Saturday, October 30, 2004


Rose asked what the big draw about biscuits is (under the comments section of the Sour Milk post). Although a bit dazed that someone wouldn't know, instinctively, the appeal of biscuits, I'm rallying myself to post the recipe I use. Rose, try serving hot biscuits and butter (and honey, as Darren prefers) with your next meal. Rounds it out nicely. These take about twenty-five minutes total.

Baking Powder Biscuits
(from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening*
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk or soured milk**

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add shortening, working it in with your fingers until dough resembles corn meal. Add buttermilk and mix well. Dough should be soft but not sticky. If dough is too sticky, add a little flour.

Roll out biscuits with well-floured hands and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for, oh, fifteen minutes or so until the bottoms are golden brown.

This recipe makes anywhere from six to ten biscuits, depending on how big you make them.

* Butter, especially if cold when added to the dough, makes rich, flakey biscuits. It's a luxury we don't indulge often.

** To "sour" milk, add a dash of vinegar to the milk and let it sit for about five minutes.

Restaurant Recreation: Guacamole

DOB and his partner sometimes have meetings at a small but intensely popular Mexican restaurant near their office; he loved their (very expensive) guacamole, so I tried to create my own recipe of it to go with today's enchiladas. Now I'll see if I can remember what I put in it.

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1/8 t. Vit. C powder (to keep it from browning without changing the flavor)
1/4 c. finely chopped red onion
1/3 c. finely chopped tomatoes
1/2 t. salt
1 T. plain yogurt (I almost always substitute yogurt for sour cream.)
1/2 t. cumin
a couple sprigs of chopped cilantro (I actually had to use dried, but it would have been a whole lot better with fresh.)

Very good. Wish I'd had enough avocado to make more--there's none left over.

Friday, October 29, 2004

WDIDWT? Condensed & Evaporated Milk

Apparently we all live in the country that flows milk and honey, and we can't figure out what to do with it before the milk expires.

I know there must be lots of delectable desserts that use sweetened condensed milk. Can anyone think of some right off? I opened a can yesterday for a raspberry pie, then realized that it was too sweet and I needed evaporated milk instead.

Which reminds me, bonus points if you have a good recipe that uses up half a can of evaporated milk, too.

-- SJ

Thursday, October 28, 2004

More on Pasta

Pasta is truly a wonderful thing. It's inexpensive, versatile, delicious, and quick and easy to cook. There are two good ways I've found to deal with cooked pasta:

* As soon as it's done cooking, drain it. Then put it back into the pan, stir in a Tbl. of olive oil, and put the lid on. This will allow it to sit for up to 30 minutes (after which it will probably be getting cold, anyway) without turning gelatinous.

* OR - pour cooked pasta into the strainer and run cold water over it. This will instantly stop it from further cooking and keep it from getting gluey. It can just sit in the sink as long as it needs to, and when it is ready to serve, run hot water over it for a minute or so. This will freshen it up nicely.

I just discovered the most wonderful and simple spaghetti pie recipe for leftover spaghetti and sauce. It's so great because I always make lots of sauce, and usually end up saving it and just boiling more spaghetti whenever I'm trying to use up the sauce. This isn't quite leftovers - it's technically a new meal, because the spaghetti is new, but I hate doing this twice in one week, which counts as Serving The Same Meal Too Soon.

Leftover spaghetti sauce*
Leftover spaghetti (or you can boil up some new stuff!) - say about 8-oz
2 Tbl. butter
1-2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Heat the spaghetti & pour it into the bottom of a 9x9 pan. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Add the eggs and stir thoroughly. Spread the cottage cheese over this; sprinkle some of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over; pour the sauce over the top. Top it with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. For fun, you can split the ingredients and layer more intricately, like lasagne. Michael and I both love lasagne, and we both agree that this is better still.

* I 'make' my own sauce (quotations used advisedly because where I grew up, from scratch meant you grew it) from opening a can of tomato sauce (say, 14-oz) and putting it on medium heat. I add raw ground beef (approximately 1 lb. per 14-oz can) and let it cook in the sauce, adding italian spices such as oregano and thyme. The sauce simmers away happily for about half an hour or so, or until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the sauce is thickened. Voila! Hearty, delicious spaghetti sauce.

Making Pasta

Earlier this week DOB was sitting at his desk around lunchtime when a co-worker stopped by and the following conversation ensued:

CW: So, what's for lunch today?
DOB: I don't know yet, but my wife made it, so it's got to be good.
CW: Well, that's a good attitude to have.
DOB: Yep, yep. (Opening bag) Ah, macaroni and cheese. Homemade. The best.
CW: Oh, yeah?
DOB: Yep, she even makes the noodles from scratch. In fact, to save time and effort, she rolls the dough and then pokes out the middle. That way she makes macaroni and spaghetti at the same time!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

One-Dish Meal: Inspired by Melody

I made a supper the other night that was inpsired by a musical piece. I don't know who composed it, but it's commonly known as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

I say "commonly" because this version has added verses. One of them runs,

Save, save, save the wheat,
Meat and sugar too!
Corn and potatoes and rice and tomatoes
Are mighty good for you!

The last two lines sounded appealing at the moment, so I went home and made it. I'd already cooked some chicken -- threw a couple of frozen quarters in a pot and boiled it most of the morning. I cooked the rice in a rice cooker, about twenty minutes for white rice.

* Meat from two leg quarters, shredded
* About a cup and a half of rice
* Two potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled till tender
* Small can of corn
* Half a can of drained diced tomatoes, with a little juice
* Some celery salt, garlic, salt, and curry powder

When the rice and potatoes were done, I put them all into a skillet and heated them through. Made a great meal, and obviously the quantities are flexible!

Not good for leftovers, though. I still haven't figured out how to reheat potatoes so they taste like anything except cardboard.

-- SJ

Minestrone in a Hurry

Other than all the chopping and cubing you have to do, this is a fast recipe. It is great and makes 8 servings (6 if you have a hearty appetite or don't serve it with something like cornbread or quesadillas).

1 T Vegetable or Olive Oil
1 C chopped onion (any variety)
2 garlic cloves minced
6 C Vegetable or Beef broth
2-1/2 C cubed (3/4 in) peeled squash (butternut is great)
2-1/2 C cubed (3/4 in) peeled potato
1 C cut (1-in) green beans (about 1/4 lb)
1/2 C diced carrot
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t black pepper (freshly ground is always best)
1/4 t salt
4 C chopped kale (you could use fresh spinach but kale works best)
1/2 C uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 - 16 oz can cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 C freshly shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven (or big saucepan) over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Add broth and the next 7 ingredients (broth through salt), bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 3 minutes. Add kale, orzo, and white beans; cook 5 minutes or until orzo is done and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with cheese.

You can throw in any other vegetables you want to use before they go bad, but keep in mind this is a very thick soup. I have to add water each time I reheat it.

Very nice on a cold, rainy fall night. (And I know all about those.)

WDIDWT? Sour Milk

(What Do I Do With This?)

Queen of Carrots:

I had almost finished off the sour milk left from my last cold, when I realized the last quart or so of milk in the next gallon had gone sour, too. Waffles and coffeecake once a week are not enough to let me keep up. What's something that uses up a lot of sour milk? (Extra bonus if it turns into a homey, yet elegant dessert--we're having the pastor over on Saturday afternoon.)

Blah Chili into Tamale Pie

From Queen of Carrots:

Usually I make better chili, but I had been thinking it was time to have a meatless meal, and for some reason I forgot the green peppers and I came home dead tired and probably messed up the seasonings, so the initial chili was not all that exciting. There was enough left over, once the next day's lunch was taken care of, to make one meal, but not two, and I still rely on leftovers for lunches.

So I fried up the missing hamburger and green peppers, and mixed them in a casserole dish with the chili, some frozen corn, and a can of olives. (BTW, I've discovered by laborious price/weight comparisons, that you can get more olives for the same price if you buy them chopped rather than sliced or whole--they sell the cans based on size, not weight. So if it's a casserole where appearances don't matter, I use chopped.) Then I whipped up my usual cornbread (I used to follow tamale pie recipes laboriously until I realized--the topping is just cornbread!), minus the honey and with the addition of a can of green chiles and grated cheese, and spread that on top. I baked it for forty-five minutes or so (It takes it longer to cook than it would if it were just cornbread).

The end result gave me enough for dinner and lunch and generated great husbandly enthusiasm. Also, if I had included the hamburger and peppers in the first place, I would not have needed the skillet and could have made the whole thing using less dishes than it takes to make and heat cornbread and leftover chili separately. I bet this would also work as an easy way to jazz up canned chili.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Topic Suggestions

This blog is a cooking cybercircle. The point is to benefit from everyone else's successes, failures, and surprising rescues. Householdy anecdotes will inevitably leak in as well, but that's okay because we're all into householdy things on this blog.

Topics for posts could include:

* Saved From Disaster meals
* Surprising Success meals
* Quick Suppers
* Lunches-to-pack ideas
* Do Not Do This meals
* How To Sneak In Vegetables/Edible Vegetarian meals
* Clever ways to re-use leftovers

Additionally, suggested by Rose:
* I Have This, This, and This. What Can I Do With It?
* I Have Lots of This (there being a good sale on). How Do I Disguise It For Repeated Servings?

Lastly, everybody has to learn Blog Cheer:

We're so smart!
We're so fun!
We're so Proverbs 31!

-- SJ

Here We Go!

Welcome to the Martha Blog. My apologies for the title. Queen of Carrots suggested something to this effect, and I found the temptation irresistible. As well as being painfully clever, it has the added aura of Christian Alternative Culture.

Here is background as to why the blog is named for Martha of Bethany. Email me! -- SJ