20 January 2018

Another week, another soup, in honor of National Soup Month.

This week’s soup, French Onion, was inspired by and made for a friend of mine who purchased a bag of onions a few weeks back with the intent of making this soup for herself.  Alas, she never quite got around to it.  So with her onions sprouting in a colander on her counter, I offered to make it for her.  She obliged with one condition, that I make enough to feed my family too.

Yes Maam!

French Onion Soup is a labor of love.  Although made with the simplest ingredients, a complex taste results BUT only if you cook it low and slow.  Like a relationship it requires patience, time and attention.  And like a relationship, with patience, time and attention it  turns into something rich and wonderful. The acrid becomes sweet, the sweet becomes full-filling.

This is a recipe that is perfectly suited to the winter when the larder is bereft of fresh vegetables and all that’s left is the long-lived onion, the lowest of the lot.  Despite its mean base this scrumptious soup is often reserved for special occasions, Valentine’s Day especially.  But don’t save it for a special day, make it a special day by serving this soup, sharing it with friends and family.



French Onion Soup for a Friend


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of large yellow onions, halved and sliced into half circles
  • 3 large finely chopped garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts beef stock (I make mine with beef bouillon and water)
  • 1/4 cup cognac (a rich red wine or sherry will do in a pinch)
  • Your favorite hearty bread, sliced
  • Shredded Gruyere, mozzarella or provolone cheese


  1. Heat the butter and oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions (It is going to look like A LOT at first, but I promise you they cook down.) and cook, COVERED, for ten to twelve minutes,  stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook, UNCOVERED, for approximately one half hour or until the onions turn a deep, golden brown; stirring occasionally at first and then  more frequently as the onions begin to color, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan as the onions begin to caramelize.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend.
  6. Stir in the white wine and bubble for 1 minute.
  7. Pour in the beef stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the saucepan and stirring well to combine.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine or brandy and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  10. Slice your favorite hearty bread to fit your bowls and top with  shredded cheese.
  11. Toast your bread for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  12. Place a piece of cheese toast in the bottom of each bowl, ladle in hot soup and serve.
  13. Share.




17 January 2018

Snow Day, Part Two.

“Real” school has been cancelled for today, so our snow day continues despite the lack of fresh snow.  It is cold, FREEZING COLD, and now ice is the concern.  So before we delve into next week’s school work, we are enjoying another day of homebound rest.

In the South, we prepare for imminent danger by stockpiling the essentials.  For hurricanes, we buy bottles of water, bread, and canned goods that can be opened and heated on the grill once the electricity goes out.  For wintry weather, we add milk to the list.  Honestly, I don’t know why and I don’t think anyone else does either, but it IS a requisite.

Since I have a stash of extra milk in the refrigerator and a couple of wind-flushed, numb-limbed icicles masquerading as children in need of warming on my hands, the day calls for a mug of Hot Cocoa–the slowly-heated on the stove kind courtesy of Hershey’s, not the kind I mostly grew up with, the minute-microwave powder variety produced by Swiss Miss or Carnation, made with water not milk.  Hmmmm.   Sometimes it had little dehydrated marshmallows in it.  Sometimes it did not.  As a kid it didn’t matter, it was good either way, but then again I was a child of the 1980’s when most anything good started with a powder: Tang, Nestle’s Quik, Ovaltine just to name a few.

The first homemade Hot Chocolate I remember having was made by Mrs. Voncille, my sisters’ and my last afternoon, summertime, and almost every other time caretaker.  It was wonderful, rich, creamy, chocolatey, calorie-laden, smooth without all the pesky undissolved clumps one can never quite stir away when using packaged powders.  It was a true treat and a memory-maker, albeit the only memory retained by my middle-aged mind is the fact of the beverage not the occasion.

These days I don’t use powders and I don’t use Mrs. Von’s recipe, although I really should get it from her.  Instead, sometime along the years I came across the Favorite Hot Cocoa recipe on the Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa container, made it, and never  used another.    It’s so much better than a powder, reminiscent of Mrs. Von’s and easy-peasy to make, as long as you don’t mind stirring.   Plus, it has the added convenience of being printed right on the package, thus never getting lost in the recipe book, box or, in my case, manila folder.

Hot Cocoa Cat2


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups milk (I use 5 cups of whole milk)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan; stir in water.
  2. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir two minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and heat.  DO NOT BOIL.
  4. Remove from heat, add vanilla.
  5. Serve hot in your favorite cup, topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, peppermint sprinkles or whatever tickles your fancy.  Drink immediately.


11 January 2018


As I mentioned here last week, January is National Soup Month.  So in continuing celebration I am posting another of my favorite soup recipes.  This time Chicken Noodle.

Chicken Noodle is my oldest and arguably still my most favorite kind of soup.  Although I grew up on the heat-and-serve variety in a Campbell’s can, these days I often make my own, from scratch.  This week, with the winter wind bearing down and the possibility of  at least a few flakes of snow, I decided that the frosty forecast called for a warm steaming bowl of noodle soup.

The recipe I use is one I’ve used for at least the past ten years.  Back in the day, Southern Living, the iconic monthly magazine and sacred purveyor of Southern life, had an at-home-party business called Southern Living at Home.  Women, and probably a few men, became SLH “consultants” and encouraged their friends and acquaintances to host a party where the merchandise was displayed and most often than not purchased, because if Southern Living had its name on a product you knew you had to have it.

While living in Kansas, I hosted one such party, and much to the chagrin of my husband purchased more than a few home goods we didn’t need.  As a hostess gift, I received a cookbook, Everyday Menus.  Unlike most of the goods I purchased that day and at subsequent parties that I attended, I still have that cookbook and I still use it, which gets us back to the recipe for noodle soup.

Except for occasionally deleting parsnips, that are for some reason always hard for me to find, this is a recipe I follow exactly.  It is great as is.  Quick and flavorful it is the perfect winter night warm-me-up, especially when paired with that oh-so-Southern mealtime staple of cornbread


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (3, if you can’t find parsnips)
  • 2 medium parsnips, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large celery rib, chopped (2, if you can’t find parsnips)
  • 4 skinned and boned chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups chicken broth (I use 5 bouillon cubes and 5 cups of water)
  • 4 ounces uncooked wide egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (1 teaspoon of dried parsley can be substituted if fresh parsley is hard to come by)


  1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add carrots and next three ingredients; sauté five minutes.
  3. Add chicken and sauté five minutes.
  4. Add flour and pepper (dried parsley too if substituting for fresh), stirring until blended. Cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add broth; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Add noodles; return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, ten minutes.
  7. Stir in fresh parsley.
  8. Serve and Enjoy!


4 January 2018

Did you know that January was National Soup Month?  I certainly didn’t until I happened to see a Campbell’s Soup commercial  the other day that said so.  I googled it and apparently it is a “thing”  in this country that is seemingly gaining steam, although I couldn’t find any other information about it except for that, which means it must have been cooked up by soup-industry lobbyists for the purpose of increasing sales.  (All puns intended!)

Regardless of the month, soup has always been a staple meal in my family.  My sisters and I grew up on the stuff.  Practically everyday after school we ate a bowl of Campbell’s heated in the microwave and served with crackers, either Ritz or Saltines.  My favorite was Chicken Noodle, Sister the First and Sister the Fourth preferred Chicken with Rice,  and Sister the Third ate Cream of Mushroom doused in milk and mixed in the blender.

These days I don’t eat as much Campbell’s anymore, preferring instead to make my own.  I still eat a lot of soup though, albeit not everyday and not just Chicken Noodle.  And in celebration of the month of soup, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

The first one I’d like to share and the one on my own table this week, is Potato.   Why?  Because it is BONE-CHILLINGLY COLD here in Alabama and nothing sticks to the bones better than potato soup.  For the record, this recipe isn’t one of those gloopy milk-based varieties billed these days as Chunky, Hearty, Comforting or Loaded.  It is rather a smoother, thinner, soupier kind like that served by McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida, from which I took inspiration.  But don’t let the consistency fool you, it is very much filling and MM! MM! Good!


1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 large stalks of celery, thinly sliced
3 large potatoes, 5 medium potatoes, or 7 small potatoes of your favorite variety, peeled or not, and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
7 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


  1. Melt butter in a stockpot over low heat.
  2. Add the onion and celery.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately twenty minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and cook for a further fifteen minutes, covered and occasionally stirred as before.
  4. Add the chicken broth, salt and pepper. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer, covered or not, for thirty minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Process soup in batches in a blender until smooth or alternatively mash with a potato masher directly in the pot.
  8. Serve with the topping of your choice, like cheese, bacon, green onions, chives, and/or sour cream, and
  9.  Enjoy!


15 November 2017

Cookies, chocolate-chip cookies, are what I’m most grateful for on this the mid-way day of November.  For years now, they have been my “go to” treat for holiday baking, having donned every plate for Santa that I’ve ever helped my children make, gift-giving baking, and plain old just-because baking.    They are simple to make, difficult to mess up, and always delicious.

Therefore, when my children wanted to thank their teachers with a little token of appreciation before the Thanksgiving Break, I knew just what to bake.  I grabbed my handy-dandy bag of Nestlé morsels and within an hour had a few dozen cookies cooling on the counter waiting to be wrapped in festive paper and hand-delivered to the deserving adults who help educate our youth, my two in particular. Of course, there were a few left over for sampling,  which my children gladly assisted me with, reminding me that quality control is very important.

I must admit that I tinker with most recipes, changing the quantities or ingredients to suit my particular palette or to use what’s already on hand in my home.  That being said, however, I have never tampered with the chocolate chip cookie recipe I use.  Found on the back of the bag of Nestlé Toll House morsels more than a decade ago, I have never been tempted to change a single ingredient, quantity, or direction.



2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 2/3 cups (10 ounce package) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Dark Chocolate Morsels

1 cup chopped nuts*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bow.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in morsels and nuts.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

*  If omitting nuts, add 1 to 2  more tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the opportunity to bake up a little love for some special people and to taste a bit of love myself I am truly thankful.


14 November 2017


radish from our garden

I didn’t always like radishes.  I tolerated them, ingesting itty-bitty bitter slivers in my salads over and over and over again throughout the years.  In truth, with a good dollop of dressing, they were hardly even noticeable.

Then one spring we grew our own.  They weren’t bitter, they were peppery, crisp and flavorful.  Spicy.  Yummy.  I ate them whole, undressed.  My daughter did too; barely waiting for them to be washed before she ate them by the handfuls.  Thankfully, they were quick growers, going from seed to sup in as little as a month.

It has been a few years since we’ve had a place where we could grow our own anything, and boy how we’ve missed home-grown veggies, especially radishes.  So when our potager was finally complete, radishes, Sparkler White Tips, were one of the first plants we planted and for the past two months we’ve been enjoying the little white-tipped, red-headed orbs with the fiery kick.  On salads, on soups, on the raw, we’ve eaten them.

In a week or two, depending on the weather, we will be harvesting our last radishes of the year.  I’m thankful for them while they last and thankful that we have a place where we can grow them again in the Spring.

6 November 2017

I really enjoy cooking, especially baking, but I am also grateful for a chance to “lay down my ladle” so to speak and let someone else do the cooking.  I am blessed with a lot of great cooks in the family, my husband being one of them.  On most weekends and even on occasional weeknights he will take over the kitchen and whip up a delicious dinner.

I am also grateful for leftovers.  Now I know my efforts ultimately made the meal, but an over-abundance at one dinner typically means two for the time and work of one, especially if the man is out of town.  But it could also mean that one delectable dish leads to the creation of another.

An example of this occurs when I make a crockpot full of homemade applesauce, which I wrote about on 2 October 2017.  Mostly I freeze the contents for serving later in the year,  reserving a few cups worth to share immediately.  Sometimes, however, the reserves linger in the refrigerator uneaten, leaving just enough to make these tiny bites of “appley” heaven–Applesauce Mini Muffins.

A recipe I discovered on Cooks.com in  2010, it has been a family favorite ever since.  Of course, as is my want, I have modified the original recipe to my own liking.  The main differences: I add pecans, because frankly I think they make every Fall bread better; I never use store-bought applesauce, because I hardly ever buy it anymore, preferring that which I make at home; and I leave off the cinnamon sugar sprinkle on top, because it makes them too sweet.    Here’s how I do it.


1 cup all purpose flour

applesauce muffin (2)

I know I took a picture of my own muffins, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I’ve borrowed this image from Yummly.com until I can find my own.

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 tablespoons softened butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 medium-sized egg, beaten

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the first four ingredients and then set aside.  (I use a 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but you could use more if you prefer a spicier muffin.)

In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar.  Then in a separate bowl beat the egg and add the applesauce and vanilla extract.  When this mixture is thoroughly combined, stir it into the butter mixture and then add it to the flour.

When all the ingredients have been well-combined, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

Spoon the batter into a well-greased miniature muffin pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Yields 2 dozen.

For the abundance, for the leftovers, for the dishes that lead to new dishes I am thankful.




26 October 2017

I’m feeling under the weather.  Icky. Sicky.  Down in the dumps.

I woke up this way.  Eyes matted.  Throat scratchy.  Mind murky.  Stomach reeling.

I just wanted to stay in bed and that is mostly what I did.  Cuddled up to my next to my warm cozy; dozing, but not really resting.  Waking only to find myself feeling more and more like a lost ball in high weeds.  Heavy with fatigue.

On days like this, when my body is ailing and my mind is lagging, I want something hot and comforting to eat.  Something that can be served in a bowl and held in between my hands.  Something steamy, something brothy, something soothing.

So today I offer up a recipe that is sure to sooth the soul if not the body.  With plenty of healing rosemary, garlic, chicken broth and a splash or two of red wine vinegar, the new-found, old-forgotten  fountain of youth in a bottle, its a brew for what ails ya’.  We’ll call it Witch’s Brew, Get Better Stew.

Witches Stew

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground Italian Sausage

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 to 2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 cups of chicken broth, divided

5 cups, stemmed chopped kale

2 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed, drained and divided

1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Pour olive oil  into to a large Dutch, swirl to coat, and place over medium heat.  Add the sausage, onion, carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is browned.  Stir in at least a 1/2 teaspoon salt, minced garlic, black pepper and your preferred amount of dried rosemary and cook for a minute or so.

Stir in 5 cups of chicken broth.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Once a nice boil has been achieved, cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Add the kale and simmer for a few minutes longer, until the kale is tender.

Place 1 can of cannellini beans and a remaining cup of chicken broth in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add this puree, the remaining can of cannellini beans and the black beans to the stew and increase the heat until it is boiling once again.  Then, as before, cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for several minutes.

Stir in the red wine vinegar and remove from the heat.

Ladle into bowls, serve whilst hot, preferably with fresh-from-the-oven crumbly bread, and invite your family to close their eyes, bow their heads, and breath in the rich aroma of this meal.  Oh…and say grace while they are at.

*   *  *

Discovered on www. myrecipes.com, my meal-planning go-to, I tweaked the recipe to fit my own family’s tastes and to accommodate what was growing fresh in my garden.  The original recipe can be found here.



16 October 2017


A few years ago I became a Pinterest addict.

Yes, I admit it, I claim it, I wear it like a Scarlet Letter, only without the shame.  How could I not be?  So many great ideas, tips, crafts, articles, exercises, recipes and other marvelous STUFF I didn’t know I needed in my life but clearly did, all in one handy-dandy place just waiting for me to Like, Pin and try.  I liked ALOT, a function that is sadly no longer available, I pinned ALOT, I tried…not nearly as much as the other two, but I gave and still give it the “old college try.”

One of the first boards I created was Autumn Inspired Breads.  At the time I was searching for a new taste of Fall,  a new sweet bread slightly spicy, slightly nutty, cozy warm and filling-heavy to complement my coffee and invoke the idea of the season even if the temperatures were not cooperating with the calendar.  I found a few  candidates that I baked, enjoyed and shared, but knew that I had found THE ONE when I stumbled across a Pin for Pear Bread from the website Bake or BreakGleaned from Nancy McDermott’s 2007 cookbook Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations, this bread came with a warning from Bake or Break’s author:

“After you try it, you may never want to bake anything else ever again. It is just that good.”

She wasn’t lying!  Try it, you’ll see!

Pear bread 1Pear bread 2


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup softened butter

3 lightly beaten large eggs

2 cups sugar

2 cups peeled and diced* pears

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).

Once you’ve lightly greased and floured a  10-inch bundt or tube pan, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Once mixed, scoop out about a quarter of a cup and combine with the pecans to coat, then stir the coated nuts and flour remnants back into the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter, eggs, sugar, pears, and vanilla.  Add this mixture to the flour one, stirring just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the bundt or tube pan and bake for sixty to seventy minutes, or until the bread is browned and firm on the top and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in a pan on a wire rack for at least ten minutes, remove from the pan, and place top side up on a plate.

Serve immediately with coffee, put your feet up and savor the season!

* The original recipe called for grated pear, but I like it much better with larger pieces.  Either way, diced or grated, you can’t go wrong.






2 October 2017

Monday started, as most Monday’s do, with a stumble-step to the coffee pot.  And just like most Mondays, a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, I turned on the news, or at least what masquerades as news here, to see what was happening in the world.  What was happening was horrific.  Another mass shooting in another U.S. town.

One more after one more.  I watched stricken as the story unfolded, as the death toll rose.  I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t believe it had happened again.  Of course it could.  It did.  Over and over again, month after month.

When the world rages, when the senseless occurs, when humanity tears at itself, I retreat.  I gather my chicks.  I feather my nest.  I seek the quiet, the natural, the simple, the good.  I make a meal. I count my blessings.

After the school work was completed and the books put away for the day, dinner simmering on the stove, my children and I gathered our assortment of apples.  Together, worries and cares slipping away,  we pared, cored, chopped, measured and placed all in the pot to gently blend the flavors and release the  comforting aroma over the remaining hours of the day.  To make applesauce from the ingredients.  To bring peace to our hearts.

Apple peeler Continue reading