Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010 Recap


















































Caramels: cut and wrapped. Pajamas for Deacon, Aubrie and Ysa: sewn. Spiced almonds: roasted and bagged. Sock monkey for Kayden: done. Princess dresses: just waiting to be twirled in. Menus made and groceries purchased. Gifts wrapped and ribbons tied. Everything done and everyone home that can be. Following tradition (mine) I am tired but not worn out - happy in fact with all the preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Several days after the fact, I am taking out the memories of this Christmas just past. It was a good Christmas. Full of love and warmth and togetherness. The little ones were sweet and good, their anticipation just right - not fever pitched but happy. We enjoyed the traditions that have been part of our Christmas celebrations since the beginning of our family and added a new one. The gifts that we shared were each just exactly right. Tears were shed but we shed them together and even that felt good.

But the best, the most critical, part of Christmas this year? The absolute knowledge that I love and am loved. That we were together.  That there is comfort in 'family' - and that family includes more than relatives. And that because Christ was born we will all live again - together forever. I am so grateful for that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Comfort....and Joy


Christmas Eve 2010. As I say my bedtime prayers I ask for a blessing of comfort and immediately there flashes into my mind an image of our family - my children, my husband, my grandchildren. Each of us carrying a canning jar containing a lighted tea-light as we walk single file through the dusky cemetery toward the grave of Mike and Merin to remember them this first Christmas. Suddenly I know that Heavenly Father is aware and that these people I love so much are the comfort I need. It isn't the answer I expected or sought but it is a beautiful answer.

Sunday morning when Jonathon and I gather the candles and jars, the two candles in the beautiful glass box Thomas bought for the 'remembering' are still burning. For some reason, this delights me.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

Mmmmmmmmmm, smells good!

The other night we had a houseful of family. It was wonderful and fun. Since there are so many of us I decided to do the ultra-elegant pot luck option. My contribution was this soup and some home made French bread. Super easy. The thing to make when you want easy, tasty, warm and cozy. No pictures today. No frills. Just a simple recipe for a soup that never fails  - ever!

Pumpkin Soup


1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup butter
3 boneless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
scant tsp chili powder
scant tsp cumin
6 cups chicken broth
4-6 potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 large can pumpkin puree
2 cups cream

In a large heavy stock pot melt butter and saute onions and celery until vegetables are limp and glassy. Add spices and stir well. Add chicken and saute until chicken is lightly browned. (5 minutes) Pour in broth and potatoes, making sure potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, turn down to simmer and cook until potatoes are done (10 minutes) Add salt to taste. Slowly stir in pumpkin and cream. Heat until warmed through.

Note: I usually "cheat" and substitute cooked chicken breast. I almost always have some in the freezer and it makes this faster and easier - which is most often what I am after when comfort food is the order of the day. It also means this is a "pantry" meal - in other words, I have all the stuff on hand most of the time and don't really need to plan ahead.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cry Baby Cookies

I am just a sniff away from drooling. We made Cry Baby Cookies yesterday. It isn't Christmas at our house until those cookies are in the oven and then in the cookie jar. They  smell like Christmas. And the taste, the chew, mmmmmmm. Sooooo good.


Eden and her girls, and Hannah, Jane and Theo came over to get the Christmas baking started. Jane and Aubrie are adorably sweet together - perfect little girl cousins. Theo was a quintessential little brother -following them, wanting to be involved and (sadly) being accused of wrecking their doll-house. lol. He is in actual fact, the most yummy little boy. And Ysa contributed by having a marathon nap! Pretty much perfect.

There are a plethora of recipes out there for chewy ginger cookies but these are my favorite.


Cry Baby Cookies


4 cups flour
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups butter
1/2 cup molasses

Combine butter and sugar, beat. Add eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and mix into butter, sugar, and eggs. Form 1" balls with dough, roll in sugar, and bake on greased cookie sheet for 12 minutes at 350 F.


Why are they called 'Cry Baby Cookies'? Good question! I don't know - another question for the universe, I guess. When I was Aubrie's age my mom didn't know either.



Aubs feeding Theo his soup - pretty cute!  The best part is that he would have none of his mom feeding him. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Princess Dresses and Making Messes


Mid-mess. I am so happy in my lint and threads. Aubrie wants a princess dress (well, that may not be strictly true in that she hasn't requested a princess dress but she loves playing dress-up and loves princesses so...). At any rate, I am mid-making. And I am having a lot of fun. The sewing room is a mess. I am using a bit of cotton velvet but it looks like I have shredded at least a meter of the stuff to judge by the lint. lol. And sparkly, sequinned netting. And the buttons - oh my! It will be beautiful. I can't wait! Christmas making is so much FUN!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kitten eyes


I wonder if newborn kittens realize they can't see? As those tiny eyes begin to crack open, what do they think? Another mystery for the universe - I only know that as my eyes begin to crack open I am aware that I didn't know what I wasn't seeing. It was there all the time. I just didn't see it. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse and think I saw. Or a hazy image and (all unready, eyes unfocused) turn away. So much I missed that I am humbled to see now. The sorrow that is not unique to me. The grace and strength of love. The way in which we are all too often inclined to feel isolated in experience which is in reality nearly universal. That there is compensation. That God is very good and very real and very there. 


Yesterday was a good day. A hard day but  a very good day. Full of blessings and eyes cracking open a little more. Sometimes I shake my head at myself - always wanting to turn away from "hard things" when experience shows pretty consistently that the hard things are the best things in the end. (Kind of the reverse of the 'where much is given, much is expected' principle. Or you only get out what you put in.) If my life was as pastoral as I foolishly persist in believing I would prefer, it would be bland beyond belief and I would be as shallow as that sunny canvas in my mind. Having no desire to be shallow (and with a perverse resistance to plumbing whatever depths there may be) I am grateful for the wisdom of God. As I submit to His will, I learn a little wisdom too. And my life is, instead of bland, full of richness. Rich experience. Untold riches of family, friends, and love. Support. Goodness.



It's not that hard after all. I only have to open my eyes and see.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nutcrackers and Sugarplums




When I was a very little girl visiting my grandparents I would read pretty much anything I could find that was even remotely interesting to me - I became quite a fan of "Reader's Digest" and "Lady's Home Journal" at a ridiculously young age. (When I think back I wonder that nobody noticed and suggested that they were inappropriate reading material for a 7 year old - but things were different.) There weren't many children's books around their home but one that I loved to read, again and again, was a tattered, torn and missing pages copy of The Nutcracker. Nobody ever read it with me and, probably partly due to the missing pages, I didn't really understand it. It was mysterious and frightening and totally compelling. Time went on and I forgot the book. I grew up and became mother to two sweet girls who loved the magic of pink tutus and fairy tales. Cue Christmas and Nutcracker season!

For the last 12 years "Nutcracker" performances have been a very large part of our Christmas Season. For months prior to performance, rehearsal schedules ruled our lives and Tchaikovsky's wonderful music filled the air. Merin loved it. From her first small part as a Candy Cane to Party Girl to Clara and finally to Sugarplum Fairy. She danced in her sleep.The rest of the family hummed the music under our breath. It was just part of Christmas and I loved it. So imagine my complete shock when, shopping in Holt's, I heard the Sugarplum Fairy music and was overwhelmed with sadness. 

Tomorrow is the first performance of this season of Jeunesse Classique Ballet Company's The Nutcracker. I will attend. I have been "inoculating" myself all week with the score so as to not make others uncomfortable with my tears. I have been trying to direct my mind to thoughts of how much joy Merin took in the opportunity to dance and how pleased she would be with her students. It was important to her. And so I will be okay. 


(I am happy to say that the mystery of the story has long been answered!)




Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dreams



I'm tired. I sleep and I dream. Every, every time I sleep, I dream. Vivid dreams that leave me tired still. Not necessarily bad dreams but often uncomfortable. Never about death. Always about Merin. Awake, I think that I will be relieved when the dreams stop. But then I wonder.....will I miss them?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Black Bean Tofu Stir-Fry

In many things I am very loyal. But when it comes to food I think I might be a bit fickle - or at least I like to play the field. As much as I love to cook, it just gets boring to make the same things night after night and week after week. On top of that I have an embarrassment of riches when wealth is counted in cookbooks. Consequently I try new recipes on a very regular basis. In fact, it is my habit to sit down with a few cookbooks and magazines every week and plot a menu so I don't forget to try something that has appealed to me. (Once, just out of curiosity I went through the calendar to see how often I repeated a recipe and it turned out that even for favorites it was never more often than once in six months! and for many things only once a year. Ha! That's a lot of cookbooks.) The upside of my 'style' is that we try many new tastes and textures (in five kids we really didn't have much of an issue with picky eating), the downside is that I frequently forget which recipe it was that I tried for that thing and where I found it. One of my favorite sources for quick and yummy meal ideas is 20 Minute Supper Club. The other night I tried this recipe and we loved it. I think "you gotta try it". Soon.



Black Bean Tofu Stir-Fry

1 pound firm tofu, diced into 3/4 - inch cubes
2 Tbsp soy sauce
8 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp black bean sauce
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sambal
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, julienned
1 pound snow peas
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts

In a bowl marinate tofu cubes with soy, sesame and black pepper.In another bowl mix together black bean and hoisin sauces with sambal to make sauce.


Heat a wok and add vegetable oil. Add tofu and fry until golden. Add 1 Tbsp sauce and toss tofu. Remove to serving dish.


Add more oil to wok, add onions and red pepper and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp sauce and toss vegetables. Remove to serving dish with tofu. 


Add more oil to wok, add snow peas and mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp sauce and toss. Add to serving dish and mix. Top with bean sprouts and drizzle with remaining sesame oil to serve.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The House That Lisa Built

To jump right into the holiday season (which is the only way my good friend Lisa approaches anything!) on Wednesday evening we made Graham Cracker Candy Houses with the Young Women in our ward. It was a lot of fun - and just what the doctor ordered for me. The girl's creations were very ...... creative, and ran the gamut from gaudy to gorgeous. Lots of candy was consumed, the noise level was high, and it felt just right. 


I just had to share the house that Lisa built with you. It is soooooo Lisa! If there is ever anything happening that is cool or fun, the irrepressible Lisa is there driving it. She is the definition of exuberance and her house is the visual representation of that. No tasteful selection of candy color schemes. No holly over the door (in fact, no door!) No careful arrangement of specific elements. Just an explosion of candy. On every possible surface. So totally Lisa. So. Much. Fun.







And just in case you want to make your own Candy House creation, here's how:

You will need
-7 square graham crackers
-royal icing
-a base of some sort (we used a square of cardboard covered with white paper and cellophane)
-lots and lots of candy (we used mini M&M's, licorice allsorts, Mike&Ike's, Smarties, Twizzlers, Jelly Belly's, gum drops of assorted sizes - the list could go on and on)
-few inhibitions
-a tiny bit of imagination
-some degree of patience (putting the pieces together into a box and making the roof stay was a bit challenging for some...)

You will need to cut one of the squares in half diagonally to make the triangles for the walls that support the roof. This can be a bit frustrating since it is easier to make the cracker crumble than cut ;) Be gentle and you will be successful.

Assemble the house by running a (generous) bead of royal icing along each edge of each cracker and sticking them together in a box. Allow a few minutes for drying as you attach each piece and you will need less patience - since it won't all collapse. Ha! When the shell is together, go nuts adding the candy and making your own personal 'statement'. Have fun!



Look! Someone made a dog out of mini M&M's. So cute.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Over the River and Through the Woods...


I'm off to Vancouver early tomorrow morning, so actually it is over a few rivers and through a lot of woods. In spite of the awful weather and treacherous roads we have loaded up the car (including a quilt for a new baby who may or may not be named Franklin) and will bravely venture into the cold, cold world. Nothing less than a plea for help from one of my kids (and the promise of meeting a new baby) could induce me to do this. I hate bad roads!!!! But maybe they won't be that bad and for sure it will be beautiful. And at the end of the road are two of my very favorite people. So well worth lots of rivers and (practically) endless woods.



I'll let you know about the name.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quiz



Toothpaste is good for:

a. ridding one's hands of the ever so alluring (and enduring) smell of chopped onions and garlic.
b. cleaning teeth
c. causing canker sores
d. brightening bling!
e. all of the above

The correct answer is 'e' because:
 a. You can indeed have fresh smelling hands after a stint at the cutting board by washing up with your garden variety toothpaste. (Good to know,  I really hate rushing off to some commitment or other and realizing that my hands smell quite definitely onion-ish.)
b. And of course, your pearly whites look a lot better after the same treatment. Just remember to floss!!
c. If you have a sensitivity to sodium laurel sulfate - the sudsing agent in most toothpastes - the unfortunate result is very often a mouthful of canker sores. Look for a brand that doesn't list SLS as an ingredient and you will likely be a lot more comfortable,  and  your teeth will be just as clean.
d. When all your diamonds are looking a little lacklustre, a tiny dab of toothpaste on a soft toothbrush applied with a gentle hand will brighten them right up. (I don't know what a jeweller would say about this one but I have done it for a pretty long time and whenever I get my ring checked nobody tsk tsks)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magic


When I was just eight years old my mom taught me how to do magic. Those of little imagination call it sewing, I believe. But it really is magic! Just think. You can take something (say a piece of fabric) that may be beautiful - or not so much - in and of itself but usually of limited use, and make something that is not only very useful but also beautiful and interesting. And you can have fun and enjoy a challenge while doing it. I call that magic.

Last week I had a fun afternoon practising some of the best kind of magic - making something great out of something that is no longer needed. We had three pair of pajama bottoms that had been Merin's. They didn't fit Eden the way she liked (too short for her beautiful long legs) and Aubs needed some new pjs. So, time to make magic.

It is actually stupidly simple. You need a pair of old pants or pajama bottoms, a basic pant pattern (I used Butterick # 4647), basic sewing notions (thread, elastic, maybe some bias tape), good scissors, a bit of imagination, and about 45 minutes per pair.

Start by cutting the old bottoms along the crotch seam and down the inseam. So that what you have looks like this.


Lay both legs out together, either right sides facing each other or wrong sides facing (doesn't matter but you want them to match up along the edges and to have the existing seams be both on the inside or outside - this is getting a bit long but trust me, you need to have them match). Lay your pattern piece on the fabric and pin, then cut it out. Because kids grow so very fast I cut the leg length on the long side.

Sew the crotch seam and then the inside leg seam. Make a casing for elastic at the waist and thread a piece of elastic through that is cut to the waist measurement of whoever you are making the pants for.


About now is when the real fun begins because you can get creative. For Aubs I had fun with the 'style' of the hem or bottom. For one pair I made tabs that we tied to hold up the extra length and look style-y.


For another, I took advantage of the nifty hem detail of the original pants and made a casing under it so that there was a little frill. I used the silk tie from the waist of the original pjs to thread through the casing and tie at the ankle. Very cute!


And the last pair, has a simple elastic casing to stop her from tripping over her hems. It makes a darling "bubble" finish at the hem.

Some of the advantages of making over? How about - really soft? really cheap? (free!) really fun? or really magic?


I am the luckiest grandy. I love this little girl soooo much - we have the best time together. It seems like yesterday when I was sewing with her mom hanging over my shoulder. Like mother, like daughter.
Photo credits to Aubrie's mom: Eden Lang. You can see a few more really adorable pictures of the projects on Eden's blog.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Drowning in Tear Sheets




Full disclosure - I like to read magazines. A lot of magazines. Much of my vast (ha!) store of semi-interesting and potentially useful information can be traced to one publication or another. A somewhat frustrating by-product of all this reading is that sometimes (okay, all too often) I can't remember where I read that fascinating statistic or yummy recipe when I want to refer to it with more authority than simply 'I read something about that...', so I started to pull the articles and recipes from the magazines to keep for reference. I fully intended to file them. I did. But the tear sheets piled up. I tried putting them in binders with clear pages but that was too "fiddle-y" and so I always put it off to a day when I had more time (which means never). But being a person that craves order I needed a better solution. One that looks good. And I found one!


It is super-simple - like all good solutions. I bought a file box at the book store, some simple file folders from the office supply store, and used a free printable from Cathe Holden that I found at www.scjohnson.com. I printed it on sticker paper, cut out the labels, applied them to the folders, sat down and sorted the tear sheets, 'floating' handwritten recipes, as well as recipes that I had printed from various favourite sites. Filed everything. And sat back, well-satisfied with it all. And the best part is that it is so simple I keep it up.


So there it sits on my counter, ready to reference or add to, just looking pretty!

You do need to check out Cathe's blog. She has oodles of really great ideas and projects. Super fun!

Friday, November 12, 2010

clever baby


Could she be any more beautiful? or clever? I really doubt it. And if she is neither clever or beautiful I don't know it and you couldn't tell me!

In the category of things I love I would have to put my iPhone. It may be totally boring but it is one life changing tool. And one of the things that I looove about it is the camera - and I have only the 3GS! I have so much fun playing with it. One of my favorite photo apps is "picture show". I used it for this image. Lots of fun, I would say.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scones with Lisa T.


A couple of weeks ago my friend Lisa (maker of the most delicious scones) graciously invited me to come over and see how she made them. I had been the happy consumer of her scones on a few occasions and jumped at the opportunity. (To be honest, I was just plain excited - she really makes incredible scones. And I like scones.) Lisa modestly claims that she has no special ability and just follows an Ina Garten recipe. I think she has a magic touch and hope that she shared not only the recipe but that magic with me. At any rate it was fun, as easy as she promised and best of all we got to eat scones at the end! With tea.*


Cranberry Orange Scones

4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, diced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp milk (for egg wash)
1/2 cup icing sugar
4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at lowest speed until butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and cream and with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy. Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup flour, then add to the dough and mix on low speed until blended.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Roll the dough 3/4" thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Flour a plain round cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides fully baked. allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes. Whisk together the orange juice and icing sugar (adding up to 2 Tbsp more sugar if needed to make a good consistency) and drizzle over the scones.



All that's left to do is give a bunch away because otherwise some people may eat more than they aught.

Thanks soooo much Lisa!

* herbal of course! in good LDS tradition. ha!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just Plain Old Chocolate Pate


Last night we had a few friends over for a casual meal and some good conversation. It was fun and easy. We had gyoza (as a main course - which the Japanese would consider odd for sure but then we are not Japanese and we love gyoza so...) and rice and one of the couples brought a broccoli salad (which is also not very Japanese but like I said before....). Also not very Japanese is the dessert concept - at least it isn't traditionally Japanese but you should see the line-ups at the high-end chocolate shops in Roppongi Hills. Anyway, I decided to try a new recipe that I had seen in the November Chatelaine magazine that had arrived the day before. It promised to be easy and reading the ingredients it didn't look like it could possibly be anything but very, very good. It was more than that - it was incredible! And as easy as promised.

I have no pictures to seduce you with - by the time I decided that this should be shared there was nothing left but the 'remains of the day' and although that would have been a testament to the yumminess it would have been less than seductive as a visual image. Without any more fanfare here is the recipe.

Chocolate Pate

168 g dark chocolate, preferably good quality*
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 Tbsp sugar

Line bottom and sides of a small (6x3.5") loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting wrap hang over sides of pan.

Microwave chocolate, cream, butter and sugar in a bowl. Heat for 3 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours.

To serve, turn out of pan and remove the plastic wrap. Slice into pieces and serve with cocoa powder. (Or do like I did and put it on a pretty serving platter unsliced, with a knife, and let your guests serve themselves.)

* I used my very most favourite bar - a Lindt Excellence Sea Salt Dark Chocolate. In my opinion the bit of salt really does something amazing to the chocolate.


Just so you know - it was a definitive hit with all. And again, so you know, you really, really want to make this. Soon. And often.

I served it with some softly whipped cream and bowls of raspberries, blueberries and some wonderful ripe red pears that we sliced at the table. It was (again) pretty casual presentation but it looked impressive and tasted better.

A Little Bit Giddy

About a month ago my old and very valued iMac developed symptoms of a terminal illness. So very sad. And I was very sad because this is not a good time for our family to be buying things like new computers and other such luxuries. But my very wonderful husband agreed that I should have my own computer still and ta da!!!! today the Purolator man brought me this super-cool,amazing, fantastic (I know - way too many superlatives but I mean it!) and much anticipated new iMac. I am so excited. I can't tell you. But I am feeling a bit giddy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflections



At the end of my life who do I want to be? What would I like to be remembered as and for? Since Merin's death I have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure this out. Not in a self-indulgent or self-important sort of way but more because she inspires me. Her life was brief but she touched so many people in beautiful and significant ways. The other day I was speaking with a friend and she referred to Merin as "special" and then said "but you have heard that before." I have, but like being told "I love you", it never gets old and is always welcome - a comfort.

Merin was generous with herself - she gave and received love openly and joyously. She was generous in giving approval and encouragement. She tried, in a conscious manner, to do her best - whether it was in dance, in homemaking, in being a sister, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a child of God. She glowed. Really she did - I always thought of her as a pearl. So precious. And she was happy. Of course, she had her moments and days like all of us do but overall, that was/is Merin. One of her good friends described her as "pure joy and grace", a description that is exactly perfect. I knew her so very well and I couldn't think of better words. These are things that over and over again people say about her.

So, again, I think - who do I want to be? What do I want to share? How do I want to be remembered? I think of these questions not because I want acclaim or honor but for myself. It doesn't matter really what others say or think because they can be misled by appearances. It matters to me though that I am a genuine, caring person. Talents and achievements are only self-serving unless offered unselfishly to others. To make a beautiful home for the comfort of loved ones is a credit but to create a showpiece for praise seems somehow shallow and meaningless.

To be honest I don't know that I want to know what others say about me now or when I eventually die - for sure there is some good and some bad as well. What I am trying to know is for myself. I know that when I am focused on the goal I am so much more content than when I am concerned about my performance and how it is being perceived by others.

I read the quote from Erma Bombeck the other day and was immediately struck with a feeling of agreement and recognition. I too, want to be able to say that I have used every little bit that I have been blessed with. It is a matter of love and gratitude - of sharing.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Banana, Chocolate, and Pecan Muffins

Mmmmmmmm. These muffins are good. Maybe it's the dark chocolate (that certainly can't hurt, and it is good for you right?) maybe it's the yummy mellowness of the ripe banana combined with the crunch of the nuts.... but whatever, they are GOOD. Everyone agrees and the muffins perform an amazing vanishing act! I try to keep a few in the freezer for dessert (yes, they are that good) but it is a trick to have any left to freeze. I am pretty pleased with these.




Banana, Chocolate, and Pecan Muffins

1 1/4 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3 tbsp salba (sometimes called chia seed)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup agave syrup (you can sub honey)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups good quality dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk together oatmeal, flour, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, and pecans. Combine eggs, yogurt, bananas, oil, and syrup. Fold into dry ingredients and add chocolate chips. Bake in greased muffin tin at 375 F for 22 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.


The best way to have any to freeze is just to make them when nobody is home and freeze the whole batch! Sneaky I know but it works. Might be the only way. Anyhow, try them and let me know!

Oh! and these are pretty good for you too. Check out the good stuff - flaxseed, salba (both excellent sources of protein and omega3's), bananas, nuts, low in fat and of course, the chocolate! Not joking - it is good for you if it's dark. Serve them with grapefruit and some kind of eggs....mmmmmmm, yummy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spiced Sweet Potatoes


Once upon a time, when we lived away from family and long-distance calls were prohibitively expensive and e-mail was not for the masses, I was planning a holiday dinner and wanted to serve sweet potatoes. I couldn't find a recipe that appealed to me and so I decided to just try something original. Happily, it was a success and is the one item on the menu that is not negotiable for our family (other than the turkey of course!) In fact, Eden says it is the base of the meal as well as the cap. I have never written it down but have been asked to and so here it is.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

2 large yams (or 4 medium)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup brown sugar (I use a mix of dark and light brown sugars)
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange

Bake the yams at 350 F for about an hour or until they are soft. (Smells soooo good!) Remove from oven and peel - the skin pretty much just slips off. Mash the flesh with a potato masher and add the butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sugar and juices. Mix well. Taste and adjust the spices if you want. Put the mixture into a 9x9 baking pan. Cover with large marshmallows and bake at 350 F until marshmallows are puffed and brown - about 15 minutes if the mixture is hot or if you have done the prep in advance of roasting the turkey (or whatever) it will take about 30 minutes so that it is heated through.

This year Jonathon and I had the same thought at the same time - to chop some pecans and sprinkle them over the sweet potato mixture before putting the marshmallows on. It was definitely a good thing.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giving Thanks



I would have to say that I think the pilgrims had hold of the right end of the stick when they had that first thanksgiving feast. Although the challenges I face in life are dramatically different than theirs were, experience has taught me (repeatedly) that when I am discouraged one of the best tools to fight with is counting my blessings. I can never count my blessings without feeling grateful, which leads of course, to giving thanks. And when that is all done I feel so much encouraged because I have been blessed in the past - why not in the future? I wonder if that was pilgrim psychology as well... At any rate, I have many blessings to count and I am so thankful for them. At the top of the list, of course, is my family - my wonderful husband, our very dear children and precious grand-babies. Love for them is what makes my world turn. This past weekend our Thanksgiving gathering was smaller than I would have chosen (we missed Mark, Thomas and Hannah and their two littles, and of course Merin and Mike) but it was still warm, still happy, still full. And I still got to cook for them all! No seriously. I love to. It is what I love to do! I am most happy when our home is full, the kids are playing and we are cooking, eating and laughing together.

I had fun deciding how to set and decorate the table and planning the meal. David and Jonathon were fantastic sou chefs, (David should never undervalue his abilities as turkey carver and master dishwasher!), Eden brought her camera and skills, along with Daylan and the kids. Grandma Jan and Don joined us and the day was a success. We were together.

Back to the pilgrims and me - perhaps missing something of great value enhances the value of what one still has. I cherish my loved ones, my friends, my faith. I enjoy opportunities to explore talents and ideas, to experience the talent of others, to see the beauty of the world and feel the sun on my face, to be embraced by love. My life is full. I give thanks.

To see some of the beautiful pictures Eden took of our Thanksgiving go to her blog from her website www.edenlangpictures.com . I'm so lucky she shares her talent to document our gatherings and moments. Thanks Eden!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Grandy's Noga

photo by Eden Lang

I hate to brag (okay, may be I actually would like to ... a bit! I am trying to overcome that) but I do make some pretty great granola. Jane calls it "Noga" and I kind of like that so it sticks. After years of trial and error this is my recipe and I like it. It is healthy, slightly chewy (unless you bake it too long), fast and easy, yummy, yummy, yummy, smells amazing, .... I could go on but that's boring!


Grandy's Noga

6 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup chopped almonds
2/3 cup green pumpkin seeds (not roasted)
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup shelled hemp seed
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
Mix above ingredients well.
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix VERY WELL!!!! - for several minutes. (This minimizes the chance of burned spots in the granola - I have learned this from sad experience).
Spread mixture evenly over two 17x12 inch cookie sheets lined with greased foil. Bake in 325 F oven for 10 minutes, stir and bake for another 10 minutes. Add dried fruit. (Whatever mixture strikes your fancy but a total of about 2 cups per cookie sheet. I use a raisins, craisins, dried apples, apricots.)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy Noga is with yogurt and berries - fresh or frozen . Tastes like dessert for breakfast - and (sadly) I will take dessert anytime! ha!