Monday, November 12

Entertaining On a Budget

There was a time during our VERY lean years that finding out people were coming to visit put me in crisis mode, which was not a good thing. We had weeks where I literally had JUST enough money to feed us, let alone more people. Though things are better now, I still shop as thrifty as I can, especially when I have to feed a lot of people.

The first tip is for those who are really struggling. If the phone rings and it's mom and dad wanting to drop by for the day, or weekend, with grandma, and you already bought the week's groceries, admit it and ask them to help out. Don't cringe. I know how hard this is. I've been there. You can't NOT pay the electric bill to entertain relatives. What you do is saying something like "It's a little tight this week, could you bring lunch? (or dinner, breakfast etc.)." If you know your parents have a freezer full of chicken or beef, ask them to bring enough for one meal. Do what you need to do for your family. I served meals that were cheap and fed a lot of people. Spaghetti, beans and cornbread, chicken quarters grilled or baked and Sloppy Joe are all meals that will feed extra people.

Let's fast forward to my frugal tips that I use today. We are doing better, as I mentioned, but I'm still cutting corners when I can. Often when my husband's family visits they are bring my two nephews. Plus, there is always the chance that Chuck's brother, his wife and their kids will drop over on Saturday night. We never know until the last minute. We always joke that one day Chuck's parents are going to pack up all their neighbors and bring them along. Their motto is "The more the better!". So, when they are planning a visit I look at the sales in the paper and at what I have at the house already, and I come up with a menu for the weekend.

Friday: Boneless BBQ Chicken, cornbread and usually they bring salad or veggies and dip.

Saturday: Sloppy Joe in the crockpot, corn and fried potatoes.

Sunday: Roasted whole Pork Loin, baked potatoes and whatever vegetables or salad are on hand.

Dessert for one of the days: Brownies

I came up with this menu based on several things. First, I had a bag of boneless chicken I bought earlier in the week,and it was still on sale, so I picked up another one. I already had cornbread mix in the cupboard. They usually bring raw vegetables or salad. I put the chicken in the crockpot and season with garlic pepper. When it's just cooked through I throw in the BBQ sauce and stir it to coat, turn it down on low and cook until it's time to eat. If put it on high around lunch it's done in plenty of time. The cornbread I make according to the mix, and throw in some shredded cheese if I have it leftover or a can of creamed corn in place of the liquid.

I already had a couple of packages of ground chuck and two cans of Manwich. I bought one more package of ground chuck on sale, and an envelope of Sloppy Joe spices (McCormick) to add to the canned stuff. I also picked up frozen corn and I already had potatoes on hand.

The pork loin is the "nice" dinner for Sunday. It was on sale for $1.59 a pound, which is a very good price. I was able to get a 9 pound pork loin. This is easy to cook in the oven. I share the basic recipe below. You can get it sliced free, but I like roasting it whole and slicing it myself. I bake potatoes along with it, and serve with a salad or another vegetable.


8-10 pound pork loin
fresh herbs: sprigs of marjoram, basil
garlic pepper (or garlic powder & black pepper)

Place the pork loin in a roaster pan. Add about a cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the pork liberally with garlic pepper OR you can use black pepper and garlic powder or granules. Season with salt. Cut sprigs of marjoram and basil (dried herbs can be used also), wash and lay on top of the pork. Place the roaster covered in a 325 degree oven that has been preheated. Roast for 60 minutes. The pork should register 155 degrees F. or more, taking the temperature in the thickest part of the meat.

Once it's done, remove from the oven and uncover, then let it sit for about 15 minutes before slicing. It cools and sucks up some of the juices in the pan.

The thing with entertaining family on a budget is to never be afraid to ask for help, and don't look a gift horse in the mouth. If someone calls and wants to know what they can bring then tell them what you need. If they don't offer, then ask. There is nothing wrong with asking people to bring a dessert or a salad to help out. Once you start doing this they will often just volunteer to bring things the next time.


Sunday, November 11

Honoring Our Veterans

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis

Thank you to all who have and will continue to protect us. Today is YOUR day.


Friday, November 9

Humor With Our Recipes

Today I have a recipe from The Ozark Pain Killer Cookbook & Home Medical Advisor by Kay White Miles. The cookbook is a small paper book with no publishing or copyright date. It's odd, but it's fun. 

Literary And Athletic Society Celebration Cookies 

 Melt 1/2 lb. margarine in square pan. 

1 cup graham crackers (crushed fine) 
1 cup shredded coconut 
1 packet chocolate chips 
1 packet butterscotch chips 
1 cup chopped pecans Spread all this and press down in pan. 

Add 1 large can condensed milk by spoonful over all. 

Bake in 325 degree F. oven for about 30 minutes. 

Do not over bake. Cool, best if set in refrigerator overnight, and then cut into squares. 
Also can be kept in freezer until a few minutes before serving. 

My notes: I have everything for this but the nuts so I'll have to pick those up. I'm wondering about the "packet". I think I'll go with a cup of each instead of an entire 12 ounce bag. I could be wrong but a square pan is usually 8x8 and that just seems like too many. I'll share a picture when I make it. 

Are you ready for some humor from the book? Here we go: 

Customer: "Give me a can of talcum powder, please."
Clerk: "Walk this way, please". 
ustomer: "If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need talcum powder." 

*snicker* One more recipe to share: 

Riots Have Been Started Over This Rice Pudding 

Cheery little lady in Clinton, Missouri gave us this recipe. She takes it to church suppers. Everybody rushes to get some before it's gone. Best rice pudding we've ever eaten! 

1 cup cooked rice 
1 cup milk 
1 cup coconut 
1 cup pecans, chopped 
1 cup sugar 
1 stick butter, melted 
3 eggs 

Mix as you put together and bake in slow oven until done. 

My notes: A slow oven would probably be about 300 degrees F. 

I hope you enjoyed the recipes and the humor. The author claims they are "recipes guaranteed to ease hunger pangs!". 


Wednesday, November 7

Regional Recipes: Ma's Cookin' with Sorghum

I've collected recipes for almost 30 years now, since that first auction when I found the courage to bid on a box of old recipe books. I still get excited when I find old cookbooks, even after all this time.  I pulled out an old cookbook, Ma's Cookin', Mountain Recipes from Ozark Maid Candies. It's authored by "Sis and Jake" and was printed in 1969. I did some looking and there is a Ozark Maid Candies store in Osage Beach, Missouri, but they don't appear to have a website. They have a recipe in the book using sorghum molasses, but before I share it, I did a little research first on just what it is and where it originated.

It turns out that sorghum is grain/grass that was brought here from Africa in the 1800's. Sorghum Molasses was created when experiments to use it as a sugar didn't quite pan out. It's interesting that the biggest producers of sorghum in the beginning were the Midwestern states, but by the end of the 1800's it was mostly a Southern crop. This website has pictures and details on producing sorghum molasses:

To me, the discovery of this sweet syrup, made from what is basically a grain crop, is a great example of American ingenuity. You can learn where to purchase the molasses and find a listing of festivals on the The National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association website:

If you'd like to try a classic recipe using Sorghum Molasses, this is a good, easy recipe from the cookbook I mentioned above. A note on the taste: the sorghum syrup has a milder taste, unlike regular molasses. You could substitute it for honey or corn syrup in recipes and use it much the same as you would maple syrup.

Sorghum Molasses Pie

2 cups sorghum molasses
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter
juice of one lemon
pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat well. Pour into pastry and bake in a moderate oven until done.

My notes: 350 degrees F. is considered moderate heat. You can use a homemade standard pie crust or any of the premade crusts for the pastry.

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of U. S. culinary history.


Monday, November 5

NaBloPoMo: Type Your Heart Out

I'd been wanting to combine my blogs and use this as my main writing outlet. I saw the information on NaBloPoMo and decided to jump on the wagon and get my blogging geek on for the month as a way to get The Harvest Moon Gazette up and running.  

What will I be blogging about?  Cooking, herbs, living in the country, books and the craziness of my life with a husband who is an RN, a 12 year old daughter, a 19 year son in college, an 18 year old son working on figuring out his life with a baby on the way and his 20 year old girlfriend who's become a part of our family.  We mix it up with teenage friends that stop by frequently, inside and outside feline friends that snare our hearts and visits from family.  I think you'll find it entertaining, perhaps even humorous on those occasions that my head explodes.

To start off the month, I have a group of pictures I took during my walks around our property in the county. We live on ten acres in Michigan where fall is welcome, thought rather fleeting, especially when the winds blow the leaves off the trees faster than we can blink. The nights are getting down into the 30's and the days rarely reach 50 degrees.  On a sunny day it's still nice enough to enjoy a walk outside.


Tuesday, February 14

Valentine's Day: The Language of Flowers

Valentine's Day is a lovely holiday, even if you don't have a significant other in your life.

Flowers and herbs have a language that we can use to express our feelings to those we love. Everyone knows that red roses speak of love, but there are so many others.

Camellias are beautiful flowers. They have some of my favorite meanings:

Pink Camellia: Longing for You

Red Camellia: You're a Flame in My Heart

White Camellia: You're Adorable

The day a man brings me a red camellia is the day I settle down. A few more flowers with message I love are:

Primroses: I can't live without you
Forsythia: Anticipation
Daffodil: You're the Only One or The Sun is Always Shining When I'm with You

Remember, if you haven't met the love of your life, it's okay. Love the people that are in your life, and let them know how much you care about them today.

Friday, February 10

Snowy Day Baking

When it snows it drifts. It doesn't have the same ring as "when it rains, it pours" does it? We've had an unusually mild winter this year, and the old timers have been telling me we hadn't seen the last of the snow. Today we were hit with a fairly heavy blizzard, and a portion of the expressway closed.

I took a break later in the afternoon to bake a loaf of a beer bread  and warm the kitchen.

Cheddar Garlic Beer Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 ounces room temperature beer
4 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. garlic powder

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cheese. Add the beer, and stir to form a soft dough. Do not use an electric mixer. Mix until just moistened. Spoon evenly into a 9x5 loaf pan that has been sprayed with pan spray or coated with butter. Mix the garlic into the melted butter and drizzle on top of the dough BEFORE baking. Place the loaf pan on a cookie sheet in the oven on the middle rack. Bake at 350 degree F. for 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick. If still undone, bake for ten more minutes. Serve warm.

Notes: My bread turned out crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It was delicious, and worth putting up with the smoke from the oven. Why, you ask? I forgot the cookie sheet and the butter bubbled over into the bottom of the oven. Not a good thing, especially when it's a cold winter day and open windows make for a chilly house.

Thursday, February 9

Orange Kiss Me Cake

The following is a piece of fiction I wrote for Valentine's Day:)  ~Brenda

Dotty and the Orange Kiss Me Cake

 I've been cooking for the cafe since I was 15 years old, and helping my daddy out in the kitchen. I learned the basics from him: fried chicken, meatloaf, roast beef and all the diner food folks came to expect from our cafe. I was always trying to convince him to let me try new dishes, but he'd say "Dotty, our customers don't need any new fangled food. They like our menu just the way it is. They count on it." Daddy was nothing if not steadfast and reliable.

One year I talked him into letting me make a special dessert for Valentine's Day. I was 16, and it was called "Orange Kiss Me Cake". I made up a sign for the window, and had baked it at home several times earlier in the month, which is how I had convinced Daddy to let me make it for the cafe. I remember that day clearly for so many reasons. The lunch crowd had bought out the first cake, and I had just put out the second cake. I looked up and saw a young man walk in the cafe. He was six foot tall with sandy brown hair, and looked like a young Steve McQueen. He sat down at a table near the door just as I headed his way. I asked what I could get him, and he said in a slow Southern drawl:

"Darlin', I have to try a piece of the Orange Kiss Me Cake."

He hit me with a smile that made my knees buckle. Turns out his name was Ben, and he'd just moved to New Harvest from Alabama. I've made him the Orange Kiss Me Cake for 49 years now, and every time he gives me that smile it still weakens my knees. He waited two years to propose to me, sitting at the same table he sat at that first day. Turns out my daddy had threatened to ruin his pretty smile if he didn't wait to ask me until I was 18. It's okay, he was worth the wait.

I thought you all might like to bake the Orange Kiss Me Cake for someone you love. I remember cutting the recipe out of a newspaper all those years ago, but it's not exact. I changed it slightly and frost it with whatever frosting or glaze catches my fancy each year.

Orange Kiss Me Cake

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large orange
1 cup milk

Using a grater, carefully zest the orange all around. Set aside. Sift together flour, soda and salt. Cream the shortening and sugar. Blend in the eggs one at a time. Add the orange zest. Add the milk, alternating with the dry ingredients, using an electric mixer. Pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30-35 minutes. Cool.

This cake can be frosted with a cream cheese or buttercream frosting.

May your Valentine's Day be full of love and laughter.

Sunday, January 22

Is Winter for the Birds?

Well, it may not be for all birds, but we have some chipper little fellows that stay here all winter, and always bring a smile to my face.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. ~Henry David Thoreau

The Last of the Roses in Autumn

The milkweed pods are breaking,   And the bits of silken down   Float off upon the autumn breeze   Across the meadows brown. ~C...