Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Why Would Anyone Want to Devil an Egg?

Why would anyone want to devil a perfectly good egg? If you don’t like eggs or mayonnaise, then you probably wouldn’t enjoy deviling eggs, but for most of us, a platter of deviled eggs is a truly cheery sight and welcome addition to any potluck or picnic. They’re yummy, inexpensive, bite-sized, and a good source of protein. So, perhaps I should ask, Why wouldn’t anyone want to devil an egg?!

Classic Deviled Eggs:
(makes 16 servings)

8 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled and sliced lengthwise with the yolks scooped out and placed in a mixing bowl. To the egg yolks, add:

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 minced onion (or 1/4 teaspoon onion powder)
1 minced clove of garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt (or your favorite)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the egg yolks and mix thoroughly with all the condiments and spices. Gently spoon the filling mixture back into the empty egg white cups, and then sprinkle liberally with paprika. Chill and serve, but don’t let anybody pick on them anymore. They’ve already been deviled enough.Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:10-11).

It occurs to me that eggs are probably the only thing it’s okay to devil.  🙂

Making Jams: Fun for Profit

Well, perhaps not for commercial profit, but certainly for personal profit, since you can make jam for a lot less than it costs to buy it (if you buy the fruit on sale at peak season), and you can be sure that homemade is fresher and more wholesome, particularly when contrasted with jams that contain preservatives or a lot of sugar.  For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve caught a sale on raspberries for $.77 for 6 oz., another on 6 oz. packages of blackberries at 2 for $1.00, and quarts of strawberries at 3 for $5 (all nicely under $2 per pound). Without much work, I now have a winter’s supply of berry jams—some “canned,” some stored in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer—with enough to give away too. I don’t take a very conventional approach, and I used three different methods, but let me tell you what I did, and if you don’t already have a tried-and-true method, I hope it will inspire you to experiment!  I always keep one shelf in one cupboard for a stash of glass bottles with lids, which I use for food storage (on the theory that glass is better for my family than plastic, and—of course—the jars are free, since I just wash up empty glass jars left over from foods I’ve bought from the grocery store). Actually, canning jars with lids are my favorite (since they usually seal nicely without much effort), but you can use any jar with a lid that seals securely. I’m going to tell you what I did (and like), but I’m hoping this just inspires you to try making up your own recipes to get just the right tang, sweetness, and consistency for your own personal taste!

First, start by washing and drying 4-6 small jars and lids. Make sure you have the right tops and that they fit snugly, with no dents or flaws. Set them on top of a cutting board (or other surface that can take a lot of heat).

Mouth-watering Blackberry Jam

48 oz. fresh blackberries
1/3 cup water (just enough to keep anything from burning before the berries and sugar break down and melt)
1.5 cups sugar
1 package (1.75 oz or 49 g) fruit pectin (for making jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring faithfully and pretty often until all the berries break down (which takes quite a while for blackberries), the sugar and jello totally dissolve, and the jam starts to thicken slightly. It took me half an hour on medium-low heat, but I’m quite sure it will depend on how hot your stove is, the type of pan you use, and how juicy your berries are, so go by the changing consistency rather than just time. It’s a pretty subtle but distinct difference, but it’s not “thick” at all, just no longer watery.  Once the jam is done, ladle it out immediately into the dry glass jars, almost to the top. When you actually can jams, you have to leave a little head room (like 1/2  inch), but I fill the jars almost to the top, which makes them more likely to self-seal. Make sure there are no traces of jam that will keep the jars from sealing properly, and then screw on the lids as tight as you can. Afterward, give the tiniest turn to the left just so air can escape if need be. When I do this with canning jars, almost all of them seal on their own within an hour, just left on the kitchen counter.  Any jars that don’t seal must be kept in the refrigerator to preserve them, or else you can open the tops and add a layer of sealing wax, but I’ve stopped doing either the official canning (which darkens the jams and I suspect causes loss of nutrients) or the wax. Suit yourself but please don’t sue me if you get sick. In my experience, you’ll see mold if anything is amiss, so you’ll know there’s a problem. Of course, if you’re willing to give up some refrigerator space and share with your friends, you won’t have any problem finishing it all off before it goes bad.   🙂

Rich, Ruby-red Raspberry Jam:

48 oz. fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large package (6 oz) raspberry jello

An alternate method for making jam is to use flavored jello (gelatin) instead of pectin, and I actually prefer it. I’ve found that one large package of jello replaces one package of fruit pectin, tastes a bit brighter (without needing to add lemon juice), and is less expensive (particularly if you catch it on sale!).  Follow the same instructions as for blackberry jam. However (of course), take particular care not to let it cook too long, or the jam will darken! If you do it just right, your jam will continue to be bright red, even after it’s finished and on your bread!

There are many recipes for making jam, but in the end, it depends on your taste. I started out with equal amounts of berries and sugar, reduced the sugar, switched from pectin to jello, stopped canning…etc! My theory is that cooking should be a growing, learning process whereby we develop our tastes and improve our nutrition as we go!

Unbelievably Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you haven’t already discovered this world-class jam, try making freezer jam:

Step One: Clean and mash 4 quarts strawberries. Place in large mixing bowl.  Step Two: Pour 1 cup boiling water in a separate bowl, to which you add:
1 large package of strawberry jello
1 large package of orange jello
Stir faithfully until all the jello has dissolved in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool a little. Step Three: Combine 1 package fruit pectin for freezer jam (1.59 oz) and
1.5 cups sugar. Mix the pectin and sugar together, add to the mashed berries, stir thoroughly, and allow to rest on the counter for 15 minutes

Step Four: Add the tepid (not hot or cold) jello solution to the freezer jam mash. Pour immediately into bottles or plastic containers for the freezer. (If you’re using glass jars, make sure you do give at least 1/2 inch head room so the bottles don’t break when the jam freezes. Actually, I don’t think there’s an issue with plastic for freezing; the problems come with heating plastics. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with freezing jam in plastic containers.)

Step Five: let the jam rest on the counter for half an hour before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. This jam is quite a bit softer than regular jam, and if you don’t like the consistency, try adding another 1.59 oz. of freezer jam pectin. Also, some people like more sugar, so you could try adding another package of jello. If you don’t like the results…try, try, and try again!!

(P.S.—The recipe for cooked jam also works well with blueberries or any other type of berry. Whatever you happen to have on hand and like to eat!)

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

Simple but Savory Zucchini Pizza Sticks

Now is the time that American gardens overflow with zucchinis and everybody is pulling out their favorite recipes for zucchini bread.  Always on the lookout for an idea that cuts starches, I tried making pizzas out of zucchini. First I  tried cutting them into rounds, but slicing them sideways works better and saves time. Next time you’re looking for a quick, healthy way to incorporate some zucchini into your menu plans, try this one:

Savory Zucchini Pizza Sticks
(makes enough for 2-4 for lunch, depending on how hungry your hippos are
and what else you’re serving)Wash, cut off the ends, and slice 4 young zucchinis lengthwise.  Place them skin-side down in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Add salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste.
Fry for two minutes on medium heat. Flip over and fry for two minutes more minutes, skin-side up.Flip again. They should be getting tender and starting to brown a little. Drizzle each stick with some of your favorite pizza (or spaghetti) sauce. Cover with slices of pepperoni
and top each with half a mozzarella cheese stick.Cover the pan and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until the cheese starts to melt.

Serve them immediately. They can also be cut into three chunks each and served as hors d’oeuvres, but if that’s what you want, then I think you’re better off to start with just one or two larger zucchinis and slice them into individual rounds, bake them on a buttered cookie sheet at 350°F. for about 6 minutes (with spices on top), and then add the sauce, pepperoni, and thin cut slices of mozzarella, baking them another 2-3 minutes. I tried this method first, but they end up drier and not as tender. I also found that it’s hard to keep the cheese from melting too much before the pepperoni is heated through.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them,
and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house
” (Acts 16:32).

 

Flaky Crusts for a Perfectly Peachy Pie

Have you mastered the art of melt-in-your-mouth flaky pie crusts? It took me years, but I think I’ve got the recipe down for fork-tender crusts, learned from my foremothers!  My father used to tease that the reason he married my mother was for her fried chicken and cherry pie, and when I was little, I thought my mother made the world’s finest cherry pies.  However, when I married Alan, I discovered that his mother made the world’s best apples pies, so one day I asked if she could teach me how. She invited me  over to join her while she made some pies for a grange dinner. Unfortunately, she didn’t measure anything and did everything by feel and look. I watched carefully, and it was helpful to see the way things were “supposed to look,” but it took me a few years to perfect my apple pies. Alan’s older brother was the best critic, and his advice went like this, “More sugar…more butter.” Forty-five years later, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to make a flaky pie crust and a yummy pie, so I want to pass along what I’ve learned with photos, so you, too, will have an idea of how a flaky pie crust looks in the making, and how to make a scrumptious fruit pie.

2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups Crisco (or other vegetable shortening; you can use butter, which tastes a lot better, but the crusts aren’t as flaky)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Pie filling:
In a large bowl, stir together:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add:
6-8 large peaches, ripe (Hale Haven are great, but there are lots of good varieties) peeled and sliced (I only used 6, because I was making it for an older lady, but 8 would fit and is better for a family who can eat whatever you make!) Toss the peaches with the flour mixture until all the peaches are well coated (You can use the same basic recipe for almost any fruit pie, like apple or cherry [pitted, of course, but dark cherries also make yummy pies, just FYI]. For smaller fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, use 2 quarts.)  Roll out the bottom crust. I wet down the surface and add a sheet of saran wrap, then spread some flour on the top. At this point, turn on your oven to 450°F. so it’s piping hot when you’re ready to slide your pie into the oven.                   And add half of the pastry (about the size of a man’s fist).  Be careful to handle it as little as possible, but shape it into a ball, flour, pat it down, and roll it out. I flip the whole crust over a time or two and add flour as needed. Over the course of rolling the crusts, you will probably add as much as another 1/2 cup of flour.              (You can only flip the crust at first while the pastry is still quite thick.)                                       Smooth it out with a rolling pin                 until it looks like it’s about 2 inches bigger than the pie pan.  Place one hand under the saran wrap, and quickly flip it onto the pie plate.  (Use your left hand to hold the pie tin…unless you need it to take a picture!  🙂  ) Make sure there are no cracks visible. Repair any as needed. Truly flaky crusts are hard to roll out and will have cracks; if it’s too smooth and easy to roll, it will be tough! Prick the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork. (This keeps it from bubbling anywhere in the baking process.)  Arrange the fruit mixture in the pie plate.  Add: 1/4 cup butter in small slices all around the pie. This is one of the secrets to a great pie in my book, so don’t forget this step!  Repeat the process of wetting down the counter, spreading out the saran wrap, topping with flour, and molding the pastry into a ball. Roll out the rest of the dough (plus any that was trimmed off the edge of the lower crust if you had way too much on one side or something).  Carefully (but quickly) flip the top crust on top of the pie.  Even out the crust. You can add a little here and subtract a little there as needed. Form a little ridge around the top.  (If you’ve done it right, you won’t have many crumbs left over, but I usually have a few, and I don’t like the crust too heavy.)There are several ways to finish the top. Some people use a fork to make tiny ridges all the way around. There are pastry tools to make special designs. I use my mother’s method of alternately pinching a small piece together gently between my left thumb and left forefinger while pressing gently down with the forefinger of my right hand on the crust next to it on the right. If you do this around the entire edge, you’ll have a fluted crust like the one above. Our family tradition is to put the letter of the type of pie (“P” for “peach” on this one) and some little “stalks of wheat” on each side by cutting tiny holes with a paring knife. This gives the pie some “air vents” for releasing pressure as the pie bakes. We also sprinkle sugar on top. Some people brush the top with well-beaten egg for a glossy sheen. Bake your pie in a pre-heated oven. Start at 450°F for 15 minutes. This seals in the juices and insures that the crust will brown by the time the pie is baked. Turn the oven down to 375°F. for an additional 45 minutes or until golden brown. (Check at about 35 minutes and then keep an eye on it, since elevation and various types of ovens heat differently. I use a traditional oven, but convection ovens bake faster, of course.)Let it cool on the counter for at least 10-15 minutes (or while you’re eating dinner), and serve up for dessert! We usually add vanilla ice cream, but I was out, so this time I used “Triple Peanut Butter,” but people liked it anyway! Enjoy!

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing:
then said they. ..The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
” (Psalm 126:2-3)

The Great British Baking Show: Opera Cake Anyone?

Have you ever heard of the Great British Baking Show? I hadn’t until our son Joel introduced it to us last spring by showing us the final “round” from one season where the three contestants were to make “opera cakes.”  If you enjoy baking, you might enjoy this program, although they make things  that are way too complicated for me, as one who is a bit on the pragmatic side. I’d never heard of opera cake before, but on the show, the women dreamed up amazing cakes with seven tantalizing layers, everything from lemon to lavender, and peanut butter to chocolate. I was probably drooling while watching, but I didn’t think much about it until we were on a cruise of the Adriatic Sea the next month…and, guess what?! We were actually served a piece of traditional opera cake, which is a French cake made from layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup and layered with ganache and coffee buttercream, then crowned with a chocolate glaze. It was one of those kiss-your-fingers desserts, and after I returned home, I thought sometime I should try it. However, I never have, but I’m still enamored with the idea, and sometime when I’m in a very festive mood and want to celebrate (and think I can afford the calories), I will definitely attempt it. Seven layers…what would you have? Mine would have layers of chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry cake with cherry, peach, and buttercream fillings topped with chocolate glaze. On The Great British Baking Show, the cakes were obviously supposed to be thin (and two of the three turned out too thin), but mine would look more like P.F. Chang’s Great Wall…and I wouldn’t mind that it wouldn’t win a prize on their show! If you ever make one, please send me a photo! If I ever make one, I’ll add it at the bottom. Happy baking.  🙂

2 Samuel 6:19, where David is celebrating the return of the ark: “And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house.” There are times when it’s good to celebrate!

Salmon with Spinach and Artichokes

Last Saturday I mentioned Chuck’s trick of combining favorites from your fridge for a new twist, and here’s what happened when I followed my own advice! If you love grilled salmon and guacamole as much as I do, try this sometime:

  1. Prepare some wonderful, homemade guacamole. (If you don’t have a a recipe, you can try mine, found here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/an-avocado-boat-of-ideas-especially-fantastic-guacamole-with-an-orange-twist/
  2. Grill your salmon (about 4-8 oz per serving, grilled 2-3 minutes per side) with your favorite spices. (I like fresh-squeezed lemon juice, Italian dressing, sea salt, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and lots of pepper, but that’s just me.)
  3. Prepare your veggies while the fish is grilling. (You’ll probably need to assemble all the items so the cooking time is just 5-6 minutes.) This includes:
    1. 1 chopped onion (this recipe will serve 4-6) sauteed in 2 tablespoons of butter until nicely browned. Add
    2. 6 oz fried, chopped bacon (optional but good if you eat pork; you can also fry this with the onion and cut the bacon in pieces after it’s crisp, but that takes an additional 5+ minutes, so cook it before you start the fish)
    3. 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (drained)
    4. 8 oz. cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
    5. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh, pressed garlic, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil, 1 teaspoon dried (or fresh) oregano
    6. 1 large bag (about 16 oz) spinach, added last and cooked just until tender and starting to deepen in color
    7. Add salt and pepper to taste (and do taste it to make sure it has enough sparkle!)
  4. Arrange the veggies evenly on the plates, add the salmon, and crown with a scoop of guacamole. Serve immediately. It’s especially good with fresh fruit and rolls, although I didn’t remember to take a photo of the entire ensemble. Pretty much guaranteed to please anyone who likes the individual ingredients.  🙂

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat? With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding. (Job 12:6-13)

What to Eat When Your Wife is Gone for the Weekend

Okay, so this is going to be a “for fun” recipe (of sorts), but while Lizzie was visiting me not long ago, she shared a great text from her husband picturing what he was eating for dinner, and it was so funny that I asked for permission to share it with you. Maybe I should start with just a tiny introduction about my “baby brother,” Chuck (who is actually 6’6″). I just happened to be visiting my “sister” Liz in Chicago the first night they dated (about 17 years ago). She asked if I wanted to meet him, and I said, “I don’t care! You date so many guys…” I had to eat those words later. Little did I know Chuck was going to be “the one” after Lizzie had waited almost 40 years for the right guy. And, let me tell you, he’s the right guy! He’s not only handsome (as you can see…I can brag about him because he’s my little brother…even if we’re not actually related), he’s loyal, kind, brilliant, tenderhearted, funny, and extremely good to his wife! So, as far as I’m concerned, he can pretty much do no wrong.  🙂

At any rate, before Lizzie came to visit, she made Chuck a big casserole, but by Sunday night, it was all gone, so Chuck started foraging in their refrigerator for something to eat. Want to know what he found?      How do you like it? He said he also had a bunch of fresh veggies and fruit.

Now, you might not think hotdogs with sauerkraut, carrots, and spinach on tortilla shells would be your first pick for dinner, but he said it actually tasted pretty good! And, the thing I especially love is the idea of trying new combinations of things. If you like various foods individually, who’s to say you might not like them together?

So, the next time you’re a little low on food and don’t want to take time to shop, look a little closer at your fridge and cupboards. Maybe you can find a winning combination too! Let me know what you create, will you?!!

(P.S.—I did ask their permission before writing this. They are too fun for words!)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)