“Comfort & Joy” Chicken & Dumplings

Gran Jan sporting her White Lily apron!

Chicken & Dumplings = A warm, comfort food, and one I love to make on a cold winter’s day. Good rich broth, delicious chicken, and delightful dumplings! The recipe is here, with pictures below if you’d like to check them out! I hope you make some soon. (Be sure to refer to the recipe often, the pictures are just to help, but don’t cover every step.)

Stock Ingredients: Water, chicken, onion, celery, seasoning
(Better than Bouillon), butter, and salt and pepper.
Refer to recipe for exact amounts.

Dumplings:
3 Cups White-Lily self-rising flour
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 Cup of Crisco shortening
2/3 Cup of buttermilk

Once you get your dumplings made, divide the dough into two portions. It just makes it easier to roll out and handle. Dumplings are tougher than biscuits. Don’t be afraid to work the dough! It needs to hold up in the boiling broth.

Roll into two thin sheets and let the dough dry while your chicken is cooking.

Cut the dumplings into strips. I have a dough cutter tool I bought from Williams Sonoma. You can use a knife or a pizza cutter just as easily. I like to make the dumplings about 1″ x 3″ wide/long, but you do you.

This is a happy sight! It’s good for some of the flour to stick to the dumplings. This helps your broth thicken a bit. (That’s my fancy dough cutter.)

These two ingredients are keepers! You will stir the cream of chicken soup into the strained hot broth after you’ve removed the cooked chicken, but before you add the dumplings in.

The half & half is added at the very end. It makes a wonderful rich broth even better!

We like a mixture of both white and dark meat chicken. Just be sure to use “skin-on, bone-in” chicken for your broth. Remove it to a plate to cool and cut in bite-size pieces (discarding skin and bones).

After you’ve strained the broth and stirred in the cream of chicken soup, allowing it to mix well, it’s time to drop the dumplings into the hot boiling broth. I drop them in one or two at a time, stir very gently with a wooden spoon, and then let them cook about 20 minutes.

You’re almost there now!

Turn the heat off when the dumplings are done. When down to a simmer, add in the cup of half & half, then add the cut-up chicken.

Let everything rest for a half hour or more to a pot of COMFORT & JOY!

Gran Jan

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Sausage Gravy!

Good old Southern Sausage Gravy is a favorite breakfast of my husband. It really is also a good supper meal on a cold winter night. It is most assuredly a meal that you eat in moderation!

It is actually very simple to make – here is my tried and true recipe.

Note – this recipe doubles well!

INGREDIENTS – (Serves 4-6)
1 lb. Jimmy Dean pork sausage (mild, hot, sage-flavored or a mixture)
[We like to mix the hot and sage flavors together.]
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup of White Lily all purpose flour
4 cups of milk, (whole or 2% milk, don’t use skim)
1/3 stick of butter

  1. Crumble the sausage and brown over medium heat until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper at this time. You will be amazed at how lean this Jimmy Dean sausage is – no grease to drain!
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and then sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of flour and mix well so that the sausage soaks up the flour. Keep stirring the sausage and flour together for another minute or so.
  3. Now slowly pour in the 4 cups of the milk, stirring constantly.
  4. Continue to cook the gravy, stirring frequently, until it thickens. (This may take a good 5-7 minutes.)
  5. Now go ahead and add the butter and stir well. You are done!
  6. Spoon the sausage gravy over warm buttermilk biscuits and serve immediately. It is sooooooooooooooo good!

Happy Sausage Gravy Making!
Gran Jan

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Fig Preserves!

I made this batch of fig preserves last week with figs from my very own tree! My husband gave me the tree for Mother’s Day, 2016. They are “Brown Turkey” variety figs. Delicious! It was the first time I had used home-grown figs!

Needed: Fresh figs, sugar, canning equipment, time, and lots of patience. Your figs will need to soak overnight in a stockpot that is layered with figs and sugar. Details below in the post!

This recipe works regardless of the amount of figs you are blessed to have. No measuring!

My dad had 8 sisters (7 older and 1 younger ). One of them, my Aunt Jimmie Lou, is the one who taught me how to make these old-fashioned fig preserves. Now normally I am a cook who measures; however, not when making fig preserves. But I promise it’s easy, and you will be able to make them too. There are only two ingredients – figs and sugar!

  • First rinse the figs in cool water, and remove all the stems, inspecting and discarding any that are mushy. Next, I soak the figs in my kitchen sink in cool water for about 30 minutes or so. I then drain them by giving them a final cool rinse in a colander.  
  • Next, I get a large bowl, then I cut half of the figs in half and leave half of them whole and place them in the bowl. “Cut half in half and leave half whole.” How’s that for measuring? 🙂 This has proven to be the best texture we enjoy for the preserves. We like for some of them to remain whole.
  • Now take a large stock pot and alternate a layer of sugar and a layer of figs. (Begin with a layer of sugar in the bottom of the pan, and end with a layer of sugar on top.)
  • No matter what size stock pot or heavy pan you use to layer the figs and sugar, just generously cover the figs with a nice layer of sugar. Let me say here that I do not go overboard with the sugar because I like to taste the figs.
  • Now put a lid on the stockpot and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The sugar will begin to dissolve and form the syrup you need to “cook down” for the preserves.
  • The next morning, let the figs/sugar come to room temperature before you begin cooking them.
  • Once the pot is not chilled from being in the fridge, bring the figs and dissolved sugar to a gentle boil, and and let them simmer on a medium heat for a good half hour. Then turn the temperature way down and let the mixture simmer LOW AND SLOW until the figs darken and the syrup thickens. I usually simmer them from 90 minutes to a couple of hours. Stir often so they don’t stick. This is a project you can’t just leave! One good test is to take a spoonful of the syrup and put it on a plate – tip the plate and if it is thick and doesn’t “run,” it’s the right consistency. A nice slow simmer for a couple of hours is good.  If you have a very large amount of figs, you may need to cook them longer – just do the “thickness” test and that is a good indicator.
  • CANNING:  Bring your clean jars to a simmering boil in a large pot. Also put the bands and lids in a separate pot. Keep those HOT also by leaving them in a pot of simmering water also.
  • Carefully ladle the HOT fig preserves into the HOT jars, leaving about ¼” of headspace.
  • Put the lids and bands on – don’t screw the tops on too tightly – just finger tight so they can expand.
  • Carefully lower the jars of hot figs back into a large stock pot of hot water, covering the jars by at least an inch of water. Process them, or “water bath” the jarred preserves for a good 10 minute rolling boil.
  • After 10 minutes, carefully remove the hot jars with tongs and let them cool and seal on the kitchen countertop. I love to hear those popping sounds as the jars seal. One of life’s simple joys.

Get ready to make some homemade buttermilk biscuits. Generously butter them to enjoy with these delicious fig preserves. A Southern delicacy for sure. My biscuit recipe is also here on the blog!

Happy Preserve-Making & Canning ~ Gran Jan

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Banana Bread – Best Ever!

Good Morning! Are you tired of throwing away over-ripe bananas? I’m here to help with the Best Banana Bread recipe!

I’ve made this often during our quarantine. It is seriously so good. As always, I find a recipe, make it as directed…then adjust it to what I know we will enjoy! This one is now a keeper.

(And baking it in my grandmother’s vintage “glasbake tube pan” from the 1940s makes it even sweeter.)

  • 1 stick of softened butter (I use salted)
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3-4 very ripe bananas (only 3 if large)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans OR walnuts (I toast them in the oven)
  • 1/3 cup craisins OR golden raisins
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan (9″ is good) with Baker’s Joy (my fave).
  2. Blend softened butter and brown sugar. I actually don’t use a mixer – I do this all by hand with a wire whisk.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and blend again.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to above mixture.
  5. Now peel the bananas and rough chop them – leave them sort of chunky, then gently add to the mixture.
  6. Lastly, blend in the pecans and craisins.
  7. Pour into your baking dish or loaf pan and bake until golden brown – 55-60 minutes.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is especially good with some of that wonderful whipped cream cheese spread, or warm it up in the microwave and add some butter. A cup of coffee makes it taste even better too! ENJOY and don’t throw away your bananas any more. I’m not sure if doing it by hand makes it taste differently, but it is dense and very good – not dry at all. Maybe not using a mixer makes the difference. I’m not sure – but at any rate – it’s a fine banana bread.

Gran Jan

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Sixty-two Trips Around the Sun!

Today is my 62nd birthday and I am so grateful for this beautiful life God has given me. Lots of folks don’t make it to this sweet age. My husband Gary conducted a funeral this week of a woman only 46 years old. My own sister Jean died at age 25. Gary and I support St. Jude’s Hospital for Children and the pictures and cards of the sick children there make us weep. Life is a precious gift from Almighty God.

The book of James in the New Testament says in verse 14 of chapter 4, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Some translations use the word for vapor as morning fog, mist, or puff of smoke. The word references the vapor your breath makes on a cold morning. It’s not visible very long. Life really is a vapor. I can’t believe I’m already 62! One of my favorite verses in the book of Psalms is in chapter 139, verse 16: “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” God knew all the days of my life before there was even a me! That makes me feel so very loved and so very special.

One of the things I want to do this next year is be more active here on my blog. Slow down a little bit and write more here. Us retired folks are busy…who knew? Gran Jan’s JOYS remain rooted deeply in faith and family. I love the Lord more today than I did yesterday. My grandchildren are growing up way too fast for my heart. They are now 11, 9, 9, 7 and 6 years old. Let me tell you they are fun and keep my heart young. My sons and daughters-in-love bring me peace of heart as I see them parenting intentionally and loving each other well. My husband of 42 years is still the great joy of my heart. He is way too good to me. He is the epitome of a “long walk of obedience in the same direction.” Truly. My parents are 81 and 85 and live next door to me. I cherish that. My two sisters are my best friends and we communicate daily – I treasure them.

So as I’ve pondered my 62nd trip around the sun on this birthday…this I know, this I confirm. God is faithful and my life is evidence of His love, mercy, and amazing grace. Truthfully, it’s all grace. Grace upon grace upon grace.

I am one blessed woman…and I’m so grateful for this life.

Jan

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Retirement Year 1 – Done!

June 1, 2019 – I am most grateful to say that today marks one full year of retirement for me. I honestly had no idea what retirement would “be” for me. I totally expected to walk out of my office last year on May 31, 2018, skip to my car, and never look back. Well…

Houston County Board of Education. I love this old building and spent 20 years working here!

That didn’t happen. I reflected often those first few months and discovered quickly that the “work me” had way more of a hold on me than even I realized! I loved my job responsibilities, and I cared about the people I worked with for so many years. It took me a few months to unwind, sort out my new season, and to finally give myself some grace. I took on too much in the early months because I mistakenly believed retired people had time to do everything! They don’t. They do have more time than working folks for sure…but they have the blessing of choosing the things that will occupy their time. I had to learn that and it just takes time to sort out!

So here I am today, reflecting on my first year of retirement. I’ve always been a “dates person.” Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not! In this instance, it has been very good for my soul to look back and see all the ways God has blessed me this first year of retirement! He is so faithful.

The pictures below are highlights from each month, June 2018-May 2019. (I decided not to add all the pictures of my garden, the books I read, and the quilts I made…although those are a “few of my favorite things.“) These last few months I have looked at retirement through a different filter. After time in prayer, and conversations with my husband and friends, I have been reminded again of the reasons I retired in the first place (besides just being old enough), and that is for time with my family and time for me. And it’s okay to slow down. I’m learning that every day that passes.

My friend of 30 years, Lanie Nash and I went to Hamilton, MO the first week I was retired, June 2018. We attended the “Missouri Star Quilt Company Academy.” It was a wonderful trip in every way.
My sisters and I took our mother on a weekend cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday! It was so much fun. This was June 22-25, 2018, so I enjoyed two trips in June!
Gran Jan Camp! July 1-3, 2018 with Zeke, Madie and Jackson. Our theme was “following God’s path for our lives.” I cherish spending time with my grandchildren like this, pouring into their lives and being intentional about family legacy.
The Mortons, July 2018, Cape San Blas, Family Vacation
I spoke at “Go Georgia,” a training event sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I shared about Tasting Grace, the mentoring-in-the-kitchen ministry I love so much! This was August 17, 2018 at Mable White Church in Macon, GA. It was so much fun! My dear friend Joan Falldine accompanied me and helped me so much!
Our youngest grandson, Abe came to stay in early August 2018 for almost 2 weeks, because he didn’t have to start school until after Labor Day!
We LOVED having him with us!
My friend Patsy Randall and I went to Huntsville, Alabama, September 14-15, 2018, for the Beth Moore Simulcast.
It was a great trip with lots of good conversation.
This stop for “all things cast iron” was so much fun for me!
September 16, 2018, was a very big day in the life and ministry of our son Jeremy and his wife Carrie. Jeremy preached at First Baptist Woodstock. This picture was made after church with Dr. Johnny Hunt and his dear wife, Janet. Jeremy is now Co-Pastoring there with Dr. Hunt as Pastor Johnny transitions to the North American Mission Board full time in January 2020. He is a wonderful man and has been a great mentor to our son.
This picture was made from one of my favorite places – on the big back porch at the wonderful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
We took a group of Senior Adults there in September 2018.
September was a BUSY month for this retiree and I loved every single event!
Second Baptist Women’s Ministry hosted a Liz Curtis Higgs event on October 25, 2018. This was my last official event as Women’s Ministry Director. I served at Second Baptist for over 20 years. A new team has formed and they are fabulous!
I am now helping my husband in our church’s senior adult ministry.
We are loving this new season in our ministry!
October 29, 2018 we added a new family member. This was taken right after we got home with her. “Her” is Queen Esther Rose, “Rosie.”
We love this sweet German Shepherd puppy.
Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2018.
My parents celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on November 23.
I am so thankful for them and so blessed to be retired
and enjoy having them in my life!
Christmas 2018! Being retired brought more joy to Christmas for me.
I didn’t feel rushed and had time to enjoy all the music, lights,
and celebrations in a deeper way. I love my family!
I welcomed January 2019 by keeping these 3 grandchildren while my son Jeremy and his wife began their move from Cartersville to Cherokee County! It rained non-stop and one day after a spell
of cabin fever, we got outside and enjoyed the puddles!
We celebrated my husband’s birthday in beautiful North Georgia
in February 2019 at Big Bear Lodge! FAMILY TIME IS THE BEST!
It was a joy and privilege for me to be part of the Selah Retreat in Clayton, GA for women’s ministry leaders across the state of Georgia. I enjoyed teaching several sessions and spending time with these amazing women’s ministry leaders.
This was the first weekend of March 2019!
My sisters and mom and I got together in March 2019 for shopping and lunch to celebrate our mother’s 81st birthday. We laugh with and at each other – always!
The last week of March, 2019 included a trip with my friend Lanie to Washington DC for a 4 day visit with our dear friend, Mrs. Mary Perdue. This was my first trip to DC and it was wonderful!
It was hard to just choose one picture, but I loved these cherry blossoms blooming. My favorite thing was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery.
Second Family Senior Adults went to Kentucky in April 2019 to visit the Ark replica (and also the Creation Museum). We had a wonderful trip.
These folks are amazing and it is a joy to serve the Lord with them!
We celebrated my Dad’s 85th birthday on April 29 in Macon with a meal of his choosing at Texas Roadhouse. Retirement has brought more time with my parents.
At my age, I don’t take that for granted and thank the Lord for His grace.
Front porch coffee time with Zeke & Madie (May 2019).
Abe and his siblings came for 10 days (May 2019) while their parents were in Israel. He is sitting on a rock that my 85 year old dad
sat on when he was also 5 years old.
We brought that rock from Henry County
here to the Morton Farm 12 years ago.
May 2019 – these two sleepy-eyed grandchildren came to the Morton Farm to stay with Pop & Gran Jan while their mom finished up her post-planning day at work.
They are full of energy and fun! I love them so much!

What a great first year for me! As I reflected back over all my pictures (both the ones here and the ones on my iPhone), I see the joys of family, faith, and fun in every picture. Thank you Lord for giving me this year. May my life continue to be a blessing to others in all I do. I am so grateful.

Gran Jan

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Homemade Apple Butter

Well, I’ve been retired 5 1/2 months and for the first time in my blog’s 10 year duration, I missed posting for 2 months. “They” say you are busier than ever in this season of life, and I’m beginning to believe that! But I am making plans to slow down a bit and I’m not sad about that at all. I think it takes a while to figure out how to “be retired.”

So this morning I got in the kitchen, and that is one of my favorite places to be. I made homemade apple butter using the crockpot. It turned out so well, so I wanted to share exactly what I did here on my blog. First the recipe, then the pictures! I enjoyed some already on an English muffin!

CROCK POT APPLE BUTTER (This made 5 pints and a little jar for my fridge!)
*5 1/2 lbs. of apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
(1 pound of apples is approximately 4 small, or 3 medium, or 2 large apples. I used about 25 small-medium apples of mixed varieties: Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, and Gala).
*4 cups of sugar
*1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
*1/4 teaspoon of salt

  1. Peel, core and slice the apples. I used an apple corer and then I pulsed the cored pieces in my food processor just enough so they appeared chopped.
  2. Spray your crockpot with some Pam and then place the chopped apples in the crockpot.
  3. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a bowl and pour over the apples, stirring well.
  4. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for one hour.
  5. After an hour, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 hours. I put the apples in the crockpot before I went to bed and even got up once to stir them. The apple butter will turn a dark brown, thicken and smell wonderful!
  6. This morning (after 10 hours), I took a small emulsion blender and mixed the apple butter right in the crockpot to smooth it all out. The texture was perfect!
  7. Then I put the apple butter in hot clean pint-sized mason jars (with a canning seal/lid on top) and processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to can them. See the pictures below or research canning if you aren’t familiar with the process. Canning the apple butter just allows you to keep it longer; otherwise, you’d have to eat it up or give it all away within a couple of weeks (or you may freeze it in freezer containers). I prefer to can the apple butter because I just love doing so!

Happy Thanksgiving week to all of you from the Morton Family Farm!

Gran Jan

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