Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Last day of November

 Where, oh, where, did November go?  It was a whirl of activity, it seems to me.

We swapped cookies.
Photo and recipe from Steph's Silver Boxes
We met up with a cousin of mine in an equidistant town for lunch and a walk by the lake.  Only a couple of pictures were taken.  It was a glorious sunny day, perfect for what we had planned.
We followed that walkway around to the right.  A lovely day.
We had Thanksgiving dinner on the Monday before with my dad at the nursing home.
Pretty centerpieces, place mats, etc. made this meal really festive.
Tables were set up in the activity room so larger groups like ours could have a table just for their family.  Here you see Sam's heaping plate, while Josiah waits for his to be served.
I made owls and alphabet letters.
I baked pies.  Three, over the month.  Here is one:

And there was much more.  We did some Christmas shopping, we had supper out, went to dental and eye appointments, enjoyed a harvest dinner at church.  Just a busy month.

And now December is at the door.  How exciting!  I am hoping to post daily in both of my blogs, but for sure in my Christmas Kitchen.  We will see!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

This gorgeous, meaningful graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
From Mr. T and myself, Thanksgiving wishes go out to all of my readers and friends.  May this be a precious day of counting our blessings.  Whether you're part of a family group sitting around a festive, laden table, or if it's just you at a table for one or two in a restaurant, even if you are sitting in a hospital waiting room -- wherever your circumstances find you today, may you find much to thank God for today and every day.  Truly, His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness is great!

Thanksgiving Day always seems to bring memories of past Thanksgivings, and along with the memories comes gratitude for the blessings God has showered on us in the past. So to that end I am re-posting memories of my childhood Thanksgivings (and, if you scroll on down, a few memories of more recent ones).


It wasn’t a large group that gathered at the farm for Thanksgiving, although ours was a big family. All of Gram’s six children were married, with families of their own, so it was understandable that not everyone could manage to come at the same time. Usually, about eight or ten adults and teenagers were seated around the dining room table, while five or six younger children ate in the kitchen. It was a very big deal when one was considered old enough to eat in the dining room.

Gram’s dining room was a magical place, even on ordinary days. Creamy-smooth painted wainscoting ran halfway up the walls, where it met a pale wallpaper patterned in clear, bright colors. At the far end of the room were dark built-in cupboards that held plates and serving dishes, and a maple sideboard containing the good silver and the table linens. In one wall were two large sunny windows; in the other, one small window which opened -- amazingly! -- into the pantry. No simple pass-through, this was a real window, with glass in it. As a child, I found that window endlessly fascinating, and I always wanted to see it actually being used.

But the most enchanting thing about the dining room was the corner cupboard that held Gram’s pitcher collection. I could stand in front of that glassed-in cupboard for hours and still not see everything. There were animal-shaped pitchers, like an orange-and-black striped tiger and a lifelike moose head. There were brightly painted Toby jugs and other pitchers made to look like people. There were small, shiny copper pitchers. In fact, her collection included almost every kind of pitcher imaginable. The ones that delighted me most were the miniatures. Some were no bigger than my fingernail, and they were beautifully detailed, painted with tiny flowers, rimmed with gold.

On Thanksgiving Day, the dining room assumed an even greater splendor. The table was extended to its full length and spread with a snowy linen cloth. It was set with Gram’s best dishes -- white with a graceful design of trailing green ivy and a crimped "pie crust" rim. The serving dishes were of the same pattern. At each end of the table stood a butter dish and salt and pepper shakers, all of clear glass in a bumpy hobnail design.
(The above is a bread-and-butter plate like those in my grandmother's set.  It is "Ivy" by Harker Pottery Company.  I inherited my grandmother's dishes, but I have so many dishes already that, much as I loved these, I wanted them to go to someone who would appreciate them more.  I knew that my mother had had it in mind to offer these to a niece [my cousin] and so one day I made a tentative phone call.  My cousin was beyond thrilled to have these dishes and I'm sure she is using them for her family's special dinners.  I had no idea how much she loved the ivy dishes, and I am so happy to have them in good hands.)

And the food! Even before the meal was ready, nibbling was encouraged. The sideboard was covered with a tempting array of pretty little dishes, filled with mixed nuts, chocolates, homemade fudge and divinity, and Grammie Wallace’s famous stuffed dates. For those not inclined to nibble on sweets, cheese and crackers were available. My favorite was sage cheese -- an extra sharp Vermont cheddar, with aromatic sage marbled throughout it.

Even with all the snacking, everyone managed to do the Thanksgiving dinner full justice. In fact, the only sounds during the meal were the clink of forks against china, and the occasional murmur of conversation. Gram prepared and served all the food herself, and never sat down until everything was on the table.

There was turkey, of course, with mounds of moist bread stuffing, redolent of Bell’s Seasoning, and Gram’s incomparable dark brown gravy. There were vegetables -- white, fluffy mashed potatoes, well-peppered golden winter squash, boiled onions, and tender green peas. There was cranberry sauce, both the jellied and the whole-berry types, both referred to by Gram as “cranberry jelly”, and often there was cranberry-orange relish as well. Always, there was a huge tossed salad with Gram’s favorite, Wish-Bone Italian dressing. There were home-baked rolls that exuded a marvelous, yeasty aroma. And sometimes, in keeping with Gram’s love affair with convenience foods (understand this is a lady who once cooked in lumber camps, and you’ll know why!) there were Pillsbury butterflake rolls! What fun it was to pull them apart and eat them layer by layer -- at least, it was fun unless my dad happened to notice, at which time I would be scolded for playing with my food. (There were some benefits to being relegated to the little kids’ table in the kitchen!)

After all this, the desserts were a bit of an anticlimax: apple, custard, and pumpkin pies, and hot, sweet Indian pudding that never tasted quite as wonderful as it smelled.

Even after consuming all that food, most of us were not uncomfortably full. (My cousin Kevin was the exception. He invariably ended up on the living room couch clutching his stomach.) And, as everyone rallied around to clear the table and help with the dishes, there seemed to be a spirit of family closeness and good will that was rarely felt at any other time. Maybe -- just maybe -- the magic of Thanksgiving at Gram’s worked on grownups just as well as it did on children! 

Memories of past Thanksgivings always include thoughts of the days when we hosted Mr. T's large family here, with 20 to 30 people attending.  We borrowed folding chairs and tables from our church and set them up in the living room, and served the food buffet-style in the dining room.  People were quite literally everywhere, and there was so much food that we had to keep the pies on the porch until dessert time.  After the main meal was finished, we packaged up the leftovers, washed the dishes,  and cleared off the table neatly and then, weather permitting, we all took a walk, usually a couple of miles.  (This always reminded Mr. T and his siblings of their childhood Thanksgivings, when they would run laps around the house [outdoors] and jump in the haymow to make room for pie.)

After we got back from our walk, we would reload the table with desserts so people could help themselves.  Someone always brought games along, and some folks would play games while waiting for dessert.  Jenga was always a favorite!  After dessert, usually more games before folks packed up to head home.

Then the real damage control would begin as we cleaned and folded up the tables and chairs, gathered cups from window sills and other horizontal surfaces, and vacuumed the floors, which had taken a beating.  Many years, our own family would then head over to our friends' home for an evening of pie and games.  It was a relaxing time after the busyness of the day!

I could go on and on with nostalgia -- the Thanksgiving break when my daughter's dear friend Emily was with us; the time when we all tramped through our back woods to collect greenery for Christmas wreaths, the year we made the gingerbread house -- but I will stop for now.  Maybe next year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving help and inspiration

Every year I like to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes and traditions with my readers.  Usually I like to post these things earlier than just a few days before the big day.  However, some people do wait until the last minute to decide what they're serving, and others have been known to make last-minute deletions, substitutions, or additions to the menu at the last minute.  (I have been there.)  So here we go ... this is more or less a repost of last year, with a few additions.
I posted the following in 2012, and it includes a lot of the same links I'm sharing today, but it might be helpful to someone:  A Gathering of Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes.

For pies, which are the most intimidating part of the meal for many people, I offer these Helpful Tips for Thanksgiving Pies.  If pie crust intimidates you (as it does many others), then don't stress about it.  I give you a recipe for an easy oil pastry, but if you don't want to go that route, then the sheets of refrigerated pie crust one can buy (I've even seen them in store brands!) work very well.  You can even buy frozen pie shells that aren't half bad.  Or if you just don't want to make pies, you can buy some very nice pies from bakeries that specialize in them.

Some of our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes are included in this post.  Maybe you will find a new family favorite!

But what if you are avoiding wheat, or a family member who'll be at your table is eating gluten free?  No worries.  This Gluten Free Pie Crust is easy to make and very good.  It's a simple press-in-pan crust and so it really won't work for a double crust pie.  But anyone who has lived without wheat for any length of time will be so happy to have a pie they can eat that they won't care if it's just a single crust pie.  It works perfectly for pumpkin pie, for example.

Probably the next most intimidating part of the meal is the turkey itself.  If you have, or are buying a frozen turkey, the rule of thumb for thawing it is to allow 24 hours in the fridge for each 5 pounds of the turkey's weight.  I find this not quite enough, so allowing an extra day would be my advice.  Invariably if I follow that rule of thumb, the giblets are still frozen in place.  Last year I bought my frozen turkey (21 pounds) on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and put it right into the fridge to start thawing.

Cooking it in an oven bag is my best advice on roasting a turkey.  It shortens the time considerably and produces tender, juicy meat.
From my Autumn in the Air booklet (Cracker Barrel, 2001)
For years, I stressed about gravy.  People love it and expect it, but making it at the last minute can be very stressful.  Usually there are other people in the kitchen, helping out with other things, and that complicates matters (even though they are truly trying to help when they watch over your shoulder and give advice).  So for a few years I then turned to canned or jarred gravy, transferring it to a saucepan and removing the evidence of the cans and jars well ahead of the guests' arrival.  That was great, but I found the gravy packets made even better gravy.  And then finally, I found this recipe:  Easy Turkey Gravy.  It truly is easy and it makes lots and lots of gravy.  If you are feeding people who think there is never enough gravy, try this.  For once they will be satisfied and there may even be some gravy left to serve with the leftovers or to make hot turkey sandwiches.

Stuffing, too, can be a source of discouragement.  I usually use a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, prepare it with celery and onion as the package instructions suggest, and also add dried cranberries.  In my tips and recipes post ( the first link at top) I detail how I cook it in a slow cooker.  Just don't leave it in there for too long, as it will burn and dry out.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes are my go-to recipe for making mashed potatoes for a lot of people.  This year I was seriously thinking of using the Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, which are actually very good and are only $1 per packet, but my hubby won't let me because he loves the make-ahead mashed potatoes so much!

Sweet Potato Casserole is our family's favorite sweet potato recipe.  I've made it with canned sweet potatoes and it comes out just fine.

Broccoli Casserole is another great side dish that always goes over well.

I tend to skip serving rolls when there is so much other good food on the table, but if your family won't let you, then try these: Homemade Dinner Rolls.  They're a homemade crescent roll and are really delicious.

If your family insists on creamed onions (as mine does), here's the recipe I use:  Scalloped Onions.  It uses the frozen small onions.  Life is far too short to peel those little pearl onions.  I always buy the frozen (unsauced) ones and make my own sauce.

Cranberry sauce or relish can be purchased and is just fine.  If you want to make your own, try the Taste of Home site for some good recipes, or you may be able to find one here.

For a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings, you might like to read A Thanksgiving Memory for a little nostalgia.  By the way, that's my grandmother in the photo at top, and the recipe is for my great-grandmother's Date Cake, which was somewhat of a tradition at our holiday dinners.  It was served thickly frosted with white frosting and with walnut or pecan halves pressed into the frosting.

And if you enjoy vintage things, you might like to take a peek at this Children's Book of Thanksgiving Prayers.  This was actually sold as a greeting card, I believe. 

 Setting the Thanksgiving table is always an enjoyable task.  I've made a few Thanksgiving table toppers, hot mats, and so on.  These Thanksgiving Candle Mats always make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table!
Some years I bring out the cornucopia!
 For more Thanksgiving posts, click on the "Thanksgiving" label in the word cloud of labels in the right sidebar.  You may find some surprises I've forgotten about!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The quintessential Thanksgiving pie

Some years go, our family was introduced to this fabulous pie which looks and tastes like the essence of harvest time.  With apples, mincemeat, and fresh cranberries, it's the perfect pie for Thanksgiving, not to mention it's a tradition with some families and a bit of a vintage recipe to boot.  Originally it was a recipe clipped from an older Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

I shared this before, back in 2007, but I'm sure some of my current readers haven't seen it.  So here it is:


Pastry for 9-inch single crust pie
1/4 cup flour, divided use
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tblsp. butter
3 medium-tart apples, peeled, cored, cut in wedges
Mincemeat-Cranberry Filling:
1 9-ounce box condensed mincemeat
1 cup water
3 Tblsp. sugar
1 cup cranberries

Heat oven to 425º. Prepare 9-inch pie shell with high fluted edge. Sprinkle 2 Tblsp. flour over the crust. Combine remaining flour with sugar in a small bowl. Cut in butter; set aside.

For filling, crumble mincemeat into small saucepan. Add water and sugar; stir to combine. Bring to boiling; boil 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; remove from heat. Spread filling in bottom of pie shell. Arrange apple wedges in concentric circles over filling. Sprinkle reserved flour-sugar mixture over apples. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown.

This recipe is from my friend Jean and is just excellent. It just captures the essence of what a Thanksgiving pie should taste like.  It's a bit of a process to put together, but the work is simple.

Every year after Christmas (if not after Thanksgiving) those little boxes of condensed mincemeat end up in the clearance bin at our local grocery store.  I usually pick up a few when I see them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The week that was

A week without blogging.  Sigh.

What have I been doing that's taken so much time?  Life.  Just life.  As a friend of ours used to say, "That's life in the breakdown lane." 

So let's see if I can break it down:
*Enjoyed a Dunkin' Donuts date with my hubby.  Those Boston Cream croissant donuts?  Dangerous!

*Spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen.  Made 3 types of cookies to take to a cookie swap at the library; froze them.  More about this later, but here's one of the kinds I made:

Date-Nut Confections

* Spent the afternoon in the kitchen cooking and baking for Sunday's harvest dinner to celebrate our church's 36th anniversary.  Here's what I brought:
 Scalloped Onions
Buttercup Squash and Apple Bake
and also a mince-apple-cranberry pie for which I hope to share the recipe soon.
* Listened to a nail-biter of a high school football playoff game as I cooked.  My team won!
* That evening, went to celebrate a two-year-old's birthday with my daughter, son-in-law, and family.

One of our gifts to our little granddaughter was this:
An Owl Hot Pack which had been requested since the 2-year-old keeps borrowing her older siblings' owls.

* Enjoyed a great day of Sunday School, morning worship service, harvest dinner, and an afternoon service which included a presentation by our Patch the Pirate Club.
* Visited my dad at the nursing home.

* Did loads of laundry and other housework.
* Went to the dentist for a cleaning
* Crushed peppermints, made frosting and frosted these cookies:
Peppermint Meltaway Cookies for a cookie swap that night.
Photo from Taste of Home
 * Reheated wonderful harvest dinner leftovers for supper.
* Attended cookie swap.  My peppermint cookies were a big hit.  I'll blog about them in my Christmas kitchen, hopefully soon.

* Housework, etc.
* Put supper in the slow cooker.
* Made a 3-bean salad for supper.
* Went to Dollar Tree to find more items for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes
* Went for a walk with a friend.
* Had a nice phone chat with my daughter in Nevada.
* Made 2 more of the little owls -- stuffed them with fiberfill to use as little stuffed animals for the shoeboxes.
  * Packed two shoeboxes.

* Went for a walk with a friend.
* Worked on my Sunday School lesson.
* Planned the week's menus
* Made my grocery list.
* Housework, laundry, etc.
* Attended midweek prayer service at church.

 * Put soup in slow cooker.
* Did grocery shopping.
* Drove to the nursing home (an hour each way)
* Attended family support group.
* Started work on another stuffed owl.
* Housework, laundry, etc.
* Paid my dad's bills.
* Baked biscuits for supper.
* Shopped at Walmart in evening.

... And those are just the highlights, if you will.  There was plenty else going on!
That brings us to today, and I finally get to post here.  So thankful!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Maple-Drizzled Apple Muffins

Photo from Taste of Home
This is one of those recipes I thought I had blogged about some time ago.  Since I haven't, and since apples are abundant right now, this seems like the perfect time.

I would never really have thought about making maple-apple muffins.  It's a nice flavor combination but just not one I would necessarily have thought about in a muffin.  Then one time when we were visiting family in Elko, Nevada, we stopped in, as we often do, at Sierra Java, a favorite coffee shop.  I can no longer remember if someone recommended the maple apple muffins or if we just thought they sounded good, but that's what we ordered with our coffee.

What a wonderful flavor those muffins had!  Before leaving town, we actually bought a plastic box so we could pack a half dozen or so muffins to take home on the plane with us!  They fit nicely in a carry-on that we placed under the seat in front of us.  When we got home we froze the muffins and doled them out one at a time for as long as they lasted.

I knew the muffins had been purchased at Costco, so there would be no getting the recipe from the coffee shop.  I eventually went on line and I may have done a search for "maple apple muffins like at Costco".  It was so long ago I can't even remember.  But this is the recipe I ended up with: Maple-Drizzled Apple Muffins.  I made them and we did like them a lot.  The flavor was not exactly like the coffee shop muffins, but very, very close -- plenty close enough for us!

Then I sort of filed the recipe away and forgot about it.  Last weekend I was going through some recipes and this one came to the surface again.  I baked the muffins to enjoy for the weekend and they were so good, I thought others might enjoy them too.  I should add that this time, I skipped the maple drizzle

and the muffins were delicious without it.  But other bakers must do as they think best!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Meatless Moussaka

In the "better late than never" category, I am posting this recipe!

Some years ago, I often participated in the Menu Plan Monday linkup at I’m an Organizing Junkie.  Over the years, I've continued to plan menus, but have gotten away from taking the time to link up and post my menus.  Maybe I need to get back to that!

Anyway, back in 2008 I had Meatless Moussaka on my menu plan at some point.  And one of my readers, Kelli, had asked if I could tell her more about that dish.  Yesterday, I was searching for something on my blog and up popped that menu plan, along with Kelli's comment.  You can imagine that my face was red!

I have no idea if Kelli is still interested in this dish, but I will post the recipe now for her and/or anyone else who might be interested.  It's the recipe I go to whenever eggplant is available at a good price.

If you already have a moussaka recipe you like, here's how to make it meatless. Omit the meat, obviously. Then make a mixture of 1 beaten egg, 1 cup cottage cheese, and 2 T. Parmesan cheese. In your 13x9 pan place half the sauce and half the prepared eggplant. Spread all of this cheese mixture over the eggplant. Then on top of cheese mixture, place the remaining prepared eggplant and then the remaining sauce, sprinkling between layers with additional Parmesan cheese. Bake as your recipe directs.

If you do not have a moussaka recipe or just want to try mine, here you go:
1 large eggplant, pared and cut into 1/2 inch slices (I often cut the eggplant slices in half or quarters, depending on how large they are)
Olive oil for brushing eggplant
Salt and pepper
1 jar spaghetti sauce -- you need about 2 1/3 cups (or, if you prefer to make your own sauce, see below)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
2 T. Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

So, preheat your oven to broil.  Then place the eggplant slices on a cookie sheet and brush them with olive oil.   Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Broil the slices for 5 minutes.  Then turn them over, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Broil 5 minutes more.

Turn oven heat to 350º.  In a 9-inch square baking dish, place half the spaghetti sauce.  Layer in half the eggplant.  Mix the egg and cheeses together and spread over the eggplant.  Sprinkle on additional Parmesan cheese.  Layer remaining eggplant on top and spread remaining sauce over eggplant.  Sprinkle generously with Parmesan and bake for 40 minutes.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

(To make your own sauce, saute' 1 chopped onion and 1 minced clove of garlic in olive oil in a skillet.  When tender, add 2 cups tomato sauce (16 ounces) plus a 6-ounce can of tomato paste.  Add 1/2 tsp. oregano and 1 T. chopped fresh parsley if you have it.  Heat to a simmer, then remove from heat and proceed with moussaka recipe as directed.)

* This recipe makes a 9-inch square baking dish of moussaka.  If you need a larger quantity, just double the recipe and use a 13x9-inch pan.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day 2016

There's not a lot left to say, other than, "Please Vote!"  It's your right, your privilege, and your responsibility as a citizen.  If you have not yet voted (or even if you're thinking about not voting!), you will be encouraged by these Six words to remember in the voting booth.  Please do check these out.  They don't tell you who to vote for, just some important principles to remember.

So if you haven't yet, prayerfully cast your ballot and then leave the outcome in God's all-powerful hands.

(The beautiful graphic at the top is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings, who has generously shared it with her readers.  Thank you, Abby!)

Monday, November 07, 2016

A closer look at the "bittersweet tree"

Last week I shared an update on our local bittersweet and also showed a picture of what appeared to be a bittersweet tree.  On Friday I took the camera (the other pictures had been taken with my Kindle) and went back for a closer look.  It continues to look like a bittersweet tree, but I now think that it isn't.

Two blog friends weighed in on this phenomenon and I think they are both right.  Vee noted, "I didn't know that there could be such a thing as a bittersweet tree."  I believe she's right about that.  Bernideen offered this explanation: "It is a vine and probably grew up into the tree."  And I think she's right, too.

This article explains a lot about bittersweet: Bittersweet: Friend or Foe?, and this one: American Bittersweet vs. Invasive Oriental Vines is even more informative.

Here are a few more pictures of the tree (or trees):

A closer look.  See the vines?
At the base of the tree -- more vines and bittersweet.  But I wonder about those darker red berries at the left, right  up next to the tree trunk.  They look like something completely different!
So I believe the "bittersweet tree" was an optical illusion.  It's undoubtedly a bittersweet vine that grew up into the tree just as Bernideen said.  Since the trees it is in are not mine and don't look too valuable anyway, I will just enjoy the autumnal show.

Friday, November 04, 2016

A fowl tip

Photo from Pixabay
 ... on preparing cooked chicken for the freezer.

Our local supermarket will often feature boneless chicken breasts for $1.69/lb.   I nearly always buy a large package or two to freeze.  I most often freeze them individually, wrapped in plastic, and this works out well for using however many I want for a particular meal.

This summer, though, I tried a recipe for Basic Mexican Chicken from a Gooseberry Patch slow cooker cookbook, Slow Cooking All Year Round.  I got this book for free because my recipe for slow cooker "rotisserie" chicken was published in it.

Here's what you do:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg, taco seasoning mix*
16-ounce jar salsa

Place chicken in slow cooker; sprinkle with taco seasoning.   Pour salsa over top; do not stir.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred chicken with 2 forks; mix well with sauce in slow cooker.  Serves 6 to 8.

Julie Saifullah, the lady who shared the recipe, wrote, "I make this chicken often because it is so versatile.  You can use it to make all kinds of Mexican dishes, like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, rice bowls, nachos, or even chicken tortilla soup!"

This recipe is indeed so versatile, as I found when I tried it for myself.  From there it was a short step to thinking about freezing the cooked chicken.  I made the recipe again next time chicken was on sale, and packaged meal-sized portions of the Mexican-flavored chicken in quart-size ziplock bags.  It proved to be very handy to just pull out a package of cooked chicken to get a start on a soup or casserole.

So recently chicken was on sale again
Photo from Pixabay
and I found myself thinking about this a little more.  If Mexican-flavored cooked chicken in the freezer was so helpful, why not other flavors?

So I bought two large trays of chicken and cooked one tray with more of an Italian flavor.  I put a little olive oil in the bottom of the crock and between the layers.  I also made up a dry Italian salad dressing mix* -- a double batch, because this is a lot of chicken to season! -- and sprinkled that between the layers of chicken.  I cooked it for about 4 hours at high.  When it cooled a bit, I cut it up in cubes and again froze meal-size quantities in quart-size ziplock bags.

The next day I cooked the other tray.  I wanted this one to have more of a rotisserie chicken flavor, so I drizzled in a bit of olive oil and sprinkled the layers of chicken very generously with Montreal Chicken seasoning.  Again I cooked it about 4 hours at high and packaged it the same way.  Of course I labeled the various flavors accordingly -- Mexican, Italian, or seasoned.

(I should add that the Mexican chicken recipe, because of the salsa, comes out with a more "soupy" consistency, but I just divided the liquid among the freezer bags of chicken.  It's been fine in the recipes I've tried it in.  But if I wanted it less liquid-y, I would just drizzle the chicken with some olive oil, sprinkle with the taco seasoning, and cook it without the salsa.)

I am looking forward to having these "meal starters" at the ready in my freezer for busy days!

There are several pluses to cooking this chicken in the slow cooker which I thought I would mention.  First, of course, is that it cooks while you are doing other things.  A huge plus in my book!  And then there is the fact that several cups of nicely seasoned broth are also produced with this cooking method.  You just strain it into a clean container (I use a recycled quart-size yogurt container) and put it in fridge or (for longer storage) freezer.  Next time you need chicken broth, it's there!

And then, a very important plus is that you don't need to trim the fat off the chicken breasts before cooking.  Most of it melts into the broth (which isn't an issue because you are going to chill the strained broth and can then lift the layer of fat off the top).  What small bits of fat remain on the cooked chicken, you can easily trim off with kitchen shears and you won't have wasted a lot of meat as can often happen when trying to remove fat from raw chicken.

And also:  * My recipes for taco seasoning mix and Italian dressing mix may be found in this older post: Saving Money in the Kitchen.*

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

November's bittersweet update

Yesterday the weather was pretty nice, but today is absolutely gorgeous.  Not bright blue weather, just a hazy pale blue sky, but the temps are warm (over 60º) and it is just a mild, nice November day.  Perfect for raking leaves or other outdoor pursuits.

Just yesterday I went and checked on the bittersweet growing near my dad's house.  (In retrospect, it would have been even nicer to do it today, but today has been filled with other tasks.)

Showing some of the background -- road, field, brook.
And then, glancing across the street,  I noticed what appeared to be a bittersweet tree.  The Kindle photos are not the greatest, (a bit blurry) but you get the idea!
At first I thought maybe the bittersweet had just taken over the tree.  Nope.  It appears to be a bittersweet tree.
And that is the bittersweet report for November 2!  Time to cut some of it for decorating...

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

November goals

Here are my goals for November:

* Write out a passage from God's Word each day.
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Continue study for Sunday School -- Following God With All Your Heart
* Exercise or walk at least 20 times.
* Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night. 
* Limit sugar and red meat.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week.
* Post in both blogs as often as possible
 * Finish gifts for November birthdays
* Create gifts for December birthdays
* Start baking and freezing Christmas cookies
* Take part in a cookie swap
* Celebrate our church's 36th anniversary with a harvest dinner
* Finalize the Christmas gift list and finish shopping
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
* Make plans (and carry them out) for celebrating Thanksgiving
* Continue trying to help and encourage my elderly dad
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house

NOVEMBER'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully


And here's how October went:
* Write out a passage from God's Word each day -- DONE!
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- DONE!
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- I didn't get four done, maybe two or three.  Since I am writing out Scripture each day, I will suspend this goal until the new year.
* Continue study for Sunday School -- Following God With All Your Heart -- DONE!
* Exercise or walk at least 20 times -- maybe 15 times; most were not long walks.
* Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night -- accomplished this for about half the month, I'd say. 
* Limit sugar and red meat -- -- DONE! for the red meat, not doing as well with sugar.
* Drink enough water each day -- this habit definitely needs work.
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week -- not kept up with very well, but things are getting done.
* Post in this blog every day and in my Christmas blog as often as possible  -- DONE!
 * Plan and create gifts for November birthdays -- all were planned, but only one completed.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- DONE!
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able -- not as much as I'd have liked to.
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal -- DONE!
* Attend a couples' retreat -- DONE!
* Continue trying to help and encourage my elderly dad -- DONE!
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house -- still working at this project.

OCTOBER'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully -- these still need work so I'm setting the same goal for healthy habits in November.