Friday, August 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Steak and Gravy

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Easy steak and gravy
You don't cook? This is a good recipe to try

I’ve never been one to create many new recipes. I’m more of an adapter. I find something I like and change it to suit our tastes.

But every now and then I think of something new or different.

For several months I wanted to make an easy slow cooker recipe that I had in mind. I wanted a simple steak dish made with lots of gravy and served with mashed potatoes or rice. I would dress it up with some onions and Worchestershire sauce.

Quite often I’d see top sirloin steaks reduced at my grocery store. I knew that cut would be perfect for the dish I had in mind, and why not try it when they were cheap? But the timing was never right for months. I needed to make my meal on a night when it was just my husband and me eating. It wouldn’t be a favorite with my daughter, I was sure, and my steak-loving son has moved out.

I finally had the opportunity to make my steak dish. I was in the grocery store early one morning, and the boneless top sirloins had been reduced. I purchased a steak just under 1 pound for less than $5 along with a can of cream of mushroom soup — reduced fat and sodium. I had the other ingredients at home.

I decided to sear my steak in a hot pan with a little butter, but first I added a some salt and pepper. I put the browned steak into the slow cooker and topped it with a can of cream of mushroom soup. I added several dashes of Worchestershire sauce (didn’t measure) and threw in a handful of onions. Again, I didn’t measure.

The first few times I made this I was going to be at home while it cooked, so I set the slow cooker on high for an hour before turning it to low. When I made it again Sunday afternoon, I just put it on low for the entire cooking time of around 5 hours. Both ways produced the same result: a deliciously tender steak with lots of yummy, thick gravy. We both loved it!

I’ve served this steak with mashed potatoes, and it’s so good together. But on Sunday, I wanted an easy dish that didn’t require peeling potatoes, so I bought a pouch of long grain and wild rice and heated it in the microwave. It was a wonderful side dish as well, served with some green beans.

This has become a favorite main dish for my family, including my son. And it’s the perfect dish to prepare at lunchtime because it can cook all afternoon and be ready at suppertime.

If you want an easy, satisfying dish, I highly recommend this easy slow cooker steak.

For you folks who tell me you can’t cook, I challenge you to try this. If you don’t want to sear the meat first, just throw it in the slow cooker! And if you don’t want to slice an onion, leave it out or buy frozen chopped onions. I promise this is easy!

Easy Slow Cooker Steak 

1 top sirloin steak, around 1 pound or less

1 can cream of mushroom soup (I use Healthy Request Campbell’s)

Worchestershire sauce

Chopped or sliced onions 

Season steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place pan or skillet on stovetop and heat until very hot. Add steak, cooking briefly on each side to brown. (This step can be omitted.)

Add steak to crock and top with soup. Add several dashes of Worchestershire sauce and a handful of onions.

Cook on low heat for 4 to 5 hours, depending on how thick the steak is, or on high for the first hour and then on low. Steak should be fork tender and cooked through when done.

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice to take advantage of the delicious gravy this makes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Breakfast at school and some muffins

Elementary students will eat free this year

Breakfast will involve a very different routine this year for public school elementary students.

All students in grades kindergarten through five will be offered a free breakfast in their classroom.

That’s approximately 6,800 students, said Cindy Bailey, director of child nutrition.

I have a granddaughter starting kindergarten next week, and we’ve been talking about how she will eat lunch in her classroom each day. It’s the same routine she’s used to at daycare.

On Saturday, at the Back-to-School Fair, we got to sample two of the breakfast items she will be eating — blueberry bread and a goody bun (think honey bun) made with whole grains. I’m happy to report that both were delicious!

Each morning by 7:30, lunchroom staff will deliver breakfast to the classroom in insulated bags to keep the entree warm. Children will go straight to their classrooms starting at 7:40.

Those students who want to eat will choose between an entree, fruit, fruit juice and milk and will eat it at their desk. The option will be three out of four foods, with 1/2 cup of fruit required as one of the choices.

The teacher will take note of which students participate.

At 8 o’clock, breakfast will be over, and the teacher will put the insulated bags in the hallway for pickup. A student helper will take breakfast trash to specially marked trash cans centrally located on the hallways. Lunchroom staff will pick up the bags and trash cans within 15 to 20 minutes, Bailey said.

The entrees will rotate between such items as cereal, cinni minis, breakfast pizza, sausage biscuit, pizza bagel and sunrise sandwich, which is flat bread with eggs, cheese and turkey sausage. Fruit is an option each day and could be a flavored applesauce, strawberries or peaches in a sealed cup.

Bailey said cafeteria staff will notice which items are popular in each class and tailor what they send down each day. For instance, one class might choose more fruit cups than fruit juice.

If a child says he only wants milk, teachers will encourage him to eat something as well, Bailey said.

"The whole point is to provide a healthy, nutritious meal to the students so that they are full and can concentrate now on instruction.”

The free breakfast meets nutritional guidelines for whole grains and low-fat and has appropriate calories for the age group, she said.

Bailey was pleased with how well the foods were received Saturday morning at Jones Elementary during the Back to School Fair. Breakfast food was also sampled at five elementary schools last year for student acceptance.

Elementary school students are offered a free breakfast and lunch this year through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that assists high poverty communities. The program is known as Community Eligibility Provision and is a provision of the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010. Elementary school students will continue eating lunch in the cafeteria.

I love breakfast foods and think I would enjoy every entree on the menu. But these items won’t be served at my office or yours! As families are gearing up for back-to-school for the whole family, I thought I’d share two recipes that my sister and I use all the time. I have probably shared versions of these muffin recipes before, but here they are again, updated slightly by my sister, Susan.

I just finished eating a chocolate chip muffin, which is one of my very favorite morning snack treats. And I cooked a small ham Monday, so I will be making ham and cheese muffins before the week is out! There is no telling how many times my mother, aunt, cousins, sister and I have made these ham and cheese muffins in the last 20-plus years!

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Ham and Cheese Muffins 

1 3/4 cups self-rising flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 beaten egg

3/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 pound thinly sliced deli ham, stacked, cut in strips then squares (or ham cubes if you have leftovers)

1 cup cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese (can use more, if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with baking spray.

Mix dry ingredients. Make well in center and add egg, milk and canola oil. Stir until moistened, then mix in ham and cheese.

Scoop into muffin tin.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Chocolate Chip Muffins 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teasoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 beaten egg

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with baking spray.

Mix dry ingredients to combine. With spoon, make a well in center and add egg, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir until moistened, then mix in chocolate chips.

Scoop into muffin tin. Sprinkle a little sugar on top if desired.

Bake at 400 for 17 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen muffins.

* I use self-rising flour and omit baking power, baking soda salt. When I made these this week, I used original almond milk.

Susan Hoffman/Lisa Batts

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

slow cooker roast

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Slow cooker pork roast 
Be sure to make plenty for leftovers


So many slow cooker recipes start with these basic steps: Brown meat, place in slow cooker, cover with a sauce and cook on low. 

I’ve done this many times with different cuts of beef over the years, but not so much with pork. There was a pork chop recipe (in fact, it was the first recipe I put in my food column), but I haven’t made that in years. 

Last Christmas, my sister gave me a subscription to Allrecipes magazine. I’ve loved the magazine and have made a number of recipes, including one for pork ribs that simmer in the slow cooker. We loved that recipe and have made it several times. We liked it so much that I decided to try a slightly different version and use a pork roast. 

I bought a pork loin rib roast, about 2 to 21/2 pounds, for my cooking experiment. After adding salt and pepper, I cooked it in the oven on high heat for 10 minutes on each side. This gave the roast a nice color and cooked edges that ended up being my favorite part of the meal! 

Once the roast was browned, I placed it in the slow cooker and covered it with a delicious sauce. The barbecue sauce I made is a cross between one my son used to make years ago when he was helping me cook and the Allrecipes version. 

At first, I was worried that I had added too much sauce to this roast because it almost covered it. But I was glad to have the barbecue sauce for the leftovers we used the next few days. If you didn’t want to make your own sauce, I’m sure the recipe would be delicious with a favorite bottled sauce as well. 

I cooked the roast on high for about an hour before turning it to low and letting it cook for another 5 or 6 hours. The house smelled so good! 

I made cubed potatoes, just like Mama used to make, and a pot of field peas, and my husband and I feasted on our delicious comfort food meal. 

The next day, I made sandwiches for us. Instead of shredding the meat, I was able to cut it in thin slices. I put the meat in sandwich rolls and poured sauce on top. It was so good! I’m always thinking ahead when I cook and try to make enough for leftovers! 

Slow Cooker Barbecue Pork Roast 
Pork loin rib end roast, (mine was around 21/2 pounds) 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Barbecue sauce: 

12 oz. bottle chili sauce (look for it with the ketchup at the grocery store) 

1 cup ketchup 

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce 

1/2 cup brown sugar 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Salt and pepper roast and place on baking pan lined with foil (for easy clean up). Cook 10 minutes on each side to brown. 

While the roast cooks, mix the sauce ingredients. 

Place roast in slow cooker and pour sauce over top. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. If you are home, you can cook on high for the first hour and cut the cooking time a little.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Georgia peach pound cake

Just add peaches
Buttery pound cake a real treat

I love peaches. In fact, I’ve probably had at least two a day for the last month.

I’ve bought more than my share from local grocery stores but was thrilled when my cousin Martha Cayton brought me a small basketful from a favorite South Carolina peach farm recently. They were so good!

This year, I’ve been enjoying them two new ways. For breakfast or bedtime snack, I fill a small bowl with granola, slice a peach over the top and add some milk. Yum, yum, yum! I also have followed Martha’s suggestion and eaten fresh peaches with vanilla Greek yogurt topped with granola. I’ve mixed in fresh blueberries when I’ve had them. Martha said the treat was like eating a sundae; and I agree! I’ve taken this to work with me several times, and I love it for a mid-morning snack.

But I went a less-healthy route this weekend and made a delicious peach pound cake.

There are many versions of this cake on the Internet called Georgia peach pound cake. It’s a basic pound cake recipe, rich with butter and plenty of sugar, with fresh, diced peaches mixed into the thick batter.

There’s nothing complicated about this easy recipe. Just make the batter, spoon it into the Bundt pan and bake. The only twist is the pan preparation. The recipe says to grease the pan with 2 tablespoons of butter, then coat with 1⁄4 cup of sugar. I don’t always follow this step in recipes and use a non-stick spray instead, but this time I buttered and sugared as instructed. The cake came out of the pan just fine and was nice and buttery on the outside with a little bit of a crunch from the sugar.

I did, however, decide to take the 2 tablespoons of butter out of the 2 sticks the recipe calls for in the batter. That meant I had 2 tablespoons less in the cake batter, but I promise you it is not missed! The three peaches I cut up also added up to 21⁄2 cups of peaches, which is more than is called for, but I added it all in.

The only other change I made was in the sugar. Each time I measured out a cup for the 2-cup sugar ingredient, I made sure it was a scant cup.

I made this cake Saturday night, and I’m sitting at my desk now, on Monday, nibbling on it. I really think it’s better today than it was warm from the oven. The dense texture and buttery flavor are the traditional pound cake traits we all know and love with an unexpected, but delightful, burst of peach mixed in.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Peach Pound Cake 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided*

21⁄4 cup sugar, divided

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cup all-purpose flour, divided

1 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 cup chopped, fresh peaches

Grease a 10-inch tube pan with 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle pan with 1⁄4 cup sugar. Cream remaining butter; gradually add remaining sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Combine 23⁄4 cups flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until well blended. Dredge peaches with remaining 1⁄4 cup flour. Fold peaches into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Yields 16 servings.

Georgia Peach Council 
* I used a total of 1 cup (or 2 sticks) of butter. I used 2 tablespoons of butter to grease my Bundt pan and used the rest for the batter. I also cut up 3 peaches that yielded around 21⁄2 cups of peaches and used them all. I also used a little less sugar than called for.