Bob, my late hubby, used to tell me that I was a creature of habit.  He was oh, so correct.  I have my routines, and I feel out of sorts when they are interrupted.  I have even passed up things I really wanted to do because I was too comfortable in my regular schedule.  However, sometimes I manage to interrupt my usual sequence of events and sandwich in something out of the ordinary.

I recently realized it had been way too long since I visited my daughter, Molly, in Illinois.  When I learned that my teenage granddaughter, Maggie (who normally lives with her dad), was going to be with her mom over spring break, I decided it might be a good time to make a trip to see them as well as Molly’s other two children, Melody and Lincoln.  My sister Terri drove up from Tennessee to go with me.  She had never been to Molly’s and wanted a chance to see my daughter and her family.

Terri and I left for Illinois after church last Sunday.  Knowing my dislike of driving in a lot of traffic, Terri offered to drive my minivan.  Although grateful, I refused to take her up on her offer.  I knew that I needed to prove to myself that I could go longer distances than the short trips I usually make around here. 

Molly, who is in the Air National Guard, resides on Scott Air Force Base.  Terri and I were required to obtain guest passes in order to enter the area.  Our navigation led us to a different gate than the one that held the visitor center; we made it to that facility, only to find out that it was closed.  We managed to get temporary passes, and after a few wrong turns here and there, we finally made it to Molly’s home.

I won’t bore my readers with a list of our activities; however, I’m sure anyone would know that they would include time in the kitchen.  Maggie and I made a family favorite, Orange Bread,  and we also made a cherry pie for Molly one afternoon while she was at work.  All of us played UNO with Lincoln and Melody.  Much of our time was spent chatting; we told stories of days gone by and talked about things going on currently.

Terri and I left for Indiana on Thursday, stopping to see the big cross in Effingham, Illinois on our way back.  Unfortunately, the visitor center there was closed, but Terri did get a chance to see how huge the cross is from a closer perspective.  We arrived home late afternoon, then Terri stayed at my house until Saturday.

Now I am back to my routine, which includes typing my column on Monday morning.  Nevertheless, I am very thankful for the time with family that was sandwiched in between the days of my normal schedule.

Speaking of sandwiches, I have recipes!  They are all ones I claimed would be “keepers,” yet they have not surfaced from my archives for a very long time.

Dilly Chicken Sandwiches

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened, divided (may use less)

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon dill weed, divided

8 slices French bread (1/2 inch thick)

4 tablespoons cream cheese, softened (may use reduced fat)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

4 lettuce leaves

8 slices tomato

Pound chicken to flatten evenly; set aside.  In a skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter; add garlic and 1/2 teaspoon dill.  Add chicken; cook until juices run clear, turning once.

Remove and keep warm.  Spread both sides of bread with remaining butter.  In a skillet or griddle, grill bread on both sides until golden brown.  In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon juice and remaining dill; spread on one side of grilled bread.  Place lettuce, chicken, and tomato on four slices of bread; top with remaining bread.  Yield: 4 servings.

Italian Sausage Sloppy Joes

1-1/2 pounds mild Italian sausage (may use turkey Italian sausage)

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 (2.2-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I used 2 teaspoons dried)

1-1/2 teaspoons dried whole basil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Hamburger buns, split

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Remove casings from sausage.  Combine sausage, green pepper, and onion in a large skillet; cook over medium heat until meat is browned, stirring to crumble.  Drain well.  Add olives, tomatoes, and seasonings; cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Serve meat mixture over split hamburger buns, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.   Yield: 6 servings

Spicy Pulled Pork In Tart Cherry Sauce

3 to 3-1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin, trimmed

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried tart cherries

1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin wedges

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper OR 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup 100% tart cherry juice (may use cherry blend if it is 100% juice)

Sandwich rolls

Place pork, cherries, and onion in slow cooker.  Mix ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, and salt in medium bowl until blended.  Pour over pork.  Cover.

Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  Remove pork from slow cooker. 

Shred pork, using two forks.  Return pork to slow cooker.  Add cherry juice.  Mix; heat with sauce before serving.  Serve on sandwich rolls.

Beef Steak Gyros

Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

1 pound beef round tip steaks or sirloin tip steaks, cut 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

4 – pita bread pockets, cut crosswise in half, warmed

2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

Prepare Yogurt  Sauce and refrigerate.

Stack beef steaks; cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1-inch wide strips. Toss with garlic and oregano.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion; stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes. Remove.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef; stir-fry 1 minute or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove. Repeat with remaining beef.

Return beef and onion to skillet; heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in pita pockets with tomatoes and yogurt sauce.   Makes 4 servings.

Yogurt Sauce:

1  cup plain yogurt

1/4  cup cucumber, diced

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/4  teaspoon pepper

In a small bowl, add yogurt, cucumber, garlic powder, salt and pepper. 

Mix, cover and refrigerate.