Not a Science Experiment!

Even before the various tainted greens reports, not even bagged lettuce or cabbage ever came to the table without a thorough bathing! First, I cut or shred the greens to the size I want for my soup or salad. Then, I put them into a large bowl with half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and fill the bowl to the brim with water. And there it will rest for 30 minutes while I go about my other kitchen chores. Then I pull out the greens with tongs and place in the colander. No sense in pouring the soaking water over the lettuce again. Just look at what it left behind after the soaking! When you pick up a head of lettuce,red-leaf lettuce, or kale at the market, they are always so damp and crisp feeling giving you a false sense of security about the food you want to put on your table. However, when you think about it, how many people have touched your salad greens before they end up in your serving bowl for dinner?

Thought I’d share my method with you. After I rinse the formerly peroxide-soaked greens, I given it a good, long clean water rinse and have been known to even add some vinegar to the rinse. Then, the greens are laid out on a length of triple-layered paper towel, rolled up and then rolled into a clean, cotton dish towel and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Shhhh!!! Secret Recipe Alert!

Okay, perhaps, not all that secret but here is my way to up the grade on homemade apple pie or apple crisp.

When I first started baking, my mother’s ‘secret’ suggestion was to add lemon juice to the apple dessert prep. Fresh lemon juice does up the apple/cinnamon taste and people often wondered how my mother’s apple desserts were just a wee bit better.

I was an abstract artist in college and this inclination has seeped down into my baking and sewing over the years. In other words, I never leave well enough alone if I get inspired to add something more. So, this is how my latest apple dessert preparations has evolved.

1. Wash, peel, and slice the amount of green apples you will need for your planned dessert. When they are on hand, I will often throw in a couple of sweeter apples, too. They break down a bit more in baking and sort of form an applesauce texture to the more firm green variety.

2. First, I zest the lemons and limes and set it aside. Then toss the prepared apples with the juice and let them sit a minute while I gather the spices and sugar.

3. I usually use up to 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Use a good quality one as the ones on the grocery shelves can be a bit bitter. My go-to for the best cinnamon is The Spice House which is on-line. To the cinnamon, I add half a teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a smidge of salt.

4. Depending on your recipe, mix the spices into one to two cups of granulated sugar. Add the zest of the lemons and limes.

5. Combine the sugar/spice/zest mixture with the apples. If you really want to deepen the final result, a quarter cup of brandy works very well.

6. Add a quarter cup of cornstarch, mixing in well. This is what will hold the apples together a bit after baking.

7. This is my final secret. Put the prepared apples into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate at least one day before using them in your recipe. My batch for this Thanksgiving got a two-day soak.

8. When you get to making your pie crust, substitute a quarter cup or so of the water called with vodka. It makes for a more tender crust.

Time is wasting so one guess what I’m about to put into the oven!

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish!

Okay, I’m old school in that no matter the reason for the meal, there will be either a salad or some sort of vegetable dish in attendance. I recently realized that the lowly and often misunderstood Brussel Sprout can claim a place of note at the dinner table.

Welcome Brussel Sprout Dish

2 pounds of cleaned and trimmed Brussel Sprouts
2 large green apples, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced in medium pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil . . . or more depending on your tastes
1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar (check the vinegar aisle at the store)
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Zest of one lime and one orange
Salt and Pepper to taste

Tose the sprouts with all the ingredients making sure everything gets a shiny coat of olive oil. Place in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are just tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Food, Budgets, Children & Husbands

Every time I see a mother out shopping with her children trying to keep her goals in mind while the young ones clamor for everything the mother is not going to put in her grocery cart, I recall my own moments. Children are born with taste buds already acclimated to junk food and parents battle their inclinations from day one.

Children like recognizable food. If they can’t conveniently pick it up in their hands, they might not eat it. And, if the food, can be fried, grilled, or breaded, so much the better.
Unfortunately, the week before payday doesn’t always allow us the luxury of chunks of meat or chicken. This is when the bane of most children appears . . . casseroles!
Casseroles were invented when there was one shred of meat, two carrots, and a sprouted potato left in the larder. Whether it is a larder or refrigerator of today, we often have the same culinary scenario. This is when your motherly skills all come into play.
“Mom! What is that brown, crusty stuff on top of my food?”
“It is melted cheese. Eat it! Don’t take it off or you will be sorry!”
“Mom! There’s no meat under the brown, crusty stuff!”
“See! Didn’t I tell say you’d be sorry!”
For variation, all you have to do is add liquid to leftover casserole and you have soup. This is about as popular as casserole. Your children carefully skim tiny spoonfuls of broth from the surface of their soup bowls. There are whispered discussions and long, intent looks into their bowls. You get the impression that the appearance of the Loch Ness Monster from the depths of their soup would come as little surprise to them.
All the cookbooks and meal planners suggest stretching meals with a big salad. Salad often fits into my week before payday budget. Unfortunately, the children are all for drowning it in their soup and covering it with brown, crusty stuff.
Husbands should be supportive but, sometimes, they just can’t help what happens. Faced with a big bowl of mixed salad greens (two-pound bag on the ‘next stop, eternity’ used vegetable counter!), he tries to be encouraging.
“Children! Your mother works hard all day to fix us this wonderful dinner . . .”
“Dad! I don’t recognize this leaf!”
“It’s nettles, dear.”
“Dad! Nettles aren’t edible! It’s probably crab grass. Mom put crab grass in our salad!”
“Sweetheart! It’s not crab grass. I meant to say endive not nettles.”
“Dad! Do I have to eat the curly leaves?”
“If you want dessert, you do.”
“We have dessert tonight?”
“Well, no, but if we were having dessert, you could have some if you ate the curly leaves, too. Since we aren’t having dessert, you still have to eat the curly leaves so you don’t die of starvation by morning!”
“Dad! I think I saw something crawling in my salad . . .”
“Enough! I have heard enough complaints about dinner. I want you to all be quiet and eat your weeds! I mean, salad!”
Marriages are made in Heaven but I bet they happen before the salad course.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Cake

Well, California is a State that has plenty of Fall bonfires (aka wild brush fires!) around this time of year but we can still put some good smelling holiday scents in the air with this cake. Yeah, cheating a bit starting with a cake mix but in the hurry of the holidays and with the enrichment ingredients, no one will guess it’s lowly origins and happily indulge in a serving or two. AND, don’t forget some holiday sprinkles when you frost the cake! Batter will work for cupcakes, too.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 Spice Cake Mix
3/4 Cup mayonnaise
1 16 oz can pumpkin
3 Eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8oz. Package Cream Cheese (softened)
1/4 Cup Butter or Margarine (softened)
3 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Mix all of the pumpkin bar ingredients in a bowl just until combined well. Pour in a greased 13×9 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, cream the cream cheese and the butter together in your mixer bowl until quite fluffy. Mix in the powdered sugar ½ cup. at a time until well blended. Add vanilla, orange zest, and mix well. Chill in refrigerator until the cake is completely cool, frost and serve.

Adventures in the Kitchen

My husband is a man of few dreams as he is quite content with a mostly clean house, housebroken pets and a good dinner on the table. Clean laundry is a plus, too. One of his dreams, however, has been to have a kitchen trash can that automatically opens when you want to make a deposit. Shopping one day, his wish was granted as there was the prize of his dreams and it was on sale, too, always a plus to get me to agree. He happily brought it home and set it up.

He came over to the new kitchen ‘family’ member with trash and held it over the lid. Nothing. He moved closer and . . . not a whisper of cooperation. He touched the lid and it opened rather reluctantly (as far as I could see as I can’t read appliance demeanor of any genre).

My husband took it apart and put it together, again, to insure it was done perfectly. It was still reluctant to accept his offerings of trash. He packed it up and returned it to the store and replaced it with another one. It was a very close cousin as it seemed to have the same stubborn streak as the first one. My husband gave up at that point, walked across to the kitchen sink to wash his hands . . . and the lid happily popped open. When the lid closed again (Much to the dismay, wonderment, and shock of our cats), my husband rounded up a trash offering and approached it. Nothing! Not even a glimmer of cooperation. He raised his hands in exasperation and, naturally, with a suppressed appliance grin, it immediately opened up.

These days, the trash can is mostly kind to my husband but always obeys me. I don’t know why. Perhaps, I deliver more interesting trash. Then, again, I didn’t call it any names which I will not mention here.

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.