Monthly Archives: March 2019

Hamburger Helper Convenience Without Preservatives

I have found that one of the ways to deal with lack of space to cook in my small kitchen is cooking meals with not too many ingredients. Hamburger Helper meals, I hate to admit, were some of those meals. I now emphasize the word were.

Since testing out the meals from the 30-day Tastefully Simple meal kit, I’ve discovered some recipes that are just as convenient as Hamburger Helper. One such recipe provided in the meal kit’s recipe book is Pasta Pizza Bake.

Making this recipe proved that one can cook a decent baked pasta dish in a small space without relying on convenience boxed meal kits like Hamburger Helper.

There is only one mix item used in this recipe. The Cheesy Pizza Warm Dip Mix can be purchased from Tastefully Simple. What sets this mix and other mixes apart from Hamburger Helper is that Tastefully Simple has rated this mix as a TSeatwell product.

What does a TSeatwell rating mean? It simply means that the product rated as such is free from artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.

So, this means the Cheesy Pizza Warm Dip Mix is as real as the rest of the recipe’s ingredients like the real whole milk ricotta cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese, which makes this extra dairylicious!

I did tweak this recipe, using the farm’s homegrown and made ground beef instead of the turkey pepperoni and Italian turkey sausage or pork sausage the recipe lists.

This pasta dish can be served with garlic bread, but I would suggest zesting it up with Italian Garlic beer bread and green salad.

Want to find out more?

  • Contact me for the Italian Garlic beer bread recipe.
  • Find the Pizza Pasta Bake recipe here.
  • Shop for Tastefully Simple ingredients individually or as part of the 30-Meal Kit or Cozy Comfort Meal Kit which come with beautiful recipe booklets here.
  • Discover TS To You delivery service here.

Yum-O Cubano

Back on New Year’s Eve, I didn’t want to deal with shuffling around baking sheets of grocery store frozen appetizers because of my very small oven. The oven is a built-in wall Whirlpool oven. It’s almost a couple feet up from the floor but a real pain in the you no where. I can’t use the larger than 13″ baking sheets that I used to get by with in the past.

This year I opted to have a meal. Now, that sounds like a lot of work, but the way I did it was not that difficult and less frustrating. The bonus was that I had enough for another meal, which went into the freezer for another time.

I gave Tastefully Simple’s The Cubano a try from my 30-meal kit. I wanted to pair that with the suggested Wahoo! Fries & Dipping Sauce, but as usual I tweaked things to go my way. More about that below.

Here’s how the cooking session went:

  • Rather than placing the boneless pork shoulder roast in a slow cooker, I gave the Pampered Chef Quick Cooker a try. I combined the ingredients outlined for The Cubano and poured them over the pork. I set the time under the Beef/Pork setting for 1 hour 30 minutes, beginning cooking at 6 p.m. This resulted in beautifully cooked pork in time for me to prep the sandwiches and have them ready for the family. I thought 1 hour 30 minutes sure beat the 8 to 10 hours on low or the 6 to 8 hours on high via slow cooker.
  • The pork shredded beautifully with a couple forks. I didn’t have the luxury of having a Pampered Chef Salad Chopper then, but the forks worked out fine.
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  • I don’t have a panini press, which was suggested in the recipe. I don’t intend to get one either because it would take up valuable space, seeing that I wouldn’t use it very often. The rolls I got that were what Walmart calls gourmet or artisan worked just fine in place of the panini pressed-Bolilla rolls suggested by Tastefully Simple. I have yet to try this with a loaf of French bread. Still, one has to remember that the pork is the star, being brought to its full flavor potential using the sauce mix.
  • If a person really wanted the panini press effect on the bread, I found a note at the bottom of the recipe indicating that a heavy skillet could be used. I just didn’t want to drag out any more pans or skillets than I had to due to limited space and ambition. I also didn’t want to risk getting burned from a hot pan just to flatten bread halves out.
  • My Walmart grocery app order substituted frozen waffle fries with seasoned waffle fries. I chose not to mess with those, leaving them as is, and didn’t make any dip either. There was so much flavor to The Cubano meat that I didn’t want to mute that out with anything more. If I were to try the Wahoo! Fries recipe, I would go easy on the Wahoo! Chili Seasoning unless you really like the heat with seasonings.
  • After I had the sandwiches assembled, I just popped them into a warm oven, not only to keep them warm until everyone came in from doing chores out in the barn but to allow time to melt that dairylicious Swiss cheese a tad.
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The best part is that this meal wasn’t hard to prepare and didn’t take up that much time with the Quick Cooker.  The ingredients were not that difficult to put together, though the flavors came though from the meat like it took me hours and really were impressive. This is also one of those recipes you can make ahead. The pulled pork and mayo mixture can be prepped and refrigerated up to a day ahead. I definitely would make this again for a special event or holiday or just because I have a hankering for pulled pork.

  • Find The Cubano recipe here.
  • Shop for Tastefully Simple ingredients individually here.
  • Discover TS To You delivery service here.

Wisconsin Dairy Farm Crisis

So, I’m leaving out anything kitchen or culinary in this post. For now, anyway.

When I mentioned my blog to people I got introduced to at my new day job and the fact that I live on a dairy farm, it was brought up about how much has changed with dairy farming. We didn’t talk about machinery, cows, family dynamics but how the economy has forced many small family farms out of business.

By no means would I consider my husband’s and sons’ farm a small farm. The farm is what I call medium. It’s not a hobby or small farm. Nor is it a so-called factory farm.

But, over the past 5 years, I feel the farm’s income isn’t medium or what you call middle class. It’s more like less than lower class. Since 2014, farm milk prices went downhill. Over the past few months, I’ve really felt the strain of it all. Or for better words, burned out.

I hate to break the rural living shiny bubble that some people believe in. I hate to cast such a dismal shadow over what I’ve been posting and writing about. Frankly, cooking in the small kitchen has kept me sane despite its shortcomings.

Anyway, getting back to the day job discussion. It was expressed that perhaps a story should be told about what it’s like living on a dairy farm today. I thought this to be a good idea. For some strange reason, it may be therapeutic in between the recipe sharing and other thoughts that are culinary that pop up in these posts and on this site.

Actually, I did write a blog about life on a dairy farm and published a book called Holy Heifer Tales. The book actually was something I just wanted to pass on to my children, kind of like a piece of me in some way creatively. What I wrote about was rather light stuff.

Since the economic downward spiral for dairy farmers in Wisconsin, it’s been difficult to find anything light to write about. Hence, my blogger’s or writer’s block for a number of years. Also, partly because of the death of my local magazine Country Diva which I had edited, owned, published.

You can find numerous articles about what Wisconsin dairy farm families are going through like this one from Journal Sentinel. I can relate very well to the financial and emotional issues discussed in that article. Even the “s” word was brought up. As a result, I’ve even made attempts to see what else could be done with what this farm has.

Industrial hemp looked like a promising alternative, but after having a credible agronomist look into our particular situation it was learned our soil was not the right type. Sadly, that was the only bright alternative. Beef was out of the question–the cost of the transition is not affordable. Crop farming is a huge gamble as well.

I’ve decided to let go and let God. All I can do is pray for my family. I’ve done all I can. It’s time to let it go to a higher power. And the kitchen. My day job helps pay for those gourmet ingredients that I feel Farmer deserves in his home-cooked, gourmet quality meals. Especially when he’s working for nothing.

6 Small Kitchen Must Haves

There are some kitchen tools I absolutely can’t cook without in my small kitchen. I discovered these during the first couple months of embarking on this journey with you.

  1. Pampered Chef salad chopper. If you can find a multi-purpose tool worthy of taking up some small kitchen real estate, this tool is worth considering. You can chop salad and salsa ingredients. I find it’s most useful for pulling apart meat like chicken, beef and pork without a lot of hassle. Its titanium-coated stainless steel blades can handle this.
  2. Pampered Chef Quick Cooker. It replaces appliances taking up space in your already cramped kitchen cupboards and counter tops. This sits on my counter tip ready for cooking that involves steaming, slow cooking and cooking rice or whole grains. Pressure cooking is a breeze. You can even cook up chicken while its frozen. There are settings also for beef/pork, fish/seafood, soup/stock, beans, stew/chili and dessert. I even cooked up boiled eggs in this while I had it out.
  3. Pampered Chef silicone prep bowl with cover. I don’t have to worry about burning myself taking the bowl out of the microwave after heating ingredients mixed up in this bowl. The cover with the bowl allows convenient storage of dips in the refrigerator. Most beneficial is how the silicone allows ease of transferring heated up gooey ingredients to another container without any sticky residual in the bowl.
  4. Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Scraper. This is another great silicone product that can withstand heat. What impresses me most is how I can use it to fold in and scoop out ingredients from a hot skillet with ease. There are comparable silicone scrapers on the market, but this one I feel has them beat. It has a deeper indentation to it that holds ingredients in better during folding/scooping. Tomato products will not stain this scraper either.
  5. Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop. I can’t go without this when crumbling up browned ground beef. Hamburger Helper issued a tool similar to this. You get what you pay for though. I find that the closer proximity of the blades on this product performs better.
  6. Bosch Compact Kitchen Machine. I thought the KitchenAid mixer I had was top of the line until I learned about this little powerhouse distributed by L’Chef. It can not only mix up what the full size KitchenAid can but also replace a couple other appliances taking up space–a blender and food chopper/processor. It weighs a lot less. Surprisingly, its bowl has the same capacity as the bowl for the KitchenAid. I’ll be writing more about this little gem in time to come.

Want to find out more about these must haves? To purchase Pampered Chef products, click here. For L’Chef or Bosch, click here.

3 Reasons To Ditch The Rolling Pin

I discovered a cool, easy way to roll out dough using a tool that’s a lot better in my small kitchen than the traditional rolling pin.

Here’s 3 reasons to ditch that rolling pin:

  1. A traditional rolling pin takes up space a small kitchen doesn’t have–it’s either too long to fit in a drawer and fits awkwardly in a kitchen cupboard or cabinet.
  2. Why have it when you don’t have the time or ambition to bake major? It’s not that I wouldn’t love to bake more, but I don’t have the time or space. Baking becomes a major project in a small kitchen.
  3. Why have it when there’s a tool that suits you and your kitchen better?

So, what’s that tool and what’s a better alternative, you ask.

It’s the Pampered Chef Baker’s Roller Tool, #1485. I discovered this little gem works great with rolling out pizza dough from a can. Check out my pics as proof below how awesome this works.

Want to find out more?

  • Find this awesome tool here.