Day 5: but seriously



I don’t want to brag, but my grandma made the best pancakes.  How did she make those silver dollar yummies?  They were crispy along the edges and soft in the middle.  Teeny tiny little pancakes made for teeny tiny hands.  And on a Sunday, you could find piles of them waiting for you in the microwave.  Everyone knew they were there and we all helped ourselves.   Continue reading



So, I haven’t done a Memory Monday in a very long time.  I haven’t actually blogged in a long time.  I guess being pregnant keeps you just a busy as the actual baby.  What have I been doing?  Nesting.  Nesting at work and nesting at home.  My classroom is officially set up for my maternity leave.  Lessons are planned, worksheets are copied, IEPs are written.  Very little left to do and if it didn’t all get done…no one would know but me.  Nesting at home…eh.  Laundry is done.  We had two BEAUTIFUL showers hosted by our families.  So many generous gifts…so much to organize.

My mom had 6 babies in 5 pregnancies.  I remember a little about my brother Ds pregnancy but I remember a LOT about her pregnancy with the twins.  I don’t remember her being nearly as neurotic as I am.  Maybe it was because these boys were her FIFTH and SIXTH children.  Maybe it was because she had pretty much everything she ever needed so prepping wasn’t necessary.  Maybe I just don’t remember as well as I thought.  What I do remember from then and years after, were a lot of easy to prep, budget friendly meals that could be put together with a toddler attached to you legs while you fed a couple of babies.  One of our of my sister L’s favorites…was chicken and rice.  Everything gets prepped and baked in one dish making it the ultimate meal of ease.  A few pantry staples and a package of chicken and you had dinner!  So…tonight, in honor of my mom and the upcoming arrival of Baby Boss…I give you Chicken and Rice!

Chicken and Rice

  • 1 lb chicken trimmed and cut to preference–I cut into long strips (more or less as necessary)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use LF soups)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom (sub with another chicken or even celery if allergies or preferences)
  • 1 can white rice
  • 2-3 cans water or broth
  • onion soup packet
  1. Mix together the rice, water/broth, and soups.  Top with chicken.  Top that with soup packet.
  2. Bake tightly covered with foil for 90 minutes on 350* to 375*
  3. Bake last 10 minutes uncovered.
  4. Serve with fresh bread.

What Baby Wants…

Probably not a big shocker to most, but I am pregnant.  I’m about 26 weeks along on this new adventure.  I have been blessed.  I feel great.  I haven’t had the dreaded morning sickness or complete exhaustion.  It’s been a rather uneventful pregnancy so far. This must be a gift from my mom for sure.

***excuse me while I look for something wooden to knock on***

To answer a few questions:
1. I am due April 10.
2. We are not finding out if we are having a boy or a girl–in a couple of years of bad surprises, this one will ALWAYS be a good. You’ll get a boy or a girl EVERY SINGLE TIME.
3. We have a couple of names picked out but we aren’t sharing…you’ll just have to wait.
4. No–we will not change our minds about finding out or sharing names.
5. I do not have any weird cravings–see below.

So about those cravings…nope.  Sure, I really love all things noodles: buttered noodles, spaghetti, a good casserole, mac & cheese, even ramen noodles will hit the spot–but I try not to indulge too often!  The cuties were especially delicious this year. I like orange juice a lot but I’ve had a cold for 5 months so that could have something to do with it. But nothing I feel the need to send my husband out looking for in the week hours of the morning has struck my fancy. Lucky guy.

However, this week, the baby told me a secret.  The little bug really wanted my grandma’s homemade pizza. Now, there are a few conflicting recipes for this one. My Aunt N SWEARS grandma used Jiffy Mix brand pizza dough. The rest of us all are certain it was Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix so that’s what I use. Regardless of what dough we use–we all agree on the ground beef. An odd pizza topping for sure, but it is what grandma always used, what my mom always used, and what I always use. As a kid, that was the only topping on the pizza besides the ooey gooey cheese layer. As an adult, we added canned mushrooms and even pepperoni.

I call this homemade pizza but let’s be real, it’s a box crust, a store bought sauce, and refrigerator toppings. But I assemble it myself and that’s good enough. I don’t remember if there was a certain sauce used, but I tend to buy the Cantadina sauce in the squeeze bottle so I can keep leftovers in the fridge.

Grandma’s Homemade Pizza

1 box PILLSBURY HOT ROLL MIX (sorry N–we all agree on this except you)
1 can, jar, bottle pizza sauce
12 oz cheese (motz, Italian blend, etc.)
1/3 lb ground beef
1 small can mushroom drained
Pepperoni (I like turkey pepperoni)
Salt and Pepper

Make the dough according the the directions on the box. You use 1 1/4 cup hot water and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Mix and knead according to the box.

Push your dough out into a cookie sheet (I don’t know why a cookie sheet–it’s just what we use).

Use a fork to poke holes all over the dough, cover with Saran Wrap and a towel. Let rise for 15 minutes. This is a good time to start preheating your oven to 425*.

Add your sauce and your toppings. Grandma and my mom always used the ground beef raw–this creeps me out. I get worried it will not cook through so I partially brown it while the dough is rising.

Top with cheese.

Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper liberally. This is also where Aunt N’s memory differs with mine and my moms. She puts the oregano under the cheese and I’m pretty certain she doesn’t use the salt and pepper but I could be wrong. The oregano definitely goes on top. I don’t know why–it just does.

Toss in the oven for 15-20 minutes. I like to put the broiler on for the last minute or two so the cheese browns a little. Since the mushrooms are a wetter ingredient, it prevents this from happening on its own.

Allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting into squares.

That’s it. A childhood memory come to life right at the kitchen island. That’s were most of my memories start. Just the scent of sown thing familiar can bring me back to when I first experienced it.



Memory Monday: Taking Comfort

It’s been along time since I wrote for Memory Monday.  Of course, being Tuesday, I am still a bit late.

There are just those things I find most comforting.  I’m sure it is the same for everyone.  Some of my favorites include

  • the delicious scent of a pot of soup on the stovetop on a cool afternoon
  • cozy PJs in a bed with clean sheets–bonus if it was made by Marcella the super cleaning lady
  • the buttery decadence of family recipe known as Susie’s Favorite
  • and thunderstorms…

Well, it used to be thunderstorms.  As you can imagine, I lost my love of thunderstorms shortly after the flood.  I slept so soundly the night that the house flooded that I often wonder if I had woken earlier would anything have been different?  You cannot live with the shoulda, coulda, woulda‘s.  It’ll drive you batty.  Since the flood, I have been less than comforted by raindrops against my windows.  A storm now brings anxiety and stress…

…that is, until last night.  For some reason, snuggled up with the hubby, I was once again comforted by the sounds of the rain.  Maybe it was because I was just that exhausted.  Maybe it was because I finally have put it all behind me.  Who knows.  But when we went to bed at 8:00 last night…yes–8:00…I drifted off into a peaceful sleep waking only to lulled back again by nature’s lullaby.  I would like to imagine I had a lazy little smile on my face but that would be silly.  I was probably mouth breathing and drooling a bit.  Regardless, last night, I was comforted once again.

This weekend I indulged in another comfort, the infamous Susie’s Favorite.  I am sure that it was designed to feed a lot of hungry mouths for not a lot of money.  Most people are a little boggled by this bizarre family pasta that brings me back to the house on Ridgeway with the tiny kitchen.  I remember having it most often on Friday’s during lent or Saturday afternoons at Grandma’s house.  It could be made without milk–which I am sure we were always out of with 6 kids gulping it down at every meal.  I would guess that it has more bang for your buck over a few boxes of mac and cheese.  Nevertheless, it is the taste of my childhood.  Having introduced some childhood and college friends to this yummy dish, I am sure we were the craziest family out there to pass this off as some sort of normal meal.  I put it up there with those tomatoes with bread: an acquired taste that just reminds you of home.  Although I never asked {damn}, I am sure that the one-pot-wonder was named after my Aunt Sue.  I imagine that us 6 McKenna kids turned our noses up at this orange colored, mac and cheese wannabe.  Then I am guessing that my mom called it Aunt Susie’s Favorite.  Who could argue with that review?

Susie’s Favorite

1-8 oz. box of small pasta (my mom always used elbows while grandma’s house usually had shells–I like the shells better but will settle for whatever is in the pantry)
1 can tomato soup
1/2 stick butter or margarine

Make the noodles according the the directions on the box.
Drain and return to the pot.
Add the can of tomato soup and the butter–NO WATER…trust me!
Stir until the butter is melted and serve immediately.


I know. I know.  It’s not Monday.  But the week was a busy one and it pretty much feels like Monday.

My mom was a sucker for a casserole.  It stretched a buck and hid a variety of veggies even the pickiest of eaters could enjoy.  Better yet, it was easy to add rice or pasta so that even if one of the neighbor kids stayed for dinner, there would be plenty to go around.  A family favorite was Chicken Surprise given to my mom by her BFF, D.  It was a tasty little concoction with chicken…duh…broccoli, and a killer sauce that had a base of the cream soup pantry staple.  We LOVED it.  Really.  It was a meal that pretty much everyone in the family would gobble up with out complaint.  Imagine MY surprise when a friend of mine gave me a recipe called chicken divan that was pretty much the same recipe.  Paula Deen had stolen D’s recipe…

Regardless, that recipe, both D’s and Paula’s, will pretty much add 5 pounds to the scale and more than a few inches to your waistline.  After many years of WW, I am pretty good at lightening up a recipe.  I was certain I could work wonders with this one and I did!!  Check out the changes I made below.  I made some common sense swaps, lessoned the amount of pasta (who needs THAT much), and tweaked the sauce a bit.  Even WITH the addition of pasta, the way my mom always made it, I was able to get the points plus value down to 11PP from 19PP.  With my mom’s pasta addition, the full fat version was a whopping TWENTY FOUR points plus.  WOW!

Enjoy this as an all inclusive meal: protein, starch, and veggie.  You can round it out with a fruit dessert or add a light green salad.

LOW FAT Chicken Surprise–11PP

20 oz cooked frozen chopped broccoli
20 oz cooked skinless boneless chicken breast, about 2 lbs raw–trimmed
2 cans low fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
8 oz uncooked pasta (elbows or shells)
3/4 cup 2% shredded cheddar
3 Tbsp l Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter–LIGHT
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup whole grain/wheat bread crumbs

  1. Trim and poach the chicken until cooked through.
  2. Dice or shred.
  3. Mix together the yogurt, soup, mayo, and lemon juice.
  4. Cook the pasta until mostly cooked through.
  5. Mix 1/4 of the sauce with the hot pasta.
  6. Mix the additional sauce with the broccoli and the chicken.
  7. Layer the pasta then chicken in a sprayed pan.
  8. Melt margarine and mix with bread crumbs.
  9. Top the casserole with cheese then buttered bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 350*

FULL FAT Chicken Surprise–24PP (19PP without pasta)

20 oz cooked frozen chopped broccoli
8 cooked skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayo
16 oz uncooked pasta (elbows or shells)
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup bread crumbs

  1. Trim and poach the chicken until cooked through.
  2. Dice or shred.
  3. Mix together the soup, mayo, and lemon juice.
  4. Cook the pasta until mostly cooked through.
  5. Mix 1/4 of the sauce with the hot pasta.
  6. Mix the additional sauce with the broccoli and the chicken.
  7. Layer the pasta then chicken in a sprayed pan.
  8. Melt margarine and mix with bread crumbs.
  9. Top the casserole with cheese then buttered bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 350*

Summer Days

In the last 10 years or so, my mom wasn’t much of a drinker. In her younger days, she stayed sane by enjoying a bottle of wine with the neighbor. But as she aged, she stopped drinking pretty much all together except for an occasional Kaluha and milk. She did, however, love her McDonald’s Diet Coke or Sweet Tea, especially when smuggled into the movies in giant ziplock bags shoved into my Mary Poppin’s purse.

I had gotten onto this kick a few summers ago where I would make all kinds of delicious iced teas. My mom was my personal taste tester. She loved when I experimented with something new and a little bit different. Her personal favorite was mint iced tea. It was refreshing and bold and full of flavor. She liked it sweetened whereas I preferred the mint on its own without the sugar. What to do? What to do?

I began making the tea unsweetened and then made a mint infused simple syrup so my mom could add it to taste. I pulled out all the ingredients today to brew this super refreshing concoction. I had forgotten how much I loved it. I had forgotten how much it reminded me of summer days and hanging out in the yard with my family. My first sip of the strong tea with mint flavor notes quenched my thirst and wet my appetite for more of those days.

Mint Iced Tea

4 tea black tea bags (I prefer Barry’s Breakfast but have made it many times with Lipton)
4 mint herbal tea bags (I like Bigelow)
5 cups cold water
10 additional cups of cold water and/or ice
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
mint leaves

  1. In a medium sauce pot, heat 5 cups cold water and a small handful of mint leaves and stems until boiling.
  2. Add the tea bags and steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the teabags and let cool.
  4. After cooled a bit, transfer to a 1 gallon container similar to this filled with ice–I usually leave the mint in the tea.
  5. Add additional water to top off.
  6. Store in the fridge.
  7. In a small sauce pan, bring 3/4 cup of cold water and 3/4 cup of sugar to a boil along with a small handful of mint leaves and stems.
  8. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and it is crystal clear.
  9. Let cool.
  10. Strain and transfer to a small container with a lid easy for pouring similar to this.
  11. Store in the fridge–I usually put it in a small bowl in case it leaks as it is sticky.
  12. To serve, fill a glass with ice and add tea. Sweeten to taste and stir.

Love and Chocolate

The first time I loved a boy–I mean really, REALLY loved a boy so much that just a few days apart made my heart hurt, I was about 24 years old. Along came this guy with an adorable smile and the eyes of an old soul. He was wise beyond his years with fantastic taste in music right from the get-go. I was smitten. I told him as often as I could that I loved him more than all the stars in the sky. You would think that would push a guy away…but not this fella. He would say it back with conviction always accompanied with a big hug.

That boy was my very first nephew–S. I’m still in love with the smart, kind, handsome young man he has become today.

Several years ago, he was having a sleepover at my apartment. I had a guest room but he really wanted to stay on the couch to watch TV. He’s a good kid and I knew he wasn’t going to wander away–so I let him chill on the sofa with a ziplock full of homemade cookies. There were over TWO DOZEN rather large chocolate chip potato chip cookies in that bag when I went to bed. Upon awaking in the morning, I found S in a cookie coma–hand still in the bag gripping the last three cookies. He declared them TUMMY ACHE COOKIES. He could not stop eating them and ended up having a terrible tummy ache.

About a year ago, my nephew followed me out to the parking lot when I was leaving a family party. He ran to catch up to me and give me a hug. Then he asked if I would make him tummy ache cookies for the next time I saw him. How could a doting godmother say no to that?!

Of course, I made the cookies then and several times since. They have become a family favorite full of salty, sweet goodness that is near impossible to refuse.

S officially passed me up in the height game about a month ago. He is starting eighth grade in the fall and is way beyond sleepovers with Aunt KK. But if he ever wants to hang out like old times, I’ll be more than happy to make him his favorite cookies. I will always love that kid more than all the stars in the sky.

Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies–AKA: Tummy Ache Cookies

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup crushed potato chips
1/2 to 3/4 cup chocolate chips

  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Add vanilla.
  3. Gradually add flour.
  4. Fold in potato chips and chocolate chips.
  5. Roll into 1 inch balls.
  6. Flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
  7. Bake 9-11 minutes (they will not really get golden brown)
  8. Remove from pan once cooled.

The recipe is right. There are NO eggs and NO brown sugar. The dough is a bit dry and crumbly. The cookies are very delicate especially when first coming out of the oven.