Applesauce with my Twin

I have a twin. Crazy, huh, especially since we only met about 15 years ago. Okay, so we aren’t biological twins, but we don’t care. We are chosen twins, sisters of the heart, and we love it that way. We have been asked many many times when we are out and about if we are sisters or twins, and we always laugh and say, “YES!” Even our men have seen us out of the corner of their eye and thought we were theirs. It makes us all laugh and is a good story to re-tell at a later date. See? Twins!

We have seen each other through toddlers, teenagers, divorce, illness, sadness, love, loss, pregnancy, marriage, weight loss, weight gain, chicks leaving the nest, job changes, role changes, surgery, and navigating the craziness of life. She has seen me in excruciating pain, and celebrated milestones and accomplishments with me. In return, I convinced her that we should wear bikinis all summer because it’s what our men like and dammit we should celebrate the curvy, stretch-marked bodies we have! She gets me, and I get her. We can see each other every day, or go a few weeks without so much as a text and pick up at our next heartbeat- I love that! Life is crazy, family and jobs pull us in a million directions, and that’s okay with us. We know that however and whenever we see each other next will be perfect timing.

Many many years ago when we were starting to realize we might be twins, I told her that I can only have friends that can come over when my house is sparkling clean or should be condemned by the health department, and not care either way (I had 3 teenagers and was pregnant at that point and I was exhausted!) She responded, “YES!!!!!” and we laughed hard and knew we were going to be friends forever. No one needs friends we have to impress, or put on a show for, or not let them see us vulnerable and tired. Friends, REAL friends, will have a cup of coffee on the living room floor surrounded by landmines of toys and talk with you over the roar of little ones. They will come over when you are sick and bring you soup and play with your toddlers so you can shower or nap. This girl will show up at your house the day of an event with a bucket of cleaning supplies and clean with you so you can visit while you prepare. THAT is a twin, that is my twin. And of course, we also have adventures.

Applesauce was one of those adventures. As you all know, I have been on a canning kick for a few months, so applesauce was a clear choice for the next thing to tackle. Fall is my favorite season, favorite color, favorite smell, favorite flavor. I love it all! Apples, of course, are one of my 2 favorite crops of this harvest season. Apple pie, apple crisp, Grandma Rose’s Apple Crisp Pie, Apple-Cinnamon muffins and bread, apple butter, and of course applesauce. I remember my mom making and canning applesauce a time or two when I was growing up, and it was delicious! What a treat to pop open a big ole jar of cinnamon applesauce when it’s totally out of season and have it with dinner! YUM! That is what I wanted to do, so I got online and looked for some recipes. Apples, sugar, and a little liquid of some sort were the basics. You know me, I wasn’t okay with that, so I went rogue and started peeling. I thought about what I wanted out of this experience, what I wanted to taste, and how I wanted it to feel. I wanted to experience apple pie, so that’s what I did. I pulled out my peeler/corer/slicer and realized that the peeler blade was broken- ugh! So I went online and ordered replacement parts and got to work using my apple corer/sectioner. About 6# of apples were sectioned/peeled and cut into chunks. Then I added 1 1/2 cups of apple juice, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, a metric crap-ton of cinnamon, and threw it all into my 6 quart cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat. After 5-10 minutes, the apples had reduced a bit and I turned down the heat to medium and continued to cook and stir occasionally for another 20-25 minutes. The kitchen smelled like heaven and I couldn’t wait to taste test. I used a potato masher on my first batch like one recipe said to do, but it took forever and I thought it made it have an uneven texture. I love chunky applesauce, but that wasn’t the texture I was getting, so I gave up on that and moved to my blender. That was a good move. I ended up with a smooth texture, which is also delicious, and the process was so easy.

My second round I went a little easier on the cinnamon because not everyone in the world loves it to the extent that I do. Since I want to share what I make, I thought a balance would be good, and I can vary the batches as I go. Superman started eating a pint of applesauce each night for dessert, so I decided that 1/2 pint jars may be a good investment and a delicious addition to his lunch cooler. The following week Little Guy decided that 1/4 pint jars would be perfect for his lunch, so we got 24 of those and went to work. Superman even got Little Guy his own bottle/jar opener to keep in his lunch bag for school. By week 2 I figured out a consistency and recipe I liked, so I stuck with it and varied the cinnamon when the mood struck me. The replacement parts for my peeler/corer/slicer also came in, so the process became much less labor-intensive. That thing is a God-send! Quinn is also a big fan of that machine because it spits out the most perfect slices of apple, and I will give her one every now and then.

Knowing my twin is always up for a fun project, and since she liked the applesauce I gave her to try, I invited her over to make a couple batches. She brought over her youngest daughter and she and Little Guy spent the day hanging out and playing and causing mischief. She and I got to work on a cocktail and started grabbing everything we needed to get creating. I explained the process I use and showed her how to use the apple peeler/corer/slicer, which she couldn’t wait to try. That quickly became her job, and she kept me quartering sliced apples till the pot was about overflowing. Going from my 1st ever batch to this batch with the use of the apple machine was a difference of night and day, but having the apple machine AND 2 people in the 3rd weekend was revolutionary. Holy cow did we make quick work of that 10 lb bag of apples! Because of her, we had apple goodness bubbling on the stove in no time flat. Then it was time to sit down and chat while the apples cooked down and filled the house with the most incredible fragrance. During the 35-40 minute cook time, we stirred several times, mixing the cinnamon and brown sugar and making sure everything was cooking evenly. About halfway through the cook time, we started the canning pot boiling. When it was finally boiling we sterilized all of the jars, lids, and rings and set them upside down on a double layer of dishtowels to drain and stay hot.

It was finally time to make the apple mush into applesauce. The easiest way I found to do that was with my blender. I ladle half of the goodness into the blender, secure the blender lid, and start processing it low, then increase the speed slowly until it’s smooth, probably 30-60 seconds total?? Check the consistency and blend a few seconds longer if you want. Do the same thing with the second half of apple goodness, then it’s time to put applesauce in the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from boiling water with a canning jar removal tool (they are wonderful!) and place on the double dish towels to seal and cool. If any lids spring back after 24 hours just throw them in the fridge and eat in the next few days. I’m sure you could also get a neighbor to take a jar off your hands when they find out it’s homemade. I have never had a jar not seal, but I hear it happens on occasion. I absolutely love hearing that “POP!”

We twins spent the day making 25 lbs of applesauce, which was 3 very large batches. Before she left my house, we made a plan to do the same thing the next weekend so she would have a supply to share and savor at home. By that time we were a well-oiled machine, and the process was so much faster, more efficient, and was so much more fun than my first applesauce day because we did it together. Together is always better, and work done with a friend is always more fun than work done alone. This time we tackled 38 lbs of apples- 4 large batches of applesauce, which made a TON! We got apples from a different place this time, and they were bigger than the previous batches, which didn’t look like a problem at the time. Unfortunately, the mass and size of the bigger apples was too much for my apple peeler machine, so we had to do some of those huge ones by hand. Still, having 2 people working made the process faster and enjoyable. We never had any issue with “normal” sized apples from previous times, so I added apple size to the list of things I didn’t know about when I started making applesauce, and we kept going. What a great day! Jars lined up on the counter cooling and sealing (POP) and a day full of fun.

You may be thinking, “What kind of apples do I buy?” Different recipes call for different apples, I assume it’s based on your preference. You want an apple that will cook down, so texture wise I would stay away from Jonathan and Granny Smith, but their flavor is delicious, so if texture isn’t a thing to you and you love Granny Smith, then make a small batch and try it. Remember, make what you like rather than what some recipe says you have to use. I view apple choice the same way as I view the amount of cinnamon I add- everyone has different tastebuds and preferences. My preference, so far at least, is Honeycrisp apples. I can eat those bad boys every single day, and I do when they are in season. I absolutely love Honeycrisps! They are so amazing- sweet, crisp, clean, juicy, delicious. They don’t need anything added to them to be amazing, and I love that. If I love to eat them that much, why not make applesauce out of them? So I did!

Lisa’s Applesauce

  • 1 sister/friend/twin
  • 8 lbs Honeycrisp apples- cored, peeled, sliced
  • 2 Cups Apple juice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Cinnamon depending on personal preference
  • 1 1/2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar

Peel/core/slice apples, then quarter. Place into 6qt or 8 qt cast iron dutch oven or heavy dutch oven. Add cinnamon, apple juice, and dark brown sugar. Trust me on the dark brown sugar, it creates such an incredible flavor. Don’t attempt to stir, just give it 5 minutes of cooking and you’ll have room to stir. Start cooking over medium heat, then lower to medium-low when it gets going. While stirring occasionally, let apples simmer uncovered 30-40 minutes until very tender. Transfer half of the cooked apple mixture into good quality blender (I have a VitaMix Professional Series 300) and pulse or blend at low speed working your way up to medium until you get your desired texture. Blend 2nd half of apple mixture the same way, then combine both blended batches in dutch oven that is over low heat and stir to combine. Quickly pour into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4″-1/2″ head space, then put on lid and ring, hand tighten. Place jars into canning pot over a rolling boil and process for 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water using a jar lifter and place onto kitchen towels. Re-tighten rings using a dish towel to protect your hands from the heat, then set aside and wait up to 24 hours to cool and seal completely (pop!).

Making applesauce is not as easy as opening a jar from the store, but I promise store-bought applesauce will taste like garbage once you have had homemade. It is not a difficult process, nor will it take you all day, and I guarantee you will love the results. I spent 5 out of the last 6 weekends making applesauce and I know it will not last us until next fall- my boys love it way too much to let that happen. I have allocated a fair amount of jars for sharing and gifting. This is just one more delicious way to show your love and gratitude with food. A gift like this is truly from the heart because it is a gift of time and excellent flavor. It can be stored and saved for months down the road, or as a show-stopping side dish at the next holiday. Sharing this experience with a dear twin, or anyone you love to hang out with, will create sweet, delicious memories.

Have an amazing Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s season, and be sure to spend time with the ones whose friendship feeds your soul and nourishes your heart.

Grandma Rose’s Sauce

I have written about my Great Grandma Rose before- she was a SAINT! I still miss her so very much even though she passed away many many years ago. Last fall I asked my mom when the right time was to make her famous sauce. She said the end of summer when everyone’s gardens are overflowing with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. So I was ready for it this year! I don’t garden, I can’t grow a thing, but I have friends that do- so thanks to them, Grandma’s sauce was made and canned this year. We grew up calling it Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce, but believe me it is the furthest thing from chili. There aren’t even chili peppers in it. It’s more like a pasta sauce, but the sweet and tangy variety. It’s kind of its own entity and next to impossible to describe. But it’s AMAZING!

I have been on a canning kick lately. Not sure why, but I have been. It started with making strawberry jam/jelly as a birthday gift for a friend, then went to chili sauce, salsa, tomato juice, and now applesauce and apple butter. I love it! I’m no expert and I really have no clue what I am doing, but with the advice of my mom and many websites I am kinda killin’ it. I love seeing all the jars lined up on the counter as they cool, and hearing the sound of the “pop” when the seal is good. There’s just something about it that I am loving, so I’m gonna keep going. My mom canned a bunch when I was growing up, so I know the pleasure of garden-fresh ingredients in the middle of winter. She even canned her famous campfire stew to take when we went camping every year. There’s just nothing like that peak-of-the-season flavor when it’s freezing out, not to mention the convenience of opening up a jar and having something super delicious in no time flat. It’s also memories of working together in the kitchen, sneaking an irresistible strawberry, and time with my mom and Grandma Rose. I remember my dad coming home from work and mom showing him all the canning we (she, let’s be honest) did and him being proud and excited and HUNGRY. That’s what canning is.

So what is Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce if it isn’t chili? It’s a little sweet, has a hint of cinnamon, and a little tang from vinegar. It’s the bounty of the garden with a twist, served over bowtie pasta, and its DELICIOUS! My mom always browned hamburger, then did a low and slow simmer with the hamburger and sauce together- talk about melt in your mouth! It’s been a good 20 years since I had this amazing sauce, but the mere mention of it made my mouth water that entire time. It’s that good! That is why I wanted to can it, so I could grab a jar whenever the mood struck and I could have one of my most favorite things in the world in a few minutes. So even though my canning frenzy started with strawberry jelly, it was because of Grandma Rose’s sauce. Like all great recipes passed down through generations, this one didn’t have clear measurements. It seems that I come from a long line of eyeballers because many of our family recipes have vague amounts attached to them. It’s frustrating to be the recipient of that kind of recipe because you want it to taste exactly the same, but that almost never happens. I once video taped my Grandma (Grandma Rose’s daughter) making her famous potato salad because she had almost no measurements, and my Aunt Paula shrugged and laughed when I asked for her deviled egg recipe. What is with the women in my family? Guess it’s genetic since I cook and bake by sight and feel a lot.

This is Grandma Rose’s handwritten recipe that is housed in my mom’s recipe box.

During one of many phone calls, texts, and FaceTimes with my mom about this sauce, she was telling me she remembered how Grandma Rose would grab an extremely hot tomato out of the ice water bath and slice it right in her hand. This woman was maybe 4’6″ tall, the gentlest soul on the planet, and there she was handling insanely hot tomatoes and slicing them in the palm of her hand. That saintly woman was made of tougher things than me, that’s for sure. I have spent many days thinking about Grandma Rose, remembering, crying, smiling, and enjoying the memories I have of her. It just so happens that as I write this, it would be her birthday. 126 years ago the most amazing woman was born. Wow, that is incredible! So how do I remember her like I saw her yesterday, and miss her every bit of the 30 years she’s been gone? I guess that is a testament to the absolutely incredible woman she was. Gosh I miss her!

I need to save some tears for chopping onions. Let’s make chili sauce, shall we? You need tomatoes- lots of them, bell peppers of whatever color you choose, onions, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. That’s it! I will warn you that this recipe makes 5+ quarts of sauce, so we will talk single-meal portions in a minute. I made 11 pints of chili sauce plus 3 1/2 quarts of tomato juice, which I will be using this winter in soups and stews. Quart jars are perfect for a family, but I made pint jars because Little Guy is not a fan (crazy!) and pints are the perfect size for Superman and I. The tomato juice is an extra bonus from this recipe, and I cannot wait to use it this winter. My mom recommended I use a food processor for the onions and peppers, but it’s one of the only kitchen gadgets I don’t own. I grated 2 of the onions, but I didn’t love what I was getting from it so I decided to dice by hand instead. And that’s where my saved-up tears come in. Yikes, chopping onions can be a real tear-jerker. I even ran them under water, but onions are onions, so I cried. Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually enjoy chopping veggies. There is something very methodic and relaxing about chopping vegetables, and I never mind doing it. I chopped veggies, listened to music, and was so grateful to my many friends who made this adventure possible. I made stops at 4 homes to get all my veggies, and the extra bonus was visiting with friends and sharing my excitement for what I was about to do, and thanking them for their part in it. They will all be receiving a jar of sauce and a sweet treat of some sort for their help.

Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce

  • 1 Gallon Tomatoes, scalded, cored, peeled, diced and juice drained (save juice)
  • 4-5 medium White or Vidalia Onions, diced small
  • 5 Bell Peppers, diced small
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup White Vinegar

I started with chopping the peppers and onions, then got to work on the tomatoes. Boil a large stockpot of water, leaving room for adding tomatoes and the water to bubble and boil. Grandma called it scalding the tomatoes, but what you do is throw them in whole and wait for the skin to crack and start peeling. Then you take them out and place in an ice water bath in the kitchen sink or large bowl. Peel off the skins, core out the stem, and dice. She used larger chunks, but I like a good dice, so that’s what I did. Place diced tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl so the extra juice drains out. Save this juice for making/canning great tomato juice for future use. You want a solid gallon of tomatoes, 4 quarts, so that is several batches of scalded tomatoes in the ice water bath.

After I had enough tomatoes and allowed the juice to drain for a few minutes, I threw my vegetables in a large, heave stock pot and added the vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper, and cinnamon. Mix it all together and get some heat on the burner. I let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer away for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it has melded into absolute Heaven, it’s time to check the flavor, adjust any seasoning, and make sure the veggies are good and tender. I have to admit that when I tried it at this point, I got all teary- it was exactly as I remembered it! It was like Grandma Rose was right there with me, and I could not have been happier with how it turned out. Sometimes you build something up so much in your head that if it’s not right you are disappointed, but not this time. I FaceTimed mom so she could see it, give her nod of approval, and share my excitement. We did it!!!

Next, fill the sterilized jars and cover with sterilized lids and rings. I left about 1/2″ headspace (space between sauce and lid of jar) in each one, put on the lid and hand-tightened the ring. Then into the boiling water they went for 10 minutes. After carefully removing the jars from the water bath, re-tighten the lid rings and set on a couple dish towels (spread apart) to seal and cool overnight. I had to do 3 batches of water baths to do all my jars. Check the next day (if you can wait that long- I can’t ) to make sure the lids don’t spring back when you press on them. If any do, they didn’t seal correctly and it’s off to the fridge with them. They will need to be eaten in a day or 2. Thankfully, all of my jars sealed almost instantly, so that was another victory. Each POP of the jars sealing made me smile.

After the sauce was all made, I went to work on the tomato juice. Again, mom to the rescue for the recipe. She said 1 Tablespoon salt and 1/4 pepper, taste, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Do the same thing filling sterilized jars, lids, and rings (this time I used quart jars because I know my soup/stew recipes) and give a good water bath. Re-tighten lids when done and place on towels to seal and cool overnight. And that’s it!

Single Dinner Recipe

  • 1 quart Tomatoes, scalded, cored, peeled, diced, and drained
  • 1 large Bell Pepper, diced small
  • 1 medium White or Vidalia Onion, diced small
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 C White Vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

Follow the same simmering directions, testing for flavor and veggie tenderness after 30 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook bow tie pasta noodles in large pot, and in a medium sauce pan brown 1/2-1 lb hamburger with 1/4 cup diced onion, salt and pepper to taste. When meat is fully cooked, lower heat and slow simmer to tenderize. When sauce is done simmering, combine with browned hamburger. Serve sauce over pasta. Enjoy!

Sauce and browned hamburger, ready for pasta.

My great grandma may not be here, but memories and her famous recipes live on. Now that I have this first batch under my belt, I will be making and canning her sauce every end of summer when my friends’ gardens are overflowing. Thanks for all of the help, Mom. I sure couldn’t have done it without you! And Sheedy, you’ll be getting a jar of sauce very soon. It may even come alongside some Apple Crisp!

**If you make this recipe, please comment below and let me know what you thought.**

Ya Gotta Have a Plan

Holy crap has it been a long time since I published! I have very much missed writing and sharing with you, but for the past 3 months I just couldn’t do it. No reason to panic, I’m all good. It’s totally okay. I spent the better part of the last 3 months ready to barf at any given moment, which means very little to zero desire to cook/bake anything.

I started a new medication because I have become an insulin-resistant T1D. There’s no fun like being a T1- unless you become an insulin-resistant T1, and then it’s a whole new level of fun-ness. My Endocrinologist warned me that I would probably hate her for up to 2 weeks because this medicine has a high potential to make the patient nauseous while it’s making changes in body processes. I deal with things much better when I know what I’m up against, so, come what may… But YIKES! I was truly blessed by God to never have a minute of morning sickness with any of my pregnancies, so I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. WHOA! I was nauseous nearly every minute of the day for the first month solid. I ate very little, bland things, and not often. I threw up a few times, mostly in the middle of the night, which is great. I have no clue how women who deal with this kind of morning sickness have more than one child- it’s terrible!!!! I literally slept with a barf bucket next to my bed just in case. This was not fun! But I wanted this medicine to work, so I kept taking it. And I lost 5 pounds, so that was a silver lining. After the first month things got a little better. The nausea calmed to only when I smelled food or thought about food. I am the food preparer in the house, so every day I still made Superman breakfast and packed his lunch, made Little Guy breakfast, and attempted to make dinner most nights, but there were a lot of “make a frozen pizza, boys, it’s not happening tonight!” which they were just fine with. That inability to cook was terrible! Thanksgiving was so hard. Dinner was at our house and although it smelled delicious, it was difficult. But I was getting used to feeling like crap, which is not something I ever wanna do again. Cooking and baking give me so much joy that I had to push through when I was able. I stopped taking that medicine last week (after 2 1/2 months) and started on another one, so hopefully I feel better soon. This is not a pity party story, I promise- it’s an explanation of my silence. And I apologize for the barf talk on a food blog. I hope this post is helpful to you and maybe even inspires you to try my plan.

Now that I am not so sick, I am getting back into my actual life. I am starting to cook again, grocery shopped with a plan for the first time in almost 3 months, baking a bit, and I even started exercising again. I bought myself a new stationary bike so I can ride in crappy weather or when no one is here to stay with Little Guy. It’s so crazy to start feeling more like myself after so long. I am so grateful to be able to start picking up a bit of my normal!

So what is this earth-shaking thing that I am doing? It’s meal planning. I know, I probably should have told you to sit down before I dropped that on you. But seriously, I LOVE to meal plan so I can grocery shop effectively (and cheaper) and not have to ask myself or anyone else “What should I make for dinner tonight?” Don’t laugh at me or roll your eyes- this will seriously change your life!! You may be asking yourself where I got this earth-shaking idea call meal planning. Well, I got it from my mom. I remember her planning out our weekly meals, making a grocery list, and heading to the grocery store in the next town over once a week. She never did the I’ll just grab something for dinner thing, and only ran to the grocery store in town in an emergency. With 7 people to feed, she had to have a plan. At least that’s how I remember it. She may tell a slightly different story, but this is my blog…

So why in the world do I meal plan? The same reason you have a calendar or do any planning at all. Because it makes life SOOOOOOO much easier. I love to grocery shop (I admit to being very odd with this one) but I don’t want to be there every day wandering the aisle looking for inspiration, or rushing through the store on my way home from work and praying that the spaghetti noodles I am fairly certain are in the cabinet are actually there. And I absolutely loathe the question, “What do you want for dinner?” You may be saying to yourself, “Sister-friend, meal planning is not gonna change my life. Don’t be so dramatic,” Well, I disagree. It’s a little thing that makes a HUGE difference in my week, and one less thing to worry about after a long day at work means I have less stress, more enjoyment, and more time in the evening. Give it a week or 2 and try it, I promise you’ll feel awesome about it. And you’ll save money with less trips to the store when you are hungry.

Yesterday I was busy all day. I meal planned and made my list, grocery shopped, grabbed a few yummy bottles of wine, picked up the house, made a delicious dinner and pie, had a fantastic bike ride, wrote a bit, snuggled and played a video game I suck at with Little Guy, and had friends over for dinner. And I felt amazing! It’s so crazy how finally feeling like yourself and doing things you love can make you feel incredible. That and blaring music while you cook and clean, duh!

This is what we will be eating in the Johnson house for the next 3 weeks, and I will be sharing some of these recipes in upcoming posts. Week 1 is the first entry on every day, week 2 is the middle one, week 3 is the third entry. You may notice that I am making a soup/stew on Sunday night. I can eat soup or stew every day for lunch until it’s gone, and that’s exactly what I do. I make a huge batch for dinner, then eat it for lunch every day until it’s gone. I love good leftovers, and talk about simple lunch prep. You may notice a few FFY days. That means Fend For Yourself where I grew up. When Superman works nights, Little Guy and I tend to eat whatever needs little to no prep. Or we eat popcorn for dinner and feel amazing about our choices. Sometimes I make things Superman doesn’t like since he’s not there to eat it anyway. But since he’s working nights, I still plan what I will be sending with him to work because making sure he doesn’t have to eat popcorn for dinner while working midnights is important to me. He doesn’t care, I do. The other thing to know about this plan is that you don’t have to stick with the plan. Wednesday’s dinner doesn’t sound good on Wednesday? No problem. Make another night’s plan. Tacos are set for Tuesday, but Monday finds you with a craving you can’t wait a day for? Go for it! You have all the supplies you need to make each week’s meals, so do it in any order you want. And if anyone asks what’s for dinner you can just point to the list. Freedom in your choices without a trip to the store. I’m telling you- life changing! Last night I made deep dish pizza. It just so happened to be next Saturday’s meal according to the meal plan, but I made it cause it sounded really good and I was in the mood to cook. So I did it. And tonight the plan says chili, but it felt more like a chicken stew kind of evening, so I went for it. No guilt, no trip to the store, just options and good food. Winner winner, Chicken Stew dinner!

Perhaps this post will not actually change your life, but if you want to simplify your life a little, have a cheaper grocery bill, and enjoy more peaceful evenings, please give this a try. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see your meal plans. You can post a pic in the comments section and let me know what you love about it, or what it does to help your evenings. My meal plans also change with the seasons. They are heavy on soups and warm comfort in the winter, lots of grilling and fresh fruits/veggies in the summer. Feel free to create a meal plan with your favorite meals- budget savers, 30 minute meals, special diets, and freezer meals just to name a few. Just make sure to share it in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Here’s to one less thing to think about…!

Heartbreak Called

When the phone rang yesterday morning I never expected to hear those words coming from the quivering voice of my friend on the other end of the line. I am not really sure I heard anything else she said after the word. It’s scary and confusing, overwhelming and sad. The unknowns, that is the scariest part of any diagnosis. Our minds race and think of a million things in 2 seconds, all polar opposites of each other. All the “what ifs” and the plans you can’t even imagine making. Your life just took a whiplash-speed turn and now your course is just questions and fear.

I tried to pay attention and hear what she was saying, but my mind raced. I prayed, I teared up, and I tried to comprehend what those words meant. When we got off the phone I told Superman and cried. He suggested we pop in for a quick visit that night to show our support and maybe shed some tears together. I instantly loved him more for suggesting that. I do love that man’s heart so much. We didn’t end up going over. She was exhausted from crying, and was done talking about it for the day. Completely understandable. I did, however send her husband a message of encouragement and support. Most husbands have a protective, fixing part of them that an illness like this completely upsets. He is supposed to be able to protect her. He is supposed to be able to fix the problem. He is supposed to. But this time he can’t, and that goes against every cell in his body. So he supports and encourages, prays and cries, all the while needing those things himself. So that is where we are right now. Praying, crying, supporting and encouraging. It doesn’t feel like enough.

When it was in the plan to do a pop-in visit, I started making a caramel apple cake to take over. I had made it as an experiment last week, and it needed some adjustments. Superman loved the original and had asked me to make it again, so I though 2 birds… As you know, baking is my go-to for just about everything. It’s a therapy of sorts, and it allows me to share my heart with those I love. I know an apple cake will fix absolutely nothing. I know it won’t calm fears or ease pain, but food is my love language, and it is what I do. I am almost certain my friends will not be able to eat even a morsel right now, but it is what I can bring to let them both know we care and we love them. It’s not about the making or the eating, it’s about love and support, and that is what we need to do.

Making this cake was hard. Each ingredient I added was a reminder of why I was making it. A reminder of fear, of sadness, of the unknowns that lie ahead. No, I am not the one with the diagnosis, but our friends are our family, so it is personal. Each time I make food for someone who is hurting I feel this way. It’s the constant reminder that the dish I am preparing is because of something we wish they weren’t going through. I wish I could take away their pain. The closer I am to the people I cook for, the harder it is, and these two are something special to us. I would love to tell tales of our times together, but now is not the time. When there are positives and celebrations I will tell many tales, and shout gratitude to the Lord for His mercy from the rooftops. But right now we hunker down and try to remember to pray more than worry.

We all know someone who has received a scary diagnosis. Certain words in our language send chills down our spines and cause our stomachs to flip. There is a personal kind of ache when it is someone you love. I hate hearing anyone has a dangerous disease, but when it hits close to home, that is something different altogether. God calls upon us to bear each other’s burdens. (Galatians. 6:2) So this is what we will do. Burdens are not light- they are heavy on the mind and heavy on the body. They are tiring, exhausting, and consume energy. This is why we have each other. This is why we have friends and family. We cannot do it alone, nor should we. As the friend, it is my privilege to help bear my friend’s burdens. It is my honor to sit quietly, to laugh, to provide meals, to comfort and encourage, and to cry. When we share our burdens, they become lighter. Words like tribe, girlfriends, or as we call it, core, describe those girls you want by your side on a weekend away, or in the middle of the storm. They are the ones you laugh with until you pee your pants, and the ones you call when disaster strikes. These people must be what God had in mind when He said to bear each other’s burdens. It’s about being there in the good times and the bad. The middle of the night phone calls, and the doctor visits. The test results and the miracles of favor. This is what friendship is about, and our core will walk with her every step of the way, praying without ceasing for God to heal her body and renew her strength. Isaiah 40:31 says “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary. They will walk and not be faint.” Ah, the waiting. That will be my most difficult part. In my heart I know that God’s timing is perfect, and that He was not caught off guard by this news, but that doesn’t make my heart desire waiting. I want her healed NOW! These 2 verses are what I have started praying. They encourage me and remind me that God, not Lisa, is in charge. So with this recipe and each ingredient in it, I am both sad and prayerful…

Caramel Apple Cake (adapted from Paula Deen)

  • 1 1/2 C Unsweetened Applesauce (can also use unsweetened cinnamon applesauce)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 2 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 T Apple Pie Spice
  • 1 T Vanilla
  • 3 C Flour
  • 2 1/2 C Jonathan or Honeycrisp Apples- peeled, cored, sliced, and cubed

In a large mixer combine applesauce, eggs, and sugar. Beat on medium 2 minutes. Add apple pie spice and vanilla, mix again and scrape down sides of the bowl. Add flour and mix until combined. Add diced apples and mix until just combined. Pour into greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Caramel Topping (adapted from Nourish My Heart’s Crack recipe)

  • 1 C Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 Stick Butter, Melted
  • 1/4 C Corn Syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add brown sugar, salt, and corn syrup, stir well. Bring to low rolling boil. Boil 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add vanilla, stir. Poke holes all over cake with knife or thin round wooden utensil handle. Pour hot caramel syrup over cake, spread evenly. Can be eaten while warm. I actually like it better the day after it’s made.

I forgot to take a picture of the cake right out of the oven. This is cake plus caramel. See how the caramel seeps into all the crevices
All the sweet apple goodness piled high and topped with caramel

Just a minute after I left the cake on the front steps and rang the doorbell, I got a message. Turns out a piece of caramel apple cake was just what the doctor ordered on a cold, rainy morning. It is so much more than food, and today it was love.

Grandma Rose

If ever there was a woman worthy of sainthood, it was my Great Grandma Rose. At least she deserved this title in my mind. Grandma Rose was my dad’s mom’s mother. She was born in 1895 and passed away in 1991 at the age of 96! I can only pray God blesses me with health like hers- she lived independently until she broke her hip at age 94 or 95, then moved to this sweet, women-only assisted living facility until she passed. Had she not broken her hip, we all agree she would have lived to be 100+.

Grandma lived in a little apartment close to a park and just down the street from the best rootbeer on the planet-Oogie’s Drive-in. I remember olive green carpet and a very 70’s art deco room divider. She had a toy ironing board and iron that we would play with. And the smell of her perfume. I found out many years later that her perfume of choice was Chantilly, and on the rare occasion I smell it today, it takes me right back to my childhood and I would swear Grandma Rose was standing next to me. I cannot describe the comfort that smell brings. Almost 30 years after losing her, I sit with hands on keyboard, wiping away tears. Every time we went to visit, she made us all tea. I can still see the mugs. She used to dip her teabag into the mug for a whopping 10 seconds before removing it. She basically drank hot water with a drop of tea. And there was always pie. That woman made a pie like no other, but she never ate a bite. We always went home with a fresh pie. I remember one time there were 2 pies for us. When asked why 2 pies, Grandma confessed that one pie was just for my brother- the last time we were there he had apparently asked if next time she would make him his very own pie. Mom was embarrassed and apologetic, but Grandma was quick to say how sweet his request was and that she didn’t want him to get in trouble.

My dad and his brothers grew up staying part of the summer and many many weekends at Grandma’s house. My aunt and uncle bought her old house when she moved into her little apartment, so Grandma Rose’s house stayed in the family for most of my life. The boys have very fond memories of being there with her while growing up, eating everything she would make, and spending time with her. Grandma was a widow for 36 years, which is a terribly long time. Grandpa died at age 57 when my dad was about 7 years old, so his childhood memories are mostly of Grandma. The stories those boys could tell of her spoiling them rotten! Her house was nearer to a busy train tracks than she liked, so the reality of death by train was something she always preached when the boys went out to play. I remember getting the same talking-to years later when visiting my cousins at that same house.

I remember Grandma Rose being at my dad’s parent’s house every holiday. She would spend the night before the holiday, help Grandma get everything ready, stay overnight on the holiday, and go home the next day. She was quiet and sweet, patient and loving. Every year for Christmas Grandma Rose crocheted each of her 3 grandson’s families a new blanket. They were beautiful! The handiwork was exquisite, and there was love in every single stitch. We always used them to snuggle on the couch at home. She taught any of us who wanted to learn how to crochet, but a scarf was about the limit of skill we all peaked at. It is something I remember doing when I was growing up, and knowing Grandma taught me how is something I treasure. I still have the baby blanket she made for me when I was born, there is no way I could part with it.

Sometimes we would go pick her up and bring her back to our house. I remember making strawberry freezer jam and her famous chili sauce. I guarantee it’s not correct, but in my 7 year old mind, there was a fruit stand right next to her apartment building where we would buy flats of strawberries for jam. She used to let us kids pick out the biggest strawberry we could find every hour and eat it. It was a great way to get us to help and not eat all the strawberries as we cored them. One time she came over to help mom make and can her famous chili sauce. Of course we all wanted to “help” because Grandma was helping, so she gave us a job. Chopping onions! Let’s suffice it to say Mom and Grandma cooked in peace while us kids steered clear of the kitchen. But there was no way she was going to tell us no. That was her way- kind, gentle, and oh so smart.

And she was tiny! One of our very favorite things to do while growing up was measure ourselves against her and see how close we were getting to passing her up. There’s no way she was more than 4’6″ so it wasn’t long before we outgrew her. When you finally reached your goal, she was so happy and excited about your “accomplishment.” I can still see her so vividly in my mind- her tiny petite frame, salon-fresh white hair, her pearl earrings, wrinkles on her cheeks, and the smile on her face. I don’t believe I ever saw her in anything but a dress, and she always wore an apron when she cooked. All of us kids had aprons that she made us, mine is in my apron drawer with Little Guy’s. It was visited by a mouse about 25 years ago and has the battle scars to prove it. But there’s no way I would ever get rid of it-too many tasty memories made in that apron. Maybe that’s why Little Guy and I almost always bake together wearing our aprons. I could go on for quite some time about the magic that was Grandma Rose, but I have had more tears roll silently down my cheeks in the past couple days than I was prepared for.

So, why take an incredible recipe that is flawless and try to make it into something else? Why not! My dad says he only likes 2 kinds of pie- hot and cold. Pie is always a winner. Apple crisp is not something you can exactly cut into perfect portions, nor can you stop yourself from eating more than 1 serving. That is where the idea for this pie came from. Every end of September when the apples are in season and it is around Grandma Rose’s birthday, I make apple crisp and apple pie. It’s something I have done for years, and is just how I remember her birthday and this recipe. This year I figured I would try to combine these 2 delicious recipes. I can tell you it is harder than it sounds to combine 2 desserts while maintaining the best parts of each. So 3 tries later, I got it. Thank the Lord people are very willing to try my guinea pig recipes. I am so grateful for their sweet teeth. Superman was a very happy taste-tester, and was sad when the pies were gone. It starts with a pie dough recipe I have been using for over 20 years. I got it from a lady I knew, but have no idea where she got it. So it is simply known as Wanda’s pie crust.

Wanda’s Pie Crust– makes a 2-crust pie

  • 1 1/2 C Flour
  • 1/2 Cup + 2 T butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Egg, beaten
  • 1/2 T Vinegar (7 mL)
  • 40 mL Water (1/2 of 1/3 Cup)

Combine flour, salt, and butter in medium bowl. Cut butter with a pastry blender until it is small to medium crumbs. Combine liquids in a small bowl, add to dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Let rest 10 minutes before rolling out.

Apple Crisp Pie

  • 2 1/2 lbs Granny Smith or Jonathan apples- peeled, cored, sliced thin
  • 3/4 – 1 C sugar (depends on sweetness of apples)
  • 1 1/2 T Cinnamon
  • Generous sprinkle of Nutmeg
  • 1 C Flour
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 6T Butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 T Cinnamon
  • 1/2 T Nutmeg

I use the Pampered Chef apple peeler/corer/slicer. Get one if you don’t have one! Cut the cored/sliced apples into 4 chunks each. Place in large mixing bowl, add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then toss and mix with your hands to ensure it all mixes well. Pour into pie plate. Place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. You may need a pan under the pie plate- my apples were very juicy and overflowed.

In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then cut in butter until small to medium crumbs. After 30 minutes, remove pie from oven and top with crumb topping. Return to oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Store leftovers (if there are any) for 2 days in refrigerator.

I think Grandma Rose would be very happy to know I used her recipe to create something new. I have to make this pie for my dad so he can give it the thumbs up or thumbs down. Something tells me he won’t be upset, especially if I also bring vanilla ice cream. Thank you, Grandma Rose, for all of the love and wonderful memories, and the delicious recipes.

Bring on the Fall Weather!

If there is one thing this Midwestern girl loves, it’s fall weather. Fall is my favorite season! The smells, the colors, the tastes, the weather. PSL Opening Day is a big deal for me (that’s Pumpkin Spiced Latte) and serves as permission from our Lord Himself to shift all thing to FALL!!! Our house stops looking all summery and gets cozy in a hurry. The windows are open at night, blankets go on the beds, and the pile of throws moves back into the Living Room. Suddenly flannel and sweatshirts are my favorite things to wear.

I also read more books in the fall. The season lends itself to getting cozy with a blanket and cup of hot tea, and snuggling into my rocking chair to let my latest book transport me to another place. I LOVE that! My collection of teas also blossoms this time of year. I am a coffee girl to my core in the morning, but nothing beats a steaming cup of tea with just a splash of half and half. If you think that sounds good, maybe try spice, orange, or a fruit flavored tea. The half and half gives a hint of creaminess that you are sure to savor.

And then there’s the baking. I’ve made pumpkin pie, cinnamon coffee cake muffins, zucchini muffins, spice bar cookies, pumpkin muffins, apple cider donuts, beef stew, chili, homemade bread, dinner rolls, and chicken stew. That was all made this past week. Needless to say, I’m avoiding the scale. Thankfully, I bake and send it to work with Superman, to work with me, or to friends and neighbors. I am one of those people who cannot eat enough apples in the fall, so there’s been apples on the shopping list for weeks. And I made an apple pie with crumb topping a few weeks ago- it was insanely good. Next week I will be oven-baking butternut squash to eat as a side dish. Add some butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg and prepare to have your life changed.

So here’s the problem- Superman doesn’t do casseroles, and he’s not always a soup guy. I know, it’s a total deal-breaker for me too, but when he answers my phone call his first words are, “Hello, Beautiful,” so I choose to overlook this character flaw of his. At first I really struggled with meal planning, because I felt like most of my fall/winter meals were off limits. Then I realized that I can create a win-win. I make the casseroles and soups I want, and eat them all week for lunch, and I add the soups/stews he likes into our meal rotation. Everyone wins. If only every compromise in life was as easy as that…

Today was the day I chose to make one of my most favorite stews of all time- Campfire Stew. It’s a dish I grew up eating, and it is most likely written in my DNA. My mom made it every fall and winter, and always served it with bread of some kind. Sometimes she even baked up a couple loaves of homemade bread to go with it. Now that was a Heavenly smell to walk into! She even canned it so we could take a couple big jars with us when we went camping in Wisconsin or at the beach club we belonged to. I never realized what a smart lady she was to can it for camping. It was an easy, heat-and-eat meal, a family favorite, and there was no refrigeration necessary which meant we could have it whenever the day called for it. This meal is one of my go-to meals for taking to families after a baby, illness, death, or getting home from a long vacation. There’s no way you can’t enjoy this meal- it’s just too delicious! Campfire Stew is comfort food, and that is why it is a staple in our house during the cozy days of fall.

I texted my mom this morning to tell her I was making it today, and she said dad had already asked her to make it soon. Then I told her I was trying to decide if I was going to bake loaves of bread or make dinner rolls. She voted for dinner rolls. Sissay has been asking me to make bread, so I decided to do that since I just made rolls last week. Because I am a snot, I sent a pic of the bread fresh out of the oven. I was hoping she would show my dad and then he’d be all jealous- that’s the kind of kid I am. Within 2 minutes of the bread coming out of the oven I had buttered the top of the loaf, removed it from the pan, and burned my hands cutting the first slice of bread for myself. That first slice straight out of the oven is the greatest thing on the planet. Spread butter and some homemade strawberry jelly on it and you could probably just die right then and there. Superman was laughing at me burning my hands while he sat eating his breakfast before heading in for his midnight shift. He will be having stew and bread for his lunch tonight.

So where did this recipe come from, and how do you make it? Well, my mom said she learned how to make it at Girl Scout camp. They put the ingredients in a coffee can covered in foil, dug a hole in the ground, and put the coffee can surrounded by hot coals in there, then covered with more dirt. After several hours they came back and it was done. So the original recipe came from the Girl Scouts, but mom’s recipe was an edit to the original, and my recipe is an edit to her recipe, and she absolutely hates when I do that. I have said many times that I always take a recipe and make it my own, but she doesn’t like it when I mess with her recipes. Sorry, Mom. Mom uses hamburger, I use stew meat. I marinate the stew meat for a day, she doesn’t. I add a few more seasonings than she does. Whichever way you choose to go, it will be amazing, trust me. I love this the most when it cooks in the oven, but I don’t always have 4 hours to make it this way. I have made it in a huge soup pot on the stovetop, Crock Potted it, and Instant Potted it. The stew just tastes more “roasted” when it is in the oven, but you have to add more tomato juice because the liquid evaporates in the oven. Stovetop takes 2 hours, InstantPot takes 90 min, Crock Pot takes 8 hours on low, and oven takes 4 hours. Whatever time allows you, go for it!

Campfire Stew- Severely adapted from the Girl Scouts

  • 1.5 lbs Marinated Stew Meat and juice
  • 2 lbs peeled Red Potatoes
  • 1 pkg. Baby Carrots, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 large Onion, diced
  • 3/4 head Celery, 1/8″ slices
  • 1 large can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 bottle tomato juice (2 bottles if cooking in the oven)
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh Rosemary

Stew Meat Marinade

Quarter each stew meat chunk and put in gallon zipper bag. Add about 1C Red wine and 1/4 C Worcestershire, sprinkle a little salt and pepper. Press out all of the air, shake the contents of the bag, and refrigerate overnight.

Cut up all veggies, leaving potatoes larger than you would normally so they don’t turn to mush. Spray your large roaster pan, then add all ingredients. Cover with foil and place in 350 degree oven for 4 hours. After 4 hours, remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving. (IF you can keep the wolves away from it)

This is also one of my most favorite things for leftovers. I will take it for lunch every day this week until it is gone, never growing tired of it. It’s that good! Superman reported that he really enjoyed it and it both filled him and warmed him up. Do not fear if you don’t have time to make a loaf of bread, grab one from the bakery at the grocery store, throw it in the oven for 5 minutes after you take out the stew, and it’ll be almost as good.

Almost an entire loaf of bread was gone after dinner. Little Guy had bread for dinner, just bread. I had way too many pieces, and Superman had a few in his lunch. Though I will eat stew all week for lunch, there’s no way the bread will keep pace. We like to toast it and eat it for a snack or dessert with butter and honey, or butter and Magic (cinnamon sugar), or butter and jelly. I have very fond memories of my mom baking bread, and I am continuing that tradition with my own kids. It is one of their favorite things to eat, and Little Guy even helps me make it sometimes. If you are looking for an easy recipe for delicious jam/jelly/preserves, click on the blue words to check out my blog post Biscuits for my Boys.

Happy Fall, everyone!

Old Friends Become New Friends

Perhaps you noticed that it has been quite a while since my last post. Let’s just say it’s been quite a month. Nothing super horrible or bad, just a lot of things all at once. I’ve written a few posts, but didn’t published them for various reasons. This past week I was irritated, shall we say, up to my eyebrows- a T1D med. was making my stomach feel all kinds of not good, the MRI of my foot came back not so great, I am looking for a new job, and the whole school year craziness all contributed to me being really edgy. I know I am not the only person to experience a week-long siege of not-so great stuff during this apocalypse, but it still really sucked. So I did what any girl would do and lamented to her friends! They laughed and yelled with me, made me feel heard and understood, and I felt better about the whole thing. Then, of course, I went into my kitchen for about 4 good hours, blared music and sang, and emerged a much better human being.

Let’s rewind about 2 weeks. Sissay’s best friend’s parents’ best friends (did you follow that? you may have to draw it out) just bought a house about 2 blocks away from us. Sissay went on a vacation with these 2 families last year, and has hung out with the whole group many times. Why does that matter? Well, we only knew the friends by their first names and had never met them, after all Sissay was 18 then and was with people we did know. Sissay’s BFF, Lani, was listing off people going to an event by last name, and I interrupted her mid-sentence when she said one last name I absolutely knew. Me:”Which one?” Lani:”Kyle and Amanda.” Insert my look of you’ve gotta be kidding me. Me: “Kyle and I grew up together! We were practically brother and sister. We used to vacation together growing up and our families were always together!”

Seriously, how is this possible??? We haven’t seen each other in 20 years, yet we’ve lived in the same town for almost 10 years. No seeing each other at the grocery store or the pharmacy or anywhere in this small town. How is that even possible? And then I realized that our youngest daughter has vacationed with them and hung out many many times over the years, but I had not heard their last name until then. Just. No. Way. So we met/saw each other again at Sissay’s BFF’s house and both kept shaking our heads and saying how crazy all of this was. And then they bought a house down the street from us!

They just closed on the house and were moving in/painting/demo-ing etc., so I made them a meal and took it to their new house. If you read this blog regularly, which I hope you do, you know that I absolutely love to take a meal to people for any reason. Moving is a very stressful and exciting and exhausting experience, and no moving person has time to stop what they are doing to make a lasagna in the middle of a mess, nor would they ever want to! So bring them a meal. I sent everything in disposable foil containers so they had nothing to clean up or wash and return. I made pulled pork, parsley potatoes, chocolate chip/m&m cookies, and blueberry lemon pound cake. I also brought 2 bags of chips, paper plates- a MUST if you remember from my post Taking a Meal to a Grieving Family, Capri-Suns for the kiddos and a handle of vodka and some lemonade for the adults because moving requires alcohol! My intention was that there would be something there for everyone; dinner, a snack, a sweet tooth, an end-of-the-day adult beverage. Remember, a meal is so much more than food. It is my favorite way to share love with people, and in this case it was my way of saying welcome to the neighborhood and I’m glad we get to be new (old) friends.

I made them blueberry lemon pound cake because it is incredible. Period. It tastes like summer in a way that could have you eating half a loaf on your own without even realizing it. Not that I’ve ever done such a thing, being the good T1D that I am. Nope, never. Maybe. It also makes 2 loaves of poundcake, which means you can share one and keep the other, or give yours to someone else so you are not tempted to eat it all yourself. It doesn’t require much effort, and you can do other things while it bakes for an hour, and then cools for a good hour. It also freezes well, so you can make, slice and freeze ahead of time, grab out of the freezer, and it will be thawed and wonderful by the time you get to where you are going. It’s good, trust me! This is a recipe I have made for 4 or 5 years now, and it always gets rave reviews when I make it. I have even made it into cupcakes, though I don’t remember how much time they baked, so just keep an eye on them if you go that route.

Blueberry Lemon Poundcake (adapted from chef-in-training.com)

  • 1 Cup Butter, Softened
  • 1 3/4 Sugar
  • 1 Lemon, Zested
  • 1T Lemon Juice from that Lemon
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 3/4 C Buttermilk (1 T vinegar mixed with 3/4C -1T milk, let sit till ready to use)
  • 2 1/2 C Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Pints Blueberries, I always use fresh

Preheat oven to 350. Using whisk attachment on stand mixer, cream together softened butter, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla, mix and scrape down bowl. In a separate bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. *Change to paddle attachment on stand mixer. Add about half of flour mix to bowl and mix on low until incorporated. Add about half of buttermilk to mixing bowl and mix on low until incorporated. Repeat with final flour mixture, mix together, final buttermilk, mix together. Using a rubber scraper, gently fold in blueberries being careful not to mash them. You just need them evenly distributed, rather than mixed in.

Be gentle with your blueberries

Pour half of batter into each of 2 greased loaf pans and spread evenly. Put in the 350 oven for 50-65 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean. Mine always take 60-65 minutes, but I start checking at 50 minutes because over-baked food is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack for at least 1 hour until cooled.

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 T Lemon Zest (You will need a total of 2 lemons for the cake and glaze)
  • 1 T Lemon Juice (from zested lemon)
  • 1 T Milk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 1/2-2 C Powdered sugar

Whisk together in medium sized bowl until smooth and a glaze consistency, but not runny. You can either pour glaze in the loaf pan on top of the pound cake and then slice and serve, or cut longways down the middle of the loaf pan, then shortways into 1/2 inch slices. Remove from pan with a small spatula or butter knife, place on a plate or tray, and drizzle glaze on top of the slices. Sample the crumbs, you know you want to.

It has been so long since our families were together that I am already starting to scheme ways to get as many of us together as possible in the next year or so. But right now, I want Superman and I to build a friendship with Kyle & Amanda and their kiddos because you can never have enough great friends in your life! What a blessing to have old friends become new friends. Of course, Little Guy is very excited to have more friends, especially ones that are so close and love to fish. We are really looking forward to helping them with projects, taking down a couple cottonwood trees, and getting to know them as a couple.

It is very important to me that I cook and bake for the people I care about. It is my personal expression of love and caring, and it both relaxes and energizes me. I wish you could have seen me when I walked into my kitchen, and then again when I walked out. What a transformation! That is what cooking and baking does for me. I sincerely hope that you spend time doing the thing that does that for you, especially during this madness that surrounds us. It is so important that each of us finds our happy thing that builds up our spirit, and then spend time every week, or every day if possible, doing your happy thing. That is sure to nourish your heart.

A Week of Friends…

because it’s so much fun!

Our week began with one event planned, and concluded with friends for 6 straight days. I am not saying we are super popular, or that we have a booked social calendar because we are just so cool. What I am saying is that this week turned out to be jam-packed with visits from people we love and love to hang out with, which makes my heart sing. It also means lots of food planning, which I love! We are very blessed to live on a lake, so we are able to swim and boat and fish regardless of this world’s current craziness, and we love to have people over to enjoy the water with us.

Six days of hosting may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Friends always ask what they can bring, so keep things simple and have them bring 1 or 2 things. Grab-and-go items are always winners around here. A light lunch or simple snacks will allow you and your guests to have fun without running yourself ragged. I also like to make a large amount of whatever I am making and serve it over 2 days so preparation is not a chore. I want to enjoy our time with friends, so I make it a point to keep things simple, which allows all of our guests to relax and enjoy as well.

So what did I make? Rice Krispie Treats, Oreo Balls, fruit tray, veggies & hummus, chicken salad, lunchmeat sliders, apple cider donuts, and crackers&cheese. We grilled out 2 days and ordered pizza once. Friends brought food as well. Did we have enough food? To feed an army, yes. Did I run out of paper plates because I forgot to put them on my list? Of course I did! But I have Melmac dishes (sturdy plastic) that I bought specifically for eating outside, so it was no big deal.

Lisa’s Chicken Salad

  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins (or chicken breasts)
  • 1/2 pound red seedless grapes, cut in half
  • 3 ribs of celery, diced small
  • 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts or slivered almond
  • 3/4 Cup mayonnaise
  • 2Tablespoons brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Cook chicken in Instant Pot on Manual setting for 25 minutes. I spray pan with cooking spray, add chicken, put on a little salt and pepper and let it go. While chicken cooks, cut celery and grapes. I like small chunks of celery, so I cut each rib of celery into 3 sections lengthwise and cut about 1/4″ thick. Grapes get cut in half. Place grapes and celery into mixing bowl. Quick release pressure when InstantPot is done, move chicken to cutting board and shred or cube. Add chicken to mixing bowl with celery and grapes, set aside.

In small mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, brown sugar, salt & pepper, and onion powder, mix well. Add to chicken mixture and stir until incorporated. If you want to add nuts, do that now and mix. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to let flavors meld and salad to chill. Serve on bread, crescents, Hawaiian rolls, crackers, or eat with a fork. I bet you’ll come back for seconds. ***I must apologize- I made this 2 times during the week and did not take a single picture of the process or the finished product. That is called a blog-fail, and I did it big time! Truth be told, I am still getting used to taking pictures as I cook, and I’m not always good at remembering. I have also forgotten to take pictures of parts of a cooking process, only to realize it and become frustrated with myself. I’m trying to get better, I promise.

Our first day of friends began with a delightful little nugget, T and her boys. She is a friend I used to work with, and her boys are the most respectful, well mannered gentlemen on the planet. They are a few years older than Little Guy, so there is a lot of hero worship going on there. T is this fun-sized, very fit, healthy eating but booze enjoying, full of laughter lady you can have a heart to heart with, or people watch and cackle. I just love her, and was so excited to see her because we hadn’t seen each other in 3 1/2 months. Little Guy was on Cloud 9 all day with 2 older boys to play and swim with. T requested I make a drink that I made for us last year when we had a swim day. It’s delicious! We both love our coffee, and booze never hurts, so…

Extra Special Coffee

  • 2 oz. Patron Cafe
  • 2 oz. Kahlua
  • 1 oz. CoffeeMate Sugar-Free Sweet Cream liquid creamer
  • 2 oz. Brewed Coffee- cold preferred but can use hot
  • Splash Half and Half

Fill glass with ice. Add all ingredients, stir, and enjoy.

Wednesday is our normal swim day this summer for some of the moms and kids on the lake, so I invited over some friends from the lake and 2 of our favorite little people in the world who just so happen to be stair-steps in age with Little Guy, so they are all buddies. Turns out there were 2 boys, 2 girls, and 2 mommas. Such a fun day in the sun! Even with a decent age gap, the girls got along really well, and watching all 4 kiddos splashing and laughing together while the mommas chatted and relaxed was a fantastic way to spend the day. Our menu was less than formal- chicken salad, hummus and veggies, fruit, and pepperoni and crackers. No one complained about the casual menu, the kids were able to grab what they wanted and scarf it down in a hurry, then get back in the water where they really wanted to be. It was one of those times when I knew my audience and delivered what they wanted- easy foods that are quick to eat. Winner-Winner!

On Thursday one of my friends from childhood, Stephanie, came over with her hubby, kids, and a niece and nephew. We don’t get to see each other very often, but we are always able to pick up right where we left off, as if no time has passed. Her girls are like my own, and they know to make themselves at home, which I love. We spent the day catching up, laughing, talking, and having fun. Stephanie’s husband, B, tried to catch a fish for at least 90 minutes with no success, while the other kids caught several in that time. Let’s just say he was a little frustrated. Finally, he went over to where I suggested he try, and started catching fish like it was his job. That turned the tide on his day, and it seemed to me like he was better able to enjoy the day once he had conquered fishing. Stephanie and I remembered back to when they were in the Navy and stationed in California. Somehow, B always knew when we had talked on the phone that day, though he had no proof. He teased her that she sounded like me, and even half-way across the country, we were alike in so many ways. I have always preferred to take it as a compliment that my sparkling personality transfers across phone lines:) She and I just laugh about it. It was a wonderful day that could have gone on for many more hours, but they eventually had to get going. I love when Stephanie & Co. come to visit!

The Hooligans all came over on Friday. It’s what I have named our group of 5 couples. We always have the best time harassing each other and laughing our butts off. It started as one couple coming over because their son loves to jetski, and we decided at the last minute to turn it into a big ole Hooligans gathering, and I’m so glad we did. The girls decided that we would get the boys to grill, and we would each do a side or dessert. That meant very little work for me, which is great sometimes. My favorite thing I ate that night was a cucumber-tomato salad. It tastes exactly like summer, and I’m pretty sure I had 3 helpings of it. I still didn’t remember to get paper plates when I went to the store, but my outside summer dishes worked great. It was such a fun day, and I loved taking the boys for jetski rides that make them shriek with a fear/excitement mix. One of the Hooligans had gotten a freeze drier, and brought over some fun treats to share. So interesting how the texture changes so much, but the flavors stay. We all loved sampling the saltwater taffy, fruit, marshmallows, and ice cream sandwiches, which are now Little Guy’s favorite thing. It ended up storming a lot that night, and one couple stayed on after everyone else left to sit on the porch, have a cigar, and talk while the storm rolled in. It was so relaxing and peaceful out there. It was the perfect way to finish off the evening.

Millie’s Cucumber-Tomato Salad

  • 3 Cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1 Onion, sliced, halved, and separated into rings
  • 3 Tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 C White Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper, ground
  • 1/4 C Oil

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. ** When I made this a few days later, I made a small change in an effort to lower the sugar/carb content for my T1D self. I used a cup-for-cup sugar substitute and it was wonderful.**

Are you tired yet? By the time our alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was beginning to feel a little tired, but still excited about our last 2 days of friends. Our morning was completely geared toward our kids. Superman and Mike work together, and our families just clicked, so we love when they come over. We went to the training simulator, where Superman goes for training and Mike now works, to let the kids have some fun pressing buttons and turning switches. The kiddos don’t really understand what it means when they say their dads make electricity, so this was a great way for them to experience some of the scope of what the dads do. Let’s just say they had a blast! It’s very overwhelming for me to see the complexity of their job, and when the dads showed us how and what they do when they train (and at work), we were all blown away at their efficiency and how much they have to know- ’cause its a TON of stuff!! It’s no wonder they are exhausted after a 12-hour day at work! After the kids pushed enough buttons, we came back to the house and grilled burgers. They even brought us 2 amazing cucumbers from their garden, which I immediately knew would be used to make Millie’s salad. Thank you, friends with gardens who are willing to share! Such a fun day of pushing buttons, swimming and visiting and boating. Let’s do that again very soon please.

Sunday Funday! We were invited to some friend’s house for brunch made on a new grill that was needing to be broken in. Pancakes and bacon on the grill, fruit, bagels and lox, apple cider donuts, zucchini bread, and Bloody Mary’s- YUM! I was gifted some sourdough starter from one of our friends at brunch, I’ll post about that soon. After a few hours of fun and food, we had to run because our final batch of friends were on their way to our house.

Uncle V and Annie are newly-engaged, and it was the first time we had seen them together since he popped the question. Superman and V work together and have been friends for many years. Though we are not related, Little Guy has always called him Uncle V, and I call him Bro because he’s always treated me like his little sister, the good and the bad. I love having family that is not actually related- the more the merrier, right? We had made no plans for food and were just going to figure it out when they got here. Well, they came over with enough food to feed a small army! V had recently been given a large amount of fresh salmon and had spent hours smoking it on Saturday. He made this incredible dip that basically requires bagels and some sliced tomato to become bagels and lox. It was AMAZING! I am very picky about salmon because I hate the “fishy” taste it has a lot of the time, but this was Heaven. I only eat salmon if it is prepared by my chef-friend Sarah, our friend Uncle Chris, and now Uncle V. I ate a lot of that dip on a whole grain baguette. So. Stinking. Delicious. We talked and ate and talked some more. Then we went down to the lake and floated and swam, and I took Annie for her first jetski ride, and went easy on her so she wouldn’t hate me. Then I took Bro for a ride, where he kept leaning far to the side to try to tip us over like an annoying big brother. What a dork! We had a great time, and finally ordered pizza delivery when we got hungry from our snacking.

We may have eaten some before I though to take a picture. Okay, we ate a LOT.

Uncle V’s Bagels and Lox Dip

  • 16 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 oz Capers and Brine
  • 2 Cloves Minced Garlic (1 tsp minced)
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 C Red Onion, diced
  • 1/4 C Fresh Dill
  • 8 oz. Smoked Salmon

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let flavors meld. Serve on sliced baguette (plain or toasted) or mild crackers. Excellent topped with thin-sliced tomatoes.

This is some serious Heaven right here!

It was a wonderful, action-packed week of friends, and I don’t regret squeezing it all into one week. Though it took me about 2 days to recoup, it is a week of friends that I will remember forever. I learned several new recipes that I will be making soon, and laughed so much I should have lost 20 lbs, but didn’t of course! 2020 has been really difficult and just plain terrible in so many ways that we all need to search out the good things in life that make us happy. For our family, it is having friends and family out to the house to enjoy the water and each other’s company. In this time of fear and isolation, these wonderful people nourish my heart.

Festive Dessert for the 4th

Every year friends of ours from the lake have a huge 4th of July party. We play volleyball, swim, eat, laugh, do lots of visiting, and watch fireworks from the boats. It is always so much fun, and we look forward to it all summer long. It’s an all-day affair, so there’s plenty of time to sample all the good food and treats that everyone brings, and perhaps enjoy a cocktail or two.

I always make a dessert and a side, and breakfast for the host family for the next morning. Hosting such a large gathering is a monster undertaking that requires all the normal party prep plus setting up tents and tables & chairs. And of course the clean up that night and the next day. It’s a lot! So I bring breakfast so they have something filling and yummy, but doesn’t require more than a heat-thru. In years past I have made cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, and breakfast pockets. Their favorite is the breakfast pockets, so I am making those again this year. They can be reheated in the oven, toaster oven, or microwave, and are quick and delicious.

Breakfast Pockets– makes 12

  • 3 tubes Crescent Rolls
  • 1/2 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 roll Sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • Splash of Milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 T Butter

Cook and crumble bacon and sausage, set aside. Crack eggs, add splash of milk, mix in bacon, sausage, and cheese. Melt butter in large skillet, pour in egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Keep stirring slowly until you have soft scrambled eggs. Do NOT overcook! Remove pan from heat.

On large cookie sheet or stone, press together perforated edges of 2 crescent triangles to make a large rectangle. Spread 2-3 Tablespoons cooked egg mixture on one half of rectangle, leaving a small margin around edges to seal the crescents together. Fold empty half of crescent over the side with egg mixture and press with fingers or a fork to seal the margin, creating a pocket. Repeat with all 12 pockets. Bake according to crescent roll package directions, until golden brown, but not overcooked. Remove from oven and move pockets to cooling rack to cool completely. Refrigerate in Ziplock bags or airtight container, separating layers with parchment or waxed paper. To reheat, place in microwave for 30 seconds, or oven for 5-7 minutes.

I have also made these in batches with only one meat, and store bacon vs sausage in separate Ziplock bags. You can also use diced ham or veggie. Just think of all the breakfast possibilities!

This year I decided to make a red, white & blue cake. I will be completely honest with you and say that I seriously dreamed of 2 desserts for an entire night. I even made each dessert in my dream 2 different ways. Girl, you’ve got problems! The best part is, my dreams failed me! I made the cake exactly as I did in dream sequence #1, but the frosting was much too heavy (tasting and weight) and thick, which caused very bad things to happen like frosting glopping down the edges and smearing the beauty of the colors. UGH!!! So I sliced it up and delivered it to my BFF and my in-laws and made another cake. Major Blog-Fail! But I got it right the 2nd time, and it’s perfect, I promise. The flavors of the cake and 2 different fruit spreads are absolutely to die for, light, and delicious. You will make this cake for more than the 4th of July, and I would encourage you to experiment with other fruit flavors.

After all the “no, No NOOOOO!” of the first cake-tastrophy, I did a lot of laughing at the fail and thinking about what I liked and didn’t like, as well as what I really wanted from this cake. The result of those thoughts is the cake you will find here. It’s perfect in every way from flavor profile to presentation. I could not be happier with this flag cake. Sissay, Little Guy, and their friend Lane (unfortunately for them) got to see my excitement as it all came together and I danced around the kitchen and squealed like a little girl with excitement. The girls each ate one small piece, then two pieces, then I stopped paying attention. I guarantee they kept thinking, “Seriously, it’s a cake. No need to be that excited, ya big dork.” But they never said any of that out loud. Instead they raved about the flavors and kept eating, and smiled and laughed when I’d get all goofy and dance. Thanks, kiddos for letting your momma be a big baking nerd.

Lisa’s Red, White & Blue Cake

  • 1 White Cake Mix, make according to package instructions
  • 1 lb fresh Strawberries, rinsed, cored and rough chopped
  • 1 pint fresh Blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 Cup sugar, divided
  • 1 Cool Whip, 8oz thawed
  • Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries for garnish

Seriously, that’s all you need! Make your white cake according to the box. Line a sheet pan/bar pan with parchment paper, and spread cake mix evenly, doing your best to get mix into the corners. Bake according to package temperature for 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack. You can remove cake from pan after about 20 minutes and cool parchment/cake on cooling rack to speed it up a bit.

While your cake is in the oven, chop your strawberries and grab 2 medium sauce pans. Put strawberries in one, blueberries in the other. Add 1/2 Cup Sugar to each saucepan, and bring to low boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally to move fruit and sugar around and prevent sticking and burning. Low boil for about 15 minutes until both pans have a lot of foam. You’ll know it when you see it. Remove from heat and transfer, one fruit at a time, to blender or use an immersion blender right in the saucepan. Blend until no chunks or lumps remain. Mixture will be thinner than jelly. Go ahead, taste them both. You may just start making your own jelly after this. **There will be more than enough fruit spread for the cake and tasting and to put on your toast the next day. You’re welcome. If you are not planning to cut up fruit and decorate the top of the cake, consider drizzling some of each fruit spread over the Cool Whip. That will be beautiful and tasty too.

While we waited for everything to cool, Little Guy wanted to do a little fishing. He caught a catfish and Quinn investigated.

The nerd in me grabbed Superman’s tape measure to make sure I cut the cake equally. And since I’m amazing at math, 15 divided by 3 = 5, so each layer of the cake is 5″ wide.

You can see my knife marks at 5 inches

With a cooled and cut cake, and cooled fruit spreads, you can begin to construct your masterpiece. I flipped each layer of cake over so I had a more even surface to work with. Using a large kitchen spoon, I put 2 spoonfulls of blueberry on the bottom layer and spread out to the edges. Because I wanted the flavor to be present and not just a little hint, I added one more spoonful and spread it around again. If some runs down the edges, that’s ok, and it makes it look better in my opinion. Continue with the next cake layer and then put the strawberry spread on, following the 2 spoonfulls, then add 1 more.

Add your last layer of cake and spread about 1 Cup of Cool Whip on top. I tried to make it as smooth as possible because I wanted to give the fresh fruit design a blank canvas. Don’t feel like you need to use the whole container of Cool Whip, a thin layer will be perfect without overtaking the flavors. I found similar-sized blueberries for my stars section of the flag, and cored and quartered strawberries for the stripes. Obviously I did not even attempt to be accurate with my numbers, that’s not what I was going for, and this is a small surface to work with. One of my friends teasingly suggested I create the Navy emblem rather than the US flag because Superman is a Navy veteran. I declined. That emblem is not something I would ever attempt with fruit 🙂

This cake is best served cold. Refrigerate for a few hours before you head to your party so it stays cold. If you are going to be outside in the heat, keep it covered and place your cake plate on ice or ice packs. It shouldn’t last very long once word gets out that it’s so good.

Happy 4th of July, America! Please take a moment to thank God for blessing us with the freedoms we enjoy, and remember those who have served in our armed forces or surrendered their lives throughout our country’s history so we can live free.

Biscuits for My Boys, because it’s their favorite

This Momma loves her boys! There is a 14 year difference between our oldest son and our youngest. They only lived under the same roof for about 4 years before Bubba spread his wings and got his own place. Bubba thinks Little Guy is funny and likes to make him do and say things to amuse himself, and Little Guy loves Bubba’s crazy music and wrestling with him. If you didn’t know they were brothers, you’d never guess it just by seeing them-they are different in almost every visual way. Bubba has long brown curly hair, Little Guy is a toe head with straight, slightly shaggy hair. Bubba is about 6 feet tall with broad shoulders, Little Guy is a tall 7 year old, and a string bean.

But their hearts are the same. We are blessed to have 2 sons that have the most tender, compassionate, and loving hearts. There is something so pure and beautiful about a little boy who loves ferociously, whose heart is bursting with love for his friends and family. My most favorite thing about each of them is their sweet heart. I remember the way each of them loved me at about age 3, when I was their absolute favorite person in the whole world, and I could do and fix anything! Both boys loved to snuggle when they were little. Lucky for me, Little Guy still loves it, and he is super snuggly first thing in the morning. I distinctly remember a time when Bubba was around 3 and he grabbed my face, kissed me really hard, looked me square in the eyeballs and said with so much intensity, “I just love you so much Momma!” Those are moments that I treasure in my heart.

This sap of a Momma is bawling like a baby, and tears are rolling down my cheeks as I remember and write this. Why do they stay little for such a short time? (I sound like my grandma)

When Bubba was little, his favorite thing to eat for breakfast was sausage&egg biscuit sandwiches. I made him fresh biscuits for breakfast almost every single day for a couple of years. He absolutely LOVED them, so I made them. I would make a 1/2 batch every morning, which made 4 or 5 biscuits, and he, Sissay, and I would polish them off. These biscuits are very easy to make, so it wasn’t a chore to make them each morning. I also love to cook, so making breakfast every day is something I enjoy. I am not a big fan of cereal, so my kids didn’t really eat it much growing up. There is a famous story in our family that one morning when Bubba and Sissay were about 9&11, I was running behind schedule getting ready for work/school. I told them to grab a bowl of cereal because I wasn’t going to have time to make them breakfast. They both stopped dead in their tracks, looked at me with shocked faces, and Sissay said, “Are we in trouble?” Seriously, a true story!

Little Guy has his own breakfast favorite that he wants every single day. Toast with Magic and bacon. You would call it cinnamon toast, but I had to get creative when it came to getting this picky eater to try something new. I told him that I sprinkled magic on the toast, and he fell for it hook, line, and sinker. He also prefers “magic” on his biscuits, and calls it biscuits with magic-we are very creative with our food names. It is so funny to me how many people say, “I haven’t had cinnamon toast in so long, I used to love that!” Well, bring it back into your morning and remember how good it is. Maybe you can even introduce it to your kids or grandkids, and share this oldie but goodie with them.

Bubba’s favorite biscuits are from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. My dad bought me this cookbook for Christmas one year as a thank you for being his barber. It was the first “real” cookbook I ever owned, and is still one of my favorites.

Baking Powder Biscuits-from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Shortening
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add the milk all at once. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.
Mine is never a perfect circle, but I prefer using my hands so I can feel the consistency of the dough.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly kneed dough by gently folding and pressing dough 10-12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough with a floured 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter.

3. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve hot. Makes 10 biscuits.

** Because I change every recipe I make, I use slightly softened butter instead of shortening. Sometimes I use my pastry blender, sometimes I use my small Kitchenaid Mixer with the whisk attachment to cut in the butter. I always use my hands to flatten out the dough. My last recipe change is that I brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with softened butter before they go in the oven. After all, butter is the secret to life.

I prefer my biscuits with butter and homemade mixed berry jam. Learn how to make my jam below.

I started making my own jam less than a year ago. It started as a 50th birthday gift for one of our friends. Nothing is better than a loaf of homemade bread and jam! I did the same thing for another friend’s birthday, and it kind of became a thing. Then one day, I bought a lot of bags of frozen mixed berries and some jelly jars the grocery store. It’s a very very simple recipe- just berries, sugar, and a little cornstarch to thicken a bit. There is a little bit of time involved, and some elbow grease if you don’t want seeds in your jam. (I do NOT like seeds in my jam) I am still perfecting the process, but it has a consistently delicious, fruity taste with just the right amount of sweetness.

Lisa’s Mixed Berry Jam

  • 2 bags frozen Mixed Berries
  • 1 1/2-2 Cups sugar depending on your tastebuds (I like 1 1/2 Cups)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Corn Starch and 1 1/2 Tablespoons water mixed and set aside

Dump 2 bags of frozen Mixed Berries into a heavy dutch oven. I use my 6 qt. cast iron dutch oven. Add sugar and stir. Let come to a low boil over medium high heat, stirring every couple minutes to incorporate sugar and prevent burning. Reduce heat to medium and continue to low boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring every couple minutes until the mixture gets a bit foamy.

Remove from heat and run through fine mesh colander, saving the juice. In order to get the pulp of the fruit and remove the seeds, I mash the fruit against the colander walls with a rubber scraper and scrape down the outside of the colander and add the pulp to the juice. It requires some elbow grease, but it is well worth it! If I were using berries without seeds, I would simply use an immersion blender to finish breaking down the fruit into a jam consistency and thicken with a little corn starch.

Using a ladle, fill your jelly jars to the bottom ring of the jar and put the lid and ring on tight. Move to refrigerator to cool. Use within 2 weeks, but I’ve never had it last that long!

I made 1 large jar and 2 jelly jars.

You cannot go wrong with these Baking Powder Biscuits and Mixed Berry Jam! The jam also makes a great hostess gift, or even as little bit of sweetness to share with loved ones.

I really miss the days of making biscuits every morning for Bubba. Those years when they are little disappear all too soon. He’s a wonderful young man and I love seeing him so happy, living his life exactly how he wants to. I couldn’t be more proud of him and I still love him to pieces, but he no longer snuggles with me, or wakes me up in the middle of the night when he has a bad dream, or needs me to fix his owies. I wish I had known back then how quickly they grow up. That is the bitter-sweet part of having that knowledge with Little Guy. I know he won’t be little forever, and that makes part of me sad, but I find myself slowing down and enjoying the little moments with him because I know they won’t last forever. My two boys have very special places in my heart, and I will always make them anything in the world they want to eat because it makes me so happy to make them their favorite foods. Whether my kiddos are young or young adults, being a Momma is one of the best things in my life. And they nourish my heart.