Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Happy St. Paddy’s

Everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!

So, how are you planning to spend your ancestors’ national holiday?

Wearing green and pinching people?

Turning the water in your river, lake or pond green?

Makes me wonder if the fish turn green, too.

 Baking green cookies?

Drinking green apple juice? (For green apple juice, just add a drop or two of blue food coloring.)

Or are you going to wear a t-shirt that says–

and enjoy your day that way?

#1 son and his wife love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. One year they came to the house and made us an Irish dinner. Soda bread and corned beef and cabbage. De-lish!

I don’t have #1’s recipe, but Ina Garten has one that looks good, so I borrowed it to share with you.
The Barefoot Contessa’s Irish Soda Bread:


    • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, for dusting currants
    • 4 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 18; teaspoons kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, 1/2 inch dice
    • 1 ¾ cups buttermilk, shaken
    • 1 extra large eggs, beaten
    • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
    • 1 cup dried currants


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
  3. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
  4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
  5. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here’s the corned beef and cabbage recipe I found online that looks good. Not that I’m a judge of corned beef and cabbage, but it looks good. 🙂

Corned Beef and Cabbage–

Makes. 6 servings (the meat shrinks quite a bit) Preparation   time. 10 minutes Cooking time. 3 to 4   hours

Ingredients 1 (3 pound) slab   of corned beef, preferably home made 2 tablespoons coarsely   ground black pepper 2 tablespoons pickling   spices, preferably home made 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ segments 2 pounds of potatoes, cleaned and cut into 2″ chunks 1 small head of cabbage, outer leaves removed, cut in quarters.

A good idea. While the meat is cooking, mix up some of my Secretariat   Horseradish Sauce and refrigerate for  at least two hours to let the flavors marry. Serve it on the side as a  sauce.

Do this 1) Open the package the meat came in and dump out all the liquid. Rinse  thoroughly. Trim off all the fat cap. If you have made your own corned beef, and you should, it is  just plain better, remove it from the brine, and rinse it well.

2)  Corned beef is essentially pickled in salt, and straight out of the pack  it is way too salty. Before we can eat this cured meat, we need to cook  it and desalinate it a bit. Place the beef in a large pot along with  enough hot water to cover it by at least 1″ and put the  lid on.

Turn the heat to medium and bring to a low simmer for 30 minutes. Do not let it boil. If you boil it, it will get tough and shrink. Beware that the meat is cold, so when it warms the water will slowly move from simmer to boil. Keep an eye on it and do not let it boil. After 30 minutes, dump out the water and cover the meat with fresh hot   water. This time add the pickling spices.

Bring to a low simmer again, this time for 1 hour. Again dump the water and pickling spices and replace it with fresh hot water. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 1 hour. Add the carrots. After 30 minutes add the potatoes. After 10 minutes add the cabbage. After 15 minutes the cabbage will be done and so should everything else.

3) Remove the meat and place it on a carving board. There are often two horizontal muscles separated by a thick layer of fat. Separate  them by sliding a knife through the fat. Carve and/or scrape off the  fat layer. Carve the meat by cutting across the grain about the thickness of a pencil. Any thinner and it will fall apart, any thicker and it will be chewy.

5) Lift out the cabbage, potatoes and carrots and divide them into  serving bowls. Place the meat in the bowl. Spoon some of the cooking liquid over them and serve. Happy Holiday!

Or just pop over to Mommy Hates Cooking and follow her recipes. She sounds as if she’s actually prepared them, which I haven’t. I watched while the preparation happened, but that’s it.

I did eat it, though. Yummers!  🙂

How are you going to celebrate? At least tell me you plan to pinch someone!
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Oven Fried

Kentucky Fried Chicken/KFC Original Recipe chi...

That’s right–not Kentucky Fried. OVEN fried. 🙂

Brother Jeffrey shared Mom’s recipe for Potato Chip Chicken the other day, so I thought I’d pass it on to you.

His family ate it for their Christmas dinner, which they had a few days after the 25th when his daughter and her family made it home. (Any day’s Christmas when you’re family is together. Right?)

And as Brother Jeffrey says, “The proof of a good recipe is when you eat it all–even when it’s leftovers.”

I agree!

So, here’s his recipe.

Jeffrey’s Potato Chip Chicken
Enough chicken for your crew, cut up.
pepper chicken
dip in Pet Milk
roll in crushed potato chips to cover really well.

Put on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for one hour or until all pink is gone.

Thinking about JPCC, I remembered a similar recipe that came from Pryor Creek.

Pryor Creek Chicken

Melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 C) in baking dish.
Roll cut up chicken in biscuit mix and put in melted butter
Cover with foil.
Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, then 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Easy Peasy, right? 🙂

With all this chicken talk, I remembered one more. It’s from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and one of my favorite cookbook authors.

This is from the Food Network website.

BTW: I’ve made this recipe several times, and I’ve never soaked the chicken in buttermilk over night. Usually, I dip it in the buttermilk and get to cooking. 🙂

Oven-Fried Chicken

Copyright 2002, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:
15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
10 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
40 min
6 servings



  • 2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening



Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

From Susan–
Since you’ll be cooking for your family, fix the chicken the way you like it. Sometimes I add a little garlic powder or cayenne pepper for extra flavor.
However you cook it, be sure you eat it with those you love.
And, as always, enjoy!


Thanks, Ina, For Your Corn Chowder

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Image via Wikipedia

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Ina Garten is the Barefoot Contessa. She’s on the Food Channel if you want to watch her.

The way they film her cooking is great. Her camera men get right in there and fill the screen with food as if they were taking a still shot to frame and hang on the wall.

She just looks like she’d be fun to know, doesn’t she? I’d love to be her friend. Her background is fascinating. She worked in the Whitehouse at one time (NOT in a foodie capasity) then she moved to New York State where she bought The Barefoot Contessa. I don’t think it was a restaurant, but from what I can tell on TV, they prepared food sort of like a deli, except it was remarkable food. 

I have all her cookbooks except  her newest one, and I already have it on my list for my birthday. (Fingers crossed.)

Here’s one G-Man requests on a regular basis–

Ina’s Corn Chowder

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
  • 10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Now just to be honest, I’ve never made it exactly like Ina does. For a long time, I couldn’t find tumeric, so I left it out. When I found it, I learned I didn’t like the flavor.

Why ruin a good thing? I leave it out.

And the grocery store in C-Town doesn’t carry white cheddar. Let me amend that. If the grocer in C-Town carries white cheddar, I can’t find it. 😉 I just use regular mild cheddar. (White sounds mild to me.) 

I’ve never used fresh corn in this recipe–only frozen. (Fresh corn is for grilling and eating off the cob or in Grandmommy Corn. I’ll post that another time.)

 And if I don’t have chicken stock, I made the stuff with cubes and boiling water.

Okay, that’s it. It’s a wonderful recipe and makes a lot. (I cut it in half and we still have it for a whole week.)

I’m sending a big Thank You! to Ina. You make eating at my house taste so much better!


Prime Your Rib

Barefoot Contessa - Sur La Table 3

Image by urbanbohemian via Flickr

Ever been afraid of a piece of meat? Not afraid in the “boo!” sense, but afraid you’ll do something to ruin it? I have.

For the last ump-teen years, G-Man and I have bought a prime rib (or beef loin) for Christmas Eve dinner. This year we were running a little late *sigh* and when we got to the grocery store we decided to “bless” with our business, they had three primes left. Two too-smalls and one too-large.

G-Man suggested buying the too-smalls, but I pointed out that for the same $$ we could have the too-big one. We’d just have to cut off what we didn’t want to eat Christmas Eve and freeze it for later.

That piece of meat cost almost as much as my first car. Okay, my first car was really an old pickup and belonged to my grandad, who I’m sure gave me a really good deal, but still! For $20 more back in the day, I had four wheels and went places.

So I was just a little bit intimidated by this hunk of meat, and by the cooking process.

As usual, I got out my go-to girl’s cookbooks (Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa is my girl!) and once more looked up how to cook PR. (When I only cook something once a year, I have to relearn how to do it.)

You start by preheating the oven to a temperature hot enough to brand a steer (I’ve got the scar on my wrist to prove it.) Then you rub enough salt onto the meat to preserve it for the winter, then pepper, and put your expensive cut in the oven (at 500 degrees) for 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes of killer hot on a piece of meat that cost more than my entire monthly food budget when I was first married. I get a little nervous every year.

Then WITHOUT opening the oven to see if your meat has gone up in flames, you turn the heat down to 325. After half-an-hour of normal cook time, crank the heat back up to 450 until the center of the chunk registers safe.

There’s a resting period of twenty minutes before slicing begins. Twenty nervous, nail-biting minutes during which the woman-in-charge doesn’t know if she succeeded and will be a triumph with everyone sitting around the Christmas Tree and singing her praises, or a failure who’ll live through the rest of Christmas (and with my family, who never forgets anything–throughout the rest of time) with her tail between her legs and a big red F (for failure) on her chest. (A really big F.)

Luckily, and thanks to Ina (who is a dear cooking buddy and destroyer of diets) this year we triumphed, and I had a blast doing it.

So, what’s your favorite special meal to eat for Christmas?

Leave a comment

Christmas Eve


Image via Wikipedia

I wrote this yesterday afternoon during a lull in the activities.


It’s almost here!

Right now I’m roasting a prime rib. 500 degrees for the first 45 minutes. Scary stuff for an expensive cut of meat, but it works. Barefoot Contessa is never wrong. 😉

This morning I decide to make a couple of ornaments, so I snitted the first one.


 It looks better here than it is. Here’s closer–

It’s full of wires to hold the petals out and they poke. Not the most perfect poinsettia in the world, but it makes a big red spot on the tree. LOL.

2/3 of the kids made it last night. The prime rib was fantastic–no one turned it down or complained a bit. They know better. If they gripe, they get to do the cooking next time!

We don’t open gifts until Christmas morning, and after everyone left last night, I had several gifts to still wrap. Next year I’m investing in more gift bags and tissue paper! And should probably start decorating for the Yule on Independence Day.


John Vinson Cookies

Ready for a Christmas recipe or two?

For several years, G-Man, the boys and I lived in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma. While we lived there, we owned a pharmacy (or maybe it owned us.) The best thing about living in PC and owning that business was the people we came to know and love.

One of those people was John Vinson. John was an older man who lived with his wife outside of town. Something had happened to John in his younger days (I don’t know what) and he lived with a tracheotomy–a hole in the base of this throat.

He’d found a way to talk by swallowing air and forcing the words out. Before very long at all, he was very easy to understand. For a man who’d come through something as awful as what he must have and having to live with whatever trouble the trach caused, he was a delightful man. He always had a smile, a story and a joke to share. I never once saw him less than happy.

One year at Christmas, he came in telling me I had to make G-Man a batch of fruitcake cookies. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of fruitcake–at least the store-bought variety. Home baked might be delicious! But at that time, I thought I knew. 

John brought me his recipe, G-Man encouraged me, so I bought the ingredients and baked our first batch. I have to tell you, it was delicious!

I still have trouble getting other people to try these cookies because they think they know what it’ll taste like. They have no idea how good they are.

I used to think John had a secret going here, but I recently found two similar recipes. Barefoot Contess and The Pioneer Woman both have cookies that are very close! And they like them, too. <G>

This is from Ree’s blog

Before you recoil at the word “fruitcake” and run screaming from this website (and I realize it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve probably run screaming from this website) please listen: You must try these cookies! They are completely divine.

These cookies are wonderful with coffee or milk or just by themselves. 

Suggestion–if you want to try a batch and aren’t sure whether you’ll eat them or not, find an old man to share them with. I’ve found that old guys like fruitcake better than anyone. 

BTW: Rather than Fruitcake Cookies, we changed the name to John Vinsons’s Christmas Cookies. Sometimes people will try them before they hear the FC word and padlock their jaws. 🙂

Try them. You’ll adore them!

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 2/3 C real butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp whiskey–cheap bourbon (John’s directions!)
  • 1 tsp soda dissolved in boiling water  
  • 1 C white raisins
  • 1 7 oz pkg dates
  • 1/2 pound candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound pineapple
  • 1 pound pecans

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, mix each group of spices with flour taken from 2 1/2 C. Chop nuts by hand. Chop fruit with sissors. Keep separated, flour as mentioned above and add to batter one at a time. Add nuts last.

The batter is very stiff. Drop by heaping spoonfuls on cookie sheet. (Don’t let them get too brown.)

Bake in a moderate oven.

Word of warning–I had trouble finding the candied fruit this year. I went to three stores before I found it, but according to my friend who makes a fruitcake every year for her father, it stores well. So I bought enough for three batches.

Enjoy and merry Christmas!