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!



Miscellaneous Food Stuffs

The frost is coming so I must harvest the mint leaves. What am I going to do with all of these? I made a pot of mint tea but now what? What about putting some in vodka and making mint extract? I read somewhere about making one’s own vanilla extract by putting a vanilla bean into vodka…

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What to do with broken eggs? Went to the grocery store for a few items mostly for baking and when bringing the bags back to the car one dropped. The egg carton popped open and a few eggs rolled onto the parking lot. Oh no! Not the eggs! Well, one was lost completely as it had spilled its guts all over the ground. Three others had cracked their shells but the membrane was intact. Still I felt these needed to be used this same day. Scrambled eggs for supper maybe?

Made a frittata instead. Shredded four small potatoes in my Cuisinart food processor. I only remembered this summer that it has a shredder attachment. Finely diced one onion. Sautéed the onion for five minutes in oil then added the potatoes. I should have squeezed the potatoes drier and coated them with a little oil prior to putting them in the frying pan. I have to stir them and scrape them off the bottom of the pan frequently. I also dice up ½ green bell pepper a small chunk of ham and about 2 ounces of cheese. Crack four eggs into a bowl, pour in ¼ cup milk and whisk. Add a little salt, if you use salt, and some black pepper. When you think the potatoes look brown enough pour all the ingredients together in the fry pan and mix well. I use a cast iron skillet so I can put this directly into the oven, 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Turns out to be tasty and filling.

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I did not look at a recipe for the above but was trying to put together something from memory from cookbooks. I think I had the notion that the potatoes would be crispier like a hash brown. Perhaps if I had lined the cast iron skillet with the potato mixture, baked until crisp, and then added the egg and ham mixture? Sort of like a quiche with a potato crust? I think I saw something like that on a Facebook post from a food/cooking site using muffin tins. So not an original idea of mine.

Speaking of Facebook I find it is a fabulous place to get recipes that one wants to try. Then one can monkey around with the idea and personalize it. I bet women have been doing that in their kitchens since the dawn of time.

Dinners for the rest of the week have not been “recipe” dinners.

blogfoodpics 001Burgeblogfoodpics 002rs: add your own toppings. Hubby added Roquefort or Camembert or other smelly cheese; I added avocado, tomato, and salsa. One night we cut up a kielbasa, smashed potatoes and cooked frozen peas. And tonight is baked fish fillets sprinkled with lemon juice and dill weed, leftover smashed potatoes, and frozen veg.

Here’s dessert! This is from

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Dream job: test kitchen cook!

Here’s a picture of the cats. banana bars 008

Just a random picture I decided to throw in.

I have gained 3-4 pounds since I have been back to baking and not deliberately thinking about calories, portion control, healthy foods, and not eating what is enjoyable. I will just have to start giving away the baked goods.

I finally found something enjoyable. I have been baking but have not been completely satisfied with the outcomes. I made that coffee cake and although it was nice right out of the oven with coffee on the lazy morning, it sat on the counter the rest of the week. Well, part of it did. I took half of it to work and my coworkers ate that half. But the rest just sat there. I admit I nibbled at the Crumble (topping) and sent pieces to work with the hubby but that was more like obligation. I baked bread which is fabulous right out of the oven spread with butter, eaten with dinner, but any leftover sits there in the breadbox. I was not happy with the sourdough bread that I made the other weekend, other than freshly baked. The loaf or boule did not rise well. I baked “Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day” and this was fabulous right out of the oven too. But hubby and I did not gorge ourselves on it and now there is a small piece of this boule sitting along side the sourdough in the bread box. They are not light enough to use in a bread pudding type dish. I may just throw them in the freezer for breadcrumbs or croutons at some future date as long as I don’t clean out the freezer and dispose of them.

I HATE to throw away food!

Banana bars: This is another effort to bake through the KAF 200th Anniversary Cookbook. These are on page 356. Not willing to leave well enough alone, I use whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat, and I add walnuts and leave out the poppy seeds.

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I chose this recipe because I had three over ripe bananas providing their fragrance to my kitchen. I am not sure what it is about KAF but here is another banana recipe that adds cornmeal to the batter.

So I mix all this up and spread it in the pan to bake. Just for fun, I sprinkle some Hershey Special Dark Chocolate Chips on top.

banana bars 010Voila, banana brownies! And these are tasty. I send half of them to work with hubby to prevent me from eating them all and gaining even more pounds!

They are tasty with a glass of cold milk.

This is all well and good but as I mentioned earlier I do not leave well enough alone. I am thinking “pumpkin”. I have about three-quarters of a can of pumpkin in the fridge. This is leftover from a pumpkin smoothie trial earlier this week. I can substitute pumpkin for the banana. Why not? I would need to add spices too.

So here’s “my recipe”. (There may be some pumpkin bar recipe out there so I am not really claiming to invent this. It is my adaptation of the KAF recipe.)

Cream one stick butter with 2/3 cup packed brown sugar and one egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and the pumpkin. (an entire can or 3/4 of a can).Whisk dry ingredients together in separate bowl: 1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour, 1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 Cup cornmeal, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Stir in dry ingredients and mix just til blended. Now stir in 1/2 Cup raisins and 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts. Spread in 10 x 14 jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

This batter was dryer and more difficult to spread and smooth than the banana bars. But with patience I managed to get it spread. I sprinkled it with chocolate chips and baked it in a 350 oven for 22 minutes.

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These have a slightly lumpier appearance and chewier texture. They turned out pretty good. Cool!

Kitchen Bully

That needs five minutes to cook before you add the eggs.

You’re going to put that in there? (with skeptical tone)

I don’t think that’s done.

Can you freeze raw eggs?

That should be enough for four.

It’s not fair of you to eat all of this; it means I don’t get any for leftovers.

You can’t cook it that way!

I was going to use this; why are you using that?

But they’re still frozen! (with scrunched up nose)

I am accused of being a kitchen bully. This is probably true. As long as I stay out of the kitchen when hubby is cooking, all is well. But if I am there “helping”, then I’m maybe not so nice! I should be grateful and I truly am! I just am a strong willed woman with definite opinions! And I don’t shrink from saying them outloud.

So we did go to the kitchen and chop a green pepper and an onion to put with eggs to make a wrap. I chopped ham and peperoni. Putting the veg in the skillet I say one of the above statements. Before that I said something about the size of the skillet he had put on the stove! In response to the “kitchen bully” remark I march over to the other side of the kitchen, an entire four steps away, open the King Arthur Flour Cookbook to something “chocolate” and announce that I will make a cake, so there! Page 281. (The cookbook recipe does not list espresso powder like the website does.) I made the cookbook version.

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This is the pan cake recipe which is similar to the snack cake recipe I have clipped from the back of a flour bag many years ago. I don’t really make the three holes in the flour mixture for the oil, vanilla, and vinegar but pour all the wet ingredients and stir to mix well. Pour it into the greased pan and stick it in the oven. Voila! In 35-40 minutes we have cake. Technically it is Vegan, if that matters to anyone. It is made without butter or eggs.

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Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and serve. Hubby and I eat half a cake while watching Jay Leno’s Garage TV show about classic cars.

We ate half a cake.

Got a problem with that?!

LOL (I think this is “text” for laugh out loud, but in my case it is more like “little old lady”!)

Eat cake; it’s good for you!

I don’t feel like cooking!

This is real life. I come home from work. I think about food. I go to grocery store for a few items. Come home with more than a few items. I went for half and half and cans of pumpkin for pie. I come home with grapes, bananas, apples, cheese, chips, half and half and cans of pumpkin. Oh, and green peppers.

I already made a big pot of spaghetti earlier in the week. Hubby made spaghetti pie which we ate yesterday and there is one in the freezer. We had frozen fish filet sandwiches already this week. There is salad in the fridge but who’s in the mood?

Hubby comes home and eats cheese and chips. We sit on the sofa and play with our iPhones or computer. I peruse many interesting recipes on blogs and other places on the internet. The cat is curled up on the chair awaiting an opening of a new can of catfood. There is still some in their dishes!

I have too many ideas of baked goods to make. I still plan to “bake through” the King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook. I have made several recipes so far and will be using the sour dough bread recipe this weekend as well as the Cheddar Apple Coffee Cake. But what to do this evening?

I am reading a new book that women wrote about learning to cook and how food is important in their family. This is Three Many Cooks by Anderson, Keet, and Damelio. Is it the eating of food or the cooking of food that I love? I think it is the process of producing the food, cooking, baking, preparing. I also love to feed people. I like food, good food, but the social aspect of the meal is something I still strive for. My sister could write a book like that but she is not particularly a writer. Hey, here’s an idea: I could be her ghost writer! I do not remember being taught how to cook. I remember learning that homemade was better, and cheaper, which made it better. Mom gave me a cookbook when I got my first apartment so I could know how to cook vegetables and meats. I remember reading “women’s magazines” and trying out recipes. I learned that cakes were made from scratch and there were all kinds of cookies to make at Christmas. Mom  would make Divinity. My sister can make Divinity. Me, I make fudge!

So here I sit typing away getting hungrier and hungrier. I am most likely going to chop onions and peppers and put them in scrambled eggs. Should I use ham or bacon or pepperoni as well?

That will be my secret!

Harvest…or cheese and crackers for supper!

It was time to harvest the basil. The plant had grown well for us but was looking a little limp. We bought the basil this summer at the end of July since we were camping most of the summer weekends before then. Last year’s basil plant was prolific; the year before…I killed three plants in one summer! No green thumb on these hands!

Hubby brought up the idea that it was time. Okay. Last year I had made walnut pesto. This year I have a small batch of pine nuts languishing in the freezer leftover from some recipe that I made. I have no memory of what it was. We gather what we want to put in the pesto. Looking at recipes gives you this information: basil, olive oil, garlic, nuts, and Parmesan cheese. I pull out the food processor and pluck all the leaves from the plant. They fill about a third of my processor (9 cup capacity) loosely. The recipe I glanced at called for 1/2 cup olive oil so I pour that into the measuring cup. Hubby toasts the pine nuts. And then he chops the garlic. I throw all this into the processor bowl and slowly pour in the oil. I only use 1/2 the oil not wanting it to be too oily. In hind sight I should have used it all. But live and learn. I can always add oil to it when I take pieces out of the freezer. So this is pretty cool, homemade pesto sitting in the freezer just waiting to be used.harvest meal 002

We thought it might be nice to have a little right then. But what do we put it on? We don’t have any crackers and it would be weird on tortilla chips. So we take the stale french baguette and slice it into crostini. I have been trying not to throw out food and was not sure what to do with this stale baguette. I don’t use a lot of bread crumbs which would have been the other idea. So hubby toasts the bread and then we start gathering cheese and bits and pieces from the fridge and pantry. I had just bought a piece of expensive English Stilton Cheese from a fancy cheese shop from my Maine girls’ weekend and we found an unopened package of smoked salmon. Here’s what we made.

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We have Stilton cheese, pepperoni, cheddar, pesto, jalapeno poppers, smoked salmon, apples and grapes.  It was a feast for the taste buds.

harvest meal 004And we finish the evening with pie!

Now what am I supposed to do with all the mint leaves from the prolific mint plant?

Crock Pot Meal

I like cooking in the crock pot. Meals are ready when evening comes. It is convenient and simple. Slow cooking meat this way is a way to turn tougher cuts into tender meals. I usually cook chicken in the crockpot although I have cooked beef. I would like to use it more but to be honest the texture of the meal is similar regardless of what I’ve cooked. It seems to be all “stew-like.” But this does not stop me from preparing meals this way. It is rather an assembled meal and not necessarily really a recipe meal.

It is convenient. I do not necessarily need the convenience in that I have 1 ½ hours at home alone before my husband arrives home from work. I have 45 minutes to an hour in the morning as well. I REFUSE to feel guilty that I have arranged my work to be so close to home. I do recognize that some may call this a luxury and that not everyone can arrange life like this. But I did and I really enjoy it. Work is work but this change saved my sanity from my previous job!

So we had a huge grocery shopping trip this week. And I say “we” because my husband makes it a practice to go shopping with me. Now this is a luxury! Lots of chicken was purchased at my discount grocery store. I have a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters. These work nicely in the crockpot. I have every intention of making my own barbeque sauce and barbeque rubs. I have not done so yet. Well, that is not true. I made one sauce and used it over chicken but it would be better over pork. I am not sure that I like it; it is made without ketchup. My plan is to make a simple sauce in the morning before work. This does not happen. I have about ½ cup tomato  soup leftover and will use that instead.

Here is an assembly of ingredients that make a meal: chicken parts, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomato soup, spice rub, liquid smoke.

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I put all that in the crockpot and cooked it on low for 8 hours then kept it on warm.

Maine weekend and crockpot meal 056And then there are muffins. I thought at first that I would make corn muffins but the KAF 200th Anniversary Cookbook had a wheatgerm muffin and I have wheatgerm in my fridge. So that is what I made. Page 76.

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And then I make pie! Dough from Emily RPCV referenced in previous blog (Savory Pie). And the pumpkin pie from the KAF cookbook. My standard pumpkin pie recipe is from the Betty Crocker cookbook. But I am trying to keep to my goal of baking through this one cookbook.

So I had gone to the grocery to buy a few more items that we forgot at the big grocery shopping trip. I come home and bake and bake. I feed my husband and we have a nice dinner. I make the pie after supper and then need to clean up. He says he is not doing dishes until the morning. Well, I did the dishes this morning since they needed to be done. I am sweeping up the kitchen floor and slightly seething, very slightly, not even seething, more like minor brooding trying not to brood, while my husband is trying to get his iPhone to find local pool halls. I have made his favorite pie! I bring this to his attention and he tells me he works hard enough and he is not going to work at home this evening after working hard all day! And he sometimes feels like Cinderella! This is true for both of us. I just wanted a bit of help cleaning up the kitchen. But it is done and we can relax and wait for the pie to cool down so we can have a slice.

Pie makes everything right. Happy autumn!

The Elusive Biscuit

bread and biscuits 002These are not biscuits. These are no knead dinner rolls from a Betty Crocker website. Very easy, very quick, and very good hot out of the oven. Do not put these in the microwave the next day as they will become hard as rocks. I did not get to eat a leftover roll with my salad at lunch the next day. Oops!

I have not been very successful at making biscuits. They usually end up like hockey pucks. Maybe when first out of the oven and very hot with melted butter they taste okay. I avoid this whole fiasco by baking muffins and popovers instead.

But my quest is to make biscuits that are enjoyable, light and fluffy, and do not have the chemical taste of canned biscuits. I made one of the recipes from KAF 200th anniversary cookbook, page 69, Bert’s Buttermilk Biscuits using the food processor method. They were good. They had a crisp outside. And they were fine the next morning as well. But they were small and were not fluffy.

bread and biscuits 006Getting them ready for the oven and

right out of the oven.bread and biscuits 012

Now for Grandma’s biscuits. My brother asked me not to share the recipe so I won’t. Let us just say it has a heck of a lot of lard in it. I cannot bring myself to use that amount of lard. No, no way! I am looking up biscuit recipes on the internet and in my many cookbooks and there is nothing that comes close to the amount of lard Grandma used, if my brother’s recollection is accurate. What to do?

After a more extensive search I find one, just one, recipe that calls for ½ cup lard AND ½ cup butter. So that is close enough so here goes…but I am still not sure. And those were baked at 500 degrees! Most recipes call for a 400 or 425 degree oven (Fahrenheit).

The other issue is that the “best” recipes are using self-rising flour. Grandma did not use self-rising flour. I don’t have self-rising flour. I do know how to make it myself though. Plenty of instructions on the internet. Here’s one: What to do? Also the best biscuits are made with a sticky dough. I do end up adding a scant ¼ cup more of buttermilk. I bake these in a cast iron skillet. I am careful not to over handle the dough.

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bread and biscuits 022 bread and biscuits 024Here they are.


bigger than the others.

Crumbly, I may have under baked them so I leave them in the oven a few minutes longer. I miss the butter flavor. I am not sure if I would describe them as light. Maybe next time, using half butter. And half the amount of fat! Hubby likes them but would like them to be less crumbly but likes the crustiness. Could be lighter on the inside. Will be great with jelly. He tasted the butter which was brushed on top. I was disappointed in the rise. I think they taste like Grandma, fat and floury!

These are big enough to toast on the griddle the next morning. Be sure to add butter and jam. They still are missing the buttery flavor. The fat and flour fill the mouth.

The verdict: we are not biscuit people. I should go back to muffins, rolls, and popovers. However there are more biscuit options to try. Perhaps sour dough biscuits will be next. My mother cut out recipes from the newspaper many years ago that featured a variety of breads to make with sour dough starter. These are yellowing in one of my notebooks but still legible. A friend from church recently gave me a portion of his starter that he made from scratch (without yeast) two years ago.  There’s also the possibility of getting some self-rising flour. I’ll have to see what strikes my fancy next!