Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The Gourmet Slow Cooker

The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World By Lynn Alley

The sub title of this book is "Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World" and I have to say it is perfect subtitle. This book is great way to use your slow cooker but in a way that adds just a little more to the meal. Basically a great upgrade to traditional slow cooker recipes. Any of the recipes would be great on any night of the week but also for a dinner party.

Delicious recipes for cooks who want the benefit of hands-off and easy cooking but prefer to use whole foods and real ingredients. The author also offers up drinking suggestions to go with each recipe. The layout, style and photos of the cookbook just make it a lovely read.

It is a cookbook I would like to own. And I know it is one I would open quite a lot as I use my slow cooker year round.

Favorite recipes: Chicken and dumplings, Pork Stew in Tomatillo Sauce, Dublin Coddle, Beef Burgundy, Provencal Beef Stew, Chicken Piperade, Tarragon Chicken, Artichoke Risotto, Chicken Cacciatore, Apricot Chicken, Beef Biryani and just on and on as you can see.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Favorites

Best Summer Appetizers - I know there isn't much summer left but I think many of these recipes would be good year around.

Ice Cream Cake and Sandwich Recipes - and just because I have been on an ice cream kick lately for dessert. These are a few steps up from just ice cream in a dish. Yums!

How to make a No-Sew Jersey Scarf
- just think it is pretty and easy. Would make a nice gift too.

Tweeto - just a very basic online to-do list that allows you to add and then check off items when they are done. It allows you to view it by rss feed and also email it to yourself or others.

The Grocery Cart Challenge - This blogger finds great deals and makes the most of her weekly grocery budget. I don't have these kind of stores in my area but some of you might. I though look through all our ads to figure out what I need is the cheapest and also just to see what deals are out there. Such as recently Safeway had a HUGE pork loin for $1.88lb. And here that is a really good price. I was able to cut it up into 4 packages of 3 and 4 pork chops, I cubed about a pound and a half that I put into 2 containers to use in stir fry and then the rest I packaged up as a roast.

Fabric Storage Boxes - Never have enough storage.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Powdered Buttermilk

You might have noticed whenever I make a recipe that calls for buttermilk (such as yesterdays recipe for Banana Layer Cake)- I always use Powdered Buttermilk. I use powdered buttermilk because whenever I used to buy regular buttermilk in a carton I never used it up before it would go bad. So I finally saw in the baking isle next to the powdered milk....powdered buttermilk. I have been using it every since and I really like it. I haven't found that it alters the taste of any of my recipes. Four tablespoons of the powder makes 1 cup buttermilk. You store it in the refrigerator after opening. It lasts quite a long time. I can't remember how long it takes me to go through that little canister but I know it is quite a long time - at least 6 months. The picture above of course is the one I get but I am sure there are other brands. I wish I had known about it years ago. I just found it about 3 years ago.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Houseworks Holiday Plan (yes, in August!)

So, I surfed over to one of my favorite sites ( to get ready for one of my favorite seasonal events- Fall Cleaning. I usually print out their seasonal checklist and start from there. Even so, I'm feeling a little self congratulatory and ahead of my game because it's still over 100 degrees here in Texas, and we are definitely still in summer mode.

Except this is what I found greeting me: a headline reading Get Ready for Christmas with the Houseworks Holiday Plan

Reading on... "It's time to kick off the Houseworks Holiday Plan at sister site Organized Christmas! Working week by week, we'll deep-clean, declutter, and prepare for the holiday season in small, sustainable bites.... The fun starts Sunday, August 30! Will you be ready?"

Granted, I'm usually done with all holiday prep a week or two before Thanksgiving. I don't like last minute shopping/planning and the holidays are usually crunched for time as it is. But seriously... where does one fit in Fall Cleaning if the holiday prep starts before Labor Day???

Banana Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting

The chocolate frosting recipe made enough to frost 2 whole cakes. So I am not including that recipe. Next time I will use another chocolate frosting recipe. Maybe a milk chocolate one.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks of butter, unsalted - room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 medium - very ripe peeled bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (I use powdered buttermilk)
3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts - OPTIONAL

1. Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until blended with a whisk.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter with a mixer on medium-high until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add the bananas and vanilla and beat until well blended and only small bits of banana remain. Add eggs 2 at a time, beating well after each. The mixture will look lumpy but it will come together. Add half the flour mixture on low until just blended. Add the buttermilk until just blended. Then add remaining flour and mix until just blended. Stir in walnuts, if using.

4. Evenly divide into the 2 pans. Bake until tops are brown and a toothpick or cake tester come out clean about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loose the cake from the pan. Invert the layers onto racks and remove pans. Let cool completely.

5. Brush the loose crumbs from the cooled cake. Place the bottom cake upside down. Frost first layer of cake. Add second cake and frost top and sides. Cake can be served at room temperature but also in my opinion good cold.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Menu - This Week and Next

Monday - pork chops in the crock with Penzey's Old World seasoning, mashed potatoes with garlic, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with just ground pepper and salt
Tuesday - chili dogs
Wednesday - chicken thighs in the crockpot with another Penzey spice Tuscan Sunset served with noodles with Alfredo sauce and steamed mixed stir-fry veggies that had asparagus, peppers, onions, mushrooms and broccoli*
Thursday - left overs
Friday - Steak on the grill served with baked potato and big salad
Saturday - chicken sausage potato bake and salad
Sunday - pot roast (doing the roast in the crock with carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and whatever other veggie I have on hand that looks good)

Monday - homemade pizza and salad
Tuesday - Ribs served with oven fried potatoes and green beans
Wednesday - Philly Steak Sandwiches - I cut the meat up into slices and put it in the crockpot with some Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, a little Dijon mustard, black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, onions, and peppers. Then I serve on buns with provolone cheese. Going to serve them with salad
Thursday - left overs
Friday - burritos and Mexican-style rice - for the rice I just make white rice that I sprinkle with taco seasoning while it is cooking. After it is done I mix it with some salsa and cheese.
Saturday - taco salad - use left over meat from Friday night for it
Sunday - Pork Chops, steamed veggies (not sure which one yet) and salad - maybe some homemade bread

* Photo: of Wednesday's Chicken Thighs in the crockpot with Tuscan Sunset seasoning from Penzey's

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Favorites

The Minimalist Principle - Omit Needless Things - Making things more streamlined by omitting needless things. I think that concept can be applied in more general terms of service too.

Canning - Putting Up, with Irma - Vintage Recipe Thursday - Has a great downloadable PDF about canning. It just good basic canning information.

20/20 Superfast Recipes for Supper - there is 360 healthy recipes that can made quickly from Cooking Light

Non-Toxic Home Care Solutions - many good recipes for cleaning your home without harsh chemicals and using things often you have around the house

And also another one that does the same...

Alternative Cleaning Recipes from the Ecology Center

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Martha Stewart's Cooking School

Martha Stewart's Cooking School by Martha Stewart

From publisher:
"Imagine having Martha Stewart at your side in the kitchen, teaching you how to hold a chef’s knife, select the very best ingredients, truss a chicken, make a perfect pot roast, prepare every vegetable, bake a flawless pie crust, and much more.

In Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, you get just that: a culinary master class from Martha herself, with lessons for home cooks of all levels.

Never before has Martha written a book quite like this one. Arranged by cooking technique, it’s aimed at teaching you how to cook, not simply what to cook. Delve in and soon you’ll be roasting, broiling, braising, stewing, sautéing, steaming, and poaching with confidence and competence. In addition to the techniques, you’ll find more than 200 sumptuous, all-new recipes that put the lessons to work, along with invaluable step-by-step photographs to take the guesswork out of cooking. You’ll also gain valuable insight into equipment, ingredients, and every other aspect of the kitchen to round out your culinary education."

I say if you don't know how to cook at all and are intimated by Martha Stewart- first go to Betty Crocker. But if you are ready to move up and beyond then this is the book for you. Just don't let not being able to cook stop you from picking this book up as you will learn so much with it.

I know a lot of people don't like anything Martha Stewart's does. I know she can be intimidating and scary. But this book is fantastic. First and for most the information is amazing. Next the photography is beautiful and supports the information in a wonderful pairing. This book covers some basics but also takes things a step beyond to help you understand how to cook which will ultimately make you a better cook.

The books covers:
  • Equipment lists that tell you everything from a loaf pan to a dutch oven to a spider (which is wide shallow mesh skimmer with a long handle great for removing food from hot oil or boiling water).
  • It gives you a run down on knives and what they do and how to care for them.
  • Shows how to do basic vegetable cuts and more special cuts like the lozenge which is to cut them into thin slices and then stack the slices and cut into strips. Making cuts on the diagonally to achieve a diamond shape.
  • The book covers some basic herbs: how to wash, store, cook and few other tips for them.
  • It has a several pages on just onions. Photos of the different kinds, how to peel, slice, cut, chop, saute, caramelize the various kinds.
  • Making stock from a basic chicken stock to how to make a consomme or cream soup. It not only tell you how to make them but a glossary of terms and tips.
  • Eggs - how to boil, poach, coddle, make a frittata and so on.
  • Meat, Fish and Poultry - It has charts to show what each cut of meat and how to buy. It shows how not only how to roast, grill saute, braise, stew and many other things to create the perfect meat dish but also shows how to tie a roast, stuff a turkey, get charcoal ready for a grill, how to carve a duck and many other techniques.
  • Vegetables - how to steam, wilt, simmer, saute, grill, make a green salad and many other ways to cook vegetables. It also has a buying guide what to look for, what to avoid, storage and cooking method.
  • Pasta - how to make fresh pasta, gnocchi, sauce, baked pasta dishes and several other things.
  • Dried Beans and Grains - how to cook and varieties of beans and grains

And finally....
  • Dessert - how to cream butter, cut butter into flour, make meringue, a souffle, sorbet and many many other things. It include a chart showing a variety of berries and stone fruits

PLUS all that throughout the whole book there are recipes upon recipes....from gourmet to just basic comfort food

Minestrone Soup
Squash and Goat Cheese Frittata
Chicken Piccata
Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Creamed Spinach
Herbed Rosti with Wild Mushrooms
Glazed Turnips
Gnocchi with Basil Pesto
Rice Pilaf
Double Crusted Apple Pie
Creme Brulee
Poached Apricots
Yellow Buttercake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

It is a beautiful book with a wealth of information that I think anyone serving someone who likes to eat and enjoys food should have in their kitchen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Favorites

For the Love of Cooking blog - wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures

Oxiclean secret - I really have always wanted to try Oxiclean but couldn't justify the cost when I can use other things and elbow grease to get things clean. Maybe not as clean as oxiclean but it just was out of my budget. But Margaret discovered a cost effective substitute. yay! Thank you!

16 Prestigious Schools that Offer Free Online Classes - I haven't had a chance to see what kind of classes but free learning of any kind is cool to me!

Post Office Bag tutorial - when we go to the post office I am always juggling packages and trying not to drop anything. This is a really good solution to me.

Storage Table and Wall Art
- I so like the idea of this table. I don't think it is very attractive but I think it could be. And I so love the wall art - I have a thing for typography so having bunches of letters and numbers on a wall would be great.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Denture Tablets for a Crystal Vase

I was out of town for 2 weeks and when I got off the plane Master was waiting for me with roses. So I had to look through my vases to find a perfect fit. And in searching I was reminded of the disgusting look of one of my favorite vases. That I have to hide away because it looks so bad. Thankfully with flowers in it - it doesn't show up very well.

I told myself that after this bunch of roses I would find a solution to fix it. It is a Lennox crystal vase. I have in the past tried to use a paste of baking soda and vinegar on it and scrubbing with a slim brushes. But nothing would clear it up. I also had another vase just starting to turn cloudy. I had read online before that some people have used denture tablets to clean vases. I was a little skeptical but decided to ask around about - if it was a real solution and several people assured me it had worked with success for them.

So I picked up a box of denture tablets at the Dollar Tree. And decided to try it out.

Scrubbed with an old toothbrush - lightly. As their was a very light cloudy film after the first time using the denture tablets.

When I asked around about using the denture tablets, many said I might have to repeat the process. The first time I filled the vase to the narrow neck with water. And after there was still a light layer of cloudy film on the middle full part of the vase after scrubbing with the toothbrush. So I decided to do a second tablet filling it just past the cloudy film. And then was able to rinse with hot water and it was fine. Better then fine it worked.

No more cloudy vases....

That second vase only had a light ring of cloudy film. So it only needed one time through with the denture tablet process. The whole process was so easy. And here I think of all the time I had been struggling to try to get the Lennox crystal vase clean and couldn't. I will now always use them at first signs of cloudy film. It was a success!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Service Book of Days

I have been wanting to participate in namaste's Book of Days. But have never had the time to sit down to do it. I decided to make a few minutes available to join in. If you want to join in, I suggest you go to this entry that has it listed for easy cut and paste. And explains a little about it.

I think it is relevant to domestic servitude because it can help create focus and a clear plan for the week ahead.

Outside my window... (weather, what do you hear, what do you see?) It is a Sunny, hot day

my thoughts... are preparing Master and myself to go out of town for work: making lists, gathering things and packing

Today's Quote... “Our thoughts create our reality -- where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.” ~ Peter McWilliams

i am thankful for...for getting a good night sleep last night - after having several nights in a row where I couldn't sleep well.

From my service training... (any skills, training etc; notes you want to share this week) - this week will be about organization. Lists, keeping track of all Master's equipment, set up and take down.

From the kitchen... (menu for the week, what are you cooking?) Since we will be out of town this week - nothing on the menu except for tonight. Tonight we are having brats on the grill and baked beans

i am creating... (crafts, sewing etc;) - Mail Love: I sent out thank you notes today for people who have been especially kind to me.

my adventures this week... (where are you going this week?) Denver

Becoming well read... (What are you reading this week?) Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration and Dragonfly Amber by Diana Gabaldon

i manifest and co-create... (what are your hopes, dreams, and prayers this week)
I hope to have and help create a smooth week without a lot of bumps in the road

Todays Melody... (what music are you listening to? even if it's just the sound of a bird...) Master's voice on the phone - but was listening to U2

One of my favorite things... sending out mail love, the perfect birthday card for a dear friend, photos of my family

further plans for this week... Just keeping focused and organized for this busy week ahead of Master and I (share a picture you've taken OR a picture you found online that speaks to you)
A photo I took on my trip...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Favorites

Butterscotch Pudding Tarts - This recipe reminded me of a friend of mine in Ohio. We went to a restaurant where they had butterscotch pie. And she wanted it so bad only to find out they were out. And every other pie she seemed to pick was out too. I know that I wanted to make her one but was too intimidated at the time (this was many years ago). This one looks delicious and I would love to make it. And wish I was near my friend so I could serve it to her.

Create a Mosaic Mirror - It would be a fun way to recycle and repurpose items you might already have around the house.

Tips on How to Select your Centerpieces - this is geared towards a wedding but I thought it was useful for even at home entertaining.

Herbs 101 - This is a short article about herbs at

The Grocery Cart Challenge: Menu Plan Monday - I love looking through other people's menus to get new ideas for mine. And this blogger often includes links to recipes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Creme Brulee French Toast

I just came home from being at my parents for two weeks. My sister and I were talking about how much we like french toast. My Mom would make it for us often on Sunday after church. Odd thing is that my Mom doesn't like it. But because she served it and in so many good ways - we have a fondness for french toast. My favorite way to eat french toast though is Creme Brulee French Toast.

I usually create thicker slices - not sure why I didn't this time. I didn't put any topping on it as I didn't want cover up the caramel on the top. The bread just soaks the custard creating a really nice texture. And of course great taste.

Low fat, low sugar version and the regular one together.

* 3 tablespoons (no-trans fat) margarine or butter
* 5 tablespoons pancake syrup (low sugar/no-sugar or regular)
* 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur), divided (or any other liquor that you would like the flavor of)
* At least 8 (1 inch thick) slices of French or sourdough bread (you might need more to cover the bottom of the pan depending on the size of your bread)
* 3 large eggs
* 1/2 cup egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
* 1 1/2 cups (fat-free) half-and-half
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* Garnish/Toppings: fresh strawberries or other berries and a dollop of light whipped cream or Light Cool Whip or maple syrup.

1. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray. Melt margarine or butter in a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Mix in reduced-calorie pancake syrup, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
2. Remove crusts from bread and arrange slices in the baking dish in a single layer on top of the brown sugar mixture (enough slices to cover the bottom of the pan...I cut the pieces to make it fit all through the pan).
3. In small bowl, whisk together eggs, egg substitute, fat-free half-and-half, vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, and salt. Pour mixture evenly over the bread. Cover well and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
5. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes until puffed and lightly browned. Serve with fresh fruit and a dollop of light whipped cream if desired.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blog Love: Feast on the Cheap

The Well Stocked Pantry (and associated costs in setting that up)- Honestly, this page is going on my top ten favorite bookmarks.

While the pantry article originally caught my eye, the blog is really worth browsing: Feast on the Cheap. One of the blog authors wrote “Delicious, healthy, homemade food should be easy and accessible – and shouldn’t require a massive bank account.”

I totally agree! And the food? Summer yummy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Maple Cinnamon Oat Bread

I love this bread! It smells amazing and tastes just as wonderful. This bread is great in just a regular loaf pan and toasted. But this time I was wanting to use it to make Creme Brulee French Toast. (And that recipe will come in my next post.) So I made this into 2 long loafs that I cooked in my French Bread pan. The bread looks almost like it is wheat bread but it is the maple syrup and brown sugar that given it the nice light brown color.

1 1/4 cup warm milk
3 cups bread flour
3/4 cup oats
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer.
Recommended cycle: basic/white bread cycle; light color setting. But I did it on the dough as I wanted to make creme brulee French toast. This bread though is good all on its own or as toast.

If using dough setting. Shape and then let rise until doubled. Time will depend on the warmth of your kitchen - about 33-45 minutes. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350.

* I have used powdered milk and fat free half-n-half when didn't have milk on hand and it tasted just as good.

* I have also used sugar free maple syrup and it tasted good still but didn't have as strong of maple flavor.

* I am sure this recipe could be made just as is by hand also if you don't have a bread machine.


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