Some Sweetness in the Morning

The last time I was at the grocery store, “pancake syrup” was on the list of things I needed. However, upon stopping at the syrup aisle, I was shocked at the price for our regular bottle of Log Cabin.  The larger size was $3.99!! And I just could not find it in myself to pay that price for high fructose corn syrup poured into a bottle with a pretty label.  Mind you, I’d love to just feed our family the pure maple syrup, which is better for you, and tastes a thousand times better, but recent (lack of)  income woes around our house have necessitated that we cut back all spending drastically, so that didn’t seem a wise purchase either.

While I pondered what to serve my hungry children atop their waffles and pancakes, there stirred in the back of my mind a vague memory of my own mother whipping up some homemade syrup concoction on her stove during the days of my childhood. It wasn’t a regular thing in our house growing up, or surely it would not have been so vague, but clinging to this thread of a memory, and a little bottle of maple flavoring, I finished my shopping trip determined to find a recipe of my own for cooking some homemade syrup.

The children were rather surprised when I announced this morning that I was going to create syrup instead of pouring it from a bottle, but they went along with it willingly. I even had a cute little assistant to help me.

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The recipe was easy, quick to assemble and cook, and used few (and inexpensive!) ingredients! Upon tasting “Mommy’s Syrup” there was unanimous agreement around the breakfast table that it was much, much better than Log Cabin. What praise!!

For kicks, I looked up the ingredient list for Log Cabin, and have to say, that even though I have not in the past been a huge reader of labels, was unimpressed by what goes into a bottle.  When you can say that your homemade recipe of water, sugar, and a dab of butter and maple flavoring is WAY more healthy than what you’d buy in the store, you start to wonder how in the world the manufacturer can get away with charging $4 for a plastic container filled with I’m not exactly sure what.  See for yourself:

Ingredients: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar Syrup, Pure Maple Syrup, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate and Sorbic Acid (Preservatives), Artificial Flavor. Source for these ingredients Note it has pure maple syrup listed even though there’s not one drop of maple syrup in it!

For anyone interested, here is the recipe I used this morning to make my syrup. I changed it up a little (don’t I always change my recipes up a little?) by substituting a cup of brown sugar for one of the cups of white sugar.  I first put only the cup of white sugar into my pan, and lightly “cooked” it, stirring often so that it did not burn. Then I added my brown sugar, boiling water, and maple flavor as directed.  I also added a tablespoon of butter.  I cooked it for about 7-10 minutes till it thickened slightly, stirring much of the time.  When it was ready, it looked like this:

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I served it warm over waffles, and stored the remainder in the fridge where I understand it will keep for some time.

What a deal! It was simple enough – and inexpensive!! – to make, and so happily received, that I have lofty aspirations of never again buying the stuff in a bottle.

Christmas Chicken

Our Christmas celebrations are spread out a bit this year, so today we enjoyed a quiet day at home with just our family. For supper, we ate one of our favorite chicken dishes, which I have meant to post before so our readers could enjoy it too…here it is at last!

We call this “Cornflake Chicken” but that was not its original name. I am printing the original version here as given to me by Leslie. She brought us this meal after our horrible car accident back in 2005, and it’s been a staple around our house ever since.

Parmesan Ranch Chicken

3/4 cup crushed cornflakes

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 envelop ranch salad dressing mix

6-8 chicken breast halves or 2 lbs chicken tenders

1/2 cup butter, melted


Grease a 9×13″ baking dish. In a shallow bowl combine corn flakes,

parmesan cheese and salad dressing mix. Have the melted butter in another

shallow bowl. Dip chicken in butter then roll in cornflake mixture to

coat and place in baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45

minutes.

Modifications:

When I make this recipe, I substitute liquid ranch dressing for the powdered ranch. I put the ranch (about 1-ish cups) in a bowl with a little milk added, dip the chicken in the liquid, then dredge in the dry cornflake/parmesan mixture.  Place chicken in the pan and sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over them. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter before baking. Bake as directed.

I have also been known to substitute crushed Ritz crackers for the cornflake crumbs when certain Target stores have run out of the cornflakes cereal the day before Christmas!

One more note: the leftovers from this recipe are delightful when reheated in the oven (to preserve crispiness in the coating) then sliced and served over salad greens with your favorite dressing. Magnificent!

Since I cannot photograph food like Angie the magnificent, and since my camera is not nearly as fine as hers, my picture won’t be as tantalizing as I’d like, but here it is anyway….

Serve with baked sweet potatoes and a salad for a wondeful meal! Merry Christmas!!

Nana’s Pot Roast

As soon as I returned home after giving birth to Abigail, my mother arrived in town to stay with us for a few days. She was a great help and comfort to us: she cooked, cleaned, did whatever needed doing for us two sleep-deprived new parents — one of whom (you’ll have to guess which) was suffering from the agony of a broken tailbone — who were dealing with a tongue-tied, jaundiced baby, that had serious challenges learning to nurse. Yes, it was a glorious time! (Actually it was wonderful in so many ways, and yet, like many things that enrich our feeble existence, it was challenging too!).

One of the meals I remember Mom cooking for us was her delicious pot roast. Today I put the same pot roast into my crock pot, to hopefully be ready for supper tonight after we return from two basketball games. I’d like to share her recipe with you here – the secret ingredient according to Jay is that horseradish. I think next time I cook this I will add double the amount called for here. What do you think, Mom?? Please chime in if I’ve omitted anything important!

Pot Roast

1 4-5 lb roast, either chuck or rump (I used the rump since it was the same price as chuck)

5-ish small-medium sized potatoes, washed, cut into large chunks

1-ish cup of baby carrots

1 large onion, cut into large chunks

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

2 Tbs oil

1 5.5oz jar refrigerated horseradish (You can use more, it gives a subtle flavor in this amount)

1-ish cup red wine

salt/pepper to taste

parsley or other spices to taste

Heat oil in skillet large enough to hold just the meat.

Rub that roast with about half the jar of horseradish, salt and pepper to taste. Brown roast in oil, till crusty and browned on the edges. While it browns, prepare your vegetables.

In bottom of large crockpot, place carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic.

Remove roast from pan, cut into smaller pieces if needed in order to fit into crockpot. Place roast atop vegetables.

Pour cup of wine over all. Rub remainder of horseradish atop meat, add salt, pepper or any other spices ( I like parsley) to taste.

Cook in crock on high for at least two hours, reduce heat to low and cook up to 8 hours more. If you like, serve meat and vegetables with juices.

I prefer to add some flour and Kitchen Bouquet into your crockpot or a saucepan, and whisk the juices into a lovely gravy.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine and a fresh salad!

Yummy, Gone-in-a-Flash Soup!

Last night a few members of our church Home Group weren’t able to make it for our gathering – and at first everyone was a little disappointed. But there were certainly plenty of people here, and everyone quickly settled in to visiting and eating, and the soup was dished up to rave reviews. By the time supper had ended (and several guests had enjoyed hearty second bowls of the aforementioned, beloved soup), we realized that had each and every person actually come to supper, as we’d originally expected, we certainly would have RUN OUT OF FOOD!! Guess that new, bigger crockpot of mine didn’t make quite as much soup as I thought it should have.

My extended family who frequent my blog will gasp at this admission on my part, because while I have many faults, not preparing enough food for a crowd is not one of them. I usually overdo! But, it is good for my pride to realize I don’t always have it all together!

As it was, we were grateful for Providence and I made a mental note to make at least 50% more soup next time this crowd comes for dinner! Here is the recipe I stole, and modified to my own taste. It was really quite delicious, and very simple to make – no roux or anything to mess with. I tripled the amounts for our group, substituted in pork loin for half the sausage meat, took out the celery (husband can’t stand the stuff) and lowered the ratio of kidney beans significantly. Since our group included a very large amount of children, I did put out that bowl of pasta as was suggested, but it was hardly touched, because, did I forget to mention?? EVERYONE JUST LOVED THIS SOUP (even and especially the children!)! So, today I used the leftover pasta to make a couple meals of Macaroni and Cheese with Ham.

And the very little bit of that soup that was leftover will go to school with Abigail tomorrow, happily ensconced in her silver thermos, to be eaten at lunchtime. For those of you who don’t realize the significance of this, I am happy to report that as of tomorrow, Covenant starts school on their own property for the very first time. For the last five years the school has leased space from a very kind, but very Kosher Synagogue. So meat of any kind on campus was an absolute no-no. But not anymore! My little girl will scoop up her meaty soup tomorrow with great rejoicing!

A Soup All My Family Will Deign to Eat

Jay and I love to eat homemade soup, and I enjoy making it very much (in fact I can hardly stomach the stuff in a can anymore, soup snob that I have become!). But our children usually eat it only because they know they are supposed so, not because they like it. Nevertheless, I press on, trying out new recipes on them. For years I have made soup after soup for them, insisted they eat at least one meal of each recipe, and hoped perhaps they’d develop a taste for it.

Tonight, at long last, I felt greatly rewarded for my efforts by the fact that all of them (well, all except Josiah, who let’s face it, won’t eat much of anything) really, really liked it!!! Hooray!

And so, I must write down the recipe, since all I did was make it up as I went along. I was inspired by Rachel, who posted a recipe for a chowder last week. Here’s my version (I just used what I had on hand, and amounts are somewhat approximate!):

1 onion, chopped

6 slices bacon, chopped

1 lb carrots, sliced

4 Tbs flour

2 cups homemade turkey broth

3/4 cup white wine

2 cans cream style corn, DO NOT DRAIN

1 lb frozen package corn, steamed in the microwave

1 can original Rotel, DO NOT DRAIN

chopped meat and cooking juices from oven-baking three chicken breasts with skin/bones

thyme, sage, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, all to taste

2 cups skim milk

3/4 sour cream

Dump onion, bacon, and carrot into a large Dutch oven and stir till onion and carrot are soft, and bacon is cooked. Add flour, stirring to make a roux of sorts. Add the rest of the ingredients up to and including spices. Bring to a soft boil, cooking till soup is thickened, just a few minutes. Add milk and sour cream, stir till heated, and serve.

Homemade, To-Die-For Pizza

I have used the same pizza dough recipe for years, discovered in the recipe book which accompanied my breadmaker, a sweet gift from Jay during one of our earliest Christmases together. While I have made this recipe many times, last night was the first time I included fresh minced garlic as a topping, and IMHO this simple addition put this humble, home-made pizza over the top. So, so yummy. I am sitting here gobbling a leftover piece that tastes delicious after just a short zap in the microwave.

If you have a breadmaker, and five minutes to spare, you too can throw this dough recipe together, turn on the machine, and go get the kids from afternoon carpool. Or spend a little over an hour folding laundry or whatever. At any rate, once this dough is mixed and has risen, get ready to make yourself a couple of delicious pizzas. Here’s the recipe:

1 cup plus 2 Tbs water (I often use some skim milk for part of the liquid)

2 Tbs olive or vegetable oil

3 cups flour

3 Tbs grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Place ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.

Select Dough/Manual cycle.

Move oven rack to lowest position. Grease 2 cookie sheets. Divide dough in half, patting each half into a 12 inch circle on cookie sheet with floured fingers. Add pizza toppings…

I drizzle virgin olive oil around the edge of the crust and rub it in a little. Then I spoon a bit of tomato sauce all over. Add toppings – don’t forget the fresh minced garlic!! – and finish it off with your favorite combination of pizza cheeses: mozzarella, parmesan, romano, feta??

Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes till crust is light brown and cheese is melty and golden.

ENJOY!!

Peachy Cobbler

Given how much I love to cook, you might think I would post more recipes than I do. But I haven’t made the time. In an effort to begin to remedy this, I wanted to share a recipe I used to make a wonderful, EASY peach cobbler for our dessert this evening. It is a Southern Living recipe, from the June, 1997 issue.

(Oh, by way of wandering aside – if you’re wondering whether you ought to keep those old magazine issues, let me help you remove some of the clutter from your house. You can access virtually every article, recipe, etc they’ve published in their magazine for the last several years on their website.)

This particular recipe calls for fresh peaches. I used some frozen peaches that I had sliced and frozen last summer (gulp!) after our peach-picking fieldtrip. Before freezing, I sprinkled them with Fruit Fresh, and it did prevent browning, etc. They worked perfectly in the recipe. One other change I made was to add the cinnamon, as well as some nutmeg to the boiling peach mixture before pouring it over the batter in the pan.

Enjoy!!

Easy Peach Cobbler

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
4 cups fresh peach slices
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).

Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

Yield: 10 servings

Note: we ate ours warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top! Yum!

Healthful, Frugal Garlic Chicken Soup

Since I have caught Baby Josiah’s cold, I felt the need for some soothing homemade soup today. I generally love making and eating soup. Jay enjoys the eating part. The children love to join in the making part, but not the eating part so much. I continue in my motherly efforts to introduce them to many different types of homemades soups, in hopes that someday they may gain an appreciation for soup as a wholesome and comforting meall!!

The following recipe is a combination of an online recipe I found, along with some modifications I made to suit my purposes. The ingredients needed for this dish are pretty inexpensive, especially if you can buy your whole chicken on a good sale. Preparation was easy, if a little time-consuming, and the results were delicious, and (miraculously!) enjoyed by all five members of our family who eat at table.

Garlic Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
2 stalks celery
1 large onion
2 heads (not cloves, but the entire heads) of garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbs dried parsely
salt/pepper to taste
4-6 small potatoes, washed and diced (not peeled) – I used Gold Petites
4 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
3/4 cup white wine

Rinse chicken and discard or keep giblets, depending on if you like them for flavor. In food processor, mince: carrots, celery and onion. (I did them separately but I’m guessing you could combine them if you have room in your chopper.) Separate the cloves of garlic, but do not peel them. Put all this into a large stockpot and fill with water to cover all. Add seasonings.

Boil/simmer for about 2 hours, loosely covered, until broth is thick and rich, and chicken is cooked through and very tender (leg should loosen from body when you attempt to grab at it with tongs). Remove chicken for deboning.

Pour broth through a colander or sieve, reserving garlic cloves for use in soup. I used a colander with holes large enough that some of the minced vegetable pieces ended up in the final broth. I think it added something. After broth has sat for awhile, skim fat from top. Reserve broth till needed.

Into same pot (don’t wash it yet, folks!) put potatoes with water to cover. Boil till tender.

While potatoes are boiling, prep your chicken and your garlic: Carefully debone entire chicken, shredding and reserving meat. Extract pulp from garlic cloves (I just squeezed each clove, and the garlic inside popped out!).

Drain finished potatoes. Using SAME stockpot still, add butter and when it’s melted add your mushy garlic cloves. Add flour to this, whisking all to smooth the mixure. Add the white wine, keep whisking. Add broth back to pot, with chicken, and vegetables. Note: I didn’t end up using ALL the chicken meat, but kept back about 1 1/2 cups to make chicken salad. It was moist, flavorful chicken!

Bring soup to a low boil and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve and enjoy!!

Time For Some Reader Participation

Someone recently tried to convince me that washing an orange or clementine before peeling it to eat was akin to washing a banana peel before eating the banana. I personally do not wash my banana peel. But everyone is different.

So I ask you:

1. How many of you readers (and Lurkers, I mean you too!!) wash the orange or clementine or grapefruit (or whatever your choice citrus fruit happens to be) prior to eating that fruit, and how many of you do not?

2. And, are there any banana peel-washers out there?