Sunday, November 30, 2008

I am sooooooo full....

Wow, the past week has been busy. Not one Thanksgiving meal to prepare but two....and a birthday, a baptism, a couple of trips across the border to get the Canadian family, and, of course, our weekly play date with Tai and baby Luc. Now we can take a breath before heading into the last month of the year.
Our Thanksgiving meal was traditional:
Turkey with dressing
Creamy mashed potatoes and gravy
Sweet Potato with Candied Pecan Crisp
Green Beans with garlic and Mushrooms
Balsamic Roasted Onions
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
I wasn't quick enough to capture a picture of our Thanksgiving meal but here's a shot of Friday night's leftovers!

Saturday we had more family over for lunch. I wanted to keep the Thanksgiving theme but a little outside the traditional box. We had:
Cajun Roasted Turkey Breast
Butternut Squash Lasagne
Caesar Salad
Spicy Cornbread Muffins
Tai's Apple Pies
The Butternut Squash Lasagne was wonderful, great when you have a vegetarian in the group and also good when you want to make something ahead of time. I missed the before dinner shot once again but this is what was left!

I found this recipe on and it was originally printed in Gourmet in December, 2001. The original calls for 1 cup of toasted hazelnuts to be added to the filling, but I didn't have any and so left them out. The end result was yummy anyway. This served 8 as a side dish with that little piece shown above left over.
Ingrid, this Butternut Squash Lasagne recipe is for you!
1 large onion, chopped
3 T butter
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2" chunks
Note: I cut the squash into quarters, seeded where necessary and roasted them in a shallow pan with a bit of water until tender. When cool enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh and mashed until smooth. I found that to be easier than peeling and cutting beforehand.
1 1/2 t minced garlic
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T chopped parsley
4 t chopped fresh sage
1/2 t minced garlic
3 T unsalted butter
5 T all purpose flour
5 c milk
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1/8 t pepper
2 c grated mozzarella ( I may have used a little more!)
1 c finely grated parmesan
12 sheets no-boil lasagne
Cook the onion in butter in a deep skillet over moderate heat until golden, about 10minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until squash is tender about 15 minutes, or simply heat through for around 5 minutes if you pre-cook the squash. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and sage. Set aside to cool.
While the squash cools, cook garlic in a 3-quart saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour to make a roux and cook for a couple of minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking continuously. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, still whisking, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, still whisking occasionally. Add salt and pepper, remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Cover the surface of the sauce with plastic wrap if not using immediately.
To assemble, combine the cheeses. In a buttered 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish, spread a generous 1/2 cup of the sauce and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce, 1/3 of the filling and a heaping 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with the pasta and ending with the cheese. Top with the last 3 pasta sheets, sauce and cheese.
Tightly cover with buttered foil and bake on the middle rack in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 - 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 20 minutes before serving. I actually baked my lasagne for the first 30 minutes then removed it from the oven and refrigerated it overnight. I brought it to room temperature the next day and finished heating it, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. This was at 375 degrees since it was sharing the oven with Spicy Cornbread Muffins.
After reading Scribbit's September 28th post on Tiny Apple Pies
I had to try them out for my Grandson Tai. I made them every week when he came for his playdate with me and "Daddy's Daddy." So how could I not make them for his Thanksgiving meal? Scribbit suggests you use an apple peeler but I only needed four large apples for 10 tiny pies so even if you don't have a peeling contraption, go ahead and try them. To the 4 chopped apples I added 1/2 c sugar, 1 T flour, dash nutmeg and 1/2 t cinnamon. Toss well, fill ramekins and top each with a circle of pastry. One refrigerated pie crust will yield tops for 10 tiny pies. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Note to the grownups: this is a good diet dessert with only half the crust of a regular pie and enforced portion control!


One very satisfied customer!
We've just returned home from the lunch following Luc's baptism....pot stickers, sesame balls, spicy beef noodle soup, ribs, stuffed peppers, eggplant and bean curd, sticky rice, fried rice, dumplings...and I'm sure I've forgotten something....I haven't felt a hunger pang since last Wednesday. I'm actually looking forward to eating simply for a while!

Monday, November 24, 2008

My squirrels, they aren't so smart.....

Or why we should keep our garage door closed.....
I keep several floor mats in the garage to try to catch some of the outside dirt and debris before it reaches the house. Several times this Fall I have stepped on hard lumps under the mats and upon further inspection, this is what I found.

Not much to see...

Upon closer inspection...

there it is...
Hope they didn't store too many nuts in the garage or it will be a lean winter!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My currently favorite way to cook chicken!


Last night we had some family over for dinner and I prepared one of our Fall favorites, Coq au Vin. This is comfort food at its best and you can make part of it in advance so it's great for entertaining. It's traditionally made with red wine but I actually prefer a lighter version made with white and red wine. I promise that you'll love it!
2 T olive oil
4 oz bacon, diced
1 (3-4 lb) chicken, cut in 8ths. Lucky us, our son the Flockmster gave us one of his free range chickens...sooooo tasty.
1/2 lb carrots, cut diagonally in 1" pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 T chopped garlic
1/4 c cognac or brandy (optional - I didn't have any so skipped it)
1 1/2 c white wine + 1/2 c red wine (or just use what you have)
1 can chicken broth or homemade stock if you have it
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 T flour
1/2 lb frozen small whole onions
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms thickly sliced
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven. Add bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove bacon and set aside.
Dry chicken well and season with salt and pepper. In the same pan as you cooked the bacon, brown the chicken, turning to brown evenly. This step is just to brown the chicken so don't be concerned about cooking it through. Remove browned chicken and set aside with the bacon.
Add the carrots, onions, 2T salt and 1t pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 - 12 minutes until the onions are lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine, chicken stock and thyme. If you are using a dutch oven you can add the bacon and chicken to the pot. If, like me, you gave away your dutch oven because it was just too heavy to manage, place the chicken and bacon in a roasting pan and pour the vegetable mixture over it. Either way, cover the pot/pan with a tight fitting lid or foil and cook at 300 degrees for around 30 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through (not pink). Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove. Remove the chicken pieces, set aside and cover with foil.
Mash 1 T of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions and return the chicken to the pan. In a saute pan, melt the remaining 1T butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 - 10 minutes until browned. Add to the stew along with the chicken and bring the entire mixture to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve over these mashed potatoes:
3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 8oz package cream cheese
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c milk
1/2 c chopped chives or green onions
Butter a 6 - 8 cup casserole dish. Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add cream cheese and mash well. Mix in sour cream and milk and continue mashing then add the chives or onions. Spoon into prepared dish. This can be made ahead of time, even refrigerated over night. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so then reheat uncovered in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If your oven is already full, just reheat in the microwave for about 4 minutes, stir and then 4 more minutes.
I put a BIG mound of the potatoes on a plate then spoon the coq au vin over the top. Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm. The Coq au Vin is based on a recipe by Ina Garten and Brigette Lyons gets credit for the potatoes.
There's even a little left over for lunch :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday


oooh....what's this?

Come to baby....

We're almost there....

Find lots more Wordless Wednesday participants here!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday, Monday

I was visiting The Green Greek this morning and was uplifted by the Happiness is a Habit...Cultivate It meme she was playing. Feeling a little encumbered lately by the stuff of life, I welcomed the opportunity to play, so here goes!

"At this moment, use the alphabet and write down the first thing that comes to your mind for each letter. Don’t ponder or try to think of something that will be impressive. Just do it! This says a lot about you and may surprise you as well. Go ahead… you know you want to!”
A: Abundance is wanting what you have
B: Blessings are all around us
C: Cheese is my addiction
D: Daybreak is getting later and later
E: Elijah
F: Faith sustains me
G: Grandchildren (see E, H, K, K, L, O and T) are the best!
H: Hayley
I: Inspiration - so fickle!
J: Joy comes in the morning
K: Kenny, who made me a Grammie, and Kali
L: Luc
M: Muffins are baking in the oven
N: Never say never
O: Olivia
P: Peace in your heart and on earth
Q: Quiet time, how I look forward to it
R: Rejoice in all things
S: Simplify, simplify, simplify
T: Tai
U: preferred pace
V: Visible...sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not
W: Winter is closing in
X: xoxoxo, at the close of every letter
Y: Youth, where did it go?
Z: Zoom,zoom, zoom - life rushing by
Now you try it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When you least expect it.....

Maureen at Being Chronically Ill Is A Pill has graciously sent me the Lemonade Award for demonstrating an attitude of gratitude.
Maureen, like myself, is a caregiver who also manages personal health challenges. She and I agree that it's not about the illness, it's all about the living.
So I thank Maureen for her support and pass this award along to these wonderful bloggers who have blessed me with their insights and inspiration in the journey we call life:
This Crazy Miracle Called Life
Post Stroke
The Green Greek
The Kinz Family News
From The Planet Aphasia
Please take a moment to visit these blogs and say "hello" to these women!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday!
Visit more Wordless Wednesday participants here and here!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How Our Neighborhood Voted

This discussion was recently overheard between a Mom and her two boys, "Sam" age 6 and "Rob" age 4, as she asked them how they voted for president in their school elections:
Mom: Who did you vote for Sam?
Sam: I voted for McCain
Mom: Why did you vote for McCain?
Sam: Cause I don't like the other guy's name
Mom: You don't like Obama's name?
Sam: No
Mom: What's wrong with Obama's name?
Mom: Who did you vote for Rob?
Rob: I voted for Balack (not a typo) Obama
Mom: Why did you vote for Obama?
Rob: Cause I didn't want to vote for Sam's guy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Flashback Friday #10: Great Grandparents

Stella and Frank Storm were my mother's paternal grandparents. I don't have a record of where they were born but I do know that Frank Storm was the son of William Storm who came to Escondido, California from Tennessee via Texas. My mother told me that they had come to California in a covered wagon, but it doesn't seem likely that they would have traveled together before they were married.


Frank and Stella were married in Escondido on February 25, 1890. I believe these portraits would have been done about that time.
Three sons were born to Stella while in Escondido: Philip Bettens, my grandfather, July 9, 1892; Charles Leonard, December 5, 1894 and Clayton Dufour, July 14, 1896. Charles Leonard died February 10, 1895 and Clayton Dufour died March 29, 1900. Both babies were buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Escondido. These dates and the three children in the photo don't seem to line up - Leonard died before Clayton was born, so I'm not sure who the infant would be. The note on the back of the photo simply says, "2 brothers of Philip did not survive childhood."

At some point the family moved to Hollywood, California to Las Palmas Street. That would be my great grandmother on the right but I don't know who is with her. The curbs and sidewalk would seem to indicate that their house was on a city lot.

This last picture is of Stella and Frank in 1930 when they would have been married 40 years and would probably have been in their sixties. Once again, I wish I had more details of their life.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: My Husband, My Hero


This is the month when giving thanks is on our minds. Having almost lost my husband more than once in the past thirteen years, I am grateful for every single day that he is still with us. He is my hero and here are my top thirteen reasons why.
1. He is a survivor. He survived rheumatic fever as an infant, polio as a child, 3 heart attacks before he was 50 and a stroke before he was 60.
2. He doesn't know the meaning of "can't." In between his childhood ailments and his adult illnesses, he played baseball, hockey, college and professional football. He even ran the Marine Corp Marathon when he was 40.
3. He never, never gives up. No matter what life throws at him, he is always positive. His first words after his stroke were, "I love you." His next sentence, although it took 3 days to compose and several minutes and some coaching to voice, was, "It's going to be alright."
4. He is a funny man. He loves to make people laugh. Nowadays he doesn't tell the jokes but he will still appreciate and laugh at yours.
5. I came into his life as a package deal, complete with three sons. He has loved them, helped to raise them, disciplined them, guided them, supported them in the good times and not so good times, and has always, always been there for them.
6. He is driven. Probably a little too driven at times, but that determination is now what enables him to deal with his disablilites on a daily basis. It's what got him walking after his stroke. It's what got him out on the golf course again with a one-arm golf swing. It's what gets him going every single day.
7. He is a supporter to those around him, whether it be me, our children, friends or neighbors, he always encourages those around him to succeed.
8. Not a day goes by, probably not more than a couple of hours, that he doesn't tell me how much he loves me and appreciates me.
9. He is the designated dishwasher loader/unloader in the family. And if I ask him, he will also do floors :)
10. Since his stroke in 2004, he had tried unsuccessfully to read a book - until this summer when he read the New Testament. He worked at it every single day and was as excited as a child who had mastered riding his first bicycle when he finished.
11. He loves life. Although much different than it was or than he expected it would ever be, he is content.
12. He notices and appreciates the details. Coffee and freshly baked muffins, a drive around the island, a walk on the beach, he takes pleasure in the small things that others often take for granted.
13. Last, but not in any way the least, he loves the Lord. And he knows the Lord loves him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Real Men Vacuum


Wow! I found this cool machine in the playhouse! Now what can I do with it?

I'll clean up this dirt over here!

I think this little bridge needs cleaning too!

I'm working really hard at this!

Whew! All done! I am such a good worker!
For more Wordless Wednesday check out 5 Minutes for Mom and Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall Risotto

One of the best things about autumn is the return to cooking comfort food. Risotto is one of my favorite things to make because it adapts so well to so many different flavorings. You can take a basic risotto and add just about anything you have on hand. is not hard to make risotto! You do have to stir it but you don't have to stand over it continually; you just need to keep an eye on it. I have often prepared the risotto ahead of time to the point where you would add the liquid, returning later to finish the cooking.
I made this risotto for last week's playdate with Tai because sweet potatoes are one of his favorite foods :) And because the grownups like it too! It's my version of a Williams Sonoma recipe.

2 med-large sweet potatoes
4 1/2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
4 1/2 c chicken stock
4 1/2 c water
3 slices bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 t chopped fresh thyme or 1 t dried
1 1/2 t chopped fresh sage or 1 t dried
1 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary or 1 t dried
1 3/4 c arborio rice
1 c freshly grated parmesan cheese

Peel the sweet potates and cut into small, bite-sized chunks. In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 1/2 T of the oil. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large saucepan (I actually use the same frying pan I used to cook the sweet potatoes as it's about 3" deep) warm the remaining 3 T of oil. Add the bacon and onion and cook until the onion is soft and the bacon starts to crisp. Add the herbs and rice and cook, stirring constantly until the rice is translucent around the edges, 2 - 3 minutes. This is the point where I remove the pan from the heat and hold the preparation until about 30 minutes before I wish to serve. Then bring the rice up to temperature again before adding the liquid.
In a saucepan combine the stock and the water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add about 1/2 cup of the liquid to the rice and stir the mixture. When the liquid has been almost completely absorbed, add another 1/2 cup liquid and stir again. Continue in this manner, keeping the rice slightly moist at all times, until it is firm but tender, about 30 minutes.
When the risotto is done, stir in a final 1/2 cup of the liquid (if you've run out of the stock mixture, just use hot water), the sweet potatoes and half of the cheese. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired. Serve at once. Serves 6.