A little sequestered time away can be productive

Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Sometimes, sequestering from life can be productive.

As a writer, getting away by myself with free time and clear space helps support the imagination and creativity needed to write. Recently I took a road trip to do just that.

My journey ended at a small town known as College Grove, located in picturesque Middle Tennessee – and there’s no prettier region. My stopping point was a writer’s colony in the scenic community known as Flat Creek. Named for its flat appearance, the creek meandered along the foot of the surrounding, mile-high mountains. Like a snake, the creek carved its way through rolling hills that loomed above the water on both sides.

You can imagine the commanding beauty of the unfolding spring season. The only thing competing with writing was my camera. In every direction were mile-long, never-ending white fences that bordered lush, green, and pristine pastures. Grazing black and brown Tennessee Walkers dotted the hills. And if not horses, there were dairy and beef cattle and herds of sheep. A picturesque setting to say the least – and that alone would have strongly inspired anyone’s writing project.

My bedtime reading was committed to cover-to-cover browsing of a recipe book compiled by ladies of the Flat Rock community. I’m delighted to share with readers some favorite takeaways. Here are a few delicious dishes prepared just the way country folks enjoy ‘em. For instance, take the slight wilting of greens. Fresh, leafy greens are delicious when heated this way. When available, using sauteed fresh veggies instead of canned ones will improve flavor. Thankfully, our gardens will be producing before long.

Regarding our prayer lives – quiet time and solitude is important. Prayer brings us into God’s presence, so we can have a conversation with Him. I know God listens when we speak to Him – and His answers better help us to discern when making decisions. But sometimes we need to be quiet to hear the Spirit answer and prompt us.

In the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Paul gives final instructions, saying, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I realize making time for prayer is not always easy – Prayer is a spiritual discipline that we continue to work on. Psalm 86:5 reads, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.” (NIV)

So, every chance we get, let’s try chatting with God. We need Him. And if we ask Him for guidance, He will lead us.

These lovely lyrics to a favorite hymn, Lord, I Need You, are true for all of us –

“Lord, I need You, oh, how I need You

Every hour, I need You

My one defense, my righteousness

Oh God, how I need You.”


3 Tbsp. chopped onion

2 Tbsp. Wesson oil

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup favorite grated cheese

1 ½ cups cooked, flaked fish

Salt and pepper, to taste

Hot biscuits or cornbread

In a skillet, cook onion in oil until tender. Blend in flour. Add milk slowly while stirring and cook until sauce thickens. Add cheese and fish. Season with salt and pepper. Heat mixture thoroughly while stirring. Serve on hot biscuits or cornbread.


1 ½ lbs. ground chuck

1 tsp. both salt and freshly ground black pepper

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

28 oz. drained green beans

14 oz. both, cream style and whole kernel corn

4 Tbsp. dry oregano

1 tsp. garlic salt

15 oz. box cornbread mix

In a skillet, brown hamburger. Season with salt and pepper. Drain off fat. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, cream-style corn, whole corn, oregano, and garlic salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Prepare cornbread batter per package directions. Pour meat mixture into a 9 x 13 oven-safe casserole dish. Top with cornbread mixtures. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until cornbread is done.


2 Tbsp. bacon drippings

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup vinegar

1 quart cut leafy greens

Salt and pepper

In a skillet, melt drippings. Add chopped onion and cook until soft. Stir in vinegar. Mix well. Add leafy greens, and cook covered for several minutes just until greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.


½ cup premium mayonnaise

¼ cup half and half

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise with half and half and sugar. Mix well. Fold in vinegar and poppy seeds, and mix well. Spoon over everything from hot vegetables to cool leafy green salads.


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper

½ stick salted butter

2 juiced fresh lemons

3 oz. drained capers

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Pound the chicken to slightly flatten. Dredge each piece in flour and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In a skillet, melt butter. Add chicken pieces. Cook until chicken is browned. Pour lemon juice over chicken. Reduce heat and cook while covered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add capers and chopped parsley. Cook until heated through while stirring and basting chicken with pan juices. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.


14 oz. crushed  pineapple plus juice

Wesson vegetable   oil

1 Duncan Hines  yellow cake mix

¼ cup all-purpose  flour

1 3.4 oz. vanilla  instant pudding mix

4 large eggs

1 tsp. ground  cinnamon

½ tsp. ground   nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 cups   grated zucchini

Drain crushed pineapple into measuring cup and add enough vegetable oil to make 1 ¼ cups. Reserve pineapple and set aside. In a mixer bowl, combine cake mix, flour, pudding mix, and vegetable oil with pineapple juice, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Mix for 3 minutes until well blended. Gently fold in the pineapple and zucchini. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until done. Frost with a favorite caramel or cream cheese frosting.


2 ½ peeled, chunked sweet potatoes

6 Tbsp. salted butter

3 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Arrange 1½-inch cut sweet potatoes in a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a saucepan, combine butter, honey, and lemon juice. Stir until butter is melted and mixed well. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50 minutes or until tender. Stir and turn occasionally while baking.


3 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. cream of tartar

¾ tsp. salt

½ cup Crisco shortening

1 egg

1 ½ cups whole milk

In an electric mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Add egg and milk. Mix well in the mixer until a dough ball forms. Dough should be tacky and not sticky. Add a little more flour if necessary. On a floured surface, roll out to at least 1-inch thickness or more, and cut them with large cutter. The higher the thickness, the higher the biscuits. Bake on a greased cookie sheet in a preheated 475-degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden. After baking, I cut the biscuits in halves, butter them, and then toast each side – that’s what Mama did. Great for leftover biscuits.


1 stick salted butter

1/3 cup chopped onion

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

½ cup cooked, chopped carrots

½ cup cooked green peas

2 Tbsp. chopped pimento

½ cup cooked chopped celery

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add onions and cook until tender but not brown. Stir in flour. Add milk gradually while constantly stirring. Continue to cook until thickened and smooth while stirring. Add cooked carrots, peas, pimentos, and celery. Cook until heated through. Serve over any kind of cornbread or cornmeal waffles, egg and cheese dishes, and pasta.


4 oz. softened cream cheese

4 oz. sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 lb. red seedless grapes

1 lb. green seedless grapes

½ cup brown sugar

chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, blend cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla. Gently fold in grapes. In a bowl, combine brown sugar with pecans. Place grapes in serving bowl, and sprinkle with pecan/brown sugar mixture on top of grape mixture.