Monday, November 29, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello everyone, hope you are having a great Monday!  Well, we are in the holiday season now, and you may be attending some gatherings where you are expected to bring a dish.  You may be hosting your own holiday party. 

Today, straight from the recipe box of Lois Elaine Mueller, is a recipe for Bisquick Olive Balls.  For the next several months I will be featuring Lois Elaine's recipes every Monday.  Her heyday was in the 1950's and 1960's, and her children swear she was the best cook that ever lived.  Many baby boomers will remember these mouth-watering recipes, and these dishes are just as tasty today as they were in the sixties. 

Bisquick is a pre-mixed baking product marketed by General Mills under their Betty Crocker label.  It was originally meant to be an item to make biscuits very quickly, but after its introduction in 1931 housewives everywhere developed many ways to use this ingenious product.  It can be used to make pizza crust, bread, cookies, and lots of other things.  One caveat here, though - I believe it still has hydrogenated oils, which makes it less healthy.  However, a batch of Bisquick Olive Balls once a year or so shouldn't make the sky fall.

Lois Elaine's Bisquick Olive Balls:

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (about 4 oz)
1/4 c. oleo, softened (this means margarine or butter substitute)
1/4 t. Worchestershire sauce
1 c. Bisquick baking mix
1 jar (5 oz) pimiento-stuffed olives

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix cheese, margarine and Worchestershire sauce;  Mix in the Bisquick until a dough forms (work with hands).  Pat olives dry on paper towel.  Shape 1 T. dough around each olive.  Bake on lightly-greased cookie sheet until light golden brown.  This will be about 10 minutes.  Recipe makes about 45 appetizers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello....Well, we are officially into the frantic holiday shopping season.  To give you a break, here is a dog....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer has been called a devil dog more than once.  Today her head turned red and she grew two horns.  The transformation has begun.....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have A Great Thanksgiving!

Here's a wish that your Thanksgiving will be full of wonderful things this year!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

I recently came across a treasure trove of recipes.  My friend's mom, a wonderful cook, died several years ago leaving, among other things, a recipe box packed with, what else?, her recipes.  From the 1950's to the 1990's, these recipes, all written neatly or typed on the traditional cards, will make your mouth water.

Ever hear of egg white cookies?  How about Lebkucken?  Popcorn cake?

For the foreseeable future I will be raiding the recipe box and posting these terrific recipes right here on Mondays.  She specialized in cookies and according to her children, would make several kinds of special cookies whenever the holidays rolled around.  I'm planning to try her renowned Springerle soon.  I have her wooden Springerle press and her little rolling wheel to cut them.  Never mind that I had never heard of Springerle cookies before - I'll research it and find out the origins, then report back to you.

For today, I'll post her recipe for shrimp cocktail sauce.  I've always wondered what was in that stuff, even though I don't like shrimp.  Now I know.  It's simple and fast, but I promise that more elaborate recipes are coming.

So, when you read these terrific recipes over the next few months, please give a few thoughts to the lady who worked every day to make life wonderful for her husband and three children.  Here's to you, Lois Elaine Mueller!

Lois Elaine's Shrimp Cocktail Sauce:

1/3 c. catsup
1/9 (that's what it says) c. horseradish
1/2 t. Worchestershire sauce

Mix together and you have it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Well, another Friday is going in the books....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer likes big water bowls....The bigger, the better!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Is On Its Way....

Thanksgiving is one of America's favorite holidays, and why not?  Most of us get two days away from work, there are no mountains of gifts and related debt to deal with, the weather is usually not too bad, we get to reflect and give thanks for what we have, and we watch a couple of nice football games.  And, we reconnect with our family.  What could be better?

If you are the one hosting the annual Thanksgiving fest, this may be a time of high anxiety.  There are so many things that could go wrong (even if they almost never happen), you spend an extreme amount of time worrying and sweating the small stuff.

Being told not to worry doesn't work, of course, so I won't do that.  I'll offer a solution... What you really need is a plan.  A written plan.  Having a plan in writing allows you to sit down and really think about what is needed and when it should be done.  There's something calming about putting it in writing and being able to check off tasks as they are accomplished.  Here are some pointers to keep you on track and ensure that your plan is a good one:

Your plan should include a list of your grocery items, including recipe ingredients and things such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, paper plates for sending leftovers home with the guests and centerpieces, platters, tableclothes or decorating items.  Don't forget the ice.  If you are having turkey, plan on 1 pound per guest, and then add some if you want leftovers.

The timeline for buying everything you need, including groceries, should end at least three days before Thanksgiving.  In other words, you should not have to visit the store after the Monday before Thanksgiving.  And be aware that the weekend before Thanksgiving and every day after that until the big day means huge crowds at the stores, and crowds add stress.  Ideally you will visit the store at least a week before Thanksgiving with a complete list and take care of that chore early.

On Monday:
If you are planning on cooking a frozen turkey, Tom should come out of the freezer and go into the fridge on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Give your house a thorough cleaning.
If you are using an ice chest for the ice, pull it out of the attic and clean it up. 

On Tuesday:
Iron your tablecloth and napkins.
Prepare things like cranberry sauce, relish, etc. and store in the fridge.
Prepare your veggies to go into the dressing or other dishes.  You can chop your onions, peel your carrots, etc. and store them in zip lock bags in the fridge.

On Wednesday:
Set your table.  Put out the candles, centerpieces, decorations, everything - as if guests will be arriving any minute.  Ask your family to eat in front of the television for one night.  They'll love it!
Make the desserts.
Before you go to bed, set out the pots, pans and bowls and dry ingredients that you will be using.  Arrange the measuring cups and spoons neatly on the counter.  The recipes should be in a prominent position.  Everything should be ready for you to jump right in as soon as you enter the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning.

If you have a written plan and stick to it, checking off every task as you go, you will find that your Thanksgiving is much less stressful and a lot more organized.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving this year!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Another Monday in store for us today - we're barreling down on the holiday season!

What better breakfast on a cold morning than buttermilk pancakes, and what better cookware to prepare them in than cast iron?

Buttermilk Pancakes:

You will need:

10 or 12 inch cast iron (or other) skillet
2 c. flour, all purpose
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 stick butter, salted and melted
1 T. vegetable oil

In a big bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, milk and melted butter with a whisk until it is well-blended.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk just until the ingredients are combined.

Heat the skillet or a cast iron griddle over medium heat and add the vegetable oil.  Pour the batter, 1/4 c. at a time, into the skillet, forming little pancakes.  Turn the pancakes over when bubbles start to form and cook them until golden brown.  This will be about 2 or 3 minutes.  Continue until all the batter is gone.  You can add more oil, if needed.

Serve with warm syrup and melted butter.  (Butter Pecan syrup is great with these!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello and happy Friday to you!

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer loves fall leaves and roaming in forests.  This is Sofi from her last vacation a few weeks ago....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can We Be A Little Nicer To Each Other? (Part 2)

About a year ago I posted a plea for people to please wake up and discover kindness again.  The "Town Hall Meetings", a/k/a screamfests, had bothered me to the point of wondering what the heck has happened to our society?  When did it become ok to remove all filters and yell whatever is on your mind, regardless of who is hurt?

Things since then have gotten, not better, but much worse.  We have a kid being driven to suicide by his college roommate who placed a secret camera in their room to record and post the kid's amorous adventures on Facebook.  The November elections have brought forth the worst in us and in the candidates.  Some candidates appealed to our ignorance and deep-seated hatreds and prejudices and, guess what, were rewarded by our votes.  Are we who they think we are?  Maybe so. 

Unhappy people walk around with a chip on their shoulder and clinched fists, looking for a fight.  There are many, many unhappy people in our country right now, evidently.  And I'm talking about people with good jobs and nice futures - they've have found a way to twist themselves into a ball of rage.  People seem perfectly fine with going nose to nose with the store clerk who makes a mistake or the candidate with whom they disagree or with a co-worker that unintentionally creates a problem.  The spate of recent suicides by bullied young gays is sad beyond belief.  Who gives a person the right to bully someone to death?  And what darkness within a person would give them pleasure to cause pain to an innocent person?

What about the extreme racist and ignorant behavior at the Tea Party rallies?  Where is that coming from, and when did it suddenly become funny?  Posters of our president - OUR president - with bones in his nose and holding a spear - If this is a glimpse of the society of the future, I feel sad for all of us.

What's happening in our country today is disturbing.  I hope there is a change coming very soon.  We're smarter and better than this....

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope you're having a great Monday! 

There's nothing like a pot roast cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven.  Seriously.  'Nuff said.

Pot Roast:

You will need:

A chuck roast, 5 or 6 pound, with consistent marbling.
Garlic Salt
Salt and pepper to taste, or Mrs. Dash
2 T. vegetable oil
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 medium onions, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces, or (easier) use baby peeled carrots
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into halves

Rub the roast with salt, pepper and garlic salt.

Heat the oil in a 5 or 7 quart cast iron Dutch oven on medium high heat.  Here's the secret to a really tender roast:  Sear it on all sides until the roast is really brown.

Remove from heat, add hot or very warm water to almost cover the roast and add all of the other ingredients except the salt to taste - this should be added in the last 30 minutes.

Cover and place in a 275 degreeF oven.  Cook for about 4 hours or until fork tender.

Remove the roast and vegetables to a large platter.  Strain the broth and use it for making the gravy.

This roast is terrific when served with buttermilk biscuits right from the cast iron skillet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Happy Friday, and it's Sofi the Talking Schnauzer again....

Sofi is the University of Oklahoma's biggest fan - she loves them, win or lose!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #8 - The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 2006, Alfred A. Knopf, publisher.  256 pages.

 This is a book about a journey.  A father, known as the Man and his son, known as the Boy, travel a bleak, ash covered road following an apocolypse that destroyed most of the world and most of its humans.  The boy's mother, pregnant with him when the cataclysm occured, died by suicide before the story takes place.  The father carries a revolver with two rounds - one for him and one for his son.  As they walk down the highway headed south, hoping to find warmth and good people, they attempt to allude the others, mostly wanderers and tribesmen, who search for humans to kill and eat.

The journey is harrowing and bleak, and its few happy moments usually involve the pair stumbling upon deserted houses with canned food and supplies.  Several cans of peaches provided untold joy to the father and son, who reveled in the sweet and strange tastes in what amounted to a food orgy.  But always, the lack of hope hangs over the pair like shroud.

The father is spitting blood and knows that he doesn't have long to live.  He hangs on as long as he can for his son, who will be forced to grow up quickly or succumb to the evil forces roaming the countryside.

This book is not for the faint of heart.  There are some passages that are truly disturbing, particularly one involving a new-born infant.  However, it is a wonderful book that will lead you to think about what mankind is doing to the world and how we can improve the situation.

This novel won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Out of five stars, I give The Road....

* * * *

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello and happy Monday, everyone....Today we are featuring a meal-in-a-pan (preferably a cast iron pan) - Green beans and pork chops.  The green beans are always better when purchased from your Farmers' Market, but that may prove a little difficult this time of year.  Never fear, you can pick up some nice ones at your local grocery.

Green Beans and Pork Chops

You will need:

Medium cast iron Dutch oven
2 pounds of fresh green beans
1 T. butter
4 or 5 thick pork chops
1 medium onion
4 medium potatoes, or the equivilent in new potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste, or Mrs. Dash

Wash, string and break the green beans.  Discard the ends.

Put the butter in the Dutch oven and set on a medium-high burner.  Lightly-brown each chop on both sides in the butter.  (Browning the chops is very important - it will sear in the juices and make the chops extra-tender.)  Just brown a few chops at a time - Don't overcrowd the Dutch oven.

When finished browning, place all of the chops in the Dutch oven and remove from heat. Add 2 cups of hot or very-warm water, the beans and the onion.  Put back on the heat, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Put in the salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash to taste.

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters, if using regular-sized potatoes.  Place them on top of the beans.  Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  You can add more hot water if needed, to keep the water level 1 inch deep.

This is great served on a cold day with cast iron skillet cornbread!