Monday, January 30, 2012

Prize Winner!

Well, this was unexpected. I volunteered to make chili for a chili cook-off at church just to make sure there would be enough to feed everyone. It was a fund raiser for our youth group. Made the same recipe I've used for the last 30 years. I figured I'd bring home whatever was left and get a photo then. But yesterday instead of bringing home leftovers, I brought home the First Place medal!

We've always said this recipe is the best. It's not an original recipe. It came from the Presto pressure cooker people. You can see the original recipe from a 1977 ad here. I found it in the recipe book that came with the pressure cooker--but I have never actually made the chili in a pressure cooker. 

Since this is not some secret family recipe, I'm happy to share it with you. Hope you like it as much as the folks at church.

D*#% Good Chili

2 lbs. extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 8-oz. can water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used the refrigerated jarred kind)
1 teaspoon salt
1 16-oz. can light red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

**1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

Brown meat, onion and green pepper in large skillet. Put into large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 2-3 hours.

**I add a single 15-oz. can of diced tomatoes to the recipe whether I'm making a single, double or triple batch. The original recipe didn't call for this but I thought it needed to look "redder." Other than that, I never stray from the original recipe.

I always make a double or triple batch of this. It freezes well. Yesterday I did a double recipe and it just filled a 5-qt. Crockpot. I did not cook it in the crockpot but used the crockpot to keep the chili warm for serving at lunch.

I find this recipe easier to make when I measure all the spices into a small cup before I get started.

Just for the record...this is blog post #200. Who would have thought it? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sugar 'n Spice

Big Sister's dinner on Thursday ended with this very simple dessert. She popped it into the oven while we were eating. Big Sister may have invented her own twist shape. It was perfect. Sweet. But not too sweet. The only thing lacking was a cup of coffee. This would be a nice breakfast treat, too.


1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 package (6-count) refrigerated breadsticks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. Combine sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish or plate. Divide breadstick dough into six pieces. Roll each piece into 12-inch rope. Roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Twist into pretzel shape. Place on prepared baking sheet.
3. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Friday, January 27, 2012

She's Got It Going In The Kitchen

I posted the photo below of our last night's supper on Facebook last night after we got back home. And as of a couple of minutes ago, 14 people had liked the photo and about a dozen had commented on it. What made this meal remarkable--besides the fact that it was beautiful and delicious? Our 11-year-old granddaughter planned the menu and cooked it! A 5th grader prepared a meal that I would be proud to serve to anyone. 

When I stayed at their house last year, she and I cooked together. We spent a good bit of time talking about what made a good meal--different colors, different textures, etc. And she learned how to chop, how to stir (without everything hopping out of the bowl) and other kitchen tricks. It was an unique experience for all of us---to have (or be) a "grandmother-in-residence" for about 9 months. And this "little grasshopper" learned her lessons well. 

After I came back home to stay, Big Sister became the regular chef once a week. She plans the menu and does the cooking. Last night Big Sister invited us to dinner. I was her sous chef (mainly to speed things up since she got a late start) but she was in charge of the kitchen. 

I love that this afternoon when I picked her up after school, she said, "Next time I think I'll add a little more broth to the pasta." She's becoming a confident cook, learning to trust her instincts. 

Here are a couple of her recipes. Like her grandmother, she didn't exactly follow what was in the cookbook. I'm giving you her version. I wouldn't change a thing. (Except maybe add a little more broth to the pasta sauce.)

Creamy Mushroom Bow Ties
Serves 8

1-lb. box uncooked bow tie pasta
8-oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 package (4.4 ounces) garlic-herb cheese spread (find it near the cream cheese)
1/4 cup chicken broth
Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the mushrooms, salt, and pepper in butter until tender.  Add cheese spread and broth; cook and stir until blended.  Drain pasta; add to skillet and toss to cook. 

Big Sister said today that she didn't really like mushrooms but that these were good. She ate all of hers.

Green Beans with Garlic-Herb Butter
Serves 4

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
3-4 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 tsp. jarred minced garlic
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
3/4 tsp. salt

1. Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan; add beans, cover, and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté 5 minutes.  Add garlic, and sauté 2 minutes.  Stir in beans, rosemary, salt; sauté 4 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

These were SO good. I'll be adding this recipe to my collection.

Stay tuned. The dessert recipe is coming next. Extra simple and completely yummy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Baby Sister got her first haircut today.

The stylist was a master with wiggly babies.

And Baby Sister got an afternoon pacifier--a rare treat. 
Anything to up the odds of her sitting still.

There were no tears. 
Not that we really thought there would be.

The hair dryer was not her favorite part.
The only thing worse was the booster seat she tried at the beginning. 
Mommy's lap was a much safer place to be.

And quick as a flash, it was over. Just the barest trim. 
But enough to keep the hair out of her eyes. It looks so cute.

What did we forget to do? 
Get a really good photo of Baby Sister looking all spiffed up.
I'm sure you'll get to see one of those very soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Way Back Then

When I was growing up, this was one of my favorite suppers. I always thought we were having something special when Mother cooked this. I loved it. Still do. After I was grown, she told me it was her "busy day" supper. When she was busy with housework, laundry and two little girls, she could throw everything into one pot and just let it cook itself. Think that far back and laundry involved a wringer washing machine and a clothes line. No permanent press clothes either, so ironing came next. And we think we work hard.

She called it Brunswick stew. I think most other recipes are made with chicken. Or squirrel. (You can look it up on Wikipedia. It really says 'squirrel.') And maybe have lima beans in it. But THIS was Brunswick stew in our house. 

So for your busiest day or the day you can't think of anything to cook, give this a try. You don't even have to brown the ground beef for this recipe. (Which means you cannot do it in a Crockpot.) Every time I make it, it reminds me of my mother's good cooking and my childhood. Good memories.

Brunswick Stew

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 15-oz. can whole tomatoes, broken up (use your hand and squish it up)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 8-oz. can whole kernel corn
salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a pot and mix. Cook medium heat until it starts to simmer. Turn to low, cover and continue to simmer for about 60-90 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve over rice. 

We usually had Texas Pete on the table for Daddy to add a little zip to his serving. Kids got ketchup.

Today at the grocery store there were no whole tomatoes except in huge cans, so I used a can of diced tomatoes. I have discovered that diced tomatoes don't have as much juice as a can of whole tomatoes so I added a 6-oz. can of tomato juice to the mix. Adjust as you need to. There is nothing in this recipe that is very precise.

In the interest of full disclosure, my sister does not have such fond memories of this recipe. She didn't like it. I did. You can decide for yourself.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rain, Rain, Rain

It rained Friday. We had photos made for the church directory. We were a little soggy.
It rained Saturday. *Granddaddy fed the cows. He was a lot soggy.
It rained Sunday. We went to church. We were only damp.
It rained hard on Monday (today.) And it was cold. We were wet and freezing.

But in the midst of this rainy season--a ray of sunshine, we did get to play with Baby Sister. Her great-grandmother would have never thought that the butter molds she used for making butter are now building blocks.

But I think that when she took one look at Baby Sister, she would say it's okay. 

This afternoon--day #4 of rain--all I wanted to do was sit by the fire. I wanted to share a new recipe today. But that would have required a trip to the store. In the rain. In the cold.

Instead we are having leftover roast tonight. (3-Packet Pot's better with a chuck roast or sirloin tip roast) I did bake Pumpkin Bread this morning for a breakfast meeting tomorrow. So there is cooking going on here--I'm just stuck on the same favorite recipes. 

In my head I'm singing, "The sun will come out, Tomorrow." And I think it will. I really do. We get a day or two off before it rains again.

*Granddaddy feeds the cows every day. I don't mean to sound like it's an occasional thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On The Move

Baby sitting is one of the best parts of the grandmother gig. But unless it's nap time, I never get to sit down any more. Seems like Baby Sister is constantly on the move.

Sometimes heading this way,

and sometimes heading that way.

But nearly every trip around the house ends up at the piano.

She loves music as much as her grandmother! That makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Cold Wind Blows

Pattern:  Baby Slouch Hat
Yarn: Mini Mochi
Needles:  Size 3

After finishing the "forever project" (well, it felt like forever)--the gray socks, it was fun to do a quick knit in some bright colors. I had cast on and done the few rows of ribbing one day last week. Then I knit the rest of the hat yesterday afternoon and evening. Just in time for Baby Sister to wear today when we went to lunch. It's supposed to be nearly 70 degrees by the weekend, so I figured I'd better hurry up and finish it so she could wear it on the one cold day this week.

Those of you who live in colder climes would laugh at our definition of cold--I think it was in the mid-50s about noon today. But in the shade with the wind blowing, it felt awfully cold to us. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No Mojo

Pattern:  7-Stitch Per Inch Socks 
from Ann Budd's "Getting Started Knitting Socks"
Yarn:  Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn
Needles: Size 2

I seem to have lost my cooking mojo. Not sure where it went but it's not in my kitchen at the moment. I did actually bake bread yesterday and I went to the grocery store and cooked a good supper last night, but just basic cooking--no new recipes to share. For a while now, we've been playing the "wonder-what-can-we-have-for-supper-without-going-to-the-store-game." It was time to stop!

Mommy and both sisters were here for supper and as Mommy watched me cook, she would occasionally comment, "Oh, that's how you do that." There are so many cooking things that I do without thinking. That happens after about 40 years in the kitchen. Recipes are great but they don't always teach you the little things. Sometimes just hanging out in the kitchen with your mother is the best way to learn. I wish I had watched better when my mother-in-law baked biscuits. Writing down a "recipe" wouldn't not have produced the same results. Her biscuits were light enough to float off the plate. We won't talk about my attempts.

While I haven't cooked as much lately, I did finish a pair of socks for Granddaddy. He likes the socks and is happy to have them, but I think he's ready for me to get back in the kitchen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday Night Out

Last night when we got to Baby Sister's house to baby sit so Mommy and Daddy could go out for dinner and a movie, Big Sister had just dressed her baby sister in one of her favorite shirts. 

There was some serious engineering required to make the shirt fit. Hair clips and rubber bands worked well. Big Sister is a clever girl.

It was Baby Sister's first time styling sequins. It looked like she thought it was a good thing. Big Sister has always loved dressing up her dolls. Now she has a real doll to play with. 

Baby Sister had a surprise for us, too. We had seen her for just a couple of minutes on Wednesday before we left for the mountains and she was doing her usual step-step-step-step-step-sit routine. Most times she would take 5 or 6 steps before she would plop down on her knees or her bottom. A few times we counted about 15 or 16 steps, but never any more. But when we got there last night, she was just walking all over the place. Across the room. Anywhere she wanted to go. What a difference a couple of days made.

After supper we decided to have our own movie night. Baby Sister only lasted through the first few minutes before she was rubbing her eyes and was ready for bed. 

Coming down the road just before midnight, Granddaddy said, "It's been a long times since we've been out this late on a Saturday night." Yep, our definition of "going out" is not what it used to be. 

Friday, January 13, 2012


One of the perks of being "grandparent" age is having the ability to take a mid-week vacation. Just a couple of days when the rates are cheaper and the crowds are smaller. Granddaddy and I took a quick trip up the road for some rest and renewal. It was perfectly okay that it rained most of yesterday. We were cozy inside by the fire. This morning we got to watch a little snow fall as we sipped our coffee. And then we were home in time for lunch. Just a nice little get-away.

Baby Sister Says...

"It's more fun when they let Granddaddy tend to me!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day


It was cloudy all day yesterday. Today is even darker and it's raining. I just couldn't face another day of knitting dark gray socks. This the second pair of dark gray socks in a row. Plus, I'm right at the heel of this last sock--not a good place to carry the sock around with me to knit. I need to sit in one place--preferably a quiet place--to knit the heel. Then it can go back on the road with me, riding along in my bag so that I can pull it out for a few rows here and there.

So when Mommy needed an early morning baby sitter this morning, I grabbed a pair of needles and a new ball of yarn as I walked out the door. Bright colored yarn. Baby Sister needs a new hat.  And before she woke up, I had a good start on this one.

This yarn was like a fuzzy rainbow after knitting miles and miles of dark gray. 

I made one last trip up the stairs to check on Baby Sister before I left and I discovered she had just woken up. Now THIS was the sunshine my day really needed!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mommy Cooks

I was so happy to find this photo in my emails this morning. And then the next email with the recipe. I've had no recipes to share this week. The kitchen in my house must be out of order. (It must be the kitchen-- it couldn't be me, could it?)  The best supper I had here all week was a bowl of Cheerios. I kept thinking about grocery shopping but I just never actually went to the store. We pulled leftover pizza out of the freezer last night. Sad.

One afternoon this week when Baby Sister was here, she had fun pulling cookbooks off the shelf in the kitchen. When Mommy was picking them up, she found Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites (an old Southern Living cookbook) in the pile. I told her since she is the "busy mom" now, to take it home with her.

So happy that she is actually using the cookbook. She made this for their supper last night and said the recipe is a "keeper." So I am delighted to have her recipe to share. Who knows....maybe we will have it for supper tonight. If the kitchen "works."


1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. drained brine-packed green peppercorn, lightly crushed
6 tsp., butter or margarine, divided
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 (6-oz.) tilapia or sole fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 all-purpose flour
lemon wedges (optional)

1. Combine first three ingredients; set aside.
2. Melt 2 tsp. butter with oil in a large skillet over low heat.  While butter melts, sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.  Place flour in a shallow dish.  Dredge fillets in flour, shaking off excess flour.
3. Increase heat to medium-high; cook the butter and oil mixture 2 minutes or until butter turns golden brown.  Add fillets to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes with a fork.  Remove fillets from pan.
4. Add broth mixture to pan, scraping to loosen browned bits.  Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat.  Stir in remaining 4 tsp. butter with a whisk.  Spoon sauce over fillets.  Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Makes 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook:12 minutes

I was unable to find brine-packed green peppercorns, so I substituted ground green peppercorn.
- I substituted house seasoning* for salt and pepper.
- We served this with quinoa and steamed broccoli.

*House Seasoning: 4 tbsp. salt, 1 tbsp. ground black pepper, 1 tbsp. garlic powder. Mix. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Our 2012 started with a bang! Literally. After cooking our collards the day before, I let them simmer for a long time last night while I cooked the rest of the supper. Just minutes before we were ready to eat, I heard a loud bang. The glass lid on the pot had shattered. It was safety glass, so most of the glass remained intact. But I could see just a few very tiny, very shiny glass fragments around the gas burner. Enough to make the wonder if some had fallen into the pot. So we could only look at the good greens that almost made it to the table.

But it was New Year's Day--we HAD to have collards. I had bought a couple of cans of collards the day before because a friend who owns a local restaurant told me this brand was really good. Thanks to her recommendation, we did have collards after all. Not the same, but we did manage to keep the tradition going. Thank goodness for canned vegetables.

The rest of the supper was fine, though. My personal favorite of the meal (besides the marinated pork) was the cornbread. I love this recipe. It's a good, moist cornbread. We've made it many times. It's easy to make--mostly dump in the ingredients and stir it up. When I make it for just the two of us, I will put half in the freezer for later. It's just as good when you pull it out and reheat it. 

Corny Cornbread

1/2 cup vegetable oil (plus extra for greasing the pan)
1-3/4 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
1 cup cream-style corn 
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream (the light kind works just as well)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 7x11-inch baking pan or a 10-inch cast iron skillet with cooking oil. Preheat the pan in the oven. 

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring with a spoon until combined. Pour batter into the preheated pan. Place pan in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

If you've heated the pan long enough, the batter will sizzle when it hits the hot pan. Sometimes I heat it long enough. Sometimes I don't. The difference? If the pan is hot enough, you'll get a good crust on the cornbread. Don't worry if yours doesn't sizzle. It will still be good, but the crust will not quite as crispy.

I used Martha White buttermilk cornbread mix for this because it's my favorite brand. I also like Cope's frozen creamed corn, but it's hard to find. Use whatever kind you can find--frozen or canned. 

Baby Sister had her first taste of collards last night. Wish I'd had the camera at the table. She was not a fan of cooked greens. She made quite a face as she spit them out. Maybe it's an acquired taste. She did gobble up her share of peas, cornbread and sweet potatoes. She might not have folding money this year, but her piggy bank should be full of coins!