Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Weather Change and Skeletal Pain

How quickly the earth can spin and send us in different weather patterns.  It's not the weather that bothers me so much as the dampness and chills when it rains.

In the last couple of months we have gone from warm 70 degree days to overnight lows of 50's and lower.   Even with a new furnace and setting the temps around 70 for heat and 72 for air the living room seems to be in a constant chill.  That could be because I don't get any direct sunlight into that room and there are no windows on the afternoon sun side.

But for the most part it is the damp weather brought on by rain or snow that gets to me and my bones.

The reason for writing this blog is because my bones are feeling the dampness and I have had to resort to medical treatment twice in the past three months.  The air conditioning was on and I don't deal with cold very well.  So far I'm still only using Tylenol extra strength but I'm taking 4 doses a day during the bouts of pain that creep into my joints and bones.

Doc doesn't think it's arthritis because of where the pains are and where they radiate but I'm the one feeling them and I know it's in the joints and bones.  I do have a bone spur on my shoulder though.  I've become my mother and resorted to using Icy/Hot patches on my back and arm.

Twice I've taken an inflammation prescription but that doesn't help unless I continue to take my Tylenol at the same time.

I firmly believe that it is the dampness in the air that affects everyone who has any joint or skeletal ailment.  I don't have the solution for the pain but I know when it occurs.

Tuesday, January 24, 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?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Love Your Neighbor

We have been told to "Love your Neighbor, as yourself."  I ask you, "Who is your neighbor?"  Is it the lady next door or the person who stole your wallet last week?  That is an extreme example but one that you have to take into consideration.  It's not just the little things we need to forgive but even the bigger ones.

The real answer is both.  Yes, your neighbor is everyone with whom you come in contact.  Over the years, I've learned that fighting doesn't solve anything when it comes to personal situations.  Your inner being has to let it go and learn to live on with the people around you.

Don't get me wrong.  That doesn't mean you have to be best friends with that someone who has wronged you but you do need to forgive and forget.  I've heard people say, "I'll forgive them but I'll never forget they did that to me."  In the end this leads to a festering sore inside that makes people bitter in their dealings with not only that person who wronged them but with everyone around them.

It's time for us to take a look into what is festering in our mind and whom we are having problems letting go of wronged feelings.  It's time to make a conscious effort to letting go.  You don't have to physically encounter them in order to do this.  What you need to do is make an effort to not dwell on what happened but take it to the high ground and look for what good you can do by letting go of the emotions that are holding you back from forgetting.

I've had many upsets in my life and one of them was one that I had to rid myself from all contact with a person.  Over the years, I let the bitterness set in and avoided them at all costs.  I've learned that because of other circumstances, I'm only hurting other people involved and have come to a position in life where I can speak with them without the rankling and enjoy the company of others in their company.  This is loving your neighbor as yourself in it's fulfillment and I thank God for that realization and with his mercy having come to this point.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday and the Aroma of Homemade Bread

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, January 19, 2017

It's My Way Or None

The title of this article has a bold ring to it.  In my world, I only have to cater to myself since I no longer have a husband.  Yes, my son lives with me, but he is every bit as opinionated as I am when it comes to personal needs and habits.  We co-habituate but we each do our own thing.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very opinionated and have an opinion on just about anything and everything.  That's one of the reasons why I write this blog and post to other media.  It's just my opinion and you are free to disagree with me.  After all the Bill of Rights guarantees our right to freedom of speech.

I love carrots raw cut into sticks or baby carrots, but I have an aversion to cooked carrots.
Baby Carrots with Ranch Dipping Dressing
 They are too mushy for my taste.  It's something to do with the consistency rather than the taste.  I can eat some cooked carrots in stews or soups as long as they are cut small and there isn't an overabundance of them in the mix.

From the time I was a small child, I could not eat beets in any form.  I don't know why.  It could be that they have the same mushy consistency.  But just seeing those hard boiled eggs in beet juice turns me off and I love hard boiled eggs.

I spent many a long evening sitting at the dinner table until bed time with a plate of something in front of me because I would not or could not eat what was on it.  Oysters was another of those but I loved the warm milk they were served in and oyster crackers in it.

I don't like what I call designer coffee products that you can buy at most coffee stands or delis.  I drink black coffee but only black coffee.  I prefer Maxwell House, "good to the last drop" in their Master Blend.

Maxwell House Master Blend
Today, it took me half an hour to find the latest version of that blend since they continually change the packaging and I had to find it.  They now package it as Master Blend, Light.  They have stronger versions that are Medium and Bold. I don't like what I call designer coffee products that you can buy at most coffee stands or delis.  When I was younger, I tried drinking coffee as a courtesy visiting my first husband's home.  I tried it with sugar.  I tried it with milk.  I tried it with both.  Unforturnately, I didn't try it black until I was stuck in a snow storm one day on the way to work and black was all that was left in the coffee machine.  I've been drinking it that way ever since.

When I was growing up I had a best friend.  She was every bit as opinionated as I was and had no qualms about telling you what she thought.  I bring her up because a lot of my best recipes came from her family and a lot of my best memories went to rest with her just before Christmas in 2013.

One such memory was the wonderful Fudge that her Aunt Grace used to make.  It was just the right consistency that melted in your mouth with just a hint of the chocolate coated sugary granules melting into your taste buds.

Hershey Cocoa fudge
 She made her fudge from the Hershey's Cocoa Recipe and it was sent many times to Korea where her son was stationed and it arrived in tact rather than a pool of sugary drool.  She had perfected the ability to test the cooked chocolate by the small ball in water formula.  That is how I love to eat fudge.  I don't like the versions that so many of the stores carry that is smooth and creamy.  No one can get just the right consistency that Aunt Grace achieved.

I have opinions on religion and opinions on politics but I have lived long enough to learn the value of keeping those opinions to myself.  It profits no one doing battle over those two subjects.  So I've lived my life as stubborn as they come because "it's my way or none."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Crock Pot Vegetable Soup

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.

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.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Game Day Hospitality Tables

This blog was originally intended for hospitality room foods at conventions but it can also serve as a game day spread for whole families to enjoy in front of the tv to watch the playoff games  and the Super Bowl.

Another season of hospitality rooms is about to get under way.  We usually started off with a trip in early March to State College for the State Hoop Shoot Contest where the season is officially started.  Last year's was a success from what I heard related to me by people who made.

Typical Hospitality Room Food Table
Over the years, I've attended many local, state and national conventions.  In years past in Pittsburgh we were honored to have an annual visit from the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in which there were 10 hospitality rooms set up at the hotel.  At the time, only my husband was an active member but the preparation for the Lodge Hospitality Room was a group event which involved not only the members but their wives as well.

Chopped Vegetable Tray
Many a night was spent chopping vegetables and cubing cheeses to be used on trays.  That is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak if you need to host a room.
Cubed Cheese Tray
 Preparations such as making sure there are enough electrical outlets in the room and the use of a refrigerator needs to be ascertained prior to even checking into the hotel.

One year, the person in charge of the room at the State Convention then held at 7Springs only had a selection of fruit trays.

Fruit Tray
 A tray of cut up melon and grapes is always a good addition to the table.

The year my husband was in charge of a smaller visit from the Grand Lodge a group of ladies from his work donated several boxes of assorted cookies that they had baked.  The cookie trays looked like they belonged at a wedding.

Cookie Tray
Another aspect is to be sure that you have enough donated desserts, cookies and other dishes to make a good presentation on your tables.  This trifle would be a good selection to be taken to the convention.  The pudding can be purchased in cans and not need to be refrigerated prior to assembling the dessert.

Pound Cake Trifle

One of the best dishes that was prepared by our Lodge was barbecued sausages.

BBQ Sausages
 A past president and his wife were also involved in Boy Scouting and he had the best recipe for barbecue sauce and would bring a gallon to the convention to be used in an electric roaster full of either the sliced sausages or meat balls.  Either one was immensely pleasing to the attendees.

Sandwich Ring

At conventions where we were not permitted to use electric roasters, we would bring sandwich rings and cut them into individual portions.

Sandwich Ring sliced for serving.

Having a good mixture of donated foods takes planning and a list of what is being brought needs to be worked on for months in advance of the event.

Ham Barbecue

In recent years, we have been lucky enough to have a volunteer to handle the hospitality room who not only plans but also prepares his own selection of hot foods.  It was great being able to come to the hospitality room between sessions and eat a ham barbecue or sloppy joe sandwich.  That is what I call going above and beyond duty.

Sloppy Joe's

Another aspect of the room is having a good list of volunteers for bartenders and a list of when they will be on duty.  Again, this means having someone available to slice and chop lemons and limes as well as having a nice selection of drinks available.

Once you have all your preparations in place and people to help with the room, you need to make up a schedule of when your room is going to be open to guests.  It is important to leave time for yourself and the people helping you to get to meetings and other functions at the convention.  The schedule for the room should be set and adhered to in order to give the people running it time to clean up and set up for the next time it will be open.

The reason for this blog is to point out that it isn't easy being in charge of the hospitality room.  It takes careful planning and the help of many people to run efficiently.  For all who attend the convention circuit, happy travel and happy socializing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Potato Soup for Lunch, Ouch the Sodium Content

My eating habits are controlled mostly by my craving for certain foods or food groups.  I know this is not considered healthy or good for dieting so I took a recent craving on a grocery shopping trip to pack my lunch.  I believe that a craving is your inner being needing the nutrition in the food you crave.  I know babies will gobble down hunks of margarine and it's their bodies craving the oil content for better bowl movement.

bowl of loaded potato soup

Before I go off on a totally different tangent, let me tell you about my potato soup craving first.

I had seen an advertisement for potato soup as one of the daily specials for a local family restaurant.  I had fully intended to buy a bowl for my lunch and take it to work but my frugal side overtook my shopping trip and I went to the supermarket instead.

Once inside the supermarket I made a beeline to the soup aisle to look for a can of soup with lumps of potato and other goodies in it.  I found what I was looking for and the devil made me turn the can around to read the caloric content.   (I'm not mentioning brand names in this article because I don't want to throw the food industry into a finger pointing situation.  All I will say is that these are all popular brands.)

The soup I found was called Loaded Potato Soup and it had all the goodies in it.  It also published 980 mg of sodium per serving.  The can contained 2 servings.  Wow that's a lot.  My next choice was a can of potato soup with broccoli and cheese.  This was slightly lower and only contained 960 mg of sodium per serving.  Far below these tempting choices on a lower shelf was a selection of Light Potato Soups with various added veggies of sorts.  These boasted 690 mg. of sodium per serving.  A lot less but still too high I thought.

I abandoned my craving for potato soup and chose to go to the freezer section where a popular brand of diet meals were being offered for a sale price around the same price as the can of soup.  Only 1 serving but I thought this would be a healthier choice.  When I turned over the packages of Salisbury steak and macaroni and cheese, I was shocked to find 1190 mg. of sodium listed.  I read the other meals being offered on the sale.  All of the packages were over 1000 mg. of sodium.

Needless to say that can of soup just became more interesting and I went back to pick it up to take to work for my lunch.  I selected a can of Light Potato Soup with Broccoli and Cheese.  Of course, it was too tempting to just eat only half the contents of the can.  I ate the whole thing and enjoyed every bite so I guess my system needed the extra potassium that was in the potato soup.  At least, that's what I told myself after I ate it.

The big lesson was that just because it says diet, it doesn't mean it is low in sodium and other things that you need to watch for your health.  Happy shopping.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Chicken Dinner Recipes

When I watch reruns of family movies, it's apparent to me that Sunday Dinner was more often some form of roasted chicken with all the trimmings.  Of course, in those days the chicken coop in the yard was more the standard practice.  So, the family would have more access to chicken than other types of entrees.

The popular summer dinner would be Fried Chicken Parts which took more time to prepare because the chicken had to be butchered and an assortment of wings, legs, thighs and breasts would be breaded and pan fried in lard.  The trick to not having a greasy mess was to put the parts onto brown paper to drain the grease off of them before being put on the serving dish.

In today's world, you can buy bags of chicken parts in the frozen section and make any of these recipes.  This week I saw an advertisement from a well known chicken provider for individual packets of chicken breasts.

Sesame Chicken

When I was at a family graduation years ago, my sister-in-law made a dish that was similar called Sesame Chicken.  These tasty chicken parts were moist and had the best flavor I've ever eaten and I'm not partial to chicken unless it's stuffed and roasted chicken.

Chicken Cacciatore made on top of the stove.

While we are using chicken parts, let's talk about an Italian dish that calls for chicken, Chicken Cacciatore.  I was very proud of myself when I made this dish for the first time and it came out so good using my own homemade Spaghetti Sauce.  I got lazy one time and tried to make this recipe in a crock pot, and to my horror, I had a pot full of chicken pieces and bones instead of the tasty lightly covered chicken in the sauce.  But, that's how you learn, trial and error.

Chicken Marsala
Chicken Marsala is a favorite of mine because I love mushrooms and wine sauce.  This one is just as easy to make as a baked chicken with that wonderful Marsala Sauce that it is simmered in at the end of the baking process.

Chicken coquettes

My mother's favorite for chicken was chicken coquettes with white sauce and peas.  Easy to make.

There are several casseroles that I could talk about that call for chicken parts but we will leave those for another article.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Let's Make Soup

Here is a favorite old subject of mine which is making soups and putting them up for winter.  By putting them up for winter, I mean freezing portions for later use.  I find that soups from the freezer are just as good and sometimes better than when we first made them.  So let's get started and make some of my favorite soups.

Tortellini Soup

There is nothing better for you in cold weather than a bowl of soup. One of my favorite recipes for soup is Tortellini Soup. This soup takes some special techniques if you follow the recipe closely but is well worth the effort. This hearty soup is sure to chase away those chills.

Vegetable Soup

You can't make soup from scratch without including Homemade Vegetable Soup. My mom made the best and I've spent a lifetime trying to duplicate her recipe. There is one rule to making good vegetable soup and that is the more vegetables the better. My personal like is to add butter beans but no lima beans. Since this is Lent, You would make the vegetable soup without any meat base but my Mom usually started her vegetable soup by simmering chuck roast chunks to give it a fuller flavor.

Another one of my favorite soups for this season is Stuffed Pepper Soup. This is another hearty soup that is very easy to make. The hardest part of the process is browning the ground beef.

There are so many other soups we can make for the coming blustery Winter season.  I've just recently found a recipe for Potato and Corn Chowder.  This one is easy and can be made using frozen corn rather than starting from scratch like my Mom used to do.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Soup and Sandwich Season

a selection from Panera for those cold days
Here it is January and it's leaning towards being cold, cold, cold in the Pittsburgh area.  It's not unusual for this time of year that we are huddling in our houses with the threat of snow or inches of the white stuff to be shoveled.  That's not to say that winter has been unkind this year.  We are enjoying waves of intermitant warmer weather rather than outright long heavy snowfalls.

We got a dusting so far this season
I came away from Christmas with what I can only call the cruds.  I langered in my chair with a hacking cough and it was all I could do to stand up from the sitting position.  Another reason to do some zoup which is what it sounded like when some of my neighbors said it growing up in Aspinwall.  We had a family that grew all their own vegetable next to me and their 17 children learned the home arts, woodcrafting for the boys and the kitchen skills for the girls.

But I digress.....

I'm sure winter is not done with us by any means since we still have all of  this month, February and March to go this season.  I'm hoping that Punxsutawney Phil doesn't see his shadow on February 2 and we can get ready for an early spring.  I don't mind the cold weather or even short bouts of snow.  I only dread the extremely cold days following bouts of rain when the roads are icy and the only safe place is inside your home.

I'm not a pessimist by any means but I've learned that you can't count on the weather at any time of the year here in Pittsburgh.  On the average, this time of year is what I call soup and sandwich weather.
Tortellini Soup

There is nothing better for you in cold weather than a bowl of soup.  One of my favorite recipes for soup is Tortellini Soup.  This soup takes some special techniques if you follow the recipe closely but is well worth the effort.  This hearty soup is sure to chase away those chills.

Vegetable Soup

You can't make soup from scratch without including Homemade Vegetable Soup.  My mom made the best and I've spent a lifetime trying to duplicate her recipe.  There is one rule to making good vegetable soup and that is the more vegetables the better.  My personal like is to add butter beans but no lima beans.  Since this is Lent, You would make the vegetable soup without any meat base but my Mom usually started her vegetable soup by simmering chuck roast chunks to give it a fuller flavor.

Grilled Cheese

What is better than a simple grilled cheese sandwich to go along with your soup de jour.  While the soup is simmering and getting all those great flavors mixed in start your grilled cheese sandwich on another burner.  All you need is a square griddle, two pieces of bread and 1 or two pieces of American cheese.

Grilled Cheese with Bacon

If you prefer you can add a couple of pieces of bacon to the sandwich for an entirely different taste treat.  Lately I have been buying the already cooked bacon in the dairy aisle and just adding a piece or two on top of the slices of cheese.

Green Pepper Soup

Another one of my favorite soups for this season is Stuffed Pepper Soup.  This is another hearty soup that is very easy to make.  The hardest part of the process is sauteing the ground beef.

There are so many other soups we can make.  Come back tomorrow for another variety of soups to make for what should be this blustery Winter season.