Recipes for a Happy Life

When I was about eight-years old, I was sitting on the back step of my home, resting from a rigorous afternoon of playing baseball. My father sat next to me. He was a man of few words, and I shuddered when he said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk with you about.”

My mind was racing with the possibilities, and none of them were good. He must have noticed I chipped a shingle by hitting it with a baseball last week. Or perhaps a neighbor had a broken window pane and I was the obvious culprit to blame. I inhaled and remained silent.

“Your mom isn’t a very good cook.”

“Uh, she’s okay, I guess.”

“She and I have noticed you messing around in the kitchen.”

Oh boy, I must have broken something. Or I didn’t clean the skillet good enough after that last batch of beans and franks.

“Yes, sir.” I waited for the bad news.

“”You like cooking a little, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir. I do. And whatever it is, I’ll take care of it. Just tell me what I need to do.”

He smiled. “No, no, nothing like that. You didn’t do anything wrong. Just opposite. Your mom and I think that if you want to mess around more in the kitchen, you go right ahead. You have our permission. If you want to cook us dinner every now and then, when you think you’ve got a meal that we’d like, we’d appreciate that. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.”

That was my initial venture into cooking. I must admit I was terrible at the start, but became a self-taught engineer of interesting combinations. I even tried catering for a short time, but didn’t like the clean-up after the party. Here are some recipes that I’ve made and found palatable. I’ve classified some as Quick and Easy for those times when we must create a delicious meal in one hour or less.

If you enjoy it, share the recipe and let me know how it came out. I’m going to continue to mess around and share a recipe every now and then.

Featured post

Tales from the Backseat

I thought I held a good understanding of my fellow humans and their behavior after a lifetime of observation and analysis. But not until I drove rideshare did I encounter new characteristics of people who provided me with experiences which I feel compelled to pass along. So, open the right rear passenger door, settle in comfortably, and don’t forget to fasten your seat belt.

Cherry Coke – For convenience sake, we shall name our rider Cherry. Time: 1:45 AM. Sunday morning. Location: A well-traversed street in Marietta, GA. Most bars here close at midnight, while the remainder “stagger” (I think an excellent word selection here.) their closings to 1 AM or the rare 2 AM. I received the chime to pick up this rider and was but 3 minutes away. The driver-friendly app provides turn-by-turn directions and as you approach the targeted area, an icon of a person appears to pinpoint their exact location. I was just around the corner from the image when it disappeared. Poof! Cherry was gone. I made the final turn and stopped at the intersection where I last saw the icon. Remember, this was a highly travelled street in daylight, but it was nearly 2 AM. I stopped in the middle of street, tapped my 4-way flashers, and stepped from my car. Not a sound. Then a rustling of branches and leaves and out hopped an attractive blonde female with a flower-patterned dress and stilettos. One bounce from the grass onto the sidewalk, another over the curb, and then the third, ooh, a twisted pump and down went my passenger. Ass down, legs up, holding her purse about one elbow and reaching her hand toward me holding out her cellphone. “It died.” That solved the mystery of the missing icon. No power. No image.

I helped her up while she apologized profusely. No injuries were apparent. I explained she had no reason to be sorry to me, but thought perhaps she had some other regrets. The branches and leaves stirred a second time and a man walked without failure across the lawn, down the curb and to us, thanking me for helping Cherry and asking me to make sure she gets home safely. I add now that Cherry ignored him. No “Goodbye Honey, thanks for a wonderful evening,” or even a modest “get out of my life.”

The ride itself was uneventful, filled with several more apologies. She really wasn’t that drunk, she insisted, but was just very clumsy. I thought perhaps a combination was in play. I ignored her repeated pleas for a Cherry Coke.

I pulled into her well-lit driveway and suggested she may want to put her shoes in her handbag and walk barefoot the few steps to her door. Advice ignored, she wobbled the few steps and fumbled for her keys. I always stay with my headlights on until my rider is safely inside. Besides, I felt this ride wasn’t quite finished.

Door open, one step up on the concrete, one more to go, when she turned to acknowledge she was fine. Yep, she twisted and lost her balance, ass down, legs up, purse steady on her elbow. Cellphone? She got to her feet, one step up, a second into the house. Turned, noticed the phone on the cement. One step down, backwards. Another down to the ground, she bent over and collected her phone, and then again, ass down, legs up, holding her phone up high. She reminded me of a football player showing possession of the ball.

Featured post

Bacon Ratatouille with a Kick (Quick & Easy)

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Bacon Ratatouille with a Kick

Total time to prepare – Approximately 45 minutes. Serves eight (4).

 –– I get all excited whenever I start a recipe with bacon, and this one is no exception. It’s certainly not traditional ratatouille but I believe you’ll find this a tad sweeter and with a slight bite on your tongue. The inclusion of bell pepper might bake you think twice about that addition, but go ahead and give it a try.  I believe you’ll enjoy it. 

Ingredients

  • 6 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 Vidalio or other sweet Onion – Chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 zucchini, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 3 squash, cut into bite-size cubes
  • 2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 tomatoes – medium size, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, sliced off the cob
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 sprinkle of Basil

Directions

  1. Fry the bacon pieces until crisp, set aside.
  2. While the bacon is frying, prepare the other ingredients by chopping, dicing, slicing, etc.
  3. In a large skillet – 12-inch or larger, place the bacon pieces and red pepper. Saute the red pepper until beginning to soften, on low heat, about five (5) minutes.
  4. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about five (5) minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and saute until the onions begin to brown. 1-2 minutes more.
  6. Add the cubed zucchini and squash and mix with the other ingredients. 
  7. Add the paprika and cajun seasoning and saute another (6) minutes, mixing occasionally.
  8. Add the tomatoes and blend, saute for two (2) minutes until they become soft.
  9. Add the corn kernels and blend with other ingredients, saute for additional three (3) minutes.
  10. Remove skillet from heat.
  11. Sprinkle with fresh basil and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Serve alone or as side. Enjoy!

Kielbasa & Cabbage Soup (Quick & Easy)

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Kielbasa and Cabbage Soup

Total time to prepare – Approximately 45 minutes. Serves eight (8).

 –– My Polish heritage gets all excited whenever I find a recipe with Kielbasa. Fond memories of my parents at the kitchen table return with the aroma of fresh Polish sausage. My mother-in-law even prepared Polish sausage every Christmas. This soup adds another ingredient that is pleasing to my roots – Cabbage. Darn near perfect combo. And this soup is quick and easy. Enjoy. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Kielbasa, cut into bite-size cubes.
  • 1 Onions – Chopped
  • 16 oz. Cole Slaw mix – shredded cabbage with carrots
  • 2 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 32 oz. Beef Broth
  • 16 oz. Chicken Broth
  • 1 can – 12 oz. beer
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Carraway seeds
  • 4 cups French Fried Onions, divided in half

Directions

  1. Place kielbasa and onion in a dutch oven on medium heat. Brown the kielbasa and soften the onion for about five (5) minutes.
  2. Add the coleslaw mix and saute until tender, about another five (5) minutes.
  3. Add Minced Garlic, beef broth, chicken broth, beer, black pepper, carraway seeds and two (2) cups French Fried Onions. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  4. Remove cover and simmer for ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes until flavors are blended. 
  5. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with remaining French Fried Onions.

Zombie Deer!

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Zombie Deer! – When I picked up Wyanette in a rural suburb, she cautioned me to drive carefully on the darkened roads and to watch for Zombie Deer. Sure, I said, wondering if the woman in my back seat was just making her way home after a long night out. It was 6 A.M.

But she went on to explain that Zombie Deer are real, or at least the term. I did some research.

Zombie Deer are afflicted with Chronic Wasting Disease, (CWD), which has been around since 1966 and was first diagnosed in Colorado. It’s now spread to at least sixteen (16) states and is no joke. You can Google or YouTube search and see for yourselves. The animals look awful with sores on the exterior of their bodies, loss of fur, salivate profusely, have no fear of humans, and are lethargic. Most notably, the disease deteriorates their brain cells. Sad.

There is no known cure at this time and the disease is spreading slowly across the Midwest and South.

Thank you, Ms. Wyanette. I don’t believe this is a precursor to the forecasted Zombie Apocalypse, but then, I don’t know it is not either.

Supportive While Intoxicated (S.W.I.)

girl wearing white and black striped long sleeved shirt jumping outdoor
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Supportive While Intoxicated (S.W.I.) – Three women in all and this was Lecia’s first ever rideshare. This was a girls’ night out, or in this case, a women’s night out. All the ladies were in their late thirties. I should caution that was my judgment (their age) and if I have made an error in my perception, please forgive me.

We started our ride with Lecia talking about her philosophy in life. Live for today. Carpe Diem. We chatted about my recent responsibilities as a caregiver for a friend in another state. She jumped aboard the support bandwagon, even though she was well intoxicated Yep, the trio were on their way to a bar for her aunt’s birthday. The celebration had already begun. Giggles were seeping through the windows as we drove.

I perceived Lecia’s life had not been easy. She was far from wealthy but her facial beauty shined through some rough lifelines. Yet she was supportive of me. I was her rideshare driver. I was that fly on the wall observing and noting humorous behavior for my website. She emphasized that I would be blessed for caregiving, perhaps not now but in the future. My time would come. I didn’t want to tell her that my time was running out. I was probably going to get that reward in the afterlife. Thank you, Lecia and friends. I hope you all had a safe and fun evening. You earned my respect.

 

What is a Good Mother?

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A Good Mother – I know very little about being a parent and raising children. I admit it. But I can still recognize sacrifice and the unusual characteristics that classify a mom as a “good mother.” First, such a mother must place the interests of their child above themselves. Second, I think one’s life must revolve around the child. That youngster is the center of their universe. And perhaps last is that matters of the heart take a back seat to the love for that child.

Such is the case of Patty, who I had the privilege of driving from her job as a nanny to her home. She gave up her job earning about $70,000 per year and is now a part-time nanny while caring for her 1 ½ year-old son. She could toss him in day care and would be justified to do that. After all, she would be able to provide a better material life for her child. But there must be a value for the nurturing that a mother provides. We seem to have lost track of that.

Where’s the father? We have lots of single moms out there and it’s easy to pass judgment. In this case, the father lives in South Aftrica and while she tried to make that lifestyle fit, the educational opportunities and social atmosphere led her back to the good old U.S.A. Remember America? There’s been some controversy of late with some proclaiming America was never a great country. That hurts me when I think of the sacrifices my father and our forefathers gave to create this America where we have supposed religious freedom and choices that many countries do not have. We are far from perfect, as is our form of democracy, but we are far better than any country in the world in allowing our citizens freedoms of choice.

Is American better than two hundred years ago? 1819. Slavery. War. Oppression of women.

What about one hundred years ago? 1919. World War I. An influenza pandemic that killed more people world-wide than any other event in recorded history. 20-40 million people. Dead. The Great Depression was approaching. Women didn’t yet have the right to vote. That was coming one year later, 1920.

We can go on. I want to offer kudos to Patty. She’s in her late thirties and recognized right away that she had to place the care of her son above all else in her life. She practices that lifestyle that requires she struggles financially but her son has her emotional support. Full-time.

Toss in a prayer for Patty. I applaud her.

World Cup

 

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World Cup – Chris is a world-ranked squash player who I delivered to a tournament and wished him good fortune in the competition. He was inquisitive about Atlanta and our public transportation, which is less than satisfactory. (My opinion, sorry MARTA) He asked if I was aware of any plans of the city regarding the upcoming World Cup of Soccer in 2026. I know how to spell the sport’s name, but my knowledge of the game stops there. I did meet Phil Woosnan on several occasions and somewhere I have a soccer ball that he signed to me. I only recall that he was a key to bringing soccer to the United States many years ago. He has since passed away and recall him as a kind-hearted soul.

But evidently the World Cup claim is true. A few days later, I took a soccer fan to a bar to watch a game and I asked him. He confirmed. He said the World Cup would be played in three cities, London, Atlanta, and the third city that I cannot recall. The playoffs will reduce the teams until the final that will take place in Atlanta. Wow. I wonder if the city will build that outer perimeter now. They started thinking and planning in 1985. Not a shovel of dirt has ever been turned. Anyhow, get ready, soccer fans. We are only seven years away from a global event here in ATL. And I thought Super Bowl LIII was a big rideshare event!

All About Dogs

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All About Dogs – This day I felt fate tugging on my sleeve as I had two rides connected to dog adoption services. On one, I picked up David, who was a volunteer at Mostly Mutts. This is a private dog adoption service connected to dog rescue and is a non-profit. A few hours later, I picked up Elizabeth from a satellite location of the Atlanta Humane Society – dog adoption facility. She was also a volunteer. When I sat waiting for her in the “Adoption Pickup Area,” I thought she may come out carrying a squiggly puppy, then hop in my car and announce that I should adopt this dog, I was worried I could not resist. I love dogs.

For better or worse, she exited alone. As I drove away, I could have sworn I heard the yelping of eager puppies yearning for a human companion. I also thought she may have had a sound app on her phone. She probably gets a bonus for drivers who return and adopt. Damn humans.

Slumgullion (Macaroni & Hamburg)

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Slumgullion 

Total time to prepare – Approximately 1 1/2 hours. 

 –– This was a popular dish in the 1950-1980 era and was also known as Johnny Marzetti. Some families even called this Ghoulash. It’s ever so easy to make and is a real comfort food. Serves 6. If you want lots of leftovers, this is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Beef (80/20)
  • 1 Onions – Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper – diced.
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz) or Ro-Tel (10.5 oz) with juice
  • 2 Garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 28 oz can of Tomato Sauce
  • 15 oz. Elbow Macaroni
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. Place ground beef and onion in an electric skillet or dutch oven. 
  2. Brown the ground beef and break into little bits, saute the onion.
  3. Add Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes and Minced Garlic
  4. When the ground beef is done (no red meat remains and majority of liquid has evaporated,) drain the excess fat. At this point, I recommend patting the ground beef and onion with paper towels to absorb more of the excess fat.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bell peppers and simmer until vegetables are tender, about thirty (30) minutes. 
  6. Boil water in a separate pot and boil pasta until el dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander. 
  7. Add the macaroni to the ground beef mixture and mix until blended. Simmer for fifteen (15) minutes.
  8. Serve and enjoy! Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you prefer.

The Blacksmith

man holding lighting tool near brown horse
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Blacksmith – When Jon told me he was a blacksmith, I almost didn’t believe him. Then, I thought I misinterpreted his words. But nope, that’s his occupation all right. Jon was in his late twenties and had served two years as an apprentice before he was certified as a blacksmith. I had to ask what that career path was like now. I couldn’t imagine a long line of horses outside his shop while they awaited new shoes.

Then I learned that he did not work alone. He worked for a company called Smithworks. He had just finished creating an iron base for a nine-hundred-pound piece of art. Before that, he built a wrought iron stair case inside an upscale home near the city. He added that construction of wrought iron fences was in constant demand.

I learned a great deal from this young man. I never anticipated that blacksmith was a career that still existed in the twenty-first century. I guess I still have lots to learn.

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