Friday, December 31, 2010


I can hardly believe it is the last day of 2010 already. This year has really flown by! 2010 brought with it milestone birthdays for all of my kiddos - ok, well, Nate's was in 2009, but since it is at the end, I always lump them together.

Ali turned 18, a beautiful adult, wise and wonderful and gorgeous. A freshman at Austin Peay State University, she is excelling (let's not talk about anatomy and physiology) and works for Starbucks. She intends to listen to God and head to Haiti for the summer. If you are looking for a good cause to donate to, let me know - you can donate to her trip tax-free :)

Nate turned 16 (and then 17 in 2010), which makes him legally able to drive... financially, not so much, hahaha. He is a junior, homeschooled and working parttime for Java Jacks, a family-run business of some friends and where Ali got her "barista" start. He is friendly, artistic, thoughtful and so full of life. God is really directing his paths and I am so proud of who he is becoming. Here he is with his beautiful girlfriend, Savannah.

Kami turned the road into teenager-hood and was 13 in February. She is in the 8th grade, also homeschooled and is in her 4th year as a competitive cheerleader. That girl can T-U-M-B-L-E!! She is so bubbly, funny, talkative, energetic and incredibly strong - in body and mind and will!! She loves her friends and enjoys doing things for other people... most of the time! She plays a mean acoustic guitare and is taking up piano this winter.

They are all healthy and happy and all those good things. I have the best kids in the world and what makes them even better is that they love spending time with me almost as much as I love spending time with them!

2010 wasn't without its challenges. In February I learned that you can still develop gallstones without a gallbladder (removed in 1996) and had a couple of days in the hospital which included a lovely procedure which hopefully took care of any future stones that decide to develop - so far, so good :) In July my boss decided it would be a good idea to retire, effective immediately. Not so nice... but, it did spur me on to find some tutoring/writing teaching gigs and I am much happier. In August Ali headed off to college - ok, so she is 30 minutes away, but still, she is living away from home. She also announced that she would be spending the summer (2 months of it, anyway) in Haiti, working with the orphans. Fortuantely my old friend, Glen Clementi is a missionary there starting an orphanage. The timing is nothing short of Providential, for sure.

2011 will be a good year. I have no idea what it will bring, but I feel certain that God has great things planned for me, for my family, for many lives around me. I look forward to the good and the bad - it's all good in the end, right?

Here, as promised, is the meatball recipe. I make this two ways - one is definitely Italian in nature and I simmer it in either marinara or meat sauce. The other is "Balkan" - think southeastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, several former Soviet countries, the beautiful Croatia... warm spices and simmered in a white sauce, served over noodles or rice. Either way, they are amazing! I bet you can do this in barbecue sauce or thickened beef broth for cocktail meatballs. Haven't tried it, but I am sure it would work - or that grape jelly stuff... *shudders*


Basic Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork (Balkan) or italian sausage (Italian) - or you could use ground turkey
1 large egg
1/4 C milk
1/2 cup croutons, processed in food processor (or 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs)
1 small onion, minced
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

add to Italian recipe:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano

add to Balkan recipe:
1/4 - 1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice

Preheat your oven's broiler. Combine all ingredients thoroughly. I mix mine in the Kitchenaid. Using a small scoop, or about 1 T of meat mixture, form into balls and set on cookie sheet. You should get about 40 small meatballs. I have made larger ones, they just take longer to cook. Have your sauce ready on the stove and put the meatballs under the preheated broiler until they are brown on top. You do not need to move them, turn them or anything. Once the tops are brown, dump them in the sauce, drippings and all, and let them simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Tomorrow I think I will post my mom's New England Baked Beans. She was a "Maine-iac" and we had them almost every Saturday night.

Until then, have a safe and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spaghetti Sauce (Meatballs tomorrow!)

Last night I made meatball sandwiches. Fortunately I had a stash of sauce in the freezer, so all I had to do was make the meatballs. I even went so far as to make the rolls - but don't think me too saintly ... I almost never make bread unless it is in the bread machine or the "quick" kind - I am far too impatient for all the rising and rolling. But last night Ali pitched in to help form the rolls, so that made it easier. Plus, we had spent a few hours doing a bit of cleaning downstairs and my wrist had just about enough motion for the day. Who knew that if you knit 7 pairs of socks in 4 weeks that you would develop a mad case of carpal tunnel syndrom! You could have told me, Melissa :)

Anyway, this spaghetti sauce recipe has been a work in progress. I began my love affair with it about 20 years ago when I discovered it from some now-forgotten source and have adapted it, added, subtracted, altered - it is no longer the original recipe for sure! It makes a rather large pot, so I portion it out into smaller containers and pop them in the freezer for future meals of pasta, lasagna, meatballs, pizza... the possibilities are endless! I will post my recipe for the meatballs tomorrow. Make it a few times and the recipe will most likely be firmly etched in your memory. I hope you love it as much as I do!

1.5 lb. ground beef
1 lb. italian sausage
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
3 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 14oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 12oz. can tomato paste
2-3 cups beef stock or broth
1 jar roasted red peppers, pureed
1 jar capers, drained and rinsed
2 T. olive oil
2 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 t. dry oregano
4 t. dry basil
4 T. dry parsley
4 bay leaves

Heat oil in the bottom of a large stockpot. Add onions and saute 1-2 minutes before adding garlic. Saute additional minute then add the two meats and cook until no longer pink. Add in the canned tomatoes, then use the beef broth to "clean" out the cans dumping into the pot (so you don't miss a drop). Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, bring to low boil and reduce to simmer. Allow it to simmer at least 4 hours - stir it occasionally!! A big pot will prevent splatters all over the stove or counter as it simmers and pops.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Almond Roca...or Homemade Heath Bars

It's the day after Christmas - Happy Boxing Day to my Canadian friends. Remember, only 364 shopping days left until Christmas! I swear this year I am going to start shopping early - putting things away for next year so that maybe, just maybe, I don't have to do any big shopping trips in December. I might have to set a few "reminders" in my phone calendar just to make sure I do this. We'll see :)

It has been snowing since Friday night. Nate took this picture of the backyard from his bedroom window this morning. He doesn't know that I know he is up, but when he posts a picture on facebook, he forgets I can see that, lol. Not much accumulation in Pleasant View, Tennessee. You can still see a little bit of the tips of the grass in some places. In others it seems like there are four inches on the ground. Not much compared to the foot of snow predicted for my sister Marcy in Brooklyn, but it's enough to make the roads slippery and keep us home for now. We did have a lovely day yesterday. Spent it with David's sister and family in Nashville. Sandy lives there with her husband David and their son Matthew. Their son Daniel and his wife Christina came in from Washington, DC and his sister Karen and her family drove in from South Carolina, so we had a nice big crew - ate lasagna, manicotti, alfredo, zucchini and a HUGE antipasto platter that Ali, Kami and I put together with all kinds of goodies on it along with a homemade pomegranate-red wine vinegar dressing. Of course there were sweets of all kinds sitting around. No one went to bed hungry... except maybe Kami who decided she needed to eat at 10:00 last night and apparently we had NOTHING in the house to eat! Whatever!

I learned this candy recipe from a friend, Sandi, in Seattle. I love it because it does not require a candy thermometer. I have gone through several, but they are glass and for some reason they keep breaking in the utensil drawer - perhaps it needs to be organized better? Anyway, this recipe is timed and it works every time. If you like Heath or Skor bars, toffee of any kind or Almond Roca, you will love this recipe. Use a big pot and wear oven mitts on both hands and long sleeves because the sugar does pop a bit and sugar burns are some of the worst! It is easy and I save the little crumbly bits to put on ice cream - It keeps forever in the freezer, if it last that long.

Almond Roca

1/2 lb. almonds, blanced and split (slivered not sliced)
4 T water
2 C butter (not margerine!)
2 1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 C milk chocolate chips (I do use semi-sweet sometimes)
ground pecans or walnuts (your choice)

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat butter until bubbly, but not brown. Add sugar, water and almonds. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly for 9 minutes (yes, your arm will get a bit tired). Set a timer!! Pour it quickly onto a buttered sheet pan and cool well. Melt half of the chocolate chips and spread over one side. You can also have the oven warm, sprinkle the chips on and pop the pan in the over for just a couple of minutes to warm the chocolate chips and then spread them - just keep a close eye on it. That way you don't burn the chocolate in the microwave. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle with ground nuts and press them in gently. Allow to harden (I pop it in the fridge), the flip it over and repeat with the chocolate and nuts on the other side. When it is hard, chop it into pieces. You can do this on one large (1/2 sheet pan size) or 2 smaller ones.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Sour Cream Streudel

It's Christmas Eve. Traditions and memories abound during this time of year. I have many fond memories of childhood Christmases, mostly because we spent time visiting family and friends. My mom was not the greatest cook in the world. Most of my recipes do not come from her archives. I do, however, cherish a few of the things that she made. More on those some time. What my mom was very good at was manking people feel special, cherished, important. Our front door was always open, rarely was it ever locked. Friends and family always just walked in and were immediately at home. If anyone ever knocked at the door, we knew it was a stranger. Our home was always a welcoming place because my mom made it that way. Today I want to share with you my favorite Christmas "memory". It is one I know that all four of my siblings also cherish and I am pretty certain that in each of their homes tomorrow morning, this will be on the table. You need to start the night before... it's not too late!

Sour Cream Streudel

Pastry (prepare the night before):
1 cup (2 sticks) real butter - none of the fake stuff!!
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream

Jam Filling (prepare 3 separate batches in the morning):
3/4 cups fruit preserves (do not use jelly!)
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, pistachios... you choose

Blend the flour and butter with a pastry blender. (I cheat and do it in the Kitchenaid). When the mixture resembles course sand stir in the sour cream. Form the dough into three equal portions and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge overnight or up to 3 days.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I also have ready a large sheet pan. Roll each ball into an 11x15 inch rectangle. Fill with jam filling down center third of the dough leaving at least 2 inches on either end. Fold the long sides over the dough, overlapping, then fold in the ends, pressing lightly. Place streudel on ungreased cookie sheet. I can usually get all three on one sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes (You can speed up the process and bake it at 450 for 18-20 min. if you are impatient). Allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and slice into 1-2 inch slices. Good warm or cold!

I have made this using the Santaberry Sauce as a filling and it is delicious. My favorite is a combination of raspberry and rhubarb preserves with pecans. Blueberry jam is wonderful. David loves peach or apricot.

Merry Christmas to all. May your holiday be filled with love, joy, peace and most importantly the knowledge that we celebrate the most precious gift that was born on this day, the gift of Eternal Life through the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray you know Him personally! He loves you so much that He chose to die so that you might have Life!

God Bless!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santaberry Sauce

We lived in Seattle, Washington for 7 years while David worked for KOMO during his photojournalist days. Although Ali was born 6 months before we moved there, Nate and Kami were both born at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. I was a young mother and part of a great group of moms from our church, Grace Church, that met twice a month. The group was called MOST (Mothers of Small Tots) and was formed by a wonderful lady, Barbara Stuart, who wanted to encourage young mothers. She did a great thing by creating that place where we learned homemaking skills, received godly encouragement and made life-long friendships. Every December we had a special Christmas Tea and one year the special speaker brought us several recipes and craft tips for the holidays. This recipe that follows and one for Pumpkin Gingerbread, which I will post one day, are two that I make almost every year.

Santaberry Sauce is great as a side dish, as an appetizer piled on top of a block of cream cheese surrounded by Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers or as a filling for a myriad of different desserts, including the sour cream strudel recipe that you will see tomorrow.

One of these days I will start including photos with my posts. I need to figure this whole blog thing out... maybe enlist the creative powers of Nate, the computer genius, to make it more personal. For now, you just get the recipes!

Santaberry Sauce

1 lb. bag fresh cranerries
1 12oz jar orange marmalade
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. shredded coconut
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. water

Combine all and put in 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Allow to cool.


Merry Christmas in 2 days!

ps - don't expect a recipe every day :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Pot Chicken and Rice

December 22, 2010

Life is crazy-busy right now. Christmas is just about here and I am knitting socks like a madwoman and still I have to shop, wrap, taxi kids to work, the gym, parties, etc...oh, yeah, and cook! Last night I wanted to make a simple one pot chicken and rice. I looked through a few of my cookbooks and searched online, but nothing was quite what I wanted - too much reliance on convenience foods... not my idea of good. So, I took the "idea" from a few other recipes and made it my own. I posted it on facebook, but thought I might start my own recipe blog since several friends seem to think I can cook :) Here is blog post #1

One-Pot Chicken and Rice

6 bone-in chicken thighs
2 T olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large onion, peeled
3 stalks celery
1 green pepper, seeded
2 cloves garlic
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken broth

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and brown in hot oil on both sides until golden brown. Meanwhile, process the carrots, onion, celery and green pepper in a food processor until finely chopped. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Add vegetables to oil/drippings and saute. Finely mince the garlic and add to the vegetables. Cook until onion is translucent and carrot is tender. Stir in the rice and stir to coat. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes to lightly toast the rice. Add in the chicken broth and top with the browned chicken thighs. Bring pot to boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through. A nice add-in would be some frozen peas that can be added in during the last 10 minute or so.

I saw a few recipes that used yellow rice. I might try that some time - perhaps toss in some diced chorizo or shrimp and make it like a quick paella. hmmmm....