Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Cinnamon, cinnamon, don't forget the cinnamon!"

Yesterday, Mom made a delicious pork roast surrounded by roasted white potatoes and sweet potatoes, and the perfect sweet side dish to accompany it was Betty Crocker's applesauce. 

Applesauce (from 176 of the BCC): Mom usually makes her own applesauce from scratch, but decided to give Betty's recipe a try, and we all loved it. It called for 1/8 tsp of nutmeg, which Mom had never used in applesauce before, as well as cinnamon, brown sugar, water and of course apples.

The smells of warm cinnamon and nutmeg fill the house and always bring so much comfort and joy at this time of year. I hope you are enjoying all these wonderful aromas of the season in your house today, too - only one more week until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"...with candy canes and silver lanes a-glow!"

Oh yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Spoon Drop Inn! This week Mom made a new festive recipe that I absolutely love - candy cane coffee cake. But silly me, I thought that it was a coffee cake with candy canes in it or on it, but it is actually made to look like a candy cane...

Candy Cane Coffee Cakes (from p. 81 of the BCC): One thing that makes this coffee cake unique is that you heat two cups of sour cream and stir it in with the yeast, warm water, butter, sugar, salt, eggs and flour. Chemically, I don't know what that does to change the consistency, but the bread turned out so nice and soft and fluffy! 

Then you add flour until the dough is easy to handle. Knead, cover, and let rise for an hour, then punch it down and divide the dough in three parts. The recipes says it "makes three cakes - one for the brunch table and two for gift giving" - how charming is that?! Oh, that hospitable Betty...

This is where the fun really begins: you roll out each piece into 15"x6" rectangles, and make 2" cuts at 1/2" intervals on the long sides of the rectangles... so it looks like it's tasseled, like your favorite ugly Christmas sweater. 

You make a mixture of chopped maraschino cherries and dried apricots and spread it down the middle of the tasseled dough rectangles. And THEN... you crisscross the tassels over the filling. Stretch the dough out to 22" and carefully curve one end to form it in the shape of a candy cane.

Bake until they are golden brown, and while they are still warm, brush them with butter and drizzle them with a thin icing made with two cups of confectioners' sugar and two tablespoons of milk.

And now you have beautiful, sweet coffee cake to serve for your Christmas brunch - and of course, two more to give to those you love. I enjoyed a piece yesterday with a cup of Twinnings' Christmas tea - perfect for making the season bright!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Pete!

Today is Dad's birthday! In honor of our favorite "Man of the Hour" (who absolutely LOVES apple pie), we will now highlight the final chapter of our Apple Pie Chronicles. 

Dutch Apple Pie (variation on page 321 of the BCC): Mom made a two-crust pie pastry, with extra large slits in the top. Then fill the pie with the standard ingredients of sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and apples, and bake. The reason you add the slits in the top is for the 1/2 cup of whipping cream you pour on top just 5 minutes before the pie is fully cooked. Stick the pie back in for 5 more minutes, and then serve it warm to Pete - or your own favorite guy. :)

The whipping cream really makes a difference! The creamy texture/consistency is what distinguishes a Dutch apple pie from the others. So now that our "Tour d' Apple Pie" is complete, which variation is your favorite? Please share your thoughts! And stay tuned for some exciting Christmas treats, coming soon!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Svedish meetballz!

This week Mom made Swedish meatballs, and served them over wide egg noodles. She and Dad and I recently watched a Muppets movie, so of course we made plenty of references and did our best impersonations of this classy guy: 

I think the thing that makes Swedish meatballs... well, Swedish... is the sauce. Your typical Italian meatballs are made with red tomato sauce, and Swedish meatballs are made with a white sauce.

Swedish Meatballs (from p. 261 of the BCC): The meatballs are a mix of beef, pork, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce (a very fun word to say when imitating the Swedish chef!), egg, and milk. The sauce is a simple mix of flour, paprika, salt and pepper, cooked over low heat and stirred until "smooth and bubbly," then slowly stir in sour cream. After you brown the meatballs, add them to the sauce.

I don't know if that's the way the Swedes cook them, and I'm pretty sure the Swedish chef would have involved rubber chickens and talking broccoli, but this is the recipe according to the BCC, and it was a delicious success... and if it's good enough for Betty, it's good enough for us!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bringing You Great Peanut Butter and Chocolate Drops of Joy!

Yesterday was the big TCF Annual Christmas party at our church. It was tons of fun - an Ugly Sweater Contest (Congrats, Carol!), a 12 Days of Christmas group sing (Fiiiiiiive Gooooooooldeeeeeeeen Riiiiiiiiings!), John's stand-up comedy, the children's nativity show, and of course food - lots and lots of delicious holiday food! Mom's contribution to the feast was Peanut Butter cookies - a BCC original with a special Chandler-family touch... 

Peanut Butter Cookies (from p. 145 of the BCC): Simple ingredients and easy to make, PB cookies have butter, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, flour, an egg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix it all together and then cover and chill. Now these are called "molded cookies" because you shape the dough into 1" balls and then flatten the balls into 2" circles with a fork, with a cool criss-cross pattern. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. 

Our "special touch" is that as soon as the cookies come out of the oven, before you take them off the cookie sheet, you gently press a Hershey kiss into the middle. I personally think they are best eaten warm, while the chocolate is all melty and gooey... but they just add that special something to make them festive! 

Here's a couple pictures from the Christmas party. If any of our readers made some favorite Christmas recipes for the party, we'd love for you to share them with us! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chops 'n' Stuff

We have sufficiently recovered from our exquisite Thanksgiving feasting, and we hope you have too. Last week, Mom spent some time every day decorating the house and making it a Christmas wonderland, with lights, bells, snowmen, wreaths, garlands, and ribbons. She and Dad picked out a tree on Thursday, and now that it is lit up and properly adorned, the holiday has officially begun at the Spoon Drop Inn. So hang on to your hats, because now we're going to be posting delicious and inspiring recipes nearly every day until Christmas!

I am sitting here, stuffed and satisfied from just eating a most delicious dinner. It's something Mom has never made before, but she said it was pretty easy to put together.

Corn-Stuffed Pork Chops (from p. 247 of the BCC): Mom picked up three 1" thick pork chops for this recipe. She made a stuffing with corn, bread crumbs, onion, salt, and sage (oh that classic stuffing spice!). She cut pockets into the middle of the pork chops and stuffed them to overflow. Then browned the chops for 15 minutes and then covered and slowly simmered them so all that flavor could reach its full potential.

and simmered!
We all loved these pork chops - so tender and full of flavor. Stay tuned for more delightful dishes of this season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Spoon Drop Inn is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, because we have traveled North to spend some much-needed quality time with these handsome guys: 

The refrigerator is fully stocked with food and ingredients for more food, so  you can be sure there is plenty of cooking and baking going on! Not sure how much time we will be able to devote to blogging about it though, so you'll have to use your imagination: if it makes your mouth water and your tummy happy, we are most likely making it. :)

We'd love to hear from you this week! Please leave a comment on our page about your family's favorite Thanksgiving dish, or about something you are especially thankful for this year. We're thankful that God has filled our lives with so much color and flavor, for the joy of being around the table together with our incredible family, and for you. Have a wonderful, delicious, and blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A perfect soufflé

Yesterday, Mom made her first soufflé. As far as I can tell, the Soufflé seems to be the most high-maintenance dish to make. Even when you follow the complex recipe to a tee, there is no guarantee it is going to cooperate. So, with great attention and care, and all of us whispering through the process, she boldly attempted this grand feat.

My general knowledge about soufflés prior to this adventure came primarily from "chick flicks." In Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn has to go to cooking school in France and meet a charming old baron in order to learn this valuable soufflé proverb: "A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven." In another movie, Because I Said So, Mandy Moore can only make a perfect soufflé when she is completely content and comfortable with who she really is. It may just be because these are both incredibly girly movies, but it seems that the success of a soufflé is closely related to the well-being of the chef...

Broccoli Soufflé (variation of the Spinach Soufflé on p. 427 of the BCC): If you don't believe me when I call this thing high maintenance, just check out the 12-step process that will use up every bowl and spoon in your kitchen... First, cook, chop, and drain the broccoli. Second, cook and stir a sauce of butter, flour, salt, pepper, and milk until smooth, then add onion, salt and nutmeg. Third, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer bowl until stiff. Fourth, beat egg yolks "until very thick and lemon colored" in another mixer bowl. Then you stir this mixture into the sauce mixture. Then you stir the broccoli into that mixture. Then you stir in 1/4 the egg white mixture into that mixture. Then you gently fold in the rest of the egg white mixture. Then you carefully pour the whole thing into your casserole or soufflé dish. Then you set the dish in a pan of 1" deep water. Then you bake it. But wait! That's not all... the recipe says "Bake...until puffed and golden and until a silver knife inserted halfway between the edge and center comes out clean" (italics added by Connie for dramatic effect).

Here's the before and after pictures of Mom's soufflé:

The "after" picture is of course after we ate quite a bit of it... We were just following the directions that said to serve it immediately, and couldn't take the time to snap a picture, for fear the flash would cause it to fall. As you can see it was a success! So light and fluffy, creamy inside, and simply delightful to eat! What do you think that says about the well-being of our favorite chef? :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Guest Post: Oven Fried Chicken

Today's post is a brief review from a long-time family friend, Glenda. She's been following our blog, and gives us feedback frequently about favorite BCC recipes. Thanks, Glenda, for your love and support!

Oven-Fried Chicken (from p. 284 of the BCC): It is always really good and fall-of-the-bone tender.  I make it often, with mashed potatoes and veggies. I even got a kiss on the cheek from Brandon for it! Have to add though, it is nothing like fried, but definitely roasted!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chili, chips, 'n' cheese!

Since it was quite "chilly" today, we decided it was a great day for "chili." Nothing like a cold snap to put you in the mood to eat something warm and comforting. The traditional Chandler family favorite chili just so happens to be the BCC recipe, so this isn't new for us, but it is tried and true, so we want to share it with you!

Chili con Carne with Tomatoes (from p. 294 of the BCC): First off, we think the name is kind of silly... after all, what is a chili, if it doesn't have "carne" (meat) and tomatoes? Anyway, at least those aren't the only ingredients. We put together ground beef, chopped onions, chopped green pepper, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, salt, cayenne red pepper, paprika, and kidney beans. Then slow cook it for two hours. 

Mom also added in some corn relish from Trader Joe's (Amanda's idea), which made it a little sweeter, and I really liked it. And we love to individually add shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips to our preference. Mom likes extra sour cream, I like extra cheese, and Dad just likes extra... chili! (He refilled his bowl a couple times.) We hope you and your family will stay warm and enjoy this special recipe this winter.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What makes a pie special

Well, we told you we would bake through all the apple pie variations in the BCC, so here's another one - new to us, but quite delicious! 

Apple-Pecan Pie (variation of Apple Pie on p. 321 of the BCC): Follow the 10-inch pie recipe, but add in chopped pecans and 10 more minutes of baking time. The thing that makes this pie really special is the Crunchy Pecan Glaze on top, which is made up of brown sugar, copped pecans, and light cream cooked on low heat.  You spread this on top of the pie while it is still warm... soooooo good! 

Actually, the thing that really makes pie special and sweet is when you get to share it with dear friends. Mom's ladies Bible study came over last night - ladies who are some of Mom's best friends, and who are like family to me. They all enjoyed this dessert with coffee and fellowship, and Miss Ann said it was "Amazing!" Last night the ladies shared stories with each other about their faith and salvation. It is so beautiful, that because of the new life they all share in Christ, this special sisterhood can gather around the table to listen and pray, laugh and cry, and love and encourage one another.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

And now, the Acorn Squash!

When I went to my small group on Sunday night, Wendy, My Produce Lady, offered to send home two acorn squash with me, for Mom to do something amazing with. After the success we had with Wendy's eggplant a few weeks ago, I had full confidence in her acorn squash. I called Mom to confirm that it was a good idea, and by the time I got home, Mom had found this great little recipe for acorn squash in the old-reliable BCC...

Nutty Baked Squash (from p. 439 of the BCC): We cut one acorn squash in half and removed the gooey innards - I mean, the seeds and fibers. Then we mixed cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, and a little butter, brown sugar, salt and nutmeg together. Then we filled the squash halves with the mixture and baked them in a dish for about a half hour.

Mom grilled some chicken to go with the squash dish, and we had a lovely dinner together. Dad is out of town this week, so we thought a squash-for-two would be just right for us. It tasted AMAZING! The salty crackers and pecans, the sweet brown sugar, the subtly spicy nutmeg... the crunch of the crumbs, the melt of the butter, and the squish of the squash... so many delightful sensations for the tongue! And doesn't it just look beautiful and festive?

We scooped out the leftovers and put them in a Tupperware to warm up later, and we still have another acorn squash to work some magic with. Thank you, Wendy, for this delicious opportunity!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Post: For Wes' Sake

Today's post is brought to you by our friend, Wendy Sult, who ordered her 1976 ed. of the BCC after she started reading our blog! Thanks, Wendy, for joining us in this adventure!

In keeping with the theme of the blog, I could easily call this entry "For Wes' Sake."  Per Wes, he had eaten nothing but junk for the better part of five days (in my defense, the Fair was in town!), so I decided to add a Betty Crocker recipe to the meal plan for the week.  Me being me, I scanned the cookbook for the simplest, lowest-risk dish I could find and there on page 306 I found it - Breast of Chicken on Rice. What could be complicated or scary about that?  I tend to like recipes with five ingredients or less. This particular one had six, so I omitted the mushrooms to make it easier.

Who am I kidding?  I hate mushrooms and those babies had to go!  Anyway, moving on...

To make this recipe even more attractive, I noticed that all I really had to do was mix a bunch of ingredients together, pour it in the dish, stick the chicken on top, and pour a little more.  That's it. Voila!  Call me Betty Crocker!  

Okay, that may be going a bit far, but the truth is that the recipe is a "minimum input, maximum output" kind of dish.  It was excellent comfort food that smelled amazing baking in the oven.  We paired it with a recipe from the pages of the Diana Chandler Cookbook - Green Bean Supreme (if you aren't familiar with it, that must change, pronto!) and some sliced apples.  

Excuse the picture of the partially empty baking dish.  SOMEONE, who shall remain nameless, was hungry. :-)

All joking aside, I do tend to make new dishes from time to time.  Most are fine for a one-time thing, but I rarely find one that I want to keep using. They seem to be lacking flavor and I am just not kitchen savvy enough to figure out how to fix it.  Wes insisted that this one must go in our reciperotation.  Yes, it was that good.  The only thing I would change is the amount of rice used.  I would beef that up a bit and we would be set.  What can I say?  My man loves rice.

Looking forward to another rendezvous with Betty's recipes soon...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Le Spoon Drop Café

This week we decided to explore our French side a little bit. We haven't done a drink recipe since the refreshing Orange Swizzle for our Labor Day picnic, we thought it was time for a warm drink, and we got very excited when we found the French Chocolate recipe. And it became an inspiration for our Halloween theme this year.

Let me just explain here that Halloween at the Chandler house has never been a "ghouls-and-goblins" affair. Growing up, my brothers and I took Halloween as a creative make-your-own-costume opportunity. I think my most memorable costume was Sleeping Beauty - with a nightgown, satin slippers, and red lipstick, laying down in a red wagon, pretending to be asleep. One year, Kevan was the Lone Ranger, and Andrew made a cardboard horse for the side of his wheelchair. Andrew was the master of disguise, and still is. From the scarecrow, to the Rocketeer, to the Flash, his costumes were always impressive. Halloween is just a time of good, clean creativity (and chocolate) for our family. 

So this year, Mom made a little French café in our parlor, we dressed up as French as we could, we put a kerchief on our handsome Beau puppy, and made French Chocolate.

French Chocolate (from p. 36 of the BCC): This is a 4-stage recipe. You begin by making the chocolate sauce, which is just chocolate chips, corn syrup, water, and vanilla stirred together over low heat on the stove until smooth. Stick that in the fridge to chill. Then you make some whipped cream in a chilled bowl, and gradually add in the chilled chocolate sauce to the mixture, so you're basically making a chocolate fluff. Stick that in the fridge to stay chilled. Then you heat milk on the stove, but do not boil it. Then, you fill half a cup with the chilled fluff, and  pour the hot milk over it, then stir. What you end up with is an incredibly smooth, foamy hot chocolate drink! It was so delicious, I will never be able to drink "Swiss Miss" hot cocoa mix again.

The recipe recommends: "Serve in your best china cups for a note of elegance on a special day." We did this, and while the cups just weren't big enough to hold a satisfactory amount of chocolate, it did indeed add a note of elegance. I would add to the recommendation: "Wear French-style outfits and pretend to sip your drink at a Parisian café." It makes the whole experience all the more delightful!

Bon appetit!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Stew

We haven't addressed the soups/stews recipes in the BCC before, because frankly, my Mom has her own pretty spectacular recipes in that department, tested and proven and handed down for several generations in our family. If you've ever tried her broccoli-cheddar soup, beef stew, potato soup, chicken noodle soup, or chili, you will understand... we don't want to sacrifice any of our favorites on a chilly fall night for the sake of exploring something new. But, we decided yesterday to trust Betty and give her stew a chance in the Spoon Drop Inn.

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew (from p. 398 of the BCC): I think I will call this the "One-Inch-Rule Stew." The recipe says to add: beef cut in 1" pieces, potatoes cut in 1" cubes, carrots cut in 1" slices, and celery sliced in 1" inch pieces.  It also called for a turnip cut in 1" cubes, but Mom did not have a turnip in the house to use. (In fact, I don't think she has ever had a turnip in the house, at least on purpose.) It also adds a green pepper cut in strips and a diced onion, but only because I think it is very hard to find a pepper or onion that you can cut 1" thick.

This stew is different from Mom's traditional beef stew, because hers has a tomato sauce base, and this had a white sauce base, which included flour, salt, pepper, shortening, hot water, beef bouillon cubes, and a bay leaf. It tasted a lot like a roast beef and gravy dinner, served in a bowl with heaps of gravy... which is definitely not a bad thing.

Since we have our big meal for lunch with Dad before he leaves for work, Mom put all the ingredients together on Wednesday night, and then slow-cooked them in the crock pot Thursday morning. We think stew tastes better when all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and get to know each other for a while anyway. :) 

We liked it, and we really think Kevan would like it, too. So it looks like we have a new stew recipe to add to our "favorites" collection!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Noodles Romanoff

Yesterday's special at the Spoon Drop Inn was Noodles Romanoff... And no, I checked, and there is no relation to the Romanov family, the last of the Russian royals.

However, this dish came by its name because it was originally served at Romanoff's, a famous Beverly Hills restaurant in the 1950s, that was owned by none other than Michael Romanoff. Ironically, that wasn't even his birth name. His parents gave him the name "Hershel Geguzin." It's probably a good thing he changed his name, because I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat a dish called "Noodles Geguzin."

Apparently the dish was a smash hit in Hollywood because of its "mystery ingredients," and Mr. Romanoff himself was full of mystery, because he had multiple aliases and fictional heritages and con games, and well... he was eventually deported for fraud. His restaurant closed, and Stauffer's reduced the Noodles Romanoff to a boxed frozen dinner special that any non-cooking mother can buy at the local grocery store.

But Mom is not a non-cooking mother! Thus, the BCC helped us to restore some of the dignity of this dish.

Noodles Romanoff (from p. 226 of the BCC): This is the first pasta dish we have made from the BCC! It looks like its in alfredo sauce, but it's actually a mixture of sour cream, Parmesan cheese, chives, salt, pepper, and garlic. Just cook the egg noodles and fold them in with the mixture. The recipe also says to be sure to arrange and serve it on a "warm platter." It had a wonderfully unique flavor, which I think made it worthy of its exotic last name. Mom served it as a "filling accompaniment" with Rotisserie chicken and breaded-baked zucchini.

Dad liked it, but was in a mischievous mood and suggested we fold it in with whipped cream next time instead of sour cream. "After all, cream is cream!" he said. Oh, the wisdom of Dad... I think he was just pining for more pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"There's a happy feeling nothing in this world can buy..."

"...when we pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie..." Ok, so it isn't Christmas or Thanksgiving yet - goodness, it isn't even Halloween yet! - but Mom said that she was in the mood... and when the House Cook is in the mood, we don't argue, we just eat. :) Anyway, it is the time of year for all things pumpkin - pumpkin cake, muffins, bread, pancakes, cookies, cheesecakes, and don't forget chai and lattes... so why not indulge in the pièce de résistance, the timeless, classic pumpkin pie?  

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie (from p. 331 of the BCC): Of course, per tradition, Mom began with the homemade 9-inch one-crust pie from p. 316. Then she mixed up the pie filling, with 2 eggs, 2 cups of pumpkin, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and the stuff that makes it truly marvelous: cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. After baking it, she served it, still warm, with a mound of whipped cream on top!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yummy Mahi Mahi

(Note from Connie: This is the first post on the blog written by Mom!)

Peter was returning from a trip this weekend and we wanted to cook something special for him. He really likes fish (which is not usually prepared at "The Spoon Drop Inn"). But the BCC had a Baked Fish recipe that we thought we could handle.

Baked Fish (from page 269 of the BCC): We used fresh Mahi Mahi fillets and dipped them in a butter mixture which included a little lemon juice and grated onion. Then the remaining butter mixture was poured over the fish and it was baked in a 350 degree oven until it was deliciously flaky. (We did not desire to sprinkle with paprika.)

We served up this lovely dish with baked sweet potatoes (from our garden) and a layered green salad and Peter enjoyed every bite. Success!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Missionary Buckle

Mom and I had some friends over for coffee this morning, so we decided to make a little something special to have for breakfast. What could be a better choice than the BCC's "Favorite Coffee Cake"? 

Blueberry Buckle (variation of the Favorite Coffee Cake on p. 55 of the BCC): Mom followed the regular recipe for the coffee cake, but added more flour and 2 cups of blueberries. Instead of using the regular topping, the Buckle recipe says to mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter together and sprinkle that on top, making a lighter, less crunchy topping. It was fabulous, light, fluffy, and just sweet enough!

The word "buckle" means to "warp or bulge," and that is what this dish does... the baking powder in the batter causes the cake to rise, but the addition of the blueberries makes it rise unevenly, and look a bit lumpy and bulgey on top. "Buckle down" is an American idiom that means "to begin to seriously work at something," which is what we ladies were doing together this morning. Anna and I have a new ministry idea bubbling in our minds and hearts, and Mom and Kathi were helping us brainstorm and work out the details.  

So, missionaries buckling down with some buckle and coffee... what a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Would you like some cheese with your pie?

As promised, the apple pie extravaganza continues! For our third variation of the month, we did something the Chandler family has never done before: we put cheese in the middle. Yes, we thought it sounded weird, too, but hey we like cheese, so why not? As a family, we decided to adjust the recipe only slightly and use cheddar cheese instead of the recommended processed American cheese... 

Apple-Cheese Pie (from p. 321 of the BCC): We used the recipe for a regular 9-inch, two-crust apple pie, except that we poured half of the apple mixture into the pastry and covered it with five slices of cheddar cheese, then put the rest of the apple mixture on top. Then mom put the top crust on, and used a little fall-leaf cookie cutter to make this beautiful design on top: 

We loved the pie! We ate it on Kevan's last day with us here, and he took the leftover portions back to Fort Wayne with him, to eat all by himself, or perhaps share with his cool roommates. 

As we ate, we critiqued it. Of course, Dad reiterated that he has yet to meet a pie he doesn't like. However, we were all a little surprised that the cheddar didn't add as much flavor to the pie as we thought it would... we could barely detect it, so it really just tasted like a normal apple pie (which is never a negative thing). Kevan suggested that, while we're not huge fans of processed American cheese, maybe it would make the pie more creamy. Mom thought maybe we could put the cheese on the top instead of the middle, and I wondered why we couldn't put it in the middle and on top. We're open to suggestions about types of cheese, amounts and placement in the pie, so if you have any ideas, please send them to us! 

Regardless, the key to any amazing pie is the homemade crust... which you can read  all about here. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Carrots are better, but family is best.

What's your favorite family meal? You know, the one you instantly go to when your grown kids come home for a visit, or when everyone is out of school and work and you just have time to sit and be together for a while... that old faithful dinner that just sings "Family!" and "Home!" For us, one of those meals is Mom's homemade chicken pie. She never puts vegetables in the pie (so there is much more room for chicken-y goodness!), but always has two or three veggie sides, and we mix them in as much as we want.  This time, one of the sides she made was the BCC glazed carrots. 

Glazed Carrots (from p. 422 of the BCC): The most interesting detail about this recipe, I think, is the specified way of cutting the carrots into lengthwise strips... making them unique and distinct from other familiar and/or famous versions of this classic home-cooked recipe (which usually has chopped or diced carrots). The glaze is a slow-cooked blend of brown sugar, salt, orange peel, and butter... not as "WOW-orange-sweet" as the glaze in the sweet potato dish, but very nice and subtle. Another great orange veggie to add to your family dinner favorites!

The special occasion was having Kevan, Dad, Mom, and I around the table together today for lunch. As much as my parents and I enjoy each other's company, it just isn't the same as when Kevan is here. We laugh more, because of Kevan's jokes, and he and Dad's ongoing battle of wits. We savor the food more and sit together longer because we're so busy talking and telling stories. Anyone who knows Kevan, knows that he adds more color and life and magic and joy to everything around him... and no one knows that better than his family.

So, while the carrots were great, and made the chicken pie lunch taste better, it wasn't really about the food... It was (and always is) about the wonderful people in our lives that we love so much... family is the best recipe.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall festival pie

We had a Fall Festival at our church tonight, with giant Jenga and Kerplunk games, volleyball, soccer, corn holes, horseshoes, a photo booth, bonfires, marshmallows, chili, hotdogs, hot cider, and of course the famous TCF dessert spread. I'm telling you, our church really knows how to celebrate and fellowship well. It was a clear and crisp evening, and everyone who came had a great time together! And Mom made a classic BCC apple pie for the special occasion, with fancy lattice work and festive fall leaves on top. Doesn't it look fabulous?!

Apple Pie (from p. 321 of the BCC): Yes, for those of you who have been following for a while, we have indeed already made a French Apple Pie. But we Chandlers love apple pies and decided we should make every variety, so we are. This is the original version, 9-inch two-crust pie, and is filled with all things autumnally delicious: sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter, and 6 cups of "thinly sliced pared tart apples."

I think the only thing better than the beautifully arranged pie you see above, is the empty dish we brought home from the festival, scraped clean by happy church families who thoroughly enjoyed every bite!

Friday, October 17, 2014

If you can't go to Hawaii...

...then bring Hawaii to your home! That's what we did today, with a fun new meatball recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Waikiki Meatballs (from p. 261 of the BCC):  These are all-beef meatballs mixed with cracker crumbs, minced onion, egg, salt, milk and just a 1/4 tsp ginger... (I love ginger, it's my favorite "spicy spice," the way it's sweet on your tongue and then lingers and tingles on the back of your throat.) Once you prepare the meatballs, the recipe gives directions for how to fry them in a skillet, but Mom prefers to bake hers, so that's what she did. Then you mix a sweet-n-sour sauce with cornstarch, brown sugar, pineapple syrup, vinegar and soy sauce "until smooth." Cook it, and then add in the meatballs, along with pineapple bits and chopped green pepper. 

Mom put her most tropical tablecloth on the table, to compliment this colorful, zingy dish, and we ate it over sticky jasmine rice. We all loved it - the flavors were so incredible! The Hawaiians would say it was "Oh, so 'ono!" - delicious!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Our friend, Wendy, is becoming our very own "produce lady." She was the one who gave us the apples for the Apple Crisp, and this week she gave us some eggplant. What do you do with eggplant, anyway? We haven't done much, and I do have this weird thing against purple vegetables. But Mom looked it up in the BCC, and found out it is a star player in a dish called "Ratatouille." We've never made it before at the Spoon Drop Inn, and eggplant is not a common ingredient we use, so we decided this is one of those cooking adventures we'd just have to charge boldly into. 

By the way, the BCC does give a good "Eggplant 101" section on how to choose a good eggplant, how to serve it, how to cut it, and how to cook it. So if anyone is like us and is a novice to the purple vegetable game, the BCC helps tremendously! 

All I really knew about Ratatouille was that it was colorful and French and reminded people of home... and these guys make it well: 

Ratatouille (from p. 426 of the BCC): Mom got a little more information by quickly scanning the recipe. It called for eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, onion, and tomato - all of which she had in her kitchen this week, thanks to her own garden and Wendy's generosity! It's basically a stir-fry. Once you cut up all the veggies and mixing them with oil, garlic, salt and pepper, you just cook and stir them on the stove for about ten minutes. As soon as mom put them in the pan to cook, the smell filled the kitchen and was amazing. It smelled like... a lush late-summer garden saying hello to autumn. This picture cannot capture the smell, but it does show off the colors, doesn't it? 

The BCC doesn't give any suggestions for what to serve with Ratatouille. You could probably do pasta or rice or kuskus, depending on if you're in a European, Asian, or African mood. But today Mom made barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes, which really complimented the veggies well!

I loved this, and think it might be a new comfort food for me. Mom liked it too, and is already brainstorming ideas for adding cheese or making it a casserole in the future. When I asked Dad if he liked the Ratatouille, he said, "Sure! And the vegetables were pretty good too!" And Kevan's professional opinion was this: "Eggplant has never been more desirable!" Just like in the movie, the Ratatouille passed the food critics test with flying, savory colors of purple, green, and red!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good enough to eat!

Mom and I made cherry turnovers yesterday afternoon, so I could take them to share with my small group last night. We make a pretty great team in the kitchen, if you ask me. Mom mixed up the dough and I mixed up the filling; Mom cut the dough out and I folded them over. One hour and about 60 turnovers later, we were finished, and piled them on a plate and covered them to deliver, still warm, to the small group!

Filled Turnovers with Cherry Filling (from p. 150 of the BCC): The dough is a lot like sugar cookie dough, and you have to cover and chill it for an hour. After that, you roll it out pretty thin, about 1/16" thick, and cut it into 3" circles. The recipe says to put a teaspoon full of the filling into half of the circle, but that was way too much for us, so just go with your own discretion with how much filling you can fit, then fold the dough over it in half, and press the edges together to seal in the filling. Then you lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them for about 10 minutes. 

The BCC offers four different options for filling - orange, cherry, pineapple, and date/fig/raisin/prune fillings. Since I love all things cherry, that's what we made. It was really easy - mix sugar, cornstarch, orange juice, cherry syrup, butter and chopped maraschino cherries, then cook and stir it until it's thick. The recipe made a lot more filling than we needed, but I'm sure we'll find a creative use for the leftovers. :) 

I had imagined the turnovers being much bigger, but I really liked that they were so small, just little sweet appetizer pockets! And I thought they tasted like cherry-filled Christmas cookies. Anyway, they were a big hit. I got pictures of some of my small group friends eating them, but this picture of our little princess is definitely the winner for the blog! Doesn't she look like she's thoroughly enjoying it? It's just the right size for her to hold, and just sticky-sweet enough to make "finger licking" totally acceptable and appropriate!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Favorite Pancakes

I think one of my favorite Saturday morning traditions is homemade pancakes at the Spoon Drop Inn. When the whole family is home, and Mom cooks them up hot off the griddle by the plateful, until all the batter is gone. Stacks and stacks! Butter and syrup everywhere! Oohhh, the stickiness! As the BCC says, "Is there a better way to start any day?"

Favorite Pancakes - Blueberry variation (from p. 57 of the BCC): Yes, the BCC actually calls them "Favorite Pancakes," and I must agree, I've never had better pancakes than these. Betty isn't bragging, she is simply speaking truth. The book has the recipe for classic, plain batter, so you can make plain pancakes. But the great thing is, there are nine variations listed below! And if that wasn't enough, there are specialty pancakes listed, with toppings, syrups, fillings, and butters. You could basically make and enjoy a different kind of pancake every day for two weeks! Or have a pancake festival with the whole smorgasbord! Ok, I'm getting a little too excited and carried away... But if you try any of the variations, please share them with us!

At any rate, we did the blueberries yesterday, because that's a Chandler traditional favorite, and for very good reason. It includes 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries... and when they are hot, I love to poke them and make them burst warm purple juice all over my plate. Here, we have a lovely display of the morning's pancakes, in all their golden glory, with Mom's Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne stoneware dishes, which she has had as long as I can remember. They are about as nostalgic to me as the BCC...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

For Kevan's Sake

Yesterday Mom had her apron on most of the day, and the kitchen smelled amazing. Kevan was coming home - drove ten hours from Indiana, and mentioned several times that he would most definitely be home in time for dinner... hint, hint! So potato soup was in the crockpot, homemade bread was on the counter, and classic homemade chocolate chip cookies came fresh out of the oven. Mom and I talked about what I should blog, regarding the cookies, and she said, "Well, this isn't really about the cookies... it's all about our Kevan." 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (from p. 136 of the BCC): "Has any other cookie ever been so popular? We think not..." Oh, that Betty, she sounds so sassy, doesn't she? If you've never made homemade chocolate chip cookies (NOT the frozen kind that you spoon out on a baking sheet), this is an absolute must, so look it up and just do it. The "Petes" and "Kevans" in your life will thank you. :) It has all the usual baking suspects in it - butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, and of course 2 packages of semisweet chocolate chips. The recipe suggests that if you want a softer, rounder cookie (which we do!) you can add more flour (which we did!). It makes... well, enough cookies to fill and overflow your biggest cookie jar!

As promised, Kevan got home in time for dinner last night. And after dinner, we had tea and cookies. It actually took him about an hour to eat one cookie, just because he was telling me so many stories about his adventures. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish which ones are real and which are imaginary, because he tells them with so much charm and magic... There was the story of how he corralled the runaway shopping carts in the parking lot on a windy day, and the story of how he rescued a half-drowned, panicking squirrel by leading it to safety, among other great stories. I loved watching him wave his half-eaten cookie around in the air as he spoke, listening to his nice deep voice get so animated, and enjoying how his eyes crinkled in the corners as he relived funny memories. 

Kevan is home, and there are plenty of cookies to eat. All is right with the world. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The best of two potatoes

How do you like to eat potatoes? Do you prefer to bake them, roast them... or like our dear, old, adamant Samwise Gamgee, do you "Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew!"? 
Well, if you just can't decide, we have good news for you today - you can have them baked and mashed at the same time! How exciting is that? Of course, it causes a bit of an identity crisis for the poor potato, but I personally think that is the potato's lot in life... after all, is it a vegetable, a root, or a starch? Are they native to the Andes Mountains or from the west coast of Chile, or are you like me and always just thought they came from Ireland? Potato, potahto, patata? Well anyway, you can find them in the "vegetable" section of the BCC... 

Twice-Baked Potatoes (from p. 436 of the BCC): The recipe is for four large potatoes. First you scoop out the inside of a potato shell and mash it, make it nice and fluffy with some milk and butter, season it with a little salt and pepper (Mom used garlic salt - mmm!), and then refill the shells. The BCC says to sprinkle shredded cheese on top "if desired," and well, when does the Chandler family not desire a little extra cheese? Then you bake them until the mashed filling is golden brown. And tada! - you have baked mashed potatoes.

We thought they turned out very pretty, they were fun to eat, and they were delicious! We ate them with barbequed pork chops and homegrown green beans, which was an excellent meal. The BCC had a variation to the recipe that added chopped green peppers or chopped pimiento to the mix. Not sure I'd do either of those, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that you can probably add whatever you normally like to add to your baked or mashed potatoes though... chives, bacon, or if you are like my Grandpa Jack, enough black pepper to make the whole dinner party sneeze. But hey, the potato is one of America's favorite foods, so go crazy!