A Tale of Two Sides

One duplex, two sides

One duplex, two sides. Both sides rented by single mothers with two children. One single mother works full time. One single mother works part time and goes to school part time. One single mother pays her rent from her income. One single mother’s rent is paid for one year by a social agency. One single mother lives alone with her two children. One single mother allows her unemployed, pot-smoking boyfriend to move in. One single mother works twelve hour shifts and is generally gone fourteen hours at a time. One single mother no longer works or goes to school and has another baby with the boyfriend. One single mother assures that her children are always properly supervised. One single mother has Children’s Services called because her children are left home alone or are unsupervised while outside and often in the street. One single mother has visits by the police and arrests made out of her home and one single mother does not.

One single mother trims her lawn, plants flowers, flies the American flag.
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One single mother has weeds growing in front of the house, has broken the glass storm door and blinds in windows are broken and hanging.

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One single mother allows pot smoking in her home which permeates the heating system in the other side subjecting the other single mother and her children to second hand marijuana smoke. One single mother worries that if her blood were tested whether she would have inhaled enough second-hand smoke to test positive for THC.

One single mother babysits her sister’s children making five children under the age of seven in the 800 square foot duplex. One single mother allows her children to run up and down the stairs, banging and screaming at all hours of the day and night. One single mother respects the fact that the walls are thin and most things can be easily heard on the other side.

So which side is which? If you guess the side on the left is occupied by the working mother who pays her rent, you would be correct. But I bet you were hoping that the right side would be occupied by the mother who outwardly is doing all the right things, thereby negating the stereotype of people who receive assistance. This is unfortunate because the single mother who has been afforded the opportunity to live rent free takes no pride in the appearance of her home or how her actions affect her adjoining neighbor or the rest of the neighborhood. Actions such as these perpetuate the stereotype that people receiving assistance are lazy and irresponsible. It is actions such as these which make communities rally to prevent any low income housing in their neighborhoods. It is actions such as these which make prospective landlords refuse to participate in programs which can help the less fortunate, law abiding, upstanding citizens who may just need a helping hand. Individuals described above hurt not only themselves, their children and their neighbors, but also every other person who honestly needs assistance. Will that landlord ever allow someone like that single mother to rent from him again? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I first wrote this post last year, but I couldn’t decide whether or not to publish it. It all sounds so unchristianlike. But between the time I wrote this and all of us in the neighborhood were being subjected to almost daily drama which finally resulted in the eviction of the single mother on the right, and now, the right side duplex has been rehabbed and new renters moved in. What a difference. As an added bonus for the new renters (who, incidentally, paid for all the landscaping and mulch themselves) a water spigot was found buried in all the overgrowth in the front. Bonus!

corleyfoto tale of two sides oen

corleyfoto tale of two sides two

Name Something Your Mother/Grandmother….

Name something that your mother/grandmother cooked that was your favorite
You know how you see those posts on your Facebook timeline asking something like “Name something…..?” The other day one came across my timeline saying “Name Something Your Mother/Grandmother Cooked that was Your Favorite”. Several of the comments said “chicken and dumplings” and I immediately agreed. My grandma was the only person who ever made chicken and dumplings for us, usually on holidays. I loved them. Not sure about my mom though. I don’t know if she didn’t like them, dad didn’t like them or she just didn’t know how to make them because she never did. I’m guessing it was probably a little of all three. Grandmother seated on couch
Another favorite of mine that grandma used to make for us was fried chicken. She made the absolute best fried chicken, the skin always crispy and golden brown; you know, that part of the chicken that is supposed to be the absolute worse for you but tastes the absolute best? Whenever my grandma (my dad’s mom) would come and stay the weekend with us, Saturday night meant fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. OMG. I thought I died and went to heaven. My dad, on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. Having been raised in poverty in the south, a lot of his subsistence depended on chicken. They were cheap to buy and raise and guaranteed meat on the table. I don’t know if my grandma liked fried chicken or not. She had been widowed when my dad, the youngest of her children, was only twelve years old, leaving her with four children to finish raising. I don’t know if my grandpa John was a drinker, but I got the feeling through some of the stories that he may have been. Grandma on one occasion said that Grandpa John would come home late at night, wake her up and make her kill, skin and fry a chicken for him. So, if she didn’t like fried chicken, I think I could see why.
But I digress. Getting back to the favorite thing my grandma used to make for me. Hands down, or at least a dead tie, would be what we called “Grandma’s pancakes”. What they really were, she never told us. They were flat and almost had the consistency of a noodle and she made them big, the entire size of the skillet. She’d serve them to us warm with lots of melted, oozing butter and syrup. Yum! It was just another one of the treats we got when grandma stayed with us. Now I know they were most likely Belgium pancakes or crepes. When my oldest kids were little and my grandma was still alive, I used to make grandma’s pancakes for them. But for some reason, by the time my youngest kids came around (a whopping sixteen years later) and grandma had passed away, I’d stopped making grandma’s pancakes and had forgotten about them all together. That is, until I took a trip to my dad’s hometown and we stayed in a motel across the parking lot from an IHOP. My son and I had breakfast at the IHOP and what was on the menu but grandma’s pancakes! Of course, they called them by a silly name of Crepes. But I was in heaven. I was so excited, that when I got home I googled the recipe and made them for my boys. I just knew they would love them. Well, it didn’t quite go over as I had hoped; they weren’t the pancakes they were accustomed to. But they are still top of the line in my book. Google Belgium Pancakes, or Swedish Pancakes or Crepes and you will find very similar recipes. Or, just do what I did the last time. Use the directions on a regular pancake mix and add two extra eggs and more milk. Worked like a charm for me.

Chicken with Tomato and Basil Cream Sauce-Revamped

Chicken with Tomato and Basil Cream Sauce

I am a recipe hound. I collect recipes. Used to be, “back in the day”, I’d have to buy a magazine (or hope no one saw me tear that recipe out of the year old magazine at the dentist office), but now with the internet and all the wonders that go along with it, I get all the recipes I can handle.cookbook 2014 Last year I started collecting the recipes in a desktop folder and at the end of the year, I printed them out and put them into a spiral bound book. I even designed the cover using my own photographs. So I’ve started collecting again this year and have amassed quite a few already. I saw this recipe on Facebook the other day and I thought it sounded really good and knew I wanted to try it. It had been posted by http://www.gooddinnermom.com.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years, is that most time, and note I said MOST time, you don’t have to follow a recipe exactly to get a good result.

Here I’ve listed Sally’s recipe ingredients (from gooddinnermom.com) for the Chicken and Tomato with Basil Cream Sauce and my changes in parentheses:

1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine (omitted)
Juice from one lemon (used lemon juice from one of those little yellow plastic lemons and just squeezed some in)
2 cups whipping cream (about 10 ozs. half and half)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 tsp. Sea Salt (omitted)
1/4 tsp. black pepper (omitted)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (used prepared grated cheese)
2 Tbls olive oil (I used bacon grease)
3 or 4 chicken breasts, pounded then for even cooking (no pounding, just cut into strips)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
3 tomatoes, sliced to 1/4 thickness (used one 16 oz. can tomatoes, drained)
Garlic (her ingredient list omitted the garlic but mentioned it in the instructions. I used minced garlic and used about 1/2 teaspoon)
3 Tbls fresh basil (I used a sprinkle of dried basil)
More Parmesan cheese, to taste. (didn’t use extra)

As you are looking through my changes, I know you saw the fact that instead of using olive oil to cook my chicken, I used bacon grease. So, what’s up with that, other than the fact that bacon grease makes things taste awesome? I guess this is my southern roots coming out. My grandma always cooked with bacon grease and kept all the drained grease in a jar on the stove. I find whenever I use it (sparingly, of course, wink, wink) the flavor of whatever I’m cooking is baconated (after all, what is better than bacon?)

When I cook, I’m all about simplifying. Sally’s recipe called for pounding the chicken, cooking it, slicing it and then keeping it warm in the oven. To save time, I just sliced the raw chicken into strips and cooked it that way. I tried to make sure my slices were fairly uniform in size to assure even cooking and I cooked them in bacon grease.

So if you follow Sally’s recipe, she calls for preheating the oven to 250 degrees. I omitted this step entirely as I found there was no need to use the oven. Her next step is to heat the chicken broth and wine over medium heat, boiling until it cooked down about 1/3. I did this too (without the wine because I didn’t have any) then I reduced the heat, added the lemon juice, butter and the half and half, stirring occasionally while I cooked the lightly floured chicken in another sauce pan (in the heavenly bacon grease). When the chicken was done, (I test by cutting through a couple pieces to make sure there was no pink remaining), I poured in my can of tomatoes and added the garlic and cooked it a few minutes longer. Easy peasy, no chopping tomatoes.

While the chicken and tomatoes finished cooking, in the cream sauce pan I added the Parmesan cheese, cooking until the sauce began to thicken. When it was thickened, I poured it over the chicken and tomato mixture, sprinkled it with dried basil, stirred and served it over egg noodles.

This was a big hit. My husband loved it as evidenced by his clean plate (two helpings) 20150401_181225 smalland my granddaughter liked it too, except for the tomato which she managed to pick out. But what a great kid, she never even mentioned she didn’t like tomatoes.
20150401_181216 smaller I will definitely be making this again.

Gooey Butter Cake–A St. Louis Favorite

gooey butter cakeFor some reason, be it St. Patrick’s Day or what, I got a real hankering for Gooey Butter Cake. If you’re not from the St. Louis area, you may have no idea of what Gooey Butter Cake is. If you are from around here, chances are you have eaten your share. History is that this cake was actually a mistake made back in the 1930s by a St. Louis bakery when two different types of butter were confused in a recipe. The baker, being thrifty-minded and as it was the depression, decided he’d make the best of the mistake and sell the cakes anyway. And sell, they did! So from what started out as a mistake, became a St. Louis tradition.

Immanuel Lutheran Church CookbookI was looking around the internet for the recipe and many of the recipes I read seemed much more complicated than what I remembered. After browsing around for a while, it suddenly hit me that I had this recipe and it was included in one of my old church cookbooks. This particular cookbook, complied by the Mothers Club of the parochial school, was printed in 1977 and remains on my shelf today. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dug this book out to find a recipe for something I’ve eaten many times before. It’s definitely worn, used and loved.
Cake mix boxThis two-step recipe is very easy to make and starts out using a yellow cake mix. I don’t know if you have noticed, but as with many other things (boxes of cereal, etc), the volume included in the box has been reduced. What was originally 18.25 oz by volume is now 16.5 oz and in some brand mixes, has been reduced even further, to 15.25 oz. Same price for lesser amount. So how does this reduced volume affect your recipes? I’m not really sure, it would seem that the ratio of liquids to solids would be different. It definitely makes for smaller cakes, and fewer, less full cupcakes, even though I’ve read that some of the manufacturers deny this. Since this recipe is over 35 years old, I thought to be safe, I would do as is recommended on some websites and add an extra 1/4 cup flour to the recipe.

Gooey Butter Cake

For bottom layer, mix together:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 stick melted butter
and press into a 9×12 pan.

Bottom layer Gooey Butter Cake

For top layer, mix together:
2 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 – 8 oz. cream cheese
2 eggs
and pour over cake mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until cake is browned.

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And that’s all there is to it. A decadent, delicious, delectable and delightful combination of sweet gooey goodness and crunchy crust. Like Campbell’s used to say “hmmm, hmmm, good!”

Click here for a PDF of this recipe.

Choco-Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

Chocolate-Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

What’s in a name? Seems to me someone famous one time said that…Oh, yeah, that guy Shakespeare. Something like:

That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet, so Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes with that title.

What has that possibly to do with Choco-Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies? Only everything. Romeo smells like a rose. No, I’m just kidding. It all has to do with the absolutely wonderful ingredient: Hershey’s Cocoa.

Hershey's Cocoa

As long as I have been baking, I don’t think I ever used Hershey’s Cocoa before I made my Stray Dog Dessert and I discovered the absolutely wonderful, heavenly, chocolatey flavor of real cocoa. I’ve made these Choco-Peanut Butter No Bake cookies before and they went over like gang-busters. Since they contain oatmeal and wonderful antioxidants in the cocoa, you can even eat them for breakfast! (Probably shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t). Can you buy other brands of cocoa? Sure, but for me, it’s Hershey’s all the way.

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (I use salted so I omitted the salt)
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup whole or 2% milk
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
4 cups quick-cooking oats*

Directions:

1. Add the first five ingredients (through the salt) to a 4-quart saucepan.
2. Bring to a rapid boil and let boil for 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat.
4. Add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and stir until smooth, then stir in the oats. Mix until all oats are coated.
5. Using a medium cookie scoop (or 2 tablespoonfuls), drop onto parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheets.
6. Let cool until set, about 30 minutes. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the refrigerator) for up to 2 weeks.

*If you do not like the oats in whole form, they can be placed in a food processor and pulsed for a few seconds to make them into a finer consistency.

Choco-Peanut Butter Cookies batchBy the way, while you are waiting for your no-bake cookies to cool, (cuz it’s no fun to burn your tongue), you can click here to read the history behind the Hershey’s brand.

Adapted from Quaker Oats Recipe