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Cooking up new ideas

​During this pandemic I have done a lot of cooking and baking. Friday night date night has ended up to be Friday night date night at home. That is really all right with me since I like to cook. Coming up with the menus is the issue. I try to have different things for us to eat.

​I have made a lot of soups. The one I made last week was especially good. I used the ham bone from the Christmas ham. I had placed it in the freezer shortly after the holiday.

This week I removed it and cooked it up to get the broth and also to loosen the meat. I used lentils this time to make it somewhat different. At any rate it ended up tasting very good.

Basically, I follow the recipe on the package but I always add a couple carrots, a couple stalks of celery, and a couple potatoes to bump up the nutrition.

​I learned the hard way to taste the broth to see how salty it is. One time I made my soup and it was very salty. I stopped my son-in-law before he added salt to his bowl.

I know he does this so I was watching. This one was not too salty so I added salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

​When I make a large batch of soup, I serve it, keep enough for a second dinner, then place the rest in the freezer to have at a later time. It is really hard to make a small batch of any kind of homemade soup. By the time you add all of the ingredients your stock pot is full.

Right now, I have some of that soup plus some chili that I made a couple weeks ago in the freezer. I might even have some chicken and noodle soup.

It is very handy to have soup in the freezer. That makes cooking easy the next time.

​A friend gave me a good recipe for a loaf of bread that cooks in the microwave. It is like English muffins.

I bought some glass pans just so that I would have them to make this bread. I am not sure where she got the recipe but it is a good one.

​This bread is served toasted just like you do English muffins. I like it for breakfast with or without jelly.

Microwave Baked Bread

2 c. plus 1 T. all-purpose flour

1 envelope active dry yeast or 1T. of it

2 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 c. skim milk — I have used whole milk as well

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 T. water

This recipe makes a loaf that makes 12 slices.

In a large bowl mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour in the milk. Mix by hand. As you stir it becomes very stretchy. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or with a damp towel. Let rise for close to an hour in a draft-free place that is warm.

In a small bowl dissolve the baking soda in the water. Add to the batter and stir vigorously. Spray an 8-inch by 4-inch glass loaf pan. Place the batter in the pan and cover loosely. Let rise again.

Microwave on high uncovered until no wet spots remain on the surface (about 4 minutes). This depends on the power of your microwave. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Then remove from the pan and cool before putting into a plastic bag to keep.

​​I have also discovered the benefit of using pre-made pie crusts. You can whip up a pie in minutes.

I made mincemeat, apple, and rhubarb pies. Don especially likes the mincemeat so I keep some of that in my pantry. I also make a crumb crust for the top. That way the pie does not spill over. Don has told me he thinks he likes the crumb crust better than a second crust.

​We do not eat a lot of desserts. Frequently we have a dish of fruit with our lunch. Sometimes I have cookies to go with that. It just depends.

When my grandson was home for vacation, I made a couple kinds of cookies so he could take them back to school with him.

​Of course, we have eaten chicken, pork, beef, and fish. I have tried different recipes with all of them. Don likes the dark meat so I often purchase legs and thighs. We have had pasta dishes as well. You can never go wrong with something Italian.

​I have found that if I make my tossed salads look pretty, he eats them better.

I put some cheese, a little meat, and some type of croutons on top. Sometimes I add hard boiled eggs. It is really a meal in itself. I often serve tossed salad with the soup. I also made two types of homemade dressings for them.

When I was at the Russell school, the cooks made their own dressings. Those are the two I made.

I had to call someone to get the second recipe — Doris I found my own after we talked.

​Although it takes some planning, I recycle my leftovers into something entirely new. For instance, I take a pork roast and turn it into fried rice or stir fry. The chicken recycles as a pot pie or chicken and biscuit.

When people say they do not like leftovers they are mistaken. They just do not like things reheated.

Cook your meat and plan several dishes to reuse what is left.

Now that is just the two of us, I have become very inventive.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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