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Or would they be considered muffins since I didn’t use icing?  Either way, I wanted to share this recipe.  I first made this recipe over July 4 and the cake was a huge hit with everyone who ate it.  I made it (sans nuts) as I found it over on Deep South Dish.   This time, I changed it up a little, using pineapple cake mix and still no nuts.  I’m not anti-nuts, but I usually just don’t have them on hand, so I don’t use them.  The recipe is similar to Hummingbird Cake many of us in the south grew up eating and it is oh, so moist and delish.

1 package pineapple cake mix
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of canola oil
3 large eggs

Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.  I made this batch in my muffin pans and it made 24 of these delectable delights.

In a bowl, add the cake mix, brown sugar and cinnamon and whisk to break up clumps.

In a separate bowl, combine the bananas, water, oil and eggs until mixed together. Add to the dry ingredients. Beat on low for about 1 minute, stop scrape down the sides, and beat another 2 minutes on medium speed.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake using the directions for whichever pan you choose:

In a 9×13 pan:  350 degrees for 25 minutes, reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake another 25 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For cupcakes: 350 degrees for 25 minutes.   These browned up and were done in the 25 minutes.

The icing for this cake is a quick caramel icing that is absolutely to die for.  Anything that has sugar, butter and half and half in it has to be good.  Especially when poured over cake.  Yums.  I didn’t make the icing this time.  I was trying to be “good” and leave them a little bit “healthy.”  I know. Whatevs.  However, I have to recommend her icing and it takes these bad boys to another level of yumminess.  Next time I will sub the oil with applesauce.

Quick Caramel Icing

1 stick of pure unsalted butter
1 cup of packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup of half and half
2 cups of sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over a slightly higher than medium fire, until mixture begins to boil. This will take anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes depending on your stove. Once it begins to boil, slowly whisk in the half and half until well blended. Bring back just to a boil, turn the burner to low, remove the saucepan from the heat, add the powdered sugar and vanilla and blend. Return the saucepan to the burner and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Icing will get stiff quickly so you’ll need to immediately pour over cake and allow it to set.

Heavenly, I say.

I have a new love.  Whole chickens.  Who knew they were so much fun?  Well, fun might be a little extreme, but I am smitten with the birds.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ve pretty much stopped buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts unless they just happen to be a really good deal.  I have found the flavor of cooking bone-in chicken breasts is so much better.

Thinking back, I think I’ve only cooked one whole chicken before and it was when I tried the slow cooker chicken where you prop it up on aluminum foil balls, season it and slow cook it all day.  I can’t remember how it turned out…obviously it didn’t make that swell of an impression or I would have done it more than once.  I guess, in a way, I was afraid of cooking a whole chicken.  Why?  Couldn’t tell you.  Maybe it was the thoughts of not having the meats clearly defined for me like they are when I buy them in a package.  Maybe it was the thought that I wouldn’t use it all and would end up wasting it.  Don’t know.  Whatever the reason, it was silly, I’m sure.  I love cooking whole chickens.  I love cooking whole chickens in my Pampered Chef deep dish covered baker (32 minutes for a 5 lb. bird in the microwave!!).  I hate I only bought 2 when I found them on sale for $0.59/lb.  They are so freaking budget friendly and those bad boys are loaded with meat.

The first one I cooked, I forgot to save the carcass until I heard it crinkle the bag in the trashcan.  I saved this last one and I’m going to freeze it and make a carcass soup that Shannon makes with her turkey carcass when I get another carcass to go with it.  (I love the word carcass)  Will let you know when it happens.

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.

Well, it’s not really a farm and the chicken was store bought.

Last week at the grocery, I bought 2 whole chickens.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve bought whole chickens because, well, there is no real reason.  This time they were $0.59/lb, so I got (2) 5ish lb birds for $3.00 each knowing each bird would give us 2 meals.  I was going to bake it and decided against it.  Was going to cook it in my Flavor Wave oven, but decided against it, so I used my “magic pot” – known to the rest of the free world as Pampered Chef’s Deep Covered Baker.

I dumped the bird of his innards, rinsed, drained, and patted him dry.  I used Adobo seasoning with cumin and rubbed under the skin and sprinkled some in the cavity of the bird.  Plopped that bad boy into the pot, put the lid on, put it in my microwave for 32 minutes.  It needed to come up about 8 degrees more, but letting it rest would take care of that.  While it was coming up to temperature, I made corn and a box of stuffing.  Dinner was easy peasy tonight and the chicken was delicious.  It doesn’t brown like it does in the oven, but we aren’t skin eaters anyway – unless it’s southern fried,  so it doesn’t matter to us.  What does matter, is the chicken is so moist, tender and delicious.

Chicken $1.50 (half of $3 chicken)

Box of stuffing $0.89

Creamed corn (one can whole kernel, one can creamed, dollop of sour cream) $0.75

I’ll round dinner up from $3.14 to $3.30 to count the shakes of Adobo Seasoning with cumin I used.  By the way…I LOVE the Adobo seasonings…they are found on the aisle with the mexican food and they have a few different ones.  They have great flavor and you don’t need a truckload to season your meal AND the prices are pretty good and they last a long time.

No one is packing left overs because I need to repurpose the rest of the chicken tomorrow night for dinner…not sure what that will be yet.  So feel free to throw out a suggestion or two.

One of my favorite cooking vessels is my deep dish covered baker from Pampered Chef.   The consultant at the party called it a “Magic P0t.”  I love it.  Love it. Love. It.

Last night for dinner, Olivia and I had chicken.  I used to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and still do from time to time, but I have found we all enjoy the bone in, skin on better.   I threw the chicken in mymagic p0t with some Goya Adobo seasoning with cumin generously covering both sides for about 30 minutes in the microwave.  It was a simple dinner, so I paired it with some macaroni and cheese and corn with butter sauce.  I know, double starches, but it was good.  And simple.

Chicken $2.81

Kraft Homestyle Mac & Cheese $0.50

Corn with butter sauce $0.60

Dinner totaled $3.91 and we had leftovers of everything except the corn since that’s Olivia’s favorite.

Tonight was dinner repurposed.  Olivia said she wanted something new.  When I asked her what, she wanted the ramen noodles in the yellow package. *sigh*  She got them.  Me, on the other hand, I had left overs.  I’m not counting the chicken or macaroni and cheese amounts since I counted them in last night’s dinner.

Chicken

Tossed chicken with Frank’s Wing sauce – free

Mac & Cheese

Blue cheese dressing – free

Celery $0.26

Collards – free

Olivia’s noodles $0.14

Dinner for us: $0.40

PLUS there’s still chicken left over.  Since I wasn’t thinking all the way through, I tossed all the chicken with the buffalo sauce, so I’ll freeze it for another day.

 

That is as in fake lasagna.  I had the ricotta cheese I made over the weekend in the fridge that I needed to do something with, so I made, what we affectionally refer to as, fauxsagna – because I don’t use lasagna noodles.  I have about 3/4 c of the ricotta left to use in another dish.

Sauce $2.00 (left over from another night’s dinner)

Wacky mac noodles (free)

Ricotta cheese $2.66

1 egg $0.10

Mozzarella cheese $0.50

Colby Jack cheese $0.50

Frozen vegetebles $0.60

 

1.  Preheat oven to 375.

2.  Cook your noodles just until almost done.  Layer half of them in a baking dish – I used a 12×12 square dish.

3.  Mix the ricotta with one egg, salt, pepper and colby jack cheese.  Spread over noodles.  Top with half the sauce.

4.  Spread remaining noodles over cheese/sauce and add rest of sauce.

5.  Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

6.  Cover and bake for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Remove cover and let bake for another 5 min or until cheese is slightly browned – if you want it browned.

7.  Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving it.

 

I’ll round it up to $7.00 so I can take into account the few shakes of Parmesan cheese.  I got 7 hearty servings out of this, so it breaks it down to $1.00 per serving.  Will has lunch for tomorrow and we have enough left over for another meal.

Now, how the ricotta tasted.  I liked it a lot.  It was very creamy and held up nicely when I baked it. I am planning on making a calzone or something with the rest of it one night, so we’ll see how it does in another dish.  Even though it took a while to make, I will definitely be doing it again!  Might even try mixing in the herbs for bruschetta!

A few weeks ago, a FB friend posted about seeing Ina Garten make Ricotta Cheese on the Food Network. She blended it with some herbs and made bruschetta, I think. I became interested because I had looked at it at the grocery not too long before and thought the price seemed kind of high for it. Well, I decided to make it. With regards to cost, it’s a little cheaper because all I used was whole milk, some white vinegar and a little salt. With regards to time, we all know popping a container open is way quicker.

I did a little online research and most everything I read said fresh is better. And usually it is. So, this is what I did:

Gallon of whole white milk $3.49
1/3 c. plus 1/4 tsp. white vinegar $0.20
1/4 tsp. salt

Cheesecloth

Pour the gallon of milk in a nonreactive pot. I used what I have that’s pretty much like Calphalon…no aluminum. People recommend stainless steel. Using a thermometer (I used a candy thermometer), slowly bring up to temperature between 180-185 degrees stirring occasionally to keep from scorching. When it comes to temperature, remove from heat and pour in vinegar and stir for one minute. Add salt and stir. You will notice some curds almost immediately. Cover with a dish towel and let it rest for 2 hours. When the two hours is up, line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and put the colander over something to catch the liquid that will drain. Using a slotted spoon, I ladled the curds into the colander and drained over a large bowl, covered with a towel, for two hours. The longer you let it drain, the drier it will be. I squeezed it to get some of the additional liquid out.

The length of time it will refrigerate varies from website to website. I will use it in the next couple of days.

I put it into a Rubbermaid container that holds 2.9 cups and it was pretty full.

The cost is pretty close to buying the 15 oz. container at the grocery store, but it’s more time consuming, obviously. It has a nice creamy texture to it and it tasted okay. I think it could have used a wee bit more salt.

This is where I found the recipe I used.  They said to use salt in two different steps, but I used it at the end.  They also have some instructions for using the ricotta in desserts.  There are sooo many different recipes, but I liked this one because it had very few ingredients and seemed so stinking simple.  The most time consuming thing was stirring it while it was coming to temp so it wouldn’t scorch.

Will do a follow up post when I use it.

Today I slow cooked chili. It certainly isn’t a fancy dish, but it’s one I can cook that will give us a couple of meals and Will a lunch or two.

1 2/3 lb ground chuck $2.25
1/3 of a large green pepper .33
1/2 small onion .29
1 bottle V8 juice $2.40
1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained) .69
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained) .69
1 large can diced tomatoes $1.09
1 pkg chili mix .50
ground red pepper
chili powder

Served over rice – FREE

I cook the green peppers and onions when I brown the ground beef. Put it in the crock pot and add V8 juice, both cans of beans, tomatoes and chili mix. Stir and cook on high for 4 hours or low 6 hours or so. After it’s been cooking for a while, I taste it and add seasonings to taste.

The total comes to $8.24, but I’ll round up to $8.50 to take into account the shakes of seasonings. We will get 7 servings out of this at $1.21 per serving. Tonight we had 3 1/2 servings, so the total cost for dinner was $4.24.

Tonight I made homemade corn tortillas. It was pretty simple, but my enamel coated cast iron pan just isn’t quite it. Will need to get a regular ‘ol cast iron skillet. I only made half a batch, just in case they didn’t turn out well.

1 cup masa harina (corn flour – Maseca is one brand)
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 c. water – roughly…just kept adding until it was the right consistency.

1. Put corn flour and salt in a bowl and mix up. Add water. Mix by hand until all blended. You will know it’s right when the dough doesn’t stick to your hands or the side of the bowl.
2. Make golf ball sized balls of dough (the full recipe will make 16. I had 8 )
3. Put in center of tortilla press lined with a Ziploc bag and press.
4. Cook on cast iron skillet – no oil or anything – 10-15 seconds. Turn over and cook the other side.
5. Done.

Was very simple. Like I said, I need a cast iron skillet. Lining the tortilla press with the Ziploc bag was a great idea (thanks to the You Tube video I watched) and the tortilla peeled off of it without issue, but do it carefully.

What did I do with them? Made pork tacos.

1 lb. pork (I used pork chops and just cut it away from the bone) ($3.02)
2 TB Goya Sofrito (.25)
1 small onion – sliced into rings (.29)
1 can tomatoes with chiles (.60)
Goya Adobo with cumin – a few shakes
Chili powder – a few shakes

Serve with:
homemade tortillas (.30 for 8 )
rice (free)
corn with butter sauce (.60)

1. Put pork and onions in skillet to brown. (I left a little fat on the pork chops so I didn’t add extra oil)
2. When about half way done, add Sofrito and mix. Add in tomatoes and seasonings.
3. Cook until done – I let it simmer for about 35 minutes or so while I made the tortillas.

It was good and definitely something I’ll make again. Will and I are the only two who ate it – was a little spicier than Olivia likes, so she had a substitute main dish, but had corn and rice with it.

Total cost of dinner: $5.06 and Will is going to take left overs for lunch tomorrow.

I didn’t go to bed last night, well this morning, until after I dropped Olivia off at school…I’d say probably 7:45-8:00. I slept until about 11 and had to get up because I was the special guest today talking about Chinese New Year in her class. I was so proud of my girl for being proud of her culture. It’s slowly evolving and letting it happen in her time seems to be working well for us.

After that, we went to the grocery store to pick up some of our Friday e-VIC specials from Harris Teeter. Then it was time to come up with something for supper. There are a couple of new things I want to make, but I don’t have time for one of them and am missing a tool for the other, which I’ll be borrowing this weekend, so hopefully Sunday will reveal that one.

Tonight’s dinner was easy-peasy. Hamburger Helper with green beans and potatoes and corn bread for a grand total of $3.79

Ground beef: $1.90
Hamburger helper: $0.25
Green beans and poatoes: $1.15
Corn bread: $0.49

Hoping to sleep tonight because insomnia sucks.

Tonight’s dinner entree was chicken with left over baked beans and cole slaw from last night and I made a corn pudding.

I skinned and marinated the chicken in Goya Mojo Criollo.  We first had this marinade when we went to a cookout over Halloween.  The host marinated a pork loin in it and slow cooked it on the grill.  Was delish.  So, I bought some today at the grocery store and chicken was good.  I couldn’t find my tenderizer so I could tenderize before marinating.  Well, it was more of an I-looked-for-it-but-got-distracted-and-forgot-to-keep-looking kind of thing.  It was pretty tasty, though.

I also made a corn pudding recipe:

Box of Jiffy muffin mix
1 can of whole kernel corn
1 can of cream style corn
8 oz. sour cream
2 eggs

Mix the corns, eggs and sour cream until well blended.  Add Jiffy and stir.  Bake at 350* for about 50-60 minutes.  Done.  The original recipe calls for some butter to be put on top in pats, but I found that doesn’t melt evenly and you end up with butter pat places, so I don’t use it.  I also don’t use the eggs.  Turns out fine.

All in all, dinner was simple and good and got two thumbs up from the crew at Chateau L, so I’m calling it a success.

Chicken ($3.25)
Goya marinade ($2.00) – have half a bottle left for another night
Baked beans ($.0.75)
Cole slaw ($0.50)
Corn pudding (1.60)

Tonight’s total was $8.10 and Will has plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  So that breaks down to $2.025 per serving.

Not sure what’s on the horizon for tomorrow. We’ll have to see, I guess.

Today’s culinary base was pork chops. One of the many things I love about Costco is their thick cut pork chops. I usually stock up when there is a $4.00 off coupon and I package them into three meals per pack and freeze. I buy the package that keeps me as close to $10 as I can…don’t know why. Just a weird habit, I guess.

Tonight’s fare was:

Pork chops with a dijon mustard sauce ($3.33 – AND Will has lunch for tomorrow. )

Cole slaw ($0.75)

Baked beans ($0.75)

Croissants ($1.00)

I’m rounding up to $6.50 to take in account all the seasonings, etc.

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce

  • 4 (3/4-inch-thick) pork chops (I actually had 5 – sliced the thick ones from Costco in half)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (1 to 2) (I didn’t have a shallot, so I used shallot salt from Penzey’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 2% milk because I didn’t have cream)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any brown bits, 2 minutes. Add mustard and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

This was yummy. I didn’t take into consideration that 1. I didn’t have low sodium chicken broth and 2. I used shallot salt, so the sauce turned out a bit on the salty side, but it was still good. We just ate less of it than we would probably have. I eyeballed the salt and pepper when I seasoned the chops.
I’m not sure what possessed me to make cole slaw, but I did. Supa simple.

Easy Cole Slaw

1 small head of cabbage
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1/8 c. Splenda
couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
salt
pepper

I love my Kitchen Aid food processor…makes it so simple to shred a head of cabbage in no time. BTW, I’m not an overly huge fan of carrots in my slaw, so when I make it I never use them. I put measurements, but, honestly, I don’t really follow them. I don’t like runny slaw, so I don’t use that much vinegar. I like a nice, creamy slaw that’s just sweet enough with just the right tang, so I start off kind of light and add if I need it. Put it in the fridge to hang out for a while and, voila. Done.

The croissants may have been store bought, but the butter melted on them was homemade. Shanny posted about making butter on her blog last summer and I immediately had to try it. Oh, my. This is the recipe I used (and I think maybe the same one she did) . I left mine unsalted. It is to.die.for. on a fresh loaf of homemade bread piping hot from the oven, but I settled for store bought refrigerated croissants tonight. I put a towel over my stand mixer because it will start to sling the buttermilk all over the place…she wasn’t kidding when she said it goes from not there to there in less than a blink of an eye. I store mine in a butter boat.

It is really, really simple to make and I absolutely love the taste of the fresh butter.

Think chicken is on tomorrow’s menu…

Aside from the fact I have virtually no income coming in, there is an upside to being unemployed.  I’m able to meet Olivia when she gets off the bus every day and since Will has been getting home about 4:30ish, we have dinner by 5 and there is actually time to rest some and spend some time as a family, which has been much needed.

I’ve been couponing for over a year and have gotten pretty good at it.  I started reading a blog sometime last year, 5 Dollar Dinners, and have been inspired to make dinners that are $5 or less.  I’ve done pretty well with it.

Last night’s dinner was a spin on a recipe I saw in the coupon circular over the weekend for Picante-Glazed Chicken Wings.

Picante Glazed Chicken Wings (Original Recipe)

From: Campbell’s Kitchen
Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

12 chicken wings (about 2 pounds)
1 jar (16 ounces) Pace® Picante Sauce
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon sesame seed, toasted

Directions:

Heat the oven to 425°F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut off the chicken wing tips and discard.  Cut the chicken wings in half at the joint.

Heat 1 1/2 cups picante sauce, marmalade and mustard in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook for 40 minutes or until the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally.

Place the chicken into a large bowl.  Add the remaining picante sauce and toss to coat.  Place the chicken onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken over once halfway through the bake time.  Baste the chicken with the picante-mustard mixture during the last 10 minutes of the bake time.  Sprinkle with the sesame seed, if desired.

This is how I did it…

1 lb. chicken tenders ($3.00)

1 1/2 cup salsa (I cooked with a cup and reserved 1/2 cup for later) (.50)

1/4 c. apple jelly (didn’t have marmalade) (.20)

1 tsp. dijon mustard

I cooked it pretty much per the instructions, but since I was cooking tenders, it didn’t take nearly as long.

We made burritos with a side of corn.

Mahatma spicy saffron rice (free)

Tortillas ($1)

Can of corn (.55)

Sour cream

Shredded cheese (.50)

It went over the $5, but it was yummy and a very filling dinner.  I didn’t calculate the per seving cost of sour cream or the dijon mainly because I had them on hand and have been using them in other recipes, but I think it’s pretty negligible so I’ll round it up to a $6 dinner.

The chicken has a nice sweet/spicy/tang to it and it made a great glaze.  I actually marinated mine in the fridge for most of the afternoon.  Will definitely be something I make again.

My mom and dad had an azzload (to put it mildly) of tomatoes in their garden, which  my mom was oh-so-gracious to share with me.  I don’t like tomatoes in their raw form.  I will eat them in soups, stews, and salsas, but don’t you dare expect me to eat one raw.  Don’t care what kind it is or how good it is for me.  I take vitamins to make up for those types of deficiencies.  There are tomato recipes I want to make, but have never because I don’t like tomatoes.  I even went to hypnosis once and tried to be hypnotized to like tomatoes.  Didn’t work.  I think it may have had more to do with the noise outside the room and the fact I kept peeping with one eye to see if others around me were being hypnotized.  Didn’t work for them, either.  They were peeping at me.   But I love homemade salsa and it’s one of a few of my signature dishes people request.  (Love “signature dish.” Sounds sooo……important.  Wow.  I’m important. Even if only my mind)

Anyway, Mom had this awesome garden with lots and lots of tomatoes.  So, I picked up about 30 lbs of tomatoes from her.  For salsas and sauces, you should use a sauce tomato (Roma tomatoes are the best sauce tomato).  These weren’t sauce tomatoes, so it would involve an extra step of squeezing the excess juice out of them so my salsa wouldn’t be so water.   Hey, but I’m making salsa – one of my true loves.  To begin making salsa you need a pot of boiling water and then a bowl of ice water.  You must peel the tomatoes.  You drop them in boiling water, once the skin pops/rips, you take them out and put them in the ice bath to stop the cooking and you peel the skin off.  No problem.  Unless you’re doing 30 lbs of tomatoes.  Then it’s a pain in the arse.  But not so bad.  Then you have to squeeze the little suckers to get the excess liquid out.  Okay, not a problem.  Squeezing isn’t a big deal.  Unless it’s 30 lbs of tomatoes.  Then it’s a pain the arse.  See a pattern developing?  I used my Ninja blender and my food processor to do all the heavy work for me, except they don’t skin tomatoes or squeeze the excess liquid, so, really, all it did was chop and I did all the heavy work.

Ingredients:  A boat load of tomatoes, onions, green peppers, lots jalapeno peppers, cilantro, salt.  Oh, did you know you should use pickling salt?  Table salt can cause your canned goodies to look brownish…won’t affect the taste, only the look.  *sigh* Missed that somehow.  Some more stuff and vinegar.  You have to have the vinegar – something about pH and not spoiling.  I’m not a scientist; I just followed the directions.  Then you gotta cook it for an hour or so.  Then you boil your jars (or put them in the dishwasher to sanitize, but you gotta keep them hot), and your rings and lids in a pot of boiling water.  This is a lot of work, but it’s worth it because I make really good salsa, if I may say so.   30 lbs of tomatoes makes a lot of salsa.  A lot.  A whole.freaking.lot.  I used jelly size jars so I wouldn’t have to worry about using it all before it spoiled from being opened.  Ran out.  Had some pint jars.  Used those, too.  Sent Will to store and told him quart instead of pint and have big jars of salsa, too.  Then once you fill your jars, wipe the mouth of the jar with a clean towel, put the lid and ring on and boil them in a hot water bath.  20-35 minutes depending on the size of the jar.  I boiled them.  Removed them from the water bath.  Set them gingerly on towels on my kitchen counter to call and I called my mom when I heard my first “ping.”  (that’s how you know the jar has sealed).  They all pinged and they all sealed and I was sooo happy.  The problem? I hate the way it tastes.  I can taste the vinegar and I don’t like it.  At all.  Will says it’s good, but he loves jarred salsa and I don’t so much.   Damn.

Brilliant canning idea number two…Spaghetti sauce!  Fudge.  More peeling, cooling and squeezing of the tomatoes.  Another 20 lbs.   The lady whose sauce I used is supposed to make some of the best around, so I trusted it.  I bought the pickling salt because the last thing I want is a jar that looks like gravy I can’t get anyone to eat.   So I boiled, cooled, peeled, squeezed, chopped, cooked, canned.  Her recipe called for 2 cups of oil.  I don’t use two cups of oil for anything, so I only used a little olive oil for flavor…in the neighborhood of about 1/4 cup – MAX.   I hate it.

Two batches of homegrown goodness processed into something that should make us taste summer all year long and they suck.  Tomatoes are so time consuming to process, that I don’t think it’s worth it, but I know so many others will disagree and that’s fine.  I have all the necessary tools to attempt it again, so if someone wants to share their recipes with me, I’ll be willing to take another shot next year.  Maybe.

I have a new bread machine.  My old one went kaput.   I lurve fresh homemade bread piping hot and  smeared with buttah.  Heavenly.

I also love bagels.  There is only one place in my town to get them (aside from pre-packaged at the grocery store) and that’s at Dunk*n D*nuts.  The line is always terrible and if their service was any slower they would be moving backwards.  So, I made my own.  Aside from the fact I didn’t let my first batch “rest” after I shaped them and before I boiled them they were okay.   Yes, it’s a little time consuming.  They’re not quite as good as those you find in New York City first thing in the morning, but I’ll definitely make them again.

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45
degrees C)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 quarts boiling water
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
Directions:
1. Place water, salt, sugar, flax seed, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting.
2. When cycle is complete, let dough rest on a lightly floured surface. Meanwhile, in a large pot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.
3. Cut dough into 9 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a small ball. Flatten balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger or thumb to enlarge the hole, and to even out the dough around the hole. Cover bagels with a clean cloth, and let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Sprinkle an ungreased baking sheet with cornmeal. Carefully transfer bagels to boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning half way through. Drain briefly on clean towel. Arrange boiled bagels on baking sheet. Glaze tops with egg white, and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.
5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until well browned.

Things I did differently:

  • I increased the water by about 2 TB
  • I used 1-1/2 cups bread flour and 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • I added 3 scoops of ground flax seed – don’t know the scoop size – it’s whatever came in the container.
  • I made 8.  Two were pretty small.  I’m thinking 6 would make a good, hearty size.
  • I baked 4 at a time.  The first batch I didn’t let rest before I boiled them, so the second batch rested for 20 minutes while the first ones baked.
  • I did not use the egg wash on the top.
  • I didn’t have cornmeal so I didn’t use it.  I have silicone baking sheets and I didn’t have any issues with them sticking.
  • Mine baked for right about 20 minutes.

I actually read most of the reviews and followed some of their tips and tricks.  I’m thinking I might like to make cinnamon-raisin next.  I taste-tested with cream cheese and with reduced sugar grape jelly.

Grrrr.  Last night I had the brilliant idea to put chicken in the crock pot for dinner tonight.  Normally, my crock doesn’t go the full “8 hours on low, 4 hours on high.”  I used frozen chicken breasts and figured it would take closer to the full amount of time on low.  Ahhh, the smell of Italian Herb Chicken wafting through the house this morning at 7 hours of cooking time.   That was until I took the lid off my crock pot.  I have never burned ANYTHING in the crock pot before.  Nevah.   I even went as far as  to throw a can of V8 in there to give it some extra cooking liquid so it wouldn’t cook all the way out.  Guess what?  Didn’t work.

Yes, I fed it to the family.  Bon Appetit.

Oh, yeah…about the snow.  Approximately 6″ for us here with at least one downed tree (I only know it’s one because it’s in the front yard.  I didn’t make it out to the back yard before it got dark).  Thank goodness the wind went in the right direction when it went down.   Main roads were fair when I left for work and this evening they were pretty much clear.  There are some wet spots I’ll watch out for in the morning that will freeze tonight.   We faired well…much better than a lot of other folks.  Bless ya’ll who live like this for months on end.

So, here’s one of the overdue Thanksgiving posts. This one is about food.

I made my first cheesecake evah and I must say it was yummo! It was the Caramel Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake (sans nuts) snagged from The Pioneer Woman.

Lots of stuff to go into it

Lots of stuff to go into it

105_0272
cheescake

Done!

We decided semi-spur of the moment to buy the Big Easy by Charbroil. It’s an infrared turkey fryer. Spur of the moment means we saw it at Costco and deliberated over it forever and decided to not spend the money. Then I went home and read the reviews on it and, bless Will’s heart, he got to make the return trip to Costco to buy it.

The Big Easy

The Big Easy

We bought it on Sunday and since I was making the turkey for our family Thanksgiving, I couldn’t make the t-giving day bird the first one, so we did a trial run that night, which meant Will had to buy another turkey while at Costco. I cooked 35 lbs. of turkey that week.

turkey3

Super simple, my friends. I simply salt and peppered ye olde bird inside and out as well as under the skin and coated the skin with olive oil. Poked the thermometer in and set off to cook the bird.

Here’s the skinny on cooking the bird in this bad boy… There are no real cooking times because outdoor temperatures vary, which can affect your cooking time. I had it in my head to cook the 10-12 min. per pound you find everywhere else, which meant my 17.1 lb. bird should have cooked for about three hours. Well, after 2 hours, the thermometer read it was done, but I’ve had salmonella and I was scared so I let it cook for another 20 minutes. Took it out and let it rest for the juices to redistribute. Ummm….not long enough. The breast meat was done and uber juicy, but the dark meat and along the drumsticks not done. Chunked that bird.

Come Thursday, I planned well in advance to cook my new 18.3 lb. bird about 3 hours and 20 minutes. But I couldn’t …. I looked at the thermometer again and kept telling myself it wasn’t done. I knew better than to take it out, but I did it anyway. I knew as soon as I did, I had made a mistake, but it was too late. It was out of the basket and I didn’t tie his legs so I couldn’t get him back in there without messing him up so I threw him upside down in a baking bag and filled his cavity with a can of chicken broth and baked for another hour in the oven.

All in all, I will call it a success. Normally I cook my turkeys in my rotisserie oven, but the original bird I bought was too big for it (only holds up to a 15 lb. bird) and they turn out wonderful so I was really nervous about having to cook my bird the “old fashioned way” for 15 people and it turning out horrible. I’ve already told Will two birds a year does not justify the price we paid for it, so I’m going to try a brisket in it at some point.   There are no pictures of the end result.  Why?  I was so pissy and mad at myself by the time I finished cooking it I wasn’t in the mood.

How does it work? Runs off propane and there is a burner that runs around the bottom of the cooker and it cooks it by infrared heat. The mesh top that goes on it is what browns the top of the bird. I think it was just as good as a fried turkey without all the grease. I’ve tried traditional frying and didn’t have good success. That wasn’t an endeavor I opted to repeat. It took less than the one hour the instructions said it would to put it together and you need to “season” the cooker by spraying with cooking spray or some type of oil and cooking it empty until it stops smoking. There’s a drip tray to catch the drippings and you just dump it when you’re done. By the way, the METAL mesh lid? It gets hot so don’t forget that when you go to grab it. Did ya’ll know hydrocortisone cream with Aloe and vitamin E stops the burn better than Neosporin? Or it could have been the sour cream I shoved my thumb in at first. I’m not sure, but I know it burned and it hurt.

Fabul-O looked mahvelous as did my gorgeous nieces. Those pictures to come at some point.

Ya’ll wanna know what this is the tracking information of? Huh? Huh?

Tracking Number: Lots of numbers
Type: Package
Status: In Transit
Scheduled Delivery: 11/10/2008
Shipped To: Where I work, SC, US
Shipped/Billed On: 11/05/2008
Service: GROUND
Weight: 33.80 Lbs
Multiple Packages: 16 show all
Near where I work,
SC, US
11/10/2008 8:00 A.M. OUT FOR DELIVERY

That’s right! A Second Helping is being delivered to my office this morning! I can’t wait to see it. I’m hoping it looks okay. I’ve only seen a black and white proof of the cover. Perfect timing for the holidays. Oh, I’m so nervous.

So, I had this brilliant idea to make special treats to take to Fabul-O’s school for Halloween.

Step one: Bake brownies.  Actually, Will and Olivia did this step last night.  I had him put them into cupcake papers, filling about 1/3 full, so they would be uniform in size.

 

Step two: Place one large marshmallow on top of brownies.

Step three: Melt vanilla icing in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds.  I put it in a paper cup and used a plastic spoon to drip over the marshmallows.  (No pics, Will wasn’t here and O hasn’t quite mastered my camera.  By pic quality, neither have I!)

Step four: Use piping gel to dot eyes and make mouth. I couldn’t find black, so I used blue cookie icing.  Next time I won’t be lazy and I’ll tint some icing and use my tips and pipe it.  Will look much better.

Without further ado, I present to you, blue-eyed brownie ghosts.  And they look absolutely NOTHING like the inspiration picture.  They’re 3 yr olds and I’m taking toddler crack as a snack.  They’ll be fine!

I made sausage.  Yes, I did.  Well, sort of.  Some time back, I bought some sausage seasoning from Penzey’s

I lurve most things bad for me, including sausage.  Fry it up and slap it in a fresh homemade biscuit and I’m in pork heaven.  That being said, my jeans do not appreciate the culinary delight so I don’t indulge as much as I’d like.  That and the weird tuby things that you sometimes see in bulk sausage kind of scares me. 

I bought the seasoning and was going to grind my own pork with my handy dandy KitchenAid mixer with the food grinder accessory that I don’t own.  Yeah, minor detail.  So, rather than spend the $65 (plus shipping)  to buy the grinder, I opted to buy some pre-ground meat.  Pork is still loaded with fat, so I bought ground turkey.  Just so you know, I had a tough, tough time with that one; my friend Amy will testify to that (Hi, Amy!)  I’m not a ground turkey girl.  It’s a cross between a psychological and a texture issue for me; more psycho than texture, truth be told, but I did it.  Will swears he doesn’t eat turkey sausage because, [insert manly-man voice and attitude] “I can tell the difference.”  Whatever.  Yesterday I made sausage with:

1 lb. ground turkey (uber lean)

1 Tb. sausage seasoning

couple shakes ground red pepper

three shakes red pepper flakes

Mix it all up really, really good and you have faux-sausage.

I fried a piece to taste and it was good.  It doesn’t brown, of course, like pork sausage does, but once I got over the look of it, I enjoyed its taste.  Sgt. I-Can-Tell came home and I gave him the rest of it and he enjoyed it.  Nice taste. Good texture.  “It’s good.”  My reply, “It’s turkey.”  He seemed okay with it.  I cooked it tonight and it was better today than yesterday.

Bon appetit, folks.  Can’t get much simpler, or healthy, than that.

Remember I wrote a cookbook?  If not, here’s a reminder: I wrote a cookbook!  It’s self published so you won’t find it in Barnez and N0ble or on Amaz0n, but I’ll be pimping it hot and heavy soon to raise money in support of one of my favorite organizations, of which I am proud to be a part, The Blue Star Mothers of North Carolina who support our troops and in support of Will’s unit that will be mobilizing in double digit days.  

I have an anticipated ship date, but am hoping for it sooner than they are telling me so I’ll wait until I hear for sure.

430 of my favorite recipes.  Hardback.  And will make great Christmas presents – I’ll even wrap it for you, if you want me to.  More soon.

Slightly giddy,

Susan

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