Saturday, February 28, 2009

An afghan, Some Recipes, and allergies to boot.

So first off, here are those pictures of the "baby" afghan. It's really more lap-ghan sized.

That is, it's nearly as tall as I am (5 feet) and approximately twice as wide as I am. *grin* (No, I'm not giving inches as to how "wide" I am.)

This first pic, the blanket is actually folded in quarters.

A close up, for color-detail purposes, though unfortunately it looks rather washed out.

And pardon the sideways-ness of this picture. Goodness knows why it flipped back sideways when I transfered it from my photo albums. I had flipped it around right-side up and cropped some of the mess out from the sides. Anyway, this gives SOME idea of how big the afghan is, spread over the top (most of the top) of my kitchen table and the bench along the outter edge of my table.

The colorways in the yarn really came through beautifully, when viewed like this. Kinda an unintentional color-pattern. (I did alternating rows of this pink, brown, tan and cream ombre yarn, and a simple solid cream colored yarn. In a ripple pattern.) Anyway, it seems that the pink and brown really kinda stacked nicely, though inadvertently, when crocheted up.

Ok, enough with the baby afghan. On to other things to mention.


I saw a clip yesterday that was apparently on Good Morning America or some similar show. It was about this 93 year old Grandma who's great grandson talked her into recording some of her depression (or, pre-depression) frugal recipes & meals on YouTube. I checked it out, you should too! If for no other reason than that "Grandma Clara" talks about life during the Great Depression of the 30's, and we've got precious few elders who are even still alive from those days. HERE is the website!

I remember being about 13 or 14 and asking my Dad's mom (my "Mom-mom") some vague, not-very-well-thought-out questions about her teenage years in the Great Depression and her early 20's during World War 2. Mom-mom was rather insistent that she didn't remember much. And by the time I was old enough (a few years ago) to really have COHERANT questions to ask, Mom-mom was too far gone, mentally, to be able to answer anyway. She died a few years ago now. And it's now that I'm most wishing I'd really had the wherewithall to ask her some real questions about her life and how they made it through those years. As it is, I only have one recipe (that I know of) from Mom-mom. That is my recipe for belgian waffles. VERY yummy. I'll share it in a minute.

So, seeing and hearing this Grandma, who's approximately the same age as Mom-mom would be if she were alive today, talk about her teen years during the Great Depression, and make some of the meals she learned to cook from her own Mom during those years, makes me happy that SOMEBODY's grandma is still lucid enough to pass down some of this lost wisdom to us. And I'm grateful to "Grandma Clara" for sharing with us some of what she recalls of those days. And I thought maybe y'all would appreciate seeing it the videos, too.


I've been attempting to cook more frugally, around here. I'm trying to incorporate more meals that are light on meat, or without meat at all. Scott's made it clear he's got NO interest in "becoming a vegetarian". That's fine with me. I like a bit of meat well enough. BUT, it's also rather unhealthy to eat meat every meal, and in the quantities that Scott (and now Tay) seem to prefer it. AND, it's NOT frugal at all. Considering we've been unlucky in getting a Moose or Caribou for several years now, it's not frugal in the least to have steak several times a week. Even when that steak has been bought out of the clearance bin at the grocery store (usually marked down 30 to 50 percent before it absolutely must be tossed by the store for safety purposes). (I have yet to get any "bad" meat out of the clearance "bin". We haven't had any problem with any of the steaks or roasts or stewmeat being rotten.)

And Tay's rather aggrivating me, these days, with her insistance that meat is a requisite for a proper meal. And not just a small bit, but large amounts. And not just at "proper" meals, but at ANY time she wants it. I came home from work the other day and found that she'd decided to open a can of spam for snack, and had almost HALF the piece of spam from the can! For SNACK! *shaking head* Then she gets all pissy when this upsets her Dad and I, as if she's done nothing wrong and why are WE yelling at HER when she was "just hungry" and "there wasn't anything else in the house to have for snack!" *rolling eyes* If it wasn't for the fact that dinner is so frequently a very late meal around here, I'd do away with her having an afternoon snack at all. As it is, my idea of snack is half a bag of popcorn, or a bit of peanut butter on a graham cracker or celery stick. Not HALF a tin of spam! *shaking head* She's become even more adamant about her "need" for meat than her Dad is. And it's really starting to tick me off.

So, this past week, here are some of the things I made for supper:

Fake Steak (mind you, origional recipe makes 24 servings, I cut it down by about a factor of 5)

1/3 c milk (would use an egg instead, next time, the milk didn't "bind" very well)
1/3 c dry bread crumbs
1 small onion (or half a large onion) chopped fine
3/4 tsp salt (give or take, as this is cut down from a recipe 5 times what I'm dictating here)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 pound ground beef
2 cans (yeah, so I STILL use 2 cans) cream of Mushroom soup, undiluted
1/4 c milk (this is for diluting the soup)

In a bowl, combine the milk (egg instead!), bread crumbs, onions (sauteed them up a bit first), salt and pepper. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into small oval patties. (I think I got nine small-ish patties, or about 5 larger patties.) Place in greased 13x9 (or, smaller?) baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. (This is where I diverge from the recipe. I just pan-fry them as soon as I've made them.)

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes; drain. Combine soup and 1/4 cup milk; pour over patties. Cover and bake 20 to 30 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F (the patties will remain pink inside).

(As I said, I diverge from the origional recipe once we get to the cooking stage. I don't let the patties "sit" more than a couple of minutes. I pan fry them right away. I also use BOTH cans of cream of mushroom soup called for in the origional recipe, and about twice as much milk as is called for, and pour it over the patties once they've browned a bit and I've drained off some of the grease.)

This is great served over egg noodles, with green beans or a green salad on the side.


Tamale Pie

1 lb ground beef
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1 can kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes (with juices)
1 Tbsp (or two small-ish cloves) minced/pressed garlic
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp (I used 1/4 tsp) chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin (not in origional recipe, but I use it)
1 (8-1/2 oz) box corn-muffin mix (Jiffy mix)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Colby-Jack also works well in this recipe)

Brown meat and onions and drain. Stir in remaining ingredients EXCEPT cornbread mix and cheese. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare cornbread mix as directed on box. Pour meat mixture into 2 qt casserole dish. Top meat mix with cornbread batter. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or till center of cornbread is firm. Top with shredded cheese and bake 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted.

(I forgot the beans this last week, while making this, so it was "chili" without the beans, topped with cornbread, basically. THEN Scott decides to tell me -and Tay piped up, agreeing with him- that he "hates" kidney beans and wishes I would never use them. *rolling eyes* I prefer kidney beans over pintos, and beans are a rather cheap way to stretch some of that meat, to make it go further. NOW he's telling me -after 11+ years of me making chili and Tamale pie and such!- that he "hates" kidney beans?!?! WTF! And he wonders how I'm going to spend less at the grocery store, when he's getting pickier and pickier about healthier/cheaper eating by the minute?!?!?!)


Pork with Sauerkraut

1 lb lean pork (boneless pork loin "steaks"), cut into 1 inch "cubes"
4 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted "lard" (olive oil!)
1/2 tsp paprika
14 oz shredded sauerkraut, drained of juices and well rinsed (important to rinse! Otherwise this dish is TOO sour!)
2 fresh red chilies (sweet-spicy, I used some of the ground chili peppers from the pepper plant I grew this past year.)
6 Tbsp pork stock (a chicken bouillion cube and some water!)
salt and ground black pepper
1/4 c sour cream
coarse grain mustard, paprika and sage leaves, to garnish
crusty bread, to serve.

In a heavy based frying pan, cook the pork in the oil until browned on all sides. Add the paprika and shredded sauerkraut. Stir well and transfer to flameproof casserole. (I simply used my cast-iron skillet, as it has a heavy glass lid and was plenty big enough. Also used less dishes this way.) Halve the chilies (or, in my case, I used the ground powder from the chilies that I'd dried) and remove the seeds before buring the chilies in the middle of the casserole. Add the stock to the casserole. Cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it sticking to bottom of pan. Remove the chilies (or, don't) and season to taste before serving. Spoon on the sour cream and spoonfuls of mustard, sprinkle with paprika and garnish with sage leaves. Serve with crusty bread. (I served with some microwave-steamed, halved baby-potatoes tossed with a bit of butter and dill.)


Grandfather's Soup (so called because it is easily digested by the elderly)

1 large onion, finely sliced
2 Tbsp butter (or, 1 Tbsp each olive oil and butter)
12 oz potatoes, peeled and diced (I don't peel them, simply scrub them up)
3-3/4 c beef stock (I used pre-made chicken stock instead)
1 bay leaf
sald and fresh ground black pepper

For Drop noodles (dumplings)

2/3 c self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (1 tsp dried parsley), plush a bit extra for garnish
1 egg, beaten
chunks of bread to serve

In a wide, heavy-based pan, cook the onion in the butter gently for 10 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour in the stock. Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the noodles (dumplings). Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the parsley, then add the egg to the flour mixture and mix to a soft dough. Drop half-teaspoonfuls of the dough into the simmering soup. Cover and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls, scatter over a little parsley, and serve immediately with chunks of bread.

(I used some coarsely crushed dried lambsquarters instead of MOST of the parsley. Scott and Tay can't tell the difference and I believe the lambsquarters to be a bit healthier. Then I sprinkled it with parsley at the very end, for appearance sake mostly. Also, I decided to use some of the leftover egg noodles I had from when I made Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup a few weeks back. THAT was a mistake!! They were so dry, that they never DID cook through entirely, and I let them simmer LONG past the 10 minutes the dumplings were supposed to simmer for in the origional recipe. Next time, I'm doing the dumplings! Tay was peevish about this because there wasn't any meat. Scott was peevish as well, but quietly so when I reminded him that it's NOT a vegetarian meal because it DOES use meat-stock/broth. *grin* But, admittedly, he would have prefered to see even just a bit of diced up chicken breast in the bowl.)


Pork Bitki (I've done this before with ground turkey, and it was ok. The original recipe calls for ground -or very finely chopped- chicken, which I can't find around here.)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (used a bit of butter and a bit of olive oil, as usual)
4 oz mushrooms, finely chopped (used button mushrooms, also used about 1/4 c diced onion, in addition to the mushrooms, even though they're not called for)
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs (to heck with this! Use dried!! It's much easier!!!)
12 oz pork sausage (ok, it was actually a 1 pound log, like Jimmy Dean or some-such)
2 eggs, seperated (you're supposed to reserve the eggwhites for later in the recipe, next time I'll reserve them for an egg-white omelete or something, and NOT put them back into this recipe)
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp plain flour
3 Tbsp oil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
green salad and grated pickled beetroot, to serve.

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the mushrooms for 5 minutes until soft and all the juices have evaporated. (Throw the onions in after the mushrooms have had a couple of minutes to cook on their own. The onions add too much more moisture right at the start, otherwise.) Allow to cool. Mix the crumbs, pork, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt, pepper and mushrooms together well. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Stir half into the pork mixture, then fold in the remainder. (THIS step resulted in my meat mixture being far too wet! As I said, I'd just reserve the egg whites for something else next time.) Shape the mixture into 12 even meatballs (actually, fat little finger-sausage shapes). Roll in the plain flour to coat. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the bitki for 10 minutes, turning until evenly golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot with the green salad and pickled beetroot.

(These are good served with properly done potato latkes and sour cream. Or boiled potatoes, or mashed potatoes..... I also didn't serve them with the green salad -as we don't have any fresh greens right now- or the pickled beetroot per say. Though I DID make a fresh beet salad to accompany that I'll post next.)


Beetroot and Celery Salad

1 lb uncooked beetroot, peeled and grated (I chopped it into fine matchsticks, instead. I hate grating root vegetables as I invariably try to add some knuckle to the veggies.)
4 celery sticks, finely chopped (thinly sliced on the bias)
1/2 onion, sliced thinly into half-moons (ok, not original to the recipe, but good anyway!)
2 Tbsp apple juice (didn't have, so substituted apple cider vinegar)

For the dressing:
3 Tbsp sunflower oil (substituted walnut oil)
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
4 spring onions, finely chopped (substituted dried chives, would rehydrate next time before addition to the dressing)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (once again with the substituted dried)
sald and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the beetroot, celery, onion and apple juice together in a bowl to mix. Put all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together till will blended. Stir half into the beetroot mixture. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top. Allow the salad to marinate for at least 2 hours before serving, for the fullest flavour. Garnish with fresh herbs.

(Tay and I really liked this salad. Scott said it was actually pretty ok, esp. since the beets were raw! He can't stand cooked beets. Tay said this salad would be better without the celery, but I liked the celery just fine, and Tay certainly liked the salad even with the celery.)


Scotch Broth

1 lb ground beef, browned & drained (original recipe calls for soup bones to be simmered and meat seperated from the bone, and all that other stuff first, but I just use ground beef instead.)
2 quarts water
several cubes chicken or beef bouillion (not original to the recipe, but who cares)
6 whole peppercorns (never use this, use a bay leaf instead)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 c chopped carrots (never use this either, use frozen chopped spinach, or lambsquarters instead)
1 c chopped turnips (dehydrated from last year, not fresh)
1 c chopped celery
1/2 c chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes (MY addition, not original to the recipe), juice included
1/4 c medium pearl barley (also added about 1/4 c quinoa, this time)

In a large soup kettle, sautee the onion and celery for about 5 minutes in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Then add remaining ingredients and cover and simmer about 1 hour or until vegetables and barley are tender. (Note, the quinoa really only needs 10 minutes to cook. So next time, if using, don't add it till that last 10 minutes. Otherwise it just melts away to nothing. This is one of Scott's favorite soups, and the only "brothy" soup Tay actually likes. I don't tell him that I use lambsquarters. As far as he knows, it's just spinach, always spinach.)


Mom-mom's Golden Waffles

2 cups flour
2 eggs, seperated
3 Tbsp baking powder
1-1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp sugar

Beat egg yolks and add milk. Add dry ingredients; beat till smooth. Add in oil. In a seperate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peak stage. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Carefully ladle a spoonful onto your waffle-iron. Cook till iron indicates done. (Sorry, I don't know how long it takes really, I just use my electric waffle-maker.) This recipe makes INCREDIBLY light and fluffy waffles. YUMMY!!!


As you can see, I'm trying to introduce some "peasant" cooking into my recipe repetoire. Not hard, as my cooking is USUALLY home-style cooking anyway. I rarely do the "gourmet" cooking thing. The "Pork with Sauerkraut", "Pork Bitki", "Grandfather's Soup" and "Beetroot & Celery Salad" all come from this _Russian, Polish and German Cooking_ cookbook I've got. Bought it when I worked at Waldenbooks, a few years back. It's got a load of really yummy looking recipes in it, and thus far I've been pretty happy with them. (Though, obviously I make my own adaptations based on what I can get my hands on, and what I think we'll like as a family.)

Now, to get to work coming up with a menu for this coming week. *grin* I know it's going to include a cucumber salad and a lasagna. (Tay's been requesting both for a couple of weeks.) We'll have to see what else I decide on, and what I find at the grocery store.


The allergy bit mentioned above? Well, it seems my allergies (and Tay's as well, apparently) have decided to reassert themselves. Really, that's not unusual. They usually DO this time of year, and on into spring and early summer. Thing is, I can't tell if it's inside allergens that are simply getting to a really annoying level, or if there's actually something in the air outdoors this time of year. You'd think, seeing as we've still got thick snow cover, that the outdoors wouldn't provide any allergens to annoy us, but I wouldn't bet on it. (Even today, with it actually snowing outside!)

When I went in to order my contacts a few weeks back, the contact specialist on staff at the eye clinic questioned me as to my allergies. At that point, the ONLY indicator I had was how watery my eyes have been for the past couple of months. But, I usually tear up easily anyway, so it rarely bugs me too much. (It DOES keep me from wearing mascara much, though. Even the waterproof mascara tends to smudge, as often as I'm rubbing my eyes.) So, I told the lady at the eye clinic that my allergies may be "there" right now, but they're really not bothering me. Well, in the couple of weeks since, I've started feeling a ticklish throat, and some sniffles, but not the head-achey and stuffiness that indicates a cold. So, I know it's just allergies. (If my head feels clear, or even if the pain is focused in my sinuses, I can usually figure it's just allergies.)

Then I got up this morning. And my nose was stuffy, and my throat was ticklish, and my eyes are itchy!!!!! YUCK! I know Tay's been dealing with some allergies the last couple of weeks, but this is the first morning in a long while that I actually feel like I'm "dealing with allergies" myself. Usually it doesn't but me, but this itchy eye feeling, combined with the rest...... BLECH!!! And I can't really take anything for my allergies, because NOTHING I take works consistently, and ANYTHING I take has side-effects that I can't stand. So I don't take a darned thing to treat these allergies, I just deal with them. Thankfully, they're simply "annoying" and a bit "aggrivating" but never really beyond that. (Ok, ok, occasionally a sinus headache will hit that really knocks me for a loop, THEN I do take something like benadril or sudafed, but ONLY then. And EVEN then, it doesn't always help.)


I mentioned that it's snowing again. It's been snowing for most of the last 4 days. But it's been warm, too! Today, it's up to almost 30 degrees. YEAH! I can handle the snow, as long as it's reasonably warm as well, and rather light skies, like it is. And on the clear days, you can tell that the sun's actually WARM, not just BRIGHT. Spring is on it's way! And there's the added benefit that the snow may well keep the fires down this summer. A good drenching that melts off reasonably slowly (giving the moisture a chance to soak into the ground) results in less fire hazards over the summer, and the fires that DO happen don't get so wildly out of control as is otherwise possible, because a lot of what would otherwise burn, is still reasonably wet from winter. So, I'm enjoying the snow this year. (Except for the occasion that I step in a hidden deep drift in nothing but my crocs. THEN I grumble a bit because my feet are cold!)

As I was starting to type this post, the little boy from next door (a roly-poly 5 year old) and his older cousin were out playing on this little snow-berm at the bottom corner between our yard and theirs. The cousin (who's about 13) was pulling the little boy up the hill in the sled, then tried to turn him around and let him slide the 4 feet back to the bottom. *grin* They got up the top of the little hill, and when they went to turn it around, the little boy was so heavy that the sled sunk in on the back edge, and the cousin had a heck of a time getting it uprighted and angled the CORRECT way down the little hill. It was freaking hilarious, and it was nice watching a couple of kids out there enjoying the snow and doing a little bit of "sledding" even if it only lasted about 10 minutes.

All the other kids around here, except little Robbie now, are "too old" and "too cool" to be caught dead sledding on such "baby hills" as these little snow berms we get from the snow plows. Even Tay, who used to be a die-hard snow fan, can hardly be persuaded to set foot outside to play in the snow, these days. Occasionally Tay will have a friend come over, and they'll take Jenny out for a bit of a romp, but it's usually short-lived and it never happens often enough for Jenny's pleasure. (And poor Puck, can't be trusted not to run off, so he NEVER gets to go outside and just romp, without his leash.)


Thanks again for the prayers and positive thoughts for Mom. According to her blog, she sounds like she's doing pretty well with the healing.

Have a Blessed Day!


peppylady said...

My hubby loves spam and actual I think it gross.
Really like your afghans you made. I been doing ceramics and embroidery pillowcases.
One thing about blogging sometime in the future some one may be reading our blogs and learning how things was in year of 09.

Coffee is on.

LadyStyx said...

That afghan is GORGEOUS!

Sorry the allergies are acting up.

The recipes have me hungry now.

Tori_z said...

Will take a look at that site later. Will also grab some of those recipes you posted to put on my recipe page... Some of them sound really nice! :)

Hope the alergies don't bug you too much.

You're never too old to play in the snow. At least, in my opinion!

Glad you're Mom is healing nicely! :)

Princess Banter said...

Fake steak! I love it...

It's lent and I've given up meat for the next 40 days and 40 nights. Some of your recipes looks very interesting -- and very apt for me! Thanks!

It's been a while and I've missed you!

Celticspirit said...

I love the blanket. Is it made to fit in a crib? I think most baby blankets are made way too small and yours is just perfect. :) Nice colors too.

I think most people eat way too much protein. I can't imagine eating Spam plain out of a can....well maybe that's because I don't know if I've ever eaten it and if I did it was when I was very young. You are being very frugal by trying to cut back on the meat and with the economy the way it is, that's a good idea. Those are some yummy sounding recipes you posted. I may try the tamale pie one.

I'm glad to hear your Mom is doing better. That's great news.

Robin said...

Ever try Poor Man's Stroganoff? That's what I call it, anyway....

Pound of ground beef, cooked up and fat drained off. Add a can of mushroom soup ( and mushrooms~canned or fresh~ if you want them)~maybe a little water to stretch it~ and then three or four tablespoons of sour cream. Serve over egg noodles.

Reheats well, too.

whimsical brainpan said...

Kati the afghan is beautiful!

I've heard of that lady. Apparently she is really catching on. There are a bunch of Depression era cookbooks out there.

Spam as a snack!!!

Marcy said...

Hi Kati! Nice blog ... and I love LOVE the colors in your afghan ... I know pictures don't do it justice.

Your recipes are interesting ... might have to try your tamale one. My husband is a meat-a-holic, too ... when I say meat, I really mean BEEF or PORK. He says chicken was made for frying and fish was made for catchin, not eatin. :) I tell him all the time that he'd better block off some time at work for his heart attack. ;) I've tried NOT bringing unhealthy things into the house, but ... he just jaunts to the store and comes back with pork rinds, sausage, bacon, and whatever else he wants.

Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

Princess Banter said...

Beautiful dog!!!