Sunday, January 31, 2016

Super Bowl & Crock Pot...Perfect Together!

A little provolone cheese, or horseradish mayo? OMG!
If you are in charge of throwing this year's Super Bowl party, you need to consider the crock pot your best friend. Nothing is worse than everyone being in front of the big screen hooting and hollowing while you are stuck in the kitchen. I've been sucks! Morning prep and slow cooking will keep you with the party, watching the year's best commercials, and, oh yeah, there's apparently a football game going on.

So, with all of that in mind, I was searching for the best one pot recipe I could find. And, I found it! For those of you who remember the time when looking for a good recipe meant coffee at the kitchen table thumbing through a stack of women's magazines, well, I have a folder stuffed with those clippings. And, I still go through them, especially when something jogs my memory.

Such was the case with my Super Bowl find. A similar recipe to the one listed below, was in an early 80's issue of Family Circle. Then recently, a smart Mississippi woman, Karen Chapman, kicked it up a notch with the addition of the Hidden Valley Ranch dry packet to the ingredients. It has made all the difference and the internet took notice! Now, I am not a chef but I do love to cook, I can best be described as a "tweaker". I find something interesting and then try and determine flavors that would work well layered in.

Recently in my own test kitchen, I was slow cooking this roast, while simultaneously hosting a luncheon for my family. I was serving homemade chicken soup and sandwiches (hoagies, for those who know what one is). My sons couldn't resist the amazing aroma coming from the crock pot. Reaction tells me everything! "Oh man, Mom, that is really, really good. I am making this for my party next week," said my oldest, Trevor. Then the younger son, Kyle, a culinary school graduate, offered, after his taste. "Mom, this is some good sh**!" I'm assuming that's a compliment.

After smelling this roast cooking all morning, I must agree with the boys...this is an amazing crock pot recipe. And, easy, easy easy!

From this...
·  (3-4 pound) roast, (a chuck roast works best here, it is flat and marbleized) 
·  One stick butter
·  1 package au jus gravy mix
·  1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
·  Pepperoncini peppers and a little of the juice, (add  as many as you would like. I used half a jar, both of my sons said they will use the whole jar.) Also, Trevor is adding garlic gloves pressed into the roast. Garlic and butter, how can that be anything but good?

That's it! Put the beef in first, layer everything else on top and cook on low for eight hours. Shred beef with a fork and serve on crusty bread (to stand up to the amazing gravy the combined ingredients make.)! This is not the time for hamburger buns! 

Now, back in the 80's, the original version was made as a pot roast. You could certainly do that here, just cook about an hour less and remove before the meat totally falls apart. The gravy would be awesome over mashed potatoes. I am actually having the small amount my boys left me over noddles for my Sunday dinner! 

My tweaked version? Same recipe but using (4) large boneless, skinless chicken breast and adding a cup of hot sauce. Shredding chicken when done and serving as a a hot appetizer! I will let you know how this goes!!!! this!!! Score!!!

Photos by Jo Ann Phelps, GoogleImage

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Smart Bra...Seriously?

THIS JUST IN..."Researchers at Microsoft have developed a prototype of a "smart bra" embedded with physiological sensors that seek to monitor a woman's heart activity to track her emotional moods and combat overeating. The sensors can signal the wearer's smartphone, which then flash a warning message to help her step away from the fridge and make better diet decisions." CNN NEWS

Sometimes, like most people, I make the wrong decisions. And sometimes, I realize my mistakes at the worst times. Like when I decided that pulling the couch away from the wall and killing the dust bunnies on the wood floors beneath it, could wait until after the busy holidays. And then on Christmas Eve, my seven month old grandson is placed on the floor and the whole family joins him. I'm wondering if a smart mop would have helped me make a better decision in early December.

I thought of that after hearing that Microsoft is putting time and money into a bra that will not just track our heart rates, but also our "emotional moods" and then send warnings to help make better decisions. I'm not talking about a Fitbit type device (which I wear), that tracks footsteps, heart rate, miles walked and calories burned. These are things we can't track on our own and are useful when trying to reach daily goals.

I'm talking about a bra that will gauge your emotional stress, send a message to your smart phone, which will then alert you that reaching for the refrigerator door might not be a wise choice. The fact that anyone even thought this was necessary bothers me on so many levels! First, the refrigerator is where I keep my personal stress reliever...the white wine. Secondly, I don't want my underwear to be smarter than me.

And how will this bra differentiate between a the emotional stress of a bad day, or simply the normal day of the average working mom? The typical woman navigates through a busy work day, then picks the kids up from school, drags them through the supermarket, drops one off at practice, rushes home to start dinner before she has to return to pick that one up and drop an older one off. She finally gets back to her kitchen and her phone rings..."Hello, this is your bra. Please calm down and center your thoughts before proceeding towards the refrigerator." I vision cell phones flying out of kitchen windows at an alarming rate!

I'm trying to think at what point does a smart device cross over from being helpful to interfering with our lives? Okay, here is one situation where I don't always use the best judgement and could use a little help. Picture this; you're walking through the mall and your phone rings..."Hello, we just received a message from your bladder. We know you think you can make it home without leaking, but you can't. Please proceed to the nearest restroom." That could work.

But, it did not escape me that no money or research is being put towards inventing sensors for men's boxers that could send a warning when they are about to make a really bad decision. Even though I'm sure it would be much easier to detect! Or, (better yet) design the sensor in a man's underwear to call his wife when a mistake is about to be made. Hoping, of course, that she is on the phone with her bra.

Look, I am not going to deny that technology has made our lives so much easier. I just don't want sensors anywhere near my business areas, judging my emotions. Besides, I already have a device that tells me when to stay away from the kitchen. It's called a scale. And my underwear gets nowhere near it since it weighs about 2 ounces!

Photo by ImageGoggle

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Storm Warning! Bread ✔ Milk ✔ Eggs ✔...Crock Pot Recipe ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔

Those of us in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are about to get hit with the first storm of the season! It won't be our biggest, but 12"-18" is enough to keep us busy. The grocery isles are packed with people who, I think, were actually a little excited. As I fought the crowds at the store yesterday, I couldn't help but notice the contents of their carts. It is clear that during snow storms we gravitate towards comfort foods and ignore the remaining New Year's resolutions! Potato chips, pretzels, cookies, brownie mix and toilet paper were in 90% of the carts. Not additional comments needed.

Snow storms are both inconvenient and productive at the same time. They do, for a short while, interrupt normal activities. But they also force families to reconnect by nesting and huddling together in a warm home. Like most mothers, I hated the wet gloves, boots and scarves by the front door,but I also enjoyed our time inside baking brownies and watching movies.

The man of our house worked in health care and had to be at the hospital during storms, so it was up to the boys and I to keep the driveway and sidewalks clean. It was a chore to be sure. But the best part was coming in to the smell of Sloppy Joe's cooking in the crock pot. It was an absolute family favorite. Snow days, were not the time to force healthy meals into my young snow clearing crew. Sloppy Joe's, chips and chicken soup was always the meal of the day! I used a recipe out of an old Family Circle magazine. The canned stuff does not even compare.


1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (I usually used ground chicken).
(16-oz.) package ground pork sausage
small onion, chopped
1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
(8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
hamburger buns, toasted (I usually used kaiser rolls because they held up better and I live in the Philadelphia area where we have the very best bread...just saying.)


1. Brown beef and sausage with onion and bell pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring 10 minutes or until beef and sausage crumble and are no longer pink. Drain well.
2. Place beef mixture in a 4 1/2-qt. slow cooker. Stir in tomato sauce and next 9 ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 hours. Serve on hamburger buns or rolls. 

It is certain that everyone has their storm favorites. This is simply one of mine. Today, I have a HOA who will shovel and de-ice while I work in the basement on my latest project. And even though I once complained about all the wet outer gear in the hall, what I wouldn't give to see a pile of coats and melting snow at my front door. Enjoy it all!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Soup...Good for the Heart and Soul

Heart Healthy Tortellini Soup
When I first started Kitchen Clatter a little over three years ago, I wrote about a "heart healthy soup" that to date, has become the fourth most downloaded KC blog. This came to my attention when I was reading my most recent analytical report. For example; the tortellini soup recipe below, first posted in March of 2013, continues to register good numbers in search platforms.

I discovered this recipe reading in a doctor's waiting room during the first year of Kitchen Clatter. The soup ingredients, which included, olive oil, garlic and white wine, intrigued me. So I took a picture of it with my phone, made it, fell in love with it, and wrote about it. And now, 3 years later, it is still getting passed around. I love being informed about who is reading the blog, and more fascinating is, where they are reading it.

The most recent showing that this recipe, posted as "heart healthy", is very popular in Russia right now. Russia? This usually bitter cold region is known for hearty stock soups usually made from root vegetables. It is a little surprising to learn that this tortellini "light" soup is popular there. But then, I did a little research and found a common soup known as Shchi that rivals the very popular Weight Watchers cabbage soup. (For those still keeping their resolutions.) The addition of russet potatoes may take it out of the diet soup cycle, but the cabbage still does it's job! Those who have made the famous WW soup recipe, know what I am talking about. Anyway, for the thousands of readers who joined us after 2013, I decided to post the "Heart Healthy" soup recipe again, along with my new favorite; the Russian Shchi soup!

Heart Healthy Tortellini Soup Ingredients:

(1) 32 oz can, plus (1) 12 oz can of your favorite low-sodium chicken broth
(3) tbls of extra virgin olive oil
(4) gloves of finely minced garlic
(1) 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
(1/4 cup) of white wine
(1) bag of baby spinach
(1 or 2 - if you prefer more) bag(s) of Barilla 3-cheese tortellini


Saute the minced garlic slowly in the olive oil so as not to burn (I've done this, and there is no way to fix burnt garlic - so nice and slow!) Add the wine. Once the steam cooks off the alcohol, add the can of diced tomatoes and let simmer for about 20 minutes on very low setting. Now add both cans of the chicken broth. Once this mixture is bubbling, add the bag of baby spinach. Now you have something really wonderful cooking!

The last step is strictly personal preference. I boil water in a separate sauce pan to cook the tortellini's in. You could add it directly to the broth to, but I don't like all the starch that it adds so I cook and drain separately, so the pasta doesn't become a thickening agent in the soup. I do this with all soups that require some type of pasta because it is the way I prefer it. Make it the way that you would like it. After I drain the pasta, I add it to the simmering sauce and "boom", you have the tastiest, quickest, almost homemade soup you can make. With the spinach, the garlic, the white wine and olive oil,  I call it my "Heart Healthy Tortellini Soup", but you can call it anything you want. Add a loaf of good crusty bread and you have a meal!

Shchi Soup Ingredients:
Russian Shchi Soup
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1 large head cabbage cut into shreds
  • 1 large peeled and coarsely grated carrot
  • 1 chopped celery rib
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Black peppercorns to taste
  • 8 cups water or vegetable stock or chicken stock (more flavor)
  • 2 large peeled and coarsely chopped russet potatoes
  • 2 large peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes or 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh dill for garnish
  • Sour cream for garnish

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, sauté onion in butter until translucent. Add cabbage, carrots and celery and sauté about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bay leaf, peppercorns and water or stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Add potatoes to soup and bring back to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring back to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings.

Photos by ImageGoggle & Jo Ann Phelps
Shchi Soup recipe courtesy of