Thursday, January 28, 2010

Frozen lemon juice cubes

I am a big fan of lemon. Lemon bar cookies, the "yellow" pie our mom use to make as my younger brother use to refer to Lemon Meringue pie. Squeezed over pan sauteed green beans with thyme and garlic. There is more, much more really, because lemons are versatile and can freshen most any dish. I usually buy a bag of lemons at Costco. They are always plump and beautiful. 

Those lemons just home from Costco, simply glow in the fruit bowl. I am real good about using them, but in time they do slip down to the bottom of the fruit bowl. There, they will darkened a bit and become leathery on the outside. When I am adding more fruit to the fruit bowl, I usually discover the once beautiful lemons are now ugly fruit. Inside that ugly fruit, the juice is still good. So I make frozen lemon juice. These juice of 1/2 lemon cubes are real handy to have, and a frugal use of something that would most likely go to waste.

Juicing the lemons can be a bit more difficult, with the skin leathery.

Strain out the pulp and seeds. The small ones don't bother me, and you do not notice them when you use these cubes. You could use a small mesh strainer if you would like a completely seedless juice cube.

Pour the juice into the ice cube tray. You will get about 2 cube areas for each lemon. It might not be exact, but then again lemons don't grow with exact size restrictions or expectations!

Freeze solid, then pop them out into a labeled bag.

As always thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello. Drop a note, I love having visitors!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

White Beans and Ground Beef with tomato sauce, Our Dad Ken's favorite beans

Growing up we ate very little food in rotation. It seemed my folks, Dad especially liked to eat a wide variety of different food. Living in California made this possible. Living in the Marin County area, made this easy. Dad was a commercial refrigeration repairman. He often was called to the docks in San Francisco and worked on some of the largest refrigeration units in "the city" including many on large fishing and crabbing boats.

Food was everywhere, in one form or another. Dad was in the thick if it, everyday. More than once, he came home with some special "find" that captured his fancy in a market or deli tucked out of the way, yet frequented by all the hungry working people in the area. Dad was a "foodie" before the term had been coined, and lucky for him he had a great and loving cook in our Mom.

But these beans were kind of a regular, probably three times a year we would have these beans for supper. Usually on a Saturday, as these beans do take a while to cook. Not a lot of attention, but in fact, about 4 - 5 hours cooking time. Dad could of eaten these much more often, there was only one problem. Mom hated beans. And of course she was rather vocal about it, but she did love Dad dearly so she would put away her opinions and cook these for "Daddy" as she called our Dad.

Recently I have been learning to cook beans, a simple little goal I set for myself, a couple of years ago. I thought for the longest time that I didn't even like beans. Maybe it was something I had heard growing up? But truthfully I enjoy beans. I simply did not know how to cook them. I have had very little success in cooking beans in a slow cooker, so I don't bother any more. And besides, there is such enjoyment in smelling the delicious dish as it cooks away on a lazy Sunday morning. These could be cooked in a slow oven, if you wanted to keep busy with other tasks, or wanted to leave for a while.

 Great Northern beans were used for this batch, they are equally delicious.

I have made a small change to how the beans are made. Mom and Dad both used tomato sauce. One can did not seem to be enough, yet 2 cans yielded beans that had too much tomato flavor. Dad would use a partial second can, Mom always used the 2 full cans. My small change is to use a can of tomatoes and "sauce" them up in a blender. I think it provides just enough tomato flavor. This is a simple dish of ground beef and beans. It is homey and comforting. Serve on a soup plate and pass the salt and pepper.

Our Dad Ken's favorite beans
1 pound of small white beans, prepared*
1 pounds of lean ground beef
1 T thyme
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can ready to use diced tomatoes
black pepper (I use about 7 "grinds" on the grinder)
2 t salt

Brown the ground beef.

My beef was a bit watery from being in the freezer, simply let it cook until dry enough to brown.

Add the thyme, garlic and pepper. Continue to brown until the flavors of each are fragrant. Add 3 cups of  water to the pan, stir and simmer the brown caramelized juices off the bottom of the pan.


Buzz the tomatoes and 1 can full of water in a blender to make a slurry. Add to the pan, along with the prepared beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover pan. Let simmer 2 hours, stirring at the one hour mark and reset the timer for another hour. Add the 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and simmer another 2 hours or until beans are done. If the mixture is a bit soupy, turn the heat up and simmer off some of the liquid.

Serves 8 - 12

It was interesting to take a process that I observed as a kid, and turn it into an actual recipe. I hope you enjoy these beans as much as we did.

Recipe rating:
Oh Yes! Will make again.

As always, thanks for taking a minute to stop and say hello. We appreciate your time and your wonderful comments!.

* soak beans over night in plenty of water, drain and rinse.OR  For a quick soak, put beans in a large covered pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, simmer 30 minutes. Set aside and let rest 1 hours. Drain well, use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use in your favorite recipe.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gramdma's Peanut Butter Bars

I did not get home until 7:30 pm, about 12 hours after I left the house this morning! Too tired to eat dinner, but by golly I had to make these! I had spotted this gem back in August, and saved it for just a night like tonight.

Grandma's Peanut Butter Bars
adapted from Megster Meter

1 stick (1/2 c) and 1 T butter
2 c powder sugar
2 c chunky peanut butter
2 c graham cracker crumbs

2 c semi sweet chocolate chips
1 T butter (come on what is another tablespoon at this point?)

Melt butter, beat in powdered sugar and peanut butter. Stir in crumbs. Press into a 9X13 prepared pan.

It worked very well to place peanut butter crumb mixture into bottom of the pan, and press into place using waxed paper as a barrier between your hands and the crumb mixture. Also that eliminated the need to lick your fingers!

Melt chocolate chips and the last (innocent) tablespoon of butter. I used the microwave and it took about 1 minute and 15 seconds. Stir well to combine, the mixture will look glossy. Spread over top.


After chilling 3o minutes, cut into small squares. Refrigerate. Yum Yum Yum, is there anything better than buttery, peanut butter and chocolate? I will take to work and share in the morning. 

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope your evening is just grand. Leave a message, it really makes my day, or night to read the comments.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oatmeal Cookie Dough for the freezer.

Even though I have been cooking for over 40 years, I am still learning to be better prepared in the kitchen. Being prepared can have a different meaning to each cook; or for that matter any special needs for your own family. But being prepared is a skill worth having and developing to the maximum potential.

Also I like to play. Everyone needs to play, it keeps us happy and young in spirit. Playing in the kitchen is fun for me. Sometimes it even results in a tasty surprise or improved technique. I like to think about and employ ways to be better prepared in the kitchen and through the house. These usually revolve around the kitchen, but not all the time. This morning however, the kitchen is once again my playground.

We have a cookie problem in this house. You see, we love cookies! But We are only two people. And yes we could eat the whole batch of cookies, while they are still fresh and moist. We have been tempted to just eat cookies until they are gone. It would be fairly easy. You come home tired, hungry and just want to eat, now.

"I know lets have cookies and milk for dinner!"

But we usually act all grown up and so, cookies and milk for dinner is not usually the menu selection of the evening. But we still want cookies! Fresh cookies. Delicious cookies. Homemade cookies. So I got to thinking.........

Slice and bake cookies, with a twist. Some cookie recipes lend themselves to the traditional log shape. These are sugar cookies, gingersnaps or any cookie dough that does not have chunky ingredients. Other cookie recipes will lend themselves to a "slab" shape that is cut into squares before baking, allowing for the chunky ingredients. Like chocolate chips, broken nut meats, raisins and other dried fruits. Any drop cookie recipe will work in the "slab" shape.

Here is the best part, for each dozen cookies the recipe states, you make a separate molded portion of dough for freezing. When you want a fresh batch of cookies, you simply pull a portion of dough  from the freezer, let it thaw for a few minutes, cut into 12 pieces and bake.And this goes without saying, with 2 or 3 different kinds of cookie dough in the freezer, drop in guests or that needed cookie plate are not such a problem.

I have noticed that most cookies bake at the same temperature for about the same time, 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If your cookie dough needs a different temperature and or baking time, simply put a little note on the wrapper. You can use any family favorite recipe, I personally love the oatmeal cookie recipe on the side of the oat barrel. It is sooooo very delicious, adaptable and dependable. I did notice one little thing about freezing dough for cookies, you need to add the tiniest bit of water. I have adapted that wonderful cookie recipe to be freezer friendly.

Oatmeal Cookie Dough for the freezer
adapted from: the Quaker barrel
makes 4 dozen

1 1/4 c butter ( 2 1/2 sticks) - cut into thick slices, this helps keep the mixture from hanging up on the beaters
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 egg
1 t water - don't leave this out

Cut butter into thick slices, add sugars and salt. Beat until creamy. Add vanilla and egg, beat until fluffy, beat in water.

Combine and whisk together:
1 1/2 flour
1 t soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

3 c oats
1 1/2 c raisins

Beat flour mixture into the butter sugar mixture. When smooth, reduce beater speed and add the oats and raisins. Mixing gently until oats and raisins are mixed in evenly.

Scrape the beater clean, smooth the dough into the bottom of the workbowl. Divide into 4 sections. Pack dough into your mold.

Place a square of waxed paper over your mold, add 1/4
portion of the dough. Using another piece of wax paper, cover
over the top of the dough, pressing firmly to make a compact
evenly shaped "slab". Remove top piece of waxed paper, fold
the extended portion over dough, turn out. Repeat.

Tidy and packaged for the freezer.

To bake, remove one portion from freezer, let thaw a few minutes (or remove the day before and place in refrigerator), cut into 12 pieces and bake. Yum!

Now lets talk chocolate!
To make chocolate chip cookies, eliminate the spice and raisins, add 2 c chocolate chips. Proceed as shown above.

How about Maple Walnut?
To make Maple walnut, substitute maple flavoring for the vanilla, and walnuts for the chocolate chips.

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

Life is good, especially with a warm cookie from the oven!

As always, thanks for taking a minute to stop by. We appreciate your time and your wonderful comments!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lets talk about soaked rice, shall we?

I am not a big band wagon jumper; and along that same vein, I am not a new fad pro-claimer either. I am rather reserved, usually patient and an observer first, then finally a "stepper" after the observation time is complete. I like to observe a technique or shift in the current thinking and weigh it against my own needs, the needs of the family and the reality of the pocketbook. Then I take the step to accept the new.

Brown rice. Yes we all know it is healthier. It has been referred to as "nutty" and come on, who does not like a nutty taste? It has been in the spotlight of "health food" for years now. Yes I know brown rice is healthier, and has a nutty flavor.

But I did not like it.

Brown rice I cooked was stubbornly chewy, did not fluff up the way I prefer rice to do. It did not make an enjoyable rice pudding like every recipe I ever tried insisted it would. Brown rice would sit in the jar on my pantry shelf, bright and shiny, like a star studded, eat it regularly, everyday food. Only to be the jar rarely reached for and seldom eaten from.

But I wanted to like and eat brown rice. 

I wanted to eat it for all the right reasons, it is healthy, it is tasty, it is fiber rich. I have used the quote "everything old become new again" and the whole brown rice saga certainly falls into that group. Recently I have begun to use some of the Nourishing Traditions methods. Actually most everyone has through the ages. These methods have simply been brought to new light in 2003, with publication of the book.

And I am glad.

As we age (OMG! what an old subject, pun intended) along with the change in our bodies is the need for better nutrition. These methods will assist with that. There has already been enough information released and rehashed about the nutritional needs of the pediatric and geriatric populations being very similar, so obviously this would be a great for the entire family.

OK, stepping down from the tall soap box, lets get back to rice.

Soaking grains, a simple process 12-24 hours before cooking

1 c brown rice
1 T apple cider vinegar
4 c water

Combine in a jar, stir, cover, let sit. Very simple, takes only a moment. For the best rice imaginable.

Do not be concerned that this takes a lot of pre-planning. Nothing could be further from the truth. And it reheats wonderfully. I have started getting things ready after the evening meal, for the next days dinner, and this is just another example of that. 

To cook the rice:

Drain rice in mesh sieve, rinse with fresh water, drain well.

Combine drained rice, 2 c fresh water, 1/4 t salt and 1 T olive oil. Bring to a boil in medium size pan, covered. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer 35 minutes. Toss gently, serve.

  My "soaking station".

What changes have you recently made in your kitchens, to feed the family (or yourself!) better? Please share, I do appreciate it.

As always have a great day, and thank you for taking a moment to stop and say hello. Please leave a note, I really do appreciate your visit.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Polenta con Fagiole

Polenta con Fagiole

adapted from,
Homestyle Italian Cooking
by Lori Carangelo
This is truly a pantry special, everything can be found in your pantry or kept quite easily.

1 can 10 3/4 oz chicken broth
3/4 c water
1 c cornmeal
1 c water
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 T butter
cooking time 20 minutes
I have begun to be more organized while I cook, by having the ingredients ready and available.

Bring broth, 3/4 c water and the butter to a boil. Reduce heat, you will want a simmer. I turned my heat to medium and continued to reduce as needed to keep a simmer.

Stir the cornmeal and 1 c water together. There should be no lumps or dry pockets of cornmeal.

Stir cornmeal/water mixture and the beans into the simmering broth. Stir constantly, and as the mixture cooks take care to adjust the heat as needed.

View of 10 minutes cooking, and stirring.

15 minutes cooking and stirring.

Cooking is completed.

Rinse a dish in cold water (or you can oil the surface) and pour hot Polenta into the dish to set.

Let stand 10 minutes, slice into thick slices. Place on a plate and offer with additional butter and cheese or a red sauce (and cheese!). But this is the greatest, "ready and in the fridge" food. Slice into slices and saute or broil to warm and brown lightly, then proceed with a sauce.

The best part?

No scorching! Dutch ovens rule!


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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Raspberry Sauce, with Port and Cinnamon

I found these raspberries in the freezer. These are the remainders of many bags of raspberries. Berries that were grown, picked and then saved (in the freezer) until it was time to make jam. There were 3 partial bags hidden and tucked out of sight. Together the 3 bags measured 2 quarts of berries. Lets make something with them!

Raspberry sauce

2 quarts of raspberries
1 c sugar (or Rapadura)
1/2 c Ruby Port
1/4 t salt
1 t Vietnam Cinnamon
1 T cornstarch

Combine berries, sugar, spices and wine in a large flat bottom pan with a lid.

Bring to a simmer, and cover. Cook 15 minutes.

When the time is up, remove cover and turn off heat source. But leave the pan on the burner, when needed it will return to a simmer very quickly.

Remove about 1/4 c of the pan "juices" into a small measure cup and put in the freezer to chill, about 15 minutes.

Use a whisk to break up the berries.

Stir the cornstarch into the cooled raspberry juice. Stir until smooth, it does not take long and the few seeds don't get in the way.

Return the mixture to a simmer, stir in the cornstarch mixture. Simmer until smooth and clear.

I will put 3 in the freezer for a delicious treat later this winter.

This will be served now.
I hear yogurt or cake or biscuits buttered with cream cheese calling out for some of this delicious sauce.

This is a delicious, slightly tart yet sweet dessert sauce, that could not be easier to make. You will love it.........


Thank you for visiting Our Sunday Cafe, as always we appreciate your time when you visit and your wonderful comments! 

If you like what you see here, we would appreciate it if you told your friends (we would love more followers!), if not, tell us. Our goal is to share relevant information that you will enjoy and use for yourself and your family. 

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updated to be linked with Tuesday Twister.