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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Life without a Microwave

I can't remember exactly when my parents bought our first microwave. Probably sometime in the 1980's. Did you know that it was accidentally discovered in 1945. All I know is that boy was it convenient! I think it was many years before my husband and I had one in our home and our first one was a beast, I believe given to us by someone. It sat on a shelf in our garage because it was just too big for the kitchen...lol. I remember how excited I was when he bought me one to put over our stove. A few years later we sold that house and began building our new home. When it was time to get a microwave I had a few ideas of what I wanted. We headed to the appliance store to purchase our stove, dishwasher and microwave. I loved the one we purchased. It had a setting for melting and softening butter/cream cheese/chocolate. It had several other settings AND my favorite feature that sold me on it was it's rectangular glass tray that moved side to side instead of around in a circle. No more glass dishes banging the side of the microwave (my others never had the "stop turntable" feature). It lasted us 6 years and died about 6 months ago. At first we weren't quite sure what to do! We took it down, my father in law looked at it and we all deemed it wasn't worth fixing. We put it back in place because, after all, it functioned as our stove fan and overhead light and the spot where it was just looked terrible without it there. Thankfully it hasn't turned in to a storage space.

I say all that to say that 6 months later, we're still alive and we really don't think much about it anymore. We may someday get another one, or we may not. I know many people would probably say "WHAT! How in the world today can you NOT have a microwave?" I suppose to many, this would be the end of the world because they rely heavily on the microwave for all those frozen, prepackaged items that fill their freezers. We, however, do not rely on the microwave as our source of meals. It's main use was to thaw something, re-heat food, melt or soften chocolate or cream cheese, butter or coconut oil. It was never really used to "cook anything", except maybe frozen burritos that I had made or maybe the occasional hot pocket or frozen mini-pizza I gave in and bought for one of my kids. Over the years we have gotten away from things that were strictly "microwavable only" (frozen dinners, etc). 

This has taken some adjusting, and it really stinks when I realize an hour or so before dinner that I didn't take something out to thaw. But with some creativity and a little planning ahead, it has been doable. Plus with the jury still out on the safety of microwaves, we're not in a huge hurry to replace it.

So, how have we managed? Well, let me tell you:

*We don't buy foods that require a microwave to cook. 

*We use the stovetop to melt things such as butter, chocolate, coconut oil, etc..

*I make sure I plan ahead when it comes to thawing meats or other foods. If I forget or need something last minute. I turn my oven on 200, turn it off and then after a few minutes I place that item inside the oven to thaw. I'm sure someone would say that's not safe, but I cook it right away after it's thawed and we're still alive. 

*If we forget to soften butter because we wanted to make cookies, we do the same thing with the oven, placing it in a bowl or on a plate to soften.

*We have bought hot pockets and just took longer to cook them in the oven. 

*We use an air popper to make our popcorn so that wasn't an issue. 

*I've begun to rely on my Pampered Chef Round Covered Baker to re-heat foods. It does so fairly quickly while not drying out the food. OR if it's a larger amount, I cover with foil and reheat at a lower heat for longer. Some items re-heat well on the stovetop and we go that route.

*I think through what I'm making on what nights..for example, will hubby be home to eat this when it's done or will it keep on warm or reheat easily. If the answer is no, I may make something different. 


*Soups are an obvious great meal..they re-heat wonderfully!

It is tricky at times, it takes planning. The other thing it causes us to do is slow down a bit. Not be in a huge hurry. Am  I always successful? No. But it showed me we can live without some of the modern conveniences. Just as I've lived the last 2 years without a smart phone....and I'm still alive.

In our day and age we are quick to replace those things that make our lives easy. I get that. I would be really bummed if my kindle or computer when bad or my camera broke. I would do whatever it took to replace them, simply because they are a vital part of my everyday life and not necessarily something I can come up with "alternative" ways of using. Yes, I know I can survive without those things and I would if I had to, BUT to me, they're important. I encourage you to use things such as the microwave as an "extra", but not as something you rely on.  Always ask yourself, is there a way I can manage without it. What can I change that will allow me to live without this item.


I'd love to hear about things that you've gone without and how you have adapted. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recipe: Calzones

I love Calzones. Before I had my oldest, I worked for a heating and air conditioning company. One of the employees was Italian and he gave me a recipe for his wife's calzones. I have since lost the recipe, and only made them a few times. When my youngest and I were in Las Vegas last month we ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant and both had calzones. Mine was spinach and cheese and she had BBQ chicken. They were so good I knew I wanted to make them sometime for the family. 

Last night was the night! YUM! Turned out great. I think I could've made them smaller and brought the filling further towards the end...it's so tricky sometimes to know how far out to go and how much to fill. You don't want the toppings to break the crust when you fold it over, but you don't want massive amounts of bread either. Well, maybe you do! Haha!

I made two versions. Mine had ricotta cheese, seasoned ground beef, mushrooms, spinach, marinara sauce, an mozzarella cheese. Hubby's and my youngest had BBQ chicken, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and in hubby's, spinach and mushroom. I served extra sauce on the side. 


I believe that a "true" calzone should contain ricotta cheese. While some people don't like the texture of ricotta, I think it adds a creaminess to the calzone that just makes it that much more wonderful. The remaining ingredients can be to your liking. Pepperoni would be good as well or sausage. YUM! I considered serving a salad along with it, but we get full quickly so I passed that up. The fam could grab some if they wanted it. 

Ingredients

Recipe for Yummy Pizza Crust (I doubled this and it made 4 large calzones)..SEE NOTE BELOW ON CRUST

Ricotta cheese
Garlic powder
Parsley
Pepper
mozzarella cheese
Other filling ingredient options: Fresh Spinach, mushrooms, BBQ chicken, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, onion, olives, marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, etc.


**CRUST NOTE: My recipe does not have this rising. Another recipe (exact same ingredients), had it rising for 40 minutes. I did this for the calzones. I'm not sure what the difference would be if it didn't rise...I found the dough was easier to work with after it had risen.

Instructions:

1.  Once crust is ready, divide in to 4 pieces (or the number you need). Pat or roll out into a circle, again, the size you desire. 
2. Spread ricotta cheese on half of round. Top with remaining ingredients. 

3. Fold over the other half of the dough. Fold and pinch edges to seal. (I couldn't get mine to look pretty like other pictures. 

4. Place on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. 

5. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Serve sauces on the side for dipping or place over the top of calzone. 

 *SAUCE NOTE: I placed sauce inside our calzones...the BBQ sauce was mixed with the chicken, and I drizzled a little marinara inside of mine..however, you don't want too much inside if you choose this option because your calzone could become soggy.


With Joy UNquenchable,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Recipe: Biscuit Topped Pot Pie


 One of our favorite meals is homemade chicken pot pie. It's creamy, delicious and fairly easy to make. I love when an already simple meal can be made even easier. 

Here is the recipe for my Chicken Potpie. A few days ago I made a whole chicken in the crockpot. We ate some of it and I saved the leftovers for another meal. Personal chicken pot pies were what I had in mind, AND instead of making a pie crust, I decided to top it with a biscuit. The result was a success and I will definitely make this version again. The nice thing about this is you can make the filling ahead of time and when you get home all you need to do is make your biscuits, top and put in the oven. This can be ready to eat in about 30 minutes start to finish. Using leftover chicken, or whatever meat you have helps to make it a quick meal. 
One thing I would do differently is to double the filling recipe depending on how many you make, or at least the liquid part of it (butter, flour, broth, whipping cream) because it does absorb. One recipe made three large mugs, but both hubby and my youngest said it needed more filling, I thought it was fine. 
Biscuit Topped Pot Pie

Ingredients

Pot pie Filling

For Biscuits:
     2 c. flour
     4 tsp. Baking powder
     1/2 tsp. salt
     1 egg
     1/2 c. butter
     2/3 c. milk
     shredded parmesan cheese
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter and combine till it resembles fine crumbs. Combine milk and egg and add to mixture, stirring just until combined. On a floured surface, knead dough about 20 times. Roll out to 3/4" thick and cut to fit your mugs, ramekin or whatever you choose to use. Sprinkle with cheese. Place on a large baking sheet.
Bake at 425 till biscuits are slightly browned and cooked through. Mine took about 15-20 minutes. They were larger and I think being in the mugs caused them to take a bit longer than if they were just on the pan. 
Allow to cool and make sure no one grabs the mug handle...wink, wink.

You could make the biscuits separate and just top the mugs, ramekins at the end but I like baking the biscuit in with it. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Recipe: Chicken Parmigiano



One meal I haven't made in years is Chicken Parmigiano. It was one that my mom made often and one of my favorites, however, it is also one that just kind of slipped through the cracks. A week ago we were at a birthday party and the host wanted to make chicken parmigiano for the guests. Hubby and I arrived early so I could help him get ready (he was throwing it for his wife). He had a recipe but it also brought to mind the way my mom made it (which was very similar) so we embarked on the journey of re-creating it. It was so good I made it last night for my family. Again, it turned out so good, so I thought I'd share it here. 

Family recipes are wonderful. Sometimes we forget about them, sometimes they no longer fit our "diets", but maybe they can be re-vamped. Whatever it is, family recipes should have a special place, even if it is only enjoyed or remembered on paper. Totally off topic, but a great way to display old family recipes is to put them in a picture frame, either by themselves or in a collage and hung in your kitchen. I have several recipes that I plan to do this with.

So, this recipe is actually fairly easy and can be ready from start to finish in 30-40 minutes. We served ours with a side of pasta and a green salad. I think it would also be good with mashed potatoes.

I made homemade bread crumbs. When made at our friends house we used Franz Gluten Free Bread. When I made them my local store didn't have that bread so I just bought a loaf of Italian bread from the bakery, broke it up, toasted it in the oven and then put it through the food processor. I then seasoned them with garlic powder, salt, pepper, some italian seasoning and onion powder. You could obviously use store bought bread crumbs, but I liked the texture these gave to the chicken.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts
2 eggs
1/8 c. water
2 c. bread crumbs (more or less)
3 Tbs. Canola oil or other oil for pan frying
1 jar marinara sauce
shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. Slice chicken breasts in half across the center to create two thinner pieces of chicken.

2. Beat together water and eggs.

3. Dip chicken in egg mixture then in to bread crumbs.
4. In a non-stick skillet heat oil on medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until breading is browned slightly and chicken begins to turn "white", anywhere from 3-4 minutes on each side should do it.
5. Place in a baking dish. Bake in a 350-375 degree oven for another 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Pour sauce over the top of each breast and sprinkle with cheese. Place back in oven until sauce is warmed through and cheese is melted. 

Note: You could melt the cheese on the chicken and serve the sauce on the side if you want. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, March 16, 2015

SRC Reveal: Old Fashioned Lemon Bars


OH MY GOODNESS! I went on my blog this morning and noticed my SRC post was showing....SAY WHAT! I was positive I scheduled it...yep, scheduled it.....for yesterday....yikes...thankfully I only wrote it yesterday so I think I'm safe from anyone seeing it...lol....

Hello! Since I became a member of the SRC I have been a part of group D. Late last year there was a call out to anybody who would be interested in switching groups. I thought "why not. It might be nice to experience some new blogs". So here I am. This is my first post in Group C. I have really enjoyed being a part of The Secret Recipe Club. I have found some great blogs, made some amazing recipes, and survived without too many flops. Each month we are assigned a blog, choose a recipe and make it on our reveal day. 

This month I was assigned Feast on The Cheap (I love a Feast and I love Cheap), hosted by the mom and daughter (and new mom) team, Mary Anne and Mariel. Can I say that, WOW, these ladies do it all. From catering, to authoring a cookbook, to writing for magazines, to hosting a blog. Please go check out their About Me Page since I will NOT be able to do them justice. 

I loved all their recipes...my dilemma came when I saved two recipes to my "Secret" Pinterest Board, decided which one to make, bought the ingredients and then yesterday (Thursday) realized it was a previous SRC post...ACK!!! So I went to the next one I pinned, and the next one...they were all former SRC posts. Oh, no!!! I still made the Tuscan Sausage Soup and it was a HUGE hit! It was originally made by A Couple in The Kitchen. I will be making it again, in fact, I'm sitting here eating it now with a slice of my yummy artisan bread. This put me in a dilemma because I needed to find a recipe that involved ingredients I had at home since it's not quite payday. Finally I came upon their Old Fashioned Lemon Bars and I knew it would be a winner, and I knew I had all the ingredients. Phew! I DID NOT want to bomb my first Group C post. 

One thing I love about their blog is they show a "cost" of each meal, according to what you would buy and what should have "stock" or on hand. Obviously prices will vary but I like that they give a general idea. I also liked this page Well-Stocked, where they talk about a well-stocked kitchen. Great tips.

These bars were just the right combo of sweet, tangy, buttery goodness! They were easy to put together and do not take long at all. Let's get on with the recipe.

Old Fashioned Lemon Bars
by Feast on The Cheap

Ingredients:

For Crust~

1 c. Flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts, they used almonds)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick chilled butter, cut in to slices

For Filling~

3/4 c sugar
The zest of 3 lemons (about 3 Tbs.)..I use organic when I'm going to use the peel.
6 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbs. flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

To Garnish~~powdered sugar, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries...whatever tickles your fancy or is in season.

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x9 pan with foil and either butter or spray with cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a food processor armed with the metal blade, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the chilled butter and nuts. Pulse until mixture resembles fine meal.

3. Press in to the bottom of pan using hands or the bottom of a glass dipped in flour. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. 

4. While that is baking, combine all filling ingredients in food processor and blend just till combined. You don't want to go crazy because it will mess with the final outcome if the batter gets foamy.

5. Pour over warm crust and bake for another 20 minutes or until edges are brown and lemon is set. Allow to cool then lift foil out of pan, gently separate from bars and slice. 

6. Top with whatever your heart desires. 
Thank you ladies for a great recipe!




With Joy UNquenchable,

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