Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Serving Bread Pudding

I got up a little late this morning and knew I just wanted a bite of something sweet.  Something to tide me over until lunch and something yummy to go with a hot cuppa Joe.  Bread pudding fits the bill perfectly.  It's cozy and warming and delicious.  Plus, it's easy to make because I always have the ingredients in my pantry and fridge.  Today, I used cocoa nibs, pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg.  One of my favorites is chopped apples, Craisins & pecans.  If you're craving something savory instead of sweet, try chopped ham or bacon, veggies and a some grated cheese.  You can use whatever you have on hand to make it your own.  Obviously, if you make it savory, leave out the sugar and vanilla.

One Serving Bread Pudding
1 cup cubed Bread (I use 1 leftover hot dog bun)
1 large Egg
1/3 cup Milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons Sugar
dash Salt
1-2 tablespoons embellishments (cinnamon, spices, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, whatever floats your boat)

Spray the bowl with Pam or butter it well.  Put the bread in a microwave-safe bowl.
Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, sugar, and salt.
Stir in your desired embellishments. 
Pour over bread and stir gently to combine.
Microwave for 1 minute then check to see if it's still liquid.  If so, microwave for 30-second intervals until center is just set. 
Still a big gooey. 
You can drizzle with syrup, melted butter, or anything else that tickles your fancy. 
Serve warm.
Warm and delicious!
Isn't this pottery bowl adorable?  My Mom gave me a set of six.  Perfect for keeping small servings of goodness warm and delicious.  

Big vs Small
Simplicity.  That is what I am longing for.  The world I live in is anything but.  I live in a big house with a big yard, a big swimming pool in a big city.  I'm going to work for a big box store soon.  All these things are lovely and I am very thankful and grateful I am fortunate enough to have them.  But they come at a steep price, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. 

The truth is this:  I want small.  I want simple.  I want to wake up when the warm sun caresses my face instead of to the harsh sound of an alarm clock.  I want to simply wash my face and brush my teeth and hair and be ready for the day instead of wasting moments of my life spritzing & styling & putting on my 'face'.  I want to have short nails with beet root stains and maybe a little bit of fresh dirt under them instead of pretty painted ones.  I want to spend my days barefoot, touching our precious Mother Earth instead of my feet being trapped inside sweaty shoes and walking on concrete. 

I want a small country homestead.  A little piece of land to call my own.  A place that feels snug & comfortable & safe.  Somewhere there is peace and serenity. 

I know a homestead involves a lot of work.  There is always something to do but it's different.  When you work on a homestead, the work means something.  It means you are taking care of your family.  It means you are able to provide for yourself.  It means you are one with your land, your animals and in constant contact with forces greater than yourself.  It means going with the flow.  Learning how to take each moment as it comes.  It means actually enjoying what you do versus tolerating what you do. 

Yeah, there is a deep, deep place inside me that is longing for this lifestyle.  I hope someday to be able to do so.  Until then, I will do what I can with what I have.  Making simple changes in the life here in my big house with its big yard, big pool in the big city.  Someday....

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cold Day=Warm Food

It's a nippy 30 degrees with a brisk wind which makes it feel like 17! BRRRR!  Yes, that's pretty nippy indeed.  Days like this are just made for warm comfort food.  Today's choice, chili.  Mmmmm chili. 

I'll admit, I don't make chili from scratch.  I cheat a little.  I use 2 pounds hamburger &/or ground turkey, 2 packages William's Chili Seasoning (we love the chipotle flavor), some extra cumin and a bit of sugar to it and let it simmer.   I also add beans to mine.  Easy and delicious.  I serve it with crackers and cheese the first time.  Second time, usually make chili mac out of it and if I have any left, we have chili dogs. 

Today, I added a nice little treat.  When it's cold, I like to crank up the oven and do a bit of baking.  Keeps the kitchen and dining area warmer and makes the house smell so good!  I looked in my pantry and came up with a can of cherries in heavy syrup that needed to be used.  I had read in my recent copy of Mother Earth News of a easy pie crust recipe I wanted to try, so I came up with Cherry Hand Pies. 
The recipe is pretty... how shall I say?..loose.  I didn't write down exact measurements for the pie filling but I'll do my best to give you something to follow.  I also forgot to take pictures of the process so I only have the finished results.  Don't let the components scare you. It's an easy recipe. 
Boarding House Pie Crust
(Mother Earth News Dec2012/Jan2013 issue)
Makes a 10' Pie crust
Mix 3 cups flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt.  Separately, thoroughly mix 3/4 cup oil and 3/8 cup milk.  Combine flour and liquid mix and stir.  Roll out between 2 pieces wax paper.
Cherry Pie Filling
1 can cherries in heavy syrup
1/4 cup Maraschino cherry juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup Sugar
3 tablespoons Butter
about 3 tablespoons Cornstarch
1 cup Water
1 tablespoon Almond flavor
1 tablespoon Vanilla
Pour cherries and syrup into a saucepan.  Add  Maraschino cherry juice, sugar, butter & salt and bring to a boil. 
Mix 1 cup of water with cornstarch and stir until mixed.  Add to boiling cherries.  Bring back to boil and then turn heat to simmer.  Stir occasionally until mixture is very thick.  Add Almond flavor and vanilla and let chill.
Vanilla Glaze
1 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 tablespoon Milk
Melt butter.  Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar.  Add milk and stir until smooth.  Adjust milk to make glaze a bit thicker than honey.
Egg Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
Mix together.
To Make Cherry Hand Pies
Heat oven to 375.  Cover baking pan with aluminium foil or parchment paper.
Roll out dough and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Make two circles for every pie. One will be the bottom and one will be the top.  If you don't have a biscuit cutter, make squares the size you would like your pies to be.
Place about a tablespoon of cherry filling on top of one circle.  Make sure to leave space around the edges.  Place another circle of pie dough on top of this.  Using a fork, crimp around the entire edge of the pie, trying not to let the filling leak out.  Using a pastry brush or your fingers, lightly spread some egg wash on the top and to the edges of each pie.  Prick tops with fork. 
Bake until pies are golden brown.
While warm, spread with glaze.  It's easiest if you spoon a bit directly in the middle as the warm dough will melt the glaze.
Let cool then eat.
If you have a bit of leftover dough, glaze with egg wash then sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar and bake with the pies.  So sweet and delicious!

Cute and so good!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Something Sweet-Candy Cane Bark

Since Yuletide, I've had two boxes of beautiful blueberry & peppermint candy canes laying around.  I also had some leftover Hershey's Kisses, white chocolate chips, blue candy melts, and cookie sprinkles laying around in the pantry. brain started ticking.  Why not whip up a couple different chocolate barks.  Easy, tasty and economical.  Here is what I ended up with.

I am very pleased with the results. Not only is it tasty, but it's beautiful to look at too. Not bad for a bunch of leftover candy!

Milk Chocolate Peppermint Bark:

Many unwrapped Hershey's Kisses (probably 50)
6 or 7 peppermint candy canes, crushed
Various sprinkles (I used sparkle sugar and little red sugar berries)

Lay down a piece of aluminium foil.
Crush candy canes.  I leave a few bigger pieces just to make the finished bark pretty.
Melt Kisses for 30 second blasts in microwave until smooth.    
Make sure to stir often and don't overcook. Spread onto foil. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, then with sparkle sugar & red sugar berries. Let sit for a few minutes until set. 

I put mine in the fridge as it seems chocolate takes forever to set!

White Chocolate Blueberry Bark

1/2 bag White Chocolate chips
4 blueberry candy canes, crushed
Various sprinkles (I had snowflakes & sparkle sugar)
Blue Candy Melts

Lay down a piece of aluminium foil. Melt white chocolate chips for 30 second blasts in microwave until smooth. Make sure to stir often and don't overcook. Spread onto foil. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, then with snowflakes and sparkle sugar. Let sit for a few minutes until set.
Melt blue candy melts and drizzle over white chocolate. Sprinkle with more sparkle sugar.
Let set completely, then break into pieces and enjoy!
Isn't this lovely?
Get creative! I've got other chips (butterscotch, cherry, and dark chocolate) and many other tidbits in the pantry just waiting to be turned into customized candy bark (hmmm...cherry chocolate for Valentine's day?).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Updated: Homemade Miracle Whip

One of my New Year's resolutions is to not eat any fast food. Although I didn't make this resolution formally, I am going to try to make things from scratch as much as possible too.  Not too tough to do when you know how to and love to cook. 

Yesterday, I made pork schnitzel and honey oatmeal bread.  It was delicious and I had enough leftover to make a nice sandwich today.  I also have lettuce, onions, and bread & butter pickles.  But one key ingredient was missing:  Miracle Whip. 
Was SO good!
Yup, I'm a Miracle Whip kind of gal.  Mayo is OK and I eat it in a pinch, but I love the 'tangy zip'.    Maybe it's a Southern 'thang'.  No one in my family uses mayo. 

I remember a long time ago, my mother made some potato salad to take to a friend's pot luck.  I came in at the end of the process and decided I needed to do a taste test.  You know, just to make sure it was good enough to serve to her friends.  I got a bit ole spoonful, shoved it into my mouth and about gagged!  I was expecting sweet and creamy with a hint of sugary goodness from sweet pickles.  What I got was mayonnaise and dill!  NOT what I was expecting to say the least.  I told my mom that something was wrong with that batch of potato salad.  She just laughed and told me this is how her friend liked it.  To this day, I still cannot imagine why!

Anyway, since I had all the ingredients to make homemade Miracle Whip, I decided to go for it.  Why spend $4 or $5 for a jar when I could just make it at home.  I have made it in the past with somewhat dubious success.  It tasted right but was a bit thin and runny.  So I decided to try a different recipe.  I googled (still laughing that this is now a verb) and found a lot of recipes.  Here is the one I went with, adding a few modifications as I went along.

Miracle Whip
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
1-1/2 cups oil
1/2 cup boiling water
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons vinegar

1.  Blend egg yolks, salt, sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar/lemon juice until blended.

2.  Slowly drip 1 cup of oil, a few drops at a time, incorporating thoroughly before adding more.

3.  Add remaining 1/2 cup of oil a bit faster, making sure to incorporate before adding more.
4.  Add remaining lemon/vinegar and blend the set aside.
5.  Mix water, flour, dry mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and vinegar in a small saucepan.
6.  Bring to a boil and simmer until smooth and thickened. 
7.  Slowly add this hot mix to the mayo and blend well.

8.  Put into container and cool.

1. This will take some time.  Make sure to add oil very, very slowly and let mix completely.  If you don't, the mayo will 'break' and you won't be able to blend it together at all.  Be patient.
2.  I added a bit more vinegar, about a tablespoon, when I finished for more 'zip'.  Next time, I will use a combination of vinegar and lemon juice.  I was out of lemons but I think this will add a bit more flavor.
3.  I increased the powdered sugar and paprika from the original recipe.  I found it to be slightly bland until I did so.
4.  If you just want to make mayonnaise, just use the first 5 ingredients and call it a day.  I tasted it and it was pretty good. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Old-Fashioned Cookie Recipe

I meant to post this before the holidays but just didn't get around to it.  So you'll just have to wait until the next holiday to pull this one out.  Or not.  These are delicious anytime but trust me, just make them for special occasions.  You'll end up eating way too many if you don't share them.

This recipe has been in my family for countless generations.  It's an old-fashioned shortbread cookie made with simple ingredients.  Every single person I've shared this with wants the recipe and looks forward to them as much as my own family.  I hope they become a hit in your family too.

I'm fortunate in the fact that most of my family lives in pecan tree country.  Every fall, my mother sends me fresh pecans so all my holiday treats are extra good.  If you can get fresh pecans, use them but if not, store-bought work just fine. 

Pecan Balls
4 cups Flour
1 pound Butter
1-1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 cup Sugar
2 cups Pecans
Powdered Sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Chop pecans fine and set aside.

Cream sugar and softened butter. 
Add vanilla. 
Slowly add flour, one cup at a time.  Add nuts.

Make into 2-inch balls. 

Bake until light golden brown.  Let cool slightly. 

Roll in powdered sugar and devour!

One tip:  For extra flakiness, refrigerate the cookies after you make them into balls. 

You can make different flavors too.  Substitute almonds for the pecans and almond extract for the vanilla.  Bake as normal but don't roll in powdered sugar.  Let cookies cool then drizzle with melted milk or dark chocolate, then drizzle with melted cherry flavored chips if you can find them.  Delicious.  Use walnuts and maple flavoring.  Substitute mini chocolate chips for some or all of the nuts.  I've also used toasted coconut and dipped them in white chocolate.  Use your imagination. 

Post-Holiday Life

Whew! We made it!  The holidays are over and life is settling back into its normal routine.  The decorations are almost put away and the leftovers are used up. 

Yuletide was amazing.  We had 15 guests, drank lots of mead, toasted the Gods and had a wonderful time.  We already made plans to gather for Ostara.  I can't wait!

New Year was somewhat sedate.  Just me and the Hubs hanging out and enjoying some quiet time together while he continuously checked the Internet to see if we were going to take a tumble down the ole fiscal cliff.  Oddly enough, we really didn't verbalize any resolutions.  I have a few in mind but nothing too exciting: lose some weight, eat healthier, same as every year. 

Except for one.  I am not going to eat any fast food this year.  None! Zip! Nada!  I don't like fast food for so many reasons.  It's unhealthy.  It is completely commercialized.  Many fast food establishments treat their employees like little more than slaves, and it utilized industrialized farming.  Why would I spend my hard-earned dollars to promote ideas I am absolutely against?  So, this year, no more.  It won't be easy because it's so darn convenient.  We don't eat out a lot but we do indulge in Taco Bueno on Friday evenings when my Stepson is here.  Fortunately, he expressed to his father that he is tired of bean burritos so I have an opportunity to change things here.  Maybe we'll switch our homemade pizza nights to Friday.  Not only will we be eating healthier, Stepson can assist me in making his own little pizza which means he'll be more likely to eat it.  Small steps lead to big changes.

I'm looking forward to 2013.  2012 was a difficult year for my family and my friends.  Several of us were unemployed, we lost a few close loved ones, and there were a couple of divorces.  Yeah, I can say I am glad to put 2012 behind me.  I am excited to see what this new year has to offer.