Friday, December 26, 2014

Old School Lasagna

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We celebrated twice, a noisy family and friend get-together on Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day dinner with Mom Tilton. I loved both of them, it's always an excuse to try out new recipes and ideas. My family is used to being guinea pigs! Sometimes that's how I find a BEST recipe, better than the one I thought was the best... that's what happened this year when I made an old school Italian family recipe that's been passed down in Martha's family over at A Family Feast. It is homemade from start to finish, so you just might want to plan ahead and make the tomato sauce one day and the meat sauce another. I hope you won't say,"This is too much trouble"... it is so worth it! I made a few variations, I left out the mint and shredded an additional 8 oz. block of mozzarella in place of the fresh sliced mozz. One more trip to the grocery store might just have pushed me over the edge ;)

A recipe that every Italian Grandma knows by heart, the next time you need a 9x13 showstopper this one will fit the bill!

          1 pound box of dry lasagna noodles (you will need 16 noodles. A one pound box contains 20                noodles so you will have four extra. Usually a few get broken so this usually works out)
    For the Meat Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage meat (I used Jimmy Dean Italian Sausage)
  • 1 28-ounce canned crushed tomatoes (Cento is my favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry basil or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint (I left this out)
  • For the cheese mixture
  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley 
  • Other ingredients you’ll need
  • 2 ½ cups tomato sauce (see recipe here)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced into 12 slices (I took another shortcut and shredded an 8 oz block of mozzarella)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to box directions but keep them slightly undercooked (I cooked them 8 minutes). They should still have a good bite to them. Rinse and cool. Keep moist while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onions for about two minutes over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the meat, stir and cook until there is no pink. Depending on the fat content of the meat you are using, you may need to drain off some liquid. There should only be a few tablespoons of liquid after cooking the meat. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and mint. Reduce to medium and simmer ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, beaten eggs, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix to combine and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put oven rack in center of oven.
  5. In a 9X13X3 glass baking dish, ladle in one cup of tomato sauce into the bottom and lay four lasagna noodles overlapping slightly. Add one third of these cheese mixture, one third of the meat mixture and half of the sliced fresh mozzarella. (The sliced mozzarella will not cover the whole pan, just spread as evenly as possible). Repeat with four more noodles, one third of cheese mixture, one third of meat mixture and the other half of sliced fresh mozzarella. Cover with four more noodles and top with remaining cheese mixture, remaining meat mixture and 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Finish with four more noodles, 1 ½ cups tomato sauce, 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.
  6. Lay a piece of parchment paper over top and then cover tightly with foil. Cover a sheet pan with foil and place a rack in foiled pan. Now place the covered lasagna on the rack and place in the oven. The rack is to circulate heat and the lower pan will catch and drips.
  7. Bake for one hour covered. Remove foil and parchment and cook uncovered for 30 more minutes. Let rest 15-30 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Simmering Potpourri

I'm a sucker for anything that smells good. If I had invested in Glade sprays or Yankee Candles, maybe we could have retired early on profits! Fragrance is one of those things that's very personal though. This time of year when all the perfume inserts come in the ads, I have to open them and take a whiff. Jessica McClintock is my favorite, it's description are "top notes of cassia, basil, ylang-ylang, bergamot, black currant and lemon; middle notes are jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are musk and woody notes"... hmm, that pretty well covers all smells known to mankind! But we know what we like and this time of year we all love for our homes to be welcoming and smell like Grandma's house! Even if you haven't had the time to put one single cookie in the oven, you can have that delicious aroma swirling around if you make either one of these potpourri's.  

Simmering Christmas Potpourri #1
Shared from Estelle's Kitchen at The Maine House
Sliced apples
Sliced lemons
Sliced oranges
Bay leaves
Whole cloves
Cinnamon sticks
In a slow-cooker, combine fruit the way you like. Cover in water. Top with bay leaves, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Leave slow-cooker on. Makes your house smell like Christmas Memories!

Simmering Christmas Potpourri #2
1 Quart Pineapple Juice

1 Quart Water
1 Quart Apple Cider
3 Sticks of Cinnamon
16 Cloves
1 Teaspoon Allspice
2 Teaspoons Pickling Spice
Simmer over low heat, until the house smells delicious. Add more water as needed and you can reheat this mixture for days. If you have an electric potpourri pot, all the better! This is just wonderful!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Christmas Album

The year my Dad passed we were expecting our first Grandson Jackson. It was a long winter to go through, depression and anticipation are an odd mix. I decided that keeping busy was the best medicine for me so I began putting together a Christmas Album. Up till then, the various years were scattered from album to envelope to the "Picture Box." Every night I'd set down to watch TV and go through the pictures, 1970-1994. Years of Christmas mornings spread out before me to be placed in the pages of an album that I hoped would mean something in time to the Grandchild waiting to be born.

As I went through the pictures, the memories flowed back. Stephanie was 2 when we were stationed at Biloxi, Mississippi in the above pictures (1972).

Stephanie and her Daddy under the mistletoe...Sacramento, California 1974

1981, Amy was 2 and Stephanie 10

Many, many Christmases at our parents houses. We were lucky, they lived across the pasture from each other so when we went it meant TWO Christmases!

1987 at Mom and Dad's

1988, the next year Stephanie graduated from High School

When you look at a picture you see many things, the look of surprise on someone's face, the excitement of opening the gifts and you remember the feelings you had at that moment of being with the ones you love the most.

It was the perfect project for me to work on. I relived the many happy years that my Dad enjoyed his Grand Daughters. His greatest joy was when we were all together. Whether it was Christmas, or digging potatoes out of the huge garden he grew each year, or at the table laughing and talking all at once...he loved every minute. I think that's probably what I inherited from him that I value the most. It's those moments in our lives that add meaning and joy and make each Christmas something so very special...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Libby's Favorite Pumpkin Roll

Libby's Favorite Pumpkin Roll

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree (Libby’s)

For the Filling

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray, or you can use a Silpat. Sprinkle a clean tea towel with powdered sugar. Set pan and towel aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla and sugar until thick. Add in pumpkin and mix to combine. Stir in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re-roll cake. Wrap in Saran wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. 
Store Pumpkin Roll wrapped in Saran Wrap for up to a week in the fridge or you can freeze it and store up to a month. Allow the roll to come to room temperature, about an hour before serving.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nothing but Blue Skies...

Our grandson had the opportunity to realize a dream yesterday. From the time he was a little boy, he's talked about being a pilot. Not a huge surprise since he spent so much time on airplanes from the time he was very young flying to far away places like Shanghai and Belgium to visit his Dad. 

It's been awhile since he has allowed himself to dream big. Since his Dad passed away, his life has been in limbo. Not planned, not unplanned... just in a holding pattern. Up in that Cessna yesterday, he began to think he could do this, make this his career- fly for a living. After all his Uncle David has done just that for years with Southwest Airlines.

All along we have it inside us the ability to achieve greatness. It lays dormant for years until someone or something lights a fire in our hearts. Never far away, our Guardian Angels are there to cheer us on. It's not going to be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. But one flight and then another, he'll reach that dream. Holding patterns in the air mean circles, not a good thing. We're seeing Blue Skies ahead!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Terry's Secret Recipe

Today I'm sharing a secret family recipe. This one is a keeper, put it where you can get to it easily if you've had a busy day or a "Mom's Night Off" or  "Dad's Cooking!" Easy, but oh so good and it's Super Bowl perfect too. My SISTER in law's recipe, it's famous in our family. It's probably the only recipe that I had that the daughters left home with... they didn't want to be far from the secret recipe!

OK, are you ready? It's not one of those recipes that has a lot of ingredients or a lot of steps. In fact, it sounds too easy to be considered famous or secret... just trust me on this, it is!

Terry's Secret Recipe   PRINT RECIPE
2 lb. hamburger
1 lb. brick chili, this isn't canned chili (it's next to the hot dogs in most groceries, a rectangular brick of chili meat that is condensed)  I like the Famous brand or 4 Star ... they look like this:

1 lb. Velveeta, cut in chunks
2 cans chili beans, undrained
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes, your choice...blazing hot or wimpy mild!
8 oz. sour cream
shredded iceberg lettuce
shredded Cheddar cheese
tortilla chips

Brown hamburger and drain. Add beans, chili, Ro-Tel and Velveeta. Simmer over LOW heat until melted. Add sour cream and serve in bowls topped with shredded lettuce, shredded Cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips. I didn't say it was healthy, did I?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Proud to be an American

This picture was making the rounds on Facebook last Friday. I've seen it before, but each time I do I get a big lump in my throat and my heart feels very sad. I feel a deep hurt over what's going on in this county right now. We have lost direction, we've forgotten how to overcome.

I still have it in me to be a proud American, I'm not beat completely down yet.

In the 60's there were demonstrations, marches that spoke to the unrest in this country. I'm not saying we need riots or violence, but have Americans just given up?

We need change for the better,

...not just change for the sake of change.

When I looked around today, it seems I'm not alone.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Failure is Not an Option!

I had some amazing teachers as a child who inspired me. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes immediately comes to mind. Oh, how I loved that woman! She was kind and patient, guiding and directing the 30 impressionable lives for the 9 months she had us. We learned how to add and subtract, all about the World in Social Studies and how to write in Cursive. But we learned so much more from Mrs. Hayes. We learned trust and responsibility and that honesty was the best policy. I'll never forget Mrs. Hayes or that feeling when she would have me collect the milk money each morning. It was good to be so young and trusted to do an important task.

The famous people below overcame that feeling of failure and reached for the stars. They struggled with disappointment and criticism, but somewhere along the way in spite of discouragement... they excelled.
Abraham Lincoln, former US President first went into politics at the age of 23 when he campaigned for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly and failed. He then opened a general store which failed after only a few months.

Harry S. Truman, former US President was rejected by the US Military & Naval Academies due to his poor eyesight. At one point he was a clerk in a newspaper mailroom, and also an usher in a movie theater.

Michael Jordan, the most famous name in basketball was actually cut from his high school basketball team.

John Wayne - Before his successful acting career he was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.

Steven Spielberg - This household name dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average.

Beethoven - His music teacher once told him that he was a hopeless composer.

Babe Ruth - This baseball legend struck out 1,330 times.

Henry Ford - The Ford Motor Co was Henry Ford’s third business, the first two didn’t work out.

Winston Churchill - This former British Prime Minister did poorly in school and had a speech impediment in his early years.

Walt Disney - He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for lacking in ideas.

Soichiro Honda - The founder of Honda was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota after World War Two.

Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita - These two were the founders of Sony, but one of their first products was an electric rice cooker. They only sold 100 or so of these cookers because they tended to burn rice rather than cook it.

Charles Darwin - His father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family.

Albert Einstein - He learned to speak at a late age and performed poorly in school.

Thomas Edison - As a boy he was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.

John Grisham - This best selling novelist’s first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.

Isaac Newton - He failed at running the family farm and did poorly in school.
Henry Ford said,
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Friday, August 22, 2014


It's easy to close my eyes and think back to the long hot summers of my childhood. After supper we'd play outside until darkness took over the sky, Hide and Go Seek or Mother May I until the Fireflies came out. We'd try like mad to catch their little flashlight bodies and place them in an old Ball jar, but mostly it was running and giggling!

The fireflies flew just out of our reach, inspiration and wonder just beyond our fingertips. That's kind of like life, what we want sometimes is out there but it seems almost fantasy... what we want is just too hard to "catch." If we're not careful, we let the "I can'ts" into our hearts and then we forget how to be children again. Every Summer my Grandchilden teach me how to be young again. They leave fingerprints on the glass doors, they scatter toys in the living room and they delight in a simple ice cream cone.

Not a banana split, not a sundae... just a plain, ol' ice cream cone! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Magic Carpet Ride


Lots of changes in the last 44 years, it was a first having my better half post anniversary wishes on Facebook this morning! We have tried our best to change with the times, not stay back in the 70's. When we first married he was in his second year of college and I was barely 18. I imagine many of our friends and relatives thought our marriage was doomed from the start. Those first few years were very hard, disappointments when our life didn't go as we had planned. That was the first mistake, thinking life would go as planned!


I got out my wedding dress a couple weeks ago, it's stored in a zipped garment bag now and has turned a cream color over the years. It has the smell that all antique things have, it made me a little sad to see it. It looks so small, I didn't even attempt to put it on! No one ever arrives at 44 years the same, physically or 
                      emotionally. I like to think I've grown in character as well as inches!

Nothing prepares you for marriage, it's one of those things that you just jump into with both feet and hope for the best. No rule book out there, everyone has to work through the hard stuff and appreciate the good stuff! Somewhere around 5 years (or kids, whichever comes first) we have a tendency to forget why we married in the first place. We forget that delicious kiss that took our breath away and it's all work and kids. Too bad we have to go through several more years until we realize that having that person in your life is so much more important than work or meetings or soccer games. 

44 years, and today I'm remembering how it felt going that aisle. It was thrilling in a sick-to-my-stomach kind of way, the excitement of a roller coaster and Christmas all rolled into one! That's kind of what happened in the years that followed... it wasn't always smooth sailing, but for the most part we have had beautiful sunsets every single day.

I'm glad I chose you Honey, let's keep the magic going!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


 Do you ever just accidentally do something, but for the life of you not have a clue how you did it? Technologically challenged, it doesn't prevent me from buying Smartphones and iPads to improve my life. Somewhere along the way I do learn a new trick or two, repeating it may be the problem! 

 The photos that popped on my iPad were these 3 gifs, is that what they're called? Well, I don't know how it made existing still shots move magically but I had to share! It's been a stressful 3 weeks, Mother's Day was the start of our run of bad luck when a limb fell from outer space and pierced our roof. 

It went all the way through the roof into the attic space above the garage. We're still waiting on the roofers and it's rained every. single. day. since this happened. Murphy's Law I guess.

Then Tuesday we were headed to Walmart when my car made a funny noise, kind of "chug ker-plunk." A quick call to the dealer and they sent a wrecker to come get it. One car down, but we had another in the wings to make the trip. If we'd just known a Dodge truck was going to back into us, well... we'd have stayed home.

Some days are just like that, not much you can do but smile and go on. A little lipstick on that smile doesn't hurt either!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Confederate Cemetery Fayetteville, Arkansas

One of the few posts my husband ever wrote on the blog, definitely one of my favorites! Memorial Day weekend is time off for most of us, we gather as families and many of us visit the cemeteries of our loved ones to decorate the graves. This cemetery is located just blocks from the historic Fayetteville downtown square and the day we visited we were the only ones there. It contains the remains of men who died in the service of the Confederacy in North Arkansas. Some of the soldiers buried here died from illness in disease ridden camps or from battle in one of the most violent and desperately contested fronts of the Civil War. Their graves once dotted the hills of Northwest Arkansas until 1878 when the Southern Memorial Association of Washington County established the beautiful cemetery. The bodies of fallen soldiers were exhumed and brought here for final burial.

These pictures and the poignant words of my husband tell why we can never forget these old cemeteries...

The trees seem to watch over these soldiers,  almost as if they stand at attention to salute those who rest beneath.  These ancient trees speak to me, I wonder if they speak to each other?

Do they encourage each other to be strong?  In the face of decades of tornadoes, ice storms, wind storms, droughts, floods, and everything else that nature has offered them, they don't give up.  I saw a very large depression in the ground with the remnants of a rotten stump.  Do the trees whisper to each other that one of them has fallen?  Does this increase their resolve to remain strong until the younger trees can grow to a size to shade the soldiers?

They remind me of a photo I saw of a 92 year old World War II veteran who had the opportunity to visit the new WWII memorial in Washington, DC.  He flew out on a Honor Flight from our airport wearing his old uniform.  My company helps sponsor these flights so that the few surviving WWII vets who are able to travel have the opportunity to see it.  In the picture he made a valiant effort to stand straight and salute.

The trees here are very much like this gentleman, proud to salute those resting there but too old to stand straight anymore.
I wonder if they will still be there next Memorial Day?  Will any finally fall when the next storm comes or will they make it another year, just waiting for the small ones to relieve them of guard duty?

The graves in the old Confederate Cemetery honor someone's father, husband, friend. Somewhere there are family members who've never seen this cemetery. They can't imagine the beauty and the peace that surrounds their loved one. I just wish they knew that he is honored by all who call themselves Americans.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar and Cherry-O Cheesecake

I see the Bluebirds are back and busy making their nests in all the birdhouses around the yard. My father-in-law made all of our's and they are beginning to show their age. Birds aren't too picky about the condition of the house, but it needs to be free of last years' nest and have a good roof that will keep the eggs and mama dry while she's setting. Think about location when you place a birdhouse, a secluded area at the edge of your yard is perfect. Depending on where you live, consider the sun and whether it will warm the birdhouse on chilly mornings or be too hot for the new family growing inside. We keep our feeders up year round, it's fun to watch the many beautiful birds throughout the year.

It's time to put the hummingbird feeders out again. I love watching the little hummers each morning as they crowd the feeder that hangs just outside our kitchen window! They arrive in the South as early as March. You can see where they are right now by looking at the map here.

Hummingbird Nectar:
1 part white cane sugar
4 parts water
Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This is the best recipe since it closely resembles the nectar of many wildflowers. Don't try to use honey or brown sugar and it's not necessary to use red food coloring to attact the birds. Keep the feeder clean, wash out with hot water- no soap- each time you refill.

                       In the kitchen this week, Grandson Gavin's favorite...

Cherry-O Cheesecake
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8 or 9-inch) prepared graham cracker or baked pie crust
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling, chilled
BEAT cream cheese until fluffy in large bowl. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
POUR into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of cherry pie filling before serving.

BLUEBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium bowl; mix well. Add 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice then 2 cup fresh or dry-pack frozen blueberries, thawed; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes or until thick and clear. Cool 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool 15 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
CRANBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/3 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water and 2 cups fresh or dry-pack frozen cranberries; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
FRESH FRUIT: Omit cherry pie filling. Just before serving, arrange well-drained fresh strawberries, banana slices (dipped in lemon juice and well drained) and blueberries on top of chilled pie. Brush fruit with light corn syrup if desired.
AMBROSIA: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/2 cup Smucker's® Peach or Apricot Preserves, 1/4 cup flaked coconut, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in small saucepan; cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Arrange fresh orange sections over top of pie; top with coconut mixture. Chill thoroughly.

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