Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March with Mazola® Corn Oil
This month's assignment has provoked quite a bit of controversy among the Allrecipes Allstars.  Specifically, the fact that Mazola(R) Corn Oil is made with GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms).  Does that concern me?  Nope!  Here's why....
I've done some research regarding GMO's on my own.  Frankly, I never even heard of the term until I started reading about it on the Allrecipes Buzz.  As of now, the FDA doesn't require food production companies to label products that contain GMO's.  In order to avoid them, organic is the way to go.  Even then, reports have indicated that there is still a high possibility of cross-contamination in corn crops.  Unless you purchase organic meats, GMO's are present in those products as well because most livestock are fed corn.  I'm betting 90% of the food in my pantry and freezer contain GMO's.
I've been using mostly Canola oil in my cooking for the last several years because of the heart-healthy benefits compared to some other oils.  I do have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so I try to be at least a little health-conscious in how I prepare food.  Well, guess what?  Canola oil contains GMO's, too, as I've recently discovered.  I've also recently discovered Mazola(R) Corn oil is cholesterol-free and contains no trans-fats.  See the comparison to olive oil here.  I just can't help myself.....I LOVE fried food.  It's one of my guilty pleasures, but does concern me as far as my health restrictions.
If I can indulge my food pleasures with a product that won't hurt my heart or impede my cholesterol-lowering medication, I'm there.  Many people are passionate about the fact that GMO's can be detrimental to health.  I'm just not one of them.  I try to prepare meals that my husband and I enjoy and are well-balanced.  So, that being said, Mazola(R) has asked us to prepare two of their recipes published on the Allrecipes site.  Fortunately, Mazola(R) is flexible as far as diet restrictions are concerned.  One of their recipes, Sweet and Spicy Salmon with Grapefruit Salsa is a no-go for me.  I don't eat seafood, no way, no how, and can't have grapefruit because of my cholesterol medication.  So, I substituted one of their chicken dishes for that recipe.  The other recipe I did make, but with a few modifications.  Mazola(R) has ten recipes published on Allrecipes.  You can find them here.
So, these are the recipes and the verdict on my March assignments!!

First up is their Pork Carnitas recipe.  It was delicious.  The pork was so tender, not dry and nicely spiced.  I was forced to make a couple of changes, though.  I couldn't find fresh tomatillos at my grocer, so I purchased salsa verde and used that instead.  Second, we can't tolerate cilantro, so I omitted that.  Third, we like flour tortillas over corn, so used them instead.  I'll make this one again, but next time may add just a little more spicy heat to the meat.

Next up is a chicken dish that was really tasty, especially if you love lemon.  So easy I had dinner served in 30 minutes (after the marinating time, that is).  I used thin-sliced chicken breasts, so no pounding was necessary.  Also, I marinated for about 3 hours in a plastic bag.  I used my stove-top grill pan since our outside grill was covered with 8 inches of snow!  We both enjoyed this one.


So that's the deal for March.  A successful one for my family!!  See you in April with Johnsonville sausages.


Disclaimer:  Mazola® sent me a bottle of their cholesterol-free corn oil for these dishes.  I was not compensated in any other way.  The opinions expressed here are solely mine.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

“Cooking” in My Living Room
Since the Allrecipes Allstar program has been going through a bit of a transition during the last two months, we had no assignments to complete.  Bummer.  So, as a result, I decided to do a little "cooking" in my living room. 

My coffee table and end tables are 10 years old, and were really showing their age.  And how.  They're great tables, though...solid oak and heavy.  The top of the coffee table had years of wear from foot-propping and just generally sliding things around.  When we purchased them, I thought it was a really good idea that they had a factory-distressed top.  Ha!  After hundreds of polishings and cleanings, those distress marks were filling in with dust and "stuff".  Short of taking a toothpick to clean out all those areas, I was at a loss.  Until I discovered brown paper table tops.  Yup.  Honestly.  Brown paper.

I made my trusty shopping list and off to Lowe's I went.  $30 and 30 minutes later I had my supplies.  Here they are......

A roll of brown paper found in the paint department
A small bucket to mix the paste
Two bottles of Elmer's All-Purpose glue
Plastic drop cloths
Throw-away brushes (NOT foam) in 2" and 1-1/2" sizes
Painter's tape (which I ended up not using)
MinWax OIL-BASED wood stain (I used Golden Pecan)
MinWax WATER-BASED Polycrylic (I used Semi-Gloss)
Now, here's a true picture of what this nasty table looked like up close and personal:
It was either trash it or fix it, so here goes.  I started by mixing a bottle of glue with 3 bottles of water.  If you decide to purchase a gallon-size bottle of glue, just mix what you need at a 3:1 ratio....3 parts water to one part glue.
Start ripping the brown paper into the size pieces you want.  There's really no right or wrong in this step.  I used mainly 12" x 12" irregular shaped pieces.  If you have any straight edges to cover, use the edges of the paper for those areas.  I know many tutorials instruct to crumple up the paper and spread glue on it.  Well, I ignored that.  It was much easier for me to dunk the pieces in the glue mixture and squeeze it out with my hands.  (Take off any rings first!)
I started on the edges, wrapping the glue-covered paper around the edge of the table and adhering it underneath, then extending it over the top.  First I did all four edges and then filled in the center. Use one of the brushes to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.  My 4' x 2' table took about 45 minutes to cover.  Here's what it looked like after all the pieces were in place:
You can see the glue mixture is still very wet and white, but it does dry clear.  The hardest part is waiting 24 hours until it's completely dry to proceed to the next step.  Also, you can notice some bubbly wrinkles in the paper.  That worried me a little, but I left it alone, and when it was dry they were gone and the paper was stuck tight to the table.
The next day I used the oil-based stain on the paper.  Very, very easy and took me about 15 minutes.  Seriously.  I brushed it on in an even, light coat and smoothed it out with the brush.  Here's the table after the stain was applied:
You can see that the stain is darker where the paper was wrinkled as it was squeezed out during the glue phase.  I love the darker "veins" it makes.  Now wait another 24 hours for it to dry completely.  Once it's dry, it may still look a little "oily", but if you can touch it and it's not tacky, you're good to go to the next step.
I applied SIX very thin coats of the Polycrylic.  Make certain each coat is thinly applied, and allow it to dry thoroughly between coats.  The instructions on the can says two hours between coats, but since I did this in winter, the heat was on, the humidity in the house was very low, and I had the ceiling fan on, each coat was dry for me in about an hour.  I did apply one coat of the Polycrylic to the legs of the table to brighten them up and give a little shine.
So.....the finished product:

I couldn't be happier with the results.  I have three new tables for $30 and three days of my time!  Now I'm hooked.  Mmmmmaybe the next project will be the wall beneath my kitchen island.
So if you have a table that's seen better days, don't hesitate to try this rejuvenating project.  Or if you see a beat-up table at a flea market.....buy it and try this project.  Betcha you'll get hooked just like I did!!
Happy living room cooking!!!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Allrecipes Magazine
Call me crazy, but I was excited to learn that the Allrecipes Magazine was being mailed out this month.  It's a new publication, and I've been eagerly waiting for the next issue since the first one was mailed out during the summer.  Now I've learned the mag will be published every other month, so no more wondering when the next issue will arrive.

I read this magazine from cover-to-cover.  I can't help myself.  First I skim through it to see how many names I recognize.  I was so surprised in the first issue to see one of my reviews published!  This is a magazine for home cooks BY home cooks.  All of the recipes, reviews, and decorating ideas are from Allrecipes members.  I think that's way cool!!

I love to read, and sometimes participate, on the Buzz at Allrecipes.  It's a place where anyone can ask any question and receive helpful tips and answers from other home cooks.  Because I go there every day (it's one of my addictions), there are a lot of names I recognize.  I love that!!

The magazine will be on newsstands beginning November 12th, so if you're not a subscriber yet, pick one up.  It's really a fun read.  Here's what the front cover looks like for this issue.

YUM!  Christmas cookies.  I'm going to try one of the recipes in this issue.  We love meatloaf.  It's one of our comfort foods.  There's a recipe on page 20 that's similar to the one I make, but for some reason I never thought to add brown sugar to the topping.  Looks good, doesn't it?

And I'm soooo gonna try this!  My house faces south, so gets a lot of sun on the front door.  When I hang a shiny wreath, it's so pretty!  Looks easy, and I think it'll look great on the door.  I figure there's no reason I can't use any colors I want, so I'm going to make it to contrast with and match the door color, which is a dark turquoise-y blue.  Maybe pale blue with lime green or even lavender.  We'll see, but it sounds like fun to me.  Page 70 in the magazine.
If you're an Allrecipes.com addict, like me, seriously....check out the magazine.  If you like it, and you will, subscribe here:
Heck, $12 for a year is a bargain in my world!  Happy reading Allrecipeeps!!!!


November is Leftover Month with Kraft®
Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday.  Don't you love walking into a house filled with the scent of a golden roasted turkey?  The scent of cinnamon and pumpkin wafting through the house?  The sound of fallen leaves crunching under your feet?  And, most importantly, family.  Laughter, love, thankfulness to be together on this special day.

We all have leftovers after our Thanksgiving feast, right?  Well, Kraft(R) came up with a recipe to use some of those goodies that will feed a crowd.

The recipe makes 10 servings, so for my hubby and me, I scaled it down by about half, though I did use a whole box of stuffing (my favorite Thanksgiving side).  It was yummy, and so, so easy.  I had it in the oven within 15 minutes. 

I did three things differently, though.  Because our favorite Stove Top stuffing is the cornbread flavor, I used that.  And because I had leftover gravy, when it was plated, I poured some of that over the top.  That just took it to another level for me.  And I baked it at 350 degrees for about an hour.  My goal was to try to get the stuffing a little crusty....and it worked!  An added bonus was that the potatoes and cheese on top got a nice browned "crust", too.

I was afraid the mayo would be a bit much as I was mixing it with the turkey and vegetables.  I was wrong...what it did was make the middle layer nice and moist, with really no discernible mayo flavor.  And I did use mayo rather than Miracle Whip....a personal preference in this house.  So don't be afraid of the quantity called for in the recipe.

Give this recipe a try!  After alllll that time spent in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and the days before, it's so nice to have a delicious dinner in the oven within 15 minutes that the family will enjoy.

Oh!  And visit www.allrecipes.com for lots and lots of Thanksgiving ideas and recipes to help make YOUR Thanksgiving one to remember.  You can be a hero in your kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving, all!

#AllstarsLeftoverChallenge    #ThanksgivingHero



Disclaimer:  Kraft® sent me a gift card to purchase ingredients for this dish.  I was not compensated in any other way nor was I required to blog about this product.  The opinions expressed here are solely mine.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October’s Assignments with Ore-Ida®
Potatoes are pretty much a staple in this house.  And I have no problem using frozen potatoes, especially when I need a quick side for a lazy night.  So....this was an assignment that was NO problem for me!

I decided on a lazy Saturday to have chili cheese hot dogs for dinner.  When I say lazy, I mean it!!  Take a can of no-bean chili and a block of pepper jack cheese, cubed.  Throw it in the microwave for 1-minute intervals until hot and the cheese is melted.  It's great as a quick dip or....on hot dogs.  So why not go All-American and add Ore-Ida Crispers as a side?  We love how crisp they get in the oven, and they even stand up to sopping up the chili that drips from the hot dogs.  Two of my favorite foods.  Heaven!

While watching football on a Sunday afternoon, we needed a snack.  I love Ukranian Platski.  It's my mother's recipe and it's very similar to latkes.  I guess the biggest difference is these are fried in Crisco (gasp!) rather than oil.  To me, grating potatoes is the absolute worst part of making these.  Even though I have a food processor, I still hate it, and the peeling, too.  For my husband and me, I defrosted half a bag of Ore-Ida hash browns and used those.  We happily munched away on these crispy treats as the RAVENS won the game!

Yeah, we like Tater Tots, too.  But we especially like the crispy Tater Tot Crowns.  Top them with some of that easy leftover chili cheese, grab a fork, and dig in.  Need I say more?  The picture says it all.

So, Ore-Ida, thanks for making my life a little easier.  I believe your products are the best frozen potatoes on the market!!




Disclaimer:  Ore-Ida® sent me a gift card for their products to test..  I was not compensated in any other way nor was I required to blog about this product.  The opinions expressed here are solely mine.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

October’s Assignments with Johnsonville®

This has been a fun month in my home.  Two great products with which to experiment.  I'll begin with Johnsonville(R) Ground Italian Sausage.

The first recipe of three was their Bowties with Italian Sausage in a Cream Basil Sauce.  The day I made it, my husband said he wasn't very hungry.  No problem because I knew leftovers would be just as good the next day for lunch.  Well, he went back for seconds on this one, and no leftovers in this house!  It's not overly creamy...the sauce was just the right consistency.  Fresh basil is definitely a must in this dish.  I grow it in my garden because we love the taste.

Next up was Pizza Pasta by Johnsonville(R).  I don't know many people who don't love the taste of pizza.  This dish definitely delivered the flavor we all crave.  It uses pizza sauce, and that does make a difference.  I used Classico(R) Fire Roasted.  My only recommendation is to use freshly grated mozzarella cheese.  I only had the pre-shredded in the refrigerator and it didn't melt as smoothly as I'd like.  Still delicious, though, and one we both liked.   Our favorite pizza includes sausage, onions and black olives, so this was a no-brainer!  Because I find it difficult to cook without onions, I sautéed a small chopped onion with the sausage.  Yes, he went back for seconds!

Last up was Johnsonville(R) Italian Meatballs.  Oh, I was in heaven this month with all the pasta!!  I made the meatballs according to the recipe, but after they came out of the oven, I put them in a saucepan with Barilla Alfredo Sauce thinned with a little water and let it simmer for about an hour.  They were delicious straight out of the oven, but after adding to the sauce, they were even better.  And the sausage balls added another level of flavor to the sauce.  I have some meatballs left over, but I know hubby will take care of those. 


So, whew, I'm full!  Three terrific recipes of the many posted by Johnsonville at www.allrecipes.com.  Thanks, Johnsonville!!
#Jvillekitchens #AllstarsJville 

Disclaimer:  Johnsonville® sent me 3 free coupons for Italian ground sausage to test their recipes.  I was not compensated in any other way nor was I required to blog about this product.  The opinions expressed here are solely mine.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

An Introduction

Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador

Hmmmmm.....sounds fancy, doesn't it?  Well, my goal here is to share my monthly experiences in the fun and instructive program.  I became an Allstar Brand Ambassador in February of 2013, so I'm still getting my feet wet.  I felt it's time to start experimenting with the blogging process, so here goes!

The program involves home cooks from all across the United States.  I believe there are about 120 of us.  I was so excited to be chosen for this program from all the many cooks that frequent the allrecipes.com site.  I've been a member of the site since 2000.  If you ever need to find a recipe published, prepared and reviewed by home cooks, the Allrecipes site is for you.

Each month the Brand Ambassadors receive assignments to prepare, photograph and review recipes using certain brands.  My goal with the blog is to report on each month's activities and relate information about recipes I've chosen to complete my assignments.

This month our sponsors are Johnsonville Italian Sausages and Ore-Ida potatoes.  That's a win-win for me, as I love both! 

The Brand Ambassador program is voluntary and involves no compensation from sponsors or Allrecipes.  It's such fun to try recipes the sponsors provide to the Allrecipes site.  Since being a part of the program beginning in February, I haven't been disappointed in any of the recipes I've made.

I love to cook.  I'm now retired from my job as a tax accountant, so have plenty of time to enjoy my passion.  My husband is enjoying it, too!  I look forward to our assignments every month, and look forward to sharing my experiences here.

So, this month, here's to Johnsonville #JvilleKitchens AND #AllstarsJville and Ore-Ida #AllstarsOreIda.  Stay tuned for results from my October assignments!!