Thursday, July 28, 2016

Green Beans and New Potatoes

This time of year is the perfect time to cook up a big pot of fresh green beans. You don't want to can all of them and then wait to enjoy the bounty from your garden! The other day I had just finished packing the last 13 quarts of beans for the year. I could have filled several more jars but I thought, "What's the point in not cooking some for Momma's Supper Night?" An elderly neighbor up the road who likes to drop in to sit in the shade and visit with Andy had just dropped off a bag with goodies from his garden. Inside I found some new red potatoes and I knew what would be on the menu. I cooked a roast in the crock pot and served green beans with new potatoes, fresh squash and sliced tomatoes out of the garden. Talk about a feast! Needless to say, we all enjoyed it tremendously and sent Momma home with enough for lunch the next day.

I followed the normal steps I take when fixing fresh picked green beans. First you snap the end off and break them in half, some in thirds. As you are breaking them, check to make sure you don't have to pull a string. Wash and rinse the beans.
 
Put the beans in a big pot with enough space (3" or so over the top of the beans). I'd rather use a too big pot than one where you don't have ample "boiling space." 
 
Since I didn't have a big ham bone to cook with them like I normally fix fresh green beans, I dug in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator and pulled out my trusty old jar of bacon grease. Drop a very healthy spoonful (and I'm not talking about a teaspoon!) into the beans. Cover with water. To start with, add 4 teaspoons of salt. You can add more, but I think it could make them too salty. I always taste a bean after they've been cooking for an hour and see if they need additional seasoning. 

Bring the beans to a nice, slow boil and cook for approximately two hours. The beans should be tender, yet firm. Keep an eye on them! I have had the water cook down so much I had to add a little extra.

Add the washed and chopped up potatoes to the pot. We leave the skins on! If needed, add additional water. Let these cook another 30-40 minutes or so on medium heat. The edges of the potatoes should look smooth and some of the skins should start peeling back when the potatoes are cooked through.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chicken Spaghetti

This morning Andy was telling me about a dish he wanted to try: Chicken Spaghetti. My friend Shirley shared this recipe with me over two years ago. It had been so long ago, he had forgotten I had already fixed it for him. Keep in mind, this was before we started cutting back on our carb consumption. The only thing I had not done was get it posted on the blog. Now that we have our portion sizes under control, I might be able to fix it again.

INGREDIENTS:
Cooked chicken, shredded (1 small pack of chicken or Rotisserie chicken)
1 small box of spaghetti, cooked per directions and drained
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 stick Velveeta cheese (large box)
1 can Rotel
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
 In a large skillet, saute onions and peppers.
 In a large bowl, add chunked up cheese and Rotel.
 In increments of 3-4 minutes, melt mixture in microwave, stirring until all cheese is melted.
Add in the can of soup and blend well. Stir in chicken and spaghetti.
Pour in a casserole dish and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve with a side salad.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Have You Burped Lately?

Before you say, "gross" or think I've lost my mind, I'm talking about Tupperware for goodness sakes! (You had to "burp" the product for the air-tight seal.) Recently I had a nice visit with my friend Claudia and her husband Danny. They have blessed me with an abundance of peaches this summer and her cousin Ann allowed us to dive into her herb garden. The peaches are frozen and the I have dried lemon basil, basil, dill and lemon verbena. It smelled heavenly while the basil was drying. The fragrant herb made me want to start a pot of spaghetti sauce.

A storm had blown up on my drive out to Campbellsville giving us some time to visit before we went to work. Claudia and I sorted through some Glad food containers, which are my preference for sharing food but not hers, that she thought were mine. My dear friend has been affectionately dubbed the "Tupperware Queen". I swear that woman has every single piece that's ever been made since it was introduced in 1945. Tupperware is for storing; you don't loan that stuff out as it would never make its way back home.

Later that afternoon, she brought out a container, Tupperware of course, full of multiples of unusual items. You know I'm not a fan of pop quizzes, but this was one I totally enjoyed. While we were all stumped on several of the items, for the most part, I did pretty well on this quiz. I was amazed when I noticed I actually owned several of them. After reviewing, commenting on and handling an assortment of gadgets, knowing my love of Tennessee football, Claudia bestowed me with all the orange duplicates plus a lot of items I didn't have!!

So here is my pop quiz for you. Without googling or scrolling to the bottom, how many items can you identify?
How well did you do on the quiz?

Let me ramble for a few more minutes and I'll give you the answers. How did my Mother and I come to possess so many plastic gadgets? I can remember back in the 60s and especially during the 70s, Tupperware parties were all the rage. Remember Grandma making a fancy Jello mold for holiday dinners? Their products stand the test of time. When it comes to product parties, I'm not a huge fan. Give me a catalog and let me just order something. Please don't torture me with demonstrations and silly games. For decades, I felt obligated to go and buy something at parties for every product imaginable. I understand the party model and how it'll help your friends get free stuff. But by the time you pay for the food, drinks and putting on the dog, would it  not be cheaper to just buy the stuff? Maybe it's the hook that is the clincher. You can only get the "Hostess" gift if you have a party. If they're not giving away money or gold bars, I'm out.

Not too long ago I went on a search for salt and pepper shakers with a lid that closed properly. The humidity in the South can be awful and I wanted to be able to close the containers. I looked high and low and every single one had open holes! I thought of the the old-style Tupperware salt and pepper shakers and wondered if you could still get them. You know the ones...Grandma and Momma had them sitting near the stove for decades. They were hourglass shaped, had a gold S or P on them and posessed a snap tight lid. Andy and I knew there was a lady with a Tupperware booth at the flea market in Limestone County so off we went one Saturday. This lady had everything under the sun so I just knew I'd be walking out with my salt and pepper shakers that afternoon. When I got to her location, she was no longer set up there. I asked around and nobody knew anyone who sold it anymore.

After an internet search, I hit the mother lode! I really wanted the vintage look, but found they too had changed with time. The S and P was no longer stamped (well duh, salt is white, pepper is black and you can see through the plastic) and the cap color was now a light sort of teal. (What's wrong with plain??) The best ever was the fact I no longer had to go to a party! I was free to order them online and have them shipped to the house!
Ok, I'm rambling again, here are the answers to the quiz. I hoped you enjoyed the visit with my favorite Tupperware lady who has never required me to buy anything at any of her parties.

A. Double spoon rest
B. Biscuit cutter (note you can make two different sizes!)
C. Funnel
D. Cheese slicer
E. Lift hard boiled eggs out of a pan
F. Long handled tea spoons
G. Cake frosting decorator
H. Pastry sheet strap
I. Serving tongs
J. Lid Scraper
K. Soap dish/scouring pad holder
L. Scoop
M. Pie Server
N. Grapefruit knife
O. Strawberry huller
P. Melon baller


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'Mater Sandwich

Now I know there will be a few disagreements with my version of making a Tomato ('Mater) Sandwich. That's fine, you are free to use light (white) bread and Miracle Whip and I'll keep on with what I like best. There was a time a fresh loaf of white bread, a homegrown tomato and a jar of Hellman's mayonnaise was the only way to make one, but I've sworn off white bread and switched to wheat decades ago. Now, using a store-bought---NOT HOMEGROWN--tomato. Please, just don't go there. The only time to eat a tomato sandwich is in the summer, around July. No garden? Go to the farmer's market and get one. There is a difference.
How much nutritional value is being subracted by removing the peel? Not sure, but if I'm making the sandwich, the peel is being removed. It takes a really sharp knife, to quote a family friend many years ago, to "skin one." Andy makes them with the peel left on and I will still eat them.
Peeled or unpeeled, this step must not be skipped. You don't want your bread getting all soggy! Slice the tomatoes and spread them out on a paper towel or two. Lightly salt the tomatoes and let them sit for a few minutes. This will draw out excessive water. They'll still be juicy, but you won't ruin your bread.
Slather each side of the bread with mayonnaise.
Pile up the tomatoes on one side. Add a little pepper and there you go!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Refrigerator Referees

 Do you know how many bottles of cocktail sauce are in the refrigerator?

How many times have you been hit with a question like this. And no, it's not a rhetorical question. You are truly expected to answer it. Gosh, I've always hated pop quizes.

I was asked this not once, but two evenings in a row recently. Of course I didn't know the answer. Why? Because I'm not a counter of things.

In my defense, we had two semi- and not so recent dinners that revolved around the seafood theme. One at the house and one at the river. Oh my, I am truly hoping there aren't any more bottles in the fridge down there.

The kids (who are all grown but will be referred to as kids forever) all love seafood. So we had a big lobster, crab leg and shrimp dinner and then we had a shrimp boil when we celebrated Memorial Day. In my defense, I have had a bit of brain fog for the last couple of years so I couldn't remember if we did have any or not. Plus, if we didn't and I put one in the fridge, there's supposed to be one in pantry. Whoever opens the last bottle from the refrigerator is supposed to write it on the grocery list. So you see where I'm going with this.

None of our kids were raised to "dine like the rich," like my Mother says but they all do like their seafood. There was a time when Andrew wouldn't touch it. Back when Dale could break the bank eating shrimp; Andrew's favorite seafood was hushpuppies. No, I am not joking. All of you out there reading this and judging me, just go right on. I used to order hushpuppies from the local fish place while Dale was tearing off shrimp tails faster than you could say, "whoa son!" Back then, I had kids who wouldn't eat any form of a potato, fried or mashed; one liked chicken nuggets and the other would only eat a hamburger with no pickles or any condiments. I can not count the nights when I would say, "one of these days you boys are going to realize you grew up in a house with a Mom who cooked good food." Poor Andrew, I had to lie to him that a roasted chicken was really a baby turkey, which he liked, to get him to eat chicken. I never gave up cooking good meals but I didn't let them eat junk all the time...Only on soccer nights and when their friends spent the night in droves. And on friend nights, it was surprising how many of their friends would gladly devour whatever I had cooked up.

One night Andrew and I stopped at Zaxby's after a late game. We ordered some type of chicken club sandwich and lo and behold that boy ate a pickle. The first time I had witnessed this in over 17 years. He must have noticed the look on my face. In his calm, cool way of talking, he just grinned and said, "oh yea, I like pickles now." Not only that, he was willingly eating chicken and french fries. Shocking indeed.

Now they are both grown and are extremely health conscious eaters; gladly covering all the food groups.

Sorry to ramble on. Back to the original point I was trying to make. In Andy's defense; when we were dating, I did tell him when my last name was the same as his, he could be the boss of the fridge. I was notorious for putting everything under the sun in the fridge and he believed the top shelf was to be reserved for the beer and there should be as little as could be in the rest of it. It should almost look like we were starving people is what I equated it to. Like maybe one night's left overs would be it. OK. You are talking to the daughter of the Queen Mother who has the largest refrigerator on the face of the Earth and couldn't pack one more thing in there if your life depended on it. I get it honest.

For the most part, we sort of adhere to his preference, but since I've been home, it's out of control. I will admit. I have been cooking some things in bulk, but we'll take care of that this weekend and we should be back to ground zero.
Just so you know, the answer to today's pop quiz is five! Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! (Picture the Count from Sesame Street) Five bottles of cocktail sauce! Technically we had two Zesty and three original, but who's counting?


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Home Made Cherry Jam

One of my favorite jams is cherry jam. One of my least favorite to prepare is cherry jam. Maybe that's why it's so good? Cherry jam requires pitting the cherries. Not fun. We have a couple of cherry trees so in addition to making cherry wine, I make cherry jam with the left over cherries.

Because jam and jelly making is such a quick process, I don't always have step-by-step pictures. However, I had a helper on hand to get a few shots for me. I will break down the steps from the Sure-Jell pectin I use. The directions are not on the same side of the sheet so it's a little confusing. I have always had success using this product and when it comes to canning, I'm looking for easy, safe and consistent results. Who wants to spend a lot of time and have poor results?

I cannot stress enough how careful you need to be. The mixture will be very hot and you are dealing with boiling water. Be sure you don't have any kiddos underfoot when you are doing this.

DIRECTIONS:
Sterilize your jars (I do mine in the dishwasher), lids and rings (I boil these in a pot of water on the stove).
Get out your canning tongs to pull the jars from the pot; canning funnel and the magnetized tool to pull your lids and rings from the hot water and a clean cloth to wipe the jars down prior to sealing them.
I set my canner on the stove and set the rack in the pot raised for easy access and fill with water so that when the jars/rack are submerged, the jars will have one to two inches of water above them. (You can always add more boiling water if needed) I put the lid on the pot and turn the heat on high.
I use my food processor and pulse until I get the right consistency.
Measure out 4 cups of finely chopped cherries. (Around 3 pounds of tart cherries)
In another bowl, measure 4-3/4 cups of sugar (regular, not artificial) and set to the side.
In a large pot, on high, add the cherries and stir in one box of Sure-Jell. Stir constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Add in the  sugar. Bring it back to a full boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Remove any foam with a spooon. This will be very hot! Put the excess foam in one of your used bowls to discard later.

Using a ladle, pour up the mixture into the jars through your canning funnel and leave 1/4" head space. Wipe the jar top and sides before placing a lid and ring on them.

Space the filled jars around the raised up rack. When all jars are filled, carefully lower the rack into the water. Add additional boiling water, if needed, so that the jars are adequately covered. Put the lid back on the pot, bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. (Jelly is 5 minutes, Jam is 10 minutes)

When that time is up, turn off heat and carefully remove the pot from the stove eye. When removing the lid (with a pot holder), be careful of the steam that will be released!! I remove my lid with it pointed away from my face.

Fold up a towel and place on your counter.

With my canning tongs, I carefully move my jars to the towel to cool. If any of the jars didn't seal, be sure to refrigerate and consume first. If you don't hear equal "pings" for the quantity of jars processed and the lid springs back when you poke the middle of the jar, it didn't seal correctly. 24 hours later, I move them to the box my jars came in, mark the date on them and store them.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Great Tomato Debate

Is is just me, or do you find yourself drifting away, lost in your thoughts when you are out in the garden?

I tend to find myself thinking about everything under the sun from things I have no control over; solutions to solve the world's problems and what I'd do to the deer who keep knocking the tomatoes off the vines (fried green tomatoes tonight) and munching on all the cucumber and sweet potato foliage.

The other day I thought about the tomatoes I was picking. Refrigerate or leave on the counter? Well, I knew the answer to that one. I don't know where I got the opinion regarding where one stores their tomatoes; but I have a very strong one. My personal belief is that they are to be stored on the counter and eaten room temperature. I think they taste better. The only time I would waver on this is if I prepare a salad ahead of the meal. Then, and only then, it would be acceptable to refrigerate them. Left over tomatoes after grilling hamburgers? As if!! Just get out the salt shaker and eat them up! There should be no such thing as a left over tomato sent to a cold death in the fridge.

I remember a cook-out we were having at work years ago and someone put the tomatoes in the refrigerator. As a matter of fact, that someone was about as adamant as them being stored there as I was about them not. Thankfully, I'm a go along type of person who believes you can respect opinions of others. Just agree to disagree and leave the tomatoes off your burger.

Am I right or wrong?

Next topics up for debate...Peel or don't peel a tomato when making a "mater sandwich" and Miracle Whip or Hellman's mayonnaise?

Home Made Raspberry Jam


Our spring/summer raspberry harvest from Andy's vines have been unbelievable this year! I froze over 17 lbs. and that didn't include what I set aside to make raspberry jelly and jam. Last Saturday was green bean and jam day so I was pretty busy.

I didn't strain part of the seeds out of the processed berries and it still turned out good. Andy isn't picky like I am about seeds. Typically you will need to strain half so you will still have some pieces of fruit.
Because jam and jelly making is such a quick process, I don't always have step-by-step pictures. However, You can find most of them throughout the jelly and jam posts. I will break down the steps from the Sure-Jell pectin I use. The directions are not on the same side of the sheet so it's a little confusing. I have always had success using this product and when it comes to canning, I'm looking for easy, safe and consistent results. Who wants to spend a lot of time and have poor results?

I cannot stress enough how careful you need to be. The mixture will be very hot and you are dealing with boiling water. Be sure you don't have any kiddos underfoot when you are doing this.

DIRECTIONS:
Sterilize your jars (I do mine in the dishwasher), lids and rings (I boil these in a pot of water on the stove).
Get out your canning tongs to pull the jars from the pot; canning funnel and the magnetized tool to pull your lids and rings from the hot water and a clean cloth to wipe the jars down prior to sealing them.
I set my canner on the stove and set the rack in the pot raised for easy access and fill with water so that when the jars/rack are submerged, the jars will have one to two inches of water above them. (You can always add more boiling water if needed) I put the lid on the pot and turn the heat on high.
I use my food processor and pulse the fruit until I get the right consistency.

Measure out 5 cups of crushed raspberries. (Around 4 pints)

In another bowl, measure 7 cups of sugar (regular, not artificial) and set to the side.

In a large pot, on high, add the raspberries and stir in one box of Sure-Jell. Stir constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming. Bring this mixture to a boil.

Add in the sugar. Bring it back to a full boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Remove any foam with a spooon. This will be very hot! Put the excess foam in one of your used bowls to discard later.

Using a ladle, pour up the mixture into the jars through your canning funnel and leave 1/4" head space. Wipe the jar top and sides before placing a lid and ring on them.

Space the filled jars around the raised up rack. When all jars are filled, carefully lower the rack into the water. Add additional boiling water, if needed, so that the jars are adequately covered. Put the lid back on the pot, bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. (Jelly is 5 minutes, Jam is 10 minutes)

When that time is up, turn off heat and carefully remove the pot from the stove eye. When removing the lid (with a pot holder), be careful of the steam that will be released!! I remove my lid with it pointed away from my face.

Fold up a towel and place on your counter.

With my canning tongs, I carefully move my jars to the towel to cool. If any of the jars didn't seal, be sure to refrigerate and consume first. If you don't hear equal "pings" for the quantity of jars processed and the lid springs back when you poke the middle of the jar, it didn't seal correctly. 24 hours later, I move them to the box my jars came in, mark the date on them and store them.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Home Made Cherry Jelly

You will probably feel like you're a member of the jelly of the month...or should I say, day...club. I'm finally caught up on getting around to posting about all the different jellies and jams I've been making and since this is the season, I'm getting them all in.

Since I've made several different jams and jellies this week and the posts are similar, please don't assume you make one exactly like the other, because you can't. Some are regular sugar and some reduced sugar. The basic steps are the same, so you'll see some repetition, but there are some differences in amount of fruit/juice/sugar needed!!

Because jam and jelly making is such a quick process, I don't always have step-by-step pictures for each variety. But if you will click through each flavor, you should be able to see all of them. However, I will break down the steps from the Sure-Jell pectin I use. In my opinion, the instruction brochure layout needs to be revised to make sense. By that I mean the directions are not on the same side of the sheet. They did this on the reduced sugar brochure and I love it! I have always had success using Sure-Jell and when it comes to canning, I'm looking for easy, safe and consistent results. Who wants to spend a lot of time and have poor results?

I cannot stress enough how careful you need to be. The mixture will be very hot and you are dealing with boiling water. Be sure you don't have any kiddos underfoot when you are doing this.

DIRECTIONS:
Making cherry jelly was an afterthought. I was making cherry jam and had so much juice left over, I had to make a batch of jelly. As in the jam, the pits and stems have to be removed. If you don't have access to juice, you will have to process and strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a strainer to remove the pulp.
Sterilize your jars (I do mine in the dishwasher), lids and rings (I boil these in a pot of water on the stove).
Get out your canning tongs to pull the jars from the pot; canning funnel and the magnetized tool to pull your lids and rings from the hot water and a clean cloth to wipe the jars down prior to sealing them.

I set my canner on the stove and set the rack in the pot raised for easy access and fill with water so that when the jars/rack are submerged, the jars will have one to two inches of water above them. (You can always add more boiling water if needed) I put the lid on the pot and turn the heat on high.
 Measure out with a liquid measuring cup (not dry), 3-1/2 cups of cherry juice. Measure out another 1/2 cup of water.
In a small bowl, measure four cups of sugar (regular, not artificial) and set to the side.

In a large pot add the juice and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in one box of Sure-Jell. Stir constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Add in the sugar. Bring it back to a full boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. 
Remove any foam with a spooon. This will be very hot! Put the excess foam in one of your used bowls to discard later.

Using a ladle, pour up the mixture into the jars through your canning funnel and leave 1/4" head space. Wipe the jar top and sides before placing a lid and ring on them.
Space the filled jars around the raised up rack. When all jars are filled, carefully lower the rack into the water. Add additional boiling water, if needed, so that the jars are adequately covered. Put the lid back on the pot, bring to a boil and process for 5 minutes. (Jelly is 5 minutes, Jam is 10 minutes)

When that time is up, turn off heat and carefully remove the pot from the stove eye. When removing the lid (with a pot holder), be careful of the steam that will be released!! I remove my lid with it pointed away from my face.

Fold up a towel on your counter.

With my canning tongs, I carefully move my jars to the towel to cool. If any of the jars didn't seal, be sure to refrigerate and consume first. If you don't hear equal "pings" for the quantity of jars processed and the lid springs back when you poke the middle of the jar, it didn't seal correctly. 24 hours later, I move them to the box my jars came in, mark the date on them and store them.