Category Archives: Cooking

Maxed out

I haven’t been posting for a while, not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I was working on my blog and made a couple of big mistakes and haven’t had time to fix them yet. But I really miss posting. I’ve taken lots of pictures that I wanted to post so I can look back at them someday and remember. Today I just want to show you something really quickly.
See that? Do you even know what that means? Well, first of all, keep in mind that it’s Wednesday. Give up? It means that my husband is home from work today. Which is really nice all by itself. But it also means that we have a fuller house than normal. 🙂 Yep. Our oldest son, Josh, is home for a visit. And the combination of those two things filled my Grandma’s griddle. It’s a great day to start the day!


In and Around the Cottage

Homing::  After moving things in and out and around Maddie’s room (which is still not quite done) I had a chance to make some changes in other corners of our cottage. One of them was moving a tall bookcase out of Maddie’s room and into the little girls’, which made the coziest of reading corners. Made even better by moving two rocking chairs and a sheepskin. This is now one of their favorite nooks.IMG_3857-1

Learning:: With all the sewing I’ve been doing lately (no, Maddie’s quilt is still not done) the girls have all been watching intently. Grandma’s sewing machine has now been relocated to Maddie’s bedroom. I’m hunting for the perfect sewing/crafting/schooling table for her little space, but I haven’t found it yet. I did see one on Craigslist about 2 months before we needed one, but at the time the need wasn’t there and I couldn’t justify the purchase. Hmph.

My back up machine was brought out for the little girls’ to practice some machine stitching. Just on paper right now, following paths and lines and curves to learn how to control the machine, but Emma is quite anxious for some fabric and a project.  Soon, baby.IMG_3973-1


Out of doors::  We’ve had quite a mix of weather this fall. One day brisk and breezy, the next rainy, then a treat of balmy and practically warm for these parts at this time of year, then a flurry or three whispering of things to come. My almost every morning routine (unless one of the Middles goes for me) includes donning happy boots, fetching water, either from the hose or the house depending on how frozen things are, spending time with the goaties, and then taking a brisk walk around the field, through the trees, up to the garden and back to the house, grabbing an armful of firewood on my way in which usually lasts until afternoon chore time.IMG_3825-2-1I do think that these goats have the very best view. Luckily, they willingly share it with us when we visit. IMG_3822-2-1

In the kitchen:: After a bit of a cooking slump, I revisited some of my favorite cookbooks for some menu ideas. I’m doing a much better job of meal planning and carrying out those plans, assisted by a weekly trip into town where I have two hours to run errands all alone. Thrifting? Yes, please! Grocery shopping? Why not.   Tonight’s supper was boeuf bourguignon.  Perfect on this chilly night.

Making:: I’m still working on Maddie’s quilt. I had a bit of trouble with the machine quilting. After stitching along just fine for a whole lot of the quilt, I was suddenly faced with the thread breaking over and over again, and then the needle breaking. Rethreading, cleaning the machine, changing the needle and even switching to a different thread didn’t solve the problem. After sleeping on it I realized that the weight of the quilt was pulling too much. So I adjusted my sewing table and propped the quilt up better. Problem solved! And I’m getting oh-so-close to being done. I’m not sure who’s more excited, Maddie or me. IMG_3989-1

Cooking with Grandmom – Blackberry Pound Cake

My aunt sent my Grandmom’s old cookbook to me not too long ago. Grandmom doesn’t see very well any more, and she’s living in an assisted living home, so she doesn’t need to cook, and my aunt knows how much I enjoy vintage things and family treasures, and this cook book combines them both.

It’s The American Woman’s Cook Book. There isn’t a publishing date in the book, but based on the illustrations, I’d call it somewhere in the 40’s or 50’s. I haven’t come across any notes showing which recipes may have been her favorites to cook, but there are some splatters and stains on a few of the pages, so my guess is that those were her favorites. The binding is held together with duct tape, and the first few pages are falling out, so I’m also going to guess that this was one of her standby recipe books.

Well, Grandmom’s cookbook met Martha Stewart! I wanted to make Blackberry Pound Cake. Grandmom’s book has a recipe for Old-Fashioned Poundcake. And I found a recipe for Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake on Martha Stewart’s website. With my apologies to Martha, I don’t know how her recipe qualifies as a pound cake. Only 1 stick of butter! Only 1 1/4 cups of sugar! That’s not a pound cake. So here’s the real Pound Cake recipe just as it is written from Grandmom’s cookbook:

Old-Fashioned Poundcake

1 pound butter (2 cups)

1 pound sifted cake flour (4 cups)

10 eggs, separated

1 pound sugar (2 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter, work in flour until mixture is mealy. Beat egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until thick and fluffy. Add first mixture gradually, beating thoroughly. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Beat vigorously 5 minutes. Bake in 2 loaf pans lined with waxed paper, in a moderately slow oven (325 degrees F). 1 1/4 hours. Makes 2 loaves (8 x 4).

From Martha’s recipe, I took the blackberry swirl idea. I used about 2 1/2 – 3 cups of blackberries pureed in a food processor with 4 tablespoons of sugar. I filled each loaf pan about half way, then scooped dollops of blackberry puree on top, then filled the loaf pans the rest of the way, followed with dollops of the remainder of the blackberry puree. Swirl a butter knife through the batter to create the swirl effect.

Enjoy with your favorite cup of tea!

Not so sour grapefruit

Do you like grapefruit? No? Me either. Well, until now. Because I just stumbled on a new way to make this healthy fruit that keeps me going back for more. What’s the secret? You roast it! And everyone knows that roasted veggies taste great, so why not a roasted grapefruit?

It’s crazy easy. Slice a grapefruit in half and remove the seeds. Then, with a sharp paring knife, cut along the tough white part that separates each section. Also, cut along the outside of the edible part of the grapefruit to separate the sections from the peel, but leave it all in place within the grapefruit half. Place the halves on a baking sheet. Spread each half with some butter, because butter makes everything taste great, right? I use about a half teaspoon or so on each half. Then drizzle with some honey, or spread some brown sugar on each half. I use about a teaspoon of honey (or brown sugar) on each half. Then put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes. I’m going to try it with a sprinkle of cinnamon next time I make them.


I guess you’re supposed to share with someone, but so far no one else here wants any, so both halves are mine!

Restorative Roasted Garlic Soup

The family has been fighting a bit of a cold – the first of the season for us.

Wouldn’t it be very nice if it were also the last cold of the season?  

So, for dinner I wanted to make something warm and healthy. Restorative Roasted Garlic Soup is exactly what we needed. I used this recipe, given to me by a dear friend and wonderful cook. She made a few changes to the recipe, and I only changed the broth base from vegetable broth to chicken because that’s what was in my freezer. So the modified recipe is:

3 heads of roasted garlic ( i used 2 large heads)
8 cups of broth (I used chicken, but vegetable is very good)

1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice from 1 or 2 limes added at the end
and then served up with slices of avocado and toasted corn tortilla strips – because that’s what I had

But just soup didn’t look quite substantial enough for tonight. So I added some meatballs (I love this recipe!) that I had in the freezer to enjoy along with some Butternut Squash Fries.  My house smells very fall-ish.

And, I even had a chance to sort through the little girls’ clothes and switch out warm weather wear for cool weather wear this afternoon. I’m feeling quite smug with my accomplishments for the day.

Saving Money: Ground Beef

We go through quite a bit of ground beef here at our cottage so it’s something I buy on a regular basis when it’s on sale, but I recently needed some and we were all out. Ideally, I’d love to buy grass fed beef on a regular basis, but I can buy it cheaper if we get a quarter or half from a local farm and I just haven’t done it for a while. It’s on my list of things to do before the baby’s born. (Yes, it’s a very long list.)

So, here I am, needing ground beef, and not having any in the freezer which means I was at the mercy of whatever price the grocery store was charging. (Yes, I could have changed my menu, but that would ruin the story.)  The ground beef was $3.49 a pound for 85% ground beef. OUCH! I needed 10 pounds. I certainly didn’t want to spend $35 just for the meat! But wait! There is a better way. Walk over to the beef section of the store and price the boneless chuck roasts. The day I was at the store, they were $2.99 a pound. So we took 10 pounds of chuck roasts over to the butcher’s counter and asked him to grind it for us. We saved $5.00. Not bad. But we could do better. Boneless chuck roasts go on sale pretty frequently (about once a month or so) and the sale price is about $1.99 a pound. So if we plan our purchases around the sales, we can save a whole lot more.  I’m pretty sure all stores will offer this service, as long as they have an in store butcher, so it’s worth it to ask. And the best part is that it’s free. And we get to see what’s REALLY going into our ground beef.

Recipe: Homemade Corn Chowder

I made corn chowder for dinner. Everyone loved it. I mean they LOVED it. I didn’t really follow a recipe, just looked at a few different ones, combined what sounded good, and started with a lot of butter. Everything is better when you start with butter, right?

So, here’s the ‘recipe’ so I’ll be able to make it again someday. Because if I don’t post it, I’ll never remember what I put in it. Oh, and you can try it, too.

  • Start with a lot of butter in a dutch oven. No, really, put in more. Okay, now a bit more. There, that looks good. Actually I used about a cup of butter. 
  • Then add some onions. Not a lot, because Zach doesn’t like them. Just a little for flavor. Or more if you’re not feeding Zach. (Really, this is how I cook.)  Cook the onion in the butter until it’s transparent. Or until Zach comes in and looks in the pot and wrinkles his nose when he sees the onions.
  • Now look in the fridge for some ham. Yep, found some. Deli sliced ham. Slice it into little squares. Add it to the onions and butter. I think I used about 10 slices. Bacon (already cooked) would work well instead.
  • Now add about a cup or so of chicken stock. Homemade is best. Store bought works just as well.
  • Add 3 cans of creamed corn. Yes, 3 cans. I know you don’t like creamed corn, but it will taste fine. Trust me. 
  • Peel and dice some potatoes. I dice them small, like a half-inch square. They cook faster that way and they’re cute little bite size pieces. It looks pretty. I used maybe 7 small potatoes. Maybe more. Maybe less. It’s whatever I had left in the bag.
  • Cook all this together stirring pretty frequently because everything really wants to stick to the bottom of the pan. It will if you answer the phone or wash the dishes. So don’t be tempted. Pay attention. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Taste one to see.
  • Then add about 1 1/2 (yes, one AND one-half) cups of half and half. Whole milk won’t cut it. Just do it. You’ll thank me. Simmer gently until it’s all heated through. Don’t boil.
  • Make some quick homemade baking powder biscuits to go with it. You could do this while the potatoes are cooking. Just don’t forget to stir the chowder. Enjoy.

Recipe: Spicy (or not) Potato Soup

Our supper last night was a family favorite. A dear friend made the soup for our family when Emma was born, and we loved it so much we asked for the recipe. And can I say, on a side note, that bringing a meal to a family is one of the biggest ways to bless them. It really is. So here’s our quick, easy, budget friendly, and yummy recipe with my notes and changes. I posted this recipe on Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet. It isn’t a very gourmet recipe, but it sure is pennywise!

Spicy Potato Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
4 large diced, peeled potatoes    (I usually add more potatoes)
3 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce     (I use 2 15 oz. cans because that’s what I keep on hand)
4 cups water      (I add 5 because I add extra tomato sauce)
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper      (I reduce it to only 1/2 tsp. if I’m making it for people who don’t like spicy food)
1 (4 oz.) can green chiles      (I leave these out most of the time because I rarely have them on hand. You could add 1-2 tsp. Tabasco sauce, or Frank’s Hot Sauce, or leave this out entirely and add your hot sauce of choice to individual bowls when serving)
Directions: In a large dutch oven, brown the ground beef. Drain off fat if needed. Return beef to pot and add onion, cooking until onion is soft and translucent. Add diced potatoes and tomato sauce. Stir in water, salt, pepper, and green chiles (if using). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until the potatoes are tender and the soup has thickened. 
Optional:  Serve with grated Cheddar cheese and sour cream. Garnish with cilantro.

Servings:  I don’t know. There are 7 of us with pretty healthy appetites, and we have enough for lunch the next day.

Kitchen Tip: Cleaning up Dough

We’re all still feeling a bit under the weather. Some are getting better, others are not. Last night I was pinned between two littles who weren’t feeling very well, so Josh and Maddie made supper for us with a little assistance from Zach. Maddie was in charge of the soup (Spicy Potato Soup), Josh was in charge of the biscuits. It all turned out very well. (Sorry, no pictures.) I hadn’t realized how little recipe cooking Josh had done. Oops! I have a lot to teach him before he leaves this fall!

I do have one tip to share that I thought was common kitchen knowledge, but apparently isn’t. When you’re cleaning up after you make any kind of dough – bread, biscuit, pizza, etc. – clean your bowl and utensils with cold water first. Hot water makes the dough sticky and glue-y. Cold water makes it easier to scrape off without having glued on dough stick to everything. After you scrape off as much as you can under cold water, then wash as normal in hot water. Easy cleanup!

New Year Birthday Supper

Our New Year’s Day started out a little slow. We didn’t stay up till midnight, but because the littles were up way past their bedtime, it made for a very wake-filled night. And one of the middles slept over Grammy’s house for the first time. All by herself. Without her closest brother with whom she does everything. And she didn’t sleep well. So Grammy didn’t sleep well. When Grammy brought her home early (because she missed her Mama and Papa so much, poor thing), we were all pretty much in the same place – wishing for a few more hours of sleep. So we partook. All of us. And then we felt better.

And since New Year’s Day also happens to be my mom’s birthday, I made dinner and dessert. Simple but yummy!

  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Oil Rice
  • Ginormous Green Salad

And a very good and simple Madeira cake for dessert. I added a cup of wild blueberries to the batter. Because I had them and it sounded good.