Who can find a worthy woman? For her price is far above rubies.......She looks well to the ways of her household. Proverbs 31:10-27
We're sisters who like to cook and bake, talk cooking and baking, and share recipes and kitchen wisdom.

Family Favorites...Baked Pork Chops and Rice

In Iowa, pork is often very reasonably priced and good quality, and this meaty dish from "Southern Living’s The Low Cost Cookbook" is sure to be a favorite.  If you don’t have a large enough skillet, by all means, finish this recipe in a large shallow baking dish.  But, I have a 12” shallow stainless “everyday” pan, with ovenproof loop handles on both sides and a glass lid that is perfect to simplify this dish by using just one pan.  I didn’t bake this as long as the recipe called for (newer recommendations don’t require such long cooking for pork) and didn’t use as much water either…it was perfect and tender with plenty of rice for 6 servings.  This is an easy dish for entertaining…it gives you time to prepare your vegetable and/or salad while it bakes, and most folks will love it.  And at 82¢ for a generous serving, cost-conscious hostesses will love it too.
                        Baked Pork Chops and Rice
  6          Pork Chops (I used 6 ounce boneless pork loin chops)
  1          Cup  Rice
  3          Cups  Hot Water -- (I used 2 cups)
  1           Teaspoon  Salt
  1          Teaspoon  Pepper
  1          Large  Onion -- chopped fine
  1          Can  Cream of Mushroom Soup -- undiluted
  1          Large  Green Pepper -- thinly sliced
Brown the chops on both sides in a 12" skillet in a little shortening or lard; 2 or 3 at a time, drain. (Remove chops to plate; set aside).   Mix the rice, very hot water, salt, pepper, onion, undiluted soup and green pepper in a shallow 2 quart (13 x 9”) baking dish or a 2 quart 12” skillet.  Place pork chops on top and cover with foil or lid.
Bake in a 375° oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until chops and rice are tender.  (I baked this 30 minutes).
6 Servings
2011 Cost:  $4.91 or 82¢ with garden peppers and onions; 6 ounce boneless pork loin chops
 Per Serving: 379 Calories; 16g Fat (40.1% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 592mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

Fresh Corn Salad

This is another salad that’s perfect for tailgating, picnics, potlucks and barbecues, because it’s served at room temperature and doesn’t wilt.  The lime juice is what makes it special – use the bottled kind if necessary.
We like it because it used a lot of garden produce in a pretty, tasty way.  You can also use your frozen garden corn and green beans and store-bought tomatoes and onions to make this year-round.
 Fresh Corn Salad
  2 ½    Cups  Corn -- (from 2 large ears)
  6         Ounces  Green Beans -- cut in 1/4" pieces
     ½    Medium  Red Onion -- finely chopped
     ½    Cup  Celery -- finely chopped
     ½    Cup  Cherry Tomato -- halved
  2         Tablespoons  Lime Juice
  1         Tablespoon  Olive Oil
             Salt and Pepper
Microwave the corn and green beans with a tablespoon or two of water until just lightly cooked, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain and cool to room temperature.  Add the onion and celery.
Mix the lime juice and olive oil, add to the vegetables and toss to combine.  Add the tomatoes and serve. Top with shredded basil leaves or cilantro or parsley if desired.
The recipe originally called for 4 servings; we make 6-8 servings from this amount.
  "1 Quart"
Per Serving: 70 Calories; 2g Fat (26.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 16mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat.

Adapted from Woman's Day Magazine 2013

Make it Yourself...Pie Crust ..

As we start thinking about the coming holiday season it’s the time of year most people will try to make pie.  We’re going to spend some time on the basics of pie making…no need to buy expensive pies…there are many ways to make pie baking easier.
Myrna and I are NOT fans of purchased pie crust…and we’ve tried them all over the years – early mixes, those sticks of pie dough, frozen pie shells and refrigerated ones too.  Last week I priced plain homemade pie crust at 64¢ for 2 crusts, frozen pie crusts were $2.49 for 2 shallow crusts and $2.79 for 2 deep dish crusts, both with foil pans, and refrigerated crusts were $2.99 for 2.  The purchased crusts all contained hydrogenated lard plus flour, salt and a number of preservatives.  I like lard for my crusts, but I don’t want it hydrogenated and full of trans-fats.  Cooks Illustrated recommended only one pre-made pie crust, a frozen one that came in at $5.99 for 2 crusts!
Here are some hints about making pie crust yourself.
Mixing Pie Dough   Cut the fat into the flour in marble size pieces or ½” slices.  With a pastry blender, 2 knives used like a scissors, a fork or your fingertips, rub or cut the fat until the pieces are the size specified by the recipe.  
Pea size pieces make a flaky crisp pastry.  Pieces like bread crumbs or coarse meal makes a tender, more crumbly pastry.  
Older recipes (and the way I was taught) often cut in half the fat to coarse meal size and then cut in the remainder to pea size. 
When you add ice water, add only 2/3 of the amount called for; sprinkle it evenly over the flour-fat mixture, mix quickly with a fork and try to gather it into a ball.  If it won’t hold together, add more water a teaspoon at a time.  Too much water makes it tough.
Cold and Heat Affect Pastry
·        Have the fat and water very cold – Myrna even chills her shortening; you definitely want to chill butter or lard.
·        Chill dough after mixing – If you have time, chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  It will be easier to handle, less likely to shrink, and bake up flakier.
·        Use a hot oven.  High heat explodes solid fat particles, creating steam which lightens the pastry and makes it crisp.  At lower temperatures, the fat just softens and melts, no explosion, no crisping steam.
Roll the dough away from you from the center to the edge.  Give the dough a quarter turn and roll away from you again.  Continue until it is 1/8”-1/4” thick and 2-3” larger than you will use.
Don’t stretch the dough when placing it in the pan.  Ease the dough into the sides and press it gently so no air is trapped between the dough and pan.
Using Up Pie Crust
Make crusts for mini muffin or muffin pans from pie-making scraps.  Store in the freezer until you’ve accumulated enough for a pan of mini tarts.  Bake and fill with cooked fillings, or make pecan or pumpkin pie filling or quiche and bake after filling.
Use a cookie cutter to cut muffin pan crusts:
-3” for mini muffin pans and 4 1/4 “ for regular muffin pans
-Store them on a small paper plate with double sheets of waxed paper between the layers; put in a plastic bag, plate and all, and freeze.  You may want to freeze them on a cookie sheet first, then stack and store.
-Let them thaw by placing on the back side of the pan; they will shape themselves.  If you plan to fill after baking, bake them on the backs of the pan as well.
3 or 4” squares also can be used for filling for little “hand-pies” to be baked - smaller sizes make appetizers.
-Scraps can be cut with decorative cookie cutters and saved for decorating future pies.  Overlap the decorative cutouts on top of the pie, leaving some holes, and substitute for lattice crusts.
-Top pie filling in custard cups with small scraps to fit. 
Pie crust toppings:
-Brush the top of your 2 crust pie with a little milk or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon or nutmeg if desired. 
-You can glaze the 2 crust baked pie thinly with powdered sugar and milk glaze after it cools a little.

Chuckwagon Deli Sandwich

There’s a popular sandwich that’s sold in vending machines where I used to work that we still like, but with our own twist.  We use homemade buns and, of course, the sandwiches haven’t been sitting around for who knows how long.  Try Multigrain Buns or my personal favorite Whole Wheat Mustard Buns.   This is a good meal from the freezer - I always keep both baked buns and Freezer Coleslaw on hand.  No need for purchased fast food on a busy day.

 Chuckwagon Deli Sandwich
  1              Large  Hamburger Bun
  1              Slice  Cotto Salami
  1              Slice  Ham
  1              Slice  American Cheese
  1              Slice  Swiss Cheese
                  Mustard and/or Mayonnaise -- to taste

Wrap assembled sandwich in a paper towel and microwave 30-60 seconds until cheese melts.

Crispy Parmesan Chicken


  Thanks to the Best of Country Cooking for a chicken recipe that everyone thought was very good. I liked the fast time to cook it, I guess I will really have to invest in a meat mallet now, as it was requested to be put on the rotation and I long ago gave away my meat mallet. I used the side of a heavy plate to pound out the chicken breast and it worked, just took a little longer. 
  I bought one whole boneless, skinless chicken breast from the meat department of our local Fareway store. Chicken breasts are so large now, that it easily made 4 pieces of chicken. One for each of us and one for lunch tomorrow.
  The pounding took the longest and the chicken was done in 4 minutes on each side. I used a nonstick skillet so 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil is a great plenty. 
  This makes a tasty week night meal. If you have the breasts pounded out and the cracker crumbs ready to go, it is very fast to get to the table. You could pound out your breasts when you get home from the store and have them frozen ready to go to save some time.
Crispy Parmesan Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or one whole breast
2 eggs
½ cup finely crushed saltines
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons oil
  Flatten chicken breasts to ¼ inch thick. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl (a pie plate works well). Combine the Parmesan cheese, and cracker crumbs in another bowl. Dip chicken in egg, then coat with the crumb mixture. Heat the oil in a skillet; cook chicken for 4 minutes per side or until juices run clear. YIELD: 4 servings

Sunday in Iowa

A fishing dock at the White Oak Conservation Area in Mahaska County, Iowa
A pleasant place on a Sunday afternoon

Family Favorites...Orange Cheese Cookies



Crisp, citrusy, not too sweet, this recipe from "Farm Journal Homemade Cookies" is a big hit at our house.  These cookies are perfect with tea or coffee, and are a relief from overly rich holiday cookies.  We like these in the summer, too, with iced tea.  A perfect use for this RS Germany cookie plate.
Preheat your oven while you mix these, and then bake them without chilling.  Dough that is too cold doesn’t press out very well.  You can use whatever shape you like, although we like them the way the recipe calls for, as ridged bars. These can be lightly glazed with thin powdered sugar frosting if desired.  Be sure to grate your orange peel finely so it doesn’t clog up your press - take short strokes on your orange.  Like all shortbread-type cookies, these are best if left to ripen a day.  They keep well.
I purchased my current cookie press at our church thrift shop for $2 – it was complete with box and recipe book!  I haven’t found any press that works better than the ‘50’s Mirro cookie press.  Kids enjoy pressing out cookies too, and you get a fancy cookie that you can put right on the cookie sheet and bake.  This is one place where parchment paper doesn’t work well, the cookies won’t stay in place as you press them out.  Remember, you can scoop any mistakes back into the press and do them again.
                          Orange Cheese Cookies
  1        Cup  Butter, room temperature
  3        Ounces  Cream Cheese, room temperature
  1        Cup  Sugar -- 7 ounces
  1        Large  Egg
  1        Tablespoon  Grated Orange Peel
  1        Tablespoon  Orange Juice
  2 ½    Cups  Sifted All Purpose Flour -- 10 ounces
  1        Teaspoon  Baking Powder
            Dash  Salt
  • Combine butter and cream cheese; beat until light.  gradually add sugar, eating until mixture is fluffy.  Beat in egg, orange peel and juice to blend thoroughly.
  • Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to creamed mixture, blending well.
  • Put plate with narrow slit in cookie press.  Put a fourth of the dough into press at a time and press rows of strips of dough about 1" apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  With a knife, mark strips into 2" lengths.
  • Bake at 375° for 8 to 10 minutes, until very delicately browned.  Immediately cut strips into pieces on knife marks.
  • Remove cookies and cool on racks.

6 dozen     2014 Cost:  $2.25 or 4¢ per cookie.
Per Serving: 54 Calories; 3g Fat (50.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Cornmeal Parmesan Cod Fillets

Here’s a delicious, low calorie way to have breaded fish.  You can also use flounder or sole, and bake a little less time (as they are usually thinner.)  I quickly stir-fried some vegetables while the fish was in the oven.                    
Cornmeal Parmesan Cod Fillets
     ¼     Cup  Flour
     ¼     Cup  Cornmeal
  1        Teaspoon  Salt
     ½    Teaspoon  Paprika
     ½    Teaspoon  Pepper
  2        Large  Egg  Whites
  2        Tablespoons  Skim Milk
  4        4-6 Ounce  Cod Fillets
  1        Tablespoon  Grated Parmesan Cheese
Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, paprika and pepper in a shallow bowl or plate.
In another shallow bowl, beat egg whites and milk.  Coat fish with cornmeal mixture, dip in egg white mixture, coat again with cornmeal mixture.
In a shallow baking pan like a 15 x 10 x 1" pan, sprayed with pan coating (I like to use nonstick foil), arrange fish in a single layer.  Sprinkle with parmesan.
Bake uncovered, at 425° for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
4 Servings
Per Serving: 171 Calories; 1g Fat (7.7% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 649mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 0 Fat.