Personally Speaking

Candied Yams Without the Candy

I prefer the natural sweetness of yams slow roasted. They come out really sweet with a nice chewy caramelized crust if done right.

The trick is to just drizzle olive oil all over, then roast them slowly at no higher than 325 f / 160 c for about an hour. This allows the starch to turn into sugars, a process that doesn't happen if they cooked too fast at too high of a heat.

Served with Thanksgiving dinner, which tends to have a LOT of salty/savory components, they can really balance things out. Generally speaking I can't stand sweet potatoes cooked any other way, and I've tried them about every which way.

Cooking, Personally Speaking

My Delicious Chicken Broccoli Casserole

I had a huge batch of roasted chicken breast that I prepped last night. We decided to make a nice casserole for supper tonight and it turned out really well. Now I have come to the conclusion that I need to write things down so that I don’t forget it.

The Casserole Ingredients

  • 15 oz roasted chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 50 g bacon
    • Cooked and crumbled
  • 15.3 oz cauliflower
    • Steamed and crumbled into rice-like pieces
  • 9.5 oz broccoli
    • Steamed and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 75 g brown mushrooms
    • Diced into equally sized cubes
  • 62 g red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp chicken boullion granules
  • 1 tsp xantham gum
    • Xantham gum is a very efficient thickener. A bag of it will last a long time, since you really only need a little bit at a time. If you make the recipe without it make sure that you let the sauce reduce for a little longer, cut the broth back. Honestly it will be runnier without it but will taste the same.
  • 50 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 oz grated extra sharp cheddar
  • 35 g butter
  • A pintch of salt and pepper

The Topping Ingredients

  • 30 g butter, melted on the stove top
  • 85 g almond flour
  • 30 g grated parmesan cheese
  • Minced parsley

Oh So Delicious Directions

  1. Steam the cauliflower.
  2. Dice it in the food processor or chop finely until it resembles rice.
  3. Set it aside in a big mixing bowl that you’ll assemble all the ingredients in.
  4. Steam the broccoli and chop into bite size pieces, throw in with cauliflower.
  5. In a medium saucepan, melt 35 grams of butter over medium heat.
    1. Throw in the mushrooms and onions until translucent, then add in the garlic for ~30 sec.
    2. Add the chicken stock, 1 tsp bouillon and sprinkle the xanthum gum in.
    3. Bring to a quick boil, stirring constantly, then reduce heat.
    4. Add heavy whipping cream, parmesan, bacon, and black pepper.
      • This is essentially your “cream of mushroom soup” replacement, so do the majority of your seasoning/time spent on this step.
      • Once the sauce is to your liking, dump the chicken, cheese and sauce in with the broccoli and cauliflower.
  6. Mix everything together and then finish seasoning to taste.
  7. Place mixture into greased 3 qt casserole dish.

Mix the Topping

  1. Melt remaining butter in a small bowl.
  2. Let cool slightly, then mix in almond flour, parmesan and parsley until you have a fine crumb mixture. Sprinkle evenly over casserole.
  3. Bake uncovered in a 350 oven for 30-45 minutes.
    1. Check at 30, then every 5 minutes until top is golden brown and sides are bubbly.
    2. Hit it with the broiler at the end to crisp up the topping for a minute or two.
The whole thing will come out oh so tasty, just make sure that you a quarter of an hour before serving so that everything has a chance to settle together. If you make any improvements I’d love to hear them.
Personally Speaking

The Worst Case of Hiccups

I just got over the worst case of hiccups I have had in my life. My side is still tender and I feel like my ears want to pop, but they just can’t. It is annoying and they lasted for about five hours. For a moment I thought that I was going to have to go to the emergency room. Though I think they would have just laughed at me and gave me a paper bag to breath into. Which did not work. My spasms (hiccups are spasms right?) would come in waves of various intensity. Usually lasting about ten minutes. I tried everything.
  • The trick with putting fingers in your ear and drinking water only made me feel sick
  • Then I tried to tickle the roof of my mouth with q-tip. Nope, it just felt weird and didn’t do anything.
  • Both peanut butter and the sugar trick were no good
  • Bags just made me feel light headed.
The only reason why I contemplated the ER was because I think I felt so bad from trying to treat the hiccups. Now, let’s just hope they stay gone. I had horror visions of that girl that had them for months. I don’t even know how that is possible.
Personally Speaking

The Baby Shower Hostess With the Mostess

That would be yours truly if you haven’t figured it out yet. And I am really actually enjoying it, for what it is worth. I know a lot of women get roped into hosting a baby shower and they just hate it. They see it as this major burden that they need to take care of. The sooner they get it done the better. But I am actually trying to take my time and enjoy the whole process. And so far I have done just that. Enjoyed myself.

A Helping Hand

When I was pregnant with our first child I was a little bit of mess. I know, me? But yes, I will admit that I wasn’t a hundred percent comfortable with my coming role and while that changed about a second after our son was born it was something that followed me throughout the pregnancy. My husband was great, as was hist sister who stood by me and provided me with some moral support. And while I never realized it before, after we spent so much time together we really were more than SiL to one another, we were more like sisters. And so now it is my chance to pay her back in a small way at least. As you can imagine, she is much better suited to carry her child. I haven’t heard a peep from her that it has been anything but heaven, and well, while I admire her for that I really didn’t have a lot of demands placed on me. So when the option came to be the baby shower hostess I jumped at the chance. I actually would have fought for the opportunity to do the shower for my sister-in-law because it is something that:
  • I can do
  • I want to do
  • I will do the best I can
True, there is a lot to do when you have a baby shower but, seriously, it is just a glorified party and I can handle that. I have hosted so many parties and the like since I moved out for college. This is not going to be a problem. And I think that most people get nervous because they just don’t have that same amount of experience that I have. Which is why I am so confident that I will be able to make it a success.

Showers Require Invites

As of right now we are pretty heavy into getting things put together. But it hasn’t been that hard since we’re not going to make it a themed shower. I usually don’t like those, and guess what, neither does the expectant mother. While we aren’t going to be going for a specific theme, (we had thrown the Lion King theme around, since we both loved it as kids) we decided to go for something that was close but not as specific. We’re going to be doing a little prince or gentleman themed baby shower and they are practically the same. You can do pretty much whatever you want when it comes to invitations and decorations since you don’t need to really do anyone thing. When it comes to the invitations, we decided that it needs to be sweet, and since we will be hosting a boy baby shower we can really get into the blues an such. I will be using gray with a light blue accent for most of the decorations and I already got the paper plates and other odds and ends. But we need guests. And to get guests you need to send them invites. So I am sitting here right now waste deep in paper. Invitations to be exact. I intend to get them addressed and sent out the door by the weekend, but that means that I need to stay focused and get busy. And for all of my strengths, addressing envelopes must really not be one of them. I wish there was an easier way. But I don’t want to print them, and the thought of feeding a hundred plus envelopes through my printer is not my idea of fun. That means that once I click post I will go back to work filling them out, in calligraphy I may add, and after my hand has long cramped I will finish the last one. Granted this is something that could have been left to others. Though neither my mother or my husband would have fought one another for the chance to address the envelopes they would have helped had I asked them. The only reason I have left them out is because my hand writing is the nicest and neither of them know calligraphy (I started learning a modern script on YouTube). And there was something about the idea of sending out beautiful hand written invites appealing. I understand that most people will spend a moment looking at that – maybe think that it is nice – but in the end chuck it in the trash. Huh, now that has put a further damper on my enthusiasm. Well, the only way that they will get out the door is if I finish them, and the invitations won’t address themselves, so, back at it! P.S. I will be sure to share some photos of how the day went. It is in six weeks so I have plenty of time to get the rest of the odds and ends together for the celebration. It isn’t super in advance, but I told the guests to RSVP no later than a week before the baby shower and I think that is fare. I once got an invitation to a party and they wanted me to RSVP a month before the day. When I went (yes I was good, I sent back my RSVP in plenty of time) half of the guest never even bothered with reply. The hostess of that shower was really upset. I can’t really blame her though.
Personally Speaking

This Ones for You Dear

So here I am writing a quick follow up to yesterday’s piece about my love of fruit cake. My husband made it sound like we were a family of drunks. I personally didn’t get that. But I am probably biased. Probably. But I thought that I would clear up any misconceptions about the real fruitcake and make it clear that it isn’t like you think. Fruitcake used to be made with rare ingridients like citrus fruit. We don’t think those are rare anymore so the fact that these flavors are featured makes it pretty ho-hum.

A Fruity History

Fruitcake used to be a sign of wealth, since fruit, especially warm-climate fruits were hard to come by in the winter. By putting many exotic flavors, like orange and lemon, into the cake, you were showing off that you could afford these rare ingredients. The best way of getting these fruits was candied and dried, so that is what is used in fruitcake even today. To further show off, liquours were added to the cake after baking.


Fast forward a few years and having a cake that has citrus fruit in it is no longer a big deal, those are flavors we can get all the time. What’s worse, in an attempt to recreate the taste of earlier fruitcakes, many fruitcakes purchased now have rum or other liquor flavoring added, which is a different thing than actually pouring the liquid on a cake that doesn’t have that flavoring. We also now have access to flavorings that were much more rare during the heyday of fruitcake, flavors like chocolate and vanilla.

Homemade Tastes Best

If you were to make a traditional style fruitcake at home, and do it the old way it would be much better than what you can buy at the store. But even then, you’ve now been spoiled by an availability of much fresher citrus, and many more diverse flavors than you would have had available even 100 years ago. That makes the fruitcake much less of a treat. So most people don’t go through the trouble to make it, since it is a very involved process. Instead people buy the fruitcakes, which are even worse, for reasons mentioned above. The purchased fruitcakes are what many people’s first introduction to fruitcake is, and it just doesn’t satisfy as much as most modern desserts to many modern pallets.


Here are a few recipes that will help you get your fill. Or you can always order from Assumption Abbey and get monk made fruit cake from Ava, Missouri.
Personally Speaking

On The Subject of Fruit Cake

Personally speaking I love fruit cake. And after today’s epiphany, well, I just can’t wait until my aunt gives us another for the holidays. I mean, most people hate them, but we love them. And I think that the reason is simple, most people don’t get to experience them the right way. And there is a right way to experience them. I think most people only get the commercial cakes, the ones that taste like dirt and are as hard as a rock. I understand why people would think that they are nasty. I don’t like the store bought varient either. A fruit cake is not meant to be eaten dry. It is meant to be soaked in liquor, over a period of weeks in a process called ripening (example). This yields a moist cake, sweet with fruit and full of liquor. Everyone is happy. But some time in our history (at least American history) I think we got on some kind of moral high horse and decided that booze was bad, and we would have nice holiday celebrations without getting drunk. Naturally this goes for the cake too.
Personally Speaking


We had been dealing with moths off and on for a month. I thought I had checked everything but obviously not. I mean, the spare bed room is not that big, nor did I think that there would be a food source for them. Well, I was wrong. We finally found their hold out it was a small fruit cake in a decorative tin. I can only imagine that it got swept up and stored without me even noticing it. I will admit that I had been in a real hurry this year so that just goes to show me to stop and take more time. I am sure that I will be able to laugh about this someday, many, many, many years in the future. I’m still finding some residual webs but I think that we have succeeded in clearing them out.
Cooking, Personally Speaking

Learn From the Failures

The thing I’ve found about baking is that it’s not like cooking. You can’t go off-piste with baking unless you really know what you’re doing, you have to treat it almost like a chemistry experiment and read the whole thing through first, get all your ingredients together, make sure you have enough of everything before you start. You also need to have the right equipment – cookies are a bit more forgiving than cakes because they don’t need to be baked in a tin, but you still need to use standard measuring spoons and cups and measure exactly – no heaping teaspoons, no half-filled cups. If the recipe specifies just “flour”, then I would use all-purpose. For most simple recipes there’s no reason not to use all purpose flour. Only use a specialty flour if it’s specified in the recipe, eg self raising, which has raising agents incorporated, or “strong” bread flour which has extra protein to make stretchy bread dough. Don’t soften butter in the microwave. What you want is soft, but not melted butter. I leave butter out on the counter overnight to soften to room temperature rather than microwaving. Make sure you follow the recipes to the absolute letter. But only if it is in a cookbook I know and trust. Online, anything goes, there are so many horribly-written recipes on the internet. I’d invest in an actual (vetted/tested) cookbook with basic cookie recipes like Betty Crocker or Pillsbury and go from there. Top of the list is Smitten Kitchen – I have never had a baking failure with any of her recipes. I just made her brownie roll-out cookies today with my kids and they were super easy – if you have some holiday themed cookie cutters they would be lovely with a bit of powdered sugar on them. If you’re the sort who can’t ever get the ingredients assembled ahead of time, pick some recipes that use melted butter.
Personally Speaking

A Summer Time Treat

I think that there are certain foods that are best eaten at a certain time of the year. I love casseroles and I think that they taste the best in the fall and winter. But there is one special casserole that I make every 4th of July and on family picnics.

My Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole

There is just something about a chicken bacon ranch casserole that just fits. My family will agree with me. And so you have a chance to test it with your family I am going to share the recipe with you so you can give it a try.

A Few Ingredients

This makes 8 servings
  • 4 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 8 oz. freshly shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
    • It helps to pull the cream cheese out of the refrigerator ahead of time so that it can soften.
  • 12 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1.5 lbs of fresh mushrooms
  • ½ packet of ranch seasoning (4 tsp)
  • Fresh cracked pepper is a requirement, don’t skip this part

A Couple of Directions to Follow

  1. Start by baking the bacon.
    • Line a pan with aluminum foil and place the bacon on it.
    • Cook for 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees.
    • Cooking times may vary depending upon the thickness of the bacon.
    • The foil lined pan makes cleanup easy and very easy to save your grease, which is great for cooking.
  2. Chop up the chicken into bite sized pieces.
    • Add bacon grease (or olive oil, butter, whatever) to a pan on medium and toss the chicken in.
    • Season with the ranch packet.
    • You want to make sure to cook the chicken mostly all the way through.
  3. While the chicken is cooking wash and slice up your mushrooms.
  4. When the chicken is finished remove it from the pan and cook the mushrooms.
    • Season these if you want with a little salt and pepper.
    • Cook them until they get to the consistency that you prefer.
  5. Add the finished ingredients to a large greased (makes cleanup easy) casserole dish.
  6. When the bacon is finished chop it up into bite sized pieces and add all of the ingredients to the casserole dish, including the cheese, and mix thoroughly.
    • Important: top with fresh cracked black pepper!!
  7. Set your oven to 350 degrees and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Cook for 30 minutes covered and then 10-15 minutes uncovered.
  8. Let the casserole sit for about 15 minutes before serving it.


My mother makes this (I actually found the recipe) and she has made some changes to the base. I don’t like them but my husband will gobble both up without thinking twice so I will share her changes with you as well:

Ingredients and Directions

  • 1/2 Cup of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 packet of Ranch Dip Seasoning (just used the half that I didn’t put with the chicken)
  • Mix together and pour over mixture before baking
Personally Speaking

Another Round

We have been going through this trouble with moths, and it is really seriously driving me crazy. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Live with them.

We were originally told that they were waxworms. But my father confirmed that they were most certainly not. And I think that the people who told us that, were either having a laugh at our expense, or they just didn't know what they are talking about, both options are possible.

But I am still struggling to figure out where they are coming from. It turns out that they are not coming out of the comforters we had in storage, though they do have a nest in the room somewhere.

So far we have been using pheromone traps to attract all the males and sends them to a sticky death so they cant fertilise the eggs.