Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Food for the Soul....Budget Style!

Chicken Stew with Lima Beans
My husband likes to bargain shop.  He often buys large quantities of a grocery item because "it was on sale!"  He can't resist the opportunity to save a few pennies.  Often we tire of the bargains before we use them up!  I have a pantry full of foods that looked good at the time, but of which we quickly tired of eating.  I am sure that some of my readers can relate.  I digress....Yesterday he brought home fifteen pounds of chicken thighs!  There were a real deal at sixty nine cents a pound.

Luckily, across town on the same day, a friend posted a picture of a dish  using chicken on her Facebook page.  My husband saw the post, admired it and then couldn't find it again.  He asked for the posting person to share the recipe.  In the meantime, several offered up their own versions and found some recipes for us on the Internet.  It was a conversation piece.  Perhaps we need to get real lives as the hunt for the recipe entertained us for hours

At the crack of dawn this morning I began cooking Chicken Stew with Lima Beans.  I consulted my friends' recipes and finally devised my own version determined by the ingredients I had in my pantry.  That's the best kind of budget cooking....using what you have!!  I decided to serve the concoction over fried grit cakes.  I had some in my freezer and frying them up seemed a good alternative to rice.

This dish is Southern, soulful and very budget friendly!  The lima beans and the grit cakes are the crowning touches.  Thanks to Julie Cherry for the inspiration.  Thanks to Phyllis Mixon for searching the Internet for a comparable recipe.  Here's my version.  I didn't make a roux, but the pan drippings contained flour and thickened the liquid to a smooth and thick consistency.   I cooked eight chicken thighs, so I only have about one hundred left in the freezer!  I am hoping to find more unique ways to cook those thighs before we tire of them.

Chicken Stew with Lima Beans over Grit Cakes


8 chicken thighs, bone in or boneless
1 cup flour (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 cup each chopped:  onion, bell pepper and celery
1 T. minced garlic
about 1/2 cup white wine
3 reduced sodium chicken bullion cubes
2 cups boiling water
1 (24 oz) package of frozen baby lima beans
dash of Kitchen Bouquet seasoning to taste
garnish: parsley and paprika

1. Coat the chicken pieces with flour and brown in the vegetable oil.  Don't crowd the pan.  I did four at a time.
2. Remove chicken and place pieces in a 4 quart slow cooker.
3. Saute' the vegetables and garlic in the drippings.  Transfer them to the slow cooker on top of the chicken.
4. In the same pan, add the bullion cubes to the water.  When cubes are dissolved, pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine and pour that over the chicken as well.  Add Kitchen Bouquet to achieve a dark color.
5.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on High for about 2 hours.  Reduce heat to Low and cook about 2 more hours until chicken is tender.  Stir in Lima Beans.  Continue to cook until beans are soft, about 1 more hour.
6.  Serve over hot Grit Cakes or rice. Garnish with parsley and paprika.

Grit cakes while cooking
Grit Cakes (my version, based on eating them in a restaurant)

Prepare grits to serve 6 according to package directions. Add about 1 T. minced garlic to the water in the recipe. (I used Quaker 3-Minute Grits)

When grits are cooked, stir in about 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.  Line a 9"X 13" pan with waxed paper and pour in the grits.  Spread the mixture into the pan so that it is even throughout.  Refrigerate.  When the grits are cold, they will hold the shape of the pan.  Cut them into rectangles and "flash freeze" on a cookie sheet.  When frozen, place grit cakes in a plastic bag in the freezer to store until ready to cook.

To prepare for serving:  coat each cake with an egg wash, coat with bread crumbs and season the tops as desired.  My favorite is Trader Joe's 21-Seasoning Salute.  Heat about 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet.  When oil is hot, add the grit cakes and cook about 5 minutes on each side until brown and crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel until ready to serve.

Serves 6 to 8 and costs less than $10 for the entire dish!!  The taste and the price is good for the soul.  I wonder what will be "on sale" at the grocery store next week??






Monday, August 15, 2016

An Almost Unbearable Situation....my thoughts

You cannot imagine the devastation of the flooding in south Louisiana. We and our daughter's family were spared, but we have many friends and family whose homes are flooded. Tales of several feet of water in their homes are not uncommon. The real work will begin as the water recedes this week, hopefully. 
We endured several days of rain and now the rivers are rising. The major culprits are the Amite, Comite and Tickfaw rivers. The Mississippi is retained by levees and managed by spillways. 
We also have "backwater" flooding which is flooding by water that cannot drain normally because of flooding of the natural drainage. 
The outpouring of donations has been phenomenal. Insurance and FEMA claims will begin this week. Churches and schools have opened shelters for displaced families and the Red Cross is assisting in every way possible. Many shelters had to be abandoned as they took on flood waters. One shelter had 200 people who had to be evacuated by boats. Thank goodness for the volunteers who brought their boats to the scene. 
Please pray for our community.
Furthermore: 
A few weeks ago many in our city were scourging the police and first responders because of an unfortunate incident in our community. Some were throwing bricks at police, spitting in their faces and cursing them loudly. Many were resisting directions given to them. Some were arrested for disturbing the peace. 
Today many of those same people are counting on the police and first responders to rescue them from flooded homes and unsafe conditions on our roads and highways. I hope they will be more gracious this time. 
Our public servants are working nonstop to serve the entire community. Many have worked double and triple shifts because of manpower shortages caused by people not being able to get to work. 
Please pray for our police, EMS and Firefighters. They are our support system.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Grandfather's Love

This is a very personal post as I wanted to share something that my husband, John, constructed for his first granddaughter, Olive.  It's really a pictorial essay.  The pictures speak loudly of his creativity, dedication and skill that went into building a doll house on wheels.  It is fitting that these pictures be published near Father's Day.  The doll house is an expression of love and is now shared with another granddaughter, Pearl.

The doll house project took several weeks of continuous measuring, hammering, painting and decorating.  The pictures captured each step of the way.  Enjoy viewing them and remember that many things are possible with a grandfather's love.  Hopefully the girls will treasure this delight!  










And here was the reward for the effort!   Two smiling faces and lots of memories to be made.  

Happy Father's Day, John Dickinson  (aka as Paw Paw John Allie by Olive and Pearl)



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Reflections on Daylight Savings Time Change


My One Clock
Daylight Savings Time change in the spring always reminds me of my mother, Elise. She was told by someone... and so it must be true... that batteries for each clock should be changed on the day of the time change. Probably a good idea to change batteries now and then, but she took it to the extreme. My brother was always the one who had the chore after my dad died. She could never accomplish this task on her own. 
My Momma had many clocks and watches. Her clock collection grew when she and my dad traveled for his work.  They would follow flea markets and auctions in many of the areas in which they lived for months at a time. They bid on and purchased hundreds of old clocks.  Some were operated with a key and some were modern enough to require batteries.  I believe the ultimate plan was to resell them and pocket the profits, but that never happened. 
It is interesting to me that some people feel that others value their collections and interests as much as they do.  I remember the Christmas where I cried because instead of receiving a much needed and requested gift, I was "allowed" to choose a clock from their assortment of time pieces and wall adornments.  The clock I chose never kept accurate time...another disappointment.  
Momma was obsessed with time keeping. When she died, we removed no less than twelve clocks from her one bedroom apartment. There were clocks everywhere. I could never understand it. She had so little to do that I always thought she should just cherish each moment and enjoy herself instead of being a clock watcher. She used to set an alarm clock for 4:30 am so she could get her newspaper out of the hall of her apartment complex before someone stole it or, heaven forbid, tripped on it. 
She "timed" every aspect of her day. Some examples: a friend would call and talk for "exactly 43 minutes." or..."You were 7 minutes late in picking me up for my doctor appointment."  She would also set a time for her gatherings and would bad mouth anyone who showed up after the appointed time as though tardiness was a terrible character flaw.   There were no exceptions in her opinion of habitually late people.  They were just made of lesser stuff than she.  Even on her deathbed she requested her watch.  
A chore accomplished early morning
She lived 88 years.  Before she succumbed to poor health, I would telephone her regularly and ask how she had spent her day.  She would reply with a litany of tasks she had accomplished in the allotted time she had that day.  Sometimes when I get a lot of errands and tasks accomplished, I say that I have had an "Elise Day."  She admired people who were busy and successful. 
She was a creature of habit and took very good care of herself.  The good habits she developed were probably a result of doing things the same way and at the same time on most days.  She was a southern lady who awoke early, worked hard, but found time for a daily nap.  I can still see her resting on her bed with a damp washcloth on her eyes as she took her beauty nap.  Before that rest she always set a clock to awaken her so she could enjoy her afternoon coffee before it was time to begin preparing supper. One could set a clock by her habits.  There is irony somewhere in that comparison.  
My mother had many fine qualities, and I suppose I can even admire her dedication to her collections and to spending time wisely. However, watching her rigorous self-imposed schedule has caused me to evaluate how I spend my days.  In retirement I have divested myself of all except one clock and I haven't worn a watch since 2005.  Only time will tell who had the correct approach.  
So, on Sunday: "Here's to you, Elise!" I will change the battery of my one clock in your honor.
My Momma & Me at an event..I am sure we were on time!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

An Extraordinary Day: Daniel Family Reunion

Lewis Edward and Nina Hughes Daniel
Ed and Nina Daniel had seven children:  Norris, Maxwell, Audrey, Edwin, Joyce, Jackie and Margaret.  The family lived in Amite, Louisiana and were reared with Christian values.  Life during the depression was hard for this family, but they stayed close. Even after marriages and children they saw each other often.  The cousins, children of the seven siblings, have fond memories of family gatherings. The recollections include summers of play, endless card games and shared values. Jackie and Margaret are the surviving siblings as the other five have passed away due to illnesses.

Seems that as the aging process takes hold, one is reminded of the value of past experiences and the importance of family.  Early in the year Daniel Family members gathered for a funeral.  Another one of my father's six siblings had passed away.  We noted that we never saw each other except for solemn occasions and decided to do something about it.  On October 11, 2015, the two remaining Daniel siblings and 118 of the Daniel children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered in Zachary, Louisiana.  There would be food, fellowship and singing. The Daniels love to sing!  Childhood memories include many sessions of gathering around a piano and belting out carols at Christmas.  Many of the cousins could and would play musical instruments.  It was noted that our grandfather, Ed, was singing a hymn on his deathbed.  That was the last memory shared of his life.
Seated L to R: Norris and Maxwell
Standing L to R: Joyce, Edwin, Audrey, Jackie & Margaret

The planning began in April.  The gym of my church was reserved.  A Facebook page was begun.  Family names and contact information were collected via email and messages.  A letter was composed and the invitations went out in mid July.  Each of the 21 first cousins, their spouses and their children and grandchildren were invited.
As the date got closer many people became involved.  Cousin Steve would cook for us.  He is a minister and often cooks large quantities of barbecue for church events and he offered his expertise for our event.  Cousin Melanie offered her talents as mistress of ceremonies, song parody writer, photo booth creator and general "counsel" along the way.  Others encouraged their kids to register and to attend.

Wayne and Bootsie greeted guests
From childhood, when most of our parents were still around, the Daniel cousins knew each other.  As the family gatherings came less and less frequent we lost touch.  We had a great desire to share our memories and to meet each other's extended family.  We color coded our name tags and labeled them with the names of our parents.  That would be a good way to start.
As each family arrived and the name tags were claimed, the feeling of excitement grew.  The names of many we never had met were paired with faces and that created a lot of joy.

We would enjoy a festive meal centered around pulled pork, cajun sausages and hot dogs for the children (42 of whom were in attendance).  Each person brought a side dish.  We filled 6 eight foot long tables with food.  Food would be a focal point of our celebration.  We found out that we are great cooks.  Steve and wife, Dianne, assisted by Eric and Phillip presided over the kitchen and serving.
Chef Steve

Blessing the food and family
Food was another way to connect as we discussed the culinary delights.  Our meal was preceded with a family blessing.  We thanked God for the food we were about to eat and for the blessings of family and the opportunity to be together.  Alecia stated the truth in the old saying:  A family that prays together, stays together.  Hands were held and it was a very special moment.

Family singing parodies
Creative Melanie
After our meal we remained seated to enjoy a program presented by our mistress of ceremonies, Melanie.  Melanie has many talents among which is writing parodies to familiar tunes.  Cousins got on stage and took the microphones to sing jaunty and humorous lyrics to the tunes of the Addams Family, Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan's Island.  What fun!

Melanie also organized a photo booth complete with props.  So many pictures were taken and a just a couple are shared here.  The hit was a life sized frame.

 

No reunion would be complete without family pictures.  The families of each sibling were assembled and cameras were clicking.  A couple of unique snaps were of the first cousins and all of the "red heads" in our family.  Nina Hughes was a redhead and that red hair is still popping up in our grandchildren and great grandchildren
First Cousins (missing Rossie, Chris and Suzie)

Redheads Rule
Margaret Ann-Youngest Daniel Sibling 
Jackie with Robin
There was more singing and near the end of our time together.  Bob, led the entire room in an a cappella rendition of a family favorite, How Great Thou Art.  (click the name of the song to hear the music) I believe that song has been sung hundreds of times at Daniel family gatherings.

It would be difficult to write about everything that occurred in our short time together.
Be assured there were smiles, hugs, laughter and genuine joy during the afternoon.  Thanks to every single person who attended.  Ed and Nina would have been very proud.

Here's the recipe for Frances Daniel Smith's Cornbread Salad that was requested by so many:
2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix (prepared as directed on box, cooled, crumbled in large bowl)
1 cup diced onion, yellow or green
1 cup diced green bell pepper
3 fresh tomatoes diced
1 quart mayonnaise
Toss all ingredients together.  Top with fresh crisp crumbled bacon (or bacon bits).  Chill before serving.
Optional:  add browned ground cooked sausage, boiled eggs, olives, celery

NOTE:  members of the Facebook page, Daniel Family, can view hundreds more pictures taken on the day of the reunion.  
Welcome table:  Tablecoth crocheted by Grandmother Nina
The group: lots of folks!




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Uncle Edwin and My Memories

I went to the funeral.  One of seven children, Edwin James Daniels was born in 1918 in Amite, Louisiana and died in February of 2015.  He was my Dad's brother.  Like many young men of his time, he fought in World War II and was part of the "Avengers of Bataan"  also known as the 38th Infantry-Mechanized Calvary in the Philippines. He was awarded six medals for his service.  Later in his life, the Governor of Louisiana presented him with another medal in appreciation for his service.  His burial at Port Hudson National Cemetery was befitting  a hero.

After the war he married Aunt Lee, as we called her.  Her name was really Shirley, but I never knew that until I read the obituary after her passing six years ago.  They had two sons, David and Chris.  There are also three grandsons and one great-granddaughter.  In his 93 years, Uncle Edwin was a positive influence on this family as he was a Christian and lived a faith filled life.  At his funeral, his grandson recalled the impact of Uncle Edwin's strengths in handshake and in his belief in Christ.  He espoused the importance of "good clean living" and his legacy will live on in his offspring.

Uncle Edwin played a defining role in my life and I did have the opportunity to tell him so during one of our visits before he died.   He worked as the Chief Custodian for the parish schools in Baton Rouge for many years.  He was awarded the "plum" of his occupation by working at the newest and fanciest of the schools in the parish, Tara High School.  Teachers and students alike respected him for his knowledge and ability.   He was in a position to become acquainted with many of the key people in the parish level of supervision of the various subjects taught.  It seems that a Mr. Howard was his friend and also happened to be the person in charge of hiring teachers in the field I was studying in college.  Apparently, Uncle Edwin had bragged that he had a niece who was receiving her degree in teaching and was seeking employment.  Mr. Howard offered me a position and I took it!  That launched my 30 year career in education.  I sincerely believe that Uncle Edwin got that job for me.  There were so many applicants that, until he spoke up for me, I was just another piece of paper looking for a job.

Edwin in blue shirt
I wasn't particularly close to my uncle in my adulthood since marriage, my own children,  career  and a busy schedule kept me from visiting much.  I knew, however, that if I picked up a phone a loving voice would answer.  I did see him at family reunions and an occasional Christmas party and was happy for those times of seeing my relatives on my Dad's side.  Childhood memories of birthday parties that Aunt Lee gave for her boys are cherished ones.  All the cousins were invited and there was always cake, candles and the singing of "Happy Birthday to You."  I remember running and playing in their yard.  In those days birthday parties were at "your house" and your Momma baked the cake and "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" was the entertainment.  Times were simpler, but all the cousins had these parties.  Lots of opportunities to get to know family in those days.

They owned one house during their sixty or so years of marriage and lived in it for almost all that time.  The neighborhood changed, but they stayed and were happy and comfortable there for many years on Sherwood Street.  I also have fond memories of the Sears catalog.  Sounds strange, but my uncle and aunt shopped from the catalog and every time a new one came out, they would drive to our house and give me the catalog from the last season.  I remember paging through that big colorful book and circling all the things I wanted to purchase....if I had the money!  I don't think they ever knew how much enjoyment that simple gift generated.

When I had my own children, every now and then I would get a little envelope in the mail from Aunt Lee and Uncle Edwin.  It was always filled with diaper coupons and a friendly note that they were thinking about us.  The best part of those letters was the two $1.00 bills that were folded in.  There were instructions that the money was to be used to purchase ice cream for my children.  They sent us a Christmas card annually and we did the same back to them.  They always kept in touch and that was greatly appreciated and valued.  Of course, that mail promoted a phone call from me, so we could talk.

Edwin and his sister, Jackie
In his declining years, Uncle Edwin moved to Zachary.  His move, and mine, to the same town placed us in close proximity and I was blessed to get reacquainted with him.  He lived at Oakwood Village and had a small apartment designed for seniors who desire independent living.  It suited him well as he was then a widower and was never known to be a materialistic person.  During the six years he lived there he made many friends.  The ladies liked him because of his pleasant demeanor and he remained a "good looking" fellow until the end of his life.  The gents respected him as a friend and many because of their shared war experiences.  He was kind to everyone he met.

One year he was crowned the King of the Oakwood Village Mardi Gras festivities and the local newspaper put his picture on the front page.  He had a special lady friend and he confided to me, once, that she was so interesting to talk to because she had traveled the world.  I loved to go there and see them sitting in the large living area of Oakwood as they chatted or just sat in silence enjoying each other's company.

Uncle Edwin was a humble man and an all-around nice guy.  When I went to the funeral I saw a lovely display of his war medals and commendations that his sons had organized for the mourners to view.  I regret that I never knew of his brave deeds as a soldier or that his fellow servicemen called him the "Swamp Rabbit."  I suppose he was fast and was familiar with swampy terrain because of his native Louisiana.  This display also included family pictures of his children, grandchildren and his beloved great-grandchild.
"Swamp Rabbit"


In his last few months he was hospitalized several times and I was blessed to visit him on those occasions.  He always had a smile for me and knew my name.  It stunned me that he resembled my father so much.  He didn't seem to be in pain, but there was a feeling that he was ready to meet his Heavenly Father.  He passed away in his sleep and I know he lives in Heaven because he was a perfect candidate for that destination.  I shall remember him always and give thanks that he was my uncle.  Rest in Peace, Uncle Edwin.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Elayne Spinks Kuehler, a Romantic Realist

Plein air painting
When Elayne Spinks Kuehler was three years old, her mother remarked on her daughter's artistic abilities.  Her third grade teacher noticed her ability to draw and often gave her tips on drawing at her desk while the others in the class were coloring or enjoying quiet time with reading.  She admits to pulling the encyclopedia from the shelves at home to spend hours studying the paintings of the Old Masters.  When she was twelve years old, her father told her that he believed that since she loved art so much and was so good at it that she should delve into it whole heartedly and "do something with it.".   While still a teen, she spent her summers dabbling with various media, but admits to loving oil the best.   Her high school art teacher took her aside and told her that she really had talent and should develop it.  When she was eighteen years old, she sold the first painting she ever completed.

"Poetry in Motion"
The journey to becoming a professional artist was not straightforward.  Elayne found herself with small children, a house to manage and a job.  Painting became last in her priorities in her youth, but it was always there.  She reminisced that her son used to cry and cry when she went for an occasional art lesson.  For about eight years she had no time to paint. But she did pursue art and honed her skills.  Today she is recognized all over the country for her beautiful paintings.  Her works can be seen in galleries and in private collections in many places.

She has studied with Barrie Van Osdell, Carol Peebles and Auseklis Ozols who each specialize in a different form of art.  She has crafted her skills and has won many awards for her work.  When she was 28 years old she found directions in an art magazine to enter the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club contest to be allowed the privilege of exhibiting in its gallery in New York.  The CLWAC is named after a collector who wished to promote women artists.  Her painting was accepted and she has since become a member with privileges of exhibiting there.  That was her first competition.  Since then she has won many awards internationally, nationally and regionally.  Her website, lists all of her memberships and exhibitions.
Teaching Studio
Elayne's motto is taken from another famous artist, Michelangelo, who when asked about his worked stated:  "I am still learning."  As a learner she is also a teacher.  She maintains, in addition to her private studio, a teaching classroom where she instructs budding artists.  Some just want to learn the basics but a few have become professional artists in their own right.  She teaches private and group lessons in oil painting.  Her classes include instruction on technique, composition, drawing, color and design.  She has also been known to host "painting parties" from time to time for those just wanting to have fun while expressing themselves creatively.

Elayne's art can be currently seen in several galleries including Taylor Clark Gallery in Baton Rouge, LA or on her website.  She participates in exhibits across the nation and has often been selected to have one person exhibits.  One such recently was in Fayetteville, Texas where she displayed her work featuring the hill country and its beautiful wildflowers.  In October of 2014 her works will appear in the Garden District Gallery  in New Orleans, LA and the Three Rivers Gallery in Covington, LA.  

"Hail Istrouma"-Private Collection
Prints available
Elayne is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended Istrouma High School.  This year the school closed and Elayne created an oil painting of the building as she remembered it from her days there in the mid 60's.  Istrouma has the unique distinction of having a closely-knit group of alums that gathers at least bi-annually at someone's country home for a meal, music and fun.  The hosts of these gatherings are to be the recipients of the original oil painting as they have some very generous and appreciative friends.  In order for more people to have a copy of the painting Elayne had giclĂ©e prints made for folks to purchase.  These prints can be ordered directly from Elayne  by contacting her through her website.  They can also be purchased from Taylor Clark Gallery in Baton Rouge, LA.  One can learn more about the alumni gatherings for graduates of the 50's and 60's by reading another post by this blogger

"Azalea Still Life"-award winner

Elayne Kuehler is a prolific painter who focuses on oil painting, but is equally talented with pencil drawings and she has illustrated a children's book as well.  If you are lucky enough to see her works in person you should not miss the chance.  However, her website depicts many still life paintings, pencil drawings, miniatures, landscapes and wild life works.  She is versatile and widely recognized for her passion for art.  She is shown here at the Brush With Burden exhibit in Baton Rouge in the spring of 2014 beside her award winning painting, Azalea Still Life.