Friday, November 17, 2017

Oakmont Elks Host Veteran's Luncheon

Oakmont Elks hosts a group of local veterans for a luncheon once a month.  Each month Lodge No. 1668 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks hosts veterans from the Pennsylvania Southwest Center or the H.J. Heinz Campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.  This project is funded by an Elks National Foundation Grant which the Lodge applies for each year.  The only stipulation for the grant is that it be an ongoing community project that is staffed or performed by the membership of the Lodge.

One month the veterans ate stuffed shells with garlic bread, salads and cheesecake topped with strawberries.  The menu can be as simple as this or as elaborate as today with a Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey, stuffing and all the sides.  The veterans who attend are always most grateful for the meal and often ask for and are served second portions.

In November of 2013 the Lodge expanded the guest list to include 21 children from St Irenaeus School who performed their Veteran's Day Program for the veterans.  At the conclusion of the performance which lasted about 25 minutes and included the singing of patriotic songs by the children, each child presented an American Flag to a veteran and thanked them personally for their service.

Each month a different type of entertainment is included for the veterans enjoyment.  The veterans arrive just before noon and usually stay for about 2-3 hours.

Plans are always in the works to host both Southwest and Aspinwall groups for the December luncheon which is a Christmas party for these deserving men and women.  The veterans all receive a small tin of homemade cookies and a token of our appreciation for their service to our country.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Meatloaf Burgers - Half the time of Meatloaf

Meatloaf is the most popular way to make and eat ground beef because of the goodies that make it a cut above an ordinary hamburger.  My son, Bill, who hated to wait for anything came up with this originally and I have to admit it takes nothing away from my meatloaf recipe especially since I love my meatloaf on a bun or slices of bread.

Using the same recipe as you would for my no frills meatloaf, you can cut your prep to table time in half.

This tasty form of the popular favorite only takes half the time to bake in the oven and can be eaten plain for dinner or as a meatloaf burger.
Tool used to form the ground meat patty

It just takes a handful of your meatloaf mixture to form your patty.  I use the egg tool to measure the patty.

Be sure to press down in the middle so that your burgers cook evenly and then put them onto a foil lined pan to cook at 350° oven for about 30 to 45 minutes.  Once the top is browned you can be remove from the oven.  I use the tool that is used to keep an egg in one spot in the skillet to form my burgers.

Now that you have the recipe and the instructions, it up to you if you want to wait the time it takes to make a full meatloaf or not.  Happy eating.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Special Occasion Cheesecake - Wedding Day

Anyone who loves cheesecake will get into the swing of things by making some one's Valentine's Day a memorable one.  You Can also use this for wedding showers and wedding tables.

There are so many recipes for good cheesecake that it is hard to pick one.  I have one but due to a family tradition, my daughter has banned me from sharing it. So needless to say, I have to rely on other good recipes for this edition of my blog.

Individual Heart Molded Cheesecakes
Let's start out with perhaps the simplest of cheesecakes and make them individually in a a mold such as the ones made by  The link takes you to the recipe for making this delicious cheesecake individually for your family and friends.

Heart Shape Cheesecake
Next on our list of cheesecakes is one that is just that a cheesecake made in a heart shaped cake mold and not decorated  With this cheesecake you have the best of all worlds in that you can use the recipe above and leave it up to the individual to use the topping of their choice while enjoying the cheesecake flavor.

Since I can't use my own recipe, I'm suggesting that you use the recipe of the one that I linked you to for the rest of these Valentine's Day offerings.

Cherry Cheesecake

The first is my personal favorite.  It is a cheesecake decorated with cherry pie filling and whipped cream topping.
Strawberry Cheesecake
A good portion of the people prefer strawberry topping with their cheesecake.

Blueberry Mini Cheesecake
Others are partial to blueberries.

My final suggestion takes a little more decorating ability and is made with raspberry jam swirled on top of the cheesecake.

Whether you top these off with whipped cream or not is totally an individual preference.  I vote for with whipped cream.

Try these for that special someone in your life in their favorite flavor.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Making Vegetable Soup from Leftovers in the Crockpot

I love my crock pot and I've done some interesting things with it.  I made pulled pork in it and it turned out simply scrumptious.  Then I made my easy no stuffed cabbage in it and that was even better.  I'm getting the hang of cooking in larger quantities again.

Crock Pot Stuffed Cabbage
I still had the juice from the stuffed cabbage along with a good portion of the cabbage that had not been cooked.  So!!!!!!!  Into the crock pot with the juice and some water to break it down and chopped up cabbage.

I didn't have any frozen leftover vegetables or meat from my meals to put in it so off to the store I went to buy a large bag of mixed soup vegetables and some stewing cubes.  Once home I chopped the meat cubes into smaller pieces, seasoned them and precooked them.  Once they were browned, I put them into the crock pot with the cabbage pieces and the tomato stock.

Our frozen section has the best vegetable blend for vegetable soup.  It even has okra in it along with all kinds of beans and the normal carrots, etc.  I dumped the vegetables into the pot and stirred it all up.

I cooked it on high until the vegetables had cooked through and then set the crock pot down to low and left it cook most of the day.

My granddaughter tried it and asked me if I had used a recipe for the soup after she had downed two bowls.  I was so proud to say, no it's my own recipe, even if I cheated somewhat by using the frozen soup vegetables.

When my children were small, I used my mother's recipe and saved all the vegetables that had been used for meals (including the cabbage from ham and cabbage) in a container until I was ready to make soup.  She made her own stock by bringing the chuck roast along with the bone to a boil and then simmering the whole day.  Once it was ready she chopped up the the chuck and added the frozen vegetables that she had been hoarding for the occasion.  The only thing she added which was my favorite part of the soup was a can of butter beans.  For some reason those butter beans made the whole soup for me.

Right now it is possible to take vegetables straight from the garden for your soup.  My neighbor has half her garden done in vegetable and they would fill the soup pot down to the string beans.

This recipe goes well with my No Frills Meatloaf because I don't have to make any potatoes that day and the soup is filling along with the meatloaf.

So now I can cheat and use the crock pot to make my soup even using her recipe instead of my shortcut that I used yesterday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sesame Chicken: Bake It Without Shaking It.

A few years back, there was a product called Shake and Bake.  It was the lazy man's way to coat chicken parts for baking in the oven.  It involved pouring the mixture in a bag with wet chicken parts and shaking the bag until the chicken was coated with the crumbs.

Shake N Bake Chicken parts for the oven

Now I ask you, "Is this the way to make good chicken?"  True it is healthier to bake your chicken rather than frying it in oils.

My sister-in-law made a recipe that called for mayonnaise to coat the chicken and a bread crumb mixed with sesame seeds for a shower that she was hosting.  I'm not fond of any chicken except roasted chicken with stuffing, but this recipe for Sesame Chicken was one of the best that I've ever tasted.

Sesame Chicken from the Oven

The breading is moist and flavorful and not dry like you would expect since it was baked on an open sheet pan in the oven.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
In this day of thinking heart healthy, this recipe is one that I would recommend for your Sunday dinner menu.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Chocolate Covered Candy Pieces for the Holidays

If you really want to impress your Valentine, make some chocolate covered nuts and fruits.  My husband and I always bought Peters Ultra chocolate in a 10 lb. slab and we got that from Stover & Company here in Pittsburgh.

Even though we are talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas, we recommend that you start your holiday candy now in order to have enough for the Christmas gift giving.  If you need a review, go back and print our blog "How to Make Molded Candy for Easter." 
Chocolate covered Dates

My favorite chocolate piece is a chocolate covered date.  In order to make these, you need to purchase pitted dates.  Dates are normally sticky when you bring them out of the package but you still want to roll them in confectioners sugar before coating them with the chocolate.  Stick a toothpick into one side of the date and then dip it into the chocolate.  Roll it around until the chocolate sticks to the date.  Lay you piece of candy onto a piece of waxed paper which is lining a cookie sheet.  Once you have all of the pieces made you put the pan into the refrigerator to set up.

Chocolate covered Cherries

To make chocolate covered cherries, you buy maraschino cherries in a jar and drain the juice.  The cherries are coated with the confectioners sugar.  For this candy you may want to purchase a candy mold in the shape of individual candy pieces.  My mother-in-law was inventive and saved the little medicine cups from the hospital to make her individual candy pieces.  Either way you fill the cups enough to coat the bottom of the cup about 1/3 full.  Then you drop your piece of fruit into the cups.  Pour your melted chocolate over them until each cup is full.  Put your candy into the refrigerator to set up you pieces of chocolate.

Chocolate covered Peanut Clusters

Chocolate covered nuts take a little more patience and skill.  Since you can't stick the nuts with a toothpick you need to use tongs to dip the nuts and place them onto your waxed paper to set up.  You can chop the nuts, premix them with your chocolate and fill your medicine cups.  Since I don't have the patience of Jobe, I prefer the second method.

Chocolate covered Raisins

While we are making clusters in our medicine cups, you can also use this method to make chocolate covered raisin clusters.  You can make individual chocolate covered raisins but again this take time and patiences since you need to stick each raisin with a tooth pick and lay them on waxed paper to dry.

White Chocolate covered Strawberries

If you are a fan of white chocolate, then you will need to buy white chocolate wafers in the supermarket and melt those down as you would the shaved chocolate to make your white chocolate covered strawberries or white chocolate cherries.

White Chocolate covered Cherries

Another great treat for Valentine's Day and something to send to school with your little ones is a batch of chocolate covered pretzel rods.  In order to make them special you can sprinkle them with red candies while they are drying on the wax paper.

Chocolate Pretzel Rods

Or how about a batch of chocolate covered mini pretzels.  These can also be sprinkled with candy colors for any holiday.

Chocolate covered Mini Pretzels
You have all seen my Christmas Pretzel made with candy kisses and an M&M on top.  These can be done very easily using Valentine colors or the mini pretzels to give it a heart shape.

Pretty M&M Flowers on Pretzel and Candy Kiss

Another version of this favorite is a mini turtle using Rolo Mini's and Pecans.

That's all I have for today.  If you have other candies you can make give me a comment so that I can try your methods.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Braciole (Stuffed Steak)

Individual Stuffed Breakfast Steaks (Braciole)
This week I lucked out and got a great buy on a whole round steak cut very thin.  As soon as I saw it I knew I was going to make braciole for dinner that night.  I'm not partial to round steak but I couldn't pass it up.  Normally when I make braciole these days I have it using thin cut breakfast steaks which are normally thin cut sirloin steaks.  I have found cuts of meat in one of our local supermarkets that are labeled for braciole.

Mixing Bread Stuffing

I prefer bread stuffing in my braciole even though my Italian mother-in-law usually made a meat stuffing for her braciole.  If you are being lazy and have boxed stuffing on the shelf, you can make the stuffing using the boxed mix and save what is left over after you stuff the steak as a side dish.  This gives you more stuffing, which is right up my alley.

Spreading Stuffing on Steaks
Once the stuffing is made lay out your steaks and line it with the stuffing mixture.

Wrapped Stuffed Steaks in Pan
Roll your steak into a log or in the case of the above where I used breakfast steaks into individual logs and then place them into a baking dish.  I have found that using skewers designed for grilling is a great way to keep the braciole rolled right during baking.

I normally bake my braciole in my oven at 350 deg. until the steak is browned and cooked through.  My mother-in-law used her cast-iron skillet and simmered them on top of the stove.  She had to keep a watchful eye on them and turned them as needed.

Braciole is not just a beef recipe.  If you can get the right cut of meat from the butcher, you can also do this recipe using pork.  Another form would be to beat chicken breast until they are thin and roll those up with stuffing.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Although my son is not as fond of spaghetti as I am, I like to serve this with a side of spaghetti and meat sauce.  If you pour some of the meat sauce over the braciole it add additional flavor to your meal.

Braciole with a side of Spaghetti

This whole recipe only takes about 15 minutes to prepare and another 30-45 minutes to cook.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

What's for Dessert?

I have to admit, I've been pretty lazy when it has come to baking.  My sweet tooth is smarting something fierce and the store-bought goodies just are not cutting it even though the lemon meringue pie from Eat 'N Park came really close in the tart versus sweetness test.

I guess I have to pull out some of my recipes and see what I can come up with to ease the hunger pangs.

Let's start out with a cake that my mother-in-law made almost every time there was an occasion to need one.  She called it the Yum Yum Cake and it was chocked full of so many goodies that it was hard to not to like it.

Even though I'm lactose intolerant, I'm a big fan of whipped cream and had a favorite bakery that made Whipped Cream Puffs every Wednesday.  I was so fond of them, I would buy two and eat those for lunch instead of having anything else.  What's even nicer is that these don't take a lot of ingredients.  The hardest thing about them is making sure that all of the moisture beads have baked off giving you that great crusty shell to be filled.

Of course, if you are making cream puffs, you just need to add chocolate icing to the top to make it an Eclair.  You can use custard filling or any whipped filling to give it some variety.

Apple cake ready to pour the caramel glaze

If you have more time and energy, my very favorite cake is apple cake with caramel drizzle poured over it.  This cake is even more decadent than Death by Chocolate.

Now that I have made myself totally hungry, I need to decide which it's going to be for tonight.  How about a vote from the audience.  Which would you make today?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pork For Dinner (The Other White Meat)

From the time I was a small child, I have had an aversion to beef and chicken.  My favorite dinner was roast pork.  When I was working in the strip district Nevros Restaurant served a fresh ham dinner every Wednesday and I ate lunch there ritualistically.  Fresh ham is the whitest and sweetest meat on the pig as far as I'm concerned.
Fresh Ham and Stuffing Dinner
I was never partial to stuffed pork chops but Nevros always served stuffing with their Wednesday lunch special.  If you like them stuffed pork chops are a great way to serve pork.
Stuffed Pork Chop
You can stuff the pork chops individually as your entree for the day or you can buy them at the butcher counter in your supermarket.  For economy you can buy a large package of chops and put two together in the oven with stuffing in between.  Hold them together with skewers.

Baked Pork Chops
Another way to serve pork chops is to bake them in the oven to be served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable.

Breaded Pork Chops
Some prefer to bread their pork chop before baking it in the oven.

Pork Roast in Crock Pot
My newest way to make pork is to cook it in the slow cooker.  I buy a shoulder roast and put it in the crock pot with a mixture of onions, mushrooms, a package of mushroom and onion gravy mixed in enough water to just let the top of the roast peak out at the top.  I let this cook for several hours before serving with a side of applesauce and stuffing.

Pulled Pork with Slaw on a Bun

You can also take the meat done in the crock pot and when it's done you can pull it for pulled pork sandwiches that are served on buns with cole slaw on the sandwich.

Again, pork is my favorite meat and I love it served in any way.  So as Nunny used to say, "try it -- you'll like it."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cardinals Came to Visit

In the middle of last Winter season and I was having some issues at home that made me weary of the weather and the world in general.  I have heard it said that when you see a cardinal it is a visit from a loved one who has passed over.

Over the past 15 years my husband, youngest son and oldest step-daughter have all passed.  In December, my oldest son was struck down with a serious medical condition that made me anxious that he would also leave me.

I had two visitors.

A brilliantly-colored male cardinal was at my bird feeder and just sat there watching me.  A kind of peaceful feeling came over me as I gazed at him letting the knowledge that I had been visited by a loved one.

Male cardinal on solar light near my feeders

While I was watching. my eyes caught a movement on my porch which was darkened by the awnings being down.

There on my railing a female cardinal was trying to get from inside my deck to the feeders.  She finally found the way out and flew down to the ground below my main birdfeeder.

Female visitor on fence across the alley
When I looked out my side window, I saw her in my second bird feeder.

I had a strangely peaceful feeling for the rest of the day after receiving visits from my loved ones to let me know everything will be okay.

In March, my fears were realized and my oldest son left on his journey to join his brother and stepsister.  That left me with several challenges because his illness didn't leave him time to clean up his earthly responsibilities.  Since Easter there have been three cardinals visiting on a regular basis and this week we finally sold my son's trailer that was sitting in my yard as a reminder of his unaccomplished dreams.

The three cardinals have all been regular visitors with the addition newest of the male birds which I know because it's wings are darker than the other male's wings.  He comes to the feeder, cocks his head back and forth and watches me sitting in my chair on the deck as he eats the seeds I've put out for my feathered friends.

All was well again and I looked forward each day to them visiting me one by one at the feeders.  Now that the weather is changing I have not seen my cardinals and I'm hoping that the neighbor's cat hasn't deterred them from visiting.  Hopefully they are getting ready for winter and I will see them again in the spring.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Making Biscotti

My father-in-law was a dunker.  He loved dunking his cookies in his coffee to eat them.  Biscotti is one of the cookies that can get hard if you aren't careful.  They can also be spongy and easy to eat.  This is one of the easiest cookies to make and one that is good no matter what time of year.  I know my father-in-law loved these and the honey cookies that also get hard if not stored in an airtight container with a slice of apple.

Continuing on with my Cookie stories, I spent a lot of time in the grocery store last year deciding whether to make Orange or Almond Biscotti for Christmas.

Orange Biscotti made right
I was torn between the flavors and since I don't have another orange cookie on the list, I decided to make the Biscotti orange. 

If you remember, I made Peppermint Biscotti a few years ago but I wasn't happy with the end product.  I think the color turned me off since it came out pink from the ground up peppermint sticks.

Peppermint Biscotti
Everything started out fine as I followed the steps in the recipe.  I used the spatula attachment to mix the margarine, sugar, eggs and orange extract.  Once I was ready for my dry ingredients, I switched over to the dough hook and proceeded to mix in the dry ingredients a little at a time in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  The dry pour attachment is a big help in keeping the dry ingredients from flying out of the mixer.

Another use for having the right tools to do the job.  After using the dough hook it was time to roll out the dough into logs.

Next the logs were put into the oven for 35 minutes.  Following the directions, the logs were then cooled before cutting into slices and putting back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes.

The results was that I misjudged the size of my logs and my Biscotti are the size of what they are named for biscuits.  Next time I need to keep the dough a little wider and not so round.  That's the lesson for today.  Time and trial are the best cooks or bakers.  Even though they taste wonderful, the next time they should turn out more like small cake slices instead of round.

Almond with chocolate

Biscotti with chocolate drizzles
For weddings though you need to be more creative and garnish you biscotti with nuts or even chocolate drizzles.  Almond slivers in an almond biscotti is a favorite for weddings.

Almond Pistachio
Chocolate with Nuts

Almond pistachio is another taste that I like since I'm partial to any baking done with pistachios.  My personal favorite is a chocolate biscotti with nuts.  Today is my birthday and chocolate with nuts would be a great selection for toasting my special day.

That's my baking story for today.  Happy baking.