Monday, October 29, 2012

Michigan Football with My Big Brother

I'm pleased to introduce my first guest blogger (well, yes, my Dad had a blog a few weeks ago but he didn't actually realize he was guest blogging.  He just wrote me a letter and I had to share it!). This week my brother is joining the fun.  He is a HUGE (probably an understatement) Michigan football fan.  So I decided to get his perspective on how the team is doing so far this year. If you enjoy this post and his writing, be sure to check out his blog at His blog is cleverly called Maize Meanderings. Get it? Maize = Maize or Mey's. Too fun!

Alicia: How long have you been a Michigan football fan?
Eric: I’ve been a supporter of the Maize and Blue for 35 years now.

Alicia: What is your first memory of listening to or attending a Michigan football game?
Eric: My first memory comes from my freshman year in Ann Arbor.  There was a huge game with Wisconsin that season.  Both teams were undefeated and everyone thought we’d struggle to beat the Badgers.  But Michigan dominated from start to finish and won the game 56 – 0.  As I was leaving the stadium, a fan had his portable radio tuned to one of the local stations and after the D.J. announced the score, he played "Baby, What a Big Surprise" (the hit song by Chicago). Whenever I hear that song I can’t help but smile and recall my Wolverines winning that big game at the Big House.

Alicia: What are you most proud of about the Michigan team this year?
Eric: Before the season began, I was most emotional about our game with Michigan State.  So I am really happy that we beat the Spartans.  However, I’m sure that our visit to Columbus at the end of November is going to get my Maize and Blue blood flowing.  It’s tough for me not to be “most proud” of any victory by Michigan over Ohio State.  That’s a mentality left to me by one of the greatest football coaches of all time: Bo Schembechler.

Alicia: What is your prediction for how Michigan will end the football season?  Is a bowl game in sight for them?
Eric: My Wolverines are going to play in a bowl game.  I’m thinking it will be one of the New Year’s Day contests (e.g. Gator, Outback, Capital One) which means I’m predicting that they’ll finish 8 and 4 or perhaps 7 and 5. But, it's important for us to take things one game at a time.  Let's beat the Golden Gophers this Saturday, keep the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor and go from there. GO BLUE !!!

Alicia: If you could give Brady Hoke one piece of advice what would it be?
Eric: Coach Hoke is doing a fine job.  The only advice I would give him is: “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.”  There are far too many critics and not enough cheerleaders in the world of Michigan football.

Alicia: We have a great family football pool going for the college bowl games. Do you have any predictions for the outcome this year?  Will Grandpa Fritz be ousted?
Eric: Our college football bowl challenge continues to be so entertaining. Everyone can participate and regardless of expertise, everyone has a chance to win the contest.  And that’s what makes it so difficult for someone like Grandpa Fritz to repeat as champion.  With ten or more participants, the odds are against him.  As far as a prediction, I always think I’m going to win.  Otherwise, why bother to take on the challenge.

Well - I'm pretty sure I'M going to win the football pool this year. But hey - we can talk about that more over the holidays!

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Irish Christmas

We have a wonderful tradition in my family at Christmas time that is a bit unique. Each year I select a different country and we use that as the theme for our family Christmas celebration. We eat traditional food from that country, decorate the house as people would from that country, and play games, sing songs or conduct traditions unique to that country.

There are several reasons why I started this tradition. First, as a single person the holidays could be challenging. So I decided that if I came up with my own tradition and hosted my own party I could focus on that rather than focusing on the fact that I was not married. Second, I have always loved all things International. I've had the privilege of travelling overseas and have loved every trip. But there are lots of places I haven't seen yet.  And not everyone in my family has been able to travel. So this was a wonderful way to share International things with them. And finally, I'm a teacher at heart. My bachelor's degree from UM was in elementary education. And I've always loved writing lesson plans.  So now I could write a lesson plan for our Christmas party!

This will be our 20th year of this tradition!  The countries we've celebrated so far are:
1993: Mexico
1994: Michigan - okay, so I couldn't quite get everyone on board so we had a traditional US Christmas.
1995: Hawaii - right, I know, Hawaii is a state not a country. But hey, it was fun!
1996: France
1997: Italy
1998: Australia
1999: China
2000: Greece
2001: Sweden
2002: Germany
2003: Russia
2004: Morocco
2005: Taiwan
2006: England
2007: Ecuador
2008: Costa Rica
2009: Finland
2010: India
2011: Spain
2012: Ireland - This year we will be celebrating an Irish Christmas in honor of my niece and my trip to Ireland last summer.

If you know anyone who has an Irish background or can help us with this year's celebration, leave a comment!

Nollaig Shona Duit - that's Merry Christmas in Gaelic!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Party-in-Your-Mouth Soup

  • 15-ounce can Black beans
  • 16-ounce can Vegetable broth
  • 15-ounce can Vegetarian Refried beans
  • 16-ounce can Corn
  • 16-ounce jar Salsa

  1. Drain the black beans. Use the corn undrained.
  2. Mix all ingredients and heat.
  3. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream for your non-Vegan friends (this will add WW points to your meal).

1 cup - 1 point on Weight Watchers

You can add 1 cup of Chicken and use Chicken broth instead of the Vegetable broth if you want a soup with meat. But this will add calories if you are on Weight Watchers.

A Pumpkin Carving Fall Party

My family is all coming over today for a fun time of enjoying the fall weather, carving pumpkins, and hopefully watching Michigan beat Michigan State in football! This is our third year of doing this so I guess it's a tradition! I've included our agenda for the day below as well as the menu.  Keep things simple so you don't get stressed out before hand about having company over. And try to do as much ahead of time as possible so you can enjoy the day too!  Clean the house on Thursday night so you get that out of the way. No need to go overboard on the decorations.  A nice Halloween tablecloth, napkins and plates will suffice. Set up the table and decorations the night before. Make the broccoli salad and cabbage salad the night before. Brown the ground beef for the Sloppy Joes the night before.

We'll post pictures later so you can see all the madness.  Happy fall!

8:00am - Sleep in so you are well rested and can enjoy all the festivities. Get up and take the boys for their morning walk.
9:00am - Throw the soup and Sloppy Joes in the crock pots. The house will start smelling wonderful and you don't have to worry about lunch until the last minute.
10:30am - Company starts arriving.
10:45am - Head to Caledonia to the pumpkin patch - Orchard Hill Farms.
11:00am - Meet others at the pumpkin patch. Pick out pumpkins, take pictures, enjoy the activities.
12:30pm - Back home - the rest of the company arrives that didn't want to take in the pumpkin patch. Eat lunch and catch up on all the news.
1:30pm - Start carving pumpkins - and don't forget to save the seeds. I'm still looking for a good pumpkin seed recipe.  If anyone has one shoot it my way!
3:30pm - Head over to Night Hawk to watch the football game.
6:30pm - Back home - get the bonfire started and enjoy more conversation around the fire while being amazed at the beautiful stars in the sky.

Lunch Menu (more than enough food - we have 12 coming over - adjust accordingly)
Broccoli Salad
Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad
Party-in-Your-Mouth Soup (for your vegan/vegetarian friends)
Sloppy Joes
Rolls (courtesy of one of your friends)
Pumpkin Dip (courtesy of one of your friends)
Apples (courtesy of one of your friends)
Hummus, Veggies & Pita Chips (for your healthy/vegan friends)
Peanut Butter Chex Mix
Halloween Candy

Pumpkin carving tools and patterns
Table decorations
2 Crock Pots (borrow one from a neighbor if you only have one)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Broccoli Salad

  • 1 medium head broccoli
  • 1/2 head cauliflower
  • 1 small red onion
  • 10 slices crisp cooked bacon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Mix mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar.
  2. Combine dressing with remaining ingredients.
  3. Keeps well in the refrigerator; tastes better the longer it refrigerates.

From the kitchen of Charmaine Kyle.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life Lessons

Things I've Learned While Living in the Country

1. The saying "playing possum" is rooted in reality. When your dogs sniff a dead possum and you put them in the house and head out with a shovel to take care of the dead possum, don't be surprised to find it casually walking away!

2. Never walk your dogs in the rain down a dirt road.

3. And if you do walk your dogs in the rain down a dirt road, never, NEVER, throw them in the car immediately after the walk to run to the grocery store - without cleaning them off.  If you do, you will come out from the grocery store and find the inside of your car covered in dirt spots because your dogs shook off after the walk. NOT that it has EVER happened to me.  

4. Be sure to meet your neighbors immediately after you move in.  That way when your dog decides to chase their goats around the goat pen, you will have met them first!

5. If you decide you need to use the snow blower to clear the snow off your back deck, be sure to remove all dog chains from the deck.  And if you forget to move the dog chains, when you see them while you are snow blowing  stop snow blowing and move the chain. And if you still wait to move the chain, don't be surprised if your snow blower sucks the chain up into the blower when you run over it! And if your neighbor comes over to save the day and save your snow blower, be sure to make him some blueberry buckle to thank him!

6. If you want to walk the dogs at night in the country be sure to buy a really dorky looking head-lamp that you can wear.  It's REALLY dark in the country at night. 

7. When you do walk at night in the country...look up.  It is AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL.  There are WAY more stars in the country than in the city!

8. Tell your friends often how grateful you are for their support when you moved to the country. You couldn't have made the transition without them when you had to learn how to mow the lawn with a riding lawn mower, how to replace fence boards when they broke, how to raise a flag on the huge flagpole in the front yard...

9. Tell your family how much you love them and how you love hanging out with them whether it is in the city OR the country!

10. Thank God every day for the beautiful, peaceful home he has provided with amazing neighbors and deep friendships at church and in the hood!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

White Chicken Chili

  • 48 ounces Great Northern Beans 
  • 5 ounces Monterrey Jack Cheese 
  • 16 ounces boneless Chicken breast 
  • 16 ounces salsa 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin


  1. Cook chicken and cut into bite size pieces. 
  2. Mix all ingredients. 
  3. Heat and serve.

From the kitchen of Kris Nelson.

6 Can Chili

  • 5 cans of beans any kind, do not drain them
  • 1 can baked beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 pounds of cooked hamburger
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, diced (optional for a little more zing)

  1. Mix all ingredients. 
  2. Simmer 1 hour. 

From the kitchen of Gwen Hendrickson

1,000 Gifts

44. My husband who can fix our cars.
43. Late summer days mid-70's with no humidity.
42. Each person in the family hanging out in the living room reading a good book.
41. Quiet evenings at home listening to 80's music with my best friend.
40. Reconnecting with old friends and picking up right where you left off.
39. Reliable dog-sitters so I don't have to worry about my boys when I am out-of-town.
38. Being able to travel to new cities and parts of the country for work.
37. Three beautiful, healthy daughters.
36. A husband who loves me.
35. Playing kickball with family and not being afraid because you are so bad at it!
34. Finding just the right birthday present even though you waited until the last minute!
33. Reconnecting with old friends.
32. The sound of birds chirping in the morning.
31. Dogs playing and chasing each other at top speed!
30. Flowering trees.
29. The smell of lilacs.
28. Baby bunnies.
27. April Fools Day humor.
26. A free lunch -- yes, there is such a thing.
25. Watching Eagles sitting on three eggs on a live streaming webcam.
24. Learning to care for a horse.
23. Good health.
22. Beautiful, clean bathrooms with running water.
21. A good hair day!
20. Silky, soft puppy ears to tickle.
19. Crisp, clear night skies that make you believe you can see EVERY star in the sky. Beautiful!
18. Reunions with old friends.
17. Work at home days.
16. Nice, firm, queen-size bed - enough room for me and my puppies.
15. Hazelnut, decaf coffee. Mmmmm.
14. Beautiful, white, clean snow. Lovely!
13. Fresh water right out of the faucet, farthest I have to carry it is from the kitchen to the living room. What a luxury!
12. Really good books.
11. Getting to hear amazing devotions while at work.
10. Flowers from a good friend.
9. Country roads.
8. Inspiring stories from our authors.
7. Sweet neighbors who bring me dinner.
6. Birthday wishes
5. Loving parents
4. Blue skies and bright sunshine.
3. Vegan restaurants
2. Puppies to cuddle
1. Girls-only nights.

"Whoa" Balls

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup crisped rice cereal
  • 1 package store-bought chocolate frosting

  1. Stir the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until creamy. 
  2. Add the peanut butter and rice cereal, continuing to stir until you get an even texture. 
  3. Shape the batter into small balls and place them on a cookie sheet. 
  4. Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to allow the balls to harden (about 45 minutes). 
  5. Remove the cookie sheet from the refrigerator. 
  6. Dip each ball in frosting, then put it back on the cookie sheet. 
  7. Refrigerate the balls for another hour, then enjoy them with your friends.

*Easily made vegan with vegan butter and frosting.

Quick & Easy Lasagna

  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1 Pound Italian Sausage
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 1 Teaspoon Basil
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 24 Ounces Spaghetti Sauce
  • 2 Cups Cottage Cheese
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 8 ounces Lasagna Noodles, uncooked
  • 24 ounces Mozzarella Cheese
  1. Brown ground beef and sausage; drain fat. Add onion, basil, salt, pepper. Add spaghetti sauce and simmer. 
  2. Fold egg into cottage cheese. 
  3. Spread layer of sauce over 9”x13” pan. Layer uncooked noodles over sauce. Top with more sauce and 1/2 the cottage cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Layer mozzarella cheese on top and make sure it covers the whole top. 
  4. Refrigerate overnight. 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 Box Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice Soup Mix 
  • 8 Ounces Mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 Can Chicken Broth 
  • ½ Cup Milk 
  • ¼ Teaspoon Pepper 
  • ½ Pound Pork Sausage 
  • ¼ Medium Onion 
  • 2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup 
  • 1/16 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper 

  1. Cook rice. 
  2. Brown sausage with chopped onion and mushrooms. 
  3. Combine all ingredients. 
  4. Simmer. 
  5. Serve with fresh bread. 
From the kitchen of Lisa Sikkema.

Blueberry Buckle

This is a favorite recipe in my family. And has become a hit in the neighborhood. This is one of the best ways to tell the neighbors thanks when they come to the rescue!


1-1/2 cups sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups blueberries
1 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9"x13" baking pan.
  2. Mix sugar, shortening, eggs and milk until well blended.
  3. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Fold in blueberries.
  5. Spread batter into 9”x13” pan.
  6. Combine remaining ingredients for topping and mix until crumbly. `Sprinkle crumbs over batter.
  7. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.

From the kitchen of Thelma Chamberlin.

Three Bean Salad


  • 15 ounces canned corn
  • 15 ounces canned Lima beans
  • 16 ounces canned green beans
  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas
  • 4 pieces celery
  • ½ small red pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Boil sugar, oil, vinegar and salt. 
  2. Cool. 
  3. Drain vegetables. Pour syrup over. 
  4. Cover. Chill 24 hours. 
  5. Stir twice. 
  6. Optional: mix 1 envelope unflavored gelatin with ¼ cup water. Mix with cooled syrup. 

From the kitchen of Elaine Kendall.

Black Bean Chili Bake


  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can corn kernels, drained
  • 1 cup chopped jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Put beans in a large bowl, and mash until they're about half crushed. 
  3. Add tomato sauce, rice, corn, peppers, onion, and chili powder. 
  4. Stir to combine. 
  5. Rub a 9" x 13" casserole dish with olive oil, and place mixture in it. 
  6. Bake 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Serve alone, as a filling for whole grain tortillas, or use as a dip with tortilla chips. Additional topping ideas include avocado slices, cherry tomatoes, green onions and/or black olives.

Caribbean Wild Rice


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple tidbits, juice reserved
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup chopped snow peas
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • Avocado slices
  • Chopped Macadamia nuts


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Stir in onions, and cook until soft and translucent. 
  3. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly so garlic doesn't burn. 
  4. Add 1/2 cup pineapple juice, soy sauce, and lime juice. 
  5. Stir in carrots, snow peas, zucchini, red peppers, black beans, and chickpeas. 
  6. Increase heat to medium high, stirring often. Cook 5 minutes, or until 3/4 of the liquid is absorbed and vegetables are slightly softened. 
  7. Add wild rice and pineapple. Increase heat, and stir-fry until heated through. 
  8. Serve immediately. Garnish with avocado slices and chopped macadamia nuts.

Coconut Rice

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups diced, cooked sweet potatoes, peeled (about 2-3 potatoes)
  • 1 cup sweet peas, cooked
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  1. Rinse rice in a fine mesh sieve to remove the surface starches. (They're what makes rice sticky.) 
  2. Mix water, coconut milk, and rice in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling. 
  3. Reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Cook, uncovered, until liquid evaporates, about 40-45 minutes.
  5. While rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Keep vegetables and beans warm. 
  6. When rice is finished, add ingredients to rice. Stir well, and serve immediately.
  7. Mix in chopped macadamia nuts before serving.

Enchilada Bake

  • 1 12-ounce bag Morningstar Farms burger crumbles
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ cup minced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained
  • 2 cans enchilada sauce
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 bag shredded cheddar soy cheese
  • 1 4.5 ounce can diced green chilies
  • 1 bag Fritos, crushed

  1. In a bowl, mix the burger crumbles with the taco seasoning and toss to coat. Set aside. 
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook about 3 minutes or until softened. 
  3. Stir in the flour and cook 1 minute. 
  4. Add the stock and cook, stirring, to achieve a smooth consistency, about 1 minute. 
  5. Add the pinto beans and set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Spray a 9”x13” baking pan with oil. 
  8. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of the enchilada sauce. 
  9. Layer in 4 corn tortillas and all of the pinto bean mixture. Follow with part of the soy cheese and green chilies, more enchilada sauce, and 4 more tortillas. Add the burger crumbles, more soy cheese, more green chilies, and more enchilada sauce. End with the remaining 4 tortillas, enchilada sauce, and soy cheese. 
  10. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. 
  11. Remove the foil, top the entire casserole with crumbled Fritos, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until bubbly and browned.

Peanutty Chicken and Pasta

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 8 ounces uncooked corkscrew pasta
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup pre-shredded carrot
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup shopped unsalted peanuts

  1. Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. 
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. 
  3. Drain and place in a big bowl. 
  4. Add sauce, chicken, carrot, green onions and bell pepper. 
  5. Toss gently to blend. 
  6. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Makes 4 servings.

From the Southern Living Kids Cookbook.

Chicken Tetrazzini

  • 16 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 4 cups cooked diced chicken
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 ounces frozen peas
  • 10 large black olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup wine sherry
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Cook spaghetti; drain. 
  3. In large pan, saute sliced mushrooms and onion in margarine until tender. 
  4. Stir in soup, 1 can water, and two bouillon cubes. 
  5. Cook and stir until blended. 
  6. Stir in spaghetti and remaining ingredients (including cooked chicken and slivered black olives), except Parmesan cheese and paprika. 
  7. Turn into 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish. Top with Parmesan cheese, sprinkle with paprika. Bake 45 minutes or until hot through.

Potato Salad

  • 30 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled, cut into peices 
  • 2 medium cucumbers, cut into pieces 
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into pieces 
  • 12 large hard boiled eggs, cut into pieces 
  • 6 stalks celery, cut into pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt 
  • 2 cups mayonnaise 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  1. Mix potatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, hard boiled eggs, and celery.  
  2. In a separate bowl, mix onion salt, mayonnaise and sugar. 
  3. Add enough milk for a dip-like consistency. 
  4. Add dip to veggies and potatoes. 
From the kitchen of Donna Mey

Strawberry Freezer Jam

  • 2 pints strawberries (2 cups crushed strawberries)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin

  1. Wash and rinse plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Use 1 to 2 cup size containers.
  2. Crush berries 1 cup at a time, using a potato masher for best results.
  3. Mix berries and sugar in a large bowl. Stir well. Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.
  4. Stir 1 box pectin and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. 
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Stir pectin mixture into fruit. Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  7. Pout into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at top for expansion during freezing. Cover.
  8. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks. Otherwise, store in freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator. Makes 5 cups jam.

Italian Garden Frittata

  • 6 egg whites 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, divided 
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper 
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced 
  • 2 green onions, sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, eggs, 1/4 cup Romano cheese, sage, salt and pepper; set aside. 
  2. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet coated with cooking spray, saute zucchini and onions in oil for 2 minutes. Add egg mixture; cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set. 
  3. Uncover; top with tomato slices and remaining cheese. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. 
  4. Another great veggie combo is: asparagus, red pepper, shredded potatoes, and mushrooms.

4 servings; 183 calories each.

Sausage Veggie Grill

  • 1 pound Italian sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in to 1-inch slices
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup quartered fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  1. In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the oil, oregano, parsley, garlic salt, and paprika. 
  3. Pour over sausage mixture, toss to coat. 
  4. Divide between two pieces of heavy-duty foil. Fold foil around sausage mixture and seal tightly. 
  5. Grill uncovered over medium heat for 25-30 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and vegetables are tender. 
  6. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape.

Vegetable Beef Bow Tie Skillet

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef broth
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

  1. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. 
  2. Stir in the broth, pasta, water and seasonings. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add yellow pepper and zucchini; cover and cook 2-4 minutes or until pasta and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. 
  5. Stir in tomatoes; sprinkle with cheese.

1-1/2 cups equals 498 calories. Makes 4 servings.

Ramen Noodle Cabbage Salad

  • 2 Packages Oriental Style Ramen Noodles
  • 1 Pound bag chopped cabbage
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds

  • 2 flavor packets from Ramen noodles
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cider vinegar

  1. Crush Ramen noodles while still in package. Save flavoring packets. 
  2. Mix all salad ingredients in bowl, set aside and make dressing.
  3. Stir the dressing ingredients briskly until it is totally mixed and it doesn't separate at all. It will look kind of like honey. If not mixed well it will separate in the salad and it will taste very oily. Sometimes it will blend within a minute and sometimes it takes longer. If it won't mix after a few minutes, add a little more sugar and vinegar.
  4. Add dressing to salad and mix well. Refrigerate several hours.

120 calories for a 1 cup serving.

Burgs in a Blanket

  • 1 package Pillsbury reduced fat crescent rolls refrigerator dough
  • 8 frozen meatless hamburger-style patties, thawed, halved
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Slightly stretch or roll out one of the triangle shaped portions of dough, forming a larger triangle. Cut dough into two narrow triangles. Repeat with remaining dough, yielding 16 triangles. 
  3. Lay a burger half width-wise across the center of each triangle, so that the top and bottom of each triangle are mostly exposed. Evenly top each burger half with onion. Bring the top and bottom of each triangle in toward the center, over the onion-topped burger halves, and press to seal.
  4. Place dough-covered burgers on a large sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake in the oven until dough is slightly browned, about 12 minutes. 
196 calories per serving (2 burgs in a blanket)

7 Layer Salad

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 16 ounces frozen peas
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 10 large black olives
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 cups mayonnaise

  1. Chop lettuce into bite size pieces. 
  2. Add thinly sliced onion, chopped green pepper, mushrooms, peas, tomato and celery. 
  3. Spread 2 cups mayonnaise over the top, sealing edges to bowl. 
  4. Sprinkle with sugar and Parmesan cheese. Garnish with cooked bacon, olives, and cheddar cheese. 
  5. Refrigerate 5 hours or overnight.

Apple Crisp

  • 6 cups Apple, sliced without skin
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup quick oats

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Place sliced apples in greased 8" baking pan. 
  3. Blend remaining ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Spread over apples. 
  4. Bake 30-34 minutes, until apples are tender. 
  5. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
*Easily made vegan with vegan butter and coconut milk ice cream.

Pumpkin Bread

  • 2-2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup dates

  1. Cream sugar and shortening. 
  2. Add eggs and pumpkin. 
  3. Alternately add flour, spices and milk. 
  4. Pour into 2- 9" x 5" x 3" pans, greased and floured. 
  5. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Washing Windows

From All You Magazine - There's a secret weapon that takes window washing off the most-dreaded-chore list: a squeegee. Choose one with a soft rubber blade to help cut down on streaks. You also need a 3/4-inch-thick sponge with a white scrubber. 

1. Mix 5 drops of liquid dish detergent in 2 gallons of water. Add a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to give your windows extra shine. 

2. Dip the sponge into the solution and wet the window, using the rough side to scrub away dirt. Run the rough side against the window frame to pick up accumulated dirt.

3. Using a lint-free cloth or a coffee filter, clean a 1-inch strip at the top of the window.

4. Moisten the squeegee blade with the cloth or coffee filter, then position it at teh top of the window in the 1-inch strip. Pull down in a smooth stroke. Moisten and repeat, slightly overlapping each stroke, until the window is clean.

5. Get your niece to read these instructions and do the job for you!  (I added this one!)

Blueberry Bulgar Salad

  • 1/2 cup Bulgar wheat
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 4 oz reduced-fat feta, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced red onion

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. For the salad, place Bulgar in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water; stir. Cover tightly; let stand 15 minutes or until tender. Drain excess water.
  2. Add blueberries, feta, walnuts, parsley, basil, bell pepper and onion to Bulgar; mix gently. Set aside.
  3. For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and mustard. Whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle on salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Serves 8. 165 calories per serving. 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Grandma Millie's Dish Cloth Pattern

Cast on 4
  1. Knit 4
  2. Knit 2, yarn over, knit across row. 
  3. Repeat row 2 until you have 44 stitches on needle
  4. Knit 1, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to the end of the row.
  5. Repeat row 4 until you have 4 stitches on needle.
Bind off

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Spicy pumpkin seeds

  1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat, and add onions. Cook until soft and translucent. 
  2. Stir in garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly so garlic doesn't burn. 
  3. Add broth, 2 cups of the black beans, pumpkin, cumin, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Put tomatoes and remaining black beans into a food processor or blender until smooth. 
  5. Add to soup mixture, and heat to boiling. Reduce heat, and simmer 30  minutes. 
  6. Sprinkle spice pumpkin seeds on top of each serving.

Limeade with a Touch of Mint

  • Grated zest of one lime (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup lime juice (from about 6 Persian limes)
  • 2 cups of Splenda
  • 4 cups water
  • Several sprigs of fresh mint

  1. In a small saucepan bring to a boil the Splenda, one cup of water, and the lime zest. Once the sugar is dissolved (which it should be by the time the water boils), remove from heat and let cool for for a few minutes. The amount of sugar is a guideline, it depends on how sweet you like your limeade and how tart your particular limes are.
  2. Add the lime juice and 3 cups of water. Taste for sour/sweet balance. If too sweet, add a little more lime juice. Add several sprigs of fresh mint.
  3. Chill, or serve immediately over ice.
Makes about 1 quart.
From the kitchen of Liz Kyle.

Oven French Toast

  • 1 loaf french bread
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Grease 9" x 13" pan. 
  2. Lay out bread (1" thick slices). Pour egg and spice mixture over the bread. Cover. Refrigerate over night. 
  3. Mix together 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Sprinkle over bread. 
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Donna's Macaroni Salad

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni 
  • 1 green pepper 
  • 1 cucumber 
  • 2 stalks celery 
  • 4 slices ham 
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese 
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon milk 
  • 1 teaspoon mustard 
  1. Cook the macaroni. 
  2. Chop all the vegetables, ham and cheese. 
  3. Mix the dressing together. 
  4. And stir it all up! 
From the kitchen of Donna Mey.

Grandpa Fritz's 10 Step Diet Plan OR Larry's Down-to-Earth Diet Principles

A guest post already you say? Well - just had to share this note from my Dad that fits so well with this blog.

There is about 10 steps to dieting - give or take 5.
#1 Count calories.
#2 Eat an oatmeal breakfast.
#3 Eat a full course dinner sometime between 12pm and 2pm.
#4 Eat an old fashioned supper ( a light meal around 5pm).
#5 Drink a half gallon of water per day.
#6 Snack only on a graham cracker (no candy or soda pop).
#7 No coffee after 2pm.
#8 Exercise daily.
#9 Popcorn snack.
#10 Leave a little on your plate.
#11 Do not go to bed full - be a little bit hungry.
#12 Reach for your mate instead of your plate.

#1 Counting calories is the key to this diet plan. When I was in high school, we had a project to complete which involved counting the calories I took in, in the form of food and drink and the amount of calories used up in a day. At the time I weighed about 160 pounds and consumed about 3,000 calories per day and I used up about 3,000 calories per day. To arrive at those numbers I kept track of the hours of sleep, walking, running, etc. What I learned is that over the years I require much fewer calories. Now nor more than 2,000/day and in order to lose weight closer to 1,500/day. What I remember from High school was that to lose one pound required to reduce calorie intake by 3,500 calories. That would mean 500 calories/day to lose 1 pound of weight per week. Running for 1 hour uses about 400 calories. So if I ran 7 days a week I would not lose a pound. It would help. Besides I am too lazy to run 7 days a week. Just think cutting down by 100 calories/day, I would lose 1 pound a month. It is very difficult, 100 calories/day I would lose 10 pounds a year. That would be good because after a year following my diet would require a change in lifestyle.

#2 Eat oatmeal for breakfast. 2/3 cup of whole grain oatmeal is about 25 grams of fiber and with 12 raisins and a banana and 1/2 cup of milk is very satisfying and will get you through to dinner.

#3 Eat a full course meal. A large salad of lettuce and tomato a must with very little dressing. A small portion of meat a couple vegetables a side dish of applesauce, unsweetened. Eat slowly. Try to take an hour.

#4 A cup of soup or a tomato sandwich for supper.

#5 Drink a half gallon of water. Water with breakfast, between breakfast and dinner, between dinner and supper, with supper and before bed. We are 97% water and need to keep hydrated to be well.

#6 Graham cracker with coffee in AM, between dinner and supper, and before bed.

7 & 8

#9 Popcorn. In place of supper at 5pm make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie at 6pm with lots of water.

#10 Leave a little. Good etiquette  Growing up as a child we were taught to clear our plate. There would be no snacks between meals or at bedtime. That's all we had.

I am getting tied and need to take a NAP.

What is "A Down-to-Earth Life?"

My first blog. Wow! Never thought I would enter this world because I am NOT a writer. But this is my little corner to keep organized and share ideas, tips, and tools with my friends and family.  So, you might ask, what do you need to organize?

Recipes - First and foremost a place to keep my favorite recipes.  And because I'm all about down-to-earth, these recipes are easy, practical and not a lot of fuss.

The Farm - I moved from the city to the country three years ago. So I'm learning all sorts of things about country life and taking care of the farm. 

I'm sure my blog will grow and change over time. It would be boring if it didn't! Can't wait to see what is in store. I love lists. I love bullet points. And I love keeping things simple so I can enjoy the best things in life. You won't find long discourses here. Short. Simple. And to-the-point!