Foodie Failure? There’s Grace

What have been some of your worst foodie failures? Seriously, share in the comments and let us know. We’ve all had them. From poached eggs that wouldn’t stay together, steak too well done (can you say ‘burned?’), cakes with a soggy middle, to pudding that wouldn’t “pudd.” If you putter in the kitchen, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

I subscribe to a few Foodie blogs and it’s fun to read their posts about exotic recipes and drool over the photos accompanying the descriptions of that food. But sometimes I wonder how many tries it took to get the recipe right. And how many actual photos were taken before they found the one shot which had the food situated just right on the plate, the lighting was correct, and the food didn’t melt into a creamy mess.

Remembering that I’ve had my own Foodie failures, I’m inclined to offer grace to my fellow cooks. Getting a cheesecake loosened from a spring-form pan the first time is tricky. That’s okay. It tastes the same as if it had beautiful edges.

You get the idea.

I have a classic Foodie Failure story which I posted just so my readers could see how people will extend grace when we flop at cooking.

That was a great experience for me. Those friends were women from my church and fellow choir members. They knew the story of how God has extended grace to us by sending his son, Jesus, to die on a cross to save us from sin. Grace to me for how my zucchini came out that night was the least of the things they could forgive me for. After all, they knew me well.

Today is Good Friday. It’s a good, if not great, day for us, because it’s in remembrance of that day when the ultimate story of grace occurred. From the Cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

Enjoy this Easter season any way you prefer. I hope you find a way to fit in the story of Christ loving us to the ultimate, despite our failures. Because of his sacrifice, he makes all things new. If you haven’t experienced a relationship with Jesus by receiving him as savior, please consider it.

I’m going now. It’s time to fix a traditional breakfast for myself today. I don’t usually do that. But I’m hoping for no Foodie failures like when the toast is the wrong brownness, the poached eggs are too runny and the bacon gets a little too crisp.

Happy Easter, Eat Hardy, and Be a blessing to someone today.

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Foodie Snacks For 100 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!

Foodies Talk About Food

I know how you are. I listen when I’m out with you. I overhear you doing it. I watch and see you doing it on social media. You all like to talk about food.

For example:

You show us where you’re eating right now. You take pictures of that great meal you cooked. You share recipes. Yes, indeed, we like to eat and talk about eating. Here are some quotes from folks who are just like you and me. See what they have to say, whether in a light hearted way or in all seriousness, about food, cooking and eating.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

“Wait. Why am I thinking about Krispy Kremes? We’re supposed to be exercising.”
― Meg Cabot, Big Boned

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”
― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”
– Erma Bombeck

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
― Sophia Loren

“My wife and I tried to breakfast together, but we had to stop, or our marriage would have been wrecked.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“I’m pretty sure that eating chocolate keeps wrinkles away because I have never seen a 10-year-old with a Hershey bar and crow’s feet.”
― Amy Neftzger

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”
― James Beard

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

“Cakes are like books: There are new ones you want to read and old favorites you want to reread.”
― Ellen Rose

“I will not eat them in a house, I will not eat them with a mouse, I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox, I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere, I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
― Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

 

Drink Up, Foodie

Most of us like parties. We don’t even need a good reason to celebrate or get together. My best friend and I would often say at the end of the school day, “Let’s go celebrate.” That meant we’d be stopping on our walk home to have a soda in a corner booth at the family restaurant on main street.

What were we celebrating? That school let out; that we’d done well on a test; that we hadn’t been sent to the principal’s office; anything; or nothing at all. We just enjoyed each other’s company and it called for a “celebration.”

This time of year, however, many of us find ourselves celebrating something. A holiday; the beginning of a new calendar year; a break from school; anything. And we want to celebrate those things with people we enjoy.

If you’re inviting friends in or attending a get-together elsewhere, you know from experience that the drinks are a big part of the celebration. This week, Foodie Friday is designated to holidays and party drinks. (And speaking of “designated,” if you intend to drink alcoholic beverages at your celebrations, plan for a designated driver. Please.)

This first recipe is traditional for Christmas. It’s a British beverage dating back to the 1400s. The word ‘wassail’ means “Be well.” So, it’s the perfect beverage for drinking to one another’s good health. I got this recipe from my community theater buddy, Valerie VanderMark.

Wassail

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. water
  • 6 c. grapefruit juice
  • 3 c. orange juice
  • 1 quart cider
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

In a saucepan combine sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes. Strain the mixture. Add juices, simmer to blend flavors and serve hot. Garnish with orange slices. It makes approximately 26 servings

This recipe is for a very different kind of drink and I got it from a lady, Nina Bale, who lived in my home town. I remember Nina well because, like me, she was petite. And, goodness, she dressed with impeccable taste.

Nina Bale’s Slush

  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 12 oz. can frozen lemonade
  • 1 fifth Vodka
  • 1 large can crème of coconut or coconut milk

Combine all ingredients and freeze in a large container. For the party, taking out as much as you need, blend in batches at low speed in a blender. Pour into glasses or a chilled punch bowl.

Other seasonal drinks include eggnog, with or without the alcohol; hot buttered rum; and glogg, a traditional Scandinavian drink. If you like your buttered rum sans alcohol, but want the taste of it, add a bit of rum extract. Glogg can be prepared without alcohol as well.

And don’t forget the great old stand-by, hot chocolate. There are so many ways to flavor it if you want to experiment. Drink up! And say a toast to Foodies everywhere.

Be a blessing to all you meet during this holiday season.

 

Tips for Raiding the Foodie Pantry

Believe it or not, we don’t need to buy fancy products at the store to handle cleaning, repairs and conditioning. Practically everyone knows you can use dryer sheets for freshening things up and lint pickup. Here are some other tips using household items you probably already have around the house.

Rubbing Alcohol: It’s a great cleaner and disinfectant. It also leaves a streak-free shine.

  • Wipe candles with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove dust being careful not to touch the wick.
  • For your car, wipe your windshield wiper blades with a bit of rubbing alcohol. It removes road grime and they are less apt to become iced up.
  • Unclog hair spray or paint nozzles by gently removing the spray top and soaking in rubbing alcohol for about 10 minutes.
  • Make a home-made ice pack by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a seal-able plastic bag. Next time you have a sore area or injury, use this clever ice pack which also molds to your body. (alcohol doesn’t freeze)
  • Get rid of fruit flies by mixing rubbing alcohol with water in a spray bottle and spraying them. They’ll soon drop so you can clean them away. So much cleaner and less smelly than commercial bug sprays.

Cooking Spray: This has become a staple in many modern pantries and for good reason. Did you know you can also…?

  • Spray a thin layer inside plastic containers before storing tomato-based sauces. Stains normally left behind from the acidic sauce can be prevented this way.
  • Being very careful not to get any on the floor of the bathtub, spritz the shower walls with cooking spray to help loosen soap scum. Again, if you’ve ever over sprayed in the kitchen and it’s landed on the floor, you know it’s important to be careful. It is, after all, an oil.
  • Who needs commercial products when you can use cooking spray to take care of a squeaky or tight hinge?

Vinegar: It’s probably best to use white vinegar for these tips. The smell is milder and there’s no color.

  • Would you rather not use alcohol on the wiper blades? Vinegar may not keep them from icing up, but it also cleans away the grime that builds up.
  • For your laundry, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar to a full load of laundry. It will soften, deodorize, and de-lint clothes. It also removes excess soap, which can cause skin irritation.
  • Warm white vinegar in the microwave for about 30 seconds and use it to cut though hardened soap scum and hard water stains in your bathroom and shower.
  • Preserve fresh-cut flowers by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar to the water. Vinegar kills the bacteria and sugar feeds the flowers.

Cornstarch: It’s not just for making gravy.

  • After cleaning wood furniture, sprinkle a little cornstarch over the area and rub with a lint-free cloth. Cornstarch absorbs the excess polish and cleans away fingerprints.
  • Remove greasy stains such as lotion and baby oil from clothing. Blot as much as you can with a cloth, then sprinkle the cornstarch. Let it sit 10 minutes, shake it out, and dab with (that good old) white vinegar to break up the greases. Launder as usual.
  • If your shoes seem to retain odor, sprinkle a little cornstarch in them at bedtime. The smells are absorbed and it’s easy to just dust it away into a waste bin.
  • You can also make dry shampoo from cornstarch. Use ¼ cup cornstarch, 4-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary is a good one), a small jar with a wide opening, and a fluffy makeup brush. Mix the cornstarch and oil together in the jar. Before bed, dust the shampoo into your roots so it can absorb oil then carefully brush it out the next morning. If you’re pressed for time, try to do this at least a couple hours before you leave the house, so you don’t get that ‘grey’ look.
  • Clean your child’s favorite stuffed animals with cornstarch. Put the fluffy little beast in a paper bag with a bit of cornstarch, seal and shake the bag, then leave it overnight. The next day, remove the toy and shake it well or use your vacuum attachment to remove any residue.

Do you have tips for cleaning with ordinary pantry stuff? It’s environmentally cleaner and much cheaper to use those items you already have on hand. In fact, of the pantry items mentioned here, cornstarch is the only one I’ve not found at the dollar store. Use the comments section and let me know your tips and tricks.

 

 

TGIF: Just Scream

This would normally be a Foodie post because it’s Foodie Friday. But my mind is elsewhere.

Yesterday a friend shared with me a text from her daughter-in-law. The poor woman was recounting every challenge which happened in just the past week alone, including a scare with her husband being hospitalized for chest pains. I told my friend, “Well, life is like a roller coaster, and it’s okay to scream.”

If you’re one of those people who is saying to yourself, “Thank God it’s Friday,” hang on to that bar in front of you. God will be your source of strength and comfort to get through any challenge. And, even though screaming may help in the moment, remember that the ride eventually evens out.

The more we get used to the roller coaster ride of life, the more we realize that the steep climbs, crashing plummets, and speedy curves are all part of it. Our approach to God in facing the roller coaster’s intensity–even while screaming–makes sense as we approach each challenge on the ride of our life.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Foodie Sips Hot Chocolate

In my part of the world, it’s autumn. This time of the year and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine 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.

This time of year, we’re often found around campfires in our own back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

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. I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try some homemade cocoa and give it 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 always adds zip.

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.

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.

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 fresh 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 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 chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Foodie Celebrates #NationalCoffeeDay

Can’t you smell the coffee brewing? Aaaaah!

Anyone who knows me understands that I ‘celebrate’ coffee every day. The celebration happens in the morning, in the afternoon, and sometimes even in the evening. As I write this, there’s a cup on the end table to my right.

I am, simply put, a Coffee Hound. I guess I’m one of  those people who jokingly (or not so jokingly) consider coffee a food group. Who needs a special day to recognize coffee? I wouldn’t normally ask that and to a coffee hound it may seem ridiculous. But as time goes by, I understand the plight of some of the people who grow the wonderful beans that become my cup of joe.

Quite often, the people farming the plants receive little for their efforts. I don’t totally understand the process, but I know that to support fair trade for coffee growers is smart. It’s the benevolent thing to do; the equivalent of paying a fair wage for work done. My church serves only coffee which is fair trade in its on-site cafe. Every penny taken in on every cup of coffee purchased is returned to the growers’ initiative to support the coffee growers. We get the best tasting coffee we’ve ever served and we participate in a mission to help others help themselves.

How do you like your coffee? Flavors? Black? “Doctored up?” Decaf? However you like it, let’s celebrate the beautiful bean.

 

Disposing of Foodie Scraps

A garbage disposal is one my favorite appliances in the kitchen. Does that sound weird coming from a Foodie? Why not a food processor or a slow cooker? Let me tell you why. I don’t consider having a garbage disposal a luxury. It’s just part of my mindset regarding stewardship of our environment.

I can be cranky thinking I’m sending stuff to the landfill, even if it’s supposedly biodegradable. Think about it: you stuff your garbage in a bag and take it to the dumpster. Your trash company takes it away and, ultimately, that plastic bag ends up in a landfill. I’m not a scientist, but I’m guessing it takes a little longer for the food to break down when it’s in a plastic bag.

Leaning heavily on the side of recycling, I’d rather send something into a waste treatment plant than onto a garbage truck. Getting washed away in this manner means someone’s actually keeping an eye on water quality and ground waters.

Since I’ve had a disposal for so long, I thought I knew all there was to know about using one. But I discovered some tips and habits that I can put into practice which I formerly haven’t used.

Veering from the usual recipes and cooking tips, here’s a list of things you should know about using your garbage disposal. I hope this list will be useful for you. If you don’t already have a garbage disposal, perhaps you’ll consider installing one.

  • Large pieces of food should not be put down the disposal. Cut food into smallish pieces and feed them into the disposal gradually with cold water running constantly.
  • Don’t turn off the water while the disposal is running. Wait until grinding is complete. When grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and let the water run for another 15 seconds.

Keeping the Disposal Clean

  1. Something you can do to keep the disposal clean is to periodically pour a little dish soap down it and run cold water while running the disposal as you would to grind food. If you wash dishes in the sink, that’s a good time to do it.
  2. Run the disposal regularly; it prevents corrosion and obstructions.
  3. Grind certain hard materials such as small chicken bones, fish bones, egg shells, ice, etc. It causes a scouring action and prevents food from building up around the walls of the disposal. However, do not put large bones down the disposal. Only fine bones and only occasionally.
  4. Borax is a natural cleaner with many uses around the home and is a good product for cleaning the disposal. It can be found in the aisle with detergents and cleaning products.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners in your disposal. They can damage the drains and pipes.

The “Don’t” List

  1. Don’t put anything down the disposal that’s not a biodegradable food. This includes non-food items like glass, plastic, metal, paper, anything combustible, cigarette butts, etc.
  2. Do not put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. They do not harm the disposal, but could clog drains and pipes.
  3. Don’t put ‘expandable’ foods like pasta and rice down the disposal. When they expand as water is run down the sink, they create one of the biggest causes for repairs.
  4. Do not pour grease, oil, or naturally occurring fat in a food into your disposal or drain. This includes the fat on cuts of meat. Fats will slowly accumulate and impede the disposal’s grinding ability as well as clog drains.
  5. Too many potato peels put down the disposal create a thick paste because of the starch in the potato. This causes the blades to stick so don’t put too many down the disposal at one time. If you’re preparing a lot of potatoes, put the bulk of the peelings in the trash.
  6. Do not grind fibrous material like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the motor.

I hadn’t always thought about how to care for a garbage disposal until I needed to call someone to come repair it or get it unstuck. Remember that someone who knows how to do the job should be the person to do so.

If you hear a nasty sound coming from the disposal, turn it off immediately. It goes without saying you should never put your hands down a disposal that has not stopped spinning. If you go to retrieve something which has gone down the sink (usually a spoon or something else small) carefully move your hand around the blades. You can prevent things from going down the sink in the first place by using a mesh strainer. They’re easy to find and usually inexpensive.

Do you have tips for using a garbage disposal which I may have left out?

 

Foodie’s Greens Galore

When the weather is hot and humid like it is currently where I live, I don’t want to cook. Not even on the stovetop. So salads come to the rescue. My plan for this blog post was to talk about creating salads with a variety of ingredients. And just in time, the Start Cooking blog posted “Salad Greens From A to Z.”

In addition to reading Kathy’s list on the various greens you can pick from and their individual characteristics, she includes a few recipes. You might want to try one or two.

My favorite greens are spinach, romaine, radicchio, leaf lettuce, and arugula. My tastes for what I’ll put on my salad are all over the map. I’m always experimenting. Fruits, nuts and seeds, a variety of vegetables, meats and cheeses, condiments, and even some herbs have all found their way to my plate of leafy greens.

The flavors I get by using a variety of dressings determines which ingredients I add. Here’s a recipe for a Greek Salad Dressing I make to keep on hand all the time. What I like about this dressing is it doesn’t need refrigeration and the recipe uses stuff I have in my pantry all the time. I don’t need to go out and buy something exotic.

Greek Style Salad Dressing

  • 1 ½ c. olive oil
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. dried basil
  • 1 T. pepper
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 ½ c. red wine vinegar

In a large container (about 1-quart capacity), mix together all ingredients except vinegar. Pour in the vinegar and mix vigorously until well blended. Store tightly at room temperature. Makes about 25 2-tablespoon servings.

I’ve made this dressing with both red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. I like balsamic better. Also, I usually start with only one cup of vinegar and taste it until, after adding a little more at a time, it tastes just right. Depending on which kind you use, the vinegar can be a little overwhelming.

Another variation I’ve tried is to add about 1/3 c. mayonnaise for a creamy dressing. If you add mayo, the dressing will need refrigeration.