Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Sausage at Home!

My mother asked me recently if I still had the grinder attachment that she gave me to use with my KitchenAid Mixer. I looked, and found it in the bottom of my pantry - the same place I put it when she gave it to me! So, I decided that I needed to use it, but wasn't sure what for. So, my search began and I finally decided that I wanted to make sausage! I found a recipe online that had rave reviews and decided to try it. I purchased an 8 pound pork shoulder on sale for 78 cents a pound. I had read that they are the best cut to use for sausage because it has a good amount of fat content. You can also use turkey or venison, which I'd like to try next! I had to purchase a couple of the spices as well because I didn't have them.

I woke up Sunday morning in the mood to make the sausage! I hooked the grinder attachment up to the KitchenAid, which was very easy even though there were several different parts. Then I called my dear husband into the kitchen to cut the pork into pieces. We ground the pieces coarsely, and in a matter of minutes, we had about 8 pounds of ground pork. I mixed the spices in a bowl while the sausage was grinding. I then spread all the ground pork out onto a cookie sheet and sprinkled the spice mixture on the pork and mixed very well.

Since we were planning to freeze this sausage, we decided to roll the sausage into "logs" so that we can just easily cut slices when we are ready to cook it. I rolled it in wax paper and then placed it in a freezer bag. Each log was about 1 1/3 pounds. It would take a little more time, but you could go ahead and make patties and freeze those. I cooked some of the sausage yesterday morning, and it was delicious! The kids loved it, too! The flavor is perfect...not too bland, not too spicy. If you like spicier sausage, which I sometimes do, you can add a little more red pepper. So, here's the recipe for this fabulous sausage...

2 lbs ground pork, venison, or turkey
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 pinch ground cloves

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Class Food - The beginning of our Jamaica experience

Why is it that food makes everything better?

In August, I finally conquered my biggest fear – flying on an airplane. I always said that if I flew, it would be because someone knocked me out and drug me on the plane! Well, I’ve also always wanted to go to Jamaica. So, when my husband told me that I could choose anywhere I wanted to go for our honeymoon, I began pondering the idea of going to Jamaica. First of all, I considered sticking to a boat and cruising there, but once I started looking at the beautiful resorts in Jamaica, I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I would have to be brave and get on that plane. So, we booked a week-long stay at Sunset at the Palms in Negril, Jamaica. At this point, I knew there was no turning back!!

I was so stressed up until the day of our wedding, I barely even thought about flying. (Details about our wedding will come later.) So, on the morning of August 2nd, I woke up and reality hit. I grew very nervous as I realized that I was actually going to get on a plane in a couple of hours. My husband comforted me (it was his first time on a plane, too) and we headed to the airport. I knew that our first flight was only a commuter flight and wouldn’t last very long, so I got through that flight pretty easily. The next flight was from Atlanta, Georgia to Montego Bay, Jamaica. This time, I knew we’d be flying over the ocean and it would be a longer flight. As we lined up to board the plane, we handed the lady our boarding passes and she shredded them and handed us each another one. We didn’t pay it very much attention and proceeded to board the plane. This plane was much larger than the small commuter plane we were on before. As we stepped onto the plane, the flight attendant directed us to the left. We were a little confused, so we looked down at our passes. We were in seats 1C and 1D in First Class! This was much nicer than being at the back of the plane. I felt a little less nervous because I was so close to the pilot.

After the plane took off, the flight attendants started making their way down the aisle. They closed the curtain behind us and started asking if we would like any mimosa, champagne, or orange juice. (We had never heard of mimosa, so we opted for the orange juice, but we found out later on in the week what it was). Once the drinks were served, to our surprise, breakfast was served! Wow! This just made our day! Any nervousness that I had was gone because I was so excited over the food! This food wasn’t spectacular, but when you are thousands of feet above the ground and nervous because you are braving your biggest fear, it’s the best thing since fried chicken! I’m sure everyone thought we were a little strange because we took pictures of our food, each one of us holding it, pictures of us together holding it, and so on! We didn’t care what they thought; we were having the times of our lives!

I’m posting one of our photos of the breakfast. As you can see, we were served a bagel with cream cheese, jelly, and butter, cheerios and milk, a bowl of fruit, and yogurt. I really enjoyed the fruit dipped in the yogurt. My husband seemed to enjoy his Cheerios.

We still can’t figure out how we were bumped up to first class, but we have already decided that it’s worth paying a little more for a first class ticket!

Baby, it's cold outside!

There is something about the transition from warm weather to cold weather that gives me a craving for nice, hot vegetable soup! We don't really have a fall here in the Carolinas. It might be 80 degrees one day and 30 the next! It started getting colder on Sunday, so my craving for Vegetable soup began! Monday night, I decided to cook it, and we ate it for two days! I also had enough to fill a quart size freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This soup freezes very well. When you are ready to eat it, just thaw it, place it in a pot, add a little chicken broth (or vegetable broth), and heat it up! I always get compliments on my vegetable soup, and it’s easy-peasy because I use all canned vegetables! If I’m trying to impress and have more time (and money) on my hands, I’ll use fresh vegetables, but this is my quick and easy vegetable soup recipe! Served alone, it will feed at least 8 people, but it would probably serve about 15 if served with sandwiches. The entire pot will cost you about $15, so for less that $2 a person, this is definitely a low budget meal! Hope you enjoy!

Vegetable Soup

2 lbs. ground beef (or more if desired)
2-28 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
3-11 oz. cans of tomato soup
2-15 oz. cans of mixed vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, lima beans)
1-15 oz. can of whole kernel corn
1-15 oz. can of cut green beans
Basil (about 1 Tbsp)
Onion Powder (about 1 tsp)
Sugar (about 3 Tbsp)
Seasoning (I use a Creole seasoning that I use in almost everything)

1. Place ground beef in stock pot and begin to brown.
2. Add Basil, Onion Powder, and Garlic Powder to the ground beef and continue to brown. (When time isn’t an issue, I use fresh onion and garlic instead, but it needs to be sautéed before being added to ground beef)
3. Drain ground beef if desired. (I usually use at least 85% ground beef and I don’t always drain it)
4. The fun part…Open the cans and dump all of the ingredients into the pot with the meat (don't drain).
5. Add the sugar, seasoning, salt and pepper. (I usually just add these to taste. Don’t leave out the sugar (unless you need to omit sugar from your diet)…it really offsets the bitterness of the tomato soup and it’s what makes this soup so delicious!)
6. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. The longer, the better. I use a crock pot whenever possible.
7. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome home recipe trial: Marble Cream Cheese Cake

Welcome Home Hubby...

My husband was out of town last week, and since we missed him so much, I decided to bake a cake for him and have the children draw pictures for him so that he would be surprised when he got home. I also planned to have the house entirely clean, but with all the halloween parties and scouts and church, I didn't quite accomplish that goal! I decided to try a recipe that I recently found on the food blog, House of Annie. It looked delicious, and since we love chocolate and cream cheese, I decided to give it a try.

Annie's recipe actually came from another website, which is linked from her blog. The measurements are given in grams, which I attempted to convert to U.S. measurements. With that said, the recipe is not exact, but I will share my converted version.

Marble Cream Cheese Cake

6 oz. butter
1 cup granulated sugar (it calls for castor sugar but my results were good with granulated)
3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I added more than the original recipe called for)
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (This was not included in the original recipe, but I added them to one half of the cake batter and it turned out very good)

For the cream cheese layer:

8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup powdered sugar (Annie recommends not using powder sugar, but it worked well for this layer)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg

1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs one at a time.
3. Add sifted cocoa, flour, and baking powder. (she didn't mention sifting, but I think it's important that it is sifted)
4. Divide this batter if half.
5. Add chocolate chips to half of the batter if desired.
6. Prepare Cream Cheese Layer: Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and egg. Beat well.
7. Pour 1/2 of the chocolate mixture in greased 8" round pan. (I poured the half with the chocolate chips in first)
8. Pour Cream Cheese layer on top of that layer.
9. Pour remaing 1/2 of the chocolate mixture on top, covering all of the cream cheese layer.
10. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. (I reduced the temperature because I bake most of my cakes at 325, and it worked perfectly)

This recipe makes one 8" round layer.

What we thought....

Five people ended up tasting this cake and this is what we thought of it...
The cake was good and very moist. We are big time chocolate lovers, and this cake didn't have enough chocolate in it, even with the chocolate chips added. Next time I will try adding 1/3 cup of cocoa powder. I may even try adding the chips to all of the chocolate mixture. However, we all agreed that this cake would be perfect with a cup of coffee or even hot chocolate just the way it is. You wouldn't need the extra chocolate in it then. If you like eating something sweet in the morning...this is for you! It's just sweet enough...I don't like a very sweet cake and the sweetness factor was perfect! This recipe is a keeper!!


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