Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Removing Coffee Odor

Generally, when I walk out my door in the morning for work, I am carrying coffee in my travel mug. I have a short drive to work and enjoy the hot drink on the way and finish it while sitting at my desk. The liner of my travel mug is plastic and we all know how bad plastic is about retaining a food's odor. Coffee is no exception. My mug was so bad that when I had the cleaned mug in my file cabinet and opened the drawer, I could smell it. Even after washing it in hot, soapy water, it still held that terrible stale coffee odor.

This morning, I took a different mug with me and let my regular one soak all day in baking soda water. When I got home, I rinsed it out and took a sniff. No coffee smell. I finished washing it and now know a new way to get the odor out of my cup.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Temporarily Absent

I had every intention on posting a recipe today, but I couldn't get to it. Mainly, it was the NCAA tournament that got in the way. I'm a sports fanatic and even though none of my favorite teams are still in the show, I can't miss these last few games.

I went so far today as to go through my recipes to pick out one to write about and post. I'll do my best to get it posted some time this week.

I've been interviewed twice since publishing my cookbook, Masters & Disasters of Cooking and have spoke to a lot of people about it. Once question that always comes up is if I am going to write a sequel. Generally, I say no. It would be hard to come up with enough of my disasters to put them in another book. Not that I don't mess up some of my cooking and baking recipes, but my last book covered a span from high school until now. However, if you read my previous two entries, you know that I recently caught my stove on fire and nearly ruined the meatloaf I was baking. That would be a good story for another book.

Then, this week I wanted to make a peach cobbler. I have the easiest of recipes for that, but couldn't find it. It was not in my card file where it should have been. (Still haven't found it either.) I knew there was a similar recipe in one of those community cookbooks that organizations do for fund-raisers. I found that recipe and baked the cobbler.

When I took it out of the oven, it didn't look like my usually golden brown peach cobbler. It's didn't taste as good either. I checked the recipe and found that it called for self-rising flour. I never have self-rising flour at home. Had I noticed that before, I could have added some baking powder, but nooooo I didn't read the recipe that close.

If anyone asks, my excuse is that I wasn't wearing my glasses. I made the cobbler on Thursday night and it went into the trash today. Another disaster. I guess I should start a new file, because if this keeps up I'll have enough stories for a sequel and I won't be happy about it either.

Well, I have wasted enough time on here and am missing the basketball game that is on now.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cleaning my oven

If you read my previous entry below, you know I had a little fire in my oven on Saturday. The task for Sunday was to clean the oven so I could bake cornbread for supper. Being the lazy person that I am, I did not want to have to drive all the way to town to buy an oven cleaner and unfortunately, my oven is not self-cleaning. I searched the shelves and pantry for something to use and found the perfect thing.

I brushed out as much of the burnt food pieces that I could scrape off the bottom of the oven and then I sprinkle it with baking soda. With a spray bottle of water, I moistened the soda until it looked dissolved and after it sat for several minutes, I began wiping it out with paper towels. Violia, the black carbon from the fire came off. I did repeat this a couple times until I was satisfied that it was clean. The best thing is that since baking soda is non-toxic, you don't have to worry about using it in the oven. After all, think about all the things you make that have baking soda in them.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

An exciting week....

... or at least the last two days. Yesterday, three inmates from the local state prison escaped. They were violent offenders and assaulted one of my husband's best friends who works at the prison. He was air-lifted by helicopter to a hospital with head trauma. They had also tied him up with a rope and he laid there for about an hour before he was even found. Fortunately, it looks like he is eventually going to be okay, but the inmates are still loose. Police spent the day searching barns and out-buildings with their guns pulled. Helicopters flew over our house last night looking for the men. It's an uneasy feeling not knowing where these men are. I can tell you that I slept with a pistol next to the bed last night.

Now, on to a food topic.
If I ever decide to write another Masters & Disasters cookbook, I have a new story for it. I had mixed up a meatloaf this evening and put it in the oven. About 40 minutes into the baking, my husband walked into the kitchen and called back to me in the living room, "There is smoke coming out from the vent in the stove."

I then remembered that when I had baked sweet potatoes last week some had leaked out from the aluminum foil onto the bottom of the stove. My husband slowly opened the oven door, knowing that the rush of air could cause a flame-up, which it did anyway. Sure enough, that's what was burning. It didn't help that the grease from the full meatloaf dish was dripping on top of it. My husband sprinkle baking soda on the flame and put it out. I used a metal spatula to remove the burnt potato and resumed the baking of the meatloaf after pouring some of the grease off. Of course, we also had to let the smoke out of the house, so doors and windows were opened. {{{Oh no, what about the escapees}}}

We kept an eye out and closed the doors after a short bit of time. Unfortunately, enough grease had dripped onto the bottom of the stove that soon the oven was smoking again. We turned the oven off and figured by the time the temperature when down, the meatloaf had baked enough.

It was eventful last few days and it looks like tomorrow, I will be cleaning my oven because I plan on having cornbread for supper.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vegetable gardening

We're having a garden this year and I couldn't be happier. We didn't have one last year due to my surgery. In the past, our gardens have been small with a few tomato plants, onions, and beans, which wasn't nearly big enough to can or freeze any vegetables to use over the winter. But, this year will be different.

Our neighbor was kind enough to plow a spot in the small field across from our house (thank you, Bill) and, oh my, did he ever plow us a garden. My husband showed him how big he wanted it. You'd think we lived on a farm. Well, okay it's not that big, but it does measure about 3000 square feet. What in the world are we going to plant in there?

So, we sat down with the seed catalogs the other night to get some ideas. Obviously, we are going to have a lot of tomato plants so I will be able to can some juice for soups and chili over the winter. We love zucchini and cucumbers and will have lots of those. I'm going to get some onion sets this weekend and peas and lettuce seed. Those are great springs veggies. Cabbage is always good, although my husband doesn't like it, my mom and myself do. We have never had success with planting corn, so we ruled that one out. I love turnips and my husband loves the greens, although we plan on that being a fall crop.

We are also going to plants some herbs. I want oregano for pizza and spaghetti sauce and he wants to plant some medicinal herbs.

Plants that vine, like cucumbers will take a lot of space, eventually we will get it filled up. I read in a magazine that seeds are going to sell out fast in the stores this year because, due to the economy, many more people are going to put a garden out to save money. If you are going to plant a garden this year, make sure you buy your seeds and plants early.

Happy planting,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Vacation & Leftover Vegetable Soup

Today is my last day of vacation before heading back to work. We didn't go anywhere this year with the economy being the way it is. The only thing I had really planned to do while off from work was shampoo my carpets. I'm usually not a procrastinator, but I was with this chore. I waited until today and started with the smallest room first. Boy, am I glad I did. This was harder than I thought and the first time these carpets have been cleaned in well..... let's just say a long time. The big room is just going to have to wait and since the shampooer was my mother's, I can borrow it any time I need it. At least once room in the house has a clean carpet now.

Sorry, no recipe today. Neither my husband or I felt like cooking supper tonight, so we opted for leftover vegetable soup that I had in the freezer. Vegetable soup freezes fairly well. The beans freeze great, noodles not so well, and potatoes don't freeze well at all, ending up kind of mushy when thawed. Once we have the soup all heated up, I think we'll fix grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.

One last word on freezing soup, it will keep for about six months in the freezer and watch for freezer burn. Once your freshly-made soup has cooled, store it in an air-tight container.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

What ever happened to cooking things from scratch? I can't even remember the last time I baked a cake and didn't use a cake mix. The invention of the microwave has simplified cooking to the point of just popping something in and pushing a few buttons. I remember the first time I lived alone was in college when I had an apartment for one semester. That was before microwaves were available. I did my grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons and hauled everything up to my second floor apartment; no elevator. I thought I had to cook my evening meals, just like my mom did everyday when I lived at home with her and dad.

I had my own kitchen and my own refrigerator. But, what was really cool was that I could fix whatever I wanted. I had deep-fried shrimp at least once a week and remembered that the oil got so hot on the stove that I was afraid the smoke alarm would go off. Boy, was I a terrible cook back then. After moving back home and paying a little more attention to my mom in the kitchen, I learned to prepare one of her best recipes. It's actually very simple and always comes out tasting great. Below, you will find the recipe that my mom has handed down to me for her Spaghetti Meat Sauce. It may be easier to open a can and warm it in the microwave, but I guarantee that this recipe is much better than spaghetti in a can.

I hope you enjoy the sauce as much as I do.


Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

1 pkg. spaghetti, cooked
1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
1 c. tomato juice
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 can tomato sauce
1/8 t. pepper
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
oregano, to taste

Simmer all ingredients for about 45 minutes. Add oregano toward the end of the cooking. Serve on warm spaghetti. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

My husband does Revolutionary War re-enactments and when he does this, he can only eat food that is "period correct" (PC). Meaning the food has to be available in the time period he is re-enacting. This coming weekend he is going on a "trek," a camp-out with his buddies who do the same thing. They will be in their PC clothes and will only eat the available food from the 1700's. Since that will be walking in for about a mile to their campsite, they will have to carry their stuff. Packing light is a must.

Today, we went grocery shopping and in addition to our regular groceries, we bought the things he needs for the weekend. I always give him a choice of two things that I make to take with him, a loaf of homemade bread or a couple small loaves of pumpkin bread. His buddies love for him to bring my pumpkin bread. It's a sweet treat for them after they have eaten their beef jerky or summer sausage. So, tomorrow night I will be baking pumpkin bread for his trip. Below you will find my recipe. I use 8" x 4" loaf pans and this recipe makes 3 loaves of that size. He gets two and I keep one to eat while he's gone.


Pumpkin Bread

3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
3 1/2 c flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
2/3 c. water
2 t. salt

Cream together the sugar and oil. Add eggs and pumpkin and mix well. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add this to the pumpkin mixture, alternating it with water. Mix well after each addition. Pour into 3 well-greased and floured 8"x4"* loaf pans. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you use 9"x5" loaf pans, you will need 2 pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes. Whichever you use, watch them carefully so they don't burn.