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.

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A Cookbook Filled with Family Favorites and Age-Old Classics.

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I spent 30+ years in a cubicle, programming computers.  Late in my career, I began to notice that nobody cooked much anymore.  Everybody works now days and there’s so much to do after work that it’s just easier to head for fast food on the way home. These realizations inspired me to start writing down my family recipes.  Six years later, I had prepared and written up over 600 recipes that I had been collecting from family and friends over my lifetime.  All this cooking and typing made me want to encourage others to cook more or learn to cook and save all their family recipes, too.  I was inspired to learn more about the basic ingredients my family used and share that knowledge with my readers to help them feel more confident on their cooking journey.  And now Caveman Chemistry is ready for you.  Purchase my cookbook on http://www.lulu.com.  I know you will enjoy preparing and eating my family’s favorite dishes.

Valerie and Her First Book

Valerie and Her First Book

Awesome Oatmeal

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Don’tcha just love oatmeal?  It makes such a satisfying, cozy breakfast, the way it melts in your mouth and makes you feel all warm inside as you eat it.  I could eat oatmeal everyday.  And when I worked in a cubicle, I did.  Instant oatmeal is so handy and easy to make at work.  But, of course, its best use is what?  Oatmeal cookies!  Every variation of oatmeal cookie is good.  I’m going to share my family’s favorite recipe with you.  We make these cookies all the time.  They’re called:

Oatmeal Crispies

1 – cup butter or margarine, softened 1½ – cups flour
1 – cup sugar 1 – teaspoon salt
1 – cup brown sugar 1 – teaspoon soda
2 – eggs 3 – cups quick cooking oats
1 – teaspoon vanilla ½ – cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on low speed, cream the butter and sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt and soda and stir them in by hand. Add the oats and nuts and stir until well blended. Form the dough into 3 logs, 2-3 inches in diameter. Roll each log in wax paper, and refrigerate the cookie dough overnight. It’s like making your own slice-n-bake cookie dough.
Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the cookie dough into ¼-inch slices and place the slices on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, until light brown. Even with nonstick cookie sheets, butter the cookie sheet every time. Cool the cookies on a wire rack or eat them warm out of the oven.
This recipe has been a huge family favorite for as long as I can remember. The cookies bake to a crisp, so they are great for dunking. Oatmeal Crispies also pack and ship well, for a surprise treat in someone’s mailbox.

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It’s All About the Filling. A Rant.

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So, here’s my question.  Is filling so much more expensive than the pastry that we have to accept less and less filling in our twinkies, cupcakes, and donuts?  Isn’t it the filling that makes these pastries better than the average sponge cake?  I want my filling back.  Do you hear that, cake and donut manufacturers?  I want more filling!  And it seems to me you can give me what I want and still make money.  In fact, don’t you make more money by satisfying your customers?  Meanwhile, I have decided to make my own cream-filled donuts.  And I’m sharing my recipe for those who agree with me and don’t mind a little extra work to get what they want.

Boston Cream Donuts

  • 2 – 16.3 ounce tubes Grands Flaky Layers
  • 2 – 3.4 ounce boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 – cups milk
  • 1 – tablespoon vanilla, optional
  • 2 – 1 ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk

Separate the biscuits and fry them in your deep fryer.  If you don’t have a deep fryer, pour at least an inch of vegetable oil in an electric frypan and heat the oil to about 350 to turn the biscuits into donuts.  Cool the donuts to room temperature.

Beat the pudding mix with the milk and vanilla, until the pudding is thick.  Pour the pudding into a gallon ziplock bag and cut off one corner of the bag to make a small hole for piping the pudding.  Open one side of each donut and pipe the pudding inside the donut.  Be generous, we’re doing this because we want more filling.  Refrigerate the donuts to stiffen the pudding.

Put the chocolate and evaporated milk in a small bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, just long enough to soften the chocolate.  Stir the chocolate and milk until well blended and let it cool a little.  Dip the top of each donut in the chocolate and put the donuts back in the fridge.  Or eat right away.  Your choice.

If you just want a quick donut fix, forget the filling and roll the donuts in powdered sugar as soon as you take them out of the oil.  Yum, warm sugary donuts!  Cinnamon and granulated sugar make a good donut, too.

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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Everyone loves soup in the winter.  Soup warms you to your tippy-toes, it’s good for you, and you don’t need teeth to eat it.  While soup’s not usually thought of as a party food, my friends enjoy having a big pot of soup on the stove during parties.  Soup stays warm and good for several hours, it’s easy for self-service, and makes the house smell wonderful.  Here’s an easy soup recipe for this year’s Superbowl party, or just to warm you on a cold day.

Party Tortilla Soup

  • 4 – 18.6 ounce cans Chicken Fajita Soup with Rice and Beans
  • 1 – 26.5 ounce can black beans, do not drain
  • 1 – 15.25 ounce can whole kernel corn, do not drain
  • 10 – corn tortillas

Empty all the cans into a big stewpot over medium high heat. Cut the tortillas into strips and add them to the soup. Cook the soup until it starts to boil and the liquid thickens a little from the tortillas, stirring occasionally to keep the tortillas from sticking to the bottom of the pot. You can add a little flour or cornstarch if the soup is too thin. Serve the soup immediately or reduce the heat to low and allow the party guests to serve themselves.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2015

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In Texas, the holiday parties always have a Tex-Mex flair interspersed with family favorites.  One of the most popular snacks is Seven Layer Dip.  This dip can easily be customized to your particular taste – spicy or mild, bold or reserved.  The layers can be anything you desire, depending on the chips, crackers, vegetables, and fruits you’re serving.  Here is my favorite combination:

Seven Layer Dip

⅓ – cup salsa, mild or hot
1 – 9 ounce can bean dip
1 – 1 ounce envelope guacamole mix
3 – avocados
1 – 16 ounce tub sour cream
2+ – cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
1 – small tomato, chopped
1 – 4.25 ounce can chopped or sliced black olives, drained
1 – tablespoon fresh or dried chives

Measure the salsa according to how runny it is; you may need a little more or less, as you don’t want the bean dip layer to be too runny. Combine the salsa and bean dip and spread the mixture in a thin layer across the bottom of a 2-quart shallow serving dish.  My dish is approximately 12x8x2.  Most guacamole mixes call for 2 avocados and that’s what I use if I’m making guacamole as a side dish. However in this dip, I use 3 avocados to make sure the avocado taste is not lost in the sour cream and bean dip. Make the guacamole with the 3 avocados and spread it evenly over the bean dip. Stir the sour cream to make it more fluffy and spreadable. Carefully spread the sour cream over the guacamole, being sure to cover the guacamole and seal it all along the edges of the pan. Sealing the guacamole away from the air will keep the guacamole green and fresh tasting. I like that better than adding lemon juice to the guacamole to keep it from turning brown. Sprinkle the cheese over the sour cream layer and top the dip with the remaining ingredients. Cover the dip and chill it at least 2-3 hours. Great when served with low salt tortilla chips.

The Cookbook is Done

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A while back I said, ‘Finishing is Hard’.  And it is!  So now you know why I am so excited that I finished the final draft of my cookbook yesterday.  I immediately sent the draft to my editor so he can make me look good.  I don’t know when my book will be published, but I know it will be soon.  It’s called Caveman Chemistry – Bringing Science Back into Cooking.  It has over 600 recipes I have collected over the years, including some very old, family favorites.  This is the biggest personal project I have ever done and it feels so good to flip through it.  Two people have graciously offered to write endorsements for me to put on or around the back cover.  I am so grateful for all the support of my family, friends, and coworkers.