Short Ribs in the Crockpot!

I recently watched a TV chef prepare short ribs and it made me want to make them!  I hadn't made them in 25 years ... and as soon as I tasted the scrumptious things ... I remembered why I hadn't made them in 25 years. Fat.  They are so good ... and rich ... and not on the approved diet of anybody who deals with weight or high blood pressure!  I ate them anyway and vowed not to make them for another 25 years!  But, you should try them ... they are inexpensive and really good!

They are really easy to make ... especially if you use your crock pot!  I marinated mine as a whole piece of meat ... in a vertical container ... which requires less liquid.  I mixed equal parts of wine and water ... and added a couple tablespoons of honey and another Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.  I let it stand in the marinade for 2 hours, then cut it into sections.  

After dredging the meat on all sides in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper, I browned each piece in olive oil.  then I transferred the meat to a crock pot.  I placed chunks of onion, celery and a few carrots in the bottom of the pot.

To make a sauce, I simmered 3 cups of the marinade with 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar, a Tablespoon of minced garlic, a Tablespoon of tomato paste and one teaspoon of anchovy paste.

I hope you've found the  convenience of tubes of those ingredients!  I let the sauce simmer for five minutes, then poured it over the meat.  I cooked the short ribs for 3 hours on the high setting in the crock pot.   It smelled great ... the meat fell off the bone ... and it was rich and flavorful.  I served it with some of the sauce and steamed cauliflower!   It, of course, would have been wonderful with noodles or mashed potatoes ... or rice!

Kitchen Remodel Before & After!

After living in our little Ranch Style home for almost 30 years ... it was certainly time to remodel the kitchen.   I've thought of doing this over and over ... and just could never work up the energy to clean it out ... rip it out ... and get on with the project.   The time finally came.

Our house was built in 1959 and the kitchen cabinets had been replaced when we moved in ... but we always thought they were probably used cabinets because they didn't really fit the room.  The little tiny kitchen was originally designed, as were many from the era, to house the washing machine ... but not dryer.   A sun porch had been added to the back of the house and the washer and dryer hookups had been moved to that room.   So, needless to say ... everything was kind of a hodge podge.   There were things I liked about the kitchen ... a vaulted ceiling and room on top of the wall cabinets to display my stuff ... white ceramic tile on the back splash walls ... It was small enough to be handy ... and I had learned how to do some serious cooking for big crowds in the small space!

Here it is ... the BEFORE ... what I had grown to feel was pretty ugly ... especially after I took all my stuff off the counter tops and off the top of the wall cabinets!

Now ... here's the big reveal!   I'm really not finished ... have to replace the wallpaper, but I'll do that myself ... when Spring arrives and I can open up the house for fresh air!

My kitchen is a working kitchen ... lots of blog posts and newspaper cooking columns originate in this little space ... so I will never have pristine counter tops or an empty stove top!   For the next two weeks, I'll be cooking catfish almost every day ... to get a jump on my next cookbook ... "My Brother's Catfish" ... which I hope to have published by summertime!

With this re-do ... there were a few things I wanted to be sure of ... that I was able to keep the white ceramic tile ... and that there was a special place for Miss Phoebe to sit and watch me cook ... or help me  cook!   Here's Phoebe's perch!

I love all the changes ... but I have a favorite spot ... Because I have a dining table on the sun porch and a dining room right beside the kitchen, I decided that I didn't really need my little kitchen table in what would have been considered a "dinette" spot.   Here is what replaces the table ... I love it!

These shelves have been hanging on this wall for years ... but they were an ucky brown stain that didn't even have any gloss on it.  When my painter friend came by to look at the ceiling and walls ... I handed her a stick of butter and told her I wanted the walls and ceiling to be the color of the butter ... and I handed her the lid of an antiqued red basket and asked if she could make the shelves look like it.   She isn't just a painter ... she is a faux finisher, well known in the region for the work she does in historic churches ... refurbishing religious icons and gold leafed trims.   Of course, she could make the shelves look like the antiqued basket!

I have another cute spot ... on the side of the fridge ... where the pantry went ...  A friend's dad made the framed chicken wire piece where I'll enjoy hanging more pictures than the refrigerator can hold!   Remember ... my kitchen is for living in ... I've also added hangings of several gadgets that are relatively old ... but still frequently used!

And speaking of things I use ... here's a collage of those spots!

Then there are those things that double as necessities and decor!

Here's a shot of the red baskets I used for all the red inspiration!

This cute wreath hanging above my old wash board will change with the holidays!  It is a simple creation ... I just tuck ribbon into a wreath form ... and never cut the length of ribbon, so it can be reused!   It takes just a few minutes to make and adds a little colorful holiday fun!

These last two pictures feature my sink.   Maybe you don't think about sinks ... but unless you really need a double sided sink, which was originally designed for us to wash and rinse dishes ... I'd encourage you to consider a single sink.  You lose a little width, but add several inches in depth.  It makes it so easy to sit a stock pot or a canner in the sink ... and because I can ... I wanted a sink big enough to wash lots of fruits and vegetables in.  I'm sure this will hold more than a half bushel of tomatoes!

There you have it!   A remodeled kitchen ... lots of work ... lots of fun!  It is worth every effort.    I plan to share this post with a few blog parties ... so make sure you click through to see the rest of the party posts!

Joe's Favorite Chili Casserole!

My husband loved a few old fashioned casseroles.  He especially liked tuna casserole ... as long as I made it the same old way we'd made it for years.  He also liked a layered casserole I'd make with left-over taco ingredients!  I always fried corn tortillas for our taco meals ... never used the already crispy folded ones out of a box ... so I had extra tortillas, ground beef filling ... and bits of the other ingredients we'd use to stuff the perfect taco!

Today, I'm sharing my left-over chili casserole ... for a couple of reasons.  It is wonderful when it is hot and gooey right out of the oven ... it is perfect when you let it cool and cut it into stacked servings ... and it makes an incredible appetizer!

That's right ... if you bake it in an oblong casserole dish and refrigerate it.  When you are ready to serve it .. just cut it into bite size squares and put them on a baking sheet in the oven .. reheat them a little and serve them with a little dollop of sour cream and shredded cheese on top.   They are great at room temperature and they are a  perfect game day appetizer ... and the big game day is coming up!

There really isn't a recipe for this ... You need 2 cups of chili ... some shredded cheddar cheese ... a can of corn (drained) a few corn tortillas ... and that is it.   Pour a little bit of the juice from the chili in the bottom of a baking dish that you've prepared with cooking spray.  Add a layer of tortillas ... another layer of chili ... the can of corn ... a layer of shredded cheese ... and top it with another layer of tortillas.  Save a little chili to put on the top and cover all of it with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.   Remove the foil and add a little more cheese and return it to the oven for about 10 minutes ... until the cheese melts and the top browns a little.   Pretty simple!  

Here it is all soft and gooey right out of the oven ... A big scoop with a nice green salad makes a good supper meal!   The picture below is the way it looks after it has cooled considerably!   It slices nicely ... and you can see the pretty layers!

We always have a little chili left ... In fact, sometimes I deliberately make enough to have some to freeze in single portions.   However, if you don't make your own chili ... you can always use a good quality of canned chili to make this casserole!


Warm Bread on a Cold Day!

There is nothing better that warm fresh bread on a cold winter day ... but sometimes we don't have time to spend preparing a loaf of bread!  My Breadman has a quick one-hour setting for a loaf of bread, but yesterday I didn't even have that much time ... so Focaccia was the answer.   I really like it anyway, so why not?

Focaccia is so versatile.  You can add cheese to the dough ... add fresh or dried herbs to the dough ... use a flavored olive oil for a twist in the flavor ... of just bake a simple flat bread and top it with all kinds of delicious things! 

Here's my easy, quick recipe!

Combine 1 cup of warm water with 1 packet of quick rise yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Let this stand for a few minutes while you combine the other ingredients.  

In a mixer, using a dough hook, combine the following:

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and the wet yeast mixture to the flour and salt. Mix with the dough hook until the ingredients begin to form a ball.   

Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat it with the oil.  Cover this with a damp towel and place it in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.

After the dough has doubled in size, press it into an oiled pan.  Use your fingers to press indentations in the dough, then begin to add toppings for baking.

I always drizzle olive oil over the top and make sure it settles in the little indentations.   I like to sprinkle the dough with fresh herbs, and my favorites are Rosemary and Basil.  Add some fresh vegetables ... this time I added slices of grape tomatoes and tiny pieces of cauliflower.  I topped everything with some shredded mozzarella cheese and crumbles of bleu cheese.

Use anything you like ... clean out the vegetable crisper if you want!  You can also add cheese and herbs to the dough, but I like it best on top.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.  

Use your own creativity and add the toppings that your family likes best!  


Rainy Day Mulled Sangria!

After spending over a week with zero degree temperatures ... something kind of unusual in Southern Illinois ... the temps have risen ... and rain has set in!   I decided to 'set in' ... too!  More like 'sit in'!

I seem to have an abundance of bottles of my favorite sangria.  It comes from Alto Vineyards and it is called Nona Mia Sangria ... made from a recipe from the family's grandmother!   It is fantastic in the summertime ... Sometimes I pour it over crushed ice. 

Well, it is just as fantastic in the wintertime ... mulled with a little honey and a pat of butter floating on top. Sometimes I add sliced oranges, limes and lemons to it ... and a little brandy.  Today, I had the easy version.

I had lots of computer work to do today ... but it was much more pleasant with my mug of sangria!

I also made oyster stew today ... just like my mama used to make for my dad.  It was one of his favorites. 

You might think it is unusual for mid-westerners to enjoy fresh oysters,  but we've had easy access to oysters since the days of the earliest Mississippi River transportation.  I have family recipes from the mid-1800s ... that use fresh oysters.   I splurged and bought a pint this week and used half of them today for a little stew and will pan fry the rest of them this weekend!

I think part of the reason Mother made her stew this way is that it was 'fast food'.   She always kept boiled red potatoes in the refrigerator.  That was her way of saving time when she fried them ... so she would have had a couple cups of  cubed potatoes handy.   I microwaved a big baker for my stew.

I started the stew by making a light roux with half a stick of butter and 4 Tablespoons of flour.  After letting it cook over low heat, I added 3 cups of half and half and half a pint of fresh oysters (juice included).  I brought the stew to low boil, then turned it down to simmer for a few minutes more.  I always test the oysters to make sure they are cooked through.  (I love raw oysters, but not in my stew!)  Then I stirred in the potato, which I had peeled and cubed.  I seasoned the stew with a little salt, freshly ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.  

These are two good recipes that helped me enjoy the rainy day!  More rain to come ... so undoubtedly more recipes will follow!

Citrus Rosemary Chicken

 I love the flavors of orange and lemon with Rosemary .. especially in the cold of winter when I want to add some sunshine to my life!   I also love chicken ... especially chicken that comes from my favorite fresh meat market ... that has specifically not been pumped full of anything to make it grow fatter or roast juicier.

Today, I filled the cavity of this little bird with a lemon and an orange ... each quartered ... and a big sprig of Rosemary, which I harvest in the summertime and freeze so I have it all winter!   I also juiced another lemon and spritzed it all over the chicken.   I added pepper and roasted the chicken at 375 degrees for an hour and ten minutes.   Typically, you need to roast a whole chicken for 20 minutes per pound at this temperature ... and always add about 15 minutes to the roasting time, if you've stuffed the cavity.  I want my chicken to be tender and moist ... and always done so there is nothing pink oozing out.

During the last thirty minutes of roasting ... I added a few mushrooms and spears of asparagus.  It only takes about 20 minutes for the vegetables to roast,  so don't let them get too soft!    Serve the meat with a drizzle of the pan juices!  How easy is that to do?  

P.S.   Here's a good way to use leftover chicken and asparagus!   I made a few tortilla rolls.  I almost always have a package of flour tortillas, so that's what I used ... plain ones, but flavors would have been good, too.

I spread room temperature cream cheese on the tortilla, then topped it with sliced grape tomatoes and chopped chicken.  I included an asparagus spear ... then rolled the tortillas.  They are always easier to cut, if you refrigerate them for awhile.   We snacked on ours ... with a little Chex Cereal Mix ... which is a staple at our house, this time of year!

It's a Soup Day!

It's snowing today and we had enough rain before the snow ... to guarantee a thick layer of ice under the snow.  Lovely!   If that isn't enough ... it is going to get own to zero tonight.  Single digit temperatures are something we don't experience too much anymore in Southern Illinois.

What a perfect day to make a pot of soup and something that makes soup even better is a batch of homemade rolls or biscuits.   Of course, a gloomy day requires something deliciously sweet, too!  My freezer is filled with berries, so I grabbed a bag of blackberries to make a simple crumble.  I'm still working with a limited kitchen ... right in the middle of the remodel awaiting counter tops ... so I haven't put dishes or foods back in their appropriate places.  To tell the truth, I've forgotten which box contains my baking staples, so I had to improvise a little bit!

Let's begin with the scrumptious warm blackberry crumble.  The blackberries in Southern Illinois last summer were as big as small eggs. For real!  I froze bags containing 2 cups, because my smallest creations that I make for just 4 - 6 servings typically require that portion.

The recipe is simple.  Place 2 cups of frozen berries in a baking dish and cover it with 1/2 to 1 cup of brown or granulated sugar.  These berries were sweet, so I used 1/2 cup of brown sugar.   To make the topping, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1/2 cup of self-rising flour and another 1/2 cup of chopped nuts.  Sprinkle this over the berries.  Cut 1/2 a stick of butter into pats and place over the topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  If your fruit is fresh, it will only take 30 minutes.   Serve it warm with ice cream or whipped cream.  *Notice that this crumble  does not include oatmeal ... and you can make it even better by cutting 4 ounces of cream cheese into cubes and sticking it down into the crumble topping before you bake it.

Now, let's talk about vegetable soup!  Hopefully you  have a meat market where you can still buy beef soup bones or neck bones.  Those make an incredible base for soup ... and yes, I flavor my vegetable soup with a little meat.   Back at the time I cooked for a family, I kept a freezer container filled with leftover vegetables from other meals.  I'd just keep adding to it until it was full ... and then I'd make soup.  I don't cook that much anymore, so my soup isn't a pot filled with leftovers!   

I started today's pot of soup with a beef neck bone and browned it in a little olive oil.  Then I added chopped celery, onion, carrot and turnip with enough water to barely cover it.  I added some Basil and Rosemary ... and a Bay Leaf.   I let this simmer with the lid on, until the carrots were fork tender.  Then I added 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, a can of corn and a can of lima beans.   If you have frozen vegetables, you should certainly use those.  I include the juice from the cans of vegetables.  Then for a little more flavor, I added a teaspoon of ham base (bouillon powder) and plenty of pepper.  The bouillon powder contains plenty of salt, so no need to add more.  There are lots of other vegetables that you can add.  These just happen to be my favorites, and because I like to freeze some of the soup, I don't include potatoes.  I don't like the texture of potatoes after they have been frozen!

The bread machine loaded with cheesy bread is something I like to prepare with soup ... but my Breadman is packed in a box someplace in this house!  However, I had a box of Red Lobster's cheesy biscuit mix within reach, so that is what I made. They were a great choice!

These are some of my favorite blog parties!  I'll probably share this post at a few of them.  Make sure you click through to have more fun ... but before you do, visit my home page and enjoy some of my other posts!  

Pink Saturday 

The Tablescaper

Show it Off Sunday

Sunny Simple Life

Love Ground Pork

II almost always have a pound of ground pork in the freezer to use in mixing meatloaf or meatballs.  I use one part pork to two parts beef.  However, I love pork burgers and when ground pork is $2 a pound and ground beef is almost $4 a pound, I never hesitate to buy pork.  That was the comparison this week at my supermarket ... pork was $1.99 pound and the same fat content beef was $3.69. Easy decision for me.

There are lots of things I love about ground pork in addition to the lower cost.  Pork really is the "other white meat" in that the fat content is considerably less than it was years ago.  Ground pork takes on the flavors that you mix with it, so it is easy to create the cuisine you prefer.   I love pork meatballs with an Asian flare ... with the Mexican flavors of chili and tomato ... or with the Italian flavors of fresh herbs, garlic and pine nuts.

So, today ... take a look at my pork burger sliders.  How simple is this.  A little salt and pepper and a dash of liquid smoke and you can bake or pan fry a burger that would only be better if it came off the BBQ grill!  (It is entirely too cold today to light the grill!)   Add some homemade bread and butter pickles ... and I'm a happy grandma.

My meatball recipe is too simple!  To every pound of ground pork, add 2 Tablespoons of any combined flavorings you want, an egg and a cup of soft bread crumbs or cracker crumbs.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes.

This recipe will make between 18 and 24 appetizer size meatballs ... depending upon the size you make.   I've flavored mine with minced ginger, minced garlic and sweet chili paste and honey ... combined to make 2 Tablespoons.

By the way ... I've never met an appetizer meatball that didn't belong on the dinner plate!  Kids usually prefer that size, so serve them for dinner alongside rice or pasta.

Any packaged sauce would be great on these meatballs.  Consider using a bottled Teriyaki sauce, spaghetti sauce or a sauce made from combining bottled BBQ sauce with orange marmalade or grape jelly.

Make these your way ... the way your family will enjoy them most.  You cannot mess them up!

I'm going to share this post with Simple Saturday   Make sure you click through to see some other frugal things to do!

Bucket List Trip to New York City!

I'm finally getting around to posting a few pictures of my November trip to New York City.  My friends, Harvey and Trish ... who are at the front of this picture ... go almost every year specifically to see the Rockettes in the Christmas Extravaganza.  Harvey doesn't thing he has Christmas ... if he misses that trip.

I've always wanted to go to Sardi's and to see the Rockettes ... and although I've traveled all over the United States ... I'd never hit New York City at Christmastime! So, I jumped and said "yes", when they invited me to go in 2013!

I think Saridi's was probably the highlight of the trip for me!  I wanted good food ... because I enjoy eating good food ...and after a few "only ok" meals, I finally had good food!  Our waiter was experienced ... wouldn't tell us how many years he'd worked there ... but sure knew how to take care of us!  I tried to get him to marry me ... but he was faithful to his wife!

We visited the Chelsea Market and had a tour guide.  I'd recommend that you get on the internet and do a little research about the market so you know your history ... and skip the tour guide!   We wanted time to shop and browse ... and the tour didn't give us much of that.  It also included visiting some landmark restaurants in the area ... and it was very clear that the staff would rather have not had us there!

I loved the way the designers had used all the old elements in the market, which had been a meat slaughtering house in the distant past ... and a biscuit factory in the less distant past.  They left much of what was originally there ... in place in either a functional way or a decorative way.  Really neat!  

There were plenty of shops.  Three favorites ... the wine shop and an Italian grocery that had all kinds of International grocery items.  The marzipan fruits were beautiful!   The seafood shops was also a type of restaurant with a sushi bar and a soup bar.  Don't you just love the lobster sausages?

I expected a more traditional show at the Radio City Music Hall ... and it was pretty high tech.   Live theater has gone "high tech" in many places ... with all kinds of  video and audio add on aspects!  There is nothing neater, though ... than a few dozen Santa Claus dancers ... multiplied by the video screen behind them ... That is still entertaining!   We were surrounded by children ... and they really weren't any more excited that I was!   I bought Miss Phoebe a doll ... there were a couple African American dancers ... and it quickly went on a shelf in her bedroom!

 We also saw a few shows ... My favorite was "After Midnight" ... which was a non-stop Cotton Club style performance.  The costumes and hair styles ... not to speak of the incredible music and dance ... just took you back in time to that glittery age!  I sneaked a few pictures of the interior of some of the theaters ... love the old properties.

Most Popular Posts from 2013!

I have to admit that 2013 was not my most active blogging year.  I've been busy with lots of hands-on projects that took most of my work time and my spare time! So, blogging was at the bottom of my list of leisure activities.

I do want to guide you to some of my most popular posts from the past year, though.  My blog has had plenty of activity from followers and viewers, even though the "blogger" hasn't been loyal!   Hope you enjoy!

When I wrote about the rose bush that I just cannot get to bloom ... except during special times ... you all got excited!  Then, when I told you I had tried to kill it off and it wouldn't die ... so I was just going to EAT it ... you got more excited!  Read more about my relationship with Witchy Rose!   May she live forever!

Just click through the Titles to Read More

One of my cooking columns for the Good Food: Local project ... which is what took so much of my time ... was all about my favorite summer salads.  My readers came back a few hundred times to take a look at these salads ... especially the old time honored recipe for layered salad ... that I put in a quart jar.

We all love to set red, white and blue July 4th tablescapes ... but I have to admit that those are the colors I use all through the summer .... because I love the theme!  My new kitchen (a post for the near future) is going to carry a little of that theme ... although with a rustic twist.

Well, I admitted that I broke my number one rule about the monthly trip I take to the antique mall to fill my booth ... and bought something I didn't need.  I just fell in love with these dishes ... because the pattern was all about Colonial America.

Ya'all must have agreed ... because 350 page views later ... we celebrated the Fourth of July!

I like to participate in Pink Saturday, when I can ... and I have a set of solid pink dinnerware that I use on the deck, so it is an easy task!  I like my back yard ... especially the natural growth that includes a hedge of Honeysuckle.  So ... pale yellow with the pink made for a great Pink Saturday!

I devote as much of my life as I can to Miss Phoebe.  She started first grade this year and her class was named the Ladybugs!  I made a special tea party for Phoebe and her mom and named it the "Ladybug Tea  Party".  We spent a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon ... enjoying hot tea and pretty sweets and savories! Phoebe and Papa Joe and I started having regular tea parties when she could barely sit up ...  She loves it!

Last winter I decorated my kitchen table space with cute blue rag trees and rag balls ... and a matching wreath.  I didn't get around to posting pictures until January ... but the simple decorations, which I made during the heat of the summer,  were fun to work with!

Hope you take time to click through the titles of these photographs to see the complete posts ... and hope you are all planning a wonderful and successful 2014!

I plan to share this post with some of my favorite weekly parties ... so make sure you click through to see the other posts.    Happy New Year!

Pink Saturday 

The Tablescaper

Show it Off Sunday

Sunny Simple Life

February's Family Sunday Dinner

Christmas 2020

Mary Queen of Scots Dinner Menu Booklet

Grandma Debbie's Christmas 2018

Grandma's Blue & Green Pupkins!

Autumn at Grandma Debbie's