Cleaning the Pantry

I tackled cleaning the pantry today. Fortunately, since school is out I had Landon here to help me. What a chore. It was a job long overdue. We tried pulling everything out a shelf at a time, then reorganizing and putting everything back. Here's what the hallway looked like after we had pulled out some of it.

I have my cleaning supplies and my paper goods along with food staples in my pantry. I also have room for those extra kitchen appliances that are not needed on a daily basis. We had a lot of stuff to move around. Landon was so much help. He wanted to do all the lifting because he says that work like lifting "puts hair on your chest". I was glad to let him be in charge of that. No chest hair for me, thanks.

Landon put all the canned goods into "families" for me. He liked the really big families that he found, like the 16 cans of cream of mushroom soup. I won't need to add that to my shopping list for a while.

 Landon organized all the shelves.

These shelves look so much better. I should have taken a "before" picture.

I can actually see what's in here now.

The vacuum, broom, and mops are in their designated corner so I don't trip over them.

 The potatoes have their space.

And we made one huge bag of garbage.

Having Landon's help made this chore a lot of fun. He's a hard worker, and we finished the job faster than I could have done it alone. Thanks, Landon, for a job well done.



Cornbread is a staple of Southern quick breads, and it's a favorite at my house. I've made cornbread for years, but only in the last couple of years have I become confident that my cornbread will be perfect every time. You can use a great recipe and still have a failure with your cornbread if you don't bake it in a properly prepared pan.

I learned this little secret from my brother-in-law Henry, and I haven't had a failure since. I watched him make cornbread some time ago, and he took the skillet out of the oven, flipped it over and the cornbread popped out pretty as you please. He showed me how the iron skillet needs to be prepared so that this will happen every time. Before this, I sometimes had trouble with mine sticking to the pan in places, and ruining the appearance of the bread. Now I'm sure that I always start with a seasoned iron skillet. Looking back, I now know that I was washing my skillet too much and not re-seasoning it, so the cornbread wouldn't release from the pan when it was baked. Seasoning an iron skillet just takes a little canola oil and about 2 hours in a 250 degree oven.

Now that we have our iron skillet seasoned, let's bake some great Southern cornbread.

A seasoned iron skillet will not look dry, it will be a shiny black. This is a 10 inch skillet that I will be using for this recipe.


1/4 cup oil or shortening
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups self-rising yellow corn meal mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Before you mix any of the ingredients together, start by placing 1/4 cup oil or shortening in the seasoned iron skillet.

Place the skillet in the hot oven. We'll leave it in the oven while we mix up the batter.

We'll start with the eggs.

In a medium bowl, slightly beat 2 eggs.

Then add 1 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups corn meal mix, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix with the eggs until combined.

Now this next part needs to be done with caution. The iron skillet has been in the oven all this time at 450 degrees. It is HOT! We need to remove it from the oven, so be sure to use a protective mitt.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and pour the hot oil from the skillet into the cornbread batter. Quickly stir the oil into the batter.

Now the batter is ready to go into the skillet. The skillet is already greased and ready after having the oil heated in it.

 Pour the batter in and spread it to the edges.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Now just flip the skillet over and the cornbread will slide right out with no effort at all.

The seasoned skillet releases the bread every time.


Blueberry Hawaiian Muffins

There's probably no one who likes blueberries more than I do. I like them fresh or any way they are prepared. I've collected blueberry recipes for quite some time, and this muffin recipe is one of my favorites.

I selected some of my other favorites and had them printed as a cookbook called Blueberry Bistro to do a fund raiser for the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation. The cookbooks sold out quickly and the fundraiser was a success.

I put the cookbook together last year, but that doesn't mean I'm finished collecting. I'll always try a new blueberry recipe. If you have a good one, send it my way, please.

Blueberry Hawaiian Muffins
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
2 T. plus 3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
2 T. plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
5 T. chopped macadamia nuts, divided
2 T. canola oil, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 cup non-fat buttermilk
2 T. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. coconut or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a standard muffin pan with non stick cooking spray. 

In a small bowl, combine coconut, 2 T. flour, 2 T. brown sugar, and 2 T. macadamia nuts. Drizzle with 1 T. oil; stir to combine, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In another bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the remaining 1 T. oil, egg, egg white, buttermilk, melted butter and coconut extract (or vanilla extract) until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just combined. Add the blueberries and the remaining 3 T. macadamia nuts stir just to combine. 
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with the reserved coconut topping and gently press into the batter. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes. or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack at least 5 more minutes before serving. Makes 12 muffins.

These are not your typical blueberry muffins. They have a lot going on - first of all the macadamia nuts and coconut give them a unique taste and crunch, and the whole wheat flour and brown sugar add a yummy denseness to the muffin. These muffins will give you a little tropical vacation to enjoy for breakfast.



Tomatoes and Blueberries

This spring two of my "gardening" projects include tomatoes and blueberries. I have grown tomatoes before, but this is my first time to try blueberries. Our spring weather was mostly rainy and cold, so nothing got off to a quick start. The weather has been stormy lately, but at least we have seen a number of sunny days in between the rains. Three weeks ago my tomatoes looked like this.

Puny. Yellow. Sickly. Weak. Barely hanging on.

But the sun, the rain, and a little Miracle-Gro have been nothing short of . . .  miraculous. Today the tomatoes look like this.

They have more than tripled their size.

They have blooms.

They have tomatoes.

Nice big tomatoes. The plant variety that I planted is called "Goliath".  The tag says that its fruit size is from 10 - 16 ounces. Sounds good to me.

My blueberries are also doing well. Since this is the first time I have grown them, I didn't know if they would even produce any blueberries this season. My plants are potted and look like little shrubs. Three weeks ago this was one of my blueberry plants.

It was green and leafed out. The cool weather didn't seem to bother it too much.

This is the same blueberry bush today. A little taller and bushier. The biggest difference though is the blueberries.

They are looking so good. None of them have started to change color yet. I'm guessing it will be another month before they will be ripe, but I don't know much about it. They could be ripe tomorrow. I'll just keep watching.


Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole

My family likes this cheesy casserole better than regular spaghetti. The double layering of the spaghetti, meat sauce, and three kinds of cheese in this casserole makes it really good. This is a dish that my grandson Landon especially likes. He was at my house on Friday when I made it, so he helped me put it all together.

Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole    

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 oz.) mushrooms, drained
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked and drained
8 oz. American cheese
8 oz. Swiss cheese
8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with non stick cooking spray. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic on medium high heat. Drain any grease from the ground beef. Add salt, pepper, oregano, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms to beef. Simmer sauce for 20 to 30 minutes. While sauce simmers, cook spaghetti in a large pot according to package directions. Place half of the cooked spaghetti in prepared baking dish. Spread half of the meat sauce over the spaghetti. Next, layer half of each of the three kinds of cheese over the meat sauce. Repeat all the layers. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

This makes a really large casserole, so you may want to invite someone over.

Baked Spaghetti and Cheese Casserole is great served with a salad and bread.

The Nap

Even though the rabbit is not mine I'm still getting quite attached to him. I don't know where he came from, or who he might have once belonged to. I just know that if I don't see him around the neighborhood for a day or more I really begin to worry about him. I think about all the things that could happen to a bunny out in the big world. So today when he came by I was relieved and happy to see him.

He stopped by my porch for something to eat. He really seems to like the mandevilla vines.

I also gave him some carrots and lettuce. He gratefully ate most of that.

After lunch he retired to the corner of the porch. Then he started grooming.

Now that he was spotless and his tummy was full, he decided to sit down and stay a while.

He seemed to be getting pretty comfortable. My presence did not seem to make him nervous at all. In fact, he got so relaxed he dozed off for an afternoon nap.

I sat on my bench and watched him sleep - until his internal clock told him it was time to wake up.

Then he stood up, stretched, and yawned. My, what big teeth you have. What a sight. A rabbit nap is definitely an exciting thing to watch.