Friday, January 30, 2009

I should be able to find something to bake


These are my books, these are my books on bread. There is probably that many more on baking, and they would include bread. But these are my books on just bread. All sorts of breads, yeast, quick, cold rise, quick rise and more I am sure.

I love books, collecting them, reading them and using them as a jump off point to go and have fun in the kitchen. I am not afraid to make a mistake in the kitchen, yes that can be costly; but I have found a mistake is usually edible. A tragedy is not, like mistaking salt for sugar, but a mistake is simply a mistake. Maybe it does not look like what you wanted, or it browned too much, or not enough.

These things are a part of cooking, because cooking food is not exact science.

Bread is a lot like that, it is not exact science. But the best part, it does not have to be. Maybe I like baking bread, because I love simple. And bread is simple. Take some water, yeast, salt and flour and you have bread.

How it looks has nothing to do with the fact that it is bread.

How it looks will be determined by a little experience, and the desire to bake beautiful bread.

But in the end, bread is bread. Beautiful bread is not tastier than simple bread. It cannot be, the ingredients are the same!

This brings us back to yesterday, everyone and anyone can bake bread. Simple, easy, pleasing, bread. From there if you desire, you can bake beautiful, simple, easy, pleasing, bread!

Fear not, this is fun stuff!

I use to bake all our bread, I liked the connection I had with our daily meals. I am lucky, because Honey is a bread guy. Dinner a little skimpy? Just add a slice or two of bread, and set the jam jar on the table along with the butter, and He is happy. I usually hear, "great dinner hon". If you are going to bake bread, it is fun to have a bread guy like my Honey. If on the other hand it is just you, bread is a wonderful thing to share. It will absolutely make someone's day. Bake for yourself, cut the loaf in half and share with a co-worker or neighbor. You will be a hero. Because bread it comfortable food, it warms the heart as well as filling the belly. This will be a fun adventure. And now...................

Time to get ready for work. But more importantly, the weekend is waiting, I will find it when my shift ends!

Thanks for stopping by,

M

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not only is it cold, I have one

I have been running a bit slow here, I have a cold. I have not had one in many years, so I guess it was my turn. We have been eating leftovers and enjoying quiet nights. Honey is on the day shift this week, that is nice for a change. Although I am such a creature of habit, that each shift change he has; takes me a couple of days to adjust to the new rhythm.

I have just noticed in my blog travels this morning that 2009 is BYOB.

What?

Yes, Bake Your Own Bread. Which is great, this will be a busy year with all of the easy and tasty breads to be shared, as well as wonderfully crafted artisan loaves. There should be a loaf for everyone to enjoy, as well as the opportunity to learn new skills.

Great timing for me as well, I am going to share the no knead loaf that I made for the last Sunday Cafe. I must say, I was hesitant to make the bread. As I had already posted, I lacked the covered casserole. I began pricing these at Christmas time, actually after Christmas. Even the clearance prices were steep. I would think that folks starting out baking would simply think, it is actually cheaper to buy bread. But I made it anyway and it was good, better than good actually it was wonderful. Fresh bread always is, that is why we bake.

And the best part in these times, it is frugal. A fresh loaf or pan of bread whether yeast or quick,will elevate the simplest of meals. I would be very happy to live on bread and soup or bread and salad. I would enjoy a rare steak every now and again, but "bread and" would work just fine for me. In years past, I was a bread snob. I thought only yeast bread was bread. But I have gained understanding along with wisdom, and I now know that all breads types are to be respected.

This will be fun, and open a whole new category. BYOB.

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by,

M

Monday, January 26, 2009

The easiest bread, not sure about the herb de Provence

Just a few words about the bread.

Easy and good. And I did not follow all directions.

Why? Because I lack the equipment.

I do not have a heavy weight covered casserole or dutch oven. I have baked enough bread through out the years that I know a small change in baking conditions will only result in a small change in finished product. Without the dutch oven, I did not have an oven within the oven. The only difference I could tell from my finished loaf was color, the bread did not brown as much as is shown in photos from blog posts where the bread is featured.

It is a great bread, easy and inspiring to say the least. Inspiring in that the simplicity will offer satisfaction in baking a finished loaf that is delicious and make you want to bake again.

On to the herbs de Provence, I don't think I like the flavor. Or maybe it is an acquired taste. I found the container of this herb mix at Costco. It was not expensive, so I thought I would give it a try. I am glad I did, but don't expect to do much more cooking with it. I do believe it is the lavender. I don't care for "perfumy" food. I had lavender scones at a tea once, I did not care for them. I do not care for dejaardeling tea for the same reason. It smells and tastes like perfume. The direct smell from the container is wonderful, I do not care for the flavor.

Thanks for stopping by,

M

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pie in motion

Everyone has gone home, the cat came out of hiding. Most of the dishes are washed. Honey has gone to fetch a movie.

I thought I would show Pie in Motion. It was delicious.





Thanks for stopping by,

M

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Roasted Candied Pecans

Well it is never a surprise when I change a menu, actually the surprise would be to stay on task and complete the menu as described in the beginning stages. But reality is, that in the beginning it is more of an outline of options; than a finished and true menu.

So with that said, here is the real menu!

Double mushroom soup & Roasted tomato soup, these did not change. I wanted to have a soup course and thought it would be fun to try each. Also the leftovers will make great quick dinners later on.

Salad, this also did not change. But this morning I roasted some pecans to sprinkle over the salad.

Meatloaf with caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes. Again this did not change.

Pork and Ham stew with cranberries and wine. This is a change. I have things in the pantry to make this with and again the leftovers will be put to good use. I am going to use the recipe from Noble Pig, I enjoy her blog. She is a great and artistic cook.

Oven roasted green beans, again not a change.

I want to make a batch of 5 minute artisan bread for the refrigerator. I will bake a pan of rolls to go with the soup/salad. Another change, but a good one!

Mashed potatoes, these will go great with both the meatloaf and the stew. Not a change, but I won't make rice and peas.

In place of the Orange glazed carrots, I will serve buttered peas. That way if the green beans are not a choice for everyone, there is another vegetable to choose from. And besides, 2 green vegetables is never wrong!

Lemon Meringue pie. I bought a bag of lemons just for this!

Chilled mint squares, another change. This is delicious, and a great frugal way to use up your Christmas candy canes, in a completely different way. I will share the recipe here.

I came home early from work on Friday, I felt the beginnings of a cold/virus coming on. This morning I am better, I will work at a slower pace for the rest of the weekend, but I am looking forward to this Sunday Cafe and starting out our family tradition for 2009.

Here is a very easy candied nut recipe. This is adapted from Everybody likes Sandwiches.

3 c pecan or walnut halves

2 T butter
2 T real maple syrup
2 T brown sugar

optional 1/8 - 1/4 t cayenne pepper

sea salt in a grinder (or add 1/4 t salt to the syrup mixture)

Spread the nuts in a 9X13 pan, warm and toast at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan, melt together and bring to a simmer on low heat. Remove pan form oven and drizzle the syrup over nuts, stir to coat all sides. Return to the oven and roast 10 minutes, stir and return for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and spread out on a wax paper covered tray. If using salt in a grinder, salt the nuts while the syrup is still sticky. Let cool and enjoy.

You will have no trouble eating these. You can adjust the cayenne or not use it at all. These are wonderful chopped and sprinkled over a salad.

Enjoy your day!

M

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday night ramblings


We have had some successes for dinner, this week.

I did manage to make a nice roast in the crockpot. I think I have finally learned (well we shall see!) that it is OK to cook things on low, especially smaller things. Things like a 3-4 pound beef roast. A 3-4 pound frozen beef roast, on low for 6 hours. It worked great!

It stayed moist, was not overcooked and there was wonderful drippings for gravy. Honey and I were happy with dinner for a change. Of course it helped that we were on the same shift, actually Honey had the day off; but that is the somewhat the same as being on the same shift. I also pulled something from the freezer for one of our dinners, earlier in the week and we had salad a couple of times, so not bad.

I have some chores to get done this weekend in addition to Sunday Cafe.

Friday is payday so bills to pay on Saturday. Change the linens, vacuum and I have some cobwebs to take down in the corners. I am also on the lookout for a used corner computer desk. And I need a hair cut. Then it is on to baking for Sunday Cafe and some pictures along the way.

When you have a small home, you must select furniture for the space you have. That is much cheaper than remodeling the house. I am fairly organized, so keeping things tidy is not such a big deal, but I have a difficult time if things do not fit well. It is one of my quirks, and why I am on the lookout for a corner desk. It will fit much better in the space available in the bedroom.

I have grown to enjoy my job, well most of it! I have more to learn, and that is OK too. At our holiday party I was given an award, I do not usually boast, but will share that here, because it was nice to receive after only 100 days of employment.

It is hard to read, but is for "most improved department", not bad for 100 days!

Hope your Friday is great, and your weekend even better. Thanks for taking the time to read my wandering path of words.

M

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting organized, so I can get back to cooking!


This is the pantry, it is at the end of
the hallway.

The shot to the left is the top and
the shot to the right is the bottom.



The hallway is a bit dark, and that poor pantry seems to get disorganized easily. Or maybe because it is at the end of the hall, it is really left out. Left out from regular maintenance and care.

Either way, I organized it today. When we grocery shop, we each put things away, but I have a system that I have used for 40+ years, and I want to get back to that. The food in the pantry is brought forward and the new purchases are put behind. Simple I know, but in a hurry and simple don't seem to go hand in hand.

I looked around the house today, and thought about my lack of motivation and the bad meals we have come to endure. I had to honestly admit that probably no one would want to cook in my kitchen. Oh it is clean, but it had become disorganized. And disorganization makes most things more difficult. So the first step to better meals was to get organized.

This included 2 cupboards actually in the kitchen and the pantry at the end of the hallway. I am sure that the "pantry" at the end of the hall was actually intended for linen storage. But I have more kitchen than linens, so it became a pantry when the house became our home. I actually could use a couple more "pantries" but all in good time. Back to the organization.

The kitchen cupboards were organized into cooking and baking supplies. I have a large variety of vinegars and bottled seasonings like fish sauce and Chinese black vinegar. These are now all in one cupboard. And all the baking supplies are in another. Much easier and hopefully inspiring. I also arranged my half gallon jars of beans and pasta on the counter. They do not take up much room and offer a visual reminder to cook with them.

I have a bad habit, I often forget what is behind a closed cupboard door. I had an open kitchen years ago, the upper cabinets were removed during a remodel and replace with open shelving. I loved it. I like being able to see what you have, and if you are tidy it looks nice also.

During the organization process I came across a can of coconut milk, it was due to be used up as I had had it a while. So I went on this website and found some recipes for coconut milk. Tonight we are having Green curry coconut chicken. I scanned a few of the recipes found a common theme and then did my own thing. I am not sure how much heat Honey and I will enjoy, so I used a light touch in that area. We will have tossed salad, the chicken and carrot brown rice. I also organized his baking supplies, maybe he can whip up something for dessert!

M

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What shall we eat?


I got this great hand made sign for Christmas.

Honey made it for me, and it is in our kitchen.I decided that it will be the banner for all Sunday cafe menu making. And since today is the 17th and January cafe is in 8 days, I better start thinking about what we shall eat.

I have been a bit "off" these past weeks regarding food. I had noticed, and as I have traveled a bit over the internet, I am not the only one. Whew! I was getting a bit concerned. It seems no matter what your blog is about, January is a tired month.

But it will be dinner time in 8 days, so I better get busy. I do know one thing, I want lemon meringue pie. Even though or maybe because it is so cold here, lemon pie sounds wonderful and promises a bit of spring is around the corner.

I want to try a couple of recipes that I noticed on other blogs, and make sure there is plenty of healthy veggies, but other than that; the sky is the limit.

Sunday Cafe for January 25, 2009

Winter tomato soup
Double mushroom soup
Cheddar and green onion biscuits
Tossed salad greens
Roasted chicken thighs with mustard, thyme and garlic
Meatloaf with dried tomatoes and golden onions
Oven roasted green beans and mushrooms
Carrots with orange glaze
Rice and peas
Mashed potatoes
and of course the pie!

It seems like a lot and a lot of cooking, but I am looking to move forward in the kitchen. As I have confessed and complained previous, things have been a bit off around here!

In combining a bit of celebration and frugal living, I think that using the Sunday cafe to cook and be creative and the leftovers to fill in during the week after, is a good match. The hardest time I have in the kitchen is cooking small batches of foods. But if I can make a great pan of scalloped potatoes with 12 potatoes, I certainly can learn to make a great pan with only 4. The very reason I decided to challenge myself with the small batch from scratch series.

So after a slow start to the new year, lets get going!

thanks for stopping by,

M

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Something just learned

Well since I had already confessed yesterday about being brain dead for food, I thought I would blog a bit about the patrons of the Sunday Cafe.

There is one patron in particular that bring great joy, as the world is still new to her; and she is still learning.

The information is as follows:

It seems that her neighborhood (as well as our own) has a special truck that comes around daily in nice weather. Of course this patron does not read yet and cannot possibly know that the colorful letters on the side of the truck spell "ice cream". However this special truck also plays music to announce it's arrive on your street. It was decided by the parents of this special Patron at the Sunday Cafe, that the patron did not need to know that ice cream was indeed in the truck.

And with good reason, this patron is perfectly capable of up-selling. She can up-sell any request, and always in her favor! If she had a resume, Negotiation would be listed as a skill.

Back to the mysterious music truck. For two summers now, we as a family have had a nice time listening to the music truck come around. It offers music to enjoy daily. And each time the music is heard, the Patron is often heard saying. "Hey I hear the music truck".

On Monday as I was driving the Patron home to begin making her requested meal, I heard the following information. "Grammy, Miss Jessica (her day care provider) has a music truck in her neighborhood too, and it has ice cream in it".

I have no idea how the music truck was talked about in the dead of winter. But I can say this, the days of a simple music truck are over!

M

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I am brain dead for food

I have never had a problem with cooking, or eating for that matter!

But I have become stumped with the whole we work different shifts and what are we going to eat? routine.

I REALLY do not know what to do about it.

I would tend to think that I am not the only one to have had this particular challenge. And I would also tend to think that the problem will work itself out...............Given enough time and changed expectations (mine).

I was always a M-F office worker, feeding kids that were M-F school kids. Easy as can be. And the time of my work and time of their school were compatible. They were home, had snacks and were watching TV (pretending to do homework!) and ready for dinner. I would get home and begin dinner. We would sit as a family together and eat our meal, talk, laugh, argue some, and enjoy the time together.

But I am a M-F office worker, sharing time with Honey. The sharing time with Honey is great, it is the "any 7 days and any shifts in that 7 days" schedule that is the problem.

I was spoiled with the whole M-F thing! I would like to be spoiled again.

I did purchase a couple of cookbooks (ok 4 books) to help. I hope to get them read, or glanced through this weekend.

But if you or anyone you know has any ideas, tell them to drop me a comment, because this is not good!

M

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday's special dinner guest


Monday after work, I rush to pick up the dinner guest.

She is waiting to be picked up, and be served her dinner.

She would also like to decide what she will be served, so sometimes it might seem a bit hectic, but she usually orders the same meal I prepared the Monday before....

I want a kaysaahdeeyaa and graham crackers and applesauce and milk, OK Grammy?

OK, honey.
She is fairly easy to cook for, and to entertain. So being a good hostess is not hard work.

But we are usually on a tight time frame, as she must be home by 7pm.

The week goes quickly, and before you know it; it is Monday again.

Girl, you have got the life! I must say.

thanks for stopping by,

M (and Papa)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It is a quiet morning


A lot has happened this week, not much in the kitchen! We actually have been eating from the freezer, and I learned something (again) sometimes being too frugal does not taste yummy. And that would be OK, but why bother with that?

Busy has included a trip home in the middle of the day for the appraisal on the house refinancing. And work is simply busy everyday, especially right now. Not only did we have month end close for December, we have year end close for 2008. There is a ton of archiving to get done, archive boxes to get moved, and new files to get set up. Oh and this must be done and keep current on January.

So back to the first paragraph......does not taste yummy and why bother with that?

Yes indeed, why bother with that. After a long day at work, who wants to eat food that does not taste good, not Honey or me. Of course I know what you are thinking, but wait Honey loves those meat pie thingys, and yes He does; but for him that tastes good. Wonderful even.

No what I am talking about is food that is flat in taste.
Food that could of been good, but was not.

It is not that anyone wanted to make bad food, it is that the ingredients did not add up better than the sum of their parts. And I think that is the key to a great recipe. Cinnamon is good, sugar is good, butter is good, but add those together in a recipe and it is wonderful. That is the benchmark of a good, great really; recipe.

The ingredients together are better than, the sum of their parts.

We won't be cooking tonight either, my office is having it's belated (due to weather) Christmas party.

We won't be cooking tomorrow either, granddaughter is spending the night. I do believe Friday is pizza and a movie night.

Saturday and Sunday look good, except Honey is back to shift end at 10:00pm. His meal break is hard to gauge, but we shall see. Hey I know a meatloaf. We have not had a meatloaf in a long time and it reheats well. Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes.

Time for that second cup of coffee and get ready for work, have a great day.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by,

M

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What to cook, what to cook

It would be safe to say that I am "fooded out", since after a holiday most folks are; and are happy to enjoy a more simple plate put before them. But we still have to eat. So it might be more honest to state that I am also without a food task at the moment.

Blogs are a lot of work, happy work, but hard work just the same.

I do not have a format I follow so it must come from me each time I sit down to add a post. I like that, and don't like that at the same time. Having a format takes some of the worry away. I know that I would not be a good blogger to participate in the Tuesdays with Dorie series, because I might not have any desire to make that item. I see picture after picture on foodgawker, they are all beautiful; even with the differences each cook brings to the recipe. But many times it is fussy food, and I do not enjoy cooking "fussy" food. I am a down home kind of gal.

I tried (and failed on the second day) a menu plan. Daily varied shift work and menus don't mix in this house. However a menu system would of been interesting, and helped to end that last minute drama that surrounds a household with no menu system and hungry people as the same time. Honey is not a fussy eater, he is content with a Marie Calanders meat pie, actually he loves them. That makes it easy for me, but no real challenge or cooking enjoyment. I know how selfish can I be, I have an easy to please Honey and I still want cooking enjoyment!

When I do cook something new and interesting , that can lead to leftovers. Lots of leftovers. And then I get tired of eating the same thing. My frugal nature will not let me throw it out. Our little freezer across the frige is full, and so is the little chest freezer in the garage. Really I do not have to cook for a long time, but I want to. Also we would be eating the same thing over and over, since there are several packages of the same thing. I try to pull something out at least once a week, and we have that.

So it is time for me to make my own series.

Small batch from scratch.

Catchy name, and it will be just the right size! Also I have not seen this anywhere, but I realize that it is a large blogdom out there and I don't stray far from my own neighborhood! This will accomplish many things, new food to cook and enjoy, in just the right size. Leftovers won't be a problem, food will not be wasted, and it will be a challenge.

And how about...............

The urge to splurge!

This could be one thing cooked, probably on a Sunday that could be enjoyed again that week, without waste. Something above the usual, something that would be great on it's own but lend itself to being used in other dishes later in the week or was so wonderful eating it again did not seem like leftovers.

Pork and Beans, a series.

This will continue on, it is fun if not goofy. I have more ideas and they will come out to play in the weeks to come. But I can only eat so many pork and beans. And Honey, well lets just say I have quit telling him the ingredients, it is just easier that way.

See I knew talking to you would be helpful! Oh and I am waiting for my new delivery. Cookbooks of course, they should arrive any day now. Some things for me to use now, some things to put away for gifts. I might have to get another bookshelf..............

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

M

Monday, January 5, 2009

Finally!

This was a busy weekend. There was not much cooking, because there was a lot of furniture moving and cleaning.

We now have an entertainment room, and separately a living room.

Each is nice, very nice.

Honey took care of the entertainment room adding his own touches with his Beatles collection, and I did the living room; with my usual eclectic touches.


We do have a small house, and I do
not mind that. It helps keep our
lives frugal. Large homes take more
upkeep, and a lot more to keep
warm!

But I just did not like having one room, where everything was kept
and all activities took place. It was too crowded, in terms of space and noise.

We also got the "guest" room done. Of course I call it the Grandkids room. It has my computer and cookbooks, along with a
comfortable double bed, and my craft supplies are stored under the bed. And the closet holds the toys.

And now it is Monday morning, and time to get ready for work. We had more snow last night, but when I look at the streets it is melting and should not prove to be a problem for the commute.

Thanks for stopping by,

M

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Stay the course, with an update


I got a start on 2009 in 2008.

We were watching a movie and the phone rang.

It was the bank. They had stayed late to make a few calls to their customers that had a high interest rate, that is high for our current financial outlook. Would there be an interest in refinancing the house at a lower rate? Why yes there would be, actually it was something I had an interest in, yet had not had the time to call my bank and inquire. So a conversation lasting about 15 minutes and we are almost 2 full interest points lower. YOO HOO!

Along with that, I plan on continuing on in my usual frugal style; with that said......


Chicken and bean roll ups enchilada style


2 c cooked chicken*
1 can pork and beans
1 can diced chilies
don't use corn tortillas, see below
cheddar cheese
homemade enchilada sauce
2 c grated cheddar cheese



Homemade enchilada sauce

1 T oil
3 T flour divided
1 t cocoa
1 t garlic salt
2 t oregano
3 c water
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 T dried minced onion (if using fresh increase to 1/4 c)

Use the oil and 1 T of the flour to
make a roux, cook over medium
low heat until deep golden brown, taking care not to let it overcook.

In a medium bowl, combine all remaining dry ingredients. Mix well to combine and mix in cocoa.

Add a small amount of water, and make a smooth thin paste. Add remaining water and tomato sauce, stir well to combine. Add to roux in saucepan and simmer until thickened. Stir in dried onion, set aside.

When ready to fill the tortillas, ladle 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a large baking pan or 2 smaller pans. In the photo I have used a 11X15 pan, you could also use 2 8X8 pans.


Open pork and beans and pour off the top liquid. Combine the remaining beans, chicken and the roasted chilies.





Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat, heat the tortillas until soft, it will not take a long time and you will not need to use oil. Simply heat until warm, turn over and repeat, remove the tortilla to fill, adding another tortilla to the pan to heat.






Place about 3 T of the chicken mixture in center of the softened tortilla, and roll up. DO NOT OVER FILL THE TORTILLAS. Work quickly as the tortilla will cool and it will be difficult to roll the filling tightly.

Repeat the process until you have
used up the filling or the pan! If you run out of pan before using up the filling simply scatter the rest of the filling over the rolls in your pan.



You may find that the tortillas will split after they begin cooling
do not worry, remember you will cover with sauce and cheese.




Grate 4 oz of cheddar cheese, you
will have about 2 c of grated cheese.








Scatter the cheese evenly over the top of the pan(s)

Bake 350 degrees 25-30 minutes.

Serves 8-10



* you could cook a couple of chicken thighs or the chicken could be saved from another meal.


Thanks for stopping by,

M

update: We just finished our dinner, and this was tasty, but the texture of the corn tortillas was mushy and took away from the dish overall. I will make this again, but I will use flour tortillas of the same size, flour tortillas cook up better and retain a better consistency.