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Chicken Yakisoba

Chicken Yakisoba

Let’s chalk this up to one of those recipes that tastes better than it looks (at least when I made it). Promise.

Yakisoba (literally, “grilled noodles”) is one of Japan’s most popular street foods. While soba noodles generally refers to buckwheat noodles, this dish can be made with any long, thin noodle and this (, from (, calls for ramen.

Believe it or believe it not, I still have ramen packets from a box I bought in college. I’ve always loved the texture of the dirt cheap noodles, but knowing how terrible they are for you, I only eat them on very rare occasions and normally doctored up quite a bit. I don’t use the little silver packet of mystery powder and sodium and swap it for two cups of chicken broth (normally low-sodium, but even regular is better than the little packet), add vegetables and you can barely tell that any of what is in my bowl came from the pantry of a broke college kid. Frankly, this is what ramen used to be (and still is in some places) before it became the 19¢ fare we think of today.

Yakisoba has a signature sweet and tart flavor that comes from the sauce, sōsu, a condiment used pretty frequently over there, from what my research tells me, kind of like ketchup here. It’s made with ingredients like tomatoes, prunes, apples, carrots, onions, garlic and ginger, with cinnamon and cloves — combining sweet, savory, tangy and spicy flavors into one delicious sauce. Ordinarily, it isn’t served with meat, but a little chicken and more vegetables can make this a complete meal.

You don’t need to make the journey to Japan to try a little of this for yourself, however.

Start by preparing chicken and vegetables for stir-frying. Peel your ginger with a vegetable peeler (I used the side of a spoon) and grate it with a lemon zester or small-hole cheese grater. Peel and grate the carrots (grating too …   More

Out of the mouths of babes

Out of the mouths of babes

Sylvia’s birthday was two weeks ago and we had her party on Friday, April 8. We invited her entire class and half of the students were able to come. Three of the little boys came this year, which thrilled her because it’s just been a couple of the girls in the past. It was the largest turnout thus far.

We also let Hays and Warner each invite a friend so they’d have someone to play with and, hopefully, not fight with Sylvia and her friends. I drove the Traverse and Darin drove his extended cab Dodge. We couldn’t have fit another kid in unless we strapped him to the top. Not a good idea since that was a cool and rainy day.

Ugh.… the rain. Never good when you’re hauling 11 kids home for a five-hour visit. My visions of them playing ball, jumping on the trampoline and climbing trees were washed away as my windshield wipers swished, swished, swished in the rain, which fell harder the closer we got to home.

My thoughts were distracted by the conversation I overheard. (If you ever want some entertainment, get a group of 5-7 year olds together and just listen. If that doesn’t make you laugh, there is no hope for you.) It all started with Christian and Bobby joking around and Christian saying to Bobby, “I’ll cut your head off!”

“Oh! If you do that, you’ll go to jail!” exclaimed Abby.

“Nuh-uh,” chimed in Sylvia. “Kids don’t go to jail, but teenagers do.”

Levi: “I have a sister. She’s a teenager.”

Bobby: “Is she in jail?”

It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. Oh. My. Gosh! They are sooo funny!

And, fortunately, well-behaved for a group of elementary kids on a Friday afternoon. We had to pose for a group photo when we got home and every boy found it necessary to be wielding a weapon. The girls were in the back, just looking cool.

There were sword fights, gun battles, super heroes in costume, makeup artists (who had very avant garde ideas, judging from the pink and …   More

Not-So-Quiet Weekend

It was quite a weekend at the Johnson residence. While I expected a decently quiet couple of days, we ended up doing quite a bit around the house. First of all, we have been discussing the idea of a starting a garden. Last weekend, Alan bought various packs of seeds including: tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, green beans, and squash. We have a nice plot of land for in town (about 1/2 acre) so we want to get the most out of it. We have a tiller, so Alan created a large square in the back corner of our property. It kind of looks like our very own Farmville. I'm pretty excited to start getting some planting done in the next couple of weeks!

One thing we were not really expecting to work on this weekend was a leak that we recently discovered in our basement. Alan dug a whole outside to investigate (to the surprise of our dog, Max. He seems to think he is the only one allowed to dig holes in the yard.) and sure enough, the sewer line was cracked.

Partly due to this leak but also because we decided it was time to clean out the basement, Alan opened the windows down there to get air circulating. Little did we know this would cause a completely different problem. Alan was pretty worn out after digging the hole outside and tilling earlier in the day, so he decided to take a nap. Thinking this was a good idea, I napped for a few minutes then decided to watch some tv. I talked to my mom on the phone for a few minutes, as well. I noticed our cat Mellie laying in her little cat bed, but hadn't seen Oliver for a while. I figured he was upstairs sleeping in one of our boxes which has become one of his favorite pastimes.

While I was on my tablet, Alan woke up, closed the windows in the basement, and watched tv for bit. I told him to come over to where I was so I could show him a Facebook post from one of my friends. He said he'd be right over, but wanted to break up a cat fight that he could hear coming from outside. Of course, curiosity got the best of me so I …   More

Of $5 dresses and Santa flags

Of $5 dresses and Santa flags

I hope your Easter was full of pastel colors and chocolate bunnies. Ours was a whirlwind, as I’m sure many of you can relate to.

We started off Saturday with a trip to Fredericksburg for the Masonic Lodge’s egg hunt, a tradition they began about six years ago. I had never heard of it, until my co-worker, Monika, mentioned it. Her dad is a member of the Salem Masonic Lodge. I thought it would be a good way to give coverage to a hunt that hadn’t had any in the past and the only opportunity for my kids to hunt eggs.

Wow. Talk about going all out. These guys covered their property with 4,000 eggs, all filled with candy or money. I’d guess there were about 80 kids, so there were plenty – and by plenty I mean hundreds – of eggs for all the kids. As if that weren’t enough, the Masons then gave each child a chocolate bunny!

The kids got jacked up on sugar just in time for us to make the trip to Salem for a friend’s wedding at Cornerstone Hall. It is such a beautiful setting and so convenient for the ceremony and reception to be in the same place. Sylvia and Warner, along with some other small kids, kept everyone entertained with their dance moves.

We got home just in time for Darin to leave for work and for me to give a little heping hand to the Easter Bunny. “By the way,” I said to the kids as I tucked them into bed, “where’s the green Easter bucket? We have the blue and purple ones, but not the green one.”

“It doesn’t matter, Mom,” advised Hays. “The Easter Bunny always brings us a new bucket.”

Gulp. Luckily, the Easter Bunny did bring drawstring bags this year (Star Wars for the boys, a cute nautical one with a whale for Sis), so I was saved. I think he might have also recycled some of those eggs from Fredericksburg, but I’ll never tell!

Hays was the first one up, bright and early, at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Groan. I hadn’t turned in til after 1, so I was a bit groggy. He …   More

Get your Italian on

Pasta bakes were one of the first things I learned to cook, after chicken parmesan. There’s something about the basics of Italian food that really help kids build cooking skills. These are still one of my fallback recipes for when I’m at a loss for what to make and somewhat short on time. Throw some ground beef or sausage together with a drained can of spinach, some mushrooms, pasta sauce and cooked pasta, top with cheese and bake until golden brown. Easy-peasy.

Of course, as a kid, the idea of asparagus and less than a mountain of cheese wasn’t exactly appealing.

Fortunately, palates grow and change and now, the thought of that stalky green vegetable was actually one of the selling points for this recipe(

You can use frozen asparagus chunks like Cris Goode, the writer of the blog, ( Gracious did. It really doesn’t make a difference what size the pieces are cut into, but I really would suggest using fresh asparagus for this and steaming it yourself. Frozen vegetables can get mushy and texture is everything with asparagus.

Combine your asparagus with cooked penne, some olive oil and a pound of cooked and cubed chicken breast and dump this into a 9x13-inch pan. Everything has been cooked and should still be at least warm, so once you top this with parmesan cheese, this should just need to sit under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown — about five minutes. Unfortunately, as you can see from the picture above, I lost track of time and I haven’t made this since, despite it being pretty good (asparagus can be expensive!), so you have the picture of my indiscretion resulting in overcooked cheese. It made things a little crunchy, but sometimes crunchy cheese is good cheese.

This is a little dry as far as pasta bakes go. I have to agree with some of the commenters that some Alfredo sauce and more vegetables, like mushrooms or …   More

Friends and laughter, lots of laughter

Another successful date night is in the books. This time we shared it with some of our favorite people; Mark and Pam, Keith and Karen, Jody and Karen. We have been friends with this core group for most of our adult lives. We have helped raise each other’s children and have been together through the good and bad times.

We are basically extended family (which is funny because Mark and Keith are actually related, they are brothers). We have set dates/holidays that we always get together for. They include Derby Day at our house, 4th of July at Keith and Karen’s, and Labor Day at Mark and Pam’s. Jody and Karen host a couple of events including New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday.

Because of family obligations, we sometimes miss a gathering here and there. It is during this absence that I start really missing my “family.” It was because of this that I decided to make them the reason for Duane and I to schedule another date night.

First, I secured someone to stay at home with Bailey then I had to figure out where to meet. It needed to be close because the next day was a workday for most of us and I didn’t want to spend all our time traveling to our destination. Also, I didn’t want someone to feel like they had to “host” the evening, as I wanted everyone to be able to relax and enjoy themselves.

Roadhouse 135 proved to be the perfect spot. It is a relaxed atmosphere that serves food and adult beverages, which are the only requirements for our group. To say that it was a wonderful evening would be an understatement. Karen #1 even tried a new drink but before she had her first sip, we all had to taste it and declare it worthy. It passed the inspection.

The food is good, nothing fancy but good. Most of the group tried the pizza that was tasted and approved as no slices were returned uneaten. I had an Italian sub that was wonderful and Duane had a grilled chicken sandwich. We even indulged with a little pie and cake for dessert except for …   More

Back in my day

Back in my day

It’s hard to contemplate just how much the internet has changed things. Even just in my lifetime I remember the days before the internet but it’s hard to fathom just how much easier it is to access information now. With social media news is almost instantaneously spread every where in the world. The internet is a vast source of knowledge about any subject or topic one could imagine. Of course I don’t need to tell you that, you already know if you’re reading this, so good for you being internet savvy! I just finished reading an article about a gaming glitch that was big news amongst many people even before the hayday of the internet. Back when the dreaded dialup was your only option for internet. One of the comments was talking about how he remembered trying it and succeeding at it, but he couldn’t remember how ever got wind of it in the first place. It got me thinking about all the gaming rumors and glitches my friends and I would try out, all while having very little success with most of them.

The first one and probably one of the most famous was from the Pokemon game. I grew up in the humble beginings of the phenomenon that is still huge to this day. I remember when I first got the blue version and I would play it all the time. My friends and I would trade pokemon back and forth. After beating the game word began to spread amongst our little group about a gltich that would give unlimited items. Who wouldn’t want unlimited Master Balls or Rare Candy?

So naturally after hearing this I went home, and step by step played how the steps to initate the glitch. It was basically a glorified cheat code. And after a few attempts I got it to work. I started using it all the time. Now when I think back on it I don’t remember who it was that told me about it, and I wonder who told my friends about it. Maybe it was somebody who happened to have internet or maybe from some Nintendo Power magazine or something similar. All I know is it …   More

Company's Coming!

Company's Coming!

For the past couple of weeks I've been busy planning to have company over. Of course, I've had a few friends come to visit and see our project, as well as my parents, but we usually keep it to one or two people at a time. Just last week, my dad came over while my mom had an event to go to and I served him roasted chicken with vegetables. I always want things I make in my kitchen to turn out well, but usually don't stress much about it.

For my in-laws, that's another story. My usual one or two guests turned into five. My husband's mother, Carie, lives in New Albany, along with two of his high-school age sisters, and this is honestly the first time I've ever made a meal for them. These people are serious food people! They make a ton of food for every occasion. Carie makes the best sweet potato casserole (the one that actually taught me I DO like sweet potatoes!). They spend so much time in the kitchen preparing meals, while I have a cherished book of "Dump Dinner" recipes that promises food for the whole family in "minutes!" Needless to say, I was pretty nervous to host the three of them as well as Alan's other sister and her husband.

I went back and forth about what I would serve at the dinner party, alternating between fairly simple things I've made a couple times and ones that showed that I could actually cook. Unfortunately, Saturday kept creeping closer so I finalized the menu on Friday evening and crossed my fingers that the meal would turn out as planned.

Saturday afternoon was spent shopping for last minute ingredients and scurrying around trying to vacuum up all the cat fluff that easily and quickly accumulates on our floors. I got the salad put out and the table set, then started on the main course: shrimp and lobster ravioli. I discovered this delicious gem a few weeks ago. It comes pre-packaged and only takes a few minutes of boiling to be ready. I decided to go with what I know, and I know that this ravioli is good! I …   More

Little Engine That Could

When I learned that the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was coming to Washington County I was so excited. I love the fact that children who might not otherwise have books at their disposal will now have the chance to fall in love with reading before even going to school.

I have always been a reader and my daughter Paige also developed a love of reading, toting around books at a young age. I can’t say that I have read many classics, although I did read Gone With The Wind, all 2000+ pages. Paige, however, studied English at Franklin and took a lot of Literature classes along the way - she has read the classics, the good and the bad.

Bailey liked to be read to but he didn’t like to do the actual reading part. When children are small, reading is such a wonderful bonding experience. I always loved the Boxcar Children series and think I read every book during my youth. So when my children were little I couldn’t wait to share these stories with them. Ended up, I liked them more than they did but they soon found their own genres of interest.

Anyway back to the Dolly Parton Library, once I found out about it, I wanted to sign someone up but my acquaintance with little ones is few and far between these days. Then I thought of my great-nephew, Easton, who is a mere 9 months old. I got so excited thinking of all the books he could receive that I rushed to First Harrison Bank to get a form to sign him up.

When I asked his mom Ashley for help filling out the form with their pertinent information, she informed me that he was already signed up and had received two books already. Just goes to show that great minds do think alike.

The first book he received was “The Little Engine That Could,” which is one of my all-time favorites. I used this book as a reference to my kids many times during their childhood and still do. It has one of those themes that never goes away, try hard and you can achieve your goals.

I am a member of Tri Kappa sorority and a …   More

My little Messiah

My little Messiah

It’s not often that a mother can say her son is the Messiah. But I can.

OK, OK, Hays is not really the Messiah. There was only one of those. But he did portray Him in a play.

The day of the selection process (I’m not sure there were formal auditions), Hays told me he was nervous. “I really want to be picked to be Jesus,” he said at breakfast. “I prayed I would be.”

God does always answers prayers and this time it was in exactly the way Hays had hoped. He was about to burst when I picked the kiddos up from school. “Mom! I got it! I’m going to be Jesus!” I hardly had time to say “congratulations” before he continued: “Text Dad. Tell him to cut off his beard and save it. I need it to be Jesus.” God was being benevolent toward the Ferriells that day because he kept me from bursting out laughing at that comment.

Every night, Hays eagerly went over his lines. I had to read all the other parts, which was a lot of reading. Jesus’s comments during his Passion were short and to the point. Hays was very excited that he got to wear Father Rob’s microphone/headphone thingy during the play. However, he was a little worried about his friends, James and Drew, dragging him from the cross to the grave because “it hurts under my arms.” He was willing to endure the pain because he then got to sneak out a side door and re-enter the sanctuary, surprising everyone with his “resurrection.”

The big day dawned and the star of the show seemed OK. A tad nervous, but isn’t every performer before taking the stage?

I got nervous when his dad, grandparents and I arrived at church and there was no sign of Hays, or any of the second graders. The third graders (this was a co-production) got into their costumes and we waited. Eventually, the second graders arrived, already dressed and ready to go. I must note that Jesus had resigned himself to the fact that he was without a beard. Darin had declined to have his facial …   More

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