Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kits



video

Since autumn, I have been taking care of two groups of feral kittens that live behind the grocery store where I work. Biscuit and Boo are from one mom (they had a sibling but it died early on) and the gray kittens are from another mom.

The black kitten, Ink, showed up later on, so he really was not a part of either family. I found him curled as tight as possible in the middle of a field one snowy, wintry day. He and Zen Mitten are now buddies.

I have never experienced such a loving creature as Zen Mitten. He is very "centered" and loves everyone.

These cats have been neutered and spayed and chipped. The tips of their ears have been nipped to show they are being taken care of and this "pod" is registered with the state. Because of a lack of foster homes, they were re-leased because it was felt they were well-taken care of and in a safe environment.

Many people help out and they have provided dry, tiny shelters for them hidden in the field.

I can now pet all but one. We have homes for two.

North Carolina puts down more cats than any other state. We have tried to trap the mother cats, but they are old and savvy. Biscuit and Boo's mother is a beautiful and matronly calico with green eyes.

Not all cats are "dumped." Many simply run away, which I think perhaps Ink did. My own cat, Chalk, did.

If you know of people who look after feral cats, don't hesitate to donate a few bucks. Five bucks can buy a lot of food.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple Weeknight Italian Spaghetti With Ground Beef



Oh, the things one finds when spring cleaning. I found this recipe safely tucked away in a drawer. I've had it since at least the late 1980's. Spaghetti was never really a staple meal in our household when I was growing up. We were, after all of Polish/Lithuanian descent. And, my tastebuds are sensitive to acidic, tomato-based sauces. But when I was served this by neighbors in the Indiana town where I taught school, I enjoyed it so much that I asked for the recipe.

If you like Stouffer's frozen spaghetti (and I do), you will like this recipe -- which I think is even better.

Thanks to the packaged, dry sauce mix that contains potato starch, this is  a thick sauce. It uses basic, pantry staples one usually has on hand. I suggest making the recipe as is before adjusting it. At the end, I will suggest options that I have tried.


  • 1 small yellow or white onion, chopped (about 3/4 - one cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and set aside
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any color will do)
  • 3/4 - 1-lb. ground chuck
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
  • 1, 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1, 12-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1, 3-4 ounce can sliced black olives, undrained
  • 1 package McCormick Italian Spaghetti Sauce Mix with Mushrooms
  • 1, 8-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crushed
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 to one pound dried spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese for grating



Add a bit of olive oil to a medium Dutch oven. Sauté ground chuck, chopped onion, garlic, bell pepper.

Add the remaining ingredients in order listed except for the dried spaghetti and Parm. Mix well and bring to a slow simmer. Cover partially and simmer two to four hours. Periodically, uncover and add some slices from the extra garlic or to taste.  Keep tasting and adjust seasonings as necessary, especially just before serving.

Cook pasta. Drain. Add a cup or two of the sauce. Mix well to coat. Mound pasta on individual plates and top with meat sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.


Options:

  • Add a bit of chopped bacon to the ground beef.
  • Add sliced mushrooms when browning the ground chuck.
  • Use a dry red or white wine in place of the water.
  • Use the lesser amounts of  dried basil and oregano. About one-half hour before serving, chop up about 3/4 tablespoon of fresh to add to sauce.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed when browning meat mixture.

  • While I have not done this, throw in a couple of Italian sausages the last hour of cooking.





Monday, March 30, 2015

Oven-Fried Chicken with Honey-Butter Sauce




I remember the first time I prepared this chicken. It was so good, I made it several times in the  duration of several weeks and passed the recipe to neighbors and friends. I believe the original recipe appeared in Harrowsmith, a magazine I loved and to which I subscribed in the late 80s. Back then, dipping sauces were the exception rather than the rule. Now you can buy them bottled.

I've modified the original by adding a bit of smoked paprika to the dredging ingredients and a few shakes of Cayenne pepper to the sauce.  I also leave the skin on the I chicken. One could just use thighs or, as I prefer, leg quarters. If I use white meat, it is usually just bone-in, skin-on large chicken breasts.

Biscuits go nice with a dish such as this.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika or 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1, 2 1/2 - 3-pound broiler/fryer cut up and skinned
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Honey-Butter Sauce
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Dash or two Cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper on a large plate. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture. Set aside.

Pour melted butter into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. I prefer Pyrex. Place chicken in pan, turning to coat in butter. Cover and bake, meaty side down, for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients and beat well.

Uncover chicken. Turn. Pour honey-butter sauce over each piece. Bake, uncovered, for another 25-30 minutes, basting occasionally with the sauce. 

Serve with white rice or mashed potatoes, biscuits to sop up some of the wonderful sauce!



Monday, March 23, 2015

Seafood Chowder


Spring can be fickle. One day it's warm and sunny ... The next cool and rainy. This is a great soup for those overcast days. Be sure to serve with a generous bouquet of daffodils and tulips..

This really isn't an authentic seafood chowder which would use several kind of fish. Nor is it a genuine clam chowder which would use corn but no cod. It fits somewhere in-between.

Because bacon can be so expensive, I no longer buy it by the package. Instead, I purchase it by the slice from a local grocer.

This goes together quite simply. You could, of course, use any white fish, just be sure it is meaty. For a bit more zing, you could add a bit of Old Bay's seasoning.

  • 4-6 slices smoked bacon
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme flakes
  • 1/4 cup crushed saltines, preferably unsalted
  • 2, 6-ounce cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved
  • 1 large white potato, peeled, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bottle clam juice (about one cup) preferably a refrigerated brand
  • 3/4 pound thick cod filet cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Half-and-Half
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons cream cheese (optional)

In a large heavy pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel leaving behind the drippings. To the drippings in the pot, add the onion, celery and thyme. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft and onion begins to turn golden. If too dry, add a bit of olive oil. Add crushed crackers and stir for about three minutes.

Add reserved juices from clams, the bottled clam juice and the potatoes. Bring to a partial boil. Reduce feat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about fifteen minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Add cod pieces and simmer until fish is cooked through, about five minutes.

Add the creams and, if using, cream cheese and Old Bay's. Simmer on low just until heated through. Add about ten grinds of fresh pepper. Taste and re-adjust for seasonings.

Serve with a bit of bacon on top or simply mix all of the bacon into chowder before serving.