Friday, August 31, 2007

A beautiful Summer Day!

It is gorgeous here for the last weekend of official summer. Sunny, 75, light breeze. This has nothing to do with cooking or sewing, just a pretty day here in my little corner of the world. This shot is taken out my back door, across the driveway, and down toward our orchard. We can't see any of our neighbors except in winter, and it's great! The little guys across the back fence hop over to our yard all the time to romp in this yard with my boys and our giant dog. Baseball, football, picnics, treehouse, tree swing; what's not to love?

2 of the kids are coming home from college for the long weekend; we're all thrilled. There's also a pattern sale going on at Joann's this weekend, so the one daughter I have remaining at home and I are headed over there tonight while we await the siblings' arrival. Probably no sewing this weekend, but I did finish a dress, shrug-type jacket, skirt and hair scarf from last weekend, a summer weight dressing gown the previous weekend, and a dress out of a great watercolor looking fabric the weekend before that. I'll probably even get to taking pictures some time soon.

Hope all one or 2 of you who might read this have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chicken with Carrots & Pineapple

I was inspired to create this for a recipe that I saw for Chicken with Rice & Prunes. Not a big fan of prunes here; their reputation leaves me not too eager to partake. But it did cause me to consider a sweet and spicy sort of flavoring. I bake the chicken until it's nearly finished, then add the veggies and sauce mix. Put the rice in a pot for the last 20 minutes, and it's nearly an effortless meal. What more can anyone ask on a Tuesday?


5 lbs. chicken
Sea Salt to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Put these in the oven at 350 degrees until the chicken is nearly done. Start the rice just before you start the next step.

2 can cut pineapple chunks (reserve juice)
1 lb. sliced carrots
2 to 3 scallions, chopped up
3 tbsp cornstarch

Add water to the reserved pineapple juice to make 2 cups. Whisk in cornstarch until smooth. Pour over chicken in pan, and stir to mix with pan drippings. Add the carrots, pineapple and scallions, and return to the oven. Bake about 15 minutes, or until done. Serve over a bed of hot rice. Serves 12 (5 of whom are very large males).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School Lunches

The newspapers are now loaded with articles about great things to pack for school lunches. The most recent one I saw just made me laugh. All of these articles are saying that school lunches are boring, and you can expect your child to eat healthy lunches more happily by making them more interesting. So, someone had gone to the trouble to create these cute little sandwiches on bagels which looked like some sort of puppy. Um....yeah. No kid over the age of 6 is gonna take that to school; he'll be worried about being beaten up.

Even though I homeschoo
l my youngest two, I often send them out to the backyard with their lunches for a while; they often hike to our tree house and eat there. I found these nifty lunch containers at Target, and these are my best lunch ideas:

1. Sandwiches on homemade bread. No brainer, of course. If your kid likes peanut butter, what's wrong with packing that?

2. Tortilla shells wrapped around ham or last night's leftover meat, with some cheese and shredded lettuce.

For the smaller sections in this cute lunch box:

3. Mini muffins. They can be made in 15 minutes the night before.

4. Grapes, or orange sections, or 1/2 banana

5. Hardboiled egg; cherry tomatoes or little carrots.

6. Animal crackers. Easy snacking at recess, not too sweet, no mess. Fine for dessert, too, if your child doesn't have too big a sweet tooth.

7. Sliced apple. To keep it from browning up, I dip it in lemon juice, then roll it in about a teaspoon of sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon. Gives it added flavor, and adds almost nothing in caloric content.

You can get nice little freezer packs which can be put into the lunch box to keep everything cold. This prevents problems like food poisoning, which can really foul up your Monday.

In a wide mouth thermos:

4. Pasta. If it's slightly undercooked, it'll keep in the fridge for a couple of days (at least according to my Italian neighbor); nuke it for a minute, nuke some sauce for a minute, and it'll stay hot for a few hours.

5. Soup, in the same wide mouth thermos. This is my favorite lunch, whether at home or packed. You can make homemade soup in about 4 minutes with the microwave. Here's what you need:

Meat - a couple of tablespoons of leftovers, chopped small, can be frozen. I use chicken, turkey, or beef (steak or roast). Wrap individual portions and freeze. Should keep for a couple of months.

Onion - I chop really fine in the food processor, and always have a small glass bowl topped with 3 layers of plastic wrap and one of foil, so the smell doesn't invade the rest of the food, and keep it in the refrigerator. Makes life much easier when you don't have to dice onions for everything.

Starch - cooked rice, again, frozen in a couple of tablespoon increments, or tiny pasta (alphabets or stars) which cooks in about 2 minutes.

Veggies - shredded carrots, scallions, canned diced tomatoes (or fresh, if you have them) for beef soup

Bouillon cubes

In a 2 cup pyrex measuring pitcher, microwave one cup of water with one cube for one minute. Add the meat and starch, and veggies, and microwave for 2 minutes longer. Pour into the thermos, and head out with your homemade soup. Baking powder biscuits or a chunk of French or Italian bread make an excellent meal.

To keep milk or some other beverage in one of those new drink bottles, which come with an insulated jacket, put about 2 ounces in the bottle, freeze overnight, then fill the bottle with the same beverage. Takes about 3 hours to thaw, and will stay cold for 5 to 6 hours in reasonably warm weather. I have to say, I'd rather send my kids out with 12 ounces of milk than take my chances on what they'll decide to drink if allowed to select from whatever's offered. My older ones, in high school, are, of course, too "cool" to carry lunch boxes, but they take along yogurt, homemade muffins, rolls, biscuits, or whatever. When my older boys are home for the summer, and working construction, they specifically request that I make loaves of French bread, which they split and turn into grinders (sub sandwiches). They also grab whatever dessert may be left over from the night before and stuff it all into a cooler. But bagels dressed up to look like puppies? Riiight.....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Summer is Back!

My eldest son called from Carolina on Sunday, and asked if it was still cold here. The cold spell broke on Friday, but his newspaper over the weekend publishes hot/cold spots in the country. Coldest city: Fairbanks, Alaska (no shock there). Second coldest city: Juneau, tied with our fair locale in NEPA. Hot Diggety Dog! That's a great advertising campaign for the Chamber of Commerce: "Alaska's Weather without the Distance to Travel!"

In honor of the return of summer, I made a summer dessert, which I created earlier this year: Cantaloupe Sundaes. Wedges of cantaloupe are topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Orange sauce. Not too much ice cream, ergo, not too many calories, and it sneaks healthy food into the hubby and kids without them noticing.


1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp grated orange peel
1 tbsp butter

Whisk together all ingredients in 2 cup pyrex measuring cup. Put in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, until it boils and thickens, whisking every 30 seconds. Stir in butter and serve warm.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No Shoe Left Behind

A girl named Amanda bought these shoes, then decided she didn't like them. So Amanda gave them to her friend Sally, who also didn't like them, but took them so as not to hurt Amanda's feelings. Sally gave them to her co-worker, my daughter. These shoes languished in my family room for about 3 weeks, because my daughter thought the color was strange. After looking at these poor orphan shoes for a while, I spotted some fabric on ebay which was in the same color family. So I adopted the fabric, and look how nicely it matches the shoes! Now my big dilemma is what to make from this fabric. It's very lightweight, almost sheer. I'm thinking an empire waisted dress with a floaty skirt, and a jacket to match, or maybe a fluffy skirt and jacket. These shoes, what quandaries they have caused. And what fun I'll have deciding what to make to go with them!

Roast Chicken

So, Roast Chicken isn't anything special. There's not much prettier easy food than a nicely browned poultry. It's been unseasonaly cold here for a week - not above 60 degrees - so I decided to do a chicken last night. I'm not a fan of stuffing in the bird, so I quarter an onion and 2 carrots, and stuff the bird with those. Just a touch of sea salt - less sodium than regular table salt - and freshly ground pepper, and you have a great smell in the house for a couple of hours before dinner. When I cut the breast meat off the bone, I toss the carcas in a large pot with the onion and carrots from the bird, barely cover them with water, and simmer while we eat and I clean up. Strain through a cheesecloth lined strainer, and you have the best chicken broth or soup base ever! I freeze it in custard dishes, so it's available for lunchtime soups, or for any recipe calling for chicken broth or bouillion. Like I said, not fancy, but for "healthy" and "Low calorie" with plenty of flavor, this is the method to use.

My Daughter Misses My Cooking!

My daughter called from college last night. She lives one building over from her brother, and they had dinner together last night, then she called me. She's convinced that there are an awful lot of people out there who simply don't care about their food or want to cook. She loves chicken; swears it's probably her favorite meat. But the chicken at college? Not such a treat. Veggies? Cooked? Green? No.....Grey! Salad? Wilty. Thank God for fruit. Do I think it will keep her from getting scurvy? Anyway, the kids are coming home for Labor Day weekend, to return my Suburban and take my son's car back to college, and wanted to be sure that I plan some really good food while they are here. "We probably won't be home until between 9 and 10 Friday night, so don't have dinner before then!" Well, at least she figured out how good food is at home a lot faster than at least one of her brothers!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chicken Newburg

My picture is not very pretty, because everyone was starving and wanted their food instantly! So this is what's left after everyone ate their fill.....

Paging through a cookbook, looking for interesting, warm food to cook on a 54 degree August day, I found a recipe for Chicken Newburg. I love Lobster Newburg, and thought this would be just the thing. Except for 2 small problems: I never have leftover cooked meat for longer than "until lunch", and the recipe calls for "half & half", which I superstitiously avoid, since I think it's the same marvelous substance o
n restaurant tables for people to put in their coffee. So, here's my adaptation of Chicken Newburg, sinfully delicious:


3-1/2 pounds chicken
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups cream
1 cup water
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sherry
1 pound mushrooms
cooked rice

Cut the chicken into thin strips. Saute in butter and transfer to serving dish when no longer pink. Hold in 400 degree oven while making the sauce (It took me 4 batches to accomplish this). Whisk cornstarch into chicken pan, and whisk out the lumps. Add cream and water, and cook until it starts to thicken. Whisk together egg yolks and sherry, and stir into the sauce; stir vigorously until combined
. Add mushrooms (fresh or canned) and cook until mushrooms are hot. Pour over the chicken, and serve with white rice or plain noodles.

Note that I consider this a "small" recipe, because I'm "only" feeding 8 people (3 of my largest sons are off at college/life). When you're used to feeding11 people, 5 of whom are very large men, 6 foot to 6'5", and over 200 lbs, feeding 8 is a breeze!

I also served Babylonian Bread with this. It's a recipe from Calvert School's 4th grade curriculum, which I adapted so it could be mixed in the bread machine (the greatest mixer ever)


1-1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup butter
2 cups wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/4 cup brown sugar

1-1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp yeast

Soften yeast in water (use 6 tsp instead of 3 tsp yeast to finish this bread in under an hour). Add all other ingredients. Mix for about 15 min in bread maker (I use the "pasta cycle" to knead it), then remove from the bread machine, split into 2 loaf pans, let rise and bake for 25 minutes at 350. The kids eat this happily, because they don't know that wheat bread from the store tastes like cardboard. My 11 year old says this bread makes the best peanut butter sandwiches ever!

Confessions of a fabric junkie

I admit it. Maybe I need an intervention, but I don't think it will help. I love colors. I love clothes. I love fabric. I have a tiny office (6x10) which thankfully has a 9 foot ceiling. At one end of my office, I have a built-in desk, with bookcases to the ceiling; it's where I do much of our business work. At the other end, I have three 5-drawer file cabinets (the room narrows up at that end). On top of the cabinets are a few shelves, which are simply stuffed with fabric. I have whites, brights, darks, knits, linens, and everything in between.

Quite a number of years back, hubby & I were watching Mulholland Drive (I think that was the name of it), and I commented that I wanted a dressing gown like the white satin one Kim Basinger was wearing in it. His response, of course, was, "So go buy one!" (What a dear - that's what he says any time I want something). Instead, I designed one. The first was made of chiffon - didn't hold up so well. The second was royal purple stretch velvet. Very heavy, very warm, very elegant - I've worn it for 9 or 10 winters. The third was a nice lightweight cotton. After about 6 spring/summer seasons, it's growing some rather ugly threadbare spots. I went to Joann's Fabric to try to find a nice summer weight fabric a couple of weeks ago, and came out empty handed. So my computer illiterate husband suggested that I search ebay while he peered over my shoulder. The first thing he did was find me a sewing machine for $62, delivered, because mine is currently in for a "tune up". Then I found 10 yards of red burnout velvet ("new winter dressing gown!"), 5 yards of peach lightweight something, and assorted other things which he urged me to buy because they were pretty. Considering that I went to the going out of business sale at our local Hancock Fabric store in May, and bought several chunks of beautiful fabric I didn't need (and are not in the picture above, because they aren't fitting on the shelf), I'm in deep trouble. I need desperately to get sewing this weekend.....but I can't wait for that pretty new peach colored dressing gown.....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Applesauce Meringue Cake

We've been hit by the remnants of that storm which deluged the Midwest last weekend; it's been cold and miserable. That being the case, I decided that last night was a perfect time to make an autumn "comfort" dessert. This recipe is adapted from the 1963 McCalls cookbook: I changed shortening to oil, separated the eggs, and made a couple of other changes. The idea for the meringue topping came from a spice cake in a late 1950s Ladies Home Journal cookbook. This cake is superbly moist!

Applesauce Meringue Cake

2-1/2 cups flour

1-3/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-3/4 cups applesauce (15-oz jar)
4 egg yolks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together first 9 (dry) ingredients. Add oil & applesauce; mix until moistened. Add egg yolks and beat for 2 minutes; stir in walnuts. Pour into greased & floured 13x9x2 pan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Cake will not be done.

While the cake bakes, whip the egg whites until stiff, with vanilla and 1/4 cup sugar. After 35 minutes baking, take the cake out and top with meringue. Bake another 12 to 14 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned. Can be served warm or cold.

The kids who are still at home are glad today that the others are gone, because there's enough of this cake left to make a rare, sweet-but-not-too-sweet breakfast.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ice Cream Sundaes!

The idea isn't new or original. But it is summer, after all, despite the fact that we never topped 65 degrees this weekend. One of my girls wanted ice cream for dessert last night, so she and a sister went to the supermarket, and brought back Keebler Waffle Bowls while they were there. Inspiration for Mom!

Back to the beginning: Friday was beautiful, so I laid out and cut out a summer dress from a piece of fabric I've had for several years, which reminds me of a watercolor of flowers. Then the power went out. Naturally, the older kids promptly went out and got fast food for dinner; we played Outburst and Cranium, then went to bed early. Finished my dress Saturday, and was determined to wear it Sunday. Who cares if it's 62 degrees and cloudy! The calendar says it's August, and that means summer! Of course, I roasted a turkey breast to warm up the kitchen, and then my daughter wanted ice cream.

I love to make sauces to create interesting desserts. I've put this sauce over ice cream, yellow and white cakes, and even "Brownie Tuesdays" (another day's item). It goes well with chocolate or vanilla based ice creams, and even with coffee ice cream! Of course, I top it with home made whipped cream - might as well pack on the calories. On Monday we can all diet.


1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup cream
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter

In 2 cup measuring pitcher, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Add water, cream and corn syrup, stirring after each addition. Microwave until thick, stopping to stir every 30 seconds - it usually takes under 2 minutes in my microwave. Stir in vanilla & butter, and ladle over ice cream, cake or (choose your own confection). Top with whipped cream.

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Daughter's Room

My daughter loves bright colors; she's the only one in the family who had dark hair, and she's the only one who gets a tan. So, when we went shopping for her dorm stuff, she chose this quilt with the giant, vivid dots on it. Then we went out and bought light blue for the bedskirt, and a striped, lime colored fabric for throw pillows. It's surprisingly cute (especially with "Grey Bear", who's been with her all of her life). I'm thinking of going to get more of the stripe to re-do the bed skirt, and replace the institutional tan curtains! She'll be home in 2 weeks; we'll see what she wants then!

I May Never Leave the Compound Again!

The kids refer to home as "the compound". We sit on 10 acres behind a fence, which keeps the kids and dog in, stray cars out, and everyone safer. The kids also love to rib their parents for rarely leaving the compound; the parents' attitude is "UPS Happens!"

So, Wednesday after the close of business, we packed the 1977 Lincoln Mark V, a rare, 21,500 original mile beauty, with overnight bags for the parents & the 2 youngest brothers. Children 5 & 6 stuffed the old "big b
ody" Suburban with their college stuff, and we set off in a caravan to deliver child #6 (second daughter) to college for the first time. Cars run great, we roll 200 miles and stop at Perkins for dinner, after which the Suburban won't start. By pouring a touch of gas directly into the carbeurator (don't try this at home, kids), we determined that it had to be one of two problems: clogged fuel filter or bad fuel pump. So I called AAA. Of course, it turned out to be a bad fuel pump, and the driver was somewhat less than pleased that I wanted it towed to Morgantown, West Virginia at midnight. I did this for three reasons: (1) AAA pays for the first 100 miles towing, leaving me to pay for only 75 miles; (2) That gets the kids' stuff to WVU, where we can shuttle it from the garage to the college in several trips in the car trunk, and (3) the kids need this vehicle at college to have a way to come home for Labor Day weekend. It's going to cost $500 for the fuel pump, a connection unit outside the gas tank, and new gas lines to the engine.

Last year, when we took our son to college for the first time, we took his 1991 Town Car and our 1977 Mark V; both ran grea
t, until we were about 1/2 of the way back, and a catalytic convertor in the Mark clogged, causing the car to lose power on the hills. Anyone who's ever driven the western half of Maryland knows you have a lot of hills to travel in that section of I-68, so we called AAA then as well, had the car towed back to Morgantown, and relieved our son of his car so we could go home. The mechanic was very accomodating, and reasonably priced (shock!), so I knew exactly where to send my Suburban this year.

Every time we send one of the kids off to college for the first time, we take them there, deliver their belongings to the dorm and settle them in, and we feel as though we've done everything we can to raise them and start them off right. I'm glad we do this, and sorry at the same time, too; but, I'm not sure I want to let my next daughter go more than 5 miles. These car problems are getting old. The kids would say that I'm stupid, and should buy a new car. But, since I average less than $500 per year per car in repair bills, I'd say that's a whole lot better for my checkbook than car payments. Besides, UPS comes from
CVS, Old Navy, JC Penney, and a whole slew of other places; and it's pretty hard to snag some toothpaste and deodorant at 2AM in your underwear if you have to go find a store!

This is the little boys in the backyard of the compound. Looking at them, it's hard to think of a reason to ever leave the compound again. (Now the whole world can think I'm as loony as my kids think I am!)

HUMOROUS UPDATE: The mechanic remembered my 6'5", 230 pound, red-pony-tailed son, and asked if they could come to the college to pick him up, so he could help push my Suburban into their garage. They diagnosed it out in the parking lot, but the 3 guys in the shop couldn't move it by themselves. My son brought his sister to steer while the 4 guys together pushed the truck. They'll have it ready for Jeffrey tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Homestead Bread

I got my first bread machine at least 10 years ago. In that time I've progressed from being only able to follow the "dump it and forget it" recipes to using my bread maker mostly as a mixer. Last night, to go with the roast turkey breast, rice and veggies I served Homestead Bread. This is adapted from a 1950s McCalls cookbook (I think). It's light, and not at all sweet; we finished one loaf last night, and 2 of the boys took chunks out of the middle for sandwiches.

Homestead Bread

1-1/2 cups warm water
4 cups flour
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp yeast*

Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water (should be around 100 degrees). Add all other ingredients and mix until dough is smooth (usually around 15 minutes). Divide dough evenly into 2 loaf pans; let rise near to top of pan. Bake at 375 about 23 to 25 minutes, until browned as you like it. This loaf was baked for 23 minutes. Note that if you want the bread to rise faster (in about 30 minutes), use 6 tsp yeast instead of 3. If you make this in the bread machine, it's a 2 pound loaf.

I make bread once or twice a day: almost always for dinner, and often I set English Muffin Bread on the delayed timer. It's much easier to get up in the morning when there's hot bread waiting.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I've had many waffle irons, but my newest has to be the all time champ. When my oldest son came back from college at the end of his first year, he urged me to get a restaurant style waffle iron, which was ever so much faster than the ones we'd had at home. When my fourth son came back and told me the same thing, I found this Waring Pro at and bought it. I searched through my old cookbooks for waffle recipes, and finally created this based on several I found in late 50s/early 60s cookbooks:


5 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
4-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup powdered milk
2-1/2 cups cold water
2 tbsp baking powder

Beat the eggs & sugar until well combined; add the other ingredients and beat one to 2 minutes, until smooth. Use 1/2 cup batter per waffle for a small waffle iron, 2/3 cup for my new Waring Pro. The batter keeps well in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. The waffles are lighter using this new waffle iron, I think because after you load it, you flip it, so the batter runs to the former top of the iron, and cooks more evenly. In my house, this quantity of waffle batter never lasts more than 2 days, but with 10 or 11 people home in the summers, that's hardly a surprise. Cleanup is a breeze, because there's a removable stainless tray at the bottom of the unit, which catches the slopover. (And the Tony Tiger cookie jar I got back around 1968 for eating 6 boxes of cereal and sending the tops in with a quarter sure does look like he wants that waffle).

Friday, August 10, 2007

How Do I Cook For So Many?

I hear this question all the time. Like anything, you start small and work your way up. My mother was a "Hamburger Helper" and "Casserole" cook; I swore I'd never have more than one element of the meal in a pan at once. I found a Reader's Digest Cookbook at a yard sale when I was 13 for $1, and was astonished and delighted to learn that foods didn't have to be mixed! I still have that cookbook, with a lineup 4 feet long of others. I rely on Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne for my inspiration and primary recipes, and do a lot of changing to suit my whims and ingredients on hand. My second son, in particular, used to tell me that my food was "crap", and we should eat McDonalds and Pizza Hut. After he went to college, he suddenly stopped ever complaining about anything I put on his plate. I swear he'd compliment diced old shoe if I cooked it today. In any event, this is the nerve center of my cooking world: