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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dark Pfeffernusse

This is my dad’s all time favorite cookie.  A batch of these will last him a good long while since he made a habit long ago of eating them very slowly in order to make them last as long as possible. :-)  They are German in origin and Daddy used to receive a box of them every Christmas from a Mennonite friend in his home church.  He says he could usually make them last till Easter. 
If they are hardened properly they will last a very long time and stay fresh.  Consequently, these would probably be good cookies to send to troops overseas.  They are also best eaten with a hot drink such as tea or coffee if you don’t happen to like gnawing hard cookies.  My husband calls these “dog biscuits”. :-)  They are not quite that hard, but they can be pretty “firm”. 
  This particular batch was made with candied citrus peel in it that Mom and I made recently.  It made the cookies moister and they never did get really hard.
Dark Pfeffernusse
1/2 C. shortening
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 C. molasses
mixture of 3 drops of anise oil and 1 Tbl. hot water

3 1/3 C. flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. white pepper
(Increase spices if you like a stronger taste.)

Mix dry ingredients into wet gradually with hands.  Knead dough until right consistency for molding.  Roll into strips and cut into bite-size pieces with scissors.  Bake on greased baking sheet at 350 degrees about 8 minutes.  If you want them hard allow to sit out till hardened.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Food Safety – Should We Eat Food from China?

There a lot of people concerned about the safety of food produced in the USA.  This is a legitimate concern and something that should be addressed.  However, I would like to suggest that if you are worrying about the level of contaminants and additives in American made foods but are still eating Anything from China and other east Asian countries, you need to re-evaluate your eating habits.

Here’s why:

The Great China Milk Scandal – Milk powder for babies, etc. is tainted with melamine to a toxic level.  At least 269,000 children fall ill from ingesting it.  Some die.  Over 1000 fur animals fed the product die.  Two men were actually executed for producing this milk.  Chinese milk products are pulled from shelves all over the Asia and beyond.  The melamine is also found in eggs.  (Note: This is partly a problem with China’s aversion to breast-feeding.  People do sorry things to their children whenever they refuse to use the natural method of feeding children that God created and intended.)

Bessie or Mama?  Genetically modified cows in China give “human” milk. – OK, this is rather weird.  Some people will find it very revolting.  I kind of “get it” in some ways (not approval!!!) because I’ve read and heard a fair bit about China since my Gramma was born there to missionary parents.  The Chinese have had customs for centuries that seem very strange, even revolting, to Westerners.  While their civilization in some respects was very advanced at an early age – building of cities, gun powder, art, language, etc. – some of their habits and customs have been extremely primitive or vulgar right into the modern era.  I remember reading about things like how they used human dung to fertilize their fields, thus spreading contamination and disease; foot binding; atrocities of various types, etc.

So I read this quote: “In ancient China, only the emperor and the empress could drink human milk throughout their lives, which was believed to be the height of opulence. Why not make that kind of milk more available for ordinary people?”  And, that makes sense in a Chinese sort of way.  Disgusting, but not as shocking as it might seem when viewed in context.

As I mentioned with the melamine contaminated milk, when people reject the methods of life and living that God has ordained in His creation (in this case breastfeeding their children), they run into all kinds of problems and foolishness.  Genetically modifying cows to produce “human” milk will undoubtedly have an unforeseen and undesirable consequence – besides revolting Westerners.

I for one propose not to eat any Chinese dairy products wittingly!  Who knows what might be contained in them.

By the way, we have recently learned that un-homogenized, un-pasteurized cow’s milk, in other words raw cow’s milk, is the closet thing to human milk in nature and the most easily digested by humans.  It contains more pro-biotics and other good-for-you things, and probably retains the protein that they’ve actually reduced in the GMO Chinese cows.  No surprise for the Bible believer.  The land of Canaan was called “a land flowing with milk and honey” no less than 8 times in the scriptures.  (Probably a combination of cow, goat and possibly sheep milk.)

That Nasty Oriental Shrimp/Tilapia Pond, among other things. – (Not recommended to be read while eating.)  Several years ago a friend of our brought a National Geographic magazine to my family’s house to show us the picture of a shrimp pond in China where shrimp for export was grown.  It was an ugly, dark looking cesspool – not a place where you’d want to find your Food.  I think she even mentioned at the time that the Chinese were feeding the shrimp chicken manure as part of the their diet.  If you read this link, from Ghana in Africa, you will find that it’s far worse than that.  Personally, think I’d rather eat partially hydrogenated oil and GMO corn than this stuff!

By the way, I’d like to know how many of you heard of all the health dangers that were addressed by US and EU government agencies that are listed in this article.  I had only heard of a few.

Another look at imported seafood, including other countries besides China. – In relation to this article I would like to mention that I have heard that a certain amount of contamination by certain types of bacteria is normal in food.  The problem is high levels of contamination in these things, and lack of proper cleaning or cooking.  The presence of things like disinfectants, pesticides, animal and insect droppings, additives, and antibiotics is disturbing because they were introduced, on purpose in some cases, from unnatural sources.

The most important quotes to me in this article are:

“Just Wednesday, the agency issued an ‘import alert,’ which is like a hazard warning to its port inspectors to detain shipments from specific companies until tests conducted by the importer indicate that the food meets FDA standards.”

“The loads were seized until the company could supply proof that the shrimp were safe.”

“Obtaining the clean bill of health raised more issues as FDA found the company had been ‘shopping’ for private labs that would and did produce an analysis declaring the shrimp was salmonella-free and safe to sell and consume. The FDA didn't buy it and the shrimp were kept off the market.”

[Emphasis added.]

Hello!?  Are we going to trust the companies and importers who are trying to pawn this filth-polluted food off on us (as the consumer) to test the product and prove that it is safe?  Doesn’t that sound just a bit unlikely?  And, what if the FDA doesn’t catch them at their “lab shopping” shenanigans next time?

Have you ever eaten any shrimp or other seafood that just didn’t taste quite right?  It was kind of tasteless or even had a nasty after or “under” taste?  I really wonder about that now!

And, remember “Less than 2 percent of foreign seafood is even eyeballed, let alone analyzed in a laboratory.”  For the first time in quite a while I actually feel kind of sorry for the FDA.  How can they be expected to deal with the enormity of this problem? 


I think that we, as consumers, can make a difference by what we buy and don’t buy.  This has been proven recently by the fact that more and more companies are removing hydrogenated oils, MSG, and other allergens and additives from their food products.  When all else fails, let’s insist on clean food at the cash register!  This is where the local sellers will feel it and they will be “inspired” to make changes in what they stock!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No Bake Chocolate Caramel Butterscotch Cookies

These are some of my favorite cookies, really they are more candy than cookie. To quote the modern expression, they are “seriously good”. I have liked them for years, but I never was able to make them well – until now! For the first time recently they turned out for me. This is a milestone in my life. :-)
Thus, I would like to dedicate this post to:
- Mom, because she had the recipe first, and could only make them somewhat better than I could.
- my sister who could make them quite well every time.
- my brother, who after tasting my new version of these cookies, declared they were 1/8th of an inch from being as good as cheese cake (high praise from him). He nearly went delirious when I suggested using them as topping on cheese cake.
- my sister in-law who wanted the recipe so she can make these for my brother.
- Sarah P., who never made good biscuits till her 10th wedding anniversary when she finally stopped following the recipe. That memory helped me break out of this recipe and finally get them to turn out, after years of futile efforts that ended in either dry crumbs or gooey “spoon cookies”.
This is the original recipe, which may turn out just fine for you if you have my sister’s touch. :-)
No Bake Caramel Cookies
Combine in sauce pan:
2 C. sugar
3/4 C butter
2/3 C. evaporated milk
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and add:
1 4 oz. pkg. instant butterscotch pudding mix (may be 3.5 oz.)
3 1/2 C. quick-cooking rolled oats
Mix thoroughly. Cool 15 minutes. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined tray.
Makes 5 doz. cookies
This is the way I made them when they finally turned out for me, and the ones which my brother about swooned over. ;-)

No Bake Chocolate Caramel Butterscotch Cookies
3/4 C. of butter
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 3.5 oz. pkg. cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
3 1/2 cups mixed quick-cooking rolled oats, old fashioned rolled oats and unsweetened coconut
2-3 handfuls of bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
Place butter in heavy sauce pan and heat over lowish heat till almost completely melted, stirring often. Add sweetened condensed milk and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat stirring constantly. (This is important as it will start burning quite easily.)
Remove from heat. Add butterscotch pudding mix and stir well. Add oats and coconut and mix well. Allow to cool about 5-8 minutes. Add chocolate chips and stir briefly. Do Not stir them in well or they will completely melt and your cookies will be something a little different – the butterscotch will not be as distinct of a flavor.
Drop on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls. Allow to cool completely before serving. I recommend putting them in the refrigerator or freezer for a while, especially in warm weather.
Store in frig in a sealed container with waxed paper between layers. I put some in the freezer, but I don’t know how they will turn out when thawed. Probably they will be fine.
If you try my version of this recipe please let me know how it turns out for you. I’m hoping this may be a more foolproof method that will turn out well with more consistency, at least for those of us who don’t have the “magic touch”. :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Random Kitchen Shot and Some Thoughts On Using “Treasures”

Here is a random photo of my kitchen.  This was taken a year or two ago.  It’s before I got my new stove, so I know it was before the fall of 2010 anyway! :-)

A little description might be in order.  As you can see I have a dishwasher (praise the Lord), but I still use a drainer as I do some things by hand.  I also use it for drying fresh fruit and vegetables that I wash. 

The dark hole above the sink is not something out of The Time Zone.  Actually, it was a window before the living room was added.  The people who did this left the opening, put a board on the bottom (apparently for serving food into the living room, as it’s quite wide) and removed the glass panes.  The reason it looks so dark in the living room is that the shades and drapes are all shut (probably it was a hot day – we have a surplus of those in Texas).  The light is coming from the window which is across from the sink.

On the counter I see – coffee grounds waiting to go to the mulch pile, breakfast dishes, milk thawing (we buy ours at Costco and freeze what we can’t use right away), the toaster, a “cookie” jar (that’s the old one that now holds garlic), peanut butter, etc.

Using Those Treasures

Notice the little decorative pitcher up on the window ledge.  That is an “heirloom” from my grandmother.  I use it to water my house plants.  Yes!  You can use heirlooms for something useful! :-)  They don’t need to just sit on a shelf and collect dust – making work for you.

One of my grandmothers was especially bad about saving things for “special” occasions.  Unfortunately, those occasions seldom came and she had little opportunity to enjoy actually using her nice things (and some clothes).  I am trying to learn from that that it is OK to use my nice things and not to just keep them shut away or in the china closet for “special” occasions.  Any occasion can be special if you use a cherished and lovely item! :-) 

Take that little pitcher – I use it and I have the added pleasure of seeing it sitting right on the ledge every day.  Otherwise it would probably be stored in some dark corner out of sight!

These plates I probably only ever saw when my grandparents moved and when we cleaned out their house for the last time.  Isn’t that sad?  They are so nice!  My husband and I use them as everyday plates.  They went very nicely with our “eclectic mix” of blue and white dishes. :-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Four Salads

Do you get hungry for salad in the spring?  I do!  I think our bodies want the fresh green lettuce and veggies as part the clearing out process after winter.  That’s my theory, anyway.  But, I know that the fresh fruits and veggies taste extra good in the spring time, especially when you have homegrown lettuce! :-)
Here are four salads that I especially like.  Three are very simple.  If you sometimes forget or struggle to eat fresh fruit, three of these salads might be some help to you.
Blueberry-Melon Salad
This is a summer salad and probably my favorite.  I love the colors and the fresh berries!

As you can see, it only has three ingredients – leafy green lettuce, blueberries and cantaloupe.  I usually serve it with a sweet-sour dressing, honey-lemon is the best.  (I will try to share some dressing recipes later.)
Festive Banana Melon Salad

This salad is quite pretty.  It isn’t much different from the one above.  It has bananas instead of blueberries, and a maraschino cherry is put on top to decorate it.  This, of course, is optional.  (It’s hard to find maraschino cherries here that don’t have high fructose corn syrup in them.)  I serve this with similar dressings as I do the blueberry one.
Another variation of this is to leave out the bananas and add plain cooked chicken breast.  This then becomes a “main dish” salad.

This was an interesting one, but it was actually quite good.  As you can see I sprinkled some toasted sesame over the top of the sweet-sour dressing.  This would be so refreshing on a late winter day, I think! :-)
Chef Salad

This is one to two servings.
This salad is the not-so-easy one.  But, it is almost an entire meal.  All you need to add is some carbohydrate of some sort – bread, chips, biscuits, etc.  How about croutons?
When I make this I layer it.  Lettuce on the bottom.  Next some mixed veggies – cucumbers, carrots, etc.  Then the “julienned” ham slices and the grated cheese.  On that I sprinkled some black pepper.  The tomatoes (cherry or wedges of a larger one) and quartered boiled eggs look decorative around the edges.  Black olives rings would make a nice addition to the top as well.  If you don’t eat ham, try turkey or roast beef deli meat.  It’s good served with a savory dressing – Ranch, bleu cheese, Russian, Italian, Thousand Island, etc.
By the way, with attention to the ingredients these can all be made gluten free.  :-)  Just use a safe dressing and adjust some things in the Chef Salad.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cooked Oatmeal Cake

[After I’d created this post I looked at the calendar and discovered that today is National Cereal Day.  How appropriate is that?! :-) ]
I hate wasting leftovers.  I always feel like I’m throwing away money!  Here’s a great way to use leftover cooked oatmeal.  If you don’t usually have leftovers and would like to make this cake, then make some extra next time! :-)

Cooked Oatmeal Cake

1 1/2 C. cooked oatmeal
1 C. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 stick butter (1/2 C.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1 1/3 C. flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat.  Mix in oatmeal.  Add and mix in soda, cinnamon and flour.  Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.
Mom and I made this together recently with some leftover oatmeal that my husband had cooked.  He’d put in dried cherries, so we reduced to the sugar (to the amount given above) and it came out really well.  We also omitted the cinnamon and put some almond flavoring in instead.  Then at the last minute we added chocolate chips!  It was really good, and not too sweet.  We substituted white whole wheat for part of the flour as well, but I don’t remember the proportions we used.
Anyway, this is a quick and easy cake, a nice way to eat leftover oatmeal, and quite versatile!  Use it for breakfast, for coffee cake, for dessert, tea, lunches, or just for a healthier sweet snack.  Try your own variations too.  As you can see in the picture, the batch I’d made there had raisins or cranberries in the oatmeal.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From My Kitchen Window – Snow from Last Year

Last winter we had some snow here in February.  It lasted more than a day which is very unusual here.  I managed to take some pictures of it from my kitchen window.  I just thought I’d share some with you. :-)

I love to watch snow fall when there is not strong wind with it.  It is so peaceful and restful.  But, I don’t enjoy dealing with slippery roads and long winters, so I’m just as glad to live where we don’t get much. :-)

Here is some of the accumulation on the ground.  Just the right amount. :-)

This picture was obviously not taken out the kitchen window. 

Snow is so beautiful!  Have you ever looked at it close up?  Next time it snows a fine snow where you live take a magnifying glass and dark piece of fabric (a coat, a blanket, a towel, etc.) outside.  (Note, don’t take something from the warmest part of the house or it will take a few minutes for it to cool off enough not to melt the flakes almost instantly.)  Lay the fabric out and allow it to collect some flakes, then look at them through the glass.  They are gorgeous even with out a magnifying glass.  I enjoy photographing them if I can. 

Job 38:22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

(Note: In the context of the passage this is taken from it seems to me that the treasures of the snow and hail are storehouse type treasures.  This is an interesting thought to me.  God uses gold for street paving and treasures (stores up) snow and hail.  We humans sure don’t think like He does!  Isaiah 55:8-9)

That snow “storm” in February 2010 was a good excuse to make hot chocolate at my parents’ house.  My sister-in-law has a dandy machine for this that works really well.  She brought it up and made some for those of us who were home at the time.  You just add milk, chocolate chips and maybe a bit of sweetening depending on how dark your chocolate is.  Turn it on and in a short time you have yummy hot chocolate.

She still had melted snowflakes in her hair when I took this. :-)