Sunday, February 28, 2010

Country Aroma

My very easy supper is cooking while writing this. Raspberry Pork Chops are in the Slow Cooker and the spinach for Creamed Cheesy Spinach is thawing. Check out 'Cat Food' for the Pork Chop Recipe .. more later on the Spinach; still working on the fine points.

Wipe out stale or cooking odors with an easy Country Remedy.  This one is environmentally friendly and rather inexpensive with no candle residue on the ceiling.  Any cook pot or skillet will work, but I prefer to use my 6½" cast iron skillet.  Put about a teaspoon of whole cloves* in the pan (DRY! no water or oil).  Place on stove on high heat and KEEP AN EYE ON IT.   When the first sign of a little smoke appears grasp the pan with a pot holder and shake lightly .. walking through your space(s), distributing the pleasant scent of cloves.  You can repeat these steps once or twice more before the cloves are rendered gray and no longer 'viable'.  (Pour down your sink disposal or cool and place in the trash).  This REALLY works and it doesn't harm the ozone; an old friend told me she tried this after preparing fish and the cloves  worked.  This is especially useful in the winter months when it's too cold to "air out" with all the doors and windows open.  To conjure up a little more 'holiday feel', add a dash of ground cinnamon to the pan. (Whole cinnamon sticks do NOT work with this method).
* You can use ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground cloves but I prefer the whole cloves.

See you over at 'Cat Food' for some fine pork chops .
The Creamy Cheesy Spinach recipe is now also available at 'Cat Food'.

Have a wonderful Country Week.
© Cat Brennan

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Home-made is Heaven-made ©

In this instant-everything, I-want-it-now world we live in, some things tend to come out tasting like fast food .. you know the kind .. the drive through where you receive a glass of chemicals and a quadruple bi-pass in a paper bag to go.

With a little care and a dash of tasty adds, your food will pass the "home-made is heaven-made"© test.
Three of my most favorite small kitchen appliances are: micro wave oven, pressure cooker and slow cooker/crock pot. (read that hurry, hurry, slow down). These three appliances are invaluable in my kitchen.

While living in the great southwest, the pressure cooker was the unchallenged champ in the kitchen. You see, at high altitude, most things take longer to cook than at sea level, a LOT longer!

A family story fondly told about my mama when we moved to New Mexico from West Virginia is that she planned to cook pinto beans for a meal to serve in just a couple of hours. Mama told the family that the beans weren't ready for that meal and she boiled those 'durn' beans forever. Truth be told, I expect the next time she probably soaked the pintos overnight. There's a little magic formula for pressure cooking beans in high altitude: Check out the Cat Food page for that bit of gold.

Try these delicious mashed potatoes: begin as usual. After thoroughly scrubbing the potatoes, to maintain vitamins, minerals and downright good flavor, do NOT peel the potatoes. While cooking the potatoes as usual, (always cover your pan to conserve energy and shorten cooking time), place butter and milk in a microwave-save 2-cup measuring cup and this "tasty add", cream cheese - one ounce for every 2 or3 medium potatoes, plus the salt and any other seasonings you prefer. Nuke these ingredients until melted and warm; mix well. Add the butter mix as usual when mashing the potatoes.

Have a country-filled life no matter where you live.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Country Laundry Lore

Do you remember this old song? "Today is Monday, Today is Monday, Monday wash day, Everybody happy? Well, I should say so!"  I don't remember the rest of the lyrics, but anyone in the South knows that Monday is washday.  All your clothes clean and sparkling out on the clothesline.  The sheets are all together, next come the pillow cases (and they WILL be ironed later), shirts hung upside down from the side seams, towels and other linens by both corners, nice and smooth, and on and on. Of course the lady's unmentionables were NEVER hung on the line outsde.  Many of you reading this may not even know what is the purpose of a clothesline or seen one, much less clothes pins.  These days, I use clothes pins for keeping potato chips and other bags closed.
Did YOU ever use a wringer washer? They were highly entertaining when mama wasn't looking; especially when the socks got mangled into both rollers.  Many years ago, while visiting dear friends on one of the Indian Reservations out west, I had to do some washing.  These friends were school teachers, so they lived right on the rez. The wringer washer they had was vintage; I'm thinking it arrived on one of the wagon trains.  The dang thing had a mind of it's own and delighted in grabbing my hair. You haven't been in a real fight until a lumbering hunk of iron and water decides to scalp you on Monday.  I came away with all my hair, but I was sorely tempted to toss that Maytag TM into the lake of fire! I'm sure it was possessed!
Laundry is one of those things that will never go away.  The "hunk of iron and water" may be shiny new, fancy and computerized, but it still has to be "fed" .. Experience has taught me that when using a wringer washer one must always wash the whites BEFORE the reds and not the other way around. Husbands and brothers just don't enjoy pink underwear. A similar laundry law applies when washing the whites .. don't allow that lone red sock to join the water dance or the hubby will have pink shorts.
As for me, when some of my "pink things" get wimpy looking, I just wash the pinks and reds together. 
Grease spots and stains can be a permanent problem.  It's not necessary to buy those overpriced prior-to-washing sprays. Keep a bottle of Dawn TM Liquid Dish Detergent in your laundry room. Dab on the grease spots, rub the article 'together' and toss in with the load being washed. This is an easy and inexpensive 'fix' that works, compliments of my youngest daughter.
Watch your dryer closely and don't over dry anything. That appliance is an electricity guzzler so why feed your local power company? Need I remind you to keep that lint filter clear and clean?  Remove all of the lint after every load you dry, and scrub it well at least once a month with soap and warm water and a soft brush.
If you don't have a clothesline and, let's face it, most of us don't, you can still "air" dry the rugs, tennis shoes and other items of this nature. Remember REDUCE your USE ..
Have a country filled weekend!  © 2010 Cat Brennan

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kudos to Lowes & More Country Lore

Kudos and grateful thanks to Lowe's ® on West Broad in Richmond Virginia. This crazy Country Gal lost her check book recently. In all honesty, I thought I had accidently thrown it away when I was paying bills. The return address on my checks was an old post office box number. With that and no telephone number printed on them, I wasn't worried about someone using the checks. Apparently the check book fell out of my purse, was found and handed over to some honest soul at the big store.  Lowe's sent the check book to the post office box that I had had closed over a year ago. The package was returned to Lowe's with the standard YELLOW post office label as the forwarding time had expired. Again, Lowe's mailed it to me, this time using the address that was listed on the yellow label. That, dear friends, is CUSTOMER SERVICE ... the kind we used to find in an old Country store or mercantile.

Moving on to more good Country Lore. Don't toss out that dried out bread, or even the heels. They can be salvaged. Dry them to crisp in a medium oven, then make bread crumbs in your food processor. Add a few dry herbs of your choice, such as: basil, oregano, parsley, ground pepper, garlic powder, onion power, rosemary, or sage. Use any combination that pleases your palate.

If life gives you dry French bread, make tasty French toast. Whip up an egg with rich whole cream adding a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg and voila! Ready to cook and serve with butter and honey or maple syrup. For a real country touch, serve with molasses.

Kids fussy at the table? Be a party smarty with your kids. Instead of serving a ho-hum lunch, have a party. De-crust the bread and make their favorite sandwiches; PBand J, bologna, cheese or egg salad - what ever. Cut into triangles or fingers or rounds and call them party sandwiches. For even more fun, decrust the bread, and make sandwiches either 3 or 4 slices thick. Then slice into either fingers or triangles. An electric knife makes slicing easier, but is an option. However you slice it, you're the hero!  ©2010 Cat Brennan

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Country Lore: Basil and Bay Leaves

The snow is dissipating slowly but surely. The general consensus is: ENOUGH ALREADY, balance in all things .. moderation is good! Just because there is a snow shovel in my little shed doesn't mean it needs to be used more than once a year. I did that, and am ready to put it away.

Miss InjaPig is ready for some fresh salad greens and home grown carrots. She will eat the store-bought variety, but she really loved those skinny little carrots that I grew last year (think Twiggy). Every time I opened the patio door her squeaker went into high gear. She equated that
door-opening-sound with CARROTS!

Soon it will be time to prepare my containers for Miss InjaPig's carrots. Several large empty kitty litter buckets will be garden containers for tomatoes, carrots, chives, opal and regular basil, scallions and probably some marigolds, Gerber daisies and geraniums. Last year was my first attempt at container gardening beyond a few small decorative pots of flowers. The tomatoes were hybrids for patio growing. Not only were they small, but too few. We're going for the larger varieties this year.

Last year, the carrots went into a large green, plastic "tub" - the kind used for storage. The tomato vine went into a 5 gallon painter's bucket. It was UGLY orange, but a can of forest green "paint-on-plastic" spray paint made it easier on the eyes. All that was left was to drill drain holes in the bottom of both containers.

More Country Girl Lore ..

FRESH BASIL seems to chase away fruit flies in the kitchen; actually in all areas of your home (the daughter of a friend has hermit crabs. The crab house was inundated with fruit flies. When she tried the fresh basil, the pesky critters took a hike). Those nasty little critters will drive an angel to drink so keep it on hand for this as well as for savory cooking.

Dried BAY LEAVES keep weevils out of your cereal, corn meal and grain products. Place two or three dry bay leaves in the containers that you store all of these food products. It is better to repackage these dry ingredients into sealed containers if at all possible. Also, sprinkle a few loose bay leaves on the shelves where your dry food stuffs are kept. © Cat Brennan

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, A Snow Shovel & WD-40®

Snow, anyone?  If you've read my profile, you know that one of the places I have lived is Colorado; left there in '03.  The final winter I lived there, we had 42 inches of snow in our back yard.  The nearby Rockies had 80 to 100 inches.  I never expected to witness the kind of snow here that has fallen since mid-December....not in Virginia!  The last 2 weekends ushered in snow well exceeding 24 inches.  Today, the snow is not so bad, but the day began with heavy winds and icey, treacherous road conditions. Alas! A snow day for this country gal. When I got my divorce, and moved to a different location in this metro area, I gave away my snow shovel and gardening shovel; this is Central Virginia ... it doesn't snow THAT much.. yeah right !! A friend took pity and gave me a snow shovel. (real compassion would have been to come and USE the shovel, and KEEP it).  ;-) So, I have a snow shovel that works!  I did spray both sides of the "business end" with WD-40 ®  before using it. That is one slick trick!  Happy Day, friends  ©2010 Cat Brennan

Forks, Spoons & Silliness

Do I believe that forks are evolved from spoons?
Do I?  A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y ! ! ! And here is why...
A hillbilly and his lovely bride prepared to go into town after their first week of wedded bliss. JohnDon wanted to go to the saloon. Annie Jo wanted to go to the mercantile..they tossed for it and Annie Jo won. You see, JohnDon didn't have a single coin to toss, so Annie Jo tossed the only thing she could reach; a spoon. It landed 'square' on and into JohnDon's front tooth. Thus, the two-tine fork was born.

Since I was born in West (by the Grace of God) Virginia, I delight in 'hillbilly fun'. It's harmless and afterall, Laughter is good for the soul. ©2010 Cat Brennan