Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blue Willow Bowls and Banana Bread

          What does a person do with doctor’s instructions to stay quiet, not exert ones self, and 6 brown bananas? 
I wondered …
After a simple visit to medical personnel for a routine blood pressure check demanded that I stay calm, stay idle, and stay home, I found myself in an atmosphere and mind set that sent me hurling into my kitchen. What could I do? Soup jumped to mind as my sick list swelled and ideas came. I could bake!
So simple an answer, I almost tripped on the way to my mixer. But to stay calm I needed an Oh- so- simplerecipe that no amount of flour sifting or egg-beating was required. Alas, upon opening my trusty recipe book I took out what is undoubtedly the easiest and best banana bread recipe that I own… I’ll call it now, Helen’s Banana Bread from my Mother-in-laws stash of Florida kitchen recipes.
Her mango bread is spectacular too and is another one for my conversion pile, when I’m better. Florida cooks suffer under tropical fruit abundances on a regular basis, so the result is great recipes for the rest of us. I’ve been fortunate to have had two mothers-in-law, and both have been great cooks and bakers. My New Hampshire mother-in law gave me an old recipe calling for Cream of Tarter that just taxed my blood-pressured mind too much –all that finding and reading label stuff, so I kept it calm by keeping it simple. I peeled on and made…
Helen’s Banana Bread
3 large ripe bananas, peeled
1 cup sugar
1 egg
4 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 ½ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan: set aside. In a bowl, mash bananas. You should have 1 cup. Beat in sugar, then egg and butter. Mix dry ingredients before adding to banana mixture. Stir until all flour is moistened and add in chopped nuts if using. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Test for done-ness; yields 1 large loaf.
With the oven on in my partially renovated kitchen, the room had warmed considerably, so I tackled my refrigerator contents. With warm banana aroma’s wafting in the sunlight, I found I was wondering what I should serve for dinner. It too had to be calming and stress free.
An old stock of broccoli and some tired leeks fought for daylight as I unearthed them from their chilly residence. Sweaters would soon be forming on those little arms attempting to hold up yellowing clusters of unopened flowers if I didn’t offer their tasty goodness to the Crock Pot.
Inspired by a damaged can of Winn Dixie TM Brand HEARTY chicken, broccoli, cheese and potato soup that I passed by in my search for vegetable stock, I settled for 2 cans of chicken broth instead.
I chopped the vegetables merrily, calming any pent-up frustrations I was experiencing in my fragile state. Then I added a teaspoon or so of chopped garlic and a good couple of shakes of Mrs. Dash TM to my pot of veggies and the 2 cans of broth. I let it cook awhile on high to soften up everything before zipping it all up in my trusty blender. Other people make wonderful milkshakes and margaritas’ in their blenders, I cream soups in mine… it is terrific.
Thinking about recent post on Face book from a niece who commented about making her first batch of soup by using a recipe to feed her two young sons, I was empowered. I reached for the can of ready made soup, a can of diced potatoes and another of chopped chicken and opened them all to add the contents to my streaming pot.
The banana bread had long since come out of the oven and was cooled by the time I’d set my pot on low and began adding 6 tiny packets of “shake-on your pizza slice” Bakers &Chefs TM Parmesan cheese from Sam’s Club I’d managed to collect. Soon I was hauling out a block of old white cheddar cheese opened this past Christmas to chop, add in and melt.
“Don’t these young people know that a hearty pot of soup is the best way to save money and use up leftovers- technically garbage to many families?” I asked aloud. “She’s feeding growing boys, after all!”
Thankful that my niece was no where near to hear me, I stirred in the cheeses and watched my soup thicken and cream as if I’d added sour cream or flour. Nothing more than a shake or two of freshly ground pepper was needed to make impressive servings for 10 or 12 people… or two growing boys.
But use a recipe? I’m still not sure personally, but I guess without a good mother who cooked or a mother-in-law to advise, a recipe is a good way to learn, so I’ll include mine here. However, my message is that improvising and personal taste is what is important. Chopping and dicing is fun and therapeutic in a nice kitchen using wonderful knives and tools. Combining what you like (after all, it came from your refrigerator... right?) with confidence to put it together to use it up, isn’t so hard! One can do it under strict doctors orders…see?
Helen’s Banana Bread calls for 1 ½ cups flour, so to convert it when well, in my future, is a given. Nut allergies of course, beware, but achieving gluten free shouldn’t be difficult. The finished bread is super-moist so that must be considered when modifying perhaps, but the simplest recipes are often the best no matter what gets substituted.
This time, it was medicinal for me to enjoy a steaming bowl of hot, homemade soup and a warm slice of Helen’s Banana Bread to calm my nerves and lower my blood pressure. Served up in my favorite Blue Willow bowls that belonged to my first and now deceased N.H. mother-in law, I found it comforting. Pretty serving pieces made any meal better.
She’d be pleased with my waste-not-want-not attempts and warmed by the good results of my tasty, frugal, experiment. Her boy was pleased too.
My HEARTY Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese and Potato Soup
1 bunch broccoli, chopped (leftover at N/C)
1 ½ leek or substitute 1 onion, chopped (leftover at N/C)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic (at $.05)
2- 14.5oz. Cans Swanson Chicken Broth (33% sodium free at $.70 each= $1.40)
1- 18.8oz. Can Winn Dixie HEARTY chicken, broccoli, cheese & potato soup, undiluted (at $1.00)
1-15oz. Can Winn Dixie diced white potatoes, UN-drained (at $.50)
1-10oz. Can Winn Dixie 100% Natural Chicken Breast in water, UN-drained (at $1.50)  
 6 packets Bakers & Chefs 100% Natural Grated Parmesan (free)
 3 oz. White Canadian Cheddar cheese (leftover at N/C)
Mrs. Dash salt free seasoning blend
Freshly Ground Pepper
Total =$4.45 divided by 10 servings=$.44 each.
Serves 10-12            Calm yourself and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Death by Chocolate...or something very close!

Regarding: Crock Pot Cake Review-Ref. Feb.2 2012
            I’d rather call it “Death by Chocolate” or ‘Tying up my Crock-Pot Chocolate Goo” or “Wow, this is expense Chocolate Stuff!” or “I’d better not check either my pocketbook or weight scale after indulging in this Chocolate!” and “Holy Cow, this REALLY needs Vanilla Ice Cream!”
            My first thought when heading out to buy instant chocolate pudding to make this cake recipe was this is going to be very rich! But, having all the remaining ingredients on hand and the Super Bowl looming in my not nearly finished kitchen… I figured it couldn’t hurt to indulge my chocolate loving husband with a memorable desert. First however, I must admit that he fears and dreads anything cooked in a Crock Pot. My plan to fool him into believing otherwise backfired this morning as he was the one who said “We need to discuss the desert you served last night…”
Gulp! My response lead him on his way out the kitchen door and back to his Sunday race, I knew my rebuttal fell on deaf ears. Oh well…then I began to think about cooking my white bean Chili for Game Night.
My Crock Pot was full of sunken gooey chocolate stuff that resembled pudding more than cake. I hurried to my recipe to note the “4 to 5 hours” cooking time on “Low” instructions. That was a one hour difference that my old avocado green Rival beauty needed AFTER the 5plus hours I’d been baking it off! Was it supposed to look like that? It hadn’t last night…
Again instructions were referenced. Nothing written about turning the finished cake out of the “Non-stick cooking sprayed” crock pot to “cool before slicing,” so I remembered I’d used a spoon as it was still warm before the “Serve with vanilla ice cream” step.
So trusty spoon again in hand and a Tupperware container close by, I began slicing through the gooey stuff to free up my crock pot and make it dish-worthy. When through, I handed the spoon to my husband only to hear the most amazing words in a chocoholic’s lip-smacking vocabulary “That’s what’s wrong… it’s too chocolaty!”
What was too chocolaty? Was that possible? But yes, his wrinkled nose revealed he was less than impressed. Even with the Vanilla Ice Cream suggestion…and I hadn’t dared to “drizzle with chocolate syrup” per the last item listed on the recipe. The Internet recipe called for:
1 box cake mix, chocolate (Mine-Duncan Hines Devil’s Food bought on sale at $1.00)
4 lg. eggs ($.64)
¾ cup oil ($.56)
1 cup water (n/c)
1 pint sour cream (Winn Dixie brand Light-at a discounted $.75)
1 sm. Instant chocolate pudding (Jell-o Brand on sale at $.66)
12oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (Nestlé’s Dark Chips at $3.29- Ouch but I got mine on sale at $2.50)
Totals = $6.11 But it serves 12 at $.51 per serving without ice cream
The Directions- if you’d like to try are easy:
Mix first 6 ingredients till almost blended-mixer setting on LOW.
Then stir in chocolate chips by hand. Spray crock pot with non-stick spray. Cook 4 to 5 hours and DON’T OPEN LID!!! Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Hopefully, my 44 years of cooking will guide me to a successful outcome with each recipe I attempt, and I’ll happily admit it here that if chocolate indulgence is your plan regardless of any visual result, this is a BIG winner!
However, freeing yourself from further responsibility from any resulting action is NOT in my control! Consumers Beware! The point here is not about oozy-gooey chocolate stuff, any over indulgence or even eating desert, it is about giving proper directions when submitting recipe advice to someone. The size of the crock pot would have been nice… the directions say “large.”
Mine looked pretty large until my daughter arrived with 15-Bean soup she’d made in her’s while she demolished one of her Honda’s in the backyard, (Visit for a follow-up) but mine worked out fine. The results look messy but taste good and are so chocolaty that an additional drizzle of chocolate sauce seems unnecessary…perhaps a pretty serving dish or maraschino cherry on top for garnish? Whatever…
            There is a restaurant named Barbara Jean’s, made famous for delicious crab cakes served here on the Georgia coast and shipped everywhere. The restaurant is also famous for a desert they call “Chocolate Stuff” served with real whipped cream. I’m pretty sure this is as close to their recipe as anything I’ve ever tasted. Now I can make that once a year Birthday chocolate fix I crave.  I’ll dig out my handy Crock Pot and head out for the day.
            To covert this I’d have to swap the cake mix to a Gluten Free brand and Tofu sour cream and find a substitute for the pudding mix. It will take some time, but… 
            For now however, my Crock Pot is happily cooking away on my White Bean Chili using cooked chicken, canned green chilies and great Northern Beans for a simple Souper-Bowl supper (pardon the pun, please) while I write; recipe to follow next time depending on results.
And maybe… just maybe, I should head out to the store for some whipping cream so I can give this stuff another test run. Hummmm….      
Enjoy! Carol

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Taco-Choco Chicken for Easy Crock Pot Cooking January 24, 2012

Convertible Cooking without a functioning kitchen requires lots of simple, satisfying meals. Construction and renovations on two properties rule our lives and meals have needed to be altered, skipped, ordered in or take-out. Ugh! One job site has an oven and the other a range-top, so our conversion meals have been painfully absent. Sorry, please accept our apologies; however this is our offering to beg forgiveness … 
For starters- this meal is Crock pot friendly. We hope you’ll try this modified entry if you’re constructing, renovating, working, studying, doing your taxes, or tied to a project in anyway, as the results are so satisfying we just had to put down our tools and tell everyone about it.  
          This terrific dish was originally made with a 2 ½ lb. pork butt or shoulder roast. Lately however, Noelle struggles with gallbladder issues after eating pork, so we tried it with chicken legs and thighs first at her house for meal No.1. Crock Pot cooking times were largely ignored while construction of a new window wall was being built, distracted only by the wonderful smell of this magical sauce simmering away. Then before the crock pot had cooled and the memories of a satisfying meal were still fresh, she brought me the sauce and I added 3 frozen bone-in chicken breasts for meal No.2.
          Every now and then the chicken was checked for done-ness and when cooked fully, everything was allowed to cool in the sauce overnight in the refrigerator. The next day I pulled the meat from the bones in large shreds, added it back into the sauce before reheating everything on the Crock Pot’s high setting, while deconstruction of an old suspended ceiling took place in my husband’s office.
          Instead of serving this on corn tortillas as recommended in the original Real Simple Magazine’s “Slow-Cooker Pulled-Pork Tacos” recipe,, I served it on a mixed bed of baby greens and some “American Blend” salad stuff with shredded carrots and purple cabbage I had on hand. Too weary to even pour some wine in my glass, I managed to top it with fresh avocado slices and a dollop of sour cream. I cooked off some white russet potatoes in the microwave to round out the meal and crashed happily into a comfortable chair to admire our construction results and enjoy every bite and delicious drop of this converted recipe.
          My family prefers dark meat chicken, so finding ways to sauce up the less fatty white breast meat to keep it moist and flavorful is always worth trying at my house, especially when there is no-fuss about it. The bagged lettuces kept it easy and slimmer too, so the indulgent guilt-factor was reduced enough to serve a lot.
          Satisfying and rich, the sauce is flavor packed and well blended rather than Mexican spicy which suits me just fine after a hard day working. To “punch-it-up” spicy, hot salsa might add more kick than mild but I wouldn’t recommend it. The sauce with the cocoa powder makes it more “comfort food” memorable because it’s so simple, tastes so good, and because it is ready when you are. Leftovers a-plenty too … for the freezer; perhaps a meal No.3? Hmmmm … Maybe this recipe would be better named “Progressive Construction Taco-Choco Chicken” as we get back to work. Give it a try as it is pretty hard to beat a combination this good if you ask me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Faster Foods and Lemon-Feta Chicken Breasts

Inspirational recipes came in many forms yesterday while browsing through the magazines scattered about the doctor’s office waiting room while my husband’s lengthy medical procedure was on my mind, yet nothing registered.
When the hunger bug finally struck, I found myself wandering the Wal-Mart food aisles in search of a quick meal while his prescription was being filled. I realized it was impossible to bake off the Lemon-Feta Chicken Breasts featured in the pilfered copy of “People Magazine” opened and folded to page 89, securely in my purse. The magazines “Getting Healthy in America” article called out to me so strongly earlier, while I struggled though a cold McDonald’s double cheeseburger with added tomato. That was the lunch we were advised to bring to the office for the undetermined time it would take to remove a suspicious lesion on my husband’s temple.
          My thoughts were scattered about then, but I was still aware that I was without a respectable kitchen to enjoy food preparation and have no oven available for baking, since my beloved, circa 1980’s- Sharp Brand, Convection Oven/Microwave died in late July. But our budget wouldn’t stretch for a meal out and my man wasn’t feeling so strong; our favorite cheap pizza worker wasn’t on duty to make up the “Hot & Fresh” the way we like it so …
          I am a Convertible Cook after all, so I had the idea to indulge in what I’ll affectionately call, Quick Consumables; my newest and best friends while living in our 1880’s Craftsman renovation. The easy dinner of bagged salads, corn on the cob; silk-less and micro-waved for 8 minutes in the husk, and a meat or fish portion grilled or fried on our little Presto Griddle wouldn’t do. They’d been the staple of the average night’s meal for so long, that I responded differently when opportunity spoke.
          Wandering those crowded aisles while looking for inspiration, I’d
managed to pick up the chicken breasts and scallions and was headed for the feta cheese when I was drawn down the frozen entrée aisle by some unknown force.
Perhaps it was those crowds of other hungry people that pushed me into it, but I was able to gaze upon those expensive and complete, frozen skillet dinners with hungry eyes. But as our budget ruled our stomachs and our favorite TV shows were about to premier, I broke down and indulged in 3 prepared meals.
Marie Callender’s, TM, “Creamy Chicken & Shrimp Parmesan,” boasting chicken and shrimp with linguine, yellow zucchini and broccoli in parmesan Alfredo sauce for me. I’m an Alfredo Sauce junkie but my spouse has never liked cheese, always preferring  a marinara product, so I switched up and over to a Boston Market TM Brand “Beef Steak & Noodles” for him and another Boston Market entrée, “Pot Roast with Vegetables & Mashed Potatoes” for our daughter.
          I called home to ask her to steam up some fresh broccoli as we drove in and I chopped fresh cucumbers to serve with a light drizzle of cider vinegar for salads while the micro-wave churned out our simple and quick dinners. Each of us enjoyed our new/ old favorite upon completion.
Mine was a meal of 420 calories and tasted great with an additional sprinkle of parmesan cheese on my streamed broccoli. My poor, pain-ailing husband found comfort in an old friend of a meal that he used to fix when he was a chef way-back-when, and topped my calorie count at 490 calories, but we weren’t counting then, just enjoying the simplicity of a fast meal at under $10.00 that served three.
I wouldn’t hesitate to pick these up again if I’m pinched for time. I am seldom too exhausted to cook, but with limited supplies, and a space too lacking to call a kitchen, these were great in the pinch. I promised myself we’d eat better when my new kitchen is set up and complete, and I’ll be freezing the chicken breasts for now to grill over the weekend where we’ll be enjoying the feta cheese on a green salad too.
But for this next meal, I’ll reprint Chef Hayden Hall’s recipe to eat up with my eyes and mind. It still sounds like the best meal to recover from our simply delicious over-indulgences. 
Serves 4
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 (8oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
4 tsp. chopped scallions
1. In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken breasts and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
2. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from marinate and sear in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
3. Place chicken in a 13”x 9” glass baking dish. Top each breast with 2 Tbsp. of feta cheese and 1 tsp. scallions.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Hayden Hall of Oxbow Restaurant, Clarksdale, Mississippi and reprinted from People Magazine August 22, 2011 edition

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shrimp Scampi & Linguine and Pancakes with Blueberries and Strawberries July 10, 2011

Thank goodness for weekends when I can reflect on the weeks food creations and 
begin my search for more interesting treats to come.
This past week began Le Tour De France* bicycle race that forced us to upgrade 
our cable service and ride impressive French roads with those hearty fellows. 
Six to seven thousand calories of food intake per day keep those lean muscular 
bodies pumping! 

Noting all this chewing while riding race bicycles to keep those bodies strong 
made me think about our stamina to do our work in this South Georgia summer 
The TV, Le Tour and I teamed up to race to bring out the simplest of my freezer’s stash of experimental no-cook or little cook foods from my favorite supermarket.
So far Bertolli’s “Shrimp Scampi & Linguine with shrimp, roasted peppers in garlic sauce”* has won my approval. Le Tour’s pasta requirement spoke loud and clear, and linguine answered. This Skillet Meal isn’t an inexpensive buy for two portions, but it’s not a night out in a fancy French restaurant either. If I make it up again in I’ll spring for some additional shrimp or chicken to add as there is enough of the creamy garlic sauce to enjoy more.
During Le Tour de France nightly coverage, I’ve been looking through my cookbook collection for inspiration, as I need to format my memoir/cookbook in production. Discovering that I have enjoyed reading every cookbook I’ve ever owned I realized I’ve purchased big ones, little ones, simple ones and complex ones; ones with beautiful photos and ones typed on vintage machines, and I love them all like children. I have caressed them and fondled them and post-it noted them in my cover to cover reading style before I headed into my kitchen to cook anything from them. I have done this for years…yes, my family knows what to buy 
for Mom!
The difficulty here in my new/old house is that I haven’t got a real kitchen! The good news about this dilemma however, is that I get an excuse to experiment. In my family of cooks, we believe two things;
1. That life is uncertain, so eat desert first.
2. That the essence of life is how well one adapts to Plan B.
My tiny two square feet of cooking space with my kitchen gadget appliances are 
definitely a Plan B. kitchen, so I must be resourceful in new ways. I read about food 
rather than prepare it; I write about food rather than cook it; and I research about food rather than eat it; I still love to purchase food so I’m considering 
selling some of my cookbooks, so I can buy it!
As I scroll down the vastness of internet cookbook entries, I realize how many of these books are longtime friends with great worth to me, no matter what their EBay Buy-it-now value states. I consider their size, their thickness and age. Do they have spiral bindings or are they bound and sewn textbook style? Then I question the book’s ability to lay flat or fold back while I cook? Are there shiny pages to wipe off smudges…or do I mind the dull, thick and absorbent pages smeared with the remnants of feasts gone by?
Which ones are the dearest of my Go-To-Guys when a no-fail recipe is needed in a 
hurry? And I wonder why I love them so, and why so many, when I reach for my 
favorite recipe cards anyway? The cards hold the handwriting of the precious 
giver and I get to recall great memories… mixed, baked, boiled or broiled in 
every one. I question the gift of good cook’s recipes in these cookbooks; the words 
surrounding and comforting me while giving me courage to try it their way. Why does that help feed my confidence in my kitchen? Will my words and recipes help others gain confidence while cooking too? 

Will the limitless Internet take over, providing instant access to unimaginable food combinations yet give the intimacy of a mother-in law teaching a young bride...when I learned my husband adored baked custard and Squash Pie? I wonder too if my tried and true Best of the Best, will teach about making do when hard times happen, when resourcefulness takes priority over cash and the advice and guidance handed down from others provides a no-fail solution in dire situations? Times where experimentation using the only the freshest, ripest, and prettiest are out of the equation-out of one’s budget?
Things happen and making do is the only solution; too much garden produce ripening too fast; kids birthdays come when the mortgage payment is due, the refrigerator dying in a heat wave and unfortunate events. My solution is to reach for answers in recipe books. That’s why it's called “Comfort Food.”

My husband wanted some comfort food last week… 
”Real Pancakes” he told me,
“the good ones…homemade not that mix kind.” 
He was referring to the store brand baking mix that I’d substituted a while ago to appease his retaliation to the “Wheat-Free”and “Gluten-Free” products I’d been testing. He wanted me to revisit my good Convertible Cooking new friend, Pamela’s Products*, “Baking and Pancake Mix”, Wheat-Free and Gluten-Free in an 
easy to pour and measure pouch.
I could hardly believe it…yet I was thrilled. Pamela’s pancake decadence fit my meager griddle requirements, helped me use up some failing blueberries and I added some just ripened strawberries to make a wonderful 
Sunday morning treat. With warm butter and real Maple Syrup from Sam’s 
Wholesale,* they were impressive. 

Pamela’s mix requires only 1 egg per cup and 1 Tbs. of oil plus water; no dairy needed so it’s easy on the larder resources, but I would have given the king’s gold for a big dollop of whipped cream to make them incredible. Maybe another time perhaps, but I’d bet I could feed a whole Peloton of hungry Le Tour de France cyclists with one small 24 ounce bag!

Now that we’ve taken our bike ride around the neighborhood, I’ve moved onto my computer and printed out a recipe for Caribbean Coconut Chicken that I’m about to throw into my handy Rival Crock Pot* for dinner. No cookbook involved and coming off my printer puts added mystery to it, except for all this recipes thumbs-ups recommendations on Google. Magic did happen when this person punches in “chicken, red peppers, and coconut milk”…but its thin copy paper lacks the stiff feel of an index card or the heft of a cookbook in my hands…the search is curious with this new kitchen 

But like my husbands pancakes, perhaps this new recipe might become a family favorite now that we feel better appreciating my Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free attempts. So stay tuned for a report on my chicken dish, try something different 
this week like a Bertolli’s* Complete Skillet Meal or mix up my tried and true 
Pamela’s Products** pancakes or waffles with some aging fruit, so your family can tell you they liked the new/old stuff in the future…it will make you proud to think you’ve made some history. Maybe a new race bike or cookbook is in your 
future too.
www.le Tour de France,,
Carol Dumas
Copyright July 10, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


When opportunity knocked on the front door of our recently renovated one story 
house with pool in back…I jumped! We moved out in 30 days. My cooking ability is 
at a minimum here. My little make-shift food prep area consists of a 
mini-refrigerator, a griddle, toaster oven, electric tea kettle, slow cooker and 
microwave that blow the circuit breakers if more than one appliance is used at a 
time. I hand wash my few dishes in a bar sink. As it’s been awhile since my last 
conversation on, I’m back to play Catch-up. 

We’ve relocated to another city to set up housekeeping in an 1880’s Craftsman 
building that has been undergoing renovations for years. It fulfills a dream 
that will put use to our antiques, my kitchen wares and my favorite cookbooks 
once it’s completed.
2 Storage units later… no kitchen, no shower, no hot water, no washer or dryer 
and no second story bathroom and I find it isn’t easy camping among packing 
boxes. Our move did, however, bring us closer to our daughter’s house where we 
shower after her bedtime and laundry duties are shared. 

Relying on my trusty freezer’s help for my future plans before I moved, I packed 
boxes of kitchen utensils and bake ware while I cooked up and freezer-bagged as 
many of my pantry items as I could before I left my beautiful and efficient 
kitchen. Yes, my new arrangement is crude, but it works. One steel shelving unit 
holds my canned goods and food stuffs as I prep meals and defrost foods on a 
cutting board, cluttered counter top set up in my husband’s office. 

Because the Winn Dixie Supermarket is a mere bicycle ride away, I 
take my break there by choosing interesting new food selections to round out our 
after-construction meals. Most of the new items I pick are sold prepared, ready 
for a quick microwave heat-up, grill-up or barbeque. Boiling pasta or rice is 
difficult now except with pre-thought in my slow Crock pot.
A five dollar deli foot long sandwich requires a slather of mayo for a taste 
pick up lunch or dinner with pre-frozen soup. A real meal of quick fry-up pork 
chops or fish filets happens when reduced prices entice me on Mondays or 
Tuesdays. Buy One/Get One Free items in the aging store flyer offer all types of 
adventure for the palate as I make up meals with the just going off sale items.
The BO/GO offerings yielded the “Last Minute Gourmet” Broccoli and Rice 
Casserole, claiming “broccoli and white rice in creamy béchamel sauce topped 
with cheddar cheese” it was featured as an Easter time special. Although it was 
tasty and contained bits of broccoli, the beautiful picture on the packaging 
looked nothing like what the oven-ready container held. 

It was a broccoli infused rice pudding mixture with rice so soft and 
broccoli bits so small the end product appeared gray. The bright yellow cheddar 
cheese topping helped but was garnish equivalent to the casserole’s appearance. 
Although the 40 oz. size was generous, to serve it to company for a Holiday meal 
would have embarrassed me.
To save it, I steamed up a fresh bag of Green Giant’s mixed broccoli and mini carrots for added color and covered the top with shredded “Four Cheese” 
Mexican blend from the dairy case before micro- waving it for meal #2.
Conversion completed, I divided the remainder into single portions for 
refreezing in my ever handy Corning ware mini dishes with snap lids. Nothing 
wasted, everything gained, plus future treats…pure and simple. 

On a sweeter note, I will RAVE about a discovery that needs no help, no 
conversion necessary other than the aforementioned freezer. “WINN & LOVETT” 
-exclusively at Winn Dixie frozen fruit bars”! Wow, a grown-up Popsicle jammed 
packed with real fruit and pulp! At 100 calories for the strawberry and 140 
calories for the creamy smooth and decadent Pina Colada these fruit bars have 
taken over top spot as our desert favorites this summer. Along with Raspberry, 
Mango and Caribbean Fruit flavors, those blue boxes jump off the shelf and into 
my cart at $3.59 for a box of 6 or offered at 2 boxes for $6.00. Do the math, 
people…at $.50 each with no cooking or baking for satisfying cool treats 
anytime… Wow, again, as these are good enough to serve to dinner guests.
A true believer in the old stand-bys and tried and true recipe 
favorites I now feel it’s good to mix up one’s routine even if moving to a new 
place makes one do it. Making discoveries on the grocery isles as I’ve been 
doing has been interesting and fun. My husband seems content and the store keeps 
cooking and offering all types of goodies to make my life easier. And I keep in 
my budget! See, Convertible Cooking can be fun!
So S-L-O-W down, idle through the stores generously stocked isles 
and relax in the ice cold air conditioning. Your grocer wants to keep you 
comfortable... Take a mini vacation as you enjoy the scenery of greens and 
colorful produce with fresh eyes and look for bargains. See what’s contained in 
different food sections; search to unearth buried treasures and help the store 
help your wallet by shopping and dining a bit differently this summer.
This Convertible Cook says the only Conversion Cooking in your summer fare is to 
convert your mindset to embrace the opportunity if the ingredients are okay. 
Study a bit and experiment more, use your trusty freezer so you can map out a 
different plan to take it easy cooking… your kitchen, if you happen to have one, 
will stay cool too.
Find these treats at:

Carol Dumas
Copyright June 28, 2011 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Convertible Cooking Challenge September 13, 2010

Bread... baking bread to save bread… as in $ dollars. Confused? Let me explain.
I’ve dug out my bread machine to make the most expensive bread ever! BUT, it is
a justified effort to “save bread”…money! Hard cold Cash… as well as GLUTEN from
our systems.

Recently, I read a Yahoo finance piece that told me The Wall Street Journal's
10 Money Moves to save money during this recession…I’ve included it below. Number 8
on the list mentioned buying and using a bread machine. It alone could save
hundreds of dollars per year on single store bought bread loaves. No telling
what other monies would be saved without the unnecessary impulse shopping we all
seem to do when we run to the grocery to “just buy bread and milk”. The Yahoo
article mentioned nothing of “Cows” but I will here, having recently discovered
shelf milk.
Boxed cow’s milk fresh for drinking, canned evaporated milk, Almond milk, Rice
milk, Coconut milk, Goats milk, Soy Milk
, dried milks or canned all sit nicely
waiting on my shelves if I purchase ahead and plan to use it in my cooking
experiments. They have made my life easier and faster…and less clutter in my
But here I’m now adding bread, keeping myself out of the store except for fresh
fruit and vegetables or cat and dog food.
This week I made two different kinds, sliced them right up and ate the results
so fast that there are no pictures! Sorry…but really bread machine loaves aren’t
the prettiest loaves you’ve ever seen anyway.
Bob’s Red Mill “Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix” Gluten Free-wheat free-dairy free 
mix was great.
I made it using Silk Soymilk from a box I’d found in my discontinued isle of my
local Winn Dixie grocery.

It came through with a lovely sour dough flavor that I should have expected as
the 1 2/3 cups of soymilk flavor was boosted with 1 tsp. of vinegar suggested
For San Francisco Sour Dough Lover’s, I would highly recommend mixing it like
that again.

The next batch I tried was the Gluten-Free Pantry’s** “favorite sandwich bread

I was happy to find it in my discounted food section as well marked down to
$5.99 per box with other multiples residing with it.
My husband loves his “little sandwiches” as he calls them, but the change over
to wheat free/gluten free has been wonderful for us, so to master his bread
issue, I was eager to experiment at any price.

Every bread mix or whole loaf of gluten free bread we’ve purchased is in this
price range… Ouch! And I have yet to mix my own from scratch to adjust these
prices some, but the four other bargain boxes were waiting if this brand passed
our test.
The instructions were the same adding water or milk, but this time I shaved the
price down on my finished loaf by using water, vegetable oil verses the melted
butter option, but using 2 large eggs instead of the other suggestion of 1 egg
and two egg whites…it was just easier for me but a nice idea regarding ones
The mix was designed for a 2 lb. bread machine as Bob’s Red Mill Bread Mix was
suited for a 1 ½ lb. loaf. Both brands used a nicely dissolving SAF Gourmet
Perfect Rise Yeast that claims “not for sale” which is disappointing to us yeast
dough people as it worked well for both loaves.
What was nice was this loaf finished baking...BIG and beautiful. Lovely and
dense, moist enough to make into sandwiches as its label claimed…and it stopped
baking and cooling down a bit for handling purposes JUST BEFORE DINNER!
How lucky could my timing be? Warm with fresh Meyenburg Goat butter and heaven
melted in my mouth…the bread was terrific.
My bread machine makes a lovely round loaf that cut easily for freezing half as
the remainder kept its shape for handling and cutting through the week.
Both brands had me racing up to the store to buy the remaining packages of bread
mixes and eager to experiment again.
Noelle arrived home from her Asheville, N.C. trip carrying with her a new box
of King Arthur Flour*** gluten free pancake mix stating that it was “wheat free,
soy free and nut free”.
With my new $2.00 yard sale waffle maker I was busy making delicious waffles for
breakfast while reading along the box edge that the King Arthur Flour Company,
“America’s oldest flour company” has made a dedicated effort to expand to
produce the”very best gluten-free mixes on the market today” when their
“customers began requesting-no, imploring- us to help them in their quest for
delicious gluten-free baked goods.” Their complete line of gluten-free mixes
include pizza crust, cookies, bread, brownies, flour, muffins and cake along
with this pancake mix.
I could only imagine how much fun I was going to have in the future as the
waffles turned out crisp, soft, delicious and full of Highland Sugarworks Maple
Syrup and butter filled holes!

I added pecans (‘because that’s what Georgians do) to part of the batch as it’s
15 oz. (425gm) size was generous enough to do so. Three of us ate A LOT and I
was still able to freeze some for later.
So far I was on a roll (forgive the pun) with my old bread and waffle machines.
Often when times get a little tight on dough…rethink and make some new dough
with your old kitchen “friends”. Make some bread to save some bread…what a
clever idea.
Here’s to better bread baking!

P.S. This weekend’s yard sales yielded a nice Panasonic Bread Machine with its
instruction manual for $5.00…less than a loaf of bread! Its time to bake some
savings when its… oh, so easy.

*10 Money Moves That Will Always Pay Off

By Brett Arends
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Provided by

8. Buy a bread machine
You want a certain winner? If a $50 bread maker saves you, say, $7 a week on
buying bread, that's $350 year. The easiest dough you'll make. Modern
breadmakers are, well, a piece of cake to operate. The return on investment:
600% in year one and 700% after that.
Wall Street's best year ever? Just 74%, in 1915. Ha. Amateurs.

**Gluten-Free Pantry
2055 Blvd Dagenais O. (West)
Laval, Quebec, Canada H7L 5V1
***King Arthur Flour
Norwich, Vermont 05055
****Highland Sugarworks
Pure Maple Syrup
P.O. Box 56Websterville, Vt. 05678