Proving Myself – Breaded Parmesan Lemon Chicken in Lemon-Butter Sauce

Why is it when Grace tells me she likes something that she ate at a restaurant or friend’s house, my mind begins to race with how I can possibly top what she just had?  I mean it’s not like she goes out all that often or is begging her friend’s parents to invite her over for dinner, or for that matter doesn’t get a home-cooked meal every night that she usually raves about or at the very least eats without complaint. Why does it somehow make me feel that I have to prove myself just because she enjoys eating someone else’s cooking?

Thinking about this makes me consider the possibility that perhaps I’m afraid of being replaced.  This is an inevitable reality of parent/child relationships.  Eventually she is going to no longer depend on me to cook for her every night and either do her own cooking or have someone else cooking for her.  At some point in time she will no doubt have in-laws that will have her over for dinner and she will probably rave about her mother-in-laws cooking. This is only to be expected.  Does this mean though that I am supposed to be happy about it?

Everyone needs purpose.  Everyone needs to feel needed.  Making dinner for my family and making something that they would rather have than going anywhere else, has satisfied both of these needs for about the past 22 years now. Giving that up, even when it’s part of the normal evolution of parent/child relationships is difficult for me.

Do I sound needy and insecure?  I suppose as a parent I shouldn’t be either of those, but honestly I can’t help it.  By trying my best to duplicate, if not top, what Grace has enjoyed somewhere else, I somehow gain a false sense of security that I’m not losing my little girl.  Silly, I know, but on the bright side of things, the family gets to try a new dish which on occasion turns out to be a hit.

This morning Grace was reminiscing about her best friend when she was a little girl, that she no longer has contact with.  As with many childhood friendships, they grew apart as they grew up.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the friendship Grace was missing, she was remembering a chicken dish that her friend’s father would make every time she was there for dinner.  He’d found out she really liked it, so whenever they got together and she stayed for dinner, he made it.

As expected my mind went to work.  I asked her what dish he’d made for her.  She told me she wasn’t really sure but it was a breaded chicken that had a lemony taste.  Okay then, lemon chicken.  I could do that.  Why not?  Although I’d never made this dish, I was sure I could figure it out.

Grace gave me very little to go on as far as how to make it, other than it was breaded with bread crumbs.  I did a bit of research, settled on three recipes that were all different and went to work.  This is what I came up with.

Breaded Parmesan Lemon Chicken with Lemon-Butter Sauce

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  • Boneless/Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 3 tsp. Lemon Pepper
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 5 tsp. Minced Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. Parsley
  • Juice of 2 Lemons

Combine flour and salt in large plastic bag. Dredge chicken thighs in flour mixture.

Combine bread crumbs, garlic powder, and lemon pepper in plastic bag.  In large bowl, beat eggs.  Add parmesan cheese to eggs and stir till well combined.

Remove chicken thighs from flour mixture and coat with egg mixture and then dredge through bread crumb mixture.

Heat olive oil in large fry pan and brown chicken on both sides.  Remove chicken from pan to oven-safe dish.  Place chicken in oven at 350 degrees while making sauce.

In fry pan that was used for chicken, melt butter.  Add garlic, parsley and lemon juice.  Cook until garlic is fragrant and sauce begins to boil.

Remove chicken from oven and transfer to pan with lemon-butter sauce.  Cover and cook on medium-high heat for 20 minutes or until chicken is done.

Did my version of lemon chicken taste like what Grace remembered?  Not quite.  Grace raved about it, told me it was excellent, but confessed it did not taste like what her friend’s father made.

Does this matter?  Not really.  I got a great new recipe for all my insecurities that the family truly loved and Hubby proclaimed it was “company worthy.”  That made my efforts worth it.  As for trying to top what Grace so enjoyed…well, at the moment that doesn’t seem all that important.  Maybe I just needed to prove to myself that I can make something comparable.  I can’t really explain it.  What I do know is I’m satisfied that I have a new chicken recipe that Hubby can’t stop talking about, Zeb wants me to make for his next birthday, and Grace has given notice that all “leftovers” are hers, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

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Just Call Me Lefty

You don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Ain’t that the truth.

This morning while making one of the many trips I take into our basement everyday, I fell.  How it happened, I have no idea.  What happened, I couldn’t tell you.

One minute I was at the top of the stairs balancing a case of pickling vinegar in one hand and a big box store case of Ziploc freezer bags in the other, trying to flip on the light switch, the next I’m at the bottom of the stairs.  What happened in between is a blur.  I remember trying to stop myself from falling, hitting the stairs with my back, and pain radiating from my right hand up my arm, but I don’t remember taking a step.

As I lay at the bottom of the stairs, I quickly took an inventory of my body.  Although my back was a little sore from the initial hit, it was only my hand that really hurt me.  It was actually on the stairs above me when I realized it was hurting.  The best I can determine is I must have tried to stop myself from falling with my right hand.  That was holding the box of freezer bags and they were at the bottom of the stairs.   The vinegar, which I was holding in my left hand was above me on the stairs.  I don’t think I even let it go while I was falling.

The first thing I did after getting my bearings back was to move my wrist.  Some pain, but not enough to worry about a break.  Next I moved my fingers, one at a time.  Starting at the pinky, no pain; ring finger, no pain; middle finger, no pain; index finger, moderate pain; thumb, pain.  Then I looked at my hand, it was swelling up real nice.  The wrist was already nearly double my other one and the thumb portion of my palm was throbbing and blowing up like a balloon.  Great!  Just what I need, a sprained thumb.

I sat there for a few more minutes, pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and stopped.  Should I call anyone?  It wasn’t like I was really hurt.  I could walk, I didn’t think anything was broken, and it was only 8:00 in the morning and Hubby would probably still be asleep at work (those 24 hour shifts don’t mean he’s up for all 24 hours). Still, the fall had scared me. Grace was at work, Zeb was upstairs sound asleep and wouldn’t hear me if I called, and Bell wouldn’t be much comfort unless I was sitting on the floor to play.  I dialed.

As I knew would happen, Hubby did not pick up, but I left a message.  Pulling myself to my feet, I walked back up the stairs, not remembering why I had been going down there in the first place.  I sat down on the couch and looked closer at my hand.  The veins in my wrist were swelling up real nice now and the throbbing pain was like a racing heartbeat.  I walked to the kitchen, grabbed a towel, filled it with ice, and went back to the couch.  Even putting the soft, cold towel gently on my hand caused pain to radiate up my arm.  Still, I could move my fingers with minimal pain and twist my wrist with minimal pain.  The only thing I couldn’t do was touch the thumb portion of the palm of my hand or make a fist without making the throbbing worse.

Hubby called as I sat there contemplating if this was anything to be concerned about.  Hubby asked all the typical questions, “How did you fall?”  “What were you doing?”  “Does anything else hurt?”  “Can you move your wrist, fingers, hand?”  From my answers he decided it wasn’t that serious and told me to keep ice on it for a while and then wrap it.

For the past four hours I have iced my thumb, wrapped it, unwrapped it, iced it some more, and then wrapped it again.  It hurts but is not even close to the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.  What is frustrating is I can’t use my right hand to lift anything, hold anything, or type.  I can use three of my fingers on my right hand to type, but with the bandage, every other letter comes out wrong. Worse yet, I can’t hold a pen, silverware, or the mouse to my computer.

Isn’t it amazing how even the littlest injury can throw a wrench into seemingly easy tasks.  There are so many things taken for granted every day, our health for one, and until something happens to shatter the illusion that everything is always going to be okay, we don’t give it a second thought.

Today’s fall could have been a whole lot worse.  I am grateful that my hand is the only casualty today.  What I am more grateful for however is that this little accident rocked my world and has me rethinking my priorities and what is truly important. Hubby is always telling me without our health, we don’t have anything.  All the money in the world means nothing if you’re not well enough to enjoy it.  For all the supposed problems we might have looming in our lives at the moment, none of them seem all that pressing today.

My fall today scared me.  Obviously falling down a flight of stairs is scary for anyone, but as I get older, every bump and bruise causes me to re-evaluate what I do and how I do it.  Practically every time I head down the stairs to the basement I have something in my hands, more often than not though I have a lot of things in them.  I grab as much as I can in order to cut down the amount of times I have to go up and down those stairs.  Is it really worth it?  Today I’d have to say, “NO.”  I need to slow it down.  Not everything is about being as efficient as I can, especially if it means possibly really hurting myself next time.

There will be no baking today, no journaling, no scrubbing toilets, no vacuuming, and definitely no more trips down the basement stairs.  Hubby called and told Zeb to take care of me until Grace gets home from work and Grace texted me and told me if she finds out I tried peeling potatoes for dinner, she’s going to smack me.  Zeb heated some pizza up for me for lunch and checks every 30 minutes or so to make sure I’m feeling okay.  Gotta love ’em.

Everything happens for a reason and the reasons are clear why a minor fall was a necessary happening in my life today, and for this I am, regardless of the pain in my hand — Simply Grateful.

A Day Like Today Calls For Chocolate – Double Chocolate Muffins

Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort. ~ Norman Kalpas

Ever have one of those days when nothing is going to make it possible to get through it except possibly, just maybe a heavy dose of chocolate.  Well, today was that type of day for me.  In fact, it has been that type of month, but until this afternoon I didn’t have the time, inclination, or inspiration to quell my insatiable need for luscious, rich chocolate anything.

Although there are several chocolate mixes-in-jars recipes I wanted to try, none of them were the “just right” recipe for today.  So, I did what every recipe loving/collecting homemaker would do, I went to the internet and typed in “How to satisfy my chocolate craving!”  The results were too overwhelming to even begin to explore, so instead I brainstormed what chocolate concoctions in the past have quenched my seemingly unquenchable need for chocolate and decided that a double chocolate muffin was one that always hit the spot.

There are hundreds of recipes out there for double chocolate muffins.  The first 10 I went to were all pretty much the same, but in reading through the comments I learned a lot about what ingredients really make chocolate “pop” and which ones would ensure a moist inside with a crispy top.  Although I have been baking since I was 11 years old, up until the past four or five years this has meant pretty much just following a recipe.  Experimenting with ingredients, proportions, and substitutions was not an option with the fear of failure constantly looming in the background. Wasting money, too, was a huge factor in never veering far from the written word.

In the past several years however, I have learned that in cooking there are really no mistakes. Cooking is one of the most forgiving past times I know of.  About the only thing you can’t fix when cooking is if you burn what you’re making and even then, if the recipe calls for gravy, all is not lost. Obviously there have been some absolutely terrible mishaps in my kitchen when I’ve thrown in the towel and dumped a recipe (or twelve) down the disposal, but when this happens I just chalk it up to experience and as Hubby always tells me, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson!”

What I have learned is the more I read recipes, the more I learn what makes things rise, fall, set, thicken, tenderize, and moisten.  It isn’t just by chance that a cake rises, white sauce thickens, or the flavors in some recipes are far more intense than others.  It’s science!  Don’t worry though, I’m no scientist, so I’m not going to get into the why, for that you’ll have to Google it yourself.  I will however share some of the wonders of cooking that I have been thrilled to learn, you know those Ahhhh! bits of information that keep reminding me how much I have to learn.

Todays internet searches taught me the following:

  • When you add cocoa to a recipe, milk can be used, but it isn’t the liquid of choice.  Buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt will really make the cocoa sing.  This combination makes a delicious, moist texture and enhances the bitterness of the cocoa.
  • Typically when cocoa is added to a recipe it is added to an existing recipe.  Therefore, the amount of eggs and fat in a recipe calling for cocoa should be higher.
  • When a recipe calls for cocoa and/or buttermilk, baking powder should replace some of the baking soda.
  • A recipe with cocoa should have a bit more sugar because the cocoa has a tendency to be bitter.
  • One of the surest ways to enhance the chocolate flavor in any recipe is to add instant coffee granules or espresso powder.  These will not be tasted in the final product, but the chocolate flavor will really “Pop!”
  • In order to attain the “bakery look” for muffins, mix the batter as little as possible, just until the ingredients are combined.  The more you mix it, the more of a chance your muffins have to be tough, heavy, and flat.
  • To get the most rise out of your recipe, bake muffins at a high temperature for the first few minutes and then lower the temperature for the remaining time.

That being said, I finally decided on three recipes for double chocolate muffins.  They were all somewhat similar, but all different as well.  One called for brown sugar, one called for yogurt, one called for salt (here I thought all baked goods needed salt), one called for milk chocolate chips, and only one called for instant coffee.  None of the recipes I found utilized all the fun facts I learned about using cocoa in recipes, so you know what that meant?  Yep, time to make my own.

Tilly’s Double Chocolate Muffins

DSCF7362

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 2/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Espresso Powder or 2 tsp. Instant Coffee
  • 1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Melted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Peanut, Canola, or Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees (very important).  Grease 12 muffin cups.

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, baking powder, and espresso into a large bowl.  Whisk eggs, vanilla, yogurt, butter, and oil in a separate bowl.  Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in liquid mixture.  Stir until just combined. The mixture should be lumpy. Add 1/2 cup semi-sweet and 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips. Mix gently until blended. Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Bake in preheated oven for 3 minutes.  Turn heat down to 350 and continue baking for 12 to 15 minutes more. Remove from oven when toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing.

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This recipe should make a dozen muffins, but my muffin pan must not be a standard size.  It does seem a bit shallow. I was able to get 12 muffins and 12 mini muffins (which were baked 3 minutes at 450 and 10 minutes at 350).

These muffins are fabulous.  They are super chocolately, crisp on the top, and moist on the inside. They have a dense, tender texture and satisfied my craving for chocolate like nothing else.

I love cooking, baking and canning and do it practically every day, three times a day, but that doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know about any of these.  Being in the kitchen is a constant learning process and I love every minute of it, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mixes In Jars #3 – Scones

Believe it or not, I had never had a scone before today.  I had no idea what I’d been missing.

This morning, Grace and I were out and about running some errands and while at a specialty fruit/deli market ordering pork fat to render lard we happened to walk past the bakery.  There in the case they had several different kinds of scones as well as boxes of them on the shelves across from the counter.  Grace commented how good they looked, really good, a clear hint that she wanted some.

Even at 18 coming right out and asking for some just isn’t going to happen, everything is a game. Fortunately for my pocketbook, my recent exploration for mixes in jars revealed several variations of scones, so rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money on store-bought scones, I promised Grace to come home and make one of the recipes I’ve been wanting to try.

It is overwhelming how many recipes there are out there for scones and scone mix for jars. The trouble is, the ones I liked all called for using shortening in the jar mix portion.  Shortening is not something I use in my kitchen.  I’m sure there might be an argument out there for using it, but when you take into consideration that it was originally used by auto mechanics to lube whatever it is they lube, I just can’t justify putting this in food that I am going to feed to my family. Anyway, for me, using butter or lard after the mix is poured into the mixing bowl is the route I plan to follow, so I will present the recipe with both options and this way each person can make their own decision as to how they want to make their mixes.

Today I chose a recipe for Blueberry Scones to start with for my first taste of scones.  As usual, there were ingredients I didn’t have on hand, so I had to improvise.  Also, I wanted to use dried cranberries as well as blueberries.  In the end, the scones turned out really good.

Cran-Blueberry Scones

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  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Nonfat Dry Milk Powder
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Blueberries
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. Pure Lemon Extract or 1 tsp. Dried Lemon Peel
  • 1/3 Cup Softened Butter or Lard or if you prefer Shortening
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl.  Cut in butter, lard, or shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in dried berries.  Add egg, extracts, and water, stirring until moistened.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough comes together. Pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 400 for 12 – 15 minutes.

The original recipe for this mix called for 1/3 cup vanilla sugar, which I did not have.  I substituted the 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract and it worked out just fine.

To make a mix of this recipe, combine all the dry ingredients.  I used pure lemon extract in my scones, but if you prefer to use dried lemon peel, this can be added to the dry ingredients.  If you plan on using shortening, at this point you can cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Otherwise, put this step on the instruction tag attached to the jar.  Mix in berries and put into quart jars or if you have them pint and a half jars.  Seal jars.  Attach a tag to read as follows:

Cran-Blueberry Scone Mix

Place contents of jar in large mixing bowl.  Cut in 1/3 cup softened butter or lard with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (cut this out if you added shortening to the dry ingredients and sealed in your jar of mix).  Add 1 beaten egg, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. pure lemon extract, and 1/4 cup water, stir until moistened. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough comes together.  Pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 400 for 12 – 15 minutes.

What I really love about this recipe is that it is so versatile.  By changing the flavor of the extract or the type of dried fruit you put in the mix, the possibilities are endless.  Okay, endless is a bit of a stretch, but there are some great ones out there waiting to be explored, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Careful What You Wish For — Driving Independence

For 18 glorious years I enjoyed the title of “chauffeur” for my daughter Grace.  Up until her 18th birthday, she really had no interest in learning to drive or getting behind the wheel.  Some of this might have been because Hubby and I instilled in her how expensive it was for insurance and driver’s training, but for the most part, she never even thought about it.  Surprisingly, many of her friends too did not jump at the chance to begin driving at 16.  Two out of three of her friends also waited until they turned 18.

That being said, Grace was chomping at the bit on her 18th birthday to get out and get her driver’s permit.  She took the entire day off work so we could be at the Secretary of State’s office as soon as they opened, and then she was off and running practicing her driving every chance she got.

Upon leaving the Secretary of State’s office June 3, 2014, Grace confidently proclaimed she’d be returning in 30 days to get her license.  Well, 30 days came and went, as did 60, and then 90.  What ever happened to 30 days?  Well, let’s just say that Grace’s idea of good driving and mine were somewhat different.  At 90 days when she went through three red lights in one week, I’d pretty much given up on her ever getting her license.  This meant Hubby had to get involved.

Until that point Hubby had driven with her probably twice.  The first time being the day she got her permit and the second time being when she needed to be dropped off at work and asked to drive there.  Hubby pretty much didn’t like having to get out of the car to switch spots and let’s be honest, he just is not the most patient of people.  Thus, the role of driving instructor fell to me.

At 90 days however, I gave up.  Obviously driving instructor was just not a role that I was cut out for.  I sent Hubby out with her and told him not to return until she was ready to take her driving test.  Of course this didn’t happen overnight, in fact not in the next 30 days, but by the end of October between Hubby and I, we got Grace to a point that we felt fairly comfortable she would be safe, as would the other drivers on the road. The end of October Grace passed her road test and got her driver’s license and immediately wanted out of the house and out on the road.

This has been a transition that I have truly enjoyed.  I thought I was going to miss being “chauffeur” after all, Grace and I spent many hours together in the car sharing stories, singing along to the radio, dancing in our seats, and doing some serious bonding.  I was afraid that her independence would mean a drifting apart between us.  Not at all!  In fact, for me this has been very liberating, things couldn’t be better.

Grace has the car practically every day during the week to go to work in the mornings and then to school in the evenings.  This leaves me home-bound, which is a welcome change from the constant running around I had to endure before.  I love it.  I’m a homebody anyway, but being able to legitimize being home-bound is great!

Grace on the other hand…well, let’s just say the thrill of driving has lost it’s luster.  Every morning as she opens the garage and heads out to the car, she complains about how cold the seats are in the morning.  Every afternoon as she is heading out to the car to leave for school she complains about not wanting to have to walk through the parking lot to get to class.  And every time I send her out to fill the gas tank, as she is the one using the gas, she complains about how cold it is outside.

WOW!  Funny how she never complained when I went out to the car in the morning and started it a little early, flipping on the seat warmers, so we wouldn’t have to drive to her work in the cold.  Amazing how she never gave it a second thought about how nice it was to be dropped off at the door for her college classes, and let’s not forget about not having to find a parking spot.  And isn’t it strange that all those years I got out of the car to fill the car with gas and Grace just sat in the passenger seat texting her friends, the cold outside was not an issue.

Such is life!

Truthfully, I do miss the bonding we used to do when I was driving her around, but as with all relationships, this mother/daughter relationship had to evolve.  Now we bond when she comes home and complains about work, school, traffic, parking, or all the crazy drivers out on the road and I get to sit back and marvel at it all.

Independence is good.  I’m sure Grace wouldn’t trade her new found independence, but it’s nice to see her finally appreciating what she no longer has — although if you ask her, things are much harder for her than anyone else — ever, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.  (Oh to be 18 and know everything again — NOT!)

In Need Of Some Spring

The weather here in Michigan continues to be bitter, unrelenting, and completely disheartening. With the cold pounding at the windows and snow piled high against the house, I needed a bit of spring this afternoon.  For a few glorious moments, I basked in the beauty of spring’s past.

2013 096 2013 099 2013 110 2013 117I can’t wait for warmer weather, longer days, and budding flowers to fill the air with the sweet scent of spring.  For now, a moments reprieve from winter’s arctic blast will get me through the day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Making Cheese with Sour Milk

Things have been so hectic around here lately that we have not even had time to drink the milk in our fridge before it sours.  Being that we pay $9 a gallon for raw milk, throwing it out is not an option, I had to find something to do with it.

Besides using it in countless recipes which I just don’t have the time to experiment with at the moment, I found one suggestion to use it to make paneer cheese.  I had never tried making this type of cheese, but figured I had nothing to lose but a little sour milk, about $4.50, and according to the recipe — 30 minutes of my time.

Paneer Cheese

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  • 1/2 Gallon Milk (sour or otherwise)
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice or Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp salt
  1. Bring milk to a near boil, just below 200 degrees F.
  2. Remove milk from heat and stir in lemon juice or vinegar.  The milk should begin to curdle immediately.
  3. Cover milk and let sit for 10 minutes for curds to separate from whey.
  4. Strain the curds through a jelly bag or cheese cloth.
  5. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth or jelly bag and gently squeeze to remove excess whey.
  6. Open cheesecloth and sprinkle salt over curds.  Stir.
  7. Wrap curds back in cheesecloth and put on large dinner plate.  Shape cheesecloth into a square, pulling cheesecloth tightly around the curds to form.  Set a second plate on top of the curds and weigh it down.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour.
  8. Once pressed you can either eat it right away or refrigerate.  If you eat it warm, the cheese will be crumbly.  If you let it cool completely in the refrigerator, the paneer will be much firmer.

Although this recipe claimed it should take only 30 minutes, being my first time, it took somewhat longer.  I let it sit in the refrigerator for about 8 hours before Hubby got to taste it.

To be honest, I am not a big cheese eater.  Hubby, however, loves all sorts of exotic-type cheese and could not wait to get his hands on this one.  He loved it.  The only thing he said he would change would be to add more salt, which is exactly what he did.  With salt shaker in hand, he took the block of cheese to the kitchen table and ate the entire thing.  I guess that’s indicative of a successful recipe.

I hate throwing money away, especially when it comes to food.  With this new recipe I have a backup plan in place that will ensure not a bit of raw milk will go to waste in our house, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Moment Of Peace

I’ve learned that loneliness is not a way of life, it’s a part of life.

~ Live & Learn & Pass It On

The house is empty — quiet.  The only sounds breaking the silence are the gas heater roaring on the fireplace and the floorboards creaking as they expand and contract from the hot and cold air continually battling for position.

Hubby is off to work, not to be home for at least 24 hours.  The kids are off doing young adult things with friends and co-workers.  And Bella, well, she is curled up among the blankets on my bed dreaming of bedtime, wondering why I’m not up there snuggling with her.

The dinner dishes are stacked on the kitchen counter, still full of morsels of food that are turning into cement, assuring the need for a good soak before they’ll ever be clean again.

The laundry room floor is full of clothes in need of washing, making it impossible to enter without elaborate mountain climbing skills.

The office is a disaster area with piles of paperwork in desperate need of filing or addressing and boxes of inventory to list on eBay.

The great room carpet has everything from that elusive Kleenex that never gets picked up to dog hair to the never-ending supply of lint that never seems to go away, disguising the dark blue color to a pale shade of speckled white.

There are canning jars on the dining room table for storing the 25 pound bags of flour and sugar we recently bought as well as using for the ever-growing list of recipes I want to can for the pantry.

I haven’t started my gardening to do list for the spring, fearful that I’ve already missed some important dates for the preplanting season, so I continue to keep my head buried in the proverbial dirt hoping things will just somehow work out.

The gym in the basement is calling to me, but the call falls upon deaf ears as I have more excuses for not going down there than any one person should be allowed.

So much to do, yet here I sit.  The quiet surrounding me, smothering me.

I don’t know what it is, but having time to myself isn’t always as glorious as I envision it.  You know on those days when everyone is underfoot, getting in your way, making demands on your time, leaving you absolutely no space to breathe.  When you think to yourself, “If I only had a few hours to myself…”

Well, I got my wish.  A few hours to myself, and yet, now I don’t really want them.  I do far better knowing that everyone is home, everyone is exactly where I know they are safe, everyone is within shouting distance.  Without the hustle and bustle and demands of being a wife and mother, I’m at a loss.

This isn’t always the case.  Most of the time I do enjoy a few hours of reprieve when everyone happens to be gone.  In fact, this is the case most of the week these days.  Most days I have the house all to myself from 7:00 till 1:00 and sometimes longer.  That time alone however is different, it doesn’t seem quite like I’m ever really alone.  During those hours I cook, clean, do laundry, work, can, exercise, plan meals, write, dream of spring —

Maybe that’s it.  This has been an exceptionally cold winter.  Last year was bad as well, but this year I feel as if I have been cooped up in the house with no way out.  Almost like I’m trapped.  It’s night, there’s no place to go, I can’t sit out on the patio, it’s too icy for a walk, I’m stuck.

I’m not a cold-weather type person. Funny coming from someone who has lived in Michigan all their life, but true.  I dress appropriately, sometimes to a fault, so I can stay warm even on the coldest of days, but the cold makes me lazy.  It is easier to just sit here and complain about it being too cold to do anything than to collect the layers of clothing necessary to keep the cold from chilling me to the bone and venturing out into the icy tundra.  Plus it’s not especially smart as I’m getting up in years and I certainly don’t need to fall and break anything.

I sit here, guilt-ridden for the things I should be doing, could be doing, would be doing if I only had the inspiration, the drive, the time!  How can I possibly do any of those chores, duties, or responsibilities waiting for me when I’ve got to sit here and dwell on being unproductive and lazy?

It all seems rather silly, this vicious circle of procrastination which leads to guilt which leads to denial and then finally — well it will probably be bedtime so I guess acceptance comes next. Accepting that tomorrow is another day and one that I will take full advantage of and clean the kitchen, vacuum the great room, file the papers in the office, do a bit of canning, possibly pull out my gardening books, maybe do a load or two of laundry, and then wonder where the day went and why I didn’t have a moment of peace, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mixes-In-Jars #2 – Fruit Crumble

According to Grace, “Crumble makes everything better!”  So, when I came across a recipe called Fruit “Crumble,” how could I possibly resist.

I made this dessert a few weeks ago using Concord Grape Pie Filling and then again tonight using Plum Pie Filling.  Both were excellent and definitely a quick and easy dessert for a busy day. Putting the main ingredients in a jar and sealing it makes the prep time a mere five minutes.  Who doesn’t have five minutes to make a hot and hearty dessert?

Fruit Crumble

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  • 1 1/2 Cups Quick Cooking Oats
  • 1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Cold Butter, shredded
  • 1 Quart (4 cups) Pie Filling

Dump contents of jar into large bowl.  With a cheese shredder, shred the cold butter into the bowl. The cheese shredder is a great way to turn a cold stick of butter into tiny pieces.  I like this method far more than using a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.

Combine the butter and dry ingredients with fingers.  Press half the mixture into a 8×8 greased pan. Add pie filling and top with remaining crumble.  Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.

When I went to put the jars of the crumble mix together, I found I only had “old-fashioned” oats to work with, not “quick-cooking.”  This is an easy fix.  I just dumped the canister of old-fashioned oats into my food processor and pulsed it six or seven times.  This broke up more than 50% of the oats and quickly turned them into “quick-cooking” oats.

DSCF7189Note that at the top of the jar there are some mini marshmallows.  I read somewhere that these are supposed to stop the brown sugar from getting hard.  I’ve never tried this before and with the jar being sealed by my Foodsaver it might not be necessary, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  I’ll just take the marshmallows out before dumping the mix in the bowl.

Crumble is definitely a crowd pleaser around our house, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Mixes-In-Jars #1 – Beer Bread

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February has already been so busy that I haven’t had much time for anything other than getting through each day.  I cannot believe that it is already the 10th of the month.  Where does the time go?

My canning to do list continues to linger at the back of my mind, but as for having any time to actually do any canning — well, it just hasn’t happened.  In an effort to quell my canning guilt, or lack of canning guilt, I decided to throw together a few mixes-in-jars and put them on the pantry shelf.

I love mixes-in-jars.  Most of the time when I am either too lazy or too pressed for time to make something, it’s because assembling all the ingredients is time-consuming and often frustrating.  Frustrating because most of the time there seems to be that “one” ingredient missing that makes it impossible to finish that recipe.  Mixes-in-jars increases the odds that I’ll actually have everything I need.

Mixes-in-jars are not all-encompassing, but there are quite a few things I love to throw together at the last-minute that have dry ingredients that can be assembled ahead of time.  One of my favorite’s happens to be quick breads and for today’s post:  Beer Bread.

Back many years ago I was invited to one of those home parties that featured food items.  I can’t remember the name of the company that sponsored the party, but I do remember it was quite expensive.  Not wanting to leave the party empty-handed, I purchased a mix for beer bread.  I had never had it, but was told it would be very good.  The next day I made it and was very happy with it. Unfortunately, there was no way I was about to continue buying this bread mix at the prices the company wanted.  My budget couldn’t stand it.  I made a mental note to keep my eyes open for a recipe I could make at home, but quickly forgot about it.

About a month ago while flipping through some recipes on the internet, I happened upon a recipe for beer bread.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew I had to try it.  I printed it off immediately and put it on the shelf where it sat.  Finally, last week I decided it was time to give this recipe a shot.  The recipe I chose was quick and easy and the dry ingredients were such that they would easily fit in a quart canning jar.

Beer Bread

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  • 3 Cups Flour (sifted)
  • 3 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 – 12 oz. Bottle of Beer
  • 1/2 Cup Melted Butter

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

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Stir in beer.

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Batter will be somewhat stiff.

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Pour batter into greased loaf pan.

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Pour melted butter over mixture.

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Bake at 375 for 50 to 60 minutes.

This bread is so simple to make and absolutely delicious.  The butter makes the crust crunchy and the flavor of the bread is excellent.  Hubby doesn’t let this one sit for very long.  I’m lucky if it lasts a day.

Combining all the dry ingredients in a jar, sealing it with my Foodsaver, and having it on the shelf for a quick fix, is ever so comforting, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.