Reporting 4.8 pound Weight Loss as Promised at the End of 3 Days..

I promised I would weigh this morning and report my weight loss on the 3-day military diet!  I did not cheat once and stayed strictly on the plan as written and I have lost just shy of 5 pounds in 3 days!!  Whopping good I think as usually you suffer for a week and lost 2--3 pounds.  I did nothing out of the ordinary.  I am pleased and will do again soon.  Exact loss was 4.8 pounds.

Slow Simmered Beef Stew in Slow Cooker or on the Range.

Slow Simmered Goodness in a One Pot Meal.
I really like that the simmer on my gas range is very low and I like to make those long simmering soups and stews but it is equally good cooked in a slow cooker all day.....  That is my current task.  I thought I would make this stew using a bottle of Brian's home brewed dark beer.  He has had good success with his brewing but it may be more work than we want to do long term.  The vote isn't in on that yet!

Ingredients for Slow Simmered Beef Stew:

4 pound chuck roast trimmed and cut into generous portions (2" x 3")
2 T. oil for browning the meat
1 large diced onion
1 clove garlic chopped
2 stalks celery cut into chunks
6 carrots peeled and sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 parsnips peeled and diced
1 large turnip peeled and diced
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
32 ounces beef stock
1 whole bottle of beer
1/2 of a small can of tomato paste
2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 - 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. sugar

Brown the beef and add everything except the potatoes to a heavy dutch oven. Or in a skillet then transfer to a slow cooker.   Cover and simmer 4 hours and check for doneness or simmer on lowest temperature all day in a crock pot.,  Correct the seasonings and add the potatoes.  Simmer another 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

If you prefer the broth to be more of a thicker gravy add a slurry.  Make a slurry by mixing about 1/2 C. water and 3 T. flour.  Stir until smooth.  Add the slurry to the stew and cook until thickened.

Serve with hot crusty bread in large shallow bowels.  Yield 8-10 servings.


Pie Dough and Cookie Dough, I'm Making Dough Today!

Numbers are good for little ones and I still have time to find cutters for Easter.
Yesterday I went to Michael's on the east side of Evansville.  I went looking for Easter Cookie Cutters of which I have none.  It would have been a sure sale.  Paste food color and pastel sprinkles were also on my list.  They have several isles devoted to baking pans, cutters, colors, flavoring etc.  That is where the wedding and birthday things are also.  Nothing like an Easter cookie cutter was to be found.  I was very happy with the 12 color package of food color paste and the 5 jars of pastel sprinkles though!

What I HATE is the way both Michael's and Jo Anne's herd customers like cattle at the check out and the way you ALWAYS have to wait in line in their corral!  There is only one other place that I know of to have gotten what I needed, Ba's Kitchen Konnection, downtown.  I will go there from now on I think, even if it is further and the parking is not good.  At least the always have a great selection and they treat you like a valued customer.  Plus they are locally owned.  Now that I have that off my chest!

This wonderful cookie paint is 1 egg yolk, 1 t. water, and food color paste.
I wanted to make some painted cut out cookies to send the little boys.  I do have some big numbers cookie cutters and have decided to use them.  Thought I might send our son a pecan pie too as that should hold together en route.  So this morning I have busily made a batch of cookie dough and a big batch of pie dough.  Both have always been no fail recipes for me so I am including the links at the bottom of this post.
Maybe I will roll out the pies yet this evening.

Perfect Pastry for the Pecan Pie I am Sending to Indianapolis.
The cookies are ready to pack up to send.   They loved the hearts I sent for Valentines Day made from this same recipe.


I am Trying the, "How to Lose Up To 10 Pounds In 3 Days on the 3-Day Military Diet" & Our Taxes Are Ready to Go.

My dinning room workplace has lots of windows and is my "desk" of choice.
Not often do I abandon you for as long as a week but tomorrow would have been 7 days!  My explanation is easy, weather and taxes.  Admittedly I hate to do all of the prep necessary to send the taxes out to our CPA.  It is not all that hard or complicated it is just the matter of having to commit to the sitting down and doing it.

My dinning room view on a winters day.
Then there is the dreariness of the season and the week started looking bleak and cold.  I must admit it improved when the sun came out and then I wanted to find an excuse to go out but rather I stayed the course. But yeah!!  It is mostly done!  I have but to recopy to a legible state, put a stamp on them, then imagine the shock and surprise when David Kruger opens the package in March rather than September!   (When filing an extension it is due in Oct.)

My neighbor next door Doris sent me a lovely old apron piece.  Which brightened my day.  I count old aprons as one of my "loves".  Doris writes inspirational poetry and short stories on her blog, and specifically addresses RSDS/CRPS.

And then, there was my find??  Well, it remains to be seen if it truly is a "find" but I was intrigued enough to give it a whirl.

You may have caught that I early on this year mentioned revisiting the diet I was on last year.  It is restrictive for 6 days and then you can have whatever you want for 1 then you keep repeating for the duration you choose to stay on.  It was a very successful diet for me but by the time I quit I had learned to loath it!  So I didn't have the gumption to start again.

Last week I happened across this little diet on and was intrigued.  It was called the "Three Day Military Diet."  She explained there had been a military gentleman who had joined her church some time back who had shared it.  Her understanding was that some military folks had used it when needing to get into shape quickly.  The headline is "HOW TO LOSE UP TO 10 POUNDS IN 3 DAYS ON THE 3-DAY MILITARY DIET."

She tells that she tried it for 2 days initially and lost 5 pounds.  She is trying it again now and will post her results.

For my part I don't see this as a big deal at all and frankly could do for 3 days or so I think.  This morning I started.  So we shall see on Thursday morning my results.  If it works I am jazzed!  Think of it!  3 days on and 4 days off to loose even 5 pounds a week!  Much less the expectation of 8-10 pounds a week.  When it sounds too good to be true it is too good to be true.......but just the same on the off chance it works I don't see any harm in giving it a whirl.

Here is the diet as printed.  I am posting this as information only.  I am not advising, encouraging, condoning, or suggesting anyone try this.  I am not responsible for you or the decisions you make.  PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ANY DIET OR WEIGHT LOSS PLAN.

3-Day Diet Day 1:

Breakfast--1/2 grapefruit (no sugar), 1 slice of toast, 2 T. peanut butter, and black coffee or tea (any brew as long as it has caffeine.)

Lunch--1/2 C. tuna, 1 slice of toast, and black coffee or tea.

Dinner--3 ounces of any type of meat, 1 C. green beans, 1/2 banana, 1 small apple, 1 C. vanilla ice cream.

Day 2:

Breakfast--1 egg, 1 slice dry toast, 1/2 banana and coffee or tea.

Lunch--1 C. cottage cheese (or 1 slice cheddar cheese), 1 hard cooked egg, and 5 saltine crackers, coffee or tea.

Dinner--2 hot dogs, (no buns) 1 C. broccoli, 1/2 C. carrots, 1/2 banana, and 1/2 C. vanilla ice cream.

Day 3:

Breakfast--5 saltine crackers, 1 slice cheddar cheese, 1 small apple, and coffee or tea.

Lunch--1 hard cooked egg, 1 slice of dry toast, and coffee or tea.

Dinner-- 1 C. tuna, 1/2 banana, 1 C. vanilla ice cream.

Blessedmommy further explains, "This diet works on chemical breakdown and is proven.  Do not  vary or substitute any of the foods.  Salt and pepper may be used but do not use any other seasoning.  The diet is to be used for only three days at a time."

She goes on to explain.  After 3 days eat normal diet for 4 days you may start back on the diet for 3 days.  Exercise is helpful.  Do not eat or snack between these meals.   Coffee and tea for the first 2 meals of the day only and water for the rest of the day.  She gives additional information at also created "The Three Day, Military Diet" Facebook Page.

Will keep you posted on what happens!  Going to the grocery for broccoli, green beans, and vanilla ice cream.


Updated Broccoli & Bacon Salad and Blanching Vegetables

Call me crazy but I love blanched vegetables.  Especially broccoli and cauliflower!  So I have gathered up several armloads of tax papers and cleaned off a spot to work on the taxes but I still have a hankering to fix this salad that has been rattling around in my head for a few days now.  Probably it is my upbringing of waste-not-want-not that reminds me of the fresh vegetables in the crisper needing to be used.  Or, maybe the knowledge Brian is bringing fried chicken home tonight for supper.  This salad would complete the meal beautifully and Brian loves salads too.  He is restricted to 1 cup of lettuce a day because of the vitamin K interaction with the medicines he is taking and this salad contains none!!

The update to the original posting is blanching both the broccoli and cauliflower before mixing up the salad and the addition of shredded carrots, just because I like them.  The vegetables turn a bright color and I think they keep longer upon being blanched.  Many times I will blanch fresh vegetables just to keep them longer.  It works great to then saute them as a hot vegetable in quick order with a bit of butter and seasoning.

To blanch I sort through the vegetables and trim them to size then plunge them into 2-3 quarts of rapidly boiling water I have added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt to.  I return to a boil and hold them there for not more than 2 minutes.  Using a spider or slotted spoon I quickly drain them and plunge them into a large bowl, a gallon or so of half ice and half cold water.  As soon as they are totally cooled remove them to a colander to drain well.  HELPFUL HINT:  Blanch the lightest colored vegetables first and you can use the same water for all you want to do at one session.  Now you are ready to use them or store them in the refrigerator for another day.

Ingredients for Broccoli & Bacon Salad:

4 C. broccoli pieces blanched and drained
4 C. cauliflower pieces blanched and drained
1 1/2 C. shredded or thinly sliced carrots
3 green onions sliced
2-3 ribs of celery sliced
2 T. fresh parsley chopped
6-8 strips of bacon diced and fried crisp and drained
1/2 C. raisins
1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the Dressing:

3/4 C. Hellman's Mayonnaise
3/4 C. Ranch Dressing*  (I use my "from scratch recipe.")
2-3 T. sugar (to taste)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Assemble all of the vegetables in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate.   Stir the dressing ingredients together and pour over the vegetables.  Stir in the raisins, bacon, and cheese.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time.  Just before serving stir all together and turn onto cabbage or lettuce leaves and serve.  Yield 8 servings.   Note: I added links to the original salad and the homemade ranch dressing below.  Just click if you'd like to browse them.


Easy Homemade Beef Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

These Beef Enchiladas Look, Smell, and Taste Wonderful.
This day I am devoting to cooking a bit and planning menus for the rest of the week as I am going to start the drudgery of getting all of our tax stuff together in the morning.  I expect our CPA will fall over if I get this done as I plan because we always wind up filing an extension because I find this to be such a chore.  Since we own a small business it is a bushel basket or so of paper if you are lucky!!

I went to town this morning to buy gas and stop and pick up the few things I needed.  Then of course I vacuumed.... seems like that is an everyday chore.  (No mishaps, if anyone is wondering!)

I picked up a pound of shrimp for Pesto and Shrimp one night, Enchiladas ought to be good for 2 nights and carry out will work for another.  (Brian stops and gets chicken about once a week at the Buehler's Buy Low grocery on his way home as they make it fresh and it's very good.)
This beautiful dish of enchiladas can be baked and served now,  refrigerated and baked later,  or freezer wrapped and frozen for later baking.  It will keep about 3 months in the freezer.

First I make my sauce either out of my home canned tomato sauce or store purchased sauce.  I freeze what I don't need for another time.  Today I am using my home canned sauce.

Ingredients for Enchilada Sauce:

1-2 T. olive oil
1 diced onion or about 1/4 C. dried onion flakes
4-5 cloves fresh garlic peeled and diced
6-7 T. chili powder
2 T. ground cumin
1 quart canned tomato sauce (4 C.)
2 C. chicken stock
1 t. kosher salt add more to taste
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper add more to taste

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling over medium high heat.  Stir well to combine the ingredients then reduce to simmer.  Simmer over low heat at least 20 minutes and a bit longer is fine too. Yield 5 C. sauce.

Ingredients for Easy Beef Enchiladas:

2 T. olive oil or melted butter
2 T. flour
5 C. enchilada sauce
1 C. chicken or beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound lean ground beef
1 diced onion
salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil to fry the tortillas
12-14 corn tortillas
2-4 ounce cans of diced green chilies
1 bunch of green onions sliced with the tops
2 small cans of sliced black olives or 1 regular can of black olives and slice them
3-4 C. grated cheese  (Cheddar or Monetary Jack and Cheddar blended or part Pepper Jack)

Whisk the fat and flour together in a saucepan over medium heat.  Let it bubble for a minute or so and pour in the red sauce.  Keep stirring and add the stock, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.   Reduce the heat to the lowest simmer and leave it to get delicious while you cook up the beef!

Throw the onions and beef together into a heavy skillet. ( I love cast iron for this. ) Turn the fire up to medium high and brown it together.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If there is fat to drain please drain it off now.  Turn the heat off and leave this for now.

Next we need to heat up the tortillas by giving them a quick dunk in hot oil.  It is not accurate to say we are going to fry them as we do not want to crisp them.  We only want to warm them up a bit and make them pliable.  Heat about 1/4" of vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add the tortillas one at a time and leave maybe 5-10 seconds and then turn.  Leave another 5-10 seconds and remove from the hot oil to a stack of paper towels to drain.  Fry them one at a time until they are all softened and draining. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9 x 13" baking dish and set it aside for now.

Spread about 1/2 C. sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  One at a time dip each tortilla into the sauce.

Lay the sauced tortilla into a dinner plate.  In the center of the tortilla place a tablespoon full of the meat, a teaspoon of the green chilies,  a sprinkling of green onions, a sprinkling of sliced black olives, and top off with a big handful of the shredded cheese.  Roll up the tortilla with all of these fillings inside and lay seam side down in the prepared baking dish.

Prepare the rest of the tortillas in the same way placing them snugly next to each other until the pan is filled.

Pour the remaining sauce atop the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining ingredients.  Cheese first then anything else you may have left like chilies and green onions and olives.  Looks yummy doesn't it!!

Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and heated throughout.  Let it sit a few minutes before serving.  Yield 8 servings.

This casserole can be made ahead, covered and kept in the refrigerator until time to bake.  It also freezes well for up to 3 months.  Increase the baking time to about 1 hour and keep covered with foil for the first 45 minutes of baking.  Check the center to be sure it has heated through.  The edges should be bubbling and the cheese melted and bubbling.


Just a funny story about love.

Yellow Roses are My Favorite.
This week has been one of those you just can't do much about but sit back and shake your head ..........

It all started last Monday, or was it Tuesday?  Well, no matter.  The old oak seat to the upstairs throne suddenly lurched sideways as I was attempting to disembark.  There are two identical thrones with two identical oak seats in our house.  The upstairs bearing many more riders than the one in the downstairs as there is much more living going on these days up than down. 

If any of you have ever suffered this indignity you know just exactly what I am talking about.  We had assumed the "pin" and "hinge" were metal as that is how they were disguised to look.  BUT NO!  Treachery, they were plastic, (Just like the car that hit me as I was driving my old 1989 Fleetwood years ago.  Needless to say who walked away unblemished in that tussle!)  Well anyway,  it is a most disconcerting situation to find yourself in when at every turn you are about to lurch to the left or right with a bit of a bump.

My hero and husband of 39 years rode heroically to the rescue in his shiny black S-10 pickup on Thursday,  Valentine's Day.   He not only appeared with  a dozen of my favorite flowers, yellow roses, but a glowing new seat for our upstairs commode, which he promptly installed.

This having been traumatic enough I never dreamed another cataclysm of equal calamity loomed near!

The next day started quietly with our normal coffee and a kiss good-by as Brian left for his shop.  In my wisdom I had decided to give the house a top to bottom vacuuming.  After finishing upstairs I wrestled the upright sweeper a step at a time down the full flight of stairs connecting the two floors of our home. carefully balancing it as I swept one stair at a time until I reached the bottom.   There I found the rag rug runner and decided it was due to be washed and I gathered it up and went for the door that sits between the family room and the garage.  Being occupied with my thoughts I tossed the rug onto the floor of the garage, stepped back, and slammed the door.  HARD.

It is unclear at this point exactly what misstep I had taken, only that there had been one as I had somehow slammed the door on my poor little third toe!  I cannot tell you how it came to be my third toe only that it was.  Great throbbing commenced as did bleeding!  In hindsight I actually start laughing at what a sight I must have been as I hopped about barefoot (as I almost always am when  cleaning house) on one foot with Molly our dog looking at me most curious as to what had just transpired.

So, I get up to the bathroom. pour hydrogen peroxide across the wound, grab a compress, and get the frozen rice bags from the freezer on my foot by now propped up across an ottoman.  The rice bags are wonderful.  They are cold and ready and sport not a drop of condensation!!  Soon my dignity is somewhat restored so I band-aid my toes together to form a splint on what I believe to be a broken toe and proceed back down the stairs to finish my job and to clean up whatever spots of blood I have left.

I never deviate where I plug the sweeper or how I go about this task.  But today after plugging into the regular socket and turning the sweeper on there is a flash and then quiet as nothing is  running.  There is no power on anything in my field of vision.  The blue light on the computer is off, the light on the upright freezer is off, and the ceiling light for my office is out.  Guessed I had blown a fuse or something.

As my friends and family well know I am not mechanical.  Partly I will confess by plan.  I realized when a girl in school in the '50s that had I learned to type I would have had to have been a person who got a job limited at that time to typing, so I didn't.  Upon marrying I supposed that if I learned to change the oil in the car that too would have become my job, so I didn't.

I called Brian.  He told me I needed to open the electrical box and see which lever had flipped and push it back so I did as he said.  None were flipped.  Our house phone did not work either as they are rolled in along with the modem on the computer.  I had taken my cell phone with me for that reason.

So there I stood... by now sock footed on the cold garage floor.  Toe throbbing.  Nothing appeared to be wrong in the box.  I tried to call Brian but could not get through.  Unbeknown-st to me he was at the same time calling me, unable to get through!  I tried again, and again.  ENOUGH.  I gave it up and proceeded upstairs to sit, just to sit.

In hindsight it may have been my location below ground and around all of that electrical "stuff" that kept me from getting through.  I propped up my foot and turned on the TV.

Soon I heard the familiar sound of the garage door raising beneath me.  (Our house sits built into the side of a hill and the garage is below the living room and the dining room.)  Again my hero appeared riding his trusty S-10 pickup to my rescue.

He didn't come though because of the electricity.  He came to be sure I was OK.

The funny in this story is me.  Silly me.  And the love in this story is about old love.  The kind that comes from a lifetime of struggles,  ups and downs, good times, and bad.  It is about sticking together even when you may not think it is what you want to do.  But....if you do you will find it is well worth the trip.

Thank you Brian. 


Banana Walnut Brownies with Browned Butter Frosting

Are you always looking for something to do with a couple of bananas?  Seems like that is me for sure!  Lately my husband always wants them but never finish the last one or two......So  this is another recipe to use them, but it is so good you will buy extra in hopes of an excuse to make them!  These almost need a "WARNING,THESE ARE ADDICTIVE."

 HELPFUL HINT:  Before the bananas are too far gone I pop them in the freezer peel and all in a zipper bag.  They quickly thaw enough to peel and they stay better than when I have tried peeling then freezing.

 Ingredients for Banana Brownies with Browned Butter Frosting:

1/2 C. soft butter (1 stick)
1 1/2  C. sugar
2 eggs
1 C. sour cream
3-4 ripe bananas
2  t. vanilla
2 1/2  C. flour
1 t. baking soda
scant 1 t. salt
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. then butter well and dust with flour a half sheet pan (10 x 15") and set aside.

Combine in a large mixing bowl the butter and sugar.  Beat the eggs into the sugar and shortening then add the sour cream mixing well.  Using a small bowl mash the bananas and vanilla together then stir them into the creamed mixture and beat to blend well.  

Whist the dry ingredients together and ass to the banana mixture beating for 1 minute.  Stir in the nuts jut until blended.  Empty the batter onto the prepared pan.  Bake for 23-25 minutes until center tests done with a pick inserted comes out clean.

While the brownies are baking make the frosting.

Golden Browned Butter
Ingredients for Browned Butter Frosting:

1/2 C. butter
4 C. powdered sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 C. milk

Using a heavy bottomed pan heat the butter over medium heat until golden brown then remove from the heat.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat together until smooth.  Add additional milk as needed to make the frosting thicker than a glaze but a bit thinner than cake frosting.  Spread on the warm brownie bars using a butter knife or an off set spatula.  It will be easier to spread on the warm bars.

Yields 24 large bars or 36 small bars.  Cover when cold to keep fresh.

My Favorite Beet Salad or Pink & Purple Salad

Yes, I do appear to be on a beet craze of late.
I love beets and I honestly crave this salad sometimes.  You can use plain sliced or Julianne beets or oven roast fresh beets wrapped in foil for about 50 minutes (until tender) at 425 degrees F, then cool and slice.

Ingredients for "Pink Dressing"

1/2 C. Hellman's Mayonnaise
1 T. Chili Sauce
1 T. chopped green pimento stuffed olives
1 hard cooked egg chopped fine
dash of paprika
pinch of chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well and refrigerate.

Ingredients for Pink & Purple Salad:

1/2 large or 1 small head of Iceberg Lettuce washed, drained. and torn into bite size pieces
5-6 small beets cooked and sliced
1 recipe "Pink Dressing"

At serving time assemble on a large platter and garnish if desired with croutons.  Yield 4 dinner servings.


Easy Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
My Grandma Burress always ate Vegetarian Vegetable Soup and I still like it it condensed or homemade.  Since it is the Lenten season I am cutting back on meat and increasing the fruits and vegetable portions of our menus.  Both reasons are beneficial for for us I would think.

Ingredients for Vegetarian Vegetable Soup:

4 C. tomatoes fresh or canned (mine were home canned with basil, garlic, and onions)
2 C. tomato sauce (again mine were home canned and seasoned)
4 C. water
2 cans condensed undiluted chicken broth (or plain water for a true vegetarian)
2 cans drained and rinsed white beans ( I used a quart of frozen I had cooked another day)
3 stalks celery sliced
4 carrots sliced
2 onions chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
2 zucchini sliced into half moons
2 potatoes diced
1/4 C. parsley chopped
1 jalapeno pepper diced
1 red bell pepper diced
salt and black pepper to taste
1 t. sugar
hot sauce to taste
1 1/2 C. small pasta cooked and rinsed and drained

Mix all ingredients EXCLUDING the zucchini and pasta together in a large soup kettle and simmer for 3-5 hours. Thirty minutes before serving ass the zucchini.  Five minutes before serving stir in the pasta and stir until it is heated through.  Serve hot with saltines or crusty bread.

Snow falling out side my front door this morning.
Today started with snow and ended with a bouquet of yellow roses.
Yellow Roses have long been my favorite and my husband surprised me with a dozen last night.
How lovely it has been.


"Painted Hearts" Cut Out Cookies for Valentine's Day Gift Giving

I love the way these bake up and leave a cookie dough outline around the outside of the cookie from  when you painted them.  The crackle is lovely and I dusted half of the cookies with red sugar which adhered well to the paint and gave a really nice effect.
I have had this recipe pulled aside to make for quite a while now and not gotten to it.  Ree Drummond the "Pioneer Woman" blogger had posted it for Christmas Cookies.  I have adapted it and am using heart cutters with pink and red colors to paint them to send off to my grandchildren.  Katie will surely smile if I have a package ready and pick her up from school and I am sure she will share with her older sister Emily.  Jack and Sam will be excited to get a package in the mail and cookies are always welcome treats.

My husband, Brian's Valentine, shhhhh don't tell. is 9 AM two days before Valentine's day and I have the cookies baked, Decorated and the frosting is firming up under the breeze of the ceiling fan above them in the kitchen.  I mixed them up last night and left them to chill overnight so I could bake them off first thing today.  The dough was easy to work with and I loved the way the painting went.  These have found a permanent place in my cookie file and I will for sure make them again and again!  As for today, I have but to box them up and deliver to the girls and mail off to the little boys!  I  am so blessed and it is such fun to be MOM and GRANDMA!

Ingredients for Painted Cut Out Cookies:

1 1/3 C. shortening
1 1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs 
2 T. + 2 t. milk (8 teaspoons total)
1 t. vanilla
4 C. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Combine the sugar and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth, add the vanilla and the milk and beat 5 minutes.   Add the 2 whole eggs and continue beating for 1 minute.

This recipe makes 4 nice disks of dough to wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together and add to the creamed mixture beating until it forms a dough.   Divide the dough into 4 equal portions resembling a disk and wrap each in waxed paper.  Slip the disks into  a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least a half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment or sil-pat mats. Set aside.

Ingredients for Cookie Paint:

2 egg yolks
5-6 drops food coloring (I made both red and pink paint.)
2 t. water

HELPFUL HINT:  Here is the part where I place the 2 unused egg whites in a small container and pop them into the freezer to use another day.
Combine the yolks, water, and food color.  Since I used 2 colors I placed one yolk and 1 teaspoon of water in each small bowl and mixed in the gel paste food color.   Paint the unbaked cookies with a soft brush using the colored glaze.  Add a few more droplets of water if needed to reach a paint like mixture.

It is fun to collect cookie cutters and they make nice gifts too.
Roll the chilled dough about 1/4" thick and cut with floured cutters into heart shapes.  Using a soft brush paint the tops with the cookie paint you have prepared.  I paint all of the way to the edge and when they puff up baking it leaves a nice rim.

Unbaked painted cookies ready for the oven.
Place on the prepared pans and bake for 6-7 minutes.  Do not brown the cookies, they should be slightly puffed and the glaze will look crackled.  Bake in several batches.  Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before frosting.

Ingredients for  the White Decorative Icing:

1 pound powdered sugar
1/4 C. milk (You may add more milk a droplet at a time until you reach the right consistency if needed.)
1 rounded T. dried egg whites

The kid's all get a cookie with their initial made just for them.
Mix the sugar, milk, and egg whites and beat well.  Make sure the frosting is thick enough to retain it's shape.  Using a pastry bag or a zip-top bag pipe the cookies with the icing to further decorate.

Some of the cookie decorations are made just for fun.
Ultimately half of the cookies are painted and sprinkled with cookie sugar and the other half painted and frosted which makes for a nice variety in this big batch of cookies.   Yield 4-6 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookies and if you re-roll the dough scraps. ( I always do re-roll.)


Slow Cooker Italian Beef

The aroma of this perfumed the house all Sunday long and tasted as good as it smelled.
Recently I posted a Spicy Italian Dressing that I am using in this recipe along with a bottle of Brian's first batch of home brewed beer.  (It turned out great I want to add, and we have just finished bottling batch two and will soon taste!)  I have never made Italian Beef but it sounds good to me!!

I have adapted this recipe from one found on a new blog I am enjoying, and it was featured there from another Indiana blog,

Ingredients for Slow Cooker Italian Beef:

3-4 pound Sirloin Tip roast halved
1 recipe Homemade Zesty Italian Salad Dressing
12 ounce bottle of beer or 1/2 C. dry red wine
3/4 C. stock
1 sliced onion
3 cloved minced fresh garlic
1 t. basil
1 1/2 t. oregano
1 t. onion powder
sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients to the bottom of the crock pot except the meat.  Position the two halves of the roast next to each other in the crock pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook covered on low for 8 hours.  Shred the meat with 2 forks and serve on toasted French rolls or bread.  Yield 5-8 servings shredded Italian beef.

My BIG Angel Food Cake

Beautifully tall and stately this BIG Angel Food Cake is served with strawberries for dessert for Sunday Dinner.
Most Angel Food cakes call for 1 1/2 cups of egg whites.  That is just pretty common, old recipes call for 12 egg whites.  To get to the point, I save egg whites and each time I have one I pop it into a small container, whatever is handy, and freeze.  Lately I found several containers with varying amounts.   So I thawed them all and found I had a good 2 cups worth.  I made a BIG cake!

Ingredients for My BIG Angel Food Cake:

2 C. egg whites at room temperature
1 1/2 t. cream of tarter
1/2 t. salt
1 C. sifted cake flour
1 1/2 C. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1 C. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Inspect a large angel food tube pan to be sure it is clean and free of any residue.  Set the pan aside.  Sift the flour and the first amount of sugar together on a sheet of waved paper and set aside.

Combine the egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt in a large stand mixer bowl and beat until foamy.  Turn up the mixer.  Begin adding the sugar flour a fourth of a cup at a time quickly but carefully sprinkling it into the mixer as it runs.  After you have added the flour and sugar mixture turn the mixer all the way up and beat until stiff peaks form.

Remove the stiff beaten egg and flour bowl from the mixer stand and fold in by hand the flavorings using a large spoon.  Next fold in 2 T. at a time the last amount of granulated sugar.

Carefully spoon the batter into the tube pan spreading until even.  Take a long table knife or spatula and run it around the batter at the edges of the pan to rid of air bubbles. Then continue until all of the batter is level and without large air pockets.

Bake with the top of the cake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes.  The top should be well browned and dry to the touch.  Remove from the oven and hang upside down over a tall thin necked bottle until the cake is cold.  Run a long thin knife blade around the outer edge and the tube to loosen the cake.  Turn out onto a stand and frost as desired.

I frosted this with my "go to" frosting of powdered sugar, soft butter. vanilla and heavy cream.  I use a tablespoon of butter, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 1-2 tablespoons of cream per cup of powdered sugar.  I add additional cream until it reaches the consistency I want.   This cake is being served with sweetened strawberries I froze last spring and does not need a full recipe of frosting.  Just enough to look luscious!

One Hour French Bread

This recipe quickly made 4 nice large loaves of French bread and the addition of the melted butter over the loaves the last 10 minutes of baking results in a deep mahogany crust.
This is a recipe I have seen several times and have placed on my stack of "to do" recipes and it is perfect for the Italian Beef we are serving for dinner tonight.  Again this is an Indiana blogger I am adapting from found through  Kelin at The Stay at Home Chef is another Indiana blogger.

Ingredients for One Hour French Bread Recipe:

3 C. Warm Water 115 degrees
3 T. Instant Yeast
6 T. Sugar
2 t. Salt
6 1/2 C. Bread Flour
1 C. melted butter

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water in the base of a stand mixer.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add the salt and mix.  Add the flour and mix just until the ingredients come together.  Change to a dough hook.  Knead for 5 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll each into a 8" x12" rectangle.  (Remember a bigger rectangle makes a skinnier baguette a smaller a thicker one.)  Cover two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll up each rectangle and pinch the ends to give that baguette shape.  Place 2 loaves on each sheet.  Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 30 minutes.  

Now cut a 1" deep cranny along the length of each loaf of bread.  Bake for 9 minutes.  Rotate the baguettes and dump all of the butter equally on top of the loaves, drizzling it over the sides, every-which-way.  ( You can reduce the amount of butter by half with equally delicious results.)

Bake another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve.

NOTE: I doubled the original recipe so you can easily cut it in half for 2 loaves.

Yields 4 loaves.

Better Oven French Fries

These French Fries did turn out better than any recipe or method I have ever tried and I will tweak a bit more and hopefully find an even better way, but for now this is the "Best Oven French Fry Ever!"
Annie's Eats is a popular blog written by a doctor who had worked in the same lab as my son and he told me about it a few years ago which inspired me further to blog.  There is where I discovered this post.  She credits "Cook's Illustrated" with the recipe.

Baked Oven Fries:

24 ounces (about 3 lg.) peeled and cut Russet potatoes
5 T. peanut or canola oil, divided
3/4 t. kosher salt + more to taste
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper +more to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.    Prepare a heavy half sheet pan with 4 T. oil spreading evenly with a pastry brush then sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper and set aside. 

Soak the uniformly cut potato wedged in a bowl of VERY hot water for 20-30 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and place onto clean dry towels and dry thoroughly.  Dry the bowl.  Return the dry potatoes to the bowl and toss with the remaining 1 T. of oil.  Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan.  Cover tightly with foil and place into the preheated oven for 5 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for about 10 minutes than rotate the pan and continue for another 10-15 minutes until the underssides of the potatoes have browned.  Using tongs and a spatuls turn all of the fries keeping them in a single layer.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes. 

When the fries have browned remove them to paper towels to drain and season additionally if desired.  Serve hot with condiments or plain.


Hot Cocoa Mix in a Jar, Just in Time for Valentine's Day Giving!

Things have been so crazy around here since well before Christmas and this week has been no exception.  Finally though, I am hopeful anyway, we have passed the turmoil and will settle back down to a pleasant every day life.  Hopefully everyone is on the recovery list and on the way to good health and spring is just around the lands!  Valentine's Day is next week!!

Given that realization I am planning some special cookies next week to give my Grandchildren and children and a special jar of a homemade hot cocoa mix.  We have 3 sons and I think I will make up another jar and give one to each family.  I just finished 2 and took a photo to share with you as this is such a nice idea some of you might like to try it too.  When my boys were young and at home I always kept a big jar made up of my special homemade cocoa mix.  This recipe is a bit more special as it includes mini semi sweet chocolate chips and miniature marshmallows.  I made them in layers using a funnel in quart jars.  It does look special and festive and a piece of red fabric fastened under the band with a red ribbon should do just the trick!! I will work on that too.

Ingredients for each quart jar of dry Homemade Cocoa Mix:

1 C. granulated sugar
1 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 C. powdered milk
1/2 C. mini chocolate chips
1/2 C. miniature marshmallows
1/2 t. salt

Layer 1/2 C. granulated sugar in the bottom of each jar you are making.  Next add 1/2 c. cocoa powder, 1 C. powdered milk, 1/2 c. cocoa, 1/2 C. granulated sugar, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 C. mini chocolate chips, and 1/2 C miniature marshmallows. 

Gently lift the jar and tap it several times on the counter to tamp down the ingredients and then top off again with additional marshmallows.  Top with a seal and screw on the band.  Cut about a 5" square of red or other fabric and remove the band.  Lay the fabric atop the seal evenly and screw on the band.  Add a ribbon around the screw top and a card.

The instructions for the card should be to empty all of the contents into a large bowl and mix well.  Measure 1/3 C. of the mix into a mug and add 1 C. of boiling water, stirring to mix and melt the ingredients.  Return any remaining mix to the jar and reseal until needed.  Yield 12 servings per 1 quart of mix. 

I am going to make up another jar and gussy them up a bit and I will add that photo later.  For now I just wanted to get this idea out there for anyone who might like to give it a try.  I LOVE food gifts in jars!  To receive them as well as to give them.


Pileated Woodpecker Visits Our Window Today.

Pileated Woodpecker @10:30 AM this morning. Picture taken by my friend and next door neighbor, Doris.
Many years I have been visited by Pileated Woodpeckers in the wooded area where we reside.  But not every year and not this year......that is until TODAY!  Never have I been able to get a picture of one, not until today. 

It was amazing as my neighbor Doris and I visited I saw something very large land in the big old tree directly in front of our living room's picture window.  The big branches come within just a couple of inches of the house and squirrels daily jump from roof to house and back in play.  I thought it a white tailed hawk at first as it blended with the snarl of branches.  It was when the stark pointed top notch arose I gasped at the blood red streak it made in my field of vision and Doris and I in unison gasped, "A Pileated Woodpecker!"

It was Doris who thought of the camera and for that I am grateful.  I was so thrilled to have him within 3 feet of the window I was aflutter.  Quietly I stood from the rocker where I had sat and quietly stepped backward through the dining room towards the kitchen where my camera lay on the kitchen counter.  I whispered to Doris, "Is he there?"  He was, and we both adjusted our positions for a better view.

This was my best picture.
I snapped photo after photo 8 or 9 and had all sorts of angles of parts of him but when I handed the camera to Doris....she got the money shot!!  Again, for that I am grateful.   He was well within 6-8 feet from the window.  What a birds eye view we had.  He visited for quite a while savoring grubs or some other such delicacy served up by this old sweet gum tree.  In all he was there for a good 20-30 minutes and we cherished every minute.  I have long since taken the sighting of this bird to be a very good omen and was very thankful that it has come to my door.