How about that weird weather this past week! We did miss the bullet when it comes to snow, but those cold temperatures could have very nicely stayed away. It wasn't a total surprise, but it surely wasn't wanted. It did give me an excuse to make a pot of tea and just relax in front of the fireplace, so that part I liked. What I didn't care for was the disappointment of my oldest great-grandson when the cold and rain came, after a beautiful day on his actual birthday, on the day of his party in the park. I asked him what he did to make Old Mother Nature angry. He is learning early on that "into every life some rain must fall." The "quiet money" in his cards helped him enjoy the rainy day, though.
The project of putting away winter clothes and getting out only summer ones has had a setback. Twice now, those heavier clothes have been dug back out to wear. I guess I made Old Mother Nature angry, too, and she is letting me know that she will determine what I wear and when the shorts can stay out. It would be nice if we could bottle up some of the cooler air to release this summer, when we will probably wish for cool breezes.
Even the soup pot made a comeback with that cool streak of weather. I needed to use up some of the stuff in the freezer anyway, so there were no complaints on that issue. It, also, stopped some of the comments about "all the stuff in the freezer that needs to be used before more is purchased." Some people just have a hard time being happy....
Guess I am losing all my "discussions." Husband, Norm, has made a very strong point about the garden; I know he is in cahoots with that Nature lady. That colder weather let my bones know that I really shouldn't be weeding, digging and doing heavy work out where the plants were promised a home. I will get my berries under control and some flowers planted, so I didn't completely give in. My daughter-in-law has promised to share her garden bounty with me and I know the way to the local Farmers' Market and the produce auction in Chesterhill. That was my secret "Plan B." I make it a point to never completely give in on any of our "discussions." Plus, my grandkids have promised to help me do want I want to do..... The pruning of the rose bushes is still up for discussion. I have a feeling he is right, but I haven't completely given in, yet. I think climbing roses are supposed to climb, even if they do interfere with his lawn mowing.
The flowerbed on the patio will have to be completely redone - not because of the weather but because of some creatures that like to jump in it and dig. They don't eat bulbs, so I would guess that other varmints have paid it a visit and then the dogs have dug to try to find them. The black Lab, Rocky, doesn't jump into the raised bed, so I would guess the skunks he chases live elsewhere. There are lots of squirrels around, but we don't see them since they stay away from the dogs and cats. The deer don't come that close to the house, so I know they aren't the "flowerbed problem," but something is definitely challenging me about that bed. One year, we came home to see where some varmint, a raccoon probably, had tried to get in through the screen door. He left his claw marks, so it was a good thing the main door was closed. Joys of living in the country.
Have you tried the Philadelphia Cooking Cream yet? If you follow the recipes on the flyer, or use them as a guide for your own recipes, you can have a delicious meal in a very short time that tastes just like you got "take-out" from a good Italian restaurant. Easy, quick and good. It is nice to know how to "cook from scratch," but short-cuts are great, especially when a tasty result is certain. Another trick is to use your own serving dishes when you buy a dish from a deli. If your family says that your potato salad doesn't taste like that with which they are familiar, just say you tried a new recipe. And frozen dinner rolls can taste just as good as home baked ones.
Included today are two basic mixes that I use regularly. They do save time and are less expensive than store-bought ones.
My friend, Sarah Jalbert, sent me two recipes that I think you will enjoy, too, so those are included. Have fun in the kitchen.
Each day is a gift, so enjoy it (and please don't anger Mother Nature for awhile). Take care, and God Bless.
IN A JAR
Servings: Three jar cakes
One white cake mix
One tub Whipped Ready to Spread white frosting
Three egg whites (for cake mix)
One-third cup vegetable oil for (for cake mix)
One-and-one-fourth cup water (for cake mix)
Betty Crocker NEON food colors in neon pink, neon blue and neon purple
Regular food colors in yellow, green, red and blue
Three (1-pint) wide-mouth glass canning jars
Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash caning jars and dry thoroughly. Set lids and rims aside. Spray inside of each glass jar with a generous amount of non-stick cooking spray. Make cake batter according to directions on cake mix box. Divide batter evenly among five bowls (approximately one-cup batter in each bowl)
Add 15 drops of neon pink food coloring to the 1st bowl. Stir to blend well.
Add 14 drops of regular yellow food coloring to the 2nd bowl. Stir to blend well.
Add 24 drops of regular green food coloring to the 3rd bowl. Stir to blend well.
Add 7 drops of neon blue food coloring to the 4th bowl. Stir to blend well.
Add 8 drops of regular red plus 7 drops regular blue plus 3 drops of neon purple food coloring to the 5th bowl. Stir to blend well.
Spoon about one-fourth cup of each color batter into each of the jars, layering the colors in this order: Purple (first), blue, green, yellow, pink (last). Use a paper towel to wipe any spills or drips from the jars.
Place the jars in a glass-baking dish. Add one-fourth inch of water to the bottom of the dish surrounding the jars. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cake tops should spring back to the touch when done, but don't bake so long that the cakes are brown. You can also use a long bamboo skewer to test doneness if you have one.
Allow cakes to cool completely, about one hour, before frosting. Spread frosting over the top of cake and decorate as desired.
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
(Another neat recipe from Sarah)
Four tablespoons flour
Four tablespoons sugar
Two tablespoons cocoa
Three tablespoons milk
Three tablespoons oil
Three tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
One large coffee mug (Microwave Safe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT. (This can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous). And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night.
Eight and one-half cups all-purpose flour
Four tablespoons baking powder
One tablespoon salt
Two teaspoons cream of tartar
One teaspoon baking soda
One-and-one-half cups instant nonfat dry milk or dry buttermilk powder
Two-and-one-fourth cups vegetable shortening
In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients. Blend well. With pastry blender or heavy-duty mixer, cut in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal in texture. Put in an airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within ten to twelve weeks. Makes about 13 cups of Quick Mix.
VARIATION: Use half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour. Increase baking powder to 5 tablespoons.
FOR BISCUITS; Use three cups QUICK MIX and two-thirds cup milk or water.
NOTE: Use same as Bisquick or Jiffy Mix for many variations.
PANCAKE AND WAFFLE MIX
Two cups dry buttermilk powder
Eight cups all-purpose flour
One-half cup sugar
Eight teaspoons baking powder
Four teaspoons baking soda
Two teaspoons salt
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir with a wire whisk until evenly distributed. Pour into a 12-cup container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 6 months. Makes about 10 1/2 cups mix.
Two-and-one-half cups BUTTERMILK mix
Two cups water
Three eggs, separated
One-fourth cup oil
In a large bowl, combine mix, water, egg yolks and oil. Beat with a wire whisk until just blended. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Bake according to waffle-baker instructions.
One egg, beaten
Two tablespoons vegetable oil
One cup water
One-and-one-half cups mix
Combine egg, oil and one cup water. With wire whisk, stir in mix. Whisk until blended. Let stand five minutes. Add additional water if thinner batter is wanted. Bake on griddle.
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist. Contact her at JKoenitzer@aol.com