And, The Secret Ingredient Is . . .

For quite a few dinner preparations, I had to hide the above fact from my family lest I get early votes on something they weren’t going to try. Cauliflower has actually been the best thing that has happened to our mashed potatoes and once tried, the family doesn’t want to change back. In fact, a few weeks ago, I ran out of cauliflower and made the ‘regular’ mashed potatoes with, well, only potatoes like the normal people do. At the first bite, shocked faces turned to me and demanded, “What happened to the mashed potatoes?” I admitted that there wasn’t any cauliflower to add today.” They finished their dinner but left the table with, “Don’t EVER let that happen, again!”

Beer Batter Bread

This is always a fun bread to make especially since it is simple and you can oversee the children in the mixing but keep track of the beer! Actually, a priest gave me this recipe.

Beer Batter Bread

1 12-ounce can of your favorite beer
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups self-rising flour

butter

preheat oven to 350 degrees. Vegetable oil spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. (You can put this batter into muffin tins, too.) Mix all the ingredients together and put into your prepared pan. Bake for approximately one hour depending on your oven. Every 15 minutes, butter the top of the bread with bits of butter.

Let cool in pan a bit before removing. Great to pull out of the oven about ten minutes before dinner and serve warm with soup or stew.

Plain Old Lentil Soup

When my daughter was away at college, she soon found the cafeteria fare to be lacking in things like taste, fiber, and nutrition unless all could be found in fries. She started doing more cooking in the dorm kitchen and a favorite that caught on with her friends was Lentil Soup over a bowl of rice. Her friends weren’t sure about it not being familiar with lentils but after a few bites, they said they somehow felt healthier!

Plain Old Lentil Soup

3 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and diced
1 ½ cups dried lentils (They should be rinsed under cold water before cooking)
1 cup of diced ham
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
7 cups of chicken broth (canned or homemade)
2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chili flakes

Freshly-made rice
Enough freshly-grated sharp cheddar to top each bowl of rice and soup

In a soup pot, add a few drops of olive oil and saute the garlic until it softens. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (EXCEPT for the rice and cheese!), bring to a boil and the cover and simmer for approximately 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

To make a thicker version of the soup, put two cups of the soup including some of the solids to a blender and carefully blend until smooth. Stir back into the soup and stir until you bring it back to hot.

Refrigerator Cookies – An Easy Recipe

Refrigerator cookies are a favorite of mine. You can make a batch of cookies and put them in the refrigerator for later use. The time comes that you need a sweet snack, you preheat your oven, slice some cookie dough into rounds and bake. You can have your kitchen smelling amazing within minutes and thoroughly impressing your family.

This is a favorite recipe of mine. Often I will double the recipe to have some emergency dessert/snacks at the ready!

Slightly Citrus Sugar Cookies

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest

Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Beat in the sugar until well incorporated then add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and zest together in a separate bowl. Now, add it to the butter mixture until well-mixed but don’t over beat it!

On a sheet of waxed paper, form your dough into a long log about two or three inches in diameter. Wrap it into the waxed paper and refrigerate for four hours to overnight.

Now you have two choices. You can cut slices of cookie rounds for baking or you can roll out your dough and use cookie cutters!

Anyway, put your cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Let rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. You will have approximately four dozen cookies.

For a fancier cookies, you can brush the tops of your cookies with slightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with finely chopped nuts, colored sugar, or other cookie decorations before baking. A simple icing would be good, too. Extra fancy? Cut and bake cookies into rounds and make sandwich cookies filling them with jam, melted chocolate, or peanut butter.

Saturday Dinners . . .

My husband’s work schedule is not easy to follow or prepare for as it just depends on when he gets off work and how much traffic there is on the way home. That’s why I like the Saturdays he doesn’t work. Dinner can be planned and a special menu can be prepared.

In spite of the rainy season, the Spring vegetables are appearing in the stores so my hardworking husband get steamed asparagus along with sauteed cabbage with red onions and bacon as sides to a bone-in pork chop – a favorite of his. We have cut way back on carbs so enjoy the variety of vegetables appearing on the scene these days.

And, speaking of food and seasonings, I’m sold on the spice/herb store I found a few months ago. Having a choice of new and different spices for cooking makes kitchen time more interesting. The Spice Shop (https://www.thespicehouse.com/) also has a colorful catalog for a small mailing fee that not only describes the herbs and spices available, but often includes cooking ideas and a bit of history.

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Flour Tortillas . . . With No Flour

We were blessed in that when we discovered my husband had gluten intolerance, we got in when things were really beginning to advance is recipes and ingredients for the gluten-free diet. Although I have tried a variety of gluten-free ‘flours’ over the year, including mixing my own, I always come back to BetterBatter for most of my baking needs. Besides providing a good product, they have a huge lineup of recipes on their sales site and the ‘flour’ adapts to many recipes.

Pulled pork was on the menu the other night. I had vegetables but needed something to replace the usual bread buns we used to like so checked for a BetterBatter recipe for flour tortillas. From the picture, you can see I was successful. My daughter doesn’t have a problem with gluten but prefers the gluten-free tortillas to the regular ones which is why I always remember to make a double batch!

Anyone working with having to go gluten-free or just curious, here is their link:

http://betterbatter.org/