4-6 boneless, skinless chicken
1 cup Smucker’s apricot jam
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 green onions, chopped
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sliced almonds**
2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 350˚.
  • Whisk together the jam, soy sauce, green onion and vinegar.
  • Put half of the sauce in a shallow bowl and coat each piece of chicken.
  • Set the other half aside.
  • Place chicken pieces in a greased baking dish.
  • Sprinkle almonds over chicken pieces.
  • Drizzle with butter.
  • Bake uncovered 30-35 minutes until cooked through.
  • Serve with reserved sauce.

**I used honey roasted from the salad toppings section of the produce section.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES just like my 5th Birthday Cake

RED VELVET CUPCAKES  Yields 12 delicious cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup salted butter, firm but not cold – just beginning to soften
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 350˚.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and baking soda, set aside.
  • In a separate large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 4 -5 minutes.
  • Add in eggs one at a time stirring after each addition.
  • Now stand back and add red food coloring and vanilla extract and mix until combine.
  • In a small bowl combine milk and vinegar.
  • Add milk mixture and flour mixture to cupcake mixture, alternating in two separate batches, mixing until combined after each addition.
  • Divide batter evenly among 12 paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full.
  • Bake in preheated oven 20-23 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool about 2 minutes in muffin tin, then transfer to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container to cool completely (this just helps them retain more moisture).
  • Once cooled completely, spread generously with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup salted butter, firm but not cold (if using unsalted add 1/8 tsp salt)
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • In a large mixing bowl, using and electric mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until pale and fluffy (about 1 minute on high speed, then 3-4 minutes on medium high speed).
  • Mix in vanilla extract.
  • Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Frost and go wild – add nuts, sprinkles or cookie crumbs.


I originally found this recipe for Banana Cobbler over at Frugal Antics of a Harried Housewife (unfortunately her website is no more apparently) and we instantly fell in love with it.  I made it and it was instantly all gone.


Author: adapted from Southern Living
1 cup self rising flour
¾ cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, melted (next time I’ll use 6 tablespoons)
3 small or 2 medium bananas
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened (next time I’ll use 6 tablespoons)
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I added)
½ cup self rising flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I added)
  • In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and milk until smooth.
  • Add the melted butter.
  • Spread the batter into a greased 11X7 pan.
  • Slice bananas evenly over batter.
  • In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
  • Sprinkle over bananas.
  • Bake at 375 ˚ for 40 minutes or until filling bubbles.
  • Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
We loved it.  But what I personally loved was the basic template of the recipe.  So I tried the same base recipe with a few minor changes, AND traded out BANANAS for BLUEBERRIES and you know what? It was awesome.  But what was really awesome was that even though the base was the same, the flavor was unique!

1 cup self rising flour
¾ cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, melted
1 bag frozen BLUEBERRIES OR 2 boxes of fresh
¾ cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I added)
½ cup self rising flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I added)
  • In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and milk until smooth.
  • Add the melted butter.
  • Spread the batter into a greased 11X7 pan.
  • Slice bananas evenly over batter.
  • In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
  • Sprinkle over bananas.
  • Bake at 375˚ for 40 minutes or until filling bubbles.
  • Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


1/2 head Napa Valley Cabbage, shredded
2 bunches green onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage

  • Toss all together in a large salad bowl.

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and pepper

  • In a skillet heat oil over medium high heat.
  • Add chicken pieces searing and cooking through, turning frequently.
  • Cool chicken pieces slightly and shred.
  • Add to salad bowl.

2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup avocado oil

  • Whisk all together until well blended.
  • Pour over salad and toss well.

CRISPY noodles (optional)

  • Top with crispy noodles.

A story worth sharing ~ Grandma’s Hands ~ Author Unknown

Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. She didn’t move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands.

When I sat down beside her she didn’t acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK.

Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking,” she said in a clear voice strong.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you, grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK,” I explained to her.

“Have you ever looked at your hands,” she asked. “I mean really looked at your hands?”

I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.

Grandma smiled and related this story:

Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

“They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor.

They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war.

They have been dirty, scraped and raw , swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.

They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse.

“They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn’t understand.

They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

“These hands are the mark of where I’ve been and the ruggedness of life.

But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ.”

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandma’s hands and led her home.

When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband I think of grandma. I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God.

I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face.


ESSENTIAL KITCHEN INGREDIENTS ~ Tools, Condiments and Seasonings ~

This post originally ran as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who is hosting the Homemaking September Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.
I thought about this category for several days and no matter how you look at it, ‘essential kitchen ingredients’ for your kitchen are subjective. I mean if I cooked a lot of oriental food I’m sure I’d find a WOK an essential tool, but I don’t so we’ll approach this the same as we did the pantry, we’ll try to apply logic and I’ll list ‘my’ essentials and then you can interpret any way necessary for your household and the meals you prepare.

As for essential tools I have many that I consider truly essential! But, in reality we can truly get by with very few. I consider a good set of cutting boards, a great set of sharp knives, my cast iron skillet, quality stainless steel pans, spoons, spatulas and tongs a necessity. I try to stay away from most plastics as they do wear quicker and tend to harbor bacteria. I’m still using the same stainless steel tools and cookie sheets I spent a small fortune on 20 years ago, so that expenditure has paid off. The cast iron skillet has been passed down through my hubby’s parents and grandparents and it too is still going strong. I did purchase new heavy gauge stainless steel pots and pans about 10 years ago and they look brand new as stainless cleans so well. I also stay away from all non-stick surfaces as they do wear eventually and I just don’t want that in our food. I do change my cutting boards and rubber spatulas frequently just to be on the safe side despite always running them through the dishwasher at a high heat.As much as I like all my pampered chef toys, they could all be eliminated by using just what I have listed above. Personally I cannot live without my essential Kitchen Aid stand mixer & hand mixer and my Cuisinart mini food chopper. I had a blender, but only used it to make my home made Creamy Tomato Basil soup and the occasional margarita so now just use my Magic Bullet. I don’t even own an electric can opener. I do love my slow cooker and my Magnalite stock pots and roaster, but they too could be substituted with other pots and pans if absolutely necessary.

Now for seasonings, this too is subjective based on the foods you prepare, but honestly if that recipe you cut out of a magazine calls for Herbs de Provence don’t run out and buy it for a one time recipe. It is a combination of herbs you probably already have on hand. It usually contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf and thyme. So you can adjust what you have with your own likes. What I consider essential in the spice cabinet around here is kosher salt, sea salt, white & black pepper, celery salt, garlic salt and powder, onion salt and powder, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley, paprika, cinnamon, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, PURE vanilla, maple sugar, orange rind, bourbon extract, rum extract and vanilla powder.

In the pantry I have all purpose flour, bread and cake flour, self rising flour, Wondra flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, coconut, raisins, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder, barley, split peas, tapioca, white rice, brown rice and various pastas.

In the way of liquid essentials I have Worcestershire sauce, Bragg’s Amino acids, local honey; white, rice wine, champagne, red wine, balsamic, golden and apple cider vinegars; olive, coconut and avocado oils as well as some cooking wines and sherries.

In the refrigerator I have mayonnaise, ketchup (both homemade when I have the time), mustard (despite my severe allergy everyone else LOVES it), sun dried tomato pesto, Better than Bouillon chicken and beef bases, fresh lemons & limes, minced garlic and chili sauce.

The real key here is to have what YOU need on hand at all times without a lot of effort.



I hope everyone had a great weekend. Can you believe we are more than half way through this year already? I spent the weekend sorting and packing and have been able to make even larger donation boxes and feel quite liberated by it.  While the weather was better, it was still not great and I can’t tolerate the heat with what’s going on in my body so spent the weekend inside and was able to catch both NASCAR races and watch some Hallmark Christmas movies too.


We’re still having high temperatures in the mid 90’s, but the dew points have dropped making the heat indexes a bit lower so it’s a bit more tolerable even with high humidity.


Nothing as I’m fasting for an 11AM test.


  • LAUNDRY… just a couple loads
  • LIVING AREAS… I spent the weekend sorting and packing so have a bit of mess, but nothing I can’t live with.
  • KITCHEN… quite clean, but I plan to make a mess soon.  I’m such a messy cook as I invent
  • STUDIO… Nothing this week
  • YARD… Hubby just mowed so we’re good for now
  • BLOG… still doing some recipe updating and planing for future posts as I re-do some pictures from the blogs I’m combining


Midnight Texas Starts tonight. I have been stockpiling Christmas movies on the DVR all week during the Christmas in July premiere at Hallmark and we found a few more Netflix shows we’ve been trying.

I’m still only half way through with Book #2, French Roast of Ava Miles’ series for Dare Valley. I keep falling asleep LOL. And then there are my summer standards:

  • THE NIGHT SHIFT – I’m ready for T.C. to come home.
  • SALVATION – We’ll see where they go with it.  I’m still undecided.
  • AMERICA’S GOT TALENT – always a fun watch – loving the new softer side of Simon and fun side of Tyra.
  • ZOO – is back. I wasn’t sure I liked the 10 year jump into the future, but am getting used to it since they are using the same characters, just took some adjusting.
  • FOOD NETWORK STAR – I LOVE Jason and Matt and Rusty.  Jason was so funny on the Holiday Baking Championship which he won against professionals.  He is pretty innovative with flavor combos and I just love his country accent and euphemisms.
  • AMERICA’S GOT TALENT – always a fun watch – loving the new softer side of Simon
  • DATE MY DAD – it’s pretty cute and I want to look as good as Raquel Welch does when I’m her age!
  • GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW – I just love this show – they are always so civilized and nice with recipes that make me WANT to be a better baker.
  • MASTER CHEF – there are some interesting characters this season and some I can’t wait to see go home as well as a couple I thought I was NOT going to like that are growing on me. I was quite surprised with this week’s ending, at least with the final challenge and who Yachecia choose to battle against and was impressed that she chose to save 6 others instead of herself.  I really thought she’d pick Jeff. I just don’t care for him and I really thought he should go after yelling at Gordon Ramsay.
  • THE “F” WORD – I love this fun new side of Gordon Ramsay with his funny antics and pranks with disguises.








The first of the four yucky tests is over and the second is later this morning and then I have to wait 5 weeks due to scheduling availability for test three and four which fortunately will both be performed at the same time while I’m under anesthesia by my doctor. Last Friday’s test was a ClusterF**k of technicians and misread orders that left me flustered and agitated.

At this point I almost don’t care what they find as long as the find something that can be cured and cured sooner than later.  This has all been going on for over a year now and it is no way to live!


The older (over 100 in human years based on the current dog years to human years calculator) Gunny gets, the easier it is to do this to him on a regular basis.  He also sleeps through thunder and door bells now too.


Be sure to link up with Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Happy homemaker Monday and with Laura at I’m an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.










Most of you already know that I feel most at home in the kitchen and despite my VIRGO guided perfectionist ways, I too have a tendency to have a messy pantry. We all have those moments when it’s just easier to put it anywhere other than where it really goes.


I don’t use a ton of prepared foods due to health concerns, but we all have a pantry full of this and thats. I was fortunate in that the forced remodel of this kitchen allowed me to set things up my way when it went back together.

I like to group like things together and that helps to make meal preparation simpler. In the Lazy Susan next to the stove I keep the small appliances (Magic Bullet, Cuisinart mini food processor, hand mixer, etc…) together on the top shelf so they are easy to reach.

In yet another cabinet I have grouped together all the” seasoning” bottles like soy sauces, vinegars, oils, Worcestershire, etc…. In the 2 shelves below that I keep all the back stock like extra ketchup, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, etc… Spices and such use on a daily basis are all labeled and alphabetized in their handy box close to the stove while additional infrequently used spices, bread crumbs, flavorings, baking soda, baking powder and such are kept in a separate cabinet. Baking staples are also all grouped together.

I have all of my seasonings and ingredients placed in such a way that the butcher block becomes my central point for creating. I try to keep all the necessary tools also within an arm’s reach. All of my reaching into cabinets is also at a minimum and I don’t have to dig for what I’m looking for. I try to group like items together. For example the parts for a Mexican Meal are all together. The green chiles are right night to the enchilada sauce which is next to the refried beans, etc…

Every person and every family is different in their likes and tastes, so there is no right or wrong to pantry organization, just what works for you. That said, I have found that logic, organization and common sense play an integral part in kitchen success.

No matter what the size or shape of you ‘pantry’, the whole idea is to make your job easier and cooking more fun. So take that willy nilly approach and toss it out the window. It’s time to organize and see what you have in your pantry. Knowing will help you to keep things rotated and up to date. When I was growing up, my dad always wiped the lids of cans and then dated them when we got home from the store. I don’t go that far, but I do make sure to rotate the older forward paying attention to expiration dates and replace the restock to the rear.
 I store the back up stock on the lowest shelves since I don’t get in there very often. I also pull forward the most frequently used condiments and ingredients so I don’t have to dig for them.

The refrigerator is the hardest ‘pantry’ part to keep organized since everyone is in and out all day some days, but I try to keep like items together here too. The jams are all on the same shelf, the pickles are grouped together, sauces, pestos, bases etc… are all together on one of the top shelves to keep everyone from moving them!

This post originally ran as a guest post series for Barbara over at Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers who is hosting the Homemaking September Shape-up. It was an all around comprehensive house to home style of posts to help us get our homes and lives whipped into shape.


1 box manicotti pasta shells
1 pound lean ground chuck
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch green onions, diced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
2-8 ounce cans  tomato sauce
1 recipe PINK ALFREDO SAUCE (recipe follows)

  • In a large skillet brown ground chuck with onions and garlic.
  • Salt and pepper generously.
  • Drain fat.
  • Slice shells carefully along one edge so they resemble taco shells. Once they are cooked no one will notice that you took the easy way out to fill them.
  • In a 9×13 baking dish pour tomato sauce evenly on bottom.
  • Top with 1/3 of the grated Mozzarella cheese.
  • Fill each shell to overflowing with Ricotta mixture.
  • Lay side by side on tomato sauce.
  • Top with PINK ALFREDO SAUCE and the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake 30 minutes until cheese is golden and melted.
  • Serve with Garlic Cheese Bread.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic, jar
1 tablespoon Classico sun-dried tomato paste
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Melt butter in a saucepan.
  • Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  • Gradually add heavy cream, stirring constantly. Stir in salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese and stir constantly until melted.
  • Whisk in egg quickly and heat through.


This combination is perfect together. I prepare all the ingredients before I begin. I then assemble the omelet and while it is baking I prepare the hash browns. They are almost always done at the same time which makes it perfect in my book.
I broke down this recipe to a per person portion so you can make as few or as many as you want easily.


2 eggs
1/8 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
Fillings to taste**

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Spray ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Fill bottom with your favorites.
  • Whisk together the eggs, sour cream and milk.
  • Pour over fillings.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Let sit 5 minutes.
  • Invert onto plate and enjoy.

**I usually use bacon, mushrooms, sliced green onions, red onions, cheddar, swiss and tomato.

NOTE: When using meats, make sure they are pre-cooked.


4 cups shredded or finely chopped potatoes, dry well with paper towels
4-6 tablespoons butter
1 small bunch green onions, sliced fine
celery salt
salt and pepper
1/2 cup finely shredded white cheddar (or cheese of your choice)

  • Melt butter in a large skillet* over medium high heat.
  • Add potatoes, onions and season well with salt, pepper, celery salt and paprika.
  • Brown well.
  • Sprinkle cheese over top and fold in.

NOTE: Use a skillet large enough to have a single layer of potatoes. They will brown better if they are not crowded.








2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 sticks butter, softened and cubed
2-8 ounce bars cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 JUMBO eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 stick butter, melted
12 KRAFT caramels, melted in double boiler
4 ounces milk chocolate chips, melted in double boiler

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a 9×13 pan with heavy duty foil.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter with pastry blender until crumbly.
  • Press firmly and evenly into pan.
  • Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until blended.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, on medium speed until smooth.
  • Add vanilla. Stir to combine.
  • Pour over crust.
  • In a small bowl combine the apples, 3 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Toss to coat.
  • Spoon evenly over cream cheese layer.
  • In a medium mixing bowl toss together the streusel ingredients until well blended.
  • Sprinkle over apple layer.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until filling is set.
  • Drizzle with caramel and chocolate.
  • Cool completely!
  • After cooling lift the foil out of the pan.  Fold foil out flat to cut the bars.
  • Store bars covered in the refrigerator.


1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, 1/2 soft & 1/2 melted
2 jumbo eggs
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisins, currants or craisins
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
2 large, RIPE bananas
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • Combine the melted butter, brown sugar and bananas in a sauce pan.
  • Cook until smooth and then add nuts and raisins.
  • Stir until well coated & set aside to cool.
  • Cream softened butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  • Add this to the creamed mixture gradually until well blended.
  • Add cooled banana mixture.
  • Pour into greased and floured pan(s)*
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45+ minutes.

*This recipe will make 2 large loaves or 1 cake. If making bread, skip the frosting.

FROSTING (optional)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
juice of 1 small lemon
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • In a medium bowl beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  • Add lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until blended.
  • Add powdered sugar gradually until well blended and smooth.
  • Refrigerate 1 hour to set icing before serving.