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.

Gluten-Free/Lactose-Free Crackers

Besides being gluten-intolerant, my husband is sensitive to lactose, too. He can have cheese and butter but needs to take pills to totally enjoy them. He also likes to have some snacks on hand when he braves the Los Angeles traffic coming home as his hunger pangs tell him that traffic is putting his evening meal way off schedule AGAIN!

Most cracker recipes have butter or wheat in them. It took me awhile to come up with something that would stay the onset of starvation on the long drive home but wouldn’t incite digestive problems. I finally came up with the following recipe which has protein, fiber, vitamins, no baking powder, and the right kinds of fat.

Homemade Crackers

3 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour blend (I like Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Blend)
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast (My favorite is Bragg – in imparts a mild cheesy flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Hemp Hearts*
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee*
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (or 2 water/2 lemon juice)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine the coconut oil (or ghee) with the juice and the eggs and mix well.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and gently mix until a workable dough forms. The weather seems to play a huge part so, if necessary, add bits of water or juice along with teaspoons of ghee or coconut oil until the right consistency is reached.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To save time and mess, divide the dough into fourths. Roll out one fourth between two sheets of parchment paper until about an 1/8th inch thick. Using a small round cookie cutter, cut out the crackers and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about a quarter of an inch apart. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to a cooling rack, wait a few minutes, and try one!

Store in a tightly lidded container. I usually divide the cooled crackers into three or four containers: One for easy snacking and the other ones in the freezer to keep fresh.

*Ghee is merely the solids removed from butter. I make mine my putting two sticks of butter in a large, glass measuring cup and gently melting them in the microwave. Once the butter is completely melted, let set until it separates and then carefully pour off the clear part into a small container being careful to avoid getting any of the cloudy residue into it.

*Hemp Hearts are at Costco and they have the best price I have found. They have a mild, nutty flavor.

Budgets, Labels, and Continued Confusion?

Reading labels is a must when you are striving to save money and get the best deal. In the course of my budget-shopping excursions to the store, I have run into a few labeled words that gave me pause to think and wonder.

One of the most misleading to me stated, “Take two tablets with your favorite meal.” Fair enough, but do I have to avoid them when I eat something I don’t particularly like? Do I have to cook all my favorite meals as long as I need the tablets? We are told to always read the directions before using a product. I wish this one had left it with, take with food.

Antibacterial products are suspect, too. The new spray, soap or cleaner arrives on the market and you use it with confidence. A few months later, the label reads, Improved, kills all bacteria normally found in the home. I want a bacterial body count next time so I can really compare the effectiveness.

There are sometimes interesting messages at the meat counter. I am not adverse to buying meat marked, Special Today, Value Pack, or Sale Priced. I do tend to wonder about meat marked Reduced for quick sale. We should, at least, get some kind of time frame. How many days have to elapse before it really becomes inedible? And what kind of problem are we talking about here? And will the new, improved antibacterial spray be of any help?

Shampoo bottles promise a multitude of things, all the way from shining hair to thicker, fuller, more manageable hair. All you have to do is shampoo it in, rinse and for best results, use the conditioner from the same company. They never mention this on the front of the bottle. There have been mornings when I sneak in a conditioning rinse from some company’s competitor and wonder if the shampoo police will call and interrupt my shower.

Store at room temperature has always presented a problem to me. Does everyone have an even temperature in their homes? What exactly constitutes room temperature? The seasons could have a bearing on this as well, whether you live in the temperate or tropical zone.

Toothpaste labeling changes on almost a daily basis. The tube you brought this morning is probably obsolete by evening.

I think I will solve my dilemma by not dwelling on this any further. I think I will fix my favorite meal from the reduced for quick sale meat. While my feast is cooking, I will shampoo and not use a conditioning rinse. After dinner, I will vegetate with a good book, avoiding unnecessary exercise in order to keep myself at room temperature. When I brush my teeth later, I will avoid reading the label on the tube and if the toothpaste isn’t enough, I can always give myself a generous spritz of new, improved antibacterial spray.

Food, Calories, & a Little Bit of Budget!

Cooking, kitchen, pots and pans . . . to many women these are distasteful words because they are usually the ones who have to make use of them. Face it, food preparation for our families is an ongoing, relentless chore many dread. My husband said his worst nightmare would be having to think of what to fix every day. Yes, we moms get to handle the food aspect of life many times over from purchasing to preparing to clean up. Two hours of food prep is usually eaten within the space of ten minutes!

Every day the news brings us more information on what we should eat and what is now on the bad list. The wonder edible of yesterday is today’s sure cause of death . . . if not worse! All we can do is the best we can. It does, however, take attitude as in a good attitude to bring healthy meals to our table each day.

If you start reading ingredient labels, it might shock you into investigating your grocery purchases more carefully. It is scary when you see how much fat and sugar is included in some packaged meal you thought was good for you and your family. You are also paying a lot for the convenience of a packaged meal or snack. Just to get an idea:

Kentucky Fried Chicken thigh 360 calories; 230 of fat
Made at home, baked chicken thigh 237 calories; 123 of fat
Of course, there are those who will continue in favor of convenience, not too worried about cost. A KFC thigh will cost you approximately $1.33 – for one piece of chicken! If you watch your sales, you can buy a five-pound chicken for 59 cents a pound or $2.95 for two thighs, two wings, two sections of white meat, two legs, and a back and innards for the soup pot. Cooking may not be our favorite past time but do we want heavenly credit for being good stewards of our family income?

Yes, cooking is an every day chore but you can brighten the process by looking at it as a challenge rather than a burden. Do you feel better dumping a bucket of chicken on the table or setting out platters of food you prepared yourself? You are what you eat and your children will surely reflect that. Part of our parental responsibility is keeping our children healthy and food is a constant influence on their bodily and mental future.

Dads don’t get off easily in the food department, either. My husband began dinner table rules when our children were little:

1. You can’t leave the table until the vegetables/salad are eaten.
2. If dad eats it, you will, at least, try it.
3. Never insult the cook’s (aka mom!) culinary offerings.

As the husband, you have to support your wife in her cooking efforts. Like the children, if you don’t like something, eat it anyway and be a good example!
It bothers me when I hear mothers complain that ‘my husband won’t eat this’ or ‘my children refuse to try that’. You might have a family meeting once a week to find out what people would like to eat and then work around that in your menu planning. If you children can read, encourage them to look up recipes. If they prefer certain meats, ask them to research interesting ways to fix it. If they don’t like some vegetables or fruits, challenge them to find a way to fix them that they would be willing to try. Make sure your husband knows he is an important part of the healthy eating process and should participate in the planning ideas and the eating! You might also remind him that as primary care giver from the kitchen ranks, you can wield that heavy frying pan any way you see fit!

Treats On A Budget

We went through several very financially tight spots in the course of our marriage and raising children. To this day, I don’t think my grown children ever remember doing without during those times. It takes a little extra work but you can preserve the integrity of an imposed budget and still provide all the surprises and treats in life for your children.
My favorite surprise treats for my children, when they were young, was ‘cupcakes’ but the actual recipe was usually a bit healthier and easily accomplished from inexpensive items. To this day, they still enjoy surprises and with their current concern for healthy eating, like the fact that I watch the ingredients. What goes around comes around!

Nutty Pineapple muffins
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoon softened butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (approximately 8 oz. give or take an ounce!) crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped nuts, your choice

Grated zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers (recipe makes six to eight muffins)
Cream together the brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend together the flour, baking powder, salt, soda, and spices. Add the flour, pineapple, and lemon zest and stir until just blended. Add the nuts and stir in.* Scoop into prepared cupcake papers filling to just a bit above halfway.
Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes but check after 30 in case your oven runs warmer. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake should come out clean.

After the cupcakes have cooled, a lemon icing is nice!

Lemon icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
Enough fresh lemon juice to form a spreadable icing
Sprinkles at this point would not go amiss!

*All the pineapple, juice and all, goes into the batter. If it seems still stiff, add bits of water to smooth out. If it is too loose, add teaspoons of flour to make it right.

Rosary Suggestions

More Rosary suggestions . . . translation: I found a new place to buy interesting beads for making Rosaries.

I enjoy making Rosaries and since there is a great demand for them all over the world, I spend a couple of hours a week working on them. However, having a bushel basket of one type or color of bead would soon have me very bored and my production would fall off drastically. SO, when I’m browsing the Internet, one of my most frequent searches is for 8mm and 10mm beads, the sizes for Hail Marys and Our Father   beads on a Rosary. AND, I’m looking for inspiration, new colors, new shapes, etc. Fortunately, there is quite a variety available but not in the price range for ‘wholesale’ Rosary output. I have two sources on Amazon but was still looking for Rosary adventure!

One day, I came across DoreensBeads on-line – https://www.doreenbeads.com/ They come from Hong Kong so I researched a bit with ordering from that far away, etc. I read the reviews and most everyone was pleased with the service and the prices. I was pleased to find a huge variety of beads for reasonable prices. I also incorporate bead caps on my Our Father beads and they had exactly what I wanted with some bags of 100 or more going for under a dollar. I found them about two months ago and have already ordered from them four times! The picture included with this post is of Rosaries made from these beads.