Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I tried, but I can't do it! We are deep frying a turkey on Thanksgiving.....and I'm making all the fixin's. I canceled the Safeway order. Ugghhh!!! Preparations start today, and will continue until Thanksgiving Day. This year should be fun. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I cried

There is a video on cnn.com that has touched my heart. If you want to check it out, please click HERE.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I have been craving Chicken Tortilla Soup for weeks. I finally went to the supermarket today to gather all of the ingredients needed. If you are interested, here's the recipe:

1 Whole Chicken
3 Carrots, small dice
3 Stalks of Celery, small dice
1 Large Onion, small dice
6 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 15oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes (not drained)
1 15oz. can Chili Beans (not drained)
1 15oz. can Pinto Beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups corn, more if you'd like
1 cup salsa (use your favorite type)
10-12 cups of water
3 Tablespoons "Better than Bullion"
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I use Grandma's Chili Powder)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Limes to squeeze on top for that fresh citrus flavor

Optional Toppings:
Sour Cream
Black Olives
Tortilla Chips

Saute onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add water and Better than Bullion (make sure the bullion dissolves). Meanwhile, skin the chicken, make sure to remove as much visible fat as possible, and drop it into the pot. Cook the chicken until it reaches 180 degrees. Remove the chicken and cool until you can handle it. Shred the chicken or cut into little pieces and add it back to the pot. Add everything else listed: beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa & chili powder. Simmer until all flavors meld together, approximately 30 minutes or so. The flavors get better as it sits.

*Better than Bullion is indeed much better than bullion cubes or chicken broth. In a pinch, use anything you have, but Better than Bullion is the way to go if possible.

*Use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you don't want to deal with the whole chicken. Sometimes whole chickens are ridiculously cheap, so that's why I used the whole thing today.

*Add more/less veggies to taste. Next time I will probably use a bit more onion.

*Use marinated jalapenos if you want a bit of a kick. I love vinegar, so sometimes I just spoon out some of the marinade to use on top of the soup instead, or in addition to the jalapenos themselves. Using a teaspoon or more of the marinade gives the flavor without the kick of the jalapeno itself.

*The squeeze of lime finishes the soup off nicely. Squeeze the fresh lime into the soup right before serving.

*Use whatever beans you'd like. If you do use other beans besides Chili Beans, rinse and drain before adding to the pot. The Chili Beans are in a marinade that goes well with the recipe. Black, Chili, Pinto, Kidney, etc... work well in this soup too. Use whatever you have on hand.

*This list looks like quite a bit of stuff, but it really is an easy soup to make.

The verdict: I will be keeping this recipe for quite a long time. It is awesome!!! It's kind of an amalgam of a bunch of different recipes I have seen, but of course had to put my own twist on it. Try it, you'll like it. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baby Letters

For the past few months I have started painting letters for my friends who have babies. At my age, that means everyone around us is either planning on getting pregnant, already pregnant, or has a baby. So, instead of getting a little outfit, or sending a gift card, which is my standard, I hand paint letters to match the nursery. The letter start out as plain wood letters, I have to sand , prime, paint, and then detail paint the letters. I believe that if you click on the individual pics, the picture will be huge, that is, in case you want to see the detail. :) I'm not too creative, which is why the designs of the two are fairly similar. Plus, both mommies wanted something not too girly, thus neither of them are pink. My sister-in-law (Julie - not listed in the cast of characters) wants letters for her kids, but I have no idea what I am going to create for them. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Lauren is 5 and Olivia just turned 2.

Here's a close up so you can see the detail.

Next is a pic of the whole name:

And finally a pic of one of the other names I have done:

Friday, November 7, 2008

French Baguettes

I found this recipe on my favorite website, allrecipes.com. Click on the link and it will take you to the original recipe. This recipe was so spectacular that I did not change a thing, and will more than likely never change it, save adding half wheat flour instead of all white bread flour. I did, however, change the way I prepared the recipe.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water

  1. Place 1 cup water (100 degrees), sugar, and yeast into a stand mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for a few minutes.
  2. Add the flour and salt, mix for 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Place dough in a greased bowl (NOT plastic), turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
  4. Punch down dough making sure to punch down all bubbles. Cut dough in half, creating two long thin loaves. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
The verdict: O-H....M-Y....G-O-S-H....the best bread I have ever eaten. Some people who reviewed the recipe said that it was the closest thing to real french baguettes they have eaten since they were in France. I have never been to France, but my gosh, I may just go for the bread......wait a minute.....if I can make bread like that, why go to France? Really though - this is amazing bread. It has just the right amount of sweetness, and the taste and texture are awesome! I can't recommend this recipe enough.

Spicy Meatballs

I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that was for "The Best Meatballs You'll Ever Have". Well, I changed the recipe a bit to suit what we had in the house. Here it is:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 slices of bread, toasted and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
I threw everything together and mixed it. I then rolled the mixture into small meatballs and baked it at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, then broiled for a few minutes.

The verdict: The meatballs are very spicy. Next time I will use less than half of the red pepper flakes. I also used quite a spicy Cajun mix. I will use half of that too, and possibly add some cheese. So far we have tried them alone, they may be better once we put them in some pasta sauce. Of course Shawn likes them, me, not so much! They are decent, but far too spicy for me.

This year I'm cheating

Here's my plan for this year....to cook as little as possible. I absolutely love cooking, coming up with recipes, and generally making people happy with food, but Thanksgiving this year is not going to encompass too much cooking on my part. Shawn and I have decided not to travel this year for the Holiday's. Really, the only place we would travel is to my mom's house near Reno, but with us getting into a car accident a couple of years ago on Thanksgiving trying to get up to her house in time for dinner (ahem, a 3 hour drive each way), we have decided not to go anywhere this year. I think we may stop by Debi and Steve's house, simply because we were invited, and Mamaw and Papaw are going to be there, along with the rest of his family, but we should only be there for a few hours at best. Plus, they live 10 minutes from our house.

You can ask Mel, the best part about Thanksgiving is leftovers, and of course getting together with family, but I shall focus on the leftovers. :) Our family LOVES leftovers, and I can't stress this enough. We will eat turkey after Thanksgiving until we can't even look at another piece of poultry. Literally, we eat turkey for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it's gone, only to turn around and have another one at Christmas. By the time we are done with our Christmas bird, we don't even want to look at another turkey for another 11 months, just in time for Thanksgiving the following year.

Because we will be at a house other than our own, I have decided to order a Thanksgiving day dinner from a local grocery store. That's right, I'm cheating! I want the leftovers but I don't want to cook. I will cook every other day of the year, but those high profile days turn me off. I can delve deep into my psyche for an explanation, but I won't. I will simply say two things: 1). When I'm forced to do something required like cooking for a holiday, I have a strong resistance to it. This is perhaps why I have continued my habit of procrastination from when I was a student. I simply hate being forced to do things. 2). I have cooked a number of Thanksgiving day dinners before and it's a booty load of work. My dinners totally rock, but the amount of time I would have to put into it for just Shawn and I simply isn't worth it if I can buy a turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving this year will be quiet, and filled with tons of leftovers. And for that, I am truly thankful!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ahhh Crap!

I accidentally posted a comment on a students blog with this blog address. I have no idea how it happened because I am always careful to be signed into the school blog the students are associated with. I guess I have too many blog accounts right now. Anyway, I had to set my blog to private. Please let me know if you prefer to read my blog in private mode, or if I should just delete this blog and make another? I can see this problem happening again because I have online classes next semester again too. Ugggghhhhh! I have no idea what to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It brought me to tears

I had quite and interesting experience driving to work yesterday. At a busy intersection in Roseville I noticed demonstrators for Prop 8 standing on all four corners of the intersection holding signs. (For those of you that read this blog and are unaware of Prop 8, click HERE to read up on Prop 8). There were about 25 people standing on each corner holding signs for each side, for a total of about 100 people in this one particular intersection. Signs reading No on Prop 8, and of course the vote Yes on Prop 8 signs. As I drove through the intersection I felt a bit scared. Having not been alive in the 60's (and barely during the 70's), and having never been involved in a protest, I have never experienced anything quite like this before. It was exhilarating! I have stood in the midst of a large group of people before, but never like this. I felt excited and frightened at the same time. I was excited that people are getting out there and taking a stand for what they believe, on both sides.

It literally brought me to tears. I was on the phone when I passed by the intersection and literally had to stop talking because I was so moved by what was happening. I understand that people as a whole can sometimes be quite complacent with what's going on, and on the flip side, can be quite involved at times. But I have never experienced anything like this before. When I drove home later last night after work I passed by the same intersection. It was raining pretty hard, the wind was blowing, but to my amazement, about 400 more people had joined the demonstration in this intersection. I thought, and even commented to one of my students that the demonstrators were probably gone because it was dark by the time I let them out of class and the storm had gotten a bit more intense. I was wrong! (I love when I'm wrong by the way....to me it means that I am learning, and that excites me quite a bit). Getting back to my point, the sidewalks were lined with people, even down the streets on all sides holding up signs for both positions. I can't stress this enough, it moves me like nothing else, when people take a stand for what they believe. It's not who your supporting or what your supporting, it's the fact that the apathy and complacency has drifted away, even if for only a moment, that moves me to tears.

For those in California, have you experienced demonstrators in intersections? I have asked a few people, but have not heard back yet.

I have put this next section in small print on purpose. It is mildly related to the post, but has little to do with it and since I don't want this blog to be a political one, I will probably never mention this again. When I was in college, both undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was this [ ] close to switching majors over to Political Science. I have a deep love for Politics, and that love has never faded. Sometimes I think about going back to school just to learn more about Poli Sci. Perhaps this is why I try not to get into political conversations, and perhaps why I get slightly irritated at people that try to be political 'shockers' rather than sharing their genuine perspective. (To understand the political 'shocker' comment, you would need to understand a bit about my past...and I would be willing to share that, but not on this blog). In short, my love for politics runs deep in my veins, so much so that I can certainly see myself getting emotionally involved in conversations, and to save myself from saying something I will regret later, I completely shy away from these types of conversations. That's it, nothing more to say. Happy voting today!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just so I didn't have to....

I came home on Wednesday night to find Shawn in the kitchen cooking dinner. Is this blog-worthy? Yeah! I do about 99% of the cooking in our small family. I love to cook and come up with new recipes, duplicate recipes from restaurants, and of course use allrecipes.com to find ideas and recipes. Most of the time I find something that looks interesting and adapt it to my taste (see the Black Olive Hummus Recipe below). I personally came up with this recipe after reviewing many recipes and techniques. And yes, I can certainly call it my own. I have found no other recipe like it. But, back to my point. Shawn was cooking Asparagus Spears with a touch of Olive Oil, salt and pepper; Snow Peas with a touch of Sesame Oil and a sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Seeds (my idea since I have an odd love for all things sesame), and of course HIS VERY own creation, a wonderful Salmon recipe. I don't remember everything he put on it, but I know the marinade had brown sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper along with some other things.

He was so sweet! He knows I'm exhausted when I get home from lecturing for four and a half hours.....yeah, you read that correctly, 4 1/2 hours of lecture twice a week. It goes by fairly quickly, but it does exhaust me. When I get home I barely want to talk because I have just talked for hours, and answered about a thousand questions. Kudos to my man for being so darn cool!

Slow Cooker Stew

I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning to cook Shawn and Jonathan breakfast (see the cast of players on the right side of my blog to understand who these people are). I wanted it done by the time Jonathan got here because they needed to get on the road ASAP. They are heading up to Donner Lake to help Mamaw and Papaw with their lake house. Every year around this time they need to weather the boat and prepare the deck for the winter. Shawn and Jonathan help them every year prepare the house for winter, then in Spring, the prepare the house for the Summer. What nice grandsons!!!! Back to my point....I got up early to shop for all the stuff I needed to make them breakfast and for the ingredients to make dinner tonight. What's for dinner??? Thanks for asking!

Crockpot Stew!!!! The picture above is partially cooked. I had sauteed the meat and onions, but those are the only two ingredients cooked. Hopefully it will cook down without spilling out, I quite overfilled the crockpot. Here's my recipe:

2-3 lbs. Stew Meat
3 Yukon Gold Potatoes - cut into 1 inch or so pieces
3 Red Potatoes - same as above
3 Celery Stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1-1 1/2 cups baby carrots
2 Onions cut into hearty chunks
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 beef bullion - large
1 Bay Leaf
2 cups of boiling water
1 Tb. parsley
1/4 - 1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 Tb. butter
4 Tb. olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 Tb. flour or cornstarch to thicken

1). Rinse meat, drain and coat with flour and seasoned salt. Brown on all sides in a pan with 3Tb. olive oil. Once browned, add to crockpot.
3). Add butter and remaining Tb. of olive oil and soften onions and garlic.
3). Deglaze pan with wine and add to crockpot.
4). Combine 2 cups of boiling water with Bullion Cube and Lipton Onion Packet, mix well and add to crockpot.
5). Add parsley to crockpot and mix.
6). Add bay leaf, carrots, celery, and potatoes to crockpot and stir.
7). Turn the crockpot on high for 30 minutes, then lower to low setting and leave for 6-8 hours.
8). Once done, you can add the slurry (water and cornstarch or flour) to thicken.

Tips: Here's one of my most important tips to cooking.....are you ready??? Are you sure??? Try to make all of your veggies and meat the same size. This should be self-explanatory, but for some it is not. When people speak of "love" in cooking, this is what comes to mind (for me anyway). Why would people say "It's cooked with love"? I personally think it's because of the amount of time someone takes to cook something, and for a dish like this, that means taking the extra time to cut everything 'right'. Why take the time too cook unless it's extraordinary. :)

The verdict: Well, as is my nature, I didn't like it. Shawn liked it quite a bit, but me, uh no! There was a flavor in it that was a bit off. Jonathan said that it needed salt. I guess I'm still on the hunt for the perfect stew recipe. :)