50s Food is Pretty Tasty!


Or so said Todd, midway through my latest Junior League cookbook week. I’m not exactly inclined to disagree, either!

Monday we met up with friends at George and Louie’s for a much-needed catch-up session. Considering the restaurant has a retro feel with it’s sign and it’s music, I’m going to say that it was a happy accident to make it fit in with the rest of the week (well, most of it).

Italian Pizza Pie with Savory String Bean Salad

Italian Pizza Pie with Savory String Bean Salad

Tuesday kicked off the tour through the original River Road Recipes (affiliate link), published in 1959, with Italian Pizza Pie and Savory String Bean Salad. Like last time, I’m including the images of the recipes rather than typing them out because part of the undeniable charm of these sorts of cookbooks is the look of them. Transcribing them just insn’t enough!

River Road Recipes, page 89

River Road Recipes, page 89

Yes, pizza night, and the pizza was very good for being a simple ground beef and cheese combo. While the recipe called for roll mix (and I’d originally planned to use gluten-free Bisquick for that step), I ended up buying the Schar gluten-free pizza crusts. I’ve had their bread before and it was a little iffy, but these pizza crusts were amazing! It may have helped that I added garlic olive oil to the crust, some of which seeped through the docking marks, meaning the bottom of the crust “fried” in the olive oil as it baked, but whatever. I’m definitely buying those crusts again.

River Road Recipes, page 34

River Road Recipes, page 34

The side dish was the real surprise. It was a bed of lettuce topped with dressed green beans, topped with egg salad. But that egg salad, though. It had bacon in it. I’m pretty sure I’ve made egg salad sandwiches somewhere in my past that had bacon on top, but this was very next-level. If you like bacon and egg salad, chop up some bacon and added to the egg salad next time and let it sit for a bit before eating it. Trust me.

Lemon Pork Chops + Eggplant Supreme

Lemon Pork Chops + Eggplant Supreme

Wednesday was another winner of Lemon Pork Chops and Eggplant Supreme.

River Road Recipes, page 84

River Road Recipes, page 84

Making some rice or noodles would not have gone amiss with the very tomato-ey Lemon Pork Chops, as there was a fair amount of gravy left over.

River Road Recipes, page 55

River Road Recipes, page 55

Eggplant is rather hit-or miss for Todd, but I keep searching for ways to prepare it that he might like. This Eggplant Supreme was a surprise win with the celery, bell peppers, and cheese. The bits of Worcestershire and hot sauces weren’t super-strong, but they definitely added a little something to the dish!

Thursday was a bit of a rough day at the office, resulting in a tension headache that just wouldn’t go away until sometime after 8pm. I didn’t feel up to cooking, so Todd picked up sushi for us.  Maybe not the standard headache “cure” but it worked for me, that night!

Shrimp Floridian en Papillote + Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream

Shrimp Floridian en Papillote + Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream

Friday I was back in the kitchen with a little Shrimp Floridian en Papillote (try saying that without a Justin Wilson accent, I dare ya!) along with some Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream.

River Road Recipes, page 113

River Road Recipes, page 113

Usually en papillote would have me making parchment paper packets but this recipe just called for cooking it in a covered dish. You will not see me complaining about this fact. The combination of blue cheese, cream cheese, garlic, and white wine (a Florida muscadine wine, because we had it in the fridge) was quite good, and could have easily been a topping for pasta or the baked potatoes we had with it.

River Road Recipes, page 60

River Road Recipes, page 60

Now, why would we feel the need to have a recipe for baked potatoes–isn’t that pretty simple and straight-forward? Yes, but there was something special about the sour cream mix, namely the addition of celery salt and a little hot sauce. It wasn’t a lot, but it did change the overall flavor of the topping in a very tasty way.

Pot Roast in Red Wine + Sour Cream Noodles

Pot Roast in Red Wine + Sour Cream Noodles

This past Saturday was the first in a long time that I got to just spend at home, working in my pjs in The Abyss, and not having to go into Tallahassee, since the beginning of July. It was heaven. So was the Pot Roast in Red Wine and the accompanying Sour Cream Noodles.

River Road Recipes, page 79

River Road Recipes, page 79

I usually do anything pot roast-related in the slow cooker for ease and consistency. I stuck to the stove top this time and took my luxury of time at home to let it cook nice and slow for a few hours. Worth. It. I’m not 100% sold on baking the noodles for an hour (I think I did just 30 minutes), but the combo of the sour cream noodles and the rich pot roast gravy was reminiscent of beef stroganoff, so yeah. Very tasty.

Sunday Night Quickie

Sunday Night Quickie

If Saturday was my day home to play, Sunday was the make-up day as I made my pilgrimage to the old office for a couple of hours. But I had an ulterior motive as there was a planner meet-up that afternoon that I wanted to go to. This meant I didn’t get home until after 6, though, so something called a Sunday Night Quickie sounded like a good supper option.

River Road Recipes, page 71

River Road Recipes, page 71

Essentially it’s scrambled eggs on toast but mixing in a can of chicken noodle soup? Color me intrigued. It was surprisingly tasty and not overly salty like I thought it might have been. Go figure. Breakfast for dinner is nothing new around here. of course, which is why I felt semi-confident about putting it on the menu in the first place. I think, were I ever to make this one again, I might opt for some grilled tomato slices on the side or something just to brighten up the plate.

So that wraps up our trek through the 50s, or does it? I never got to the poultry chapter and there were plenty of other intriguing recipes–do I stay in the 50s for my next week in the kitchen or shall I turn the clock back further? Time will tell!

Make Your Own Anti-Bacterial Kitchen Wipes

Everyday Adventures

Last month, when I first shared with you about how much I was enjoying my new post as a Brand Ambassador for Mean Green, I mentioned how much better the Mean Green Anti-Bacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner was. Namely, that it didn’t leave a sticky residue on my kitchen counters the way a certain brand of kitchen wipes did.

But I really missed the convenience of those pop–up wipes and not having to locate both the cleaner and a roll of paper towels when a mess needs managing. (I don’t know about your house, but our paper towels like to go on walkabout on a fairly regular basis.) So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Kitchen Wipes

Making your own pop-up wipes isn’t new or even novel, but it usually involves making your own cleaning solution on top of finding the right container. With the Mean Green Anti-Bacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner on hand I didn’t have to worry about it. And since I had a half-used roll of paper towels and an empty, tall, gallon-sized container on hand I had absolutely everything needed to make these kitchen wipes!

Super Simple, just 4 "ingredients"

Super Simple, just 4 “ingredients”

Gather together:

1 Canister or Plastic Container
1 Roll of Paper Towels short enough or narrow enough to fit inside the chosen container
2 Cups Mean Green Anti-Bacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner
1 Cup Water

Step 1

Step 1

Wedge the paper towels into the chosen container. If it’s a snug fit, I found that twisting the roll, as if threading a screw, helped get everything in place.

Step 2

Step 2

Combine 2 cups of Mean Green Anti-Bacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner with 1 cup of water. It’s not essential to dilute the cleaner since it can be used full-strength with no problems, but I wanted to stretch it a little without decreasing the cleaning power. A 2:1 ratio seemed like a good idea.

Step 3

Step 3

Slowly pour the water and cleaner mixture over the roll of paper towels, saturating the entire roll.

Step 4

Step 4

Put the lid on and let sit for 4-6 hours so the cleaning mixture has time to sink through the roll of paper towels.


And if I was worried about using too much cleaning solution, the fact that there was only 1/4″ or so of liquid at the bottom of the container after sitting for several hours eased my concerns!

Step 5

Step 5

Remove the cardboard tube form the center of the paper towel roll. By this time it’ll be super-soaked and incredibly pliable.

Step 6

Step 6

Find the first (or closest to it) towel on the roll and pull up. I prefer the rolls with the half-sheets in general, and they come in extra handy for this sort of DIY as well.

Now, the one thing I opted not to do was to drill, cut, or otherwise make a hole in the center of the lid. That’s just asking for the wipes to dry out and I have no intention of making more work for myself. It’s really not that tough to take the lid off and put it back on, especially if it means my wipes stay ready-to-use!

These wipes came in handy almost immediately, thanks to Duncan’s antics, and I even got to use some in the kitchen, as well!

This post has been sponsored by Mean Green Degreaser. As a Brand Ambassador I receive product and other compensation for my participation and posts, but all opinions and experiences are my own.


Thank Heavens for Freezer Meals


Between the changes at work and our new family of three, last week was one of those that I could have easily bailed on cooking any given night and not felt very guilty at all. The fact that I only skipped one planned meal in favor of take-out is a small victory.

Home-cooked meals from May 2-8, 2016

Home-cooked meals from May 2-8, 2016

Check out the video right here: https://youtu.be/aNylk87DuQ0

Monday: Sweet Potato Cake Turkey Burgers + Side Salad + Grapes
Super simple freezer meal number one–this one didn’t even need defrosting! I believe the patty recipe came from Multiply Delicious and I just subbed turkey for chicken as the former is way easier to find and frequently on sale. I also doubled the recipe to make 12 patties or 3 meals at a time. We’ll definitely be making another batch because they are just so simple to have on hand and very tasty.

Tuesday: Chicken Curry with Cabbage and Peppers + Basmati Rice
Never a bad time for a good curry, this was our first try of the recipe from Loving My Nest and I think it’s a keeper. A freezer meal, yes, but I didn’t bother with the crock pot and it was the right call–the chicken may have become mealy if it cooked all day. Now, I believe I added a can of coconut milk to the mix before I froze it and, yes, it “broke” a bit (separated) when I cooked it. Would I do it again? Maybe, maybe not. I was just trying to avoid planning this meal and forgetting to have a can of coconut milk on hand and while it affected the appearance slightly, the taste didn’t suffer one bit. And, yes, I’d definitely use coconut milk over cows milk for this curry and pretty much any curry.

Wednesday: Cod Creole + Parmesan Orzo + Green Beans
What is it with me and forgetting to actually buy the fish I put on the menu?! I stuck it out this time, though, and it was definitely worth it. Cod is not only a very milk white fish it also doesn’t tend to fish-up the house when cooked. And this preparation from Hello Spoonful is just so simple it’s hard to beat! The one brand of gluten-free orzo we can find is a love-hate thing for us. We love orzo and have many dishes that call for it, but the gluten-free version puts out so much starch while boiling that it really does resemble risotto by the end more so than plain pasta. Straining it is a joke, so I usually don’t even bother, just mixing it into whatever else I had in mind and going with the flow.

Thursday: Broiled Steak + Mexican Street Corn Salad
Mmmm, Cinco de Mayo–as if we needed an excuse to have Mexican food for dinner, but I’m happy to take it anyway. The meal was mostly about the salad, which I found over on Live Eat Learn. I could have eaten a large bowl of this salad and skipped the steak and not been deprived whatsoever–I can totally see us making it again. We did a few substitutions, though. Normally I’d swap hominy for beans in most recipes, but since we were already focusing on the corn, I opted for some zucchini and yellow squash that needed to be used from the crisper. Also, while I adore feta and cotija cheese, we had a sizeable block of white cheddar leftover from my party and I shredded that up into the salad instead. I also cooked most of the ingredients for a bit to soften the squash and peppers up. I’m sure there are endless variations one could make on this salad and not go wrong–some halved cherry tomatoes come to mind, and maybe some avocado chunks, too?

Friday: Take out!
I debated making breakfast for dinner, but my heart wasn’t in it. Instead I picked up fried chicken and fixings and enjoyed the hell out of it!

Saturday: Sweet Potato Carbonara with Spinach and Eggplant
Since Todd isn’t a mushroom fan and they’re pretty High-FODMAP to boot, I substituted eggplant for the mushrooms in this recipe from Eating Well. Even though my sweet potato “noodles” didn’t hold their shape, this was a very filling, very tasty dish overall and I would encourage you to try it, even if yours ends up a bit more like a sweet potato vegetable hash like ours did.

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie-Stuffed Potatoes + Jicama Citrus Salad
I’m sure you’ve seen those quick-cut videos of inventive food on Facebook, right? Have you actually tried any of them out? Well, I can now say that I have and it wasn’t that bad! While I did neglect to add additional liquid to make up for the thirstyness of the coconut flour I used, everything went more or less according to plan in this recipe/video from Tip Hero. I even dug out my large star pastry tip to pipe the potatoes onto the top! The salad though, that was a disappointment since my jicama ended up well past it’s use-by date (something a little hard to tell with the leathery outside to judge by). I will attempt the salad again, though, as I really do love jicama in cold salads.

Booze tip: I totally took a short cut on the citrus salad and bought the large container of pre-sliced fruit in extra-light syrup. If you are a fan of  greyhounds (the drink, not the dog, though they are lovely dogs), save said syrup and mix with your favorite gin for an slightly sweeter version of this simple libation. Fabulous, refreshing, and super-quick.

And that’s another week’s menu! I hope you got some good ideas from what was on our plates this week and have an excellent week in your own kitchen! Remember, it doesn’t have to be “gourmet” to be good, or even great. Make what you like, mix things up a bit, get some variety in there, and enjoy your meals!

Progress Is a Stack of Empty Boxes

The Gingerbread Diaries
It may be a small stack, but it's still a stack!

It may be a small stack, but it’s still a stack!

We’ve been able to cross several things off The List the last two weekends, for which I am truly grateful. We’ve penciled-in the most likely weekend for the housewarming/open house party so the clock is now ticking to get the rest of the functional changes dealt with!

First thing that happened? Todd took down the problematic doors and I did a happy dance. Now there’s more open space in the dining room and no more spooky spot in our bedroom. I am a much happier camper. Currently the doors are leaning against the back hall wall (the one not under near-constant water assault) but we may be swapping them with other doors that are staying in place but in not as good shape. Or not. That’s still very much up in the air.

A previously blocked corner of the dining room with a new bit of shelving from Homegoods--this side will half of the bar set-up when we're done.

A previously blocked corner of the dining room with a new bit of shelving from Homegoods–this side will be half of the bar set-up when we’re done.

The next big change was the kitchen.

I don’t remember if I said much about it, before, but the weekend prior to the move I was cleaning the upper kitchen cabinets and came to the conclusion that cleaning wasn’t going to be enough. The only way I was going to feel comfortable putting stuff in that kitchen (short of replacing the units) was if they got a good coat of Kilz before-hand. So, already tired and ready to be heading back to Tallahassee, we instead went to Lowes, bought spray cans of the encapsulating primer, and then busted it out, guerrilla-style, in about 20 minutes.

The kitchen before painting...

The kitchen before painting…

And 20 minutes later once the spray-paint dust settled.

And about 20 minutes later once the spray paint dust settled.

We didn’t have time to do the lowers, though, so that got put off. I also would not recommend the spray paint route without first removing anything that moves, because the little particles get all over. We wiped down the counters, etc. afterwards, but there are some places that still show a bit of over-spray, etc. Oh, well, we know the current kitchen is temporary and aren’t sweating it.

The very scary lowers (after prying up the old liner paper)...

The very scary lowers (after prying up the old liner paper)…

And a couple hours later--a vast improvement!

And a couple hours later–far from perfect but a vast improvement!

But two weekends ago, ready to finally unpack all those kitchen boxes, it was time to tackle the lowers, the drawers, and put down fresh shelf-liners. The painting took one afternoon and it wasn’t until this past Saturday that I finally put the liners down and started to unpack.

Ahh, the comfort of having your stuff around!

Ahh, the comfort of having your stuff around!

I still haven’t painted the cabinet doors and I’m not fully sure I will. Maybe the large ones for the lowers but, while I’m still not a huge fan of open shelving in general and neither is Todd, having everything open for now means we can find things a touch easier.

And it’s looking like it’ll be the first of the year before we actually do the big kitchen reno, because I didn’t want to be mid-project during the holidays!

Another big thing that greatly makes this feel more like our home and less like a nursing home was the removal of the ramp out front!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Gingerbread Diaries 1.5–The Great Ramp Caper)

Todd had been concerned that the bricks under the ramp would be in bad shape or crumbling. Thankfully, aside from a bit of moss growth, they’re in great shape just need some cleaning up. It’s so nice to be able to walk down the two steps to go out to the mailbox in the evenings instead of balancing on the ramp–no problem in flats, but in heels it’s another story!

It's the little things, folks!

It’s the little things, folks!

And in another case of using what we’ve got, we immediately repurposed the larger “half” of the ramp as a platform for the grill!

Waste not, want not!

Waste not, want not!

Our side yard is mostly sand and, like the rest of everything, tilts quite a bit. We’d used the grill a few times but it leaned back at an alarming angle. The eventual plan is to extend the bricks over to create a patio or maybe even pour a slab at some point, but for now this works.

One step at a time, we're creating a home out of a house.

One step at a time, we’re creating a home out of a house.

In the downstairs bathroom we added an etagere for some much-needed storage and, despite the fact that we added a piece of furniture to an already cramped room, it somehow made the space feel bigger. Maybe it’s the bright white covering some of the grey-mauve walls? Who knows! All I know is that it helped. Big time!

The bins on the etagere top and shelf are some I’ve been picking up at places like Tuesday Morning and Homegoods. Since we don’t know what color schemes or themes we’ll be using in the back hall and bathroom yet, I figured a good beige/khaki neutral is something that can go anywhere. And if I want to, later on, I can dye or paint them to match whatever we do.

We have lots of shelving in the back hall and can use this for a butler’s pantry if need be, but I don’t want various stuff just sitting out looking cluttered. Bins cover a multitude of organizational sins, so I’m still on the lookout for more (and cheap is good, too, since we need a bunch).

Finally, the programmable thermostats have gone in. This was fairly high on the to-do list but moved to the very top of the list when we got our most recent utility bill. *gulp* It doesn’t help that it was July, and a real scorcher of one, too. But our bill was over $500 this month!!! Yeowch! We expected an increase thanks to just having more space to climate control, but that bill hurt a bit to open.

It started so well...

It started so well…

Of course, nothing goes completely as planned at the Gingerbread Dollhouse, so of course the thermostat install had some hiccups.

Jenn: How’s it going?
Todd: Okay. They had the wires screwed in extra tight and the lead painted in place on the opposite side of the wall, but I’m getting there.
Jenn: Cool. Do you have the right number of wires?
Todd: Oh, yeah, I just have to get them in the right spots.

The above was a condensed paraphrasing but I jinxed us, really, by asking about the wires. Because sooner than expected what do you think happened? There may have indeed been five wires in the old thermostat set-up but were they all connected? As in to some sort of power source? Nope.

1 step forward, 2 steps back...

1 step forward, 2 steps back…

Having already mounted the back plate of the new thermostat to the plaster wall, Todd put the old thermostat hanging from the wires so we’d at least have air. He ended up having to crawl under the house and went so far as to open the access panel of the a/c unit to get everything working. Upstairs went much smoother, by the way.

While we didn’t go for the shinyness of a Nest thermostat, Todd did get a wi-fi accessible thermostat for the downstairs that we can control through our cell phones. So that’s kinda cool.

I’m still not sure we’re going to save much on the utility bill for another month or so, though, as any time the a/c units are off during the day just seems to mean they work harder cooling the place down in the evenings.  Oh, well, fall will be here soon enough.

Until next time, we’ll just keep on unpacking boxes!

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Spicy Shelf and a GIVEAWAY!

Tuesday Revews-Day

About a month ago Todd and I were standing in our new/old kitchen, pondering where we were going to put our spices. In the last kitchen we used a large rack meant for I’m not sure what, mounted on some free wall space that was convenient to both our main prep area as well as the stove.


Unfortunately, no such space existed in the Dollhouse kitchen, and we had a lot of spices to contend with. Tabling the issue for the time being, I went back into my office and what was waiting for me but an offer to try out the Spicy Shelf and host a giveaway so one of you can try it out as well!


So, the Spicy Shelf is one of those As Seen on TV products that you might have seen on late-night television. Sometimes these products get a bad reputation but we’ve actually used several with positive results, including the Magic Mesh screen “door” on our screened porch! So I was more than willing to give the SpicyShelf a shot since it seemed like the answer to a very pertinent problem.

The pieces ready for assembly...

The pieces ready for assembly… (unintentional “action” shot)

The spicy shelf came with 2 shelves, several extenders, and two different heights of legs for use in cabinets with or without shelf pins.


These are the tabs on the legs and the slots on the brace that keeps the legs from wiggling at the base… as if they could!)


The legs, in fact all of the components, snap together quite well and are shaped so that there’s really only one way to put them together–the right way–and getting them apart again (as I dry-fit the shelves to my cabinet) is pretty tough. All in all, the unit feels pretty stable to me.

Hmmm, not *quite* right. And the instructions made it seem like having one side unsupported by either a wall or another Spicy Shelf was not the best of ideas.

Hmmm, not *quite* right. And the instructions made it seem like having one side unsupported by either a wall or another Spicy Shelf was not the best of ideas.

Now, the width of our chosen cabinet was just wider than the suggested maximum width of a single shelf but was just wide enough to accommodate one skinny Shelf and one shelf with the narrow extenders added to each side. To have some fun, and allow for some of the larger bottles we have, I used one set of tall legs and one set of short.

That's much better!

That’s much better!

And they worked out just right! I could have added another narrow extender but the construction of our cabinets weren’t going to allow it thanks to an interior beam in the right front corner.

It's almost like the display!

Maybe a little fuller than the display, but still quite easy to access!

Of course, I still have far more spices than these were intended to hold, so when everything was in there was still a bit of doubling-up on the bottom rows, but if you’re capable of more editing than I, your kitchen cabinet might look more like the demonstration pictures. It’s still quite easy to access everything and, as advertised, the taller condiment bottles can sit in the middle of the u-shaped shelves to maximize space.

And 2 rows of vinegars/sauces fit in there, too!

And 2 rows of vinegars/sauces fit in there, too!


Is there anything I would change/improve upon the Spicy Shelf? Slightly deeper shelves would be nice for the larger spice bottles and jars. They fit, but having an extra centimeter would make them feel a lot more secure.

That one tiny suggestion aside, I really am glad we got the chance to try out the expandable shelf system and might even order another set to use elsewhere in the house! According to the video on spicyshelf.com it works well for craft rooms and cosmetics, too. Of course, if you’d like to get a set for yourself, you have two options. First, you can enter the giveaway by guessing how many spice bottles, jars, and canisters I have in the single shelf where my Spicy Shelf resides (this does not include the bottles of vinegars, soy sauce, etc.–just the dry bits). And while you can see some of them in the pictures above, some areas are 2-bottles deep, so it’s still anyone’s guess.

Except me, of course, because I counted them!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Use the Rafflecopter widget above to enter. The contest will run for one week (through Monday, August 25th) and I’ll contact the winner on Tuesday, August 26th. The contest is open to US residents only and you’ll need to share your street address with me (no PO Boxes) so that I can pass it along to the shipping agent (the prize will come directly from them, not me).

Of course, if you just cannot wait, you can use promo code SPICE5 (that’s the number 5 at the end, not an ‘s’) over at www.SpicyShelf.com and get $5 off your own set!

And if you’re curious about what we did with the old spice rack, turns out it just fits in our under-sink cabinets and is now holding rolls of foils and boxes of bags and baggies. Yay for not wasting anything, including space!

A place for everything...

A place for everything…

In case it wasn’t obvious, I was provided a Spicy Shelf for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and no further compensation was received for this post.