Posts Tagged ‘cooking tip’

Are You Cold?

January 4th, 2009

When Old Man Winter descends over the Great Plains, it can feel mighty cold!  Comfort foods, baked goodies, and a warm, working oven are most inviting.

Maybe you live in a warmer climate and are not so affected by January’s ice.  Even so, the chances are good that people in every weather pattern love to eat cookies!

Since today was foggy, gloomy, damp, and COLD, my favorite husband, The Normanator, took a notion to bake chocolate chip cookies.  He spied a recipe on the Gold Medal flour sack that struck his fancy.  It made 6 dozen beauties and filled the bill when it comes to comfort food!

This recipe will provide you with six dozen susbstantial, good-sized cookies:

Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 eggs

4 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Norm only had 3/4 cup and we thought that was plenty)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.  Dough will be stiff.  Stir in chips.

On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by tablespoonsful or ice cream scoop 2″ apart.  Flatten slightly.

Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until light brown.  Centers will be soft.  Cool 1 or 2 minutes then remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

If you live in a high altitude (3500 to 6500 ft) Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Nut lovers will want to add 1 cup coarsley chopped nuts when adding the chips.


Cooking Tip:

If you have no cooling rack, the cookies can be spread out on clean tea towels or newspapers.  We save our junk mail for this purpose.


All righty, then, we have dessert and snacks covered with tasty cookies…The Dinner Diva can help you with your main dish menus, even if you use food stamps, food commodities and food pantries to fund your grocery purchases.  We hope you will click on the banners to the right of this post for the wonderful things she has in store!

We are eager to hear from you!  You are welcome to post a comment, or you can email us at .  We also encourage you to visit Food Stamps Cooking Club!

Connie Baum

Can You See The Humor?

December 30th, 2008

If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane. – Jimmy Buffett

Now, THERE is basis for complete agreement!  And for those of you who have very limited food budgets, perhaps shopping at a food pantry or using food stamps or food commodities, laughter is one way of releasing some of your pressure!  Food and the outcomes we present to our families can provide some laughter… 

For example, we could look to my first attempt to make angel food cake as a new bride.  It looked fine when it came out of the oven.  In those days, we used a soda pop bottle to cool the angel food pan. By the time it cooled, it was just a tiny little pad of dough.  My new husband asked, quite innocently, “Why do you have the pizza dough in this pan with a hole?”  I was not amused at the time-I was in tears- but now I can see the humor and it does make me laugh out loud.

As we pass from the old, worn out year into the fresh new year, filled with hope, I wish for you that laughter may assault your lips!   I hope every pocket of every pair of jeans you own will magnetize hundred dollar bills!  I hope the issues of 2008 will lose your home address and I hope your neighbors will hear the laughter coming from your happy, healthy home!

Meanwhile, we must prepare dinner!  Today’s recipe idea comes from the Tecumseh Central Market.  Now, bear in mind that they are, understandably, selling their store brand…if you do not have their brand you are allowed to use the products you got from the food pantry.  The Food Police will not be knocking on your door to check the skillets or the menu!


1 pound fettuccini pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2″ strips

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

2 cups snap peas

1 cup half and half

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 grape tomatoes, cut in halves

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. Heat oil in large saute pan or wok over high heat Add chicken and stir fry, stirring occasionally until cooked through (3-5 mins) REMOVE chicken from pan
  3. Add onions to pan; cook until soft, about 4 minutes
  4. Add garlic and cook one minute.  Add snap peas and cook 2 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium.  Add half and half and butter; cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add cooked pasta, chicken, tomatoes, parsley , salt and pepper; toss to combine and heat through

Serve immediately, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil, if you have it.

This makes a beautiful dish and it’s quick and easy while nutritious at the same time.  Don’t fret if you don’t have SNAP PEAS, regular peas will do.  If you have no half and half in your fridge, it’s no crime to substitute milk, even if it is the dry, prepared kind.

I was pleased to see that Tecumseh Central Market is featuring chicken breasts in their sale circular this week; maybe your market has a special going, too.  Checking it out will be worth your time.



If you have grape tomatoes to cut, but little time, try this trick I learned from watching Rachel Ray:  Put a deli lid on your counter and place the tomatoes (this works for grapes, as well) on the lid and place a SECOND lid over the product.  Using a serrated edge knife, and holding the top lid in place with one hand, slice from side to side, between the two lids.  You will have perfectly sliced tomatoes or grapes in a fraction of the time it would take to do them one by one!

We hope you remember to consult with our professional partners at Saving Dinner when planning and shopping for menus in your home!  And if you have not entered your name and email address for our series of cooking tips, please visit Food Stamps Cooking Club !

Connie Baum

Are You Counting the Days?

December 13th, 2008

Are you counting the days til Christmas?  Even if YOU are not, the children in your life ARE counting!  They are hearing from every corner of their lives that they must be good, for Santa is coming…

Children find waiting for Christmas a daunting task.  I know, because I WAS a kid who marked every day on the calendar, watched for the clock to tick the time, and made every effort to behave.  Sometimes I actually did behave myself.  Heaven forbid I should receive a lump of coal!

One of the things that helps children to wait through the excitement is to see so they are well rested and often fed.  Kids need snacks to keep their growing, active bodies at peak performance.  Their blood sugar can nose dive, and their mood can become less than festive…ask any harried parent who ever took a hungry, nap deprived child to the grocery store!

Here is a wonderful, cost effective snack recipe from the good folks at Wyoming’s University Cooperative Extension Service:

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip

1 cup nonfat yogurt (plain)

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup peanut butter

Slices of fruits or veggies

In a bowl, combine ygurt, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix well.

Serve with slices of fruits or vegetables, as a dip.

*My variation: slice a banana lengthwise and spread like frosting.  Cut the banana into slices and arrange on a small plate to make a face or other design!

This mixture can also be used as a sandwich spread.  Be sure to keep sandwiches made with this spread refrigerated.


Cooking Tip

During the holidays, you can create a festive atmosphere on a tiny budget by pooling food with another budget concious family.  Invite your cousins or neighbors to come for a meal where everyone brings a dish some to share.  If everyone brings a “surprise” dish it can make for comical holiday memories.  Once upon a time I attended an affair like this and we still giggle about all the wide array of baked beans!


 The Dinner Diva has more ideas about food, cooking tips, recipes, kitchen matters…and if you appreciate incoming cooking tips, you will want to sign up for Food Stamps Cooking Club !

Connie Baum

How Could They DO That?

December 9th, 2008

  Because of the economy there is a lot of publicity about food costs and food packaging.  We now know what we have long suspected: that food processors have minimized their package contents while leaving the prices in place.  In other words, we are paying more money for less product!

  It’s sneaky and unconsciounable, in my opinion.  My way around that is a very simple solution and here it is:

  Do not BUY things that come in packages.  Examples would be mac n cheese products, helper products, precooked foods or meals, snack foods, and such like.

 The news featured a piece about a family whose rising food cost was alarming.  They were a family of 4 – Mom, Dad, and 2 cute youngsters.  They were spending $250.00 every WEEK at the store.  That is some food budget!

  I don’t believe my husband and I are so different from this couple, except for those kids.  Ours are on their own now.  But I can promise you we do NOT spend $250.00 even in a MONTH at our local grocery store, Tecumseh Central Market.  Our food budget is much more modest.  Yet, we also do not have exorbitant medical bills because we eat wisely, with our health in mind and we eat WELL.

  The difference?  We eat modest portions of foods that nourish us, satisfy us and keep us in the pink of health and the black ink of the bottom line.

  Here follows a prime example of a meal in our home.  Bear in mind we do not have a fancy, tricked out kitchen and there is no room for gadgets.  We keep things very simple:  This would be a lunch or supper we would gladly share with guests or have our fill and save any left over food for another meal.


1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

2 medium onions, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

*1 bud of garlic, chopped, OPTIONAL

Sautee the veggies in a bit of olive oil or butter and season with salt and pepper.  When the onions are opaque, cover the vegetables with chicken stock and simmer until all the vegetables are tender and the kitchen smells delish.

If you like a creamy soup, you can add dry milk powder or whatever milk you like to use and thicken the mixture with flour or cornstarch.

NOTE: Add cold water to the cornstarch, mix well, and add slowly to the hot mixture, stirring constantly.

*When serving this, place a slice of toast in the bottom of the bowl and pour the soup over the toast.  The toast replaces soup crackers, which are very pricey.

 This would go very well with a salad of greens and you could sprinkle a few spoonsful of cooked beans and a bit of shredded cheese over the top for added goodness and to look appetizing.

For dessert an apple or orange would be ideal, healthy and low cost.


Cooking Tip:

Save the waste from the veggies as you prepare this dish and pour a little water over it in a saucepan.  Season it with salt and pepper and let it simmer.  When the pieces are soft, strain it into a food storage container and save it in the fridge for your next soup, gravy or stew. Be sure to mark and date it so you’ll remember to use it and not mistake it for something you would not use!  

You’ll find many more food ideas for your kitchen when you visit with Leanne Ely and if you have not already signed up for the club goodies, we hope you visit Food Stamps Cooking Club !

Connie Baum

Holiday Foods ALREADY?

December 5th, 2008

  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, all right.  The garlands and wreaths and decorated trees are lighted and the ads are blaring.  Shoppers are frantic and the merchants are even more frantic over the Christmas preparations… …and we all know that holiday foods on a budget can be daunting. 

 I feel as if I must mention that EXPECTATIONS can increase your stress level.  Don’t allow yourself and your loved ones to fall into that trap.  KEEP THINGS SIMPLE!

 Instead of knocking yourself out with fancy high cost desserts, see how this recipe idea fits into your lifestyle:


Cook 1 cup of rice (organic brown rice is ideal) in three cups of water until tender.  Drain.

Drain 1 small can crushed, tidbits or chunks of pineapple and save the juice.

Drain 1 large can mandarin oranges; save the juice.

Heat one can of coconut milk OR 1 can of evaporated milk and

thicken it with a tablespoon of cornstarch.

*Note: moisten the cornstarch with a bit of cold water and add that slowly to the milk.

 Allow the mixture to thicken.  Combine all ingredients gently.

At serving time, spoon into bowls and sprinkle with sugar to taste.

Served warm or cold, this is a simple, nourishing dessert.  LEFT OVER, it is delicious as a quick breakfast. 

 For variation, you could add a few plump raisins.

The juice you have reserved can be added to breakfast fruit juices or reinvented as salad dressings by combining with a bit of mayo.


Cooking Tip:

  If you have young children who clamor for a snack as you work in your kitchen, but you don’t want to ruin their appetites, let them munch on slices of raw potato or pieces of fresh fruits and get them involved the the tasks of putting the family’s food on the table.  Engage them in conversations about food, where it comes from and chat with them about your favorite foods in order to discourage “picky” little eaters.


There are so many more great ideas, too, for snacks and menu items offered by Kristen Suzanne!  You can receive regular cooking tips by requesting them on Food Stamps Cooking Club .

Connie Baum

Are YOU Signed Up Yet?

December 2nd, 2008

 Everyone needs something to which they look forward.  It may be an humble trip to the grocery store to pick up menu items for Sunday dinner or it may be a grand shopping expedition to gather the necessities for baking goodies meant for holiday gifts.  In any case, there is a sense of expectation and excitement!

  We have that sense of excitement here in the Club House!  We are anticipating the first of a series of cooking classes beginning this very week!  Each session has been planned and named and the handouts are in little folders, ready for the students.

  We have limited the number of attendees for each class to three for a couple of reasons:  First, we want to make sure everyone gets the proper attention they deserve for taking the time to pop by and participate in the fun and learning.  Second, this little kitchen only has room for dishes in place settings of 4; all that did not fit into the cabinets waits patiently in storage while we manifest a larger home!

  The Food Stamps Cooking Club’s first session will be something akin to a coffee klatch, where we will get acquainted and we can understand what the level of understanding is regarding culinary skills.  We will discuss stocking the pantry, the fridge, and the freezer.  The students will quickly discern that this kitchen is no fancy, tricked out, ultra-super test kitchen.  It is simply the heart of our home that we wish to open, along with our hearts, to people who may benefit from our experience and caring.


Cooking Tip:

 When choosing items to put into your shopping cart, consider the value of store brands.  If the name brand is comparable in size and content, the store brand is likely to be the better bargain for your buck.  In my own experience, I have learned that the store brand is preferable in quality and price.  Locally, we have an affiliate for Shurfine Foods and I appreciate that I can save money by shopping locally, at Tecumseh Central Market, and save real cash on my food budget.  If we don’t buy locally, we have to drive a ways to shop and that would cost time as well as money.


Here is a low cost and healthy salad recipe you may want to add to your collection.  If your family enjoys beans as much as we do, this will disappear quickly.  It comes from Emily Tarbell.


1 – 15 oz can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 – 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 tomatoes, chopped (seed if you like)

2/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/8 to 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Combine all and mix well.  Chill 15 – 30 minutes before serving.  Serves 4.

There are more food ideas for the heart of YOUR home to be found here: Saving Dinner and Lancaster County

If you have not already done so, you will want to visit the Food Stamps Cooking Club  to leave your email address in order to get the information and money-saving report that has been prepared for you.

Connie Baum