Thursday, August 31, 2006

"My Quiet Time" for August 31

Here is another devotional page from my children’s devotional book QUIET TIMES WITH GOD:
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“Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

On this day in 1861, a little girl named Jessie Brown was born near Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, Jessie was often sick. Because of this, she did not go to school, but was taught at home. By the time she was 15, she began to write articles for Cleveland newspapers and various Christian magazines.

In 1896, Jessie married John Pounds, a pastor. An editor had once told Jessie that some of her poems would make good hymns. So Jessie Pounds began her songwriting career. Over her lifetime, she wrote 9 books, 50 cantatas, and more than 400 gospel songs. Some of her hymns are still sung today. Here are a few of them: “The Way of the Cross Leads Home”; “The Touch of His Hand on Mine”; and “Anywhere With Jesus.”

The chorus of “Anywhere With Jesus” says:

“Anywhere! Anywhere!
Fear I cannot know;
Anywhere with Jesus
I can safely go.”

Our verse today talks about the same thing. The words were spoken to Joshua by God. He said that Joshua did not have to be afraid of anything he would face as he led the people into the Promised Land. God would be with him wherever he went.

We are not leading people on a long journey or into battle as Joshua did, but God has also promised to be with us wherever we go. He has said that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what is happening in our lives, we do not need to be afraid. God is with us and will not leave us. We can be strong and brave as Joshua was. We have the same God with us!

• Thank God that He will never leave us. Ask Him to give you courage for hard times in your life.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Some of my favorite apple recipes


With fall coming (yes, I know it’s still August, but the nights are beginning to get cool up here already. Besides, September starts Friday!), I thought this would be the ideal time to share a few of my favorite apple recipes. These are tried-and-true favorites in our family!

APPLE CRISP PIZZA

Pastry for a single crust pie
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 medium apples, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
TOPPING:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup old-fashioned (or quick-cooking) oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 to 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Roll out pastry to fit a 12-inch pizza pan; fold under or flute edges of
pastry. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl; add apples and
toss mixture together well. Arrange apple slices in a single layer over
pastry in a circular pattern to completely cover pastry. Combine the
first five topping ingredients in a bowl; mix well and sprinkle over
apples. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are
tender. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle caramel topping over apples. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings

This is a wonderful dessert to make in the fall when the apples are
ready to pick. It makes your kitchen smell so good! You may add
vanilla ice cream on top if you like, but it’s delicious just as it is.




HOT APPLE OATMEAL

4 cups milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups chopped, unpeeled apples
1 cup raisins, optional
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, brown sugar, butter, salt and
cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. When the milk mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Pour the hot milk mixture over the oatmeal mix in the bowl. Stir well. Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole. Cover the casserole and bake for 45 minutes at 350º, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with
additional milk or cream.

I found this recipe many years ago in my favorite cooking newsletter, Cook & Tell. We have served this oatmeal to many guests over the years and everyone loves it. I will sometimes omit the raisins and/or walnuts if I know our guests have picky children, but the nuts and raisins are a delicious addition to the recipe otherwise.



APPLE CRANBERRY CRISP

3 cups chopped unpeeled apples
2 cups raw cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
TOPPING:
1 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup canola oil

Combine the apples, cranberries and sugar in a 9” square baking dish or a 2-qt. casserole dish. Mix thoroughly to blend; set aside. Combine topping ingredients until crumbly; spread evenly over fruit layer. Bake at 350º for 1 hour or until the fruit is fork-tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Yield: 6-8 servings.

This is a wonderful dessert to make in the fall when apples and cranberries are both fresh. But it tastes good anytime! I’ve adapted this recipe from the original to make it healthier and lower in fat and sugar.



CRUMB TOP APPLE PIE

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Unbaked 9” pie shell
6 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
Lemon juice
Crumb topping:
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter

Begin by mixing together the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. In the pie shell, alternate layers of apples with the spice mixture. Sprinkle each layer with lemon juice before adding another layer. When all apples and spices are in pie shell, make the topping by mixing the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and dash of salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbs form. Top the pie with the crumb topping.
Bake the pie at 450º for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350º and bake 30 minutes more. Serve warm with cheddar cheese or ice cream on the side.

This excellent pie comes from Jane & Michael Stern’s wonderful cookbook, Square Meals. I have made this pie so many times that its page in my handwritten cookbook is freckled with apple juice and spices.



BUTTERCUP SQUASH & APPLES

3 lbs. buttercup squash
3 apples
6 Tblsp. margarine (or use 4 Tblsp. oil)
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 Tblsp. flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Cut squash in halves; remove seeds and fibers. Peel and cut in slices 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. Arrange the slices in a 13 x 9-inch pan.
Core apples but do not peel them. Cut in 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices and arrange them on top of squash.
Mix remaining ingredients; sprinkle over top of apples and squash. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake at 350º for about 1 hour or until squash is tender. Serves 6 to 8.

I have been making this recipe for over thirty years. It’s nice with any autumn meal and would be a great side dish for Thanksgiving. It would also make a nice contribution to an autumn potluck.

Hope others enjoy these great apple recipes as much as we do!

Breakfast Potatoes

Here, for mom2fur, is the recipe for Breakfast Potatoes mentioned in my Menu Plan Monday. Enjoy!

BREAKFAST POTATOES

2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Coat a 9-inch microwave-safe pie plate with cooking spray. Arrange the potato and onion slices in the plate and sprinkle with the seasonings. Cover and microwave on High for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese. Cover and microwave on High for 4 to 5 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender. Yield: 2 servings.

We really like this easy potato recipe from an old TASTE OF HOME magazine. It goes especially well with egg dishes, but I think it would also be good alongside a hamburger. You can obviously increase the amounts to make more servings, but if you do, remember that the cooking time will be longer.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Celebratory Chocolate Cake

Recently our family got together to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday, and I offered to bake a cake. I really love to bake, but don’t do it often any more with no children left at home. (If goodies are here and in sight, I will eat them, and that’s not a good thing. So I keep them in the freezer.) I decided to bake a chocolate cake, and the easiest, best chocolate cake I know of is Never-Fail Chocolate Cake from COOK & TELL, my favorite recipe newsletter. This cake recipe is also found in the cookbook of the same name, by Karyl Bannister. Here’s the recipe.

NEVER-FAIL CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.

Combine the sugar, chocolate, and milk in a large saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Add the butter, remove from the heat, and cool briefly. Beat in the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean. Cool in pan on rack -- or remove from the pan if desired. Frost, or top with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Makes 1 9-inch cake. (For our group, I doubled the recipe and baked the cake in a 13x9-inch pan.)

For the frosting, I wanted a milk chocolate one. This cake is very fudgy, and I thought a dark or fudge frosting might be too much. (In retrospect, it probably wouldn’t have been.) I adapted a frosting recipe I found on the internet.

EASY PERFECT MILK CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tblsp. half & half cream (I used the fat-free kind)

Beat the softened butter in a medium bowl. Slowly beat in the remaining ingredients until combined, then beat on high until frosting reaches desired consistency. (The recipe didn’t say how much frosting it would make. I thought it didn’t look like enough for a 13x9-inch cake, so I added another cup of powdered sugar and another tablespoon of cream, and left the other ingredients the same. I think the recipe as printed would work fine for the 9-inch cake.)

Maybe your family will enjoy this celebratory cake too! (With school starting for many students, this might be a nice dessert for the first supper of the school year!)

Two of my favorite kitchen helpers

It’s always nice to find new products to help make kitchen tasks easier. These are two of my favorites.

1. REYNOLDS® SLOW COOKER LINERS. These are plastic liners for your slow cooker. My biggest concern about these -- that they would draw liquid out of the slow cooker and leave a mess on the countertop -- has turned out to be a non-issue. (Sometimes my new slow cooker will do that all by itself, but that’s another story.) I wouldn’t bother to use the liners for soup or anything really liquid. But in any case where the food is apt to stick or the cleanup is apt to be messy, I find these liners very helpful. I always use them for my Crockpot Ribs, for example. And yesterday I made a recipe for Smoky Bean Stew -- containing mini sausages and many different types of beans/veggies -- which I assumed would turn out more stew-like than it actually did, so I didn’t use a liner. Oh, how I wish I had! This meal stuck on more than anything I had ever made in this cooker so far. When I bought it, I liked the look of the stainless steel cooker with black insert -- and I still like the look of it, but I’ve found that black stoneware hard to clean. Which leads me to my other favorite helper...

2. SCOTCH-BRITE® CAMPWARE COMPANIONS. These are terrific! They are small Scotch-Brite®-backed soap-filled sponges that come three to a package and are sold with the camping supplies. I first found these in the camping aisle at Walmart several years ago and took them on a camping trip. We do tent camping, so the dishes are washed in a bucket with water that’s been heated on a camp stove. I was thrilled with how these sponges cleaned up my skillet and dutch oven, even when foods really stuck on. When we returned home, I put the extra sponge to use in my kitchen. Even after the soap is used up, these sponges continue to work very well for pots and pans or any tough dishwashing job. I just keep the one I’m currently using tucked into a cute little custard cup on the windowsill above my sink. The others, with the open end of the package paper-clipped shut to keep them from drying out, live under the sink. Yesterday, as I was trying to clean the slow cooker stoneware (after having soaked it for a good six hours!), I muttered to myself that what I needed was a new Campware Companion. I thought I had run out of them, but no! There under the sink was a whole new package. Campware Companions to the rescue again! That stoneware was shining in no time.

I highly recommend these two helpers for anyone’s kitchen!

Menu Plan Monday

I love this idea, which I found over at I'M AN ORGANIZING JUNKIE. Although I've been doing menu planning for many, many years, I like the idea of posting my week's menus on my blog in addition to the side of my fridge! As I mentioned last time, I ordinarily plan my meals from Thursday to Thursday. But lately I've been trying to do that planning earlier in the week, so Menu Plan Monday is going to help me achieve that goal. Here's what we'll be eating this week:

Monday -- Crabmeat Quiche, Breakfast Potatoes, Fruit Salad (this is a menu that didn't get used last week)
Tuesday -- Cheese Ravioli & Veggies, Fruit 'n' Nut Tossed Salad, Bread & Butter
Wednesday -- Cashew Chicken Wraps, Ranch Pasta Salad
Thursday -- Creamy Swiss Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus Stir-fry Vegetables (frozen, from Walmart)
Friday -- Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups, Mixed Vegetable Salad, Italian Bread
Saturday -- Vegetable Shrimp Toss, Herbed Dinner Rolls
Sunday -- Greek Pasta Salad, Herbed Dinner Rolls, Apple Crisp Pizza (the first Sunday of the month is our fellowship dinner at church)

Looking forward to seeing the menus others will post!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Building a prayer journal


L asked if I would share my instructions for building a prayer journal. I am happy to do so, as I’ve been thinking for some time that I’d like to do a post about my prayer journal.

For years I jotted down prayer requests on scraps of paper stuck in my Bible, or wrote them in the notebooks I used for taking notes in church. Many of them I kept in my head. One of my unspoken prayer requests for a long time was just to be able to organize things so I could pray more effectively. So one day I bought a little spiral-bound notebook and began to try and organize my prayer requests in sections so I could pray for different things and people on different days. That worked for quite awhile, but not quite as well as I had hoped. Then my daughter went off to college and took a class called Study of Prayer. They made prayer journals as a class project. I was so impressed when I saw what a prayer journal could look like -- and with its potential as a helpful tool for one’s prayer life. I studied the journal my daughter had made and gathered my own ideas from here and there. Then I began to put together my own prayer journal. It has become every bit as helpful as I envisioned it would be.

I suggest getting one of the smaller binders -- mine is approximately 7 inches by 9 inches. Larger ones would be fine, but the smaller one is easy to keep with your Bible. I prefer the kind with a clear pocket on the front and back covers, to slip your own “cover art” into. Mine has a colorful picture on the front cover, along with the words “Prayer Journal” and a favorite quotation on prayer. On the back cover there’s another colorful picture (I cut these from Gooseberry Patch catalogs, as these picture many of my favorite things) , part of a poem about prayer, and a verse (James 5:16). I cut card stock sheets in half to fit my binder and -- after punching holes in them -- used them as dividers for the different sections. I used index tabs to label the different sections. I cut white paper in half, punched holes on one side, and used these to write my actual requests on. For the special people in my life, I have their photos (stuck to card stock with clear photo corners) right across from the page with my prayer requests for them. Whenever I come across something that will help me in my prayer life, I incorporate it into my prayer journal. For example, one mission board made available a bookmark listing basic, biblical ways to pray for missionaries. I cut this up and scattered the different requests on the card stock divider for my “Missionaries” page. Every time I pray for missionaries, I have before me some concrete ways to pray for them.

Here are my basic guidelines for putting together a prayer journal. Feel free to adapt them for yourselves.

PRAYER JOURNAL GUIDELINES

Of course there are a multitude of ways you can organize your prayer journal. This is a combination of what my daughters learned in a college class and what I came up with myself. My prayer journal is still a work in progress!

My prayer journal consists of 3 basic sections -- Adoration, Agreement, and Asking. Each section has categories within it.

Section I -- ADORATION

A. Praise.

1. Attributes of God. Choose 10 (or more) attributes of God that you want to praise Him for. Make a page for each one. For each attribute, write out at least 3 Scripture verses which mention or describe that attribute. Some examples of attributes would be holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, omniscience, etc. At the bottom of each page, write a brief statement or prayer describing why you praise God for that particular attribute.

B. Thanksgiving.

1. Spiritual blessings.
a. God
b. Jesus Christ
c. The Holy Spirit
d. The Word of God
(For each of these spiritual blessings -- and you could certainly add more, like salvation, sanctification, etc. -- write out 3 verses that describe that particular blessing. Then write a brief statement or prayer describing why you thank and praise God for that blessing.)

2. Material blessings.
(List as many material blessings as you like -- food, home, etc. Write out a relevant verse for each and a brief statement or prayer thanking God for them.)

3. National blessings.
(List our blessings as a nation -- a free country, privilege of voting, etc. Add a verse if you wish and write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these blessings.)

4. Physical blessings.
(List physical blessings -- good health, the health of your family, etc. Write out a verse if you wish and then write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these blessings.)

5. Family blessings.
(List your immediate family and other relatives or friends you are specifically thankful for. Add verses if you like and write a brief statement or prayer thanking God for these folks.)

Section II -- AGREEMENT.

A. Character flaws
(List several of your character flaws or areas where you are prone to sin. [I personally have listed 9 of these so far -- not that there aren’t many more than that!] Make a page for each one. For each flaw or sin, find and write out several helpful verses. [Proverbs is a great source for these verses.] At the bottom of each page, write a summary of why each flaw or sin is not pleasing to God, and what behavior He would have you to work at instead.)

Section III --ASKING.

A. Every Day -- Make a page for each person you plan to pray for every day. List the things you plan to pray for in their lives. I have a page for my husband, my parents, each of my children and their spouses, and one for some dear friends.

B. Sunday --List the things you will pray for on Sundays. (I chose to pray for our church services, pastor, Sunday School teachers, visitors, music, nursery, etc.)

C. Monday -- List the things or people you will pray for on Mondays. (This is the day I chose to pray for missionaries. I also pray for a portion of the people in the church directory each day [about one-sixth of the names each day*]).

D. Tuesday -- List those you will pray for on Tuesdays. (I pray for special friends, near and far away, on this day.)

E. Wednesday -- List those you will pray for on Wednesdays. (I pray for our church leadership on Wednesdays.)

F. Thursday -- List those you will pray for on Thursdays. (This is my day to pray for our country and for our extended families.)

G. Friday -- List those you will pray for on Fridays. (On Friday, I have several individuals or couples I am praying specific verses for. I have a page for each person/couple. I have listed the specific things from each verse that I’m praying for them.)

H. Saturday -- List the requests you’ll pray for on Saturdays. (This is my day to pray for myself. I list concerns that I have for my own personal spiritual growth, the use of my spiritual gifts, faithfulness in ministry, etc. )

* To pray for the folks in the church, this is what I do. Make one page for each day of the week, except Sunday. On each page, list about one-sixth of the names of the people in the church. Put that page in the section for the particular day of the week.

Of course you can adapt these guidelines to work better for you. I think that the more personalized you can make your prayer journal, the more of a tool it will be for you. I definitely recommend adding stickers, photos, etc. to add color and interest, and to jog your memory as you pray for special people in your life. Card stock dividers are colorful and very helpful, and index tabs for the different days are also helpful. You may also enjoy finding challenging, encouraging quotes on prayer to add to the journal. Have fun!

And for those who don't have a bread machine...

Here -- for Tonya, Ping, and anyone else who would like to try this without a bread machine, is the great recipe for:

WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD

1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
3 Tblsp. butter or margarine
3/4 cup cold water
1 Tblsp. salt
1/2 cup honey or molasses (I prefer molasses)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
(optional) 1/2 cup wheat germ or raw sunflower seeds

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Scald the milk [this means to bring it just to boiling; watch it carefully!] in a saucepan. Turn off the heat, add the butter and let it melt, then add the cold water, salt, and honey or molasses, and let mixture sit until lukewarm.

Add milk mixture to dissolved yeast in bowl. Add whole wheat flour and optional ingredients and mix well. Add all-purpose flour until the dough is no longer sticky and you can knead it easily. Knead [on a floured surface] for 10 minutes, adding more flour occasionally if necessary to keep it from sticking. Set the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides of dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour to an hour and a half, until double in size.

Punch dough down, form into 2 loaves, and place in 2 greased 8-inch loaf pans. Set these back in the warm place, covered, until the loaves rise no more than 1/2 inch above the rims of the pans. Bake at 375ºF. for 35 to 40 minutes or until done. Take the loaves out of the pans and let them cool on wire racks.

Yield: 2 8-inch loaves.

Hope you all enjoy this recipe [source: THE HUNGRY HIKER'S BOOK OF GOOD COOKING, by Gretchen McHugh] as much as we do!

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Whole Wheat Bread Success Story

Flushed with success over my recent attempt to make the dough for Seven-Grain Bread in the bread machine [see the post “A Picnic by the River”], I decided to try a recipe for whole-wheat bread. This is another recipe from the same old favorite cookbook, THE HUNGRY HIKER’S BOOK OF GOOD COOKING. I found that the whole wheat recipe needed a lot more adapting before the dough could be made in the machine, but the adjustments I made worked well. It really helped that -- unlike the last time I attempted this procedure -- I was at home when the dough cycle ended. The beautifully risen and kneaded dough was a joy to form into loaves. The finished bread was absolutely wonderful! I’m going to share the recipe as I adapted it -- don’t try this without a machine, as the proportions are quite different. (If someone really, really wants to try this and doesn’t have a bread machine, let me know and I’ll be happy to share the original recipe.)

WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD
1 7/8 cup lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons margarine, room temperature
1/3 to 1/2 cup molasses
1 Tblsp. salt
1/3 cup dry milk
3 cups whole-wheat flour (I used the white whole wheat from King Arthur)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in order listed. Select the Dough setting. (In my machine this takes 1 hour 30 minutes.) When dough cycle finishes, turn dough out on floured surface. Punch down and knead slightly; then form into 2 loaves. Place each in a greased 8-inch loaf pan. Let rise in a warm place until the loaves rise no more than 1/2 inch above the rims of the pans. Bake at 375ºF. for 35 minutes or until done. Remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

The author also suggests making this dough into hamburger-bun size rolls by dividing the dough in half and then dividing each half into 7 equal pieces. Form pieces into round shapes and flatten them to a 1-inch height. Place on greased cookie sheets. They can be placed closed enough that they almost touch, which they will when they bake. Bake for 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on racks and separate the rolls after they are cooled. (I have not tried this, but it sounds like a super idea!)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This Week's Picnic by the River

Well, this week we were again blessed with good weather on Wednesday, so were able to picnic by the river again on our way to prayer meeting last evening.

Since we are only traveling a few miles from home, we’re not too limited in what we can take along for our meal. This week I made a Kielbasa Biscuit Pizza and a simple Cucumber-Tomato Salad. I lined the pan with foil (which I then greased with a bit of olive oil) for the main dish, as I didn’t want to have to clean a baked-on pan when I arrived home after church. When it was baked, I covered it tightly with foil and placed it in a 13x9-inch casserole basket. It stayed nice and hot until we got to our destination. I brought the salad in a covered plastic bowl.

Here are my recipes:

KIELBASA BISCUIT PIZZA

2 tubes refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (12 ounces each)
2 cups spaghetti sauce (I like the Great Value garden-style sauce from Walmart)
6 to 8 ounces kielbasa, cubed (pepperoni or ham would also work)
1 8-ounce can mushroom stems & pieces, drained
1 cup chopped green pepper (or use 1/2 cup green and 1/2 cup red peppers)
Shredded mozzarella cheese to taste (I used about 1/2 cup)
Shredded cheddar cheese to taste (I used about 1/2 cup)

Open the cans of biscuits and cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Arrange the pieces in the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish, but do not flatten them. Bake at 375º for about 13-15 minutes or until biscuits begin to brown. Then spread the spaghetti sauce over the biscuit curst. Sprinkle with kielbasa, mushrooms, peppers, and cheeses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

You could vary this by using almost any pizza toppings you like. I found the idea in QUICK COOKING magazine.

TOMATO-CUCUMBER SALAD

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)
2 Tblsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic or onion powder
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, vinegar and seasonings to make a smooth dressing. Stir in the diced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 4 servings.

You could probably use the same amount of dressing and use quite a few more tomatoes and cucumbers. It really liquefies once the vegetables are added. This recipe comes from an old Pillsbury cookbook called MONEY-SAVING MEALS. I’ve been making this salad for years.

So that is this week’s picnic menu. We were delighted to see that our favorite picnic table, right on the riverbank, was available again. We hope to continue this into fall, or as long as they leave the picnic tables out. Some evenings are bound to be cool, but I see that as being a good time to bring along a hearty stew or casserole for the main course! Maybe a stew baked in a pumpkin! Hmm...

Persevering in prayer

Recently I’ve been working on preparing a “make-your-own-prayer-journal kit” for a going-away gift for a dear friend. She’s a relatively new believer and has peeked into my prayer journal a few times. She would love to have her own journal, so I thought such a kit might be a good idea as a gift. I’m including a decorated binder, card stock and paper cut to size, stickers, a hole punch, index tabs, a marker, a glue stick, etc., plus detailed instructions. I added a few of the verses and quotes I have on the covers of my own prayer journal to the cover of hers.

One of these is a verse of a poem... the last verse, as it turns out. The other day in preparing for my Sunday School lesson, I came across the entire poem (I think, anyway). I had jotted it down on a blank page in BECOMING A WOMAN OF PRAYER, by Cynthia Heald, when I did that study. The poem was such a good reminder to me of the importance of persevering in prayer. Here it is:


*******************************************
For years I’ve prayed, and yet I see no change.
The mountain stands exactly where it stood;
The shadows that it casts are just as deep;
The pathway to the summit e’en more steep.
Shall I pray on?

Shall I pray on with ne’er a hopeful sign?
Not only does the mountain still remain,
But, while I watch to see it disappear,
Becomes the more appalling year by year.
Shall I pray on?

I shall pray on. Though distant as it seems,
The answer may be almost at my door,
Or just around the corner on its way,
But whether near or far, yes, I shall pray --
I shall pray on.

-- Edith Mapes
*********************************************

Perhaps this poem will be an encouragement to someone else today.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A comforting thought

Recently I made a barley hot pack as a gift, and thought the instructions might be helpful to others too. Here they are.

MOM’S BARLEY HOT PACKS

These microwavable hot packs have been a great help to my family members over the years. They are great for cramps, aches and pains, labor, or for just warming up on a cold night. Here’s how to make them.

You will need:
•  tracing paper or brown paper
• ruler or yardstick
• pencil
• scissors
• pins
• flannel fabric of your choice
• cotton batting
• thread to coordinate with flannel
• sewing machine
• hand sewing needle

Measure and mark a 14-inch square on tracing paper or brown paper. Cut out the square. This is your pattern.

Pin the pattern to the flannel fabric, then cut out the squares. (If you have a large enough piece of flannel, fold it before pinning the pattern on and cut 2 squares at once. If your flannel pieces are smaller, pin and cut one at a time. Or if need be you can cut the squares from two different coordinating prints or colors of flannel. I like to use plaids.)

Pin the same pattern to cotton batting and cut two squares -- again, folding the batting to cut 2 squares at once if possible. You should have 2 squares of flannel and 2 squares of batting.

Pin a square of batting to the wrong side of each square of flannel. Use your sewing machine to quilt the batting to the flannel by making rows of straight stitches about 2 inches apart. Now you have 2 quilted squares.

Place the quilted squares together with the flannel sides facing one another. Pin around the edges. Stitch around all sides of the square, using a 1/2-inch or 5/8 inch seam allowance and leaving a 4-inch opening in the center of one side for turning.

Tie off the thread ends (or backstitch at the beginning and ending) and clip the corners of the square. Turn the bag right side out through the opening you left. Carefully smooth out the seams and poke out the corners so they are nice and square.

Now carefully pour two 1-pound bags of barley into the opening. Fold the raw edges of the opening in so that they line up with the sewed seam. Use a needle and thread to slipstitch the opening closed.

When you need to use your barley bag, place it in a microwave oven and heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully, and check the bag often to be sure it does not overheat.

The barley will retain its heating qualities for quite some time; we’ve used some of the same bags for years. Eventually, though, the bag may become stained or the barley may take on a scorched smell. If need be, you can undo the slipstitching, discard the barley, wash and dry the bag if necessary, and fill it with fresh barley. Or simply make a new bag.

Hope others find these hot packs to be as comforting as our family has!

Fabulous Fish Chowder

Here is the recipe mentioned in my meal plan for Thursday. I've made fish chowder for years, and it always came out very good. But once I found this recipe, it has spoiled me for any other fish chowder recipe. It came from COOK & TELL, my favorite recipe newsletter (see link on this page) and is also found in the book of the same name, by Karyl Bannister.

Here it is:
BAKED FISH CHOWDER
2 lb. haddock, hake or pollock fillets (probably most any mild white fish
would work fine)
4 med. potatoes, peeled
2 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. chili powder
1 garlic clove, crushed [I use the equivalent amount of granulated garlic)
1 bay leaf
3 med. onions, cut in chunks (I sometimes use 2 or 3 green onions, snipped, instead)
1 T. butter
1/4 t. dried dill weed
2 c. half and half OR 1 can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 375º. Put fish in a 3 qt. casserole dish with a cover, or a Dutch oven. Layer potatoes on top of fish. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, cayenne, and chili powder, then add garlic and bay leaf. Top with onions, butter, and dill. Pour in 2 1/4 c. boiling water. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Stir evaporated. milk or half and half into the chowder. Remove bay leaf and serve hot with crusty bread or crackers.

**This is probably the easiest fish chowder recipe I’ve ever seen, and it is fabulous! The spices give it a nice flavor and an unusual “kick.” This is so yummy on a cold night. I can’t usually afford fresh fish , but I like to use the frozen pollock that you can buy at Walmart for under $3/lb.** (These are my daughter Carrie's comments, but I echo them wholeheartedly!)

Let me know if you give this recipe a try and what you think!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"My Quiet Time" for August 22

Here is another page from my kids’ devotional book QUIET TIMES WITH GOD.

“And he looked, and behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.” (1 Kings 19:6)

As we learned yesterday, the Kentucky State Fair is going on right now. Today we will learn about another tasty event taking place at that fair. This event is the Favorite Cake Contest. There are many different foods that cooks and bakers can enter in cooking contests at the fair. But the Favorite Cake Contest is entered by many, many cooks. The competition is stiff. You might say it’s hard to beat!

The baking contests are entered by children, teenagers, parents, and grandparents. Last year, [in 2002] the winning entry in the Favorite Cake Contest was called Tropical Paradise Cake. It was a coconut-flavored yellow cake with a pineapple filling, a nut filling, and white chocolate cream cheese icing. No wonder it was a winner! In 2001, the winning cake was a four-layer Maple Creme Cake, made with real maple sugar. Are you hungry yet?

Our verse today tells about a cake which an angel baked for Elijah. Remember, Elijah was running away from the wicked Queen Jezebel. He had been running for many miles. He was very tired and discouraged. Finally he lay down under a juniper tree to rest. It is interesting to see how the Lord encouraged Elijah. First He let Elijah sleep. Then He sent an angel to provide food and water for Elijah. Then He let him sleep some more. It can encourage us that God always knows what is happening in our lives. He will give us what we need and do what is best for us right then, just as He did for Elijah.

• Thank God that He knows everything that’s going on in our lives. Thank Him that He always does what is best for us.

Menu Plan Monday

Well, this is a day late, but I just found this on Laura's blog today, via Susan. Since I ALWAYS plan a menu, and have done so for over 30 years, I thought I should participate. I ordinarily plan from Thursday to Thursday, since that's my shopping day. But I'll rearrange this for the convenience of others.

MONDAY: Simple Pierogi Supper, Tomatoes & Cucumbers, Bread & Butter
TUESDAY: we're eating supper with friends at their campsite. I'm bringing cole slaw.
WEDNESDAY: Kielbasa Biscuit Pizza, Tomato-Cucumber Salad
THURSDAY: Oven Fish Chowder, Multigrain Bread
FRIDAY: Tex-Mex Lasagna, Salad
SATURDAY: Crabmeat Quiche, Breakfast Potatoes, Fruit Salad
SUNDAY: Smoky Bean Stew, Cornbread or Seven-Grain Bread

There you have it!

Monday, August 21, 2006

A simple supper

Family suppers don’t have to be elaborate to be tasty and filling. Some nights (and Monday is one of them!) just call for a simple meal. Tonight I adapted a recipe I saw in a magazine to use what I had on hand, and it turned out to be delicious. Along with this skillet meal, I served sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and Italian bread & butter. I used lowfat kielbasa and cheese, so it was relatively healthy, too.

SIMPLE PIEROGI SUPPER

1 package (16.9 oz.) frozen pierogies
7 to 8 ounces kielbasa, diced
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 to 2 green onions, sliced thin
Garlic powder to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 Tblsp. shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pierogies according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the diced kielbasa with the squash, zucchini and seasonings for 5 minutes or until the squash is tender. Drain the pierogies and add them to the skillet; combine with vegetables and heat through. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese before serving.
Yield: 4 servings

A little detail

Oh, how I wish I had the capability to post pictures once again! I would happily post one of my new utensil crock. My kitchen decorating theme is strawberries, and from time to time people will give me strawberry items, sometimes useful, sometimes purely decorative. This one is both. Here’s how I acquired it:

It seems that most of the transfer stations (colloquially known to most of us as “dumps”) around here have an area set aside where townsfolk can leave items that are still useful for others to look through -- the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” principle. I’ve obtained a few good books that way, and have been able to pass on many of my own used books, magazines, etc. in the same way. My mother-in-law is a great fan of this “recycle area” at her town dump, and recently brought me a very nice stoneware crock decorated with a strawberry design which she had found there. She thought maybe I could use it for a plant pot or something.

I told her I certainly could use it! It looked roomy enough to hold all of my cooking utensils. At the moment, these utensils were housed in two different containers on the kitchen counter. Wooden spoons stood in a cylindrical wooden container some wood utensils had come in many years ago. It was now old, ugly and grease-stained. I’d been debating for some time how to refurbish or replace it. The rest of my utensils were in an amber glass apothecary jar, which was at least attractive, but they were crowded in and hard to retrieve when needed.

That very day, I scrubbed up the strawberry crock with dish soap, water and a Scotch-Brite®-backed sponge. It came out looking like new! When it was thoroughly dry, I put all of the utensils -- wooden spoons and all -- in the crock, with room to spare. It fits my decorating theme and looks gorgeous.

To me this is just a great example of how God cares about the details of our lives. It’s such a little thing. The containers I had were working. It was not really necessary for me to have a new container for my utensils. (It’s really rather rebuking when one thinks about how many cooks in this world don’t even own such a thing.) I probably would never have gotten around to buying one. Yet God knows my desire to be better organized and to declutter my house. He provided this detail for me! It is indeed a little thing. But such little details are the “grace notes” God adds to give sparkle to our lives.

A Salad for Sunday

Sundays are always a challenge when it comes to meal planning, I think. For us, the image of the family gathered around the table for a big Sunday dinner of a roast and all the fixings just doesn’t work. (I remember meals like that as a kid, but my mother always stayed home from church to do it.) My hubby and I both teach Sunday School and must leave the house by 9 a.m. We then attend the morning service at ll, and often it is 12:30 or 12:45 before we arrive home -- usually very hungry!

Almost always, I plan a crockpot meal for Sunday lunch. Occasionally we eat lunch out, and sometimes there are leftovers to use up. Once in awhile I plan a meal that can just be put together quickly at the last minute. That was the case yesterday. The main-dish salad I made turned out so good, I thought others might like the recipe too. To accompany the salad, we had Seven-Grain Bread left from Wednesday. Here’s the salad recipe:

RASPBERRY CHICKEN SALAD
6 cups bite-size pieces salad greens (I used the bagged stuff)
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken (I used leftover grilled chicken)
2 cups sliced peaches
1 medium stalk celery, sliced
2 medium green onions, sliced
1/2 cup raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing

Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. (The recipe suggested topping the salad with some honey-roasted peanuts. I had thought of toasting some pecans, but decided not to take the time. We just sprinkled some cashews over our salads and they were good. I think adding nuts of some type to this is a good idea -- adds a bit more protein and makes it more filling.) Yield: 4 servings.

This recipe came from a 1998 Betty Crocker cookbook called “Speedy Summer Suppers.” I hadn’t used it too much because it seemed that most of the chicken recipes called for already-cooked chicken -- something I seldom have on hand. But this summer I’ve discovered a couple of handy ways to do so: 1) Cook a whole roasting chicken or 2 smaller chickens in the crockpot. Take all the meat off the bones and you have a large amount of cooked chicken to use in recipes. (Strain the leftover chicken broth and freeze for later use.) 2) Season a bunch of boneless chicken breasts as desired and grill them. Cube the meat or cut it in strips, then refrigerate or freeze to use in recipes.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Flour Sack Dish Towels

A project I’ve been working on lately is embroidered day-of-the-week flour sack dish towels. It occurred to me that others might also like to try this old-fashioned craft that results in such a lovely, useful product. Flour-sack towels are very absorbent and work beautifully for drying dishes. They are also thin, so when you hang them back up to dry, they dry very quickly.

If you prefer to just use plain white flour-sack towels, you may buy them plain and just use them that way. I enjoy the fun of embellishing the plain towels with vintage-looking embroidery designs.

Packages of five flour-sack towels may be purchased at Walmart. I believe the price is around $5. These towels are very large; to my mind, they are too large to be practical as a dish towel. So I cut them in half and narrow-hem the cut side of each resulting towel. Thus, from a package of five towels I end up with ten dish towels.

The next step is to stamp on an embroidery pattern to stitch over. The craft department at Walmart carries a fair assortment of iron-on embroidery patterns made specifically to use on day-of-the-week dish towels. The brand is Aunt Martha’s Hot Iron Transfers. They are very inexpensive and can be used more than once. Follow the instructions and iron the patterns on your towels. (You can also find great patterns on the internet; Pattern Bee is a wonderful resource.)

You may find, as I sometimes do, that the transfer doesn't stamp satisfactorily.  Another very easy way which I have used often to get the design on the towel is to use dressmaker's tracing paper, placed color side down between the transfer and the fabric.  Then simply trace the design with a pen and it transfers to the towel like magic.

Next, choose the colors of embroidery floss you want to use for your design. I use the same colors for all the towels in a set so that things look nice and coordinated. Then place the designed part of the towel in an embroidery hoop and stitch over the lines you stamped on. Most designs will use basic stitches like back stitch, stem stitch, lazy daisy stitches and French knots.

Sometimes I like to add a fabric trim to the towels.  You can click the "dish towel" label in the label cloud to the right to see some of the ways this can be done.  One thing I have not done, but which would be a lovely idea, is to add a crocheted edging.  Many can be crocheted right in place on the towel.

When you are finished, press the towel. After pressing it once, I like to place the embroidered area right side down on a towel or washcloth and press again, to help the design stand out. 

If you are giving a set of towels as a gift, fold each towel neatly so that the design is centered. Press again if need be.  Stack the towels and tie the set together with a ribbon if desired. I like to add a crocheted dishcloth to complete the set.

I’ve found a nice way to package the dish towels. Our supermarket sells salad greens in the clear plastic “clamshell” lidded boxes -- but the greens are inside a plastic bag and the box stays in absolutely pristine condition. I designed a label on the computer that says “Day of the Week Flour Sack Dish Towels -- embroidered with love by ____” and I place this on top of the store label that said “Baby Spinach” or whatever. Then I just put the stack of towels inside this box.

Have fun with this idea!

Something different...

Each year for the past six years, I’ve written a summer devotional book for children. The children’s ministry materials our church uses provide daily devotionals for the kids to use throughout the school year -- which is when the program runs -- but nothing for the summer. The children’s ministry leaders in our church were very concerned about this lack -- are daily devotions not important in the summer, too? -- and asked me to consider writing something for the kids to use. The devotional books have been greatly enjoyed by the kids each summer, and I’m happy to know I’m helping them to establish the all-important habit of a daily quiet time with God.

I thought it might be fun and interesting for a few days to post some of the devotional pages I’ve written for the kids. As you read them, remember they are written for children, so they will be simple. But perhaps you will find something you’d like to share with a child you know. The pages I’m sharing are from the book I did in 2003. (For the Bible verse for the kids, I leave blanks for them to fill in some missing words. This insures that they actually read the verse.) Here is the page for today:

******************************************************************
AUGUST 19

“He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold?”
(Psalm 147:17)

Today is National Soft Ice Cream Day! Wouldn’t you like to celebrate with a soft-serve ice cream cone?

Soft ice cream was invented in 1938, long after regular hard ice cream. The inventors were a man named “Grandpa” McCullough and his son, Alex, who had started the Homemade Ice Cream Co. in 1927. They knew ice cream tasted better when it was softer. So they set out to learn two things: 1) Would customers like the taste of softer ice cream? 2) Was there a machine that could be used for serving soft ice cream?

First, Grandpa and Alex got the answer to question 1. They had special sales of the soft ice cream -- “All you can eat for 10¢.” People loved the new soft ice cream! The answer to question 2 was a special freezer that also dispensed the ice cream. A friend of the McCulloughs opened the first store to sell only their soft ice cream. Grandpa named the store and the ice cream “Dairy Queen”. He believed his ice cream was the “queen” among dairy products. Today there are over 5200 Dairy Queen stores all over the world. What a sweet success!

Our verse today talks about ice and cold. It reminds us that God sends forth the ice “like morsels”, or hailstones. It is God who sends the ice, whether it’s in the form of hail or whether it’s the ice that forms on lakes and ponds. It is God’s ice, and He sends it where and when He chooses to. He made the cold weather and the hot weather, and He sends them where and when He wants to. When we complain about the weather, let’s remember that it is really a complaint against God. Let’s remember that He is in control and that He knows best.

• Thank God that He made all things and is in control of all things. Ask Him to help you be content with whatever weather He sends.
**************************************************************

There you have it for today. Hope some will enjoy a look into the pages of QUIET TIMES WITH GOD.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Just Peachy

The nights are cooling down some, but the days are still blazingly hot here in New England. I often find myself pouring yet another glass of iced tea. Usually I make Carrie’s iced tea (you can find the recipe on “Life on a Back Road”), with green tea as specified. It’s not my hubby’s favorite, so I usually make a half batch just for me. I’ve played around with that basic formula to make a peach iced tea which is also quite tasty and refreshing. Here’s the recipe (which I’m posting here so I won’t forget what I did):

PEACH ICED TEA

2 ginger peach tea bags (Republic of Tea makes this flavor)*
4 Darjeeling tea bags
6 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 Tblsp. orange juice
1/2 to 1 cup cold water (optional)

Put the tea bags in a large bowl. (I like to use a clear glass bowl with a pouring spout [makes the eventual transfer of tea to pitcher easier] and measurements marked on the side.) For tea bags with strings, I clip them to the side of the bowl with a clothespin. Pour in the boiling water. Let stand 5 to 7 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing them into the bowl. Discard tea bags. Stir in sugar, lemon juice, and orange juice. Let stand until lukewarm. Taste tea and add the additional water to taste if necessary. Pour into a pitcher (I use a covered plastic pitcher from the dollar store). Store in the refrigerator and serve over ice. Makes a little less than 2 quarts.

The first time I tried this, I used just regular orange pekoe tea bags from the grocery store. It was pretty deep and dark, but still tasty. The second time, I used Darjeeling, and it was much nicer.

* Any kind of peach tea bags would work.

MISSION accomplished!

... Kelly’s Mission, that is! I love FlyLady’s system of keeping one’s house in order -- and have spent enough time at it that I know it really works; if one keeps at it, that is. I have a morning, afternoon and evening routine and try to stick to them. The swish and swipe of the bathrooms is a well-established daily habit, as are many of FlyLady’s other habits. In addition, I try very hard to work in the zone of the week and to do most, if not all of Kelly’s daily missions.

This week we’re in Zone 3, the bathroom. I work in both of my bathrooms during the week of Zone 3, but one is only a half bath, so obviously the main bathroom needs more work. By the faithful use of daily shower spray, I need only scrub my tub/shower once a month. Our water is really hard and our tub/shower is deep blue. I tackle this task one wall at a time and do the bottom of the tub last. I spray each wall with Greased Lightning, let it stand 5 minutes or so (while I go and do something else), and then scrub that wall down with a scrubby sponge-type thing. Then I rinse it with the hand-held shower gadget and spray another wall. And so on, until I’m finished. At the same time, my shower curtain and tub mat are in the washing machine with bleach, detergent and a couple of thick white towels (for the scrubbing action). When I’m finished with the tub, I go get the tub mat and shower curtain out of the washer and put them back in place. It works well for me.

As I write, I’ve just finished the tub, put the clean mat in place and re-hung the shower curtain. Hurray! All taken care of until next month!

What’s especially exciting and encouraging to me is that this is a direct result of praying about my homemaking skills. I had always longed for a system to keep my home neat and clean, but nothing worked for long. When I began praying about it regularly, things began to happen. (I have written about this in detail in my post “A Work in Progress”, which is somewhere in the archives.) My daughter told me about FlyLady, I signed up, and things began to click for me. Is my house perfectly decluttered? Not yet. Am I happy with my progress? Yes, I’m happy -- but not resting on my laurels. My housekeeping continues to be a work in progress. But the care of the tub -- formerly one of my biggest discouragements -- is under control for good!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Picnic by the River

Last evening, on our way to prayer meeting at church, my husband and I revived a long-ago custom we used to have : a picnic by the river on Wednesday night. We didn’t do this every week back then, but as often as possible. It was a fun way to squeeze some family time into our busy week. This summer, my husband has been suggesting that we try and do this again, just the two of us now. It just hadn’t worked out, until last night. It worked out well -- so well, in fact, that we are going to try and do this any Wednesday that it isn’t raining.

I didn’t have a lot of time yesterday to pull together a picnic, but I used one of my planned menus and it worked out just fine. We just had a simple main-dish salad and accompanied it with homemade bread (still warm!). The salad recipe I used was easy to put together at the last minute, but you could use a make-ahead salad (like a main-dish pasta salad, for example) and be even more prepared. I had to be out of the house almost all afternoon, so I put ingredients in my bread machine on the dough setting, and made it into loaves, did the final rising and baking after I got home. (I was experimenting with a recipe and was also away longer than I planned to be, so the dough sort of oozed out of the pan and into the bread machine a bit, but that’s another story. It was easily cleaned up, and the bread came out GREAT.)

I put the salad in a Texas ware bowl (covered with plastic wrap) and brought along a slotted spoon. I also brought the loaf of bread (in an open plastic bag so it wouldn’t steam -- a paper bag would have been even better); a cutting board and bread knife; butter in a tiny plastic container; plates, napkins, silverware, and bottled water. (Since we were going directly to church following our picnic, we also brought along toothbrushes and toothpaste in a ziplock bag.) And that was it.

We are blessed to have a beautiful picnic spot at a state rest area that’s right along our route to church, so we stopped there and found a picnic table right on the riverbank. What a treat... to just sit there and enjoy the beautiful tranquility of God’s creation as we ate supper. What a wonderful stress reliever at the end of a busy day, in the middle of a busy week!

For those who would like my recipes, here they are. The salad is one that I clipped from a newspaper years ago and had never tried. It’s definitely a keeper. It came from a feature called “Express Lane Cooking” by Bonnie Tandy Leblang that used to run in our daily newspaper. I made a few changes, but Bonnie still gets the credit for a great recipe.

SALADE HACHEE (which I think translates to "Chopped Salad" -- it may have a French name, but this salad has a definite Greek accent)

1 lemon
4 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano (or use 2 Tblsp. fresh, chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 small head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
Cooked chicken breasts (approx. 3/4 of a pound), cubed

Into a large bowl, squeeze all of the juice from the lemon. (Remove any seeds.) Stir in olive oil and seasonings. Add remaining ingredients; toss to combine. Serve.
Yield: 4 servings.

Now for the bread. This recipe comes from another old cookbook of mine called THE HUNGRY HIKER’S BOOK OF GOOD COOKING, by Gretchen McHugh. This book was published by Alfred A, Knopf in 1982. Although we are campers, we are not backpackers, but I have found many wonderful ideas for camping meals in this book. One of the author’s good ideas is to make homemade bread to take on a camping trip -- and she formulated some great recipes that hold up well even in a backpack. The one I made yesterday was one of her recipes I’d never tried before -- I’ve made her oatmeal, white, and whole wheat recipes many times, but not this one. As I mentioned, I made the dough for this in the bread machine, and it would have worked perfectly had I been home to remove it from the machine at the proper time. I’ll be doing this again. (But I’ll give the directions for making it the traditional way.) This bread is awesome!

SEVEN-GRAIN CEREAL BREAD
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. seven-grain cereal (I used the Harvest Grains blend from King Arthur)
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (or 1 envelope; I use bulk yeast)
1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. honey (I cut this down from the original 1/2 c.)
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Pour the boiling water over the cereal in a large bowl. Let cool to lukewarm.
** Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the yeast and all ingredients except the all-purpose flour to the cooled cereal and mix well. Work in the all-purpose flour and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Put the dough into a greased bowl, turning to coat all its surfaces. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until double in volume. **[Of course, if you are using a bread machine, you can eliminate all of the steps between ** and ** and just put all of the ingredients in the machine after cooling the cereal mixture.]
Punch the dough down, shape it into 2 loaves, and set these in 2 greased 8-inch loaf pans to rise until nearly double. Bake at 375ºF. for 35 to 40 minutes until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pans and cool on wire racks.

Yield: 2 loaves

By the way, the microwave makes a wonderful place for dough -- in the bowl, and later, in the pans -- to rise. Just bring a cup of water to boiling in the microwave, then place your dough in there along with the steaming cup. Your dough will rise beautifully!

Hope you all enjoy these recipes and that some of you will give the picnic-on-the-way-to-church idea a try!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A delightful evening

Last evening we had friends over for supper. I wanted it to be a casual, yet very special time for our friends. I planned a very casual menu but added some special touches to our time together.
On our front door we have a grapevine wreath twined with silk ivy. I add different trims depending upon the season, but our summer has been so busy I had not yet had time to do so. Yesterday I went to my craft closet and found four large sunflowers and a stripe-y yellow ribbon bow, and added these to the wreath. Then I added a slate a la Mrs. Wilt. I was out of white chalk, but pale yellow worked for this occasion, and I wrote a special message welcoming our friends by name.

I used our fruit-themed place mats and heavy restaurant plates (antique white with a red stripe around the rim); also strawberry-themed glassware. I have a delightful little candle lamp made to look like a stoneware jug of cranberry juice, so that was in the center of the table on an ecru doily, and I lighted a cranberry chutney candle in it just as we sat down. On one end of the table I used my strawberry stoneware salt & pepper shakers; on the other end, a set of shakers made to resemble a basket of strawberries. (The “basket” is the pepper; the “berries”, which sit on top, contain the salt.) As a final touch I made very simple place cards out of folded 3x5” cards -- printed a friend’s name on each and added a leaf sticker (these coordinated perfectly with the place mats!) to each card. What fun I had, just using what I had on hand and spending no extra money at all!

When our friends arrived, they brought a bag of freshly picked sweet corn and husked it then and there. We played a game of hobo golf while the corn cooked and the other dishes kept warm (or cold, in the case of the salad). This is what we ate:

* Pepperoni Pizza Chili *
* Creamy White Chili *
* Broccoli Delight Salad *
* Favorite Corn Bread *
* Corn on the Cob *
* Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert *

Both chilis were a huge hit! In fact, our friends raved about the entire meal. And it was all so easy! I made the salad and dessert the day before and stowed them in fridge and freezer, Then I made the chilis in the early afternoon and just kept them simmering on very low heat. The corn bread was the only thing I did at the last minute, because I wanted it to be warm when we ate. I would recommend this menu to anyone who wants to serve a fun, casual meal to friends and who wants to do so with ease.

Here are the recipes. To give credit where it’s due, I want to mention where I found each of them originally, although I have made some changes in most of them. The broccoli salad recipe came from FARM WIFE NEWS magazine, which is now COUNTRY WOMAN. (I’ve had this recipe a l-o-n-g time.) The chili recipes both came from TASTE OF HOME. The cornbread recipe is from a cookbook about Christian hospitality titled WE DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE ANGELS, by Doris Greig. And the dessert recipe is from the wonderful cooking newsletter COOK & TELL (see link on this page for more info).



BROCCOLI DELIGHT SALAD
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup raisins, or less, to taste (dried cranberries work well, too)
Cooked, crumbled bacon to taste (I use about 4 Tblsp. bacon bits)
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds, or less, to taste
3 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tblsp. vinegar
1 Tblsp. instant (dried) minced onion

Place the broccoli, raisins, bacon bits, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients for dressing. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Chill 1 hour or longer before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
==================================================================
CREAMY WHITE CHILI
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) great northern beans, rinsed & drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin*
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream**
In large saucepan, sauté chicken, onion & garlic in oil until chicken
is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies & seasonings. Bring to a
boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from
heat; stir in sour cream & whipping cream. Serve immediately.

* I was out of cumin so substituted chili powder.

** I omit this... it just doesn’t seem to be necessary.

Also, this time when I made the chili, I cooked the chicken breasts ahead of time. We had a whole tray of them, and we just sprinkled them all with Montreal Chicken seasoning and grilled them. Then I cubed what I needed for the chili and cut the rest in strips to freeze for another meal or two, some other day.

Yield: 7 servings.

This may be the best chili you’ve ever tasted! When I served several different chilis at a progressive picnic a few years ago, this was the first to go, and I received many requests for the recipe.
==================================================================

PEPPERONI PIZZA CHILI

1 pound ground beef
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can pizza sauce
1 14.5 oz. can Italian stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water
3 oz. sliced pepperoni, slices cut in half
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 tsp. pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt

In a large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until chili reaches desired thickness.

Yield: 8 servings.

Well, no, maybe THIS is the best chili you ever tasted! This is a great favorite too, and so easy!
==================================================================
ICE CREAM SANDWICH DESSERT

12 ice cream sandwiches
12 ounces whipped topping
1/3 bag toffee bits (find these in the baking aisle near the choc. chips)
Ice cream topping of choice to drizzle on when serving

Place the ice cream sandwiches in the bottom of a 13x9-inch pan. (I like to use a disposable foil pan with cover. ) Cut some of the ice cream sandwiches to fill in around the edges. It will probably take about 11 ice cream sandwiches. Spread the whipped topping over the sandwiches. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the topping. Cover the pan and freeze until firm. When ready to serve, cut the dessert in squares of desired size and drizzle ice cream topping of your choice over each square.
==================================================================

FAVORITE CORN BREAD

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 stick melted margarine (1/2 cup)
2 cups buttermilk baking mix (I use Hannaford brand)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (I use the Hodgson Mill stone-ground brand)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Blend eggs, milk,
and melted margarine. Sift sugar, cornmeal and baking powder together and add to egg mixture along with baking mix. (There will be some bran left in the sifter if you use the stone-ground cornmeal. Just add it into the mixture.) Whisk the ingredients together just until blended. Pour batter into greased pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the corn bread comes out clean. (It may take up to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.)
Makes one 9-inch pan of corn bread. Recipe may be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan.

This may not be the healthiest corn bread in the world, but it may
well be the best corn bread you’ve ever tasted! Wonderful with a bowl
of chili or soup! (I make it healthier by cutting down on the butter. I cut the amount of butter right in half, using 1/4 cup. And, the last few times I’ve made this, I substituted canola oil for the butter -- again, using only 1/4 cup. No one appears to have noticed, and the cornbread tastes just as good as ever.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

About the MORE-WITH-LESS-COOKBOOK

Today for Building our Homes Together, I thought I would share an older post about one of my favorite cookbooks.  I believe it is out of print now, but am sure copies could be found via the Internet.

This cookbook is a wonderful resource for frugal cooks. It's a Mennonite cookbook, written by Doris Janzen Longacre. The first several chapters contain information concerning planning, shopping, cooking, and eating responsibly. Next comes a set of tables and charts covering protein content of foods and how to combine foods to create complementary protein. An obvious effort has been made to keep this material from being dry and dull; still, I imagine that most people will find the recipes more interesting.

Then the actual recipes begin. The categories are : Yeast & Quick Breads; Cereals; Beans, Soybeans & Lentils; Main Dishes & Casseroles; Eggs, Milk & Cheese; Meats & Fish; Soups; Vegetables; Salads; Desserts, Cakes & Cookies; Gardening & Preserving; Snacks & Miscellaneous. There are hundreds of recipes in the book, and they are written in a step-by-step, easy-to-follow style. Even the recipes from more exotic locales around the world use basic, inexpensive ingredients. In addition to the actual recipes, there are many other hints, ideas and mini-recipes scattered throughout each chapter at the tops of pages. Here’s an example of one:

“In Africa we seldom saw brown sugar. Missionaries gave me this recipe: To each cup of white granulated sugar, add 2 T. old-fashioned molasses. Stir well and store in airtight container. Excellent flavor in cookies or cake toppings, or on oatmeal. I make it since we’re back because it’s much cheaper and we like the flavor better.”
-- Evelyn Fisher, Akron, Pa.

And I can vouch for this particular hint; I’ve used it many times when I’ve run out of brown sugar for one reason or another.

At the end of each chapter is a section called “Gather Up the Fragments”, which suggests great ways to use leftovers of that particular type of food. I’ve used many of these ideas and they are wonderful.

I thought I’d go through and note for you some of my favorite recipe titles from the chapters and perhaps share a short recipe or two.

From Yeast & Quick Breads: There’s a great basic recipe called
EDNA RUTH BYLER’S POTATO DOUGH BAKED GOODS. From this one basic recipe one can make cinnamon buns, sticky buns, dinner rolls, coffee cake, and/or doughnuts. It makes about 100 doughnuts or rolls, so you could divide up the dough and make some of each. These baked goods also freeze well.

From Cereals: The BASIC DRY CEREAL FORMULA is a wonderful recipe for granola-type cereal. It gives you many ingredient choices to use with a basic formula to make the cereal uniquely your own. It can be different every time you make it -- or perhaps your family will want your own “house blend”, incorporating all of your favorite ingredients.

From Beans, Soybeans & Lentils: BASIC COOKED LENTILS offers three tasty variations to serve over rice.


From Main Dishes & Casseroles: I’ve made many recipes from this chapter. Some of my favorites are: VIETNAM FRIED RICE. PAKISTANI KIMA, and EASY MOUSSAKA (especially the meatless variation), Here’s a priceless hint from this chapter:

“Lasagne is popular but expensive since it calls for ground beef plus several cheeses. Lasagne’s unique flavor is the blend of cheeses and herbs; omit ground beef from the tomato sauce and you still have a delicious high-protein Italian specialty.”
-- Bonnie Zook, Leola, Pa.

From Eggs, Milk & Cheese: SUNNY SCALLOPED EGGS (especially the EGGS FLORENTINE variation); ARGENTINE SPINACH PIE; and EGGS FOO YUNG.

From Meats & Fish: FIESTA SLOPPY JOES (these extend the ground beef with rice; they are much less “sloppy” than the usual, and my kids really enjoyed them); HONEY-BAKED CHICKEN; CREAMED CHICKEN OVER CONFETTI RICE SQUARES.

From Soups: We love soup and eat a lot of it. The stains on the pages tell the story. I’ve been using this cookbook for years, and many times we didn’t have a lot of money. But we were well fed. Some of my favorites: GOOD FRIDAY VEGETABLE SOUP (I leave out the caraway seed); GREEN BEAN SOUP; GOLDEN POTATO SOUP; CREAM OF CAULIFLOWER SOUP; and SPINACH SOUP. Any of these, along with homemade bread, rolls, biscuits or cornbread, would make a wonderful meal.

From Vegetables: VEGETABLES AU GRATIN; PUFFY GREEN BEAN-CHEESE BAKE; SWEET-SOUR BEETS; BROCCOLI STUFFING BAKE; SKILLET CABBAGE (we love this, especially the Indonesian variation); GINGER-GLAZED CARROTS; EGGPLANT PARMESAN; ZUCCHINI OMELET; and MAHSI (MIDDLE EASTERN STUFFED VEGETABLES) which has variations for using many different vegetables.

Here’s the basic recipe for SWEET-SOUR BEETS :
Grate finely (I shred them):
1 large or 2 medium RAW beets, peeled
Melt in saucepan:
2 T. margarine
Add prepared beets. Cover and cook slowly until beets are tender, stirring occasionally. (15-20 minutes.)
Add:
salt & pepper to taste
1 T. vinegar
3 T. sugar
2 t. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 c. water
Cook, stirring, until sauce clears. Serve hot.

We love this nice, easy way to cook beets. Shredding them makes this side dish really different and tasty.

From Salads: DELUXE COLESLAW; SUMMER NIGHT SALAD; MAIN-DISH TUNA SALAD; and SALADE NIÇOISE.

From Desserts, Cakes & Cookies: NO-BAKE CEREAL COOKIES; MOLASSES CRINKLES; COCONUT-DATE BALLS.

Here is the recipe for NO-BAKE CEREAL COOKIES:

Combine in saucepan and heat to boiling:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
Stir in:
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. peanut butter
Mix until smooth. Stir in:
3 c. ready-to-eat cereal flakes
1 c. flaked coconut (optional)
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. (Let stand until set.) Makes 2 to 3 dozen.

From Gardening & Preserving: I love the freezing and drying ideas at the end of this chapter, and the gardening ideas at the beginning.

From Snacks & Miscellaneous: ORANGE JULIUS; HONEY MILK BALLS; YOGURT POPSICLES; FUDGSICLES.

Hope this information has been helpful to all of you frugal cooks out there! Even though, as I said, the book may be out of print, I am sure you could find a copy online or through a used book store. I managed to unearth the tattered back cover of mine, but the publisher’s name was not in evidence. I’m afraid the front cover is long gone...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Frugal cooking 2

Well, I did manage to get my pantry decluttered and inventoried. I planned to spend about 30 minutes on the job, but ended up spending a couple of hours. I printed out new pantry inventory sheets -- I’d been using the old ones since 2001 and they were getting hard to read. I threw away a LOT of stuff! I also found that there are a lot of staples that I DON’T have on hand, so I made a list as I went along and have already put those items on next week’s shopping list. Remember Mrs. Wilt’s post on the pantry crates? Well, I’ve yet to get crates (and I don’t think they would fit anyway) but I’m going to make some cute labels as she did for the different areas on the shelves where different categories are stored -- fruits, vegetables, baking supplies, pasta & dry beans, soups & canned fish, etc. Hopefully this will make it easier for my hubby when he puts things away.

I’d like to share a few frugal recipe ideas and tips. The first is a nifty substitute for canned cream soup, to use in recipes. The basic recipe comes from MORE WITH LESS COOKBOOK; the cream of shrimp variation is my own invention.

CREAM SOUP SUBSTITUTES
Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? This recipe makes a perfect substitute for 1 can of soup.

3 Tblsp. margarine
3 Tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)
Melt the margarine in heavy saucepan; blend in flour and salt and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.
VARIATIONS:
Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard.
Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

The next recipe is from QUICK COOKING magazine. I have made this many times and always keep a jarful on hand.

ONION SOUP MIX

3/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. celery seed, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. When a recipe calls for onion soup mix, use 5 Tablespoons mix for each envelope of onion soup called for. So many recipes seem to call for a package of onion soup mix, and this is far more economical.

The next recipe comes from COUNTRY WOMAN magazine. I clipped it out about 10 years ago.

HOMEMADE PIZZA SAUCE TO FREEZE

1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
12 ounces tomato paste
1 Tblsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tblsp. dried oregano
1 to 2 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine tomato sauce and paste. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool. Pour into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Freeze for up to 1 year. Yield: about 4 cups.

I usually save time (and the purchase of an additional product) by using spaghetti sauce on pizza. But when I have a little more time, I love this easy homemade pizza sauce. I freeze it in the small yogurt containers (6 to 8 oz.) and find that one container holds enough sauce for 1 large round pizza. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using, or if need be it can be thawed (carefully) in the microwave.


I’ve forgotten where I found the following recipe, but it is a good, easy pancake syrup. Here in New England, we produce real maple syrup and most of us prefer it to the fake stuff. But when frugality is the rule of the day, and we’re out of the real thing, I actually prefer this to the supermarket pancake syrup.

BROWN-SUGAR SYRUP

2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. water

Bring sugar and water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm. Store leftover syrup in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.

This easy homemade syrup is good on pancakes or waffles. It is much tastier than the artificially-flavored syrup, and of course much less expensive than real maple syrup. It makes a great substitute.


And now for a few helpful hints. Some of these are frugal; others just make life easier for the cook.

HELPFUL COOKING HINTS

* Scissors work great for so many uses in the kitchen. I don’t necessarily mean kitchen shears, but just a regular pair of good scissors. I use them for chopping green onions, for cutting up marshmallows, for cutting up boneless chicken, and many other uses. Of course, always clean and disinfect them thoroughly afterward.

* An egg slicer works well for chopping eggs that will go into potato salad, etc. Slice the egg one way, then turn it around and slice again. It isn’t chopped fine enough for an egg salad sandwich, but it works great for salads and other recipes.

* A chopstick is a valuable tool in my kitchen. It works well for cleaning crumbs, etc. out of a blender. I also use it to stir melting chocolate in the microwave because you can leave it right in the bowl. Just make sure it’s a chopstick without metallic lettering.

* If you are making a recipe that says to refrigerate for an hour or two and you don’t have an hour or two, remember this easy formula: 15 minutes in the freezer equals 1 hour in the refrigerator. (But don’t try this with recipes that say “refrigerate overnight”.)

* If you are baking a casserole and it just won’t get done and you want to eat, remember this easy formula: 15 minutes in the microwave equals 1 hour in the oven.

* Lining pans with foil can save you a lot of cleanup. I do this when baking fish, roasting vegetables -- anytime there’s the potential for a messy pan. It really helps.

MORE HELPFUL HINTS

A tip about spices: Don’t buy them in the grocery store, where they are way too expensive. Most dollar stores have spices, and Walmart has some bargain brands too. These work just as well as the grocery-store ones. Or, you can buy spices at the natural foods store, where they are very fresh and you can buy only the amount you want.

Always store shredded cheeses in the freezer. I keep shredded cheddar and mozzarella on hand all the time. They go bad too quickly in the fridge. Having them in the freezer is convenient and saves money.

When baking, it’s really helpful to break eggs in a custard cup one at a time and add them to your recipe one at a time. That way, if some eggshell gets into your egg, or if an egg is bad, you can deal with the problem before it messes up your whole recipe.

Some pie or cheesecake recipes will call for a chocolate crumb crust to be made with Oreos® or with chocolate wafer crumbs. The following recipe is easy and far less expensive: Combine 1 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa, 1/4 c. confectioners sugar, and 1/4 c. melted butter or margarine. Press into pie plate or bottom of springform pan. Bake at 350º for 8 minutes. Cool before proceeding with recipe.

When peeling fruits and vegetables, always do so on a paper towel (or even a piece of newspaper if you’re really frugal). You can just wrap up all the mess and throw it away afterward.

Keep a container like an empty tin can or cottage cheese tub in your freezer. When you have meat or chicken scraps or drippings to dispose of, just put them in this container and keep them frozen until the next trash day. Keeps them from smelling up your trash can!

Next time, I’ll share more recipes and some highlights of the MORE WITH LESS COOKBOOK. I believe this cookbook is out of print, but I imagine there are copies out there. As my 5-year-old granddaughter advised me (when I was mentioning a particular kids’ book I’d like to locate), “You could probably find it online.”

Frugal Cooking 1

I’ve been thinking for awhile about a “frugality” post, having seen the challenge on Carrie’s blog about using up what you have in the pantry, fridge, etc. Recently I had to throw out a roasting chicken that was dated 2004 (and a pork roast that was even older) because they had sunk to the bottom of my chest freezer. I need to keep much better track of what’s in there and be sure and use it in a timely fashion. I’ve tried using the different freezer/pantry inventory forms available at OrganizedHome.com (and I love these) but they don’t just don’t work as well as they might because of “operator error.” In recent years in our home it has been my husband who puts groceries away, and he doesn’t pay too much attention to the way groceries are categorized within the pantry -- he just puts things wherever he finds an empty space. Every now and then I go down there -- our “pantry” is an unused, unplugged freezer in the basement -- and reorganize things and redo my inventory forms, but then the cycle starts all over again and I run out of things because I don’t know what I have. Now, because of circumstances in our lives, it’s starting to be me who puts the groceries away more often, so maybe I can give it another try and make the inventory thing work. In fact, one of the missions for this week on FlyLady.net is to declutter the pantry, and it’s on my list for today. For the freezer, I like the white board idea I saw on Be Not Conformed, so will buy a small white board and try that.

There’s an old saying here in New England -- maybe elsewhere, too -- that goes like this: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” (I wrote an entire article on this premise once, complete with recipes, which I’ll try to unearth and post here before too long.) This is something I’ve always tried to do, especially in regard to groceries and other needed items. In recent years, though, with only 2 of us at home, it’s a big challenge to use things up before they go bad, especially produce. I love the convenience and ease of the bagged salad greens and baby spinach, but they are SO perishable. I need to remember to use those up early in the week while they are still good. Another thing I’m guilty of is dutifully saving chicken broth when I cook a chicken -- and then forgetting to use it. I need to get in the habit of putting it in the freezer rather than the fridge.

Here are a couple of “use it up” things I did this week. On Sunday, I had made Crock-Pot Ribs and we ate them with cole slaw and instant mashed potatoes. (I make things as easy as possible on Sundays.) To make Crock-Pot Ribs, first spray your crockpot insert well with cooking spray (or, my choice, use one of the new plastic slow cooker liners). Then, just use whatever pork ribs you like -- I use the meatier southern-style or country-style ribs -- and arrange them in a crockpot. Standing them up works best; you can cut them in half crosswise if they are too tall. Sprinkle them with your choice of seasoning. I use the Montreal Steak seasoning by McCormick. Then cover the crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. A half hour before you’re ready to eat, drain off all the liquid from the pot. Spread (or pour) about 1 cup barbecue sauce over the ribs; cover and cook for 1/2 hour. That’s it!

Anyway, we ate these ribs on Sunday and I had a few of the leftovers for lunch on Monday, but there were still quite a few left over. So here’s what I did: disposed of the fat and any remaining bones (there weren’t many) and chopped up all of the leftover meat in small pieces. Added a little onion powder, some pickle relish and some mayonnaise to make a great sandwich filling. I remember my grandmother doing this with leftover pork or beef roast -- only she ground it in a meat grinder. My casual way worked fine with ribs.

Another use-it-up technique I used this week could be adapted to almost any main-dish or veggie leftover -- put it on pizza! I had made some roasted veggies -- eggplant, onions, zucchini, red peppers -- to use in a main-dish sandwich recipe Monday night. There were a couple of cups of veggies left over. Tuesday I was out of the house most of the day and needed a quick supper dish. I made a quick pizza crust, spread it with spaghetti sauce and some shredded mozzarella, and then arranged the roasted veggies on top and sprinkled with a bit more shredded mozzarella and some shredded parmesan. Baked it about 25 minutes and we had supper! Here’s the recipe for my quick pizza crust if anyone is interested:

MRS. NESBITT’S GOOD & EASY PIZZA CRUST

1 pkg. (1 Tblsp.) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. honey or sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tblsp. cooking oil (I use olive)
2 1/2 cups flour
Sauce of your choice
Toppings of your choice
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 425º. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the honey or sugar. Stir in the remaining ingredients and beat vigorously about 20 strokes. Spread the dough on a greased pizza pan. Top with the desired sauce, cheese, and toppings. Bake at 425º for 20-25 minutes. Yield: 1 large pizza.

This is such an easy way to make pizza! I like to keep everything I might need on hand to make pizza anytime. I keep bags of shredded mozzarella in the freezer -- the absolute best place to store any shredded cheese, since it molds very quickly in the fridge. I keep sliced pepperoni in the freezer too, and bags of frozen chopped peppers. For pizza sauce, I use jars of the “garden” variety spaghetti sauce. Then pizza can easily be made with just a half hour’s notice.


I also like to use the pizza dough recipe from the cookbook that came with my bread machine. It makes a dough which I like better than this quick one, but of course using the bread machine doesn’t allow for spur-of-the moment pizza -- one has to plan 1 1/2 hours ahead. That’s why I most often make the quick type. Either of these, of course, is less expensive than buying a pre-baked or otherwise prepared crust from the supermarket.

Well, that had better be it for this post -- I’ve lots to do today, including decluttering the pantry before Mr. T heads for the dump this afternoon. I’ll be back later with more posts on frugal cooking -- in the meantime, if you haven’t seen it, I have a post in the archives (called Saving Money in the Kitchen, if I remember right) which some might find helpful.

Friday, August 11, 2006

For frugal cooks...

I want to write a longer post soon concerning my thoughts and tips for cooking frugally. In the meantime, I would like to recommend some cookbooks that have been a great help to me in this area.

First on the list would have to be MORE WITH LESS COOKBOOK, by Doris Janzen Longacre. This is a Mennonite cookbook which is extremely practical and easy to use. Friends of ours who were serving as missionaries in a jungle told us that this book was recommended to them by their mission board to help with cooking. (At that point I had already been using this book for years. It's practical and helpful in any setting!) My copy is just about worn out, missing both covers.

MAKE YOUR OWN GROCERIES and MORE MAKE YOUR OWN GROCERIES are both by Daphne Metaxas Hartwig. They contain some great ideas. I've gotten many of my recipes for homemade seasoning mixes, salad dressing recipes, cake mixes, etc. from these books. The author's standard is that the recipes for homemade groceries must cost less and taste as good, or better than, the convenience products they are replacing.

For parents of young children, I also recommend FEED ME! I'M YOURS by Vicki Lansky. This book has some great economical ideas for toddler-friendly foods and snacks, as well as homemade baby food.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A signpost on the way

This bit of verse, which speaks of God's leading in our lives, has been a blessing to me for many years ever since I read it in (and copied it down from) a devotional book -- STREAMS IN THE DESERT VOLUME 2, I believe. I hope this will be an encouragement to others, as well.


When we're not quite certain if we turn to left or right,
Isn't it a blessing when a signpost looms in sight!
If there were no signposts we should wander miles astray
In the wrong direction if we didn't know the way.
God has set His signposts on life's strange and winding road.
When we're blindly stumbling with the burden of our load
He will lead our footsteps though the pathway twist and bend --
In some form He guides us, through the Book, a song, a friend...
In the dark, uncertain hours, we need not be afraid
When we're at the crossroads, and decisions must be made...
Though the track is unfamiliar, and the light is grey,
Rest assured, there's bound to be a signpost on the way.

-- Patience Strong