Friday, September 22, 2023

Pumpkin (is it fall yet ?)


   It's that pumpkin time of year again and I have 2 favorite pumpkin desserts.  This is one of them, and I just got to bake one for a friend's birthday.  It's a lovely bundt cake that I can bake in my Ninja 5 in 1 airfryer oven.  I am known for making cakes and things from scratch, but there are a couple of things I make that are not part of that holy culinarium.  lol  (Google says that's misspelled, but I made it up, so screw Google.  LOL)   Anyway... this is one of those recipes that uses a  tweaked out yellow cake mix.  And it is magnificent.  

     The first step is the Praline topping mix.  

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup whipping cream (I have used evaporated milk and it works fine)

1 cup brown sugar 

3/4 cup chopped pecans 

Melt butter, add cream and sugar, stir til blended (about 5 minutes). Add pecans and remove from heat. Cool a bit.

  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer,  mix until well blended

1 yellow cake mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup cold water

  Then add 4 eggs, one at a time until well mixed.

   Add one can pumpkin puree (NOT pie mix)  and 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and mix til fully blended.

Pour the cooled praline mix into a greased bundt pan and spread evenly. 

 Pour cake batter over all.  Bake 40 to 50 minutes til done. When inserted toothpick comes out clean, cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto cake plate.  You can add a glaze if you like, but I think it's beautiful and just sweet enough as is.  

 Voila !

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

We do like to eat...

   A few days ago I made a nice supper of pork chops and scalloped potatoes. Dishes like this can be a bit of a challenge when you live in an almost completely dairy free household.  Husbandman has a bit of a problem with dairy really messing up his sinuses, so he doesn't eat cheese or milk products of any kind. (Except butter. He does like butter, other wise, I'd have to throw him to the wolves.)  So, I have experimented with different kinds of sauces for the scalloped potatoes. My favorite so far was mushroom broth I had canned, it was superb ! It changed the color a little bit, but that didn't bother me a bit. This time I used a lovely vegetable bouillon that I picked up at the Dollar Tree, made by Leaping Leopard,  from Turkey. It's quite good.  I am out of home canned vegetable broth and this made a  wonderful substitute. A couple of folks have asked for the recipe, so here goes...

 The one problem I had was that the potatoes didn't cook as much as I would have liked and the pork chops too much. So I'm going to give you directions on how to do it right, and not the way I did it.  lol  Also, I cooked these in the airfryer oven.  If you can, please use your oven.

  You'll need:

  5-7 large potatoes
  1 large onion
  Sea salt and Pepper
  2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
  3 T corn starch dissolved in 1/3 c. water
  Pork chops with Pepper and garlic powder

 A 9x13 pan for 8 or more pork chops  or an 8x8 for 6 small or 4 pork chops.  And that's if you use boneless pork loin chops. If you're using bone-in, go with the bigger baking dish.  Spray it well.

 About 5-7 good sized potatoes.  If using russets, peel and slice thin.  If using reds, scrub and slice thin.  Thinly slice 1 large onion.

  Make the sauce with the vegetable broth and cornstarch and set aside. 

  Season and brown the pork chops in a little olive oil. DO NOT OVERCOOK.  

  Layer the potatoes and onions in the baking dish, pour the sauce over it all.  Layer the pork chops on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  When the potatoes are tender, remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes or so, until the chops have a healthy browned color.  Serve with your favorite vegetable side. 

 Bon Apetit !

Monday, February 20, 2023

Maafe, a vegetarian (vegan) version


  This is a lovely stew that I made for supper on this Meatless Monday. I recently (a year and a half ago ? lol) picked up a lovely cookbook called "Food From Across Africa" written by 3 young African chefs that started a bi-monthly supper club called The Groundnut in London, to bring awareness of the magic of African culinary delights to the world. I play with recipes always... making them vegetarian or substituting what ingredients I have on hand that I think will fit.  I have been making more and more Asian, Indian, Egyptian and African dishes since we started eating more vegetarian meals. At least every other day I try to make a meatless meal, for reasons both health and carbon footprint oriented. Not to mention pandemic budgetary reasons.  This stew is the 3rd African dish I have made and we were delighted with it.  The more traditional Maafe recipes include meat, either chicken or lamb, and sometime I will try that as well. 

  So.  The protein component in this stew would be the peanuts and chickpeas.  When you eat vegetarian, you have to be mindful of nutrition. Mac and cheese just don't get it.  lol So the protein and fiber content of chickpeas make for a powerhouse of nutrition for very little money.  I teamed this stew up with some brown rice and a couple of slices of some fresh made honey oat multigrain bread.  It was a delicious meal, very satisfying and simple to make. The hardest part was peeling the butternut squash, lol.  Let's get started:

  West African Groundnut Stew (Maafe)


2 T oil (sesame is what I used, olive oil or vegetable oil works too)

1 med. onion, diced

4 cloves garlic minced

1 Scotch Bonnet or Jalapeno pepper (optional)

2 inches scrubbed grated ginger

1 Tbsp Cumin

2 tsp Coriander

2 tsp Paprika

2 Tbsp tomato paste

4-6 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you don't care)

1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 cup natural peanut butter

kale or spinach

Salt and Pepper to taste

 Crushed peanuts [and cilantro] to garnish

  Heat the oil in a pot (** I used my instapot. I cooked the ingredients initially on the brown/sear menu button, then changed it to soup/stew when I was adding the broth and stuff **) Cook the onions, garlic and ginger (and peppers if you use them--I did not) in the oil. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin,coriander,paprika to the mix and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, chickpeas,squash and peanut butter to the pan and mix well. Stir it up good to make sure the peanut butter is melted and incorporated. Bring this to a boil and then turn down heat and simmer about 25 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender. At the very end, before dishing it up, add spinach or kale and a handful of peanuts. Salt and Pepper totaste.  Let the spinach wilt and it's ready to serve. I made brown rice and put about 1/3 of a bowl of rice, mooshed over to the side and filled the bowl with the stew, as you can see by the picture. I didn't have any cilatro to garnish it with, so I just sprinkled some peanuts over the top.  

  If you try it, give me a shout and let me know !!

Great Gods Gertie !!!! It's almost the last of February !!


  Yep, the last week of February. It zipped right past.  The weather here in the middle of the country has been either brutal or beautiful. We're in a string of beautiful [mostly] right now, mostly 50's and 60's with a 40 thrown in here and there, just so you don't get too cocky.  It's brilliantly sunny and the skies are blue.  Yesterday it was so nice that the baby dog (Myma, pictured, who is about 6 now I guess)  decided to make a run for it. She managed to get out of her collar and off the leash and headed straight for the hills. She won't come when you call her, just speeds off in the opposite direction if she spots you.  So she was gone for about 4 hours or more. When this happens (not as often as you might think) I worry that she'll get hit by a car or attacked by neighboring dogs.  But somehow she manages to make it back safe and sound and all my worrying is for naught.  This picture is her FOR THE REST OF THE EVENING, after she ran her little legs off. She is a MinPin and miniature beagle mix, and has the worst traits of both breeds.  But...she's ours and we love her.  I took Bella down the road later and she and I walked as much as 2 old ladies can. We stopped twice and went off road and explored some creek areas and flatlands. I'm going to try and take her again today, but not sure if we'll make it. Have to see how I feel. The Irishman generously gave me the bug he had all weekend. Not really sick, just a little raspy and tired around the edges. 

  I am going to make the big batch of bread dough  later today or tomorrow. The one that sits out for 24 hours and then goes in the fridge and you cut off chunks of it to make a loaf or 2 as you need it.  Grocery prices are stupid, shelves are starting to look empty again and bread prices are crazy. We don't eat white bread and the decent multi grains or wheat breads are 5-6 bucks a loaf.  No thanks.  Too easy to make. 

  Realized that I appear to be out of home canned chicken last week as I was fixing some soup and some chicken salad to take to a friend who just had a hip replacement. Hard to believe I've used all that. maybe there is a box somewhere with some more jars in it, but I'm sure not seeing them. That means it's time to look for some sales on the 10# bags of leg and thigh quarters.  I have made lots of soups and stews and stuff this past winter, so not really surprised.  I still have quite a bit of corned beef and pork loin that I canned, but the pork loin is dwindling.  Sigh... this householding stuff just never stops. lol  And soon it will be spring. Then the big decisions have to be made about whether we attempt gardens again this year after a 2+ year hiatus.  We really need to. We really need to get back to work at being more self sufficient, the way we were a few years back when we had big gardens and chickens. The way the world is going, I don't see how we can't... and then, of course, there's just life.... this from a post in 2014...

  Okay.  Guess I'll mosey on away from this computer and think about what to make for supper. Meatless Monday here, so it will be easier maybe.  lol  

  [[Not sure what the problem is here. The hyperlink won't highlight or work. If you drag your mouse across to highlight it, it will let you go to the blogpost from 2014.  grrrr....]]


Monday, January 16, 2023

Time to begin again...


I have a couple of different books going right now.  And zero housework. Need to vacuum. Might do it today, might not. Got up at the butt crack of dawn and took himself to work to keep the car, ostensibly to attend a memorial (?) meeting for my friend that died yesterday. Once I got back home this morning, I decided that I really don't want to go. I don't want to see a bunch of people that may or may not be hurting as much as I am over the loss. I prefer to grieve in solitude... have always been like this. I rarely attend funerals or memorial services in funeral homes or churches,  unless I need to be there to hold up someone I love that has suffered a major loss. I have my own ideas about death and dying. I don't believe in heaven or hell. I don't believe that God punishes people with life or death. I think it's just all part of the great cosmic scheme of things.  We are born, we live, we die.  Just like each year's garden. I like the idea of reincarnation, only because if I believe in a god, it's the god of second chances, who says, there-- let's try again.  And try to get it right this time. More to learn. I also believe that sometimes souls choose the time of their death, especially if there's been a cycle of physical or emotional pain they've subjected themselves to in this life. OR that maybe once the lesson here is learned, we are finished, and can go.  I like that idea a lot.  So... there will be another celebration of my friends life at a later date, when it is all not so raw, and I might attend that.  He knew me. He knows I am waffling about all this. And he's probably laughing his ass off. 

  So I had all these good intentions to regularly post here this year and it's already the middle of January and I missed December completely.  So much for good intentions.  It's a grey and rainy day here on Honeysuckle Hill and I am doing some laundry and looking through local grocery ads.  Some good deals that I will go pick up. Mostly meats, as my freezer is getting low, and I have a little extra money.   I have not been buying much the past few months, but eating more out of the pantry and freezers and using what I have. Meat prices have come down on some things this week, and I found (in my town) the big 10# bags of chicken leg and thigh quarters for $.59/lb. AND boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb.  We are still eating plant based meals about every other day and I will stick with that plan. I am also make meals that are meat incorporated instead of  a meat main dish.  Stretches the budget and is probably healthier. But every once in a while, I make a meat centered meal and it's so appreciated.  Last night I had a package with 2 huge chicken breasts that I sliced in half lengthwise and then pounded and put in an Italian dressing and lime juice marinade along with some jumbo shrimp.  They were very good and fork tender. Made some crispy potatoes that could have been better and some peas and that was supper.  I didn't feel like working too hard yesterday.  lol  

 Must have been good, as he finished off everything.  lol  Today is Meatless Monday and so I am thinking about what to fix. Don't want tofu. Don't want pasta.  Yawn.  This weather has me thinking of lentils or split pea soup, both of which I love. A small batch with maybe one day of leftovers.  I don't want to be eating it for a week. I have enough time today to make some baquettes to go with. That sounds kinda good.  Split pea or lentils or Dal (I think I have some golden lentils).  Later in the week I will make some chili, maybe.  Temps are pretty warm this week. Heading for 60 today. Unseasonable so. But we'll take it after the Arctic weather we had earlier. My electric bill (and everyone else's) was sky high.  Over 500 dollars here after 425 the month before.  They're killing me.

 So... maybe I'll make the lentils with coconut milk and Indian spices that I love for the aroma as much as the taste. It's a good rainy day dish. With some homemade baguettes. Maybe some salad, maybe not.  And a pie.  Cherry or pumpkin.   Hmmmm...

Monday, November 28, 2022

Just like that...


  Well, well.  Just like that. Suddenly it was Thanksgiving.  And I cooked and I cooked and I cooked.  And I was frazzled. Then the party of 6 turned to a party of 5.  Then my son got sick and it turned to a party of 4.  lol  But nevermind... I cooked a small spiral ham and a 13 lb turkey and glazed sweet potatoes with cinnamon and pecans. I made cornbread stuffing with crimini mushrooms, onions, celery, and dried cranberries. I made smashed red potatoes and turkey gravy. I made home canned green beans with onions and garlic. I had jellied cranberry sauce and whole sauce too. I made a pumpkin and a cherry pie.  And we 4 ate ourselves into a food coma and took a plate and 2 pieces of pie to my sick boy. (The next day I made him some turkey and rice soup.)  After our guest was gone and my husband and his brother who had traveled down from Minneapolis were watching tv, I cooked down the turkey carcass and made 5 quarts of beautiful broth, 4 of which I canned in the electric canner and 1 went in the fridge for soup.  It took 3 sets to get all the dishes done. I know people think I'm nuts, but I don't care how many people are at my house for a meal...we use real dishes.  I did try cleaning up as I went as much as I could. It was still a lot.  SO I got to sit a spell between sets. That helped. It was grand, but I'm really glad it's over. 

  The next 2 days were nonstop. And when Sunday came and my BIL was heading home, I made sure to tell him goodbye and make him promise to call when he arrived safe and sound,THE NIGHT BEFORE. Because no way was I gonna be able to get up at 7 AM.  lol  I intended to do nothing but laze around the whole day, but of course I couldn't as there was laundry to be done (himself's work clothes mostly, but it turned into everything). lol  Once himself was back home from getting his spiritual batteries recharged, he helped with it all.  I'm still tired.  

  To give our systems a rest and try to get back on track, we had a Meatless Monday today. I made sweet potato and chickpea Buddha Bowls that were quite good. I used leftover sweet potatoes, and some vegetables that were languishing in the bin.  The chickpeas are cooked in a spice mix, and instead of roasting the vegetables in the oven, I used my big cast iron skillet to pan roast them and used sesame oil. I had some leftover quinoa from Wednesday night's supper of Peanut Butter Tofu that I used for the grain. The vegetable ingredients were : Kale, Red and Yellow Bell Pepper, leftover steamed broccoli, Red Onion- quartered, and sweet potato.

 The chickpeas were tossed in a bowl  (after draining rinsing and patting dry) with some grapeseed oil and spices. Cumin, oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder and salt & pepper. Then in about a  tablespoon more oil in a small cast iron skillet, I cooked them until the crackled a little over medium high heat. Didn't take long and they were toasty and spicy and done. 

 Then I made a dressing for the whole shebang of a quarter cup (plus or minus-- didn't really measure it, just eyeballed it and tasted it, lol) Tahini, about a tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of real maple syrup and a tablespoon or 2 of hot water to thin it down once you've got it all mixed up. It was divine. 

It was a really good bowl -- who doesn't love a BIG bowl of healthy supper on a cold night ?  We finished of f the last piece of pumpkin pie for dessert and it a perfect amount of food. Good and healthy, tasty and using leftover items and vegetables that would hit the compost heap in another few days felt right, somehow.  This week winds down the month and then it is December, and all the madness starts.  Not so much for me, actually. But it's hard times for lots of people and I am a bit of a shelter for some who have these hard times. It's okay... there's plenty of love to go around. We have a very cozy house that's warm and inviting, coffee or tea or hot chocolate is always available.  We keep our Xmas holiday very small, sometimes we have had big Xmas Eve suppers and invited friends who have no other family, or none in the area. Sometimes it's just us. We really have everything we need and even some to share, and though we live on a pretty limited income, simple food, and simple drinks can go a long way to easing the culture shock we go through this time of year.  The week of Xmas, and almost NEVER before, I will get a few ceramic snowmen and Santa Clauses out of storage and put up a small fiber optic tree. I have a raggedy old Gifting Stag (I love him !!) made of papier mache that will make an appearance if the mice haven't destroyed it in the garage. A few Xmas wreaths that I made myself.  That's it. I have no grandchildren and my big family stopped celebrating together years ago, so everyone spends the day with their own. I'm okay with all of this.  It's too much for me these days, as I totter off in my dotage. lol   I expect December will zip through just like November did, and shock me with it's arrival and departure. And the nit will be New Years Eve and then it will be my 70th birthday, which I am looking forward to, as I join the ranks of the old and decrepit.  LOL  Be assured-- there is a LOT of freedom in being old.  When you turn 69, you get a taste of it.  I looking forward to the whole pie next year. Sliding into old age with a BANG !

  Til next time...

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Helllloooooo...November !


  Hard to believe it's November already.  It's been a busy few weeks around here and the older I get, the faster the months fly by.  Finished out 1.5 months of the pantry challenge and spent a little over 20 dollars at the grocery. Not bad. Didn't really make a dent in the pantry either. Did free up lots of freezer space, so there's that. We are also now eating plant based meals every other day instead of just a random time or two each week.  Mostly makes me have to become a little more creative with my cooking, but it's definitely healthier. We might actually become vegetarians by the first of next year. Maybe.  lol  

  Temps a little cooler, but then it heats back up again. We're in the mid to high 70's this week. Had some damp and chilly days too, so got to make a nice dairy free Creamy Potato soup for supper one night last week.  I'm going to share that recipe so I can send a link to some folks asking for it. This time I used some of my home canned red potatoes that I got from my produce guy's little front yard market, I bought a good sized box from him and canned most of them. I usually can them in big chunks to use for stews and breakfast potatoes, and then pint jars of them diced to use in soups. I also buy fresh potatoes and use them regularly but the price of potatoes has been sky high around these parts the past 4 months. (Like everything).  And I like having canned potatoes for  back-ups, in case I run out.  They worked really well in this soup.  I know not everyone cans or likes canned potatoes, so I'll put this recipe the way I make it with fresh potatoes.

  Here it is:  Creamy Potato Soup.  (without the dairy)  :)  

  **ingredient list

 Red or Russet potatoes, scrubbed and diced. I use about 6 large potatoes to make soup for 2 with leftovers.

 1 nice sized onion, diced

 2 stalks celery, washed and diced

 1-2 medium sized carrots, scrubbed and diced

 2-3 Tablespoons Olive or Sesame Oil (or veg oil, or butter--your choice)

 2 quarts vegetable broth (or water)

 Sea salt and ground black pepper, and any other seasonings you like in your soup. I like fresh minced garlic in it.

 A dash of  liquid smoke (optional) I use it because it gives an illusion of bacon or ham in the soup.

 1-2 cans Cannelini beans or Navy beans 

I use my instapot to make most soups these days. I have a gas range and the price of propane is thru the roof, so I use it as little as possible.  With the InstaPot on the brown/sear setting, put your oil, onions, celery and carrots in and sweat them well. After about 15 minutes, add the diced potatoes. Add the minced garlic and seasonings and mix it well.  Add the broth or water and make sure you have enough to cover the vegetables. If you need to, add more.  Set it on the soups/stews setting and  let 'er go.  It usually takes about 20 minutes to cook the carrots and potatoes through. Depends on how small you diced them. I always put these vegetables in my potato soup because it's added nutrition and it looks pretty. lol  

  When the vegetables are done to your satisfaction, put the can(s) of beans into your blender, liquid and all. Add a couple of ladles of your soup to it and blend until smooth.  Stir this into your pot of soup. If it's too thick, add a little water. If it's too thin, add more beans.  But this should be just about right.  Taste it and add more salt if needed. We don't use milk, but we do use butter, I will sometimes put a spoonful of butter into it at this point. It makes a really nice silky creamy soup. Serve it with some yeast rolls or buttery crackers or whatever you feel like. 

These are 30 minute yeast rolls that I baked in my Ninja Foodi Grill.

Hope you enjoy-- Bon Appetit !