Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiding an ingredient I don't like in recipes that I do

When Hubby's out of pocket and I only have to feed myself for a few meals, I often buy a package of fake crab meat, that surimi fish product otherwise known as krab. I love the stuff with some homemade seafood cocktail sauce...makes for a quick, no-cook protein for my solo meals. Well, lately I bought a different brand of krab, and well, yuck! Both the taste and the texture!
   Wasting the krab was NOT AN OPTION however much I disliked it, so my plan of not having to cook for a couple of meals went out the window.
Krab Bisque transformed the yucky krab into something I liked for one lunch.
Krab and Gruyère Flatbread made the offending krab surprisingly tasty.
When Hubby could finally join me for a meal, we polished that krab off.
Krab and Cauliflower Bisque was the krab's last hurrah. Hubby never knew I was passing off an ingredient I didn't like, because we both liked this soup.
Just had to show off the reusable filter I discovered.
New coffee pots now come with this filter, but I bought one before they did.
Soon as I bought Hubby this pot, I'd looked online for a filter
like this, but they didn't sell them for the 4-cup pot then.
Isn't that the prettiest li'l thing you ever saw?
No more wasting money on filters,
and less paper waste.
(Note: we did compost the used paper coffee filters.)
   Have you bought any yucky food lately? What did you do with it? Or found any new products that will save money in the long run? If so, I'd love to hear about it!  (Feel free to leave a link, if you've already blogged about these things.)
I'll be out of pocket myself a few days,
but hope to find the time soon to show you why!!
Each Memorial Day, I am humbled by the remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. May our world leaders always strive for diplomatic solutions that we may--brothers and sisters ALL--live in peace and harmony forever after.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Angel Food Cake leads to Chocolate Pot de Crème

Chocolate Pot de Crème in a vintage champagne glass
Pictured with my recent 25¢ yard sale tea towel find.
Anytime I bake an angel food cake I'm left with the challenge of what to do with all those unused egg yolks! Well, I've still got lemon curd in the freezer waiting to be eaten, so I went another direction this time with some of the yolks: Chocolate Pot de Crème, as found in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
   I used 3 ounces of bittersweet in place of  3 ounces of the semi-sweet chocolate, but this recipe was still WAY too sweet for me (yes, me, tho' I often say I could eat a whole cake). The recipe makes a lovely, smooth and creamy custard that is actually closer to fudge than pudding, if I'd stopped after two little bites, I'd have said I love it. Hubby seems to like it fortunately, but since it won't tempt me, it's the perfect dessert to have around!
   Really LOVE chocolate but for some reason not a chocolate fudge fan...more of a peanut butter fudge kinda gal myself. Wonder if I could make Peanut Butter Pot de Crème?! How about you: chocolate or peanut butter fudge?
Had a free carton of regular eggs but used one organic egg...see the diff?
Click to enlarge recipe. Caveat: Do not make this unless you like things SWEET!
Still trying to become more minimalist:
Should I downsize my vintage champagne glasses?
Champagne flutes keep the bubbles in longer,
but the ultra-thin glass of the antiques feels soo good to sip from.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mom's favorite Angel Food Cake

While my mom is a whiz kid when it comes to sewing, quilting, thrifting, crafting, reupholstering, and even producing artwork, she is not the cook in our family, Dad is. I love telling this on her: Mom once burned boiled eggs! (While reading a book, she cooked the water out of the pan.)
To save energy when boiling eggs on an electric stove-top burner,
bring pan to a boil, then turn off heat and set timer for 10 minutes.
(Yeah, a smaller pan would've saved even more when boiling just two!)
   Both my folks are very generous in sharing their talents with us "kids," and there is no way I could ever give back as much as they have given and continue to give to me. So, it is my great pleasure to sometimes share what I cook around here, and Mom especially loves it when I surprise her with an angel food cake.
   With a stand mixer, angel food cakes from scratch are pretty simple. Not quite as easy when standing with a hand mixer for 10 minutes of whipping the egg whites, but I've done it. Even used a hand whisk once to see if I could...boy, did my bicep "feel the burn," but the cake tasted good!
   For Mom's favorite angel food cake, I use this Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook recipe, except I do sift together the powdered sugar and flour instead of just stirring them together.
   Sun came to see us today & even stayed awhile! Rumor has it we're in for sunny days all weekend. Yea! Hope the Memorial Day weekend sun shines on you as you remember those you love, as well as those you've loved and lost.
Something oddly satisfying about the folding-in stage.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This moment: Only men's bathroom I wouldn't mind seeing again!

Not the sort of title you'd expect on a woman's blog, eh? Well, our recent discussions about vintage stuff being better than new reminded me of Nashville's circa 1910 Hermitage Hotel and its men's fully restored-back-to-original art deco restroom. The plaque pictured below seems to invite women to take a looksie, so when we visited the hotel a couple of year's ago, Hubby made sure the coast was clear, and I stepped into the most incredible hotel bathroom I have ever seen.
   Only other place I've been where "jaw-dropping views" may be found in a bathroom is the skyline view of Chicago from the women's bathroom on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. I'd found in a travel book advice to visit that restroom! As says, "If you’ve made your way to the 96th floor Signature Lounge, be sure to check out the women’s bathroom. One wall is vertigo-inducing floor-to-ceiling glass that provides a near-vertical look down to the street."
   When we travel for fun (even on day trips), I love checking out places on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and we've stumbled on a number of fabulous historic hotels that way.
   How about to share your most unexpected view found when traveling? Aren't you glad it's Friday? May the bluebird of happiness sprinkle some happy, vintage surprises throughout your day!! 
Imagine chairs for sitting in while getting your shoes a restroom!
Sorry this one's so dark, but I snapped pics in a hurry, as you might imagine!
See? The hotel plaque invites women to "steal a look."
Thanks to Soulemama for this Friday photo sharing concept. Please feel free to share a link to your moment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Second hand, not second rate!

May not look like much but my 25¢ cent cheese slicer
is exactly what I needed. (okay, wanted.)
Egg slicer bought at yard sale ages ago still turns the trick!
My heart beats a little faster every time I find some old kitchen gadget at a yard sale. The quality of old kitchen tools is often soo many times BETTER than those I can buy new at Macy's or Target.
   I tried to shave some Parmesan over pasta not too long ago and was not please with the way my slicer worked. And the vegetable peeler that I then tried didn't turn the trick either. So, I was ultra thrilled to find this antique cheese slicer/grater at a garage sale for 25¢. Works like a charm!
   Hubby's weed eater went kaput yesterday. Needed a new fly wheel (I think that's what he called it). Anyway, online the new whatchamacallit part costs $70 bucks, so he wondered if he was going to have to break down and buy a new weed trimmer. A few calls around town and he found the part for $50 bucks...cheaper than buying a new trimmer, since his trimmer is heavy duty, well made and would cost much more to replace.
   But when we got to the parts shop, the owner went out and came back with a used part and offered to sell it to Hubby for $20. Evidently it didn't take Hubby long to replace the part, 'cause I hear the distinctive whine of a weed whacker out in the yard now. Yea!
   Anyone else brake for yard sales? I think they call 'em boot sales in Scotland. What do they call them in your neck of the woods? 
Sifter handed down when Mom bought a new one.
I don't mind rust as long as it doesn't affect the food.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not buying it: cream of celery soup;
Still buying it: sweetened condensed milk

What is a can of "cream of celery soup" if not celery gravy?
Have I told you about my love affair with author Michael Pollan? He had me at "Eat Food. Mostly Plants." So, my heart sank when I came across this line in one of Pollan's writings: "If you're the kind of cook who starts with a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup all bets are off.” Y'mean all those mystery ingredients in the canned stuff might be bad for me?
   From then on, I've been making my own "cream of" soups. Don't think it hasn't been a struggle. What could be easier than opening a can of condensed soup to get supper on the table asap?
Chicken Asparagus Casserole
May not look like much now that it's gotten cool, but we liked it.
One chicken breast and one leg made enough casserole for two meals.
Why I now make "cream of" soups from scratch every time I have the 10 or so minutes to spare:
  1. If I believe in Pollan's essential message that home cooking like our great grandma's served up is the basis for good health, why buy canned soup?
  2. If I am sincere in my desire to reduce my packaging waste, why buy canned soup?
  3. If I truly believe that small economies add up to a better standard of living for my family, why buy canned soup?
   In a pinch, I might still buy a can but homemade tastes better. I just sautéed some minced celery in butter and olive oil; seasoned it with pepper, celery seed and onion salt; added flour, stirring to cook the flour a bit; and then slowly stirred in enough milk to make the equivalent of one can of condensed soup.
Still buying it: Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk experiment I was so hopeful about!
Oh, my, was this ever an experiment gone wrong!
   I made some cherry ice cream the other day and not having any sweetened condensed milk, I dug out my Aunt M's mock recipe I'd been meaning to try. Not "tasting as you go along"...BIG mistake!
   What a waste of precious, hand-picked cherry ice cream tastes like powdered milk. UGH!
   Anyone have a sweetened condensed milk recipe that doesn't include powdered milk? Am I the only weird one that doesn't like to taste as I cook? (I only taste at the finish line and adjust seasonings then.)
   And if you've got one, feel free to share your experiment gone wrong!

Looked promising but did NOT pass the taste test!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Upgrade potatoes and onions with easy Bourbon Caramelized Onions

I don't drink bourbon, but I like it in small doses.
Gonna have to forgive me: I forgot to take a finished product photo! Will you take my word for it that the potatoes and onions taste oh, so good?
   Seems there aren't enough hours in the day anymore. Wish I had half the energy of Becky over at Simply Self Sufficiency. Naw, not me, but with all the to dos that come along with spring, it's harder to find time to laze around and read. Please forgive me for taking a picture of the recipe instead of copying it out, but I was having a hard time tearing myself away from reading The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.
   Love this little ditty from Kimball's book:
"Question: Why is farming like a relationship?
"Answer: Because you do not reap what you sow. That's a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest, and store."
The caramelized onions added a nice little twist to the usual potatoes and onions.
I was going to bake these in the SunOven, but the sun disappeared so I had to use the stove.
The blue container is the kitchen compost bin.
I keep one near at hand every time I cook to catch the compost-ables.
Didn't cook down the onions completely before layering with potato slices, topping with butter and baking an hour at 350°F. Click on pic to enlarge recipe.
   Let me know if you can't get the pic to enlarge and need me to print out the recipe. Just finished and very much enjoyed reading the book. Now what should I read? Any suggestions??

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nearly overdosed on Jelly Doughnut Cake and Caramel Corn!

Hubby named this Jelly Doughnut Cake, and it really does taste like one!
Had SUCH a fabulous cheat day yesterday...I ate my fill and then some of homemade Caramel Corn and Jelly Doughnut Cake that I'd made on Friday. When I put a layer of cherry jam in between white cake layers and frost with my decorator's frosting, it really does taste like a jelly favorite doughnut of all.
   No need to buy canned frostings when homemade tastes so much better and is so easy. Trouble is, I can't share the recipe right now, 'cause Hubby just fell asleep in his chair!
   He was off volunteering at a charitable fundraiser all weekend. I don't have the heart to wake him by getting up for the recipe, so I'll have to finish this post mañana.
   It is absolutely gorgeous outside right now...sunny, breezy, wowy! Hope your Sunday is treating you well!  
Pour the cooked caramel over the popcorn, then stir.
The most difficult part about this recipe is trying not to eat it all in one setting!
Decorator's Cake Frosting
1 lb. confectioner's sugar (4 to 4 1/2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup shortening
3-6 tablespoons cornstarch (I use 3, as I am not making a decorated cake)
2-4 tablespoons water (this varies, I used 6 this time to get spreading consistency)
Blend with stand mixer or hand mixer until smooth.

For the cake, I just used the white cake recipe on the back of the Swan's Down Cake Flour box. To reduce packaging waste, I'll keep looking for a homemade white cake recipe. Though this cake recipe turned out well, it wasn't what I'm looking for. Truth be told, I like the taste and texture of Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake...a box mix! Oh, the shame of it. ;)
   If I make a two-layer cake, I split the layers and spread with cherry jam between each then frost the middle of the two. (Jam made from the recipe in the box of powdered pectin I had on hand.) I am a HUGE icing/frosting fan...if you are not, I'd suggest putting a thinner layer of frosting on the cake and spreading the leftovers between some saltine crackers!
For the caramel corn, I use a recipe found in Better Homes and Gardens America's Best Loved Community Recipes, but just found an identical recipe online at All, except I don't add the peanuts.
   Hubby is not a caramel corn fan, so I took quite a bit to Mom/Dad. What's left from that and what I ate, ate, ate is sitting around calling my name! Hope it doesn't get too awfully stale by next cheat day. This'll be the first time caramel corn will EVER have set around uneaten around here!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not buying it: Chili oil for Asian cooking

Repurposed bourbon bottle now houses Chili Oil.
I'm not a bourbon drinker, but I'm told
Jefferson's Reserve is a fine sippin' whisky,
if you're into that sorta thing.
Love this Chili Oil recipe I found in Fuchsia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, a library book I will definitely be checking out again. Wish I had a copy of my own, but I am really trying to become more of a minimalist. Y'know, save a tree and all!
Not buying commercial chili oil = less packaging waste.

Chili Oil (la jiao oil)
1 cup of Dried Chili Flakes with seeds
2 and 1/4 cups of Peanut Oil
Place dried chilies in a glass preserving/canning jar. Heat the oil in a pan over high heat until it reaches 350ºF. Remove from heat; let the oil cool down to 225-250ºF then pour the oil into the jar containing the chilies, stirring a couple of times. Let cool in a shady place for at least 24 hours. I transferred the chili oil from the canning jar to a bottle with a stopper (once Hubby and assorted company drank all the bourbon, that is!). I refrigerate the oil until needed.

   Hubby and I made Dunlop's recipe for General Tso's Chicken one night, and it was absolutely fabulous! If interested, you'll find that recipe in NPR's piece on Dunlop's book (click NPR link then scroll down).
   If interested in an Italianized version of chili oil, check out Giada's recipe on the Food Network site. Please let me know if you try that one as I haven't...just found it.
   Haven't uploaded the pics yet to prove it, but I have eaten WAY too much sugar on my 4-Hour Body cheat day. So much so that I'm more than ready to go back to eating healthy! Who'd have thought that possible? ;)
   Have you been in healthy or cheating mode today? Feel free to fess up either way. Love hearing from you, if you've the time to comment. Great weekend...the SUN came back to see us, well, for part of the day at least!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

This moment: A surprise in the recyclables & my first organic sausage dish

Oh, yes, this little creature trapped in a can from the recycle box scared the bejeebers out of me!
   Fortunately, Hubby was around to take it outside to freedom...don't know why these little ones find such fun running in and out of our attached garage when the door is left open. Please don't let one ever come up the steps into our house! Can they climb stairs??
   Not sure I should post food in the same post as wiggly little lizards, but I could NOT post just a lizard pic and leave it at that!
   So, here's a pic of what I did with my first purchase of organic sausage (humanely raised pork). The stuff cost an arm and a leg, but I thought it much more flavorful than the factory farm stuff. Hubby just looked at the price and...well, you know!
   I fried up the sausage, divided it into thirds and froze two packages of it for a future use. Gotta love that.
   Made this a few days back. We're eating on a barbecued chicken right now that Hubby's pop surprised him with. 
   Boy, do I love barbecue surprises! Hope your weekend brings you nothing but pleasant surprises!!
Sausage Cabbage Leek Lentil Mish Mash
Thanks to Soulemama for this Friday photo sharing concept. Please feel free to share a link to your moment.

Couldn't find a second home for old trophies--waah!

Called and called but could not find a new home for DD's old trophies. As she does not want them and cannot be persuaded to take them to her own home, that means these durned things will have to be trashed.
   But WAIT, certain parts won't go to the landfill:
  • Hubby will take the engraved plates off...surely DD will have space and the teeniest bit of sentimentality for those.
  • He'll remove the nuts/bolts & if unusable, toss them in his metals' recycle pile.
  • Also, the marble pieces will get tossed into some hole in the ground that needs filling, y'know, like rocks.
   DD actually had one other big trophy that I used one time at the end of our road to hold up a garage sale sign. It was stolen! (*chuckle* She forgave me.)
   Maybe I should've put the others out to see if they'd be stolen too?! ;)
   Hope you had a great Wednesday. I did. I'll show-n-tell when I have more time. Hasta mañana!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On my mind: 'Always been there' makes unused stuff invisible!

Unused bread box, why did you continue
to take up space even after I stopped using you?
Space, glorious space--top shelf says goodbye bread box!
Some 29 years ago, Hubby and I received this bread box as a wedding gift. Don't remember who gave it to us. Not long after getting it, we learned the prevailing wisdom that nothing would make bread mold faster than being in a bread box. So we took the top off but continued to store our bread in the box in a cabinet, figuring it would keep the bread from being smashed.
   All was well and good while DD was living at home. Bread got used up quicker than it could go stale. When DD moved out leaving just Hubby and me, we soon learned a whole loaf of bread goes to waste around here.
   We then divided each loaf in half, freezing half, but even a half loaf would go to waste in the bread box...out of sight, out of mind. Nowadays when we have bread around, half gets frozen and half sits on the counter or in the fridge so we will see it and eat it.
   This unused bread box continued taking up space in the tiny cabinet by the stove. The box was in there only because the old habit of it always being there somehow made it invisible to me! It would be there still if I weren't inspired by Zero Waste Home to take a look at everything with a minimalist's eye.
   Hauled off a load of stuff to give to charity yesterday. Bye, bye bread box!
"Slow Carb" Update 
   On another note, I'm really getting a kick out of practicing my own version* of the 4-Hour Body recommendation of eating only slow carbs (veggies/protein/legumes) with one cheat day per week. (*As my goal is to eat less sugar, I allow cheese/yogurt.)
   Here's a pic of the mish-mash I made the other day. Yesterday, I put the little bit of leftovers into a bowl & topped them with a couple of beaten eggs & gruyere for a lovely makeover crustless quiche mish-mash. Too easy! I haven't eaten this many veggies in my life, so I'm really getting a kick out of this new eating plan.
   But don't get me wrong, I LOVE cheat days. I've got a cake cooling on the counter now--just have to keep my hands OFF 'til Saturday! Hope something yummy is cooling on your counter right now??
Latest minimal meat mish-mash: broccoli slaw, yellow peppers, sausage, Greek seasoning.
   Thanks, Rhonda at down-to-earth, for sharing this On My Mind concept. What's on your mind today? Share your link here or on down-to-earth. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playing a computer game got my closet cleaned!

 Oh, yes, I am shamelessly addicted to a mind-numbing computer game. So addicted that this game constantly calls my name...seducing me to play until my neck feels like it will break and my wrist cries uncle. Rather than worry about this addiction though, I am using it as an incentive to tackle the cleaning projects I kept putting off.
   Maybe a "grown-up" should be ashamed to admit the need for some sort of dangling carrot to get motivated, but hey, where's the shame in a clean closet? Each time I leveled up in the game, I made myself go remove/clean one section of my closet.
   As I cleaned, in my head I could hear the game still cheering me on:
  • Cleared out shoes no longer worn. Good!
  • Put unwanted clothes, etc., in a bag for Goodwill. Excellent!
  • Recycled all empty boxes saved for products no longer under warranty. Awesome! 
  • Removed everything from floor, put on shelves or found more logical places for them. Spectacular! 
  • Cleaned wood floor, woodwork and shelving unit. Extraordinary!
   Finally a visible floor in my closet. YEA! And my minimalist-wannabe pledge to downsize my possessions means I now have some space in this closet for some of the shoes that had been shifted to another closet. Yeah, that closet's next.
   Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear the siren call of some game calling my name...another closet awaits!
Okay, I'm not completely shameless; this is embarassing:
This bag was on the floor in my closet--
with stuff in it from the job I left forever ago!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fullfreezer sent me a sweet surprise!

Oh, don't you just love, love, LOVE winning something? Received the above as a surprise package from My Freezer is Full, a blog I have only recently discovered. Believe me, I tore into it just like a kid on Christmas morn--ever so tickled with the sweet surprises inside. The gloves fit perfectly, and I can't wait to grow these herbs we've never grown before. Such fun getting a surprise package in the mail!
Do we dare?
   Still hit and miss when it comes to garden weather around here in western Kentucky. Overcast and rainy these days. Yet again! And it's below 60° F out there right now. Brrr!
   Why, it was just six days ago that we so enjoyed our ride around the state as the sun smiled down upon us edging the temp near 90°. What has made our sun so everlasting shy these days?
Oh, yes, we do!
(we could see road under the water)
   If it doesn't stop raining, how will all the low-lying roads ever dry up? Even if it did feel like a mini-adventure driving through some of the high water, I'd much prefer dry roads. (The road markings were visible, so we knew the water wasn't deep.)
   Ah, well, it'll be hot as blazes soon enough no doubt. It's Primary Election Day today. I elect to have a good one! Hope more of the same for you: a day full of happy surprises and mini-adventures!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Living with more than enough and even some to share

Planting edibles in the front yard...chives add cute little purple puffs of color!
Hubby is my favorite gardener. Each year he grows more than I can cook, and we feel blessed to be able to share what we can't use.
   When family and friends have had all they can take, we take extra produce to our local Centro Latino, which distributes charitable gifts free of charge to migrant and immigrant families in need.
   And these days, we don't even confine the foodstuffs to the garden out back.
   Since I am a terribly LAZY cook, I'm trying to think less "flower garden" and more "edible landscaping" right out our front door. That way herbs/whatevers are just a step away and I don't have to tramp out to the garden. Not that it's far away as we only live on an acre of ground, but did I mention that I'm lazy? ;)
   Got the idea originally from an article in Mother Earth News: "Grow $700 of Food in Less than 100 Square Feet." Who'd have thought food could be incorporated seamlessly into attractive landscaping?
   Anyway, some folks out in Sonoma, California are spreading the word about folks sharing their garden riches with others while reducing those thirsty lawns, and is trying to help this charitable giving go viral.
   Congrats to all those planting to share with others on May 15th and 16th--they're earning stars in heaven! For more info on how to join this effort, check out the 350 Home and Garden Challenge.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Travel: It's the real thing

Gotta love it when the weather's nice enough to ride around taking in the sights on a random Wednesday afternoon. Thought I'd share a few photos of our day. Love happening upon iconic sites from the painted on walls, neon signs, cheesy tourist attractions. Gotta love it!
   Hubby mapped out a route full of country roads we'd never been on, but one place on the route, Mammoth Cave, is one of my all time favorite places. Fourteen years old and living in Tennessee at the time of my first visit, I can't even count the times I've been back  to the Cave--too many times to remember.
   I love the feel of that humongous quirk of nature. Though it was almost 90F degrees outside, down by the cave opening, I wished I had on a jacket. Didn't tour the cave this time...hope to take the grandgirls sometime this summer tho'. If you've never been, I highly recommend it. At the risk of sounding trite, something about the natural beauty and wonder makes all modern cares fall away.
   Having a good weekend? Hope so!
Historic entrance to Mammoth Cave, Cave City, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park historic tour entrance

Fresh, 54°F air streams out of the historic entrance to Mammoth Cave

Wigwam Village in Cave City, Kentucky

Goat weather vane atop church steeple in Dundee, Kentucky
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