Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shake It Up

I love walking through a kitchen store with all its gadgets. I've bought—and then discarded—so many kitchen doodads over the years. Most of the time I decided that just the basic items worked best. If you have decent knife skills, you don't need 7 different specialty choppers.

But every now and then you find a "keeper." This little salad dressing bottle is one of the good finds. You can easily make salad dressing without an official bottle, but this just makes is quick and easy to mix and then it's easy to store.

If you keep up with the news, you know that food manufacturers have struggled a bit as of late as people move away from processed foods. Good for us. I just read a list of processed foods you should stop using. Here in my kitchen, we have replaced nearly all of the overprocessed foods. But I'm guessing that if you are like me, the one thing we still keep on hand is bottled salad dressing. It's easy to use and it has a long shelf life. But it's really quick to make your own dressings.

I grew up with the homemade Thousand Island dressing that was just mayonnaise and ketchup and a splash of vinegar mixed together and maybe some salad cubes stirred in when Mother got fancy. It was delicious.

These days my tastes have moved toward lighter dressings. My personal favorite is balsamic vinaigrette.  On my handy-dandy bottle are five different recipes and I just pour in the ingredients up to the level markings and then shake. If you don't have this bottle, you can measure into a small jar. 


3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil (or about 1 tsp. of dried basil)
pinch of garlic
sale & pepper to taste

Measure into a small jar with a lid. Screw lid on tightly and shake vigorously until ingredients are mixed. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

You might enjoy the Balsamic dressing with this salad. It's a favorite of ours.


3/4 lb. flank steak
salt & pepper
1 or 2 heads romaine, chopped
2 cups red cabbage chopped
1 (15-oz can canellini beans (or other white beans) drained & rinsed
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Italian dressing (we used the balsamic vinaigrette)

Season flank steak with sale & pepper. Grill 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Let rest a few minutes, then cut thin, diagonal slices across the grain and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl, mix steak, romaine, cabbage, beans, peppers and parsley and toss with dressing. (We added feta cheese.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

From The Rising Of The Sun

This was the view from my back door this morning. Yesterday at the baby shower yesterday, my friend Vickey told me how much she loved seeing my sunrise photos on Facebook. I had nearly stopped because I thought people might be tired of seeing them. 

Already this morning, I've had a couple of comments on Facebook telling me how much they have missed the morning photos. I forget not everyone can see the morning sky as clearly as I can. Since many of you will never see the Facebook posts, I want to share here. Documenting the morning skies is another of my "hobbies."

I've been making these photos for years now.
I am an early riser by nature.

 And our kitchen is very open. Lots of windows.
So the first thing I see in the morning is the eastern sky.
Occasionally an afternoon sky sneaks in.

 The same view, over and over, for years.

 I have enjoyed the most spectacular show imaginable.

It's different every day.
Sometimes the sky changes so quickly that by the time
I remember where I put the camera, the colorful view has gone.

I love the quiet skies as much as the brilliant colored skies.

Some days begin gently.

Some mornings predict storms.

 There are mornings when the colors are crazy.

These views only last seconds. If you blink, you miss it.
But often something even more spectacular appears.

I love that my backyard is so open.
If yours isn't, I'm happy to share my view.

 I like to photograph the plain skies as well as the bright ones.
It's nature reminding us that not every moment is supposed to be exciting.
We need balance.

One of my favorite songs begins,
"From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same..."

I only have a little point-and-shoot camera that fits in my jeans pocket.

I sometimes use a couple of setting adjustments—the twilight setting 
and the backlight correction for the rising sun pictures.

 How blessed I am to see this each and every day.

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive
 - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."
-  Marcus Aurelius  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Blue One!

Finally. Someone is having a boy. I don't know them well but there is a baby shower for them at church today. And I could not pass up the chance to knit something blue for a change. It rained all afternoon yesterday, so I stayed indoors and knitted this up in a hurry.

Since I seem to be in constant need of one more baby hat, I am designating this cute project bag as the "hat bag." It's exactly the right size. I'm going to keep the hat pattern, the right size circular needles and the double point needles in it. Now the next time I need a hat, all I need to add is the yarn and I'm ready to start. I bought this cute bag (called "A Bug's Life) from Jan Smiley at the knitting retreat. You can find her bags on Etsy.

At dinner last night, we were chatting and I mentioned that I am ready to knit something more challenging. I've made a lot of these simple hats lately. Daddy-O looked at me and smiled. He said, "I remember when making these hats WAS a challenge." And he's right. It would take me several days to make one. When I got to the top of the hat (that's the picture above with all the needles) I would go into another room to knit in solitude because I couldn't manage that part with anything that might distract me.

It's funny how when mastery of skills (of any kind) is slow, we can fail to see how much we have grown.  Sometimes we need a reminder of how far we've come. That we have made progress. Thank you, Daddy-O.

A cousin emailed this photo to me a few days ago. She said the little blonde girl on the right looked a lot like Little Sister. They both have curly blonde hair and a turned up nose and they both know how to strike a pose for the camera.  

Maybe Little Sister does looks like a little like me. How much fun for me to see this! (Where on earth did I learn that pose?)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blanket & BBQ

My "use what was already in the kitchen" supper last night was a good one. I have made this several times but it had been a while and I had forgotten how good. It also wins a prize for being super easy to make. Since I was determined to finish the baby blanket, I wanted a quick-to-fix meal. This was a good choice. My kitchen time was short and I finished the blanket while the chicken was in the oven.

Pattern: Pinwheel Blanket by Genia Planck
Yarn:  Berroco Comfort, Robin's Egg Blue
Needles:  size 8

This was fun to make (after the beginning few stitches—they were a pain in the patootie) and was a little quicker than the blankets I usually make. I think the round shape will work well in car seats and carriers. The edge is seed stitch and I-cord. There are many other edges you can use, but this has a tailored, classic look. Thanks to my Ravelry friend, Missy, who did this blanket with this edge before me. She gladly explained how she did it. She said she got the idea from her Ravelry friend Paula. The knitting community is a generous one and is good about sharing ideas.

That gets my half-done knitting down to two pairs of socks that are both close to being done. I want to finish it all and empty each project bag. So that I can start all over again!

This recipe is mostly a guide. Last night I only had 4 chicken thighs and one carrot, so I added extra red pepper and pineapple and I used a smaller dish. I had chunks instead of tidbits this time. (And you could certainly use breasts, if you like white meat.) The part that stays the same is the cooking temperature and time. The Target brand sauce is a little "hot." Not crazy hot but it has a kick. Be aware if you don't like any kind of hot sauce.


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.

And for Janie, a reader, who asked about the sweet pink hat she saw on the last blog post—the yarn I used was Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK in the color Piglet (#001.) There are other shades of pink in this yarn, so if you like this one, check and make sure you choose the right pink. On the ball band, it only lists the "shade" number. This was shade 001.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Knit Another, Then Knit Some More

I should be doing something else. Really, I should. Like grocery shopping and cooking dinner. And there's always laundry waiting. But I can't seem to pull myself away from finishing up these projects that have been "nearly done" for a while. I want to get to end of my "in progress" knitting.

I have made so many little hats for newborn babies. There seems to be no end to the baby showers. And for a long time, my favorite yarn was Baby Bunny—a cotton and angora blend. It was machine washable, which a must for new moms, and so soft to the touch. But this perfect yarn has been discontinued. I just used the last of it from my yarn stash. So a couple of weeks ago, I ordered several similar yarns in different shades of pink, hoping to find another yarn I like as much. Seems like all the new babies are girls, so I know I will use all of these assorted pinks.

 Pattern:  Kid's Fruit Cap by Ann Norling
Yarn: Sublime baby cashmere merino silk dk
Needles: size 5

This is the first of my new yarns and so far, I'm pleased. This is a blend of merino wool, cashmere and silk. And, yes, it is machine washable! That little touch of silk felt good as I knitted it, so it should be comfortable for a baby's tender head.

Why do I find knitting so intriguing? There is always more to learn. Something new to try. I've made lots of baby blankets but not a round one, like this one. The knitting itself is fairly simple, but I'm using an edging that I've never done. I have often wondered how someone figured out how to take these basic stitches (knit & purl) and just rearrange the order in which they are done to come up with all of these different looks.

This has been a busy week here on the farm. Spring has brought both destruction and beauty. Huge trees down on fences everywhere. Cows are in the pasture, so good fences are a necessity. They have been repaired enough to keep the cows in. More serious repairs will come later.

And a couple of days ago, I looked out our back window and saw that these flowers were blooming. My mother-in-law planted these long ago. I love that they are survivors. They have survived bad weather, being moved around in the yard, and my gardening ineptitude. I'm glad these are still with us because they make me smile.

Now....back to thinking of something to cook for supper. I've looked through the recipe index here, and, yeah! I have everything on hand to make Hawaiian BBQ Chicken. So there. It's decided. That's what we are having tonight. I'll go to the store tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rice Is Nice

Well, what do you do when it's nearly dinner time and you discover you forgot to buy potatoes? Or, you don't have time to peel potatoes? Or, you have potatoes but they have gone bad in the pantry?

Why not make rice? When my mother had big family dinners, she had about the same menu every time. All the things we liked. And it always included "brown rice." (Not to be confused with actual brown rice—as in the unmilled kind where it says brown rice on the box.) This is sometimes called "consomme rice." And my aunt called it "mock wild rice." This Southern recipe refers to the color of the rice in the finished dish.

We needed real food last night. Daddy-O worked hard yesterday, fixing fences that were smashed by falling trees in the strong storm that rushed through here on Monday. Big trees down in lots of places. The neighbor's barn is mostly gone. But we were lucky. We just had fence damage. Meatloaf, rice and vegetables sounded like comfort food. The meatloaf was in the freezer, so it was an easy dinner for me to make.

The old recipe that my mother and my aunt used still shows up at nearly every covered dish dinner. And it is a favorite. But it has a WHOLE stick of butter in it and I just can't do that anymore.

Here is my Aunt Bibby's recipe:


1 stick butter or margarine
2 cans Campbell's beef consomme (or 1 can beef bouillon + 1 can water)
1 cup long-grain white rice

Melt butter in skillet. Add rice. Slowly brown the rice, stirring often. Put into a 2-qt baking dish. Stir in consomme. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. May add can of mushroom pieces, if desired.
(I'll confess I usually skipped the brown-the-rice-in-the-butter step. I just melted the butter in the baking dish, added the rice and consomme and baked.)

Years ago, with thoughts of leaving out the butter and cooking it quicker, I changed it up. I cook it on the stovetop now. This is the my newer recipe:


1 cup long-grain white rice
1 can Campbell's beef consomme, plus water to equal 2 cups liquid
pat of butter (optional)

Bring consomme and water to a boil in saucepan. Stir in rice. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

This is just the cooking directions on the package of rice, but instead of 2 cups of water, I used the can of consomme plus water for my 2 cups of liquid. I've done this for years now. Most times I use no butter at all, but truthfully, a pat of butter would be a nice addition.

At the knitting retreat last week, there was much discussion about "southern food." I forget that we do things differently. These ladies at the retreat were from all over the country. Someone tasted sweet potato souffle one night and said it was good but she thought it was dessert. "Like pumpkin pie without the crust," she said. No m'am. Here, it's a vegetable.

The next night we had macaroni and cheese, which can be a main dish in other places. But for us? It still can fall into the "vegetable" category, like this brown rice. In a "meat & three" restaurant around here (that's one where you choose a meat and three vegetables from the list on the menu) all of these side dishes are typically referred to as "vegetables."

It's the same logic that defines a jello-fruit mixture as "salad." Congealed salad to be exact. These also can get close to dessert when they contain Cool Whip, but we still call it "salad.' There are a hundred versions of congealed salads. And one or two of those will always be on the table at a covered dish dinner.

The knitting ladies also got into a discussion about what you call a "covered dish dinner" and what you call a "casserole." Pot luck? Hot dish? In your part of the country, what do you say for these things?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Into The Woods....To Knit

Knitting Pipeline Georgia Retreat Goodies

"So YOU'RE the one." I don't know how many times I heard this over the last few days. Yep. I was the one who arrived, unpacked the car, and discovered my suitcase had chosen to stay back at home. 

There I was, with no clothes except what I was wearing. No toiletries either. Momentary panic ensued. Then someone looked to see how far away Walmart was. There was one in the next county. I'm not complaining. It could have been worse.

Thankfully it was only the clothes I was missing. All my knitting and yarn was with me. I could buy more toothpaste and a pair of jeans. Yarn would have been harder to find. You gotta have your priorities straight—pack the knitting first.

On the plus side, I'm already packed for the next trip. I'm sure I heard this suitcase laugh at me when I got back. 

I know people wonder who on earth would travel halfway across to the country to sit and knit with strangers. Well, there were a bunch of us who did! I only drove three hours to find this spot in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia—so far out in the woods that we were mostly out of cell phone range. But there were some ladies whose drive took two days. Some flew in from far away states. There was even one knitter who came from London. All to attend the Knitting Pipeline Georgia Retreat.

But I can't think of a better way to meet new people. Instant friends since we were all knitters. There were only 28 of us who gathered for a few days. That meant we got to know each other well. 

This was not a workshop. It was truly a retreat. Away from chores. Away from phones. (Mostly because we couldn't use them.) Away from cooking. Away from schedules.

There was still plenty to learn if you wanted to watch a demonstration or try out a new technique. But you could just stay out on the porch and visit if that suited you better. Probably the most learning came from talking to the knitter sitting beside you. So much expertise gathered in one spot.

Only knitters would be excited that we had an unusual cool rainy spell the entire time we were at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. That meant we could wear our hand knits. Okay...we would have probably worn them anyway, but they really did feel good in the cool weather. "Now what is that pattern?" "Which yarn is that?" "Was it hard to make?" That's how we learn best.

We spent one afternoon on the porch swapping favorite book titles—knitting away during the discussion, of course. Knitters who read. (Or, readers who knit?) Interesting people to be with.

On the first night we had the typical get acquainted time—"tell your name and why you knit/how you got started." One person told us she loved knitting because " can be done both in solitude and in community." This was all about community.

The plan is to do this again next year. As Paula, who hosted this retreat, always says at the end of her podcast, "Haste ye back." Or, as we in the south might say it, "Y'all come back now!"

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tastes Like Spring

This is one of my favorite desserts for spring. And it's about the easiest thing to make ever. It is fresh and light and makes a beautiful presentation. What more could you ask? It was our Easter dessert a few days ago.

"Pi Day" occurred when I was out visiting the grandchildren a few weeks ago. A local shop was selling pie slices to commemorate the day. Mommy called to asked which flavor I wanted and proceeded to rattle off a long list of wonderful pies. So hard to choose! But I decided on a Lemon-Blueberry Chess pie. And it was perfect. Everyone that day got a different flavor but I am pretty sure mine was the best. Lemon and blueberry is a winning combination. Those flavors are repeated in this easy recipe.

You can use a bought angel food cake, make one from a mix or go wild and make it from scratch. We opted for using a mix this time. And the topping is just quickly stirred together.


1/2 cup lemon yogurt (4 or 5 oz.)
1/2 cup Cool Whip (use the yogurt container to measure the Cool Whip)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 to 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
angel food cake

Stir together yogurt, Cool Whip and lemon peel. Spoon over angel food cake. Spoon berries over the top and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with lemon slice and fresh mint leaves.
Topping will make 4-5 servings  (It's easy enough to increase. It is just equal amounts of yogurt and Cool Whip.)

I used a lemon mousse whipped yogurt this time. It was the only lemon yogurt my store sold. It worked well. I have used a lemon Greek yogurt before but the Greek yogurt makes a stiffer topping--still delicious but I like a regular yogurt best. If you want to use fat-free or reduced fat products, those will work, too.

Reality check: I was sitting with my knitting group yesterday when a woman with her service dog came into the store where we meet. She was telling the shop owner some long tale about how the dog had helped in an emergency situation recently. The only part my ears really picked up was when she said, "I was near an elderly Sunday School class and this lady in the class—I think she was about 65—started having problems..."

All that registered were the words "elderly" and "65." The sad part was I didn't think this lady was particularly young herself.  I'll buy that 65 can be called "old" but "elderly?" Really?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ham 'N Cheese Supper Bread

It was midweek and there was only one slice of ham left from our Easter dinner. I thought it might have lasted longer. Part of the leftovers were packed up and sent back with the city "kids." And we certainly enjoyed the ham—ham and eggs for breakfast, ham and potato salad, ham sandwiches. Well, I guess we did eat that much. Last night there was just one slice left.

I remembered a recipe from long years ago, back when my "Dinner For Two" cookbook still made one serving too many. In the 40+ years since then, hundreds of cookbooks have passed through my kitchen. I would give them away when I was done with them. But I saved this one. There were several good recipes in it that I had made. So here we are full circle. I am back to cooking for a small household. This time, happily it IS for two!

Tonight I made Ham 'N Cheese Supper Bread. Since it had a little meat in it, the rest of the meal was all vegetables. I served it with oven roasted vegetables and butter peas (cooked from a bag of frozen peas.) It was a very good middle-of-the-week supper.


1 cup Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard (such as French's)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1-qt. casserole.

Mix baking mix, ham, onion, egg, milk, oil, mustard and 2/3 cup of the cheese. Spread in casserole. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the sesame seeds on top.

Bake until top is golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 2

NOTE:  Wrap leftover bread in aluminum foil and refrigerate or freeze. Heat in foil wrapping in 400 degree oven until warm, about 10 minutes. (If frozen, 30-35 minutes.)

This cookbook is so old that microwave ovens had yet to hit the market, so I think we would reheat in the microwave now. But it's kind of fun to see how we used to do it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's A Wrap

The Hemlock Ring blanket I made several weeks ago finally met its new owner. It's just a lap blanket size and it worked well as a wrap on a cool Easter weekend afternoon. I had envisioned it thrown across a lap, but I like this look, too. It's a cool gray day here today. If I had a Hemlock blanket, I'd wrap it around myself for the afternoon.

Pattern:  Kid's Fruit Cap by Anne Norling
Yarn:  Baby Bunny by Plymouth Yarns
Needle size:  size 5

I finished a sweet little baby cap over the weekend for Jessica to take back with her. There is another baby shower at her office this week and her co-worker is expecting a baby girl. This is an office filled with creative people who really appreciate handmade things. I am always glad to help out.

Happenings in the kitchen? It's all about the leftovers for a few days. That's a happy situation as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter!

Another Easter has come and gone. 
We enjoyed some family time with the "big kids" 
who came home for the weekend.

They dyed Easter eggs.

They flew a kite.

We went to church together and came home for Easter dinner.
I told them that this was the smallest Easter dinner I have ever cooked. 
My cold/allegry just kept me from doing more.

But it was enough to fill a plate.
And to send them home with leftovers.

I probably should have posted the ham glaze recipe before Easter, but here it is now. Better late than never! It's the same one I used last year when I cooked Easter dinner for Mommy and her family out in the midwest. Baking a ham is about the easiest thing you can possibly do. Baking it at home is a much more economical way to do it. A grocery store spiral-sliced ham cost twice as much as the unsliced ham. And a spiral-sliced ham from the "ham store" costs 4 to 5 times as much. At least know this most basic way is a reasonable option for you.

I bought a fully-cooked semi-boneless half ham—just over 6 lbs. At Easter, they are easy to find. They were displayed at several places in my grocery store. We followed the directions on the label, baking it for 20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. I scored the outside and covered it with foil for most of the baking time. Daddy-O added the glaze for the last 40-45 minutes and left the foil off to finish the baking.

This glaze is easy and it's delicious.


1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pineapple juice

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until well blended.
Brush glaze over ham during last 45 minutes of baking. 

Double the recipe for a larger ham. Can also use glaze on pork chops or pork roast.

And the midwest family? Little Sister told me last night that she found "a million eggs!" at the Easter egg hunt out there. It is fun to be four.