Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to Dice an Onion

My dad showed me this really easy way to dice an onion and I now do it this way all the time.

After peeling your onion, slice off a few slices to your desired thickness. I was making pico de gallo, so I didn't need them too thin.

Next, stack 'em up.

Then slice the stack in half.

Move one stack out of the way.

With the stack remaining, start cutting on the edge away from your hand.

As you cut, turn the onion so you always have a pointy side to cut off (more or less).

Voila! Diced onion!


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Foil Dinners

The other night, I had 2 packages of stew meat in the fridge, but it was too warm for stew, so I decided to try something different. I made foil dinners!! Being a Girl Scout for 20 years or so, I've eaten my fair share of foil dinners, but I've never thought of making them at home.

My foil dinners had onions, sliced potatoes, carrots, green beans, very thinly sliced celery (for seasoning), and very thinly sliced bell pepper in them. I made a total of 5 packets and some I topped with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Others I used seasoned salt, and on 1 I sprinkled some Italian salad dressing mix on. Cooked them at 450º for 50 mins and they were delish!!

While I used beef stew meat, you could use chicken breasts, round steak, or cubed steak. You could even marinate the meat overnight for a different flavor. Also, you can pretty much use any kind of veggies you have on hand, or some partially frozen veggies if that's all you have.

Give 'em a try!! You'll like 'em!

Make. These. TODAY!

I "found" this recipe while I was digging through my recipe file. I have a bazillion loose recipes I've collected over the years in a blue file folder and every once in a while I have to go digging through them to find a long-lost recipe. It's a horrible job, but if I don't do it, we'd go hungry at my home. DH won't even cook by a recipe, much less go hunting for one in my folder! It was orginally a gift-in-a-jar recipe, but I've never given it as a gift. I just made it, and boy howdy! I found a winner!!

Oatmeal-Chip Cookie Mix In a Jar (makes about 2 doz)

2/3 C all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use Saigon Cinnamon)
1/4 t salt
1/3 C packed brown sugar
1/3 C granulated sugar
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.5 C quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 C chopped nuts

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Place flour mixture in 1-qt jar. Layer remaining ingredients in order listed above, pressing firmly after each layer. Seal with lid and decorate with fabric and ribbon.

Recipe to attach:

Beat 1/2 C (1 stick) butter or margarine (no substitutes), 1 lg. egg, and 1/2 t vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until blended. Add cookie mix; mix well, breaking up clumps. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 375ºF oven for 8-10 mins. Cool on baking sheet for 2 mins; remove to wire rack.

Your friends and family will thank you!!

**Please remember not to eat too many. You know what oatmeal does to the digestive tract!!

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

These are my favorite, quick to bake, taste so good, warm in your tummy muffins. As my friend Jan says, they're "easy peasy"!!

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins
2 C biscuit/baking mix (Bisquick)
3/4 C plus 2 T sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 C (8 oz.) sour cream
1 C fresh or frozen blueberries*

In a large mixing bowl, combine the biscuit mix and 3/4 C sugar. In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs and sour cream; stir into the dry mixture just until combined. Fold in the blueberries. Fill greased muffin cups (or cheat and use paper liners like I do) three-fourths full. Sprinkle with remaining (2 T) sugar. Bake at 375º for 20-25 mins, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 mins. before removing from pan to wire rack.

*If using frozen blueberries, do NOT thaw before adding to batter.

You can also use any combination of berries to equal the 1 cup measurement. I sometimes use a combination of blueberries and raspberries and they're great!



Yesterday morning, I woke up craving brownies. Not just any out-of-the-box kind of brownies, but my own homemade, from scratch brownies. We just LOVE these and between me and my husband, we can eat the whole pan in a day. They're great for breakfast, morning snack time, lunch, an afternoon perk-me-up snack, dinner, and a before bedtime snack. So, quickly, before I left for work (I worked the later shift.), I whipped a pan of these delectable treats. Here they are, right out of the oven. (Please disregard the baked on dough on the sides of the pan. Really, who cooks neatly and tidy?)

Just before leaving for work, I cut them to take one to work & to snap a pic of...seriously! But since I had to snap a pic of it, I couldn't leave it on the plate and I definitely couldn't leave it out for the husband!!! So I just had to eat it. And it was absolutely yummy!!

Please note that the chocolate chips had not "set" yet when I took this picture. See them slightly melted???? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!! They were still just a tad warm and absolutely delish!!

Thanks for letting me share. We even have some left, but if you want some, get here quick because they'll be gone by the end of the day, I'm sure!

Oh! You want the recipe??? Of course you do! Just because I'm being nice today, here it is. It's actually one of those gift-in-a-jar recipes, so you can even whip up the mix and give it as a Christmas gift.

Sand Art Brownies

Contents of Jar (Brownie Mix)
1/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup Holiday M&Ms (red & green)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/8 cup flour
½ cup chopped pecans
½ tsp. salt

Additional Ingredients Needed:
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

Empty contents of jar and add vanilla, oil, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir until well blended. Pour into a greased 9 X 9 pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350º.
Enjoy with a glass of cold milk!!

If using as a gift, mix cocoa and sugar, & salt together. Pour into glass jar. Layer each additional item. Attach recipe to the jar with a ribbon and you're good to go!

Beef Stew

This was originally posted on my cross stitching blog on 12/5/08.

I have very fond memories of beef stew since my mom would make this often during the winter when I was growing up. She would let it simmer all afternoon and it smelled heavenly. I'm not as patient as my mom was and I had a starving husband to cook for after I got home from work, so I did the speedy stew method.

I actually prefer picking out the meat and potatoes, then eating them separately. I generally don't like to eat mixed veggies or my food all mixed up, not to mention that I'm not a big soup eater. (I also don't like hot drinks, except hot chocolate once it's cooled a bit and hot tea with lots of sugar in it when I'm sick.) Anyway, I like to mash my stew potatoes and smother them with lots of butter. Because I wouldn't eat my stew like a normal person, I'd have to fix myself some kind of veggie to go with my meat, taters, and cottage cheese. Fast forward to tonight's dinner of beef stew.

Doesn't that look good?? It was!! And I ate it out of the bowl! My mom would be so proud of me. LOL For the first time in my life, I ate my stew as it was meant to be eaten and it was really, really good! I'm still tempted to pick out the meat and potatoes, but I shall overcome that urge. When I asked my husband what he thought about it, he told me it needed a bit more pepper and maybe some okra (ick!). Don't get me wrong, I like okra, but not in my stew. I guess it was good; he ate 3 bowls of the stuff! :)

I don't have a "real" recipe, but I'll share how I made it tonight. This is what I used for just the 2 of us. If you have a larger family, use more of the beef & veggies.

Beef Stew
1 lb. lean stew meat
1-2 T vegetable oil
4 or 5 normal size potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
1/2 - 1 med. onion, cut into chunks
2 or 3 carrots (cooked separately-boiled until crisp tender then mixed in once stew was done)
Frozen Corn (however much you want, 1-2 cups)
Frozen Cut Green Beans (same as above)
1-3 ribs celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

Brown the meat in oil over medium heat in a large skillet or stew pot/dutch oven until no longer pink. If you want, brown the meat, onions, and garlic together. (I didn't do that this time, but I will next time.)
Add everything else (except the carrots) and mix together. If you didn't add the onions and garlic with your meat, add those now, too.
Season to taste.
Add enough water to cover.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, tilt lid, reduce heat a bit and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender (about 20 mins or so). Stir occasionally.

BTW, fork tender means that when you stick a fork in the potatoes it should go in easily and come out just as easily. If you have to stab the potato really hard, then it's not done. If you can't get your fork out, the potatoes aren't done either.

While the stew is cooking, slice carrots and place in a small pot. Cover with water and lid, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and cook until crisp tender, about 10 mins. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside. When the rest of the stew is done, (potatoes fork tender and it's thickened up a bit), drain the water from the carrots & stir them in the stew. Cooking the carrots separately will keep the carrots from turning into mush. (Mark doesn't like mushy carrots and I gotta keep the husband happy ya' know!)

Serve with crackers or your favorite bread. Whatever you do, enjoy it!!

Note: You can add whatever veggies you want. If you want a vegetable soup, omit the meat. If you like mushy carrots or you're lazy, just throw them in when you add the rest of the veggies to the meat. You can also add all kinds of different spices to liven it up. We're pretty plain folks, so we don't go "all out" with seasoning.


Some Christmas Creations

This was originally posted on my cross stitching blog on December 21, 2008.

This past week was the official Christmas baking week at my house. I love to bake, especially during the holidays. Since I don't have family over to enjoy these tasty treats, I pawn them off on the people at work. They don't seem to mind....

First off, we had Chocolate Chip cookies. Who doesn't like Chocolate Chips??? It's my all-time favorite cookie. I could eat the entire bowl of raw cookie dough (& not share ANY!!!), but I decided not to since I'd probably end up spending my entire night and the next day in the bathroom. My boss probably wouldn't appreciate that, so I was a good girl. Mostly anyway! LOL

We went from this heavenly creation...

to this...

and this...

and finally these!!

Oh my gosh! They were so absolutely delicious, especially just warm from the oven. I think I'm going to have to make some more!! LOL

Then, I made my annual batch of Crockpot Candy. This stuff is absolutely DIVINE and makes a boatload of candy. I didn't take pictures this year of all the candy just after dipping, but here's a pic from a couple of Christmases ago when we made it with my dad.

This is the tray I took to work yesterday for us to munch on throughout the day.

And a closer view, just to make you drool!! LOL

Mom's Chocolate Chippers
Preheat oven to 375º.

4 1/2 C flour
2 t baking soda
2 t salt (or 1 if you're cutting back on salt)

2 C vegetable shortening-Crisco(if you're using the Crisco sticks, add about 1/8 C more flour so cookies aren't paper thin)
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1 t water
4 eggs, room temperature

2 C chocolate chips
1 1/2 C chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

In medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In large mixing bowl, blend the shortening, sugar, and brown sugar until well mixed. Add vanilla, water, and eggs, one at a time until fluffy. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips & nuts. (I use my mixer to stir them in.)

Drop by well-rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove to cooling racks to cool, if they last that long.

I'm able to get them 5 across and 5 rows on my cookie sheets, which I've never greased before using.

If you're cookies spread too much, you don't want them flat as a pancake, but nicely rounded, add a bit more flour.

Chill dough for a couple of hours before cooking for better cookie results.

If using the Crisco sticks, add about 1/8 C more flour or your cookies will be flatter than a pancake and crispy critters.

You can also use this recipe, only cut in half to make a pan cookie or cookie bars. When I do this, I use 1 C nuts and 2 C chocolate chips. Bake at 375º for 20-25 mins.

Crockpot Candy
16 oz can salted peanuts or mixed nuts
16 oz dry roasted peanuts
1 large bag (24 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
2 pkgs white almond bark
1 German chocolate bar

Combine all ingredients in large crock pot and cook on LOW. Forget it for 2 hours. Stir to blend and dip out into pieces onto waxed paper to cool. Makes a big bunch.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Welcome to My Kitchen

I realized that I was posting a lot of baking stuff on my stitching website , so I decided to start a food blog to share my food posts. My plan is to post recipes and pictures, maybe even step-by-step pics if I have time.

I'm not a professional cook or baker, but I do enjoy cooking and baking for me and my husband. I belong to a couple of recipe groups, subscribe to a couple of cooking magazines, and have several food blogs and websites bookmarked. I often share my baked goods with my co-workers since it's just me and the husband here at home. I've been cooking most of my life, starting at my mom's elbow when I was just a young girl. I remember standing on the kitchen stool to "help" my mom bake and cook. By the time I was in high school, I could bake and cook independently.

I'm so glad my parents took the time to cook good meals and teach both me and my brother how to cook. My brother is an amazing cook and baker. My dad makes a mean from-scratch German Chocolate cake as well as many other foods such as biscuits and pancakes. His Italian Cream Cake isn't so bad either!! My mom excelled in cookies, cakes, and pies. Her pie crust was flaky every single time. I miss her pies, but I miss her cookies even more.

Most of the things I make are from scratch. I didn't grow up in a time where everything came in a box ready to prepare, so I seldom use those things. Usually, I find boxed mixes too salty and lacking any real flavor. Often, it's just as easy and less expensive to use the individual ingredients and do it myself. It's also usually a bit healthier, and the older I get the more important that becomes.

I'll leave this post with a link to one of my favorite cooking sites, The Pioneer Woman Cooks! Enjoy perusing Ree's site.