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20151231_152309 (1600x1060)Ginger taste tests the doggies’ chow.  Mrs J has a recipe she’s been using to add a little flavor to the regular dry fare.DSC_1916 (2)I’ve always liked this photo of a cardinal and her wingman swooping by a feeder on a bright day against a snowy background.DSC_1637 (1600x1060)Here are those pressure cooker baked beans.  I’ve added some bbq sauce and ketchup because the original beans were a tad dry.  They accompany a sammich of ham salad on dark rye.DSC_2587 (1600x1060)Here’s a whole flock of cardinals, attracted by a pile of seed on the ground.DSC_2637 (1600x1060)And several bluejays take their turn.DSC_1649 (1600x1060)A pretty good tasting chicken noodle soup I made up today to use up a few chicken thighs I did up in a confit the other day.  Mrs J tells me she likes hominy so there is some in there today.DSC_1640 (1600x1060)Here are those chicken thighs I mentioned, with yellow rice and steamed broccoli.  I have the legs quarters and breast of a medium sized turkey salted down, I’ll do a confit with them tomorrow.  All the rest of that turkey is simmering in my stockpot this afternoon.DSC_2731Moar bluejays!


DSC_1595 (1600x1060)I suppose I should open with the Christmas Dinner – the rib roast worked out nicely for us and I’m tickled because it was my first time doing one.  We followed, loosely, the Serious Eats recipe, including the ox tail in red wine for the jus.  I’m a little bummed, I made a nice dressing to go with this and left it, forgotten, in the basement fridge until too late.DSC_1603 (1600x1060)I went ahead today and cooked it, I’ll portion it out and freeze it, then vacuum seal it for later.  It, too, is a recipe from the Serious Eats folks.  I had even used my own patio grown sage for the seasoning:20151224_085628[1] (1600x1060)I picked a paper sack full of leaves from the container plant and let them dry atop the freezer, a nice out of the way spot that stays warm due to the heat exchange system built into the walls of the box.  The food processor made short work of them, reducing the sackful to the not-quite-powder that they label as “rubbed sage” in the retailer’s spice rack.ginger sewing help (1600x1060)Mrs J took a snap of Ginger this afternoon, and it got me to searching for the pictures we took of him and his siblings right after they had been dumped at the neighbor’s house:DSC_4288 (1600x1060)This was taken in October of 2013, they are Ginger’s litter mates but Ginger isn’t among them, we didn’t capture him until 3 or 4 days later – he had evaded the initial round-up.  Mrs J took him to our vet for an evaluation and the vet tech said he hadn’t had anything but grass and leaves to eat for a while.  DSC_1591 (1600x1060)Here’s a ham and Swiss on rye, lightly grilled.  I have a nice beef top round brining in the basement and I wanted to try a couple of rye bread recipes in the machine.  This was a light rye with caraway seeds.  Should be perfect for the corned beef-to-be.20151217_155035 (1600x1060)I mentioned in a post this spring that a neighbor bought a couple of swans they were going to raise along with the goats they’ve been keeping.  I was driving past their place when I looked out the window at the goats browsing on their pond dam and had to do a double take – those swans are nearly as big as the goats!DSC_1598 (1600x1060)Here’s a different angle on that rib platter.  Mrs J is wishing we had bought another one to put back, this one was so good.

Dinner Menu: Food for a Fall Evening

JeffW sends along some garlic bread. ETA: JeffreyW posted recipe in the comments

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple. Use the soup recipe as a starter and add whatever inspires you to supe it up (hee-hee, see what I did there?). I like the ease of frozen vegetables, but use fresh if you’re so inclined. Squash is a nice addition, put it in when you are simmering the meat, it will need the extra cooking time. Turnips, parsnips, maybe some barley. Go crazy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef Vegetable Soup
  2. Hearty Bread
  3. Pumpkin Apple Butter

Beef Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat, small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp crushed basil
  • ½ tsp dry dill
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp fennel seed (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables

large saucepan

Heat oil in saucepan, add onions and sauté, add beef and brown. Add water, spices and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 20-25 minutes, until beef is tender. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz apple sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves


Add all ingredients to saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook down for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Store in the refrigerator. Serve on bread.

Shopping List:

  • Hearty Bread
  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz applesauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Also: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, bay leaf, rosemary, basil, dry dill, olive oil crushed garlic, fennel seed

Friday Recipe Exchange: A Dash Less Salt

Cranberry Chicken 3_Snapseed2

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had requests to pull together some of my recipes that go easy on the salt. I found quite a few and this week lemon made the biggest appearance, but tonight’s featured recipes bring in a whole host of other flavors that make it easier to go lighter on the salt.

Reducing salt with out losing flavor can be managed with several steps. First of all, try to use fresh foods whenever possible.  If you begin to read labels you’ll see many packaged foods contain extra fat, salt & sugar that you wouldn’t add if you prepared it fresh. And good, fresh ingredients bring their own flavors to a dish.

When you need to buy something, such as canned tomatoes or frozen vegetables, go with the no-salt version whenever possible. Then you can be in control of the sodium.

Adding flavors that enhance a dish is the key to cutting back on salt. Wine vinegars (especially on potatoes and meats), lemon juice (great for fish, vegetables and chicken), limejuice, and different spice mixes, including peppers, garlic, basil, rosemary, celery seeds, dill, toasted sesame seeds and citrus zest – go wild, try something new, you might surprise yourself – can transform a dish.  You can also buy prepackaged spice mixes to shake on, just make sure to read the label looking for sodium content.

With all that in mind, I went searching through my recipes to find ones that used a dash less salt.

I started the week with Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Chicken and Spinach, recipe here.

This week’s dinner menu (pictured at top) is Cranberry Chicken and Lemon Cheese Cauliflower, click here for menu, recipes and shopping list.

JeffreyW makes a flavorful Shrimp,Ham and Kale in Garlic Lemon Sauce, recipe here.

And finally, click here for Grilled Lemon Salmon with Corn Pepper Relish.

For the pet lovers, lots of pictures of Bixby in the next Bixby Diaries installment here.

How about you, what do you use to spice up a dish? What’s on the menu this weekend?

Tonight I’m featuring a few recipes that bring in some sweet and spicy flavors. These beans and rice are a nice change-up from the standard Wash Day Beans and Rice I usually make.

Caribbean Jerk Beans & Rice

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean boneless pork, cubed in large pieces
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste (this is a good recipe to substitute white wine vinegar for salt)
  • pepper to taste
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 tsp Caribbean jerk spice (you can buy it or make your own, recipe below)
  • ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro (Italian parsley works well in this recipe if you aren’t a fan of cilantro)
  • 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (or substitute dry beans, soaked and cooked)

saucepan & skillet

Add water & rice to saucepan, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Heat oil in skillet, add pork and brown on all sides for 5 minutes, add onion, celery, pepper & garlic, sauté for additional 5 minutes. Add tomatoes & spices. Let simmer 15 minutes, add cilantro, black beans and simmer additional 5 minutes, until beans are heated through. Add cooked rice & mix thoroughly.

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons crushed dry thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blend together and store tightly covered (I keep old spice jars around for mixtures like this)

Orange-Mango Coleslaw

  • 8 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1-1/2 large mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
  • ½ medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine cabbage, mangoes, bell peppers, green onions and cilantro in large bowl; stir gently to mix. Add Orange-Mango Dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve, or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Orange-Mango Dressing

  • ½ mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 6 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (not diluted with water)
  • 3 tablespoons limejuice
  • ½ to 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and rough chopped
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger (substitute 1/2 tsp ground ginger if desired)

Place mango in food processor; process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; process until smooth.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara



DSC_5177 (1600x1060)Katie was enjoying the first snow free day a little too much.  It’s a good thing she got her ya yas out because we got more snow:DSC_5186 (1600x1060)It started out with a little sleet but that turned to snow and that fell all day and didn’t taper off till after dark.DSC01872 (1600x1060)

Not quite six inches.  I got out on the tractor today and bladed the drive.DSC_0034 (1600x1060)One of Mrs J’s fortified carrot cakes was reward for my labors.  It’s a box mix with extra shredded carrot, raisins, and crushed pineapple.  Mmm… moist and sweet, especially with the toasted coconut on the cream cheese icing.  There’s a little orange zest sprinkled on there, too.  Smelled great!DSC_0028 (1600x1060)Quesadillas with egg, roasted pork, and cheddar garnished with sour cream and a nice hot sauce.DSC_5175 (1600x1060)Ginger Boy oversees doggie dinner prep.  Mrs J buys dry kibble and leavens it with her own blend of goodies.  She adds cooked chicken, rice, cottage cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes, liver, and ground beef in varying proportion, cooking it up in big pots and freezing it in plastic containers.  The pups love it so she must be doing it right.DSC_0039 (1600x1060)A stir fry with chicken and various veggies over yellow rice.  Not bad but far from my best effort.


B7wWYKwIAAAxe7F.jpg largeI saw this photo at another site and thought right away of TaMara’s new pup.  I have no idea who this is or where it was taken but the scant info that accompanied the picture says that he is a wolf hybrid.  DSC01674This started out as an underexposed picture of a black kitty with interesting eyes.  I played around in a photo editor until there was little left except for the eyes.  I am easily amused.DSC_9759 (1600x1060)I had all those baked chicken thighs left over and a new-to-me pasta shape to try out so this dish made a lot of sense.  The sauce is the chicken in a cheese sauce made with muenster and Parmesan.  The broccoli works well in there, I think.  The pasta is trottole, which means top – the spinning toy, not this side up.  Feel free to correct me if that’s wrong in some way.DSC_5019 (1600x1060)Toby rests up atop the sofa in the front room.  That spot is a fave of all our kittehs, especially when Kitteh Momma (Mrs J) is on it.  There’s room for three or four up there but the practical limit seems to be two.DSC_5012 (1600x1060)Ginger takes his turn.


DSC_9654 (1600x1060)Orange chicken is one of our favorites but for whatever reason we don’t do it that often.  I’ve been getting navel oranges at the local Kroger store that are very good, nice and sweet, so I was disappointed when they didn’t have any the last trip we made.  They did have a sack of regular oranges so I bought those.  Alas, they weren’t as good as the navels, a little too acidic for my taste.  Perfect for cooking, though!  I like RasaMalasia for their take on Asian cuisines and that is where this recipe came from.DSC_9646 (1600x1060)I used chicken breast meat for this one but boneless skinless thigh meat would be great.  I’m using a deep cast iron skillet for this batch, keeping an eye on the temperature with a thermometer.  I kept the temps around 350 for this, and added the chicken a piece at a time so it wouldn’t clump together.  Take the pieces out with a slotted spoon as they reach the color you are looking for and drain them on paper towels.DSC_9647 (1600x1060)While the last of the chicken was frying I started the orange sauce in another pan.  Bring it to a simmer and check the taste, add cornstarch in a slurry if it’s too thin.  Keep an eye on the other pan so you don’t overcook those last few chunks.DSC_9648 (1600x1060)When you are ready to serve, dump the chicken into the pan with the sauce…DSC_9649 (1600x1060)…and flip it a bit to coat everything.  I waited until the rice cooker told me the jasmine rice was ready before I took this step.PICT1540 (1600x1060)And now for a different orange… LOL!  The crittercam caught Ginger Boy trying to sneak up on a Cardinal.  I can assure you no birds were harmed during the making of this wildlife cameo.DSC_9634 (1600x1060)Blueberry muffins!  Google told me that a yellow cake mix would work just fine for these, and Mrs J turned out these after getting the specifics from here.  (ProTip:  these are filled just a wee bit too full.)DSC_9637 (1600x1060)I noticed that the recipe didn’t include any information on the yield.  It definitely makes more than eight, a dozen might be the right number.  The crumble topping was good on these.  We give them two thumbs up!

Christmas Eve Recipes: Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

  • 12 oz bag fresh or frozen whole cranberries
  • 3 crisp red apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1-inch thick
  • ground ginger to taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar*
  • 1 cup water

Combine ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until softened, reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes. Cool fully before serving.

*I started with a full cup of sugar and it was much too sweet, so I added another 6 oz of cranberries to bring the tartness back. So I reduced the sugar in the recipe to 3/4 cup. If it’s too tart, you can always add more sugar. Because not everyone has 5 bags of frozen cranberries in their freezer to adjust with if there is too much sugar.😉

For the entire Christmas Eve menu, click here.


Thursday Recipe Exchange: Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping

Finally got down to some cooking. I started the week out with Pumpkin Squares (recipe here), a real favorite with everyone, so a big pan goes pretty quickly. Then it was on to a good spicy pumpkin cookie, the featured recipe tonight. The photo shows both a crumble topping and a cream cheese frosting, but since I really preferred the crumble topping, that’s what I included in the recipe. These freeze well, so they can travel to Thanksgiving dinner with family.

I really wanted to make a Pumpkin Bundt Cake this year, so I went searching for recipes and adapted one to use buttermilk, click here, which I thought created a very moist, flavorful cake.

And finally, Pumpkin Cream Pie with a brown sugar whipped cream topping, which I am really enjoying at Thanksgiving instead of the traditional custard pumpkin pie. Pictures and recipe here. I’ll probably make it again this year.

For the pet lovers, Bixby update is here. He’s five months old this week and a wild thing. And as I was writing this, JeffreyW put up some adorable photos of shelter puppies in sweaters, click here. Please keep your squeals to a minimum.

Now it’s your turn. Are you a fan of pumpkin? I know it can be one of those ingredients that inspires a very strong response, either positive or negative. What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe or product this time of year? If not pumpkin, what treat really puts you in a fall mood?

Tonight’s recipe:

Spicy Pumpkin Cookies with Crumble Topping


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (14 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice

Cream together butter and sugar; add egg, pumpkin, and vanilla, mixing well. Sift together dry ingredients and slowly mix into pumpkin mixture and mix until well combined. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then drop by spoonful on a baking sheet. Top with crumble topping, pressing gently into the dough. Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to bake.

Bake for 12-13 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 2 dozen


  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly

That’s it for this week. Stay warm – TaMara


Pumpkin Squares Revisted

I make these every year and they disappear quickly. This year was no different. Not all my pumpkin creations are a success. Playing around with an oatmeal pumpkin cookie, I came up with an inedible concoction. Luckily Bixby and his playmates were not quite so discerning, so it wasn’t a complete waste of ingredients. I was glad to whip a batch of squares up after that to restore my faith in my own cooking.

Pumpkin Squares


  •  4 eggs
  • 1-2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil or butter
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice (less if desired, I like them spicy)

mixing bowl & 13×9 baking dish, greased

Beat eggs, sugar, butter & pumpkin together, add dry ingredients, mixing well. Spread into baking dish, bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cool & frost (frosting below). These are rich, so I would cut them into at least 24 squares.


  • 16 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-3/4 cups powdered sugar

mixing bowl

Mix together cream cheese, sugar & vanilla. Mix until smooth.

You can frost & freeze in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.  Enjoy.


Originally posted 10/2011