Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Greetings

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing:
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Peeps Contest and the winners are...

Well I certainly could not let this holiday weekend pass by without sharing  some of the Peeps winners. There are online 197 creative entries to view if you follow this link 
2013 Pioneer Press Peeps Contest Winners
The following is part of Richard Chin's article 3/29/13 in the Pioneer Press paper.
The Marshmallow Peep turned 60 this year.
How strange to think the Pioneer Press Marshmallow Peeps Diorama Contest has been around for about a sixth of that time.
Back when we came up with the idea in 2004 to fill some space in the Easter Sunday paper, we weren't sure any readers would go along with the concept of making dioramas populated by anthropomorphic corn syrup and gelatin. So we were delighted to receive more than 40 entries that first year.
How were we to know that the contest would grow in popularity to the point that we would get hundreds of entries per year? Or that the idea would spread to newspapers around the country, not to mention such specialty publications as the American Bar Association Journal or the University of Chicago magazine?
This year, 220 dioramas and videos vied for recognition.
Current events -- including the gay marriage debate, the use of drones in U.S. airspace, cruise ship disasters, binders full of Peeps, the closing of the downtown St. Paul Macy's and the Sandy Hook shootings -- also became dioramas this year.
Diorama makers were inspired by sports, including football, baseball, tennis, roller derby, cross-country skiing, pro wrestling and the Olympics. And by dance crazes: the Harlem Shake and Gagnam Style.
It was also a year for requiems for a snack cake. We got three versions of Peeps mourning at a funeral for the dearly departed Twinkie.
Classic tales, ranging from Frankenstein to Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Seuss, also became diorama fodder
First Place Life of Pie
Second Place Rest in Peep to Our Fellow Treat 
This diorama is a requiem for the Twinkie but when the group went to make their entry were unable to find any Twinkies in stores so had to substitute a Little Debbie Cloud treat for it :)
Third Place Bunny-Hi-Drive-In Theater  
The following are some other imaginative entries
  Peeps Hungry Games
Peeps Reading (check out the book selection) 
Peeps Gettysburg Reading
Ode To A Marshmallow Peep
by Tara
O Marshmallow Peep! O Peep of my heart!
Thy sugary goodness delights me—
Thy bright yellow outside,
Thy soft squishy inside—
Such delicate texture excites me!

O Marshmallow Peep! O Peep of my love!
Thy chicken-like shape is so dandy—
Thy soft curving tail
Thy small pointy beak—
The planet’s most marvelous candy!

O Marshmallow Peep! Oh Peep so divine!
With all of these blessings I shower thee—
But I can’t sit and stare
And admire thee there—
I’d surely much rather devour thee!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Lenten Special:Tilapia

Broiled Tilapia
Cook's notes: The following recipe has two options.  The fish is broiled with a creamy cheese coating or the other option is adding whole wheat bread crumbs to the creamy cheese coating which gives the fish more texture. Both options gave the fish an impressive flavor. It was a perfect Friday Lenten meal. 

Since my grill currently is surrounded by piles of snow firing it up was not an option.
recipe adapted from 
Serves 4
  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TB. butter softened
  • 2 TB. lite mayonnaise
  • 2 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • Old Bay seasoning (comes in a can spice section of the store) 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • optional 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with PAM
  • Place fillets on sheet and sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning
  • Turn oven to broil
  • In a bowl add cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice and spices  
  • Mix well and set aside (whole wheat bread crumbs can be added into this cheese mixture) 
  • Broil the fillets 3 minutes and then turn over and cook 3-4 minutes longer
  • Remove from oven and divide cheese mixture over the fillets and press it down into the fillets, sprinkle with almonds
  • Broil 2 more minutes and broil till topping browned but watch carefully do it does not burn
  • Use a fork to test if fish is done, fish should be flaky 

A phone call today from my daughter who in in Santa Fe with her husband on vacation was a surprise since they had only been there one day. I guess as parents we tend to think the worst with an unexpected call. They wanted us to know that last night as they were driving on the interstate they encountered thousands of people walking who were making their way to the town of  Chimayo.  According to them the sheer size of the crowd and the impressive sight of so many people walking with glow lights really made an impression on them. My daughter thought since it was Good Friday today this event would be a timely piece for my blog and interesting for others to know about. Needless to say I had to do a bit of research but found all this information quite interesting. 
Faithful Journey to Chimayo
CHIMAYO, N.M. Thousands of New Mexicans are making what’s called the most holy pilgrimage in the United States this Good Friday to a little church in Chimayo.

Pilgrims come from all over, walking for miles, traveling through the night from Espanola, Santa Fe and Albuquerque making their way to el Santuario de Chimayo a tiny shrine in northern New Mexico. They leave from their homes or their cars parked on the road side to walk 10, 20, 30 or even 100 miles to reach Chimayo in the darkness before Good Friday. Pilgrims line the highways north of Santa Fe carrying crosses and glow sticks. By Easter Sunday tens of thousands of worshipers pass through the doors of this little chapel built almost 200 years ago on a site that is sacred to many Pueblo Indians and descendants of Spanish.  El Santuario de Chimayo was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1970.
Once people arrive they file into the church offering up special intentions and touching the holy dirt, that is said to have healing powers, located inside el Santuario.
For many this pilgrimage is an annual tradition, but for some making the pilgrimage this Good Friday it’s their first time. Everyone has their own reason for making this trek. Some reasons might include: spiritual strength, remembering loved ones who have died, to pray for a safe return of loved ones, or a plea for hope to recover from an illness. 
An estimated 300,000 people are expected to visit the sanctuary throughout the year. During lent the church typically sees around 40,000 pilgrims.
This link can give you more information.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shirred Eggs

Hope you were fortunate to view the magnificent full moon the past two nights. The golden hues reminded me of a harvest moon and this poem by Emily Dickinson.
The moon was but a chin of gold
A night or two ago,
And now she turns her perfect face
Upon the world below.

Her forehead is of amplest blonde,
Her check like beryl stone,
Her eye unto the summer dew
The likest I have known.

Her lips of amber never part,
But what must be the smile
Upon her friend she could bestow, 
Were such her silver will.

And what a privilege to be
But the remotest star.
For certainly her way might pass
Beside your twinkling door. 

Her bonnet is the firmament,
The universe her shoe,
The stars the trinkets at her belt,
Her dimities of blue.

With the Easter weekend fast approaching hopefully your eggs have been dyed so attention can be focused on menu planning if you are entertaining.
Shirred Lemon Eggs
Shirred eggs, also known as baked eggs, is a dish in which eggs have been baked in a flat-bottomed dish; the name originates from the type of dish in which it was traditionally baked. It is considered a simple and reliable dish that can be easily varied and expanded upon. An alternative way of cooking is to crack the eggs into individual ramekins and cook them in a water bath,creating the French dish eggs en cocotte.
These baked eggs would be a great addition if you are doing a brunch. There are many options to vary the dish but follow the basic recipe using cream and some herbs with the egg.
  • Add grated lemon zest to top of egg before it is cooked-sprinkle with dill
  • Add salsa over egg after they are baked
  • Place a small piece of paper thin prosciutto in each ramekin and bake for 10 minutes before adding in the egg
  • Add in chopped ham, mushrooms, green onions and a little brie and then top with egg
  • Spread 1 TB. cooked spinach on bottom of ramekin-top with egg and grated Parmesan cheese 
  • Add in bacon and Swiss cheese then top with egg
Recipe adapted from "The Breakfast Book" by Marion Cunningham
Basic recipe serves 2 but can easily be increased
  • Butter for  ramekins
  • 4 TB. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 TB. grated Gouda or Gruyere cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. minced herbs such as de herbes Provence or combination of dill, parsley, thyme
  • Preheat oven to 325
  • Butter ramekins and pour 1 TB. cream in each one
  • Divide lemon zest and sprinkle over the cream and add 2TB. grated cheese to each ramekin
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Divide and pour rest of cream over the eggs and sprinkle with herbs
  • Place ramekins on a cookie sheet that has 1 inch sides
  • Bake 12-16 minutes the white should be cooked but the yolk will still be soft and a bit runny

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Swing Into Spring

One needs to keep a sense of humor this time of the year with snow and Easter on the horizon.
The peep'n craze still has me in its hold. Check out this super cute idea
and follow the link to make your own printable tops
Cherry Sprite Coolers
(half cherry juice and half Sprite)

 This is an easy idea preschoolers would love. Goldfish crackers are wrapped in cellophane and tied with green ribbon.

Spinach Goes Greek
Cook's notes: This spinach dip from Knorr is a lightened up version perfect for pre Easter dinner. And your guests will still have room for the main event. It is quite good.
1 package of Knorr vegetable mix
1/2 package of frozen spinach, thawed, microwaved and squeezed dry between paper towels
1 cup lite mayonnaise
1 can water chestnuts, drained and diced
1/4 cup diced green onions
16 oz. non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. dried dill
Mix all ingredients and chill 4-6 hours
Cut up Hawaiian bread (found in the deli) into cubes to serve with dip

Lemon-Dill Chicken Salad Stuffed Eggs-recipe adapted from
24 hard boiled eggs sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup Miracle Whip
2 green onions
1-1/2 tsp.dried parsley flakes
1-1/2 tsp.dried dill
2 TB. fresh lemon juice
1 large chicken breast cooked and shredded in food processor
salt and pepper to taste

Remove yolks from whites
Add to rest of ingredients and refrigerate at least an hour
Add mixture back to the whites, chill till serving   
optional: sprinkle finely chopped walnuts on top

Unlocking Memories

An article that I wrote on memoir writing for LRWN Blog (Lake Region Writers Network ) was posted. Check it out.
Guest blogger Sue Ready wrote "Unlocking Memories," a blog about writing life stories. It has a number of resources in it. Check it out at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
by Robert Frost March 26, 1874-January 29, 1963
Robert Frost was an American poet who was highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work reflected the rural life of New England in the early twentieth century. He was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics. He was skillful representing a wide range of human experiences in his poems. Frost received in his lifetime four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. 
At the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, January 1961, Frost (he was 86) recited "The Gift Outright" 
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Frost had planned to read another piece but the weather, wind and the glare of the sun prevented him from reading what he had written. He made a choice to recite "The Gift Outright" because he knew it by heart. 
A Citrus Twist On An Old Favorite
Blueberry Muffins
Cook's notes: Having used many different blueberry muffin recipes over the years I have come to the conclusion the following are 3 baking tips that help create a really good blueberry muffin.
  • Use buttermilk
  • Stir batter only until moistened
  • Use small blueberries
This recipe Citrus-Topped Double Blueberry Muffins comes from BHG March 2013. It caught my attention with the words twist of a sprinkle of lemon-orange sugar to add some crunch on the top
The following recipe includes my adaptations. Next time I thought I'd try adding a sprinkle of toasted coconut on top of the batter with lemon/orange/sugar mixture. 
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 6 TB. melted butter
  • 1 cup blueberries (frozen blueberries works but they are large and take up a lot of the batter try using fresh blueberries that are more on small side)
  • 1/2 cup blueberry preserves
  • 2 TB. grated orange peel (use a microplane tool)
  • 2 TB. grated lemon peel (use a microplane tool)
  • 2 TB. coarse raw turbinado sugar (regular sugar can work too )

  • Preheat oven @400
  • Line 12 muffin liners in muffin pan
  • In a bowl grate orange and lemon peel and add in 2TB. sugar-mix and spread out on a paper towel to dry out some while making rest of muffins
  • Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl
  • Make a well in center of flour mixture and set aside 
  • Whisk together in another bowl eggs, buttermilk and 6 TB melted butter
  • Add liquid mixture all at once to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy)
  • Gently fold in blueberries and set aside one cup of the muffin batter 
  • Fill each muffin cup about half full-then add 1/2 tsp. blueberry preserve in center of each muffin-then top with the remaining batter
  • Sprinkle on top of each muffin the grated orange/lemon/sugar mixture
  • Bake @400 for 18-20 minutes
  • Cool on a wire rack
Microplane Zester

Monday, March 25, 2013

Trying to Catch Spring

Macy's annual Spring flower show was definitely a "showstopper." The theme "Painted Garden" drew its inspiration from India. There was an oasis of exotic plants with breathtaking blooms and vibrant colors. What a perfect way to spend a chilly morning. One could almost imagine spring just around the corner with a step into Bombay. I enjoyed the imaginative displays and the colorful umbrellas/parasols hung upside down. 

The centerpiece of the flower show was a giant painted Indian elephant sculpture wearing a blanket made  of 20 different species of dried and fresh plant material. The elephant is bearing a howdah(Indian carriage) filled with blooming tropical plants.  

Pippa's Song

The year's at the spring
And the day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
The lark on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven-- 
All's right with the world!
by Robert Browning

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dive Into A New Book

Kauai Forest Preserve
In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, 
and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia."
Charles Lindbergh

While waiting for spring to show up (which really means for the snow to go away so I can be outside more) I thought it would be a good time to "dive into" some new book titles I have been wanting to read.

Since I recently enjoyed Stacy Cordery's  biography of Juliette Gordon Low  I was intrigued by finding her other book Alice  I know many authors have written about the outspoken, incorrigible and charming Alice Roosevelt Longworth but I personally knew very little about her. Cordery is very meticulous in her research. I learned she was given more access to the personal papers of Alice Longworth just like she had for Juliette Gordon Low than most authors in the past.
Alice occupied center stage in political and social life of the nation for 70 years. She certainly was a multidimensional woman who was charming, intelligent and quite outspoken. One aspect of Alice's life that intrigued me was while Alice was married to Longworth at the age of 41 she had a daughter Pauline. But the baby's real father was a senator named  William Borah.  Alice had a rather on and off relationship with her daughter. Pauline died in her early 30's. Alice spent the best portion of her old age raising an orphaned granddaughter named Joanne Sturn.   
The book is also a period piece of a time in history I enjoyed learning more about.

Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo has written a non-fiction book about one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds in India. She spent over three years researching the economic inequality of the people of Annawadi. Her book behind the beautiful forevers is a look at the impoverished residents of a Mambo slum that is located next to a luxury hotel and the airport. The book raises questions of economic greed, police  abuse and corruption through the eyes of the people. Boo writes a documentary that often reads like a novel. The author shows empathy for these slum residents as they strive to rise above what seems like impossible odds to me. It is one of those books where its hard to even fathom people living in such conditions. Many questions are raised after reading this well documented book. Finding answers to the questions looks to be difficult. 
Cook's notes:I have discovered that Jambalaya has its own Wikipedia website. On further reading I found out there are a variety of opinions (depends on what region you come from) on what makes a truly authentic Creole or Cajun recipe and how the dish is served either with rice in it or over rice. Lastly, how much hotness to add to the dish(Cajun seasoning) is all about personal preference. 
Options include type of sausage, rice and seasonings used and the addition of shrimp.      
The word jambalaya comes from the Provencal word jambalaia which means mish mash or mix-up.  I did find common agreement that it originated in the Caribbean and it is made with three parts: meats/shrimp, vegetables and stock with rice. 
Some of the recipes called for using a slow cooker and putting all ingredients together including uncooked chicken and sausage and cook for 4-6 hours. I opted for stove top method and cooked the sausage and chicken in advance. My thought was too much grease would be in the sauce. 
This recipes serves 6-8
I used this box of rice which added just the right amount of flavor.

  • 2 small cooked chicken breasts chopped 
  • 1 large piece of Andouille sausage cooked and sliced
  • 1 box of rice (pictured above)
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 1 can of chicken broth low sodium (14.5 oz.)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes basil, garlic, oregano (14.5 oz.)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste (3 oz.) 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 small green pepper chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared garlic (comes in a jar)
  • 4 celery ribs chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • optional 1/4 lb. cooked shrimp  
  • Saute onion, pepper, celery, garlic in 2 TB. butter 5-8 minutes or until tender
  • Add in broth, water, canned tomatoes, tomato paste. spices, chicken, sausage and box of rice 
  • Simmer on low 40 minutes (covered)
  • If adding shrimp add in last 15 minutes of cooking time
  • Be sure to remove bay leaf before serving :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Imagination Gone Wild

Despite unspring like weather I have found some ideas that will surely brighten your day. All you need is imagination.
These brightly colored Peeps on a stick I found at Target. Join the Peeps  movement that gains momentum this time of the year with a variety of fun ideas. Consider these options...
Peeps smores

Peeps in a Jar

Make homemade brownie mix and place in a ziploc bag on top of Peeps. Be sure to include directions for brownie mix.

Lemonade Peeps swizzle stick with colored sugar rimmed glasses

Peeps Mousse
It is made with chocolate pudding that is layered with Oreo cookie crumbs

Peeps Fruit Compote

Peeps Pretzel
Use frosting and sprinkles to complete the pretzel treat 

Here is a link to the Peeps website for more ideas
I always look forward to Peeps diorama contest sponsored by St.Paul Pioneer Press.
Here are some past winners from 2012
Peeps Muppets

Peepton Abbey
Peeps go to the Oscars

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 ...