Sunday, September 17, 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."

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cooking Using the Basic Crepe

The recipe for crepes isn't all that different from making pancakes except you expect a crepe to be thin and you don't use baking powder.

I remember when my children were in their teens and my oldest stepdaughter, Lisa, who God called home this past Christmas, would stand in front of the old gas stove and make crepes in the small cast iron skillet until she got them right.  Lisa was born to be a Italian chef but just never got the chance to do it.

Crepes Ala Orange

Crepes have always been a signature dessert in French cuisine.  I remember that the owner of the first company I worked for was something of a Gourmet Chef.  Even though he was Jewish, he treated the employees to a Christmas Party which was a gourmet meal that he would cook himself at a famous Pittsburgh restaurant.  The dessert was a Crepe Ala Sch......  This was his own crepe filled with fruits and and orange liquor sauce that he flambeed at the table.  It was a sight to behold for an awe struck 18 year old.

The Italian side of my life was filled with crepes that were also used for desserts but they were fruit filled according to the season, rolled up with whipped cream on them.  They weren't fancy but they were always deliciously light at the end of a filling meal.

Another use of the basic crepe in the Italian household is to make ricotta stuffed specialties such as manicotti.  You can use the basic ricotta and egg mixture to fill these or you can make the filling with spinach along with the eggs.  I prefer the ones with spinach because not only do they make a better appearance they are more healthy to eat.  The crepes are laid out on a greased glass dish and then covered with a marinara sauce and grated cheese sprinkled over the top before they are put into the oven.

As I think about it, I don't see why you can't use your basic crepe as a start for your Cannoli.  After all what is a cannoli except a rolled up shell with delicious sweet fillings and powdered sugar.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fond Memories of Putting Up Apples and Figs For The Winter

One of my fondest Fall memories was when we were raising our 7 children.  My husband and I would go to the Farmer's Market early in the Fall and buy 3 baskets of apples.

Apples from the Farmer's Market
I prefer 3 individual kinds of apples (Northern Spy, Machintosh and a green cooking apple which they now call a Granny Smith).  Then we would spend a Saturday sitting around the table peeling, coring and preparing the apples to be put into quart jars for the winter.

Except for the labor involved it is an easy task to prepare the apples so that we could make pies and strudels when there were no more apples.  Today that doesn't happen because the supermarkets carry apples of all varieties in every season but it was a productive day for us as a family.

The jars were prepared in the usual manner by boiling them and then setting them aside.  Once the apples were peeled and cored, they were cut into slices in a rather large bowl and sprinkled with about a third of a cup of sugar and a lot of cinnamon.  The bowl was then covered and put in the microwave for about 15 minutes.

Apples out of the microwave
When the apples came out of the microwave they were put into the waiting jars making sure that there was no air bubbles and set aside to cool.  Once cooled the jar was sealed.  Each jar of apples was marked with the date it was filled.  Once the jars had cooled and were sealed they were put on the shelf in what was once the butler's pantry off the kitchen.  That room stayed cool in winter and kept the jars perfectly.

Applesauce jarred for winter
After we had enough apples for pies and baked goods over the winter we would take the remainder of the apples and run them through the blender to make applesauce to be put aside for winter use also.  The applesauce was put into the jars in the same manner, making sure there were no air bubbles and set aside to cool before sealing.

The apple slices normally lasted until around Christmas time and would be used in strudels for the holiday.  If we were lucky we would have some left over and when the applesauce ran out we would reheat the apple slices and make them into applesauce.  In our family the request for homemade applesauce ran into all the holiday and family gatherings because they liked the homespun variety that I made which I called my "Mountain Sauce" which was almost brown from the abundance of cinnamon.

Figs growing on tree not ripened.
I never made this but my mother-in-law would take grapes and put them up into jams.  That recipe I don't have because it was never written down.  I also found a recipe for fig jam.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Apples Fresh or Baked in Your Favorite Recipe

There are so many delicious apple varieties.  My Mom preferred Macintosh.  I like Northern Spy and Gala.  I find the apples with the best taste are the ones that are white spotted reds.  Just cut up and eaten by themselves is the healthiest way to enjoy an apple.

Apple juice is okay but I never acquired a taste for it and apple cider is way too pungent for my taste.  A glass of apple juice is also healthy.

Waldorf Salad is a fresh fruit salad that uses chunks of fresh cut apples. My Mom always kept apples in the house and loved this salad.   She would make this salad any time she had extra apples that were starting to go soft.

Jarred Apple Slices

When apples are plentiful, I would buy three bushels and then put up my own apples for the winter season so that I could make my favorite recipes.  Yes, the supermarkets now stock all your favorite brands of apples year round but I preferred to just make my own when they were falling off the trees.

Baked Apple
My Mom made baked apples but not the traditional way wrapped in pie crust like apple dumplings.  She would take the whole apple and core it.  Then she would place the apple on a pie pan and drizzle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon into the cored out space.  The house smelled so wonderful as she baked these in the oven. 

Apple Dumpling
Over the years, I have come to like the apple dumpling style that you can buy in most bake shops or at fine restaurants.  These apples are cored, wrapped in a pie shell dough and then baked.  These are served with a dollop of whipped cream or in a bowl with cream poured over them.  Again , being a plain Jane, I like these served by themselves so that I can enjoy the pie crust flavor and the apple.

Apple Fritters
My mom also made apple fritters,  These delightful little crisps were so delicious after a beef stew dinner or as a breakfast treat.

Glazed Apple Turnover
From my childhood, I remember the Duquesne Bakery Truck that would come around once a week.  apple turnovers.  These delightful apple pastries were also filled with a whipped cream to give it that extra flavor.  The quick recipe for these that I use from time to time is to make them using frozen puff pastry dough from the supermarket.
My favorite from their baked goods was

Making Apple Strudel
At Christmas time, I would pull out a jar of my apples I had preserved and make an apple strudel using either my sweet bread dough or puff pastry dough from the supermarket.  Admittedly, the puff pastry dough made a much better tasting strudel that had vanilla glaze drizzled over it.

There are so many different ways to use apples and so many different tastes.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Apples Best For Eating Or Cooking

There is truly no season that is best for apples.  In this day and age, the supermarkets carry a vast variety of apples year round.  The season for apples is only determined by what area is growing them at this time of year.

In the Northeast, the Fall is the best time to harvest apples.  The crop is at it's peak and falling off the trees.

Local farmers then gather them into bushels and take them to farmer's markets to sell.  But in today's world you don't have to wait for Fall to get the best variety of apples.  They are all at the supermarket.

There are many varieties to choose from and each has it's own texture and taste.  When I am putting up apples for the winter, I normally bring home a bushel of three different kinds to get a special taste for my winter baking and my applesauce.

My mother loved McIntosh Apples and ate them plain or cut them up into her Waldorf Salad.

The skin on this apple is red and green and it has a tart flavor.  The flesh is white and it ripens in late September.  Because it tends to mush up while baking, this one is not a good one for an apple pie.

My favorite to munching is a Gala which I only recently found in the supermarkets.

This one has a mild and sweet flavor.  I normally cut them up into slices after I core them for snacking.  The peel on this one is a bit tough so I usually peel the slices before I eat them.  This is one of my selections for my three apple mixture in my canning.

The next apple I look for is the granny smith.

This one is an all around apple for eating, baking or just about any recipe.  The flesh on this apple is normally a bit more crisp and it holds up well in recipes.  It is definitely one of my thee for canning.

I have always used a Northern Spy Apple to finish out the canning mix.

This variety has been a long time favorite of mine and is becoming more and more hard to find.  The supermarkets tend to carry different brands rather than waiting for this one.  I like it because it has the flavor that you find in the Gala and the crunch that you find in the Granny Smith.  It is a good one for baking pies and other recipes that call for baking or cooking.

I have tried Cortland Apples

I picked this one up because it looked like a Northern Spy with it's flecked skin.  That was my indicator that it would have good flavor and the crispness I was looking for.  It's texture is better for snaking and that ever popular Waldorf Salad.

This is all I have on apples for this fall.  I have spent many a fall hour coring and peeling apples for my winter canning.  We normally had between 12 and 18 jars of apple slices and an equal amount of my family's favorite apple sauce which I lovingly called mountain sauce because of all the cinnamon I put into it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Senior Citizens: What To Do When Laid Off

In today's economy, not too many people can afford to get laid off from their jobs.  Senior citizens who choose to work are the most vulnerable in this area.  They work because they were not fortunate enough to put away enough income to keep up their expenses for the rest of their lives. 

In some cases, it's the little things that they continue to work for such as spending money, golfing fees, special vacations or even special food extravagances.  Hopefully, you have put away a portion of your former income and are able to sustain your expenses with your reduced income.  If not, you will need to seek unemployment compensation and this carries with it some other concerns which we will look into later.

Whatever your circumstances, you must once again look over your budget and determine if there are places that you can cut expenses.  This isn't always easy because when we are working we allow ourselves to slip back into bad spending habits and become used to the little extravagances.

Credit Card Payments  Hopefully, you have been making bigger payments on credit card bills while you were working to reduce or pay off balances.  Temporarily reduce these overpayments on credit cards and other bills that you have been making more than the minimum payment.  This does not free up huge amounts of money but sometimes is enough to carry you through without doing the unemployment application until you can find other employment.

I have always overpaid my credit card bills with more than the minimum payment so that at some point in time, my card can be paid off.  Even when I consolidate bills for lower interest rates, I pay off certain cards but do not close the accounts.  This way my credit score is not adversely affected.  I just don't use those cards except for some small purchase that I can pay off before any interest is charged to the account.

Standing in line at the Unemployment Office
Now let's talk about unemployment compensation.  If you are forced to sign up for unemployment compensation, you are under a lot of rules which compel you to be actively seeking employment and physically able to work.  That doesn't always mean employment at the level you were used to working.  If you are offered a position which does not pay your former salary or meet your working hours, you can lose your unemployment if you turn down the job and they contact the Agency.  Besides that, unemployment compensation is taxable on your IRS return and you should have a portion of your payments deducted to help with the end of the year expenses that occur because you were forced to take unemployment.

Be prepared for some people thinking you are being greedy and really don't deserve unemployment because of your age.  This is ridiculous since you have been and are able to work.  It's better to work at a reduced capacity than to rust away from not using your God given gifts.

No one said life was easy and it's especially hard on those senior citizens who for whatever reason need to continue working in whatever capacity you choose.  Here's a tip from my personal experience:

Let's be realistic:  in today's world you need a cell phone if for no other reason but to call 911 from outside your home.  Fortunately, before I was affected by a cut back, I had already reduced my cell phone bill by 1/3.  What was costing me $50 a month now costs me $33.10 and I have much more flexibility.  It meant an initial investment into a smart phone but I save that back within the first year of my new service.  I gained unlimited texting access (which some seniors don't use) and unlimited internet access from my cell phone.  I reduced my phone access to 300 minutes per month from unlimited but I found I don't even use 200 minutes by using texting for some of the contact that is necessary between family members instead of picking up the phone and calling them.  Things like, "I bought the bread" can eliminate a telephone interruption or a duplication of purchasing.

Have faith and continue putting in applications for employment.  I found that Craigslist was the best source of opportunities for me.  There are employers out there that continue to hire the people with the most experience.

Hopefully, you will never find yourself in this dilemma and can stay gainfully employed for as long as you wish to keep working.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Frugal Food Shopping

Many of my friends and family spend time cutting coupons and I'm sure they save hundreds of dollars by shopping this way.  Being the person I am means that I like certain brands and certain cuts of meat.  I tend to only buy those whether on sale or not.

My biggest frugality is waiting for meat sales and the "bogo" events.  When my supermarket has what they call their "huge meat sale,"  I get beef roasts using the bogo method and only pay around $10 for 2 roasts.  I  buy a whole pieces of Pork on sale at $1.49 per pound and only pay $10 for 2 nice size roasts.  I have the butcher cut the piece in half.  Sometimes they have two Bob Evans small packages of sausage on sale for $5.  That is about $1 off on each one.

So I may not be the world's most frugal shopper but I do try to save a penny here and there when I can.

I also have a subscription to Sam's Club and I shop there about once every other month.  I like to buy my staples there and I'm saving in the long run.  My family likes tuna fish and I buy 10 cans for $7.50.  I also buy 10 cans of meat ravioli for around $7.  I love stuffing with any of my meals and I get 6 pouches in the box of those. 

I know you can save a bundle by shopping at the dollar stores (Dollar General or Family Dollar) but I buy a select number of things there.  My friend buys her cat litter there because it is a lot cheaper.

There are hundreds of stores you can shop for their specials only but then you have spent all of your savings in gasoline to get there.  So I say, read the ads that come in the mail, plan your shopping and get value for your money.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Chuck Roast and Leftover Recipes

Sunday dinner should be special but with this recipe you can do a pulled beef for summer sandwiches.

Beef Roast made into Pulled Beef
All you need to do is pull out all of the vegetables around the roast and then pull out the beef into wonderfully small pieces.

When I was a youngster, my grandfather always bought the meat for our Sunday dinner.  He was not what you would call rich but he shopped at a local butcher shop and came home with the best cuts of meat for Sunday's dinner.  He always came home with a roast or whole chicken and Sunday's were always special.  I remember hearing my mother say each time she made a beef roast that chuck roast was the best tasting of the beef cuts.  I can honestly say that I do remember there being something a little more flavorful when the cut of meat was a chuck roast and the leftovers were tastier.  You know the second day is better after the meat has time to marinate overnight.

Beef Pot Roast

My mom would put the roast into a roaster that the bottom was lightly lined with bacon grease and little water to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The cover was put over the pan and it was lined with onions and celery to add to the flavor.  I'm not sure if that added to the flavor of the entree or the ensuing gravy but that was the reason for the vegetables around the roast.  About an hour before the roast was done peeled potatoes were added to the pan.  The vegetable was always something that was cooked on top of the stove and I don't remember there being any carrots in the roasting pan.  The result was a delicious tender roast.

Beef Roast in Crock Por
OK!  With all those nice instructions, here is my same recipe but done in my modern-day style.  I don't use my oven to make my chuck roast.  I put the cut of meat into my crock pot that has been lined with a little water to prevent sticking.  I start the roast with onions and celery cut around.  I normally start the roast on the high setting just to get the meat going.  I sometimes use pearl onions that I buy the in freezer section of the store.  In about a half hour, I add carrots, unpeeled red potatoes and about a cup of water and then turn the crock pot down to slow cooking on the low setting.  I leave this go for anywhere from three to four hours or until we can't stand the aroma any more and are too hungry to wait.  The result is the most tender meat you have ever tasted.  It just falls apart as you cut it.  If I'm being really lazy, I do the above but instead of using all the fresh vegetables, I open a bag of frozen stewing vegetables over the meat when I start it and let it cook slow for the whole two to three hours.

Beef Pot PIe
I buy a larger roast than I need for one meal and if there is any left over, I use the juice from the crock pot to make gravy and the next day the leftovers are cut into smaller pieces and cooked with the gravy for beef stew.  This recipe is the same as my Pork Pot Pie recipe but you just replace the pork with beef cubes.

If there isn't enough beef left over to make a whole meal the next day, I make the beef stew but instead of simmering on top of the stove I make 8 or 9 inch pie crusts and make a pot pie for the family to enjoy.  The beef stew is put into the bottom crust and covered with the second crust.  The pie is baked at 350 deg. for about 30 to 45 minutes. 

If you feel like being fancy, you can make the pot pie into a shepherd's pie by making mashed potatoes for you top crust and baking it the same way.  For both pies your gravy needs to be a little on the thick side.

The point is the roast may be a little expensive (but remember I got a buy one get one special) but you get more than one meal out of that piece of meat.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Aroma of Homemade Bread Welcomes Family Home

Home Made Loaf of Bread

In this day of squishy bread or too dry bread it is ludicrous that anyone would bake their own bread and spend the time it takes to make it.  Ludicrous unless you want that wonderful aroma that fills the house or the pleasure of the first piece that is cut with butter that melts because the loaf isn't all the way cooled yet.  There are reasons why people make homemade bread that are totally self indulging.

Even though I knew how to make bread from scratch, I started baking it when I was a single Mom and off work due to surgery.  I could not go out to shop during the weeks after surgery so I made bread instead.  After I met and married my second husband, I made homemade bread because I had seven children.  My husband had been brought up on homemade bread from the time he was an infant.  His mom made it every Saturday, and after I married him, I got in the habit of making it every Saturday.

Bread Dough After Rising

Bread is the opposite of making pie dough.  You can't knead it too much.  Getting those air pockets out of it are what makes it good.  The recipe I've given you makes about seven loaves of bread.  I like to braid it when I doing it for a special dinner, but otherwise I make loaves.  The only difference is I make 5 individual pieces for each loaf and knead and roll them into little logs.  Then I place the logs next to each other in the loaf pan before I let them raise for the last time before going into the oven.  It doesn't affect the taste and the loaf bakes into one but it makes a different shape to the tops.

Pepperoni Bread
As a variety, we like to use the dough to make Pepperoni Bread.  Just flatten out the dough and roll pepperoni and mozzarella cheese into it before you let it raise for the last time.  Bake the same as your homemade bread.

Sandwich Buns
You can also use your bread dough to make sandwich buns by kneading smaller pieces of dough and folding the edges under before place each piece in a rectangular baking pan.

Fried Dough in Deep Fryer
Fried Dough sprinkled with sugar
Another fun thing to do with bread dough is to take a piece about the size of a handful.  Pull the dough out and drop it into 350 deg. oil to make fried dough.  Almost a doughnut but not quite.  Once it's browned you take it out and shake it into a bag of sugar to coat it.

Pizza Shell from bread dough
The last tip I have for you is to make the last loaf into pizza dough.  Spread it out on a pizza pan and make your own pizza.  My mother-in-law would make white pizza with olive oil spread over the dough and then dropping her cheeses and vegetable onto it before baking it at 350 deg. for about seven minutes.

If you like good yeast bread and buns, you are sure to like these. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Favorite Fall Baking Treats

Fall is right around the corner as we get close to the end of August.  As we make our way through the street fairs, flea markets and carnivals in these the last days of vacationing summer, we need to start thinking about our Fall baking treats and things we can make to send to school with the children.  I know that most school have cafeterias but there are still those mothers that prefer to send their children to school with something special from home.

As I think about some of my favorite Fall treats from my childhood. the one that springs into my mind first is Gingerbread.  My Mom would make this quite often in her square 9" cake pan.  A lot of people make this in a loaf pan but in our house you were served a square piece of cake sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Whipped cream was and extravagance when I was growing up and something that we normally only had for Thanksgiving with our pumpkin pies.  On rare occasions, the gingerbread was served with a small dob when there was leftover whipped cream from Thanksgiving.

Gingerbread with a dab of whipped cream

My mouth waters every time I think about this cake.  Also, when my brother and I went trick or treating there was a family a couple of block down who invited everyone in for a drink of apple cider and a piece of gingerbread.  You can't beat the old favorites.

A&P Spanish Bar
My Dad's favorite was a spice cake and he would buy a loaf at the A&P store that was a spiced cake with raisens in it.  It was baked in a loaf and was called a Spanish Loaf.  I found this recipe on the internet for making a Spanish Bar Cake.

A&P was a family owned grocery chain that closed up its stores in the Pittsburgh area.  I found a store in Erie when I traveled north.  They carried the main staples for our household and my Uncle Bill worked for them for years as a butcher and then produce manager.

A lot of people I know buy their treats and cakes from the local supermarkets instead of baking their own.  My personal favorite from Giant Eagle is their  Carrot Cake that is iced with cream cheese icing and decorated with icing carrots on top.

Carrot Cake from Supermarkets
This year they are making it in a loaf pan with the same carrot decorating on top.  Since I prefer the spice cakes such as carrot cake and gingerbread, I tend to look for these more in the Fall of the year when the days are warm but air is turning a bit cooler at night.

Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Icing
While the recipe for carrot cake from scratch is simply delicious, you can cheat and bake a box carrot cake.  Icing the cake with cream cheese icing can be a simple as spreading it on or taking the time to pipe decorations with coloring added to the icing.

Baked Apple with Cinnamon and sugar
Another favorite was nothing fancy.  It was a baked apple that my Mom would just peel and core and pop into the oven with cinnamon and sugar poured into the middle.  I'm sure you have seen these with pie dough wrapped around them, but in our house it was the simple things that I remember the most.

Baked Apple with Pie Crust
This style baked apple can be served in a deep dish with warm cream poured over it; or as my Mom used to do, she served it with a slice of cheddar cheese on top for a selective flavor treat.

Apple pie served with cheddar cheese
I've had a hankering for some of these favorites and in the next couple of weeks I'll probably be making some of these on a small scale since I'm a widow who recently lost the son who was living with me.