Cookbooks In My Collection

Or, I might have gone a bit overboard

You might recall that I embarked on an adventure of cataloging my library last summer. This is a project I do every few years or so when the inspiration hits me. There are a few years when I hit back, but not last year. <shrug>

I discovered quite a few things. One, in particular, was a bit surprising. I own quite a few Bisquick cookbooks. Like, maybe, eight of them. Yeah, it surprised me, too.

The thing is, I love cooking with Bisquick. It is a staple in my pantry alongside flour, sugar and all the rest. The ease and versatility of it is amazing and the biscuits and pancakes it makes is – dare I say it – wonderful.

Now, that is not to say that fully from scratch versions aren’t possibly better, but my scratch biscuits could be used to pave the driveway.

A Lifelong Partnership

I don’t remember when I first used the product, but I would have to say it was in the mid-60s when I was just learning to cook. Over the years I’ve picked up the occasional cookbook and added at least one recipe to my collection from each of them. Their Impossibly Easy Pies are game-changers. I am a huge fan of their French Apple pie; it is easy, tasty, and versatile. And, if you are like me and pie pastry challenged, this is easy!

A recent foray over on Amazon netted me a copy of the Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies book published in 2004. Click HERE for a look.

If you have never tried an Impossibly Easy Pie recipe, I’m including one of my very favorites as this month’s Recipe of the Month.

Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie


Courses: Main Dish
Categories: Beef, Bisquick, Casserole
Serving size: 6
Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 25 mins

Ingredients

1 lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick™ mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.

2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.

3. In small bowl, stir remaining ingredients with fork or wire whisk until blended. Pour into pie plate.

4. Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Nutrition

Amount per serving
Serving size: 1 Serving
Calories: 325
Total Fat: 1g
Saturated Fat: 10g
Cholesterol: 135mg
Sodium: 530mg
Total Carbohydrate: 11g
Dietary Fiber: 0g
Protein: 23g

Let me know what you think. Are you a fan of these easy recipes or are you new to the genre?

If this post has been interesting or helpful, please click the “Like” button to let me know.


Food Freedom – A Few Thoughts

When Alyssia Sheikh over at Mind Over Munch on YouTube announced her Food Freedom course back in December, I was intrigued. I’ve followed her for quite a while as she talked about food prep, grocery hauls, and a variety of diet and food plans.

Note: As of this writing there is less than one week left of the course. Check out Alyssia’s website for more information. The course is free with the additional course materials sent via email.

If you’ve been around here for long, you know I don’t follow ‘diets’ and I avoid fake food as much as Humanly possible. I have several decades of experience trying different food plans and have seen the damage caused by corporations who promote their ‘plans’ to ‘help you get healthy’ only to find that they provide just enough information to get you hooked (i.e. spend $) and make sure you are dependent long enough to make a profit.

There are some plans that are actually sound, but the reality for most people is that nothing will work if the person using the plan isn’t connected, and committed, to actually engaging in the plan.

The problem is, many people have no education on how to actually engage and utilize all the information and options available so they can make the choices that will actually help them toward their goals.

Alyssia has shared her journey to heal her relationship with food and included sound research and experience to help us reconnect with ourselves.

The information is interesting and thought provoking. The tools are helpful and useful. Will they all work for everyone? Probably not, but here’s the thing: One Size Does Not Fit All. Or, take what you need and leave the rest.

Years ago a major health carrier’s advertising was based on the idea that ‘you know your body better than we do’. When you stop and think about that simple statement, it is very profound. And, for some folks, damn scary.

Personally, I’m a stress eater. Things get a bit tense and I head for the chips. Or the bread. Or the chocolate. Or the [ fill in the blank ]. I also enjoy food. I like eating good food and I can go really simple or really complicated. Couple this will a love of cooking and you get the makings of a potential disaster. Except…

I prefer simple meals made with food that I get as close to the farm as possible. I avoid chemicals and long distance hauling of produce.

Understanding that I have triggers that can goad me into putting on the pounds and learning how to deal with those triggers helped me maintain and not over eat.

Learning how to cook helped me control what I ate and more importantly gave me an arsenal to combat the convenience food quicksand that not only threatened my health but my bank account.

I’ve watched all the videos to date and found lots of food for thought that has been helpful not only in learning to handle the Mind-Body Connection, but in developing a life style, not a diet, that I can live with and benefits me.

If you are tired of the diet roller coaster, if you want to find tools that will help you actually achieve your goals rather than feed someone else’s pocket, I suggest you check out the information on the website. The videos are there along with additional information that will help you.

And, best of all, it is free.

Finding Treasure

Cleaning Out The Fridge

I’m preparing my shopping list for my next grocery order and found a few things that I could use up to make space.

I had a couple of cups of cooked chicken, a cup or two of cooked rice, some mixed vegetables and a can of cream of whatever soup.

Now, looking at that collection from one direction, it has ‘casserole’ written all over it. Changing perspectives, however, and there is ‘pot pie’ or ‘chicken and dumplings’ or ‘noodles’ or ‘biscuits’.

Treasure!

Combining all the base ingredients along with pepper and seasoned salt resulted in a rich, satisfying soup that is thick and flavorful. Adding anything is really just gilding the lily.

Want the recipe? Sign up for the newsletter. It, and other recipes, will be in February’s Magic Pantry attachment.

Check It Out: Food Freedom

Is stress taking over your efforts to control your weight and your health? Are you finding yourself facing the Holiday Season, and all the food, with trepidation? Mind Over Munch announced a new, free, course offered on her website and via YouTube that addresses the way we approach food.

If you are looking for ways to better your relationship with food and make progress in your path to healthful eating, this could be an excellent resource.

All the information is in the video and the links are in the description box below it.

Thoughts on Kitchen Organization

Or, Things I’ve Learned Through Trial and Error

I’ve come to the realization that ‘organization’ is a never ending process. It isn’t a bad thing, it just never seems to actually come to a conclusion. Perhaps it would if I never used the space or items and everything was left to its own devices.

I was lucky enough to be raised by two people who had a lot of experience putting things in their proper places. My mother’s kitchens were well organized out of necessity – lack of space will do that, you know. When you don’t have airplane hangar-sized rooms full of custom cabinetry with fancy pull out drawers and shelves, you learn to make do with what you do have.

My father’s workspaces (he had quite a few) were textbook guides on the use of pegboard, drawers, counters and even hanging shelves. Hanging from the roof/ceiling. Walk into our multi-vehicle garage and you were met not only with the vehicles in their proper spaces, but back walls full of well organized, orderly accumulations of the materials that farmers and tinkerers used. Hanging from the roof were reams of pipe and lumber that would be used in projects along with bags of potatoes and onions that were harvested from the garden. The actual workshop was originally a single car garage that evolved into a workspace with a forge, space to weld, and accumulation of tools of pretty much every type and description. All stored in proper places in logical locations and easy to hand.

My own kitchen is what I refer to as ‘postage-stamp sized’ because, well, it is. I don’t have a lot of built in storage space, so I’ve had to learn to use what I could in the best manner possible. When I was able to add storage, I thought carefully about what I would use it for and how it could be maximized.

What I’ve learned can be summed up as follows:

What do you need -vs- what do you want.

There was a time when I would have loved to have a full set of Spode Christmas ware. Never mind that I had no place to store it, no way to pay for it, and really not much use for it as I didn’t host large family gatherings. On the other hand, I loved Fiestaware but the price tag for that actually did curl my hair.

Now I look at fulfilling my wishlist with dinnerware that makes me happy, doesn’t require a second mortgage, and can be used more often.

Multipurpose pieces save money and space.

A few years back I picked up a couple of sets of canisters with vacuum seals. These handy square shaped containers hold a variety of dry foodstuffs, take up the same space as far as footprints and are stackable. And did I mention that they were reasonably priced, too?

Their shape is important. They are all square. No round containers that leave an empty shelf area. I do have a set of containers that are also square but have rectangular pieces as well. These are also space users and stack well. Round containers take up space that can’t be used for storage.

I emphasize shape for a reason. A few months back I happened to see a self described decor expert showing off her newly restyled kitchen cabinets. Behind the doors she had proudly put up round containers with chalk labels for dried goods.

Now, I have no issue with either the round containers or the chalk labels. My issue comes with spending money on these items that are clearly decorative and will live behind closed doors. Where no one but the cook will ever see them and taking up space that could be used for other foodstuffs.

Interestingly enough, the next time we were treated to a view of the once again redecorated kitchen cabinets, the round containers with the chalk labels were no longer hidden away behind closed doors.

Ask yourself if you are inadvertently making your kitchen work more difficult.

Odd as it might seem, when we put things in places that require more steps or more work we make working in the kitchen more difficult. This might seem like a non-issue unless you are one who struggles to find any enjoyment in the kitchen to begin with.

It might be aesthetically pleasing to have the spice rack on the wall opposite the stove, but if you are constantly hiking across the room to get what you need to create a meal, at some point you are going to get tired of the trek and stop using it. Ditto for putting the clean dishes far from the sink and/or dishwasher.

I can always spot a house designed by someone who has never, ever done a load of laundry or purchased groceries. How? Easy. The garage is on the farthest side of the building away from the kitchen and the laundry is tucked into a spot away from easy access points like common walkways or stairs. This can be a lot of <cough> fun if you are dealing with bad weather, especially if the laundry is located in a garage that is separate from the house.

If you have a lot of laundry or a large load of groceries, that hike can be exhausting.

Now, you may not be able to do anything to move the laundry area or garage, but you can take charge of where things reside in your kitchen cabinets.

Cabinets are where the magic happens. Get yourself a set of containers for your dried goods. While boxes and bags seem simpler and easier, they take up a lot of room and don’t seal properly once opened, so you lose the food and the money you spent on the food when you have to toss it out. You don’t have to spend a lot, but be sure you do your research to find quality containers. i.e: Read the reviews.

Do you have a beverage area? Great! Put the mugs, glasses, whatevers nearby so you have what you need at hand. If you have a coffee / tea bar, gather all the fixings together. If you have a snack section, do the same and be sure to put things like napkins and serving bowls nearby.

Baking requires specific cooking pans and ingredients. Having them in the same general area makes the process easier – even more so if it is near the oven.

As you look at your space, think about what you use on a regular basis, what you use rarely and where you use things in general. That stand mixer is great for large projects but if you don’t use it every week maybe it can be put in a place that keeps it handy but doesn’t take up limited counter space? Mine is quite hefty, so I keep in mind that carrying it is a consideration.

If you have little ones around and are teaching them to set the table or put things away, look at your lower cabinets and consider putting things at their level.

If you have a cookbook collection, or are just starting one, consider making space in or near the kitchen. Handy for actually using the books to either cook or plan meals.

If you don’t use it or need it get rid of it.

This one is difficult, I know. But at the end of the day, getting rid of things you don’t use or need will save you time, space, and a lot of frustration when you need to find a place for something you do need and use. Besides, someone else might be looking for exactly what you don’t want!

There will always be some issue with storage and organization. The key is to make the best use of what you have and keep a sharp eye on how you utilize your space. Are you inadvertently sabotaging your cookery efforts? Are you not making the best use of the space you have? Do you already have a tool, box, container, thing that will help you resolve this issue?

With that food for thought, I will leave you to ponder. I hope this has been helpful. If so, please click on the “like” button below.

Comfort Food Follow Up

Remember the meat loaf and jacket potatoes I indulged in a couple of weeks ago? In light of the conversation about meal planning and such, I thought I’d share the evolution of that lovely meal.

aka: Left overs can be magic!

Okay, the meat loaf made at least 2 meals along with the jacket potatoes. I had a bit in some soft tacos, too. The remainder made its way into a baked ziti casserole that, in itself, made 3 meals.

By my reckoning, that’s a total of six meals. And there’s still more ground beef in the freezer waiting to be used.

I know we sometimes get caught up in the “I hate left overs” rut along with the “I’m tired of cooking” rut. But if you take a step back, take a deep breath, and look at what you’ve got in your pantry, you can often come up with ideas for meals that you’ve already started preparing. 🙂

This is the power of having the building blocks of a variety of meals in your pantry, fridge and freezer waiting for your inspiration.

What’s next? Well, I have some carrots that will be added to some broccoli for soup and I’m contemplating biscuits to go along with it.

What’s on your idea list?

As always, if this has been helpful or given you some ideas, please click the “like” button and don’t be shy about leaving a comment or question.

Comfort Food

The weather is slowly shifting to cooler days and nights. Hooray!

For those of us who are getting tired of their own cooking (hand in the air), it can be a bit of a battle between easy and boring in the kitchen.

I’ll be honest; I’ve had a bit too much chicken lately. Which is saying a lot for me.

Thanks to a market that had a better stock in the meat department, I snagged a family pack of pork shoulder steaks. I added some baking potatoes and some ground beef and we are in for some seriously non-chicken good food!

For those who don’t know, one of my Top Five Favorites is a simple, easy and fabulous roast.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take out your broiler pan – or if you don’t have one, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil – spray with non-stick cooking spray. Put the steaks on the pan, season with salt, pepper, garlic and dried sage.

Roast for 45 minutes, turn over and season. Roast for at least another 30 minutes. You are looking for a rich caramel color on the meat.

Add some baking potatoes at the beginning of the roast and they will all be done at the same time.

I roasted 2 of the 4 steaks in the pack and put the other 2 in the freezer.

As for the ground beef, I’ve got my eye on a meatloaf recipe and am debating between mashed potatoes or more baked potatoes. I bought enough spuds I could do both.

Easy. Flavorful. Wonderful comfort food. Yum!

Meal Planning: The Nightmare

AKA: One Size Does Not Fit All

This is a topic that I’ve struggled with for longer than I care to admit. Not the actual ‘doing’, because I do have my method. The problem is, my method is not what you see posted all over the place and touted by <cough> experts.

Now, I do want to give a shout out to those <cough> experts who actually provide thoughtful, useful ideas and methodologies that people can use. But I want to give a Huge Shout Out to those who understand that works for Person A might not be a workable solution to Person B and poor Person C is left hanging.

Here’s the thing: No two households are the same. They may look the same on the surface, but when you look deeper, you start to see the little realities that make the One Size Fits All Solution unusable.

For Example: How often you grocery shop usually depends upon how often you have money in your bank account. Weekly. Biweekly. Monthly.

What you shop for is dependent upon how much you have to spend AND how you are able to prepare it. If you know how to prepare it.

What you shop for also depends on what you eat. Some folks have serious allergies or health issues. Some folks, hard as I hate to admit it, really don’t particularly care about food. They eat to survive. Others have had some seriously bad experiences in the kitchen and are not too inclined to repeat the disasters. Some just never learned how to feed themselves.

Then, there’s that component that relies on – you guessed it – Time.

How much time you have to spend on the preparation of meals. How much time you have aside from functions like work, school, and the host of other out of the house activities that eat up time. No pun intended.

Knowledge Is Power

Here’s the thing, you know all the answers to the major questions. You also know if you need to learn new things to help you make more of the knowledge you already have.

If you need to learn to cook. Do it! Even if you don’t particularly like to cook, learning will help you work better, more efficiently in the kitchen so you don’t have to spend so much time and money in the kitchen.

Learn how to shop for food. Better choices lead to better meals which lead to better health and a healthier bank balance. You aren’t wasting money on food you end up tossing in the trash.

Better choices come from knowing what works best for certain recipes. Slow cooker recipes, for example, make the most of cheaper, tougher cuts of meat. (Translate: Save money.) They are usually easy to prepare and don’t require you standing over a hot pot. They are pretty much hands off. (Translate: Great for novice cooks.)

Time is an issue: If you can set aside one day a week to prep your meals, you save a lot of time during the week actually cooking the meals. If you want to kick it up a notch, set aside a day or two per month to actually cook those meals or do the heavy cooking required for what I call – and use – the Building Block Method.

By having the majority of the prep work done in advance, you take the stress out of deciding and cooking at the last minute.

The Building Block Method

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you probably know I prefer to shop in bulk and prep a lot of things in advance. I buy large flats of chicken to cook for casseroles, or large quantities of ground beef to pre-cook for casseroles or prepare as patties that go directly into the freezer. I make use of my oven and my slow cooker to make the process easier and maximize the time and space I have available.

The “Building Blocks” are parts of potential meals that are ready to go when I’m ready to eat.

The cooked meat or poultry becomes

  • Taco or burrito filling
  • Soup
  • Casseroles
  • Added to salads
  • Pasta dishes

If I am in the mood for taco salad, I have the meat ready to go. All I have to do is defrost and set up the salad. Pasta bake? I pull out my favorite pasta sauce and I have a quick and easy main dish.

I make sure to have all the building blocks I need at hand.

  • Cheese
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Eggs and milk
  • Soup or soup base
  • Herbs and spices
  • Ketchup, mustard, and other base sauces

By having these items on hand, I have the freedom to create a wonderful meal without stressing over what is in the pantry and if I need to get groceries. I can do as much, or as little, cooking as I want. Added bonus, I can try new recipes if I choose without a major trip to the market.

You can use meal planning to help you in many ways and you can make it as easy or complicated as you like. Do what works for you!

If this has been helpful, please click the “Like” button below. If you’d like to learn more, add a comment.