Category Archives: Food

Comfort Food Here I Come!

by Kimberly A. Cook                  (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Between the time change, sick cat, election day, my job and Veterans Day last week, by the time Saturday arrived I could have used a cattle prod and a six-pack of energy drinks to get out of bed. Luckily a new purchase arrived and I was feeling dangerous.

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Little Red bravely doing the water test. Such a trooper.

 

My mini pressure cooker. Two quart size. Nickname – Little Red. Since I’m trying to increase my cooking skills, I never would’ve attempted this piece of equipment but it’s small. Figured I might be able to handle it. Maybe.

First I had to go through the precautions and initiate a water safety test. Felt like I was back on drown-proofing duty in the Army. Thirty minutes later I hadn’t blown anything up or had leaking machine parts. Fabo!

Next on to real food. One of the many things that hooked me while watching this little gem on Home Shopping Network, HSN to us loyal fans, was being able to cook things quickly and keep the nutrients in without firing up the big oven.

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Even I can cut up potatoes. Love the skins for fiber and taste. How festive. 

 

Decided to go for mashed potatoes on my maiden voyage. Cut up my favorite red potatoes, skins and all. Put in water. Locked down the lid. Pushed the potato button. How easy is that? Waited. About ten minutes later it beeped at me. Perfect potatoes!

I smashed them with the egg salad maker since I didn’t have a potato masher; then added milk and butter. Next was pepper and done. Wonderful. Ate the leftovers most of the rainy week. Emboldened by my success, I promptly purchased a potato masher. Every girl should have one.

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After the mash and before the ingredients. Can you smell the starch?

 

Think next I’m going big time, moving up to frozen pork chops. Little Red will cook frozen foods, just have to add time from the list in the book. Think I can handle the math.

Figure the worst that happens is I have to wipe pork chops off the kitchen ceiling; but since I haven’t fixed the ceiling yet from the peeing furnace that got torn out, who cares?

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Mix up the pepper and done! Actually, I could carry the entire mini pan and eat out of it, but I chose to go with a plate. Bring on winter!  

 

Supposedly one can bake cakes, pasta and chicken wings in Little Red too. Seems I’ve hired a cook in the kitchen while I watch Football. Perfect.

Viva la Pressure Cooker! Viva la Comfort Food!

Got steam?

 

 

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Grab For The Fruit!

by Kimberly A. Cook                (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Managed to pry myself away from the Summer Olympics on tv over the weekend to head to the Farmer’s Market. Love to look at all the fresh veggies, fruit and flowers. While August spirals towards Fall, school supplies are in stores and pumpkins are in the craft aisles, I try and grab for the last rays of summer.

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The perfect box for those of us who cannot make up our minds.

 

Snapping up nature’s fresh bounty is so much fun and supporting local farmers and vendors even better. With an array of items from BBQ sauce to popcorn and pastries and bird feeders, I can’t go wrong.

Wanted some blackberries, strawberries and the last cherries and found what I needed down aisle two. Then off to the Pie Guy to scarf up a mini-pie, marionberry, which I know contains mini calories.

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To prevent dreaded pie mistakes, take a taste! There are no bad pies here. 

 

Then took a longing look at the beautiful flower bouquets and avoided the Donut truck since I had the pie in the bag. Literally. Checked out the bargains on backyard mini-bridges, great deals but too big for my fairy rock garden. Alas.

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Plus gorgeous flowers. Amazing!

 

While I continue to deny the days are getting shorter, there is still time to support the farmers markets and get the last drops of summer. Honey included.

Get out there and shop from farmers and local vendors people!

 

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Can You Master Lazy Entertaining?

by Kimberly A. Cook                 (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

Easter is one of my favorite holidays since it’s an all bunnies all the time zone. This past Sunday I hosted the family holiday again but I entertained in full mosey mode. Its been a busy couple months with a surgery, an accident recovery and general chaos in the family.

So my plan was to air lift the vittles from one of our favorite restaurants. I ordered the ham and cheese quiche and the four different pieces of pie online from Shari’s Restaurant on Thursday. Picked them up at 10 a.m. on Saturday and put all in the frig. Since I also picked up lettuce, tomatoes, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls and two bouquets of flowers on Thursday night after work, fini!

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Bunny booty bag, name tag holder and chocolate eggs. Step 1.

 

Since the cooking was done except for heating up the quiche on Sunday morning, I decided to do some bunny table decorating. I always have to make bunny booty bags to go for all my guests; it’s the perfect excuse to buy more Easter candy. Found the name tag holders for the table, the pink tablecloth and the bunny candy dish.

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Add more bunny candy and flowers. Step 2.

 

My collection of rabbits from around the world sits right next to the dining room table, so adding the candy dish with Hershey’s Kisses and the chocolate candy covered eggs in the blue measuring bowl, almost perfect. I added two bouquets of flowers and all was set.

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Years of bunny collecting, hares everywhere!

 

Some folks might call this slacking, but after years of cooking and baking, sometimes a person just needs a break. In the past we’ve tried this for Mother’s Day and it worked out quite well. There’s nothing like zooming past the waiting  line of 10,000 people at The Olive Garden to get lasagna, bread sticks and salad to go. The whimpers from those in the line is always followed by someone saying “Why didn’t we do that?”

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Then right before guests arrive some gate crasher always shows up looking for his name tag on the table. Step 3. There are fewer chocolate eggs in the bowl in this picture. No idea how that happened. That’s my story ……..  

 

So after we had our meal, a nice chat and some folks took a little power nap, it was time to unbox the pie. We had one piece of everyone’s favorite, because you can’t buy a chocolate cream, peach, Marion berry, chocolate silk pie. Plus I sent home a piece of quiche for all to go with their bunny bags of chocolates.

Totally unexpected was a bunny booty haul I made with gifts from my sister and family. A mini bunny baking cake pan, chocolate bunny, chocolate carrots, bunny napkins, bunny marshmallow decorating kit and a bunny centerpiece. Bunnypalooza! Does life get much better than that? I think not.

Sometimes lazy really pays off. Viva la online food ordering! Plan ahead, Mother’s Day is coming….

 

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Want To Bake A Cookie Forest?

by Kimberly A. Cook             (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

On Christmas Eve I decided I wanted to bake an old family favorite, Lemon Holiday Cookies. Now the only way I touch anything with lemon is with lots of sugar added, so these little treats fit the bill. We made these growing up using the manual turn cookie press and I love the scent of lemon in the air when they bake.

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Original recipe being held by Baking Bear. I always use my beat up Sunbeam Mixmaster I bought at the Army PX. It’s vintage, but it works. 

 

Its been several years since I’ve made them, but I’d been given the cookie press by my Mom and using it always brings back great memories. So to pass on this gem of a recipe, here goes.

Lemon Holiday Cookies

Combine thoroughly in large bowl:

1 1/3 Cup soft shortening (half butter may be used, I do)

2 Cups sugar. (Was not kidding about the sugar)

Food coloring of your choice for color. (Green for trees!)

Add:

2 eggs, unbeaten

1/4 Cup Cream (or milk)

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp lemon extract

Sift together:

4 Cups sifted enriched flour

2 tsp double-acting baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt. Add to blended mixture; mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with spatula or fork. (Or use cookie press)

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The cookie press and fabulous accessories.

 

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Cookie Press loaded and almost locked for action.

 

 

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A fabulous forest of naked Christmas trees.

 

Add colored sugar sprinkles for decoration. I like green and red.

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and store in tight containers. Makes about 12 1/2 dozen small cookies.

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Decorated cookies. Obviously I need more practice, the edges are a little brown; Smokey the Bear would not be happy with me. But the cookies still taste great! 

 

What family holiday recipes do you cherish? Bake on!

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Skulls, Halloween Candy And Tiaras?

by Kimberly A. Cook          (Twitter@  WarriorTales)

This year is flying by and I realized I don’t have any Halloween decorations up at home. My last luncheon visit to my favorite antique store I stumbled upon this snappy skull dressed with a tiara. Now I’m not that thrilled with skulls, but I’m a big fan of tiaras so I had to take a pic. Decorating idea. In my case the tiara would be on a pumpkin. A baby pumpkin.

Skull with tiara. I was not kidding!
Skull with tiara. I was not kidding.

I won a pumpkin decorating contest at the day job one year with a miniature pumpkin decked out in a mini Santa hat and sunglasses. No carving even. I’m lazy. It’s all in the presentation folks.

Organizing the candy shelf at home this past weekend, it used to be a bowl but it grew, I unearthed some leftover candy from last Halloween. Not sure how that happened, but miracles do occur during the holidays.

The sunrises and sunsets are getting closer together now and all I want to do is hunker down with a book, bottle and blankie. My bottle would be filled with chocolate milk. I’m a wild one! With the urge to hibernate coming on, I focus on the holidays to distract me from the short dark days. Plus I look forward to staying inside and reading.

A member of my writer group mentioned there might be another pumpkin shortage. I went straight to the store and loaded up on Libby’s canned pumpkin and Carnation evaporated milk. Safe for another year. I may still have some pumpkin leftover from the last shortage scare. Might this be a marketing ploy at some point?

I also picked up a new pumpkin spice muffin mix I saw at the grocery store. Plus I’m on the hunt for my special pumpkin chips I can buy only at this time of the year. Which is another reason why the repair person will be installing a new motor in my treadmill in a week; I actually killed the motor. Heaven knows I cannot go into the holidays without a working treadmill. It’s the calorie grazing season!

Hope you all are enjoying your pre-Halloween test candy so we can all go out and buy the real Halloween candy for the treaters.

Happy Snacking? Got candy? Run for the pumpkin products too!

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Ugly Fruit Tarts For Everyone?

by Kimberly A. Cook                  (Twitter@   WarriorTales)

Why do the desserts featured on the covers of magazines not turn out the same way when I bake them? I passed up this magazine several times in the store until I finally succumbed and bought it. Last weekend I decided to take the big plunge and bake it for company. In the magazine it’s called a “Rustic Fruit Tart.”

Before baking it's fabulous! Notice my pig whisk. Love it!

Before baking it’s fabulous! Notice my pig whisk. Love it!

First I used frozen berries instead of fresh, since they are out of season. Plus I have enough frozen berries in my freezer to feed Texas. Then I decided to use the fabulous Pillsbury pie crusts to save time. I use them for the pumpkin pies, so this should be fine with thinner crust than homemade dough.

Thawed the frozen blueberries and raspberries overnight in the refrigerator. Then in the morning I got up and took out the fruit, egg and one pie crust to warm to room temperature while I had breakfast. Put the ingredients together, followed the directions and it looked fabulous before baking.

Forty-five minutes later the buzzer dinged on the oven and out it came. Wait a minute. It doesn’t look like the picture! I’ve heard rumors that food stylists use all kinds of tricks to make food look good for photos, from spraying with cooking oil to using automotive products. Mine was virgin pristine and ugly.

Imagine the main culprit was the soggy thawed fruit, even though the berries held up well. And if I’d made the crust from scratch I could have made it thicker to hold the juices. The recipe did warn me there would be spillage.

Beyond spillage. Color kind of burple too.

Beyond spillage. Color kind of burple too.

They also recommended using parchment paper, which I did. Complete disaster. I couldn’t get it off the paper to move it on to the serving plate. So I airlifted the tart, paper and all, then cut the paper into a circle to fit the plate. Next time I’m using the round, flat pizza pan I thought of using in the first place. No parchment paper.

In the end it all didn’t matter. It tasted great and everyone liked it. My ugly tart.

All’s well that tastes well, to paraphrase the Bard.

It just so happens I have some fresh pears to use up now. Ugly tarts ahoy!

This looks too good. Darn professional bakers!

This looks too good. Darn professional bakers!

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September Squirrel, Holiday Shopping And Pumpkin Spice Lattes?

by Kimberly A. Cook                (Twitter@   WarriorTales)

Is it just me or has somebody cranked up the calendar and put the holidays before the horse? And the sleigh? Three weeks ago I noticed the Halloween candy was out at the grocery store. August, it was August! People were already buying their pre-holiday taste testing goblin candy to devour before they have to buy more candy for Halloween. (You know we all do it.)

Notice how dainty and well-mannered Mr. Squirrel is while he scarfs up all the purloined bird food.
Notice how dainty and well-mannered Mr. Squirrel is while he scarfs up all the purloined bird food.

Then this weekend I saw KMart advertising Christmas layaway on tv with Santa shopping from a scooter and a walking Christmas tree using a grocery cart. Hope Santa’s okay. Maybe his sleigh doesn’t work well in KMart. Reindeer droppings I bet.

Our weather dipped into the 50s on Sunday and didn’t reach 60 degrees all day. I went hunting my new alpaca socks to wear. Now the weather guy says it’s going to be 90 degrees on Friday. Must be Fall in Oregon.

I ripped out my tomato plants yesterday because we were both tired of each other. I took in the last harvest and now have a science experiment in progress to see if the green ones will ripen. Put them in a leftover Chinese takeout food plastic container which I think looks like a mini-greenhouse. Perfect. Harvest time. Must be football season! Yes!

On the local news Monday night they spilled the beans that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes, using real  pumpkin, would be available today. As opposed to using alien pumpkin ingredients I guess? BUT, if you wanted to get the treat on Labor Day, you had to use the password PUMPKIN. How clever is that?

Without great personal restraint this would be me in any bakery I enter. It's been a miracle I haven't climbed into a pastry case yet. The season's still young!

Without great personal restraint this would be me in any bakery I enter. It’s been a miracle I haven’t climbed into a pastry case yet. The season’s still young!

By accident I noticed the squirrel feeder was out of food when Mr. Squirrel was snacking at the ground bird feeder, instead of HIS feeder. Got a couple close up pics by carefully opening the screen door, but my favorite is the last one I had to shoot through the window for the perfect angle.

If winter must come then we all might as well chow down by hopping into the holiday food trough just like Mr. Squirrel. Forget dainty and bashful.

Local weather forecasters say due to a historic El Nino the Pacific Northwest should have above average temperatures and less rain this winter. Right.

Time to go find my snow shovel, reactivate my Netflix account and get a few cases of Halloween candy. Mr. Squirrel knows something.

Start hoarding the Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

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