Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Graveyard of the Hesperides

The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Lindsey Davis’ books and find myself rereading (or rather listening) to them frequently. I always find something I missed when I go through them again.

Flavia Albia is a favorite character among favorites. She has come a long way, in every way possible, since Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina adopted her and brought her to Rome.

This particular book is both intriguing and unsettling. The wedding preparations are amusing – the wedding itself is beautifully written so you can find yourself wandering amongst the participants if you are not careful.

The mystery is not straightforward at all and the investigation gathers information on all sorts of topics that could be very uncomfortable for some readers. The solution is … I started to say ‘striking’ changed my mind and thought ‘shocking’ and decided to leave it hanging. You’ll understand the inadvertent puns when you read the book.

Let’s just say ‘surprising’ and ‘unexpected’, shall we?

One of the things I appreciate about Davis’ writing is the way her characters grow and evolve. Sometimes without the reader realizing it. When that is mixed with her delightful locations and interesting mysteries, her books are a pure pleasure to read or listen to. Even the uncomfortable parts.

View all my reviews

Cooking · Food

Left Over Pot Roast

A simple option to make use of left overs

I don’t know about you but I hate to waste food. I especially hate to waste a good pot roast. One of my favorite go to options for the end of the pot roast is to turn it into a stew. Since I always have frozen vegetables and cream soup on hand, this is an easy solution. You could always make your own cream soup and use canned vegetables.

Left Over Pot Roast Stew

Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 Dutch Oven or Oven Safe Casserole Dish 5 quarts


  • 2 Cups Cooked Pot Roast Cut to fork size pieces
  • 1 – 2 Cups Gravy Left over from the roast
  • 1 Can Cream of Soup Use your preference
  • 1 Can water Use the empty soup can
  • 2 Cups Mixed Vegetables Frozen


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust the middle rack to accommodate the pan if needed.
  • In the cooking pot combine all ingredients and mix.
  • Cover and put into oven to bake until warmed through.
  • Once the mixture is heated, pull out of oven and test seasonings. Adjust to taste.


This is one of those dishes that makes use of left overs.  The majority of the work has already been done with the cooking of the pot roast.
You could heat this through on the stove top if you like or put it in the slow cooker on low.
I don’t use canned vegetables in this because they would disintegrate in the oven.  You could leave them out until the end and add them to warm through.  Don’t forget to drain them first!
You could serve this with potatoes on the side or over biscuits.

This is a great ‘clean out the fridge’ recipe that you can adjust to suit your taste or make use of what you have on hand.


Cooking · Dining · Food

Hot Dish Extravaganza!

A friend and I have been talking food lately. As in food we are really needing / wanting to make because the temperature has dropped and it is time for the kitchen to get warm and cozy.

For those of us who live in colder climates, hot dishes, aka casseroles, are the comfort food that does more than just fill you up. Think macaroni and cheese, potato soup, chicken spaghetti, and, of course, Hot Dish.

If you have never tried a hot dish recipe, click HERE to see what Taste of Home has included with their collection of recipes. There are quite a few good ones and not all require tater tots.



Trial Run?

If you are contemplating adding new recipes to your holiday table, it might not be a bad idea to give them a trial run before the big day.

Think: Better Safe Than Sorry

Holiday cooking can often be daunting. If you cook only one turkey or huge ham a year, the pressure is on to have that showstopper on the table. If you are a seasonal baker who rarely bakes breads or pies, it can be stressful to think about what you need to do to create these favorites. If you are a new cook, everything can be overwhelming.

This is why a trial run can be helpful.

Why not get together with other cooks and develop a game plan to do a test run of recipes you want to make for the holidays? There is nothing like a support group to give you a bit of encouragement and if you have some experienced cooks in the group even better!

Now is also a good time to create a game plan and to make sure you have what you need not only to cook but to serve the meal. Entertaining With Beth has several videos for holiday meals that include not only recipes but the Game Plan for producing the meal, too! Check out her YouTube channel in addition to her website.

As you contemplate the Holiday Meal Adventure, keep in mind that it really does not have to be Perfect and you can ask for help. Frankly, I think asking folks to bring a side or a dessert while you focus on the turkey or the ham or whatever you choose, not only reduces your workload but eases your stress level. It also allows folks to contribute, too. You might be surprised to discover that folks want to share their own culinary wonders.

In any event, take the time, no Make The Time, to make sure you know what you are getting into.

And remember, it will be fine no matter what happens.



How To Follow A Recipe

Or those things you never really paid attention to until now…

I have often said how much I appreciate Lan Lam’s series for Cook’s Illustrated on YouTube. This is one installment is one more reason to check out the entire series.

It really is the little things that can trip you up!

No matter how experienced you are (or are not) in the kitchen, one of the quickest ways to have a disaster is to not fully read the recipe.

We are all guilty of it.

As you contemplate the upcoming holiday meals, it is imperative that you take the time to go over your menu and read the recipes completely. This will help you create shopping lists, develop your meal plan and create your game plan for The Day. Or days, depending.

Oh, but I don’t have time!

If you think you don’t have time now, what do you expect when the stores are closed or out of stock? And don’t overlook the possibility of items being out of stock or way over priced as the days get shorter.

Save your sanity. Lower your stress level. Allow yourself to ease into a calmer holiday meal.

Good luck!


Melt In Your Mouth Pumpkin Cookies

Use the entire 15 ounce can of pumpkin to create these tasty and timely cookies!

I first made these pumpkin cookies years ago. Everyone was blown away by them.

There is nothing more annoying than finding a recipe which requires a partial container of an ingredient leaving you with the dilemma of either making a double batch or tossing things into the trash.

This cookie recipe requires the entire 15 ounce can of pumpkin to create melt in your mouth cookies that are a bit unexpected.



Frasier (2023)

Dare I say it? I’m enjoying this reboot.

Dr. Frasier Crane is back and he really has not changed all that much. Or has he? So far the jury is out.

I discovered the original Frasier somewhere around season 2 after the topsy turvy tumultuous first season where Frasier and his father, Martin, moved in together in Seattle.

The foundation of the series was the relationship between Frasier and Martin who were as different as night and day. Martin was a retired police officer who had been injured on the job. Frasier was the oldest of his two sons, both who were more interested in things far different than beer and poker.

The show was sharply written, creatively cast and beautifully performed.

When I learned that there was the possibility of a newer version of Frasier I admit I was hesitant. Reboots are often disappointing.

Paramount+ dropped the first two episodes of the series recently and I sat down to test the waters watching each episode separately just to see what I thought.

Dr. Frasier Crane is back…pompous, inflated ego, oblivious, and well meaning. And 20 years older and wiser. Mostly.

This new series is excellently cast. Kelsey Grammar has not missed a beat. The new characters are holding their own and making their marks. James Burrows is back as director (hooray!) which provides a solid foundation to tie both series together. The writing is as sharp and funny as I had hoped it would be.

I’m glad I took the time to check it out. So far, I’ve not been disappointed.

New episodes drop every Thursday on Paramount+.

Cooking · Food

Skillet Casserole

Customize to your heart’s content

I have been craving tuna casserole lately but have not been in the mood to start up the oven. I found an interesting recipe over on Campbell’s and it worked a treat. Upon reflection, however, I thought that the basic recipe could be adapted to whatever you had on hand.

One Pot Skillet Casserole

Switch up items to suit your taste or pantry
Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 5


  • tbsp butter
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 1 10.5 ounce can Cream Of … Soup use your favorite
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup UNCOOKED medium pasta small shells would work
  • 10 ounces cooked protein canned tuna, chicken, left over roast
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup seasoned croutons, crushed


  • Heat the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the celery and cook for 5 minutes or until tender-crisp.
  • Stir in the soup, water and uncooked pasta and heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the tuna and 1/3 cup cheese and cook until the mixture is hot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with the croutons and the remaining 1/3 cup cheese (the heat from the pasta mixture will melt the cheese).


Customize based on what you have on hand.
  • canned tuna
  • canned chicken
  • left over roast chicken, pork or beef
Use whatever cream soup or make your own.
Add in some frozen vegetables during the last 5 minutes.
Instead of croutons, use chow mein noodles.

How will you create this recipe?

Cooking · Food · Meal Building Blocks

The Curated Pantry Is The Magic Pantry

If you have been around here for any length of time, you know I often speak about my Magic Pantry (aka: Pantry Magic). The Magic Pantry is a collection of foodstuffs that enable me to create a variety of meals without being tied to a set meal plan. For those of us who like more versatility or variety, this is the perfect starting point.

The magic pantry might take a bit of time to develop but it is an easy process. Last week we talked about developing a shopping list based on menu items for the week. But what if you don’t shop every week? You can tailor your shopping to the amount of menu items you need, so don’t worry.

In my case, as a rule I shop monthly splitting my list between items from my local market and Yelloh. I have a reasonably set list of things I purchase to give me a base to pull recipes for. Every once in a while I will find a special or sale on something that catches my eye or I will find I am in the mood for something a bit out of the ordinary.

As cold weather moves in, I find I really enjoy making casseroles or putting items in my slow cooker (don’t forget those show cooker liners!) So, how does this include my Magic Pantry?

Casseroles are usually a combination of a cream sauce or soup, a starch, a protein and a vegetable or two or three. Now creating the cream sauce is not that difficult but you can use canned cream soups. Look for low sodium versions. I’ve used evaporated milk instead of cream in my sauces and they come out as rich and flavorful as if I used cream or full fat milk.

Some of us have our favorite casseroles but if you are stuck or looking for new recipes Taste of Home has an interesting collection of 60 of their favorite casseroles. Click the link HERE to see their list.

So, thinking about the magic pantry, I will need to have cream soup, rice or pasta, cheese, vegetables, something for a topper…perhaps bread crumbs or fried onions or maybe croutons that I can crush. I can use canned fish or chicken or pull same from the freezer or use ground beef or turkey. You get the idea.

Frankly, I’ve been thinking a lot about tuna casserole lately. I haven’t made one in years, but it seems to be heading to my menu soon!

Another thing I love to have is an alternative to a Make A Mess meal. My Make A Mess meals are those that require a bit more effort than usual. Sometimes they are just what I am in the mood for but other times I need to find an alternative.

My Chicken Parmesan is dead easy! Yelloh has some fabulous Italian style chicken breasts that are a regular on my order. Rao’s Marinara sauce is also a pantry staple. I simply bake up the chicken I need, cook pasta and heat the sauce, top with cheese and I have a Chicken Parmesan that is tasty, easy and economical. I can make some garlic bread to go along with it, too.

That same sauce and pasta could be matched with ground meat for Spaghetti Night or the chicken could be added to a plate with rice pilaf and steamed veggies.

If you would like to check out Yelloh’s latest catalog click on the link HERE. You could get 25% off your first order.

As you begin to develop your list of favorite meals, don’t forget to make notes of the brands you have tried. Quite often I try different brands of sauces, condiments, etc. Some I like, some I’m not a fan of, and every once in a while I find something amazing. This is especially important if you shop in a store that does not always carry nationwide brands.

Food For Thought

Now might be a good time to add a bag of cooking apples to your pantry. You can use them for a pie, a crisp, to make an apple cake or apple sauce. We are heading into the Fall Holidays, so keep this in mind as you contemplate your grocery shopping. Buying in advance those items you know you will use later can save you time and stress later on when prices and quantities shift.