—based on weather, how tired this Mimi was, etc—what we would do. They loved opening that box. It was almost like Christmas every day.

Here is a quick recap of the second half of our camp week.


Wednesday was a scavenger hunt. They hunted inside and out. This turned out to be more fun and lasted much longer than I anticipated. When I plan these things I never know what they will enjoy.


Let me say right up front...the secret of a good scavenger hunt is clipboards. (A clipboard at Walmart is $1.88. Buy them!) It makes it easier to mark off items as they found them. And they look so official.


A quick google search for "kid scavenger hunt" will provide plenty of ready-made pages to print. I looked for ones that matched what could be found around our house and ones with pictures so the 5-year-old could work on her own. We had two pages for outside hunting and two pages for inside. They loved all of it.


Finding a pinecone turned out to be the hard one. There are pine trees way over on the edge of our yard that required tromping through tall grass to get there. It's good to have a Daddy-O to help.


They found a beading kit in Thursday's box. I bought a kit ($20 at Target) and added a box of alphabet beads and some stretchy beading cord to the terrific assortment of beads and cords in the kit. Oh, and beading mats...or a towel...is needed to keep the bead from rolling off the table.

 


They made jewelry for everyone. (I wore mine to church yesterday.) And they came back to this day after day. If you do a camp like this, it's good to leave the craft makings out for days if you can.


By Friday we finally left the farm. For one whole week these girls did not get in a car. I have friends who do similar weeks with grandchildren and plan outings for them. But for these little girls, the bigger treat is to stay in one place. We met a dear cousin for lunch and then visited at her house where they got to feed the fish. 


Then it was back to the farm for the final activity. Water balloons! This was so much fun. To be honest the biggest fun was filling the balloons. (This pump, which included the balloons, was from Walmart, $6.)


The pump to fill the balloons worked great. But enough balloons popped off the nozzle as they filled them to soak all of us. They loved it. 



Filling the balloons took about an hour. Tossing them took less than 10 minutes. They made targets in the driveway with sidewalk chalk. And there might have been some "use your sister as a target," too. Keep in mind that all of those bits of broken balloons have to be picked up. When this fun was over, they got on their low riding toys—big wheel and plasma car—and rode around picking up the pieces. I hope you are equally lucky.



Yes. Mimi Camp 2019 was a complete success, even though we had rainy days. What good memories we made.

INDOOR S'MORES

Place a Hershey's chocolate square on a graham cracker and top with a marshmallow. Microwave for 8-15 seconds. Watch it closely. When the marshmallow starts to puff up, they are ready. Top with another graham cracker.


On Friday night as dinner was ending, Little Sister said, "Let's toast!" She raised her glass of milk and said, "To the best Mimi Camp ever!" We all clinked our glasses and declared Mimi Camp officially ended. 



Although "camp" was over the girls were here for a couple of more days. We let them do what they wanted. Bike riding, digging for rocks, swinging. drawing, making more jewelry. It was great to have some winding down time.


And Sunday night when it was only me and Daddy-O here in a very quiet house, we collapsed and gave thanks. Thanks for grandchildren. Thanks for good health so that we can enjoy them. Thanks for cool weather. Thanks for this spacious farm with room to play. Thanks for family.