Blogging Secretary Update

It has been one week since I started using the voice recognition software on my computer to make blog posts and it’s been an interesting week. I’ve learned a lot about using the software, the glitches involved, and even more about myself.

First I’ve learned I can really talk a lot about nothing! The first time I turned on the voice recognition software and started dictating a blog post, within 30 minutes I had four type-written pages of dictation. This transformed into the beginnings of four separate blog posts and I wasn’t even close to being done. I continued to talk as I made dinner and by the time dinner was served, I had the makings for nearly six more blog posts. So far this first round of dictation has resulted in three posts directly from the dictation and three additional posts dictated based on the posts I had done. And I still have dictation to review and edit. Yet, based on what I actually dictated, there should have been enough to fill 20 blog posts. Instead there was a ton of garbage. Boy I have a lot of hot air in me!

Next I’d have to say that dictating is hard. It’s not like you’re addressing an individual or anything like that. You’re basically talking to yourself. Because of that, there seems to be a lot of times when what I’m saying is choppy and not very clear. This can be resolved in the editing process but so often while I’m dictating it’s difficult to know what to say out loud. It’s amazing how much easier it is to think what I want to say than to actually say it out loud.

Further, I’ve learned that talking into the computer is one thing, but making what you have said readable is something totally different. When I put blog posts together in my mind everything seems so cut and dry and perfect. When I started dictating it felt like I had to force the words out and a lot of times I just stammered or stuttered. Even though I thought I had everything clear in my head as to what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t spit it out in a way that was pretty. Plus I’ve noticed I use a lot of words when I’m talking that I would never use when I’m writing. So talking and writing are very different animals.

I’ve also learned that when I do finally get the juices flowing and get on a dictation roll, I need to be sure to stay focused on the subject I want to dictate about. A lot of times I find I go off on a tangent and all of that just ends up getting deleted in the long run. Plus, occasionally the voice recognition software shuts off for no apparent reason. And this must be one of those “Murphy’s Laws,” but it only seems to shut off when I finally get back to talking about what I should be talking about not all the jibber-jabber that ends up deleted. There are definitely glitches to be worked out but it is still a workable endeavor.

Finally, I’ve learned that dictating a recipe isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I thought I could just list off the ingredients and then dictate the step by step, but the dictation software that I’m using doesn’t put in bullets or number formatting. Knowing this just means I read the list of ingredients needed in paragraph form and then copy and paste it into my recipe template. Still, in a perfect world the software would be able to do this. I know that there are softwares out that have this option, but they cost money. The one I’m using is free, so I really have no right to complain.

Overall I’d have to say this has been a very good experience and it is something I plan to continue to do. I have decided however I do not like doing it when Hubby is around. He can be rather infuriating with his interruptions and making fun of me talking to myself, but I know it’s just because he’s trying to get a little attention. Actually this is probably a good sign. It proves he’s not sick of me yet. Spending 24/7 together for the past year has been wonderful, although challenging at times. The fact that when I finally take a few minutes to do something solely for “me” and he feels a bit insecure and displays this through his actions, well, I think I can cut him a little slack.

So if you’d like to check out my posts that I made last week and today, head on over to Simply Grateful Cooking and check out my recent posts or simply click on the links that I provided below.

As much as I like the speech recognition software, I do have to say I really wish they would come out with something for “thought recognition.” Because although I use the voice recognition while I’m cooking which was one of the times I found myself thinking about making blog posts but was too busy to do them, I can’t use this during the only other spare time I have – while showering in the morning. I don’t think they have a headset and computer that’s waterproof, so for now it’s going to have to be while I’m cooking or if I can find a spare moment when hubby has left the house.

At any rate it’s just another challenge and hopefully this new trick of the trade will enable me to get back to blogging more and for this I am – Simply Grateful.


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Awesome One-Pot Side Dish

Surprise! Surprise! It’s only been 10 days since my last post — actually it was only 9 if you count the post I did yesterday on Simply Grateful Cooking.

Yesterday after months of Grace bugging me for a recipe that one of her bosses wanted for a noodle side dish I began making last summer, I decided to type it up. Of course, this being a new recipe and one I definitely wanted to share, I thought I’d actually do it right and make a post about the recipe as well. So while Hubby was tutoring online for a few hours, I cleared off my desk and wrote a post for Simply Grateful Cooking.

Once the post was done and the recipe printed off for Grace’s boss, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to head to the kitchen to make it. While I was working, Hubby came out to see what I was doing. I told him I was making dinner. As usual he asked me what I was making.

Now you have to realize that Hubby loves to yank my chain. Every time he asks me what I’m making for dinner, he already knows how he is going to react, and so do I. He will give me a disinterested nod of his head and shrug saying, “Yeah, that sounds great” only saying it in his most sarcastic, disapproving voice. It’s a game he seems to enjoy and for the most part it doesn’t bother me. There are some days though that he catches me in a bad mood and I bark at him for his seemingly harsh judgement, even when I know deep down he’s teasing me. Not my best moments, but hey — I’m only human!

Anyway, yesterday when I told him we were having fish, he gave me his usual “That sounds great” response. Then as an after thought as he was walking out of the kitchen he turned and asked, “What are we having with it?”

“Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta.” I told him

With a slight trill in his voice he said, “Really! Great!” Now I’m not positive, but I think I saw him skip out of the kitchen with glee. Maybe not, but his excitement was palpable.

I guess there are some things I make that even he can’t fake disinterest in or contain himself. It’s probably one of the families favorites and with good reason. Herbs, noodles, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms…it doesn’t get much better than that.

If you’d like to try a great one-pot side dish that is sure to please, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking, Herbed Garlic Parmesan Pasta. It’s one side that I always make far more than we’ll eat in one sitting because the leftovers are as popular as when I serve it with dinner, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

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Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Planning Ahead Pays Off

Back in March when it was too cold to garden and Hubby had just begun his experiment in retirement, I spent three days in the kitchen (while Hubby was settling in to his new spot in the office) canning bags of beans I’d accumulated from grocery store sales. I canned pinto, Great Northern, navy, and new to my bean canning roster — Garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I think in the end I ended up with somewhere around 70 jars (varying sizes) of beans.

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For months now I have enjoyed using these beans in various recipes and can’t say enough about how nice it is to use home-canned beans right from the pantry whenever I want. I’ve especially enjoyed making Hummus with the garbanzo beans.

Today I made a batch of baked beans. It’s actually the second batch I’ve made this year, but although I took pictures of the first batch I neither did a post nor did I seem to find it necessary to save the recipe. I know we liked it, but I can’t cry over spilt milk. So this morning I spent several hours reviewing recipes, choosing ingredients, and then making a batch of quick, saucy beans.

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For the entire story and recipe check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking for Saucy Homemade Baked Beans. These turned out excellent. It’s funny though, when I look back at the pictures of the ingredients I used for the first batch of beans I made, they look very different from the ones I used this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I decide to continue my experiment with baked beans because there is always room for improvement.

Losing my first recipe could be considered a bad thing, but at least I found another one that everyone liked and got to experiment with some different ingredients, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Best Remedy for a Summer Cold

Summer colds are the worst! Not that a cold at any time is any fun but having one when it’s hot and humid just somehow makes a stuffy nose, aching body, and fever worse.

Every June and then again sometime in December I get a cold. It’s not really a cold, it’s a sinus infection, but it has all the wonderful symptoms of a cold just lasting longer. The one in December isn’t as bad, or at least it doesn’t seem as bad because there doesn’t seem to be as much a demand on my time then. In June however there is so much to do outside with the garden and inside with painting projects and other home improvements that get put off until the weather is nice that being down for even a day puts me behind.

One of the best remedies for a summer, or any cold is hot soup and fresh bread. I know you might think that a hot bowl of soup on a 90 degree day isn’t comforting, but for some reason no matter how hot it is outside, that hot soup coating my throat when I’m not feeling good, picks up my spirits right away. This is where planning ahead really comes in handy.

Last fall when I was canning all the wonderful tomatoes from the garden, I managed to make two large batches of Tomato Soup and freeze it for just such an occasion. This meant all I needed to do was defrost a couple of bottles, make a loaf of bread (check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking for the absolute best Gougere Bread recipe), and enjoy.

Does it get any better than that? Homemade soup and I didn’t have to do anything other than heat it up. I am definitely going to look into freezing more soup bases this year, as long as I can find the space.

Being sick is awful but having dinner done in the freezer makes it a lot more tolerable, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

It’s Not Too Hot To Cook

I cannot believe the weather we are having. It has been so hot and dry this spring/summer that even the lowest parts of our property are cracking from lack of moisture. This has never happened before, not in the 23 years we have lived here.

My mornings and/or evenings are spent watering the gardens so they don’t shrivel up and die, and my afternoons are spent hiding out in the house out of the heat and humidity. My rain barrels have been empty for over a month, which goes to show how dry it’s been. I think we’ve had one day rain when I didn’t have to actually water. Otherwise there’s been a shower or two, but beyond that — nothing!

The only good thing about being in the house is that I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen working on new recipes, organizing recipes I’ve photographed for blog posts, and trying very hard to actually sit down and write a blog post. Where does the time go? I’ve given up trying to answer that.

Anyway, I finally figured out that since January I have photographed more than 70 new recipes I’ve worked on and HAVE NOT done blog posts on them! Playing catch-up is so out of the question that I don’t know what I’m going to do. Still, I refuse to admit defeat, so today I posted on Simply Grateful Cooking yet another new recipe I made, Bacon Cheeseburger Egg Rolls With Daly Sauce. Of course it was on a recipe I made today, but it also included a sauce that I’ve wanted to share since August of last year. A little old with the new, progress at any rate.

Strawberry season opened up a few weeks ago and I did get out and pick about 20 pounds, so hopefully recipes will soon follow.

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For now, I’m waiting for the sun to go down enough for me to brave the heat and check on the gardens, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Oh Crap! Another Beautiful Day!

Well, it’s another not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day here in Michigan with temps hovering in the mid-80’s. This is not what I need, or rather not what the garden needs. Where or where is the rain that was predicted? Where are the mostly cloudy skies? Where is a little reprieve for my struggling seedlings I planted too soon outside?

I guess it’s just going to be one of those years. I checked the weather forecast again this morning and now they say there isn’t really any rain expected until Saturday. A full three days away. Well by that time my plants will either be acclimated to their new environment or dead. I wish it would just happen already and be over with. At least if they all died I could take things from there. As it is I’m stuck here in limbo wondering if the plants will survive this wonderful weather and embrace what should be the best thing to happen to them since being planted.

The one good thing about the weather being so warm and sunny is that I’m stuck inside. As I get older I just can’t take being in the sun for more than a few minutes with a hat on, sunglasses shading my eyes, and clothing covering every inch of my too sensitive skin. Gee it’s fun getting old.

With this time in the house though I was able to make a few blog posts. Actually this really made my day. I long for the days when I could make a blog post nearly daily and still get everything done. Now everything seems so much bigger in my life that finding time for half of what I want to get done doesn’t even come close to happening.

Today I shared some pictures of my Pea Garden 2016 (one of the few successes thus far in the garden this year) and another post with a recipe for Thai Peanut Chicken (a new addition to my recipe arsenal). Check them out if you get a chance.

For the rest of the day I’ll be moving all my plants that remain in the greenhouse out to the patio once the sun shifts, moving them back into the greenhouses before going to bed, and reading some cookbooks. Dinner is in the oven, making the house hotter than it already was (I really should have rethought making a roast for dinner on the hottest day of the year so far) so relaxing is the only way to go, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Sweet Indulgence

As of late, one thing I have decided is there are just some things in the kitchen that should not be skimped on and my grocery bills have reflected it. Not that I’ve gone out and bought the most expensive everything and anything, but each trip to the supermarket, or maybe more like every other trip or every third trip, I pull out a list of what I consider “sweet indulgence” ingredients and buy something from the list — especially if I happen upon a sale.

Not everything on the list is expensive. Some items are just ingredients that I would not use very often, making it hard to justify purchasing them. Others are a bit on the pricey side but there are some ingredients you should NEVER buy imitation or knockoff’s of, it’s worth spending the extra money.

The other day while picking up a few items at a specialty fruit market (someplace I don’t usually go unless there is a sale of some sort), Hubby and I found a sale on mascarpone cheese. This cheese is best known for its use in tiramisu, but is a wonderful addition to many other rich desserts. A container that would normally be anywhere from $6.50 to $8.00, was marked $3.50 and the expiration date was not until the end of May. What a find! I picked up two containers knowing I would find a use for them.

Some nights I go all out on dessert for the family and spend half the day working on something special. Other nights they are lucky if they can find packaged cookies buried in the freezer. A day or so after finding the deal on the mascarpone cheese in between putting the finishing touches on dinner and serving it, I whipped up a mascarpone cream and soaked some fresh fruit in sweetened Marsala wine. Talk about a rich, decadent dessert!

Although this particular dessert was not something Grace could enjoy with her sensitivity to dairy, Hubby and Zeb devoured the custard bowls filled with the fruit and cream combo. If you’d like to see how I made it, check out my post on Simply Grateful Cooking for Mascarpone Cream with Sweetened Marsala Berries.

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This dessert could probably be made with a less expensive cheese such as ricotta, but the rich, smooth mascarpone, albeit typically pricey, made this dessert “company worthy,” and for this sweet indulgence I am — Simply Grateful.

All Or Nothing

Ever since Hubby quasi retired I feel as though I’ve been running a race. Every day is a whirlwind of running around and at the end of the day I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve done. The only normalcy that has not changed is I make dinner every night. We have a set dinner hour of 5:30 which gives me a few extra hours than I had pre-retirement to decide what to make and do the preparation. This should theoretically be a good thing, but for some strange reason the supposed extra time I have to cook seems to elude me. Let’s blame Hubby for that too, seeing as of late he’s the best excuse for everything that just isn’t working out the way I thought it would.

Anyway, when it comes to dinners, it’s pretty much an all or nothing thing. When there’s a day that Hubby and I aren’t running around all morning into the afternoon or we haven’t worked on projects around the house all day, I seem to spend the entire day in the kitchen. I’ve been making homemade pasta, two to three new recipes sometimes in one meal, experimenting with lots of new ingredients, and really serving some five-star dinner entrees.

When we do run errands or have projects to work on however, I have no desire to be in the kitchen at all. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone or working for only an hour or so, that little blip in my routine/schedule is enough to take my ambition or whatever you want to call it away. Thankfully Hubby has been tremendously understanding — too understanding in my opinion — when dinner happens to be just hot dogs on the grill thrown together ten minutes before it’s time to sit down and eat.

I’m not so understanding. The guilt of it all has been weighing on me, so for the past two weeks I’ve been perusing cookbooks, magazines, cooking websites, and favorite blogs for quick meals that require little to no effort, are made with ingredients I typically have on hand, and create the illusion that I’ve done more than just sit on the couch all day eating bonbons (which I haven’t been doing, but again, I just can’t seem to figure out where the time goes and what I’ve been doing, so who really knows).

One such meal was one that I made tonight and was a real hit. Both Hubby and Zeb couldn’t say enough about it and already they’ve both called dibs on the leftovers. Definitely a keeper. Plus, this is one that I think I could vary using different types of meat, cheese, and/or sauce.

Although this is a “sandwich” and Hubby has always teased me by stating “You know you’re in America when you have a sandwich for dinner!” even he thought this was a hearty meal not to be scoffed at. He even commented that if we were to have a sandwich shop or something like that, this would be the one to bring everyone in. I didn’t serve it with any sides other than pickled green tomatoes, but making some homemade potato chips or even a quick batch of french fries certainly wouldn’t hurt.

If you’d like to check out the recipe, it’s on Simply Grateful CookingBarbecue Chipped Ham Sandwiches.  I’m not sure that I’d want to make serving sandwiches for dinner the standard around here, but with sandwiches that can hold their own at the dinner table, I’m willing to relax a little and serve them guilt-free, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Some Things Are Just Better Homemade

There are some really great prepared foods out on the market that can be quite hard to top. Hostess Cup Cakes for example. I know there are recipes out there to duplicate these at home, but for how long and all the effort they take to make, and taking into consideration that I can woof one of those puppies down in about 67 seconds (especially if they are frozen), this is not going to be on top of my to do list of recipes to try. Some things are definitely just easier and dare I say better bought from the store.

However! And this is a big however. There are many, many, many more dishes out there that given the choice of buying them prepared from the store, in a box or from a restaurant verses making it myself, I will have to go with the homemade version. The advantages are many, including knowing exactly what is going into what I’m making, making it fresh (who knows how long some of those prepared meals have been sitting around), and let’s not get started on how great I feel when I serve my family a fresh and hot HOMEMADE meal.

Some things that are better homemade are not necessarily easy or quick. In fact, I’d have to say that most of the dishes I make for dinner seem to take more time than I might actually want to spend in the kitchen, but then again this is my job. Feeding the family is by far the biggest time consumer of my homemaker job and most definitely the one I take the greatest pride in.

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new dish that I have wanted to try making for more than 30 years. Time isn’t always on my side (mostly not on my side) but after trying several store-bought versions of this dish and finding they didn’t compare to homemade, I decided that homemade was the only way to go. Even restaurant versions of this dish left me not quite satisfied. So, when I had a day to spare — well it wasn’t quite a whole day, but lets say a good four hours — I set to work on making homemade potato gnocchi. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/homemade-potato-gnocchi/.

Amazing how something with four simple ingredients can taste so much better homemade and take so much time to make. I was smart though. Seeing as I was making a mess of the kitchen anyhow, I decided to make several batches and freeze them so I wouldn’t have to have so many hours to make one meal the next time I wanted to serve them.

When I’ve got the time, I have a list of recipes I go to that I want to perfect for the home because either store-bought versions are lacking or restaurant eating is just not our cup of tea. One more recipe off this list and for this I am — Simply Grateful.