There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.
Home is where my husband and I reside; wherever that may be.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook 29 April 2013

Outside my window...the world is weeping copious tears that will serve to water the grass and turn it a lush shade of green.  How's that for a poetic and optimistic description of a dreary and rainy day?  I'm not convinced either.

I am thinking...about distances.  One son on the west coast, another on the other side of the world, a third way down south, and a fourth somewhere out there on the lonely highway.  I think my poetical parts are in overdrive today.  Must be all the great literature that I have been basting in lately.

I am thankful...for a husband who kept trying to convince me of his love.  Everyday his "I love you's" sound more and more like the voice of God.

From the kitchen...there are leftovers from yesterday's cook out.  Supper tonight will be a nice culinary reminder of what a good day we had on Sunday.

I am wearing...flannel jammie pants and an oversize tee.  I know my mother would not ever do this but this rainy day is a good one to stay in your jammies all day long.

I am sit right down and write myself a letter.  Oops! I slipped into Grandpa Pelicano mode there. My daddy used to slip song lyrics into the conversation anytime that the opportunity presented itself.  One of my nieces once asked him, "Must everything be a song grandpa?" to which he answered, "Absolutely!"  He was just that kind of guy.

I am reading...actually rereading Le Morte d Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

I am hoping that the clouds clear and the sun makes an appearance today, perhaps in a leading role?

I am hearing...both the washer and dryer running, Layn running around in his room upstairs, and MK doing her Monday morning tidy up job around the house.

Around the house...MK has it all picked up and ready to face the new week.  The first loads of laundry are in process, the kitchen is spotless and she and Layn are doing the same favor to the upper regions of the house.

One of my favorite things...looking at and rearranging the stack of fat quarters that sits on my work table.  The creative juices have been stirred by three shipments of fabric last week.  I have a few ideas percolating which I can start later this week.

A few plans for the rest of the and tomorrow I will be doing a marathon writing binge.  I have one more essay to write for my final in pre-renaissance lit and an essay for my pre-civil war lit. then I will be free to create the rest of the week.  I am feeling the need for colors and textures that can only be cured by making a quilt top.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...
Looks like Uncle Ian has his hands full!!!! He picked Kaycie up and Savannah had to have her turn too.  I love that my sons are so capable and willing when it comes to little ones.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ham Cupcakes or what to do when MK's chickens suddenly start laying again.

I stole the idea for this recipe from another blog that I read.  Of course I didn't have all the ingredients (which is usual around here) and I am a lazy cook so I took some shortcuts as well.
I lined a muffin pan with these silicone baking cups that I bought (just for this purpose). If you don't have silicone baking cups simply spray the muffin pan with non-stick spray.
Then I chopped up some ham that I had in the refrigerator along with some pepperoni and salami.  
Each cup was lined with meat.
On top of the meat I put some leftover mashed potatoes.  Since I didn't have enough for all of them I microwaved a sweet potato and mashed that up too.  
On top of the potato I broke an egg.
The last thing was to place some cheese on top of the egg. I used whatever kind of cheese I had. Some got cheddar, some parmessan, and others got colby.
Finally I place the pans into the oven at 375 for about 20 - 25 minutes.
The amount of time depends on your egg eating preferences. Some of our people like their yolks runny and others like them hard.  Time your cooking to the desired doneness.

The two on the plate have colby cheese melted on top of them.

These don't have any cheese since I ran out after the second pan.  The possibilities are endless.  I was thinking that leftover rice or polenta might be good instead of potatoes.  Also leftover chicken or steak sliced thinly might go well.
They are also good reheated just remember to puncture the yoke if you put them into the microwave to reheat.  It will explode if you don't.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook 22 April 2013

Outside my window...the sun is shining and there is the promise of a beautiful sunny day today. Spring is a changeable time of year for those of us who live in Central New York.  Last  Friday we had temperatures in the lower 70's.  Saturday there was snow in the air! I don't care how strange others may find this, I will take it!  The gradual unfolding of nature is one of the promises of a long winter that makes it all worth while.

I am thinking...that there are days when having a three year old in the house can be an annoyance...I know Ryan, "Offer it up!"

I am thankful...for flower bulbs bursting forth, trees on the verge of having leaves, grass so green there isn't a crayon to match the color, and the intoxicating scents that assail my nostrils every time I step outside.

From the kitchen...once again yesterday's sumptuous feast will provide enough in the way of leftovers to sustain this crew for today.  I am totally captivated with being able to cook enough in one day to spare having to cook the next day.  (Not that I don't like to cook!)

I am wearing...flannel pj pants and a grey sweatshirt.  Though the furnace is still lit there is still enough of a chill in the mornings to warrant cozy clothing.

I am enjoy the society of a dear friend this morning.  A little frivolity and enjoyment goes well on a lovely spring day and will hearten me for the week of school ahead.

I am reading....La Morte d Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

I am hoping... to get a long bike ride in today along with all of my obligations.

I am hearing...Bry Terfel singing about the surrey with the fringe on top, Layn expressing his angst concerning the restrictions placed on his desires, and Melissa bustling around in the kitchen getting her breakfast.

Around the house...all is status quo.  There is clutter where there is usual clutter and order where there is usual order.  Life is good.

One of my favorite things...taking note of the daily changes and development that is evident in my grandchildren.

A few plans for the rest of the week...more of the same.  Though is may seem as if my life is boring, there is really no need for excitement.  The wonder is found in the gentle moments of surprise and discovery.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

Kim and the girls are back from their visit.  The reunion between Layn and Savannah was interesting to say the least. 

Layn is happiest when he is outside "holping" his auntie or daddy on the farm.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook 15 April 2013

Outside my window...I can sense the promise of another beautiful day.  The sun has begun to burn off the clouds of the week past and the air holds the distinct odor of green grass and warming earth.

I am thinking...about people and the differing ways that we interpret each other.

I am thankful for...the slow but sure progression of winter to spring.  I am thankful for the greening of the grass and the budding of the trees.

From the kitchen...there will be plenty as always.  The blessings that God has bestowed on this family in every way is overwhelming sometimes.

I am wearing...jeans and a white peasant top.

I am be here all day.  Doug took my car to work today so there really is no way to get anywhere even if I had the urge to go there.

I am reading...The Triune Tale of the Diminutive Swine

I am hoping...that the sun stays out and that the weathermen are right about our projected high for today.

I am hearing...MK's bird in its cage beside me, the fan on the furnace bravely doing its job, and the washer, once again, spinning out its first Monday morning offering of clean laundry.

Around the looks like there was a party here with a bunch of little people yesterday!!!! Yikes.

One of my favorite things...seeing the little people getting along with each other.

A few plans for the rest of the week....progressing and getting along with my normal life.  How well we thrive on routine, order, and normalcy.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...
Layn's post birthday party bubble bath.  He slept like a log last night!!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Comfort food from family

I have a cousin who is 90 years old.  Every time that she is invited over she will ask what she can bring.  On occasion I will say that I want her to bring her broccoli salad.  As long as I can remember Kay has been making this salad to bring to family picnics and dinners.  It is my favorite.  A couple of weeks ago we went through the same routine only this time she brought me the recipe.  According to her she is tired of all the chopping that is required so I can make my own broccoli salad from now on.  
I post the recipe here for anyone who is interested in this deliciousness.  I assure you that the chopping is well worth the effort when it comes time to partake.

Kay's Broccoli Salad
4 cups chopped raw broccoli
1 chopped green pepper (sometimes she used red just for some color)
1/2 cup sliced (thin) red onion
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 can sliced water chestnuts--drained
Mix 3/4 cup Hellman's mayo
1/4 cup sugar
2tbsp Red wine vinegar
8 slices crumbled bacon (or bacon bits)
Mix it all together in a serving bowl and chill.  This salad needs no accompaniment.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two chickens, endless possibilities.

When I have to do the cooking, wait I always have to do the cooking!  Okay, change that, when I am on the ball with the cooking, I try to make one effort serve for as many meals as possible. Not only is it a better use of my time but it is also more economical and easier for those who may have to fill in for me.  Take the chickens that I cooked today (actually I had MK cook them but I am the genius with the plan).

Chicken noodle soup was on my mind but I am also running low on chicken stock and am working on my thesis this week and needed to insure that time was well used.

My soup recipe is extremely easy and it also serves the purpose of getting the meat cooked and the stock made.  So without further ado....

Chicken Noodle Soup/Chicken stock

I place two whole chickens in a large stock pot (large enough that I can cover them with water).
Into the pot I put 1 onion chopped, 6-8 carrots cleaned and sliced, 3 cloves garlic, minced, 1/2 bunch celery chopped, and a good couple of pinches of kosher salt.  Cover it all with water and bring to a boil.  Turn the burner down to keep the water rolling and let it cook for a couple of hours, until the chicken is falling off the bones. Shut the heat off.   Remove the chickens from the pot to a bowl to cool.  Here is where things get efficient!!!!  Next I spoon broth into a 2-quart canning jar.  I try to avoid getting the veggies into the jar but I do want to skim off as much of the bright yellow fatty stuff on the top of the pot.  Set that jar aside.  If I am making so soup for MK that is GF now is when I will set some aside including vegetables (usually a 1 quart jar).  Into the original pot I add 1 can sweet whole kernal corn, a couple of good hands full of alphabets or some other small pasta, and a 1/2 bag frozen green beans.  (I am big on lots of vegetables!)  Let that simmer, slowly stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick, until the pasta is cooked through.  After boning the chicken and reserving the breast meat from both, add the rest of the meat to the pot. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

If you don't mind chicken twice in one week, put the reserved chicken into the refrigerator to make Chicken Divan or put into the freezer for another time.

Now you have this 2 quart jar of chicken broth what are you going to do with it?  Put it away in the refrigerator over night.  The next morning take it out and immediately spoon off the congealed fat that has formed on the top.  This I feed to our pigs.  They think they died and went to heaven.  Then the rest of the broth I divide between three quart jars and either freeze for another time or put in the refrigerator if I have meals planned that require chicken stock.  
I use it when I cook rice, mash potatoes, make white sauces, and to drink when someone is not feeling well.

Finally, with the reserved chicken breasts I make Chicken Divan.  It is one of the easiest things to make and is very popular around here.

Chicken Divan

·         Cooked chicken breasts reserved from making soup
·         1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
·         2 cups diced leek, white and light green parts only (about 1 large; see Tip)
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
·         1 cup low-fat milk
·         2 tablespoons dry red wine
·         1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
·         1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
·         1 pound broccoli crowns, chopped
·         1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
·         1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
·         2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1.     Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 7-by-11-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
2.     Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and salt and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add flour (or cornstarch if you are GF); stir to coat. Add broth, milk, wine, thyme and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Add broccoli; return to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, mayonnaise and mustard.
3.     Spread half the broccoli mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the chicken, then the remaining broccoli mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

**** I feel as if I should include a disclaimer.  We grow our own chickens every summer for meat.  They are usually about 50% larger than the whole birds you can get at the grocery.  Just in case you think that I am exaggerating about the amount of meat that I can get from a couple of birds.  Today's chickens yielded enough soup for our family, MK, and to give to a neighbor who had surgery.  I just put away three ziplock bags full as well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook 8 April 2013

Outside my is truly spring here in CNY.  The lawns are beginning to green up and the trees seem pregnant with new leaves waiting to burst forth.  On our walk yesterday I could finally smell the sweetness of the sap in the trees and the plowed ground warming up.  Though we may still get some snow and chilly weather my body tells me that spring is finally on its way.

I am thinking...about the struggle that I have each year between indoors responsibility and the call of the outside world.

I am thankful sons, Ryan and Adam, who can make me laugh all over from across this country of ours simply by being themselves.

From the kitchen...leftover spaghetti and meat "bulbs" is on the menu.

I am wearing...long johns (spring may be officially here but it is still cold at night) and an oversized sleep shirt.

I am going...nowhere.  The car has to go to the shop to find out why she hasn't any get up and go when it is time to get up and go (uphill).

I am reading....actually re-reading The Complete Gentleman

I am complete my interviews today, polish up my paper comparing Judaism and Catholicism, then transmit it for grading.

I am hearing...the washer cranking out its first load for the day, Layn playing with his plastic farm animals, and the tinkle of Isabella's tags as she settles herself for a nap.

Around the house...everything is in a slight state of chaos.  We are at the season where our home will become a storage place and our real home will be the great outdoors.

One of my favorite things...watching the earth wake up and come alive for another season.

A few plans for the rest of the week..schoolwork, family work, living!

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

Layn helping papa pick up sticks from the lawn.  When his daddy or papa are out working that is where Layn can be found.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

There are moments

There are moments in every life
                 when a man must walk alone,
                 when the solitude of discovery
                 has to be tasted and savored.

There are other moments in life
       when a man must take a hand
     letting that hand,
the hand of experience,

There are more moments 
          that call out to be shared,
silently observed
and made a part of the soul

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cooking with leftovers (or how to make the most of every penny spent on groceries)

     I am not a great cook but I can sure be adventurous at times.  Sometimes my adventures turn out and everyone enjoys where I have taken them.  Sometimes, not so much! There are things that I prepare that have predictable and repeatable results, like my white bread and my Alfredo sauce.  Then there are other tings that are serendipitous at best, like cakes made for special occasions; they often resemble ski slopes for no apparent reason.  Still and all I have managed over the years to sustain five sons, one daughter and one husband (though to look at him you would think I starved the poor man).

     What follows are a few of my tried and true dishes.  I call all of them Kreager comfort food 'cause certain of my children used to count on my serving them with great regularity and would eat with relish on those nights.  Along with the established recipes I include a variation that I plan on trying for one of them.

Cheesy Corn Casserole

This came from a cookbook entitled "Once a Month Cooking."  From the first time that I made it MK has been calling it a favorite.  The changes that I make will be in parentheses since I cannot seem to make anything without making my own changes.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cans corn, drained (I often use frozen since we do our own. Just make sure that it is thawed before you use it.)
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (you can use flavored such as with chives if you like)
1 tbl flour (MK is gluten free so I substitute 2tbl cornstarch)
1 8oz can tomato sauce (If you want to change up the taste you can substitute salsa)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp cinnamon (this I leave out since I am allergic)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or whatever you have)

Brown the beef and drain. (Very important since it will be too soupy if you don't) Meanwhile spread the corn in the bottom of an 11 x 7 baking dish.  Combine the eggs and cottage cheese and spread over the corn. Stir the flour (or cornstarch) into the browned beef and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce,o 1 hour garlic, and cinnamon (if you are using it).  Spread the meat mixture on top of the cheese and egg.  Sprinkle top with grated cheeses.
Bake uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes.

Shepherd's Pie

This is another staple in our house.  Whenever there are leftover mashed potatoes this is what Adam used to ask for (he is a potato man from way back)

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cans corn, green beans, or mixed vegetables.  (you may even use leftover veges from another meal)
4-5 cups mashed potatoes
1 small onion chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
garlic powder
either bread crumbs or if you don't have any, oatmeal will do well also.
1 large egg

In a bowl mix together beef, onion, spices, tomatoes, and egg.  Add enough bread crumbs or oatmeal so that the mixture will form a soft ball in your hand without falling apart.  Spread mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a baking dish that has been oiled.
Spread the vegetables over the beef "crust" then spread the potatoes over the vegetables. Top the whole thing with grated cheese if you like
Bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour or until beef is cooked and potatoes are heated through.

i found a recipe for this in the crockpot which I plan on trying. I have several crockpots of varying sizes and have found over the years that they are the best thing that of mother of many can have in her kitchen.  I have been known to do things such as oatmeal and baked potatoes in mine with great success.

Crockpot Shepherd's Pie

4 med. potatoes or 2 lbs potatoes
1/3 c milk
2 tbl butter
1 tbl olive oil
1 med onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 lb ground beef
1 tbl tomato paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1tbl cornstarch
1 c frozen mixed vegetables

Prick potatoes all over with a  fork. Microwave potatoes on high, turning once, until tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from microwave, let cool slightly, then peel and mash with milk, salt, pepper, and butter.

In a skillet over med heat, warm olive oil, add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer. Add beef, increase heat to med-high and cook until meat is cooked through and beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. In a small cup whisk cornstarch and 1 c water.  Add to skillet and cook, stirring, until liquid thickens slightly. Remove from heat and place in slow cooker. Layer vegetables on top of meat, top with potatoes. Cover, turn to low and cook for 3 hours.

Time will tell how this turns out but it shouldn't be too bad. True to my nature I already have a few changes in mind.

One of my all time favorites that is crock pot easy and super delicious is my Southwestern Chicken Stew.  This I could eat every day but I try to restrain myself since my family is not the spicy food kind that I am.

Southwestern Chicken Stew

1 med onion, diced
1 can white beans (great northerns or cannelini)
1 can black beans
1 can corn (or 1 1/2 cup frozen)
1 can diced tomatoes (if you like heat get the kind with the chilies in it)
1 small jar salsa (whatever heat you like)
1/2 green pepper chopped
1 envelop taco seasoning
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I also use cooked chicken or turkey if that is what I have)
1 c chicken broth (if you want more of a soup consistency)

Combine all ingredients except chicken and broth (if using) in slow cooker. Lay chicken on top and cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.  Before serving remove and shred chicken, then put back in pot. Add broth now if you wish to use it.  Cook 30 min. longer on low.  Serve over rice, corn chips or tortillas.  We also top with grated cheese and sour cream.

All of this food stuff has made me hungry!!! Fortunately I have a shepherd's pie in the crock pot and cheesy corn casserole on deck for tonight.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sometimes there are leftovers and then, in our house, there are LEFTOVERS!

      When I write my daybook entries and say that there are enough leftovers, from Sunday dinner or a holiday dinner or from the weekend past, to feed the family for several days I don't always mean every man for himself for dinner the next day.  When I cook a meal, mostly on Sunday since that is when we are guaranteed to be together to eat that meal, I usually have a plan for every aspect of that meal.  The reason that I have been thinking about this is that MK came home from work this afternoon and looked surprised to see me cooking.  I guess my plan isn't always obvious to the most casual of observers.  So, let me explain by example.
     Yesterday, being Easter Sunday, I prepared an absolute feast.  There was ham, turkey, and roast beef for the meat course.  Then I made mashed sweet and white potatoes, whole kernel corn, peas with mushrooms, a Greek salad, ambrosia and Kay brought broccoli salad.  Now comes the plan:

Monday:  scalloped potatoes and ham using the leftover ham and some of the turkey juices for the white sauce
         --this will yield enough to have for tonight, lunch for Ian and Melissa for work tomorrow and some for Layn's lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday:  cheesy corn casserole and shepherd's pie using the leftover mashed white potatoes, corn, and peas and mushrooms.
        --this will yield a half recipe of both but enough to for Tuesday's supper, lunch for Ian at work, and lunch for Layn, Melissa and MK at home.

Wednesday:  Southwestern chicken stew (for those who don't mind spicy) and turkey with gravy over rice (for those who do)
        --this will yield enough of the stew for my lunch on Thursday along with lunch for Ian, Layn, Melissa, and MK and some stew to give to a friend who likes it too.

Thursday: we will finish up anything that is left from the meals for the week since we don't want leftovers that contain meat to be around on Friday.

That is my plan when I cook such a big meal on the weekend.  What about the leftover side dishes you may ask, they will be served along with the other meals until they run out.  If more is needed I always have frozen veges on hand and salad fixings.  Next post will include some of my recipes.

The Simple Woman's Daybook 1 April 2013

Outside my is grey and gloomy with rain coming down.  I thought Lent was over? Oh well, this too shall pass.

I am thinking...about patience.  Sometimes you have it and sometimes patience is laziness in sheep's clothing.

I am thankful for...kind people who take my sons in even though one of them cheats at cards.

From the kitchen...there are leftovers galore from yesterday's sumptuous feast.  Let the Octave of Easter continue.

I am wearing...comfy cozy lay around the house clothes.  There will be no going out today so why get prettified.

I am get a lot done today and stay home all the while I am doing it.  I have to drive to the airport tomorrow to pick up a friend and to Albany on Wed. so Kim can meet her dad. I think that is enough driving for this woman.

I am reading...poetry.  I am taking a break from the heavier tomes of late and indulging in a little pleasurable repast.

I am get my final project done for my World Religions course today. 

I am hearing...Layn making his way downstairs to help his auntie,  the rain shooshing softly against the window pane behind me, and the wet roads noise that traffic makes as it goes by the house.

Around the is swirling by in it's usual Monday morning dance.

One of my favorite things....watching my husband be the grandpa.

A few plans for the rest of the week...the usual punctuated by a shot or two of the unusual and just a dollop of the out of the ordinary.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

                                           Grandpa and Kaycie just hanging out.