Holiday Baking – Cranberry Nut Bread

Those of you who know me, know that I don’t do a lot of baking, but it doesn’t stop me from appreciating excellent baked goods when I see (and taste) them.

My friend, Cathy made this Cranberry Nut Bread and shared a slice with me.  It was delicious!  Moist and full of flavor but not too sweet.  Now is the time to make it because cranberries are in season and often on sale.  Mmmmm…it would be great for gifts too!

She got the recipe from “A Taste of Home” magazine and you can find it on their website here.

And here are some fun ideas for ways to wrap the loaves if you give them as gifts!

Try it – you’ll love it!

ZIPLOC OMELET – Has anyone tried this? It sounds very interesting.

I just got this in an email from my sister. It looks like it might be good for when all your family is together. The best part is that no one has to wait for their special omelet !!!)

Have guests write their name on a quart-size Ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.

Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.

Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, hash browns, salsa, etc.

Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake. Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.

Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes or until done. You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water.

Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed.

Nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake; everyone gets involved in the process and a great conversation piece…
Imagine having these ready the night before, and putting the bag in boiling water while you get ready. And in 15 minutes, you’ve got a nice
omelet for a quick breakfast!!!

Simple Summer Pleasures…
I don’t know if you like food as much as I do, but there are certain kinds of food that have etched indelible memories in my mind.

I have always loved summer and the promise of fresh fruits and vegetables! Growing up in Ohio and having a grandmother that sold produce at her roadside stand for a living, made me appreciate it even more. We often had fresh picked melons, tomatoes, beans, and more straight from the garden. Have you ever bit into a Beefsteak tomato that’s bigger and deeper red than an apple and let the juice just drip down your chin? There’s really nothing that compares to it.

And to this day, some of my favorite meals were the summer corn roasts that we used to have at our neighborhood HOA clubhouse overlooking Lake Erie.

My dad would build a grill about 6 feet long and 4 feet wide from cinder blocks and metal grates and he and the other neighborhood dads would roast corn (in the husks) until everyone had their fill. That aroma was so amazing and the taste of sweet corn picked that morning, swimming in butter was to die for! Did you know that the longer the corn is off the stalk, the less sweet it is? So the sooner you can cook it after you pick it, the better it will be.

At those corn roasts, the women would all bring their best picnic dishes, potato salad, watermelon, hot dogs, baked beans, apple pies, chocolate cakes and the works. The kids just enjoyed the feast on extra long picnic tables topped with red checked cloths. We’d skip down to the beach every few hours to take a dip, cool off and work up an appetite, then come back up the hill for more scrumptious food! What a day it was! Summer and corn season always reminds me of those special days.

Anyway, I digress…down memory lane.

Today I’m talking about a few other simple treats. I’ve been trying to take more healthy food to work for lunch lately and have been buying more celery. I really like celery. It’s nearly the perfect snack, after all. My problem is that if I don’t cut it up all at once I’m too lazy to do it in the morning when I’m putting together my lunch. So, I cut up these stalks yesterday and just LOVED the way they looked in the container. You know that if you store them in water they stay crisp and fresh and you can just grab a few whenever the urge strikes.

I also bought this little pot full of fresh Basil from our local Sprouts store. I love having these around to pinch off a few leaves for salads, sandwiches or other recipes. I’m hoping to be able to start my own little herb garden soon, so I have access to other herbs all the time. Once you’ve had fresh herbs, you never want to go back to the dry kind.

The Desert Botanical Garden here in town has a class on Herb Gardening that I’d love to take the next time it’s offered. Would anyone like to take it with me?

Little Updates Around the House
The last time Amy and Andrew were here, Amy was giving me a hard time about the fact that I didn’t own an apron. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never really used one in the kitchen. My mom never did either, so I guess that’s why I never really thought about it. At some point along the way, Amy has started using aprons, so she was disappointed that I didn’t have one to use when she was here. Anyway, I was checking out the new Goodwill store down the street on Saturday and came across this one for just $1.98. Isn’t it cute? And it looks like it’s never been used! So now, I just need to start using it and Amy, don’t let me forget that it’s in the bottom drawer in the kitchen when you need it.

Here’s another treasure that I found recently at a yard sale down the street for $2. It’s an accordion-style shutter with working louvers about 20″ wide and a little over 3 feet high. If you notice the Wheaties box on the shelf in the background you can get an idea of the size. It’s a little dirty and I’m planning to paint it (black, I think). I plan to put it in the corner of my living room, behind my birdhouses for now. You can see that the corner needs a little something to add height & interest.

An atypical Wednesday night dinner:

Tonight we had a great meal just for fun! We were really low on groceries last week, which is unusual for us. So I went grocery shopping (to 3 different stores) over the last week. I ended up at Sprouts when I was hungry and they had some awesome deals and delicious looking food, as usual.

Because of that we had all this wonderful stuff in the fridge for dinner. Grilled jumbo shrimp, grilled fresh asparagus and clam chowder. Plus Easter chocolate for dessert!

I love the fact that Terry’s not afraid to grill things that he hasn’t tried before. This cookbook was one of the best investments that I’ve ever made. I bought it at Half Price Books for Terry for his birthday (or Christmas) a few years ago. He refers to it all the time for instructions on how to grill various kinds of meat, vegetables, etc. He even commented tonight on wanting to try one of the grilled dessert recipes. Love it!

Thanksgiving Perfect Turkey Recipe

So, it’s turkey time again!  If you don’t have an awesome recipe for Thanksgiving turkey give this one a try!

It’s great because you can put your turkey in the night before. YES, the NIGHT BEFORE you want to eat it and you wake up in the morning with the delicious aromas filling the house. Another awesome thing about this recipe is that even if you cook a large turkey, it comes out moist and tender.

I first found the recipe in a book by Emilie Barnes called “The Complete Holiday Organizer”. I was going to add a link to buy the book, but it appears to be out of print. Sorry. For those of you who haven’t heard of her, she is/was a Christian version of Martha Stewart before anyone ever heard of The Martha. I’m going to include the text from the book to give you some background. I hope you try it and enjoy it. It’s SO easy!

“Perfect Turkey Every Time”

” Trust me on this one. The white meat melts in your mouth. This is a SLOW roasting method, but once in the oven, you can forget it until it comes out.

Choose desired size turkey, wash it well, and remove the neck and giblets from inside the cavity. Dry turkey with paper towels, lightly salt the cavity and stuff with dressing of your choice, if desired. Rub the outside well with pure olive oil.

Put the turkey BREAST side down (this bastes itself, making the white meat very moist) on a rack in a roasting pan.

Put into a 300 degree F preheated oven for one hour to destroy bacteria on the surface. Then adjust the heat to 180-185 degrees for any size turkey.

This is important. The turkey can go in the oven the night before eating it!

Example: I have a 22 pound turkey. At 5:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Eve I put the turkey in the oven prepared at 300 degrees for one hour. I turn the temperature down to 185 degrees and leave the turkey uncovered until it’s done the NEXT day about 10 or 11 a.m.

Although the cooking times seem startling at first , the meat is amazingly delicious, juicy and tender. It slices beautifully and shrinks so little that a turkey cooked at regular temperatures no longer tastes good. It cannot burn so it needs no watching. It literally cooks itself. ” I do feel the need to baste every once in a while, but that’s probably more habit than anything, besides I like to open the oven and smell the turkey.

A good rule for timing is about 3 times longer than a standard recipe. For example: a 20 pound turkey that normally takes 15 minutes per pound to cook would take 5 hours. This slow cook method would be 3 times 5, so it equals 15 HOURS to cook the slow way. A smaller turkey cooks 20 minutes per pound, so an 11 pound turkey takes 3 hours, 40 mins standard, times 3 which equals 11 hours for the slow roast way.

Now here’s the cool part. Once it’s done, it will NOT overcook or dry out. You can leave it in the oven an additional 3 – 6 hours and it will still be perfect! Thus your roasting can be adjusted totally to your convenience. So allow yourself plenty of time. It’s better to put it in a little early than too late though, since you want to be sure that it’s done. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. Can it be more simple?

I’ve been using this recipe for probably 20 years and have never been disappointed when I followed the directions.

One item I need to point out. If your family actually puts the whole turkey on the table as a nice presentation, then you need to know that cooking it breast side down will not be quite as pretty as the picture above. If you’re like our family and you just take it out of the oven and slice it up on platters, no one will even know that you cooked it upside-down.

New idea: Now with all that said, I saw a show on the Food Network last night that had a recipe for a way to prepare the turkey before putting it in the oven. I may try this recipe from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Thanksgiving show, but I will still use the slow roasting method above for cooking, because it is so delicious.

Have fun and let me know how your dinners turn out.