Scrapbook Cookbook

 

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About ten years ago I revamped my recipe collection in a big way. First I threw out my dilapidated recipe box and hauled out recipes that I never used. Second, I found a cute whimsical Susan Branch cookbook kit with scrap booking pages and stickers. The book was cheap enough but cheaply made too, as I found out this year.

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Like many housewives who cook everyday, my recipe book started to show wear and tear. Then one day after making a delicious meal for my family, the books’ binding fell apart.  I busily shoved it on my little shelf in the kitchen and soon forget it’s desecration. Every time I reached for my recipe collection, the broken book with pages falling out reminded me that I had been doing this awhile and my book couldn’t keep up.

 

Last week, on an energetic whim, I set my mind to repairing and giving new life to my book. I searched our file cabinet and found a 1 ½ inch binder that one of the boys had used for school. I recycled it at the end of that year and put it in my stash of “ maybe I’ll use that someday.” I’m grateful for that because sometimes I throw things out in an organization fit.

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Next I found plastic page protectors to slip all the handwritten and computer copied recipes in. I highly recommend this step because we all know cooking can be messy and can stain and alter our nice cards.

 

What I especially love about the Susan Branch cookbook kit was that it supplied folders with heading for extra recipes. What I’ve always done is displayed my favorites, family favorites,my mom’s recipes,  Tom’s mom and dad’s and meme’s staunch winners on the pages and others can rest in the folders.

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I bought the cookbook scrapbooking kit on Amazon but you could do it yourself, if you have the supplies needed. You would need a 1 ½ inch binder, scrapbook pages, stickers, recipe cards, pouches for the miscellaneous recipes and page protectors. If you do buy the scrapbook kit, try to find one with a sturdy binder or buy the binder separately.

 

Now I can’t wait to cook and use my cookbook, that I gave new life to. It’s the little things that make me happy in the kitchen.

 

Good luck scrapbooking and happy cooking!

 

All My Best,

 

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty Nest Leftovers

 

 

 

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I never liked leftovers as a child or young adult. My mindset was that tasting more than once couldn’t be topped. I always thought why would I want the same dish the next day? Things have changed now that I’m a middle aged adult. Tastes and preferences change and that’s good, so leftovers won’t end up in the trash.

 

 

 

 

The last few months my husband and I are finding a new life, an empty nest with both our sons out of the house ( except for vacation breaks and summers). It’s been a challenge to try to cut down from cooking for four to two people. I tried it for a few weeks and didn’t seem to make enough for us. So since I have cooking for four embedded in my brain I’ve used it to my advantage! The leftovers serves as the meal next day. Either I take them to school for my lunch or we have them for dinner the next night.

 

 

 

 

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Who hasn’t taken a leftover meal and changed it or made it better by adding ingredients? The key to optimal flavor and variety is doctoring it up! Here are some suggestions that I’ve tried:

 

  • Take macaroni and cheese and add hamburger, diced fresh basil and garlic or add chopped up bacon instead
  • Crockpot chicken can have new life with a teriyaki sauce and served with a stirfry
  • Leftover beef can be enhanced with mushrooms and gravy and serve over egg noodles
  • Lasagna or  spaghetti can be doctored up by adding more sauce ( so it’s not dry) and another layer of cheese
  • Leftover fish or shrimp could go in a fish stew ( I’ve never made that)
  • Crockpot tenderloin pork can be pulled apart for barbecue sandwiches or bulkies. Just add barbecue sauce
  • Leftover hamburger can be used for Shepherd’s pie, Sloppy Joe’s, taco

 

 

 

 

Whatever is leftover, look at your refrigerator for ideas. Maybe fresh broccoli or carrots could be added. Any kind of cheese from extra sharp cheddar and Parmesan can spruce a meal up. You could add sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic. Use leftovers for a rice meal, just cook fresh rice pilaf and add vegetables. Leftover mashed and roasted potatoes can be paired with chicken, beef or pork and complete a meal with fresh veggies.

 

 

There are endless possibilities if you tap into your creative side. After all, a cook takes simple ingredients and magically transform them into an appetizing dish! We are enjoying our second day meal and it’s easy to do!

 

 

Happy cooking with those leftovers!

All My Best,
Heart and Soul ❤

 

Organized or Messy in the Kitchen?

Are you Organized or Messy in the Kitchen?

 

 

 

 

 

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Just a week and a half ago,  when my sister in law and I were prepping for the Thanksgiving dinner, my thoughts were how organized we were while we cooked. Because I have a good sized kitchen and workspace now, we each had ample counter room to gather our ingredients and get to work. Not only that, but we washed dishes after each task and dried them shortly after.

 

 

Now I have a question for you and you just think about it and be honest with yourself, are you organized or messy? When you cook or bake, do you clean as you go or create a magnificent mess and deal with it later? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, as long as it gets cleaned up eventually. Perhaps you are already organized and neat as a pin in the kitchen, so then just be content that you’ve created great kitchen work habits.

 

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Honestly most of the time, I make a bit of mess, a disarray of ingredients on the counter amid bowls and cups and measuring spoons, while cooking or baking. I’ve always been that way, organized setting up the ingredients but messy with the rest.

 

 

Now that I’ve faced this problem, I feel like I should work on it to become a bit more organized. First it’s necessary to fill the kitchen sink with soapy hot water and as I use the cups, teaspoons and bowls I can plop them in. Washing dishes as you go prevents a big mess and saves time in the end. Next I plan to wash the counter as I spill flour, sugar or whatever. Lastly it’s helpful to put each ingredient away as you use it. I do this sometimes but it’s truly not a habit yet.

 

 

 

Other tips to stay organized:

 

*Write down baking times or set a timer as a reminder of your goodies being done

 
*Plan your oven times. This was a challenge at Thanksgiving because we used the oven for several things, many with different baking temperatures. Decide which dishes go in first and set the timer. Write a list or keep a mental list of the pies, cakes or dishes, their temperature and baking time. It helped us that we did some dishes the day before.

 
*Write down any ingredients that you use up for a future shopping list. It’s important to pen this, because you may forget you used it up until you need it for baking again.

 
*If you must share your space, do it in fun. Fun chatter and a magical music playlist will lighten the mood. Designate which counter top or space you and your friend will have. Give that person the bowls, cups and measuring spoons she needs.

 
*Play music and create a magical atmosphere

 

 

 

 

Staying organized and clean in the kitchen will alleviate any chaos or mess. You’ll be happier that you did this and probably will save yourself some clean up time.

 

 

Do you have any kitchen organization tips that you would like to share?

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💗

Grammy’s Mystery Mocha Cake

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The Doyle family, with my Grammy in the back and my dad, David Doyle , in the back on the right

In Dedication to Grammy Doyle, my Dad’s Mother

Irene Doyle, West Fairlee, Vermont

 
Every family has a staunch recipe that stands the test of time. It’s the go-to dish that always results in success. It’s passed down with pride and the unspoken agreement that future generations will do the same. My family has this recipe… it was my Grammy Doyle’s dessert recipe and you always could count on her making it at gatherings, whether it was my dad’s birthday or Christmas.

 

 
The word was that it was a secret, though I’m not sure of the origin. I’ll never know where my Grammy got it or if it was handed down to her. All I know is that it’s one of the few constants when going to her house and I will never stop associating Grammy with her Mystery Mocha dessert. Now that she is gone, this recipe means even more…a little reminder of what was.

 

 

 

When arriving in the small hamlet of West Fairlee, Vermont, one corner market stood. A traveler would see quaint simple houses. Next to the fire station stood my grandparent’s house on a little hill and when you rolled up the sloped gravel driveway, you spied a screened in porch. Amid dusty chairs sat an old forlorn piano, forgotten and well out of tune. All the grandchildren probably tinkered with the keys at one time or another.

 

 

 

This many years later I can still hear the rickety screen door, as if it  was on the set of the television show, The Walton’s. Inside the house you entered in the dining room, where was a huge wooden table that had fed six children at one time and all the visiting relatives through the years. Another prized piano stood beyond, where my Grammy played church hymns on it. This treasure was played often and every once in awhile she played for us.

 

 

The living room had wooden exposed beams, a rustic living space with a few windows to let light in. A long old fashioned radio stood on one wall, which belted out many Red Sox games. My Grammy and Grampa would sit and listen to the radio and play by play well into the seventies. Then years later a television stood there as well, but I think it was never the same to them as the play by play. As kids, we would creep over to Gramps, who would be relaxing on the couch and he would grab us and tickle us. Wth a silly grin and rolled up tongue, he was the tickle master. There were squeals of delight because he was fun and loving.

 
Mystery Mocha cake was often baked for my dad, since it was his favorite. He was her first born, David, and was and still is a chocolate fan. (I think this is where I got my chocolate addiction!) When my parents were married, my mom made it and I’m sure my stepmom makes it as well. Now my sister and I make it from time to time. My sons aren’t used to the rich chocolate taste and since it has coffee in it, they don’t care for it, but my husband likes it well enough and I do too.

 

 

 

It’s as if Grammy’s kitchen comes to life when I make Mystery Mocha, for it’s a family recipe and a reminder of her and our visits to the Doyle house. It does taste the very same, with rich, dark chocolate with a complement of mocha flavor from the double strength coffee. I think it’s more than a recipe but a bit of Grammy’s legacy in every bite!

 
Grammy Doyle’s Mystery Mocha Cake
1 cup flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup cold double strength coffee

Mix dry ingredients. Melt the unsweetened chocolate with the butter. Add the milk and vanilla. Put mixture into greased cake pan and top with the following: brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cocoa. Pour cold coffee over the top. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Serve for family or company. I recommend serving this rich dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream!

An Autumn Tradition in a Country Kitchen💗

This is dedicated to all the bakers out there ,who put their heart and soul in their labor of love, especially my Aunt Sandy who passed away a few years ago.  When I think of my Aunt Sandy, baking with love comes to mind. Her cookies were delicious! She had a special way with baking and gave so much of herself to others. I miss her dearly and know that I’ll see her again someday.

 

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I love aprons and how when I tie one on, I become a baker of yesterday, representing years of aproned mamas baking their hearts out in their comfy warm kitchens.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my antique pot rack. I consider it a country kitchen must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overlooking my work area with bar and all. Dont mind the dirty dishes. That’s a part of baking and will soon be scrubbed.

Traditions of Autumn and Pumpkin Pie

 

 

 

 

Not long ago in the midst of our fall setting I wished to bake a pumpkin pie. Every year when autumn arrives and our world wears its vivacious colors among the crooked branches,  I cook and bake comfort foods. Like many cooks, it’s a celebratory way to accept a new season and welcome frosty winter coming soon. It was to celebrate fall’s gifts to our family.

 

 

 

 

It was a quiet and tranquil Saturday. With my music filling my kitchen and inspiring my soul, I got to work. Twinkling kitchen lights winked at me as I gathered my ingredients. With a hasty snap, on went the the red and white striped apron , that’s when I mean business!

 

 

 

 

 

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This year my pie was very different as I experimented a bit with recipes and substitutions. A few months ago, I learned that I’m lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk and it’s products well. I found a good recipe on Pinterest using brown sugar instead of granulated and was up for a change. Next instead of using evaporated milk, I substituted half milk and half almond milk. I know what you are going to ask, did the almond milk make it watery? Believe it or not, it turned out terrific and I decided not to tell my husband about the changes. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t taste anything wrong until you mention the secret ingredients. So I played the hush game and Tom said it was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever made! Then I enlightened him and he was fine about it.
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Being an old soul and belonging in an old fashioned kitchen, I love the idea of making and rolling out your own pie crust. With that said, can I make a huge confession? I stink at making good pie crust and I’ve discussed this with my mother -in-law many times. It always comes out crumbly and hard to manage, let alone cover a pie plate with. This time I cheated with a Pillsbury pie crust and it was great! There are occasions I try making my own. Thanksgiving is coming up and I’ll make the monumental effort to achieve a good pie crust all by myself!

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t the beaming light rays transform my pie into something majestic and angelic? He hee, I love this photograph as it depicts my magical feelings for baking in my kitchen, in my home. Baking for me is more than the mixing and molding your goodies to a delicious product. It’s being made in my country kitchen in the peaceful light of my surroundings with my oven and spatial counter space. It’s the heavenly scents wafting in the room and reaching our living area, enough for our cats to wake up and investigate. When I bake I’m transformed to the olden days where mamas spent days by the crackling stoves and hungry husbands came in from the barns with a smile and loving wink. It’s almost like I go inside a farmhouse from long ago and live that simple life for a bit.

 

Happy baking to all mamas and papas out there! This is a simple reminder to live in the joyful moments of your loving labors, whatever they made be.😉

 

 

 

 

From my country kitchen to yours!

All My Best,
Heart and Soul ❤️

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce🍅🍅🍅

 

 

Every Fall season I look forward to walking among my tomato plants, spying red and ripe fruit. With vim and vigor I snap them off the vine and dream of making delicious homemade spaghetti sauce. Most years I make endless batches, a weekend project lasting well into October. I relish harvesting these Crimson beauties and lining them up on my counter to see. Once they ripen and age a bit, it’s time to get to work!

 

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Where it all started

 

I put them tenderly in a hot bath and boil for a few minutes. You can tell when it’s time because the peelings will start to give in the water. Next I drain them and place in a cold water bath. Sit them in the bath for a minute or two. This helps peeling the skins easily. Peel the tomatoes and discard skins. Put tomatoes in blender or food processor to purée. Sometimes I skip this step for  a chunky sauce and I figure it will cook down.

 

 

Dice green pepper ( if you’re lucky you’ll have some garden ones, mine didn’t grow this year…beautiful healthy plants bearing one sacred pepper) and onion. Add tomatoes and a few cans of tomato sauce or jarred spaghetti sauce to thicken. This is kind of cheating but is homemade with the fresh tomatoes. I’ve added fresh carrots and zucchini before, a splash of olive oil and a tablespoon of sugar if you don’t add the carrots. Don’t forget the chopped fresh basil! Yummy!

 

 

 

Simmer an hour and shut off. Let set for awhile and then simmer again for 45 minutes. Let set. I do this in stages and have had great results. I usually save a portion for dinner that night and scoop into freezer containers. Let cool. Freeze and label.

 

 

It’s a great staple for pasta or eggplant parmigiana and is refreshing to find in the freezer in the dead of winter. It’s a gift tasting your harvest a few months later, some motivation to plant again in the spring!

 

While I’m knee deep in homemade sauce I’m thinking of possible other tomato uses. Do you have any ideas?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

Green Bean Glory

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Gorgeous green bean plants early on, with not much spacing.

 

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There’s nothing fresher than picking for dinner minutes before.

 

 

Two thick rows of green bean plants stretch across my garden, very close to the middle. Every year I vow to plant with keeping ample space in mind and then the idea gets lost….so once again there’s no room between plants, which is okay because they still will produce nice beans. Yet if you are an experienced gardener you’ll know that the space is vital for drying. If you plant too close together it takes much longer to do this. It rained two days ago and yesterday was kind of cloudy so when I ventured out to the patch to pick beans, I couldn’t. They are still wet and we all know that’s taboo to pick when the leaves are wet because it will rust the rest of the beans. Sometimes I’m impatient and end up with rusty beans anyway! Even though there is a lesson to be learned, the beans look healthy when I snap them off the plant.

 

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Green rich fibrous beans, just the right size and grown in my backyard! Amazing and how gratifying! I love the fact that you can eat them raw or cooked a bit. At an early age my son Dylan would pick and eat them right from the plant. Just the other day I washed and sent some beauties home with him. They didn’t even last the trip and all Lexie found was an empty plastic bag!

 

 

Right now I’m thick in the green bean season and I share with my son and his girlfriend, friends and family and incorporate them in my menus a few times a week.Tasting them at dinner as a fresh side dish, I’ve learned over the years to hardly cook them so they snap with every bite.  Some ways I use green beans:

The other night I diced potatoes and fried them with onion and garlic. Once the potatoes were cooked, I threw the beans in just to cook for a minute or two. It was delicious!

Who doesn’t love a nice colorful healthy stirfry with fresh garden veggies? In summer I make one with green beans, squash, basil, green pepper, onion,mushrooms and broccoli. I serve it with rice pilaf or spaghetti noodles. It’s delicious!

Throw fresh green beans into a  tossed salad, with beef instead of broccoli or sautéed with olive oil and slivered almonds.

Fresh garden green beans are delicious however you prepare them. If you don’t have a garden, visit your local farmer’s market and support local growers.Now is the time to frequent these markets and veggie stands while fresh organic grown food awaits! It’s important we all do that instead of buying all our produce at a chain supermarket.

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul