Kitchen Tips #3

A few more ideas that I use around the kitchen.  If you are new to cooking or just need some new tips, I hope these help!  Let me know if you have more ideas to share!

  • Avoid wasting fresh veggies when you are going to use them to cook in recipes!  I like to buy vegetables when they are on sale, but have spent many years wasting them, letting them go bad before I remember to use them!  Wash, cut, and freeze the diced veggies in freezer containers or plastic zip bags. Celery, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and squash are great vegetables that are used in many cooked recipes, and they freeze well for that purpose. They can be put in soups, stews, dressings, and casseroles. Onions many not work in every recipe. Carrots did not work well for me.
Diced Celery ready to freeze

Diced Celery ready to freeze

  • Speaking of cornbread dressing or stuffing, a tasty timesaver is using those frozen onions and celery!  Place them, along with extra sage and poultry seasoning, into the saute pan with butter to soften and enhance the flavors. Add the whole mixture to the bread and other ingredients.
Celery, Onion, Sage, Poultry Seasoning with butter

Celery, Onion, Sage, Poultry Seasoning with butter


  • Our family prefers a traditional cornbread dressing with turkey at the holidays. To save time, I save leftover cornbread from a few meals in a plastic zip bag, freeze, and pull out when I’m ready to make the dressing. Then if needed, I make a small pan of cornbread with added sage to the batter for extra flavor!

see: Family Recipe – Cornbread dressing

Starting Simple Craft Ideas

When I was young and trying different crafts, my mother taught me basic sewing and embroidery techniques, which I loved! It was a great feeling to create something, even if it already had a pattern. Over time, I took “home ec” classes and learned a few more sewing skills.

My journey through working and motherhood left little time to practice these skills, but I saved ideas and pictures in a folder for “one day”. So – “one day” is finally here. With grown children, my time is a little more flexible and I can make some time for my ideas.

If you don’t  have time to create something huge, start small!  You can search on the internet now or through old-fashioned craft books and magazines for really simple ways to start.

Ways to Start Crafting:

  • Use a folder or 3-ring binder to save ideas you find in magazines. I tear out the pages with ideas for crafts or decorations and recycle the rest of the magazine.
  • When you have leftover pieces of cloth from sewing, save it to use later for quilting or other craft projects.
  • If you have a great outfit, shirt, dress, with material that you love, but the outfit has outlived its best, you can save the material to re-cycle into a new item. There are lots of blogs and sites that have great ideas for turning old t-shirts into dresses or children’s clothes. I turned 4 old t-shirts into pillow cases (more details to come).
Pin Cushion (from a bridesmaid's dress)

Pin Cushion (from a bridesmaid’s dress)


  • I love shopping in craft and cloth stores! Look for ideas and patterns that you can use as they are, or you can adapt for your use. I have used 2 or 3 different cross-stitch patterns to create individualized items for my husband and grandson. (more later)!
  • Sometimes you may know what style or pattern you want, and other times you may just see a great material and then have to find the perfect use or pattern for it!
  • For small projects, you can use remnants and cloth you already have on hand. After making nursing covers for my daughter when she was expecting, I used the leftover cloth to make an owl pillow and a cover for a door latch.
Leftover material saved in containers

Leftover material saved in containers

  • To save time and money, we can search online for sewing patterns, cross-stitch patterns, cloth and supplies. Craft stores cannot hold all that is out there, but you can search online and then save the searches in a folder on your desktop. Make a wishlist or idea folder.
  • When searching online for cross-stitch patterns, start with “free pattern cross-stitch” and you may find one you can print out for free.
  • Patterns you find online can be free, have a range of costs, but always be wary and check out a site if you are not familiar with it before ordering.
  • Above all, don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns and materials. I never felt I was “creative”, but you and I can create and adapt!

Marinated Pork Tenderloin

This simple marinade and a pork tenderloin make a special meal for the whole family that seems like it was hard to make, but is super easy!  This marinade may seem odd, but the flavor is amazing!  After watching several years of foodie channels and cooking shows, I finally decided to stop being afraid to change up written recipes and try different flavors.  I gained confidence in my own taste preferences and realized that there was no harm in adding more or less ingredients than called for. We love garlic, so sometimes I add a little extra.

We love this marinade with pork tenderloin, when I can find it on sale. When that’s not available, we have tried it with chicken, pork chops, and even steak.   It takes 5 minutes to prepare and put in the fridge to marinate.

Marinated Pork

1 pork tenderloin (or 2 for a bigger family)

Marinade:   1/4 cup olive oil                                  

                   1/4 cup soy sauce (lite soy works fine!)                        

                   1/4 cup brown sugar

                   1 Tablespoon garlic powder (or 3 chopped cloves)

                   1 Tablespoon ginger (fresh or powder)

                   1 teaspoon cinnamon

                   Optional:  1 chopped green onion

Place all the marinade ingredients into a 1-gallon plastic zip bag and combine by squeezing it a couple of times.  Place the meat in the bag and seal the bag.  Make sure the meat is covered with the marinade and place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes (or up to a few hours). 

553 Marinated Pork

Tip:  With most marinades, a shorter time is fine, but more flavor soaks in the longer it sits.  However….marinades with hot spices or peppers added might end up too spicy, so follow the shorter or recommended time for those.     

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place foil on your baking pan. A 9×13 pan or cookie sheet with sides will work. Spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking and for easier clean-up.  Place the meat in the pan, drizzling a little of the marinade over the meat, just to coat.  Throw away the rest. Check after 20-25 minutes, but when I use an average size tenderloin, it takes about 30-40 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 165 degrees.

When it reaches the safe internal temperature, take it out and cover it lightly with foil until it “rests” for about 10-15 minutes. This really does work! The juices of the meat stay in the meat and the foil will keep it warm. Then slice and serve!

Kitchen Tips #2

More easy tips that will save time and money in the kitchen!  I use these tricks to save money and waste less food, as well as making clean-up so much easier and quicker. Meats are expensive to waste!

  • Line Baking Pans with foil to make it easier to clean up! Spray the foil with a cooking spray. After baking or roasting is finished (and cooled!), just throw away the used foil and a quick wash of the pan is all you need!


  • If you are concerned about using a commercial cooking spray, you can put some vegetable oil on a paper towel and rub on the foil. Or you can just pour a little oil and tilt the pan in all directions to spread the oil.


  • Meat, fish, and chicken can sometimes be bought at a great price when sold in a large bulk package.  BUT! If you let it go to waste, you haven’t saved any money.  Divide and freeze the meat within a day or two so the meat will not go bad.  Get those plastic zip bags out and put individual pieces (chicken, pork, etc.) in that you can used for just one meal.  If dividing ground beef, put about 1 pound in each bag since most recipes call for 1 or 2 pounds at a time.
Steak, Chicken and Pork = Several meals

Steak, Chicken and Pork = Several meals

Chicken Thighs - Ready for 3 Meals

Chicken Thighs – Ready for 3 Meals


  • Place meat for one typical meal in a bag.  1 pound of ground beef fits well in a quart size bag. Individual pieces of chicken, pork chops or ribs, also fit into a quart bag.  There are great “portion-size” bags available now that make it easier to divide and thaw what you need! I like to put my 1-portion pieces in their little bags. Then I can put several of those into a gallon size bag for double protection. There not as easy to lose in the freezer, either!
Pork Loin, cut in half for 2 different meals

Pork Loin, cut in half for 2 different meals

Steaks and Chicken Strips - 5 more meals

Steaks and Chicken Strips – 5 more meals


Family Tree Binder

My original idea for a Christmas gift for our parents had become huge! The family tree information I found and organized was too much to write by hand and very time consuming. I found a great software program available at the time, which I still use after nine years. There are many more options and programs out there now, and reviews are available to find out the best style to fit your needs.

I entered my family information and the program organized a history page for each family, and then created a family tree with names and dates.

I realized I would need to constantly change the pages when I found new details, so I decided to use a 3-ring binder and loose leaf format. I also found out that after a family tree is shared with your family, it sparks more old memories that will change and add to the family tree binder. Both families were excited to learn more about their own families, and it especially reminded them how important they are to us!

Scripture Added to the Beginning pages of the Family Tree Binder

What I used for my project:

  •      White 3-ring binder (with clear cover to insert personalized title)
  •      Clear sheet page protectors
  •      Dividers for sections of family, photos, etc.
  •      White and color copy paper

I designed a cover or title page that I inserted with the famly name, and nice border, and the date. I created a title page note for each family, explaining what information had or had not yet been verified.  Not all internet genealogy information is going to be true!  I have not even had time to find real sources of evidence for all the information I have. That’s my next step!

For the binder, I found verses that spoke to the special connection between family and that our histories are part of who we are.

Lessin quote for Family Tree Binder

Section 1:     Printed the direct ancestry list with names and dates of births, deaths, and marriages that I had found so far. That included my parents and all of their direct grandparents and great-grandparents.

Section 2:     Probably the most important part of the binder (at least the one that brought lots of tears, even to the fathers!) was a collection of letters and lists. I asked each child and grandchild to write something about their memories of our parents. It was harder for the guys, until we helped them get started! Each son and daughter, their husbands and wives, and all the grandchildren wrote about the things that made their parents and grandparents special to them, individual memories of special times and places. This was a great opportunity to thank our parents for all they had done for us and our children!

Section 3:     Printed all of the Descendants (that I could find) from the oldest identified ancestors. That included uncles, aunts, cousins, distant cousin! This history contained all other details I could find, such as places of births, deaths, marriages, burials, schools, etc.

Section 4:     Paternal Section – Divided out my father’s family ancestry, along with photos I had found of several grand and great-grand parents. I included extra photos of my father as a baby or young child with some of those relatives. As a bonus, I had a special handwritten recipe from his mother, my grandmother, who had passed on 2 years earlier. I had a few copies of birth, death and marriage certificates, included the marriage certificate for my father’s grandparents in 1919.

Section 5:     Maternal Section – Included the same as for my father’s side of the family, with her relatives, with photos, copies of documentation.

Next:  I will try to share more information on software and resources for beginning family tree research.  There are many free options out there!



The Genealogy Puzzle

Genealogy is really a puzzle that never ends!

As a teenager, I wanted to know more about my family tree. I was blessed to know many living grandparents and great-grands. I met my great-great-Aunt Dora from Tennessee, and a few months later she surprised me with a blue notebook in the mail.  After we talked about my interest, she had handwritten all she knew about my maternal grandfather’s family tree back to the 1800’s in Mississippi.

That was it!  I was hooked!  She left my own family details blank for me to fill in. Over the next few years, I only dabbled because I had school, college, a new job, and then became a wife and mother of two. I would occasionally lightly research so I could share something with my children.

In the 80’s and 90’s, I would talk to my parents and grandparents, but after my children were grown and independent, I had time to discover internet resources and genealogy libraries. I innocently thought I would make a simple family tree as a Christmas gift for my parents and my husband’s parents. That project became huge and the details I found eventually filled about 4 file cabinet drawers!  So that part of my journey began in 2004. Once I got started, I could not stop!  It is exciting, rewarding, and amazing to realize details of the lives of ancestors we might take for granted.  I seemed obsessed, but I just could not stop without finding the next pieces of the family tree puzzle!

Next:  I will describe the Gifts I made for our parents with family trees, recipes, photos and more!

Kitchen Tips #1

No one starts out cooking in a kitchen knowing how to do everything! I am still learning after cooking for over 40 years! As a teenager, my mother and grandmothers showed me great techniques, but you don’t always remember what you need when you need it!

Here are a few tips I have learned over the years:

  • When using bread crumbs, you can make your own if you have time, but I usually don’t! So we like to use plain panko-type bread crumbs because they make foods crispier and less soggy, especially fish and chicken.


  • Olive oil is another great healthy addition to your diet, helping cholesterol levels among others. It can be used as a substitute for vegetable oil in most recipes, especially sauteing and making a salad dressing. Baking with it is more questionable due to it changing the taste of the foods, but I did use it in brownies once, and we couldn’t tell the difference!


  • Always have plastic zip bags on hand! They have so many great uses, and make your time in the kitchen much easier.   
    1. Use them to save leftovers  
    2. Use them to marinate meat in the refrigerator  
    3. Use them to bread fish, chicken or vegetables for baking, sauteing, or frying. Use one bag for your wet coating (oil, butter, mustard, dressing, etc.). Use the second bag for the dry coating (panko, bread crumbs, crushed crackers, chopped nuts, etc.).     




Quick and Easy Fish Recipe

We have learned that eating fish is a healthy addition to our diets, as long as we limit the fried versions!  It took me a long time to warm up to eating fish, since I grew up a Southern girl eating great fried chicken, ham, and hamburgers. I really did not think I could eat fish that was not fried!

After some years with my husband, who loves eating seafood, I gradually tried new seafood and overcame my fear of cooking fish. This recipe is just about foolproof and tastes better than some versions I’ve eaten in seafood restaurants!


 2-4 pieces Tilapia (thaw as directed if frozen!)

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Sprinkle of black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon)

About 2 Tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place fish in a plastic zip bag with the oil to coat it so the bread crumbs will stick.  Mix panko, parmesan cheese & pepper in another plastic bag. Place oil coated fish in the dry mix bag, move around and shake until the fish is covered liberally with the seasoned bread crumbs. Place the fish on a foil lined baking sheet (cookie sheet) that has been sprayed with a cooking spray.  Bake the fish for about 20 minutes, checking for the browning of the crust. Once the tops are nicely browned, but not burnt, the fish should be done. If you stick a fork in the thickest part of the fish, it should be white and flake apart with the fork.

Tip!!   Boneless Chicken Strips work great in this recipe, too!

Father’s Day Gifts

Father’s Day, the 3rd Sunday in June, this year on June 16th, is a special day to celebrate and thank Daddy!  Daddy may be new to the job, or an old pro, but he’s always watching out for his children, even when they are grown and parents themselves.

A father may get a fishing pole or a watch, but those little handprints and footprints are lifelong treasures.

In addition to some of the ideas I shared for Mother’s Day Gifts, here are some more designed for Dads.

  1. Again, using non-toxic washable child’s paint, apply with a brush, sponge, or your hand, to their hand or foot, one at a time.
  2. Clean one hand before switching to the other!  It’s easier to keep track of one messy hand!
  3. Make poster, framed page, scrapbook page, or fold to make a card.
  4. Search for ideas online if you want to make shapes or designs. These might include:
  • heart shape with footprints, with or without a photo in the center
  • handprints on left and right with a poem or note or photo in the middle
  • There are great poems out there already, create your own, or simply identify the occasion, name and date;

Father’s Day 2013
With Love
Child’s Name
created on June 18, 2013

  • you could add a photo of the child actually making the prints!

5.  For Dads who have a favorite sport or hobby, prints could recreate  some symbol, such as:

  • Basketball – orange paint, put several hands in a circle shape
  • Fishing – use footprints to make “green” fish, add eyes or fins with black marker
  • Hunting – deer head from footprint and antlers from handprints
  • Baseball – two little sides of baby fists together to create the round ball

Great for:  New Fathers (1st Father’s Day)
                 Fathers of any age
                 Grandpas and Great-Grandpas

See:   More Ideas for Mother’s Day Gifts


Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is approaching fast, on May 12th, the second Sunday in May. Whether it is the first Mother’s Day, or the 80th, our children are always our babies. Our cards and gifts are reminders for Moms about how much they are loved and appreciated.

Easy and inexpensive gifts are usually the most memorable, especially those little handprints and footprints for us to keep!

Some ideas:

  1. Using non-toxic (most are now, but check to make sure) washable child’s paint, brush or sponge paint onto your little one’s hand or foot. If they are too sensitive to the brush or sponge, just rub it on with your hand! Do one at a time to make it easier to clean up. Gently apply to your paper or item.
  2. Prints can be applied to a piece of poster board, heavier construction paper or card-stock.
  3. Paper can be folded to make a card, or left open to make a poster, or put in a frame to hang on the wall.
  4. Browse popular search engines to find ideas if you want to make a design with the prints, or add a poem or note. Some possibilities are:
  • butterflies out of footprints, adding antennae with black marker
  • flowers with handprints, adding stems with green or black marker
  • tree, with footprint trunk, handprint branches, fingerprint leaves or apples
  • heart shape from hands or feet
  • try different colors for each print for special effects, maybe using favorite colors or color scheme of home
  • for young babies, apply paint to the side of their fist, gently press to create adorable baby rosebuds
  • apply prints to containers like flowerpots, adding a coat of sealant, then planting a flower

Great for:   New Mothers (1st Mother’s Day)
                  Mothers of any age
                  Grandmas and Great-Grandmas

See:   More ideas for Father’s Day Gifts