Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ten Hearty Meals for the price of ONE!

I believe I've said this before; I love to cook! I have no children at home anymore. Thus, cooking for one can be a bit of a challenge. Buying for one at any grocery store is impossible! The smallest package of almost anything feeds at least four. Last but not least, to get the best prices, you have to buy in bulk. I couldn't cook for one without generating a lot of wasted food--so I stopped doing it.

I cook for 10 or 12 instead; eat one, and freeze the rest in individual meal containers. Tonight's menu: country style pork steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans times ten. The cubed pork steak was the deal of the week at the store, $1.98 per lb. The total cost of the ten meals was under $15...or about the price of one conservative dinner out.

Country Style Steak recipe:

4 lb. cubed steak (pork or beef)
1 Can Beef Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
TBSP Kitchen Bouquet
Flour for dredging
Oil for frying

Salt and pepper steak pieces on both sides. Dredge in flour and fry steak in small batches until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour grease off the frying pan through a strainer to save the browned bits. Add browned bits back to pan. Turn heat to high and add can of beef broth and a can of water. Bring to a rolling boil. Transfer the meat to a dutch oven or stock pot and pour the boiling pan drippings over. Add Kitchen Bouquet and just enough water to cover the meat. Simmer on low until steak is fork tender and gravy has thickened. Prepare mashed potatoes and green beans while the steak is cooking. Tonight I'll freeze them with the lids on the containers. Tomorrow, I will remove the lids and pack them in gallon vacuum ziplocks. Where can you get a good home-cooked meal for a buck- fifty a plate and 3 minutes in a microwave?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Do you see anything wrong with this picture that a 50K kitchen
renovation couldn't cure? I don't either, and I really really would LOVE a new kitchen. It's on the dream board, but I've not won the lotto yet. That's not what I meant anyway. This kitchen is too clean. It looks like food could happen here, but nothing is...yet. I'm going to trash it and FINALLY, yes FINALLY!, make CHICKEN PIE!

We need pie crust! You can get it at the store, or you can do like me, make your own from scratch. It's really not that hard to do with a foolproof recipe. I happen to have access to one of those. You'll find it on Suzanne McMinn's blog, Chickens in the Road, at Suzanne is a romance writer and she lives on a farm in the hills of West Virginia. Check out her Foolproof Pie Crust recipe, and don't turn your nose up that it has vinegar in it. Vinegar is the "foolproof" secret and you'll never taste it once it's baked. Once you get your dough into a ball like this, it must be wrapped in plastic and put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before you attempt to roll it out. Did I mention that I make little pies and freeze them? I'm an empty-nester, so making a whole pie would be a lot of waste. I make them in small individual sized cake pans. The batch makes a dozen small pies, or three regular sized pies.

You can put vegetables in the pies if you like, I just prefer my vegetables on the side. Usually the night before pie-making I rotisserie two chickens and take the meat from the bones.

Filling Recipe:

Meat from two cooked chickens, chopped
2 Cans Chicken Broth (or homemade stock)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Cup whole milk (I use half and half)
2 TBSP Flour
2 TBSP butter
1/2 Knorr Chicken Bouillon cube
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp crushed rosemary

In a large stockpot, melt the butter and make a roux with the flour. Do not brown the roux. Once the flour is dissolved in the butter add the chicken broth, soup, milk and bouillon. Simmer until smooth and thickened, add cooked chicken and seasonings. Keep in mind that the broth (if you used canned) and the bouillon have lots of sodium in them. Taste before you add salt. Otherwise, you may get it too salty!

Here we go, finished pies ready for the freezer, with a ball of pie crust left over. I freeze them solid on the cookie sheet first, and then package them in ziplock freezer bags. They're so handy to have around and so good!

As you can see, a couple of these didn't make it to the freezer!
After craving chicken pie for weeks now, I just couldn't freeze them all. Yum!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eat Your Heart Out Paula Deen Chocolate Mousse Cake

Don't get me wrong. I love Paula Deen. Everything about her makes her a hero to me. She's a home-town Georgia girl success story, and I've only had one of her recipes to bomb on me. That would be the one pictured on this cover, her (more likely her magazine's) version of the "Chocolate Mousse Cake." The picture alone would sell magazines, but I didn't like the recipe. To be fair, perhaps I just don't like bitter devil's food cake. That's the base of the recipe. Neither the texture nor the taste was pleasing to me. Sorry, Paula, but I dumped the whole thing in the trash. The picture was a visual my mind would not let go of. Someday, I thought, I'll make that cake MY way...and just filed it away for future reference. I think I unconsciously gathered ingredients if you want to know the truth.

How else could it be that when Gail (whom I'd hired to help redeem me from housewreck hell) wanted "something sweet" I had 3 bars of German chocolate holed up in the cabinet? "You cook," she said, "I'll clean."

What a deal! Thus, "(Eat Your Heart Out Paula Deen) Chocolate Mousse Cake" was born on the fly. It's my original adaptation that has never before been published, and I'm going to share it now with my readers.

For the layer cake:
From inside the box of Baker's German Chocolate, prepare the traditional German Chocolate Cake recipe according to package directions.

For the Mousse:
1 packet of Knox unflavored gelatin dissolved in a TBSP of very warm water. Cool to room temp.
1 pint whipping cream
1 box instant chocolate fudge pudding
1/4 to 1/3 C sugar (to your taste)

Add cream to mixing bowl and start to whip at a medium-low speed. Add gelatin and sugar while whipping, then gradually add the chocolate pudding continuing to whip until it sets up in a nice mousse texture. This makes an impressive mousse to be so easy, AND there's no raw egg worry.

For the chocolate frosting:
Prepare the traditional cooked coconut/pecan frosting (also inside the box of German chocolate)...but leave out the coconut and pecans. We're going for pure chocolate decadence here. As soon as it comes off the 12 minute cook on the stovetop, add a full bar of German chocolate and stir until melted. Cool.

Assemble the layers with the chocolate mousse between the layers and the frosting over the outside. Decorate the top with chocolate curls from the third bar of German chocolate.

To make chocolate curls: Microwave the chocolate at 5-second intervals. About two 5-second turns in the nuker makes it just right. Draw a vegetable peeler down the length of the chocolate bar and heavenly curls roll right up just like magic. (In the magazine are detailed instructions for making chocolate curls.)

Enjoy! Trust's wonderful even if I do say so myself. :)

How a day turns to.......

You’re always on your way somewhere. The key is: find a way to be happy wherever you now are on your way to where you really want to be. (We’re speaking of the state of being you want.) It does not matter where you are; where you are is shifting constantly—but you must turn your attention to where you want to go. And that’s the difference between making the best of something and making the worst of something.

Excerpted from a workshop in Detroit, MI on Saturday, September 27th, 2003

Our Love,
Jerry and Esther

Visit Us Online | Modify Details ©1997-2008 Abraham-Hicks Publications.

(I managed to truncate the message above and it made no sense. Here is the complete text of the quote:)

"Your're always on your way somewhere. The key is: Find a way to be happy wherever you are on your way to where you really want to be. (We're speaking of the state of being you want.)

It does not matter where you are; where you are is shifting constantly--but you must turn your attention to where you want to go. And that's the difference between making the best of something and making the worst of something."


It's a bit coincidental that this message turned up in my "thought for the day" email this morning. It's a day late. I should have had this to reflect on yesterday morning and my day may have gone better. The short sentence is simply: I let a series of little things get to me yesterday morning. Later in the day when asked how I was doing with the grief thing, I had a major meltdown. Before I hardly knew what was happening, I was crying and couldn't stop.
The end result of my day was exactly the opposite of what I'd planned. I'd gone to see my elderly aunts (each 92 years young!) to give them a fun and exciting day...and they were consoling ME!

"FrogFriend" Gail and I intended to push their wheelchairs all over downtown Charlotte, feed them a nice lunch and return them home tired and ready for bed right after the evening meal.
Those old girls were up, bathed, dressed and waiting on us before 8 AM. It was not to be.

Gail had to go a different direction. Her brother had a massive heart attack and she had to go to Mercy Hospital instead. My heart and my thoughts are with her. This morning's news is that there is nothing they can do for him and it's "just a matter of time." That event, and knowing what my friend may be experiencing in the next days, brought my own grief to the surface and it went downhill from there.

The series of needling events was just that...little aggravations that, on a good day, would get no more than an exasperated sigh out of me before I continued on with the program. When I went to make my morning coffee, I noticed that the kitchen and den smelled like dog pee! Thank you little rescue babies for these "presents." No problem, I'd get the mop water ready and mop/disinfect my way out the door. (You have to admit, I gave keeping the GOOD attitude the old college try!)

When I got the call to go pick up the rescues, I was in the middle of making chicken pies for the freezer. I had the filling and the pie crust made, but no assembly had taken place yet. I put it all the fridge and jumped in the van to pick up the three whizzers. The next night was another van trip to meet their transport. Chicken pie foiled again, so I moved the bag of filling to the freezer. While mopping floors I thought, well...maybe this is chicken pie day at the old folks since our other plans didn't work out. Good idea. I grabbed the bag and the pie crust and we were good to go.

Except that as soon as I'd mopped and disinfected pee out of my house, the first thing I smelled when I got in the van...pee. One (or more) of those boys had nailed my upholstery in transport. This, I didn't have time to clean with my favorite old ladies waiting on me. They think you've had an accident if you're a little late. (The odor was really great too after mellowing in the sun for a day or two.) I drove the next hour to their house with all this, shall we say, "negative aroma-therapy" pummelling my senses. In their driveway, I was never so grateful to get out of that van and slam the door!

Inside the house, I was attempting to lessen their disappointment from the nixed outing by feeding them my world-famous chicken pie. That was not to be either. In my haste to get on my way...the "bag" I'd pulled from the freezer was NOT my chicken pie filling. It was the BONES I'd frozen for stock later. (Thank you Emeril, I will probably never freeze another chicken bone. Do you have any idea what I'd like to do with these chicken bones about now ? Here's a tip for ya. Don't bend over in front of me any time soon, now y'heah?)

My Aunt Ruth, aka "Meemaw" could see I was stressing over another foiled chicken pie attempt, and tried to change the subject. She asked how I was doing emotionally over Angie, and I had one of the worst breakdowns I've had since the funeral. The waterworks was on full blast for awhile. My apologies to my lovely sweet old aunts. I sure failed my mission of making their day better yesterday. I just made them worry about me instead.

Today began much better. I had the leisure of my morning meditations and I'm reaching for the better thoughts. There's still the negative aspect of that van though. I think the best way to deal with that is throw both sliding doors and the hatch open for a couple hours before I go near it! :)

Today, I'm back on track. I'm choosing the better way.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three new Pug rescues all at once!

Three new rescues all at once! They're making themselves right at home, all breathing like a fireplace bellows. You'd think the excitement would wear off in a couple hours. They're still panting.

Our organization has been inundated with rescues this year. I heard someone say we may be approaching the 300 mark before year end.
These guys are young, only a couple years old. It's almost impossible to take a good picture of a black dog, but this fella is really a cutie.