With love from Croatia

croatian-meat-pieSaturday night we were invited to dinner at a friend’s house as a kind of last minute thing. I’ll never be the same. Our hostess’ mother was visiting from Germany. She’s originally from Croatia. This woman cooked a FEAST for ten of us. I’m really not a foodie kind of person. I eat because you need to eat but, I’m kind of indifferent to most meals. No longer. I am packing my bags and either going home with Croatian mom or moving to Croatia.

Now I need to know who has these recipes? The Croatian mom was so sweet but did not speak much English and was totally engrossed in her nearly 2-year-old granddaughter to be dictating recipes. We had some kind of soup with potatoes, pork and beef.  There was an appetizer made from thin flaky dough that I gathered when rolled out covered the sizable kitchen island. This was stuffed with spicy meat and/or potatoes – there were two kinds. My favorite thing was stuffed cabbage.

Yeah, I’ve had stuffed cabbage a million times – the Irish way. This is not Irish stuffed cabbage – though, it would be good with a Guiness. I have no idea what was in this broth/sauce. There was tomato but it was not remotely Italian. Seriously, people, I’m drooling as I type. Mike and I actually dueled with our spoons of the last bits of sauce – thank God we found the bread before blood was drawn and were able to get the very last bits of sauce sopped up. Every plate that went into the dishwasher that night was clean. I just can’t stop thinking about it.

If any of you know anything about Croatian food, clue me in. I’ve googled but nothing looks quite right. Croatian mom leaves in another week. After that, I’ll call and nag our hostess but, she doesn’t see her mom a lot and I don’t want to be a pest. I just want all the leftovers. NOW.

Clarification

20160827_181836I said I was going to post everyday in September.  And, I will. However, since most of my days end when a new day has officially started, it might appear I’m cheating. I’m not. You will get my September 30 post on October 1 just as you are getting my September 2 post on September 3.  Are we good? Let’s start with my cow, Dolores. I know she’s not original as I picked her up at Hobby Lobby but . . . she’s made my kitchen so happy. Look how happy she was on the ride home?

I don’t know that I’ve been interesting today but I have been productive. We were in the tail end of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hermine.  First of all, what kind of name is that? Just add the vowel and call it Hermione.  Anyway, lots of rain and a bit of wind. Perfect day for napping and lounging. I resisted.

I emptied the freezers and took an inventory. Then, I went through the pantry/cupboards and took another inventory. I used to be so on top of this stuff. While we were selling the house and then after the move, I let things run down and started grocery shopping willy-nilly.  Yes, I said it.  WILLY. NILLY.  It’s time to stop the insanity.

20160903_004347I now have printable lists to work from. I cooked about 10 lbs of black beans today (and bagged them for the freezer) because I am horrified to note that I’ve been paying $1 a can for those puppies. I also printed out and specifically shopped for 10 freezer meals. Note, freezer meals – not cooked.  So, flip me a fish. I have 12 gallon bags of black beans and 10 meals that I can just dump into the crock pot when I need them.

I should note that the 10 freezer meals – which, aside from spices and two pound of chicken thighs – I bought today, I spent just over $75.  Not bad for four people (all eating adult portions). If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. I was able to make these meals in the time I spent watching a Harry Potter movie – about 2.5 hours.

This weekend, the plan is to get the pantry stocked up to a point that I’m not sending Andy to the grocery store for one ingredient multiple times a week.  We’ll see how that goes. We’ll see how the budget holds up. I used to be really good at this. I know, though, that it takes a bit to get back up to speed.  I hate having to go back to square one but, I guess this is as good a time as any.

Okay, not that interesting but, I managed to post. On the horizon?  I’m going to attend an orientation (I think) to be a poll worker for the November election. I’m weird (if you haven’t noticed). I love election day. I love going to the polls. I love talking to  other voters. I don’t care if we agree or not. I love meeting people who value our right to vote. And, heck, why can’t I love it AND get paid for it?

*&^%&^$#@#!#$%

What IS that smell?  That would be what I thought was going to be chili for dinner. Will I never learn to label the stuff in my freezer?  It sure looked like ground meat when I pulled it out, stuck it in the pan, added my carefully cooked beans and spices.  In the past thirty minutes, it’s become abundantly clear that that was NOT just ground meat.  It was the filling I use for runzas.  Runzas (runzae?) are delicious.  Runza filling (ground meat and cabbage mostly) with beans and chili powder and cumin and assorted other spices not so delicious.  I am loathe to toss food, but I may actually get one of the boys to dig a hole out back and bury the whole pot.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get the smell out of the kitchen.  *&&^%&*$*#(#^@^(%&

My family LOVES the cool weather . . .


When things cool off here and I can actually open windows and smell real air, I generally get inspired to cook and bake. We live in Florida, so these opportunities are rare and unusual.

It’s cooled off here to the point where we’re all freezing in the morning. Sure, we could close the windows, but where is the fun in that? Last night, surprise, I was up late. I stuck this recipe in the crockpot. YUM! Nothing like crawling out of bed to a ready-made hot-delicious breakfast. I didn’t take a picture because it’s NOT a pretty breakfast.

APPLE OATMEAL (4-5 servings)
(as usual, I tripled this and it worked fine)
2 c. milk
2 T. honey
1 T. butter (no substitutions!!!!)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. dry old-fashioned oats (in the crock pot the quick oats will dissolve into a nasty mush)
1 c. chopped apples (peeled and cored)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (I didn’t use these, they make my teeth itchy!)
2 T. brown sugar

1) Mix together all ingredients in greased slow cooker.
2) Cover. Cook on Low 5-6 hours. (If your slow cooker has a “Keep Warm” option you can use that and cook for about 8 hours.)
3) Serve with milk, yogurt or ice cream. (I won’t tell my kids about the ice cream part if you don’t!)

Tonight, another frigid Florida night – I think it’s down to 58 or so. I made some Cinnamon Buns. OH OH OH . . . I got the recipe here at Recipe Zaar . For sure this is a special occasion recipe. At least it’s special occasion if you have no reason to kill your family off with sticks of butter. Still . . . the dough is just amazingly silky. Did I mention butter? Ahhh. . . I smell a new Christmas morning breakfast.

Gardening 101


We are currently having PERFECT weather! This is the part about living in Florida that I love. I think today’s high might have been 70. Jeans AND barefeet! It’s enough to make you forget about May-September.

Andy has grown so much since last year that he no longer has pants, just manpri’s. I think he’s really looking forward to our upcoming shopping trip. All I had to do to convince him was promise NOT to run him over in the parking lot. (See post below if you don’t get it.) The older boys have grown, but they’re old enough that I can just send them out on their own to find things that fit. (Let’s just hope they’ve outgrown pantsing mannequins.)

I spent a large part of the afternoon weeding the garden and listening to The Lost Constitution on my I-pod. I’m not entirely in love with the audio version I’m listening to, but the story is interesting, so I’m sticking with it. It’s a combination of a modern mystery and a historical novel. Fun concept. I think I’ll read his other books rather than listen, though.

Now, gardening has never been my thing, but it is fast becoming something I love. Funny how NO ONE approaches me when I’m out there. I don’t think it’s related to me asking for help as soon as someone shows up to tell me “just one thing,” do you? Either way, it’s very peaceful. It helps that everything is growing – well most everything. I’m encouraged. I planted a ton of stuff to see what would grow and what wouldn’t. About 75% is growing. So far no critter problems, but we’re going to have to think about a fence or something soon. I’m just sticking the pictures we took today into this post randomly so you get an idea.

Ian and I made French Onion Soup for dinner tonight. Lots of weeping, lots of carmelizing of onions. Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 10. A small cup of the soup (topped with a crusty slice of french bread with melted provolone) would be perfect. A big bowl? Not this recipe – it was too sweet and the boys complained about the strong taste of wine. Oh well, can’t win them all. Good thing we had the cheese bread and a big salad. No one starved. If anyone has a good recipe for onion soup, please share!

Finally, I picked up a bunch (6 lbs) of MacIntosh apples today at Aldi’s – great price, I think it was $1.19/3 lb bag. Tim found this apple in the bowl a few hours ago. You can imagine the joy the butt apple brought our family. :::sigh::: The worst part is, these boys are all going to leave one day and I’m still going to be sitting here laughing at this kind of thing. It’s pathetic!

What comes after finally? Well, this is it – whatever it’s called. We’ve been watching the HBO movie John Adams via Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. The casting is great and the movie is an honest behind-the-scenes look at the American Revolution and its aftermath. We’re about half-way through. We’ve all been watching and everyone is still interested. Even Andy has been watching, though, he’s spent many minutes under a blanket when things get graphic.

And, now, you know as much about my weekend as I do. Hope you all had a good weekend too!

Weekend Update

OK, I’m not Jane Curtain, but this is almost as exciting and I will never call you an ignorant slut (unless you deserve it).

I can’t wait to get out and take pictures of the garden tomorrow. I’m amazed at how much and how quickly things are growing out there! We FINALLY got some cooler weather (it’s a bitter 58 outside right now – compared to the midnight temp of 85 on Wednesday night!) and it seems to have perked up the garden.

In the meantime, it quickly became apparent that I am incapable of building a telegraph machine a al the Great Civil War Projects book. Fortunately, Dan was interested and he stepped in to help. Today Mike and Andy spent a fair bit of the morning perfecting things. We need more wire, but we can now send Morse code to someone in the next chair. It’s pretty cool actually.

I had the boys dig out the Halloween decorations this afternoon. I spent this evening taping together my favorite Halloween book. I think we’ve had it since Dan’s first Halloween. Everyone still gets excited when we take it out. It’s a pop-up book that folds out into a kind of house – it’s so much fun.

I made sure to decorate my computer desk to keep me in the spirit – I love my ghost, light-up pumpkin. Hanging above my screen (no picture, but stay tuned) is my beloved sock-monkey ghost. It’s just the most ridiculous thing ever. Makes me happy.

Zombie-Tim-thing update. Mike and Tim went out last night to shop for queen-sized panty hose. Yes, Mike was delighted and surprised. Here are some pictures of my laundry table. :::sniff::: It’s become the alien autopsy table or something. I’m afraid to go out there alone – y’all should be amazed and impressed by these pictures. It’s not done yet … I am dreading whatever Step Three is . . .

In other news, the three older boys spent the evening at the girl-that-is-a-friend’s house. It’s her birthday and she had a party. Ian made her eclairs as a gift. Yes, you can actually make eclairs – who knew? They were amazing – we taste-tested for Ian. I’m not a fan of coffee, but these had a coffee based cream/butter filling, fluffy dough around it and dark, bittersweet chocolate on top. OH MY. I’m now up waiting for the boys to arrive home safely – I hate that friend-that-is-a-girl lives so far away. No pictures of the eclairs – ummm … we ate them too fast. Trust me, though, they were beautiful.

That’s about it for this post. We’re enjoying wearing clothing with sleeves and long legs and being our weird selves this weekend. (It feels normal to me, but I don’t think a lot of people spend their time this way.)

Oh wait!!!! I got a new mop. I love it! Not only is it pink, it’s washable and it works. I’ve been wrestling with my old mop for months. I’d forgotten how essentially quick and easy mopping the floors can be. (Once again, I’m asking someone, anyone to send me a life!)

Evolution of a Zombie . . .

So, the skeleton/zombie thing evolves. It’s currently spread on my laundry table “drying.” Imagine Mike’s joy and delight when Tim asked him to drive him to the store to buy some Queen-sized panty hose after dinner tonight. Mike looked to me for help, I, unfortunately was busy with something and couldn’t help him out. Bummer, huh? Tim took a picture of the zombie thing, but I cannot find it in my computer. Trust me, it’s freaky and I am not doing laundry again until that thing is far away from my washing machine.

Inspired by my parents’ recent trip to Paris and the movie Julie/Julia, I made Coq au Vin this evening. It was delicious, but it was a lot of work. Mike and the boys scarfed it up (and gave me the extra mushrooms), though. I think, now that I’ve done it, it won’t be so involved the next time. Up next on our French cooking? Ian and I are going to give Onion Soup a shot this weekend (provided the weather folks are right and it finally DOES cool down here).

We’re plugging along with school – everyone is doing well, but nothing too inspired this year yet. I hate that. Dan and Andy have plans to build a Civil War type telegraph machine tomorrow, though. Hope springs eternal. They’re both excited about it – they spent a good two hours at Lowe’s today getting supplies and asking questions. Cross your fingers the thing works and makes actual noise! Andy has grand plans of hooking all of his neighborhood friends into a telegraph network if it does.

I hope everyone else is having a good week. Happy Friday!

(I’m going to look one more time for the zombie picture, and then I’m going to bed!)

You MUST make this . . .


I tried a new Macaroni and Cheese recipe tonight. THIS is the keeper. It’s cheesy and delicious, but the spices and other additions make it not-too-cheesy. Seriously delicious stuff. Personally, I think the addition of some nicely sauteed mushrooms would make this even better. Sadly, no one here likes mushrooms. Losers. We had a spinach salad on the side. We would have had the spinach salad either way, but it sounds grumpier if I mention it in context with NOT getting my mushrooms. I didn’t get my mushrooms – and I’m only a little bit bitter. (Do you see me as a tempermental artiste now?)

From http://www.recipezaar.com – Kittencal’s Creamy Macaroni and Cheese:

You probably won’t search any further for mac/cheese after trying this one. This is something similar to Stouffer’s mac and cheese (not!). I sometimes add in 1/2 c. of sour cream, but that is only optional. If you are not a garlic lover, omit it (but you shouldn’t).

4-6 servings
2 1/4 C. elbow macaroni
1/4 C. butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp, onion powder
1 tsp, mustard powder
1/4 tsp, cayenne pepper
3 T flour
1.5 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1 (16 oz) pack Velveeta, cut into small cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, finelyy grated

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Grease casserole dish (medium)
3. Cook pasta according to pkg directions. Drain, do not rinse.
4. Put pasta in a bowl (or if you have a strainer pot, dump water out of the main pot, melt 2 T butter. Mix with pasta.
5. Melt 1/4 c. butter in a large sauce pan, medium heat.
6. Add minced garlic, onion powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper.
7. Add in flour and stir for 1 minute – no lumps
8. Slowly add cream and cook stirring constantly over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.
9. Reduce heat and add in cheese – mix until melted and smooth.
10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
11. Add in the cooked pasta and toss to combine.
12. Transfer to baking dish.
13. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
14. Bake @ 350 for about 20-25 minutes.

Mmmmm . . . what’s for dinner?

I made this recipe for dinner tonight. I get tired of trying to feed all the varying tastes here and I’m always happy when I find something that is relatively quick to make and that everyone will eat without complaint. This recipe fits the bill here. I also LOVE that it is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand. Note, I totally, “ALL-RECIPED” this recipe! I substituted like crazy and have noted where I substituted in the recipe below.

Keep in mind the quantities in this recipe are for 8 people (and I’d probably double it next time for our family of six – starving teenage boys and all – so we’d have some leftovers for lunch – the pans were scraped clean here tonight). I’d probably 1/2 the recipe if I were feeding little kids and two adults or just two adults.

Mee Goreng (from Suh McCaw over at http://www.allrecipes.com)

” ‘Mee’ is noddles and ‘goreng’ means fry in Malay (Berhasa). This is a favourite dish of southeast Asians. The amount of tomato and chili sauce can be adjusted to your tastes. Bean sprouts, snowpeas, and even shrimp are slo great in this dish.”

8 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 c. veg oil
4 red onions chopped
2 (I used 5) potatoes diced into cubes
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 c. water
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts (I used three) diced into bite-size pieces
4 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 fresh red chili peppers (I used three dried)
1 c. peas
1 c. diced carrot
1 c. corn
1 c. tomato sauce (I used about 1 1/2 c.)
1/4 chili sauce
6 eggs, beaten
2 lb fresh egg noodles (I ended up using 6 packs of ramen noodles, minus the spice pack)

1. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or wok over medium heat. Cook the onions in th hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potato, soy sauce, and water. Simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir the chicken, tomatoes, chile pepper, peas, carrots, corn, tomato sauce, chili sauce and eggs into the mixture and toss to combine. Cook and stir until heated through, about 10 minutes. (Note because we have vegetarians here, I cooked the chicken in sesame oil in a separate skillet for people to add as they liked.)

2. Add noodles to sauce and continue cooking until noodles have softened, 2-5 minutes. Serve hot.

Your mileage may vary, but it was a hit here!

Um? Yum! Everyone say Runza!


We had the best dinner tonight thanks to a mom on one of my email groups. Lately, I’m in search of filling dinners that don’t cost a lot … this one fit the bill and more. It takes a little time, but if you double the recipe, you can freeze at least one dinner or a bunch of lunches.

They’re called Runza, but I think they have names that are regional – BierRocks is one I found. Whatever you call them, you need to eat these NOW!

RUNZAs:

Dough:
1 pk Active Dry Yeast (I used 4 tsp)
2 c. warm milk (room temp works)
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening, margarine or butter
7-8 c. flour

Put yeast and milk in a large bowl. Let sit for 5 or 10 minutes. When the yeast is nice and puffy, add sugar, eggs, salt, and softened choice of fat. Mix it up a bit. Add flour until dough pulls together into a ball. Knead for 5-8 minutes until dough is smooth and supple. (A mixer with a dough hook is a nice touch here.)

Put dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel and let it rise until it’s doubled. Punch the dough down and let it rise again.

Remove dough from bowl and divide it into thirds. On a floured surface, roll one portion of the dough to 1/4″ thickness. Cut into 5-6″ squares. (Reserve dough you cut off to re-roll.)

Give each square an extra roll with the rolling pan before filling.

FILLING:
2 lbs ground beef
1 head of cabbage
LOTS of salt and pepper
(I added red pepper flakes as well)

Brown ground beef. Add shredded cabbage and cook over medium heat until cabbage is softened. Add salt and pepper – it takes a LOT!

Put a large mound of filling in the center of each dough square. Pull opposite corners of the dough together and pinch to hold. Pull the opposite two corners together and use your fingers to pinch all edges together to seal in filling. Turn Runza over and put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or sprayed with PAM).

Space Runzas about 1″ apart. When cookie sheet is full put a towel over it and let it rise for about 15 minutes.

Bake Runzas in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes – until they are a deep brown.

Remove from oven and rub butter on the top of each Runza (optional).

Cool on a cooling rack or eat right out of the oven. Runzas can be cooled and then frozen, too!

The variations on this recipe are endless – the dough is just delicious and well worth your time! The recipe as I’ve posted is delicious – not one of my boys realized that there was cabbage involved. Good stuff.