Sunday, January 31, 2010


Last night I made Tex-Mex Beef Tacos, using Morningstar veggie meat granules.  They were really good.  I only used one chipotle pepper, because my experience with those is that they are really HOT.  But one was just right, in my opinion. I used whole wheat tortillas, and served them with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa.  My husband didn't like the corn, but I love that little burst of sweetness in every bite.

New book

I really enjoyed Gentlemen.  As an educator, it reminded me that we really can't know what's going on in teenagers' minds when we only see them one hour per day, and then only within a group setting.  We also need to realize that they don't always have a realistic impression of their teachers -- their thoughts about teachers are influenced by all of their prior educational experiences.  Scary things can happen when these misconceptions contribute to an already stressful situation.

I'm now reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewksi.  It was recommended to me by a friend that knows I'm a dog lover.  I already know I'm going to have to recommend it to my husband.  So far, I know it's about a boy who was born mute and the special relationship he has with his dog.  It's an "Oprah Book" which doesn't usually do anything for me, but just thought I'd mention it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I made my first awful vegetarian dish -- Cauliflower and Red-Pepper Chowder -- a Cooking Light recipe.  It was awful.  I don't really care much for cauliflower, but I thought since it was a blended soup, the cauliflower would give it the creaminess.  Yes, creamy, but tasteless.  The red peppers (that are SOOO expensive I rarely buy them!) didn't do anything for the flavor.  It had celery, onion, and oregano for seasoning.  So, I tried to "fix" it.  I added worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, salt, lemon juice, and hot sauce.  I was able to choke down a bowlful, but my husband couldn't eat it.  Oh well, win some, lose some.  I just hope I don't lose too many more!

I did make a really good rice pudding.  I had some leftover rice, which I heated with some soy milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and a little brown sugar.  I soaked some raisins in Southern Comfort and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds.  After the rice was bubbly, I added the raisins and SoCo.  It was really good.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. . .

They were yummy.  Here's the recipe. I did them in my iron skillet, not on a grill.  I think I would have liked them better if the sauce (tomatoes, garlic, etc.) was cooked.  My first thought was to dump some spaghetti sauce on them, then I found this recipe.   I think I would like it cooked, though.  I also served sweet potato fries.  I tossed them in olive oil, curry powder, garlic powder, red pepper and salt and baked them in the oven.  They were good too, although next time I will cut them smaller and maybe broil them to get them more crispy.  We dipped them in ketchup, although a spicy mayonnaise would be good!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A New Book

I finished Epic, and I've spent a while thinking about why I really didn't like it.  It's an adventure story, but I didn't get the buildup of tension as I was reading it.  It seemed more like they had three different adventures that they completed.  For example, in The Knife of Never Letting Go, the kids just kept getting deeper and deeper into more and more problems and the tension built up to the end (where we are left HANGING for the second book, which I wasn't happy about, but that's another story.)  In this book, I just kept waiting to see what happened, so that I could get on to my next book.  Which I have done . . .

Gentlemen, by Michael Northrop.  I love this cover--that's what drew my attention.  It's interesting because when I was searching for an image of this book, I came upon a blog by the author of how this cover was chosen.  He's lucky the folks at Scholastic are so smart, because the final product is MUCH better than the original one.  Anyway, the premise of the book is that a high school boy from "the wrong side of the tracks" disappears and his friends begin to suspect their weird remedial English teacher.  They are reading Crime and Punishment (yea, I know that would never happen in a remedial English class) and that definitely influences their conclusions about their missing friend.  It's a unique premise, a quick read, and a good book for boys. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sewing project -- not mine

My daughter made this skirt!  She actually had to go back to college before she could finish it, so I did the hem.  She saw a similar skirt for $60 on the internet, and we probably made this for about $10.  We used a free pattern (also from the internet) that she had used before and modified it.  We had to make the waste band wider, redistribute the pleats, and make it shorter.  Also, this is a picture of the back, because I wanted to show the exposed zipper.  Those are really easy to put in, except we didn't think about this skirt not having a center back seam, so it was a little tricky.  The fabric has a little lycra in it, so that made it easy to sew, and it fits cute.

It should be off in the mail to her today!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update on the new diet . . .

I've been doing well.  I've made:  black bean soup, pasta with olive oil, garlic, broccoli & mushrooms, and chili with veggie meat.  I've made healthy banana bread (with fat free plain yogurt as the only dairy product) and hummus for snacking.  Later this week I'm going to make stuffed portabellas (which will have a little cheese on them.) and we're going to try a tofu stir fry.  I've also bought some soy milk, which my husband has tried and said it isn't bad.

I did go out of town over the weekend.  For Friday night dinner, I ordered a veggie pizza to my hotel room -- and I ate some of the cheese, but mostly picked it off.  Breakfast was ok -- just fruit and some granola cereal (without milk.)  For lunch, they served sub sandwiches and there was a veggie option -- but it had cheese on it -- which I ate.  We had a dinner party Saturday night -- with a buffet of roast beef, fried chicken, etc.  Even the green beans had bacon in them.  So I had mashed potatoes (I'm sure they had milk in them) and corn.  The fried chicken actually appeared a little gross to me -- all that grease oozing out!  The roast beef looked good, though, but I resisted.

As I suspected, giving up the meat isn't that bad.  I really miss the gooey cheese and creamy stuff, sometimes.  I've not let myself get hungry.  I've had a lot of fresh fruit and nuts for snacks, which helps.  Oh, and I have my usual cup of coffee each morning, with about a tablespoon of skim milk.  Haven't been willing to give that up yet.

Check out this website on The New Four Food Groups.  Also, this is the book I'm going to read next, but I had to order it.  (Thanks, Tina.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Contemplating a lifestyle change . . .

I finished (at least part of) The China Study.  The problem that I have with a lot of non-fiction books is that they tell you everything you need to know in the introduction, then they spend 300 pages explaining everything again in excruciating detail.  Like, they give away the ending before you start reading the book!  I'm glad they did, though, because I would have never made it through this one.  I basically skimmed and looked at the graphs.  I learned a lot.  I believed him from the beginning, so when the last 1/3 of the book started explaining, "Why Haven't You Heard This Before?", I just skipped it.  I get it--the government, beef and dairy industries, and pharmaceutical companies are out to get us.

I had my husband read the introduction, the parts about diabetes, and the chapter on how to change your diet.  So, I guess now we are going to do our best to eat a "whole grain, plant-based diet."  I'm sure we won't be perfect, but we are going to give it a try.  I'm certainly not going to throw my quart of chicken stock away, or anything like that.  I don't want to be a fanatic, but I really want to know if this diet makes you feel better -- have more energy, less aches and pains.  I'm fairly certain it will lower our cholesterol and help my husband's blood sugar levels, but I want the other stuff too.  Wish me luck.  My son doesn't know anything about this -- he doesn't eat with us that much, but he's not going to be happy.  I'm going to try to convert him, though.

My new book is Epic, by Conor Kostick.  It's about a world in which everything is determined by how well you perform in a video game.  Obviously, some people aren't going to be happy with this arrangement . . .

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Book Time

I really liked Jenna Fox, but I'm not sure why.  It was certainly far-fetched, but I guess it was believable enough that it kept me engaged.  I really didn't figure out what was going on until it was revealed, which I guess was also part of the entertainment.  It is a quick read, and even though a bit sci-fi, it does begin to explore some moral issues.

Now I am going to read The China Study:  The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted, by T. Colin Campbell, and Thomas M. Campbell II.  We have been trying to eat healthier -- given our high cholesterol and my husband's recent diagnosis if diabetes, so I thought maybe this book, recommended by a friend, would help motivate me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A fun sewing project for my sewing room

I made a mini quilt for my mini quilt stand.  I actually have had this stand for several years -- my brother made it for me and gave me a kit to make little seasonal quilts to hang on it. (A gift I requested -- it wasn't his idea!)  I never made the quilts.  I have a disk of Loralie embroidery designs that have a sewing theme and I decided to embroider something for my quilt rack.  I thought it turned out pretty cute.  It measures about 6 1/2 inches square and sits on an antique sewing table with some other sewing trinkets.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The next book . . .

I loved Splendor, of course.  I just love historical fiction, then you add romance to that and I'm there!  I wasn't totally happy with the ending, but still was a very entertaining read.

Now I'm reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox.  17-year-old girl wakes from a coma after a year and has to re-learn everything about herself.  She doesn't remember her family and can't feel emotion.  But something else is going on . . . .

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Potato Soup

I had some left over mashed potatoes, so I made some potato soup.  Here's the recipe:

1Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery

Saute the above ingredients until tender.  Add:

4 cups milk (I used skim)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups mashed potatoes
         A note about the mashed potatoes -- I made them with some leftover ranch dressing dip that I had -- so they contributed some extra flavor to the soup.
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. hot sauce

After this was heated up, I used my immersion blender to puree the soup.  You really don't have to, but I have a new toy and I like to use it!

Add 1 cup shredded swiss cheese and heat until melted.  A great "comfort food" meal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Birthday dinner

Had a birthday dinner for the family to celebrate my husband's and my daughter's birthdays.  I served Italian beef, made in the crockpot.  It's a family favorite, and we make it all the time because it is so simple.  Beef roast, a package of Italian dressing mix (the powder stuff) and a beer.  Cook it all day.

I also served a very easy potato dish.  You cut up red potatoes in bite size pieces, toss with ranch dressing and vegetable oil and bake at 450 for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  These potatoes got rave reviews.

My mom made a lettuce salad and I served a broccoli cheese casserole recipe from Paula Deen.  I left out the mushrooms and water chestnuts because I knew some in the group wouldn't like them.  It was a good dinner, for about 23 people.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stitching for the Boys . . .

I've been making patches for my son and his friends who love to play airsoft guns.  This is their team's name.  Each patch is individualized on the bottom with the type of gun they each have.  I thought they turned out pretty good looking.  I think he is happy with them too.

Thank God I'm starting a new book .. .

Before I Die was heartwrenching.  It was a very well-written book that dealt with a teenager's fight through a terminal illness in a very realistic way.  I could feel her emotions, and the romance made it all the more tender.  Be warned, though.  You will cry -- for quite a while at the end of the book.

And now for something lighter -- Spendor, by Anna Godbersen, the fourth book in The Luxe series.  I love historical romance, and I loved the first three books in this series, so I'm looking forward to this one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pasta E Fagioli

I modified a recipe from one of my cookbooks for Pasta E Fagioli (Pasta and Beans.)  I had a ham steak that I wanted to use, so this is what I came up with.

Saute 1 cup of each - onions, carrots and celery -- in a little olive oil until tender.  Add the following:

5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
diced ham steak (about 2 cups)
2 cans white beans (cannellini or great northern) drained and rinsed

Bring to a boil.  Add 8 oz. short pasta (I used tri-color rotini) and boil for 10 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

We thought it was pretty tasty!  Forgot to take a picture, but you can use your imagination.  It looked like soup.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Another book started ...

What to say about Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society?  It was wonderful.  A very feel-good, uplifting book, but also sad.  It tells of a period of time and a place during and just after WWII that few people know about.  Definitely recommended reading.

I've started  Before I Die, by Jenny Downham, and I suspect it won't be quite as uplifting.  It's about a dying 16-year-old girl who has a list of things to do before she dies -- the first is to have sex, of course.  The flap says its "uplifting, life-affirming, joyous" so maybe I'll be surprised.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Treats

We had a small gathering at our house for New Year's Eve.  I made a few new recipes -- two of them out of the Cooking Light December 2009 issue.  One was Chili Spiced Almonds.  First of all, don't bake them for as long as it says, but even without that, they weren't very tasty.  Kind of bland.  The second thing I made was Warm Caramelized Onion Dip.  Very yummy.  I kept it in a small crock pot to keep it warm, and the onions got sweeter and sweeter all night.  This one's a keeper.  Oh, and I added about a cup of swiss cheese to the recipe, because I was comparing it to another similar recipe I had, and that sounded good.  I think the dip would be great without the extra cheese, though.