Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Drizzly Day Dinner

Quick Chicken Soup

The temperatures here have been cooler and today it rained. Gray skies and soup seem to go together. Sounded like a supper plan to me.

Our cows in the pasture.

I pulled a quart of chicken stew from the freezer. Our church sells it a few times a year to raise money for missions. I love having it in the freezer, ready to thaw. This was our last quart. It will be a few weeks before they make more. Kind of hated to use that last quart yet.

Then I remembered a chicken soup recipe from years and years ago.  It came from my secretary (Judy, if you are reading this, thank you for the recipe!) and I made it a good many times back then. But like many good recipes, it was set aside as I tried new recipes and then it was almost forgotten. I put the church stew back in the freezer and decided to try this soup recipe again. 

The soup recipe was in "the book." All the recipes in it are good ones. My mother gave me a blank book one year for Christmas. The red plaid cover looked Christmasy, I guess. I started keeping my favorite recipes here, along with notes about where I found the recipe or who gave it to me. I also included menus and listed guests that I had entertained. And thanks to my very first secretary, I dated everything. Soon after I started my first job as a home economist, Vennie told me to always put a date on everything I did. She told me, "It won't seem important now, but later you'll be glad you did." That's been good advice over the years.

My red plaid book is falling apart now. But, oh what memories are in there. For many years I told my daughters that if the house caught on fire, someone needed to grab the red plaid book on the way out. I still think it would be high on my list of things to rescue.

So how did the quick chicken soup compare to the church's chicken stew? It was almost as good. (Okay, Mommy--this is close to the church recipe. Now you can have chicken stew way out where you live! But you'll need to double the recipe for your household.) I'm glad I remembered this recipe. The original has been tweaked a little to suit me now—less salt, less butter.

QUICK CHICKEN SOUP (or STEW, if you wish)

2-1/2 cups Swanson's low-sodium chicken broth
3 medium potatoes, peeled & diced
3 medium onions, peeled & diced
2 (4.5-oz) cans Swanson's chicken, drained 
1 (8-oz) can whole kernel corn  (I used 1/2 or so of cup frozen corn)
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste

Put broth, potatoes, and onions in a pan and cook 20 minutes, or until vegetables are done. Mash with potato masher. Add chicken, corn and butter and cook uncovered, until thickened. (I cooked it about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally.) Add salt, pepper and milk until desired consistency is reached. (We like ours thick, like stew.) Heat to boiling and remove from heat immediately.

If you refrigerate and reheat later (like I did last night), be careful not to scorch it as you reheat. Keep a watch on it and stir. 

Recipe Notes:

Yes, it is "quick" compared to starting the soup with raw chicken. It really is quick to put together and then it can pretty much simmer unattended while you do other things in the kitchen. I still wouldn't wander far away.

The original recipe called for 1 can Campbell's condensed chicken broth, plus 1 can of water. It also used 1/2 stick butter. I just couldn't do it.

If the thought of canned chicken bothers you, you could use a cup of cooked, diced chicken. I usually have some in my freezer, so it would still qualify as a quick recipe. But you might be surprised that the canned chicken is good in this recipe. It's awfully easy to take a couple of cans off the shelf and just add it to the soup.

When you add the milk, do it a little at a time. You can't "un-add" the milk. We like ours thick, more like a stew. But add more milk if you want it soup-like.

We like ours with saltine crackers and sweet pickles on the side. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken

We were in need of a quick easy supper one night last week. I found a recipe online and all the ingredients were in my pantry. The original recipe was a slow cooker recipe for pulled chicken. I'll try that soon, but I had chicken legs in the refrigerator. We like chicken legs and they are always such a bargain compared to the other packages of chicken.

I have no problem with straight-out-of-the-bottle barbecue sauce. But this bumped it up a notch. It was a nice change from using just plain bottled sauce and almost as easy. And there are days when an oven meal is what I need. You could put potatoes in the oven to bake along side the chicken and your dinner would all be done at once. Why didn't I think of that last week?


5 or 6 chicken legs (remember I'm only cooking for the two of us)
1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 tablespoons Zesty Italian salad dressing
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil for easy clean up. Place chicken legs in pan.
Mix barbecue sauce and remaining ingredients. Spoon over chicken. Bake for 1 hour, or until done.

Looked out the kitchen window last week and saw this bright color. I know they are weeds by some people's definition. But I can hardly call anything this beautiful as "weed." The morning glories have taken over the hydrangea at the moment. That's just fine with me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


The lake after Labor Day is totally different from the lake during summer. Only a few boats are on the water. Mostly fishermen. The air this weekend definitely held the promise of fall. (Yes, the calendar says fall has arrived, but it takes longer for it to make it to us here in the South.) Instead of carrying an icy drink down with me, I took a mug of hot tea to the pier. And my knitting. How pleasant to sit in the sun on a cooler day and knit as the sun went down.

The most traffic we saw on the lake this weekend were the geese that paddled by, honking for all they were worth. They are loud birds. 

Pattern: Honey Cowl
Yarn: Madelinetosh DK   Colorway: Smokestack
Needles: size 8

This knitting is done now. Finished it soon after we got home. It's for Big Sister. (She's 14 tomorrow!) A cowl she wished for. I'm not sure I'd want to spend this much time knitting and HOPE she would like it. When they're 14, you'd best ask. Fingers crossed I'll get a photo of her wearing it soon.

See? Our trees are still green. We will enjoy the last of these almost-summer days. Fall will find us soon enough.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mimi's Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf

I have been making this meatloaf for over 30 years. When we first got married, Daddy-O said he didn't like meat loaf. But I made it anyway. (He's good to eat nearly anything I make whether he loves it or not.) He was surprised to find that he did like this meatloaf, which was not like the kind he had grown up with. Lucky me, because I love meat loaf.

I made it one night last spring when I was on my long stay at Mommy's house. Little Sister was very explicit in telling everyone, "I like Mimi's meatloaf. I don't like Daddy's meatloaf." She said this over and over and over. And over.

Her poor Daddy—he was not the one who made the meat loaf.  But she saw him take it out of the oven and put it on her plate. She held him responsible for the mushy meat loaf her mommy had made. He kept trying to explain to her that he didn't make it. But, it is very hard to reason with a three-year-old!

We finally figured out why Mommy's meat loaf kept falling apart. She used my recipe exactly. But she was putting it in a loaf pan to bake and all the juices and liquid were trapped in the loaf, making it fall apart. I make mine in a LOAF SHAPE, and then put it in a baking pan, about 7x11-inches. Any excess liquid can cook out of the meat and into the pan. Works like a charm.

The other reason I like this recipe is that I get two dinners for one mixing. It makes one loaf to bake and one loaf to freeze. And the frozen loaf comes straight out of the freezer and goes into the oven frozen–—no need to thaw before you bake it. Many time I can't plan far enough ahead to thaw overnight.


2 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 envelope Lipton's onion soup mix
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (or 3/4 cup dry crumbs)
2 eggs
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients well. (I use my hands.) Shape into two loaves. Place one loaf in a baking dish (not a loaf pan) and bake uncovered for 1 hour, or until done. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Wrap second loaf in heavy-duty foil, sealing carefully and freeze. Label & date.

To bake frozen loaf:  Unwrap and bake, uncovered at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. Lower oven temp to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.

Sometimes I add a topping of 1/3 cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of dry mustard mixed well. (Actually, I don't measure this, but it gives you the idea.) Spread it over the meat loaf for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

I just read another blog—GoodnightGram's Blog—who just wrote about a community meat loaf supper. I don't know where GoodnightGram lives, but must not be near us. Community or church dinners or fund raiser meals here are most likely barbecue. Maybe we should try something different!

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Been A Long, Long Time

We just spent the most wonderful weekend in the North Carolina mountains.
The weather was perfect. The food was delicious.

While we were out visiting some nearby sites, we happened up on a friend
playing a set at the Heritage Weekend at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We also stopped by a favorite music store in Black Mountain
and this new uke followed me back home. 

We found another must-stop location as we wound our way down the mountain.
We bought apples, of course. And then spent quite a bit of time trying to 
figure out how they got the John Deere on top of the silo.

And why were we away?
Today is our 35th wedding anniversary.

I love you, Daddy-O.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Button Jar

Sometimes a bargain really is a bargain. Almost 30 years ago, I bought a big bag of buttons for five dollars at a nearby outlet store. (The jar was a rescued Christmas cookie jar.) I sewed a lot back then and figured I could use at least some of these buttons. Little did I know how much we would use these buttons. Just not always like I was thinking. Every now and then I would find a few buttons for dresses that I was making for our little girls. 

But the button jar became more than "sewing supplies." Our girls learned to pour by scooping up buttons in a cup and pouring them into pans. They stirred and stirred on the days they made button soup. When her big sister went to school, little Jessica sat at the kitchen table and learned to count by putting buttons into paper cups with numbers I wrote on the side—one, two, three, four.... And she learned to sort and began to make patterns by lining them up. And still I would take out a few buttons for a shirt I was working on.

When Big Sister (granddaughter #1) started spending the weekend here as a preschooler, she found the button jar. At one point there were some giant buttons in the jar. She often made cakes by filling miniature loaf pans with pecans we picked up in the back yard. And then she put the biggest buttons on top of her "'cakes" to decorate them. Later, she opened a pie shop in our den (complete with menu signs and price lists) and became a seller of button pies. And still I would pull out buttons for a costume I was sewing.

This summer Little Sister (granddaughter #2) would pick up the jar and say, "Heavy" as she moved it to her play area for a little button cooking. And still I found buttons for a sweater I knitted for Baby Girl (granddaughter #3.) 

Pattern : Cradle Cardigan
Yarn:  Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (color-Tender)
Needles:  Size 5 

Pattern:  Baby Hat with Top Knot—Tegan
Yarn:  Debbie Bliss Cashemerino
Needles:  Sizes 3 & 6

This sweet little set is already boxed and ready to ship tomorrow to Baby Girl. She has grown so much since we saw her, that I'm hoping this is the right size. 

Baby Girl is too little to know that she's already benefited from the button jar. I couldn't believe that I found the perfect buttons to match this unusual shade of pink. One more time, the perfect buttons were in the button jar. I'm pretty sure there are enough buttons left for another thirty years. Might be the best five dollars I've ever spent.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life Is Good

Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin

As I was driving early this morning to a ukulele gig, a wild turkey and a black crow were walking down the highway, side by side. Kind of looked like they were buddies, out for a stroll. As I got up to the birds, they stepped aside and let me pass. I looked in the rearview mirror as I drove on, and sure enough, they were continuing their walk. For real.
Where else could I live and see sights like that? I love rural life. Now, on to the recipe.

After the ukulele band played, I headed home, knowing that supper would be easy tonight because I had put pork tenderloins in to marinate first thing this morning. If we had to pick one single recipe that was the only one I could share, I think this would be it. It is our son-in-law's favorite thing that I make.


Daddy-O handles the grilling chores here. He's good at it. And yes, he really uses a meat thermometer. It's the surest way to cook to the proper temperature.

I've posted this recipe on the blog a few years back, but I'm happy to post it again. It's just a really good, surefire recipe that's often a celebration meal for us. But tonight we just celebrated getting supper on the table. 


2-1/2 lb. pork tenderloins (usually one package contains 2 tenderloins and is about this weight)

3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup bourbon*
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced (I use 2 teaspoons of jarred minced garlic)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Rinse tenderloins and pat dry.

Combine soy sauce and remaining ingredients in a gallon ziploc plastic freezer bag or shallow dish. Add tenderloins. Seal bag or cover dish and chill 4-12 hours. Turn once or twice while they marinate. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade.

Grill, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400 to 500 degrees) for 30 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reads 155 degrees, turning occasionally. Remove from heat; cover with aluminum foil and let stand 10 minutes or until thermometer reads 160 degrees.

If you don't have a grill, or if it's raining, it's also good cooked in the oven.
Put tenderloins in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until thermometer reaches 160 degrees. Let rest before serving.

Tonight I served this with baked sweet potatoes and fried apples. I know there probably should have been something green on the plate, but this suited us just fine. I put one tenderloin in the freezer. (Wrap it properly.) I've done that many times. It's just as good later.

 *Someone gave us a bottle of black cherry bourbon as a gift. It is a really sweet bourbon. (So I'm told. I don't drink any kind.) We discovered that we can use this sweet bourbon and leave out the brown sugar. It tastes just like the usual way we make it. I've also eliminated the salt from the recipe. No one has noticed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Goodness On A Plate

Chicken Piccata

Sometimes I cook like I know what I'm doing. (As opposed to doing the quickest, easiest thing possible.) Last night was one of those nights. I didn't get home until later than planned, but I decided that cooking was the still better choice for us. Our dining-out choices around here are slim.

I had a package of chicken breasts that I needed to use. And a couple of days ago, a terrific sounding recipe appeared on Facebook from Plain Chicken. Chicken Piccata was not what I was planning when I bought the chicken, but this sounded so good—and I had all the other ingredients—that I changed my plan.

Plain Chicken said it was "restaurant quality." Well, it was better than a lot of the restaurant meals we've had! We will definitely make this again. And, if we ever had company over for dinner, this would be a great meal.

This is not a difficult recipe and it didn't take long. But there are a few more steps that most of my recipes. It will be easier if you get out all the ingredients and measure out everything before you start. Then the cooking process goes quickly.


4-6 chicken cutlets*
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 cup white wine or chicken broth
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I could only squeeze out 5)
tiny dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup brined capers
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Mix together flour, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces thoroughly in flour mixture, until well coated.

Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken piece—do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate. Repeat with other half of chicken pieces. Cover plate with foil and keep warm in oven while you prepare sauce.

Put garlic in pan and cook for one minute or less, being careful not to burn it. Add the wine (or broth,) lemon juice and capers (and red pepper flakes, if using) to the skillet. Use a spatula to scrape up browned bits from bottom. Reduce sauce by half. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Plate the chicken and pour sauce over.

*I had a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Buying the cutlets will definitely make this faster, but if you end up like I did, all is not lost. Cut the chicken breasts in half, horizontally. If these pieces are still thick, put pieces between plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until 1/4-inch thick.

While this dish doesn't call for it, I served this over whole wheat thin spaghetti. This was a good combination. It would also be okay without the spaghetti. It does not make a lot of sauce, so some sauce drizzled over the chicken on the plate would be fine, too. 

We have leftovers for tomorrow!
Leftovers make me happy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Green, Green, It's Green They Say

I've been feeling the need to get back to green smoothies for a while. This morning I finally made one. This is about the "greenest" of the green smoothies. I like how it tastes, but there is no confusing this one with ice cream or a milk shake. It tastes....well. It tastes green. It's a fresh clean taste. But if you are new to smoothie making, you might start with a more fruity one. I will usually throw spinach or kale into the fruit-based ones. This one is kind of the reverse—mostly green veggies with an apple thrown in. 

It only takes minutes to make this but it looks like a lot of work when you pull out the ingredients. You busy mamas might decide to take this counter full of vegetables and go ahead and bag up the amounts for several days worth of smoothies. (I might do this, too, in a bit.) You can add the apple as you make it.

You can use other blenders, of course. There are good blenders out there that cost less. The biggest difference is that my high power blender will blend it to a smoother consistency. And you might have to cut the apple and celery into smaller pieces with a less powerful machine. You don't have to spend a ton to make these. But I do love my Vitamix!

This recipe came from the Vitamix man I watched at Whole Foods soon after I got my Vitamix blender. I wanted to watch it in action and learn things that maybe I had missed looking at the book. I remember he said this smoothie was intended to sip on all day long—a constant blast of high-powered nutrients all during the day. He had a web site with all of his recipes. But last week when I wanted to look up this recipe, the site was in "suspended mode." I am so glad I had printed out the recipes when I first found them. 


1 cup water
a handful of spinach
a handful of baby kale
4-5 Romaine leaves OR 1/3 handful of parsley
a stalk of celery
an apple, quartered
5-6 pitted dates (be sure they are PITTED)
2 cups of ice

Place all ingredients into blender in the order listed. Blend, following instructions for your blender, until desired consistency is reached. 

I had one glass for breakfast and filled a container for later in the day. They never taste as good later as the freshly made one, but I'll give it a good shake and enjoy it "cold" instead of "slushy." I don't know who Ken is, but I thank him for sharing this recipe. I feel healthier already.

Drinking this smoothie made me think of the song---Green Green. I remember it from my high school days when I was a big fan of The New Christy Minstrels. Guess I'll just make today green through and through. The drink. The music. I might even find a green shirt to wear.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

At Summer's End

We took a few days off and spent Labor Day weekend at the lake.
I love waking up to see the sun dancing on the water.
A cup of coffee on our porch watching the early fishermen 
was a comfortable way to ease into the day.

There was a little fishing. Or, at least the pretense of fishing.
No fish were harmed in this activity.

It was so hot all weekend that getting in the lake every day was a necessity.

It felt deliciously cool when we got out.
At least temporarily.

We rode all over the lake to see all the changes that have happened this summer.
New houses. New vacation areas. New docks.

I knitted a little, but as the temps neared 100,
I put this wool away for later.

And we ended each day out on the pier.
We could sit here and watch the last of the summer skiers, 
listen to the children splashing across the lake,
and see the boats taking an evening cruise.

We hope to get to the lake a few more times before we close it up for the winter, but the lake activity will have slowed down drastically. Labor Day is the final big weekend. 

We watched little kids learning to ski. We watched adults skiing after dark. (That is crazy dangerous. Not to mention illegal.) We watched fishermen that were taking part in the bass tournament. The last weekend was extremely busy out on the water. It's great that all of this was going on because our television at the lake gets one channel--some of the time. The lake is our entertainment. 

Earlier in the summer, we enjoyed having our family here several times. It's fun to have little ones around to keep it lively. But a few days with just the two of us was nice, too. It was a time to rest and relax and reflect on the summer. Now, we are ready for fall.