Saturday, January 29, 2011

Super Duper Blackberry Cobbler

Such is life, I was going to post a recipe for Pumpkin cookies my son and I made the other night. However, when I read the copyright, it said it could not be duplicated in any way what-so-ever. So…..I’m posting one of favorite and easy, go to deserts. This will leave everyone raving about your ability to bake a delicious dessert. You don’t have to tell them how easy it was.

One of my fondest (and scariest), memories from childhood involves the picking of fruit. As goes with most stories involving fruit, more of it gets eaten than in the baskets! I have a vague memory of being around blackberry brambles and eating my fill of the delicious berries. Getting stuck, by the thorns, in my fingers as well as in my clothes and hair. What a bother! That completely slowed down my ability to stuff myself with as many blackberries as I could find. I also remember the “yuck” factor, when I would pick one that wasn’t quit ready. I must have been quite young, because this memory is not accompanied by a visual recollection (as most of my memories are), but rather an audio recollection. That being in the form of a piercing scream, followed instantly by arms grabbing me and running like mad back to the house. I then recall something about a snake under the brambles. Well, there you have it, that basically ended my foray into blackberry picking. Then, last summer we were at an anniversary cookout, for our area churches, summer camp. My friend and I were walking with our kids when she saw a blackberry bush. She then proceeded, without care, to pick the berries and give them to our kids. While she was focused on the berry picking, I was focused as a snake look-out. My son LOVES anything berry, he was so excited to get berries right off the vine. Let the stuffing begin! I decided that enough was enough, if my son enjoyed picking fresh berries, then by george we would pick some berries! That’s exactly what we did.

In our neighborhood, I had spotted some blackberry thickets. Ok, it’s now or never. I got some containers, my son, and we hopped on the little cars and took off to pick some blackberries. I, of course, brought high boots for us to put on….just in case of snakes. We picked, and ate, a bunch of blackberries. My husband decided to join us and we made a day of it. We picked all the ones we could find in our neighborhood, then moved on to scout surrounding areas. We found a lot, though most didn’t make it into the containers. No wonder, when we got home, no one was hungry. Another benefit is that most places we went, after that day, we were on the lookout for blackberry bushes!

Blackberry Cobbler:

1 stick of butter

1 cup of flour

1 cup of sugar

1 egg

1 cup of milk

any fruit of your choice, in this case, blackberries

brown sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Melt the stick of butter in the microwave (or in a small saucepan) pour in the bottom of a casserole dish, or baking dish.

Mix the milk, flour, sugar, egg and cinnamon together and pour over the melted butter

Carefully drop your prepared fruit (peaches, apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.,) on TOP of your batter.

Then sprinkle, liberally, with the brown sugar over the fruit

Put in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the batter has risen over the fruit and turned a deep golden brown.

Remove from oven, serve warm with a lovely scoop of ice cream.

Your family will think you are a genius, and worked VERY hard to create this delectable treat. Only you and I will know the truth!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nothing better on a cold night than steak and gravy

Looks like we are going to get another round of 'global warming',!  Since it's going to be a cold one, with lots of snow, wind and chilly weather, might as well cook something delicious.  Nothing like Country Fried Steak, with gravy, mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli.  I know a lot of people turn their noses up to broccoli, but if you don't over cook it and add butter (everything tastes better with butter!) it's very good.  My little boy loves broccoli.  I always make more than I think is necessary, since my husband (who doesn't like anything healthy, but loves broccoli) and son eat it like it's going out of style. 
My Mom is a very good cook.  Probably because she's German, and German food is delicious.  Especially the candies and cookies.  Mom took me to Germany when I was in the eighth grade, to visit her mom, my Omi.  Omi is the German word for grandma.  One day we went into a town called Murnau to shop.  It's a wonderful little town, with neat little shops lining the street.  There was a restaurant there, called the "Wienerwald", and it was my favorite!  We had to go every time we went to Murnau.  I always ordered the same thing, a quarter BBQ rotisserie chicken. Yes, I ate the whole thing.  It was delicious.  As many years ago as that was, I can still see the chicken arriving in it's tinfoil shell, steam wafting through the crack in the folded foil top.  Opening it was like Christmas, there it was a BBQ chicken with perfectly crispy skin covered in BBQ seasoning.  My mouth is watering, but I digress.  One such visit, after a trip to the Weinerwald, we stopped into a bakery for desert.  Now, my Omi loved sweets.  Germany has many deliciously tempting treats along with the best chocolate in the world.  I know some of you like the other chocolates, but send me a better chocolate bar than the "Milka" bar and I'll eat my shoe (which won't be easy since I wear sheepskin boots this time of year).  Milka chocolate melts in your mouth, has a creamy chocolate flavor that tickles the tongue.  It's my favorite in the whole world!  That's silly, have you been through the whole world? some may ask.  Well, no, I haven't.  I have travelled extensively, as have many in my family, as well as having friends and relatives in different countries.  I would say I've tasted a great many chocolates in my time... just ask my skinny jeans, they'll tell you! Back to the story, so we are in a bakery and proceed to order.  One of this, one of that, one of almost everything. Pastry shells filled with pineapple whipped cream, drizzled with chocolate. Chocolate cake, lebkuchen cookies along with assorted pies and so on.  We sit down to eat our grossly weighted plates, when our pitcher of hot chocolate arrives.  My Omi was so embarrassed because we had lost all self control when ordering our dessert.  It's no wonder when I came back to America I was a chunky little thing.  Germany definitely agreed with my sweet tooth! 
There are two smells I remember vividly when I think of Germany, manure and candy.  Very different on opposite ends of the spectrum.  We were travelling to Uffing, where my mom grew up.  It was a very long trip from Virginia.  Horrible airplanes that dropped out of the sky like dive bombers when it was time to land. Taxi cabs, buses, and trains all included in our trip.  We had to stop in Frankfurt to change planes.  I remember getting off that awful plane, sick to my stomach, grumpy, tired and homesick.  We walked into the Frankfurt airport, welcomed by the scent of candy.  Not just any candy, Mamba fruit chews.  Oh, what comfort for a 13 year old girl. 
We sat in the airport until it was time to board that next lurching beast to continue our trip to Munich.  I would have gladly walked home by this time, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the Lufthansa crew.  It was like I was at home, being cared for by my Mom.  Yes, Mom was with me, but she couldn't get me crackers and ginger ale.  The stewardess could, and did.  I remember being so motion sick from all the other planes that I just let them fuss over me.  We finally landed in Munich to start the last leg of our journey.  We boarded a train that took us to *Uffing am Staffelsee. 
When time came to finally get off the train and walk, (yes, walk) into town, I was a zombie.  Soon I was awakened by the sound of horses hooves pulling a rumbling wagon along the road.  All of which was accompanied by the earthy odor of manure, LOTS of manure.  The whole town smelled like manure.  I was appalled.  I thought all of Germany smelled like candy.  Maybe, but not in the early spring when the farmers are putting fertilizer on their fields.  Once the shock wore off, it became quite, well, comforting.  Uffing being a small town with lots of farms, and me being a country girl from a place with lots of farms, yes comforting is the word.  After the fertilizing season passed, Uffing did indeed, cease to smell of manure.  That organic smell being replaced by the smell of candy. 
What does all of that have to do with Country fried steak and gravy?  It's my Moms recipe, that's about it. 

4 cubed steaks
1 lg. yellow onion peeled and sliced
1 cup plain white flour (more if needed)
1 1/2 tbsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard
hot water 1 small jar of can of sliced mushrooms-juice and all
1/4 cup of heavy cream

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, salt and pepper
In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil until very hot
Place floured cube steaks into the oil (it should sizzle) and fry until golden brown on bottom; carefully flip the steaks over and drizzle with Worchestershire sauce (2-3 shakes)
Lay onion slices onto the steaks 1-2 slices
Add about 1 1/2 cups of hot water, put on the lid and reduce the heat to medium
Let them cook until the water is evaporated
When you hear the sizzle and the water is gone, flip them over again with the onions now on the bottom, add same amount of hot water again cover and let cook down to half the amount of water just added
Dump in mushrooms, juice and all, add mustard, taste adjust seasoning then add cream stir and enjoy!

Steamed broccoli:

Frozen broccoli florets
water to coat the bottom of sauce pan
1/4 stick butter
salt & pepper to taste

I don't use a steamer, so what I do is cover the bottom of my sauce pan with water, pour in frozen broccoli and cover. As soon as the water starts boiling I turned off the element and keep the lid on until the broccoli is a nice deep green color.  Then I add the butter, salt and pepper, put lid back on until ready to serve.  YUM YUM!

*picture from thank you! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oranges vs. Chocolate Chip cookies which will your child choose?

When I had my little boy, I was pretty sure I would make his baby food.  Not confident, but I wanted to control the sodium, sugar and preservatives in his food.  The first 4 months weren't that hard, no solid foods, no problem.  It's when he started on solid foods that I got very nervous. Would I be able to prepare the correct foods for him, what if I didn't do it right? What if he wouldn't eat it? How would I know if it was bad (rotten) or not?
My Mom came for a visit when he was 4 months old and she was a big help.  We started him on organic rice cereal.  As a new Mom, I didn't know what I was doing.  I had never changed a babies diaper in my life, never fed a baby, nothing, completely incompetent.  So imagine how my confidence plummeted when, after I'd fed him his cereal, I layed him down to change his diaper and he choked.  I was terrified, he hadn't completely swallowed all of the cereal. Laying him down slid it into his throat causing him to gasp for air & turn red.  I sat him up, my husband grabbed him and turned him over a little to let the cereal come out.  I was horrified and so ashamed.  I should have known.  But how could I know? Common sense? Mothers intuition?  Well, hindsight is assuredly 20/20, because I can now competently beat myself up for such an ignorant mistake. 
New Mommy's, take my advice and make sure the baby has swallowed all his food before you lay him on his back.  That said, I now was completely sure I would never be able to make baby food that would be OK for my son.  Mom came to the rescue, she wouldn't allow me to be upset about the incident.  She had 3 kids, there's not a lot she hasn't experienced with babies.  She assured me I could and WOULD make him baby food, she would show me how. 
It's not really that hard.  It's even easier with a BabyCook steamer.  It's not like cooking for a family, because you only start babies with one food at a time.  Steam enough for one week.  Give a little every day making sure to watch for any sign of allergic reactions. When Baby is cleared for that food, make another one.  It's so easy.  Once he started eating several different fruits and veggies, I would steam enough to freeze for later use.  The difficulty comes in making sure that baby is getting the proper vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber in his food.  I would suggest spending the money to get a book that will tell you those things, or a baby food cook book.  There are several on the market.  I would generally make sure that he had lots of colors to choose from each week.  I got a little lazy at first, so I purchased some, allegedly, organic 100% pure peach baby food.  I tasted it, and could not detect the taste of peaches AT ALL.  It was like pureed cardboard. OK, if he eats those "peaches", he'll think that's what they really taste like.  When he eats a real peach, the flavor might be too strong or something like that.  He won't eat healthy foods if the baby food doesn't taste anything like the real stuff.  That sealed the deal.  My kid was not eating any of that stuff. 
Let the steaming and pureeing begin.  My son ate everything we gave him.  He wanted food we were eating so I let him taste some things.  He fell in love with tomatoes and applesauce.  He still loves those foods, only this time he wants ham and cheese too!  I'm so proud of him.  Even though he has an enormous sweet tooth, he will choose healthy food over the sweets.  He saves the sweets for later. 
My sister-in-law brought sweet rolls for breakfast.  I fixed my son a bowl of oranges, the sweet roll was for me.  He came into the kitchen with big eyes when he saw the sweet roll.  He pulled out my chair so he could sit there to eat it, then he noticed his bowl of orange slices.  You could see a brief battle pass over his face, then he pushed my chair back in, climbed into his chair to eat his orange slices.  He's 3 years old. 
We went skiing a couple days ago.  During a hot chocolate break I also bought chocolate chip cookies, a bottle of water as well as a naval orange.  I gave him the hot chocolate with the cookie, and began to peel the orange.  I had every intention of sharing with him.  He would not touch the cookie, pointed to the orange and said, "I want that, pwease."   He also helped me drink the water before he drank his hot chocolate.  He's a great kid.
I hear people say that their child only eats junk.  They can't get him to eat veggies or anything healthy.  I can't help but think, he's eating what you are giving him.  If you buy junk, with access to it, of course that's all he's going to eat. My friend Ana also made her sons baby food.  We both try to feed our boys healthy meals. She's a lot better at it then I am, she has some wonderful recipes.  Both of our boys eat the same things we eat for dinner.  I've had parents ask me, "How do you get him to eat broccoli? My kid won't touch it."  I tell them, "He's been eating it since he was a baby. That's what he ate, steamed fruits and veggies. Nothing processed." 
A few things really bother me when a parent says their child only eats fattening foods, and is over weight.  As I've said before, a child eats what is given to him or is available.  Also, I want to ask what does the child eat all day?  When my son is allowed to eat all day, snacks, juice, candy,  he won't eat his meals.  I have to be very careful not to allow him to develop poor eating habits.  If I provide food for him to munch on all day, then I am teaching him to eat when he's not hungry.  I suffer from low blood sugar, so I have to eat a little every 2 hours.  I was taught to eat 3 meals a day, and 3 light snacks.  As most people do, I struggle with portion sizes as well as a sweet tooth.  (No, my son did not get his enormous sweet tooth from me, he got a double dose.  He got his fathers sweet tooth also!)  I incorporate that lesson into my sons daily meals.  I'm not always successful, but I do try.  I think that if we win most of the time, then we are making forward progression so that's OK.  I always make sure he has a drink available to him all day.  He gets one or two cups of juice a day.  Mostly he gets milk to drink, whole organic milk.  Not non-fat milk.  I take issue with feeding children low fat, or non fat foods.  If you feed them healthy foods, in addition to getting them exercise every day, you shouldn't have to feed them less fat foods.  Little bodies need a certain amount of fat to grow healthy, strong and tall.  Don't deprive a child of necessary building blocks because you're feeding him a diet full of unhealthy foods, sugary drinks and high sodium.  Get them outside to play.  Take the kids to the park.  Just turning off the TV is a great way to get them to use their imaginations playing, coloring, listening to  music, or reading the cat a story.
I'm not perfect, I see some Moms, like Ana and my sister-in-law Kelly who feed their children better foods than I feed my son.  I feel a little embarrassed, but I can learn from them.  I am very happy my son likes healthy foods.  He will say, sometimes, "We have to eat healthy foods, not junk."  Cracks me up.  I'm not sure he understands the entire concept, but hey, he's trying.  Forward motion.....we're good!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My favorite comfort food Beef Roll-ups, ranch mashed potatoes and buttery peppered corn

Beef roll ups, also known as Rouladen, with mashed-ranch potatoes & peppery buttered corn.

I've taken a menu I previously posted because I haven't been cooking in a while. We've been going out with friends that we, unfortunately, only see around Christmas, as well as going to dinner with family. I had to have dental surgery this past week involving two teeth and my jaw, so let me say this to sum it up, OUCH! To top it all off I'm coming down with a cold. Needless to say, eating and cooking are not a priority at the moment. But I can dream can't I? I dream of beef roll-ups, they are so incredibly delicious. When I feel better, I will most difinately make this menu.

My favorite dish in the world is Beef Roll ups. It's a delicious dinner and it's fun too. I have made these twice and I think I did pretty good. They still don't taste as good as my Mom's. Maybe because I have to put forth the effort to make them, or maybe they just lack Mom's special touch, either way they're still my favorite!

I posted the recipe on my Big Oven web page, along with some other recipes I came up with. If you want to go see them, go to you'll see several recipes I've posted. Let me know what you think!
Make sure you give plenty of cooking time for the roll ups, they'll take a couple of hours to cook. If you rush, you'll end up with raw hide roll ups, and that would be so YUCK!

Beef Roll ups (Rouladen)
12 1/4 inch thick sirloin slices (have butcher cut for you)
3 tbl. canola oil
12 wooden kabob skewers or tooth picks
Worcestershire sauce
12 kosher dill pickle sandwich slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons pickle juice
4 cups hot water
3 slices of bacon
1 Heavy deep skillet with good fitting lid
1 jar plain American mustard

Assembly & cooking instructions for Beef Roll ups (Rouladen)

Cut bacon slices in 1/2 and then cut lengthwise in 1/2 (1 slice will yield 4 slices)
Cut kosher dill pickle sandwich slices into approximately 1/8" slices and cut those slices into 1/4" strips
Spread each slice of sirloin with a thin layer of mustard
On one end of the sirloin slice place 1 bacon strip and 1 pickle strip
Roll up and push the skewer through to hold the meat together, trim the skewer as needed.
Heat oil until very hot and add the roll ups with tongs to the pan
Brown on all sides
Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on each roll up (it will sizzle and smoke)
Immediately pour in enough hot water to come 1/2 way up the roll ups
Put on the lid and turn down to low and cook until the water is almost gone
Add more hot water and let that cook down so you have about 2 1/2 cups of gravy
Remove the roll ups to make the gravy, retain liquid from cooking in the skillet
Add 2 tablespoons pickle juice, 1 tablespoon mustard and the cream
Start with 1/4 cup of cream and add more if you like
Salt and pepper to taste

Mashed Ranch Potatoes:

4 large potatoes
salt & pepper
ranch dressing

Boil a pot of water
Peel and cut your potatoes into thin slices (this will speed up cooking time. If you don't mind a few extra steps, you could always steam your potates with the skins on. Once they are fork tender, peel off the skins and mash. Leaving the skins on adds flavor and vitamins.)
Pour out the water, retaining a 1/2 cup
Mash the potatoes adding the retained water, milk and butter until they are light and fluffy and taste like you like. Add salt and pepper, then add a few squirts of the ranch dressing, to taste.

No brainer
Frozen corn
salt and pepper

Pour frozen corn into a pan, add water to cover, add 2 tbl. butter, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Heat on medium high until the water is gone and all that's left is butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummmmyyyyy!