We Love Chicken Elbows!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 27 March 2020

This is a really simple recipe which Thing 2 and I enjoy all the time. We never seem to get tired of it!

It’s also really inexpensive, and easy to have the two ingredients on hand in your pantry. Where I shop, I get a box of Barilla pasta elbows for $1.60, and a two-pack of canned chicken for $3.50. This is enough ingredients to make the recipe two times, so a single recipe ends up costing only $2.55.

This isn’t going to feed a large family, or a bunch of hearty eaters. But for Thing 2 and me, it’s a perfect dinner, and we eat it often. It’s our comfort food.

I like it when someone asks what I had for dinner and I can say “Chicken Elbows”. It catches people off guard, and gets some weird looks and chuckles. I enjoy that.

CHICKEN ELBOWS
3 cups water
1 can white chicken (10 ounces)
1/2 box pasta elbows (8 ounces)

In a large saucepan, pour three cups of water and one can of chicken, including the broth. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, and add half a box of pasta elbows. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender. Most of the liquid will be absorbed, so this doesn’t end up looking like a soup, it’s more like a pasta dish.

Dish up into two or three bowls. Add a pat of butter, stir, then a sprinkle of salt. Enjoy!

P.S. I don’t usually put paprika on top, but I did for the sake of the photo, just to add a bit of color.

 

Excuses, Excuses!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Saturday, 29 February 2020

I kind of want to punch my pillow. Or cry into it, or something. Here it is, the end of the month, and I don’t have a blog ready for you.

It’s not that I didn’t try.

I made Chicken Elbows a few times and typed up the recipe, but didn’t take any pictures. Probably because I only make that dish for dinner, and by that time of day, there’s no natural daylight to photograph them by.

They’re not very photogenic, anyways, but they sure are tasty.

I made Celestial Chocolate Chippers with strawberries cut into hearts on top. I didn’t take any photos, thinking I might make them again before the end of the month.

And then, when I went to Aldi, they were out of strawberries, so I didn’t.

I went to Vasilow’s Confectionery, an old-time chocolate shop near me, and took a few photos of it decked out in all its gorgeous Valentine’s Day glory.

But then I never wrote any text to go with the pictures.

I’ve made umpteen small batches of a simplified Love Mix, my Valentine’s Day version of Chex Mix, but didn’t take any photos, because, well, been there, done that.

I already blogged about that recipe two years ago, anyways.

I also made Spinach Strawberry Pasta Salad, a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time. It turned out good, but not fantastic, so I might need to work on the recipe more.

I was excited because when I made the salad, I used a set of Pyrex Colonial Mist bowls I recently got at Goodwill for a great price. I took a few photos of it, which turned out well.

But now. Now my photos won’t load. I normally use a cord which connects my camera to my Chromebook in order to transfer the photos, and it’s not working. I’ve tried two different cords.

My birthday was on Valentine’s Day. A couple at my church got married that day and I helped decorate, but I only took a few photos which I’m not wild about. I was too busy stuffing my face at their potluck reception before the food got cold. And this year, I ate wedding cake for birthday cake.

I fear My Copper Kitchen is a bit tarnished this month. I’m a hot mess. A hot, beautiful, rough-and-ragged-’round-the-edges, ‘nother-year-older mess.

 

Cinnamon Orange Snickerdoodles

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 31 January 2020

I found a recipe called Orange Cinnamon Crisps many years ago, when I clipped it from a bag of Albertsons’ sugar.

I used to make these cookies all the time, but then I stopped, frustrated because they weren’t turning out right. They were spreading out too much, making them thin at the edges, and were impossible to remove from the cookie sheet, even though I’d greased it.

I never did figure out the problem for sure, but my best guess was that I’d moved, and my new oven wasn’t preheating as quickly as I thought it was. You can’t always trust a digital oven.

The oven I have now is an older, built-in wall unit, and I find it consistently heats to 50 degrees below what the dial reads. You can’t always trust an old oven, either.

I recommend you get an oven thermometer which hangs on your oven rack, the kind with a dial. They’re pretty cheap, and you can buy them right at the grocery store. You might be surprised to find out your oven hasn’t been baking at the temperature you thought it was!

Anyways, I don’t really like calling these cookies crisps. For one thing, in my mind, a crisp is more like an apple crisp, a pie-like baked dessert with a crumbly oatmeal topping.

For another thing, these cookies aren’t really crisp at all, they’re soft, just the way I like them. So I decided to call them snickerdoodles, instead. Snickerdoodles usually have cream of tartar in the recipe, and these don’t. Snickerdoodles are usually more crackly looking than these cookies, too. But snickerdoodles are always rolled in cinnamon sugar, and so are these cookies.  Besides, snickerdoodles is just fun to say!

I made these cookies again this month, after a long hiatus with the recipe, and they turned out perfectly, just the way I remember from when I first started making them. The dough smells wonderful, and the cookies taste light and delicious.

Hello again, old friends. Hello Cinnamon Orange Snickerdoodles!

Continue reading

Spiral Santa and Snowman!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Before December slips away, let me show you the Christmas ornaments I got my boys this year!

I didn’t even try to look for them in the stores this year, I went straight to eBay. I searched and searched from the comfort of my own couch until I saw the perfect set.

I found them, a Santa with a spiral hat, and a snowman with a spiral body! I wan’t sure what material they were made out of, but I suspected metal, because I didn’t think those spirals could be made out of any other material. Plus, the scarf on the snowman reminded me of the scarf on Thing 1’s very first ornament, Tin Snowman.

They ornaments were delayed in shipping, but they finally arrived on December 23. (They accidentally got sent to the wrong address, and had to be forwarded.) Once they were on the tree, I felt very peaceful and happy. All’s well that ends well!

Thing 2 thinks his Santa has a wicked hat. Haha!

[OTHER POSTS ABOUT THE BOYS’ ORNAMENTS]
https://wp.me/p8pd67-rd

https://wp.me/p8pd67-Nu

https://wp.me/p8pd67-19i

 

 

 

Our Christmas Dinner

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Friday, 27 December 2019

This year, I decided to make a nice Christmas dinner, just for Thing 2 and me.

Last month, for Thanksgiving, we were invited to my friend Patti’s house. I thought about taking my delicious Cranberry-Orange Relish, but when I discovered at least four of her family members have nut allergies, I decided against it. I brought a Swedish Apple Pie, instead.

We had a wonderful time. There were a ton of people there, because Patti has a lot of kids, and all three of her siblings and their families were there. The turkey was moist and the mashed potatoes were garlicky. One of her daughters is an excellent gravy maker and also made a delicious sweet potato puree. Another daughter made a cauliflower casserole I really enjoyed.

Thing 2 is friends with yet a different one of her daughters, so he had kids to hang out with. Everything was so comfortable and we enjoyed being there.

But since I hadn’t cooked for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make an extra nice meal for Christmas Day. I decided to roast a whole chicken. A turkey is just too big for the two of us, and a turkey breast is missing the drumsticks, which are Thing 2’s favorite. So a five-pound chicken was perfect, seasoned with lemon pepper, paprika, and Real Salt. (Santa brought some spices in my Christmas stocking!)

I decided to make all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, too. I didn’t feel quite up to making mashed potatoes from scratch, so I used Idahoan instant potatoes, which I like quite well. And I’ve never been one to make stuffing from scratch, so I used Bell’s stuffing mix.

Instead of sweet potatoes, I decided to bake a butternut squash. It’s the same color and general idea as a sweet potato, and tastes delicious slathered with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar. And of course, I made the Cranberry-Orange Relish! Both of these side dishes brighten up the plate so much.

I set the table carefully with my Homer Laughlin Eggshell Georgian Cashmere plates which I’d purchased from Goodwill in 2018 with some gift money.

And then came the best part of all. I now have a complete set of Oneida Evening Star silver plate, so I was able to set the table with it for the very first time!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy eating with good silverware. My Evening Star is perfectly weighted, glows softly under candlelight, and feels as smooth as silk. Truly a delight to eat with!

I poured some Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider and Thing 2 and I toasted to family and good food. I was so thankful to be sitting across a lovely table from my gorgeous child, eating delicious food, using sparkling silverware and softly gleaming china.

It was the perfect end to our Christmas Day…

 

Swedish Apple Pie

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Friday, 22 November 2019

I came across an interesting recipe recently, shared by a lady in one of my online groups. Of course, the word “Swedish” caught my eye, seeing as how I have a Swedish grandmother!

“What in the world is a Swedish Apple Pie?” I thought. Turns out it has regular apple pie filling, but instead of a traditional crust, it has a topping which makes it kind of cobbler-like.

I very rarely make pies. I think the last time I made one was Thanksgiving 2017, and if I remember right, I cheated and used canned apple pie filling. Shhh, don’t tell!

I was feeling especially fall-like when I came across the recipe for Swedish Apple Pie, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was thrilled with how it turned out. It looked pretty, the filling and topping were both super tasty, and I didn’t miss a traditional crust at all.

And so easy. Give it a try!

SWEDISH APPLE PIE
For the filling:
5-6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:
12 Tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the apple slices in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and toss to coat. Place apples in your pie plate.

In a saucepan, melt butter, then remove from heat. Mix in white and brown sugars, flour, and then the egg. Stir well.

Pour topping over filling and spread to edges.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until apples are soft and crust is golden brown.



Helpful Hints

Most recipes say to peel your apples for pies. I decided to roughly peel my apples, leaving some stripes of peel intact. It added a little extra color and nutrition to the filling, and I didn’t mind the taste of an occasional bite of apple peel. It’s up to you, what you want to do.

The original recipe calls for the sugar and cinnamon to just be sprinkled over the apples in the pie plate. I wanted to make sure the apples were evenly coated, though, so in my mixing bowl I placed half the apples, sprinkled half the sugar and half the cinnamon, then stirred. After that, I repeated with the other half of the filling ingredients.

You could just dump the filling into the pie plate. I’m kind of a perfectionist, though, so I hand-placed the apples in a swirl pattern, thinking they would be more evenly distributed this way.

For the topping, the original recipe calls for one cup of white sugar. I changed it to 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

I used a wooden spoon to help pour the topping out of the saucepan. Then I used a butter knife to spread the topping over the filling, making sure all the apples were covered and the topping was spread to the edges. The topping comes out of the saucepan quite thick, and I don’t think spreading it with a spoon would have done the job as effectively.

Check the pie partway through baking, and if the topping is already browned, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top. Over-browned pie crust or topping has a strange taste and doesn’t look as pretty as one that’s delicately browned.

About that Pie Plate
Wondering what kind of pie plate that is? It’s a Pyrex Flavor Saver (229), considered a deep dish 10″ plate, and this design has been around since about 1942, although I can tell from the markings mine isn’t nearly that old.

I’ve been learning a lot recently about Pyrex, and awhile before making this pie, I decided I wanted to get two really nice quality pie plates, since I had none. And they had to match, of course.

I haunted Goodwill and looked at many clear Pyrex pie plates before deciding on this style. It also has an identical twin! On the day I found them, the color sticker they were priced with was on sale for 40 percent off, so I got them both for just over $5.

I brought them home, bleached them, scrubbed them down with Bar Keepers Friend, and then washed them well with Dawn dish liquid. I’m really pleased with how well they shined up.

And I’m so happy with how my new recipe turned out in my shiny pie plate!



[MORE INFORMATION]

To see some fun old advertisements for the Pyrex Flavor Saver pie plate, follow the links below:

https://pyrex.cmog.org/content/something-brides

https://pyrex.cmog.org/content/new-pyrex-flavor-saver-pie-plate?fbclid=IwAR3FKLHV3suSXWHQ6_xhuENJUXkE6E-fGTkDZmpp7WbYh9DszmADGz_T09Y

 

Mrs. S.’s Halloween Treat Bags

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Wednesday, 30 October 2019

I don’t remember a whole lot about Halloween when I was young. I never had a fancy, store-bought costume, and besides, it would’ve been a waste if I did, probably. It seems it was always too cold to go trick or treating without a coat, so a costume would have been lost underneath a layer. Anyways, I’m sure I had no knowledge of the fact you could buy Halloween costumes brand new.

When I dig way back into my misty-edged memories, it seems I was always a gypsy. I would throw on some wildly mismatched outfit, a plaid poncho, and gobs of my mother’s jewelry. I might have even worn some blush to rosy up my cheeks.

I never had a special trick-or-treat bag or one of those cute plastic pumpkin pails, I always carried my loot in a pillow case. There weren’t very many places to go trick or treating, since we lived in the country, and it was too far to walk between houses, so we had to be driven around. I don’t even know where we went. Like I said, I really don’t remember much.

But one thing I DO remember is going to Mrs. S.’s house. I thought her house was amazing! Most of the houses on our street were older colonials or farm houses, but hers seemed brand new.

Mrs. S.’s house was a modern ranch house. It was made of red brick, and the front door had diamond-paned glass. I don’t think anyone ever used that pretty front door, though, because there wasn’t even a path leading up to it. I think everyone would have used the kitchen door, which was closest to the driveway.

Her house had a two-car detached garage. It also had a carport which was right next to the kitchen door, on the side of the house. As an adult, I admire the genius of this, think how easy it would be to carry in groceries!

Her front lawn was a gentle slope, always neatly mowed. To the left of the driveway, behind some trees, but quite close to the road, was a pond with a little changing house. Later on, a small barn was built on the other side of the house, because her daughter got a horse.

Enough about her house, though. Let’s get back to Halloween! This little gypsy girl would march right up to Mrs. S.’s kitchen door in excited anticipation, because she always handed out those little paper treat bags full of candy. When you went to Mrs. S.’s house, you didn’t get just one little miniature candy bar or, even worse, a dreaded apple.

Mrs. S. was dark-haired and petite, and she would come to the door with a bowlful of those neat little bags with cute Halloween patterns, full of a bunch of treats. I don’t even know what kind of candy she put in them, but I remember absolutely loving those bags. It seemed wonderful, how she took a little extra care, stuffing them. She seemed so generous!

Anyways, Mrs. S. is long gone now. She died many years ago, a tragic death. Her husband still lives in the same house, though, and their children have long since moved away. But when I drive by her house, which I do very often, I always smile inside, and remember how happy she made a little gypsy girl on Halloween.

 

A Mother’s Prayer

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Monday, 30 September 2019

For the past few years, the school bus has picked Thing 2 up at the end of our driveway, and I can see him, as he waits, from the window in the front bedroom, upstairs.

How I love to watch him waiting for the bus. Standing there, at the end of the driveway, tall and thin, wearing his skinny black jeans. He will usually turn around and wave to me. Sometimes he’ll do a little dance, listening to music through his headphones, from his tablet, and this brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

I always hope it isn’t raining or snowing, too cold or too dark, out there at the bus stop. The child will not wear his winter jacket, even in the depths of December, opting for his fleece-lined sweatshirt, instead. I’m so relieved when November rolls around, and we set our clocks back an hour, so he’s not standing out there in the dark.

I always wait and watch until I see him get on the bus. I can hear the bus coming a few seconds before I see it. It pulls up, and the tall thin doors swing open. He jauntily hops up the steep stairs and heads towards the back of the bus. After all, he’s a big kid now. Sometimes, I can even see him sit down, always on the side closest to the house. Sometimes I can see his hand at his window, waving to me.

Then, I watch as his golden chariot rolls out of sight, past the pine trees and down our old country road. And every morning, as the bus slides away, I say a mother’s prayer.

“I love you, sweet child. Return to me safely.”

If the weather is snowy or rainy or foggy, I also say an extra little prayer for the bus driver, too, to drive in safety. The roads around here are twisting and turning, and deer are everywhere…

What an honor and a privilege it is to be Thing 2’s mother. And how happy I feel, with such a simple thing, being able to watch my child get on the school bus each and every morning.

 

Firefly Forest

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Lately, I’ve often found myself driving home around dusk, and I’ve discovered one area of my road which is especially magical.

When I drive down German Settler Road, and right before I reach Stone Bridge Road, there is an area off to the side which is heavily wooded with tall, thin, deciduous trees. They’re fairly close together, and so tall that only a glimpse of fading daylight is visible at the tops of the trees.

Dusk. This is the best time to see the fireflies. I often pull off to the side of the road for a few minutes, and just sit there in my car, entranced. It’s the perfect time, it really is.

It’s not dark enough yet that I can’t make out the faint outlines of the trees, towering tall, shadowy and mysterious. But it’s just dark enough so I can see the fireflies, beginning their evening dance, flitting and flickering around in the forest.

I’ve driven home earlier, and I’ve driven home later, and it’s just not the same. The perfect time to see the fireflies is when they dance at dusk.

 

From My Windows

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Monday, 3 June 2019

I saw a few fun things from my windows last week!

One morning, as I was peering out the west window, watching like I usually do to see Thing 2 get on the school bus, I saw the cutest thing. A family of geese was marching right down the road. Thing 2 saw them too, and he walked slowly and quietly down the driveway, so as not to scare them off too quickly.

There was a mama and a papa, and in between, seven little geese. They were marching in a straight line, cute as can be. Perhaps they were headed off to their own school for the day?

And a few days before this, I was sitting at my little kitchen table, when I saw a deer chasing two squirrels across the north lawn, towards the road. And boy, were those squirrels booking it, to outrun the deer. I wasn’t able to get Thing 2 to the window in time for this, but later on that night, he directed my attention out the window, yet again.

There was a big ole groundhog over by the forsythia bush, the one we joke would look cute dancing around in a yellow bikini. It was being persecuted by a pesky robin. The bird kept after the groundhog, darting and dashing directly at its back, until it chased that groundhog out of sight.

Thing 2 thought maybe the groundhog was getting too close to a nest of baby birds, and the mama was trying to scare it away. Perhaps!

Isn’t nature grand? What have you seen lately that’s neat?