Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is better than a chocolate chip cookie? A chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookie!

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter (at room temp)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix on low until everything is incorporated.

Chill the dough in the refrigerate for 2 hours. Scoop out a 1/4 cup size of dough and roll it into a ball. Roll it around in some Chocolate Chips and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place 6 cookies on a sheet since they will spread due to their size. Bake for 12-14 minutes until just slightly golden around the edges. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet. They might look a little under baked in the middle but they will continue to bake when removed from the oven.

Chocolate Dip

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and shortening uncovered on High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted; stir until smooth. Dip half of each cooled cookie into melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper until chocolate is set.

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Oatmeal Raisin Macadamia Nut Cookies

So what's your idea of the perfect cookie? I like my cookies thick and chewy. Soft on the inside with just the slightest bit of crisp all around the outside rim. I like them warm...just out of the oven....with a cold glass of milk that you sip between each bite of cookie. I likes lots of extras...nuts, and raisins, and chips, oh my!

Oatmeal Raisin Macadamia Nut Cookies

1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (quick oats will work)
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup of macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Whisk the flour baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until creamy and smooth. Then slowly add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins, and nuts and mix until well combined.

Drop scoops of dough on your baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Cookies will be brown and slightly crispy around the edges. Let the cookies sit for a minute or two before transferring them to your cooling rack.

  Photographs are copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Deep Fried Shrimp

I love shrimp baskets when I order carryout. I like making my own at home even more because I can choose my bread coating and of course you always get more when you make them yourself! Tender succulent shrimp with a light crispy breading makes the perfect bite! I like to butterfly my shrimp first so that they lay flat and don't curl up when you fry them. Here's how you do that.

First rinse and drain your shrimp. Then peel them but leave the tails on. To butterfly a shrimp you simply make an incision on the back of the shrimp following the curve of the back. Remove the vein that runs along side and then gently lay out the shrimp out flat on a baking sheet. It's just that simple.

Deep Fried Shrimp

1 lb large shrimp, shelled and butterflied
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning (optional)
3 cups vegetable or Peanut oil

Season the shrimp with salt, pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. Heat the oil on medium high heat in a deep and heavy pot or skillet until the oil sizzles. Dredge the shrimp in flour and then dip in the egg mixture. Then dredge in flour a second time and shake off the excess. Then dip the floured shrimp back in the egg mixture a second time and dredge in Panko bread crumbs. I usually put my Panko in a Ziplock and then add my shrimp and shake it to coat evenly.

Carefully fry the shrimp for about 3 minute or until it turns golden brown. Don't crowd your pot or skillet. Fry in batches for best results. Drain golden brown shrimp on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Serve hot with cocktail sauce.
Chunky Cocktail Sauce

1 (14-1/2 ounce can) diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home. Please feel free to share by ONLY using the Share button that Facebook has provided. Do not download my photo and recipe.
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Corned Beef and Cabbage



Monday is St. Paddy's Day. I'm not Irish...I don't even see any of that nationality in my mostly Native American ancestry....but just like my Mom, I make my corned beef and cabbage every year to celebrate the Irish on St. Patricks Day. You might have your own special way of making it, but I follow her simple recipe using a bottle of beer and my CrockPot (she used a dutch oven) and it comes out amazing!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 (4 pound) corned beef with season packet
1 (12 ounce) bottle Stout Beer
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 medium head of cabbage, cut into wedges
6 small potatoes, or larger potatoes halved
1 medium onion, cut into ½-inch chunks
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 large bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon black pepper corns

Place onions and potatoes in the bottom of your Crockpot. Add in bay leaves, pepper corns, and Dijon mustard. Pour beer and chicken stock in.

Use paper towels, pat the corned beef and absorb any moisture. Then with your hands, rub the corned beef with the brown sugar and 1/2 of the seasoning packet that came with it.

Cover and cook on low setting 6 hours. Add cabbage wedges and remaining seasoning from packet and continue cooking another 2 hours, or until beef and cabbage are tender. Remove beef, potatoes, and vegetables to a platter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

NOTE: If you would prefer not to use beer, follow the same recipe but substitute 4 cups of apple juice.

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Homemade Deep Fried Mozzarella Sticks

I saw a recipe for mozzarella sticks on the food channel a few years ago and decided to make home made versus buying those frozen kind in a bag or box. Now I will never make them any other way. The trick is to freeze your cheese before frying it and to get your oil the right temperature. Nothing like the frozen ones you buy...these are so much better!

Homemade Deep Fried Mozzarella Sticks
1 cup Italian-style dried breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or peanut oil
4 cups Marinara Sauce, recipe follows

Stir together the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan and the salt. Dip the cheese sticks in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Roll the cheese in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Then repeat the process a second time for each stick. Cover and place in freezer for about 2 hours or until frozen.

Take cheese sticks out of the freezer and repeat last coating of egg and bread crumb mixture. Do not thaw cheese first. Put back in the freezer for about an hour.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat to at least 325 degrees. If you oil is not hot enough, it will not bubble and sizzle when you drop the sticks in. If it is too hot the cheese will ooze out before they have fried on the outside. So keep your oil hot by frying only a few sticks at a time...maybe 8 or so.

Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve with the Marinara Sauce.

Marinara Sauce (recipe from The Food Network)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

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Lodge Cast Iron Ccookware

NOTICE: Every time I have featured this special price on this beautiful Red Lodge Dutch Oven it sells out immediately. It comes in several colors at various prices but this is the one I use and it is gorgeous and the perfect cast iron dutch oven! So this is a first come, first served basis. Better hurry or it will be gone before you finish reading the post.

Who says Lodge Cast iron cookware only comes in black? Lodge is now releasing their full line of colors that are all the rage. This particular Dutch Oven was America's Test Kitchen choice. They have endorsed this as one of the best to buy and says it is as good if not better than those $300 Dutch ovens. And it's on sale at Amazon today for only $49.99 while supplies last.
That's a $68 savings when you use the code provided below.

Lodge Color is one of the newest lines from this respected American cast iron cookware company. Traditionally shaped and more affordable than some European brands, Lodge Color enameled cast iron is just as durable, requires no seasoning, and attractively serves at the table. Lodge infuses this 6-quart Dutch oven with two coats of hard-as-nails porcelain enamel, in a choice of several bright colors on the exterior, and which are nicely set off by a cream interior.

Oven-safe to 400 degrees so you can start a stew or casserole on the stove top and finish by baking it in the oven. Lodge enameled cast iron makes a smart choice due to its versatility-you can marinate raw meats in it, since it won't absorb odors or flavors, and you can braise, sauté, simmer, and bake in it. All Lodge enameled ware is covered by a lifetime warranty against defects.

This 6 Qt enamel Dutch oven is great for cooking on gas, electric, ceramic and induction cook tops, as well as in the oven. The porcelain surface eliminates the need to season cast iron. The cast iron has superior heat distribution and retention, evenly heating bottom sidewalls and even the lid. Tightly fitting lid seals in moisture. The excellent heat retention reduces the amount of energy needed for cooking. Two layers of very hard, glossy porcelain enamel are chip resistant and easy to clean.

Remember everything you purchase here at Welcome Home helps support NO KILL and Animal Rights groups in their efforts to save the lives of dogs and cats in this country who are killed unnecessarily while waiting for a new home. Here's your link to read more about this wonderful Lodge Cast iron Dutch Oven....
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Make Ahead Lasagna

Make Ahead Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian Sausage
1 can (15 ounces) pizza sauce
1 jar (14 ounces) marinara sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 no-cook lasagna noodles
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook beef and sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in pizza and marinara sauces. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan, parsley and pepper.
Spread 1 cup meat sauce into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Layer with four noodles, half of the cheese mixture, 1 cup meat sauce and 1 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce and mozzarella. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, covered, at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
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Salisbury Steak

My Mom use to call these Hamburger steaks but most people call them Salisbury steaks. All cooks have their specialty dish...a signature dish so to speak.... that we know will always get rave reviews from friends and family. This is good old fashioned comfort food my friends. Tender meat patties full of robust flavor served with mashed potatoes and green beans or corn. Now of course she made her own beef gravy but I found one that tastes identical and I use it to get the same wonderful recipe. You will love this recipe.

Salisbury Steak

2 lbs ground beef
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs or more as needed
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1 - package Lipton’s Onion Soup with Mushrooms Mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 jars of Heinz Home Style Savory Beef Gravy (with or without mushrooms)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl along with a half cup of the beef gravy from one jar. Add more breadcrumbs as needed for the right consistency. Shape into oblong or thick round patties and set aside.

In large skillet, melt olive oil and then add butter. Brown patties over medium heat. Once browned, remove from skillet and drain off excess fat but do not wash or clean skillet. Add remaining beef gravy to the skillet making sure to blend the pieces of beef and onion and garlic left on the bottom. Add patties back in the skillet and cover simmering on low heat for about 40 minutes. Serve with gravy over rice, mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Absolutely divine!

If you prefer to make your own homemade gravy for your steaks, follow these instructions....

Homemade beef gravy

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups of beef broth or beef stock
1 tablespoon of butter for finish

Melt butter in your same skillet that you browned the patties in. Stir bottom to gather the bits from the bottom of the skillet. Then whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk the flour for about 1-2 minutes until the flour is cooked. Slowly add the beef broth and whisk often for about 8-10 minutes. Whisking is the key to lump less gravy. Next whish in the cream which will thicken it slightly and cook for another 2 minutes. Finally, add a tablespoon of butter and whisk in well. This will give your gravy that beautiful gloss. Add this instead of store bought gravy to your dish. 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy Homemade White Bread

I can't remember my Mom ever buying store bought bread. She would make her own. We always seemed to have homemade bread baking in the oven and the house smelled so good!

Easy Homemade White Bread

1-1/2 cups warm water, (temperature 110 degrees)
2-1/4 teaspoon or 1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canola oil
4-1/2 cups bread flour (more or less)

In large bowl, mix warm water and yeast. Add dry milk, sugar, salt, and canola oil. Stir. Add in enough bread flour to make a dough that follows the spoon around the bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 8 minutes, adding more bread flour as needed until the dough is firm and smooth to the touch. Place dough in medium greased bowl and then turn it upside down so that the top side is also lightly greased. Cover with clean cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

Punch down dough and then dump the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 5 minutes or until the bubbles are out of the bread. Shape dough into a round loaf and place in greased 1.5 quart round casserole dish. Cover it again and allow it to rise in warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. With sharp knife, slash top of bread. Brush a little egg white on top of the loaf if you want.

Bake bread at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the bread is golden in color and sounds hollow when top is tapped. Remove bread from the casserole dish and let cool on rack.
Serve warm out of the oven.

HINT: Use an electric knife to slice warm bread evenly without tearing while it is still warm.
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Beefy Mac and Cheese

I love simple casseroles that spell out comfort food. Don't you? Here's an old recipe from my Mom's collection and you probably one you will remember it when you were little. I used to come home for lunch and my Mom would have a big bowl of beefy mac and cheese waiting for me. She used to say this is "stick to your ribs good!" This is comfort food at it's best and your kids will love it! Sometimes I add crisp sweet corn and pinto beans!

Beefy Mac and Cheese

1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni or any similar tube pasta
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 lb lean ground beef
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes, drained and crushed or chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni according to directions; drain well and set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet and add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the ground beef, breaking it up into pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula and sauté until browned. Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended. Next add your crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and the thyme and oregano. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, whisk together flour and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer and cook for about another minute. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese until melted. Add ground beef mixture. Then add in drained pasta and stir to combine. Pour in baking dish and top with remaining cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Photography is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Italian Meatballs

I make a big batch of these and freeze them so I can have them for whatever pasta dish I choose to make. If I decide to make Spaghetti and meatballs I can take out just what I need and allow them to simmer in my pasta sauce until heated through. Sometimes I serve them all alone or with rice. They are great to have on hand for quick meatball subs too.

Italian Meatballs

1 pound ground beef...
1 pound ground pork
1 cup bread crumbs, fresh or dried
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly mix all ingredients by hand, but do not pack down meat mixture. Take a portion of meat in hand, and roll between palms to form a ball that is firmly packed but not compressed. Repeat, making each meatball about 2 inches in diameter. Arrange meatball onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about 16 meatballs.

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cool, and then refrigerate or freeze it.

NOTE: This recipe makes 2 quarts of homemade sauce. The above recipe calls for just two cups. I freeze mine in Ziploc freezer bags for up to 3 months and use as needed for many recipes.

*** Photograph is copyrighted and the property of ©Welcome Home.
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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Glazed Blueberry Muffins

Another great recipe from The English Kitchen. I made this recipe on Sunday and they are wonderful. Then again, all Marie's recipes are delicious!

Glazed Blueberry Muffins

finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup super fine sugar...
1/3 cup of light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup of sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For the glaze:

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
the juice of half a lemon
hot water as needed

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a medium size muffin tin, or line with paper liners. This recipe makes 12 muffins. Set aside.

Combine both sugars in a large bowl. Rub in the lemon zest with your fingertips until it is quite fragrant. Drop in the butter and cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the oil, eggs and vanilla and beat well together.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Combine all well together. Fold in the blueberries. Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan while you make the glaze.

Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth, adding only enough hot water as needed to get the right consistency. Dip the warm muffins into the glaze one at a time, glazing the tops and letting any excess drip off. Place onto a wire rack and allow the topping to set. Serve warm or cool. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and use within two days.
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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Not Just An Ordinary Day

Today is not going to be just another day for me. I want it to be, but that won't happen. I will try to make it through as if nothing is out of the ordinary and carry on my tasks at hand, but my heart is making sure that I know it's bruise...d and not ready to ever forget this day.

I often wonder if I can ever put this date completely out of my mind and just move on as if it never happened, but already I know I can't and I won't. I already know how difficult it will be for me to contain my emotions and not completely fall apart. For you see, today's date marks the anniversary of the darkest day of my life...the day my Mother took her last breath and the day I feel she took mine with her.

Today marks the twelve years that have passed since my Mom moved to Heaven and my heart feels like it's somewhere between a light rain shower and a full blown hurricane. I think I have it under control and I can shut those memories out from that day, but they continue to creep in. It's like a battle between my heart and my mind and it's my very soul that feels the aftermath of all this tugging and fighting.

My mind keeps bringing up memories of hospitals, doctors and life support and my sweet, beautiful Mother being in the middle of that awful mess. It is my mind that makes this day so difficult as it keeps reminding me how empty I am without her. The mind is powerful and no matter how hard you try, it contains a lot of hurtful data that can just come out of nowhere. There are times that it can play tricks on you and almost take your breath away and break your heart. A simple recipe that I remember we made together. A favorite song that she loved or her favorite lilacs in bloom. Even her favorite color can even trigger it when you least expect it.

It's my heart that sings out the memory of her warmth and her laughter and our one-of-a-kind relationship that we shared. It sings out the story of her life and brings me comfort in knowing that she is still right beside me. It's my heart that makes sense of it all and let's me miss her with a smile and the joy in knowing she's here and has been all along. It is my heart that tells me she is so happy that I went on with my life and chose to honor her memory by creating this place called Welcome Home. And my heart reassures me that she is calling all of you to cross my path and find comfort here too.

It just feels right to share my feelings with you today...because you have been there all along for me. I always fear that my grief shared openly might make others feel that I am asking for pity. That could be further from the truth...I do a great job of that all on my own so I really am not looking for anyone's sympathy. If anyone knows how to throw a great Pity Party, it's I am not asking you for your sympathy or pity. I am just sharing my feelings and asking you to feel free to share yours too.

Today, just like the past 11 years, my inner child comes out and I long to lay my head in her Mother's lap and feel her hands stroking my hair ...telling me it will be alright. I am that little girl who is lost and scared without her mother and not sure of how I can make it without her. But I do. And next year I will go through these same feelings all over again. Her absence will still be felt every single day, but on this day it will somehow intensify.

I am opening my heart today and sharing my feelings because I know so many of you out there feel the same way. From the beginning I have always followed my heart when I write on this page...because Welcome Home belongs to my Mom. And I feel certain that she is the force behind it all. She is leading me and guiding me in bringing all your broken hearts together so that they might find some comfort here. My Mom lives in Heaven now ....but I am certain she is there with your Mom and other loved ones and there is this big rally in getting a message to you all by bringing you here. They want you to know that they are right next to you and have never left your side. They just love you from a different place.

I have a box tucked away in my closet and it is full of things from my Mom's funeral service. I do not look in that box because it is a reminder of the pain and sorrow from that dreadful day. But I did look in it yesterday and I found some bows and ribbons and hundreds of cards from friends and family that attended the service. There are a few pressed flowers in the Guest Book they gave me and so much outpouring of love for a great woman who left this world to find happiness with God. But there was one unsigned card....a blank card in an envelope that just says my Mom's name on the outside. And the card reads....

Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars at night
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.

Thank you Mom. This is just one of the many signs you send me to let me know you are still here with me. It is the very sign I needed to get me through this day.
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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Cups

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Cups

1 package (16 ounces) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Ultimates™ Refrigerated Chocolate Peanut Butter Deluxe Cookie Dough

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 oun...ces) Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 325° F. Paper-line 24 muffin cups. Cut each square in half. Place one piece of dough in each muffin cup.

BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookie has spread to edge of cup.

BEAT cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth. Spoon about 3 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each cookie in cup.

BAKE for additional 15 to 18 minutes or until set. Remove from oven to wire rack. While still warm, top cheesecakes with morsels. Morsels will soften but will retain shape. Cool completely. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
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My Mother's Lap

I have so many wonderful memories of the loving relationship I had with my Mom when I was growing up. I am always reluctant to allow myself to get too deep in remembering them all as it hurts far too much.

But of all the memories I cherish, it is the memory of always laying my head in her lap whenever I needed her. It was the safest place to be when my heart was broken. It was a place to go to when I needed to feel comfort and cherished and loved. There was no other place like it when I was scared or hurt or feeling lonely. I can still feel her soft hands stroking my hair and the sweet sound of her voice telling me how much she loved me and her promise that everything would be okay. And it just was. Everything was okay and all was well in the world when I heard those words and felt her warm touch.

And later...when I was a grown woman and life had dealt me a broken heart or presented me with an ultimatum I couldn't handle, I would run to her for those comforting moments, time and time again. It was where I needed to be, and no matter how grown up I really was, for those moments I was her baby again and she was my angel and my refuge and my safe haven. No matter how much pain or what it was that was hurting me, I knew I could get through it with her reassurance that I would be okay.

Of all the memories in my lifetime, those will forever be the most precious to me. Those times are what I long for and yearn for so often. Those times are gone now and the void is so overwhelming at times, it takes my breath away. Life still throws some curve balls and gives me some tough challenges and I still need so much to hear her tell me it will be okay. Sometimes, if I close my eyes tight and drown out the world, I can get lost in my memories of her and I can almost feel her hands stroking my hair.

Oh how ironic this journey of life can be... for little did I know that one day I would be comforting her and stroking her hair as she lay dying. And I would whisper those same words for the last time. "I love you Mom... more than life itself and I cannot bear the thought of going on without you. But I will be okay and I'll see you again. You can go now to a better place. I promise you everything will be okay."


Photo by Andrzej Laskowski
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Buttermilk Cornbread

My Mom made the best buttermilk cornbread and I have always used the same recipe when I make mine. It is so fast and so easy to make. I usually make mine in my cast iron skillet but this time I wanted to make it simple for those who don't ...have one. I also make mine without sugar so I give you the option to make it the way you like it. Either way, you'll love it!

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup corn meal
2 eggs
1 cup melted butter
2/3 cup sugar (or less if you don't like sweet cornbread)
1 cup buttermilk (see note on how to make your own)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9 with non-stick cooking spray and put it in the oven to get hot.

Next, combine your eggs, butter, sugar (if using), buttermilk, and baking soda. Mix well by hand. Then add in the corn meal, flour, and salt and continue to mix well under all our combined.

Remove hot pan from oven and melt in 2 tablespoons of butter. Carefully swirl around pan until bottom is coated. Pour your batter in hot pan and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

NOTE: To make your own buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a one cup measure. Then add whole milk to the one cup line. Let it sit on your counter for 5 minutes and then stir. You just made buttermilk! 

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