Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Extension






On Thanksgiving Day a few years ago I asked myself, “Do I want to battle through the crowds of eager shoppers tomorrow?” 

The prices will be great. The merchandise -- extravagant and sleek! So many things I would like to try to live with, or give as Christmas gifts! 

The process of big sale shopping is both stressful and delightful. But later I question my purchases. Where is the wisdom of saving on a few items but recklessly spending on others? 

What if I don’t go shopping on Black Friday? 

Will my husband care? No. He will feel much better. 

Will the merchants care? Yes, but they won’t know because I’m not going to tell them. 

So on that Friday a few years ago, and every Black Friday since, I stay home. While others charge into the city  to grab and buy, I relax with a good book or chat with holiday guests, and snack on tasty leftovers. 

But alas, I wrestle with an uninvited thought --

What if there is nothing left in the stores that I want after Black Friday? 

Horrors! 

What then could I give on Christmas Day? 

Oh, got it! Here’s my shopping list: 

KINDNESS: I can give kindness to someone who is unkind to me, and I can be generous with those less fortunate.  

HUMILITY: I can put away  my “superstar” mentality and let the other person have the last word when we disagree. 

PATIENCE: I can restrain from negative reactions when others fail or disappoint. (My turn to fail will come plenty soon.) 

JOY: I can devote myself to the true meaning of Christmas and reflect my joy moment by moment. 

COOPERATION:  I can be more cooperative and less controlling, especially with my family. 

FORGIVENESS. I can forgive, just as Christ has forgiven me. Forgiveness brings mental health and heals relationships. Forgiveness is the best gift of all. 

Yes, I’m staying home on Black Friday. 

No, I’m not sorry. 

A Thanksgiving extension is a breather I need, much better than a throbbing headache, a flat wallet, and a VisaCard of debt!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Zombies -- Quick & easy crullers you will love to eat










Finding a low-sugar gluten-free, rice-free, low sugar donut is about as likely as finding a gold nugget on Main Street in New York City.

For 20 years I never ate a single donut, donut hole, maple or chocolate bar. Honest. Then one evening, about 2 weeks ago, I made onion rings for supper, gluten-free, rice free, and we all loved them. Yummy.

The tasty sensation brought back memories of Mother’s old fashioned cake donuts.

For three days I craved donuts --soft cinnamon sugar-coated cake donuts. I want some!

Maybe I can make them myself with GF flours? But I’m not one to spend my whole life in the kitchen. “Quick and easy” is my way, with nutrition. Hey, how about the electric skillet -- like I used for the onion rings? Yes, that’s it!

The next day, I added the hair-brained idea of squeezing batter through a cake decorator bag into hot oil. Soon after that I made my first batch of, well, Zombies.

Since that day, I’ve made several test batches, searching for the best ingredients and method.

The one essential piece of equipment required is an electric skillet. A regular skillet over a burner is not safe, and a deep fat fryer is too deep.

A few notes about deep frying: 1) Zombies absorb less oil and cook faster, but not too fast, when the oil is between 350 and 375 degrees. 2) Add batter for only two or three Zombies at one time. This prevents cooling the oil too much. Turn Zombies when they are golden -- thirty seconds per side is about right. 3) Cooking for too long dries out Zombies and can toughen them. 4) If oil is too hot, zombies may brown on the outside before the insides cook.

Safety with hot oil: About 43 percent of stove fires begin with cooking oil, so use caution. Do not attempt to make Zombies using a regular skillet over a burner. An electric skillet with temperature control is safe and has multiple uses. Our 11-inch Presto, which we’ve used nearly every day for six or more years, is still sold for a reasonable price. *More safety tips at end of article.

I came up with two recipes – the first with regular all-purpose flour, and the second gluten-free. Both recipes are below. Because there is no rolling out or donut cutting, Zombies can be made in less time than regular doughnuts. A quick finish is to shake them in a bag with cinnamon sugar.

Zombies #1      (This recipe contains wheat)


Time required: First time, probably 90 minutes. With experience, about 1 hour.
Quantity: Makes about 2 dozen Zombies in various sizes.

Prepare equipment: 1) Lay out the utensils you will use. 

Electric skillet, metal tools


Bowls, measuring tools, beater, scissors, plastic zip bag


Wide-mouth funnel, old style or collapsible



2) Prepare a cake decorator bag with wide tip or a plastic zip bag (pint or quart size) by cutting a diagonal opening in one corner. The cut should be 5/8 to ¾ inch in length, large enough for the end of your little finger. Clip the hole shut temporarily with a bag clip or clothespin. A wide-mouth canning funnel will aid to fill the batter bag without mess.

Cut diagonally across one corner of a plastic zip bag to fit tip of little finger



 3) Place a rack for draining Zombies near the skillet. Put newspaper and paper towels beneath the rack to catch oil drips.

Place paper towels & metal rack near skillet. Tongs may come in handy for lifting donuts.


Prepare hot oil: Begin heating oil in skillet at least 20 minutes early. Use a high smoke point oil such as canola, peanut, safflower, or sunflower. An oil depth of 1-inch (about 6 cups oil in an 11-inch skillet) is adequate. Attach a candy thermometer firmly to one side of skillet, if possible. (Try adjusting the thermometer clip.) Set skillet temperature at 400° F. Add the first Zombie batter when the temperature reaches 375° F.

Adjust thermometer clip to hold thermometer securely to skillet. 

Ingredients for Zombies containing wheat

2 ¼  Cups all-purpose flour
½ C. dry milk powder
¼ C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 T. salad oil, such as canola or olive
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 C. milk (1 C. plus 5 tablespoons), warmed to room temperature
Plastic bag containing ½ C. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar mixture (for shaking cooked Zombies)

Directions:
1. Stir all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, beat egg. Add 2 T. oil, vanilla, and 1 1/3 C. milk.
3. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed (do not beat). Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes while dry ingredients absorb the liquids.
4. Compare the batter to thin and thick photos below. Batter should be fairly thick, but pourable. If too thin, add 2-4 T. flour. If too thick, add 1 T. of milk.

Batter too thin

Batter too thick
5. Fill batter bag with batter as instructed under “Prepare equipment” above.

Holding the bag and funnel with one hand as while spooning with the other

6. Check hot oil temperature. Begin when oil reaches, or is close to, 375° F.
7. Remove the clothespin from the filled batter bag. Be sure the top is sealed. Squeeze the batter through corner opening into hot oil, swirling this way and that to make interesting shapes. Be careful not to let hands touch the sides of the skillet. When occasionally the batter stream doesn’t separate from the bag, use a table knife in the free hand to break it off. 

Gently swirling the batter stream while squeezing into hot oil
Cook only two or three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much. Using a metal turner or slotted spoon, flip when the undersides are golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Adding only three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much

8. Remove Zombies. Place on rack to drain.

Removing a Zombie with metal tool
9. When almost cool, gently shake Zombies in the bag of cinnamon sugar, or serve without sugar. They are best when warm.
10. Decorating for kids: use colored sugars or small decors and an edible “glue” such as meringue powder, melted chocolate chips or piping gel. Decorating takes extra time, of course, or let the kids do it!

These decor are too heavy for the edible glue. They will soon fall off.

Storage: Zombies freeze well in an air-tight container. Refrigeration is not recommended as they become dry.  

Should I save the oil? Oil that has not been heated to the smoking point is completely safe for re-using. When hot oil has cooled to a safe temperature, strain through cheesecloth into a glass jar. (Cheesecloth is an inexpensive, loosely woven cloth available at most supermarkets in the kitchen equipment section)

Zombies  #2  This recipe is gluten free (please double-check against your personal GF diet)


Time required: First time, probably 90 minutes. With experience, about an hour.
Quantity: Makes about 2 dozen Zombies in various sizes.

Prepare equipment: 1) Lay out the utensils you will use. 
2) Prepare a cake decorator bag with wide tip or a plastic zip bag (pint or quart size) by cutting a diagonal opening in one corner. The cut should be 5/8 to ¾ inch in length, large enough for the end of your little finger. Clip the hole shut temporarily with a bag clip or clothespin. A wide-mouth canning funnel will aid in filling the batter bag without mess.
 3) Place a rack for draining Zombies near the skillet. Put newspaper and paper towels beneath the rack to catch oil drips.

Prepare hot oil: Begin heating oil in skillet at least 20 minutes early. Use a high smoke point oil such as canola, peanut, safflower, or sunflower. An oil depth of 1-inch (about 6 cups oil in an 11-inch skillet) is adequate. Attach a candy thermometer firmly to one side of skillet, if possible. (Try adjusting the thermometer clip.) Set skillet temperature at 400° F. Add the first Zombie batter when the temperature reaches 375° F.

Ingredients:
2 Cups Mixed GF flours (total):   Suggested mixture:2/3 C. sorghum flour,
                           2/3 C. almond flour (meal), 1/3 C. quinoa flour, and 1/3 C.
                           Masa Harina (corn flour), garbanzo, or rice flour.
½ C. dry milk powder
3 T. cornstarch or potato starch (not potato flour)
¼ C. sugar (or artificial sweetener equal to ¼ C.)
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. oil, such as canola or olive
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½  C. milk, warmed to room temperature
Plastic bag  containing ½ C. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar mixed (optional, for shaking cooked Zombies)

Directions:
1. Stir all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add 2 T. oil, vanilla, and 1  ½ C. milk.

3. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed (do not beat). Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes while dry ingredients absorb the liquids.

4. Compare the batter to thin and thick photos. Batter should be fairly thick, but pourable. If too thin, add 2-4 T. GF flour. If too thick, add 1 T. milk.

5. Fill batter bag with batter as instructed under “Prepare equipment” above.

6. Check hot oil temperature. Begin when oil reaches, or is close to, 375° F.

7. Remove the clothespin from the filled batter bag. Squeeze the batter through corner opening into hot oil, swirling this way and that to make interesting shapes. Be careful not to let hands touch the sides of the skillet. When occasionally the batter stream doesn’t separate from the bag, use a table knife in the free hand to break it off. 

Cook only two or three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much.

Using a metal turner or slotted spoon, flip when the undersides are a rich

golden brown, about 30 seconds.

8. Remove Zombies. Place on rack to drain.


9. When almost cool, gently shake Zombies in the bag of cinnamon sugar, or serve without sugar. They are best when warm.

10. Decorating for kids: use colored sugars or small decors and an edible “glue” such as meringue powder, melted chocolate chips or piping gel. Decorating takes extra time, of course, or let the kids do it!

Storage: Zombies freeze well in an air-tight container. Refrigeration is not recommended as they become dry.  

Should I save the oil? Oil that has not been heated to the smoking point is completely safe for re-using. When hot oil has cooled to a safe temperature, strain through cheesecloth into a glass jar. (Cheesecloth is an inexpensive, loosely woven cloth available at most supermarkets in the kitchen equipment section)

*Additional oil safety tips from other websites:

            “Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.” http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes/cooking/safety-messages-about-cooking

            “One thing to pay particular attention to is never, ever get a glass of water, a drink, or any other liquid that is not cooking oil where it can spill into the fryer. If it does, it turns into steam instantly, and can violently spray hot oil in all directions.” (http://www.premiersystems.com/recipes/kitchen-safety/fire-safety.html)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Help! What shall I do with all these tomatoes?


And make it easy for me, please!
       So many nice tomatoes — what shall I do with them? Occasionally in the past, I simply, washed, cored, and bagged them whole in the freezer. This was fast, but it took lots of freezer space and left the peelings, hard inner cores, and juice intact. I only used them for chili or soup. Even after running them in a food processor, I found myself picking out obnoxious tough peels that weren’t chopped.
            In recent years, I make tomato sauce. Fresh tomatoes make a lively tart sauce not found in store-bought canned sauce, and it’s quite a money-saver over a year’s time. Prep time is a little more but well worth it. And I've discovered that a slow cooker makes the last step easier -- no more bending over to see and stir in the oven!
            Before making sauce, you will need to decide on a method and whether you want the sauce seasoned or not.
            Method and equipment:     The method to use depends on the smoothness of sauce you like and also on the equipment you have or are willing to buy. If you like a smooth sauce without seeds, pulp, or peel, the best equipment would be a pulp mill or a colander.
            If you want a textured sauce where some seeds and bits of pulp are okay, then you can choose the boiling water bath method for removing peels and a small knife for removing part of the seeds and core. This is the method I use. Check these websites below for clear photos and instructions for the boiling water bath method and seed removal.

http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2012/04/how-to-peel-tomatoes/

http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2012/06/how-to-seed-tomatoes/


            Finally, you will also need a slow cooker or an oven and shallow rimmed pans for cooking and thickening the sauce.

            Seasoned or unseasoned? If you season the sauce, the recommended time for freezer storage is only 3 months due to the possibility of flavor changes. If you don’t add seasonings, the flavor will stay true in the freezer for a year or more, but you will need to add seasoning as you use it in recipes. I don’t season tomato sauce for freezing, partly because I like to add different spices and herbs for lasagna, spaghetti, chili, and pizza sauce, or casseroles.
Preparation: · Check your freezer space and buy freezer bags or other containers. Gather the needed equipment. If you’re doing the hot water bath method, check out the websites listed above which list equipment needed for peeling and seeding.
Roma

 Instructions:  1. Select and wash tomatoes. If you have a variety of tomato types, choose about one-half paste type such as Roma or Amish Paste. They have more pulp, fewer seeds, less acid, but a flatter taste. For the remainder, choose regular slicing type tomatoes. They burst with lively flavor but have more seeds and cores. The tomatoes should be fully ripe for best flavor.


Regular slicing



2.   If using a colander or food mill: Cut and core tomatoes. Follow directions with your equipment to make a sauce. If you plan to season the sauce, measure the amount of sauce. (See spaghetti sauce seasoning suggestion at end of this article.) 

     If using the water bath method: Cut an X through the skin on bottom of each tomato. Carefully lower tomatoes one by one into boiling water and leave for about 20 seconds. Remove and dip in ice water. With a knife, pull off peel. Core, removing extra seeds if desired. Puree with a food processor. If you plan to season the sauce, measure the amount of sauce. (See spaghetti sauce seasoning at end of this article.) 

3. Cook the sauce: Pour puree into the slow cooker or rimmed shallow pans. Heat slow cooker on high, or oven to 300. Cook uncovered, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula every 30 minutes. Continue cooking until puree thickens similar to purchased tomato sauce. This may take 3 to 10 hours, depending on the thinness of the puree at start-up.  

Cooked, thickened

4. Bag and freeze: Label bags or containers before filling. A canning funnel makes filling easier. Place an amount in the bags that you often use in recipes. Note: When I am short on tomatoes, I put only one cup in each bag. This can be mixed with purchased canned sauce to perk up canned sauce flavor.



Handy Tip: To speed the thickening process, heat the puree in the microwave, then pour into your slow cooker or oven pans. CAUTION: If using a slow cooker, microwave only to "warm" to avoid cracking the slow cooker. 

Seasoning suggestion for spaghetti sauce: If the measured sauce before cooking is 8 cups, for a mildly seasoned spaghetti sauce add

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. mild chili powder, or 1/2 tsp. regular
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin

After cooking, you will have approximately 4 cups spaghetti sauce for freezing or to use immediately. 








Thursday, July 10, 2014

May I Introduce You to.....

THE MEANEST PAHSON!

 
     Our youngest grandkids, Em and Dan, along with their parents, just finished a 3-week visit with us. Em is just a month from age 3. After a few days warming up, she made Grandpa her absolute favorite person. “Rock Paper Scissors,”  “I got your nose,” and “Hide the marble” kept them jesting and laughing together day after day.
            Near the end of their vacation, the hullabaloo between the two gained momentum as never before. Em dreamed up her final solution to Grandpa’s wiles with an impish smirk:  “YOU AHR THE MEANEST PAHSON IN MAH WHOLE LIFE!” she yelled emphatically.
            Em's home is filled with love. She hasn't a clue to what the word "mean" really means -- and may she never. Just today via long distance phone Em refused to talk to me. “I want Grandpa…GRANDPA!” she insisted. Grandpa is her king, for now anyhow.
            Like most kids her age, Em’s attention span is about two minutes. “I want play clay, she says. So I find the play clay, but by then she wants a book. I find the book, but by then she’s playing with a train. “Grandma, would you put in a new battery?”
            Sure enough, dead battery. Are today’s kids born knowing electronics?


            Dan, age 6, is quieter and more serious. He spent much of his time building with Grandma's
fabulous yard sale find: A large magnet building set -- fun and educational. We searched through the house with him to find how magnets are used in surprising places. Electric can openers? Yes. Refrigerator and freezer door seals? Yes. On my sewing machine holding pins? Uh-huh.


            A large box of borrowed Legos® was another hit with him. He loves to invent his own gadgets. And thanks to his parent’s teaching, bandaloom® rubber bracelets were fun for him to not only make, but to give away. One for Grandma, one for Grandpa, one for Mom, one for Dad, and ten for Dan!           



     During the last week, we dug out our kids old card games. We ended up playing The Lorax. Dan loved the simple challenges of making "sets" and protecting them from the Once-lers and Bar-ba-loots. He also made "Battleship" his favorite game at his Aunt's home.     
   
 Gardening was another learning activity. I soaked beans overnight to help them to a speedy start. Dan carefully planted them, covered and watered them, a new experience for him. For exercise and extra fun, Em and Dan hiked with their parents and visited Dragon Hollow and Missoula Carousel.


            On their last evening here, as we finished supper, Em delivered a riot act of entertainment. Beating on an old water canteen, she stomped round and round the table bellowing out a song of her own invention. PANDABEAR PANDABEAR PANDABEAR PANDABEAR……  No one knows where she came up with “Pandabear” -- books probably, as she has been read hundreds almost from the day of her birth.

            Oh the joys of grand parenting! Now things are quiet. It’s an effort to get back to talking -- and behaving --  as adults once again!


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Every Child Needs a Dad


A little girl marched into her classroom with a beautiful mahogany crayon box made by her father. She set it down on her desk and said proudly, "Daddy made it for me." 

Three days later, when she opened the box, all the crayons were broken.

Who? She never knew, but suspicions ran high that jealousy had overcome a classmate whose Daddy doesn't come home.

Studies show that, in most situations, a father’s presence and involvement with the children from birth is just as important as a mother’s. The father who actively engages with his children is especially helpful to the mental health and adjustment of the children, even into adulthood. Girls without fathers have lower self-esteem and more depression, while boys are more likely to become delinquent. Children from fatherless homes have exceedingly high percentages of homelessness, chemical abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, incarceration, and dropping out of high school.  

Every child needs a Dad -- a Dad who comes home and gives hugs, who makes funny faces no one else can make, who tells funny stories, who molds Play Dough® frogs and little cherry pies. A Dad who shapes pancakes into bunny faces. A Dad who helps kids play ball and do homework, who cuts rows in the garden so you can plant seeds to grow beans or flowers. A Dad who teaches you to use pliers and screwdrivers and how to cut wire and tie knots. 

Every child needs a Dad -- a Dad who takes you to parks and games and merry-go-rounds and the Fair.  A Dad who holds your hand to keep you safe. A Dad who plucks splinters out for you, who puts up hooks for your coats and things. A Dad who talks with your teacher about you and sees you sing or toot or speak in programs at school and church.

Every child needs a Dad.

A Dad buys you shoes and sometimes a fishing pole or a sled. A Dad shows you how to put a worm on a hook, and he likes the picture you drew for him. Sometimes a Dad makes you pull weeds, or save your money, but you know it's good. A Daddy tells you when you've done wrong, but he tells you when you've done right, too. Sometimes a Dad makes mistakes, but you know he tries to be a good Dad.

Your Dad is strong, but he is also tender and kind, especially to your mom. If you're a boy, you think you would like to be like him someday, and if you're a girl, you think that someday you will marry someone just like him. 

A Dad loves your mom and his heritage and God, and you learn from him. Sometimes they talk about you, and you know they love you and want good things for you. A Dad and mom leave you memories you like and a legacy you can't forget, and you are glad. 

A Dad is there with your mom when you get your diploma and when you leave home for the service or for a job or for college, and they are happy at your wedding, but they cry because it's time to let you go and they love you so much. 

Every child needs a Dad.