Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Appetizers

Tortellini Caprese Bites
adapted from Southern Living December 2011
note from the photo I had to adapt original recipe using ingredients that I had on hand. I used pieces of fresh mozzarella but balls would have looked closer to the picture in magazine. Lastly,I had to use 12 inch skewers because I did not have 6 inch ones. Both recipes super easy and very yummy!  
  • 1- 9-oz. package refrigerated cheese filled tortellini I used a larger package that contained both cheese and spinach tortellini for more color
  • halved grape tomatoes if large ones or whole if smaller ones
  • fresh mozzarella balls-fresh mozzarella pieces
  • 6 inch wooden skewers
  • dried basil
  • grated Parmesan cheese

  • Thread skewers alternating the ingredients
  • Place skewers in glass baking dish
  • Drizzle with Basil vinaigrette/ make your own/ choose one from store
  • Refrigerate two hours
  • Shake off vinaigrette dressing and place on serving platter
  • Grate fresh Parmesan cheese over top and sprinkle crushed dried basil

Basil Vinaigrette
makes 1-1/2 cups
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt 
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 TB. chopped fresh basil

Mini Brie Fillo
  • 1 package mini fillo shells (I used Athens brand)
  • brie cheese 
  • jelly-I purchased two kinds at a gourmet cooking shop- Strawberry Rosemary and Ginger Pear but  Fig Chutney would be another good option
  • Directions:
  • Place shells on a cookie sheet
  • Remove outside skin on Brie cheese
  • Cut in small pieces depending on how many shells cooking
  • Place small piece of cheese in each shell
  • Bake for 4 minutes 
  • Add 1 small dollop of jelly on each piece of cheese
  • Return to oven bake 2 minutes longer-serve immediately

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Notable Birthdays

Two famous writers share the same birthday today

Far away in the sunshine are my highest inspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see the beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they lead.
- Louisa May Alcott 1832-1888
Louisa Alcott began publishing poems short stories, thrillers, short stories, juvenile tales under the pen name A.M.Barnyard. Her success of Little Women gave her financial independence and a lifetime writing career of many other successful novels. Like many women of her day and class she supported the woman's suffrage and temperance movements. Unfortunately did not find a lot of personal happiness due to the caretaker demands of her impractical father and ministering to her own physical aliments.  

You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.
by C.S.Lewis 1898-1963   

C.S. Lewis was known to his family and friends as Jack. His real name was Clive Staples. He was a close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. Living at a time of secularism, C.S. Lewis was a great defender of Christianity. Some of his best-known books began as broadcast talks in which he explained the essentials of the Christian faith to a broad listening audience. 
A lover of adventure stories, he wrote three widely read novels (The Space Trilogy) about interplanetary travel. These space travel narratives were also about redemption, partly inspired by Lewis’s reading of John Milton’sParadise Lost. The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven tales for children inspired by Lewis’s interest in myth and fairy tale. Written with an underlying Christian theme, the Chronicles have been enjoyed by children and adults for generations.
He was a professor of English literature at Oxford university. He was raised on books and wide reading shaped his thoughts from childhood onwards. He had a vivid imagination and a broad education in ancient and medieval literature.
I highly recommend the movie Shadowland with Debra Winger. It is a wonderful portrayal of his brief four year marriage to Joy Gresham before she died of cancer. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Fragrant Grape Blob

"All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all: Look."
by Robert Fulghum
A Riddle
1. Comes in many colors
2. It is non-toxic and easy to make
3. It was launched in the toy market in mid 1950's
4. It is sold in over 75 countries world wide
5. More than 2 billion cans were sold between 1950 and 2005 
My Monday volunteer classroom assignment was to make play dough for a kindergarten room. One batch made four- five year olds plenty happy for their playtime.  The recipe interested me because there was no cooking involved and the smell of grape Kool-Aid was rather intriguing.
Homemade Play Dough
  • 2 packs of Kool-Aid (any flavor)
  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 3 TB. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Mix Kool-Aid, salt and flour
  • Add oil and boiling water
  • Mix and knead till mixture is smooth and does not stick to your hand
  • Store in a heavy duty freezer zip loc bag
NOTE: It will be necessary to add more flour to get right consistency
Add by tablespoons I maybe used about ½ to ¾ cup more

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Do You Do When It's Cold Out?

This question gave me pause today when I saw it on a coffee shop chalkboard. Some random answers included: bundle up and take a walk, clean house, go shopping, watch TV, surf the Internet etc. But I could relate to this one sit by a fireplace and read. So that's what I decided to do minus the roaring fire and enjoy the Sunday newspaper when I got home. A feature story Wrapped Up in Books by Laurie Hertzel (Star Tribune November 27, 2011 explored reader's recollections of favorite books received as Christmas gifts. It had me recalling books I loved reading growing up.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that followed the lives of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace that followed the adventures of Betsy Ray and her family were my favorites read many times over. Do you recall a favorite book received as a holiday or birthday gift? And what do you like to do when it is cold out? I'd love to hear from you and would post your answers anonymously.
I am sure you might also guess that I like to cook when its cold outside and even hot! So here is another recipe for your enjoyment.

A Lighter Side…Home style Green Bean Casserole
Serves 6-8
The traditional green bean casserole gets a makeover from Southern Living November 2011
Now this really caught my attention since this traditional casserole is one of my daughter’s favorite but  not one of my favorites to make. It seems way too rich in calories plus high in sodium using creamed soups and canned French-fried onion rings.
I followed the recipe but changed a few items in the topping to accommodate what I had on hand since I had already made numerous grocery runs over the holiday week. I also added parsley flakes and green onions!
We really enjoyed this makeover and even my daughter did. See what you think.
  • 1-1/2 lbs. fresh thin green beans trimmed
  • 2 TB. butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1-1/2 cups 2% milk
  • ½ cup Buttermilk (can use non-fat)
  • 1 generous tablespoon dry Ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 small box fresh white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • ½ package Caesar crouton
  • ½ cup almonds
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Cook green beans in boiling salted water covered in Dutch oven pan for about 5 minutes
  • Plunge beans into ice water to stop cooking process
  • Drain and pat dry
  • Melt 2 TB in Dutch oven over medium heat whisk constantly about I minute to make smooth and whisk in 1-1/2 cups 2% milk and stir on medium heat 3-4 minutes till thick
  • Remove from heat and whisk in buttermilk, dressing mix, spices, salt and pepper and set aside for a few minutes
  • In skillet melt 1tsp. butter and sauté onions and diced mushrooms-cook about 5 minutes
  • Toss mushroom mixture with buttermilk mixture and fold in green beans
  • Place in a greased 13 x 9 pan
  • Add chopped tomatoes
  • In a blender or food processor crumble croutons with almonds and sprinkle over green bean mixture
  • Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dinner That Got Away

At 7:30 AM I saw my turkey dinner on the run. These birds were in flight and too fast for me to catch. Lucky me, I have a back up plan in place!

President Lincoln on Oct. 3, 1863 signed The Proclamation of Thanksgiving.  He asked his own, citizens "in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." He requested prayers especially for those widowed and orphaned by the ongoing Civil War, as well as gratitude for "fruitful fields," enlarging borders of settlements, abundant mines, and a burgeoning population.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who suggested, "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude."
So if your are reading this posting from afar perhaps in a different land take some time to reflect on gratitude for those things and people in your life you are blessed with.

A few blogs back I talked about working in a kindergarten classroom making turkey candy corn cookies ( a no bake item).  I am posting the results. I had some difficulty getting the picture just right to show details. Each cookie is made with the following
  • 1 Oreo cookie
  • 5 candy corn candies (candies with orange and brown tips)
  • 1 Malted Milk Ball
  • 1 candy corn-nose (remove brown tip)
  • chocolate frosting  

  • Carefully separate the cookie
  • Place one cookie flat on table with white creme filling side  up and use it as base
  • Lay the other half cookie with white creme filling side up on working table but away from base 
  • Spread a little frosting on top of white cookie filling and carefully place five candy corn pieces on the cookie fan out candies like feathers
  • On base half cookie place a little chocolate frosting on center on white creme filling and firmly place a Malted Milk Ball towards the front
  • Behind the Malted Milk Ball place other half of cookie with candy corn feathers
  • Lastly, place a candy corn with a dab of frosting on the third candy corn feather (remove brown tip) for the nose

Have A Wonderful Day

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Are You Thankful for?

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget 
that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
by John Fitzgerald Kennedy
You never know what new thing you might find at a local coffee shop. What a clever and eye catching idea encouraging patrons to write on the chalkboard what they are thankful for this season. I am sure those two turkeys from Wilmar, MN recently pardoned by President Obama feel mighty thankful.

The following recipe is a sweet but tart sauce to serve over pork tenderloin, chicken and turkey
Cranberry-Dried Cherry Sauce
1-     12 oz. frozen container of cranberry/raspberry juice thawed
  • 1-cup water
  • 1-cup brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 2TB. cornstarch
  • 1 package of dried tart cherries (I used a product called Good Sense)
  • 1-12 oz. bag fresh cranberries (in produce dept.)
  • ¼ cup Merlot

  • Mix first 5 ingredients-reserve 1/3 cup of the liquid and set aside
  • Bring cranberry/raspberry mixture to a boil over medium heat uncovered, stirring till sugar dissolves
  • Mix cornstarch with reserve 1/3 cup of juice and add to cranberry/raspberry mixture 
  • Add cherries and cook over medium low heat for 2 minutes, mixture will thicken
  • Add cranberries and cook uncovered till berries all pop about 7 minutes on medium low heat
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in Merlot or any other dry red wine like Cabernet
  • Cool then cover and chill overnight, mixture will thicken more after being refrigerated
  • Remove cinnamon sticks before serving

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    The World According to Bella

    Field Trip
    This was a field trip fit for a queen! Climbing rocks, a picnic area with the most incredible smells and seeing my first herd of buffalo was a dream come true. I had been napping in my usual place near the window with the sun streaming through feeling toasty warm and quite sleepy after a vigorous run at the dog park. But my ears immediately perked up when I heard "Who wants to go on a field trip?" Believe me, I did not need a second invite! I leaped up and bounded toward the door. I wasn't sure exactly what field trip meant but did catch the "go" part. Since I love a car ride I leaped into the backseat in a flash just in case they changed their minds about taking me. They even had snacks for me and water. Wow this was going to be some day!
    Remember that picture posted recently of the Mississippi River? Well I must say rock climbing was just the best. My owner struggled to keep a tight rein on me. Guess they thought I might tumble off the cliffs. Up some hundred  feet made my tummy a bit queasy.  But what a great view of the mighty river. Really having four legs to climb over rocks gave me serious gripping advantage. They had nothing to worry about.
    Park sniffling was the best. I couldn't get enough of it. Seemed like my exuberance might be wearing my owner out as I tugged on the leash to go here and there. Several hours later we stopped at a place that had a pasture of a herd of buffaloes. Sure glad they were high up on a hill. Their large size seemed scary to me and they did not look one bit friendly. 
    Our last stop was a crazy sculpture park  But I was so disappointed. Lizard Lounge was closed. And I heard they had good food. But at least I got my picture taken to show you.


    Turkey Wild Rice Salad
    • 5 cups cooked wild rice
    • 2 cups chopped white turkey meat
    • 1-2 cups finely chopped celery
    • ¾ cups chopped green onion
    • 1 cup salted cashews
    • 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
    • 1 ½ -2 cups Miracle Whip
    • 1 TB. dried Tarragon
    • ! TB. dried parsley flakes
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • In a small bowl mix spices, mustard and Miracle Whip
    • In a large bowl mix wild rice, turkey, cranberries or cherries, celery and onion
    • Add Miracle Whip mixture to salad ingredients BUT only enough till moistened (if need more dressing remake in a separate bowl and halve dressing ingredients amounts)
    • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours
    • Can serve on mixed greens
    • Sprinkle cashews on top of salad right before serving

      Breaking News: Image posted from last year's ceremony WILLMAR, Minn. (AP) — Two Minnesota grown turkeys get an official send-off at Willmar High School on Monday before going to Washington to be pardoned by President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
      They come from a flock of 30 potential presidential turkeys raised and socialized by FFA members in Willmar.
      The White House tradition dates to 1947. Minnesota is the country's top turkey producer, and the lucky tom comes from the farm of National Turkey Federation Chairman Richard Huisinga, who'll present it to the first family. Four students will also travel to Washington.
      Minnesota turkeys have starred at White House pardons 11 times, most recently in 2005.

      Both birds will live out their days at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The remaining 28 will be processed and the meat donated to Willmar area food shelves.
      Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

      Friday, November 18, 2011

      Cake testing

      "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by
      the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles
      which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

      -- Booker T. Washington 
      Apple Sugar Plum Poinsettia
      This unusual variety plant with its hues of oranges and reds 
      was just too beautiful to pass up. 
      The glitzy sparkles on the leaves really caught my attention! 

      I seized the opportunity recently to test a Italian Cream Cake recipe made from scratch and another Italian Cream Cake recipe using a box mix when two separate occasions required me to bring food. The cake made from scratch took a little more work than the one using a box mix but I thought it was well worth the effort. The buttermilk cake was moist and very flavorful. But I must say the recipe using white cake mix did get great reviews when served and there were several requests for the recipe. And it was very easy to put together. Each cake was frosted with the same cream cheese frosting to which I added a couple of tablespoons of Amaretto.  The interesting thing about both recipes is that they tasted better the second day than the first. Check it out and perhaps when you have had your share of turkey leftovers you might consider an Italian themed dinner serving this cake, some Penne Ragu and a bit of Caesar salad. Oh, and don't forget that bottle of red wine!

      Cake Mix Italian Cream Cake

      Adapted from Internet:
      ·         1 box white cake mix
      ·         1 small box (3.5 oz.) vanilla pudding
      ·         ¾ cup water
      ·         ¾ cup heavy cream
      ·         4 eggs
      ·         ½ cup vegetable oil
      ·         1 cup chopped pecans
      ·         1 cup flaked coconut
      ·         Preheat oven to 350
      ·         In a large bowl mix cake mix, vanilla pudding, cream, water, eggs and oil
      ·         Beat about 2 minutes
      ·         Fold in chopped nuts and coconut
      ·         Grease a 13 x 9 pan
      ·         Bake 30-35 minutes-till center is clean using a toothpick to test
      Use recipe from below

       Italian Cream Cake
      for the more ambitious cook
      • ½ cup shortening (room temperature)
      • 1 stick of butter (room temperature)
      • 2 cups of sugar
      • 5 eggs separated and at room temperature
      • 2 cups of flour
      • 1 tsp. baking soda
      • ½ tsp. salt
      • 1 cup of buttermilk at room temperature
      • 1 cups shredded coconut
      • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour 2 cake pans (9 inch)
      • Cream butter, shortening and sugar till fluffy, add in vanilla
      • Add egg yolks 1 at a time beating well after each addition
      • Sift flour and salt
      • Add baking soda to buttermilk
      • Add the sifted ingredients in batches alternately with buttermilk mixture to egg butter mixture, ending with dry ingredients
      • In a separate bowl beat egg whites with a ½ tsp. crème of tartar beat till stiff
      • Gently fold egg whites into batter and add coconut and pecans
      • Bake cake about 25 minutes but check at 20
      • Cool cake in pans about 10 minutes and then turn onto wire rack for cooling
      • 6 oz. of cream cheese
      • ¼ cup softened butter
      • 1 tsp. of vanilla
      • 3 cups of powdered sugar
      • 2 –4 TB. light cream
      • 1 cup toasted coconut
      • ½ cup toasted pecans
      • Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla-beat till smooth
      • Add confectioner’s sugar and milk/cream as needed to get right consistency
      • Frost layer and then top layer and sides of cake and sprinkle toasted pecans and coconut
      • Refrigerate till serving
      Note: cake tastes better on second day
         Bella asked me to post this picture of her recent field trip adventure rock climbing on the banks of the Mississippi River. Look for her story: The World According To Bella in the next posting. 

        Wednesday, November 16, 2011

        Let's Talk Turkey

        I am posting a link to several creative ideas to make candy corn turkey cookies using store bought items. Since I volunteer in a school where treats can not be homemade these ideas are perfect.
        I posted a picture of the Oreo turkey cookies I will be making next week with a kindergarten class and the directions below.
         Directions for Oreo Candy Corn Turkey Cookies
        ·          7 Candy Corn
        2 Double Stuffed Oreo Cookies
        1 Whopper
        1 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
        1 Tube of black piping gel
        1 tube of white icing
        1 Yellow and red food coloring
        1 Yellow and red food coloring
        1 plastic Ziplock bag
        1 sharp knife
        1 pair of scissors
        1 bowl
        Prep:Put your Peanut Butter Cups in the fridge to cool. If you have cold hard chocolate to work with it makes it a lot easier.
        Squeeze some of the white icing into a bowl. This will be your orange. Mix red and yellow food coloring with the icing to create your desired orange. Then put that into a plastic bag and set it aside for later.
        First you will be creating the tail using 1 Oreo cookie and 6 Candy Corns. Gently, with one candy corn pull apart just one side of the Oreo. Don't don't break about the entire thing. Put a good amount of icing in between the two sides. This will help the Candy Corn stay. Place 6 Candy Corn (white side down) in between the cookie. See picture.
        Take your white icing and squeeze a generous amount onto the top back of an Oreo cookie. Take the other Oreo and put the bottom into the icing to have it stand up. If it doesn't stand, add more icing! Once you have it stand put it up against something so it doesn't fall until the icing is dry. I use a thick book.
        Remove your Peanut Butter Cup from the fridge. Take your knife and cut off the very bottem so you have a flat surface. Put icing on the bottom of it the bigger flat. Bump it up against the bottom and back of your Oreo cookies. See picture.
        Next take your Whopper and squeeze more icing on it on one side. Place the whopper on top of the Peanut Butter Cup to make your head.
        Find a piece of Candy Corn that has a nice big white end. Using your sharp knife cut the color off leaving you with the white end. Place some icing on it and stick it on your whopper as the beak to your Oreo Turkey. Hold for a moment.
        Take your icing and place two white dots as eyes. Get your tube of black piping gel and place a black dot on each eye to make them come alive.
        Grab your bag of already created orange. Cut a very small hold in the corner of the bag. Now, pipe feet.
        I would suggest having a couple of mint cups available to use instead of a peanut butter cup just in case someone has a peanut allergy
        The following recipes might be helpful for your holiday entertaining 
        Apple Cider Drink
        • 2 quarts apple cider
        • 4 cups CranRasberry drink
        • 2 TB. lemon juice
        • 2TB. honey
        • 2TB. whole cloves
        • 3 cinnamon sticks

        • Mix all ingredients
        • Simmer uncovered on low heat 1-2 hours
        • To serve discard cloves and cinnamon sticks
        Oranges with Cinnamon
        This side dish is a nice addition to a brunch menu
        • 8-10 oranges peeled and sliced 
        • 2/3 cup honey
        • 1 cup orange juice
        • 1/4 orange liqueur or brandy
        • 2 tsp. cinnamon
        • Arrange orange slices in a glass shallow dish
        • Mix honey, orange juice and cinnamon in a blender 
        • Add blender mixture to a saucepan pan and heat slowly but not to a boil
        • Whisk in orange liqueur and pour over orange slices
        • Refrigerate at least three hours 
        • To serve drain juices from orange slices
        ANSWER to Question concerning: Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup Question On Freezing
        To have best results freezing Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup and reheating for another time I would suggest omitting the potatoes from original recipe. The potatoes get rather mushy in the reheating process and lose flavor. The soup mixture with noodles can be frozen in freezer ziploc bags. To reheat remove soup from bag or container and place in saucepan on a low heat. Cover for 20 minutes. If soup is too thick can be thinned adding equal parts of chicken broth, water and 2% milk.  

          Sunday, November 13, 2011

          Chicken Soup for the Soul

          I live on good soup,
          not on fine words.
          Moliere-French playwright, director, actor

          "Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?"
          Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
          Each time I make chicken soup it makes me think of Maurice Sendak's little book Chicken Soup with Rice. The tiny volume was first published in 1962. The book has 12 rhymes and illustrations for 12 months of the year all with chicken soup as the universal theme. The rhythmic verses and repetition make the book perfect for ages 4-6. Each page ends...Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken soup with rice. 
          Taste of Home's new magazine Heartwarming Soups was one of my happy weekend purchases. There were several modifications I made to Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup. With over 150 recipes in this publication to consider trying my family will be kept busy being taste testers.
          Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup
          • ¾ cup chopped onion
          • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
          • 1 cup finely chopped celery
          • 1 small roasted Rotisserie chicken from the deli-shred meat with two forks
          • 3 TB. olive oil
          • 1TB. prepared garlic or 2 garlic cloves finely minced
          • 1/3-cup flour
          • ½ tsp. dried oregano
          • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
          • ½ tsp. provence de herbes
          • 2 TB. dried parsley flakes
          • 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth or 32 oz. container of chicken broth
          • 4 medium sized red potatoes peeled bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes drain and dice them
          • 2 cups cooked wide egg noodles
          • 1 cup evaporated fat free milk (in baking aisle)
          • In a large soup pot sauté onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil about 8 minutes
          • Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer
          • Remove from heat briefly and whisk in flour and spices
          • Return pot to stove on medium heat adding broth whisking to blend well bring mixture slowly to boil
          • Then reduce heat to low and simmer covered about 15 minutes
          • Add diced cooked potatoes, shredded chicken and cooked noodles
          • Stir in milk and simmer on low covered about 20 minutes do not let mixture boil
          Note: Soup will thicken as it sits due to potatoes and noodles absorbing the liquid –to thin add equal parts of chicken broth, water and canned milk to soup

          Friday, November 11, 2011

          Chicken Tortilla Soup

          This Mexican soup is a fairly recent incarnation. The soup is named for the fried corn tortilla strips used. It can usually be found on Mexican and Tex-Mex menus. Toppings for the soup include sour cream, avocado, cilantro and homemade tortilla chips.
          Chicken Tortilla Soup
          note there are options listed for how spicy you want to make soup
          • 3-4 cooked chicken breasts or deli rotisserie chicken works just fine (shred meat using 2 forks)
          • 4-5 TB. olive oil divided
          • 1 cup frozen corn
          • 6 cups low salt chicken broth
          • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
          • 2 jalapenos finely diced or 1-2 dried poblano chiles seeded 
          • 1 TB. minced garlic or 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
          • 1 small red onion diced
          • 1 can (14.5) fire roasted tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes with garlic, oregano,basil
          • 1 green and red pepper diced
          • 2 TB. tomato paste
          • 1-2 TB. chili powder
          • 3/4 tsp. cumin
          • 3/4 cup spicy V8 juice or Mr.&Mrs. T's Tomato Juice
          • 1 bay leaf

          • Saute in 2 TB. olive oil onion, 1-2 TB. fresh cilantro and garlic
          • Add tomato paste, tomato juice, can tomatoes, chili powder, cumin to onions and garlic
          • Add all to blender and process 1-2 minutes till smooth
          • In same fry pan saute in olive oil peppers
          • In a soup pot add tomato mixture from blender, broth, jalapeno, bay leaf, beans, corn, peppers and shredded chicken
          • Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 minutes
          • Discard bay leaf 
          • To serve add fried corn tortilla chips or in produce section of store purchase flavored tortilla chips to save time-add dollop sour cream, avocado wedges or lime slices  


          Every year specifically on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month , Americans pay tribute to all veterans living or dead who served the country honorably during war or peacetime. It was formally called Armistice Day first proclaimed a federal holiday by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919. Take time today to thank a vet for their service.

          Imagine my surprise when I saw trending on the Internet today Corduroy Appreciation Day.  It peaked my interest to read further since the beloved children's book Corduroy by Don Freeman is one of my all time favorites. I was going to help out in my daughter's kindergarten class today so the wheels were turning in my head thinking that this might just be the very book to share with her students. Well was I ever off base!!!!
          Corduroy Appreciation Day is a wacky day set up by fashion wear industry for all those who are lovers of corduroy fabrics. Now I am not making this up. It is a club/society that meets every November and January (sorry invitation only) in New York. Corduroy is made up of lots of vertical straight seams. So when you look at numbers 11-11-11 that's a lot of vertical ones on a piece of corduroy fabric. The Corduroy Appreciation Society has been meeting for six years and plans a  lot of events to celebrate this day.
          So while you were thinking maybe 11-11-11 could just be a lucky day consider going through your closet and finding your best pair of cords to wear or blazer. It might improve your luck.

          "You will never change your life until you change something
          you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your
          daily routine."

          -- John C. Maxwell 

          Thursday, November 10, 2011

          Heavenly Bites Repeated

          Blog posting for October 29th featured a recipe for Gougeres or what I call small heavenly bites. I decided they were so good and worth remaking. This go around I made some alterations/modifications. I made them larger since they are being served with soup for a dinner. The recipe makes about 20 larger ones (about a full tablespoon of batter) or 28 smaller ones. The picture posted shows the larger size. And believe me so addictive I ate two before even finishing second batch and it was only mid-morning!!!
          The following are some of my ideas to consider
          In a small bowl I mixed together 3/4 tsp. each of dry crushed Rosemary,dill weed and parsley flakes and added these spices to batter.
          In the last part of the baking instructions it calls for sprinkling reserved cheese over the gougeres and cooking less than a minute. I used my handy Microplane kitchen tool (found at kitchen stores) and grated the cheese over the tops. It worked quite well and if you do not own this tool highly recommend since it grates very finely hard cheeses like Parmesan or Gruyere. I posted a photo. So use all of the 1 cup of Gruyere cheese for the batter.
          Tomorrow will post a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe.

          Wednesday, November 9, 2011

          One Last Look At Autumn

          "Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable, the hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown
          along the street or road by a gusty wind, and the gabble of a flock of migrating geese.
          Both are warnings of chill days ahead, fireside and topcoat weather."
          -   Hal Borland

          This photo was taken on the banks of the St. Paul side of the Mississippi River looking over to the Minneapolis banks in October.

          Note in the upper header of the blog I added a new link to a blog site I had mentioned in a previous blog. I enjoy the author's insight on life in the rural southwestern part of Minnesota. She travels around the area and often uses photography to tell her stories. When you click on the link scroll down 6 lines and click on About MN Prairie Roots to read her blog. Check it out.

          The following recipe makes good use of leftover turkey assuming you haven't used it all for turkey sandwiches!

          Turkey Tetrazzini Serves 10-12

          • 4 cups cooked wild rice
          • 5 cups cooked turkey (chopped)
          • 2 ½ cups celery
          • 1 large package of white mushrooms
          • 1 TB. lemon juice
          • 1 TB. butter
          • 1 (16 oz.) jar of Alfredo sauce
          • 1- ¼ cup 2% milk
          • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
          • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
          • 1-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
          • 2 TB parsley flakes
          • 12 oz. spaghetti noodles cooked and drained
          • ½ can Golden Mushroom soup
          • 2 cups crushed (use blender or food processor) garlic-onion seasoned croutons or Caesar croutons note;I used one package
          • ¼ tsp. paprika
          • Saute chopped mushrooms, onions, celery in 3 TB. butter and set aside
          • In a bowl whisk soup, milk, nutmeg, parsley flakes,1 TB lemon juice and Alfredo sauce
          • Stir in chopped turkey, rice, shredded cheese, half of Parmesan cheese, mushroom mixture
          • Cook noodles and drain
          • Add noodles to creamed mixture and pour into a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan
          • Blend rest of Parmesan cheese, crushed croutons, paprika in food processor and sprinkle evenly over casserole
          • Bake covered at 375 for 30 minutes
          • Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer until golden brown and bubbly
          • Let set a few minutes before serving

          Sunday, November 6, 2011

          Cleaning House

          It was a painful decision but a necessary one. I deleted over half of the photos on the left side bar. As a result  many of the blogs will not have photos to go with them.  The reason photos were deleted from the blog site is it was taking too long to load and I needed to improve the speed. Hopefully this will work better.

          The Art of Conversation: Face to Face

          Conversation...a spoken interchange of thoughts and feelings.
          Source; The American Heritage Dictionary
          Imagine setting up an outdoor shop near a lake with a card table, three chairs and inviting total strangers to sit a spell and have a face to face conversation with you? Taylor Baldry of the Twin Cities area offers just that opportunity. He is on a one-man campaign to restore the art of conversation.  Taylor's ingenuity and creative approach makes his project "The Conversationalist" quite intriguing. He sets up his outside shop in a park near a lake that is popular with walkers, joggers and runners. It was sparse with a card table, tablecloth,  reading lamp, and three folding chairs. Set a short distance away from the table is a sandwich board labeled : Free Conversations. Taylor then posted a menu of possible conversation topics for people to choose from.  Some menu items include recently read books, religion, politics, favorite American Indians, love and weird dreams  He hopes to engage people to sit down and chat awhile with him. Taylor feels, "We're so engrossed in the Internet that we are in danger of forgetting what it is like to have a conversation with a friend or a stranger." Check out the link to his story Having a heart-to-heart, eye to eye by Kim Ode.
 The feature story was in the Star and Tribune November 3, 2011. The photos are by Richard Sennott.
          His novel approach to encouraging conversation in this day of having tech savvy tools at our disposal deserves  merit.  It gives us something to ponder. We often spend more time talking to a small screen with our fingers, thumbs, and even nails as we text, email and Skype our way through the day. Our dependence on technology does keep us connected but we miss out on the full experience of face to face conversations and this dependence can be a potential for misunderstandings.
          Look around you at people's body language as they often are looking down at a small screen slouched in their seats or walking along oblivious to what is really going on around them. I do find a certain amount of annoyance at people who I am talking to that are half listening because they are busy checking something on their smart phone, Droid, iPad, Nook, Kindle etc. Perhaps the art of conversation is being lost because we are not good listeners and we do not want to take the time to fully interact with others. Throughout the day we transmit in short, chunks of fragmented sentences and acronyms.
          A good face to face conversation is work and takes time. But conversations can open up new opportunities, strengthen friendships, develop business connections, show support, learn something new and a chance to exchange stories.
          The art of conversation is dying but it is not dead. If conversation is an art that can be learned like any art that  requires concentration, patience and courage as we learnn when to speak and how to listen. The art of conversation should be a worthy goal for all.
          Last but not least, had I thought of Taylor's conversationalist idea in the park I would have served food and discussed the book Heaven Is For Real  by Todd Burpo.  It is the true story of a four year old boy from Nebraska who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven and returns back. The story is told by his father Todd but often uses Colton's own words.

          Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
          ·          25 Nabisco Ginger Snaps cookies finely crushed (about 1-1/2 cups)
          ·          ½ cup chopped pecans
          ·          ¼ cup melted butter
          ·          1 tsp. cinnamon
          ·          4 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese softened
          ·          1cup sugar
          ·          1 tsp. vanilla
          ·          4 eggs
          ·          1 cup canned pumpkin puree
          ·          2 tsp. cinnamon
          ·          ¼ tsp. nutmeg
          ·          dash ground cloves
          ·          Preheat oven to 325
          ·          Mix cookies into crumbs (use a food processor) then add butter, nuts and 1 tsp. cinnamon
          ·          Press this mixture into a springform pan or a 13 x 9 pan
          ·          Beat cream cheese, ¾ cup sugar and vanilla until well blended
          ·          Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition
          ·          Reserve 1-1/2 cups of this plain batter
          ·          To remaining batter stir in rest of sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, dash cloves
          ·          Spoon half of the pumpkin batter into crust top with spoonfuls of half of the plain batter
          ·          Repeat layers and swirl with a knife bake 45-55 minutes or until center is set and cracks start to form on the top
          ·         Cool completely in pan and refrigerate at least 4 hours

          photos by Richard Sennott Star Tribune November 3, 2011  

          Cinnamon Apple Muffins

          GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...