Friday, April 1, 2011

Kindness in Blogging

I want to talk about kindness in blogging for a minute here.  It doesn't take much to be kind to others, it sometimes just takes a smile or a word.  Sometimes people go thru things in life we cannot even begin to understand but somehow there is always someone who thinks they know what that person should be doing to do it right.  Even if they don't know the person well.

Recently a person I know talked about her struggles with weight loss in her personal blog.  She discussed how she was going thru the steps to have weight loss surgery.  She was apprehensive about it but had decided it was something she was going to do.

Another blogger happened upon her blogsite and publicly belittled her for it on his own blogsite.  He told her she wasn't ready for weight loss surgery and even tho he had never met her he decided he knew what was best for her.

She had her surgery and the first couple weeks were pretty rough as in any major surgery.  He found where her support group was then he posted on his blog what she had said in the support group.  This means he had to join the group in order to "spy" on her.  Apparently he doesn't know that support groups whether they are online or in person are confidential to the users.  He did that in order to impress to his audience how "right" he was in his accessment of her readiness for weight loss surgery.  She of course is devastated that her private support group conversation was put out on his blog for all to read.  I hope that since he is cyber stalking her he will at least post how well she is doing in a few months and how happy she is that she took the chance offered to her and is getting heathy.   

Chocolate Cobbler

This recipe is one that my granddaughter Candice loved. She requested it for her birthday because she loved it so much.  It's also a great potluck recipe and an easy last minute throw together for unexpected company.

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons melted butter (or margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups water

Sift dry ingredients together into a 9" pie dish. Stir in milk, butter, vanilla. Spread batter evenly in the pie dish.
For the topping, mix sugars with the cocoa and sprinkle over the batter.  Pour the water over everything.  Do Not Stir it in.
Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. 
Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream. 
My granddaughter loves it room temp with ice cream.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Salsa Party!

Well if you haven't noticed I've been gone a few weeks.  I had surgery but am home again and am doing very well now.

Today I am going to give you my Salsa recipe, it was given to me by a friend when I worked at a local cannery many years ago.  It has some unexpected ingredients but that has made it a family favorite for many, many years.

1 large (28oz) can whole tomatoes
1 regular (15oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 large yellow or white onion
8 large radishes
3 Serrano chili's (Serrano's are the long finger shaped green ones, about 3-4" long)
6-8 Dried red peppers.  (these are the small red ones you can find in a cello bag in the Mexican food section of your market)
2  cloves of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch of cilantro

Finely chop onions, garlic, radishes or finely chop in the food processor.  Put tomatoes and their juice in a blender with the whole green chili's, salt and about a cup of chopped cilantro and with the dried red peppers that have been toasted.  (See below for directions on toasting red chili's) Blend till all contents are well blended.  Pour into a large bowl or container and stir in the chopped vegetables.  Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.  The longer it sits and marinates the better the taste is.  (To make it hotter or less hot adjust the dried toasted chili's)

To Toast Red Chili's:

Push the dried red chili's onto a fork or skewer, take them outside the house as the fumes are powerful.  Using a lighter or candle run it back and forth under the chili's until lightly blackened and you hear the seeds popping.  If they catch on fire just blow them out, even if they appear burned they are probably just right!  I drop them just as they are into the blender with the rest of the ingredients.

This recipe makes a generous amount of Salsa and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Auntie Barb's Famous Cheese Cake

Master Chief  and Mrs. Wm. J. Roberts

My Auntie Barb has been in our family for a long time.  She married my Uncle Bill (who passed away in December of 2010) and it has been both an honor and a privledge to be her niece.  I was especially close to my Uncle Bill and still consider my Auntie Barb my second mother.  She always gave the best advice (and still does) but never got onto you if you decided not to take it.  Usually you would come to realize later you should have done what she suggested in the first place.  Auntie Barb and Uncle Bill were a military family and went wherever Uncle Bill was stationed.  He was aboard a nuclear submarine for 6 months at a time and Auntie Barb kept everything ship shape while he was gone.  When he came home she handed the reins over to him so basically he was the Chief on the sub and at home too.  It worked for them.  After they retired they opened a restaurant in Washington state right on the beach.  I always enjoyed my Auntie Barbs cooking and in fact I have pressured her on more than one occasion for a recipe .  She never minded sharing them but sometimes had to dig for them in some box or book of hers so it might take awhile.  The wait was worth it though.  This is a cheese cake recipe that she gave me.  She used to make it for the restaurant and it was always a sell out.  I make it for family gatherings and church potlucks and its always a sell out and much in demand.. 

Auntie Barb's Cheesecake

1 quart of Pastry Pride*
4 Eight ounce packages of cream cheese softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 boxes graham cracker crust mix

Cream the cheese with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Blend the Pastry Pride till peaks form, blend with the cream cheese and sugar mixture.

Pour into a 13X9 baking dish that has been prepared with the graham cracker crust (follow package directions)  Chill until ready to eat. 

I spread one can of cherry pie filling over the top making sure all the cherries are evenly distributed across the top.  Or you can take fresh strawberries and slice them in an even layer over the top then cover with a container of strawberry glaze.  You can use pretty much any fruit topping, even blackberry pie filling or leave it plain.

This makes a nice thick piece of cheesecake, if you want thinner cheesecake just use a larger pan and make the crust thinner.  This is so yummy you won't believe it was so easy.

*Pastry Pride - This is available at Smart and Final or at a restaurant supply store.  You get it in a quart sized milk carton type packaging.  I buy several and freeze them as it is a freezable product.  You can also use Pastry Pride instead of whipped cream as it does not break down in the heat like whipping cream does.  I use it in my frosting for cakes for that reason.  The cake can sit out on a table for hours and the frosting will not breakdown on the hottest day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Favorites

I love to make food that is "stick to your ribs" and still very company friendly.  I also think its a good idea to practice a recipe before you actually make it for company.  You can tweak the recipe changing it to suit your families' tastes and have a good idea if you even want to serve it to your Mother-in-law beforehand.

Tweaking recipes is really very easy as most experienced cooks will tell you.  First you have to identify what you don't can't do that from looking at the recipe ingredients.  Let's say you hate-hate-hate onions.  Your recipe calls for 1/2 cup of onions, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots and the rest of the ingredients are all OK with you.  If you leave out the onions it may change the recipe too much  it and it would throw off the balance of the recipe.  It will not taste the same and you may need to change the rest of the ingredients to make up for the missing onion. 

One of the amazing things about recipe contents is that it is very likely that even though you hate a particular thing in a recipe, once it's all cooked together with other items you can no longer identify that particular food.  For example can you single out the taste of onions in spaghetti sauce?  No because it has married with the other ingredients to form a new taste combination.  Now, if I hated onions (I don't) I certainly wouldn't order French Onion Soup which is an example of a high flavor recipe.   

OK, so you have made the recipe and tasted it and while it looked great it doesn't taste as good as it looked.  So change it and try it again!  Be aware that some spices are stronger than others and while some taste good strong (garlic) and others don't (juniper berry) so you really need to know the strengths of the spices you do like.  It's all trial and error.  

I have substituted a tablespoon of grated ginger instead of 3 cloves of minced garlic.  It makes for a whole new dynamic in the recipe.  Do remember to change your side dishes or starches to reflect the new taste sensation.  Ginger goes better with rice than mashed potatoes...

So I have a recipe here for you that has a lot of possibilities.  You can change the meat in it from beef shanks to country style spare ribs to chicken. 


3 pounds beef shanks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pat the shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the shanks on all sides, working in batches if needed. Remove the shanks and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, to remove the raw flavor, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, and then add the red pepper flakes and bay leaves.

Add the shanks back to the pan and add enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven. Braise until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last half hour, uncover to allow the liquid to reduce and the shanks to brown.

Here are some substitutes I have tried with this recipe and LOVED:  Instead of stock add a good red wine in the same amount.  Instead of vinegar use apple juice or cider.  Instead of tomato paste use ketchup.  I have made these substitutions separately and used them all together, its good any way you do it. 

I serve the above recipe with creamy polenta but if I used pork I would substitute it with mashed potatoes or rice.  Chicken would be good with either side.

Please don't forget to visit my sponsors and leave comments if you have tried these recipes.  I would love to hear your comments good or bad!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dawson's Delight

The first time I ever had Banana Pudding was when I was 21 years old.  I have half sisters in Bakersfield, CA and hadn't seen them since I was about 14.  I was invited to attend a Dawson Family Reunion by my sister Shirley.  We are closest in age and had renewed our relationship in recent months prior to the reunion.  I lived about 4 hours north of Bakersfield but it was worth the trip to get to meet a lot of relatives of my deceased father for the first time and maybe learn more about the rich history of the Dawson Family. 

I ate this "banana puddin' " someone had brought to the reunion and was in instant heaven!  I immediately set out to make this my recipe.  I tweeked it and changed it a bit here and there but it's still good ole' banana puddin'...!  I named it Dawson's Delight for the reunion and my delight at eating it!

1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 (4-serving) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
36 vanilla wafers
3 medium bananas, sliced (toss with lemon juice to keep from turning brown)
Whisk sweetened condensed milk and water in large bowl. Add pudding mix. Whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Chill 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream.

SPOON 1 cup pudding mixture into 2 1/2-quart glass serving bowl. Top with one-third each of the vanilla wafers, bananas and remaining pudding. Repeat layering twice, ending with pudding mixture.
CHILL thoroughly. Garnish as directed below. 
2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 cup sugar,1 teaspoon vanilla
sliced almonds 
chocolate syrup
Before serving pudding, put dollops of whipped cream in a pattern on the top of the pudding, sprinkle with the sliced almonds then drizzle the chocolate syrup in a thin stream over the entire pudding. 
OPTIONAL:  I like to put a maraschino cherry with stem on top of each dollop of whipped cream, it just adds color to the dish making it more festive looking. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goooood Eats!

Alright, today is recipe day.  We're going to start with some easy ones that I love and so does my family.  Today we are going to do a Mexican "Stylerecipe.  It's super easy and it's great for company. 

Grandma's Mexican Pork

1 pork shoulder roast, bone in or out, any size that will fit in your crock pot
1 medium sized jar of Pace Picante, whatever heat you like.  We like the medium hot with garden vegetables.
1 15 oz can chicken stock
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder

Season your pork roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder
Put the pork roast into the crock pot and put about half a can of the chicken stock in on the side and 1/2 jar of Pace over the top of the roast .
Set the crock pot for 10  hours.

After 8 hours put the other half of the Pace over the roast.  Continue to cook until the time is up.
About an hour before the time is up on the slow cooker cook about 3 cups of rice and keep warm.

When the roast is done, remove it and set it on a platter, cover with foil.  Pour the drippings in the crock pot into a sauce pan and put over medium heat on the stove.  Add about one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch in a small bowl or cup and add about 1/4 cup of water and mix well. 
When the drippings come to a boil add the cornstarch mixture and stir until slightly thickened, taste for seasoning.

You can serve the pork sliced or shredded, over rice or on the side.  My family likes to put the gravy over the rice and put the meat into a tortilla with a bit of cheese and sour cream topped with a sprinkling of cilantro.

You can serve it anyway you like and its a recipe meant to be played with.  I have done this same recipe with chicken and just cooked it less time. 
Please leave your comments if you try this recipe, I would love to know if you like it.

Remove the roast from the cooker and place on a platter. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Food, Glorius Food!

First, let me apologise for not writing in so long.  I am one of those temperamental artist types who has to feel "moved" in order to create.  NAAAAAAAAHHHH!  Actually I have had other issues come up involving so many things that I had to put it off for a bit. 

I have had a love affair with food for as long as I can remember.  I can remember  hearing my grandmother tell someone that my cousin was a picky eater, then she added "Stephie would eat a turd if I fried it".  I don't think I ever ate a fried turd but I've not eaten too many things I didn't like. 
Lot's of people have a whole big idea about why they eat or overeat.  Some folks think its due to a deprived childhood or an abusive situation.  I know why I am overweight.  I eat too much.  I love food.  I love to cook and I am a good cook who likes my own cooking.  I am often disappointed when I eat out, I always feel I could have done better in my own kitchen.  Other than things like Chinese, Japanese, some Italian, maybe few other ethnic meals I really prefer my own.
I love to create recipes, rework recipes, try recipes and even just browse recipes.  I feel that cooking is just like art.  In art you need to know shadow and light, color and lack of color, presentation of subject matter and have an innate ability to know what goes with what to make a picture interesting.  Same goes for cooking.   Combining flavors, colors, smells and interesting combinations.  I see a cooking show and watch them create something and I usually immediately think, "Hmm, I wonder how that would taste if I....".
The biggest mystery in the world to me is how someone who likes to eat and enjoys food and cannot cook.  How does that happen?  How can a person not taste something and start identifying the food in their mouth?  A bit of cinnamon, some vanilla ooh creamy, must be heavy cream or half and half...what if I made it with a bit of nutmeg!  But I have met people who burn water!  (My husband is one..he wouldn't know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich!)
I like easy cooking, I want to put a few items together, throw it in a pot, pan or roaster and forget about it till dinner time.  I want it however, to taste like I cooked all day, measured, peeled, sauced and stood all day over a hot oven. 
I have lots of great recipes that I have put together over the years.  Last year I finally bought a recipe book program and spent months cooking, photographing and typing in the recipes.  I created 4 cookbooks for 3 of my granddaughters and my daughter-in-law.  I also made a section in which I put a lot of old family pictures (some from the 1860's) and genealogy information.  I included family history information and stories.  It was a work of love and it was something I had been working on for years.  Then my computer crashed.  It was the hard drive, no way to get anything back.  So I am back to gathering my recipes again.  I have scanned a lot of the pages of my grandaughters' book so I can replace most of them.  The trouble is I modified each book so it had the favorite recipes for the individual and omitted the recipes they didn't like, the result is no two books are alike...
I'm not really crazy about the recipe program I purchased, for one thing it doesn't allow me to cut and paste.  For another, it won't let me import.  This means every single recipe has to be put in by hand, hours and hours of work.  So I think my next book will come after I find a better program.
Next post will be more on food and some of my favorite recipes...

Goldrush Grandma