Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Sweet Enough

I'll be away tonight with my band, The Yesterukes, for a gig that includes dinner. So this morning I made dessert so that Daddy-O would have a treat for supper to go along with his leftover roast from last night. I had saved this recipe from our electric co-op magazine a few weeks ago. This was one of my favorite desserts to get at Morrison's Cafeteria when our girls were little. They loved going there. It was a good place for them to try lots of vegetables.

When Mommy was just about the age that Baby Sister is right now (age 2-1/2) she was with my parents for the day. They were in the car when her grandmother asked what she would like for lunch, thinking they would stop by McDonald's maybe, while they were out. But that little voice in the back seat answered, "Peas, carrots, cabbage..." My mother was astounded that she didn't ask for a Happy Meal. I don't think at that point, she had ever been to a McDonald's. Children will not cannot constantly ask for chicken nuggets and fries if they don't know there is such a thing! By the time she did go to a McDonald's, she already loved to eat many other foods.

My mother never owned a wire whisk and managed to consistently cook delicious meals, but, my goodness, cooking is easier with a few tools besides a spoon. Use a whisk to quickly mix this up. To make this easier to put in and out of the oven, place the pie shell on a HEAVY cookie sheet. If your cookie sheet makes a "pop" after it's been in the oven a few minutes, it's a thin one and will not stay flat while your pie is baking. The thin ones will twist as they heat. This recipe fills the pie shell so completely that some of the custard is bound to slosh out if that happens.

This was my first time making a custard pie. When it was getting brown too quickly, I placed a sheet of foil loosely over the top. And of course, it stuck a little when I removed it. This is what it looked like when it was done. It settled as it cooled and looked more like what I was expecting.  

Mark Bittman says in his book, How To Cook Everything, "By the time a custard appears to be set, it's almost always overcooked. You must make a leap of faith and remove it from the oven while the center is still wobbly. When you get the timing down, you'll be making brilliant custards." Yes, mine was jiggly but a toothpick in the center came out clean. Also, remember this is not super sweet like many pies. It's just sweet enough.


4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 9-inch unbaked, deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then add sugar, salt, milk and vanilla. Beat well, then pour into pie shell. Bake 35 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Once cooled completley, refrigerate until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftover custard.

The magazine version of this recipe said to use a regular pie shell, and bake for 30 minutes, baking leftover filling in individual buttered ramekins. I only had a deep dish pie shell in the freezer and the filling was exactly right for the deeper shell. (Makes me wonder why it didn't call for the deep dish shell in the first place.) I added an extra 5 or 6 minutes baking to accommodate the deeper filling.

When I make this again (and I will) I might use an electric mixer to make sure the eggs and milk are mixed thoroughly. Does it taste like Morrison's? It's been so very long, that I don't honestly remember. But this one is good and it's easy. And it does not have as much sugar as many desserts. Three reasons to make it again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Cleaning

There have been very few photo worthy moments in the last week. I have been doing some deep cleaning that was way overdue. So my time in the kitchen has been spent cleaning cabinets fronts instead of cooking.  Daddy-O has been kind enough to treat me to dinner out a couple of times so I didn't have to dirty up pots and pans while I was trying to get things in order. But we can only eat out so much.

Tonight's supper is already in the Crockpot. Good to know I don't have to think about that anymore until supper time. It's one of the easiest recipes I use. And it's always good.


2-1/2 to 3 lb beef roast (I used a chuck roast)
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
1 packet Italian dressing mix
1 packet brown gravy mix
1 cup water

Place roast in slow cooker. Mix the three seasoning packets with a cup of water. Pour over roast. 
Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. (eta: I cooked mine about 11 hours--it was fall apart tender.)

Now that dinner is taken care of, I can go back to cleaning. So much is done, so much still to do. I have seen this quick furniture fixer pop up multiple times on Pinterest. Does it work? It was so easy that I figured I'd give it a try. And the bedside table was so badly worn that I couldn't make it any worse.



While this mix is certainly no replacement for refinishing, it did help. The places where the finish was completely worn away are still there, but not as obvious. Yes, it looks better than it did. No, it did not completely hide the damage. But for five minutes of effort, I'm happy.

Furniture Fixer

Mix 3/4 cup of cooking oil and 1/4 cup vinegar in a jar with a lid. Shake until thoroughly mixed. Dip a clean rag into mix and wipe over furniture. Wipe off any excess.

I used vegetable oil and cider vinegar. The info I read said you could use distilled or cider vinegar and any kind of cooking oil. Just whatever you have. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Just Muffins

The date on the Bisquick said it would expire soon. The bananas? They were headed for the trash if I didn't use them within the next 9 minutes. Perfect reason to make a favorite recipe last night after supper.

The first time I made these years ago was when Daddy-O came home from the office one night and remembered to tell me he had to take a treat the next morning for the office Christmas party. This was in the days when I had a baby on my hip and a toddler wrapped around my leg most of the day. But even so, it just wasn't in my soul to send something bought, so I quickly made these.

Daddy-O was a little reluctant to take "just muffins" to the party but that's the best I could do on short notice. When he came home from work that night, he brought in an empty plate and three requests for the recipe. We've been making them ever since.


2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup mashed bananas (2 to 3 medium)
Thin Icing
Chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine baking mix, sugar, butter and egg; beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Fold in bananas.
Fill 36 greased mini-muffin cups 2/3 full. (Or, use cupcake papers.)
Bake 12-15 minutes.
While warm, frost with Thin Icing and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Thin Icing: Blend 1 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons water until smooth.

      Makes 36 mini-muffins. You can also make 12 regular-size muffins.

Confession time: I didn't measure the bananas—I just used the 2-1/2 I had on the counter. In my rush to make them, I just put all the ingredients in the bowl at the same time and stirred it up really good. Also, I never measure the sugar for the icing. I just pour a little sugar in a bowl and add water a spoonful at a time until it will drizzle. (If you don't cook much, you might want to measure the first time or two.)  And sometimes I have to stir up a little more. But that's fine.

I asked Daddy-O how these tasted since I took some liberties with the directions. He said he'd have to try a second plate full before he could give me an answer. After eating seven, he said they were wonderful. And they are. Every time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And There Is Music

I thought it would be fun to let you see a little of another part of my life. I've said before that the "gig" part of this blog title comes from the music part.

This week's calendar has two gigs. My music partner (he and I taught together for years at a local music store) and I practiced just after breakfast on Monday. We are getting ready for a school arts day performance later this week. This will be our 10th year with that event. 

We have laughingly named ourselves "APB" which to us means "Annual Peformance Band." He and I used to play together often but as our lives changed and we went in different directions, we don't see each other much now. We have clung to this event as a way to know we will at least play together once a year. Oh, how we look forward to it each April!

Yesterday I played for an event with my ukulele band, the Yesterukes—a senior adult, all ukulele band. I formed this band about 7 years ago and have enjoyed watching it grow into a solid musical group. We have had great fun for years entertaining others.

Like many children, I took piano lessons for years. I started at age 5. I am a decent pianist, but I always wanted to play guitar. There was just never a way for me to learn. Then at age 47 that finally happened. Glad I didn't worry much about being too old to learn! In the years since then, I have taught guitar and mandolin lessons and started a ukulele band and played for many, many audiences. A side benefit—as I learned music in a different way, my piano playing improved greatly!

Life lesson here? If I had learned to play guitar when I was a teen like I wanted, I likely would have moved on to some other hobby after a few years. Learning these new skills later in life put me on a path to meet and play with these wonderful people that are now part of my life. Thinking about this always reminds me of a song my children sang when they were little, "In His time, in His time, God makes all things beautiful in His time." This all worked out just like it was supposed to. I didn't get to do what I wanted on my schedule. I got a schedule that was even better.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mom, Try This

We have reached the stage of life where I now get recipes from my daughters as often as they use one of mine.  Jessica made this last week and said we needed to try it. She found the recipe in the current Southern Living magazine.

Since Daddy-O was available to do the grilling, it sounded like a perfect recipe for a Sunday night. (Or any other night.) It was. 

     serves 4

1 (3-lb.) package pork tenderloins
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt, divided
10 slices bacon
2 (8-oz) packages thin green beans
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, divided
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup quartered strawberries

1. Preheat grill to 400-500 degrees (high heat.) Sprinkle pork with pepper and 1 tsp. salt; wrap 5 bacon slices around each tenderloin, and secure with wooden toothpicks.

2. Place green beans, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 2 garlic cloves and remaining 1 tsp. salt in center of a 24x18-inch pice of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Toss to coat. Bring up side of foil over beans; double told top and side edges to seal,  making a packet.

3. Turn off one side of grill. Arrange pork and foil packet over unlit side, and grill, covered with grill lid, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, mince remaining 2 garlic cloves; saute in remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until golden. Add vinegar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in preserves. Reserve half of mixture for basting. Stir fresh strawberries into remaining mixture.

5. Remove foil packet from grill; transfer pork to lit side. Baste pork with reserved strawberry mixture. Grill 5 minutes. Slice one tenderloin and serve with strawberry mixture. Save the other tenderloin for another meal. (I put ours in the freezer for later.)

The ingredient list and recipe directions look long. That's only because you have three "recipes" all at once—the pork, the beans, and the strawberry glaze. Trust me, it's easy. One note to keep in mind...all grills behave differently, so adjust as you need to. Our green beans were not done when the pork was ready. I just popped them into the microwave for a couple of minutes. Problem solved.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My Treat


Daddy-O spent yesterday morning planting a garden. Just a small one this year, mostly vegetables for salads. And there is also an herb garden. In appreciation for his hard work (and all the hard work that's coming in the months ahead), I made him a special treat just so he knows I understand how hard he worked. I also didn't want him to think I was sitting around inside doing nothing while he was outside working so hard.

There was also another reason for making him a treat. I drove to downtown Greenville last night to have dinner with a friend—a girls night out! Since I was leaving him home for the evening, I left a pan of blondies to keep him company. Blondies—basically butter and brown sugar held together with a little flour. Yum. This is so easy to stir up. No mixer needed. Just a big bowl and a sturdy spoon. 

He ranked them right up there with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That's high praise.


1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter over low heat or in the microwave. Mix in the brown sugar. Stir well. Add in the eggs. Gradually stir in the flour. Now add the vanilla and nuts. (Don't use an electric mixer, just stir with a spoon.)

Spread batter in a greased 9x9-inch pan. (I sprayed with PAM.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure the center is done.

If you want a thinner, chewier Blondie, use a 9x13-inch pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Sense Of The Beautiful

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 
 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For years when my daughters were at home and in school, this quote was stuck on the side of our refrigerator. I wanted them to understand that beauty is important. (A modern version of this 17th century quote is "stop and smell the roses.") When there is too much to do or life is beating you up, it's okay–it's necessary even—to take time to find it.

Usually for me, it's something like admiring a beautiful tree as I'm zooming down the road, or listening to a favorite CD while I'm working in the kitchen. Or, taking two seconds to stop and really look at a painting on our own walls. Or, even finding the lovely purple flowers that bloom in the weeds in our yard. They look like little violets and they always make me smile. If you seek out beauty every day, it becomes a habit. I'm always on the lookout for that unexpected bright spot.

But yesterday Daddy-O and I did more than that. Sweet Daddy-O took me to an exhibit I've wanted to see for weeks. We drove to Columbia to see the traveling exhibit, Impressionism from Monet to Matisse. It was a wonderful collection of paintings from the well-known Impressionist painters along with many others I was not familiar with. How good to see and learn new things.

But we equally enjoyed the permanent collection. The mind of the artist just goes places mine own mind doesn't even know about. It's like a breath of fresh air to see the world turned slightly askew.

The most fun exhibit? (Don't tell Monet.) It was Runaway Runway -- dresses made from trash. Every "dress" was interesting. But as the mother of a ballet dancer (Mommy studied ballet for years) this one spoke to me. Pointe shoes wear out so quickly. We still have a few pair here in a drawer somewhere, all frayed and worn. How brilliant to do something unexpected with the old shoes. You should recognize that the skirt of the dress is made from the old shoes. I didn't immediately it but the bodice of this dress is made from the ribbons of the shoes.

Thank you Daddy-O for a wonderful day.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow

Yarn:  Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino
Needles:  Size 1-1/2 (2.5 mm)

If a garden depended on me, it would only contain flowers that thrive on neglect. Neglect and ineptitude. Yes, there really is such a thing as a brown thumb.

I love beautiful gardens and yards. In my mind, I imagine walking the stone path in my garden in the cool of evening and of sitting there in a twig chair in the early morning surrounded by the scent of roses. Alas, that garden exists only in my mind.

I do not have the knowledge to make a garden happen. I do not love all the work that makes one happen. (I can manage a few geraniums in pots.) So I am very thankful for flowers like these that just come back year after year. And I'm thankful for the skills I do have. Gardening just isn't one of them.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hummus Among Us

When the 5:00 PM munchies hit, it's nice to have something in the refrigerator ready to snack on. Between 4:00 and 5:00 is my danger zone for hunger. Hummus is a good choice for us. I have made this recipe several times now and I think it's worth sharing again—with a few tips I've learned along the way. 

I have shared this same recipe before, but yesterday I used the recipe more as a guide and didn't worry quite so much about measuring ingredients, which made the process faster. I just used 2 lemons this time and did not measure the juice. We have eaten it before and I knew a little more lemon flavor or a little less would still suit our tastes.

This time I had a different brand of chick peas. I am thinking that might be the reason that I ended up adding nearly all the liquid from one can back to the mix instead of the 4 tablespoons the recipe called for. Maybe the beans were not as soft as before? The point is, for this kind of recipe, you just have to trust your own judgement. It took that much extra liquid to let the bean mix blend. That's a crazy extra amount but it needed it. Just remember to add a little at a time. You cannot "un-add" extra liquid.

I had a great thought while I was getting out ingredients. Could a  jar of minced garlic replace fresh cloves? It worked fine and cut out a couple of steps. Yeah for faster! I had been dipping fresh garlic cloves in boiling water to remove the raw taste. This is a better solution.

When you get it all blended together, taste it before you take it out of your food processor or blender. Yesterday I added some extra tahini paste, mostly because there were about two tablespoons left in the jar–not enough for another recipe and I wanted to use it up. Because I had added so much extra liquid, the hummus needed a little more seasoning. I put in a few more shakes of hot sauce and a little more salt.

When 5:00 came, I was ready. No searching for cookies or chips. (Not that there are any in the house at the moment.) This was a healthy snack that kept me from starving before dinner. That's exactly what I needed. When Baby Sister is here this summer, I'll be sure to have plenty of this on hand. She loves it, too.


2 teaspoons jarred minced garlic (or to 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

Using a food processor or blender, blend all ingredients until coarsely pureed. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Farm In Spring

“The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.”
― Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Call It Like It Is

After two weeks of over-indulgence, we are ready for more vegetable focused meals. It was great fun to try out new restaurants in the midwest and to enjoy special meals that Mommy made. Then we came home in time for Easter and a birthday weekend with Jessica. More wonderful meals. (How many desserts did we eat last weekend?) So on Monday when I finally made it to the grocery store, my shopping cart was filled mostly with vegetables.  

I've made salads, oven roasted vegetables and green smoothies. And it's only Wednesday morning. The cauliflower was bought to try out a brussels sprout/cauliflower dish later this week. But my email yesterday happened to contain a recipe for "diet mashed potatoes."

I have made "let's-substitute-mashed-cauliflower-for-potatoes" recipes before and never loved them. But this one had a little more going for it in terms of seasonings. And it was still easy. So half of my head of cauliflower went to this recipe for last night's supper. It's much better than other versions I've tried before. Flavorful—and healthy. I can just feel the vitamins rushing through my body!

But let's be real and call it what it is. I think it sets up false expectations to call it fake mashed potatoes. It looks like potatoes but it does not taste or feel like potatoes. It's good in its own right. Daddy-O stirred some shredded Cheddar cheese into his. I'll do this one again. 


1 head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 lb), cut into large flowerettes
3 cloves garlic, peeled (or 1/1-2 tsp. of jarred minced garlic)
2 (14-oz cans) low-sodium chicken broth
salt, to taste,
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
chopped chives (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine cauliflower, garlic and broth. If cauliflower is not completely covered by broth, add water to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 12 minutes.

Pour broth into a measuring cup and save. Transfer cauliflower and garlic to a food processor and process until smooth, adding in some of the liquid to moisten mixture. (Enough to make it "blend" but not so much that you have soup. I added a little, then added a little more. You cannot "un-add.") Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in chives, if  using them. Serve warm.

Serves 4

I only made a half recipe last night and used a handheld immersion blender and decided that wasn't the best way to blend them. But it was easier than pulling out my big food processor. I just couldn't get them as smooth as I would have liked. A full recipe might have worked, but a half recipe was not deep enough in the pan for the immersion blender to work properly.

And with my seemingly permanent problem of not reading a recipe thoroughly, I added the salt and pepper to the broth in the pan and cooked it all together instead of seasoning it at the end. Does that make a difference? I don't know, but the cauliflower was so tasty I'll probably do it that way again. I used the jarred garlic and didn't measure, so I may have used a little more than the recipe says.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Blackberry Cobbler

Daddy (our son-in-law) loves blackberry cobbler, so while I was out visiting I made one for our early Easter dinner—which we enjoyed on Palm Sunday. Mommy cooked a huge delicious dinner so I figured I should add something to the meal. And of course, I picked something easy. Worked out well that it is also one of son-in-law's favorite desserts.

I have taken this cobbler to a couple of covered dish dinners and it's always a hit—a welcome change from the typical brownies, cookies and cakes. 

I'm not sure this is a good thing, but it was funny. Before Daddy-O took his first bite, I said, "Let me get a picture first!" I knew I wanted to blog this recipe. He is used to this. I snapped a quick picture. Then Baby Sister slides her ice cream over and says, "Mimi, do mine." So I did. 

Then I asked Daddy-O to pick up his spoon for one last photo. And again, Baby Sister pushes her dish over and holds her spoon just like Daddy-O and says, "Do mine, too." Oh, how closely they watch! (Just so you know I quickly made these photos as we waited at the table while Mommy, Big Sister and Daddy were up and busy, clearing the table and dishing up the desserts.) 


5 cups frozen blackberries ( 2 12-oz bags)
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 2-qt. baking oblong baking dish with PAM. Mix all the ingredients together and pour into the baking dish. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Stir the berry sugar mixture. Add topping.

1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter
cinnamon & sugar, mixed

Mix together sugar, flour and baking powder. Cut the butter into dry ingredients until it is thoroughly blended. Spread topping evenly over the filling mixture. Sprinkle the top with a cinnamon/sugar mixture. Return to oven for an additional 20 minutes. If it's not lightly brown, cook another 5 minutes and sometimes I'll turn the oven to BROIL for this last bit. Watch closely for this part.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Recipe tips:

The frozen berries Mommy found were in 10 ounces bags, so we used 2-1/2 bags.

If the berry mixture looks dry when you take it out of the oven the first time, stir in a couple tablespoons of hot water before you add the topping. It should be "juicy." Some berries just aren't as juicy as others, so you may have to "help" them.

The juicy filling will cook up around the edges of the topping. That is normal. You're going to scoop it up into dishes anyway.