Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Yummy, Easy, Festive, Fun!

Here's a wonderful recipe I found while websurfing the other day. Shortcuts abound! And who doesn't need shortcuts in December? And they will be so cute on the cookie trays.

Christmas Tree Brownies

Here is an easy recipe from Betty Crocker for Christmas Tree Brownies:

1. 1 box brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch)

2. Water, vegetable oil and eggs (specified on brownie box)

3. 2 or 3 drops green food color

4. 1 cup vanilla frosting (from 1-lb container)

5. Decorating Decors red and green candy sprinkles or miniature candy-

coated chocolate baking bits

6. Miniature candy canes (2 inch), unwrapped

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil so foil extends about 2

inches over short sides of pan. Grease bottom only of foil with cooking

spray or shortening.

2. Make and bake brownie mix as directed on box for 13x9-inch pan, using

water, oil and eggs. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Remove brownie from

pan by lifting foil; peel foil away. To cut brownie into triangles, cut

lengthwise into 3 rows. Cut each row into 7 triangles. Save

smaller pieces for snacking.

3. Stir food color into frosting. Spoon frosting into small resealable food-

storage plastic bag; partially seal bag. Cut off tiny bottom corner of bag.

Squeeze bag to pipe frosting over brownies. Sprinkle with decors.

4. Break off curved end of candy cane; insert straight piece into bottoms of

triangles to make tree trunks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Turkey Day!

Hope you and yours out there in the blogosphere have a most wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Contribution

Yum....best eating day of the year is just around the corner! My family will be treated to turkey dinner with all the trimmings at my sister's house. And we'll get to spend time with some relatives that we ONLY see on Thanksgiving! Old traditions will carry on and new ones will be made. Belts will be loosened, football games will be watched by some, family stories will be recalled by others and for the day, old grudges will be forgotten!

Each year I bring two pies and a veggie casserole to the gathering--much easier than preparing the whole meal, n'est pas? These may vary from year to year, but most often it is broccoli rice casserole, pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

This broccoli rice casserole is a recipe I came across way back in the 60s or 70s--an oldie but goodie for sure. Over the years I have simplified it. It does use convenience foods--which I try very hard to avoid in my day-to-day cooking, who needs all that sodium-- and the microwave. I guess I rationalize that with the fact that I have to get out the door by 11AM to make the hour's drive. I just need to "git-er-done"! They still taste amazing!

Broccoli Rice Casserole In a small glass bowl soften 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion in 1/4 cup unsalted butter in the microwave. Cook a bag of Success Rice according to package directions. In a large oven safe casserole dish cook 24 oz. chopped frozen broccoli in the microwave, according to package directions. Drain excess water from broccoli, then add the onion, rice, 1 can cream of celery soup and 1 small jar Cheez Whiz. Stir, then bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. To keep the casserole warm while transporting, I use my old trusty quilted casserole carrier--it works!

If there is a better recipe for pumpkin pie than the one on the Libby's label, I have not found it.

Libby's Pumpkin Pie In a small bowl mix 3/4 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 t ground cinnamon, 1/2 t ground ginger, 1/4 t ground cloves. Beat 2 large eggs in a large bowl. Stir in 1 15 oz. can pumpkin and the sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk. Pour into an unbaked deep-dish (4 cup volume) pie crust. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce temp to 350 degrees and bake 40 - 50 minutes more or till knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Cool completely. Serve with whipped cream.

This pecan pie recipe dates way back, too. I found it in the old Dear Abby column one year and it has been my go-to pecan pie recipe ever since.

Dear Abby's Kentucky Pecan Pie In a large mixing bowl combine 1 cup white corn syrup, 1 cup dark brown sugar--firmly packed, 1/3 t salt, 1/3 cup melted butter and 1 t vanilla. Add 3 slightly beaten eggs. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle 1 heaping cup pecan halves over all. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 45 - 50 minutes. Cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Food, family, fun--what could be better?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

So glad to see the number 11 getting a little respect today! Other than players on a football team, a lucky first roll of the dice and pipers piping, what else is special about 11? Well, today is ALL about 11!
It seems that 11's neighbors--10 & 12--get all the glory! Ten cents in a dime, 10 dimes in a dollar, 10 bowling pins, 10 fingers, 10 toes, Ten Commandments, 10 digits in a phone number, 10 hotdogs, Bo Derek's rating, basis for our number system, little Indians, Letterman's list. Twelve anniversary roses, 12 eggs in a carton, donuts in a Krispy Kreme box, days of Christmas, apostles, jury members, inches in a foot, signs of the Zodiac, highest grade in high school, hours on a clock face, knights of the Round Table, tribes of Israel...well, you get the picture! It is high time Eleven got its due! Maybe you can add to the list of things that come in elevens...

But of course, today the most important thing about 11 is Veterans Day. I so appreciate those who have served or are serving our country so that we can enjoy freedoms. To them and their families, I say Thank You, you are appreciated!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recent Reads

I am trying to make this here blog'o mine more of a chronicle of my days. That definitely includes reading. I say this as a disclaimer to those who maybe have absolutely no interest in what I read!!!! If you're in that category, please move right along to the next blog!

Kindling right along...some of the books I've been reading...

The authorized biography of Steve Jobs is a fascinating look at the perfectionist/genius who was not a very nice person to be around. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the early days of Apple Computer (now called just Apple) as I have been a longtime fan of Apple products. But I was disappointed to learn how he treated people in his life--friends, coworkers, business associates, business rivals--even family members. Having been given away for adoption as an infant seemed to cast a sadness or longing over his early years. He did later unite with some birth family members--never his biological dad. His eating obsessions were interesting as were his hippie background and spiritual searches. An insightful look into what made the man tick.

The biological sister that Jobs discovered turned out to be Mona Simpson, a talented author and success in her own right. Talent must have just run in that family! Of course, I had to read one of her books. Anywhere But Here was Simpson's fictional novel seemingly based on her own mother's irresponsible rearing of her. It followed their life from Wisconsin to LA and the half-hearted attempt to get the daughter into show biz. It was quite a ride.

One of my favorite books from last year was Winter's Bone, a novel set in the Missouri Ozarks, rife with a mystery killing, meth users and a strong teenaged heroine who needs to discover what happened to her dad--while helping to raise her younger siblings. When I saw this book, The Outlaw Album, by the same author and set again in the Ozarks, well, I had to read it too. It is a series of short stories about people who do absolutely horrible things--but as always, there are two sides to every story. The stories really make one stop and think and consider people's choices in life, no matter how evil they may seem on the surface.

On a whim, I decided to download The Mill River Recluse, a book that had become a bestseller on Kindle. It was very different. The heroine is an elderly lady who is dying from cancer and the story relates her tragic life that led to her becoming a recluse. She became quite wealthy and secretly used her money to help the townspeople who had stories of their own.

I love novels that have a food element. A Homemade Life was a dandy! Molly Wizenberg recounts her life with family and food and how she decided to quit graduate school and go to Paris. It turned out that I had been reading her blog, Orangette, for a while and had not put two and two together!!!

Change of pace...two J. A. Jance mystery novels featuring J. P. Beaumont. Always good for some laughs and some thrills and some plot twists!

The Kite Runner was one of those highly acclaimed novels from a few years back that I never got around to reading. Thanks to Amazon's vast library of books for Kindle, it is easy to go back and catch up with some great books I missed first time around! I can see why The Kite Runner spent over five years on the NY Times bestseller list. It was a wonderful look at a culture I knew nothing about--Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet invasion. It is about two boys growing up in Kabul in the same house but with very different experiences. It is about love and friendship and betrayal and hope. Khaled Hosseini painted a very beautiful but stark picture.

Currently I am absorbed in John Grisham's newest legal romp, The Litigators. I have read a ton of Grisham's books and have found that he can usually keep me rapt. He did go through a period for a while where he got so bogged down with tangential information in his novels that I gave up on him for a while. Happily--I returned and am so glad I did. This book seems lighter and faster-paced. A burned-out lawyer joins a small ambulancing chasing, hospital haunting two-man team of injury case attorneys. The change of pace and lowering of salary leads to some interesting, tragic and comic experiences. Can't wait to finish it!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Mmmmm....Cornbread Dressing

My sister and I have settled in to a nice pattern: she hosts the family Thanksgiving dinner and I have the Christmas dinner. We each bring items to the other's get-togethers. It works! The only regret I have every year is lack of leftovers. So... I sometimes make Thanksgiving Day wannabes the weekend after the fourth Thursday of November. A pumpkin pie here, a turkey breast there and my favorite dressing, Best Cornbread Dressing!

In a huge bowl combine a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix with a pan of cornbread, crumbled. Set aside. Saute 2 small chopped yellow onions and 4 or 5 stalks celery, chopped, till soft. Add a squirt of garlic paste (about 5 ") and saute a minute longer. Season with house seasoning (mine is Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder). Add to the bread mix and stir in about 6 cups unsalted chicken stock (or turkey stock if you can find it!). The mixture should be almost soupy. Stir in 2 beaten eggs. Spread into a sprayed 9x13 oven dish. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 20 minutes. Then cover with foil and bake another 25 minutes or until desired doneness is achieved.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Evening In the Country

Situated some 40 miles from KC is the tiny town of Rayville, MO, population 204. Gorgeous rolling countryside, pretty farms with horses, cows and mules watching the cars go by and home to Van Till Farm & Winery, this little burg was our destination for Friday evening.

A pair of beautiful matched mules, along with a sleek black horse, welcomed us from across the road.
Inside the winery we tasted a few wines. Grapes grown and wine made on the premises, delicious! Next we placed our order for pizza that would be cooked in this wonderful brick wood-fired oven.
Again--delicious!!! We ate our pizza paired with a semi-dry red wine and listened to mellow guitar music on the covered patio. It was a good way to wind down the week!

We had our "Wine Passport" stamped and purchased a bottle of Missouri Chambourcin to bring home.

The most amazing sunset ever--mauvey lavenders, rosy pinks, slatey grays and harvest golds--lit our way out past the vineyards.

Small family-owned wineries have been popping up all across Missouri. At first I wondered how grapes could be grown on a large scale here, given our harsh winters. Turns out there are several hardy varieties that flourish quite well. In fact, we even have a state grape--the Norton! Who knew? Also, prior to Prohibition, Missouri produced over two million gallons of wine a year, second in the nation in wine production. Missouri has over 90 wineries across the state--and growing! The Missouri Wine and Grape Board has provided a booklet for finding them all--and a passport to get stamped upon visiting. So many stamps in the passport=a small prize!!! So glad red wine is heart-healthy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Funny

Can't resist a cute cat photo!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Had Me At Caramelized Onions

I so love caramelized onions. One of our favorite little restaurants is a 50s style diner that lets you order caramelized onions--on the side--for a quarter!!! Love to pile them on a burger. Making them at home is so easy and they can be used in so many ways--as well as scarfing them down with a spoon! Use them in French onion soup, on the side of a meat entree, in sandwiches--no end to their uses.

Caramelized Onions

1 large sweet yellow onion

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

House season (Kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper, garlic powder, onion


1/4 low-sodium cup beef broth

Heat butter, olive oil and worcestershire sauce in a medium skillet

over medium heat. Cut the onion in half, then thinly slice each half.

Add onion slices, separating the layers, into the skillet. Season with

House season and stir well.

Continue cooking the onion over medium heat, stirring every 2-3

minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown and soften. If the slices

begin to stick to the pan or burn, add splashes of beef broth to

moisten. Continue cooking until onions are deep brown and soft, about

30 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY. If the onions burn, toss out and

start over!!!! Experience speaking here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering Mom

October 26th would have been my mom's 95th birthday. She passed away at age 81 and I still miss her everyday. Times were hard for her growing up. Her mother died when Mom was only 2 from the flu pandemic of 1918. This is the only picture I have of her with her mother. I treasure it. I often look at it closely to try to see if I can find a bit of myself in either of them.

This was Mom at age 7. Love the "do"! By this time she was being raised by her grandmother. Her dad had remarried and the new wife didn't want to be saddled with a child. It's amazing she still had that cute little smile...

Her high school senior picture, lookin' pretty stylish!

And a family classic, ta da! Mom with my older sister and me. This photo hung in every house we ever lived in!

I think she had a rough childhood. She rose above it and raised three daughters with love and care and concern. She never worked outside the home and never got a drivers license. She was the typical housewife of that era. A hot meal was on the table every night. Sunday morning breakfasts included homemade biscuits. (I still can't make them as well as she did!) Though she did not go to college, she had a thirst for knowledge. She especially loved astronomy and was so excited when we landed a man on the moon. She sewed her own "housedresses" as she called them. She was very shy and was happiest at home, though she did get out and walk to stores and movies. She loved soap operas--first on the radio, then on TV. I have vivid memories of her standing at the ironing board listening to Our Gal Sal and Hilltop House.

I don't have a lot of photos of Mom. Oh, sure, a few candid snapshots here and there. But we weren't a family of photographers, unfortunately. I think it is so neat that nowadays kids have their photos taken frequently by professionals.

Happy Birthday, Mom...


What a fun fun day yesterday was! DH and I got together with a couple we've been friends with since college days (whew! long time!) and headed out for a little town about 30 minutes away. We did a little geocaching. The friends are quite good at this while DH and I are still novices. Geocaching is done with a handheld device, a GPS.
You must first go to a website, geocaching.com, to get information about caches in a given area. You then download from the website into the GPS the coordinates. You can also print off information about the cache from the website. Now, these caches are not valuable money-wise. After all, they are left unguarded! However, the thrill of finding one is great. Okay, armed with your GPS and your paperwork, you set off in search of the cache. The GPS provides direction. Once you've located it, you sign the tiny log with your username. Back home, you can register your find at the website to keep track of your "wins"! A good incentive to get outdoors and walk, geocaching also provides opportunities to see areas you might not visit otherwise. Even in our own home town, we have discovered lots of new sights through geocaching. And the cleverness with which some of the hiders place their caches is amazing! It is fairly inexpensive entertainment; you need the GPS, a computer and some good walking shoes. And the benefits are many: exercise, being outdoors, exploring new areas--and FUN!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gittin' All Cultured Up

Yesterday was one of those amazing fall days in Kansas City--mild temperatures, blue skies and gentle breezes. Perfect for getting together with an old friend for a day of laughing. We've been friends for about 45 years and though we don't get to see each other as much as we'd like, we seem to pick up right where we left off! Gotta treasure a friend like that. She asked would I like to go see the Rodin exhibit at the wonderful Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Sure! It was very educational. I was amazed to learn that any bronze sculpture made from one of Rodin's castings is considered authentic. So while what we saw were not personally made by Auguste Rodin, the art was sculpted from his own castings. The pieces we saw were primarily from his Gates of Hell production, based on the Dante's writings.

Always a controversial "lawn ornament", the Nelson has several of these shuttlecocks on display. Why, I don't know!

As a kid growing up in Kansas City, annual school field trips always included a visit to the Nelson. And we were always greeted by this Rodin sculpture, The Thinker--probably his most famous work. And as kids will do, we giggled and blushed to see this naked man right there in front of us as we approached the magnificent building.

Well, that was enough culture for the day! So we then headed out to the Brookside area, a delightful old KC neighborhood. First stop was lunch at Julian's. The chef and owner there is Celina Tio. If you are a fan of Iron Chef on Food Network, you might remember that she competed last year and came in third!!! Pretty awesome. While we were eating our delicious lunch and enjoying a glass of HobNob red wine, Celina came by our table--twice! Always fun to have a celebrity-sighting. She is very personable. Then it was time to stroll the streets and visit the shops--and work off lunch! My friend was interested in finding a new houseplant and there were two shops with plenty to choose from. Brookside is a wonderful area and I often wonder why I don't go there more often!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Favorite Butternut Squash Soup

This is my very favorite butternut squash soup! Prep: chop l large sweet

yellow onion. Peel, seed and cube a butternut squash (about 3 pounds).

Peel and chop 2 medium carrots. Peel, core and chop 2 apples. Peel and

chop 1 Yukon Gold potato.

In large Dutch oven melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter over medium heat and

saute the onion till soft. Add the squash, carrots, apple and potato.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with unsalted organic chicken

stock (or water) so that liquid is at least 1 inch above the veggies. Bring to

a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer about 45 minutes or till veggies are

fall-apart tender. Blend with immersion blender till smooth. In a small bowl

temper 1 cup cream in some of the hot soup. Add the tempered cream

into the soup pot. Cook a few minutes more. Check for seasoning and

adjust if necessary.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Good Juju

My sister has a knack for finding out about neat little shops! She had learned about Good Juju--an old building converted to a vintage-finds store in the West Bottoms of KC. So we decided to go check it out ourselves. The place is only open one weekend a month and apparently people wait with baited breath! The parking was horrendous, with threats of being towed away. We finally claimed a spot after several around-the-block drives. It was worth the search! So fun. The shop owners find old things and rework them, fix 'em up, paint them and put them up for sale.

While I didn't find any must-haves, Sis scored a vintage bread box, a LuRay sugar bowl and a couple of pieces of green depressionware. And, of course, while we were out and about, we had to hit some other antique malls, grab lunch and enjoy the required late afternoon ice-cream cone. The weather cooperated...well, except for the gusty winds.

Sisters Day Out....it's just good juju!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

We Finally Got a W!

My KC Chiefs have really been struggling! We had not won a game yet this season. It's been tough to be a fan. But we've stuck with our boys in red and today we actually won a game. Mostly earned by the 5 field goals Ryan Succop made, we'll take it!! Dwayne Bowe's touchdown was sweet too. Here's our quarterback, Matt Cassel. And what gorgeous weather for football. Sunny and 70ish, teensiest of breezes. Woohoo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Can That Be???

Saturday night last I attended my 50th high school reunion. How on earth did those 50 years go by so darn fast??? It was so good to see so many of my former classmates but so sad to learn of how many had passed on and how many were facing serious health difficulties. Our class had 358 graduating seniors but only about 100 attended plus spouses. Many could not be located, many just could not attend. But of the ones who were able to make it, boy did we have a good time!!! So much reminiscing, so much catching up, so much story-telling! What is interesting about a 50th reunion is that the petty things of the 20th have faded away. No more "clique-ness" or who can outskinny whom. Grudges seem to have disappeared. Just good conversation with folks you spent a very important part of your life with. One teacher even attended. I found that pretty remarkable. Of course, the slide show of our high school days made for some pretty good chuckles!

Here's a good celebratory pie and boy, will it keep you awake long enough to party!

My Really Really Chocolate Pie

Purchased Oreo crust (OR homemade: 1 1/2 c. Oreos--about 20--crushed in food

processor. Add 3T melted butter. Mix well and press into a greased 9” pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes. Cool.)

Filling Mix 1 c. sugar, 1/3 c. cornstarch, pinch of salt and 1 t. instant espresso powder.

Gradually whisk in 3 slightly beaten egg yolks. Put on medium heat and gradually stir

in 1 c. cream and 2 c. milk. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Cook and whisk until

mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in 6 oz. semisweet chocolate mini

chips and 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped. Whisk until smooth. Pour into crust.

Topping Top with whipped cream OR a meringue: 3 egg whites and 1/4 t. cream of

tartar beaten to stiff peaks. Gradually add 6 T sugar and beat till stiff and glossy.

Spread over hot filling, sealing meringue to crust. Place on a baking sheet and bake at

350 degrees till golden. Rotate sheet and bake about 2 more minutes.

Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate after a few hours.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Survey Says....FALL!

Ahhhh, that sweet time of year has just arrived. Tinges of orange popping into the trees, smoky smells in the air, pumpkins landing on front porches, socks and sweaters pulled out of hiding, football games on the teevee, weekend festivals abounding, baking bread aromas wafting from the oven and...soups, stews and bean pots bubbling away on top of the stove.

Cannellini Beans With Kielbasa

Fell in love with cannellini beans a few years ago on a trip to Italy after

tasting them in an incredible soup. Since then I have used them in all

kinds of recipes from tuna salad to lettuce salad to mashed in dips! Hereʼs

a recipe I have been working on for a while to get just like we like it!

Drain and rinse 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans. (Great Northern white

beans can be substituted. Not all grocery stores stock cannellinis.) Set


In a large skillet heat about 2 T bacon drippings. In this, saute 1 package

of Kielbasa (that has been sliced into 3/4” pieces diagonally) till lightly

browned. Remove and set aside.

In same skillet add more bacon drippings if needed and saute 1 chopped

yellow onion till soft. Add 3 cloves garlic that have been pressed.

Cook about a minute longer. Add back in the Kielbasa and 1 cup organic

chicken stock. Season with house seasoning (mine is Kosher salt,

coarsely ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder) to taste.

Splash in some Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for about 15 minutes or

until some of the liquid has reduced down to desired thickness. Great with

a crusty bread or cornbread!

Chunky Carrot-Tomato Soup

Roast about 4 pounds tomatoes (peeled, cored and sliced in half) OR

2 28oz cans tomatoes on a baking sheet that have been tossed with olive

oil, salt and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile

melt some butter with a little more olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add 1 chopped

yellow onion, 4 or 5 medium carrots that have been peeled and diced, 2

stalks diced celery and 3” garlic paste. Cook over low heat till veggies are

soft. Add roasted tomatoes and 2 cups organic chicken stock. Simmer on

low for about 20-30 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender. Add 3/4

cup buttermilk (or cream) that has been tempered in a small amount of hot

soup. Taste and add more S&P if needed. Great with grilled cheese


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fun With A Vintage Bread Box

I have been shopping for a while for a bread box--the kind that opens easily and doesn't require both hands to do it, the kind that has ventilation holes to prevent condensation build up, the kind that just looks cute and not too industrial. Well, turns out I have had one right here on the premises the whole time! I was in my basement looking for who-knows-what when my eye landed on this thing! I have had it for probably 25 years and used it for decoration at my previous home. Hmmmm....could this be cleaned up and re-purposed as an actual bread box?

Found this spray paint which matches my KitchenAid blender and mixer at Hobby Lobby. No way! So after much scrubbing and sanitizing, I began to prime the box. Drop cloth in place on the patio table, it was spray, spray, spray!

Here it is, almost finished. I'm thinking I'll leave the star off and maybe stencil the word BREAD across the front with white paint. DH says, no, leave it plain. Gonna have to ponder that one for awhile. In the meantime, my bread has a place to live!

HELP! In my lower righthand sidebar is a list of archived posts. The titles are there but won't show up unless highlighted. I have tried everything I can think of in the Design section of my blog but nothing is working. Anyone have a suggestion? Also Facebook, why did you change things just as I had gotten used to navigating you?????