Saturday, December 29, 2012

Emergency Candles from the Pantry

It is not news to anyone of us to know that we have been plagued by severe storms across the country leaving thousands without power, for hours, days and even weeks.  It's heart breaking to watch, and scary to think, it could so easily happen to anyone of us.  Here in Branson, we experienced first hand a taste of it with the Leap Day Tornado this past February.  Our community was very blessed in that there was no loss of life, very few injuries, and although quite a bit of property damage, it could have been so much worse.  When the power goes out, the first instinct is to find a source of light.  Lighting candles is a quick short term light source, but candles, even if you have them, burn quickly.

However a trip to the pantry

and a stop at the junk drawer

and you can have an instant, long burning candle.

You will need a can of Crisco and a birthday candle for this instant, long lasting light source.

I prefer the small cans of Crisco to stock in my pantry as I don't use it often (actually hardly ever) and the larger cans, once open will turn rancid after time.  The smaller cans are also perfect for these emergency candles.  Again, you want to have a few small cans in your pantry, unopened.

Remove the plastic lid and inner foil seal. . .

Select one candle from your birthday candle stash

and gently push the candle down into the center of can.  

If you have read other posts about these Crisco candles they tell you to push a candle wick into the can using a skewer.  My thoughts are this, in a power outage who has time to search out their bag of candle wicks (if you even have them)  and then find a skewer?  Everyone has birthday candles in their junk drawer!  They are an easy substitute and instant wick!  If you use the large can of Crisco, substitute an emergency candle for the birthday candle.  (and if you don't have emergency candles on hand, you need to purchase several boxes!  Everyone should have emergency candles and boxes of matches in their pantry.

You will push the candle down, almost flush with the top of the Crisco, 
leaving just the wick and bit of candle protruding

light the candle wick

you will see a bit of birthday candle wax burn then float on the top of the Crisco

as the Crisco burns, it forms a clear puddle around the wick

it's wonderful and it burns smoke free, and odor free! (another reason to be sure to use a new can rather than a can that has been open and sitting in the cupboard for some time 
(however in an emergency use the open can if that is all you have!)

 After 15 minutes of burning, only a quarter size area of the Crisco has melted!  This candle will last for hours and hours!  

Just remember to clearly mark the top of the lid once you have done this to the can - you don't want to find birthday candle bits in your next pie crust..... ha!

I love this idea, and have now purchased small cans of Crisco, packs of birthday candles, and boxes of matches to keep in our emergency supply kits*.

2013 is going to my year of preparing for emergencies.  Watch for more useful tips and great ideas to help you be ready should the need arise.

'til tomorrow,

P. S.  -  Watch for more on stocking your own emergency supply kits in future posts.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mise En Place

MISE EN PLACE  [MEEZ ahn plahs] - this is a French term referring to having all of your ingredients gathered which are necessary to prepare the dish you are creating right up to the point of cooking.

America's Test Kitchen recommends those wonderful little cold medicine cups!

A wonderful friend and Executive Chef I had the pleasure of working with on various projects, used to refer to Mise en place as having your Mess in Place!

Another idea from America's Test Kitchen is to recycle plastic yogurt containers.

And that's exactly what it means - once you select the recipe you will be creating, it is important to gather all of your ingredients.

Need to chop or dice an ingredient for a recipe?
America's Test Kitchen suggests that flat bottomed coffee filters 
are a good mise en place container!

Whatever you use, small ramekins, mise en place bowls or cups, or inventive containers you have on hand, you will definitely discover, having your mess in place will make your cooking experience much more enjoyable, and you will find your prep time shortened considerably.

Another recipe coming tomorrow!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Garden Tuna Casserole

This is not your momma's tuna casserole, no crumbled potatoes chips, no canned mushroom soup and no peas - but lots of fresh veggies and flavor packed in.

12 oz. tuna (canned or packet packed in water)
3 cups uncooked egg noodles (I love the Amish noodles)
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped fresh baby lettuce
2/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 small zucchini, scrubbed and sliced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 medium tomato diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped

Place drained tuna into a large bowl and flake with a fork.  Set aside.  Cook noodles as directed, rinse in hot water and drain well.  Add to bowl of tuna with celery. Gently blend in sour cream, mustard, thyme and salt.  Spoon half of the tuna and noodle mixture into a 2qt buttered casserole.  Layer about 1/2 of the zucchini and chopped spinach.  Add the rest of the tuna and noodle mixture, top with zucchini and spinach.  Top with cheese.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Remove from oven and top with diced tomato and fresh parsley.

2 cans or packets of tuna
egg noodles
sour cream
yellow mustard
fresh thyme
fresh parsley
1 small zucchini
1 small package fresh baby spinach
Monterey Jack cheese - shredded or block to shred yourself
1 medium tomato

cutting board
sharp knife
lg mixing bowl
lg mixing spoon
lg sauce pan
2 qt casserole

Quick and easy, your family is sure to love this new take on an old favorite.

Stop back by and let me know if you enjoyed this as much as my family did!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pizza Porcupine Rounds

These were so popular in the 70's.  Porcupine meatballs, porcupine patties - just mixing hamburger and rice seemed so clever!

When I make patties I like to use a mix of ground beef and ground pork or ground beef and ground turkey.  I simply mix equal portions of both.  For this recipe I will include only ground beef, leaving it to you to mix in your favorite option.  Options include ground pork, ground pork sausage, ground turkey, or ground chicken.

1 can tomato sauce
1 pound ground beef (80/20 or leaner)
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons chopped canned chilies
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes in oil
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp beef bouillon
1 cup boiling water
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese (just about a cup)

Preheat oven to 350.  Reserve to the side 1 cup of tomato sauce.  In a large bowl, mix ground meat, rice, chilies, tomatoes, salt, garlic salt.  Shape mixture into 6 patties about 1/2 thick.  For thicker patties, make four patties.  Place patties in an ungreased  baking pan.  Bake patties uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and drain.  Dissolve beef bouillon in 1 cup of boiling water and stir in the remaining tomato sauce.  Pour mixture over the patties.  Cover baking pan and return to the oven and bake for an additional 35 minutes.

One more time, remove pan from the oven, spoon tomato sauce mixture from the bottom of the pan over the patties.  Cover each pattie with shredded mozzarella and return to the over for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with a hearty romaine salad and crusty french baguette!

From the Pantry:
tomato sauce
ground meat of choice
canned chilies
jar of sundried tomatoes in oil
garlic salt
beef bouillon
shredded mozzarella

Kitchen Tools:
can opener
measuring cup
measuring spoons
sharp knife
mixing bowl
baking pan

Looking forward to tonight's dinner.  This should be yummy!  I'll post more pictures and family comments later this evening!

Please leave a comment and let me know you stopped by.  Take time to check out past posts!  I'm just getting the hang of this blogging thing!

Wishing you a lovely week!


Menu for the Week 2

So here is our next menu for the week, a few additional one pot meals which are a bit easier for me when I get home from work and well that's always a plus.   And I'm busy testing recipes for my cookbook, so who knows what mix we'll have each week!  Good thing my family is willing to try most anything I cook.....

Pizza Porcupine Patties
Romaine Salad

                     I have these Betty Crocker recipe cards from the
                     late 1970's and used them when Jason was young.
                    Going back to them to rework the recipes for some
                     tasty new meals!

Hearty Tuna Casserole
A new twist on an old favorite.  Remember when your Mom thought it was so gourmet to crush potato chips across the top!

Farmgirl Ham and Eggs
Pumpkin Pecan Biscuits
This is not a typical egg dish, can't wait for you to see the pictures!

           I have over 100 cookbooks in my collection and will sit and read
           them like books!  I love to look up recipes in books rather than online!

Meat and Vegetable Medley

Cheesy Vegetable Casserole
Pecan crescents

Wagon Wheel Chili
Waldorf salad
This will be our last time for chili until next Fall, so I'm breaking tradition and not doing my family's favorite, but trying something new!  Hopefully it will become a new favorite!

Red Eye Ham and Biscuit Squares
Remember in Menu 1 we used a Ham Steak?  Well the grocery store had a special and were offering two steaks individually packaged and put together in a mesh bag for only about $1.50 more than a single steak.  So I bought the two, put one in the freezer to use later.  It's later!

Crusty Baked Chicken
Sliced Baked Potatoes

              Round up all your pots and pans - and get ready, its going to be a great week.

Love sharing my kitchen experiments with you....hope you are enjoying them too!  Don't hesitate to leave a comment, and if you are looking for a particular recipe let me know, or if you want me to test a recipe for you and post the pics and how-to's - I'm happy to do it!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Easy Sausage & Cabbage Supper

SATURDAY ST PATRICK’S DAY was so yummy..... we enjoyed my Easy Sausage and Cabbage Supper.  I love meals like this because it's quick and easy prep and one pot cooking!
                          We served our meal with Irish raisin bread - YUM!

This hearty dish was a perfect choice for our St. Patty's Day dinner and its a hearty dish of cabbages wedges, potatoes, carrots, apples and kielbasa sausage.

3 cups water
3 teaspoons beef bouillon (or that fabulous new Knorr Beef Stock)
6 small potatoes cut lengthwise into quarters
1lb whole carrots cut in half and quartered
1/2 head of cabbage cut into four wedges
2 medium apples cored and cut into wedges
1 package polish kielbasa

In a dutch oven or roasting pan bring water to a boil and add bouillon stirring until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Layer potatoes, carrots and cabbage into bouillon, sprinkle with salt.  Place whole kielbasa on top of potatoes DO NOT CUT INTO PIECES.  Add apples and cover.

                            PLEASE NOTE:  the sausage in this photo was cut
                            into servings AFTER I removed it from the oven!

Place into 350 degree oven for approx 45 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

**Keeping kielbasa whole while cooking seals in all of the flavor and moisture - offering an amazing flavor when you cut into servings!

Helpful Cooking Tool - make sure your  dutch oven or roaster fits the portions you are making.  To big and the liquid will evaporate too quickly, to small and the liquid may boil over.

Pantry List:
beef stock or bouillon

Kitchen Tools
sharp knife
dutch oven or roaster

This an easy heart meal for any day of the year - but always a St. Patrick's Day favorite for us!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes with Pork Chops

Scalloped Potatoes with Pork Chops
This hearty meal brings back memories of Sunday dinners when I was young – and from the many comments I’ve received from FB friends, it does the same for them as well!  So by request, here is my recipe:
4 -6 pork chops bone in or boneless
1 quart sliced portabella mushrooms
6 large russet potatoes
1 lg can mushroom soup
3 tablespoons cooking oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoon all-purpose seasoning blend
½ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

I prefer to use a one pot method so I use my large electric frying pan to both brown my chops and then slow cook the dish; however you can use your large cast iron skillet, or a frying pan and baking dish – whichever is your preference.
    In a large heavy skillet add oil and heat over moderate to high heat.  Place pork chops in pan several minutes on each side to brown slightly.  Remove from heat.  Season lightly with a bit of the salt, pepper and seasoning blend.

            Thoroughly scrub potatoes and slice, skins on, into thin slices.  Approximately 1/4” slices.  Toss potatoes with remainder of salt, pepper and seasoning blend.

            Layer sliced potatoes and mushrooms over the top of the chops in the skillet.  Place slices of butter over the top of the potatoes.

    In a bowl add mushroom soup, half and half and Worcestershire sauce and whisk together.  Pour over skillet contents. 

    Cover and place skillet (or baking dish) in 325 degree oven for 1 hour.  Check potatoes for tenderness.  Potatoes should be tender and intact.  Remove cover and continue cooking 15 more minutes.

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes

Serves:      4 - 6

Serve this with seasoned baby sweet peas and homemade applesauce for a truly delicious from the farm meal.

Pantry List
ü  1 quart fresh sliced portabella mushrooms
ü  6 lg russet potatoes
ü  1 lg can mushroom soup
ü  1 pint Half and Half
ü  ½ stick of butter
ü  All purpose seasoning blend
ü  Sea Salt
ü  Black Pepper
ü  Worcestershire Sauce
ü  Cooking oil
ü  4 – 6 lean pork chops

Kitchen Tool List
ü  Cutting board
ü  Slicing knife
ü  Measuring Spoons
ü  Measuring Cups
ü  Large heavy skillet (or frying pan and baking dish)
ü  Lg mixing bowl
ü  Whisk
ü  Large spoon

I hope you enjoy this hearty meal!  Please leave a comment and let me know you were here!

...another recipe post coming soon.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Menu for the Week!

Wow, I am amazed at how easy it is to get out of cooking daily meals.  Too tired so let’s just go get Chinese buffet; oh it’s so late, let’s just go get a burger; I haven’t shopped yet, let’s just stop for a sandwich……and soon, we eat out more than we eat in. 

Not only is that very costly, it’s not always healthy or well-balanced. 

So now I’ve started the Meal Plan, I’ll set up a menu for the upcoming week, create a shopping list to match the menu, and make good use of bulk purchases and leftovers.

So here is this week’s menu and the coordinating shopping list.  You’ll see how I plan to use some of the items in more than one dish.

Oven-baked fried chicken *
Baked sweet potatoes
Southwest Fiesta Corn ¥
Cole Slaw

Pasta with vegetable sauce
Romaine salad

Skillet Chicken Pot Pie *≠¥

Scalloped pork chops and potatoes ≠ and diced ham ó
Baby Peas ¥
Baked apples

Roasted Turkey BLT’s
Homemade potato chips ≠

Chili cheese dogs
French fries

Potato Soup ≠
Ham Biscuits ó

* Chicken- I’ll purchase a package of whole cut chicken and use some for the for oven baked chicken and at the same time, cook off the rest for the skillet pot pie.  In addition, I’ll set at least ½ cup of chicken aside to make chicken-salad for one of Mom’s lunches during the week.

¥  Peas and corn as side dishes and also used in the  Skillet Chicken Pot Pie.  This is also a good time to look in the freezer for other veggies that are approaching expiration and toss them into the pie as well!

ó  Ham steak is used to flavor Scalloped Pork Chops, Potato Soup and to make Ham Biscuits – there is a lot of meat in one ham steak.  I like to trim it up and brown off all of the trim until crispy and use it to flavor other meals, such as the potato soup.  Angle cut enough slices to make your ham biscuits and store safely in the refrigerator for Saturday.  Dice the rest and use ½ in your scalloped potatoes and ½ in your potato soup.

Potatoes are used in Scalloped Pork Chop, Skillet Pot Pie and to make homemade potato chips. Remember, left over scalloped potatoes can also be incorporated into your potato soup!

In these lean times over the past few months, my pantry has become depleted, so I’m adopting the restock plus one shopping plan.  It’s simple plan that allows you to gradually stock your pantry to the point that you could rely on your pantry stock to feed your family for up to a month or more! ….if need be. 

Additionally, this plan keeps you from running out of staples – I hate when I decide to create a dish, and go to the pantry for an ingredient and I’m out!

This is how it works.  You’ll see on the menu for this week is Pasta with Vegetable Sauce.  I’ll purchase the pasta for the dish, one can of tomato sauce, one can of fire roasted tomatoes and one can of tomato paste.  Even if I have these things already in my pantry.  When I get home from the store, I’ll put the purchases away in the pantry, rotating the cans to use the oldest first.  You put your new purchase behind the like item already on the shelf.

Now the plus one…next week when I shop, I will have my list for the menu AND the list of items used from the pantry.  I used one box of pasta so I will replace that box and purchase another.  Restock plus one.  Now you don’t do this with frozen, fresh or refrigerated items, only with your pantry stock.

So let’s review.  You pull a can of tuna (or foil pouch) from the pantry to make tuna salad sandwiches for lunch.  So you add tuna to your restock list and replace the can used, and purchase your plus one to add to the stock!

Same thing goes for condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings.  If you pull a bottle of ketchup from the pantry to use, you will need to replace it, and purchase your plus one.  That way, the next time the ketchup bottle is empty; there are no worries when you go to the pantry to pull one for use!

We’ll talk more about pantry storage in an upcoming blog!

Here’s the shopping list for this week’s menu:

ð       Bacon
ð       Chicken whole cut
ð       Pork chops
ð       Ham steak
ð       Hot dogs
ð       Small whole turkey breast

ð       Bisquick
ð       Corn flakes
ð       Cream of chicken soup
ð       Hot dog chili
ð       Mushroom soup
ð       Pasta
ð       Tomato Sauce
ð       Fire roasted diced tomatoes
ð       Mayo
ð       Ketchup
ð       Cole Slaw Dressing
ð       Caesar Dressing

ð       Frozen baby peas
ð       Frozen sweet corn
ð       Steak fries

ð       Potatoes
ð       3 whole sweet potatoes
ð       Romaine Lettuce
ð       Tomatoes
ð       Cabbage Shred
ð       Apples

ð       Hot dog buns
ð       Sour dough bread

ð       Milk
ð       Pint of cream
ð       Eggs
ð       Colby Jack Cheese
ð       Shred Parmesan

Now this shopping list coordinates to the menu.  I may have a few of these items in my pantry, but since my goal is to restock my pantry, I’ll be purchasing everything on the list so that it will become new stock.

I like to plan a menu that uses leftovers creatively, as my Farmgirl Mister is not crazy about just warming up leftovers for another meal.  If I hide them in an all new dish, well let’s say, what he doesn’t know, he eats! HA!

I do admit, I do buy a portion of prepared items, however right now working full time and other demands on my time, it just proves a bit easier.  As I get my pantry stocked, and refine my weekly menus, you will see less and less prepackaged items and more prepared from scratch alternatives!

So here’s my menu and my shopping list, off to the store I go.  When I get back, I’ll let you know how I did on bulk purchases and sale items – and then post two new recipes for items on this week’s menu!

‘til we chat again,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rich and Rustic Mushroom Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Don’t confuse this wonderful adventure in soup making with the canned condensed version on the grocery shelves….it is not even close.  This is a rich soup with a robust and rustic nutty flavor that can hold its own as the main course of a meal.

·         5 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
·         1 1/2 cups chicken broth
·         1 tablespoon fresh thyme finely chopped (you can use dried if you prefer but it won’t have the same fresh flavor – if using dried herb, adjust to ¼ teaspoon)
·         3 tablespoons butter
·         3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         1/4 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
·         1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
·         1 cup half-and-half
·         1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
·         1 tablespoon sherry
·         Optional 1 teaspoon sour cream for garnish

from the grocery store, you can purchase the standard white button mushrooms, or by selecting another variety you can change the overall flavor of your soup.

I prefer to sauté my mushrooms before beginning the soup making process to bring out more of the rustic nutty flavor.
1.   In a large heavy skillet melt about 1 tablespoon of butter until it just begins to foam and then quickly add your mushrooms.  Sauté mushrooms with fresh thyme until tender and slightly browned - about 8 to 10 minutes. Take care to move your mushrooms gently around the skillet to avoid them breaking apart and losing all of their moisture.

there are several varieties of Thyme, I prefer the broad leaf  for this recipe.

2.   In blender or food processor, blend the mushrooms and the remaining 1½ cups of broth until almost smooth, leaving some chunks. Set aside. (You may puree until smooth if you prefer.  I like to leave some bits of mushroom in mine for texture.)

3.   In a heavy saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, whisk in the flour until smooth. Add the salt, pepper, half and half, Worcestershire, and mushroom puree. Stirring constantly, bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat to low/medium and continue to cook until thickened – about 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Add sherry just before removing from heat.

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves:      6 – 8

Serve this rich soup with a fresh Caesar Salad, crusty bread and a fruit and cheese plate for a delightful winter dinner.

fresh romaine (I use organic hearts of romaine), homemade crusty croutons, and fresh grated Parmesan are key to the start of a great Caesar Salad finish it off with your favorite Caesar dressing.

awesome pantry from

Before beginning any new recipe, check your Pantry to be sure you have all of the ingredients on hand....

Pantry List
ü  1 quart fresh mushrooms
ü  Chicken broth – 1 lg can or 2 small cans
ü  One bunch of fresh thyme
ü  1 pint Half and Half
ü  1 stick of butter
ü  All purpose flour
ü  Sea Salt
ü  Black Pepper
ü  Worcestershire Sauce
ü  Sherry (optional)

    Kitchen Tool List
    ü  Cutting board
    ü  Slicing knife
    ü  Measuring Spoons
    ü  Measuring Cups
    ü  Large heavy skillet
    ü  Spatula
    ü  Blender or Food Processor
    ü  Large heavy sauce pan
    ü  Whisk
    ü  Large spoon
    ü  Soup ladle

      Left over soup is not likely with this tasty recipe, however if there is, consider making homemade scalloped potatoes for tomorrow’s dinner!