We have tile floors and I love them…


However – I was having a terrible time finding some way to clean them that was effective – plus it would be nice to be fast as well. Was that too much to ask?

We tried all kinds of mops and cleaners. We have a Shark steam cleaner – but that left the floors streak-y. We tried a Swiffer – still streak-y. The only way to avoid streaks was with a washrag, and on my knees… That ain’t gonna work!

Recently I’ve been making natural cleaners to avoid so many chemicals in our home. I hit upon a cleaner that is super-effective, quick and easy, AND doesn’t leave my tile floors streak-y! I am so excited.

The cleaner consists of:

1 3/4 cup water

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 tsp Dawn

1/4 tsp of a cleaning Essential Oil of your choice (some recommend Tree Tea Oil)

Mix in a spray bottle and use for EVERYTHING! I love it.

Now – here’s the really cool part… I still use a washrag… and my swiffer. Just attach the washrag to the swiffer (eliminating the need to buy replacement cloths).


Then either spray the cloth, or spray the floor directly. Works great – smells wonderful – costs pennies – and is so super quick and easy. It is excellent for quick mop-ups and even works on laminate flooring.

Finally a clean kitchen floor without a big production!

For quick meals we love chicken patty sandwiches, but I don’t like the additives and sodium in store-bought chicken patties, so I decided to make my own.

I started with boneless chicken breasts. Slice them in two (I think that’s called “butterfly”). Then cut each half in two. You’ll likely end up with some smaller “nugget” size pieces as well.




Sort the pieces according to size and put in plastic bags to marinate. (If you’d like a “Chick-fil-a” taste, marinate for a couple of hours in dill pickle juice… yes, dill pickle juice! But, I like my marinade better).

This is my “go-to marinate for chicken:

Adjust the amounts depending on how much chicken you’re preparing. I did about 14 whole breasts this time.

Squeezed lemon wedges (or a couple tbsp lemon juice)

2 tbsp roasted garlic chunks or powder

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp lemon thyme

1 tsp cumin

Dash cayenne powder (opt)

Salt and pepper

Marinate a couple of hours or overnight

To cook: In a shallow bowl mix 1-2 eggs with 1/4 cup buttermilk. In another bowl, mix 1/2 – 1 cup bread crumbs and 1/2 – 1 cup flour for breading (instructions on making your own bread crumbs following this recipe)

Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on the foil. Preheat oven to 450°

Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in breading. Place on baking rack, and bake for about 6-8 minutes per side.



While these are baking, heat a large cast iron skillet then add cooking oil of choice. Remove the chicken from oven and place in hot oil to “crisp”. This should take about 3-4 minutes per side.

(Note: you could bake the chicken completely done – it would take about 10-12 minutes per side – or fry the chicken to start with. By baking, then frying allows the chicken to get good and done, without having to fry so long and risk drying out.)


Drain chicken on paper towels and let cool. After they’ve cooled, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for a couple of hours, then put them in freezer bags and freeze.


Heat and serve for a quick meal!


Homemade bread crumbs

I save all the “heel” pieces from loaves of bread i  the freezer until I have about 16-18 pieces. Dehydrate the bread until very crisp. Place in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Keep crumbs in the freezer.

I just HATE throwing anything out!

This is a staple at our house for gatherings like Christmas or summertime. I’ve included instructions for preparing the major portion one day and serving later.


1 whole beef flank steak

Chicken breasts sliced or tenders

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tbsp worchestershire sauce

1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

Dash red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp sugar

2 medium onions, halved and sliced


Sweet peppers (various colors) sliced

Onions (white and purple)



In a dish, mix together olive oil, worchestershire sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and sugar until combined. Divide the marinade into thirds.

Place flank steak in a 2 gallon plastic bag, add about a third of the marinade, turning to coat. In another bag place the chicken with another third of the marinade, also turning to coat, and in yet another bag, place all the veggies, with the remaining marinade, turning to coat as well. Place bags in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.


Preheat oven to 300°. Line 2 baking sheets with foil; place the meat on racks on the foil.20160102_113406

20160102_123848(Separate pans for beef and chicken, of course). Cook beef until 130° (125° for med-rare). For a 2-2 1/2 lb steak, this should take 40 minutes. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes.

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat and drizzle in some oil or some butter. Sear the beef on each side for about 2 minutes per side. Remove and add a small pat of butter.

For the chicken, bake about 30-40 minutes until 145°. Pat dry. Reheat the skillet and add additional butter and then sear the chicken about 2 minutes per side until as brown as desired. To serve later, let the meat cool, then slice and refrigerate.20160102_125913 To serve, about 3-4 hours before serving, place beef and chicken in separate crockpots, and turn on low.

The veggies can be cooked the day before and reheated, or sauteed the “day of” since it doesn’t take long to cook them. Again, drizzle olive oil in an iron skillet (either grill pan or smooth) and cook the veggies a few minutes until they’re cooked, but still slightly firm and have nice black/brown pieces. 20160102_135430Remove to a plate and set aside.

Heat tortillas and have other side items (diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black beans, rice, sour cream, cheeses, etc) for a “build your own” meal.



This is absolutely delicious – and SO very easy to do!

Wash a fresh or thawed roasting chicken and remove giblets if there are any inside. Blot the chicken dry. Slice an onion and and place it in a cast iron dutch oven or skillet. Put the chicken on top of the onion (it cooks quicker in the dutch oven due to being down in the pot).

Melt about 1/2 stick of butter and add seasonings to it – I like roasted garlic, lemon thyme, about a half of a squeezed lemon (you can put the leftover lemon rine in the cavity of the chicken), salt and pepper and a little bit of chili powder. (Rosemary or sage is also good). Rub or pour this over the chicken, covering well. Then I sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top.

Bake 15 minutes at 475, then reduce to 350 and bake for approx 20 minutes per pound. Bake uncovered unless it starts to get too brown – in that case top with foil or a lid cocked to the side.

Chicken is done when internal temp registers 180.

Let it rest about 10 minutes and serve.

By the way – save the drippings and make gravy or for chicken broth to can or freeze.


I mentioned on Facebook tonight that I had Authentic Mexican food for lunch today at a mission trip fundraiser at our church – but, I shared, I had Southern food for supper!

I shared this photo 20160221_185858

We had leftover pinto beans and some leftover meatloaf, but I added fried potatoes and some fried cabbage and onions. A friend then asked how to fix fried cabbage, so I decided to share how I fix both fried potatoes as well as fried cabbage. I don’t have photos for those, but they’re pretty simple – and I’ll do a blog post with pictures the next time I fix them.

First – fried potatoes… I’ve been frying potatoes since I was big enough to cook – at least 50 years! But – they always stuck and made a mess. But now I have learned how to fry potatoes that don’t stick and are easy and delicious!

First – a well seasoned cast iron skillet is a must! (I’ll explain how to do that in another blog post of there is any interest). Peel your potatoes and onions (if you’re adding onions) and put them in separate bowls. Place your ungreased skillet in a 400 degree oven for 10 or so minutes. In the meantime, microwave your potatoes until slightly soft. Drain off any water that forms.

Put the hot skillet on the stove eye, on med- med/high. Add oil of choice (olive oil, bacon grease, etc). Immediately add potatoes and turn them to coat them. Let them fry about 10 minutes, turn and add salt and pepper. In another 5 minutes or so, add the onions (because onions cook faster and will burn if you put them in at the same time). Continue cooking until they are as brown as you want them.

As for the fried cabbage, I usually fix it whenever I fix fried potatoes (they just seem to go together plus my husband doesn’t like onions in the potatoes) So – when I take the potatoes out of the skillet, I add a little additional oil if necessary, then add chopped cabbage and onions. Stir-fry until the cabbage and onions are as done as you like them. If I’m using regular yellow onions, I like them well-done, but if I have purple onions or green onions, I don’t cook them as long.

And there you have it! A couple of side dishes worthy of a pot of pinto beans!

Chicken Vegetable Soup

This recipe makes a great “base” soup. It is good to open and eat as is, add more vegetables for a heartier soup, or add egg noodles for a delicious chicken noodle soup.

Start by cooking 2-3 pounds of chicken. This can be a whole chicken, parts, or boneless chicken.20160212_135744

Or use leftover cooked chicken 20160212_135832

While your chicken is cooking, cut up about 2 cups each celery, onions, and carrots.20160212_135732

Once the chicken is done, add the vegetables, salt, pepper and any other seasonings to taste. Bring to a boil and cook about 30 minutes.20160212_141210

While the  vegetables are cooking, wash jars (quart or pint) and pour boiling water over them. When the vegetables are ready, fill jars and wipe rims with a papertowel dampened with vinegar. Add lids and seal finger-tight.20160212_154939

Pressure 11 pounds (depending on altitude) for 90 minutes for quarts or 75 minutes for pints.20160212_204759

Check to make sure the jars have sealed.

Follow your canner’s instructions for how-to specifics.

Sweet Potato Pie

Last Saturday I made sweet potato pie for the first time. One of my daughter’s-in-law’s mother had requested sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving and since I’d never made one, I searched until I found my mother’s recipe (she’s been gone since 2004), jumped right in and boy, it turned out great!

Then this past week I decided to make it again – but ran into a snag (see Major Fail Cooking Day ). The pie looked great and actually tasted pretty good – just not as good as the first pies.


So – here’s the recipe, and if you follow it (and not ad-lib as I did for the second pies) it will turn out really well. (And you can always tell that I make homemade piecrusts because bought crusts are never this ugly! Lol!)

Pastry – Single pie crust (this works for any kind of pie. Make 2 or double the recipe if you need a top crust or are making a big cobbler)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

4 tbsp (1/4 cup) shortening

5 tbsp unsalted butter

3-5 tbsp (1/4 +/- cup) ice water

Whisk flour and salt together. Cut shortening into flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Cut butter into chunks and work into the flour/shortening mixture. Using a pastry cutter makes this step a lot easier.

Begin to drizzle ice water into the flour mixture while stiring with a fork to mix. Add enough water to make a chunky dough. It should barely hold together.

When the dough is all wet, turn the dough out onto parchment paper and flatten the dough out. Using the parchment paper, fold the dough over on itself. This sorta kneads the dough without adding more flour. Do this several times to work the dough together.

Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes. If it is going to be longer put the dough (wrapped in the parchment) into a plastic bag to keep it from drying out.

When you’re ready to use the dough, remove from the fridge. If it’s been refrigerated more than 30 minutes, let the dough set about 15-20 minutes for the butter to soften up a little.

Roll the dough out to fit your pie pan (about 14″ for a 10″ pie). Fill and bake as your recipe directs.

Sweet Potato Pie

Bake 4-5 med size sweet potatoes for about an hour until soft when pierced with a fork. Peel potatoes and mash with a fork.

2 tbsp butter softened or room temp

1 cup brown sugar packed

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp plain flour

1/2 tsp each ground cloves, cinnamon, and salt

1/4 tsp each nutmeg and ginger

1 cup evaporated milk (if doubling recipe use one 12oz can of evaporated milk and add 1/4 cup water to make 2 cups)

1 cup of the mashed sweet potatoes

In mixing bowl beat butter and brown sugar together. Add eggs, vanilla, flour spices and milk and blend together. Add sweet potatoes. Beat together until smooth. Pour into pie shell and bake on bottom rack of oven for 1 hour until center of pie is firm. You can insert a knife or a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean the pie is done.


The first time I made this pie I had 1) 10″ pie plate and 1) 9″ pie plate. One mixture filled the 10″ pie perfectly. The second mixture filled the 9″ pie plate and allowed enough for a “test” pie – and boy was it good!


Major Cooking Fail Day

Wow, what a major cooking fail day! First of all I needed to make an “Uncle Johnny Cake” (angel food cake with a long story behind the name!) I always make it from a cake mix. There are 2 ingredients – the mix and water. How hard can it be? The problem came because the mix was a different brand than I normally use. This mix had 3 parts and required beating the egg white pkg with water, then add another pkg of (I suppose) a flour mixture. The cake turned out ok – but was just not as light and fluffy as normal.

Next I tried a new parkerhouse-type of rolls. I don’t have a mixer with dough hooks, so I have to do everything by hand. For some reason the dough just didn’t rise correctly and after everything was said and done – the rolls were edible – but certainly not on the “melt in your mouth” list!

And then on to the sweet potato pies. I made these last Saturday for the first time and they were absolutely delicious. Surely I could do these again…

First I made the pastry. The directions (a little different from my cobbler pies pastry) said to wrap the dough in parchment paper or wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Well… wax paper is cheaper than parchment, so I used wax paper this time. (Don’t EVER wrap pastry dough in wax paper. It sticks to the dough and makes a royal mess!)

Next I decided to double the recipe to make both pies at the same time. (Last week I mixed them one at a time). However, I don’t think that was the problem.

The problem, I think, came because the recipe (doubled) would have called for 4 cups of mashed sweet potatoes. Well, that would have left about 3/4 cup of sweet potatoes left over – and well – I just don’t waste anything… so I dumped it in.

I baked the pies 1 hour, but they weren’t done so I added 15 more minutes (after all, these were “deep dish” pies and thicker). After 15 more minutes, they were still soft – not runny – just soft. After about (all together) 30 more minutes, they were still soft! The flavor was good, but not nearly as good as the first ones.

Oh well… Mama told me there’d be days like this! Tomorrow I’ll post the recipe and pictures for the good sweet potato pies from last Saturday.


Making Hot Tamales

Directions and step-by-step photos below. To view a how-to video check out our youtube channel and watch “Making Appalachian-Style Hot Tamales”.


Makes 36-40 tamales. The recipe can be halved.

Breading: Mix together with a pastry cutter in a big bowl

12 cups meal (5 lb bag self-rising meal)

1 tsp salt

2 cups Crisco (shortening)

Bring to a boil:

2 3/4 cups tomato juice (I use salt-free)

2 cups water

Pour the liquid into the meal mixture, mixing thoroughly and let set 30 minutes. The meal mixture will need to be fairly moist to be able to shape it. If the meal seems too dry or if it dries out as you’re working, sprinkle water over it to keep it moist. Keeping your hands moist helps as well. However, you do not want it to be soupy.


Meat Mixture: Mix in another large bowl

Hot:                                                   Mild:

2 lb ground beef                             2 lb ground beef

(chuck or round)                           (chuck or round)

1 lb sausage – hot                           1 lb sausage – mild

1/2 cup Crisco                                1/2 cup Crisco

1/2 cup chili powder                   1/4 cup chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

3 tsp +/- hot pepper flakes

(or more to taste)



Set up: From right to left – the ground beef, sausage and spices (this batch was hot). Large crockery bowl – meal, Crisco and a little chili powder (optional). Pot of tomato juice and water. A flat cookie sheet for wrapping the tamales, a cake pan with warm water, soaking the tamale papers, with the strings precut. A baking sheet for the finished tamales. (I keep the cookie sheet on a towel because invariably I dribble water everywhere!)

Note: I use tamale papers (available at some grocery stores as well as online) because they are cheaper than corn shucks, easier to use, and easier for the customer to prepare the tamale at home.

1 Setup

Put the tamale papers in a pan with warm water (I use a 12×18 cake pan). Cut pieces of cotton string about 8’-9” long.

Take a “golf ball” size ball of meal mixture and make into an oval “bowl” shape in your hand, pressing it out as thin as possible, while still holding it all together.

6 Tamale meal bowl

Take about a “walnut” size ball of meat and shape it oblong to fit into the bowl of meal. Work the meal around the meat until it is equally covered. (Pinch off excess meal so as not to make the breading too thick. Also, keeping your hands damp helps to shape the ball.)

7 Tamale meat and meal

Take a tamale paper out of the water, and working diagonally on a flat cookie sheet, begin to roll the tamale up in the paper, folding the edges in as you go, then tie.

10 Tamale wrap 1 12 Tamale tie

Tamales ready to boil.

14 Tamales ready to cook

Boil tamales 45 minutes from the time that the water comes to a full boil.

15 Boiling tamales

Tamales all finished! Let them cool and then freeze.

16 Tamales finished












Tie a string around the middle.












Note: the tamales will expand somewhat when they are boiled due to the self-rising meal. So, don’t worry about making them too small. Practice makes perfect!


















Take about a “walnut” size ball of meat and shape it oblong to fit into the bowl of meal. Work the meal around the meat until it is equally covered. (Pinch off excess meal so as not to make the breading too thick. Also, keeping your hands damp helps to shape the ball.)







Meal and Crisco        Meal mixed        Meal and meat mixed

with tomato



A couple of weeks ago when I canned chicken, chicken stock and chicken soup I saved all the chicken bones to make chicken broth. I used the bones, onion, carrot and celery scraps, along with 3-4 bay leaves, some roasted garlic and salt and pepper. I let this simmer around 24 hours in the crock pot.


I strained it and let it sit in the fridge for a day or two to let the fat solidify so I could get it off. Since this would only make a few pints, I froze the broth until I had time to make beef broth.

This week I made beef broth exactly the same way I made the chicken, except using beef bones. Oh, and I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to help extract the marrow from the bones.


After about 24 hours I strained it


Then let sit to solidify the fat.


Yesterday I heated the beef broth in one pot and the chicken broth in another, filled pint jars, and since all meat broth cans at the same amount of time, I canned them at the same time, 20 minutes @ 11lb pressure.