How to Make a Perfect Baked Potato

I know the “they sayers” say you’re not supposed to store potatoes in the refrigerator.  Well, I can guarantee you, they don’t live in Arizona.  If I don’t store my potatoes in the refrigerator, they sprout quickly.  Therefore, my microwave times are based on chilled potatoes.  We all know microwaving time depends on the wattage of your microwave.  Blah, blah, blah.  Back to the potato…once things heat up here, I don’t like to use my oven in the evenings.  It seems so wrong to listen to that air conditioner hum while the kitchen is heating up from the oven, but I love baked potatoes.  Here’s how I speed up the cooking process.

Start with a couple nice, medium to large-sized, russet potatoes.  Scrub well with cool water to remove surface dirt and clean the skin.  [I use a washcloth to scrub mine.]  Microwave two potatoes on high for 3 minutes.  Turn and poke with a fork.  Microwave another 3 minutes.  Check doneness with a fork.  Your fork should go in without much resistance.  If not, microwave another minute or two until fork pierces potato easily.

While the potatoes are nuking, tear off a square of aluminum foil for each potato.  Splash olive or vegetable oil on foil. [You want enough oil to coat the entire potato skin with it.]  Roll the hot potato in the oil.  Use your hands to finish coating the potato skin with oil.  Sprinkle liberally with Kosher or Sea Salt.  Roll potato tightly in foil.

Place on the rack in your barbeque grill while you’re grilling the meat or in 350°-400° oven for 20 to 30 minutes along with whatever else you’ve got in the oven.

In the summer, I fire up the grill.  While it’s heating up, I make the potatoes, put them on a rack in the grill, then start the meat once the grill’s good and hot.  Whether in the oven or the grill, don’t forget to turn the potatoes occasionally or they’ll be petrified on the bottom.

When you’re ready to eat, start slicing the center about a half inch from the end and leave about a half inch at the end of your cut.  Gently push the ends towards the center to open the potato. Add butter, sour cream, chives, cheese, bacon bits – whatever you like.  It’s all good.

So, now you know, finishing the potato in a grill or conventional oven is the secret to the perfect baked potato.


Potato with Butter
Perfect Potato, well-done, flakey and smothered in butter.



©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

In the Garden, Day 8

It’s been a week of daily watering.  The only thing green in the garden is the tomato plant.  I haven’t had good luck with tomatoes in the past.  I’m trying something different by putting a couple of water bottles in the ground to get the water down to the roots.  I’ll see how that works.  Weather has been warm in the upper 70’s, so it shouldn’t be too long before I see something sprout.

Nothing Yet.
Nothing Yet.  The seeds are in the wider black area.  I water in the furrow between the rows.
Garden addition
Garden addition.  Cantaloupe can trail out into the yard and squash will fill the rest of the bed.

I had some peat moss and various soil additives, bone meal, gypsum, etc. left over.  Instead of buying bags of “garden soil,” I thought I’d buy the stuff they sell as “top soil.”  As soon as I opened the bag, I knew exactly what they were calling “top soil.”  It’s nothing more than well-aged cow manure with a little wood mixed in.  Looks exactly like those big, black mountains surround the feed lots throughout Texas and Oklahoma.   Once the water hit it, there was no doubt.  On the bright side, it should grow beautiful plants.

Gorgeous weather here.  It’s the perfect temperature, day and night.  I don’t need to run the furnace or the air conditioner.  Makes for great sleeping weather.  I love having the house opened up with the breeze blowing through.  We’re lucky if Spring lasts more than a few weeks.  All too early, the air conditioner becomes a necessity.

Mulberry tree in full bloom.
Mulberry tree in full bloom.

The mulberry trees are in full bloom. I’ll have to wait and see how the garden does this next week.


Mulberry leaves opening up.
Mulberry leaves opening up.




©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Maggie, the Dog

Maggie is my Maltipoo.  The photo above is her baby picture.  She’s a year old this month.  She’s got a great personality and a little stubborn streak.  Hmmm…she’s just like the rest of the family.  No wonder she’s such a good fit.  I hadn’t had a purebred dog in over thirty years since I moved from Iowa.  Throughout the years, our other dogs came from the pound or from people who couldn’t keep them any longer.  Originally, we headed to a pet store in Las Vegas to look for a Maltese.  We wanted a small, calm breed that could travel with us.  When we arrived at the store, their Maltese had been sold already.

Maggie was about 4 months old, so she’d been there a while.  She made eye contact and kept watching us as we looked at the various dogs.  She was the first pup we took to a playroom and she was adorable, friendly, and curious.  We played with a couple other breeds, but they weren’t as engaging as her.  After we’d played with her, she never took her eyes off me. Those deep brown eyes said, “Please, take me. I’ll be good.” (Her cell mate had left earlier in the day.  I’m sure she didn’t know what happened to it.) We played with her again and that was it. She stole our heart.

We couldn’t ask for a better indoor dog.  A quick trip to the vet for medicine to clear up her eyes and schedule the rest of her puppy shots and we were set.  She was easy to potty train and is quick to learn tricks.  You know, sometimes, I’m not sure who’s training who.




©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.


Molasses Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I’m not a big fan of raisins in cookies. I don’t know why. I prefer chocolate chips over raisins every time. However, there’s something different about this recipe. I think the molasses and cinnamon compliment the raisins’ flavor nicely. This recipe tastes so much better than regular oatmeal cookies with raisins thrown in. Of course, I use Grandma’s Molasses. Actually, it’s the only kind local stores carry. I increased the flour and reduced the oven temperature from the original recipe published by Betty Crocker, General Mills (1963) Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. New York: Golden Press. I’m thinking next time I make these, I’ll try a lower temperature and increase baking time as my oven seemed pretty hot this last go round.

These cookies bake up with crispy edges and remain moist and chewy in the center.

Grandmas Molasses
Grandmas Molasses

½ cup butter or butter-flavored Crisco
1¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal, quick or old fashioned
1 cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional


Lightly grease baking sheets. Preheat oven to 395°. Cream together shortening, sugar, and molasses. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. Add to creamed mixture. Mix well, then stir in oats, nuts and raisins.

Drop by rounded teaspoons about 2” apart on greased baking sheet. [I use a scoop that’s about one tablespoon. Don’t flatten these at all before baking. They spread on their own.]

Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet.

This makes approx. 5 dozen cookies.

Molasses Oatmeal Cookies
Molasses Oatmeal Cookies






©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Money Saving Tips for Small Dog Owners

Okay, I admit it. I’m frugal.  Well, actually cheap.  I’ve discovered several ways to save on Maggie’s grooming and food.  Maggie is a Maltipoo, a small indoor dog.  The photo above is shaggy Maggie.  She definitely needs a bath and trim.

When Maggie was a pup, she wasn’t much larger than a bunny.  Since we often have red-tailed hawks flying around our place, she doesn’t go outside unless someone goes with her.  She’s just like having a kid around. Right behind you every step of the way, always wanting to see what you’re doing.

  1. Do the grooming yourself.  There’s no way I’m going to spend more on her grooming than I do on mine.  I dilute the pet shampoo 3 parts water to 1 part shampoo.  This makes the shampoo last longer and it doesn’t irritate her sensitive skin and make her itchy.  I put it in a recycled spray bottle and after getting her wet, spritz it on, then work into a lather.
  2. Buy a pair of good clippers.  It’s not that difficult to trim your dog.  Start with one of the longer guards because you can always go shorter if you mess up.  Make sure their hair is clean, dry and combed through – no matts or knots.  Cut in the direction of the hair.  For trimming around the face, grab their chin hair to hold their head still, then cut the hair with the scissors.  Use the shortest guard to trim the hair between the pads on the paws and to do the sanitary trimming.  There’s several dog grooming videos on You Tube.  Watch one applicable to your breed and after a couple times, you’ll have it down.
  3. Buy a pair of toenail clippers with the guard.  I recommend the clippers with the guard so you don’t accidentally cut too close.  Never cut into the pink part of the nail.  When in doubt, it’s better to leave them a little long. I haven’t tried any of those rotary nail trimmers.  They may work fine.  I just haven’t tried them yet.
  4. Don’t buy expensive treats.  Buy the smallest bag of large breed dog food you can find.  Give out one or two pieces at a time for a treat.  A small bag will last a long, long time.  I found a small bag that fit perfectly in a gallon pickle jar.  By keeping it in a jar, the semi-soft pieces stay moist.
  5. Don’t buy expensive stuffed chew toys.  For most stuffed animals, the expensive ones don’t last any longer than the cheap ones.  Maggie disembowels her stuffed toys regularly.  She has a knack for finding that weak seam and chews in that one spot until she can get the fiberfill out. I’ve got a few to re-sew right now.  I use heavy duty thread and beeswax to repair them by hand stitching the seam or hole. Using beeswax keeps the thread from tangling.




©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Tuna Salad

When I grew up, tuna mixed with mayo was considered tuna salad.  Not long after I joined the workforce, someone had brought in tuna salad sandwiches for an office lunch.  First time I’d ever had tuna salad with something other than tuna and mayo.  It was pretty good, so I started trying adding different things.  I like lots of crunch, so I use equal parts of celery and sweet pickle with a little onion.

I’ve been using the mayonnaise made with olive oil for several years now. It took a little while to get used to – just not as crisp a taste as regular mayo.  I started using a splash of lemon juice to add flavor.

Celery Onion Sweet Pickles
Chopped celery, onion and sweet pickle

2   cans tuna, white albacore in water
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1   stalk celery, chopped
2  large sweet pickles, chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
splash of lemon juice
dash of pepper


Drain liquid from tuna. Put in small bowl and flake with a fork.  Mix onion, celery and sweet pickle with tuna.  Add mayonnaise, splash of lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of pepper.  Mix well.  Store tightly covered in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Tuna Salad
Tuna Salad – Done!

This is so good on freshly baked bread!









©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

This is the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve found.  I had originally discovered the recipe in A Taste of Home/Reader’s Digest Book (2007) The Taste of Home Cookbook.  Greendale, WI:  Reiman Media Group, Inc.

There’s no need for me to type it all out if it’s already available online.  Not wanting to potentially violate any copyright laws, the original recipe can be found at:

A few things I did differently are:
With the cookie dough, I used butter-flavored Crisco instead of butter.  As usual, I put the dry ingredients directly in the dough mixture.  I used a small scoop (tablespoon size) and baked the cookies for 9 minutes, then let them finish cooking on the baking sheet.  I ended up with 42 cookies.

Frosting the Cookies
Frosting the Cookies

With the frosting, I did use butter.  3 tablespoons of hot water worked well for me.  Once the frosting is mixed, you have to work quickly as it does form a thin crust on top.  I sprinkled a little colored sugar on a few of the pink ones.  After tasting, I decided they’re sweet enough.

Store with waxed paper between layers
Store with waxed paper between layers

I store the cookies tightly covered; placing sheets of waxed paper between the layers.  (The frosting does form a crust, but stays soft.)  Using the waxed paper keeps the lower layers looking nice.







Photos ©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

In the Garden – Day 1

I woke up early yesterday; impatiently waiting for the sun to come up so I could get out in the garden.  A few high clouds made for a beautiful sunrise.  As I was waiting, I made cookies that I’ll post later this week.

I love playing in the dirt.  I guess that’s the farm girl in me coming out.  Fresh produce is so good.  It seems wrong to pay over $2.50 for an 8 oz. bag of salad spinach.  Salads are a summertime staple at my house.  Who want’s to heat up the kitchen when it’s 100° in the shade?

Gardening in Arizona is somewhat a challenge.  As I remember, Iowa gardening was so much easier.  Till the ground; plant the seeds; pull weeds now and then; water if it doesn’t rain; then sit back and watch it grow.  The soil was rich with nutrients.  As my dad, a life long farmer, said about Arizona when he came to visit, “This ground ain’t good for nothing.  Too rocky to grow anything.”

Garden's been tilled.
Garden’s been tilled.

Over the years, I’ve tried various methods with limited success, gardening in bags (soil got too hot and cooked the roots), gardening in tubs (had great tomato plants, but the fruit didn’t set), and rows (planted & replanted several times.  Darn chipmunks and kangaroo mice kept digging up and stealing the seeds.  If something did sprout, the rabbits got it.)  Our backyard is enclosed by 3′ chain link, with chicken wire around it and overlapping the gates.  The rabbits hop over the fence like it’s not even there.  We put up blocks in one corner to help with the critters and the hot summer winds.

Chilly Lizard
First lizard of the season.   It’s a bit chilly this morning, so he’s moving slow.

Well, a garden is possible – if you cage your area and enrich the soil by adding peat moss, compost, perlite, etc. into the ground.  I have a small garden area and plant in a modified square foot format.  Each year, we continue to add garden soil and compost.  Eventually, I’ll get the soil where I want it.

Onion sets, radishes, carrots, green beans, spinach and romaine lettuce hit the dirt yesterday.  Today, we’ll be expanding the garden a few more square feet on the left side of the wall for full sun.  Zucchini and yellow squash have to been in full sun to avoid aphids and they don’t mind the high winds.  Tomato plants, zucchini, yellow squash and cantaloupe are on today’s agenda.

Garden Planted and Caged
Garden Planted and Caged

I’ll provide weekly updates on my garden, perhaps more often after it starts to grow.

©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Pineapple and Lime Jello Dessert

Pineapple Lime jello dessert
Pineapple Lime Jello Dessert

This is an easy recipe, but definitely not quick since it takes time to chill.  I usually make it the night before I plan on serving it.  I came up with this recipe by combining the best of a couple recipes I liked.  The sour cream gives a little tarter flavor than using cream cheese alone.  If you don’t have any sour cream, leave it out and it’ll still taste good.

Graham cracker crust ready for filling
Graham cracker crust ready for filling

1 prepared graham cracker crust, in 2 qt. pan, See Graham Cracker Crust recipe under Granny JJ’s Recipes.
1     3 oz. package of lime Jello
1¼ cup boiling water
1    8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, optional
1    8 oz. package of cream cheese
1    cup sour cream
½  teaspoon vanilla
3    tablespoons sugar

I put the graham cracker crust in the freezer to chill until I’m ready to use it.  Here in Arizona, nothing cools quickly.  Trust me on that.

Reserved jello with pineapple
Reserved jello with pineapple

Dissolve jello in boiling water. Stir for at least 2 minutes to make sure jello completely dissolves.  Drain syrup from the can of pineapple into jello.  Put in freezer to cool.

In mixing bowl, blend cream cheese, vanilla and sugar together until creamy.  [This allows the jello a little time to cool in the freezer.]

Reserve ½ cup jello in a glass measuring cup.  Add drained pineapple to this reserved jello.  Set aside on countertop.
Do NOT refrigerate.

Cream cheese and sour cream blended
Cream cheese and sour cream blended

On low speed, slowly blend jello with cream cheese mixture until thoroughly mixed.

Increase mixer speed to medium as mixture slightly thickens.  Add sour cream.  Continue mixing on medium speed until smooth.  Pour into prepared crust.  Chill until set (about 45 minutes.)

Chill until set
Chill until set

At this point, I set a timer and go on about my day.  If it sits longer in the frig than 45 minutes, that’s okay – just don’t forget about it completely.  If you do forget it for a few hours, I’d toss the reserved jello and pineapple mixture and serve as is.

Pineapple Lime Desert Pan
Pineapple Lime Desert – Ready to Chill Until Firm

Pour/float reserved jello mixture on top.  Chill until firm.





Lime jello and pineapple can be replaced with orange jello and shredded carrots or leave out the pineapple and use whatever flavor jello you have on hand. It’s all good.


©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.

Graham Cracker Crust

Crush graham crackers
Using a rolling pin to crush graham crackers.

1 package graham crackers, plain or honey
1/2 cup butter, melted*
1/3 cup sugar

Crush graham crackers with rolling pin or by pulsing in your food processor.  [I put the crackers in a plastic bag and crush them.  It’s easier than digging out my processor or blender.]  Transfer crumbs to a 2 qt. pan.  Add sugar.  Stir to distribute sugar evenly throughout crumbs.  Add butter.  Mix well.  Firmly press cracker mixture against sides and bottom with spoon or spatula.  This recipe is enough to make a 1/4 thick crust on bottom and sides of a 2 qt. pan.

Graham cracker crust ready for filling
Graham cracker crust ready for filling

* I actually use 1/4 cup butter to reduce the saturated fat.  The resulting crust doesn’t hold together as well since it’s not as firmly packed, but tastes just fine.

Depending on what filling you have in mind, cinnamon graham crackers can also be used for a little different taste.


©2016, My Granny Rocks | Janette Thornton. All rights reserved.