Gorge the Gourd!

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Isn’t it a little backwards that we gorge on pumpkin before Halloween? Shouldn’t we be gutting all of our carved pumpkins on November 1st and baking those wonderful pumpkin pies? Well maybe that’s the logical way, but honestly we just can’t wait any longer. The cool Fall air kindles that pumpkin craving. Just look around. We have pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes… pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

I have some terrific pumpkin recipes in my cookbook. If you love pumpkin, you will love every one of those recipes. Today, I’m sharing a simple snack for that pumpkin fix. I know you will enjoy it.

Fall Dip

  • 1 – 3.5 ounce box butterscotch pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon allspice
  • 1 – 5.1 ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ – teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 – 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin
  • ¼ – teaspoon ginger
  • 1 – 16 ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pudding mixes with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Blend in the pumpkin with a mixer on low speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the Cool Whip until the dip starts to thicken. Put the dip in a nice bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve the dip with animal crackers or graham crackers.

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My Personal Life Hacks

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I remember the first time someone suggested using Google and now it’s a household name. In fact, it’s a verb just like Xerox, when many of it’s original peers have faded from the scene. Still, I have very little patience sorting through my Google searches. So you’ll understand when I say, I searched for a National Heloise Day, but didn’t find one on any of the National Name Day sites I searched. In honor of Hints from Heloise, I am posting a few of my personal life hacks today.

I see so many shares of ‘life hacks’, ‘cooking hacks’, ‘cleaning hacks’, etc. on social media, I wanted to share a few of my own. I also want to Hail Heloise as the original ‘hacker’ for her decades of sharing and adding a positive note to each edition of the news.

Caring for your Drapes: Dry cleaning is expensive, especially for an entire house full of drapes. So here’s a way to cut back on dry cleaning. Once a year, take down your drapes and run them through the dryer on air (no heat) for an hour. Then, just put them back up. The dryer sucks out all the dust, bugs, and spider webs that can damage the fabric. Maybe have your drapes dry cleaned every 5 years. Your drapes will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to empty the dryer filter.

Disposing of Grease: When I was young, we used empty milk cartons to dispose of garbage that couldn’t go into the garbage disposal. What do I do now that milk no longer comes in wax cartons? I save my big peanut butter jars after I eat all the peanut butter. Let the grease cool a little so it won’t melt the plastic jar and pour the grease into the jar. Screw on the lid. Now grease cannot leak through the trash bag and all over the floor, garage, etc. Peanut butter jars are also great for shrimp tails, bones, and fat – anything that smells bad as it sits in the garbage bag.

Oiling your Leather: Leather dry-rots. Oiling leather nourishes it and helps it last longer. If the leather is dirty, clean it first. Make soapy water with original Dawn dishwashing liquid; try not to use soap with a lot of additives (extra smells). Wash the leather with the soapy water and rinse off the soap. Water dries leather, so don’t do this unless you’re going to oil the leather as soon as it dries. The thinner the oil, the easier it is for the leather to soak in the oil. Hydrophane Leather Dressing is a wonderful oil for leather. Pour some in a bowl and use a clean paintbrush to coat the leather. Try not to paint the stitching as oil rots the stitching. However, it’s cheaper to have your leather restitched than replaced. Let the leather soak in all the oil before using your couch, shoes, saddle, etc. Do not use solid leather soaps. The ingredient that allows the soap to dry into a cake will also dry out your leather. (The same is true with lip therapies. Solid lip therapies feel good going on chapped lips, but they also help dry your lips even more.)

Tasty and Beautiful Don’t Always Take a Lot of Time

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Isn’t this pork tenderloin beautiful? And it tastes, Oh Soooo Good! But then, pork tenderloin tastes good roasted with just salt and pepper. Today I preheated the oven to 325. Then I placed the tenderloin with salt and pepper in a roaster with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and a splash of diet Coke. That’s it! Push in the meat thermometer and cook to 170. About halfway through, I stirred the cranberry sauce and spooned it over the roast. Pair this with a salad and you have a whole meal, easy on the calories and your time. It may take a little over an hour to cook, depending on the size of your roast, but during that time you can get stuff done around the house, watch TV, or work on your taxes like me. Enjoy.

International Women’s Day – My Story

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We’ve come a long way, Baby! Even in my short 62 years, lifestyles have changed so much. I still remember the hassle of hose with girdles and garter belts, pantyhose, and seamed stockings. Way back in the olden days, women were required to wear dresses to school and work – and we were not allowed to go bare-legged so the solution was to wear some kind of hosiery everyday. We would stand behind trees as the winter wind whipped up our dresses while waiting for the school bus to pick us up. It wasn’t until my Senior year in high school that the dress code was dropped and we could wear pants.  What a relief. In the workplace, pantsuits were allowed, but some companies still required dresses. And you certainly could not show up for a job interview wearing pants. I still cringe just thinking about all those days strapped into uncomfortable underwear. Men have no idea what it’s like, and back then they sure didn’t care.

I grew up in the Midwest and when you say Illinois, people always think of Chicago, The Windy City. Next door to Chicago, is Milwaukee. It’s pretty windy there, too. I did some computer work for St. Joe’s Hospital. One Monday morning, I flew to Milwaukee, picked up my luggage, and headed for the taxi stand. I could see it was windy, so before I stepped out the door I gathered the edge of my dress in both hands, along with a suitcase, garment bag, and briefcase. Despite holding my dress in both hands, the wind whipped my dress over my face as I walked out of the terminal. So embarrassing! And to make it worse, the cab driver let me know everyone noticed. I never travelled in a dress again. My company continued to insist that I travel in a dress, even when I showed them an article written about travel guidelines suggesting women never travel in nylons. I found another job and that company doesn’t exist anymore – these two facts are not related.

In celebration of all women everywhere and their stories, here are some chocolate cookies that just melt in your mouth.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

  • 6 – tablespoons butter
  • 2 – tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 – 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ – teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 – 12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • ¼ – teaspoon salt
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1½ – teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 – eggs
  • ½ – cup flour

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate squares, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and set it aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for about 2 minutes. Blend in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, flour, and chocolate chips in that order. Cover the cookie dough and chill until firm – at least a couple hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a melon–baller, drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies 10–12 minutes, until puffed. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Shop My Small Business

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Friday, November 25, 2016, is National Shop Small Business Day. A business doesn’t get any smaller than an independent, self-publishing author. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, my cookbook would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen, beginner cook or seasoned chef. You can find Caveman Chemistry, Bringing Science Back into Cooking on lulu.com, coil bound or paperback bound. Take a look, I think you’ll like it.

Breakfast Casseroles

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Breakfast casseroles are great. You build them the night before and then slip them into the oven in the morning. So handy, and Oh So GOOD!

When I was in high school, we lived in the #1 hog producing county in the US. And when the wind was right, you knew it. Sure hog farms can have a bad smell from time to time, but the ham, bacon, sausage, roasts, and ribs we get make up for any discomfort from the smell. Growing up with pigs, it’s no wonder we used pork to make some of our best breakfast casseroles. Since I moved to Texas, I have added a little jalapeño to spice it up. This is one of my favorite breakfast casseroles.

Sausage Potato Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 – 2 lb. bag frozen Southern–style hash browns, thawed
  • 1 – pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 – tablespoons butter
  • ½ – teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 – small onion, chopped
  • 1 – 16 or 32 ounce tube ground pork sausage
  • 1 – 8 ounce package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 – 8 ounce bag shredded cheddar cheese, I like more
  • 1 – teaspoon thyme
  • 1 – 8 ounce bag shredded mozzarella cheese, or more
  • 1 – teaspoon basil
  • 9 – eggs
  • 1 – tablespoon freeze-dried red jalapeño
  • ½ – cup half-n-half, milk, or cream
  • 1 – pinch paprika

Spread the hash browns in a 13x9x3 lasagna pan. Salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and mushrooms in the butter with the thyme, basil, jalapeño, paprika, cayenne, and garlic salt. When the onion is soft, brown and crumble the sausage with the onion and mushrooms. Add half of the cheeses to the sausage and cook until the cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and half-n-half. Pour the eggs over hash browns. Top the potatoes with the sausage mixture. Cover the pan and refrigerate the casserole overnight. Some people like to put the sausage mixture on top of the potatoes and then pour the eggs over everything.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 1 hour, until brown and bubbly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 more minutes. This is one of those great recipes you can really customize to your own tastes. You can add bell pepper or hot peppers. You can add more eggs if you like it to be more like an omelet. You can stir the potatoes and sausage together before you add the eggs. The only thing I wouldn’t do is add more milk. It makes the casserole too runny. Add more cheese; you can’t have too much of that.

 

The Cookbook is NOT All Sugar

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Yes, there are many dessert chapters, but the cookbook contains other recipes, too.  In the Midwest, we are known for our corn, casseroles, corn, Jell-O salads, corn, cheeseballs, corn, and desserts.  And corn.  We absolutely love our corn.  And it is oh-so-good eaten right off the cob – just pick, cook, and eat.  Wow!

If you don’t have access to corn right out of the field, there are many ways to prepare canned corn.  Here’s one of my favorite corn recipes.  I don’t have a photo, so just picture cornbread in your mind as you read and make the recipe.

Cornbread Casserole

  • 1 – 8.5 ounce box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 – 15.25 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 – cup margarine, melted
  • 1 – 8 ounce tub sour cream
  • 1 – 14.75 ounce can cream style corn

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the corn muffin mix with the margarine. Stir in the corn and sour cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the casserole for 1 hour. This is the best cornbread casserole in the world. Double the recipe for potluck dinners and  it still won’t be enough.