Soup and bread are two comfort foods that are perfect for a cold winter day. Baking bread makes the house smell good and helps make it warmer, too! Sometimes I want the warmth and goodness of bread without the time it takes to make a yeast bread. This is one of those recipes. It's a quick, no-rise bread that will delight you! There is a nutty goodness in every bite from the seeds that toast on the crust during the baking. The oats in the bread also give it a 'hearty' flavor. It's not your typical 'white' bread fluffiness. You definitely feel like you are eating a healthy slice of goodness!

Today we've been under a winter storm warning. The predictions are for a possible 10+ inches! Whenever it snows or we have one of these winter storm warnings, I think about making bread. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking to make you feel warm inside!  This is an EASY recipe...anyone can make this! Give it a try!!
2 c. oats
2 1/4 c. flour
1 3/4tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
In food processor or blender place oats and blend until it resembles a coarse meal. Then combine all ingredients. Grease a bread pan or baking sheet (I used my stone) and line with parchment paper. If using a sheet pan, form into a round loaf. You may need to lightly flour your hands, as dough is a bit sticky. Use 2 TBSP. additional buttermilk to brush the top of the loaf with, the sprinkle with desired seeds. I used sesame, but poppy seeds would work as well. As the loaf bakes the seeds roast and give it a very nutty taste!

Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!



I recently posted about these on facebook and got a lot of interesting comments and thought I'd share the recipe here. My brother lives in Arizona and sent a box of citrus fruit from his trees and I decided to use the lemons to make scones. We've had this scone recipe for years and it's a favorite of ours. It is easily adapted to whatever flavors you want to add such as blueberries in this case, or golden raisins which is one of my favorites. I normally don't add a glaze on them, but since my friend Jeni posted about her scones this week and she had a lemon glaze, I thought it sounded good enough to try. I was NOT disappointed. It was so delicious.

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 c. oats
1 c. shortening(melted), oil, or butter
(of course, the best scones are with the butter)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sour cream or sour milk
(I use sour milk-1 c. milk with 1 Tbsp. vinegar)

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Drop by spoonfuls onto cooking sheet.
Bake at 350 until slightly browned on the edges.

For lemon blueberry scones, I added the juice of one lemon to the batter along with
1 cup of blueberries.
After baking and cooling for 5 minutes, glaze with lemon glaze.
GLAZE: powdered sugar, milk, lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon



I've had this recipe for spinach salad saved for a long time and finally tried it. It was so delicious and I wanted to post the recipe. The picture didn't came out a bit blurry but I think you can get the idea of what it looked like. 

This salad would be perfect in the summertime as a one dish meal. We each had a small piece of pork as an accompaniment and the two complimented each other very well! There are lots of vegetables in the recipe, and I added sliced mushrooms and some blue cheese. Last week when I bought groceries there was a 'manager's sale' on blue cheese and I knew I was planning on making spinach salad so I picked up a package to add to the salad.


Peel two sweet potatoes and dice in bite size pieces. Place in roasting pan and drizzle with 1 TBSP of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes begin to brown and are fork tender.  Set aside.

In a pan, brown 3 stips of bacon which you have cut into pieces. When the bacon is crisp, drain on paper towel and set aside. Drain fat from pan but leave brown bits in the bottom. Add 1/4 c. olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot add: 1 chopped red pepper, 1 sm. chopped red onion, 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger. Stir until veggies are just starting to cook and are no longer raw. Add the bacon pieces, 1 tsp. ground cumin, and the juice of one orange. I added several sliced, fresh mushrooms and blue cheese crumbles before tossing the dressing.

Pour this dressing over spinach in large bowl and toss. I added a touch of vinagrette dressing to the salad as well. It just needed a little kick. Very healthy and delicious!!



Each week on Friday I plan out the next week's menu and make a grocery list. Since we live in a rural setting, numerous stops at the grocery are not feasible so we purchase our groceries on the weekend according to the next week's menu. The only problem with this is that from time to time, I just don't feel like cooking what I had planned! Today was one such day. Since it was meatless monday I had planned a meatless meal and was going to fix red lentil coconut curry over rice. It's a favorite dish or ours, so it wasn't that I didn't like the dish, it's just that I didn't feel like cooking it! It takes a lot of prep work and it just didn't sound good to me, so I had to come up with another option.

On our menu I also had creamy onion chowder with cheesy popovers. It was a new recipe I had been wanting to try, but it didn't really fall into the 'meatless' category because of the addition of bacon in the dish. Sometimes I have to make concessions! haha I'm glad I chose to make this recipe tonight because a hot soup was perfect for such a cold day! It was so cold today that our pipes froze. I turned on the kitchen faucet this morning and nothing came out! Cole was able to thaw them out quickly and the rest of the day I ran water in them from time to time.

Hot soup on a cold day falls into the category of 'comfort food' in my opinion! I adapted the recipe to suit my taste. It called for chicken broth and milk as part of the soup, as it was more of a chowder than a broth type soup. By using more broth and less milk it cut down the fat in the soup, as well as cutting the amount of bacon suggested in half. Instead of using a whole pound of bacon I used 6 strips and it was plenty to give the soup a nice smoky flavor without all the additional fat from all that bacon! Plus, the recipe calls for cooking the onions in the bacon drippings. Can you imagine grease from a whole pound of bacon in a pot of soup!? TOO MUCH! So, here is the recipe. Make it like it is, or do what I did and make it to your liking. As for the popovers...we loved them. They are light and eggy with a nice cheddar cheese kick and the perfect accompaniment to this soup! I'm going to use the popover recipe as a side dish for other soups. They are nice to dip into the soup and soak up some juices, and very easy to make!

1 pound bacon, chopped (I used 6 slices)
4 large white onions, chopped (I made large pieces)
1 1/4  cups flour
One 32 ounce container chicken broth (I used 2 conatiners of BEEF broth)
2 cups milk (I only needed 1)
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 12 - 1/2 inch cubes

1. Preheat the over to 425, Grease a 12-cup muffin pan. In a large Dutch over, cook the bcon over med. heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towel. Add the onions to the pot, season with salt and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Set aside 1/4 c. cooked onions. Sprinkle the remaining onions with 1/4 c. flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir in the chicken broth (stirred in 1 container of beef) and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Then add in additional broth or milk.
Popovers: in blender or food processor, mix the reserved onion, 1 c. milk, the remaining 1 c. flour, the eggs, butter and 1/4 tsp. salt until smooth.  Fill each muffin cup halfway with batter and place a cube of cheese in the center of each. Bake for 25 min., then lower to 350 degrees and bake for 15 min. more.
Two notes: the recipe calls for using the bacon as a garnish in each bowl..I just added it back in when I added the second container of broth. The other difference is that after I cooked the popovers for the first 25 minutes they were done! So, use your judgment for the cooking time. When they are golden brown they're done. ENJOY!



It's funny that my last post was about GRAY January days. This post is the polar opposite! It's about COLOR!! We are planning to paint our living room and put in new flooring. I decided it would be the perfect time to give the room a whole new look with window treatments and moving furniture pieces around and bringing in pieces from other rooms.  The first thing we'll do is paint the walls.  Several years ago we painted the walls red and we like them a lot. I'm not really tired of the color and it still looks fresh, but in another 5 years I'm sure I'll be sick of it, so a change is on the way!

I'm basically a pretty simple girl at heart. I like simple pleasures. Two of my favorite things are paper-y things and paint chips. I can't get enough of either one. I have been known to go into a paint store and collect a handful of paint swatches for the heck of it. Maybe because we were going through a particularly strained financial situation and I had no money to buy anything artsy or craftsy, or maybe just because they make me happy! Silly, I know, but it's the truth. I really do love them! So, this whole living room project has my creative juices amped up as I search blogs for funky decorating ideas, and follow all the HGTV make-over shows for ingenious ways to give an old room a new look!

Often, I look at beige or white rooms and think they look so calm, peaceful, and clean and think I'd like to have a room like that and almost instantly realize it would never work. I NEED colorful walls in my lfe. I'm not afraid of color..I embrace it! Here is proof...these pictures are of our computer room. Years ago I picked out what I thought was a nice, happy, bright shade of yellow to paint over pale green walls.  In this case, the color was a big mistake! It turned out school bus yellow! It was SO bright. We had purchased all the paint and Richard said "well, we have it we're going to use it....it will be OK"! I picked out a terra cotta shade for trim and for painting a 7 inch strip at chair rail heighth. When I finished I was sick...I hated it!

I called my niece Cara and we laughed about it and I asked for her input...HELP!! As a result of our conversation, she and a friend from college came over and painted murals on my wall. I had a swatch of wallpaper that I loved and would have liked using in the room, but it was so expensive. I showed them the swatch and they used acrylic paints and free hand painted on the walls. I gave them liberty to do what they wanted!! When they were done I loved it. I'm not sure I got a lot of compliments from people...mostly I think people thought I'd lost my mind! I didn't care. It was perfect and stayed that way for almost 8 years before I painted over it. The room was fun and fanciful.

Now as I ponder this new project, I realize it's very important to make a good decision because this room is very large and involves several gallons of paint and many hours of work. We won't want to change it again anytime soon! I usually pick out the wall color first, but I was recently at a fabric store and they had rolls and rolls of amazing, colorful curtain fabric. This time, I am going to pick out my curtains first. We're putting in wood flooring so any color will look good. I am leaning toward olive-y green colors, but I am open should I see some really great orange or purple or brown fabric!

We are also going to do some work in the kitchen and that will require choosing paint,also, but that is for a future post!



"On gray January days we must make our own fun" ~

I read this quote today in a book I was reading and agree with it wholeheartedly!  On my drive to work this morning the world was once again covered in that magical layer of frost that makes the trees glisten and look like big white pipe cleaners.  It's the one redeeming factor of  a single digit temperature day!  I'm not sure that it qualifies for 'fun' but it is enjoyable.

On days that I work, my husband generally cooks dinner because he gets home several hours before I do. Today was going to be an exception because we got our new furnace and he was going to be installing it. I knew there wouldn't be time for him to fix anything for dinner and I didn't want to wait until 6:30 when I got home to come up with something. I had dried beans on hand and decided I could come up with something to put in the crock pot over night that would be ready for tonight's dinner. 

After looking in the freezer, I found two seperate bags, one with a leftover roasted chicken carcass and another was what I thought was a ham bone, but turned out to be left over pork roast. I also added some frozen left over sun dried tomatoes and a large onion that I chopped up.  I cooked it on high until we were ready for bed and turned it down to cook on low overnight. Before I left for work, I turned it to the 'keep warm' setting and added a touch of salt.  I sliced a baguette and spread them with my garden basil pesto that I had frozen and toasted them in the oven.  We each had a glass of red wine with our meal for a delightful winter evening treat! It was warm and satisfying and qualified as 'fun'!

This time of the year soup is one of our favorite meals. When it's cold outside, it is the perfect dinner with a muffin or slice of homemade bread...true comfort food!



I always enjoy coming up with unique ideas to serve for our Meatless Monday meals.  Recently, I purchased some red lentils at the bulk food section in my grocery. Red lentils are actually more orange in color when in their dry state.  They cook up differently than green or brown lentils.  They don't take as long to cook and they cook down instead of holding their shape. They're great for stews or as thickeners in soups or casseroles. They also have a mild flavor that works well with other stronger flavors.

I cooked the lentils in water along with a large chopped onion and a few garlic cloves. After cooking, I added salt to taste and a can of drained black beans, a generous pinch of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of oregano, and 2 tsp. ground cumin seeds.  I also added a crushed, dried mild pepper from our garden. I strung these peppers and have them hanging in my kitchen for use while cooking. The dish was spicy, but not 'hot' spicy. Be careful when adding the cinnamon. Too much, and it overpowers all the other flavors. If you have just a touch, it adds a sweetness to the dish that leaves you wondering what spice you are tasting!? It's a trick I like ot use when making chili as well!

I placed a flour tortilla in the bottom of a baking dish that was just a bit larger than the tortilla. I would have used a 9x13 but I had a cake in that pan and my other pan that size recently broke, so I used a large size quiche pan and it worked quite well. I layered a tortilla, lentil bean mixture, shredded cheddar, and a few spoonfuls of salsa, then repeated until the dish was full and the lentils were used.  I placed a tortilla on the top and brushed it with olive oil. After covering the dish with foil to prevent the dish from drying out, I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes. A dab of sour cream was the perfect accompaniment.

We had a side dish of one of our favorite vegetable dishes...curry corn! I use one quart bag of our home frozen corn, about 1/4 c. chopped green peppers or green and red mixed, and add a touch of curry powder. We like curry, so  I use about 1 good teaspoon. This would be to your taste...more or less!

I was in a baking mood so I made an oatmeal chocolate chip cake...a family favorite. I don't care for cake icing...it's just too sweet. This recipe is great because you don't need frosting..it's perfect without it. I wish the picture had turned out better instead of so blurry. A small piece is all you need for a sugar fix! Here is the recipe in case you want to try it...it's moist and delicious alone or with a touch of whipped cream or ice cream. The perfect birthday cake!!

1 3/4 c. boiling water and 1 c. oats combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Add 1 c. white sugar and 1 c. brown sugar to the oats. Mix well, add in 1 stick of butter and cream well.
Add 2 large eggs and mix
Add 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. soda, 2 Tbsp. cocoa, and 1 3/4 c. flour
When mixed, add 1/2 pkg. chocolate chips. Pour batter into greased 9x13 pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 bag chips.  Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven.



Tonight we had elephant ears for dinner! Not the kind you get at the county fair. This recipe comes from my mother's sister Vivian who is no longer living. She was one of my favorite aunts. She was a happy person and a great cook, quilter, singer and all around loving person.

Several years ago I put together a collection of recipes from my mother's family. It's a collection of recipes that we remember from family get-togethers over the years, as well as family favorites. Both aunts and cousins contributed to this collection and it's one of my favorite little cookbooks. There are recipes in the booklet that are our favorites and I make them over and over.

This particular recipe is a favorite of mine. Growing up in a Mennonite home, where cooking was an important part of daily life, comfort food or country cooking was what we ate.  There was no gourmet food and many times the food we did eat was a result of 'whatever was in the pantry'.  Sometimes it was just cooked elbow macaroni and a quart jar of home canned whole tomatoes added in!

Since I'm focusing on moderation this year in this blog, I wanted to look at this particular recipe and see how I could make it a healthier option. It's one of those recipes that we eat in moderation because it's not necessarily a 'lite' meal. But...the taste is outstanding!

The recipe calls for 2 quarts of ham broth. What I did was save the broth from a ham we cooked at Christmas. After freezing it, all the fat collected at the top and congealed, so it was easy to remove it, making it a fat free broth. I used 1 qt. of ham broth and 1 qt. of low sodium chicken broth. The flavor was still 'hammy', but the sodium was greatly reduced by using some chicken broth instead of all ham broth. If you like dumplings you will like this recipe. If you do NOT like dumplings  you won't like this. Dumplings have a particular texture that some people just do not like.

Here is the recipe if you'd like to try it!

2 qts. ham broth (remember, I used 1 ham and 1 chicken)
Heat the broth while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Make the dumplings by mixing 1/2 c. water and 2 eggs in a bowl. Add in 2 cups of flour and mix well. Put onto a floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.

Peel 6 potatoes and hand slice. By hand slicing them, they will be a bit thick and uneven, which adds to the personality of this dish! It's a very down-home, country dish!

Once the broth is hot or at a slow rolling boil, place a layer of potatoes in the pot, followed by a layer of 'ears' and repeat until the potatoes and 'ears' are used up. Cook until the potatoes are done. It took about 20 minutes for mine to cook. I kept it at a slow boil while cooking. 
I did NOT add salt.  The ham broth tends to be salty, but it's much better if you use half chicken broth. The dumplings could have used a bit of salt, but we just put a touch on the whole dish as well as freshly cracked pepper.  A little side dish of home canned applesauce was a perfect accompaniment. If you want to add a vegetable to the dish, I think a bit of corn would be great. Just add it to the broth before adding the potatoes and dumplings.  The potatoes are still our own home grown ones from this year's garden produce!



Last year my food goals for this blog were to promote 'conscious eating' and food habits. We now eat several days meatless, and have increased our vegetable and fruit intake considerably.  I also did much seasonal cooking and eating as well as taking advantage of our garden and any local foods. Being conscious of the foods we eat is a way to 'slow down'. It takes a bit more time to eat this way, but it's worth it in many ways!

I've decided this year to focus on moderation. There are a lot of foods that I love that are just not good for me. High fat and fried foods are something we limit and I now do very little frying at all.  But, I am NOT willing to never have my mom's fried chicken again, or a piece of pecan pie, or cheese sauce on my steamed broccoli, and the list goes on! I do, however, believe that in moderation all of these things can be enjoyed and don't need to disappear from a well balanced diet!

So I spent some time gathering some quotes on moderation and I want to share them with a few of my insights.

I think this quote is true, but I also think if you turn it around to say : Perfect moderation is easier than comoplete abstinance...that is ALSO true. Chips are one of my favorite foods...if you can call them food! But, this year, I decided to quit buying them. We have bought them on occasion, when we had a Saturday sandwich, but we only bought a small bag. We didn't buy a big bag that stayed around to tempt anyone. I see no reason to completely obliterate a food from our diet because it's not good for us. It's much better for me to be able to have it once in a while as to think I'll never have it again.  For instance, I like liver and onions, but it's not a healthy meal, so we eat it only once a year! Perfect moderation! Much easier for me than thinking I might never have it again. The thought that I might not ever taste my mom's fried chicken again, because it's not healthy, would be very hard for me to do, but to eat it once a year is perfect moderation. It's enough to satisfy my longing for it because I know it's not good for me.

Doesn't this make perfect sense in respect to our food choices? Thanksgiving is a perfect example of an occasional excess!  Even Michelle Obama said in a recent interview to forget your diet on Thanskgiving and enjoy the food! If we didn't do that, the 'habit' of moderation would become just that...dull and uninspiring...nothing but a habit.

This year, I plan to exercise moderation in a more agressive way. If I lose some weight along the way, wonderful, but I won't let it discourage me and send me back to the land of excess! We feel better now than we did a little over a year ago. Making conscious food decisions and exercising moderation is the way I want to bring a healthier lifestyle to myself and my family. I'm fully aware that I have weight to lose, but I realize that all my years of agressive and excessive dieting has not resulted in weight loss, but the opposite! Instead of thinking about 'dieting' and NOT eating this and NOT eating that, I plan to practice moderation and not worry about the results.

I grew up with wonderful home cooks. My mom, grandmother, and many aunts were all tremendous cooks and I learned a lot from them.  I have many of their recipes, but those were the days of eating to survive, sometimes using ingredients that were cheap and not necessarily 'good' for you. Because of that, many of their recipes are fat laden, high calorie dishes. I plan to take these recipes and make them 'better' with healthier ingredients. I want them to still be the same great dishes, just healthier to eat! I'll feature them here on this blog.

Tonight I'm planning on having a dish called Elephant Ears. This is not the kind you get at the county fair, these are more like dumplings. It's my aunt Vivian's recipe- my mom's sister. I'm going to see what I can do to improve it's 'health factor' without changing how delicious it is. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out. This is another one of those 'once a year' dishes because the 'ears' are cooked in ham broth which tends to be too salty. I'll see how it turns out, and hopefully we'll enjoy it!

Results forthcoming!!!



I'm a little disappointed that I didn't post yesterday when the date was 1.1.11! I don't really have anything foddie to blog about this morning but I have thoughts rolling around in my head and decided to get them 'out' here. 

First, it seems this time of the year most everyone is talking about making resolutions. There is a lot to be said about this practice. I think about this a lot, but never really make resolutions. I try to live in a way that I will not be disappointed with my life decisions when I look back on them. It's important to have goals, I guess, but many times, when they aren't reached, it becomes so discouraging that you really do end up worse than when you began!

In saying all that, this past year I decided to eat more consciously..thus the blog. I wanted to make healthier food choices and experiment with new recipes and I feel that I actually achieved that. While the ultimate goal would be to lose weight, I try to keep my focus on being thoughtful in my food choices. If I lose weight that's great, but if I don't, I'm not going to go on a 'bender' and say "to heck with this" and then find myself pounds heavier and feeling miserable! For me, that's been a pattern in my life. It's part of the reason I am where I am today.

So, while I don't plan to make any New Year's resolutions, I do resolve to be a more thoughtful person in the way I treat others, the food decisions I make, and the spiritual path I am on.  I'd like to think that every day I would wake up and ask myself "what do you want to accomplish today"..but I realize that's not going to happen. It's just not how I am. BUT, I can make an effort to be more thoughtful and choose to make the best of each day presented to me.

I want to eat more raw foods this year. Find creative recipes to use raw ingredients in, that will be appetizing and interesting. The value of eating raw foods is pretty impressive and I'd like to be able to do that more. I also plan to continue being a 'seasonal' eater as much as possible, so eating raw foods will depend on what's in season somewhat.

This past week I came down with shingles in my mouth. It's unusual and serious. I thought I was coming down with a cold because I had a really sore throat. The pain I've had the past 5 days is just incredible! It's so painful to swallow or eat anything. I don't want to eat because it hurts so much, and I absolutely can't eat anything warm or hot, it's just too painful. So, I've been surviving on cottage cheese, yogurt, applesauce, a few small salads (just lettuce and mushrooms), and scrambled eggs. I researched shingles to find out what foods would be good to eat for treating it. A diet high in amino acids, particularly broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage was recommended. I like all of these so I bought some broccoli and cooked it so it was soft, and add it to scrambled eggs, or eat it cold on my salad. One article said eating the broccoli raw was the best source of the nutrients. This is what got me started thinking again about raw foods. 

Most times, I think eating a well balanced, healthy diet helps to keep our immune system boosted and fights off germs and diseases that we come in contact with. This year I hope to eat healthier! Last year we began eating MEATLESS MONDAY, adding several days a week of vegetarian eating. I'm convinced that a diet low in meats has a good effect on our health, so we plan to eat red meat only occasionally, and bump up our vegetable and fruit consumption.

I want to post more vegetarian recipes this year and experiement with new ingredients. While battling the shingles, I realized how much less I am eating. I can only eat a very little bit and then my mouth is just too sore to continue, so I'd like to continue that after I get over this. Of course, losing weight would be a nice result, but I try hard not to beat myself up over that one. It's just so counterproductive!

The other food resolution is to do as much 'from scratch' cooking as possible. It may take more time, but the benefits are numerous, both in the money saved, and the actual goodness of what you are eating. Prepackaged foods have too many additives to be considered healthy.

I hope I haven't completely bored you, but those are some of the thoughts in my head at  6 am this morning. Now, I'm off to make myself a smoothie: 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1/2 banana, and some strawberry jam. The jam is actually some I made this past summer that didn't set up because I goofed on the recipe. It came out runny so I froze it and marked it I.C.- for ice cream - because it works well as a topping. It makes a really tasty smoothie, too! Magic bullet, here I come!