Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mel's Memories and Meandering for 4-19-2012

Greetings family and friends,

It has been awhile since my last post and a lot of things have happened since we last visited. So grab yourself a cup of coffee, hot tea or your favorite beverage, whatever that might be. I am making mine Chai Tea in honor of my African friend Patrick. Of course you will also need a dessert plate with some cookies or another favorite treat, kick back, relax and let’s chat.

On April 10th my cousin’s grandson and I went to the Louisville Palace Theater in Kentucky to see Celtic Woman in concert. This was the second time I have seen these ladies in concert and what a treat it is to hear them. Chloe Agnew’s rendition of Ave Maria was not only mesmerizing but I think I still had chill bumps three days later.  Amazing how hearing it live compares to listening to it on CD. Now when I listen to my CD it takes me back to that evening. Now I am looking forward to the 17th of May when my youngest brother and I get to see Riverdance perform.  Can you see a developing pattern here that I evidently like all things Celtic!

Actually due to my upbringing I have a desire to learn about all cultures and their local cuisine. That is why I enjoy making my own homemade pastas and sauces. I agree that it is a lot of work but oh the end result is certainly worth all the effort. Once you get the hang of making your own pasta it becomes easier and easier. A good Italian chef can make homemade pasta in the time it takes to boil the water, open up a box of dried pasta and get it cooked to al dente. I recently found a new sauce that I am hooked on using with the Farfale (Bowtie) pasta. It is a creamy roasted red pepper sauce and is wonderful over the pasta and served with slices of grilled chicken or medallions of roasted turkey tenderloin.  I must admit with this recipe I use a shortcut instead of making my own bĂ©chamel sauce.  I use a jar of Alfredo with garlic sauce as my base for this sauce. But it is the addition of the pureed Roasted Red peppers, white wine, hot sauce and basil that give this sauce an amazing flavor.

Yesterday I was discussing recipes with my Ugandan friend Patrick and we were talking about planting yams. He said in Uganda that the yams are planted in swampy areas where water wants to stand. Remember Yams are native to Uganda so I would be willing to bet that Patrick knows what he is talking about. Patrick lives near Kampala Uganda and he is teaching me how to cook Ugandan foods and is sharing with me recipes and the Eboo names for the ingredients. Eboo is the language that is native to that area of Africa. He is starting me out simple on what is called Atapa bread that is very similar to Polenta or mush. Some areas call it Ugali bread but it is made with Millet or Cassava flour in Patrick’s village and has the name Atapa because of the type flour used.  Once Patrick is able to teach me something I will make sure to share with all of you.

One of the things I am enjoying right now is all of my flowers and their wonderful blooms. I have bush lupines with these gorgeous purple spikes of flowers standing about 3 feet tall near my front door. Resting at their feet is an array of multi-colored dianthus, miniature roses in red, pink and yellow and Russian sage.  Their backdrop is the soft pink blooms of my Queen Elizabeth climbing roses. I planted this garden last spring and I hope to add another garden like this one along the other side of my front porch and the front of my house. When I plant I always remove the sod, dig down and use plastic edging to outline my beds and include a good base of soil from my local garden supply store. After I have my planting bed prepared I cover the soil with a weed cloth to help prevent extra weeding. Then I lay out my plants in the design I want on top of the weed cloth. Once I have my design I start cutting into the cloth in a star shape so I can peel it back around the base of the plant. I dig down into the soil and carefully add each plant. Make sure you always add water to the hole while planting. Also you can mix in any plant food to give your plants at kick start at this point. Once you have all of your plants in place using a garden hose give them all a good drink. I like to use some of the garden granules that help to prevent weeds and I sprinkle this on top of the garden cloth. Let this dry out some and using a covering of mulch or stones to cover up the weed cloth. The mulch or stone will help to keep the moisture in during those dry spells of summer. Now you get to add the accessories such as a well placed garden gnome, bird bath or colorful bird house on a post. This is your canvas so paint your picture the way you want it to look.  Remember this is an investment in your home and how it welcomes others inside. But don’t forget the garden bench so you and your guests can sit back and enjoy your garden.

With all of this warm weather I have had some unwanted guests. I was fighting with ants that wanted to crawl along the edge of my front porch and find their way inside my house. I tried several things to get rid of them but to my dismay they continued to show up. I mentioned this problem to my sister-in-law Nancy and she told me to mix boric acid powder with some honey, molasses or some other type of syrup to make a sticky paste. Put this into a shallow lid or something that makes it easy for the ants to crawl into. Watch to see where the ants are coming from because they will use the same trail over and over. Place this lid of boric acid and syrup mix right about in the middle of their trail where they will have to crawl through. The syrup will attract them to the mixture and they will take this back to their ant hill and it will kill them out. At first you will see many of the ants visiting this mixture. After about three days my ants were totally gone and I haven’t seen any traces of them since. You can find Boric Acid powder in many local stores. I purchased a large container at my local Dollar General Store and my mother purchased hers at Dollar Tree.

This month I took a couple of days off from work to get a few things done. One of the things that I enjoyed most during my time at home was spending quality time with my Golden Retriever Rusty. We went for long walks and in the open field next door we played fetch, chased one another in circles and finally when exhaustion hit fell onto the grass and lay on our backs watching the clouds. Remember you are never too old to play because somewhere down deep inside of you resides a child just begging to get out. Besides when you are playing like this you’re moving and burning calories which is a benefit to us as adults.  This is a great way to burn off some of the calories from the following recipe. So enjoy a good meal, some play, and spending time with your best friends be they two or four legged doesn’t really matter as long as it brings you joy.

Farfale’ (Bowtie) Pasta with Creamy Roasted Red Peppers sauce (serves 6)

1 box (16 oz) of Farfale’ ( bowtie) pasta, cooked and drained

1 jar of Alfredo and Garlic Sauce

¼ cup dry white wine (Remember to always use a wine you would drink. If it isn’t fit to drink then it isn’t fit to cook with either.)

1 (7 oz) jar of Roasted Red Peppers, drained

Hot pepper sauce to taste- optional (brands such as Texas Pete, Louisiana, or Tabasco)

3 Tblsp. Of finely chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)

1.     Cook pasta according to directions on the outside of the box.

2.     While pasta is cooking make the sauce.

3.     Puree the drained Roasted Red Peppers in a blender or food processor.

4.     In a 2-quart saucepan combine the pureed peppers, Alfredo sauce, white wine and hot pepper sauce (if you are using hot pepper sauce). I usually add the hot pepper sauce once my sauce has warmed up. This way I can do a taste test to make it to my liking.

5.     Blend thoroughly to combine and place over medium heat.

6.     Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7.     To serve, drain the pasta and toss with the hot sauce, sprinkle with the fresh basil (if using).

Note: I like to grill chicken breast ahead of time and slice them into strips and serve on the top of this pasta. Sometimes when I can find Turkey Tenderloin at my local supermarket I will season and roast the turkey. Then I slice it into medallions or coins and place them on top of the pasta. You can take a shortcut and purchase the already prepared chicken strips located in the cold cuts section of your supermarket. Be sure to heat this chicken first otherwise it will be to cold and you will ruin the flavor of this special dish.  You can also add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to the top of the pasta for extra flavor. Serve this with a tossed salad and garlic bread for a great meal.

My tea cup is empty and all I have left on my cookie plate is the crumbs. With that said it appears it is time for our chat to end. I have enjoyed our visit and wish you and your family the best until we once again take a moment out of our busy day to visit.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Mel's Memories and Meandering for 3-26-2012

Greetings family and friends,

I cannot tell a lie! I have to admit that I love this warm weather we are having in March. I could not have imagined 80 degree days this time of year, but we are having them. The redbuds and dogwood trees are in bloom, along with some of the fruit trees. The magnolias are magnificent this year with their pink blossoms dripping like old Spanish moss from great southern oaks. The bright yellow forsythia bushes look like liquid honey they are so filled with blooms. While the colors of the tulips remind me of the skirts of a southern belle bouncing in the wind as if they are gaily stepping to the music of a Virginia reel. At night I hear the peepers croaking out a tune as if to warn the night bugs that they are hungry and off in the distance an owl hoots as if to ask “Who is still up at this late hour?” “Oh it is only I, is my reply while I stand on my front porch and drink in Mother Nature like a vintage wine from the royal table.

Life is good on my grandpa’s farm here in southern Indiana. The fire pit in my parents’ back yard is beginning to beckon to me. It is whispering that it is time to gather my family for a backyard weenie roast.  Hot dogs roasting on wooden sticks that grandpa cuts from his trees, baked beans, chips and of course S’mores to end the evening. We will talk of old memories and make future plans that too will one day become campfire memories to share. The youngsters will run and play trying to catch the fire flies while all the time giggling in delight. Eventually even they run out of steam and begin to draw closer to the circle of parents and grandparents seated around the fire.

Many times we will make a big pot of homemade Vegetable soup on the open fire. Grandma will bring out one of her big soup pots and we will fill it with beef and vegetables and let it simmer on the open fire for a few hours.  If it isn’t vegetable soup it might be chili soup or beans when the weather turns cooler or in summer a simmering pot of fresh corn on the cob that has been pulled from the garden. Lucky for us Grandpa’s garden is close by the shelter house and fire pit.

Sometimes I try to recreate that wonderful sense of family by making a pot of homemade vegetable soup. My problem is that when I try to make a small amount it never seems to work. That is until I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. I was buying canned vegetables opening them up and dumping the entire can into the soup. By the time I added the peas, corn, green beans, tomatoes, etc. I had way too much soup for one person. Now what I do is when our local grocery has frozen vegetables on sale I stock up on them. Now all I have to do is open up the bag of frozen vegetables take out ½ a cup and using a twist tie reclose the bag for later use. Instead of buying a large roast I will buy some stew beef, or I sometimes just use ground chuck. And instead of buying those big cans of tomato juice to pour into your soup, I buy the plastic bottles with the screw on lids. I pour out what I need, recap the bottle and put it away in the fridge for other uses. Another benefit from using the frozen vegetables is you are not getting all of the extra sodium that is used when the vegetables are canned. This way you can season your soup the way you want it to taste. And if you don’t want to have leftovers for a few nights you can actually buy a vegetable soup mix in the freezer section. This way you can add as many or as little as you want to your soup.

If you are trying to control your sodium go for the fresh vegetables or the frozen ones. Just the other day at the grocery I looked at a can of salt free corn and the can was almost $1.50 for that one can of corn. When I went to the freezer section I was able to get a 1 lb bag of frozen corn for $1.00. If you have a Dollar Tree store in your neighborhood by all means check it out. They have a freezer section in the back of the store and they carry the one pound bags of name brand frozen vegetables. They also have some very tasty frozen fruit that can be used to make some great smoothies for the family or to bake up a special dessert.  Besides everything in the store is a dollar and you can’t go wrong with the cost compared to some of the local super markets.

Recently my niece was telling me about a recycle program she started at her children’s school. The collection program she works with is called “Terracycle” and you can look them up on the net. Their school has collected enough items to be able to provide fresh drinking water and live stock to families in third world countries. You would be surprised what you can recycle, chip bags, the little plastic wrappers off of cheese singles, the plastic trays that come with your cookies or the plastic used to wrap your bathroom tissue. Every day we throw away so much without even stopping to think of how it is destroying our eco-system. If we continue the way we are than we too will one day be like the third world countries searching for clean drinking water. Remember all of these items are synthetic and have been created somewhere in a science lab.

This week I am going to encourage you to look on the internet for a recipe for a vegetable that you and your family have not tried. To help look for a recipe that has a lot of really good reviews. Write or print out the recipe and take it with you to the grocery and let your children help gather the ingredients. Once you have everything at home let the children help you make this dish. Let them get involved in what they eat and they are more likely to eat something they have helped to make. I have recently gotten on this kick of buying fresh zucchini. I slice the zucchini thin and sprinkle it with salt and pepper then I sauté it in a pan with a little olive oil, a pat of butter and some fresh minced garlic. Once the zucchini is fork tender I serve it with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. You might even try making a vegetable pizza with your family. You will be amazed at what you can put on that pizza pie. Besides everything taste good when it is smothered in hot gooey cheese.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Mel's Memories and Meanderings for St. Patrick's Day

Cead Mile Failte (100,000 Welcomes) friends and family,

We are fast approaching one of my favorite days to celebrate, St. Patrick’s Day! As many of you know I have Irish blood running through my veins and I truly feel blessed to be of such strong stock. Besides I love potatoes and this gives me a good excuse to enjoy them quite often. Hmm! Now I just need to figure out how to get roots in Italy so I can enjoy more pasta.

Contrary to popular belief Corned Beef and Cabbage are not a traditional Irish meal consumed for St. Patrick’s Day.  In Ireland the meal would have been Irish Bacon (or Rashers) and Cabbage that would be boiled together. It is said in Ireland that the only thing they don’t eat from the pig is its grunt. There is even a town named "Circubbin" after the pig trotters or pigs feet. Beef was imported to America during the early years in Ireland. Also beef in Ireland was very expensive and eaten mostly by the English land owners. The Irish people themself very rarely ate beef. If a family owned a cow it was primarily used for dairy products, milk, cheese, and butter. The only time a cow would have been butchered is when it was past its prime and no longer of use as a Dairy cow.  Corned Beef and Cabbage is actually an Irish-American dish that was consumed by the Irish in America.

During the great Potato Famine when the Irish left Ireland in droves and came to America they soon discovered it was cheaper to buy the corned and brined beef than the pork. Being that the Irish had very little when they first arrived in America to survive they started boiling the cabbage with the corned beef. People began to associate the Irish with Corned Beef and Cabbage. In later years when some of the Irish returned to their home country they continued to eat the Corned Beef and Cabbage as beef had become cheaper and easily obtained by that time period.  Therefore it was presumed that Corned Beef and Cabbage was an Irish tradition. A meal that would have been a tradition for St. Patrick’s Day would have been Irish stew made of Mutton (Lamb), Potatoes, onion and carrots. Topped off by some Irish Soda Bread used to soak up the juices from the stew. And of course we must not forget a little Guinness for which to wash all of this down. (Pionta Guiness, le do thoil!) A pint of Guiness, please!

There are several websites that sell traditional Irish fare such as Bacon (Rashers), Bangors (sausages), Biscuits (Cookies) Crisps (Chips), Kerrygold butter and cheeses, etc. is one I have purchased from in the past. Many of you might be surprised to know that one of our favorite Easter Chocolates is made in Ireland, Cadburys’ and they have a variety of treats unknown to us here in America.  Cadbury Flakes and Crunchies that you will certainly have to try as they are a favorite among Irish children.  Also when in Ireland my brother and I quite enjoyed a few bags of Tayto brand Crisps while cruising around the Irish countryside.

One such tradition is the “Drowning or Wetting of the Shamrock” that takes place on St. Patrick’s Day in many an Irish pub.  St. Patrick’s Day falls right smack in the middle of Lent and we all know that Lent is associated with fasting and the practice of restraint. On March 17th in Ireland the Lenten rule is gently put aside for that one day as many men make a pilgrimage to their local pub to down what is called the pota Padraig or Patrick’s pot. It is actually a pot filled with Irish whiskey that is downed throughout the day. At the end of the day when the pub is ready to close a sprig of Shamrock will be submerged in a glass of whiskey and then flung over the left shoulder for good luck. (Ca’ mbeidh tu’ ag fliuchadh na seamr’oige?) Where will you be wetting the Shamrock?

In many places in Ireland pubs had to remain closed on St. Patrick’s Day and this was a tradition until the 1970’s. Also the serving of Green Beer is only observed in America and until recently was not found in Ireland. Now a few of the pubs in Dublin city have begun to serve green beer to their customers as many Americans come to Ireland to celebrate.

The wearing of the green is also an American tradition. In Ireland the wearing of the green is when one goes out in the early morning dew and selects a few Shamrock sprigs and gathers them into a tiny bouquet. Then the bouquet is pinned to their lapel for the day in honor of the patron Saint of Ireland. It is after all the shamrock that was used by St. Patrick to teach the people about the Holy Trinity. Patrick used the petals on the shamrock to describe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements but be of the same entity.

Of course any good Irish man or woman worth their salt would not miss out on an opportunity to have a celebration so parades have been common for many years.  Dublin City and Belfast have huge parades and in America New York has a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day parade. Where ever it is you live you can take a trip to faraway places while never leaving home. A little good food, good music and good company can take you across the pond to the Isle of Erin, better known as Ireland.

It has been known for many years that on St. Patrick’s Day everyone becomes Irish. This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday so why not celebrate the holiday in style with the following recipes. Serve your guest some Kerrygold Cheeses such as Blarney Castle or my personal favorite Dubliner along with some brown bread and butter for a snack. These cheeses and butters are available from Put on the movie “Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Ireland’s own Maureen O’Hara or some Celtic music and enjoy the day.

Bacon and Boiled Cabbage (serves 4-6)

1 head of cabbage

1 ¼ to 2 pounds of a dry salt-cured, hickory smoked bacon (Smithfield’s has this type available) If not use some slices of smoked ham

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons of butter


1.      Unwrap the bacon and put in a large Dutch oven full of cold water (I use about a 5 quart stock pot s you will need enough room to put your head of cabbage.)

2.      Bring the bacon to a boil, remove from heat and drain.

3.      Cover the bacon with fresh cold water and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 to 50 minutes. (30 minutes for 1 ¼ lb and 50 minutes for 2 lbs.)

4.      While the bacon is simmering clean your head of cabbage by removing the outer leaves. Cut the head of cabbage in half and remove the inner core.

5.      Add the two halves of cabbage to the pot of simmering bacon and let simmer with the bacon during the last 20 minutes of simmering time.

6.      Remove the bacon, chop into small pieces and set aside.

7.      Remove the cabbage, chop into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

8.      Add in the chopped bacon, and the 2 teaspoons of butter. Mix well and serve with a side of boiled potatoes and some Irish Soda Bread.

Dolly’s Irish Soda Bread (my mom’s recipe)-makes 2 loaves

Note: I have added my own twist to this traditional bread recipe by using yeast. The traditional recipe makes a heavy dense loaf of bread and I like the lightness the yeast adds to the bread. The Irish would use Brown sugar instead of white sugar in their bread.

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups of all-purpose white flour (I sometimes use unbleached bread flour as our Irish Ancestors used)

1 ½ tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. of oil

1 egg

2 Tbsp. Sugar

½ cup warm water (between 110 to 116 degrees)

1 package of rapid rise yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons of yeast

1 cup of buttermilk

¾ tsp. of baking soda

½ cup of molasses and honey (mixed)


1.      Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water, whip it up and then set aside to rise (or rope).

2.      In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

3.      Make a well in the center of the flour and salt mixture. In a small bowl mix together the oil, egg, molasses and honey and pour into the well you created in your flour mixture.

4.      Add the yeast, sugar and water mixture to the well in the center of the flour.

5.      Pour the 1 cup of buttermilk into a 4 cup measure and heat for 70 seconds in the microwave.

6.      With the measuring cup of buttermilk close to the bowl of flour add the ¾ teaspoon of Baking soda to the buttermilk and stir. This will foam up so make sure you are holding this over the bowl so any that flows over the top ends up in the flour mixture.

7.      Now thoroughly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients by using your finger and pulling a little of the flour in towards the liquids. Work gently until you have all of the flour and liquid mixed together.

8.      Your dough should be soft but firm enough to form into a ball shape inside of the bowl. If the dough is too soft you may need to add a little extra all-purpose flour.

9.      In another large bowl place a little oil and oil the bowl. Add the ball of dough and turn it over so the dough is covered with the oil

10.  Cover the dough with a cloth and set in a warm place that is free of a cool draft and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. (Note: I sat mine in a large bowl of warm water.)

11.  When the dough has doubled in size dump it out onto a floured surface. Just so it doesn’t stick to the surface. Separate the dough into two halves and place into oiled bread tins.

12.  Bake @ 375 degrees until brown.

13.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes then turn pans upside down and the bread should fall out. Let the bread rest on its side to cool. Once cooled you can slice and serve with Kerrygold Irish butter for a real treat. (Kerrygold is naturally colored and contains no dye but is a deep gold from the fat content. This is caused by the dark green grass that the cows eat in Ireland.)

Until we meet again, I wish a “St. Patrick’s Day Blessing on You!” Beannacthai’ na F’eile P’adraig ort!  Pronounced Ban-ick-tee na fay-lah pawd-rig ort!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Melanie's Helpful Hints, Tips, Stories and Recipes

Greetings friends and family,

Another week has come and gone here in southern Indiana. This has been a very eventful week for the Southern half of our state. I am sure many of you have been watching the news and seeing images of the Tornado damage that occurred in southern Indiana. Thankfully we only had some thunder storms that roared through our area and did not do any damage. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the families affected by last week's tornado's and with those working to provide help and hope.

Spring seems to have started early in many areas as plants and shrubs are starting to show signs of life. On thursday my parents sat in their kitchen watching as a couple of birds cleaned out one of their bird houses. Dad and mom said the birds would take turns going inside the bird house. Each time one went inside it would come out holding something in its beak. The bird would hop to the edge of the perch and let go of what was in its beak and watch as it fell to the ground. Then the other bird would go inside and do the same thing. After a couple of hours work they must have gotten their spring cleaning done because they started bringing back new materials to rebuild their nest.

I like to leave out little things for the birds to find that they can use when building a nest. When I clean out my dryer vent I take the dryer lint along with some little pieces of yarn and place outside for them to find. The birds like to use these items to line their nest to make it soft for their young one's. I enjoy watching the birds as they come and go in the trees behind my house. A couple of years ago I bought myself a book of North American birds so I could distinguish the different types. I have Cardinals, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Woodhens, Chickadee's, Robins, and many other types. But I must confess my favorites are the ruby throated hummingbirds that visit my feeders during the summer months. I guess the love of fowl was passed onto me from my grandmothers who always had a variety of chickens.

My father likes to tell us about him and his brother as they were growing up in the 1930's and 40's. These two Deckard brothers were quite mishcievious and were always finding one way or another to get into trouble. Here is one of Daddy's many stories, this one about his mother's prized Rooster.

As most of you know when a group of young boys get together it usually means troubles on the horizon. As a youngster my dads Aunts and Uncles would all come over to their family farm for pitch-in dinners on Sundays after church. That was when all of the boys would usually end up in hot water for something they had done.

On this particular Sunday it was hot and the boys were bored and that is when the trouble began. One of the boys said someone told him if you grab a Rooster by its feet and drag it down a hill it will lay an egg. That sounded like a good idea so being boys they all struck out toward Grandma Deckard's chicken coop to find the Rooster they thought would do the perfect job of laying an egg. The boys looked around at those Roosters, sized them up and decided on Grandma Deckards' prized Rhode Island Red Rooster.  After some work the boys were finally able to catch him, stuff him in a feed sack and smuggle him out without getting caught by the watchful eyes of the adults. 

Looking around the farm they decided to try the biggest and roughest hill around to drag that old Rooster down so he would lay some eggs. Well my dad's older brother Ancil decided he would be the first to take a turn since it was his mom’s Rooster. So uncle Ancil reached inside of that feed sack, grabbed that old Rooster by its feet and ankles and proceeded to try and drag him down that hill. Of course the Rooster commenced to make an awful ruckus he started squawking and trying to flog Ancil and that brought the adults running to see what was happening. By the time the adults rounded the corner the boys were on their second trip down the hill with that Rooster. Once dad and Uncle Ancil caught sight of their mom coming around the corner of the house they knew they were had.  When Grandma Deckard was close enough and caught site of that Rooster hanging limply from my dad's hand with most of his feathers missing, his mom was on the warpath.

His mom’s prized Rooster had died somewhere mid-hill during his second ride down and dad was the one left holding him. So I bet by now you can guess which one of those boys got the worst licking out of the deal. Grandma Deckard wasn’t going to let that Rooster go to waste so she stewed him up in some chicken and dumplings. My dad said I sure learned two valuable lessons that day. Number one is that no matter how many times you drag a Rooster down a hill it won't lay an egg, only hens can do that. And number two is that you could drag that Rooster up and down that hill all day but it won't make it tender. Dad said that old Rooster was so tough he could have pulled off his boot, put it on his plate and chewed it up alot easier than that old bird.

This brings me to this weeks recipe that was requested by my cousin Tina. She asked for my moms' recipe for the Chicken and Noodles she brings to our family gatherings. Please keep in mind that when you make Chicken and Noodles or Dumplings you need chicken with skin that has some fat. It is the fat from the chicken that helps to create the rich broth you need for tender tasty noodles and dumplings. If you remember when you are creating a roux to help thicken sauces you use equal parts of butter to flour. When you make your noodles and dumplings they are made from flour and usually have some flour clinging to them where you have rolled them out. The extra bits of flour mixed with the chicken fat helps to thicken the broth making it nice and creamy around your noodles or dumplings. If all you have is the boneless, skinless chicken breast than when you put them onto boil add in two tablespoons of cooking oil and two to three tablepoons of butter. This will help to make your broth rich and tasty.

Grandma Dolly's Chicken and Noodles:
3 chicken breast (bone-in and skin-on) or 3 leg and thigh quarters (bone-in and skin-on)
            Note: You need the fat to make your noodles tender and to add flavor. Also the flour left on the noodles along with the flour helps to create a roux. This will thicken the chicken stock and make it into a nice creamy sauce over your noodles.
1.      Rinse the chicken pieces and place them in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add water until it is a couple of inches over the chicken.  Add some salt to the water to season and bring chicken to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let cook until the chicken is tender.
2.      Cool the chicken pieces and pick off of the bone and add back to the chicken broth. Also add in a about ½ a stick of butter to the hot broth.
3.      Add a few drops of yellow food coloring to make your chicken and noodles look golden and appetizing.
4.     I sometimes stir in a couple of cans of Cream of Chicken soup into the boiling broth to add that little extra creaminess before I start dropping in my noodles.

4 eggs
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of oil
Few drops of yellow food coloring
3 cups of flour (add in a little at a time to make a soft dough ) it may take more or less flour depending upon the size of your eggs.
1.      In a large mixing bowl add the eggs, salt, oil and food coloring.
2.      Whisk until blended.
3.      Start adding in the flour a little at a time. I use a fork to do this and eventually you will have to start using your hands.
4.      Add the flour until you get soft dough that you can handle, but it isn’t sticky. (Note: the dough consistency is almost like pizza dough or canned biscuits.)
5.      Once the dough is the right consistency. Sprinkle flour on your counter and dump the dough onto the flour. Using the heels of your hands start kneading the flour into the dough for about 8 minutes. Sprinkling flour onto the dough as you work it around into a smooth ball.
6.      Once the dough has been kneaded let it rest on the counter by covering it with the mixing bowl. I usually let mine rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
7.      Cut into about 6 sections and on a floured surface roll each section into as much of a rectangular shape as is possible and as thin as possible. You will need to flour the surface of the dough and the counter while working with the dough. I flip mine back and forth between rolling each side. Once I have the dough as thin as I want I make sure that both sides are covered with flour so they won’t stick to one another. Then I roll up jelly roll style and using a sharp knife I slice them about ¼ inches.
8.      Unroll the noodles and break off into pieces into boiling chicken broth. Stir while dropping so they do not clump together.
Until we meet again God bless you and your families,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Melanies' helpful hints, tips and recipes

Greetings friends and family,

Another week has passed here on Grandpa's place and we have experienced all kinds of Indiana weather. Warm one day with thunder storms and cold and snowing the next. When the snow falls softly like a feather floating to the earth our family says it is our loved one's in heaven blowing kisses down upon us. Each kiss falling softly upon our face or the top of our head is a warm reminder of the love we share even on the coldest of days.

Earlier today I watched as my dog romped outside with the neighbors dog. They would run at each other like medieval knights during a joust trying to knock one another down. Only to end up rolling around on the ground then jumping up and starting all over again. My favorite thing is to watch them bounce up and down like they have giant bedsprings attached to their paws. Then they both decided to try catching the snow flakes and would snap at them as they fell. Oh the glee of being foot loose and fancy free. Maybe tomorrow I will try jumping up and down outside and catching snowflakes upon my tongue. I once heard someone say that we only grow old because we forget how to play. I'm beginning to think they were right.

Of course once my dog Rusty came back inside he had that strong smell of a wet dog. To counteract the odor I grabbed a fabric softner sheet and began to rub it over his hair. At that time I decided to make a note to myself "brush the dog" because the fabric softner sheet quickly began to look like a shag rug. He found himself a nice warm corner and curled up for a nap while I was busy with laundry, vacuuming and other household chores. Oh such is the dogs life!

One of the things I had to do today was clean out the vegetable bins of my refrigerator. I don't know about yours but mine seem to accumulate items that turn into things I no longer recognize. I believe one item was a cucumber that had turned into what appeared to be Ghostbusters slime. It is never fun to clean out that kind of a mess but one thing I do to help myself is to line my vegetable bins with plastic wrap. I remove the items from the bins that is still good and that I wish to save. I peel off the plastic wrap off while keeping the nasty items safely contained and I have a plastic shopping bag close by so I can drop the entire mess in the bag for disposal.  Also if you have any carrots or celery that has lost its oomph and has become rubbery. Dont' throw them away, rinse the vegetables in cold water then dice and put into freezer bags to use in soups. Once cooked you will never know the difference.

I also changed out the baking soda in my fridge to help control the odors. I use one of those plastic see through deli containers that you get for a single serving of potato or macaroni salad. I use a marker and write the date on the side of the container and then punch holes in the lid. Add my baking soda, replace the lid and slide to the back of my refrigerator. I try to change this out about every two months so I can keep the odors down. But wait! Dont' toss that container of used baking soda into the trash, dump it down your kitchen drain followed by some vinegar that you have heated. This will foam and help to boil out some of the gunk that likes to gather in the pipes.

Last week I received a request from my cousin Kathy that lives in Tennessee. She wanted to know if I have our Mamaw Truly's recipe for chocolate or lemon pie. Well unfortunately I don't have those recipes but Mamaw taught my mother how to cook and she makes alot of pies. So Kathy I hope these pies turn out to taste like Mamaws did when we would all gather around for her Sunday dinners. When mom was a little girl Mamaw would make the Chocolate pudding for breakfast and call it Chocolate Gravy.

Flaky Pastry (makes 4 single or two double crusts for pies)_
3 cups of All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cup of shortening (butter flavored is really good)
1 teaspoon of vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 egg
1/3 cup of water

Measure and sift the flour into a large bowl, using two butter knives, your fingers or a pastry blender cut the shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in the salt and in a separate bowl whisk together the egg, vinegar and water. Pour into the bowl with the flour mixture and toss together until the floour is moistened. Using your hands bring the mixture together to form a soft dough and form into a ball. You may need to add more water. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times and then roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the bottom of the refrigerator for one hour before rolling out into pie crust. Once chilled divide the dough into four pieces and begin rolling.

Homemade flavored pudding for pies (Vanilla, Chocolate, Banana, Coconut or Lemon)
3 eggs (beaten)
3/4 cup of white sugar
4 heaping Tablespoons of cornstarch
4 cups of milk (NOTE: If making Lemon use water instead of milk)
1 teaspoon or to taste of flavoring or extract (Vanilla, Banana, Lemon, Coconut)
1 Tablespoon of butter
In a 3 quart saucepan mix together well the sugar, cornstarch and well beaten eggs. Slowly whip in the milk using a wire whisk to prevent clumps from forming. Place saucepan over medium heat whipping constantly so the mixture doesn't lump. When the pudding has thickened remove from heat and add in the butter and the flavoring. Pour into cooled pie crusts that has been baked at 375 degrees until they have become golden brown.

For a Chocolate pie you will need to add in a 1/4 cup of Cocoa Powder with the sugar and cornstarch. To make a coconut pie you will want to add in 1 cup of flaked coconut to the pie filling before pouring into the pie crust. If you're using pure extract vs. flavoring you may only need the 1 teaspoon.

NOTE: Sometimes the chocolate pie filling wants to become a little watery after setting. What I do to help eliminate that problem is to toss in about 1/2 a cup of dark chocolate chips into the pudding and let them melt before pouring into the pie crust.

Until we meet again God Bless you and your families,