Category: Cooking

Passion

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Most people I know are passionate about something.

Those things vary from person to person – even in intensity between those who share a passion for a specific thing.

As you might know, I love reading, film, TV, food, crafting among other things. I’m a long time Star Trek fan – 50 years worth. And, yes, that astounds me more than one might think it would.

Some folks love gardening, others are into sports. Some find politics a competitive sport, not me. Much too serious repercussions involved for me to think that way.

Food can be an interesting passion. Eating is a simple joy. I actually know a few folks who eat because they have to — and one or two of them have to be reminded (!!) to do so. For me, food is a way of expressing love, a communal process, an adventure of exploration.

Books and reading or audiobooks and listening take storytelling to a new level of art.

Film or television can be an amazing experience or a monumental waste of time, depending upon what is being watched. This relatively new ability to binge watch TV shows has brought about a new way of experiencing and exploring television. I admit I like it…usually. 🙂

Passion for anything is an amazing gift. It provides focus, food for thought, ability to grow and learn. If not for Science Fiction, I would have a much different understanding of what we take for granted today – computers, for example.

There is a sort of zen-like component to passions. Crafting, for example, requires a certain type of focus that lends itself to meditation and contemplation. Odd as it might seem, there is a reason so many people engage in certain activities – and it might surprise you to find that it isn’t the activity itself that draws them in.

Justin Scarred recently when to a convention that focused on comic books, characters, anime and the like. I remember my first convention many, many years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but when I stepped out of the elevator and the first thing I saw was a storm trooper coming at me down the hallway, it changed my life.

There is something special about being among other people who share your passion. Not only does it offer the opportunity to share something you enjoy, but it opens up the world a bit and adds more to the experience.

Ever been to a quilters convention? Same thing, just different subject. 🙂

There will always be folks who don’t get it. No matter how hard you try to explain or expound on the topic. But for those of us who do, it can be a life changing experience that will provide a lifetime of opportunity, interest, excitement and pleasure.

Don’t be afraid to explore and find your passion – or several if you like. You’ll be glad you did!

Burgers

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I got to thinking about my favorite burgers today. An odd thought, true, but one that I found myself pondering for quite a while.

Before I continue, I need you to know that I grew up on a small farm where we raised our own meat. Our beef was grass fed Angus cattle. If you have not had grass fed beef, you don’t know what you are missing.

I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to have been raised like this until I moved to California and had my very first burger from a chain I shall not mention. I took a bite and wanted to know where the beef went and why they were using cardboard.

To be honest, very few of the national chains have beef that really has a good flavor. When you buy beef raised by Big-Agriculture you get … cardboard.

Most national chains have worked hard to develop unique recipes that the buyer will like and want to eat time and again. Barring that, they look for a unique style of burger. Square or round, anyone?

Toppings tend to be standard, even if they are applied in different intensity or manner.

What I love to find is the small chain or mom-and-pop shop that create interesting and unusual burgers.

I am a huge fan of In-N-Out Burgers. Not only are their fries made fresh – right in front of you – but their burgers have a great flavor and are the right balance of everything. Put them with the fries and a coke or a shake and you have a meal worth waiting in line to get.

Trust me – you won’t find beef that tastes like cardboard there!

I recall a great burger that came from a local shop. The best thing about it was not the toppings or the bun, but the way the meat had been seasoned. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that in addition to the usual salt and pepper was poultry seasoning; Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Marjoram, and Nutmeg added to the salt and pepper gave the burger a wonderful flavor and enhanced and condiment you cared to add.

Char broiled, grilled, fried, they all have their pluses and minuses. I enjoy them all depending upon my mood. A good grilled burger can be a joy if it is prepared properly.

One thing to keep in mind: fat = flavor. Your burger must have at least 20% fat to provide not only flavor, but the moisture necessary to keep it from drying out in the pan.

My mom used to combine 2 pounds of ground beef with 1 pound of mild sausage, 1 egg, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. This mixture makes a great burger and is a perfect starting point to a simple and tasty meatloaf.

Give it a try – and don’t forget to give the poultry seasoning a try as well. You might be on your way to a wonderful burger!

Categories: Cooking Food

The Sunday Roast

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I’m one of those fly by the seat of my pants cooks. Mostly. When I put together my grocery list, I have a good idea of what will reside in my pantry or freezer. What I do with that food might end up a different matter.

One thing I love to do – and is a no-brainer for weekly cooking – is prepare a meal that will have potential for lots of left overs or re-dos.

The Sunday Roast is perfect for this.

A roast chicken can be the main meal plus chicken casserole or chicken tacos.

A roast beef can become a wonderful beef stew.

A roast pork can evolve into a casserole or enchilada dish or …

The Domestic Geek has built a following on weekly meal prep. This is an idea I can support simply because it is brilliant. Do most of the work ahead of time so you can get through your week with healthy food read to go.

The Sunday Roast fits into that theme perfectly. Sunday is the one day of the week you can let the oven do its work without a lot of fuss and bother so you can ease into the rest of the week.

As I write this, my Sunday Roast is a pair of beautiful pork shoulder steaks that will be seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and sage, then spend about an hour to an hour and a half in a 325 degree oven. They will be accompanied by sweet potato fries.

Yum!

Categories: Cooking Food

Got Broiler Pan?

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For some of us, one of the most useful tools is not the standard equipment it should be with a new range. (I have no idea why, either.) What is that useful piece of equipment?

A broiler pan.

Yep, a two piece granite ware pan that is used under the broiler.

Before you click on past this post, give me a few minutes. Please. 🙂

That extremely useful and easy to maintain pan is perfect for cooking bacon in the oven – no need for fancy wire racks for your baking sheets. Simply put your bacon on the insert over the base pan and put all in the oven. The grease melts into the bottom pan, making clean up a breeze and your bacon is perfectly cooked WITHOUT swimming in bacon fat.

I use mine to roast pork shoulder steaks. Makes the process easy and the clean up a breeze.

Clean Up?

I spray both pieces with cooking spray – this way things don’t stick and clean up is a breeze. You can line the bottom pan with aluminum foil, but you might also need to wash the pan after you remove the foil.

The pierced top section is also sprayed so the foods won’t stick. This really helps with clean up, too.

Uses?

As I’ve said, I roast bacon on the pan, but I also cook steaks, chicken and vegetables on it too. The pierced top section is great not only to allow fats to drip off, but air to circulate.

Broiling is a good function as well. 😉 Read your oven’s user guide and your recipe to be sure you know what to watch for and don’t leave your broiler unattended.

Need One?

Not sure where yours is or you need a new one? Go to Amazon.com and put “broiler pan” in the search box. Bypass the disposable ones – they are a waste of money and not geared toward heavy usage. The rest of the options should run around $25.00. Mine is granite ware and I love it – easy to use, easy to clean.

The top section can come in a variety of forms; holes, slats, combination. Look carefully and think about cleanup. The slats are a lot easier to deal with than the holes and they provide better drainage.

Make sure the pan has a deep bottom section – this will catch a lot of fat or dripping without spilling in the oven.

Note, I do not use the broiler pan to roast a whole chicken. That requires a different type of pan.

Dig out your pan, or get a brand new one, and see what you can do with it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it has become one of your favorite tools in your kitchen.

Categories: Cooking Food

Recipe Collections

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A few days ago a friend and I were talking about one of the items she had in a holiday meal. One of her youngsters was watching one of her youngsters inhale Grandmother’s rolls and said, “Mom, you’ll have to teach me how to make that.”

As we chatted, we both acknowledged that many of our favorite recipes came not just from our mothers, but our grand – and great-grand – mothers. Handed down over generations and updated as needed based on what was available.

A while back, I wrote about creating a cookbook to collect and hand down family favorites. My friend remarked that that was a project she wanted to embark on this year.

While I love perusing cookery sites and magazines, not to mention cookbooks, I think the hand made route is perfect. You can put in not just the recipe, but recollections, pictures, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Why not include family photographs along with the instructions?

One other thing I think invaluable is the How To section. Every good recipe explains how to actually create the dish, but sometimes they lack that bit of … … … instruction that gives the maker the information that will result in success. (Not everyone is a master cook, and sometimes you need some directions to go with the <cough> directions.) 🙂

Years ago I was stunned to discover that Julia Child had created what amounts to a How To book for herself. It was a collection of quick recipes and notes she needed to make everyday things. Gathered in a binder it was handy on a shelf in her kitchen.

One of the country’s most revered cookery teachers had a cheat sheet in her kitchen. Makes perfect sense to me!

Each stove and each oven is a different animal, so it is a good idea to keep notes about the quirks. If you are one of us who needs a reminder about how long to boil an egg – why not just make a note and put it where you can find it, rather than dig out the phone, laptop, book or whatever and browse the Internet?

How many of us remember Grandma making something and not using measuring spoons? Grandma knew how to measure using the palm of her hand.

By the way, “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom” is available if you are interested. I perused it at my local library, but Amazon has it as well.

If you are thinking about creating your own recipe collection – either for yourself or to pass down – take some time to sketch out what you would like the final book to be.

Not just recipes, but How To’s and such.

Then, as the year progresses, make notes about what you have made and add it to the recipes for the book. Why not include some pictures?

I’d bet you could have quite a collection ready for next Holiday Season. And someone will be speechless to have received it.

NOTES:

There are several types of recipe software available – some at nominal cost. I prefer to use this type of tool rather than a word processor because the software has tools to make the creation easy, organized and simple. You can also get nutritional information, should you want to (and why not?)

If you decide to go the paper route, you can pick up blank books pretty much anywhere. Many of the ones I’ve seen come with divider and pre-printed pages.

Whichever way you choose, good luck, have fun and enjoy the process. There is a lot of great food out there!

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting Musings

Meal Planning Made Easier

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For lots of people planning meals is part headache and part budget killer. For folks who are on a special diet, or want to lose weight, meal planning can be a hurdle. Folks who are bored with the Tried And True and would like to add some variety to their meals can be frustrated with all the various options available.

It doesn’t have to be that way – for any of these folks.

eMeals provides weekly inspiration for dinner, makes sticking to diets and eating healthy exceedingly easy, and pays for itself several times over.

There are lots of options and flexibility is built in. Are you a Vegan? Paleo? Gluten Free? Prefer Crock Pot to regular cooking? Budget friendly? Want to take advantage of grocery pick up services? Looking for fast and healthy recipes? eMeals has you covered.

Save some money, save some time, get inspired.

Try eMeals Free for 14 Days see what they have to offer. If you would like to make grocery shopping even easier, check out the following links.

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Shipt

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Amazon Fresh

Try eMeals plus grocery pickup with Walmart

Try eMeals plus grocery delivery with Instacart

As you contemplate your 2019 resolutions, remember that one good way to help you achieve your goals is to use the tools that work. Give it a try and see what happens!


Categories: Cooking Food

Holiday Goodies

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I’ve been contemplating some holiday goodies lately.  I don’t do a large scale bake-a-thon because I don’t need to be eating that much sugar. 

Yeah, I know, but it sounds good, right?  🙂

Midnight Bliss Cake

One item has been returning to my mind: the Midnight Bliss Cake that Kraft and Bakers One introduced us to years ago.

Check out the recipe here:  Bakers One Bowl Midnight Bliss Cake.  I like to play with flavors, so I’m contemplating replacing the chocolate bits with Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips.

This cake is an easy to prepare show stopper that can be baked in smaller bundt pans to be wrapped and gifted.  It is moist, however, so be thoughtful of the amount of time between creation and gifting.  Wouldn’t want the cake to be stale when first bite is taken.

Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake

The cocoa cinnamon pound cake is another easy to do showstopper recipe that I was first introduced to by Hershey.    It has a rich flavor with a touch of cinnamon that is different. 

Check out this recipe from Cooks.com:  Cocoa Cinnamon Pound Cake.  It is also one that can be made in smaller pans for gifting.

I hope you check out these two recipes and enjoy both.  They are great additions to a dessert table, pot luck, holiday fare or for gifting.

Categories: Cooking Food Gifting

Simple Luxuries

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As you no doubt can imagine, I love a good cup of coffee.  I’m a bit particular about it, in fact.  I also enjoy a good cup of hot tea.

Sometimes, however, I want something to go with the beverage.  Something a bit … extravagant.

I love a good scone.  Cookies are nice, cupcakes and doughnuts are fine – sometimes even preferred.  But there are times when I want a good scone.

A few years back I came across a scone mix that was so simple, so easy – and so flavorful – that I thought it couldn’t possibly be good.  I was wrong.

Sticky Fingers Bakeries produces a scone mix in a variety of flavors that ticks so many boxes I don’t mind the $ I pay for them.  You literally add water, shape as you desire and bake.  That is it.

If you can make drop biscuits or drop cookies, this mix is for you.

I just got my order from Amazon and I am debating which to try first: pumpkin cranberry, raspberry white chocolate or peppermint chocolate chip.  They are all new to me.  I love their blueberry, but there is a list of flavors that are sure to appeal to just about anyone.

No, they are not cheap and they are hard to get.  Because they use only the best ingredients, some flavors are not available year round (grab the pumpkin quick) and because they are limited the price point can be a bit high.

But a good scone with a good cup of coffee or tea?

Heaven!

Categories: Cooking Food Musings

Fall Dinner

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Looking for something a little different?  This is an old recipe that I’ve used many times over the years.  It is a slightly different take on dinner that is easy to prepare, works well with a side salad and simple dessert and can easily be used for Company.

Broccoli Beef Squares

Course Main Course
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 c Broccoli — Chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 c cheddar cheese — Shredded
  • 1/3 c onion — chopped
  • 4 ounce mushroom pieces
  • 2 c Bisquick® baking mix
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese — grated
  • 1 Dash pepper
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Fresh Broccoli – steam until almost tender. Drain.
  3. Brown ground beef; drain. Stir in the onion, mushrooms and 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar.
  4. Mix baking mix, water and the remaining cheddar cheese until soft dough forms; beat vigorously 20 strokes.
  5. Pat dough in greased 13/x/9 pan with floured hands, pressing dough 1/2 inch up sides.
  6. spread meat mixture over dough; sprinkle with broccoli . Mix remaining ingredients, pour over broccoli.
  7. Bake uncovered until golden brown and knife inseerted near center comes out clean – 25-30 minutes

Recipe Notes

1 10 ounce package frozen broccoli, thawed and drained, can be substituted. Do not cook.

Categories: Cooking Food

Pantry Patrol

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Getting the pantry, freezer, fridge and stash under control.

I admit it.  My kitchen is a mess.

No, I don’t mean the unwashed dishes, I mean the mess of a collection of food items that I have no real understanding what I own.

I am a big proponent of a pantry.  A well stocked pantry allows lots of meals to be made without a last minute trip to the store, or in some cases, fast food drive through.  We won’t discuss food delivery.

To clarify:  “Pantry” includes the contents of the fridge, freezer, cabinet and anyplace else you stash food items.

My pantry has gotten a bit out of hand lately <cough> and it is time for me to take a few minutes to determine what I have, what I need and what can be tossed.

I don’t buy a lot of things in bulk, but there are a few items that always hit that list.  Because I like to cook ahead, I look for chicken breasts, ground meats and a roast or two.

If I made my own stock, I would be looking for bone in items – chicken wings, for example – that would be used to make stock or broth.

Pasta is another item that I like to have a variety of.  Dried pasta, that is.  Why?  Pasta dishes are quick, easy and inexpensive. 

Did You Know: Pasta shapes were designed for different sauces.  Some collect sauce either on or in the shape, while others allow for the right amount of sauce to collect on the shape.

I like to have a selection of ‘cream of’ soups on hand, too.  While mushroom may be the ‘go to’ item, I look for chicken, broccoli, celery and pretty much any other cream soup flavor.  I use them in sauces and casseroles to add flavor and enhance creamy textures.

The price range on these soups can be broad, but I have found that, for the most part, store brand and low fat versions work just fine. 

I like to keep evaporated milk on hand, too.  It is a great tool when cooking and a lot cheaper than using bottled milk.  The ratio is 1 to 1 (or 1/2 cup evaporated milk to 1/2 cup water) and even the non fat versions add a richness to the dish that you don’t usually get with just plain milk.

Cheese is a staple in my house.  I love a variety of types and flavors and use them in a variety of dishes.

At the end of the month, if there are left overs hiding in the fridge, they make a fantastic Clean Out The Fridge Mac & Cheese.  🙂

Bread is an item that is totally dependent on my mood.  I either eat a lot of it, or not much.  I like to have a good Toasting bread on hand.  I love a good sourdough, too.  Tortillas (flour and corn) can be great in wraps, tacos, and quesadillas.

If you have never explored the bread aisle or the bakery aisle in your store, you are missing out.

Because I don’t cook for a crowd, I don’t stock a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I stock a lot of frozen fruits and vegetables.  I do have fresh tomatoes on hand and I will pick up salad makings when I’m in the mood, but for the sides to main dishes or additives to casseroles, frozen is my choice.  Except for green beans.  I really prefer a canned green bean.  <shrug>

Why frozen over fresh?

I hate waste and I know that it is most likely that I won’t be cooking and eating fresh fast enough to avoid overripe produce.  There is also the uncertainty factor of knowing just how long the fresh produce has been on a truck or in a warehouse before it gets to the store.  Frozen is flash frozen as soon as it is picked – at the peak of its flavor and ripeness – and the cost is lower.

Now, if you have been reading this and thinking about your own kitchen, keep in mind that my situation is a little different in that (a) I don’t have kids and (b) I don’t cook for a lot of people so (c) my needs are different.

At the moment, my slow cooker is busy making dinner and I’m gathering my list to determine what my next shopping trip needs to include.  Chaos averted!

Categories: Cooking Food

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