Thursday, February 21, 2013

One Season Following Another

Driving home this afternoon from ukulele practice, I spied daffodils beside the road. 

And when I pulled into our driveway, I saw these in the front yard.

 The red camellias bloomed a few weeks ago. A few blossoms are hanging on.

Our band sang this recently for a wedding reception.

Sunrise, sunset.
Sunrise, sunset.
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.

"One season following another...."
Aren't we glad it works that way?

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” 
― Percy Bysshe ShelleyOde to the West Wind

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Simply Stew

When I left for the beach last week, I made sure there was food here for Daddy-O. Things that he liked and things that didn't require much prep on his part. He can cook but he has other things to do. Farm duties come first. 

I put this stew—a favorite around here—in the crockpot the morning I left and it was ready for his dinner that night. And there were leftovers for later. He may have missed me but he didn't have to miss my cooking.


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/1/2 to 2 lbs. stew beef
2 tablespoons cooking oil (maybe a little more, if needed)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon granules
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole bay leaf
2-1/2 cups V-8 juice

Place flour in a plastic bag. Add half of meat cubes and shake to lightly coat the meat. Repeat with other half. Heat oil in a large skillet. Brown half the cubes in medium-hot oil, turning to brown on all sides. Repeat with other half of meat.

In a 3-1/2 to 4 qt. Crockpot, layer potatoes, carrots and onion. Add meat over vegetables. Sprinkle bouillon, Worcestershire, oregano, marjoram and pepper over the meat. Add bay leaf. Pour juice over all.

Cook on LOW for 10-12 hours, or on HIGH for 5-6 hours, or until meat and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Among Friends

One weekend a year—when everyone is wrapped in sweaters and scarves and the tree branches are bare—the "beach girls" make a trek to the coast for a few days together. There is nothing in particular on the agenda except catching up with each other. Get up early or sleep late. Walk on the beach or stay inside. Knit. Read. Or not. It doesn't matter. We learned about what all the grandchildren have been doing during the last year. (I think there are close to 30 grandchildren between us, ranging from babies to young adults.) It's so much fun to get the giggles over the silliest things. That tears-running-down-your-face kind of laugh just doesn't happen when I'm by myself at home. You need friends for that.

                                                Photo courtesy of Daddy-O

This year while we were at the beach, it snowed back at home. Typical of southern snow, it was gone by the time we got home the next day. We did see a flurry at the beach just about midnight. Midnight snow at the beach was reason enough to celebrate—pull out the crackers and chips and hummus and get the ice cream from the freezer! After that we agreed...crazy snack fests like that can only happen when it snows at midnight. At the beach. Gotta have limits. Especially after trying out multiple restaurants—a bistro, a tavern, a cafe and a traditional seafood house. All excellent meals.

The beach girls are some of the best cooks around, so in addition to enjoying fresh seafood at wonderful restaurants this weekend, there was plenty of good food brought from home. Yesterday, we pulled out everything from the refrigerator for a parting feast. Oh wow. We couldn't have had anything better. Glad to be friends with these ladies. For lots of reasons.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
― C.S. Lewis

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
― Elbert Hubbard

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” 
― Linda Grayson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Doesn't Baby Sister have excellent hand writing for an almost 2-1/2 year old? (She does not take after her grandmother.) And she makes wonderful dot art! She did that part by herself, I know. Uhmm...she may have had help with the writing part.

I have my plane ticket already for a visit soon. Miss those girls. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Lunch

For years and years the churches in town have joined together to hold a series of Wednesday luncheons during Lent—a short service and a simple meal. Today, the first day of Lent--Ash Wednesday--was our church's day to host the meal. This menu for this first lunch is always the same—vegetable soup, cornbread and dessert, just right for our cold, rainy weather today.

For a long time I've made cornbread as my contribution. This year's committee chairman asked that we all make corn muffins. This recipe that I've used for years, but I'd never made muffins from it. Turns out it works just fine. I shortened the baking time to 25 minutes. Muffin tins are not all the same size, so watch yours and bake until golden brown.


1/2 cup vegetable oil (plus extra for greasing the pan)
1-3/4 cup self-rising corn meal mix
1 cup cream-style corn (I use a 10-oz pkg.Cope's frozen white corn)
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a cast-iron skillet. Preheat pan in oven. (I've used a cast iron skillet, but have also used a 7x11-inch baking pan, sprayed with PAM. Either works.)

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl until combined. Pour batter into preheated cast-iron skillet. (I don't preheat the baking pan sprayed with PAM. It burns.) 

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes 12-14 muffins.

I made two batches of this recipe to get 30 muffins today. Muffin tin sizes have gotten bigger over the years. My oldest tin has cups that measure 2-1/2-inches. My tin that is only 30 years old has cups that measure 2-3/4-inches. I think newer ones might be slightly larger still. With my oldest tin, I got 16 muffins from one recipe. With the one that was slightly bigger, I got 14 muffins. Worked fine this time because that gave me 30 muffins total. Exactly what I needed.

I'm thinking that making them into muffins would make them extra easy to freeze, so you could pull out just two or three as you need them. I know the recipe freezes well.

I was very tempted to take them 29 muffins. A hot buttered muffin would have tasted awfully good this morning before I packed them up to go. 

Easy Cheesy

Years ago I was a stay-at-home-mom and my neighbor across the road worked. Like many neighbors, our interaction was mostly limited to waving at the end of the driveway as one of us was coming or going. We lived across from each other for years. One week I noticed that she was at home during the day. I knew that was not typical. Then I realized I had seen her at home every day for about a week. 

I hadn't heard anything about her being sick. We wondered if she'd had surgery. Or, maybe there had been death in her extended family. Finally, I called her and told her that I'd been seeing her at home at lot and I asked, "Do I need to bring you a casserole?" (Somehow that was nicer than asking, "Are you sick? Did someone die?")

She laughed, knowing exactly what I meant but said she was okay and her family was fine. Turns out she had lost her job. (Quickly found a new one, thankfully.) Her family got supper that night anyway. 

Tuesday night's easy recipe came from my mother's Modern Maturity magazine about a gazillion years ago. I have used it so many times. One cousin told me years ago that this was one of her favorite dishes to take to friends who need a meal because it was so quick to put together. (She's the best at taking dinners to someone who has had surgery, who is sick, had a new baby, etc.) I'll give you the recipe and then tell you about the changes I made in it last night.


16-oz box pasta, cooked (I used penne)
1 large jar marinara sauce (about 26-28-oz.)
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Mix pasta, marinara sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, 1 cup of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Put half into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Spoon cottage cheese over the top, spreading gently. Put remaining pasta mix over the cottage cheese layer. Top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. 

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

Because I had made a lot of salads this week and pizza over the weekend, I had dabs of vegetables in the fridge. So I diced the one zucchini and a handful of mushrooms and added that to my chopped green pepper, onion and celery (salad leftovers.) I sauteed the chopped vegetables (about  2 cups) until tender and added that to the pasta/sauce mixture. 

It's plenty good made exactly by the recipe. Added extra vegetables were tasty, too. And I get gold stars for using up leftovers and getting more vegetables into our meal!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things Are Popping Here

I remember going to my grandmother's house when I was growing up. She lived close to us so we were there often. She always had at least three desserts in her kitchen, sometimes more. There was always ice cream (often Neapolitan), cookies (Lorna Doone, Cameo or Pecan Sandies) and a pie or cake. That's not counting the lemon drops in the candy jar on the table in her den. I loved it.

Well, if that's the measure for grandmotherly success, then I'm a failure. In our attempt to make better food choices here, you don't find sweets or snacks here all the time. Poor Big Sister has searched the pantry for something to munch on and found nothing in a package.

I have not given up sweet things or snack things, but figure if I have to actually MAKE one of them, then I must really want it. I just took the "convenience" out of the equation. Want a cookie? Then, bake cookies. Want cake? I'd better start softening the butter. Popcorn? Get out the big pot. No more microwave bags here.

Well, yesterday I really did want something to snack on. And I remembered the kettle corn we bought at the huge mid-western craft fair last fall. Sweet salty crunchy goodness. So good and a new treat to me. I had looked up a recipe when we got home but never tried it. It was a dreary, rainy day yesterday and I was hungry. Thought a three-ingredient (four, if you count the salt) recipe would be just right.


1/4 oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar

In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add popcorn. When the oil sizzles,  add sugar and give it a quick stir, then cover with lid. Once corn starts popping, pick the pan up carefully and give it a quick shake every few seconds until popping slows down, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour popcorn into serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Be sure to pour the pop corn out of the hot pan immediately or the popped corn will stick to the sugar syrup in the bottom of the pan. I may have had my pan too hot because I had a bit of a mess in the bottom of the pan.

My first thought was, "Oh no! I ruined my pan." 
This was after I had scraped out as much as I could.

But a quick soak in hot soapy water and all was good. 
So don't panic if your pan looks like mine.

My homemade version was not quite as good as the bag we bought at the fair, but it was good enough to try again. I think maybe I should turn the heat down a little. And I put the sugar in first this time—probably a mistake. I'll keep practicing. And we'll enjoy all the practice batches until I get it right.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Friday Night Fun

I keep coming across a quote that says, "If you only do what you know how to do, you won't do very much." Tonight I stepped into the unknown. 

I've said more than once that considering where we live, it's usually faster to make supper at home rather than go somewhere. Well, not so much with pizza. But I've wanted to give it a try. Not hard, but it does take a little time. I still need practice getting the unbaked pizza onto the hot pizza stone. (Maybe two smaller pizzas?) But the rest was fun. Take a look... (Glad to have Jessica at home to photograph the process.)

I'll do this again for sure. If I discover any secrets along the way, I'll be sure to share. The very best part was the extra crispy crust. By the time we've driven home with a pizza, the crust has had time to soften in the cardboard box. Good to know that Demeter's is only 7 miles away, but now we do have another option. The long written directions make it look more involved that it is. Making the dough was surprisingly easy. I had the most trouble getting the unbaked pizza into the oven. I'll figure out how a better way to do it with the stone eventually. If I had used a pizza pan, it would have been a breeze.

Give it a try.

PIZZA DOUGH (makes 1 large pizza)
       -adapted from Emeril Lagasse's Pizza Dough,  (his recipe is made without a dough hook)

1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)

In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, stir together water, yeast and sugar. Let sit about 5 minutes, until mixture is foamy.

Add 1-1/2 cups of the flour, oil and salt into the yeast mixture and using paddle attachment (the regular beater), combine until the mixture is smooth. Switch to dough hook.

With mixer running at LOW, add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, making sure each addition is mixed in before adding the next. Once all the flour (might not need quite all of it) is added, turn up the mixer speed and let the machine knead the dough for about 3 minutes. It should be very smooth and maybe a little "tacky."

Oil a large bowl with olive oil. Remove dough from mixer and form into a ball. Place into oiled bowl and turn dough, making sure all sides are oiled. Cover bowl with damp towel (or plastic wrap) and place in a warm area. Let dough rise until doubled is size, about 60-90 minutes.

When dough is ready, punch down and knead it a few times while still in the bowl. Lightly flour your work surface and place dough on it. Let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into 14-inch round in a pizza pan and add your favorite toppings. (If dough wants to shrink back up as you work with it, let it rest a little more.)

Bake at 450 degrees on lowest rack in oven, about 8-10 minutes, until crust looks done. Or, bake directly on a pizza stone, following directions that come with the stone. Keep a close eye on it until you learn how it works in your oven.

PIZZA HUT PIZZA SAUCE (copycat recipe)

1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp oregano
14 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf (remove leaf when done)
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until sauce starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes, until it reaches desired thickness.

Makes sauce for 2 pizzas

Notes for next time:
     1.  Put cornmeal on pizza peel to see if the dough slides off easier.
     2.  Don't wear a black sweater when making dough.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feelin' Groovy

The word "gig" in the title of this blog comes from the music part of my life. I am the leader of a band—a 22 member ukulele band to be exact. (I'm the band photographer as well, so I'm rarely in the photos.) We've been performing for several years now, playing songs from "way back when." 

At our practice yesterday we added a song to our notebook—Feelin' Groovy. It's such a fun song to sing, but yesterday I really listened to the words. "Slow down, you move too fast. You gotta make the morning last now." Those first two lines made me think what a race most of us are in so much of the time. Even this bunch of retired adults! The song is kind of the 1960s version of Enjoy Youself from the 1949. We play that one, too. 
(If you are interested in our band, check out our blog, Sing Along with the Yesterukes!)

Last weekend's Knit Inn offered classes and I took some, but maybe the best thing I learned was how to wear this shawl. The Color Affection shawl is wildly popular with knitters so I got to see several people wearing it around the hotel. I'm not sure why I was having a problem. I learned to just throw it on and let the stripes fall where they may. Now, why was that so hard? The temptation to make another one is growing—after I swore "never again." Each shawl I saw looked totally different because of the colors used. I want bright colors now!

I promised Daddy-O a pair of Christmas socks. He asked if I'd make him a pair and I said I'd do it. But I didn't say WHICH Christmas. Just finished the first red sock and it looks so nice that now I'm more excited about making the second one. Knitters talk about "second sock syndrome" which is the dread you feel when you finally finish a sock, only to think you have to do it all over again. This time I'm more enthused about the second sock than I was the first one.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Monday

I spent a good part of my weekend at Knit Inn 2013 in Greenville, taking classes, visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. Several hundred knitters take over a hotel for three days. Every possible spot is filled with knitters—in the lobby, in the dining area, in the ballrooms. I always wonder what the few non-knitting hotel guests think when they first walk in.

I knew I would not get home on Friday until supper time. I was glad to have Pineapple Beef in the freezer. A terrific slow cooker recipe I've posted here before. Now I know it is just as good from the freezer as it was the first time. (I was not the one who brought Krispie Kremes into the house.)

Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. We had no particular interest in either team—although it turned out to be a great game. Almost as good as the Downton Abby episode I watched mid-game. But it was as good excuse as any to try a new snack recipe. 

Made hummus for the first time just after I walked in from a church meeting. Super easy to do. The tiny little plastic cup you get at the grocery store is good. But this was so easy to make and cost so much less, I don't think I'll buy it much any more. There are plenty of recipes on the internet but I tried one from Ina Garten. And then I changed it to suit us. You'll find my recipe below.

And this morning I woke up to see this glorious sky, thankful I get another day to do life all over again. Life is good. Thank you, God.


3 cloves garlic (garlic cloves come in all sizes, so make it suit your taste)
2 (15-oz) cans chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt (if you use table salt, you might want less)
1/3 cup Tahini paste
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 lemons
3-4 tablespoons liquid from beans (or amount needed to reach desired consistency)
8 dashes hot sauce

Peel garlic cloves. Dip them into boiling water for 30 seconds to mellow the "raw" garlic flavor, unless you like the stronger raw taste.

Using a food processor or blender, turn it on and drop garlic into moving blades to mince it. Turn off blender and add the remaining ingredients and blend until coarsely pureed. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


2 lb. stew beef
15-20 oz. jar teriyaki sauce (I used Archer Farms Teriyaki Grilling Sauce)
20-oz. can pineapple tidbits, drained

Add stew beef to slow cooker. (I used a 3-1/2 qt. size.)
Pour sauce over beef and stir.
Cook on LOW for 7-9 hours or HIGH for 5-6 hours.
Add pineapple tidbits during last 20-30 minutes of cooking time.

Freezes well, if you have leftovers. Freeze flat in a freezer ziploc bag and it will thaw quicker than if frozen in a "block" in a plastic container. Be sure to label and date.