Katie's Old Fashioned Mac 'n Cheese topped with Roast Beef and Stewed Tomatoes

When I think of comfort foods, a few leap to my mind immediately:  Mac 'n Cheese, Roast Beef, and Stewed Tomatoes.  Have you ever combined them into one dish? Mmmmmmm!  One of my very favorite places to visit is Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  There I can count on being soothed by the idyllic farmland pastures and the reverent pace and values of the Amish people. And there I find a few of my favorite diners and dishes.  One of those is Katie's Kitchen.  Every time I go there, I order the Macaroni and Cheese topped with Roast Beef and Stewed Tomatoes.  I don't try to be adventurous. I stick to what I know I will love.  I've tried a couple of times to replicate this dish at home, and I think I finally nailed it.  But don't worry Sister Katie, I will be back for the original.  It can't be beat!

The Potting Shed

Dreams do come true.  For years and years I dreamed of having a picturesque Kitchen Garden and Potting Shed—the dreamy, romantic kind traditionally known as a potager in France or a kailyard in Scotland. When Danny and I moved to retire in the country, I was sure my dream was about to become reality. In my dream, I planted heirloom seeds, harvested vegetables and herbs from my garden and used them for preparing and preserving food for my family.  I decorated my Potting Shed in a nostalgic, rustic style and invited my grandchildren to come for “tea.”  (I didn’t even have grandchildren yet, but I was dreaming.)  

Planning and Building The Potting Shed

This is the image of a dream coming true. After many years of saving pictures from magazines and jotting down notes, my dream of having a charming Potting Shed was becoming a reality, thanks to God who has given us more than we need or deserve, and thanks to my dear husband who always lovingly and cheerfully grants my wishes.  Many people have asked us if we have design plans for the building. We don't.  It was all in Danny's head and hands. So here are some pictures of how it was built.  You can see more photos inside and out of the finished Potting Shed here.

Keeping Chickens in the Winter

In southwestern Pennsylvania, our winters can range anywhere from mild to blizzard conditions, dipping into the 'teens at times. Keeping chickens during the winter months is really not any more difficult than the rest of the year.  You just need to be attentive, observant, committed, and provide what they need--the same as the rest of the year, right?  Except that, the needs are a little different in the winter.

Time to Plan the Garden

The winter months can sometimes seem to drag on forever, especially when the temps stay below freezing and the snow is flying.  What really makes winter furn for me is planning my Kitchen Garden.

Fall Prep

In the fall I pull out the spent plants, loosen the soil, and rake in some organic materials.  I use straw and manure that was previously cleaned out of the hen house, crushed egg shells, dead leaves and wood ash from our fireplace. I rake that into the beds and let the garden rest for the winter.  These organics replenish the depleted nutrients. When the ground begins to thaw, I occasionally turn the composting soil. You can read more about how we originally built and composted our garden beds.

Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers! Amazing!

Peppers are easy to grow and plentiful at the end of summer. In my garden, I planted sweet bell peppers, bull horn peppers, and jalapeno peppers. There are plenty of recipes for using peppers. One of my favorites is Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers.

Tomato Pie Fresh from the Garden

I still have lots of tomatoes in my Kitchen Garden.  I've canned them diced, in sauces and salsas, we've had slices in salads and soups and on sandwiches, and we've still got tomatoes coming. So for a change of pace, today I made a tomato pie.

Hanging Mason Jar Candleholders and Dangling Bead Strands

It started out as a summer project, but it was the winter that surprised and gripped me!  Mason jar candleholders and shiny beads to hang in our beloved Maple tree!  Summer evenings bring grilling outdoors and sitting around the fire ring.  How lovely it is to linger under the canopy of maple leaves and see the candles glowing in the jars and the strings of beads dangling in the breeze.

Gourmet Cupcakes

For delicious gourmet cupcakes, through and through, try these easy steps to delight your family and guests!

Rustic Winter Mantel Display

A home can look so bare and empty after the Christmas decorations are taken down and packed away.  Usually I automatically leap to the typical, expected Valentine's decorations.This year I felt like I needed a change, but what?  Rather than go out and buy new decorations, I decided to rummage around the house and see what I have that I could use to decorate the fireplace mantel for the remainder of the winter.