Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Toast to the New Year

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.
Toast the New Year 
Chocolate Mousse
Cook’s notes: Toast the New Year with this rich, decadent and oh, so good dessert and a bubbly glass of champagne. Serve the mousse in small demitasse-like cups. Add a plate of cookies and you are ready to ring in 2018. Makes 5-6 small servings. 
  • ¾ cup chilled heavy cream 
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature 
  • ¼ cup strong coffee or espresso at room temperature 
  • dash of salt 
  • 3 tsp. sugar, divided 
  • 1/8 tsp. crème of tartar 
  • 8 oz. of good quality semi-sweet chocolate chopped or bittersweet chocolate (61-72% cacao) 
  • 2-3 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto 
  • Separate yolks and whites. 
  • Beat 3/4 cup whipping cream and refrigerate. 
  • Combine egg yolks, coffee or espresso, salt and 2 tsp. sugar in a metal bowl. 
  • Whisk ingredients and set bowl in a larger pan of simmering water. 
  • Whisk constantly until mixture is lighter in color and has doubled in volume about 6-8 minutes. 
  • Remove bowl from water and stir in chopped chocolate pieces. Whisk until chocolate is blended into egg mixture. 
  • Add in Kahlua or Amaretto, mix well and cool to room temperature. 
  • Beat egg whites in another bowl with crème of tartar and remaining 1 tsp. sugar. Beat until firm peaks form. 
  • Gently fold egg whites into whipped cream mixture. 
  • Fold egg whites/whip cream mixtures into chocolate/egg mixture. 
  • Spoon into serving cups. Top with crushed almonds or toasted coconut. 
  • Refrigerate until serving. 

...and I resolve

Clean Slate 
New Year's Day
"You know how you're supposed to come up with a list of "resolutions" at the beginning of the year to try to make yourself a better person?
Well, the problem is, it's not easy for me to think of ways to improve myself, because I'm already pretty much one of the best people I know.
So this year my resolution is to try and help OTHER people improve. But the thing I'm finding out is that some people don't really appreciate it when you're trying to be helpful.
One thing I noticed right off the bat is that the people in my family are doing a lousy job sticking to THEIR New Year's resolutions."
text from pages 1-2 of the book "Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Last Straw."

And so begins the Wimpy Kid story by Jeff Kinney. The first few pages caught my attention since the story line in the first part of the book about resolutions is quite timely as 2017 draws to a close. Mr. Kinney has written a series of books for middle grade students. His astute  humorous approach written in a diary format captures the spirit and interests of the middle school reader . The main character, a middle schooler at times appears clueless how to handle social and school situations that come his way. Since this is an age group I have worked with this series appeals to me and its a fun read.

Looking at a 2018 calendar made me think of a clean slate as a new year approaches. The January page hanging looks so clean and bare... no scribbles, scheduled appointments, events to attend, dates to remember or places to be at. A clean slate certainly is something to think about. Starting fresh has endless possibilities with chances to make some changes, new things to look forward to and just perhaps there may be some surprises awaiting each of us in 2018.

I've read that each January roughly one out of every three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. But a smaller percentage actually make good on those resolutions. The top resolutions focus on eating healthier, weight loss, more exercise, quitting smoking and saving more money. The drive to exercise more is quite evident when I am at the gym. Attendance numbers will be at an all time high in January and then after two to three months be back to normal. Why is this? Not sure since we all start out with good intentions making our resolutions but some how along the way get side tracked. Perhaps we need to have some kind of support/reward system in place to help us stick with our resolutions. If you are one who has made a resolution be sure it is a worthy one that is attainable and then work on keeping it.

Wishing all of you
Quiet wonders
That touch your soul
Many favorite memories
That make you smile 
And peace in your world 
Happy New Year

"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one." 

Brad Paisley

Friday, December 29, 2017

Parting Gifts for 2017

A belated gift to you is one of words from
One of my favorite books to be enjoyed all through the year. In a deeply moving poem, Maya Angelou inspires us to embrace the peace and promise of Christmas, so that hope and love can once again light up our holidays and the world. “Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers, look heavenward,” she writes, “and speak the word aloud. Peace.”

This poem was read by the poet at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House on December 1, 2005, Maya Angelou’s celebration of the “Glad Season” is a radiant affirmation of the goodness of life and a beautiful holiday gift for people of all faiths. Her poem was turned into this sweet little book. 


“Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem"
by Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth's tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal's, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.
Wait! There's one more gift for 2017- a New Year's brunch recipe and an orange, one of the symbols of the Chinese New Year.  It may well be just superstition, but the Chinese believe that tangerines and oranges are auspicious symbols of a better year ahead. The words for tangerine and orange in Chinese resemble the words for luck and success, respectively. Their bright color also symbolizes gold, hence the fruits have a meaning of bringing good luck and wealth. During the celebrations, tangerines and oranges are widely displayed as house decorations and exchanged as gifts. Mandarin oranges are often called Christmas oranges. So my wish for you in 2018 is one of good luck, success and happiness.
Mini Bacon, Red Pepper, Onion and Cheese Quiche 
Cook's Notes: Do your advance prep the night which includes dicing onions, peppers, ham or frying bacon. Bring ingredients to room temperature before assembling.  A 10 inch tart pan can be substituted for 4 individual tart pans. 
  • 1-15 ounce package rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust (1 crust) save other crust for another use 
  • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend or Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped smoked cooked ham or 6 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup sweet onions, diced 
  • 1- 1/2 tsp. flour 
  • 1/2 tsp. each Italian seasoning chives or parsley flakes or use fresh herbs such as basil, oregano or thyme 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk
  • 1 TB. Dijon mustard
  • Fresh herb springs, such as basil, oregano or thyme (optional)
If making one large tart you will follow the same directions. 
  • Let pie crust sit at room temperature.
  • In a blender add eggs, half and half or milk, mustard and herbs.Blend and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Fry bacon until crisp, remove and drain some of the grease. Add onions and peppers saute 2-3 minutes. Set aside on a paper towel.  
  • On a lightly floured wax paper surface, roll lightly the pie crust. Arrange 4 tart pans upside down  on pie crust. Use a pizza or pie crust wheel and roll 3/4 inch around outer rim of each pie crust. Fit each cut out in tart pan and trim excess dough from top of pans.    

  • Add bottoms back to tart pans and line each pastry shell with a double thickness of foil.  Press foil snugly around edges. 
  • Place pans on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove foil and bake 2-3 minutes longer or until pastry is set. Remove from oven and reduce oven temp to 325 degrees. 
  • In a medium bowl combine cheese, ham or bacon, peppers, onions, spices and flour. Divide mixture among 4 tart pans on baking sheet. 
  • In a blender mix eggs, half and half or milk. 
  • Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to evenly distribute liquid among the tart pans. Note there will be some extra liquid if making 4 tart pans. 
  • Sprinkle each tart with additional cheese.
  •  Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes until filling is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

for 2018
Reinstatment of Taco/Tex Mex Thursday and Healthy Friday
and more One Pan, One Sheet, and Gluten Free Recipes  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year's Eve Round-Up

Last minute Ever Ready ideas to ring in the New Year 
New Year Wishing Wands
It's not to late for creating wishing wands-this was a family favorite for us
Step by step directions

This New Year's Eve party favor from Create Craft Love (includes the FREE printable) is such cute take on the kissing thing at midnight! To make it part of your decor, you can arrange these in a basket with a large bow to greet guests.  What an easy party favor to make.

A wealth of ideas and links for  family friendly New Year's Eve activities at

A milk toast for the New Year
When the Year Grows Old
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The World According to Bella

It's wrap but I mean for Christmas. 
All the fun is coming to an end. I've eaten more than my share of cookie crumb goodies and had lots of company. Christmas morning I was up early to check on my stocking. 

I knew Santa must have come my way. During the night I heard the jingle of his bells,the ho ho of his laughter and thumps on the roof.  
 I must have been pretty good as I got 2-1/2 things from my list.
A beef flavored rawhide, sugar snap peas 
and here is where the 1/2 comes in. I requested from Santa a vacation. I was hopeful for a beach run but here's what I got
another very large rawhide and my Arizona outfit. Well, needless to say I was overwhelmed.  I didn't know where to begin on this monstrous bone. And thinking of javelinas and a long car ride...
I just went to bed.
It was all more than I could handle.
Love, Bella

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ever Ready-A Year in Review

One of my most favorite holiday cards came from my sister in law. I loved the simplicity of the message. 
Cook's notes: Presenting Some of the Best of Ever Ready 2017
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 at 2017

January-Tuna and Chickpea Pita Sandwich
February-White Chocolate Mousse in Chocolate Dessert Cups  
March-Moroccan Grilled Chicken Kabobs

April-Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake
May-Chicken Burrito Bowls
June-Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos

July-Peach Blueberry Pie

August-Butternut Squash Stew with Sausage, Beans and Rice
September-Ragu with Spaghetti Squash
October-Roasted Pears and Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries

November-Glazed Eggnog Bread
December-Christmas Seasonal Plate-Chicken with Apple Cider Sauce and Roasted Vegetable Medley and a Christmas Trifle

Cook's Notes: As I review the list of recipes its hard to even pick an all time favorite for 2017. I liked each dish for a different reason. Of all the 10 I made the Glazed Eggnog Bread with Cranberries the most.  Perhaps a total of 15 mini loaves. Chicken Burrito Bowls  won me over with such a creative simple concept having a fiesta dinner and everyone making up their own bowl. White Chocolate Mousse in these cute prepackaged dessert cups were just a decadent festive dessert. 
My hope is Ever Ready may have inspired your cooking this past year to be a bit more adventuresome trying some new dishes that have twist. I can say with great certainty my most overuse of a spice this past year was Saigon Cinnamon! 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Greetings

Assumption Church St. Paul, Minnesota
Wishing you all  the blessings of the season 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Twas the Night Before Christmas

It was on this day in 1823 that the holiday poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in New York. In recent years, there has been considerable debate as to the authorship.

According to legend, Clement Clarke Moore wrote his immortal poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," also known as "The Night Before Christmas," for his family on Christmas Eve 1822. He never intended that it be published, but a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem sometime later from Moore's children. She copied it into her album, and submitted it to the editor of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it made its first appearance in print on December 23, 1823.
Soon, the poem began to be reprinted in other newspapers, almanacs and magazines, with the first appearance in a book "The New York Book of Poetry in 1837". It was not until 1844, however, that Moore himself acknowledged authorship in a volume of his poetry entitled "Poems"published at the request of his children. One hundred and eighty years later it is the most-published, most-read, most-memorized and most-collected poem in all of Christmas literature. The poem is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today.

A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Source: "The Random House Book of Poetry for Children" (Random House Inc., 1983)
Don't forget a Santa treat with milk.
Here's a quick recipe that makes two large cookies from

 Santa Cookie
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 3 TB. light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 TB. whisked egg*
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup red and green M&Ms**
  • Green sprinkles 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (half or quarter sheet) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Place butter in a microwave safe mixing bowl. 
  • Heat in microwave until about 2/3 of the way melted (it should take roughly 20 seconds), remove and stir to melt fully.
  • To melted butter, add brown sugar, salt, 1 tablespoon egg, vanilla, flour and baking soda. Stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until well combined.
  • Mix in about 3/4 of the M&Ms. Chill dough in freezer 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (half or quarter sheet) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Divide dough into two pieces and roll into two balls. Place on a prepared baking sheet. 
  • Sprinkle remaining 1/4 of the M&Ms over top along with sprinkles if using.
  • Bake in preheated oven 12 - 13 minutes, until edges are just golden brown (cookie should appear slightly under-baked in center). 
  • Serve warm or allow to cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.
Cooking tip: 
*To get 1 TB. egg crack egg into a small bowl, whisk until yolk and white are blended, then measure out 1 TB.  Reserve remainder for another use.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Brunch Ideas

Celebrate the holidays with friends and family with these yummy dishes that can be prepared the day before. 
Overnight Eggs Benedict Casserole
Tex-Mex Brunch Cups
Overnight Bacon Breakfast Pie
Wild Rice Ham Tart
Asparagus, Bacon and Roasted Red Peppers with Swiss Cheese Strata
Cook's Notes: Fresh asparagus combined with bacon and roasted red peppers mixed with tart Swiss cheese make this a real crowd pleaser. It's an easy make ahead egg breakfast dish. 
Use a dense firm bread e.g. French or sourdough. Recipe adapted from BHG  and serves 8-10.
  • 10 strips of bacon, crisp cooked, drained and chopped 
  • 1 cup sweet onions, diced
  • 2-1/2 cups diced asparagus, cut in 2 inch lengths 
  • 1 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained, chopped and patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 8-10 cups torn bread cubes 
  • 3 cups shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. each Italian seasoning and parsley flakes

  • Lightly coat a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. 
  • Fry bacon and last few minutes add in chopped onions. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. 
  • In a medium bowl combine bacon, onions, asparagus, and red peppers.
  • Place half of the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the bacon mixture and half of the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining bread cubes, bacon mixture, and cheese.
  • In a blender beat eggs with milk, mustard, spices, salt, and cayenne pepper. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over bread mixture in dish. Using the back of a spoon, gently press down on layers to moisten all of the bread. Cover dish with plastic wrap and chill 2 hours or overnight. 
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until puffed, golden, and set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
A cherry red Cadillac marked with a Santa plate in a Faribault Walmart parking lot inspired Audrey from to interview Dave Kelly, a professional Santa since 2010. 

I thought it was a fun posting to learn about the life of a Santa. Check out her posting All photos were taken by Audrey Kletscher Helbling.

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 ...