Monthly Archives: September 2013

Guest Novelist,Artist Elaina Lee/ Full Day of Recipes

I am so please to FINALLY have our time with Elaina Lee. I have been playing tag with her for some time now! Elaina is a novelist whose other claim-to-fame is her beautiful designs for other writers’ book covers. Here are two of my favorites that capture the essence of the stories within:

Sarah Ballance’s  Hawthorne:

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

And Jeff Salter’s  Called To Arms Again:

Patriotic novel

Patriotic novel

Elaina is going to grace us with a full day of easy and delicious meals for family and friends, so I will let her speak for herself in the prepared notes she sent to me, along with her recipes with photos.

If you have any questions or comments for Either Elaina or me, please feel free to comment below.
I present to you, Elaina Lee:

Hello! I’m Elaina Lee, award-winning author and cover artist. I have two sons, one in the 10th grade, who attends high school, and another who is four and currently being homeschooled. For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to slowly wean us from processed foods. I say slowly because the teen has been having issues giving up the chemicals. When I really began to notice what we were consuming, the lack of recognizable ingredients started to bother me. If it’s going into my children’s mouth, I want to know what it is! At first the task seemed a little daunting. Then as I began to cook and make all our sweets and dinner breads and breakfasts for the week, I realized it wasn’t so hard after all! Plus, the extra money in our pockets has been nice, I’ll admit  I’d like to thank Tonette for having me as a guest today as I share some very simple and delicious recipes. I’ve covered an entire day of meals! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.


Delicious and easy Apple Scones

Delicious and easy Apple Scones

Spiced Apple Scones with Icing
These scones are very easy to make, but be prepared to get your hands dirty! To me, that’s half the fun. Sort of like when you were a kid and could ‘bake’ in the mud. *grin* We’re currently in Apple season, so finding a good deal on Apple’s should be breeze for most of you right now, depending on where you live. You will notice an apple theme going on here, as my youngest and I went apple picking for a field trip and I still have apples I’m trying to figure out what to do with! The icing is optional, another great way to make these is to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the tops before baking.

Ingredients –
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled apples, finely chopped (about two apples)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove

Directions –
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside (make sure the bowl isn’t too small, as the sour cream expands in the bowl).

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder cream of tartar, salt and spices. Cut in butter (if you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork for this. The butter can be softened to make this easier, but NOT melted!). Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened (the batter will appear to be very dry, don’t worry). Fold in apples.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then with your hands ‘knead’ the dough until the dough no longer has dry areas (I just fold it over onto itself a few times). Pat dough out until it’s about ¾ inch thick. This is where you’ll get messy!  Using a knife with a sharp edge coated lightly in flour, cut scones into triangles (if you can’t get them perfect, don’t worry, it won’t affect the taste). Each time you cut a new scone, be sure to re-coat your knife so it doesn’t stick into the dough. I keep a small mound of flour off to the side and just lay the knife edge down on both sides before cutting. Place cut pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this stuff is your best friend when baking!) about an inch or so apart.

If you don’t want to frost your scone, sprinkle them with a cinnamon and sugar mixture if desired.

Bake scones for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on bottom.

For the Icing –
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk (more if needed)
1 tbsp corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sift the powdered sugar (a small strainer will do this). Add the milk and mix on a low. Add corn syrup and vanilla. If when thoroughly mixed the frosting is still in lumps, add another tbsp of milk. Add in small increments only! You want your icing to be thick.

You can either spread the icing with a butter knife OR you can spoon the icing into a bag (this is messy, but then you get an excuse to lick your fingers… just sayin’). Cut the very tip off a corner (the smaller the better). Squeeze the bag until icing comes out and now you can pipe the icing over the cooled scones.

And now your done! Yay! Delicious home-made scones! This recipe is very versatile. You can replace the spices with a dash of orange zest and orange extract and use cranberries for the fruit to make orange cranberry scones. Or remove the spices all together and use blueberries. Experiment, have fun, most of all, enjoy!!!


Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Ham Pasta Salad –

I’m not normally a lunch making gal, I’ll admit. My family at lunch time has to fend for themselves (unless you’re the four year-old. He has it made). But this last weekend my husband, father and oldest son where building the front deck on our house so I had to come up with something. We live a good distance from any store, so I had to be able to make something that I already had in my freezer or fridge for meat and whatever my mom happened to have in her garden for produce. I was lucky enough to stumble across this recipe that is so delicious and can use absolutely anything you have on hand for produce. I’m listing what we used, but if you don’t have it and happen to have broccoli or zucchini, throw it in there! Make the dressing in the morning so the flavors mix together well by lunch. I made the entire thing in the morning and just covered the mixture without the dressing and put it into the fridge until everyone was ready to eat and then mixed everything together before serving.

Ingredients –
8 ounces pasta (shell, macaroni, spiral…)
1 pound cooked ham (I used left over ham and shredded it with a fork, but you can use cubed ham sold in packages)
1 bell pepper (I used green and banana peppers)
1 onion, chopped
1 half large pickle (or whole if you have a pickle loving family), chopped
1 tomato, diced
½ cup sliced black olives
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ tsp beef bouillon granules
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp the pre-chopped stuff)
½ cup pickle juice

In a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic and pickle juice. Cover and refrigerate. Cook pasta according to package directions. While your pasta is cooking, prepare your vegetables. Mix meat, vegetables and pasta in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, add dressing.

This was NOT dry the next day, but we noticed the ham lost its smoky flavor, so we felt this pasta was best served the day of making it. If you’re family prefers bread and butter (sweet) pickles to dill, you can use them instead.  Don’t be scared by the ingredients, this was a hit with everyone in my family who ate it.


Red Beans and Rice –

Ready in a jiffy Red Beans and Rice

Ready in a jiffy
Red Beans and Rice

Being a southern family, my husband loves it when I cook the staples, Red Beans and Rice being of them. This is a simple, very flavorful meal.

Ingredients –
3 cans red beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 celery stalks
1 large can chicken broth (or three normal cans or a can and a box – around six cups)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use the stuff that comes in a big green shaker and is ‘Creole’ – don’t know if I can say a brand, so that’s as specific as I’ll get, LOL!)
1 lb andouille (we use just regular smoked sausage), sliced

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, garlic, celery and sausage until sausage begins to brown and vegetables are soft.

Rinse beans and place into pot with sausage and vegetables. Add broth. Season with bay leaves, cayenne, parsley and Cajun seasoning. Stir. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 2-2 ½ hours.

About twenty to thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat, make enough white rice for everyone. We usually make 1 ½ cups dry or 5 cups prepared.


Delicious and quick dessert

Delicious and quick dessert

Apple Crisp

I love apple crisp, but for some reason had yet to make it. I needed a dessert for Tonette, and this can be one of those areas of baking that can be intimidating. Thinking of something simple that wasn’t a cookie was a challenge. While everyone loves cookies, I wanted something outside the box, but that was as easy as a cookie. Enter the crisp. I may actually make this again this weekend it was that good!

Ingredients –
6 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
½ tsp ground clove (optional)
2 tbsp water
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (yes another one!)
½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350

Mix the sugar, 1 tbsp of flour, cinnamon, ginger, clove, apples and water together in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and butter together. Place half the mixture in the bottom of an 8×8 dish. Gently pat to form a crust. Place apples on crust. Sprinkle the remaining mixture over the apples.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

I hope everyone enjoys these recipes and I’d like to thank Tonette for having me!

If you’re in the mood for a fun, light-hearted read to wrap up summer, be sure to check out my Southern Romantic Comedy, A Very Southern Affair. Available now for only $0.99!!!

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

You can find Elaina at –


Thank you so much for joining us, Elaina.I’m sure many of our readers will enjoy using your recipes, and, I hope, enjoy your work.

Don’t be a stranger!

Anyone care to ask a question of Elaina, or make a comment?


Care Packages

The post of a month ago I suggested being prepared by keeping and emergency bag packed and how I have used them as gifts, especially for anyone anticipating a hospital stay.
I am going to reiterate many of the suggestions plus food suggestions for those who travel for work or research, those in the armed services, in the Peace Corp, on mission, students in college or boarding schools, personnel with limited funds or away from cities, indeed, anyone who is away from home and could use a boost or some hard-to–find items.

Care packages for those serving overseas can make quite a difference to those especially in isolated or dangerous spots. Thank Heaven for flat-rate U.S. Postal boxes! It makes this sort of package affordable. When my son was in Iraq, I sent many boxes to him filled with foodstuffs,(just before the flat rates took effect!). He liked to volunteer at the hospital on base and would be there odd hours, or when his guard shift was late. The closest mess hall would close early and the trek to the open one made for much less sleep-time, so he would nosh on the parcels from home. I also sent personal items to a young female medic serving in Afghanistan, and helped with a church group that sent packages to service personnel. We sent  boxes  to a priest friend in Guatemala.Here are some ideas for any and all away from home. After all, even President Jimmy Carter sent ‘care packages’ to his mother when she was serving as a nurse in India with the Peace Corps, and a friend of mine had  daughters in college and then in a convent. Their request was always for their mom to send my Chocolate Drop Cookies.(Recipe :January 2013 archive.)

Foodstuffs generally need to be non-liquid, non-perishable, (that is, do not need refrigeration before or after opening). Depending on the taste of the recipient, (or a good guess), drink mixes are a good bet,(instant tea, pre-sweetened “Koolaid”, lemonade or Tang). Local and purified water can be, well, yucky. Depending on the weather, hot chocolate mix, Ovaltine, or instant coffees are good, as well as some powdered, flavored creamers and water-enhancers,(Crystal Light), and powdered milk. Unlike when I was trying to find them for my son’s boxes, sugar packets or small containers,(including coconut sugar) are more easily found these days, along with many other small or single-serving size condiments.(Hot sauces, picante sauce, mustard, mayo, ketchup are big hits.) Herb blends,(Mrs. Dash or mixed herbs), pepper and regular and flavored salts go a long way to help bring flavor to bland foods.Cheese powders are also good and available through some stores and mail order , such as King Arthur Flour.[King Arthur Flour]

Here is a limited list to mix and match in the boxes. Try to give a variety in each package, even if you plan on sending more than one box.

Chips, Pretzels (of any kind)
Flavored crackers,(peanut butter, cheese, herbed)
Dry cookies*
[* Unless you know the recipient’s taste, stick with comfort/basics. Animal crackers are surprisingly popular. Homemade cookies can easily become moldy, as my mother found out when shipping goodies to my brother in Viet Nam. My uncle sent them by the slowest mail; it was a waste and a disappointment. Please make sure cookies and crackers do not get squashed or crushed]
Dried fruits: raisins, Crasins, cherries, pineapple… there are many kinds in every market; for the most varieties, check the “Natural Food” aisles; Fruit in squeeze pouches

Instant oatmeal or grits

Dried peas
Corn nuts and Mixed snacks
Nuts, of all types,including sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Hard candies [No chocolate for hot climates, it melts too easily. Go for butterscotch, mints, hard caramels, “Smarties”, hard wafers, Tic-Tacs, jaw breakers, “Nips”, “Red Vines”/”Twizzlers”, etc. individually wrapped. Any gum sent to a hot climate should be candy-coated: Gumballs or “Chiklets”]

Granola and cereal bars
Energy bars
Potato sticks
Tuna ,Salmon , Chicken in foil packets, including prepared filets and salads
Individual canned vegetables, fruits and ready-to-eat meat, dishes, (enchiladas, hash, stews)
Canned cooked beef and chicken, ‘deviled’ or spread and Vienna sausages (all available in chicken)
[Please note that in Muslim-run countries and territories, pork products,( such as Deviled ham and mixed Vienna  sausages), are not allowed to be imported, nor are any products containing alcohol,(which would be a bad idea anyway). Even if the recipient is not in the military, Armed Services sites are a wealth of information for do’s and don’ts. When in doubt in areas not covered by the US military sites ,please contact the country’s embassy/consulate or check with the individual school or institution.Some do not allow nut or peanut products. You would not want for your recipient to lose all of their goodies and possibly lose other priviledges.

NOTE: Overseas packages must contain a list of all items on a form from the Post Office. PLEASE fill it out as you pack.Add lines and write clearly, but small,if necessary.

Peanut or tree nut butters, with or without chocolate or jelly mixed in them, preferably in plastic jars
Dried beef
Beef or Turkey jerky

Use your imagination and good sense.  The needs of a young person away at school or a Marine in Iraq would be quite different, as would the needs of a nurse serving in a village in Africa or a teacher on an Indian reservation. Take into consideration the weather, food-knowledge and equipment available to the recipient. A college student with a refrigerator and microwave  can receive more than a missionary on the move through jungle climates.

Leave all foods in their original, sealed packaging,(you may remove the outside boxes to save space.) Please include zipper-close plastic bags for un-finished chips, cookies, etc.

Person items are very much appreciated by all who are away from home, especially in a distant land. Here are some suggestions for both sexes:
Stick deodorant
Bar soaps
Decent disposable razors
Lip balm
Cotton swabs
Body/foot powders
Moist wipes
Pre-moistened, (or dry, impregnated with cleanser), facial cloths
Flavored floss picks
Ointments or creams in tubes, (such as Vitamin A&D,)
Gold Bond, Lanacaine or other anti-chafing gel or sticks
Stick or towelette insect repellant
Coco butter sticks
Cake or push-tube moisturizer,( available through “Faith, Soaps and Love” [Faith , Soaps and Love
these can also be taken on-board an airplane in carry-on luggage; they are an excellent idea)
Slipper socks/thick socks/booties…for sheer comfort
Eye mask (sleep mask)
Ear plugs
nail files and clippers, large and small

One possible ‘liquid’ would be single-use eye drops

Other items that are helpful are puzzle and game books, card games, note paper and envelopes, mechanical pencils and pens, prepaid phone cards. G or PG type books, (informative are good, as are clean joke books; “Garfield”,”Wizard of Id”, etc.) General interest stickers are huge with kids everywhere.

Anyone around children would appreciate crayons and coloring books or non-aggressive paperback coloring books.(Avoid sending any particular type of religious unless you are certain it is acceptable.)

Pack as tightly as possible to avoid shifting  and breakage,(without crushing foods). Open bags of candy and individual packets of cocoa or oatmeal to fill in spots and scatter small candy into crevasses.

Please feel free to make any additional suggestions that you can think of in the comment section so others can use them, too.

I hope you will consider sending some comfort to someone who is away from home and could use a little support. I have found that care packages do as much, if not more, for the soul as for the body.