Cooking · Food

Thinking About Bread?

I’m one of those folks who absolutely love bread. Well, most breads. ๐Ÿ™‚ When I discovered how easy it is to make bread, cinnamon rolls and, yes, even pie crust, it was a multiple epiphany. Why multiple you ask? Well, I learned these things over several years.

If you are interested in learning how to bake breads, CONGRATULATIONS and WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

A little over the top? Let’s just say that if you are interested in dipping a finger into making one of the most basic foods there is, you are embarking on a wonderful journey.

One of the best resources I’ve found is the Fleischmann’s Yeast website. They have great recipes for all levels and loads of instructions, tips, and techniques to help you succeed.

As you embark on your journey, or continue with what you’ve learned, don’t forget to enjoy the process. ๐Ÿ˜€

Cooking · Food

Are You A Cookbook Kind of Cook?

Or do you have a stash of books and recipes you fall back on?

Or, do you just keep a few tried and true recipes you depend on?

My mom enjoyed cooking but wasn’t the most adventurous cook. She did, however, have quite an interesting collection of both books and clipped recipes. I inherited her numerous recipe boxes that are stuffed to bursting with clipped recipes, recipe cards, and the hand written notes from family and friends.

Me? I have a carefully (yeah, right) curated collection of cookbooks that focus on particular products or chefs in addition to some general use books. That means I have an inordinately large collection of Bisquick books (I’m not sure but I think there are 8.) I have at least 2 versions of the Betty Crocker book. One Taste of Home. A couple of Jacques Pepin … make that 3 or 4. Several Julia Child books including the entire two-volume set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have one copy of the Joy of Cooking that goes back several years and another, electronic version that is relatively new.

My collection of what I call the Aisle End Cap Mini Cookbook Extravaganza books is, to be honest, astonishing. These are the small books that focus on either a product, brand, or theme. Think holiday or chocolate or freezer meals.

Speaking of cooking magazines, I’ve managed to acquire quite a few Taste of Home editions with a few Better Homes and Garden publications.

Do I cook from these? Some more than others. Some not at all. Why do I have them? Quite simply I enjoy reading them and discovering new ideas. Pretty much the same reason I love cookery shows.

Food is not only an art form but a great way to spend time with folks. A good meal eaten with friends and family can be a wonderful experience. A bad meal can also be quite an experience – especially when you be sure to add in a touch of humor.

I’m focusing on cooking from what I already have in my library. While I occasionally waver and pick up a new book I’m finding a treasure trove of recipes and ideas that have been patiently waiting my attention.

One thing that caught me by surprise was discovering that reading cookbooks for the pleasure of reading them is actually quite fun. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is amazing on several levels – the very least of which is the way many of those techniques that were carefully documented and explained are very common today. Check them out – you might be surprised! On the other hand some books are very dated and don’t wear well. Decades ago I bought a copy of a popular magazine cookbook that relied mostly on prepackaged foods. Total waste of money.

Check out this latest entry from Voracious at the Washington Post. Maybe you’ll find a book or two that piques your interest:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/12/10/best-cookbooks-2021/

Cooking · Dining · Food

Nibbles For When You Don’t Want a Meal

In my house, we have what is referred to as a Nosher’s Run. This is a collection of nibbles, or snacks, that are collected in lieu of a full sit down meal. It is a great option for movie night, game night or when we just want something a bit out of the ordinary.

The Domestic Geek posted a great appetizer recipe that is very versatile and easy to make. Check out the video:

You can find the recipe here.

Not into Brie or cranberry sauce? How about substituting cream cheese along with a different fruit or bacon? Why not check out the puff pastry cups instead of the crescent dough?

Speaking of cream cheese, why not take advantage of the flavored cheese spreads or make your own?

You could go a bit crazy and start playing with chicken nuggets mixed into the cheese mixture. Think buffalo flavors or perhaps an oriental flavor profile. Or, how about pulled pork?

If you receive a pot of chutney or onion jam for the holidays, why not try those?

These versatile nibbles could be a great option on a snack buffet.

How would you make this recipe your own?

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

The Holiday Meal Revisited

When we think of the ‘Holiday Meal’ many of us think of the roasted turkey or ham (or both) with loads of different sides and a collection of pies, cakes, and cookies that will require the loosening of the belt or the wearing of the comfy clothes.

Some cooks are genuinely terrified of roasting the bird. If they have little to no experience with roasting a chicken a turkey can not help but be scary.

Then there are those years when the tried and true are just boring and repetitious. Of course, there will always be those traditionalists who insist The Meal be exactly the same every year, but what if maybe we tried something a little different? Since many Americans repeat the same big meal menu for Thanksgiving on Christmas, there might be room for a change.

At a time when shortages are rampant and items that used to always grace the holiday table might not be available, now seems to be the perfect time to experiment a bit.

The recipes Iโ€™ve included keep the spirit of a Make A Fuss Meal and that meal can be created for any reason, not just the Holidays. True, most of them are not diet friendly. That being said, there are dozens of alternative recipes available at the touch of finger to keyboard.

Hereโ€™s What Iโ€™m Thinking

How about a spectacular main course accompanied by easy side dishes? For those who love their traditional sides, they could be used. Dessert could be a showstopper or a collection of the usual goodies folks look forward to.

Basically, what you have is a blueprint for a meal that can be easily customized and created. And, if you are lucky to have a group over for The Meal, some of it could be divvied up among guests to bring. Sort of a pot luck, you know?

Check out the November Pantry Magic Holiday Meal Revisited recipe collection here.

Happy Cooking!

Cooking · Food

Easy Meals: Roast Pork Shoulder Steaks

When the weather turns a bit chilly and it isn’t quite comfortable enough to be outside using the grill, I love to tuck a couple pork shoulder roasts on my broiler pan and put them in a moderate oven for about 90 minutes to get them brown, juicy and flavorful. To make it even better, I’ll add potatoes to bake alongside.

Delicious!

If you have a broiler pan, now is the time to use it! I spray both the bottom and the rack of mine with nonstick spray and be sure to add about 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the pan. That way any juices or fats that render won’t smoke.

Roast Pork Shoulder Steaks

Comfort Food! Easy, flavorful, and perfect for company.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Easy, Pork, Roast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Author Janet

Equipment

  • Broiler Pan
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Aluminum Foil

Ingredients

  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • dried sage
  • 1 – 3 lb Pork Butt Steak – Bone-In

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Spray the broiler pan with non-stick spray to aid in clean up
  • Season the meat when you place it on the broiler pan
  • Roast on the first side for 45 minutes, flip meat to the other side, season, and return to the oven for the remaining time.

Notes

If you don’t have a broiler pan, line a cookie sheet with foil for easy cleanup and use it instead. be sure the cookie sheet is rimmed on all sides.
You can add potatoes to the oven before you put in the meat.
The general rule of thumb is one steak for two people.ย  The steaks tend to be more tender than chops and won’t dry out during the long cooking period.ย 
If you are concerned about smoke from the draining fat, add 1/4 cup of water in the bottom of the broiler pan.
Finish with

Because the main portion of the meal is pretty much hands off, you have time to add a side salad and easy dessert.

This meal would also be a great option for a dinner party or holiday meal. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cooking · Food · Meal Building Blocks

Kitchen Building Blocks: Precooked Chicken

Do you love to make meals using precooked chicken? Casseroles, salads, additions to noodles or rice on the side? Do you look for options that don’t require getting a rotisserie chicken and taking the meat off the bones?

I admit it. I’m a lazy cook. I like to get the best flavor, easiest preparation with the least amount of effort. I also like to take advantage of what is on offer at my local market. How do I do this? Easy.

Pick up family packs or flat packs of chicken pieces and cook them the easy way. These larger sized packages are easier on the budget, provide a lot of product for multiple uses, and can be cooked for later use.

Option One: Slow Cooker

One of my favorite things to do is to line my slow cooker with a liner, put all the chicken in it, set it on Low for 8 to 10 hours and walk away. You can set up your slow cooker to work overnight. The only problem is you will wake up to a house filled with wonderful smells. ๐Ÿ™‚

Why do I leave it in for eight to ten hours? You can cook it until the 165 degree temperature but chances are the meat will be a bit tough and dry. By leaving it in a bit longer, the meat will soften and be a bit juicier.

You can season or not as you like. I prefer not to season. I also don’t add any liquid to the pot. The meat will have its own juices which, if you use boneless skinless pieces will render a mostly fat free but lusciously flavored broth that can be used for making rice or soups.

Option Two: Oven Roasting

Don’t have a slow cooker or in a bit of a hurry? You can put the flat of meat into a roasting pan and into the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour or until fully cooked. You might want to add a little bit of water to the pan to prevent the meat from sticking or burning.

What Next?

Okay, you’ve cooked your chicken. Frankly, it is quite a bit of chicken. What to do with it?

You can chop up the chicken into fork sized pieces, separate it in one cup measures into freezer bags and then freeze it. Don’t forget to mark the bags with the contents and the date you froze it.

When you want to put together a recipe that requires cooked chicken, take out the appropriate amount to defrost and then make your recipe.

When you consider the average boneless chicken breast equals one cup, and the family sized package usually contains ten breasts, you will have ten cups of chicken for, say, ten different meals.

You can do the same with boneless chicken thighs. Thigh meat tends to be juicier but its smaller size won’t equal the same amount as the breasts.

Why use boneless rather than bone in? Frankly it is easier to cook and you won’t have to remove the meat from the bone. However, bones do provide flavor, so if you don’t object to the extra step after cooking, go for it!

Want an easy dinner for the holidays? If you can get a breast of turkey, put it in the slow cooker and cook it the same as for the chicken. By using the long slow cooking method the meat will be tender, juicy, and flavorful. Not to mention stress free. ๐Ÿ™‚

If this is helpful, please let me know by clicking the Like button below.

Food

Are You A Supertaster?

Several years ago I was part of a group who visited a food testing site that was geared toward deciding which products would be added to a grocer’s shelves. It was quite an interesting event; we participated in a taste testing of a full meal complete with testing materials used by the facility and we met one of the managers who explained that the products that appear on their shelves were carefully chosen to meet particular standards. It was a joint effort between the product producer and the grocer to determine if the product met standards, and, if not, what needed to be done to make the product interesting to the consumer.

The most interesting part of the visit, in my mind at least, was meeting with one of the managers who explained how the impact of taste and appearance effected the success or failure of a food product. It was the first time I’d heard of a ‘supertaster’ and it was fascinating to see how many in our group were classified as such.

A supertaster is a person who tastes certain flavors and foods more strongly than other people. Feb 21, 2019

Healthline.com

We all know of a picky eater – we might be considered picky ourselves – but do we really understand why that individual might be one? Healthline.com has an interesting article explaining this phenomenon. Check it out HERE.

Some folks have issues with texture, others with heat (which, by the way isn’t a ‘flavor’ but a ‘sensation’) while others are particular about certain flavors.

Personally, I don’t like heat. For me, chili is made with 1/4 teaspoon (yes, you read that correctly) or less of chili powder. Any more than that and the dish is not tasty it is actually an irritant. I’m also the person who uses half the can of chopped green chili in my chili.

I realize there are fans of heat that would find this sacrilege but for many of my family and friends, even this might be too much. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I find interesting with this situation is that the foods we do, or don’t, eat have great impact on our health and well being. Food itself has become weaponized. Food = The Enemy, as it were. This creates additional issues when we look at things like roller coaster dieting or bulimia.

Teaching a youngster to eat healthy foods can be tricky if that individual has issues with strong flavors like broccoli or spinach.

Proper cooking techniques also impact the way food is, or is not, eaten. There is nothing more detrimental to teaching good eating habits that constantly producing overcooked vegetables. The idea is to provide foods that encourage consumption rather than discourage it.

When I was a kid, salmon came in a can. We lived in the middle of the country and fresh salmon, not to mention fresh seafood, was unheard of then. Now, it can be found in pretty much any major grocery store. The cooking methods have upgraded, too, so preparation isn’t as daunting as it might have been for those weren’t used to regularly seeing it at the grocer’s.

Julia Child brought an awareness of different methods of preparing a variety of foods and was careful – not to mention diligent – to teach viewers that there were options that provided tasty results with little effort.

I’m inclined to think that one of the reasons we have so much spicy food now is because for many decades farm animals have been raised to reduce fat. Consumers went on a ‘health bend’ requiring less fat on meats and poultry which required farmers to raise stock with less fat. The problem is that fat = flavor. When you reduce or remove the flavor you have to find something to replace it with to encourage folks to actually eat it. Suddenly, spicy foods started showing up in areas where they weren’t a staple.

A similar situation arose with fruits and vegetables. The consumer wanted large, beautiful produce. They weren’t interested in anything that might be oddly shaped. The first, and last, time I tried one of those California strawberries that were roughly the size of a toddler’s fist, the main thing that stood out is that while it was a beautiful shade of red, it had absolutely no flavor.

You see, I was raised in the Midwest where strawberries were raised every year and while they weren’t gigantic, they had a beautiful flavor. So much so that sugar wasn’t really needed.

Speaking of sugar and salt, these preservatives began to be added in what seems like bulk because even though we’ve managed to breed the flavor out of food, the major producers needed to find ways to entice folks to buy their products. Both sugar and salt are addictive. No brainer there, right?

Back to Basics

I’ll share a secret with you. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult to prepare. It doesn’t need to come from mass producers if you have access to a farmer’s market. It doesn’t need to be expensive, either.

Good food can be as easy as roasted chicken and vegetables on a sheet pan. As simple as tuna noodle casserole. How about salmon patties served with a great salad? Hamburger Tater To Hot Dish or meatloaf? Macaroni and cheese – without the box or the fancy sauce.

A few years ago I came across some material put out by one of the major weight loss chains. They had collected nutrition and calorie counts of food found at a variety of fast food outlets. Turns out that some of those foods were actually quite healthy when eaten in certain combination.

What this meant to me was the necessity of reviewing what I’d been told for decades about ‘healthy eating’ and the reality of what was available. Earlier this year I took part in Mind Over Munch’s Food Freedom course. It was eye opening!

When you tie all of this together with the supertaster you come away with tools, tips and tricks to help you eat better, build more interesting meals and stop the fight with food. Or your kids. Or both. ๐Ÿ™‚

To me ‘diet’ is a constant no win situation. It is non-sustainable. When I look at lifestyle changes; like focusing on less processed foods, drinking more water and less sugary drinks, I see a more sustainable collection of habits that encourage a healthier lifestyle.

What seems to be overlooked in all the hype for the ‘healthier lifestyle’ is that our ancestors lived for many, many years eating foods that weren’t over processed or full of chemicals. They didn’t get boxes or meal plans every month, either.

At the end of the day it is our choices that will help or hinder our success. One step at a time, right?

Food · Musings

Coffee And A Treat

I’m fascinated by all sorts of things. I love a good cup of coffee and a tasty treat. I enjoy the idea of a mystery gift in the mail. I like to experiment a bit to see if I can find just the right roast and blend of a cup of coffee. When all of these things come together, it really is a Win/Win!

I happened across the Match Made Coffee subscription box thanks to an Amazon.com notification. At the time, there was a sale on a variety of subscription boxes and I decided to check them out.

The service is quite simple: each month I get a box in the mail with two cookies paired with a bag of ground coffee – each has been hand picked and paired for maximum enjoyment.

The bag contains enough coffee to make a couple of pots of coffee – figuring 2 cups or so per pot. Just enough to try it out but not so much that it stays on hand.

The price is just right, too. If you have a habit of hitting the local coffee shop, you can expect the box to cost around two visits. ๐Ÿ™‚

My First Box

So far I’ve been pleased with what I’ve received. I’m on my second month and each delivery has been well packaged.

Hey, this is such a nice treat I’ve dug out my tried and true faithful Melitta pot!

If you are looking for a nice treat, a way to experiment with different coffees, or just a break in the daily routine, check them out. You don’t have to use the amazon.com sign up, either.

Cooking · Food

Had To Try This!

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking to change up my menu rotation. Boring is boring after all, right?

Yesterday I came across the latest from Mandy In The Making over on YouTube where she shared three favorites and, while I think all three are interesting, it was the ‘Hamburger Goo’ that caught my attention. Perfect timing, too since I had a pound of ground beef in the fridge.

Now, I don’t eat green peppers because they don’t particularly set well with my tummy, but after reading the comments in her vlog post, I decided to try my spin on the recipe.

See what I did and then check out the video. Her recipe links are in the description box below the video over on YouTube.

Hamburger Goo (OPC Version)

Found this over on Mandy In The Making and had to try it. I adjusted it for our preferences so check out her video for the original recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef or ground chuck
  • Onion Powder To Taste
  • garlic powder To Taste
  • salt To Taste
  • ground black pepper To Taste
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • ยฝ cup ketchup

Instructions

  • Sautรฉ ground beef with the next four ingredients.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup cream of mushroom soup and mix together. I used about 1/2 can of water to rinse the soup can and added it to the pot
  • Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but you can let it simmer for at least an hour to to 1 1/2 hours, stirring to avoid sticking.

Notes

I don’t use green pepper and I rarely have fresh onion in the house.ย  I do, however, keep powdered garlic and onion on hand, so I used that.ย  If you read the comments under the original video, there are lots of options and alternatives.
I served mine with mashed potatoes, but I would love to try it over baked potatoes or buttered pasta.
https://youtu.be/vRhLjtyH2NI