March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Photos From February (and a couple of recipes)!

February went rolling by at record speed. We seemed to pack a lot into the month, including two weeks of sickness; one for Farmer John during which I quarantined him and cooked a variety of foods I deemed healing, and another week for me when I succumbed to the virus that had felled him.  We didn't suffer the body aches and high fever associated with influenza as so many of our friends and acquaintances have, but it was an uncomfortable time nonetheless.  

With the busy times of spring pasture burning and moving cattle to pasture that are just ahead, we are sending up prayers for a healthier March.  

Recipes for the chicken burgers and fully loaded (but lightened-up) potato soup follow this post.  
Left, top to bottom:  I used my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer grinder attachment to grind chicken breasts to make these burgers, added seasonings and seasoned breadcrumbs, and browned them in olive oil (recipe below); a spring mix salad; chicken and "slicks."  Middle, top to bottom:  lightened up "fully loaded" potato soup (recipe below), and a baked chicken done the American Test Kitchen way in a preheated cast iron skillet in the oven.  Right, top to bottom: Quick red beans and rice made in the Instantpot, an egg white omelet buried in vegetables (which is the only way I can face an egg white omelet), and the honey/vinegar mixture John took as therapy for his cough while he was sick.  

Left: Granddaughter Rebekah paid us a visit while John was not feeling well, and so he had to greet her with the safety of a germ-stopping pane of glass between them.  Rebekah's mommy, Nicole, is a veterinarian who works long hours and so we didn't see much of her this month, though we had some nice phone conversations.  
These are our son-in-law and daughter's 3 boys, ages 2, 5, and 10. As I look at these photos I'm reminded of the virtuosity of our daughter as she orchestrates her days as a homeschooling mom! Daniel, upper right, is a member of our 4-H club's Western Heritage project and is supported in this endeavor by his hard-working dad, Brian. In this photo Daniel is dressed for a Western Heritage meeting in his period-correct outfit.

Lightened Up Loaded Potato Soup


6 slices bacon
4 or 5 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 package Hidden Valley Original Ranch salad dressing mix
1 cup fat free half and half
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
8 oz. reduced fat Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
2 cups shredded Fat Free cheddar cheese

  • ·      Cook bacon until crispy.  Refrigerate 3 slices, crumble remaining slices and put into a 6 quart cooking pot
  • ·      Cook onion in a skillet in 1 Tbsp olive oil for about 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender
  • ·      Put onion mixture into the  pot, stir in broth, prepared potatoes, and ranch dressing mix.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmer until potatoes are done, about 15 minutes.
  • ·      In small bowl mix cornstarch and water until smooth, stir this into the hot soup.
  • ·      Stir in the Velveeta until melted.
  • ·      Stir in the fat free half and half
  • ·      Add black pepper if desired—1/2 to 1 teaspoon
  • ·      Serve with reserved bacon, crumbled, and shredded fat free cheese. 

Chicken Burgers

--Grind one of those big packages of Walmart chicken breasts—slice into strips and feed it to the Kitchen Aid mixer using the grinder attachment, course insert...or just buy ground chicken.  If you are only doing a pound of meat the proportions below are way too much.  Not sure how much my package of chicken breasts weighed (probably around 5 pounds)—there were 7 or 8 large breast halves. 

--Add some Italian bread crumbs – about 1.5 cups or so. 
--Add a little skim milk—maybe 1/3rd cup or so
--garlic powder—about ¾ teaspoon
--black pepper—about 1 teaspoon
--salt—about 1.5 teaspoons or so
--minced onion, 1/4 cup

Mix with gloved hands. Form patties (I used a 1/3rd cup measure). Press each patty into more breadcrumbs on a dinner plate, flip, repeat.  Fry in olive oil over medium/low heat, watch carefully they tend to burn, 2-3 minutes on each side until golden....

Or, place raw patties in separate layers separated by wax paper or parchment, cover, and freeze. Let thaw before frying.  

Rinse and wash everything carefully.  Be careful not to cross-contaminate raw meat with fried patties if you are doing them in batches. Use a kitchen thermometer to assure that the centers of the cooked patties reach a minimum of 170ยบ F.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

January Walk

Our yellow lab, Moose, loves to go on walks with us.  For the first quarter mile he runs circles around us at top speed.  
When we returned from a chilly walk the other evening, I threw the sheet pan meal pictured above together and it was so good.   Here, to the best of my recollection, is how I did it: 

Savory Sheet Pan Meal

One 1.5 lb bag little potatoes, such as Little Charmers
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3" pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced 
6-8 whole peeled garlic cloves
A package of lower fat fully cooked Polish or kielbasa sausage, sliced.  
Enough olive oil to coat vegetables,  2 to 4 Tbsp. 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except sausage, tossing together to cover with olive oil.  Bake on a half sheet pan (18" x 13") in a 400 degree oven until potatoes are nearly done, about 15 minutes; stir halfway through cooking time. Add the sausage and cook 5 minutes or so more, until the sausage is sizzling and hot through.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snowy Day

Large photo upper left: I was so grateful to feel good today--you should've seen me on my hands and knees rolling up the base for our snowman!  Clockwise from upper right:  Logan, 5, wanted to build a snow fort--and so we did!  The sunset photo of the snowman is bittersweet--he knows his days are numbered.  That fat quail at lower right brought a dozen friends to our bird feeder today along with the cardinal at left.  Lower center, Daniel, age 9.  
Church services in our little community were canceled this morning.  Both churches in our town have a high population of older people, so it was prudent to avoid having them (us) negotiate slippery streets and sidewalks. 

Our two oldest grandsons appeared at my door after a sledding excursion with their dad, and I quickly negotiated an afternoon at Grammy's for them.  They peeled off layers of sodden clothing and pulled rockers up next to the little propane wall heater in our guest bedroom.  Once they had warmed up, we had homemade chicken soup with rice, made a batch of gingerbread (and ate most of it), then headed back outdoors to make a snowman. 

When we are young, we believe such perfect days as today are ours for the taking, and that there will be many such days.  This grammy has lived long enough to know that part of the reason days like today are so special is that they are rare.  I've stored away a special, heart-warming memory of this day spent with my boys. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Sipping Once, Sipping Twice...

I made a pot of chicken soup with rice this morning, and since it is January, and there is indeed ice on the sidewalks and streets, I remembered the poem above.  I taught this verse to my first grade classes each January, and would heat Campbell's chicken soup with rice in a crockpot and dole it out with crackers for an afternoon snack.  Funny how even canned soup can become a much-anticipated and much-enjoyed treat when it is cold outside (and when you are seven years old and experience the novelty of being given crackers and soup as a mid-afternoon treat at school).

These days I have the luxury of time to make my chicken soup from scratch.  This morning I had generous handfuls of fresh sage and rosemary to add to the stock, and the scent of that simmering soup was heavenly on this cold day.  I usually don't care much for chicken soup but with the wind howling and sleet falling outside my window, I ate my bowl of soup with good appetite just like my first grade students of yore!


Chicken Soup With Rice

In a large stockpot:

1 chicken
Handful of fresh sage
Some fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
About 6 cloves of garlic
3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, one chopped, one quartered and stuffed into the cavity of the chicken
4-6 medium carrots, chopped, if desired (when I use wild rice I don't put in carrots--not sure why it's just how I do it!)
Salt & pepper to taste

2.5 cups dry rice

Put all ingredients but rice into a large stockpot, cover with about 3 quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover, cook for an hour or so until the chicken is very tender.  Remove the chicken (there's a trick to this; I use a meat lifter beneath the bird and a heavy duty spoon in the cavity for leverage), let it cool just a bit, and remove meat from bones.  Pour the stock through a colander and skim away most of the fat--I use a gravy separator.  Return the stock to the cooking pot, add 2.5 cups of dry rice to yield about 7 cups or so of cooked rice (follow package directions--I used a wild rice blend that only had to cook for 15 minutes). When rice is nearly done, cut about half the meat (or as much as desired) into bite sized pieces  and add it to the soup.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add more boxed (or your own homemade, frozen) broth if needed for the desired consistency.

Number of servings:  About 8.  Or so.  Okay, I have no idea.  I took out two servings for my husband and myself and sent the rest to my daughter's family of five.