Saturday, January 24, 2015

Super Bowl Food!

Next week is the Super Bowl and we can't wait.  I will say it's sad that there is so much controversy going on this year with "DeflateGate" and all.  My own personal opinion is they should be harshly punished for any cheating regardless of what team, Super Bowl or not.  It's as if these grown adults are currently only seeing money and fame and are forgetting that there are a lot of children who love the game and look up to these people.  And they example they set?  Cheating.  Now before I get blasted I know it was only one team in the media doing this right now but people aren't going to remember what happened in the first round of the playoffs, they're going to remember this cheating scandal.  And that's sad.  So come on people...remember the kids are watching!

We never go to Super Bowl parties because we have kids at home who have school the next day. My kids are not the type of kids that can stay up late and have a good day the following day so we've just always stayed home for the big game.  You can still have a Super Bowl Party at home!

Now back to the best part of the Super Bowl (if you're not going to the game that is)...the food!  I love watching football, so I don't want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking during the game.  There are a lot of fun foods that go beyond chips and dips that you can prepare ahead of time and are so yummy.

Our menu this year (and I will try to remember to take pics next week as I am preparing it) will include hot wings, taco dip, sloppy joe cups, lettuce wraps, cookies, hand pies, and I'm sure there will be add-ons as my guys think of more.

I know that sounds like a lot for our family of three but here's the secret.  Part of that is made with planned-overs.  When we had Tacos, I put the leftovers in a Ziploc and tossed it in the freezer, same with homemade sloppy joes.  The lettuce wraps are also starting with leftover baked chicken.  Even the hand pies are starting with pie dough I had left over after a Christmas order I had for the pies and I tossed it in the freezer.

Here's how it all comes together.  I bought frozen, uncooked chicken drummettes when they were on sale.  I know the drummettes cost a bit more, that's why I wait on a sale but for the amount of meat, I think it's more cost effective to get the drummettes.  I have a deep fryer but you can certainly do this in a dutch oven of oil, just be really careful.   I don't even thaw them.  I have the deep fryer set at 350 degrees and I fry the frozen drummettes for 12 minutes.  Don't over fill the pan and they'll cook better.  When they are done, I immediately coat them in the sauce.  I can't eat overly spicy stuff so, I mix Frank's hot bbq sauce with our favorite bbq sauce (for us, that is Sweet Baby Ray's) I mix it to taste.  I put it in a big bowl and using tongs mix the fried wings around it in.  I am not talented enough to toss them in the bowl...LOL.  I then put them on a cooling rack that is set on a sheet pan and put them in a warm oven to hold while I cook the rest.

The taco dip is so easy.  Basically, you take everything you like on a taco and layer it in a cake pan, sheet pan, whatever.  I start with refried beans (I mix them with a little taco sauce to thin them a bit) on the bottom, then taco meat mixed with black beans, cheese, sauce (if you didn't use some in the refried beans), tomatoes, shredded lettuce, avocado, sour cream, etc.  You can add jalapenos if you like.  Just use tortilla chips with this.  Easy.  I should add that you can serve this with the refried beans and taco meat hot or cold.

The sloppy joe cups are so easy.  I take cheap, biscuits in a can and put one biscuit in a muffin cup that's sprayed with non stick spray.  Kinda push them in so that they fill the tin and make a cup, add in a spoon or so of the sloppy joe mix.  Bake until the biscuit is done.  When they come out of the oven, you can add cheese on top.  Done.  It's nice that you can make these ahead of time and warm them just before the game.  

The lettuce wraps are leftover baked chicken and a packet from the grocery to make lettuce wraps.  Again, these can be made a head of time and warmed.  Just put the bowl of hot chicken mix out with some fresh cold leaf lettuce.  

The hand pies are something I began making because my husband and nephew are from the south and they love them.  It took a while to get the dough just right because I like a thin pie crust and that doesn't translate to hand pies well.  But, now I have it thanks to those guides you can buy for your rolling pin to prevent me from rolling it too thin.  Anyway, I have this neat little hand pie cutter thing that I got from Walmart, it's by Wilton.  it not only cuts out the top and bottom but then you can fill it and it crimps the edges too.  


So, for the filling you can use pie filling from a can or make your own.  Devon loves chocolate or butterscotch pie so you can even use pudding.  Just make sure the pudding is cook pudding and not instant or you'll have a liquidy mess.  I will use apple pie filling for most of them and make a few butterscotch ones for Devon.  I'll be using my Gram's recipe for the butterscotch filling and since it only takes a little bit, I'll put the rest in a graham cracker crust that I have in the freezer (also bought on clearance, I think you can freeze almost anything) and we'll have a pie for later in the week.  I do bake these instead of frying them.  Since the filling is done and they're eaten cool, just bake until the pie dough is done.  Once done, I put them on a cooling rack.  When cook, I sprinkle with powder sugar.  You could easily glaze them with a powder sugar/milk mix but it's all about easy for these!  LOL

Finally, the cookies will be whatever my son decides that he wants for the week.  We bake a treat on Sunday that is for the week.  So, I'll just set some of these out for the game too.

Drinks can be anything from water to soda to juice.  We don't drink very often at all here.  I'll have to see if hubby wants a beer for that night.

So you see, you can have a Super Bowl party at home and eat well even if you can't really go out because kids have school the next day.  So think and prepare now so that you know what you want for the big game and you won't be stuck in the kitchen the whole time!  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Make a Salad Bowl!

Hello everyone!  Our new semester has started at school, the last of those needed for my Bachelor's degree.  My husband and I have talked and I've come to the decision that I am going to go on and begin working on my Master's Degree.  It's such a scary decision but I'm going to do it!

In the past, I have always made salads up as I needed them thinking that they would go bad if I didn't.  I tried something a few weeks ago and I won't lie, I was surprised at the results.

I prepped a salad bowl for the fridge.  I put the salad greens in a big bowl, I prefer Mesclun mix but used Romaine as it was on sale this week.  I went ahead and put some thinly sliced carrots, celery, radishes, sweet peppers and mushrooms.  I bought some mixed salad tomatoes, grape tomatoes would work too, I just found these on sale (of course...LOL).  They are a mix of cherry tomatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes and chocolate tomatoes.  My husband prefers the lower acid tomatoes so I wanted to make sure to have some yellow ones.  Anyway, in little bowls, I'll put some diced up boiled eggs in one, some shredded cheese in one, some cucumbers in one.  You get the idea, if it is wet or will make the salad soggy, put it in a little bowl.  

I did this one Sunday evening thinking that I would have salad for the week since I'm trying to get more veggies in me.  I was shocked when my husband and son went to town on the salad.  Two days, TWO, and it was all gone.  So now, once or twice a week, I put together this salad stuff.  The whole family is eating more salads with more veggies.  If I would have put the celery, peppers and radishes, etc. separately, they wouldn't have added them to the salad.  They're getting more variety in their salads and not even noticing.  Even my son is now eating lighter dressings and not just Ranch!  I'm stunned and loving this.  

It's also saving money as I don't have produce hiding in the lower crisper drawer going to waste.  

I also have to add that if you have a Fresh Thyme Market near you, you really should check them out.  They will have awesome sales on a few items a week and the produce is phenomenal!  If  you can brave the crowds, go on Double Dip Thursday.  They will honor prices from the prior week's ad and the new week's ad both!  The last trip I was there, I left with 4 1/2 bags of produce for right at $19.00.  If you are near one, give them a shot.  Sometimes they will have great meat prices too!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Hello everyone!  I hope you're all enjoying this time of year!  I've finished another semester and said a little prayer for my Political Science grade...LOL  It's also been a lot of hustle and bustle trying to get ready for the Holidays.  My husband taught his first full semester as a college professor so he was gone a lot dealing with the learning curve of settling in to a totally new type of job.  I've been visiting a lot of Christmas Craft Fairs with the jam business, which I must say has been so much fun.  

We laughed around here because it took us 9 days to get the tree up.  Yes, NINE days.  Just for the tree.  With everyone so busy, we did a little at a time.  A very little.  But it got done and it looks pretty good too!  It took another 2 days on one weekend to get the outside stuff up.  That was exciting to see since I got the lights last year on after-Christmas clearance for next to nothing.  I got lucky and even the picked over Christmas section at the stores yielded enough of the same type of lights that I was able to do the front of the house for under $25.  I'm going to have to really hunt this year's after-Christmas sales as my husband wants to turn our flagpole into a Christmas tree in the way the city of Indianapolis turns the Soldiers and Sailors Monument into a Christmas tree.  That's a LOT of lights.  

Back to the Christmas Craft Fairs.  I would really suggest that you check out some of these in your area.  There are some really wonderful things out there that people make that are unique gifts.  I didn't think to get a picture of it before I wrapped it, but I got my nephew a VERY cool bow and arrow toy (I wish I had gotten his information to share) that is safe for kids to use with nice padded tips on the arrows, is simply  made with some PVC pipe and kite string (it's nice that if the string breaks, it's just kite string and can be replaced), it doesn't shoot far, which is good for little kids and it is going to give me some serious "Great Aunt Points"!  LOL.  I have gotten some amazing goat's milk soaps and lotions from Solstice Sun Farms, I'm diabetic and have seriously dry skin and I'm amazed at how well they work.  I got my son a lotion that smells like Juicy Fruit chewing gum!  I found my grandkids some crocheted blankets in their favorite colors made by Favors by Design.  My granddaughter got some hair bows from MiaBownita.  She'll be so excited.  I was at a Christmas Craft Fair sponsored by the Special Olympics and there was a beautiful young lady with Down's Syndrome who made some beautiful bracelets that she was selling to raise money.  My grandkids got some of those too.  

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  The point is that this is a wonderful way to support small local business people and crafts people.  You can get some really unique gifts that go beyond just buying the newest thing out there or the same old gift set.  Take the time, generally on a weekend, and go find a local show near you and just check it out.  You'd really be amazed at what you'll find.  
Tomorrow, I will have my grandkids here and have a little fun planned for them.  I'll get pictures and share in a day or so.  In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday!

EDITED TO ADD:

I thought I'd edit this to add some local craftspeople I know (other than those linked above) to a list with links to how to find them.

Jennifer Wainscott makes diaper babies




Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Hello everyone!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  If you're out braving the Black Friday crowds shopping, please be careful.

I know lots of people are sitting there with tons of Thanksgiving leftovers.  You can only eat so many turkey sandwiches, right?  Get creative and put your freezer to use!  I didn't host this year so I will be cooking turkey for us on Sunday.  

The first thing I do is cut as much meat off the carcass as I can.  Then I put the entire carcass (you might have to break it down if you have a smaller pot) and put it in a stock pot big enough to cover it with water.  If you truly have a small pot, nothing says you have to use all of the carcass.  I will add some of the same things into the stock that I used in cooking it, carrots, onions, leeks, parsnips, celery, etc.  You could even use some of the veggies from the veggie tray in your stock.  Be flexible and be creative.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Skim off the gunky gray stuff.  Then let it simmer and do its thing for a while.  I like to simmer it for 2-3 hours, the more it simmers the more the flavors concentrate.  When it is done, I let it cool and then strain it.  From here you can cool completely in the fridge and then remove any fat off the top, it should be in a solid form then.  From here you can use it or portion it out and freeze it in Ziploc bags for later use.

A friend of mine showed us a picture of her freezer.  She'd taken some of her leftover turkey and make turkey pot pies, don't bake them and put them in the freezer.  When you're ready to use them, treat them just like you would those from the grocery.  Only they'll taste so much better.  On a previous post (Here) is a recipe that I use to make Chicken pot pies, you can simply substitute turkey in this recipe.

Turkey and dumplings is just as good as Chicken and dumplings.  There is a recipe for it on the same link above.

My husband looks forward to turkey Manhattans after every Thanksgiving.  This will use up leftover mashed potatoes, leftover turkey and the gravy too!

You could also turn leftover mashed potatoes into potato pancakes.  I'm sorry for no recipe here but I just kinda wing these.  If I have 2-3 cups left, I'll add an egg, some flour, some chives, some shredded cheese (not too much) and some bacon bits (fresh or packaged, it really doesn't matter).  My family loves loaded baked potatoes or kicked up mashed potatoes so they like kicked up potato pancakes too.  The dough needs to be stiff enough to roll into balls, about like peanut butter cookie balls before you squish them with a fork.  I flatten them and fry in a bit of butter, sometimes with a little bacon grease added for flavor.  Fry until brown and yummy.

Stuffing is a tough one.  But I've used it as a topping in the past when I've made the insides of the turkey pot pie and had more than I needed for the pie crusts I had.  Just put the extra pot pie filling in a casserole dish and crumble the stuffing on top and bake.  The stuffing gets all crispy and crunchy. 

At this point, if you have any turkey left, put sandwich sized amounts on wax paper and then put them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and put in the freezer.  Once frozen, pop them into a Ziploc and you can grab what you need for sandwiches later.

Just some ideas for dealing with the Thanksgiving leftovers.  It should make some of the cooking during the days when you're shopping, wrapping or decorating and need a little help in the kitchen!

Be safe out there!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oops

Just popping in for a quick hint.  Have you ever been following a recipe and found out afterwards that you forgot an ingredient?  Yea, me either.  

But, just in case, I now get out all of my ingredients for my recipe and as I add each one to the bowl, I put that ingredient away.  I think of the extra steps in putting things away as exercise.  I end up making laps around my kitchen and dining room (where my pantry is actually located) so I'm counting that as steps on my pedometer.

Happy baking for the holidays!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Take some help!

Good morning everyone!  I'm sorry I've not kept up with this lately, life has been hectic.  My jam business was invited to attend the Indy Cooking Expo, it was a wonderful time.  I loved that my husband would watch the booth so my son and I could sneak over to the presentation stage and watch the demonstrations.

I will admit that I was surprised to see a professional chef who was taking some help from the store.  I had this grandiose idea that a professional chef made everything homemade, wouldn't hear of shortcuts.  Yea, I realize now how ridiculous that sounds.  They're just like us.  Sometimes you need a little help.

One Executive Chef from a catering company suggested buying cornbread for the stuffing on Thanksgiving.  She said, and it makes sense, that the item will be transformed in the end so there was no reason not to make things a little easier on yourself on the holiday.  

Another, Chef Suzanne demonstrated a yummy pumpkin-black bean soup.  She said you could go to all the fuss of using fresh pumpkin but there was absolutely nothing wrong with using canned.  As long as it isn't pumpkin pie filling that is...LOL  This soup was fabulous.  I was so shocked when my husband tasted it (he generally does not like pumpkin) and loved it and asked me to make it for him.  The recipe is here.  

Speaking of my husband, when he makes chili, he's famous for taking a bit of help from the store.  After he browns the meat (sometimes it's beef, sometimes it's turkey or even ground chicken) he will add a full jar of Pace Picante sauce.  He makes sense here, it has spices and peppers and onions that are diced to the right consistency.  I hadn't thought of that before I met him but it works.

If you want to make a quick chicken pot pie, it can be done with leftover chicken, a small can of peas & carrots (or other mixed veggies), a small can of diced potatoes and even store bought pie dough.  It's fairly simple to put together with some thickened gravy.  I would always make the gravy homemade as it will thin out as it cooks.  I guess you could use a "cream of" soup without diluting it as well.

Something that a friend does that I found ingenious and we tried it and my family loved it.  She takes one cup of Apple Butter (I love that she uses mine!  LOL) and mixes it with 1/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar and pours it over top of a pork roast in the crock pot and lets it cook all day.  All the spices and apples already prepped for you in the Apple Butter gave it a wonderful flavor and it was not dry.  Seriously yummy.

So, don't be afraid to take some shortcut help when you're in a rush.  It beats popping by some drive thru somewhere in both taste and nutrition!  Ok, gotta run, I have a large English paper to write!  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall, what a wonderful season!

Fall, the air is crisp and cooler.  MUCH cooler that it has been.  I am by no means looking forward to Winter coming but I am sure glad the awful heat of Summer is over.  This October will be bittersweet for me.  My youngest of the girls will turn 18 this month.  On one hand, she will be entering adulthood, spreading her wings and, soon enough, heading off to college.  On the other hand, my little girl will be all grown up.  Make note though, five or thirty-five, she will always be my baby girl!  Shhhh, don't tell her I said that, she's "almost an adult"...almost...LOL

I love the foods of fall.  Soups, stews, roasts.  I pretty much  love them all.  I've decided this is because they are less fussy foods.  There isn't a hard and fast rule about these types of foods in my book.  I start with some stock, it might be freshly made or it might be from the freezer, shoot, you can even use the ready made in a box (it won't be as good as your own, but it will do) and add this and that.  Add some cooked beef (or not, it can be just veggies), I add what veggies I have.  That might be potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans, tomatoes (yes, I know that technically they are fruit), leeks, onions, whatever I have on hand can end up in the veggie soup pot.  Sometimes I add barley and sometimes it's alphabet noodles, sometimes both.  The point is that you can make vegetable beef soup anyway you want too.

Chicken soup is similar around here.  About the only standards with Chicken soup here is Chicken and broth.  You can use noodles or rice.  Add carrots and celery, leeks or onions.  We have one we like that we call "Grown up Chicken Soup".  It got that name from one of our picky daughters that may or may not have been mentioned in this blog.  She said it wasn't like Campbell's so it must be "grown up".  I'm sharing this 'recipe' but remember that my measurements are approximate and 'to taste' so if you like more of something, add it.

Grown Up Chicken Soup

6-8 Cups of Chicken broth
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I usually use leftovers)
A couple of handfuls of wide egg noodles (homemade or store bought)
1 cup of frozen corn
2-3 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 Tbls fresh chopped parsley (1 teaspoon of dried)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook for about 6-7 minutes.  Then add the the rest of the ingredients and cook until everything is warmed through.  

One little hint that I thought of as I typed this out.  When using herbs, if a recipe calls for fresh and you only have dried, it's a 3-to-1 ratio.  Three teaspoons of fresh herbs equals one teaspoon of dried.  Don't get those backwards, it will overpower your dish.  Don't ask me how I know, just trust me here...LOL