Friday, July 31, 2009

May Be Foodless Friday: Baked Potatoes

Note: I guest posted on another blog and redid this post with more pictures. Click here to see the updated post!

Welcome to May Be Foodless Friday. Today we'll be discussing Baked Potatoes, which are easy, but time consuming - after all you have to let them cook in the oven for about an hour because we all know that microwaved potatoes are not that great, or do we? Time to rethink the microwaved potato.

For Christmas 2 years ago, my mother-in-law gave us a baked potato bag for the microwave. This wonderful home-made potato bag has made baked potatoes one of our 'quick' meals.
So how to get one of these wonderful potato bags? You can buy one (search for baked potato bag or sack), or make it yourself (or ask someone you know who loves to sew to make one for you). I have made a few and find that they are quite easy once you get going. When we get into a larger place and I get my sewing desk and machine back I will post pictures of how to make them. Until then if you have questions please feel free to contact me, there are also many places to find instructions online, each varies - just search for baked potato bag or baked potato sack.

How to make a Baked Potato Bag
Note: I am a beginner with a sewing machine so these won't be the most technical directions. I purposefully do not give dimensions as you can make them as large or small as you want to. I would hesitate to make it to too large (more than four potatoes at a time) though because I'm not sure how the potatoes would cook.

What you need

Sewing Machine
100% cotton Thread
100% Cotton fabric

*A couple of notes on batting, it would be best to get 100% cotton batting, however it is not necessary.
Also when buying the batting, if you buy low or medium loft you will need twice the amount. You will need to stitch the batting together to make it thicker.

You will need one piece of cotton fabric that is twice as tall as the piece of batting. Place the batting on the wrong side of the cotton fabric, line up the edges on three sides. Fold down the top of the fabric to cover the batting (you should only see the design on the fabric now.) Sew the three edges . Fold in half so the sewn edges are together. Sew the two edges that have been sewn together and surge(I just use the zig-zag stitch). Turn bag so stitching is on the inside and you have a potato bag.
View of inside the bags. FYI I made green one and my mother-in-law made the red one.
I've seen some where they actually quilt the whole thing, which may not be a bad idea to keep the batting in place, because after quite a few uses it starts to slip down in the bag. Another way to counter this would be to use two pieces of fabric and stitch the batting to all the edges.

Another thing I have seen is having a lip to close the potatoes in the bag. I don't think it is necessary, as our potatoes cook just fine without it, but it does look nicer.

To use:
Wash & Dry Potato, DO NOT PRICK (you can wrap the potato in a paper towel if desired),
Place in Bag, Microwave using your microwave’s potato setting (if you don’t have one, start with 4 minutes). You want to squeeze the potato while still in the sack, if it is soft then it is done. Some potatoes may need additional time. If more time is needed continue using 1 minute increments until done.
Tip: to get your potatoes nice and fluffy, take your potato when it is still nice and hot. Bang* it on a clean surface (counter, cutting board, etc) a couple of times, it will split open after the second or third time. Place on a plate, open split more and fluff with a fork.
Caution: You may need to use a hot-pad to hold the hot potato while banging it.

*Seriously Bang it on the counter! Take out your frustrations on the potato, it works great! Doesn't that potato look nice and fluffy?

Additional Uses: Day old rolls, Acorn Squash, Carrots, String Beans
Wrap the following in a paper towel
Sweet Corn; Remove Husk
Sweet Potatoes

100% Cotton – Machine Washable – Cold
****** Microwaves ovens may vary do not leave bags unattended when using – you should not leave the potatoes in the bag as they will steam and get it wet. Not recommended for use in microwaves without a working turntable.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fried Rice

This recipe is adapted from about 3 other recipes plus adding an ingredient of my own (sesame oil). I take what I like from them and add it together. One recipe called for green beans (green beans in Fried Rice?), another called for peas (I only like fresh peas straight from the garden, so that was a no go), mushrooms (hubby says no to mushrooms), and bamboo shoots (I never have those, I tried using them, but didn't think they added to the dish), and another said to beat the eggs and soy sauce together (huh?). I actually tried the eggs and soy sauce thing, not so great. I never felt like the eggs got cooked enough (I am really don't deal well with eating raw eggs - yeah, no homemade eggnog for me!) I usually try to just use one pan for this so I cook the eggs before I saute the other ingredients. The ham I usually have left over from cooking a half-ham, which I usually buy when it goes on sale for $0.99 per pound. Tip: When buying ham, buy the butt portion not the shank (butt portion usually has smaller bones and more meat).

Fried Rice

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook 3 eggs, scrambled (do not add milk or salt). After thoroughly cooked, remove from pan, set aside.
In same skillet, saute 2 Carrots - cubed or shredded (these should be as thick as matchstick carrots or they will turn mushy), 1/2 cup Green Onions - sliced, 1 clove Garlic - minced, in 1 tsp Sesame Oil (if you do not have this you can omit), and 2 Tbsp Olive Oil until vegetables are crisp tender.
I add the 2 cups ham before the veggie are crisp tender (mainly because I use ham I have cut up and put in the freezer. It is never quite thawed by the time I start cooking this dish, so the extra time gives helps it unthaw and also helps blend flavors.) If you use ham from the fridge, you can add it after the veggies are crisp-tender.
Once the veggies are crisp-tender, add 3 cups rice. Stir until combined, then add 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce (I use reduced sodium).
Remember those eggs, add them now. Stir until combined and it is heated through.
Serve while hot.


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Strawberry and Blackberry Smoothie

This is a great refresher in the summer. I love smoothies and have tried a bunch of recipes (with yogurt, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, etc.) but I find this basic recipe works with most types of fruit to create a delicious smoothie. The amount of sugar needs to be adjusted with different types of fruit and according to individual preference. Honestly my weakness is using blueberries, it makes the most delicious smoothie ever!

Strawberry and Blackberry Smoothie
We got a bunch of bags of Strawberry and Blackberry frozen mix when they were on sale for $0.98 per bag. I also find that if I freeze strawberries that are too ripe to eat but not rotten that they add great flavor to smoothies.
2-3 Cups Milk*
2-4 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla*
1/4 - 1/3 Cup Wheat Germ, optional
1 pkg (12 oz) Strawberry and Blackberry frozen mix**

Mix milk, sugar, vanilla and wheat germ in blender,
add fruit a few pieces at a time.
Blend until there are no more fruit chunks.
* 1 Cup Vanilla Ice Cream can be used in place of 1 cup milk and the vanilla, you will also want to use less sugar (use about 1 Tbsp sugar). **You can substitute 2-3 cups of any frozen fruit in place of the strawberries/blackberries. Some of the fruits we us a lot are blueberries, strawberries, and peaches. Blueberries are my ultimate favorite though.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to my kitchen

About me:
I love to cook and create new things in my kitchen. I enjoy eating good food as well as making it. I try to be frugal, however, I do tend to splurge on some items now and again to try new things. Desserts are my downfall - I love making them. As there are just two of us eating currently, we do eat leftovers (or as we like to call them - planned-overs) quite frequently, or we use them for lunches. I try to be good about not wasting food, but I err on the side of caution when it comes to food I'm not sure about.

My Posting schedule is as follows:
Each week I will post on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I will occasionally post on Tuesdays. Below is a description of what you can expect each day...

Monday - Monday Menus
Each Monday I plan to post the meals we ate during the past week. Why the past week and not for the coming week/month like most blogs? I don't plan menus for each day instead I plan enough meals for about 2 weeks at a time, then I just cook what I feel like from the list. This way I don't have to adjust when my schedule is crazy and I don't have time to make the 'planned' meal. I instead always have 1-2 quick meals on my list as well as a quick fall back meal.
Each Monday I will post a poll for you to vote on which recipe you would like to see posted the following Thursday. If two recipes are receive the same number of winning votes I will post both recipes - however I will choose to post one on Thursday and will post the other recipe within a week or two of the poll (depending on my available free time). In the case that there is only one new recipe during a particular week (I try to make at least one new recipe per week) then I will not hold a poll, but post the new recipe. If a recipe that you voted for does not win, do not fear, I will probably make it again sometime soon. If you would like the recipe right away, feel free to post a comment or email me and I will get it to you (without photos of course!).

Tuesday - Tuesday Treats
Tuesdays I will be posting dessert recipes. It won't be every week, simply because I try not to make desserts every week.

Every other Wednesday is a Kitchen Tip day. I will be posting about a short-cut or some other piece of information that I think is important when cooking. In between kitchen tips I'll be sharing recipes for side dishes, mainly those that include veggies. I find that if I don't consciously try to make sure my family is eating vegetables, we don't.

Thursday - Recipe of the Week
I will post the winner of the recipe of the week poll from the previous week.  I use to hold the poll and then edit the photos and post the recipe in the same week, but due to demands on my time with my toddler, I have switched to holding the poll longer and posting the recipe the next week.

Friday - Foodless Friday or Food Friday Challenge
Random post about cooking, mishaps in the kitchen, other hobbies, Motherhood, etc.
Coming soon - once a month I will issue a challenge and give you two weeks to come up with a recipe to enter the challenge. (Challenges will be different each month and will include challenges such as use 3 given ingredients for a main dish; using ingredient x create a whole meal - appetizer, main course, dessert; etc.) I'll be announcing more information when I actually launch this - I'm just excited about it and wanted to let you know!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taco Seasoning Mix

So I use taco seasoning a lot... and I was sick of buying it at the stores because I knew it is a little overpriced (as all pre-made seasoning mixes are). I toyed around with the amounts of the ingredients, until I found this combination, that works great. I have also found buying Cumin in the ethnic section of the grocery store is another great way to save money!

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 Tbsp milk powder
(can use 1/2 Tbsp corn starch)
1 Tbsp chopped onion
½ Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika (smoked paprika is best)
¼ tsp salt (optional – do not use if the chili powder has salt)
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp oregano
1/8 tsp black pepper

Combine ingredients in a spice grinder*, process until smooth. Add 2/3 cup water and mixture to 1 lb cooked ground beef, drained of fat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered 5-10 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally.

I also make a lot of this at a time and keep in a bottle in my spice cabinet.

*I use an inexpensive electric coffee grinder (if you do this do not use it to grind coffee as well - I don't have this problem as I am one of those people who do not drink coffee.)