Category Archives: cooking

Creamy Baked Salmon (a Diane in Denmark recipe)

I’m blogging after a successful Saturday night dinner to remind myself of this evening’s menu and to help me remember and reference this recipe easily. This feels like a bit of kind self-care in the midst of all that is happening. Here’s why. . .

Many recipes I keep in my head, which is helpful until someone asks for the recipe or wants to help me in the kitchen. My teenager often offers to cook and simply needs the recipe, so tonight I am making time to record this one just the way I made it.

It is from Diane in Denmark, one of my favorite online influencers. You can watch her prepare it on her YouTube channel below. In fact, I watched her as I prepared supper tonight. She is delightful company.

I put a spaghetti squash in the oven, halved, seeds scooped out, face down in a 9×13 glass baking dish with a little water at the bottom, covered with foil 10 minutes before putting the salmon in, and it was perfect timing, taking them out together.

Here is the recipe written down. It is fabulous when the salmon is paired with the sauce served over spaghetti squash and a sliced baguette on the side.


Sharon’s Tortellini Salad

It’s a hot July weekend, and things are slow here at the house. My husband and son woke early yesterday and drove in opposite directions on the interstate, each with his own getaway plan. I’m without a vehicle, which is fine. My feet can take me where I need to go, and if something comes up, I can call in reinforcements and borrow a car.

I made tortellini salad this morning, just because I can. There’s no special occasion, holiday, or gathering. It’s the perfect time to make tortellini salad, because I made it for me! (But, of course, I plan to share.)

Posting a picture of the finished product on social media drew engagement and a request for the recipe. After conferring with my sister and receiving her blessing to share it, I returned to the personal blog with inspiration.

Below is the official recipe. Look it over, and then we will talk below.

I view this recipe, and many others, as a suggestion. Often I modify and adapt, which I did today. The recipe above is what is handwritten by my sister, Sharon, on a piece of paper and encased in a page protector in my well-loved recipe binder.

Here’s what I really did.

I followed the dressing mixture exactly. That is a non-negotiable.

I omitted the artichokes and added black olives. (I didn’t have artichokes and usually add black olives anyway for color even when I DO have artichokes.)

I used no nuts or sunflower seeds, again, simply because I didn’t have any. Each adds a different flavor/texture when used, but they aren’t necessary.

I used frozen tortellini that came in a big bag from Costco (now that I have a membership again). Each bag holds enough for 3 or 4 recipe’s-worth. I have also doubled the recipe for large gatherings.

I think any pasta would probably work with this, but tortellini is my top choice (with apologies to the child who was traumatized by tortellini and the ones who suffered secondary trauma as a result).

Thank for your enthusiastic support and for asking me to share! I hope you enjoy.


We left New Jersey late Sunday afternoon with hugs and goodbyes and a bag of baked potatoes. While the women were at The River House celebrating the bride, the men were home grilling steaks with the groom.

Would your family eat these potatoes?

There was a tray of foil-wrapped potatoes that had been baked and then overlooked. My mind immediately went to a meal I could prepare with them. I am always grateful for a gift of food, especially at the end of a full weekend when I am returning home after a 5 hour drive to a fridge with sketchy contents.

A bag of New Jersey baked potatoes traveled home with us. I used them for supper last night in the form of Canoes, which is our version of twice-baked potatoes.

Here is the recipe:

Baked Potatoes

Sour Cream
Cooked bacon
Shredded Cheese
Green onions or garden chives

The proportions, and amounts are based on the number of potatoes being prepared. I don’t follow direct measurements I just put everything into the Kitchen-Aid and mix it together until it looks creamy and delicious. The ingredients can be adjusted based on taste preferences and fridge contents. It is a forgiving, flexible recipe.

Slice potatoes in half and scoop out the middles. Put the insides in a mixing bowl and the skins on a cookie sheet (like canoes).

Add a bit of softened butter and sour cream to the bowl and mix well.

Begin adding milk until desired consistency (like making mashed potatoes).

Chop the cooked bacon into bits (or just use bacon bits if you have them). Stir the bacon into the potato mixture.

Add the shredded cheese, saving some to sprinkle on top.

Season as desired (salt/pepper/chopped green onion or chives).

If you have people who don’t like onions, then scoop out some filling into the potato skin canoes before adding onions to the rest.

Sprinkle the tops with cheese. Sprinkle a bit of chopped onions or chives over the ones that contain onions to mark them from those that don’t.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until everything is heated through and the cheese is melted. You may need to adjust the time or temperature for your oven.


This is a delicious summer recipe. I served it last night with sliced watermelon, a salad filled with goodness from our garden, a heart full of thankfulness for daily provision and happy memories of a special weekend.

Sunday Cookie Making

If you are looking for something to do this rainy Sunday afternoon, consider mixing up a batch of cookies!

I just finished a recipe of Cocoa Oatmeal Treats found in the Hershey’s Homemade cookbook. This little gem filled with dessert recipes has been in my cupboard since the early 90’s and sustained many a declutter rampage. Now it is considered vintage.

I needed a dessert to send to youth group tonight. Rather than baking my go-to chocolate chip cookies, I mixed up these no-bake ones. They are my oldest son’s favorite type of cookie. I remembered this as I was making them.

During one of his birthday celebrations, my dear friend Heather helped me make them in the kitchen as his party was happening. She stood at the stove stirring and mixing and dropping onto pans to cool. I bagged them to send home as party favors. 

This time, my daughter, Coco, helped me with the cocoa cookies. Here is the recipe we used as found in the Hershey’s Homemade cookbook before she ran out the door on an errand with her father. He and I will drink coffee and enjoy a cookie when they return.

Cocoa Oatmeal Treats
2 c sugar
1/3 c Hershey’s cocoa
1/2 c milk
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 c quick-cooking rolled oats (or regular oats if that’s all you have)
1/2 c chopped unsalted peanuts

In medium saucepan stir together sugar and cocoa; stir in milk and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter. Add oats and peanuts; stir to mix well. Quickly drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto wax paper or foil (or parchment lined pans). Cool completely. Store in a cool, dry place. About 4 dozen.

These are so good. Truly like butter because, well, butter! I enjoyed my quota before remembering I was supposed to have cookies and coffee with Steve when he returns. Oops!

(They contain peanuts and peanut butter, so be mindful to label for allergies.)

Friendship Friday ~ Cousin Day

Yesterday was a special day. It had been written on a calendar block, cleared of all else. We spent all day with the Boston little boy cousins and their amazing parents.

My anxiety about having little people around for the day was alleviated quickly when this little one walked in, grabbed a recorder, and began playing while his brother accompanied him on the piano.


Uncle B patiently listened to Little Mae tell all about King’s Dominion adventures using her map of the park.

Mae and Uncle B

My baby and my sister’s baby smiled at each other a lot, which was a huge milestone for anyone who knows my baby and her thoughts about babies.

Baby B

Baby B won her over.

Mae and baby

Meanwhile, lots of creating happened. The cry of Guys, Guys! Look over here! caught my attention. I looked to see this little one with his airplane.


My much younger sister was caught wearing my perpetual mothering face in this picture. I so know the feeling.

mothering face

With everything happening at once, there were problems to solve, like the one of figuring out how to find all of the pieces and get this track to stick to the green board. Daddy to the rescue on that one! Problem solved.


It was sweet for my littles to get an opportunity to experience the life of their big siblings. Here Coco gets to feel like her big sisters when the littles were being born, holding a babe in arms.

Coco and baby

And these eyes and little chewing mouth. I could not get enough of them.

chewdalee chew

And this snuggly sleeper. I might have cried a little.

sleepy baby

Of course, a day with littles (or bigs for that matter) is not complete without some down time with a screen and a cuddly blanket.

screen time

This day was so full, pictures don’t do it justice. I finally had to put down the phone and just be in it, because everything was so much to take in.

I want to remember the moments of sweetness like a two-and-a-half-year-old cousin wandering into the TV room with his bowl of shredded cheese and climbing up next to Kirk and asking questions about Minecraft. My thirteen-year-old’s patient response and offer of letting him play reminded me of how Caleb treated his little brother, and my heart swelled.

I want to remember the conversations with my brother and sister that felt natural and relaxed and made us forget that we live hundreds of miles apart and that this doesn’t happen every day. Moments of falling asleep on the couch or walking out into the yard or playing UNO Attack (thanks, B!!!!) felt like they happen every day.

And dinner time. Oh, the dinner table.

I want to remember shopping with my sister and planning our meal like it’s the most normal thing in the world, all while talking about everything. I want to remember cooking and being together and living life.

I want to remember what it was like to have a full dinner table and the littles getting to be the bigs and experiencing the noise and cries and trauma of food touching other food or too much ketchup coming out of the bottle or corn on the cob rolling onto the wrong place on the plate. Our table was full and loud and fun.

Our day was full and loud and fun.

My body, mind, and soul felt full and tired and happy and sad and grateful, so very grateful.

sister selfie

At the end of the day when, Sister Selfie! was called, here is what we got. Sister selfie, plus one. I am old enough to be this girl’s mom, so I could technically be a grandma. Technically. Not yet.

For now I relish being auntie to this precious little one and his brothers and will hold so many special memories close to my heart.

It was a very good day.

Picking Chicken

I stand at the sink picking chicken. I am not literally doing it in the sink, but a large cutting board resting over it creates extra make-shift counter space. I can look out of the window at leftover snow-clutter in the yard, and watch Dewey frolic around, muddying his paws.

Picking chicken forces me to be present in the moment while allowing my mind to wander slightly before bringing it back again. There is much to do, lots to keep up with, but right now feeding the family is on my mind, hence chicken picking.

The chicken I am picking comes from bones left from a meal we had earlier this week ~ a whole chicken cooked in the crock-pot. After eating what we could, the remains were placed in a covered Corning Ware dish in the refrigerator to be processed later.

Later is today. I cannot bear for food to go to waste, and if I don’t attend to this, that is exactly what will happen. It brings me to a Saturday afternoon picking chicken in front of the window. I am thinking and dreaming and trying to stay focused before slipping into the abyss that I often dangle above in my thoughts.

It’s quite the mental balancing act. Good thing I have this chicken to keep me grounded.

Earlier, I pulled two bags of broth from the freezer and emptied them into the slow-cooker. I added some salsa verde, cut the bigger pieces of meat from the bones, and opened two cans of great northern beans, leaving it all to cook for the day. Saturday meals are a challenge for me after a busy work-week. Here’s to white-chicken-chili with cheese and chips later!

I dropped the remaining chicken into a pot on the stove with some onion, covered it all with water, and left it to boil and simmer as chores and such took place. I turned the heat off, strained the broth, and left the bones to cool. There was a lot of meat still on them, leading me to the place of picking chicken.

Picking chicken is not my favorite, but if I do it, there will be meat in the freezer to pull out later. I can use it in my chicken pot pie recipe that is frugal, except for the time it takes to make it. A requested favorite, it will come in handy on a night when my son is unexpectedly home, and I want to cook up some love for him.

Picking and processing chicken is a skill that hearkens back to my field experience days as an at-home mom of lots of children. There was plenty of time to hone that skill as most everything was fixed from scratch as frugally as possible.

I am in a different season. Now I am trying to save for dreams on the horizon, and one way I can make money is by saving money, and one way to do that is by picking chicken.


Sweet Potatoes

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and tonight I am thankful that the sweet potatoes are fixed and ready to be baked tomorrow. I am thankful for my parents and their willingness to host Thanksgiving dinner. It is lovely to just show up.

I first tasted this casserole twenty-eight years ago, Holiday Season 1987, with Steve’s family. His sister-in-law, Robin, prepared it. I asked for the recipe. I still have it on a faded pink piece of paper.

Siblings have requested the recipe in the past. This year an adult child texted to ask. After digging around, looking for, and finally finding it, I decided to post it here.

Robin’s Sweet Potatoes
4 or 5 sweet potatoes, baked, and middles scooped into a mixing bowl.*
1 cup sugar

1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c milk
3 eggs
Mix well.
Pour into a greased baking dish.
Prepare topping.
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 stick butter, melted
Mix together, spread over potatoes, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*To cook sweet potatoes, wash and then prick them all over with a fork. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet or baking pan and bake at 375 for an hour or so. Remove from oven to counter or just turn off the oven and let them cool in there. When cool to touch, the insides scoop right out.*

This dish can be made ahead of time and baked later. I have played around with this recipe by adding more potatoes, cutting the sugar/butter to taste, etc. It’s still good, but definitely not diet, low-carb, low-fat, or low anything. It’s like candy.

Perfect for twice a year!

Friendship Friday ~ Cheesy Edition

I love my kids. All of them. They overwhelm me. Every one.

They are my greatest gifts. They are what God knew I needed, and I cling to that reminder when I’m not so sure.

They are some of my issues. I have helped to create many of theirs.

Five remain at home, one with his foot out the door, but still very much present. It takes many deep breaths and much fortitude to brace for the second half of this parenting journey with the ones who remain.



This is a bag of cheese pulled from the freezer for Friday night pizza.

Several weeks ago, adult child three stopped in unexpectedly. She helped make the Friday night pizza. She also offered to divide the giant bag of mozzarella cheese into smaller, freezer-sized portions, a task not my favorite.

In the weeks following, as I pulled cheese from the freezer, I found hand-written notes on the bags. I love my mama. It’s Friday! and other sweet messages adorned them, written in trademark black Sharpie.

This bag makes me smile so much that I’m keeping it to refill. I love the picture she drew and her handwriting for the words and just everything that reminds me of the huge, undeserved gift I’ve been given to be the mom in the picture.

I’m thankful for moments like this where I am reminded of the redemptive good birthed from the very hard. Many years of pizza making, lots of Fridays, lots of freezing of cheese and sauce and dough, lots of misunderstandings about plans and movie choices and curfews come together in a moment of beauty written on a bag of cheese.

Sweet-Smelling Fragrance

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. . .

Today seemed a good one to talk about fall scent, or in the words of my son, foul stenchBoth are correct, actually.

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
And who is adequate for such a task as this?
2 Corinthians 2:15,16

The recipe for Fall Scent is found on one of those lost plastic pages in my virtuous cookbook of yore. It involves simmering good-smelling things in a pot on the stove, being careful not to burn all of the water away, thus crusting everything to the bottom of the pot and filling the house with a stench.

It’s a great use for those lemons or oranges or other citrus fruits or even apples that are going bad in the fruit bin. One step ahead of the compost pile.

Fall Scent
1 lemon, cut in half or quartered
1 orange, same
some whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
A bay leaf or two

Squeeze the juice of the lemon and orange into a 2qt pot, dropping the rind in, as well.
Add the other ingredients and fill with water.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil, and then reduce to simmer.
Enjoy the scent, adding water as it evaporates.

VERY IMPORTANT! Do not leave unattended. If you smell a delightfully strong scent while you are in another part of the house, RUN to add more water, because the water is almost gone. If you have OCD tendencies, you might want to stick with something safer like diffusing essential oils, because it will drive you crazy wondering if you turned off the stove when you leave the house. Or come up with a ritual for signalling to yourself you have removed the pot from the top of the stove.

Trust me on this one.

I sometimes add apple bits, peppercorns, or other interesting spices to mix it up a bit. This mixture will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

The backstory to fall scent is that when we purchased our yellow house eleven years ago, it was rather run-down and ramshackle. Everything was filthy and old and broken, and the eight appliances that conveyed were from the 50’s.

That’s another story.

There was basic work to be done like updating the wiring and waterproofing the basement and refinishing the floors and cleaning. Oh my, the cleaning.

We would come over to work, and I would brew a pot of fall scent to mask the musty smell and try to make it seem home-y.

The following fall when we were more settled and had lived in the house for several months, I put a pot of fall scent on the stove. My then-little bigs got home from school one afternoon and the first thing child 3 asked was, Are there workers here?

The scent was associated with the work being done on the house. And now you know. . .

. . .the rest of the story.

I’m off to parent four more not-so-littles and move on through the day.

And who is adequate for such a task as this?

Enjoy your fall day, Friends!

Fall Chowder

How have I never heard of Croctober? 

Facebook introduced me last night. Pretty cool, since today I was planning to post about Fall Chowder made in the crockpot. Now it can be for Croctober, too! Win~win!

Back in the day before the internet was in every home and wifi connected all of our devices to sites like Facebook and Pinterest, there were people. And books. You had to actually connect face to face (not facetime) with real people and look things up in literal books.

You couldn’t click a mouse and instantly find 50 pumpkin recipes for the season, or 50 crock-pot recipes for your freezer, or any of the other knock-off seasonal latte drink recipes that fill one’s feed while scrolling through Facebook. You had to have cookbooks or recipes from friends or something cut out of a newspaper or magazine to find that unique dish or drink. You had to work a little harder for your variety.

You needed connection.

A small season of connection came for me when I was fifteen, and my family began attending a new church. Looking back, it was such a short season, maybe seven months at most, but I was impacted for the rest of my life by my experience there.

The ladies of the church, who all seemed so virtuous and perfect to my untrained eye, assembled a cookbook that I acquired somehow, maybe from my then-boyfriend, who might have wished that I could be as stellar as they when I grew up. Maybe I came across it some other way. My memory doesn’t serve, and I am choosing not to go to that season in my memory right now.

Where I am choosing to go is to the fact that I received a treasure trove of recipes that I have followed throughout my married life and that has followed me. Each recipe has the name of the woman (or, rare, man) who contributed it. There are no links, websites, or blogs listed. I feel a connection to those whose recipes I prepare.

Some recipes have now been inspired by, since the original is lost or has fallen out of the book or been removed and not replaced (long ago when the book began to fall apart, I put the sheets in page protectors in a binder, which was both good and bad. Good – protect. Bad – remove and lose.)

So, if you are reading this (and I know some of you do) and recognize your (or a friend’s) recipe, send me a shout-out. I’d love to remember.

Here is my crock pot adaptation of Fall Chowder. It is not healthy, fat free, low calorie or anything. It is comfort food at it’s finest, unless you are nine. Then it is torture.

Crock Pot Fall Chowder

4 c red potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 c carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4-6 c chicken broth or bouillon cubes and water, or equal liquid choice for the base
12-16oz bacon
Small bag of frozen corn
2 cans Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup
2 cans milk
4 c shredded cheddar cheese (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Put the cut up carrots and potatoes into the Crock Pot (mine is the larger 6 qt size).
  2. Cook the bacon. Either cut it into pieces first and cook it up with the chopped onions, or cook up the strips and then drain and cook up the onions in some of the grease. Put the cooked bacon into the pot. Add the cooked onions. Stir everything together.
  3. Add the broth or cooking liquid of choice. I make big batches of broth when I cook chicken, so there are often frozen bags or containers of broth in my freezer. Since this is going to cook all day, I put the frozen chunk right into the pot. It works great. If you do this, move it to the bottom of the pot and sort of pile the vegetables around the frozen chunk.
  4. Start the pot on low if it will be cooking all day.
  5. An hour or two before you plan to eat (this works for me on a workday when I get home at 3:15, and we eat at 6), remove the lid and give the soup a stir. Everything should be cooked and soup-like. Add the 2 cans of cheese soup and 2 cans of milk. Stir. Add the frozen corn. Stir. Add the shredded cheese. Stir. Replace the lid and continue to cook on low until you eat.

In my ideal world, we eat this with jiffy cornbread muffins and honey-butter. There is a salad.

Reality is sometimes Pillsbury pop-biscuits or bread and butter.

Enjoy! Happy Crocktober!