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!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Carrot Cake, Buttercream Frosting, and Ordinary Days

Our grandkids, clockwise from upper left: this two-year-old guy demonstrates why his mom should never turn her back; our two-year-old with the golden curls standing next to the rocking chair I used when I was her age; our studious ten-year-old; and our innovative, mischievous, artistic five-year-old.  

Doesn't the photo at left warm your heart?  I love goodbye hugs among the cousins. Right top: I am providing homeschool language arts lessons to our five-year-old grandson, and it is such a joy for me to return to the love I have for teaching kids to read.  Middle right: I made a carrot cake and put it in the freezer for our Easter celebration, recipe link below.  Lower right: My grands and I have discovered the joy of Calico Critters.  

 This month no one had an emergency room trip, in fact, no one suffered crises of any kind.  As a bonus, we all stayed healthy despite the continuation of the influenza epidemic in our area.  Yes, the weather was mostly cloudy and cold, and outdoor activities didn't hold much appeal, but how blessed we were to enjoy a series of ordinary days.

When our daughter was five, John made a dollhouse for her.  It is so sturdy that it has survived being used as a bookshelf for the past 30 years or so, and now has been reinstated as an abode for my new collection of Calico Critters. Have you seen these sweet little characters?  I just love them.  Our two older grand boys enjoy engineering room arrangements, creating lighting (velcro and battery operated tea lights), and are building a patio, while the younger pair just love playing with the furniture and acting out stories with the adorable figures. 

I wanted to make an old fashioned carrot cake for our family Easter celebration tomorrow, and searched for a recipe that called for both crushed pineapple and golden raisins. I found one that looked good at Taste of Home (here's the link) and my preliminary taste test affirms it is yummy.  Farmer John doesn't care for cream cheese icing, and so I made my standby buttercream.

Spring is not my favorite time of year; the time change always throws me for a loop and I have spring allergies that keep me indoors. But I can truthfully say that I enjoyed our ordinary March.

 Buttercream Frosting

2 lbs powdered sugar
1 cup butter or Earth Balance margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt, 3/8 teaspoon if you used unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
Enough warm water to bring to spreading consistency

Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer, add water a Tablespoon at a time until close to right consistency then whip frosting on medium high speed until fluffy, adding more water 1 teaspoon at a time until just right!  

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.