Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cooking with the Crock Pot

It was asked on one of the FetLife groups about if anyone used a crock pot anymore. Elsewhere I was asked how I cook pork chops and chicken in the crock

I use my crock pot at least once a week -- but during the winter often several times a week. I have made oatmeal and desserts in mine. Baked beans and ribs are always great in the crock pot. I do use mine to make soups and stews in the winter a lot but I do also use it to cook meat entrees year around. I like using it during the summer as it doesn't seem to heat the kitchen up like the oven does. I have 2 crock pots well 4 if you count the one with wax in it for SM play and another for wax to use in art.

For super easy but tasty...Pork Chops or chicken I just placed the meat in the bottom, cut up onions and garlic and placed them in the pot and then sprinkled it all with some pepper and maybe another seasoning like thyme. And then cooked on low for 6 to 8 hours (really until when I try to pick them up with a fork they almost fall apart).

Other things I have done with either pork chops or chicken: pour some Italian dressing on them or a can of cream of mushroom soup. Spread hoisin sauce on them (it is like a Chinese bbq). Sprinkle them with teryaki and/or soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Sprinkle them with grillmate. Or spread a little Dijon mustard on them. Cooked them with a can of crushed tomatoes and chopped peppers (good to served over rice). Pour some balsamic vinegar on them. Cooked them with chopped potatoes, onions, green beans and carrots and season like I would a roast.

Chicken thighs - my favorite way to eat them is honey lemon but Master isn't a fan of lemon. All I did for that though is cut up a lemon and squeeze it over the thighs and then put them in the pot after I squeezed them as it releases good flavor still. And then drizzled honey over them. Add chopped onions and garlic.

I slice up cheap steak and put it in the crock with peppers and onions and serve on hoagie buns with cheese.

Lately we have had diced pork on sale for cheaper then ground hamburger. I have been putting that in the crock. I did one meal recently with teryaki sauce and soy sauce and then mixed it into some fried rice. I have done a Mexican dish with the diced pork, can of diced tomatoes, pinto beans or black beans, chilies, onion, garlic and spices served it on tortilla with cheese.

Really I don't think you can go wrong with a crock pot. They are easy to use and make a nice hot meal without lots of work. I know I am glad to have a crock pot.

**top photo -- I had a huge pork loin that I ended up splitting into like 4 different meals. One portion though after cooking in the crock I shredded it and froze it. And then took it out and put in the crock with same mixture I describe above - diced tomatoes, black beans, chilies, onion and garlic. Added cumin too. And then served it on tortillas with cheese.

second photo -- is of the honey lemon chicken...I had added a few sprinkles of a citrus grillmate.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cleaning Your Closet

I just read a tip that I thought was interesting. For organizing your closet and getting rid of things you don't wear.

You basically buy 2 different colored hangers. And you start everything out on one color. When you wear it, wash it and return it to the closet, it gets put on the other color hanger. Then at the end of 6 months or a year clothes still hanging on that original color hanger get an evaluation of why you even have in your closet since you didn't wear it.

My personal thoughts on this though...having all those extra hangers around from that first set would start to annoy me. I hate having lots of empty hangers they get all tangled into each other. But it is a good way to actually SEE what you wear - having that tangible visible proof that something didn't get worn is harder to ignore then just living in denial and saying oh I will wear it soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

I give this book 5 stars although I feel the title is misleading (not really 5 minutes a day). Otherwise this book is FANTASTIC. It is one I would like to own. I have only made the master recipe so far but it worked really well. I even did them in loaf pans instead of free form and also used it for a pan of cinnamon rolls.

I have a bread machine that I love and use often but what stops me from using it a lot is - time even though it does save time. With this book it tells you how to make up a big batch of "wet" dough and store it in your fridge for 5 to 14 days (depending on recipe) and then pull from it and make bread daily or every other day - whatever works for you.

It says 5 minutes a day because you pull the dough off the big batch you made already and shape - in 5 minutes. But the rising time is still quite long so don't think just because you pulled it out that in 40 minutes to an hour you will have fresh bread. It took my bread often 2 hours to raise to the size I wanted it.

I live in high altitude and this bread still turned out perfect. But the book really helps you trouble shoot if you are having problems and it helped me not feel so intimidated by baking bread without my bread machine. I feel the recipes of this book are going to be mainstays in Master's home. I don't doubt there will always be a tub of dough going in our fridge.

I like really light colored bread but this bread would have been fine baking it longer to give it a dark crust.

EDIT: 1/7/09 - Amazon has this book on sale! It is normally $27.95 and they have cut it to $16.77.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What to bring to Potlucks or Parties

A question asked on FetLife Domestic Servitude group what do you make to take to potlucks or parties?

Corn Souffle
1 (16 oz.) can whole corn, undrained
1 (16 oz.) can creamed corn
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1 c. sour cream
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
2 slightly beaten eggs

Mix until blended. Bake at 350 degrees in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.

Potluck Potatoes
1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed - I don't use the shredded but you can
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish.

In a medium bowl mix crushed cornflakes and melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole.

Bake covered in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Bacon Water Chestnuts
1 pkg. bacon cut in half
1 can (8 oz.) whole water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup miracle whip/salad dressing
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts; secure with toothpicks. Place in shallow baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients; pour over water chestnuts. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

Pizza Margherita
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. plum Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 12" uncooked dough crust
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 fresh basil leaves cut into julienne strips
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Combine 2 Tbls. olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and salt in bowl. Allow to marinate while making dough. Brush dough crust lightly with olive oil. Top with cheese, then tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated 500F oven on pizza stone for 8−10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and top with Parmesan cheese, then basil. Cool on a wire rack for 2−3 minutes before cutting into squares before serving.

Taco Dip
2 - 8 oz. packages of Cream Cheese
2 cups Salsa
2 cups Cheddar Cheese
Optional: Browned hamburger with taco seasoning.

Spread cream cheese on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread salsa on top of cream cheese and then top with cheddar cheese. Bake in the over until cheese is melted and bubbly. I have also added the taco seasoned hamburger. Spread cream cheese on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Then add brown taco seasoned hamburger. Salsa and then cheese. It has been a hit both ways. Serve with tortilla chips.

Crab Rangoon
Okay this is a guess on some of the measurements as I just usually mix and taste until I get it to the flavor I want. Makes about 90-95 crab ragoons

16 ounces cream cheese
16 ounces fresh crab meat, canned crab meat, drained and flaked or artificial crab meat
1 -2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/4 cup green onions, finely sliced
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
sugar, to taste

1 package wonton wrappers
1 small bowl filled with water for wetting wontons
Oil for deep-frying

Combine and mix crab, cream cheese, soy sauce, green onions, garlic and sugar. Place teaspoonful of mixture in middle of a wonton wrapper. Moisten edges and draw up opposite corners to meet and form a package. Make sure all edges are sealed. Cover the completed Crab Rangoon with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out while preparing the rest.

Heat wok or pan and add oil for deep-frying. When oil is ready (the temperature should be between 360 - 375 degrees), carefully slide in the Crab Rangoon, taking care not to overcrowd. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool and serve.

(To make ahead: The filling can be prepared up to a day ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or the wontons can be filled and refrigerated up to one day ahead of time before cooking. The wontons can also be prepared up to the deep-frying stage and frozen for up to 3 months. Cook the frozen wonton according to the instructions above, adding a few minutes to the cooking time).

Spicy Pecans
3 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300°. In a mixing bowl, combine melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, chili powder, curry powder and salt. Add the pecans to the mixture and stir until thoroughly coated. Spread pecans onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and lightly toasted. Serve warm. (The Spicy Pecans may be reheated in the oven or microwave.) Makes 3 cups.

Sour Cream Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sour cream

3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream or half and half

Preheat Oven to 350. Mix flour, baking soda and powder in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and extracts. Stir in sour cream. And then slowly add flour mixture until all added in. Drop cookies on a cookie sheet and bake 8 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Over medium heat combine all frosting ingredients. Stir until melted and smooth. Spoon over cookies.

Molasses Cookies
That turned out more like Gingersnaps because of the altitude.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling cookies
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulphered molasses

Preheat oven to 375°F.

With a spoon, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice together in a bowl and set aside.

With a mixer (or by hand), cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Add egg, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Place remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Working with 2 Tbsp of dough each time, roll dough into 1 3/4 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.

Bake until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, about 11 to 13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide spatula.

Note: do not overcook. The centers of the cookies should be somewhat soft and spongy when you take them out of the oven, otherwise they will end up hard and dry. Because of the altitude mine did not turn out hard and dry but very soft and chewy but not spongy like a cake cookie. Everyone who has had them has enjoyed them so far so that is good. But they all say we love these Gingersnaps you made.

Optional Glaze:
When cookies have cooled, lay out over a sheet of wax paper. Sift 1 1/4 cups of confectioner's sugar and then whisk with 2 Tbsp of milk until smooth. Dip spoon into glaze and dribble over cookies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saving Money Grocery Shopping

In this time of rising food costs, I try to do things to save money. I always do comparison shopping. I use some coupons but not a lot as they always seem to be for processed foods. I go online and look at the weekly store ads. Because although we shop mostly at Wal-Mart as it usually ends up being the cheapest -- I can still find some deals better then Wal-Mart by keeping an eye on the weekly grocery store ads. Really I can always get meat cheaper at the grocery stores instead of Wal-Mart because of the sales.

When things are on sale we try to stock up. I buy meat on sale plus buy in family packs because they always seem a little cheaper too. We wait for meat to be on sale. We won't get a roast even if we were craving it until it goes on sale. Then we stock up and maybe grab 2 or 3 (depending on the room in the freezer.) Family size packs of pork chops go on sale quite often. There are just 2 of us so I will break the packages down into little packages of 2 and freeze. Same with ground beef buy a big 5 lb package and then divide into some lb and 1/2 lb packages. Also our Safeway has a clearance section and we have gotten good cuts of meat there - steaks and such really good prices. As long as the meat has good color we pick it up.

We get quite a few things at Sam's because it does cost less. Not everything there does of course but there are some things we have found saves us some money...such as tortillas, bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cheese, bagels, all our over the counter meds are less expensive there. My name brand migraine med at Sam's - 300 pills for $3 more then the wal-mart equate brand for only 100 pills.

We get shredded cheese at Sam's and then I take and fill quart ziplock bags and freeze them until needed. But the price of cheese just keeps going up so I have gotten blocks of cheese and shredded myself as it is become cheaper that way.

We use a lot of generic or great value brands. Master likes the flavored coffee creamers and has even went to the great value brand of that. Buy dried beans instead of canned beans. Make my own stuffing instead of buying a box or bag. Bake bread instead of buy it.

I clean with bleach, vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil and the only thing I splurge on is Mr. Clean Erasers.

I cook for almost all meals. And meal planning helps make sure those things that are needed are what is one the shopping list instead of just grabbing things. We don't go out to eat often but when we do we will get cheap chinese take out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake

With fall heading in made me think of fall favorite dessert...Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
(**I ground more ginger snaps then needed so I made a little extra and crumbled on top of the cheesecake the last 5 minutes of cooking - it made it almost toffee like crunch on top)

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups solid pack pumpkin (1 can pumpkin)
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs

For Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.

For Filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Add flour, pumpkin, 4 tablespoons half and half, ground cinnamon and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

(I combined a few recipes which is my usual taking things from each that I like and making my own. Something I didn't do with this cheesecake was putting a tray of water under it -- not a water bath but just a tray of water on the shelf below to create moisture in the oven. I didn't do that because frankly I forgot. I was just so excited to be making a pumpkin cheesecake that I didn't remember to do the tray and my weird timing thing I usually do which is turning the oven from 350 to 250 and well it turned out really good.)


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