Friday, December 18, 2009

Warm chili on a snowy day.

The weatherman was right this time. We probably have about 7" of snow, and it's still falling! What a great day for chili. Chili is one of those things you don't really need a recipe for. Just add what you like. The following recipe is how I made today's batch.

Snowy Day Chili

2 1/4 lbs ground beef
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 cup chicken broth (it's what I had on hand, beef broth would be great too)
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes
1 6oz can tomato paste
3 15oz can chili beans, drained
1 15oz can spicy chili beans, not drained
1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce
Chili powder to taste (I used about three or four Tblsps)
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Brown the ground beef, then add the onions, green pepper, and celery. You may chop the vegetables as chunky or as fine as you wish, according to your personal preference. Transfer to a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients except the cheese and sour cream. Even if you don't like celery, believe me when I say you don't really taste it in this dish. Cook on low heat for at least two hours. Three or four is okay too.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This is a great cookie recipe and with oatmeal and dried cranberries, it has to be good for you!

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ounces Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)

2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, optional

2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in Craisins and white chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beautiful Fall

Isn't October glorious? It has so much to offer. The weather is refreshingly crisp and cool, and the colors are gorgeous. Drink them in! Don't think of it as a sad time as I hear some people say. Enjoy it! When winter comes, turn your heart toward home. Dress and organize your nest, and most of all, practice hospitality. What a blessed gift it is. One is very fortunate to have a friend who extends an invitation, and one shall be rewarded if they are a giver of hospitality. Be a cheerful giver.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flowers the color of sunshine!

Mums are prolific in fall and can be found everywhere. It's a nice and welcoming touch to place flowers by the front door. A simple way to add texture is to lay a grapevine wreath on the top of a planter before placing a pot of flowers in the planter. Last year I used these urns, a grapevine wreath , and topped it with pumpkin rather than flowers. Dressing one's nest is so much fun!

Apple Cake

This is an easy cake to make. It taste great, is moist and delicious, and makes the house smell great too! My daughter was visiting when I made this cake. She stated she didn't like apples or butterscotch, therefore she would not like this cake. Well, of course I insisted she try a bite. She was surprised to find she actually liked it a lot, especially since she is not a big sweets fan, unlike her mother. Whipped topping is a nice finishing touch when serving this cake. Bake away!

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup oil
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all above ingredients together and pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish. The batter will be thick.Sprinkle with a half bag if butterscotch morsels. Bake at 325 for 55 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I had been looking for a fall wreath for the entry door and found this gorgeous Bittersweet wreath in Blowing Rock. I'm sorry, but I just don't like wreaths made with artificial flowers, leaves, and berries. I so love this wreath that I thought I'd research Bittersweet to see if it would be possibile to grow my own. Much to my dismay I learned American Bittersweet is becoming so rare in some areas that it is now a protected species. Oriental Bittersweet is so invasive and destructive that it will quickly engulf and kill other vegetation, including trees. It has been said to have slain many a giant. It seems if I wish to have Bittersweet I'll just have to make a trip to the mountains and buy some.
That's okay with me too!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall has arrived!

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. I just wish it lasted longer. I love the cooler temperatures and beautiful colors. It is fun to decorate the house for fall with natural elements, such as the gorgeous gourds below. The are only two for a dollar at the local pumpkin stand. Pumpkins are beautiful. I enjoy finding pumpkins of unusual shapes and sizes, warts and all!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Easy weeknight pasta

Okay gang, this pasta won't win any culinary awards; but it is an easy, tasty, and satisfying dish to prepare when you are tired or don't have a lot of time. I always try to use whole wheat pasta. It is so much better for you and it still tastes good. You can use any tube pasta. For time's sake and ease, I start with prepared pasta sauce. I love the taste of Ragu, so I usually use a small jar of Ragu, and a large can of Hunt's pasta sauce. I add lots of spices to the prepared sauce, such as oregano, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and pepper. If you like a meat sauce, brown a pound of ground beef or ground turkey in a large skillet, then add the pasta sauce and spices. While this simmers, boil the pasta according to directions. Drain the pasta and pour it into the sauce, then stir till combined. Pour into a 9X13 casserole baking dish. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese. You can use mozarella, cheddar, parmesan, monterey, or any combination of cheeses you enjoy. Bake at 350 degrees just until the cheese is melted nicely. Serve this with a fresh garden salad and garlic toast for a complete the meal.

Monday, August 24, 2009


I found this old plant stand and thought in its own way, it was a thing of beauty. I definitely don't consider myself shabby chic, although this stand looks very shabby chic. I do enjoy mixing old and new pieces. Matchy-matchy is out you know! I think using a few vintage accessories adds interest and a richness to one's home.

Another thing I enjoy is cookbooks. I may not try all the recipes, but I'll surely read them all. I love to watch The Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten makes everything she does look so effortless, so of course I had to have a couple of her cookbooks. The recipes I've made so far have been a success. I highly recommend her books and recipes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Political Science Major?

Joshua was interested in attending a townhall meeting, and fortunately there was one scheduled in Lenoir. I am very glad he is interested in the political process, and in the issues our nation is facing. Too many people are completely oblivious to issues that will directly impact their way of life, and as the saying goes, "Evil prevails when good does nothing".

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today is July 21, 2009. 27 years ago my beautiful daughter Kelly was born. She is my first child, and what a precious gift she is. I can clearly remember dressing her for the trip home from the hospital (still have the outfit). I was so afraid I would hurt her. She seemed so little and fragile. I loved raising her...every minute of time! I wish I had known more about things that would have allowed me to be a better mother, but she turned out very well in spite of my shortcomings. I am very proud of the woman she has become! Her poor little brother is going to think he's been shafted since he had a birthday on July 5th and I didn't blog about it :) He's a great kid too. Sorry Joshua. Happy Birthday to both my July babies!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chocolate Pots De Creme

Pot De Creme (poh duh krehm) is french for "pot of cream". If you want to impress your dinner guests, this is a great dessert to serve. It's so rich, creamy, and pretty, yet relatively simple to make. Sometimes I serve this in dainty china tea cups. Tonight, I used ramekins I found at Pier 1 for one dollar each! Don't you just love a good deal?

After I took this picture, I made some chocolate curls for garnish.
Maybe I'll post a picture, along with instructions on how to make
them another day.

Chocolate Pots De Creme

9 ounces semi sweet chocolate...chips are fine
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the chocolate in a blender.

Whisk the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring constantly (don't leave will stick if you do) with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spatula and almost boiling, about 5-7 minutes.

Pour the milk mixture over the chocolate in the blender,put the lid on (of course ;) and blend until smooth, stopping to scrap down the sides of the
blender as needed. Pour into 8 ramekins, or pretty tea cups.
Refrigerate for at least two hours.

For topping you can use a mixer or the blender. Just add a cup of heavy cream and two to three tablespoons of powdered sugar, and blend until soft peaks form.

Top the Pot De Creme with the whipped cream and garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa powder or chocolate curls. Trust me, chocolate lovers will thank you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bountiful garden

All the rain this year has really made our garden grow. I can't wait till the tomatoes are ripe. There is nothing better than a fresh garden tomato sandwich with Dukes Mayonnaise...Yum, Yum!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Divine Carrot Cake

This is the best carrot cake I've ever eaten! It is loaded with calories, but it's not something you'll make often, so why not have the occasional delicious piece of cake? It does have some healthy ingredients, such as carrots, pineapple, and walnuts.

A three layer cake is impressive, isn't it?

The frosting compliments the cake perfectly. It is a cream cheese frosting. The recipe is not mine. If you'd like to have it, let me know and I'll send you a link. It's worth it!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Dinner

Twice Baked Potatoes
These potatoes are my husband's favorite. Hopefully, you'll like them as well. The first thing you need to do is bake some potatoes, or you can cook them in the microwave, as I did today. Of course, you'll need to wash them and pierce the potatoes with a fork. If you bake them, it will take about an hour. In the microwave, it takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. After cooking/baking, let them cool a bit so you can handle them.

While they are cooling, fry some bacon. For four large baking potatoes, you'll need about a pound of bacon. I just used a half pound today, because my potatoes were pretty small.
Drain on a paper towel.

When the potatoes are cool enough, cut them in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the pulp, leaving a shell. Now here's where you can be creative. Add what you like. I add about 4 oz cream cheese, 4 oz sour cream, the crumbled bacon, about half stick real butter, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped chives, salt, and pepper. You may use any kind of cheese you like...American, Monterey Jack, etc. Mash the potatoes , cream cheese, sour cream, butter, salt, and pepper with a hand masher, then stir in the bacon, cheese, and chives. Spoon the mixture into the potato shells and bake at 400 about 15-20 minutes. If desired, top with additional cheese and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese has melted.

I think Yukon Gold Potatoes have the best flavor. The store didn't have any, so I used my second choice, which is the Russet Potato. Again, you can personalize this recipe and add whatever makes you happy. Have fun experimenting!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hibriten Mountain

This picture was taken by Frank Stevens. This is Hibriten Mountain in Lenoir, NC. The cross is lighted during the Easter Season. There is a road that goes to the top of the mountain, however it's closed to the public. I hiked to the top a few years ago. The view is great. It's a good workout and a fun thing to do if you live in the area.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Granny Smith

A simple way to add beauty to your home is to place fruit in interesting containers around the house. I love the color of Granny Smith Apples. They are such a vibrant, gorgeous green. These were only $1.99 for the bag. They last a long time. Honestly, I bought some apples in December, and I just threw them out today! Yes, I'm serious. Now, I can assure you I wouldn't have eaten them, but they still looked pretty good.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

I was going to share this recipe with you, but I'm really not happy with the shortcake. It was just "okay". I certainly have made a better shortcake. I like a crusty cake. This one was more soft than crusty. It was rather sweet too. One thing I can share with you is that you should always make your own whipped topping. It is so easy to make and it is so much better than the store bought non-dairy whipped topping. All you do is beat whipping cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. You may add sugar (gradually, while beating) to sweeten it a little. If you prefer, you may also add a teaspoon of vanilla. For a pint of whipping cream, two tablespoons of sugar is plenty. Don't beat it too long, or you'll have butter!
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A gift for my favorite cook.

Today I found a whimsical apron with beautiful colors.
I couldn't leave the store without it.
I think it will make a practical, yet fun gift.

Annabelle Hydrangea, I think I love you!

Monday, June 1, 2009

My busy little corner.

Wow, there is a lot going on here! This area started out as an effort to camouflage the thermostat and air vent on the wall. It is a little busy, but for now, I'm okay with it. Kind of looks "shabby chic", doesn't it? My style is definitely not shabby chic. I would define my style as eclectic. I love to find unique items, especially at a good price. The table was purchased for $10.00! The lady I bought it from was in her 70's. She was selling her home and she told me this was her mother's sewing table, so I'm really not sure how old this table is. I love pieces that have history. Originally, I thought I'd paint the table, but I've decided I really like the color.

The art piece on the small easel says "Shalom" which is a Hebrew word. It is loosely translated "Peace". It is used to say both hello and goodbye. Who doesn't love peace?
I also love the "REJOICE" wall hanging. It reminds me to have an attitude of joy.
Red and white dishes make me happy :) Blue and white dishes also make me happy. The blue and white dishes below were only $2 and $3 dollars a piece at an antique store in Morganton. They're perfect in this small spot. My favorite plate is the second one from the left.

Books...what can I say? Is is possible to have too many good books? I think not.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Old standbys for a covered dish dinner at church.

Today is fifth Sunday and at our church and that means a covered dish dinner in the fellowship hall after worship service. I almost always prepare a chicken pie. Nearly everyone at my church loves chicken, so I can be sure to come home with an empty dish. This recipe is simple and I doubt it would win any culinary awards, but it is good comfort food!

Easy Crust Chicken Pie

The first thing you need to do is rinse and boil about 4 bone-in chicken breast. You may also use a whole chicken. It's a matter of preference, or a matter of what's in the refrigerator or freezer! Add a little salt to the water and boil until the juice of the chicken runs clear. I boiled mine about 35 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth and after it cools a bit, remove the chicken from the bone and tear into chunky bite-sized pieces. Layer in a casserole dish. In a saucepan combine a half stick of butter, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1 1/4 cups of broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then pour over the chicken.

For the topping, just mix together 1 cup of buttermilk (or regular milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand) and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of self rising flour. Spoon this on top of the soup mixture. Bake at 375 degrees until the crust is a pretty golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. You may need to turn the oven on broil the lasts few minutes to achieve a nice color. Enjoy!

Texas Sheet Cake

This dessert goes a long way, so if you have a large crowd to feed, this is perfect. My daughter's favorite cake is chocolate on chocolate. I wish she was here...anyway, this cake has a great texture and is very easy to make. Give it a try!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of all purpose flour, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Set aside. In a heavy pan bring 2 sticks butter, 1 cup water, and 4 tablespoons of cocoa to a boil (don't forget to stir). As soon as it boils add the dry ingredients, then add a 1/2 cup of sour cream. Next add 2 eggs and 1 tsp. baking soda. I find a wire whisk incorporates the ingredients very well. Pour into a greased (or spray with non stick spray) jelly roll pan. For you young bakers, a jelly roll pan is typically 10X15X1. They are sometimes called cookie sheets. Now bake this for about 20 minutes. Don't over bake. That would be a tragedy :)

While the cake is baking, prepare the yummy frosting. In a heavy pan, combine two sticks of butter (hey, I never said this cake was low calorie), 6 tablespoons canned milk, and 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 lb of powdered sugar. Pour over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.

The cake will need to cool before it is cut. It is easier to cut with a plastic knife. You can get about 30-35 small servings from this cake. Notice the lovely cake plate my daughter gave me for Mother's Day ;) She has great taste! The color variation is my photography, not the frosting. Maybe one day I'll get my Nikon D80 along with some pointers from Heather or Ashley. I can dream...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Early summer around the house

"Let your home be your parish, your little brood your congregation, your living room a sanctuary, and your knee a sacred altar." Billy Graham

Welcome to my sanctuary! My place of refuge and protection. After all, isn't that what a home should be? I hope you enjoy everyday simple pleasures as much as I do. I truly find joy in creating beauty in my home, and exercising the gift of hospitality. You won't find marble, pristine furnishings, and high end accessories here. But hopefully, you will discover it doesn't take riches to create a life that will bless you, your family, and others.

Recently, we have had a lot of rain. The good news is that all the rain has brought us out of the drought we've been in for several years, and has given us beautiful green grass!

These photographs have not been edited. No photoshop here. They are straight out of my little digital camera. They're not too bad. I had just finished mowing the lawn and snapped some pictures of a few things that make me smile.