Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There Are 115 People Praying For Shanna

And I have the BEST friends in the world!

On more than one occasion
when I have been faced with a difficult situation
I have turned to my friends and have called in my prayer warriors.
They were all so amazing when I was in Memphis *helping* Indra.
I say that tongue in cheek because many of them
prayed my sorry butt off the floor when I fainted
TWICE! the first night down there.
When Indra and I couldn't figure out how to navigate,
or even find for that matter,
support resources for women undergoing breast cancer treatment,
I put out a call and got great ideas as well as much needed prayer
(for Indra and me).
Every time I post the infamous "socks" picture on Facebook
my friends can be sure I will be making a new prayer request
for my dear, dear friend. The responses are prayers for
Indra but I am so blessed by them also.

Well, now Shanna is having a very difficult time
getting this new school year underway.
She is in a school that she served in through Americorps last year.
It is a charter school and it serves a population of our kids that
could very easily be cast aside and left to find their place in the world through
gang involvement or any number of illegal or dangerous means
if not for some amazingly dedicated educators.
Shanna has a group of 20 freshmen who she will stay with
their entire four years of high school. She may very well prove
to be the only constant adult in their lives at this critical time.
I am truly humbled by the level of commitment every one
of the teachers in this school have given.
But understand,
She has only taught juniors and seniors.
She is an english teacher teaching all subjects.
She is passionate about what she does.
She is a first born overachieving female.
She has a classroom full of kids who;
Are physically the size of adults,
have the maturity level of adolescents,
living in conditions that demand
survival skills most of us will never need to call upon.

Shanna knew before the school year started that there would be some
VERY difficult times ahead for her.
She warned me that there would most likely be times when she
would call me, "sucking her thumb in a corner."
I got that call and I will be on my way to Indianapolis Thursday
to hug my baby girl and pry that thumb outta her mouth.
Val asked about how Shanna was doing and I gave her the cliff notes.
At the end I wrote (we were e-mailing)
that Shanna said she had 114 people praying for her.
Val's reply:

I am again humbled.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tea Party Recap

How much fun was that?
I'm thrilled with how the tea cup table decorations turned out.
Only problem is figuring out what to do with them now.
Lory thinks there may be 6 years of anniversary
gifts there somewhere...
(there are 6 cups)
The "bones" of the table.
The black and white base made a great backdrop and I think I'll use it again.
I found a cool sequined jewelry box that I set the silverware in.
I'm always a little stumped for a fun way to put the silver out.
I scattered old tea cups and saucers around as "filler".
The fun part of that is I had contacted a friend
who used to own a coffee/tea shop and asked
if she had any tea cups left from the old days.
Turns out she had a whole box of old tea cups and saucers
in her basement that my aunt had given to her to use at the shop.
What are the chances of that?
Here we go! Table loaded.
Mini strawberry cakes coated in white and semi-sweet chocolate ganache,
mini fruit tarts, Oreo balls, fruit salsa with ginger snaps,
pretzel "turtles" and lemon wafer cookies.
Not a crumpet in sight.
Oh, and not a drop of tea.
Mimosas all around,
your choice of orange, cranberry/pomegranate, or mango juices.
Yes, there are certain tactics to guarantee a good time to be had by all

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can You Make Zucchini Parmesan?

Why, yes, you can!

How many of you out there have been gifted with the great zucchini?
Or, 3 or, 6?
I received what may have been the most beautiful zucchini
I have ever seen by my even more
beautiful daughter in law.
(Mother in law points alert)

After making the requisite zucchini bread, roasted zucchini, and
chocolate zucchini bread with past gifts,
I had this little brainstorm:
Why couldn't I just take my chicken parm recipe and exchange
zucchini for the chicken breast?
The answer is,
No reason why not!
And, it turned out pretty darn good!
So, go, do it! You know you wanna!
And then, riddle me this, why are there so many
zucchini plants out there?
And why are they so BIG?

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Of My Favorite Things

The result.
The inspiration.
Lory is changing her former quilting room to a guest room.
The last time I helped Lory paint a room in her house
we painted a spare room in what her husband *lovingly* calls
School Bus Yellow.
It has floor to ceiling harlequin diamonds "bagged" on.
It was a feat of artistic and computer skills come together to create.
Lory remains my go to person for plotting diamonds on walls.

I was a bit nervous when Lory asked me to "have at" the walls
in this room. Then she showed my the rug and inspiration hit!
We kept the color pretty neutral in deference to Ken's sanity.
Lory has an overhead projector that I used to project my rendition
of the rug pattern up onto the wall
(guess you could call Lory my tech support).
The placement evolved.
I thought going into this that I would put bits and pieces randomly
around the room but once I started I decided a poly mural would be cool.
I love it, and let me say, I don't feel a bit boastful
saying that. I believe all *talent* I have comes from God
and He just lets me have fun with it.
YEA God!

And good news is,
Ken appears to have come through relatively unscathed!
YEA God!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thai-Style Chicken Salad

I seem to be on an international bend at the moment.
In my never ending quest to find different things to do to a chicken
breast, I have stumbled upon this little gem.
Have I mentioned that I love
America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated?
And does any one get the connection between the two?
And why aren't they just one entity?
And where does Cook's Country figure in?
I digress....
This was really good. I served it over a bed of quinoa.
Sliced heirloom tomato on the side.
I didn't happen to have a cucumber but, go figure, I had a zucchini.
Other than that I stuck pretty close to the recipe as written.
This was one of those times that the frozen ginger
and the lime ice cubes came in handy.
It's the best when I can put together a recipe without
having to run to the grocery store.
The greeter at Meijer kinda looks at me funny sometimes.
One of the greeters is kinda grumpy.
That's a contradiction, don't you think?
It appears I'm having a difficult time staying on task.
I'll post the recipe in the pages and end for now before I take
you to the next weird place my mind is headed.
You're welcome :o)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Korean Beef Lo Mein

Can you do that?

I'm not that well versed on international relations.
Can you throw Korea and China in a pan and have them get along?
Well, in my world you can and not only will they get along,
they will make beautiful music together :o)
I knew I had to find more ways to eat the Korean BBQ
from our night of K-Bobs and my most favorite chinese dish
at the moment is Lo Mein. The best looking recipe I could find for
Lo Mein was from All Recipes.
But it's a vege one and something in me screamed WAA LAA!
(again, not copping to the french)
Korea, China, MAKE NICE!
And they totally did!

I posted both recipes in the pages section for your convenience.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Watermelon-Cucumber Salad

Hello Food Network Magazine!
I pulled this from the June issue. It has been waiting in my
"experiment" binder for someone to say the magic words.
"Do you need some guinea pigs?"
Diabolical laugh *ahhahhhahha*
It was really good. It seemed so off the wall that
I figured it had potential.
Everyone really enjoyed it and here are my observations/tips:
Watermelon picking out:
It should have a flat side, shows it's been sitting and growing undisturbed for a while
and it should be heavy for it's size. Yeah, that's a judgement call.
Recipe calls for 1/2 an onion that you have soaked in water
to take a bit of the edge off it. But once I put it in the bowl,
that was all I could smell so I pulled a bunch out.
Grabbed some fresh mint at the farmers market.
One of our dining companions could detect the taste of dill!
We are pretty sure that mint was grown by some dill.
Lesson: know the pedigree of your produce :o)
Oh, and this recipe is written how I think we should all
learn to use recipes, not much by way of exact amounts.
You like something? Put lots of it in.
Not too crazy about other things? Go light.
And, surprisingly, it was good the next day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shower Favors

Side "A"

Side "B"

And now I'm just having fun and had to share.
Thanks :o)
Oh, those are individual tea bags in there that I found at Home Goods.
Gotta love that store!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hat Box, Cake Plate, Tart. Sounds like the Punch-line to a Joke

Where to start?
I'm going with a color scheme of brights accented with black and white.
(my subject today is the sure to be infamous Mad Hatter Tea Party Shower)
At the base of this pyramid is a HAT BOX of all things!
Found this beauty and a smaller one at Hobby Lobby.
They are going to be great to set cake plates on to give the table varying heights.

Next is the cake plate I found at Home Goods.
I thought at fist that I would just swap out the black ribbon for a
bright colored one and then I got home and the brain re-engaged.

The tarts are a work in progress.
Isn't nice how I like to invite you into the process?
It's refrigerator pie shell that I rolled out a bit and
then cut out rounds and lined a mini cupcake pan with.
I sprayed the pan with Pam first and I gotta say the shells
seemed a bit greasy. No Pam next time.
They also seemed a bit thick so I think I will roll
the pastry out thinner next time.
I docked them (poked holes all around with a fork)
before cooking to keep the bottoms from puffing up.
I baked them in a 400 something degree oven (whatever the box said)
But I only baked them for about 8 minutes.
I filled them with instant pudding and then topped with the berries.
They were OK. Is it awful that I think I will go ahead and make
them, with the changes, and serve them at the party?
They look really pretty on the plate.
I used to tease a friend of mine that she bought food as decoration.
She'd fill the fridge and then have to toss half of it because she
wouldn't get around to preparing it.
(in her defense she was a single mom)
I think my tarts will qualify as food as decoration.
Sorry for all the times I teased you, Luciene :o)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

So this is what you get when I just want to share, like
Pink in a jar.
I had some fresh raspberries left over from my trial run
of fruit tartlets for a certain event and thought
a raspberry vinaigrette over the baby greens in my
fridge would be ever so pleasant on a hot
sticky evening such as this very one.
That's a loooong sentence.
So, perusing the internet, every recipe I found pretty much
had me using raspberry vinegar.
Who wants to do that when you have these
glorious real berries sitting right in front of you?
I finally came across this recipe but I
just jotted it down, so Minnie in Minnesota
isn't going to get her credit here. I did swap out honey and used the Agave
from those amazing margaritas, so does it count as my recipe now?
Any which way, here you go;
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. Agave
1 scant Tbsp. Dijon
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lime juice
Emulsify this all together and then add 1/2 cup fresh or defrosted
raspberries and blend till liquid.
It's so good!
I'm trying to figure out if I could make a chicken salad using it.
That dijon really does it's job emulsifying
the dressing and it comes out really creamy.
So, you get pink in a jar because raspberries are in season
and I don't want anyone to miss out on this!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why, Thank you, Goodwill Industries.

We continue on our Mad Hatter quest.
But here's a little aside,
I will change the words I use according to what I can spell.
If I stump spell check, I choose a new word.
I am on an odessy but apparently don't know how to spell it.
So, now I'm on a quest :o)
So, this is my haul from the friendly neighborhood Goodwill.
The tea cups were a no brainer.
Think I can spray paint them crazy colors and use
them as table props?
And then that pitcher! Even Mike said it belonged at a
Mad Hatter Tea Party.
And while I do intend to spend an unreasonable
amount of your time taking you through the Mad Hatter
process, I gotta give props to Goodwill.
My daughter, Shanna, is a teacher at a charter school
in Indianapolis that is funded through Goodwill Industries.
The school is amazing. It serves inner city kids but
the concept and structure is such that
given the choice of sending my kids there or to the
"highly ranked" suburban school they did attend, I would
have chosen Indy Met hands down!
If I get so I can figure out how to have a "guest blogger"
and Shanna has an opportunity to come up for air
I'll have her post a brief synopsis of her school's philosophy.

Hm, I appear to be able to spell synopsis.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's a Journey

And so it begins...
Lory's son, Court is getting married and it is tradition that I host
showers for Lory's boys. Well, Lory's boys, women.
I love to throw a party and once I have my "hook" I'm off like a bat!
I Facebook brainstormed with my best resource (and all her followers) Aggie,
of Aggie's kitchen.
Did I mention she held my hand through Michael's wedding ?
Any way, it's gonna be a Mad Hatter Tea Party!
I haven't fleshed out all the details but I'm really psyched!
Come on, a house with purple walls is screaming for such an event!
I told Court the theme and he asked if all showers had themes.
I thought on that a minute and told him, maybe, maybe not,
but all MINE do!
So, first experiment, mini cakes.
Got the starting off point from Val who actually bakes hers in cans.
I took a page from my cupcakes in a jar and just did one big layer cake and
used a biscuit cutter to cut out the layers.
Then I made Ganache, for the first time.
Way easier than the word would imply and very forgiving.
I set the cakes on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and poured the ganache over.
Tip, you can scoop up all the ganache that runs over, zap it a bit and reuse it.
Here's another tip from my husband who does not cook,
refrigerate the cakes before you cut it.
Keeps the cake from squishing down.
Has something to do with laser cutting food.
He's in ultrasonics.
Who knew.
So now they are back in the fridge setting up.
I think they would benefit greatly from a second coat of ganache
and now that I know I can use what drips off I think I will
try to get a complete coat working around the sides.
The day before the shower.
It's how I roll.
Gotta be some element of suspense :o)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Avocado Chimichurri Bruschetta


Not too sure if this post is more about the food or photography.
This is one tasty dish I got from Vegetariantimes.com
I've served it a couple of times to rave reviews.
I always thought Chimichurri was something you fried.
Turns out that's a Cimichunga.
Chimichurri is a delicious sauce/condiment?
made primarily of cilantro and parsley.
And while this recipe has you mix it with avocado for an
amazing appetizer,I think it would be equally fantastic served over,
now don't tell Vegetarian Times,
a chicken breast or a piece of fish.
I think that's where some pretty safe creativity can come into play.
Go ahead and take a component of a recipe you enjoy and use it in a different application.
Now for the Photojournalist portion of my post:
The above photo I copied from Vegetarian Times web page.
(hopefully that suffices as full-disclosure/credit)
The one below I snapped at a party I had.
While I think I went one better by putting the Avocado Chimichurri
on bite sized toasts.
Photographing them from above and on a green place-mat...

Not so ingenious :o)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can't Eat This One

Here's the elephant that's been living in my family room
since my son got married and moved out.
It was a way cool computer desk once upon a time.
Michael has a history of asking me if he could do wacky things.
I have a history of telling him yes.
The first occasion was when he asked if he could write on his bedroom walls.
I figured that I paint murals, why couldn't he make his own?
It was fascinating to see what he chose to put on his walls.
He still recounts that story with a certain amount of pride in his mom.
Thank you God for that good parenting decision.

I love it when Michael comes to me with some way out idea.
I always tell him, go for it!
There are enough people in the world who will tell you why something WON'T work.
I'd rather he try and figure out how to make it work
or learn why it won't for himself.
I'm reminded of when he came to his dad and me and announced he was going
to marry his best friend, Michelle, in what,
2 months?
On a Wednesday.
In our backyard.
With a jumpy house.
Two of the best months of my life!

About a year ago Michael came to me with the idea of gutting an old piano
and turning it into a computer desk.
Why, yes, of course Michael, you can do that.
He found this beauty on Craig's List for free, he just had to get it out of the
house it was in before they tore down the house.
He pulled as much of it apart there as he could to try to lighten the load.
Enlisted a few buddies and a trailer and dragged that baby home.
He figured out piece by piece how to dismantle the thing
and then reconfigure it to house 2 computer screens,
a key board and all the "stuff" a computer requires.
It's even got power in it!

Even emptied of all it's piano parts, this thing weighs a TON.
Michael and his dad were both happy to just leave this where it sits.
So, Michael removed all the valuable computer parts
and this is what I was left with.

So, I took a page from Michael's book,

and made a
Wine Bar!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's a Love/Hate Thing....

Dinner the other night.
Quinoa and sweet potato salad.
Home grown heirloom tomato.
Salmon brushed with balsamic.
Look at those grill marks!
Pan responsible for aforementioned grill marks.
One of the handiest pans I own.
LeCreuset, red, what's not to love?
CLEANING that pan!!!
Someone please tell me that the inside is really like cast iron and
it's supposed to get that seasoned crusty layer on it.
That it needs it.
That it will make my food taste better.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Creativity by Committee

Here's a little something I threw together last night.
I made a pizza crust, brushed it with some leftover balsamic vinaigrette and
topped it with Korean beef left over from Saturday night.
I added some caramelized onions and then put slices of brie all over.
Baked that puppy and then dressed some spring greens with the same vinaigrette.
tossed that on top and
( I only speak french, don't spell it)
It had terrific flavors but was missing what Mike referred to as a "moist" component.
(sorry Shanna)
So any suggestions for "moist"?
I'm thinking that if I had caramelized like 3 onions down to an almost paste
consistency that I might then be on to something.
I'm just not sure I have the patience for that.
Any bright ideas out there?

You Win Some, You Lose Some

We had a night of winners, losers and also-rans.
And an unexpected winner.
In my quest to make my way through the mountain of recipes I want to try from the
Food Network magazine I hosted a FNM Extravaganza! last night.

First the surprise of the night, Fried pickle chips!
Yep, you saw that right. They were in the June issue and looked just
quirky enough that I felt the need to try them.
They are really crunchy, being coated in crushed pretzels helps.
Even my 80 somethings Mom and Aunt liked them. Go figure!

Next came a Cornucopia of Kababs!
The July / August issue has one of those fun "50" pull out sections.
Now, let me say that I do love FNM but please,
can they list more obscure ingredients???
Last time they had me searching the internet for "Japanese spice."
Yes. it does exist and for 15 bucks you can be the proud owner of some as well.
Or, you can have mine cause you know what? The recipe called for a whopping 1 tablespoon and I now have an entire jar of the stuff sitting on my shelf.
And the recipe wasn't good enough to replicate.
This time they called for an Asian Pear. Huh?
I scoured the market for it with no luck so I came home and
Googled it!
Genius! I was able to determine the texture and relative flavor of it
and how it is usually used in cooking.
I was making the Korean Beef (#2) if you're interested.
This elusive pear was part of the marinade and I determined that
in this application the good old fashioned American pear in my fridge would suffice.
And it did! As did my substitution of flank steak for the
boneless short ribs (good luck finding those).
Did the chicken liver (#28) for my aunt.
Yeah, still not a fan of chicken liver, my aunt thought they were good.
And then did the sausage and pepper skewers from the April issue.
I thought doing sausage, or in my case, bratwurst, as a kebab sounded
like a fun new way to serve brats.
They get coated with a pesto sauce as they cooked and it turned out really good.
Now for my loser.
The Israeli Tomato Salad from the July issue.
It all sounded like good flavors but the dill was overpowering
and the overall flavor was just kind of flat.
My mom took it home. She is going to try a adding a little vinegar and sugar.
Hm, go mom!

OK, well moral to this adventure,
I had a dud in the mix but nobody went home hungry.
We all tried something out of the box and liked it.
Didn't have to call Dominos.
Oh, and have your mother bring along a chocolate cake from Portillo's
'cause if all else fails,
Let Them Eat Cake!