I hope you all had a GREAT weekend and remembered to adjust your clocks so you weren’t late this morning. We seem to have quite a few clocks so I adjusted them all late Saturday and changed all the batteries too. Ironically our atomic clock is no longer changing itself so I think it’s on its last legs. I’m just getting used to this new time and someone from a research firm called to do a survey going on 11PM last night and woke me up. So, last night’s sleep was much less than stellar.
Life has been chaotic at best with my health concerns and appointments. I had to reschedule two specialty appointments and find a new primary care manager when mine up and closed up his office with no forward or warning and without following through with ANYTHING! Fortunately my insurance was able to get me a new PCM with no wait due to the circumstances. BUT, now I have to see the new PCM before she will do referrals which is postponing appoinments already scheduled – ALL the technical loopholes are a PAIN in the butt, especially all the time spent on the phone dealing with it. Unfortunately, this has left me a bit lacking on my blogging. I am really going to try and get my groove back and post more often.
OUTSIDE MY WINDOW & THE WEATHER OUTSIDE
We had a rainy weekend so everything is a bit wet still, but the temperatures dropped quite a bit too making it more enjoyable around here. Looks like it will be a really nice week.
ON THE BREAKFAST PLATE
A little blueberry yogurt and coffee.
AS I LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE
I’m fairly happy with the house. There is still some sorting to do in the studio, but all and all it looks great, at least until I do the laundry.
WEEKLY TO DO LIST & HOUSE PROJECTS
- SHOWER the dog
- EBAY – we have quite a few totes full after all our sorting so really want to get moving on listing these items and moving everything out! What doesn’t sell will get donated to lighten the load.
- STUDIO – sorting and paperwork
- BACKYARD – we are waiting on a couple contractor projects (Garage siding and fencing) to be finished before we can complete the backyard so this will stay on the list until the rain lets up and we can actually finish it!
CURRENTLY READING & TELEVISION / DVR
Trying to get into a few new shows, but just don’t seem to have any interest in TV right now. I did start a new book though, The Lost Girls of Johnson’s Bayou by Jana DeLeon.
CRAFTS & PROJECTS
Nothing new this week. Hubby is still working on some of my parts for assembly, but his old grinder broke and we’re waiting on the replacement.
MENU PLANS FOR THE WEEK
YOGURT & FRUIT
SCRAMBLED EGGS & CHEESE
YOGURT & FRUIT
MAPLE OATMEAL & RAISINS
BACON & EGGS
FRUIT & CHEESE
SOUP & CRACKERS
MEAT & CHEESE
CROCKPOT EXPERIMENT NIGHT
GRILL NIGHT and POTATO SALAD
CORNED BEEF and CABBAGE of course with CARROTS and POTATOES
BEEF & NOODLES
HEALTH & BEAUTY TIPS
Be sure to link up with Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Happy homemaker Monday and with Laura at I’m an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.
Whenever I go antiquing or through a thrift store, I’m on the lookout for old recipe boxes. Not just any old recipe box, but old recipe boxes full of old recipes. Well, I hit the jackpot today! I found this box stuffed full and it only cost me a quarter!
The recipes I love to find are the ones from WWII or before – you know the kind that called for 5 cents of hamburger, were all hand written and made from scratch. It’s really fun to find them chicken scratched onto old note pad pad that has an address so it gives you an idea where they originated.
While today’s appear old, they are probably more from the 50’s. Some recipes that I will try soon are Swiss Steak, Forgotten Cookies, Jambalaya, Cherry Pie filling, Peanut Blossoms and Cherry Crunch Desserts.
In the Fall I’m usually stocking up for winter in the wild and snowy north. I start with LARGE bulk packs of meat. I then break them down by size and meat right down to cutting certain recipes into bite sized pieces. Then I wrap them in freezer paper because I really hate freezer burn! And I package them into pre-labeled ziploc bags for the freezer.
I didn’t get a secondary picture, but I then wrap the center of each one with a strip of duct tape. Yep, you read that right, duct tape. Just a small strip. Enough so when they’re stacked in the back of the freezer you can identify the meat. I buy it in colors – red for beef, green for chicken and blue for pork. It makes it soooooooo much easier when you’re searching in the freezer for the right meat.
Many times this prep includes rotisserie chickens. My market at home has buy one, get one free on Tuesdays. Can you figure out when I did my shopping? By the time I get home and put away the groceries, the rotisserie chickens are cool enough to pick off the bone. The bowl below is the skin, congealed juices and bones I collected as I stripped 2 birds.
I think Martha (MM)
and I met over some post about buying in bulk and we found a common ground – saving money! Talk to your butcher. Many times you can save even more than the advertised sale prices.
For example, recently my local market was running a sale on chuck roast. None of the roasts were as large as I really needed for company so I asked the butcher if they had one the size I wanted and instead she offered up a manager’s daily sale (in the bulk section just a few feet away from the ones I was looking at) where I could buy twice as much for half as much saving me $8 over what I intended to spend and gave me enough for 3 meals. I made ALL the chuck roast as Pot Roast & Veggies
for company and then used the leftovers to make Ortega Chile Bake
and Black Eyed Pea Chili
I then use a large stock pot and cover the “debris” with water. I set it to simmer on a low temp and let it go for an hour or so. I don’t add any seasonings since I’ve normally bought mesquite broiled or lemon herb, but adjust according to your tastes.
Then I drain it into my large 8 cup measuring cup and allow it to cool.
I have several of these containers that I bought just for chicken stock in the freezer. I haven’t bought chicken stock in over 10 years now. It’s just so easy to make your own. Even if I start with raw chicken and poach it for a recipe I add seasonings and by the time the chicken is done, there is several cups of broth ready for the freezer.
Today’s flavor was Mesquite broiled so it left us with a spicy red color also.
So what do you do to get ready for winter? Have I motivated you to stock up? Have a wonderful Weekend!
Recently I have been wrestling with a time crunch. Trying to be everything to everyone takes sooooooooooooooo much out of you. One of my coping mechanisms is to keep a notebook with me so I can jot down things as I think of them. One of my newer tools is going to be NOT to stress about things as much and like today I’ll scan in my handwritten notes when necessary and save the typing time and make it a bit more personal too.
CREAMY FRENCH ONION ARTICHOKE DIP
The original recipe called for:4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature15.5 ounce container of french dip15.5 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon scallions1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Whisk cream cheese until fluffy.
- Stir in dip and artichoke hearts, cheese, 1/4 cup green onions, parsley, garlic powder and pepper.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
My version calls for:4 ounces cream cheese, softened16 ounces sour creamKNORR French onion soup mix1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese1 large bunch green onions, chopped2 cloves garlic1/2 teaspoon sea salt1/4 teaspoon pepper
- In a small food processor pulse artichoke hearts, garlic, green onions and Parmesan cheese until smooth.
- In a small mixing bowl blend together the sour cream, Knorr mix and cream cheese until smooth.
- Add artichoke mixture and blend well.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
These days I need all the motivation I can get. One of the things that helps me most is an easy to use kitchen. I thought I’d share a few of the more important items (at least to me). I hope they help you get organized and motivated.
- You don’t need tons of kitchenware, just some good quality multi-use pieces. I love my Pampered chef stoneware and Emeril Stainless steel pans.
- Make sure your serving dishes and utensils are handy.
- Keep the spices you use most often handy!
- Arrange pantry items in a logical, easy to use order (at least to you).
- Rotate your flours, sugars and spices regularly. These items do lose the strength and potency.
- Arrange your pots and pans in a logical order so that your most used items are towards the front.
- Arrange your small appliances, tools and gadgets so they are easy for YOU to use!
- Quality is the keyword whether you’re talking about cookware, knives or recipe ingredients.
- Prepare as many ingredients before you begin cooking. Sometimes I’ll prepare all the ingredients for my weeknight recipes on Sunday to make it easier and quicker to put week night dinners together.
- Make as many components of your meal in advance as you can – things like dips, vegetables or desserts for example.
- Use the freshest ingredients available and plan your menus around the season’s available fruits and vegetables.
- Prepare a small sink of hot soapy water before you begin so you can clean as you go.
- Clean as you go!
Today I want to tell you my idea of the best equipment for a kitchen. You don’t need all the fancy gadgets to be a successful cook and most kitchens don’t have the space to store them so here are my ideas. Remember that many tools and equipment are versatile and can be used in many ways.
- A cast iron pan is a MUST! And it MUST be well seasoned. Cast iron retains the heat AND distributes is evenly. Chris over at Nibble Me This has a great process for re-seasoning any cast iron that you might have.
- Large stockpot or two. I have a 6, 8 and 10 quart that nestle together well.
- 5-6 quart dutch oven.
- 1,2,3, AND 4 quart sauce pans.
- 10 and 12 inch saute pans.
- 8, 10 and 12 inch skillets.
- Heavy Wire Racks for cooling.
- 8 AND 9 inch square and a 9×13 ceramic stoneware baking dishes.
- Stainless steel cookie sheets.
- SILPAT baking mats for the cookie sheets.
- Bundt pan.
- Loaf pan – I prefer glass or ceramic.
- Angel Food Cake pan.
- Deep dish ceramic pie plate.
- Regular and Texas Muffin pans.
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled
4 cups chicken broth
3 or 4 sprigs fresh parsley
5-10 fresh basil leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Add chopped onions, carrots, celery and garlic.
- Cook stirring often until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and tomatoes, stirring well.
- Tie herbs together in cheesecloth and drop into the soup. This makes it easy to remove later.
- Season with sea salt and white pepper to taste.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
- Remove herbs and discard.
- Add whipping cream and blend until smooth.
- Ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated cheese and fresh basil.
Pairs really well with Tuna Melts.
1 large can white albacore tuna packed in water, drained and drained again!
8 sweet pickles, chopped fine
2 green onions, chopped fine
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 hard boiled egg, chilled, peeled and chopped fine
2-4 tablespoons butter
1 slice Muenster cheese
1 slice extra sharp cheese
4 slices frozen potato bread
- Drain the tuna in a fine mesh sieve and then use a spoon to mash all the water out again! Drying out the tuna is crucial.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Chop the sweet pickles and green onions extremely fine.
- Fold tuna, pickles and onions into Mayonnaise mixture.
- Chop egg finely and fold into mixture.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter on griddle over medium high heat. Add more as necessary to keep from burning.
- Toast all 4 slices of bread while still frozen*.
- When butter is melted lay all 4 slices in butter and top 2 slices with muenster and the other 2 slices with the sharp cheddar. Allow them to heat through, melting the cheese.
- Add the tuna to 2 slices and close them up.
- Continue cooking until golden on all sides and heated through.
*Using frozen bread makes the bread lighter and more easily toasted golden.
Kitchen utensils and/or gadgets is one of those subjective topics. Each and every cook has “their” set of indispensable kitchen tools. Let’s face it, they are tools, but in our case they are fun tools and everyone’s idea of fun is a bit different. I’m going to give you my idea of “essential” tools, but you’ll have to develop your own list based on your own experience, perceptions and expectations. I have been known to use many “tools” for other than their intended use with great results. I’m a little like MacGyver in the kitchen ~ whatever works to get the job done is fine by me. To me, gadgets are dust collectors though many other people may use their gadgets with great success.
- Cutting Boards ~ I have several and always use a fresh one when changing from meat to vegetable.
- Mortar & Pestle ~ Mortars and pestles were traditionally used in pharmacies to crush various ingredients. Mortars are also used in cooking to prepare ingredients like grinding herbs into finer powders.
- Salad Spinner ~ I like my salads dry and love a good salad spinner from OXO.
- Juicer ~ I use a small manual juicer that works great.
- Colanders ~ I have 3 sizes of stainless steel colanders- small, medium and large and love having the choice!
- Kitchen timer ~ I’ve tried them all, but prefer my Pampered chef electronic one. It’s the only one I seem to be able to hear all over the house.
- A couple of nice pairs of tongs. I like my Williams Sonoma tongs with the locking hinge.
- A selection of slotted spoons in various sizes.
- A selection of non-slotted spoons in various aizes.
- A selection of flexible spatulas in various sizes. As I replace them I select a silicone heat resistant version of what I previously had.
- A selection of pancake turner style spatulas.
- A selection of ladles in various sizes.
- Potato Masher.
- Vegetable Peeler.
- A good whisk and a couple of Pampered chef mini-whisks.
- Meat Thermometer.
- Candy Thermometer.
- Pampered chef pan scrappers.
- A rolling pin.
- Biscuit cutters.
- 2 sizes of hand held graters and a smaller rasp style for herb and spices.
- Garlic Press.
- Pastry Brush.
- Pastry Cutter/Blender.
- At least one set of stainless steel measuring cups.
- At least 2 sets of stainless steel measuring spoons.
- Several sizes (2, 4, 8 cup) glass measuring cups.
- 3 sizes sieves.
- Several silicone “wooden” spoons.
- Turkey baster.
- Pastry Bag and tips.
- Cookie Spatula.
- Pizza cutter.
- Vegetable/Steamer insert.
- And just for Martha K, good quality sharp knives which we will look at next week. 🙂
BLACK FOREST CUPS
1 sheet puff pastry
1 can Comstock cherries
2 tablespoons Rum
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
3-4 tablespoons butter
- Thaw pastry sheet for 40 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine sugar and cinnamon.
- Unfold pastry sheet onto lightly floured surface.
- Top with floured sheet of wax paper and roll slightly larger.
- Cut into 12-3 inch squares.
- Press 1 piece into each muffin cup.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- In the microwave melt the butter and chocolate together – stir well.
- Place a spoonful of chocolate mixture in the center of each one, reserving enough for drizzle.
- Mix together the Comstock cherries and rum.
- Divide cherry mix in the center of each.
- Bake 12 minutes or until golden.
- Drizzle with remaining chocolate mixture.
- Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Remove from pan and cool another 10 minutes.
Knives are another of those subjective items. Especially with knives it is extremely important to go for what feels good and is easy for you to use. I have some Cutco knives that I love, but can’t afford (mine were a gift) to add on to as a set. I also have some of the older Pampered Chef knives that I love, but their newer ones are just not the same quality. I have a couple from the restaurant that my dad and grandfather ran when I was a baby and I also have some old Wilkinson knives from my maternal grandmother that I love! I have a lot of knives, like cutting boards I use a clean one with the change in food and use.
I prefer a French, German or Brazilian made knife, but that too is a personal preference.
I think that there are a few essentials that will get you by in any kitchen:
- SANTOKU – I like this over a traditional chef’s knife because it is a bit shorter with a thinner and broader blade. The indentations on the side make it easier to cut through food by creating air pockets that reduce the friction to make for a smoother cut.
- UTILITY – this knife will become your best friend – it’s the ALL PURPOSE knife that does everything that the specialty knives don’t.
- PARING – great for coring, peeling and trimming vegetables especially. I have several of these.
- CLEAVER – This one doesn’t get used much, but is essential if you need to cut through bones.
- BONING – The long, narrow, thin blade of this knife works to get into tight places when you’re trimming fat and tendons away.
- BREAD – scalloped teeth of a serrated edge is great for cutting through bread and softer foods.
- SLICER – a long thin bladed knife that is ideal for slicing roast beef.
- POULTRY SHEARS – these are essential if you want to cut up your own chickens. Many times I can save a ton of money by buying the whole bird and cutting it apart myself for fried chicken.
- MANDOLINE – okay I know it really isn’t a knife, but it has a sharp metal edge so I include it in this category. Don’t skimp on this, get a good quality.
I recommend that you keep your knives sharpened. A good quality sharpener is as easy to use as your most comfortable knife.
CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL RAISIN PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES aka KITCHEN SINK COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Jumbo eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cups minced walnuts
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup golden raisins
- Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and espresso powder.
- Cream butter and peanut butter together.
- Add the sugars and cream again.
- Add the vanilla and eggs and cream until smooth.
- Gradually add flour mixture until well blended.
- Add oatmeal until well blended.
- Add nuts and combine well.
- Add chocolate chips and combine again.
- Add raisins and mix well.
- Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.
- Press down slightly.
- Bake 12-15 minutes.
Several years ago I bought my mom one of those books, “What my family should know”. She has been great about getting it all filled in though I already pretty much know where she keeps everything, but not everyone does. It really doesn’t matter how old we are either. If you have kids you need to be organized and prepared which brings me to my point today. Have you seen the new Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel movie, “Life as we know it”?
I don’t think it got very good reviews, but I thought it was cute and it proves my point here. As parents, having those ducks in a row, wills in place, insurances paid up, college funds in place, god parents chosen and prepared are essential. OOPS, that’s kind of what this movie is about – the parents forgot to mention the plans to the god parents and get them prepared.
In the end we can always work it out, but life moves so much smoother if we’re prepared. So if you need a cute rental, I recommend this movie to lighten your mood and maybe it will help you get more prepared.
Most of you already know that I feel most at home in the kitchen and despite my VIRGO guided perfectionist ways, I too have a tendency to have a messy pantry. We all have those moments when it’s just easier to put it anywhere other than where it really goes. I’ll show this set of before pictures with the disclaimer that we’ve been super busy around here and it really was easier to just shove it back in.
I don’t use a ton of prepared foods due to health concerns, but we all have a pantry full of this and thats. I was fortunate in that the forced remodel of this kitchen allowed me to set things up my way when it went back together. I like to group like things together and that helps to make meal preparation simpler. In the Lazy Susan next to the stove I keep the small appliances together and then on the shelf above those I keep the canned meats, canned vegetables and soups. In the opposite Lazy Susan I group together canned fruits, Jell-Os, box mixes like cake mixes, rice mixes and stuffing as well as jams and jellies. In yet another cabinet I have grouped together all the” seasoning” bottles like soy sauces, vinegars, oils, Worcestershire, etc…. In the 2 shelves below that I keep all the back stock like extra ketchup, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, etc… Spices and such use on a daily basis are all labeled and alphabetized in their handy box close to the stove while additional infrequently used spices, bread crumbs, flavorings, baking soda & powder and such are kept in a separate cabinet. Baking staples are also all grouped together.
I have all of my seasonings and ingredients placed in such a way that the butcher block becomes my central point for creating. I try to keep all the necessary tools also within an arm’s reach. All of my reaching into cabinets is also at a minimum and I don’t have to dig for what I’m looking for. Every person and every family is different in their likes and tastes, so there is no right or wrong to pantry organization, just what works for you. That said, I have found that logic, organization and common sense play an integral part in kitchen success.
No matter what the size or shape of you ‘pantry’, the whole idea is to make your job easier and cooking more fun. So take that willy nilly approach and toss it out the window. It’s time to organize and see what you have in your pantry. Knowing will help you to keep things rotated and up to date. When I was growing up, my dad always wiped the lids of cans and then dated them when we got home from the store. I don’t go that far, but I do make sure to rotate the older forward paying attention to expiration dates and replace the restock to the rear.
Now for the after pictures.
I try to group like items together. For example the parts for a Mexican Meal are all together. The green chiles are right night to the enchilada sauce which is next to the refried beans, etc…
I store the back up stock on the lowest shelves since I don’t get in there very often. I also pull forward the most frequently used condiments and ingredients so I don’t have to dig for them. The refrigerator is the hardest ‘pantry’ part to keep organized since everyone is in and out ,all day some days, but I try to keep like items together here too. The jams are all on the same shelf, the pickles are grouped together, my garlic, pestos, bases etc… are all together on one of the top shelves to keep everyone from moving them!
This post originally ran on 3 Sides of Crazy as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who hosted the Homemaking September 2008 Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.
Then it ran at OuR KrAzY kItChEn this past July when Martha and I first collaborated.