Hello, Old Friendly Meals


A familiar meal is like a warm blanket or a hug from a good friend.


As I was looking through a binder of recipes for a different project, I came across a printout of a Cooking Light recipe I first made way back in 1995 or ’96: Spanish Fork Chicken Stew. If I recall correctly, it was originally displayed served in a bread bowl, but I think I’ve only done that once over all the years I’ve made this stew. Even without a bread bow it’s an amazing, hearty soup that I somehow had never made for Todd. So on Monday night, while it was still a bit chilly in Southern Georgia, I made a big pot of this soup and it was as glorious as I remembered.


The next night’s supper was not quiet as successful. It was still supper, of course, and fairly tasty, but my potato-cheese ratio was a bit off and the Bacon-Wrapped Potato Volcanoes were not anywhere near molten, gooey goodness. That said, I stand by my opinion that Boursin and Chevre are superior substitutes for cream cheese in most savory recipes. The excess potato mixture made a nice bed for the smoked sausages that we baked alongside the potatoes, and baking is still an excellent way to prepare okra (far less “slimy” in the end).

Wednesday we had a bit of a mix-up regarding Duncan and his dog door, so the open night on the menu shifted from Saturday night to Wednesday. Instead of cooking, we opted to visit George and Louies, a place we had not been in a while (more’s the pity) and had some amazing seafood. The scallops were like butter, the fish fillet sweet and tender, and the oysters bursting with flavor. We really need to go there more often, though it’s probably just as well we don’t–the indulgence factor is high on this one.


It did mean we had fish two nights in a row, with Thursday night bringing the Wrapped Salmon with Spinach and Feta I’d originally planned for Wednesday. Probably the simplest aplpication of phyllo dough I’ve seen, using cooking spray instead of brushing with melted butter, but the resulting packets were nice and light. I can see us revisiting this recipe in the spring. Then again, it was feeling more spring than winter by Thursday, so it was fitting!


Friday night I returned to a Cooking Light recipe, this one from the current issue, with the Sausage Ragu over Polenta. (After finding a $5 subscription on Amazon around Black Friday I resubscribed and am already loving that decision!) I have nothing against polenta per se, but I much prefer slow-cooked southern grits, so that’s what I made instead. we get ours stone ground from a little country store and cook it low and slow for 45 minutes or so. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth noting again, that Todd hated grits when I first met him, but only because he’d only ever had the gritty instant or quick kinds. If you’ve found yourself in the same position, give the long version a try.


Thank goodness for freezer meals as I wasn’t feeling very well Saturday, and the fact that all I had to do was add rice and water to the rice cooker and then, 10 minutes later, dump the bag of Chicken Curry with Peppers and Cabbage into a saute pan… well, that made the difference between making dinner and not. Something I’ve noticed with the freezer meals, though, is that they frequently need more seasoning. I’m not sure if it’s scientifically correct, but it seems like between the last time I made this freezer meal and the current one, the flavor broke down even more. Just something to keep in mind, along with being sure to rotate your freezer meal stores regularly (this one had been in the deep freeze since March).


Finally, Sunday night I made Taco Bowls. It was inspired by the pin from Damn Delicious but I deviated quite a bit. First of all, I added some shredded cabbage for crunch. Second, I cooked the corn (the pretty picture shows blistered corn cut straight from the cob, the recipe calls for drained canned corn–I compromised with frozen corn sauteed with garlic oil, salt, and pepper). Third, I added cheese and a bit of avocado queso. I mean, really, what is a taco (bowl) without cheese of some sort?!

So that was our week, what’s on the menu in your house this week?

Spinach-Artichoke Fondue & Other Meals


For New Year’s Eve we kept with tradition and had fondue for two at home in the living room while watching a movie leading up to the ball drop. This year’s movie was Secret Life of Pets and this year’s fondue was Spinach-Artichoke. The movie was enjoyable but the fondue was far superior.


Spinach-Artichoke Fondue

8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
1 c white wine
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch nutmeg
2.5 oz baby spinach, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix shredded cheeses with flour and set aside.

Heat white wine to a simmer then add cheese mixture by handfuls, stirring constantly for each addition to melt and incorporate.

Stir in mustard, nutmeg, spinach, artichoke hearts, mayo, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If the fondue is too stiff, you can thin with additional wine and/or mayonnaise, depending on your preference.

Keep warm and melty in a fondue pot and serve with bread cubes, vegetables, and anything else you feel like.

We had a mix of high and low and the gluten-free corn dogs were surprisingly good dipped into the spinach-artichoke fondue.

What did the rest of the week look like?


On Christmas we set up a large grazing station since it was just the two of us and we planned to laze around the house pretty much all day. The mixture of charcuterie, cheese, cookies, fruit, and bread was great all day, and we heated up some pirogi towards the end of the evening to add something new to the spread.


While it was tempting to nosh on what was left of the grazing board the next day, too, I dragged myself into the kitchen to prepare pork chops, green beans, and Bacon-Cheddar Hasselback Potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but massive by the time the were filled, so don’t feel the need to hunt down the really big baking potatoes for this recipe. One other tip: par-cook the potatoes in the microwave (again, I love that ours has a potato setting that really does make perfectly fluffy baked potatoes) and finish them in the oven. This way I could cook the pork chops and potatoes on the same pan without worrying that one would be overdone before the other was cooked through (the fact that I used the same pan that I’d just cooked the bacon on and, therefore, cooked everything in the reserved bacon grease certainly did not hurt).


Tuesday was another sheet-pan meal (I really do love the simplicity of them): Maple-Garlic Chicken, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts. I realized only too late that I’d put potatoes two meals in a row, but this is what happens when you rush the menu so you can do your shopping on Christmas Eve because Christmas fell on your usual grocery-shopping day. It is what it is, or was, and the red potatoes were different enough from the previous nights that it didn’t feel at all redundant.


Wednesday I was just about to add the water to the rice cooker when, as I was talking to Todd about our days, I realized I’d rather go buy sushi than make the sushi bowls I’d planned. So we did, and I made the sushi bowls and crab rangoon on Thursday night, instead. Yes, we had sushi-related dinners two nights in a row. No, neither of us minded. I’d eat sushi practically every day if I could.


Friday morning we had to take Todd’s car into the shop and decided to be nice and bring doughnuts from Nanee’s Donut Hole into our respective offices since we had to pass right by on our way across town. I made the mistake of snacking on a piece of leftover apple fritter (yes, High-FODMAP indulgence all the way around, but so worth it) so that I wasn’t very hungry for the Thai Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Coconut Sauce that I’d made for supper, but Todd tells me they were very good. I guess I’ll confirm when I have them for lunch tomorrow!


And with Sunday being New Year’s Day, we had to have our traditional cabbage and black-eyed peas for wealth and health in the upcoming year. I’d usually pick up a small ham to go with, but decided to defrost the reserved pork leg from Todd’s birthday luau to go with the vegetables. It was still perfectly tender and delicious as it had been in March.


Tuesday Reviews-Day: Teanzo Advent Calendar


So, if you follow me on Instagram (@scrapsoflife, if you don’t), you might have noticed that I was posting an awful lot of tea pictures this month…

That's a lot of tea cups (mugs, etc.)

That’s a lot of tea cups (mugs, etc.)–No repeats for 24 days!

After seeing a picture in my insta-feed about another tea advent calendar, I hopped onto Amazon and impulsively bought the first tea advent calendar I could find that was reasonably priced and available with Prime shipping (what can I say, Prime has me spoiled). It arrived and promptly taunted me for almost a week before I could taste my first tea. (That would be the downside of Prime shipping and advent calendars…)


Prior to this I had not heard of Teanzo 1856, a company out of California, but I’m quite happy to know about them now!

The 24 teas included in this box were:

  1. Winter Earl Grey
  2. Jasmine
  3. Apple Cinnamon
  4. Irish Breakfast
  5. Peppermint Rose
  6. Acai Berry Green
  7. Dream Spa Blend
  8. Black Cherry Tea
  9. Ti Kwan Yin
  10. Chocolate Mint Tea
  11. Bergamot Earl Grey
  12. Detox Mint
  13. Cranberry Tea
  14. Breakfast Tea
  15. Tranquil Spa Blend
  16. Tropical Iced Tea
  17. Moroccan Mint
  18. Vanilla Rooibos
  19. Darjeeling
  20. Orange Creme Dessert Tea
  21. Fennel Chai
  22. Earl Grey Green
  23. Chocolate Coconut Tea
  24. Christmas Chai

Picking a favorite is nigh on impossible, so many of them were amazing in their own unique ways. Both chocolate-including teas were certainly fun, but the Chocoate Coconut Tea was my favorite of the two–even Todd liked that one, and he’s not a tea guy. He also liked the Black Cherry Tea from earlier in the month. I’m always happy with chai blends but not always fine with fennel–the Fennel Chai surprised me with how good it was, though the Christmas Chai was still my preferred of the two.

There was only one tea I was unhappy with, and that was the Apple Cinnamon–it sounded great, but I think something was off. It had an odor to it that was a little too earthy, maybe even a bit musty? I brewed it up anyway and, yeah, the weirdness lingered. It was too bad, too, as I liek apple-cinnamon items in general. I’m hoping I just got a bad batch.

I think both the Dream Spa Blend, Tranquil Spa Blend, and the aptly named Tropical Iced Tea would both be fabulous over ice in the summer. (Bonus for the Tranquil blend being my first experience with green rooibos.) The cranberry tea could have made a lovely sachet or potpourri (if I hadn’t wanted to drink it, too). The Orange Creme Dessert Tea was also aptly name, like a warm creamsicle, but in a good way.

Even though each packet of tea did not seem to hold a tremendous amount, I had no problem brewing a second cup of any of them, when desired, with no loss of flavor. I did sweeten just about all of them, and to many I added a bit of milk. Many of them I used my refillable Keurig pod to brew them and while I know purists would not necessarily agree with the method, I had no problems with it.

Of course, the majority of these teas have caffeine, and I generally avoid that. I made an exception for the advent calendar and didn’t notice too many side effects from the uptake in intake, but I would probably stick with their herbal and rooibos teas in the future (with special exceptions for their chocolate teas).

For my first advent calendar experience (yes, really, this is the first one I’ve done in my 40 years of life as far as I can remember) this was a smashing success. A tea a night, when it’s chilly outside and schedules are hectic, was a nice little wind-down for each day. I’d definitely do it again, and I’ll almost certainly be ordering from Teanzo in the future.

Full disclosure: This is not a sponsored review. I purchased the tea advent calendar myself and was not contacted by the company prior to the start of the sampler. I can’t say they don’t know who I am since they did like a lot of my instagram posts, but not beyond that.

A Little Apres-Theatre Meal


We were uncommonly social this week between Todd’s company Christmas dinner, TOSAC’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life, the 1940s Radio Play version, and a birthday lunch for a friend. A very busy week.


That means, of course, that our menu was a little scrambled, just like the eggs after the play.

I knew from previous experience that trying to squeeze in dinner before the show could screw up in several ways, but Thomasville doesn’t generally have anything but drive-throughs open when the play ends, so something quick to prepare afterwards is key. Breakfast for dinner is always nice and simple, and these Creamy Eggs Florentine really hit the spot.

There’s not really a recipe, just a general procedure:

Whisk together 6 eggs, a generous splash of milk, salt, pepper, dry mustard, and smoked paprika (all to taste) and pour into a hot pan and cook without stirring until the eggs are nearly set. Add in a heaping handful of baby spinach that’s been torn or chopped and a couple ounces of cream cheese that’s been cut or pinched into cubes. Stir until cheese starts to melt and spinach starts to melt.

With a couple pieces of buttered toast and some sliced sausage it was a very tasty, very filling, and very fast supper.

What did the rest of our week look like?


Monday was a batch of Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew served over rice. Now, I’d made this before, and I recall enjoying it. But Monday evening I was just so blah and uninterested I only picked at mine. Fortunately, I found my appetite for the leftovers, but I think it needs less tomato and more something else, should I make this again.


Tuesday’s plans went to hell after a last-minute meeting ran late and I didn’t get home until an hour later than usual, just before Todd, and by the time we’d compared notes from our respective days it ended up being a Jimmy John’s night. So Wednesday night I made what I’d been planning to for the previous night, roasted Brats and Vegetables (from Grab a Plate).

Friday was the play and the aforementioned breakfast for dinner, and on Saturday was the birthday lunch at Coosh’s. That night for supper we just set out meats and cheeses to graze upon–it’s the second weekend we’ve done that and it’s rather convenient not having to worry about stopping whatever project we we’re in the midst of to make dinner. Grazing for the win, am I right?


Sunday I made a favorite stand-by recipe: Chicken and Dumplings. Normally this would have been a perfect meal for a winter weekend, but we had an unseasonably warm and muggy weekend, so this was a bit overkill. Tasty overkill, but not exactly in line with the weather.

And that’s another week done in the kitchen. Todd’s on deck for this week leading up to Christmas and I have no idea what we’re doing for the holiday. My family is out of town and we’re taking a very low-key approach this year since we’re both more or less exhausted by life in general at the moment. Anyone else skipping the holiday hustle and bustle this year?

The Most Amazing Fajitas This Side of a Tex-Mex Restaurant



And they were so simple it’s scandalous: peel some shrimp, slice some peppers and onions, toss everything with oil and spices, then roast for 20 minutes. It really was just that simple.

The Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas that we enjoyed Thursday night came courtesy of Melissa from No. 2 Pencil and I’m sure could be adapted to any number of variations. I have a feeling we’ll be making it again, too, because it was just that good. On the side was a bowl of Rice and Gandulas (leftovers from Thanksgiving), guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, plus the flour tortillas. I decided to try out one of my more recent iHerb purchases: the Sunfood Superfoods Raw Vegan Coconut Wraps (affiliate link). I have to say, I was just as surprised by the wraps as I was by the fajitas!

If you’re not a fan of coconut flavored items I wouldn’t suggest them, but if that doesn’t bother you then I would definitely urge you to give them a try. They are thin but very flexible–no cracking the way a lot of wheat-free wraps do–and they become even more pliable when combined with something warm or moist but they also retain their resiliency. The closest I could come to comparing them to another food is nori, but instead of tasting like the sea, it tastes like the beach.

What did the rest of the week look like?


I’d planned something slightly more interesting than leftovers for Monday night but leftovers is what we ended up eating. The Monday after Thanksgiving is the night of the Christmas parade here in Thomsville and we walked down to watch it with Duncan. With the exception of a pocket of kids getting a little wild and blocking the sidewalk, waiting for the parade to start, Duncan did extremely well. His favorite entry was definitely the soccer players–I think he wanted to chase the balls.


Tuesday night was a twist on the classic Steak and Eggs breakfast, but with Smoked Pork Chops from Bradley’s in place of the more traditional beef steaks. These suckers were thick–about an inch, each–and the smoking made them more akin to ham steaks than pork chops. Nevertheless, they were delicious, and went very well with sunny side up eggs. While I’d planned a slightly different side dish to begin with, I ended up making some red potato chips. I don’t normally fry things but I’d had the fryer set up from Thanksgiving (to fry the onion slices for the green bean casserole–yes, I make my own) and the oil was still very fresh. I think a higher oil temperature would have been advised, however, as the chips promptly wilted once out of the fat.


One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the gumbo we make a few days later. This time it was almost a week, but Wednesday night was a good night for gumbo as it was rainy and muggy.


After the fajitas on Thursday night, Friday saw us sitting down to another bowl of soup, this time New England Clam Chowder (recipe from Wine and Glue). I appreciated Lisa’s nod to frugality by using stock instead of so much clam juice and really did not notice a change in the flavor of the dish.

I had one open night on the menu, this week, and it turned out to be Saturday. We met up with friends in Tallahassee for lunch (at an Indian place downtown, so good!) and then, since we were both in town during the day with noting else pressing, we made good on something we’d been noodling over for a while and went and got a Costco membership. Of course we walked around the store and picked up a few odds and ends, along with some meats and cheeses to make a grazing supper.


We finished out the week with homemade burgers and fries. Bacon cheeseburgers, to be exact, and I learned my lesson about the fryer, heating the oil to around 400 degrees before dropping in the potato wedges. Much better result!

That’s another week in the kitchen down for the count! Hope your week is just as tasty.