Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Family Recipe to Pass Down: Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I mentioned earlier in the blog that I am trying to take time to cook with my daughter. However, I do have an ulterior motive. I want her to be able to cook the family recipes that I have grown to love so that those flavors can help shape her life. (And be able to cook for me when I can't and know that it will be edible! Ha!)

My mother provided me with this recipe. It was a recipe my great-aunt shared with her at one of the family gatherings that I had growing up.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake


1 1/2 cups of butter (margarine is fine) softened/room temperature
3 cups of sugar
1  8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 eggs (my mother uses 4*)
3 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla (vanilla butter & nut preferred)
1 tsp. almond flavoring



Cream margarine/butter and cream cheese together.

Add eggs one at a time beating well.

Stop and stir as necessary.

Sift flour.

Add it to the mixture.  Add about a cup at the time.  Stop and stir as needed.  Add flavoring.  (Stir flavoring in by hand. Whatever you prefer.)

  Cook in two loaf pans or in a tube pan (bundt). Do not preheat the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours on 300 degrees Fahrenheit. (Watch your stove. We have gas and it seems to cook much faster, so I cook it for 1 1/4 hours instead so my cake isn't dry.)

Take it out of the oven and allow about 10 minutes to cool before serving.

Homemade Salsa

I love tomatoes. Anyone who knows me knows I love, juicy, acidic tomatoes...the redder the better!  However a close second is a great salsa. I am particularly picky when it comes to salsas. It has to have a certain flavor and texture.

This recipe is quick and easy. It came from a family friend who shared her salsa recipe with us and I had to have it. And I haven't stopped making it since.  In fact, I make it about every week to two weeks, depending on what our weekly dinners consist of...or my late night stress eating needs when I stay up late working on work related projects.

Homemade Salsa

1/4 - 1/2 of medium sized onion (too much onion is too much for me)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
1 regular can of Rotel tomatoes (original...can substitute store brand)
1 can of petite diced tomatoes with or without salt added

Place chunk of onion in food processor or blender. Follow safety rules for food processor or blender in order to operate correctly. Blend enough to chop to medium to small pieces. Do not puree. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend together more or less for chunky or thinner salsa depending on your preference. Serve immediately.

Refrigerate up to 5 days what is left in a sealed container.

Serve with tortilla chips, tacos, etc.

Cooking with Pressure

My pressure cooker was a gift from my grandfather. He was cleaning out a few pans he didn't need. He offered a pressure cooker to me, but after examining what he was offering, I told him that he was missing pieces. While I didn't have one, I couldn't take the one he was offering.

A couple of days later, my mother called me. My grandfather had purchased one for me to use. I have enjoyed cooking with it. While I have only cooked pork chops and soups in it, I have been thrilled to use it.  I actually hope to try a few other dishes with it soon.

These are the pieces to my pressure cooker.  There are many other kinds of models, but mine is not an electric pressure cooker. Mine uses heat applied to the bottom from the stove to cook dishes. Not many people cook with one of these bad boys. It can be intimidating. Heat and pressure with locks? Just a little! However, once you have practiced and have followed proper directions (see the manual for the pressure cooker you are using...they are all different!) you can enjoy cooking with them more often. Additionally, no one will have to know that your meal was not cooking all day long!
Make sure that you check all of your pieces. 

1. Pressure cooker pot.
2. Pressure cooker lid
3. Rubber seal
4. Metal grate
5. Weight

I may not have used specific terminology for this particular blog, but these are the terms I choose to use to elaborate on the process of using a pressure cooker. Remember, the best way to learn how to use a pressure cooker is to actually use the manufacturer's directions. Even more, talk about how to use a pressure cooker with someone who has actually cooked with one before. Their experience can provide an opportunity (with manufacturer's directions) to ask questions and clarify your understanding of how to safely and effectively cook a delicious dish. (My mother taught me how to cook with a pressure cooker and I have been cooking with one since I was about 13.)

1. Check the small seal on the pressure cooker lid. Make sure that the seal is free of debris and moves. Do not attempt to pop it out. This may damage the small seal and also cause issues with achieving desired pressure. Or worse, you could have a problem during cooking with pressure that can cause serious injury.

2. Continue to check the lid of the pressure cooker. Check the small hole where the weight will sit. I always check to make sure that I can see through the hole on the lid to ensure that there is no debris blocking the hole. Steam flows out of this small opening and helps communicate pressure level with a sound that the steam creates.

3. Add the rubber seal to the lid of the pressure cooker, taking care that it slips between the metal piece attached to the handle. This metal piece will help lock the pressure cooker in place. The rubber seal is to obviously create a seal in order for pressure to be built for the cooking process.

Place the metal grate in the bottom of  the pressure cooker, leaving the metal grate up avoiding burning food because the food will sit directly on the grate instead of on the bottom of the pressure cooker pot.

4.Place the metal grate down in the bottom of the pot.  The metal grate should be placed where there is a slight gap between the entire grate and the bottom of the pan, allowing food the opportunity to cook, not burn. (Burnt food in the pressure cooker is gross. Nuff said.) 

5. Add all of ingredients. Be careful to look at the fill lines. If you are going to cook a large amount in the pressure cooker, be sure that you do not over fill. Pressure building can be compromised again, and it can cause injury. Follow recipe directions for pressure cooker dishes, because food can be burned if not enough ingredients (water or broth) has not been added.

6.  Once the pressure cooker has been filled correctly, take the lid and line up the arrows on the pressure cooker and the pressure cooker lid. This is where you will slide the pressure cooker lid into place.  A metal lock will also slide in place to hold in pressure. When the pressure is built, the metal bobber (not technical term) will rise and hold lock even more in place.

7. Add weight to the top of the pressure cooker lid. Make sure that it is situated correctly and able to move as steam and heat passes through the vent. Do not leave the weight off.  The weight helps the pressure build inside to cook your dish. The steam also is able to come through the little vent. Additionally, the sound that is created (jiggling sound), included below, communicates that cooking is taking place and pressure is built.

8. Cook food following directions from recipe from a reputable source. These recipes have been tried and you will have more accurate results, avoiding overcooking, under cooking, and incorrect use of the pressure cooker. I included a recipe from my mother:  Rebecca's Beef Stew

9. Once cooking time has been achieved,turn off the heat and allow the pressure cooker to decrease fully before attempting to open the pressure cooker.

WARNING- Failure to follow manufacturer's directions can cause severe injury and burns to self and to others. Make sure you know what you are doing before you attempt this. 

Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever remove the weight from the top of the steam vent while there is still pressure in the pressure cooker. There is an extreme amount of pressure built up inside that will force the liquid through the steam vent and damage ceiling and surroundings. The user is also in danger of severe burns and injury if directions are not followed properly. 

10. Enjoy your dish.

Check out other blogs and videos from YouTube about accurately using a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is such an awesome tool to cook with, but if handled inappropriately, can cause severe injury to self and food.
Handle with care.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Rebecca's Beef Stew

The holidays are over. With that brings the thoughts about going back to the daily grind and keeping myself motivated while I load laundry, co-cook dinner, wrestle a baby out of the cabinets, explain to the four year old that screaming right before bedtime is not idealistic, and pay the bills. I am also thinking about the cold weather and the grey skies...and the possibilities of snow and Snow Days. That's right, I need some motivation and I am not talking about Music and Lyrics' "A Way Back Into Love." I am talking about something that motivates me through January, February, and March that doesn't expect me to pay or sign away my life (get in line...).

One of the free-ninety-free opportunities is free child labor. I am joking, of course, but AB is becoming the age where she can help out in the kitchen. At this time, she actually wants to help. I have had her help me since before she was two with stirring and pouring ingredients into bowls and the slow cooker. I want to make sure that she has a good knowledge of basic preparation of a few meals for life, but also make a few pretty awesome memories while we have the time. 

My mother made this particular soup or stew. It technically is a thin broth, so you might refer to it as a soup. It is full of veggies and beef, and the secret to not having to have it simmer all day on the stove top is my secret weapon - the pressure cooker.  

 I made this Beef Soup for the first time when I was in the eighth grade for Home Economics with Mrs. Norris. Mrs. Norris had a specific number of dishes that we had to cook and our parents had to sign that we actually cooked it. (Not that it was edible, but cooked.)  Additionally, we had to collect recipes on note cards, which had to be turned in for a grade. My mom took time to sit down and go over some of our family recipes, where she shared this particular one. (Then, she assigned me the task of cooking Thanksgiving Dinner - the Turkey and sides. Alas, another story, another day.)

Rebecca's Beef Stew (Pressure Cooker 5-Quarts)
1 lb. stew beef
3 carrots, washed and sliced sliced
4 - 5 red potatoes washed and sliced
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2-3 beef bullion cubes
1 can of green beans, not drained (can use fresh)
1 can of corn, not drained
2 cans of petite diced tomatoes, not drained
1 onion diced
Water - fill to top line

I prefer the baby carrots instead of peeling and prepping, but if the carrots are fresh, they add a sweetness to the soup.
Slice the potatoes. Leave skins on if they are red potatoes. Other potatoes can be substituted.

AB poured in all of the canned vegetables. 

Follow manufacturer's directions for assembling the pressure cooker. Add all ingredients to the pressure cooker. Add water up to the fill line on the inside of the pot. Secure the lid and make sure that it locks in place. Add the weight to the top of the steam vent directly on top of the lid. Check to make sure that the weight is situated correctly. Turn on heat medium to high. It may take about 15 minutes before the top weight begins to jiggle and make noise.

 Turn the heat down to medium and set the timer for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes is past, turn off the heat to the burner the pressure cooker is on. Allow to sit (up to 30 - 45 minutes to cool enough for pressure to be released). (This is the perfect time to make salad, rice, or bread to serve with the soup. Do not attempt to move or touch the pressure cooker in this time period. Manufacturer's directions may note other ways to release pressure, but this is the safest. 

WARNING- Failure to follow manufacturer's directions can cause severe injury and burns to self and to others. Make sure you know what you are doing before you attempt this. 

Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever remove the weight from the top of the steam vent while there is still pressure in the pressure cooker. There is an extreme amount of pressure built up inside that will force the liquid through the steam vent and damage ceiling and surroundings. The user is also in danger of severe burns and injury if directions are not followed properly. 

Once pressure has been released (see directions from the manufacturer to correctly release pressure), be careful when you open the lid on the pot of the pressure cooker. The steam is still extremely hot and you could be burned.

This is the view of the soup once I removed the pressure cooker top. The ingredients inside are cooked thoroughly and taste as though they have been cooked all day. Allow the soup to cool or serve into a bowl and allow it to cool faster separately. 

Additionally, I serve this with Jasmine rice. My mother always made plain white rice, but I prefer the Jasmine rice because of it's texture and supportive flavor. Club crackers add a nice buttery flavor to the vegetable beef broth. 

AB loved this soup and actually asked for more when her soup was finished. My husband picks out pieces of beef to eat.  (He doesn't eat many vegetables, so this is more for me...lucky me!)  I generally have to fend him off so he doesn't eat all of the tender beef that has cooked.

I look forward to the simplicity of making this dish. And within two days, my family had finished it off. Maybe this will be a dish you will enjoy during your cold, winter months.  Hopefully, this will help you find some motivation. I know it always inspires me. 

And When Is That?

I made the effort to organize my card organizer, which sounds redundant. Once opening the box, I had forgotten that I had many types of cards purchased. One that I found was embarrassing: I found my sister's birthday card from last year. Yes. I guess I won't be winning the Best Sister of the Year Award. (She got her gift, but not the card.)

There are a variety of card organizers out there. Anyone could create their own if they wanted very easily. I purchased mine on clearance somewhere and sometime, in this lifetime. This particular one has a floral design with storage on top and a drawer in the bottom for decals and stamps. (Stamps for those people who actually purchase the cards to send.)

There are dividers/folders inside for each month. The dividers in the back are organized according to events, like Thank You and Congratulations, In Sympathy, Weddings, Anniversaries, and Birthdays.


I made sure every card that I kept had a matching envelope and tossed (yes) the ones that didn't have a match.

In an effort to keep this Resolution - (Remember Important Dates and Events), I called a few family members to double check dates and to write them down on the folder of the month.

 I updated a few addresses since a few have relocated to new residences since I last sent a card. Or made the effort...

And that's it.