Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

  We’ve lived in our home for over 15 years, yet every time I make this recipe, I’m reminded of the day we moved our young family to our country home so many years ago.

If my memory serves me correctly…    My husband and I had moved a few basic items to our new home a few days prior to the “big” move that would take place on the weekend. On the morning of the “big” move, I made a large pot of sloppy joe meat in our new home kitchen before pouring it into a crockpot to be eaten later. I knew this would be a long day so I wanted to be sure to have plenty of food at the ready when our crew of movers finished up their job. After plugging in the crock pot, my husband and I headed back to our home in the city. There we were met by a fine group of young men that would take charge of the move. The company that we had hired employed a group of college students that were home for the summer and were trying to make a little money before returning to school in the fall. I have to say, these kids were awesome movers. They carefully wrapped furniture, lifted and carried an enormous load of boxes filled with everything from kitchen linens and cleaning supplies to garden tools and silverware. All of our heavy appliances were carefully loaded onto the trucks and carried across state lines to our new location.  
After a long drive, the cycle began again… The trucks were unloaded, hauling boxes, furniture and appliances into our new spacious home. The movers asked where we’d like things placed and willingly followed our directions as the sun fell from the sky and the crickets started to chirp.  

At the close of a long day of grueling work, I welcomed the group into our kitchen to share a meal. The guys scooped out oversized helping of sloppy joe and placed it on hearty brioche buns. A sprinkle of cheddar cheese completed the sandwich. Bags of chips, a crock of baked beans, and bowls of salad were wiped out in no time. Before leaving, one of the young men asked for my sloppy joe recipe as he wanted to share it with his mother. He also asked if there was any more meat left in the crock pot for one last sandwich. I quickly scooped out the remaining mixture with a spatula and slathered it onto a roll. “One more for the road”, he said, as he gulped down the sandwich in a few quick bites.

As the crew gathered up their belongings and headed for the trucks, my husband and I stood in the driveway and thanked them again for their hard work. The group happily patted their tummies and thanked us for the delicious meal.  

I look back on that day with fond memories…

This group of movers made the day fun, exciting and stress-free. I’ll always be grateful for their hard work, cooperation and expertise. It was truly a pleasure sharing this special day with such a fine group of young men.


Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches   (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook – 1988)

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 of a large onion, diced

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped green peppers

1 cup catsup

2 1/2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoonred pepper sauce

6 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Cook and stir ground beef and onion in skillet until brown; drain. Stir remaining ingredients, except buns. Cover and cook over low heat for an additional 15-30 minutes; just until vegetables are tender. Fill buns with meat mixture. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.


Moist Almond Bundt Cake

 I did a kitchen cupboard inventory yesterday.  On one of the upper shelves, I found a can of Solo Cake & Pastry Filling.  I pulled back the label of the almond flavored can and noticed a recipe for a Bundt cake.  Who doesn’t love the aroma of almonds and butter baking in a cake batter?  I immediately pulled out a few sticks of butter to soften on the counter and waited in anticipation for a beautiful baking experience.  Here’s the recipe: 

The cake turned out divine!  Just as I had suspected… A moist and flavorful mixture of goodness! 


Beef Salami

We recently had a substantial amount of local beef delivered to our home. One of my colleagues owns a beef ranch and I decided to try the product that so many often rave about.  The delivery came with a selection of cuts including various roasts, steaks, and ground beef.  As I looked at all of the individually wrapped beef packages, I was reminded of a recipe that I first spotted in a community cookbook that I’m fond of.  It’s an ole’ time recipe for homemade beef salami and the ingredients are few and common.  I substituted Lawry’s seasoning salt for the “tender quick salt” just because I didn’t have any on hand.  The beef salami turned out just fine.

As the holiday weekend approaches, I thought this might be a fun recipe to try as I’m often assembling plates of appetizers when friends stop by and the kids open the fridge constantly looking for something to munch on.

Traveling with Portable Craft Projects

The greatest dilemma I face when traveling is “How can I travel with a few compact and relaxing crafts while I’m away from the amenities of home?”
Once a year, we travel to Disney World and I am often stumped as to what I can bring along that isn’t too complicated or oversized.

I have thought about bringing quilt squares to hand sew poolside but the sewing machine does a much better job of securing the blocks as opposed to my, less than stellar hand sewing skills. I have also thought about bringing along my long term crochet projects but most are large, cumbersome (blankets or scarves) and too hot to be draped across my lap in the summer sun.
This year, I visited a YouTube website and found a video for a super easy crocheted sock pattern and I was thrilled to find a project that I could easily travel with.  

Here’s the website: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gasKXmcyrXgGlamma’s easy crocheted tube socks

Here are a few pictures of the craft items I carried in my tote bag. 

Here are a few other ideas I packed for soaking up the sun in a relaxed environment:

All were perfectly portable and helped me to find plenty to do as I relaxed in the sunshine of the Walt Disney World – Old Key West -Disney Vacation Club – Main Pool.

Who says Spring Break in Walt Disney World can’t be relaxing?!  Once again, we had a “magical” vacation.


Pumpkin and Oat Spice Cake


This weekend, we attended Grandma M’s Neighborhood Oktoberfest. The annual event is held in Chicago and whenever we drive in to the city, we are quickly reminded of the reasons why we decided to move out to the country many years ago. While there is much to do throughout the city, (visit the beautiful lake front campus, spend the day at numerous museums, fantastic shopping opportunities, and great restaurant choices) we certainly don’t miss the sparse street parking, the long wait at frequent railroad crossings and the horrendous traffic situation.
That being said, it really is fun to head over to Grandma’s for her October party. Everyone attending brings along a favorite dish to contribute. Festive tablecloths and autumn colored dishes (holding scrumptious desserts and flavorful appetizers) top the side tables. Pans of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad sit on the main buffet. Plenty of hot coffee and cider brew in huge pots and the fridge is stocked with plenty of beer.
My contribution included this rich, dense, autumn cake. I had to slap a few hands as I cut the cake into squares and loaded up a serving platter for the party. All wanted a taste before we headed to grandma’s house. I scolded them all telling them that they would have to wait.
This truly is a great recipe and as the cake sits for a few days, the flavor intensifies. Although, very rarely does this cake have the opportunity to sit for a few days…Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Oat Spice Cake

3 cups flour
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
4 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 package (serving size) old fashioned style oatmeal with flax, maple & brown sugar

Topping (optional)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
Mix together margarine and sugar in large bowl on medium-high speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until blended. Turn mixer to low; add pumpkin. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in raisins by hand. Pour into prepared pan. Top with one serving-sized package of flavored oatmeal.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
Blend confectioners sugar and water; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle nuts evenly over top. Cut into 12 servings.


Cooking in Disney World

The often unpredictable price of eating out while on vacation can be quite costly. My advice to friends is always the same when choosing a hotel for a family vacation; choose one that offers, at the very least, an efficiency kitchen to cook basic meals for the family while enjoying time away. Sure, it sounds great to spend a week away from the daily grind of preparing meals and cleaning up the kitchen, but a week’s worth of family meals eaten out can be mighty costly. And its always disappointing to find that when my family is ready to eat, the chosen restaurant has a line out the door that seems to be a mile long. Once inside and finally seated, the food never seems to measure up for the cost put out. Don’t get me wrong, we have our favorite restaurants in Disney World and we always make reservations at ‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort and the Hollywood Brown Derby. We absolutely wouldn’t miss the Polynesian inspired foods served throughout ‘Ohana’s Dinner Show and the incredible combination of flavors carefully mixed together in the Cobb Salad served at the Brown Derby. But, my oh my, things certainly add up quickly. I remember a time when it was common practice to have a soup or salad accompany a main dish or a basket of bread was given before the meal. Nowadays, everything seems to come with an added cost.
This week, our family spent our spring break vacation in Disney World. We are Disney Vacation Club Members and have ownership in Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Purchasing this property over twenty years ago certainly has been a great vacation savings for us. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain how I manage the food budget while on vacation. While we have a few favorite restaurants that we always visit while in Disney, for the most part, we really try to commit to eating “in” for the majority of our meals throughout the week. The vacation home that we stay in comes equipped with a sizable kitchen so I can prepare anything from the basic peanut-butter and jelly sandwich to a delicious pork roast dinner for the family. As mentioned earlier, finding a hotel room or suite with a small efficiency kitchen can really save money in the long run. You may have to pay a little more for the room up front but the food savings can be incredible for a family.
Here are some of the basic meals that I usually prepare when traveling with the family. They’re often prepared with convenience mixes or prepackaged ingredients but they fit the bill for a week away from home on a budget.

On day one, I usually buy groceries for the week. (I also bring from home lots of commonly used dry spices.)

Some of our favorite vacation meals include…

Spaghetti with meat sauce, crescent rolls and Caesar salad,

Cheeseburgers with crispy pickles and chips,

Tacos with homemade salsa and guacamole,


And finally, pork roast with corn and mashed potatoes,


It’s a great idea to look at the online weekly sale flyer for the local grocery store where you intend to shop. This way, you can plan ahead to shop for deals. This week, as I grabbed my shopping cart and sale flyer at the front of the store, I noticed pork roast and ground beef were on sale for a great price. I picked up both for separate meals. The ground beef was used for the tacos, spaghetti, and hamburgers. The pork roast was used for the pork roast dinner and pulled pork sandwiches. (I shredded the left over pork and slathered it with barbecue sauce, then topped the extra hamburger buns with the tender shredded meat.)

Now, a vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without some sweet treats…


J and I will be celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary tomorrow so I made a Mickey cake for our after dinner dessert.



Some of the other food items purchased for the week include:
Old Fashioned Oatmeal
Greek Yogurt
Breakfast Cereal
Orange juice
Peanut Butter

For Dinners, I purchased:
Ground Beef
Ragu- Chunky Garden Style Sauce
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Taco Shells
Taco Seasoning Packets
Shredded Cheese
Lime juice
Pork Roast
Barbecue Sauce
Instant Potatoes
Frozen Corn
Romaine Lettuce
Caesar Salad Dressing
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Hamburger Buns
Chocolate Cake Mix
Ice Cream
Chocolate Frosting Mix

I paid a little over $150.00 for a week’s worth of food and was really able to stretch my food dollars.
Each of these basic meals can be prepared quickly with very little effort. Convenience mixes and prepackaged food items help to cut down on time spent in the kitchen. Paper plates and disposable tableware can certainly save time on clean up. Thankfully, our vacation kitchen is well equipped with a set of dishes, a full fridge and a dish washer.


I’ve been cooking in Disney World for years and these meal ideas have been long standing family favorites. My crew seems to enjoy staying away from crowded restaurants and having a few home cooked meals while enjoying our time with Mickey Mouse in the bright Florida sunshine.

Just Like Grandma’s Irish Brown Bread

Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts

When I was a young girl, my family used to travel to Ireland every year for our summer holiday. My father worked for TWA (Trans World Airlines) and we had a great travel benefit that we regularly used. My mother was born and raised in County Clare and my father from County Kerry. Our wonderful trips into Milltown Malbay, Spanish Point or visiting Ballybunion always bring the fondest of memories.
Oh, the stories I could tell of the laughs we shared as a family. We would load our tiny rental car up with 8 kids, two adults, and lots of luggage. Relatives would meet us at Shannon Airport and take on a portion of our luggage as we headed toward Milltown.
One of my most vivid memories relates to my grandmother, my mother’s mom. She would get up early to milk the cows and feed the chickens. Then, she would…

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