It’s been a Crazy Month!

(mostly for personal reasons), but once again The Sticky Menu Plan has saved us from the scourge of the fast food lanes. I always try to mix up my weekly menu plan with one or two complex meals, a couple that are less time consuming, and a back up meal or two that take no time at all, often planned leftovers. Using my Sticky Menu system these meals can be interchanged pretty much at will, and that’s happened a whole lot lately. Having my own fast food in the freezer didn’t hurt, either.

Amidst all the craziness I did manage to do a little cooking. You remember that ham I baked? Some of it went into a Broccoli, Ham, and Rice Casserole. That recipe yields a good bit, so half of it went into the freezer. While I was at it I cooked up and extra batch of rice.

Following my commitment to never waste a smidgen of that ham, the bone was stewed with some saved up vegetable trimmings to make broth. Some of the broth and the last smidgens of ham were turned into a lovely pot of Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup. Full of fiber and flavor, my lentil soup is definitely on our short list of cold weather comfort foods. As a bonus, it costs very little to make, as most of the extra ingredients came out of the pantry.

Probably the quickest and healthiest meal we ate this month was a big batch of Shrimp Fried Rice, using the extra rice I cooked up earlier in the week. You won’t find a recipe for the shrimp on this blog because I used the Pork Fried Rice as a road map, subbing in the shrimp and adding some extra veggies. Please feel free to do the same yourself, using any protein you like along with any bits of vegetables that might be hanging out in your produce drawer.

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Bake was my latest “Try Me Tuesday” entree. As originally written, this casserole seemed a little dry. I added a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (Ro-Tel). I also threw in some extra peppers that I had frozen from last summer’s garden. We were out of the fresh spinach that the recipe called for, and the roads were too icy to drive to the store. In went a can of black beans instead. Our dinner that night barely resembled the original recipe, but it sure was good. That just goes to prove the point that, with the exception of baked goods, recipes are only a guide line. Doctor them up to suit your own taste.

Take care to avoid this season’s flu, and,
Be thankful for what life gives you.


It’s January, so I’ll be “Hammin” it up, again

The Holidays always bring bargain prices on hams. I don’t cook a ham for any of our special meals, but I always pick one up for January. A Baked Ham is one of the most frugal of protein purchases, and with the aid of my Ham Math is guaranteed to cook perfectly every time.

Leftover Ham holds endless possibilities beyond the “day after” ham sandwich or add anything quiche. Try updating that sandwich to a Garlicky Grilled Ham and Cheese or put a new twist on it with a crispy Ham and Cheese Quesadilla , just oozing with your favorite cheese.

Garlicky Grits and Ham are delicious any time of day, from a filling breakfast to a Breakfast for Dinner night. If garlic isn’t your thing, just leave it out.  Certainly, the lists of casseroles and quiches are too numerous to name.  Just browse my recipe pages.  I’ll bet that you run out of ham before you run out of ideas.

And one more thing…When you think you’ve used up every bite of ham on that bone don’t dare throw it away!  You still have a pot of Fat-free Ham Broth to stew. From Bean and Ham Soup to Brunswick Stew to simply seasoning vegetables or rice, if you have a stash of this broth you can add a delightful savory flavor to your favorite recipes, so Ham it Up.

And as always,
Be thankful for what life gives you.

Ready, Set, Go!

And here we are, smack dab at the beginning of a new year. Are you ready to make the most of it? Well, I’m sure going to try!
New Year’s Eve was quiet, and for us, that’s a good thing. There was plenty going on in town, but we just had no desire to go freeze our fannies off in 9 degree weather, only to worry about the drunk drivers on our way home. Nope, television entertainment in front of a nice warm fire was all we needed. I did try a new snack recipe, Cheesy Thumbprint Appetizers with Hot Pepper Jelly. This is another of those recipes that I’m not sure where it came from, but I’ll keep it.

Our New Year’s Day dinner was the traditional, well, almost. In the South, that dinner follows a set menu. One must serve pork, because hogs always root forward, black eyed peas, for good luck, fortune, and money in coins, and greens, for more good fortune and folded money. Michael doesn’t care for traditional greens like collards, so I substitute cabbage. That’s green, right? Well, we’re still financially solvent, so I guess cabbage counts.

The pork was another story.  I though I was so smart when I pulled what I assumed was a trimmed pork tenderloin out of the freezer to cook for New Years dinners’ Braised Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Pan Sauce. The tenderloin was trimmed alright, but what I failed to notice was that it was also seasoned with Rib Rub for the grill. Whoops! We grill outside most all winter long, but not when the high temp for the day is 25°.  Mushrooms and rib rub aren’t the best of friends either,  so I just skipped the mushrooms and continued with the braise.  It was delicious.  I’ll make that mistake again sometime soon.

I have set a goal to try a new recipe or ingredient each “Try Me Tuesday”.  This week it was Slow Cooker Creamy Lentil Soup. That one did double duty since “Meatless Monday” wasn’t at all meatless this week. The jury is out on that soup recipe. I enjoyed it the first day, and Michael put his game face on, but unlike most soups this one wasn’t better the second day. Something, maybe the pureed chickpeas, turn gritty. The texture of the second day soup was just not good. So, unless I can find a way to reduce the quantity to one meal, I won’t be making it again.

Take a look at how cold it’s been here in North Alabama! That’s the frozen fountain in our little backyard fish pond. It has NEVER frozen like this before. I have no idea how our koi are doing. When we built the pond it was recommended that you have a minimum depth of 18 inches to keep fish. That we have, but will it be enough? I guess we’ll find out.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Apples anyone? Here’s something new…

Gingersnapple Sheet Pie. Not quite a pie, and not quite a bar cookie, this unusual dessert combines the best flavors of fall. A cool apple topping is layered over a soft ginger cookie crust, chilled until firm, then cut into squares.  Served warmed or cold, this recipe literally came to me in my sleep!

Or maybe you’d prefer an Apple Cobbler warm from the oven. This ones a little different with browned butter and vanilla bean. Try it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side for a sweet creamy contrast.

These apple offerings are the result of our annual trip to Scotts Orchard, just north of town.  It’s a trek I drag Michael on each fall.  I just can’t resist fresh from the farm produce and regularly bite off more than I can chew.  I then have to find ways to use all that bushel of seasonal goodness.  With the apple harvest, some recipes are just a given.  Apple Pie Filling is always stashed in the freezer, just waiting for a crust. I almost always slow cook a batch of Apple Butter, followed by a batch of Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls.

Along with my usual freezer stash of pie filling I tried another new pie recipe this year, Warm Apple Buttermilk Custard Pie.   I found that it’s best chilled in the fridge for a few hours to set up really well, but then warmed a bit in the microwave to serve each slice.  This one’s a keeper!  Try it for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt.  No, I don’t eat leftover pizza for breakfast,  but this pie has fruit, eggs and buttermilk.  I’d call that breakfast food.

A couple of dinner recipes were recent stand-outs.  If you follow this blog you might recall that I postponed (moved the sticker down the menu calendar) Zippy Summer Shrimp. Well I finally made it, and that recipe is a keeper as well. I don’t recall where the original recipe came from, it was just in my files, but I tweaked it just the tiniest bit to resemble a shrimp dish served at Pappa Joe’s restaurant in Apalachicola. Success!  I served it along side fettuccine bathed in Lite Alfredo Sauce. That combo will be showing up on the menu calendar again soon.

Another new recipe that turned out well was Garlicky Cheese and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken. Wow! Talk about flavor! This is not your usual bland boneless chicken breast. Some of the cheese did seep out, but I just plopped it back onto the chicken. I suppose you could avert this issue by cutting a pocket into your chicken breast rather than booking it, but I find that process frustrating. I can never get enough filling into those tiny pockets. The choice is yours.

Well, I started this post with dessert and finished with the main dish. Maybe we should start eating that way! Be thankful for what life gives you.

Vacation’s over and it’s time to get back to work

We’ve been back over a week now, and I found it hard to get back into the swing of things. When one is privileged enough, or should I say spoiled enough, to spend time in their happy place it can be hard to give it all up and come back to the real world. But here I am!

I’ve been in kind of a rut, cooking wise, so I’ve decided to try something new. what was previously “Tour the World Tuesday” will now become “Try Me Tuesday”. I plan to try a new recipe or ingredient every week.  That may be a challenge!

This past week’s new recipe was Meatball Casserole. I think that recipe could use a little tweaking. Michael thought the meatballs were a little dried out, and I agree. I may try that one again, but instead of layering the meatballs on top I’ll bury them under a layer of pasta and sauce.  They should stay moister that way.

I guess I must have been on a casserole kick last week. Tuesday’s entree was a Chiles Rellanos Casserole. We’ve had a bumper crop of jalapeno and cowhorn peppers this year, so I used those rather than the canned variety. Roasting and peeling all those peppers was a bit of work, but the flavor was excellent, well worth the effort. I think in the future I’ll roast some from the grocery store to prepare this dish if I don’t have any left in the freezer. I had planned to have leftovers from this meal, but we liked it so well that there wasn’t enough left for a full dinner. Tacos were a quick addition.

There’s another new dish on the horizon for Fishy Friday. I had planned to try Zippy Summer Shrimp last week, but Michael wanted his Mexican fix instead. I can’t say he had to twist my arm. Anyway, that recipe is on the menu again this week. That sticker just jumped off the page and onto next week’s calendar. After all, that is what The Sticky Menu Plan is all about.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Zoodles anyone?

I have a new toy to play with, a spiralizer! These gadgets have been around awhile, but it’s new to me. I’ve had tons of fun playing with recipes that use it.

My first experiment was oven baked sweet potato curly fries. Let’s just call that a learning experience. Those fries were too skinny and turned out like tasteless potato chips.  I think I used the wrong sized blade. My second effort, Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, was much more successful. I can see those noodles as a replacement for traditional pasta in any number of recipes.

After gaining some confidence with the Zoodles and researching plenty of recipes on the web, I branched out a bit with Zoodle Tomato Pie, another success. Somewhat quiche like, this dish would work as a light vegetarian main dish but would also be good as a side. I might be tempted to sneak in some cooked, crumbled bacon or Italian sausage the next time.

Once I start playing with new recipe concepts I have a hard time stopping. It does take a little repetitive refinement to get a new recipe just right. My second cut at Zoodles turned up as a side to one of my favorite dishes, La Marina. La Marina combines grilled chicken with shrimp in a creamy mushroom sauce. I usually serve a side of grilled veggies and some sort of rice with this entree, and I have to admit I prefer that combination. Zoodles are jut too light and don’t carry the sauce like rice does.

And speaking of new recipes, how about some Maple Pecan Ice Cream? This one started out to be Butter Pecan, but the maple syrup just kind of jumped out and into the pot.  I let it stay.  The maple flavor isn’t overpowering, but it’s definitely there. I’ve got a secret ingredient that I put in all my ice creams…vodka! Since alcohol doesn’t freeze, the ice cream has a creamy but firm texture that is easily scooped. The vodka is undetectable, no boozy flavor or effect.

I try as hard as I can to cook seasonally, and made one more trip to the farmer’s market this week.  I almost missed the boat on summer squash for the year.  Only one stand was selling any, and the 10 pounds I purchased cleaned the guy out.  After I prepared this year’s batch of Summer Squash for the Freezer, I made some Squash Fritters for dinner. I suppose that recipe name is misleading. Most fritters are fried, I bake these. I just prefer to skip the mess of deep frying, but they would probably be more flavorful that way.  The recipe wouldn’t have to be changed, just the preparation.

The night we had the Squash Fritters I also made a pot of Southern Seasoned Green Beans, cooked with onions and a little bacon grease. Isn’t everything better with bacon? It seems that here in the South it is!  I do depart from the Southern ways with this recipe though.  My mother in law would have cooked the beans until they were very, very soft.  I prefer to leave a little bite to my beans.  It’s a fine line.

Michael got lucky this week. No, not THAT kind of lucky! I mean that instead of his usual one dessert for the week, I made him two. The grocery stores were all featuring sweet cherries, so I took the time to bake a Little Fresh Cherry Pie for Two. When you are only cooking for two a standard sized pie can often go bad before you eat the whole thing. That’s often the case here, since I rarely eat sweets. Scaling down recipes solves that problem nicely. I need to try to do that more often.

Before I go, I have a question for you. Where does a big dog sit to watch the news?

Anywhere she wants to!

Be thankful for what life gives you.