Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Our Table This Week...

When I hear other people say how much they hate to cook, I take it to mean that either 1- they are overwhelmed by the process of planning and shopping for food, or 2- they have no idea what to cook or don't have many good recipes. Maybe I'm wrong, but how can chopping fresh vegetables, or standing over a simmering pot of yummy soup be that bad? Personally, I love to cook. I love to menu plan and I love to try new recipes. Now, one thing I really don't like is having three kids with me in the grocery store and trying to purchase two weeks' worth of groceries. But I find if I have a plan in mind before I go to the store, the outcome is usually much better financially and emotionally for all of us.

If I don't have a menu plan, then I have to admit that finding the inspiration to come up with something nutritious and delicious that the kids will eat at the last minute is next to impossible. So, it is with this purpose in mind, that I decided to add the "On Our Table This Week" box on the right. I will update it each week with what I am planning, in case you need a little inspiration. And please, if you have a great recipe, send it my way!!! Note: I usually plan 5 meals a week, because on the other nights we eat leftovers or eat out, or on crazy nights we eat scrambled eggs or oatmeal or something.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tropical Pudding Cake

This cake is simply fantastic. Every time I serve it, people comment that they need the recipe. So here you go! It's light and refreshing, but really yummy. I got this recipe from an old Southern cook and it's sort of a "dump it all in and mix it up" kind of recipe. Easy and delicious!

1 yellow cake mix
1 can mandarin oranges, not drained
3/4 c. canola oil or butter
4 eggs
16 oz. cool whip
1 can crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 small boxes instant vanilla pudding
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Directions: Mix together cake mix, mandarin oranges, oil (or butter), and eggs until thoroughly mixed. Pour into two or three round cake pans. (Three layers just makes the cake look fancier, but two works just as well.) Bake at 350 degrees. For two pans, it takes 30-33 minutes; for three pans, it takes about 25 minutes. (Ovens vary, so be cautious. A sure way to dry out a cake is to overbake it. I like to err on the side of slightly underbaked.)

For frosting, combine cool whip, crushed pineapple, pudding mix, and walnuts and mix well. If cakes aren't cooled yet, put frosting in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Cool cakes, and frost between layers, sides, and top. I like to garnish with pineapple or walnuts. Last night I used raspberries, since I had them and it looked great. Just use whatever you have on hand. Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Egg-citing Idea

Yeah, the title is sort of lame. But the idea is cute! So the other day, Shan had boiled some eggs and put them back into the egg carton, unbeknownst to me. I was baking a cake, and you can imagine how strange I felt when I tried to crack the egg and it split in half and the hard yoke fell in the bowl. Sort of one of those twilight zone sort of moments. Anyway, it made us all laugh and I remembered something cute my mom has always done. When eggs are hard boiled, she draws silly faces on them and puts them back. Try it; it will at least make you smile when you open up the egg carton.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mother Squirrel

Hello, my name is Marisa and I have Food Preservation Addiction. No, seriously, I do.
This year, I had decided not to can peaches because things have been sort of hectic and I didn't think I had time. But driving home from the zoo the other day, I kept passing peach farms, with roadside stands brimming with gorgeous bushels of peaches. I could hardly stand it. My mouth was watering as I passed four or five produce stands and by the time I reached the sixth one, I had to pull over. So I came home with a bushel and a half of peaches and the process began.

As a child, I remember my mother and grandmother in our steamy, sticky sweet kitchen for hours at a time. At the time, it seemed to me like a lot of work, but I always had delicious peaches to eat any time I wanted. I also remember the first time I ate store bought peaches from a can, and I was stunned that people actually pay money for them.
Top 5 Reasons to Can Peaches:
1. Picking produce at the farm is half of the fun. The kids LOVE it.
2. It's easier than you think
3. It doesn't cost much
4. You can feed your family whole foods, with no preservatives
5. Eating delicious peaches all year!!
Just in case you want to try, here's what to do:

Supplies: (This can be expensive the first year, but after that, you can just reuse the jars.)
jars, lids, and screwbands
peaches (ripe and fragrant, but not overly soft)
water bath canner (a big back pot with a rack in the bottom-no more than $10)
canning tongs are nice, but I've never had them.
1. First, you are going to wash and dry the jars. You can use the dishwasher or do it by hand.
2. Then, wash your peaches.3. After your peaches are washed, you need to peel them. You can either peel them by hand, or blanch them in boiling water for 45-60 seconds. After they are blanched, use a slotted spoon to put them in ice water and when you peel them, the skins will almost fall off.

My little helper.

4. Prepare your syrup. I always use a light syrup, because if your fruit is ripe and sweet, you don't need extra sugar. I used 6 cups water to 2 cups sugar, but you can find charts for different syrups at or anywhere for that matter. You want the syrup to be hot when you add it to your jars, but not boiling.

5. Now, just peel and cut the peaches in half and put them into the jars. You want to fill them pretty tight, so simply tamp it down on a towel and the fruit will settle so you can fit lots in. Leave about 1/2 inch of space on top. (You can see from the pictures that I actually cut my peaches into sixths. I do this because I can fit more into the jars and my kids want them cut up when I serve them, so doing it in advance cuts down on dinnertime mayhem.)

5. Meanwhile, simmer the lids and screwbands in a saucepan, for sterilization and to soften the rubber on the lids.
6. Ladle hot syrup into jars to cover peaches, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup.

7. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. 8. PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes (for quarts), adjusting for altitude ( Remove jars and cool on a towel. They are HOT. 9. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

9. Label jars and stock your shelves.
A full pantry is joy to me. Just call me mother squirrel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muffin Tin Meal

Are you trying to come up with something to serve that is nutritious and new, but also that your kids will enjoy? Well I found myself in that predicament the other day, with not a lot of time, and I decided to cut up a bunch of good things and serve them al a carte in a muffin tin. It was the same old thing, but a different presentation and sometimes I think that makes all the difference. The kids loved it! I gave them all a bowl and toothpicks and away they went. In about 20 minutes, the muffin tin was empty and we were all happy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jack of All Trades

But a master of none. That is me to a TEE. Really. I think it's called the curse of creativity. There are so many wonderful fabrics, papers, foods, books, styles, projects, etc., there is no way to fit it all in. Not being able to "fit it all in" is one of the most crazy things of our day. Because no one can! And if we try, we will go nutty.
So, I try to prioritize, and when I have a few seconds, I dabble. I dabble in whatever suits my fancy that day. Usually in 10-15 minute increments, between running the kids to and from or following my two-year old around the house. My goals are much loftier than my completed projects, which has led me to an overabundance of good fabric, paper, ribbon, and cookbooks. One day I will get to it!!! I will, I will! I absolutely love to create and I'm realizing more and more how fulfilling it is. So, this personal blog is a way for me to share the goodness of cooking, sewing, creating, reading, and mothering with you.