Monday, January 29, 2007

A New Leaf

I'm embarking on a new career. Well, OK it's not what you think. It's not a career at all, it's just something else to take up my time when I'm not working. I'm excited as it's something different for me. Last week I was voted (unanimously) to the Board of Directors for a local non-profit agency. It's a different type of agency than most in that it serves as a landlord to 19 other agencies, most of which are United Way agencies. It's called Community Services Building, Inc. We maintain and take care of the OLD state owned building. In turn, our clients pay about 50% market value for rent, get free internet and utilities, and are housed in a centralized complex. They are then able to put more of their budget towards serving their clientèle. Some of the agencies in our building are CrossRoads Headstart (benefits some of my students), Compassionate Friends, Full Circle Adult Day Care, Among Friends--for adults with developmental disabilities, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels. All of these are the types of non-profits I like to support, and have been involved with many of them or similar type agencies in past years. I'm excited, if a bit anxious. I'm used to the hands-on type service-like I show up at the hospital, wash up, and then play with kids in the emergency room for a few hours. This will involve PR, budgeting, board meetings, and some Saturdays spent doing whatever needs to be done. It's different, but an experience I'm looking forward to!

Things have been wicked busy lately, so I've pretty much fell off the cooking bandwagon. I'm all about convenience lately. I hope once I get through the next week or 2, things will settle down. Until then...

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I grew up about 10 minutes from my great-grandparents' homestead. I have many fond memories of riding horses, exploring, playing with my cousins, 2nd cousins, and 3rd cousins, mischief, and good home cooking. One of the things my cousins and I did was play in our great-grandparents' old house. At that point, it was dilapidated--no windows, mice, probably snakes, and so forth. I think we tried to sleep it one night, but got scared and went in to the house my great aunt and uncle then occupied.
Anyhow, all of this background is intended to show the house my grandpa grew up in. It was his parents, at one time his grandparents, his 2 sisters, and 1 brother. So, at the most there were 8 people living in this house.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

My freezer is getting stocked!

We were supposed to have a work potluck on Wednesday. As school was canceled, it was moved to Thursday. I really thought we'd end up back in school this week, so I defrosted my hamburger meat with plans to make Sweetnicks Cheeseburger Soup. Well, school is out again tomorrow. So, I had all this hamburger meat. I knew that whatever I made would need to be frozen, as it was 2 lbs. of meat. So, I set out to make some beef, bean and barley soup. No recipe, of course. Basically, it went something like this:
Brown meat, drain.
Saute finely chopped onion, garlic, celery, and carrots until tender.
Add 6 cups of water+ 6 tsp. of Beef Better Than Bouillon, 1 large can of pureed Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme to taste. Bring to boil.
Add browned meat and 1 1/2 cups of quick cooking barley.
Cook 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of thinly sliced mushrooms and 1 can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. Cook for 5 more minutes.
And here is a blurry picture. I think the steam was messing with my camera!

Now I need to go portion it up and put in the freezer, along with the chili I made earlier this week.

Earlier today, I was craving something fried (I blame the weather). So, I cooked up some corn fritters from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which is my favorite go to cookbook for basic recipes that I don't make everyday (pancakes, biscuits, scones, etc.) I read this cookbook almost cover to cover when I got it--it's a great kitchen resource for the beginning and experienced cook alike. The fritters are made from flour, cornmeal (I used coarse ground cornmeal that I make polenta with in place of some of the cornmeal because I wanted more crunch), baking powder, salt, sugar, milk, egg, and of course corn. I also add a few dashes of cayenne, because I like the kick of spice with the sweet corn and maple syrup that I dip them in. Yeah, so much for my eating healthy this year. Again, I blame the weather! I make these about 2x a year and never tire of them. Crunchy, spicy, sweet...they are a tasty treat.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Enough already!

Last Friday, we had freezing rain/ice pellets that lasted off and on through Sunday. Monday we were out of school for MLK day. It's now Wednesday night and we haven't been back to school. The soonest we'll go back is Friday, but then we could get 5-10 inches of snow this weekend and be out of school on Monday.
This is crazy-I don't remember having this many snow days in a row when I was a kid, and we lived out in the country. I recall a huge snowstorm when I was in kindergarten. I think they let us out early (being a stand alone school district--K-12, they could do that). Anyhow, my school bus got stuck in a big drift about a mile from our house (near where I would run the Scout into a ditch about 12 years later). This was before the time of cell phones! So, an area farmer (Mr. Standridge) brought his big John Deere to the bus and the remaining 3 or 4 students got to ride a tractor the rest of the way home. I would imagine today that there would be way too many liability concerns for us to have even looked at that tractor. Besides, with every kid having a cell phone (so it seems), we would have just called our parents and had them come get us.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spiced Beef Corn Bread Cobbler

This came together very quickly. Moist and flavorful, the spiced beef had tremendous depth of flavor with allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. The diced tomatoes gave the mixture moisture and additional flavor. The meat mixture is topped with a cheesy cornbread mixture, which is then topped with a small amount of more cheese. I used medium cheddar; I would advice using sharp because I think that flavor would really meld well with the other flavors. I added a can of black beans, which I will do in the future. I think I would add an additional can of diced tomatoes, for more moisture and flavor. All in all, this was a delicious and easy recipe to make, and perfect for a cold winter night.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ice + Cold = Soup/Chili

The ice storm that was supposed to hit this afternoon actually hit around 8:30 a.m. was in the 60s last night and now it is in the 20s. Gotta love this Oklahoma weather! We have a 3 day weekend, and once I realized I would be homebound, I decided to stock up on soup fixins. Tonight, I turned to a recipe I made last year, almost a year ago actually. Rachel's Buffalo Chicken Chili with Blue Cheese Toppers really hit the spot on this cold night. If you don't like blue cheese, I don't know that I would try this as think the blue cheese toppers really make the dish. The chili is a spicy and flavorful, slightly tomato-y, thick mixture of chicken and finely chopped vegetables. On it's own, it's OK. Once topped with the toppers, a whole new depth of flavor is added. This is actually really easy to make--I don't know why I haven't made it again. I use chicken breasts and chop them in my food processor to ensure I lean soup. I upped the amount of hot sauce--I used at least 1/2 cup of a mixture of Frank's hot sauce and Frontera brand Habanero sauce. I like it spicy! :)
I'll probably have this tomorrow and then will freeze the leftovers.
I hope to make some regular chili this weekend for the freezer, a hamburger soup, and maybe I'll do some baking as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I attended the funeral for this young man today. I didn't know him, but I know his parents. His wife is my 4th cousin (yes, when you are from a small town, you're probably related to half the people from the same town and we do keep track that far down--though I don't actually know her either).

Through my tears, I was continuously wowed as I saw his family firmly stand upon their faith that they'll see their son again, that he is watching down on them, that they would rather celebrate his 26 short years rather than dwell on the years they'll miss his physical presence. His dad spoke, with his mom by his side. His wife knowingly nodded when the pastor talked about how he died doing what he loved to do most--and who wouldn't want their life to end that way? I even saw his wife/widow (at age 26 or so--yet she was smiling) comfort another cousin (this one I know) at the cemetery. She said she was OK as she knew she'd see him again, and that she knew he was with us all even as we spoke. Again, I was just in awe of this family's faith.

The service was a beautiful testimony to his life, and of the family who love him so. I won't get this out of my mind for a while.

That's all for now. I hope to have some more cooking reviews soon. I'm supposed to go to Dallas this weekend, but an ice storm may keep me holed up in my house here. Last time I was supposed to go down there, I was snowed in. The weather isn't being kind to me lately.

Monday, January 08, 2007

More Reviews

Tonight, I made the Sweet Corn Muffins. These came together in no time and are really good! I ate one warm out of the oven. It had just the right amount of sweetness. They are moist and taste richer than they are. I really like the slight crunch of the raw sugar on top (Yes, I have a major sweettooth). I'm saving one for breakfast, and then freezing the rest. I'll make these again.

Last night, I made the Pork Schnitzel with Browned Cabbage. Um....not so good. The pork was fine, but nothing out of the ordinary--just a basic breaded lean pork chop. I didn't like the browned cabbage/noodle mixture. It just didn't wow me. I ate some and threw the rest out. I like cabbage, but maybe I don't like cooked cabbage where it's the main part? It was just really bland to me. As for the pork, I used whole wheat panko instread of breadcrumbs, and used much extra pepper--thank goodness!

So, I've now made 5 recipes from the Jan/Feb CL. I'll repeat 2 of them. I've also got some things put away in the freezer.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I wish people I know would quit dying already! By the time this week ends, I'll have attended 3 funerals over a week (provided work doesn't give me any crap). There is some solace to be found in that 2 of the funerals are for people who have lived long, full lives. Still, it's painful to see those most affected by their loss grieve, for they still must learn to go on without their loved ones. The third is for a young person, a new father, a husband, a son. Kids are supposed to outlive their parents (and grandparents) but I've seen all too often where it doesn't happen that way. I don't understand 'Why?" but don't think that would make things any easier even if I did.

For the record, the one I've already attended was for the mother of close family friends. In fact, she's the mother of the person who introduced my parents over 40 years ago. So, not family, but I owe her! We did sit with the family. She had told her sons earlier in the week that she was ready to go meet Jesus. She also told my dad she would look after 'those boys', meaning her own great grand-son who died in April '06 from ER induced complications from an asthma attack as well as my nephew Dakota. Her great grand-son Tyler was only a day or 2 older than Dakota was when Dakota passed.

My great uncle lived to be 90 years old. That's a long life, and a life well lived. He was widowed 7 years ago this month. At his 90th birthday, they made him a boob cake. I think he enjoyed it! He passed away sometime between yesterday evening and this morning, presumably peacefully in his sleep. That's the way I'd prefer to go when the time comes!

The other is for a young man who was killed in a plane crash as his plane was surveying an oil pipeline. He was married to a distant cousin of mine. I can't say that I know them, though I did see them a few months ago and see their new baby. I know his family, as they are well known and respected in the community where I grew up. His wife, now widow's family is from a branch of my dad's family tree. So sad....too young.

They say these things happen in 3s, so I hope that's it for a while.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Couple More Recipe Reviews

Butterscotch Blondies

I made these last night and threw them out today. They called for melted, slightly browned butter.The result was a gooey, heavy, almost greasy hunk of brownie that tasted like sugar, but nothing like butterscotch. Not a keeper. I also subbed 1 egg+3 whites for the egg substitute.

Polenta with Browned Butter and Mushroom Sauce

I love mushrooms. I really like polenta. Of course I love butter. However, I did not like the melding of flavors in this recipe. It was a waste of good cremini mushrooms IMO. The sauce didn't hold any of the browned butter flavor. I could really taste the lemon juice; it was too much. I did try and eat the leftovers for lunch but ended up throwing the mushroom sauce out and eating the polenta plain.

Hearty Minestrone with Barley, Sage, and Beans

I made this the other night after a long day of work (1/2 day), driving to my home town at attend a funeral, a quick trip home and then a trip to the gym and grocery, it finally getting home at 8:00. It was later than I usually would cook, but I was craving soup and this one didn't disappoint. I used a 1 1/2 cup serving size, and got 7 servings out of it. It was very filling--it packed quite a punch for the calorie count. I had some at work the next day, and I think it was even better. I froze the rest--I'm hoping this is one that is OK frozen! I used all dried herbs, upped the sage a little, added about 1/2-1 extra cups of broth because I like brothy soups. I couldn't find savoy cabbage, so subbed half white cabbage and half napa. Everything else was by the recipe.
The recipe is linked in my previous post.

Friday, January 05, 2007


OK, so I just posted reviews of 3 of the recipes listed below and lost my connection as I went to post. I'll try again later. In case you are interested, the recipes I reviewed are:

Hearty Minestrone with Barley, Sage, and Beans, Polenta with Browned Butter and Mushroom Sauce, and Buttescotch Blondies. In a nutshell, I would repeat the Minestrone but not the other two. There. That's my review.

January/February Cooking Light

(Edited to add links 1/4/07)
I've already made one recipe. I'll review it this weekend.

I got my issue today! I'm still going through it, but I am going to start keeping track of the ones I hope to make this month--there are 22 total! Wow, I don't know that I've ever found that many in one issue. I guess I should get busy cooking! I'll update this post later with recipe links, comments, and reviews of those I actually make.
My schedule is about to be crazy. Tonight I worked until almost 7, went to the gym for 70 minutes of cardio, got home at 8:45, threw together some pasta with chickpeas, 1 small piece of bacon, and a teaser of parmesan cheese. It was OK for a quick dinner, which on days like today are all I'm up for! My hope is to do better at stocking my freezer, especially with hearty soups and stews.

Main Course
Slow Cooker Beef Brisket with Beer
Rosemary Scented Lentils and Sausage
Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry with Cashew Rice
Spicy Pork Parmesan Cutlets
Pork Schnitzel with Noodles and Browned Cabbage
Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy
Falafel Pitas with Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing
Pork Medallions with Double Apple Sauce
Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia Salad
Sesame Chicken with Noodles
Black Pepper Citrus Chicken

Chunky Red Dal Soup
Hearty Minestrone with Barley, Sage, and Beans
Dal with Cumin, Ghee, and Mustard Seeds

Spinach and Kale Turnovers
Argentine Black Bean Flatbread with Chimichurri Drizzle
Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
Polenta with Browned Butter and Mushroom Sauce

Buttescotch Blondies
Spiced Shortcakes with Sauteed Pears

Blueberry Passion Fruit Smoothie
Sweet Corn Muffins