Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. Your readership and loyalty are greatly appreciated.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sugar-Free Holidays

If you have a diabetic person in your household – as I do – it sometimes becomes difficult to prepare foods especially for them. Of course, they have to count carbs, but also keep sugar to a minimum.

Sugar helps to brown foods, and when using sugar substitutes the end result may not be the same. The substitutes work well in savory foods and in foods that don’t require browning.  However, I’ve found the Splenda website (http://www.splenda.com) to be a good resource when it comes to recipes for baked products.

These cookies turned out very nicely – flavorful and tender. The recipe was on the Splenda website.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup granulated Splenda
2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and shortening at low speed. Add Splenda and mix well. Beat in milk, egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt.

Roll into 1” balls with floured hands. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten with back of spoon.

Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Store airtight.


I didn’t have self-rising flour, so I used this substitution:
In 1-cup measuring cup place 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Fill to top with all-purpose flour and level off. Makes 1 cup. The original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon salt, but I cut that amount back a bit due to the salt in this mixture.
I plan to put a bit of frosting on the cookies, and found this recipe:


1 1/2 cups Splenda
1/4 cup cornstarch

Blend well. Stir in 5 teaspoons water and mix till smooth.

Of course, all the other recipes I’ve used this year are full-sugar! My baking efforts have not been as great as in past years – only 5 different batches, for a total of 21 dozen. The candy has not been made yet. And the only cake I’ve done is the Sour Cream Coffeecake that I make every year for Christmas Day breakfast. I may be running out of time! Are you? As I try to tell myself every Christmas, “If it doesn’t get done, it didn’t need to be done!”
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
(Calvin Coolidge)

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
(Norman Vincent Peale)
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Baking Ingredient Substitutions

This post came about because I ran into one of those situations where I started cookies but didn’t have enough of one important ingredient – molasses. And I really wanted those cookies! So I did what all cooks do and looked for a good substitution.

Here are the substitutions for molasses. For each cup of molasses, substitute one of the following:

1 cup maple syrup
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup honey
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup hot water

Any one of these would work well. I had about 1/2 cup molasses so I combined maple syrup and light corn syrup for the remaining 1/4 cup needed for my recipe.

There are different kinds of molasses, including light, dark and blackstrap. Molasses are a byproduct of sugar production. Either light or dark work well in cooking; however, blackstrap molasses are too strong and bitter for cooking without being mixed with light molasses.

Here are a few more substitutions that may come in handy when doing your Christmas baking:

Allspice (1 teaspoon) = 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ginger + 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Baking Mix (1 cup) = 1 cup pancake mix

Baking Powder (1 teaspoon) = 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Brown Sugar (1 packed cup) = 1 cup granulated sugar OR 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Buttermilk (1 cup) = 1 teaspoon white vinegar + 1 cup milk

Cake Flour (1 cup) = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 teaspoons

Cardamom (1 teaspoon) = 1 teaspoon ground anise

Cornstarch (1 tablespoon) = 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour OR 4 teaspoons instant tapioca

Cocoa (1/4 cup) = 1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened baking chocolate

Corn Syrup (1 cup) = 1 1/4 cup sugar + 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup honey

Egg (1) = 2 1/2 tablespoons powdered eggs + 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute OR 3 tablespoons mayonnaise OR 2 egg whites OR 2 egg yolks OR 1/2 banana, mashed

Granulated Sugar (1 cup) = 1 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar OR 3/4 cup honey OR 3/4 cup corn syrup

Marshmallows (1 cup miniature) = 10 large

Marshmallow Cream (1 jar) = melt 16 oz. marshmallows with 3 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup in a double boiler

Self-Rising Flour (1 cup) = 1 cup less 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Shortening (1 cup) = 1 cup unsalted butter OR 1 cup margarine minus 1/2 teaspoon salt in recipe

Sweetened Condensed Milk (1 14 oz. can) = 3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup water + 1 1/8 cup nonfat dry milk – bring to boil and cook, stirring often, till thick OR 1 cup nonfat dry milk + 2/3 cup sugar + 1/2 cup boiling water + 3 tablespoons melted butter

Semi-Sweet Chocolate (1 oz.) = 1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1 teaspoon shortening

Vanilla Bean (1/2 bean) = 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
If you have snow like we do here, the kids may like this fun project. Fill spray bottles with water then add food coloring. Use this “spray paint” to paint pictures in the snow!
And here is the recipe for those cookies!


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup molasses

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter, egg and molasses. Mix until completely blended. Dough will be very stiff (you may need to use your hands). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press down lightly with a fork dipped in flour (knock off excess flour).

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned on bottom. Remove to cooling racks to cool. Store tightly covered. Makes approximately 5 1/2 dozen.

These look a lot like ginger snaps, but are much softer. Yum! (Note added 12/10/13 - After a couple of days they will tend to get crisp - to keep the cookies soft, place a piece of bread in the container.)

The dry ingredients in this recipe could be layered in a wide-mouth quart jar for a great gift…be sure to remember to give the recipe! 

Happy Baking!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It’s Cookie Time!

With Thanksgiving behind us we seriously get into the Christmas season. And that means baking cookies and making goodies for friends and family. Planning and organization will make it much easier. In years past my daughter and I baked dozens and dozens of cookies, but these days we just don’t seem to eat as many. That’s probably a good thing!

I hope Tip Tuesday has some information that will help make your baking efforts more enjoyable and more successful.

1) Select your recipes, check your supplies and make a shopping list. Nothing is more frustrating than starting to bake and having to make a quick run to the supermarket.

2) Always use the best quality ingredients you can afford. Use large eggs, unsalted butter and pure flavoring extracts. If using margarine rather than butter, make sure it is at least 80% vegetable oil. Others will have too much water and won’t work well.

3) Set out ingredients and supplies - and have a pan of hot soapy water ready for cleanup. Keeping things cleaned as you go will make everything easier and more fun.

4) Have ingredients at room temperature. Eggs, butter and other refrigerated items will mix much better. If you forget to soften the butter, don’t try to melt it in the microwave as it will get too soft. Simply grate it onto a plate and it will be ready in just a few minutes.

5) Most cookie dough can be frozen. Wrap well in wax paper then place in a zipper freezer bag. Label and date the package. If you might want to bake just part of the dough later, divide it in half then wrap. Thaw dough overnight in the refrigerator.

6) Dough for rolled cookies should be chilled for 15 to 30 minutes before rolling out. Work with a small amount of dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator.

7) Always preheat the oven. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper (a wonderful invention!) to prevent sticking. Use shiny cookie sheets – dark pans will absorb more heat. Pans with low or no sides are best for good heat conduction.

8) Do not substitute basic basic ingredients (flour, etc.) – follow recipe exactly. Measure properly. Spoon dry ingredients into measuring cups then level off. Do not pack – except for brown sugar, which should always be packed and hold its form when put into the bowl. Liquid ingredients should be measured into a lipped measuring cup and checked at eye level.

9) Leave 2 inches between cookies on pan. If baking 2 pans at a time, rotate them halfway through baking. Use that timer!

10) Remove immediately to wire rack to cool. Some recipes, however, will recommend cooling on the pan for a minute or two. Let the cookie sheets cool completely before putting more cookies on to bake. A hot pan will cause the dough to start spreading.

11) To cut brownies easily use a plastic knife. They will not stick as much.

12) Proper storage is key to good cookie results. Store crisp cookies in a container with a loose lid. Soft cookies should be stored airtight with wax paper between layers. If they start to dry out, a piece of bread in the container will help.
Now for a recipe. It’s an old one that I’ve made almost every year, but I have no idea where I got it. It’s written on an old, yellowed sheet of notebook paper, wrinkled and spattered from years of use. These are delicious!


1 1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir together dry ingredients and add alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. If dough is too sticky, add just enough flour to handle. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll to 1/4” thickness and cut. If desired, sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake on a parchment-lined pan at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, until set and lightly browned on bottom. Makes about 100 (depending on the size of your cutter, of course!).
A great cookie gift!


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups mini M&M candies for baking
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder. In wide-mouth quart jar layer sugar, then M&Ms, then dry ingredient mixture. As you put in the layers, pack each one in tightly because jar will be full. Tighten lid and decorate jar as desired. Attach recipe:

Empty contents of jar into large bowl and mix well. Add 1/2 cup butter, softened. Stir in 1 egg, slightly beaten and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix completely. Shape into walnut-size balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes until slightly browned. Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

NOTE: Chopped nuts would be good in these, as would broken pretzel pieces or coconut.
"A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand." 


"Christmas cookies and happy hearts,
This is how the holiday starts!"

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 29, 2013

O Christmas Tree!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidds't us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

We hear this song each year, and it makes us think of those lovely trees we put up in our homes. Of course, our daughter had a different version of this when she was about 4 years old. Her version said, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your britches!”

Gotta love it!


Do you put up an artificial tree or go for the fragrant fresh variety? When I was growing up there was no such thing as an artificial tree, and I remember making the trip to the tree lot on the north side of town to choose just the right tree. We went to the same place each year, and it was such an exciting thing to do! Sometimes it was just my Dad, sister and me on our expedition. Other times Mom went along. And it was especially fun when it was snowing or had recently snowed. I still love that smell and miss the fresh trees, but the artificial trees are just so convenient.

If you plan to put up a fresh tree, here is some information:

Tree Varieties:

There are many varieties, but some will last longer than others. The longest-lasting would be the Fraser fir (about 6 weeks after cutting), the Scotch Pine and Douglas Fir.

When You Get It Home:

Keep the tree outside until ready to put into the stand. Cut a small piece off the bottom of the trunk and set it in a bucket of water until ready to bring it inside. This will allow it to soak up the water. Be sure to keep it watered – if not, a sap seal will close up the bottom of the tree and a new cut will be needed. The trees like lots of water, especially when first brought inside. It may absorb up to a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and several quarts after that.

To Keep The Tree Fresh -

There are solutions you can buy to keep it fresh, but you can also make your own. 


1/4 cup micronized iron (available at garden stores)
1 gallon hot water
2 cups light corn syrup
4 teaspoons chlorine bleach

Mix well. Replenish daily as needed. Makes 1 gallon.

(Hint: Place plastic under the tree in case of spills.)

Decorating the Tree -

Many people love to have “theme” trees, and others opt for a traditional style that includes decorations collected over the years. I love the old-fashioned trees full of color and variety. This brings to mind our year of the “Blue Christmas” – Mom decided to decorate everything in blue. Blue lights on the tree, blue ornaments, etc. It was pretty, but not something I’d want to do every year. 

As for lights on the tree, there are the mini lights or the big bulbs that have been popular for so many years. If you have questions as to how many mini lights you’ll need:

2 foot tree (35 to 50 lights)
3 foot tree (70 to 100 lights)
4 foot tree (100 to 140 lights)
6 foot tree (200 to 280 lights)
7 foot tree (315 to 400 lights)
9 foot tree (600 to 900 lights)

And do you remember the bubble lights? We loved those!

There are so many types of garlands you can use! I love the glass bead garlands as they look very old-fashioned. Here’s what you’ll need:

2 foot tree (15 to 20 feet)
4 foot tree (30 to 40 feet)
6 foot tree (50 to 75 feet)
7 foot tree (75 to 95 feet)

Tree Safety -

Trees love to be cool and out of drafts. Don’t put it near the fireplace or heat registers. Be sure all light cords are in good condition before using. Always unplug the lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

And how do you choose a good tree? Here are a few tips. Break off a couple of needles. If they snap crisply, the tree is fresh. If the needles bend they have no moisture. Another freshness test is to lift the tree and bump the trunk on the ground – if outer needles fall off, it’s not fresh. Also look for good color and fragrance.

Some Christmas Tree Facts -

The first recorded decorated tree was in Latvia in 1510.

Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states.

For each tree that is cut for Christmas, there are two or three seedlings planted. And on average about 2,000 trees are planted per acre.

Christmas trees take 7 to 10 years to mature.
“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

(Bob Hope)
On a totally different note - as National Caregivers Month comes to a close, please remember those who are caring for someone, either living in their home or in a facility of some sort, especially at this busy time of year. If you can be of help, offer it! Caregivers can always use a break....I know from experience!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday and that you are blessed with plenty – family, friends and food!

As children become adults with their own families and traditions, ours tend to change. We adapt and actually start making new traditions to fit everyone’s busy lives. We had our big family dinner last weekend due to busy schedules and plans, and it was so nice. There was lots of food and laughter as we visited and shared memories.

So today we’re having just a small family dinner, but it’s still a Thanksgiving feast – turkey, ham and all the trimmings – just on a smaller scale.

We had several desserts on Saturday, but this was my favorite. The recipe was recently in Taste of Home, and I adapted it a bit and used my mother’s pumpkin pie filling recipe. It’s one I always use, and it’s so spicy and delicious!

1 package refrigerated pie dough, room temperature
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (6 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 cup milk
Crust:  Unroll dough. Roll to 1/8” thickness and cut into 4” circles. I used a plastic lid and cut around it with a knife. Place the circles into muffin cups that have been sprayed with cooking spray. You should have 16 circles. Re-roll dough as needed.
Filling:  Combine pumpkin, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Add eggs and milk. Whisk until well combined. Using a measuring cup with spout pour filling into prepared cups.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower to 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crust is brown and filling is set.
Remove from pan and cool. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Note: You will probably have extra filling - I did. Just pour it into sprayed ramekins and bake it along with the tarts until set in the middle. Pumpkin pie without the crust!
Again, enjoy your day! Tomorrow....we move on to Christmas!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just In Time for Thanksgiving - A Repeat Post

I hope you are all doing well and are looking forward to a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We're doing our family dinner this Saturday due to scheduling conflicts and family obligations, then will have a quiet Thanksgiving Day at home. I just finished a full day of grocery shopping and plan to do much of the food preparation tomorrow. There is a lot of work involved in these holidays, isn't there? But it's all worth it in the end when we sit down at the table and enjoy the meal while sharing old memories and making new ones!

This is a repeat of a recent post, and I hope you don't mind. It contains some interesting information and tips, followed by a delicious recipe that I'll definitely be making for Saturday.

The holidays are on their way, and one of our favorite things to cook for those holiday dinners is sweet potatoes. Whether we roast, mash or candy them, these tubers are full of flavor and nutrients. The discussions as to whether we’re eating sweet potatoes or yams have been ongoing for quite some time. I’m hoping to provide some clarification as to which is which, along with some tips on selecting, storing and preparing sweet potatoes.

First, let’s clear up the questions as to differences between sweet potatoes and yams.

1) Sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. They are short with tapered ends and a smooth, thin skin. There are 2 types of sweet potato, those with white flesh and others with orange flesh. They have a sweeter flavor and creamy texture.

2) Yams are related to grasses and lilies, and come from the yam family. They are primarily grown in Africa and some tropical areas. They have an almost black, rough and scaly skin, and their flesh is either white, purple or red. Yams are cylindrical in shape and can grow up to 7 feet long. Their flesh is more starchy and dry than sweet potatoes. They are in no way related to sweet potatoes, and are usually only found in international markets – if you’re buying them in a supermarket you’re actually buying sweet potatoes!

The USDA requires “yams” to also be labeled as “sweet potatoes”, thus leading to more confusion for shoppers.

Selecting and storing sweet potatoes:

1) Choose dry, smooth, clean potatoes.

2) Do not wash until ready to cook as moisture will lead to spoilage.

3) Store in a cool, dark place approximately 55 to 65 degrees. I store mine in a peach basket in a corner of the basement.

4) Do not refrigerate until cooked.

A bit of sweet potato history:

1) The sweet potato dates back to around 750 BC in Peru. Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes when Columbus arrived in 1492. The sweet potato was introduced to England by Spaniards, and were a favorite of King Henry VIII. They were then taken to France, where Louis XV and Josephine enjoyed them for a while, but when they lost favor with the royals they virtually disappeared. Spaniards brought the sweet potato to the Philippines, then they were taken to the Pacific, specifically China, then to Japan.

2) In WWI there was a wheat flour shortage, and sweet potato flour was used as a substitute.

Interesting information:

1) 80% of the world’s sweet potatoes are produced in China.

2) North Carolina is the top producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, with Louisiana, Mississippi and California following close behind.

3) Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium and calcium. The vitamin A is great for your skin, and the potassium will help those pesky leg and muscle cramps!

I’m sure you have your favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes. I recently had company for dinner and made candied sweet potatoes. I boiled them in their skins, then peeled and halved them lengthwise when they were cool and placed them in a single layer in a large baking pan. I made a glaze of sugar-free maple syrup, Splenda brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and poured it over the potatoes, then sprinkled them with chopped nuts. All they needed was about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and they came out great.

My favorite sweet potato recipe, however, is one I’ve made numerous times, and the family loves it. It’s almost dessert!


4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 cinnamon stick
Boiling water to cover
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine sweet potatoes and cinnamon stick in the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and drain potatoes.

Pour potatoes into mixer bowl, and with a hand mixer at low speed add the brown sugar, syrup, butter, vanilla and cream. Switch mixer to second speed and add the eggs (potatoes should be cool enough not to cook the eggs). Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish, spreading evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe from the local newspaper several years ago, submitted by 2 chefs who were also local restaurant owners.

Notes: I usually sprinkle the top with chopped pecans or decorate with pecan halves. This one is a must-have at our Thanksgiving dinner!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

City Chicken

A few nights ago I tried something new for dinner. City chicken has been around since the 1930s or so, but for some reason I hadn’t given it a try. I found it at the supermarket on sale, then looked online for ways people were preparing it. Here’s my version:


1 pound city chicken (or 1 pound of pork, cubed with skewer inserted)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 to 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
baby carrots
1/2” thick onion slices

Mix flour, salt and pepper in a flat bowl. Combine the egg and water in a second bowl. Pour the bread crumbs into a third bowl. Dredge the meat in flour, then egg wash, then in bread crumbs, coating well. 

Melt the butter and add olive oil in large nonstick skillet. Brown the city chicken on all sides. 

Place carrots and onions in baking dish, using them as support for the city chicken – to keep it off the bottom of the pan. Place city chicken on top of vegetables. Add about 1/2 cup water (I seasoned mine with rosemary and pepper for flavor) to the pan. Cover with foil and place in 350 degree oven. Bake for 1 hour.

This was very moist and tender. Fluffy mashed potatoes, green beans and buttermilk biscuits rounded out this comforting meal.
When reading about city chicken and its history, I learned that in the Depression era chicken was hard to come by in cities and places far from rural areas. Pork and ground meats were much less expensive, so people started shaping the meats onto skewers in the shape of a drumstick. This was also called “mock chicken”. Apparently, it was more prevalent in areas like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and well into northern Ohio.

I think this is definitely something I will make in the future!
"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln
Today is Mickey Mouse Day! Remember The Mickey Mouse Club? How we loved watching Annette and all her friends, as well as the songs and serial stories (Spin and Marty, etc.).

It's also Push Button Phone Day. A while back my grandson saw a rotary phone somewhere and was fascinated with how it worked. Things sure have changed, haven't they?

Tomorrow is Have A Bad Day Day - but I don't recommend it!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Something Free….

Christmas is 6 weeks from today, and I thought I'd send just a little touch of the holiday season your way! Enjoy!

A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore
’T WAS the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tip Tuesday - Turkey 101

Thanksgiving is getting closer and closer, and it’s time to get serious about planning the dinner menu. Turkey is the traditional meat for the day, but many folks have their own preferences based on heritage and custom.

This Tip Tuesday is all about buying, preparing and serving our favorite bird.

1) When buying a whole turkey, plan on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person.

2) To thaw a frozen turkey, place on a sturdy pan in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. Do not unwrap.

3) After it’s thawed you can brine the turkey for at least 6 hours.

4) Unwrap the turkey, drain off liquid and pat dry with paper towels. The latest information says that poultry does not need to be washed – and that doing so promotes more bacteria and germs. Remove the giblets and save to cook for use in stuffing or gravy. Place the turkey on a rack in a sturdy roasting pan, at least 2” deep. Tuck the wings under and wrap the ends of the drumsticks with foil. Rub with butter or oil and season as desired. Now would be a good time to place aromatics in the cavity – onion, citrus, celery, apples, bay leaves, etc.

5) Roast at 325 degrees per the chart below:

Up to 7 pounds (2 – 2 1/2 hours unstuffed/2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours stuffed)
7 to 9 pounds  (2 1/2 to 3 hours unstuffed/2 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed)
9 to 18 pounds (3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed/3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed)
18 to 22 pounds (3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed/4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed)
22 to 24 pounds (4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed/5 to 5 1/2 hours stuffed)
24 to 30 pounds (4 1/2 to 5 hours unstuffed/5 1/2 to 6 1/4 hours stuffed)

6) When an instant-read thermometer reads 180 degrees in the thigh, the turkey is done. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving. If stuffed, the stuffing should be at 165 degrees.

7) Cook the giblets in chicken broth seasoned with poultry seasoning (or the turkey rub mixture), cool and cut up for stuffing or gravy.

8) Handy tools would be the instant-read thermometer, of course, and a set of turkey lifters. A fat separator would remove the fat from the delicious drippings that you’ll use for the gravy.

9) When dinner is over, separate the meat from the bones and cool thoroughly.

Some other hints:

1) Make your mashed potatoes early in the day, but make them a bit thinner than usual. Pour them into a slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray and leave on low heat until serving time.

2) If there are lumps in your gravy, either strain it through a sieve or use an immersion blender to smooth it out. If it’s a little thin, a few instant potato flakes will help thicken it.

“Magic” Turkey:

I heard about this a year or two ago, but have actually never tried it. If you have, please share how it turned out for you! This one you start the night before Thanksgiving.

Simply prepare the turkey for roasting as above and place it in a preheated 300 degree oven. Roast for 1 hour, then turn the oven down to 165 degrees. Leave the oven closed and let it set at 165 degrees overnight. In the morning the turkey should be at proper serving temperature. And that leaves your oven free for all the other dishes.

I’d definitely be sure to check the temperature on this one. And don’t stuff the bird when doing this.

It seems there’s always a new idea for doing turkeys, but I stick with the old tried and true. In the past I’ve heard about roasting them in paper bags, roasting them breast-side down, and even butterflying them for quicker roasting.
This is Geography Awareness Week – do they still teach that in school? It’s also National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week, as well as World Kindness Week and National Young Readers Week.

Tomorrow is World Kindness Day. Thursday we’ll observe National Pickle Day and World Diabetes Day.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Today I just have a big "THANK YOU" to all our military personnel, veterans and their families. Their dedication and sacrifice are much appreciated by all of us who have received the benefit of their service - our freedom.

Truthfully, we should show our appreciation every day, but a special day brings it to the fronts of our minds and reminds us to thank them all.

Friday, November 8, 2013

3 Weeks To Go!

I hope your week has gone well, and that you’re ready for a fun weekend. We don’t have any exciting plans as of now, but things could change, couldn’t they?

Thanksgiving is now less than 3 weeks away, and there’s a lot to do if you’re preparing the meal. I have some quick recipes that will add flavor and save last-minute fuss if you mix them up now. Give these a try!


2 tablespoons rubbed sage or poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

Mix together and store airtight.

I’d sprinkle some of this inside the bird, rub the skin with butter and rub with the remainder of the mixture. To the seasoned cavity add:

1 onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
6 bay leaves

For a few years I’ve also added a quartered apple. This combination makes for a juicy, flavorful turkey.


1/2 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup rubbed sage
2 tablespoons dried rosemary, crushed
2 tablespoons  dried marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground sage

Mix well. For a finer texture, place in food processor or blender and pulse till desired consistency.
This would be great in the Turkey Rub (above) or in your stuffing.


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix and store airtight. 

Perfect for those pumpkin pies and tarts!

To make your own seasoned croutons for stuffing, buy a loaf of day-old bread at the market. Cut it into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then turn off heat. Place the bread in a large zipper bag or bowl and spray lightly with cooking spray. Season with desired seasoning - I'd use poultry seasoning, parsley and a touch of garlic powder or Italian seasoning. Mix well and spread on pan sprayed with cooking spray. Place in oven and let set until crisp and dry. Season again if needed. Store airtight.

 Night before last I mixed up these quick meatballs and served them with thin noodles. Pretty tasty.


1 pound ground chuck
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (more if needed)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Au Jus:

1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 packet dry au jus mix
3 cups water

Mix well and roll into walnut-size balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn and bake another 10 minutes. 

For au jus, saute the onion in butter until translucent. Add the packet and 3 cups water and bring to a boil. 

Place meatballs in the au jus and heat thoroughly. Serve over noodles.

I got 20 meatballs from this recipe, but yours, of course, could vary depending on how big you make them. Also, if they’re larger they may take a bit longer to bake.
“A lot of Thanksgiving days have been ruined by not carving the turkey in the kitchen.” 
 (Kin Hubbard)

“No more turkey, but I’d like some more of the bread it ate.” 
(Hank Ketcham)
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Preparing For The Holidays

By now we’ve all started thinking about the coming holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and may already be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do. Organization and planning are the keys to an enjoyable, relaxing holiday season.

Start with a big calendar that has space for writing, as well as a note pad. Fill in events, appointments, parties, etc. on the calendar. Write everything that you need to do on the note pad. Then prioritize that list. Space chores so that there’s time for fun and rest!

First on the horizon is Thanksgiving. If you prepare the meal, whether it’s your first time or you’ve done it for years, you know there is a lot of work to be done before the actual cooking itself. After today you have 23 days to pull it all together. You can do it! Here are a few tips that might help.


You’ll want the house to look nice for your visitors, but there’s no need to go to extremes. After all, they’ve come to see you and enjoy the festivities – not to see your house.

1) Put away excess “stuff”. Take out old newspapers and magazines. Clear off the kitchen counters (you’ll need that space!). If children are coming, put away precious breakables.

2) If the carpets are dirty, now is the time to have them cleaned or to spot-clean them yourself. Don’t wait until the last minute.

3) If you use fabric tablecloths and napkins, go ahead and wash them, then press. A good way to store them without fold marks is to roll them around gift wrap or paper towel tubes.

4) This is a good time to polish the silver if you use it.

5) Plan your table decorations. If you serve buffet style, you have much more room to decorate the table lavishly. Be sure the centerpiece is low enough that folks at the table can see each other. Let the kids pitch in to make the place cards – they’ll feel part of the special day.

If these things are done ahead of time, all you’ll have to do is touch-up the bathrooms, dust and clean the floors. And, of course, the cooking.


1) Get started selecting the recipes you’ll use, then make your shopping lists.

2) Break down each recipe, listing tasks and planning when to do them. Much of the work can be done a day ahead, such as chopping vegetables, preparing gelatin salads, etc. Most casseroles can be prepared up to the point of being put into the baking dishes, then covered and chilled. Salad dressings can be made ahead. Plan desserts that don’t require last-minute preparations.

3) I keep the recipe together with non-perishable ingredients for each dish to be prepared. That way I don’t forget anything!

4) A timetable will help when it comes to finally baking casseroles and all the other dishes. Much of the time you’ll have dishes that need to bake at different temperatures for different amounts of time and, if you are like me, you have just one oven. Write down this information, then figure an “average” temperature for them all. Baking times can be adjusted to fit the new temperature. Just make sure everything is fully cooked. Of course, temperatures for some things like breads can’t be adjusted, so casseroles should be baked first and removed to keep warm while the bread bakes. Last year I roasted the turkey the day before and baked the ham in an electric roaster. That saved lots of time and dish-wrangling!

Most of all, enjoy the day and be thankful!

My son had an interesting suggestion: Find a good friend who is cooking and invite yourself for dinner! Well, that might be a good idea, but where are the leftovers?
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
(John Fitzgerald Kennedy)
In preparation for Christmas…..

1) Pull out your Christmas card list and add/remove names as needed. Buy your cards and start addressing a few each night while watching television. Make sure you have stamps on hand.

2) Make a master list of gifts, parties, shopping, and all the things you need to do. Start organizing and prioritizing that list.

3) Start gathering your Christmas movies and music so they’ll be ready when you want to enjoy them.

4) Buy gift wrap, ribbons, tags, etc. And don’t forget the cellophane tape.
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
(Norman Vincent Peale)
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy November!

Yes, it’s here. The year is 5/6 over, and the holidays are coming. There are numerous observances during the month of November, and you’ll find them listed on the “Holidays” page.

A couple that we certainly don’t want to forget are the end of Daylight Savings Time (2:00 a.m. Sunday morning) and Election Day next Tuesday. Be sure to set your clocks back on Saturday night – and don’t forget  to vote on Tuesday!

Also, November 11 is Veteran’s Day, and the 28th is Thanksgiving.

Today is *Give Up Your Shoulds Day, *National Authors’ Day, *National Family Literacy Day and National Go Cook For Your Pets Day.

Next week look for:

Saturday (2) – *Cookie Monster Day, *Plan Your Epitaph Day and Sadie Hawkins Day.
Sunday (3) Р*Clich̩ Day, Zero Tasking Day, *Sandwich Day and Jellyfish Day
Monday (4) – Fill Our Staplers Day, Job Action Day, *National Chicken Lady Day and *Use Your Common Sense Day
Wednesday (6) – *Saxophone Day
Thursday (7) – *National Men Make Dinner Day and *National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day (I like both of these!)
Friday (8) – National Walk To Work Day, *Cook Something Bold And Pungent Day, Domino Day, *National Parents As Teachers Day and *X-Ray Day
I’m sure that soon we’ll all be going through our recipe files for those treasured Thanksgiving recipes, as well as recipes for treats and gifts for Christmas.

Have any of you ever lost your joy of cooking? No, I don’t mean the cookbook, but the actual joy of planning and preparing meals. I seem to have misplaced mine somewhere, and am trying very hard to find it. I think the routine of cooking every meal, and most times 2 different meals at once to meet various dietary needs in the house, has caused a bit of burnout. I’m hoping the holiday cooking will bring it back! With that idea in mind, I plan to pull out some cookbooks over the weekend and find some new things to try, as well as plan out some menus for the holiday gatherings to come. Wish me luck!
“November comes
and November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”

(Elizabeth Coatsworth)
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tip Tuesday–Cinnamon

Today’s topic is cinnamon. Where does it come from? What is it good for? We all love cinnamon rolls, cinnamon candies and other foods enriched by the sweet flavor of cinnamon, but it does have some great health benefits as well.

Cinnamon has been around for possibly 4,000 years. It is derived from the bark of several trees and is used in both sweet and savory foods. True cinnamon is of the genus “cinnamomum”, and the more common cinnamon we use is actually “cassia” – a relative of true cinnamon.

True cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Egypt, Madagascar, Sumatra, the West Indies and Java. Cassia, however, comes from China, Vietnam and Myanmar. In the production of our common cinnamon, all portions of the bark are used, but in true cinnamon only the inner lining of the bark is used.

Cinnamon has many health benefits shown through clinical studies:

1) Helps regulate blood sugar in those with Type 2 Diabetes.
2) After a month or two lowers triglycerides and total cholesterol.
3) Now being studied as a possible cancer fighter.
4) Sniffing the essential oils is good for increased alertness and mental activity.
5) Both anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory.

To get the maximum health benefits, sprinkle a bit on some of your food sometime during the day. It is thought, though, that there are some substances in cassia that could cause liver damage. The best bet would be to look for true cinnamon, although it may be more expensive.

A bit of trivia – the cinnamon stick is called a “quill” due to its rolling up during the drying process.

Many people use cinnamon for those sweet foods – apple pie, etc.- but it is good for savory dishes as well. I always throw a big spoonful into chili. Pour a teaspoonful into the brew basket of the coffeemaker along with the ground coffee for a flavorful drink.

To make your house smell wonderful, place cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon peels and whole cloves in a bit of water on the stove. Let it simmer, being careful not to cook dry. Add water if needed.
Today is Internet Day – can you imagine not having it? It’s also National Cat Day.

Tomorrow is National Candy Corn Day. Love that stuff. Have you tried the candy bar combination of candy corn and peanuts? So good! It’s also Haunted Refrigerator Night. Ours does make some strange noises on occasion, which makes me think it just might be haunted. And for all of us “list” people, it’s Checklist Day. I’m definitely a list maker!

Check the "Holidays" page for more observances this month.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 25, 2013

They’re Coming!

The holidays, that is. Halloween is next week, Thanksgiving is 4 weeks from yesterday and Christmas is 2 months from today (60 days!). We’ve already seen some Christmas commercials. Soon we’ll be hearing the wonderful Christmas music, and the holiday shows and specials will begin.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy traditional foods and activities. It isn’t a time to try new recipes, but to prepare tried and true favorites.

I hope to do some posts during the coming weeks that highlight traditions, song lyrics and stories, as well as recipes and decorating tips. Over the years I’ve collected files full of Christmas stuff with hopes of someday putting a book together. So far that day hasn’t come. Maybe soon…..

In the meantime, let’s be sure to remember the significance of these holidays and try to keep everything in perspective. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s the people in our lives that count! So relax and enjoy.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over-The-Top Mac & Cheese

I tried another new recipe for tonight’s dinner, and it was definitely a keeper. It was delicious as well as economical, and my guys here loved it. Oh, it was so good!


1 (7 1/4 oz.) box macaroni and cheese
1/2 of 10 oz. can tomatoes with green chiles ( approximately 3/4 cup - save rest for later use)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
6 teaspoons taco seasoning mix (approximately 1/2 of packet)
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Prepare the macaroni and cheese as directed on the box. Stir in tomatoes with chiles and set aside.

Brown the ground beef with the onion until beef is no longer pink; drain. Stir taco seasoning mix into beef. Combine the two mixtures. Add chili powder, salt and pepper.

Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly and cheese melts.

Recipe adapted from Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Holiday Cooking (recipe submitted by a reader from Tulsa, OK).
I’m a big Gooseberry Patch fan. Their cookbooks are full of practical recipes that use ingredients most of us normally have on hand or that are easy to get. The books have great photos, and are very enjoyable to just sit and read, especially the Christmas series. And those ladies who started Gooseberry Patch are from Ohio, too! Check out www.gooseberrypatch.com.
Today’s Quote:
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

(Vince Lombardi)
Tomorrow is World Pasta Day. Does that give you any ideas for dinner? It’s also National Bread Sticks Day. Sounds like a meal to me! 

International Artists Day will be observed tomorrow. I appreciate those who have artistic talent. Share it with the world! My mother took art classes later in life, and I have several of her lovely paintings, but that talent was hidden for a long time!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meatless Monday….and Cake!

Yesterday was Meatless Monday at our house. My husband said he actually didn’t miss the meat - much! The menu included baked potatoes with all the toppings, broccoli casserole, navy beans and homemade bread. This casserole recipe is easy and quite good. I’m not sure where I found the recipe. I’ve had it several years, and it’s one of my handwritten recipes. There are similar recipes in many cookbooks and online.


2 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups crushed butter-flavor crackers
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine first 5 ingredients and pour into greased or sprayed 9x13” baking dish. Combine crushed crackers and butter and sprinkle over. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Notes: This recipe cuts in half easily. The half can of soup that’s left will freeze fine for later use. For the topping I used a mixture of crushed crackers and croutons. I also added some dried minced onion and a little garlic powder to the broccoli mixture. The broccoli was a bit chunky when done cooking, so I chopped it to smaller bits.
I baked this cake last week – it’s really versatile and delicious. No picture – it didn’t last long enough!


1 large box white or yellow cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 can pie filling

Pour oil in 9x13” baking dish. Add mix, eggs and water. Stir till blended (about 2 minutes). Scrape sides and spread evenly. Spoon pie filling on top and marble with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Store loosely covered.

Pie Filling Flavor Variations:

Cherry (add almond extract)
Apple (add apple pie spice)
Blueberry (add vanilla extract)
Peach (add vanilla extract)
Pumpkin (add pumpkin pie spice)

I drizzled a confectioner’s sugar and water (with a little almond extract) glaze over the cooled cake and stored it loosely covered in the refrigerator. Yum!

This is another handwritten index card recipe – have had it for years, and I’m  not sure where it came from.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 23, is Medical Assistants Appreciation Day. That is certainly a job I couldn’t do, and I applaud their dedication.

Thursday is Food Day. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

The “Holidays” page has a full listing.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Recipe Experiment

On Thursday night our son was coming over for dinner and, after looking at about 20 recipes, my husband and I decided that I should make this Mexican meal. Good decision! It was so easy and quick, but quite tasty and filling. Give this one a try – I know you’ll like it.



1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) bottle taco sauce
3/4 cup water
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 (12 count) package corn taco shells, broken
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

Toppings: chopped tomatoes, chopped green pepper, sour cream, salsa

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 11 x 7” baking dish (or spray with cooking spray).

Cook beef and onion in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned. Drain. Stir in taco sauce, water, chiles and seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Layer half of broken taco shells in prepared dish. Cover with half of meat mixture and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Repeat layers.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from Simple and Delicious magazine (a reader submission). 

Notes: I added a small can of sliced black olives, drained, to the meat mixture. You could add black beans and/or corn as well.

Yum! We had tortilla chips, salsa and refried black beans seasoned with onions, garlic and salsa on the side.
Since we're in a Mexican mood today, here are some Mexican Proverb Quotes:

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.”

“Do good and do not worry to whom.”

“Love is blind, but not the neighbors.”
Happy Sweetest Day! Don’t forgot your “sweetie”.

It’s also Evaluate Your Life Day – not a bad idea for any day. How can we make our lives better? How can we be a better person?

Go to the “Holidays” page for more observances.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tip Tuesday–It’s Apple Time!


Making that delicious apple butter last week put thoughts of apples in my head. How many varieties are there? How can they be used? Which are the best for cooking? Or just eating? I’ve been doing some research, and found that there are many varieties of apples; however, there are a few that are more well-known and more readily available in our local supermarkets.

Today’s Tip Tuesday will be all about apples. I hope you’ll find some interesting information here. I’ve also included a few varieties that are less familiar and that sounded interesting.

Arkansas Black: These hard, crunchy apples are best for eating. Their skin is so dark red that it’s almost black – thus the name. They were developed in Arkansas in approximately 1870.

Cortland: Red, sweet and tart, these are all-purpose, but better for eating. They come primarily from the Northwest, and were developed in New York in the 1890s.

Empire: Best for eating, these red, tangy apples were developed in New York in 1966.

Fameuse: Also known as Snow Apple because of their snow-white flesh, this variety is white, tart and sweet. An all-purpose apple.

Gala: These red, firm and sweet apples are all-purpose, but best for eating. They are available from September to June. Developed in New Zealand in the 1970s.

Golden Delicious: Skin ranges from green to yellow. These are all-purpose apples, and are available from September to June. They were developed in West Virginia in 1914.

Granny Smith: These green, firm and tart apples were developed in Australia in 1868. They are good for cooking and eating.

Gravenstein: Tart, crisp and juicy, these apples are all-purpose and come from the west coast. They were developed in Denmark in the 17th century.

Honeycrisp: One of my new favorites! Best for eating, these crisp, sweet and juicy apples were developed in Minnesota in 1960.

Jonathan: A sweet, tart variety that is good for both eating and cooking, but does not hold up well when cooked whole. They are available from September to February. Developed in New York in the 1820s.

Macintosh: This is a crisp variety, with a flavor that ranges from sweet to tart. They are all-purpose, and especially good for applesauce. Available from September to March, they were developed in Canada in 1811.

Paula Red: Best for eating, with a firm, white flesh. They were developed in Michigan in the 1960s.

Red Delicious: These red beauties are better for eating, with a juicy, sweet flesh. They are available September to April, and were developed in Iowa in approximately 1879. They are known for the 5 distinct knobs on the bottom.

Rome Beauty: These are best for cooking. They have red skin, with a tender to mealy texture and flavor that ranges from bland to tart. They are available November to May. Developed in the 19th century.

Winesap: This variety is great for cider, but is an all-purpose apple. The skin is red, with a juicy, crisp and tart flesh. They are available November to May, and were developed in the US in 1817.

Although a lot of these apples have given availability ranges, these days most are available year-round.

4 medium apples, sliced thinly
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 eggs 
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine, melted

Mix filling ingredients together and pour into 9" pie pan. Combine topping ingredients and pour over. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

“The apple does not fall far from the tree” (Proverb quote)

“There is little choice in a barrel of rotten apples.” (William Shakespeare)

And, as I wrote October 7 in the “Superstitions” post, it was thought long ago that the number of seeds in an apple told how many children you would have.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter

My house is smelling so great this morning. I have apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. It’s been simmering away for about 24 hours now, and is just about ready to be poured into the jars. I can hardly wait to taste that smooth, flavorful concoction!


15 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Combine apples and water in large saucepan. Cook until apples are mushy. Transfer to slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on Low for 20 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. If too thin after 24 hours, leave lid ajar to let moisture out until desired consistency is reached. If there are a few lumps and you want smoother apple butter, an immersion blender works great to smooth it out.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids. Let stand at room temperature until cool, then place in freezer.

Makes about 4 to 6 pints.


1) I used a mix of Gala, Jonathan, Jonamac, Macintosh and Golden Delicious apples – about 5 1/2 pounds

2) I used Splenda sugar blend and brown sugar blend.

3) If you go a bit over the 15 cups of apples, so much the better!

I hope you’ll try this one. I’ve had the recipe for many years and have made it quite a few times. It’s great to reach into the freezer and bring out a jar of deliciousness!

Oh man, oh man! This is good stuff! I ended up with 5 half-pint jars and, because I was out of that size jars, just filled the 4 pint jars halfway. As long as they're sealed well they should freeze just fine.

The last photo is of two items you really, really need to do anything like this. The funnel fits in both regular and wide-mouth jars, making filling them easy. The magnetic wand will pick up the hot lids and rings easily so you won't burn yourself.
Monday is the national observance of Columbus Day – government offices will be closed, which is no different than usual these days. (Hope that all ends soon!) 

Of course, the actual Columbus Day is tomorrow, October 12. It became a national holiday in 1937, and in 1970 the holiday was set to be on the second Monday in October each year.

Please see the “Holidays” page for additional observances.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Free Crochet Pattern

The cooler weather leads to thoughts of snuggly sweaters, warm jackets and lovely scarves and accessories. A few nights ago, while watching television, I grabbed a ball of leftover yarn and started playing. The result is this Post Stitch Infinity Scarf. It was easy to design and easy to complete. And wouldn’t it be lovely in a vibrant royal blue or a gorgeous red?

Here’s the pattern – if you have problems with it or have questions, please email me.


4-ply worsted weight yarn
Crochet hook – size I


Chain 17.

Row 1: Dc in third ch from hook and in each ch across. (15 dc). Ch 3, turn.

Row 2: *(Dc in first dc, front post dc [fpdc] in next dc), repeat from * 6 times, dc in top of ch 3. Ch 3, turn.

Repeat Rows 1 & 2 to desired length, ending with Row 2. The sample was 92 rows. Stitch ends together, being careful not to twist. Weave in ends.

(Front Post Double Crochet) – Yarn over and insert hook in front, between stitches and behind the stitch that will have post stitch. Bring hook and yarn to front on other side of stitch, yarn over and double crochet as usual.

Tomorrow, October 10, is National Depression Screening Day, World Sight Day, and World Mental Health Day. The 11th brings Southern Food Heritage Day and World Egg Day.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!