Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quick and Easy?

My husband has gotten to the point where if I tell him that dinner will be ready in 30 minutes, he'll say something about it being in an hour.  He says this because it is what always happens.  The way I cook--there are no true "30 minute meals".  I rarely use canned soup as an ingredient or dry soup mix.  I don't use jar gravy or frozen foods.  I don't use sauces or salad dressings as the main ingredient in what I cook either.  If there's a sauce in a recipe, then it's to be made from scratch (most of the time)  This is definitely healthier for my family (less salt and preservatives), but boy does it take a lot more time!

Many of the "quick" cookbooks I see require ingredients like packaged onion soup or canned soup or teriyaki sauce or ranch dressing or other prepared foods.  So, I'm always on the lookout for a "quick" cookbook that really is from scratch.

Recently, I tried out a new one.  It's Don't Panic: Quick, Easy, and Delicious Meals for Your Family by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia.  Here's a super quick description of this cookbook:
- No pictures.
+ Simple directions--easy to read and understand
+ Mostly affordable ingredients (I hate when simple means every recipe is made with Phyllo Dough or pesto!)
There's only a few recipes in here that have more expensive ingredients like phyllo dough.
+ Great ingredient list for stocking your pantry (I keep everything they list except onion soup mix (all have MSG in them) and refried beans (I make my own)).
+ I agree with their basic tips (keep regular items on hand, shop the loss leaders, planning out meals...)

I tried several recipes from this cookbook.  The first I took to a church potluck.  It was the Cream Cheese Danish Recipe.  It does require crescent rolls, but it was still a great and quick brunch dish to take!  My dish came home with me empty.  We also tried the Orange Chicken recipe and were very pleased with it.  My mom commented that it was as good as going out for Chinese food.

I'm not much for cookbooks that advocate freezing dishes for use later.  That approach to quick cooking has never worked well for me because I'm horrible at remembering to thaw things out!  So, cookbooks like this one that try to make recipes simpler, but still taste great are good ones for me.

I did have a thought earlier that this cookbook is aimed at folks that would normally turn to the internet for a recipe for dinner (I found the same Cream Cheese Danish recipe online when I searched).  So, why buy or borrow a cookbook?

For me, I find it much easier to have the recipes I like in one place.  Last week, I was looking for my favorite chicken marsala recipe that I make.  I knew it was in my binders.  I couldn't find them.  I actually have a few places I put the loose recipes that I have.  Secretly, I think generations before me were smart when they fastidiously compiled their recipe boxes full of recipe cards!  I have a recipe accordian with pieces of paper of all sizes in it.  Then, I have a ziploc bag that contains the manuals for all the little cooking appliances we have and a few recipes.  I also have 2 large 3-4" binders full of recipes in sheet protectors.  A few years ago, I subscribed to Cooking Light.  I tore out the recipes that I wanted to keep and organized them by type of food.  How often do I look at them?  Once in a blue moon.  The point of all of this is that I have always shied away from recipes on the internet because I would have to organize them after I make them!  And as you can see, my recipe organization is already quite complicated!  I do much better with cookbooks.  I like to find cookbooks that have several recipes in it that I like.  I like to write all over my cookbooks and record what I change and whether or not my family likes the recipe.  For all the speed of the internet, the selection of recipes overwhelms me and it's much easier for me to navigate a cookbook.  

So, when it comes right down to it, I have realized that I love tangible books.  It may be irrational, but I simply do.  I enjoyed flipping through this cookbook and finding recipes my family would enjoy trying.  I know the orange chicken and danish are going to be regular additions to our family fare.  I liked this cookbook and I'll flip through it again when I'm planning our family menus.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Revell Publishing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Air Duct Cleaning

When we moved into our house back in December, one of the things I knew we'd need to do before we turned on the A/C was have the air ducts cleaned out.  I finally had that done yesterday.  I really liked the husband/wife team who came and cleaned them out.  I am very thankful to have this done and off my mind.  The lady who owned the house before us had cats for several years and I was certain it was bad.  It took about 2 hours to clean out the ducts.  

We live in Harford County, Maryland, and I wasn't sure who to call to clean them out, so I called our heating and a/c man (who does a great job!--Lighthouse Heating and Air).  He referred me to Mercerons Cleaning Service.  They came yesterday and did a great job.  I do recommend them if you need to have this done.  It took about 2 hours and the kids and I sat on the porch because the noise inside was loud at times.  They were very efficient and clean.  They did obviously clean out a lot and I am glad.  I hope that friends who visit our home will have less of an allergic reaction now when they visit!  (PS there is a coupon on their website that I wish I'd found before they came to do the job, so definitely go to the website!)  They also clean services and I have heard good things about this as well, but our carpet was well past the cleanable point because it's the pad underneath that I believe is the problem in our den.

Now, I just need to get the carpet replaced in the den and we'll be good to go!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Garage Saling Begins!

Yippee!  Garage Saling began last Saturday where I live.  I only found a few--but enough to make it worthwhile.  I found brand new art supplies I needed for art next year, books for the kids that I'd considered buying for Eli's homeschooling next year, a cake decorator and treats for the girls birthday party in the fall.  I always look forward to the hunt!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lowe's and Home Depot Ads

At our old house, I used to get these great coupons periodically from Lowe's in the mail, like "save $10 off $50 purchase".  Honestly, I'd save up my optional purchases for when I got one of these coupons.  I wondered this morning if I could get signed up at our new house, so I scoured their website. It took me a little bit of searching, but I did find it.   I found that you can sign up for their mailings here:
This will create an online account for you to get emails and then once you're in that account, you can add your home information for mailings.

Home Depot's site only offers an email list sign up for their Garden club and ad (which is great if you don't have a newspaper subscription.  On the side of their site, there is a place where you can sign up for their emails.  I signed up a month or two ago and have already received 2 e-coupons for $5 off of $50.  It isn't much, but it is something and when it comes to equipment or plants everything seems to add up very quickly!

Monday, April 9, 2012

(Sort of) Homemade Cream Cheese Danish

I have this knack of taking things to church pot lucks that don't get eaten up.  But, I keep trying to find something that everyone will enjoy.  At our church, we have a breakfast pot luck after sunrise service.  I usually take muffins or coffee cake or the like.  This year I tried a new recipe from a cookbook that I'll soon be posting a review on.  I found the exact same recipe online so I thought I'd share it here (though I did think about keeping it to myself so that I'd have a standard recipe I could take and know everyone likes!).  The recipe is for cream cheese danish.  If you want to add some pie filling in to the recipe and layer it on the bottom on top of the first layer of crescent rolls, you can do that.  You'll notice that the recipe isn't exactly healthy, but then again--is cream cheese danish ever healthy?! (I was smiling and chuckling as I typed that thought.)

The recipe:   Cream Cheese Danish

2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 (8 count) pkgs. crescent rolls
1 c. confectioners sugar
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
Enough milk to make desired consistency (2-3 Tbsp.)
Line greased 9 x 13 inch pyrex pan with 1 package of rolls. Mix other ingredients (save the egg white)--beat really well till mixture is creamy; spread on rolls.  The mixture will be thick.  Top with other can of rolls. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Brush pastry with egg white and bake for 5-10 minutes more till deep brown (but not burnt).  Cool. Put in refrigerator overnight.  In the morning just, drizzle glaze on top.  Cut in small pieces for serving.  

I added words and modifications to their recipe, but this is what worked for me.