Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Just popping in here for a couple of minutes during this very busy week while I'm home for a bit. We spent Easter with Mommy and her family. Jessica was there, too. It is the rare occasion when we are all together, so those are special times.
It was a big celebration. Baby Girl turns two this week, so she had a slightly early birthday cake.
And Jessica turned....well, more than two, just a few days before Easter. So there were two birthday cakes in addition to an Easter dinner.
We decided to make the weekend a little get away for us and we stayed at a lovely lake resort that is close to Mommy's house. Easter came early this year, and it was cool and rainy. We surely didn't expect a fire on Easter weekend, but it was a welcome sight when we walked into the hotel.
Maybe there will be another trip here one day when the weather is warm and sunny. I won't be heading back to the resort, but I will be zipping up and down the highway a couple more times this week, doing grandmother things. This is one of those weeks when I'm glad I've done my homework and filled the freezer with things to keep Daddy-O fed until I fed until I get home.
What's in the freezer? Things I know freeze well. One of Daddy-O's favorites is the Teriyaki Pineapple Beef. I freeze that in small portions, suitable for one generous serving. He can quickly cook rice and that's homemade dinner and one less fast-food meal for him. There is a new recipe that we loved, Unstuffed Cabbage Soup. It's so hardy that Daddy-O says he thinks it should be called something besides "soup."
There are a couple of bags of Pulled Pork. Easy to make a sandwich or to serve with a baked potato. I know there is a small baking dish of Baked Ziti and Chicken Pie, both ready to pop into the oven to finish baking.
I also put some small loaves of Banana Bread in the freezer a couple of weeks ago. Not exactly dessert, but it can either be a sweet treat or breakfast for him.
Now, one word of caution if you decide to fill up your freezer with cooked/almost cooked foods. Don't forget to use them! About three weeks ago, we had nearly emptied the freezer and I made a point of cooking things so that I could restock it.
This is NOT like money in the bank that you should leave untouched for as long as possible. Cooked foods that are frozen DO have a "best by" shelf life. I try to use the cooked things within a few months. I think the official recommendation is 1 month, but I know that the food is still okay a month or two past that date. But that container I found in the back of the freezer from last year? Not gonna eat that one.
So, wrap foods for the freezer properly. Label and date the packages. And then make a plan to use them within a reasonable time. I knew my schedule was going to be crazy for the next couple of weeks, so by the time things settle down, I think my freezer will be nearly empty and ready for another round of cooking.
Friday, March 25, 2016
"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven—
All's right with the world!"
— Robert Browning, The Year's at the Spring
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
One reason it's fun to attend baby showers, like the one I went to last weekend, is that you get to taste all the yummy party foods. This cake was a new-to-me recipe, made by my cousin Alyce. It was near the end of the shower before I thought to snap a photo of Alyce's cake. (I haven't had time to make one for us yet.) There wasn't much left by then.
I told her I'd love to have the recipe. Then I asked her if I could share the recipe with you. I was delighted when she said yes. I got this email soon after Saturday's party:
Here is the blueberry cake recipe. I have cooked it in a bundt pan as well as loaf pans. Saturday I added about 3/4 tsp. poppy seeds to the glaze, but I don't always do that. The original recipe did not call for it.
BLUEBERRY POUND CAKE
1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen.
Have all ingredients at room temp. Mix together all ingredients except blueberries. Blend until smooth. Fold in blueberries. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Or, until brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes one large sheet cake or 2 loaves.
Whisk 1 cup confectioners sugar with just enough lemon juice to make icing. Pour over cake while still warm.
Blueberry cake with a hint of lemon. What a perfect dessert for a spring table. I don't think I'm waiting to have guests to make this one.
Since our first email exchange, Alyce and I have continued the cake conversation--mostly about pan sizes. She said for this party, she baked the recipe in two 8-inch loaf pans. And she said to watch it close to the end because it will be done faster than the stated time. She also told me that these are not big loaves, and that it almost looks like it's not enough batter when you divide into the two pans. But it does work.
The recipe says it make two loaves or one large sheet cake. Neither Alyce or I are sure what is meant by "large sheet cake." I would probably try this in a 9x13-inch pan. Or, maybe you really can use a sheet cake pan. Just remember as you change pan sizes, you will likely need to adjust baking times. Maybe I should bake one of all sizes and find out!
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Un-Stuffed Cabbage Soup
The last time I was at Mommy's house, I was browsing through one of her cookbooks* and I commented that many of the recipes looked like ones I'd like to try. She said, "Take it home with you. I mostly use the recipes on your blog anyway. So if you make them and post them there, I'm more likely to cook them." Sounded like a good deal to me.
So, Mommy, here you go. I'm not sure who in your household will like this one, but your non-soup loving Daddy-O ate three bowls of it. I take that as a thumbs up. It was easy to make. Ready to eat pretty quick because I had cooked some boil-in-the-bag brown rice the day before I made the soup.
It is a hearty soup. (I called it a "manly" soup but Daddy-O gave me the evil eye.) It has meat and rice in it. A stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup. I tucked some away in the freezer for later. I love knowing I have something stored for a busy day.
UN-STUFFED CABBAGE SOUP
1 lb. lean ground beef ((93% lean)
1-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato sauce
5 cups Swanson unsalted beef stock (couldn't find unsalted, so used regular)
4 cups chopped green cabbage
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice
Brown ground beef, sprinkled with 1/4 teaspoon salt, in a large pot over medium high heat. Drain any fat. Add onion, garlic, paprika and thyme and cook over medium-low until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef stock and cabbage and season with remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until cabbage is tender, abobut 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add cooked rice and simmer 5 more minutes before serving.
Serves 8 WW Smart Points: 3 per serving
Freezes really well.
This is one time when I think the petite diced tomatoes make a difference. Usually I'll use whichever cans I have on hand. But I really liked the smaller pieces in this soup.
Can I share a basic kitchen tip? If you gather the canned items, chop the vegetables, and measure the herbs before you start the soup, it all goes together in a flash. That also keeps you from discovering that you are out of thyme or tomato sauce after you have browned the meat. (Ask me how I learned this.)
*Check out SkinnyTaste.com for info about her cookbook.
Ha! If some of you are thinking, "This blog post is an old one" you'd be right. In the process of updating the post with information about how well it freezes and adding WW points, I managed to post it again. No matter. The recipe is that good
Monday, March 21, 2016
If it was going to happen, I needed to stay home and stick with it. I was helped along by a broken clothes dryer. I couldn't be tempted to go somewhere else because I had to wait on the repair man. Daddy-O rigged up a clothesline that tided us over a few days. But I surely didn't want to miss the repairman if I had to stay home all week! It turned out that I was glad for a few "go hang out the laundry" interruptions. My hands and shoulders definitely needed a break from the needles.
But for the most part, I sat still, watched old movies, and knitted non-stop. It was like the movies were cheering me on. Knitting scenes kept popping up. I had seen both "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" and "Willy Wonka" several times, but I didn't remember there was knitting in those movies. Now, it was like knitting was everywhere.
By Friday night I was so close to the end. And then I realized that I was running out of yarn. Two choices—order more yarn and delay the gift or figure out a new way to end the blanket. You've heard people say, "If you can't have what you want, then want what you have." Well, I couldn't have more yarn instantly, so I decided I wanted to use a different bind-off. It wasn't my original plan, but I like this one, too.
On Saturday I got up early, washed and dried the blanket, and wrapped it up and arrived at the morning baby shower exactly on time, and walked in calmly like there had been no rush.
The baby shower was such fun. A house full of friends, neighbors, cousins, sisters, children, babies— all gathered to celebrate this newest addition to our world. All new babies should be so anticipated.
Pattern: Pinwheel Blanket by Genia Planck
Yarn: Berroco Comfort, in Raspberry Coulis colorway
Needles: size 8
There is still one more blanket needed. Another baby is due in May. But this time? I'm taking it slow. Even if the baby arrives before the blanket.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Yesterday, because it was St. Patrick's Day, we watched Darby O'Gill & The Little People and I made shepherd's pie. (Maybe we should call ours "ranchers pie" since I used beef instead of lamb.) I know this isn't an authentic version, but it made us feel like we were doing something to celebrate. I made earlier in the day so that I could pop it in the oven when I walked in the door at 6:00 after my knitting group.
When I was in college, one of my favorite dining hall meals was shepherds pie. It didn't occur to me until years later that the kitchen staff was most likely using up leftovers. But regardless, it was delicious.
I also like this "healthified" recipe. Lots more veggies in this one than the old school recipe. The diced mushrooms make up a sizable portion of the veggies. When I browned the diced mushrooms, they look amazingly like browned ground beef. Mix them together and the meat doesn't look skimpy.
Since I'm cooking for two, I divided this recipe into two 1-1/2 qt baking dishes. One went into the freezer (yes, with the potatoes on top) for later. I bought fresh herbs this time. Next time I'll likely use dried herbs unless I have fresh herbs in the garden.
The general rule of substitution is to use a third of the amount of dried as you would fresh herbs. The dried herbs are concentrated. So if your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, you would use 1 teaspoon dried herbs, since 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon. In this recipe, use 1/3 teaspoon of dried thyme and rosemary in place of the fresh.
Or, you could skip the herbs and keep it simple.
1-1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & diced
3/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
salt and pepper
paprika (sprinkled just before you bake)
Boil potatoes in a medium pot of salted water until cooked and soft. Drain and mash with chicken broth, sour cream, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Set aside.
1 lb 95% lean ground beef (mine was 93% lean)
1 teaspoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, peas, green beans, baby lima beans)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup fat-free beef broth
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
kosher salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a large saute pan brown meat over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When cooked, set aside on a plate. Add the oil, onion, garlic, mushrooms and celery to the pan and sauté on medium heat about 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the flour, frozen vegetables, beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme, ground beef and mix well. Simmer on low about 8-10 minutes.
Spread the meat on the bottom of casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake 20 to 25 minutes*, then place under the broiler 1 to 2 minutes until the potatoes turn golden. Remove from oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.
*If you make this earlier in the day and refrigerate it until suppertime, take the dish out of the refrigerator when you start preheating the oven and increase the baking time about 5 minutes or so. Just be sure to bake until the center is hot.
This is another Skinnytaste recipe. She says for 1/6 of this recipe, it's 6 Smart Points—if you follow her recipe exactly. (I made some minor adjustments because I couldn't find the exact ingredients.)
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Green soup! Just in time for St. Patrick's Day. (Wouldn't you rather have this instead of green pancakes or green eggs.) And after St. Patrick's Day, you'll have a tasty recipe that is healthy, too. You'll want to make this more than once. At least I liked it that much.
I made this last week when I was visiting the grandchildren. It was quick. It was easy. And the taste was like a spoonful of springtime. It's not a thick hearty soup, so don't count on a bowl of it to be your supper. But it would be great along side a sandwich or with a salad. It was a fun way to another vegetable to the meal.
When I gave Baby Girl a bowl of it, she happily ate it with her little spoon until the bowl was empty. Admittedly, about half of it was dribbled down her front but she liked it. Thank goodness for bibs.
If you use a hand held immersion blender, this is very, very easy. What would I do differently next time? The taste was perfect as written, but maybe I'd like it a little thicker. Or, maybe not. I did love the taste just as is. I think I will try 5 cups of broth. If I taste it and it needs to go back to the original 6 cups, it's easy enough to add that last bit.
I'm making this again in my own kitchen and will freeze some in individual portions. I'm working hard to add more vegetables to my diet and having this in ready-to-use form will be good when I've eaten all the salad I want for a while.
CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP
2 lbs asparagus (2 bunches), tough ends snapped off
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
salt & pepper, to taste
Cut the asparagus in half and add to the pot along with chicken broth and black pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook low about 20 minutes or until asparagus is very tender. Remove from heat, add sour cream and using immersion blender, puree until smooth (or in two batches in a large blender.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe is another one from Skinnytaste.com. She gives Weight Watchers points for her recipes, so if that interests you, a bowl of soup (1-1/4 cups) is 2 Smart Points.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Why on earth do we knitters do what we do? There are probably as many reasons as there are knitters. And there are days when I wonder why I bother. I wonder why I spend my time knitting and then "unknitting" so that after hours with yarn and needles in hand, I'm right back where I started.
This shawl pattern called Summertide is meant to be knitted in colors that bring back summer memories for the knitter. I chose colors that remind me of the water and sand at the beach. When the sand is dry, it is a silvery color, pretty close to the lighter yarn color named Farmhouse White.
I started this shawl last fall when we were at the beach and the morning light on the water was exactly the color of the blue-green yarn called Silver Leaf. The shawl colors even matched the decor in our oceanfront condo. I knitted and knitted, sitting on the big covered porch, listening to the waves crash on the sand. For me, a perfect vacation.
This project was a mystery KAL (knit along) and those of us who joined in received part of the pattern—a clue—each week. Yep. We didn't know what we were making, except that it was a shawl and it called for two colors. There were hundreds of knitters from around the globe participating. There was a "gathering place" on Ravelry for all of us to chat as we went along. Need help? Odds are there were knitters who worked faster than you and had already figured out the hard part. Bogged down? Someone would cheer you on.
I was right on target to finish by the deadline so that I could post a photo of my finished shawl along with all of the others. Then life happened. Baby Girl got very sick last fall and was in the children's hospital for nearly a week. Most of it spent in intensive care. (She is all better now.) I stopped right then and there and headed down to help out. By the time I got back home to a normal routine, the deadline had passed and the knitters had moved on. And I had other things to do.
So my three-fourths of a shawl was stuffed into a bag until I could work on it "later." I had no clue how much later. Starting again was like trying to finish the last chapters of a book months after you read the first part. The pattern looked totally unfamiliar. The stitches on the needles made no sense. I wasn't sure I would ever finish but I hated to waste the effort I'd already put into this shawl.
Then online knitting friends began encouraging me. I had forgotten that the designer, Helen Stewart, writes her patterns so precisely that I was able to figure out where I left off. Still, I made mistake after mistake. I had lost my rhythm. I am excellent at "unknitting" (lots of practice) but this time, it was tough. So last week when I had spent forever knitting one long row and then even longer-than-forever taking out those 389 stitches, I shoved that shawl back into the bag and tossed it aside.
I was disgusted with it and with myself. Stepping away seemed to be the safest, smartest thing to do. Big lesson learned here—do not work when tired. And do not rush. I was already months past the official deadline, so what did it matter if it waited longer?
But the end did come this weekend, many months after the joint knit-along was over. I feel a bit like the marathon runner who crosses the finish line after everyone else has gone home. But just like that runner, I'm proud I finished at all.
Pattern: Summertide by Helen Stewart
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light
Needles: size 6
Forever, this shawl will be a reminder of a wonderful beach trip with Jessica and a frightening time at the hospital. A reminder that it didn't matter when I finished. It just mattered that I finished. That I didn't give up. And this beautiful shawl is a reminder of why I knit. It's about creating beauty. Solving problems. Meeting challenges. Learning constantly. Developing skill. Being part of a community. It's a good hobby that does all of that.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Just got home from a few days with the grandchildren. We had such fun. One of the best days was when we went to the playground. I don't take my computer when I go. Not even the iPad. But I do love to snap a few photos with my phone.
What a gorgeous day to run and climb and slide and race around.
Mommy never goes to lunch when she is alone with the littles. Too hard when one needs a trip to the potty. Too hard when you are juggling a couple of food trays. So when I am there, Little Sister's first words at preschool pick up are, "Where are we going for lunch today?" I look forward to a trip to this local eatery, too.
Knitting at their house needs to be super simple and it's done early in the morning when the house is quiet. (I can't imagine a visit with no knitting.) Grandmother's Favorite is my pattern of choice for simple knitting. It's appropriately named, too. And someone always needs a new dishcloth. Every time Baby Girl sees me knitting, she asks, "What doing, Mimi? What doing?" Maybe next time she know what to call it.
One of my "Mimi duties" is getting the bigger girls to school in the morning so that Mommy gets a little break. Finding shoes. Brushing hair. Packing lunch. Leaving on time. Listening to "Old Bell Cow" one hundred times on the drive to the high school, then on to the long line at preschool.
Since I was there last, Baby Girl has become a reader. I read and read and read to her. And every now and then, she read to me. Good times. Precious moments.
When the sun came up this morning, I was home in my own bed. It's awfully quiet here.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Daddy-O was pleasantly surprised with this supper. He said he was glad he had not said disparaging things about this before he ate it. By the third helping he convinced me he liked it. We used this chicken to make soft tacos, topped with cheese, sour cream, salsa, chopped tomato, and shredded lettuce. Daddy-O declared, "This is a keeper." It is.
It's another 3 ingredient slow cooker recipe. So good. Good for busy days. Lazy days. Hungry days.
SALSA CHICKEN (SLOW COOKER)
3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar salsa (I used a 24-oz jar of black bean & corn salsa)
2 teaspoons (I just sprinkled some over) homemade fajita seasoning
OR 1 packet taco seasoning
Put a thin layer of salsa into bottom of crockpot. Place chicken breasts in a plastic bag, add fajita (taco) seasoning and shake to coat breasts. Put chicken into crockpot and cover with remaining salsa. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Put shredded chicken back into crockpot and mix with salsa.
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8—1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/8 tsp.)
Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
Use 2 teaspoons of seasoning for each pound of meat.
Forgive the Christmas paper plate in the photo.
It was a lazy day.
It was a lazy day.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Teriyaki Beef with Pineapple
This week has been filled with evening meetings and lots of trips up and down the road from farm to town. It was a week that called for the easiest cooking I could think of. This slow cooker recipe has been here on the blog before, but if you a newer reader, you may not have seen it. Or, maybe you saw it and haven't tried it.
Three ingredients. Slow cooker. It can't get much simpler than this. And it's delicious. We cooked boil-in-the-bag brown rice and had leftover broccoli on the side. Man, it was nice to walk in the door at 7:30 and have supper on the plate within minutes. Daddy-O stirred in the pineapple tidbits shortly before I got home. Teamwork.
In my original post, I stated that I really liked the Archer Farms brand (from Target) of teriyaki sauce. Well, what do you know? My Target no longer stocks this. I think you might find it at another Target. I used a different brand this time--Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze. It was just as good. So don't be a teriyaki snob. I think any kind will be fine.
TERYIYAK BEEF with PINEAPPLE
2 lbs. stew beef (my packages had 2-1/2 lb)
15-20 oz. jar Teriyaki sauce (I think this time, my bottle was 12 oz)
20-oz. can pineapple tidbits, drained
Put beef in slow cooker. (I used a 3-1/2 qt. size cooker)
Pour sauce over beef and stir.
Cook on LOW for 7-8 (or 10) hours or HIGH for 5-6 hours.
Add pineapple during last 20-30 minutes of cooking.
I know the recipe says to cook on LOW for 7-8 hours. Mine cooked for 10 hours because that's when I got home. You cannot cook chicken or pork tenderloin in the slow cook forever, but this beef recipe was fine.
Leftovers went into the freezer for a couple of easy single serve meals for Daddy-O during one of those weeks when I am away on grandmother duty. I have frozen this before and it works well.