Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Grandmother's Book

I hope you will indulge me a bit while I talk about something that is close to my heart. I was thrilled the other day to receive in the mail the first printing of my Grandmother's book. It was a labor of love for several members of our family who worked to make my Grandmother's dream of being a published author a reality. Unfortunately, she passed away before it came out in print. I have always enjoyed her stories but to see them together in a book, brought me to tears. I am sure I was a sight opening the package my Aunt sent my in the Kroger parking lot. Crying and hugging a book in my car while shoppers scurried by.

I was so happy to be the smallest cog in the wheel of publishing this book. I typed the first draft of the book. I am certain my poor Aunts had a lot of corrections to make to that first draft. I also wrote the Preface which was given a much needed facelift.

Another change that brought me to tears was the Acknowledgment. It was changed to include a thank you to all those who helped and included my name. It was like a special last message from my Grandmother. What a treasure. A huge "thank you" to my Aunt Maria and My Auntie Clara. They both were amazing to get the book published. I don't know how you both did it in the midst of running a busy business, going to college, and the myriad of other responsibilities you juggle. Bravo!
What an amazing woman my grandmother was. She survived the Nazi occupation during World War II. Immigrated to the United States and raised twelve (12) children with my Grandfather. They were together for 50 years. She ministered to the poor, sick and dying in her community. Always giving and always loving. She truly loved the Lord. She was truly an example of what a servant is.
Might there be a second book in the works? Maybe. There are lots of other stories that need to be told. More information about the book here (please be patient as this pdf takes a minute to download. The information about this book is at the bottom of the first page.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Measuring Stick of God's Word

Yesterday, our pastor did a quick rundown of some of the best sermons he did in 2009. He hit upon a scripture that stayed with me.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

2 Timothy 3-4

I know this scripture, but it hit a resounding chord with me as I have seen this firsthand very recently. I have reconnected with many friends from High School on FaceBook. I went to two different Christian High Schools and have found friends from both. It grieves me that although many were grounded in the Word of God during High School, they are currently chasing around whatever is popular at the moment. What sounds good. So many spiritual "gurus" of today throw in a little scripture and lure in the unsuspecting Christian.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 even warns us about these deceitful teachers. They appear to be of God but they aren't. Even Satan can be transformed into an angel of light. The Word of God is the measure. Make sure you aren't turning your ears from the truth. Hold up the doctrines to the Word of God. If they don't measure up, THROW THEM OUT!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A New Type of Social Violence

Sonic is a family favorite for a quick bite to eat. However recently it has been the source of a new social violence phenomenon we shall call "Sonic Rage". Yes friends, I have witnessed it first hand. We'll be enjoying our meal when all of the sudden someone pulls up across the lot from us, turns off their engine and leaves on their lights. We squint into the brightness and shield our eyes. I see my husband's blood begin to boil. My husband then flashes his lights at them so they get the message to turn off theirs. Of course, they are busy looking at the menu board deciding between onion rings or tots totally unaware of the rage slowly building across the parking lot. My husband now puts on his high beams and flashes them in the eye of the unsuspecting customer. They are still clueless. The flashing continues until I tell him to stop or we will end up on the front page of our local newspaper. Yes, this normally mild mannered engineering student is a victim of "Sonic Rage". He refuses to park against the building to avoid the whole confrontation. We are currently looking for a 12-step program for this.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Christmas Decorations 2009

Here are some closesups of my tree ornaments. It's a white themed tree and it's more fun to explore closeup to enjoy all the different kinds of ornaments.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Decorations 2009

We had a nice surprise this year. Snow! In our area it is a rare treat. My boys enjoyed it to the max!

Slowly but surely I've put out my Christmas decorations. I've had to move my tree from its regular position from the middle of the room because we moved some furniture around for a better flow. We have a large dining/living room combination we call "The Great Room". For many years we had an echo in this room because it was quite bare. Our family rule is that we only buy things we absolutely love and only if we have saved up for it. Now it feels full and cozy and even more so at Christmas with the lights and decorations.

Here are some pictures of our decorations this year.

I've added a new tree in my kitchen. It has a baked goods/coffee/sweets theme. I call it "Kitchen Goodies". I bought the tree on sale at Hobby Lobby and purchased a few ornaments every time I was in the store and they were on sale. It's a little bare, but in a few years, it will be nice and full. We added colored lights to make it look fuller than it really is. I prefer white lights, but the boys asked me to get colored lights for this tree as a change. I'm glad I did. It looks adorable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish all my blog readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. We will spend our time with family and friends this year. I just love Thanksgiving and all that comes with this holiday. No pressure of gift giving. Just enjoying each other.

So many of the dishes I cooked this year have special meaning as they were my Mamon's. Rice Dressing and a very tart Lemon Meringue Pie. It is amazing how a taste or a smell can transport us back.

I am trying a new recipe using our Louisiana Satsumas from the backyard. It is a candied yam recipe from one of my ancient treasured cajun cookbooks. (From Momma to Me). It sounded so good, so I'm giving it a shot. Normally I wouldn't try out a new recipe for a holiday, but her recipes are always delicious!

Here is a peek at my table all set for company.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fresh Apple Cake with Hot Caramel Sauce

My Mamon gave me this recipe years ago. I finally decided to make it today. It got rave reviews so here is the recipe.


1 1/4 c. oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup fresh chopped applies (I used granny smith)
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. cake flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat oil and sugar well. Add eggs, beating well, add pecans, apples and vanilla. Add these sifted ingredients, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat well.

Lightly grease and flour bundt pan (I use Baker's Joy for a perfect result)

Bake at 350 for 1 hour then reduce heat to 325 for 15 minutes.

The recipe didn't originally call for it but I spooned over warm caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbl. cornstarch
1/2 cup half and half or light cream
2 Tbl. light-colored corn syrup
1 Tbl. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a small heavy saucepan combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in 1/4 cup water. Stir in half and half, corn syrup and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly (mixture may appear curdled). Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Serve warm over cake. Cover and chill any leftovers for up to 3 days. (from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cheap, but Classy Gift Ideas for pre-teens and young teens

As a continuation to my "Cheap, but Classy, Christmas Ideas" entry from last year, I want to give you some more inexpensive gift ideas for a difficult-to-buy-for group, pre-teens and young teens. Both of my boys fall in that category this year and I have found it a challenge to purchase for them this year.

Here are a few ideas for this group:

  • iTunes gift card (Sarah, I'm giving you the credit for this one). I was easily able to find them at Wal-Mart this year.
  • Cool "message" T-shirts. Kids in this age category are beginning to assert their independence and love showing it by wearing fun T-Shirts! I've found some great T-shirts at Target and the Christian bookstore. 
  • Band T-shirts. Music is such a big part of their lives at this age. This gift will be appreciated all year long.
  • Games. My kids love getting a new board game.
  • Gumball machine.
  • Magazine Subscription. It's a gift that gives all year long.
  • Trendy Belt. I found some very reasonably priced and trendy belts for boys at Target this year.
  • Wallets. I really like the ones made with Duct Tape.
  • Sheet Music. My oldest son is into his guitar this year. I was able to find a large book of sheet music at our local Christian bookstore.
  • Cookbook. Add an apron or potholder for a nice gift. My favorite is "Anyone Can Cook" by Better Homes & Gardens.
  • Charm bracelet. This is a great gift for girls. You can give them a new charm every year for their birthday and Christmas. Maybe a little pricey to start off because you have to purchase the bracelet.
  • Gift certificate to the mall or store. You just can't go wrong here.
  • Magic Kit or Magic Book.
  • Joke Book. Be prepared to listen to hours and hours of really lame jokes.
  • Guinness Book of World Records Book. Be prepared to listen to hours and hours of fascinating facts.
  • Starbucks gift certificate.
  • Pocket knife or pocket gadget holder.
  • Duct tape and a book about Duct tape. The ultimate boy gift!
  • Gift certificate to their favorite Movie Theatre.
  • A gift certificate for an experience. This can be anything to encourage growth. Pottery shop, painting ceramics, golf lesson, cooking class...
  • A lava lamp. disco light or salt lamp. Funky and fun.
  • A gift certificate a month to different fast food restaurants and pretzel & ice cream shops. Make an envelope for each month. Stick a different gift certificate in each one. Tell them they can only open it on the 1st of each month. They will really look forward to opening their envelope each month and seeing the surprise they have.
  • A comfortable chair for their room. It's fun to cuddle up in your own chair to read.
  • If you homeschool... "Day off of Homeschool" certificate. My friend Shannon suggest this one. I love it and wanted to put it here.
For gift wrapping ideas and solutions click here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Homeade Pizza - a quick lunch or supper

Nothing is simpler or more delicious than pizza made at home. Here is my recipe for homemade Pizza sauce and dough. I usually double this recipe and freeze 1/2 for another pizza on a day when I'm rushed or for a topping of raviolis. I get the pre-made frozen raviolis at my local grocery store. It is a quick and delicious meal too! You can also double the dough and sauce and make another pizza to freeze after cooking for another day.

I love to make this pizza on a baking stone preheated in my oven. It helps the dough cook beautifully.

1 package active dry yeast
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 can tomato paste + 2 cans water
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

1/2 pkg. sliced pepperoni
8 oz. grated mozzarella cheese
other toppings your family likes

SAUCE: Saute garlic in olive oil. Mix rest of the ingredients together on top of stove. Cook for about 15 minutes.

DOUGH: Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat vigorously 20 strokes. No rising necessary. Spread on pizza pan or preheated baking stone. Put sauce, cheese and then other toppings.

Bake 425 for 15 minutes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shrimp Spaghetti

A friend asked me to post this recipe from the Talk About Good II cookbook. Here it is:

Shrimp Spaghetti

3 Tbl. butter
1 large onion minced
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 can Rotel tomatoes and 2 Tbl. tomato paste (or just 2 1/2 c. canned tomatoes)
1 tsp. Worcestershire
2 Tbl. sugar
1 (8 oz.) package spaghetti , cooked
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 cups fresh shrimp

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the first seven ingredients about 10 Minutes and add shrimp. Then add alternately, in layers, spaghetti and the sauce in a 2 quart casserole. Add the grated cheese on top and bake about 30-35 minutes. A quick casserole for unexpected Company. Serves 4-6. by Mrs. L. A. Shelton (from the Talk About Good II Cookbook)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bundt Cakes are Back!

I am participating in the Friday Show and Tell at My Romantic Home. You can join in too at http://romantichome.blogspot.com/.

I must confess that I am currently obsessed with Bundt pans. It makes me giggle to type that out, but it is true. I love the idea of tossing in some batter and out comes a very complicated looking cake. Of course, you should always use Baker's Joy if you want it to come out perfectly. This stuff is liquid gold for Bundt pans and I keep my pantry stocked with it during the Holiday baking rush. The Bundt pan manufacturer Nordic Ware Company recommends it and I have found it to be the best.

I look forward to seeing different seasonal pans that the Nordic Ware Company comes out with. I actually found some this season that were pretty reasonably priced and indulged on the Chrysamthemum for my collection. This one can be used for all seasons but looks especially pretty on a fall table.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding mix came with my wreath pan. I tried it and I was hooked. So gooey and delicious.

My current collection isn't big, but definitely growing every year.

I have one of the original avocado green Bundt Pans given by my good friend Becky. I think it started off my collection. No matter it doesn't have a non-stick lining. The Baker's Joy helps it work perfectly.
Here are the pans I currently own:

Holiday Tree Bundt Pan. My favorite for my almond bundt cake. A dusting with powdered sugar makes it a winter wonderland.

Palace Royale Bundt Pan (retired). Beautiful for a birthday cake for a boy or girl.

Garland Bundt Pan

3D Great Pumpkin Bundt Pan

Holiday Wreath

Crysanthemum Bundt Pan (shown above)

Here is my favorite bundt cake recipe. I love to serve this at my Christmas tea every year. Everyone loves it! I use it in my Holiday Tree Bundt Pan.

Glazed Almond Bundt Cake

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 2/3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. ground almonds
1 c. milk

1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. toasted sliced almonds

Toast almonds on cookie sheet with parchment paper for 9 min. in a 350 oven.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 c. milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and invert on a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes longer. Place rack on waxed paper.

Combine 1/4 c. milk, 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. almond extract and toasted sliced almonds; pour over warm cake.

Serves 16 Persons

An Easy No-bake Cookie for Gift Giving and Holiday Parties

I love a recipe that makes a lot of anything for little effort. This is one of those things! This is traditionally called a "Boiled Cookie" and favorite amongst our Cajun friends. It really is sort of a candy and it is quite addicting! I didn't have a picture of the cookies, but found this one online. I like the idea of putting it in a jar like this with a pretty bow for gift giving.

Boiled Cookies

1 stick of butter
4 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
1 c. milk
dash salt
6 c. quick oats (not regular oats please)
3 Tbl. vanilla
1 c. Peanut Butter
3/4 c. pecans (optional)

Mix butter, sugar, cocoa, milk and salt. Bring to a boil, boil for 3 minutes. Mix quick oats, vanilla, peanut butter and nuts into a separate (and very large) bowl. I use the largest stainless steel bowl I own. Pour the hot chocolate mixture on top of the oat mixture and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Makes 4-5 dozen.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I purchased the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" with some skepticism. I was pleasantly surprised. It was simple and the results were fantastic!

I took a plastic cake keeper I had on hand and taped a ball of masking tape to the edge to keep it from being airtight. I then threw all the ingredients in the plastic tub and mixed it up. I let it sit on my counter for a few hours and then placed it in the fridge. I took out a glob about the size of a grapefruit, let it rise on my counter on some parchment paper for about an hour. Heated my oven and popped it on my baking stone. I added some water to the broiler pan placed on the bottom shelf. In a short time, I had delicious sourdough bread.

I really like being able to whip up a batch of fresh baked bread for my family or for company. I love that the dough has a more complex flavor the longer it remains in my fridge. The only drawback for me is that the container takes up a lot of room on the bottom shelf of my fridge. I'm still stuck on the original recipe but eventually will venture beyond it. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves fresh baked bread but has little time to spare.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Garden 2009

Summer of 2009 was very dry and hot for the Houston area. We lost most of our spring garden because of it. We held out hope for our Fall 2009 Garden. So far, so good.

We harvested our first cucumber this week. More are on their way. My basil is looking fantastic.

We also planted lettuce, cabbage, lavender, broccoli, tomatoes and cilantro. The broccoli is very showy with its beautiful leaves, but no broccoli yet. The survivors of the summer are rosemary, oregano, green onions and jalapenos. They seem to have gotten their second wind and are growing and producing nicely.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Maker's Diet - Phase 3

I am so thrilled to have made it to Phase 3 of the Maker's Diet. I just started week 5 of the diet and am happy to add wheat and bananas to the diet. I have missed my banana in my morning smoothie. I didn't lose any weight for week 4 of the diet but I'm happy to have not gained any. With the addition of corn, everything seems to have come to a screeching halt. I'm limiting my intake and increasing the exercise. I don't do anything crazy...a simple routine of Pilate's in the morning and twice a week I walk 3-4 miles around our local mall. While my pants are falling off, the scale isn't budging. I'm chalking that up to increased muscle mass (or my recent love of Barbara's Baked Cheese Puffs 3/4 of a cup = 150 calories. In Phase 2 of the diet, it is one of the very few things that work.) I know, I know... I'm laying off of them.

While I'm excited to be at the tail end of the official diet, I plan to make changes to my diet and cooking. I don't want to go through detox or sugar withdrawals again. That is the absolute worst. With the holiday season approaching, it will be a challenge. I love to bake for the holidays. I think a little treat every once in a great while is OK but it will be more limited this year. We really tie the memories of the holidays to food. It's in our Cajun culture. Our family will make changes to that this year. We will tie memories of the holidays to spending time together instead. I think that is a healthy change that we will cherish always.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pumpkin Corn Bread (For Maker's Diet Phase 2)

Pumpkin Corn Bread

Personally, it isn't something I would normally make outside the Maker's Diet, but it is a wonderful treat while you are on it.

2 tsp. oil
1/3 c. honey
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. Mashed cooked pumpkin
1/4 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. dry milk powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (my addition to the original recipe)

combine oil, honey, eggs and vanilla in bowl. Stir in pumpkin. Combine cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, salt and dry milk powder. Add to egg mixture, stirring to moisten. Pour into greased 5 x 9 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool in plan for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely. 6 servings.

adapted from "Whole Foods for the Whole Family" La Leche League International Cookbook

The Maker's Diet - Phase II

We are well into Phase II of the Maker's Diet. It is a relief to add so many more fruits and corn. Unfortunately, I think the addition of corn is keeping me from losing weight. Cows are given corn to fatten them up. I think it might work the same for me. Can anyone say "moooo". I'm seriously limiting my corn consumption. I've upped the exercise this past week in hopes of dropping more weight, but it isn't budging.

In addition to the foods in Phase I (click here to see those menus and recipes), here are some food ideas that my diet buddy and I came up with for the next two weeks.

Breakfast (All of Phase I plus below)
Grits - add sharp cheese, chives, salt & pepper
Corn fritters
corn mush
Breakfast burritos in a corn tortilla (add turkey bacon, eggs, cheese, chives)
Pumpkin Corn Bread

Lunch & Supper (All of Phase I plus below)
Enchiladas in corn tortillas
Black Bean Soup
Fajitas in corn tortillas with spicy black beans and cantelope
Baked Sweet Potato (with honey, butter and cinnamon)
Roll up luncheon meat (roast beef or turkey) with cheese, corn
Kentucky Fried Chicken - Roasted Chicken, Coleslaw & corn on the cob

Snacks (All of Phase I plus below)
Baked Corn chips
Barbara's Baked Cheese Puffs
Pumpkin Corn Bread

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tortilla Soup (with chicken) or Sopa de Tortilla

Tortialla Soup (with Chicken) or Sopa de Tortilla
Yield 4-6 servings

2 chicken breasts chopped
1 can Muir Glen crushed Fire Roasted Tomato
2 tablespoons Corn or olive oil
1 medium Yellow onion; coarsely chopped
2 Cloves garlic; peeled and halved lengthwise
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 teaspoon Coarse salt; plus more for seasoning
¼ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper; plus more for seasoning
6 cups Chicken stock
1 small Bunch cilantro;
1 small Bunch oregano
4 Corn tortillas; yellow and blue
½ cup Vegetable oil; for frying
1 Avocado; cut into cubes
4 ounces cheese; freshly grated
4 Limes; quartered

Heat 1 tablespoon of corn/olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat. Brown the chicken. Remove from the oil and put aside. Add the onion and the garlic. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add onions to jar of the blender and add the Fire Roasted Tomato. Puree the tomato-onion mixture until smooth.

Return soup pot to medium heat. Add remaining tablespoon of corn/olive oil and stir in tomato-onion puree, using rubber spatula to clean out blender jar. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be the consistency of a dark, thick ketchup.

Whisk in chicken stock. Add chicken pieces back in. Make a bouquet garni of the cilantro stems and oregano (put them in some cheese cloth and tie closed with dental floss). Add the bouquet garni to the soup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Partially cover and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes. Season soup to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes; cut the tortillas into 1/4-inch strips. Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet, over medium-high heat, until the oil is shimmering and hot. Carefully add the tortilla strips, standing back as the oil might splatter. Fry until the strips are crisp and brown, 20 to 30 seconds. Remove with tongs or slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Season hot strips with salt and pepper. (my boys love these strips for a quick snack too!)

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with avocado cubes, tortilla strips, cheese and quartered limes.

NOTES : This classic Mexican tortilla soup gets much of its flavor from the garnishes that are added just before serving-a squeeze of fresh lime for tartness and crisp tortilla strips.

This recipe is modified from a Martha Stewart recipe and is a family favorite. It can be modified for the Maker's Diet by using olive oil and skipping the Tortilla strips.


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