Winter’s Coming: Easy Potato Soup

I was looking through my photo gallery and came across all the pictures of snow from last winter. The chill in the air this morning and leaves changing color and falling from the trees reminded me: Winter’s Coming. Not only the credo of the Stark family in Game of Thrones, it is a simple matter of changing seasons. Life moves on and we adjust.

Cold days and nights + warm soups = comfort. I have for you an easy potato. It is not vegan but it is vegetarian. Of course, you can add some crisp bits of bacon and cheese to it but you don’t have to. A grating of fresh horseradish to the soup adds extra snap. I like this option. Whole milk is used. Using 2% or less results in a less creamy soup but that is an option for you. A heart smart margarine option can also be used in lieu of butter. this is a recipe for two or one huge appetite.

A picture of the snow from last year and picture of little Kanzen when she was six adds to the message: Winter’s coming.


2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk (2% or less will result in thinner, less creamy soup)cc
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and minced fresh parsley and minced green onion
Place the potatoes and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until tender; drain and set aside. Coarsely mash with potato masher. How chunky the soup is, is determined by you.

In the same pan, saute onion and celery in butter/margarine until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; add the potatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, minced green onion, and paprika.

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Easy peasy Chicken Casserole

Okey dokey – if you are a food snob or vegetarian, move long, nothing to see here. If you do like easy meals, this is for you. I think this is probably THE chicken casserole for all Southern potlucks, church dinners, food to take to a family in time of bereavement, Sunday dinner, company dinner, family dinner. And…if it is good enough to make a daily appearance on the buffet at the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia, it’s good enough for me.

Don’t let the canned soups put you off. You can certainly use the low sodium, reduced fat versions of them, or if you just have lots of time, your own sauce, and please, feel free to use fat free/reduced fat sour cream and heart smart kind of margarine. Although to be honest, I’d rather eat some forthright butter than artificial margarine with all the unpronounceable ingredients – but that is just me.  You can also reduce the amount of butter by up to one-half.

You can use leftover chicken, turkey, a rotisserie chicken from the grocer or of course, your own poached chicken breasts, skin and bones removed. I buy chicken breasts on sale, boil, de-skin, de-done and seal up in 2 cup portions so I always have chicken on hand for casseroles, salads, and chicken salad. You can also use broth made from boullion or what I really love and always keep on hand, is a chicken or turkey base – the kind that is a paste and comes in a jar and can found at your local grocery store.

Additional seasonings can be added: sautéed onion, celery, chopped parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, sprinkle of ground cayenne pepper. You can also put in a layer (at the bottom) vegetables: blanched asparagus, thawed frozen or blanched broccoli, thawed mixed veggies. This casserole is your canvas – use your own palate of flavors and ingredients to make it unique. Whole cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be used for a nice company presentation. But folks seem to like it best in its simple, original downhome glory.

This week I will be having this for dinner along with Waldorf salad, and pumpkin bread for dessert. It’s getting cool down here below the Mason-Dixon and time for warm comfort food. Oh my goodness, I can smell this cooking now.  Y’all enjoy.

Chicken Casserole
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups of chopped or shredded, cooked chicken
1-1/2 sleeves of “buttery” crackers or Ritz, if you have to have a name brand
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the soups, sour cream and chicken broth. Add other seasonings as desired, taste and adjust; set aside. Place chicken into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish and cover with the soup mixture. In a separate small bowl, crumble the crackersand mix with melted butter; spread on top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and cracker topping has browned. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Can be served as is, or spooned over cooked rice or noodles.   A light sprinkle of cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese the last few minutes is a good addition.

Keep-the-Kitchen-Cool Peach Crisp

It isn’t that I am lazy when it comes to cooking during the summer, it is just that I get hot. Even with air conditioning, I get hot. And I can tell you this, when this old girl gets hot, even SamCat the Ripper hides. So during the summer, I prepare foods I can make ahead and serve chilled or room temperature, dishes that are a quick fix, and foods that can be prepared in the refrigerator, toaster oven, on the grill, or quickly cooked in my electric skillet.

But, I also refuse to sacrifice the yummy factor. I am a foodie, a food historian, I love to cook, and to be honest, I love to eat. I also try to be as healthy in my cooking as I can (sometimes that just doesn’t happen). One of my favorite quick fixes that doesn’t taste like a quick fix or healthy (don’t mention that word to your family. It’s our little secret.) is this peach crisp. It’s prepared in a skillet and takes about five minutes. Top with ice cream, whipped topping (I use the low fat version), canned whipped cream (a big ol’ tablespoon of that stuff is 30 measly calories and often times, low fat) or eat as is.

Sweet summer peaches – white or yellow flesh – or nectarines are used for this.  Yowzer y’all, this is good.

1 tsp. butter
1 large peach, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
2 tsp. unpacked brown sugar
dash of vanilla
sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
1 tbsp. lowfat granola

Melt butter in skillet. Add peach slices; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar; stir until sugar melts and begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Scrape peach mixture into a small bowl; top with granola. One Serving. Make as many servings as you need by using the appropriate number of peaches and multiplying ingredients. Use a larger skillet.







Grilled Whole Vidalia Onion

Vidalia onions are unique.  There are several sweet onions available, but Vidalias are the best in my not very humble opinion.  They are grown in Vidalia, Georgia where there is a unique and localized soil.  Growing onions in this soil produces those sweet, amazing onions.  They range in size from huge to medium.  I like the ones that are medium the best, although making Onion Blossoms and onion rings and strings from the huge ones is   Really.

They are sweet because they are extremely low on sulphuric acid – the stuff that makes your eyes burn when onion are cut, and gives some people tummy troubles.  And if you are truly blessed by the onion gods, you will also find during the brief season, fresh green Vidalia onions complete with their luscious green tops.  I like to saute these in butter (yes, butter) as a side to cooked meats or a veggie plate.

When I was a kid, we were big on “cooking out”.  A neighbor of ours, the famous Jamie Pollard previously mentioned in a post about my first haiku, shared this recipe with us.  I don’t know the origin of this recipe, but he gave it to us after one of his summer forays to  visit with friends to The Pines at Fire Island.  I am forever thankful to those good men who fixed this and how it worked its way down South to us.  I think this was a frequent, favorite recipe during the late 50’s/early 60’s, either on the grill or in the oven.  But this is how we found this recipe.

At any rate, it is scrumptious. And easy!!!  Good with burgers, steaks, chicken, pork, seafood.  After you get it ready for the grill and wrapped in foil, it looks like a giant Hershey kiss.  Perfect – sweet Vidalia onion – kiss kiss kiss.  And when you open to serve, oh my!  The aroma will just make you want to turn around and slap somebody, as we say down here.

Recipe for One Onion
1 medium onion per person
several pats of butter (save some to spread on top of onion)
1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: few drops of red wine
Optional: 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of boullion granules or crushed boullion cube, beef or chicken flavor
Optional: sprinkle of paprika to add some color

Peel onion, removing top and making flat surface. Keep bottom (part that looks like little hairy roots) intact. Place onion on square of heavy duty foil for wrapping. Using either an apple corer or very sharp paring knife, remove center of onion to depth of halfway through onion, making a square hole. Put butter in hole and pour in Worcestershire sauce. spread some butter on top of onion, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully pull foil up to cover and wrap onion. keep upright. Place on grill over medium heat and bake 30 – 45 minutes until tender or, place in baking dish in preheated oven 375 F. – for same amount of time.  When cooking on the grill, I VERY carefully will use a long bamboo skewer to test.  I hold the onion with tongs and poke through the foil with the skewer to test tenderness.  I do this after 30 minutes.  You can also put them all in one package.  To do this, I line an 8×8 baking dish with foil and place four onions in the dish and prepare.  I then pull the foil over top and wrap and cover and transfer the whole package to the grilling surface or, place in the oven.  Add about 5 minutes per onion to cooking time.

grilled whole onion


Strawberry Cobbler – Mother’s Day Treat


This is a simple strawberry cobbler. We usually think of strawberry shortcake, ice cream, strawberries and cream, cold glazed strawberry pie, or strawberries mixed with rhubarb in pies or cobblers. Rarely, do we think of a baked strawberry pie or cobbler. During strawberry season, this was on regular rotation for desserts in our family. It always made its first appearance for Mother’s Day dinner.

Many times, my mother and I would drive to one of the local strawberry farms for several buckets of sweet, sun warmed strawberries. The bucket would go on the seat between us – beautiful fragrant fruit rubies. On the way home, we’d dip into the bucket and eat them as they were. We’d comment about how sweet, how juicy, how large and luscious! By the time we got home, probably a quart was missing and our lips and fingers were stained red with the juice. My mother and/or I would put this together after church on Sunday and by the time the family was through demolishing Sunday dinner and after my mother and grandmother had opened their cards and gifts, this cobbler would be ready.

Halfway through dinner, we had to sit and smell this glorious cobbler as it filled the kitchen with its sweet fragrance. My Papa would hop up and pull it out of the oven and let it settle a couple of minutes. He’d then dish it out and give first serves to Mama and Ninny, then my aunts and him and I last. So good! Buttery, warm, rich, tangy and sweet. Top with whipped cream or ice cream but it is good on it’s own.

Happy Mother’s Day! Don’t let Strawberry Season pass by without fixing this cobbler.

Fresh Strawberry Cobbler
1 – cup Self-Rising Flour
1 – Egg, slightly beaten
1 – Quart Fresh Strawberries
3/4 cup of White Sugar
1/2 cup of Brown Sugar
1/2 stick Unsalted Butter, melted.


Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees:
Wash berries under cool running water. Remove hulls and any bad spots. Drain. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of White Sugar on the Strawberries, toss gently, set aside.
Generously Butter a 2 Quart Casserole-Baking Dish.
Add strawberries and set aside.
In another bowl, add Flour, Brown Sugar, remaining White Sugar and one slightly beaten Egg.
Work the Flour, Sugars and Egg together until crumbly, using a fork.
Place topping over Strawberries, spread evenly over berries.
Melt the Butter and drizzle over the topping.
Bake at 350 degrees, for about 30-45 minutes until crust is browned and cobbler is bubbly.


Photos courtesy of Public Domain Images


Retro Recipe: Johnny Marzetti

This dish, known by various names: goulash, mazetti, HMT (hamburger, macaroni, tomatoes), American Chop Suey (and yes, I know regular chop suey is American!)  had its start in the famous Ohio restaurant, Marzetti’s.  It was first opened in 1896 and the closed in 1942 but another branch opened  but closed in 1972 when Teresa Marzetti died.  Being close to Ohio State University, Marzetti’s was popular for its generous servings, and tasty inexpensive food.  Teresa created this dish for her brother-in-law, Johnny Marzetti.  Columbus public schools learned of this dish and it became a school cafeteria favorite.  To this day, it is one of the most duplicated and favorite school cafeteria foods.  It is still popular in Ohio and the Midwest and many variations pop up at covered dish dinners and suppers, and other social occasions.

Although the Marzetti’s restaurant is long gone, her salad dressings continue on with the Marzetti Company, and her signature casserole dish is still popular.

My family started making this after one of my aunts brought home from high school (1957), several recipes of which one was to be made at home and rated by the family.  We chose Johnny Marzetti or, as it had on the recipe card, “Mazetti”.  It became a monthly regular in our home.  My grandmother, in the summer, made a skillet version to keep the kitchen from getting too hot in the summer. I usually make the skillet version myself, just to save time. Some different versions include the addition of celery, cream of mushroom soup, chopped green pepper.

One of the first dishes I taught teenagers in a church group was the skillet version of this dish. They wanted to learn to cook. They enjoyed the preparations and I can tell you, one skillet is not enough for a group of teens! the next session taught and requested was….sushi!


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3⁄4 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 pounds lean ground beef
3 1⁄2 cups tomato sauce (I use the equivalent of canned, chopped tomatoes)
1 1⁄2 pounds cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained

Sauté onion in oil until limp, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and fry until juices are released, about 5 minutes.
Add beef and cook, stirring, breaking up clumps, until no longer red. Remove from heat and mix in tomato sauce and all but 1 cup of cheese. Transfer to greased 9- by 13-inch baking dish and add macaroni.
Toss gently to mix. Scatter remaining cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, in 350-degree oven until browned and bubbling (35 to 40 minutes). Serves 10 to 12.

Follow instructions omitting cheese. Heat in skillet until bubbly. Cut down to low and cover with 1 c. cheese. Cover and let cheese melt. Cut off heat and allow ingredients to settle. A friend of mine adds extra liquid (water) and adds the uncooked pasta to the ingredients, cooking in the skillet until the macaroni is tender. Cover with cheese.


Nice Area, Nice People, Viscious Luncheon

This post came about due to becoming acquainted with J. K. Bevill at Lost Creek Publishing (  He is from Jasper, Alabama.  Please go visit him!  Excellent photographer and blog poster of Charlie and Yvonne’s Gospel Show featuring Cookie Lee of world reknown.

Years ago, I visited the Jasper/Townley/Cullman area because of my roommate the first year I was in university. Her father was a minister and ended up going from Nashville, Tennessee to Cullman, Alabama. I went home with her several times and developed a fondness for the area including two restaurants: Victoria’s and Hickoryland BBQ.

I thought this post would be  a fitting addendum to a story that began years ago. Now I must warn you, as a Southerner, there is no such thing as a short story. Eventually, you will come to the reason for the title of this blog, along with a little color, and a retro recipe that is part of the story.  Just hang in there.

Along with other happy coincidences, my two aunts lived in Nashville at the time and attended the church my roomie’s father pastored. They just loved him and his wife and a few weeks after they left, my aunts gave them a call. Happy to hear familiar voices, the pastor and wife invited them to come visit some Saturday because it really was a nice area with nice people. It came about my aunts did their visit the next Saturday.

When they arrived in Cullman, they were told a member of the new church had invited the minister and wife to luncheon that same day but became excited to invite additional visitors from Nashville.  So, my aunts, my aunt’s husband, pastor and wife went to luncheon.

Imagine: A dining room of lovely mahogany furniture set with delicate old china, savory odors from the kitchen, everyone all gussied up and on their best behavior. The men quickly began to talk about golf while the ladies went into the well manicured yard to look at several prize rose bushes. Soon, it was time to go into luncheon.

As a sidebar here: In the South, lunch is often call Dinner – y’all come for Sunday Dinner. It’s just a pickup kinda Dinner but our first tomatoes are in….you get the picture. In this case, it was called luncheon.

Everyone then sat down in that calm dining room, fragrant with food, gardenias, and Youth Dew perfume. When I asked my aunt about this a few weeks ago, she recalled the menu: delicate homemade yeast rolls filled with thin sliced country ham, potato salad, small crustless pimiento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches, sliced tomatoes (first of the summer!), fruit salad, tall crystal glasses filled with sweet tea and garnished with lemon and mint from the garden.

When everyone had eaten all they felt was courteous to eat, the hostess announced, “We are having a special cake. One of the ladies in my circle brought this to our last meeting and it is delicious.  It’s called Watergate Cake with Cover-up frosting.” she then brought in this light white cake frosted with delicate green cool whippy frosting and garnished with chopped pecans. It was at that point, all hell broke loose.

After making a clever (he thought)remark about politicians, the husband began to rant about the crooks running for office, how they were bleeding folks dry, blah blah blah, especially the latest Carpetbagger that was running for office.

The wife, embarrassed, tried to put it aside but the husband persisted. Within a few moments, husband and wife began shouting at each other, calling each other names, accusing each other of being easily duped idiots; on and on. Folks around the table sat in silence, eyeing each other and sipping tea. Finally, the minister was able to interject a word about the cake. Cake and coffee was mercifully served. Oooos and ahhhhs ensued. My aunt asked for the recipe. After neatly writing on a recipe card, the hostess asked if anyone else needed anything else (only to leave) and the visitors made their escape.

The verdict by my aunt after all those years: Nice area, nice people, vicious luncheon….good cake. I agree. it is a good cake for the summer: cool, light, a pretty green (or not as you choose). The original recipe called for 7-Up. I use club soda or regular water and fix in a 9×13 baking pan. I let the frosted cake chill in the fridge before serving. Eat quickly or within a couple of days.

I have seen various versions of this cake. This is THE recipe given to my aunt. Y’all enjoy and please behave yourselves when you serve it.  I don’t know the origins of this recipe.

Watergate Cake with Cover-up Frosting
1 regular size package white cake mix
1 package (4 serving size) pistachio instant pudding mix
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Optional and fun: drop or two of green cake coloring
1 (3 3/4 oz.) package pistachio-flavored instant pudding mix
1/2 cup milk
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Instructions Cake: Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl. Blend, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and frost.

Frosting: COMBINE pudding mix and milk in medium bowl. Beat at medium speed 1 minute. Fold in whipped topping. Remove 1 cup frosting; combine with chopped nuts. Spread on bottom layer. Top with other layer. Spread remaining frosting top of cake. Chill before serving. Garnish with chopped nuts and coconut if you choose. I personally like to top with a few maraschino cherries. This can be done as a two layer cake or cupcakes – just watch the baking times.


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