Monday, July 21, 2014

Choose To Be Kind

Choose To Be Kind

We all have a choice in every situation. I have made my choice to be kind and I have made a commitment to keeping it that way for the rest of my life. 

As you know, I have injured my knee. I can hardly walk at this stage as it continues to get worse while I wait for an MRI and possible surgery. I want to share a story with you that I hope will stay with you as you travel thishard journey called life.

The other day, I had to go to a pharmacy to get a prescription for an anti inflammatory for my painful knee. It was very difficult for me to walk to the entrance and to stand while I waited for the medication to be filled. By the time I paid for it and began my painful walk back to the car, I was obviously limping and holding on to the shopping cart for support. The thought of walking with it all the way back to the store entrance was overwhelming at the time and so I found a place to park the cart so that it was locked in place and could do no damage or be in anyone's way. I seriously just could not walk another step.

From out of nowhere I heard a voice who yelled, "Hey lady! Please tell me you're not leaving that cart there. You wouldn't dare leave it there unless your just too lazy to take it back." I stopped and looked at his angry face for a second and tried to tell him my knee was injured and that normally I would never leave a cart, but today I can hardly walk. His angry reply was, "Then you ought to stay home and not go out shopping you idiot."

Needless to say, my frustration peaked and I wanted to go after him and give him a piece of my mind. I wanted to run up behind him and jerk him up and punch him in the face. I wanted to hurt him physically and with mean words, I wanted to attack his character and make him feel bad for what he said. But I chose to be kind. Hardest thing I've ever done. I chose to smile and say God Bless you my friend....I hope your day brings more joy and kindness your way. I chose to be kind. What does that mean?

He had that choice too. He had the choice of being mean-spirited like he was or a choice to be kind and do something good for another. He could have easily said, "Hey lady, I see that you're struggling to walk and in obvious pain. Can I take that cart back for you." But he didn't. He was angry and made a decision to spread that anger to others.

We all have the choice to spread kindness or anger. We can waive that person in front of us when they are trying to merge into traffic or we can choose to look the other way. We can stop to help someone at a grocery store reach that top item on a shelf, or we can pretend not to notice. We can help that senior citizen load her groceries into her car. We can pay for that cup of coffee for the person in line behind us. We can allow that person to have that parking space when we both got there at the same time.

We can smile and say hello to a total stranger or tell a mother how beautiful her baby is. We can offer to help someone who is short on cash pay for her groceries. We can hand a dollar or two to that homeless person holding up a sign and we can offer a cold drink to someone who is working hard in the hot sun. We can cut the neighbors grass or bring in the elderly neighbors newspaper or mail. We can bake cookies or muffins or even make dinner and share it with a friend who has no one.

That's right my friends. We can perform any act of kindness for anyone at anytime. That is our choice. We can choose to let life's frustrations make us angry and we can take it out on everyone that crosses our path. Or we can choose to be kind. That is our new motto here at Welcome Home. "Choose To Be Kind."

I put my challenge on the table. How many of you will choose to be kind from now on? For the blogger who attacked me this morning. For the man in the parking's not too late. The choice is yours.

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God's kindness:
Kindness in your face,
Kindness in your eyes,
Kindness in your smile."

~Mother Teresa

Quick And Easy Strawberry Shortcake

Quick And  Easy Strawberry Shortcake

1 pound of fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Dry the strawberries. Pat the fruit dry with paper towels to soak up any excess water. Slice the tops off with a sharp knife, so that you end up with a clean and flat top. Mix sugar with strawberries. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare cake.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature...

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan, and line with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper and sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, use a serrated knife, split the cake in half horizontally. Place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate. Pipe in whipped cream (below) on bottom and top with top half of cake. Fill top with strawberries and surround with more whipped cream.
Sweetened Whipped Cream  

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
1 cup heavy whipping cream (also known as whipping cream or full cream)
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

In a small pan, mix together gelatin and cold water and let stand until thick.
Place over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat; cool but do not allow it to set up. Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar, until slightly thick. While slowly beating, add the gelatin to whipping cream. Whip at high speed until stiff.

 Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home

Mom's Southern Fried Chicken

I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one made fried chicken like my Mom. I can close my eyes and still see her hands dropping those battered chicken pieces in that hot oil in her big old cast iron skillet. I can still hear the sizzle of that hot oil and seeing her nod of approval as she flipped each piece over to expose that beautiful golden brown skin. My Dad always gets tears in his... eyes when I make it....he remembers too.

Mom's Southern Fried Chicken

1 (5 pound) whole frying chicken, cut into pieces
1 quart whole buttermilk (secret to moist, tender chicken)
vegetable oil or Peanut Oil for frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
a pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want a kick)
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine chicken and buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. In a large cast-iron skillet, add enough oil over low heat to come 1 inch up side of skillet.

In a shallow dish, combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Shake buttermilk off chicken and discard. Dredge chicken in flour mixture to coat, gently shaking off excess.

Turn heat up to medium high. Place chicken in skillet, arranging thighs in the center and breasts and legs around edges. Fry chicken for 10 to 12 minutes per side or until golden brown. Turn down heat to low and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for about 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Turn heat back up to medium high and allow chicken to get as crispy as you like it. Serve and enjoy!

*** Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.

Penne with Grilled Chicken

What would we do without pasta? It is the ultimate comfort food no matter what you make with it. I love to make creamy pastas with lots of cheese and then throw in some chicken or shrimp or whatever else I have on hand. This is one of my favorites and it's always a huge hit when friends come to dinner. Serve it with a nice tossed salad and some crusty home baked bread. That's what I call a meal!

Penne with Grilled Chicken

(8-oz.) package penne pasta
1 package Tyson Grilled chicken strips
small onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup half-and-half or milk...
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup (4 oz.) shredded Provolone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded Gruyere cheese, divided (or Swiss)
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saut√© onions and garlic until just tender. Whisk in flour, whisking constantly for about a minute.; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in cream while whisking constantly. Continue stirring for about 3 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Parmesan cheese and half the mozzarella and half the Gruyere cheese until melted. Add in peas and salt and pepper to taste.

Add pasta and chicken and pour into a lightly greased baking dish (I used a 11 x 7). Top with remaining Gruyere and mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is hot and bubbly.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Photographs are copyrighted and the property of Welcome Home.

She Would Have Loved My Garden

She Would Have Loved My Garden

My Mom moved to heaven 12 years ago and there are days that I still cry deeply over missing her so much. I need her in my life and never imagined my life without her. Often times my mind wanders off to a diff
erent time. A time when I still had her with me to share my life. We were inseparable and I am told that our love for each other was unusual...almost too deep and too perfect. While I have no idea what that means, I do know that I loved her beyond measure and she felt the same way.

I miss her most when I am in the kitchen making one of the recipes from the little cards in her old collection of favorites and reading the little love notes that she knew I would read someday when she had moved on to her new home. I miss her when I try to step in and cover for her on those special occasions like my Dad's birthday party or a some special occasion for my brother. I know I can never be her. But I do the best I can to bake that cake or cook that meal that always makes him cry.

I miss her most when I am in the garden. After she moved to Heaven I brought her old bird bath to my garden and some of her favorite flowers and I created a special garden in her memory. And it is the prettiest garden you've ever seen. The flowers are vibrant and colorful and there is so much activity there. Butterflies, birds, lady bugs and some of God's tiniest creations gather there to share her memory with me.

She would have loved my garden ....she would have stood there in silence looking at every single flower, studying every petal, stem, and leaf. She would have taken big breaths and let out deep sighs at the miraculous wonders of God's work all around her. She would have looked up at the Heavens and silently praised God for his beautiful work. And she would have taken my hand and squeezed it tight to let me know she was so grateful that she taught me the gift of gardening.

She is in her own garden now. A garden so magnificent that words cannot describe the beauty. She sees far more flowers and far more colors and she now talks to God up close and personal. And I know she is watching me walk alone in my garden now and she sends these thoughts to me to let me know...."she would have loved my garden."

I want to share that garden with you my friends. I will post some photos in honor of her memory here at Welcome Home. Like this small patch of African Daisies that are supposed to an annual that blooms only one time each year during summer. However, this is a patch that came up on their own this year. I did not plant them. They were one of her favorites.

The Lilac Bush

The Lilac Bush

When I was about 7 years old, I remember my Mom chatting with a neighbor over the fence about a bush she was admiring in her yard. The neighbor handed my Mother a tiny stem from the base of that bush and wished her luck.

My Mom was so thrilled and told me that the stem was from a Lilac bush, her Mother's favorite of all flowering bushes and that we had to run and find the perfect place for it. So, we got our garden gloves and our diggers and we went to a spot in the front yard where she imagined seeing it one day when she sat on her front porch swing.

We dug the hole carefully and put in the seedling and she carefully put some rocks all around it to protect it from weeds growing close and from my Dad cutting it down with the lawn mower. Then she stood back to admire that little stick in the ground. She said it would be something that we could watch grow together and it would symbolize our love for one another. And it rooted and it began to grow.

And so began the love affair between my Mom and the Lilac Bush. It was slow growing and she tended to it daily. I can remember how excited she was to see the first flower and she cut it and put it on the kitchen table to admire. As years went by, the bush got bigger and she would go out and cut it's sweet, fragrant flowers and make an entire arrangement that would make the house smell so beautiful. She would sit out on her front porch swing and stare at that Lilac bush with such love that you could actually feel it.

But It continued to grow. And grow. And grow. That Lilac got to be 20 feet tall and my Dad's biggest nemesis. Many times I would watch him get slapped with branches as he tried to mow the grass around it. He hated that bush and he would come in with scratches and welts where it looked like it had literally attacked him. He was having his own little affair with it and I can assure you it wasn't one of affection. He would threaten to cut it down every time he mowed the grass. My Mom would stand her ground and dare him to touch it. So there were some heated arguments over the Lilac Bush.

Over the next 10 years, it continued to grow to a point where you could not see above it or around it. It was huge and out of place. It had even invaded the neighbors yard and the bottom of the overgrown bush had become scraggly and unsightly with only sticks and branches. But the top half was just abundant with beautiful flowers and the fragrance filled the air to the point of taking your breath away when you first came in the yard. It was beautiful and she loved that bush and the memories of us planting it and what it stood for. We spent many days sitting on that front porch swing admiring the Lilac Bush. All the while my Dad continued to hate it and fight with it and swear that one day it would come down.

Another 10 years or so passed and I went over to visit my Mom one morning. I pulled up to the house and saw her crying on the front porch. Not just teary eyed and shedding a few tears. She had her face in her hands and was sobbing uncontrollably. I had never seen my Mother so heartbroken. I tried to console her but nothing helped. She could only point in the direction of her beloved Lilac bush.

He had finally done it. My Dad, in a fit of anger while mowing the lawn and getting slapped one too many times, took a chainsaw and cut it down all the way to the ground. To him it was just a bush and an eyesore that my Mother was being unreasonable about. I was furious that he could hurt her that way and confronted him head on.

He was in the house, with his head down and with tears in his eyes he tried to explain his wrong doing. He just saw it as a bush and thought she might get a little angry with him, but then she would get over it. He never in a million years thought he would break her heart and it was killing him that he had made her cry. He was sorry he had done what he's done and feared she would never forgive him.

Time went on and she did get over it and he was forgiven. The place where that symbol of my Mother's love for me stood was now bare and the wonderful fragrance was gone. But life goes on. It really does...because you see, the following Spring, that bush came back. And it came back with a fury. That spring it was 5 foot tall with beautiful leaves and flowers twice the size. The fragrance of Lilacs was back too and my Mother was convinced that it was a symbol of her love for me and that no matter what, it would never die. Many times, when I would come to visit, we would sit on that front porch swing and laugh about how that old bush probably needed some trimming anyway!

Four years later my Mom moved to heaven. It was in March just before the Lilacs bloomed, so she never got to see how much her beautiful 15 foot Lilac bush had grown and how even more lush and fragrant it was that year.

Well, I take that back. I'm sure she is watching from above each spring when my Dad goes out every morning with tears in his eyes and cuts those flowers. I know she watches as he carries them to the cemetery and painstakingly arranges them on her grave. I am certain she is watching.

It has now become a ritual. Every spring when that bush is in full bloom he takes those fresh Lilac flowers to her daily. He kneels at the grave and cries as he tells her how sorry he was for breaking her heart that day and isn't sure she ever really forgave him. I went with him once and I thought my heart would break as he asked her forgiveness for the one time in their sixty years together that he broke her heart.

This morning I went to visit my Mom and there were Lilacs on her grave. And just like old times, I'm sure we were sharing them together. Her love for me has never died and my love for her has grown even stronger.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Perfect Eye Round Roast Beef Sandwich

The Perfect Eye Round Roast Beef Sandwich  
3 pound eye round roast
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, 
finely chopped 
Mix together your seasonings and set them aside. 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 
Remove your roast from the refrigerator and pat it dry with paper towels.  Allow it to sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 40 minutes. Roll the roast around in the seasonings, patting them down so it is covered.d let it sit out on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes. This allows the roast to reach room temperature, plus it lets the seasonings settle onto the roast. 

Place the roast in a roasting pan (I use my Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven) and put your roast in the hot oven.  Roast for 25 minutes.  Then turn the oven off and do not open the door for the next 2 hours. Don't open the door or the heat will escape.  After the two hours, take the internal temperature with a thermometer.  For rare the temperature should register at 125 degrees.  For medium rare- 140 degrees. For medium- 150 degrees. Once you reach the temperature you want, transfer the roast to a plate and cover with foil.  Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before carving.   Slice this as thin as you can and make your roast beef sandwich with whatever you like!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swiss Marinated Mushroom Burgers

I love burgers. I especially love mushroom Swiss burgers and while preparing them for my last cookout I created a great new recipe. You see, I also like to serve these little Cara Mia Marinated Mushrooms as an appetizer and my friends and family eat them up as fast as I can put them out! So I added them to my ground beef mixture and Oh My Goodness they were awesome! Filled with rich creamy cheese and mushrooms and just the right zesty little kick that made them a huge success! 

Swiss Marinated Mushroom Burgers

1 cup Cara Mia Marinated Mushrooms, chopped
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 pound ground Chuck or Sirloin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
4 burger rolls

Add chopped mushrooms in a small bowl and add shredded Swiss cheese and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix ground chuck or sirloin with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Divide the meat into 4 sections then roll into 8 balls and form them into thin patties. Lay 4 of the patties on a lined baking sheet, scoop 1/4 of the mushroom cheese mixture into the center of each patty, top with another patty and pinch the sides to seal the mixture inside. Make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.

Grilling: Heat a gas grill to high or heat coals in a charcoal grill until they glow bright orange and ash over. Brush the burgers with a little olive oil and then grill the burgers for about 3 minutes. Flip over the burgers and grill for about 3-4 minutes on other side for medium rare. Do not flatten burgers while grilling.

Pan frying in cast iron or heavy skillet: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to 12 inch cast iron skillet. Sear burgers over medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare.

NOTE: Top each burger with a slice of Swiss cheese if desired and cover with a sheet of aluminum foil to help melt the cheese before putting the burgers on buns. Then top with your favorite toppings.

Photographs are owned and copyrighted to ©Welcome Home 2014

Blueberry Peach Pound Cake

I love this recipe for my Mom's pound cake and she loved it too. I've made this with fresh or frozen peaches.  And I always add that little hint of another berry to add to the color and the flavor. You can make it with strawberries, raspberries and even blueberries to go along with the peaches and all of them were delicious. Just remember if you decide to use frozen fruit, don't allow it to thaw first. Just chop it up and add it to your batter frozen. I made this for you this past weekend....hope you like it! 

Blueberry Peach Pound Cake

2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 ½ sticks butter, diced, at room temperature
1 cup peaches, chopped
1 cup blueberries, washed and chopped fine. If using frozen, do not thaw first.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Then line with parchment paper leaving excess paper over each side to be able to use as handles for lifting cake out later.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. With a mixer, blend the eggs, butter and sugar and then mix in the dry ingredients until just blended. Then fold the diced peaches and chopped berries into the batter and pour into pan. Bake for 1-1¼ hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Transfer to a cake rack to cool and then life cake with parchment paper handles and allow to cool completely before adding icing or drizzle.


4 tablespoons butter
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Melt butter in a saucepan or microwave. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium size bowl. Add the melted butter to the powdered sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat until smooth and creamy with a hand mixer. Add a little more cream if you need to. Stir in vanilla and then drizzle over cooled cake.  

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home 2014.


Good morning friends! As many of you know I cook with a lot of Star Fine Food products in my recipes. Their high quality Olive Oils and grilling oils are always in my pantry and you'll find that I use many of their other ingredients in my recipes too. So I am co-sponsoring a contest for Star Fine Foods this month so that you might get the chance to win this wonderful gift set.

What can you win? A great gift set with some really neat prizes! 

♥ You'll find my newest book, "Home Is Where The Heart Is." It's a
beautiful, 107 page limited edition cookbook with a collection of 
my Mom's favorite recipes. You'll find bright and vibrant full page
photos to match each completed dish. In this book you'll find 
salads, soups, and stews, main dishes and some of her best 
homemade Pies,Cakes, and other delicious desserts. And you 
can win it just by entering the contest using the link below!

♥ You can win a collection of products that I use in some of the 
favorite recipes featured in my cookbook, including a full sized 
bottle of Star Fine Foods Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cuisine Basil 
Cooking Oil, Infused Olive Oil with Lemon Peel, Extra Virgin 
Olive Oil for Fish and Poultry, Maraschino Cherries, and my 
personal favorite, the new Star Butter Flavored Olive Oil! 

♥ And finally, an adorable apron that will come in handy when 
you're you making the recipes from my new book! 

What do you have to do to win! Ready for this? This is so simple! 

You simply click on the link, tap on ENTER TO WIN and LIKE the Star Fine Foods Page! Then you enter your information for a chance to win! 

Click on one of these links to enter your chance to win. 


But hurry and get your entry in! The contest runs from today, July 15th through Monday, July 28th. The winner will be announced on the 28th.

The Home Cooking with STAR Gift Set Sweepstakes is open only to residents of the 50 United States and D.C., who are 18 years of age or older. Employees of Borges USA, its subsidiary companies, affiliates, distributors, advertising and promotional agencies, and the Administrator are not eligible.