Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cooking Mood

I kind of ... got in a cooking mood this afternoon. Needless to say, we had plenty to eat for supper!

Pizza Tot Casserole.

Cheesy Creamed Peas.


Hot Fudge Cake plain.

Hot Fudge Cake with whipped topping.

Now I'm going to play "tops" with Jonathan and let my supper settle before I tackle the dishes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Nutritious" Iced Mocha Drink

I've enjoyed some store-bought coffee-mocha drinks recently, but wanted to have something easy to make at home from what I had on hand. I also thought a little "nutritive value" might help.

So this afternoon, I just made something up, because I wanted SOME KIND of icy, chocolate, mocha, creamy drink.

Pint jar
3-4 spoons of chocolate Instant Breakfast
1/2 to 1 tsp. instant coffee granules (I used decaf)
Milk (maybe a little half-and-half if you want it creamier?)

Spoon the dry chocolate breakfast mix and coffee granules into the jar. Add just enough milk so you can stir it and dissolve everything, then add more milk to fill the jar about 3/4 full. Stir. Add ice. Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Simple Meals

Just because our family isn't a very big one, doesn't mean our meals are "easy." It's me plus 3 guys, so we're always hungry, and it's getting to be more and more, with a working man and soon-to-be two teenagers! (It's a wonder there isn't a trench worn in the floor leading to the kitchen!) The fact that we all have our individual likes and dislikes adds to the "challenge." If I stick with basic meat-and-potatoes things, or certain one-dish or skillet things, it works pretty good.

Last night, I was browsing through a cookbook, and saw a simple goulash recipe. I thought that might be a good, simple supper, so I went in and did the best I could with what I had on hand.

I knew Hubby and Younger Son wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Hubby doesn't care for goulash, and Younger Son doesn't like tomatoes, onions or green peppers. But I was pretty sure Older Son and I would enjoy it.

I enjoyed me a good bowl of it, it wasn't bad. I know what I would do different next time, but I was working with what I had on hand.

I had put the rest in a big bowl to cool down then set in the fridge. But before it got to the fridge, Older Son came down and took about half of what was left, which was fine! That's what I made it for. THEN I set the rest in the fridge.

This morning, the bowl was not in the fridge. I suspect he came downstairs in the night sometime and ate the rest! But I LIKE it when my guys eat the food I fix!

This morning, I saw on "Pioneer Woman's" blog about Frito Pie. It looked wonderful with her version, but I didn't have everything to make that exactly. Then I thought, well, I'll go in and open a can of Wolf Brand (chili) and put it over tortilla chips with cheese on top, I do that occasionally anyway.

No tortilla chips.

OK, I'll heat up the chili, then I'll eat it with crackers and a dab of relish. (We used to put a little relish in chili at home, it gives a little tang and sweetness to cut the hearty chili flavor.)

No Wolf Brand. I suspect in the last few days, Older Son ate what I had on hand. So I rooted around through the cupboard to see what was there on hand and sounded good for a quick lunch.

Butter beans!

So I heated up a can of those (I'm the only one around here who likes them), with a little salt and pepper and butter added, then spooned them over some buttered bread. Old-fashioned, cheap, filling, and (to me) tasty.

I generally fix one main thing a day - usually for supper after Hubby gets home from work. (The rest of the time it's just various stuff as we're hungry - grilled cheese, fried eggs, etc.) And after he switches back to night schedule, it'll be supper BEFORE he goes to work. Tonight, I plan the "easy" version of chicken-noodle-potato soup. Potato chunks, noodles and canned chicken in seasoned broth. And that's something we'll ALL eat! So I'd better make PLENTY.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Easy as Pie

I love to make pie and EAT pie, but some pies are "easier" for me to make than others. Double-crust fruit pies (though I love them, especially cherry and peach) are not my forte. I do pretty good with custard, pumpkin, and old-fashioned cream pies. I can even make a shoo-fly pie. (Amish dessert.)

I have good memories of Mom making pie crust for pies, and using leftover scraps to snack on. She'd lay them on a pan, spread with butter, sprinkle with sugar and then some cinnamon, and bake. Yum! Simple, and the scraps didn't go to waste.

One thing though, that has simplified my pie making projects, is a "pat-in-pan" crust recipe, which I also found among Amish recipes. Since I haven't had hardly any room to roll anything out such as pie crusts and biscuits in these last couple of places we've lived (including now), this is a keeper for me, especially since I usually stick with single-crust pies. You can bake it for a shell, or put filling in and bake as usual. To me it's very good and reasonably flaky. Here's one of several I have, they have various measurements of ingredients, some are better for bigger or smaller pie pans. This one seems a good, basic one.


1 c. flour
dash salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. milk
(sometimes I may add a dab of sugar, too.)

Place flour and salt (and sugar if you care to) in pie pan, mix lightly with fork. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, measure oil and milk, stir well with fork. Pour all over the flour mixture. Start with fork and mix, then finish with fingers. The idea is not too dry so that it's crumbly, but not so wet it's TOO mushy. Just a nice piable dough. Even if it seems on the wetter side, that'll work. Use fingers, beginning at rim of pie pan, to "pat" the dough flat against the pie plate, finishing at the center. Shape edge as desired. Fill and bake as directed for pie, or prick with a fork and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes to have a baked shell.

You can also find refrigerated pie crust dough at the store.

But if you REALLY want an easy route, and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, just get a ready-made graham cracker crust at the store! Yes, you can make your own from crushed graham crackers, sugar and butter. But I'm talking EASY. Then, more easy ... a box of instant pudding and a small tub of whipped topping. Our favorite seems to be chocolate. Now, you could have homemade dough crust, homemade chocolate filling, and either baked meringue or REAL WHIPPED CREAM topping. But this is easy, and it barely lasts any time at all at our house! In fact, Older Son tries to get me to make TWO at a time. "One for me ... " ha ha. It's so simple, but so good. Graham cracker crust, instant chocolate pudding, half a carton or so of whipped topping.

Well, that brings up another food memory. In years gone by (man do I sound old), my folks and I/us used to visit The Dutch Kitchen restaurant up by Hutchinson, Kansas. Then we also got to going to the Carriage Crossing restaurant in Yoder, Kansas when that opened up. Both places are located in the vicinity of Amish settlements, and both have a pie list a mile long. If you ask the waitress what kind of pie they have that day, they're prepared to rattle them all off, and you'd better be listening! But anyway, Mom's favorite was always chocolate, a regular crust with homemade filling and some kind of whipped cream topping. So I think of her when I do anything with chocolate pie!

So back to the present. Recently, Older Son made an improvement. For some reason we had some Reese's Pieces on hand. I had made the chocolate pudding part in the crust that evening and put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight, then I intended to finish it the next morning. I got up the next morning. The pie was done. Older Son had beat me to finishing it ... with crushed Reese's Pieces sprinkled on top. Oh, yumm-o! And it doesn't take a whole lot, just some sprinkled over the whipped cream adds that extra bit to it. I made another pie later and crushed quite a few Reese's Pices, and have them in a jar in the fridge. I've used them on several pies so far, and still have quite a bit left.

Incidentally, that happens a lot, that my nocturnal teenager will come downstairs in the night and cook things! And when Hubby is on a night schedule, he cooks things in the night, too! I hardly know what I'll wake up to. (A mess. Ha ha.)

So today I got with it and tried a different version. Graham cracker crust, BANANAS sliced into the bottom, instant French vanilla pudding, whipped topping, and the Reese's Pieces. Also very yummy and not bad. But I think I prefer the chocolate. But I think this pie won't last long despite that!

After working on the living room and enjoying two (count 'em TWO) naps today, I needed a snack.

Anybody wanna study fractions?

Ready to enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Laundry Quandry

Monday, I did laundry. I have 3 lines. They were loaded down. One end of the middle line came loose and that line's laundry went down in all the dry grass and dirt. (Yes, the very laundry you see in the picture above, and that afghan was a mess with the dry grass!)

Tuesday and Wednesday, I was down with a cold. Older Son was good and got the clothesline back up, and stretched and tightened them all.

Yesterday it was cloudy, VERY COOL, and it RAINED. So thankful, and I'm not complaining a bit! In fact, we'll take more of that anytime.

Now, after a few days of not doing laundry, towels have piled up, clothes have piled up, I need to do laundry. I was up early to fix Hubby's water jug before he left for work, so I threw a load of towels in, to start knocking down the heap that is taking over the back porch.

The NOAA site says 50 per cent chance of rain here. Today. The temps will be nice, but will it rain? Should I go ahead and brave the laundry line, and let it rain if it does? Now that it's 7:30 a.m. and light out, I can see the gray, somber clouds in the sky.

I HAVE GOT TO DO LAUNDRY. Yesterday was "clean up the disaster kitchen that got away from me while I was sick" day. That got done, and things are back to normal there. Today is the laundry. I HAVE TO! Well ... I will try it anyway. If nothing else, they'll get a rainwater rinse!

Monday, September 12, 2011


Various things going on in the household the last week or so.

Nectarines ready to peel, slice and bag for the freezer.

A few baggies of sliced nectarines ready for the freezer, plus a dish of some to enjoy right now with half-and-half poured over. (Yum!)

A custard pie. It didn't last long.

Laundry on the line.

Onion soup - I called it "Oklahoma Onion Soup," since I used regular wheat bread toasted and shredded cheddar cheese.

Hubby smoked some ribs the other day, and made seasoned mashed potatoes to go with them. (Also yum!)

You've heard of a cookie jar, well, these are cookies in jars, literally!

Oreos with two kinds of fillings - "berry burst ice cream" on the left, and "chocolate" on the right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From Scratch

Younger Son likes the chicken noodle soup out of a can, but he only likes the noodles and a little (if any) of the broth. So today, after serving him a dish of the noodles and some broth, I decided to do something with what was left in the saucepan.

First, I peeled and chopped a potato into it, then added some onion. Then I boiled that until the potato was done. I added a bit more water and some seasonings. I dumped in a small can of chicken, juice and all. Then I got that all to a good boil. I added a few handfuls of dry noodles, and let that cook until the noodles were done. Older Son and I cleaned it up!

So what does it mean to cook "from scratch?" Now, I don't care for the canned chicken and noodle soup, but doing this little "doctoring" experiment with this broth turned out yummy. Hubby likes to doctor up a can of steak-and-potato soup with butter and noodles, and that's not bad, either. These little extras you add to canned or store-bought things just makes it seem a little more like home cooking. But that might not actually be considered "from scratch."

Now what I would consider "from scratch" chicken soup would be getting a chicken (or pieces) and boiling it/them until done, then de-boning the chicken and have the meat and broth. Then adding fresh vegetables to it, such as carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, etc. Noodles would be handmade. (You can buy that style frozen, and they're not bad, but I'm thinking homemade noodles.)

But I suppose if you wanted to get even more extremely "from scratch" than that, you would raise your own chickens (both for meat, and for eggs for the noodles) and grow your own garden (for the vegetables). Would it be too much to say raise your own wheat for the flour? Now that would be getting down to the nitty-gritty of "cooking from scratch!"

We used to laugh when we'd go out to eat, if it took awhile to wait on our food. If someone had ordered a hamburger, we'd say they had to go slaughter the cow. If it was dairy-related, they had to go milk the cow. If it was chicken, they had to go butcher the chicken. This all sure gives an appreciation for the convenience of our foods now. But I like that you can find a happy medium between the goodness of home-raised meats and produce, and the convenience of what you can purchase at the grocery store. "From scratch" can be various combinations of cooking and baking, but as long as it's reasonably healthy and your family eats it, that's what counts!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Not doing any canning, but I'm gearing up for maybe someday soon trying it. At any rate, I LOVE to use canning jars for all kinds of various things. I've seen lots of neat ideas on other blogs, and enjoy using these jars. I bought four different cases of jars throughout the summer, each a different kind. Wide mouth, regular, quart, pint, half-pint. So to get started using them, I washed a few of each kind, and put them to dry. I've also got some plastic storage lids if I want to do that instead of the metal rings and lids.

My main ideas are for food storage (like dry beans and pastas), leftovers, craft supplies, flowers, and for drinking out of. I guess if you're not very thirsty you could use the half-pint, and if you're REALLY thirsty you could go with the quart! So anyway, I'll start having fun with these now. :)