Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yard Boy(s)

I finally did it.

I broke down and got...yard boys.

Now you know I pretty much won't pay anyone to do anything I can do myself. But in this case, I outsourced.

I struggled with the decision, wondering if we were ready. But I had the shiny, new mower and two able bodies, clamoring to be put to work.

So I do it.

Now I have not one, but TWO yard boys.

And I'm *so* proud.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 Things I've Done Before Turning 40

I've been making a list of all the things I would like to have done, or have accomplished, by the time I turn 40 later this year.

Frankly, I've been struggling with things that are actually realistic to achieve in the next six and a half months.

Then I started thinking about all the things I HAVE done in the first half of my life. When I think about it, I've done a lot. And I'm so thankful for, and blessed by, all the opportunities life has afforded me. So I made a list, first, of just 40 of the things I've already done BEFORE turning 40. This list was difficult to LIMIT to 40. And that makes me happy.

  1. Climbed and summited a 14er (multiple 14ers, actually)
Mt. Democrat, Colorado

  1. Took a cruise

Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda

  1. Lived in a foreign country
Idar-Oberstein, Germany

  1. Traveled around Europe

  1. White water rafted
Taxenbach, Austria

  1. Skiied the highest mountain in Europe
Zugspitze-Garmish, Germany

  1. Parasailed

  1. Flew a helicopter

  1. Fired a gun

  1. Got multiple piercings (Only in my ears, though!)

  1. Gave birth, twice

  1. Met four Presidents of the United States

  1. Had lunch with a rock star (and a President’s daughter)

  1. Drove a military Humvee

  1. Earned my master’s degree

  1. Drove more than 100 mph on the Autobahn

  1. Waterskiied

  1. Attended the opera – in Budapest

  1. Saw “Cats” on Drury Lane in London (and sat next to Val Kilmer)

  1. Learned rudimentary German and  French

  1. Delved into the world of autism

  1. Owned my own house

  1. Drove across country – alone

  1. Started a magazine, or two.

  1. Attended a Papal audience

  1. Ice skated in the Olympic arena in Innsbruck, Austria
One of my early icons, Dorothy Hammill, took gold in the winter Olympics in 1976 in Innsbruck

  1. Served on the PTA

  1. Published a book

  1. Taught pre-school

  1. Cruised Bourbon Street in Nola, stone cold sober

  1. Interviewed a jazz legend

  1. Designed a website from the ground up

  1. Lived in four states (that’s not very many!)

  1. Snowboarded

  1. Road on the back of a Harley

  1. Jumped off a cliff

  1. Camped in a primitive site and in a camper

  1. Made homemade pasta

  1. Appeared on TV

  1. Zip-lined! (this will actually happen for the first time approximately 24 hours AFTER this post, but it was also on my list of things to do BEFORE I turn 40).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cinnamon Bread

I love cinnamon, the taste, the smell, even the health benefits.

Did you know that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol?

Cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.

It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

It might reduce arthritis pain in some patients.

When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.

One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

And besides that, it tastes good.

I made this cinnamon bread the other night for the boys to eat for breakfast. Luke loves cinnamon rolls, but this bread version isn't cloyingly sweet or gooey, but does impart a beautiful taste of cinnamon.

Cinnamon Bread

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, optional
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil (can replace with applesauce)

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease/flour/spray the bottom and sides of a standard loaf pan.

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar, pecans (optional) and cinnamon. Set aside.

Combine one cup of sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Then, stir in milk and oil. (Let your 8-year-old make it all nice and frothy)

Make a well in the flour mixture.

Add the egg mixture to the well. (Isn't it pretty? Like a gently poached egg?)

Stir, gently, until just mixed. Don't overmix. (Stress this to aforementioned 8-year-old). Overmixing develops the gluten in the flour, which makes your bread dense and tough. Yuck.

Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture.

Top with other half of batter. With a wide rubber scraper or spatula, swirl the mixture together. (Luke liked making figure eights).

Bake 40 to 50 minutes (mine baked for 55) or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Glaze (optional - I didn't do this part to avoid the gooey cinnamon-roll-likeness. Plus the cinnamon sugar makes a crispy, tasty crust on the bread all by itself)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and pour over warm bread.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Double Edged Sword

It's happened.

Monday, before getting out of the car at school, Curt asked me to make sure I said goodbye for the day BEFORE he opened the door to get out.

"Someone heard you and laughed," he told me.

Whether or not that's true, he's figured out that mom screaming like a banshee "Bye buddy, I love you, learn something new and come home to tell me about it," really isn't cool when you're 10 years old.

I snuck it in for as long as I possibly could.


 But his realization is a double-edged sword. It makes me sad he's growing up, but it makes me glad that he's picking up the social cues that are so critical to the 'tween and teen years.

Besides, he didn't say I couldn't say it AT ALL, just not after the car door opened in the school driveway. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012


Luke just finished a marathon.

Yep, 8-year-old, second grade Luke ran 26.2 miles.

And here's the proof:


That's the medal he received from school, from his physical education class, for finishing a marathon.

He's VERY proud of it.

Now keep in mind he didn't do it all at one time. Instead, the kids were challenged to complete 26.2 miles of jogging or fitness walking over about a 6-week period.

Luke was determined to be one of the first in his class to finish. He wanted to beat the PE coach (he WAS the first in his class to finish; he didn't quite finish before the PE coach). So in one, two and three mile increments, Luke ran.

And ran and ran and ran. 

26.2 miles.

I'm  VERY proud of my boy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Steak and Guinness Pie

By now, you all know I'm a huge fan of Kevin and his blog, Closet Cooking.

In fact, I've been so obsessed with his recipes lately I haven't ventured into developing many of my own of late. But Kevin doesn't disappoint.

His Steak and Guinness Pie, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, is no exception. Not only does your house smell heavenly while it's cooking, but the combination of the savory beef, which tenderizes during the cooking process, the reduction of stock and beer, the melty cheese and flaky crust is almost too much for mere words. I'd say sip a Guinness while it cooks, but for me, Guinness is a beer that eats like a meal; I'm too full after to enjoy my food.

All I have to say is try it. And try it soon. 

Steak and Guinness Pie
From Closet Cooking

(makes 6 servings)

4 slices bacon (sliced)
1 pound beef (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 onion (sliced)
2 stalks celery (sliced)
2 carrots (cut into bite sized pieces)
4 ounces mushrooms (quartered)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 can Guinness
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon thyme (chopped)
1 tablespoon rosemary (chopped)
1 bay leaf
2 pie crusts
1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

1. Cook the bacon and set aside leaving the grease in the pan.
2. Add the beef and brown on all sides and set aside.
3. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
5. Add the Guinness and deglaze the pan.
6. Add the stock, bacon, beef, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beef is tender, about 2-3 hours.
8. Place the first pie crust into the bottom of a pie plate and pour the beef stew in.
9. Sprinkle the cheese over the beef stew and cover with the top pie crust.
10. Mix the egg and water and brush it onto the top of the pie crust.
11. Bake in a preheated 350 oven until golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Penne with Spinach Sauce

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. And make it SOONER rather than later.

After all, cream cheese IS a food group, spinach is my favorite vegetable and goat cheese makes me go weak in the knees.

Plus, it's a Giada recipe and I love Giada. Even though she CLEARLY doesn't actually  EAT anything she cooks.

I did tweak the recipe a bit. The picture featured on her webpage looked a little skimpy on the sauce. And since it was a healthy sauce, with all that spinach, I decided it needed to be doubled. It was a good call.

I must also admit that when I cook like this, I don't really measure anything. It was freaking my friend, and partner in carb-crime, out a bit. Look,  it's not baking; exact measurements are not necessary.

The end result, measurements or not, was delicious. I can't wait for leftovers.

Penne With Spinach Sauce


  • 1 pound whole wheat or multi grain penne
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 ounce reduced fat cream cheese (you can use fat-free)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. 

Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and half of the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside. I doubled this but used probably triple the amount of spinach.

It needed more pepper...

Meanwhile, place the remaining spinach leaves in a large bowl.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Spoon the pasta atop the spinach leaves in the bowl. Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. I added the cooking liquid to the sauce as I processed it in the food processor to help emulsify the mixture...

Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the Parmesan over and serve. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Feeding Frenzy

 Oh. Delicious. Yumminess.

That's really all I have to say about that, but it wouldn't do my afternoon justice.

Last week I had the privilege of being invited to the Texas Chefs Association East Texas Chapter's spring meeting, their Mini Food Show.

Oh. Delicious. Yumminess.

Did I say that already?

Director and Chef Jackson York, of Edom Bakery is always so welcoming and invites us to most meetings. I was finally able to make one and what a good one to be able to make!

Held at the clubhouse in The Cascades, the vendors at the Mini Food show filled a banquet room with tantalizing aromas, sumptuous smells and delectable tastes.

There was a vast, dizzying array of fresh fruits and vegetables. You could taste, touch and smell black garlic, fingerling potatoes, star fruit, dried ancho chilies, sugar snap peas, ugli fruit and almost anything else you could imagine dazzling you on your plate at an East Texas restaurant. 

There was a carving board of roasted fresh strips of lamb with mint jelly and roasted fresh leg of pork with a tangy chutney. I went back so many times I think they were going to have to ask me to leave...

Representatives from Texas Quail Farms were on hand with exquisitely crafted purses of quail - some grilled, some fried. I'll tell you what - it does NOT taste like chicken. It was so much better. I don't think I'd ever eaten such a rich, succulent presentation of quail before. I went back so many times I think they were going to ask me to leave...

Tyson Foods was there with their smoked meats. Oh. That. Brisket. 

I *could* have gone back to that booth so many times they'd have to ask me to leave, but I was getting full. Very full.

And there was still the Lactalis Foodservice booth to visit. With fresh guacamole, guamole mixed with pico de gallo, fresh halved avocados, roasted sweet potato puffs and fried, roasted mixed potatoes...and cheese. Oh the cheese. The artisan cheese plate included samples of Italian Galbani Bel Paese, a smooth, creamy cheese with a buttery flavor. There was French Boule d'or Mimolette, a dark orange cheese with nutty tones. Then there was Istara P'tit Basque, a hard cheese fashioned from sheep's milk that was both tart and nutty, with a dense crust. The final tasty morsel was President Emmental, the original Swiss cheese that practically melts on your tongue.

I rue the fact that I did not write down the name of the vendor at one of my favorite stations. Alas, my hands were too full of shrimp wrapped in crispy cellophane noodles.

And then at the next booth was the most sublime crab and avocado mix, resplendent with fresh lemon and served on crackers.

At most of these booths, I was in grave danger of being escorted out immediately.

"Feeding frenzy at booth 12..."

There was smoked turkey breast and honey ham, brined in all natural ingredients. And then, there was Blue Bell, strategically positioned near the exit door so visitors could be rolled to the elevator, with a freezer full of tasty treats. I managed to limit myself to one spoonful of cinnamon ice cream.

There were chefs, real chefs (as opposed to tasters like me) roaming around, tasting the offerings and making orders for their establishments. I ran into Cedric Fletcher, owner/chef of Fat Catz and the soon-to-open Italian restaurant, Zaza. I saw buddy Edwin Santos. But mostly, I just ate. I'm surprised they didn't ask me to leave...