My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into some  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.

Cookies – Plain, Simple, and Tasty!

I love to bake and enjoy fussing over presentation but there are times when I need something from the oven with limited time in which to get it into the oven. These very basic cookies work well, feed a reasonable crowd. Works well with a scoop of ice cream for a dessert night treat.

One-Baking Pan Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg yolk (reserve white)
1-2 teaspoons almond flavoring
2 cups flour

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and flavoring. Add flour to form dough. Pat dough evenly on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush top of dough with slightly beaten egg white.

Combine ¼ cup granulated sugar and two teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over dough. Sprinkle finely chopped nuts over it all. (almonds, walnuts or pecans.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool and cut into serving portions.

*I like to double the recipe and press it out in one of my large, rimmed baking pans. Don’t forget the parchment paper lining to minimize clean up and insure nothing sticks. For some holiday drama, you could scatter on some gold candy glitter along with the chopped nuts.

**Gluten-free? Although I haven’t tried it with this recipe YET, I think that one of the cup-for-cup gluten free flour blends would work well with this.

Horror Movies From the Kitchen!

Horror Movies From the Kitchen
by Barbara Jean & Julianna Barthelette

How many nightmares come true at the dinner table when your mom serves up something only a grown up could like. Here are our ideas of horror movies that would definitely scare us!

The Artichoke, a Dying Vegetable. Some wonderful children are punished for gagging at the dinner table when this vegetable made it debut.

Sour Puss or the Cat that Ate the Pickle. The story of a cat named Dill and the day his owners feed him a pickle for breakfast.

Deadly Nightshade or Mushrooms for Dinner. A suspenseful film of a mother not only serving mushrooms but making sure the children eat them!

A Bump in the Night or the Asparagus that Fell in the Cream Sauce. You can run but you can’t hide from this one as the plot as well as the cream sauce thickens.

Heartburn or the Chili Sauce that Went Bad. What happens when a mom serves leftover chili to her family. It was most frightening when the chili tried to climb out of the bowl.

The Mutant Avocado or the Gruesome Guacamole. Chips are destroyed at a dinner party as people are forced to dip them in the green stuff.

There’s a Leek in the Kitchen and we have to Eat It. Children are traumatized when they find out there is more than one onion in the family.

Yam Bread – a Holiday Favorite

Leftover yams at the Thanksgiving table? No matter how I plan a meal in regards to the number of guests, I always end up with leftover yams! Well, that leftover has been my go to for making a few loaves of Yam Bread to bake and freeze for the upcoming holiday season – if a loaf of this bread would survive the final cooling the day it was made. Something about toasted yam bread with a slathering of butter . . .

Yam Bread

2/3 cup shortening
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups cooked yams
2/3 cup water
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cups coarsely chopped nuts
2/3 cup raisins (optional)

Whip up the yams until fairly smooth.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of two loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches.

Mix shortening and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, yams, and water. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking power, cinnamon, and clovers. Stir in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans. (If batter seems too dry, you can always add bits of juice or water but go slowly as you don’t want it runny.)

Bake about an hour or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove and cool completely before slicing.

Pumpkin Bread
Substitute yams for 2 cups of canned pumpkin.

Zucchini Bread
Substitute 3 cups shredded zucchini. Blend in 2 teaspoons vanilla with the clovers. Decrease baking time to under 60 minutes

Banana Bread
Substitute 3 very ripe, smashed (and it ain’t easy getting them drunk!) bananas

Cranberry Walnut Bread
One cup roughly chopped fresh or frozen cranberries and ½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts.

Budgets vs. Reality

Budgets vs. Reality
by Barbara M. Barthelette

I read cookbooks and find it hard to believe when I see recipes for ‘cooking gourmet on a budget’. What these people seem to have on hand in times of limited cash, sure doesn’t match up to what I find available in my cupboards between paydays.

One recipe states that a simple dish of angel hair pasta garnished with tiny shrimp, bits of leftover clams with a dash of olive oil and freshly ground pepper will elegantly nourish any family. I don’t know whether I should start feeling inferior now but I don’t have any shrimp on hand! And the days we have clam chowder, the whole can of clams goes into giving the boiled milk and potatoes at least a taste reminiscent of our hard-shelled friend. Being on a budget means being creative in times of need. However, the tuna, corn oil and elbow macaroni just didn’t seem destined to become anything that had the remotest possibility of being eaten by my children. Spaghetti with spiced up tomato soup stood a better chance of acceptance.

Or, as another would-be-helpful recipe stated, you can stretch your meat with the addition of mushrooms, tiny onions, baby carrots and tofu cubes. Forget the fungus! Even if they are on sale, how many children do you know that will eat anything that even touches a mushroom? One chopped onion equals a dozen tiny pearl onions and is much easier to hide in a gravy. The best I could do for baby carrots was to carve them down to the appropriate size. Since only threats can get carrots eaten around here anyway, it really doesn’t matter how big or small they are, right? And I won’t even eat tofu no matter how far it might stretch my budget.

When it comes to salad, the books always tell us to be fresh and creative. My favorite idea was empaling bits of vegetables and greenery on toothpicks and then piercing them artfully into the flesh of a grapefruit. We are promised that our family will rave about this and happily consume our healthy arrangement. Between paydays, my vegetable bin will yield, perhaps, a couple of tomatoes, a stalk of wilted celery, a carrot or two and a forgotten branch of broccoli. I suppose I could substitute an old Styrofoam ball from the craft cupboard for the grapefruit but the result would be rather pitiful. Limp celery chunks do not stand up well on a toothpick, pieces of tomatoes tend to drip and carrots are almost impossible to stick on a toothpick. Besides, if memory serves me, my children probably found some creative use for the toothpicks weeks ago, leaving me with just three.

Dessert was my absolute favorite. When you don’t have a lot of time, according to the easy-does-it gourmets, and want to make an impression, just bring on a variety of cheese, fruit and crackers. I imagine many of you sport cupboards very similar to mine. Can you picture a platter adorned with slices of processed cheese, a lone apple arranged so the bite doesn’t show snuggled up against a couple of teething biscuits?

I am afraid that there are budgets and then there are budgets! I, fortunately or unfortunately, fall into the budget of total reality! Whatever pasta shape is available in the pantry gets smothered in creative tomato soup. We stretch our meat budget by cutting smaller pieces. Carrot and celery sticks get revived in ice water. And the one who took the initial bite out of the apple gets to read Genesis after dinner.

Seamlessly Blending Carrots Into Meals

When my children were in their formative years, ur budget was such that getting ten pounds of carrots for under three dollars made them a fixture on my weekly shopping list. Unfortunately, my children didn’t sympathize with me on this aspect of saving money. I had several unsuccessful attempts in disguising carrots at mealtimes. My children had radar when it came to sensing a carrot in their vicinity. I am sharing my failures with you so you can avoid the same dinner-time pitfalls. For some reason, they just didn’t work.

1. I tried passing off steamed carrots as hot dogs. One attempt at the subterfuge and relish and ketchup were never applied after that until the children tested the contents of the bun on both the dog and cat.

2. I tried something trendy. I told them it was orange sherbert but the unsuccessfully pureed carrot bumps cued them in.

3. Mixed mashed carrots into their liver and they still wouldn’t eat it!

4. Told them it was actually hashed, orange rutabagas, not carrots. They threatened to call 911.

5. Painted red stripes on carrots and put them into their Christmas stockings. Told them Santa left the candy canes. You don’t want to know.

6. Tried honesty . . . told them carrots taste like chicken.

7. Found a recipe for ground carrots and cottage cheese that was suppose to fry up ‘just like a hamburger patty’. My children’s first question was, “Mom, why are you frying cottage cheese and carrots?”

8. Told them they couldn’t have dessert unless they ate all their carrots at dinner. Almost had a mutiny when they discovered dessert was Carrot Cake.

9. Told them they weren’t carrots but odd-colored zucchini. Actually refused to believe me!

10. Chopped up the carrots into cubes and told them it was tofu in their stir fry.

My Facts of Life . . .

Every person has their list of things that they do or need in their lives, sort of a personal facts of life list. The list can have anything on it and if you stop to jot down your thoughts, you might find an interesting mix of do’s, don’t’s and, possibly, don’t cares!

Mine list is relatively simple. But I’m always willing to try new ideas and the list is open to change and additions.

1. I have learned to only save coupons for things I always use and stop wasting money because I could get some condiment or item for a dollar off and couldn’t resist. I’ve discovered a few of these buys in the back of my cupboards way, WAY past their expiration date.

2. Always wash melons with mild soap (diluted dish soap works fine) BEFORE you cut into them. When I told a friend about this, she said that as long as the knife was clean, what was the problem? I mentioned that the outside of the melon has rested on dirt, been harvested by dirty hands, been manhandled once it reached the store and finally placed on display. THEN, who knows how many people ended up touching and hefting the melon you end up purchasing. You don’t even want to know what traces of disgusting stuff has been found on grocery carts and you can’t wait in line with a watermelon without a grocery cart. Just saying!

3. I’ve finally discovered the way to insure a good crust on fried chicken and fish – whey protein isolate! Who would have thought it but it works well as in great. Just season what you need with your salt, pepper, and favorite spices, dip the meat/fish in an egg wash, then in the whey protein isolate mixtures and fry. Yeah, people think I’m super healthy when they see me lugging out with a five-pound container of the stuff and would probably be shocked to know it was going for fried chicken.

4. I’ve heard about the Keto diet for years but swerved away from it because it sounded weird. It also takes wheat products off the dinner table and that includes bread, pasta, etc. It doesn’t recommend rice, either. Well, we have been gluten-free for over five years so that was one step up on the Keto diet. I picked up a cookbook at Costco and was hooked. They advocate meat, fats, cheeses, low-carb vegetables and carefully counting the carbs on your fruit intake. I noticed that on other bouts of watching my diet, I would get hungry and then figure a couple of apples, or a big peach was keeping me in line with my needs versus my wants. Nope. We have been eating Keto for almost a month now and we eat well, we don’t miss the potatoes and get full on the meat/protein portion and a nice salad and/or vegetable. Don’t even WANT to eat between meals which is a nice place to be!

5. At Thanksgiving, everyone should bathe and be presentable for the day . . . except for the turkey! Do NOT wash the turkey before cooking. You can pat it down with a paper towel but do not put that bird into your kitchen sink and run water over it. You may not notice but droplets from the turkey bath do get around your kitchen and, maybe into an open dish. Washing that bird won’t do much good and all the bacteria and germs will die a well-earned death while the bird roasts in the oven.
6. Someone pointed out to me that there are some items you can buy that don’t have to be organic if you lean that way. Bananas, for instance, as they have a thick skin you peel off so nothing has gotten into the covered fruit. In fact, after you do NOT wash you turkey, you CAN wash your banana before eating . . . in fact, I recommend it!

7. My favorite way to make a pasta dinner more filling (back when I indulged in pasta!) was to make my own sauce pureeing steamed vegetables into the tomato base like carrots, onions, garlic, spinach, squash, etc. My final addition was draining a can of pinto beans, pureeing them into a thick sauce and stirring it into the pasta sauce. It makes the sauce nice and thick and very tasty and you just sneaked in a good dose of iron and protein. It is more filling, too.

8. I learned something from my mother about keeping the kitchen cleared of clutter while preparing dinner. She didn’t do so which is why I learned that I couldn’t work in discarded pots and pans and cook properly! I discovered that when baking cookies, they take on the average about ten minutes so when I take out one pan and put in another one, I have ten minutes . . . to wash the first pan and put it away! It just came to me one day that if I bake six baking sheets of cookies, I’m looking at 60 minutes of time to get other things done including cleaning up the kitchen.

9. Potato chips are often my downfall but my budget-minded personality mostly keeps me from buying them. HOWEVER, I discovered that when the yearning for potato chips get overwhelming, a solution of a better sort is at hand. If you have a microwave, parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, and a big potato, you could soon be munching on less salty, non-greasy potato chips with a lot less guilt. If you have a food processor, you probably have a slicing disk for cutting things pretty thin. If not, a sharp knife and patience works, too. You take your thin, very thin potato slices and place them close together on your sheet of parchment paper. Make sure you measure what size sheet of paper you need so it fits in the microwave. Now, give them a good spray of vegetable oil and salt them to taste and put them in the microwave. Now, you are on your own for timing so start it at two minutes and check. Depending on the slices, it can take up to eight minutes for them to get brown around the edges and potato chip like. They shouldn’t have any soft spots. Remove them to your waiting dish and repeat until the chips are all done. You will be surprised to find that you actually get the equivalent of a bag of chips from one, large potato. If you like spicy chips, you can dust them with Ranch dry seasoning or some chili powder. Me, I’m a salt only person. This way I can have what I want when I want it and pay a tenth of what it would cost for a bag of chips.

10. One think I really learned from my mother was to be inventive and curious with my cooking/baking efforts and not be afraid of a new recipe or new ingredient. Fortunately, my husband and children are all pretty adventurous so no complaints from them even if an experiment doesn’t go exactly right. There is no such thing as a person who can’t cook if they want to do so. My mother was raised to go to college so didn’t learn to cook until she got married. She purchased one of those fat, includes everything cookbooks and started in at page one. If you can read, you can cook. And remember, that fancy pots and pans don’t make the food good. It’s the person behind the ladle! I had a person ask me once about buying a cast iron skillet. I asked why she wanted one of those as she was an awful cook and didn’t put much effort into it. She said that she heard that cast iron skillets make really good fried chicken. Uh, no such things as an automatic skillet. You still need to know what to put into the pan.