Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do You Remember the Jam Recipe I Promised?

I couldn't find it! I am horrible! But I think I remember it - because it's a variation of one I have on hand from another source. So while I was in the process of cutting rhubarb for freezing, I remembered the jam and thought that it's time to get that posted. About this time of the year I start getting ready for canning and freezing, so while I find all of my jars and seals and lids and things this blog may be a bit quiet. But keep checking back - because I usually can't keep quiet for long, according to my hubby :)

So for your reading enjoyment you may possibly find some odd things tossed in here. It will pertain to food, but it may end up that one day you will find a restaurant review, the next you may find a recipe for a lemon drop martini - who knows?

Here's an enjoyable way to use up some rhubarb! I got this recipe from my friend Terri K. at work:

Rhubarb Slush

8 cups Rhubarb
2 quarts water
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Combine all and cook until tender. Strain and put in ice pail.
Add 2 cups vodka and 1 package strawberry jello, then freeze.
Scoop frozen slush into cups and top with Sierra Mist.

Great for parties - this recipe makes a LOT! Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wild Goodness

Good things can sometimes happen when you don't mow the lawn.

Well, that is, if you live in a rural township where you won't get fined for letting the grass get a little long. I knew there were wild grapes, raspberries and gooseberries growing abundantly in the woods surrounding our house, and I noticed this tiny grapevine growing in the ditch on the edge of our yard.

So I told the boys and my husband not to mow the ditch. The boys certainly didn't mind, and my husband could have cared less - well, if there was a good reason for it, anyway. It's not like he wants the yard to look like a wild overgrown mess, but he realizes that I can identify edible things in the woods, so he trusts my judgement when it comes to wild foods.

This tiny, weed-like plant to the right is a raspberry cane, sprouting from the earth near the road.

I've discovered about 10 wild grape vines and an uncountable amount of thorny little raspberry shoots. Not all thorny plants in the woods of Minnesota are raspberries, though.
The American gooseberry is also very prickly. Each adult berry bush can yield 6 to 8 gallons of berries, which are great for jam and wine. This berry on the left isn't ripe, yet. When ripe, the berries are a stunningly beautiful shade of deep, wine red.
As with any wild berries or fruits, you must be certain that you've identified the plant correctly. Some plants are poisonous, and may look similar to other plants that are edible.
Like mushrooms, for instance. NEVER, ever pick wild mushrooms. Unless you have been trained to properly identify which ones are edible, it is far too easy to make a fatal mistake. If you eat a poisonous mushroom, you may be lucky enough to get to an emergency room; however, you might not. I'd rather not take that chance, mushrooms are much better from the grocery store, anyway :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Slimfast vs. Take-Out?

The Strawberries ‘n Cream Slimfast in my cabinet at work did not appeal to me today. In fact, I find that flavor repulsive. It doesn’t taste like real strawberries, and the only way to consume an entire can is to refrigerate it to near freezing and then chug it all down as quickly as possible. The grocery store was out of my usual Milk Chocolate flavor, so I decided against my best judgment to try something new. Unfortunately, I got stuck with a whole 6-pack of the nasty stuff.

I hope the people at Unilever are reading this. If so, listen up: diet food won’t appeal to anyone unless it tastes good! Not so good as to make you want to consume the entire 6-serving package all at once, mind you. Just good enough to make me want to eat it again will do. I crave chocolate on a daily basis, so they did make a wise choice in using that flavor in their products.

Because I avoided the Slimfast today, I decided to try a new Vietnamese restaurant near my place of business. I wish I had taken my camera with me today so I could show you all how good the presentation was, albeit was in a Styrofoam box. I guess that is my excuse to eat there again. Perhaps I will have to try each dish on the menu, in order to get pictures of them all… hmmm… that’s a concept… I will have to think on that a bit… Well, here's my review of the restaurant:

The Rice Box on Hwy 10 in Ramsey, MN is definitely worth a try, if you like Vietnamese food – or just Asian, in general. The menu has a wide selection of dishes ranging from mild to spicy, with traditional foods like lemongrass and of course things that anyone would recognize such as sweet and sour chicken. There is a definite emphasis on “fresh” in the wording of their menu, and the dish I ordered was awesome in that aspect.

The typical Styrofoam to-go box was half-full of a divine sweet and sour chicken in a sauce that I would describe as light and not too sweet, with the perfect balance of acidic tartness one would expect in a sweet and sour. The chicken strips are all-white breast meat, lightly battered and fried, although not greasy at all – they must have actually drained off the fat! Large chunks of fresh pineapple and green pepper are added to the mix. The other half of the box contained a generous portion of white rice and a very fresh salad of lettuce, tomato and sliced mild white onion. I could live on egg rolls, so of course I ordered one on the side, and that was great, too – with the thin, crispy shell fried till golden but not overdone. The interior was not the bland, flavorless egg roll filling that you might expect from a grocery store deli or a frozen, pre-packaged product, but this was really good, the kind of flavor that can’t be reproduced en masse from a factory kitchen.
Not to mention that the service was fast and friendly. I will definitely go there again. Of course I have to – I did promise pictures, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

About That Jello Recipe...

As "They" say, there is always room for Jello.

My Mother-in-Law almost always has jello prepared; I believe one could drop in, unannounced, and she would be able to serve a lunch at the drop of a hat that would be inevitably followed by some sort of Jello. One that is my favorite is made with pie filling, and ends up more like a dessert than a fruit salad, so I hesitate to call it such.

2 packages of cherry Jello
2 cans of cherry pie filling
1 tub of Cool Whip or the equivalent of real whipped cream

Prepare the jello according to the directions on the box, using the speed-set method (with ice-cubes). Remove any remaining ice, and thoroughly stir in pie filling. Pour into a 9x13 glass baking dish & refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until fully set-up. Top with Cool Whip & serve or refrigerate until you are ready to.

This one is very easy & can be made a day ahead of time if you are serving a crowd or have a potluck to go to!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Dinners

Yes, I will say it again. I am a slacker. And this is the reason why: I don't like to cook during the summer. I promise that if I cook something that requires a recipe, I will most certainly share it. As of late, our dinners look something like this. Toss a couple frozen, pre-formed burgers on the grill, boil some corn on the cob and add a salad. Voila! No recipe required.

But check back, I may still find some ambition to cook, you never know. I do have some really good recipes for jello... :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

My kids have grown, and so have their appetites. I can easily cut this recipe in half if it's just Hubby & me at home, but when the boys are around I usually have to double it!
Now before I get into this recipe, I know there are some pretty creative cooks out there, but one of my Google ads at the bottom of my blog reads "Dog Recipes". WHAT??? I sure hope they are referring to recipes for homemade doggy treats - the kind you give to your dog, not the kind made from your dog! If anyone knows, please tell me it's not the latter! Otherwise, please just keep quiet, Jasmine and D.O.G may just be reading your comments from besides me as I sit on the couch with my laptop... Eew! I don't even want to think about it!
Now this recipe is absolutely wonderful. And it contains NO dog :)

Chicken Enchiladas

1-2 green bell peppers
1 medium onion, chopped (this can be omitted if you dont like onion)
1/2 stalk of celery (about 2 cups), chopped
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces

In a large frying pan, fry the chicken in about 1-2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped veggies and sautee until the vegetables are only a little soft, they should still have some crunch left in them.

In a separate bowl, mix an 8-oz container of sour cream (light sour cream is ok) with a 16-oz. jar of prepared chicken or turkey gravy (or 2 cups of homemade).
Stir 4 tablespoons of the gravy/sour cream mixture into the chicken/vegetable combination.

Spoon about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the meat/vegetable mixture onto 10" flour tortillas. There is no need to fold over the ends. I prefer Reser's brand, because they are thin but don't rip apart. This recipe is better with a thin tortilla than with thick ones.

Line up the enchiladas in a microwave-safe glass baking dish as you roll them up. My microwave will accomodate a 9x13 baking pan, be sure to check yours before you fill the dish. This can also be baked in the oven for 30 minutes if you prefer. When all the enchiladas have been rolled up, pour the entire bowl of gravy/sour cream mixture over the top so that everything is covered. Cover the dish with saran wrap or a cover if you have one, and microwave on high for 10 minutes.
Remove from the microwave (or oven) and sprinkle an entire 8-oz. package of shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the top (I use a Mexican blend, sometimes the kind with jalapenos), and return to the microwave, uncovered, for 3 minutes longer, so cheese is melted.

For ease in serving, allow this to stand for about 3-5 minutes before dishing up.

I serve this with a lot of lettuce, tomatoes and salad-type veggies. Refried beans or Spanish rice are good on the side, too...

If you try any of the recipes on my blog, this one has to be it! It's one of my personal favorites :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simple Summer Stuff

I can't stand wasting a lot of time preparing food in the summer. Most of the meals we have are light and quick. A lot of evenings I say, "everyone is on their own for dinner tonight" - which means there are leftovers that need to be eaten or I know there's plenty of sandwich stuff that just needs to be put out. We still eat together as a family, but that's my way of letting everyone know that Mom's tired and I'm just not cooking!

One thing that I like to have on hand in the fridge to go with sandwiches is this recipe that came from my mom and my grandma. I don't know where it came from to begin with, but everyone loves this so I make it a lot during the summer. Not to mention that it's a great snack during the summer when cucumbers are fresh from the garden.

Creamy Garlic Cucumbers

3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced (1/8" to 1/4" thick slices - no thicker than that)
1 cup Miracle Whip (not mayo, you need that "tangy zip") - light is okay
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt (or more - to taste)

Mix everything together in a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for at least
1/2 hour before eating. The juice from the cucumbers will mix with the Miracle Whip & get creamier as it sits. This will keep in the fridge for about a week (ours never last that long).