Showing posts from March, 2011

Home Cooks: Bookmark this Site!

One of my favorite cooking reference sites is America's Test Kitchen.   You may be familiar with their wonderful magazine, Cooks Illustrated.   They test classic recipes and fine-tune them so they turn out great each time you make them.   The magazine offers step-by-step instructions and illustrations for dishes each issue, along with product reviews.   When I am ready to make a new kitchen equipment purchase, no matter how small, I check their site for recommendations.

A few months ago I had to replace my cookware.  I was prepared to save up for a year to buy All-Clad until I read ATK's reviews of a Tramontina set (this link is for the original set rated "Best Buy" in ATK)  sold exclusively!   It was a mere fraction of the cost and their only complaint was the sizes of pots offered.   Well, both companies read the reviews and quickly produced a line with bigger pots and pans.   It is wonderful, high-quality tri-ply stainless cookware and it has mad…

Patron Saint of Monkeys?

Today our four-year old overheard us talking about an image of St. George slaying the dragon.   "Oh, yeah," we heard her say, "that must be Curious George's patron saint."

Our Lady's Blue Berry Muffins

Ok, so that's not the real title of this recipe, but that's what it is in our house this morning, to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation.   If Daddy wasn't at work, it would have been his blueberry buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, but I can't duplicate those.   This is not the recipe that I learned to use when I was little, but it's one I found in one of Mama's Pillsbury cookbooks.   It's perfectly moist and not too sweet and it's one of my favorite recipes.   There are also lots of variations that can be made.   These freeze beautifully and re-heat easily in the microwave (about 1 minute, wrapped in a paper towel).

MUFFINS 2 c. all-purpose flour 1/2 cup sugar 3 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 3/4 cup milk 1/3 cup oil 1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 400 degrees.   Grease bottoms only of 12 muffin cups or line with paper cups.
In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Push up sides on sides of bowl to form a well in the bottom.
In small bowl,…

Don't Stand Still for Too Long at My House

I'm on a painting kick.   If you stand still for too long, you will end up being painted black--either brushed on or more likely, spray painted.   I do this every couple of years.   Mama had lots of metal yard pieces--plant stands, flower carts, etc. and they need to be repainted every so often.   I love metal pieces because you can so easily freshen them up with a fresh coat of paint.   I think nothing looks sharper than a crisp black finish.  The last time I was on spray-painting-spree, I called a friend and told her our fence would look really great painted black.  "I think you need to stop spray-painting for a while, Terri," was her reply.   Here are a few of my little projects.


Metal outdoor furniture will rust over time, so I waited until I could find some at a garage sale.   It makes much more sense to buy it cheap and paint it; I let the original owners take the depreciation on their purchase.   I had to wait five years!

Tip: If you have a table with glass…

What's In My New Crock-Pot Today

It's finally time to retire my cute cherry-design slow cooker.   We broke in this new one today with the following delicious and economical recipe from Southern Living's Homestyle Cooking cookbook. 

It's a favorite recipe and we always pair it with the Creamy Coleslaw that follows.   I never liked coleslaw until I tried this recipe.   We like the sandwiches with hamburger pickle slices.   Sometimes, instead of the meats in the recipe, I use a pork roast or cut chops or steaks into chunks.   It freezes well, also!

Barbecue for Sandwiches
1 ½ lbs.  beef stew meat 1 ½ lbs. lean cubed pork 1 green bell pepper, chopped 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar ¼ cup white vinegar 1 Tbsp. chili powder 2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. dry mustard 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Combine all ingredients in a 5 quart electric slow cooker.  Cover and cook on HIGH setting 7 hours.  Shred meat before serving.

Creamy Coleslaw
1 small cabbage, finely sh…

The First Day of Spring From My Front Door

It's been a beautiful day, the perfecting beginning to this beautiful season.   This morning, I was greeted with the lovely lavender blossoms from my potted azalea.   One of the signs of spring that most registers in my mind from my childhood was the sight of massive old azaleas in bloom off our breezeway.   There was an old wrought iron gate that you could walk through and walk between the two blooming bushes.   You had to be fast, though, because the bees were busy swarming, also enjoying the fragrant pink blossoms.   The bushes grew so large that they touched you as you walked along the path.   I wonder how many hours I spent swinging on that gate and enjoying the sights and sounds around me or just daydreaming.

Here, we are unable to grow azaleas in the ground due to our soil.  So, I have a lovely Encore dwarf azalea in a pot.   It was a gift from our friend Nancy, so it is special to me for several reasons.    A reminder of happy memories and a good friend!

Another favorite…

Delicious Vegetable Chowder for Fridays

I first tried this chowder at the home of my friend, Lauren.   It was delicious and I couldn't wait to make it for my husband.   It's a family favorite now and I've passed it along to several friends.   They've added it to their permanent collections, also.

Here's the link from Simple Organized Living, complete with the recipe and her lovely photos.  You can substitute the chicken broth with vegetable broth.    She's on facebook with great recipes and ideas.

Decorating for...Lent?

Last year was my first time to decorate for the season of Lent.   I felt like we needed a visual reminder of the season and its purpose.   I was inspired by the beautiful Lenten decorations at our church and my favorite psalm of the liturgical year.

A simple Lenten centerpiece for our table.   I already had the dish.   I bought the sand and rocks at Dollar Tree.   The candle holder was less than a dollar at Wal-Mart, with just a simple tea light candle in the center.   The purple cloth is just a bandana from a crafts store, for less than a dollar.   It's nice to keep a Lenten centerpiece simple and inexpensive.

We Catholics know that our bodies were made for worshiping God and that all of our senses are involved.   We have visual reminders of God, His love, His saints in our parishes and we need to build the same reminders in our own homes.   Our mantle will be late this year, but I hope it will still be a powerful visual reminder that can help us stay on track during this Len…


I have not been this excited about an approaching Lenten season since 2003, right before we found out we were expecting Emmeline.   Since then, it seems I've either been pregnant or nursing, so the food-related aspects of Lent weren't as much a part of the observances.   That seems to affect the whole season, no matter what else I might have given up or added.   I'm sure it's because I pushed the boundaries by including foods like chocolate that were not necessary to a healthy diet for pregnancy and nursing.

This year, our family will be going through unavoidable chaos and activity during Lent, but we are anxious to make this a fruitful time for our family.   We've had a rough year.   A rough six years, but the last year seemed particularly rough.   When I told my friend Amber that I didn't understand why it felt much worse, she reminded me that the events of the previous five years unfolded over that time, but last year we had lots of big stuff hit us all at …