Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not sit well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese

Foodies For the Birds

Right now, in my neck of the woods, fall is coming. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and I’m blessed I get to experience four of them in the Midwest. Today, we’re veering from human food to food that’s literally “for the birds.”

Because I’ve lived in an apartment for so long (some place or another), I don’t always get to have things like patio furniture, lawn ornaments, or bird feeders. If I could, I’d definitely be feeding the birds from at least two feeders. My dad kept them and one of his favorite things to do while relaxing in his recliner was to watch the birds in their feeders outside the living room window.

Since we associate this season as one of bird migration, we should remember that some birds benefit from feeders all year long. Birds have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. They get the bulk of their food from natural sources, but knowing what food types you should feed during each of the four seasons enables you to help backyard birds stay alive and healthy all year.

Another school of thought is the opposite of whether to and what to feed birds during winter. People sometimes think it’s unnecessary to keep feeders in summer. They take the feeders down in the summer months because they think it should be easier for birds to find food then. According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are good reasons for not putting the feeder away during the warmer months. The bonus with that idea is you get to enjoy the birds all year long.

Plus, with the soaring summer temperatures, it’s easy for birds to become dehydrated so in addition to plenty of food, they need fresh, clean water. Placing a bird bath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Cleaning your bird bath regularly in summer helps to avoid the spread of illness and disease. And you wouldn’t want to bathe in or drink icky water, would you?

These are some birds I get to enjoy even during my Michigan winters. —–>

Here in the northern hemisphere,  autumn can be the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer® seed
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Nectar (Hummingbirds need to refuel as well)

These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months. They’ll return to places where they’re used to finding a regular food supply.

Since some birds remain in the same location year round, winter is one of the most pertinent times to feed the birds. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates, or when temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:

  • Suet (especially good in winter, high fat content)
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as striped sunflower seeds)
  • White Proso Millet

Other ideas for feeding your feathered friends with stuff you have right in your kitchen are:

Baked eggshells They provide calcium, which can be essential for females during nesting season. It’s extremely important that you wash and bake the shells to kill any potential pathogens. After you bake them, crush them and add to the bird seed or just sprinkle them on the ground. They work well in a standard platform feeder.

Nuts If you have some roasted nuts past their prime, put them out and see which birds take a bite. Salted nuts are okay too but put them in a bag first and shake as much salt off as you can. Or clean them with a moist paper towel, then dry them in a flat pan. A little salt won’t hurt them, but too much isn’t good for birds. Don’t use whole nuts. Break them into pieces. This is crucial during summer because mother birds may feed them to their chicks with disastrous results. The idea is to aid the bird population, not harm it.

Roasted seeds Plenty of birds are seed eaters, so this one seems like a no-brainer. You might consider going beyond the commercial sunflower and safflower varieties. Keep the seeds from your fall pumpkins and squash and bake up a batch. Reserve a few for yourself and munch on seeds while you watch (out the window like my dad did) the birds enjoying a different kind of treat. Remember, your seeds can be salted, but add it to your portion after you’ve baked them. Northern cardinals (plentiful during a Michigan winter for me) and sparrows especially enjoy seeds.

If you’re new to feeding wild birds or even if you’re not, be aware of some common misunderstandings and mistakes we make when setting up feeders and keeping them stocked.

No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. Baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you’ll need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply. And the wild birds.

Be a blessing to the birds today

Fun fact Saying that someone “eats like a bird” has a literal meaning and doesn’t apply to a human’s eating habits. (Probably) If we ate like a bird, we would consume five times our own weight in food each day. To keep them in flight, birds have a high metabolism rate. That’s why it seems they’re always feeding when you see them. They probably are because they’re trying to maintain their energy level.

 

Foodie Snacks at 100 Calories or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

That means I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes. Most of the time, anyway.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. My doctor isn’t into counting calories as much as making sure I stay with the necessary nutrients and portion size. Man, have I learned a lot about portion size.

This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer. You can find such help all over the internet by doing searches. I use MyFitnessPal.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread ¼ cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. Here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. They come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on 9 or 10 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Turkey Tartine A fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a tasty open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix ¾ cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with ½ cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine ¾ cup diced cantaloupe with ¼ cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen sampling reflects that. You know me: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Eats Her Cereal

Yesterday, March 7, was National Cereal Day. Since I hail from Battle Creek, Michigan, the “Cereal Capital of the World,” it was only fitting to celebrate on social media. Hashtags and everything.

Foodies today are going to answer a couple questions for me. What’s your favorite cereal? (Hot, cold, homemade, weird, whatever.) What was your favorite when you were a kid?

We’ve long been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I admit to enjoying breakfast foods any time of day. Sometimes when I was young, on a Sunday evening after being busy all day and having fixed a big Sunday dinner, Mom would say about supper, “Just have a bowl of cereal.”

Reading the side panels of cereal boxes, I learned to sound out big words. I had no idea what riboflavin was, but I knew how to pronounce it.

I have plenty of recipes for homemade cereals (and other traditional breakfast foods), but you might want to try this granola recipe from All Recipes. If you’re partial to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, try this strawberry syrup.

Battle Creek’s history with cereal production is well-known here in the Mitten State. At one time, there was over 100 different cereal companies operating in our fair city. For trivia buffs, here’s some cool information about cereal manufacturing and how it all began.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereal revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation’s first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.

Granula, the first breakfast cereal, was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside, which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat.

The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious beliefs and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg experimented with granola. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market.

In 1906, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, William K. Kellogg, after working for John, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. His signature on every package became the company trademark and assurance of quality.

Charles W. Post introduced Grape-nuts in 1898 and soon followed with Post Toasties.

Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast some time to celebrate a pantry staple that appears in one form or another all over the world. Eat hardy.

 

 

7 Foodie Family Traditions Ideas

Families have traditions. Even when the family hasn’t officially named their practice a “tradition,” you can tell by watching them, that’s exactly what it is.

One of the most common traditions if you celebrate birthdays is to have a little “party” by serving cake, often with candles. You include as many people as possible because you want everyone to know the significance of the day. “I’m glad you were born” is what birthday celebrations boil down to. What a nice tradition.

My dad with his birthday cake that sports a Batman figure supplied by my eight-year-old son, Rich.

Here are some traditions revolving around meal time you might want to try. They’re ideas for celebrating the people you love, enjoying, as Foodies, a meal prepared with love.

Have Favorite Meal Day For instance, if a child has a birthday on the tenth of the month, on the 10th of every month, that child picks the main dish. You could also do this for wedding anniversaries where the wife picks on even months and hubby picks on the odd months.

All the men in the family cook and clean up on Mother’s Day.

Since restaurants are the busiest they are all year on Mother’s Day, stay at home and cook for Mom. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook one of those dishes (or a dessert) that was a favorite of everyone’s when you were growing up.  Make place cards for everyone using ideas you can get from Pinterest or any where you can find craft ideas on the internet. Going the extra mile is one way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.

One night a month the evening meal is designated as Finger Food Night.

On the first and last days of school, Mom or Dad prepares a special meal. You know what your kids like best. Let them know you’re proud and that you appreciate their individual tastes in food.

Upside Down Day is something you can do on weekends when you’re home. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast at dinner time and “midnight snacks” for lunch.

Celebrate ethnicity One day in the month, try a new recipe reflecting the culture of another country or ethnic group. Before you eat dessert, discuss some things you know about the culture from which the food may have originated or trivia about the country or group you selected. It’s a great way to connect and get a little bit of education.

And speaking of connecting, it’s good for us to remember how traditions almost always help families and friends celebrate each other and the relationships we’re engaged in. It’s hard to deny that meal time is often the only way we connect when life keeps us busy.

At your house, what traditions do you already participate in? If you live alone with no family around you, how can you begin a tradition with a friend or a group of friends? Is there an event that occurs regularly around which you can build a tradition? Where I live, the Super Bowl is coming up. Lots of families and friends who enjoy football–rivalries not withstanding–use the even to “celebrate.”

Celebrate one another and Eat Hardy.

Pumpkin Head Foodie

Well, it really is pumpkin season.

And that odd phenomenon called Pumpkin Spice in coffee, ice cream, pudding, bacon, and just about anything you can imagine pumpkin flavor showing up in made its appearance on the scene right around the first of September (at least in my neck of the woods). However you feel about putting that particular flavor in stuff, the idea is here to stay.

I’m sort of a purist. So today I’m giving out a recipe for a pumpkin bread I like to bake. I also happen to use dried cranberries a lot. This is the season for cranberries too so you could maybe use this one for a holiday coming up. They’re coming up in my neck of the woods anyway.

Normally, I’d tell you that you can exchange out ingredients, because you know I do that a lot when I cook. But in the case of baking, I like to be fairly exact. The only thing I can suggest is cutting down on the sugar. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like stuff as sweet as the average Joe/Jill. Naturally, if you’re gluten intolerant, you know what to do.

I like it with the orange juice because it helps the cranberry flavor along.

Mini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Makes 5 mini loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1T. + 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. orange juice or water
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in small mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into 5 greased and floured 5 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  for 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool.

Eat Hardy!

 

Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.

 

 

 

 

Foodie’s Crazy Kitchen

Raise your hand if you subscribe to more than five Foodie blogs. Thank you; I see I’m in good company.

I’m afraid I inject some of personality every time I write a Foodie post. That’s probably a good thing. Last week I gave a friend a heads-up, letting her know today’s subject would again be kitchen tips.

Well, if you consider the following “kitchen tips,” your personality is a lot like mine.

Consider this list of words I associate with creating in the kitchen:

  • Hodge-podge
  • Daring
  • Variety
  • Fun
  • Whisking (I enjoy whisking)
  • Gadgets
  • Spills
  • Putter

Something that springs to mind in addition to all that is “Crazy.” Not the kind that people associate with a mental illness. (And that’s not a good use of the word anyway). This is ‘crazy’ meaning sort of wacky or zany. Like, if someone eavesdropped as you putter in the kitchen, they might be surprised. They might furrow their brow. They might gasp. Let’s hope they see the fun you’re having and giggle.

Crazy Foodies, as far as I’ve seen, get lost in the process. They love going rogue by experimenting. Crazy Foodies sing, hum, or dance while they maneuver in the kitchen because music is often part of the process.

Where are the kitchen tips I promised? All right, here we go. And remember these tips are about being a little crazy in the kitchen, whether they look like it or not.

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge
  2. Think outside the box (Wait. I got rid of the box)
  3. If you have kids, get them involved
  4. Use your gadgets to their ultimate potential
  5. Don’t keep too many gadgets around
  6. Clear a large space for your work area
  7. Use recipes for tried-and-true stuff
  8. Try recipes—your own or someone else’s—that challenge you
  9. Don’t try to be a master chef (Relax!)

Because I enjoy experimenting and altering recipes, I can see how having a well-stocked pantry helps me to experiment and be creative. An added bonus is that I can be more methodical.

But does being methodical take away from the fun and spontaneity?

Naah. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan, even if you consider yourself a Crazy Foodie. When you’re somewhat methodical, you give yourself elbow room to be more creative.

Last night, I made cole slaw from what was left of the huge head of cabbage a friend gave me. She’s gluten intolerant and craved some sort of popular Italian-style meal so I made Cabbage Lasagna. My recipe for homemade cole slaw dressing was perfected by thinking out of that box which doesn’t exist in my kitchen.**

In my neck of the woods, we have a couple of Autumn holidays coming up. Foodies get a little crazy making dishes with a new twist. Naturally, I encourage that. In fact, that’s why I follow more than five Foodie blogs. I steal ideas from those writer/kitchen experts.

Let’s get crazy if we haven’t already tried it. If you already practice craziness, invite a friend to come and enjoy the process. Add some peanut butter to the banana bread.  Make some overnight oats that taste like an Almond Joy.

Just do it.

What words do you associate with creating in the kitchen? Would love to hear you chime in. So I can steal your ideas. Thanks in advance for letting me be a Kitchen Burglar.

Eat hardy!

**Truthfully, there is a box. For instance, I don’t do things like put lobster in chocolate fudge.

 

 

Foodie Cookie Winner

What a fun day we had recently in my rental community. They called it Tenant Appreciation Day. I was able to meet a few more of my neighbors, which is always fun. The company sponsored a chili cook-off and a couple bake-offs, one of which yours truly was a winner.

The winning entry, my pumpkin bars, were selected in the cookie category because our office manager decided they’re more of a cookie than a cake. That was okay with me—I won! The recipe is below. I failed to take a photo of these moist, not-too-sweet ‘cookies’ and it was too late by the time we thought of it. They disappeared quickly.

As you know, one of my favorite things to do is putter in the kitchen. I even enjoy clean-up time. Nothing like a tidy space to work. So when they said we’d be competing for the best stuff, how could I resist?

Robert won for his splendid homemade barbecue sauce and grilled chicken. Oh, you guys, it was mouth-watering tender. The sauce had just enough tart and sweet to please any palate. Duane took the prize for his pound cake and Amanda won in the chili category.

So there we were, mingling, eating and listening to some rocking music. The kids were making crafts and everyone got a goodie bag. The adults played that old favorite, “Guess How Many Are in the container.” A large Ball storage jar and a small one filled to the brim with hard candy and Red Hots. They gave extra incentive for the large container by taping a $2 bill to the side.

Hey, I’ll compete for money. Good thing I did. I came closest to the amount without going over with a guess of 639. The jar contained six hundred and something. Considering I have a rotten sense of spatial relationships, that’s pretty good. I never win anything so “Wow.” Best Cookie and Best Guesser. I shared the contents of the jar. I mean, what am I going to do with almost 700 pieces of candy? Or is that a dumb question?

 

Pumpkin Bars

  •  2 c. flour
  •  2 t. baking powder
  •  2 t. cinnamon
  •  1 t. baking soda
  •  4 eggs
  •  ¾ c. oil
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 1 16 oz. can pumpkin

Blend eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to the large bowl ingredients. Bake in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let bars cool before spreading them with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Blend all ingredients together and frost the cake.

A fairly simple recipe. As always, you can prepare this with a little less sugar as I do. I like to use a glass dish for these. It seems to bake nicely. And if you have problems with gluten, other flours usually work as well. I’ve mixed almond flour with wheat flour and I enjoy the flavor just as much.

Eat Hardy!