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1. All my posts are written for myself first (with my followers in mind of course). If I make money from a post due to third party advertising such as Google or Foodbuzz, then so much the better.
2. If I write about a product, cookbook or restaurant, chances are that I received the product, cookbook or meal for FREE.
3. If I write a review about a product, cookbook or restaurant that was not FREE, I will disclose that in my post. I will always write about local establishments and businesses (non-chain) gratis- I support local businesses and hope you will too.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

$2 Dinners

My new column, $2 Dinners just started in the Burlington Times-News today!! I'll be posting each column as it comes out, so don't forget to check back every other Wednesday for another new $2 Dinners article!

(Click on the newpaper and scroll down.....I am on the second half of the page)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cooking with Carnation Evaporated Milk

I must confess that until recently, I have not used Carnation Evaporated Milk as much as I could in my everyday cooking. Oh sure, I use it for my holiday baking, I mean what would pumpkin pie be without the evaporated milk? But other than that, my cans of evaporated milk have languished in the cupboard, waiting for me to run out of creamer for my coffee so they can save the day. Poor things!

I found myself wondering why in the world I don't use it more often. What's not to like? It's economical, has a long shelf-life (when unopened), and it adds a richness of flavor to both sweet and savory recipes. In short, it truly is the right milk for cooking. I don't know how I could have forgotten that this wonderful "can of possibilities" has been in my cupboard all along! Here are two savory recipes I made recently using Carnation Evaporated Milk.

The first recipe, Sunrise Sausage Bake, comes from the Carnation
"Holiday Houseful" cook booklet. You can download it for free here: The recipe was quite easy to make and the breakfast casserole was creamy, fluffy, and savory. I liked the fact that unlike many other bread and egg breakfast casseroles, this one did not have to sit overnight before baking, making it perfect for last-minute preparation when you have unexpected company.

The second recipe I tried using Carnation Evaporated Milk was my mother's recipe for Stuffed Gravy-Smothered Pork Chops. The gravy that resulted from using the evaporated milk had a much richer taste and more satiny texture than it ever has when I use regular milk.

Stuffed Gravy-Smothered Pork Chops

4 (1-inch thick) bone-in Pork Chops
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup (cream of celery works well too)
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 cup prepared herb-seasoned stuffing, prepared according to package directions (note: you will want stuffing a bit on the dry side so gravy doesn't make it mushy)

1. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper.
2. Using a small, sharp knife, make a slit in the side of each chop, cutting deep enough to create a pocket for the stuffing.
3. Using a small spoon, fill each pocket with approx. 1/4 cup stuffing.
4. Melt shortening in 10 inch skillet; brown chops in hot shortening, turning carefully so stuffing does not squeeze out.
5. In a small bowl, combine evaporated milk and soup using a wire whisk to remove lumps.
6. Spray a 2 qt. baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with additional shortening; place chops in prepared baking dish.
7. Pour soup mixture over and around chops.
8. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until chops are tender.

If you're interested in finding out more about Carnation Evaporated Milk, or trying some new recipes using Carnation, you can find product information, nutrition information, plus lots of great recipes here:

Just for fun, send all your foodie friends one of these recipe e-cards from Carnation:

Coupons for product and stipend for recipe ingredients graciously provided by Carnation and Cassie Boorn of the One2One Network. This is not a paid product endorsement.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

World Bread Day

As you may or may not know, October 16th is World Bread Day. According to the UIB's world bread day website: "All over the world bread bears a highly symbolic power: It stands for solidarity as well as the ability to share. As a universal product, found in every civilisation, made out of various types of grain, characterised by the manifold fermentation processes and the different ways of baking, bread - even now in the third millennium - accompanies every meal. Staple food for some, luxury or modern dietary food for others - bread in itself means so much that it deserves a World Day in its honour! The World Bread Day wants to provide an opportunity to talk about bread and bakers, to find out about their history, their importance as well as their future."

In celebration of World Bread Day, I thought it fitting to share with you a recipe for homemade bread. This recipe, for sourdough bread made with a Herman starter, was given to me by my friend Shelby. She had given me a loaf of this incredible bread a few days ago and I loved it so much that I begged her for the recipe. My begging paid off because not only did I get the recipe, she even gave me a jar of the Herman starter so I could get baking!

I hope you are inspired to try making a loaf of this flavorful bread for yourself and your family (or make several and give some to friends!). There is just something so gratifying about preparing this most basic and soul-satisfying of foods, that I can't imagine anyone not having the joy of baking bread. I don't think there is anything better in the whole world than a beautiful, fragrant loaf of warm bread fresh out of the oven!

Shelby's Sour Dough Bread
In large bowl make a stiff batter using:
¼ cup sugar ½ cup oil
1 Tablespoon salt 1 cup starter
1 ½ cup warm water 6 cups bread flour

Grease large bowl and put dough in. Turn dough over to put oil on side and top. Cover lightly with foil and let stand overnight. Next morning punch down and knead a little. Divide dough into 2 or 3 parts. Knead each part on floured board about 8-12 times. Put into greased pan and brush with oil (or butter). Cover with wax paper. Let rise 4-5 hours (all day is ok). Bake at 350 degrees in middle of oven for about 30-35 minutes. (Check bread as it cooks as your oven may cook at a higher or lower temp than mine does. Normally mine takes about a good 30 minutes.) If making a bigger loaf, cooking time will need to be lengthened.

Herman Starter for Sour Dough Bread
Put initial starter in refrigerator for 3-5 days. Take out and feed with the following:
¾ cup sugar 1 cup warm water 3 Tablespoons instant potatoes
Mix well and add to starter. Let stand out of refrigerator all day (8-12 hours). This does not rise, only bubbles. Take out 1 cup to use in making bread and return remaining starter to refrigerator. Keep in refrigerator 3-5 days, feed again. If not making bread, pour off 1 cup and give to buddy to get them started making bread or discard. Original starter must be fed every 3-5 days.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

A Fall BBQ in the Mountains

We have been fortunate enough to be invited to stay at the lovely North Carolina mountain home of our friends Richard and Blair on several occasions. Having been there at different times of the year, I can say without reservation that my favorite time to go is in the early Fall when the leaves are just beginning to show their incredible colors and there is a bit of a chill in the air.

There are so many things I love about the area (near West Jefferson) and so many things we love to do when we are there: antiquing (Blair calls it "junking"), going to the Ashe County cheese shop, kayaking, walking, or just sitting around with a good book. Our cell phones don't work there and there is no cable or satellite, so it's a great place to unplug and unwind. You don't realize how stressed you are until you get away from it all, and being there always does us a world of good!

On our most recent trip to "the cabin", we had a BBQ with R & B and some of their friends, David and Virginia. Richard, who is quite a talented cook, made some incredible ribs with a spicy rub that were truly worthy of much finger-licking. Blair, who is also accomplished in the kitchen, made some beautifully caramelised green beans, and (good German girl that she is) some roasted red potatoes that were crispy and golden brown on the outside, and creamy and warm on the inside. They were potato perfection! Virginia, another foodie and fantastic cook, brought some awesome heirloom tomatoes, and an absolutely gorgeous salad with organic greens and edible flowers from her garden. The nasturtium and chive blossoms she used made the salad almost too pretty to eat, but we all gave in to temptation and emptied the bowl!
We ate out on the deck in the cool evening air, with the sounds of vintage James Taylor tunes wafting out from the living room. Between the excellent food, good wine, and great company, we had a wonderful time. I don't think there is a restaurant in the world that can beat a simple meal, expertly prepared, and enjoyed among the company of friends. As always, thanks to Richard and Blair for sharing their mountain retreat with us, and thanks to all the cooks whose hands contributed to another memorable meal!

Here is the rub recipe Richard used for the ribs, which he says was adapted from Cook's Illustrated:
Finger-Licking Spicy Rib Rub
1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Coat each rack of ribs with 1-2 tbsp rub and pat to adhere; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Cooking time is 4 - 6 hours over low (250 F) indirect heat. Notes: Use a mortar and pestle to grind any large spices to a powder, or use a spice grinder. If using kosher salt, increase the measurement by 1 tsp and then grind it fine. Can use more cayenne if desired. Can use dark brown sugar if a little Molasses flavor is desired.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Pumpkin Time

Fall is here and that means it's pumpkin time! At our house that means pumpkin pie, pumpkin-raisin muffins, and pumpkin-apple soup, among other things. My family, especially my husband and son-in-law, are pumpkin freaks, so, needless to say, we go through a lot of pumpkin around here. As you can probably guess, I usually have several cans of puree in the cupboard at all times.

However, in spite of the fact that I am surrounded by pumpkin maniacs, I have never tried to make my own pumpkin puree before. It just seemed like too much trouble, and I was not convinced that it would taste any better than the stuff in a can I have used for years. Added to that (confession time) was the fact that I was not really sure how to cook the pumpkin! But a funny thing happened last week; a foodie friend and colleague posted an article about making her own puree and it was like a light went on for me (thanks Anne!). Not only did she make it look easy, she made it look delicious and her puree was beautiful! I was hooked! I decided I had to try it for myself! So, this past weekend, I bought a pumpkin and went to work.

This is Anne's method for making pumpkin puree:
  • The first step is to pick a small pumpkin. "Sugar pumpkins" or pumpkins marked for pie work best. The giant pumpkins are not good for pie because they have stringy, bland insides and their flesh is not nearly as firm. You want to choose one that is 2 to 3 pounds with less-pronounced grooves and skin with a dull appearance.
  • Once you get your pumpkin home, wash and dry it thoroughly. Next, cut it in half vertically through the stem end, and remove the seeds and stringy pulp. Note: roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious, so don't throw them away!
  • Lay the pumpkin, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin yields to slight pressure. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 20 minutes.
  • Once your pumpkin is cooled, scoop the flesh from inside the shell with a spoon, and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Store puree in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Use within 3 or 4 days if refrigerated, or within 6 months if frozen.
  • Use your puree as you would the canned variety. Note: My 2 lb. pumpkin made about 2 cups of puree.

Here is one of our favorite pumpkin recipes, Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins, from Country Cupboard restaurant in Lewisburg, PA. They bring you a basket of these warm from the oven when you dine there, and I have to say that the first time I tasted one, I though I had died and gone to heaven! I can't think of a better use for homemade pumpkin puree than these fragrant, spicy muffins!

Pumpkin-Raisin Muffins

2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups four
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins, tossed in 1 tbsp. flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, water and oil on low speed about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except raisins. Mix well on low speed. Scrape bowl and continue mixing on medium speed about 2-3 minutes. Stir in raisins. Fill paper-lined muffin tins 1/2-3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 23-28 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and a pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.
Note: If you want your muffins to peak, bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

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Food for Thought:

"In the childhood memories of every good cook, there's a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and a mom."

- Barbara Costikyan


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