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Friday, July 30, 2010

National Cheesecake Day – No Bake Cheesecake

Today is National Cheesecake Day, so I thought I should post a cheesecake recipe. :-)  (This should be my brother Mike’s favorite “holiday”.)
Earlier this year I found this recipe online and decided to try it.  I made a few changes to the recipe.  It is much softer and lighter than a normal cheesecake in texture and taste since it is not baked, but as you can see from the whipping cream in the recipe it is not lighter caloriewise.  It’s not something you want to make once a week unless you need to gain weight. :-)

No Bake Cheesecake

1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 packed brown sugar
1/3 C. butter, melted
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
2/3 C. sour cream
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/3 C. white sugar

In small bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar.  Add butter and mix well.  Press into the bottom of an 8 – 10 inch spring form pan.  Chill until firm.
In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and lemon juice until sort. Mix in sour cream.  Add whipping cream and beat with electric mixer until batter becomes thick.  Add the sugar and continue to beat until stiff.  Pour into the chilled crust.  Chill several hours or overnight.
Add topping of your choice.  Remove sides of pan just before serving.

I served this with a homemade strawberry topping as you can see in the photos.  I made this topping by cooking a few strawberries, sweetening them and  then thickening them with corn starch.  I refrigerated the “gel” before adding the cut fresh strawberries.  It was delicious!  Much better than that pre-made stuff you can buy in plastic envelopes at the store.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Teatime and English Recipe Links

Joy of Baking – English or Afternoon Tea Party Recipes – The pictures say it all here.
Tea Time Recipes
Traditional English Recipes – This will require some conversion work since the measurements are mostly given by weight. Here is an online converter to help with the process. Here is a chart that gives the equivalents for heat temperatures in the oven.

This was my grandma’s teapot which I think she may have gotten in England or Ireland.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Ice Cream Day

July 21st is National Ice Cream Day.

My family has made our own ice cream off and on for years.  Here are some photos of one ice cream making event in 2005.

Daddy and Dan operate the machine with supervision from Mom.

This was taken in Tennessee and was the last time we used our “old fashioned” ice cream maker.  Obviously, it is not the old crank handle kind.  My parents now have a counter top ice cream maker that works much faster, though it makes a smaller amount and is only slightly less noisy than this old one was.

The fruit of their labors. (Mom’s kitchen in Tennessee.)


Monday, July 19, 2010

Breakfast Rambling - Loving the Laodiceans

Psalm 85:8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

It is amazing how much folly there is in the Lord’s church today. There is such worldliness and tolerance of unbiblical practices and traditions that it is appalling. Yet you can see that at least some of these people want to be known as Christians and to appear to stand for something.

The Laodicean church of Revelation chapter 3 was still discernibly a “Christian” church. We see that God did and does still love them and want them to repent for He says in Revelation 3:19, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. And, this despite the fact that He had just told them they were, “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”! (Rev. 3:17)

Though we cannot join them nor approve their ways it behooves us to remember that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth”! (Hebrews 12:6 – emphasis added.) He does still love these believers and desires to see them turn from folly. Those who try to avoid the spiritual “pollutions of the world” (2 Peter 2:20) should too. Rather than feeling self-righteous, we should be grieved and our hearts should hurt to see those whom God loves walking in ways that are contrary to His word. Sometimes it is hard because they don’t understand the error of their ways and are offended if we extend a rebuking observation toward them, but it is keeping with the mind of Christ for us to maintain godly love toward them.

1John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Vinegar Cucumber Salad

Here’s an old family favorite of ours. My mom and grandma both used to make this light, tangy salad in the summer. It is almost more like pickles than salad. Since it’s served cold it is refreshing during hot weather.
2 Cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 Tbs sugar

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Serve cold.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A couple food poems to lighten your day

The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven – A great humorous item to use at Thanksgiving time or any time you serve a turkey dinner.

Whining and Dining – Yes, I actually did write this one – for whatever it’s worth.

Another unlikely poem that involves food:

A Roman Miracle (I think this one comes from Ireland.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

From My Kitchen Window

I have one window in my kitchen.  It is opposite the sink and counter where I work, so I don’t get to look out of it while I’m working much.  But, I do get to see interesting things from that vantage point from time to time. 

Actually, there is a sort of window over the kitchen sink, but it opens into the living room now since some former owner of this place made a large living room/sun room addition (a room for which I’m very thankful).  The window where I can see outside was originally the dining area window, so it is a full length window, though not wide.

Not everyone has the unique experience of having a peacock peeking in their kitchen window.  It was a bit startling at first, but he is really harmless, though apparently quite curious.

This bird is a stray that showed up at our neighbor’s house at some point.  She doesn’t know where he came from, though there are some other “wild” peacocks in the area.  She calls him “Petey”.

I think Petey first got interested in hanging around outside the kitchen window when I had birdseed in the feeder out there.  He seemed to think that it was for him. :-)  It *was* the perfect height!  (That is my parents’ grill on the left.  It was later moved to their deck.)

I haven’t seen him for some time now, but he was a regular visitor around here for quite a while.  He wandered with the neighbor’s guinea fowl, and seemed to think that he should show off for the females sometimes and that he was responsible to look out for the flock.

A female pea fowl – a peahen – showed up here this last spring, and sometime after that Petey stopped hanging around so much, although he was very interested in her at first.  She raised a brood of chicks (Petey’s??) under our bedroom window – and after hatching all 6 eggs managed to lose the whole lot within a day or so.  (There are a lot of small animal predators around this area, including feral cats.)

Here is Petey with the peahen as seen from my kitchen window.  (I have tried to refrain from naming her as I don’t want to get too attached to her!  I’m too sentimental to be getting attached to a stray peahen that doesn’t know who she belongs to!)

There has been another peacock around sometimes too, but he is not as friendly, or as nosey, as Petey! :-)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cooking by the seat of your pants….or…skirt as the case may be.

Back in the old days of flying airplanes before there were many, if any, instruments to rely on, it was not unusual to say that a pilot flew “by the seat of his pants”. The implication was that he flew on instinct and his own judgment more than anything.

My parents taught me to cook this way. My mom was not a menu planner type. We ate what was on sale, what was in our pantry and what was in our freezer or fresh from our garden. Despite some assertions that you can save a lot of money by planning meal menus a week or month in advance, this method saved us a lot of money over the years, I’m sure. We didn’t make many last minute trips to the store for items we “needed” to make a recipe. We made things that we had the ingredients for to begin with. The point was that we stored a lot of our food needs, and we grew a lot of our own food in the summer.

So, in cooking by the seat of the pants, I mean cooking by instinct and one’s own judgment, AND cooking with what’s readily available at hand (provided that you keep a well stocked pantry and freezer). This was how I learned to cook from both my parents. (Yes, we did plan certain meals and buy accordingly, but we did far more “last minute cooking”, as it were.)

The first thing I have to say about this method is that you need to become familiar enough with basic cooking skills so that you aren’t afraid to cook something without a recipe. (We seldom, if ever, made baked goods by this method, by the way.) Having confidence in how to sauté, fry, boil, steam, etc. basic foods is important to being successful in this method of cooking. A simple chart on how long to cook meats will be helpful too, and a meat thermometer is a good investment for any style of cooking.

My mom’s cooking was largely emphasized on basic meals, so her cooking in this manner tended to be more along the lines of good, plain cooking.

Hot cereal (sometimes with special additions), toast, eggs in a variety of styles, but often boiled, covered the basic week day breakfasts. She turned out pancakes (used a recipe), French toast, and other goodies for Saturdays. Often the pancakes had M&Ms added for a fun touch. Sundays we ate mostly cold cereal as that was always a busy morning of rushing to get ready for church meetings.

Lunches involved sandwiches, quesadillas, cheese melted on bread with gravy, yogurt, and other simple meals. Occasionally, we had tuna or egg salad.

Dinners were more involved and usually had a meat, a carbohydrate, a vegetable and a salad. She tended to go to more effort on that than I usually do these days, but she had a family of 6 to feed, so she needed plenty of food. We ate a lot of chicken for dinner as it was cheap. :-) Fortunately for me, that is my favorite meat, so I wasn’t unhappy about that.

Mom also did a lot of her own canning (with help from her favorite kitchen helpers – us kids!). Her spaghetti sauce was famous. She put up a variety of jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, sauces, pie fillings, vegetables and even some meat and stocks. She also froze a goodly portion of vegetables, fruits and meats. This was a huge help to our budget and it also made cooking by the seat of the pants much easier.

My dad’s contribution to this style of cooking for me was a bit different. He didn’t use recipes for much that he made, but his cooking was much more exotic than Mom’s ever was. He was big on herbs and spices, and trying unusual things. We generally figured that when he decided to cook something it would be either delicious or disgusting. His cooking was seldom mediocre. :-) His egg rolls were fantastic, but his shark stew ended up fertilizing something in the garden. ;-)

My own style of cooking came out somewhere in between. I learned a lot of good, plain cooking skills from Mom, along with the ability to invent meals on the fly from what’s in the cupboards and freezer. From Daddy I learned to season and spice with more confidence than Mom usually had, and to try some more “exotic” things. I tried to be somewhat bold with my cooking, but not to the point of creating too many really awful dishes. ;-) My favorite meals tend to be flash-in-the-pan, and usually one or two pot meals.

I am going to try to share some “recipes” here for some things that will require you to use your own judgment – cook by the seat of your pants, as it were. I will share the basic idea – ingredients and methods of cooking – but will leave you to figure out the amounts and sometimes even spicing to your own tastes. You will need to have some courage in trying these recipes. However, with this kind of cooking it is important to remember that, aside from burning or scorching something or making it really unpalatable, it’s kind of hard to do it “wrong”. If you like the way it turns out; or if your husband or family like the way it turns out (even if you don’t), then it was a success! And, remember, if you want to make it again the same way you have to write down the amounts, or at least what you used! :-) I suggest a small notebook or blank book for this. Hopefully, these additions to this blog will help someone learn to be more brave in their cooking and to have the confidence to cook without recipes or menus, using only ingredients that are at hand.

I suspect that people who need to can and freeze their own food and buy in quantity in order to save money tend to learn this type of cooking more than people who buy according to a pre-made menu. I consider it a useful skill and something that cooks should cultivate. Some people will find it burdensome to have to think of things to make on the spur of the moment, even I do at times. If you are strongly that type, you had better stick with the menu planning for most of your meals. But, for those who can think on the fly, so to speak, it has a certain amount of freedom. I don’t have to think up a lot of menus, and I don’t have to take the time to sit down and write one out and then try to find the best prices on what I need. I tend to shop more for what’s on sale that I know I can store and we will use in a reasonable amount of time. Having a variety of useful foods ready at hand makes this method work really well, and the savings is in buying mostly sale items, mark downs, and in bulk.

Having a nice variety of herbs and spices that you like is helpful also. Dried is, of course, the more practical way to go with herbs and spices. I freeze some in order to get that fresh taste. They turn out darker, but they have a fresher flavor than the dried ones.

One caution: It is important to rotate your stock of things and use them up in a timely manner. Put dates on canned goods you make or buy so that you know how old they are and which to use first. Keeping dried goods such as flour, pasta, rice and beans in a good rotation can be more of a challenge. Flours, especially, can go “rancid” in taste, and so it’s best to make sure you use them quickly enough. This part is harder to get down and I’ve had trouble with it myself. Remember to always store almonds in the fridge or freezer. All nuts will be better stored in the freezer if you will not be using them up in a few months. (Nuts can also be canned.) Herbs and spices will lose their flavor over time, but they tend to last longer than flours, nuts, etc. if stored in a cool, dry place. Keep things out of the sun as much as possible, and out of especially hot places, as well. Even home canned food should be stored away from the sun (because the glass jars allow the light to reach the food).

Also, be sure to store dried goods and herbs/spices in sealed containers. Bugs can ruin your stored food if you don’t do this, and air or moisture will make them go bad or lose flavor quicker.

I’m sure you can find web sites that offer information on storing food items if you need more help with this.

If you’d like to try this style of cooking, dig in and enjoy! Remember – it’s supposed to be fun to cook this way. Think of it as an adventure in the kitchen! The only “wrong” way to do this is to burn it or actually make it taste bad, and that’s possible to do with any recipe. :-) So, be brave! And, if you have questions, just ask.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Apple Pie Dish

This is one of our favorite desserts! It’s so easy to make and I personally like it better than regular apple pie – the top crust is almost like a cookie.  And, there is no rolling of a crust required!  It is very quick for a busy wife/mom to prepare if she already has canned apple pie filling.  (Thanks to Denise F., who first shared this recipe with us.)
Apples (peel and slice enough to fill a 9-inch pie plate 2/3 full)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup melted butter (or 2/3 cup of oil)
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans taste best)

Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples. Mix together egg, sugar, flour, salt, and margarine, and nuts and spread over the apples. Bake 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Make sure it is brown on the top and done in the middle. (I sometimes double this and put it in a 9 x 13).
Note: If you make your own apple pie filling this recipe takes one quart.  Canned apple pie filling makes this recipe super quick!
Also, you may wish to substitute half of the flour with whole wheat flour to improve the food value.  You could also reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup.  Try adding raisins or cranberries too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day

July 1st is “Creative Ice Cream Flavor Day”, so I thought I’d post my Mom’s best home made ice cream invention. It is coconut pecan ice cream with cherries.

I don’t have exact measurements, but if you make your own ice cream you can probably figure out how to do this. She uses coconut milk for part of the milk in the recipe, then she adds shredded (unsweetened) coconut. Toward the very end (so that they won’t be totally disintegrated by the mixing process) she adds maraschino cherries and broken pecan pieces. It is delicious, and chocolate syrup or hot fudge sauce makes it even better!

The strangest ice cream flavor we ever had was ginger ice cream. My dad bought it at a discount grocery store in Tennessee in 2004. It was rather odd to eat cold ice cream that burned your mouth (from the spiciness of the ginger)! Most of us didn’t like it. :-)

As you can see he got a large container of it!

Three whole gallons of hot and spicy ice cream that only he and Mom liked! It took them a while to eat it, and I think we threw out the last small container of it just before we moved. :-)