Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Vegetables, Summer Storm


Like past summers, we are loaded with squash and zucchini again. So when I saw this recipe from Kraft for a grilled vegetable salad, I knew I had to try it. It was a different way to use up some of our garden harvest. It was delicious! (At least I loved, it--Daddy-O is not a fan of squash or zucchini.) I'll be making this again soon, maybe for our July 4th family gathering at the lake. It was such a nice change from salads with leafy greens. 

Little Sister was my garden helper yesterday morning. She picked the red tomatoes. And maybe one or two green ones. She also loves picking the leaves off the herbs. I had the very freshest mint tea in the afternoon. The leaves went straight from the plant to my glass. She told me she picked two and a half leaves. And that's exactly what she gave me.

Here is the salad we had for dinner last night. The flavors and colors of these vegetables were a perfect blend. And I loved the mix of textures. It's very lightly dressed so the taste of the vegetables and basil shine through. If you like squash, corn and zucchini, you need to try this. 

I only made minor changes to the original recipe, mostly to use what I had on hand. The original recipe did not call for brushing the vegetables with oil but Daddy-O usually does that when he grills vegetables for us, so he stuck to his usual method. It was really good and he didn't have to worry about anything sticking to the grill.


2 ears of white corn, on the cob, husks & silks removed
2 small yellow squash, each cut lengthwise into 3 slices
2 small zucchini, each cut lengthwise into 3 slices
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup Italian dressing 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush corn, squash and zucchini lightly with oil. Grill corn 15 minutes or until kernels are tender and browned, turning occasionally; cool slightly. Grill squash and zucchini about 5 minutes or until tender, turning halfway through grilling time.

Cut kernels off cobs. Place in medium bowl. Chop squash and zucchini. Add squash, zucchini and tomatoes to corn. Mix lightly.

Mix Italian dressing, lemon juice and garlic. Drizzle over vegetable mixture and mix lightly. Gently stir in Parmesan cheese and basil. (This salad does not require chilling.)

Serves 6-8

Edited to add: When we ate the leftover salad the next day, we decided we liked it better cold and after all the flavors had time to blend. And many times it would be easier to make it ahead. So, either way--warm or cold--will work. Both were good.

We were enjoying the vegetable salad and our favorite sloppy "jims" on the porch when a pop of lightening and loud thunder moved us quickly into the house. But the storm passed quickly and just after supper, this gorgeous rainbow appeared in the sky. 

Every time I see a rainbow it's a reminder. Of the story of Noah and God's promise. And of Maya Angelou's words — "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud."

A promise and a challenge. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer At The Farm


Hot summer days.

Walks in the woods. (Little Sister says "forest.") 

Cool creek water.

Lazy mornings.

 Big back yard.

Summer is half gone. The memories will last a lifetime.

And there is always cooking. I made lots and lots of this pasta salad last week for the kids working with the Salkahatchie project. And this past weekend, I made it again for us. It keeps for a few days and seems to get better each time we eat it.


16-oz. box of rotini pasta, cooked and drained
14-oz. bottle Italian salad dressing 
3-4 tablespoons McCormick's Salad Supreme seasoning
about 4-5 cups of fresh vegetables, cut up

Stir all ingredients together and chill for at least an hour. Better if made the day before.

I used a mix of broccoli, grape tomatoes halved, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, fresh corn (cooked and cut off the cob), diced onion, celery, carrots and chopped fresh parsley. Blanch the broccoli florets before adding to salad for a brighter color.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Is Flying By

Last week was Father's Day? Only a week ago? Really? Hard to believe because much has happened since then. Big Sister was at camp all week. Baby Sister (who is hardly a baby anymore) kept us busy at home. Their dad made it here for this weekend and we had possibly the best dessert ever last night—Banana Pudding Ice Cream. I'll post the recipe at the end.

On Saturday while everyone else was out and about, the girls were hanging out here with me. We made a trip to the basement to look for a marble game and found something better. Big Sister found a prom dress that Mommy had worn. And it fit! Of course, her little sister wanted to dress up, too, so we found a baby day gown that I had made years ago. Big Sister added some sparkly earrings and they were ready to treat me to a formal music concert.

Today yielded its own surprises. Baby Sister (I think it's time to call her Little Sister) wore a smocked dress to church—a dress I had made for her Aunt Jessica over 20 years ago. The dress is still so pretty. But the big surprise was when this sweet girl joined her mommy at the microphone to sing "Jesus Loves Me" just after Mommy finished her offertory solo this morning. Little Sister's first solo! Not bad for someone that has not quite reached her third birthday.

And now to the ice cream recipe. It's another recipe from the Eat At Home blog. I have found her recipes to be ones I like. But this one has to be the best. It meets my usual requirements that if I make it, it must be easy and quick and not need too many ingredients. The only complaint I heard last night is that it didn't make enough! Get out that Cuisinart or KitchenAid ice cream maker that you haven't used in ages and try this one.

    makes about 1-1/2 quarts

1 can sweetened condensed milk (such as Eagle Brand)
2 cups half & half
3 tablespoons dry banana cream instant pudding mix
1 ripe banana, cut into quarters lengthwise, and sliced
1/2 cup broken vanilla wafers

Whisk together first three ingredients and pour into freezer container of your ice cream maker.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker directions.
During the last 5 minutes of churning, add banana and vanilla wafers.
When finished, pour ice cream into a container and put in the freezer until ready to serve. Or, you can served it "soft style" immediately after churning.

This recipe is featured in Meal Plan Monday #5 on

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day—celebrated with all of the family home for the weekend! (Well, we were missing a son-in-law, but he'll be here this coming weekend.) And the weather? It was as if I had placed an order for perfection. We had three lovely days for outside play.

There was time for backyard water fun and corn hole games. Much of our time was spent on the porch just visiting. It was a rare treat for us to have both daughters here at the same time. 

Baby Sister was in heaven because she had lots of people to play with her all weekend.

And there was time for good food—chicken pie for dinner one night, fancy burgers the next night. Plus, there were a couple of pecan pies and homemade peach ice cream for desserts. Jessica had made these burgers for us last summer and we loved them. This was a good weekend for a repeat. The recipe is from Cooking Light. 


5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced red onion
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-oz) package sliced mushrooms
1-1/2 lb ground sirloin
Cooking spray

1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 garlic clove, minced

6 (1-1/2 oz) whole wheat hamburger buns
1-1/2 cups baby arugula (or leaf lettuce)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add 2 tsp olive oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add onion and thyme; cook 17 minutes or until golden and very tender, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine, vinegar and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook for 6 minutes, until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove onion mixture from pan.

Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 3 tsp. oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and 1/4 tsp salt. Saute for 8 minutes or until mushrooms brown and liquid mostly evaporates.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Coarsely chop 1 cup of the onion mixture and stir the chopped mixture into ground beef. Make six 1-inch-thick patties. Press a nickel-size indentation in the center of each patty. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Cook burgers on grill for 4 minutes on each side, or until done.

Combine mayonnaise, blue cheese and garlic in a small bowl and mash well with a fork. 

Spread top halves of buns with mayo mixture. On the bottom half of bun, place arugula leaves and burger patties. Top burgers with onion mixture and about a 1/4 cup of mushrooms. Place top half bun of burger.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summertime--Where The Living Is Busy

This summer, I am blogging less—living more. We have a 2-year-old and a 12-year-old in our house. So things stay really busy here. We have played every game a small child can think of. We have sung every song she knows and made up some new ones. She's likely to head straight to the piano in the mornings, even before I've brushed her hair. And that's okay, because she's at Mimi's house. Plus, I certainly don't want to discourage her creativity.

But yesterday as I was racing to stay one step ahead of her busy little hands that were grabbing everything, I laughed when I saw what she was about to pull off the bench in the music room. The song on the top is my theme song for this summer—Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You

We do love that she is so curious and it is fun to watch her explore everything around her and absorb each new bit of information. But it also reminds us how much older we are than when our own little girls were this age.

One of the best games she plays is "dress-up"where she clomps around in Mommy's shoes. It's so loud as those hard heels hit our wooden floors that I know exactly where Baby Sister is and I can sit down for a couple of minutes and rest!

Big Sister helped me with errands yesterday morning. They included a trip to Target and maybe the best purchase we made was a water table for the back yard. Baby Sister played here for almost two hours. Not sure you understand the importance of that sentence. TWO HOURS in one spot. No chasing.

And while all this is going on, we still need clean clothes and food on the table. Yesterday before I realized it, I washed Daddy-O's clothes in Dreft. I really don't mind him smelling like a baby. But I hope his friends won't notice.

I'm always looking for easy meals to cook so I have quite a collection of recipes that are simple Last night I tried a new one. Everyone declared this a "keeper." My definitions of an easy recipe is one that requires little preparation and then can cook unattended. This Oven Baked Fajita dish met the requirements. I tweaked the cooking instructions slightly from the recipe I saw somewhere online. 


1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (cut against "the grain)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used Rotel Mild)
1 medium onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken strips in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.

In a small bowl (I used a custard cup) combine the oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, orgegano and salt. Drizzle the spice mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. Add the undrained tomatoes, peppers and onions to the dish. Stir to combine.

Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. (I stirred the mixture after 25 minutes to get the peppers and onions down into the liquid and in the last 5 minutes, they cooked nicely.)

We rolled our chicken fajita mixture and toppings up in a whole wheat tortilla. We used refried beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and taco sauce. And I made a yellow Mexican rice for the side dish. Baby Sister got a cheese quesadilla for her supper. It was easy to make something for her from what we were having.

And while all of this is going on, I actually am getting caught up on some Yesterukes (my ukulele band) work. I hired Big Sister to be my summer intern. She has been at work for a couple of days scanning in hundreds of pages of music, helping us to get organized. She is tremendous help here in many ways. Not sure we could keep up with Baby Sister without her around.

This weekend is Father's Day. Jessica and her friend will be here tonight for the weekend. Better go finish my grocery list and head to the store. We will have a full house for a few days. Looking forward to the fun!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Worked Like A Charm

Life is a three-ring circus here at the moment. But, isn't everybody's? All the time? I'm just having to re-learn how to cook while not stepping on toys all over the kitchen floor and while having a pint-size helper who wants to see what's cooking on the stove and help stir everything. But I did have supper ready on time tonight and it was delicious. Crockpot cooking to the rescue again!

In those few minutes before everything was done, I sat down at the kitchen table to practice my ukulele. Today I was working straight from my computer screen instead of printed song sheets. It wasn't long before I realized Baby Sister was playing from her computer, too. She would strum some, then type some. Just like Mimi. I had forgotten how closely little ones watch everything you do.

Here is the recipe I tried tonight. I saw it on Pinterest and I was intrigued by using the mixer to shred the pork. I had my doubts about that. But it worked like a charm. Look at my photos! File this one away for a day when you need a quick, easy meal.


6 boneless center cut pork chops
1/2 cup water
spices (I used Weber's Sweet & Tangy BBQ seasoning. Use whatever you like.)
chopped onions (I just used 1/2 of a large onion)
half bottle BBQ sauce of choice 

Pour water and some BBQ sauce into slow cooker, stir well. 
Place one layer of chops inside slow cooker. (
Mine allowed for three across.) Sprinkle with spices.  
Put some sauce and onions on top of first layer, then add another layer of chops, sprinkle with spices, and add more onions and sauce. Cook on LOW for 7-8 hours. 

When done, use a slotted spoon and transfer the cooked chops into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater. (I read that as KitchenAid.) Mix on low until the pork is shredded to the level you want. (If your mixer bowl is smaller, do it in two batches.)

The meat has flavor, but it's still rather plain, so you'll probably need to add more sauce. Unless you're the person who likes it plain. We have both kinds of people in our house. This way everyone can suit themselves. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use two forks and shred it by hand, like I've always done. Until tonight.

You can find the original recipe at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Music, Meals, Munchkins


For four days this week, I had the privilege of being one of the music makers for Team Ecology—an end-of-year event for every third grader in our county. They spent a day learning about how to take care of the earth.

Three times each day, a group of children and their leaders came to the cabin area of the Joe Adair Outdoor Education Center to pick up their bag lunch and find a spot at a picnic table or on a hay bale to eat their lunch and listen to our music.

Big Sister went with me the last day and was our photographer. (Her school in the midwest ended last week.) It was just nice to be outside. I must admit that my hands are sore this morning from the hours of playing. Kind of glad they get to rest today.

This was also our first full week with everyone at the farm. Our schedules are beginning to mesh and we are finding our new routine. Baby Sister was beyond thrilled to be with Daddy-O and his tractors. Daddy-O was pretty happy about it, too.

Baby Sister loves everything at the farm. Except having to watch out for fire ants. That just slows her down. We are amazed at how her vocabulary has grown in the last few months. And as we watch the weather news from their part of the country, we are glad they are here with us.

During these really busy times, easy meals are a must. Slow cooker meals are good for these days, but oven meals can be the next best thing. One night during our full week was one of my "no recipe/let's see what I have that would go together" dinners. I looked to see what was in the pantry and made a quick stop at the store to pick up chicken to add to what I already had. 

This was in the oven minutes after I got home. There was an entire hour to do something else while it cooked unwatched. The family loved it. There was only one tiny piece of chicken left after supper. The sauce has a kick to it. Not terribly hot, but as Baby Sister says, "It's SPICY!"


1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I also added 1 chicken breast, cut into pieces)
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 can of pineapple tidbits, drained
1 bottle Sweet Pineapple Hawaiian-style barbecue sauce (Target brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place chicken in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle bell pepper, carrots, and pineapple over the chicken. Pour enough barbecue sauce (about 2/3 of the bottle) over chicken to cover.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes longer.

I served this with yellow rice, steamed broccoli and fresh fruit. I might try a making my own Hawaiian barbecue sauce. I'm looking at recipes now. That would help for times when I don't have bottled sauce on hand. But I will definitely make this again.