Archive for January, 2014

Those Other Three Words

Sliders

So the Hub and I got invited to a Super Bowl party this year and I’m so excited.  Now, it’s not like we’re trolls who never get invited to parties, but this invitation came with three of my favorite words, “Pot Luck Supper.”  Oh…my…gosh, POT LUCK!

Before you nominate me for geek hall of fame, let me just tell you a few things.  First, I was raised on a farm; daughter of a couple of farm kids.  We came from up north where pot lucks and hot dish were as common as snow in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  And I’m Lutheran.  Seriously, it’s like pot lucks were woven into my DNA before birth.  I never stood a chance.

The Hub doesn’t share in my enthusiasm.  He does enjoy cooking, but if it were up to him we’d just stop at the convenience store and grab some chips and salsa on the way there and call it a day.  Not me.  As soon as the invitation is received I’m consulting cook books, checking my computer’s recipe folder, and perusing my old-timey recipe box for just the right dish.  It’s not just willy nilly.  There has to be some thought to my dish.  Who’s the crowd?  What else do I think will be there?  Main dish, dessert, or appetizer?  See, it’s a lot to deal with.

I finally settled on a dish that’s one of my favorites.  It’s kind of an amalgamation of a couple recipes I like, cocktail meatballs crossed with sliders and sloppy joes.  I call it Sweet and Sour Sliders.  I’ve made it a few times with great success.  I’ll pass along the recipe, just in case you need to add a secret weapon to your collection.  Then when you get to hear those three little words, “Pot Luck Supper,” or “Dish to Share,” or even “App to Pass” you’ll be ready.  Party on and GO BRONCOS!

Sweet and Sour Sliders

3 pounds ground beef

1 egg, beaten

½ C fine bread crumbs

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large bowl mix the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste, until combined.  Divide meat into 24 balls.  Put the meatballs on a half sheet pan and flatten gently.  Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes or until they’re as done as you prefer.

 

While burgers are cooking, mix:

1 C ketchup

2 T sugar

1 T vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 T mustard

1 onion sliced very thin

1 green pepper sliced very thin (optional)

Remove burgers from the oven and place in a large Crockpot.  Pour the sauce and onions (green pepper if you’re using) over the top and cover.  Heat on low for several hours before serving on Hawaiian dinner rolls.  Garnish with olives, extra onion, cheese, pickles….

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Beating the Craft out of Winter

driftwood

So I find myself floundering a bit lately.  Maybe it’s some sort of mid-winter funk, but whatever it is I need to snap the heck out of it right now.  I was trying to decide what to write about for this week.  The next thing you know I’m surfing for wool patterns (craft porn) and cruising the Martha Stewart website.  Ugh, I tell ya, I need some focus.  Now.

I think it has something to do with a stunting of my creative outlets.  Since we made our move to a smaller house, I have most of my crafting gear tucked neatly into storage.  We’re only renting this place for a year until we decide where exactly we want to put down the firm roots.  That means there’s no point in unboxing everything and reboxing it months later.  Yes, we are that crazy.  So, one bedroom is used to hold tidy shelves of bins.  Lots and lots of bins.

Meanwhile, back at the dining room table, I find myself kind of pining away for my gear.  There’s some great stuff that would surely pull me out of these winter doldrums; paints and canvas, yarn, and bags and bags of old sheets and wool blankets.  They call to me like an evil temptress.  But as only a dog hears the dog whistle, only I hear their tempting siren song.  Oh yeah, they’re good like that.  The Hub doesn’t get it.  He can’t hear the whistle.

I try to drown the luring call as they beckon me.  I wander from white room to white room in my funk; meh, colorless, empty walls.  I did take some time to look up ‘ways to beat your winter blahs’.  They tell you to do things like get up early and stay hydrated.  Please, if I get any more hydrated I could float down the hall to the storage room.  Maybe I’ll just have to give in.  What harm could one little bin do?

sheet

And for everyone getting ready for the “Big Game” next weekend, here’s a favorite recipe of mine.  The best and easiest Beer Bread ever.  What’s football without food?  Go Broncos!

Rocket’s Beer Bread

12 oz beer (I use light, you can also use soda—ginger ale is very good!)

3 C self-rising flour (or make your own, use 1 C all purpose flour, 1 ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt)

3 T sugar

1 stick butter (use real butter, not oleo, you’ll thank me)

Optional flavorings—I use a tablespoon of chives, some onion and garlic powder, maybe a few red pepper flakes or a smidge of cayenne powder if I’m feeling evil

 

Mix beer, flour, flavorings, and sugar together.  Pour into a 9” X 5” X 3” loaf pan.  Melt the butter and pour it over the top.  The whole stick.  Yes it is a lot.  Yes it is delicious.  Bake at 375° for about 50 minutes.  Cool completely out of the pan on a wire rack. Cut with a very sharp knife, not a serrated/bread knife.  Goes great with dips…if you can wait that long.

FoodSaver® is a Lifesaver

Box

I don’t normally do product endorsements on my blog, because that’s not really my bag.  But I feel it’s necessary to share my feelings about our new FoodSaver® vacuum sealing system.  We are on our second unit, so we have quite a bit of experience with these machines.  We knew our old one was dying, so we had been researching models and watching sales.  This new one is top of the line; what a deal we got!  If you think you don’t want one, here are some compelling thoughts:

  • The company estimates a family of three that buys in bulk and uses a vacuum sealing system saves nearly $2000 annually.
  • If you are a camper, outdoorsman, or hiker you can seal a change of clothes, maps, camera, phone, etc. to take with you.
  • Like nuts but hate the high off-season prices?  Buy them in bulk when they’re cheapest, seal them, and freeze them for up to a year.  That way the oils in them won’t go rancid.  To freshen them up after thawing, pop them in the microwave for a minute or a 350° oven for ten minutes.

Fridge

 

FreezerReally want to save time and money?  Plan a “market day”.  I used to do this when I traveled a lot for work, and it probably saved my sanity…or most of it.

*Work out a rough menu for 2-4 weeks.  It’s not that hard, just think of what you like to eat and how often you want to eat it in that time period.

*Make a master shopping list of things you can buy in advance (most things except stuff like eggs and milk that have short shelf lives) and go shopping.  Buy on sale and in bulk when possible.

*Package things together, seal them, and freeze them.  Put a couple packs of stir-fry veggies together.  Blanche and/or freeze smaller portions of vegetables for side dishes.  Cut up large pieces of meat or separate bulk chops, chicken breasts, ribs, etc. into meal-size portions.  Add a marinade or seasoning if you like, vacuum pack, and freeze.  This is awesome for tossing in the slow cooker before work.

*Cook with the traditional onions, garlic, and peppers a lot?  Clean, chop, vacuum, and freeze them for quick addition to work-night meals.

*And don’t forget about things like soup, spaghetti sauce, or left-over meals.  This is a great way to save money on lunches.  I suggest flash-freezing things firm before vacuum sealing, but that is just me.

*Like to take salads to work?  Portion out a week’s worth, gently vacuum them, and refrigerate until you need them.

*Big smoothie maker?  Package your fruit and other ingredients together before freezing.  Add liquid or yogurt and blend.  Easy peasy.

*After a market day I like to order pizza for dinner.  Why not?  I earned it!

I would love to hear others’ experiences with the FoodSaver® system.  Do you really put it to use or is it an occasional friend?

 

 

 

Eat Your Vegetables!

Chard

It’s the start of a new year and many people have made resolutions for 2014.  Along with quitting smoking, losing weight/eating better is probably right up at the top of the most wanted list.  I did not make any resolutions this year, but last year I made one to eat more vegetables.  So I thought I’d share some tips in case you made a similar resolution this year.

Frittata

  • Frittatas are a great way to start your day with a ton of veg.  Sauté onions, peppers, hash browns, and garlic in a little olive oil in an oven-safe pan.  Wilt in some greens like spinach or kale, top with beaten egg and cheese, and pop in the oven until the egg is set.  Awesome!
  • No time for cooking breakfast?  No problem; smoothies to the rescue.  I buy my produce in bulk (because I am cheap!) and then wash/peel/chop so it’s ready to be bagged and frozen.  Throw whatever you’d like into a baggy—cucumber, melon, banana, berries, greens, whatever!  When the time comes, just put yogurt or a little liquid in the blender (I like almond milk or juice) and empty the baggy.  Move it from chop to mix to blend, no ice needed since the contents were frozen.

 

Broccoli Salad

  • Experiment! Like broccoli and dip or artichoke dip?  How about making it broccoli salad or artichoke pasta bake?  Make a dressing with ¾ C mayo, 2 T vinegar, and 1 ½ T honey and pour it over broccoli mixed with crumbled bacon, green onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, etc.  Even kids will love this.   Chop your artichokes, onions, peppers, and greens like you were making a dip.  Instead, sauté them in a pan, add some cooked pasta, a little wine and some cheese, top with Panko crumbs and bake it until the top is golden.  Veggies and delicious!

Artichoke Bake

  • Think you don’t like Brussels sprouts?  Try this before you give up; slice ‘em up and toast them in a pan with a little olive oil, salt/pepper, and a tablespoon or two of butter.  Cover them and let the steam cook them for about five or ten minutes until fork tender.  They’ll get all toasty brown and the butter does wonderful magic!  Hit them with a little parmesan cheese if you like or add onion and garlic powder while they’re cooking.  Amazing. I promise.

BS W melted cheese

  • Last but not least, never underestimate the power of salsa.  I use the term lightly because it may be salsa, it may be guacamole, or even a chutney.  Whatever you call it, it’s a great (painless!) way to get more veg into your diet.  I like to clean out the fridge for this and use up what’s on hand—onion, peppers, avocado, garlic, mango, cilantro, jalapenos, and a lime.  Chop everything up fairly fine, hit it with a little salt and pepper, the juice from half the lime, and you’re done.  Simple, healthy, and super flavorful.  Great on fish, tacos, wraps, or just with chips.  YUM.

Guac Vegies Chopped

Besides adding greens and extra vegetables to soups, these are my top five ways to get more veg in your diet.  And one last tip, try swapping out Greek yogurt for mayo, sour cream, heavy cream, oil or cream cheese.  It’s one small step that will be easier than a major resolution.  Happy 2014!

Grilled Mahi Mahi with mango salsa and quinoa with Brussels sprouts, green beans, and onion

Grilled Mahi Mahi with mango salsa and quinoa with Brussels sprouts, green beans, and onion

 

Just no Substitute for News

Newspaper

When we were living in Duluth I got my newspaper every day.  I sometimes waited for it, pacing impatiently as the sun was coming up and my coffee cooled down.  But now that we have moved to a small town with no daily paper, I’m kind of in withdrawal.  I know I could get one from nearby Minneapolis or Saint Paul, but I don’t live in the metro and it’s just too “Big City” for me.  So now, I am a documentary junkie.

We don’t have cable/satellite TV, and typically don’t spend much time as viewers.  However, with Netflix and a whole category called Cerebral Documentaries, I’m finding myself in front of the television a little more frequently to fill the educational void.  One of my top five was about the whole pink culture surrounding the breast cancer research industry.  The gist of the story is that only a minute portion of the donations raised go to actual research, the bulk of the money goes to salaries and overhead.  Wow.

If I had to recommend just one, it would have to be American Addict.  This is a ninety minute show that every U.S. citizen should watch.  It is an enlightening look at how big pharmaceutical companies in this country have taken over; yes, the inmates are running the asylum.  They have taken over the majority of funding for the FDA, numerous campaigns, hospitals, and many educational institutions.  In fact, in the 2008 elections, the top two recipients of pharmaceutical company donations (Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) were given over $1.7 million.  Hmm, who’s driving health care?

If you think it’s all a little too “conspiracy theory”, think about it.  People (very attractive and heavily recruited marketers) go to doctors to teach them about new drugs made by their Big Pharma employers.  The doctors prescribe these drugs, making more profit for the company and earning fees for themselves.  Drug companies are repurposing medications to remedy complaints previously unmentioned in their clinical trials or making up new illnesses all together.  Without proper testing and prescribing these medications for such complaints, the doctors are guilty of the illegal process of off-labeling and furthering the pill mill.

My husband jokingly refers to me as The Duchess of Documentaries.  That’s okay, I’m a big girl and I can take it.  I don’t buy it all hook, line, and sinker; however it makes me think.  But I still miss my newspaper.