Monday, June 26, 2017

It's A Boy!

Yes. It is a boy—but not the baby kind of boy. Our family is getting a new son-in-law. The wedding planning has commenced. Things are busy here. And busy there where they live. So much to be done in a hurry (choosing venue, date, etc) so that the other plans can start.

I'll be popping in and out here as I can. We still have to eat which means I still have to cook. At least some of the time. There are days to be spent at the lake with family. We're not missing that. So don't give me up if I'm not writing as much as usual. I have no particular schedule for posting or for skipping. The blog will just fit naturally into our real life schedule which looks like it's going to be crazy busy for a while. And I'm committed to making sure there is breathing room in the midst of the activity.

So instead of thinking, "She's not posting much," think instead, "She's making space to breathe. Good for her."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My New Favorite Summer Salad

It's garden season here at the farm. We don't have a large garden like my father-in-law planted here years ago. But Daddy-O does plant enough for us to enjoy fresh salads during the summer. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes. And there is always yellow squash.

When those squash plants start to produce, it's crazy. We are overloaded with squash for a couple of weeks or so. And then it's over. Thankfully, not every vegetable is of the "come-and-gone" kind. The cucumbers just come and come and come and come.

This was the very first harvest. The next day, I sent this much more home with a friend. The following day, I took another bag to my sister. I've taken bags and bags of cucumbers to church for the teens at the summer work camp this week. Evidently, they love the cukes-and-onions-in-vinegar-sugar-water. And the friend who got the first bag of extras have taken cucumbers home two more times. We cannot eat up the cucumbers fast enough. But it's fun to share. Last night Daddy-O picked another basket full right before dark.

I have already done the cucumbers-and-onions-in vinegar several times. We love that! It only takes a minute to do. I don't even measure anything anymore. It's good beside a sandwich and we even love it as a snack. I've made microwave pickles.That recipe is so easy I did them on Sunday before we left for church.

And then I found a new-to-us recipe. A lovely, light cucumber salad. We had it as a side dish with roast beef from my freezer stash and mashed potatoes. (The potatoes came from our cousin's garden. He lives just down the road and plants many things we don't. That works well for us!)

This recipe has been around forever. I had everything on hand to give it a try. Glad I did, because it's a keeper. Again, I didn't measure a thing, but I'm giving you an actual "recipe" as a starting place. After I mixed mine, I tasted and adjusted the seasonings. Mine needed a little more salt and dill. Do it that way and you won't have to go find the "recipe" when you want to make this.


2-3 cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 Vidalia onion (a sweet white onion,) thinly sliced
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of half a lemon
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh dill
salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix cucumbers and onion in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Pour over cucumbers and stir to combine. Garnish with more dill and serve.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I've made this sour cream version two more times. Yum!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

There Has Been Knitting

 Pattern:  Snowmelt, by Curious Handmade
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light
Needles: size 8

Back in the winter, a big event was happening in the knitting world. Helen Stewart, of Curious Handmade, held a mystery knit-along (MKAL). People from across the globe joined in and knitted this pattern at the same time. They were told in advance that they needed three colors of fingering weight yarn and what size needle to use. That's it. With total trust in the designer (who is one of the best,) folks cast on and knitted diligently as the clues arrived weekly.  Soon after the start date, there were nearly a thousand knitters sharing photos of their progress and cheering each other on. (All of this happens on Ravelry.)

Now, I had qualms about spending that much time knitting over 1,200 yards of yarn in hopes that I would like the end result. What if I didn't? I know, I know. I missed the online camaraderie that was happening and that is fun thing to take part in. I have participated in an MKAL before and it is fun.

But I wanted to wait and see what the pattern actually was. After the mystery was over, I looked at pictures of hundreds of finished shawls. I could see if I liked the shape. I could see how the colors worked together. I looked at shawls in bright colors and subdued colors. I saw high contrast combinations and others that were more like color shifts than stripes.

Then after careful consideration of colors choices, and in a solitary fashion, I made mine. And I am so pleased with it. It's the first shawl I've knitted that is big enough to wrap up in. This was my first half pi shawl. (That means it's a half circle.) What I like about this shape is that it hangs nicely over my shoulders.

 Pattern:  Alexandra's Airplane Scarf, from Purl SoHo
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Tosh Lace
Needles:  size 8

And although this scarf was started months before I began Snowmelt, I finished it a week after I completed the shawl. This scarf was knitted in the round with lace weight yarn (that is a very fine yarn.) "In the round" just means that it's a knitted tube. I just knitted and knitted—no other stitches to think about—forever. Endless round and round and round. Until it was about six feet long.

There are knitting projects, and there are knitting projects. They have different purposes beyond how you wear them The Snowmelt shawl wasn't hard, but it wasn't meant to be a take-along project. With three colors of yarn and charts to follow, it needed to stay home where I could work in peace. It was so much fun to work on the lace pattern, keep up with the charts and enjoy the color play. I loved knitting it.

The Alexandra's Airplane Scarf, on the other hand, was the PERFECT project for traveling. Once I got it started, there was nothing to keep up with or measure. I worked on it while waiting for Little Sister at dance lessons. I knitted while Baby Girl napped. I knitted at the lake. I knitted on the porch. I knitted in the car. The challenge here was working with the lace weight yarn. But after knitting six feet of scarf, that tiny yarn and I are friends.

I splurged on some new blocking tools just in time to make this a little easier to pin out. The grids on the mats let me keep the edges straight without measuring every couple of inches. And I bought a couple of sets of Knit Blockers from Knit Picks. Each one is like putting in 8 pins with one stab.

For the non-knitters, blocking means soaking the knitted item, then pinning it into shape and letting it dry. (Remember the "reshape and lay flat to dry" tag on some of your laundry?) Google "blocking your knits" if you want to know more.

This scarf is wide enough to worn as a wrap on a cool day. And the day I finished it, we had an unseasonably cool day. One chance to wear it outdoors before next fall. It's always cold indoors when the air conditioning is going full blast.

And at six feet long, and because it's extremely light, it can be worn as a scarf. Here, I have the ends pulled through the folded scarf.

I will say that the most intimidating part of knitting this scarf is getting started. When I was about an inch into it, I was thinking it would take forever. It seemed like I knitted and knitted and it didn't grow a bit. But I would work on it. Put it down. Work on it again later. Stuff it back in the bag. And on and on, until I realized I had about two feet of scarf. Then two feet became four feet. And then suddenly (actually, it was six months beginning to end) it was done!

It's a great project if you don't have a deadline. I have a idea I'll start another one of these one day. And maybe in another year or so—no pressure there—I'll have another one!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dinner After Church

Last Sunday we celebrated our pastor's upcoming retirement in typical Methodist fashion—a covered dish dinner after church. Because we expected visitors, we all took a little extra food. I love seeing what everyone chooses to make for a covered dish dinner. There are always the standbys, like macaroni and cheese. There are always deviled eggs and fresh fruit. But it's the multitude of other items on the table that interest me.

People bring in old family favorites. They try out new recipes. Some people love make-ahead recipes that don't require Sunday morning cooking, like cakes and pies and pasta salad. And you might find fried chicken from a drive-thru, or a platter of sandwiches from the grocery store deli. It doesn't have to be homemade to be included on our table.

These dinners are truly more about the fellowship. With the promise of delicious food to encourage people to come together.

For this meal, I opted for recipes that could be prepped ahead of time. Both dishes only required some oven time before I left for church. At the dinner last month, there was only one mac and cheese, so I made one for this dinner. This time mine was number 2 of the 6 macaroni dishes lined up on the table.


16-oz. box elbow macaroni (we like the small elbows)
16-oz. sharp Cheddar cheese (NY sharp when I can find it)
4 cups milk (fat-free, 1%, 2%, or whole)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
a sprinkle of black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook macaroni according to directions on the box. Drain. While macaroni cooks, grate the cheese. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with PAM. Put half the macaroni in the baking dish, layer half the cheese over it, add the rest of macaroni and then the remaining cheese.

Mix the milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over the macaroni and cheese. Use just enough to cover the macaroni.  (Sometimes I don’t use quite all of the milk/egg mixture. And I have been known to add a little bit more milk if the 4-cups didn't cover it.)

Bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned on top.  Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving so that it "sets." 

You can layer the macaroni and cheese in the dish the day before baking. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Mix the milk and egg the next day and pour over the macaroni and bake.

And because at the last dinner, we weren't exactly overloaded with main dish items, I made ham and swiss rolls. We call them "ham delights." I could do everything the night before and then pop them into the oven before we left for church.

These are the rolls (there are several similar brands) I prefer, but this time the store where I shopped didn't carry them. And I didn't have time to make a second stop. They were good with regular soft dinner rolls. But next time I'll take time to track down the rolls I like! Other good choices are Pepperidge Farm Party Rolls. And I think there are King's Hawaiian Rolls. The reason I like the little dinner rolls in the foil pan is that you can cut each individual section. That gives you 48 appetizer servings. That's a perfect party size.


1/2 lb. butter, softened
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
3 tablespoons French's mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion, minced
1 lb. ham from deli, shaved
7-8 oz. Swiss cheese slices (I used 10 slices for 2 pans of rolls)
2 packages dinner rolls
Mix butter, poppy seeds, mustard, Worcestershire, and onion, blending well. 
Split rolls in half. (I do the whole pan without breaking individual rolls apart.) Spread top and bottom with butter mixture. On bottom half, place ham and cheese. Replace top half of rolls. Put the uncut rolls back into foil pan, then cut individual rolls apart. 
Wrap in heavy duty foil. Bake at 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. 

You can make these ahead and refrigerate or freeze them. Be sure to label and date if freezing. If you are baking from the refrigerator or freezer, increasing baking time until they are hot in the center and the cheese is melted.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Grilled Lemon Chicken & grilled yellow squash and onions

Warm weather means cooking on the grill around here. This past weekend we tried a recipe I saw on the blog, Judy's Chickens. She shares the best things and I learn things there, too. Check it out.

Her recipe called for sprigs of thyme. And my herb garden is in excellent condition right now, thanks to an abundance of rain this spring. I'm always on the lookout for new ways to actually use what I grow. 

Judy's recipe is super simple. She used boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin. I bought chicken cutlets which are already thin. Basically, they are large breasts cut in half horizontally. And I still pounded them a little thinner. Remember, when you cook these very thin pieces that they cook quickly. Don't overcook!

Throw some lemon slices and sprigs of thyme into the bag with the chicken and pour the Everyday Dressing over the top. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for a day or two and then grill.

This was not an overly strong lemon flavor, even after two days in the refrigerator. I love that this recipe has a fairly large window of "refrigerator resting" time. Our plans can change at the drop of a hat and this gives me flexibility. The marinade added a nice flavor, but I will throw in more thyme when we do it again. Read Judy's blog for more information about how she uses this recipe to feed a crowd.

It also works well in a two person household. We had it the first night with grilled fresh-from-the-garden squash and onions. And the next day, I sliced cold chicken and paired it with salad and marinated cucumbers for a quick lunch. And for one more lunch, I split the grilled chicken horizontally, warmed it a bit in the microwave and made sandwiches with Swiss cheese, mayonnaise and a thin spread of apricot preserves. I was feeling creative. Delicious!


2 lbs chicken cutlets (I pounded them a little thinner)
1 lemon, sliced, seeds removed
fresh thyme sprigs
1 recipe Everyday Salad Dressing (recipe below)
splash of white Balsamic vinegar, optional

Place chicken in a gallon ziploc bag. Pound if you want to. Put lemon slices and thyme sprigs over chicken. Pour dressing over all. Close top and marinate in refrigerator for 1-2 days. Grill, being careful not to overcook.

The dressing recipe is from Judy, too. But I've upped the amount of garlic pepper. All recipes like this can be adjusted to suit you and your family. I love this as my regular dressing for green salad. So easy to mix up, so if you are trying to move away from purchased salad dressings, this is a good place to start.


1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper

Place all ingredients in a jar with a tight lid. Shake to blend.