From My Kitchen: January 2022

Winter means comfort food, am I right? We have been doing what we can to eat lighter. In the past I would have made dishes such as Steak & Gravy or something that pairs well with mashed potatoes. Below are a couple of new things I tried this month.

I've had a recipe for Overnight Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Banana for a while...actually, for years. CH is trying to eat things that don't have a chance to upset his stomach and I thought this might work. I don't have a picture because who can take a picture of oatmeal so it looks appetizing? Definitely not me. Anyway, the recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg. I'm not sure if that would have made a difference. I was a bit disappointed with this recipe; I just didn't think there was a lot of taste to it.  I added brown sugar to my bowl before I ate it; it helped but not much. I didn't think it had a lot of banana taste to it even though I added an extra banana to the slow cooker the night before. So, this recipe is going in the trash.

Stuffed Pepper soup on the stove with a soup ladle in it

Who else likes soup in the winter? A link to this Stuffed Pepper Soup Recipe was in an email I received from Six Sisters Stuff. If you haven't ever visited their site, they have some amazing recipes. I cut the recipe in half which is easy to do before you print it out...just change the number of servings right on the page. Easy peasy!
I've made stuffed peppers a few times. If I had realized how good they are and how easy it is to make, I would have made them when the boys were growing up. When I saw this recipe I was all in. I used mild Italian sausage instead of ground beef and steak seasoning sauce instead of Worcestershire (because there was none in the fridge). The only thing I would do differently next time is add an additional bell pepper. This recipe will stay on my rotation. I had some for lunch the next day and it was still excellent. 

School closures mean baking. Who doesn't love to bake when schools are closed and the snow is falling? I found this recipe for Bread Machine-Banana Bread and decided to give it a try. The recipe was as easy as putting the ingredients in the bread machine. No mixing was involved. The only prep was mashing the bananas and lightly beating the eggs. My kitchen smelled heavenly with the smell of banana bread baking at the end of the cycle. There is a comment in the post about the ingredients not mixing all the way but the tips give a couple of suggestions: 1) to scrape the sides after the first mixing cycle has stopped, and 2) premix the ingredients before putting them in the bread machine. 
Well, I know what to do next time, don't I? Oh, yes...there will be a next time!
I completely missed the end of the first mixing cycle, hence the nuts on the top and not throughout the bread.
The only thing I did differently was to add some cinnamon. I thought it turned out great and the taste was very good. This will be a perfect way to make banana bread in the summer since it doesn't require turning on the oven!

If you read my Wednesday Hodgepodge where I hinted about a recipe for Danish Pancakes, sorry to disappoint. I didn't have a decent picture so I'll have to make them again for next month's From My Kitchen.  

Let me know in the comments if you've tried any new recipes. Were they flops or keepers?

The King Cake Saga Continues

I had my first King Cake when we lived in South Carolina. A couple that was in our Supper Club was from Louisiana and their contribution to dinner was a King Cake. Oh my, was it ever good! I kind of forgot it after that until MS lived in LA. I think one year I ordered so many the delivery man questioned me about it! 

Last year I wrote about my disappointment with a local bakery's King Cake. I still can't get over it, even a year later. I'm not sure if the bakery is still open; they do have amazing cookies. But, I wasn't going to be taken again this year. I went online for our favorite place to buy King Cake, and...SOLD OUT! Whaaaat? It's only January!! They shouldn't be sold out already! But sold out they were. I did some Google Searches and found a bakery in Picayune, Mississippi that claims to be the "Home of the Original Cream Cheese King Cake". So I took a chance. 

The difference in this King Cake was that it was shipped without the icing and decorations already on it. It was included in the box with simple directions.
Undecorated King Cake
Decorating it was easy. This is just my opinion, but they should double the icing and half the decorations. Not that we need all that sugar anyway, but I'm just saying! Here's how much of the sugar and almonds I had left:
I didn't use very much sugar because the icing didn't cover the whole cake. The finished product:
See? Not enough icing and I spread it as thin as I could. I don't know if the colors are supposed to be in a certain order; if so, I definitely messed that up.

The taste was really good. CH said this one tasted more like a bagel whereas the ones we've had from the other place were more like a pastry. I'm a cream cheese lover, but I think there's too much. But it IS really good! I guess once you've had one from the Original, everything else is chopped liver.

I'm going to put a reminder in my calendar for next December to check the website every day so we can get the best. I'm still shaking my head that they're sold out already. 

Joy in the Hodgepodge


Joyce asks the questions; we provide the answers. Check out what others said at From This Side of the Pond.

1. It's National Popcorn Day-my favorite! Are you a fan? Sweet or salty? A good or great movie you've seen recently (at home or in a theater, either one)? 

I'm definitely a salty popcorn person. I don't watch very many movies; I'm more of a series kind of girl. The last movie we watched was "Don't Look Up". A little weird, a little funny. Definitely not my favorite.

2. What's something you didn't realize was going to take so much of your time as an adult? 

Working. Although CH would say I don't have to do much of it since I work for a school system. The actual working isn't what takes up the time, it's the prepping for work that takes time.

3. Your favorite yellow something? 

4. Why do you write? 

Writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me get things off my chest. Whether or not anyone cares is another thing!

5. Share a favorite memory associated with snow.

I grew up across the street from the park where I walk every day. There's a hill directly across the street, and when it snowed we were allowed to go there (unsupervised) to sled. I don't know if this happened every time it snowed, but Mama would have hot chocolate (the real kind...heating milk on the stove) ready for us when we came in. We'd kick our snow boots off in the basement hallway & come up for a mug of hot chocolate.
I found a few pictures of this snow and some of my siblings sledding. I'm between both of these brothers in age, but I couldn't find a picture of me sledding so I wonder where I was. I did find these other 2 adorable pictures:
These are my 2 younger brothers.
This is my sister who is 18 months older than me. I wonder where I was! 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Since I live in the Tennessee Valley, we didn't get as much snow as some other places in the area did. It was still pretty. This is the 2nd snow we've had this year when the snow has stayed on the trees. Here are some pictures from my walk:

Magnolias in the snow. {sigh} Does it get more southern than that?

My breakfast view the day after the snow. It's rare when snow sticks around for more than 1 day. 

A Timely Hodgepodge

Joyce asks the questions; we provide the answers. Check out what others said at From This Side of the Pond.

1. What do you wish you'd done more of last year? Less of? 

More: Laughed; Less: Worried

2. What's the tallest building you've ever been in? Do you have a fear of heights? 

I was able to go to the top of the World Trade Center in the 80's when I was a guard instructor for a high school band. They marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade one year.
At times I have a healthy fear of heights. I was able to walk the path at The Cliffs of Moher without getting freaked out.  I wasn't brave enough to do what I saw these 2 men do, though:

3. Do you have a word for the year? Elaborate if you'd like to elaborate. 

I do: Strength. The word came to me several times in 1 day so I knew that was it. I pray for God to give me strength through this year. I also need the strength to let people around me know when I need to draw strength from them.

4. January 11 is National Milk Day...are you a milk drinker? What kind? Your favorite recipe that calls for milk (cereal doesn't count)? 

I used to be a huge milk drinker. We drink whole milk in this house, which is why I don't drink much anymore. Favorite recipe? I'm drawing a blank for any recipe that calls for milk except for Danish Pancakes. More on that in early February! 😉

5. What excites you most about the future? What do you miss about the past? 

In all honesty, the future is a little scary. I'm just taking things day by day and not thinking too far ahead. If I had to say 1 thing, I'd say retirement. I miss being able to call my mom on the phone and talk to her.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I'm getting back in the swing of things after being off for the holidays and then having 3 days off last week due to the weather. I can't believe it's only feels like it should be next week already! But summer will be here before I know it.

Show Us Your Books-January 2022

Last year I read 23 books, which isn't too bad considering that most of them were read between October and January. I read 5 just in December, so I don't think I've done too badly. 

This book is another book in the Lowcountry Summer Series. First off, I love the Lowcountry. While a lot of families visit the Myrtle Beach area, we prefer the Charleston area, so there was an immediate connection. I haven't spent any amount of time on Sullivan's Island, though. Back to the book...This series is about 3 half-sisters who are reunited at Seabreeze, their grandmother's home on Sullivan's Island. Marietta (the grandmother) has decided to sell the home and move to a retirement home. She devises a plan to get all of the girls back for a month. They spent summers together until the girls reached their teen years and had other summer interests. Now they're grown up and haven't been in contact with each other in years. The month turned into a summer and the summer is coming to a close. This is the 3rd book in the series and I had to know how the summer was going to end. I really enjoyed this book.

I usually really enjoy Nicholas Sparks' books, but this one rubbed me wrong from the beginning. As a Speech/Language Pathologist, I almost put the book down after the first couple of chapters because I felt like he didn't research enough. If you're going to have a child whose language is delayed in your book, I expect research to be done. I kept reading, though, thinking he may redeem himself. (He didn't.) The storyline was very predictable; no surprises at all. I was just really disappointed in this book. 

This book was a very nice surprise. I found it through an ad for the top 10 books of 2021. Knowing very little about Indian culture but enjoying learning about other cultures, I found this book to be really interesting. The book briefly deals with what it's like to try to assimilate to another culture (the main character moved to the US from India as a young child) and never really feels like she fits in. When the family travels to India for a cousin's wedding, she has no plans to join them. An accident changes her plan (and her life). 
Another nice surprise from the same list. I'm not into plants or gardens, so I wasn't sure how I would feel about this. This book has 3 main characters from 3 different eras. It took me a while to keep everyone straight, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the historical aspect, and there was a bit of romance and scandal. I've added more of Julia Kelly's books to my list.

Yep. This is the 4th installment of the Lowcountry Summer Series. I started reading this one on New Year's Eve and almost finished it before midnight. I counted it for December because I came this close to finishing it. I had a pretty good idea who was getting married. An additional character was introduced; at first, I thought the chapter introducing him was strange but it all came together rather quickly. There was a huge clue that I completely missed as I looked back on it. There's 1 more book in this series and then I'll have to start Mary Alice Monroe's Beach House Series.

I guess you can tell that a book has to be really, really bad for me to give less than 3 stars. *sigh* I'm joining up with Jana & Steph for Show Us Your Books. Click on the image below to see what everybody read last month.

Life According to Steph

The Perfect No-Stress Holiday


As I read back over last year's first post, I had to laugh. I wrote about last Christmas being stress-free, but this year definitely wins...hands down! Last Christmas came as close to being perfect as it could ever be, so I decided not to compete with it. OS is living across the country (again), YS moved out, and MS is now living with us. Still no grandkids (I've now lost hope on that ever happening) and the boys have each said they don't like Christmas. On the gifts to worry about! 😀 Seriously. I didn't step foot in a store except for a grocery store the whole break. What could be less stressful than that?

Truth be told, I still can't "get into" Christmas like I used to. It's been 7 Christmases since my mom passed, and I'm still grieving during that holiday. And on top of all that, can I just say that 2021 just sucked for my family? As in, the worst year ever

I did very little baking (mostly only as gifts for my neighbor and church personnel) and even less decorating. I couldn't face putting up my big tree; besides that, some of the lights are broken, others aren't working, and it just looks sad. I ended up buying a prelit $20 3 feet tree and a smaller prelit tabletop tree, putting up my childhood creche, and calling it quits. 

This tree holds ornaments that I picked up while on vacations over the past 10 years. It started when we used to go to The Keys between Christmas & New Year's.
This little tree holds my Danish ornaments (and 1 Irish ornament).
I bought a few things for CH, he bought a couple of things for me, and we were done. We had a very scaled-down Christmas Eve Dinner with MS and YS' GF (YS had to work); we didn't even eat in the dining room. 
We usually have a big Christmas Day Brunch, but since YS had to work that evening, we decided to put it off until the 26th. I made cinnamon rolls and we just kind of grazed after Mass. After Sunday Mass, I got everything ready for brunch. YS & his GF were 30 minutes late, but was I stressed? Heck, no!
(The mimosas may have helped some!)
I didn't even put up my Christmas carousel this year. I pulled it up from the basement but then decided to heck with it. No stress.

We usually go camping between Christmas and New Year's but CH had a chemo treatment on Tuesday so we weren't able to go anywhere. But you know what? It was nice being at home for NYE. I cleaned out a lot of the house and got rid of a bunch of stuff. I watched movies, cleaned the house, read, and took Gurl Dogg on daily walks. It made me wish I was already retired! 

But I'm not. My school district had an administration day scheduled for Monday with the kids returning on Tuesday. After 2 weeks of unseasonable warm temperatures, we had snow Monday morning! It wasn't much and it started melting before 10:00 a.m. but it was nice to not have to get out of the house. Having a bonus day for blogging was nice, too!

For the Birds Hodgepodge

Time for a post-holiday Hodgepodge! Joyce asks the questions; we provide the answers. Check out what others said at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Share one happy moment/memory from the holiday season. 
I really had to think about this one. As with most all of the Christmases since my mom passed, I just couldn't get into the holiday cheer. It was just a very different holiday. I did enjoy waking up without the aid of an alarm clock and doing a lot of cleaning in the house. Plus, the warm weather made it feel more like spring break than Christmas Break.

2. Let's be reasonable with our expectations going into this new year, k? What is one thing you'd like to accomplish/improve/complete/do in 2022? 
I really want to get back to my blog(s). 

3. Every January 1st (since 1976) Lake Superior University has published a list of words they'd like to see banished from the Queen's English. Words may be banished due to misuse, overuse or just general uselessness (go here to read more about how the words are chosen). Here are the words/phrases they'd like to see banished in 2022-
wait, what?-no worries-at the end of the day-that being said-asking for a friend-circle back-deep dive-a new normal-you're on mute-supply chain
  • Which of these words/phrases do you use regularly? I don't say any of these regularly, but when I write I notice that I say "that being said" sometimes.
  •  Which of these words would you most like to see banished from everyday speech and why? None of them bother me. Maybe "asking for a friend". Put your big girl panties on and own up to it! 
  •  Is there a word/phrase not on the list you'd like to add? Nope.
4. Best thing you ate in the month of December? 
I don't recall eating anything that was just over the top spectacular. I did have an exceptional drink: Frangelico and Five Farms Irish Cream (I'll never buy any other kind of Irish Cream again!), also called a "Nutty Irishman". 

5. January 5th is National Bird Day. Are you a bird lover? What's your favorite bird to see in the wild? Choose a phrase from the list that follows and tell us how it relates to your life like a bird, bird's eye view, early bird, bird-brained, free as a bird, a little bird told me, or kill two birds with one stone.
I love to sit and watch the birds! We have several bird feeders in the backyard and the side yard. My favorite is a toss-up between a cardinal and a woodpecker. I've seen 2 different kinds of woodpeckers around here: a downy woodpecker and a red-bellied woodpecker (whose belly isn't red). They're just fascinating to watch! Hawks are pretty awesome, too. A couple of days ago a huge hawk flew out of a tree that I was fairly close to. They are amazing.
"Early bird": I'm definitely a morning person. I like to get up early and get the day going. The downside is that I'm usually ready for bed by around 8:30!

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
Did you catch my post from earlier this week where I talked about a cookie recipe? I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was the best thing I ate in December, but it did rank up there!
Also, catch my holiday post on Friday. 

From My Kitchen: December 2021

December means Christmas, so of course, this post is going to include be about a sweet recipe. I seriously scaled down my baking and candy-making this year. I only made 1 batch of Texas Millionaires and that was for my next-door neighbor who supplies pecans for the purpose of being gifted a batch. I made a couple of batches of Eggnog Bread, with gluten this year and an Apple Cake for Christmas Eve Dessert. A couple of days before Christmas, I had a craving for bakery cookies. The problem is, there is no bakery in the Small Town. There used to be one that had amazing cookies (but the King Cake was a huge disappointment) but every time I've driven by it appears to be closed. 

I have a huge problem with cut-out sugar cookies. I can never roll the dough out evenly and I can't tell how thick it's supposed to be. I found a recipe a few years ago that I used to make cookies for the goody bags for my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary, but they aren't "bakery cookies". They are really good, but not what I was looking for. 

A search for "bakery sugar cookies recipe" gave me exactly what I wanted. The Best Sugar Cookies really are! I used the trick that I outlined in the post about my in-laws' cookies, but I'll share it again:

2 craft sticks that are 1/4 inch are perfect. Just lay 2 down and put the dough in between, cover with parchment paper, and put the rolling pin on the sticks.
Then roll away and you have dough that is the perfect thickness. And it's even! Well, as long as the rolling pin doesn't slip or you have too much dough for the length of the sticks. I halved the dough and then rolled, so it worked well. 
If you try these cookies, make sure you follow the steps exactly. The main thing is to roll out the dough, then refrigerate. I think I only messed up 1 cookie after cutting it out, and it was because I wasn't sure which of my cookie cutters to use. After that, it was clear sailing. I put rum flavoring in this batch but I couldn't really taste it. 
The finished product:
The icing part of the recipe says to omit the vanilla flavoring for "stark white" frosting, but I put it in and the cookies were still "stark white" in my opinion. 

The cookies were such a hit that I made another batch for New Year's Eve. For this batch, I put in maple flavoring and they were delicious. I could definitely taste the difference between the ones I made the week before. While not many comments were made on the Christmas cookies, MS & YS and YS' GF all raved about how good these were. 
The New Year's Cookies:
Only 1 cookie made it past midnight! 
These cookies were so easy to make, they just took a little bit of time since the dough needs to stay in the fridge for a minimum of 1-2 hours. I kept mine in for 2 hours which was perfect. I used the "easy cookie frosting" because, well, it was definitely easier and I didn't want a "fail" on the cookies! The frosting dried in a couple of hours although the recipe says they take around 24. 

Do you have a go-to cookie recipe? If so, is it easy and quick or time-consuming?

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