Feature Writer Susan Roe

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: A Light Taste of Spring

Spring has always been the time to start easing up on the heavy winter meals for us around here, so I started paying attention to salads and fresh items that are now popping up in the grocery stores this season.  I found this recipe, Dilled Chicken Salad on Greens, from the cookbook “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Terrific Diabetic Meals” and knew I had found my recipe.

Since Matt works nights, he often does some of our grocery shopping on his way home.  I sent the recipe ingredients to him via e-mail. Luckily, Matt knows our pantry and refrigerator as well as–if not better–than I do, so he would know what we would need.

Once Saturday evening chores were done and Matt was finished outside, we started working on the salad.  I really like Schwans frozen boneless chicken breasts because they are individually wrapped, making it easier to take out 4 breasts to equal about 1-1/2 pounds or so.  Matt thawed them a bit in some hot tap water, slipping them out of their wrappers and onto a cutting board, where I then cut them in half lengthwise and then put them in a pot with enough water to cover.  The chicken had to be poached by bringing the water to a boil, reducing to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until chicken was white and tender.  Matt put a bit of Herb De Province in with the water to lightly season the chicken.  After 15 minutes, the chicken was removed from the water and placed on the cutting board to cool.

Now, to make the Dilled Mayonnaise.  In the bowl of my food processor, I put the following ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped and tough stems removed
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon salt
Juice of half of a lemon
1 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

You should then process these ingredients until finely chopped.  I had to stop once or twice to scrape some of the mixture down towards the blades to be sure everything was the same consistency.  I then transferred the mixture to a medium bowl and stirred in 1/3-cup mayonnaise and 1/3 cup plain yogurt.  You can also substitute with low-fat mayonnaise and low-fat plain yogurt.

While I made the Dilled Mayonnaise, Matt sliced the chicken into bite-sized pieces and then I took 1 red bell pepper and cored, seeded, and diced it to go into the salad with the chicken.  The chicken and red bell pepper were then added to the Dilled Mayonnaise mixture and set aside until the salad plates were ready.

Matt took some torn mixed salad greens and covered our plates with them. He sliced several tomatoes into juicy wedges and arranged them along the edges of the plates with buttery slices of avocado. Last but not least, right in the center went a nice mound of our dilled chicken salad.  All that was left to do was pick up our forks and dig right in to this wonderful fresh salad.

One thing really nice about this salad and the plate presentation, you can change things up a bit to suit your own taste preference.  You can change the tomatoes and avocados to cucumbers and short celery sticks.  Slip in a couple of sweet or dill pickle slices along with a few olives tucked in here and there.  For a well-rounded meal, you could not only have fresh vegetable slices, but you could also add some fruit slices and lightly sprinkle everything with some shredded cheddar cheese.

Matt and I both really enjoyed this salad and we are adding it to our do-over recipe notebook.  I have a feeling we’re going to enjoy making different changes to this salad each and every time we have it on our table.  Enjoy!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Superbowl Blow-Out

Now that Super Bowl 45 is finally here, I had to get my planning skills in gear and get everything ready for my guests and our football party.  Finding the Packer and Steeler colors for decorations was the easy part, but finding anything with the two specific teams in mind was impossible on game-day weekend.  No matter, I had two tables covered with layers of green, yellow and black plastic tablecloths, yellow plates and plastic ware, green plastic cups, and paper napkins also in green, yellow and black.

Food was the next item on my list and everyone voiced their opinion on their favorite foods.  I settled on a few frozen items to pop in the oven, stuffed pizza slices and breaded chicken tenders.  I took a bag of Italian style meatballs and put them in my crockpot with two bottles of Jack Daniels #7 barbecue sauce and two large spoonfuls of homemade grape preserves, to bring out the zing in the barbecue sauce.  Matt found a recipe for sausage cheese puffs and he made his own Texas chili.  Pattie took the Better Butterscotch Brownie recipe, changed the flavor of the chips and came up with white chocolate brownies, peanut butter chocolate brownies and semi-sweet chocolate brownies.  My cousin Glenda and her fiancé Eric brought chips, Italian pasta salad and banana pudding.  Last but not least, we set out sodas and a cooler of ice, and then Matt and I were off to pick up our last two guests.  Annette and Carlos are my best friends and a very independent blind couple.  Matt calls them my partners in crime.

Here is a great recipe for game day or any gathering–Sausage Cheese Puffs

Makes 60 appetizers

Ingredients:

1 pound roll sausage

2-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups Bisquik

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ingredients in a large bowl until blended.  Shape into 1 inch balls.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve hot.

The day wouldn’t be complete without some chili, so here’s Matt’s recipe.

Matt’s Texas Chili with Fiesta Toppers

Serves a mess of hungry people

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained

1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies

2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons Paprika

2 tablespoons Cumin

1 tablespoon dried Oregano

1 tablespoon dried Cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Fiesta Toppers:

Shredded Mexican mild cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Chopped onions

Sliced olives

2 bags Tostitos Scoops

Directions:

1. In your chili pot over medium-high heat, brown your beef, onion, garlic and red pepper together until beef is brown and vegetables are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired.  Drain beef mixture.

2. Add beans, tomatoes and remaining dried ingredients, then mix well.  Bring chili to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with your choice of Fiesta Toppers on the top of the chili and the scoops on the side for scooping up every drop of delicious chili.

With our plates, bowls, and cups filled with wonderful food and drink, the seven of us were ready to root for a winning team.

Super Bowl 45 recap

Texas Stadium: Arlington, Texas 

AFC Champions Pittsburg Steelers Vs NFC Champions Green Bay Packers

Green Bay wins the opening coin toss and they deferred to Pittsburg.  Green Bay will take possession at the second half.

First Quarter:

Pittsburg and Green Bay take their time and seem to be cautiously feeling each other out. 

Touchdown!  Green Bay, Jordy Nelson, 29 Yards

7/0, Green Bay

Touchdown!  Green Bay, Nick Collins, 37 Yards

14/0, Green Bay

Second Quarter:

14/0, Green Bay

Pittsburg offense is trying to figure out Green Bay defense.  Pittsburg then pushes for a touchdown, but falls short and goes for a field goal.

Fieldgoal!  Pittsburg, Shaun Suisham, 33 Yards

14/3, Green Bay

Pittsburg pushes for a come back.  Green Bay’s Jarrett Bush, intercepts.

Touchdown!  Green Bay, Greg Jennings, 21 Yards

21/3, Green Bay

Touchdown!  Pittsburg, Hines Ward, 8 Yards

21/10, Green Bay

Bridgestone Halftime:

Blackeyed Peas and Usher sang and danced, with their outfits giving quite an interesting neon pulsing light show all on their own.  Members of our party were rooting for different teams and it was fun to be able to tease one another in good cheer.

Third Quarter:

21/10, Green Bay

Green Bay fizzles out on their first drive.  They soon received a bad penalty call for grabbing a face mask, but the player clearly seemed to have grabbed the Pittsburg player’s collar, according to TV game announcers.  Pittsburg pushes hard for a touchdown at the 8 yard line.

Touchdown!  Pittsburg, Rashard Mendenhall, 8 Yards

21/17, Green Bay

Green Bay defense can’t seem to stop Pittsburg offense.  Pittsburg tried for a 52-yard field goal, but it was no good–off by a mile to the left.  Now Pittsburg uses their second timeout.  Green Bay and Pittsburg push back and forth on the field with no progress.  It was easy to see that Pittsburg dominated the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter:

21/17, Green Bay

Pittsburg fumbled and Green Bay quickly recovered.  Possession still goes back and forth then Green Bay almost makes a touchdown.  Pittsburg defense sacked Green Bay

Touchdown!  Green Bay, Greg Jennings, 8 Yards

28/17, Green Bay

Touchdown!  Pittsburg, Mike Wallace, 25 Yards

Pittsburg successfully gets the 2 Point Conversion.

28/25, Green Bay

The remaining 7 minutes are filled with sacks, false starts, completions, turnovers and incompletes.

Fieldgoal!  Green Bay, Mason Crosby, 23 Yards

31/25, green Bay

Green Bay had possession and took a knee down as the time clock ran out the final seconds of Super Bowl 45.

NFL Super Bowl 45 Champions and recipient of the Vince Lombardi trophy:  Green Bay Packers!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – NFL Conference Championship Snack Feast

Here we are once again looking forward to another Sunday of planning a meal along with watching the top two NFL divisions go head to head for the NFC and AFC Championship titles.  It’s the Green Bay Packers vs. the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets vs the Pittsburgh Stealers.  We decided to watch Green Bay and Chicago, knowing that these two teams were the longest running rivals in NFL history.

Now that we decided which game we were going to watch, it was time to do some early prepping for the food we would be eating.  When Matt came home this morning from his night shift, he made the spinach dip before going to bed.  The dip is very easy to put together, requiring only 16 ounces sour cream, 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 envelope Knorr’s spring vegetable soup mix and 1 box of frozen spinach thawed.  Mix everything together with only half of the sour cream at this time and then set aside in the refrigerator for later.  Wen you’re ready for it again, check the dip’s thickness.  If you want to use it as a dip for chips or bread, add the remaining sour cream, or if you want it thick enough to spread on crackers, just leave it like it is.

Around noon, my sister Pattie and I baked a double batch of butterscotch brownies.  I was afraid one of two things were going to wake Matt upstairs, the heavenly aroma of the brownies baking or our little dog Quincy barking for the butterscotch chips.  Here is the easy brownie recipe.

Better Butterscotch Brownies

1 batch makes nine, 3-inch square brownies

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick creamy unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt, mix well. Add butter, water, vanilla and eggs, and blend well. Spread the mixture evenly into your prepared pan. Sprinkle with butterscotch chips.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

After reading an article in the Janesville Gazette about the quarterbacks for the Bears and the Packers, and the off-field friendship they shared, I wondered if those two guys ever realized in their past that they would be where they are today, playing on opposing teams in the NFC Championship.  With the outcome of these two rival teams yet to be determined, let’s hope the losing friend is planning on watching the winning friend be championed once again in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

Here’s a brief recap of the NFC Championship Game – Green Bay vs. Chicago at Soldier Field

1st Quarter:

Touchdown!  Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers rushes for 1 Yard

7 to 0, Green Bay

No Surprise Green Bay is first to cross the goal line, but Chicago later pushes Green Bay out of field goal range.

2nd Quarter:

Touchdown!  Green Bay, J. Starks rushes 4 Yards

14 to 0, Green Bay

Chicago needs not to panic and rally their defense, but they are having trouble stopping Green Bay quarterback Rodgers.

Half Time:

Now that halftime gives us a brake in the game, we can put together the rest of our finger foods.  Matt sets up our plates with slices of smoked turkey, Genoa salami, pepperoni, smoked Swiss and Darrymore aged cheddar.  Topped off with two kinds of Triskets, rosemary/olive oil and cracked peppercorn/olive oil, along with thinly sliced French bread for the spinach dip.  We also treated ourselves with a glass of Duplin scuppernong white wine.  Now with our plates full and a brownie waiting on the side, we were ready for more football.

Second Half

3rd Quarter:

Chicago just can’t seem to stop Rodgers, yet their defense is showing signs of picking up.

4th Quarter:

Chicago is making a comeback with their third string quarterback who is trying his best to make a game of it.

Touchdown!  Chicago Bears, Chester Taylor for 1 Yard

14 to 7 Green Bay

Touchdown!  Green Bay, BJ Raji grabs an interception and runs it back 18 Yards

21 to 7 Green Bay

Touchdown!  Chicago, Earl Bennett for 35 Yards

21 to 14 Green Bay

Final Scores of the day:

NFC Champions:  the #6 Seed, Green Bay Packers, 21 to 14 

AFC Champions:  The #2 Seed, Pittsburgh Steelers, 24 to 19 over the New York Jets

Great, now off to the Super Bowl in Texas, for Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh.  Now I have a Super Bowl party to plan for and guests to invite!

Yay, go Packers!  Go Steelers!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Wildcards and Game-Day Stew

Sunday was the second half of AFC Wildcard weekend and we were gearing up for the football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Saturday’s two games were done, leaving the Seattle Seahawks over the New Orleans Saints, 41 to 36, and the New York Jets over the Indianapolis Colts, 17 to 16.  The remaining two games were the Baltimore Ravens against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles against the Green Bay Packers.

You can’t watch playoff games and not think of food, so I pointed Matt to one of our guy-oriented cookbooks, “A Man, A Can, and A Plan” and told him to start looking for something suitable for dinner.  He found “Game-Day Stew,” perfect for watching football on a cold January afternoon.  Here are the simple ingredients:

Game-Day Stew

One 12-ounce can of beer, your choice

1-1/2 pounds of stew beef

One 15-ounce can of sliced new potatoes, drained

One 11-ounce can of tomato soup

One 15-ounce can of carrots, drained

Two medium onions, cut in wedges

Two teaspoons oregano

One 8-ounce can of peas, drained

One 6-ounce can of sliced mushrooms

I started putting this stew together at 12:30 because I wanted it in the oven before the Raven’s game started at 1:00.  First I preheated the oven to 300 degrees.  This stew is so easy, even a guy could do it with no problems.  Just take all of the ingredients except the peas and the mushrooms and dump them in a large, deep baking dish.  You might want to check that your beef pieces are bite size, which will ensure they cook evenly.  When all of that is done, cover the baking dish and place it in the oven for 2 hours; however, you are not done with this stew, now it’s game time!

According to the Baltimore Sun’s sports section, “The Ravens offense has been criticized for being too conservative in the second half of games. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said the offense has to have an aggressive mindset in order to reach the Super Bowl.”  Will Ravens coach John Harbaugh be able to push his team to a second Super Bowl win in 2011?  Time will tell, one game at a time.

According to the Kansas City Star sports section on Friday, “Weis, the veteran offensive coordinator, indicated he was embarrassed by the way the Chiefs played in last week’s 31-10 loss to Oakland. But he also said he didn’t believe the Chiefs would play that way in Sunday’s first-round playoff game against Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium.  I think you’ll see a different (Chiefs) team show up.” Coach Todd Haley will just have to put his game day face on and show us what his Kansas City Chiefs team is made of.

With the Baltimore Ravens standing at 12 and 4, and the Kansas City Chiefs standing at 10 and 6, let’s see who will be headed to the next playoff round in a week.

Here’s the game recap:

First Quarter:

Field Goal! Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff

3 to 0, Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens are finding themselves hard pressed to make a touchdown, while Kansas City Chiefs are definitely looking good for very little playoff experience.

Touchdown! Kansas City Chiefs Jamal Charles, 41 Yards

7 to 3, Kansas City Chiefs

Second Quarter:

Kansas City Chiefs are moving the football well and Baltimore Ravens are having trouble stopping Charles.

Touchdown! Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice, 9 Yards

10 to 7, Baltimore Ravens

Halftime:

Back to the Game-Day Stew.   Once your 2 hours are up, remove dish from oven and stir in peas and mushrooms.  Return the stew to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  You can either dish up the stew at that time or turn the oven off and wait until the game is over.

Third Quarter: 

Baltimore Ravens are gaining confidence, clamping down on Kansas City Chiefs offense as the Kansas City Chiefs defense is falling short.

Fieldgoal! Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff

13 to 7, Baltimore Ravens

Fieldgoal! Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff

16 to 7, Baltimore Ravens

Touchdown! Baltimore Ravens Anquan Boldin, 10 Yards

23 to 7, Baltimore Ravens

Fourth Quarter:

Baltimore Ravens are holding their own. Kansas City Chiefs defense is pushing back, but Kansas City Chiefs offense is shaky.

Touchdown! Baltimore Ravens Willis McGahee, 25 Yards  

Final Score: 30 to 7, Baltimore Ravens win!

Now let’s finish up this NFL Wildcard Weekend.  The Baltimore Ravens took the Kansas City Chiefs, 30 to 7 and the Green Bay Packers took the Philadelphia Eagles, 21 to 16.  Now these four fantastic teams are shaking off the gridiron dust with all of their concentration focused on being one game closer to the ultimate goal: Super Bowl 2011!

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!  Pass the stew please!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: How to Share Amish Friendship Bread

Have you ever tasted a warm, sweet piece of Amish Friendship Bread fresh out of the oven?  Well I have, and it is a wonderful holiday treat that you can make for yourself and share with a friend or three at the same time.

My cousin Glenda was the first person who shared Amish Friendship Bread with me and I was lucky enough this time to be given the starter recipe which Glenda found once more for us on the Internet.  The nicest way to receive Amish Friendship Bread is to be handed one of the loaves accompanied by a cup of the starter mix and the recipe.  Then you can mix up a batch of the starter batter for ten days and divide it into four cups; one to bake with and three cups to give away to friends along with the directions and the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread.

First of all, you need to have the starter mix recipe if you haven’t been given some by a friend.  It is very important to use plastic or wooden utensils and plastic or glass containers when making this.  Do not use metal at all!

Starter Mix Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for about 10 minutes. Stir well.

2. In a 2-quart glass or plastic container, combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will get lumpy when you add the milk.

3. Slowly stir in warm milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Loosely cover the mixture with a lid or plastic wrap. The mixture will get bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the cycle, or the day you receive the starter.

Now here comes the fun part and very important to mixing up the starter batter.  For the next 10 days, handle the starter according to the instructions below for the Amish Friendship Bread.

Day 1 – Receive the starter or mix up the starter recipe above.

Day 2 – Stir

Day 3 – Stir

Day 4 – Stir

Day 5 – Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk and stir.

Day 6 – Stir

Day 7 – Stir

Day 8 – Stir

Day 9 – Stir

Day 10 – Add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk and stir.  Divide into 4 containers, with 1 cup each for three of your friends and 1 cup for your own loaves.  Give your friends the instructions for Day 1 through Day 10 and the following recipe for baking the bread.

Basic Amish Friendship Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1 cup of Amish Friendship Bread Starter

2/3 cup oil

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Using a fork or wisk, beat by hand until well blended.  You can add 1 cup raisins and 1 cup nuts (optional).

2. Grease two loaf pans with butter and sprinkle with sugar instead of flour.

3. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remember, individual oven temperatures vary.  Cool loaves for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

There are also multiple bread variations.  They are separated by the ## symbol for your convenience.

Banana Nut Amish Friendship Bread:

When making the basic recipe, reduce oil to 1/3 cup.  Omit cinnamon.  Increase vanilla extract to 1-1/2 teaspoons.  Add 3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed (banana skins should be almost black) and 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

##

Chocolate Amish Friendship Bread:

Omit cinnamon from the basic recipe and add 1 (5.1 oz) box of instant chocolate pudding, an additional ½ cup milk, 3 teaspoons cocoa and 3/4 cup chocolate chips.  Bake for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours.

##

Butterscotch Amish Friendship Bread:

To the basic recipe add 1 (5.1 oz) box of butterscotch pudding, an additional 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup of butterscotch chips.  Omit the cinnamon.

##

Caramel Apple Friendship Bread:

Omit cinnamon from the basic recipe.  Add 1 (5.1 oz) box of instant caramel pudding, and an additional 1/2 cup milk and 2 cups dried apples.

##

Pumpkin Spice Amish Friendship Bread:

When making the basic recipe, reduce oil to 1/3 cup.  Reduce cinnamon to 1 teaspoon.  Use brown sugar instead of white sugar.  Add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.  Before baking, stir in 1 cup canned pumpkin.

##

Carrot Cake Amish Friendship Bread:

Increase the cinnamon in the basic recipe to 1 Tablespoon.  Add to the basic recipe the following ingredients:  3 medium carrots shredded, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chunky homestyle applesauce, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.  Use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Can be frosted with cream cheese frosting.

##

Pick one or try them all and enjoy!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: Searching for the Great Pumpkin

Growing up here on the farm was loads of fun in October.  My family didn’t grow many pumpkins, but the farm next door did.  In fact, Daniel Peace had a field behind our farm, on the other side of the woods that separated the properties, which was always planted with pumpkins.  Loads of pumpkins, a pumpkin patch that the Great Pumpkin most definitely had to call home.

Mr. Peace always told my cousin Wes and I that we could have as many pumpkins as we wanted for Halloween.  There was only one catch; we could have as many as we wanted that we could carry out of the patch at one time.  Well, telling that to a pair of eight year olds was pure madness.  I’m surprised that the two of us were not the first eight-year-olds with hernias.  We didn’t go for size, but went straight for numbers.

Wes and I each found one pumpkin that weighed about 5 pounds and we tucked it up in our shirttails.  Then came several that were less than 3 pounds and I believe we would have balanced one on each of our heads if we could have figured out a way to keep them from falling.  Last but not least, we found the perfect pumpkin, or at least to us eight-year-old pumpkin masters, and we just had to have that one too.  Some how, only God and the Great Pumpkin will ever know how, but we managed to carry that pumpkin tucked between us along with all the rest bundled up in our ever stretching shirt tails.

Thank goodness we only had to carry our treasures just inside the woods.  Wes quickly lowered the larger pumpkin to the ground and then we raced to the back yard, unloaded our pitiful shirts, and raced back for our perfect pumpkin.  Success at last!  Now we were set to carve our three larger pumpkins and left the smaller ones to stay uncut and just be a plain decoration on the front porch.

Memories like these always come to mind this time of year as soon as pumpkins start filling up our local vegetable stands and grocery stores.  All sizes along with multiple colors can easily be found in the fall.  There are also pumpkins and gourds with odd shapes and textures that people love setting out as part of their fall displays.  We have also used several dried corn stalks bundled together with a trio of dried colored Indian corn and husks as part of our fall decorations.

When Matt and I were getting ready to visit a pumpkin patch, we were quite disappointed to find it raining when we walked out the door.  No matter, we just headed in the direction of the closest vegetable stand and picked ours out under a shelter and hardly felt a drop.  Sorry Great Pumpkin, I’m not eight years old and I don’t have to get wet to find the perfect pumpkin.

I wanted three pumpkins for carving and two pumpkins to cook with.  Once I showed Matt the medium size I wanted to carve and the smaller size I wanted to cook with, he picked them out and then loaded them up in our truck.  I also selected two butternut squash, two acorn squash and about 6 small sweet potatoes, all perfect for oven roasting for later recipes.  Since this vegetable stand would be closing November first, I picked up some Amish sliced bacon, smoked sausage and several cheeses to round out my order.

Pattie was coming over in a day or so to help with cutting the smaller pumpkins and squash for roasting and collecting the pumpkin seeds to roast with a spicy seasoning mix.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are great to munch on and they are a good source of fiber.  Below you will find two recipes that we will be using for the pumpkin seeds and a delicious pumpkin soup.

We never have a set way of carving our pumpkins; we let the pumpkin guide us on how they want to look.  Cutting the eyes, nose and just the right crooked smile on each pumpkin free-hand without a guide gives each spooky faced character along with a few laughs on what we end up with.  You can take a paper plate and cut a circle in the center to fit over the stem and use it as a guide to remove the lid.  Then just push up your sleeves and scoop out the seeds and pulp before you start carving.  Don’t forget to save your pumpkin seeds for roasting later.

Recipes:

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

3 cups pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons canola oil

1-1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chile de arbol powder

Note:  You can substitute any seasoned salt mix for the selections given.

Directions:

  1. Place the pumpkin seeds in a large bowl and toss with the oil and salt.
  2. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 250° until they dry, which will take about 1-1/2 hours. Once they are dry, you can season them and bake them at 350° until they are toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 apple, peeled and diced

2 cups fresh pumpkin, roasted and diced, see note below

1 tablespoon sage leaves

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a stockpot over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion, carrot, apple, roasted pumpkin, and sage until all are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food mill; if you do not have a food mill, then puree in a food processor or blender. Return the puree to the stockpot, add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the cream and simmer for 5 more minutes, lowering the heat if necessary so it does not boil. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Divide soup among 4 soup bowls and serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: To roast pumpkin, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut whole pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Discard seeds or reserve for another use. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until tender but not falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin, and dice.

Enjoy!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: October is Full of Fun and Food

October is just the start of one big season of food, fun, and entertaining.  Fall has always been our favorite time of year and between sports, fall decorating, and spooky Halloween stories and treats, I don’t know where to begin.  Well, since October is jammed full of all kinds of sports and Matt is the biggest sports fan around here, sports snacks it is!

While Matt grew up in Nevada, Sunday afternoons in the fall meant sports and snacks, and of course, family.  The simplest snack they always had on hand was a mix of Halloween candy corn and red skin Spanish peanuts.  They were just the right combination of salty and sweet that kept everyone coming back for more.  I always picked up two large bags of candy corn and several cans of nuts to be sure they lasted through the football season.

Sports and I have a limited love hate relationship on television.  Matt claims he gets a sports low light when he hasn’t seen enough sports and I get a sports overload light when I’ve had enough.  Ha, ha, ha, very funny!

So, what do we do?  We compromise. Whenever Matt’s specific team is playing, such as the Ravens or the Capitals, we watch it, no problems.  On the other hand, if there are two games back to back, and during the least important game if there is something I want to watch, then we watch what I want to watch and he can check on the scores during the commercials.  The only time it gets a little dicey is when he wants to watch basketball.  That is the only sport I just can’t be there with him.  When March Madness comes around, he limits himself to a couple of games each weekend and I get my Victor Reader and headphones and get lost in a book and knit while he cheers his teams to victory or defeat.

We like snacking while we enjoy the games because they are quick to throw together before game time and then just sit back and concentrate on the game.  I actually have more fun watching Matt jump up and down, throw his hat down and fuss at the players, the coaches, and most of all, the officials who must be as blind as I am.  I even purchased him this foam rubber brick that has Bad Call written on it so he can throw it at the television when things don’t go his way.  I had better make sure I keep the real thing out of his reach on game days.

Below you will find two dip recipes that are really good to eat on game days.  You can change around the seasonings to make them hot or mild.  They both can eaten with corn chips, potato chips, or crackers.  The second dip is also good with cut vegetables.

TEX-MEX BLACK BEAN DIP

Yield: 16 servings

Serving Size:  1/4 cup

INGREDIENTS:

2 cans (16 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained, divided

1 cup salsa, divided

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium-sized red bell pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese

1 medium tomato, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a blender or a food processor fitted with its metal cutting blade, combine 1 can beans and 1/4 cup salsa; blend or process until smooth.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and saute the onion, pepper, and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion and pepper are tender.

3. Add the pureed bean mixture, the cilantro, cumin, salt, and the remaining can of beans and salsa; mix well. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Pour the dip into a shallow serving dish, top with the cheese and tomato, and serve immediately.

Note:  You can slightly mash the second can of beans with a fork if you want the dip to be less chunky.

SPICY YOGURT CUCUMBER DIP

Ingredients:

2 cups diced cucumbers (leave skin on); not too small to avoid extra liquid

2 cups plain yogurt (higher fat% is better)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 tablespoon dried dill

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy.

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: Deliver Me Something Good to Eat!

There are many ways to enjoy food shopping these days and whether it is in person or through a delivery service, surely one of them will suit your needs.  Food shopping is accomplished two different ways here on the farm; going in person to several local grocery stores and produce stands, and last but not least, using Schwan’s Home Service. They are one of the few food delivery services that really makes an effort to assist the visually impaired with easy and accessible shopping.  They are based in Marshal, Minnesota, but distribution centers are all over the United States.

You will find all sorts of frozen foods from family size meals to single serve meals ready to pop in the oven, microwave or just thaw and enjoy.  Schwan’s also stocks meats, pizzas, breakfast, snacks, appetizers, fruits, vegetables, breads, side dishes, and drink mixes.  They also have wonderful frozen yogurt, desserts, and let’s not forget their outstanding ice creams.  With 350 products available, I’ll just bet you’ll find something you can’t wait to try.

Schwan’s delivers on average every two weeks, but they will do their best to accommodate delivery schedules to ensure you are home for your food delivery.  My driver, Adam, also referred to as a customer service manager, calls me every other Monday to see if I am at home and want delivery service that day.  When I do, he tells me he’ll be there within about fifteen minutes.  Then I make sure my little dog is tucked in his crate, double check that I have my Schwan’s list and my bankcard in my pocket.  Once that’s done, I’m ready to wait for him on my front porch.

We always have the Schwan’s catalog in print, which Adam makes sure we have every time they change, and I receive the same catalog in Braille two weeks or so later by mail.  I try to have my list already Brailled out the night before, but Matt and I have had plenty of Mondays where we are flipping through their catalog as Adam is driving up our long driveway. Don’t worry about not being sure of what you want, the drivers are always willing to assist you with your choices and are very patient as well.

Once Adam arrives, I always ask about the current specials, which he reads to me from his little hand-held computer.  He uses the computer to place your order, pre-order for next time if an item is not on his truck, and has a running inventory at his finger tips as well.  Quite often, Schwan’s will have promotions such as contests for the drivers to see who will either sell the most of a particular set of items or who brings in the largest sales within a certain time period.  I always try my best to help Adam out on those promotions because he is so helpful to me–I like doing something for him in return.  Another sales incentive they do for each customer is offer several items which you have ordered in the past for a reduced price.  I take advantage of these sales on items we buy on a regular basis.

The drivers also have opportunities to try out new products at their home base so they will personally know how they taste and can talk to you knowledgeably about the foods you will be fixing and eating yourself.  Adam doesn’t hesitate to let me know when a specific product is one he really likes and always listens when I tell him about any product we fancy as well.  When my order is done and Adam has found everything in his big freezer truck, he bags it all up and brings it to me on the porch.  He always asks if he can help me get it inside the house, but it is no trouble for me.  The drivers will assist anyone with loading your products in your freezer if you need the assistance.

Once Adam has gone on to his next customer, we quickly sort through the items to split them between my small kitchen freezer and our larger upright freezer in the garage.  Most items are either individually wrapped in plastic and then boxed in a thick cardboard shipping box or just in a lone thick plastic bag.  Either way, the full directions are printed on both, so the boxed items are delegated to the garage, while smaller bags and a few individually wrapped items are tucked away in the kitchen refrigerator.

Now comes the fun part, deciding what to fix for dinner.  When planning out our menus for two weeks, Matt and I try to mix meals between something frozen that is fully prepared that we just put in the oven, something simple as soup and sandwiches, or something that is divided out with a meat, vegetable and starch to choose from.  Another thing we really like about Schwan’s is that they have recipes in their catalogs that include products of their own combined with ingredients from the store.  Recipes vary from quick and simple to multi-ingredient slow cooker meals great for cold winter nights.  Below I have included two quick recipes that use one Schwan’s product each and if you’d like, you can substitute that product with something from the store instead.  I’m hoping you’ll take this opportunity to try Schwan’s Home Service out for yourself.

Contact Schwan’s Home Service at 1-888-724-9267 or visit their web site at

www.schwans.com.

Schwan’s takes orders via phone, on-line, or directly from customer service managers.  They except checks, debit cards, cash, major credit cards, electronic food stamp cards and their own gift cards. 

Pepperoni and Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes, Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 cups Schwan’s Mini bow Tie Pasta and Vegetable Blend (#767), thawed

½ cup diced cucumber

½ cup diced celery

½ cup mini pepperoni slices

½ cup whole pitted ripe olives, quartered

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup Italian dressing

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Slow Cooked Maple Bacon Baked Beans

Prep Time: 5 minutes, Total Time:  2 to 4 hours

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

2 10-ounce cans pork and beans

½ cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 cup diced onions

1 teaspoon ketchup

10 slices Schwan’s Fully Cooked Bacon Slices (#811), diced

Directions:

Mix together the ingredients and place into a covered 2-quart Slow Cooker.  Cook on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours.

Enjoy!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: Try Something New with Spices

Matt and I are always on the search for new ideas at the grocery store and we have been quite successful in our hunting.  In the spice aisle, Matt found something new from McCormick that piqued our interest.  Recipe Inspirations is a recipe card on one side and a set of spices on the other.  The spices are individually packaged and contain all the seasonings you’ll need for the particular recipe.  This would be the perfect way to try different seasonings and not have to buy each of the different bottles.  Dried herbs and spices can be rather expensive and if they are something you only use in one or two recipes, then they will more than likely go bad before you have even used half the bottle.  What a waste.

The recipe card we chose was Apple and Sage Pork Chops.  The seasonings included with the card were sage, minced garlic, thyme, ground allspice, and paprika.  I was not sure how the ground allspice would go with the pork, but I was interested in the overall combination.  Since we already had a few cans of Bavarian Sauerkraut at home in the pantry, we decided to make it a German meal.  The last item we needed was a nice German beer.  Matt could enjoy drinking the beer with the meal and adding some to the simmering pork chops would enhance the flavors.

Once we were home and the groceries all put away, Matt took out the four thick pork chops to thaw.  I gathered up the other ingredients and set them out on the table along with the can of Silver Floss Bavarian Style Sauerkraut and Matt’s beer choice, Shiner Bock from Spoetzl Brewery.  The remaining recipe ingredients were as follows:

Ingredients:

One and a half teaspoons sage

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

One Half teaspoon ground allspice

One Half teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 boneless pork chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 red apples, thinly sliced

One half cup apple juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

One Quarter cup German beer, optional

I mixed together the five card spices with the salt and flour in a small bowl.  Matt sprinkled a tablespoon of the seasoned flour for each pork chop and set the rest of the flour mixture aside to add to the dish later.  While I thinly sliced the apples and onions, Matt heated the two tablespoons of olive oil in our largest cast iron skillet.  There are several well-used cast iron cookware pieces we use on a regular basis.  I like using them because they can easily be used on top of the stove or in the oven.  Matt finds himself reaching for a cast iron skillet more often than not because he has them hanging from sturdy nails from the broad open beams in our kitchen ceiling.  The cast iron cookware also brings back fond memories of both our mothers and grandmothers.  In fact, one of our wedding gifts from my parents was a set of four cast iron skillets.

Once the oil was heated, Matt cooked the chops on medium heat until they were browned on both sides.  He removed them from the skillet and I handed him the thinly sliced onions, which were cooked for about three minutes.  Next came the apples, which were then stirred and cooked for an additional two minutes.

Then the apple juice, beer, sugar and remaining flour mixture was stirred in with the apples and onions until they were well mixed. The pork chops were then put back in the skillet and Matt spooned some of the liquid and apples over each chop.  After the contents came to a boil, we reduced the heat to a low simmer and then covered the chops with the can of Bavarian Sauerkraut.  Finally, the lid was on the skillet and it could simmer away until the thick pork chops cooked to a tender juicy delight.

Once our plates were full of the tender chops, apples, onions and the pungent twang of Bavarian Sauerkraut, Matt and I settled down to enjoy this hearty German style meal.  Matt couldn’t help reminiscing about a Navy deployment he had one Christmas while they were in port at Trieste, Italy.  His ship had arranged different trips for their sailors while they were in port during the holidays.  He had decided to take a three-day bus trip to Salzburg, Austria.

The bus ride took about six hours and drove from Italy, through a bit of the German Alps and then into Salzburg, Austria.  This was the 26th of December and the weather was absolutely frigid.  Just listening to him describe the sites he took in on a walking tour gave me the shivers.  No wonder he took full advantage of the hot chocolate stands as he continued his tour.

All of this sounded so wonderful, even the cold weather of the Austrian Alps wouldn’t have deterred me from wanting to experience this mountain side city so full of history, architecture, good food and of course, the beer halls.  Matt was even able to indulge himself by purchasing a beer stein for his collection; only one mind you, it cost over $300.  There were so many beautiful steins in that shop that Matt was glad he didn’t have a credit card with him.  Well, it was Christmas and since he wouldn’t be spending it here at home, I didn’t mind Saint Nicholas bringing a bit of cheer to him in Austria.

I was glad we tried out the pork chop recipe and the Bavarian Sauerkraut balanced out the sweetness from the apples and the simmered sauce.  It was simply outstanding, and another recipe to add to our household recipe book.  I asked Matt what was his favorite meal while he was in Austria and he paused for a bit before he answered.  I couldn’t help the chuckle and grin across my face; it was pork chops with Bavarian Sauerkraut.  Go figure!

Feature Writer Susan Roe – Hands On Living: Blind Crafting for Everyone

I have been an avid crafter both before and after I lost my sight over thirty-two years ago.  There is nothing I love more than working on a project and actually seeing it through to completion.  Whether I sell an item, give it to someone or donate it to a charity, I always have the satisfaction of knowing that there will be someone somewhere who will appreciate owning what I do best.

There have been quite a few people who have either encouraged my crafting or have taught me different skills.  My mother, Katherine, first taught me to crochet when I was eight years old.  She showed me how to crochet granny squares in matching or contrasting colors.  We would then sew them together to make warm afghans for our beds.  She didn’t stop with crocheting, and soon taught my sister and I to quilt by hand, as well as how to use a sewing machine.  When we were small children, she made handmade Hobby Holly dolls and sold them to make extra money for our Christmas presents.  Later on, she tried her hand at the cutest little clothes for Cabbage Patch dolls and they were even more popular.

Not too long before I lost my sight, I had just discovered a talent for drawing.  My sister Pattie encouraged me to start taking art classes in school like she did.  She was a wonderful artist herself, starting with drawing and painting.  When Pattie began having vision problems of her own, she switched to wood carving.  No surprise to us, she excelled in that craft as well.  Pattie had just started showing me some basics of oil painting when I lost my sight at age fifteen.

I have never allowed my blindness to be a hindrance in my day-to-day living and that included my current crafts and learning new ones along the way.  Pauline, a family friend, took the time to teach me how to knit and it has been my favorite ever since.  She also introduced my family to liquid embroidery, making Christmas ornaments with beads and sequins, and latch hooking rugs.  From school I learned to work with clay, coil and reed basket weaving, and tapestry weaving using colored burlap.  I even managed to take a class on using the potter’s wheel while attending my local community college.  Luckily, I stopped myself from adding a potter’s wheel to my small one bedroom apartment before I started rearranging the furniture.

Believe it or not, my crafting curiosity still was not satisfied.  Pattie and I took ceramic classes, enjoyed working with beads, making hats and scarves on circular and rectangular lap looms, and successfully figured out how to crohook.  When I attended our local Rehabilitation Center for the Blind one summer, they showed me how to set up my sewing machine to make it easier to use.  I have heard that curiosity killed the cat, however, it only expanded my thirst for crafting to collecting the tools of the trade along with many books and magazines covering even more crafts.  I could definitely open my own crafting store.

My mother-in-law, Anna Roe, was another lover of crafting.  She loved knitting, crocheting, and plastic canvas work.  To her credit, she also passed on crafting to her children as well.  Matt likes to draw and paint, wood working, and Native American leather working.  I suppose Anna also passed on to Matt some of her patience, because he does tolerate my boxes of yarn and shelves of crafting books.  In fact, he doesn’t even get antsy while we are in a craft store.  Matt is really good at ferreting out all kinds of hidden crafting treasures.

On a sad note, when Anna passed away, Matt and his family asked if there was anything of her’s that I would like to have in remembrance.  I didn’t hesitate and asked for anything dealing with her knitting and crocheting.  Well, my ever-growing craft stuff was increased by four large boxes.

With all of my accumulated crafting energy and supplies, I needed an outlet for my items because I just couldn’t keep it all.  I sell a few items here and there as well as making items for friends and family.  My biggest joy is knitting and crocheting for the Webb of Hope, a charity group that is run through the Red Cross.  A local group of women get together here at Black Creek Baptist Church and meet once a week.  They share patterns, discuss items being made and who the organization will be sending them to, both in the United States and several countries over seas.  The women also provide lessons for those who want to learn and participate with them as well as providing yarn so it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

Over the years, I have done searches on the Internet and have found several on-line crafting groups, and several of them have been for blind crafters.  I had to narrow my participation down to only one blind crafting group or I would never tear myself away from the computer.  This group works together from the Krafters Korner and is filled with some of the most talented crafters I have ever known.  Everyone is either blind, low-vision, or works with the blind.  The Krafters Korner also provides lessons to its members via conference calls and everyone works at the project together.  All classes are recorded for the students that attend each class and are provided as downloadable MP3 files for easy reference at a later date.  Some of the classes have been beginning and advanced knitting, beginning and advanced bead working, soap making, origami, plastic canvas work, small loom weaving and even tips for finding the best tool for the job, to only name a few.  They are even working on knitted and crocheted helmet liners for our soldiers over seas as a community charity project.

I have even taught two classes myself, coil basket weaving and paper basket weaving which seemed to be a success with those who attended.  I have only taken one class, which was a beading class for making your own Rosary.  The teacher even gave a brief history on the different styles of Rosaries through the years.  All classes are open to members once you have paid your $10.00 membership dues.  Krafters Korner also has a weekly Monday Night Chat which runs from 8:00 Eastern Time to about 9:30 via the conference line.  This gives everyone an opportunity to talk to someone about their crafts and exchange information as well.  Members also have the opportunity to get help with problems they may be experiencing with a project in order to work through it instead of getting frustrated enough to set it aside, never to be picked up again.

I have found that many members take their projects quite seriously and even attend numerous crafting shows as venders or sell their wares at Farmers Markets.  There are those who have been blind and crafting for several years, or they find themselves wanting to learn to craft.  Also, there are those who have been sighted crafters for years and recently lost their sight and now want to find ways to continue crafting.  It is really nice when a member seeks encouragement with continuing a craft after losing their sight and seeing the eager responses from other members sharing and explaining how they have managed to continue that very craft.  All of this and more can be found at the Krafters Korner.  They have even had guest speakers on blind wood working so they can explain how they manage their wood working craft with no sight.

Joyce Kane is the group moderator and President of the National Federation of the Blind Krafters Division.  She has been an avid blind crafter for many years and is always available to assist members who are eager to learn new crafts and techniques from others in the group.  You can call Joyce for more information at (203) 378-8928 or via e-mail at Blindhands@AOL.com.  Please feel free to visit Krafters Korner at www.KraftersKorner.org.  Krafters Korner has also recently gone International, bringing blind students from around the globe into their classrooms with the use of SKYPE.  Come and join us and see what you can learn!