Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is It 'Homemade' If I Made It In My Home?

Yes, I actually made dinner last night. After a week of "kitchen closed due to illness," I thought we needed to eat dinner here. I said "made" dinner because I'm not sure I could exactly say "cooked" dinner since I used a packaged mix.

But, oh, what a mix!...shrimp & grits from Gullah Gourmet. You just have to add the shrimp. And it's so very, very good. Better than some shrimp & grits I've had in restaurants. (We have only used this one mix from their line, so I can't tell you from my own experience how the others taste. But we've enjoyed the shrimp & grits mix for years.)

I think I bought this bag of Shrimp & Grits mix at the beach in a gift shop. That's usually where you find this product. I did see them at our Piggly Wiggly store at the lake for a while but then they stopped carrying it. So imagine my delight when I discovered that the farm just down the road from us now stocks this! Several years ago Stewart Farms just had U-pick strawberries. Seems like every time I blink now, they have more to offer--greenhouse, blackberries, fresh produce, corn maze, pumpkin patch, gift shop, Christmas trees, field trips for schools. 

If you aren't near anywhere that sell Gullah Gourmet, you can order online. If you non-Southerners need help translating the directions, let me know.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

I've spent all week hunkered down on the sofa under a blanket, surrounded with tissues, lots of pillows, hot tea, and cough drops. The TV remote was there, too, but I don't think I saw a full episode of anything. Four back-to-back episodes of Murder, She Wrote yesterday and I don't know who was guilty in any of them! I dozed off at the end of each one. There is never a good time for a cold, but it always seems worse when the weather is warm. 

There was nothing happening in my kitchen all week. Zip. Nada. Thankfully our tiny nearby town has a restaurant with good homemade soups and other yummy items. And dear husband gladly brought food home from there. We didn't starve.

But while I was home NOT cooking, Mommy was busy in her kitchen trying out a new cookie recipe. She sent some here today. There were actually quite a few cookies in her package, but they were disappearing so fast that I barely got a photo made.

Granddaddy: "She made these?" munch munch munch "You're sure she didn't buy these at a bakery?" reaches for another cookie "Did she find some kind of special mix or something?" munch munch "When did she learn to cook like this???" grabs another cookie    Then I grabbed the camera before they were all gone.

Mommy has always made good cookies. These are spectacular cookies. Can I think of them as get-well cookies? Mommy said if they had oatmeal in them, they must be good for you.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt (adapted from

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
11.5-oz package of Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips
sea salt, for sprinkling on top

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray baking sheets with PAM or line with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, using electric mixer, combine butter, peanut butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients and beat until combined.
  • Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  • Drop cookie dough in rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets, about 3-inches apart. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are set and cooked through to the middle. (Check first batch at 10 minutes, then keep baking at one-minute increments until done.)

Mommy said she got just over 5 dozen cookies from this recipe. Glad she made enough to share. I think I'm feeling better already.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's All About The Plan

Grandmothers need easy suppers, just like busy moms do. I spent the day doing grandmother duties while Mommy had some time for herself. Got home just before 5:00 PM. I've told my daughters often that if you know what to cook for supper when you walk in the door, the actual cooking usually is easy. HAVE A PLAN!

Tonight we're having pork chops and brown rice. And I made the carrot recipe that we've used for years.

It's quick to put together.

It can go into the oven along with my main dish.

And best of all, it's delicious. 

Unlike the many sweet carrot recipes out there, this one is savory. My girls liked this better, even when they were little. The recipe calls for a bag of baby carrots which is fine, but I really like it best when I peel and slice whole carrots. Either way you do it will be fine. Tonight I only made a half recipe for the two of us. I probably used a little less butter, too. You also get a choice of baking times (with a temperature adjustment) to give you flexibility in putting it in with other dishes.

Company Carrots

2 lb. bag of baby carrots
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place carrots in an ungreased 9-inch square baking dish. Add water; dot with butter. Sprinkle with oregano and salt.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.   OR   Bake at 325 degrees for 1-1/4 hours. 

(We just finished dinner. It was so good. And I got to sit down for an hour while it cooked. How great is that? It's nice when a plan comes together.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Bloom

Welcome, Spring!

We have the best screened porch that opens into our kitchen. This is the time of year (quick, before the pollen is unbearable) when we can enjoy it. Now, to find more easy dinners so I can spend my time on the porch and not in the kitchen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Away

How blessed I am to have wonderful daughters! This weekend I got to spend time with the younger one. It's always a treat to travel with her--we spent time at the gym, we read, we enjoyed the band in the Great Hall on Friday night, we shopped a little, we watched a movie last night in our room. 

We always look for good food on our trips. Last night we enjoyed dinner on The Sunset Terrace. The weather was perfect. Even the rain shower just a few feet from our table was nice. 

Saturday we spent the better part of the day prowling through the shops in Biltmore Village. We had lunch at the Corner Kitchen. It's located just across the street from a favorite yarn shop. The Corner Kitchen always has a crowd outside waiting, but it's worth a wait. Great food, reasonably priced. Hard to beat. As we were finishing, the waitress asked if we had enjoyed everything and I commented that everything was really good but the potato salad was wonderful. Possibly the best I've ever had. 

In just a minute the waitress returned and handed me this recipe. She says they share their recipes--if she thinks you are a nice customer. So glad we were polite! I could have made a meal on just this one thing--although the Chocolate Mousse Cake was pretty special, too. But I didn't want to press my luck and ask for another recipe. 

I doubt I will make 10 pounds of potato salad but I'll certainly be making a home-size version of this. Half the recipe might be just right for a church dinner or family picnic. Jessica and I decided that "S & P" mix means salt and pepper.

But the best meal we had this weekend was the one Jessica made tonight after we got home. It was so quick to make and absolutely delicious. Here is the recipe that she got from a Jamie Oliver cookbook:

Tray-Baked Chicken

dried oregano
sweet paprika
a pat of butter
4 (6-ounce) skinless chicken breasts
1 lemon
2 ounces of cherry tomatoes
4 slices smoked bacon
a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary

Turn the heat under the empty frying pan to high. Get out a large sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle over a good pinch of dried oregano, salt & pepper, and parka, then drizzle over some olive oil and add a lug to the hot frying pan now too, along with the pat of butter. Lay the chicken breasts on top of the parchment paper and roll them in the flavors. Add to the hot pan and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden on both sides. While this is happening, clear away the parchment paper and wash your hands.

Get out an 9x13-inch roasting pan, then quarter the lemon and chuck it in the pan along with the tomatoes. Tip in the chicken breasts and any juices from the pan. Use tongs to arrange everything nicely, then lay the bacon on top of the breasts. Put the frying pan back on a medium heat, add the sprigs of rosemary to the pan, and move them around so that they get coated in the juices. Pop them into the pan, then put the pan under the broiler for at least 14 minutes, until chicken is done. 

She can come back and cook for us any time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's A Wrap

Pattern:  Shaelyn
Yarn:  Dream In Color Smooshy
Colorway:  Strange Harvest
Needles:  Size 6 

If timing is everything, then I flunked that test. I bought this beautiful yarn in October. It's a perfect fall color. But I didn't start knitting with it until February. And then I finished this wonderful small shawl on an 84 degree day.  (Who knew this week would be so hot?) It's light as a feather, so I think I'll be wearing it anyway. 

We have managed not to turn on our air conditioning yet, but someone somewhere is bound to have theirs running full blast. And I'll be ready!

Mommy sent this photo one day this week. So now we know that Baby Sister can be still. Every now and then. She was waiting to see the dentist, who checked her teeth. All six of them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Full Days

I've been so busy the last couple of weeks just living my life, there's been no time to blog anything about it. All good things, but lots of them. Here are some highlights:

I'd like to say that one thing keeping me busy was working in the yard since it looks like spring is here already. (Actually it was 85 degrees yesterday and felt more like summer. I keep remembering the old TV commercial that said, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" Feels like someone has.) But gardening is not one of my talents.Thankfully I have friends who do have those talents. So last week after a large agricultural awards dinner, one friend send the table decoration home with me. The master gardeners here had arranged fresh flowers for all 40 tables that evening. 

When the weekend arrived, Baby Sister and her family came here for a couple of days. Big Sister had been chosen to represent her school at the SC Young Writers' Conference on Saturday. Baby Sister spent the day here. It was fun watching her explore. But she has reached the stage where she is constant motion. Which meant Granddaddy and I also had to be in constant motion. No rest for us. But how much fun it was to have them here!

We pulled out everything we could think of to keep her entertained. Many of the toys here are ones that belonged to our girls when they were little. 

One real treasure is the basket of wooden cars that my dad crafted. He made hundreds of cars for children. We gave many for birthday gifts--usually a plastic bin filled with lots of little cars. He's probably smiling somewhere now to think his great-grandchild is now playing with them.

And in bits and pieces and stops and starts, I managed to finish my first lace shawl yesterday. It's drying now so later today, I'll get to see what it really looks like. I know that someone is thinking "why would you knit when you say you are so busy?" And I can tell you--knitting is a quiet, calming activity. It gives me a chance to sit still and gather my scattered self. A little of the soothing repetitive motion and everything settles down. I settle down. And soon I'm ready to go again. 

There is also the music. The "gig" part of my blog title is a reference to my music activity. It's usually my ukulele band that keeps me busy. (And it still does. There is practice today. We play on Monday.) But at the moment, it's the piano that is demanding my attention. Would someone REMIND ME how much practice is required to get a piece ready before I agree to play in public again? 

This morning, I'm looking for a recipe that I can make and leave for Granddaddy to heat up over the weekend because I'm sneaking off for a tiny vacation with Jessica. Have to love a daughter who calls and says, "Mom, want to go with me to....?" 

If I find a really good recipe to make for him, I'll be sure to share.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Ever wonder what makes a toy "the favorite?" When Mommy was a little girl, she had a soft fabric clown doll that was never meant to be a toy--it should have been a decorating piece, meant to sit on a shelf. But she carried that doll everywhere. There is even a photo of Mommy and "Doll" when Mommy was an infant and too little to hold "Doll" but her face was beaming as she looked at it.

After a couple of years and lots of mending, then many patches--even the patches had patches--and then a suit to hold "Doll" together a little longer, this toy vanished. It may have spontaneously disintegrated. (It had never been washed because it was originally glued together and had felt parts.) If it had not disappeared, we might have eventually called in a hazmat team to take care of it. Thankfully, we have photos of this special toy with a little girl Mommy.

Baby Sister seems to have found her favorite. Of all the toys in her house, we would have never thought these would be her constant companions. I understand she carries them with her everywhere.

A plastic ear of corn and a pot lid. Go figure. Time will tell if this choice is "THE" toy. But for now she loves to carry them around. And thankfully they are washable! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Sunday

Feels like my Sunday started on Saturday this weekend. I volunteered to make something for the today's pre-Sunday School coffee time. During Lent everyone is gathering before Sunday School to watch the video introduction to the week's chapter of "24 Hours That Changed The World."

So yesterday I made lots of sausage balls and mini-muffins. The sausage ball recipe is an old one. If you are close to my age, you probably have the recipe. If you don't have it, I'm happy to share.

Someone this morning said, "We never have these except during the holidays!" I agree---I have never made these in March before. It's usually during the fall that I'll pull this recipe out for tailgating or holiday get-togethers.

I got so busy this morning setting up for the coffee time that I forgot to make a photo of the sausage balls. (I made about 15 dozen.) All but a handful were eaten, so there was no chance to make a photo afterward. Closest thing I have is the photo above. These had just come out of the oven.

You'll have to use your imagination to picture the beautiful table that Big Sister set up while I was making lots of coffee--a tiered tray of blueberry and orange-cranberry mini-muffins, a plate of apple slices and a huge tray of warm sausage balls. I was thankful to have her help this morning.


1 (1-lb.) package of ground sausage, hot or mild (I use Jimmy Dean's)
3 cups Bisquick
4 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese-- almost 1 lb. (don't buy pre-grated cheese for this)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (I omit this if I use hot sausage)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands. The mixture will be crumbly. Form into 1-inch balls, squeezing the mixture so it holds together, then rolling it between the palms of your hands to form balls.

Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. To prevent sticking, move the balls with a spatula halfway through baking.   

Yield:  5-6 dozen

My hints for making these:
  • Really--don't buy a bag of grated cheese for this. Grate your own. Trust me.
  • I like to add my grated cheese and Bisquick into the mixing bowl in layers, so that the cheese doesn't all clump together.
  • Crumble up the uncooked sausage as best you can as you add it to the bowl. Makes it easier to mix in.
  • Take off your rings before you start to work this together. You'll be happy I told you this.
  • It takes a lot of squishing and squeezing to get this to stick together. But it will. Don't give up.
  • Recruit a husband or boyfriend to help with the mxing. Evidently, it's a tradition for many husbands to help make these. It's quite a workout.
  • Lining the baking sheet with parchment paper keeps them from sticking so you don't need to move them around halfway through the baking.
  • Make enough so that you can have some when they first come out of the oven.
  • You can make them a day ahead and then reheat them briefly in the oven.

**Big Sister proof read this post for me. She asked if I had made a mistake and typed Sunday twice in the title. I sometimes forget that you readers cannot read what is in my mind. "Sunday Sunday" is a play on the title of one of my favorite songs from the 60s--Monday Monday

Friday, March 2, 2012

Made It

Made it all the way to Friday! This week was really no crazier than any other but maybe my "grandmother age" is catching up with me. Whatever the reason, I'm glad it's Friday. 

Let's see, I taught a ukulele lesson (I'm teaching a new ukulele convert), played handbells (even played with the kids' bell group since I'm short enough to blend in), led the Yesterukes practice, attended a cattlemens' dinner meeting where we learned more about weed control in pastures...

...finished the last of the church directory stuff, went to a funeral (a sweet aunt left this earth at age 93) and then spent this morning at the car dealer waiting. Turns out the office-type lighting in the waiting room was perfect for knitting--much brighter than my knitting spot at home. (Kind of enjoyed my morning of imprisonment at the dealership.) 

Pattern: Shaelyn
Yarn: Dream In Color Smooshy
Needle: Size 6

So by the time suppertime tonight arrived, I really didn't want to do much of anything. It was simply a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich (homemade bread from the freezer) and oven fries. 

I gave up frozen French fries years ago when I came across this way of making homemade fries. I figure homemade is always better for you. Just simple basic ingredients--no additives. Turn the oven on first--before you even start scrubbing the potatoes. Then it will be heating while you are prepping.

Oven Fries

4 baking potatoes
1 teaspoon cooking oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spray baking sheet with PAM. Scrub potatoes, pat dry and slice each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.
Put potatoes in mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of oil. Toss to coat.
Bake on sheet for 15 minutes. Turn and bake 15 minutes more, or until they begin to brown.

(This time I cut my wedges thinner and they cooked much quicker.  Just go by the color.)

I found the wire baking "pan" years ago at Walmart, I think, for about $5. It's one of the best purchases I've ever made. Because of the open bottom, the heated air surrounds the potatoes and you don't have to turn them. They brown all the way around. Don't think I've seen one since, but maybe they are still out there somewhere. If you see one, get one.