Friday, October 30, 2015

Baked Bean Soup


When the chill North winds starts to blow over the mountains here in Tennessee bringing frosty mornings as the leaves change color and begin to fall, my taste buds always start yearning for the comfort of warm homemade soup.  Autumn is a busy time of the year finishing harvesting the last of the fresh veggies to put up and store, cleaning out garden beds, and layering straw in the hen-house. I also switch over to flannel sheets, washing, and hanging out all the bed comforters on the line during the remaining warm sunny days. Like the squirrels outside who scamper around storing up the last of the acorns, I find myself racing to complete my list of chores inside and out while the weather lasts before the holidays begin. Often dropping and fluctuating temperatures flare up my bones without warning sidelining me beside the cozy warmth of my wood-stove for a day. This time of the year I cannot afford spending hours in my kitchen.  Instead I fall back on popping something in the oven while a kettle of soup simmers on the stove as I scurry about completing another task.

So when I spotted a recipe of Baked Bean Soup it jumped right out at me.  Baked beans are always a favorite of my husband and bring back the memory of hot summer cookout days when our children were small.  The Baked Bean Soup is filling- especially with a slice of homemade bread or toast- and yet quick to prepare. Also my Baked Bean Soup is something you can put in a Crock-pot and let simmer all day.  This recipe makes around thirty servings and is great the second time around.


5 (16 oz) cans of pork & beans
1 lb hamburger
1 (14.5 oz) can of tomato sauce
1 small onion chopped
1 c catsup
¼ c syrup
¼ c bacon bits
1 tb mustard

Brown the hamburger and onion.  Puree three cans of pork & beans and put all of the beans and tomato sauce with the hamburger.  Stir in the catsup, syrup, bacon bits, and mustard. Bring to a boil and let simmer for fifteen minutes. Garnish with bacon bits and serve!

Tip: You can also freeze any leftover soup as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Grape Sherbet


During the hot and humid (and often very dry) days of August garden work slows down outside but continues inside with canning.  It is while working over a hot stove and keeping jars filled to can that I am most thankful for central air.  Years ago when I was younger and my children small we had a large window unit to try and combat the summer heat that never could keep up with the canning season.  By the end of the day the last thing I wanted to do was cook supper after working at the sweltering stove all day so I’d often pack sandwiches and our family would head down to the nearby park to try and cool off.  Sometimes I would grill hot dogs or hamburgers for supper on our small grill in the front lawn under the largest tree- before grilling outdoors became fashionable- just to get out of the hot kitchen. Today with central air, I’ll take a break from canning in the afternoon indoors and enjoy an ice cream cone- something the younger generation takes for granted.  Growing up ice cream cones and homemade ice cream was a rare treat.

I’ve always loved the taste of sherbet fascinated by its rainbow array of colors and flavors.  To my dismay this summer I noticed that sherbet was nowhere to be found in the ice cream frozen section of the stores.  I don’t know if the demand for sherbet has decreased until the managers have decided not to stock it anymore or what. So I was quite delighted while organizing my pile of recipes to try one hot afternoon to discover an article and recipe on how to make sherbet. I couldn’t believe how simple sherbet is to prepare.  All it takes is fruit juice and a simple syrup water combination that you freeze together. I had just harvested and made grape juice earlier in the week and had some juice left over after make grape jelly.  Even though grape juice wasn’t listed in the fruits (I can’t imagine how it was left out considering all the fruits you’d first think of like strawberry, blueberry, orange etc they had grapefruit, watermelon, and even tea) I decide to make some Grape Sherbet.  My Grape Sherbet was absolutely delicious and turned out perfect.  Talk about a classy desert! Needless to say I am hooked on making sherbet.


2 c grape juice or any other fruit you desire that is pureed and chilled
2 c simple sugar syrup

Combine the juice and syrup together with a Wisk. To make sure the mixture has the right density drop an egg into the mixture (I washed the egg first) and submerge it completely.  If the egg floats to the top with only part of the shell showing about the size of a quarter the mixture is ready to freeze.  If the egg doesn’t float add more sugar syrup.  If too much egg is exposed add more juice.  Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze like you would ice cream.  The finished sherbet should be smooth and thick. Freeze 2 hrs or overnight before serving.

Tip:  To make a simple sugar syrup bring to a boil equal amounts of water and sugar (like 2 c of sugar and 2c of water) and then let cool!

Saturday, July 11, 2015



The older a person gets the more they become aware of how much they act and sound like their parents.  Often the things that drove us crazy about our mother or father, or embarrassed us as a teenager until we’d say, “I’m never going to do that,” comes back to haunt us in our adulthood when we find ourselves doing and saying the very thing we were positive we’d never do. I’ve discovered as a grandmother that the mannerism and habits we have inherited bring fond memories to cherish. One of my dad’s Dutch sayings when something went wrong or he got exasperated at something was- with a shake of his head, “If that isn’t the berries.”  Without realizing it (only to be brought to my attention by my one of the family members in amusement) I’ve found myself saying, “If that isn’t the berries,” myself.  Life has a way of bringing things in a full circle.  Hopefully one of these days my grand-kids will continue to carry on our Dutch family’s sayings.

This year for the 4th of July celebration, I made a special dessert I discovered while going through my pile of recipes to try and tweaked that was an instant hit with my family.  The month of July is always hot and humid and the last thing one wants to do is spend hours in the kitchen baking and cooking.  My luscious Fourth of July No-bake Cheesecake is a perfect dessert for summer with its light, cool, creamy, and fruity texture.  The colorful red, white, and blue Fourth of July No-bake Cheesecake will add the finale to your festivities all summer long. You can mix match fresh fruit to the Fourth of July No-bake Cheesecake. And finally, what cook can resist a no-fail dessert that only takes around fifteen minutes to prepare?


12 graham crackers crumbled (about 2 c)
4 pkg cream cheese
1 c sugar
1 (8 oz) cool whip
1 c fresh strawberries sliced
1 c blueberries

Put the crumbled graham crackers in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and cool whip until smooth. Fold in the strawberries and blueberries leaving a few for garnishing.  Pour over the graham cracker layer and chill for 4-6 hours until firm. Serves sixteen.

Tip:  Here is an excellent recipe for fruit toppings to use in multiple desserts. 2 c of fresh fruit, (blueberries, raspberries, etc.) ½ c sugar, 2 tb cornstarch, and 1 c water. Bring to a boil the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Add the fruit and cook until thickened and

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father's Day Cottage Pie


 Whenever I cook a large dinner I always end up with lots of leftovers to make sure that everyone gets plenty to eat- a throwback from my English grandmother, who wasn’t satisfied she had made a good meal until you were so stuffed you could barely move away from the table.  I love leftovers.  Some foods gain more flavor the second time around and after spending hours in the kitchen cooking it’s nice to have a something on hand for a quick and easy meal the next day.  My husband is a meat, mashed potatoes, and gravy type of guy so I often make a pot roast with all the trimmings on Sunday.  The only downside is you end up with several containers of leftovers crowding your refrigerator.  I’ve heard about Shepherd’s Pie and even looked at some recipes about Shepherd’s Pie, but it wasn’t until I saw a picture in a magazine with a totally different name that something clicked in my brain, caught my attention and imagination.  

“Shepherd’s pie” became popular around the 18th century when the potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep--hence the name. Shepherds’ pie is made from ground lamb (not beef; that is cottage pie) and vegetables baked under a potato topping, although in early cookery books the pie dish was lined with mashed potatoes as well as having a potato crust on top. Since 1877 the term “shepherd’s pie” has been used synonymously with “cottage pie” whether the principal ingredient used was beef or mutton.

This past Sunday while clearing up instead of grabbing microwave containers for the leftovers, I started layering the leftovers in a baking dish.  Not only did I save space in my frig, but when I decided to use what I call my Father’s Day Cottage Pie for a meal later all I did was add another topping and pop it into the oven.   My Father’s Day Cottage Pie was an instant hit with my husband.  So from now on whenever I find myself with several leftovers from a big meal, I plan on making a Father’s Day Cottage Pie. The neat thing about the Father’s Day Cottage Pie is that you can incorporate all kinds of leftovers and toppings this way- the amount of servings being relative to the quantity of food used.

2 c cooked beef with gravy
1 c stove top dressing
1 c corn (drained)
2- 2½  c mashed potatoes
6 slices Velveeta cheese
1 tb minced chives

Layer leftover beef (cut into bite size pieces) and gravy in the bottom of a 7 x 11 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking oil.  Sprinkle the stove top dressing on top of the beef and then add the corn. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top to the edge of the baking dish. When ready to use place Velveeta cheese on top and garnish with chives. Cover and bake at 350º for 35 to 45 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.  Let sit for five or ten minutes. This recipe serves six.

Tip:  You can also freeze your Father’s Day Cottage Pie to save for a busy day later on.  Just be sure and cover securely before freezing. Then thaw out and bake in your oven for an instant meal!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015



May ushers in early summer along with Mother’s Day. Irises, peonies, and roses begin blooming while stores are overloaded with colorful flats of annuals to temp one every time they shop.  This is the month I plant corn in my veggie garden and set out my heirloom tomato plants that have been hardened off.  May is also the time when I open all the windows in my house letting the warm breezes blow away all the stale air inside while freshly washed clothes dry out on the line.

For Mother’s Day this year, I made a Cocoanut Zucchini Cake that quickly became one of my favorite desserts. My Cocoanut Zucchini Cake is perfect for heralding in summer with green specks of zucchini and its light and moist texture in two layers.  I’ve always loved cocoanut in any form, but toasting the cocoanut brings out its subtle flavor even more and adds a slight crunch to each bite. Best of all the Cocoanut Zucchini Cake is easy to make.


1 yellow cake mix
2 c grated zucchini
1 (16 oz) container of cool whip
2 c shredded cocoanut

Prepare the cake mix as directed folding in the zucchini before dividing into two 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350º for thirty minutes. Cool. Frost the bottom cake layer generously with cool whip sprinkling half of the toasted cocoanut on the top and sides.   Add top layer and frost with the remaining cool whip. Garnish using the rest of the toasted cocoanut. Chill and serve.

Tip: For a quick and easy way to toast cocoanut spread ½ c in a thin layer on a plate.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir and continue microwaving for 30 seconds stirring each time until golden brown!