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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 8, 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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Darden Foods - Bahama Breeze in Orlando

While we were in Florida, I took a tour of a popular timeshare and was rewarded with $100 worth of Darden Food Gift Cards.  We normally visit Olive Garden when we have gift cards but being in Orlando we felt adventurous and decided to try Bahama Breeze instead.  Having fourteen in our party we called ahead to let them know what time we would be arriving.  The restaurant staff was very accommodating and were ready for our arrival.

So off we went in two cars.  Since there were four families each driver made two trips to take us from the timeshare to Bahama Breeze.  There is a driveway but the handicapped entrance is off to the side nearer the rear parking lot.

Once inside we waited in the lobby for the second car to arrive with the rest of our family with the son in the wheelchair floating back and forth to the porch area where he could smoke.  Once everyone was at the restaurant we were seated in a double booth area with the tables pushed together so that all fourteen of us could sit together in family style.  Even with us throwing off their arrangement with a wheelchair in the party and the need for a high chair, the staff made every effort to make our meal pleasant.

The menu boasted everything from a Cheeseburger that my son, Bill, ate and declared on Facebook to be the best cheeseburger he had ever eaten.  This is quite a boast since he is so particular about foods and places I shop for them.

Being a seafood restaurant my daughter and I selected the shrimp linguini with a side salad which I had no problem polishing off.  I'm not fond of alfredo sauce but there was just right blend of garlic in the sauce that it was just what the doctor ordered for me.

The rest of the family enjoyed a multitude of selections from the children's menu to a miriad of fish and chicken dishes.  Even with all fourteen of us eating the final bill only came to a little over $250.  To me that is affordable dining.