Monday, June 30, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake!

Last Friday I baked a chocolate pound cake, trying to get a step ahead for our family gathering at the lake on July 4th. You cake bakers know that it is standard to alternately add the dry and wet ingredients as you mix. But in between each addition, I had to go make toast, or slice an apple, or pour juice, or wipe up the spilled juice, or ..........

So each time I got back to the mixer, I couldn't remember where I was in the process. Fingers crossed that we will indeed have dessert on July 4th. (I have bought cookies as a back-up.)

Well...all things considered, it turned out okay. A little lopsided, but at least it looks like cake. It is safely in the freezer for our celebration.


1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon cocoa, sifted
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream butter and shortening. Add sugar and cream together thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. (I sift the cocoa straight into the flour.) Add flour mix and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Add vanilla.
Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Cool on rack for 15 minutes. Then turn cake out and let it cool completely.

One tip–I so rarely have whole milk on hand, that I more often use a small can of evaporated milk to bake this. Just mix the canned milk and water half and half to make one cup.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Life With A Little

I had forgotten what life with a three-year-old in residence is like. I was a stay-at-home mom, so I'm sure this is what I did. I remember it was hard sometimes, but I have forgotten the specifics. Little Sister is at the "why" stage of life. Last night we had turkey for dinner. "What is this?" "Turkey," I answered. "Why?" "Because it's not chicken." "Why?" All day long. But the tiresome parts (that would be answering the "why" question about 47 times a day) are balanced by the fun parts.

"Mimi, you need to make more hummingbird juice." Our hummingbird feeder was empty.

"Have you seen the light flash?" That took me a while, after scanning the pasture at dusk, to figure out she wanted a flashlight.

"Ugh! Baby just "bless you'd" all over me. I can see "bless you" on my arm!" Always the first to say "bless you" when someone sneezes, Little Sister thinks that's what you call a sneeze.

She keeps it interesting, for sure.

Nearly all of our meals have been here at home this summer. Taking Little Sister and three-month-old Baby Girl is way more effort than cooking a meal. But I have looked for quick meals, easy meals and kid-friendly meals.

This recipe was a favorite of out girls when they were growing up. And Little Sister got excited when she found out we were having it for dinner a few nights ago. She loves it as much as they did. Not fancy, but if you are feeding kids, give it a try.

The recipe came from a magazine ad for Kraft barbecue sauce and Hungry Jack biscuits. A magazine ad from years and years ago. The name was Barbecue Flat Jack, so named (I think) because of the Hungry Jack biscuits. Well, over the years, in our house it morphed into Barbecue Flapjack. And so we just call it that now even though it has nothing to do with pancakes!


1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1/4 chopped onion
1/2-3/4 cup barbecue sauce (you don't want the meat "soupy")
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (10-count) can of flaky biscuits

Preheat oven to 375 degreese. In large skillet, brown ground beef and onion. Drain. Stir in BBQ sauce and Tabasco. Simmer while preparing crust.
Separate biscuits and place into an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish to make a crust. Press over bottom and 1 inch up the sides to form crust.
Spread hot meat mixture over dough. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Garden Glory

Long hot summer days are here. There isn't a much better way to cool off than the way Little Sister does it—playing in the "sprinkles." Daddy-O said he knew he had put in the irrigation system for a reason. This may be the best use ever.

Our garden this year is a small one and much of it is wilting in the dry heat. Except for the herbs. I've always figured they are cousins to weeds. Since I have a brown thumb instead of a green one, I limit my gardening to the herbs.

But even with the lack of rain, our garden has yielded enough zucchini and squash and cucumbers to keep us in summer vegetables. And the garden next door has provided potatoes and onions. Publix and Bilo have filled in the gaps.

A side dish at a favorite restaurant we enjoyed while I was doing my grandmother tour of duty in the midwest gave me an idea for a new way to cook the ever-abundant squash and zucchini. They served just zucchini cut into a large dice and cooked with a quick saute. I've done my version twice in the last four days.  If I didn't have to feed the other people in this house, I'd have eaten it all myself. It's not really a recipe, but here is what I did:


Cut assorted vegetables into 1/2-inch cubes. (I quartered the squash and zucchini lengthwise, then cut 1/2-inch slices.) Heat 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add vegetables to hot skillet. Season with House Seasoning (or salt, pepper & garlic powder.) Let vegetables cook until the bottom begins to get a little color, then turn with a spatula. Continue browning, then turning until everything is tender crisp. The really good flavor comes from the golden brown color. 

The top photo I made with zucchini, squash, onion, carrot, celery, corn, green peppers, and grape tomatoes (halved.)

The bottom photo has new potatoes (let these cook about 5 minutes before adding the rest,) zucchini, squash, red pepper, celery, onion, and corn.

And the cucumbers are ready, too. If I could only have two garden vegetables, I would choose cucumbers and tomatoes. I'm a little sad for those folks who can't just go pick these in the back yard. 

Here is our favorite way to enjoy the cucumbers. This is as quick and easy as it is delicious. 


1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 slightly-rounded tablespoons sugar
sprinkle of salt 
cucumbers, peeled & thinly sliced
sweet onion, thinly sliced & separated into rings

Mix vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour over cucumbers and onion. Place in refrigerator for an hour or longer before serving.

We didn't have an hour before lunch today, so I can tell you that 30 minutes in the vinegar mixture was pretty good. We'll enjoy the rest at supper tonight. 

I always do these in a glass bowl because I think the vinegar mix is better that way. Today I got to use my new favorite kitchen storage containers--the glass bowls with Easy-Find lids from Rubbermaid. I am remembering how much better things keep in glass instead of plastic. I found some at Target and another little set of small ones at the grocery store. 

Now we are waiting on the tomatoes. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Days At The Lake

Before Big Sister left for her very busy summer with visits and activities across the country, we took all the sisters and their mommy to the lake for a few days. 

It was fun to have some time for play with them.

There was lots of swimming...

....and floating and paddling.

Big Sister learned to ski. 
And found out how sore you are the day after!

Boat trips were daily fun.

Fair-haired Little Sister had to be extra careful in the sun.
Rest assured, Baby Girl and Mommy were with us at the lake, too,
but they mostly stayed in the shade on the porch.

Big Sister and Little Sister took a trip with me to a 
French restaurant for lunch one day.
We left Mommy, Daddy-O and Baby Girl at the lake.
Baby Girl isn't up to French restaurants yet..

Little Sister isn't ready for ski lessons.
So Daddy-O gave her a boat driving lesson instead.

We ate all of our meals on the porch. Daddy-O grilled hot dogs one night!
As the days drew to a close, there usually was a little
before-bedtime fishing, and lightening bug catching.

There are big, fabulous homes on the lake now. Ones with granite countertops and hardwood floors and spa tubs. There are folks who retire here from northern climes and live here full-time. But we are "original equipment." When this house was built over 50 years ago, people just wanted a little place for a weekend get-away and a place to go fishing. 

We did add the huge screened porch a few years ago, but the house is pretty much like it was in the early 1960s. And we are happy with it this way. I guess a real estate person would call it "rustic." We call it perfect. (Okay. So I have been known to call it "scruffy.") The sisters are the fourth generation to enjoy summer days here. I'm sure that was never a thought when their great-grandfather bought this house soon after it was built. But I'll bet he would be happy now if he could see these little girls having so much fun.

Little Sister said it best every morning soon after she woke up. "I love summer days." 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pie And Ice Cream

Daddy (who is already in another state after a couple of nights here) asked for blueberry pie for dessert yesterday. Of all the pies we've made_peach cobbler, apple pie, chocolate chip pecan pie, peanut butter pie, etc.–he wanted one that neither Mommy or I had ever made. We didn't have a tried-and-true recipe. But it was Father's Day! How could she tell him no? So it was Google to the rescue. Mommy found a recipe with 158 reviews, most of them 5-stars. She figured it would have to be good.

And it was delicious! What we didn't think about was that when you make a blueberry pie, you don't have to peel peaches or apples. This turned out to be super easy in addition to being super delicious. This has been added to our "keeper" recipe list.

The ice cream recipe is the one that my parents used for years and years. I grew up in a family that would make ice cream at the drop of a hat. Ours was usually made with fruit of some sort, but this is the base recipe that the others come from. Again, with no fruit to peel or prepare, it's quick to stir together. It turned out to be a perfect summer dessert.


5 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (15-oz) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar

  • Sprinkle berries with lemon juice; set aside.
  • Fit half of pastry in a 9-inch pie plate according to package directions.
  • Combine 1 sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon. Add to berries. Mix well.
  • Pour into pastry shell and dot with butter.
  • Unfold remaining pastry shell on a lightly floured surface; roll gently with rolling pin to remove creases.
  • Place pastry over filling; seal and crimp edges.
  • Cut slits in top of crust to allow steam to escape.
  • Brush top of pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar.
  • Bake a 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cover edges with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM (for 4 or 5 quart ice cream churn)

3 (12-oz) cans evaporated milk
2-1/2 cups sugar
Egg Beaters to equal 3 eggs 
2-1/2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh whole milk

Mix first 4 ingredients.  Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into 4 or 5-quart ice cream churn container.  Add fresh milk to the “fill” line.  Freeze according to churn directions.

You can use this vanilla recipe and one of these add-ins for other flavors.

For all of the following flavors, use 2 tablespoons vanilla instead of 2-1/2 and add the fruit to the vanilla recipe.

Strawberry, Peach, or Banana--3 to 4 cups fruit, mashed (I stir part of the sugar into the mashed berries or peaches and let it sit until the juices have released)
Peanut Butter---Substitute a 12- oz. jar of peanut butter (regular or crunchy) for fruit.  Leave out eggs.  Mix jar of peanut butter with one can of milk before adding to remaining ingredients.
Cherry---Substitute 2 jars of maraschino cherries and juice for fruit.

Years ago we made ice cream with raw eggs. There are now health concerns about that practice, so I switched to Egg Beaters, which is a pasturized egg product. If you have compromised health, use your own judgement about the Egg Beaters. You might want to look for a recipe that starts with a cooked custard or a recipe with sweetened condensed milk and no eggs. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Feast For Fathers

Daddy (of the sisters) & Daddy-O (king of the castle)

They came by plane (Mommy and Baby Sister) and they came by cross-country car trip (Daddy, Big Sister and Little Sister) and thanks to stormy weather, the car contingent arrived at the farm before the air travelers. But by yesterday, everyone was at the farm. So we celebrated. We celebrated being together and safe travels. And of course, we celebrated Father's Day.

We didn't get home from the airport pick-up until the wee hours of Saturday morning and then Mommy and I were up the rest of the night with the littlest traveler who had a hard time getting settled. So I tried to think of an easy menu for lunch today. We liked this one so much, I'm putting the entire meal here for future reference. Everything was simple. The two salads could be made ahead. The vegetables just required minimal preparation. The biscuits are pretty easy (the bonus is the dozen unbaked biscuits I put in the freezer for another meal) and oh, so good.  

I'm going to give you the link for each recipe. Yes, these are all ones I've made before. And they are among our favorites. We all thought this was just right for a summer meal.

Corn On The Cob

Roasted Asparagus*

Blueberry Pie & Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
(I'll post the recipes for these tomorrow.)

We managed well for a tired bunch of folks. 
Tomorrow they can think about unpacking the suitcases.

I just realized that I've never put this recipe here. 


1 bunch of asparagus, washed and tough ends trimmed off
olive oil

Lay asparagus spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. (I use my hands and roll the spears around to coat with oil.) Sprinkle with house seasoning. Roast in hot oven (400-425 degrees) for 18-20 minutes, or until beginning to brown. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lazy Lake Days

I've been stuck in low gear for weeks now. Finding it hard to get going. So it was nice to spend some time at the lake last weekend not doing much of anything. There was time to read, time to rest and time to enjoy being with Jessica and Daddy-O. That was enough for a few days. I really hope this summer has plenty of lake weekends in it. 

The giant coffee cup is mine. 
Saves walking back up the hill for a refill.

We've been at this spot on the lake for so many years. Daddy-O has been coming since he was a boy. Some of the "wild and crazy" teenagers who grew up spending summers at the lake are still here. But they are at the lake now, calling out to their grandchildren(!), "Be careful!" Don't do that!" "Time to come in...supper's ready." Time flies.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dinner In A Dish, In A Dash

Every time I try a new recipe now, Daddy-O checks to see if it's one he can make when I go away again. Well, I have no plans for another long-term absence, but I guess you never know. Anyway, this easy dinner is one he liked and he was sure it's within his cooking range.

It's a good basic meal—everything in one dish. Takes just a few minutes to get it ready for the oven and then for an hour, you can do something else. If you take meals to friends and neighbors when they need one, I think this is would be one worth consideration. Nearly everyone likes chicken, beans and potatoes. 


3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
2 (15-oz) cans French-style green beans, drained
red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 packet zesty Italian dressing mix
1/2 stick butter, melted (the recipe actually called for 1 whole stick)

Arrange chicken in a long row down the center of a 9x13-inch dish. Arrange beans on one side of chicken and potatoes on the other. Sprinkle dry dressing mix over the top of all. Drizzle with melted butter. Cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees (preheated) for 1 hour.

I forgot to add the butter (oops) because I read the recipe in the morning and didn't look at it again when it was time to cook supper. I forgot about the butter. It was good without the butter. It just might be a little better with the butter. It's your call.