Monday, December 29, 2008

Odds and Ends

Apparently I am going to have some cooking challenges coming my way. This arises from the fact that my husband's treatment for his illness is causing a decrease in his appetite which in turn is causing some weight loss. Now, he wasn't big to start with, so he really can't tolerate much weight loss. I, on the other hand, am type II diabetic, which means I need to watch carbs among other things. Carbs are the last thing I need, although according to no/low carb followers fat isn't a problem. Anyway, I have to figure out how to cook to accommodate both our needs. Could prove to be interesting as well as challenging.

One solution is to have hubby just eat small amounts all day long. And that is pretty much what he is doing. Since the holidays are over, we (well, me) are going to a fairly low card lifestyle. I froze all the leftover Christmas cookies for him. I am keeping ice cream around for him...fortunately, I am not that big a fan of ice cream. I will be using a great deal of cream and butter...mmmmmm. I guess this isn't so bad after all. Most of my recipes will be low carb and yummy. I think I am going to work on developing recipes that are fairly simple with easy to find ingredients. Low carb cookbooks are standard in my kitchen, and I will credit recipes that are not original. Oh, and guess what, you can make low carb desserts! How cool is that!? So stay tuned.

On another note, Judy Barnes Baker, the author of "The Carb Wars" cookbook, is developing recipes for a new cookbook and is looking for people to make her dishes and evaluate the recipes. You can read more about it here. I have volunteered to be a tester. Yay! Another reason to cook. But due to confidentiality I won't be posting any of that here.

Now to leave you with some of my favorite photos.

No captions, just fun. 'Til later!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas...2 Days Late

As I always say, better late than never. We finally had our Christmas dinner together. Between the weather and work schedule and a whole myriad of other reasons, the holiday was postponed a bit. But after 2 days of non-stop cooking, digging out cars as they arrived at our home, retrieving our car from the Safeway parking lot and picking up those who don't drive, we made it. And it was amazingly worth it. This year because of several different sets of circumstances we decided not to exchange gifts. It was so nice to not have that stress this year. And I was able to focus completely on my cooking. And if I do say so, I out did myself. The sad part is, I was so caught up in the preparation and serving that I didn't take any pictures. Oh well. I definitely have a long way to perfection. I'll still tell you a little of what I did.

This year I tried that brining thing with the turkey thing that seems so popular. OH MY GOSH!!! I will never do another turkey any other way. I used this recipe from All Recipes.Then I opened up my newest edition of the "The Joy of Cooking" and followed their recipe for the baking of a brined turkey. I rubbed the turkey cavity with salt, placed fresh onion, carrots, celery, and parsley inside, and basted it with melted butter to which I had added smokey paprika. I had a 24 lbs. turkey, so I roasted it breast side down for 3 hours at 325 degrees. Then I flipped it over, and roasted it for another 2 hours. During this time I basted it about once every hour, sometimes with the butter mixture and sometimes with pan juices. Now I cooked this the day before...that's a whole 'nother story. After I let it cool I removed the meat from the bone, and saved the carcass (it took 3 Ziploc bags) for stock, and put the pan drippings in a bowl to save for gravy the next day. I was amazed at how juicy and flavorful the turkey was! Juice literally dripped out of the breast meat as I sliced it. And it was just as good the next day. And the drippings made incredible gravy. And thanks to reading my husband's niece's blog, I knew that I should not put the hot pan with the brine in it outside on a glass patio table to cool. Evidently, cold glass and hot pan bottoms don't mix. Thanks for that head's up, Carrie.

One other new thing I tried this year was from The Pioneer Woman blog. One of her many readers who hales from the Netherlands sent Ree a scrumptious recipe for braised red cabbage. It was a definite hit at our house. You all should really try it.

Everything was really your typical fare and very informal. But you know, as my second son observed today, food is just the excuse to get together. It really doesn't matter what you have to eat as long as the family is there. So true... so next year...PIZZA!

Now, I want to leave you with a picture of the best part of the day.

My grandbaby in his new sweater and hat from his uncle with a monkey in matching outfit. I mean, really, can you get any cuter?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

My brother-in-law says that God decided that since we sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" so often, He would grant us our "dream", in spades! Due to the weather and my hubby's work schedule we are not celebrating until Saturday. All my kiddoes are getting together right now over in the next town and having dinner at my eldest daughter's home. This is her first time fixing a holiday dinner, and I hate missing it. They wanted us to come, too, but it just isn't feasible today, so I am going to prepare a special dinner of shrimp risotto for us. We will sit and enjoy the quiet of snowfall, and be thankful for all of our gifts...our 4 wonderful children, our new grandson, an awesome extended family, a warm home, and food to eat. What more could we ask for (other than my hubby's health return to normal)? So at this time I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday and hope for a better next year.

In the meantime, I am going to share with you what it is doing outside at this moment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"C" is for Christmas Cookie...That's Good Enough for Me!

As I wait for the next snow storm, I am making cookies for the Christmas that in all likely hood is going to be postponed until Saturday. This first round of cookies will go to neighbors that have been so kind and helpful during this kind of stressful period we are going through. And I am sure I will save some for our dinner on Saturday. The thing is, making cookies is not my favorite thing to do. But since everyone seems to expect it, I do it. I am much more looking forward to cooking the dinner on Saturday. But these are good cookies. So I'm sharing.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time and then extracts. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. It is really important that this part is done by hand and not mixer. It helps to keep the cookie dough tender. Chill for at least 1 hour. With the weather the way it has been, I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and set it out on top of the deep freeze in the garage overnight. Worked great!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. I always bake my cookies in a slow oven. Years ago I acquired a Mrs. Fields Cookie cookbook and she bakes all her cookies at 325. It keeps them tender and less likely to burn.

Another tip I ran across was to roll the dough out on lightly floured parchment paper, cut out the cookies, pull off the scraps, and lift the paper onto the cookie sheet. For the most part it works pretty well. I did have to roll out the last few cookies of each pan on a separate floured surface and transferred them to the pan.

Bake cookies for 13-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookie. My cookies were between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick and took about 15 minutes. Let cool for a minute or two on the sheet and then remove to racks to finish cooling.

I then frosted them with a butter-cream cheese icing. I used 8 oz. of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, powdered sugar to make it stiff enough to spread (probably about 1 1/2 lbs.), and about a tablespoon or so of evaporated milk. And I used lots of red, white, and green sprinkles. I decided to just stick with white icing, but you could certainly add food coloring to it. I just didn't want to deal with the extra mess. I think the cookies turned out quite lovely anyway.

This recipe makes a huge amount of cookies. You could easily half the recipe. My cutters were about 2 1/2 inches and I ended up with about 7 dozen cookies. Hope my neighbors like cookies!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Starting day 10 of the snowstorm. You notice I didn't title this post "progress." There's been none in the weather. I'm posting more pics of this "delightful" crap. When these are compared with the previous two postings of snow pictures, you will definitely see the progression. We have lived here 20 years and not seen anything quite like this. It has certainly been one for the books. I know that this isn't as bad as in other parts of the country, but, hey, they are used to it and expect it. We are used to drippy stuff, not fluffy. One day of the stuff is great, but this is starting to border on irritating. This area is not mentally or physically prepared for such weather. So few people are driving around here that it is eerily quiet. I say, be done already!

Here are the cars before the shoveling.

Front yard

Front of our house

Neighbor getting around the easy way

The hard way...he couldn't even peddle with previous postings!

The birds will definitely have plenty to drink when this melts.

Waffle chairs

Finally, after a visiting neighbor, several guys from our church and me (yes, you heard right) shoveled the snow from the driveway and walk, put chains on the car, and cleaned off the car, we did something we haven't done in over 20 years....put Phil's car in the garage! I'm telling ya, the end is near!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spaghetti "Squash" Pie

I have made traditional spaghetti pie for, oh, I don't know, about 25 years. It has always been one of my favorites. With my new found love of spaghetti squash, I thought, hmmm, why not try substituting the squash for the pasta. Couldn't think of a reason not to try it. It actually worked pretty well. I didn't have to do a lot of adjusting and the end result was quite tasty.

Spaghetti Squash Pie

1/2 cooked and shredded spaghetti squash
2 TBS. butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 well beaten eggs
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 chopped green or red pepper
2 gloves garlic grated or pressed
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

After the squash has been prepared place it in a bowl, stir in butter, add Parmesan cheese and eggs. Press the mixture into a crust in a greased (I spray with butter flavored Pam) pie pan. In a skillet saute onion, peppers, and garlic in a little olive oil. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, and salt. Heat through. Spread cottage cheese on top of the squash crust. Fill pie with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (I used sliced fresh mozzarella cheese). Bake uncovered at 350 degree for 30 minutes.

Let sit for 5 or 10 minutes before slicing. Now the big difference from the pasta pie is that the squash pie doesn't quite slice as nicely. But it is still yummy! Hubby really liked it. Serve with a salad and a crusty bread and you have a great supper. Enjoy!


I thought I should post some evidence of the snow that pretty much has shut down the Portland/SW Washington area. We don't get snow often in this neck of the woods, but when we do it hits with a vengeance. For the most part the snow is over, but now we have freezing rain and the lovely wind to look forward to. Can June be far behind? I really feel for the retailers. As if the economy hasn't dealt them a huge blow, now the weather is keeping the Christmas hordes away. Are we being hit by the seven plagues this year? Just wondering.........

Back to snow.

This is what I discovered when I opened the back door to the patio.......

Garage door.....



The neighbors across the street......

And my hubby does inclement weather.

I say more power to him. Sit and chill and enjoy an excuse to not do anything!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Change of Direction

After being MIA for a few weeks, I've decided to change the direction of this blog a bit. I am still going to post recipes, 'cuz I love to cook, and it is extremely therapeutic. But sometimes I find myself just wanting to talk about life. And since the rest of my hubby's family post their day to day lives I thought it would be nice to keep his family caught up on our doings...boring as they may be. Although I can't always post a recipe I can always wax loquacious about our lives. Just wanted to throw a few big words out there.

For those family members who live in Utah, this winter you don't have the corner on snow. The fates decided it had been too many years since we got hit with the white stuff. Winter has stalled here for the past week and doesn't seem in any big hurry to leave. I thought I would give you a taste of what is happening here. I tried to upload a video, but I haven't figured out how yet. Please, everyone feel free to tell me how to do it. In the meantime, I'll just post some pictures.

In this one if you notice the blur on the right side of the picture...that's the wind blowing. We are supposed to get wind gusts of close to 50 mph. No playing out in that stuff today.

My indoor cat Ellie sneaked out of the door while I was taking pictures the other day and decided to explore the snow. She is almost 6 and has never been in the snow, and I think she actually liked it. She does have a lovely coat for being out in the elements. I should have something so beautiful.

Now, here's what I do when the weather outside is frightful.

I found the recipe for these delectable little guys here. They really are one of my favorite Christmas cookies.

And finally, an update picture from my darling grandson's family.

I adore Ronan, but I sometimes wonder if his parents aren't slightly WHACKO.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day...In a Restaurant

Given all the nonsense that has gone on this year with the family cancer, hubby and I decided we really didn't want the stress of trying to do a dinner at our home. So, my dear sweet sister-in-law proposed that she and her husband drive the 2 1/2 hours our direction and meet up at a restaurant that does a T-Day buffet. Hurray!! No cooking. Of course, that means no leftovers. But, never fear. I still loaded up on turkeys. I hit a couple of the local super markets and grabbed a couple. I would like one more, but I don't think my freezer can handle another one.

My wonderful children are totally understanding of this decision and have made other plans. Their dad came home Saturday from a week stay in the hospital, and we celebrated by having the kids over and chowing down on Thanksgiving pizza! Awesome.

Needless to say, I am not posting any Thanksgiving day recipes. I am saving them for Christmas. We are going to do the big dinner then. Until then, here is a previous post I did using leftover turkey for some absolutely delish soup.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and don't forget to be thankful for all the blessings you do have. Remember, it's the little things that count, like truly incredible family all around. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Black Bean Chicken Soup with Rice


In November's gusty gale
I will flop my flippy tail

And spout hot soup-I'll be a whale!
Spouting once, spouting twice
Spouting chicken soup with rice

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

I loved reading this poem to my kids when they were little. A fabulous way to teach children the months of the year. And since today was such a blustery day, I thought of chicken soup with rice, but, of course, with a twist. Maurice, I hope I did you proud.

Black Bean Chicken Soup with Rice

oil olive or canola
1 lb. large dice raw chicken (I used 1 package of boneless skinless chicken breasts from Costco.)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup chopped green or red pepper
3 cloves minced, grated or pressed garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans black beans
1 cup whole kernel corn canned or frozen
1 cup brown rice
1 16 0z. jar salsa or 2 cups homemade salsa
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
2 TBS. white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat about 3 TBS. oil in a large soup pot. Brown the chunks of chicken. Remove from pot. Add the onion, garlic and peppers and cook until very tender. If needed add some more oil. Using about a quarter cup of the broth, deglaze the pot. Then dump back in the chicken, beans, corn, salsa, rice, the rest of the broth, the cumin, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low and cook for about an hour. Add in the sour cream before serving. Top with some grated cheese and serve with either cornbread or fresh fried tortilla chips. This really is yummy on a cold blustery day.

I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup with rice.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This time of year is perfect for a multitude of squash recipes. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a squash eater, other than pumpkin and spaghetti squash. I tried my hand at butternut squash soup. If you noticed, there is no recipe for it on the blog. I didn't like, and, although my hubby ate some of it, he wasn't wild about it either.

But spaghetti squash is a whole 'nother story. This is really a versatile gourd. Is it a gourd? Anyway, for people who are watching their carb intake, this is a great low calorie, low carb substitute for pasta. Now, you have to be aware that it doesn't really taste like pasta, and is a bit more crunchy...but it does get the job done.

I found a great way to prepare the squash on Recipezaar. Thanks Bent Slightly for the recipe.

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
1 bulb garlic
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350. With a sharp sturdy knife, cut the squash in
half lengthwise. I find it easier to do if I poke holes in the squash with a fork and then microwave it for about 5 minutes. It makes it a bit more tender. After you have cut the squash in half, scoop out the guts and discard. Place the halves in an oven proof dish or baking sheet. After separating and peeling the cloves of garlic, thinly slice the cloves. Layer the slices around the bowl of the squash.

Generously cover the halves with olive oil, salt (Kosher works nicely for this) and fresh ground pepper.

Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the meat separates easily with the tines of a fork. When done, let cool for at least 20 minutes. It's much easier on the hands this way. Use a fork to scoop and separate the strands. Depending how devoted you are to garlic you can either remove the slices or leave them night, take them out.

And, Voila, spaghetti!

You can add just about anything you want to this. Just be sure that if you are adding a loose tomato based sauce don't mix them together prior to serving. The squash will get mushy and fall apart. Just let people add there own sauce to the top of the squash. I served it with a bolognese sauce and it turned out really well. I've used it in a hot chicken salad recipe that is yummy. I am going to try it in spaghetti pie. I will let you know how that turns out. Enjoy!