Thursday, May 31, 2012

Busy Morning

I had saved this recipe from an email last week to try later. Had not planned to make it yesterday morning, but you know how plans change. I needed a quick, cool lunch here at home. In a hurry. 

I did have to make a quick trip to the store. But other than that, this was so easy to stir together. Hope our guest enjoyed it. You'll find the recipe below. And my supper for last night was done, too. Leftovers!

There are times when I get to do things not in the kitchen. In the minutes here and there when I get to sit down, I like to pick up my needles and knit a little. Sometimes it's mostly unknitting. But this shawl was simple and I love the end result. Suits Jessica to a tee! It's called Stripe Study Shawl (available for purchase to Ravelry members--free to join) and is made from Malabrigo sock yarn. I want to make another one of these. Soon.

Bow Ties with Tomatoes, Feta, & Balsamic Dressing
  • 6-oz. uncooked bow tie pasta
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottle minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (4-oz.) package crumbled feta cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Combine cooked pasta, tomatoes, grapes, and basil in a large bowl.

While pasta cooks, combine vinegar and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradualy add oil to vinegar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle vinaigrette over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Add cheese; toss to combine.

Chill before serving. 

Serves:  4 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish

I'll confess that in my rush I grabbed a bottle of white wine vinegar instead of white balsamic. It's still good. But I want to try it again with the proper vinegar. 

Recipe featured in Meal Plan Monday #5

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Make These...Soon

Jessica made these burgers the night before she headed home and posted this recipe on her blog. I couldn't resist reposting because they were the best burgers I've ever eaten. We ate leftover burgers last night and they were as good as the fresh off the grill ones.

The recipe is in the new Cooking Light magazine (June 2012.) A healthy burger! You can click on the link for the nutritional stats. 

I'm not sure I would have made these because the list of ingredients looks long. But about half the ingredients are things I had on hand so the shopping was quick. And they were not hard to make. Jessica decided you could make the onion-mushroom mixture and the mayo-blue cheese sauce ahead of time. Then at supper time, it would be quick to make the burger. She only used 2 cups of red onion. No other changes. (We did toast the buns.) Make them. You'll be glad.

  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups thinly sliced red onion (we used 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon or other dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 (1 1/2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns
  • 1 1/2 cups baby arugula
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and thyme; cook 17 minutes or until golden and very tender, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to medium-high; add wine, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook for 6 minutes or until the liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove onion mixture from pan.
  2. Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 3 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté for 8 minutes or until mushrooms brown and liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  4. Coarsely chop 1 cup onion mixture, and stir chopped onion mixture into beef. Divide the beef mixture into 6 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1-inch-thick patty. Press a nickel-sized indentation in center of each patty. Sprinkle the patties with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 4 minutes on each side or until done.
  5. Combine mayonnaise, blue cheese, and garlic in a bowl, and mash well with a fork. Spread the top halves of buns evenly with mayonnaise mixture. Arrange 1/4 cup arugula on bottom half of each bun; top each bottom half of bun with 1 patty, about 2 tablespoons remaining onion mixture, about 1/4 cup mushrooms, and top half of bun.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Sweets

After all the wonderful food we ate this weekend, last night called for a light dessert. This is one of my favorite summer flavor combinations--lemon and blueberries. This is absolutely the easiest dessert I know how to make. But one I would happily serve to my most special guests.

It's always fun to have Jessica home for a few days. This trip she cooked several new dishes for us. You can see some of the recipes on her blog

Here is my easy, easy dessert recipe:

Lemon-Blueberry Dessert

1/2 cup lemon fat-free yogurt (5 oz.)
1/2 cup reduced-fat Cool Whip (use the yogurt container to measure the Cool Whip)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1- 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 to 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
angel food cake

Stir together yogurt, Cool Whip and lemon peel. Spoon over angel food cake. Spoon berries over the top and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with lemon slice and fresh mint leaves.

Topping will make 4-5 servings  (It's easy enough to increase. It is just equal amounts of yogurt and Cool Whip.)

This time I used Greek yogurt because the store didn't have lemon flavor in the regular variety. It was good, but I think I like the regular yogurt best. The regular yogurt makes a softer topping that will ooze down the side of the cake--the Greek kind makes a stiffer topping. But either one tastes good!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Let Summer Begin

Jessica came home to spend a long weekend with us. After an afternoon full of dance recital (Big Sister's) we headed to the lake. It was too late to cook that night, but we headed to Piggly Wiggly the next morning with a plan and a list. Last night was my night to sit down and let Jessica and Daddy-O take over. (Her strawberry-avocado salsa recipe is below.)

Our lake house was built in the 1950s when people just wanted a place to go fishing for the weekend. Just a cabin. And this one has remained largely untouched since then. It is a part museum, part get-away. It would be a sacrilege to change much of anything. (Although it is now air conditioned.) The tiny TV only gets one station--part of the time. But that's okay. We stay outside or on the porch most of the time anyway. 

The new houses across the lake from us have hardwood floors, granite countertops, actual closets and huge kitchens. They also live there full time. But I love the feel of stepping back in time I get every time I walk in the door here. Baby Sister is the fourth generation to enjoy it. There's a lot to be said for tradition. 

But we did trade in the pontoon that always needed repair for maintenance-free kayaks. We counted six more kayaks in our cove this weekend. We started something!

This weekend also provided time for a technology workshop. We all got new iPhones the day before we went down. And patient Jessica helped her dad find his way around a smart phone. What would we do without her?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that Jessica's an adventurous cook. Here is the recipe she made last night to go over grilled pork chops. It was one of the best things I've tasted in a long time. Make it!

Strawberry-Avocado Salsa

1 cup finely chopped strawberries
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled avocado
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (left this out--Daddy-O doesn't like it)
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (used a few shakes of Texas Pete instead)
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss gently. Serve immediately with any grilled meat.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yarn-y Goodness

Pattern: Stripe Study Shawl
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock
Needles: Size 6

Even when I'm busy, I try to find time to knit. It might be just one row some days, sometimes before the sun comes up. I finished this shawl for Jessica yesterday. It's so far beyond what I intended to do a few years ago. I wanted to learn to knit something more than going in a straight line. I could make straight scarves. But I just wanted to learn one more thing. I thought, maybe a hat. I muddled through a couple of simple hats.

Then I stumbled across Ravelry-- an online knitting/fiber community with over 2 million members.  And so many possibilities unfolded. I had never wanted to knit socks or lace shawls because I didn't know people could do that. But now I knew. And I've done it! Ravelry is not only a world of beautiful projects and patterns and yarns, but it is also a very active community of wonderful people from around the globe, willing to help solve a problem, explain the confusing, decipher a pattern and cheer you on. With all of this help, I've learned so much. More than I thought I could do or even wanted to do.

Slowly I began to realize these other Ravelers who answer questions are real people. Some have become friends. I've even met a couple of them. Most have become email friends, but good friends nevertheless. 

In the last few days I received goodie packages from two fellow knitters from different parts of the country. Envelopes just stuffed full of all kinds of things to delight me...a new yarn to try...a package of beads to challenge me...a box of cute bandaids for Baby Sister. (This knitter knew about the skinned little knees last week.) There was even a project bag to encourage Big Sister's budding knitting career. A Bible verse about music was tucked into one box and that meant much to me as a musician. It was like getting hugs in the mail.

As Mommy and family get ready to make a huge move across the country, I've told her, "When you get there, look for knitters. They will help you learn the community and make you welcome." I'm not 100% sure that all knitters are like the ones I've come to know, but it surely would be a good starting place. Knitters are nice people.

Thank you, Mary and Sonja and Diane and Robin and Amy and Sandra and all the others who have dared me to try new things. And then helped me do it. There is a place on my porch for you any time you are near. I'll serve you iced tea and cookies and we'll have a good long visit while we knit.

Monday, May 21, 2012


One last morning to play on the porch.
With a toy that belonged to me.

Turn-A-Gear by Child Guidance (now available on eBay.)
If my old toys are vintage, I guess that makes me vintage, too.

We've spent all weekend stepping over tiny cars and wooden blocks
and reading "The Lady With The Alligator Purse" several dozen times.
But tonight everyone is back home. 
The toys are all put away and it's mighty quiet here.

So glad I had pulled pork in the freezer from my cooking a couple of weeks ago. 
Easy, easy supper. Just right for two tired grandparents.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend At The Farm

I'm taking advantage of a few minutes of quiet before everyone wakes up to let Mommy know things are still good here and yesterday was fun. 

The girls love digging in the garden.

Although Baby Sister found it much more fun to dig with her hands than a tool. I doubt she's ever had that much dirt on her at bathtime. Kind of glad Mommy didn't see her. Even Baby Sister seemed a little concerned about the color of her feet. She actually looked relieved when it all washed off.

I know now that the person who invented open floor plans didn't have a toddler around. We spent a lot of "where is she?" moments until we moved the whole operation to the porch. Even meal times. What a perfect giant playroom. No way to escape.

From the porch, Baby Sister could see the hummingbirds. She loves them. And we all like to watch the rabbit family that lives in the huge hedge beside the fence.  Big Sister went on a couple of covert missions in the pasture to try and see under the hedge from the back side. Come to think of it, we didn't see the rabbits last night. Maybe they are waiting until things calm down to come out again. Poor rabbits.

The girls had a whole farm to explore this weekend.  After all the running, digging, and chasing yesterday, bedtime last night was extremely easy. 

Now let's see how easy it is to get dressed for church this morning.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

We're Okay

Dear Mommy,

We are fine. Just wanted you to know everything is under control here. Baby Sister had a bath last night and washed her hair. Daddy-O did a good job of combing it. We even brushed her six teeth. She might have seven by the time you get home.

I will admit the television has been on, 
but Baby Sister is not very interested, so we are not worried.

Her favorite thing to wear last night after her bath was a bathrobe that used to belong to Big Sister. I think it's a size 4 or 5. And Big Sister rambled around and found some size 6 pajama pants. They used to come to her ankles. Now they are to her knees.

Reminds me of a line from an old Andy Griffith show when the guest apologized to Opie for taking his bed and making Opie sleep on an ironing board between two chairs. And Opie says, "Oh no, mister. That's what I call adventure sleeping!"

Coming to Mimi's seems to be more fun when we don't have all of the regular clothes and have to find something left here from years ago. (Yes, Mommy, Big Sister did have her own PJs but wanted to sleep in the old ones.)

Baby Sister reminded me of an Ewok. A pink fuzzy Ewok.

Except for the hour at Kindermusik, all I've heard all day is "Where's Sissy?" 
About 400 times.

And when Big Sister got home from school and found Baby Sister napping, all I heard was "How long 'til she wakes up?" So glad they enjoy each other. Most of the time.

And I'm thinking how different it is to be the grandmother---no worries about scratching the table. We just might sneak in "fun" food for the school lunch. (Don't worry, Mommy--no banana popsicle or ice cream for Baby Sister. But it's getting harder and harder to control Daddy-O's urge to give her a treat.)

So don't worry about us. We're having fun. You and Daddy have a good time, too. See you soon.

Love, Mimi

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It Was Good

Yesterday we said goodbye to my aunt---the last member of that generation on my mother's side. On the way home from the funeral, I got a text message with a photo of my brand-new just-born great-niece. Endings and beginnings. 

We had a weekend filled with a doctor visit, a trampoline accident and emergency dentist visit and more. Wasn't Mother's Day in there, too? By suppertime last night I was in need some something quick. This was a night that we would have ordered something delivered if that had been a choice. (A friend asked me once, "Who delivers your pizza where you live?" I told her "Daddy-O." We are too far from town for that.) So I made something quick here at home.

The empty plates will have to speak for the good recipe last night. Our supper was beautiful. Imagine beautiful golden brown quesadilla wedges piled on that plate. But we were hungry and didn't think about a photo. After several days of not-typical happenings, we needed an easy supper. On Saturday I had made shredded chicken---that's because my plan to cook BBQ chicken on the grill didn't happen---and put most in the freezer. But I kept out enough for one meal.  

Thanks to Mommy for giving me this idea. She said these quesadillas are one of their favorite suppers. Now we know why. This was really good. The onions made it special.

Chicken, Cheese & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

thinly sliced onion
small amount of olive oil
shredded cooked chicken
shredded cheese
whole wheat flour tortillas

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent and limp and slightly browned. Remove onion from skillet. Wipe pan with a paper towel, if necessary.

Assemble quesadillas. Sprinkle one tortilla with a layer of cheese, a layer of shredded chicken, then the caramelized onion, and another layer of cheese. Top with another tortilla. Heat about a teaspoon of butter in skillet and spread over the bottom of pan. Carefully slide the filled tortillas into pan. Let cook over medium to low heat until browned and the cheese is melting. Carefully turn it over and cook until brown on the other side.

Slide onto a large dinner plate and cut into wedges. Keep warm, as you make the rest of the quesadillas. Serve with barbecue sauce and sour cream.

Crockpot Shredded Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon *House Seasoning
4 cups of water (or enough to just cover chicken)

Put chicken breast in crockpot. Sprinkle with House Seasoning. Pour water over. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Remove chicken to a pan or bowl. Remove bone and skin if you've used whole breasts. Then using two forks, shred the warm chicken.

To put it in the freezer, let it cool slightly and divide into meal-size portions and place into freezer ziploc bags. Label and date. Freeze and use within a couple of months.

*House seasoning:  Mix 1/4 cup salt, 1 tbsp. black pepper & 1 tbsp. garlic powder. Store in an air-tight container, such as an empty spice bottle.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why Bother?

Every now and then some one will ask, "Why do you even bother to knit when you've got so much else to do?" (These people are obviously non-knitters.) And there are assorted opinions about knitters.

Such as the one expressed on my coffee mug...

 And the opposite sentiment written on my favorite note card...

And the truth has little to do with the brain. It has more to do with the heart. I do it because on a crazy week like this one, it soothes me. My hands find a rhythm with the yarn and needles. It sometimes is like fidgeting when you're nervous, but with a product at the end. The more challenging patterns are like Sudoku and crossword puzzles. I'm looking for a pattern within a pattern as I try to understand the instructions. Helps clear away the mental cobwebs. And there is a pure pleasure as the softest yarns pass between my fingers.

I knit because when I give a new project away, it's like a giving a knitted hug. A scarf, a shawl, a baby blanket, a cap or a pair of socks---they are a way for me to give some love made of yarn. Now, I know the recipients don't always know this. But that doesn't matter. I know.

So right now for a hour or so--between visiting at the hospital and going to a doctor appointment--I'm going to sit still on my porch, enjoy the scent of the gardenias that bloom beside me, feel the cool breeze, listen to the birds, offer up a prayer, and knit a little more love. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This Is The Way We Mop The Floor

Do you remember the old nursery rhyme song "This is the way we wash our clothes..?" And on and on it goes through all the chores in the house. I'm not sure if Baby Sister sings this one in her kindermusik class or not. But I'm certain that she has watched her mommy many times and learned.  

I had fun watching her mop while I was baby sitting this week. Wonder if she'll come mop my floors?

This is the way I mop the floor.

Making sure I clean under the chairs.

Mop a while. Rest a while.

Doing the bebop mop march.

Hmmm, mopping the rug isn't working.

Be sure to mop in the corners.

Inspecting my work.

All clean!

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Little Piggy

Now, I live in the land where making good pulled pork barbecue is considered an art form. So, for the benefit of my friends who are barbecue competitors and for those who are certified barbecue judges, let me say right up front that I know YOU wouldn't count this as REAL barbecue. And that's okay. But for those of us who are busy moms and grandmothers, it's close enough.

How good can crockpot pulled pork be? Daddy-O came in late from working on the hay and took his plate into the den to watch the last of the news while he ate. I was in the kitchen cleaning up. And this was what I heard him shouting between bites:

"This is good."

"D, this is REALLY good!" (It's getting serious when he adds my name to the sentence.)

"We ought to serve this to company!!!"

Want to come eat barbecue with us? You'll get an even quicker invitation if you can drive a tractor and are willing to help Daddy-O finish getting the hay in. (The top photo is deceiving. It makes a lot of pulled pork. I had already put three pint containers in the freezer.)

Pulled Pork Barbecue

4 lbs pork roast (I used a pork sirloin roast--the kind wrapped in net)
2 large onions
1 cup ginger ale
1 (18-oz) bottle BBQ sauce ( I used Sticky Fingers Memphis Original)
Barbecue sauce for serving (I used Stubbs Original)
  • Slice one onion and place in crockpot.
  • Remove the net from roast and place on onion layer. Top with the other sliced onion. Pour the ginger ale over. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.
  • Remove meat and onions from pot to a large pan. Discard cooking liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat.
  • Return meat and onions to pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook on LOW for 1-2 hours.

Taking a clue from Jessica, I rolled the BBQ, along with cole slaw, shredded cheese and a spicy BBQ sauce, in a whole wheat tortilla. Excellent combination. A nice change from a regular sandwich.

This recipe is very dependent on the bottled barbecue sauce you choose to use. So find your favorite flavor. They vary greatly. We used a milder sauce for the cooking and then a spicier sauce to add to our "burritos" to give it a little zing. Let me know if you have a different brand to suggest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

Baby Sister and a friend (and their mommies) went to pick strawberries this morning.

Think someone forgot to tell Baby Sister that after you pick the berries, 
you're supposed to put them in the basket--not eat them.

The berry farm is near our farm. The phone call I got when they were done was, 
"We're on our way to see you. Could you run some water in the bathtub for Baby Sister?"
She was sticky from head to toe.

They shared some of the berries with me. Best berries I've ever had.
After everyone headed home this afternoon, 
I made muffins like Jessica made last week. So easy and so delicious

Strawberry Lemonade Muffins

2-1/2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.

Stir together sour cream, butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and eggs; add to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold strawberries into batter. Spoon batter into lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans, filling three-fourths full. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over batter. (Use all of this extra sugar.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 16 to 18 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for one minute; remove from pans to wire rack and cool 10 minutes.

Makes 12-18 mufflins (depending on size of your muffin pans--my old pans will make 18)

...recipe from Southern Living, April 2012

Lemon zest is easy if you have a Microplane grater, a fairly new kitchen tool. But for juicing the lemons, I like my old glass juicer dish I got from my mother. You still see them in antique/junk stores. I haven't found anything that works better.