Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cleaning the Pantry

I tackled cleaning the pantry today. Fortunately, since school is out I had Landon here to help me. What a chore. It was a job long overdue. We tried pulling everything out a shelf at a time, then reorganizing and putting everything back. Here's what the hallway looked like after we had pulled out some of it.

I have my cleaning supplies and my paper goods along with food staples in my pantry. I also have room for those extra kitchen appliances that are not needed on a daily basis. We had a lot of stuff to move around. Landon was so much help. He wanted to do all the lifting because he says that work like lifting "puts hair on your chest". I was glad to let him be in charge of that. No chest hair for me, thanks.

Landon put all the canned goods into "families" for me. He liked the really big families that he found, like the 16 cans of cream of mushroom soup. I won't need to add that to my shopping list for a while.


 Landon organized all the shelves.

These shelves look so much better. I should have taken a "before" picture.

I can actually see what's in here now.

The vacuum, broom, and mops are in their designated corner so I don't trip over them.

 The potatoes have their space.


And we made one huge bag of garbage.


Having Landon's help made this chore a lot of fun. He's a hard worker, and we finished the job faster than I could have done it alone. Thanks, Landon, for a job well done.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cornbread

Cornbread is a staple of Southern quick breads, and it's a favorite at my house. I've made cornbread for years, but only in the last couple of years have I become confident that my cornbread will be perfect every time. You can use a great recipe and still have a failure with your cornbread if you don't bake it in a properly prepared pan.



I learned this little secret from my brother-in-law Henry, and I haven't had a failure since. I watched him make cornbread some time ago, and he took the skillet out of the oven, flipped it over and the cornbread popped out pretty as you please. He showed me how the iron skillet needs to be prepared so that this will happen every time. Before this, I sometimes had trouble with mine sticking to the pan in places, and ruining the appearance of the bread. Now I'm sure that I always start with a seasoned iron skillet. Looking back, I now know that I was washing my skillet too much and not re-seasoning it, so the cornbread wouldn't release from the pan when it was baked. Seasoning an iron skillet just takes a little canola oil and about 2 hours in a 250 degree oven.

Now that we have our iron skillet seasoned, let's bake some great Southern cornbread.


A seasoned iron skillet will not look dry, it will be a shiny black. This is a 10 inch skillet that I will be using for this recipe.

Cornbread

1/4 cup oil or shortening
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups self-rising yellow corn meal mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Before you mix any of the ingredients together, start by placing 1/4 cup oil or shortening in the seasoned iron skillet.


Place the skillet in the hot oven. We'll leave it in the oven while we mix up the batter.

We'll start with the eggs.


In a medium bowl, slightly beat 2 eggs.


Then add 1 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups corn meal mix, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix with the eggs until combined.

Now this next part needs to be done with caution. The iron skillet has been in the oven all this time at 450 degrees. It is HOT! We need to remove it from the oven, so be sure to use a protective mitt.


Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and pour the hot oil from the skillet into the cornbread batter. Quickly stir the oil into the batter.




Now the batter is ready to go into the skillet. The skillet is already greased and ready after having the oil heated in it.



 Pour the batter in and spread it to the edges.





Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.




Now just flip the skillet over and the cornbread will slide right out with no effort at all.



The seasoned skillet releases the bread every time.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Blueberry Hawaiian Muffins

There's probably no one who likes blueberries more than I do, except maybe for my grandson Charlie. I like them fresh or any way they are prepared. The recipe that I am making today is originally from EatingWell, but it is also one that I included in my own collection of recipes called Blueberry Bistro.



I have been collecting all kinds of blueberry recipes, and had them printed as a cookbook as a fund raiser for the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation. The cookbooks sold quickly and the fundraiser was a success.



I put this book together last year, but that doesn't mean that I am finished collecting blueberry recipes. I'll always try a new blueberry recipe. If you have a good one, send it my way, please.


Blueberry Hawaiian Muffins
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
2 T. plus 3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
2 T. plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
5 T. chopped macadamia nuts, divided
2 T. canola oil, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 cup non-fat buttermilk
2 T. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. coconut or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a standard muffin pan with non stick cooking spray. Notice that several ingredients in this recipe have a divided use. That's because we will be making a topping for the muffins as the first step with part of the ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine coconut (The recipe calls for unsweetened, but I used sweetened. Some things just aren't available at my local grocery store.), 2 T. flour, 2 T. brown sugar, and 2 T. macadamia nuts.

Drizzle with 1 T. oil; stir to combine, set aside. This mixture will be used for the topping.


Next, mix the dry ingredients for the muffins.


In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.


In another bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the remaining 1 T. oil, egg, egg white, buttermilk, melted butter and coconut extract (or vanilla extract) until well combined.


Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just combined.



Fold in the blueberries and the remaining 3 T. macadamia nuts, stir just to combine.


Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.

Sprinkle with the reserved coconut topping and gently press into the batter.


Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes. or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.


Then remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack at least 5 more minutes before serving. Makes 12 muffins.



These are not your typical blueberry muffins. They have a lot going on - first of all the macadamia nuts and coconut give them a unique taste and crunch, and the whole wheat flour and brown sugar just add a little yummy denseness to the muffin. These muffins will give you a little tropical vacation to enjoy for breakfast.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tomatoes and Blueberries

This spring two of my "gardening" projects include tomatoes and blueberries. I have grown tomatoes before, but this is my first time to try blueberries. Our spring weather was mostly rainy and cold, so nothing got off to a quick start. The weather has been stormy lately, but at least we have seen a number of sunny days in between the rains. Three weeks ago my tomatoes looked like this.

Puny. Yellow. Sickly. Weak. Barely hanging on.

But the sun, the rain, and a little Miracle-Gro have been nothing short of . . .  miraculous. Today the tomatoes look like this.


They have more than tripled their size.

They have blooms.

They have tomatoes.

Nice big tomatoes. The plant variety that I planted is called "Goliath".  The tag says that its fruit size is from 10 - 16 ounces. Sounds good to me.

My blueberries are also doing well. Since this is the first time I have grown them, I didn't know if they would even produce any blueberries this season. My plants are potted and look like little shrubs. Three weeks ago this was one of my blueberry plants.

It was green and leafed out. The cool weather didn't seem to bother it too much.

This is the same blueberry bush today. A little taller and bushier. The biggest difference though is the blueberries.

They are looking so good. None of them have started to change color yet. I'm guessing it will be another month before they will be ripe, but I don't know much about it. They could be ripe tomorrow. I'll just keep watching.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole

My family likes this cheesy casserole better than regular spaghetti. The double layering of the spaghetti, meat sauce, and three kinds of cheese in this casserole makes it really good. This is a dish that my grandson Landon especially likes. He was at my house on Friday when I made it, so he helped me put it all together.





Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole    

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 oz.) mushrooms, drained
8 oz. American cheese
8 oz. Swiss cheese
8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with non stick cooking spray.




Brown 1 1/2 pounds ground beef on medium high heat.

Chop 1/2 onion and mince 2 cloves garlic.


 Add onion and garlic to ground beef and continue to cook until meat is browned.


Drain any grease from the ground beef.



Add salt and pepper, oregano, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and drained mushrooms to cooked ground beef.


Simmer sauce for 20 to 30 minutes.



While sauce simmers, cook 8 oz. spaghetti in a large pot according to package directions.



When spaghetti is done, drain in a colander.



This recipe needs three different cheeses, 8 ounces each of Swiss, American, and mozzarella.


The sauce is cooked, the spaghetti is cooked and drained. Now everything is ready to be put together.



Place half of the cooked spaghetti in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray. Spread half of the meat sauce over the spaghetti.

Next, layer half of each of the three kinds of cheese over the meat sauce. Landon is doing the layering here.


Repeat all the layers. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.



This makes a really large casserole, so you may want to invite someone over.




This Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole is great served with a salad and bread.