Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday's Recipes: Warming Soups

Love unlocks doors and opens windows that weren't even there before. ~Mignon McLaughlin

I've been fixing soups and stews to take off the chill here in the Michigan. We had wind chills below 0 degrees this week! Try a few of these recipes for your family, and keep warm.

Slow Cooked Beef Stew

2 1/2 pounds lean beef-cut into cubes
1 pound baby carrots
2 1/2 potatoes, cut in eighths
2 1/2 sweet onions, sliced thinly
1 (15 oz.) can Italian-style canned, tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil or 1 tsp. fresh, minced

Brown the beef cubes in a large skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper lightly. Place a layer of the vegetables in the crock, and then a layer of the meat. Repeat until it's all layered. Mix the flour and the seasonings together. Sprinkle the mixture over each meat layer. Sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce as well. After layering, pour stewed tomatoes over all,cover and cook on low 10-12 hours. NOTES: I also like to drizzle with herb vinegar in place of the Worcestershire sauce. A good way to prepare this is to cut all the meat and vegetables the night before-placing the vegetables in one plastic bag or bowl and the meat in another. In the morning you assemble and it cooks all day long. A great busy day meal! This could easily be doubled and served for a crowd,or used as leftovers for lunches! Serve with corn bread. I also blend up the tomatoes because my kids don't like "chunky" things in their food.

Southwestern Corn Chowder

1/2 pound of cubed ham
1 (16 1/2 ounce) can cream style corn
1 11 ounce can whole kernel corn
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 cup sour cream, lowfat is fine
1 cup milk, skim, 2% or whole

Combine ham, both kinds of corn and chilies. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture just comes to a boil. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the sour cream and milk. Cook 3-4 minutes longer until heated through, stirring occasionally. 6 servings.

Slow Cooked Italian Sausage Soup

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
1 cup sliced carrots or baby carrots
1 large diced potato
1 garlic clove minced
2 15 ounce cans beef broth
15 can cooked northern or navy beans
14 ounce can diced tomatoes (Italian style is nice)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into one inch pieces
Optional: 1 cup chopped cabbage or spinach
Parmesan Cheese

Brown the sausage, and at the end saute the garlic, careful not to scorch. Combine everything in the crockpot except the green beans and cabbage. Cook on low for 7-9 hours. Add the beans, and the cabbage or chopped spinach and cook 30 minutes more. Serve with the Parmesan cheese in bowls. You can also boil some pasta according to instructions and spoon a small amount in the bottom of each bowl, then top with the soup.

On OFL we have more soup recipes to warm you up:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Herbs 'n Spices: Herb Recipes

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. ~Victor Hugo

Today I'm sharing herb recipes, starting with a question and answer from a reader. If you don't grow herbs, or it's winter for you too and you want a taste of fresh herbs, check your grocery store produce section. More stores our offering herbs year round now.

Do you have a recipe for a Creamy Oregano Dressing in your archives? ~Ginny

Creamy Oregano Dressing

3/4 cup light or regular mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon granulated sugar or sweetener
1 clove garlic, minced

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar,lemon juice, oil, water, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, sugar and garlic. Chill before serving.

Creamy Oregano Dressing

1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sugar or sweetener
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the vinegar into a microwave safe measuring cup and add the oregano and garlic. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, or until warm. Stir and allow to cool to room temperature. In a small bowl whisk together the mustard,sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add in the oregano, garlic, and vinegar combination, then whisk in the oil,whisking constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I also wanted to share these herb recipes that are lower in fat today:

Lowfat Cheese Dip

1 cup lowfat cottage cheese, creamed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lowfat milk
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 tsp. garlic granules or powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
Salt to taste

Mix ingredients in a blender, scraping sides as needed. Process until the dip is smooth and creamy. Makes 1 1/3 cups

Blue Cheese Spread

8 ounces lowfat cream cheese, softened
2 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, to taste
salt to taste

Mix ingredients together and chill. Spread on bread sliced thin, or crackers.

On OFL we have recipes and tips for using herbs in soups:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Caring for Vintage Furniture and Wood

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. ~Albert Einstein

Years ago I was given a wonderful gift by my parents when they gave me my grandmother's dresser, china cabinet and vanity. I remember as a child thinking her vanity, with her brushes, mirrors and jewelry box laid out neatly, was so enchanting when we visited her! I would love to care for these items properly so I can one day hand them down to my daughter. I'm sure many of you have antique furniture as well. How can we care for it properly?

Do not set beverages, vases of flowers or anything similar on your pieces. Use coasters if it's a piece of furniture that will be used for this. Dust several times a week with a soft cloth. It's recommended that you NOT use spray waxes or polishes on the surfaces of antique furniture because it may leave a residue. You can use a paste wax, that is rubbed on and buffed afterwards if you wish. This can be removed easily if refinishing is ever necessary. Other sources recommend a lemon polish, but you need to make sure it has REAL lemon oil, not just the fragrance. Also, the polish must not contain alcohol, which will dry the wood, or silicone which will leave a residue. Any polishing you do to your pieces should be done in the direction of the grain. Once a year you can wash your furniture with a mild soap and warm water. Using a soft cloth, dip it in the water and wring it completely out. Wash a small area at a time on the piece, then wipe with a damp, soap free cloth. Then dry with another clean, soft cloth.

To really ensure the life of your wood pieces they should be kept away from direct sunlight, heating vents, alcohol, steam and water.

We have tips for removing watermarks from wood on OFL:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vintage Family Tips from the 1920's

A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold. ~Ogden Nash

I was looking through my copy of Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries from 1926 and thought these tips for getting kids to eat and drink properly were adorable! Sugar bowls and creamers are so easy to find at thrift stores and garage sales. Another idea to teach manners and give the kids a neat play time is to pick up odd teacups, saucers and spoons at garage sales, then keep them in a small tub for "tea time" with the kids. I know some moms love using good tea sets, which is fine, but I found that I have more fun and it's much more relaxing if we are using tea sets and dishes that aren't "special". If one breaks, it's no big deal. The following were the fun tips from the book:

Perhaps your child will not drink his milk. A small pitcher and a little, flat-bottomed wine glass will do the drink. Pour a little milk at a time from the pitcher into the tiny glass and watch your child delight in taking every drop. If the child is old enough, let him pour it himself. This is a healthful method, for the milk will never be taken in large gulps.

My two little girls refused to eat cereals until recently, when it occurred to me to give them each a little sugar bowl and pitcher so that they might help themselves. As they hold only enough for one serving, there is no waste or over-sweetening. Besides teaching them to wait on themselves without spilling, they are getting the benefit of wholesome cereals for breakfast and learning to like them.

On OFL we have a menu, tips and activities for a children's Valentine's Party:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tomato Seed Starting Tips

I love the garden, and I love gardening. I feel about gardening the way I feel about stirring a pot of soup, canoeing in the rain, singing in a large group, holding a child in my arms, or swimming in the dark. It makes me feel human. ~Neenah Ellis

Depending on where you live, it's time to start your tomato seeds indoors. You can grow heirloom varieties in so many varied colors, shapes and sizes that it's worth the extra effort. Seeds will keep for about 3 years if you store them in a cool place, so you don't have to use an entire packet. Remember that some seeds may not germinate, or the seedlings may be weak, so plant extra, and you can thin them to save the strong ones.

You will want to start your seeds 8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart in a sterile potting mix. Moisten the soil an hour or two before you start planting. Also, make sure you've washed and rinsed your flat or container in hot water. Cover the seeds lightly after pushing them in 1/4 inch. Either place the container in a plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. The seeds will germinate in a week or so if the temperature is about 75 degrees-longer if it's cooler. A sunny window works well if you have room to place the containers there, otherwise you can use florescent lights and keep the room warm. One tidbit I discovered is that you need to keep tomato seedlings away from ALL natural gas. Don't place them near a gas stove or furnace. Even a tiny amount can kill young plants.

Once the seeds germinate and sprout keep the temperature around 70 degrees, remove the plastic and water regularly. When the second set of leaves appear on your seedlings transplant them to 4" peat pots, planting them a little deeper than they had been- you can also use yogurt containers or small pots. If they seem a little spindly to you then plant them quite deep-almost up to the leaves. Give the seedlings as much sun or light as possible. If you are using florescent lights keep them about 6 inches from the plants, turning on for about 18 hours or so a day. Don't use a full strength fertilizer-cut it by half or use a natural one. I like using fish water from our fish tank to water. You can buy fish emulsion also.

Frugal notes: you don't need fancy flats with domes on them. You can use egg cartons, salad or bakery container, etc. Just make sure to poke holes for drainage and set them on trays! Drainage is super important before and after they are transplanted.

MORE: Planting information and tomato recipes!