Family Recipe – Mama’s Hot Russian Tea


Our Mama was a nurse back in the day, met our Daddy when she was in nursing school, and then raised her two girls. This recipe was shared with her over 40 years ago, and it has become a go-to drink for our family. Rose was a fellow nurse and good friend for many years, and she shared this basic simple recipe for a hot delicious Russian tea.

I’m not sure where the name came from, and I think there are now many versions out there for an orange flavored spiced tea.  Most of the versions I have tried are all very good (I love most tea!), but this is the original one that started our family drinking and serving Russian Tea. It mixes 4 simple ingredients quickly without a lot of preparation.

Mama’s Hot Russian Tea

1 small jar of Original Orange Flavored Tang

1 small jar of powdered instant tea (with or without lemon flavor)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

(2 cups of sugar if instant tea is not sweetened)

Mix all 4 ingredients.  Use 3 tsp. of mix with a cup of hot water.

Mama's Hot Russian Tea - Orange and Spice flavors

Mama’s Hot Russian Tea – Orange and Spice flavors


1 – Use alternate sweetener if you prefer (they weren’t available 40 years ago!)

2 – Equal amounts of Tang and Tea are used, so doubling the recipe is easy!

3 – We use each of the empty containers for tea and drink mix to store the Russian Tea mix, just dividing have the mix into each jar.

4 – My mama now also adds some lemon or orange flavored jello powder for extra flavor.

5 – Some recipes use fresh fruit when making a large quantity in a pot on the stove, for example, if you are having a party or get-together and need large amount of a hot beverage. Throw in some sliced lemons, oranges, or even pineapple for additional fresh flavor.  Great for a warm treat after trick-or-treating or a night of Christmas caroling!




Family Recipe – Dad’s Homemade Hearty Chili

Another family recipe that has been passed along from father to son is my husband’s chili!  He learned how to make his Dad’s chili and has been making it for our own family for the last 32 years!

This is another great recipe for cold weather or anytime you want a hearty chili that can be as spicy as you like!

When I’ve had a busy week, my husband is sweet enough to make his chili for us, and I add a pan of homemade biscuits to go along! This recipe makes enough for a family of 4-6, or enough for 3 meals for the 2 of us!

Dad’s Homemade Hearty Chili

2 pounds ground beef (browned and drained of grease)

1 medium onion diced

2 “Chili-o” or chili seasoning packets

1 can chili beans (hot and spicy)

2 cans tomato sauce

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

Your favorite hot sauce (to add to taste)

Shredded cheddar cheese (add to the bowl)

Brown the ground beef in a large pan or soup pot.  Drain the grease and add the diced onion, the chili seasoning packets, the chili beans and the tomato sauce. Stir to mix well and cook on medium to combine for a couple of minutes. Add additional chili powder and cayenne pepper, stir and set the temp to low to simmer for about 45 minutes.

Dad's Chili simmering on the stove!

Dad’s Chili simmering on the stove!

While the chili is simmering, I prepare our biscuits so they will be hot and ready when the chili is done.

Dad stirring his chili!

Dad stirring his chili!

Serve up in bowls and add your own hot sauce if you like it very spicy, and feel free to sprinkle on some shredded cheese on the top! Hope you enjoy!

Dad's finished chili ready to garnish!

Dad’s finished chili ready to garnish!


Dad’s Chili topped with hot sauce and cheese!



Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

Okay, I have to admit that I have my comfort foods, too, and sometimes they are healthy and sometimes they are indulgent. That’s what it means, I guess, remembering a time when there are no cares, no worries, no stress and only the wonderful smell of mac and cheese, or cinnamon and apples.

In the wintertime, when the weather was cold and we had few groceries on hand, we usually had no time to prepare a big meal when we got home from work!  I had some chicken breasts in the freezer and some rice on hand!  I found an old recipe using chicken and rice and a can of soup, which worked fine if I had the time.  So I adapted a little bit!

I took out the slow cooker in the morning, put the chicken in the pot with some chicken stock, and had the nice tender cooked chicken ready when I got home!  After a few years of perfecting our recipe for us, it is now one of those comfort foods I can fix that takes the stress out of supper. If you think chicken soup is good when you are sick, I think this works, too!


And the aroma in the house is pretty good too!

The basic recipe follows, but feel free to play around with spices you like. I have tried adding some smoky paprika or garlic to the recipe. Again, this “recipe” only has a few ingredients, so it is super simple! And pretty healthy as well!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

………3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

………2 cups low sodium chicken broth

………Generous sprinkle of black pepper (I use about a tablespoon)

Place the chicken, broth and pepper in the crock pot or slow cooker and place on high for 4-6 hours.

Chicken, Chicken Stock, and lots of pepper!

Chicken, Chicken Stock, and lots of pepper!

After 3 hours, chicken is tender and starting to fall apart...

After 3 hours, chicken is tender and starting to fall apart…


20-30 minutes before dinner, add:

……….1 1/2 to 2 cups of instant brown rice (or white if you prefer)

Brown rice added to chicken and stock

Brown rice added to chicken and stock

Allow the rice to cook and absorb the chicken stock (you can use water for the liquid, but the flavor is much better using the chicken stock).

Stir and break apart the tender chicken before serving.

Finished Chicken and Rice....Add more pepper to taste!

Finished Chicken and Rice….Add more pepper to taste!

And it’s ready to serve with a vegetable side dish, like green beans or carrots, and your favorite bread. My husband likes his biscuits!

Great for a cool night!

Family Recipe – Grandmother’s Whipping Cream Pound Cake

When I was very young, we lived at the beach for a few months.  It sounded like a nice transfer for my father, who was working at a newspaper here in the mountains of western North Carolina. It was just the 3 of us then, me being the first child. My mother and I explored sandy beach life for a few months until we returned to the mountains.  My grandparents and other family were still in the mountains.  Now that I’m a grandparent, I understand how hard it must have been on my grandparents to be far away from a first grandchild.

My father’s mother would talk to me on the phone, and I’m sure she was missing and worried that I would not remember her since I had not seen her in several weeks and months.  When we talked, so the story goes, she would ask me the same question many times.  She would ask, “do you know me?”.

Nomi” was the name that came out of those phone conversations!  When I began calling her by name, it naturally translated from  “do you know me“!  Another special memory she left us was some of the recipes and foods she liked to prepare.

One of those special recipes was for a Whipping Cream Pound Cake.  Now, there are lots of recipes for pound cakes and whipping cream pound cakes.  These type of recipes have been handed down through families for generations.  Recently, we decided to gather some favorite and traditional family recipes and create a binder to share with the kids and grandkids. We focused on some of the traditional foods that our family has eaten especially at holiday times.

Whipping Cream Pound Cake - All that's left!

Whipping Cream Pound Cake – All that’s left!

I already shared my Mama’s Dressing Recipe for Thanksgiving, and this is the recipe that Nomi used to bake for every New Year’s Day dinner.  The recipe is in her words as she wrote it out for my husband.  He loves to bake!  After Nomi passed away in 2002, my husband took up the torch and now makes it for our family during the holidays. The batter can be placed in a typical cake pan or can be divided into small individual cake pans for holiday gifts!

Nomi’s Whipping Cream Pound Cake

(click on the recipe to see all her notes)

Nomi's recipe in her own handwriting!

Nomi’s recipe in her own handwriting!

Start in Cold Oven!!

6 eggs

1/2 lb. creamery butter (2 sticks) (room temp)

3 cups plain flour

3 cups sugar

1 Tblsp. lemon extract

1 Tblsp. vanilla extract

1/2 pt. Whipping Cream. Use as it is, do not whip!

“Cream butter and sugar real good.  Add eggs 1 at a time, and beat thoroughly after adding each egg.  Alternate flour and whipping cream.  Add lemon and vanilla.  Pour into greased and floured tube pan.  Bake 1 hour and twenty-five min. at 325 degrees.  Start in Cold Oven. (I lower top rack down to second place in my oven.)  This cake is Grover and my favorite Pound Cake.”

Creamed butter and sugar.....

Creamed butter and sugar…..

Adding flour - alternating with whipping cream....

After adding eggs, Add flour – alternating with whipping cream….

Stir until completely combined.....

Stir until completely combined…..

Alternating adding whipping cream and flour...

Alternating adding whipping cream and flour…

Add lemon and vanilla extracts, stir and pour into prepared pan.....

Add lemon and vanilla extracts, stir and pour into prepared pan…..

Buttered and floured tube pan....

Buttered and floured tube pan….

Whipping Cream batter into prepared tube pan...

Whipping Cream batter into prepared tube pan…

Place in cold oven to start...with a little extra for a gift......

Place in cold oven to start…with a little extra for a gift……

All that was left! Great crust on top!

All that was left! Great crust on top!

Tip:  My husband continues to stir the batter as Nomi did. You might use an electric mixer, but it’s just part of the tradition to stir the batter by hand.

And it was!  She made it for “Papaw” every year, and is still one of our family favorites.  The cake turns out very moist (not dry like some pound cakes), and has a wonderful crusty top when finished baking. I like that the best!

We have found that it sometimes takes about 15 minutes longer than she called for (at least for our oven).  She was using the same oven and process for many many years!




Sweet Simple Sides: Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes & Honeyed Carrots

When it is hard to get your family to eat a variety of vegetables, it helps to have a different way to serve them up.  I admit to loving carrots raw, but not cooked.  However, my family likes them better when they are cooked and candied sweetly!

To encourage the orange veggies, I began fixing “honeyed carrots”, and the method works for sweet potatoes, too.  The vitamins from these veggies are important to our health, but sometimes moms are the ones that have to remember that!

Both of these recipes are super simple and don’t take much time to fix at the end of a long day.  I like these as a side for a slow cooker meal, like the Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken.


Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes

4 Ingredients!


Peel and cube 2 sweet potatoes (about 1 per person)

Parboil (boil in water just to tender, not too soft), or microwave sweet potato cubes in small amount of water to partially cook and make tender.

Sweet Potatoes with butter, brown sugar and maple syrup

Sweet Potatoes with butter, brown sugar and maple syrup

Place in small pan over low to medium heat with:

3 Tablespoons Butter

3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Cook and simmer over low-medium heat until the mixture has reduced and caramelized or candied the sugar.

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes halfway there!

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes halfway there!

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes Ready to Eat!

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes Ready to Eat!



Honeyed Carrots

3 Ingredients!


1 can sliced carrots (drained)

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons honey (can use brown sugar)


Place butter and honey (or brown sugar) in small pan.  Add the carrots after draining the liquid.  If you use fresh carrots, dice 2-3 carrots and parboil first to partially cook and tenderize.  Then add to the butter and honey.

Cook over low to medium heat until the carrots are caramelized or candied.

These carrots make a great side dish for most meals, especially for chicken or pork dishes.


Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken


Two of my favorite things – the crock pot and BBQ!  I am depending more and more on my crock pot.  A few years ago, I used it occasionally, and sometimes forgot about it!

Now, I really depend on my crock pot when I have a long day ahead, or know that I won’t have time to really make a good dinner after I get home.  As long as I have a few ingredients on hand, or plan a day or two ahead, I can throw a little into the crock pot in the morning or in the middle of the day, and still have a great meal ready to go!

This BBQ recipe is easy to adjust to your own taste and adjust for a few or several people. And it only has 3 ingredients!  I like things simple and easy, as you can tell.

For a couple of big appetites, the following meal is quick, and goes great with a simple side, like sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, beans, or slaw.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken

Only 3 Ingredients! Serves 2-4 people.

4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup chicken stock (low sodium, please)


Chicken, stock, spices

Chicken, stock, spices

>>>  Place in the crock pot for 4 hours on high, or 6 on medium.

>>>  If desired, add a little extra seasoning to the chicken. I sometimes add some garlic pepper seasoning, and some sweet smoky paprika.

>>>  During the last hour, add 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.


After 4 hours on high, shredded with fork

After 4 hours on high, shredded with fork

When finished, the chicken should be tender enough to shred with a fork.  Shred completely before serving.  Add extra BBQ sauce to taste if desired.  This could also be served up on a bun for a BBQ chicken sandwich.


Ready to serve, with a little extra BBQ sauce

Ready to serve, with a little extra BBQ sauce

Serve up with some garlic bread and some candied sweet potatoes or mac & cheese!



Low Sodium and Full of Flavor!

On my journey to keep myself healthy, I realized my purpose for doing so is not purely selfish.  My biggest inspiration to take better care of myself is that I want to be able to watch my family grow!  I want to be here for my husband and my children, experience special times with them, and be able to support them on their journeys.

Now with a little 6 month old grandson, I want to be healthy enough to help care for him and any other grandchildren we might have. I want to watch him reach his first milestones as he grows and still be able to celebrate his graduations and accomplishments in the years to come!

If I don’t pay attention to this body that God has entrusted me with, then I cannot accomplish more on the journey He wants for me.

To continue with strategies for reducing the sodium in my diet to prevent high blood pressure…………………………

3 Easy Ways to Increase Flavor and Lower Sodium:

  • Experiment with spices.  Try all those spices that are hiding in your cabinet, use them alone or in different combinations to add a variety of flavors to meat or vegetables. No need for the salt!
  • Add lemon or lime juice and zest to meat and vegetable dishes. 
  • Some types of wine can add another layer of flavor to some recipes and sauces.  Use sparingly at first until you see how it changes the taste or consistency.

Nice Flavor Combinations:

  • Lemon and Lime   (the zest and/or the juice)
  • Garlic and Lime   (have tried this with salmon and chicken)
  • Garlic and anything!  (We love the flavor garlic adds, even to mashed potatoes)  Instead of salt, we use the Smart Balance butter, lowfat milk, black pepper and diced garlic when mashing up potatoes.
  • Lite Soy Sauce   (still has sodium, but much lower content)  Mix with brown sugar and ginger for a simple teriyaki style flavor.  I just mix some of each, don’t really measure.  There are several recipes out there for specific amounts for a teriyaki sauce, if you like exact measurements.
  • Parmesan Cheese and Black Pepper  (great with panko breading for meat – no extra salt needed)

Please comment and share any other flavor combinations you have found that add great flavor to meat and vegetable dishes!




Controlling Your Blood Pressure! — Low Sodium Choices

Now that I’m in my 50’s, the hereditary blood pressure has kicked in.  I used to have low BP as a rule, so this took me by surprise!  It shouldn’t, since my parents both have high BP (or hypertension).

After a hospital visit and follow-up doctor visits, I was placed on a minimal dose of medicine to control my blood pressure.  After the scare of wondering if I was having a heart attack, I gladly do what I can to make sure I don’t have one! I want to stick around and watch my family grow!

The medicine is doing its job, but I need to be responsible and do mine! Watching the sodium/salt in what I eat and drink is important and easy!  At first it seems hard to find low sodium foods, because there is so much salt added to prepared food products and restaurant menu items.


  • I researched!  Be informed about what you are eating and drinking.
  • Read Labels!  If sodium content is listed as 5-10% or lower, then it’s probably okay if you realize that 10 items of 10% sodium is considered the total intake for the day.   If you already have high BP, your goal should probably be less than that.  If something has 30-40% sodium, walk away!
  • Easy online searches reveal sodium content in all kinds of foods, including soft drinks, condiments, canned foods, soups, and most packaged mixes.   I found these 2 sites helpful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
  • Check out the restaurants you visit.  Most now have menus online that show nutrition content, and some have items identified as “healthier” or “heart friendly”.
  • Medical lab work showed that I had low potassium, even though I was already eating a pretty good diet, with fresh fruits and vegetables. But changes as you age affect those levels as well.  So it was recommended to add a banana every day.  Potassium levels apparently have an effect on how your body processes the sodium, so this is one of several things that can help regulate your BP!
  • I learned more about foods that provide protein, potassium, and other essential nutrients to maximize good food without increasing how much I eat.
  • Controlling my weight and increasing exercise also need to be higher on my priority list.

NEXT —————————

  • I acted on what I learned!  I could not ignore what I needed to do – mostly simple steps.
  • I started depending less on prepared, canned, boxed and frozen foods. I simply started using more fresh options, and NOT adding extra salt!  Other spices can add lots of flavor.
  • I read labels on everything I pick up in the store!  It has become an easy habit, and very eye-opening.  Many grocery stores have been adding more items that are labeled “lower sodium” or “no salt added”.  You still need to check the percentage of sodium.
  • My doctor’s advice as I walked out the door was:  Eat a banana every day, and don’t touch the soft drinks!  I also drink more water, like we all should.

So far, so good!  So………in summary, what has worked for me:

  1. Read labels.
  2. Cut out soft drinks.
  3. Don’t touch the salt shaker.
  4. Eat that banana, alone or with cereal.
  5. Check restaurant nutrition.
  6. Drink water and increase movement.
  7. See the doctor regularly to monitor any changes.

Disclaimer:  Remember!  I am not an expert, and definitely not a doctor. These are suggestions that have worked for me.  Hypertension/High Blood Pressure is not something to mess around with.  Please see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment that is best for you.  Check your blood pressure regularly, and see a doctor for regular checkups, especially if you are in your 40’s and 50’s.  Lots of changes occur and sneak up on you, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle!


Next time, I will share some ways to add flavor to foods without the salt! Check out my previously posted recipes, since most of them are already light on the salt!


Aunt J’s Peanut Butter Cookies

This has to be one of the easiest cookie recipes I have ever found!  It only has 3 ingredients and is easy to remember, too.  My great-aunt used to make these, and when I need a quick dessert with items I have on hand, this is it!

This is the only recipe for peanut butter cookies I have used for the past 30 years.  Even as a young mother, just learning to bake and cook, this one was super easy with great results!

Because the recipe is so simple, it is easy to double.

Aunt J’s Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

1 egg

That’s it!

Stir together.  Roll into small balls and place on cookie sheet (lined with non-stick mat or spray).  Press down with a fork to make the design and even out the cookies. Dip the fork in flour if needed to prevent sticking.

Bake at 325 degrees for 5-8 minutes, depending on  your oven.

TIP:  If you want to make a double batch, it may be easier to stir one recipe batch at a time.  Then mix the next batch.  It seems to go quicker, and is a lot easier on the arm muscles!


Summer Caprese Salad or Sandwich

What is Caprese?   I learned it is a great combination of flavors that taste especially light and healthy when it is hot outside and tomatoes are fresh!  Caprese means a salad in the style of “Capri”.  From Italy, it is a simple salad made with mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil. 

I have seen versions of this salad in many Food Network and other television cooking shows and in many magazines. I realized which flavors I liked, and that I could use them in a salad or in a sandwich.  As I have mentioned before, you can adjust amounts to your taste and what you have available. This is my version, depending on what ingredients I usually have in the fridge.

Summer Caprese Salad 

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half to bite size pieces)

1/4 cup diced mozzarella cheese (any variety)

3 Tablespoons olive oil (approximate)

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1-3 cloves of garlic (chopped)

3 leaves of fresh basil (chopped or torn)

Mix ingredients and let sit for 2-3 minutes till the flavors really combine well. Enjoy!

Tips:  Suggestions if you don’t have exact ingredients…..

  • You can use pieces of mozzarella string cheese cut to bite size.
  • You can use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder instead of fresh.
  • You can use a squirt of basil from packaged basil in a tube.
  • You can chop up any kind of regular tomato instead of the cherry tomatoes.


Summer Caprese Sandwich

Toasted bun or 2 slices of favorite bread

1 thick slice of tomato

1 thick slice of mozzarella cheese

2-3 basil leaves (leave whole)

1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Sprinkle of garlic powder (optional – especially if at work!)

Mayonnaise (optional)

Assemble ingredients onto the toasted bread or bun. I like a thin spread of mayonnaise on my bread, but it is optional.  Drizzle the balsamic vinegar carefully. It may be a little messy, but it’s sooo worth it!


  • For lower sodium content, I do not add salt and pepper to the salad or sandwich.  There is plenty of flavor without!
  • If you like onion, you can add that to this sandwich.
  • For variety, you can add a slice of bacon and slice of lettuce to make a BLT with mozzarella.
  • For transporting to work for a great homemade lunch – take mozzarella and tomato in the balsamic vinegar (marinating in a small plastic zip bag). Place in your work fridge until ready to eat, then place on bread. Taste is amazing because it has marinated for a few hours and no soggy sandwich!