Friday, February 26, 2016

Mommy Makes Supper

 Naan Pizza

Mommy posted the photo above on Instagram earlier this week. I immediately asked for the recipe and she sent me the email below. 

You'd have to know a little about Mommy's cooking skills to appreciate the "gasp" she included. When my girls were growing up, Jessica spent much time with me in the kitchen. Watching. Helping. Keeping me company while Mommy was busy with ballet, music, drama and many other activities. So when Mommy married, she was a true novice in the kitchen. 

Thanks to lots of FoodTV, a million phone calls to me and good food blogs, she has learned much. Ten years later, she is a full-fledged excellent cook. But up to now, she has been one to follow a recipe just like it's written. It makes me smile to see that she has moved on to the next step—cooking without a recipe.

Here is the email I got from Mommy...

So I didn’t really have a real recipe for this <gasp, I know>, but here’s what I did. Feel free to work your magic to make it better read like a recipe. :)


Naan bread  (I used frozen, Tandoori Naan)
Pesto sauce  (I used 7 oz tub of Buitoni Pesto Sauce with Basil, and had some leftover)
Tomato, thinly sliced
Chicken tenders
Mozzarella (I used Sargento Shredded Mozzarella, Traditional Cut)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While oven is warming, cook chicken. (I seasoned them with Borsari seasoned salt, and cooked them on grill pan, pressing down periodically with back of tongs to make sure they developed grill marks.) Cook evenly on both sides until done. Once done, slice chicken into small-bite-size pieces.

Place naan pieces directly on oven rack to thaw and warm for 1.5-2 min. Using tongs, carefully remove from oven, and transfer to baking sheet (cover baking sheet with foil for super easy clean-up.)

Lightly brush naan with extra virgin olive oil. (Naan package said to use butter, but I didn’t want to wait for butter to melt.) Spread pesto on each piece of naan. Then add sliced tomatoes, chicken, and sprinkle with cheese.

Place baking sheet with naan in oven. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted.
My Notes
  •  Love this recipe for its versatility.
  •  I took easy route with frozen naan, and pre-made pesto, but if you had time and desire, you could make your own. Could also swap shredded mozzarella for fresh mozzarella slices. I did cook the chicken, but this recipe would probably work well with leftover grilled chicken.
  • You can accommodate eater’s preferences — Baby Girl ate hers deconstructed, Little Sister wanted extra tomatoes, Big Sister wanted no tomatoes and drizzled balsamic vinegar over hers before eating.
  • The same concept would work with other sets of toppings. Next I want to try bbq sauce, bbq chicken, red onion, and cheese.
  • This is a good recipe for children to help cook. They could easily build their own pizza with toppings you’ve prepped.

I miss this family when I haven't seen them for a while. But getting emails and recipes from Mommy helps us stay connected. The BEST, though, is when we get photos like this one.

"You can't find me!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup

I saw this recipe on a few weeks ago and immediately printed out the recipe and bought the couple of ingredients that I didn't have on hand. Then the cans of tomatoes sat on top of the printed recipe on the kitchen counter for longer than I planned.

But the fact that I had put the ingredients and the recipe together meant that I didn't forget to try this soup. Daddy-O walked through the kitchen as I was making this and commented that I was going to a lot of trouble to make supper. But it wasn't "trouble." I did chop the onions and carrots, but the rest was just stirred together. Maybe it's a good thing he thinks I worked really hard cooking supper. Shhhh! Let's not tell him any different.

I am still loving the Le Crueset Dutch oven I got for Christmas and was glad to have another new recipe to make in it. Daddy-O looked at the soup at this point and volunteered to eat the leftovers for supper. I told him that he gave me this wonderful pot and now he was going to have lots of soups to try. His reply? "You know, you CAN make other things in that pot. Like roasts. Pasta." Point taken. Before the week is over, I'll let him pick a recipe.

But when the soup was done, he liked it. He told me he thought I was making plain ol' vegetable soup (which I love) with chunks of vegetables in it. (Vegetable soup is not his favorite.) When he saw that it was a thick creamy tomato soup, all was good in his world again. He went back for seconds.

Add a grilled cheese sandwich on the side and tell your family supper's ready.


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1-1/2 tsp of jarred minced garlic)
2 (32-oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1 (15-oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained (my jar was 12-oz)
2 tablespoons dried basil
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cups sour cream (I used light sour cream)

In a large stock pot (mine was 5.5 qts) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and carrots for 8-10 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Stir in the tomatoes (with juice), tomato paste, red peppers, basil, broth, salt and pepper.

Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove soup from heat and stir in sour cream. Using an immersion blender, puree soup. (Or, puree in small batches in a blender.) Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serves 8  

Laa Loosh says this soup freezes well. I'll find out because some of this is already in my freezer.

If you make a few soups that need to be blended and don't own an immersion blender, you might think about adding one to your wish list. It is so much easier than transferring a hot soup in small batches to a blender. I gave one to Mommy for Christmas and when she made her tomato soup recipe, she said, "Oh my. This is much easier to make than before." 

If you are counting points for Weight Watchers, Laa Loosh says a serving of about 2 cups is 4 Smart Points if you use light sour cream. But trust me, this does not taste like a "diet" recipe.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Beach Get Away

View from our porch

Our state is blessed with beautiful beaches. And it's a small state, so it doesn't take too long to get there even though we live on the other side of the state. And because we are in the deep South, it's not too very cold for much of the winter. A walk on the beach can be pleasant in February.

I just got home from our annual "girls' beach weekend." As always, it was good to catch up with these friends. We all see each other regularly at church, but those visits can be measured in minutes. Three days of non-stop chatter gives us time to really know what what has happened with each other during the last year.

While we were there, our "fearless leader" made the Blackbean Butternut Squash Chili for supper one night. That recipe continues to be a favorite. And it was a healthy supper to balance my restaurant meals of crab cakes, fried seafood platter, fried flounder (yes, I ate fried seafood twice—but I did skip the hushpuppies) and THE best butternut pound cake topped with homemade coconut ice cream.

Now it's time to do laundry, grocery shop, do a few chores, and get back in the groove at home. I'll catch up with you here in a couple of days.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lenten Luncheon

Chicken Pie

Every year, the churches that line Main Street in our town observe Lent with a series of noon services that include lunch. The services move from church to church each week. Our church provides two of those lunches. And for as long as I've been a member there, the menus at our Methodist church have been the same. Vegetable soup and cornbread the first week and chicken pie the following week.

I have no clue how many chicken pies I have made for these lunches over the years. I do know that this year there will be ten chicken pies brought to the church this morning. I'll bet that nearly all of them are made with a recipe similar to this one. This recipe is a standard around here. Some cooks might add vegetables. We like ours with just eggs.

One more chicken pie story—this was the recipe I used when our soon-to-be son-in-law came to have supper with us for the very first time. He and Mommy had been engaged for only a couple of weeks. I made this because it is one of our favorite meals. We serve it with a green vegetable and cranberry sauce. He dove into the meal with gusto. It was only years later that I learned he didn't like chicken pie. Must have been love. (I think he has come to like chicken pie since then. Wise decision.)


1 whole chicken (or 4 breasts)
3 boiled eggs
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup broth (that you've saved) 

Boil chicken until tender After chicken has cooled, take meat off the bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Save broth.
Place cut-up chicken in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Slice eggs over the top. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix the two soups and broth. Pour over chicken and eggs.

     1 cup self-rising flour
     1 teaspoon baking powder
       (mix flour & baking powder thoroughly with a whisk)
     1 stick melted butter
     1 cup milk

Mix topping ingredients. Pour over chicken mixture.*
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hours, or until crust is golden brown.

Unbaked topping

*Pour the topping slowly over the chicken, covering it as completely as possible. I spoon on the last bits to cover the spots I've missed. And there still might be some bare spots. I promise it won't matter when it's done.

 Want to learn more about Lent? Check out Lent 101 .

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Simple

 Everyday Salad Dressing

He took a couple of bites and said, "This is good." I told him what was in the dressing. He asked, "That's all?" Yep. That's all.

I found this recipe at When I saw the it, I was also in need of a new bottle. I also followed her lead and asked for this OXO bottle for Christmas. (I got the small one.) Sometimes the simple gifts are best.

This dressing is so simple, just right for a lightly dressed salad She advised NOT using balsamic vinegar here because it gets "syrupy." I'm taking her word for it. The change I would make? I would add a little more garlic pepper.  In fact, I'll add a bit more before we use it again.

The other big plus with this recipe is that she says "store at room temp" part. An olive oil based dressing gets solid when stored in the refrigerator. It takes quite some time for it to liquify again. I like being able to pick this up and use it without waiting and hour or so. If you are more comfortable with refrigeration, do it that way.

If you Google "Everyday Salad Dressing," you'll find an abundance of recipes. (I almost never figured out where I found this recipe in the first place.) Most are based on a 1 part vinegar/2 parts oil ratio. You can change up the seasoning to suit you. But for now, I'm sticking with this one.


1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2  teaspoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper* (I will add just a little more next time.)

Put ingredients in a jar with a tight lid. Shake until blended.

*I found McCormick's Garlic Pepper at my local store. That means it shouldn't be hard to find for you.

PS  Go visit Judy at  Fun things there!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

An Inside Kind Of Day

It was SO cold this morning when I stepped out to make a sunrise photo. And it hasn't warmed up much since then. I do not own clothes for the days when it is 33 degrees in the afternoon.

So I plan to stay in for the rest of the day. Sit by the fire. Sip hot tea. Catch up on last week's Downton Abby. And make substantial progress on the Madison Scarf. Today is certainly the day for a warm scarf. But if you know how our weather works here in the South, by the time I finish this knitting project in a couple of days, we are likely to be back in flip flops. That's why people move here from colder places. It's not that we never have cold weather. But when a cold front moves in, it doesn't last long.

While I am lucky enough to stay inside, Daddy-O still has to feed the cows. They are especially appreciative on days like today. If we get the possible sleet in the morning, they will be even more excited to see the hay coming their way.

Wherever you are, I hope you are warm and cozy this afternoon.

My Valentine surprise.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I spent most of the week at Mommy's, helping with the children while J-Daddy was away on a trip. As I've said before, I usually cannot manage blogging and baby sitting at the same time. I normally don't even take my computer with me. I need to keep focused on the busy little people in front of me. So here is just a peek at our week.

The first morning I woke up at their house, there were a few snow flakes falling. Now, if you do not live in the deep South, you don't understand what a few flakes of snow do to us. This amount of snow was enough to call off evening activities at schools and churches. And it certainly was a reason for Mommy to make hot chocolate and bake cookies as a snowy day treat.

There was a short clip on the local news this week of an elementary school here that let the kids go outside to see the snowflakes falling. Big Sister said her high school English teacher stopped class long enough for the students to all go look out the windows for a few minutes. Yes. Snow causes Southerns to go a little crazy.

One thing on the Mimi to-do list this week was to help Little Sister make a Valentine box for her preschool party. I remember making boxes like this when I was in school. So I covered a shoe box in red paper and gave Little Sister an assortment of stickers and paper doilies and let her decorate it. She made "patter-rines" (patterns) of hearts and lips. She stopped when she ran out of stickers.

It's a good thing I did not know that now Valentine boxes have become a big deal now. (Check out "Valentine boxes" on Pineterest.)  Call me old fashioned, but I think the 5-year-old should be the designer/maker of the box. Which means it's going to be pretty simple. At least at age 5, she wasn't concerned that her box wasn't as fancy as some of the others.

We didn't use the cute paper doilies that I had purchased for the Valentine box project, but they made a perfect addition to the cookies bags. Just right to share with friends.

Here is the recipe that Mommy used for her snowy day cookies.


11-1/2 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
sea salt

Heat oven to 375ºF.
Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside.
In large mixing bowl, mix butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.
Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Mix on low speed until mixed completely.
Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts, if using.)
Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Sprinkle tops lightly with sea salt.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

 My little Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 8, 2016

What Do You Do On A Sunday?


I'm curious, so I'll ask. Are there places like this where you live? Meat and vegetables every day of the week. Meals like my mother might have cooked—except more choices. I like to cook, but there are days (like yesterday) when that just doesn't happen. And it's wonderful that we have this little place as my "other kitchen." It is in the country, not far from the interstate. You might not stop and eat at this unimpressive little concrete block restaurant sitting in the middle-of-nowhere if you didn't know anything about it. But there are plenty of us who DO know about it. It's the kind of place where a Mercedes parks beside a pickup truck, where the business man is in line behind the construction worker.

This is the middle of the food line. I couldn't get in all the salads and the meats and the desserts. It's the hardest thing ever not to taste it all. I love it because I can eat things like beets that I don't often cook at home because Daddy-O doesn't care for them. And Daddy-O can have turnip greens—which is not my favorite vegetable.

And after lunch I headed to a knitting class. (For you knitters, it was a quick class in stranded knitting so that we can make that Baa-ble hat.) It was timed to exactly fit between church and the Super Bowl. How much fun on a Sunday afternoon. Cookies, coffee, good company, and knitting. That's my idea of a good time.

We live so far out in the country that I forget how much goes on all the time in the city. As I drove into the city to the yarn shop, I went through the circus traffic at the big arena. And a Broadway show was happening at the nearby performing arts center.  I also read about a couple of concerts, the museums exhibits and a history lecture that were going on yesterday. If you live in a city where everything is so accessible, how do you decide what to do?

It wasn't hard to choose what we would do on Sunday night. I knew we would watch the Super Bowl and I knew I wasn't going to cook, but we wanted Super Bowl appropriate food. So on Saturday, I pulled the last quart of chili and beans out of the freezer. There is a reason I always make a double (and sometimes a triple) recipe. It freezes beautifully. How great it is to pull really good food out of the freezer, thaw it, then heat and eat. We have cold weather coming this week. It might be a good time to make more.


2 lbs. extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 8-oz. can water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used the refrigerated jarred kind)
1 teaspoon salt
1 16-oz. can light red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
*1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
Brown meat, onion and green pepper in large skillet. Put into large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 2-3 hours. 

*I add a single 15-oz. can of diced tomatoes to the recipe whether I'm making a single, double or triple batch. The original recipe didn't call for this but I thought it needed to look "redder." Other than that, I never stray from the original recipe.

Interesting fact—this recipe came from a 1977 ad for Presto pressure cookers. (Yes, that "bad word" was in the original name of the recipe.) I found it in the booklet that came with my first pressure cooker and I've been making it ever since. I also won 1st prize with this recipe at our church contest in 2012. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Knitting For The Wee Ones

 Pattern: Pinwheel Baby Blanket by Genia Planck
Yarn: Berroco Comfort in Angel Blue
Needles: size 8, DPNs & 40-in circular

One more blanket done. (Squeezed in between zipping up and down the highway and watching the movie crew in our yard.) Even finished it the day after this baby boy was born. Sometimes it's months later before I finish. This sweet pattern works up quickly (as blankets go.) I was delighted to find that Berroco had added this new shade of blue to their line. Not too light. Not too dark. It's just the perfect blue for a baby boy—now that folks hardly use the true baby pastels anymore. I should get this blanket delivered this week.

The pattern only gives the basics for knitting the circular blanket. Any edging is left up to the knitter. I "borrowed" this seed stitch border with an i-cord bind off from Missy in Tennessee. And according to her notes, she "borrowed" it from Paula in Illinois. That is one of the joys of the Ravelry community. So much information is put there, free for the rest of us to see and use. It surely makes knitting easier to have help. Help that is scattered across the country!

If you are choosing a pattern and need something to be made quickly, compare yardage of the patterns—not skeins of yarn. Not all skeins have the same yardage. This pinwheel blanket uses just under 600 yards of worsted yarn. The Sunny baby blanket that I have made several times takes about 800 yards of worsted yarn. That's 200 more yards of knitting when I make the Sunny blanket. I like both patterns. But the difference in knitting time is something to keep in mind.

 Bottom Left: Cosset by Jenny Raymond 
Top Left: Cabled Baby Hat & Mittens Set by Paulina Chin
Top Right: Baby Hat with Top Knot-Teagan by Julie Taylor
Bottom Right: Kid's Fruit Cap (knitted plain) by Ann Norling

If you need a baby gift in a hurry, make a hat! Most newborn baby hats take around 100 yards. And hats make adorable baby gifts, too. I love it when people send me photos of newborns wearing the hats I've knitted. 

Just be honest about your knitting time when you choose a pattern for a baby gift. Whether it's a blanket that takes weeks or a hat that takes a few hours, there is nothing like knitting something special for a new baby.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cranberry Nut Coffee Cake

Cranberry Nut Coffee Cake

Before I was married (so, over 36 years ago) I needed a dessert for the ladies circle meeting. Remember those church circle meetings? Those ladies were all coming to my tiny apartment for the first time. I was just out of college and even though I had a degree in home economics, I didn't have that much practical experience. I needed something I could make quickly after work that was delicious. And foolproof.

I turned to my trusted little Bisquick cookbook (printed in 1971.) It's full of good easy recipes. I've made the Banana Muffs from this book a gazillion times. It's in the recipe index here on the blog. But unlike the banana muffins I've made over and over, until last night I had baked this coffee cake only once for that circle meeting. Still, I never forgot the recipe.

Last night I baked the coffee cake for our dessert. Fingers crossed it was as good as I remembered! Before I got into the kitchen after supper, Daddy-O had cut his second piece. I asked if it was good. He mumbled with his mouth full of cake, "Ummmm....good." And it was. Try serving it warm, with a cup of coffee.


1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups Bisquick baking mix
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup milk or water
2/3 cup whole cranberry sauce
Confectioners' Sugar Icing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon and set aside.
Combine Bisquick, sugar, egg and milk. Beat vigorously for 1/2 minute. (I used a wire whisk.)
Spread batter in a greased 9x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with the nut mixture. Spoon cranberry sauce over the top. (It will not completely cover the top.)
Bake 20-25 minutes. While still warm, drizzle Confectioners' Sugar Icing over the top of cake.

Confectioners' Sugar Icing: Blend 1 cup confectioners' sugar (that's also called powdered sugar,) 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and about 1 tablespoon water. Add more water, a few drops at a time, if needed, until you reach desired consistency.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keeping Up With Technology

 Winter sunrise at the farm

Did you give up on me? I left here about as quickly as the movie crew last week and headed south (or it that west?) to baby sit again. The toddler stage isn't easy under the best of circumstances, but when a little one is sick, it's harder. I was there for several days to let Mommy get some much needed sleep. It wasn't enough, I know, but I hope it helped.

When I got back home this weekend, I had a stack of boxes waiting on me. New DVR receivers for our house. (Didn't have a DVR for a long time, but then I realized how nice it is to never miss an episode of Downton Abby!) All sent to us as a "loyalty" gift. It's nice to have the latest models, but it also meant that I had to hook everything up. The days of "plug it in and turn it on" are long gone. There was lots of programming and codes and verifying. I understood none of it, but I AM good at following instructions.

Bless the young man who was on the phone with me for over an hour. I had the first part hooked up when I called to activate it. We got through that process and I asked if I needed to call back with the other two receivers. He said, "Why don't you hook them up now and I'll stay on the phone with you." I asked him wouldn't that take forever. And he told me, "Well, if I'm not on the phone with you, I'll be on the phone with someone else." 

He even hung on when I accidentally hit the mute button. I was holding the phone on my shoulder while I was connecting cords and did not know I had muted the phone. I thought HE had left. When I finally realized what I had done, he was still there. He told me that they are supposed to disconnect a call after three minutes of no response, "But I told you I would stay on the phone until you got everything done and I figured something had happened and you'd be back." Best customer service I've had in ages.

After all that? Tonight I just want to read a book. No screen. No remote. No cords. No batteries. I just want to turn pages in a book.