Saturday, December 31, 2016



A New Year's Prayer
by Charlotte Anselmo

Thank you Lord for giving me
The brand new year ahead
Help me live the way I should
As each new day I tread.

Give me gentle wisdom

That I might help a friend
Give me strength and courage
So a shoulder I might lend.

The year ahead is empty
Help me fill it with good things
Each new day filled with joy
And the happiness it brings.

Please give the leaders of our world
A courage born of peace
That they might lead us gently
And all the fighting cease.

Please give to all upon this earth
A heart that's filled with love
A gentle happy way to live
With Your blessings from above.

The New Year lies before you,
like a spotless track of snow...
be careful how you tread on it,
for every mark will show.
Wishing you peace, joy and good health for the New Year
(photo taken New Year's Day with a light snowfall) 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Savoring Stew and Some Last Minute Ideas
Recipe links from some of my favorite food bloggers in 2016

Kid Friendly New Year's Day Breakfast 
Funfetti Pancakes
Cook's note: A fun easy way to brighten the start of the day with these pancakes. 
Southern Living Best Recipes of 2016
Asparagus Spring Onion Quiche
Two Peas and Their Pod Favorites from 2016
Readers 16 Favorite Recipes  from Gimme Some Oven
Minestrone Tortellini
Beef and Barley Stew with Roasted Winter Vegetables
Cook's notes:Warm up with comfort food in a bowl. Perfect for your New Year's Weekend. Pair the stew with thick slices of artisan bread. Recipe serves 6-8 and adapted from BHG.
Advance prep makes this recipe assembly go smoothly. 
Did You Know?-that when roasted the natural sugars in vegetables caramelize, creating loads of flavor. 
  • 1/2 cup flour 
  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 TB. olive oil or Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. each herbes de Provence and dried parsley flakes
  • 3/4 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 cups each diced carrots, celery, baby red or yellow potatoes and butternut squash or sweet potatoes  
  • 1 carton 32 oz. beef broth
  • 1 can 14.5 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 TB. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine 
  • 1/2 cup regular barley
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  
  • Dice onions and garlic set aside.
  • Dice carrots, celery, sweet potatoes or butternut squash and potatoes. Place in a bowl and add in 1-1/2 TB. olive oil, Saigon cinnamon, parsley flakes  and Herbes de Provence. Toss to coat all ingredients. 
  • Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast 20-30 minutes until vegetables are al dente. Stir once or twice.   
  • Cube meat and place flour in a zip loc bag with salt and pepper. Add in meat cubes and toss to coat. 
  • Heat soup pot with 1-1/2 TB. olive oil. Add in meat cubes and sear on all sides. Remove and set aside.  
  • To the soup pot add 1 TB. olive oil and saute onions and garlic. Add in tomato paste, water, broth,wine. sugar and bring to a boil.Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes covered. 
  • Add in roasted vegetables, meat cubes and barley. Cook on low heat 45 minutes uncovered until barley is cooked and stew thickened. If needed add more chicken or beef broth broth.   

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ever Ready-A Year in Review

Cook's notes: Presenting Some of the Best of Ever Ready 2016 
month by month favorites with recipe links
I thought you might be interested in knowing what were some of my favorites from the past year. As I scrolled through the months all I could think of was "Did I really cook all that food?" And indeed I did! It was challenging choosing which recipes to repost. Enjoy a look back

Southwestern Corn Tortilla Chorizo Quiche
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream Pie with Kahlua
Buttermilk Red Velvet Cake
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Cranberries
Asparagus with Roasted Tomatoes Feta Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Chicken with Raspberry Balsamic Glaze
Peach Blueberry Almond Crisp
Wild Rice Chicken Salad

Tomato Galette
Cedar Planks 101 Grilled Salmon
Apple Cranberry Slab Pie
Gingered Pumpkin Bisque
Baileys Irish Cream Oreo Trifle
Cranberry Pistachio and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Overnight Egg Canadian Bacon Casserole
Baileys Irish Cream Oreo Trifle! 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Winding Down-Looking Ahead

When the Year Grows Old
I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall
The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
How she disliked the cold!

by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Assumption Church in St. Paul, Minnesota held their annual Christmas concert this week. 
No matter what your faith one can appreciate the stunning interior festive with tinsel decorated trees, an abundance of poinsettias and a serene stable scene with the Holy Family. The Christmas music was superb which enhanced the message of the season in this house of worship.  
A creative idea previously posted. Be imaginative and create your own New Year Wishing Wand .

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Read Kids Classics

I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge in March.
Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this brilliant idea to encourage all ages to read children's classics. So I enjoyed reading in 2016
March "Little Prince"
April "Wind in the Willows"
May: "James and the Giant Peach"
June "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" a summer break and in
 a summer reading break 

September "Anne of Green Gables"
October "Little Women"

November "Tuck Everlasting"
and now ending 2016 ReadKidsClassic Challenge with "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." 

It is the second book in the series "Chronicles of Narnia." 
"Chronicles of Narnia" were written by C.S. Lewis also known as Clive Staples Lewis. He was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford University and Cambridge University. He is best known for his fictional work, especially "The Screwtape Letters" "Chronicles  of Narnia" and "The Space Trilogy" and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics.
 November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963
Lewis and fellow novelist R.R. Tolkien were close friends. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"a fantasy novel was published in 1950. It's the best known of the seven novels in "Chronicles of Narnia."

Some interesting trivia backstory  is that the book was inspired by three girls Margaret, Mary, and Katherine, who were evacuated from London in 1939 because of anticipated bombings and sent to live with Lewis in the countryside for a short time. This real life situation seemed to be the inspiration for the four children—Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy—being sent to live with the old Professor in the book.
It took Lewis 10 years to write the book starting in 1939 and finishing in 1949. He felt the story was floundering until he invented Aslan the Lion.

Most of the novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals, mythical creatures and a White Witch who has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. The story begins with four English children who are relocated to a large, old country house following a wartime evacuation. The youngest Lucy visits Narnia three times via the magic of a wardrobe in a spare room. All four children are together on her third visit, which verifies her fantastic claims and comprises the rest of the chapters. In Narnia, the siblings seem fit to fulfill an old prophecy and are soon adventuring both to save Narnia and their lives. Lewis wrote the book for and dedicated it to, his goddaughter Lucy Barfield who was the daughter of his dear friend Owen Barfield.

Rereading a children's classic as an adult gives a whole new perspective and appreciation for timeless well written stories. I have reread the "Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe well over a dozen times as a classroom teacher. It is one story that never gets old and I always find something new and magical when entering the enchanted land of Narnia. Here we read about great betrayal but also explore the tiny details that lead over time to that betrayal. We also see what redemption can look like – the kind of sacrifice and the type of forgiveness necessary to recover from deceit and disloyalty.

I picked the perfect time to reread during the week of Christmas since in the story Father Christmas makes an appearance in the second half story as the White Witch's magic begins to lose its strength. He brings gifts to each of the four children that will help then overthrow the White Witch's regime and fulfill the prophecy taking their rightful places on the throne at Cair Paravel.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is pretty symbolic, but not so hard to understand. I was struck by the symbolism and parallels to basic Christianity. Some readers have labeled the story a Christian allegory since Christian themes in the story are overt. Aslan, as a stand-in for  Christ, allows himself to be sacrificed by the evil White Witch and is then resurrected, which brings salvation to Narnia. This follows Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection three days later. But this is something only the reader can decide for himself or herself if the story is intended to really be a Christian allegory. It has been a much debated point.

I did like the role Aslan plays in this book because I think the ultimate sacrifice that he chooses to make shows how innately good he is. Incidentally, Aslan means "lion" in Turkish. There were four kids on a mission. Not only do they have to fight the wicked witch who froze the kingdom into the winter, but they have to conquer their fears and become the persons the kingdom wants in the end.

The book was an easy read for me and is one of those kinds of stories that you can never grow too old for. I really liked the line C.S. Lewis wrote in his dedication to Lucy, when he said, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.”

There should therefore be a time in adult life devoted to revisiting the most important books of our youth. Even if the books have remained the same (though they do change, in the light of an altered historical perspective), we have most certainly changed, and our encounter will be an entirely new thing.When you read the classics, you’re reading books that have had a pivotal role in shaping the way we read and write today. You’ll see how the classics contributed to their style, subject, and themes to literature. Classics are the milestones of our literary traditions.

Enrichment Activities
1. There are many published links that include questions, answers, study guides, lesson plans and enrichment activities for "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." Here are a few
2. Turkish delight is an old sweet, dating back to the 18th century. You may be familiar with it through the character Edmund in the novel "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." In the story, Edmund betrays his family for magical Turkish delight. This candy is traditionally flavored with rosewater, giving it a perfumed taste. 
An easy recipe to try

So in ending ReadKidsClassic Challenge I'd like to say 

to Valarie and her team at Jump Into A Book
 for inspiring me to take a second look and reread children's classics. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a cumulative song , meaning that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by "my true love" on one of the twelve days of Christmas. There are many variations in the lyrics. The lyrics given here are from Frederic Austin's 1909 publication that first established the current form of the carol. The first three verses run, in full, as follows:

On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the Second day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

On the Third day of Christmas my true love sent to me
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Subsequent verses follow the same pattern, each adding one new gift and repeating all the earlier gifts, so that each verse is one line longer than its predecessor:4 Calling Birds. 5 Gold Rings, 6 Geese a -Laying, 7 Swans a-Swimming. 8 Maids a-Milking, 9 Ladies -a Dancing. 10 Lords a-Leaping, 11. Pipers Piping, 12. Drummers Drumming
Comice Pears

Cook's Notes: 
So this lyrical tune "12 Days of Christmas" danced in my head with a  recent gift of these gorgeous Comice Pears, from my dear neighbor, Nita. The presentation of these 6 foil wrapped pears all nestled in a box from Harry & David was a stunner. It was a difficult decision to even eat them.

After some sleuthing I found out Comice pears are known as the sweetest and juiciest of all of the European pear varieties. Because of the desirability and timing, Comice pears have earned the moniker “Christmas pear” ending up in fruit baskets with other flavors of the holiday season. They are the pinnacle variety of pears.

Sweet and soft-fleshed Comice pears are best eaten as a fresh fruit as they don’t hold up well for cooking. Comice pears go well with creamy Brie, Camembert or Blue cheeses on a cheese plate, or adding pear slices to enhance watercress or spinach salads. The delicate skin of a Comice pear can bruise or tear easily. To store, keep at room temperature. Refrigerate ripe fruit for only a day or two. 

On another pear note Cooking tip: When you need pears to hold their shape in a recipe choose firmer varieties like Bosc, Anjou, or Concorde. Softer varieties like Bartlett and Comice are better for snacking and smoothies. 

Pork Loin with Cinnamon Maple Roasted Pears with Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries
Cook notes: Bosc pears were used for the recipe. The sweet potatoes need a 10 minute lead time for cooking before adding pork, pears and cranberries. Recipe serves four.  
  • 4 boneless pork loin 
  • 1/4 tsp. each sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 TB. olive oil or Orange Olive Oil
  • 3 medium pears, divided 
  •  1 large sweet potato, peeled, sliced then halved and quartered
  • 1/2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon or 1 tsp. regular ground cinnamon  
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into chunks 
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 3 TB. pure maple syrup
  • 3 TB. peach or apricot preserves
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon or 1/8 tsp.  Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Optional garnish chopped pistachios
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl place sweet potato pieces, two pears peeled and diced, cinnamon and olive oil. Coat sweet potatoes and diced pears with cinnamon and olive oil. Place on one side of rimmed baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. 
  • Cut each pork loin in half so it will cook faster.
  • Remove baking sheet from oven and place meat on other side. Arrange onion chunks around meat. Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper and herbes de provence. 
  • Stir sweet potatoes and bake the meat, pears and sweet potatoes 20 minutes. Add in cranberries, turn meat over baking 10 minutes longer or until meat and sweet potatoes are done. 
  • While mixture is roasting make the pear sauce. In a saucepan melt butter, adding in maple syrup, preserves, cinnamon and one pear peeled and diced.  Cook covered, about 3 minutes or just until pears are tender, occasionally spooning sauce over diced pear. 
  • To serve pour pear sauce over cooked meat serving with a side of roasted pears and sweet potatoes.  Optional adding chopped pistachios as a garnish.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Brunch

Enjoy a holiday brunch from Ever Ready
Overnight Eggs Benedict Casserole with Asparagus
Cook’s notes: This recipe is perfect for a special brunch, a holiday meal and overnight guests. It is prepared the day before, refrigerated and cooked the next day. How easy is that! It’s a decadent splurge meal when topped with a creamy Hollandaise sauce but oh, so good. English muffins are cut into pieces and layered with lots of chopped Canadian bacon and asparagus. Recipe serves six, 
Knorrs Hollandaise Sauce packet is a great shortcut (timesaver) to making a homemade sauce. Follow packet directions and add in 1 TB. fresh lemon juice.
  • 6 English muffins, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages Canadian bacon, cut into small cubes (I used Canadian bacon that was not sliced as it is easier to cube. Ham steak cubes could be substituted)   
  • 1½ cups fresh asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces
  • ¼ cup diced green onions
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole or 2% milk not skim ( I used 1 cup 2% and 1 cup half and half)
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 TB. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. each chives and parsley flakes
  • 1 (1.25-ounce) packet of hollandaise sauce mix made according to package directions, adding in 1 TB. lemon juice 
  • Grease well a 3 qt. baking dish and cube English muffins and Canadian bacon.
  • Dice green onions and cut asparagus into 2 inch pieces.
  • Spread half English muffin cubes evenly in baking dish. Layer half the Canadian bacon cubes, green onions and asparagus pieces over the muffin cubes. Sprinkle half of the Swiss cheese over this mixture. Repeat layers in same order ending with grated Swiss cheese. 
  • In a blender add in eggs, milk, salt, pepper, spices, salt and pepper and mustard. Mix well. 
  • Pour milk evenly over casserole dish. Press down cubes into milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Bring casserole to room temperature about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes, uncover and cook 8-10 minutes longer.
  • Serve warm with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce.
Homemade Hollandaise Sauce Ingredients:
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Whisk together until well blended. Bring to a slow boil on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally and then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened.

Winter Citrus Fruit Salad
Cranberry-Orange Mimosas are deliciously sweet and perfect for a holiday celebration!
Recipe from and serves four


  • 1 bottle champagne
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup cranberry juice
  • ¼ cup Triple Sec or Orange Liqueur
  • fresh frozen cranberries
  • Combine all ingredients; divide equally among champagne glasses.
For an individual drink:
  • ¾ cup champagne
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 TB. cranberry juice
  • 1 TB. Triple Sec or Orange Liqueur
  • fresh frozen cranberries

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Yule Log

read all about TV's history of the annual music which begins on Christmas Eve at
From Ever Ready

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 ...