Of Cooking With Menus

Dear Menu-Planning-Cooking-Woman,
I have a few questions for you today.

Do you ever have days when it’s 5pm and you still don’t know
what to make for supper? Yes, I say supper.
{No.}
Please tell me how in the world that is possible.
{Plan a menu far in advance}
Far in advance, hmmm, like a month? Wow.
I can’t even plan 1-2 days in advance.

How do you make that menu and stick to it?
{Just write it down and then cook it on the appointed day.}
Alrighty then, sounds easy enough, but that always leads me to this…

I have always had this burning question about your kind of people.
Are you always, really, truly, hungry for the meal
jotted down for Thursday night?

{Absolutely. If that is what’s on the menu, that is what we eat.}
Seriously? If I plan a menu, I never feel like eating tator tot casserole
on the night tator tot casserole is jotted down for.
I want Chicken Alfredo that’s slotted for Fri night
or the pizza scheduled for Sat night.
Anything but tator tot casserole.
Who wants tator tot casserole anyway?

Can you really manage to go grocery shopping
only once a month? (Your husband must be very proud)
{Yes. You just buy everything you need on that trip because the menus are all planned. You should never need anything extra because when you stick to your menu, you always have the correct ingredients.}
Wow. I was in town yesterday and we are already out of butter.

Do tell, how do you manage to get this done all the time?
{Organization. Perfect planning.}
Guess I missed that ingredient on the cooking boat.
If you haven’t figured it out already,
cooking is not my first love,
eating is.

Thank you for your time. I will give this
menu thing a shot and see if it works.
{No problem. Just remember to cook what is on the menu,
never veer to the right or to the left for Alfredo or Pizza
when it’s tator tot time.}

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Now I’m sure somewhere out there is a working woman,
reading this and thinking,
“You my girl, have no idea how nice you have it.
Stay at home mom, nothing to do but take care of a few kids.
How can you not figure out what is for dinner before 5pm?”
Yes, I know, that is precisely my question too.

And I know somewhere out there is a farm wife on Wed afternoon
planning her third meal of the day, 12th meal of the week, thinking,
“You have no clue. Not a clue whatsoever what real cooking is like.
You have no idea what life is like when there are 3 meals a day to make.
You have nothing to complain about when all you have to do
is come up with 1 meal each evening.”

Meekly whispers: I know.

I also realize there are people out there starving.
A mama in Africa would probably tell me I have no business
even asking such questions because at least I have food with which to cook.
I know. I know.

But today, this is my problem.
Or every day this is my problem.
And I can’t quit thinking about it.
And wondering how to fix it.

So now that I have been set in my place and have organization on my brain,
I am off to browse cookbooks, make grocery lists and try to figure out
what is for supper for the next 37 nights in a row.
And after I do all this organizing and whatnot,
I guarantee you I will not be hungry for whatever is on the menu for that one specific night and all my work will be down the drain.
Make it anyway you say, she says, ugh, good diet plan I guess.

Knowing me it will be 5pm tomorrow and I still won’t know what to cook.

Then I’ll call you and we’ll go out to eat.

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Of Cookies With Melty Chips

There came a day in the first month of the year,
the 3rd week of the month,
the last day of the week
that the dwelling place of the tribe of Eric
was in a disorderly state of affair.

The Mother of the tribe rose up early
to begin the task at hand.
Or maybe it was that she just arose when the young child cried
and procrastinated a few hours before beginning the task.
Never the less, she had a mind to work,
and work she finally did, for things were fairly flying.

As she spun herself in circles, the son of Eric spoke.
“Mother, we are in need of freshly baked cookies!”
Hoping to dissuade her only son she replied,
“Son, there are many cookies residing downstairs
in the depths of the freezer.
Take yourself down and fetch me a box, please.”

But he obeyed her not, only answering her command with,
“Mother, the cookies of which you speak
are not the cookies I desire.
My heart longs for cookies with many chips of chocolate,
soft and gooey, that they may melt in my mouth.”

The Mother of the tribe dropped her dust rag,
thought long and hard of her reply, and in her sweetest voice cooed,
“Son, would it please you if we would bake a pan of bars,
all gooey with chocolate, soft and melty, just like cookies.”
For this mother knew in her heart that baking bars
was so much easier then scooping cookie dough.

Yet once again her son quickly and firmly replied,
“No Mother, cookies it must be and cookies it will be,
all soft and gooey with chips that melt in your mouth!”

So the Mother, seeing the futility of the fight,
gave up the battle, for she knew in her heart that they did indeed
need chocolate chip cookies, all warm and gooey.
She did indeed feel a bit contrite you might say,
for it had been many, many moons since she had baked
chocolate chip cookies for the son.

And so, dropping the cleaning rags of which we spoke,
they began to bake the cookies.
Oh, the mixing, the dumping, the pouring and such,
of the mess, one can only imagine if one has small helpers.

First upon the tray were place small heaps of dough,
all gooey and lovely with nary a chip in sight.
The son stared wide eyed and in an astounded voice cried,
“Mother, where are the chips for which I long?”
“Oh son,” she answered, “These are my cookies,
mine and your father’s, for you see,
cookies without chips are the best kind of cookies!”
Shaking his head he disagreeably stated,
“Only cookies with chips are the bestest,
we must need put chips in the rest.”

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Baking continued and soon it was that they added chips and more chips,
licked the dough, scooped some more, baked them up,
and the children of the tribe of Eric were happy indeed.

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The Mother of the tribe was surprised at how quickly she was done.
8 dozen lay in rows with only one or two missing occasionally.

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The son of the tribe looked them over,
sized them up and down and around,
carefully checking the tops and the bottoms
for that one cookie with the mostest chips
that would be all goey and melt in your mouth.

He must have found quite a few perfect ones
for more then one was consumed that day.

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As for the chipless ones,
the Mother was happy with only a few
for her and the father of the tribe.
The less desirable they appear,
the fewer consumed to stick around with her forever.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 C butter
1 1/2 C White Sugar
1 1/2 C Brown Sugar
4 eggs
-cream together

2 tsp Soda
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Vanilla
2/3 C Instant vanilla pudding (or 1 box)
5 C flour
16oz Chocolate chips

-Mix well.
Bake 8-9 min @ 375

Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies 3

It’s baking day because it officially feels like Fall.
(and because the kids claim there is nothing in the house to eat)
After making bread, coffee cake, pumpkin cookies, and 2 pumpkin pies,
this kitchen is now officially closed.

Question.
Does pumpkin stuff taste good to you at other times of the year? Pumpkin cookies, pie or bars just don’t appeal to me in the Spring or Summer. It’s a Fall food. Am I crazy or is my family who thinks any time is a good time for Pumpkin Pie?

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I’ve posted this recipe before, but here it is again,
just as good as it was the 1st time.

Pumpkin Cookies

2 C Crisco
2 C sugar
-cream together

add…
2 C pumpkin
  2 eggs
  2 tsp Vanilla
– mix

Combine then add…
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
 2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Bake at 350* for 11-12 min.
Frost with caramel icing.

And in case you want a good recipe for

Carmel Icing

1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 C. Brown Sugar
-bring to a boil and then add
1/3 C milk
-bring to a boil again, remove from heat and add
3 C. Powdered Sugar

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Happy eating.
Don’t stop with just one.

Christmas Cookies

We’ve been out of baked goods for awhile around here
and the son thinks that is a crime.
So yesterday I was trying to think of something good to make
and remembered the Christmas Cookies.

 I found the recipe in my box a few years ago
and they were labeled “Christmas Cookies” and it said, “From Mom.”
I don’t really remember eating them at home, but we must have.
Since I found the recipe I usually make them at least once around Christmas time.
Maybe it’s because of the name, but that’s the only time of the year I make them.

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They are soft on the inside, just a little bit crispy outside,
and have a shortbread taste.
If they are at all overbaked they loose the soft inside and are just a crunchy cookie.

I guess this batch turned out well because this morning the son was happily dipping them in milk.

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Christmas Cookies

1 C. butter, softened
1 C. oil
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Powered Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
2 eggs
4 C flour

Mix butter and oil. Add sugars and mix.
Add rest of ingredients and mix well.
Chill 2-4 hours.
Scoop into balls and sprinkle with sugar before baking.
350* – 12 min.

I bake until the edges have just a tint of brown.
No more or they’ll be too hard.

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He stuck his head in for a picture of “the cookies and me.”
Evidence of cookies still remain on him! 🙂

Happy eating!


Pumpkin Time

It’s pumpkin time again.

Cookies, cakes, pies, and all things good.

I love pumpkin stuff but haven’t made a lot of it this year.
My resolve is weak when it comes to things like this and if I make it, I eat it!
So my family suffers because I don’t make it.
I promise as soon as I get some more eggs, we’ll have pie again.

We planted pie pumpkins this Spring.
Let me rephrase that,
Eric planted pie pumpkins this Spring.
This woman doesn’t do gardening and since he kind of likes it,
he does it.
And we’re all happy,
as long as it doesn’t produce to much work for me. 🙂

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(This is not one of ours. He was hand delivered to the middle of our lane late one night.)

Anyway, we have little pumpkins, maybe 10 of them or so.
I hate hate hate cutting them apart.
The shell is so hard and your hands hurt till your done.
Then I read a cooking blog and lo and behold,
it’s easier done!

The Farmer’s Wife will tell you all about it here.

Follow her directions and bake away. I only cut up 6 of the little things this morning and I have about 13 cups of pumpkin.

Cookies are the first thing on the list for me, after the pie of couse.
I make these every year and I’m craving them.

Happy baking.

Granola Bars

My kids love granola bars.
They want me to buy them all the time
and devour them when they are in the pantry.
For some reason they seem to think
the chocolate covered ones are the best.
(They got that from their dad)

This summer I remembered that I had a recipe
for granola bars that I used to make.
So I dug it out, made them and sure enough, they like them.
Of course they do prefer if I drizzle chocolate all over them
but since I am not a chocolate lover, they don’t get that most of the time.

These things are easy to make,
take ingredients that I have on hand most of the time
and they are god.

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A disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a health freak at all, so these may not be totally “healthy” for you. I do assume they are better for you then the store bought ones.
That’s just to appease my conscience a little for all the junk I eat. 🙂

Granola Bars

4 1/2 C Rice Krispies
1 C crushed Graham Crackers
5 C Oatmeal
1 C crushed Peanuts
1 C Coconut
1 C Chocolate Chips

2lbs Marshmallows
1/4 C Butter
1/4 C veg Oil
1/4 C Honey
1/4 C Peanut Butter

Mix the dry ingredients together.
(I omit the coconut since I don’t care for it.)
Melt the Marshmallows, butter and oil.
Add the honey and peanut butter to mixture.
Pour over the dry ingredients.
Stir!!!
Press into a jelly roll pan.

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Marinara Sauce

Honesty first.
Canning is NOT on my list of favorite things to do.
Far from it.
I only do it because I have to.
That said, Marinara is about the easiest thing to do.
And it’s good.
We use it for lots of things so I have to do it every year.
Pizza, spaghetti, dipping bread sticks, casseroles, use your imagination, it’s that good.
~~
(Recipe at the bottom of the post!)

Chop, chop chop!
onions, peppers and celery.

Cook the veggies with a gallon of juice till they are all nice and soft.
I used the juice I canned last year and that is what makes this so much easier!
Or go buy the juice, even less of a mess!

While you wait on that stuff to get soft, mix everything else together.

Rest of the juice. Ketchup. Tomato paste. Sugar. Parmesan. and all the seasonings.
See them in their little bowl back there. I dump them in a small bowl first so that if I mess up, I don’t ruin the entire batch!


Stir, stir, stir

Now we get to blend that whole mess of peppers, onions, celery and juice into puree since they are soft.

The dishrag on the top was for my protection from hot splashes.

Dump it all together.
Stir, stir, stir.
Cook, cook, cook till it boils.
Put it into jars.

Put it in the oven for 40 min at 250 and you are done!
My jars were all popping by 11 am.

And I shall be ever so happy to eat this while the snow flies.

~~~

Marinara sauce

9 qts tomato juice
8 celery sticks
9 onions
4 peppers
-cook 1 gal of juice with the veggies until everything is soft.
blend until pureed. add rest of ingredients.
1 qt. ketchup
1 gal tomato paste
3 C. sugar
(I cut mine back to 1.5 C sugar)
2.5 C. Parmesan Cheese
2 TBS black pepper
3 TBS dry mustard
3 TBS garlic powder
3 TBS oregano
3 TBS chili powder
6 TBS paprika
6 TBS salt
9 TBS Parsley flakes

Bring everything to a boil.
Fill jars.
Heat oven to 250* and bake jars for 40 min.
Remove and enjoy.

Yields around 33-35 pints.