Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Holiday Leftover" Ham-n-Bean Soup

     I call my ham n bean soup "Holiday Leftover" due to it being a delicious way to utilize those containers of left over veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy that you have in your fridge following your holiday meal. Typically I make a pretty large size ham for both Easter and Christmas, and since my family is small, I make 2 cans of corn, 2 cans of some bean, like string beans or baby limas, and 5lb. of mashed potatoes. After dinner I cut up a moderate amount of ham to be eaten for sandwiches or however preferred, and I leave a hefty amount of ham on the bone. The day after the holiday is soup making day lol. 

     As usual, I use a very large stock pot because soup leftovers ROCK for several days! Start by placing your ham bone with meat into the pot, fill it with hot water, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered several hours. Let the water cook down a fair amount. While waiting, chop 4 medium onions into 1 1/2" chunks, and slice up 5 both large carrots and celery stalks. Remove ham and bone from broth and place it into a large mixing bowl to cool. Add your raw ingredients and bring to a boil again, then reduce to a simmer. Add 2 LARGE cans of white northern beans and 2 large cans of pinto beans...juice and all goes in. Now the fun part...get those leftover veggies and things out of your fridge...dump in your corn, limas or what-have-you type of beans, left over gravy and YES even your left over mashed potatoes! These will melt down and add much richness to your broth! Continue to simmer. I don't typically add salt to ham soup, but I do add pepper...about 2 tsp. I don't like to over power ham n bean soup with any other types of seasonings since this dish has such a wonderful taste just standing alone.

     All that's left to do is to separate all your ham from the bone, cutting or ripping into smallish size chunks and removing fat and tough skin segments. (After the bone cools, treat your dog to this flavorful treat :-D) Add the ham to the soup and when all veggies are tender, your soup is done! Enjoy Enjoy!

Ingredient list: baked ham bone with meat
                 4 med-lg onions
                 5 large carrots
                 5 celery stalks
                 2 lg. cans North.White beans
                 2 lg. cans Pinto beans
                 left over corn, beans
                 left over mashed potatoes
                 left over gravy
                 2 tsp. pepper         


Thursday, December 20, 2012

POEM: There's Something About Soup

There's Something About Soup

I remember a fairy tale from my childhood
and it created the love
of making soup.
Someone placed
a plain pot
of water over the fire
added a big stone
and stirred it with a carrot
an onion
and a potato.
It became soup somehow.
I've always wanted
to look into that pot
to taste it's treasure
to witness the transformation
from earth
to food.
There's just something about soup.
It's as easy as the fairy tale.

-K.Q.F. 4/23/03

Slashing Your Grocery Bill

          If you've got a hungry family to feed, you know how quickly a trip to the grocery store can sap all the life out of your wallet. There are though, dozens of ways to slash that grocery bill. All it takes is to be aware of basic shopping strategies, as well as the ploys stores use to get you, the consumer, to spend more than you have to.
          Number one rule heard time and again:Don't shop without a list. The time it takes to plan your meals and make a list not only saves money but time as well. You'll be much less likely to buy things you do not need, and won't forget the things you do. First, sit down with your grocery circular in front of you, and plan the weeks menus around the current sales. Then make your list as you go. When you get to the store do not fall victim to the ole' "bait and switch". If the sale item is out of stock, be sure to get a rain check to be honored by the store at a later time.
          Shop at the right time. Shop early in the morning or late at night. First thing at opening time many stores reduce much of the meat from the previous day. 24 hour stores do this at 12:01AM. When you shop early or late, you also simply have a better shopping experience, with no crowds and long lines. The bakery is a great place to practice end of day purchasing, as items are reduced then in preparation for the next day's baked goods to arrive or be baked.
          Stocking up can be another money saver. When items are on sale, buy a few at the good price. Resist doing this with produce though, unless you are sure you will use it or can freeze it. A good investment if you have room for it is an extra freezer. Extra meat and frozen goods bought on sale can be kept, as well as extra cooked meals made from items bought in bulk. This saves cooking on hurried nights too. Another handy tool is a vacuum sealer, also good for sealing up portions of food bought in quantity for later use.
          There's alot of truth to the old adage, "Don't shop on an empty stomach." Eat a meal before your shopping trip or you may find yourself impulsively filling your cart with all sorts of tempting goodies. Try to do your shopping before that nasty PMS hits too. Avoid snacks and treats at the check-out or at the ends of the isles. They are almost always very overpriced. Other items are over priced as well, things such as snacks in zip-top bags and other fancy packaging. Forgo the frills. Your brands without the fancy packaging are cheaper. Also, just because something is a bigger size, does not mean it's a better bargain. Sometimes it is, but you must stop and notice the price per unit portion of the store shelf price sticker. Take notice also to the number of ounces in a package. Sometimes packages are odd shaped, or tall, and appear to hold more than they really do. You in turn may pay the higher price thinking you are getting more for your money when really you are not. It is more economical also, to buy 2 or 3 liter bottles of soda, which can often cost a mere 79-99 cents. Generally speaking, cans and small individual serve bottles of soda cost far more. One exception is when 12-packs go on sale for 3 to 5 for $10.
          Cleaning items can sap your budget quickly. You do not need a different cleaner for every surface and room in your house. One good antibacterial cleaner, some ammonia and pine cleaner are enough. Vinegar and water works wonders for glass and windows. Although liquid soaps are trendy and smell nice, the best bargain will always be bar soap. Don't write off the discount stores and dollar stores. Cleaning products, as well as boxed and canned food items, are dirt cheap there.
          You need to be aware of your store's offers and policies. Know your deals and what they mean. For example, 10 for $10 usually does not mean you must buy that many. You can buy 1 for $1 as well. Ask at your store to be sure. Search out the markdown shelf too, usually located in the back of the store. Things there sometimes sell for pennies just due to a dented can or peeling label. Courtesy cards also mean saved money, as much as a dollar off a single item just for having a card to scan. Some stores also give coupons with their receipts. Still other stores offer dollars off your order each time you reach a certain amount spent there. Be sure not to waste more gas looking for bargains at particular stores than it is worth in saved money. 
          Buying "easy to prepare" items and convenience foods is a source of great spending also. It's cheaper to prepare foods yourself. Take note of what items are inexpensive at different stores that you frequent, and throughout the course of a month you can cycle through the different stores picking up the items you need.
        Growing your own veggies saves money, and depending on the size of the space you can garden, it can be a nice amount of savings. A packet of seeds costing a dollar can yield twenty or more dollars worth of veggies. Of course, this isn't an endeavor for the lazy...a garden requires a lot of work! Growing my own herbs has proved especially rewarding...using my own fresh herbs in recipes is thrilling to me!
          It is certainly worth your while to plan your menus, make lists, and shop with an eye for bargains. Doing the bulk of your grocery shopping at a discount chain or outlet type store, frees up money for other things your family needs. You can eat smarter and less costly by following these tips.

Mean Hot Chunky Chili Con Carne

My specialty being soups of all kinds, the thing they all have in common, is that they have big, luscious chunks of vegetables and meat in them. I just couldn't have it any other way. I tend to put all my health conscious ideas on the back burner, and concentrate on taste that keeps people coming back time and again to fill their bowl. Soups are also so much fun to make, as well as an excellent way to introduce cooking to kids!
My Mean Hot Chunky Chili con Carne is easy to make and takes 1 hour from start to finish (not counting some simmer time) and starts with a huge stock pot that holds at least 20-24 qts. Keep in mind that you can cut down all the ingredients to fit the pot and amount of chili you would like to make. So, getting back to the chili, I crumble 6 lb. of lean ground beef into the pot and begin cooking on low and stirring occasionally. Next I chop my veggies. You can do this ahead if you wish, but it always works out fine for me this way. I chop 2 large green peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, all into bite-size strips. Don't dice them small or they whither away to soft little nothings. Place them in the pot and stir with the frying meat. Next, four medium to large onions, chopped in chunks, and added to the meat. I wish I had a secret to add here about keeping your eyes from watering, but I just haven't figured that one out yet, and after trying all the little advice tidbits about it, frankly they just don't work. If you're sensitive to onions, you will cry like a baby at this point. Next are the jalapeno peppers. I use about six medium size peppers and these I slice as thin as I can possibly get them. I like to use the green ones, but the red are just as tasty. Add these as well and continue stirring. By now the meat should be browning quite nicely and the veggies softening up. The scrumptious aroma of peppers and onions is filling your kitchen. Now my health nut blooper...the cholesterol watchers will be asking if they should drain the meat. NO! Sorry folks, but since we are using lean meat, we are keeping our grease right where it the soup. It has taken on the very taste of the beginnings of chili now and to discard it would be a mistake.
Now we are ready to add our canned ingredients, providing the meat is thoroughly browned. Remember this is a huge pot, so my amounts of beans will look large too. Here we go. Open and add a large 28-32 oz. can of both light red kidney beans and great northern white beans. Add 1 or 2 small cans of dark red kidney beans. Next, add 1 can of corn, juice and all, and 2 large cans of diced tomatoes. As a side note, you could dice about 6 large tomatoes instead of the canned, but I find it keeps fuss and mess to a minimum to use canned tomatoes. So...stir all this together. Now we are ready for the makings of the broth, which will simply be a vessel to carry the chunky veggies and the chili taste. Add 2 large cans of tomato sauce, a large jar of speghetti sauce in whatever flavor strikes you as delicious, a medium can of tomato paste and a can of tomato soup. Mix well. If you find you need more juice in the chili, add more tomato products.
If you were to taste it now, it is certainly a treat already, but we need to add chili powder, and lots of it. For this huge pot of chili, I stir in 1 to 2 containers of chili powder. Keep in mind that you must stir and taste, stir and taste, as you add the chili powder, as everyones preference is different. Remember we already added jalepeno peppers as well, and they are cooking into every fiber of our chili. When you are satisfied with the taste, it is time to just leave it to simmer on the stove for about at least 2 hrs. Again, I emphasize that this recipe is designed for the large stock pot that I used, but it is possible to down size the amount made.
Serving your chili should be more than just slopping it into bowls, although thats what you may find your family doing as they come back for more and more. Try sprinkling shredded cheddar cheese over the bowls of chili and serving with fresh Italian bread and sweet butter. At the bakery you can get various types of bread shaped in balls that you hollow out to make "bread bowls" to serve your chili in, and the ripped out centers can be buttered bite-size or dipped into the soup. And here is a favorite way of mine to prepare and eat 2 servings of my chili for a hearty meal: boil 1 1/2 cups of water. Melt 2 slices of American cheese into the water and remove from heat as soon as it is melted. Add 1 1/2 cups of minute rice, stir and cover for 6 minutes. When the liquid is absorbed, serve the "cheese rice" onto plates and top with chili. Mmm Mmm Good!
Ingredient List for large stock pot of Mean Hot Chunky Chili con carne
6 lb. lean ground beef
2 large green peppers
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
4 medium to large onions
6 medium jalepeno peppers any color you like
28-32 oz. can light red kidney beans
28-32 oz. can great northern white beans
2 small cans dark red kidney beans
1 can of corn
2 large cans diced tomatoes (or 6 fresh diced tomatoes if you prefer)
2 large cans tomato sauce
1 large jar speghetti sauce any flavor
1 medium can tomato paste
1 can tomato soup
1-2 containers chili powder
shredded cheddar cheese
fresh Italian bread and butter


Kath's Spicy Crock Pot Mac n Cheese

First is pictured on the top of my blog...
Spicy Crock Pot Mac n Cheese...relatively easy to make and very tasty...perfect for the cold Winter months upon us...

One of the joys I find in cooking is that it is a great way to spend mother/son son Nick loves fact he did almost all of the physical prep except for cutting and slicing...


Kath's Spicy Crock Pot Mac n Cheese

2 c. elbows
1/2 stick butter
1 c. grated cheddar Jack
1 c. grated extra Sharp
1 egg
1 c. sour cream
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 c. milk
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. black pepper
1 small onion chopped tiny but not minced
1 tsp. garlic salt or powder (according to your want for salt)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or ground red pepper)
1 or 2 large ripe tomatoes chopped into 1" chunks

In saucepan melt grated cheeses, butter and canned cheese soup, together until smooth. In crock pot, place uncooked elbows, and mix in all other ingredients except tomatoes. When well mixed, blend in cheese. Again blend well. Last, stir in tomato chunks. Cook on medium 2 1/2 hrs and stir occasionally. Enjoy... and be prepared for ppl to ask you to share the recipe with them :-D


Welcome to my cooking blog!

    So last night I was thinking about all the many recipes I've invented and shared...and how yummy they all were if I must say so myself, and so I decided to start a blog so that they can all be collected and shared, along with my cooking experiences, food articles I write, and efforts at gardening and using my own herbs and veggies!

Its going to take some time to sift through and post everything, but little by little I'll get there!

I'm very excited about it, and I hope you will follow!!