Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring Pantry Cleaning

It's time to do some Spring cleaning in the pantry.  I've gotten to the point where my hall cabinet tends to throw things at me as soon as I open the door.  And I'm not quite sure what I have stacked on the floor next to the suitcases, so it's organization time.

Everything will be removed and expiration dates checked.  If it has expired it gets tossed, but short dated items (expires in a month or less) can be donated to the free clinic for immediate use.  If you have more of an item than your family can use before expiration, donate that too.

When the shelves are clear wipe them down, then place your favorite  brand of boric acid tablets (I like Harris Famous roach tablets) at the rear of the shelves.  This should help control ants and other buggies.

Time to organize.  Like items together and longest time before expiration to the rear.  When you add new items place shift everything forward and place them in the back.  It's tempting to throw things on the shelf when unloading in a hurry, but that's how this whole mess began.

This isn't a fun task, but play some music or listen to a book on CD while working.  Think of how nice it will be to be able to find something in a jiffy and your family will have less of a tendency to grumble when you come home from the store after stocking up.

God bless,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Good Reads: Suspect

SuspectSuspect by Robert Crais
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great police thriller and a poignant love story between a police officer and his K-9. Intelligently written and emotionally engaging; I couldn't put this book down.

The first chapter had me in tears (view spoiler)[ when Maggie the dog tells about the death of her Marine handler and the cause of her PTSD. Then the next chapter describes how the police officer, Scott, developed PTSD after the death of his partner in a shootout. (hide spoiler)] The two join as partners after they heal physically and magic happens as they emotionally heal together.

If you love dogs and police dramas, you will love this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Low Fat Eggplant Parmesan

02/28/13 - Dear Readers:  I have made a correction to this recipe.  I accidentally used some of the instructions from another recipe that I sometimes make.  In this low fat version there is no frying involved, only baking.  Sorry!

I love, love, love eggplant parmesan (my BIL's is the best), but usually the recipes I find use a huge amount of oil.  When you fry eggplant it will soak up oil like a sponge.  So I decided to create a lower fat version with some big flavor pay off.

Slice two small eggplants and two zucchini into slices 1/4 inch thick.  I like to peel the eggplant first, but you don't have to.  Layer in a colander, liberally salting (kosher salt) each layer.  Let sit in sink for an hour.  This removes the moisture that would cause the casserole to get soggy and removes some of the bitterness from the eggplant.

Breading:  Container 1 - 1 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
Container 2 -  4 eggs, beaten with fork
Container 3 -  2 cups bread crumbs, 1/4 cup parmesan, 4 Tbsp.  olive oil mixed in with fingers to make a crumbly mixture.

Rinse the eggplant and zucchini thoroughly with water.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bread eggplant and zucchini by dredging in flour, then egg wash, then in bread crumbs.  Place on parchment lined baking pans.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Don't cook it completely as it will continue to cook in the casserole.

Sorry for the awful picture.

Grease a 13" x 9" casserole with oil.  Coat bottom with small amount of your favorite marinara sauce, then start layering.  Layer eggplant or zucchini, then sauce, parmesan and mozzarella.  Continue until the casserole is full, ending with a layer of sauce, parmesan and mozzarella.

Bake covered in a 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.  Let sit for ten minutes then serve.

Didn't get a picture until after the family descended upon it.

This is a labor intensive meal, but it can be done in advance and kept in the refrigerator before baking.  We ate three meals from this hearty casserole.  Enjoy!

God bless,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Smothered Chicken and Flavored Rice

Time to get the crockpot out because we are cooking low and slow today.  This is a traditional Southern U.S. recipe which results in a tender (falling off the bone) chicken, covered with caramelized onions and a pan sauce.

Ingredients for chicken:

4 Chicken thighs and legs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of celery seed
olive oil
3 large onions
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole
chicken broth

 The day before soak chicken in a salt water brine; leave in refrigerator overnight.  Mix flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and garlic powder together in a pie pan or plate.  Coat chicken pieces in flour and brown in olive oil on both sides.

When the chicken is golden brown remove to a plate.  Slice onions into thin rings and fry until golden brown in fat leftover in pan.  Salt onion lightly while it is cooking. Add garlic midway through cooking.  At this point you can also brown sliced celery, but I seldom use celery and it is not worth me buying it to just use a few pieces.  So, I use celery seed as a substitute.  Just sprinkle the celery seed over the onions a minute before they are done.  Remove onion from oil with a slotted spoon, placing it in the bottom of an oiled crockpot.

Place the chicken on top of the onions and pour on chicken broth to reach about 1/2 the way up the first layer of chicken pieces.  Once again sprinkle a small amount of salt over the top of everything.

Cook on high for four hours, then low for one hour.  If you are starting this before going to work you can cook it on low eight to ten hours.

Place chicken on plate, top with onions and pan sauce.  Serve with seasoned rice and a salad.

Seasoned Rice Ingredients:

2 cups white, long grain rice
water according to package directions
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 1/2 tsp chicken base
2 Tbsp butter

Place ingredients in rice cooker to cook or, if using regular pan,  follow package directions on rice.

This makes a hearty, satisfying meal for a cold day.  We have plenty of leftovers to use in other recipes.    Four chicken leg quarters cooked this way will feed us for three nights if I plan it right.

God bless,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Good Reads: Frances And Bernard

Stories told through correspondence can be unclear and disjointed or, when well done, they can give us an indepth insight into their characters' lives and emotions. Frances And Bernard is one of the latter.

Frances and Bernard are writers that meet at a camp and become friends through their correspondence with one another. Their letters to each other and their friends tell the story of their growing care for each other, their love, Bernard's mental illness and Frances' need to protect herself from the upheaval it can cause and the sad end of their relationship.

This is a lovely and poignant story, beautifully written and a pleasure to read. Expect to shed a few tears if you are as sentimental as I am. They were very satisfying tears though.

God Bless,

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pulling Coupons For Grocery Shopping

I thought I would give you an idea of how I organize my coupons and get ready to go grocery shopping.  We generally shop for groceries once or twice a week.  Our second trip usually involves getting some fresh vegetables or dairy.

The first step is to go to a couponing website such as Southern Savers.  Try to find a site that specializes in the stores in your geographical area.  I use this site to make my grocery list, taking advantage of the BOGOs (buy one get one) listed in order to build up my pantry.  I am particularly looking for the BOGOs that can be combined with coupons for that product.  This site allows me to print out a list that details which coupons I need to pull and where those coupons can be found.

Next I go to pull and clip the coupons I need from my coupon storage.  I use the file method in which my coupon inserts are filed by date in a file box.  Previously I used to clip all of my coupons and carry them in a binder, but as the coupons built up it became unwieldy.  If you've ever seen someone shopping with two overstuffed binders in their cart you know what I mean.  Now I pull and carry only the coupons I need.  This also helps me control impulse purchases (if I don't have a coupon for the product I can't buy it).

Then I paperclip my coupons to the back of my list.  I make notations on the list of how many of each product to buy and the number and type of coupons I have for that item.  My personal shorthand is MC for manufacturers coupon and SC for store coupon.  Of course, it's always nice to have both kinds of coupons for one product.

This has proven to be the best method for my family.  I follow the same procedure when preparing to go to the drug store or Target.   It is simple and, hey, frugal.

God bless,