Alpha Males Can Cook

By Linda Wood Rondeau

in-the-kitchen-march-2016According to an article on the “Ask Men” website, though not stereotypical, the alpha male does have a few dominant traits:

  1. He is comfortable with crisis. He loves to win.
  2. He is unconcerned about self-image and is more focused on the tasks at hand. He likes to lead rather than follow. He operates according to his own game rather than follow someone else’s agenda.
  3. He will take up the fight with confidence.
  4. He is self-reliant and doesn’t take advantage of others expertise or position.
  5. He owns up to his mistakes and takes responsibility for his actions.
  6. Like a good boy scout, the alpha male is loyal and trustworthy.
  7. When confronted with the need to change, he does so with diligence and forethought.
  8. He does not lie or bend the truth to his advantage.
  9. He is respected because he respects others.
  10. He does not shy away from the big decisions.

This certainly describes my alpha male hubby who loves to cook. He’s always been willing to “man up” to any challenge, and has willingly shared household duties. He’s never even shied away from shopping for those girly products either.

Through most of our nearly forty years together, I’ve been the primary cook and managed meal preparations and planning. He’d fill in as necessary, as long as he did it, “his way.” His way often turned out to be quite good. Ask the kids, who said, “How come Dad’s pot roast tastes better than yours, Mom?” From then on, the hubs was king of the pot roast!

He might have retired, but my writing career became busier than ever after I published. So, it was decided my very alpha male husband would become primary cook. He met the challenge head on with great results. Even if his inventions didn’t quite pan out, he made no excuses, adapted his approach accordingly and tried again until he got it right.

pressure-cookerOur stash of appliances enlarged as he added a waffle iron, salad chopper, and sundry appliances deemed to get the job done faster and more efficiently. I think his favorite became the pressure cooker. I never used one. They scare me. He won’t use an electric pre-programmed one. It has to be stove top and man handled!

I think my favorite of all his creative recipes is his beef stew. As delicious as it is fast to prepare.

We had company for lunch, friends we hadn’t seen in years. My alpha male can operate on several levels at once. Not me. So he cooked. We stood in the kitchen and enjoyed our coffee oblivious to his fast action. Within fifteen minutes his famous beef stew was ready, complimented by buttery biscuits. Our friends were so amazed they snapped a picture as he labored in love.

Writer, how do you portray your alpha male? Note, the characteristics are not so much what they do but how they approach what they do. My alpha male hubby who loves to cook has always adapted the motto: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” Colossians 3:23 KJV.

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For the curious…here’s my alpha male’s recipe:

Steve’s Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

Ingredients –

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ½ – 2 lbs stew beef
1 large onion, cut up
4-5 carrots, peeled & cut into chunks
4 celery ribs, peeled & cut into chunks
4 potatoes cut into chunks
1 ½ – 2 cups beef broth
1-2 beef bouillon cubes
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions –

Heat oil in bottom of cooker. When oil is hot, add meat all at once letting it sit for one minute to sear before stirring.  After meat is completely seared, add onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, bouillon cube and broth. Add salt & pepper if desired.

Lock lid with pressure setting on high.  After achieving pressure, cook for 15 minutes. Use natural release method.

Writing Prompt: “What do you mean can I cook?” Jason stood in front of me, hands on his hips. Uh oh. I’d done it now…


img_3790Winner of the 2012 Selah Award and Carol Award finalist LINDA WOOD RONDEAU writes to offer hope for those with damaged lives and demonstrate our worst past, surrendered to God becomes our best future. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida. When not writing, the author enjoys golfing, hiking, and spending time with her best friend in life, her husband of nearly forty years. Her recent release, Miracle on Maple Street, has already won the hearts of many.

Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com where they’ll find a list of her books, her blog, Snark and Sensibility. Email her at lindarondeau@gmail.com  or find her on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, Google Plus and Goodreads. 


Miracle on Maple Street

moms-final“Christmas is a time for miracles,” Ryan McDougal tells his mother, when he is told that a long lost cousin, Millie, has resurfaced after nearly forty years, the cousin whose picture his mother clasped the day his father abandoned him. Though they occurred decades apart, he always believed the two disappearances were connected like opposite links of a chain. With Millie’s arrival, perhaps he might finally receive the answers he so desperately sought. However, Ryan has a third thorn in his side, more devastating than any mystery. His wife, the love of his life, has left his arms and his bed. How long before she moves out of the house and takes his beloved son with her? He prays for his own Christmas miracle. Millie’s anticipated visit prompts Ryan’s mother to reveal secrets that bring all to light. However, when past and present collide, the truth is more than Ryan can bear.

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An Alabama-Inspired Thanksgiving

img_20141012_173651690By Jennifer Hallmark

Thanksgiving Day will soon arrive. I’ll wake early, eat a bowl of Cheerios and savor my morning cup of tea. As I hold the steaming mug, I’ll find comfort in its warmth and the sweetness of the honey-laced liquid inside. But only for a moment. Soon, thirty to forty people will crowd inside our home and there’s still much to do.

I’ll prepare part of the food on Wednesday. It releases some of the stress and flurry from this day and gives me more time to relax, be thankful, and maybe watch part of the early football game. But this morning, we’ll finish cooking. The savory smell of baked turkey permeates the air. It will soon be joined by cornbread dressing, pinto beans, sweet potato casserole, and yeast rolls. My husband, Danny, always makes the dressing, a recipe passed down from his mother. I scurry and pour the sweet tea in our three-gallon beverage dispenser. I’ll make a gallon of unsweetened tea but hardly anyone will drink it with the well-sugared kind around. We work as a team, making sure everything is just right.

thanksgiving-231781_960_720Around noon, we usually finish the last-second tasks and sit for a moment to eat a turkey sandwich. Around two o’clock in the afternoon, my husband and I will open our home to a hodgepodge of family, friends, and a few others who have nowhere to go. Everyone is welcome at our annual Thanksgiving feast.

By one o’clock, a few of the family has already arrived. Danny’s sister will open the front door and shout, “knock-knock” and I know the fun has begun. Each person arrives with different delectable dishes of food and we arrange them the best we can on the kitchen counters and stove top.

Football is still on the television but no one’s really watching as people drift from room to room. Handshakes and hugs abound as many catch up on old times. The garage doors have been shut and the space has been transformed into a dining room/fellowship hall. Large tables are set up for the adults. A special kids table, complete with coloring books and crayons sits by its side.

Mamaw Avon’s Pink StuffAt the appointed time, we all squeeze into the kitchen where my son or daughter will welcome everyone. One of the grandchildren will say “grace” before the long line forms to tackle the cafeteria-style selection of meats, vegetables, and casseroles that take up every inch of available space on the counters. Everyone loads their Chinet plates to the brim, grabs the plastic flatware and napkins and hunts a place to sit.

In the garage, large tables of sweet delights line one wall and hold twenty or more desserts, many new recipes that someone wanted to test on the crowd. Last year, I tried two pie recipes but neither turned out. I was teased over my pie “soup”. This year, I’ll stick with a cake and maybe some cookies. 🙂

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Not my pie…

Before the afternoon is over, everyone will have eaten more than enough and recipes will have been swapped. Some will be scouring the day’s newspaper, planning to brave the crowds and start their Christmas shopping later in the evening. As a few linger behind to help me and Danny clean up, my heart swells with gratitude. I wouldn’t trade our Thanksgiving for anything.

For the next few days, we’ll munch on leftovers and when we warm our plate in the microwave, the fragrance of Thanksgiving will return. I’ll sit in the recliner and sip another cup of tea, content.

And thankful.


Someone usually makes a macaroni casserole at Thanksgiving. Here’s the recipe for you to try…

Macaroni Casserole

8 oz. package elbow noodles
1 jar chopped pimentos, drained and dried
1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained and dried
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 lb. Kraft American Cheese, grated (set one cup aside)
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped onion

Cook noodles; drain and place in large bowl. Grate cheese and set aside 1 cup. Stir together noodles, pimentos, mushrooms, soup, cheese (minus the cup), mayonnaise and onion. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over top. Bake 10 more minutes.


Writing Prompt: I pulled the spice cake from the oven. The aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon flowed through the house and set my stomach to rumbling. As I started to carry the heavenly confection across the kitchen…

Happy_Thanksgiving_sign


Jennifer Hallmark writes southern fiction and fantasy. Jennifer’s website and blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers.

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A Little Bit of Heaven in West Virginia

By Tammy Trail

I can’t think of a single family gathering that did not involve food. My earliest memory of eating apple pie was during a trip to West Virginia to visit my Dad’s family. He was very close to his grandparents, and we were invited to eat dinner with them one evening.

After dinner, my great-grandmother laid a freshly baked apple pie in the middle of the table. Even at the tender age of five, I could tell this was no ordinary pie. This pie did not come from a cardboard carton with a cellophane top, and there was no shiny tin “pie plate” that could later be used as a play tambourine. Nor was it once frozen to be thawed and baked later. This pie lay in an aged pie plate, one that must have seen years of sweet confections. Its crust was golden and flaky, made by loving hands. The aroma of apple and cinnamon was too mouthwatering to ignore. It was a smell that reminded one of heavenly perfection.

apple-pie-1229076__180As a child, I was a very picky eater. I was given the name “Inspector Jones”, because if it didn’t smell right or looked funny, there was no way I was going to eat it. But, this pie begged to be eaten. I think my Dad would have been disappointed if I had turned down Great-Grandma’s pie.

Once the piece was laid in front of me, I notice the layers of apples stacked between sticky syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon. I took the first bite, and fell in love. It was all that my eyes had promised it would be and more. To tell the truth, I haven’t tasted another apple pie like it since that day.

Once I tried making a pie from scratch. We had a neighbor who became disabled after serving in the Army during the Vietnam war. He was mowing his yard one day and just decided to go ahead and mow our lawn, too. I was so grateful that I baked him an apple pie. I didn’t do the lattice pie crust on the top like my great-grandma had, but instead I did a crumble top with brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and a bit of flour. Turned out great. I made one for our wee family too.

He absolutely loved it! And I was so happy that he was pleased.

photo-256887_1280Recipes are like old pictures handed down from one generation to the next. I wish that I could ask my great-grandmother how she made her pie crust, but it most likely would not have turned out the same.

There is something to be said for women who love to cook. The most important ingredient is LOVE. Love of cooking, of sharing your art, and a love of seeing others enjoying it too. Here’s a pie recipe you’ll want to try from Pillsbury https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/perfect-apple-pie/1fc2b60f-0a4f-441e-ad93-8bbd00fe5334

Writing Prompt:

What are some of your favorite dishes handed down from an older generation?

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A Smorgasbord of Comfort Food

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By Jennifer Hallmark
Comfort food. Yum! Think of food that makes you feel good. Or maybe food that brings back wonderful memories of childhood or home cooking, like my grandmother’s homemade beet soup, borscht.

This month, we’re going to share recipes and stories about happy times and good memories. I’m up first and I want to talk about cookies. To me, there’s nothing better than a hot cookie out of the oven. The warm, sugary aroma draws you in as you spatula the baked piece of heaven off the cookie sheet onto your palm, then shift it from hand to hand to keep from getting burnt. That first bite into the melt-in-your-mouth confection brings to mind fun with my children, Christmas, and bake sales.

I’ll share two recipes with you today: Mama Landers Tea Cakes and Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cookies. My husband, Danny’s grandmother made the best tea cakes and I’ve taken a peanut butter cookie recipe and made it dairy-free, for me.

Hope you enjoy the cookies!

IMG_20150304_165755157Mama Lander’s Tea Cakes

My husband Danny’s favorite cookies are his grandmother’s tea cakes. A simple recipe, the shortening makes them light and just a little crusty, delicious with a cup of coffee or glass of cold milk.

Yield: 2 ½ dozen

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 cups self-rising flour

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Melt shortening and let cool for five minutes. Mix all ingredients together in order. Take a teaspoon at a time of the dough and roll into small balls. Roll in sugar. Add to cookie sheet. Press the top of each cookie with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly brown on bottom.

 

Here is my all-time favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, made without dairy, of course.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup light or lactose free Blue Bonnet margarine (its dairy-free)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Thoroughly cream butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla with mixer.  Stir together flour, baking soda and salt in separate bowl.  Stir flour mixture into butter mixture with spoon.  Shape into one inch balls; roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet and criss-cross with fork.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes; don’t overbake.  Serves 4 dozen.

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Write a prompt using the picture below.

heart cookie

The Naturo-path to Better Health

by Betty Thomason Owens

Right around this time, every year…

Everyone starts talking about choosing healthier lifestyles by going to the gym, or making better food choices. The gyms do a raging good business in the month of January. And we really do plan to keep our new regimen going throughout the year. We want to lose those extra pounds and firm up those flabby midsections.

file8471259606314I have an exercise plan in place throughout the year. I walk three to four miles per day, outdoors, five or six days a week (weather permitting). I work at home and for me, the freedom of being outside in the open—especially when there’s sunshine—is worth the time and effort.

I wish I could tell you I’m in perfect health with no extra weight. I wish. But I am in moderately good health, seldom sick. I do have some stubborn pounds hanging on. I wish I could charge them rent. I’d be rich by now. Truth is, I’d love to find a way to get rid of the excess.

Extra weight can adversely affect your health. Most of us know that. But if you exercise and eat healthy, you may just be looking at your body type. In that case, be happy with thyself. But if you do have health issues, perhaps you do need to make some changes.

A couple of years ago, I made my first visit to a certified health professional—a naturopath. I had known him for years and saw him make some very positive changes in his own life that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. So I made an appointment. A very simple twofold test (urine and saliva) told him what he needed to know about what’s happening in my life.

Turns out, I was much older than I should have been. What does that mean? Because of some bad choices on my part, my body was suffering. My bad choices consisted of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and … I wasn’t breathing enough. What? How can you not breathe enough?

I remember doing breathing exercises in chorus and choir practice. “Breathe from the di-a-phragm!—All together now—breathe!” Physical exercise helps with the breathing issue. The consistent outdoor walking began, and now, I’m pretty much up to par with the breathing. Sleep better, too, because I get outside and get the blood flowing and the oxygen processing.

But I’d still be coming up short if I didn’t hydrate. I push myself to drink more water. Sometimes it’s herbal tea, or flavored water. I got rid of the sweetened drinks. And yes, I still drink coffee. Hey, I love the stuff, but I try to counter it by matching each ounce of coffee with an ounce of water later in the day. Consistency, this is the key.

But you’ll still need a good, healthful diet. Cut out sugar. I hear your screams. Did I do this? No. I cut back on sugar. And, according to our naturopathic physician, you should populate your diet with living foods. No, he doesn’t advocate eating live animals. Get that picture out of your head.

cuyBvv1uSo what are living foods? Think raw veggies, or gently cooked veggies. Especially garden-fresh, that were in the ground hours ago, sucking up nutrients. If you’re a gardener or farmer, it’s easy. If not, you might want to join a co-op or find a good green grocer, farm, or farmer’s market.

According to my guy, frozen is a good second-best, and canned is okay, when you just can’t get fresh. The less it’s processed, the better.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you’re probably already somewhat familiar with these principles. Live vegetables are a good way to eat right, increase fiber in your diet, and multiply the nutrients, without starving yourself.

Here’s an interesting and friendly website for beginners. Her veggie chili looks really good. http://livingveggie.blogspot.com/

You can find plenty of information dealing with eating healthy—my favorite go-to is Pinterest, of course. I just enter whatever I’m craving and voila! I’ve got several recipes to choose from.

So, am I going to finally drop those extra pounds? I’d like that, but even more, I hope to reverse the aging process a little. So far, I have seen real improvement, because I’m getting exercise, drinking more water, resting better, and I’m breathing!

If you’re interested in finding a Naturopathic doctor in your area, do your homework. Check them out thoroughly before you go. We were fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with ours. But a good place to get recommendations is through your local chiropractic office.

Whatever you choose to work on this year, I wish you great success. Now, inhale—push out the diaphragm—hold—exhale—crunch that carrot!


Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments–

saturday 184_peWriting Prompt:

“Is this a living carrot?” Carol Anne Pendergast asked Jacob Bauer, owner of her local farmer’s market. “My naturopathic doctor told me to only eat living vegetables.”

Jacob’s bushy brows blended as his forehead creased. “All my vegetables are alive. Those carrots were plucked from the ground this very morning.”

“No need to get huffy about it,” Carol Anne said. “I was just asking.” She picked up a beautiful brown egg, her gaze cutting back to Jacob’s. Her mouth opened, but before she could ask the question poised on the tip of her tongue, he propped his fists on his hips and said, …

 

(Photos courtesy of MorgueFile)

Chicken & Dimpled Dumplings

It’s the perfect time of year to serve this classic tummy-warming stew. This is a meal in itself, chock-full of veggies, meat and bread. It is partially adaptable to a crock pot. You can cook the chicken ahead and finish it when you get home. Or, you can bring home a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store and shorten your prep time to under an hour.

This is recipe is for my mother’s version of Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings. My grandmother used flat dumplings. Instead of using drop biscuits, she made regular biscuit dough, rolled it thin and cut it into strips. She dropped these strips into the bowling stew. When the strips were done, she served the stew. By the way, her recipe would have started with: Choose an aging hen that’s no longer laying. These are best for stewing. Yikes! I’m going to the grocery…
For the Stew portion of the recipe:
Whole or cut up fryer
2, 32-ounce boxes Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dry sage)
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced carrot
Optional: 1/4 cup frozen green peas
Dumplings
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening or butter
1 cup milk
Optional seasonings: celery seed, pepper, dried sage (to taste)
Making the stew – Place whole fryer or cut up pieces in a Dutch oven or other large stewpot (or crock pot). Add one of the boxes of chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the onion, 1/2 cup celery, garlic, and sage. Bring to a boil, lower temperature to medium or medium low and simmer for approximately an hour or until chicken is tender and pulls away from the bone. (If using a crock pot, stew according to directions, low for 10 hours, medium or high for 5 hours.)
Remove cooked chicken from pot, set aside on a plate to cool completely. Add the other box of broth to the stew liquid, along with the remaining onion and celery, and the carrots. Return to a boil, lower to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender. (If you used a crock pot to cook the chicken, pour the liquid into a large pan to continue the recipe.)
In the meantime, remove cooled chicken meat from bones and skin. Cut meat into bite-sized chunks or strips and add back to the stew pot. Optional: add the frozen green peas at this point. TIP: Be sure you have enough liquid to cover all the solid ingredients completely, otherwise it will turn out dry, since the biscuits soak up some of the juice. 
Making the dumplings – Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening or butter. OR––I use cold butter and put the dry ingredients and the butter, cut in chunks, in a food processor. After processing until the butter is incorporated, I put this mixture in a small bowl and add milk all at once. Stir quickly (don’t over stir). If it seems too dry, add more milk. It should be very wet, but not soupy. Optional: If you like a spicier version of these dumplings, add pepper and/or celery seed to the dry ingredients.
When the vegetables are tender, bring the liquid in the stewpot to a full boil. Drop biscuit dough by spoonfuls into the boiling liquid. Distribute evenly. The dropped biscuits will rise and cover the top of the stew. Lower heat to medium once the biscuits have begun to rise. Stir gently, using an iced tea spoon or chopstick to reach between the dumplings and scrape the bottom of the pan (to mix loose dough into the stew -this will thicken the liquid). When the dumplings are no longer doughy, the stew is done. Serve in bowls. Makes enough for 6 servings, depending on the size of the serving.