Time to “stock” up!

I like to have stock on hand for all my cooking, veggie, beef, chicken, you can do so much with it, but it can be really expensive and almost always contains WAY too much sodium.   Many years ago, I thought it might be fun to make my own.  Originally, I started making it on a whim.  It was a cold fall day and it seemed like a nice thing to warm up the house and get it all smelling really good!  That first recipe was super complicated and way back then I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with all the stock I made!  martha-stewarts-homemade-chicken-st

Boy, have times changed!

Not only do I use fresh stock for almost everything, I really don’t use a recipe at all!  It’s just the easiest thing to make and you can freeze it for later use.  Besides, you get a nice amount of cooked chicken that you can use for Chicken pot pie or my personal favorite, Chicken Crepes.

I’d really like to encourage you to make your own stocks.  It does need a bit of time, so do it on a cold, rainy day, when you really don’t want to leave the house anyway.

Here’s what I do most often,  but you can find recipes online or just jazz it up yourself.

Sometimes, I get a cut-up chicken if they are not pricey, because, honestly, why pay extra for something that you can do yourself?  Now once I have my chicken in pieces, I fill a stockpot about 2/3 full of water and plop the chicken in!  I simmer that baby for a while until the fat comes up to the top and I skim that, then I add, some carrots, with tops, some washed, unpeeled yellow onions, celery, parsnip, turnip, peppercorns, mushroom, fresh thyme,  pretty much whatever I have that looks like it might go bad soon!!  I also keep the tops of celery and other veggie scraps in a container in the freezer and I add that too!  Then I simmer the whole thing for about an hour.  I remove the chicken pieces and take all the meat off the bones, then I replace the bones and simmer for another hour.

Then I strain it into a large bowl, pressing on the veggies to get all the good stuff out!  Finally, I strain it again into smaller plastic containers for freezing.  I put all the containers in the fridge overnight and scrape the solid fat that forms.  Then I keep what I want out and freeze the rest!

I used to only have to make chicken stock once or twice a year, but now I make it quite frequently.  I suggest starting with Chicken or veggie stock, because it’s easy, but beef stock is awesome, so try that too!

 

Love and food

I know I have not written in a while.  The reason is that my oldest daughter just left for a year in Taiwan and it is not easy for this full-time mom to adjust to my babies leaving the nest for so long.

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I knew for a long time that she’d travel the world and I’m SUPER proud of her.  It’s exciting to see the child you raised, the one who turned her nose up at any food other than chicken nuggets, the one who swore she’d bring her sister with her to cook for her, begin to develop amazing skills and a very “adventurous palate”, as a dear friend once said.   She’s already been sending pictures of the fun new things she’s tried, such as bitter melon!  So I am looking forward to all the things she’ll experience and the woman she’ll become, but it’s still hard.

So now, my next step is saying goodbye to my youngest, a delightful and fun young man who starts college in only a few days.  Happily for me, he will only be about an hour and a half away.  He is my last to leave home.  My middle daughter pretty much lives in her college town for most of the year and it is also, fortunately, close enough for home visits, when they need a bit of pampering or, as this weekend, when mom needs a bit of comforting.

The good news is that I took a dream job working as Sur la Table and I start in a few weeks.  Is there any better place for a person who loves to cook than Sur la Table?  I’m sure I’ll be posting about my adventures there shortly.

Thank you for being patient and sticking by me.  I’m sure to adjust and get back to cooking very soon!

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Home cooking before leaving home

My lovely oldest daughter recently graduated from college and just got a temporary job for which she’d been hoping.  She’ll be teaching English in Taiwan.  She’ll be gone for an entire year and while I will miss her like crazy, I’m so proud of her for taking risks and trying new things.

So, what does that have to do with food?  When your daughter is going away for a year to a different country, you make her as many of her favorites as you can possibly think of before she goes.

My girl is NOT a fussy eater.  In fact, her friends kid her that she’d eat octopus out of a dumpster.  She’s really adventurous, but when it comes to comfort food, she’s like anyone else,  she wants warm and heavy foods, but with a twist.  While most kids remember growing up on Manwichs or Sloppy Joes, she always preferred a thing we like to call Sloppy Giuseppes.

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These are very close to Sloppy Joes except you add Italian Sausage.  Best of all, you can make it in the Slow Cooker.

Sloppy Giuseppes

  • 1 lb bulk Italian Sausage
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1-15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can mushrooms, (as you see from my picture, I used fresh, but either works)
  • 1 small can chopped ripe olives
  • 4 t. tapioca
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • Rolls
  • Cheese of choice, I prefer Provolone

Brown meats with onion in skillet. 37733355_10212785374095296_608922385709531136_n Drain.  Add to slow cooker with all ingredients, EXCEPT cheese and rolls.  Cook on low heat 8-10 hours.  Serve hot on rolls with cheese.  Leftovers freeze very well.

Make these at home, when you want something easy, but still comforting and maybe they will become a family favorite in your home too!

 

 

 

On Facebook, Friendship and Food

Facebook is one of those things with which people have a love/hate relationship.  I happen to love it most days.  It keeps me young, for one thing.  Having friends from all age groups helps one see things from another perspective, and I have made many connections with others who have become close friends, even though we have never met face to face.   In general, I find it to be a great thing!

One of those facebook friends knows I enjoy cooking and reading.  She decided to indulge both my favorite things and gifted me this lovely book, Texas, The Beautiful Cookbook, and it really is beautiful!

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This incredible book is full of information, the most beautiful pictures and some fun recipes, all to give me the feel of life in Texas.  I have never been to that part of the country, so I was thrilled to turn each page!

And of course, what does one do when one gets a new cookbook?  You frantically look through the house to see if you have ingredients to make anything right then and there!

I had some fresh cantaloupe, cut up for snacking, which, of course, I never snack on, preferring something rather more unhealthy and fun, so I used the fruit to make a recipe called Aquas Frescas.  It’s nice because it’s just whatever fruit you have in a blender with lime juice and a touch of sugar.  WOW!  So delicious!  I brought it to a friends house for a party and I recommended that one could add a bit of sparkling wine to it, just to be a bit more festive!

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I’ll be scanning this lovely coffee table book for weeks, and adding to my knowledge of lovely Texas as I do and as always,

Let me feed you!

Cooking like a First Lady, circa 1965?

This is one of my vintage cookbooks and I recently thought I’d look a few things up.

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It’s from 1965 and the first thing I wanted to see is what the President’s wife contributed to the book.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a recipe for one of my favorite things to eat, Popovers!  Now I don’t know why, but hardly anyone ever makes them anymore.  If you’ve ever read Little Women, you’d know that the girls take their precious breakfast popovers to the poor family and Amy is upset by the loss!  Also, when I was a youngster, my father used to take us to a lovely restaurant, called The Proud Popover.da4d031395c932ff4cdebe4c2d5e3ae6

This restaurant was a colonial in theme, with big pewter mugs and plates and gigantic popovers.  I was addicted to those things.  I’d drench them in butter and honey.  Wonderful.    Our family wanted to make them at home, but as my mother had passed away, and we kids were not the best cooks yet, my dad found a mix that he’d buy and they were as close as possible to heaven for a couple of 70’s era kids.

Well, now I make these from scratch, because really, what could be easier and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson’s recipe is practically the same as anyone you might find online.  (I don’t like that tradition of the ladies going by their husband’s names as if her only identity is through the husband, but that’s for another blogger to write about.).

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I don’t use melted shortening, however, I use canola oil , but everything else is the same!  Also, she tells us you can use a regular muffin tin, but to get that true popover height, you need a good iron popover pan.  I found mine at…you guessed it!  Resale!

You have to eat them right out of the oven.  The crispy outside and the almost empty middles, make a perfect vehicle for adding veggies or casseroles if desired, but I prefer them as I did when a child, with butter and honey.  Here.  Have one.

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Let me feed you.

 

 

Not ashamed to be old-fashioned

This post is a bit about your humble writer.  Since I’m trying to have this blog sound like we’re just two people chatting over the fence, you should get to know me a bit better!  I’m an old-fashioned gal.  I like to bake from scratch,  listen to old-time radio, (my favorite is Jack Benny!), I always have an open door, hot food and a sympathetic ear for anyone who needs a friend.  I’ll admit, when younger, I always admired the Mother of the Bride’s dress rather than the actual bride and now that my girls are entering a marriageable age, I pin matronly, yet glittering dresses that I will lovingly shop for someday!  In general, I think I was born an old woman!

I’ve never been afraid to get older.  Of course, no one likes the aches and pains that come with age, but somehow, I just always connect better to older ideas.  Maybe because I was raised by my auntie after my mother died, maybe because I was never a pretty young woman, but for whatever reason, in my head, I always see myself as the mothers from the old movies, like Andy Hardy and Public Enemy. 

I do wear an apron in my kitchen, vintage ones I pick up when I can find them.  I am a bit plump.  However, I have hair the color of ripe plums and I swear like a sailor, so I guess there, the resemblance stops!

Today, it is a cloudy, humid day.  Blueberries were 1 dollar a pint so I picked some up for a nice, comforting cobbler.   With the Those Were The Days show playing on the radio, I’m perfectly at ease.

I hope you will come over.  The coffee pot is always on and the timer just went off, so the cobbler is hot.

Let me feed you.

 

Don’t say you can’t cook

I have always liked to cook.  However, that does not mean I don’t have SO many failures under my belt.  (Ask my kids about the cream puffs).  I hear from some friends who see my posts and say “Oh, I wish I could cook.”  I tell them, “But you CAN!”.  It seems to me that sometimes a person will see a recipe online and regardless of experience, will try some of the most difficult things and then when they don’t get the results they expected, they just give up and say they can’t cook.

I’m about to tell you that you can.

It’s not the difficulty of cooking that makes you quit, it’s the lack of experience and we ALL have to start somewhere.  I’m just your ordinary housewife.  There are a lot of blogs run by professional chefs or dieticians, and I LOVE those, but sometimes you want to hear straight talk by someone cooking for a family, who does not have professional equipment or a large food budget.   Gordon Ramsey would holler at me on a nightly basis, sometimes, he might end up surprised, but in actuality, it’s only my hubby and kids I need to please!   An all-time family pleaser is always some kind of pasta.  As I said previously, my pasta machine was found at resale and would you believe it, but that I was shopping at the local Italian market and they had a gnocchi attachment for half price!

So dinner tonight was Homemade Gnocchi in a Fresh Tomato Marinara.

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I am not including the recipes here because you can find them anywhere online or in a cookbook, but let me just say that even if you don’t think you can cook, you can impress your whole family by making your tomato sauce from the superabundant and inexpensive tomatoes in your grocery or your garden!   It does not take a long time or tons of experience and it’s SO CHEAP!  Just think how proud you’ll be to be able to say to your family.

Let me feed you.

Apparently I’m “cool”.

My teenaged son just called me cool.  If any of you have teenagers, you understand what high praise that is.  You are probably wondering what I did to deserve it.  Did I buy him booze?  Nope.  Let a girl stay in his room?  Nope.

I made jello.

Actually, I made one of the recipes from an old 1930’s era pamphlet from Royal Jello.

Back when the kids were very young, I made jello more frequently, because it’s inexpensive and “there’s always room for jello!”, but honestly, it’s empty calories that could be used for something better. (like wine.)

However, when thinking over what sort of things I could make from my old booklets, I kept coming back to a gelatin dish of some sort.  Nothing too strange, though I’ve had the experience of diving into a delicious looking dessert, only to find myself munching on raw, shredded carrots.  That was NOT an experience I wanted my family to share.

It was a pretty big deal when gelatin powders came out.  Up until then, it was a tough thing to make.  Long hours over a hot stove, boiling animal bones meant that mainly the wealthy, with servants, had the ability to serve it.  It was quite elegant to be able to present your guests with a pretty aspic or jelled treat.

In the years following the commercial success of Jell-O, these, once rare dishes were everywhere.  Even when I was growing up in the 70’s, it was not a party unless you had a jello dessert and I still make a 7-layer jello for special occasions!

So here’s my lovely Royal Cherry Monticello.

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Not as pretty as pictured, through only my own fault,  I was rushed for time and incorporated the whipped cream before the gelatin was sufficiently thickened.  I actually had to make a thrift store run this morning to get the mold.  What modern woman has a bunch of random molds?  Well, actually, I do now…

So, long story short, how do you get a teenaged boy to call you “cool”?

Make jello, or come on over here.  I have LOTS.

Let me feed you!

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes

Buckwheat is an awesome flour.  However, so many recipes for my favorite breakfast include wheat flour.  I’m not gluten-free, by any means, but it’s nice to have options to offer friends who need to be, due to health issues or just preference.

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I recently discovered Cassava flour.  Now, you should know.  If there is a flour that I haven’t yet worked with, I’m buying it.  I currently have 11 different types of flour in my house.  I use them all for different things.  I hope to give examples of recipes for you in later posts.

Back to Cassava, it is a tuberous root, that must be cooked otherwise it is poisonous.  (I guess you should not eat raw cookie dough with this product!).  It’s very processed, however, in order to make the flour and really does not have a lot of nutrients, other than a higher fiber content.  However, the plus side is that it is gluten-free!  I’ve had friends request my buckwheat pancake recipe, but I’ve had to tell them that it also contains wheat flour.  So, in honor of my gluten-free pals, here’s my adjusted recipe, now gluten-free!

    Gluten-free buckwheat pancakes

   Brush griddle with oil.  Heat until nicely hot.   

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.  Pour scant 1/4 cup of batter onto hot griddle, turning them when bubbles appear on their surface.  

Serve with whatever toppings you like.  I’m a gal who just like butter and nothing else, but you do you.

Extra pancakes can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator.

Unlike Amaranth, Cassava flour is very similar in texture to white flour and imparts no flavor, so I think one could use it in many recipes in order to convert them to gluten-free.  Buckwheat flour has a stronger taste and my family does not care for it, but I think it’s heavenly.  Of course, I’m right.

So that’s one more group of people that I can confidently tell,

Let me feed you!

 

 

 

The way Grandma used to cook

Do you collect something?  Most people do.  Seashells, beanie babies, shoes, maybe?  I collect old cookbooks and cooking pamphlets.  I have hundreds of these little booklets and it is just so fun to page through them.  It’s even educational!  Like a little walk through history.

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Here are a few of my books.  You can pick these up very inexpensively at used book sales, antique stores or garage sales.  Most of them will not set you back more than a few dollars.

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I just love the Settlement cookbooks subtitle, “Way to a Man’s heart.”  This cookbook is not the original from 1901, but rather a much-loved 1928 edition.   To tell the truth, I prefer the loved copies best.  It’s delightful to read another housewives notes and clippings.  My copy has a handwritten recipe for Tuna Surprise (yeah, no thanks), and a handful of articles from the local newspaper, including one entitled, “Old-Fashioned Roast Cookery is Unpatriotic” from a 1942 Chicago newspaper!  These little articles are valuable to me!  As you can see, sometimes the backs are more interesting than the front!  Wouldn’t you love to “Dine and Dance” at Chateau D’Jean?     36836416_10212678631906808_1469070512507322368_n

My oldest book is the White House Cookbook, which I inherited from my Aunt.  It was her Mother-in-law’s book and started me on my quest for more like it!  The book is EXTREMELY fragile and rarely removed from its safe haven.  It’s been well-used in its many years of existence.  I actually had an American Family cookbook from the same year, but it was even more fragile, so I donated it to the local historical society here in town.

So my idea, what with all these lovely books, is to make a few recipes from some of them and show you how they turned out!  I’m looking them over and in the next few days should have some interesting ideas.

My husband is terrified.  He’d much rather YOU would

let me feed you!