Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Poor Knights

With lots of little mouths to feed this month, I decided the best option would be to make a list of all the things my grandchildren liked best to eat, so one morning I asked them to name their favorite foods. Sophie (3) said, “Fudge!” Other items included chocolate chip cookies, salami, corn on the cob, cake, and rice, etc. After they ran out of ideas, I started asking my two little granddaughters if they liked certain foods. When we  got to breakfast foods, they said they liked pancakes and waffles, but they were totally baffled when I asked if they liked French toast, which surprised me, so I asked their mother (who is European). She asked what it was, and when I explained it to her, she said, “Oh, yes! The children do like it, but we call it ‘Poor Knights’.” After a quick Google search, we learned that the recipe goes back to the 4-5th century, and it sounds like the name refers to something knights would eat when they had little else available. However, in modern times, Poor Knights (aka/french toast) is considered a treat —at least it is at our home—although I do often use it as a way of brightening up bread that is starting to loose its freshness. I suppose everybody who grew up in America knows how to make it, but just in case you’re from a country where it’s not on the menu, here’s the recipe:

Warm and Wonderful French Toast

Start with bread. It can be bread that’s been sitting around for a few days and is starting to dry out (although if I notice that happening, I store it in the refrigerator to keep it from molding). Prepare a mix of 1 egg whipped with 1/4 cup of milk for each 2 slices of bread.  (Most children eat one, and most adults eat two, but you know your family best.)Sprinkle the surface with cinnamon, dip in the bread slices, letting them soak for a few seconds on both sides, and then fry in butter (or oil, bacon fat, or whatever). Cinnamon isn’t necessary, but it really does enhance the flavor. Fry them until they’re golden brown on both sides, and serve them up with syrup. I suppose the poor knights of old didn’t have any meat to go with them, but a bit of meat on the side is always a yummy addition, although bread with milk and eggs is a perfectly nutritious meal!

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith”
(Proverbs 15:17).

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting on Top

I think sweet teeth are genetically transmitted…or at least our grand daughters seem to have inherited the Armstrong family’s love of all things chocolate.  I used to make chocolate cake from scratch, but I can’t compete with the moist, tender, lightness of commercial cake mixes, and so I have given up trying.  However, my family still likes homemade chocolate frosting better than what you can buy at the store, and it’s simple. Here’s how:

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (can melt 12 oz chocolate chips, but that costs more and isn’t necessary)
1 stick softened butter (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons of milk (depending on how soft you like it; experiment)

Start on the slowest setting, but whip all the ingredients together in a blender until they form a creamy, smooth frosting with a sheen. Frost immediately, and if you have any little helpers, let them lick the spatula when they’re done!For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward” (1 Timothy 5:18).

Anybody for a Watermelon Cake? How About a Wedge Salad?

My grandson Reid asked his mother for a watermelon cake for his birthday. Apparently they’d seen a picture on Pinterest. Carlie says it tastes like a cold wedge of fruit salad, and everybody who tried it liked it, although there was some dissension over whether or not it really qualified as a “cake.” So, I think this might make the perfect “wedge salad” to serve for the Fourth of July. If you bill it that way, don’t you think the kids will love it? Think how (relatively) healthy it is as a dessert, too…just watermelon frosted with sweetened whipped cream. I’m definitely going to try it on my grand kids. If you try it, let me know what you think, and I’ll  do the same!BTW, here’s an earlier fruit extravaganza that Carlie made some years ago to help feed our youth group! Talk about talent and good taste!  🙂  Thanks for being such a stellar daughter-in-law, Carlie! You’re a doll. (Actually, I have to say, I’ve got five of the best son and daughter-in-laws in the world!!! No prejudice!!!)

Summery Fish Tortillas

         Fish tacos have pretty much taken the world by storm in the last decade, but so far, I don’t know of anybody (besides me) who’s serving fish tortillas.
I think they’re a perfect summer dish—and pretty scrumptious to boot—
so if you’re looking for something a little different, try this:

Summery Fish Tortillas
(Makes 4 large tortillas)

Make cold slaw:
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrots (or cold slaw mix from store)
1 tablespoons Italian dressing (Wishbone or your favorite)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise  or aioli sauce (made by adding 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce to the mayonnaise and stirring)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional, but I think it really adds)
1/8 teaspoon Lawry’s (or your favorite) seasoning salt
Additional spices to taste: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper  Add:
8 oz. diced, cooked Ahi tuna (could substitute tuna fish or chicken breast)
8 oz. halved grapes (could use 1 chopped mango or black cherries instead)                                                       Mix thoroughly.

Make the tortillas:
Divide the filling evenly onto 4 large flour tortilla wraps
Sprinkle each liberally with your favorite shredded cheeseMicrowave each tortilla open-faced for 40 seconds (until cheese is melting)  Fold into the traditional tortilla wrap and serve. In a way, it’s a quick, healthy meal in one, complete with protein, fruit, carbs, and veggies, but you can also serve it with sides, or eat two, (or save room for a little dessert…) depending on how hungry you are! When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9)        (Thank you, Bob Hardee, for this last photo, which he took in Florida.)

 

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

For Garlic Lovers Only

Garlic “butter” is something we had at a restaurant years ago that I thought was going to be deadly, but it turned out to taste great. However, I would suggest taking seriously the old Italian adage: “Eat garlic as a family,” because—as Alan’s nose can always discern if I’ve eaten a great garlic whatever and he hasn’t—garlic stays on the breath for a very long time. I’m thinking that’s why it keeps vampires away. 🙂

Garlic spread

Use one entire bulb of garlic per person you intend to serve. Cut the top of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Fill a pan with enough water to steam the garlic without burning it (1 cup or a little less). Flip the bulbs over so that the opened cloves are exposed. Simmer, covered, for a half an hour. Turn off the heat. You can leave them in the pan to keep warm until you’re ready to serve them. I’m sorry I forgot to take a photo of what they look like once they’re served, but I just set them on the bread plate. The cloves of garlic become soft and can be squeezed out and spread on the bread like butter. One bulb can cover several pieces of bread. You can either butter the bread first and then add the garlic, or you can use the garlic as a butter replacement, although then I think it tastes better if you sprinkle on a little salt. At any rate, it’s a simple and fun way to dress up your bread, guaranteed to please garlic lovers and keep vampires at bay!

 

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:5-6).  When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why the Israelites complained about not having onions and garlic, but now I understand. Many of the things in our lives that are not essential for our health are still very “tasty!”  Oh, to learn contentment with having our needs met, even if we can’t always have our wants met! Obviously, after the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, they could plant abundant gardens again.

I hope you can afford a garlic bulb now and then…

Succulent Barbecued Ribs

One perennial summer favorite that is almost irresistibly good but can drive you crazy because it takes so long to cook is barbecued ribs. If you’re like me and try to cook them entirely on the grill, you end up running back and forth between the kitchen and grill so many times that it’s easy to forget and burn them at some point, or else it’s hard to prepare everything else to be done at the same time.  For me, the secret is in oven-roasting the meat until it’s tender, and then just finishing it off on the grill:

Succulent Barbecued Ribs
(Serves 4-8)

1. Wash ribs and place in roasting pan with 1 cup water in the bottom (to keep it from burning). Coat liberally with Montreal Steak Seasoning (or your favorite), pepper, and crushed garlic flakes. 2. Bake at 325°F. for 2 hours, until completely cooked through and tender (but hopefully not so cooked that the meat falls off the bones, at least not just yet). 3. Coat the top side with your favorite BBQ sauce. (We’ve been using Sweet Baby Ray’s lately, but there are many good choices out there, including making your own!) Gently lift the ribs out of the pan and onto a grill that’s been preheated (if on high, then turn down the heat to medium once the meat has seared for about 30 seconds), sauced side down. Coat the topside (which hasn’t yet been coated) and then close the cover. Grill for only 2-3 minutes (long enough to seal in the juices, sear it a touch for great flavor, and caramelize the sauce). Open the lid and gently turn over the ribs, using a large metal spatula (or two) to loosen the meat from the grill so you can flip them without everything falling apart. Close the lid and grill for another minute on the other side, turn off the heat, and let it continue to smoke for 2-5 minutes with the top closed. (Check so they don’t burn.) Cut them apart in one, two, or three rib chunks. (When Alan’s grilling, he cuts them apart first so there’s more sauce per square inch.)Serve with a few of your favorite sides. Last weekend I served redskin potato salad, cold slaw, asparagus, and watermelon, but when the weather’s cooler,more hot dishes like baked potatoes and sauteed cabbage work well. Although, with ribs almost anything works well! Happy June and happy grilling!  🙂

The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:1-5)