Friday, June 11, 2010

The Urchins

The boys are growing in leaps and bounds! Justin is now 10 and is out of school next week for the summer. He can hardly wait. He will spending some time with us the end of June. Big fun awaits us all!

Jacob is now 2 and he is going through that period where he seems to always be tripping over his own feet. A split lip, a bump on the head, leg caught in a slid and sprained his knee and foot, scraped knees....poor little guy. But he just gets up and keeps going!

This happened today! Callie has already been trying to pull herself up on things to stand, and also trying to figure out how to get on her feet to stand while she is on the floor crawling. I stood her at the end of the bed, and she held on to the wood frame and she stood there by herself. then she let go with one hand and remained standing on her own. she amazes us! She's such a strong little girl.

Callie eating yogurt. Gotta love that face!

This makes David and I smile and laugh - she is so cute when she is eating. She reminds us of a baby bird. Open beak stuff food in!

Vegetable Garden Happennigs

Our shared garden with Theresa and Shawn is doing very well! The late rains and cooler temperatures were great for the leafy green vegetables. Here is some lettuce picked tender

The arugula is growing crazy good and it tastes so it!

The spinach has been doing really good too. I think it is a bit bitter raw in salad, but delicious cooked. so beautifully green....

There have also been a ton of radishes as well. So looking for everything else to be ready to pick and eat!

When Everything Falls Into Place

It's been many months since I have posted here. The biggest thing that has changed in my life is that I have become a Soldier's Angel. I have been looking for the right volunteer work for me since moving to this area 10 years ago. Soldier's Angels is the perfect fit for me!

I have 3 official adopted soldiers, 1 unofficial, and I write letters and cards to many. I have become "pen pals" with many of them as well. I also send one time care packages to many and of course I send a couple of them a month to my adopted.

To give you an idea of the work I have have done - in the past 49 days I have sent 37 care packages, 457 letters, and100 plus cards. I have heard form so many of out deployed heros and enjoy getting to know them through letters. Ecven email someitmes for those in better living condition areas.

It's intersting when you find the missing link in your life, how all the rest of it comes together. Healthier lifestyle changes not a struggle anymore. This is what has been msising in my life, and I am so glad that I learned about this organization. It has rounded out my life.

If you are interseted in being an angel to our deployed, wounded and veterans, check out this amazing organization at There is such a need out there. At lfirst I wonder if they really care about the lettersand packages I send, and then the letters and emails started coming in --"thank you for taking the time to write someone you do not know..." or "I felt like a kid on Christmas when I received your package...," "thank you for keeping me company...." "Thank you for writing me, I really enjoyed reading your letter......"

Family and friends - if you would like to help me with my work, please send me an email or leave a meessage here, and I will tell you how you can do that.
Love to you all, and I will try and kleep my blog up better!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Girl's Only Weekend - Celebrating Birthday and Friendships

Jen and teri

Jen, Dyan, Moi, Cathy, Teri

Always so much to share and catch up on!

Food, drink, talking, laughing, music, chick flick...

Kathy, Moi, Dyan

Dyan and jen

Moiu and Cathy

Fran, Dyan, Moi, Cathy, Teri
I am truly blessed with wonderful, caring, loving, REAL friends. I love you all. Thanks for making this birthday the most specvial one I have had in a long while.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spicy Stir-Fry Shrimp and Asparagus

Quick and simple to prepare, this is a great week night meal yet fir for guests. You can make it as spicy as you care to by adjusting the amount of chili paste that you use.
3/4 pound medium to large shrimp
3 cups slices fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
2 minced green onions
4 cloves minced garlic
For the sauce:
Mix 3/4 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons EACH low-sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar and Mirin (cooking sake), 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon sugar or Splenda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (Chinese chili paste), and ground ginger to your taste.
Marinate the shrimp in 1 whisked egg,mixed with 1 tablespoon Mirin (cooking sake), 1/8 teaspoon or so ground ginger (or to taste) and 1 tablespoon cornstarch, for 1 hour in the fridge.
Drain the excess marinade off the shrimp. Place your sauce, shrimp, and vegetables near the stove.
Heat some vegetable oil, perhaps a 1/4-inch, (could use peanut) in a wok and heat over medium heat. add the shrimp; slowly stir until almost opaque, not to long. Transfer to a plate; discard the oil and wipe out the pan.
Heat the pan over high heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, and green onions. (NOTE - you could use 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh ginger also, and omit the dry ginger from the marinade and the sauce), a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt.. Stir-fry about 30 seconds. add the asparagus and stir-fry until crisp tender.
Add the shrimp and sauce, and stir until the sauce is thick and the shrimp and asparagus are cooked through, perhaps 3 minutes. You can garnish with peanuts, sesame seeds or slices green onions if you wish. Serve over steamed brown or white rice. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Wine Sauce

Simple to prepare, delicious to eat. A great weeknight entree good enough for company.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
1 tablespoon butter
6 small crimini mushroom caps
1 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried onion flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano or Pamigiano
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1to 1 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth

Place breasts between sheets of wax paper and pound form the middle out with a meat mallet.

Defrost the spinach easily in the mnicrowave. Wring out all the water. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

using a nonstick skillet, heat it until hot, then add butter, mushrooms and garlic. Season with pepper, and saute about 5 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to a small food processor and pulse grind, then add to mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and grated cheese as well as the nutmeg. stir to combine the stuffing. Return the skillet to stove over medium high heat.

Place half the stuffing in each of the breasst and wrap and roll breasst over the stuffing. secure with toothpicks. Add 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan; add breasts. Brown on all sides, cooking chicken 10 to 12 minutes. The meat will cook quickly because it is thin. remove breasts; add butter to the pan and flour. Cook butter and flour for a minute, whisk in wine and reduce another minute. Whisk in broth.

If not serving immediately, return chicken to the pan. reduce heat and simmer until ready to serve. Serve breasts whole or sliced on an angle and fanned out on dinner plates. Top stuffed chicken breasts with generous spoonfuls of the sauce.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Excuse the Look

Blogger has been doing something strange with the pictures when I upload them since the first of the year. I have a set template for my blog, but for some reason it isn't staying within those settings now. So if the pictures seem strangely placed at times, or the text, it is out of my control. This think has developed a mind of it's very own!!!

Time with Callie Rose

We watched Callie Rose a few hours yesterday for Theresa and Shawn. Happy Grandad and his Callie.

Callie didn't take her morning nap at home so she had a meltdown for the first half of our time with her. We were warned this would most likely happen. She fights sleep already! I'll tell you this little girl has a apir of lungs on her and she is stubborn!

Grandad finally got her to take her bottle and she fell asleep drinking it. Grandad dozed off for a few minutes too.

Content baby girl precious and sweet!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

I decided this year to set up a small table for two in front of the fireplace to eat our Valentine's Day dinner.

I brought out my Mom and Dad's silverware to make the table settings special.

Small candles clustered to set the romantic and cozy mood.

Fun champagne flutes paired with crystal wine glasses.

Our side was roasted asparagus served at room temperature topped with shavings of reggiano-parmagiano. I garnished the asparagus with baby heirloom lettuce leaves.

The entree was lemon pasta with shrimp. David raved over it and even asked to have the leftovers for dinner tonight. David doesn't usually like to eat leftovers, so that says a lot. We had a nice bottle of red.

I'm looking forward to the leftovers tonight as well.

As the table looked when we were ready to sit down and enjoy our meal and each other.

David loves dark chocolate brownies, so I baked some earlier in the day. In over-sized margarita glasses I scooped some vanilla bean ice cream. Placed two brownies halves standing up around ice cream. Topped with dark chocolate syrup and fresh raspberries we were in chocolate heaven. (The raspberries made it healthy, right?)
I hope that everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. To my family and friends, I love you all.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Sign Spring is Coming

The sky doesn't look like it, the air doesn't feel like it, but plants in the garden know it is almost here. A bright surprise in the garden today.....

Decorated Sugar Cubes

These are so simple to make and a pretty addition to tea tables, bridal or baby showers, or for any special occasion. The small sugar flowers are available at cake shops in a variety of colors. It makes it easy to coordinate the color of flower to the color theme you are using. For example use red flowers to decorate the sugar cubes for Christmas time.
Simply buy sugar cubes, and sugar flowers of your choice. Mix powdered sugar with a tiny bit of water to make an edible paste. Place a dab of the sugar paste on top of a sugar cube, place the sugar flower on top, and push to secure to sugar cube. stand until hardened. store in an air-tight container.
To gift these, I purchase little gold boxes with clear plastic tops that will hold a dozen sugar cubes. Tie with pretty ribbon, and they make a great homemade hostess gift.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Caramel Corn

Theresa made some of this caramel corn and shared with us. It is some of the best caramel corn we have ever had. I have been making it since. easy and oh so buttery caramel delicious.

6 quarts popped corn (I use air popped, and also use 7 to 8 quarts of popped corn)

Boil for 5 minutes in a saucepan:

2 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

Remove from heat and add:

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir into popcorn in a very large bowl. Put into 2 jelly roll baking pans and bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Also switch oven position of pans every 15 minutes as well.

Cool in pans on baking racks; stir while still hot, then start using hands to break up more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Slow Cooker Madness

Last week I decided to develop a friendlier kitchen relationship with my slow cooker. It sits proudly on the shelf, day after day, year after year, even though I choose other cooking vessels over it, time and time again. Oh yes, once in a while I will choose to leave a pot roast braising all day when I am not home, or let my spaghetti sauce with meat slowly simmer. Other than that, I have willingly snubbed the slow cooker. Last week I learned it has been in it's best spot all along. On the shelf.
First off I tried making Boston Baked Beans. I soaked the Northern white beans all night, then put them in the slow cooker the following morning,covering them with homemade chicken stock, and ingredients to make one of the tastiest Boston baked beans I have ever produced. However, my slow cooker has a mind of its own and did not stand up to the test. After 8 1/2 hours of slow cooking, the beans were not tender. Let me suffice that after leaving them to cook all that night, and all the next day to dinner time once again, those damn beans never got tender. They went into the garbage.
Yesterday I decided to try one more time, this time making soup. How hard could that be for my slow cooker to step up and hit a home run? I am the optimistic one. This was more successful than the beans, but truly, I could have made it in less time in a pot on the stove. Here is the recipe as I made it in the slow cooker. It was very tasty, and I will make it again. However next time I will leave the slow cooker sitting proudly on it's shelf where it truly belongs and choose a cooking vessel I can use on my stove. Trust I will be cooking up those Boston baked beans again very soon, and they too will be cooked the good old fashioned way.
Slow Cooker Potato Cheddar Soup
Peel and slice 4 large potatoes. I suggest you slice them very thin. Slow cookers are what they boast to be - slow cooking. Put them in the slow cooker pot and pour in 1 to 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth. You can use low-salt canned chicken broth or water. Cover and cook on high for about 2 to 3 hours until the potatoes are just tender. Cold be longer. Slow Cookers also are testy.
Transfer the potatoes and the cooking liquid to a blender container (may have to do this in batches) and toss in 1 large clove garlic. Blend to a smooth consistency. If you like chunk of potato in your soup, only put two-thirds of the potatoes into blender.
Put the potato puree back into the slow cooker and stir in at least 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used an extra aged sharp white which was good, but did not add the nice orangish color of a regular cheddar), another cup of broth, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives. Cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes or so, until the soup is well heated. add extra broth at this point if the soup is too thick-do it to your liking. Get the consistency you enjoy the most. If you left 1/3 of the potato slices break them up with a fork at this point. Season with a lot of pepper. Salt if you find it necessary, however I think the cheese is salty enough. Right before serving, stir in 1 cup of sour cream, heavy cream or half and half. Myself, I used nonfat sour cream. It added the creaminess to the texture, but did not add the rich flavor real sour cream, or cream would have done. Serve in individual bowls, and top as you like - bacon pieces, crumbled cheddar...load it up with more flavor.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Day with Jacob

Jen and John needed to do some things at Jen's Dad's house Friday so they dropped Jacob off earl yin the morning. Granddad David set the train up for him. He spent the first part of the morning laughing as he watched the train go round and round and tried to feed all the cats some of his Jr. cheese puffs.

He thought the tunnel Granddad created with a dining room chair was fun.

I know this is where you turn the train on and off. When I wasn't looking, he turned the speed all the way up. The sound it made and how fast the train went scared him. He left the controls alone after that. Smart boy.

Sharing Poopie's water with him. Ugh!

Jacob then decided he wanted to rearrange my walk-in pantry. He has good taste; he started with the Ghiradelli and Scharfen Berger baking chocolate shelf.

He loves to arrange things. Also put things into a bowl, then take them out and stack them. then repeat, repeat, repeat. he spent a lot of time pouring miniature marshmallows from plastic cup to plastic cup as well.

Zooming around the house on his race car with his favorite blankie.

We took a walk to the park, and then we walked over to Auntie Theresa's house where we played out in her big backyard with Hula the pug, and Jacob had fun inside with a wind chime and Uncle Shawn's telescope. Well, looking At the telescope, not through it at this point. (I was not good at snapping pictures this time around.)

I was lagging taking pictures, and Jacob stopped and waited for me. He is too sweet. The day went by way too quickly.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Belated New YearDinner weith the Hoekman's

Jacob ate his dinner early. he was so tired from their San Diego trip he took a long nap that afternoon, and then he went to bed very early.

Steamed asparagus with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Jennifer's festive table and the food waiting for the diners.

Jen marinaded and John grilled New York steaks.

Baked Shrimp Scampi. (See recipe in post below)