Author Archives: lizziesmom2012

About lizziesmom2012

I'm a 63 year old grandmother of three, living in Huntsville, Alabama. I've been cooking just about my whole life. In fact, I baked my first balckberry pie at age 5. Now, I didn't say that pie was good. It was barely edible, but it was pretty because I rolled that crust out over and over until it looked to be perfect. Cooking is a learning curve! Menu planning is a learning curve, too, and that's why I'm here. You can write perfect looking menu plans all day long, but life happens and that perfect looking menu plan can get a little tough to chew. Using the Sticky Menu Plan may not be perfect, but it works. The less we waste, the more we have.

Fast forward to Fall?

Not so fast! There’s still plenty of Summer around here in North Alabama, and we intend to enjoy it.  Today is the 22nd day in September that the temperatures have been in the 90’s.  We even hit 100 twice this month!  We might as well make the most of it, since there’s nothing we can do about it.  It will be soup season soon enough.

I finished off the peach crop with a new, fun way to form a pie crust.  I started off with my standard Peach Pie recipe, but branched out a bit by making the Buttermilk Pie Crust. Then came the fun part! Rather than dividing the dough into two crusts, I rolled it out into one huge round, about 16-18″ in diameter. After carefully centering it in the pie pan and adding the filling,  I pinched on an edge and then pleated the whole thing toward the center, brushed it with egg wash, and sprinkled on coarse sugar. Success!  This may have been one of the prettiest and tastiest pies I have made.  Try this trick on any fruit pie.

Those of you who follow this blog may remember that I’m rather fond of one-dish dinners. We enjoyed a couple of simple, yet satisfying entrees this past week. Creamy Zucchini and Spinach Rigatoni fills the bill for Meatless Monday. This time I took it up a notch by stirring in a can of diced fire roasted tomatoes. Yumm! Those tomatoes added just a little something. I think I’ll continue to use them.

You folks may also know that I dehydrate small strips of pork loin for animal treats. Not all of the pork gets used making these little morsels, so Michael and I eat a lot of pork! (Our pets aren’t spoiled, are they?) Anyway, the last pork leftovers were just what a skillet of Pork Fried Rice with Snow Peas called for. The prep work for this meal took longer than the actual cooking, but I had leftover brown rice, so that helped time wise.  Any time you cook up a batch of rice, I suggest you double the recipe.  It doesn’t take any longer, and having precooked rice stashed in the freezer is a huge time saver.

I often focus on main dishes, but don’t let me forget the sides.  Here are a couple you might like to try…

Cauliflower Alfredo is a lighter alternative to traditional Alfredos that are loaded with heavy cream and cheeses. Don’t take me wrong. There’s still plenty of the cheesy flavor that we all love and you won’t miss the fat grams at all.  Cauliflower Alfredo pairs well as a side with simple grilled meats or seafood, but it can also stand on its’ own as a meatless main.

Not in a cheesy pasta mood? Try these Instant Pot Melting Potatoes instead. These may be my new favorite way to serve potatoes. They are just a little crispy on the outside and meltingly (is that a word?) creamy on the inside. Fresh thyme adds just a bit of interest without detracting from that rich potato taste.  For best results, be sure to use baby potatoes.  I like Yukon Golds for their texture, but just about any small potato will work.

On a silly note…Yesterday was Bella, our Weimaraner’s  13th birthday. Thirteen is old for a big dog, but the vet says she’s in “decent shape” for a dog of her age. She and Lizzie, our little spaniel, celebrated with a birthday dinner of canned food instead of their usual dry.  Happy Birthday, Bella!

Be thankful for what life gives you.

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I’m still playing with those peaches

It seems that I’ve developed a couple of summer staples. Every year we celebrate summer with a batch of Fresh Peach Ice Cream, often over a warm bowl of Peach Melba Crumble.  Peaches not in season?  Puree any other fruit for this custard-style ice cream, instead.  The crumble recipe is pretty versatile, as well.  Substitute any fresh fruit you choose, and serve with store-bought ice cream, or skip the ice cream all together if you prefer.

And here’s a new Instant Pot recipe for you…Fresh Peach Jam in the Instant Pot. I just love this recipe. Rather than relying on tons of white sugar, the recipe calls for just a half cup or so of honey, letting the peaches shine as the star of the show. (Never mind the fact that without all that excess sugar these preserves are just a bit better for you.) I do need to mention that you control the thickness of your jam by watching your cooking time. The longer you leave the pot open on the saute setting at the end of the cooking process, the thicker the preserves will become.  I use my immersion blender to adjust the consistency, but very frequent stirring will break down the chunks of peaches, too.  Make it as smooth or chunky as you choose.  This Instant Pot recipe is a keeper!

While we’re playing with our Instant Pots, try this recipe for Swedish Meatballs in the Instant Pot. It tastes rich and creamy with only 1/4 cup of sour cream. Most of the time, Swedish meatballs are served over egg noodles, but for the Instant Pot I think the shape of butterfly pasta works better.  Working on this recipe, I discovered an interesting tip. To cook pasta to perfection, submerge the dry pasta in your liquid of choice, then use the LOW pressure setting for half the cooking time suggested on the box. At the end of the cooking time, immediately release the pressure. I throw a kitchen towel over the release valve so pasta water doesn’t spray all over the kitchen.

Tired of the same old breakfast? Trade that bowl of cereal in for Overnight Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding.  Most people would call this bowl of chocolaty goodness “dessert”,  but at only  204 calories with 6 grams of protein per half cup, I call it good.  Why not?  It’s a quick and filling start to my morning.  In fact, I think I’ll go enjoy some right now!

Do any of you have a tip for keeping those pesky squirrels from stealing my tomatoes?  They think I’ve planted them just for their enjoyment!  The irritating thing is, after a bite or two our little friends throw that tomato down and pick another.  Squirrels are not afraid of plastic snakes or fake owls.  Even a hefty sprinkle of cayenne pepper doesn’t deter them.  Those furry robbers just sample one, decide it’s not to their taste, and move on to take a good bite out of the next.  I’ve had to resort to buying my tomatoes at the farmers’ market!   There has to be an answer.

Oh well,
Be thankful for what life gives you.

So much work, So little time…

Why is it, I always bite off more than I can chew? The blueberries need picking and peaches are in season, so of course I’m on my second basket of those.  Our next door neighbor shared a big bag of his cucumbers with us, as well. The dogs are out of dehydrated pork treats; I had to buy a pork loin for those, and while they are on sale I bought an extra one for us. AND we’re out of ground beef, so I picked up a couple of sale chuck roasts for that.  (If you follow this blog you might remember that I never purchase store ground beef.  You just don’t know where it came from.)  Now, where do I start?

The dog treats take the longest, so I guess that’s as good of a beginning as anything. It takes a while to trim all the fat off a boneless pork loin, then cut it into thin strips and load those into the dehydrator for a 10 hour stint. Why do I bother? Well, Bella has food allergies and can’t have any chicken in any form, not even “animal fats”. Try finding commercial dog treats that fit that bill. I guess she could go treat-less, but what fun is that? Our dogs aren’t spoiled! I guess I’ll save the second piece of pork for next week.  It’s dated out that long.

While I’m working with treats, let me tell you about Hot Garlic Dills. These slightly spicy dill pickles come together in about a week and are the perfect use for those cucumbers that “got away”. You know, the ones that manage to hide in your garden until they are too large and seedy to enjoy as is. After I cut the cukes into spears I trim away the seedy core to produce flawless pickles.  Of course, you can also start with smaller cucumbers and keep the seeds, but just in case…

When ever I’m trimming up pork loins for the dogs, there always nice meaty portions that don’t lend themselves into cutting fat-free strips.   Waste not!  Those chunks go into the meat grinder.  I usually wind up with a good pound of ground pork for meatballs or burgers.  I have my standard recipes for Meatballs and Rib Burgers, but this time I think I’ll try something new. I recently ran across a recipe for Swedish meatballs prepared in the Instant Pot. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I’ll let you know how it goes.

I do have one new summer recipe to share with you: moist and tender Zucchini Meatloaf. You can make it any time of year using grocery store produce, but add this recipe to your arsenal for using the garden’s bounty of this prolific squash. You might even be able to sneak an extra serving of veggies by your picky eaters.

And that second basket of peaches? There are so many options! Michael always enjoys Peach Turnovers. These simple treats call for frozen puff pastry. It doesn’t get much easier than that, so off I go.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Ready for the Forth?

Before I get started, it looks like someone may have hacked into this account. If you received a post about a new recipe for homemade Marinara, that post didn’t come from me! I’d like to know if you did receive it.

Anyway, every year, our Forth of July menu stays pretty much the same, just as do Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know, ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and corn on the cob. Same old, Same old. Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit.

Let’s start with the protein selection. Grilling is still a requirement. After all, it is the Forth of July! Do your kids love their hot dogs? Make those hot dog buns do double duty with Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls. No need to buy a second bag of hamburger buns. The way these all-in-one burgers fit right into those hot dog buns help your condiments stay put. No sliding off the bun.  And besides, this presentation is kind of fun!

Not a fan of red meat?  How about trying Grilled Bruschetta Chicken? Fresh basil and home grown tomatoes are both coming into season about now, so use them to pack fresh flavor into not so boring chicken breasts.  For the juiciest chicken, take it off the grill just before it’s done and tent it with foil.  Carry-over cooking will take care of the rest.

Now, about that potato salad…Gotta have it, right?  Let’s twist it up a bit and cut out some of those carbs with UnPotato Salad. While this salad still has that old fashioned potato salad taste, the base of it is actually cauliflower, but you’d never know it. Amp up that potato taste and texture by mashing one boiled potato into the dressing. If you’re a mustard fan you can add that, as well.

And now for the kid’s favorite Mac ‘n Cheese. Let’s twist that up a bit, too by serving Mac and Cheese in a Bacon Bowl. Any recipe for mac and cheese will work here, but I like my Low Guilt Mac and Cheese. It’s super creamy, but stands up well in the bowl, Bacon bowl, that is.

Cole slaw?  Turn it green by serving a crispy Broccoli Salad in creamy sweet and sour dressing instead.  Crumbled bacon and dried cranberries or raisins add interest to the palate.  I think the key to this salad is cutting the broccoli into small bite sized pieces. Larger florets are difficult to manage without a knife, and who wants to cut their salad?

If you prefer your broccoli hot, try Grilled Broccoli.  The slightly caramelized florets carry a subtly smokey flavor, punched up by a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon.  You just can’t get this flavor out of your oven!

That corn on the cob?  Try using grilled corn cut off the cob instead of the canned corn called for in a batch of Southern Caviar. This addictive appetizer recipe does make a large amount, but it stores well in the fridge IF you have any left. Try using diced homegrown tomatoes instead of the recipe’s canned “Ro-Tel” for a wonderful fresh taste.

Of course, no Forth of July celebration would be complete with out dessert! The possibilities are endless. One of our favorites is Fresh Fruit Custard Ice Cream. I make it with whatever seasonal fruit looks the best at the farmer’s market. Dark cherries are available at the grocery this time of year, too. Finely dice or puree the fruit for the best result, and don’t forget the secret ingredient, vodka! Just a tablespoon doesn’t change the taste or make the ice cream alcoholic, but makes a dramatic difference in the texture. Your ice cream scoop will thank you!

Have a happy and safe Forth of July, and don’t forget to be thankful for what life gives you.

The Latest and Greatest!

I’m sorry to admit that I’ve had a bit of blogger’s block lately. OK, a major blogger’s block, but finally I’ve got a few new recipes I’m excited to share with you.

Michael and I both love Mexican inspired food. Somehow, pork is always in abundance in my freezer, and thus Porky Poblanos came to be.  Sort of a pork filled version of a chile rellenos,these are filled with seasoned ground pork and cheeses, including queso fresco.  While traditional rellenos are battered and fried, my Porky Poblanos are baked in a mild enchilada style sauce that’s made partly with V-8 vegetable juice, so they skip much of the fat and sneak in a bit of veggie nutrients. Nothing wrong with that!

My second new recipe is Cashew Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Now I know, sheet pan cooking is all the rage, but I haven’t really gotten into it. That is until now. This recipe lives up to all the hype. It’s fast, filling, full of fiber and, most importantly, full of flavor. I served it over hot brown rice to catch all the pan juices.

Strawberry season is almost over,but I think this new dessert recipe is a keeper.  Fresh Strawberry Poke Cake with Cream Cheese Icing  starts with a simple box cake mix but that’s just the beginning. The warm cake is poked all over with a fork or skewer to allow the strawberry topping to permeate the cake, thus the name “Poke Cake”. After the cake has cooled, a luscious layer of cream cheese and whipped cream is generously spread over the top. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting the minimum of an hour for the cake to set. This strawberry cake could also be made with frozen berries, but why would you while these little red jems are in season?

The last recipe I have to share with you is Broccoli Salad. This salad is a cool and crisp addition to any summer meal. Remember to shock the broccoli, then drain it well. Raw broccoli is just a bit too crunchy for most tastes, but briefly shocking it leaves just the right snap. Drain it well so you don’t dilute the sweet and sour creamy dressing. You can plan on this salad lasting a couple of days in the fridge. I enjoyed it for a light lunch the next day.

I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend.  Folks call it the beginning of summer, but before you know it we’ll be celebrating the Forth of July, and the next time you turn around summer will be over!

Be thankful for what life gives you.