Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beer Bread Redux

I have already written once about the beauty and simplicity of a loaf of beer bread here. It's fulfills all the criteria: looks harder than it is, cheap to make and is really, really good. I have now discovered another use for it. It makes killer french toast. DH is the breakfast cook at the Basilica and he has declared it easy to cook with and a winner. This particular batch was made with good old High Life and it tastes like some of the more rich breads that are used so often in restaurant french toasts. I am going to start freezing a couple of slices out of every batch to use later when it's cold outside and we need a hearty, warm weekend breakfast. Nothing like a beer at 7 a.m.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Only Thing I Make With Campbell's Soup

I am truly a child of the seventies. I had those polyester matched shorts and tops sets with the welting running down the front of the shorts. My mother wore falls in her hair like Lynn Anderson. We drove a succession of Chrysler's finest K cars starting with the great slant-six engine carryovers of the sixties and limping to the end of the seventies in a Volare. My mother went to work in 1974 and I learned to cook. I was nine and had already been helping for years. She would leave a list of instructions and I would follow them to the letter. It made me a fearless cook. Now I can make a meal out of almost anything.
But somehow in our household we skipped right over the 70's mania for making things out of Campbell's cream soups. During sleepovers at friend's houses I would be treated to some mishmash of chicken, rice or noodles, soup, cheese and maybe a mushroom or two. I loved it. Growing up on exactly what came out of the garden had made me crave anything that was from a restaurant, a 7-11 or came out of a can. The only thing my mother ever made with Campbell's was her pork chops and potatoes using Golden Mushroom Soup. For some reason it tastes real in a way most thrown-together casseroles don't. I still make it and love it. It is a crowd-pleaser, foolproof, cheap, easy and always tastes like home. As my palate matured past the 7-11, I have kept this in my repertoire and always keep a can of golden mushroom soup around just in case.
Mushroom Pork Chops and Potatoes.
Serves a bunch.
Peel enough potatoes to fill up 3/4 of whatever casserole dish you'll be using. I use a deep-dish corning ware one that ensures enough for leftovers. Slice potatoes, a package of mushrooms and dice an onion. Mix the soup with about 1 1/2 cans water and stir. Layer potatoes, onions, mushrooms and soup, usually about 3 layers. Salt and pepper each layer. Cover the top with pork chops (or chicken breasts) and the rest of the soup. Bake about an hour and fifteen minutes at 375 uncovered. We serve this with a salad, baked beans and cornbread. Heaven!

Walgreens Easy Saver -- More Freebies!

There are so many different ways to save a buck that after a while it gets overwhelming. I find that unless I want to spend half the weekend rustling papers and comparing deals I have to choose my battles wisely. One deal that is a must in my book are the Walgreens Easy Saver deals. Every month they give away Easy Saver books in the stores. These have coupons that can be paired with manufacturer's coupons for some great deals. They also have several rebates in the back. I am ambivalent about rebates in general because sometimes for me they just aren't worth the trouble.

There is, however, one rebate that I consistently do. Every month there are one or two items in the Easy Saver that are free after rebate. The way to maximize this deal is to purchase your items in the store and then request the rebate online. No mailing stuff in or keeping up with paperwork. You will have to register using the title link above. After registering opt for the Gift Card option. When you choose the gift card they will rebate your purchase price plus 10%. It's a no-brainer. In a couple of weeks it will appear on your card. That's it. Simple. Streamlined. Just the way we like it.

This month's deals are a Revlon product, Orajel Cold Sore patches, and an auto air freshener. I'm not interested in the air freshener, even for free, but I can always use an eye shadow and as stressed as I am lately surely there is a cold sore in my future. The shadow was $4.99 and the Orajel was $8.49. These were paid for on my gift card with previous rebate money and will be given back on the card plus 10%. Plus I have a mail-in rebate for the Orajel so it's a win-win-win situation. No money out of pocket and extra money given back. Worth every bit of effort!

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 20 - Maybe the best day ever!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 is a day that will live on in the memories of us all. Not only do we get a new president, but we also get free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme! People who know me know how I feel about getting a new president. For those who don't, let's just say that Tuesday can't come soon enough. I was prepared to let him go and move on, but the latest round of exit interviews have reminded me that he is clueless about the damage inflicted during his presidency and blah, blah, blah. We all know it, we've all heard it, and let's just hope that better days are around the corner. Enough said. My blood pressure can't take it.

On to doughnuts. Something I definitely don't need since giving up the gym membership. But a free Krispy Kreme! Warm, gooey, covered in flaky glaze. It is 6 degrees here in Kentucky and a free, warm doughnut sounds pretty good. Between free chicken sandwiches at Chik-fil-A and free doughnuts, we can maybe all stay off the public dole for another week. Thanks to Kim for the heads-up on this deal!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wind in the Willows

Recently I read an article about a woman who wished that she could read books the way her daughter does. She talked about immersing herself in a world that seems so real that nothing else matters. I remember those days. I would sit in the hackberry tree in front of our house reading for so long that my father eventually installed a board crossways in the crook of two branches for more comfortable seating. I would hide under the covers with a flashlight reading until my eyes burned. In 6th grade my teacher discovered The Exorcist in my desk drawer and asked if my mother knew I was reading it. Of course I lied and said yes. I read three books a day during the summer when our baby sitter moved across the street from the library.
When I was very young the Bookmobile came. A rolling panel van full of books that came right to your house! Now when I look back I thank the bookmobile lady who took special care to bring books she thought I would like along with books she thought I should read. She introduced me to biographies of Babe Didrikson, the woman who first competed in a men's PGA event in 1938 and was an Olympic medalist, Marie Curie, and Amelia Earhart. Through her I met suffragettes and Misty of Chincoteague and Anne Frank. She gave me a world that I may never have investigated otherwise.
One of the worlds was the River and Toad Hall and the Wild Wood. She gave me Badger and Mole and Toad and Rat, the denizens of that little world where motor cars poop-poop along, the river winds slowly and the creatures that live there become friends and have adventures that could only happen in the imagination. 2008 marked the 100th year of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel. It has been movified, adapted, reillustrated and abridged to death but nothing beats the original. Grahame wrote the novel based on letters he wrote to his son. His language is the greatest pleasure of the book. This passage alone makes me remember why the book held me in thrall so many years ago:

"And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!""By it and with it and on it and in it," said the Rat. "It's brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It's my world, and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing."

What is your book that made you lose yourself? The Wind in the Willows is better than a whole list of resolutions for me for this year. I want to be a good friend like Rat. I want to be spontaneous like Mole and leave off my duties for a while. I want to gallivant about like Toad and not worry about the consequences. I want to sit by the river and just watch it go by. I want to face my fears like walking into the Wild Wood, not knowing what's there but hoping that my imagination is much scarier than the real thing. Pick a book that makes you remember what it was like to only want to be in that world, that you put off finishing because you couldn't bear to say goodbye to the characters. Share it with someone else. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?