Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I have been on a pudding kick lately. This past weekend, I made chocolate, vanilla, and butterscotch puddings.  I had decided on brownies and pudding for my birthday, so I made a pan of brownies and the puddings.  Then my friend brought me a pan of warm gingerbread and freshly whipped cream, so I was pretty much in heaven.  I had gingerbread and whipped cream for dessert after lunch and brownie with chocolate and butterscotch pudding and more whipped cream after supper.  The next day, I tried a piece of gingerbread with a little of the vanilla pudding spooned on top and it was really good.  Last night we finished the last of the puddings, so this morning I threw together some lemon pudding to go with the rest of the gingerbread.
Lemon Pudding
Place in pot:
--3/4 cup sugar
--4 Tablespoons flour (you can use 2T cornstarch if you want, but in my experience, this produced a runnier pudding)
--2 cups milk

Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture is thickened and starting to bubble.  Keep stirring and cooking for another minute or two.  Remove from the heat and add a teaspoon of lemon extract and a bit of butter (I use a blob that is slightly less than a tablespoon) and stir until butter is melted.  Put in a container or in individual dessert cups.

Vanilla Pudding
Make as for lemon pudding above, but use vanilla extract instead of the lemon.

Butterscotch Pudding
Make as for lemon pudding above, but use brown sugar instead of regular sugar and vanilla extract instead of lemon.

Chocolate Pudding
Place in pot:
--EITHER 1 cup of sugar and 6 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder OR 3/4 cup of sugar and 2 1 ounce squares of semi-sweet chocolate
--4 Tablespoons of flour
--2 cups milk

Proceed as above, using vanilla extract.  If using the chocolate squares, they will melt as you heat and stir.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Birthday Chili

After doing the demo the other day in the food pantry the other day with chili mix in a jar I decided to have chili for my birthday dinner tonight.  So the other night, I let my Crock Pot make my chili. 
I soaked the beans all day, changing the water a few times, then I drained them one last time and rinsed them off before placing in the crock.  I added chopped onions, bell pepper, jalapenos, carrots, and potatoes, filled the crock with water to about an inch and a half from the top, put the lid on, set it to low and left it cooking.  Every time I woke up in the night I noticed how good it smelled in here.  In the morning--about 8 hours later--I added garlic and chili powders, a 12 ounce can of tomato paste and a can of water.  I stirred everything around to incorporate the paste and left it to cook for another hour or so.  I will be the only one eating this, since neither Bill nor Heather like chili.  I will be eating it for several days and will have some for the freezer as well. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chocolate Banana Rolls in the Bread Machine

Yesterday I made these chocolate banana rolls in my bread machine
They were an experiment, and I was happy with the end result!
Chocolate Banana Rolls
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 bananas, mashed
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar (you could use white sugar if that's what you've got)
1 1/4 cup each whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and rolled oats
chopped walnuts, if desired--you could also use almonds or some other nuts or leave them out entirely
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Put everything in the bread machine pan and set to dough setting.  If dough is too wet, add a little more oats, flour, or cocoa.  If it's too dry, add a bit of water.  When the dough is finished, roll into a snake shape and cut into pieces.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and cover with a towel.  Let rise for about an hour, then bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until rolls sound hollow when you tap on them with your fingernail.  I got 24 rolls out of this batch of dough. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chowder and Chili

This morning, I headed down to the food pantry to put beans in jars.  A couple of weeks ago, Sue, the coordinator, had asked if I would be interested in doing a "mixes in jars" demo and chili mix was our choice.  On Monday, I brought home jars of oregano and chili powder along with a box of snack-sized zipper bags.  Yesterday I measured the spices into the bags--I ended up with 28 of them.  There are lots of beans in the food bank--I guess a huge new shipment came in the other day.  So this is good timing--the chili is a simple thing to put together using food clients get from the pantry.  By doing it as a mix in a jar, people could opt to give it as a gift--and some planned to do that.  In addition to the new stock of kidney beans, there were also white beans, black beans, and pinto beans. I thought about layering colors, but decided I might not have enough time, so I got a big bowl from the soup kitchen and dumped all the different kinds in together.  Wearing my food handling gloves, I used my hand to mix them all together and then I measured 3 cups of the mixed beans into wide mouth, quart sized mason jars.  It looked really nice! I also had the following handout available:
Chili Mix in a Jar
To make the mix, place the following in a jar or large bag:
3 cups dried beans (pink, red, or kidney -- sorted).

Combine spices and put into a small bag.
3 Tbsp. mild chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. salt

Place jar or bag of beans into a gift bag/basket/box and include in your gift bag:
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice
a 12 ounce can of tomato paste that can be diluted with a couple of cans of water

Add instructions to jar:

Wash beans. Put into pot with spices. Cook until done, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, brown 1 lb. ground beef/turkey, cubed chicken breast or thighs (if desired), along with some onion and garlic (or use 1 tablespoon of garlic powder in the spice mix and omit the fresh garlic here), and drain.  Add meat to the beans with the tomatoes and sauce, or can of tomato paste and 2 cans of water. Simmer to blend flavors.

Optional veggies to add, if desired:
bell pepper
hot pepper
diced carrot
diced zucchini
corn (canned [drained], frozen, or cut off the cob)

The original recipe comes from a website that is full of recipes for mixes in jars--but many of them are pretty high in sodium and would need to be tweaked. In fact, I left the salt out of the spice packets that went into the jars today.  I also added options to the handout so that people could use what they have on hand.  This was very well received.  The food pantry was a little slower than I have seen it in the past, but the people that were in the first crowd swarmed the table and probably half of the jars went right away.  The doors opened at 10.  By 10:45, I had 3 jars left and by 11:15 they were gone. Some people decorated their jars with the tags and ribbons we had there and some did not, but many people were very pleased about the whole thing--and as someone pointed out, it was a good day for a steaming hot bowl of chili.  It was misty and rainy and in the high 30s here, so it was nice chili weather.  After the new year, we will probably do another demo along these lines since it was so popular--and we have lots more beans!

Tonight for supper we had leftover cod chowder.  I made it last night.  It just looks so pretty with all of those brightly colored veggies!
To make it, I put some olive oil in the pot and then tossed in a chopped onion, 1 1/2 bell peppers that had been chopped, diced carrots, and chopped broccoli stalks.  I cooked this in the oil, stirring everything around.  then I added some cod fillets. They were still partially frozen, so I kind of tore them into smaller pieces and just put them in the pot.  As they thawed I was able to flake them with the wooden spoon.  After the fish was flaked, I added some garlic powder and some cut up baby purple potatoes.  I added enough water that it came up to just underneath the level of the veggies and I brought it to a boil.  I turned the heat down and it continued to boil until the potatoes were barely cooked.  I added the broccoli florets and let it cook further for about a minute before turning the heat down a little more and adding milk.  I let this heat through, ladled it into bowls, and ground some black pepper over.  It was quite yummy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Freshly Snipped Herbs!

I have been craving salad for the last few days and today I made myself one for lunch.  I had some romaine lettuce, savoy cabbage, and red bell pepper.  I somehow overlooked the carrots and peas I was going to add, so they will await the next salad!  I had some crumbled feta cheese and some tuna in chili oil.  I went to my little window garden and snipped some scallion, garlic shoots, and picked some basil leaves to add to the bowl.  I topped it with a little sun dried tomato dressing.  That salad hit the spot and it was great to have the fresh herbs to brighten up the bowl.  This is an inexpensive way to add some green to your meals and to have more houseplants!  The only thing I bought for my little garden was dirt, so it's a really cheap project.  The mint and basil plants I have came from the soup kitchen dining room because no one else wanted them.  They came packaged in their little pots. I planted the basil right away, but with the mint, I trimmed it and dried the cut parts for tea, and then stuck the little pot in some water.  It was already sending out runners and it perked right up in the water.  After about a week, I repotted into a larger container.  The leeks and scallions are the ends that were left after I used the originals.  They just keep on growing. It is the same with the celery.  I place the scallion ends directly into dirt, but the leeks and celery I usually keep in water for a while.  They start growing new stalks almost immediately, but it can take a little while for the celery to grow roots. The garlic is simply cloves that I planted in dirt.  These send up green shoots that can be snipped and used like scallions.  For pots I used yogurt containers, larger food service containers, and an old glass mixing bowl that got a crack in it.  I stuck this in a wool hat I didn't want anymore--makes a nice plant pot cozy! 

It occurs to me that you could make some nice gifts out of food plants.  Plant some scallion ends and garlic cloves in a pot, give them a little time to send up their shoots, put a ribbon around the pot and give someone their own little garden that will keep on giving--and these grow back really fast when snipped.  A pot with a basil plant, some garlic, and maybe a scallion or two make a nice combination--future pesto!  Or some basil, oregano, and garlic--all ready for some spaghetti sauce.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chowdah in the Soup Kitchen

A few weeks ago, Annette, the soup kitchen coordinator asked me of I could cook on Monday this week instead of my usual Thursday.  I figured that since she knows I am usually in the food bank on Mondays, she must've really needed someone or she wouldn't have asked, so I said I would do it.  Then last week, she asked me if I would make fish chowder (or "chowdah" as the locals say it).  I said OK even as my heart sank.  I have made chowder at home for the two of us (Heather does not eat it), but making it for 100+ people was a different story altogether.  I worried about burning the milk.  I worried about how to serve it.  I worried about lifting those huge heavy pots full of hot soup.  Happily, I had a great crew and they got busy scrubbing and chopping potatoes, peeling and chopping carrots, chopping onions, and making salad.  I cut up 35 pounds of fish, some of which were fillets, some of which were steaks, some of which had the skin on, and some of which had breading "made with real Ritz crackers."  Thank goodness for that--I would not have wanted to use fake-cracker-coated fish!!  I poured some oil in a couple of big, heavy pots, added onions and carrots and started sauteeing.  I looked at the potatoes and realized I was going to have to do three pots, so I got another one and moved some carrot/onion to that.  I added the fish and mixed it in and let it cook a little.  I added potatoes and canned corn.  I added more water and let it cook.  I lifted the lid off of one pot after 15 minutes or so and it was not boiling yet, but I smelled burnt food.  Sure enough, the bottom was scorching.  The other two pots were fine.  We got another pot and I moved the soup over to that and put it on a new burner at a lower flame, but the damage was done.  We tasted it and even with the addition of cream and crackers in the bowl, it tasted burnt.  Thankfully, I had no problem with the other two pots, so I added light cream (there had been a donation of a couple of cases of this, which is why we were having chowder!), butter, salt and pepper.  I managed to lift the pot off of the stove and onto the work table without spilling any. Turns out soup can be quite heavy. Then I used another smaller pot to scoop soup into the deep steam table pans.  We added more cream, both because there had not been room for much in the pots and because we wanted to make sure we had enough soup.  I served from one pan and when that was halfway done, I added still more cream and moved to the next pan while the cream heated up.  We served 101 first servings, 64 seconds helpings and 7 kid meals.  And even though we lost that one pot, we had enough.  People loved it.  I was relieved.  Now I am tired, but it's a good kind of tired.  This was the first time I worked a Monday in the soup kitchen, so now I have cooked every day of the week in there.  I do enjoy it.  And, after I was done in the kitchen, I chatted with Sue, the food pantry coordinator about doing a food gift activity on the 12th.  We're going to have jars, ribbons, labels, and stuff to put in the jars, like cranberry rice pilaf mix or bean soup mix or something like that, so people can layer the ingredients in the jars, add a ribbon and a label with what it is and how to cook it.  It can be a gift for someone else or they can keep it.  Should be fun!