Thursday, February 26, 2015

Frozen Biscuits Made from Scratch

It took me a long time to get to the point where I could consistently make what I consider to be be good biscuits. Some of the time they were really good and sometimes they weren't all that great. They still tasted better than canned biscuits though. 

I loved the convenience of buying the frozen biscuits, because I could pull out just a couple and bake as needed. After my biscuit baking skills improved, I still bought the frozen ones sometimes because of how quickly I could get breakfast on the table during the week.

I am not a morning person at all. Making biscuits from scratch could only happen on the weekends and during the week, breakfast needs to be as quick as possible. I finally got around to making a batch of biscuits, cutting them out and freezing them! Ahh, the best of both worlds, we can have scratch made buttermilk biscuits any day of the week. I can serve biscuits without having to be awake enough to make them.

After making my dough and rolling and cutting them out, I freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. When they are completely frozen I put them in a freezer bag.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups self rising flour 
1/2 cup cold butter +2 Tbs of melted butter
1 cup cold buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and the cold butter with a pastry knife or a fork until it is crumbly. Work quickly, because you want that butter to stay cold. Add the cold buttermilk and mix until dough forms. You may need to add just a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and pat it down with your hands. Turning and folding the dough a couple of times, you want to make sure you do not overwork your dough. Pat it out again, until it about 1" thick and cut out your biscuits. Place cut out biscuits onto a cookie sheet with the sides touching.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and then remove from the oven. As soon as they come out of the oven, brush with the melted butter.

***I have found that if I put my flour in the food processor and cut in my butter and add the buttermilk, all in the food processor, that it is quicker. And working quicker in this case works better because everything stays cold. I also handle the dough a little less so the biscuits are a little more tender.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Creamy Onion Soup

 We are still kind of iced in, Kip did make it to work yesterday using my Jeep, but I am still staying at home. Cold weather is t he perfect time for soup, right? We love soup and eat it year round, but this ice, snowy weather calls for a nice bowl of  steamy soup. 

Since I haven't been about to get out to the grocery store, I have not been able to really follow the meal plan that I had for this week, so I am making meals with the ingredients that I have on hand.

Since I have quite a few onions, I decided to go with this creamy onion soup. It is a fairly simple soup, but full of flavor and perfect for the cold weather.

I don't think I had every had onion soup until after I had married Kip. We were on vacation and eating in a local restaurant. He was so excited when he saw it on the menu. That excitement turned to disappointment when the waitress set it down before him. Basically it was a few very stiff onions floating in some chicken broth. I decided to learn how to make it, and came up with this version after tweaking a few recipes.

This soup is great topped with croutons. I happened to have a little bit of Rosemary Bread left over for a dinner earlier in the week and used that to make my croutons.

Croutons are super easy, I cube my bread, mist with olive oil and pop into the oven until toasted.

Normally after misting the bread cubes with the olive oil I will add some salt and pepper but since this bread already had had rosemary in it, I left didn't add anything else.

Dinner is ready!!

Creamy Onion Soup

2 quarts beef broth
3 large onions, quartered and sliced
3 TBS corn starch
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese (cheddar will work too)
Salt and pepper to taste

Croutons (optional)
Shredded Colby-Jack

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, bring beef broth to a boil. 

Place onions in boiling water, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Stir the cornstarch into 1/2 cup cold water to make a paste. Gently whisk this mixture into the simmering soup, being careful not to break the onions. Simmer 30 minutes more.

Stir in cream and cheese until cheese is melted and mixture is thoroughly heated.  

Serve hot, garnished with croutons, if desired.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Iced In...Comfort Foods

Do you have those foods that you make that immediately take you somewhere else? There are so many things that I make on a regular basis that remind me of the person that taught me to make the dish. My life has been blessed with many people that shared their love of cooking with me.

Pancakes and omelettes remind me of cooking with my Dad.

Gravy and biscuits, pasta salad, peanut butter cookies and vegetable soup take my back to my Mom's kitchen.

Fried Cornbread brings back my Mamaw.

Scrambled Eggs remind me of my cousin Iris and the summer she visited us for a while.

Dumplings remind me of my Granny and my great grandmother.

Several cakes I make, remind me of my friend Yvonne.

Jalapeno cornbread brings to mind my friend Allyson.

Pat taught me to make homemade pizza.

Some of these people are no longer here with me in this life, and several more are separated by many miles. Cooking is something that makes me happy and complete and I am so grateful for those that shared their skills and recipes with me.

But this post is about the picture above.

I ate a lot of meals of my Granny's house and she made so many good foods. My absolute favorite time to eat at her house was on Thursday nights. You see Friday was grocery day so on Thursday nights she would pull out all of the left overs and make a meal out of them. It was like a feast with the variety of foods! Some dishes only had a few spoons left, but it was still good. One of the favorites of mine was this simple dish of jumbo elbow macaroni and a jar of home canned tomatoes. 

So simple, just two ingredients.

When I made it in my kitchen last night I was immediately transported back, to me ten years old, in my Granny's kitchen. 

The reality though, my kitchen is about 175 miles from her kitchen, Granny lives in the world of her memories as Alzheimer's disease takes her present knowledge and leftover night at her house is a thing of the distant past. But last night my memories took me back there.

And now? There is a little girl in my life, that I am teaching to cook from my memories. And she knows that while cooking can be learned from a book or the internet, that there are many, many more things that can be learned by one person, passed on to another and then another connecting hearts across miles and generations.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pizza Night

We really like pizza in our house and since it is one of the few things that will deliver where we live, on occasion, we will order out. The last time we did though, it was kind of expensive and really not that good***. And Kip and I like very different toppings on our pizzas.

I make different types of pizzas and rotate them through my meal plan but sometimes I like to just make the crust, pull out a jar of my pizza sauce and a bunch of toppings and we can just make whatever we want.

It helped that I had already chopped up a bunch of veggies for an omelette, so prep time was even quicker. Individual pizzas are a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers too. We were both happy with our own pizza and Kip didn't have to pick the tomatoes off his pizza and I didn't have to take off the olives and peppers. Other than making the crust and letting it rise, it was quicker than delivery and cheaper and tastier too.

***One of the great pluses to trying to give up eating out and saving money is that I have learned I can make replicas of most of our favorite restaurant foods now. Since I can make them cheaper than a night out, we are saving money. The only negative is that homemade foods taste better so eating out has kind of lost the appeal and if we do go out, I am a little disappointed. A girl needs a break from the kitchen on occasion! The plus side of that is we are not spending our eating out budget so it accumulates and we can afford to splurge for nicer meals out.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One for Dinner--One (or two) for the Freezer

I have a lot of recipes I have collected over the years that work well for the freezer. Many of them are designed for the crock pot, but some of them are complete meals that can go in the oven. When I make one of these meals for dinner, I will make one or two for the freezer. 

I try to keep at least 8-10 meals in the freezer so I have a selection of things to choose from on days when I just can't, or don't want to cook. Having them ready to go also allows me to take a meal to someone. Yesterday, I made a batch of soup for a friend that got out of the hospital and I also gave her a meal from my freezer so that she would have an additional meal as she recuperates.

They key is making sure your meals get rotated enough that you don't lose them in the freezer! My method is very simple. I have a dry erase board on the freezer that lists the meal and the date that they were assembled. New meals get added to the bottom of the list and I scratch them off as we eat them. I also write the name of the meal, date assembled and cooking directions (if needed) on the outside of the zip top bag, a sharpie works great for that! For ease of marking, I label the bags before filling them, I learned that lesson the hard way!! These are labeled on the other side.

This is a taco soup that we really like.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans, with liquid
1 can chili beans with sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes, we like the petite diced
1 can of corn, with liquid
1 can diced green chilie
2 cups of water
1 pkg of taco seasoning

Cook the ground beef until it is done and drain. Let cool and add to the freezer bag. 

Add everything else to the bag and freeze.

To use: I pull out the night before using and let it cook in the crock pot for 6-8 hours on low.

If I forget to pull it out the night before I will let the frozen bag sit in the sink with water until it starts to defrost.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekly Menu

Here is our menu for the week. I don't schedule as much on the weekends as I do during the week. It is a great way to use leftovers, grab a quick sandwich or heat some soup. Some weekends we are out and about and will grab lunch somewhere while we are out.

I know I save money and frustration when I take the time to plan our meals, but I am still learning what works best for us. I don't want to over plan, because I end up spending more and have more food waste, but I also don't want to under plan, because then we are tempted to eat out too much. I try to have healthy snacks available, but try to not have too much that is perishable. I normally pack Kip's lunch and a snack for morning and another for the afternoon. Lots of days he only eats one of his snacks, so if I plan too many snacks that might go bad, I end up with food waste.

The menu board on the fridge also helps me save time, As I am cleaning up from on night's dinner, I can see what is for the next night and I can go ahead and pull out anything that needs to be defrosted and stick it in the fridge. If I already have something defrosting, it is much less tempting to forget the menu plan and go out.

The menu board also helps Kip know what is available if I am not here. As the name of this blog suggests, I mostly buy what he considers "ingredients" and not "food" that can be eaten as is. On Thursday nights I have a crochet group that I meet with and he is on his own. Sometimes we have lots of leftovers and foraging for his dinner is no problem, other times there aren't any and he has to come up with dinner on his own. I try and keep sandwich stuff and a few things in cans that he can heat and eat.

Menu planing helps me keep within my food budget and has almost eliminated food waste. It is still evolving though and I have to tweak it a bit every once in a while. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cooking with Samantha

Samantha and I have been cooking again! Since she has moved to middle school we haven't had as much time to cook together as we used to, but we are trying to get back into regular cooking sessions. I picked the meal this time and decided to go with a white veggie pizza. This is a pizza that I make frequently at home, but it was the first time making it with her. I knew she would love it because it had some of her favorite ingredients on it.  Next cooking session, Samantha will be in charge of the recipe, I can't wait to see what she picks.

White Veggie Pizza

(I call this a white veggie pizza because I start with a white sauce)

1 recipe pizza crust
Alfredo sauce
pesto sauce
1 large jar of artichoke quarters, roughly shopped
frozen spinach that has been defrosted and drained 
mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Roll out pizza crust onto baking stone. Spread the Alfredo sauce over the surface of the crust. Add several tablespoons of the pesto and kind of swirl it in with the Alfredo sauce, not completely mixing. Add the mushrooms and artichokes and then the spinach. Top with mozzarella cheese and then about a quarter cup of the Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Spinach Strawberry Salad

Lunches around my house are almost always leftovers. Sometimes there is a little less left over than I would like, so I will include a salad. I easily get bored with food if I eat the same thing all the time. There will probably be at least 2, possibly 3 salads in lunches for a week. Instead of sending the same tossed salad with the same dressing, I try and make them all a little different. Doing that also helps me use all of the food that I have bought so that I have no waste. I had bought the spinach to use for a recipe and had about a third of a bag left and a few strawberries.

Spinach Strawberry Salad

fresh spinach, torn into bite sized pieces
sliced strawberries
sliced almonds

Balsamic vinegar
olive oil

Salad ingredients go into a bowl and I just made a quick dressing with the vinegar and oil. I love strawberries and balsamic vinegar together so I make the dressing kind of tart!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Belated Birthday Post

I have been out of town a lot over the past couple of months and haven't really been posting with any regularity. Hopefully life is getting back to normal for me! I wanted to take the next couple of days to play catch-up with some of my photos that were taken, but never made it out of my camera!

I will start here with Kip's birthday cake. I always make his cake and will try to tie it in with a theme to go with his gifts or something that delights his geeky soul. He loves the game Portal so I made a cake to go along with that game. I had a little help with this one too, Samantha wanted to help and since she has more experience working with fondant than I do, I gladly accepted her offer. And at 12, she also has a lot more cake decorating tools than I do.

The cake was a marbled vanilla and chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream icing.

Here is the happy birthday boy with his gift. Like I said, I normally try to tie in the cake with his gift but I wasn't sure I would be able to find the Batmobile or not when I was planning the cake. He was happy with both though, so that was all that mattered to me.