Monthly Archives: April 2014

Easy Zucchini Parmesan Crisps


You and your family will love these cheesy, savory zucchini crisps. They are quick and easy to prepare in three simple steps.  My sons love to dip theirs in marinara sauce then devour faster than I can put them on a plate. Your picky eaters will gobble up their veggies with these delicious crisps, and that’s a promise!

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper seeds
1/8 tsp salt (optional)
2 medium or 1 large zucchini
2 eggs, beaten in small bowl
Olive oil

Marinara sauce for dipping (I use Ragu Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce)


1. Mix first four ingredients into a small mixing bowl.

2. Slice zucchini into 1/4″ inch thick rounds and dip into beaten eggs pressing both sides into the coating then lay on a plate.

3. Add one tablespoon of oil to a medium-sized pan and heat on high for 1 minute.  Add coated zukes in small batches to the pan and sauté 2 minutes each side or until brown and crispy. Don’t overcrowd the pan.

Add extra oil as needed to finish each batch and serve with marinara sauce.


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Senate Bean Soup — Classic Homemade Goodness!



Did you know Capital Hill has their own soup?

                                               …I guess it’s famous….

And they’ve served it there for more than 100 years.

Who knew?

I sure didn’t until I ran across this cool article about it a few years ago.

From what I read, there have been several versions over the years, but the original recipe included mashed potatoes, which they said changed after a potato shortage in the 1950s.

Well, my grandmother Pearl’s navy bean soup tasted nearly identical to this one, so that explains to me why it’s been popular with Senators for this long.

Lucky them!

But, I guess anyone who eats in the cafeteria can order Senate Bean soup now…

…It’s no longer exclusive to just the few.

Isn’t that great!

You know where I’m headed first if I ever get to Washington D. C., right?

Now the original recipe calls for soaking the beans overnight and cooking the ham on the bone first. (That’s how Grandma Pearl did it too!) But I quick soaked the dried beans and used leftover holiday ham.

I also prefer Gordon Foods Chicken Base because its creamy and adds great flavor. (Skip their ham base… It’s too salty.) But you can use one large can (49 oz) of chicken broth instead of Chicken base and water if you prefer.

Senate Bean Soup

1 pound dried navy beans, picked over. Soak beans overnight in 3 times their volume of cold water. (To quick soak: In a large pot or Dutch oven, cover the beans in water, bring to a boil, turn off and allow to soak 1 hour, drain and rinse.)
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound leftover ham, shredded
1 Tbsp chicken base (or to taste)
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup milk
Freshly ground pepper

1. In Dutch oven or large pot, saute onion, celery, garlic, parsley in 1 tbsp butter until slightly caramelized. Add rinsed beans, 10 cups of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and cook until beans are tender about 1 hour, 30 minutes.

2. Next, dice one potato and add it to the pot, along with the chicken base. Bring soup to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add ham and cook about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, poke holes in the second potato with fork, place in microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap, cook 3 minutes on high in microwave, or until you can press a fork through to center. Mash the potato, allow to cool slightly, add 1 tbsp of butter and milk then stir. Add mashed potato to soup as it cooks on low, adding up to 1 or 2 more cups of water if the soup is too thick. Season with black pepper and serve with bread and butter or cornbread if you like.


Asparagus with Citrus and Parmesan


Here is my favorite and simple way to cook most green vegetables for best flavor. This quick method works well for broccoli, too!

Asparagus with Citrus and Parmesan

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, tough stalk ends removed
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
fresh Parmesan cheese

Cook asparagus al dente (slightly firm, not mushy) by blanching in boiling water for just a few minutes. Drain water and transfer to glass serving container.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, squeeze citrus lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. Cover with lid to slightly melt the cheese and keep warm until serving.




10 Lovely Family Porches

Have you noticed the variety of porches trending all over the internet and inside magazines lately? The best porches beckon visitors, and I sure would enjoy dropping by a few that have caught my eye lately. Some remind me of homes I’ve enjoyed being a guest in and others evoke memories of favorite television shows I watched growing up.  Then there are those that bring to mind my grandmother Pearl’s humble front porch. It was modest in size and yet our big family clan could sit there talking and laughing together for hours.

The front porch is a lovely place to be any day of the week, or time of day for that matter, but especially on a hot summer’s day to cool down, sip an iced tea or lemonade and hope to catch a breeze.


Southern Living Magazine


Better Homes & Gardens


Southern Living Magazine

How grand! Big enough for an evening stroll perhaps?
Southern Living Magazine

French doors. Oh, yes.




I’m partial to classic Americana front porches.  I can almost hear the wood screen-door snap back to close as guests walk in and out throughout the day.





There always seems to be so much to see from the view of a front porch.



I could fall asleep in all those pillows. Grandma had the same medals chairs in dark blue. They rocked slightly and were much more comfortable than they look.

No matter the style, size or what part of the country you spot them in, there’s just something comforting and easy about the family porch.









Grilled Chicken Kabobs With Mango Coconut Glaze & Fresh Pineapple



Chicken Kabobs with Mango Coconut Glaze and Fresh Pineapple

I’m always looking for food inspiration and this tropical twist on the usual chicken barbecue sauce was a delicious change.

My husband does the grilling for our family (although our oldest son is getting pretty good at it, too!).  He prefers to grill meat separate from diced fruits or vegetables so the kabobs cook evenly, versus perfectly grilled chicken and overly charred vegetables. Spices used on the raw meat were kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder and buffalo seasoning for zip. The fresh pineapple chunks, red and yellow peppers and Bermuda onion slices were prepared on separate picks.  Everything went on the flaming grill at the same time, moving the fruit and vegetable skewers to the top rack once they were done, leaving the chicken to cook several minutes longer.

After grilling, we basted the chicken with a tropical Mango Coconut glaze I picked-up at TJ Maxx in the packaged gourmet food aisle.  (Try mixing a new flavored glaze with your regular barbecue sauce for a twist!) Usually we marinate chicken prior to cooking, but with a sweet barbecue sauce like Mango Coconut, it is best to baste afterward or risk burning the meat and the flavorful sauce off.

Another advantage to grilling fruits and vegetables on separate picks is that each person can select their choice of fare. If your family is like mine, a perfectly good vegetable will be cast to the side of a plate.




Asparagus with Citrus and Parmesan

We also prepared asparagus. (I know. But, we did stretch the meal into the next day.) Cook the asparagus al dente, by blanching in boiling water for just a few minutes. Drain and transfer to a lidded container, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, squeeze citrus lemon juice across the top and finish with freshly grated Parmesan. Cover to keep warm and slightly melt the Parmesan until serving. It’s my favorite way to prepare most green vegetables. I think you will like it, too!

Please be sure to browse other recent recipes, crafts and tips by scrolling down. If you would like to see future posts, Like my page on Facebook in the upper right corner, or sign up to receive emails direct to your inbox.

Much joy to you and yours this coming weekend!


10 Surefire Ways to Build an Emergency Fund Now!


Do you have at least $1,000 tucked away for a short-term crisis? Emergencies always happen when we least expect them and can be financially devastating when they do. How we manage our lives and stress, unfortunately have a lot to do with money, or lack thereof. Most financial experts suggest every household should have a minimum of $1,000 in savings to cover unexpected calamity. If you have less than this in savings, or nothing at all, it’s time to focus on changing that.

The following 10 surefire ways worked to build my family’s emergency fund and can make a huge difference in your path to financial freedom, too.

1. Make the decision you MUST, CAN and WILL save for an emergency. To inspire you read, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. It’s a step-by-step guide based on biblical principles with simple strategies to guide you out of debt for good. No matter your circumstances, it’s never too late to change the direction of your finances and that’s empowering. Read the book as soon as you can.

2. Set up a budget and get your family onboard. Share the plan and your excitement with your family. While reading the book, you will be able to share with them the many success stories included from families just like yours. In the meantime map-out monthly income and expenses, include dates you receive paychecks and dates bills are due. Figure out the monies left after paying bills, and determine the amount of money you will consistently deposit into the emergency fund from every paycheck.

3. Get a second job if necessary. If your family is barely living off of one income and you can manage to work a second job, consider a temporary, part-time job as a solution for earning your emergency fund.  A seasonal or holiday job might fit your needs perfectly without the obligation to long-term employment.

4. Sell what you don’t use and everything else you can. It’s not easy to part with stuff, but if you’re not using it, and you’ve already spent the money anyway, turn it into cash. Scour your home and plan to get rid of extra things. Begin preparing for a garage sale, or listing items on eBay and other online selling sites, or through classified ads (look for newspapers that also provide classifieds on their website). Share what you are selling with your friends on Facebook, and join your community’s yard sale page. Ask friends for referrals to reputable sites they have used to sell stuff. Host your own booth at a local flea-market or tag sale. Enlist the kids! We offered our sons a percentage of what sold at our garage sale to get them excited. Not only were their efforts invaluable to me, they learned basic business skills, and enjoyed the process, which made the whole thing more fun for me, too.

5. Save on groceries. Cut back to mostly needs and forego the extras like snacks and soda. By cutting back on the essentials one week out of the month, you will reap even more savings. Purchase most everything you need on sale. Clip and use coupons. Keep track of everything you put into your grocery cart on your phone’s calculator and stay on budget. Shop the discount dollar store for paper, laundry products, school supplies, canned and boxed foods. Remember this is a short-term change with a means to an end.

6. Stretch your meals. Eat less if you’re healthy enough to do so. Turn leftovers into a different entree the next day. Use them to make a hearty soup with beans and grains, or add vegetables, saute and serve with rice for an altogether different dish. Get creative and have fun coming up with new recipes. It is possible to eat healthy on a budget.

7. Go meatless once or twice a week. Instead of meat, try eating eggs one night a week. Breakfast for supper is a super grocery bill slasher!  There are plenty of filling ways to get protein in your diet through vegetables (like avocados), nuts and grains. This one switcheroo will save you lots of money.

8. Shop your pantry and freezer. Most of us have an overstock of canned, boxed, and frozen items but forget they’re on a back shelf or at the bottom of the freezer. Bring your canned and dry goods out to the countertop where you can see what you have, then plan meals around them. Make a list of frozen items and do the same.

9. Save your coins. Display a pretty jar as a reminder to empty your pockets and purse of all your change each evening. I recently exchanged our randomly collected coins and left the bank with almost $200! Don’t forget to take back soda bottles for your deposit money also.

10. Put a temporary hold on eating out and other extras. You already know the value of this tip, but for reminder’s sake, avoid your favorite coffee shop and fast-food restaurants. In fact, don’t eat out period until you have met your $1,000 goal. Instead, prepare refreshments and food at home and take them with you. Carry an apple or healthy snack in your car or purse to curb moments of drive-thru weaknesses. Think about every scenario where you may be tempted to spend, then plan ahead to avoid them.

One of the greatest joys I have found from learning how to cut debt and save money has been to share with others how they can do it, too! My youngest sister shared “The Total Money Makeover” plan with me first, I then shared it with our other sister, who began the plan right away. We have marveled at how the original biblical concepts on money still remain the best guidance today. You can read more about how they tie in inside Dave Ramsey’s book.

There are many advantages to an emergency fund other than having it available when you need it. A savings will lessen financial burden on your family and give peace of mind; you will begin to see it is possible to live a debt-free, more worry-free life by continuing to practice good saving habits; and teaching your children about money and living by example are priceless blessings with far-reaching benefits.

Here is the link to 5 Fast Rules For Debt-Free Living For Life if you would like to read more on how to break-free from debt. To read future posts on this topic you can follow me on Facebook at Modern Hen Home.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8



So Simple Baked French Toast & Pecan Streusel


Picture 7

On Saturday I prepared this so-simple and special breakfast treat for baking the next morning.  My husband said it was a “10” on his taste scale, and the teenagers used the word, “amazing”. In other words, it was a winner in our house!

This dish is easy to whip-up and wonderful for special weekends and holidays when you want to serve something a little more decadent than usual. I used my grandmother’s old cast-iron skillet to bake the bread in and it came out perfectly — crunchy on top, moist in the middle, crispy on the bottom.

So Simple Baked French Toast

1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Pecan Streusel (recipe below)
Maple syrup
Blueberries or fruit & powdered sugar (optional)

1. Arrange bread slices in a large greased cast iron skillet.

2. Combine eggs and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until well blended. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle Pecan Streusel over bread slices. Bake for 45 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden. Serve with maple syrup. Serves 8-10.

Pecan Streusel
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in pecans. Makes 3 cups.



Garlicky Spinach & Angel Hair Pasta


garlicky spinach & Angel hair

This savory dish is one way to stretch a meal with leftover pasta. Generally, I serve it as a side to chicken or fish, but it’s a family favorite all by itself.  We prefer the thinner Angel Hair pasta over traditional spaghetti noodles, and I add extra red pepper seeds and parmesan because we like the heat and pungent flavors.

Be sure to have all ingredients, cooking utensils and serving bowl close to your cooktop because this dish is prepared in 3 fast steps ~ saute, toss to mix, and serve hot.

Garlicky Spinach & Angel Hair Pasta

Ingredients –
½ lb angel hair pasta (cooked/drained – about 1/2 box of Barilla brand)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper seeds (or to taste)
1 tbsp minced garlic (Spice World Squeeze bottle brand), or 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups frozen fresh chopped spinach, thawed/drained, or 1/2 lb fresh spinach, loosely chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
coarse salt to taste

Step 1. In skillet on medium-high, saute olive oil, garlic and red pepper seeds until brown, 1-2 minutes.

Step 2. Add spinach and coarse salt to pan, stir 1 minute until wilted. Fold in cooked pasta, butter, lemon juice and mix lightly.

Step 3. Add parmesan cheese, toss to mix in, pour into serving bowl.

* For a twist, add marinated artichokes, Kalamata olives or capers.  Be careful on the capers though, they can add a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would start with half a teaspoon and then add to taste from there.

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