Monday, April 30, 2012

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Loving my new crockpot. I didn't intend to melt the cord on the old one a few weeks ago, but it worked out okay. I really like this new digital model. I kept forgetting to buy a new pot until one day as I was shopping in Target, I got a "ping" on my smartphone. It was a comment on the blog post about my ruined crockpot! A reminder that I needed a new one. And you thought blogging was a frivolous hobby.

I spent a lot of my day in the kitchen. It's a rare day when I can do this and I took full advantage. I usually have several things in my freezer to pull out on a really busy day. But we had pretty much used everything up. That's a good thing, because frozen foods don't keep forever. But it was time to put things back in. I love it when part of my supper recipe can be added to the freezer for later. With just two of us here, that's better than endless leftovers. While the pepper steak was slow cooking, I made spaghetti sauce to freeze, too. If I just happen to make a trip to see Jessica, Granddaddy (now known as Daddy-O) won't starve.

This recipe came from a friend of my mother's many years ago. I think maybe it was a Weight Watchers recipe way before "points" of any kind were a thought. This is another of those "no need to write it down" recipes because it is so easy to remember---two of everything (more or less.) I'm writing it down just for you. I made this often when the girls were home and in school.

Pepper Steak

2 lb. round steak, cut across the grain in 1-inch strips
2 green peppers, cut into strips
2 medium onions, cut into strips
2 15-oz. cans whole tomatoes, broken up (today I used one 28-oz. can)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)

Brown steak quickly in a hot skillet. Add to a 4-5 qt. crockpot with other ingredients. Stir to mix. Cook on LOW for 8 hours.

We like this served over yellow rice. Made a really good supper tonight.

The only thing I did special for this was to pour the tomatoes into the skillet after I had browned the meat and stirred them around to loosen all the browned bits before adding to the crockpot. Don't want to waste all that good flavor. It really makes a richer broth. I have also put everything in the pot without browning the meat if I was in a hurry. That works, too, but try to find a couple of extra minutes. You'll be glad you did. 

It's hay season here. Granddaddy cut hay this weekend. He's just waiting for it to cure before he can bale it. And you thought, "Make hay while the sun shines" was just an old saying. Can you see the hay laying in rows in the field? That's a lot of work.

Pattern: Summer Flies
Yarn:  Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn
Needles: Size 7

While he was working hard on the tractor, I was working not nearly as hard finishing my latest knitting project. At least I feed him well.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


For a long time I kept a gratitude journal. Just a list of five things I was thankful for each day. Sometimes it was something wonderful that had happened. And sometimes it might simply be the smell of bacon frying. Or clean socks. I did try to be specific. I don't write them down anymore. But doing so for many months made me aware all the good things around me. Even the little ones. Even on days when I have to look a little harder to find them. Especially on those days.

Since it's Sunday, I thought I'd list a few of the things I am thankful for today.

Flowers that bloom in my yard--without help from me.

Finished my knitting project.

Worship with wonderful music this morning.

Lunch and laughter with a friend, Mommy and Baby Sister.

And there's no photo for the last thing on my list...

a long afternoon nap.

Today it was easy to list things I'm grateful for. Sometimes I have to look a little harder. The blessings are there. They are always there.

Friday, April 27, 2012



You know how you say things without thinking too much about it. Like when I have called my husband Daddy-O sometimes when I'm talking to him, usually about the girls. I always liked the song, "Go, Daddy O." Plus, it might be a word that gives a clue about how old we are. Well, somewhere along the way, Baby Sister learned she could say Daddy-O much easier than Granddaddy.

So Daddy-O he is. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Recipe? What Recipe?

Sometimes I forget that there are cooks that have not been puttering around in a kitchen for the last 30 50 years or so. A newer cook might not know about some of the old standby dinners that we "experienced" cooks use. So here is the easiest recipe I might have. I never even though of it as a "recipe" until Granddaddy told someone a few weeks ago, "She's got the best recipe for grilled chicken! Tell him what your recipe is." And I'm thinking, "Recipe? What recipe?" "You know, that recipe you use." My brain was racing. And then it dawned on me what he was talking about.

It's too easy to be called a recipe. But since Granddaddy was bragging about how good it is, I'll tell you what I do. It's what we are having for supper tonight.

Marinated Grilled Chicken

boneless skinless chicken breasts
bottled Italian salad dressing
soy sauce

Put chicken pieces in a ziploc bag. Pour in enough Italian salad dressing to thoroughly coat the chicken. Pour in a good splash of soy sauce. Zip the bag and squish it around to mix the dressing and the soy sauce. Place in refrigerator for 8 hours. Or 2 hours. Or 1 hour. (I've done it all of those ways. But I like to mix this together in the morning and let it marinate all day if I have time.) You might turn the bag over a time or two if you're home.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.  Cook chicken on your grill. Or if it's raining like tonight, use the grill pan. (The Calphalon grill pan is my favorite and I've owned several kinds. I've gotten rid of all the others.) You could also bake it in the oven. If you use fat-free salad dressing, you might need to brush your grill with a little oil so the chicken doesn't stick. I really like a regular dressing for this. See, maybe there is a secret to it!

If you want to take one more step, you might want to pound the thick part of the chicken breast to make it thinner. That way it will cook quicker and more evenly. Put the boneless chicken breast between layers of saran wrap and pound the thick side with a meat mallet. No mallet? You can use a rolling pin or the bottom of a small cast iron skillet. Just pound it until the thick side of the breast approximately matches the thin side. Or, skip this and just be sure to cook it thoroughly!

Granddaddy is right. It IS good. Make extra and slice some for salads or sandwiches the next day. There is some value in writing down these easiest of recipes. I made a breakfast casserole for years just the way my mother made it. So simple that I didn't need to write it down. But then I skipped making it for a few years and I don't remember exactly what I did. And my mother isn't here any more to ask. So this chicken recipe is now in the books. Forever.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Finished Products

Here is our supper tonight. I posted the recipe this morning as I put it in the crockpot. When the chicken was done, I shredded it and stirred it up with the salsa. When I tasted it, I thought it was a little too salty so I added a spoon of molasses. That helped. Glad I didn't add all of the seasoning mix. I'll look for low-sodium next time. I think this "recipe" is very dependent on the kind of salsa and taco seasoning you use. (If three ingredients actually qualifies as a recipe.)

I spooned it over saffron yellow rice and topped it with shredded cheese and sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley from our garden. Turned out to be a pretty good supper. Granddaddy went back for seconds--always a good sign. The chicken mix would also make good tacos, quesadillas, etc. I'll put the leftovers in the freezer for a quick supper on another busy night.

Yarn:  Filatura di Crosa 'Fancy" Cristallo
Needles:  Size 9
Cast on 4 stitches and knit in stockinette to desired length.

Had to share my favorite new bracelet! Big Sister found a lovely skein of yarn while we were in Texas last weekend.  (How nice that Nan's Needleworks was just doors from where we stayed.) This weekend she knitted us matching bracelets. I'm wearing mine proudly every day. It reminds me that Big Sister is beautiful and talented. I love her dearly.

Breathing Room

"Sure." "I'd be happy to." "Of course I can." "Can I help?" "Okay." These are phrases that I say often. But last week all of those things I was really glad to do all landed in the same few days. That happens sometimes. And I wouldn't have skipped one thing I did, but I was out of energy by the weekend. So for two whole days I've stayed home. I've finished reading a couple of books. I took a nap. Things I don't slow down to do nearly enough.

Yesterday I woke up with an urge to stay home but do something worthwhile. So I cleaned out the pantry. It was a monumental mess. Any space that hides behind a closed door can easily get out of control. And my pantry had. It's funny how crowded, cluttered spaces can make you tired. First thing I did this morning was to go look in my pantry and admire it all clean and tidy now. Ahhh......breathing room.

So this brings me to today's recipe. I found a couple of extra jars of salsa in the pantry along with an envelope of taco seasoning I didn't even know I had. The plan is to use up some of the extras before I do much shopping again.  (But I don't think there is any hope for the five boxes of granulated Splenda I found. Since I have never EVER used granulated Splenda, I have no idea what I kept buying it for. I'm sure there was a recipe in mind at some point.)

Salsa Chicken
3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar salsa
1 packet taco seasoning 

Put a thin layer of salsa into bottom of crockpot. Place chicken breasts in a plastic bag, add taco seasoning and shake to coat breasts. Put chicken into crockpot (and I sprinkled in some of the seasoning that didn't stick to the chicken) and cover with remaining salsa. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

If you google "crockpot salsa chicken" you'll find an assortment of variations on this recipe. Some with beans and corn, creamy sauce, etc. Make it your own.

I'll be serving this with saffron yellow rice that I also found in the great clean-up. And maybe we'll top it with cheese or sour cream. Or both.

Now to move on to some other cabinets that need help intervention. Before the urge passes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Saying Goodbye

I started my day in the kitchen. I am making macaroni and cheese (it's in the oven now) to take to church this morning. We are serving lunch before the funeral of a dear lady who will be sorely missed. She was one of those folks from a generation when people did whatever needed and more. Without complaint. It will take a whole committee of people at church to replace her and all the work she did.

I've had "conversations" lately with some of my email buddies about how our foods and food customs are different depending on where we live. I have no clue how people in other parts of the US go about a funeral, but here in the South, we make sure there is plenty of food for the family. Friends and neighbors will arrive at the front door with cakes, casseroles and potato salad. And often an entire meal is planned for the family just before or after the service. That's what I'm helping with today. One of the many jobs Miss Ethel did so well was to call church members and arrange for food to be brought when it was needed. She had it down to a science, knowing just how much food and how many gallons of sweet tea would be needed. She loved making phone calls and she was so sweet that no one ever said "no" to her. 

I've never heard of one of these dinners without macaroni and fried chicken. So today I am making macaroni and cheese for Miss Ethel's family. 

Macaroni & Cheese

16-oz. box elbow macaroni (we like the small elbows)
16-oz. sharp Cheddar cheese (NY sharp when I can find it)
4 cups milk (I use fat-free or 1%--like it makes it healthier)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
a sprinkle of black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook macaroni according to directions on the box. Drain. While macaroni cooks, grate the cheese. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with PAM. Put half the macaroni in the baking dish, layer half the cheese over it, add the rest of macaroni and then the remaining cheese.

Mix the milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over the macaroni and cheese. Use just enough to cover the macaroni.  (Sometimes I don’t use quite all of the milk/egg mixture. And I have been known to add a little bit more milk if the 4-cups didn't cover it.)

Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned on top.  Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving so that it "sets."

Yesterday I had lunch with a cousin who is several years older than I am. She asked how much I remembered about our granddaddy. I had just turned nine when he died, so I don't remember nearly as much as she does. She told me that he always made the macaroni for our family dinners. I didn't remember that. I would think that this recipe is his. Back then we called it "macaroni pie" and this recipe has been handed down from mother-to-daughter several times. I wouldn't dare change the recipe one bit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happily Ever After

My South Carolina vocabulary doesn't have quite have words to describe the hill country landscape that was the setting for the wedding. It reminded us of our low country--but on a hillside. With cactus. Far from the ocean. The only word really needed is "beautiful." See for yourself...

Baby Sister enjoyed the evening as much as any guest there.

But soon after the dancing started, her eyes got heavy 
and it was time to leave the rest of the party to the grown-ups.

As I carried a very sleepy baby to our car, 
she looked up into the dark Texas sky and reached up as high as she could. 
"Uhhnnn.." she groaned as she stretched hard and then harder.
I wasn't sure what she was doing.

And then Baby Sister said, "Moon."
She was trying to touch the moon.
I hope she always reaches high.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

To understand how big a deal this trip was to us, you have to know that Granddaddy and I had not flown anywhere together since our honeymoon. And it had been so long since Granddaddy had flown, that he was the only one in the airport with no wheels on his luggage. Times have changed since he flew a lot for his job years ago.

It was a real treat for us to see a part of the country we had never visited. We arrived at Horseshoe Bay, Texas just after dark last Thursday evening. So it wasn't until the next morning that we could really see where we were. And it was beautiful.

While Mommy and Daddy were busy doing wedding things for a couple of days, Granddaddy and I worked as baby wranglers. (Isn't that what we should call it since we were in Texas?)

We had good help from Big Sister, who also served as photographer for much of the trip. 

Baby Sister loved the huge 6-inch section of the heated pool.

And she loved being with her sister. 
And Big Sister loved spending time with the little one.

We all spent a good bit on time on the activity field. 
Daddy tried to explain a little about football to Baby Sister, 
who mostly liked marching around with the ball.

Big Sister is a terrific jumper and Baby Sister watched and tried to copy.
Dragging the rope behind her was as far as she got this time.

Lots of watching and learning. 
Next time Baby Sister will be ready to play.

There was something beautiful to look at everywhere we turned.

We had never seen so many butterflies. 
Baby Sister did her best to touch one.

It's a good thing the grown-ups outnumbered Baby Sister. 
It took all of us to catch her and turn her around every couple of minutes.

I'm sure Baby Sister won't remember any of this.
But we will. Such good memories.

Coming next:  The Wedding.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Away We Go

We loaded everyone into the car---Mommy, Granddaddy, Big Sister (who was the most experienced traveler among us. Thank goodness for all her help.), Baby Sister and me. Every inch of the car was packed with our few suitcases. And all the multitude of other stuff that you have to take when you travel with a baby. Then off we headed to the Atlanta airport. 

We all hoped that Baby Sister's first plane ride would go well but didn't really know what to expect. But she travelled like a pro. She was on pacifier #4 by the time the plane took off. Pacifiers are gone from her daytime routine but was a special "airplane treat." We weren't prepared to grab them as quickly as she could throw them. 

It was quite an experience. As we waited at the gate before boarding, Baby Sister and I made the rounds, letting her walk as much as possible before she had to sit still on the plane. The airport is so different with a cute baby in tow. A very distinguished businessman played peek-a-boo with her. (He started it.) An elegantly dressed lady stopped reading to pat-a-cake with Baby Sister. We're pretty sure they were grandparents, too. Baby Sister waved to everyone sitting there and blew kisses to the most friendly. She had lots of friends by the time we boarded.

When we landed in Austin, Texas the young daddy-types seated near us all talked to her and told her how good she was on the plane and asked how old she was. And then told us the ages of their children. Think they were missing their own little ones. 

Baby Sister stayed in a good mood on the last leg of Thursday's journey--another hour's drive to Horseshoe Bay which is near Marble Falls. We don't really know where we were. Just somewhere deep in the heart of Texas for the wedding of someone dear to us. 

You know more of this trip is coming but I have to rest first. We got home in the wee hours of the morning. The camera and I both need to be recharged before I can post more photos.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Soup For A Busy Day

There are days when you need something easy to do in the kitchen. A crockpot soup might be the way to go. This lentil soup was quick to put together. My only problem was that I only had a 3-1/2 qt. pot and the recipe called for a 4 to 5 quart pot. (I had destroyed my bigger one not long ago.) The recipe was right. My little pot didn't quite hold all of the broth.

The most time consuming part was picking over the lentils. But don't skip this part. I found a tiny pebble in the next-to-last handful that I looked at. How do you "pick over" lentils? Just pour a small amount into your hand and look them over before you put them in the measuring cup. I remember my mother doing this with dried beans.

I ended up moving it all to a large pot on the stove at the end when I added the Canadian bacon and then added the rest of the broth. This recipe says to cook it for 6 hours on Low, then add the bacon. After I got everything into the pot, I realized I was not going to be home six hours later, so I cooked it for  three hours on High, then moved it to the larger pot and finished it up on the stove. Nice to know it works that way, too. 

It made almost three full quarts. I put two quarts in the freezer for another busy day. Sent one quart home with Jessica when she went back last weekend. The frozen soup also helped keep her leftovers cool!

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

2 medium carrots, peeled & cut into slices
2 medium celery stalks, cut into large slices
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (I used jarred mince garlic)
2 cups dry lentils, picked over
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 cups canned chicken broth
4 or 5 slices Canadian bacon, cut up (I used a whole package which had 6 slices)

Place ingredients in the 4-to-5 quart clow cooker in the following order: carrots, celery, onion, garlic, lentils, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, broth.
Cover slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
Uncover, stir in bacon and heat for 30 minutes more. REMOVE BAY LEAVES.

Serves 8 (1-1/2 cup per serving)

I really liked this soup. (My husband--who does not care for soup or lentils--didn't.) Lentil soup is never pretty, but a bowl of this hot soup is comforting on a cool day. (I like soup year around.) If you like lentil soup, this is a good recipe.

Any time I use bay leaves in a recipe I am reminded of a favorite story from years ago. I took a pot of spaghetti sauce to my mom and dad and left it with them for their supper. Later when I was back home, my mother called and hesitantly asked, "Did you by any chance have the lid off the pot when you walked from the driveway to the front door? We found a leaf in the spaghetti sauce and wondered if it was from our oak trees." They had obviously had some discussion about whether it was safe to eat. When I told her it was a bay leaf, she said, "I TOLD your dad you'd probably done something fancy." 

Monday, April 9, 2012


We are blessed to have a farm just a very few miles from us that grows strawberries and blackberries and sells all manner of fresh produce and flowers. And there is also a cute little "store" with some specialty food and gift items. I made a quick stop on Friday to pick up a pack of shrimp & grits mix and was happy to discover they had just started picking strawberries. I didn't have time to pick my own but I did buy a couple of gallons to bring home for our weekend.

For Easter dinner we made a new (to us) spinach-strawberry salad recipe and had strawberry shortcake for dessert. And everyone took fresh berries home with them, too. I know I could freeze the strawberries but I'd rather find lots of ways to use them fresh. This salad recipe is a keeper.

Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Feta

7-10 cups fresh baby spinach (or 2 bags of baby spinach)
5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup (or more) crumbled feta cheese 

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch paprika
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the strawberries and almonds.
  • In another small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over spinach mix and toss to coat.
  • Sprinkle feta cheese over the top.
  • Serve immediately.
Serves 6-8

Now, we only made a half batch of salad, but Jessica mixed the full dressing recipe and took half home with her. It was yummy just drizzled over the berries. Jessica also decided to use goat cheese instead of feta this time. You can certainly make this salad to suit yourself--toasted pecan instead of almonds, maybe? Bleu cheese instead of feta? It all sounds good to me.

So glad they are our neighbors.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Weekend

What a full week we've had. Every week is busy but this one had a few extra events tucked in between the regular busy. One of the very best things was getting a chance to visit with family at a baby shower in anticipation of another baby girl.

Little cousins helping celebrate the coming of a new cousin.

I made a baby blanket for this baby-to-be. 
It's another Sunny Baby Blanket made from Berroco Comfort yarn.

Baby Sister enjoyed all of the party. 
And she enjoyed the opportunity to play with someone else's toys.

Back at the farm after the baby shower, there was time for outdoor play.
(Thank to Jessica for these, and the church photos.)

Easter Sunday is a high celebration. 
A celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our annual "family in front of the flower cross" photos.
If I'd take the time to look, I could find these for each year 
since the two "big girls" were very little girls.

One of my greatest joys today was holding Baby Sister as the congregation sang "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today" with lots of allelulias. She watched and listened as we all sang together. She turned and watched the friends behind us. She leaned around to see our family seated all the way down the pew, taking it all in. She loved hearing the timpani play loudly. She also did a little "conducting" of the choir from our seats. 

And Easter always means a family dinner after church. 
Nothing fancy, just some favorites. I'll share the one new recipe soon.

Family together. 
What more could we want?