Category Archives: Kitchen notes

On a day of dreariness, what else can one do but cook!

I am a Methodist and I am an American. Today I am struggling to deal with all that is in the news and then you add the loss of sunshine and warmer temperatures as another winter storm roars in and others line up.

Some days are just plain ole’ dreary.

There are always typical household chores to do–laundry, dusting, vacuuming and even gathering trash–but that just does not perk me up or distract me enough to manage the dreariness that I feel within my soul.

So what does one do?

I could knit. I could work on my latest rug hooking project. I could study my books. I could write (other than a blog). Well, today I also looked in the refrigerator and realized I needed to clean out a few things.

So today, I cook.

What does one cook? The problem I found was I had some blueberries that needed to be used or tossed. Now tossing just does not seem appropriate. Then I discovered I had some older types of bread–hot dog buns, ends of a sourdough loaf, and even some homemade banana bread.

So, I pulled out a bowl, grabbed the ingredients for bread pudding and mixed them all up. Right now I am waiting on it to cook, but in the meantime this is what it looked like:

Blueberry bread pudding going into the oven. Always have to make a sample when trying something new.

I used the blueberries fresh, and I added some fresh ginger, vanilla, brown sugar and milk. I sure do hope it turns out. At least it is beginning to smell good in the kitchen as it bakes. I may have to add an update when it finishes.

One thing for sure: on a cold, dreary Wednesday (Hump Day as the Geico Ad reminds us) nothing beats something cooking in the kitchen. I certainly believe it will improve my mental outlook on the day.

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Ever crave a recipe from Mom?

For the past few weeks, I have craved Mom’s pimento cheese spread.  I had looked for the pimentos and could not find them so I would give up.  Then walking down the aisle I saw something new–Velveeta with sharp cheddar flavor!

Now I knew I had to make pimento cheese because that was a new flavor and I thought it could really top the taste chart for my family.  So, I searched again–and I found the pimentos hiding down low in an entirely different location, but sadly a store brand.  Still I was determined to make Mom’s pimento cheese spread.

I pulled out my recipe:


Sorry about the appearance, but this is a little spiral I keep of some very important recipes and I just can’t seem to give it up.  The vintage look of the page shows how much I return to these recipes over the years.

But, there it is.  Create a custard, add the cheese, melt it, and then add the pimentos.

Yes, I make some notes, and you can see that I learned the hard way about adding real cheddar cheese.  The flavor would be good, but it just does not work.  That is the reason why I was so excited to find the new flavor of Velvet.  I am going to have to add the 2018 note about it now.

Making pimento cheese always seemed like a major challenge, but not this time.  I pulled out the ingredients, turned on the stove, and in no time it was done.  And the flavor–wow!

And yes, I did add a few slices of American cheese to keep the spread a bit more stiff.  Still the spread works great on bread, toast, crackers, and celery (don’t try potato chips unless kettle cooked or wavy because it is too stiff for that to work).


The final product is so yummy and I know Mom would be proud.


I keep thinking how good this will be added to some sandwiches, too.  In Atlanta, I found a sandwich that included pimento cheese and never thought about adding it to a classic sandwich.

Maybe it is the time of year, but just the process of making this family treat certainly picked up my spirits.  Typically I move into November filled with dread, but making this treat brought a little special joy into my November 1 day.

As we enter into these last two months of the year, family connections color our moods.  Stopping once in a while to capture memories can be a positive, yet I am reminded how many in our world do not have the warm-fuzzy memories like mine.

Maybe sharing this recipe with others is one way I can help build new memories for others.  This is not too difficult, but one major warning–you must stir while it is thickening because it scorches very easily.  It also spits terribly if you have it too hot and it boils.

This time I was amazed how quickly it started thickening and when it started to spit, I turned it down to a low setting while I added the chunks of cheese and kept stirring while it melted.

And believe me, the aroma when you add in the chopped pimentos just lift one’s spirits!  I should have made a bowl of tomato soup, too.  That would have topped off my kitchen time.

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Twisted Hash with Blueberry & Chipolte Sausage

Meal time can easily be a problem, especially as we cook two or three times a day.  But I find that figuring out how to keep meals from being so routine that it losses appeal just because it is a frequently repeated menu.  My tendency to avoid boredom and think “outside of the box” also known as lateral thinking reaches right into the kitchen.

Sometimes this tendency is not well-received, but I just can’t keep from trying out something new or different despite the “Can’t you just leave well-enough alone?” litany that pops up when I do step outside of the box–or in this case, the cookbook.

Last night I wanted to use some grilled smoked sausages that I had left over.  The local meat shop Alwell’s offers a variety of precooked sausages in a range of flavors at a very reasonable price.  The ones that were left over from grilling were blueberry chipotle flavored.  I just could not think of an interesting way to do it until I thought about a skillet meal.


Blueberry chipotle sausages

The problem that I faced was how to fix a meal that could be left warming while I had to leave for another softball game.  I did not want to waste the leftovers, and I needed something new.  Hence I started thinking about these sausages.  They are a bit on the spicy side, but sweet, too.  Hmmm.

I began running through a list of options and suddenly remembered I had a box of hash browns.  I picked it up, sliced up the sausages and began cooking.  Granted there are no major surprises in a meal like this, but since the advent of Hamburger Helper, every once and a while you need a one-pot

The problem I have with pre-packaged products is the excessive salt and additives that are in them.  I understand the need for preservatives and taste, but I have fun with creating those elements to a dish on my own.

When the obituary and features came out last week about the famed restaurant owner, Mother Gibbs, aired, I was reminded how much cooking is not about following a recipe but knowing what works together.  Therefore, when I thought about the sausages, I thought what would go with them and potatoes seemed a winner over pasta, rice, or even other veggies.



This brings me back to the hash browns.  I do not make my own from once baked potatoes, and I often have used the famous O’Dell’s Hash Browns.  Lately though, I have discovered that dehydrated packages of hash browns, much like instant potatoes, have self life


and are easy to work with.

The boxed version are reconstituted with hot water, which comes out of my tap hot enough to scald the skin, so I filled the carton with water, sat it aside, and sliced the sausages into the skillet.  As it began warming up, the skillet is also being prepped for the hash browns.

Such a simple solution for a quick and filling supper.  A one-pan wonder, so to speak.  The spice of the sausage flavored the hash browns.  I could have added some onion, peppers, even carrots or zucchini, but I kept it simple.  Isn’t cooking one of those processes that the effort matches the clock rather than the taste?

The dish was ready in about 15 minutes after the potatoes were reconstituted, And itIMG_2331 was easy to keep warm until everybody was ready to eat.  Something different, yes, but certainly worth duplicating again when the calendar dictates different meal times or everybody is in a hurry

Cooking off the top of one’s head is part of everyday life.  Mildred Council, famous restaurant owner of Mama Dip’s Kitchen in Chapel Hill, NC, knew what worked and carried into a thriving business.  Maybe more thinking ‘outside of the box’ needs to be part of our menu planning, too.  This little experiment certainly turned out to be yummy, now I want to add a little more to it, too.  Watch out those who gather at my table, you never know what will show up next.

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Puppy Love: Unconditional love in a bite for our duo

This is one of those days that the brain seems a bit fractured.  Maybe that has a negative twist, but I suspect most of you know those days.  As I went from one task to another without a plan, I realized that I needed some kitchen therapy.

I would never have considered kitchen therapy two years ago because after a busy school day and doing whatever household chores had to be done, esp. laundry, the kitchen was just another task.  After two years and moving to three, I have found that when I can’t seem to focus well, I turn to the kitchen.

Today, I decided that I needed to refill my homemade doggie treats, so I started the process.  I have taken two different recipes and tweaked them.  I use the basic standard of graham flour, rolled oats (not quick), egg, and applesauce, but then change them up.

Puppy Love Treats:  First batch out, now a second.  I even cook the scraps for a little extra in the food bowl.

I have found that baby food purees are a great way to add the sweet potatoes, peas, and apples that seem to please the dogs, so I add that in, too.  Vanilla seems to be a special ingredient in a wide-range of recipes, so I generously add that, too.

This time I am adding steel cut oats partly for the roughage, but also because it is smaller for my small Havanese to manage chewing.  Our bassador has no problem with anything and at 13 he has no teeth issues.

I cut them pretty thin and small so we do not overuse them, and they store very nicely.  The smell is great in the kitchen today, and even though the spring sunshine makes it look delightfully warm outside, it still is in the 50s.

Our Duo

Meet Possum the Havanese and Ralph the Bassador. They provide unconditional love whenever needed, so why not a little puppy love for them right out of the oven–cooled of course.



My brain is kicking in a bit better now, so I have also made my husband one of his favorites:  Butterfinger toll house cookies.  I think he will be surprised when he gets home that the oven has been working this afternoon.  They are in the oven now.

I have one more major task I wanted to accomplish and I think my brain is cleared enough to get it done.  Thanks for seeing how a little Puppy Love treat makes me percolate a bit better and the family gets the benefits and it all comes from unconditional love just like God loves us and asks us to love others.


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Prepping for meals ahead

Yesterday was mid-week, you know the feeling–Wednesday or Hump Day.  I had chores to do and just kept moving from one thing to the next.  Some days are like that, you know.

Anyway, I decided one chore was to prepare some of the meat I had picked up at our local grocery store Tuesday morning (they restock the fruits and veggies early in the morning).  I found some 93% lean ground beef as a manager’s special, so bought all they had–3–in the cooler.  They also offer some deals of various cuts and pro


93% lean ground beef & sausage ready for browning

ducts that cannot be ignored:  5 for $25.00. 

So this morning, one of the first things I did was pull out the skillet and start browning meat.

I am not sure where I read this suggestion, but for well over 20 years, I have used one ingredient on my store bought meats–powdered garlic or chopped garlic.  Tucked in my memory is the statement that the garlic kills the bacteria that sometimes develops around the grinders and blades in the butchering process.  Therefore, in goes the meat and on top goes garlic, veggie pepper and onion powder.  My standard mix of spices to which I can add later when I continue the final dish.

Meat seasonings

The Tupperware shakers are always at my fingertips and in proper order: garlic powder, veggie pepper, and onion pepper. No labels, but the nose knows.

I probably should do some research and find out how garlic works, but I can testify that  ailments are rare in our home.  Even when the kids were in school, they just never seemed to bring home “The Bug.”  I keep thinking there must be something to the garlic memory stored in my memory.

But there is something about prepping meat and storing it away.  As I finished up the


A new brand of sausage, but I figured I could add more sage like the one I usually try to buy. Sadly my usual one was not offered in the 5 for 25 offer.

ground beef, drained it, I started the second pan, the sausage.While the sausage browned, I started packaging up the ground beef.  My daughter convinced me that a food keeper was smart, and it certainly does help on these projects.  I got the beef done just in time to drain the sausage, clean the pan, and then package the sausage.

Finished prep

Ready for use: ground beef and sausage into the freezer, dated and labeled.

Wednesday continued to be filled with odds and ends as Hump Days seem to do.  But when I was done prepping the meats, there was a sense of peace and even pride, that I was thinking ahead.

Browning meat is not high tech, nor really a skilled cooking technique, but there are at least seven meals packaged and ready to go.  Who knows what the final meal will be–spaghetti, pizza, biscuits & gravy, hamburger soup, gumbo, Sloppy Joes/juicyburgers, or a skillet stroganoff.  The key is that the meat is ready and I am prepared to throw together a meal in just a few minutes.

The secret of the garlic powder?  I cannot tell you the news story that I heard so many years ago, but I know that we have weather many flu, intestinal flu bugs that have swirled around us.  I am afraid to not use the garlic powder at this point.  But maybe, just maybe somebody else will know the science behind it and confirm my practice.

My Wednesday went into the history book, but the freezer holds answers to some of the future.  Prepping ahead in the kitchen can be a metaphor for prepping many other facets of our life.  Seems to me that is what going to church is, too.  It prepares us for whatever lies ahead.  Just saying. . .

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Spring must be close; look what I found

Living in the Midwest, and truly the Midwest as we are central Missouri, one starts looking for signs of Spring.  Now the sun is out today, but there is still a bite to the air.   Most of us would say that it is very typically a March day.  That does not change the fact that we are yearning to feel the warm sunshine and the summer breezes that mark the end of the winter.

Therefore, when I walked into our local grocery store and spotted these:


new red potatoes and fresh green beans.  I knew what supper was going to be.  The freshness of these veggies just jumped out at me.  Often finding truly fresh veggies, here in the Midwest, prior to growing season is extraordinarily difficult.

Many compliments to our local grocers at BiLo, the Country Mart, because the Tuesday morning produce typically are delightful.  I hold off whenever I can to get there on Tuesday morning because they explained that is the day they have completed the restocking with fresh produce.  I appreciate that they let me know this piece of information because it is worth it to see such a display.

Therefore, this mini-post is a thank you to BiLo, but also to share my excitement that winter is coming to a close and there is evidence that summer is close at hands.  Just seven more days until Spring is formally here, and what a joy that is.

And just in case you are curious, the red potatoes and green beans are on the burner with a slice of onion, a tablespoon of bacon grease, pepper and salt.  This house is already smelling yummy, esp. since I put in an arm roast, too, that was a manager special.





















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No icy lunch for Winter Storm Oliver

Here in the Midwest, Winter Storm Oliver is dumping rain and ice all over the place.  Only one county from the KC Metro area, we are dealing with rain and temperatures hovering about the freezing mark.  Lunch can so often be a quick grab from the refrigerator, but today I wanted something different and warm.

I had left over country ribs and thought there just had to be a solution.  My husband likes cooked cabbage, but not necessarily cold slaw.  Most leftover pork has a way of being coupled with cold slaw and that just did not seem like a good match for today.

A quick check on line, and I decided that I could create a pork and cabbage dish for lunch that would have good flavor.  Therefore, off to the refrigerator.


Using about 1-1 1/2 leftover country rib, I started warming it with a little water and about 1 tsp. of non-MSG chicken bouillon from the Tipton, MO, Dutch Bakery I keep on hand.

Then I sliced up the leftover cabbage, and laid it on top to steam.  (The photo is before steaming.)

For extra seasoning, I used about 1 tsp. of rice vinegar, then about 1/2 tsp. of KC Veggie seasoning that I found at the Rivermarket in KC, plus about 1/2 tsp of veggie pepper that I  also keep on hand from the Dutch Bakery in Tipton, MO.  Finally, a little salt to taste after it is dished up.

I have to admit I would have added some celery seed, but I am out right now.  Whenever I cook cabbage or make cold slaw, I like to add celery seed.  I think it adds so much flavor.

My husband liked it and it was very filling.  I think it could have been done as a chicken-broth based soup, too, but this kept the need for crackers off the menu.  Eating healthy means thinking about things like that, too.

Lunch is over, but the rain and likely icing event is not.  I think I will have chili tonight, but I still have an hour or two before I want to get it on the stove.  These winter weather days certainly finds me looking for comfort foods and new ideas to perk up the days.  This dish turned out to be very simple and very warming.


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Twisted Chicken Noodle Soup

Maybe the long winter season is getting into my psyche, but I really am tired of being cold.  And here in Missouri, our cold is without the emotional benefits of snow.  We are just in a cold, drab world.

Cooking has a way of making a negative mood positive and tackling the cold winter, soup continues to be a comfort food.  I decided to try something a bit different yesterday.  Using left over stove-top grilled chicken tenders, I created a Twisted Chicken Noodle Soup.  Actually it was a twisted cream of chicken noodle soup, and the twist was in the noodle.

A visit to an Asian market resulted in the purchase of sweet potato noodles.  They have sat in my pantry waiting for me to use them.  As the cold permeated my psyche, I kept thinking there must be a way to use them.  Finding the left over chicken, I put together the idea that sweet potatoes go great with chicken, so why not a chicken noodle soup with sweet potato noodles.

The process began with creating a base of chicken bouillon, chopping the tenders up, I started the pot with my favorite non-MSG chicken bouillon.  Then came my chopped veggie additions–celery, onion and carrot.  For additional flavor, I added  KC veggie seasoning, mixed herbs including a touch of rosemary and rubbed sage, and finally, pumpkin pie spices.  The pot smelled good as it heated up:IMG_2081

As the pot was boiling, I got the noodles out.  I had no idea what I was getting into as I am so accustomed to using traditional pasta; but what problem could there be.  Open up the dried noodles, break into a manageable size and drop in the boiling broth.

Much to my surprise, the noodles are tough.  It was impossible to simply break as I do with regular pastas.  It was even remarkably difficult to cut with a knife.  Therefore, I simply had to drop them in.  The full length of one noodle is about 18 inches long, so stirring them while they begin to soften makes them fit into the pan.

The noodles cooked down quite nicely, but they are translucent.  I began to wonder how my husband would respond to the visuals in the clear broth.  I was letting it cook and began trying to decide whether this soup was going to be any good or not.  Then I started thinking:  if butternut soup is a cream base, and cream of chicken soup includes noodles in some cases, then why couldn’t I modify this into a cream of noodle soup.

I returned to the kitchen, took about a half cup of half and half, poured it in.  Maybe I should have removed some of the broth, but I didn’t.  Then I decided it needed thickening and if you make sweet potato or even potato soup, you use the meat of the potato.  I pulled out instant potatoes and added about half a package to the pot to thicken it.

Oh, I learned another trick concerning the noodles.  Even if you cannot break them up, once they cook and soften, they are very easy to cut.  I used a pastry cutter to cut them in the pan.  A bit of a challenge, but it makes it easier to eat.  I would suggest cooking the noodles in the soup base and then cut them as you serve them.  Maybe there is an easier way to do so, but my pastry cutter worked.

The final result:  YUMMY!  IMG_2082

My husband really liked it and I can’t wait for others to try it, too.  The translucent noodles looked much more traditional once creamed and thickened.  I think the sweet potato noodles and the pumpkin pie spices paired well with a much more traditional chicken noodle soup.  Whew!  another twist for the tastebuds.

If you are interested, here is a rough list of ingredients.  I apologize that I tend to just add and not measure when I cook independent of a regular recipe:

  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chopped onion, celery and carrot
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs (Italian mix would work)
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper (I prefer veggie pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
  • 1/3 package of sweet potato noodles
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup of instant mashed potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

I know many might wonder about calorie counts and fats, but I cannot address them.  I use My Fitness Pal, and they do include sweet potato soup and cream of chicken noodle.  I had to guesstimate what the calories were.  I did some research though and know that sweet potato noodles are gluten free and may be a more nutritional option than most wheat-based pastas.

I hope you let me know if you try recreating this Twisted Chicken Soup.  I will be fascinated to know your opinion.  Happy eating!

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Sunshine & Home Cooking

Today was filled with sunshine.  Despite all the negatives that fills the TV news and social media, nothing can soothe one as much as sunshine.

Actually sunshine does not soothe as much as it energizes.  I would suggest that if all of us remembered the rule of thumb of 30 minutes out doors, we would be much healthier–physically and mentally.

Of course there is no doubt that home cooking versus fast food or even restaurant cuisine has additional value.  Tonight’s craving for fresh salmon lead to one of those comfort food meals:  baked salmon, wilted spinach, and homemade mac & cheese.

Fixing wilted spinach is almost magical.  Creating a dressing with chopped bacon, basaltic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sugar is not difficult, but figuring out how much spinach to use is a challenge.  I dumped all but about a cup of baby spinach into the skillet and started tossing. . .


I could hardly keep it in the skillet so steamed it a tiny bit before finishing.  The final meal looked like this:


So tonight we feasted; first on sunshine and then on the home cooked supper.  The meal took only 30 minutes from start to finish to prepare, but it certainly is full of the comfort foods we all need to battle the winter blahs.

I trust that in the midst of all the insanity of our world, that we remember that sunshine and home cooked meals may serve as some of the best medicine we all need.  Take a few minutes outside whenever you can, and take a few minutes in the kitchen.  Your life can fend off some of the worst illnesses.

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Tweaking a recipe: Cranberry-Pistachio Cookie/Biscotti

Well, there is nothing like taking a recipe and trying out something new.  Sometimes tweaking a recipe does not work, but I thought this would be yummy and risked the tweak.  I found this last year on when she posted Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies.  But, I followed the recipe and then added a twist–cook them as biscotti.  Here is what I have done:

Cran-Pistachio Cookies

Recipe base for Christmas biscotti taken from


Special note: Biscotti are twice-baked cookies, basically. This recipe is tasty, but turning them into biscotti makes them even better, I think. I am pretty sure that you could begin with any basic sugar cookie base, just add the extra ingredients and follow the biscotti baking method.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees


The basic cookie recipe:


1 pouch of sugar cookie mix (the original blogger credits this to Betty Crocker)

1 box of instant pistachio pudding

¼ cup flour

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ cup chopped dried cranberries (I added chopped pistachios too)


The cookie recipe goes on . . .


Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and slightly flatten with fingertips. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not bake them too long as you will lose the soft texture and they won’t be as green. They will not look done, but take them out and let them sit on the pan for about 2 minutes.


Mix everything up, but now comes the biscotti twist . . .


Instead of dropping the cookie dough into individual cookies, put into a greased rectangle baking dish. You will have to shape it as the dough is stiff, but think how biscotti is shaped and that will guide you. Then bake the “bar” of cookie dough for 10-15 minutes, maybe a little longer because you will have to slice it.


Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees.


After it cools enough to slice, do so. Place the cut slices onto a cookie sheet. Then re-bake the cookies for about 7-8 minutes in the cooler oven. Take out, turn the slices and bake another 7-8 minutes. (You may have to adjust your timing. It could be as little as 5 minutes; what you are doing is just drying them enough to hold together for dunking.)


After they cooled, I iced, but you can also opt to coat powdered sugar but it is just a bit messy for eating.



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