Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Favorites

Cool Down with Homemade Pops - Oh yum! So many of them I would love to try. They are all from Cooking Light it looks like too so hopefully not to high in the sugar and calories!

Paper bow making - Recycling magazines, old books and scrapbooking paper would be a great way to repuprose/recycle but also add a touch of fun to a gift.

There is also a great article on gift wrapping in Simply Service Holiday 2008 issue by marg_it that I know I will reference again around the holidays too but goes well with the above link too.

A Service Book of Days by Service Savoir Faire - a new blog by namaste that is a useful tool for those of us in service. I think the Service Book of Days would be a great way to keep track and focus on service.

Bandanna Tablecloth - I think for the summer time this is just such a great way to "dress" the table casually. Also as listed in the comments - a good place to get bandannas is

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homemade Hamburger/Hotdog Buns

I have always wanted to make hamburger and hotdog buns so I finally did using a recipe that I found in The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook.

These pictures were from the first time I made hotdog buns and I don't think they turned out too bad. Not all the exact same size but that comes with practice.

If you are just starting to use a bread machine this book is the book to get. It goes in great length about troubleshooting. And I so wish I had it when I first started working with a bread machine. I had never even made bread so I just had no knowledge and often worked without guidance and just playing. This book would have saved me lots of heart-ache and frustration. It even has a section on high altitude baking which is what I really needed.

If you aren't new to the bread machine this book is still a great cookbook as it has every type of recipe you would ever want to make with your bread machine. A few of my favorites: Anadama Quick Bread that has buttermilk, molasses, whole wheat flour and corn meal, Cardamom Tea Bread with of course cardamom which is a favorite spice of mine, buttermilk and sour cream both and Mountain Herb bread with basil, tarragon, marjoram, dill weed and thyme. Really this book is huge and full of one good recipe after another. I think Beth Hensperger is really good at explaining bread to those that feel they wouldn't ever be able to make bread. I have read several of her books and I always come away feeling more confident to try recipes I thought I would never try.

So on to the recipe for the buns...this is for a 1 1/2 pound machine and makes about 8 hamburger/hotdog buns. These buns are great for sandwiches, sloppy joes or brats. And brats are the reason I started making them as we have them quite a bit during summertime grilling.

Hamburger/Hotdog Buns
Recipe from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

1 cup water
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
2 tablespoons instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon gluten*
1 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast (or 1 1/4 teaspoons SAF yeast)

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon of water for glaze
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds for sprinkling

1. Place ingredients in machine according to the manufacturers instructions. Program with Dough cycle.

2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or spray with cooking spray. When the cycle ends, press Stop and unplug the machine. Immediately turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With a knife, divide into 8 equal portions. For hamburger dough form each into tight rounds. For long hotdog buns, flatten each portion into an oval about 6-inches long and rolling tightly from a long end to form a cylinder. Place rolls on to the baking sheet at least 1-inch apart. Press with your palm to flatten each roll slightly. Cover loosely with plastic wrap that is coated with cooking spray and let rest for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4. Brush the eggs with the glaze and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 22 minutes, depending on the size of roll until lightly browned. Remove the roll from the baking sheet with a spatula and let cool on a rack. Slice horizontally to serve.

My Notes:
* I didn't use the gluten. Most of author's recipes include gluten but I don't use it as it is just harder to find here in my smaller town.

* I didn't do the optional glaze and seeds obviously from my pictures. But would like to try it sometime.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book: Heloise All Around The House

A few weeks ago, a friend mailed me an original copy of Heloise All Around The House. This book, according to the information on the first page, was published in 1967.

A full 4 years before I was even born.

Generation after generation after generation of women (and men!) have housewifery advice to pass on. We just have to listen. Or in this case- read.

There are so many things that I've enjoyed about this book. Starting with the $0.75 price tag in the upper corner. Can you imagine paying $0.75 for a brand new book, hot off the printing presses?? And not just any ol' book but a Heloise book!

Reading through this book was like taking a step back in time. Back when being a housewife, a good housewife, was a point of pride.

It seems, in more recently published household hint books, that the main message is Saving Time. How to do things easier. How to get it done and over with, with as little pain as possible. The message I get from this book is one more of learning to enjoy what you're doing. Not one of tolerating it or muddling though, but taking pride in being creative, thrifty and Good At It.

I was surprised at how many of the tips I already knew. I continue to think of myself as a late-bloomer to housewifery, feeling ignorant among my peers. I am not.

(Well. I may be still but I'm catching up to you!)

I was also surprised to know that some of these tips that I know, that I USE, haven't needed improvement for some 40+ years. In how many walks of life will you find that to be true?

For instance; clear nail polish on a run in your nylons. Ammonia and a plastic bag for dirty pots. Other 'new' hints that are now standard store bought items; like, take your kitchen dish rags and sew netting on one side to make scrubbing dishes easier. Those are the rags I buy.

Or, salad dressing in a spray bottle.

You won't find hints on how to clean your microwave. You will find a TON of sewing tips. Everything from making your own sheets to curtains to clothing- even how to make a "cleaning blouse" from a towel- so you don't spot your good blouses.

Some of the tips are charmingly outdated. Such as "Keep 5 to 10 pennies and a few nickels in the glove compartment of your automobile for those parking meters!" When you even see a parking meter anywhere, how much are they now? A dollar? Seventy-five cents?

And "When your 5 year old takes off on his tricycle, tie an alarm clock under the seat and set it for dinner time so little Johnny knows when to come home!" I can't think of any parent these days who would let their 5 year old out of their sight, let alone off to cruise the neighborhood on his tricycle.

Or how to best separate, and care for, your "every day" hose and your "best" hose. It's skirts and blouses, chenille, ironing (and how to avoid blisters from ironing too much!).

Heloise encourages you to change up your routine by doing some of your chores in your living room (parlor). That way, you can view all of your pretty things AND consider yourself "company". Drink your coffee, do your ironing.. just go wild with it!

That amuses me to no end. I cannot imagine it. I guess I don't know anyone who has a parlor, a living room set aside to use only when company comes. We live in every room of our home, I do chores wherever I happen to be standing (or sitting!).

The book speaks of simpler times, makes you nostalgic. Though there are a few tips from men, the overwhelming majority of the tips are from women, to women, for women. When housework was women's work, with no apologies or shame assigned to it. The book isn't littered with attempts to include both sexes or full of allowances for women who choose other "careers". It talks of the men going to work and the women staying home. And liking it.

I love that.

Monday, June 22, 2009


A whole wheat crust stuffed with ricotta cheese, roasted chopped peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, ground sweet Italian turkey sausage, mozzarella cheese. Topped with some tomato sauce.

Oh yes...I have a bread machine and I love it and use it often. This recipe I use the bread machine on the dough setting.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine in order used by machine. Run on dough cycle.


When done, divide dough into 4/6 balls depending how big of calzones you want to make. All to rise for 10 to 20 minutes. Roll out dough balls on a lightly floured surface to 6 to 9 inch circles (depending on the size you want for your calzones).

Layer your favorite pizza ingredients on half of each dough round. Fold dough over filling and pinch edges of dough firmly together to seal. Move dough to baking sheets and pierce in several places. Bake calzones 15 at 350 degrees and then turn and bake another 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

For the above calzones I used roasted mixed peppers, sundried tomatoes, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and browned ground Italian turkey sausage. Topping each calzone with tomato sauce after they are baked.

** The dough could be rolled in to smaller circles to have mini-calzones for appetizers.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book: Home Hints and Tips

Home Hints and Tips by Rosamund Richardson

Product Review from Amazon - "The first in-depth book on "green" products for the home, Home Hints & Tips offers hundreds of tested tips that are safe, gentle on the environment, affordable, and easy to implement. Straightforward without being preachy, the book covers all aspects of natural home management, from designing and building to decorating with natural materials, as well as ecosafe cleaning and laundering methods, recycling, gardening, cooking, and personal care and health."

I will tell you this book freaked the hell out of me. It freaked me out because it goes into toxins that are in your house right now....the paint, the carpet, many cleaners and pesticides and so on and so forth. Not like I really didn't know it but reading about what they do which the book goes into a little bit freaked me. But after freaking, I calmed down and I really enjoyed it the book. Enjoyed it for all the useful information it did give me. I think some of it is a little bit out of the average persons budget. But there were workable ideas and tips. The set up of the book is very visually appealing too. Broken into good segments.

The book gives information on having a green home: conserving water and energy, decorating, cleaning, laundry and recycling. It goes beyond the home though to healthy natural/organic eating, personal care such as understanding labels for your personal care products, natural health remedies, baby care and also working from home. So it is a tiny book that covers a lot of information. It is a book I would like to have on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Enjoy Basil

5 Ways to Enjoy Basil

1. In a salad. Fill a large bowl with your favorite greens. Add 1 1/2 cups shredded basil, 1/2 cup cup shredded mint, sliced sweet onion and cucumbers. Toss with a couple spoonfuls of seasoned rice wine vinegar and ground pepper.

2. As a stir-fry add-in. Perk up any Asian rice, noodle or veggie stir-fry by adding chopped Thai basil leaves just before serving.

3. In a flavored vinegar. Loosely pack a clear, clean wine bottle with any variety basil and 1/8 teaspoon whole peppercorns. Heat 3 cups white wine vinegar until hot but not boiling. Fill bottle and let cool before capping. After cool, put lid on and let steep for 5 days (or up to 2 weeks) in the refrigerate. Shake over salads and grilled chicken or fish. To make its shelf life last longer strain the herbs out after steeping.

4. In a dessert syrup. Bring 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup water to a boil. Place in a blender with 3/4 cup fresh basil. Puree. Strain. Pour over fruit salad or add to cocktails.

5. With ripe tomatoes. Slice a tomato, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Reassemble the tomato, tucking large Italian basil leaves between the slices. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Of course there are many other ways to use basil. I just wanted to give you a few tips. Please feel free to share your favorite ways to use basil!

* Photo of Caprese salad which is a good way to use basil too. I thought this recipe for Caprese Skewers look really good.

Monday, June 15, 2009

One Day Sale at

Save up to 60% with the Kitchen & Home One-Day Sale. (some great cutlery deals, as well as the usual cookware, gadgets, etc)

Cuisinart cookware sets are up to 73% off, Calphalon sets are up to 69% off.

Sale is June 15 only.

Outdoor Cooking

If you're anything like me, when warm weather arrives, the last thing you want to do is stand over a stove. Solution? Fire up the grill!

While my husband is indeed The Grill Master (lest he read this and have to go outside and pound his chest because I'm challenging his manhood *grin*), I have a terrific chicken marinade recipe to share.

This makes about 4 cups of marinade:

1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (cider vinegar works as a substitute)
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh parsley

Mix all ingredients together, and let your meat soak. The longer the better but I've had as little as 30 minutes and still had terrific results.

Tips for grilling boneless chicken breasts:

Trim or pound chicken to equal thickness (if you trim it, you can save the pieces to make chicken stock)

Lightly score the chicken before marinading.

Heat your grill to medium-high. We have a gas grill so if you have charcoal, you're on your own. I'm clueless about charcoal.

Put your chicken on and sear it for 2 or 3 minutes per side. Lower heat or move chicken away from high heat and cook until done (Total cooking time depends on the thickness of the meat.)

Don't poke it while it cooks. That lets the juices out. I know it's done by how it feels when I touch it. It's springy but not soft. Firm but not hard. Or, use a meat thermometer to 165F.

Remove from grill and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting. This lets the juices redistribute.

That same marinade is awesome for steak, too.

Can you grill a complete meal? Why yes! Yes you can!


To grill corn on the cob- Carefully pull back, but don't remove, the corn husks and pick off the silk. Roll the husks back up and secure with twine. Soak in water for an hour or two. Toss on the grill, turning every 5 minutes. (If desired, after soaking, peel back husks again and flavor the corn with butter and seasonings, replace husks, tie and grill.) Grilled corn on the cob always gets rave reviews.

I also like to make a vegetable packet out of aluminoil foil, toss in whatever veggies I have on hand (squash, zuchinni, peppers, asparagus work great), add a little olive oil, some seasoning and let the packet steam away while the meat cooks.


Grilled Pineapple Sundae-

1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
vanilla ice cream

Mix together brown sugar, butter, lemon juice and cinnamon. Brush over pineapple slices. Grill slices over high heat for one minute per side. Put on a plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and eat warm.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hostess Note

It was just brought to my attention that I had it set so no one could comment anonymously. I just changed that. I am not sure why I had it set like that. So please feel free to comment anonymously if you would like.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Shelf life...

If leftovers have reached the point where you have to ask me to smell them to determine if they are still usable, I probably won't be eating them! I tend to rotate the fridge items so that the oldest items are near the front, so they are used first before they expire.

A few of my favorite links:

Edited to add: Home Food Safety (thanks, danae!) There's two great printouts at the top right hand side to hang on your fridge or freezer.

And don't forget cosmetics! I generally try to sort through my makeup 3-4 times a year. Ideally, I should be doing it once a season. Creamy or liquid products have a shorter shelf life than powders once they are opened.

For lotions and such, I prefer pump dispensers or squeeze containers than dipping my fingers into a jar. Not only does it reduce the bacteria introduced to the remaining lotion, but it cuts down on the oxygen exposure.

Frugal Made Simple

These are just some accumulated tips I've gathered for saving money. Because I'm not out there earning an income, I try my darndest to not waste what he makes.


Make a list and stick to it! For me, I find I'm much better able to stick to my list if I go grocery shopping without the kids. I'm too susceptible to "Mom, please?!" I also don't go when I'm tired or hungry.

Before making your list, "shop" at home first. Look through your pantry, fridge and cupboards. There is little sense in buying something you already have.

We don't have an Aldi's here in Upper LandoftheLost Michigan- just one of the great tragedies of moving to this frozen tundra. Otherwise, I'd so be there. They are cheap, cheap, cheap!

I know everyone says coupons, coupons, coupons! And if you're a name-brand buyer, I'd also be saying that. But I've never really noticed any benefit to coupons because I hardly ever buy name-brand. Maybe I should pay more attention to comparing the cost of name-brand with a coupon vs. the price of generic. Somehow, I'm thinking I'd break even at best, but maybe not.

But use grocery store savings cards, read the flyers, watch for sales and make a plan of attack. That may involve going to more than one grocery store to get the best savings.

Buy in bulk when possible and break things up into serving size, though be careful not to "over buy" and end up with things that will go bad before you can get to them.

Be reasonable about your needs. We live a good 30 miles from where we shop, so, in an effort to cut down on gas use, I try and do at least a 2 to 3 week menu for groceries. However, buying 2 or 3 weeks worth of produce turned out not to work because some of it would be icky before we ate it. Therefore, though the produce is more expensive, it works out better for us to buy produce from our little local grocer as we need it.

On that note- check out Farmer's Markets and CSA's for produce.

Buy leaner (and cheaper!) cuts of meat and learn how to cook them. Also, you don't have to commit to vegetarianism to go meatless. Have a meal or three with no meat and save on your grocery bill. Meat tends to be more expensive than fruits and veggies and there are some terrific meatless recipes out there!

"Shop the perimeter". The *food*? The real food food? Is generally on the outside aisles. If you do foray into the center, look up and look down. The pricier items are placed at eye level. Those stores are sneaky devils.

Watch the cash register. Sometimes the sale price doesn't make it to the checkout. Keep an eagle eye on the scanner!

Take a day and make up some meals to pop in the freezer. You'll be less tempted to go the fast food route when you're too tired to cook. (A simple meal of delivered pizza to feed our family of 5 is never under $60- and usually closer to $75. Totally a waste of money! Subway, even if we all get the $5 footlongs, no drinks or chips, is $30 with tax, and there are no leftovers. I can buy deli meat and all the trimmings, make buns and have enough food left for a couple of lunches for that price.)

Electric/gas bill:

Making meals in bulk will also cut down on how much it costs to use your oven. You'll use less electricity/gas by running your oven for one 5 hour cooking spree than using it for 5 days for an hour or so each time. Though using a slow cooker is even cheaper than using an oven.

You can shave a chunk off your electric bill if you unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, tv's, microwave, etc. They all suck power even when they aren't turned on. (I'm still trying to remember to unplug them at night myself)

Service your appliances if they need it. Though it's painful to pay that repair man, you'll end up paying more through higher bills for a badly running refrigerator.

Clean underneath your fridge. All that dust mucking up your coils makes it run more.

If your freezer is empty, stuff it with something. Anything. Water bottles, empty tupperware, wadded up newspaper. Opening the door of an empty freezer sends your cold air rushing out. Less so if it's full.

Try running appliances during off-peak hours for lower rates.

Energy efficient lightbulbs. Though they are more expensive to purchase, they are worth it in the long run.

I wash almost everything in cold water and never run the washer if it isn't full. If using your dryer, set it to low heat. It's better for your fabric and your bill. If clothes are damp, promptly hang them up to finish drying.

If hanging clothes out on a clothesline is an option, use it. You'll save tons.

I also never run the dishwasher until it's full and I turn off the drying option. The dishes air dry for free. (of course I could hand wash them for even more savings, but shhh. Let's pretend that option doesn't exist!)

Make a household "One item at a time" rule. If the kids are on the 'net, shut off the TV or radio. For little kids, appoint one as the day's "Electric Slasher". Make it his/her "job" to race through the house shutting off lights and appliances that nobody is using. It's fun, makes them feel important and teaches good habits!


Brown bag your lunch. Get a travel mug and take your own coffee with you (at sometimes TWENTY times the savings of buying a cup). Grab a piece of fruit for breakfast-to-go instead of a Sausage McStroke (savings and healthier!).

Create your own 100-calorie packs by buying in bulk and dividing your large packs into smaller ones yourself.

I don't buy any cleaning supplies beyond vinegar and baking soda (well, hardly any. Sometimes I splurge on some Comet). The homemade laundry soap is a huge savings, of course.

I stopped buying Swiffer stuff without giving up the convenience of it by refilling the (supposedly non-refillable) bottle with vinegar and water and using either a washable, reusable towel or microfiber cloth for the pad. Just bore a hole in the bottom of the bottle and use a funnel to pour in the vinegar. The velcro strips on the bottom of the Swiffer make attaching a cloth super easy.

Cut your dryer sheets in half. They last twice as long and work just as well.

Use cloth napkins for dinner and rags/microfiber cloths for cleaning. Save a tree and stop buying paper towels.

I'm a huge fan of craigslist, freecycle, rummage sales, thrift shops- anywhere I can get a bargain, I'm there. I hardly ever buy new items, especially clothes, other than underwear cuz used underwear is just gross.

Cancel what you aren't using/don't need-

Do you really need that magazine or newspaper subscription? Almost all of what you read can be found online- for free.

Aren't watching the HBO that came with your cable promotion? Cancel it.

Have both a landline and a cell phone? Pick one.

Bundle your internet/cable packages when possible.

Sign up for free samples wherever you can.

Stop using disposable items. For a little more effort, you can rack up savings on razors, coffee filters, bottled water, etc.

If you do go out to eat, order water to drink (usually free) over soda/wine, and skip the appetizers and desserts. Let's face it, with the size of entrees these days, do you need those extra food items? It'll cut your final bill down significantly.

Have more money-saving ideas? Add them in the comments! We can all use hints and tips to stretch the almighty dollar.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

I'm seeing the signs of spring and summer all around me these days, most notably in the arrival of fresh berries. Recently, I found a bunch of strawberries at a very good price and bought a bunch to make jam. Traditional jam uses lots and lots of sugar and while that can be good now and then, I do prefer the low sugar varieties that allow the flavor of the berries to come through.

To make a low sugar strawberry jam you will need:

  • 4 Pounds of fresh strawberries, washed & hulled
  • 1 Cup of unsweetend apple juice
  • 1 Box of Powdered Low/No sugar Pectin (very important that it be for low/no sugar)

Using a potato masher, crush the berries one layer at a time in a saucepan, add your apple juice and pectin, stirring well. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Ladle the jam into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes for those at elevations up to 1,000 feet (add 5 minutes for every 2,000 feet). Remove the jars from the canner and allow to seal. Store in a cool place and enjoy!

If you don't want to process the jars in a canner, you could immediately refrigerate the jars, instead.

This recipe will make between 5 and 7 half pint jars full of jam. The same measurements could be used with other berries as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Salsas.... mmmmm caliente!

Summertime = fresh garden veggies and luscious fruits. Add them all together and it’s time for homemade salsa fresca!

Pico de Gallo
3 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 small red onion (or 1-2 stalks of green onion), finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (leave the seeds if you want to kick up the heat)
cilantro springs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lime
salt, pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients together. Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving, but I like to let it sit for 3-5 hours before I dive in. The salt draws out the tomato juices nicely, and lets them mingle with the oniony-garlicky-limey-cilantro flavors.

(NOTE: this is so good I usually eat it on it's own, but you can use it on eggs, chips, salad, seafood, etc)

Mango Salsa
2 cups diced peeled mango
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (choose from mint, cilantro, or basil)
2/3 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
optional: one chopped jalapeño

Combine all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper as desired. For an additional kick, add one jalapeño- the sweetness of the fruit complements the heat of the peppers nicely. Cover, and keep in the refrigerator. This salsa can be made a few hours ahead, and will last in the refrigerator for 2 days. Great on fish or grilled chicken.

NOTE: Anytime you chop jalapeños and other peppers, remove the oils from your fingers with a paste of salt and water afterwards. Otherwise, you can burn your eyes or other sensitive areas from the oil that lingers. With peppers, gloves can be a good thing - unless you like the burn :)

Toss back a few margaritas and you're set.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Easy Balsamic Chicken

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, enough to coat chicken
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to season

Coat chicken in balsamic vinegar, then olive oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts to the pan. Cook chicken 12 minutes, or until juices run clear, turning occasionally. The balsamic vinegar will produce a deep brown, sweet finish on the chicken as it cooks. Remove chicken from skillet when cooked through. Serve.

These are also great on the grill.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy

A Sunday morning tradition.

It's the Breakfast of the Gods.

Well, it's the breakfast of the Chubby Gods Who Don't Want to Wear a Bikini this Summer anyway.

I don't know about the rest of you but I figure I'm never going to wear a bikini again. Therefore, we had biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

The first time I mentioned biscuits and gravy over at Under His Hand, I had a couple of folks who live over "across the pond" wondering what in the world I was doing plopping gravy on top of 'biscuits' which are the same as cookies here in the states. When it was put that way even I had to cringe. Gravy and chocolate chips? Ugh!

So, in the interest of wiping that grimace off of the face of our readers from "over there", biscuits here are not the same as biscuits there. Do not, I repeat, do NOT pour sausage gravy over your biscuits. I believe that American biscuits are similar to English scones.

But "Scones and Gravy" doesn't even sound as filling (or fattening!) as "Biscuits and Gravy". So biscuits it is.

There. Now that nothing will be lost in translation, let's get on with it, shall we?

The Cast:

A roll of pork sausage. Hint: Ease your grocery bill and buy that cheap, generic sausage. It makes better gravy because it has more grease. You need grease. Buy the expensive stuff if you must, but you'll only end up adding "grease" in the form of butter. The grease is important!

Milk and flour. Pepper and Lawry's, or plain old salt, are optional and applied to taste.

The biscuits?

I so cheat.

Now, no doubt I'm tarnishing my Domestic Goddess Crown by this admission but I cannot tell a lie.

I can't make biscuits from scratch.

I have tried. And I have failed. Repeatedly.

If you possess the admirable talent of being able to pull fluffy biscuits made by your own two hands out of your oven, then do that. The rest of us will stick with the good ol' Pillsbury doughboy.

Besides, they are "just like homemade!" The little giggling bastard says so.

Step one: Crumble the sausage in a large skillet and start to brown. The size of the sausage lumps depends entirely on how chunky you want your gravy to be. My mom leaves big bite-sized chunks in her gravy. Since I'm not a big fan of hefty chunks of meat (except for Maste-.. oh.. wrong blog. Nevermind.) I'll chop mine up into much smaller pieces.

Meanwhile, make your biscuits. Or, you know, pop open that can. Whichever.

Fry the sausage until it's almost cooked through. That "almost" part is important. I'll explain that later.

If there is not a generous amount of grease in your skillet (because you've gone uppity and used that expensive sausage), then you'll need to plop in a couple of tablespoons of butter to melt.

Remember? No bikinis.

Then sprinkle in some flour.

It's difficult to give a precise measurement for this because it all depends on how much grease your sausage chunks are swimming in. Start with about 1/4 of a cup and stir.

Add more if needed. The grease needs to be absorbed and the sausage pieces need to be coated with flour.

Now, this next part is the step that will make or break your gravy.

Let it fry for another 5 minutes.

This is why you add the flour when your sausage is almost, but not quite, cooked through.

If it's completely cooked through and you still have to fry it another 5 minutes, it'll be crunchy. Blech. Not inedible or anything, just.. blech. Crunchy.

This steps cooks the raw, flour taste out of the gravy. Raw flour gravy IS inedible. So, if you've forgotten and let your sausage cook all the way before adding the flour, do not try and skip this step to avoid crunchy chunks. Just suck it up, do your 5 minutes, and chew your chunks.

Okay? Okay.

Let's move on then.

Next, start adding milk. Pour it on in there. Glug, glug, glug.

Again, it's difficult to tell exactly how much milk to use. Start with about two cups, stir and let it thicken as it simmers. Let them little buggers swim!

Keep swimming! Just keep swimming!

Don't worry. It WILL thicken.

If it begins to look like sausage glue as opposed to sausage gravy, simply add more milk. In about 1/4 to 1/3 cup increments (or just kinda pour-and-pray like I do), letting the gravy simmer and thicken inbetween pours, until you've reached the consistency you prefer. All told, I probably use 3 to 4 cups of milk.

Add seasoning.

Next, take your perfectly baked cheater's biscuits-

Split them and ladle the gravy over.

Optional toppings: Diced onions, grated cheese, eggs. All full of the Nomming.

(The strawberries were added just to make it pretty. I'm not necessarily promoting the taste combination of strawberries and biscuits and sausage gravy.

In fact, the strawberries were left over from chocolate covered strawberries that I had the night before.

Now THAT was yummy.

Chocolate makes everything better, I always say.

Where was I? Oh yeah.)

Serve this to your Man-

-and reap the rewards. This may or may not include permission to go shopping, new purses or many pats on the head.

Hint to mah Man: I accept all of those things. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Food Prep

Curvaliscious asked: Oh! I am getting my freezer back (finally!) and am looking for ideas for make ahead items like this. Could you possibly share some of the things that you make (without recipes if it is easier) and freezer in preparation for making meals later on etc?

Well...I don't do all the prep work I could. I know it would be easier if I did but I do it on and off. I do prep often after we grocery shop of course.

We often buy value packs of meat (pork chops, boneless skinless chicken breast and leg quarters) so I break those apart into smaller packages for just the two of us. And then sometimes I put them in ziplock bags with marinade, label with kind of marinade flavoring, squeezing out as much air as possible before freezing them.

I do the same with ground burger or turkey - usually buying in the value pack but even when I don't - I often do some prep with it. I will create hamburger patties, layer with freezer paper or saran wrap and then wrap once again and put in a ziplock that I put the date and type of seasoning I used. Such as sometime I do teryiaki burgers or bourbon peppercorn and so on. I also brown ground burger/turkey or Italian sausage to just pull out to make tacos, casseroles or pasta. I will do them up with seasoning or just plain and again label label label.

At times I will grill up some (plain or marinated) chicken breasts for salads, for casseroles or other dishes that I can use it. I have cooked a roast in the crockpot and then split the meat up for other things such beef stroganoff, shredded beef for bbq beef sandwiches, sliced for open faced sandwiches and so on. Same with pork roast. And package up in ziplocks labeling and freezing.

Fresh veggies if I know we are not going to eat them all that week - I chop and freeze in serving sizes. I chop mixed peppers in big junks and strips, onions chopped in big rings as well as chunks and finely chopped, carrots are julienne and so on. I use them on kabobs, in stir fry, on pizza, with pasta, in omelets or frittata, casseroles and so on.

If I am just doing prep for the week I make a menu and then look ahead to see what I can prep ahead. Veggies to chop put into containers or ziplocks. Brown ground meat, boil and freeze rice or pasta. I keep an inventory of what have in the freezer so if we are having grilled chicken - I make sure if I don't have it in a ziplock with the marinade. Or need to take out and marinate before hand.

If I am doing a casserole such as ziti. I brown Italian sausage, cook pasta, make sauce (or pour it from a jar) - mixing it all into a casserole dish and freeze. If I don't have freezer room, I will at least brown the meat and make the pasta and freeze those in ziplocks they take up less room and then take them out the night before. And then it is just mixing it all up and putting into the oven.

I make some bulk items for lunches and breakfast (link for recipe for making bulk breakfast burritos). Also I freeze leftovers in individual portions for lunch too. Such as if we have spaghetti and meatballs - I throw the left overs in a ziplock, push all the air out and then just microwave to thaw at lunch or take out the night before. Chili, pasta, stir fry, casseroles, soups - all freeze well and so are great for freezing then thawing for dinner or lunch. I make up french bread pizzas for lunch too. I often make 2 loaves of french bread at once and often we can't eat one whole loaf so I take them and make them into french bread pizza. I top with tomato sauce, seasonings and then veggies or pepperoni and top with cheese. I cut into lunch sized portions and then flash freeze or wrap and put in a ziplock. I take out and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

I have just the freezer on my refrigerator. We don't have room for a freezer without serious rearranging so of course my prep is limited. I would love to have a big free-standing freezer. I know it would allow for so much more prep and making up whole meals.

Some links that might be of use for freezing and food prep. You don't need to do the once a month cooking but some of the recipes and ideas are good when trying to making dinner easier.

Once a Month Cooking - the key to your freezer cooking
Once a month Cooking World - check out freezer tips there too - they are a little different
Freezer Cooking Guide
Once a Month Cooking Experiment
Busy Cooks - Once a Month Cooking - just lots of different marinades. Store bought bottled marinades work fine too though
Marinade Recipes
Chicken Cycle - roast a chicken get many meals
Roast Chicken and Leftover Ideas

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Favorite

This first link is from a newsletter I get in my inbox but you can view them online too. It is a newsletter by the actress Gynweth Paltrow called GOOP - Nourish Your Inner Aspect and each week she sends a newsletter that deals with one of these topics: MAKE, GO, GET, DO, BE or SEE. This link is from MAKE and has so many yummy looking Italian recipes.

Waterproofing a Blanket for picnics and Beach Towel/Blanket with pockets - good projects that might needed for the summer time. Master and I take day trips often that lead to picnics so both ideas I think would be great to have in the car for those.

Lazy Productivity: 10 Simple Ways to do Three Things Today - When feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated this article might help

Tag-Sale Upgrades - Summer time is the time of garage sales, estate sales, flea markets so finding items to recycle and repurpose into something new is always easy

Pick of the Crop: Choosing the most Flavorful Fruit
- I know this is something I get hung up on knowing what I am picking up is the best quality and knowing how to store them. So now with the start of the Farmers Market I can have some good information at hand.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


When learning how to cook, one of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around was understanding how well certain spice mixtures go together (spinach and nutmeg? chocolate and salt? who knew they could be so yummy!). This was especially challenging when I started developing my own recipes. But once I developed my spice palate, I was good to go!

I grew up with my mom’s spice rack, which had a dozen or so staples (cinnamon, allspice, paprika, oregano, etc). All purchased from the local grocer, and they would linger in the pantry well beyond their expiration date. For those of you who use McCormick spices, there’s a nifty little dater here to let you know if it’s past its prime… here’s a hint, if it’s in a tin and it’s anything EXCEPT pepper, you’re talking over 15 years old! Ew. While they won't exactly go 'bad', they will lose their potency.

Penzeys: There’s a few dozen stores scattered throughout the US, and a catalog/website to cater to the rest of us. A friend originally from their home state of Wisconsin raved about them, so I tried their Hungarian Half-Sharp Paprika, China Cassia Cinnamon, and Bouquet Garni. I was hooked. The cinnamon in particular was outstanding, as was their seasoned salt blend. My absolute favorite is their Northwoods Seasoning: coarse flake salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle. Not only do they have an amazing array to choose from, but the flavors of the spices are incredible—and for less than I normally spend at the grocery store. And they have specialty items that are perfect for bakers (double strength vanilla, anyone?)

While buying in bulk is attractive because it saves money, I try not to buy more spices than I will use, lest I run into the problem of outliving their shelf life (ground spices: 6-12 months, whole spices: up to 3 years, dried herbs: up to 18 months).

However, this year… I purchased containers and spices in bulk, and ended up making elaborate holiday gift baskets for 5 friends/family for under $20 a person, with a few extra spices to slip into care packages for friends that cook. I rounded out the Penzey spices with some homemade finishing salts which can cost a pretty penny at the local store, but are very inexpensive to make at home.

Finishing salts: One of my favorite items I make is Szechuan Pepper Salt. I dry roast the Szechuan Peppercorns and then grind them with an equal amount of coarse Sea Salt. The resulting finishing salt is a lip tingling blend that tastes wonderful on chicken or potatoes or eggs. Here's some other finishing salt recipes.

My other favorite finishing salt is a smoked salt that hooked me as I passed by the display at our local foodie market- and I'm still using the packet that cost less than $2. Naturally flavored, the salt is slowly cooked over hickory or alderwood. Simply Amazing. The smokiness of the salt excels on eggs, fish, grilled meats, some veggies that can stand up to a 'meaty' flavor (such as mushrooms). It's also a great way to add a meaty flavor to lentil soup instead of using bacon/ham. A TINY amount goes a long way, but the addition of the smoked salt wakes up a lot of my favorite dishes without overpowering some of the more delicate flavor (in my opinion).

Storage: I store spices in cool, dry, dark places away from humidity-- nowhere near a stove or oven. Air tight containers are key.

Did you know? Do not shake your spice jar over a hot pot- it will expose the remaining spices in the jar to steam and heat. Shake the desired amount out into a bowl or your palm, and then transfer to the pan.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Amazon 2 Day Kitchen Sale

Sorry to get this out so late in the day - computer problems today.

Amazon has these sales every once in a while and often Master spoils me with presents! Years past I have gotten my kitchen-aid stand mixer, 3 Calphalon pans, cookie racks and sheets and I know a few other things that aren't coming to my mind right now. All at really good prices - often 60% off.

Amazon 2 Day Kitchen Sale - Only good June 1 and 2

Throwing out mercury thermometers

When a thermometer breaks, the amount of liquid mercury it contains can contaminate all the fish in a 20-acre-lake as well as cause neurological damage to people. Many states have banned the sale of mercury thermometers. Using digital thermometer is a better alternative. The problem though is that people are just throwing out their mercury thermometers in with their normal trash. And that can lead to contamination.

So check out to do if you have any breakage for safe clean up here and then check out this link for how to dispose of your mercury thermometers safely. If you can't find one in the information, contact your local hazardous waste hauler for information on where to dispose of mercury thermometers safely.


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