Posts Tagged With: cooking

Small Comforts add up

Coming back from running errands Friday afternoon I grabbed a glimpse into my past:  someone carrying a basket of laundry into the laundromat.  That image transported me back to my college and young adult years – the laundromat years ~ ugh!

Who else remembers trying to time a visit just right so as to secure an open machine? Wondering if you had enough quarters? Being tempted to just buy more underwear and towels …. And hoping and praying no one removed your stuff from the dryer before the dryer was done.

It made me realize how small comforts add up ~

  • Coffee auto -brewing before I leave my bed.
  • A meal simmering in the crock-pot.
  • Stacks of books waiting for me to choose who’s up next.
  • A good tune playing in the background …
  • Check-ins from our sons, for advice, but just as often just to visit.
  • Windows open, bees buzzing, birds chirping.
  • And this one:
    • Warm laundry, right out of the dryer, no trip to the laundromat needed.  😀

What small comforts are you enjoying today?



Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Family, Fun, Home, Personal, Random, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Good luck butta-what

It’s that time again … time for yet another tried-and-true recipe from the Emjayandthem vault.

One so simple, so good, so to-heck-with-New-Years-resolutions-where’s-the-chocolate kinda good.

It’s my Butterfinger Cake.

You read that right:  Butterfinger.  Cake.

Mmmm hmm.

Have Mercy!

Have Mercy!

So here’s the thing. I’m not a chocolate girl. I’m a potato-chip-and-dip kinda girl.   But, lots of my friends and family are admitted chocolate fiends and since I like to mess around in my Kitchen and get ‘er done, here’s what came of it.

Yep, goofing off in the kitchen and making up something fun brings out the kid in me.

Back to the cake, Jake.

So, a few years ago I came up with this lil beauty.  At the time, youngest boy had a severe hankering for Butterfingers.  And he had a birthday coming up.  Easy, peasy, pudding and pie, this Mom’s gonna bake that boy a cake that’ll make his toes curl.

And it did.

And it wouldn’t be very nice of me to keep it all to myself, now would it?

Here’s what you need to make your very own Butterfinger cake:

You thought this was going to be complicated? Naw ..

You thought this was going to be complicated? Naw ..

  • 1 box of Yellow Cake Mix, any Brand.
  • 1 box of Butterscotch Instant Jell-O Pudding
  • 3 Butterfinger candy bars
  • 1 jar of Chocolate frosting


Grandma Pearl gave me that mixer in 1981

Grandma Pearl gave me that mixer in 1981

Prepare the cake as directed but also add the Butterscotch pudding mix. Mix all ingredients.

Pour one half of the mixture into a well greased Bundt pan (you could also use a 9 x13 pan) then top with 2 crumbled Butterfinger bars.

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Pour the rest of the batter on top, be sure to cover the Butterfinger bits.

Cover it up as best as you can

Cover it up as best as you can

Bake according to the directions on the cake mix box .. roughly 26-28 min.

Remove from oven and let sit in the pan for about 4 minutes (this is important, if you don’t let it sit it will fall apart when you try to remove it from the pan.)

C'mere sweetness

C’mere sweetness

Take a butter knife and loosen all around the Bundt pan (don’t forget the center).  Place a baking rack on top and flip the whole thing over; gently shake the pan and watch the cake slide out.

Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

Let the cake cool on the baking rack — about 45 min or until your kid or spouse walks by and asks if they can eat it yet.

Nuke (microwave) a can of pre-made frosting (be sure to remove the lid and the foil liner) for 30 – 40 seconds, just enough to warm it and make it pour-able.

Pour it all over that beautiful cake; get jiggy with it.



Ready?  Crumble the last Butterfinger. Eat whatever falls off.

Load up the top of that cake with more crumbled Butterfinger pieces

Load up the top of the cake with more crumbled goodness

Last step.

Good luck.


Yep, good luck getting this cake out of the house.  Your church group, office mates and Super Bowl watchers are gonna have to settle for something else.

You're weclome.

Good Luck Butta What.  You’re welcome.

Have any fun, easy recipes to share?

Categories: Faith, Family, Food, Fun, Home, Men, Mom, Personal, Recipes, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Alfredo & more

So there’s this salad I make that’s so yummy, so good, you really won’t believe it.   You surely won’t believe what’s in it!

It shouldn’t be called salad though…. it’s salad’s naughty cousin … the pasta salad.

Rich and decadent, creamy and delicious, it’s my Alfredo Salad.

My cousin just asked for the recipe and I shared it.  Afterwards, it occurred to me to share it here with you fine folks as well.

If you follow my directions, I promise it will turn out just fine.


MJ’s Alfredo Salad:

  • 1 jar of mayo ( you won’t use the whole jar )
  • 1 pkg fettuccine noodles cooked and cooled
  • 1 large can of Parmesan
  • 1/2 pkg frozen kernel corn
  • garlic seasoning

Boil noodles & let cool. Coat cooled noodles with enough mayo to coat but not drown the noodles.  Toss liberally with Parmesan cheese, sprinkle in garlic seasoning to taste and add the corn last.

That’s it.

P.S. Unless I’m baking, I don’t measure, I cook by “feel.”  You will not use all of the mayo but you will use most of the parm.

P.P. S.S. Great if made a day ahead but best if made and served the same day.


Categories: Family, Food, Home, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

TLC Chicken Spaghetti

There are many versions of this recipe out there but this is mine, adapted from one I found at Taste of Home.  Our boys added the “TLC” moniker, an abbreviation for the “tender,  loving care” they claim is baked “right in.”

TLC Chicken Spaghetti is a “go-to” dish to bring to the bereaved, give to the recovering or drop off to new parents. It’s easy for a family or a party of one to enjoy; it warms up just as well in the middle of the night or for lunch the next day. But what you really need to know is this: it’s delicious.  The recipe makes a lot but I promise you, this is soul-filling, hearty, warm you-to-your-toes kind of food.  And it’s perfectly paired with a pan of my Game Day Brownies or Magic Pumpkin Spice Cake.

While not low calorie, I have been able to reduce some of the of the fat and salt by using reduced fat and low sodium ingredients and not compromising on the taste.

MJ’s TLC Chicken Spaghetti

*   1 small onion, chopped
*   3 stalks of celery, chopped
*   2 tbsp margarine

*   1 cooked rotisserie chicken (OR 4 cups cooked, shredded chicken)
*   2 ½ cans of low sodium chicken broth
*   1 12 oz package Spaghetti Noodles
*   2 10.5 oz cans Cream Of Chicken Soup (you can use low fat/low sodium)
*   1 10 oz can of Ro*Tel (Diced Tomatoes with Green chile peppers; store brand OK)
*   1- 16oz brick of Velveeta Cheese, cubed (you can use store brand and/or reduced fat)
*   Seasoning to taste – your choice. I use a bit of garlic, seasoning salt, cayenne and Onion Mrs. Dash
*   1 cup shredded cheddar – I like Colby Jack or Sharp Cheddar in this.

chicken spaghetti;

How to prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 1 9×13 pan or 2 8×8 pans (freezes and travels well).

Melt the margarine and saute the celery and onion until tender, about 5 min.  You could substitute a bit of oil here for the margarine, if you wish.

Remove meat from the chicken and tear/cut into bite-sized pieces.  I use both dark and light meats.  You’ll end up with about 2-3 cups of chicken.

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil; break the spaghetti in half and cook to el dente – not soft but not crunchy either (about 7 minutes).  You want the spaghetti to be slightly undercooked for this recipe.   Drain the water from your spaghetti and place the hot spaghetti back into the pot.

Pour chicken broth over the spaghetti and then stir in your sautéed vegetables.
Next, cut Velveeta into cubes and stir into the noodle mixture; the cheese will start to melt. Then pour in the 2 cans of soup (do not add water) + 1 can of tomato/green chiles mixture.  Stir well and add seasoning.

Pour the entire mixture into the pan(s) and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Place pan(s) in the oven for about 25 minutes or until all the cheese is melted on top and the sauce mixture is bubbling slightly.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 min; the sauce will thicken as it stands.

Serve with steamed vegetables, a tossed salad, garlic bread or rolls and drinks of your choice.  Stand back and smile at the accolades sure to come your way!

To freeze:  Prepare casserole as per above.  Let cool completely.  Then cover the unbaked dish with plastic wrap.  Then do it again.  Wrap twice in tinfoil and freeze immediately.  To cook at a later date, remove from freezer and defrost in the fridge (24 hours).  Remove all plastic and foil then bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 -35 minutes.

What are you cooking today?

Categories: Food, Friendship, Home, Random, Recipes, Share | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

My best day

In yesterday’s Vision Board class, one of the exercises we were given was to write a description of our “best” days.  To reflect on those times when we’ve been the happiest, have felt the most alive, and the most content.

I am fortunate for my best days happen every week: on Sundays.

Sunday mornings find me enjoying several cups of strong coffee with cream, stepping over old dog as he lazes in the morning sunshine and listening to the songbirds chirping just outside my window.

Sunday mornings,  I linger in the morning light to read the paper, a book or write down my thoughts.  Sometimes I just stay still with my eyes closed and reflect on the peace the day always brings me.   Sometimes I make plans and “to-do” lists but mostly, mostly I let the day take me where it wants to.

Sundays always involve two of my most favorite things: cooking and music.  Sunday finds me in my farmhouse styled kitchen, piddling around, cooking, sampling, stirring and chatting.   My mp3 player is set to gentle genres including classical, jazz and gospel.   I dress in casual, comfortable clothes and wear my best walking shoes as it’s not uncommon for me to stand several hours as I create.

My Auntie Irene (standing) and my Mom; those are some great cooks you're looking at!

My guys wander in and out, chatting, singing along and asking for samples and then …  lingering for more.  I laugh, I dance, I sing and I stir.  When I cook, I pay tribute to my mom, my Aunt Irene and my Grandma F. – the three greatest cooks I know.  Those moments restore me because they connect me to them. They are here with me, in my kitchen, and I swear I hear their voices, feel their presence, and heed their suggestions. (That needs some salt, stir this a little more, butter the size of an egg..)

Later, when we gather with our kids or friends or both, and my table is filled with the people I love and loaded up with the foods I’ve created, I feel it, I recognize it and I know what it is: it’s the feeling of a full heart. And those, those are my very best days.

What constitutes a “best day” for you?

Categories: Attitude, Family, Food, Gratitude, Joy, Life, Personal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 24 Comments

Can the right dish prompt an engagement?

image from

Is a simple recipe for Roast Chicken the key to an engagement? According to Glamour magazine it is … More here.   The magazine editors had an experience whereby the sharing of  a favorite recipe prompted one woman’s boyfriend to propose – it was that good. The magazine has since put together a cookbook  to help women navigate their kitchen — called “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know” (available through Hyperion). In addition to Engagement Chicken, the book covers breakfast (“He Stayed Over Omelette”), entrees (“Let’s Make a Baby Pasta”) and drinks (“Forget the Mistake You Made at Work Margarita”), all tried-and-true recipes perfected by the team at Glamour.

I have to admit that the chicken recipe does look delicious and I will definitely give it a try.

This prompted me to think about the following: which one of my signature dishes hooked the hubbs?

Answer: My made-from-scratch baked potato soup.  I didn’t know it at the time, but well after we were married he admitted that watching me whip up soup from scratch put him at ease in my little apartment kitchen. He confided that witnessing this meant I was someone he – and his stomach – could relate to.   What he didn’t know is that I had little money and that this soup is not just super easy to make but cost-effective, too!

Here’s the recipe that still elicits “mmmms” of delight to this day:

MJ’s Baked Potato Soup

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces (or about 10 baby carrots, chopped)
  • 1 14 oz can of chicken broth (I use low sodium)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 cups milk (any kind but skim)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • Bacon bits & extra cheese for topping

In a large saucepan, steam all vegetables on high steam for about 8 -10 min (they will still be slightly crunchy).   Set aside.

While veggies are steaming, cook up your cream base:  in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth (it will be thick) and bubbling.  Slowly pour in the chicken broth; continue to stir. Next, add the milk, keep stirring and bring mixture to a gentle boil; it will thicken as it cooks.  Once the desired consistency, turn heat to low and stir in cheese until melted.   Drain steamed vegetables and gently fold them into the cream sauce.  Season with Mrs. Dash® regular or Mrs. Dash® onion seasonings and a pinch of garlic powder (not salt).

Ladle into soup bowls and top with bacon bits & a bit of shredded cheddar.  This is his favorite Saturday soup served with an oven roasted chicken sandwich.

How about you? Do you have a signature dish that defined your relationship? 

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Food, Home, Humor, Joy, Life, Love, Men, Personal, Quotes, Recipes, Share, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Has being “capable” become a rarity?

image from

Last night, I was thinking of something that happened last summer.  We were invited to a gathering via our oldest son.  I had met the other couple before and while the wife seemed a little nervous,  she was nice enough.  Then he told me that she really struggles having people over.  One eyebrow raised, I remember dismissing the comment and thinking, “ah .. It’ll be fine. It always is.”

You see, although I come from a humble farm upbringing, I’ve traveled, lived on my own, and have always been self supported.    Not many situations intimidate me and I know that whatever “moxie” I have is because of  my very capable mother and aunts.  Growing up, I witnessed talented women who could assist with a calf delivery in the night, get five kids off to the bus on time,  hang the wash on the line (after using a wringer-washer to get our laundry done), manage a 1/3 acre garden, and serve multiple mouths multiple meals daily – all from scratch.  They did so with grace and good humor and, in my mind’s eye, hardly broke a sweat.  They taught 4-H, shepherded us to swim and piano lessons, drilled us on our vocabulary lessons,  and taught Sunday School.  Their gardens envied Farmer’s Markets and they cooked, canned, and pickled enough to get us all through a long winter.  I can remember many instances when Mom and Aunt Irene found themselves “nominated” to “put on” (host/plan/cook for/etc) a party in someone or another’s honor, often with little notice… for 100+  people.  Easy-peasy!  Christmas dinners in our family were never prepared for less than 35 people, 17 of them children.  Summertime cookouts brought scads of family members of all ages and, while some offered a dish to pass, many just showed up bearing a hearty appetite for family time and delicious foods.

Back to my story from last summer:  As is customary, I phoned ahead to see what I could bring and was asked to contribute a side dish which, to me, means “bring two.”   So, after a full week at work, I prepared a fettuccine pasta salad and marinated vegetable salad.  We arrived and found ourselves part of a small group of people milling around.  I was not surprised to see that our boy had prepared burgers and smoked chicken; I brought out my pasta salad and marinated vegetable salad.   The hostess presented.. with great flourish … baked beans.  After a bit of mingling we all sat down to eat.  The conversation was a a little stiff  but safe, focusing on weather, summer plans and such.   I could tell that he was trying hard and secretly hoping that we were having a good time.  I listened as her husband and others raved about the beans.  On and on they went about the beans.  And they were good but … really?   Around the table, as I watched as the entire group devour the chicken, burgers, pasta and vegetables that we’d brought all I could hear were oohs and ahhs about beans.

Glancing up, I couldn’t miss the raised eyebrow on the hubbs’s face.  He knew that I was thinking:  It’s not like she grew the beans.   These are open-the-can-and-plop-into-a-casserole dish-beans. Seriously?

But them something happened:  An old familiar lesson swirled around me again: not everyone’s experience is the same.   The experiences you’ve had were exemplary, and hers might not have been. Maybe this is as good as it gets?

I got what our boy meant about “she struggles to have people over.”

Not everyone cooks.

Not everyone likes hosting get-togethers.

It’s OK. I understand.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road: When someone brings home-made goodness to your table, maybe while you’re licking your fingers eating it, you can pay them a compliment, too.

Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Family, Food, Life, Mom, Personal, Relationships, Snarky, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , | 18 Comments

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