Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I don't think I've ever read as many books in one year as I have this year. It has been invigorating to read one book after another without taking a break in between--kind of like a marathon but without breaking a sweat (or burning calories, hmmm). In a few days I will post this year's complete list with short reviews, but for now here is a list of my top ten favorite reads for 2009 with brief reviews from previous posts:

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression - Amity Shlaes
The forgotten man is the man who works hard to stay off government assistance but continues to get stuck with the bill bailing out everyone else. Regardless of your opinion about our current economic situation and government policies this is worth reading and thinking about.

My Life in France - Julia Child
I loved reading about the steps that led Julia Child to become a celebrated French cooking expert.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A beautiful story told through letters about a small British community surviving German occupation.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver
A few years ago Kingsolver moved with her family to a farm in the Appalachians committing to live off food they produced or was produced reasonably close to home for one year. Seriously fascinating.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
Well-written, has wonderfully developed characters, an original plot that keeps you plowing through all those pages, and it makes you stop and think about your beliefs on personal responsiblity. And its a good illustration of the consquences of an anti-business government.

Diary of a Provincial Lady-
E.M. Delafield
A thinly-veiled autobiography about an upper-middle class woman and her family living in a small village in Devon, England.

Vanity Fair -
William Thackeray
Thackeray had great wit and his characters are hilarious. He creates an atmosphere that clearly illustrates the pinch of a face or the whine of a voice without stating so. And is there anyone as rotten as Becky Sharp?

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Clever story written about white ladies, their black maids and the horrible double-standards in the 1960's, Mississippi.

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett
Quirky little novella about the current Queen of England stumbling into a library van and selecting a library book for the first time in her life. Her new-found love of reading wreaks havoc on the palace staff.

Homecooking: A Writer in the Kitchen - Laurie Colwin
Reading about her jam anxiety, her search for the perfect chocolate cake, or describing the worst meal at someone's home is great fun. Plus her recipes are lovely.

I would love to hear what your favorite books have been this year, so leave a comment if you wish. Happy reading!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


My sisters and I have been loving these delicious enchiladas since we were kids. This is one of my three favorite foods my cute Mom made during my childhood: Enchiladas, Meat Loaf, and Lemon Cake. Just recently I finally recreated my Mom's meat loaf. Sometime I will share the recipe (super easy) but probably won't post a picture since it is not appealing to look at--but it warms the soul.

Our Mom picked up this recipe from AJ Bayless, a local grocery store in Phoenix that no longer exists. I still have a copy of the recipe card, "Nancy Parker Recipes", probably from the 1960's.

I made these for Christmas day dinner along with the refried beans (see recipe below) and Mock Fried Ice Cream (soon to be posted). In the past, I have skipped dipping the tortillas in the oil and instead of rolling the tortillas I have torn them into pieces and layered them. Not near as good as following the recipe.

So, this Christmas day I dipped the tortillas in oil and rolled them tightly--so good. Even my nephew, Connor, had two helpings, which warmed my little heart.

I baked 18 enchildas, 12 in a 9 x 13 baking dish and 6 in the dish pictured above. I stretched the sauce by adding extra tomato juice and water, and a bit more beef.

Mom's Beef Enchiladas
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup flour
1 20 oz can tomato juice
1/2 can water (10 oz.)
3-5 garlic cloves, crushed
Pinch of oregano and cumin
2-3 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lb ground beef
1 chopped onion
12 corn tortillas
Canola oil (for cooking tortillas)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar)
1 4 oz can sliced black olives
12 whole black olives

To make the sauce:
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the canola oil and flour, whisk together and allow to bubble for one minute. Pour in the tomato juice and water, stir. Add the crushed garlic and remainder of spices. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

To make the filling:
Brown beef and onion in skillet, add salt. Lightly fry the tortillas in hot oil to to soften (do not crisp). Lay tortillas between paper towels to absorb oil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread one cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place a portion of meat filling, grated cheese, and sliced olives in the center of a tortilla, roll, and hold together with a toothpick and olive (add the olives to toothpicks to more easily spot the toothpick and prevent choking). Place the rolled, filled tortilla in the baking dish repeating procedure laying enchiladas side by side. Pour sauce over enchiladas, top with grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese melts.

Super easy refried beans--and delicious.

2 lb. pinto beans (or 3 15 oz. cans)
1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup)
3 Mexican sausages (I used chorizo)
1 Tablespoon flour
Cook beans until soft. In a separate skillet add oil and cook the sausage and flour for 1 to 2 minutes. Add beans to mixture and mash with a potato masher. Add cheese on top.
This recipe came from My Favorite Things by Elizabeth Banks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


My cousin, Heather, claims that Wassail is really a fancy word for Apple Cider. Although it has apple cider as a main ingredient, lots of yummy additions make it far more interesting than just cider.

My friend, Leslie, is famous for her Wassail (she even uses it to bribe others to donate to her beloved Southwest Shakespeare). I recently made a batch for our family Christmas party and it was a hit. We shall be drinking this on Christmas morn.

1 quart water
3 sticks cinnamon
5 cloves
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ginger (fresh would be lovely)
1 teaspoon allspice

Bring the above ingredients to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks, then add:

1 12 oz. can orange juice concentrate

1 6 oz. can lemonade concentrate

2 quarts apple cider

Serve warm

Monday, December 21, 2009


Love, love, love this dish! Sweet from the cornbread and a bit of a kick from the spicy sausage. I made a few changes as noted on the recipe. This is my new favorite Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing. Which, by the way, shouldn't it be called dressing when it is cooked outside of the turkey? I think so.


* 16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough (1 1/2 pound loaf) (I made with 1/2 cornbread, 1/2 crusty french bread)
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)
* 1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
* 2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
* 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 1/3 lb sweet sausage and 1/3 lb spicy Italian sausage)
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1 cup dried cranberries (I omitted)


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 7 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.

Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.


Hmmm, not so great. This is the recipe touted in a few magazines highlighting the fabulous Blackberry Farm and I like to try one new recipe every Thanksgiving. But this won't be made again. Darn. It looked so pretty in the dish. But I think the orange color tricks the taste buds into thinking something sweet is coming down the palate. Nope. I am sharing this with you lest you think everything I make turns out to be delicious and I also liked the picture.

Carrot Souffle
Serves 8
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup saltine cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large eggs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish; set aside.
  2. Place carrots in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Generously salt water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 minutes.
  3. Strain carrots and transfer to the bowl of a food processor; process until pureed. Transfer carrot puree to a large bowl; stir in milk, cracker crumbs, cheese, onion, butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs until foamy. Whisk eggs into carrot mixture until just combined.
  5. Transfer carrot mixture to prepared baking dish and bake until puffed and light golden brown on top, 40 to 45 minutes; serve warm.

Friday, December 18, 2009


My niece, Ellie, was on the holiday committee at her school and volunteered to make Gingerbread Man Cookies for her class. I knew the kids wouldn't probably love the strong flavor of the classic ginger cookies so I was happy to find a milder version on
Ellie did a great job of rolling out the dough and cutting out the little guys.

The house smelled great with ginger and cinnamon filling the air.

Ellie even added little buttons of royal icing, recipe courtesy of SimplyRecipes. The cookies were thin and crisp tasting just like the Anna Ginger cookies I buy at Ikea. And Ellie's classmates gobbled them up. Success!


  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into the pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease baking sheets. On a floured board, roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

Royal Icing

* 1 egg white
* 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

The traditional way to make Royal Icing is to beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. With modern concerns about salmonella from raw eggs, you can either use powdered egg whites or heat the egg whites first to kill any bacteria. With the heating method, mix the egg white and lemon juice with a third of the sugar, heat in a microwave until the mixture's temperature is 160°F. Then remove from microwave, and beat in the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Using the powdered egg whites method, combine 1 Tbsp egg white powder with 2 Tbsp water. Proceed as you would otherwise. (Raw egg white alternatives from the 2006 Joy of Cooking)

If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the icing to pipe out into different shapes. (Or use a plastic sandwich bag, with the tip of one corner of the bag cut off.) Keep the icing covered while you work with it or it will dry out.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Yea! It's that time of year again when my sisters, Tammy and Lori, and Ellie my niece, and I head over to California to spend a few days in Orange County. Basically, this posting is paying homage to the beloved Roger's Gardens.

Roger's Gardens is a delight anytime of the year but at Christmas it is ethereal. I should have brought along a video camera to capture the feeling for you and then post it on YouTube. But I didn't. So these photos will have to do.
Maybe a few of these vignettes will spur your imagination to do something new with your Christmas decorations this year. I love to be a copy cat!

Wouldn't it be pretty to gather up your white and clear glass items and fill them with flower for a centerpiece? It wouldn't need to cost anything, just using what you have and maybe a few clippings from your garden.

The above picture was full of sparkles but my camera didn't catch them. I loved the white, gray, and glitter.

This fun wreath looks bigger than it is. I bought it for my front door but it is too small. If I layer it over another pine wreath I am hoping it will fill the space better.

This darling little tree caught my eye. I love the red stand.

See that pretty white polka dot and red cake platter on the right side of the pic? Shhhh, I bought it for one of my sisters. The one who likes red. Don't tell.

Santas, santas everywhere. Are there ever enough? My sister, Tammy, doesn't think so.

I love this guy above. Very regal in his fur trimmed robe with his crown. I would have loved to bring him home.

Another gorgeous Santa.

Outside at night everything is lit up. The trees are all dressed up with white lights. If you can visit at night you will love it even more. All bundled up roaming around the gorgeously lit grounds.

Of course our annual trip includes one or two days at Disneyland! It was very cold. We stayed in jackets, gloves, and scarves all day and we loved it. But, of course, we are from Arizona.

Picture below: Pommes Frites. Cafe Orleans at Disneyland.

Best fries at Disneyland--garlic, parmesan cheee, and parsley sprinkled on top served with a cajun sauce. Yum. Really the only food worth taking a photo of at Disneyland. If I were to become CEO of Disneyland the first thing I would do is to improve the taste of the food. There is really no excuse for the abysmal food the Park offers.

But we don't go to Disneyland for the food. We go for the atmosphere, the memories of spending a few day there every summer, and just being together plotting which ride we will go on next and who will control the lever for the Dumbo ride!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Don't you love pumpkin bread? The smell, the appearance, and the taste is so comforting. Bake a batch to celebrate the first day of December! And, this recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. Isn't that a nice treat?

This recipe makes two loaves. Freeze the extra bread, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to one month. Omit the nuts or substitute chopped walnuts, if you prefer. Check the bread after 50 minutes of baking--you may need to cover the loaves with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent overbrowning.


  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 15 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a bowl.

Place sugar, egg substitute, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add 2/3 cup water and pumpkin, beating at low speed until blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pecans evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.