Bracing for a Winter Storm

This week coming up is an exciting one for a lot of people. It is the week of Thanksgiving, when a lot of people made a big effort to gather with family and enjoy a big traditional meal together. But it is also the early weeks of winter, and it looks like we are bracing for a winter storm this week, which will probably affect a lot of travel plans. I worry about big holidays when so many people are on the highways. You know that some people are going to be in wrecks, some will break down, some will have major problems when they arrive – it can be so stressful and dangerous.

I hope all my friends who are heading “home” this week are super extra careful when driving and that they arrive safely. I hope that the family dramas are limited and you find a reason to be grateful for having people who love you and the chance to share a wonderful meal.

I plan on staying home and just cooking a small turkey breast. I already bought everything at the store yesterday and am ready to cook on Thursday morning while I watch the Macy’s parade. I love Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons, and wish I could get home but that’s just not practical this year. Maybe next year I can invite a lot of family to join me here in my home and I will cook for a crowd. That will be a nice change!

In the meantime, I got my grocery shopping done for keeping my pantry stocked and for cooking the traditional turkey meal. I also bought some extra baking supplies, so if we really do have bad weather this week, I can try some recipes out and spend some fun hours in the kitchen baking. There are a whole pile of new recipes sitting on the desk that my friends have been sharing on Facebook and Pinterest. This might be the right time for trying them out!


Lots of Summer Vegetables Available

I wish there was a Farmer’s Market close to my house. I don’t know of any except the one downtown, and I hate to drive downtown. I end up spending an extra $10 in gas to go all the way downtown and an extra $10 to the trip for paid parking. So the cost of fresh vegetables is already $20 before I even pick out the first one.

The last time I went to the Farmer’s Market, the price of vegetables was not any cheaper than what I can buy at Kroger grocery stores. I’m not sure there is much advantage to shopping at Nashville’s Farmer’s Market other than you are supporting local farmers and local businesses rather than a big grocery store chain like Kroger and whatever farms they decide at a corporate level to buy from.

There is a little place on the side of the road that sells fresh vegetables and fresh flowers on Lebanon Road. I don’t usually take Lebanon Road to go anywhere, but when I know I am going that way, I usually stop and buy a few things. I went by there yesterday and found lots of summer vegetables. They are a little cheaper than Kroger and the owner tells me that all the produce is grown locally. So I don’t mind supporting this guy and his wife.

I tried to grow some tomato plants on my patio, but they did not produce much. The tomatoes are so small and colored funny that I ended up throwing them out. It was nice to find a fresh picked, field grown tomato at the vegetable stand. One slice of their tomato covers the entire piece of bread! So I enjoyed a fabulous tomato and mayo sandwich last night. And I’ll have another one tonight for dinner, with a couple pieces of bacon and some lettuce on top.

No More Box Cake Mixes

The grocery store had box cake mixes on sale for $1.50 per box and then matching frosting on ale for $1.50, too. So add in the cost of a couple of eggs and some oil, the electricity used for a hand mixer and the oven to bake the cake, and you can make a cake for under $5 – that’s a pretty good price. You cannot buy a bakery cake for under $10 these days, so making it yourself does save some money – plus you know exactly what is in the cake. I know that I use real butter – not margarine, shortening or lard. I know that I use real eggs and real vanilla extract – not powdered, dry or imitation anything.

But now that I have seen a recipe for making a yellow cake from scratch, I wonder why I have been using a box mix to bake cakes? I can use regular flour and some baking soda and have just as good a cake as what comes out of a box. It just means I have to measure out a few more items. Big deal! I have decoded to make the next cake from scratch and not buy any more box mixes. And I am going to experiment with the amounts to make just one cake layer instead of the traditional 2 layers, or just 6 cupcakes instead of a whole dozen.

My Favorite Snack Craving

Everyone has a “go to” snack. Its the food – even if junk food – that you grab when you are just a bit hungry and don’t feel like cooking a whole meal. You want something to munch on while watching TV or working on the computer, or you’ve already had dinner and you just want something crunchy or salty or sweet to put a smile on your face before going to bed.

My favorite snack is a scoop of hummus with some dried pita chips with sea salt. The hummus has some mild spices and a scattering of pine nuts. I buy the big plastic container of hummus for only about $5 at Sam’s Club and a huge bag of dried pita chips with sea salt for only about $4, also at Sam’s. If I buy the same things at the local grocery store I end up paying the same money but getting containers with only about half of the servings. So it makes more sense to go to Sam’s and stock up.

If I don’t want hummus, I usually crave something sweet, like a cookie or a slice of pie. Lately I have been craving cakes, but I think I will try cake pops instead of a full size cake. I like the smaller serving size of a cake pop and I don’t need as much self control on portion size if I just grab a cake pop and don’t allow myself a second.

Discovering the Fun of Baking

This week I have felt very creative and brave, so I’ve been downloading recipes and learning how to bake from scratch!Thanks to my mom, I already knew the basics of baking. I know the difference between flours, the difference between baking soda and baking powder, and how to measure ingredients properly. But until now, all of my baking has been done using packaged mixes and following the directions on the box.

Now I have a small collection of recipes to use for baking cakes, breads and cookies. I will be moving up to pies next week. I have been thrilled with the excellent results of my baked from scratch cakes so far. I can’t wait to try some of the different icings and frosting types on the different cakes. This is fun – but fattening. I will be doing longer walks and some aerobics with my Wii to help keep off the extra pounds.

Adventures with Food

This week I decided to get out of my rut and give in to my wild side at the grocery store. I took my regular list to Kroger yesterday but made a point of going down all the aisles – every single one, and to buy some new things to try in the kitchen.

I started with the deli and bought some hummus and pita bread. I have never had store bought hummus but have eaten it at restaurants. So at least I know what good hummus is supposed to taste like and I’ll see if this brand is any good.

I looked at the meat counter and the prices for beef are crazy high. Instead of buying a strip steak like I usually do, I decided to try some lamp chops. They were on sale for about half price, and I decided that if I didn’t like them then the dogs would get a nice treat and I would not be out much money, thanks to the sale price. Turns out that on the grill they tasted just as good as the strip steaks I’ve been buying.

In the dairy aisle, I bought a quart container of buttermilk. I have no idea what to do with it, but I know that every once in a while I come across a recipe that calls for buttermilk and I never have any on hand so I skip over that recipe and find something else. Well, now I have it on hand and I will be looking for any recipes that call for using buttermilk as one of the ingredients. It will be fun trying something new.

Apron in a Rainbow Tie Dye Pattern

Look at my new apron! It was made by friends of mine in Virginia who do tie dye designs and sell them at a little store in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photo of apron tie dye
Milky Wave Tie Dye Makes Aprons, Shirts and all kinds of wonderful tie dye items

Laz and Jessica are a wonderful young hippie couple who do amazing tie dye work. I had them make this apron for me since we have the holidays coming up. I always spend the entire day on thanksgiving in the kitchen and then I bake cookies all throughout December, so this new apron will be getting a real workout starting next week!

Cookies and Milk

Dinner was over two hours ago and I’ve got the munchies. I don’t know what has fired up my sweet tooth, but i am craving cookies or something sweet tonight. I don’t even buy cookies at the grocery store, so I cannot exactly go to the cupboard and pull out a bag of cookies. If I want cookies then I have to bake them.

My favorite cookie recipe is the authentic recipe for Toll House Cookies that is printed right on the package for Nestles semi-sweet chocolates. It is tried and true and the only thing that I change sometimes is I add chopped nuts or I leave the nuts out.

There is nothing so comforting as a late night snack as a couple of cookies still warm from the oven and a big glass of ice cold milk. That’s what I need tonight, so I guess I will be mixing up a batch of cookie dough and baking a dozen tonight before bed.

Ready for Some Catfish

I’ve been craving southern fried catfish for over two weeks now. I really need to go get some catfish and fixings within the next couple of days or I’m going to burst.

Catfish is one of the very few things that I do not cook myself. I am a fantastic cook and I love to cook. I just don’t like to cook fish. For one thing, it smells up the whole house for the entire day and night. I can’t stand to walk in the door and smell fish in the air.

For another thing, catfish needs to be breaded in a nice cornmeal mixture and then fried in a big vat of hot fat. I don’t have a big vat and since I almost never use fat to cook anything else, it would be a colossal waste of good cooking oil – not to mention the huge expense of a gallon of oil – for a one time use.

I am perfectly happy to let the professionals at a local catfish house do the cooking for me. Now I just have to find someone else who likes catfish that I can drag along with me, because I am READY for some catfish and all the fixings!

Food Lion Made Me Happy Today!

Are you picky about certain brands of food? Like, I prefer Wonder Bread if I am going to make a sandwich. I’m sure the other brands of bread make a good sandwich, but I swear I can tell the difference between the pillow soft Wonder Bread and the other breads if you put a blindfold on me and had me do a taste test. I know I could pick out the sandwich made with Wonder Bread.

Well, I am picky about my peanut butter, too. I like a brand of peanut butter that is very hard to find at the local grocery stores. In fact, the only place I’ve been able to find it on the grocery shelves is at the Publix grocery stores. So when I go to Publix, I stock up on the Reese’s peanut butter jars. Even though they cost about $4 a jar now, I will buy three or four jars at once time, so I don’t have to go all the way back to Publix just for peanut butter in a couple of weeks.

Well, guess what I found on the shelves of my favorite Food Lion store today? That’s right! The Food Lion is stocking the Reese’s brand of peanut butter now! I did a happy dance all the way down the aisle after I found it there! Thank you, Food Lion!