Lunch

Sometimes good food is not about recipes and cooking but about eating.

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Hubby found a store that stocks Daisy Cottage Cheese. Yay! Real ingredients: cultured skim milk, cream, and salt. No guar gum, carageenan, sodium dioxide, etc. Happy us!

My neighbor gave us some little heirloom tomatoes that he is growing. The string beans are also of his crop. A friend of mine gave me some cucumbers from a friend’s garden. Fresh vegetables and I did not have to grow them. Yay!

A simple lunch for a weekday at work: slice the cucumber; quarter the tomatoes; trim the green beans; pile onto a dish of cottage cheese; sprinkle with black pepper; eat.

Absolutely delicious!

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My Simple Tuna Noodle Salad

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Here is a picture of my dill plant. Looks a bit scrawny to me but I don’t really know how dill is supposed to look. (I have not googled it yet.)

In hot humid hazy summer weather I do not like to cook. I do not have air conditioning in my kitchen so using the stove, particularly the oven, can make the place unbearable. I still cook but not long elaborate concoctions that heat up the entire room. This tuna noodle is a simple minimal cooking meal. The only cooking is the pasta.

The simplest version of this is to cook the elbow macaroni, chop a stalk or two of celery, throw in a drained can of tuna, mix with mayonnaise, and you are good to go. Well, I added a few extra ingredients because that is what I do!

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In the beginning:

  • a few stalks of fresh dill; when chopped it was about one tablespoon
  • a bit less than a cup of shredded and chopped carrots
  • 2 cans of solid white tuna in water, drained, and the cans given to the cats to lick clean for a treat; oh and drain the cans into the cat’s dishes so they can have tuna gravy to entice them to eat their dry food which we all know is better for them than the wet stuff…right Felix!!!
  • 3/4 box of elbow pasta; a half box will do; cook according to the instructions which is essentially bring your pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta, let water come back to a boil (I never have good luck with that so mine just simmers along until I remember to test it for al dente before it gets overcooked!)
  • one cup of mayonnaise; I’m pretty sure my Mom would have used Miracle Whip.
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • zest of lemon equalling 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 large Vidalia onion, chopped fine; put the chopped onion in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes to mellow out the sharpness of the raw onion; this actually worked! I had read it somewhere and thought I would give it a try…and it worked! of course if you really like the bite of raw onion in your salads don’t bother with this step.

Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Mix the chopped vegetables and drained tuna in a large bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough to hold all that pasta. Put the mayonnaise in a glass one cup measuring cup. So I drizzled on a tablespoon or so of olive oil to loosen it up. Add the lemon zest and chopped dill to this and make the dressing. Mix the pasta and the dressing in the large bowl with the rest. Salt and pepper to taste. At first taste I found this to be a bit bland so I added the juice of 1/4 of a small lemon and sprinkled on a bunch of dried dill. I was tempted to dump on a bunch of red pepper flakes but I restrained myself.

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And here is the final product. Well not quite final. For serving I put leftover lettuce salad in bowls and piled this on top. For the second meal I put a handful of baby spinach in the bowls and then piled this on top. Then add a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Now say Grace and dig in. Hubby and stepdaughter loved it. This made enough for two meals with extra large servings for three people.

In the future:

  • use more fresh dill, maybe 1/4 cup
  • use more lemon zest and juice; half of a large lemon
  • could add chopped red and green peppers for more color, and crunch
  • try green onions in place of the Vidalia
  • try it with Miracle Whip!

I am enjoying the summer warmth but would like a little relief at night to get the humidity out of the house. So we put the itty bitty AC unit in the window of the bedroom. Now it’s nice and cool to sleep!

 

The Macaroni and Cheese Pot

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We all have memories of food from our past and there are foods that bring back memories for us. I thought I would take the time to write about some of these.

The picture above is the pot that I used bringing up my kids to make their supper of macaroni and cheese. I would use Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from the box. There were often different shapes of the pasta available. This brought tears to my eyes when I saw that my daughter posted that picture and commented on her Facebook page when she used it to make mac and cheese for granddaughter. My son reminded us that dinosaurs were the premium shape. Dinosaurs were all the rage for my son at a certain age. I even have dinosaur cookie cutters! His favorite dinosaur was the Ankylosaurus. Can you name the dinosaurs below?

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march 017“If cows could, they’d give Milnot”. This is the ad for Milnot which is a “nondairy” filled milk product. It was shelf stable and used primarily for cooking and baking. Mom had this as a pantry staple as well. It was probably less expensive than brand name evaporated milk. Milnot would be whipped for “whipped cream” mostly on top of Jell-O for special occasions. Put the mixer beaters and a metal bowl in the freezer in advance. It was also a key ingredient in fudge which would be cooked up in the fudge pot. Now my daughter has the fudge pot AKA the Macaroni and Cheese pot.

I have written some posts on the recipes from my childhood including Best Ever Chocolate Cake, No Bake Chocolate Cookies (in This is Childhood), Missouri Mix, and Candied Orange Peels. And since I have my mom’s recipe notebooks, I probably make a lot of the things she did. I believe my sister has a better handle on what came out of mom’s kitchen since she got to spend more time with her. In high school the grades went on split shifts so I was in school from early in the mornings to noon-ish. Then I babysat in the evenings. My sister had the mornings home with mom and went to school in the afternoon to early evening. Poor mom, she had four kids in four different schools one year!

Growing up, our household used oleomargarine and not butter. When my younger sister was in High School and I had gone away to college, our parents located a farm nearby where they could purchase raw milk. So they bought the milk, skimmed off the cream and Mom made butter. Butter to me had a sour smell and taste. Now, of course, it tastes wonderful, but at first, not so much. I remember bringing frozen homemade butter back with me my junior and senior years at Baylor because I was living in apartments. Later as an adult when I learned that I had high cholesterol there were new products out on the market designed to reduce bad cholesterol, i.e., Smart Balance; spreads made of olive oil, flax seed, and the like. My household prefers real butter but I admit that we did frequently use “butter like substances” as they come in spreadable forms and with the idea that they are heart healthy. They are handy to take on camping trips as well. Another “fun fact” is that cookie dough made solely with butter will crack when sliced frozen. Cookie dough made with Crisco slices neatly right out of the freezer. Mom always had the store brand of “Crisco” to use for baking and frying as well. She fried chicken, beef liver, and steak!

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Mom’s potato salad: she used pickle relish instead of pickles

And now for Miracle Whip. This is a salad dressing that is making a comeback in the grocery market. We did not use mayonnaise growing up, it was always and only Miracle Whip. This would be spread on bread for sandwiches, dolloped on our lettuce wedges, and as a key ingredient in egg salad and potato salad. Miracle Whip was less expensive than mayonnaise and this is probably why it was a staple in our house. Mom grew up in the Great Depression and was very conscious of costs.

mayonaise 002This was also used to make mayonnaise chocolate cake. This cake recipe was developed during the WW2 when eggs and oil were scarce as they went to the war effort. Mom made this cake once in a while. I have made it with Real Mayonnaise as well but it is nothing to write home about, nor was it part of the standard dessert cooking in our home.

 

I remember Mom trying to get us to eat our Cream of Wheat for breakfast by promising a treat afterwards. The treat I remember was green grapes, but she would not tell us what it was before we finished breakfast. I did not like Cream of Wheat. Come to think of it, I don’t think I got to eat any of those grapes! I was stubborn and wouldn’t eat the hot cereal. Now I love oatmeal; I haven’t really had cream of wheat anytime lately.

Food, the stuff of nurture.

Kitchen Gadgets

I like kitchen gadgets. Most of them are not multi-purpose so I try not to get things that are so specific. It is like having that one exotic ingredient in the pantry that gets used once and then is forgotten about. That reminds me, I should go through my spice cabinet and inventory what I have so I can use the ones I have forgotten about.

gadgets2 003My newest gadget is a bread keeper. I have a wonderful old-fashioned bread box with a cutting board in the door similar to the one my mother had and the green one she gave me when I moved away from home. The green one did not have the cutting board in it. My aluminum bread box is supposed to work like this plastic one. There are vents in the sides so crusts stay crisp. The problem is in keeping the cut side from drying out.  I saw this bread keeper in a magazine and have seen it in catalogs over the years. I wondered if it would be good for keeping home made bread fresh.

But what is the definition of “fresh”? no mold? soft and fluffy? not hard as a rock?

 

Here I have several bread types in the gadget: home made bread (6 days old), biscuits (5 days old; from Popeye’s; I still have not mastered the fabulous biscuit!), and home made rolls (3 days old). I have examined them and there is no mold. They are not rock hard, but do not appear soft and fluffy. The exterior is beginning to feel stale. This means that they are edible and will need toasting to perk them up. So…what to do with them?

I planned on making chili for supper and cornbread, but why make more bread when there is this perfectly useful bread here? My son suggested that we put these on top of the chili to steam them. I used to make a Hungry Boy Casserole for him when he was growing up. This consisted of browned ground beef, onions, peppers, and a can of tomatoes baked with biscuits on top. Since these biscuits and rolls are already baked they may get a bit soggy but they will soften. Perhaps they will be like dumplings in the chili. Let’s see what happens!

Do you like kitchen gadgets? I have a number or them. I like the old-fashioned types: ricers, butter cutters, juicers. I even have a shredder. This is like a mechanical food processor. I picked this up for $3 at a tag sale. I used it a couple of times but it is a bit awkward.

I think there are basic kitchen gadgets/appliances one needs. I went years without a food processor or a blender. I absolutely love my KitchenAid stand mixer, especially the bread hook! The meat grinder attachment came with my hubby and we have used that to make breakfast sausage. Before the stand mixer I had a portable mixer, hand held. We have an immersion blender which is nice for making whipped cream and blending protein shakes. You can also make your own tomato juice by sticking it in a can of tomatoes! My Mom had one of those “old-fashioned” hand cranked mixers. It could blend eggs but not dough of any kind. I could ramble on and on about kitchen gadgets but I’ll stop now.

Go forth and cook!

 

Georgian Stew: Chanakhi

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For New Year’s Day my son cooked a Georgian Stew: Chanakhi. I am not talking about the Southern state in the United States but of the country in the Caucasus. This had several inspirations and is an adaptation of the recipe in the book he gave me for Christmas which I read in just a few days. He then read it in a few days and decided this was something he would make for us.

But the book is not the only inspiration. My son served in the Peace Corps in Armenia (southern neighbor of Georgia) from 2010-2012. My sister and I visited him there in 2011. We spent the first few days of our visit in Tbilisi Georgia before traveling into Armenia and staying in Ijevan and then Yerevan.

So I have a bit of nostalgia around my visit to these countries in the region. I get a thrill when there is a reference to the Caucasus in books or shows or the news.

The book is The Art of Soviet Cooking: a memoir of food and longing by Anya Von Bremzen.Chanakhi 013

 

This is a fabulous readable history of the Soviet Union and the way that family experienced the times and food with a few recipes given in the back of the book.

Here in the U.S.A. I grew up in the era of “Better Dead than Red” and fears of Communism and Communists, a bit later than the McCarthy Era, but close enough. In this day and age the fear is of Terrorists and how hidden they can be. Anyway back to the Soviets…they were supposedly “the Evil Empire”. But when you meet everyday people and hear from them, they are just people living their lives the best they can, just like us.

Chanakhi 001While in Georgia that year I bought a cookbook of Georgian Cuisine. The translations of the recipes are not easy to follow in that the exact ingredients and amounts are not always given. Chanakhi is in this book and can be cooked in individual clay pots or “the boiler”. I am not sure what “the boiler” is but it sounds like a large Dutch oven or stock pot. “Sheep fat tail” is not something I can find in my local grocery store. Chanakhi is basically a lamb stew with onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. Pork is more affordable than lamb so we use a Boston Butt.

The recipe we try to follow is from the Soviet book and not the Georgian. It is more “American kitchen friendly” than the book I bought in Georgia although it is a very complex recipe. This takes all afternoon to make and we fear having to eat late at night but this does not turn out to be the case. Recipe begun at 2:00 PM and we eat by 6:30 PM.

  • 3-3 ½ pounds Boston Butt Bone-in Roast (my son felt that a bone-in cut would make a tender stew; it should fall off the bone on its own at the end of cooking time)
  • 1 large red onion and 1 medium yellow onion, cut in wedges
  • 1 large eggplant (could not find Asian eggplants in the produce section)
  • 3 potatoes (russet, because that is what is in the pantry), cut in wedges
  • 1 28 ounce can of whole peeled plum tomatoes and its juice; we blend a few of the remaining tomatoes into juice for the second addition);about 1 ½ cups juice needed
  • Olive oil; a few tablespoons
  • ½ teaspoon salt; kosher salt, several grinds of pepper; several shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 12 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup each of freshly chopped parsley, basil, and cilantro (we used home dried basil of about 2-3 Tablespoons, the other herbs were the fresh bunches from the produce section of the grocery store)
  • One crushed bay leaf (son’s addition, just because)

Now get ready for the preparation, assembly, and cooking! To start there is a toast with vodka chased by a pickle.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. This stew will be cooked on top of the stove and then in the oven. I have a 12 inch Cast Iron Dutch oven that will be the cooking vessel.This thing weighs about 20 pounds! But the son can handle it just fine.

Mince the garlic; chop the herbs; mix together in a bowl with salt, gratings of black pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Cut the onions into large wedges or quarters.

Chanakhi 021Rub a handful of the herb mixture on the meat with a little of the olive oil. Chanakhi 028Pack the meat and the onion into the pot stirring them up to coat with the oil and herbs. Cook on high (on top of the stove) for 3-4 minutes, then cover and cook for 12 minutes. Turn the meat over and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Chanakhi 034Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 cup tomato juice, another handful of herbs and 1 Tablespoon of the red wine vinegar. Bring to a good simmer and then put the pot in the oven. Cook until the meat is tender. We checked it at 1 hour and 20 minutes and it was good.

Chanakhi 032Meanwhile char the eggplant over the stove burner for 2-3 minutes. Our big eggplant took about 5 minutes. My son contemplated skinning this but did not.

This was then cut into 4 sections, slit and stuffed with some of the herb mixture. Potatoes were cut into wedges and tossed with the herb mixture. Four of the remaining canned tomatoes were cut into fourths and the two remaining after those were churned into juice with the immersion blender.

The potatoes and the eggplant were added to the pot along with the remaining tomato juice and vinegar, and a handful of herbs after the initial hour and 20 minutes in the oven. Now this cooked in the oven for 30 minutes. Then add the quartered tomatoes and the remaining herb mixture. Cover this and bake for 20 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 400, uncover the pot and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving straight from the pot.

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enjoying the fruits of his labor

 

This took us all afternoon because we were not sure of the steps and had to double check the next step over and over. It took us just under 4 hours. For the future after the prepping of all the ingredients, this would take about 2 ½ to 3 hours. Also, for the future, we would use the small eggplant, peel and scrape out the seeds and then just slice it so that it can mix with the other vegetables and not stand out quite so much with all its seeds and skin. I think cooking it all in the Dutch oven on top of the stove would be my preference as well.

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I made a batch of popovers to go with this and the meal was a hit with all who partook.

Steak and Cake

Somehow over the past 10 or so years our Thanksgiving meal became the pre-Thanksgiving feast for family to gather around. This is the result of blending families and the kids growing up and becoming adults. And when the son-in-law entered the family his birthday needed to be celebrated and then the grandchild was born all around the Thanksgiving holiday. So we don’t cook a turkey until Christmas because everyone will go to families with turkey feasts the next day.

So it is steak and cake…and pumpkin pie!

This year we bought a top butt uncut for $4.59 a pound. Hubby cuts it into the steaks for the Family Feast with plenty of meat to spare. This was a family time so I forgot to take a picture of the cooked steaks. And there were no leftovers!

The cake will be a rainbow sprinkle cake made from scratch. I do not yet have a “go to” plain cake recipe. The first year I bought the cake mix and pre-made frosting. My step daughters and hubby came home and caught me making a cake from a box!!! Horror of horrors! They thought they were in the wrong kitchen or possibly aliens had taken over my body! I did this for a couple of years so they got used to it and son-in-law got the birthday cake he requested. So this year it is made from scratch. I found a nice yellow cake recipe that I had made for our Easter meal this past spring. I figure I can just add rainbow sprinkles. Homemade cakes tend to be denser than cake-mix cakes, at least the way I make them. This particular cake is dense and moist. I am pleased that it came out so well because I had my granddaughter helping measure and add the ingredients. She is almost two so the exact amount of baking soda and salt are questionable.

What to do to frost the cake? The son-in-law announced that he too is lactose intolerant or sensitive. So no cream cheese or dairy, except butter, will be required. I do not like to make marshmallow frosting because I do not do it well. So I get out a standard Buttercream frosting recipe from my 1950 Rumford Cookbook. This is a book that my grandmother used. There are notations in her handwriting and a draft of Grandpa King’s obituary on lined writing paper as well. I substitute soymilk in the ingredient list.

Butter Cream Frosting: Cream 6 Tab butter until very soft; gradually add 3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar; mix in 2 teas vanilla extract;  add 5 Tab cream or evaporated milk; beat until very light and fluffy and of good spreading consistency.

Thanksgiving2015 018Buttercream is very sweet but seems to mellow some after being placed on the cake and left to sit for a few hours. Decorations are courtesy of the granddaughter.

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And there is pie! A few years ago my son and I made two pies to determine if the Cook’s Illustrated magazine “improved” pumpkin pie was truly an improved pie. The crusts were store bought refrigerated crusts that you unroll. We used the Pillsbury brand crust for the “improved” pie and the store brand one for the other. The standard pie recipe that I had used was from my Betty Crockers’ Cookbook (1978). This is a basic cookbook found in ordinary kitchens all over America, nothing fancy or special about it. For Cook’s we ground fresh spices and it has sour cream added. It came out looking smoother and the aroma was better than Betty’s .

We had blind taste testing after the meal. Betty Crocker won hands down for best tasting! The lesson here is that those basic standard recipes can often be the best. I suppose that is why they become the standards and the basics.

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I had posted the Steak and Cake feast menu and recipes in sleeve protectors and hung it on the kitchen cabinet. I figured folks could take a look and help out with things.

Son cooked the Brussels sprouts. These were wonderful! And to think the recipe came from the local grocery store coupon flyer. Basically skillet roast the sprouts with bacon, onion, garlic, and whole cranberries.

I made the sour dough rolls and these were nice and light and buttery.Thank you KAF!

Daughter made the green salad. Stepdaughters worked on the mashed potatoes and the baked sweet potatoes. And the sauteed mushrooms.

Hubby and son-in-law supervised the grilling of the steaks.

All in all it was hectic and fun and crowded and I would not have it any other way.

Soup for the Soup Kitchen

 

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Intermixed among my Mom’s recipe clippings are hints and sayings that she also must have found important. Here is one I remember.

My church is serving dinner at the local soup kitchen today. I have made a batch of soup. Local churches and other organizations take turns serving a Sunday evening dinner and providing all the necessary items. This is love in action. People are served food because they show up and are hungry. No vetting necessary.

This church organizes the meal to be served. Another church I used to attend made it more of a potluck. Either way, it feels good to do this. And instead of thinking that is a bad thing to do something like this because it feels good, the end result is that people get fed. People feel cared for.

The ladies put together “soup kits” for those of us who chose to cook.

The cook supplied the ground beef and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I am thankful that my children, all of them, will be home altogether for our Wednesday evening Family Feast of Steak and Cake. (I just came up with that name this year.) I have a lot more that I can be thankful for: a job, a wonderful loving husband, the faith instilled in me by my parents, a car, a home, supportive friends and family, a beautiful granddaughter, and much more. And I have a fridge full of food and plenty to eat.

Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell.

While other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.

With health, and hope, and happiness, we shouldn’t want to fuss.

For by this stack of evidence, God’s very good to us!