Friday, January 17, 2014


Ooops.  Mistakes.  Whoopsies.  We all have them.  We all make them.  It happens.  

I initially began thinking about this when someone made a comment about me and my gardening knowledge.  Most people are surprised to know that I grew up in the city, although we moved around a lot, my childhood was mostly Erie, Pennsylvania.  I was a newlywed when I was moved to the country.  I had so much to learn!  I had far more than my share of mistakes in the garden.  I could probably write a book on the mistakes I made those first few years!  LOL 

I had just recently found a couple on Facebook who'd been very important to me when I was little.  This brought back a wonderfully funny "Whoopsie" memory as my dear Mother would call it.  Someone had given us a bunch of freshly dug potatoes.  Think, just pulled out of the dirt, literally.  I took the box home, my Mom was at work and my dad was napping.  I woke him and in his barely awake state, he said they had to be washed before we could use them.  Being like 10, I took him seriously.  I ran a sink of hot soapy water and a sink of cold rinse water, just like you would for doing dishes.  Then I washed each and every one of those potatoes in that hot soapy water.  I rinsed them and laid them out on a towel to dry.  It's funny  NOW!  LOL

Today, I had a mistake as well.  I had planned to bake bread today to go with beef stew for dinner.  I put the bread dough in the oven and went to tend to my sick children.  The little guy wanted some cuddle time and I forgot the bread.  Yea, it baked for probably an hour, dang sinus' kept me from smelling it.

This doesn't look terrible in a picture.  The hard crust is probably an inch thick all the way around, leaving very little of bread edible unless you enjoy eating something that turns to powder in one bite.  It doesn't have to be a total loss though.

Love the food processor!

I took the soft insides out, what little there was, and turned the rest into bread crumbs.  We may not be able to eat this loaf with our stew but it will become coating for chicken nuggets later!

Keep in mind that even if you have store bought bread that goes stale or leftover dinner rolls, hot dog buns, any bread product, that you can lay them out on a baking sheet and put them in a warm oven and let them dry out.  Breaking the bread into smaller pieces will help it dry out faster.  Toss them in the food processor, or if you don't have one you can put them in a Ziploc and crush with a rolling pin, meat tenderizer or even let your kids crush them with a canned good.  Either put the bread crumbs in an airtight container (think Tupperware or Rubbermaid type) or even just put in a new Ziploc and toss in the freezer.

So, when you make a mistake, think outside the box and try to come up with a way to spin it into something else.  The exception is to NOT eat the potatoes that were washed in dish soap.  TRUST me on this!  LOL

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stuck inside? Make stock!

Today, Indianapolis is having a snow storm.  Leading up to this, the weather people kept saying, "This will be a storm like that which most of you aren't old enough to remember".  Pretty sure they meant the Blizzard of 1978.  I remember that and although this is bad, it's not on par with the Blizzard of '78.  Yet.  I'll add 'yet' because it's not done yet.  Tomorrow, we're supposed to hit some record cold, below zero without windchill, temps.  Here is what we're seeing so far:

That is my husband and son out trying to clear the walk.  When they came in, there was an inch covering all this before they got their hot cocoa done.  

So, today, I am doing that type of cooking that I don't always have time to do.  To start with, I've made some homemade bread, it's rising now.  I am only letting one rise to bake now and the other loaves are now in the freezer.  Later on, I can just pop one out and toss it in the bread pan and treat it just like those frozen loaves you buy at the store. 

I am also making stock.  I'm starting with beef stock.  Mostly because veggie/beef/barley soup sounds good today.  I make a huge amount at a time and freeze the extra.  I freeze some in Ziploc bags in quantities needed for soup and some smaller amounts for stew.  I also freeze some in ice cube trays so if you need a shot of beef stock for gravy or Stroganoff or what have you, just pop a couple of cubes in it.  

Let's start with soup bones.  I am spoiled, when we have a cow butchered, I make sure and request as many soup bones as I can get.  I was stunned when I saw what passes for soup bones here in the city.  Here is a pic of what you see in the "regular" grocery stores in the city:

In all fairness, I did NOT go buy these.  I forgot to grab a pic at the store, I found this pic online and it is a fair representation of what you find in the grocery.  Here is a pic of what I get from the butcher with my cow:

Note all the meat on those!  When I get done making stock, this meat will be awesome in soup, stew, etc.  Even if you don't get a cow butchered, you can find soup bones, ham hocks and even regular cuts of meat at a true "butcher shop" that are a far superior quality.

As with most cooking in my house, it starts with this:

It's important to season and brown the soup bones.  Yes, brown the bones.  Even if you're working with bones from the grocery.  Browning adds flavor.  As for seasoning, I just work with salt, pepper, garlic powder and some paprika.  Brown all sides, this will pay off in flavor later.

The veggies I include for making stock are onions, green peppers, leeks, carrots and celery.

It takes more than this for the quantity I make but I forgot to take a pic before I put it in the pot so I made a plate of a little more.

Seasoning is salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic.  Same deal, I forgot the picture at first!  LOL

Then it is just a matter of putting it all in a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer it.  

I will let this simmer for several hours.  If you use a smaller stock pot, it won't go as long.  I like to start with a lot and let it reduce as it brings all that flavor our of those bones and veggies.

I like to separate the grease off of the stock.  I broke my grease separator and haven't gotten a new one yet.  Here is what that looks like:

I am not venturing out to get one of these.  What you can do instead is to cool the broth refrigerate it, the grease will rise to the top and harden.  I should add that this is AFTER I remove the meat/bones and as many of the veggies as I can.  The grease is easy to remove after it is refrigerated.  This method will also let anything settle to the bottom that can't be strained out.  If you then use a ladle to dip the stock out and put it in the Ziplocs or the ice cube trays, then all the stuff that settled to the bottom stays there.  If, like us, you're not as picky on this just leave it, it will be ok.

I generally give the veggies that I pull out, once cool, to the dogs.  They've been cooked to smithereens and at this point pretty much taste like the stock.  My hounds love it!  I will pick the meat off the bones and generally this is yield enough meat for more than one pot of soup, I just take whatever I don't need right away and, you guessed it, put it in a Ziploc and freeze it for later.  Having the broth and some meat tucked away in the freezer is awesome if you have one of those nights where you need something quick and easy.  Just toss it in a pan together and when it comes to a boil, add egg noodles and you have beef & noodles.  It's great too for those weeks where you know you're going to have a busy week and you can just plan on using this quick meal!

By the way, the whole house smells amazing while this is cooking!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Oh the Ham!

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that everyone had a safe and happy New Year's eve celebration!

We had a ham for Christmas dinner.  My husband wanted a spiral sliced one this year and I had a coupon so I got one really cheap.  The problem is that spiral sliced hams are huge.  We had 4 people for Christmas dinner.  Leftovers...

First, I cooked the ham without the glaze packet, not only because I am a diabetic but it would alter the taste of what I used the leftover ham for (gotta plan ahead).  We had ham for dinner that night and sandwiches the next day.  I had enough that I left out to make these sandwiches as well, called "Funeral Sandwiches", they are some seriously good sammies!  Anymore, whenever we have good ham, we make these the next day.

After I made those, I broke down the rest of the ham.  Some into cubes for ham and beans and some in smaller dice for ham and au gratin potato or some other casserole.  I know the general amounts that would use in these meals so I portioned them out by that.

My husband was helping me with labeling..he's a comedian and labeled the casserole dice as "all rotten tatoes".  Label them how ever you like, I like to use a Sharpie because it's easy to see.  Hubby forgot and didn't include the date...don't worry, I fixed it!  LOL

You'll notice in the back, I have a pack marked "Ham bone for beans".  It is exactly what you think it is.  After I cut all the meat off that I could get, I whacked the bone in half (with a meat cleaver) and froze one, the other was dinner. 

Generally, I will use smoked ham hocks for beans but if you think about it, ham is yummy too and in this case pretty much a "free" meat as most people would usually toss the bone.  There was a great deal of meat left on this bone.  I just waited until the beans were almost done and pulled the bone out.  I let it cool for just a bit and then pulled the rest of the meat off of it, any pieces that were still bigger were really easy to shred and toss back into the pot.  Of course, this is served with fried potatoes and Grandpa's Cornbread.  

It's a warm cozy meal that costs very little to put on the table!