Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cooked up a "Q" storm................

While it rained and sleeted outside during the storm the other day,  I ran around the house trying to get as much done using electricity as I could.  I was so sure we would lose power it was like "a race against time"!  I got caught up with laundry, I got all the dishes washed and started cooking and baking. 
DISCLAIMER:  These recipes I am going to share with you are not quick, easy, or calorie free.....but boy are they ever delicious!
The first recipe I got from Alicia Paulson's blog .  She and her husband Andy shared this for Valentine's Day.  It would have to be a special occasion because it takes forever to make.  First of all, make the sauces the day before and REALLY prep for this recipe ahead of time otherwise it will be midnight before you serve it!  That is SO worth it and heats up wonderfully in the microwave for leftovers. 
Alicia's picture was better and they had cute individual oblong casserole dishes they cooked it in.  Moi just had regular 9" square casserole dish...vintage Corning Ware! LOL!  Regardless, it was marvelous and the juices are so good you could put them over ice cream and you would love it.  I can't say enough about this very special dish.

Lasagnas Rozale
Our version of these, from Martha Stewart
Serves 2
For the sauce:
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 t. olive oil
2 t. butter
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 oz. lean ground beef
3 oz. ground pork
3 oz. Italian sausage
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. red wine
12 oz. chopped tomatoes (boxed or canned)
2 c. chicken stock
1/4 t. nutmeg
For the bechamel sauce:
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c. plus 3 tablespoons milk
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
Other ingredients:
6 lasagna noodles
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
To make the sauce:
1. In large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and have let off their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, 3 to 4 more minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in separate skillet, break up and brown all meats over high heat, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper. Drain off fat and add meats to skillet containing vegetables; mix everything together. Add wine and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, stock, and nutmeg. Lower heat to medium low and slowly simmer, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Much of the liquid will evaporate but sauce will remain very moist. It can be made 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator. You will have extra sauce after lasagnas are assembled to use over pasta, etc., for lunch the next day, too.
To make the bechamel:
1. In a saucepan, melt 2 T. butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring milk and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk the milk into the flour mixture until completely incorporated and smooth. Add the nutmeg and reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
To assemble the lasagna:
1. Boil lasagna noodles in large pot of salted water until about a minute before you normally like them to come out. Drain and rinse with cold water, then cut (shorten) to fit two 12-ounce individual ovenproof casserole dishes.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until wilted and tender. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Set aside.
3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 5 T. meat sauce into each of the casserole dishes. Cover with 1 lasagna noodle and spread 5 T. meat sauce evenly over. Spread 2 T. bechamel over the meat sauce and evenly distribute 2 T. chopped spinach over the bechamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cover with 1 lasagna noodle. Repeat layering process. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan and dot with butter.
4. Bake until tops of lasagnas are golden and juices are bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes. If the tops are not yet brown, increase heat to broil and place lasagnas under broiler until tops are speckled brown. Let stand 10 minutes; serve with red wine, simple salad, crusty bread, fancy deserts, and lots of love. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

For dessert, I had picked up some Spring Strawberries and decided to make strawberry shortcake.  Many times I use angel food cake and that's good but I decided to try to make shortcake from scratch using Nigella Lawson's recipe and it did not disappoint!  I like these better than scones and they are good enough to have naked with a cup of tea.   No!  I'm not naked, the shortcake!  As in nothing on the shortcake!
Again, this is not a quick, easy or low cal dessert but you will get immense pleasure from eating it!
Don't worry, I don't expect you to try and read this.  I will give you the recipe below.

For the shortcakes:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons sugar but save 2 of the 5 for later
1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup light cream (I used whole milk as I didn't have any cream)
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 baking sheet, greased or lined with parchment or wax paper
2 1/2 inch round cutter (I used a glass)


For the filling:
approximately 11 ounces strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
few drops of Balsamic vinegar (I used strawberry champagne vinegar...I have no idea where that came from?  I usually have Balsamic but someone put the empty bottle back in the cupboard!  Now who on earth would do such a thing????)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped or creme fraiche ( I live alone so I use the canned Ready Whip, it's fresh whipped cream that doesn't get watery after a day like when I whip a carton of whipping cream)

 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl.  Grate the butter into these dry ingredients and use your fingertips to finish crumbling the butter into the flour.  Whisk the egg into the light cream, and pour into the flour mixture a little at a time, using a fork to mix.  You may not need all of the eggy cream to make the dough come together, so go cautiously.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll gently to a thickness of about a 1/4 inch.  Dip the cutter in flour and cut out as many rounds as you can.  Work the scraps back into a dough, re-roll and finish cutting out.  You should get 8 in all.  Place the shortcakes about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg white, and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  If it helps with the rest of your cooking, or life in general, you can cover and refrigerate them now for up to 2 hours.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown, and let them cool for a short while on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, crush half the strawberries with the spoonful of sugar and the few drops of Balsamic vinegar if using, and halve or quarter the remaining berries, depending on their size.  Whip the heavy cream if you're using.  
The shortcakes should be eaten while still warm, so split each one across the middle and cover with a spoonful of the crushed strawberry mixture, a few halved or quartered strawberries, then dollop some whipped cream or creme fraiche on top and set the top back on.  Makes 8
Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Didn't even lose power! Yippee!!!!!

Probably because I was ready this time! LOL! And because you all were saying a prayer....thank you!  Many did lose power though throughout Arkansas and Missouri.  I'm really surprised we didn't as the ice was pretty thick on the lines.  Here are some photos some from yesterday and some from today with the sun melting it and shining on the ice.  It was almost "blinding" outside!  LOL! 

We also had lightening and thunder and sleet and snow....I think the only thing we missed was hail but I might have had my back turned when that happened! LOL!

This is what it looked like this morning.............


It was so beautiful, it took my breath pictures don't do it justice.  At times like this I really wish I was a better photographer.
I hope you all are safe and warm and dry wherever you are and please stop back tomorrow as I will sharing some fantastic recipes.  I "cooked up a storm" during the storm yesterday and I have a couple of winners for you!  Enjoy your Friday night and TTYS!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Prepping for Storm Q in Arkansas..........

In 2009 I went through an ice storm here in Arkansas and went without power for 8 days.  I had a fireplace but some "jerk" sold me green wood which wouldn't throw off any heat so it did me no good..  It's probably the worst experience I ever went through.  People here died because they were elderly, had no alternative heat source and there were no phones or power.  Some couldn't be reached because of the trees blocking the roads and power lines down.  It was horrible!  So, they're predicting this could be a bad one too.  This time I have a plan AND better wood!  
#1 - GOOD burning wood in the house
 More in the garage.........and more outside
#2 - A landline phone (your wireless phones won't work)
#3 - Ice melt
#4 - Weather radio
#5 - Battery powered lights...I have several of these plus a hand crank radio and light, flashlights, and a 3 way lantern

 #6 - Ice grippers that go on my shoes.......
#7 - Extra ice to keep the freezer cold in case we lose power which is pretty much a given!  I have water and that's not a concern since city water here flows even without electric....a MIRACLE!  But if you have well water you need to  ensure you have plenty since grocery stores will either not be open even days after the storm or the distributors will not be able to deliver for days and the shelves will be empty.  After the last storm there was no water or ice or batteries...even gas was hard to come by so fill up your tank.
#8 -  And of course canned goods, extra batteries, and oh!  Where did that cute little mushroom come from? I couldn't is cute isn't it?  My favorite color combo right and turquoise!
I also came up with a plan for keeping the heat in the room where the fireplace is as this house is sprawling and it could not possibly heat this whole house.  So........

I have a tension rod here in the doorway with some curtains I got at a garage sale and were still in the box I brought them home in! LOL!
Below is a big doorway that is between the family room, where the fireplace is, and the living room.  This was tougher....I took the tension shower curtain rod from the bathroom but it was just a "smidgin" short so I put 2 nails on each side and it gave it just enough width to make it!  Whew!  I may need to tack the sides too and also safety pin some towels to the bottom to extend the length but I think it will help.

See what I mean...........Grace was testing the clearance...LOL!  The girls are a little nervous as they know something is up.  What's strange is the name of the storm, "Q", as my parents who lived down here were known as Mr. and Mrs. "Q" because their last name was so hard to pronounce.  I think they're helping me stay safe.

I hope where ever you are that you "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst"!  
P.S.  Also, to keep your pipes from freezing let your faucets drip a little. 

This storm is affecting many people across the U.S. and I wish you all to stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thrifty Tip Tuesday!

I need to challenge myself on this one!  There are some tips that I have done for years that I take for granted and then there are some tips that I've learned recently.  I hope either way that you can glean something useful for you and your family and save some money at the same time!
TIP #1 - This one is for cat owners.....I have found that the lid from Blue Diamond Almond cans also fits on cat food cans.  I was looking at lids at the store and thought it was ridiculous to have to buy cat food lids....there must be some lid I have at home that would work and "sure nuff" there was.  Now if someone could tell me one that fits for dog food cans?

TIP #2 - You probably already know this or do it but I was cooking up a storm yesterday and one of the things I was making was a sauce for Lasagna that I was going to cook today.  I always make spaghetti sauce and chili the day before I'm going to use it.  There is something about refrigerating tomato based sauces overnight that truly brings the flavors out and melds the spices you've added.  In fact, chili and spaghetti sauce could be made way ahead and frozen.  It only gets better with refrigeration!
(Above was taken when I was just starting to make my sauce...forgot to take a finished picture yesterday)
Below is when I took it out of the frig today to start making my lasagna. 

TIP #3 - The plant you cannot kill!  I think I've mentioned this before but I thought I would include it in my tips.  This is a smilax vine and if I haven't killed it neither will you!  I have had this plant in the the same pot I got it in several years ago. 
I do fertilize occasionally but I have gone as much as 3 weeks without watering when I had my eye surgeries and couldn't see for awhile.  All my other plants "failed" but this one lived through it all!

It has grown up the hanger and I had to trim it back as it swooped over to the drapes and started growing on the drapery rod!  It's unbelievable!  It also flowers and is easy to root in water!  In my house this is a "miracle" plant!
TIP #4 - Use your linens in unusual ways.  I've posted before how I've used linen napkins for curtains.  Here are a few other ways I've utilized them.
Here's my feed sack curtain.  Since it's a "sack" it's double thick and therefore definitely not see through which is good since it's in my bathroom.
 This is a handkerchief that belonged to my Mother and has her initial on it.........
I use many to cover furniture that has seen better days and I haven't had time to paint or refinish yet.  Below is a kitchen towel that a friend appliqued for me.

This is a tablecloth I got at a garage sale..........

These may not be your idea of great decorating if you have a fancier house than mine but for me it's fine.  I'm more practical than fancy but I love a "cozy" and "homey" atmosphere so it works for me.  I'm sure you could come up with even more but I hope this helps you in some small way.  Have a great evening!