Wednesday, December 31, 2008


May 2009 be much better than 2008! Here are a few of my resolutions for 2009:

1. Exercise more (of course)

2. Lose weight (of course)

3. Use my wheat grinder

4. Bake bread with the freshly ground wheat

5. Make good pie crust

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Years ago my cousin, Catherine, gave me a cookbook by Elizabeth Banks. It is a great go-to cookbook, especially for sweet treats. I made this cake for Christmas brunch and everyone loved it. Another pretty Bundt pan cake that tastes as good as it looks.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
18 oz. sour cream

1 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Alternate with eggs. Mix well. Add vanilla and sour cream (I used reduced fat). Pour half of batter in well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Add half of filling, rest of the batter, and the rest of the filling. Bake 65-70 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool on wire rack. Invert after cake is cooled.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I am really into reading all about the founding of our country and the years following the establishment of the Constitution. American Lion by Jon Meacham fits right in building upon my time with Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin.

Andrew Jackson is not a President I know much about other than to recognize that skinny face with the mop of hair on the twenty dollar bill. But if you think politics are mean and wild now just take a look at the 1830's. Jackson was hard-driving, fearless, and loyal to a fault. At times he was like a dictator not caring about any other facts or opinions but his own--just running towards his goal at all costs.

Since I am often in DC, it is interesting to read about the places Jackson visits while serving as President, without security, sometimes just riding his horse from the White House and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Meacham is a fine writer, not as elegant as David McCullough, but he's good at giving enough details without getting too bogged down. Sometimes he goes off on tangents and I have to backtrack a bit to the original point. But it is a worthwhile read and I've enjoyed getting to know our seventh President.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Favorite things about Christmas:
Reading about the birth of Christ in the New Testament
Singing Christmas hymns every Sunday at Church
Dressing up the house
Trimming the tree
Baking pumpkin treats
Annual Mormon Tabernacle Christmas program
Zoo Lights
Annual Handel's Messiah sing-a-long


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Obviously, I am addicted to pumpkin. I told my niece, Ellie, that I was making pumpkin scones for Christmas morning and she said, "oh, no, more pumpkin?!?". Not a good sign. But I am telling you these mini pumpkin cheesecakes are the best! Just ask Jennifer, Sheli, Tammy, Lori, and Steve. They are heavenly and my new favorite pumpkin recipe (besides the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins). For the crust, I used some slightly stale Trader Joes Triple Ginger Snaps mixed with generic ginger snaps--it was perfect.

2 1/4 cups gingersnap crumbs
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla
glazed walnuts for garnish

Preheat over to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine gingersnap crumbs, pecans, 1/3 cup suguar, and butter. Press into bottom and three-fourths up sides of three 12-cup mini cheesecake pans. Bake 6 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat until creamy. Beat in eggs, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract.
Chill 2 hours before removing from pans. Garnish with glazed walnuts.
Note: This recipe comes from Diana's mother-in-law, LaDawn.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The thing about pumpkin cookies is in order to look appetizing they need to be frosted. And the recipe for this frosting is so good. It is the lemon zest that makes it just right. The cookies are good, too.

This recipe comes from the Northridge Ward Cookbook.

Ingredients for cookies
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 T maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and eggs (one egg at a time), mix. Add pumpkin and mix. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie shett. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on rack.

1 package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of one lemon
Beat the cream cheee until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk and vanill and beat. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little more milk. Fold in lemon zest. Frost when cookies completely cooled.

Monday, December 15, 2008


For a few years now my two sisters, niece, and I travel to Disneyland in December. We take a Monday morning flight to Orange County, pick up our rental car and head to Roger's Gardens, have lunch at Fashion Island, and then check-in to the Fairfield Inn across the street from Disneyland and walk over to Downtown Disney. We spend the next two days at Disneyland (and a bit of time at California Adventure Park) and fly home Wednesday night. We always have a blast.

Roger's Gardens is one of my favorite places to visit. My friends never completely understand why Roger's is worth a stop until I take them there. Then they get it! It is a feast for the eyes. Gorgeous plants and flower arrangements everywhere. Beautiful items for your home and garden. Ideas galore. From the moment you walk into the little alcove entrance you see three or four items that would be perfect in your home.

After walking through the many indoor rooms of tantalizing home decor you walk outside to the beautiful landscaped outdoor rooms. Hydrangeas, ivy topiaries, amaryllis, and other stunning flowers are tucked into wreaths, pots, and along walkways. You begin to convince yourself that maybe with the proper care and protection you too could grow these gorgeous plants in the Arizona heat.

Then, as you breath in the humidified air, you snap back to reality and realize the only way a hydrangea will survive in your yard is if it is silk--and that would be just plain tacky. So, while I never buy anything that is actually growing, I do always leave with something for my home. This time it was two little green french pots--don't know where I will put them but they are so pretty. And my sister Lori found two flower arrangements for her family room so she left quite satisfied.

Then on to Disneyland where the entire park is dressed-up for Christmas. We love going in December. Everything at Disneyland is extra festive. And the crowds are not bad.

So we hit the rides and completely enjoy ourselves without any plan of action. No need for a fast pass since the wait is less than 10 minutes, if that.

We leave Disneyland late in the afternoon, drive 15 minutes to the airport and return home where, for once, it is usually colder than the place we left! Yeah!

And we lived happily ever after......I wish!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Well, not quite. But it was rather exciting to see a a bit of red peaking out under little green tops in the garden this morning. And the lettuce is so tender and sweet that it was perfect on a tuna sandwich this afternoon. We're not exactly living off the land but producing delicious radishes and enough lettuce for a salad is very satisfying.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I have made this recipe so many times! My friend, Ashley, gave this recipe to me years ago. I have played around with it a bit but she would still recognize it as her favorite pasta dish.

Ashley's Baked Pasta

1 lb. lean ground beef (I use ground turkey)
½ onion diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
pepper and oregano to taste (I also add crushed red pepper flakes & kosher salt to the turkey)
1 large jar favorite spaghetti sauce
1 packet of sliced provolone cheese—you need 8 thick slices
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 pint light sour cream
10 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 box penne pasta

Cook pasta according to directions
Brown meat and onion together—add spices—after meat is cooked add spaghetti sauce.

In deep large pan (lasagna pan is perfect) layer as follows:

½ cooked pasta
½ cooked meat sauce
½ sour cream
½ provolone cheese
½ mozzarella cheese
½ parmesan cheese

Then start over layering the remaining ingredients. Cook for 40 minutes covered at 375 degrees—remove cover and cook for another 20 minutes.

(The above picture shows olives--I added sliced black olives and it was great.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MEXICAN CHICKEN SOUP - Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten came through again. I had lots of carrots and onions on hand and wanted to make soup. I found a good, spicy recipe in her book, Barefoot Contessa at Home, for Mexican Chicken Soup. Of course you can make it mild, medium, or spicy depending on how many jalapenos you add. This was very good soup and I would make it again. I think it would freeze well, too. Also, since we don't love cilantro I left it out.


4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


This recipe comes from Pinch My Salt . I had all the ingredients and wanted the smell of pumpkin in my house for one more day. And I haven't used my Bundt pan in a long time so this was a good excuse. Bundt pans make the prettiest cakes and they always slice so neatly. A big plus when you are giving it away to others.

You could glaze this cake but I really like it with a dusting of powdered sugar. A sprinkling makes desserts look so festive.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan (or even better, use Baker’s Joy spray).
2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine eggs, sour cream, pumpkin, and oil. Beat well with a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer), scraping down sides with a spatula, until everything is well blended. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is well combined. Scrape down sides, then blend in the vanilla extract.
4. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving if desired.
Yield: 10-12 servings
Recipe Notes: *Pumpkin pie spice can be substituted with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or make your own combination). Make sure to butter your Bundt pan really well and get into all the crevices. I like to use a spray like Baker’s Joy because I’ve never had a problem with cakes sticking to the pan when I use it.

Note: I, Kim, have not used Baker's Joy--the above note is from Pinch My Salt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I read this book a few years ago but today at lunch I mentioned it to a friend. It was great to relive a few of the harrowing accounts of Theodore Roosevelt's expedition down a segment of the Amazon River.

Candice Millard did an excellent job of taking her research and turning it into a book that first, makes you hyperventilate at the very thought of being in the jungles of the Amazon; second, makes you thankful that you will NEVER travel to the Amazon or have the need to carry cyanide tablets; and third, I'm not kidding about the hyperventilating--you feel as if you are actually on this ill-planned expedition.

I loved every minute of this book. Of course, I am a big fan of President Theodore Roosevelt and have read several of his biographies. But if you enjoy well-written, non-fiction adventure stories this is a book I highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

EGGPLANT GRATIN - Barefoot Contessa

So I made myself a promise that if I participated in Bountiful Baskets I would not give away or toss a vegetable I wasn't familiar with.

My first test was the collard greens and I passed that test by making the soup which was great.

Last Saturday was my second test--eggplant. I have never cooked an eggplant. So of course, I had to find something good to do with this pretty purple plant.

The Barefoot Contessa never lets me down. I have all of her cookbooks and her recipes are great. Even cutting back on the rich ingredients I have had great luck with her recipes. I found this recipe in her Barefoot in Paris book. It is excellent. I would definitely make this for my sister's family though I probably would not tell them it was eggplant. And I think it would be great served with grilled chicken.

But pretty much anything hidden below the conncoction of ricotta cheese, parmesan, and marinara sauce, all toasty and bubbly on top, would taste good.

Good olive oil, for frying (this always cracks me up--"good olive oil")
3/4 pound eggplant, unpeeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 extra-large egg
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good bottled marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat about 1/8-inch of olive oil in a very large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add several slices of eggplant and cook, turning once, until they are evenly browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Be careful, it splatters! Transfer the cooked eggplant slices to paper towels to drain. Add more oil, heat, and add more eggplant until all the slices are cooked.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

In each of 2 individual gratin dishes, place a layer of eggplant slices, then sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon 1/2 of the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, more salt and pepper, half the ricotta mixture, and finally 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on top.

Place the gratins on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the custard sets and the top is browned. Serve warm.

Note: I cooked the eggplant in a very seasoned pan and did not need to use much olive oil. I also substituted regular milk for the half and half. And I made one gratin not two.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Can you believe it is December 1st?? Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.

The rain on Thanksgiving was delightful and put me in the spirit to decorate for Christmas. The outside of our house is now decorated and our two Christmas trees are up.

Tammy's tree was decorated with the help of Maddie and Morgan. The twins's think Tammy's tree is the "fun tree" with all the Santa Claus', Snow Whites, and Cinderellas, hanging on the branches. My tree is up and I need to adjust the lights and start the trimming.

The creche is out--we have two--the one my parent's had when we were growing up and one I purchased years ago. I love them both.

Right now a pumpkin spice cake is baking in the oven--I will let you know how it turns out. It is making the house smell heavenly!