Friday, July 31, 2015

Success In The Kitchen

The kitchen is my most favorite place in my home. It's my playground; the place where I love creating lots of sweet memories and meals with my family.  Here are a few things I have learned along the way that have helped me have success in the kitchen.  Let me share them with you.

~~~A Few Tips For Success In Kitchen~~~

  1. Use the best quality ingredients you can possibly afford. 
  2. Before trying a new recipe, read it through a couple of times before preparing it. Doing this will familiarize you with the steps involved, it will ensure that you have all of the ingredients necessary and enough time to prepare it. 
  3. When following a recipe, assemble and measure all of your ingredients before you start cooking It will help you stay organized and make the cooking process much easier. 
  4. Relax and have fun in the kitchen! Even if you do make a mistake with a recipe relax, and consider it a learning experience. ALL great cooks have had mishaps in the kitchen at some point.
  5. Add LOVE to everything you cook and the food will taste wonderful. My mom always said this and I think it's true.
  6. Always use pure vanilla. There is no substitute for the REAL thing that will make the recipe taste good. 
Let's dish. Do you have a tip for success in your kitchen? What has helped you in your cooking adventures?

I love this little kitchen poem. I've seen it in a few old cookbooks.

God bless my little kitchen,
I love its every nook,
And bless me as I do my work,
Wash pots and pans and cook.

And may the meals that I prepare
Be seasoned from above
With Thy great blessings and Thy grace,
But most of all Thy love.

As we partake of earthly food,
The table before us spread,
We’ll not forget to thank Thee, Lord,
Who gives us daily bread.

So bless my little kitchen, God,
And those who enter in,
May they find naught but Joy and Peace,
And Happiness therein.

Author: M. Peterson (1944)

Monday, July 27, 2015


                               for Bella.
Yes, sweetie girl loves her morning biscuit. But I got to thinking, what's in that biscuit that I've been giving her? Is it healthy, nutritional things that are good for her? You have to wonder, given the time they sit on the store shelves or in the bulk bins. I did anyways. 
So I had a kitchen adventure of the doggie kind today and made a batch of homemade biscuits for my Bella.~~~
The ones I made are a modified version of an oat biscuit recipe on dog trainer Cesar Millans Webpage. 
They couldn't be easier to make. Just mix everything together until it forms a ball of dough. Knead it for a bit and roll or pat out to a 1/2" thickness and cut out your biscuits. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake at 325* for 20 minutes. Let them cool and store in an airtight container.  They should last a week outside of the fridge. If you freeze them they can last about 3 months.
The ingredients in the recipe are all healthy for doggies, however if you might want to try them it's  best to consult with your vet to be sure your furry pal doesn't have allergies to any of the ingredients. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What Is That Thing???

I love to cook and bake, but when you live with a chronic illness such as Rheumatoid Arthritis ordinary every day tasks get difficult and sometimes just plain impossible to accomplish. So kitchen adventures are often a bit of a struggle, especially for my hands and arms. Lifting, carrying and fine motor skills are often limited or on really bad days non existent. For this reason I am always on the lookout for kitchen gadgets and tools that make my cooking adventures easier for me. Recently I found this handy little kitchen gadget for cooking eggs and thought I would give it a try. 
 It's electric and basically uses steam to poach, boil and even make omelets. The handy cup that is included tells you exactly how much water you need for each type of egg you are cooking.
 So far I have used it to make poached eggs and have also used it to boil eggs (has a capacity for 7 eggs) and it does a wonderful job. The boiled eggs are super easy to peel and with just a tiny bit of butter the poached eggs slipped right out. I am giving the Elite Egg Cooker a big thumbs up. Anyone would enjoy using it I think. It's portable and doesn't take up too much counter/cupboard space. Oh, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen like boiling eggs or poaching would do. And here's a good plus, it turns itself off when the eggs are done, so, incase you get distracted, not that I ever have, you won't have any burnt or overcooked eggs either. It comes in a few different colors. Naturally I went with my favorite color teal/turquoise. At $17.00 it doesn't make a huge dent in your pocketbook either, and that's always a good thing.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July Improv Cooking Challenge

I After a few tasty kitchen adventures with pretzels and mustard, this month's ingredients for the Inprov Cooking Challenge,  I decided to go with a savory main dish. It got rave reviews with my toughest and most honest critics, my family.
It was a super simple, yet oh so tasty dinner meal.
Here's how you can do it too.

1. Crush the pretzels.

2. Make the honey mustard marinade.

3. Baste the chicken with the honey mustard sauce before breading it. If you want a more tangy flavor you could soak the drumsticks overnight.

4. Coat the drumsticks with the pretzel breading.

5. Bake in a lightly greased baking pan @350* for 40 minutes. Turning the chicken over at 20 minutes.

Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

Check out the other tasty recipes from this month's challenge. They all look super tasty and good. Can't wait to try them myself.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Crockpot Potato Wedges

Hey y'all I'll try any food at least once. Well...thinking about it  maybe there are couple of things I'd have to say no to. But other wise I am pretty adventurous food wise. Lately I've been seeing recipes for crock pot French fries. They are everywhere, and thought I would try them. I mean they are a healthier way to get your french fry fix using way less oil and salt. Plus they are done in a crockpot. What's not to love about that?

There are slight variations among the recipes I looked at, but for the most part they are all pretty much the same. Potatoes julienned into french fries, a small amount of some kind of oil and seasoning. Pretty simple. Right?

Ok so here is the recipe I tried. I chose this one because it also had a copycat recipe for the Red Robin Seasoning. Yay! I love their seasoning mix. Now I can make it myself and save some greenbacks, and that's  always a win.
So all in all I liked how the potatoes turned out. 

Even though they really weren't crispy and french fry like they were tasty and not loaded with oil. They were actually more like a potato wedge, a really flavorful potato wedge. 

Will I make them again? Yes. Why?
1. They are easy to make and you can do a whole crockpot full all at once. Yes!!!
2.  No standing over hot oil. 
3.  They were almost set it and forget it. They did need a stir every hour. 

I am giving these a thumbs up.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Buttermilk Cake

It's my youngest son's birthday today and we are celebrating with some Buttermilk Cake. Just like my Grandma Strain used to make. I absolutely love this cake because it's rich and moist on the inside and the sweet butter soak makes it nice crunchy outside. It's a favorite also, because it is just so doggone easy to make, and I like easy? Just sayin y'all.
Here's the recipe in case you want to see for yourself just how good it is.

Buttermilk Cake

1c. Unsalted Butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
3 c. AP Flour
2 c. Sugar
1tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbls. Vanilla Bean Paste
1 c. Buttermilk (use 1 c. regular milk with one tbls. white vinegar as a substitute is you don't have buttermilk)
4 eggs

Sweet Butter Soak
1/3 c. Butter
3/4 c. Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste
2 tbls. Water
Preheat the oven to 325* 
Liberally grease a 10" bunt pan with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.
Now here's what makes this cake so doggone easy; just place all ingredients into the bowl of you mixer like so~
Now mix it on low for about 30 seconds till everything is moistened and you won't  have flour flying everywhere. Then amp the mixer up to medium and mix it for another 3 minutes stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom somewhere in between. Oh, and don't panic if you notice some small chunks of butter in the batter.  It's all good and perfectly normal. 
Now I'm fessin up y'all. I buttered and floured the wrong size pan. Instead of a 10" I did a smaller 7" pan
Not to worry. I can put the extra batter in a couple little loaf pans and take them to my coworkers on Monday. Crisis avoided. Wish every kitchen mistake was such an easy fix. :)
Ok back on track. Now that the pan is filled give it a couple gentle taps on the counter to get the air bubbles out. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Now let's poke holes in the cake with straw. 
Now you can get the sweet butter soak ready. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix all ingredients just until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil. Immediately pour it over the warm cake. 

Let the cake cool completely before turning it out onto your cake stand. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thrifty Finds

One of my secret pleasures is thrifting.  
Here are my reasons to thrift:
* There is always a treasure or two to be
* The thrill of finding a vintage treasure.
* The thrill of finding something with the
   tags still on.
* The three "R's" ~Reduce, Re-use and 
I found this tortilla warmer from the Phillipines on my last "thrifting" trip. I've always wanted a clay tortilla warmer and now I've got one. And I got it for a thrifty price.

I also found this Romanian etched glass wine carafe. It's really beautiful and will be a lovely addition to my glassware.

I found the Windsor chair in this picture a few years ago at a consignment shop here in town called Home Again It's a sweet little shop where you will always find something to bring home. The cabinet/shelf was a recent thrifty find and a great place to store my dish towels. It goes so well with the Windsor chair. Together with the Amish potato bin  they make a nice vignette for this corner of the kitchen. Don't you think?

I seem to have a thing for chickens. My family jokingly tells me our kitchen is turning into a roost. Even if it is, I just couldn't let this beauty get away and @ $5.00 she was a great purchase and a beautiful soup toureen.

Fenton glass and Longaberger baskets are thrifty finds I do cartwheels for when I find them. The Fenton vase here in this picture I at stumbled upon at a yard sale. I couldn't believe I walked away with it for only $10.00 and after a little research I found out that my investment was worth about $100.00. A really sweet find.

Do you like to go thrifting? Have you found a treasure or great bargain?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Almost From Scratch

Tonight's super simple and oh so tasty dinner was almost from scratch. :) because honestly It I just didn't have the umption to make a huge fancy meal from scratch. I'm sure everyone has those kinda nights. Right?  At least I'm hoping that I am not the only one.
I decided on making chili with beans and a batch of cornbread. It's a hearty and satisfying meal. So I pulled out a chili mix from the pantry.
And made it according to the instructions,  but I also added some chopped onion, and stewed tomato, in place of the tomato sauce. Dropped some jalepeño in the pot as well  for some extra HEAT. Then I prepared my cornbread. It was also from a box mix One that I hadn't tried before. It was so yummy, especially with the fresh corn kernels I added. I tell you a secret, I couldn't stop at just one piece it was so moist and flavorful. I will definitely use this brand again for those almost from scratch dinners.
For a nice cool down, after dinner treat,
     So, what did y'all have for dinner?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

To Knot? Or not?

Who doesn't love a warm soft pretzel? Basted in butter, sprinkled with kosher or my personal favorite, sea salt. Mmm...
Pair it with some cheese dipping sauce and oh my. 
Well I decided it was high time to make some. Why? Because it was just too hot to run out and buy one at the mall. And mostly because I would get more bang for my buck if I made them myself. A soft pretzel at the mall costs about $3.50 and I can make a batch of 8 for about the same amount. That comes out to about...well, a whole lot cheaper. And with four hungry men at home it's always great when I can stretch my budget and maximize my dollars.

The recipe I always use is from King Arthur Flour. You can find it here. Each recipe makes eight pretzels or if making knotted pretzels seems like too much then you can make a whole bunch of pretzel bites. 
How about whipping up some spicy cheese dipping sauce to go with those pretzels? It couldn't be easier and your family will sing your praises. 
Here's an easy cheese sauce I make. It takes just a few ingredients and no time at all.

1 cup milk
1 cup sharp cheddar or Mexican Blend shredded cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
Hot sauce 
Cayenne pepper 
Heat the milk up until it just begins to bible and remove from the heat. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook on a medium low heat for a minute or two. Add in the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Add a teaspoon or two of hot sauce and teaspoon or two of the cayenne pepper and mix well. Serve With warm pretzels and watch them quickly disappear.

Monday, July 6, 2015

3~Chile Salsa

This flavorful salsa uses Jalapeños, Serranos and dried Japanese chiles. I've been canning this salsa for years. It's so easy to make and you can easily adjust the heat level to suite your families liking.

You need:
4-5# Roma tomatoes
1-1/2 large white onion peeled and quartered
1 garlic head or 3 tbls. Dehydrated
3 large Jalepeños, seeded for less heat
4 Serranos, seeded 
7-9 dried Japan chiles
1 bunch of cilantro
1/2 c. Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp salt
Place tomatoes, onion, chiles and garlic in a large stockpot and cook till they are tender. In batches process them in a blender or processor, adding a little cooking water to each batch. Drain the remaining cooking water and catch any garlic that hasn't been processed and add to last batch. Wash and chop off just the leaves and add them to the last batch of tomato/chile mixture. Blend until all are processed to a fine mince. Mix all together and you are ready to jar it up. 
Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. When done remove to a draft free area to cool. Remembering to check the seals when the jars have cooled.
      Now to enjoy some of  the salsa.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Crazy Cake With A Kick

This, oh so simple cake takes just a few ingredients to whip up.  Seriously y'all who would think that a cake with no eggs, butter or milk could be so moist and flavorful.  Trust me it is.  Oh, and you can forget about pulling out the KitchenAid because you can mix it together same pan that you bake it in.
         How FABULOUS is that???

There are a tons of variations for this vintage depression era recipe on Pinterest.  Sweet Little Bluebird   has lots of  different cake flavors for this recipe on her blog. She even has gluten free recipes.

So I decided to experiment with a spicy chocolate version. Yes indeedy, chocolate and spice are match made in heaven. If you haven't tried them together you've been missing out. 

Chocolate Crazy Cake~My Variation
*Add 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients for a nice spicy kick.*

Place all of the dry ingredients in a square baking dish. No need to grease the pan. Stir together and make three depressions, two big and one smaller like so. 

Add the oil in one, the vanilla in another and the vinegar in the smallest. Pour the water over all and mix well. Bake in a preheated oven at 350* for 25-30 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Frost with your favorite icing or dust with powdered sugar. You can also enjoy it warm with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or gelato.

If you decide to try it be sure to let me know what you think.

Enjoy Life...

Or, with whatever food you're celebrating with this 4th of July. Oh, and spread a little #humankindness along the way~

    Have a safe and Happy 4th of July