Joy of Cooking

In 2017 it was reported that for the first time Americans spent more money eating out that at home.  I am not sure if that means they also eat more meals out or not since dining out can be more expensive.  Surveys report that we also eat more meals today somewhere other than at a dinner table than ever before, be it a plate on our lap in front of the TV, or on a breakfast bar reading our emails.  I get it because when I worked the corporate life we too ate out or picked up carry out often because it was easier than getting home late and making something to eat.  I enjoyed cooking but it was restricted to free time, mostly weekends that I tried to pack everything else into as well.   Now that I am retired I find myself discovering once again the joy of cooking.



I love to use the chef’s knife and chop.   It is one of those things I find relaxing.


I am experimenting with new and old recipes.  I am pulling cards out of the recipe box my grandma wrote for me in her handwriting all those years ago. I am looking at my collection of cookbooks and browsing them for something new to make.   Of course, we can not exclude the recipe apps and Google.   Some of what I am cooking is Midwestern comfort food, some dishes reflect the different places we have lived, other meals are ethnic foods from around the world,  some dishes are healthy, other times what I make is just for special occasion splurging,  some are fully from scratch and sometimes it will be a store box or can that I doctor up.

I invite you along on this journey as I share some of what I make.  Sometimes it will be a recipe, other times just a photo of the dish, or the dinner table.   I hope you enjoy and are inspired.



I like to measure out everything now, as a way to make sure I have all the ingredients before I start.   I did not do that before, but now I am not likely to drop everything and run to town to the grocery to get a missing ingredient so has become an important step





Crazy for Corned Beef

OK that title is a little crazy, because I would not say we are crazy for corned beef, but we do enjoy it at our house.    We live near Butte, Montana a town rich in Irish history.  According the 2010 US census it is the most Irish town in the country with over 23% of the people having Irish heritage, as opposed to Boston where just under 20% of the folks claim their Irish roots.    I could talk about the crazy St. Patrick’s Day traditions, but being the foodie I am I will skip over it all to the Irish-American dish corned beef.   I call it Irish-American because it did not come from Ireland, but became a staple of the Irish who immigrated to the USA.

I grew up eating corned beef and cabbage.  The beef my mother bought in the Midwest was that nasty stuff you bought in a sealed plastic bag with brine and pickling spices.   It was salty, fatty, and well-preserved in that cryopack bag.   Not much nice I can say about it except it was dinner and it filled our stomachs.    Here in Butte you will find that the local meat shop actually brines the brisket in their own recipe.   The brisket here is fresh and lean.  If you have never had an opportunity to eat fresh corned beef it is  a completely different animal than that thing from the plastic bag.

We bought our corned beef on Saturday and we could not wait until today to fix it.    We made the “traditional” dish of corned beef and cabbage on Sunday.   Our version is a bit of an updated recipe.   We highly recommend the cooking of your corned beef with Guinness, though in a pinch a good stout will work.    We have also learned that unless you like your veggies cooked to mush they should be cooked separately in some of the juices.  A favorite recipe for this can be found on the website Steamy Kitchen, and here is a link to the recipe we use.

Guinness Corned Beef with Cabbage

So after doing the corned beef and cabbage we had some leftovers that we made in to a chowder to go with the chilly rainy day we had today.   It was a new recipe for us Corned Beef and Cabbage Chowder from the website The Foodie Affair.   It was a flexible recipe that could be made with or without leftovers.   We opted for the leftover version using our potatoes and carrots along with the broth and corned beef from Sunday.   We added some fresh onion, celery, some more cabbage and beef stock along with the milk base.   I serious had some reservations but I can tell you this is going to be a new favorite with us.   Both RangerSir and I agreed it was well season and worth repeating, though not as often as we would like due to the scarcity of corned beef.

Corned beef and Cabbage Chowder

What did you cook for St.  Patrick’s Day?   Did you include corned beef in your day?   If so how did it turn out?    If it wasn’t so great, might I suggest you bookmark this page for next year.

More Veggies and Fruit


I  have talked many times before about the whole the Bountiful Baskets Co-op.   We started  months ago, and months later I would have to say it has been one of those things we have done that have really made our lifestyle a little more healthy.  Who would have ever imagined that buying a basket of produce every other week, sight unseen would work.   You pay money and get what you get.   It is almost un-American.   We have all that fresh produce in the refrigerator and it is a challenge to eat it all before it goes to waste.  We eat things we would never have bought at the grocery.

We have incorporated more veggies into every meal we eat.   It has become easy and second nature.  We manage to eat nearly all the veggies that we get in each basket before  the time for our next one arrives.    We have never been fruit eaters and we have made huge strides in that area as well.   We are not yet eating all our fruit yet, but we our progress is more remarkable than we have done with veggies.

Bountiful Baskets works for us because we are open to trying new things.   We are willing to eat anything once, maybe twice.   We also like to try new recipes.  New and more fresh ingredients feed that creative part for both my husband and I.  If you are not open to trying new things that you could end up with baskets full of veggies you may be unwilling to eat and disappointed. I have always managed to be on the wrong week to get Brussel sprouts which I love and husband hates.   Likewise I have always wanted to try fennel and was on the wrong week for that too. But I have learned about collard greens, pomelo, fresh papaya, things I wasn’t willing to spend money on, for a chance.

On top of making us healthier it has also made our pocketbook healthier.   Last Saturday we stopped at the grocery after we picked up our basket as we needed milk.  We decided to do a price check on our our basket.    It was $15 + $1.50 fee=$16.50 total out of pocket.    Out cost at the local grocery for the same items would have been $34.   Boy didn’t we feel good?

How many Christmas Cookies do you really need?


I spent Saturday and Sunday in my own little world baking to my heart’s content.     After a few years of not allowing myself this time I was unsure if would enjoy it.   Did I stop because my job “took too much of my time” or did I use my job as an excuse to stop an annual ritual I did not enjoy.

I spent Friday night picking one classic recipe from previous years and the rest came from cookbooks and the internet.   If I was going to turn over a new leaf, let’s get out of the box as well.   If I had quit because it was no longer fun, maybe it was making the same cookies year in year out.   I was going to make things that no one had ever seen in a cookie box of mine before.

Saturday came and I plugged holiday movies in the DVD player and set my kitchen up for baking.   I baked cookies and more cookies.   I finished off supplies I had to the point that Saturday night meant a shopping trip for more flour, sugar and eggs.  It had been a great productive day.  I had made my one classic and some new ones.

Sunday morning came and my kitchen was restocked.  My second and final day of baking  was to begin.   My first question of the process began when my husband tasted one of my beautiful new cookies made on Saturday.   I had thought they were nasty yucky, but my husband is like Mikey he will eat anything.   He spit it out.   This was the pivotal moment was I going to let this stop me.   Lucky for my cookie recipients  despite the baking disaster, I was not deterred. Sunday would bring more Christmas movies and many more batches cookies.

Sunday night brought the  reason I do all of this, to give it all away.   I got out my containers, put notes on each as to who they belonged to and how cookies of each variety that meant.   I took each batch and divided them up between my boxes, making sure each box got enough that everyone in each family got a taste.   If there were a few left over I would think what family would really like this cookie.   I had this silly moment of “did I bake enough varieties?”   I am not sure how many Christmas cookies you need, but am sure that  this number is the perfect number for me.  There were Fudgey Bonbons,  PB&J Blondies , Snow Cap Meringues,  White Heavenly Hash, Cherry Macaroons, Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, Italian Lemon Drop Cookies, Dave’s Christmas Crunch Cookies,  Peppermint Bark and Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal..   Once they were divided up in to containers, I got out my collection of priority mail boxes and made them ready for shipping.   They left our little post office in Montana on Monday destined for family and friends.

I had a great time.   I was also glad it was all done, baked, packaged and shipped.    I had spent two days making gifts of the heart.  I am likely to do it again next year, it seems I had not lost my baking spirit after all.

In case you are wondering he disastrous Pumpkin Orange cookies went to the chickens.   Probably gave them a sugar high, but could not eat them, nor give them.

Christmas Cookies Again

I used to be one of those who would make dozens of different cookie recipes each Christmas Season to give  away.   I would daily bake  a couple of different batches starting the day after Thanksgiving.   I would end up with hundreds of cookies of all sorts and varieties.   On December 15th I would bundle up my hand crafted treasures and give them away.   I would drive all over town to deliver my boxes of homemade goodies.     I would prepare 20 or so boxes and mail them all over the US.        I learned when I lived in Jewish neighborhoods how to make some of their traditional favorites to include in my collections.  No one was left out, friends and family alike were given a holiday treat box.    I wanted people to know I thought of them and they were important to me by giving them a gift of my heart and hands.      I followed that routine for years and enjoyed every minute of it.   Then about four years ago I got a job where the busiest season for them ran from Thanksgiving until the middle of January.   It made making all those cookies a chore and took all the fun out of it.   I finally gave it up.

I have spent lots of time this year re-evaluating things and decided that I enjoyed baking for gifts and am taking it back.  I still have my job, after all it affords me many things including the ability to afford the expenses associated with baking.   But I have decided that I used to like to bake and I am going to try it again.  If I stop baking it will be because it isn’t any fun any more not because my job has over taken my life.   So this weekend I am doing a two day marathon of baking.   I am not sure how many cookies it will yield, but I am going to allow myself two days of baking , and see how it goes.  I will keep you posted.

Egg Recipes and Cookbooks

Everyone who has chickens will eventually seek out egg recipes and investing in a cook book or two.   When you have an endless stream of fresh eggs, you  tend to be a little less stingy with your eggs.   You seek out recipes that use 3 or 4 eggs.   You don’t care if it only uses whites or just yolks because you can give the unused portion to your layers, a sort of recycling.

When I talk about seeking recipes, I don’t mean 32 different omelets each with a different mixture of the same 10 ingredients.   I can think up those things without a book.   I am talking about recipes that cause you to have an aha moment or make you realize there is more to an omelet than folding cooked eggs over grated cheese and veggies.

My first investment in egg cooking  was Julia Child’s Master the Art of French Cooking.  I did this for two reasons, it is said that Julia was the authority on omelets and second it had a chapter devoted to eggs, not something you find in many modern cookbooks.   It was a great investment I learned lots about egg dishes and how to prepare them.  There were line drawings showing how to work your pan and eggs to get them cooked perfectly.   It was lots of fun as well, like my own little Julie and Julia experience, limited to eggs.

My second cookbook that shall remain nameless, was a bust, in spite of good ratings on Amazon.    I am not sure if it was really a bust, but as a keeper of a small flock I knew what made small flocks special.  It was riddled with “truism” as if written by the egg council for large scale egg ranchers to convince us their practices were great for the birds.   The author talked about free-range chicken eggs and how we should pay more for them in the grocery store.  Free-range sounds great  but there is no standard for free-range eggs.  It typically means in a commercial environment  that the chickens  aren’t in cages, and hopefully have to have access to the outdoors. No requirement they get outside, or how much outside space per bird, no requirement for fresh grass, etc.   You get the picture.  This turned me off and made me look at everything else in the book skeptically. It ended up at Goodwill.

My next book was The Good Egg, a winner of the James Beard and Julia Child awards.   It is ok, but it was what I was trying to avoid; a chapter on scrambled eggs, another on omelets, another on baked and poaching.   I have made a few things from it but it does not inspire me.

My next book was highly anticipated.    I knew of Janice through a foodie friend back in the Midwest and it was because of my friend that I found her blog, Three Swinging Chicks. I followed her blog about her adventures as an urban chicken keeper.   She shared not only her bird experiences but also recipes on her blog.  Soon Janice was talking cookbook  and the anticipation began.   I was not disappointed when the book, Chicken and Egg, was finally published.   This cookbook includes the story how she came to own chickens in the city and her journey with her chickens.  It provides education to those thinking of owning chickens.   Her writing brings smiles and nods of agreements from those of us who are already chicken owners.  This story is incorporated throughout the book so you aren’t tempted to skip over the tales of her 3 swinging chicks, who are now actually 4 chickens.   Each of the stories stands alone, so you can read them as you have time.   The book is organized by seasons, which is nice as it reflects use of the veggies that most likely available during each season, the first eggs and spring vegetables, light eating for summer,  and more substantial hearty foods suitable for the cold days of fall and winter.   Even better was the fact that Janice’s experience with food in the industry made her recipes not more of the same old.  They are original works, not rehash of things we have all done before.   Her recipes are not so far out in left field that you could not imaging making them; her ingredients are those that can even be found in rural areas with limited selections. It isn’t just cooked eggs, but recipes with eggs in them and recipes with no eggs, but featuring chicken.   It has recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; appetizers to desserts.  It has turned out to be one that I not only cook from, but also to sit down and read for enjoyment as well. Chicken raiser or not, I think most folks would enjoy this cookbook.

I have a nice foundation now  to cook with my eggs.   I still find myself checking out the egg cookbooks on Amazon. When we go to one of the cities with big book stores, I  gravitate to the cookbooks looking for a new one on eggs to browse.  I am sure  there are a couple more cookbooks in my future maybe even one devoted to eggs.