Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Not abandoned, just badly timed.

Hey everyone!!  Sorry if it seems I've abandoned this blog - I haven't.  There are a lot of things I could have and should have posted about, but it has been a crazy autumn, and I just didn't get around to doing it :(

I'll definitely try better in the new year!

I did do a few neat recipes, that I could share - and I don't eat out a lot, but I have done, so I could also mention those...

I am not in the habit of pulling out my camera when I eat, so I tend not to think to take pictures of food. I'm also a little self conscious about taking pictures of food in restaurants, so I don't know how often that will happen. But my own concoctions - I'll try to remember to take pictures before they get dug in to.  But I can't promise!

Starting in the new  year, I will try to post more often...

We're not doing anything special for supper today, just the two of us.  So, instead of a lot of talk about turkeys or hams or other fancy feasts, I'll just say:

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

I have a new toy.

I admit it - I'm a junky.

A kitchen gadget and appliance junky.  I don't have a very big kitchen, and a total lack of storage space and cupboards, but I still need the toys...

I like little  hand held gadgets.  Utensils.  I have doubles of some of the common every day ones, like spatulas, egg flippers, slotted spoons.  I also have them in both metal and plastic/teflon/whatever for the non-stick pots and pans.  I have a lot of whisks.  Silicone spatulas in both small and large sizes.  Lemon squeezers, egg slicer, juicers, cherry pitter, avocado slicer  - all sorts of little things that hide in my drawers.  And I do use them!  All of them... Ok, maybe not every day - but I do use them all.  Can't part with a single one!

Appliances - I have lots of these, too.  And I use them, as well.  Again, not every day, but I do use them.  And I love them all!  One thing, though - I'm having trouble finding a decent deep fryer.  Found one that was perfect --until the knob  broke, or crumbled might be a better description.  I don't seem to be able to keep one in good working order for more than a year tops.  This part broke in 6 months - still functions, for now... Anyway, I tried to see about getting it replaced, and it turns out that the deep fryer was a discontinued style shortly after I bought it - new style doesn't have the same parts :(   Every so often I get a really good ancient one from a thrift store or yard sale, but sadly, while built to last, they do eventually wear out, and since they are old when I get them, they don't last long for me either...  Anyway, on with today's story:

Many years ago, I got for Christmas a K-Tel Food Dehydrator.  Now, some of you may scoff, and that is fine with me.  K-Tel may have an interesting reputation for selling all sorts of cheap crap, or crap cheap, but every so often, they come up with a winner.  Yes, I know that a full fledged food dehydrator would be a good investment, and might even be able to do amazing things and huge volume of food -- but, between the lack of counter space to devote to such a machine, and the lack of funds to invest in one, and the lack of space to produce volumes of food for drying, it seems an illogical investment (despite my addiction to kitchen toys, lol)

So, I had this food dryer, and I had fun drying some fruits and veggies, and making some beef jerky.  I was going to do fruit leathers, too, but hadn't quite got there when we moved.  Shortly after that, I recall loaning the dryer to a friend.... I have a feeling it never came back home.  I've been thinking about it for years, and wondering where it had been stuck away (like I said, not much storage room - I have some appliances in my living room, some in my porch along with baking pans, and a few things in my linen/broom closet, to name a few) and that was when I began to suspect that it hadn't come home....

This weekend, I was going through the flyers and discovered - one of the discount warehouse overage stores was advertising a food dehydrator just like the old K-Tel one!!  I just happened to have a little cash on hand that I could use...

I now have a new food dryer, and I can hardly wait to see what fruit and veggies come on sale now!  Dried food takes up a lot less space than frozen or canned :) and keeps longer than fresh! And with the probability of food costs rising throughout this winter due to drought conditions, I'll take whatever deals I can get.

I will likely blog about more of my toys again, in the future... Stay tuned! :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bacon and Eggs

Are not just for breakfast, at least, not in my house :)

Ok, so maybe I'm scrounging for a post topic.  But... I figure I don't want to go too long without posting here.

Used to be that I'd make bacon and eggs for breakfast on the weekend. Or I guess the technical word would be brunch.   But, for the past couple of years, we've starting eating bacon and eggs for supper.  No real special reason, other than convenience.  Sometimes it is just an easy meal to make.  Right now, there are some tomatoes coming ready from our garden.  Not enough I'm afraid to go to any kind of trouble to preserve them (Oh, how I wish there were!).  But enough to slice up to have with the bacon and eggs.  I also often make hashbrowns, as well.  And toast.

So anyway, tonight that is what my husband suggested for supper.  Now, I'm not personally that fond of raw tomatoes (soup, salsa, sauce, canned/frozen, yes, but fresh - not so much) but today I might have a slice or two with my eggs.  And I seldom eat toast, not being a big fan of bread.  Bacon - I love!!  And eggs are fine with me.  I also love hashbrowns.  One of the few things that I may go the lazy route and use frozen store bought, almost as often as I use freshly grated potatoes.  Just depends on my mood... today is a frozen mood ;)

Well, I guess that means I'm off to get the electric fry pan ready!  :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Semantics

Or, What exactly is a serving anyway?

So, when I started out thinking about today's post, it was going to be about juice.  When I was young, we had juice with a meal.  Not everyday meals, honestly.  But Sunday supper, or restaurant meals, or when we had company, we served a small glass of tomato juice.  In the restaurant, a meal order always included the question, "orange, apple, or tomato juice?" along with the usual questions of "soup or salad, baked or fries".

I've wondered, on several occasions, when that tradition stopped.  I mean, it was gradual in the family, with death and siblings growing up and moving out to start families of their own.  But I can't really say when it stopped happening at restaurants - fancy dinners out weren't that frequent, and stopped for the same reasons as the big family dinners ended.  Fast food restaurants seemed to become the "norm" for dining out.  But even today, I don't even see juice listed on the menu, unless it is as a breakfast choice.  And then, it is nearly always limited to orange juice.

Anyway, that got me thinking about the Canada food guide.  And how a glass of juice with a meal is probably a good way to increase the fruit and vegetable intake.  And how, since I'm working toward eating more real food, that it might be something I could reinstate as a regular part of at least some suppers, even though there are only two of us.  I was thinking about how tomato juice now comes in "single serving" cans, as well as the big ones.  So it is possible to have it occasionally, without worrying about the remainder going bad in the fridge.

And thinking about the food guide, and servings, reminded me of how much I think the word "serving" is horribly ambiguous.  For example:  when I make myself oatmeal, the package has directions to make different quantities.  It usually has one that indicates, "4 servings".  Reading the fine print, it turns out that a "serving" is one half cup.  Now, to me, a "serving" is a bowl full.  A cereal bowl, not a fruit nappy.  So I make the four serving size, and pour it all into one bowl, add a little brown sugar and some milk, and eat the entire bowl myself.

A "serving", to me, is the amount you are served.  So, if I were to have chicken for supper, to me, a serving is 2 thighs, 2 spoonfuls of potatoes, and 1 heaping spoonful of vegetable.  The "spoon" in question being one of those nice big serving spoons.  If I have seconds, let's say another thigh and another spoonful of vegetables (especially if it is corn or peas) then that, to me is a second serving.

Many years ago, when it first came out (not sure if it is still around, though) I bought some Shake 'N Bake for Potatoes.  After using two boxes/4 packets for one meal, based on the instructions for the appropriate number of medium potatoes that one packet would coat, I phoned the 800 number on the box.  After some discussion, it turned out that what they consider a "medium" potato is what I would call a very small potato.

I've searched out various resources, attempting to get an idea of what a "serving" is according to the food guide.  Because I've always worried if I really eat enough of the various things according to the guide.  So far, about the only useful thing I've come across is reference to servings of "grain" in terms of number of slices of bread.  I'm not a fan of bread, though, so would love to get my grains in other ways.  (such as oatmeal - LOVE oatmeal - )  But without a useful gauge, I have no idea what a "serving" of a lot of foods is, by their definition.

To clarify my spoonfuls of things like potatoes and vegetables, I guess if I went with the "half cup" idea, well, I would say I have two servings of most vegetables, and three of potatoes.  But what of the meat?  I've read the suggestion that a serving is the size of your fist.  Well, my fist is smaller than my husband's fist, for one thing.  So who's fist do I use?  And, a chicken thigh is about the size of my fist, but includes the inedible bones.  So, does that make it less than a serving?  What about sliced meat, like from the chicken breast?  (I don't like white meat, but I'm staying with the overall example).  If I only have two slices, should I ball them up first to see how big it becomes?  This is an example of the ambiguity and uselessness of some of the so-called "servings" of food.

I wish I could find my old version of the Canada Food Guide.  The one they gave us back in school, in Home Ec class.  That old style one had more meaningful descriptions on it.  And broke up the food groups into Meat and Fish, Dairy, Cereals, Vegetables, and  Fruit.  Now, the fruit and vegetables are lumped together.  And eggs have been moved to the meat category out of dairy, as has nuts (used to be with grains).  

So, the end result is, I don't know if I'm eating the recommended amount of food.  And I honestly don't know if I should worry about it.  I mean, I keep getting a clean bill of health from my doctor.  And I don't seem to be hungry or anything... So I must be getting enough food.  And I'm not really overweight.  Well, maybe ten pounds or so, for my size age and body type.  But nothing the docs seem to be concerned about.

I have noticed that my body will sometimes tell me if I need something - I sometimes get cravings for certain foods, that usually happen during certain upsets to my routine.  If I've been avoiding potatoes or other starchy foods for more than a few days, I'll suddenly feel like eating toast or having a slice of bread with supper - something I rarely ever do, since I'm not fond of bread.

So, again, maybe I don't need to think so hard about the food guide, or serving sizes of what I eat.  I just wonder if I'm getting enough of the fruits and vegetables... which might be why tomato juice is on my mind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slow Cookering

Ok, so probably that isn't a word.  But, to just say, "slow cooking" isn't quite accurate enough.  I mean, you can cook slowly in the oven, but in my case, I used the slow cooker.  So, slow cookering. :)

I have owned a slow cooker (or we have owned) for probably 30 or more years.  Way back when I bought a Crock Pot for my husband. He wanted one for - well, to cook with.  I can't say as I recall him ever actually using it - maybe, *MAYBE* once, when he made chili.  But I could be misremembering that...   I know that I used it when making chili.

I think, honestly, that I've used that particular slow cooker more often for making home made baked beans.  The actual crock part comes out for "easy cleaning", which also makes it quite handy to use as a bean pot. :)

Some years later, a relative gave us a slow cooker for Christmas.  It didn't last long, before the element burnt out, and it wouldn't heat up.  It was a sealed all-in-one unit...which I took apart, so I could use the crock part.  Unfortunately, though, it has a plastic lid, so it is only partly useful.  Until its death, I did use it a few times, to transport chili or stew (and one time, mashed potatoes) to potluck dinners.  I also used it for keeping soup and/or sauces warm at dinner parties.  When it died, I realized that it was a good thing to own two slow cookers, so requested one for Christmas.  A more modern version of a removable crock. Larger than the first one, too.  And, one time, while browsing at Superstore, discovered a very affordable slightly smaller slow cooker.  It, too, has a removable crock.  It also came with a nice large rubber o-ring, that wraps around notches in the handle then goes across the (glass) lid to the other handle, to lock it down for transport to potlucks.  It has done its fair share of chili, too.

See a pattern forming?  I own three slow cookers, but I don't do any real cooking in them.  I decided a year or so ago, that it was time for a change.  I have been checking recipe books at the library, at thrift stores, and I've been searching the internet for some.  But I never really did anything more than keeping chili or stew warm without burning.  Until yesterday.

I finally got brave.  I took a chicken out of the freezer yesterday morning, gave it a quick three minutes on defrost in the microwave to make it easier to get out of the wrapping, then I seasoned it with a couple different seasoning mixes, dropped it into the cooker, poured in some chicken stock, dropped a glop of butter on top, and let 'er go.

Slow cooker roasted chicken.

At the end, while I made gravy, I put the chicken on a cookie sheet and stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.

When cutting some, my husband said the meat was dry - which made me concerned I over-did the broiling.  As soon as he put the first bite in his mouth, though, he admitted he was wrong, and that the chicken was indeed moist and tender :)  I think he was fooled when the meat was falling apart instead of being easy to slice!

Anyway - here's the slightly more detailed (only slightly, as some things I never really measure) "recipe".

Turn slow cooker on high to pre-warm, while seasoning chicken.
Small whole chicken, still frozen (roughly 5 pounds- I buy the whole chickens in a bag from Superstore, that work out to about three chickens in a bag for about $20, or 2 for around $15, so about a $6 chicken)
Seasoning to taste:  I shook on some "Keg Steak Seasoning" and some "Club House Smoked Applewood" seasoning.  I also chopped four small cloves of garlic, and dropped them in on top of the chicken.
Add butter (depending on how "fatty" your chicken is - if you use that "DunnRite" brand, I wouldn't add any extra fat; in fact, I would thaw the chicken, and remove the excess fat that is always in there.  I have never had such nasty greasy chicken as I have from that brand!) to taste, placing it on top of the breast.  In my case, I wanted to wash the butter dish, so I ended up using about a quarter cup.  It seemed to be just about right, though.  Pour one cup of (home made) chicken stock into the bottom of the cooker.  Place lid on, and allow to cook on high for several hours.  I started the chicken from frozen between 10 and 11 am.

After four to five hours (I did it around 3 pm) ladle off the excess liquid, reserving it for gravy.  Continue cooking the chicken until it starts to brown, and begins to "slouch". (touching the chicken with the ladle knocked one wing loose; the legs soon slipped down from the body).  Reduce heat to low/warm.

When ready to serve, remove from cooker, and place on baking sheet, place under broiler in oven for five to ten minutes, to crisp up and further brown the skin.  Serve.


To go with it, I made rice, steamed green and yellow beans from the garden (a gift from a dear friend's garden) and the gravy - I poured off the layer of fat into a pot, added flour to make a kind of "roux", then added the rest of the juices from the chicken.  Whisked it in, added a little bit of salt to taste (I don't cook meat with salt anymore; I learned it dries it out fast!!) and cooked until thickened.  Gravy on rice sounds strange, at least to me, but it sure tasted good!! :)


And one of these days, I'll remember to take pictures of the food!!  Before it becomes a pile of leftovers on the serving dish or in the pot... ;).  We don't get so formal as to use the fancy serving bowls and platters for just the two of us; it is usually just help your self from the cooking pots ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New (to me) Recipe for Onion Rings.

I should be posting more, just haven't had time! I'm gearing up for a pig roast in a few days - but that deserves its very own post.  For now, I want to rave about a recipe I found last week.

Pinterest has been a fascinating website.  First, I appreciated it for the fact that I could save all the cute kitty pictures I find without using up my hard drive space.  Then, I started discovering all sorts of cool design ideas for my home.  Then came the recipes.... I've been trying all sorts of new things, and this time, it was a different recipe for onion rings.

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/beer_battered_onion_rings.php

I have a recipe for batter that I got from my Joy of Cooking.  The cookbook was a Christmas gift from my (then) soon to be sister in law.  Great reference book - anything you want to know about any food item, you can probably find in it.  As for recipes --- well, honestly, I find many of them convoluted or specialized in a way that makes them impractical for everyday use.  Especially for a young wife, still learning her way around a kitchen.  However, there are some good recipes in there, that I've used over and over and over again.  Spilled food and stains on some pages attest to the best ones!  One of those that I've used many times is the "fritter batter".  A favourite when making Chinese food such as sweet and sour chicken balls.  BUT, even though the book claims it is good for many savoury purposes, I have found it not so good for onion rings, or many other fried veggies. Too heavy.  I have another recipe from a friend, for a tempura type batter, that I now use when fondue-ing.  But it would be too thin for onion rings, I think.  Sometimes, I feel a little like Goldilocks ;)

So, when I discovered the Canadian Living recipe, I figured I'd give it a shot.  It differed from the Joy recipe in that the beer was to be used fresh, not flat.  And the standing time was a lot shorter than I'm used to.

I did do some things not exactly as written - I didn't dredge the onions in flour first, but ended up with nice crispy rings anyway.  And I don't have any cayenne in the house - what I do have is "extra hot chili powder" that I buy in bulk from Superstore.  Hotter than cayenne, to tell the truth... I was nervous substituting, but I couldn't even taste it.  (May get brave next time, and do the heaping spoon thing).  Also, the recipe says "1 bottle beer" - well, we buy canned beer right now, so I measured it out, looking to get close to 341 ml instead of the 355 the can claims to be.... I used the whole can.  :P

The verdict - I found this batter to be "just right!"  Not too heavy, not too thin.  And the onion rings turned out perfect! (except for one batch that I had to step away from for a couple of minutes, so they got well browned!).  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sources

So, my favourite types of cookbooks are those fund raiser compilation types.

Some, if not all, of my best recipes come from them.  I especially like them because you know the recipes are tried and true, made in a real kitchen.  So many commercial cookbooks are written or edited by professional chefs with access to tools and equipment that the average person can't afford, and often the ingredients are exotic or expensive for the average person.  Or, to buy the ingredients, you find that you need a teaspoon of something, but you can only buy it in a large quantity, and you are not likely to use it for any other recipe, or so rarely that you end up throwing it out because it has gone stale.

But the compilation ones - the recipes are contributed by ordinary people with regular old kitchens, and budgets similar to my own.  Not to mention, the funds raised by the sale usually go to a good cause.

The Internet is becoming another great source for new ideas.  I used to just go to places like allrecipes.com, or about.com food sites.  But since finding pinterest, I've discovered a whole world of recipes on blogs.  Which are made by real people, with kitchen equipment and budgets similar to mine...

Of the recipes I see shared on pinterest, I do confess, many I just repin for later.  Or, I save the recipe to a word file until the time is right or I have the ingredients.  Two recent recipes, though, I did try fairly quickly, and they have become fast favourites.  One, I found the other day, and thought, Hey, I have all the ingredients for this! so I made it for supper.  It was a huge success!  I did add sauteed onions to it.  Oh, the link to the recipe is here: Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta  Now, how can you go wrong with cheddar, bacon, chicken and pasta?  Not that ranch is a bad thing, either.  But, since I did manage to spill too much ranch mix (I buy it in bulk, so I was spooning it in) so it was a bit overpowering.  I will be more careful next time.

The other one wasn't quite as "instant" making.  I found a pin about making your own Velveeta type cheese.  Since my husband loves that, and since it doesn't come on sale too often, I thought I'd give it a try.  Another hit.  BUT - the recipe calls for one type of cheese - colby, and I couldn't find any at Superstore.  So, I just went with an old cheddar.  Then, DH (dear husband) pointed out that Velveeta is a blend of types of cheese.   Next time I make it, I'm going to use cheddar, mozzerella, and swiss, just like Kraft does.  Interestingly enough, I ended up with a bigger brick of Velveeta-style cheese product for around if not just under the cost of the largest box of Velveeta when it is on sale.  So, besides the part where I get to eliminate preservatives and control the quality and type of other ingredients, I had fun making it :)  I do love to make things from scratch.  And this one was pretty easy!!  Here's the link:  Home made Velveeta style cheese 

I did also see something about making home made mozzerella, but that one looked a bit more complex and exotic.  I've also yet to try making yoghurt.  Both of these require some specialty ingredients, and I'm not sure if the end will justify the means just yet.

Like I said in the intro, comments aren't necessary, but if you'd like to share a favourite source of recipes, please do :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Intro

New food related blog...more to follow. <--- that sentence was typed when I created this blog, back around June 29th, based on the info here on blogger dashboard. :)  I'm updating, finally, on July 16th.

So.  A few weeks back, maybe even close to a month, our local newspaper had an article about a group of people who live in or near our city, and blog about food, and restaurants, and so on.  They also formed a Facebook group, and get together every so often to review a local eatery.

I thought that sounded interesting, and I checked out the Facebook group.  After a week of a little lurking and a little commenting there, I figured it might be a good thing to start my own food related blog.  I do have a blog already, that I try to keep up with, where I share my craft related stuff, my pets, my life successes and failures, my opinions now and again, and I've likely mentioned food once in a while.

Since food seems to have become an important part of my life lately (yes, I know, I've eaten for most of my life, but I simply "ate" or "cooked" for a very long time - now I put a lot more thought and effort into it - details will follow with other posts in this blog), it seemed to be a timely thing for me.  So, I'm starting a food blog.

I will share recipes as well as information/opinions.  Reasons for doing things the way I do, related to food and eating.  Things I learn.  Restaurants I enjoy and why.

I do not like to be too public with the personal information on the world wide web; on Facebook, I go by Anne Catlady.  On blogger, I go by Catlady.  Since this blog is very location specific, I am even more nervous about giving too much information!  But, I can say, that no one need worry there might be another "Bertha Rand" in the making - I only have two live kitties.  I collect cat themed items, though.  I also have two dogs, a husband, a son and daughter in law, and four grand children.  I don't suppose it should come as a surprise to say that I do enjoy cooking.  And I do enjoy many fibre related crafts.  If you wish to check out my other blog, it is catsrmecrafter.blogspot.com .  Do not feel obligated. :)

So, that is me in a nutshell!  I appreciate comments on my blog, and I do have them moderated to keep the spammers at bay.  Do not feel you have to comment ever, though - for me, a blog is like a personal journal, that I use to write my thoughts down to get them out of my head.  I find two things - if I write it, I remember it better, so writing/journalling helps the learning process, and if I don't share my thoughts somewhere either by talking them out or writing them out, they rattle around in my head and drive me nuts!!  So, my other blog is primarily that, an outlet for the voices in my head.  This blog is going to be similar, but I also plan to share recipes that I've created or adapted, so this blog is a lot more public and I wouldn't mind feedback at the very least on the recipes when I share them :)

Thank you for reading this far.  Hope to "see" you again soon!