A New Start

Hello readers. When I started this blog a few years ago I had never meant it to be all about recipes. Yet somehow it became a recipe blog and I appreciate all of you who follow and read. I sometimes do try out new recipes. I often try out your recipes. And I cook and bake the same things over and over again.

This is a new year and I want to make a new beginning. I titled my blog my kitchen/my thoughts because I like to sit in my kitchen and think. I don’t always think about food but I do a lot. I would like to do my essays in two parts, one is on food and one about thoughts of life. I’m going out on a limb here because I now have to come up with witty, profound, insightful, smart, sharp, keen, knowing, penetrative, and savvy essays. (See how I used a thesaurus there?) And are you all interested in reading these? I personally like to read books that are the memoirs of the author. They usually have a theme and are not a “stream of consciousness” rambling on and on. I am afraid that my thoughts may fall to the latter. We’ll see how it goes, shall we?

Part A: food, and drink, sort of

So I am doing “Dry January” out of curiosity and to jump start a bit of weight loss by eliminating the empty calories in booze. So far, so good. Only one Friday evening after a stress filled work week did I think it would be nice to have a glass of wine. But I refrained. I did read an article about how some folks are not abstaining completely for the month and are still feeling good about their choices. Hubby said to me “You’re an adult; you can have a glass of wine if you want.” This is true but I want to stick to my commitment to myself. I will be breaking this fast on the last day of the month as I have an after work gathering with friends. With that in mind I think I can hold out. The challenge will be if some work colleagues go drinking after work this week to celebrate/mourn the departure of one to another agency.

For a mocktail I was pouring myself a diet ginger ale in a rocks glass. Hubby suggested adding a splash of bitters for a grown-up taste. That worked out well. My new go-to mocktail. I wonder if the bartender will make that for me if I go out to Trivia night this week.

I have ginger beer and club soda in the fridge. I forgot the lemons and limes for the twist. I need to remember some of the drinks I was looking at on the internet. Diet coke with a lemon twist is also a staple.

Part B: on losing weight

In the new year I want to lose weight and get fit. Fit in my mind means exercise more and feel stronger than now. To do that I am counting calories using an app on my phone called Lose-it. I use the basic free app as it is enough for my purposes. I am feeling accountable by using this. Thus far I have gone over my calorie allotment only once this last week.

I was contemplating taking you lovely readers on this weight loss journey with me, checking in with you about how it is going. And then I thought about listing my beginning weight and got hesitant. Why is that? Do men have as much hesitancy to talk about the actual numbers?

I have always weighed heavier than other people guess me to be. I don’t really have “big bones” but I remember weighing 102 pounds in junior high with other girls my same size weighing 10 pounds less. Years ago I had joined TOPS as my mother had before me. At the weigh in there were older women obviously thicker and shorter than I and their weight was less than mine. Hmmm?

It is the same with clothing sizes. I have never worn a size 0 or 3 or 6 and barely an 8. The patterns I bought when sewing my own clothes in junior high were size 8 and then size 10. I was a standard size 12 (in sewing patterns) through high school, college, and up until I had my first child. Now standard patterns do not fit my body shape. The body morphs in lots of places as one ages. I have had adult friends who also wear smaller sizes and I thought I appeared trimmer than they. Sizes have changed over the years. My Cadette Girl Scout skirt back in the day was a size 10. It looks like a child size 6-7 when I look at it today! I know that pattern sizes run bigger in number than off the rack clothing but I’m not even going to tell you that number!

So I have measured my waist and weighed myself. I most likely will not share the exact numbers with you unless I make a significant change. Wish me luck!

Have a blessed and happy 2020!

2019 plans: also Coleslaw, Pumpkin Pie, and Hoppin’ John

Happy New Year to all. I hope to write more, play Solitaire less, Facebook even less, and maintain Faith, Hope, and Love for all.

My sister had an idea a few years ago to cook through a cookbook in a year. I never could choose which of my 50+ books to use, but this year I will use Betty Crocker as my go-to book. This does not mean I will cook each and every recipe, nor each recipe exactly, but will use this standard American Cookbook as the first source of inspiration. For example, if I want to make to make pork chops I will peruse this book’s recipes to determine how to fix them. So I did make a breaded pork chop and Betty instructed to bake them on a rack in the baking pan in the oven.  I did and they turned out nicely. I failed to take a picture so you must take my word for it.

Hubby was grilling ribs. Cole slaw is a nice side dish. I bought a package of broccoli slaw to use. I made a combination of Betty’s Coleslaw and her Old-Fashioned Cabbage Salad from page 138, plus ingredients from a variation.

  • 1/2 package broccoli slaw
  • 1 apple cored and diced
  • 1/4 shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of celery salt
  • a few grinds of black peppercorns

My go-to pumpkin pie is Betty’s. I have made it before https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2017/03/14/pi-day/. The problem I had this time is that the crust did not seem to bake through on the bottom. The edges were beautiful. What did I do wrong? I have never pre-baked the crust for pumpkin pie.

Hoppin’ John is on page 226. I did not use this recipe because this traditional New Year’s Day meal is made of rice, black-eyed peas, and pork in many different proportions and variations. I used bacon and added onion and spinach. The sprinkling of red pepper flakes was the only real thing I took from Betty.

Homemade Mince Pie

Good morning readers. I just ate the most light and airy 210 calorie Brioche bun from a package from my Aldi grocery store. Heavenly! I have never made brioche. I do have a Fleischmann’s yeast recipe but why bake when one can buy the heavenly stuff? (Okay, there are plenty of reasons to do so if one is so inclined.) The Brioche bun goes very well with morning coffee.

Hubby wanted a mincemeat pie made with fruit and not meat. I’ve never had mincemeat made with meat. I’ve used jarred mincemeat for cookies before. I have made a plum based mincemeat before from a newspaper food column. I am not sure how long ago nor where the copy of that column is. So if Hubby is to have his pie, I needed to do research. I chose to look through my cookbooks instead of the web. I thought the older cookbooks would be the way to go but they had the meat in the mince. So this is based on the recipe from The Joy of Cooking 1997 edition. (So that is 20 years old but I have much older cookbooks (1940-1970) as well as some published in this century. It’s all perspective.

I made adjustments to the recipe so it is not Joy’s, it’s mine. And I had Hubby help since there was a lot of chopping involved and I had to figure proportions and get the ingredients together.

  • 3 cups roughly chopped dried fruit; we used raisins, cranberries, dates, cherries, and apricots; I know these are small but chop them some more anyway
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped fine
  • 2 largish pieces of crystallized ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoon) butter
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. It’s mostly just chopping and then throwing everything into a pan. 

in the beginning

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will come together and the bottom of the pan will be almost dry when scraped. This smells wonderful. Let cool. 

after 20 minutes

Prepare pie crusts for a covered pie. This part is not homemade although I do know how to make and have one homemade pie dough disk in the freezer, but I needed two. So I have “emergency pie crusts” in the form of the “just roll and bake” type. I had rolled out the bottom crust into my favorite 9-inch pie pan and placed it in the fridge. I saw this, I think, on the GBBO or other baking show. This is supposed to help prevent soggy bottoms.  

Scrape the mince mixture into the bottom crust and spread evenly. Top with the  other crust any way you like. This could be lattice, solid, decorative. Cut vents or use a pie bird in a solid top crust. I thought I would be festive so got out the Christmas cookie cutters. Brush top with egg wash if desired: one egg or egg yolk with a splash of water. I also sprinkled the top with Demerara sugar.

In hind sight I would have cut the top crust differently but I am satisfied with the results. Paul and Pru would think it is a little sloppy, so no Star Baker for me!

should have put a star in the center

Bake the pie at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Then lower to 350 degrees F and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire rack. (I think this is also to prevent soggy bottom.) Serve warm with ice cream.

Apple Crisp

Fall is in the air! I know this because I have gotten out a bunch of cookbooks and have gone to the library and checked out a few as well. I think about baking; I bake; I think about baking some more.

Apples: we bought some nice locally sourced Gala apples as these are one of our favorites for eating. It is a portable fruit. Hubby goes off to work with an apple, a piece of cheese, and granola bars, none of which is homemade. We then bought five pounds of more apples, also locally sourced, with the express purpose of making apple pies, muffins, tarts, etc.

So this week’s apple recipe is an Apple Crisp. This is from King Arthur Flour’s 200th Anniversary Cookbook. They had posted one on line but I think that may be different. Not sure. Anyway this is a good one. I did add my own flair to it, though.

  • 4 cups chopped apples, peeled (KAF said this was about 8 apples, so I peeled, cored, and chopped exactly 8 apples.)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice mix (my addition: original recipe called for 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp allspice)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I melted mine)
  • 2 Tab. chopped candied ginger (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (my addition)

Put chopped apples in lightly greased (or sprayed) 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle on the cranberries and the candied ginger. Blend the dry ingredient and add the butter. Melted butter (somewhat cooled) mixes in nicely. Stir until all ingredients are not dry. Put this on top of the apples. I patted it down like a crust. Bake 35 minutes at 375 degrees F.

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This came out well. Hubby said it had a “grown up taste”, not sure what that means. The topping was crispy and contrasted with the apples very well. In future I would reduce the brown sugar to 3/4 cup sugar as I think the topping doesn’t need that much sweetness. We did not have ice cream in the house and that would add a nice finish to this Crisp.

Not Tuna Salad

We were going to make tuna noodle salad to have for dinner on one of these hot summer evenings. Hubby likes to put raw onion in these salads; I can do without. But we have Vidalia sweet onions in the pantry and these are easier to eat raw. Hubby says to let him make the salad as he knows how to. I abide by his wishes and agree to just cook the elbow noodles so they would be cooked and chilled for his return home from work.

But this did not turn out to be tuna noodle salad made with elbow pasta…

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So first of all, I found no elbow pasta in my pantry. I had two whole boxes in there recently, or so I thought. I did have these curly pasta, cavatelli, capatelli, something like that. I cooked all of that up; it was almost the entire pound package.

Hubby comes home and I start looking for the tuna. We have no tuna in the pantry; we have only one can in the Camper. This is not enough so he searches through the fridge for his ingredients. He leaves the tuna out altogether.

Can you guess what is in there? I have no clue what spices and herbs he used. But it was a very tasty dish and we had it for two suppers.

I do know some of the ingredients. He used broccoli, green pepper, Vidalia onion, shredded cheese, chunks of cheddar cheese, chunks of a beef summer sausage, and carrots.

 

 

Hubby’s hors d’oeuvres

Hubby had a food event at work. He was to bring something. These little treats are his go-to. Super simple and tasty, with a little spicy bite!

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  • one package ham slices, 14 ounces
  • one package cream cheese, 8 ounces
  • jalapeno peppers from jar, as many as suits your taste

Soften the cream cheese; chop the peppers. Combine these using some of the pepper juice to make a spread. Spread on slices of ham. Roll up lengthwise and cut into thirds. Serve with toothpicks.

Spaghetti Pie

Hello all! I have not posted for awhile. One would think that writing would be a good way to get relief from the stress and burn out from work, but I apparently did not have the discipline to do so. So here I am again. One of the difficulties is that I will make and bake the same things again and again. There’s not much new or interesting in writing about that. I searched my blog and do not believe that I have told you about Hubby’s way of managing leftover spaghetti. Techniquely this is not “spaghetti” pie in that I made it with elbow macaroni but this will have to do.

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So on a Monday I sliced up two green peppers, one red pepper, and two onions. I put these in the crock pot along with one 14.5 ounce can of stewed tomatoes, one 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, and 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning. Oh, and 6 sweet Italian sausage links. These cooked on low while I was at work for 8-10 hours. The aroma was wonderful when I walked in the door in the late afternoon.

When I put all this together I was not sure if we would be eating the sausages on bread as sandwiches or over pasta. Being uncertain when I got home I cooked too much pasta. And Hubby was correct, we did not have spaghetti noodles, but we had oodles of elbow macaroni noodles. We had our dinner of pasta and sausage sauce.

Leftovers make a spaghetti pie. Depending on the amount of leftovers we will alter the amount of additives. Lots of leftovers make a 9 x 13 inch pan. Not so much, we use a pie pan.

Gather any leftover meats and vegetables and cheese you need to use up. We’ve had a leftover pork chop, ham, breakfast sausage in our pie before. Clean out that produce drawer,  mushrooms and half chopped onions work well here, carrots too. Add these to your leftover pasta. If needed add a can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. I use 2 cups or so frozen mixed vegetables also. Mix in 2 eggs for a pie pan, 4 eggs for the bigger pan. Place the entire mixture into your pan. Top with grated or sliced cheese if desired. Cover with foil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes. Dinner is served!

 

Dry-aged steaks

I was reading, again, my various Cook’s Illustrated magazines looking for seasonal recipes to try. A magazine reader had written in about dry-aged steaks and wondered if this could be done at home. (Reference the March-April 2010 edition of the magazine). The editors replied about their efforts and I decided to give it a try.

  • 2 top sirloin steaks (about 6 ounces each?)

Wrap thoroughly with cheesecloth and place on a rack in the back of the refrigerator (where it is coldest) for four days. Pan sear and enjoy. Supposedly these are tender and intensely flavorful like the more expensive dry-aged steaks. Cook’s used 2 rib-eye and 2 strip steaks.

  • I put mine in the fridge on a Monday and we cooked them on a Saturday so that was a bit longer than the magazine.
  • I wrapped mine while they were still frozen.

  • They had a nice flavor but were not particularly moist or tender.
  • Hubby says the verdict is still out as these were some of the leftover pieces from a top sirloin butt that he had cut up earlier this year.
  • He would like to try this with rib-eyes.

 

Chicken Vegetable Casserole

Greetings my dear readers! This is an updated version of a casserole I used to make when I first started a family many years ago. I am not sure where I got this but it is one of those canned soup recipes. And back then I used canned soups. I don’t anymore and haven’t for a long time. I have learned how to make my own cream sauce. I thought I would share this with you all. I had thawed chicken thighs and didn’t want to do another lemon chicken recipe. So here is what’s for dinner.

Original recipe: 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 pound large cut vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, shredded cheese if desired, and one cut up chicken.

Here’s my update:

  • 8-10 medium sized chicken thighs; I wanted to be “healthy” so took the skins off.
  • 1/2 super large bag of frozen Normandy style vegetables: zucchini and yellow squash, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower; use at least two pounds of large cut vegetables. You could cut fresh vegetables for this as well.
  • (I could have added about  4 ounces of mushrooms but the ones I had smelled too earthy for my liking.)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • generous sprinkling of seasonings of your choice; I used Herbs de Provence; it is my new go-to herb mixture
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt; I threw this in at the last minute to add a creamy “healthiness”
  • 1 cup shredded cheese; I used a mixture of cheddar.

Super simple to make: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, or oil it if you prefer. Place your vegetables in here. Place your chicken on top of the vegetables. Make your sauce.

Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Add broth. Sprinkle on your seasoning or herbs. Mix the cornstarch with the half-and-half. Add to pan and bring just to boil. This will not be thick but on the verge of thickening. Pour the sauce on top of the chicken. This looked thin to me so I smeared the yogurt on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over this.

Bake for at least one hour. Test chicken for done-ness with meat thermometer: 165-175 for thighs.  Dinner is served. This has your vegetables and your protein. Rice or egg noodles could be a side which would be nice with the sauce.

Enjoy!

The Feast: the savory and the sweet

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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the savory

  • green salad (every item green) dressed with lime juice and olive oil
  • grilled steak
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • homemade rolls
  • mashed potatoes
  • autumn mixed-grains bake with butternut squash and cranberries
  • quinoa salad with dried apricots
  • sauteed mushrooms and onions in butter and red wine

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the sweet

  • rainbows sprinkles birthday cake from a box mix for the 4 year old and the 34 year old
  • vanilla ice cream with real ingredients anyone would recognize
  • tofu chocolate pudding for the dairy-free
  • pumpkin pie (the Betty Crocker standard)
  • apple pie with an oatmeal crumb topping
  • whipped cream freshly whipped from a carton of whipping cream (the bowl and whisk kept in the freezer beforehand)

I am thankful that we have enough food, actually more than enough. I am humbled that through my church I can take part in feeding hungry people a spaghetti dinner every week. I am thankful that my son and daughter were home to join us for the pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday feast this year. I am thankful for a loving Hubby, our home and our neighbors, our jobs, and our pets Leo and Squeaky.

I am thankful for all you who read my blog. I am thankful to get to know a little bit of each of you by reading yours.

And there are many more blessings I am thankful for. I will try to be grateful each day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.