Friday, April 27, 2012

Goodbye Carbs. . .for Now!

I'm not going to name any names or anything,
but the male in our house has decided he wants to
do without 'the white stuff' for awhile. . . .you know, those evil carbs.
Just when I had my 'cooking for 3' routine figured out. . .
now I get to rethink everything.  Arrggh.
The rest of us around here have decided to, kind of,
go along with him. . .because I love my 'mountain man' that much!
(Our new nickname for him. . .have you SEEN him lately?
He just gets more and more handsome every day!)

So, if you see us out in public, remember,
the females in this household may or may not be
as serious as the male is about cuttin' our carbs.
We may partake of a carb once in a while. Don't hate.

I will say that as of week 3. . .I have found that it is actually
harder to figure out WHAT to cook
rather than what we are being deprived from.
It's just a new way of doing things. . .I mean, we love veggies and protein.
We are just so used to having that starch on our plate.
Carbs are actually just tooo easy, aren't they?!?
It's easy to throw together a meal when you can toss
a potato in the oven, or boil up some pasta.
These days are different now. . .and it's time to get creative!
Sooooo. . .since potatoes have always been a staple
around our household, we had to find a!
This week's Free Recipe Friday addresses just that.
It's an AWESOME substitute. . .for potatoes.
   We think it's so good, you could probably even get by with
not even telling anyone it's cauliflower!
Wait, did I just say cauliflower?!
Fresh Cauliflower - 1 head - cut up
Steamer Basket or Colander | optional
Butter or Butter Buds
Maybe a little bit of Milk
Hand Mixer or Potato Masher

It's as simple as that!

Rinse your cauliflower and cut or break into sections.
Place cauliflower in stockpot with approximately 1 cup water.
If you have a steam basket or colander that fits into your
stockpot, by all means set your cauliflower in that.
I don't have a steamer basket
and not one of my 4 colanders fit in my stockpot.
Place stockpot on high heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cover with a lid.
Continue to simmer on low/medium until soft and tender.
Approximately 20 minutes.
You will know they are done when they have wilted
and/or they are fork tender - which means you can easily
pierce them with a fork with no resistance.
Drain your cauliflower and keep in the stockpot.
Add several tablespoons of butter into the hot cauliflower.
(Or Butter Buds if you'd like them to be fat free)
Add salt and pepper to your liking.
We probably used 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
You will only need milk if they are too thick.
We needed none.

Now, using your hand mixer or potato masher, blend until smooth.
Well, they won't be perfectly smooth. . .and that's how you want them.
They will have the look and texture of 'smashed' potatoes.

Disclaimer:  I cannot post this recipe without telling you
the ONLY drawback if there were to be any.
When you eat these faux potatoes, you would
seriously think they were potatoes
IF you couldn't smell at all.
They still smell like cauliflower and maybe even
a bit like cooked broccoli. . . .soooo
if you cannot stand the smell of
cauliflower or broccoli, be forewarned!
In our household, we recognized this fact
and kept on eatin'!  It didn't bother us a bit.
They are yummy! Now, go be healthy.
The end.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Who doesn’t love a good pound cake or coffee cake?!
This one was served pretty regularly in our household growing up,
especially when company was coming or there was a church event.
I’m sure it was also because the ingredients were always on hand.
It required no icing or fancy ingredients -
we always had flour, sugar, eggs and of course sour cream,
it was a staple!  (Growing up, we had homemade burritos once a week,
but that'll be another post).
This yummy stand-by spreads the most amazing cinnamon aroma
throughout your abode!  You can hardly wait for it to cool off enough to
take that first bite.  The cinnamon crunch on the bottom of the cake
has always been my favorite part.  I only wish the cake could be ALL bottom!
BUT, the cinnamon layer in the middle
of the cake always fascinated me while growing up.
How did it get there? 
Floating in the middle of the cake like that?! 
I can remember the day I learned how it was done.
I think I heard angels singing or something! 
Ahhh, THAT’S how it’s done!!!!

This cake is so good with coffee, obviously.  It’s also good with no coffee.
It’s good with a tall glass of cold milk.  It's good with just water.
It's just good all by itself.  It’s good for a snack.  It’s good for breakfast.  
 It’s good at midnight. It gets better everyday.
You gotta try it!
(My mom's handwritten recipe below!)

1 cup butter - 2 sticks (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 -16 oz. container sour cream
(even though my mom's recipe says 1 cup)
1 teaspoon good vanilla
2 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup brown sugar – packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
(wayyy more cinnamon and brown sugar
than my mom EVER used!)
A good *Bundt pan
(*said in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ voice)
1 heaping tablespoon shortening (to coat pan)
¼ cup flour (to coat pan)

First things first.  Preheat oven to 350. 
Prepare *Bundt (or tube) pan with shortening/flour.
I do this by dipping a clean paper towel into my shortening can
and swiping about 1 tablespoon of shortening onto the paper towel.
Next, completely cover the inside of the Bundt pan with the shortening.

This can be a little tricky with an ornate pan, but just work the
shortening into each crevice.  For most baking I can usually get by
with spraying my pan with non-stick spray, but for a Bundt cake,
I only trust the cake coming out in one piece if I use the shortening method.

Now, after covering the inside of your Bundt pan with shortening,
sprinkle the ¼ cup of flour into the pan and while holding it over your sink
(for less mess), beat and turn your pan around so that the flour will stick to
every surface you covered with shortening.
Flip the pan over and tap against your faucet to remove excess flour.

Set pan aside.
**(Scroll to the bottom of this post for a
 substitute method/recipe for this messy step!)

Next, prepare cinnamon mixture.  In a separate little bowl,
combine 1 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Set aside.
Now, on to some cake making.
In a medium size mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar
until it lightens in color and is fluffy.  Add your eggs, one at a time,
beating and scraping down your bowl between each addition. 
Next, add in your sour cream and vanilla.
Lastly, add in your flour, salt and baking powder.

Mix until incorporated. No need to over-mix.
Scrape half of your cake mixture into your prepared Bundt pan.
Sprinkle appx. 1/3 of the cinnamon mixture all over top of your cake batter.
(This is that mystery swirly layer that floats in the middle of the cake!)

Scrape remaining cake batter into Bundt pan and pour
your remaining cinnamon mixture evenly on top of that.
This final cinnamon-y topping will actually be your yummy crust.

Bake for 45-60 minutes.  Mine usually takes 50-55 minutes.
I do a first check for done-ness at about 45 minutes. 
I actually use an ice pick for this.  I quickly insert it into the tallest point on the cake,
if it comes out with batter on it, bingo, it’s not done. 
I reset the timer for about 5-10 more minutes and my ice pick
usually comes out clean the second time.

When your cake is done, remove from the oven
and place on a cooling rack.  Cover with a sheet of wax paper
(to retain moisture) or simply lay a paper towel across your pan.
Let the cake sit for 5 minutes or so.
Now take a butter knife and gently scrape around the sides of the cake,
even the center edges, to release any stuck on parts from the pan.
Place a large dinner or serving plate upside down on your Bundt pan.
With two thick hand towels (to protect your hands) or large oven mitts,
hold onto the plate and Bundt pan at the same time (scary, I know)
and quickly flip the two over and set on the counter.
After you exhale, remove the Bundt pan and pray
the cake came out in one piece.  

If not, I promise, it’s no big deal.  Just quickly and gently
scrape any stuck on chunks of cake out of the pan and place them
where they need to go on the cake.  It’s like a puzzle piece.
It’ll be fine.  Really.  Once they take a bite of this cake,
no one will care WHAT it looks like!

This cake is really better once cooled (in my opinion) or even the next day.
(if you can keep everyone’s paws off of it)
Make sure you keep it well covered and sealed so it won't dry out.
Enjoy this yummy coffee cake…from our kitchen to yours.

***Alternate Shortening/Flour Coating
In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour
and 1 cup of shortening.  Mix well.
Keep mixture in a good sealed up container
in a cool place - maybe where you keep your shortening.
Use this mixture to coat pans with when baking.
It will keep a very long time and is much less messy.
(And much cheaper than those non stick sprays!)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Say Hello to Soup!

Welcome back to Free Recipe Friday!
This week we dive into some soup.  Easy schmeezy soup.
Soup is one of the easiest things you can make – even if you
don’t think you can cook.  You can do it!
It’s also one of those recipes where a few ingredients usually makes A LOT!

This soup is similar to another of our favs, Beef Stew
better known as Irish Beef Stew.
(Posted on Free Recipe Friday in November, 2011)
The main difference between the two is
the meat and the broth.
Beef Veggie Soup has a clear broth and the stew has a gravy type broth.
For the soup we use hamburger meat,
for the stew, typically round steak.
We tend to eat the veggie soup throughout the year
and the stew, either when camping or in the cold and dreary months.
In Texas, that could mean anytime of the year!

non-stick spray

1 lb. ground beef

1 small, whole onion, diced

appx. 3 teaspoons minced garlic

1  16oz. pkg. frozen mixed vegetables

3-4 medium/large potatoes
(russet or red, your choice)

Beef broth – appx. 7-8 cups
(or 1 tablespoon of
Better than Bouillon plus same amount of water)

Salt/pepper/garlic powder

Heavy stockpot


(You could even add a can of diced tomatoes if you'd like
sometimes we do, most times we don't.)

Place your heavy stockpot on medium heat
and give it a good dousing of veggie spray. 
Next, dump in your diced onion,
minced garlic and hamburger meat, stir.

Add salt, pepper and garlic powder and
cook until onions are clear and beef is cooked through.
Stirring frequently.
If you have used a fairly good quality of ground beef,
 you can skip the draining step.  If not, drain the cooked meat
into a colander that you have placed in your sink.
Immediately place meat back into stockpot and return to the stove.

On a little aside, turn your faucet on hot water,
squeeze a drop or two of dish soap into your sink
 and let it run through your drain for a couple of minutes.
 This will keep you from having a clogged drain later!

Now on to the soup, add your beef broth to your meat mixture
along with your diced potatoes.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Next, add your frozen veggies into the pot.
Bring back to a good boil.  Turn heat down a bit
and let the soup slowly boil until the potatoes are fork tender.
Approximately 15-20 minutes.  Turn the soup down to simmer.
Check for seasonings.  You will need to add a
teaspoon or more of salt and pepper at this point, I promise.
Depending on the salt content in your beef broth,
you may not need to add much salt though. 
That’s why it is important to taste while on the stove
and remember, it takes less salt on the stove
  than it does if you wait until it gets to the table.

Be aware that if you look on the ingredients list of your broth package
and salt is listed as the first ingredient, your product is mostly salt.
Bouillon paste (not cubes) is the way to go! I love these!
I’ve blogged about them before.  They are readily available on the soup aisle.
They have many other flavors depending on where you shop….
chicken, ham, even tomato!
They are very handy to have, keep for a very long time in your fridge
and add a great richness to
all of your soup recipes, beef tips, dumplings, etc.

Now, serve up your soup with some yummy
sweet cornbread, fried cornbread or Mexican cornbread…
crackers if you must.
We like a little cubed sharp cheddar to eat along with ours as well.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Free Recipe Friday. . . An Empty Tomb!

These cookies are called “Forgotten Cookies” 
because you leave them in the oven overnight…..forgotten. 
They are also called Empty Tomb Cookies
or Easter Story Cookies.
These are not just cookies though,
but a reminder of what Easter is all about.   
 It is an amaaaaazing activity that you MUST do
with your kids/grandkids – 
it’s also a pretty great reminder for grown-ups too ;)
I've even linked the scriptures for ya!

 These cookies need to be made
the evening before Easter or sooner, so plan ahead!

We use mini chocolate chips in ours
in addition to the nuts.
You can certainly substitute
the chocolate for the nuts completely.  
 These cookies are yummy
and the recipe makes about 4 dozen!!!

1 cup whole pecans (or walnuts)
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Zipper baggie
Wooden spoon
Mixer (preferably a stand mixer)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Cover a cookie sheet with wax
or parchment paper and set aside.

Now, place pecans in zipper baggie
and let children beat them 
with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces.
Set nuts and/or chocolate aside to add in later.  
Explain that after Jesus was arrested,
He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
Read John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar.   
Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into the mixing bowl.   
 Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross,
He was given vinegar to drink.
Read John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to the vinegar.  Eggs represent life.   
Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand.  
 Let them taste it and brush the rest
of it into the mixing bowl.   
Explain that this represents the salty tears
shed by Jesus’ followers 
and the bitterness of our own sin. 
Read Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. 

Add 1 cup sugar to the other ingredients.   
Explain that the sweetest part of the story
is that Jesus died because He loves us.  
 He wants us to know Him and to belong to Him.
Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Beat with a mixer on high speed
for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed
(this is where a stand mixer comes in handy,
unless you want an arm workout).

Explain that the color white
represents the purity in God’s eyes 
of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. 
Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 2:1-3

Fold in broken nuts (and/or chocolate chips).   
Drop by teaspoons onto
a wax/parchment paper covered cookie sheet.   
Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb
where Jesus’ body was laid.
Read Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven,
close the door and turn the oven OFF.   
Give each child a piece of tape
and seal the oven door.  
 Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed.
Read Matthew 27:65-66

Explain that they may feel sad
to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.  
 Jesus’ followers were in despair
when the tomb was sealed.
Read John 16:20 and 22

On Easter morning, open the oven
and give everyone a cookie.
Notice the cracked surface and take a bite.
The cookies are HOLLOW!
On the first Easter, Jesus' followers were amazed
to find the tomb open and empty.

 If you haven't already, I hope you'll take some time
and make these special cookies with your family.
Hopefully it will become a tradition for you as well!

Happy Cooking!