Start Saving Today!

Aug 21, 2009

Kitchen Tips

How to Organize the Pantry
Care of Cast Iron Cookware
Holiday Spices
Windowsill Herb Garden

Take a look at your pantry shelves. Is everything jumbled up and stuck anywhere it will fit? Can you easily find what you need? You need to organize your pantry!

1. The first thing to do is take everything out. While you are unloading onto the counter, try to place like things together.

2. Make sure to check dates on your food and throw out what has gone bad or past freshness date.

3. Clean and scrub pantry shelves. Replace shelf paper.

Restocking Your Pantry:

When organizing your pantry it is a good idea to always keep like items / food together. For instance:

* all canned vegetables together
* all canned meats, chili, soups together
* all box mixes together - mac and cheese, hamburger helper, rice and noodle mixes, etc
* all breakfast items together - cereal, cooked cereal, granola bars, etc...
* all canned fruit together
* all dry goods together - rice, flour, macaroni, etc
* all baking items together - cake mixes, icing, etc..
* all snack items together - popcorn, nuts, chips, fruit rolls, etc..

1. Place things you rarely use on the top shelf. (or taller items)

2. Place the items you use the most at eye level.

3. Place items that you use less frequently at the bottom

4. We place extra items that we keep on store such as catsup, salad dressing, salt, jams, peanut butter, etc on the bottom shelves. Then when we run out, we know just where to look.

5. Keep a pad and paper in the pantry to mark when you get something out of your stored items or are running low on something - if you keep track, you will have a ready made grocery list.

6. If you have room on the inside of your pantry door - install coated wire shelves. These small shelves are great storing for soup mixes, spices, extracts, candy sprinkles for cakes, etc.

Remember that everyone places different things in their pantry - place your grouped items in a way that makes sense to you and how you live.

When you unload your grocery sacks, remember to put things together and back in the right place - then it will be easy to keep your pantry organized all of the time!!

Cast Iron Cookware
tips for caring for your cast iron

Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets and Cookware:

You should always "season" your cast iron cookware before using for the first time.

1. Wash your cast iron in warm sudsy water and rinse well.

2. Make sure to dry the cast iron very well.

3. Take a paper towel and coat the entire skillet or pan with lard. (inside and out) It is best not to use vegatble oil as that will make your cast iron sticky.

4. Place in a preheated oven at 300° oven for one hour.

5. Remove and wipe off any excess grease with a new paper towel. Put the pan back in the oven and bake for another hour.

Washing Cast Iron Cookware:

Never wash you cast iron in the dishwasher!

After cooking in your cast iron, rinse in warm water. You may use a small amount of soap but harsh scrubbing and detergents will remove the seasoning. If for any reason your food is sticking to the pan and you have to scrub or you have rust in your cookware, re-season your pan.

After you have rinsed the skillet or pan well, set on a hot burner for a minute to make sure all water is gone. Let cool on burner and store as usual.

Cooking with Cast Iron:

After many uses, you cast iron skillet or pans will turn black. This is a good thing! This means you will now have a non-stick surface to cook in.

Holiday Spices in the Pantry

Fall is the time when we do a lot of baking. This is a great time to clean out and organize your Spice Cabinet and Pantry.

What is the shelf life of spices?

Spices that are stored in airtight containers can last for a long time but they do lose their strength over time.

Whole Spices such as cloves, allspice, cumin, and cardamom can last up to 4 years.

Ground Spices can last up to 3 years.

Herbs can last for approx 1 year.

Seasoning Blends can last for approx 1 year.

Extracts can last for up to 3 years.

A good way to tell if your ground spices, herbs and seasoning blends are still in full flavor is to smell them - if they have little smell, it is time to replace them.

It is best not to store your spices near the stove (heat) or close to your sink/dishwasher (humidity) - herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dark place in your kitchen or pantry.

Be sure to check the dates on your baking powder, baking soda, yeast, bouillon cubes, cornstarch, cocoa powder, chocolate pieces, etc.

When in doubt - throw it out!

Holiday Spices:

Common spices and ingredients used in fall cooking and holiday baking: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, almond extract, brown sugar, molasses.

Spices for Holiday Turkey: sage, thyme, poultry seasoning

Spices for Holiday Goose: sage, poultry seasoning

Spices for Holiday Duck: dill, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, poultry seasoning

If you get your spices and pantry in order now, you will be ready for all the Holiday baking ahead!

A Windowsill Herb Garden

Growing Herbs in the Kitchen

You can easily grow herbs on the kitchen windowsill and enjoy the fragrance and flavors of herbs in your country cooking!

Starting herb seeds - plant your seeds in potting soil and keep moist until they sprout. The top of the refrigerator is a nice warm spot to sprout seedlings. Once they have sprouted, place on a sunny windowsill and water as needed. Once they are well established, you can cut back a bit on the water. Herbs tend to like their soil a little dry.

(tip - you can use many cute containers for your herbs - a cracked teapot or cup, pretty jars, an old gravy boat, etc..)

Choosing Savory Herbs for your windowsill garden:

Dill - One of the all time most popular herbs. Both seeds and leaves of dill have have sharp, slightly bitter taste. The aromatic young branches are used to flavor salads, pickles, vinegar, sauces, soups, stews, and chicken, lamb and fish dishes.

Cooking: Use dried or fresh leaves, known as dill weed, to make dill butter, flavor broiled fish, soups, salads, meats, poultry, omelets, and potatoes.

Coriander - (Also called Cilantro) This easy to grow herb is similar in appearance to parsley. Young leaves taste like dried orange peel. Coriander is rich in vitamins A & B, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin. Used frequently in Latin American cooking.

Cooking: Use fresh or dried leaves in salads and soups, serve chopped with avocados. Great for spicy meat dishes. As seeds ripen, gather them and use them whole or crushed on pastry, French dressing, beans, stew, sausage, and fish.

Sweet Basil
- Basil's aromatic leaves have a warm and spicy flavor. A must have for Italian cooking and Thai Cuisine. Basil is known to fight toxins and aids the digestion.

Cooking: Use sparingly in tomato dishes and sauces, green salads, omelets, cucumbers, and with meat, poultry, fish and Stir Fry dishes.

Parsley - Everyone knows parsley as a garnish, but it also has a wonderful flavor. Great for almost everything from sauces to gourmet fish dishes. It'll make an attractive, deep green, frilly plant on your windowsill, but if you set some of the root outside, you'll have it every year.

Cooking: Mix parsley leaves into salads, soups, stews, casseroles, and omelets. Serve fresh as garnish with meat, fish and onion dishes.

Chives -
An all-time favorite, this relative of the onion is great for flavoring any dish that needs a "zing." They improve almost any dish. The plants also reward you with lovely purplish flowers, which are also edible!

Chop chives and add to salads, egg and cheese dishes, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, hamburgers, sandwich spreads, and sauces.

Recipes Galore

Beef Stew Recipe

1 lb beef stew meat
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil

2 large cans crushed tomatoes
4 small cans tomato sauce
2 small white onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large potatoes
8 medium carrots
1 6-ounce frozen yellow corn
1 6-ounce frozen green peas
1 6-ounce frozen green beans

2 Beef bullion cubes
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 bay leaf

1. Coat beef stew meat in flour and brown in vegetable oil. Drain.

2. Place canned tomatoes and tomato sauce in a large stock pot. Add stew meat.

3. Peel and dice onions and garlic. Add to pot.

4. Peel and cut potatoes into cubes. Add to pot.

5. Peel and slice carrots into medium slices. Add to pot.

5. Add the frozen vegetables to pot. Fill pot to top with water.

6. Add beef bullion cubes, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

7. Bring the beef stew to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer slowly for 1 1/2 hours. Check that beef stew is done by meat and potatoes being tender. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Serves approx 6 people.

Homestyle Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

6 large potatoes peeled, diced
1 can chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup diced onion
2 celery stalks, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 large can pet milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Peel and dice potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Place in soup pot. Boil in just enough water to cover.

2. When potatoes are tender you will mash them but do not drain out the water. Take your potato masher and mash right in the pot.

3. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper to soup pot. Set on low heat while you sauté the onions and celery.

4. Sauté chopped onions and celery in butter on medium heat. Add to soup pot.

5. In a small bowl mix flour and milk. Add to soup pot and mix well. Heat potato soup on medium heat for 15 min, stirring frequently.

Serves approx 6 people.

Family Reunion Taco Soup

This recipe comes from our cousin Judy! It's as easy to make as 1 - 2 - 3 and everyone loves it!

1 onion
1 bell pepper
1 pound hamburger meat
1 can (24oz)cut up tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup picante sauce
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans corn
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
2 cups water

1. In a skillet brown onion, bell pepper and hamburger.

2. Combine with all other ingredients in large pot.

3. Simmer for 30 min.

Serve in bowl topped first with tortilla chips,shredded sharp cheese, and a dollup sour cream. Serves around 3 men who go back for seconds.

* I have made this recipe with some of the ingredients missing but it really needs the ranch dressing mix. The spices in the ranch dressing mix really does add a wonderful taste that just isn't there without it!

Shepherds Pie

1 1/2 lbs of ground meat
1 large onion, diced
2 beef bullion cubes

4 carrots, sliced thin
1 6-ounce pkg. frozen green peas
6 large potatoes peeled, diced
1/2 cup sour cream
dash salt and pepper

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup cheddar cheese - grated

1. In a large pot boil ground meat, diced onions and bullion cubes for 50 minutes.

2. Add sliced carrots and peas. Boil for 15 minutes.

3. While meat is cooking start the potatoes. Peel and dice potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Place in separate pot. Boil in just enough water to cover.

4. When potatoes are tender, drain and mash them in large bowl. Mix in sour cream. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

5. When meat and potatoes are done, ladle out into a large casserole dish. Reserve 1/2 cup of broth for sauce.

6. Mix together Worcestershire sauce, beef broth and cornstarch until the gravy thickens. Pour gravy over meat and vegetables.

7. Take mashed potatoes and spread over the top of the Shepherds Pie casserole. Top with grated cheese.

8. Cover casserole and bake at 400° for 30 minutes.

Serves 6 people

Twice Baked Potatoes

6 large potatoes (or a potato for every person you are serving)

salt and pepper
bacon bits
sour cream
cheese (we use sharp)

1. Wash potatoes. Poke a few holes in skin with a fork and bake potatoes in oven until tender.

2. When potatoes are done take out and let cool for 5 minutes.

3. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the middle into a large bowl. Place potato skins in a greased baking dish and set aside.

4. Mash the potatoes and add enough milk and sour cream to make creamy. Add a dash of salt and pepper.

5. Spoon potato mixture back into shells. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with your favorite topping - bacon bits, diced green onion, etc...

Butternut Squash Recipes

a fall favorite!!

1 large Butternut Squash
1/8 teaspoon Allspice
4 tablespoons Brown sugar
8 tablespoons Butter - melted
2 tablespoons Lemon juice

dash Salt

1. Cut the butternut squash in fourths and remove peel. With a spoon, scoop out the centers removing seeds and fibers.

2. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and place in a greased baking dish.

3. In a small bowl mix allspice, brown sugar and salt. Crumble mixture over the butternut squash pieces.

4. Melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and mix in lemon juice. Pour butter and lemon mixture over the squash pieces.

5. Bake uncovered at 350° for 35 minutes or until tender.

Baked Butternut Squash and Apples

1 large Butternut Squash
2 large Apples

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 tablespoon Flour
1/4 cup Butter

dash Salt

1. Cut the butternut squash in fourths and remove peel. With a spoon, scoop out the centers removing seeds and fibers.

2. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes. Core and peel apples and cut into large pieces. Place squash and apples in a greased baking dish.

3. In a small bowl blend nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour, butter and salt. Crumble mixture over the butternut squash and apple pieces.

4. Cover and Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until tender.

Southern Potato Salad

8 large potatoes
8 boiled eggs
2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced celery
1 lb fried and diced bacon 2 tablespoons mustard
1 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons relish
2 teaspoons salt

Peel and dice potatoes into bite sized pieces.

Boil in large pot until desired doneness is reached.

Drain and cool.

Once the potatoes are cooled mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust mayonnaise, mustard and spices to taste.

Refrigerate until cool and serve.

Fall Apple Bread Recipe

1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon

2 cups peeled, grated apples
1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind (zest)
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs.

2. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Sift.

3. Add a little at a time with a large spoon - egg mixture and grated apples to flour mixture. Stir in lemon rind and nuts. Mix well.

4. Pour apple bread mixture into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.

5. Bake the apple bread at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. To test if the loaves are done, a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 2 Apple Bread loaves depending on size of loaf pans.

Let the loaves cool before slicing - then spread with butter and enjoy!

* how to zest a lemon - use the part of your grater that has the tiny holes close together. Take your lemon and grate, just grating off the very top, yellow part of the lemon rind.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
4 eggs

2/3 cup water
2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup nuts (optional) 3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves

1. Cream together margarine, sugar and eggs. Add pumpkin and water. Mix well.

2. In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves.

3. Mix wet and dry ingredients together a little at a time with a large spoon. Add the nuts in last. Beat well.

4. Pour pumpkin mixture into 2 well greased loaf pans.

5. Bake the pumpkin bread at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. To test if the loaves are done, a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 2 - 3 Pumpkin Bread loaves depending on size of loaf pans.

My family loves this recipe! We usually spend the afternoon making several pumpkin bread loaves so we have enough to freeze for later.

Country Raisin Nut Bread Recipe

This Raisin Nut Bread is wonderful to make on a cold day!
The smells of it baking in the kitchen are yummy.
Perfect for family or gift giving!

3/4 cup Unsalted butter
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 lg. Eggs
3 oz. Cream Cheese
1 3/4 cup Flour 1/4 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
1 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Yellow Raisins
1/2 cup Brown Raisins
2/3 cup Buttermilk


1/2 C Confectioner's Sugar
2 1/2 Tsp. Lemon Juice

Set out butter and cream cheese to soften to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

Use a large bowl to blend with mixer set on low -- butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and continue to mix until well blended. Add in softened cream cheese and mix until fluffy.

In another bowl stir with spatula the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.

Slowly stir 1/2 of the flour mixture to the butter batter. Then mix in the buttermilk. Add remaining flour mixture. Last add the raisins.

It is best to use a wooden spoon at this point to finish mixing as the batter will be very thick.

Pour into the loaf pan and tap lightly on counter to even the top smooth.

Bake in center of the oven for 1 hour, 10 minutes. The nut bread should be well browned and often the top will be cracked down the middle.

Mix together the Confectioner's Sugar and lemon juice to make glaze. Pour over warm Raisin Nut Bread and let it soak in.

Dip Recipes

South of the border style dip recipes
Tex-Mex taco dip, nacho dip, cheese dip
and 7 layer dips

Mexican Dip / Cheese Dip

1 stick butter
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
4 c. milk 3 tsp. cumin seed
6 shakes garlic powder
1 lb. jalapeno cheese
3 tsp. chili powder

Mix together the softened butter, flour and milk until smooth. Then combine with the remaining ingredients.

Seven Layer Dip

2 (16 oz.) cans refried beans
I pkg. taco seasoning mix
I (6 oz.) carton avocado dip
I (8 oz.) carton sour cream
I (4 1/2 oz.) can chopped ripe olives 2 large tomatoes, diced
I medium onion, finely chopped
I (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies
10 oz. Cheddar cheese,

Combine beans and taco mix in bowl, mixing well. Spread evenly in 9 x 13-inch pan. Layer remaining ingredients in order listed (avocado dip, sour cream, olives, tomatoes, onion, green chilies and cheese). Serve with 7 layer dip with large taco or corn chips. Yields 8 cups.

South of the Border Taco Dip

1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked and crumbled
1/2 lb. ground sausage, cooked and crumbled
I small onion, chopped medium fine
1 or 2 (1 lb.) cans refried beans
1 (8 oz.) jar taco sauce
I small can green chilies, chopped
I (8 oz.) Cheddar cheese or Monterey cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: avocado dressing, sour cream, parsley, corn chips and raw onion rings

Add onion to crumbled cooked meat. Add salt and pepper. Spread in ovenproof 9 x 13-inch glass dish. Top evenly with beans, then chilies and cover with cheese (grated or shredded). Drizzle taco sauce over all and cover. Can be refrigerated overnight at this point for making ahead.

Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes, until hot throughout. Quickly garnish with onion, sour cream and avocado. Freezes well.

Southern White Cake
topped with vanilla icing and coconut

3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour - sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
6 egg whites

flaked coconut

1. Cream butter and sugar.

2. Mix flour and baking powder. Sift.

3. In a large bowl mix milk, water and vanilla. Alternate mixing in the flour mixture and butter mixture. Beat well.

4. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into white cake batter.

5. Pour batter into shortening greased and floured cake pans.

6. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes.
(while cake is cooking make icing recipe below)

7. Cool pans for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pans.
* Tip for easily removing cake from pans - place hot pans on a wet towel. The steam will make the cake easier to remove without breaking. Take a knife and run along the sides of pan to release from edges. Place a plate over the pan and turn upside down. Let sit for a minute and gently lift pan from cake.

8. Ice cake and sprinkle with flaked coconut.


White Icing

2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cold water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mix together egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar.

2. When bottom of double boiler starts boiling, place mixture on top.

3. Beat constantly for 7 minutes until icing mixture forms soft peaks.

4. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat vanilla icing until thick.

5. When cooled, ice the white cake.

6. Finish your Southern White Cake by sprinkling flaked coconut over the top and sides.