Cooking · Food

Thinking About Bread?

I’m one of those folks who absolutely love bread. Well, most breads. 🙂 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. 😀

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 I’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.

Here’s What I’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.  The steaks tend to be more tender than chops and won’t dry out during the long cooking period. 
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. 😉

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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

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
  • ½ cup ketchup

Instructions

  • Sauté 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.  I do, however, keep powdered garlic and onion on hand, so I used that.  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
Cooking · Food · Recipe of the Month

Kitchen Building Blocks: Ground Beef Mix

I learned to make this handy mix years ago. It is the basis for pasta sauces, meatloaves, meat balls, or hamburgers. The ingredients are simple and probably have a place in your pantry.

I’ve been known to make batches and put them in the freezer for later use. This is especially helpful when there is a sale on at the market.

All Purpose Ground Beef Mix

This is the House Mix. It has all the basics mixed in so all I have to do is add any extras for recipes.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Author Janet

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Freezer Containers

Ingredients

  • 2 pound ground beef or ground chuck The lower the fat content the milder the flavor.
  • 1 pound sausage meat remove any casings
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, add egg, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder. Beat to combine. Add meats and mix only until fully combined – do not over mix.
  • If freezing, separate into portions and add to containers. Don't forget to label the containers with the contents and the date prepared. Freeze.
  • When you are ready to use, take the container out of the freezer the day before and defrost in the refrigerator.

Notes

This is a base recipe. You can multiply it for larger quantities of ground beef.
For example, if you had 5 pounds of ground beef you would add 2 1/2 pounds of ground sausage and multiply the seasonings to taste.
If you want to check the seasonings, fry a small piece of the mixture.  Do not eat raw meat.
You can also use fresh onion, garlic or any other flavoring in place of the powdered version. Onion, celery, green peppers, and garlic can be chopped to the size you desire and added to the meat mixture in place of the dried seasonings. When I do this, I chop as finely as possible as I do not like to chew on pieces of vegetable. 🙂
Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Vintage Food: Waldorf Salad

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, the Waldorf Salad was part of the holiday menu. It was one of those ‘kept for special’ recipes that were brought out along with the other holiday staples like roast turkey, candied sweet potatoes and the like.

I recently found myself thinking about this almost forgotten favorite when I purchased some chicken salad for sandwiches. It came with shredded cooked chicken, and pecans, cranberries mixed with mayo. Delicious!

As I said, I got to remembering the Original Waldorf Salad recipe and thought I’d look it up. As you can see from the link, at the very beginning, the salad was simple, elegant and easy to prepare. It was also easy to update.

Adding sliced grapes, shredded chicken, maybe some bleu cheese changes the flavor profile and adds a bit more interest. You literally can gussie this one up in a variety of ways to make it more modern, but why? Really, the original is light, flavorful and has a nice combination of textures that will work well alongside a menu including roast chicken. I would think it might also be a nice side with a roast beef. I’d probably shy away from a roast pork as the meat might be a bit too rich. Then again, maybe not.

If you have never tried the Waldorf Salad, in any of its forms, I urge you to check the link above for the original recipe and see what you think. It might just become a part of your regular rotation – if not your holiday menu.

Let me know what you think!