WHEN YOUR BULLION STITCHES LOOK LIKE BOOGERS … OR … THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ILLUSION AND DELUSION IS JUST A “DUH”

I’ve been learning or, actually, relearning embroidery.  I’m much more a counted cross-stitch gal than an embroiderer.  That said, I’m working on a dress for my Livvie Love that calls for embroidery on the bodice.  After cutting everything out and reading all the instructions, I determined that the embroidery pattern (called “cornflowers”) was just not gonna work. First and foremost, cornflowers are blue and the kit for this dress contained a green and white seersucker fabric, white cotton batiste for the embroidered portion of the bodice, and orange, yellow, and green embroidery flosses.  Well, I say again, cornflowers are, you know, blue.  Obviously, the design will not work because you just can’t make cornflowers orange; I’m pretty sure it’s against the law. So, I needed to pick a flower that could be orange and hit upon the beautiful gladiolus. Off to the YouTube embroidery videos I went to find the most gorgeous glads ever to be embroidered in the history of the world … ever.

With the fabric cut and marked for the bodice and ready to embroider and, of course, having watched at least a dozen embroidery videos, I sat down to ply my needle.  And then I cut and marked another piece of fabric, and another, and then I went to my stash for more white batiste.  You do see how this is going, right?  

So now I’m practicing all these nifty maneuvers (I think real embroiderers call them stitches) on what should have been one of the bodice pieces I cut and marked.  This all looked so easy on the YouTube videos!  Before destroying yet another piece of bodice fabric, I’m going to practice a whole lot more before attempting this again.  Ah well, this won’t be a summer dress.  I’ll add puffed sleeves rather than making it sleeveless; she’s definitely growing too quickly for this to fit her next summer.  And, perhaps, pick up a pretty white sweater to wear over it.  I’m just hoping to perfect my stitching before snow flies!  Hopefully, one of these days my bullions won’t look like boogers any longer.

Holy cannoli, Batman! I just realized that even the center of the design isn’t centered!! I’m told that it’s been said that “practice makes perfect.” Have a truly blessed Tuesday!

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A Cautionary Tale

“I’ve got culture; I eat yogurt!”  😊  (~Me)

When our local supermarket didn’t have the only yogurt I’ll use for two months (an organic, whole milk, Greek yogurt) – it’s great for eating, cooking, baking, AND making homemade dressings (and, as well, it’s great for subbing for sour cream when I don’t have that sitting in my fridge and no one is ever the wiser) 😊 – I decided I’d make my own.  After investigating a lot of different ways to start yogurt, and carefully examining the ingredients contained in the starter cultures, I opted for a Greek yogurt starter from Cultures for Health since its only listed ingredients are organic milk and active live cultures. 

I purchased a half gallon of organic whole milk, grabbed my Instant Pot®, and jumped on into the deep end of the yogurt-making pool with both feet.  I didn’t give the process a thought.  Well, I made sure that all the pieces that would come into contact with my yogurt were scrupulously clean but, other than that, nary a thought! 

By the time I had gone through the whole boil, cool, add, and cook for 10-12 hours, drained it in a butter muslin-lined chinois into a ceramic bowl overnight, and spooned it into a Tupperware® container, I was far too eager to eat some of my lovely, thick, Greek yogurt creation!  I spooned some of the yogurt into a dish, topped it with just a splash of pure maple syrup, some frozen wild blueberries, and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and dug in. 

Scrumptious!

WAIT!  What is THAT SMELL?!  My yogurt tasted absolutely delicious; however, it smelled like stew!  My initial foray into the making of my own Greek yogurt was quite like a Limburger cheese-eating experience; it was positively delicious as long as I held my nose!    

So, if you’re planning on joining me in the deep end of the homemade yogurt pool, I would suggest that you do as I say – buy yourself a silicone sealing ring that you can dedicate solely to yogurt making – and not as I did.    

I’ve since made two more batches of Greek yogurt that have not only tasted like luscious Greek yogurt, but smelled like Greek yogurt, too! 

Since this will be a weekly process, I did invest in 8-ounce glass jars and a yogurt strainer.  With the strainer there will be no need to hand wash the butter muslin after each batch.  Having the right tools is a wonderful thing.  Having the space to store the right tools would be particularly awesome as well.  😉 

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  Matthew 25:34

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O is for Organization and Oysters!

  • “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • A good thing, too, as I’ve been looking around for some extra time!!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been making a daily deep dive into that dark, wide crevasse of organization.  It’s been quite the project to work it in between the daily, weekly, and monthly chores.  I am, however, truly delighted to say that I can actually see daylight once again, and I’m almost finished climbing back out.  😊  It all began with a chore change.  Since the very first time my sweet hubby saw me fold clothes, he decided that laundry was his domain.  I was more than happy that he wanted to do this; in fact, I was downright gleeful! 

Hubby is ex-military police, accustomed to irons, starch, polished everything from buttons to boots and has, on more than one occasion, explained with great intensity the benefits of neatly folded, 4”x6” undergarment packets.  I on the other hand, lacking such military training, began our marriage folding his tee shirts first in half lengthwise, in half again widthwise, and then stuffing them into his tee shirt drawer.  In fact, I folded everything in this manner from tee shirts to towels to bed linens to, well, pretty much everything.  Seriously, who really enjoys folding fitted sheets?!  At that point in time we also didn’t own an iron.  My whole philosophy was “that’s why they make permanent press.”  Needless to say, while I was delighted, my poor hubby suffered patiently for a few weeks before purchasing an iron and announcing that he was taking over the laundry. 

Although I still can’t “properly fold” a tee shirt, I am learning, and I’ve mastered the 4”x6” undergarment packet.  😊  Even towels and sheets are folded neatly these days instead of just in quarters.  So, with a little more time on my hands in retirement, I stole back the laundry from my hubby who has been diligently washing, drying, hanging, and folding our clothes for almost 43 years now. 

However, now that I’m doing laundry and putting it away, it made me crazy that we could never put our hands on the properly sized bed linens for the various beds.  We have two queen-sized, one double, and two twin beds.  Hubby determined a couple years ago that flat sheets were useless and discarded them (or so I thought*).  ALL the sheets for all the beds were piled into the master bathroom linen closet.  They were not in any order, they were not matched for color, and they were mixed in with ALL the bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths for our two full bathrooms and our downstairs powder room.  It was a very full and very mixed up closet. 

Out came absolutely everything; it all got washed and was then divided into two separate baskets – sheets and towels.  As I folded the sheets, I matched the colors.  And then I remembered one of those “hacks” that you see floating around the web where matching sheets and pillowcase(s) were placed inside one of the pillowcases for the set.  With that done, I then placed the appropriate bed linens in the bottom dresser drawer in the room in which they would be used.  More space in the bathroom closet, and no more confusion regarding which sheets went on which beds!  “Oh, Happy Day!” 

Next came the towels.  I had two towels that I used exclusively to wrap my hair after a shower.  They were both almost 43 years old, threadbare (I’m not joking; I could read through those two towels!), and any pattern that existed on them had long since vanished.  Trash!  I had about a dozen white washcloths that were unraveling at the edges.  Trash!  I found only two hand towels for the master bathroom, none for the hall bathroom, and four for the downstairs powder room.  All remaining towels in good condition were neatly folded, and placed in two stacks on the main shelf in the closet.  The two hand towels were folded and placed beside them (to go into a labeled bin once the bins arrive), and the remaining washcloths were stacked beside them and would also go into a bin.  The hand towels for the downstairs powder room went, of all places!, in the powder room.  😊 

All our hang-up laundry is stored in a closet directly across from the laundry area (so much easier than toting it upstairs after every load).  I store extra laundry baskets in the bottom of that closet, and boy was that closet getting packed tight with our hang-ups.  I yanked out another couple baskets, pulled all the clothes out of that closet and separated them into keep, donate and trash.  Up until now, my slacks had always been hung on separate hangers.  That takes up a good deal of space.  Since I frequently wear specific shirts with specific slacks, why not put them together on the same hanger with the slacks neatly folded over the bottom of the hanger, and the shirt slipped down over top of the slacks?  One hanger instead of two seemed a good idea and, fortunately, it worked out beautifully.  There’s a lot more room in that closet these days.

Finally, while putting things away in their proper places, I noticed that the top shelf in my wardrobe-cum-bookcase had broken.  Out came all the books on the top two shelves, and my always-at-the-ready hubby anchored those shelves for me.  So, while I was in there, I reorganized the mess and donated or trashed what wasn’t in use any longer.  Phew!  I’m on an organizational roll here!  😊  Can I just tell you how fabulous it feels to open a closet door or the door to my wardrobe-cum-bookcase and see neatness and order?!  There are still plenty of drawers and closets left to tackle but, for now, I’m taking an organizational break to spend some time in my sewing room over the next few weeks. 

Now, about those oysters … we had the most amazing meal a few weeks back:  oyster fritters with a cheesy cauliflower mousse, and a green salad with homemade green goddess dressing.  I wanted to order more oysters with this seafood order but, alas, alack, and woe is me, they were out of oysters.  I have never enjoyed oysters.  I once, at hubby’s urging, tried a raw oyster.  I got it down but, as I said to him, it’s like slurping salty snot.  I was convinced that oysters were truly gross.  However, once I tried a homemade po’boy sandwich, I got just a little hooked on fried oysters.  I enjoy oyster fritters even more than the po’boy fried oysters.  In fact, I’d choose an oyster fritter over an apple fritter every single time. 

Here are the recipes I used for the oyster fritters, the green goddess dressing, and for the cauliflower mousse (although I topped the cauliflower mousse with about one-half cup of good sharp cheddar.

Oyster Fritters:  https://www.thespruceeats.com/oyster-fritters-recipe-3058723

Green Goddess Dressing:  https://cookieandkate.com/easy-green-goddess-dressing-recipe/

Cauliflower Mousse:  https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/cauliflower-mousse-235759

This week’s menu plan:

SATURDAYCALABRIAN CHICKEN STEW W/PEPPERS, ONIONS, TOMATOES & POTATOES
SUNDAYSUNDAY FAMILY DINNER HERE:  CORNED BEEF, CABBAGE, POTATOES, ROASTED CARROTS & BRUSSELS SPROUTS SERVED WITH HOMEMADE BEER BREAD, AND POUND CAKE FOR DESSERT
MONDAYSHAKSHOUKA & SALAD
TUESDAYTACO BISON BURGERS W/CHEDDAR & GUACAMOLE ON HOMEMADE BURGER BUNS & OVEN FRIES
WEDNESDAYSEARED SEA BASS W/GRAPES & OLIVE OIL & SPINACH-MUSHROOM RISOTTO
THURSDAYNO-COOK THURSDAY
FRIDAYFAMILY FUN FRIDAY DINNER AT THE KIDS’ HOUSE:  HOMEMADE PIZZAS & CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40

___________________________

  • After sorting through all the items in the linen closet, I did actually find 9 flat sheets. Only two of them, however, matched any of our existing bed linens. I matched those two up with their bed mates, and tossed the rest since I couldn’t even remember buying any sheets in those colors! It’s a mystery!!
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Be a Blessing

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

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Sew It Seams …

“My friend writes songs about sewing machines. He’s a Singer songwriter, or sew it seams.”  (~Unknown)

I have a penchant for painful puns and purple prose; hence the above.  If it makes most folks groan, I will undoubtedly laugh heartily.  This week has been all about sewing and, in particular, finishing my sewing “room.”  😊  This room used to be our master bedroom closet but, since we hang all our clothes downstairs in the laundry area and the only items that make it upstairs to be put away are linens and other foldables, we really have no need for a closet in the master bedroom.  And, since I had no real desire to steal a guest bedroom that could be used for, oh, I don’t know, guests, the closet was the spot. 

It’s a small space; only 6.5 x 12 feet.  Even though as a closet it’s a large space, there were no electrical outlets in it.  ☹  My sweet hubby offered to put an outlet or two into the closet for me; however, the memory of our former pastor’s comment after helping fix some of his prior electrical handiwork came to mind, “Please, leave electricity to the experts.”  😊  He can do pretty much anything you can imagine … except electrical.  Since there will only be two items requiring electricity on a regular basis, a surge protector and a short extension cord running inconspicuously between the closet and an outlet along the same wall just outside the closet door should more than suffice. 

I’ve been sewing since I was 8 years old; 10 years old on a sewing machine.  I learned how to sew on my grandmother’s Singer Featherweight, and it’s still my preferred machine.  After 56 years of sewing, however, there was a great accumulation of sewing (and other crafty) stuff.  Apparently somewhere along the line, I took the “She who dies with the most wins” philosophy to heart.  Most everything in my sewing room has been gifted to me through inheritance; items that truly represent pieces of my heart.  The only things we needed to purchase were an inexpensive set of stackable filing cabinets, a 12-bin storage unit, and some paperboard magazine holders. 

Under the heading of “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” I am now ready to sew.  You know you’re old[er] when the pattern you choose to work on is dated 1982.  I told ya I was a collector of sewing stuff.  😉  Yes, this Folkwear pattern is as old as my son.  I have a lovely grey and red plaid flannel, that is buttery soft that, I think anyway, will be perfect. 

We decided to forego the red lentil soup this past week.  Instead of homemade biscuits, I decided to try out a King Arthur recipe for Portuguese muffins. (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/portuguese-muffins-bolo-levedo-recipe). 

Well, you know how it goes, you just HAVE to taste one to make sure you won’t be poisoning anyone, right?  So, I split one in half and gave half to hubby, and we took a bite … and we drooled … and we took another bite … and we oohed and ahhed.  No soup for us!  We sliced an avocado, the hard-cooked eggs, and some luscious Jarlsberg cheese.  We had some of those muffins, made into sandwiches, for dinner along with sliced pears. 

Since we didn’t have the red lentil soup last week, it became part of this week’s menu plan.  😊  It’s a two-soup week; something that doesn’t happen often since hubby is not the biggest fan of soup unless, of course, it’s a course of its own and there’s lots of other food, especially meat, served with it.  😉 

Thus, I give you this week’s menu plan:

SATURDAYCHICKEN BREASTS IN ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE W/GNOCCHI & SPINACH
SUNDAYBROILED HALIBUT WITH RICOTTA-PEA PUREE, ROASTED VEGGIES & SPINACH SALAD
MONDAYRED LENTIL SOUP W/SPINACH & CHOPPED EGG SALAD, & HOMEMADE BISCUITS
TUESDAYTURKEY FAJITAS W/SHARP CHEDDAR & AVOCADO ON HOMEMADE SOFT WRAPS
WEDNESDAYSMOKED SALMON & 3-CHEESE QUICHE W/MIXED GREENS & HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING
THURSDAYGRILLED CHEDDAR-APPLE SANDWICHES ON HOMEMADE BRIOCHE BEAD W/MAPLE CREAM & LIMA BEAN BISQUE
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

Since I needed to use up some spinach from last week, I tossed that in with last night’s chicken breasts in roasted red pepper sauce.  Boy is that some delicious sauce.  I much prefer it over homemade tomato sauce, and it’s SO easy to make: 

  • 2 12-oz. jars of roasted red peppers
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

I empty the roasted peppers into my food processor without draining them, and process until it’s a smooth liquid.  I add it directly to whatever I’m cooking in my skillet once the food is close to being done.  In this case it was boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I also added the spinach to wilt in the sauce and, once the spinach was wilted, I added the cream, removed the chicken breasts to a large bowl (and covered with foil to keep them warm) and stirred to combine everything.  Once the gnocchi were finished cooking, I tossed them into the sauce as well, stirred to coat them, and tossed all into the bowl with the chicken.  The other “trick” I used to speed up this chicken dish was a gnocchi kit which you can find here:  https://www.delallo.com/shop/delallo-potato-cheese-italian-gnocchi-kit?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIo96ml4fY7gIVdOW1Ch3qMAiFEAAYASAAEgJ8D_D_BwE.  This is not an affiliate link.  They’re really quite tasty and a good substitute when time (or energy) is short.  😉 

I’ve made the sauce using home-roasted red peppers, a little veggie broth, and the cream but, for ease and speed when it’s been a long day and you want in and out of the kitchen in a hurry, those jarred roasted red peppers really do the trick!  😊 

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.”  Proverbs 30:8

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January (by John Updike)

  • “The days are short,
  • The sun a spark,
  • Hung thin between
  • The dark and dark.
  • “Fat snowy footsteps
  • Track the floor. 
  • Milk bottles burst
  • Outside the door.
  • “The river is
  • A frozen place
  • Held still beneath
  • The trees of lace.
  • “The sky is low. 
  • The wind is gray. 
  • The radiator
  • Purrs all day.”

It is a brittle, brilliantly sunlit Sunday; the last of January.  Did you, as I, hope and pray that 2021 would be more calm, peaceful, and less calamitous?  Were you disappointed?  I was, and am, saddened by the continuing vitriol.  Can we not have peace in our world, our country, our cities and towns?   Can we find peace in our families?  If we start with our own little corner, can we slowly start an ever-widening ripple effect of peaceful and civil discourse amongst ourselves?

While I know God is in control, I can’t help but wonder if we, as Christians, are here to usher in God’s kingdom, how can that happen if even we are not following His Word and seeking His will; if even we are not striving daily to more closely follow in the footsteps of Jesus?  We used to sing “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love” in youth group as teens.  Is our love of Christ and Christ’s love in us evident in our lives? Our families? Our communities? 

Elizabeth Elliot said: “Lord, break the chains that hold me to myself; free me to be your happy slave,–that is, to be the happy foot-washer of anyone today who needs his feet washed, his supper cooked, his faults overlooked, his work commended, his failure forgiven, his griefs consoled, or his button sewed on. Let me not imagine that my love for You is great if I am unwilling to do for a human being something very small.”  This was certainly convicting for me.  How about you?  Is there room at your table?  Is there room in your heart?  Is there room in your life? Just a few thoughts before heading into the kitchen on this slow food Sunday.

 

Hubby and I enjoyed a fabulous seafood Saturday dinner of oyster fritters, cheesy cauliflower mousse, and a huge salad of mixed greens with homemade green goddess dressing.  I’ve just gotta say, those goddesses sure know their dressings!  Last week it was a harvest-y pumpkin goddess and this week it was an early summery green goddess filled with fresh herbs, some anchovy paste, and a splash of fresh lemon juice.  I think I might have to try a chestnut goddess.  😉 

I’m excited about this week’s menu plan; it’s been years since I’ve made asado negro.  After dining at a Venezuelan restaurant when we lived in the big city where we enjoyed this incredible dish, I just had to duplicate it.  Though I’m not Venezuelan, I do like to think that I got pretty close on this dish!  You’ll find the recipe at the end of the post. 

SATURDAYOYSTER FRITTERS W/CAULIFLOWER MOUSSE & MIXED GREEN SALAD W/HOMEMADE GREEN GODDESS DRESSING
SUNDAYSEASONED, MARINATED CHICKEN LEGS & THIGHS W/BASMATI RICE & SPINACH, BERRY & FETA SALAD
MONDAYBLACK BEAN BURGERS, AVOCADO & CHILI MAYO ON HOMEMADE BRIOCHE ROLLS W/OVEN-ROASTED POTATOES
TUESDAYASADO NEGRO W/HOMEMADE EGG NOODLES & PURPLE CABBAGE W/APPLES
WEDNESDAYSEAFOOD CHOWDER W/GREEN SALAD & HOMEMADE BISCUITS
THURSDAYRED LENTIL SOUP W/SPINACH & EGG SALAD AND HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

ASADO NEGRO:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lb. beef tenderloin (I had this leftover from a whole tenderloin; normally I would use an eye of round roast)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon (or 1 bouillon cube)
  • 1 cup hearty red wine (like cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1 cup Marsala
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I use olive oil, but corn or canola oil will work)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 celery ribs, cut up into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Prepare the beef the day before you want to cook it by cutting off any fat and membrane.
  • Place the beef in a reclosable bag and add salt and pepper to taste (I use 1 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of a rainbow pepper blend), garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Seal and smoosh around.  Place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
  • When ready to cook remove meat from marinade, and discard the marinade.
  • Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the granulated sugar in the center of the pan.  Do not stir.  Carefully place the beef in the pan and brown it on all sides to achieve a nice sear. 
  • Transfer the beef to your slow cooker.
  • Pulse your onion, carrots, green pepper, oregano in your food processor until finely minced, and then add the minced veggies, bay leaves, beef stock, beef bouillon, and wines to your slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours (you can also cook it on high for 4 hours). 
  • Remove the beef from your slow cooker. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the beef to rest for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a cutting board and carve into 1/2-inch slices.  Set the sliced beef aside and cover to keep warm.
  • Carefully transfer the liquid and vegetables to a blender and purée them until smooth.  Pour the sauce into a large saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, and simmer and stir until the sauce reduces, darkens, and thickens into a gravy-like consistency.  This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper) if you think it needs it, then add the sliced meat and simmer for 12 – 15 more minutes.
  • Serve hot with mashed potatoes or some good egg noodles.  YUM!

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”  Matthew 25:34-36

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Spinach-Feta Quick Bread

“Sweet dreams are made of cheese. Who am I to dis a brie ….” ~Author unknown (but very, very clever)

Ingredients:

  • 1-½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or ¾ teaspoon table salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach, wilted (wilt spinach over low heat in a dry, non-stick skillet w/lid)
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice & enough milk to make ½ cup) – I didn’t have any milk or buttermilk, so I used lemon juice and heavy cream.
  • 2 large eggs (I always use jumbo eggs)
  • Enough butter to lightly grease your bread pan.
  • Parchment paper.

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and lightly butter your bread pan.

Fold a piece of parchment in half and set it down inside bread pan with overhang on the long sides of the pan to make it easy to lift out your loaf.

  1. Wilt your spinach, covered, over low heat – no butter/oil; dry, non-stick skillet).
  2. If using lemon juice & milk or lemon juice & cream, mix together and set aside.
  3. While spinach wilts, whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup (I use my 4-cup glass measure), mix together buttermilk (or lemon/milk mixture), olive oil, and eggs.
  5. Add feta cheese to dry ingredients and stir to coat cheese.
  6. Add wilted spinach to dry ingredients and stir to coat.
  7. Add in liquid ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly, making sure to scrape the bottom of your bowl where flour likes to sit.  😉 
  8. Spoon batter into bread pan and smooth top.
  9. Bake at 350ºF. for 55-60 minutes or until bread tests done.  Mine took about 65 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven when done and set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  11. Slide knife along the short sides of your loaf, and then gently lift the bread out of the loaf pan using the parchment paper.  Allow to cool completely on a rack before cutting into it.

ENJOY!  It’s delicious toasted or just as is.  😊

“And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.” 2 Samuel 17:29

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“Well Begun is Half Done.”

While most of us undoubtedly know this quote from the movie, Mary Poppins, from what I’ve read it was quoted by Aristotle in his philosophical work, Politics, as a proverb during his time.  Can you say WOW?!  That makes it a true oldie but goodie!!  😊 

Have you ever thought about this phrase?  Contemplated its meaning?  I get it, it’s not exactly, “What is the meaning of life,” right?  😉  But there’s actually a lot of truth in the saying.  I view it as being similar to the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be prepared.”  If I determine in advance what needs to be done and, before my feet hit the floor in the morning, make up my mind to carve out time to make those things happen, there will be more likelihood of my accomplishing more of what I would like to get finished.  That said, now that I’m (ahem) older, I rely heavily on lists and schedules to preplan and prepare. 

Just as easy examples, each year for Christmas my niece sends us a family calendar.  I absolutely love this gift every year for lots of reasons.  First and foremost, it always contains wonderful photographs of her family that I can see every day.  The other thing I do as soon as I sit down after opening the gift is mark the calendar.  I mark all birthdays; I mark the days our mortgage payment comes out of our account every two weeks (that way I never forget, in my monthly budgeting, bill paying, and bookkeeping to take that amount out of my books; I mark the days any monies are due in; I mark the first Monday of the month to sit down and pay all our accounts (we make certain to pay our savings first), and pay all our bills for the month.  The last thing I do before I go to bed is set up the coffee pot so I can just push the button first thing in the morning so that the coffee is brewed and ready to go by the time I finish unloading the dishwasher and putting away the dishes.  Then I sit down at my desk and, with coffee in hand, spend the next hour or so enjoying my Bible reading, devotional and prayer time.  It’s been a wonderful, positive, and uplifting way to start every day!  This preplanning and preparedness have also served us well when it comes to interruptions and emergencies.

It’s been a tough week and a half or so and, sadly, I haven’t been able to post.  Because I got laid up after an iron infusion, my menu plan got reused for a portion of the following week.  Other than that, we ate quickie meals that I had stashed in the freezer for times such as these, and we actually ordered in a couple nights when I just couldn’t stay upright long enough to cook or even reheat.  All my preplanning definitely helped us out while I was under the weather.  Thankfully, however, I’m back on my feet, energized, and ready to rock.  😊 

By the time hubby comes downstairs this morning, the menu plan will have been completed (usually this is a Saturday morning thing but, yesterday, we both had projects we needed to get finished up and we shifted the menu planning and shopping to this morning), the shopping list for the few items we need from our local grocery will be ready to go, I’ll have written this post, and I’ll be able to sit and relax over a second cup of coffee with my sweetheart.  Once he heads out the door, I’ll have time to schedule this post, get tonight’s dessert in the oven, and prep the potatoes and Brussels sprouts for tonight’s family dinner.  And then, well, it will be time for church.  We attend on-line for now due to COVID-19 and try to wait patiently for the day that we’ll be able to return to in-person attendance.  We definitely miss seeing our church family. 

On to this week’s menu plan and a recipe for my newest favorite spice blend – Ras el Hanout.  I make it in a large batch whenever I’m running low, and store it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  We truly enjoy this blend of flavors on lots of different things but we LOVE it on chicken wings!  I never enjoyed eating wings because they were usually far too spicy for me.  This spice blend has just a bit of zip, and even I can appreciate some zippiness from time to time.

RAS EL HANOUT

In a glass jar, with a good, tight lid place all of the ingredients.  I use a pint jar which gives me plenty of room to shake the ingredients until they’re thoroughly mixed.

  • 6 teaspoons sea salt (I use Celtic sea salt)
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper (I use a rainbow pepper blend)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon saffron (optional – this is a pricy ingredient and I frequently leave it out)

Place the lid on the jar and shake until the contents are well mixed.  Store in a dark place and use within six months so that it doesn’t lose its potency.

SEASONED CHICKEN WINGS

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Ras el Hanout seasoning blend
  • Gallon storage bag

Place the chicken wings into the plastic storage bag.  Sprinkle the seasoning blend over the chicken wings in the bag and drizzle the olive oil over all.  Seal the bag and smoosh (serious culinary term there) the contents around until all the wings are well coated.  I usually do this about 90 minutes before cooking the wings, and then turn and massage the bag every 20 minutes or so until I’m ready to pop them in the oven. 

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.  My sheet pan will hold three pounds of chicken wings.  Depending on the size of your wings and/or sheet pan, you may need two pans.  Line your pan(s) with parchment paper and place your wings on the pan leaving space so that they’ll get crispy rather than just steam.  Seriously … crispy chicken skin; am I right?!  Place your chicken in the oven and bake at 450ºF. for approximately 40 minutes, or until the chicken wings are done (at least 165ºF. internal temperature) and the skin is getting crispy.  I then turn my oven heat up to 500ºF. and let them go for another 10-12 minutes just to up the crispiness factor.  Remember when taking them out of the oven that there is some oil on the pan and it will likely be popping a bit.  DO NOT get too close to that pan.  You could also let them go longer at 450ºF. until the skin is crispy enough for your taste.  Please be certain to use a metal baking sheet as you’re dealing with high oven temperatures.

Ras el Hanout wings, caramelized zucchini and Basmati rice w/lemon & ground sumac

On to this week’s menu plan:

SATURDAYRAS EL HANOUT WINGS, CARAMELIZED ZUCCHINI AND BASMATI RICE W/LEMON & SUMAC
SUNDAYBAKED HAM, POTATOES AU GRATIN, ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS & PERFECT PEAR CAKE
MONDAYBUTTERNUT-APPLE SOUP, GREEN SALAD & HOMEMADE BISCUITS
TUESDAYSEARED HALIBUT TACOS W/SLAW & AVOCADO CREMA ON HOMEMADE SOFT WRAPS
WEDNESDAYBLACK BEAN BURGERS W/ROASTED OVEN POTATOES
THURSDAYLEMON-GARLIC MAHI MAHI AND SPAGHETTI SQUASH W/ROASTED TOMATOES & MOZARELLA
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

Have a wonderful, blessed week and remember:  preplan and be prepared!    

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

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“Anchors Aweigh” – Scallop Casserole

“’Close your eyes,’ he had said to her. ‘Food demands complete submission.’  And then he placed a perfect scallop in her mouth.  ‘Do you taste the sea?’
“Delphine did.  Not just the salt of the sea but the very air of the moment that the shell was pulled from the sand.  ‘A storm, perhaps. There is a dark edge to the sweetness of the meat.’”

― N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter (A wonderful read, too!)

Yes, yes, I know it’s “Taco Tuesday,” but it’s scallop season here in Maine, and when you suddenly get your hands on 2 pounds of fresh, just-off-the-boat scallops, well … even the jarabe must yield to a sailor’s hornpipe.  It’s time for our favorite scallop casserole; it’s easy and relatively quick to fix and there’s the bonus of extra scallops (shhh … leftovers) for scallop sandwiches tomorrow tucked into some homemade seeded rolls and topped with fresh avocado slices (since we will not be using them tonight for the salsa) and some spicy mayo.  😊 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds scallops
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stacks (since they’re now smaller) of Ritz crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 325º F, and make sure your rack is in the middle position. 

Wash and clean the scallops and pat them dry. 

Spread the scallops evenly in a 9×13 baking pan.

In a bowl mix together the chopped onion, crushed crackers, Parmesan, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest.  Distribute this mixture evenly over the scallops. 

Stir the lemon juice into the melted butter and pour it evenly over the crumb topping in your baking pan. 

Place your baking pan in the oven and allow it to cook for 30 minutes or until the scallops are done. 

If you prefer a darker, crunchier topping, you can place the pan (do NOT do this with a glass baking dish) under the broiler for an additional minute or two. 

We love this dish even more than seared scallops, and serve it with plenty of roasted Brussels sprouts.

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” Psalm 107:23-24

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The Magical Menu Plan

Once upon a time I didn’t plan meals.  We went to the supermarket, usually together, and we picked up entrée items that we thought we’d enjoy or that we hadn’t had in a while, and then we’d throw in some carbs (gimme the noodles!) and produce to round out what we viewed as a reasonably healthful selection of foods for the week.  Since we both worked, initially outside the home, and hubby was not a breakfast person, we’d pick up deli lunchmeat for lunches on the weekend and call it a successful shopping trip.  The biggest problem we encountered was waste.  We were, back then, a family of two with one person who really did not enjoy eating leftovers because, as you know, leftovers are, in fact, left over.  They’re reheated versions of a prior meal that you finished eating only 24 hours before.  But, we bought for six entrées and, other than on weekends, we didn’t eat lunch at home.  Leftovers usually got tossed.  I would hate to have tracked the cost of all that discarded food over all those years.  YIKES! 

I’ve lost count of all the ways I’ve tried to feed us reasonably-portioned, healthy meals while reducing waste.  It’s not easy but, for us, the least wasteful way to get this done is by planning the meals and, now that we’re both home most of the time, I need to reconfigure what is left from a meal for two into something that doesn’t look anything like its original form so as to avoid leftovers.  😉 

So, early on Saturday morning, I dig through my freezer to get an idea of what’s left in there, my produce, and my pantry, and then sit down at my desk in front of my computer with the two cookbooks I use most and my internet links and make a plan.  It’s also MUCH easier for me to plan when I shop every month or two for my entrée items.  I do this shopping on line for many reasons:  (1)  my hubby and I are in our 60s and suffer with knee difficulties, making supermarket forays and waiting in line difficult (and, if I’m honest, truly annoying; I’ve never been good at waiting, ever); (2) the supermarket here is, other than our co-op the only grocery game in town – it’s seriously overpriced on most items and, frankly, if I’m going to pay outrageous prices for food, I can get it delivered, get better quality, and pay the same and frequently less; and (3) while I love our co-op because it supports local farmers, I’m finding that I’m paying roughly the same whether I shop at the co-op, the overpriced supermarket or on-line and, again, I don’t have to stand on my feet while waiting in line.  Since I can’t find delivery on good dairy items, I plan on going back to our local co-op for dairy items because, honestly, you really can’t beat fresh chicken and duck eggs and fresh raw milk.  😊 

Yes, shopping has changed a lot, especially in this last year.  I buy most of my seafood (except of course, our local lobster, crab, and scallops) through Vital Choice Seafood.  Their selection is fabulous and the quality simply can’t be beat.  Not only that but, on occasions when errors have been made in my orders they have gone above and beyond to make sure that I’m always truly delighted with their service.  All my other meats (beef, pork, lamb, poultry) is purchased through Purdue Farms.  Again, it’s about quality and service and, in this instance, the availability of a large selection of quality meats.  I order my produce bi-weekly from Misfits and, thus far, that has worked out well.  I just need to make certain that I use up the more fragile, quick-to-spoil produce at the beginning of the two-week period.  I order their bigger box option for two weeks since even their small box is too big for hubby and I for one week.  The large box for two weeks works out really well since you can now customize your box.  We can order non-perishables and paper goods on line as well.  This all has reduced our need to go to the local supermarket tremendously and has eliminated much of our waste as well. 

SATURDAYGREEK ISLAND-STYLE SPINACH-STUFFED CALAMARI WITH RICE & APPLE-PEAR CAKE
SUNDAYBIRTHDAY DINNER AT THE KIDS’ HOUSE FOR OUR OLDEST GRANDSON – 14!!  😊
MONDAYBASMATI RICE WITH MUSHROOMS, WALNUTS & KALE IN PUMPKIN SAUCE
TUESDAYSHRIMP TACOS WITH AVOCADO-MANGO SALSA & LIME CREMA IN HOMEMADE SOFT WRAPS
WEDNESDAYCHICKEN BREASTS IN ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE WITH SPINACH AND HOMEMADE GNOCCHI
THURSDAYSHAKSHUKA WITH A GREEN SALAD
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

Usually, Sunday nights are our special meal of the week.  This week, however, with a birthday to celebrate tonight next door, we made Saturday night our special meal.  I got the recipe out of one of my most-used cookbooks, The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Amy Riolo.  We had Greek Island-Style Stuffed Calamari with Rice and Herbs.  It was positively delicious and relatively quick to make once I got the hang of stuffing the squid bodies.  I simply sautéed up the tentacles while the stuffed squid was cooking.  Should you desire the recipe, it’s here on YouTube:

So delicious!

And, for dessert, there was a moist and delectable apple-pear cake.  This recipe indicates a Bundt pan or 9×13; however, since I could get a “two-fer,” I baked it in two 9” cake pans and wrapped one for the freezer.  😊  Like the 9×13 variation in the recipe, it did take 50 minutes to bake.  It also used up the last of my apples and pears – bonus!  You’ll find the recipe for the cake here:  https://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/this-apple-and-pear-cake-recipe-was-a-family-mystery-until-i-cracked-its-delicious-code/.  Since I’m not a great fan of vegetable oil in my cakes, I will likely try to come up with a version using butter. 

By way of full disclosure, I do not have a large or stand-alone freezer.  What I purchase must fit in my refrigerator freezer and it does get tight.  😊  In addition, We conscientiously budget for what we spend monthly on food (actually, we budget for everything so we never have to have anything on credit). I’m particularly interested in items that are on special from the on-line vendors I use. I do not use affiliate links here since I feel strongly about such things.  If you have an interest in something specific, please just drop me an e-mail and I will be happy to provide you with additional information.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

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