Category Archives: Friends

You Can Make Pie Crust and Savory Pastry/(Vegan)/Chiffon

Thanksgiving is approaching in the United States and with Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are in the mood for PIE.
Most people like pies. Many people dislike pie crust and even more hate or hesitate to try to make their own. We’re going to try to dispel both of those dislikes with a choice of several homemade pie crusts, which can be made vegan, and made ahead of time.

I am going to ask you to try more than one of these, as one person can have a completely different ‘touch’ from another and some just may not come out right for you, although one or another may very well become your signature crust. My mother made incredible Oil Pastry with which she made quite a name for herself. I, on the other hand, professional though I became, cannot do it justice. Maybe you will have better luck. However, I consider the other recipes fail-proof.

Done right, each of the pastries,(except the Graham cracker one), become flaky and fine. And most,(again, not the Graham cracker one), can be used for pot pies, meat pies, hand-held savories and appetizers, quiches, baked brie, etc. But I promise you, they are easier than you think and most are freezable.

You can’t crimp? My mother deftly did hers perfectly but I never had the patience to practice. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I have been cutting out edging with small cookie/pastry cutters for 30 years. Now, that is almost all you see on TV and in magazines. It is attractive and easy. Here is one example:

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

You can use any shape of cutter to suit the pie or occasion, (as I used shamrocks in the photo),be they leaves or apples for apple pie, leaves or pumpkins for …you get the idea. You can make egg-shaped ones around a pie for Easter, turkeys for Thanksgiving, dreidels for Hanukkah…again, use your imagination, but I suggest you have at least a small, all-purpose leaf-shaped cutter. With that, you can’t go wrong.
If you want a top crust, you can always use a bigger cutter and overlap the cut-outs.

Roll the crusts out to a consistent and thin round shape. You want to start in the middle and roll your way out, .Press gently at first and go from the middle outward. Roll on at least four directions.
There are mats you can buy to roll dough on, or you can use wax paper or parchment paper. If you use wax paper, you will have to put two sheets overlapping on the bottom; you can move one sheet around on top.This method is best used to the Oil Pastry.
For the others, I use a well-floured , large wooden cutting board. Be sure to flour your rolling pin. If it sticks to your pastry, rub all the stuck dough off with flour before attempting to roll again, or it will just keep sticking.(Do not wet the rolling pin until you clean it when you are finished.)
I inherited a marble rolling slab and matching rolling pin from my aunt. many people swear by them as they can be chilled so that pie crust, (and other dough), will not become loose or stick; it will be more delicate without the use of much added flour when the pastry is rolled. If you are that much into pastry, you won’t need my advice! If you need to read this, stick with added flour.

Move the crust carefully into the pie plate . This is best done by gently folding the dough into quarters and placing the folded point in the middle of the plate. If you use wax or parchment paper, you can invert the crust flat right over the plate. Do not stretch the crust; it will shrink as it bakes. Gather the over-hanging pastry up to the edge and crimp all the way around, then cut off the excess with a sharp knife .If you are going to cut shapes for the edges, cut all around the edge with a sharp knife, then re-roll the pastry a bit thicker and cut shapes. Overlap them around the edge. Press them together.(You may need to slightly dampen your fingers with water to get the cut-outs to stick together but do not over-wet the pastry.)

Before we get started on the recipes,, a couple of them will call for butter , margarine or shortening to be “cut into” flour. This means to incorporate the fat into the flour until it is evenly distributed; it should resemble corn meal. This is the best way to get a flaky crust and there are many ways to make it come about: with a pastry cutter, sometimes called a pastry blender:

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender  helps make flaky crust

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender helps make flaky crust

You can also use a fork, or two knives, (cutting through the flour with both hands simultaneously), or a food processor.

If you need a pre-cooked shell, that is, if you want to put a filling in it that does not need to be baked, you will need to weigh down the pie crust when you bake it to prevent it from shrinking a great deal and lifting up in the bottom. There are pie chains and pie weights you can buy, but generations of bakers have successfully used dried beans. Bake the pie shell at 350F until the desired shade of brown is obtained and when cool, remove the beans, weights or chain.
There are also pie guards available, but I use aluminum foil, in strips, placed lightly over the edges of my pies for the first half of the bake-time. This keeps the top edges of the crust from over-cooking and possibly burning while the rest of the pie bakes , and the crust browns on the bottom.

I prefer to use clear glass,(baking glass, that is Pyrex , tempered glass, etc), to make sure that I can see if the pie is browning on the bottom.

Oil Pastry:

This recipe is the one my mother always used and everyone raved. This one can easily be made vegan.

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. cooking oil (*see note)
¼ cup milk [can be almond or rice]
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt

Measure oil and milk into one container; do not try to mix.
Mix the flour and salt; add the oil and milk quickly and mix thoroughly.
This pastry is best rolled between sheets of waxed paper, or can be rolled using extra flour, which will make it a bit tougher. This makes a delicate crust, but can easily be patched.

*Note: My mother always used vegetable oil. Unless you plan on using this for savory (non-sweet) fillings, please do not use Extra Virgin Olive Oil; it is too ‘olivy’. My personal opinion is that grapeseed oil is too oily for this recipe and canola oil is not oily enough . Nut oils would be a good alternative, especially for sweet pies.
Please see the post just preceding this one on Oils.

“No-Fail” Pie Crust

A friend of mine offered me this recipe and a ‘frisbee’ of one. The recipe makes 4 crusts and she would make a flattened ball ,(her “frisbees”), wrap and freeze the ones she did not use; and so do I.

4+ cups of flour, spooned gently into measuring cups
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ cups vegetable shortening [* see Note]
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg ( or your favorite vegan egg replacer…use prepared replacer mixed thickly or extra finely ground flaxseed or chia seeds. Mix 1-2 Tbsp with 4 Tbsp very hot water and let stand until it is is thick and gelatinous; use 1 -2 Tbsp.This will alter the consistency of the crust, which is quite elastic with egg)
½ cup water.

Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening. Mix the water, egg or egg substitute and vinegar into the flour mixture all at once. Mix thoroughly and divide into fourths. Wrap and chill before using, or freeze in an air-tight bag.
This pastry is too soft to use without pre-chilling. Roll carefully after chilling on well –floured board.

*NOTE: Use pure vegetable shortening, not lard or ‘pre-creamed’ shortening that contains animal fat. If you are concerned about hydrogenated fats, there are non-hydrogenated shortenings on the market, although they are expensive. I found them perfectly suitable , although they make a softer crust that becomes ‘loose’ faster. Chill well.

Old World Crust
This crust is easy and forgiving, you don’t even have to use a pie plate. This is the best choice here for savory fillings. I use this recipe for everything from Rustic Tarts to pot pies to Baked Brie en Croute,(recipe will be in an upcoming series on Appetizers.) For tarts, I sprinkle the inside of the pastry with sugar and then sprinkle a bit on the top before I bake them:

! cup of flour
6 oz cold butter (or margarine for vegan)
1 oz. cream (rice-based or coconut can be used; coconut good for tarts)
½ tsp salt
[egg wash, (beaten egg) to brush on the outside, if you’d like, or brush with melted butter or margarine]
Cut or process the butter into t he flour; add egg and salt. Can be rolled on floured board and used immediately. (This one you will want to roll a little thicker than the others.)

The above recipe can be enriched with a bit of sour cream, mascarpone and /or silken tofu; more flour may be needed.

If you wish to use the above recipes for non-sweet fillings, you can add cracked pepper and/or herbs that compliment the rest of the recipe. Use a light hand in adding extra flavors, however.

Now, here is a recipe that is almost a NON-recipe. Graham-cracker crust is so easy, you’ll be amazed. Vegan Graham crackers are available and with the use of margarine, you are on your way.

Graham Cracker Pastry Crust

I packet (8) Graham crackers, crushed, (Use a food processor or place the crackers in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin until they are crumbs)
or use 1 ½ cups Graham cracker crumbs
[Vegan Graham crackers are available]
½ cup melted butter or margarine

That’s it. Mix these. You’re done.
(You may use cinnamon Graham crackers if you feel it will compliment your filling)

This can be pressed into the bottom and sides of a pie plate or in the bottom of a baking dish. If you need to bake your filling,(custard, pumpkin, etc.), then fill and bake. If you are going to use a non-baked filling,(whipped cream filling, pudding, ice cream, etc.) then pre-bake the crust @ 325F for 15-20 minutes; watch that it does not burn. There is, of course, no reason to weigh this crust down.

Although Graham cracker crust is unsuitable for fruit pies, you can add a layer of fruit or filling over a layer of custard or other thicker layer. Graham cracker crust is THE choice for chilled and ice cream pies.
Homemade Pie for the Non-baker
Here is a dessert that can stand alone or can be placed in a pre-baked Graham or other crust. Trust me, it’s a hit.

Chiffon is an easy, homemde dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon is an easy, homemade dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon

1 package, (regular size), flavored gelatin [Strawberry or strawberry-banana is a favorite in my family, as is peach, but any favorite flavor will do; lime is refreshing.]
1 cup boiling water
3 ounces of Neufchatel (low fat) or regular cream cheese, softened
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar

Add the gelatin to the boiling water and mix well to dissolve. DO NOT ADD ANY MORE WATER; it will be double-strength. Immediately add the softened cream cheese and dissolve. You can use a beater for this. Chill until thick and semi-set.[If it becomes solid, you can microwave it for 30 seconds on high or place in a basin of hot water. Beat with a mixer until smooth]. Whip the cream with sugar until it is very stiff. When the gelatin is chilled and semi-set, add the whipped cream to it. Do not add the whipped cream to the mixture when it is thin and cold.
Fold the cream in gently with a flat spoon or spatula. Now it can be placed in your pie crust and chilled,(or in a serving bowl, in individual bowls or shaped in a gelatin mold. To mold, chill it until very firm and set. Place it in a basin of warm water for a few minutes and invert unto your serving plate.)

If you are still unconvinced that you can make a homemade pie, or just need something nice but fast, try something like this:

Individual homemade 'pies' like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Individual homemade ‘pies’ like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Homemade Pie for the Non-baker

Although I used brandy snifters, believe me, they are just as good in any other type of container, including clear plastic cups.

Pie in a Cup
All you do is place a prepared Graham cracker crust layer, place custard, fruit curd, pudding, etc. over the crumb mixture. Add fruit or berries if desired. You may top with whipped cream or other topping.
Some suggestions:
Apple, pear, peach slices cooked with honey,(or sugar),ginger and or cinnamon. Add or top with crushed nuts.
Or use pie filling. Add vanilla and/or nuts.(Almond is good in cherry filling)
Cooked or fresh berries with custard.
Whip cream cheese , mascarpone or silken tofu with fruit curd or pie filling. Top with more filling or curd.
Lemon or other fruit curd with whipped cream or ice cream.
Ice cream and whipped cream layered and frozen.

Chiffon

(All of these will work in a Graham cracker pie crust, as well).

You have made individual pies and you will make an impression.

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a  beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Rustic Tarts

One recipe Old World Pastry

1 ½ cups thinly sliced pears or apples
3 tsp. butter or margarine
add’l Tbsp melted butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. Sugar,(can be coconut sugar)
beaten egg for egg wash, if desired
1/8 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Roll the dough to a consistent thinness of 1/8 inch ,(no thinner).
Place on a buttered baking sheet or pie plate, (or line with buttered parchment paper.)
Place sliced fruit in the middle, add nuts, if using. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the 3 tsp. butter.
Gently bring the sides up to almost meet in the middle and press close to the filling.
Brush with beaten egg or melted butter or margarine.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Back @350F for approx ½ hour or until browned.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Any questions?

Guest Novelist,Artist Elaina Lee/ Full Day of Recipes

I am so please to FINALLY have our time with Elaina Lee. I have been playing tag with her for some time now! Elaina is a novelist whose other claim-to-fame is her beautiful designs for other writers’ book covers. Here are two of my favorites that capture the essence of the stories within:

Sarah Ballance’s  Hawthorne:

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

And Jeff Salter’s  Called To Arms Again:

Patriotic novel

Patriotic novel

Elaina is going to grace us with a full day of easy and delicious meals for family and friends, so I will let her speak for herself in the prepared notes she sent to me, along with her recipes with photos.

If you have any questions or comments for Either Elaina or me, please feel free to comment below.
I present to you, Elaina Lee:

Hello! I’m Elaina Lee, award-winning author and cover artist. I have two sons, one in the 10th grade, who attends high school, and another who is four and currently being homeschooled. For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to slowly wean us from processed foods. I say slowly because the teen has been having issues giving up the chemicals. When I really began to notice what we were consuming, the lack of recognizable ingredients started to bother me. If it’s going into my children’s mouth, I want to know what it is! At first the task seemed a little daunting. Then as I began to cook and make all our sweets and dinner breads and breakfasts for the week, I realized it wasn’t so hard after all! Plus, the extra money in our pockets has been nice, I’ll admit  I’d like to thank Tonette for having me as a guest today as I share some very simple and delicious recipes. I’ve covered an entire day of meals! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

BREAKFAST –

Delicious and easy Apple Scones

Delicious and easy Apple Scones


Spiced Apple Scones with Icing
These scones are very easy to make, but be prepared to get your hands dirty! To me, that’s half the fun. Sort of like when you were a kid and could ‘bake’ in the mud. *grin* We’re currently in Apple season, so finding a good deal on Apple’s should be breeze for most of you right now, depending on where you live. You will notice an apple theme going on here, as my youngest and I went apple picking for a field trip and I still have apples I’m trying to figure out what to do with! The icing is optional, another great way to make these is to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the tops before baking.

Ingredients –
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled apples, finely chopped (about two apples)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove

Directions –
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside (make sure the bowl isn’t too small, as the sour cream expands in the bowl).

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder cream of tartar, salt and spices. Cut in butter (if you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork for this. The butter can be softened to make this easier, but NOT melted!). Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened (the batter will appear to be very dry, don’t worry). Fold in apples.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then with your hands ‘knead’ the dough until the dough no longer has dry areas (I just fold it over onto itself a few times). Pat dough out until it’s about ¾ inch thick. This is where you’ll get messy!  Using a knife with a sharp edge coated lightly in flour, cut scones into triangles (if you can’t get them perfect, don’t worry, it won’t affect the taste). Each time you cut a new scone, be sure to re-coat your knife so it doesn’t stick into the dough. I keep a small mound of flour off to the side and just lay the knife edge down on both sides before cutting. Place cut pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this stuff is your best friend when baking!) about an inch or so apart.

If you don’t want to frost your scone, sprinkle them with a cinnamon and sugar mixture if desired.

Bake scones for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on bottom.

For the Icing –
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk (more if needed)
1 tbsp corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sift the powdered sugar (a small strainer will do this). Add the milk and mix on a low. Add corn syrup and vanilla. If when thoroughly mixed the frosting is still in lumps, add another tbsp of milk. Add in small increments only! You want your icing to be thick.

You can either spread the icing with a butter knife OR you can spoon the icing into a bag (this is messy, but then you get an excuse to lick your fingers… just sayin’). Cut the very tip off a corner (the smaller the better). Squeeze the bag until icing comes out and now you can pipe the icing over the cooled scones.

And now your done! Yay! Delicious home-made scones! This recipe is very versatile. You can replace the spices with a dash of orange zest and orange extract and use cranberries for the fruit to make orange cranberry scones. Or remove the spices all together and use blueberries. Experiment, have fun, most of all, enjoy!!!

LUNCH –

Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Ham Pasta Salad –

I’m not normally a lunch making gal, I’ll admit. My family at lunch time has to fend for themselves (unless you’re the four year-old. He has it made). But this last weekend my husband, father and oldest son where building the front deck on our house so I had to come up with something. We live a good distance from any store, so I had to be able to make something that I already had in my freezer or fridge for meat and whatever my mom happened to have in her garden for produce. I was lucky enough to stumble across this recipe that is so delicious and can use absolutely anything you have on hand for produce. I’m listing what we used, but if you don’t have it and happen to have broccoli or zucchini, throw it in there! Make the dressing in the morning so the flavors mix together well by lunch. I made the entire thing in the morning and just covered the mixture without the dressing and put it into the fridge until everyone was ready to eat and then mixed everything together before serving.

Ingredients –
8 ounces pasta (shell, macaroni, spiral…)
1 pound cooked ham (I used left over ham and shredded it with a fork, but you can use cubed ham sold in packages)
1 bell pepper (I used green and banana peppers)
1 onion, chopped
1 half large pickle (or whole if you have a pickle loving family), chopped
1 tomato, diced
½ cup sliced black olives
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ tsp beef bouillon granules
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp the pre-chopped stuff)
½ cup pickle juice

In a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic and pickle juice. Cover and refrigerate. Cook pasta according to package directions. While your pasta is cooking, prepare your vegetables. Mix meat, vegetables and pasta in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, add dressing.

This was NOT dry the next day, but we noticed the ham lost its smoky flavor, so we felt this pasta was best served the day of making it. If you’re family prefers bread and butter (sweet) pickles to dill, you can use them instead.  Don’t be scared by the ingredients, this was a hit with everyone in my family who ate it.

DINNER –

Red Beans and Rice –

Ready in a jiffy Red Beans and Rice

Ready in a jiffy
Red Beans and Rice

Being a southern family, my husband loves it when I cook the staples, Red Beans and Rice being of them. This is a simple, very flavorful meal.

Ingredients –
3 cans red beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 celery stalks
1 large can chicken broth (or three normal cans or a can and a box – around six cups)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use the stuff that comes in a big green shaker and is ‘Creole’ – don’t know if I can say a brand, so that’s as specific as I’ll get, LOL!)
1 lb andouille (we use just regular smoked sausage), sliced

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, garlic, celery and sausage until sausage begins to brown and vegetables are soft.

Rinse beans and place into pot with sausage and vegetables. Add broth. Season with bay leaves, cayenne, parsley and Cajun seasoning. Stir. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 2-2 ½ hours.

About twenty to thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat, make enough white rice for everyone. We usually make 1 ½ cups dry or 5 cups prepared.

DESSERT –

Delicious and quick dessert

Delicious and quick dessert

Apple Crisp

I love apple crisp, but for some reason had yet to make it. I needed a dessert for Tonette, and this can be one of those areas of baking that can be intimidating. Thinking of something simple that wasn’t a cookie was a challenge. While everyone loves cookies, I wanted something outside the box, but that was as easy as a cookie. Enter the crisp. I may actually make this again this weekend it was that good!

Ingredients –
6 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
½ tsp ground clove (optional)
2 tbsp water
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (yes another one!)
½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350

Mix the sugar, 1 tbsp of flour, cinnamon, ginger, clove, apples and water together in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and butter together. Place half the mixture in the bottom of an 8×8 dish. Gently pat to form a crust. Place apples on crust. Sprinkle the remaining mixture over the apples.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

I hope everyone enjoys these recipes and I’d like to thank Tonette for having me!

If you’re in the mood for a fun, light-hearted read to wrap up summer, be sure to check out my Southern Romantic Comedy, A Very Southern Affair. Available now for only $0.99!!!

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

You can find Elaina at – http://www.elainalee.com

OR

www.forthemusedesign.com

Thank you so much for joining us, Elaina.I’m sure many of our readers will enjoy using your recipes, and, I hope, enjoy your work.

Don’t be a stranger!

Anyone care to ask a question of Elaina, or make a comment?

Care Packages

The post of a month ago I suggested being prepared by keeping and emergency bag packed and how I have used them as gifts, especially for anyone anticipating a hospital stay.
I am going to reiterate many of the suggestions plus food suggestions for those who travel for work or research, those in the armed services, in the Peace Corp, on mission, students in college or boarding schools, personnel with limited funds or away from cities, indeed, anyone who is away from home and could use a boost or some hard-to–find items.

Care packages for those serving overseas can make quite a difference to those especially in isolated or dangerous spots. Thank Heaven for flat-rate U.S. Postal boxes! It makes this sort of package affordable. When my son was in Iraq, I sent many boxes to him filled with foodstuffs,(just before the flat rates took effect!). He liked to volunteer at the hospital on base and would be there odd hours, or when his guard shift was late. The closest mess hall would close early and the trek to the open one made for much less sleep-time, so he would nosh on the parcels from home. I also sent personal items to a young female medic serving in Afghanistan, and helped with a church group that sent packages to service personnel. We sent  boxes  to a priest friend in Guatemala.Here are some ideas for any and all away from home. After all, even President Jimmy Carter sent ‘care packages’ to his mother when she was serving as a nurse in India with the Peace Corps, and a friend of mine had  daughters in college and then in a convent. Their request was always for their mom to send my Chocolate Drop Cookies.(Recipe :January 2013 archive.)

Foodstuffs generally need to be non-liquid, non-perishable, (that is, do not need refrigeration before or after opening). Depending on the taste of the recipient, (or a good guess), drink mixes are a good bet,(instant tea, pre-sweetened “Koolaid”, lemonade or Tang). Local and purified water can be, well, yucky. Depending on the weather, hot chocolate mix, Ovaltine, or instant coffees are good, as well as some powdered, flavored creamers and water-enhancers,(Crystal Light), and powdered milk. Unlike when I was trying to find them for my son’s boxes, sugar packets or small containers,(including coconut sugar) are more easily found these days, along with many other small or single-serving size condiments.(Hot sauces, picante sauce, mustard, mayo, ketchup are big hits.) Herb blends,(Mrs. Dash or mixed herbs), pepper and regular and flavored salts go a long way to help bring flavor to bland foods.Cheese powders are also good and available through some stores and mail order , such as King Arthur Flour.[King Arthur Flour]

Here is a limited list to mix and match in the boxes. Try to give a variety in each package, even if you plan on sending more than one box.

Chips, Pretzels (of any kind)
Flavored crackers,(peanut butter, cheese, herbed)
Dry cookies*
[* Unless you know the recipient’s taste, stick with comfort/basics. Animal crackers are surprisingly popular. Homemade cookies can easily become moldy, as my mother found out when shipping goodies to my brother in Viet Nam. My uncle sent them by the slowest mail; it was a waste and a disappointment. Please make sure cookies and crackers do not get squashed or crushed]
Dried fruits: raisins, Crasins, cherries, pineapple… there are many kinds in every market; for the most varieties, check the “Natural Food” aisles; Fruit in squeeze pouches

Instant oatmeal or grits

Dried peas
Corn nuts and Mixed snacks
Nuts, of all types,including sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Hard candies [No chocolate for hot climates, it melts too easily. Go for butterscotch, mints, hard caramels, “Smarties”, hard wafers, Tic-Tacs, jaw breakers, “Nips”, “Red Vines”/”Twizzlers”, etc. individually wrapped. Any gum sent to a hot climate should be candy-coated: Gumballs or “Chiklets”]

Granola and cereal bars
Energy bars
Potato sticks
Tuna ,Salmon , Chicken in foil packets, including prepared filets and salads
Individual canned vegetables, fruits and ready-to-eat meat, dishes, (enchiladas, hash, stews)
Canned cooked beef and chicken, ‘deviled’ or spread and Vienna sausages (all available in chicken)
[Please note that in Muslim-run countries and territories, pork products,( such as Deviled ham and mixed Vienna  sausages), are not allowed to be imported, nor are any products containing alcohol,(which would be a bad idea anyway). Even if the recipient is not in the military, Armed Services sites are a wealth of information for do’s and don’ts. When in doubt in areas not covered by the US military sites ,please contact the country’s embassy/consulate or check with the individual school or institution.Some do not allow nut or peanut products. You would not want for your recipient to lose all of their goodies and possibly lose other priviledges.

NOTE: Overseas packages must contain a list of all items on a form from the Post Office. PLEASE fill it out as you pack.Add lines and write clearly, but small,if necessary.

Peanut or tree nut butters, with or without chocolate or jelly mixed in them, preferably in plastic jars
Dried beef
Beef or Turkey jerky

Use your imagination and good sense.  The needs of a young person away at school or a Marine in Iraq would be quite different, as would the needs of a nurse serving in a village in Africa or a teacher on an Indian reservation. Take into consideration the weather, food-knowledge and equipment available to the recipient. A college student with a refrigerator and microwave  can receive more than a missionary on the move through jungle climates.

Leave all foods in their original, sealed packaging,(you may remove the outside boxes to save space.) Please include zipper-close plastic bags for un-finished chips, cookies, etc.

Person items are very much appreciated by all who are away from home, especially in a distant land. Here are some suggestions for both sexes:
Stick deodorant
Bar soaps
Decent disposable razors
Lip balm
Cotton swabs
Body/foot powders
Moist wipes
Pre-moistened, (or dry, impregnated with cleanser), facial cloths
Flavored floss picks
toothpaste
toothbrushes
Ointments or creams in tubes, (such as Vitamin A&D,)
Gold Bond, Lanacaine or other anti-chafing gel or sticks
Stick or towelette insect repellant
Coco butter sticks
Cake or push-tube moisturizer,( available through “Faith, Soaps and Love” [Faith , Soaps and Love
these can also be taken on-board an airplane in carry-on luggage; they are an excellent idea)
Slipper socks/thick socks/booties…for sheer comfort
Eye mask (sleep mask)
Ear plugs
nail files and clippers, large and small
tweezers

One possible ‘liquid’ would be single-use eye drops

Other items that are helpful are puzzle and game books, card games, note paper and envelopes, mechanical pencils and pens, prepaid phone cards. G or PG type books, (informative are good, as are clean joke books; “Garfield”,”Wizard of Id”, etc.) General interest stickers are huge with kids everywhere.

Anyone around children would appreciate crayons and coloring books or non-aggressive paperback coloring books.(Avoid sending any particular type of religious unless you are certain it is acceptable.)

Pack as tightly as possible to avoid shifting  and breakage,(without crushing foods). Open bags of candy and individual packets of cocoa or oatmeal to fill in spots and scatter small candy into crevasses.

Please feel free to make any additional suggestions that you can think of in the comment section so others can use them, too.

I hope you will consider sending some comfort to someone who is away from home and could use a little support. I have found that care packages do as much, if not more, for the soul as for the body.

Guest Accommodations

Unless you have extra rooms or you are an ’empty nester’, you may be pressed for room when you have someone stay overnight or longer. Consider planning ahead and being creative.
Years ago I had the most darling townhouse. I had planned on finishing the basement and adding a bedroom, as many people in the complex had, but I never got that far. The two bedrooms upstairs were occupied by my husband and me in one and the other by our sons. What I did do was instead of buying a sofa, I put a daybed in the living room. We had several guests stay on it and it came in very handy when my husband broke his ankle which made going upstairs very difficult. It was very handy when I was ill, as I could rest while the kids were nearby. And it was deep and comfortable enough for the boys to nap on when they were little.
When we moved, it was here, twelve-hundred miles away to a bigger place, but no one liked my daybed. The people here refused to sit on it. It didn’t look like a bed, per se. Even with its cover set and some extra sofa-type throw pillows, it just wasn’t something the “Locals” accepted. So I moved some of my book shelves from my ‘library’, moved them into the living room and put the daybed in there. Someone I knew was moving and offered a sofa-bed to me, which I put in the living room. Someone else offered a nice set of bunk beds which I put in one son’s room. The other son decided that he liked the top bunk, so I had an extra bed in his room. When an old friend brought his son and three daughters to visit us, I had more than enough room for them all. I no longer have all that room, the daybed is gone. But I still have the bunk beds and I now have a double bed in the other bedroom, and we have always had a roll-away bed. So although it is usually just my husband and me, we often have our grandson, and sometimes our two granddaughters, stay with us. What we have now, I have plenty of room when my cousin, her husband and their two children come from two states away for Thanksgiving, which is nice.
That is a luxury, I know, but if you don’t have a spare room or two, do consider a sofa bed, a daybed, or a futon that flattens out or some of the other ideas within this posting.
There are air mattresses that I am told are very comfortable and convenient; frankly, I could not get up and down from them any more,(bad knees). I had a group of young people here some years back and even the recliners were taken as sleeping places. (I insisted that fitted sheets be pulled over the chairs before they slept and they really make an acceptable bed.)
Be creative. If there are young people, consider using the floor. With enough extra quilts underneath, it usually works. Young ones like to build ‘houses” or ‘tents’, in living rooms or on the floors of their parent’s room; let them have fun.
If you have camping equipment, pad and sleeping bags work well for this. If you don’t have pads, use quilts.

Find those quilts on sale and be stocked; throw none away when they are a bit worn, you redecorate or change the size of your bed, and that goes for sheets. You can always use them as ‘tents’ or for sofas and chairs. Where do you put them? Under beds, up high in closets, stacked on the floor in closets, in cubby-holes under stairs, piled on a spare bed, or folded and stacked in an empty corner of a bedroom or den, out of the way. You can use one of those extra sheets or thinner bedspreads to cover them, if you don’t have the blanket bags they came in. (If you sew or know someone with a sewing machine, you can straight-stitch a couple of sheets and make “bags” for the blankets…You could do it by hand. You can buy blanket storage bags. If you have room, you can buy a blanket box. (I have a large one, but it holds material for sewing projects that I usually take forever to get done!). Is anyone old enough to remember “Hope Chests”? In some circles they were given to teenage girls in the ‘hope’ for their future home. In it they collected fancy housewares, especially linens, to take with them to their home when they got married. I am sure this practice in the United States has fairly well died-out, since it was a hangover from a girl going into a marriage with a dowry and a trousseau. At any rate, if there is one in your family or you find one at a garage sale, grab it. They were made to fit at the bottom of a bed and can be used as a blanket box. A foot locker will do, too. Fine blanket boxes can be placed in any room and could easily be used as a coffee table, or if padded as mine is, can be as a window seat or a bench.

Some of my quilts are in a wardrobe, some stay stacked on an unused chair in my bedroom. And do have extra pillows. You can put shams on them and leave them in plain sight or even used on a bed sofa as boosters.
There are a number of not only sofas but large chairs out there that open up to beds. I have seen a revival of ‘trundle beds’, small, low beds that roll out from under other beds. These are nice for children to have guests in for ‘sleep-overs’. Some people are putting “Murphy beds” in rec rooms, dens or bedrooms that they usually use for other purposes. Murphy beds are beds that pull down from a wall, they were very common in studio apartments at one time. They are usually hidden behind fold-away doors until needed; sometimes they look like paneling or stand free in a frame that looks like a set of shelves. Some hidden, fold-away beds are build to slowly lower and gently tuck the shelves that usually show underneath, so that the shelves are useful,(they remain upright and won’t dump what is held on them; think “Ferris Wheel”). Some fold away beds are build high, over another bed, to be pulled down when needed;( think “train compartment”).
I have seen antique furniture that look like a dresser, but found that they open to a bed. I guess people have always looked for a place to put guests when they have little space. The modern answer to that are upholstered ‘cubes’ that look like a large ottoman but unfolds to a narrow bed. Very convenient! I have seen what looks like a nice upholstered bench that turns into a single bed, as well.
Some of the newer, lighter, ‘roll-away’ beds now fold very flat and can be stored under another bed, or daybed. Or some that look like a beautiful narrow upholstered or wooden box that will fit up against a wall or behind a piece of furniture.

So, seriously consider where you just might be able to have an extra person or two sleep, or as I did, have a, (reasonably), comfortable place on each floor of your home, be it a daybed, futon, or fold-out sofa/chair or a hidden bed. You never know when you just might get a chance to have a nice visit with someone, or, in keeping with my recent theme, be prepared in an emergency.

Emergency Preparedness IV; Storing supplies/Hosting

I have heard from a number of people, (some commented here), on how they had not realized how unprepared or vulnerable they are. We don’t need to panic or live in fear, I’d just like to see everyone be a little more comfortable in a power-outage, with or without extenuating problems,(extreme cold or heat, for example).And many of the extras I suggest can be very handy when you have guests.

I have practiced what I preached, as we had a major thunderstorm and tornado warning last week. It was dark and I was alone. I placed a large candle-in-a-glass in the middle of my table and a flashlight next to it. Twenty minutes later, when the lights went out, I could find my way to the flashlight, which led me to other candles,(see the previous post on candles and safety).I lit enough to allow myself to read until my husband came home 40 minutes later. When we retired, I left one candle in a jar burning in the bathroom, in front of the mirror to reflect and so, magnify, the light, on the porcelain, away from anything flammable,(and where the cats would not jump up).

I am going to suggest more things to have and put aside for such a possibility but the first questioning your mind may be where do I put it? Even though I suggest that all of the food and other items be what you do like and usually eat or use, you should put the ones that you store for emergencies where they are easily found, especially in low light. If you have room, you can dedicate a shelf or two in your kitchen cabinets, linen closet and/or utility room. OK, now that you have stopped laughing, we’ll find the room, even in a small apartment.(You wouldn’t believe how stocked I was in a tiny apartment we once had in a charming little Gingerbread-House, a converted farm building.)
Even though my kitchen cabinets here are crowded, I found room for small boxes in the back recesses. I don’t understand the people who built this house; there are deep corners where the cabinets fit in next to each other and those sections are useless except for storage. As a certified, (or certifiable), ‘foodie’, I have most of that space occupied with extras found on sale and things I don’t use very often. Perhaps you have a cabinet that is hard to get to, like over the refrigerator? That’s a good place for storage.

If you have little space in your cabinets, look up. Do you have an open area between the cabinets and ceiling? No, I don’t suggest that you stack up cans there, but you can find attractive, square baskets, fabric boxes or cover your own cardboard boxes with contact paper, fabric,(glue it), or decoupage them and store extras there. However, avoid putting your stored foods just above or next to your oven. Avoid heat when possible.
For small packages, boxes, tea candles, etc. I use these decoupaged cans; I have made larger boxes for storage in the same manner:decoupage cans

I also use them for pasta and grains, flours and nuts, tea and coffee, (those that come in packages, such as beans that I grind.) I store small holiday items in some, nightlight bulbs in another. I made some for my family. One has airplanes and I have small military items my son has stored from his Air National Guard service.
These are simple to make. I do them when watching TV or movies on the computer. Cut out pictures from catalogs, books, magazines, calendars or greeting cards, use simple white glue on the front and back of the papers. Overlap the pictures and allow them to dry. Spray them with clear spray paint and allow to dry. Spray the bottoms of the cans to stave-off rust. (You can use decoupage medium such as ModgePodge and/or spray the cans afterward with acrylic craft spray, but these are more expensive.

Storage boxes 006

How about your closets? I have small closets with even smaller doors. There are difficult recesses and they have space on the high shelves that can only be used for storage; you can store boxes there, but if it gets hot, store the food on the floor. If you get low boxes, you can even put your shoes on top of them. Put other essentials,(which I will talk about soon), on the shelves.

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Have your essentials easy-to-find, but out-of-sight!

Mix and match boxes and baskets.If you buy any used, please make sure they can be thoroughly cleaned before you use them.

Consider low boxes that fit under your bed, or even under a sofa. (Make sure they slide out for cleaning purposes.) Consider using old, hard-sided suitcases. I have plastic ‘flats’ for plants that I have cleaned that slide under my beds. I use them for smaller boxes and shoes; they slide out easily.
Thin boxes can go behind doors. Better yet, thin cabinets or shelving can go behind doors and you can use the suggestions for over-the cabinet, pretty boxes to store there.

You can find inexpensive over-the-door canned goods shelving for utility rooms or that can go inside of closets. If you have a laundry room, or laundry area, think about where you can add a shelf, or standing shelves and bins. Again, look up. There is usually wasted space there before you reach the top.
Use medium to large plastic storage containers and stack them, even in plain sight. You may have a corner that you overlook every day, and you’d never miss the space.
If you don’t have shelving in your bathroom that goes over your toilet, you are cheating yourself. You should have a vanity under the sinks or put ‘skirts’ up around them to create storage…not for your food, but for a few extra cleaners, paper products, toiletries and first aid supplies.

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

an extra shelf in your bathroom can hold supplies

Easy storage in my bathroom

Easy storage in my bathroom

 

You don’t need to set yourself up with a mini-clinic, but do keep first aid supplies in your home and make sure they don’t run out. Anyone can afford to stock up slowly at dollar-only markets, at your local, major discount store, or in your grocers with sales and coupons. Have adhesive bandages of several sizes, some gauze and medical tape. An ‘Ace’ bandage is a good idea, as well. Keep antibiotic ointment and another ointment, such as vitamin A&D ointment for soothing.(I have always had to keep them on hand as one of my sons is allergic to topical antibiotics), and an anti-itch cream,(like Lanacaine). Have a bottle of alcohol and I suggest, witch hazel. Rotate bottles of peroxide and iodine-based wound cleaners,(‘Betadine’-type), often and keep them out of sunlight as they both break down rather quickly, which is why peroxide comes in dark bottles. You probably know that water ‘s formula is H2O,( two hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom). Hydrogen peroxide’s formula is H2O2, and it beaks down to water in short order when exposed to light and after a certain amount of time.
Have clean cotton and swabs on hand. Keep some antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, pain relief and aspirin. Antiseptic mouthwash,(‘Listerine’ and knock-offs), can double as wound cleaner.
Make sure you have plenty of soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, extra tooth brushes, deodorant, body powders, and anything else that you may use. This is always a good idea. Unexpected or unprepared, forgetful guests would be thrilled for you to be able to supply their needs, especially if their mistake isn’t spotted until it is very late or a very inconvenient time to rush out. I once found myself suddenly keeping 3 extra boys under 9, (plus my own two), for a weekend. Their mother, who had planned on them going with her, had packed their toothbrushes in with all the toiletries and took the bag with her. Fortunately, I had enough extras. Keep a few on hand; I have had other children come to stay overnight and boys are notorious for forgetting toothbrushes…and you or your guest could always drop yours in the toilet.
(I keep plastic shoe boxes with the extras in the bottom of my linen closet. They are neat and they stack.)
I know it is often difficult with insurance policies, but try to keep ahead of prescription medications and if you need other supplies,(like diabetic supplies), please don’t run low, you never know. The same must be said for feminine hygiene, incontinence supplies and disposable diapers.

Please consider always keeping extra pump-spray cleaners, disinfectant spray and wipes on hand. With low water supplies and a long wait for utilities to be restored, you will be grateful to have them.

You might take a moment to consider what would happen if you could not do your laundry for a few days. That reason alone makes me try never to let my hampers get too backed-up. I certainly never let anyone’s underwear supply get low!

Another thing I beg you to make room for is extra toilet paper and paper towels, and I suggest, some paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery. These can be stored up high,(they are light), or where it gets too warm to store food and medical supplies, (even in a crawlspace, attic, garage, outdoor storage that doesn’t leak.) You don’t need a lot, a little goes a long way in an emergency and to be without is…well, not good. And you don’t want to use up your possibly limited water supply by cleaning dishes. And keep extra heavy-duty trash bags to dispose of the used paper products. A little extra in the landfill because of an emergency will not ruin the planet.(Please use disposables responsibly at other times. Try never to use foam and I usually wash and reuse plastic cutlery.)

I hope you have zipped through my previous Emergency Preparedness posts and have gotten an idea or two. Please don’t be caught unaware and unprepared. You just never know.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Next time, we’ll talk about where to put extra guests!

Emergency Preparedness III heating/lighting

So far, we have been talking about being prepared for an emergency food-wise. I’d like to continue that thought today and segue into heating and lighting. In previous posts on freezing foods,[September 2012 Archives], I mentioned that I have been pre-cooking most of the foods I place in the freezer. It makes for easier, quicker meals and it is very convenient for unexpected guests, including my sons and grandkids, who each have specific tastes in food. It is handy for when I am unwell or we get unexpectedly busy. But the best reason is that if my power goes out, the food will not spoil as quickly, we would not have to either heat up an already hot house to much to cook it thoroughly, or waste fuel reserves when it is cold, and we could easily share it if problem went on long enough.

Cooking food in a power outage is a major problem, unless you have a natural gas or propane stove and you have no electric circuitry in your stove. Even so, you have to consider safely thawing your foods to prevent bacterial growth and any clean-up, which may be difficult if your water supply is compromised. People who have fireplaces in their houses or apartments could conceivably cook in them, or if they have places with patios or balconies, they could cook on a grill or hibachi. But please be careful.
Here are some drawbacks:
#1. It may be hard to maintain cleanliness
#2 . You must ALWAYS keep doors and windows shut to keep the smoke and carbon monoxide from entering your living area; this will be hard because in the heat, you may need the airflow or in the cold, because, well, you’ll be cold
#3 You must NEVER burn charcoal inside. You can not see or smell it, but carbon monoxide is a killer and any open flame produces it .Charcoal is the worst offender, but one night my husband closed our fireplace before the compressed logs we had been using were completely burned out; they were just smoldering embers. One of my sons woke me up about 2 AM and I thought I was getting stomach virus because I was nauseated. I passed out in front of my husband, (who had been upset to have been awakened)…and I never felt it coming. Afterward, he passed out in front of me,(and he never felt that coming). I had enough presence of mind to realize that we had carbon monoxide in the house. I brought him to, then crawled to the windows, flung them open and breathed. I went to our sons’ room, (where the CO had not entered), and woke them again. I opened their windows. My husband made his way downstairs to open every door and window…and the chimney flue. I did not know then that we should have called the fire department, who would have not only administered oxygen to us, (as we felt bad for two days; the boys were untouched), but they also would have ventilated our house with their huge fans. We had a really close call. Had the boy not gotten me up, we’d have died in our sleep.
You also must be certain that your fireplace flue is not only opened, but that snow or fallen branches have not blocked the chimney and the upward draft is unimpeded.

We do have a nice, large kerosene heater that we pull in from storage every year by November and usually haul back unused in May. It sits in the corner of my dinning room,(unlit, of course), with a tablecloth thrown over it because it isn’t pretty, but it is beautiful when the power is out in Winter for days at a time. We put it in the middle of the room when it is in use, and we NEVER leave it going without someone in the room. We also have a carbon monoxide detector on the wall; it is the only use for it, as we have an all-electric home. My son has the same type of heater. During a long, massive power outage several winters ago,( due to a huge ice storm), my son called and said that they were doing well and that his wife had mastered cooking over the heater. I called her the next day and asked her how she did it. She stopped dead on the phone for a long pause. “Wait a minute; I have to relish this. YOU are asking ME for cooking advice!” She told everyone she knew, (and I think she still tells new people she meets).

But the heaters are not necessary. Have ready-to-eat foods, preferably in easy-open containers, single serving sized for anything perishable, and have zipper-lock bags for boxed crackers, cereal, etc. (See previous Emergency Preparedness posts.)

I had oil lamps, but I feel that they are not worth the danger. In emergency situations, the last thing you want is an extra emergency like fire or injury. Emergency personnel may be tied-up rescuing others or unable to reach you because of bad, blocked , broken or flooded roads. Water lines may also be cut off or frozen and pumping stations may be down.

I have flashlights and keep extra batteries in a box under my bed. Buy good batteries, (alkaline), on sale if necessary and keep them in a cool spot. I also have a flashlight that you shake to create the current to run it. I have found flashlights that are run by hand-crank; they have radios in them and even a charger for a cell phone. I have given them as gifts. They are not expensive and can be found at major discount stores. But beware; in a major outage cell phone towers could lose function and cordless phones do not work without electricity. I keep one direct landline phone in my house.

Back to lighting, I like to have candles around so I can see. Tripping over the cats, (who don’t understand that we can’t see them as well as they can see us), and breaking an ankle is not an option. However, I have NO OPEN FLAMES; a candle can go over at any time, a piece of lit wick can break off or a draft can blow a flame into something flammable. Here are examples of what I use:Candles 002

Most of these are part of my décor, so they are easy to find. I have more candles handy in a convenient box. I usually buy them on clearance.(I found bags of 100 apple-spice tea lights at my grocery store for 50¢ a couple of months ago). I also have wooden matches which I keep in a tin or aluminum box. This keeps them from becoming damp and useless, and if they are ‘strike anywhere’ matches, it keeps them safe from accidentally striking and causing a fire. (Mice have been known to start fires by gnawing them.) Keep these in one, handy place and always in the same place. If I move things after they have been in one spot, I am hard-pressed to remember where the new place is. You don’t want to be hunting for them in the dark with a flashlight between your teeth.
As you can see some of these candle holders have chimneys; I put most of them there. They can be picked up cheaply at discount stores or not-new shops. I frequent charity thrift shops. I feel good giving them the money and reusing items, but I have been known to stop off to donate bags of what I have decluttered from the house only to walk out with more than I came in with.
The brass lantern was Mother’s Day gift from one of my sons some years ago. You can reuse large candle glassware,(large devotional candle-type), by standing tapers or thin pillar candles in them. Any not-too-thin glass can double as a tea or votive candle holder; I have used brandy snifters. Remember to keep candles on thick, preferably ceramic, surfaces, like a plate, or on Formica or granite/marble table-tops; the heat of the burned-to-the-bottom candle in a thin-bottomed, (usually glass), container can start a fire on wooden tables or any type of table covering. Please keep any burning candle away from edges and where no one will try to reach over them. Even if no fire starts, tipped-over, hot wax can cause deep burns.

We have several of ‘boom-box’ radio-CD players in our house. One is dedicated as our emergency radio. We usually keep it plugged in but we have fresh batteries that are in a box in a drawer right under it, not to be used or borrowed for any other use, no matter how fussy a kid might be when a toy wears its batteries out, (hence the box of batteries under my bed!)

Remember, even if you are alone and you may think that you need only a candle or two, or a little bit of food, think: what if you had a guest and an emergency developed?

 

Next, as promised, we’ll find places to store our extra supplies.

 

Do you have any ideas that I might have failed to mention? Any Questions?

Sweetest,(and Last) Award

Last but not least Fae, of Fae’s Twist and Tango, has nominated me for The Super Sweet Blogging Award, which is funny, because I just had a discussion with Princess Rosebud, The Tugboat Captain’s Wife, [http://enchantedseashells.com]  as to whether I was ‘sweet’ or not. Frankly, I’m not always, but my baked-goods, candy and desserts are!

So, as much as I have appreciated all the awards that have come my way, I am going to retire from them after I acknowledge and play along with this one. Fellow bloggers have been very SWEET to me, but the awards are extremely time-consuming; I do not wish to disappoint or ignore anyone who has been so kind as to give me a boost and a pat-on-the-back, but I am taking a lot of time away from my blogs and other endeavors. I will not be contacting those mentioned below, as many of them have had many awards given to them previously.

I hope all of you visit those I mention here and have in my previous Award posts. I have tried to spread the joy and kindness around that I have been shown. And I hope to visit all of you and many more. Leave me comments! I will always give you a personal answer.

Xmas cookies

This badge does not have to be the badge exhibited in your blog.
Please exhibit Super Sweet Blogging Award badge of your choice.

And now The Super Sweet Blogging Award questions:

1. Cookies or Cake? Cookies

2. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? Chocolate and nuts or strawberry shortcake

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? After eating a meal.

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? I have no answer for that!

The Baker’s Dozen I want to acknowledge, (or nominate, if they care to participate), in no particular order:
[Note: not all of these are food blogs]

Earth in Black and White http://earthinbw.wordpress.com

Canadian Hiking Photography http://hikingphoto.com

Lisa Is Cooking http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com

Sarah Ballance http://sarahballance.wordpress.com

Witchin’ in the Kitchen http://witchinkitchen.wordpress.com

Rocco (Toni Lo Tempio; interviews) http://www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com/

Homemade with a Mess http://homemadewithmess.wordpress.com/

Mama’s Gotta Bake http://mamasgottabake.wordpress.com

Laura Love to Cook http://en.gravatar.com/lauramm082

Iconically Rare http://iconicallyrare.com

Sufey http://sufey.org

Rants From My Crazy Kitchen http://rantsfrommycrazykitchen.com

I Married an Irish Farmer http://www.networkedblogs.com/blog/i_married_an_irish_farmer

Requirements:

1 Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2 Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3 Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.
4 Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (= 13)** blogs the award, a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5 Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Candy of Lovely Buns [lovelybuns.wordpress.com] nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award sometime back. I am so sorry I waited this long to acknowledge and pass it along.
I will not, however, be contacting those I mention below. I hope you check out all of my blogging friends in this post , the previous and the next, as I intend to honor those who honored me with ‘nominations’ but I truly cannot spend the large amounts of time the lovely, encouraging and thoughtful awards entail. Thank all of you for your consideration .

Yet another considerate  award

Yet another considerate award

7 things about myself:

1: I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area
2: I lived out west, in Idaho and then in the Denver, Colorado area
3: I now live smack-dab in the middle of Kentucky (USA)
4: I have been married for over 30 years,(to the same man!)
5: I have two grown sons
6:I have 3 beautiful and smart grandchildren
7: I am having a ball with blogging!

Since I just nominated a group of bloggers for the last award, I would like to ‘nominate’ (acknowledge) others for this one.

They are :

The Clotheslinehttp://theclotheslineie.wordpress.com/

Arlen Shahverdyan http://arlenshah.wordpress.com

EpEva http://epicureaneva.com/

The Healthy Flavor, http://thehealthyflavor.com

Plant Based Diet http://plantbaseddietadventures.com/author/plantbaseddietadventures/

Bam’s Kitchen http://bamskitchen.com

Manningtree, http://manningtreearchive.com/

eclectilamb http://en.gravatar.com/eclecticlamb

Sarah Balance http://sarahballance.wordpress.com/

Perky Poppyseed http://theperkypoppy.com

A Taste of Wintergreenhttp://lindymechefske.com/

Albertocook http://en.gravatar.com/albertocook

Chef in Disguise http://chefindisguise.com/

The Cooking Doctor http://www.thecookingdoctor.co.uk/

Rules for acceptance of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award: — 1. Display the award logo on your blog. 2. Link back to the person who nominated you.3. State 7 things about yourself. 4. Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. 5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seafood Pasta Salad

When one of my husband’s former students was getting married, friends threw a “Kitchen Shower” and they asked for a recipe to go into a file box for her. I gave her the recipe below, since she was a Catholic marrying another ‘good’ Catholic. I put a note saying, “This is good for Fridays during Lent”. He sister said, “No! It’s cheese enchiladas every Friday during Lent!” Their father was of French descent, but their mother was Mexican. Her enchiladas were delicious, if a bit hot for me…even her ‘mild ones’. It seems some of their children had her taste buds, but some of them had their French genes show up there and the Mom had to make both types.
However, in keeping with the seafood theme I have been running, this is a recipe that is not only good for Lent, but we eat it often in the summer. It is cool and can be made up to a day ahead of time,(and earlier, if you add the lettuce later.)

It is versatile; You can use any grilled fish, crab meat or lobster,(although I have never used lobster). I usually use ‘imitation’ crab meat, but only those that are made with crab meat and real whitefish,(usually Pollock). Read the labels; many ‘imitation crab meats’ are made with Surimi, which is the fish equivalent of ‘pink slime’ that has been creeping into ground beef. These are made from scrap flesh that have been processed. It is considered ‘natural’ but I find it tasteless and rubbery. I avoid it .Brands made without it is about the same price; I see no reason to buy the ones that contain surimi.
Vegetable pastas add a bit more nutrition and flavor, and the color makes it all the more attractive.

Today’s is made with shrimp,(not farmed; the smaller they are the more affordable) and bow-tie pasta. I usually use rotini or fiori; they hold together through the mixing process better and looks much more impressive.

One-bowl easy meal for warm weather or Lent

One-bowl easy meal for warm weather or Lent

Seafood Pasta Salad

½ lb of sturdy pasta, preferably ‘garden or tri-colored'( rotini, radiatore, wagon wheels or fiori,), slightly under-cooked

2 hard-cooked (hard-boiled) eggs, minced or riced

½ lb(or more) grilled fish, small shrimp ,crab meat or imitation crab

½ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup sliced or diced black olives (optional; one son does not like them)

1/3 cup thinly sliced celery

1/8 cup minced onion, (green onions or yellow bulb onions

¼ tsp. celery salt (or regular/sea salt)
1 tsp paprika

½ tsp celery seed (optional)

1 ½ cups shredded lettuce,(leaf or red can be used, but iceberg holds up the best)

1 cup prepared mayonnaise

Cook and cool the pasta and eggs.
Place the mayo, celery seed,(if using), paprika, and onion in a large bowl. Mix.
Add carrots, celery and olives,(again, if using), and mix well.
Fold in pasta and then gently fold in lettuce.(If serving more than 16 hours ahead, wait to add lettuce).
Chill and serve.

You have a nice, one –bowl meal that is wonderful for a Spring or Summer luncheon, light dinner or potluck

Lent/Easy Baked Fish

Lent sneaked upon me!. Although time sure got away, here I am, back in time for Ash Wednesday anyway. I hope that you learn a bit about cooking fish and try some of the recipes in the upcoming weeks, especially if you have had bad experiences with seafood. [Please check into the July and August Archives for meatless protein combinations to add to your repertoire of Lenten meals.]

If you have read the “About ” of this blog, you’ll know it started out as an answer to a
plea for help with Lenten dishes, and more meatless recipes throughout the year.
Where I now live was once considered “The Holy Land of the South”, where it was highly Catholic, but even the Baptists here do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday.

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

Easy, baked fish for Lenten meals or any time

For those of you who do not understand, going meatless on Ash Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent,(and in past times, on all Fridays and certain other days), were considered ‘penitential’ or done as a sacrifice. That is why instead of the year-long Friday ‘abstinence’,(abstaining from meat),the faithful in many parts of the world have been given the option of doing something different, perhaps giving up something more in tune with sacrifice for them or ,( even better), for them to take on something…do good works, help someone, give of themselves. I am in favor of that, because, frankly, many meatless meals are far from penitential.
For example, a great couple I knew happened to be one of Old New York Presbyterian money who married Irish Catholic Boston/Philadelphia money. When their nest was empty one Lent, she bemoaned the fact that she did not want to cook fish just for herself. He gallantly stated that he had felt like a good steak anyway, so he took her off to a fine restaurant. They were seated and she left for the ladies’ room. When she returned, they were at the table for some time when she asked, “Where is the waiter with the menus?” He replied, “Oh, he came right away before you came back; I ordered for you?”
“What did you order for me?” she asked.
He replied, “Lobster”.
“JACK!”, she cried.
“What?” he answered, “It’s not meat”.
“That’s not the idea!” ,she practically wailed. Believe me, it would have been far more penitential for her to have gotten a cheeseburger at McDonald’s.

However, we’re going with the flow and going meatless when proscribed and any other time we wish, even if they end up being better meals than quick, meat-laden ones.

Before we start, let me say that I happen to be living in an landlocked area in the United States, and have been for many years. I miss my fresh seafood. Unless you are in another part of the world where you know your seafood is safe, or if you live in the U.S. on a coast and can get truly fresh seafood, your best choice for fish is fresh frozen filets , (alliteration unintended), or shrimp and the like. Most of the fish are caught and processed onboard ship, so they are ‘fresher’ than the ‘fresh’ fish you may be buying from your grocer’s seafood case. Check labels, fine print and ask the counter people. You may find that what they are selling had been previously frozen anyway. They have thawed it, and it’s been sitting around. You better cook that seafood immediately and don’t even think about freezing it again at home.
My next statement may be controversial, but let me tell you why I do it: I buy mostly wild-caught fish. I am concerned about over-fishing; I would like to see food and the fish be sustainable, but most fish and shrimp that are farm-raised are done so in countries where there is little to no inspection or standards, indeed; some are literally raised in sewerage. They are then treated in the muck with anti-fungals and insecticides that are illegal to use in the United States, Canada and a few other countries, but, despite the fact that they then contain levels of the poisons, they are allowed to be sold in your local markets. Until standards are raised and safety standards are consistent, I will continue to buy wild caught seafood, or farm-raised only in in the U.S. and Canada.

Are you worried about your fish being ‘fishy’? Lemon juice is a fish cook’s best friend.
Thaw your fillets in tepid water with a generous squirt of lemon juice. I prefer cod to any other fish for most dishes; it is the least fishy, but whiting and perch can be used, even flounder and you can do it for the halibut.(If you are allergic to lemon, vinegar can be used; apple cider is the best choice, wine or balsamic is you like the taste …and can afford it.)

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta...easy!

Herbed and spiced fish with pasta…easy!

And I will leave you today with the easiest and most versatile recipe I have.

Thaw the fish filets in lemony water and drain. Press dry with paper towels,(or I have a big Little Mermaid beach towel that I use for the fish alone and wash with my kitchen towels.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, if you wish, but with them or plain, brush it with olive, peanut or vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt,(preferably sea salt, but any will do.) Place the filets flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and herbs or spices, [combination suggestions listed below]. Sprinkle with more oil,(and more lemon juice if you’d like), and bake at 375F until well done,(may brown at edges), but not until the fish is rubbery. Serve with rice , pasta or potatoes, with salad or side vegetables.

Some spice or herbs good on fish can be as complex or simple as you’d like. It depends on your taste and if you’d like to serve the fish with seafood sauce or tartar sauce,(then use less herbs and spices). I find it doesn’t need either. There is no right or wrong, just your own personal taste.

Some toppings I use are :

Parsley,(which I usually add with most of the others listed below)
Dill weed
Italian spices (parsley, basil, marjoram, rosemary, all or mix&match)
Oregano
Dehydrated sweet pepper and tomato flakes
Garlic
Minced onion
Cracked pepper
Lemon peel\
Celery salt/celery seed
Tarragon
(mix or match any of the above)

Chipotle
Garam Masala (it is a bit sweet if you are unfamiliar with it, but it is interesting)
I hope you give these a try.

I will be back; I have more easy fish tricks up my sleeve which include Mahi-Mahi, Salmon, (canned and filets,;BBQ, Salad-Stuffed Tomatoes, Salmon Patties), Stuffed whole fish, Fish Tempura, Smelt, Codfish cakes, Seafood Pasta Salad, Tuna Salads, Creamed Tuna, non-dreadful Tuna Casserole, Twice-baked Potatoes with Shrimp , Oyster Stew, Adriatic Fish,  Cajun Fried Fish, Lemon–Pepper Fish…I’ll think of more.

Anything sound interesting? Any requests or questions? Leave a message…(don’t wait for a tone…just Tonette!)