Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Happy October!

October is one of my favorite months of the world! Let me tell you why. (Knew I would, didn’t you?)

  • First, Middle Son Matt was born in October. The adorable child grew up to be a very nice, good looking, responsible guy. (A mom can’t ask for more than that.)

It’s party time!

  • The weather’s MUCH better. It’s not hot, anymore. No more three digit temps. No more sweat on my brow the moment I step out of the air conditioning. Lower air conditioner bills. And we get a little rain. (I remember once when it snowed on Halloween!)

Leaves! If the trees have any left, they change to gorgeous colors. Oranges and golds and beautiful reds. And there’s something inside me that wants to observe and enjoy and record all of it.

  • Apples. Yep, apples. I. Love. Them. Love the tart sweetness, the crunchiness and the millions of dishes that can be made with apples. No way I can name them all, but I love them fried for breakfast, baked in Tuela’s Fresh Apple Cake OR an apple pie, carameled (is that a word?) as well as juiced, warmed and mixed with spices.

Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins! And gourds. Have you noticed how many varieties there are for sale anymore? From tiny to huge, dark orange to white and there are even some I call Monsterkins–kind of misshapen and covered with warts.

And finally (although I could probably come up with hundreds of things I love about October) I love Opals. That’s October’s birthstone, and I think they’re beautiful.

Next time I’m in Austrailia, I’ll see if I can pick up a few. 🙂

  What’s your favorite thing about October? The sports? Halloween? I’d love to know.


The Fun Part

I had so much fun last night. (Don’t tell anyone.)

Know what I did? Broke a bunch of eggs. 🙂 If I left it there, would you think I was egging houses and TPing yards? I hate to disappoint you, but I wasn’t.

I helped cook the Wednesday night dinner at church and it was FUN! Hot, but fun. 🙂 Cooking that meal isn’t something I normally do, because there are usually a bunch of members there to help out.

But this time, there weren’t. Sister Deb told me several of the usual workers were gone on the mission trip to Joplin, so (naturally) I volunteered. “I can help.”

The menu? Pancakes, scrambled egg casserole with cheese and ham, and oven fried potatoes. But that wasn’t the fun part.

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Breakfast Yummers

Have you ever had Coffee Soup?

Ever heard of Coffee Soup?

Outside my parents’ home, I haven’t. But it’s good stuff. (I’m really curious whether it’s a Spess family thing or if other people enjoy it, too.)

When I was a kid, Mama fixed a big breakfast every day of the week except Sunday. We had pancakes, Squaw Bread, French Toast, eggs–fried or scrambled–and, of course, biscuits and gravy. Kids who rarely ate breakfast at home loved it when they stayed all night with us.

Of course, some of them ate breakfast weird, even with us. They’d do strange (to us) things such as putting peanut butter on their pancakes and powdered sugar on their Squaw Bread instead of syrup, like us ‘normal’ people.

When we had biscuits and gravy, though, most everybody ate it the right way. Oh, some had their biscuits upside down instead of the *right* way, but we understood that some people were just different.

The one thing that seemed to blow every kid’s mind the first time was Coffee Soup. For it to turn out right, you just about have to start with the biscuits my mama made. No fat in the bread makes it a little denser and more likely not to fall apart–necessary when you make Soup. (I tried it once with a canned biscuit. Yuck!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

One coffee cup
Hot coffee
Hot biscuit
Cream, Half-and-Half or milk

Break the biscuit up in the coffee cup. Add coffee to barely cover the biscuit, then a spoonful of sugar and enough milk to make it a delicious tan color. Taste. If it’s not sweet enough, add a little more sugar.

Eat it up with a spoon. Try it next time you make biscuits. You’ll be surprised at how good it is!


Zeke’s Dress(ing)

My mom, dad, sister and I moved from the Ford to C-Town so long ago, grocery stores weren’t supermarkets yet. All the produce, canned goods, meat and candy was tucked into a very small space. A video store could easily take up the space one of our groceries did.

They were fun places, too, filled with people who remembered your name and brought the groceries to your house if you couldn’t get out.

The one my parents mainly used when we moved to town was called Crady’s. (I think it’s a lawyer’s office now.) They had a great candy counter, and gave us a bag full of the sweet stuff each month when Mama paid our grocery bill. (Yep, we charged the groceries, and paid like clock work.)

They also had a butcher counter. The woman who worked back there could grind hamburger or cut a steak or roast as well as my granddad, and that’s saying a lot!

The woman’s name was Evelyn, but everyone knew her as Zeke. When we’d lived in C-Town for a little while, we stopped driving home to the Ford each Sunday for church and started going to a local church.

Zeke and her family were members of that church. Zeke had two sons and a daughter, and our families became good friends.

Some of my happiest memories have that family as part of them.

Zeke went from being a butcher to the local tag agent, so everyone in town knows her. She has a great laugh, not a timid twitter. It just booms with joy. She rarely meets a stranger (one of my favorite qualities in a person) and makes anyone she’s around feel as if they’re home.

Zeke’s daughter, Lesta, has always been a good friend. We spent a lot of time together in high school and went to the same college. Lesta taught me how to make pinto bean sandwiches and to love Coca-Cola. (Mama always like Pepsi best.) Zeke had soft serve butter before there was any such thing. She set it on the table long before the meal while our mama kept it cold (and hard) so it wouldn’t go bad.

Zeke put her potatos in with her roasts from the moment they started cooking so they came out brown and soooooo good! She served wonderful Sunday dinners, which I got to share more times than I can count.

Zeke introduced me to avacado. And Mexican food. (Not at the same time.)

She loved and took care of her mother-in-law until she passed away.

Just to be very honest, Zeke is one of those people who lives her religion 24/7. If you don’t have a Bible, all you have to do is look at her life. She lives what it says.

Back in the day, our families would get together with the Hagbergs and the preacher’s family and a few others and we’d have a pizza night. The women would make sausage pizza, using Bisquick for the crust. (Makes a great breakfast, too.)

And they’d have a big salad with it. Zeke was nearly always in charge of the salad. I’ve never tasted anything as good as her salad dressing. Olive Garden would be jealous!

I’m going to share Zeke’s salad dressing with you today from our church cookbook.

Zeke’s Salad Dressing

1/4 C vegetable oil
1 C vinegar

Here’s the hard part–
To taste:
salt and pepper
celery seed
Italian Seasoning
garlic powder

She doesn’t give measurements on the seasonings because she doesn’t measure. She eyeballs it. Now I’ve watched Zeke make this dressing a bunch of times, and I still can’t get it to taste the way hers did.

I probably just need more practice. 🙂

Zeke isn’t the tag agent anymore, but her granddaughter is, and Zeke still works at the tag office several days a week.

Like my daddy says, “She’s quite a gal.”


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!