Thursday, February 13, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

What’s not to like about being snowed in with something in the crock providing a background aroma for however you choose to spend your day?

We were supposed to babysit our granddaughter Ainslie today, but both mom and dad were off from work and we found ourselves free instead.  I’ve had this recipe for months and when I saw the forecast thought it might be a good one-pot meal.  I braved the temporary insanity and panic of the grocery store to get the ingredients I needed, which did not include milk, bread, or eggs.  Most of the ingredients can be found in the canned vegetables aisle.  We’ve been trying to cut down on using canned vegetables and fruit, but sometimes you’ve just got to do what you have to do.  All in all, this is still a healthy low-calorie meal.  Each serving (without the toppings) is only 204 calories.

This is the simplest crock pot chili I’ve ever made.  In fact, it's the simplest chili I've ever made.  You literally open the cans and dump everything into the pot.  Add a chopped onion and some cumin and chili powder, as well as a packet of taco seasoning, and you’re ready to go.  The chicken breasts I chose were fairly large, so I included three instead of four.  You simply lay those on top of the chili mixture and either cook for 10 hours on the slow cooker’s low setting, or 6 hours on high.  We chose the high setting as we wanted to eat by 6:00 p.m.  We like green bell pepper in our chili and that’s an option.

About a half hour before the chili was done, I pulled the chicken breasts out of the mixture.  They were no longer on top, and had migrated below the surface.  I allowed them to cool slightly and then began pulling them apart with two forks.  I had prepared a chef’s knife to cut chunks against the grain of the meat, but the chicken was so tender, it just fell apart.  The shredding was the easiest I’ve ever done, and a pile of meat resulted from the three breasts.

The shredded chicken was added back into the chili mixture and was allowed to cook for another 15-20 minutes.  For serving, we topped each bowl with some shredded Mexican three-cheese blend and some chopped cilantro.  It’s delicious…it’s easy…and I’ll bet it will even be better tomorrow!

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili
(makes 10 servings)

1 onion, chopped
1 16-oz. can black beans
1 16-oz. can kidney beans
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
10 oz. package frozen corn kernels
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes with chilies
1 packet taco seasoning
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
24 oz. (3-4) boneless skinless chicken breasts
½ green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 cup Mexican three-cheese blend (for topping)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (for topping)

Combine everything except the chicken and toppings in a crock pot slow cooker.  Place the chicken on top and cover.  Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.  A half-hour before serving, remove the chicken and shred.  Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir in.  Top with three-cheese blend and cilantro, or you could try sour cream.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cauliflower Soup

Jay Renninger and I must have the same exact taste buds.  No matter what recipe he recommends to me, it’s a homerun.  This post’s final product is no exception.  I’m guessing that there are others out there with similarly-aligned taste buds who will adopt this soup as their new favorite…and this is the time of year to enjoy it!

It was earlier this summer when I bumped into Jay at Mowrey-Latshaw Hardware Company on Main Street in Spring City.  “Latshaw’s” is a location where I routinely take some abuse.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m related to everyone who works there.

When Jay saw me, it was almost as if he had been prepared in advance.  “When the cauliflower comes in this fall,” he started the conversation, “I’m going to see that you get the best recipe you’ve ever had for cauliflower soup.”

Sure enough, the cauliflower came in and so did an email from Kim Wolfram, indicating that Farmer Jay had asked her to send me her cauliflower soup recipe.  

Click on this or any image to enlarge it.
Kim even attached the recipe card, and then noted that my wife was her fifth grade teacher at Oaks Elementary.  Small world!

Look how thick!  Can you see the face?
The soup is amazing!  It’s very thick; so thick, I didn’t think I would be able to blend it in my 1979 vintage Osterizer Pulse-Matic Blender.  Unless you have one of the new soup-sized blenders for both cooking and pureeing soups, plan on dividing the liquid into three or four portions as you blend the same fraction of the cauliflower and sautéed onions.

I put the flour and all of the spices
in a cup so that they could be
added to the milk & water all at once.
The recipe is simple, straightforward, and easy-to-follow, so I’m not going to add much to it.  I started by heating the cup of milk and cup of water in the microwave first.  

I use a basket steamer insert.
Don't forget to cover the pot.
Then I started to steam the cauliflower and sauté the onions.  

While they were cooking, I combined the liquid ingredients and spices in the blender for five minutes.  As a result, there was very little down time.

Enjoy this fall favorite, and don’t forget to get your cauliflower at Renninger’s.  They are beautiful!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blueberry & Peach Cobbler

“I was away, but now I’m back!”  What movie is that from?  That line occurred to me when I realized that it’s been more than a month since I last blogged.  I’m not sure what happened.  Slipped a gear?  Fell into a coma?  Was consumed by Vacation Bible School?  I guess I just needed to take a break, and today seemed as good as any other to get back in the blogging saddle.

I haven’t been away from cooking.  In fact, I am continuing to have a blast in the kitchen, and can’t wait to share some of what’s been cookin’.  Instead of sharing some of the earlier dishes, I have to share one I just made.  It was so good, I made another within a couple of days.

Believe it or not, peaches are already in season.  A stop by Renninger’s Farm in Royersford revealed a whole bunch of tree-ripened peaches from Weaver’s Orchard in Morgantown.  Wow…and were they delicious!  Their fragrance filled the kitchen within a few minutes, and I was very glad I purchased extra to enjoy over my morning cereal.

Renninger’s still has blueberries, and that got me to thinking…why do we have to limit cobbler to peaches?  I decided to combine the two into a single cobbler dessert.  The result was stellar, but not without a few foibles.

(click on any image to enlarge it)

First, I’ll refer you to an earlier post, from last August.  It was the first time I had made peach cobbler in a long, long time.  This recipe is practically identical.  The only change is the addition of a pint of fresh blueberries.

6-8 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 3-4 cups)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
¼ ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries

For the dough:
3 Tablespoons shortening
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk

Preheat your oven to 400°.

The first step is to peel and slice the peaches.  To easily peel fresh peaches, dip them in boiling water.  Remove the saucepan from the heat source and allow the peach to remain submerged for one minute.  The skins will just slip off, effortlessly.  Cut the peaches in half, remove the pit and slice into thin wedges.  See the post from last August for more detailed instructions, including additional step-by-step pictures.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon.  Stir in the peaches and the lemon juice.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils.  Allow to boil for one minute.  Fold in the fresh blueberries, being careful not to crush them.

Pour the peach and blueberry mixture into an ungreased 2-quart casserole.  I’ve been told that it helps to keep the peach and blueberry mixture hot, which you can do in your pre-heated oven, (just don’t let it in there for too long).

Now for the first foible:  To make the cobbler dough, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Here’s where I messed up.  See where is says 3 Tablespoons of shortening?  I misread and added 3 cups of flour instead of just one.  I then, (reading correctly), added the 3 Tablespoons of shortening, and began to cut the shortening in using a pastry blender.  I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why fine crumbs weren’t forming.  Adding the milk, I realized something was seriously wrong.  I also realized that because I had already added the milk, cutting in more shortening was impossible.  I decided to add 6 Tablespoons of canola oil in its place, along with tripling all other ingredients.

Needless to say, I had plenty of cobbler dough.  After placing dollops on top of the hot peach and blueberry mixture, I baked the remaining dough into shortcakes, (which are great with fresh sliced and crushed strawberries served over them, topped off with some fresh whipped cream).

The second foible involved miscalculating the volume of the finished peach and blueberry mixture.  Adding a full pint of fresh blueberries increases the amount.  I was very glad that I baked the cobbler on a cookie sheet.  A significant amount of “juice” cooked over the sides of the casserole.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the cobbler “biscuits” are golden brown.  Serve warm with cream, milk, or ice cream.  (It’s delicious plain, too!)


Monday, June 11, 2012


It should be no different than for Mother’s Day, but it is.  On Mother’s Day, moms everywhere are declared free from the kitchen.  Usually that means traveling to a restaurant.  If not, then someone else cooks, even if it’s just breakfast in bed.

Father's Day T-shirt circa 1987
Father’s Day doesn’t always work out that way.  Dads everywhere head to the backyard and fire up the grill.  Oh, they might be lured by the shiny new stainless steel Beef Blaster 3000, complete with man-sized grilling tools, but nonetheless, dads are doing the cooking.

I’m declaring the week off from cooking.  In this post, there is no recipe, and there are no pictures of food.  Instead, I’d like to share some thoughts about Fatherhood.  The role of fathers has been downplayed for many years.  It’s getting better, but it still could use a boost.  In recent history in our country, the impact of dads has been regarded as secondary to that of mothers.  I’m not suggesting for one minute that fathers should be viewed as more important than mothers, but I strongly feel that they are equally as important.

Attempting to accurately and thoroughly encapsulate the importance of fatherhood in a blog post is about as easy as the getting the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Just my own experience in raising my two great kids, Matt and Lauren, would take several volumes, and yet, the more I thought about it, the more I was able to distill it.  It occurred to me that fatherhood is simply about holding on and letting go, (and knowing when to do both.)

At one time it was espoused that mothers provide the love and fathers, the discipline.  It’s not that simple, and certainly not that cut and dry.  Parenting roles need to be shared, and shared as much as possible.  But, to me at least, it’s obvious that mothers are better at some things, and fathers have their niche, too.  Mothers are superb at holding on.  They’re nurturers, comforters, and encouragers.

Let's face it.  We all know that the job of a father is more complex.  Dads have to know how to both hold on to some things and let go of others.  It’s very stressful!  Sure, we have to know some of that mothering stuff, but we also have our own skill set.  Okay, mothers everywhere, put down the rolling pins!  But now that I have your attention, let me tell you what I really mean.

Fathers are preparers, equippers, and nudgers.  A good father knows how critically important it is to let go.  Moms want to hold on and, let’s be honest here, they really never want to let go.  But fathers know that our job as a parent is to prepare our kids to release them; to let them go and send them out into the world, to take their place and fully realize their independence.  Holding on, letting go, and knowing when to do both.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

I wrote the following poem for my daughter last September, the week after her wedding, and I think it does a pretty good job of capturing what I’m talking about.


It came to me when we were flying back from Birmingham,
That I rarely, if ever, hold your hand anymore,
Now that you are grown and self-sufficient,
Your need for me to function in the role of protector has moved on.

There is a history of hand holding with you and me.
A quarter century ago it was established on a Tuesday in November.
Not the first time I held you.  You weren’t in the mood,
All red and spastic, in response to the abrupt change in your environment.

After you discovered how to breathe and stopped flailing your arms,
You settled down and grasped a single finger.
It was automatic, spring-like, closing when touched like a tiny trap,
Not motivated by any need, but it still made me feel like a million bucks.

Holding you that night in the hospital,
I started to think about what it would be like to have a daughter.
In my family there had been no girls for fifty years, and I knew
I was entering unchartered territory for a father with my surname.

That night, I thought about dolls and tea parties, dresses and hair bands.
I wondered how old you would be when you got your ears pierced.
I thought about cooking and softball and dancing with you on your wedding day.
It was then that I realized that someday I would have to give you away.

I think I held onto you a little tighter.
I savored the moments when I held your hand, finding myself
Hanging on for just a fraction of a second longer.
In truth, never wanting it to end.

You probably don’t remember all the times I held your hand.
There was nothing in my fatherly job description that was more important;
Whether it was washing them, (hands that got dirtier than most boys),
Or removing splinters or slapping on Band Aids.

I held your hand to keep you from slipping each time you got a bath,
Except for the time you decided you could do it yourself,
Scaling the tub and taking the plunge fully clothed…shoes and all.
That day you also wore a smug expression of self-satisfaction.

I held your hand when you got a shot, and when you came out of anesthesia,
Quasi-delirious, asking me why I had two heads.
We held hands when we danced in the family room, danced until
We were out of breath, either from the moves, from the laughing, or both.

Your hand needed guiding when you first wrote your name in huge block letters,
And my hands over yours helped you figure out how to hold a baseball bat.
Next a golf club, and then a wrench to change the oil in your car.
With each new venture you were becoming more and more capable.

Learner’s permit in your pocket and flip flops on your feet,
I resisted taking hold of your hands when they were on the steering wheel.
“You’re doing fine,” I partially perjured myself.  And you were, for starting out.
But that didn’t stop my adrenaline rush.

Taking your hand as you came down the steps of the baptistery,
My thoughts momentarily drifted to countless street crossings, and I realized that
You were making a crossing of another kind.
Crossing over.  Old things had passed away; all things had become new.

When you were a child, it was the street crossings that had become the most frequent.
They had also become automatic.
It was a reflex action to reach for your hand when I stepped off a curb.
That’s why I did it even though you were in college when we crossed Broadway in New York City.

On that day, before we even made it to the other side, I wondered,
“How many more times will I hold her hand?”
It was, after all, superfluous.  You were grown.  You could cross by yourself,
But it still made me feel like a million bucks.

Alison Conklin Photography
Like a puddle on a sunny day, time evaporated,
And even though I’d had my share, it was without warning
That I stood beside you in your white gown.
Ready, and yet not ready, to give you away.

Obliged by tradition, I offered my arm, but you didn’t respond.
Instead, with the potential to undo me, you said,
“Can you just hold my hand?”
It was still automatic, and we joined them without looking.

Just?  Just hold your hand?
Without my knowing, it was what I needed,
Needed to bring me full circle…complete.
And together we walked through another milestone, hand-in-hand.

Alison Conklin Photography

Have a Happy Father's Day!  1 Thessalonians 5:21 - "Hold on to what is good."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chicken, Snow Peas & Asparagus Stir-Fry

Stir-fry is a great dish for dads in the kitchen.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and brace yourself…it’s healthy!  I can remember the very first time that I was unable to finish all of the food served to me in a restaurant.  It was stir-fry and I was in high school.  I was impressed.  From that moment on, whenever I was super-hungry, I’d order stir-fry if it was on the menu.

There are several keys to good stir-fry.  Use a high-quality, flavored oil to sauté the meat and vegetables.  Vegetable or canola oil works, and grape seed oil tolerates a higher temperature (and is good for you), but a high quality olive oil or, better yet, sesame oil, make a huge difference.  It helps to create “layers” of taste.  Don’t use too much oil, and don’t be afraid to use some heat.  I’m told that most cooks wimp out on the heat, so use at least medium high heat.

Start the rice before you start the stir-fry, (unless you’re using Minute Rice…yes, we dads resort to Minute Rice on occasion).  Depending on the variety, rice usually takes about 20 minutes.  If you can, time the rice to be ready just when the stir-fry is done.  If you have all of your ingredients ready to go, actual stir-frying will only take about 10 minutes.

Try to have the chunks of meat roughly the same size.  This will promote even doneness.  I like to start the meat first.  As soon as it seared on all sides, add the vegetables.  (You may have to do some experimenting with timing in order to achieve your preferred level of “crunch” in the vegetables.  Remember:  Stir-fried vegetables should be crunchy, or as some cooks describe them, “tender-crisp.”) Always try to use farm-fresh, in-season vegetables, too.  My recent purchases of snow peas and asparagus in Lancaster Country inspired making this stir-fry.

Add your finishing sauce just before you’re ready to serve.  I didn’t make mine from scratch, but “tweaked” it.

Most importantly, ignore the phone!  Just as I was ready to add the finishing sauce, the phone rang.  I covered the electric frying pan, (the poor man’s wok), and took the call.  The result was that a lot of liquid from the captured steam collected in the pan, and thinned and weakened my finishing sauce.  I then made matters worse by trying to reduce the liquid with continued cooking, (a huge “no-no” with stir-fry), and my final result was not my best effort.  If you look closely, you’ll see some wilting on the asparagus chunks.  Live and learn.


3 chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes
1 pint snow peas, ends trimmed and “strings” removed
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1” chunks
1-2 Tablespoons oil (I used 1 T. of sesame oil, and 1 T. of grape seed oil)
approx. ½ cup finishing sauce (I used Mr. Yoshida’s)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use Kikkoman’s)

Prepare the rice, timing it so that its completion will coincide with the stir-fry being done.  Prepare the finishing sauce.  Set aside.  Prepare all ingredients as “stir-fry ready” in advance.  Begin sautéing the chicken in oil over medium-high heat.  When it has seared on all sides, add the vegetables, occasionally tossing and coating everything with the oil in the pan.

When vegetables are “tender crisp,” (approx 10-15 minutes), add the finishing sauce and toss the ingredients to coat them well.  Serve over rice.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Enchilada Casserole: Unintentional Faux Pas Ends in Serendipitous Entrée

If you’re like me, and I suppose like most people who like to cook, new cookbooks “call” you.  I’m always looking for that next great recipe.  A new cookbook always holds so much promise.  However, with the accessibility of the Internet, I have to admit that I’ve cut back on cookbook purchases.  With a click of my mouse, I can instantly have thirty recipe options for whatever dish I have in mind.  I’ve also downloaded the app on my iPhone.  Now all I have to do is input the ingredients I have on hand and multiple recipes are suggested.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that UpperProvidence Elementary School was compiling their own cookbook, entitled, “Planting the Seeds for Success.”  I was even more excited when school’s principal, Dr. Missie Patschke contacted me and told me a copy was waiting for me at the school.  TADITK blog followers will remember the post about the staff pie contest that Steve Bonetz and I judged last November.  In addition to great recipes from staff members and UPES classes, all of the recipes for the pies in the contest can be found in the cookbook.  If you’d like your own UPES cookbook, they are $10.  Call the school office at 610-705-6150, and tell them the Dad in the Kitchen sent you!

During my tenure in Spring-Ford, I had the opportunity to work with many of the staff members who submitted favorite recipes.  As I perused the pages of the cookbook, it was interesting to connect each recipe with the person who submitted it.  One recipe from school psychologist, Dr. Reesa Wurtz provides options.  Isn’t that what any good psychologist should do?  The recipes from Mark Matthews read as long narratives; pretty much that same way Mark conducts IEP meetings.  The recipes from Jean Lare are short and to the point, just the way Jean operates; naturally, because she’s doing twelve things at the same time.

Jean Lare is one of my favorite people.  She is the person that every principal daydreams about.  I’m not talking about having Jean on the teaching staff, although that would definitely be a plus.  I’m talking about having Jean as a parent in your school…which I am fortunate to say I did.  Jean is the most positive, most hard-working, supportive, and understanding parent with whom I’ve ever worked as a principal.  She is a possibility thinker and simply put, she makes things happen.  Often, Jean has a cadre of like-minded, supportive parents surrounding her, all pitching in to get the job done.

Under Jean’s leadership, the little summer enrichment program called “Cool School” that I started at Royersford Elementary School fourteen years ago, grew from just over 100 students to more than 600 children participating in scores of fun summer classes.  (Registration for Cool School 2012 is open now, and Early Bird pricing is available until June 3.  Click here to register!)

The following recipe from the UPES cookbook is a Lare family favorite.  It comes from the days when Jean’s family lived in Texas.  For many years, the Rotelle canned tomatoes called for in the recipe would be loaded into suitcases and “exported” to Pennsylvania by any visiting family member.  Fortunately, you can get them in our area now, and Wegman’s carries them.

I do have to confess that I messed up Jean’s original recipe.  I was supposed to keep the browned ground beef and onions, and the combined Cream of Chicken soup and Rotelle tomatoes separate.  Instead, not following directions, (the result of breaking the first kitchen commandment of not reading the whole recipe before lifting a spoon), I mixed all four ingredients together.  Jean had informed me that the recipe was “not pretty, but very good.”  I was afraid that now I had ruined the “very good” part.  Such was not the case.  The resulting casserole was fantastic, and Jean said, “Yours is even prettier than mine!”  Wow!  So, it’s just like two recipes in one.  You have choices.  Could have come from a psychologist.

(click on any image to enlarge it)

Will it all fit?
2 packages of Corn Tortillas (approx. 12-16)
1 or 2 15 oz. cans Chili or Kidney Beans, drained
1½ lbs. Velveeta Cheese (I used shredded Mexican mix)
2 cans Rotelle Tomatoes
2 cans Cream of Chicken condensed soup
2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic Powder

Brown the ground beef and sauté the onion together.  I also added a small can of mild green chilies to Jean's recipe.  Set aside.  (You can see I didn’t get very far until I messed up!)  

Combine the Cream of Chicken soup and the Rotelle tomatoes, (undrained), and heat on medium heat.  Set aside.  Here's what it looks like when all four ingredients are combined.

Line a large, deep (at least 2”) lasagna or baking dish with half of the corn tortillas.  (I used non-stick cooking spray on the dish before lining with the tortillas.)  The tortillas will overlap.

Put the meat and onion mixture on top of the tortillas.  (If you decide to combine all four of the ingredients, (as I did), put about half of the mixture on the tortillas at this point.)  

Sprinkle with approximately ½ teaspoon garlic powder and about ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  (You may want to add more to suit your own taste.  Keep in mind that the Rotelle tomatoes pack a little “heat” as do the chili beans.)  Next, sprinkle the 2 Tablespoons of chili powder on top, less if it’s spicy.

Add the beans (drained) as a layer.  Jean recommends chili beans, as they have added spices.  I used two cans, and it wasn’t too many.  Sprinkle the top of the beans with more garlic powder and cayenne pepper.  

Lay the Velveeta cheese, or sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the entire top.

Lay the other half of the corn tortillas over the cheese layer, 

and pour the soup and tomato mixture, (or the other half of the combined mixture) over the top.

For my “version,” I used 1 lb. of the shredded cheese in the casserole and then sprinkled the other half pound on top when there was only about ten minutes baking time left.

The casserole should be baked at 375° for 45 minutes, covered with foil.  If adding cheese during the last 10 minutes, remove the foil and leave it off as the cheese melts.

This dish will serve better if you can allow it to sit for approximately 15 minutes.  It also keeps well, and leftovers microwave well.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day with a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie!

In case I forgot to mention it in previous posts, I actually do have the best mother in the world.  Despite the fact that she and my father used Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care book, (Remember the controversy over that one?), my childhood was thankfully “normal.”  In many ways, my mother was ahead of the curve with the ways in which she stimulated our little developing brains.  We probably watched too much TV, but then again, how much television could you watch with only three channels: 3, 6 & 10?  When channel 12 went on the air, it was like we hit the lottery.

Mom took care of the “book learning” department, and encouraged us to read, write, and be creative.  She certainly set the example, always writing, serving as a correspondent for The Pottstown Mercury for more than thirty years.  She was always reading a book.  Unfortunately, her ability in the area of music, (she was an accompanist at Parker Ford Church for almost sixty years), did not rub off on us.  Dad was into a myriad of other interests, including sports, hunting & fishing, and things like woodworking, ham radio, and photography (he had his own darkroom).  They complemented each other perfectly.  I’m not sure how many people can say they never heard their parents argue, but I’m one of them.  (My own kids can’t make that claim.)

Mom is the oldest of four sisters whose parents died in their forties.  My mother was just out of high school.  The youngest, Frankie, was in eighth grade.  My mother became the breadwinner for the sisters and they had a chaperone of sorts move in with them.  Needless to say, the Kugler sisters are very close.  My mother has been a consistent diary writer and I’ve read some accounts about my dad coming on the scene, initially helping with mowing the grass and fixing things for the sisters.  I like knowing that about my dad.

In recent years, Mom has experienced some TIA’s, or “mini-strokes” as they are called.  Fortunately, it has only affected her short-term memory, and Mom can function almost normally otherwise.  She just can’t remember what we just talked about, or what she came to the kitchen for, or where she put her glasses.  (Sounds like most of us, doesn’t it?)  When the questions she asks are repeated, I try to answer them like they’re being asked for the very first time.  I do admit that I sometimes change the answers just to entertain myself.

“What are you doing now that you’re retired?”

“Well, I thought I’d do things that I’ve never done before.”

“That’s nice.”

“Like robbing a bank.”

“Well, I can’t support that!”

She has never lost her sense of humor.  She also always has a crossword puzzle close by, and after reading the front page headlines and the obituaries, completing the crossword puzzle (in pen!) is next on her agenda.

Thanks for everything, Mom!  You really are the best!

In honor of my mother, I’m naming this smoothie recipe for her.  It’s the "Kugler Special."

“Kugler Special” Smoothie
(Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana)

1 cup milk
4 Tablespoons hot cocoa mix
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 medium banana
¾ cup vanilla ice cream

Blend the mixture each time you add an ingredient.  This cannot be beat!  Well, it can be blended…but not beat!  This smoothie is not for the faint of heart.  Check out the calorie count:

1 cup milk - 122 calories
4 Tablespoons hot cocoa mix - 140 calories
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter - 190 calories
1 medium banana - 200 calories
¾ cup vanilla ice cream - 210 calories
TOTAL - 862 calories

Oh, what the heck.  It's Mother's Day!  Take your time drinking it, as it will want to slide down quickly.  Savor the taste!

Happy Mother’s Day!  Enjoy!