My Mom

I’m clearly having a very random day.  This popped up in my desktop photo feed just now — my mother at age 17.  I’m pretty sure it was her senior picture for the yearbook.  We never get over missing our mamas.

Mother

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A Vegan Entry …

This is for Miss Snarky Pants, who needs a vegan recipe in order to participate in our Playing for Time Test Kitchen.  Here ya’ go, hon (and any other vegans/vegetarians among us) …

Mediterranean Vegan Vegetable Stew

Mediterranean Vegan Vegetable Stew
Author: Leanne Vogel
Allergens: Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Yeast-free, Corn-free, Nut-free, Egg-free
Serves: 4
A one-pot meal that’s lighter than your average stew but just as satisfying. Like having a Greek salad in stew form!
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups gluten-free, yeast-free vegetable broth
  • 28 ounces whole tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups raw buckwheat groats, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 cups chopped eggplant
  • 1 cup (300 ml jar) roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • ½ cup black olives, pitted and sliced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion, shallots and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add broth, tomatoes, buckwheat, vinegar, rosemary and marjoram. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer until the buckwheat is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the chopped eggplant 10 minutes in.
  3. When complete, stir in the roasted red peppers, spinach, and olives. Allow to cook until heated through, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Remove rosemary sprigs before serving.

Some people!

A cheeky friend asked me yesterday if I’ve become Martha Freaking Stewart, just because she’s seeing recipes on my site.  The sheer impudence made me laugh out loud.  She knows I voluntarily surrendered my kitchen privileges when I married Kim, so of course the cooking thing does seem a bit suspect.  The trouble is, what the heck else am I gonna do with 1,787 food & drink pins on my Pinterest boards, besides present them to my husband one by one with a hopeful look on my face?  It’s unlikely that I’m going to work through the list on my own — I cooked for a solid thirty-five years, often for field hands and harvest help, and to quote the inimitable Madeline Kahn, “I’m tiiiiiired.”

Kim and I have actually put together quite a few of the ideas I’ve pinned, and rarely met with disappointment.  HOWEVER.  There’s no way we would ever get through them all in this lifetime … so I was thinking … we bloggers and friends could institute a sort of test kitchen amongst ourselves!  Whaddaya think, huh? huh??  Fun, right?!

The only rule would be that if you make one of the recipes you find here or on one of my Pinterest boards, you MUST come back and file a report.  Delicious, so-so, definitely not worth the time, that sort of thing.  I’m hearing no objections!  So … let’s start, appropriately enough, with an appetizer.  GO!!

Chicken Tostada Bites

Chipotle Chicken Tostada Bites
inspired by Z’Tejas

Ingredients:
1/4 c. plus 2 TBSP chipotle salsa, pureed (I like Herdez brand)
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 avocados
zest and juice of one lime
2 TBSP red onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 Roma tomato, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 TBSP fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced (optional)
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
24 round tortilla chips
24 cilantro leaves, for garnish

Directions:
1.  The night before serving, pour 1/4 c. pureed chipotle salsa over the chicken breast and allow to marinate, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.  Turn once during marinating time.

2.  Cook the chicken, covered, in a saute pan.  Allow to cool, then shred.  Mix shredded meat with remaining two TBSP salsa.

3.  While chicken is cooling, make guacamole by combining all remaining ingredients (except chips) in a nonreactive bowl.  Mix together with a fork, leaving only small chunks.  Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

4.  Just before serving, top each chip with a generous TBSP each of guacamole and chicken.  Top with a cilantro leaf and arrange on a platter.

A word of advice on these–wait to assemble them until the last second.  The chips get soggy if the guacamole sits on them too long.  Luckily, all the components will be fine if made the night before or morning of serving.

And for those whose tummies do not play well with cilantro, substitute creatively!

Behind every good woman is a good man!

I’ve been blogging on WordPress for a week now and haven’t really said much about my husband, so today is his day.  I have to be careful when I talk about him because I can easily take it right over the top.  We found each other late, we’ve only been married eight years, we’re so compatible it’s ridiculous, and we’re annoyingly goofy.  I think he’s hilarious … and smokin’ hot.  I haven’t really found anything he can’t do.  And he loves me.

I met Kim at church when a friend recruited him to play bass guitar in our band.  Since I play keyboards we instantly had something in common, but nine months went by before we had an actual conversation.  I’d recently lost my husband, my father-in-law, and my dad in a hellish eight-month stretch and I wasn’t speaking to men at the time.

Anyway … I sort of got over my unspoken vow not to talk to anyone of the male persuasion ever again, and we finally had a chat.  Until 4:30 in the morning.  He came to a program I was in two nights later … and followed me home two days after that and cooked Easter dinner for me … and we decided we were getting married … and three months later, we did.  If you’ve read my “About” page, you may have noticed the word “fairytale” … it’s an understatement.

So now we’re into the Happily Ever After part of the story.  I get to live with a man who treats me like the proverbial queen, not only does all the cooking but the shopping and clean-up as well, brings me coffee in bed, makes me laugh like a demented person, plays heart-melting guitar, writes music, reads voraciously, knows how to build things and fix things, how to clean a house like the former Navy man that he is, and loves my son like his own.  And he kisses even better than he cooks.

The really wonderful thing is how he lets me be me in every way.  He encourages my interests and talents, isn’t jealous of the time I spend on the things I love, and nurtures me on the days when pain wins for a while.  He listens to me babble when I get excited about cool things that happen … and knows how to make me think he’s actually hearing everything I say.

My husband isn’t perfect.  Neither am I, not even close.  But we’ve both lived other lives and we’ve had time and opportunity to learn that not everything in life matters equally.  Some things are better left unsaid.  Most negatives, when balanced against the incredible positives, are not even worth thinking about.  As he often says, “You have to know when to be satisfied.  You have to give yourself permission to be happy.”

I’ve made my share of mistakes in life, but I can’t help thinking that Kim is payback for something I managed to get right.

Kim

 

 

A Fairytale

The halfway point …

Good morning again!  For those in the workforce, it’s Wonderful Wednesday — I hope your day will live up to its name.  We have a light blanket of snow over everything and the cars out on the street are in creep mode.  Seems like a good morning for staying inside and stirring something up with my blogging friends!  These look good …

Mini Frittatas

 

Ingredients:

8 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
Assorted Mix-ins, chopped small, such as:

Cheese – cheddar, parmesan, pepper-jack or any other favorite

Meat – ham, sausage, bacon

Veggies – peppers, mushrooms, shredded spinach,  green onions

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and black pepper.  Pour the egg mixture into the muffin cups.  Add Mix-ins to each cup {add lots}.  Bake the frittatas until they are puffy and the edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Loosen with knife and serve warm.

Makes 12 frittatas

Note:  To freeze frittatas, allow to cool completely and store in ziplock bag.  Reheat for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes in the microwave.

Brought to you via Pinterest, courtesy of http://www.caramelpotatoes.com

If you make these, come back and let me know how you liked them — I haven’t tried them yet!

My Life in Books

Not everyone can say this, but I still live in the same town where I was born.  I was temporarily away, as I was raised twelve miles outside town, but in western Kansas that meant I could practically see the hospital from the farm.  I spent a summer in New Jersey in the 60s, a boyfriend thing.  I lived on yet another farm two counties away for almost 35 years, a marriage thing.  Even during those first-marriage years, though, I wasn’t more than a half-hour from my birthplace.  And now I’m back.

You might be tempted to think that my life has been deadly boring, but you’d be wrong, even though the potential was certainly there.  On the contrary, thanks to the wonderful world of books, I’ve traveled just about everywhere and gotten to know people I’ll never forget.  My mom, a woman blessedly ahead of her time, started reading to me from approximately the second I popped my head out in the delivery room, and she did the same for my sisters and brother.  Books were always a hot topic of conversation in our house and pretty much nothing was off-limits if we thought we were big enough to handle it (other than the fascinating volumes I discovered in my parents’ closet, but that’s a story that shall never be told).

Our mom fully understood that reading holds the power to ward off prejudice, ignorance, and dullness of spirit.  We all shared the isolation of the farm, but she had no intention of letting that shape us for life.  We even got by with ducking work sometimes, as long as it was for the sake of a book, the unspoken agreement being that we had to make sure no sibling saw it happening.

If you locked me in a room with only a bodice-ripping romance novel for company, I’d scan it for erotic parts, strictly in the interest of Continuing Adult Education, but I wouldn’t read it.  I really don’t think I could.  I’d rather count fly-specks on the walls or stains on the carpet.  If that makes me sound like a snob, I apolo … um, no, I don’t, it’s the truth.  But that’s just me … I’m not judging.

Give me a great biography or autobiography, a historical novel, a sophisticated mystery, a realistic crime novel or true account, an entertaining travel journal, stellar fiction … then walk away and I’m not likely to even notice.  A question I’ve never been able to answer … “What’s the best book you’ve ever read?”  Impossible!  Usually it’s the one I just finished.  I crawl inside every good book I read and live there until it’s done.  And then I take time to mourn just a bit before I pick up the next read …

A Reader

It’s a gray day …

And apparently gray days are just the ticket for …. procrastination!  I have a perfectly decent blog post languishing in WordPad awaiting my loving touch … and I do look at it from time to time … occasionally jot down a thought or two … but Hey!  Shiny!!  I’ve discovered amazing bloggers since this morning!  I promise to share them with you just as soon as ….

Say, you know what else gray days are good for?  Noshing!  Here’s a sweet lil’ recipe I tucked away on Pinterest months ago …

Nutella Rolls

Buy Pillsbury crescent rolls, put a scoop of Nutella in each one, roll it up, roll it in cinnamon and sugar, then bake according to the package.  Easily one of the best things I’ve ever tasted and SO simple you could write a blog post with one hand while you make ’em.  They had me at Nutella.

Plans?

Good morning, blogger and non-blogger friends!  What does your day hold?  We may get snow here by mid-morning (remember, it was over 75° the past two days), and I’m working on words to post for our reading enjoyment.  Meanwhile …

Making Plans

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Is it cold where you are?

Here’s a 5-Star idea from Recipes.com!

Yummy Hot Caramel Chocolate!

Hot Caramel Chocolate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1/3  cup sugar
  • 1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3  cup water
  • 6 milk-chocolate-covered round caramels
  • 6  cups milk, half-and-half, or light cream
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Milk chocolate-covered and/or candy-coated round caramels (optional)

Directions

1. In a large saucepan combine sugar, cocoa powder, and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add candies; cook and stir until melted. Stir in milk. Heat through. Pour into mugs; top with whipped cream and additional caramel candies. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information Per serving: Calories 213, Total Fat 7 g, Cholesterol 19 mg, Sodium 133 mg, Carbohydrate 29 g, Protein 10 g, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Finding beauty everywhere …

The calendar says it’s winter, the temperature not so much.  It reached at least 70° yesterday and is forecast to do the same today before cooling back down into the 40s.  Two balmy days in a row call for flowers!  Beauty heals the soul, so I encourage you to look for it everywhere today and I’m wishing everyone an amazing week, beginning with this morning — a Monday!

Flower Pots

 

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I thought it was just me …

In This Together

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Girlfriends

Girlfriends.  I’ve always loved the way the word sounds, even though it carries a certain kind of angsty baggage because despite slumber parties and hanging out and all the other things girls do, the intimacy required for besties felt foreign to me.  Growing up on a farm, miles from town, my two younger sisters were my friends.  I didn’t think of them as girlfriends, though — they were my sisters.  There were the girls down the road, but they weren’t girlfriends, they were neighbors.  When I look back at the young me, it’s clear what a solitary soul I was.  My best days were spent lolling in the hammock stretched between two big trees in my grandparents’ yard, reading a book, thinking my own thoughts, accidentally drifting into a nap, then combing the garden for ripe strawberries and tomatoes, checking the orchard for intruders, and generally sticking to whatever was required to avoid my mom’s eyes landing on me and assigning me a job.  I wonder what I thought I was going to do on the off-chance that I happened to flush a few snakes, possums, or cross-country bums out of the trees.
Grade school is kind of a blur.  I was a good student, friendly, happy, clueless.  There were other girls, of course, and I made friends … but I can’t think of any girlfriends who’ve carried over from those years if we’re talking people I’ve never lost touch with at any time and with whom I share my deepest secrets and feelings.  High school, with forty-seven of us in the entire place, meant fun, freedom and fraternity … and continued cluelessness.  College brought more of the same.  I was popular, I guess, if you want to gauge it by things like being elected cheerleader seven years in a row and serving as a lady-in-waiting in the Homecoming court, but none of that felt quite authentic to me.  I think it took me so long to realize that I could define my own life, I missed a lot of stuff on the way up.
Don’t get me wrong, I have great acquaintances, friends, women I look up to, respect, like, even love.  I’ve just somehow never truly been girlfriend material.  I don’t spill my guts easily, except with my sisters, and it’s always been hard for me to ask for help.   I went through a hellish time ten years ago and held most of it inside — not exactly refusing to share my grief, pain, and stress with other women, just not really knowing how.  And without that open-up-and-let-it-all-hang-out mechanism, it’s hard to be a girlfriend, let alone accumulate them.  To my likely discredit I move on easily, I don’t send Christmas cards, I tend not to do even the minimum amount of work necessary to hang onto relationships, the notable exceptions being marriage and family.
All of this to say that there are suddenly women in my life who represent the best of what I always pictured a girlfriend to be, and they’re incredible.  I’m probably still not going to be very good at the gut-spilling thing, but if I ever do it I know they’ll be there.  Life continues to surprise …

Sort of besties, except that we went to different schools and didn't see each other very much.

Sort of besties, except that we went to different schools and didn’t see each other very much.

And this …

Something cool from a Facebook friend:

PIG CANDY

Put foil on a cookie sheet & spread bacon in a single layer. Sprinkle brown sugar lightly over the top (sorry, I have never measured it) and bake it at 325 (or 350) until the bacon is done (about 15 min).

From The Sweet Potato Queens’ Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner

http://www.amazon.com/Potato-Big-Ass-Cookbook-Financial-Planner/dp/060980877X

Shakin' Bacon

Sunday Brunch

In writing mode this morning, with the bottomless coffee pot as my friend.  I’ll be posting words soon.  Meanwhile, here’s something nice for a Sunday morning:

Overnight French Toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 loaf brioche or challah (a French bread loaf can a used) sliced into 1 1/2 inches thick slices
  • 8 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, measured then chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • (optional) maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping

Directions

  1. In a small bowl combine brown sugar and melted butter and pour on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Arrange slices of bread in the baking dish overlapping if necessary.
  3. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices.
  4. Sprinkle chopped pecans over bread slices.
  5. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours.
  6. In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes. If top starts browning too quickly place a foil loosely over the top of the casserole for the last 10 minutes or so. You want it to cook long enough to make sure the bottom part is cooked but don’t dry it out completely.
  8. Remove casserole from oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.
  9. (Adapted from http://www.ezrapoundcake.com)

Being Brave

owning our story

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