Monday, August 5, 2013

And That is Why I Run ... Musings on Chocolate Gravy

Some mornings ...

You just have to have chocolate gravy and biscuits.

Some of you know just what I'm talking about. However, I know there are some of you thinking, "Ew! Ew! Ew!" or rolling your eyes. Stop it! I know it sounds a little bizarre, but you should try it. I think you'll like it.

Start with your favorite biscuit recipe. This one is mine: South Georgia Biscuits (
I usually use skim milk. It turns out fine every time. But, next time I think I'll try buttermilk ... just 'cause I've discovered that I like cooking with real buttermilk ... a lot.

While your biscuits are baking, mix up a batch of chocolate gravy.


Keep stirring ...

Move that glorious goodness away from the heat and toss in some butter and vanilla ...

Give it a quick stir or two ...

Nothing left to do but top your biscuits with that yummy, pudding-like gravy. If you want, you can plate it prettily ...

Ha, ha! Look an accidental smiley face. Oops!

But, c'mon people! It's chocolate gravy. Live a little!

That's what I'm talking about. I'm not certain where I got the chocolate gravy recipe. I've been using this one for years. I think I looked at several and tweaked the ingredients to match our family's tastes.

The recipe, you say?

Chocolate Gravy

3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 C. white sugar
Dash of salt
2 1/2 C. skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. butter

In a large skillet, whisk your flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt. Add your milk while the heat is off. Whisk everything together until it's well blended. Turn the stove to medium heat. Keep stirring until the gravy is as thick as you like it. Pull your skillet off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Serve warm over fresh biscuits.

Notes: I usually put the stove setting just over the middle mark. On my stove it's between the 5 and 6. That way it's hot enough to get a bit bubbly a bit more quickly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Roasted Laffy Taffy (and More)

Every good campfire could use a few good accessories. Meet a couple of my favorites ... Before this camping trip, I knew you could roast marshmallows. I figured that if you could do that, then Laffy Taffies were a sure bet.

They're certainly easier to keep on the toasting forks.

Just like marshmallows, candy likes coals ...

The kids were pretty excited about the Starbursts too.

And that's how you tell they're done. Yum! The outside gets almost crunchy, and the inside is soft and melty. So good!

Of course, marshmallows are grand too. Vanilla flavored star marshmallows, fruit flavored mid-size marshmallows, and big, square s'more-sized marshmallows ... We're equal opportunity marshmallow roasters.

Note to self:
The smallish marshmallows are my new favorite. You get a perfect proportion of golden brown crispy, toasty outside to inner gooey guts. Delish!

Of course, no camp out is complete without a S'more or two ... This one has a hidden surprise --

a couple of roasted Laffy Taffies.

Next time, we'll make the roasted pears we planned on. (Before I forgot to bring the cinnamon sugar ... 'Cause I'm good like that. Mind like a sieve. It's a problem ... ) But, for a first camping trip, it turned out to be a delicious experience in nearly every way!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Channeling My Inner Pioneer (Chef)

This week, I took the kids camping. It's our first vacation ... ever. So, I wanted it to be fun .. and memorable ... and memorable for good things, not for all the things that could have gone wrong.  Luckily, that's kind of how things played out. This post is a bit picture heavy, but it's a form of journaling for me.

As you may have noticed, food is kind of a big deal in our world. It's important to me that we eat well, regardless of the situation. This was kind of the guideline in my head as I planned our camp food.

Dinner the first night was pretty simple ... After all, everybody loves playing with fire just a bit, right?

Bratwurst or hotdogs were the menu option. The girls learned how to use toasting forks to toast their buns. The kids loved being able to roast their own food. M and I had sauerkraut on our dogs. L thinks it's poisonous and abstained ...

Because I caved to pressure and mixed up the homemade potato salad at home instead of at camp, that part of dinner was already taken care of ...

True, it's not plated beautifully, but it sure tasted good!

By the next day, I was ready to try actual cooking using a real fire. I'd brought my cast iron skillet and griddle along for the party.

Yup, those are the same pans I use on a regular basis in my kitchen at home. I was a little concerned about temperature control since I've never cooked for real over an open fire or its coals. Somehow, though, it worked out perfectly. I managed to have just enough coals in just the right spots to cook the bacon, the turkey sausage, and the hash browns perfectly.

The kids toasted their own bagels, topped them with cream cheese, and added all that stuff to a plate of fresh cherries and grapes.

This one's mine. The kids don't get all the fun ...

Both girls were so full that they sat happily in their camp chairs until things shifted enough to roast a couple of marshmallows ... in the middle of the morning ... with my blessing. 'Cause everybody needs a little junk food to chase the bacon. I'm just sayin' ...

When dinner time rolled around, I was feeling pretty confident in my abilities. (Don't worry! I know the saying about pride and what it goes before ... Luckily, this time it didn't.) So, we got a bit fancier.

Corn on the cob (I pulled the husks back, removed the silk, rinsed them with cool water, sprinkled them with a bit of salt and pepper, dotted with butter, pulled the husks back up, and wrapped them in about three layers of regular tinfoil.) was matched with asparagus and sweet potatoes. Five packets later -- one for each ear of corn, one for the sliced sweet potatoes (also dotted with a bit of butter and sprinkled with about a tablespoon of water so they wouldn't dry out or burn) and two for the asparagus (see sweet potato prep.)

After I tucked the packets in the coals, I popped the grate down and warmed up my cast iron skillet again. (I'd cleaned it that morning and seasoned it with some of the bacon grease from breakfast.) It's hard to tell in that picture, but those are lovely pieces of chicken cooking to golden perfection.

See what I mean? And, just because they were so pretty, I can't resist sharing another pic ...

Um-hmm ... That's what I'm talking about. Forty-five minutes or so after I tossed my foil packets in the coals, they were ready to come out.

The 9 yr old wanted to play Vanna White
 Pretty as the packets were all wrapped up, what was inside was even prettier.

Perfectly roasted corn on the cob

Sumptuous sweet potatoes

and Campfire Asparagus. (M said, "Mmm! Campfire asparagus. It's SO yummy I could die!")

Again ... Because I couldn't resist one more shot.

Dinner was a smashing success.

It's not plated all that prettily, but it was so tasty that the aesthetic aspect of things wasn't missed much.

As always, I really enjoyed my time in "the kitchen" even if that kitchen was a lot different than the ones I usually work in. It was nice to channel a bit of my inner pioneer. I learned that, at least now, if that were my only means of feeding my family, we wouldn't starve. We'd probably eat alright. I learned that I can try new things and, if I've built some basic skills along the way, I can easily adapt to new situations. Impressing my children with my new found abilities? That was a total bonus.

All told, I can't wait to try it again sometime.

P.S. I know that pioneers didn't use tin foil. I count myself fortunate ...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One of my favorite things about summer?


Simple, delicious, and filling ... We love it sauteed until it's still crisp-tender. This time I tossed in some fresh tomatoes, canned mushrooms (it's all I had) that I sauteed first in a bit of butter, onions, and garlic. Finished it off with a bit of homegrown tarragon and basil, a little cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Tossed a bit of real Parmesan cheese on top ...

It's not fancy, but it's about as easy as dinner comes. We paired our summer dish with some quinoa (a complete protein AND a grain) for a complete meal.

Best part?

It took about 15 minutes to prepare, and both kids liked it enough to head back for seconds.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Strawberry Season

A good deal, eight lbs. of yummy strawberries, and a very happy freezer ...

 Washed, sliced, and stirred with sugar ...

Bagged and tagged.

A bit of heaven in my freezer! 

Company for last month's freezer jam.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Random Green Smoothie ... Purple ... It's Purple ...

After my walk this morning with a good friend, I decided that I was craving a smoothie. So, I tossed some stuff in the blender.

Frozen blueberries
Frozen Dark Sweet Cherries
Just over a Tbs of cocoa powder
A few dark chocolate chips
Some wheat germ
A drizzle or two of honey
A large handful of baby spinach
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk

Mixed it up with the blender. The verdict? Fantastic! Definitely a keeper. The dark fruit keeps it from looking green if that's something that upsets you. It's a really pretty deep bluish purple. Yum!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Clawing My Way Back Onto the Menu-planning Bandwagon

Sadly, it's true ... I sometimes (read: more often than not during the last three years) fall off the menu-planning bandwagon. Don't get me wrong. I want to plan ahead. I need to plan ahead. Life is just too insane and too expensive otherwise. But, sometimes insanity wins ...

I've decided that perhaps it's time for baby steps. You do realize that even if I'm only holding onto said bandwagon with the tips of my fingernails, it still counts, right? We will not mention the fact that this means the rest of my body is flailing and jouncing behind the cart, hitting every bump, as we careen wildly down the road of life. Chalk it up to inexpensive entertainment for anyone bothering to watch.

I wish I could tell you that I went out today, picked up whatever was needed to last the next two weeks, and smiled cheerfully at the menu plan that I'd lovingly and carefully crafted. But, that would be lying ...

Instead, I packed one crock pot full of apples, sprinkled them with some sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, dashed them with some lemon juice and a bit of water. When life hands you lemons ... oh, wait ... Wrong fruit. At any rate, I have a lovely batch of homemade applesauce sitting in my fridge. It made a delicious addition to dinner, and it will make some scrumptious applesauce cookies down the road.

I filled another crock pot with a mixture of dried pinto beans and dried black beans. After adding some spices, a ham shank, a splash or two of worcestershire and cholula sauces, and some water, they were ready to cook all day as well.

Now that dinner is over, I have the remainder of a large batch of beans in my fridge. Sometime in the next few days, I'll mash them, add in some spices -- perhaps cumin and chili powder -- and a can of green chiles. Of course, this means I need to make up a batch of tortillas, but then I'll bake some burritos to freeze for busy day meals or nights when the kids are gone to their dad's house.
Since I had some sweet potatoes screaming at me that I'd best use them immediately, I decided that baked sweet potatoes were the order of the day. Hmm ... lunch?

 L loves sweet potatoes mashed with butter and brown sugar. I'm kind of a salt and pepper kind of gal. M has selective "I don't like sweet potatoes"itis. It was visiting today.
Dinner was a pretty simple affair. Beans and applesauce from the crock pot, of course ... but we needed a bread of sorts. Beans are not to be eaten without some form of biscuit or cornbread, you know. A-ha! Sweet potatoes to the rescue ...
I found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits. (You can see it here: Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits) Hers are prettier than mine. But, mine did taste simply delightful. The girls loved them. (In spite of the sweet potato-itis.) The texture was fantastic. Even if they were sort of, well ... squashy in appearance. I think it might have been because I used skim milk instead of whole. Although it might be because my sweet potatoes had been in the fridge and were cold. Then again, it may have been because my sweet potatoes had more excess liquid in them. (That's what happens when you chill them ... ) Might have to play with that one a bit. At any rate, they were still soft, and fluffy, and oh, so yummy! L was thrilled. "MOM! Do you realize that because you added mashed sweet potatoes, we are eating mashed sweet potatoes? WITH OUR HANDS?!?" By the way, should you want to try this delicious recipe, it doesn't state when to add the honey. I just mixed it with the potatoes and milk. Hmm ... maybe that's my problem ...
It may not have been the most amazing meal in the world, but it was warm and filling and full of soul-satisfying comfort foods. The kids went to bed with full bellies and content taste buds. I'm feeling pretty good since it's a step toward being better prepared for the craziness that somehow, even after all this time, surprises me every single day. Hopefully, sooner than later, I'll get there. In the meantime, enjoy the flailing feet!