Sunday, April 30, 2017

Solar Powered Sunday - Black and White

Thanks to our hosts Nola and Angel Sugar.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Saturday Eats - Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie

Hey Mom!  What's for Supper??

The Chicagoland weather just can't decide if it is winter or Spring.  We had temps of almost 80 the other day, then it was down in the low 40's.  Today is cold and windy with rain in the forecast.  Maybe it's El Nino.

El Nino my A**


Abby, No HBO words! But it is a good day for a warm cheesy casserole. How about biscuit topped chicken pot pie. This is a great, comfort food meal, on a chilly Spring night.  It's also one that several friends with small children/grandchildren have made and EVERYONE raved about it, the little ones (and husbands) having seconds.

With canned biscuits - it's surprisingly easy to put together and if you are vegetarian you can replace the meat with Gardein "chickn" nuggets or extra veggies including potatoes.
1 and a 3/4 cups of homemade cream of cluck soup* (or use cream of chicken soup and omit the salt in the chicken filling.)
2/3 cup mayo (don't use low or non-fat kind)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
two pinches of crushed red pepper
dash or two of salt and pepper
3 and 1/2  cups cubed cooked chicken breast
2 and 1/2 cups chopped veggies (if frozen - thaw but don't cook)
1 medium onion chopped
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
2-3 tubes refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (if using the smaller four pack of bargain biscuits it will take a few biscuits shy of 3 tubes.  If using homemade biscuits you'll need a couple of dozen).

I have to segue into a story - many years ago, I was on leave as a pilot when we were alerted to a nearby robbery and possible explosive device.  It seems a man (with a pegleg, seriously you can't make this stuff up) robbed a jewelry store a couple blocks away from where myself, another pilot, and a couple MP friends were getting lunch.  The robber pointed at a shiny tube in his coat and said it was a bomb and to do what he said.  Suddenly there was a popping sound from beneath his coat and the clerk said, "that's not a BOMB, that's a tube of Pillsbury biscuits!" and the man ran from the store. A man with pegleg covered in biscuit dough was pretty easy to identify and he was soon apprehended.
Back to our recipe.

Biscuit Topping:

2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons celery seed
3/4 salt

Heat oven to 375 F. Saute chopped onion in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil to caramelize and release the sweetness. In a very large bowl, mix onion with soup, mayo, Worcestershire, red and black pepper, salt, chicken and veggies. Transfer to a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch glass casserole or lasagna pan. Sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil and bake at 375 F.for 20 minutes.


It's important you get the filling very hot before you put the biscuits on, or they will not bake properly.

While it cooks, separate the biscuits and cut in half.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, celery seed, eggs and salt, whisk up with a fork and set aside.

Remove casserole and place biscuits, cut side down over hot chicken mixture, about an inch apart. (If using canned biscuits, you will have a few biscuits left, save for later or freeze). Pour the sauce over the top and spread with a spatula.

Immediately return to oven at 375 F. and bake uncovered until top is golden. Bake about 4 minutes more than what the biscuit package calls for. For me, using small biscuits in my 70 year old gas oven, it was about 18 minutes after returning it to the oven with toppings, turning it half way through.

With the 13 x 9 pan, it's enough for a large family and freezes well. The recipe also cuts in half easily to make an 8 x 8 pan.

*Cream of Cluck Soup

Makes about 4 cups worth, I put in separate freezer containers and freeze and thaw and use as needed.

4 cup half and half or whole milk
2 and 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon melted butter
2 teaspoons white sugar
chicken bullion cube
2 cups finely chopped, cooked chicken meat
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use Jane's Krazy Mixed up Salt  - a salt/herb blend which has less sodium than table salt).
pinch of sage
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves roasted garlic  finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder).

Directions
Make a white sauce of milk (or half and half), flour, and melted butter. Add chicken. Add sugar, salt, pepper,sage and garlic (may use more or less as desired). Mix well and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

If soup is not as thick as desired, mix a small amount of cornstarch with a small amount of water and whisk in slowly to soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bachelor Living and the General Electric Pinata.

To start this post. My husband is on the road.  He's a mechanical engineer. Actually, he's an engineer/inventor that has his name on a patent or two on stuff you may see in your home, all before he was 30. But if you ask him what he does, he just tells people he works in a factory.

But when the machinery/tooling he has designed goes funky because someone tried to"improve" it, he's usually on a plane to one of many countries to back-engineer it to correct it.  I am probably not one of many wives that hears "honey, I won't be home for dinner, I'm on my way to China. don't drink the last beer", but I know I'm not the only one.  But it's more work here around the homestead when he is gone, especially with a dog, a full-time job, and a long commute.  With the bad knee I have a dog walker, so Abby and I usually do pretty well "bacheloring" it.   But Thursday was NOT one of thse days.

For you see,  Abby Lab can't do grains. Think Poonami or Poonado.  I found that out the hard way during our first long road trip after we adopted her and I fed her some grocery store dog kibble.
So I get her some grain free high-quality food.  I also get her this great grain-free bulk treats at the

(they currently have multiple locations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina). We love our store in Western Springs, IL and Abby LOVES those bulk treats. There are SO many flavors and shapes.  Abby loves the bacon cheese bits, the liver bones, the peanut butter puffs, the little rosemary bones and there's probably a dozen flavors she hasn't tried yet. You load them up into a brown paper bag and pay by the pound. We buy them, fill up her treat jar and store the rest in the freezer.

I didn't realize there was a cup of treats in the kitchen freezer, in a crunched up brown bag, we'd tucked in there and then forgotten, the majority of our frozen stuff gone into the chest freezer in the walkout basement.

Until I  partially defrosted the ice tray.
Our refrigerator/freezer is older than me.  That's saying a lot. Though it does fit in nicely with the kitty-cat clock. Needless to say, it is NOT frost free.  After muttering numerous HBO words trying to get a single cube for my shot of single malt the other night, I took an extension cord, a hair dryer and got the shelf for the ice cube tray somewhat ice free - not great but I could get the ice cube tray out.  (Honestly, it went well, picture scotch deprived redhead who hasn't seen her husband in a week with an extension cord and hair dryer in Wonder Woman pajamas, cursing in a combination of Scot Gaelic and Norwegian).
The rest of the freezer looked like Antarctica but there enough bits and pieces of Tupperware leftover food in there I didn't want to mess with it quite yet.

Until the burrito incident.

For you see, when I melted some of the ice on the shelf for the ice cube tray, some of that melted water dripped down and refroze to other food items below. Not an issue if it's plastic, but an issue if it's a brown paper bag of dog treats.

So when I pulled out my DIY chicken bean burrito with gluten free tortilla in foil, which had frozen to the dog treat package - the treat package ruptured and treats SPEWED out of the freezer onto the floor.

General Electric PINATA!

Abby was estatic as the refigeration SPEWED out a cup of dog treats on the floor.

I had a big mess to clean.

Once I got the remaining treats Abby hadn't snarfed rounded up, I shut off the power to the outlets in the kitchen so the fridge didn't try and cool itself in the process and got out the hair dryer and defrosted the whole thing. When it was ice free, I added a lot of cold stuff back in from the basement freezer to normalize the temperature and then turned the power back on so the 60+ year old moter didn't die of over-exertion.
Abby of course, wouldn't leave the area for the rest of the day and evening and kept snooting the fridge then snooting me, wanting a reenactment of the Pinata incident. I was about ready to call the vet to see if she could be put on Ritalin.

Finally, she settled down after I gave her ONE treat and her Angry Bird toy.
I will be really happy when my husband is home.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Girls Night Out - Spring Cleaning

When's Dad coming home?

My husband is on the road and I teleworked starting pretty early, which left a number of hours to get some things done around here after the dog walker took Abby out. If you wonder why I pay for a walker when I'm home - I am missing quite a bit of the meniscus in my right knee after a really bad fall on ice 5 years ago (Barkley, Steps, Female Retriever in Heat - end of story and end of the knee). At certain angles, it's bone on bone. Even though she behaves for the most part if Abby gets excited she will dart to one side or another which is very painful and may tear what little support ligaments I have left in there. So when my husband is on the road - she gets at least one very long walk with the walker (a retired female postal carrier who Abby ADORES) and several play sessions with Mom and toys in the fenced back yard.
Those of you who read The Barkley book know I arrived as a long time single person into middle age with a humongous fancy house (which like most McMansions seemed to be made mostly out of bad drywall and cheap laminate), full of thing I really didn't need which impressed none of the snooty neighbors.  After getting Barkley, I realized what was really important in life and I was not happy trying to "keep up with the Jones" and sold it, giving away all of the many rooms of expensive furniture and art to veterans groups, One young couple I knew (my hair stylist and her husband) looking to adopt, but losing all of their things in "nature run amok" incident, got enough to fully furnish a new two bedroom  rental bungalow. They adopted their son two months later after the first children's services home visit.  I think I cried more than they did.

Sometimes I miss all of that. But I never looked back.

So when I met my husband he'd just bought this seriously "fixer upper" 1915 small Chicago Mission bungalow that had amazing wood that just needed to be restored, and beamed ceiling and so many other qualities I just loved even though there were many aspects of it that made it look like the "Green Acres" house. It was pretty small but since we don't have overnight guests - we could turn all but one bedroom into den or office.
Telework dog watches Mom carefully to make sure she doesn't waste taxpayers money.

We've done all the work ourselves (I mostly hold things and make sandwiches)  It's still only 1200 sq. feet on the main floor (equal space in walk out partially finished basement.  Space upstairs could be bed and half bath but with just the two of us, we'll leave it as we'd have to lose a closet to put in permanent stairs.

But it's a project and with the major renovation there's dust, and there's stuff moved into other rooms and well, our bedroom looked like a bomb had gone off in it, it being a tiny room at the back of the house, When he bought the place and when he met me, the  bungalow was set up with a very fancy master bedroom at the front of the house.  There was beautiful wood work, huge windows that cover a full wall on one side, and small windows on the other wall,  and it's way bigger than the other rooms with the exception of the living/dining area.  When I first saw it, I had grand plans - "we could knock out a wall, bringing the woodworking around into the new entryway and add a fireplace!"  My husband just looked at me and said, "how 'bout we start with just hanging up some pictures in the new back bedroom."
So we hung some pictures to start.
Our bedroom is very small and furnished with "bachelor furniture" my husband had when our friendship of many years became something else.  Nothing matches, but it's our room with a deep walk-in closet Abby loves to sleep in at night on a poofy dog bed.  It's the stuff he had when we fell in love. There are memories here. On the wall, my late brother's mementos to me from childhood and adulthood as well as a couple other things given to me by people I love are on shelves where I can see them.
We still have to restore the wood and floors in here, repair some water damage in the ceiling (the original hall bath was not properly vented) and redo the plaster and walls. Rooms not seen by friends went to the end of the renovation list  It's not fancy, but I sleep peacefully here, away from the street, only the sounds of birds in the spruces and giant lilac bush in the morning. Unlike most Chicago homes, the original owners bought two lots and built just one house so we have trees and space, and privacy.
So spring cleaning today - the winter bedding was laundered and packed up, and I found these really cheap quilts (less than $20) at Zulilly and picked up a couple, the colorful country quilt style one going on the bed for the summer. Lace curtains were washed by hand and hung up to dry. The winter rugs went out for cleaning and all of my husband's shoes were wrangled (seriously he owns more than I do).  The dresser was cleaned up, the only things remaining, important to me, the fencing medal given to me by the female teen who was on the male college fencing team because they didn't HAVE a female team, who I dedicated Small Town Roads to, a goofy gift from my husband, a camping light in case of power failure and Barkley's ashes, topped with the infamous "Mr. Squeeky". It actually looks like a bedroom again, imperfect but deeply personal.

I took a picture and sent it to him at his hotel and he much liked how cozy it looked.

So Abby - what say you and me celebrate with a treat -  you can have Lamb and Potato, mine will be the Chardonnay variety.
MMMM.  Treats.  Girl's Nite Out!!! (Can I invite Ruby over?)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

Abby's Mom here on her lunch break while I telework.  This is Abby's "Elvis face".  This is the little lip curl, sometimes tongue out, she does when she is annoyed with me because I'm too slow getting the treats, or yogurt, or walkies, taking a picture instead of getting her what she wants.

But it made me smile as on one of my last visits out to my Dad, we went to the grocers.  He likes to flirt with the ladies in the flower section and just generally wander around and say hi to people (it's a small town, everyone around the neighborhood knows Dad).

One day though, the check out lines were slow and I could see my 96-year-old Dad was getting a bit bored.  When the clerk's back was turned helping yet another shopper with "how to use a chip card", Dad picked up the mic they call for assistance or price checks with and with a perfect Elvis imitation said (where it boomed out to the entire store):

"The is Elvis - open up the bakery".

You can get away with that stuff when they're old, or furry.  :-)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Blogville Spring Break - Foodables!

Hey Everyone - Abby Lab here in the catering truck ready to set up the foodables for Blogville's Spring Break, hosted by Arty (with some help from Miss Mabel) at:


To see how it all go started share Mr. Bailey's dream vacation with Dory at:

For now, I'll go park by Ruby's Margarita truck and start getting the food set up on tables. Rather than serve from the catering truck we have a surprise today.

Tiki Hut!

Let's see what's on the party menu today
 Bell pepper octopus and dip
 Goldfish and dip
 Deviled egg sailboats
Tropical Pizza Bones
 Flipper Fruit Plate
 Jaws
 Birdseed muffins
 Tropical pupcakes
 Shaved ice with toilet water


Kittycat Cookies
 We need more toilet water
Mini pizza fish (vegetarian).
 Tropical Burgers
Salmon Skewers

There's something for everyone so dive in folks.


Hey Blogville - where did Abby go?


Surf's Up!

For more surfing action visit:

then there is diving and snorkeling over at:

Come check out the hula dancing at:
And there's more Spring Break fun at:
Then head to the amusement park with:
This morning  there will be hunting for buried treasure with:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Furry Alarm Clocks and Saturday Eats

My husband and I stayed up much later than normal as he's been traveling a lot the last six months and we had a lot to catch up on, just enjoying some wine and conversation into the wee hours, knowing we could sleep in.

Tell that to the furry alarm clock. Normally she doesn't bark in the morning, even if we sleep til 8 or 9 after a late night flight home.  But this morning promptly at seven the bark alarm went off.  My husband let her out then she came back in

"Did she have to go?", I asked.

"No," he said.  "She just wanted to lick the dew off the grass".
Abby Lab then having celebrated Earth Day, went back to sleep, ignoring the food he put out while we laid there wide awake.

"Might as well get up and make something nice for breakfast", I said.
What are you going to make Mom?

Popovers.  These are so worth buying a pan from Williams and Sanoma.  They can be made in a muffin pan but won't be as high and fluffy.  I've made them often enough I don't need a recipe but the recipe IS from my favorite vegetarian cookbook "The New Moosewood Cookbook".
 Preheat oven to 375F.

Spray popover pan with non-stick spray.

In one bowl mix:

4 small or 3 large room temperature eggs (let sit out a bit or run under a bit of warm water)
1 and 1/4 cup milk or almond milk
In another bowl mix:
1 and 1/4 cups flour (regular or King Arthurs gluten free adding 1/4 tsp xanthan gum if you do)
1/2 tsp salt.

Divide 3 Tablespoons of butter into six pieces.  Place 1 in each popover cup.  Place in oven to melt while you finish mixing (you will then remove the hot pan and place batter in it.

Mix wet and dry ingredients, whisking with a fork.  Do not over mix. The batter will be lumpy but you shouldn't see globs of raw flour in it.
Place in hot popover cups and bake 30 minutes. Make sure there is plenty of room ABOVE them for them to rise (don't ask me how I know).

 Do NOT peek, unless it smells like they are burning
Serve immediately (they will start to deflate pretty promptly).  They're crisp on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside.  Serve with butter, jam, or honey
You never give me PUP-overs.  I'm calling the SPCA!
Put the phone down Abby, you can have a piece of the bacon.