Saturday, December 10, 2016

Skimming, Scooping, Rinsing, Slanting, Slamming and Other Ways to Stretch Your Budget

-- This is currently running on the Brickworks blog, but you'll find it useful! 

     We're dogsitting this weekend: Brody and his buddies are hanging out with Charley and Abs. One of the dogs is a little terrier, something we would call a "yipey dog," for obvious reasons. To my great amusement, 'Izzy' has taken a huge liking to the Brick. They've probably snuggled together right now, watching the Army/Navy game. Go Navy!

No doubt Brody feels the same way...


    The single-digit temps are gone, and with them, most of the snow. But we have a new storm moving in on Tuesday. 
     I have been hustling to finish up some final business before Christmas preparations really kick in. The tree is in the house -- but laying on the floor. (Brody munched off a few branches, then fell asleep underneath. No matter.)

     Now that Christmas is rapidly moving in, and your checking account is decreasing accordingly, there are a few easy ways to make the money -- and your supplies -- go further. They're surprisingly easy, too.

Skimming:  This is especially helpful with protein sources, like ground or diced meat, roast chicken, etc. While you're cooking  your regular meal, skim off a soup ladle or large spoon's worth of meat. Or pull off a wing or thigh from the chicken. (Try one or two less slices of deli meat in your sandwich -- you won't even miss it.)
     Package this "free" meat for flavoring your next bean and/or soup meal. Good, and good for you.

Scooping:  Friends of ours were allergic to butter and dairy products. They scooped off the extra fat from chicken, and used it instead to bake, make pancakes, etc. I don't do this -- but I do siphon off the extra fat from frying bacon. It adds incredible flavor not only to refried beans, but a little in a stirfry, instead of oil, is delicious. (I've heard of another blogger who uses it for biscuits and gravy.)
     Another scoop idea: never ever leave food on your plate in a restaurant. Even if it's just a spoonful or two, scoop it into a doggy bag. Then use as filling for an omelet, or mixed into scrambled eggs the next morning -- delicious. I try hard not to finish fast food sandwiches, for the same reason: they make convenient snacks the next day.
     And one final one:  Add 1/4 cup extra flour, plus a bit of water, to your drop cookie recipe. You'll get a few more cookies out of the batch, for just the price of the flour. (You can also replace one egg with an eggshell of water, instead. Try it -- it really works.)



Rinsing:  Was a good bit of that Alfredo sauce left on the plate after you finished the pasta? What about the butter sauce still in the pan after the veggies were eaten? Rinse these off and store in a jar for your next soup or stew...or literally 'rinse' them in the pot of broth you've got going. You'll be amazed at how much flavor this adds.
     Another possibility: the juice or syrup from frozen or canned fruit makes an excellent foundation for your next smoothie. Add some ice cubes, a spoonful of sugar and a cup of milk, plus any leftover fruit (a banana too, if you've got it) -- and voila, a 'free' smoothie.
     And the final 'rinse.' Buy whole milk  -- then add 2-4 cups water to the gallon as the amount goes down. Tastes far better than skim or 2%.

Slanting:  Have a few bits and pieces leftover from your meal? Especially with veggies and meat: cut them slantwise for the best distribution of flavor. (Stirfries do this all the time.) Now add them quietly to your next soup or stew; they'll blend right in. Or top a tortilla with them, plus a bit of cheese, for a quick quesadilla. (Bake at 450 degrees, about 5 min., until bubbling.) You won't waste anything. 

     Our chickens generally get leftover bread and desserts --- but if you don't have cluckers, collect that cookie here, those breadcrumbs there, crumble them, and add to  streusel coffee cake.

Streusel...yumm. From Allrecipes.com. (The recipe above is, too.)

    Works for topping Dutch apple pie, as well as bar cookies that call for a crumbly topping.  It really stretches any much-more-expensive nuts in the mixture.
     These posts on bits & pieces, as well as using up leftovers, should be helpful, if you want more practice with this concept.    This blog is helpful, too.


Soup is always a great way to recycle bits and pieces.

      One final 'slant:' Many times, you can make maximum use of a smaller piece of wrapping paper by putting your item on diagonally. (I learned this from Amy Dacyzyn at the Cheapskate Gazette.) Bring all four corners up, diaper-wise, and tape in place.

Now slamming:  Slam the car door shut -- let the bus doors close -- and don't go to the store, even if you 'need' something. People take advantage of this during January's Pantry Challenge, me included, but there's no reason why you couldn't start early, or do it for at least a few days. (Or even a week or two.) This clears your refrigerator and shelves, minimizes food waste -- and adds some bucks to the coffer, right when you need them.
     The concept applies to other things too, like last-minute Christmas presents, goodies for neighborhood open houses, church 'white elephant' parties. What can you scavenge up on short notice?
     It's called making do with what you have. What this does is force you to be creative.

          *Can you substitute in cooking and baking? (Often you can.  I just recently discovered a terrific way to make powdered sugar, for example.)

          *Can you re-gift? A favorite Christmas ornament or plate. (Particularly if it's vintage.) A book or video you've treasured, along with a few packets of hot chocolate or microwave popcorn. Some item your friend has admired in the past. These make wonderful presents, when swathed in tissue and presented nicely.

          *How about a gift basket, instead? A jar of jam goes well with a French loaf you can make up easily. This year, a dear friend will get an Italian basket:  imported pasta (69 cents, from a sale I lucked onto), a jar of sauce (homemade, if I get the time -- or scavenged from selections purchased at the Friday/Saturday store), and some of that bread, along with a dollar video of La Traviata found at the library's used book room. (She's an opera freak.)
          I know she'll love it.

If I really must buy something, I often refer to Meredith's list of no-bake, no-craft ideas for a dollar or less. These are especially handy for multiple presents. (Don't miss the readers' comments, either.)
     
      It takes a little extra effort to use these ideas-- but not that much. And the savings will add up. You'll feel even better about it when the January bills start coming in.






Friday, November 25, 2016

Cold-Weather Series: Hot Chocolate

Boy, it got dark outside fast.

But you're finally home. You made it through that last batch of snow flurries, even though it suddenly got slippery. Trudge in, lips practically numb, then change into your favorite loungewear. (Put them in the dryer for 10 minutes while you're starting supper...they'll be deliciously warm to put on.)

Time for a steaming cup of that warmer:  hot chocolate. This version is so rich, though, that Taste of Home calls it drinking chocolate.

Okay with me...I've missed Starbucks' deep-and-dark version ever since they quit serving it a few years ago. Sure, I could put on the tea kettle and open a packet of powder -- I have, many times.

But this is worth the wait.


DRINKING CHOCOLATE

  • 4 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 bars (3-1/2 ounces each) 70% cacao dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Heat cream until hot, but not bubbling. Add everything through the salt; whisk in until melted, then return to heat until just starting to bubble. Serve quickly, topped with whipped cream ("schlag" -- 'shlag' in Germany). Makes up to 4 good-sized mugs, depending on how much you want to scarf down personally.

(Taste of Home's recipe page is here.  Lots of good links nearby, as well.)

Crazy for Crust has a good version, too, if you don't mind coffee creamer.

Come On Over for Christmas!

   Our Christmas Goodies blog is waking up!




Come on over for everything goodie-wise you can think of for the holiday season, including cookies, savouries, and the Grand Pooh-bah for the Brick house:

SEVEN FISH DISHES   (for Christmas Eve, that is)




Stroll over here  for more.  We'll be waiting for you!



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cold-Weather Series: Biscuits and Gravy

     Mid-November...and it's only our first snowfall?

That's misleading. Colorado's mountains have been experiencing white stuff for weeks now...but down here in the 'flatlands,' our weather's been warm and sunny. LOTS of warm, especially. No moisture, either.

But this morning, the clouds moved in. The mountains have 'disappeared' off the horizon, and a sleek blanket of white flakes has dropped from the sky.

Time to start thinking about warm, delicious food that doesn't cost TOO much. (After all, Christmas is coming soon.) And what better to begin with than a Brick family favorite:

BISCUITS AND GRAVY.

Daughter #2 will practically kill for this on a cold winter morning. In fact, she wanted to give her high school friend a special gift for graduation -- and took her a plateful, hot out of the frypan. I'm not sure Friend appreciated it as much as Daughter did...but the thought was there.

This is incredibly easy to make, even if you're a beginner. 

You'll need the ingredients for baking-powder biscuits (butter, flour, salt, baking powder, milk;  recipe how-to's and amounts are here), plus 1/2 - 1 pound of sausage meat. About a cup of milk...20-30 minutes, and a little bit of juggling. That's it.

Here we go.

Start frying the meat over medium heat in a frying pan.  (A handful of chopped mushrooms or onions can be added here, if you like. A little chopped kale or red pepper is good, too.) Meanwhile:

Get the biscuits mixed, cut out and baking in the oven.





Your meat should be somewhat brown at this point. Now scrape off the leftover flour from the biscuit-making area, and dump it into the frypan. Stir until flour is absorbed. (If you've already cleaned up from your biscuits, add 1/2 cup of flour to the pan, instead). Salt and pepper generously.

Add a cup of milk, stirring as you go -- mixture should thicken in just a minute or two. Wait until it bubbles, then turn heat down to warm. (Add extra milk or water if needed, to make a thick gravy.)

At this point, your biscuits should be done. Pull them out of the oven, then turn both the oven and stovetop off.
    Each plate gets one or two biscuits, split open and a generous serving of gravy poured over. Serve immediately; leftover biscuits are good for 'dessert,' spread with butter and jam. Serves 2-4.

VARIATIONS:  Start with 1/3 pound of chopped bacon, instead of sausage.
     Or try Red-Eye Gravy:  use the pan juices from fried ham as a starting point.


Yummm...


The golden lab(s), that is...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Happy Irish Halloween!


One new way to celebrate Halloween: Make it Celtic. 


   Actually, the old Celtic festival of "Samhain," or 'Summer's End' (pronounced 'saw-en') came close to the date. Scottish colonists celebrated "All Hallows Even" on the same night. Eventually the two blended. Jack-o-Lanterns were carved -- but from turnips!

    Departed souls are said to be able to walk freely on this night. So to protect their families, householders would cover mirrors and sprinkle holy water around their buildings and farm animals. (Frankly, if the Dearly Departed want a crack at our chickens, I can tell you who's going to win -- and it's not going to be ghosts.)



Some famous shades are featured on Irish Central this month, including the White Lady of Kinsale. She is thought to be an aggrieved widow of a soldier who was shot for sleeping on the job. Which explains one of her favorite hobbies: pushing military men down the stairs.





'Barmbrack,' or 'speckled cake,' a fruit-studded sweet bread, is a favorite dish to serve on an Irish Halloween. This version has been adapted from the traditional recipe given on Irish Central. (Go here for that one.)

     Serve it with a glass of cider, and stay close to the woodstove. Ghosties and ghoulies may be out tonight. 






BARMBRACK

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar  (1/2 cup, if you like a sweeter bread)
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tablespoon yeast
3 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are even better)

Microwave the butter and milk together until the butter is slightly melted; add sugar and spices. Let sit until warm, not hot, to the touch -- then add yeast. (Hot milk will kill it.) Let sit again for 10 min., if possible, to proof. (Go ahead at this point, if your time is limited.)
    Quickly mix in the the rest of the ingredients; your dough should be moist and somewhat heavy. (Tip: for high altitudes, use heaping cup measurements of flour -- it helps.) Cover in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down, then shape into a loaf. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and let rise again until doubled.
     Bake 40 min. at 400 degrees. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf should come out clean.
     Serve warm in slices, slathered with butter.



An Irish cemetary -- just for inspiration, mind you

(This post was also featured on the Brickworks blog.)


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

St. Paddy's Day: One Final (Fishy) Dish

St. Patrick's Day has been in the rear-view mirror for weeks now...but we haven't had a chance to finish the series.

Blame it on pneumonia. Because that's what happened. 

At any rate, one more Irish dish is needed, to finish the menu:

Duncannon Fish Pie.



Think Shepherd's Pie, with a comforting layer of mashed potatoes blanketing the savoury contents inside. Since fish dishes were a traditional favorite on Fridays in many Irish households (the Catholic connection, of course), it might be a good choice for your table. Especially if you've just baked a salmon, and are wondering what to do with the leftovers. At any rate, this one-step main dish mixes in plenty of vegetables and is easy to make.

Hey, I resemble that!


It's adapted from Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Food -- a mainstay of this series.  Here goes:

DUNCANNON FISH PIE

9 oz each of smoked cod and haddock   (poached in milk, then gently flaked)
       OR substitute 1-2 cups of any firm-fleshed fish, including pollock and salmon
                  (Cook if needed; leftovers work just fine, flaked into small pieces - soak in a little milk)
4 1/4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper

Topping:
8 potatoes (approx. 2 pounds), peeled and chunked
1/2 cup light cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Start the potatoes boiling -- they'll take about 20-25 min. to cook.
Meanwhile, poach the fish (6-8 min.)...or flake the leftovers...then set aside for now.

In a separate pan, melt the butter and saute the onions and mushrooms. When everything is nicely cooked, sprinkle the flour over, stirring, then gradually add the milk, stirring until thickened. (You're making a white sauce by doing this, by the way.) Add the rest of the spices, then gently stir in the fish. Pile everything in an ovenproof dish.

(Heat the oven to 350 degrees now.)

Drain and mash the potatoes, adding the cream and butter as you go. Spoon over the fish mixture, then sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake your fish pie for 20-25 min., until bubbling. Serves 4-6 hungry appetites.

Here's hoping your St. Patrick's Day was lovely!




  Next up:   Springtime Delicacies








Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Paddy's Day: Kinky Eton Mess

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hopefully you're wearing green, putting away a spoonful of Dublin Coddle or two...and celebrating your Irish connections. (If you're lucky enough to have them.)

Today's recipe is a real mess -- an Eton Mess. Supposedly, it started out as an accident -- the original ingredients were part of a picnic basket that a dog accidentally sat on. Fortunately, the smashed-together ingredients were so delicious that the dog's owners had him regularly sit on picnic baskets from then on. (I hope not!)

Eton Mess started as a British dish...but the Irish have made it their own. This version comes from Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Food. Dundon and his wife founded the Dunbrody Country House Hotel and cookery school -- but you may also know him from his appearances on television and radio.


His version: Kinky Eton Mess. ("Try it with the basil oil -- you won't regret it.")

KINKY ETON MESS

Meringue:  4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups caster (superfine) sugar    -- powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Lemon Curd:  grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
 4 large eggs
2/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed

The Rest (combine):  1 3/4 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups strawberries, halved
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons Basil Oil   (recipe follows - you'll want to make this ahead of time)

Heat oven to 250 degrees (120 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with nonstick baking paper.

Beat egg whites until stiff, then add sugar, cornstarch and vinegar, a little at a time. Mixture should be glossy. Spread onto covered baking sheet -- bake for 1 hour, until meringue is firm to the touch, but still soft in the middle. ("I normally leave mine to cool in the oven with the door propped ajar.")

While meringue is cooling, mix all the lemon curd ingredients (except butter) in a double boiler over simmering water. Keep whisking until mixture thickens, then slowly add pieces of butter -- cook 10-12 min. until curd thickens. Set aside.

To serve:  Lightly break the meringue into uneven pieces, then layer with berry mixture and lemon curd in a clear glass bowl or four glasses. Serve and enjoy.

* * * * * *

BASIL OIL
1 pound basil
10 1/2 oz. flat leaf parsley
1 cup grapeseed oil

Plunge the herbs in boiling water for about a minute, then transfer them to a bowl of iced water for 3 min. -- this helps them keep their color and flavor. Dry lightly on paper toweling.

Put herbs in a bowl, then gradually drizzle in oil. (Use a handheld blender -- or do this, bit by bit, in a regular blender.) Once all the oil is added, let rest for 20 min. (thus "infusing" it). Push through a strainer or cheesecloth; resulting oil can be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

* * * * * * * *

No time to fuss? Try a simpler version of this mess-y dish, inspired by the Irish Mess.

COLORADO MESS

1 pound strawberries, stemmed, cut in half, and lightly smashed
5-6 crumbled meringue, shortbread or macaroon cookies
whipped cream

Layer all three ingredients in four tall-stemmed clear glasses -- top with a fluff of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you want to be fancy-pants. Serve and enjoy.




Connemara, courtesy of Wikipedia

St. Paddy's Day: Burnt Oranges

In honor of St. Patrick's Day -- and partly because we've already given a number of the 'traditional' dishes (traditional for the U.S., especially) -- we've been searching for some of the more unusual Irish treats to share with you. 

This one has to top the list. 

It's Burnt Oranges -- a dessert that started as Bishop, a steaming punch flavored with lemon. Somewhere along the way, the flavoring changed to oranges, especially Seville oranges from Spain. And  it became one of the favorite dishes of Dean Swift. Jonathan Swift. Yes, the author of Gulliver's Travels and that lovely little essay, A Modest Proposal. (Click on the latter if you want to find out more -- but don't do it around suppertime.)

 Swift eventually became the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin...for a while, anyways. Eventually he was buried there.

This sweet almost-drink, almost fruit soup, is actually quite delicious, and a good way to use up oranges heading past their prime.




BURNT ORANGES 

  • 4 large oranges or 6-8 Seville oranges
  • 150 ml sweet white wine (or a medium white wine if using eating oranges)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons sugar  (3 tablespoons x 2)
  • 300 ml fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons warmed Irish whiskey
Peel oranges with a peeler or sharp knife -- but just the skin, not the white part, which can be bitter. (This is called "zesting," by the way.) Cut zest into strips and marinate in the wine for a few minutes.
Zesting, zesting...

Pull the oranges apart into segments -- but get rid of as much white as possible. Discard seeds, but do it over a bowl, so not to lose any juice.
Put the oranges into an oven/stovetop-proof dish. Sprinkle with the butter and half of the sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 min., until the sugar caramelizes and oranges brown up.
While you're waiting, mix orange juice with the rest of the sugar; bring to a boil, then let simmer until thickened. Add the orange peel/wine mixture, bring to a boil again, then cook until thickened.
If the orange segments didn't brown, then broil them lightly. (Watch carefully - you don't want them to burn.) Warm the whiskey, pour over the oranges, and set the mixture on fire. (It won't flame if the whiskey isn't warm.)
Add the orange syrup and let the whole shebang simmer for about 2 minutes.
Serve right away -- or cold. "Pouring double cream over the cold version, in the Irish style, works very well."

Go here for the full scoop. 
    Recipe was adapted from Europeancuisines.com.



Jonathan Swift by Charles Jervas detail.jpg
Yum!   (Courtesy of Wikipedia)


St. Paddy's Day: Dublin Coddle

March winds are quite blustery around here. Now our stove insert is up and working, there's nothing nicer than a warm spot by the flames, and a plateful of the 'coddle' that's been simmering on top all day. This warm stew makes good use of bacon, sausage and winter vegetables. It can be made quickly, but needs at least a few hours of cooking to really bring out the flavors. If your fireplace is still on hold, try a crockpot or kettle, instead. 


DUBLIN CODDLE
(this version adapted from AllRecipes.com)

Dublin Coddle

1 pound Irish sausages (look for 'bangers,' or substitute breakfast sausage links)
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chunked
2 onions, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
1 cup of sliced mushrooms  (a cup or so of diced cabbage is good, too)
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart milk
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Saute your bacon until cooked; add onions and sausage to brown, as well. Drain off part of the bacon fat, then dump everything else in. Cook gently for at least 30 min. -- but for the best coddle, let it simmer for 2-3 hours, or 5-8 hours (on low) in a crockpot. Serve hot in large soup plates, along with a good beer.



 

St. Paddy's Day: Potato Farls

Warm and filling... these potato scones make good use of leftover mashed potatoes. The basic recipe asks for just potato, flour, butter, salt and pepper -- but I like to add some finely chopped onion, as well. (The word, by the way, comes from the Gaelic fardel -- or 'fourths.')

Serve underneath a fried egg, and with a pot of tea, for a substantial breakfast.

POTATO FARLS

1 1/2 - 2 cups mashed potatoes (warm in the microwave for 1-2 min. for best results)
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1-2 chopped green onions (or 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion)

Mix all together to make a soft dough. (If it feels sticky, add a bit more flour.) Press out by hand into a rough-shaped circle, then cut into quartered wedges. Carefully transfer to a hot ungreased frying pan -- cook for 3-4 min. on one side, then flip and cook 3 more min. Keep warm in the oven while you fry the eggs. (Preferably pulled warm from underneath your chicken friends, down in the coop)

From the Guardian article about the subject: 
     Farls are most often served with a cooked breakfast or at teatime...at breakfast, try them topped with crisp bacon or served instead of fried bread...at tea time they are best served simply, with just butter and salt, but they are good too with dollop of jam. 
     At lunch or supper they go particularly well with smoked fish, grated beetroot salad and horseradish cream. Jane Baxter (my collaborator on this column) like them with butter and melted cheese, but she is a bad woman...

!!!

(Here's AllRecipe's take on potato farls.)

Irish Potato Farls




The Rock of Cashel, Cahir, County Tipperary, Ireland
Spend your vacation at this Irish castle -- go here for more.

Monday, March 14, 2016

St. Paddy's Day: Irish Cream Cake

Time to celebrate one of the most beautiful countries on earth.


The largest Norman castle in Ireland -- courtesy of Wikipedia


And what better way than a graceful and easy to make cake, flavored with liqueur (or liquor!). This version shortcuts with boxed cake and pudding mixes.



Irish Cream Celebration Cake


IRISH CREAM CAKE
(recipe from Betty Crocker --
   serves from 8-12, depending on your slices. Great with coffee, by the way.)

Cake

1
box Betty Crocker™ SuperMoist™ devil’s food cake mix
1
box (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
4
eggs
1/3
cup vegetable oil
1
cup Irish cream liqueur   (or substitute 1/3 cup of a fine whiskey, like Jameson's)
1
cup sour cream

Irish Cream Frosting

1
cup butter, softened
4
oz (half of 8-oz package) cream cheese, softened
3
cups powdered sugar
1/4
cup Irish cream liqueur
1
teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Glaze

4
oz bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
1/2
cup whipping cream
1/4
cup light corn syrup
2
teaspoons vanilla
1/3
cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
  • 2 In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Pour batter into pans. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely.
  • 3 In large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating until blended. Add 1/4 cup liqueur and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  • 4 Place 1 cake layer on serving plate; spread with one-third of the frosting. Top with second layer. Frost side and top of cake with thin layer of frosting to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Frost cake with remaining frosting.
  • 5 Place chopped chocolate in small bowl. In small saucepan, heat whipping cream over medium heat until bubbles form around edge. Pour warm cream over chocolate; let stand 1 minute. Stir with whisk until chocolate is melted. Add corn syrup and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir until smooth. Let stand 10 minutes or until thickened.
  • 6 Pour glaze on top of cake, letting some glaze drip down side. Sprinkle almonds around edge of cake. Store in refrigerator.
  • Go here for Betty's page...

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Being born-and-bred Irish (plus a mutt's mix of a few other nationalities), I enjoy celebrating March 17. 

The Brick, whose last name is more Irish than mine ever was (it actually is based on the Gaelic for 'badger'), is more skeptical.

"I'm not Catholic," he insists. "Why shouldn't I wear orange then, instead of green?"

(The color choice does have a lot to do with religion there.)


Why not forget about that for now, dig out your dusty copy of John Wayne's The Quiet Man, and cook up a few Irish specialties for the holiday? We've run a number of traditional favorites already...go back to here and you'll find them, from corned beef to Irish stew, to champ and colcannon.

This year's Irish dishes, then, will be some of the more unusual choices for an Irish feast, focusing, of course, on the country's favorite products, including salmon and (what else) potatoes.

Stop by -- we'll have something new every day.







Wear a celtic cross, and you'll be celebrating St. Patrick's influence, as well.
 This version's courtesy of Wikipedia.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Pantry Challenge: The Final Week (And Final Thoughts)

The Pantry Challenge has been a favorite of bloggers everywhere...me included. I hope you've been trying it, too.

The aim: to live just on what's in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry for a month -- implemented on a little extra, if any. In my case, I aimed to stay within $5-10 weekly, to cover milk and dairy stuff. 

Except for one week (and I blame Safeway for that), it's been a success. 

My final receipt:   $7.88. 

      That paid for two gallons of whole milk ($1.99 each) plus a pound of butter. (Just started the second gallon on the final day, so technically, I guess I could argue it doesn't count.) The milk got stretched with the addition of 4 cups of water in each gallon, turning it into 2%, instead.
     The difference between that and the ten-spot meant I covered the Brick's purchases.

Meals done --

Breakfasts
     oatmeal
     boiled or scrambled eggs with toast (butter and peach jam), bacon, ham or bratwurst
     monkey balls  (roll dough pinched into balls, rolled in butter, then a mixture of sugar & cinnamon, and baked. The name's origin? It's from 'monkey bread'...but the Brick jumped to a different conclusion.)



   
Lunch/snacks/dessert
     the rest of the brownies, flan (from a box), a spice cake (recipe coming soon), ice cream, oranges, cookies (spice thins, from a package in the Brick's Christmas stocking),  frozen burritos, popcorn, leftovers

Supper
    Chopped/sliced potatoes, carrots, celery and cheese sausage, simmered in chicken broth and topped with a big spoonful of sour cream (delicious, by the way)
    Hamburger Helper 'cheesy enchilada,' made with venison
                    (not so good -- but the chickens loved it)
    Split pea soup (goodby, hambone) and homemade rolls
    Wet burritos -- made with the remainder of the pork/green chili/tomatoes dish from last week, topped with enchilada sauce and cheese, then baked    (the Brick's contribution - wonderful)
     Leftovers
   
Tonight's meal:  spaghetti with sliced celery, onions and canned clam sauce. Plus crackers and a can of shrimp/salmon pate...which looks surprisingly like cat food. (Charley the dog thinks so, too...but he'd eat anything.)



Our shelves are looking a little empty. Our freezer is definitely looking less crowded. We had a healthy leftover balance in the checking account, once bills were paid, as well. 

     So what did I learn?

*It's easy to trot off to the grocery store when I need 'a little something.' Which often turns out to be more. Operating under the "tomorrow" philosophy helps. ('I'll get that tomorrow, if I really need it.')

*I am more of a packrat, grocery-wise, than I would like to admit to. Some of the box mixes, especially, were a year or more old. Which also points out:

*I seem to be growing away from using ready-made sauces and mixes. They grow old on the shelf while I'm fooling around with sour cream, cheese, spices and the veggies I have on hand. (The exceptions: nasi goreng, an Indonesian spice mix that does incredible things with hamburger, and Trader Joe's green curry sauce. My family would kill for that sauce.)

*Canned soup, on the other hand, is a godsend. Whack it open, heat it up -- and with a sandwich or cheese & crackers, you've got a satisfying meal.

*The venison's tastier if it simmers for a while. In a strongly-flavored sauce, or with hours of cooking, it's great. If I try to fry it up at the last minute...not so good.

Who...me?


*The potatoes are finally receding. Our dumpster-diving neighbors regularly bring by five pounds or more of these tasty tubers...and they start to add up. Eating a lot of potatoes this month has helped. So has microwaving and taking them out to the chickies. (They loved them.)

*We eat a LOT of eggs. But when they're coming from your own backyard...why not?


I'll probably keep on watching my grocery purchases for a while -- there's still more to use up. But I feel much better about wasting even less of our available Stuff. As cousin Joy says:

It's all good.







   
 
 
   
   

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pantry Challenge Update: Week Three

The Pantry Challenge continues -- and I'm on track. Sort of.

     Well, I'm doing better. 

After the porkchop frenzy last week, I didn't stop at the grocery store all week, though I was tempted. King Soopers, our local Kroger affiliate, is running a special on pork roast -- 99 cents a pound! But I held back. 

The Brick, bless his little heart, now cooks one night a week. Last Monday, he was bound and determined that he needed a green pepper. (This, in spite of his asserting for years that cooked green peppers just 'did something' to his gaseous output.) I got a glimpse of his Sprouts receipt: $11 and change. (He bought some spinach and other stuff, too.) 
    The meal was delicious, and I love it when he cooks, anyways. Just didn't have the heart to make a fuss out of an extra dollar and change. 
    Our neighbors dropped by with dumpster-dived veggies and fruit. (They got a dozen eggs in return.) Nearly all of it went to the chickens, but I scavenged some for banana bread, and pulled out some limes. I also snagged bread and some hamburger buns from the thrift shop. (They put it out free generally on Wednesdays. Half-price books, too!)

    I have been busy this past week with work, so wasn't that big on fancy stuff. I cooked for us to eat. Not much more than that. I have been learning the merits of cooking protein in a sauce or soup that you plan to use for something else. The meat really enriches the flavor, and becomes deliciously tender. I did it twice (see Suppers below) -- and it worked great both times.
    Next week, I need to use some more venison, and finish off that ham. (Pea soup, pea soup!) I also want to make some French onion soup. Tomatoes sound good. Peppers, too, and Mexican food -- maybe we need the Vitamin C? (I have tomatoes canned with green peppers and onion in-house...but it Wasn't What the Recipe Asked For, according to the Brick. His engineering nature likes to keep to specifications.)
    We have a big blizzard supposedly moving in tonight, and lasting through Tuesday...it should be a good week for soup.

    We need milk -- so I will steel myself to get just that tonight. A few gallons at $1.99 each should keep me under the $5 limit -- and make up for the Brick's extra bucks over the $10 limit. 



Breakfasts:
      scrambled eggs (with cheese and green onion) and turkey bacon
      chopped-up mixture of potatoes, onion, ham and turkey bacon  (cottage fry)
      oatmeal
      boiled eggs and bratwurst
      cheese guys (quesadillas) and eggs

Sunday mornings, we generally sing on Worship Team, and practice runs anywhere from 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. That means coffee in travel mugs, and a breakfast bar grabbed on the way out the door.

Lunch/snacks/desserts:   brownies (made a double batch), banana bread, nachos (with lime juice squeezed over), frozen burritos (the 25-centers I got last week), leftover soup, chocolate-covered almonds, applesauce, oranges, a few cookies. Made a banana-only split with 'nanas, chocolate sauce and lots of nuts.
    Also blenderized a bag of frozen melon chunks, with a little sugar and water -- cool and tasty.

Suppers:  
     Spanish porkchops with green pepper rings, and cooked rice inside (the Brick's contribution)
     Pork chops slow-cooked in canned green chili, with a can of chopped tomatoes thrown in
   (this turned out really fine...and the extra pork chop, chopped fine, made for a meatier 'chili')
     Canned chicken noodle soup, with chopped leeks and carrots added
     Boneless chicken thighs (cooked in the soup above -- which made them deliciously tender, and added to the soup's flavor)
     Boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce, plus celery and carrot sticks
     Canned beef and mushroom soup
     Grilled cheese sandwiches (using the waffle iron! I read this as a tip -- and it works)
     Baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned peas and sliced ham (leftover potatoes went into the cottage fry)








Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pantry Challenge: Week Two -- Defeat By Porkchop

I blew it. Sort of.

And it's Safeway's fault.

They roared out of the starting gate with some incredible specials this week -- specials, incidentally, that you can still get in on. (Until Wednesday, that is.) The star:

      Pork chops for 99 cents a pound. I haven't seen prices that good for years. Yow.

Their Friday-only specials were terrific, too. So yes, I spent more than $10 this week. But it was for a good cause... and I shouldn't need much, if anything, for at least a week. Maybe two, if I'm lucky.
I'm not sorry a bit, though I did feel surprisingly naughty, overspending like that. 

Maybe a dozen oranges left -- they're going fast now. (Lots of apples to take their place.) Turkey bacon's nearly gone, but several bratwurst are left, from a package out of the freezer. We need to use up some of the canned tomatoes stockpiled over the past few years -- cheese enchiladas? Spanish Pork Chops (The Brick wistfully mentioned these -- his mom used to make them. Think Spanish Rice, with the porkchops thrown on top.)
    Definitely some soup next week, too. Maybe pea soup -- we're gradually eating the ham down to its bone.


   

BREAKFAST:
                Cereal with milk
                Pork chops with pancakes
                Sausage and eggs
                French toast  (leftovers from a loaf given by our neighbors)
                A can of corned beef hash mixed in with the Colcannon leftovers
                Eggs, scrambled -- served on corn tortillas heated til crispy, topped with a sprinkle of cheese and a slice of turkey bacon  ('cheese guys' to our family)
                Cinnamon rolls, made with leftover pigs-in-blankets dough

No lunches, as usual...some leftovers, some crackers, some cookies, some fruit

SUPPER:
                Ham/rice/green beans casserole (okay, but not worth explaining)
                Sliced ham, baked potatoes, corn (canned)
                Pigs in blankets, green beans
                Chili leftovers, baked over chips and cheese
                Potato soup and sandwiches
                (sorry, blanking on the rest -- nothing memorable, obviously)

We are headed for our friends' house tomorrow, to watch the Broncos whip the Patriots' butts. (We hope.) Our scavenging neighbors gave me a huge bunch of browned organic bananas -- I'll make banana bread. 
     Also, I'll cube a package of chicken thighs, marinate them in barbecue sauce during church, then quickly bake them, to keep the meat moist and juicy. We'll spear the little devils with toothpicks for an appetizer -- Barbecued chicken bites.

Grocery tab:    $33.00 and change, including
                              11 pounds porkchops  (most of these are already in the freezer)
                              2 dozen eggs*   99 cents each   (the chickens are slowing a bit)
                              1 20-pack Coke*   $5.00
                              a bunch of frozen burritos* -- 25 cents each
                              2 pounds sharp Cheddar grated cheese*   $5.00
                              half-price Australian hand pies
                              (love these -- the box was damaged, but not the pies, so splurged, at $2.50)
                              half-price dented mushroom soup can

*All outstanding-priced Friday specials at Safeway -- 
                       I got a raincheck for the Langers' 64 oz juice at 5/$5.00

Pigs in blankets were a specialty at our high school cafeteria...and my aunt just happened to be the head cook. The recipe is easy -- and one of our girlies' favorite foods. The Brick likes them, too. They're served in a roll -- one you literally bake around each dog, so the good juices go right into the soft bread.
    You can use a variety of hot dogs...or even substitute bratwurst or sausages. They'll still be good.

PIGS IN BLANKETS

For the dough:  5 tablespoons butter
                       1 cup water
                       1/2 cup milk
                       1 teaspoon sugar
                       1 tablespoon yeast
                       shake of salt
                       2-2 1/2 cups flour

One package of hot dogs or sausages -- your choice

Microwave butter/water/milk 30 seconds, until butter is softened. Check -- mixture should be warm, but not hot. (Wait a few min., if needed, to cool down.) Add rest, plus two cups of flour -- stir until a soft dough forms, then gently knead until dough isn't sticky anymore. (This can be done just before baking -- but the dough is even better, if you can do it an hour, up to 7 or 8 hours, ahead. In that case, cover with a damp towel after kneading.)
      When you're ready to bake, heat oven to 450 degrees. Pull off a scant handful of dough -- about the size of your four fingers, curled. Wrap around a hot dog, with the seam side down, and put on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat for all the 'pigs.' (You can also add a strip of bacon or cheese in the split hot dog first -- delicious.) Bake for approx. 15 min.; serve hot or warm with barbecue sauce. Feeds 4-6, depending on how many hot dogs you have.
     Green salad is a nice contrast with these, too...provided you haven't overspent your budget, that is.



Hot, yes. A hot dog, no.    (P.S. Hey, Charley and Abby)



                           
             
             
             

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pantry Challenge: Week One

Are you doing the Pantry Challenge with me?

This is a month-long plan to keep your food purchases to a bare minimum by using up what you've got: in the cupboard, fridge or freezer. (I'll be spending $5-10 weekly for milk and clearance goodies, too.)

Granted, I tend to be a bit of a chipmunk in this department. We just spent a mini-vacation at a hotel: I snagged a handful of apples, a few tea bags and a few packets of apple cider mix during our time there. (Yes, I took the soap, too.)

So far, it's been going quite well. 

Breakfasts:  Pancakes and turkey bacon
                   Oatmeal (with nuts and apples)
                   Cereal and milk
                   Eggs, Hashbrowns
                   Eggs, biscuits (with a jar of peach jam that was unexpectedly delicious -- 
                                       and made me think about making tarts)


Lunches:  Other than Sunday dinner, we don't tend to eat these -- I've noticed, now that the Brick is retired, that we seem to do better on two meals a day. But if one of us gets hungry, there's always cookies in the jar, red licorice, a peanut butter sandwich (I'll make more bread when needed), or leftovers.

Suppers:   Chicken vegetable soup with crackers (we've had the flu)
                 Some kind of soup (made with chopped this and that, plus sour cream)
                 Chili (with venison) - and blue tortilla chips
                 Colcannon  (made with turkey bacon)
                 Shrimp with Green Beans (from the freezer)
                 'Buffet' of leftover bits and pieces

root vegetables are good keepers, even in warmer places


Drinks:  tea and coffee -- we like it STRONG, diluted a bit with milk
                  (The Brick had a beer, too)

Desserts:  Coconut flan (from a box at least a few years old -- but it was good)
                Cookies & small candy bars (from the Christmas stockings)
                Clementine oranges (must eat them up - they're starting to bottom out)
                Apples (from the hotel, plus a crisper-ful still holding out from the fall jaunt to Michigan)
                Applesauce

Popcorn, yogurt, a glass of milk now and then, and crackers, too. The best thing for nausea in the world.

I have lots of apples -- maybe apple crisp? And fried chicken or rabbit looks like it's on the future menu.

Six dozen eggs went to various customers in the past few days, so we're a little low on eggs. The chickens will make that up quickly. We're almost out of milk, so a trip to the grocery store is next. 

Results of the shopping trip:    2 gallons whole milk        $1.99 ea
                                                4 cans tuna in water             .50 ea    (saved 79 cents each)
                                                                              -----------------
                                                                  TOTAL        $6.22