Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Appliance Update

Mr. Leonard is officially my hero.

He spent under 2 hours here. The washer was fixed in 10 minutes: an underwire had worked its way through the washer tub and into the gears: ladies, beware!

The refrigerator? Jeez....its computer board went. Yup, the computer is now in your fridge; here's a picture of the little darling. It only cost me $489 to fix the ###@%$&!!! But at least I didn't add more crap to the landfill. At the beginning, Thor was right there beside the repairman, with his big head in the fridge, until he realized there was no food in it, and the guy didn't have sandwiches in his pocket, so he wisely went off to take a nap. My icemaker crapped out about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and hopefully this computer board will fix that issue too. Ah, well, at least there's plenty of room for the Superbowl provisions!

Super Bowl Planning

First, let me preface my comments by saying that we aren't huge football fans. My husband doesn't watch regular season games, only the last 2 games before the Super Bowl (the playoffs or finals? I'm not sure), and the Superbowl. A couple of my college aged sons watch some games when they're home, often WVU or OSU, and all of the other sibs naturally join in the fun. The girls and I take "game time" as "sewing time" or "shoe shopping time". Except for the Super Bowl. That's food time.

Now, I do love the commercials. And, when all of my sons were home, I did love asking when someone was going to get a home run or "voting" for which team should win because their suits were the best color combination or the QB was the "cutest". All of which drives young teenaged males absolutely nuts (and yes, I know some of the rules of the game). But mostly, I love the chance to serve an odd variety of foods in an unstructured manner. When the people in our backyard moved in a couple of years ago, they invited us to their Superbowl party, and we went one year. I felt overwhelmed. They held it in a conference hall at a local hotel, with, as the hostess' sister said, "150 of their closest friends." Thanks, I'll just stay home, where it's warm and cozy, with the kids and the dog.

Tradition being what it is, here's what's contemplated for Superbowl Sunday:

Chips & dips, of course; how could we not?
Homemade bread sticks
Grilled sweet sausage
Sweet & Sour Meatballs with pineapple
Barbecued chicken drumsticks (wings annoy me - not enough meat for the bone)
"Do It Yourself" mini pizzas. I'll make the crust, and the kids can top them
Salad (at least Kellie and I will eat this)

This is the only day of the year when I allow anyone to eat outside the kitchen, breakfast room or dining room. Maybe it's nuts, but with 9 kids, you've got to protect yourself and the vacuum cleaner somehow!

So, while I wait eagerly for Leonard the refrigerator/washer repairman, here's a picture of Thor with the lobster he got for Christmas, and which he's leery o
f playing with:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Boys and Pets

The little boys were playing with their guinea pigs yesterday, as they always do.

Thor decided to sit next to Ryan and Rusty.

Shortly after this picture was taken, Thor decided Rusty wasn't using the carrot any more, and ate it.

It was a whole lot easier to giggle at Thor eating carrots than to be mad that I've joined Pam and Debbie in the ranks of broken appliances. Yes, one of my refrigerators quit working. The good news is that many of the kids are currently at college so I don't need as much cold storage space. Also, I have a spare fridge in the basement that usually holds stuff like ginger ale and yeast (which I buy by the case), which can take the overload if I really need it. The bad news is that, unlike the basement fridge, which died 4 days before the warranty expired, so Sears had to replace the compressor FOR FREE, this one is 2 years out of warranty. And a friend tells me that nowadays it usually costs more to repair appliances than replace them.

Gee, I wonder why we're running out of landfill space?

I think I'll go make a coffee cake and make the house smell better. Watch the kids and hubby follow their noses to the kitchen in about half an hour!

(Tessa, these pictures are for you, Cole & Cayleigh!)

UPDATE: My washer also crapped out this afternoon. In desperation, I began calling every appliance repair service in the phone book, until I found one who says he'll come out tomorrow afternoon. We shall see if Leonard is any good....

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Food Processor!

Yes, my life is so exciting that a new kitchen appliance warrants an exclamation point!

About 5 years ago, my mother in law bought me a Kitchenaid food processor. Nice item, except for the handle design. I found it to be seriously flawed. It was possible to turn the lid past the lock point, thus creating a real problem opening it (my hands were not strong enough to undo this problem, and I had to rely on my husband or big sons when it happened, and, of course, the container was always full, and I'm sure you can picture the potential messes which abounded therein). Anyway, since Kitchenaid is a very pricy brand, I continued to use it, until the handle broke altogether last summer. At that point, I superglued it so it would remain marginally functional until I could get a new processor, a Hamilton Beach, from for about $50. This is not the one to buy! The food chute is much too small; a tomato has to be quartered to fit through it. This would beg the question, why am I not simply slicing this sucker?

Then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Macy's had the Cuisinart 11 cup food processor on sale for $100. It was lovely! Only problem was, "We're out of stock on these...." Long story short, they shipped it to me last week. It probably would have been worth the $160 Amazon wanted for it, but who can resist a bargain? So here it is, in all its glory, and yes, those three potatoes went through the food chute swiftly and quietly. Sliced potatoes, boiled, then stirred in with a sour cream and chive sauce. Good thing I don't have a photo of those - I'd be able to feel the calories leaping from the screen to my butt!

Oh, and the Hamilton Beach went to Charlotte to live with the 2 sons who are rooming together, and they like it just fine - silly boys!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Bread

I was inspired by an entry by Debbie Cook of Stitches and Seams, and so, after serving sweet potatoes with turkey breast one night earlier this week, I decided to make sweet potato bread with the leftovers. It was a fine snack or breakfast bread, and would have been good with poultry or pork. My fussy daughter liked it until she learned that it had sweet potatoes in it - curse those teenagers! Darn good thing she's a delightful girl!


3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. gluten
1 apple, grated (I used red delicious, Debbie used Macintosh and said her recipe called for a tart green apple)

Add all ingredients to the bread machine, and set to mix only, or mix by hand for about 10 minutes. Let rise, then punch down and transfer into a greased and floured bread pan for a second rise. When the dough has doubled in size, bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. It's a pretty bread!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Smiling Hill Farm Bread

My youngest is currently finishing the Calvert School's third grade curriculum. This is the second time I've taught this grade (the first time being with his next older brother), and I have to say that I've enjoyed every minute of it each time. The course is difficult enough to challenge my extremely bright children, a feat not easily accomplished even in a private school, and teaches in depth; finally, the lesson manuals tell me exactly how to teach each subject, including discussion questions to be sure that the child has understood what he's read and done. So, what's this got to do with bread?

The third grade reading program goes through both 3rd grade reading books from Houghton Mifflin by lesson 120 of 160. They then introduce this nice novel, Smiling Hill Farm. Written in 1937, it's a historical account of the Wayne family's move from Virginia to Indiana. There are lots of historic details in it which cause me to believe it's an account of the author's actual family, and it has also enabled me to te
ach my boys odd things, such as the fact that there were vast flocks of parakeets flying about the eastern half of this country prior to 1900. This recipe is given as a recipe the Wayne family might have used to make bread. It's dense, very moist, and very flavorful.


1-2/3 cups buttermilk
2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 325. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl; make a well in these and add the buttermilk and molasses. Stir together until well mixed and pour into a greased 9"x5" loaf pan. Bake about an hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

I served this with turkey, and even with my "small" family, it was gone....

Friday, January 18, 2008

Roasted Lemon Chicken

"Bistro is French cooking without the attitude," or so trumpeted the headline on MSN yesterday. Of course, I couldn't resist looking at their offerings. Beef Burgundy? Ho hum. Filet Mignon with roquefort? Don't need to dress up filet mignon. Roasted Lemon Chicken? Yippee! I was planning chicken for dinner anyway! The recipe called for lemon, chives and tarragon. OK, what is tarragon? Off to the 1930 Encyclopedia of Cookery....used for pickles, chicken....a European herb in the wormwood family (wormwood sounds so appetizing). "Tarragon adds the master's touch to lobster thermidor and chicken a la king." OK, I'm sold, I guess; anything that gives me the "master's touch". So I shipped my daughter off to the store to hunt up tarragon. The chicken turned out well; my dearly beloved told me I can make this again any time.


1 Oven Stuffer Roaster
3 lemons
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (I used scallions)
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 tbsp dried tarragon
2 tbsp. softened butter

Remove the zest from one lemon into a bowl with the butter, chives or scallions and tarragon. Stir together until well mixed. Carefully peel the skin back from the bird and spread the seasoning on the chicken meat, replacing the skin. Quarter the zested lemon and put the quarters inside the cavity of the chicken. Put into a roasting pan and cook at 450 for about an hour, until the temperature reaches 175 and the juices run clear. Pour off the pan drippings into a saucepan, and let the bird stand 10 minutes before carving. I served it with roasted potato chunks (affectionately called "rock potatoes" by my kids). The recipe says to dis
card fat from the pan juices and serve the chicken with the pan juices only, but my hubby won't eat anything without some sort of sauce or gravy. So I made a sauce by whisking 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water, and whisking into the chicken juices, then adding 2 tbsp whipping cream when the sauce had thickened. It was a fabulous finishing touch to a very tasty bird.

And, yes, in my photo here, my chicken is upside down in the pan. I always cook them upside down, so the juices will not drain from the breast meat, leaving the bird much moister.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Apple Cinnamon Mini Muffins

I just love mini muffins. They mean I can have 2 or 3 muffins for the calories of one, which feels really good psychologically. (Look at me. I sound like a shrink or head case or something.) I needed a quick, easy and warm dessert last night when it was spitting snow outside, and had one lonely apple left in the fridge. There's nothing (in my mind, at least) like the smell of baked goods with cinnamon to make you feel warm, so here they are - a generic recipe altered to smell and taste wonderful!


1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
3/4 cups milk

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup walnuts
1 apple, grated (with skin on)

Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the egg, milk and oil; stir until blended. Stir in the grated apple and walnuts. Spoon into greased mini muffin pans; sprinkle the top with just a touch of cinnamon sugar. Bake at 400 for 10 to 12 minutes; serve warm. Makes about 3 dozen.

I had half of these left after dessert; my husband took care of most of those in the morning, for breakfast. These are just the thing for lunch boxes, too! Kids don't even know they're eating something that might have healthy stuff in it!

By the way, this plate is sort of interesting. My mother-in-law had turquoise patterned melamine dishes in the late 50s, when my husband was a growing up, so "the kids wouldn't break them". Darling hubby dubbed those dishes "Ma's Blue Crapola". Later, in the late 60s, after he left home, he bought these plates, took the melamine and dumped them in the trash, telling her that if her kids were still breaking dishes at ages 12 to 24, she hadn't trained them properly. About 2 years ago, when she arrived at Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law's family, my nephew was lugging this big stinkin' box, containing service for 12 of the "replacement blue crapola". I certainly didn't need more dishes, but these are interesting, and sort of understated pretty, and I can never turn down free "kitchen crap".

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Sort Of" Sweet & Sour Beef

Last night, I thawed steak. True to form, I'm not that big a fan of plain beef, so I went looking for something to do with it. I found a recipe for Sweet & Sour Beef, but it contained peppers, which I can't eat. So, off to the drawing board with a little inspiration.from "Shortcut Cooking for the Smart Cook"!

2lbs steak, cut into strips
balsamic vinegar
garlic powder
fresh ground black pepper
1 can pineapple chunks
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 bag fresh spinach
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (yes, chicken)
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup cold water whisked with 1/4 cup flour

Arrange the steak strips in the bottom of the broiler pan; sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, garlic powder (I used a lot!) and pepper. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat chicken broth with vinegar and wine. Partially cook the spinach in the chicken broth for 1 to 2 minutes; remove spinach from pan with slotted spoon, so as not to take any of the broth with the spinach.

Turn the steak strips. Sprinkle with more balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and pepper. Toss in pineapple, tomatoes and spinach. Return to the broiler for 2 minutes. While it's in, add the water/flour mix to the broth mix, and heat to thicken. Pour over the beef/veggie mix, and return to the broiler again for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve over pasta (I used thin spaghetti)

Served 5 with no leftovers (poor doggie).

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I don't like pizza. Actually, I don't like anything in red sauce. So, making pizza for Friday night dinner is an awfully strange choice, isn't it?

A few years back, my fourth son had a friend whose father owned a pizza place. He was a sizable gentleman, so I had to believe that he knew how to make a good pizza. One evening, he came to pick up his 2 kids (kindergarten & 8th grade), who had been here for the afternoon and evening, and he brought us a couple of pizzas. One was a white pizza; I'd never even heard of such a thing. I actually liked it, although the kids scoffed at me. So when I found a recipe for pizza crust last year, I knew that replicating Donio's white pizza was on my "must" list.

This morning, my last 2 big sons and 2 of my 3 daughters returned to college (thankfully, the third daughter is still in high school). So I decided to break down and give them the pizza they'd been asking for since they'd gotten home. I made the pizza dough, the recipe shown below six times over, and told the girls to put on the toppings. Of course, the 2 big boys, 2 little boys and dog came to help. You'll probably never see anyone else write that 40 lineal feet of counter plus a table is not enough. Trust me, with the circus I had going on, it isn't. Anyway, the girls precooked ground beef and sausage (sweet and hot), and chopped 6 tomatoes, a pound of broccoli, a pound of mushrooms, and an onion. Shown below are white pizza with tomatoes and broccoli, and a ground beef and tomato (with sauce) pizza. All of the pizzas were topped with a combination of jack, mozzarella, white cheddar and provolone (I love cheese).


1-1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2-1/2 tsp. yeast

Mix about 15 minutes on the dough setting, then take out and shape. Makes 1 tray (11x17"), or 2 12" or 14" round pizzas, or 6 "personal sized" pizza crusts.

After adding the toppings, bake at 475 for about 14 minutes. I switched my trays from top to bottom shelf and vice versa, so I could bake 2 per oven and have the crusts come out evenly browned. I do like my crust light, so you might want to add another minute or two baking time.

Even my circus didn't eat 6 large trays of pizza. We had 2 left over, which they happily munched on all day Saturday.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pane Toscana

I decided last night to make bread with a simple starter. I found this recipe in Beth Hensperger's Bread Machine Cookbook. It can be made from start to finish in the bread machine, although I prefer to "play with" my bread dough and form my own loaves. I did make some changes to the original recipe, which I'll explain at the end.

PANE TOSCANA (Tuscan Bread)


1-3/4 cups water
2-1/2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour

Put these ingredients in your machine and set it for the dough cycle. Let it mix for 10 minutes, then turn it off and leave the starter sitting in the closed bread machine for one hour. This is what you will see:

After one hour, add:

2-1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Restart the bread machine to mix these with the starter. Afte
r about 15 minutes, when the dough is completely mixed, remove from the machine and form into 2 round, country style loaves. Let them rise for an hour or more, until doubled in size, then bake 35 to 40 minutes at 375.

Original instructions:

Instead of 1 teaspoon each sugar and salt, use only a pinch of each. I tried this, and, frankly, the bread tasted like baked paste. Maybe it would be great dipped into a really spicy marinara sauce, but it was far too bland for my family.

Instead of calling for forming the loaves, the original recipe calls for the bread machine to be set on the French Bread setting with a dark crust, and removed from the pan when done.

Also, the recipe notes that this does not make good toast. I have no opinion on that.

Monday, January 7, 2008


I've been meaning to post pictures of this since I mentioned it on Dec. 18. It's a good bread. I form it into the classic french bread loaves, and my boys like it both with dinner and as the base for a grinder. If it's not allowed to cool somewhat before it's cut, this bread has a tendency to produce voluminous crumbs; other than that, it's great stuff. Shown here: two whole loaves plus one that was sliced for dinner.
"Oh, my god, Greg didn't tell me you're beautiful!" This was my introduction to our friend Greg's girlfriend, Laura, at Thanksgiving. A tiny, pleasant woman, she washed the pans as I was cooking ("I'm Greek, you know; my father did the cooking while my mother and I cleaned...") and polished my nails an hour before dinner so I wouldn't feel like I'd been working all day.

Greg called Thursday afternoon to say Laura was dead. She overdosed on Wednesday night. He thought she was "clean"; she was shooting heroin when he wasn't around.

We took the kids to the funeral. You hear of overdose deaths. You don't see it happen to someone you know. We've always told them that if they get involved with drugs, we will disown them. As broken up as Greg is, they now really understand: drug users aren't hurting just themselves, but also those around them.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Banana Cake

When my last grocery delivery came in, I had 20 pounds of somewhat bruised bananas. Of course, all of the kids bellowed something to the effect of "EEEWWWWW!" (yeah, we've all heard that some time or other). I made a lot of banana bread, banana cream pies, banana pudding, and one day, I decided to try Banana Cake. I found a recipe in my 1960s McCalls cookbook, tweaked it a little (I have a mental block against using shortening as an ingredient), and frosted with chocolate butter cream frosting, reminiscent of chocolate covered bananas. It was gone in under a day. This piece was the very LAST corner, all that was left at 9AM the next day.


2-1/4 cups flour, sifted
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 cup mashed banana (3 to 4 small)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk (1-1/2 tsp lemon juice with milk to make the half cup, stirred)

Beat eggs and sugar together. Add all other ingredients. Beat 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Turn into greased and floured 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes, or bake in two 8" layers for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. Sliced bananas can be used with frosting between layers, if this is baked as a layer cake. Very moist and rich. I'd prefer it with whipped cream frosting or buttercream frosting, as recommended in the recipe, but two of my sons pretty much refuse to eat anything which doesn't have a lot to do with chocolate, thus the chocolate buttercream concept was born.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Banana Bread and Resolutions

In keeping with tradition, I've been thinking about New Year's resolutions. Easy first choice: lose 10 pounds in January. Easy second choice: sew 20 garments this year. Hard third choice: use more fabric than I buy. Beyond that, I can't find problems that are mine personally to solve. Make #2 son do better in college? He has to do it. Demonstrate for my husband every day that he's the most important thing in the world to me? Been doing it since the late 70s. Works well. You get the idea. So, I decided to try to eat breakfast a couple of days a week, starting with this nifty banana bread recipe I created this holiday season.


2-1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed banana (about 3)
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Beat together banana & egg; add sour cream. Beat in sugar, flour, powder and salt; add oil, milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Stir in walnuts. Turn into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes for a 9x5 pan or 55 to 65 minutes for an 8x4 loaf pan. As with all nut breads, let sit overnight for best flavor. This is the best banana bread I've ever had, and I'm a fan of nut breads, because they aren't too sweet.