The Inspired Cook

Going Bananas

Just the other day, I spotted two very ripe bananas lounging, or should I say collapsed, over several oranges in my fruit bowl. I swear I just bought those a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of any banana entering my home is automatically shortened to a New York minute.

Those over-ripened bananas inspired to create a new recipe. But what should I make? Instantly, banana bread popped into my head.

                Ah, the proverbial banana bread—the last hurrah for bananas clinging to life!

                Although a county fair-winning recipe, a cookbook find, resides in my recipe box, I opted to create a new one to spice things up a bit. So, I surveyed my pantry items for possible ingredients.

                All of a sudden, I knew what I wanted to make when my eyes landed on a can of fruit cocktail: banana bread that tasted like fruit salad.


Camping out in an emergency

If there’s an emergency, disaster, or just a major power outage, one amazing thing happens. All the motels fill up and have no vacancies. This seems to happen immediately.

If all the motels are full, what can you do if your house is uninhabitable? You could hit the road and keep going until you did find a motel vacancy. Another option might be camping out in your own backyard. If you were living next to your home, your presence would help prevent others from ransacking it during the disaster.

The ideal camping situation would be tents, cots, and sleeping bags. However, you could build a makeshift shelter with a tarp and some rope. Painter’s polyethylene plastic on the ground under the tarp can keep you and your blankets dry. This can be quite comfortable in warm weather. In rain, you just seal the front and the edges.


The Inspired Cook

Leftover Easter ham dilemma solved

Happy Easter weekend, readers! I hope your day hop along at a steady pace and is filled

with fun, fellowship, and fabulous food.

After your Sunday feasts, many of you may be faced with a bunch of leftover ham and clueless as what to do with it. Anticipating your dilemma, I prepared today’s column especially for you. Trying to think outside the box, I created a chili made with ham, something I never had eaten and wasn’t quite sure I would like. I reasoned that if I adore ham, beans, and chili seasonings, then why wouldn’t I like this chili? And, guess what. Charles, my better half, and I really liked it a lot!

FYI: If you omit the ham, this would make a delicious vegetarian chili recipe.

Spicy Ham and Three-Bean Chili


                1 c. yellow onion, finely chopped

                1 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil


Summer activities set at GS Library

At just 11 days into our GoFundMe campaign we hit the halfway mark on our fundraising goal.  You have kept us busy sending out thank you acknowledgments and we are very grateful for that.  We feel confident in saying that at this point we can easily make it through the summer.  Which means it’s time to start planning for the summer activities at the library. 

This year’s summer reading theme is ‘Build a Better World’ and we want to encourage those who visit the library this summer to do little things to help make our world better.  Our programs and events will focus on the things we can do to make a difference in our world and here in our community. 

An important summer library activity will be appealing to our local elected officials as they do their budget workshops this summer.  It’s important that they know how valuable the library is to people throughout the city of Grand Saline and Van Zandt County. 


The Inspired Cook

Why we eat ham on Easter

Have you ever wondered why Americans eat ham on Easter Sunday? Well, the answer is one of practicality. In the early days, people slaughtered pigs in the fall. Since there was no refrigeration, they cured all the leftover pork not consumed in the wintertime to avoid waste. Because the curing process was lengthy, the first hams ready for consumption coincidentally occurred around Easter. Therefore, ham was the practical choice for Easter dinner.

Still today, families get together to feast on succulent ham dinners with all the trimmings. Afterwards, leftover ham takes up residence in refrigerators all across the country. A few years ago, my overabundant supply inspired me to create this recipe for an easy, baked western omelet.

Easy, Baked Western Omelet


                8 large eggs

                1 c. half and half milk


Hip, hip Hooray!

Yes, spring has indeed sprung, and with it came all our barn swallows.  Many generations back they built nests under the porch eaves, and their offspring have used the same nests each year.  They come suddenly.  One morning we hear their cheerful cheeping and see their glossy, blue-black wings.  They swoop like Purple Martins, and we're told they can eat many times their weight in mosquitoes each day.  This is a great boon to first husband and me, since we have a lot of buckets filled with water for the dogs to drink.  We haven't had a mosquito around here for years.

We may also have bats.  They eat mosquitoes too, and with all our trees it seems logical that they would find refuge.  Ever since Bela Lugosi, people have given bats short shrift.  They're actually a good animal, very helpful with the mosquitoes and other swarmy bugs. 


It’s time to be American, Americans

I was reading a story online, earlier today.  It was one of those “click-bait” pieces of entertainment fluff, designed not so much to inform, as to shock.  The story took place in the charming little town of Buffalo Gap, TX.  A young family was preparing for breakfast, and their small son went to the bathroom.  As he raised the lid of the toilet, to his surprise, he found a 3-foot western diamondback rattlesnake curled in the cool water of the basin. 

Now, we’ve all heard terrifying urban legends about snakes in toilets.  The internet is ripe with them.  In this case, the snake isn’t the story.  The real story is about the man who dealt with the situation.  He was a park ranger, specialized in the capture of dangerous snakes.  He came to the home, caught the snake from the toilet (it hadn’t moved), and prepared to leave and relocate the animal.

Here is the part where the story took a turn, and ultimately, prompted my sharing this, today.


Thank you, supporters

With the support of several generous donors we were able to get one-third of the money we need for our operations in the first five days of our GoFundMe campaign.  The money we have raised so far will get is through the summer but we are going to need more to make it through the end of the year. 

We have several other fundraising projects in the works so you will have opportunities to give in other ways besides the GoFundMe page and directly at the library.   

Our average monthly book budget is $500.  If you, your organization, or business would like to sponsor books for a month contact the library and we would to be able to recognize you as our monthly book sponsor. 

To read the full article, subscribe to the Van Zandt News or pick up a copy from one of our vendors. 


The Inspired Cook

The origins of Easter traditions revealed

Does your family adhere to any Easter traditions? My family certainly did while I was growing up in Eustace during the 1960’s. After sharing a few of them with you in my column last week, I was curious about the origins of Easter traditions. A quick online search satisfied my curiosity.

Although Christians established Easter as a time for commemorating Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the holiday also began to represent rebirth and new life. To celebrate this, people wore pure clothing—new clothes never before worn.

The tradition of women wearing Easter bonnets or hats began long before the actual holiday. Made of merely flowers and leaves shaped into a circle, the original bonnets symbolized the changing of seasons and the arrival of spring.


Be prepared for severe weather

Spring is finally here and with comes an increase in chances for severe weather.  During times when there is a chance for severe weather it is important for everyone to be aware of their surroundings and alert to what the weather is doing.  If you have a smartphone, it’s important to make sure it is charged and you keep it nearby during bad weather.  There are many aps that you can download that will alert you in the event of severe weather that use location services so that you will know if severe weather is in your area even if you are traveling.  The American Red Cross has an app named Tornado that is a great resource for people before, during and after severe weather.  Weather radios are a relatively inexpensive way to stay up to date on severe weather. If you live in the city limits you need to rely on more than just the sirens for your safety.  Being aware of what is happening around you can save your life. 


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