Thursday, January 29, 2009

Here's to Good Friends, Cheers!

Me, Cathy, Josie (you can tell those two are sisters!)

Yesterday I had lunch with my longtime friend Cathy who still lives in the San Francisco Bay Area (we meant in kindergarten) and her sister Josie who now lives in New Mexico. We are sisters of the heart and it was so wonderful to be with "family." I suggested the Sheepherders Inn where we had a fabulous lunch in a wonderful, warm atmosphere. As we sipped Prosecco that I brought from our wine room, Cathy enjoyed a delicious Thai Beef Salad while Josie and I each enjoyed an equally delicious Seafood Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette on the side. The salad had large prawns, bay shrimp and scallops, with sliced avocado, hard boiled egg, tomato and cucumber on a bed of lettuce. We thoroughly enjoyed a 3 1/2 hour lunch while catching up with one another. It is always wonderful to see Cathy and the time with Josie is treasured.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eating Light - Butternut Squash

Last night I created this recipe using butternut squash. We enjoyed the combination of flavors and will make this again.

Spiced Butternut Squash with Apple Cider

1 2+ pound butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed and peeled with a vegetable peeler
1/4 - 1/3 cup apple cider
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray (optional)
1/8 - 1/4 cup brown sugar or brown sugar substitute
Ground ginger, cinnamon and coriander to taste

Cut peeled and seeded squash into about 1-inch pieces. Steam in a basket steamer until tender. arragne squash in a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Pour apple cider over and toss very gently. Spray with butter spray if desired, sprinkle with brown sugar and spices. Can sit until ready to bake. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Eating Light - Crusty Horseradish Chicken

2 large (Costco size large) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise
3/4 cup or so whole wheat bread crumbs
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup white wine

Toasted double fiber wheat bread then run through the blender to make crumbs.

On a plate mix bread crumbs and pepper.

In a bowl, stir together the horseradish, mustard and wine. Dip the chicken in the horseradish mixture until well coated. (I marinated an hour. I would even marinate longer next time. The flavor intensifies the longer it marinates.)

Roll the chicken,piece by piece in the bread crumbs to form an even coating. Gently shake off any excess.

Place the pieces in a casserole (any material but glass). Don;t let the chicken pieces touch.

Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken feels firm to the touch. 227 calories per person, 36g protein, 5 g fat, 5 g carbs, 96 mg cholesterol. This is from Wholehearted Cooking - Simple Delicious Low Fat Recipes by Terry Joyce Blonder.
**RON - you could easily make this with fish fillets or steaks.

Served tonight with cauliflower sprinkled with paprika and a strawberry sliced and fanned.

Doors Of Opportunity

Okay, so they are doors I like I can see for my house.

I love the simplicity of this pantry door and the etched picture and that it says pantry on it.

A bit hard to get a good picture. David is standing behind it trying to block the light coming through. These are special order doors, but not as badly priced as I thought. This is high on my wish list. I am sure I will be ordering this one some time soon.

I like the wine country look of this front door. After inquiring I found they are Pella custom doors and really pricey. I may have to search for a less expensive door on these same lines.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A San Francisco Treat

We also made a trip to Costco today and found they had beautiful Dungeness crabs @ $3.99 a pound. Two found their way into our cart.

Here's lookin' at you kid.

I usually have the honors (ahem) of cleaning and cracking them. David helped this evening by cracking them, but left the cleaning to me. The kitchen mallet wouldn't cut it for him. He had to go out to the garage and get his manly man hammer to do the job.

He had fun.

And made me laugh.

A man enjoying himself................

The crab was very fresh and sweet. I did manage to snatch a few bites. mmmmm, nothing like it.

And he ate every bit of the two crabs.

Restaurant Supply

This morning we made a trip to the restaurant supply store with friends Verona and Bill, Rose, Paulette and Barbara. They hadn't been before and wanted to go sometime, so we set it up to go today. We had a blast!

Two platters I picked up for family and casual dinners and get-togethers. Of course the burnt orange goes great in our house.

A platter and bowl I bought that can be used with the above two platters. These all will go with a set of olive green dishes I have with terracotta color edge trim. I am in entertaining heaven when I am in this section of the restaurant supply.

I picked up these 2 to go with 2 I have just like them. I use these on the buffet table of the annual holiday party each year. They go with everything and I use them throughout the year as well.
The kicker? Are you ready? These are all plastic. Yes! No one usually can tell, they are light so easy to carry once piled with food, and they do not chip or break. Once you purchase these you know they will out last you in this life. They are reasonably priced as well. a win-win situation.
I am still on a restaurant supply high!

Newcomer's Birthday Lucheon

Every January the monthly Newcomer luncheon is the birthday luncheon to celebrate each members special day.

There is a random draw by each month, so there is a birthday gift given to one person from every month of the year. I actually won the March birthday present this year, a beautiful plate with a rooster on it.

Lunch was a little Mexican restaurant in Elk Grove. Not the best by any means, but a reasonable place so that all members can come if they want to.

There was a large crowd and every one was in a celebratory mood.

Lots of gaiety and laughter.

I was also lucky and won the door prize which is a gorgeously deigned pitcher with a Mediterranean design. Someone had gotten a birthday gift that is a plate that matched this design. They brought it to my attention, and traded me so I could have the matching pieces. It looks beautiful in the house. I really love both pieces!

The luncheons are nice for me because I see many members that I would not see otherwise.

It's also a good time to get together with close friends for lunch out as well.

Another successful birthday luncheon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eating Light - Chicken Breasts Marsala

Here's a light recipe I created this evening for dinner. Very simple, quick to prepare, high in flavor, low in calories, fat and sodium.

Simple ingredients. They are ones I normally have on hand.

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (I think it would also be good with boneless pork loin chops)
NF Cooking spray
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
8 to 10 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (you cold use dried thyme, use less if so)
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Marsala wine (you could use sherry)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken breast cut in half lengthwise and cook on both sides browned and almost cooked through. remove from skillet.

Add the onions, garlic and mushrooms to skillet; saute about 3 minutes or until moisture evaporates. Add the flour and thyme to pan, and cook for 1 minute, stirring well. Mic chicken broth and Marsala together in a small bowl. Gradually add to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to boil. reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens. Doesn't take very long, perhaps 2 minutes.

Return the chicken breast pieces to the skillet and cook about 2 minutes, o until desired degree of doneness. Grind some pepper over the top.

I served this with mashed potatoes (no butter needed, it wasn't missed with the great taste of the mushrooms and sauce) and steamed zucchini slices.

This made 3 servings for David and I.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Erin Update - 11PM

Deb called tonight and Erin and I talked as well. She sounds great! She is glad to be home in her adjustable bed, and is very comfortable in it. Her neck bothers her some because of the way the neck brace hits the back of her head, which by the way is the Cadillac of all neck collars. It is made out of the same material that motorcycle helmets are made of! Steven of course thinks it's really cool and wants to wear it. She can start taking it off in a few days I believe it was just long enough to shower, so I am sure he will have it on then running around the house. :-)

Everyone is happy to be all together back at home. Erin is on Valium as a muscle relaxant. It makes her sleep a lot, which is most likely a good thing.

Erin did say she was going to try and blog tomorrow. She can't sit at the computer long, so she thought she would do it in short stages. Load the pictures at one sitting, and then come back to it later and in stages do the typing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Erin Update - 5:15 PM

Erin was released from the hospital earlier today and she and Rob should be arriving in Fortuna any time now. They decided to go all the way in one trip since Erin was doing well. She is looking forward to her adjustable bed and I can't blame her. amkes revoering much easier and more comfortable.

Deb durvived the birthday party this morning and Steven had a blast. When I talked to her a few minutes ago she was getting things together for Erin and Rob's homecoming, and Steven was screaming in the background, "Play with me!"

I suggested Deb have a glass of wine. She said she as planning on it!

I am sure Erin as soon as she is up to it will start making posts on her blog.

Welcome home Erin. Prayers for a speedy recovery.

A Moment in the Garden

I have had to very large bags of spring bulbs to get intot the ground and since the weather has been so unseasonably sunny and on the warmer side I decided to start the project the other day. First we took out a plant we never liked once planting it. It always seemed out of place, so out it came and left me with this area.

I dug the shape area I wanted to cram in 80 narcissi bulbs and 100 tulip bulbs, mostly all in yellow for an awsome show this spring. The narcissi bulbs were much larger than I expected and the 80 of them took most of the area I had.

Here they are. Laughing, now wouldn't this have been a much more enjoyable picture if I had snapped it before I covered the bulbs with soil?

Behind the narcissi bulbs there is another area of "stuff" that needs to be dug up. Once that is done I will cram in the 100 yellow tulip bulbs behind them. According to the bags, they are taller than the narcissi so it should make for a beautiful spot in the flower bed. It is hard to believe that we are able to be out in the yard gardening this time of the year. We need rain! Bring on the rain!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Erin Update - 8:45 PM

Erin is doing quite well and Rob was pretty sure the doctors were going to release her tomorrow from the hospital. If she moves around too much she experiences a bit of nausea and isn't eating a whole lot yet, but she is feeling good. That's all Deb really had to report tonight. Kathy has visted Erin and Rob every day which they love.

Deb is taking Steven to a birthday party tomorrow so today they went shopping for a gift for his friend. They are all doing good and survived their drive home yesterday!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Erin Update - 8:15 PM

Deb called to let us know that she and the kids arrived safely in Fortuna around 7:30 this evening. They stopped in Willits at the MacDonalds to eat and for Steven to play in the play area. He wasn;'t in any hurry to get back in the car at this point. Mackenzie does real well in the car for about 6 hours and then she has had it as well. They spent 1 1/2 hours there and then finished their trip home.

Erin is feeling good. They removed the drainage tube today so she is more comfortable. She has a pain medication drip that she can press a button when she needs some. She doesn;t like it because every time she has some she falls asleep. She opted to ween off of that and take a pain med's orally. All is fine on the Wall front.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Quest For A Healtheir Lifestyle - Update

I have decided to journal my progress in a separate blog so that those of you who are not interested in following this journey do not have too. The blog tiltle is "A Life In Progress." There is a link to the new blog to the right of this post under "Favorite Blogs." My first post on the blog explains why I have decided to take this personal journey public and share it with others.

Erin Update - 8:20 PM

Erin looks real good according to everyone that has seen her today. She is having some pain; seems her hip is bothering her more than her neck, but she is on pain med's. Kathy was able to visit with her today as well as Deb and the kids. Steven was very happy to see his Mommy, and Kathy and him had a good time together as well.

Deb and the kids are heading back to Fortuna tomorrow morning. Erin might be released as early as friday. Things are going very well at Stanford!

I am sure I do not have to say this, everyone knows for themselves, but Erin is one of the strognest, bravest women I know. I am so proud of her.

Erin Update - 12:30 PM

I just got off the phone with Deb. She is at the nanny park with Steven and Mackenzie. It turned out last night that Erin didn't have a private room yet as Rob thought, though they are still working on it. Rob ended up going to the motel very late for some sleep and back to the hospital this morning. Erin seems to be doing very well. She had a little nausea but it went away. Nothing like the last time, thank goodness. The doctors are even talking about releasing her earlier than planned. As long as she takes the drive home in stages, not all at once.

Deb will be bringing the kids to see her some time today. Erin was sleeping when she talked to Rob the last time.

Deb said she would call when she knew something more so I can pass the info on to you.

The prayers and good thoughts are working! Thank you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Erin Update - 7:30 PM

Erin's surgery went very well! She is out of recovery and in a private room. Rob will be staying there with her 24/7 as he did last time she was in the hospital. Rob said that Erin looks great. Much better than she did after the last surgery. Thank God!

Hopefully Steven will be able to see her tomorrow. It's been tough on him having Mommy back in the hospital.

I will keep you updated as I hear more.

God Bless.

On the Healthier Life-Style Quest Front

Yesterday morning I tried two classes in my quest for a healthier life-style. The first class was from 8 AM to 9 AM and it was an exercise class. There is low-impact aerobics, yoga stretches, exercises using hand weights, others using a rubber sash to work your legs and arms against the tension. There is a part of the class that you can go outside for a walk or do exercises on your own. After that we are down on the floor on mats doing a series of other exercises. I loved this class and it made me sweat and breath harder which is what I am looking for. I need to burn calories and get in better physical shape.

The second class I tried was from 9 AM to 10 AM and it was a yoga class. This class is different than most yoga classes at a gym. Breathing seemed to be the main focus of the class and they do a lot of chanting along with the yoga stretches. It was a very peaceful and meditative vibe which was nice, but it is not what I am looking for right now. I need to be up and moving. I meditate at home.

I have signed up for the exercise class. It is 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday's. I am really looking forward to it. The people in the class are very friendly. Many came up to introduce themselves. It's like a family in there. A nice atmosphere. Anyway. I plan to walk the two days between the classes and am looking at weekends being committed exercise free. I will say hoinestly that there are muscles talking to me today that I forgot I had. That's a good thing.

Snapshots of My Day

David decided he wanted to switch to AT&T U-Verse from Comcast Cable. Today was the day scheduled to hook it all up.

The guy started at 10 this morning. By noon as I walked through the house I saw this on the screen of every TV in the house. It seemed to be a problem on the other end, not with us and there was nothing the guy could do until they fixed it so he went to lunch.

This was a little before 3PM. Everything was up and running. He was just getting my Internet up for me. Poor guy. I spent the afternoon working on a variety of recipe projects so he found himself swimming in a sea of papers (recipes) at my work area.

I wanted something quick and easy to throw together for dinner this evening, that was also low-fat and healthy. So Idecided on chicken and veggie quesidillas. I used whole wheat, trans fat free tortillas, and filled them with shredded poached chicken ( put some onion and garlic in the poaching water), sliced fresh mushrooms, sliced roasted red bell peppers I had on hand in my freezer, sliced water-packed artichoke hearts and shredded mozzarella. Place all the ingredients on one half of each tortilla and fold in half to make a half moon. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, and cook the quesidillas over medium heat until they are nice and brown, the right crunch you want and the cheese is melted. They were very good and basically no time spent in the kitchen.

Cooking in the skillet.

Ready to bite into. We ate them like tacos.

Erin Update - 3:15 PM

Erin was late getting into the OR today. They didn't take her down until 1:15 this afternoon. Our friend Kathy visited with Rob this afternoon which was wonderful for him, and means a great deal to the rest of us. Thank you Kathy.

Hopefully we will know something by 7 this evening. I will post again as soon as I hear something new.

Thanks for all the prayers and good thoughts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Christmas In January

Last night Theresa, Shawn, David and I celebrated Christmas together. We took them to dinner at Celia's, a Mexican restaurant we all enjoy. Right before we left the house I crammed my camera into my purse, which I then completely forgot all about. (Slapping myself upside the head) We were having such a great time visiting and catching up with one another, I never thought of the camera again. Sigh, so there are no people pictures to share.

A beautiful album and extra matting papers to keep pictures of the boys in from T&S.

First great news, Theresa and Shawn received an offer on their house. They have until sometime Monday to go with it or not. The offer is for a little less than what they are asking but not a lot. They are meeting with the realtor today. Second great news, they believe the 4,000 sq foot house they love the floor plan of, which is on a 2 acre lot in Wilton (near Sloughhouse) is still on the market. We hope that it is and it all works out for them. This is a very exciting time for them.

Gift cards to two of David's favorite stores from T&S.

We talked a lot about what they would do with all the property in the back of the house if they got it, and how they would landscape some of the front. We talked citrus trees of many varieties and other fruit trees. A 3-hole golf course for Shawn, and maybe even a 4-season porch that one wall would open up to the patio if you wanted it to. Lots of fun thinking up ideas. We are excited to hear how this all works out for them. Prayers going up, and fingers and toes crossed!
Merry! Merry!

In the Kitchen - Canning: Recipe, Tips and Guidelines

I bought a bag of California Clementine tangerines at Costco this week and decided to can with them. My first thought was to make tangerine marmalade but didn't have enough Clementines. Next tangerine curd but found I was out of superfine sugar. So I decided to make tangerine jelly out of them instead. It's very good. It would also be good for use in cooking; such as glazing poultry, or with steamed green beans with sauteed shallots and perhaps a splash of white wine.

Here's the recipe:

Tangerine Jelly, makes 7 to 8 half-pint jars

3 2/3 cups filtered fresh tangerine juice
1/3 cup filtered fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon juice)
7 cups sugar
2 (3-ounce) pouches liquid pectin

In an 8-quart stainless steel pan, over medium heat, heat the tangerine juice and lemon juice until warm. Add the sugar and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in the entire contents of both pectin pouches. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Quickly skim off any foam (citrus make a lot, so be sure to do this well), and immediately ladle the to jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings. Process half-pint jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, pint jars for 15 minutes.

Canning Tips:

Be sure to measure the ingredients to the "T." Careful measurement of the ingredients are important to the successful and safe preservation of home-canned foods. I find I have best results when not doubling or tripling recipes. The most important thing is to make sure the balance of liquid, acid and pectin is correct or your product will not set properly.

Follow the cooking steps as written, especially the cooking temperatures is just as important to the success and preservation of your home-canned goods. Slowly melting the sugar completely and cooking long enough but not overcooking is very important. By not cooking enough, the sugar will not melt fully and you will end up with sugar crystals in your product. This can also happen when you overcook. Using too much sugar to liquid/juice will cause the same problem, but if you follow the given amounts in a recipe this should not happen. Sometimes the sugar crystals that develop on the side of the pan can get into the jars as well. Be sure to stay away from them, or remove with a damp towel. Always ladle your product into jars. Pouring can also pick up the sugar crystals on the sides of the pan and put them into your jars.

When a recipe says to skim the top of the product before putting into hot jars, be sure to do it, or it will gather at the top of your product in the jar and harden. It can look like butter in some instances. All the stirring that goes into the cooking adds air and that is what will cause the foam in the top of the food in the pot. Citrus for one makes a lot of foam.

Some soft spread recipes call for adding a very small amount of unsalted butter. This is not for flavor. It actually helps reduce the amount of air that becomes trapped in the juice when it is heated or boiled. The butter helps to release the air bubbles and minimize the amount of foam produced as the fruit cooks. Do not use salted butter, reduced-fat butter, margarine, shortening, lard or any other butter substitute. They can impart an unpleasant flavor to the soft spread, or any preserved food. Butter should never be added when making a jelly because they are prized for their crystal clarity. The fat in the butter will make the jelly cloudy.

The amount of headspace given in each recipe is very important. Always leave the exact amount of headspace called for in a recipe. The headspace allows for the expansion of the preserved food and the air in the jar during the water bath processing. During processing the contents of the jar expand and air is forced out the lid. As the air remaining inside the jar cools, it creates a vacuum, pulling the lid tight against the rim of the jar. Too much headspace, the lid may not seal properly. Too little headspace, and food may be forced out under the lid with the air, impairing the seal. Jars with poor headspace also run am increased risk of spoilage and contamination.

A Few Safety Tips I have Learned:

Never invert jars of preserved foods to seal the lids, even after water bath precessing. Turning the jars upside down in this old-fashioned way permits microscopic amounts of food or liquid to squeeze between the jar rim and the lid, allowing air and bacteria to enter the jar and causing the seal to fail.

Sealing jars with paraffin is no longer an acceptable canning method. Paraffin does not seal the jars airtight and allows dangerous spoilage agents to enter the jars and grow in the preserved food. Never use paraffin to seal a jar.

When preparing pickles, use a commercial vinegar with a minimum 5 percent acidity level. Do not use homemade vinegars for pickling, as the acidity level is unknown and may be too low to ensure safe pickling.

I know that for some people, when they have fruit that is getting over ripe they think lets can it. However, fruits or vegetables that are bruised or show signs of spoilage should not be used for canning. They may contain harmful bacteria that could contaminate your preserved foods.

While spoilage is a rare occurrence in properly prepared, sealed and stored jars of home-canned foods, it can happen. Never serve or taste the food of any jar until you have carefully inspected both the jar and its contents. When inspecting and opening jars, watch out for these dangerous signs of contamination:

* Broken seals or bulging lids
* Cloudy liquid in fruit, vegetables or pickles
* Fermentation (gas bubbles rising in liquid)
* Liquid or food leaking out from under the lid
* Contents spurting from under the seal when the jar is opened
*Mold visible on top of the food or on the underside of the lid
*Slimy or mushy food
*Unpleasant or unusual odor
* Unusual or badly discolored product

Safety Guidelines:

* To prevent accidents and avoid contamination be diligent about keeping your work area clean and clear.
* Canning jars should be kept hot until ready to use. Never ladle boiling hot preserved foods into room temperature jars, as the sudden temperature change may cause jars to break.
* The best thing to use to load and unload jars from a hot water bath a a specially designed and insulated jar lifter.
* While either filling jars with hot food or cooling the hot jars after removing from water bath, set the jars on a dish towel, wire rack or wooden board. Hot jars set on a cold counter can break from the sudden change in temperature. When a jar breaks, it shatters, sending tiny pieces of glass everywhere.
* Keep small children and pets out of the kitchen when canning. With all the pans of hot preserves and boiling water, accidents can easily happen.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Few Moments From My Day

A salad for lunch. A part of my attempt at a healthier lifestyle. I tried a store-bought salad dressing I really like. Kraft Free Caesar Italian. It has a strong enough flavor that using just a small amount flavors every piece of salad. Only 20 claories for 2 tablespoons. Good deal. I have to say that I have been eating healthier for a week now and I weighed myself yesterday morning and had GAINED two pounds. Yes you read that right! Talk about upset and disappointed. I think I figured it out though. I am not diabetic, hiowever I do have to keep my blood sugar on an even keel to lose weight. I haven't been eating much protein the last week, and I know that I need to have a little protein with each meal to keep the blood sugar on that even keel. I paid attention to that yesterday and when I weighed myself this morning I was down 1 1/2 pounds. It could be water retention s well. And lets face it. Pushing 57 doesn't help either. It gets harder and harder to lose weight the older we get.

A few Meyer lemons from the tree.

Another very foggy morning.

Once it burns off the sun is out, though the temps are on the cool side. We need rain! It looks like we might be looking at water rationing like we had in the 70's. Who can ever forget "If its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down"?!

I did a different arrangement on the piece in the front window. Nothing major, but I am happy with it.

I had the ingredients to make more mixed pepper jam. There is only one jar left from what I canned in the fall. It's been a favorite with family and friends. Hoping to get more canning down this weekend.

Jam cooking, water bath at the ready.

Finished product. Hope you all have a great weekend!