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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Signs of Fall Coming and the Cicada Song

Early August and we have had numerous minute natural changes in the the crops around the area.  The crops are starting to wither on the vines and the leaves are starting to look dry.  Birds are foraging more in the fields for those crops that have turned to seed.  I noticed that the string beans on a neighbors arbor are drying on the ends.

I hear the birds chirping and calling to each other in the yards around me that have family vegetable gardens.  They have taken a rest from my bird feeder and are enjoying the fresh bounty of the season.

As summer skies are lit up by the stars we had a summer display of shooting stars which I haven't seen since I was a Girl Scout at Camp Redwing in Mars, Pennsylvania.  I remember we took our cots out and lined them up around the campfire so that we were facing northeast and waited for the burst of stars to shoot across the sky.  Last year we were told by the news media when this would happen and it did.  I saw just one as I sat on my deck with a cup of coffee contemplating the vastness of the universe.

All of these tiny changes in nature herald the best sign of all that Fall in coming.  I sat out another evening and just as I was falling asleep in my deck rocker, I heard it.  It was a rasping sound.  It was ever so soft and not quite as loud as I have come to know the song of the Cicadas.  Locust is the familiar name that we have given to Cicadas.  These creatures are known to invade crops and destroy them by laying eggs deep into the stalks.  At hottest hour of the day the male Cicada makes a series of clicks that turns into a hum which becomes the distinctive sound of the creatures we call locusts.

The old wives tale is that Fall will start six weeks from the day you hear the first Cicada Song.  Listen this month for that familiar sound and count off the weeks until Fall is here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back to School with Chicken Soup or Ham & Bean Soup

The school Bells are ringing again and it's time to talk about those easy and filling fall soups.  When I went to school, children came home for lunch and then ran back to school just in time for the bell to ring you back into afternoon classes.  Lunch in the winter at our house was always some type of soup and a half sandwich (because it was split with my younger brother for his lunch).

Since so many go to school on buses today and eat their lunches at school, there is nothing wrong with making a pot of soup for when the children return home from school and need a pick-me-up to get ready to do homework.  A cup of soup when you first get home takes the edge off the hunger pains and isn't too much to spoil a good supper.

In the past we have talked about some of the soups made with tomato base.  Today I want to start with one of America's favorite soups, Chicken Soup.  First, we are going to talk about Chicken Dumpling Soup.  You can make many varieties of chicken soup, but when you add that little dough ball, your soup takes on a whole different consistency that tantalizes the pallet.

Basic Chicken Soup can be made and so many other starches can be added to it such as noodles or rice.

Chicken noodle soup or chicken rice soup start with the basic soup recipe that you have from the Chicken Dumpling Soup, but when the soup has simmered for awhile, you add your noodles or rice and let it simmer a while longer.  If you lose too much broth, you just add a little chicken broth or water.

When I was a chat room monitor on a popular bingo site, the subject of Bean Soup with Ham came up.  I offered my recipe in the chat room, line by line and the person who originally asked came back several days later to tell me how good it was.  I make this recipe less often than the others, but my Mom made it after she had  ham for dinner.  One way to stretch a piece of meat into several dinners or lunches.  I found this recipe in my mother-in-law's recipes.  I never really had a recipe from my Mom even though she often made a pot full of one soup or another for the family supper.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mother Mary Come To Me

The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; and, as a tribute to Mother Mary, Catholics set up May Altars.  In August we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  I thought I would resurrect this post in honor of that feast day.

In Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, Madonna of Jerusalem is one of our three churches.  The parishioners do an excellent job of setting up a May Altar.

2014 May Altar at Madonna of Jerusalem Church
Before each morning mass whoever is in attendance recites the rosary invoking the Blessed Mother's continued compassion on all for peace in our world.

I grew up attending St. Scholastica School and we were also taught to set up our May Altars, which I have attempted to do.  A long time ago I asked my Aunt where she had gotten her stone statue of the Blessed Mother.  She went out into her yard and gave it to me.  That statue has moved with me to 5 locations until I finally settled in my present home.

Madonna in 2013
My son-in-law painted her at one location with white paint which wore off over the years.  The year my husband died, I bought blue, white and green paint to paint her.  That coat of paint lasted 10 years and started to flake and peel off for the next two years.

Madonna in June 2014
A few years ago my neighbor offered to paint the statue after he painted his mother's.  I was so grateful because now she stands on her stone overseeing my garden which I have tried to keep up with flowers that will bloom in May.  There are currently no blossoming flowers in my little grotto  except the Lily of the Valley have started to bloom a bit early.  None of the Day Lilies have grown big enough to bloom yet.  I'm hoping they will during the month as I continue to say my daily rosary.

My old neighbor, who owned a greenhouse, taught me that isn't safe to plant flowers in the ground until Mother's Day because of the chance of a freak frost.  I will be purchasing flowers for the planters between now and Memorial Day.

Wednesday, August 16, 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, August 14, 2017

Gnocchi or Stuffed Shells for Dinner

Gnocchi is the Italian form of Dumplings and is normally cooked in a tomato or cheese sauce.  The tomato sauce is basic and is not used for pastas. 

There is a knack for making homemade gnocci and I've linked you to the recipe. But if you aren't that adventurous you can buy the gnocchi at the store or the Italian Store and go from there.

This gnocchi is made from ricotta cheese and the ricotta gnocchi recipe comes from my web surfing.  This recipe sounds simpler to make and only takes an hour to make. 

making crepes

Now for stuffed shells you start with your basic crepe recipe.  Once you have your crepes you stuff them with Ricotta Cheese mixed with eggs and grated cheeses.  Put a spoonful of the cheese mixture onto your crepe and roll the crepe into a shell shape.
Crepes filled with ricotta and baked
  Place the shell into a baking dish and continue until you have your baking dish full.  Cover the crepes with your basic marinara sauce.  Cover your dish with foil and bake for about an hour at 350 deg.

Again, you can be lazy and just buy the large shells at the supermarket but you still have to soften them by boiling them part way before you stuff them.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Only God Can Make A Tree - Joyce Kilmer

To quote the poem:

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

This sycamore is majestically offering her branches to a dislocated and homeless robin family.

The tree in front of the offices was spreading roots below the foundation of the building.  It was decided that the tree must be cut down and cut down it was.  The only problem being that in the spring the robins would nest in that tree.

Hopefully the spreading leaves of the sycamore tree offered enough of an invitation to become the new home of the robins and that tree can become their new home.

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

We are once again bounding into spring when the tree will abound with buds for the coming season and to welcome back the robins.

What a wonderful example of what Joyce Kilmer saw in God's creation of a tree.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Doughnuts The Old Fashioned Way

As a child I remember my father would bring home a package of cake doughnuts, just plain old cake doughnuts with no powdered sugar, no chocolate, no cinnamon on them.  It was just a package of a dozen plain cake doughnuts.

You can still buy the packaged brands of these doughnuts or you can go to the supermarket and buy some from the bakery section.

There is Bella Christi Bakery in Aspinwall where they make a smaller version of these doughnuts right in their sales room as patrons are coming in to purchase baked goods.

It is very easy to make these simple doughnuts.  I prefer to use my deep fryer to make these but you can do it in a cast iron frying pan filled with 2-4 inches of oil with the flame set on high.

Mix 1-1/2 cups of flour with 1 c. sugar, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 2 tbsp. soft shortening, 2 eggs and 3/4 c. milk.  Blend on slow speed in your mixer and then stir in 2 additional cups of flour.

Put dough on well floured surface. Roll around lightly to coat with flour. Roll dough 3/8 inch thick. Cut with floured doughnut cutter.

Slide doughnuts into hot oil using a slotted spoon, turning them when they rise to the surface with a slotted spoon.  Don't use a fork to turn the doughnuts so that they don't get saturated with oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown on both sides. Remove carefully from oil with your slotted spoon. Drain the doughnuts on brown paper.  I use the paper bags from the grocery store for this.  Paper towels work just as well but are more expensive to use.

Serve plain, sugared, or frosted. When you are done with your doughnuts, you can make a batch of doughnut holes to use up all of your batter.

Enjoy our version of old fashioned doughnuts.

Friday, August 11, 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 is well again and I look forward each day to them visiting me one by one at the feeders.

Wednesday, August 9, 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.