Monday, January 26, 2015

In the kitchen, this past weekend: onions, garlic, mac and cheese, and cocoa

you'd never guess that this is a low-cheese Mac & Cheese casserole

Wintry days find me in the kitchen, a lot.

I'm back to  streamlining some of my cooking prep. I now use my food processor to slice several onions at a time, then store in the fridge for the week. And with the garlic, I've been chopping an entire head or two, at once, to store in the freezer. (I blogged about this here, a loooong time ago). So, on Saturday, I pulled out a couple of heads of garlic, minced them fine, and now have them tucked away in the freezer for easier meal prep.

After a week of soup for dinner, Friday night we had made-from-scratch, macaroni and cheese. As usual, I was low on the cheese part. When someone is requesting mac and cheese, but I don't have much cheese left, this is what I do. I make a low-cheese cheese sauce. It's quite good, better for us (less fat, less dairy for me), and seeing as how cheese is sooooo expensive these days, this version is economical.

low-cheese cheese sauce

For how to make a low-cheese cheese sauce, see this post.
(I was out of carrots, this week, so I used 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree in this particular pot of cheese sauce.)

Don't marshmallows simply belong in a cup of cocoa. I found a few marshmallows in the pantry the other day. They're leftover from making s'mores this past summer.

I don't buy those little packets or larger canisters to make cocoa by the cup. I make mine in the microwave, one cup at a time.

In a microwaveable mug, I heat about 1/8th cup of milk for 20 seconds. Then I stir in 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder plus 2 tablespoons sugar, until it's a nice paste. Next, I stir in more milk, till the mug is about full, and microwave for an additional minute. Finally, I add the extras, such as vanilla extract, almond extract, flavored coffee syrup, a mini candy cane, a sprinkling of cinnamon, or a couple of marshmallows. And for me, being mostly dairy-free, I just use soy milk for my cup.

This particular cup of cocoa has hazelnut coffee syrup, found at the back of the cabinet, needing to be used up. Topped with a couple of marshmallows, and I'm a happy camper, enjoying a cozy winter afternoon.

How did you spend your weekend? Any mugs of cocoa? Building snowmen? A cozy chair and favorite book?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do you scrape burnt toast?

Okay all of you frugal divas out there, when you burn the toast, do you scrape off the burnt portion, but consume the rest? Or if you burn the bottoms of a batch of cookies, slightly, do you scrape the cookie bottoms, then place the cleaned-up cookies in with the rest of the batch?

How about scorching a pot of something, on the stove? Do you try to salvage that, as well? I suspect many of us do these things.

after I picked out the burnt pieces

Yesterday afternoon, while resting on the sofa after a morning of playing with a 4 year old for several hours, I was "multi-tasking" (hardly so, as I was technically on. the. couch.) with a batch of candied orange peel cooking on the stove. "Mmmm, what's that delicious, savory smelling thing cooking in the kitchen," I thought to myself. I leapt off the sofa, into the kitchen, to find the bottom of the pan of candied orange a bit scorched. I quickly dumped the whole batch onto a sheet of waxed paper, leaving the scorched mess in the pan. Tasting it, all but the burnt pieces tasted just fine.

I use the same technique my mother always employed, when scorching a sauce or custard. Here are her "rules":

  • stop stirring!! You want to minimize the incorporation of scorched matter into the non-scorched. If you catch it early enough, the scorched flavors have not yet mingled with the fresh flavors.
  • empty the contents of the pot into a fresh container, without disturbing the scorched matter left in the pot. (In other words, this one time, do not try to scrape everything out of the pot.)
  • taste
  • if there remains a hint of smokiness to the sauce, you can try "fixing" it. If it is a sweet item, such as a custard, an additional 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, or a sprinkling of nutmeg, plus a spoonful of sugar will often mask any lingering scorched flavor. If it is a savory item, a bit more crushed herbs, some minced garlic or onions, or a spoonful of ketchup, will often cover up any tell-tale flavor. But I'd like to share with you one savory item that I left just as it was, after a bit of scorching. It was a batch of salsa. The hint of smokiness, I thought, enhanced the resulting flavor, and I left it just as is. It wasn't badly scorched, and I "attributed" the smokiness to the "chipotle peppers" (there weren't any chipotles).

Most of the time, as the cook, we're hyper-sensitive to any imperfections in the finished product. I've found that my family either has no taste buds whatsoever, or else they're very forgiving. For this little mishap, I simply won't mention the scorching of the candied orange peel. They'll devour it all, even so.

And as for the few pieces of orange peel that were actually burnt, I was still in desperate need of either rest or caffeine. I brewed myself a cup of tea, adding those slightly burned pieces of orange peel to my cup. And I tried to convince myself that I was sipping a nice cup of Lapsang Souchong (smoky-flavored tea).

Have a lovely weekend.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scrap lovelies

Do you know what this is? It's reproduction Victorian scrap. In the early days, original scrap was first printed in black and white, sometimes embossed with relief, then hand-tinted with color. Victorians saved these beautiful bits of paper and cards, often pasting favorite pieces into scrap albums.

In more recent years, Victorian scrap has mostly been used in decoupage craft projects, holiday decor, and card-making.

I have my own collection of reproduction Victorian scrap, that I've secreted away, to pull out for special projects or gift cards. If my daughters got their hands on my scrap, there's no telling what would be left!!

You can buy books or sheets of scrap, or nowadays, with home printers, you can print images directly off your computer. The book in these pictures is titled Old-Time Romantic Vignettes (Dover Books). If you google it, you would find it still available for purchase.

With a book of scrap, you first, roughly cut around the image you wish to use, then with fine point scissors, cut carefully up against the image. (The piece on the far right has only been roughly cut, and next I shall carefully trim away all of the white background.) It can be glued with glue stick to paper (for cards or stationery), or Mod Podged onto painted surfaces for crafting.

I searched and searched, but could not turn up some collage-style Valentines that I made many years ago. (You'll just have to take my word for it, but they were charming.) I cut small cards out of white heavy stock paper, used scissors which make a scalloped edge to trim out the edge of the cards, then collaged pieces of scrap to the front of the cards.

I've also used some of the scrap for craft projects. This is a jacket/sweater rack, which shall be repurposed to the kitchen, shortly, to hold my apron and a few other hanging bits and bobs. The rack was painted with acrylic paints, then the scrap Mod Podge-d onto the front, and finally the entire front was "varnished" with more Mod Podge.

I retrieved my collection of scrap this afternoon, to work on a Valentine decor piece for this year. I'll show you my finished project soon.

Until then, happy scrapping! I'm off to find my good scissors. . . . .


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