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).

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.

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?)

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
 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:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flowers for Dory

Today we remember our friend Dory.  We are so thankful for all the smiles and joy she gave us as she welcomed us to her backyard, joining us in fun and happy barks, making us feel like family.  We will miss you Dory. -

I built a tiny garden
 In a corner of my heart
I kept it just for lovely things 
And bade all else depart 
And ever was there music 
And flowers blossomed fair; 
And never was it perfect 
Until you entered there - 
-Beulah B. Malkin

Thursday, April 20, 2017


The photo is the little "pocket Titanic" complete with iceberg and lifeboats and sits in my office.  It has silently made its way onto the table in meetings before.

All I can say after a very busy week. . .

Thank Dog tomorrow is Friday!
Could I have a treat while you pour that class of Chardonnay Mom?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Best Easter Ever - Holiday Pressies!

Mom has been super duper busy and has not had time to log onto the computer for me to post but I HAD to show you the super neat pressies my sweetie Frankie Furter sent for easter.
First, there were peeps for Mom and Dad to blow up in the Microwave, (Mom, who skipped school to go watch Star Wars in the theater in college is a fan of fun entertainment).The picture is the autograph she was asked to give for actor Peter Mayhew who plays Chewbacca in all the films - he is a fan of animal rescue and The Book of Barkley. (Mom's photo of him reading the book on set made her smile for about two months because she is SUCH a Star Wars geek.)

Look at the bottles below. Puppy Grigio. Cabernet Barkingnon.  BOL.  It's the coolest toy - it's a water bottle AND a squeaker inside so it is both crunchy and squeaky.   It is made by Greenbrier Kennel Club and can be found online at dollartree dot com!
 I got two of them - one red squeaky and one white (you know in case Mom gives me a salmon treat)
 Aww,  I "heart" you too Frankie.
Oh, Milk Bone soft and chewys!  And a Minties to gnaw on - I will have the freshest breath ever (until I can go eat more rabbit poop).
Thanks so much to the Price household and especially my Frankie for making it the best Easter ever!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories of My Brother

Three years ago on Good Friday, he said goodbye.

I had just been out to visit him.  My big brother had moved in with Dad some months ago.  The doctors told him he was in remission last fall, he said, for how long, we did not know. But he had no job to return to with Defense cuts and couldn't afford to keep his home.  It was a good move though, for Dad, relieving us of the expense of a full-time home health provider, as Dad couldn't live on his own, even as he still refused to live with the family that would welcome him.  Even today, as he's outlived two children and two wives, he said he would only leave his home when he ceases to breathe, and I arrange for the full-time nurse in-home so he can do so.

Back when my brother was with us, I visited as often as I could, using both vacation and sick time, there to provide for their care. There was always lots to do, meals to prepare and freeze, cleaning, flower beds and gutters and the stocking of supplies. We made no trips but for short drives, his planning such overnight outings with the whole family for when I was away, but it was OK, those dinners with just he and my brother and I. My brother and I could do things that needed to be done around the house, and he seemed to like just having the time with just the two of us, sharing the memories of that home when Mom was still there. Between us we got Dad's bills paid, the budget drawn up, taxes completed, even if we ended up doing it over the phone.

But had I been able to talk to him one last time, I wouldn't have asked where the insurance info is or what Dad did with the phone and cable bills or where the spare keys are.  I would have simply told him I loved him, and how much he meant to me, one more time.  But we never knew our last words would be just that. Our last words are often not said, our lives always coming up short for those measured statements which through all of our brief utterances were our lone and enduring hope. There is never enough time for those last words, of love, of faith, of fear, or regret.
The words not said hung in the air the days after he left us, without warning. They were days that seemed like a lifetime, and yet seemed like only moments, perhaps because I don't know if I every really slept in that time, or if, for a moment, time itself shifted, holding me down in the moment, as G-forces did long ago in a steep banked turn.  Time held still for me, but for my brother, it had overtaken him and moved ahead. All of his things, placed into Dad's house, now to be moved again, to charity, to our homes, to our hearts, medals and coins, and books and I probably don't want to know why he had a loaded flare gun hidden alongside his concealed carry piece. There were laughter and tears, there in so many pictures, of early days, and the freckled face of fatigue, memories of a strong, reliable man, the simple kind of man that was the cornerstone of great reputation, even if the world at large would not observe his passing with tears or trumpets.

There was such much to do, to organize, to communicate. So many people stopping at the house or church, to pay their respects.  There were church friends, My brother's best friend, who came to the service even though he lost his own mother the day prior, high school friends and Don and several of the guys from Electric Boat. Then, before I knew it, a service, a eulogy I remember writing, but could not utter, the minister reading it instead with his own message, there as the Easter Lilies on the alter leaned towards him, as if listening.  There were words, of Easter, of remembrance, works that will give us a sense of what meaning can be gained from pain and suffering, death and eternal life. Things some of us ignored for years, then, in moments self-awareness, truly hit home.
It hit home for me when I looked out the window of the little memorial structure where he would receive his military honors before internment and saw the uniforms outside, just prior to raising their guns to the skies.  I heard the guns before they were ever fired, not as sound, but as a tremor that passed over my body the way you will see a flag unfurl, before even the wind that moves it is felt.

We often go through life with our eyes half shut, brain functioning well at idle, senses dormant, getting through our days on autopilot.  For many, this sort of life is comforting, welcoming.  Then for some, not the incalculable majority, but many of us, there is a moment, a flash, when in a moment we truly know all that we've had, held there in the moment of its loss.

All that week long it had rained, never really ceasing, only diminishing to a gentle mist now and again.  Yet as we arrived at that place, where guns would be raised, and taps would be played, the clouds moved aside as if paying their own respects.  The rain stopped as we pulled into the gates, and when we gathered, the sun came out.  As the officers stood at salute, all was silent, no rain, no wind, only stillness, the sunlight on the pooled water, now sleeping,

The guns fired their salute, taps were played, and the Lord's Prayer was uttered.  Then one by one, hands were placed on a stone urn, one final goodbye that we could not bear to end, a moment of immobility that accentuated the utter isolation of this hilltop in which valor is laid to rest.
The moment I drew away, warm hand from cold stone, walking outside, the skies opened up again with heavy rain.  It was as if the heavens themselves wept, the rain enfolding us all the way home, mingling with our own tears. My hands clutched the three empty rounds that had been placed there, holding them so tight my nails dug into my flesh, not wanting to ever let them go.

Since that day, I have returned many times to that hill, to the comfort of his ground where the final stone is placed, to remember, the memorial being but the echo to his sound.

All around, I see the dead; in the small memorial at the spot where two trains once collided,  in a sign erected in the memory of a local killed in a long ago war. There's the little cross by the side of the road where another young soul left us. On the dresser, there is a paw print in plaster residing next to a box where a loving heart resides until I see him again. How important these undistinguished little memorials. Every death is a memory that ends here, yet continues on, life flowing on, sustained by love and faith.Such is the lesson

How thankful we are for these memorials, for the spirits smoke that stays with us after the candle has been blown out.  As I heard the taps I realized that they signified distance, heard there in that first echo. The dead were not sleeping, they were gone. When the final taps were played, I no longer heard the echo, but I will always remember it, for the memory helps us hold on. After a while, an echo is enough.

His was a death that arrived on Good Friday, and it was a life celebrated there and remembered here now, on Easter Sunday.  For that is what Easter was, and is,  to our family.  It's  remembrance. It's the remembrance of a death that brings us life. Of sacrifice, of knowing that we will not be forgotten. Of the hope that after darkness there is light, inky comfort in the unknown.
 - L.B. Johnson