A to Z Challenge – N


 

N- Notes & Notebooks

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20160415_100654Old school is still the best way for me to brainstorm. I pot my notes into a notebook, this one is a cheap composition book  purchased during back to school sales. I think it was all of 49 cents. I tab my pages at the beginning of a section. When I have something I add to it. It may sit untouched for weeks, but when I need to go find that one thing that I wrote down, I will have it. Those tab things from post-its are great!

 

 

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N-Nails

Such handy little things, nails.  These are for hanging decor and picture hangers. No, it’s not the same thing.  Sometimes you need a nail to hang something, other times you need one of those angled metal hook things –  a picture hanger. I’ve been tackling a few  things on my to do list.

I’ve waited for the hubs to “get around to it” for ages. It’s actually better if I tackle it because I know what I want. Never mind the extra holes in the wall.  They will get patched next time we paint. I’m nonplussed by little details like that –  I try to get it right the first time,  but hey, life goes on when you get your nail half an inch to the left too far and have to do it over. A little dab of toothpaste, smoothed out with an old gift card hides that sucker. And a little dab of paint from the leftover can we keep stored in the basement.

N-Noodles384106

The beginning  of one of my family’s favorite meals:

Crab alfredo

Bear with me on this one,  I am trying to remember as if I were making it because  this was a throw together meal.

1 package of medium egg noodles

3 cups water

1 package of artificial crab meat, torn into pieces

1 package of scallions chopped into small pieces ( about 1/2 cup of scallions)

fresh spinach with the stems removed ( about 2 cups of fresh spinach)

1 jar alfredo sauce

1/2 cup of  parmesan

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons butter

salt and pepper

In a large skillet or electric skillet (this is what I use to make this dish), put noodles in skillet, add water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking to the pan. Water will absorb. Once the pasta is cooked al dente –  which is only about seven minutes – egg noodles cook fast. Add butter and stir around. Pour jar of alfredo sauce over noodles. Stir to coat evenly, pour milk into the jar, shake up and add. ( Sauce thickens so this isn’t going to make your sauce too thin, plus you’re going to add more cheese.)  Add milk, stirring in.

Make sure the pasta is evenly coated. Add torn pieces of crab meat. Add scallions.  Layer  fresh spinach over the top. Add salt and pepper, cover for just a couple of minutes while preparing your salad and setting the table.

Uncover, scoop onto the plate, top with  some grated parmesan and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.

Super simple, healthy and satisfying.

Let me know if you decide to try my concoction! My kids love it and they have never complained about the spinach!

Have a fabulous day!

 Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

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A to Z Challenge – M


 

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M- Macaroni

One of my kids favorites! It matters not that they are young adults now,  it’s still a favorite.

In fact, I think I’ll share a recipe.

 

Macaroni and Cheese ala Ellie

Ingredients:

1 cup (8 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese ( I sometimes use a combination of shredded cheddar and American slices because the American slices make it creamier.)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups milk

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Directions:

Cook macaroni according to the package directions. Drain.

In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly until   creamy and fluid. Stir in cheeses and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick, still stirring constantly. Put macaroni in large casserole dish, and pour sauce over macaroni. Stir well.

Melt butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and brown. Spread over the macaroni and cheese to cover. Sprinkle with a little paprika or black pepper. I prefer the black pepper myself.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Serve.

Present dish to your hungry family, and watch their mouths water. Make them want it.  Take your time in setting the table.

Serve.

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M- Maraschino Cherries

Sorry but I wasn’t about to open the jar as these are for my favorite fruit salad to have with barbecue, which my husband will be cooking this weekend!  My job is the salad, corn, deviled eggs, and strawberry shortcake!

OK, fine. Since you insist, here’s the recipe for that as well.

 

Ambrosia Fruit Salad

Ingredients:

1(20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (15 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained

1 (16 ounce) container whipped topping

1 (10.5 ounce) package miniature marshmallows

3/4 cup shredded coconut or to taste

I jar maraschino cherries cut in half and drained

Directions

  1. Mix pineapple, oranges, whipped topping, marshmallows, and coconut together in a bowl. Fold in cherry halves. Stir lightly, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until flavors blend about 2 hours.

M- Me

In one of my favorite shirts, at one of my favorite stores – Hobby Lobby, and what do I find but an oversized martini glass! Now if I can just find a wine glass this size!

Ignore the no makeup hair pulled back in a ponytail look. This is me.  This is who I am. Life is too short to stress over putting on makeup to go to the store, or drive for hours, or anything that I do in my nonwork day.

Speaking of driving, I’m  heading out on the highway once again.  I may have to put some Motley Crew, Maroon5, Metallica, Megadeath, and Michael Franti on the playlist.

Have a fabulous day!

 Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

A to Z Challenge – E


Eggs

eggs

eggs

Eggs have gotten a bad rap a few years ago,  with doctors telling their patients they were too high in cholesterol and they needed to limit their consumption. egg-white protein however, is one of the best sources of protein available. Eggs provide the binding for cakes,  bread, pancakes, and fritters. One of our favorite ways to enjoy eggs is deviled eggs – especially when we have barbecue!

For your pleasure:

Deviled Eggs

6 eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1  1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
Smoked  paprika, for garnish

Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with enough water that there is 1 1/2 inches of water above the eggs. Heat on high until water begins to boil,  cover and reduce temperature to medium heat,  and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and leave covered for 15 minutes, then rinse under cold water continuously for 1 minute.

Crack egg shells and carefully peel under cool running water. Gently dry with paper towels. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove yolks to a medium bowl and placing the whites on a serving dish. Mash the yolks into a fine crumble using a fork. Add mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, and mix well.

Now here’s a handy trick that will make your deviled eggs look professional and makes clean up a cinch – Scoop the yolk mixture into a quart sized freezer bag (they are sturdier than a storage bag). drape the bag over your hand, making a funnel, so the mixture fills one corner, like a pastry bag. Snip the corner, twist the bag tight as you fill the egg whites. They come out smooth and creamy every time!

Sprinkle with paprika and serve or chill until the ribs are done!
Bon Appetit!

Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

A to Z Challenge – C


 

C- Cupcakes

Stokpic

Stokpic

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? In Red Wine & Roses, Julia bakes gourmet cocktail cupcakes. The recipes for those are in the bonus section of the book – a mini cookbook!

C – Chocolate cake

cake

My new favorite cake – Red Wine cake – OMG it is so good. Moist, rich chocolaty goodness. I may have to go bake one now.

C- clouds

Dramatic cumulonimbus Couds

It’s amazing the  contrast of beautiful sky compared to in January. Fluffy cumulus clouds. Let’s just hope that they don’t turn into a massive storm!

None of these things were what I intended to photograph.  My crab cakes were a flop that turned out greasy. Not sure what happened, I’ve made them hundreds of times before.

Oh well.

 

 

Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge – April begins with A


So I decided to do a new thing.  A new thing for me anyway. In this challenge, there are many options and the one I chose is photography!  (warning: my photography skills are lame)

APPLES

APPLES

Apples –  my favorite variety of apples for eating is Gala. For baking – I tend to go with golden delicious or granny smith.

Instead of just a photograph, because you know. . . I’m long winded and I had to do something with these gorgeous apples, how about a recipe?

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Apple Fruititza

1 package sugar cookie dough – press into pizza pan, making a small lip for your base.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let cool while preparing the base filling.

Base filling

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces) room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons butter (unsalted)

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl, blend well with mixer until thoroughly combined, smooth and creamy.  Spread onto cooled cookie crust.

Apple Filling – 

Peel and slice 3 to 4 apples into thin slices. Cook in skillet with:

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup apple juice with 2 tsp cornstarch mixed in

3/4 cup sugar.

Simmer on medium heat until apples are beginning to soften and liquids thicken.

Pour on top of the cream cheese base.

Mix crumb topping :

1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp  cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar

Add 2 Tablespoons melted butter, Mix until completely moistened.

Spread by spoonfuls on top of apples.

Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes, or until crumb topping is a golden color.

Remove from oven, let cool and cut into “pizza” slices to serve.

Have an amazingly awesome April! Stay tuned for more alphabet goodness.

Write on my friends, write on!

Ellie

 

 

 

 

Cooking Up Something Special


Every Year for my birthday or for Christmas, since the two are close together, I get at least one cookbook as a gift. This year my mother in law gave me The Pioneer Woman Cooks book.

There are a couple of recipes in there that I am going to try.  As most of you know,  each year one of my goals is to try new recipes. I tend to try at least 4  per month. Some are good,  some are terrible, some are – bury that mess in the backyard and gargle with lysol. Every once in awhile,  I find a really great recipe. I’m sharing today a couple of recipes that are not from any cookbook,  but sraight from the master chef themselves.

My daughter has this good freind that she went to high school with that they stay in touch. Her parents run the  best Chinese restaurant in the area. Anny came over to our home to visit and catch up with my daughter, and brought us nommies from their restaurant!  I love this girl!   She indulged in a slice of my birthday cake, while I indulged in the best crab rangoon ever!

Crab Rangoon 1_CrabRangoon2_0410

  • 1 package of cream cheese, softened
  • I Tablespoon pineapple juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • 6 ounces imitation crabmeat, chopped into small bits
  •  wonton wrappers

Combine all ingredients  thoroughly. Place 1 Tablespoon of filling onto wonton wrapper, pinch into lotus flower shape and set on baking sheet until all are formed.

Heat oil in deep fryer.  Drop 2 at a time into hot oil. Cook until wrappers are golden brown. Remove from fryer, placing on paper towel lined baking sheet.

Makes 8 servings.

Egg Foo Yong

This is a great way to use up leftovers, or those little bits of this and that. These are basically Chinese omelets. I made mine without any additional meat,  but if you want more protien in yours feel free to add it in.

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My skillet was a little too hot so the edges are darker than I would have liked, but it still tasted amazing!

Ingredients:

  • 6eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1cup fresh bean sprout
  • 14cup minced scallion
  • 14cup minced bamboo shoots
  • or14 cup celery or 14 cup shredded Chinese cabbage
  • 4water chestnuts, minced
  • (1312cup slivered cooked ham or1312 cup chicken or 1312 cuppork or 1312 cup mincedshrimp)
  • 1teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 -3tablespoons peanut oil (or other cooking oil)

    Foo Yung Sauce

    • 1cup chicken broth
    • 1tablespoon soy sauce
    • 2teaspoons sugar
    • 2teaspoons vinegar
    • 1tablespoon cornstarch
    • 2tablespoons water
    Directions:
    1. Mix eggs, vegetables, meat and soy.
    2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a 4-6 inch skillet over moderate heat for 30 seconds.
    3. Add 1/3 cup egg mixture and fry as you would a pancake until lightly browned on the bottom, turn over and brown flip side.
    4. Keep warm (but do not stack), while you fry remaining pancakes, adding more oil if needed and stirring egg mixture before adding to pan.
    5. Foo Yung Sauce: In a pan, heat broth, soy, sugar and vinegar.
    6. In a bowl, blend cornstarch and water.
    7. Add to sauce and cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles and thickens.
    8. Serve with hot Egg Foo Yung over steamed rice.

    Bon Appetit! We have to eat, why not make it  something tasty and nutritions?  OK, well the egg foo yung is nutritious.

    Write on my freinds, write on! And eat well!

    Ellie

     

 

Holiday Feels


Who doesn’t like Holiday goodies?    Anyone?

Part of the “feel goods” of Holiday gatherings are from the comfort foods, and treats that we would otherwise not indulge in.  Food has always been a big part of my family gatherings whether it’s a summer barbecue or Thanksgiving or Christmas, or whatever other get together we had.

I miss those days. I miss the summer barbecues with my dad basting pork steaks in Maul’s/beer combo until it was melt in your mouth good.  I miss the Thanksgiving feast and mom’s stuffing along with 8 different kinds of pie – because not everyone liked pumpkin.  But most of all I miss the Christmas traditions that were long-established since I was a small child.

On Christmas eve we used to go to my grandparents. It was the one time of year when you got to see  everyone –  the aunts, uncles, cousins – and sample some of my Grandpa’s homemade wine. Sometimes his wine was more akin to moonshine but there were other times when it was like nectar of the Gods.   I remember distinctly his banana wine, watermelon rind wine, and Missouri grape wine.  He never entered any competitions for it, it was reserved for family and friends.  Sampling Grandpa’s wine was an honor and something that we looked forward to.

Then sadly Grandpa passed away, because eventually we all pass.  Then the baton was passed to my parents,  and the gatherings grew. I have four siblings who are all married.  Three of them have kids, and their kids have kids.  The Christmas before my mother passed  had a full house! Five siblings and spouses, (10) the grandkids and spouses, (+19)  the great grandkids – plus there are more now (+18) plus my mother.  48 people crowded into the house, but it was a joyous occasion and we never considered it crowded.

We always had finger foods,  never a full-blown meal.  There were the traditional,  Mom would buy a ham and have a variety of bread for sandwiches.  There were always numerous sides to choose from,  chips, dip, cookies cakes  –  so much to choose from and we often overindulged.

SIGH

Now the torch has passed to us,  we no longer have the big family gatherings.  I feel sad that my kids have been short-changed by missing out on  our traditional family gatherings. As most of the parents out there will understand,  I tend to overcompensate and overindulge my kids.

It is a difficult thing when the traditions are taken from you and you have to come up with your own.

Baking sugar cookies and decorating them,  making my Grandma’s snickerdoodles, and of course the Gingerbread men – these are things that have bonded me with my girls in the kitchen for the holidays.  I think we had the most fun the year we made Gingerbread cookies as characters from Louise Rennison’s Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.  That book was hilarious,  and the gingerbread people definitely had character!  We had Mark Big gob, Slaggy Lindsey, Dave the Laugh, Jaz, and of course Robby and Tom.

I tried a couple of different things over the years,  but the only thing that has really stuck has been  baking treats. So,  in honor of our traditions,  here are a few recipes to share:

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Traditional Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Granulated sugar or colored sugar
 Directions:
  • 1 Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  • 2 Heat oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
  • 3 Divide dough in half. Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with 2- to 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet.
  • 4 Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

This is the traditional cookie from my ancient Betty Crocker cookbook. We decorate some with frosting, some with sprinkles and colored sugars.  These are great blank canvases for your own creation!

Microwave_Fudge_Recipes

Fantasy Fudge

(I have never ever had this fail) Grease 9 X 13 pan with butter.

Ingredients:

3 cups granulated sugar

3/4 c margarine or butter

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 (12 oz) package of chocolate chips

1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp vanilla.

Combine in large heavy saucepan sugar, margarine and evaporated milk. Stirring over medium heat bring to boil for 5 minutes. Boil until in soft ball stage.

Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips, until melted thoroughly. Beat in marshmallow creme, walnuts, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer to pan and let cool before cutting into 1 inch squares.

What are your holiday traditions?

Write on my friends and enjoy those holiday goodies!

Till next time ~~~~

Ellie

P.S. You can check out my other post over on Eclectic Bard Books today as well!

 

 

Rib Stickin’ Goodness – Part 1


This isn’t a food blog. I’ve never shared recipes before today, but hey. . . change is good, right?

Recently we’ve made some dietary changes. I’ve completely changed the way I’ve been cooking. I’m sure I’ve shared before I’m a pretty darn good cook. I’m never going to be on Master Chef, and I’m ok with that. I can create a fabulous meal with minimal ingredients.  I’ve had years of practice. Sometimes even the best household chef gets into a rut. This is when a change  can be good.  I have learned a few things from that show and enjoy watching it and sometimes get inspiration for recipes.

We’ve made the decision to go meatless for a time. Let me be clear here, we are not vegetarians, not vegans.  This was a decision made for various reasons.  I have to say that although I am enjoying the variety of new dishes, I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into some Thanksgiving turkey!

A few observations before I share the recipes.

  1. I feel better.  My stomach has not been churning or upset over the past two weeks of our new eating plan.
  2. These meals are surprisingly filling!  (Honestly, as a dedicated carnivore I was shocked.)
  3. Meatless meals cost (in general, there are the exceptions) less than with meat.
  4. I’ve lost a few pounds, felt fuller after meals, and feel more energetic.  Coincidence or not – just being honest.

These are not necessarily low-calorie,  but some are. My plan is to share with you 2 recipes a day this week, until Friday. Since it is November,  I  feel compelled to include NANOWRIMO into my repertoire.  I hope the Friday posts help encourage those who are  interested or participating in NANOWRIMO.

As kitchen manager, general dietitian, and master chef of the household, I spend a little time each week preparing a menu before shopping.  I shop from the menu, so that I have what I need on hand and reduce the amount of trips to the store, which in turn cuts down on impulse purchases. Yes, we use that nasty word here –  budget. I seldom buy convenience or prepackaged foods.  I also prepare my meals from scratch. It doesn’t really take that much time and the food tastes so much better.  Like Papa John says – better ingredients, better pizza.  OR in my case better meals all around.

Cost savings, no preservatives, fresh wholesome foods, and a sense of satisfaction for providing for my family. Yes, I am creative in the kitchen as well.

Alright, let’s get down to it then. Meatless meals. My definition for meatless –  it does not contain animal flesh, to include red meats, wild game, poultry, or aquatic (fish, mollusks, shrimp, lobster, etc) I do include dairy and eggs.  (No animal gave its life in the production of these meals!)

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup    

(7 on a scale of 10)

small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 onion, chopped                                 one clove of garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped                         cayenne pepper

Black pepper                                          3 carrots chopped, ½ head of cabbage, shredded

Ginger                                                    4 cups vegetable broth

2 TBSP tomato paste                             2 cups water

½ cup pearled barley                             1 cup lentils, dry

2 TBSP olive oil

Pour olive oil into skillet. Saute onion and celery. Once onions are translucent add garlic and other seasonings to taste. (approximately ½ tsp each, but I add a dash more cayenne)  Add carrots.

Simmer  while adding broth to dutch oven. Bring to low boil.  Add lentils and barley. Add in the vegetables from the skillet. Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add in tomato paste, and 2 cups of water as the lentils and barley will have soaked up some of liquid.  Add in cabbage, and half of chopped parsley.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Top with parsley after serving.

This soup is 175 calories for 1 ½ cup serving. Surprisingly filling!

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

3 Cheese and Spinach Calzones

Three Cheese and Spinach Calzones.
(I’ll give this one an 8 on a scale of 10!)

1 package(10 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 egg lightly beaten
I tube refrigerated pizza crust. ( I make my own from scratch, but store-bought is much easier and faster)
1 cup marinara sauce.

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.Unroll pizza crust into an 11 inch square. Cut into four squares. Spoon mixture over half of each square (diagonally because you’re making triangles)Fold the other half over, and pinch edges closed. I make a small slit on top so it vents. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with warmed marinara.

1 calzone with 1/4 cup of marinara sauce is 540 calories.  served with a salad,   this is a very filling meal!

This was a big hit with the family and even got the approval of my meat and potatoes husband. Now that the weather is cooler,  I don’t mind heating up the kitchen to experiment with new recipes.  Tired of our usual fare,  this  dietary change has been  a welcomed change.  When the schedule gets crowded,  I tend to revert to the old standards, where routine turns into a rut.  I hate ruts.

Give these a try and let me know what you think!  Would you like to see more recipes from my kitchen? Has anyone tried any of the recipes that are featured in the mini cookbook at the back of Red Wine & Roses?  What???  You didn’t know there was a cookbook in the back?

A little bonus feature for my readers!

Write on my friends, write on . . . and eat well!