Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zest----through your life

everything you do---do it with your own spin on it---do it with love ---do it with Zest---

whether it's a casual night at home or an important anniversary of some sort-----plan it---enjoy it---put some Zeal in it!

create what you don't have----don't be afraid to add a little something something---change it up---make it one of a kind---your kind-

keep em guessing---what's she gonna serve this time----

I smile as I recall one of my grandsons saying to me---"on the way over here--we were all guessing what nanny would have----and we all decided---it would be pizza or some weirdo casserole"----

yes sometimes we may disappoint we may not please everyone---but hey----you gotta get in there and try---

so I keep planning and dreaming---of having that once a month Sunday dinner----that occasional Saturday morning family brunch----so many ways to bring people together---

I hope you have enjoyed my theme this year and maybe just maybe I have nudged you into a little more food thought-----cause who knows----if you make it---they just might come!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yellow squash---can't make enough!!!!

there was a time---I would never have even thought of using frozen squash----but thank goodness I tried it----to me---it's a no brainer----so much faster and really less expensive----the thing you have to make sure of is cooking it long enough-----

I add lots of onion and a small amount of water----tons of pepper and a good bit of salt and garlic salt---

you can do the same with canned but you pretty much have to fry it to make it the way we like it---

there is one advantage as far as I'm concerned to using fresh squash---when you slice it and fry it individually---

as much as my mother had served us squash---it wasn't until one night at my friend Susan's house that I discovered this delectable way of preparing yellow squash---

her mother was simply slicing them in maybe quarter inch pieces--coating them with flour and salt and pepper and then frying them in some vegetable oil----I thought they were the best things I had ever had--I have to admit I rarely make them that way as it is a timely process----especially since everyone will want tons of them----

yellow squash make a wonderful casserole too---perfect for a church pot luck or just at home----just cook your squash before hand--adding eggs---milk or cream---butter---your choice of seasonings and sometimes I add cheese----top with seasoned bread crumbs or crackers----


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

eXperience and the eXtras

that's the thing about cooking and entertaining---like with almost everything---experience will make you hopefully better at it---

 although my mother was a wonderful cook---I didn't know hardly anything about cooking when I first got married---you see my mother was not about other people being in her kitchen and any experience I had was due to my sneaking in there when she wasn't home or from one of my grandmothers teaching----I think Robyn has maybe inherited my mom's kitchen thing---we share the cooking but not the kitchen so much!

now when Robyn was little and she was eager to learn---she made some interesting mistakes in recipes----like for instance---in a cornbread thing I make---actually it's pretty much Paula Deen's recipe----anyway---Robyn put in double the sour cream---and now we make it that way---so much better----as with Paula's ooey gooey pumpkin cake--Robyn used double cream cheese---out of this world!!

yes experience will show you what works---what failed completely---and what you might tweak a bit next time-

oh yeah---Robyn just reminded me another eXample of her successful doubling---now she is becoming a really good cook---but for some reason she hates to make any kind of rice----even the minute kind----one night the stir-fry was ready-when I went to take the lid off the rice---it was soup---she eXclaimed--"I think I put double the water"---now I gotta tell ya---that was the best "sticky rice" I think I have ever had---rivaled my grandmother's--


Monday, April 27, 2015

What's for dinner Mom?

like I shared before--my mom cooked big meals just about all of her life----now she wasn't much for entertaining---but she took really good care of my dad and her four children---

I remember some of her dishes just like it was yesterday----like her spaghetti ---the sauce was very thin and runny---it was very good---but until I was grown--I didn't know some people had thick spaghetti sauce--

often on the weekends my mother would make us donuts---using canned biscuits dropped in oil and dipped in powdered sugar

another one of her canned biscuit tricks was the fried ones---I recently fell back on that way of fixing them---when our oven was out for a couple of days----I gotta tell ya---they are fantastic that way---

another breakfast treat was her salt herring and corn cakes---that's when we were allowed to have coffee---well really a little coffee in our milk!

Mother always had a meat or main dish----a starch and at least two vegetables---and of course bread---like I said before---rarely dessert---

there was this pear thing she did----canned half of a pear---served on lettuce---filled with a combo of mayo and cream cheese and topped with a marchisio cherry-

Mom fried almost everything---pork chops ---ham slices---bologna---and of course those biscuits--

but a couple of my fondest memories of Mama and food--were not of her cooking-

she and I loved those canned tamales and would split a can sometimes--

and for some reason I go back to the time she and I stopped at McDonald's and both got a chef salad--they had just started serving them---we thought they were huge and so tasty---

we pulled through the drive-thru and sat in the parking lot eating our salads---I can still see her face as she enjoyed her salad---and saying several times----"these are really good" and they were Mama-

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Variety is not a spice but maybe it should be

how many of us cooks---ponder the question---what can I make for dinner tonight---and what can I have with it---

some of my go-tos are stocking up on sale soups---trying to keep a few different types of pasta---sauces of all kinds-----

I like to have on hand frozen vegetables and canned---canned beans and meats---and lots of packaged rice blends and potato mixes---and don't forget the instant potatoes---so handy in a pinch for so many dishes

it's nice to have some frozen fruit and canned as well

canned gravy can bring a lot of flavor and consistency to many bland meals or of course just as a garnish

like I have shared before---birds eye has some of the most unusual and affordable blends of vegetables---many with pasta or rice and beans----we really love them---

when you are stocking up on salad dressing---be sure and double up on your preferred flavors---as they make great marinates and sauces---I find typically they are much cheaper than a said marinate---

don't be afraid to try frozen shrimp---it can really jazz up your week---just don't cook it too long---it is almost always cooked already anyway---

stir-fry is a beautiful dish and is easily made with lots of frozen blends of your pick of veggies----add meat or not----any Asian sauce will work---my sister got me on to Korean teriyaki sauce---probably my favorite-

so tonight---go for it---try that new side dish you saw online----make your own subs----make it taco night-----whatever you do---spice it up---you know---Variety!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Utilize Utilize

utilize it---in other words use it haha---

we all have so many kitchen gadgets that never get used or are simply put away and forgotten and sometimes rebought!

remember that cheese slicer doohickey ---hmmm get it out and at least pretend to have used it---the next time you have a cheese party-----better yet---pull out that old or new fondue pot---and actually throw a fondue bash----you know they are back in vogue--

don't use your colander much---if it's kinda pretty---and they come in some great new colors----take some of your fruit and display it in it-

got loads of dessert cups or water goblets----go ahead and make a simple dessert---can be as easy as jello pudding or jello itself---just top with candied fruit or nuts and see how fast it goes----

that huge dish aunt Carrie gave you for a wedding present----toss up your pasta with the sauce and make it extra special in your new favorite pasta dish-

have massive amounts of coffee cups and saucers you hardly ever bring down-----serve your dessert in them or put a small plant in one on your window sill----or just have on the sink to hold your rings when you are cooking or washing---

and what about all of those cookie cutters that are clogging up your utensil drawer----next time your grandkids are over make a pizza crust with crescent roll dough and delight them with their own mini favorite shaped pizzas---or better yet---let them do it

and why not use that egg slicer---now who doesn't like their salad topped with symmetrically sliced eggs

so take a fresh look around your kitchen--and think can I use this and in how many ways!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

summer Teas

over the years Robyn and I have hosted several teas ----it started when she was little----I think the first one was a "summer tea" and then it would be other times of the year---it was meant to be an annual event it was more like a every other year thing

I loved preparing for the teas---we searched for the perfect invitations---napkins----cookies---pastries and the goody bags or gifts for our guests----

I learned a lot about teas and especially afternoon teas--which is mostly what we had-----

I think the first tea I gave was to my daughter in law Adrienne --it was a wedding shower tea---at that one--I actually brewed the tea and like custom says---I poured for everyone---making sure to add the sugar cubes and cream before the tea-----and realizing of course that in true form---cream was not to be used---only milk-----making sure to offer lemon as well-

yes I know probably more than I need to know about teas----

funny story-the teas were a place where the girls knew they could dress up as much as they liked or didn't like--but Robyn liked her attire pretty fancy---well this one year---it was one of the summer teas---an especially hot hot day-----well as Robyn opens the door to her first guests--who are dressed in sweet cool sun dresses---Robyn exclaims---"well I guess I'm overdressed!"


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spaghetti---what can't ya do with it?

spaghetti noodles are so versatile ---yes there's the usual way with the tomato sauce or the white sauce or creamy tomato sauce---but there is so much more

I like to use them in pasta salads---sometimes I break them in fours-say if it's my Chinese salad---basically it's pasta---almonds---chicken---celery---Chinese canned noodles and Asian dressing---

once again--I like to fry my spaghetti---using leftover pasta---adding peas or other vegetables---and chicken stock---oh and a bit of heavy cream---great side or main dish-

they are great in soups and stews----also break them several times for best results-

frittatas are super with spaghetti as the base--again adding whatever you like to your eggs---I really enjoy tomato and green pepper---and some cheese is nice too-

you can make a wonderful tuna casserole using spaghetti noodles---just add a cream soup---canned mushrooms and onion---top it with buttered bread crumbs sprinkled with tarragon-

but probably my favorite way to use spaghetti is in my baked spaghetti----make sure you don't cook it too long first----add your best sauce----with or without meat----lots of cheeses---I like to use a blend of Italian cheese----cream cheese and ricotta-----topping it with cheddar cheese----to finish it off I add to the very top during the last ten minutes or so---either green pepper and onion or black olives and fresh tomato---always a great night's meal---


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

a Rose by any other name

remember I told you my blog would be about food and entertaining---what more important time in your life will your special touches and ideas be on display than your wedding---

as many of you know---my daughter robyn got married a couple of years ago----

she and I had so much fun thinking dreaming and planning the special day----

together we made the bows for the church----the centerpieces for the reception tables and the brides-bridesmaids -groomsmen--and special guests  flowers-----

not only can you save so much money with artificial flowers but you have so many choices and colors----yes I too love real flowers---but if you are on a budget---you can make a huge difference in this area----

twice I have tried to start a wedding business---actually robyn and I still have one but business is very slow-----

and I always tell brides -if you are looking at what to cut----I would go with some real flowers and mostly artificial----and forget about the wedding program-----and contrary to most wedding planners--I say---don't scrimp on the extras for your guest---such as favors and dessert tables----yes the day is yours but remember--you have invited people---they are there to share this day with you but they should be treated like royalty---

Monday, April 20, 2015

our real men love Quiche!

quiche is well loved in our house-----and it's something a little different and pretty good for you too

I like to serve it for luncheons or brunches with the family but sometimes we have it for dinner---

if I am in a hurry--I will use egg beaters---I can tell no difference---but I can hear you---some of you can tell it and hate them----but remember I am all about easy peasy---

I most of the time will make two for us---one could have tomato and parmesan cheese and the other maybe spinach and bacon----that's the beauty of quiche---you can add so many options and it still turns out great----

once again a salad goes perfect with quiche and I think a bright bowl of fruit adds a special touch---

so go ahead and try quiche again----bet ya can't eat just one piece!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Potato ham bake----mmmmm

I like to use easy stuff a bit---if you haven't figured that out by now!

one of those easy things is boxed potatoes--you know--like scalloped and au gratin---

I like trying new ways to improve on them---although they are very tasty cooked as directed--

sometimes I like to put asparagus in them or those canned french fried onions-

I also think tomato bits and extra cheese are a good change up-

but I believe my family enjoys my potato ham bake the best---

I use 3-4 boxes of either flavor potatoes----adding a large can of ham----frozen peas and lots of cheese---maybe even two bags---one mixed in and one on top

we like sharp cheddar and I also try and use a steamer bag of peas---cooking them some before putting them into the dish

I have also substituted canned green beans for the peas and that too was nice--

just add a simple green salad and rolls---hope you try it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Orange trifle so simple so yummy

I like making trifles---they are so very easy and adaptable----but one of my best ones has got to be the Orange trifle-----

make a yellow batter boxed cake----you could use a pound cake you buy but I don't think it would be quite as good---
make two boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix--
you will need two containers of cool whip or your own whipped cream-
one large can of mandarin orange slices---keep the juice!

cube your cake---layering cake-then some of the orange juices---pudding--cool whip and so on---topping with the orange slices----it is addicting

if you don't have a trifle dish---you could use a pretty glass dish or bowl---but then go get a trifle dish--they aren't expensive and they can also make a lovely way to display your salads-

I served this once at a tea and it was easily the win of the day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

chicken Nuggets

now I know I have already shared quite a bit about chicken but although the frozen chicken nuggets are one of my grandchildren's favorites---I wanted to share a few of my chicken "golden" Nuggets---

I don't really call this anything but you take chicken any pieces and brown them in some oil and onions---adding close to cook time---diced tomatoes-black olives- and artichoke hearts--

I find that a canned chicken works really well for chicken salad---in other salads---in pasta dishes and I just about always use it in my enchiladas ---oh and I almost forgot---I use it in my homemade Brunswick stew-

grilling chicken is great---I think it works best when you cook it most of the way in the oven and transfer to the grill just in time for some wonderful grill marks and flavor-

plain old baked chicken becomes a delicacy when cooked with dried oregano-tarragon or rosemary--

and who doesn't love chicken and dumplings---cook your chicken pieces until falling off the bone---adding lots of celery and seasonings of your choice----when it's ready just top the liquid with canned biscuits--pushing them down a bit and turning---you don't even have to remove the chicken first-

want some nachos but no time for ground beef----just use your canned chicken--shredding well and add extra seasonings -

and what if you don't have time to make anything---pick up your favorite store's fried chicken---put it on a pan--sprinkle it with a little water---covering with tin foil---heat for twenty minutes or so and you will think your grandmother had made it--

oh and one last chicken Nugget---you know those rotisserie  chickens-I keep talking about---when I buy one- as soon as I get home--I take it out of the wrappings---wrap it in lots of foil---and let it stay in the oven until dinner time----depending on when I put it in---anywhere from warm to 300----when you go to serve it--it won't have any of that pink color or rubbery taste---and I don't even slice it---I just pull it off the bone---perfect

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

got the Munchies

munchies are something you don't miss until there are none!!

I know in our house---if there is no yogurt or corn chips and salsa---then there is no food in the house!

I remember when I was a child--we had cookies almost always in the house--but there wasn't much snacking---there was ice-cream quite often but mom didn't make dessert very much and I don't recall just sitting eating chips when I wanted---as a matter of fact---you didn't just go in the kitchen and get something to eat----but she made a full course meal every night and when I took my lunch to school I could always count on chips and hostess cupcakes or twinkies-

you know I can always bet if someone drops by--I won't have a thing in the house to offer them---but I can go for weeks with cookies cakes and pizza rolls in the freezer and no one darkens my door haha!

hey you know what I once tried to keep in the house---a box of those pepperidge farm select cookies--yes they were there waiting for the perfect uninvited quest to show up and be very impressed by them---only problem---they kept getting eaten by someone--okay me---

popcorn is always a safe choice----and who doesn't enjoy those frozen bagel bites

and let's all promise to keep a couple of semi good cheeses around and one or two boxes of cute crackers---they will do in a pinch

so muncher or not---you need to be prepared for those of us who are always hungry!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Leftovers---you mean there's leftovers?

yes once in a while we have leftovers and sometimes I plan it that way---

like for instance I will pick up a rotisserie chicken- a large one and plan to cut up the rest the next night for let's say stir-fry---

or I might use the leftover rice from the stir-fry and make it a delicious side dish for the third night---adding butter and fresh herbs---it will go nicely with pork chops and cabbage---

some nights we have two or three different vegetables---as we try and load up on those instead of the starchier dishes----so the next night I make homemade soup---adding some chicken broth or tomato juice and canned beans----goes great with grilled cheese sandwiches

if it's warm weather I like to take a rotisserie chicken and make chicken salad and the next night a hearty chicken cold salad with greens and boiled eggs-

when I make cornbread--I usually make a double batch-----taking the extra the next night and crumbling it over a barbecue casserole---just mix with tomatoes and corn-

and speaking of leftovers---whenever you have a big event or party----make sure to have an ample supply of leftover dishes so your friends and family can take some of their favorites home to enjoy the next day or even later that night----

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ketchup--it's not just a fry thing

okay more ketchup-yes please

I know I am out of luck if I don't have ketchup around when the grandkids are over having a pizza night---several of them wouldn't have it any other way than a big mound of tangy sweet ketchup on the side for dipping of course!

but wow it's a versatile little item---

you probably already use it in your meatloaf and on top----

it can really boost up your baked beans and is great for topping your best mac and cheese---

I love having it on scrambled eggs or hash browns---let's face it- it's great on any taters!

and I bet you know you can make your own thousand island dressing with it--just add relish and mayo and some like a taste of hot sauce

don't have any soup in the house and someone just has to have some good old tomato soup---I kid you not----add as much as you desire to milk---a tsp or so of mustard and I like to add Italian seasoning to mine-

add about a half of cup to some jiffy cornbread mix----surprisingly good

I add it to my chili also--especially if I don't have tomato paste on hand

what is your favorite ketchup trick---come on--I won't tell anyone


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Juice and Jellies and Jams oh my!

you may be surprised what a little juice or jam can do for some of your favorite dishes---

whether it's grape jelly or jam in your favorite meatballs---or a little orange juice or drink in your famous chili---they can add a depth of flavor that many can't detect but know something's good and different!

try adding just a splash of apple juice or cider to your mixed greens----or mix it with some apple cider vinegar and a touch of oil for your tossed green salad

dress up an impromptu brunch with your take on some virgin cocktails----fruit punch with ginger ale is super festive and you can't go wrong with orange juice with club soda--or better yet tomato juice with a bit of lime!
oh and lest I forget---my best punch is made with pineapple juice and lemon lime drink

love fried chicken---you may make this dish your new best friend--I got it from my friend Mary's mother years ago--coat chicken with apricot preserves-red Russian dressing--and lipton dry onion soup mix---it's out of this world---

serve your pork chops with some apple jelly---and ever had strawberry jam mixed with Italian dressing--great for a beef marinade

keep apple butter on hand for a wonderful addition to oatmeals---pancakes and just on some good ole biscuits--

this list could go on and on---whatever you're making---stop and think---could this use a little juice jelly or jam----hmmmmm maybe!


Friday, April 10, 2015

ice cream---and cake

I have always loved the idea of an ice cream social or just adding an ice cream bar to a party--

I remember my friend Sharon having us over for a Sunday afternoon ice cream social---it helps that she lives in a huge Victorian style house with a massive front porch---it was something out of a magazine----she had every topping imaginable and a beautiful sunny day too---

a couple of birthdays ago I decided to have an ice cream party with Frank's birthday celebration----yeah I didn't go fancy with the ice cream display but we sure had fun assembling the sundaes to everyone's liking-

best of all--my son Colin helped the kids get the ice cream out---that's the worst job----

one thing I learned---the fruit toppings could have been omitted and more gummy bears and worms would have been devoured----

next time I am gonna get way cuter bowls--