Which one you make depends on the noodles you use.  What's pictured is technically neither, but is what I grew up calling 'chow mein'.  I think if you add the chow mein noodles, that then it is.  "Mein" means 'noodles', "lo" means "tossed", and "chow" means "fried.  Got it?   However you make the veggies & sauce, you can serve it with rice, cooked noodles, or fried noodles.    A package or two of Ramen works here, too: cook it for Lo Mein, or crumble the uncooked noodles and serve them as a crunchy topper.

During my senior year in high school, it occurred to me that I'd soon be in charge of feeding myself, and recipes would sure come in handy.  I asked my mom if she would compile her recipes for me, as a graduation present.   

She did it: a plastic 3x5 card file box filled with recipes for what we'd eaten most often during the past couple decades.  She must have typed during the day while I was at school; I don't remember seeing her work on it.  She fit it inbetween raising seven children, tending a huge garden, canning, two preschoolers still at home, serving on our town's volunteer fire department, and taking EMT classes. And then she typed them all up again for the next siblings to graduate.  Only that time, she bought a computer!

We didn't have a computer that first time around.  Mom typed every one of those recipes, inserting each card by hand into just the right spot in the typewriter.  Every now and then, a card has a little bit of White-Out on it underneath a letter.  You can't buy a cookbook as valuable as that. 

Some recipes were more about instruction than quantity.  This is one of them.  My addition to it are what's in parenthesis.

Chow Mein

Take any cooked meat that is chopped or ground (1-2 cups, burger, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, crab...).  Chop about a cup of celery (2 stalks) and cook in about 2 cups of water (simmer in a skillet).  Drain liquid from a (14 oz. or bigger) can of Chinese vegetables and add to celery.  Make this thick with about 1/4 c. cornstarch which has been made into a paste then gradually added to celery and water (mix 1/4 c. water with the cornstarch until smooth, then stir into the vegetables).  Cook (boil) until clear, stirring often.  Add cooked meat, vegetables and heat well.  Add soy sauce to taste.  Serve over hot rice and sprinkle with chow mein noodles.

A little ginger is good in this, as is 1-2 Tbsp. vinegar with 2-3 Tbsp. brownYou can add any other vegetables you like when cooking the celery... the version in the photo used a cup or two of diced & peeled watermelon rind, plus a handful of baby carrots, sliced,  that had started to dry out.  Chow Mein is like soup that way:  see what vegetables are starting to go, or random bits sitting around, and add them right in!  
 
 
If you've only had 'banana chips' from the store- you have missed out.  Those cardboard-like sorry excuses for fruit are NOTHING like home-dried bananas.  Banana chips are fried  (very high in fat) and bland; on the other hand, home-dried ones are sweet and chewy.

Sometimes you can buy a case of bananas for a steep discount- a friend of mine has an arrangement with one of the local grocery stores.  She calls them once a week or so, and if they have too many bananas, they sell her the 40-lb. case for $8.  That's $ .20/lb.   This week I found some at NPS for $4/case! 

To dehydrate them, you can, of course, use any dehydrator available, or even dry them on clean window screens on a hot roof or in a hot car...

Mine, so that you can get a size comparison, is an American Harvest (now Nesco) 'GardenMaster'.   (I got it used through the local Classified ads, 15 years ago, for $40.)  I have the extra trays, for a total of 8.  Each tray can hold almost 2 lbs. of sliced bananas, 15 lbs. total.  So the 40-lb box fills the trays twice, with enough left over for a double batch of banana bread (to freeze) and eating a bunch fresh. 

I dry them on about medium heat- 120 degrees F or so, and it takes about 18-20 hours.  They'll be a little bit more dry if you let them cool before packing into jars.

If you want the dried product to be a little lighter in color, you can coat or dip them in a lemon-honey mixture.  Combine 1/4 c. honey, 1/4 c. water, and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice.  Mix well.  The easiest way to use it is put it in a clean spray bottle and mist the slices once they're on the tray.   The photos below are of untreated slices.

Dehydrate, enjoy!
 
 
A surprising amount of people think you can't make frosting without powdered sugar.    I shouldn't be too surprised; I used to think that, too!

Frostings made without it are usually exceptionally smooth; powdered sugar sometimes comes across as a little chalky.  This is because at least some brands add cornstarch to the powdered sugar.

Anyway, here are some creamy, fluffy, dense, or fudgy frostings you can make without using powdered sugar:  Enjoy!

Chocolate Blender Frosting- or caramel, coconut-chocolate, hazelnut-chocolate, and more!
   version made with milk chocolate chips

Cheesecake Cloud Frosting
Blueberry Cheesecake Cloud Frosting
Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting
Cherry Cheesecake Frosting

The frosting in the photo above is Apricot Cloud Frosting: use pureed apricots in place of the pureed blueberries, also add 1-2 tsp. almond extract.

Cooked Frosting (the no-Ultra-Gel version of Cloud Frosting)

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting (doesn't go runny)

Marshmallow Frosting

Ganache(may be whipped)

Seven-Minute Frosting-
includes variations for Peppermint Frosting, Seafoam Frosting, Strawberry Fluff Frosting, and Chocolate Fluff Frosting.
 
 
Most of you come to my website to get recipes, project or sewing ideas, or information on storing food or saving money.    None of these things matter much if we lose our freedom.  Much of it has been lost already, with red tape, beauracracy, convoluted taxes, corruption in business and individual lives, disregard for the Constitution and an ever-increasing burden of legislation.  Now is the time to look around, pay attention, and learn what will bring real freedom and happiness.

Hosea 4:6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejectedknowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Below is a commercial made for the Catholic church.  While I'm not a Catholic myself, I wholeheartedly agree with the principles in this short video and stand with them.  For too long, too many of us have been apathetic; financial bondage, national bankruptcy, and loss of freedom have been the result.  If we turn back to God, learn more about HIS way, he will be our Savior- both spiritually and for our nation.
Pass it on.
 
 
This makes for a very special breakfast, one of my husband's very favorites.  It's fun to serve these when I have overnight guests, or sometimes just to surprise my family. 
I love the flavor of fresh-ground wheat, so I usually make these using 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour.
If you prefer a fruit filling, use 1-2 Tbsp. jam, jelly, or pie filling instead of (or in addition to!) the cream cheese.
You'll need to plan ahead- mix these up in the evening (10 minutes), stick the dough in the fridge overnight, then shape, quick-rise, and bake in the morning (45-60 minutes). 

Easy Danish Pastry
Makes 1 dozen

1 Tbsp. or 1 pkg. instant yeast
½ c. warm water (110-120 degrees F)
2 c. flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ c. milk, buttermilk, or kefir
1 egg yolk

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp. sugar or 1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. vanilla

Glaze
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk

Combine yeast and warm water, let sit 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the butter in, mashing as needed!  Beat the egg yolk with the milk, then add them to the dry mixture.  Pour the yeast mixture on top.  Mix well.  Cover and refrigerate dough at least 3 hours, but not more than 24.

Combine the ingredients for the filling- stir cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

Divide dough into two logs about 8” long; keep one  in the fridge to stay cold.  Sprinkle counter with flour, then put one of the logs on the flour.  Sprinkle it with flour, as well.  Roll to a rectangle about 8x14”, then cut into 6 strips, each 14” long.   Roll each strip into a rope, then shape into a coil on a greased baking sheet.   Put about 1 ½ Tbsp. of the cream cheese filling on the center of each coil.  Turn the oven on to 350 F.   Cover the rolls and let rise while the oven heats and you roll out the next half.    After the rolls have risen for about 20 minutes, bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and golden brown on the bottoms.  Mix together powdered sugar and milk for glaze, then drizzle over rolls. 

Leftover pastries can be frozen on the baking sheet, then transferred to ziptop baggies for longer storage.  Best frozen within 3 months (but OK after that).

 
 
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Crab Salad - with watermelon rind!
To go along with last week's post on cutting a watermelon, here's something to take it a little farther!

 Most everyone has seen recipes for watermelon rind pickles- but is the rind edible for anything else? 

YES!  And since it can make up 25-45% of the total melon weight, eating it makes your money go further.

You can even eat the green part, though it's tough.  I prefer removing it.  If you use it, at least make sure it's been washed.  It is, after all, the part that was sitting on the ground and then handled by everyone else. 

The lighter green part can be eaten fresh, or cooked.  It has a high water content, a good fiber content, and a little Vitamin C and Vitamin B-6.  It also has a compound that converts to the amino acid arginine, and current research indicates it may help relax blood vessels.   When fresh, it's somewhat like a really firm cucumber.  You can use it in place of cucumbers, chopped apples, fresh zucchini, or celery.  It doesn't have as much flavor, so if that matters, you might want to increase any flavorings or spices in the recipe.  For instant, if you use watermelon rind in place of celery, it would be tasty to add a little celery seed or celery salt.  If you use it in place of apple, you might want to add a little honey and lemon juice. 

When it's cooked, it resembles (cooked) zucchini or apples.  There's a recipe for a watermelon rind stir-fry at Allrecipes.  Or maybe try Watermelon Boats on the Grill (substitute a slab of rind for a half zucchini.) What else could you use it in?  Think about all the recipes you use zucchini or yellow summer squash, apples, celery, cucumber, or other bland vegetables.   There is actually an entire website devoted to watermelon rind recipes!  It's -what else?- WatermelonRind.com   A friend of mine made the Watermelon Rind KimChee and loved it.  (seehere for a follow-up post on it.)

Meanwhile, here's something from my house the other day- I didn't have celery for my pasta salad, so instead threw in some diced watermelon rind!  I weighed the melon and its parts: out of a 16-lb watermelon, 4.5 lbs of its weight was rind.  Just so you know.

Crab/Krab Salad

1 lb. seashell pasta
2-3 Tbsp. pickle juice or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil or coconut oil)
1 lb. crab or imitation, flaked
1/2 onion, chopped or pureed (for kids!)
1-2 c. grapes
1-2 c. chopped watermelon rind (OR use cucumbers or celery)
3/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste


Cook and drain the pasta.  Add pickle juice or vinegar, along with the oil, to the hot pasta (it soaks in better, resulting in better flavor.)  Add crab, onion, grapes, watermelon rind, and salt.  Stir well, add pepper to taste, and add more salt if you want it.

Cover and chill.
 
 
A while ago, we had dinner with one of my husband's sisters.    Jeanne, who has eleven children, knows a thing or two about quickly preparing food.  We had a couple watermelons to cut up, and I watched in amazement as she cubed it a way I'd never seen before.  It was quick, the melon held still while she sliced, and it could all be done with a chef's knife.  I used to always need both a chef's knife AND a paring knife.  
Her way's much better!
 
 
Have you noticed packages shrinking? 

One caught me by surprise the other day.  I had not noticed anything when buying some cake mixes, but once I was mixing one up, I happened to look at the net weight written on the front.  If you click on the picture above, you can see closer.  (The one on the right says 19.5 ounces.)  The mix shrunk by more than three ounces, or about 2/3 of a cup!  Same brand, same price, purchased about a year apart.  To make it even less noticeable, the instructions remain the same as before: you add the same amount of water, the same 3 eggs, and the same quantity of oil.  You end up with about 1/2 cup less cake batter, though, which means your cake will be a little less tall. 

I checked all the cake mix brands at the store after this, and found that nearly every one had shrunk the same amount.  The only exception there was the Western Family brand. 

The first shrinking package I remember seeing was for ice cream.  As early as I know, the regular carton size held 2 quarts, which is 64 ounces.  A few years ago they shrunk to 58 ounces, and now many of them are 48 ounces.  That's 3/4 of what it used to be.  That means IF the price per carton remained the same, prices actually increased 25%.  But prices have gone up, as well.

When expenses rise for the manufacterers, they have two choices:
*raise the price of what they're selling- which often discourages customers from buying as much- or
*reduce the amount of food in the package.  Most people don't notice.  To be fair, sometimes a smaller package is all the modern family wants.  However, when the price of a newly-smaller box is the same as the older bigger one was, you know something's happening.

Tuna fish cans used to hold 6 ounces, as recently as about 5 years ago.   Now they're 5 ounces, which is about 17% less food.

So when you're shopping, noticing the quantity in the package will help you understand the real inflation numbers!
 
 
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I buy rolled oats by the 25- or 50-pound bag when they're on sale; they're MUCH cheaper that way, and yes, I do actually use that many.  Eventually. 

Last week I bought 50 pounds of oats for $24, which made them $ .48/lb. 

They got divided into food-storage buckets- a 5-gallon bucket will only fit about 15 pounds of oats, labeled, put in a cool & dark place in my house (under beds and in closets can be good).  Then I will refill a container in the kitchen whenever needed. 

They're great for cooking at breakfast, of course, and homemade granola (see recipe in the free "Starter Cookbook" or in The Chameleon Cook), in apple crisp topping (also in both books)... but what else?

Start with rolled oats or quick-cooking oats.  Put about 2 cups of these in a blender.  Cover and run on high for about a minute. 

Ta-da!  Oat flour.  This is great for either the gluten-free cook who can tolerate oats*, or for the rest of us who just like moist and tender baked goods.

Now, what can you do with it?

Use it in yeast bread- about 1/4 cup of this to replace the same amount of wheat flour per each loaf in the recipe.  Oats help make bread moist.  One really delicious version is to not only use the oats, but substitute orange juice for half of the water. 

Quick breads- including pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, and more.  Oats don't have any gluten, so your finished food will be more tender, less tough.  Just don't substitute more than half of the total amount of flour.  For example, in a muffin recipe calling for 2 cups flour, you could use 1 cup of oat flour and one cup of regular flour, or 1/2 cup oat flour and 1 1/2 cups regular flour.  Adding the oat flour will make your regular flour act more like pastry flour.

Mix into cakes and cookies for the same reason as for quick breads, keep the same kind of ratios in mind for best results.  If you want to get the very best results, WEIGH out your flour; the oat flour is a little fluffier or less dense than wheat flour.  You would use just over 5 ounces oat flour for each cup of regular flour you're substituting for.

Use it for 'instant oatmeal' (scroll down to bottom of page) for breakfasts: the pieces are so small, they absorb the water super-fast! in Add it to soups or stews to thicken them.  You can do the same with quick oats, but the oat flour soaks in and disappears much faster!

*Most gluten-intolerant people can handle oats just fine, and others can't.  It seems to actually depend on the variety of oat- there's an excellent article on this at http://ultimateglutenfree.com/2011/06/getting-closer-to-gluten-free-oats/  Buying "Gluten-Free" oats gives you an extra layer of protection; I've seen, myself, batches of oats that had a few wheat kernals mixed in.  The processing machines can't tell the difference, and sometimes a little wheat grows- as a weed- in oat fields!

My sister, who has to cook gluten-free all the time, has a favorite easy, hearty-wholegrain flour blend: equal parts oat flour and lentil flour.  Lentils grind fairly easily in a blender, too.  See here for her post on the flours she uses most often.
 
 
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publicdomainpictures.net
Just about everyone seems to know about potato bread, or potato rolls, and how moist and tender they are.  There was even a while when mashed potatoes were added to raised doughnut dough (which is essentially the same as roll dough anyway); the finished product ones were called "Spudnuts".  Potatoes aren't your only option here, but here's how to use them:

Adding about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes for every 3 cups of flour in the recipe seems to be about as high as you'd want to go.  Potatoes don't have gluten, so adding too much would result in a dense, heavy bread.  I like to reduce the water in the recipe by about 1/4 cup for each 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, since they have a lot of water in them.  You can use the basic bread recipe for this, or any other one you like.  If you don't have mashed potatoes, add potato flakes in place of some of the flour.  Even using the water you cooked potatoes in, as the liquid in your bread, will help with moistness.

You can make a 'fully loaded' potato bread by adding some sour cream (reduce your water again!), bacon pieces, cheese, chives, or whatever else.  See TheFreshLoaf for one version of this.  Just remember- adding high-water ingredients- like the mashed potatoes, or sour cream- will require you to either reduce your water, OR add more flour.  Adding mix-ins, like the bacon, cheese, chives, etc, doesn't affect the dough.  However, it's easier to knead the bread without them, so add them last.

Now- for more options-

Use other purees!  Use up to the same ratio as above, for the same reason.  This will work best if the purees are warm, to help the dough's yeast grow.  110-120 degrees F is ideal.

-Mashed pumpkin- plain (which you won't taste), or with some cinnamon and pecans added!
-Mashed sweet potato
-Pureed fruit - good for using up overripe things, or old bottled fruit that's turning darker (as long as the jar's still sealed).  You might want to reduce the sugar in the recipe; too much actually slows down (but doesn't kill) the yeast.
-Pureed vegetables- I've used green beans (up to 1-2 cups puree in the 6-loaf batch), pureed corn, chiles, olives, carrots, etc.  Unless you want that particulat flavor, though, its best to avoid the cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower family.   Just remember to reduce salt if you're using salted veggies, reduce by 1/4 tsp. for each cup of puree.
-Mashed cooked beans or other legumes.
-Cooked hot cereal- this includes leftover breakfast oatmeal, cooked 7-grain cereal, Cream of Wheat, cooked millet or amaranth, or whatever you happen to have.  I've even added an abandoned, soggy bowl of cold cereal before.


This is a good way to use up little bits of (clean) leftovers- imagine the flavors of bread you can create!  Just keep in mind that if you add something that has meat in it, you'll need to refrigerate the finished bread.


What things have you added to bread?