Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meat Roll-ups

Tonight I made meat roll-ups.  And I got to use some ingredients that made food prep much easier than normal!  I did make two batches of rolls so that John could have a lactose-free meal.

The first thing to do is to brown some hamburger.  With the main batch I stirred a tin of mushroom soup into the browned meat.  For John's batch, I stirred in flour, some almond milk, and seasonings just enough to moisten it, but not to make it really runny.  In Niger, I would make it the second way since we don't have tinned soup.

Next I made a batch of biscuit dough using Bisquick.  Of course, in Niger, I have to make the biscuit dough from scratch.  I mixed it up with the almond milk.  Once the dough is rolled out in a strip, spread the meat mixture on it.  Roll it up like you would cinnamon rolls and cut into slices.  Lay the slices on a cookie sheet and cook in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes.

While they're baking, I browned fresh mushrooms in butter (in Niger I would use tinned mushrooms).  Then I stirred in flour, and added half vegetable broth and half milk (real milk in one batch and almond milk in John's batch).  You serve the meat pies with the sauce poured over.  We ate it with green beans.  I forgot to take a picture of the final product.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Salmon, Sweet Potatoes, and Asparagus (Post for Oct 18)

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been keeping up as well on the blog as I'd like.  That's because:  1.) We left Niger on Friday night, Oct. 14 and arrived in the USA on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 15 AND 2.) Sometime while we were on our flight from Niger to Paris, our grandson, Hezekiah James Hines entered the world!  Between Friday night and Monday afternoon we were in three different countries and in four different states in the USA.  We are now in OH enjoying time with Suzanne and Theo, Tera and Kiah.  Daniel will come down this evening and Kelly will come for the weekend.

Last night I cooked supper.  Suzanne thought of the idea and I made it happen.  As usual, it was fairly simple, but wow, was it delicious.  The three parts of the meal were salmon, sweet potatoes, and asparagus, none of which we can get in Niger.  Well, we can get a variety of sweet potatoes, but they are usually white.

I cut the sweet potatoes in strips and then put them in a bowl in which I had mixed oil and seasonings.  I used garlic powder, salt, paprika, and cumin.  Some red pepper is good, too, but I think I am the only spice lover, so I skipped the pepper.  I then baked the sweet potatoes in the oven for a good 45 minutes.  

For the salmon, I mixed 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 6 T olive oil (I used half butter), 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper (I think I forgot the pepper now that I think about it), 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and 1 teaspoon dill.  The recipe said to marinate the salmon, but we were out of time, so I just dipped the salmon in the oil mixture, then wrapped each piece in foil.  We baked that in the oven for about 30 minutes.  To tell if fish is done, pull away a piece with a fork.  If it is flaky, it's done.

And I steamed frozen asparagus.

Best of all, I had the cutest helper ever.  She put the sweet potatoes in the bowl and helped stir them and she sat the table.  

This meal is really nutritious.  It's one that I've cooked often on the grill, but doing it in the oven works well, too.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Freezing for the Lean Months

From about November through March we have beautiful fruits and vegetables, most of the grown locally.  Then the rest of the year, it's hard to find good fresh produce.  Local produce especially is hard to find because it's just too hot to grow.  

So, in the months between November and March, I work hard to fill up my freezer with fresh veggies.  We do broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, and guava sauce.  And, why yes, those would be printer ink cartridges in my freezer. :)

Broccoli.  I cut it up, put it in a pot of boiling water for about three minutes, immediately plunge it into ice water, then drain it, and put it in zip-lock bags.

Green beans.  Same process as broccoli.  Boil, plunge in ice water, freeze.

Tomatoes are super easy.  I wash them well, cut them up a bit, throw them in the food processor and whirl them just enough that they are broken into pieces.  If I have fresh cilantro or basil, I'll throw that in, too.  I immediately put the tomatoes into plastic bags in batches of 2 cups each.  Then they're immediately ready for a recipe that calls for a can of tomatoes.

Here I am washing tomatoes and at the same time doing the cold cool-down process on carrots.  Last year I did way too many carrots and not enough green beans.

The guava sauce is a little more complicated.  The guavas have to be cooked down, then strained to get out the seeds and skin, then cooked again with a bit of sugar, and then placed into sterile containers.  The jars with polka-dot lids are guava jam.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Using Cook Books, Even in Ex-Nihilo Cooking

When I was in high school and first learning how to put together a meal on my own, my dad would tell me to just be creative and change recipes by adding ingredients or substituting ingredients.  I was too afraid I'd mess it up, so for a long time I stuck strictly to the recipe.  Now I've been cooking so long that there are many, many meals I make without a recipe.  I'm also no longer afraid to add to or to substitute ingredients in a recipe.  I do stick pretty close to the recipe for things like cake, though.

I think every cook has a few cookbooks that they go to over and over again.  Here are my favorites.

1.  More with Less.  This is "suggestions by Mennonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources".  This is my go-to book because the recipes are easy and use a limited number of ingredients.  If I had to cut down to one cookbook, this would be it.

2.  Betty Crocker. 


But the second book I'd want to keep is my Betty Crocker cookbook, especially for cake and cookie recipes.  When it comes to baking, Betty Crocker is my lady.  I was given this book when I first went to Nigeria as a single missionary.  By the way, I have a copy of More with Less and a Betty Crocker cookbook on both sides of the ocean.

3.  I have two old cookbooks that I love because they were written before recipes called for a can of this and a mix of that.  One is an even older version of Betty Crocker than what I have and the other is an old Good Housekeeping cookbook that has especially wonderful cake and cookie recipes.

4.  The Crocodile Cookbook.  This one is so old and my copy is falling apart.  It was put together by a women's club in Nigeria back in the '70's and is full of recipes that work in Africa.  


5.  The Betty Crocker's Best Bread Machine Book.  I make all of our bread with the exception of the delicious baguettes we get here.  This book has a lot of different kinds of bread.  It was worth every penny I spent buying it used on Amazon (not more than a dollar or two!).

6.  And my own notebook of saved recipes.  Some are ones I've gotten from friends and some I've printed from off the internet.  I need to do some re-organizing of this book.  That will be a home-assignment project.

What's your favorite cookbook?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Oven-baked Chicken

Tonight we once again had quick and easy! :)  Of course.

This recipe is called Oven Baked Chicken and originally came from the More with Less Cookbook.  But I don't even use the recipe anymore, it's that simple.

First, in a plastic bag put about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, then add seasonings you like.  Today I used salt, pepper, paprika, dill, seasoned salt, and "garlic and herbs".  Dip the chicken pieces in milk (I used soy milk), then put the pieces in the bag of breadcrumbs and shake the pieces until they are coated.  Lay the pieces in a slightly oiled pan and bake about 60 minutes.  Or do like I did, and put the pieces in the crock pot.  Mine cooked all afternoon (well, when the power wasn't off) and was delicious.  I served it with buttered rice, but often I'll put potatoes in the crock pot at the same time and bake potatoes.  We had a 
can of beets for our vegetables.  

And the power went off, so we ate by candlelight.  Sorry, the meal doesn't look like much in this lighting!  And yes, that would be me serving dinner by putting the saucepans on the table.  Ain't nobody got time to wash extra serving bowls!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Spanish Noodle Skillet

This is another one of our favorite go-to meals for quick and easy.  It is cooked in one pan, is fast, is delicious, and takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

You can use any kind of pasta, but I usually use a small size of macaroni.  Just use what you have in your cupboard.  The point of this meal is to not have to make a grocery store run to get some specialized ingredient.

As the recipe cooks, you can add more water as the liquid cooks down because you need to keep the pasta covered with liquid.  Make sure you stir it often, too.

I used tomatoes that I had frozen back when tomatoes were in season.  I just whirl fresh tomatoes in the food processor and put them in bags to freeze.

Here's the recipe:

Saute in a small amount of oil:
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped (optional)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 lb ground beef (or less; this is a good "essence of meat" meal)

Pour off any excess fat.  (Our beef is so lean this never happens!)
1 t. salt
dash pepper
1/4 t. oregano
a handful of fresh basil leaves
2 c. pureed or stewed tomatoes
2 c. water (the recipe says 3/4 cup, but there's no way that's enough)

Bring to a boil and add:
1 1/2 cups pasta

Reduce heat, cook until the pasta is tender.  Remember to add more liquid as necessary and to stir often.  The recipe says to cover the pan, but I find it works better if you don't cover it.

Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top.  Cover the pan just until the cheese is melted.

Voila!  Home-made Hamburger Helper!

Tonight, no time to fuss with a vegetable, so we just had olives. :)  They look huge in this picture.  John also had bread.  Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to live in a country that has baguette?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Stir Fried Cabbage

Today I've been beyond exhausted.  So I made the quickest easiest meal I could think of.  I'm also trying to use up stuff in my fridge so it's nearly empty when we go on vacation.  And I sat down at the table and took out my camera to take a picture of our dinner and then totally forgot to take any pictures.  So, today, no picture.

This is another one of those meals that I don't have a recipe for and I don't think there's any really right or wrong way to make it.  I fried up some hamburger with onions and garlic.  You can never have too much garlic!  Sometimes I'll add in fresh grated ginger and sesame seeds.  Then I stirred in thin-sliced strips of cabbage, added salt, pepper, and paprika and sprinkled on some soy sauce.  Meanwhile rice was cooking and voila! in 15 minutes we were ready to eat.  I do the same with zucchini or green beans.  It's a quick, nutritious meal and you could also experiment with different kinds of meat or with no meat at all.  I usually add hot pepper sauce to mine, but John doesn't like his food to spicy, so I don't put the hot pepper in while cooking.  But you could if the whole family likes spicy.


Last night a friend invited us over for the evening meal.  She had hardly slept a wink the night before because the power had been off all night (thankfully, while it had gone off and on in the night, it wasn't off all night at our house).  Then she worked all day and came home around 4:30 p.m. to fix dinner for us.  Around 6:30 the power went off again and stayed off throughout the evening.  It was probably 95 degrees in her apartment and we were all sweating profusely.  A friend who is doing a one month refresher course at a nearby school dropped in and she joined us for dinner.  I thought I'd take a picture of us sharing a meal, but it was too dark!  The power did finally come on right before we left (but they said it went off again in the night and they had a second sleepless night).

This is a perfect example of true hospitality.  Our friend went on with the meal in spite of cooking in less than ideal conditions.  She laughed and joked about eating by flashlight.  And in the midst of the darkness and sweat she invited in an unexpected guest.

Hospitality comes more naturally to some than to others.  I wouldn't say it's natural to me, but I've learned to do it with a minimum amount of stress and to enjoy having extra people around the table.  It's a good thing, too, because in my job new people are constantly arriving, so we have guests often.  

I think hospitality is something we don't do as much of as people used to.  When I was growing up and our family was on furlough, we always stayed in somebody's home when my dad preached and we always had a home-cooked meal with the pastor or a church member.  Now, and this isn't a criticism, as often as not, we get put up in a hotel room and somebody takes us out to dinner.  

I just want to encourage you to not use excuses such as "I'm too tired", "My house is a mess", "I work all day", "It costs too much to have guests", "I will have to create yet another meal ex-nihilo", or "I don't know what I'd say" to stop you from having guests.  I've thought all of those things and could use all of them as an excuse.  Believe me, after working an 8-hour day (or longer) when it's 100 degrees out and the power is off, it would be easy enough to say I can't do it.  But there's something about sitting around a table and sharing a meal together that unites you as friends and draws you closer together.  The best conversations take place around the table.

Our African brothers and sisters have so much to teach us about hospitality.  They just always cook extra food assuming somebody will stop by at meal time.  It's not unusual to find out-of-town guests staying with them, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Even the very poor will at least bring you a glass of water or a bowl of porridge when you visit.

I Peter 4:9 -- Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
Hebrews 13:2 -- Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.