Greek Yogurt Strikes Again

This weekend we were promised rain, and by the percentage pictured on Shane and I’s weather app, it appeared as though that our whole weekend would be dreary and wet. That, fortunately, was not the case. It did rain, but we were able to get lots of outside things done. Up to two hundred trees got planted all around our ten acres ranging from winterberry to hackberry, and lot’s of flowers got planted.

Every time we wander around our property, we seem to discover something new. Or we at least take the time to enjoy something different than the time before. This time, we noted all the wild onion we had. Shane stated he enjoys gathering it while fishing on the Slippery Rock Creek to cook with the trout he brings home, but with no trout, the onion we picked was up for grabs.


I wanted to make something fresh with the onions to munch on that matched my mood of felicity for springtime, and also use up some Greek yogurt. So after all the planting, I whipped up a healthy and delicious salad. This Cauliflower Cilantro Salad leaves the cauliflower uncooked and is great after a long day of planting things.



A word of warning, don’t make this salad if you aren’t a fan of crisp cucumber, crunchy cauliflower, or the spiritedness of cilantro.


Cauliflower Cilantro Salad

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 6 wild onions, sliced (or green onions)
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  1. Chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces
  2. Combine with halved tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced onions, cilantro and Greek yogurt






Pink Ladies Cake

Still getting over this idea of buying enough for a small army when you purchase things at Costco’s, I stood staring at the hundreds of apples on top of our refrigerator. Okay, so it wasn’t hundreds, but it seemed that way. Shane and I generally eat healthy, and I am even trying to slip in healthier ingredients that are a little new to him, like Greek yogurt, but one area in which we both fall short is eating an apple a day. Personally, I would rather bake with the apples, and since we got them before St Patty’s day, I made a traditional Irish Apple Cake with them that was paired with a creamy custard drizzle.


We were able to share that cake with Shane’s dear grandma and an aunt, and I got to send home a quarter of it with my parents who came to see Riverdance with us St. Patty’s weekend. But after doing this traditional recipe, I was left with many egg whites, which I hated to waste, and a desire to make something new. I had a set of darling, seven inch cake pans from Christmas I hadn’t put to good use yet, so that St Patrick’s Day weekend, with all my dozens of Pink Lady apples, I experimented and came up with a sweet little cake I call my Pink Lady Cake with an Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Icing.


It was that very same weekend we got the call about Scott. Shane’s loving sisters and their kids practically flew in for support, and this little cake that probably would have been shared with the chickens, got eaten up.

The week after we lost Scott, I so wanted to cook and bake. I wanted to make my husband food, Scott’s parent’s food, the sister-in-laws, anyone, as though to show my support and love for them and thanks for them in our lives. I found myself just drained though. Even having bought ingredients, I couldn’t pull together enough energy to do anything outside the routine of the day. In a small way, this little cake was a tiny little blessing hidden among tears.

There were lot’s of little blessings hidden among tears. Little signs people cared, to little signs that God cared. Sometimes we can get so lost in our sorrow, we forget that thing that is asked of us so many times: to give thanks. Even in the most dreary of all situations, there are still reasons to give thanks, and if you can cling to those little glimmers of hope, you will emerge out of the shadows of your valley and see the sun again.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”


Pink Lady Cake with Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Icing

For the cake:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 pink lady apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 egg whites

For the icing:

  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 7 Tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with whisk until stiff peaks form, place in the refrigerator until needed
  3. In the same mixing bowl eggs were, using the electric mixer beat the softened butter until creamy, about two minutes or until white in appearance
  4.  Add the sugar, beat until fluffy
  5. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in separate bowl
  6. Combine the milk and vanilla in yet another bowl
  7. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately into the butter and sugar mixture
  8. Add apples
  9. Fold in the egg whites to your now chunky batter, mix gently and do not over mix
  10. Grease four 7 inch cake pans, or two 9 inch pans, and pour the batter evenly into prepared pans of choice
  11.  Bake for 15-17 minutes in the 7 inch pans, or 20-25 minutes in the larger pans, or until the top springs back with a light press
  12. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, and continue to let cool on wire racks while making icing

Icing Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil
  2. Turn heat down so mixture boils gently, and continue to stir, cook for 7 minutes
  3. Let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon for  2-3 minutes, it will begin to thicken
  5. Place bottom layer of cake on cake stand or platter, work quickly to ice and repeat layers before the icing sets up and becomes unworkable
  6. A knife dipped in hot water can help smooth out icing to a desirable look

Optional, garnish with apple slices.

It was very moist, and was very sweet with that brown sugar icing. I thought through many types of icing that could be paired with the apple cake, but the caramel flavor of the brown sugar icing reminded me of summer. This was a fun cake to bake.


Don’t shy away from the folding in of the egg whites. It feels like you are ruining a whipped creation you spent minutes spinning up, but it is necessary.


At a certain point, your batter will look smooth again, besides the chunks of apples.


I had been with my mom when she got me my 7 inch pans from T.J. Maxx. Their scalloped edge was adorable, so she got them for me for Christmas on the promise I would act surprised when I opened them. You definitely don’t need to search out 7 inch pans, two 9 inch would work, but the four layers on this cake was really playful.


My biggest hiccup in this whole process was the fact that in our new home I am back to an electric oven. One of my pans of batter apparently wasn’t getting the same amount of heat as the rest so I had to leave it in the oven much longer. Oh, how I miss my gas oven.


Healthy Stalemate

Mayo versus Greek yogurt

We have seven chickens. It is funny, because we started with many more, and for a while even held steady at nine chickens. But, now, seven is the amount we have wandering around our yard.

We also have raccoons.

We have a coop. The coop has a timer on the door. But raccoons and other wild life have taken their toll on our chickens, so we have seven chickens.

We get five eggs.

Having seven chickens means we get five eggs a day. If you are following, this would imply we have two roosters. That sounds right by all accounts, but when you look at our seven chickens, only one clearly stands out as a rooster. He is a fine rooster, black and white with a long graceful tail.

We have a second rooster, or what we think is a second rooster. The second rooster, or at least the other one we think is a rooster, is an easter egger. Though we are fairly certain he is indeed a he, he never crows or does anything that a rooster does. But, we also only get five eggs.

We get three more eggs daily than we really need. As a baker, that is fine by me. I have baked something almost every week since coming back from our honeymoon. But somehow, even when we give eggs away, we seem to be swimming in them. So my dear husband hard boiled a dozen eggs all at once. That is almost a half a dozen too many hard boiled eggs, so this started the great greek yogurt verses mayonnaise stand off the other day.

Aware of my baking habits, when Shane suggested, before we went to the grocery store, that we needed some sort of mayonnaise to create egg salad with all of our hard boiled eggs, I said we ought to use Greek yogurt instead. If we always have baked goods around, we have to balance it out with something healthy, right?

Now let me set the scene for this debate, Shane and I were in the gym. I feel like if you say the word mayonnaise in the gym, you will be struck by lightening. Okay, so maybe you won’t get struck by lightening, but the gym owner was standing right next to us at his desk, and I feel like we lose points or something by mentioning mayonnaise in the gym. I have often replaced mayonnaise with Greek yogurt, being used to the substitution, mentioning it seemed natural and like a way to gain back those ten health points we lost saying mayonnaise out loud in front of the gym owner.

So began the stand off.

Shane was sure he was going to get me to break down and agree to mayo and I was sure I could convince him otherwise. After all, we had just gone to Costco’s, a new experience for me, might I add, and picked up a lifetime supply of Greek yogurt. It was probably that fact that helped me win this stalemate. Also, the gym owner saying Greek yogurt worked I think helped.


Healthy Egg Salad

Yeilds: enough for about four sandwiches

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, shredded with a cheese grater
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons dried dill
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Shred eggs into a bowl big enough to fit remaining ingrediants
  2. Add yogurt, celery, dill, mustard, and garlic powder. Mix until fully combined
  3. Slap on some bread!


In the end, I don’t miss mayo drenched eggs, I really enjoy the Greek yogurt substitute. Shane liked it too. Even his brother got to try a sandwich of it, and enjoyed it as well. Fresh dill would make this even more appetizing, but with all the snow this week, I’ll have to keep dreaming about my future herb garden.





Long Weekend

After a long weekend, and an even longer week in the cold with a cold, some comfort food was needed!

Last weekend was the weekend that my dear cousin, Leah, was able to come and see Shane and I’s humble abode. I was so excited to show her around, take her for a walk and point out where we want this and that, and just when you would least expect it, winter set in again. Snow upon snow fell the entire time she was in, staying indoors almost the entire time is what happened instead of tours of the property. She braved the cold with Shane’s friend, Scott, to see The Mills, but beyond that, we held up inside. This turned our weekend into a board game and Pirates of the Caribbean marathon, and it was actually really fun and for the most part, relaxing.

Unfortunately for me, the build up to the weekend of hosting Leah, visiting the Carnegie museum for their Museum After Dark series, one of my favorite weekend activities by the way, and having a game night with lots of friends over, left me and my less than great immune system run down, and I was easy prey for a cold. So right after I got over one round of antibiotics for my lymph nodes before Leah came, Leah left, and as I was saying goodbye to her, I was saying hello to a cold. I began drinking hot tea, taking zinc, and eating cough drops with echinacea like it was my job. Alas, teaching is my job, so I had to push through the sore throat and continue to use my voice.

Tuesday I was lucky enough to have a night off of work, and I thought what would be better than some comfort food for dinner? I am not one to make a more noodle based Italian dish, but sometimes spaghetti hits the spot. I had one jar of homemade tomato sauce from someone, I am guessing a sister-in-law, and some noodles left over from another skillet dish I had made, and of course we had venison on hand; with all of this, I set to work creating some zesty meatballs for dinner.

I think an appropriate name for these meatballs would be “What Ever I had in My Cupboard Meatballs”, but they are spicy. So to keep things simple, these meatballs with a kick will be labeled just that. They came out so juicy and flavorful, I am glad we had extra, so we could enjoy them in a sandwich! For those of you who shy away from venison, recipes like this leave you wanting a second serving.


Meatballs with a Kick

Yields: About 30, Bake time: 15 minutes

  • 2 lb ground venison
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, I used garlic herb
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 garlic clove coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Kneed together the ingredients until just mixed, don’t over work it or it won’t be as tender
  3. Roll into 1 inch meatballs and place on parchment paper evenly. Unlike a baked good, these won’t expand, so you can fit all of them on a large cookie tray
  4. Bake for 15 minutes


It honestly couldn’t get simpler, or tastier. If you aren’t a fan of the spice from the red pepper flakes, add less or none at all. There is definitely enough flavors from everything else that they can stand on their own with out the red pepper flakes. Clean up is a breeze with the parchment paper too.


To-Do’s and New Goals

Week two at home and Shane was actually called off to work again. This left me alone with my list of things to do and Jagger. Most of these “to-do’s” are everyday things, that, if not kept a handle on, would spiral out of control. Laundry, dishes, and we always have dishes to do with no dishwasher in this house, and vacuuming. I admit, I may be a little obsessed with vacuuming, but we have mostly carpet, a hairy dog, and I like running around in my bare feet and don’t like crunching on his kibble he somehow gets everywhere. “To-write” is not necessarily on my “to-do’s”, but it gives me a welcomed break between scraping off wallpaper borders and vacuuming up papery messes, filling in holes, and doing more dishes.

I love lists and I love deadlines. I thrived in college because of this; I would get a list of things to do at the beginning of the semester from some professors and I would begin on papers right then so that when crunch time hit, my day was still my normal day. Now I write my own lists, some last a day, some a month. Goals I set aren’t “get this paper done a week before it is due” anymore, most often they have to do with work and often art call deadlines. Generally, I can be organized enough to get a goal done once I set it, and that is a pretty big deal considering how distracted I can get.

A common goal we both have, though I think I have a little more drive to get it done, is our closet. If it were up to me, it would’ve been done yesterday. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure Shane could go on living the rest of his life with his clothes being in the dining room closet, but I would like that place that keeps our clothes organized, out of site, and all together. I like that lists help me, or us, get organized, and I like to have completion date goals, but I can’t get so distracted by the goal that I lose site of the people around me, and am I still being kind, using love, and being patient? Things will get done, and I shouldn’t compromise relationships just for a goal.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Now my goals are different, and my “to-do” lists are different. They are evolving and including another person. So when someone asked me if I feel settled at my new home yet, I don’t. Not quite yet, and this isn’t a bad thing or a negative reflection on me or Shane and I as a couple. I am just still figuring things out.

With this in mind, Shane and I decided the closet was the first doable project, and while he was away, I got started on things. When I told my mom about the project, she suggested I set the deadline of my cousin Leah coming to visit to finish our closet by. Well, we only have one more weekend then she is here, so I don’t think that will be happening, which is slightly frustrating, as I would like it done ASAP. This is where that whole idea of patience comes in again, only this doesn’t feel like a little moment, like the whoopie pie moment, this feels like a big, all consuming thing. I have to work extra hard to remind myself, it will get done, don’t worry about tomorrow, just keep pushing forward.

Thankfully Shane and I each have an especially helpful family. Both sides are willing to pitch in and help out where ever, when ever. That meant that Saturday, before the men’s game feed at our church, my parents came up to help out in the closet. We knocked down walls took screws out, and really made some decent headway. At the tail end of their help, I began cooking our late lunch which included a venison skillet dish, orange smothered chicken breasts with gorgonzola cheese, lots of Jiffy spoonbread, and of course raspberry whoopie pies. Now the skillet dish made enough to feed a small army, and I automatically made double of the corn bread dish, and this all turned out to be a good thing as more family and friends descended to see our new home and eventually head off to the game feed right as the late lunch was ready to eat. We all ate together and enjoyed listening to kids giggle and got to explain future plans for our home.

This has taught me one valuable home make over lesson. Always have food. I can’t for a moment get hung up on my own expected deadlines for projects when, in all reality, we are doing an okay job fitting in filling in holes and tearing down walls between both of our jobs, and we are so fortunate to have family willing to come over and help in their free time. One way I can show my gratefulness to those lending a hand is by making food. To solidify this point, last night while I was at work, Shane’s brother came over and helped hang up closet things in another closet in the house and they ate the last of the corn bread and chicken.

So this morning I cooked up a hearty skillet dish with ham and turkey kielbasa. It may not be one for looks, as the white kidney beans didn’t hold their own too well, but it certainly is colorful with all the carrots. Because our beautiful 14 inch cast iron skillet doesn’t fit in our fridge too easily, I transferred it to this casserole dish to store until we eat it for dinner. If I am away at work again, and people come over to help, it is a one dish meal that will feed a small group of people of 4-6.

Skillet Cassoulet

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 oz turkey kielbassa
  • 8 oz fully cooked ham, cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15 oz can white kidney beans
  • 1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil, add in turkey kielbasa, ham, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and cook until vegetables are tender
  2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, thyme and celery seed, simmer until heated through. Add pepper