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Archive for November, 2008

Check Those Receipts

Many of us are facing rising grocery prices and decreasing budgets.  There are many ways to face these challenges, many of which my fellow writers here at Women Not Dabbling In Normal have tackled.  We’ve covered things like stretching our food into further meals, canning, gardening, leftovers, and much more.  But before using leftovers or canning store bought produce, one big thing you can do to reduce your grocery bills happens before you even leave the grocery store.  Check your receipts, go through them with a fine tooth comb.

The simple act of checking your receipts can save you small and large amounts of money.  Let’s face stores, people, and computers make mistakes and its our responsibility to make sure those mistakes aren’t taking money from our pockets.  While checking the actual receipt is important, we have to pay attention to everything we put in our carts. 

Keeping a price book and bringing it with us to the grocery store is a great way to keep up on prices and keep a running tally of the total bill.  It’s a good idea to remember prices if you can, but if you can’t use a calculator to help you figure out what you’ll owe when you check out.  Pay attention to and write down those prices to make sure you get the sale price of items you buy.  Sale prices must be updated in the grocery store’s computer system, sometimes they get missed and you’ll be charged full price.

If you are able to follow along as your items are scanned, be sure to tell the checker of any price differences for immediate correction.  Sometimes that can be a little difficult because of the speed at which many of those scanners move, so be sure to check the receipt before you leave the store.  This is important, check the receipt before leaving the store.  For example, I once was charged for buying four roasts when in actuality I only purchased two, if I had left the store the courtesy clerk would not have been likely to believe me and refund the money.  Again, check the receipt before you leave the store.  Note any price differences, doubles, etc. and bring it to the attention of the customer service desk.  Just yesterday I purchased some colored decorating sugar which had been on sale since Wednesday and was charged the full price.  For 3 days people had been buying the colored sugar at full price and not noticing being charged 30 cents more per bottle than the sign advertised.  It’s much easier and saves time and money to check the receipts before leaving the store and getting your refund, than having to go back if you check your receipt when you get home.

It is our responsibilty to make sure our money is spent in a way that we anticipate and there’s no shame in requesting a refund for as little as 30 cents.  Its worth my time and energy to make every penny bleed in order to save money and stretch our budget and I encourage everyone to do the same.   Check those receipts before you leave every store not just the grocery store and be sure to make your money work hard for you.

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PreHeat Oven

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

This post first appeared on Dec, 7th, 2006 on A Homesteadng Neophyte. Sorry for the repeat (of course this is new to many of you) but I am super short on time. Enjoy.

19 degrees (-7C) , it’s 19 degrees (-7C) outside, the high will be a blistering 33F (0.5C). I have a feeling that my oven will be on most of the day.

This is one of the reasons I love winter and the cold, being able to heat my house with my oven. For weeks my house will smell of fresh bread and cookies, pies and individual sized cakes. What my children don’t eat, will be packed up and taken into the city, where my husbands hard working co-workers will have a small feast. If only I was allowed to give them to a food bank {cookies not co-workers}, but the rules prohibit that.

I love baking, cooking is grand, but baking. . . it’s just so homey and therapeutic. So many frustrations can be taken out by just punching down a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Sweet bliss. And my children, I can bake with them underfoot, while cooking I tend to splatter and worry about them getting burnt. Yet with only me finagling the oven, my children get to pour, mix and cover each other with flour, not to mention they get to lick the beaters. Nothing brings my kids and I closer together than a big o’ batch of cookies.

We made Pumpkin cookies last night. I was running behind on things so we were only able to make one type of cookie, today that will change.

Pumpkin Cookies

A soft Pumpkin Cookie

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup Pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Glaze (recipe follows)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking power, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl, set aside . Beat the sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Mix in the pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly beat in flour mixture. Drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

FOR GLAZE:
Combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth

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Like anybody needs another pumpkin pie recipe…I promise this is a little different.
  

//i37.tinypic.com/nq4n4x.jpg" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>Different as in what do you do when your hubby is tired of 500# of winter squash sitting in your living room. 
I have found over the years I can buy a little more time if I bake a pie or two.  I’m actually getting tired of the dogs jumping over the squash and throwing their chew bones in the middle of the pile and playing cucurbit and seek.  They just think I have brought the garden in, and gamboling inside on a rainy day is right up their alley.

These are our Sweet Meat winter squash.  Our pumpkin substitute that keeps until May without any processing.  That’s why we like them so much.  Any vegetable I can store without processing is a winner in my book.

The squash are just curing here in the livingroom, because it is warmer.  Soon they will be moved to our unheated upstairs, where it is cool and dry.  Ideal squash storage area.

  

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On average, we use at least a 15# squash per week, mostly as a vegetable, but sometimes for desserts.   Nothing goes to waste, we eat the seeds or they go to the milk cow, the dogs eat the cooked skin, and we eat the flesh.  We save the seeds from the longest keeping, best tasting squash in the spring.

To have it on hand all week, I steam half the squash at a time, and store it in the fridge.  This way it is cooked and ready to heat and eat for a quick lunch, or dinner vegetable, or… .

I do steam it, because I like it moist, and it takes less electricity or wood than baking it.  To make a pie, the texture is better steamed.
 

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Here is the difference – the praline filling before the pumpkin squash pie filling.  Placed in the bottom of the pie shell and baked for 10 minutes, then cooled while you are making your custard, and baked again. 

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Praline baked and cooling.
 

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I got in a good habit in Home Ec in high school, having everything ready before making a recipe, but I had kind of let this good habit slip.  When I started homeschooling, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to teach my daughter, not only the basics of cooking, but also math, and reading.  To make it easy for a child, I would have her measure everything and put each ingredient in a pile so she could see where she was in the recipe.  It helps me too, sometimes I have to do recipes in small snippets of time.  Even if I measure this out hours before I actually make the pie, I can easily look in the bowl and check to see if I forgot something or measured incorrectly.  

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Sweet meat squash doesn’t have strings to speak of, so the egg beater will take care of what little there is.  The strings will wrap around the beaters and can be rinsed off before adding other ingredients.  I just puree it as I needed.   

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Filling ready to bake.  The foil is to protect the edge during the second baking.
 

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Not bad for squash pie.

Here is the recipe for enough filling for two pies, and praline for one.  It is rich, and sweet, a little goes a long way.  Pie crust is pretty subjective so I didn’t include a recipe for crust.

PUMPKIN PRALINE PIE      praline for one 8″ pie, filling for two 8″ pies

Praline for one 8″ pie
2 T softened butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans or ?
Preheat oven to 450*F.  Cream butter and brown sugar.  Blend in pecans.  Press firmly into unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 10 minutes, watching for so crust does not puff up or slip.  If it does puff, prick the puffs with a fork and pat the crust back into place with the back of the fork.  Cool before filling.

Pumpkin pie filling      enough for two 8″ pies

4 c pureed squash or pumpkin
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
2 eggs, beaten
2 c whole milk

Preheat oven to 400*F.
Combine pureed pumpkin and dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add eggs, milk and mix well.  Pour into pie shells and bake for about an hour.  Depending on your oven, the pie may be done sooner.  When a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, the pie is done. 

This filling can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.  I use this for pumpkin custard without the crust or praline too.

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bread winner

baking bread is an essential in my house. there are very few choices of bread at our local stores that i deem worthing of purchasing and most of those are out of our price range. so what’s a mama to do? make it herself of course!

making bread can be very spiritual. it doesn’t matter what recipe you use. i have seen over a dozen recipes over time of fellow women bloggers. each talk about how they love their recipe. i’ve tried a lot of them but what i’ve learned over time is it doesn’t really matter what recipe you use, it’s all in how you use it. i have been fussing with the same recipe for over 6 years now and have just recently mastered it. i can’t even remember where i found the recipe other than online.  i took the basic recipe and started tweaking it…when  you make the same recipe 3 or more times a week, you start to get bored and experiment. and that is where you start to master your recipe.

for awhile, i added steel cut oats for texture. then i ran out of them. i added flax seed. the family got tired of that. i switched from sugar to honey. that was fun. i blended flours. interesting. moving the loaves further back into the oven. baking them less. cooling them on a wire rack. add more flour at the beginning. adjusting the water temperature. add more flour to the initial mix. add less flour overall. knead by hand in end instead of mixer doing it. and finally, i started ‘proofing’ my yeast…adding it to the warm water with a bit of sugar, whisking it together and letting it sit before i added it to my flour, sugar/honey, salt. perfection!

my recipe is simple. it is a quick 15 minute rise and then into the oven and ready to eat 45 minutes later. but, the evolution was not simple. i had to make it mine before it was worthy. and now, my family raves over my bread. bread from the store? that’s insane. there is NO comparison. sigh. a mother cook’s dream come true! i never understood about how it takes time to really learn a bread recipe until this past month’s aha! moment with mine…watching the evolution, seeing the perfect loaves, tasting the deliciousness of it.

so, here is my recipe. but, i warn you…it may/will not perform for you until you make it yours. the art of baking bread is in the individual cook (and of course, your oven will vary results as well).

cuban bread

4-6 c flour
1 T. salt
2 T. sugar/honey
2 T. yeast
2 c. warm water (100-110 degrees)

first, mix yeast and water with a pinch or so of sugar. let sit.

in kitchenaid, add 5 cups flour, 2 T. sugar, 1 T. salt. pour in yeast/water. mix until combined and forming a ball. add up to 1 more cup of flour but stop if gets too dry.

knead by hand for a few minutes.  put in greased bowl, cover with a hot, wet towel and let sit 15 minutes. while sitting, heat a pot of water to boiling.

divide dough into 2 loaves, your choice…round, loaf, or rolls. it is very versatile. place on top rack of oven.o on bottom rack, place a 9 x 12 baking dish and fill with boiling water. close oven and set at 425. bake for 45 minutes. cool for at least 10 minutes on a rack and then slather with lots of butter and honey or homeade jam and enjoy!

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It’s not fancy, difficult, or pretentious.  It’s not a layer cake, has no icing, and calls for ingredients nearly everyone has.  It’s good enough to take to the In-Laws, and doesn’t last long at gatherings or buffets.  In fact, it’s my EX-mother-in-law’s heirloom recipe, and I have no idea of its origins.  But it’s the stuff of legend among her grown boys and now their families.  You know, the ones I’m no longer related to…ahem…

(The cookbook went the way of the nice furniture and half the CD collection, but the recipe, it stays) And the pumpkin cake recipe lives on…it’s MINE, alllllllll MINE (sinister chuckle!)   Ok, just kidding…I still give the credit where credit’s due.  Thanks, Mom C! 

I’m sorry I have no picture this time.  I had every intention of making this tonight, and then repeated interruptions and trips to run errands and nighttime lethargy won out.

It’s a simple recipe…one of the few talismen of my former marriage, a family favorite baked ad infinitum by Mrs. C, a matriarch of matriarchs and the perfect mother to a gang of 6 ravenous (now-grown and still ravenous) boys.  Most of her recipes were accompanied by a Braves game on the radio nearby. She deserves credit for so much…an amazing woman, gardener, mom, cook, wife, and scholar.  She was/is a railroad man’s wife, a bang-up cook and an impossible act to follow in the kitchen, and I’m grateful she DID pass this recipe down the line.

Not that she shared all her secrets up front…after making this cake, which is a really thick pumpkin Bundt cake (she pronounces it BOOndt, every time…why do I remember that every time I make it?), mine somehow came out tasting rather bland after those first few attempts.  When I was puzzled, and asked her about it, telling her I’d followed her written recipe exactly, she said, “oh, I always double the spices…”    Ah, that would be the difference.

I did double the spices after that.  You should not overbake this one…cook only till a straw inserted toward the center comes out clean, and then let it cool.  It’s also best the second day, and later…stored better by wrapping securely in plastic or some other airtight material.  And if you need potpourri, aromatherapy, air freshener, go no further…the rich, warm scent of this cake baking is its own category of wonderful!

I think I’ve seen hundreds of pumpkin cake recipes out there, yet the ones I’ve tried are different than this one…I don’t know what it is, but this one really (excuse the expression) takes the cake!   It always made appearances at every family function, usually multiples were made so that any surviving slices could be ferreted away by those traveling back home again…but the cake seldom made it all the way home.  The grown boys unapologetically would cut huge hunks of it, and wash it down with glasses of cold milk.  It’s not fancy…really more of a spice cake, without frosting or adornment…but for all those years it took its place as a family classic.

Well, I’ve appropriated it, heh heh!  My daughter still asks for it regularly.  My addition to the recipe is slight…a bit of ground ginger, and then it takes on a moist, pumpkin-y, spice cake sort of gingerbready-ness that I prefer to regular gingerbread or regular pumpkin cake.  Delicious!

Here’s the recipe, the original one.  Remember…if you want it to taste Mother-in-Law good, double the fragrant spices.  If you want it to take on a hint of gingerbread, add the ginger.  Best stored the first day and devoured the next…if you can wait!

My thanks to Mrs. C for so many memorable gatherings savored all the more via her talented hand in the kitchen.  Make it with warm thoughts of your loved ones, stir in some nostalgia and laughter, and a bit of bittersweet homesickness.  (Oh yeah, and make sure some Atlanta team is on the radio in the background.)  Baked up, it spells comfort and welcome..

Family Favorite Pumpkin Cake

3cups sugar

2 sticks butter

2cups cooked pumpkin (pulp well drained, or 1 Libby’s can of pumpkin)

3 cups plain flour

1teaspoon vanilla (I use 2)

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I use 1-2 Tablespoons, to taste)

1 scant teaspoon powdered ginger (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (300 if your oven runs hot).  In large heavy bowl, cream butter and sugar;  add eggs.  Mixing with mixer, add other dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin.  Add vanilla. Batter will be very thick.    Butter and flour a Bundt pan, and pour in batter.  Tap filled pan lightly on counter a couple times to settle any air pockets.  Bake for @ 1 hour 25 minutes, or till straw inserted near center comes out clean.  Be sure not to overbake.  Allow to cool completely, then store in sealed plastic container or wrapped.  Best after first day, if it lasts that long 🙂

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“Geological Cake”

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

I have a confession to make. I have never tasted, let alone made, a fruitcake. OK, so what? Why should you care that I am a fruitcake virgin?

 

Let me start from the beginning. A few weeks ago, I dashed into the library to speed-check out books on my way home from work (anyone who has ever had to race to pick up kids from a caretaker, including a spouse, will know what I am talking about…). One of the books I found after a quick glance in the baking section was one on gingerbread houses. I thought Shawnee (my eldest son) would enjoy looking at it with me. Shawnee and I share a “food contest” passion. It is one of the rare times we watch T.V. together; at almost six, he has a decidedly mature fascination with Food Network bake-offs, best BBQ, pie and cookie cookoffs, gingerbread creations contests, (the list goes on and on). We watch these contests like others watch sports. In fact, sometimes when I actually cook something he likes, he’ll remark, “Mommy, you should quit your job and go on the food show!” (He said this last night over some very bland chicken quesadillas).

 

Anyway, as I was saying, I decided to check out this gingerbread house book and proceeded to the librarian. She looked at the title and says, “Have you ever made fruitcake?”

 

Now, oddly enough, I had just seen a “rum cake” recipe somewhere on Blogville (wish I knew where) and had thought about making some for the holidays. They need several weeks to cure and should be started yesterday. I told the lady I had been thinking sort of fruitcake like and she replied, “Well, why don’t you enter our fruitcake contest?”

 

Well, why not?

 

Fruitcakes have a rich history. It seems they were put in the tombs of pharaohs for the afterlife. The English foodies were the first to embrace fruitcake as a delicacy and also as a holiday tradition. They also came up with a tradition that involved non-married wedding guests putting a slice under their pillow in order to dream of their own spouse-to-be.

 

In America, rumor has it, fruitcakes were used to keep the British at bay in a retention wall built by George Washington’s Army (apparently, the “bricks” came from Ben Franklin’s mother-in-law’s fruit loaf). The library contest I plan to enter has three categories: Best tasting, best looking and best doorstop. This means that even if I fail in the first two, I can still hope for the last one and know I have been in good company since at least 1776.

 

Fruitcake comes in varieties (who would have known?) The “light” fruitcakes are similar to quick breads. You mix in candied fruit and nuts, add batter, bake and enjoy right away. The “dark” ones are also called “spirited”. This is my kind of fruitcake. You basically do the same as for the light, but use rum, brandy or other liquor to “season” the cake for several weeks. If you check out older cookbooks, you can find plenty of “spirited” fruitcake recipes

 

When I made the decision to enter the contest, I decided I wasn’t going to create my very first fruitcake using that bizarre, sticky green and red candied fruit you see in the store-bought cakes this time of year. I decided I was going to make all of my own candied fruit, add a variety of nuts and spices, and use either amaretto or brandy to season my cake. I have gotten so far as to make the candied fruit. I chose tangerine peels, lemon peels and pineapple for my main fruits. The peels, cut into small strips, were simmered in 4-5 changes of boiling water (two minutes in boiling water, drain, refill with cold water, boil, drain, repeat). Then I mixed 1/3 cup water and ½ cup sugar, put the peels in the mix, and simmered until the sugar was absorbed by the peels (I mixed the tangerine and lemon peels together on this last part out of laziness). Then, I pulled the individual strips out and placed them on waxed paper. I then took granulated sugar and dusted the candied strips. They are sitting now (they need 24 hours before being put into a fruitcake). The pineapple (somewhere around 1 cup) I cut into chunks, used 1/3 cup of the juice and 2/3 cup sugar, boiled juice/sugar combo until sugar dissolved. I then added the pineapple (without anymore juice) and simmered on a lower temperature until almost all of the sugar was absorbed by the pineapple. I was sure to stir often so the pineapple didn’t scorch. The trick to this candied fruit deal is to try and not eat too much of the product.

 

As an aside, does anyone else find it amazing that someone thought to candy the peels of citrus fruits? I mean, really, it is not language or walking upright that sets us apart from other animals, it’s the fact we can make a candy out of just about anything!

 

The last fruit (besides raisins) I think I will add will be a bit of the brandied sweet cherries I made this summer. That, I hope, will get the spirit going. (Maybe if I can get the judges drunk, I’ll actually have a chance in this bizarre contest!)

 

The nuts I plan to add are: Pecans, shagbark hickory nuts, pumpkin seeds, English walnuts, and soy nuts. Some of these are part of a trail mix I have on hand. The shagbark nuts are my own unique contribution (and I have tons of them on hand). I hope to spice up the cake using cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. We’ll see what else I can think of to throw into the batter! The point, I’ve read, is to find a whole bunch of things to put in the fruitcake and add a little batter like glue to hold them all together. One thing is for sure, this cake is neither locally grown nor frugal!

 

I honestly have no idea why I have never tried a slice of fruitcake. My family traditions excluded them for some reason and I have never seen a fruitcake present at my husband’s, X’s or friends’ family celebrations. Maybe, if we like the cake I make, we will start our own family tradition. If not, we can always aim for the doorstop, right? If I decide I love fruitcake, I just may have to become a member of The Society for the Protection & Preservation of fruitcake! 😉

 

This is a “to-be-continued” post as the contest isn’t until December 12. Plus, I haven’t actually made the cake yet. I’ll let you know if I am able to create something tasty, beautiful, or at least worthy of becoming a colorful, revolutionary brick! I’m hoping I have something special since, aside from all the fun, the lucky winners are going to get one of these lovely hats*:

 

fruitcakesong-fullcrop_0060020910671

 

 

 *Just kidding! (I think…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turkey Pot Pie

Monica’s having a few computer troubles and I’m pinch hitting – she’ll be back next week.

Given Phelan’s turkey post on Saturday and my leftover post yesterday, I thought I’d do a combination post /recipe for you today:

Turkey Pot Pie

Double Pie Crust for 10 inch pie (homemade or store bought)

  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Cups turkey stock (chicken stock/broth will work)
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 Cups peas
  • 1/2 sliced mushrooms (canned ok)
  • 2 Cups cooked turkey cubed
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 C milk

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll bottom pie crust and place in the bottom of a 10 inch pie pan.
  2. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet with onion, celery, carrots, oregano, salt and pepper. Saute until onions are transparent. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are soft, if using fresh mushrooms add those now. After the potatoes are soft add peas and canned mushrooms if using those.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt remaining butter. Stir in turkey and flour. Add the milk and heat through. Add this mixture to the veggies in the skillet and mix well. Cook until thickened.
  4. Pour the mixture in the pie crust. Top with pie crust and slit the top 4 times, to let out steam
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to set up a few minutes before cutting into pieces.
  6. To make individual pies, adjust your baking time accordingly.

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