Monday, July 20, 2009


Ratatouille is a wonderful way to use a garden's bounty.  I make it and eat it all by itself, but it could be used as either a side dish or a thick stew.  Whenever the stars align and I manage to have eggplant and zucchini in the fridge at the same time, I always make Ratatouille.
It doesn't look anything like the dish that the rat made in the Disney film.  I am not really sure which is more authentic.  My mother used to make it when I was little and I did NOT like it at all.  I found this recipe in a diet book about ten years ago and thought I'd give the dish one more try.  I fell in love.  The rest of my family lets me eat it all by myself.  They are put off by the sheer volume of vegetables.  This dish just oozes health.
Ratatouille (from the G-Index Diet)
2 Tbls olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
1 small eggplant, cubed
1 green pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
2 small zucchini, thickly sliced
1 small can chopped tomatoes, undrained (or use 2-3 fresh and add 2/3 cup water or broth)
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbls parsley
salt to taste
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until onions are clear. Add the eggplant, green pepper and zucchini and cook 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook 20 minutes on medium low heat. Add all of the herbs, mix well and cook uncovered 5 more minutes, stirring often.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Darn Good Roast Chicken

This week you are getting "scheduled" posts, as my internet access will be officially turned off Monday morning. A neighbor has offered me the use of hers, but I have a myriad of last minute appointments, company coming, and a move to Arizona to pull off this week, so I am promising nothing.

Anyway, I found the basis for this recipe here on Darcylee's blog. I had 15 pounds of chicken hindquarters in the freezer (that I bought for 45 cents/pound!). I decided to cook them all up at once, debone them and pack them back in quart sized bags to eat this last week. Here is how I changed the recipe:
4 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons fines herbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Rub all over the chicken pieces. Let sit on the counter 30 minutes. Bake in 250 degree oven for 3 1/2 hours (not as long as a whole chicken because pieces cook faster). The meat will literally be falling off the bones. Eat it right then or debone it and save it for other recipes.

Some options for use: chicken salads, sandwiches, soups, casseroles like enchiladas, divan, or fried rice, add to spanish rice, serve with dumplings, the possibilities are endless. This chicken has such a wonderful flavor, though, you may find yourself just eating it plain!

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We are having homemade hamburgers, rice and this delicious chicken, and take out this week for dinner. Not very exciting. I made more bagels, so breakfast will be those with cream cheese and pancakes (have to use up the last bit of mix in the cupboard). Lunch will be sandwiches: tuna, pb&j and grilled cheese. No runs to the grocery store are planned until we hit AZ.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday Stories: Look Alikes

As I mentioned last week, my brother's wife had a baby a few days ago. My brother says the little guy looks like his wife's family. Until the next niece/nephew is born in January, perhaps proving me wrong, I am taking the stance that my family's genes are the subordinate ones. Case in point: Here is the good guy's mother as a preschooler: Here is the good guy's little girl: Clones, I tell you; only her eye color is mine.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two For One Recipe: Pizza and Cinnamon Rolls

I have posted this recipe before, but I want to expand it a bit and show you what else can be done with it. The other night, we had pizza. Two of the boys wanted to make their own personal pizzas, all of the rest of us wanted to eat one big one. That didn't use all of the dough, though. So, I made cinnamon rolls with the rest. I got dinner, dessert and breakfast for the next morning out of 15 minutes' worth of effort. What a gift for a mom!

3 cups warm water
2 Tbls yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
8 cups flour (mix in whole wheat, if you like)
For pizza:
pizza sauce
mozzarella cheese (I use about 1 pound per pizza)
your favorite toppings)
For cinnamon rolls
1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
icing of your choice
Dissolve yeast in water and add oil and sugar. After yeast is bubbly, add flour. No need to knead or let rise!!!
For Pizza:
Divide dough into 3 for 3 very large pizzas or tear into smaller golf ball sized pieces and let each family member to roll out and create their own. Top with pizza sauce (I can my own ~ will post later in the summer), mozzarella cheese and favorite toppings. Bake 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
For cinnamon rolls: Roll out into a large rectangle. Pour melted butter all over, sprinkle with brown sugar and then with cinnamon. Roll up and cut into rolls. Place in a greased 9 X 13 pan. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool (or your frosting will melt all over the place like mine did in the picture) and frost.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chicken Hash

Have you figured out that I often just throw things together and call them dinner? This is one of those recipes. Earlier in the week, I baked 2 whole chickens and now I am using the meat in whatever way strikes my fancy. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? (Is that from a song?) This could actually be a pantry dinner if you chose to use the alternative ingredients I have listed in ().

Chicken Hash:
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (or you could use canned )
1/2 onion, minced (I used dehydrated onions)
2 Tbls olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp seasoned salt (I use Krazy Jane's Mixed Up Salt)
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 cans sliced potatoes, drained
1 can sliced carrots, drained
Heat chicken and cook onion in olive oil. When onion is clear, add the seasonings and continue to cook until onion and chicken turn a little brown around the edges. Add potatoes and carrots, stir and heat through.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

These are already gone and you are right, there are no pictures....AGAIN!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins:
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1 heaping tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins (makes 18 medium sized muffins or 9 jumbos). Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients and mix until moist. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into pan. cook for 18-24 minutes depending on size of muffins. Test with toothpick for done-ness. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack. These freeze well and can be warmed in the microwave.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Stories:Couches

With the move and all, my brain is scrambled. I have sat for the last half hour thinking of different stories to record and all of the them are a jumbled mess. In case you have no idea what I am talking about, one of my 2009 resolutions was to start recording family stories so that when the last of the older generations are gone, the family lore would live on. I think I am going to have to take a break for the next few weeks. Most of my family history journals are packed and, as I said, I don't seem to be able to put my thoughts in order. Instead, today, I am going to share a few photos. It seems like no matter when or where it is, our family loves to take pictures of people on a couch.

This is me, my parents, my grandparents and great aunt and uncle on a green couch. These are my sons, years ago, in front of a blue chambray couch.Here are the boys with their new sister a few years ago on an earth-tone couch. Finally, here is a picture of me and my brothers, taken about 8 years ago on a pink couch. The brother on the end is going to be a daddy this week (if the baby cooperates) ~ hard to believe.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homemade Mayonnaise

I was raised on Miracle Whip and married a strictly mayonnaise man. Gradually, I stopped buying Miracle Whip and converted to mayo, but I didn't really ever love it. Then, about seven years ago, I decided to try making homemade mayonnaise and I found my true sandwich spread. Admittedly, there have been times when I have reverted back to store bought, but in my opinion, homemade is best. It only takes about 5 minutes to make!!

There are a lot of different recipes out there. This is mine.

Homemade Mayonnaise:
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 + 1/2 cup canola oil, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
In a blender or food processor, combine egg, salt, dried mustard, cayenne, sugar and 1/4 cup canola oil. Blend it until it starts to look creamy. Open the top of the lid where you can pour things into the machine while it is still on and pour the olive oil into the egg mixture in a very thin stream. Blend about a minute. Add the lemon juice, and blend 30 seconds. Finally, add the other 1/2 cup of canola oil in the same manner as the olive oil, with the blender/processor on. Blend another minute or so until it is thick and creamy.
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

13 Frugal Tips for Moving

As time draws closer to our interstate move (2 weeks from today), I thought I would share some of the things I have learned and/or done to make this an easier task.
Note: the length of time you have to prepare for a move is key to some of these tips...the longer you have, the better off you are.

1. Start packing early, but beware that you don't pack anything you will need. If you are moving in the summer, pack your winter clothes, your Christmas decorations, etc. If you have a ton of dishes (yes, I am guilty of that) pack your surplus, keeping only your everyday set out. You get the idea.
2. Glean boxes anywhere you can. Moving boxes are expensive if you buy them new. Try your classifieds, craigslist, freecycle, your local grocery store, copy store, even the liquor store. Get creative. I got a bunch of boxes from a neighbor who is a teacher. At the end of the school year, the teachers got in orders of books for the coming year. Those boxes were perfect for packing my books.
3. Packing paper ideas can be just as creative. Save old magazines and newspapers. Ask your friends for their newpapers, too. Call the local newspaper office and see if they will let you have the ends of their newspaper rolls.
4. If you are moving yourself, look into all of the moving truck companies. I initially thought I would go with U-Haul, but when I looked into Penske, I found that I could save hundreds of dollars. I also got an additional discount because I am a AAA member.
5. If you have any sort of food stockpile, start planning menus around what you have. Use that up so you don't have to pack it. I have been buying only milk, eggs, cheese, butter and occasional fresh fruit for the last 3 months!
6. Invest in a tape gun. I can't tell you how much easier it is to seal boxes with a tape gun than picking the end with your fingernail, holding it, cutting it with scissors, etc. You will save so much time!
7. Get your new address as soon as possible. Knowing where I was going, I got a PO box. Although you may choose to have your mail delivered to your new residence after you move, if you have some sort of address, you can save a lot of headaches. My PO box only cost me $26 for 6 months!
8. Change all of the addresses of your magazine subscriptions. Most of these you can do online. Remember that magazines often need 6 weeks to process address changes.
9. While you are changing addresses, change it with USPS, too.
10. Inform your utilities, auto insurance and other bills that you are moving. You don't want to be billed for things you don't use, you want to make sure your car is insured in your new place and you don't want to miss a payment if other bills are delayed.
11. Label your packed boxes well. In big letters, list the contents and the room where the box is going. Later, you will be glad you don't have to go through 10 boxes labeled kitchen just to find your can opener.
12. Take stock of your belongings and purge. If you haven't used something for 6 or more months, do you really need to move it? Have a garage sale, use ebay or your local classifieds or freecycle to get rid of things you don't want anymore. Your local thrift store may also benefit from your surplus.
13. Refill prescriptions as close to your move date as possible. In my case, I have a son who is on 5 different meds. I am going to have to find new doctors and get new health insurance (ugh) I don't know how long that is going to take, but certainly don't want to run out in the meantime. Talk to your doctors and see if they will give you extra refills.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

English Muffins: Take Two ~ Success!!

I tried a different recipe this week and I like the results a lot better. The muffins rose taller and tasted just a little bit better. Here is the recipe I used. I adapted it from

English Muffins :
1 cup milk
2 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted butter
6 cups flour
1 tsp salt
Warm the milk in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for one minute (should be lukewarm). Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved. In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the milk to the yeast mixture, as well as the melted butter, salt and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead or use mixer. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise, about an hour. Punch down gently, or rather, sort of slide the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also (this prevents the dough from sticking to the waxed paper). Cover and let rise 1/2 hour. Heat greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. (Here, I had problems, because, as I have stated before, my griddle has one temperature: too hot. I browned both sides for a few minutes and then baked the muffins in the oven for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.)

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Breakfast Casserole with French Fries

Yes, you read the title right; french fries for breakfast. This is a scrumptous, easy, frugal way to start or end the day.

French Fry Breakfast Casserole:
1/2 bag frozen crinkle cut french fries, cut into cubes
1/2 cup ham, cubed
1 red sweet pepper, minced
1/4 onion, minced
1 cup shredded cheese
5 eggs
1/3 cup milk
Place fries, ham, pepper, onion and cheese into a greased 9 X 9 pan. You can stick it in the fridge at this point, if you want to make it the night before. Otherwise, whisk the eggs and milk together and pour over the fries mixture. Bake 350 degrees for one hour or until done.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies

These peanut butter cookies are really good. They are soft and chewy if you bake them for the minimum time or they are crispy if you bake them for the longer time. They are great made into ice cream sandwiches, too.

Peanut Butter Cookies:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Cream peanut butter, butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Combine dry ingredients and add. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet by teaspoons. I press them down with my closed fingers.Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove to a wire rack to cool. This is where I usually make piles for each family member. I get the kids to do a little math by telling them how many cookies the recipe made (36) and how many people are going to be eating them. They do the division and we make piles accordingly. Sometimes, I let them eat the cookies whenever they want and sometimes I tell them how many they each can have at a time.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Saturday Stories: In the Cause of Freedom

As we celebrate our country's birthday, I honor those who came before me who served her in various capacities. I salute the great, great + grandfather who said a prayer with his compatriots before facing the redcoats. I salute the great great + grandfather who fought in the Civil War, the great uncle who lies buried in France having fallen during the Argonne offensive in WWI, the great uncles who served in WWII, my father who served in Vietnam. I recognize the families who came to this country on the Mayflower as well as those who escaped the potato famine in Ireland, poverty in Germany, and others who sought religious freedoms and a better life in the New World. I pay tribute to the women who followed their men west from New England, who forged new homes and fought the wilderness, who paved the way for civilization across the country.

Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

Happy 4th of July!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chicken Curry and Naan

What a treat it was to have something a little exotic for dinner tonight.

2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbls milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbls butter, melted

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar and salt. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in milk, egg, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Mix in mixer with dough hook or knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume. Punch down dough. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Preheat griddle to medium high. Roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil griddle. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from griddle, and continue cooking the rest. 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbls curry powder
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed, diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tsp honey
Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear. Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and honey into the pan, and stir to combine. At this point, the sauce is quite runny. Simmer, uncovered stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and reduced, about 1 hour. Serve with Naan or over rice.

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English Muffins: First Attempt

I made English Muffins this afternoon. I used this recipe. I purposely started with this recipe because 1. Everyone in the blog world is raving about The Baker's Apprentice cookbook (there is even a challenge going on where people are baking their way through the entire book!) and 2. It only makes 6, so if they didn't turn out, I wouldn't have been out much in the way of ingredients or effort.

They were pretty easy, but I don't think it's the recipe. I want more holes in my English muffins. I have learned that the holes are made in the first rise. No new holes form in the second rise, they just get bigger. That being said, I think I played with the dough too much when forming the muffins. They rose and were nice and thick. I cooked them on the griddle for only 3 minutes on each side because I have a stupid griddle (don't get me started) After I cooked them on the griddle and baked them in the oven, I cut one open and put some butter on it and shared it with my little girl. It was good, it just was really dense. I have another recipe to try next week. You will, of course, find the results right here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Musical Experiences

Thursday-13 #21:
I am an accompanist. I play the piano and the organ. I have had many opportunities to play for people over the years. Here are some of the more memorable.

1. I accompanied a contestant in a county beauty pageant.
2. I accompanied the musical “South Pacific” in high school.
3. I joined a rock band for all of a week until my mother said it was not proper for her teenage daughter.
4. In the early 1990s, I played at a funeral for a 12 year old boy who had died from AIDS.
5. A little while later, I played at a funeral for a younger boy who had been fatally shot while playing with friends and a gun.
6. I have played numerous times under an air vent and had my music fly all over the place during the performance.
7. I have played for an opera singer.
8. I once accompanied a singer who was so nervous that he burst out laughing halfway through the piece. None of us knew what to do, so I vamped a few measures until he regained his composure.
9. I have often been asked to accompany singers and musicians at solo- ensemble competitions in middle and high schools. The most memorable was the one I missed because I was given bad driving directions. Amy, I apologize yet again.
10. A couple of times, I have been asked as I walked in the door to accompany people. Those have been a bit hair raising for me as I sight read through the performance.
11. I accompanied my son as he sang at his grandfather’s funeral.
12. I can still remember the first wedding I accompanied, but the most nerve-wracking was playing for my little brother’s nuptuals.
13. I started playing for congregations in church out of necessity (lack of other available talent) when I was 13. I still remember the butterflies I felt the first time I turned on the organ and began the prelude.

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