Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Tis the Season for Giving - and Giveaways!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year to all!

Here at our house, we've celebrated a wonderful Christmas with family, cooked a ton and eaten everything in sight (and it was awesome, too!), exchanged gifts and opened them all, watched a lot of our favorite show reruns (Dad has taken to buying them all on DVD), slept in every day (oh, heaven!) and seen all our guests off. Now, for the cleanup!

Look for some upcoming posts with a few photos of the festivities. Meanwhile, as I was trying to restore order to the house, I came across some scrapbooking items that I have been meaning to give away. And since it's the season of giving, I decided to host my very first giveaway on this blog! Yay!

There's no particular order to what I'm giving away, but I'm hoping someone can give these items a good home. Seven Several years ago, hubby and I got married. Five A fewyears ago, after being introduced to scrapping by my best friend, I started scrapbooking my wedding. Five years later Recently, I finished the wedding scrapbook. Those who enjoy scrapbooking will understand that a finished scrapping project inevitably results in some "leftover" scrapping items, such as stickers, paper, etc. on the particular theme of the project. And in this case, since I certainly hope I never have a second wedding to scrap(!), I have a few items I can no longer use.



Sooooo, I am hoping someone else who enjoys scrapping can use this stuff. I have a stack of wedding-themed papers, some (almost entirely unused) wedding scrapbook "kits" or "sets," lots of stickers, rub-on transfers, die cuts, and all kinds of stuff. Obviously, some of the sticker sets have been partially used, and all items are being given away "as-is". But everything I'm giving away is in great condition and ready for use in some happy scrapper's wedding album!

So with that, I will go ahead and post this. I realize not everyone will have an immediate use for wedding scrapbooking items, so please feel free to cross-post the link for this - all entries are welcome (just note shipping restrictions)! Shipping is limited to continental US (unless the recipient wants to pay shipping to their location). Giveaway is open until January 15th! Winner will be chosen at random, and please enter only once.

I hope someone can give this stuff a good home!! Happy New Year!

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Good morning! I'll have to keep this post short as we have family visiting, and I'm sneaking in here before everyone gets up to post this (Shhhh!!) But I wanted to take a few minutes this morning and share something with you.

Our pastor told this story at our Christmas Eve service last night. I love the story and the meaning behind it, and I hope you will take just a moment sometime today to read it. I hope it will touch your heart, as it did mine. And may each of you reading this have a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year!

Love,

Dahrlin'

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Puppy Pranks, Chapter 1 (by Pixie)

Dear Friends of Mom:

Several people have asked my Mom whether I am doing well, and how things are going here at my new home. I am writing today to let you know that I'm doing great! I am staying very busy and really love it here. My new parents love me SO much and I love them too! Mom says I am such a happy, waggy girl and have so much love to share.



We have tons of fun, and I have reminded my parents what it's like to have a puppy around. I am a very busy girl and I'm always into something!



I love to wrestle with my Daddy, and I like to chew (gently) on Daddy when I play. I have beautiful, clean white teethies and I eat Nylabones for breakfast (just kidding). Mom and Dad took this pic of my teeth because they said I have a big mouth for such a little pupper! And I normally look so sweet that Mom laughs when I "smile" for her!



Meanwhile, I am taking my job as the new guardian of the house very seriously. I have successfully taken care of not one but TWO of these SuperGinormous Stuffed Animals that my Mom and Dad left in my room on days when they went to work. They were gone for several hours both times, so I took my time and really did a good job, making very sure it was "dead" and will no longer be a bother to anyone. Mom thinks I *might* have confused my bed with a giant stuffy, but I think she's crazy. I am not dumb enough to eat my own bed!! Besides, everyone knows I sleep in my crate at night, all snuggled up. What other bed could she be referring to?



I am a wonderful guardian for my family and I am constantly on patrol for anything and everything that might hurt them, including the sneaking ice machine, the roaring vacuum and the randomly-running dryer. I often sit here on the steps in the kitchen, watching over Mommy as she cooks (and also carefully watching for anything that I need to clean up from the kitchen floor).



I also help Daddy as he spends half an hour twice a day scooping leaves out of that big puddle in our backyard. Mom keeps saying she is afraid I will fall in, and that the water is really cold, but I told her not to worry. I am not a huge fan of water and I certainly don't want to jump in there!

Meanwhile, I hope all of you are having a fun weekend with your puppers. I am going to go snuggle up with my Daddy and take a nap.



Take care and enjoy the Howlidays. And for all you other doggies and kitties reading this, remember: Housebreaking is very important to humans, so break as much of the house as possible!!

Love and puppy kisses,

Pixie

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Holiday Recipe Chronicles: Derby Pie

Hey Y'all!

I am guest posting over at my BFF's spot today. I've posted a new recipe to share with you for the holidays. So please check out Angie's blog and welcome her home from Disney this weekend!

Love and hugs and happy weekend!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fall Favorites - Provencal Pork Stew

One of my favorite entrees for cooler fall and winter evenings is the stew I want to share. I found it several years ago in Cooking Light, and it's an exception to my usual feeling that their recipes are a little too light for my taste. This one, with its Mediterranean flavors and healthful ingredients, is a true favorite of mine. It is on the lighter side, which is sometimes a nice break from the more hearty foods I love in fall and winter. But it still has a richness to it that is satisfying in cooler weather. And it makes a great lunch for fall and winter days too, brightening up my workday with a little mini-vacation to France for my tastebuds!

If you've never tried cooking with fennel, don't be afraid to try it. It has a texture very similar to celery (without the stringiness) and a mild, anise flavor. Cooked, it is super-yummy and brings a new dimension to the other flavors in the stew.

I like to serve this with warm, crusty rosemary sourdough bread and maybe some garlic butter green beans. Yum! Hope you will enjoy it as well!



Provencal Pork Stew
(Adapted from Cooking Light)

This makes enough for 4 - can easily be doubled

1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
4-6 garlic cloves, minced (to your taste)
1 pound pork tenderloin - cut into bite size pieces
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
Pitted Kalamata or Nicoise olives (to taste) - halved
White wine as needed
Chicken broth as needed
1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence (to taste)*
Chopped fresh parsley
Olive Oil

Note: I haven't given precise quantities on some ingredients above because most things are to taste or as needed. Make it the way you like it!

In a large, heavy-bottom pan, heat olive oil and saute the fennel and onion until tender. Add garlic and saute a couple minutes more; remove mixture from pan and reserve.

Meanwhile, dredge pork in a little flour, shaking off excess. Heat some more olive oil in your pan and brown the pork on all sides, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste. When pork is browned, deglaze the pan with some white wine - make sure you get all the yummy brown bits off the bottom! - and add some chicken broth - you want about 1 cup total liquid.

Add the fennel mixture, herbes de provence, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 45 minutes, then add olives and adjust seasoning. Simmer uncovered until pork is tender and sauce has thickened, another 10 or 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty garlic toast!

*If you don't have Herbes de Provence, just make a mixture of equal parts (dried) basil, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory thyme and lavender.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I am SO excited. Over something so simple, but which makes me very happy. This is the first time I've been able to menu plan in MONTHS. Just the idea of having a plan - some idea of what's for dinner this week - gives me so much more peace than I've had recently. Being out of my routine really throws me mentally off my game, so I am very glad to get back to some of my usual tasks - things I've missed the last few months! (I may not get our Christmas cards out until February, but at least we'll be fed).

Since we are hosting large family holiday meals (Thanksgiving and Christmas) just a few weeks apart, we are going to try to use up as many frozen foods and pantry items as we can in between. We've ended up with a freezer full of odds and ends and a similar situation in the pantry - ingredients for meals, rather than meals in and of themselves, but that's what makes cooking fun. And of course since everyone's feeling the economic pinch these days, we are of course looking to save as many dollars at the store as we can this week. So this week's menu will use up a few ingredients from our fridge and pantry, such as almond butter and leftover sweet potatoes that didn't make it into the holiday casserole. We also have some hamburger buns languishing and a couple of freezer meals I want to use up (can you tell I'm thinking out loud here? LOL!) As we go I will also weed out anything that is leftover from last winter (yeah, it's that bad!).

So here's the plan:



Monday: Mexican Chicken with Almond-Chile Cream, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Butter, Buttered Broccoli

Tuesday: Baked Tilapia with Baby Lima Beans, Rosemary Olive-Oil Garlic Toast

Wednesday: Burgers, Fried Okra (or possibly Tater Tots and Wilted Spinach)

Thursday: Honey-Nut Chicken, Buttered Corn, Buttered Broccoli

Friday:
Atkins Park Pork Tenderloin, Rice with Pecans, Garlic Butter Green Beans

Saturday: Friends coming over for our annual Tour of Lights (we pile into our car with Christmas music, drinks and snacks to tour our subdivision's light displays)

Sunday: Black Bean Chili, Cornbread

Happy week!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Holiday Recipe Chronicles: Spiced Nuts

So I keep promising you guys a new recipe. Today I'm here to fulfill that promise, LOL!

We made a lot of family favorites over Thanksgiving, and we make many of the same recipes for Christmas Dinner. Over the next few weeks I hope to share many of them with you here on the blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts on your own favorites as well! I always look for ways to improve what we make each year, but I try to keep the recipes basically unaltered, because there is grumbling from the ranks if I make too many changes :-)

I may not have pictures for all of the recipes initially, but I will update the posts with photos when we make these at Christmas.

So here's the first one. I'm beginning with this one for a couple of reasons - one, I have to go out shortly and get our Christmas tree, so I need to keep today's post short, LOL! But also because it's one that is so good, and so easy, I wanted to post it early (or relatively early) in the season. It makes PERFECT gifts for almost anyone (except those with allergies). So try it sometime and see how you like it! So far, we've made it with pecans and cashews, and both are great. I think you could do this with any nut you prefer.

I also owe my friend Katherine the credit for this recipe. I believe it originally came from her family. Now it's a favorite of ours as well!

Spiced Nuts
(proportions as given; to make a smaller or larger batch just adjust the seasoning mixture and the egg wash)

1 lb. pecan halves
1 egg white, beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 225. Combine sugar and spices. Toss nuts with egg white to coat well. Then toss well with spice mixture. Place in a single layer in a buttered pan with 2" sides. Bake for 1 hour or so, turning every 15 minutes (make sure they bake until the coating is "dry" and nuts are glazed). Cool completely in a single layer and then store in an airtight container...if you have any leftovers :-)

Enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Surfacing...with just a quick update!

Okay, so I SERIOUSLY did not mean to let another two weeks go by between blog posts. It's just been crazy and busy and... well, I know you all understand!

So just a brief update from here. I miss y'all!!! I really appreciate each one of you that follows this blog and keeps up with these ramblings. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Speaking of, ours was wonderful, with lots of friends and family visiting and (of course) a tremendous amount of food. I hope to have some pics up soon and - not to worry - holiday recipes coming soon!! (I really truly will post a recipe. Really! LOL! I know I keep saying that...)

Meanwhile, it's just been a crazy-busy few weeks, with going back to work after my neck injury. So far, so good. It's hanging in there in "more or less stable" condition for the moment. Right now, I'm just trying to get through the holidays, and then I will go see a chiropractor in case they can help. I just didn't want to do anything to make it worse in the meantime, as I've got all I can handle right now :-)

In other news, of course we got Miss Pixie. She is doing GREAT and is such a love. Look for more Pixie Pics coming soon, but for now I will just say I am already TOTALLY in love with this dog. She is such a sweetie - she loves to play, but mostly just wants to be with us. She snuggles under the covers with us in the mornings, snuggles with us while we watch TV, and generally follows us everywhere. We've been walking her every evening, which is great for my weight and fitness but not so great for my blogging schedule, LOL! But she is just too adorable. And we all need the energy outlet and exercise.

Also meanwhile, it's been kind of crazy at work. I think these last few weeks have been about the busiest I can remember at this job, and this week was especially crazy. I need a vacation, LOL! (Thanksgiving doesn't count - it was fun, but not a vacation!)

So on a totally random note, I am watching Dog the Bounty Hunter while I type this. Does anyone else watch this show? I just love the whole family. I am totally and completely hooked. And I am a huge fan of Leland. Haven't seen it? Check him out. Angie, you really need to put him in next week's MMEC. He's totally worthy. Promise!!

We're also trying to get into the Christmas decorating spirit. And gift buying and holiday planning and tree purchasing and... oh sheesh. I should just 'fess up now - I have done nothing in terms of Christmas preparations except listen to Christmas music this last week. I've GOT to get it in gear, as Thanksgiving came late this year. So naturally I'm more behind than ever!

I'm just realizing how totally random and rambling this post is - so I will take pity on those still reading and head on out to walk Miss Pix. But I really will be back - this week! - with a couple of recipes for you. They are family holiday favorites and I hope you'll love them as much as we do!

Love and hugs and happy rest of the week!

Love Dahrlin'

Saturday, November 22, 2008

She's here, She's here!!!

Yaaayyyy!! Pixie is home! We picked her up last night and we've had tons of fun already. This will be a short post as there is a LOT I need to do this weekend for Thanksgiving prep, but wanted to introduce our little pumpkin and show you a few more pics (I promise, I will post recipes again very soon...but for now, puppy pics!)



Here she is! She has settled right in and is doing just fine. It's a little deja vu, because (of course) she looks a lot like Tucker did. But she's definitely her own personality and we already love her SO much.



Welcome little one!



Hope you all have a GREAT weekend!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mmmm... Banana Bread!

Hi All and Happy Weekend!

It's so good to be back to blogging, at least a little more than I've been able to do recently! It's also been great to get back to at least a little cooking - it is my favorite time of year for cooking, after all! I have a ton of favorite holiday recipes that I hope to share with you guys very soon!

Last weekend, we happened to have a couple of lonely looking bananas laying around, and hubby suggested making banana bread. This is a huge favorite around here, but I try not to make it too often, because I tend to cut very large pieces for myself, and then eat them...one after another! I simply have no self control around this delicious bread.

There are about as many versions of banana bread out there as there are pot roasts. Everyone's got their favorite, and this one is mine. It's a Mark Bittman recipe, and I have to agree with him that it's the ultimate that I have tried. His cookbook is a favorite of mine - if you've never picked up a copy of How to Cook Everything, check it out. There are a couple of optional ingredients, which I will point out, and I've tried making it both on the lighter side and the regular version.

Now, as PW would say, don't stress over the amount of butter called for here. Remember it's all about balance, and there is also whole wheat flour and fruit in this recipe :-) Unless you're like me you will cut this loaf into at least 8 pieces, and voila, not too much butter per serving at all. Try it the regular way once, to see how you like it, and to judge the recipe fairly. But after you've tried it the regular way once, I have found you can replace up to half the butter with applesauce without noticing much difference at all. I've also tried it with only applesauce and wasn't as happy with it, but then I tend to notice the absence of fat in foods (it's why I don't really prefer a lot of "light" recipes), but see how you like it. I bet (if you're feeling adventurous!) you could even use strawberry applesauce with nice results!

So without further ado, here's my very favorite version of this classic bread. (Okay, only slightly further ado...I love how we call it bread when we all know it's really...um...cake...I mean, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour...but ah well...we won't tell anyone, right?!) As I was saying...

Banana Bread
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
Makes one loaf



1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter (8 Tbsp)
1.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9"x5" loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients (excluding nuts and coconut). Cream butter and eggs, and stir in mashed bananas. Combine the banana mixture with the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Don't overmix or bread will be tough. Stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut if using.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 45-60 minutes until golden brown. You can test with a toothpick and it will be mostly clean, but do not overbake; this bread is more moist than regular bread because of the bananas. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. If you try it warm, you may not have any leftovers ;-) But wrap any leftovers in waxed paper and foil. Makes a great breakfast, snack or (okay) dessert!

Hope you guys love this as much as we do!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Have You Seen This?

Good morning!

And it is a great morning. We're not sure what (specifically) is helping, whether the acupuncture or just time or meds... but my neck is finally improving, at least a little! And for that - and your prayers - I am truly thankful. I miss you guys and hope to be back to blogging as usual very soon.

But in the meantime, will you humor me for a few minutes, as I share a few thoughts on something? We watched a great little movie this weekend that I just loved, and I have a few comments to offer on it. So I'm going to step outside my usual food commentary and ask - have you seen the movie Facing the Giants? You can see the trailer here.

The movie came out a couple years ago, and we're just now getting to see it. But I'm so glad we did! I get so tired of watching big-budget movies that have no heart or soul, and often glorify values or causes I just don't agree with, and which don't leave me cheering for anything. So much of what is evidently considered entertainment these days seems to draw its so-called "appeal" from shock value, vulgarity or violence as much as anything. I just don't see that there is any real art or talent in that.

But this is a small-budget movie with a HUGE heart. It's family-friendly, suitable for all ages and quite well-done, and the production quality doesn't say "small budget" at all. I don't think I would have ever guessed the story behind its production, but I find it amazing.

Meanwhile, there were a few threads woven through the story that were very real to me and had special meaning at this particular point in my life. We've been through a bit of a rough few weeks around here, and I needed to be reminded of some things. Granted it's not like we've had anything truly horrible happen, and I thank God for that. But we lost our 12 year old dog over the course of three weeks of serious illness, and of course most of you readers know that I've had some pinched nerve and pain issues that have been debilitating.

Anyway, back to the movie - it's a football movie, which is my favorite sport this time of year. And it's about high school football, which takes me waaaay back! I won't give away any plot points in case you haven't yet seen it, but there were a lot of great one-liners, a very sweet story and a few underlying themes that really hit home to me after the last few weeks.

Also, the soundtrack includes several songs by some of my favorite Christian artists. One is Third Day, which includes the lyric

"never mind your worries, never mind your fears - they can only take you far from Me..."


The song is catchy anyway, and I love the group and almost all of their songs. But I especially love this lyric, because it reminds continual, constant worriers like me that there is no point in stressing and worrying over everything. It's a total waste of time and energy, as most of the things I worry over are not in my control anyway. Can I be real for a second, as PW would say? :-) I am so bad about becoming consumed with the nightmare scenarios in my own head. I can take a situation that's maybe not great, but not catastrophic, and in my head, in about 5 seconds flat, it becomes a doomsday scenario. I really am praying about my attitude in this area, but I love the message of this song, which reminds me that my real focus should be on God, and His control of my life - NOT my view of my circumstances, which is limited and dim at best, and not my lack of control over a lot of them.

This movie gently reminded me that it's not my job to run my universe (something my control freak nature needs to hear about every other second). It's God's job to be God and run the universe, and it's my job to obey Him and follow Him. He's not expecting me to be perfect at anything, any more than any human parent would expect perfection from a toddler. Compared to God, we're all children (no matter what our natural age or experience) and I need to remember that it's His job to be in charge - not mine. So whatever my circumstances may be, they aren't for me to worry over (want proof? I'm trying not to stress about this recent election ;-0). Matthew 6:27 says,

"who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?"


I know that verse by heart, and yet I never seem able to truly internalize and apply it - I get that my worrying is futile (in the sense that it just wears me down and won't change anything, anyway), but I'm still working on stopping the behavior. And I finally think I get it - it's not up to me to change me. It's up to God to do that.

Some of you know that I'll be trying to go back into the office to work for a full five days this week. After the pain and stress of the last four, and barely being able to sit up some days, I'm not looking forward to the idea of sitting (either in the car in traffic, or at my desk) for basically 10 hours each day. But there again - I need to focus on trusting and obeying, not stressing over what I can't control. And I seriously need to work on my attitude, which is a real weak point for me. I'm asking God to work on that area, too :-) I truly am thankful to have a job, thankful for understanding and patient coworkers, family, and friends - and thankful for each of you that reads this blog! In the meantime, I would ask for your continued prayers. (And thank you in advance!!)

Another line I loved from the movie is a quote from Rev. 3. In the movie, they discuss the concept that

"We serve a God who opens doors that no man can shut. And He closes doors that no man can open."


This verse reminds me that again, God is in control of all circumstances. And not in some nebulous, ooey-gooey, vague sense. He really IS in control, even over the mundane details of our lives. He's not some mystical spirit. He's real. And what He promises, He will deliver. What He raises up, will stand. And if it's His will that something comes into or goes from my life, it will, regardless of what I might try to do to change those circumstances. My job, in the meantime, is to love, trust and obey Him right where I am, waiting on His timing to move the puzzle pieces of my life, plans, hopes and dreams according to His master plan.

That thought ties into the overall theme of the movie - that of purpose. What's our purpose here? All of us. Not just our purpose as men or women, mothers or fathers, wives or husbands, siblings, friends, coworkers...but our overall purpose as humans placed on this planet? I of course realize others may have different views - but I agree with the movie's premise -

"Life's not about us. We're not here just to get glory, make money and die. The Bible says that God put us here for Him. To honor Him. Jesus said that the most important thing you can do with your life is to love God with everything you are and love others as yourself... He cares about your faith, He cares about where your heart is... we've got to honor Him in our relationships, in our respect for authority, in the classroom, and when we're home alone. We have to give Him our best in every area. And if we win, we praise Him...and if we lose, we praise Him... either way, we honor Him with our actions and our attitudes. I resolve to give God everything I've got, and I'll leave the results to Him."


So my challenge to myself this week - and to you - is this: Whether it's rainy or sunny this week, whether circumstances are wonderful or horrible, whether we sleep well or not (this one's huge for me :-) and whether things go the way we want or not - remember the purpose of this life. Remember why we're here. And seek to do everything we can this week to focus not on our circumstances, our worries or our fears - focus on God. Keep looking up, and trust Him for guidance. Be joyful!! He is faithful. He knows the way, even though we can't see around the next bend in the path. And if we just ask Him, He will keep us on His path.

I love the analogy one writer makes to the Christian walk - any of you who are parents will understand this. When we put our hand in God's, our security in walking with Him comes not from our strength or ability to hold onto Him and maintain our grasp. Parents, you know this one - when you're holding your child's hand, who's got the stronger grip? Which person is not going to let go, not going to let the other one fall, no matter what? Whether or not the child stumbles, whether or not he pulls away or even tries to run away... which person knows the way, and is strong enough and able to support and guide the other one on it? The parent, of course. And with God as our Father, our security comes from Christ's grip on us. Not our grip on Him. It is a huge relief to know that He's got hold of me, and He will never fail, never falter and never let go. That's good news, because my grip is rarely secure (and some days, I admit, I want to do my own thing and don't even want to hold His hand... but like any parent, He maintains His grip, regardless). And like that metaphorical child, I am safe not because I hold Him - but because He holds me.

One final thought - and my very favorite line from this movie - delivered by a character played by Mark Richt (y'all know I have so much respect for him as a Christian, an adoptive parent and Georgia's best coach ever!) -

"In God's word, He said 365 different times - do not fear.. Now, if He said it that many times, you know He's serious about it, right?"


If you noticed - that's one reminder for every day of the year :-)

Let me know if you've seen the movie, and what your thoughts were.

Happy Sunday - and I love y'all!

Dahrlin'

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long Time, No Blog!

Wow, it has been weeks since I posted and I MISS you guys!! I miss blogging, and cooking things to blog about, and just feeling connected in general.

Several events we've been dealing with lately - my struggles with this neck injury and pain, inability to sit and type much for any length of time, our loss of our sweet puppy Tucker, and a couple other things have conspired to make our October one of more unhappy tricks than treats. We're still coping with all that and I will have to keep this short. But in the meantime, I wanted to share a really neat video about UGA's football coach (Mark Richt) and his family. This is about their adoption story. Hope you will take a couple minutes to watch and enjoy their story - they are a wonderful family!

I hope to be back online more often very soon. In the meantime, hope all is well with each of you and you are enjoying this beautiful fall!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Best Laid Plans

Well, as you may have noticed I haven't been able to post much recently. I had all these grand plans for things I wanted to accomplish this fall, then hit a major roadblock. I'll have to keep even this post pretty short because I've got a ton of work to try and catch up on, but the short version is that I have developed what we think must be a pinched nerve in my neck. It's been so painful that I can't even sit up most of the day; only if I lay down on the couch on either side of my body (not on my back, which is how I like to sleep) can I get any relief. I also can't turn my head to drive, so I've basically been trying to work from home this last week. I say trying, because sitting at the computer to type is a major issue right now. They have scheduled all kinds of scans, MRI's and other tests, but those will occur over the next week and we won't have answers until (hopefully) next Tuesday (week from this coming). Meanwhile, we're struggling with pain management. It's gotten so bad that I'm currently on a steroid for it. :-(

Please keep me in your prayers and know that I SO appreciate all the notes, prayers and good thoughts so many of you have sent me. I miss you guys and can't wait to be back, once I can sit and type comfortably again! Meanwhile, I'll be reading to stay caught up with what's going on in your lives, even if I don't comment a lot. I will update here (to avoid typing any more than I have to right now) as I have news, but please know I'm thinking of you and appreciate your love and support! Hugs,

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, October 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

We've been out of our routine here for several weeks, due to some family health issues. But I'm hoping, in the middle of all that's going on, to get back into at least part of our routine this week, if only for my sanity! :-) So I hope to get back to cooking a bit, working out/walking a little and back into my evening Bible study.

I took some time earlier in the week to plan a few weeks of fall menus at once. The next couple months (leading up to December, which to me begins winter) will be filled with a number of favorites we have not made in a while - but can now that cooler weather is finally here! I'm also hoping that by the time you read this Monday, I will have made a new recipe I've been wanting to try. Stay tuned for details on that one!

On to this week's menu - which is roughly centered on Italian foods. Wait...I take that back... looking through it again, it seems I must have been positively craving Italian when I wrote this menu. Added to the lasagna (made by a friend) that we enjoyed Saturday (and planned to enjoy more of Sunday night), it seems I'm on a pretty much straight roll with the Italian entrees this week! I typically go for more variety than this in my menus, but the flavors are so diverse that I think it will actually work fine.



Monday: Parmesan Whitefish (I'm using tilapia), Sweet Potatoes, Buttered Peas

Tuesday: (workout night) Lemon Chicken Scallopine (a freezer favorite), Marinara, Garlic Toast and Salad

Wednesday: Sausage, Tomato and Cheese Penne, Lemon-Butter Broccoli

Thursday: (workout night) Leftover Sausage Pasta, Salad

Friday: Florentine Turkey Meatballs (LOVE this recipe, and it makes great lunches), Buttered Baby Lima Beans, Rosemary-Garlic Toast (Whole Foods Rosemary Sourdough Bread - drizzle with olive oil and garlic salt and toast!)

Saturday: Chicken Cacciatore, Roasted Potatoes and Peppers, Steamed Kale

Sunday: Not sure yet... may try a new - non Italian! - recipe!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Tag!

Yay! I love these things. My friend Lora at My Blessed Life tagged me this week, so here are the rules:



Here are seven random things about me:

(1) I love water. From a welcoming bubble bath after an exhausting day, to a lazy afternoon on the river, to the vastness of the oceans, I love water. There's something so soothing about it.

(2) I crave organization and serenity in my home, but the reality is more like an ever-changing sea (ha!) of piles of Things I Really Intend to Do...and Soon...Just as Soon as I Remember...

(3) Like Lora, I love history. I hated being forced to learn about it in school, but now I love it. I am currently reading three books that reflect this passion - The Great Influenza, The Persian Puzzle, and a book on Christian church history. I can get lost for hours reading stuff like that - I blame my Dad, LOL, whose response to most any question was "let's go look that up in the encyclopedia..."

(4) I love Honeycrisp apples. If you've never had one, RUN to your store right now and get some. May have to try the farmer's markets, but they are fantastic and worth it. I can't stand mushy apples, but I love a good crispy apple, and this variety just literally cracks apart when you bite into it (hence the name). Sooooo yummy. I am blessed to pass a Whole Foods Market on my way to and from work, so every fall I make a bi-weekly pilgrimage and stock up on like 8 at once. Try 'em!

(5) A few years ago, I finally learned the secret of making the honey mustard sauce that I learned to love at the Brass Register (a former restaurant in my hometown). This restaurant is also where I learned to love Derby Pie, a family favorite I now make every Christmas (and will share with you soon!). Anyway, I always wondered why most "honey mustard" sauces tasted mostly like runny mustard...not the creamy, yummy, mildly-mustardy stuff I grew up on. I finally hit upon the answer after browsing a lot of different recipes - the one I like is basically mayonnaise-based, with some honey and mustard added for flavor, LOL! The irony? I'm not really a mayonnaise fan, at least if it still tastes like mayo. But in ranch dressing, or this sauce? Love it!

(6) I have spent two (and almost three) birthdays in Europe. I turned 15 while on a school trip to Italy - I think we were in Rome that day. I turned 22 in Paris (I'll have to post that pic sometime!) and most recently, we went to Italy in April 2007 - arriving a couple weeks after my 32nd.

(7) I love puzzles, riddles, mysteries...anything that makes me wonder and have to think something through. I love science for this reason (but not math!!!). I also love games. Most recently, I'm addicted to Sudoku, Scrabble, Chinese Checkers, mystery movies and books, etc.

So I'm tagging the following folks - participate if you like, no worries if not.

(1) Angie at Angie's Spot;
(2) Steph at Steph's Little Corner;
(3) Michelle at Honest and Truly;
(4) Stephanie at Live.Love.Eat;
(5) Lisa at My Little Corner of the World;
(6) Lizz at Life with Lizz; and
(7) Bobbie at Rightmyer Recipes!

That's it for tonight! I'm off to make some dinner and watch a football game!

Happy Weekend!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mmmmm...Waffles!

This will be a quick post during a bit of a hectic week, but I wanted to share my all-time favorite waffle recipe. We make these all fall and winter (along with a couple other favorites) and these just make me smile any time of day. They are FULL of good things for your body, and yet they don't have that "health food" taste (or lack thereof ;-) Add some real butter and some real maple syrup, and you'll have a new favorite too! Try these out for your kids too. I bet you they won't even notice they're eating something healthy!



These freeze beautifully (cool completely, then freezer bag in flat layers with waxed paper separating the waffles). Reheat in a toaster (or regular) oven at about 275 for 10 minutes. I like to put some butter and syrup on a plate and sit it on top of the toaster oven while they heat. When they're done, voila - a crispy waffle, a warm plate and syrup and butter that won't cool everything down. YUM!

Hope you enjoy as much as we do!

Blueberry Multigrain Waffles
(Makes 24, 4" square waffles)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk (or soymilk if you prefer)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (don't cheat - NOT "pancake" syrup)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter, OR 3/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup flaxseed oil
2 cups lowfat (or fat free) plain yogurt
1 cup or so blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup or so pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

If you have a stand mixer, you'll want to use it as this makes a lot of batter. But any large mixing bowl is fine.

Combine dry ingredients (first 6 above) in the large mixing bowl (stir well). In a smaller bowl, melt butter (add flax oil if using). In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs then add the milk, syrup and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, then add the butter mixture and the yogurt. Combine well (but don't overmix) and gently stir in nuts and blueberries. Allow batter to rest while you preheat and grease your waffle iron.

Bake waffles about medium heat until you see how your waffle iron works with the recipe. On mine it's about medium heat, and I have one of those square ones that makes 4 waffles at a time, so I use about 1.5 cups batter for each set of 4. These are SOOOO good - I hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happy Saturday!

So as many of you know, it's been a rough week around here. Hubby asked me not to blog about it, so I won't, but I will just say thanks to all for your prayers and love for us and Miss Tucker. She's hanging in there! I will update soon by email.

Meanwhile, I made my very favorite bread recipe last weekend, and wanted to share it with you. I apologize that I did not take step-by-step pics, as I had a second little Beagle Booger underfoot to keep an eye on.

But anyway, this is one of my very favorite side dishes for fall and winter. I'm not typically a "bread with dinner" type person, because I usually seek to optimize calories vs. nutrition, and bread isn't always the most nutritious contribution to a meal :-) But this one has veggies!! Real, actual sauteed veggies, that at least make me feel I'm doing something right!

So try it sometime. It's super easy (and fun) to make, and kids would enjoy making it too because of the hands-on factor. Bonus - it only rises once, so it doesn't take forever to make! And it's beautiful and colorful and homemade. Perfect for a luncheon or company, as well. What else can you ask for in a dinner roll?



Veggie Pull-Apart Bread
(Makes one round bundt loaf)

You can use a bread machine to make (but not bake) the dough, or a stand mixer with dough hook, or a food processor (use plastic blade and check your user's manual) or make by hand. Whatever your preference! I use the stand mixer, because it takes about 2 minutes to knead the dough to a perfect consistency.

For Dough:
4.5 tsp butter, softened
1/2 cup water (plus extra teaspoon or two if needed)
1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp active dry yeast

For Veggie Mixture:
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced green onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
(can also add finely diced or shredded carrot)
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese
*optional - 6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

This would be an excellent dough for a thick-crust pizza, too.

If using bread machine, follow manufacturer's directions to make dough. Do not bake in bread machine though.

To use stand mixer with dough hook or food processor, add dry ingredients, except one cup flour but including yeast, to work bowl. Mix briefly to combine, then turn on low (or pulse a few times as you go) and add liquid ingredients gradually. Add last cup of flour gradually, then add water a tsp at a time if needed, to correct consistency. Knead for a couple minutes; dough should be smooth and elastic but not sticky. Turn out onto a floured board, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

While dough is resting, saute veggies in butter until tender (you could use EVOO instead, if you prefer). Remove from heat and combine with cheese (and bacon, if using). Grease a standard bundt pan with olive oil.

Divide dough into 24 balls (more or less), and roll each ball in the veggie and cheese mixture. Place in greased bundt pan, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Bake at 350 or 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Yummy!! Hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wednesday's Weeknight Recipe Review: Cranberry Orange Scones

Okay, I enjoyed the weekly recipe review idea so much that I've decided to feature it again. I like that it helps encourage me to try new recipes each week (and actually make them, instead of just dreaming about it, LOL!). So this week's feature is not a recipe I would try to make on a weeknight, but it is a great one to make over the weekend, and then enjoy any time of day during the week. And because I love seasonal cooking, this one just shrieks "fall" to me.

Recently, I've started watching Ina Garten's show, Barefoot Contessa. I was familiar with her as a Food Network personality, but had never tried any of her recipes. I started watching her show one afternoon, and quickly became hooked. She's awesome! And she's so very calming and relaxing to watch (and listen to) after a long day at work. She's got a very soothing voice and she makes such comforting food!

Since I rarely do anything halfway, I rushed out and ordered two of her books - Barefoot Contessa at Home, and Barefoot in Paris. I think I will really enjoy both of these cookbooks, because her recipes are very "un-fussy" and feature whole ingredients, without skimping on elegance and style. The result is recipes that are very accessible (sometimes with just five or six ingredients), but make it feel like you are preparing something very special.

The other day, I caught an episode of her show in which she made the recipe I am featuring today. I rarely make this kind of thing for myself, because it is too close to shortbread, which I could cheerfully eat until I make myself seriously ill. I adore shortbread. I also love biscuits and anything with a similar deliciously crumby, buttery, flaky texture. So scones are not usually on my list of things to make, unless I have someone to take them off my hands, and quickly!

However, I love to make this kind of thing for holiday breakfasts, and with the holidays not too far away, I wanted to try them in anticipation of making them for Thanksgiving dinner/breakfast. I love the combination of cranberry and orange, and I usually make a cranberry orange bread that I'll share with you in a few weeks. So these looked particularly inviting, and I decided to make 'em this weekend!

I am happy to report they are very easy and VERY good. Like, so good that I am going to have to take them to work (or I may try freezing them). Because otherwise I may gain 5 pounds just eating these things. They're that good!

I have a couple notes to offer with my own take on the recipe, which I'll add at the end. For now, let's make these beautiful, buttery scones!

You'll need these items:



We've got flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, orange zest, dried cranberries, eggs, heavy cream, and butter. Oh, the butter... PW would be proud! Optional ingredients (for a glaze) are confectioners' sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Before you begin measuring dry ingredients, go ahead and throw the butter (3 sticks - shhhhhh!!!) in the freezer for a few minutes. That will help it maintain its shape while you're working with it. In a large mixing bowl, combine 4 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp baking powder, 2 tsp kosher salt, and 2 tsp orange zest.



Next, cut the butter into small cubes. I use a cheese slicer for this, which takes only seconds (and the wire won't stick to the butter like a knife would). Toss it into the dry ingredients and mix on slowest speed until butter is the texture of small peas.



While that's mixing, beat 4 eggs, and then combine the eggs with 1 cup of cold heavy cream.



Next, toss 1 cup of dried cranberries with 1/4 cup flour, then add to the flour mixture. With mixer on low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring only until blended (may be a little lumpy). Turn it out onto a floured board, and using a floured rolling pin, gently roll out until it's a little less than an inch thick. The trick with scones (to keep them light and crumbly in texture) is not to overwork the dough, and to work quickly so the butter doesn't melt. You want tiny little pieces of butter to remain in the finished scones, so that when they bake they will steam gently.



Now, some recipes (including this one) call for you to cut round scones and then re-roll the scraps and cut those, etc. I have never liked making round portions in this manner, because you always end up with extra dough that doesn't get used, and (as with scones) some doughs are "fragile" and will change texture if they're handled repeatedly. So my preference is to make either square or triangular pieces, so that I only have to roll and cut once. But cut them in whatever shape suits your fancy, just remember to keep things chilled so the butter doesn't melt. I was more interested in the taste of these rather than perfect portions, so mine are a little messy, but here's what I ended up with. Don't forget to line your baking pan with parchment!



[Optional egg wash - beat one egg with a couple tablespoons water, and brush over tops of scones; dust with granulated sugar if you like.]

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. If you want to glaze them, combine 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 4 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice (adjust sugar and juice to your desired texture). Drizzle over top (or smother in butter, like me!) and enjoy!



Printable recipe here.

Love, Dahrlin'

Fall Project Update

So a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I have several goals for this fall, in terms of projects I'm working on and want to complete. I am happy to report that, although I haven't gotten much blogging done recently, I have made progress on a lot of those goals! For those interested in my various hobbies, including knitting, scrapbooking and my everlasting Quest to Get Organized, here are a few pics.

First, the ongoing kitchen reorganization project is coming along nicely. I've gone through a lot of the paper and junk shoved into this cabinet recipe-related clutter I've diligently collected, and attempted to cull and organize my cooking magazine collection. New magazines come in the door at the rate of 3 per month, so this is really a survival tactic :-) A few things are missing from this shot (hence all the extra space), and there's a whole shelf I cannot even reach (hence its emptiness), but you'll get the idea:



YAY! Also, I am very excited to report that I have FINISHED the wedding scrapbook! WAHOOOOOOO!!! If I seem a tad excited about that, it may help you understand, to know that I got married in 2001. And, um, my scrapbook is 80 pages long, because yeah, I went that crazy with it. But anyway, it's DONE! I hope to figure out how to share pics of some of those pages with you. Stay tuned!

Next, the Lizard Ridge Afghan project is back on track. It was moving along nicely, as evidenced by these two blocks, which I completed while I lay dying of respiratory yuck on the couch a couple weeks ago ;-) But then I tried to knit while watching TV this week (I know better than this, but do the same thing every time) and made an unrecoverable error. Tried to rip back and redo, but it was too far gone. So, I lost about a quarter block of progress for the week, but that's okay. I restarted the block, and thankfully Pixie did not manage to do any damage when she took my knitting for a little adventure Saturday morning.



And last weekend, I finally got the rest of my dining room decorations done for fall (because of my love for the season itself, I usually put them up as soon as September comes around, but they hang around and serve as our actual decor for Thanksgiving dinner). Here's a shot of the buffet, and it's also more evidence that I've GOT to get a camera like Angie and PW have, if I really intend to keep inflicting my photography on you guys! Sorry for the weird lighting and odd blurriness that occurs in many of my pics...But again, it'll give you an idea.



And now, I'm going to take a break from blogging and get ready to go over to our friends' house to watch the Georgia game. GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love, Dahrlin'

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Truly The Best Brownies

Today's recipe is one I've been meaning to share here for a while. There are a bazillion recipes for brownies out there, and everyone seems to have their favorite version. Some like cakey brownies, some like gooey ones, some fudgy ones, some with flavors or candy added, etc. etc. But for several reasons, I think these are the best I've tried.

First of all, they're a "whole food" type of recipe, meaning no artificial ingredients and nothing you can't pronounce. Second, there are literally 6 ingredients, and they are super easy to make and super yummy! I made them Saturday to take to our friends' house for dinner, and they're always a hit. And lastly, I think they have the best flavor and texture I've tried.

Since brownies are a pretty universal treat, and no special skills are required, I didn't do my usual step-by-step photo layout. To emphasize how quick and easy they are, I'll just tell you it takes about 10 minutes hands-on, and about 45-minutes baking, to go from this:



To this:



The only special trick you need to be aware of is that it will make your life SO much easier, if you will line your baking pan with parchment paper before making these (or any brownies). Once they're baked, let 'em cool a few minutes and then just lift the paper out of the pan and onto a cutting board. I use a pizza cutter to make quick squares out of these. (And then I quickly put them into something to take them somewhere, anywhere else, so I don't eat them all immediately!)

My Favorite Brownies
(Makes 16-25 brownies)

2 sticks butter
4 Tbsp cocoa
1.5 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 300. Melt butter in a microwave-safe dish. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add to butter; stir in vanilla. Add to dry ingredient mixture and stir gently just until combined (do not over mix; batter may be slightly lumpy). Pour into 8x8 pan lined with parchment paper, and spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 300 for approx 45 minutes or until baked to your liking (I like them a little more fudgy). Cool about 1/2 hour in pan, then lift paper out of pan and slice as desired.

Hope you enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Pixie Sticks?

(Titles like that are a sure sign that I have been away from blogging WAY too long, LOL! But it will make more sense in a second...)

Things are finally settling down a little bit around here, and I am thankful. We've been pretty busy the last few weeks, and I look forward to sharing some of those happenings with you here. I appreciate those of you who read this blog - more than you know! Thanks for sticking with me, even when I don't show up for a while :-)

It was a gorgeous fall morning here, and these are my favorite days of the year. The early fall sun is so pretty (and so pleasant at this lower intensity!).



Meanwhile, this weekend is a trial run at our house, as we may be adopting this little one:



Her name is Pixie, which suits her perfectly, and she belongs to a friend of mine from work. She's about a year old, and my friend has had a third child and can no longer keep her. They are not in a rush to rehome her, but they've got a little too much going on at their house to keep her right now.



So, we brought her home for the weekend to see how she gets along with Tucker, our resident grumpy old lady. Tuck is going to be 12 this winter, so she's slowed down a lot from her paint-the-town days.



So far, so good, except that Tuck is not really interested in playing, which leaves Miss Pix with a lot of time on her hands. She is a typically energetic, active Beagle girl, and she has a delightful personality. She loves to play with us, but we were hoping Tucker would want to play with Pixie and they could entertain each other :-) But so far, Tuck is holding in her usual pattern of pretty much sleeping all day and ignoring any other animal that comes into the house. So we'll see.



Meantime, I've caught some very cute pics of this adorable little prankster. It's a lot like having a toddler around, as she is constantly into something. So far today, I have caught her out on the deck with one of my socks, she took my knitting (needles and all) off the table and out on the deck, and she has jumped onto the couch and into my lap several times (Tuck isn't allowed on the furniture, but it looks like Pix may not be used to that ;-)



This, however, is one of my favorite photos of Pixie:



I don't know why, but she seems to love this spot on the stairs. Such a cutie!

That's the news for today from around here - stay tuned for further updates (and some new recipes)!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, September 22, 2008

Liquid Gold Olympics

I’m alive, I’m alive, LOL! A couple friends have written asking if everything is okay, because I’ve been so spotty on blogging recently. I apologize for the lack of new content here lately, but should be back in the swing of things shortly. It’s been a tad busy around our place this last few weeks! The good news is I’ve got a ton of things I want to blog about, so look for some new posts coming up!

Meanwhile, this post is a little off-topic from my usual, but I just wanted to share something out of the ordinary that happened yesterday. It is either funny or scary depending on how you look at it, and I realize it’s pretty minor, so I am trying to laugh about it. But it was a tad scary and did make me think.

My husband and father both follow the commodities markets pretty regularly, and lots of friendly arguments usually ensue regarding what each thinks oil, gas, and related markets may do, both in the long term and short term. I am usually a semi-interested bystander for these debates, which is to say that I sometimes offer my thoughts, but more often let these conversations flow around me while I’m doing something more fun, like cooking :-)

But anyway, I am super-spoiled super-blessed and very grateful for it, and can honestly say I have never been to a gas station when they were out of gas. Not once in my 17 years of driving have I ever gone to get gas and found none. Nor have I ever really been at a station where it was super crowded and people were getting antsy. Nor have I ever been stranded there, because I did not have enough gas to go elsewhere. But that changed yesterday!

I rarely let my gas tank get truly low, before I stop for gas. This is typically because I once ran completely out and had to hike two miles for gas do not like to take chances, unlike my hubby who routinely drives on imaginary gasoline (according, at least, to his gas gauge which is usually below E whenever I get in the car). However, yesterday I knew Monday was coming up and I hate to stop in the mornings, so I made a special trip out to fill up. As my last outing had been to the grocery store, and I did not want to stop with frozen foods in the car, I was pretty low on gas. To illustrate, my car supposedly holds 15 gallons, and when I finally filled up, it says I used 15.3 gallons…(maybe the station is cheating and the pumps are rigged or something - go figure). But anyway, that’s the lowest reading I’ve ever had - I’ve never seen it claim that I used more than 15 gallons, so I know I was very close to empty.

As a side note, and you all know how this goes - I had not yet showered for the day (long story), so I looked pretty grungy. I was also looking forward to having a nice happy hour beverage upon returning home, and continuing with my (interrupted) organization projects and pile-o-laundry, so I was not in the mood for a lengthy trip anywhere.

My (first) stop was at our corner BP. I pulled in and noticed that all the pumps were out of service. Thinking this a bit odd, but not really concerned, I took off for the Quiktrip down the street.

Upon arrival at the QT, I saw that their pumps were also out of service. I was a more than a little surprised by that, and more than a little alarmed, because now I had an actual problem: I had no gas to get to another gas station at this point. Our area is pretty suburban and things are spread out, to the point where I do not even know where the next closest station would be...these stations are both on my work route and it’s very rare that I would need to stop elsewhere. I also did not know what the issue was, and thought it might be some kind of regulatory/county-imposed outage, so I went inside to inquire. The nice (and very patient) gentleman working the register informed me that “everyone around here is out of gas.” I was stunned - I’ve simply never seen all of our stations run out before in normal circumstances (when there are no real supply disruptions in our area, etc.). More alarming was that “everyone” - because my car did not have enough gas to even get home at this point. He did say they were getting a delivery, and I could wait if I wanted, about half an hour. So I (thankfully) thought to go ahead and pull into a pump bay and waited...and waited...and watched, as the station QUICKLY began to fill up with similarly aggravated folks who did never intended to spend hours waiting for gas. It’s just very unexpected and unusual around here for any station, especially in our area, to run out.

The story would not be nearly as interesting, except for what happened next. So they finally cut the pumps back on, and by now, cars are three to four deep at every bay. It’s a large QT, with about 24 pumps, so you can imagine the mob scene. I say mob in the generic sense, but people were definitely antsy, which was a little unsettling. I wanted to take a photo with my phone, but I was actually afraid I might annoy someone (people were getting testy) and I did not want to push it.

So anyway, the pumps came alive and everyone started pumping as fast as they could. Of course, that demand slowed the actual fueling at each (already slow) pump to a crawl, which only annoyed people further. Meanwhile, not to be outdone in this little derby, I rushed through the process of swiping my card, etc. and set about trying to start the pump. And you just know what's coming next... but ... wait for it... waiiiitttt...

Yep, it wouldn’t engage. Now, the procedure for filling a gas tank hasn’t changed a lot since I was 16, and I’ve had a fair bit of practice in the meantime, so I knew it wasn’t me. I quickly called the poor attendant (who was running around taking the plastic bags off the pumps) and she came over, only she could not get it to work either. She ran inside to find her manager, and by this point I was having visions of that single tanker load of gas being guzzled up before I could even START to fill my tank, because how was I going to get in another line at this point? The station was already bumper-to-bumper, with more people coming in by the minute. There was barely room to leave when you were ready.

Several minutes later the girl comes back and says her manager said there is nothing that they can fix; the pump will have to be examined. She suggested I get in another line. Now those of you who know me well, know what’s coming next. I did not think much of that suggestion, since I was literally one of the first three people to pull in at the pumps in the first place. I was not in the mood by this point to wait in another three-deep line (it was taking about 15 minutes to fill a standard tank) only to have, as I feared, the gas run out before I could get any. So I managed to restrain what I really wanted to say, and politely told her that was not going to be workable, and she’d need to get her manager to come out and hold back the tide of angry motorists and find me a pump :-).

(Wisely, she decided to run back into the station as fast as her feet would carry her.)

Our tale of (minor) woe ends happily, as the manager did make an appearance, and a very kind and patient looking Japanese gentleman did allow me to back up to the pump behind mine and fill up. I kept apologizing to him, because it was running soooooooooo slowly that I just knew he must be ready to run me over. But anyway, this entire experience of spending (literally) an hour trying to simply get gas really got me thinking. We don’t live in a hugely populous area. I mean, it’s a thriving county, but we’re not downtown or anything. And pf course I know plenty of others have had far worse experiences than mine, and may have even lived through the 70's gas shortages. But it was just very interesting to me (once I got away from the mob, which was just plain scary) to see all this unfold. One guy’s car died on him while he was sitting at the pump, and he had to be pushed out of the way. He was being very vocal and pushy even before his car died, and that sort of put him over the edge. Another guy had an experience like mine, where his pump wouldn’t work when they turned them back on. But really, this is crazy. I guess it’s what we have to look forward to, if we can’t figure out how to become energy-independent. I mean, I certainly realize there have been intermittent supply issues all over the country. We just haven’t seen it often in our neck of the woods so it took be a bit by surprise.

Anyway, hope no one else is having fuel problems. That was an eye opener for me, just in the sense that I need to be more careful about relying on the gas station to have gas when I need it!!

(And next time, Mom, I swear I’ll take a shower before I leave the house!)

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Love, Dahrlin’

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday's Weeknight Recipe Review

Happy Wednesday!

I may start this as a new feature on this blog, because I am always looking for good, weeknight-friendly recipes. But anyway, we tried PW's Cheese Muffins last night, and they were GREAT! On a tip from my friend Barbara, I added a tiny bit of garlic powder to them. That was tasty and added a little zing to the cheese.



I happened to be (also on the spur of the moment) deviating from my planned menu, so we were having Italian Stuffed Chicken Breasts for dinner (I can't get enough of these freezer meals!). I checked and discovered that the chicken and the muffins bake at the same temperature for (basically) the same amount of time. Woohoo! I decided to make them, then noticed I only had half as much cheese as was called for. So I decided to halve the recipe, and that worked fine!

Half the recipe made exactly five muffins. If you have extra muffin tin "holes", you can fill them with water to help make sure the surrounding muffins bake evenly. And in some recipes, if you need "half" an egg, you can just throw the whole egg in. But this is baking, where you have to be at least a little careful (even with quick breads like muffins), so I just decided to beat one egg in a measuring cup and use half of it in the recipe. That seemed to work fine.

The muffins were a hit with both of us, and for myself I also had wilted spinach (hubs had regular salad, since he won't eat spinach unless it's been cooked to death at least twice). It was a nicely rounded spring or fall menu that was truly on the table in 30 minutes! I was very pleased with that feature, as well.

Hope you guys have a great Wednesday!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, September 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

We’re one week deeper into fall, and I made basically none of last week’s recipes due to illness. So I may recycle that menu soon, but in the meantime, several new recipes and a couple old favorites caught my eye as I was planning yesterday. So for this week, we’re looking at the following:

Monday: (grocery store run) - BBQ Pork chops, Buttered Peas, Garlic Toast

Tuesday: (starting back to walking) - Skillet Chicken (my mom's baked chicken with mushroom gravy), Sweet Potatoes, Buttered Broccoli

Wednesday: Bacon Cheeseburger Calzones, Salad, Garlicky Green Beans

Thursday: (walking night) - Garlic Lime Chicken, Black Beans, Broccoli

Friday: my best friend is coming to visit! Wahoo! We’ll probably go out Friday and then cook Saturday after a day of scrapping!

Saturday: We’ll see what Angie feels like eating, and I’ll report back on what we make!! I’m hoping at a minimum to try PW’s cheese muffins, and maybe a couple other things.

Sunday: Tilapia Parmesan, Baby Limas, Buttered Corn or Carrots

Enjoy your week!

Love, Dahrlin’

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Ultimate Comfort Food

In honor of my friend Stephanie, and her recently multi-tasking posts, today's post will combine several themes that have been on my mind this week. Normally, this is Foodie Friday on this blog, so today's post will (finally!) feature a new recipe. (Sorry I've been away from blogging so much recently!) And I've been miserably sick most of the week, so the recipe will be one that is helping to get me well! And lastly, running out of this more priceless than gold commodity earlier in the week reminded me of a universal truth I must have forgotten: no household should ever be without homemade chicken soup in the freezer! Because here's truth #2: you won't feel up to making any when you really need it - even if you've already got the ingredients on hand!

I also need to give a big shout out to my wonderful husband, who (with a little bit of coaching) made this for me last night, when my fever was 103 and I could barely see straight. He protested a little bit at first, saying he didn't know how, but I promised to whisper directions pitifully from my perch on the couch talk him through it. I had to laugh, because once he figured out that soup is a wonderful use for leftovers, vegetables languishing in the fridge and just about anything else you want to throw in it, he started asking if I wanted this, that or the other in there too. Hubs hates to see food to go to waste, but I stopped him when he got to the beautiful tomato hanging around on the counter (the same one I forgot to slice and serve for hamburger toppings for last weekend's party). I've made lots of yummy soup recipes with tomato, but they all say either "Italian" or "Mexican" to me. I didn't want this soup to be overwhelmed with tomato, so I vetoed that addition :-) Later I laughed at myself - last night I was so congested I couldn't taste anything. Wouldn't have mattered what was in it!

So anyway, what we ended up with is something wonderful indeed. I am very pleased with it, since it's slightly different (and I think better) than my usual chicken noodle soup recipe. I like it so much that I think I'll make this my new standard, just varying the veggies by season or what's on hand.

Try it sometime and freeze any leftovers. When someone in your family needs something warm, nutritious and yummy, you'll have it ready to go! Is there anything more comforting than homemade soup?

Love, Dahrlin'




Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
(Makes 1 pot; about 8 servings)
** see also notes below

1 can cream of chicken soup (not condensed)
2-3 cans water, as needed
2 large cooked chicken breasts, or any leftover cooked chicken
Chicken base** to taste
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
Baby carrots or sliced carrots
Yellow squash (2), chopped
Zucchini (1), chopped
Frozen baby lima beans
Elbow macaroni (couple handfuls)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil

Saute vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes. Add soup, water, and about 1 Tbsp chicken base (to start; you can add more later if you need it). Add chicken and bring to a simmer; check seasonings and add more chicken base if you want. You'll use the soup itself to cook the pasta, so add more water if needed (just a little at a time; you don't want it super-thin :-). Return soup to a simmer, add pasta** and cook about 15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir in herbs and serve to anyone in need of serious comfort food.

**Recipe notes: As with all soups, this is really more of a method than a specific recipe - hence all the notes. I am giving the ingredients (and method) I used, because they are what I had on hand, but any mild-flavored veggie or bean would work. Vary the proportions as you see fit. The most important thing here is protein and nutrition! On the canned soup, I used Health Valley Organic Cream of Chicken, which I just discovered (it's super!). For the chicken base, I use the Better than Bullion found in the grocery store soup aisle. They're absolutely right - the flavor is WAAYYY better than bullion cubes or granules (but if you use those, just add to taste - remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it back out). And on the pasta, if you're going to freeze the soup, just add (separately cooked) pasta to the portions you're serving; the pasta will have a much better texture if you don't freeze it in the soup. I like Barilla pasta because it's got those little ridges that hold sauce or broth.

Oh - and because I was sick and figured I need the calories, I might have added a little half and half to my servings. Even though I couldn't taste it until I ate some today, it was divine. But again, do that after you thaw any that you freeze. Don't add it before freezing.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Never Forget

No words today, except to say may God bless this great country which, even with its faults, remains the greatest country in the world. I am, and always will be, so thankful to be an American.


Image above courtesy Hosanna


Image above courtesy TC Design

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chicken Soup and W(h)ine

Okay, so normally I try not to post anything whiny on this blog. But since I seem to be in good company, I'm going to go ahead and post this quickly. I've come down with a dreaded late summer/early-fall cold... UGH. Just when I was getting back into a routine, eating well and working out...blam!!

And I'm with Michelle on this one - who wants to eat chicken soup when it's still this warm out? Not me, but I have learned over the years that it has nearly miraculous healing powers if I only force feed it to myself, day and night until I'm well! Thankfully, I had a little leftover chicken noodle soup in the freezer for just such an occasion, but will be asking hubby to bring home my all-time favorite remedy: Campbell's chicken noodle. And I know it's not homemade, but it does have a ton of salt in it, and that helps my super-swollen throat, LOL! Meanwhile, I'll finish off the batch I made for Dad while he was here.

So the rest of you all STAY WELL! We've had way too much illness in the blogosphere lately! :-)

And now I'm crawling back under the covers with my laptop... sniffles!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, September 8, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Another week has flown by!

So we're into football season, which is making me crave yummy, slower-cooked foods. But it's usually pretty warm around here in September, so I am not quite up for heavier foods just yet. Soon though!

Meanwhile, for this week I'm hoping to make a couple more freezer meals (this will use up most of those we've got) and make several old favorites that will be nice for the changing season. I also want to try a couple new things I've found:



Monday: Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Buttery Pasta, Wilted Spinach

Tuesday: Halibut in Artichoke Broth, Cheese Muffins (new PW recommendation to try)

Wednesday: Tacos, Black Beans and Salsa

Thursday: Lemon Chicken Scallopine with Marinara, Broccoli with Lemon-Lime Garlic Butter

Friday: Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Salmon, Buttered Peas

Saturday: Over to our friends' house for a birthday party

Sunday: Roman Chicken, Parmesan Potatoes, Wilted Spinach

Have a blessed week!

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thankful Thursday Thirteen

Okay, so for today's post I'm combining a variety of "themes" :-) I've received a couple of awards recently and I definitely want to acknowledge and say thank you for those, and I love Fussy's "Thankful Thursday," and I also love Angie's usual Thursday Thirteen. So we'll put them together - here are a few things I am thankful for this Thursday:

(1) I'm thankful for my dear friend Robin, who gave me this award:



Memoirs of a Mommy created this award in honor of the donor that saved her son Noah's life. The purpose of this award is to raise awareness about organ donation and to share the love ... so share this award with blogs you love, blogs that make you smile, blogs that make you laugh, blogs that make your day, and blog owners that leave you uplifting comments. (Please include the links when posting the award to your blog.)

I am passing this award along to... Angie, Stephanie (Reillybug), Michelle, Stephanie (Live.Love.Eat), Bobbi, Tara, Janyne, Knatolee, Crowzma, Melissa at Stretch Marks, and Dephal. Enjoy!

(2) I'm thankful for my new friend Bobbi, who gave me this award:



The rules of the award are:
1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you’ve nominated.

I'm passing this one on to each of you that I named in #1 above, so consider yourself awarded! Love to ya, ladies!

(3) I'm thankful for all our wonderful friends here in Atlanta, several of whom who are graciously joining us for (what I hope will be) a great birthday party this weekend. (And I'm thankful for the pool, which we've enjoyed all summer. Hope it's not too cold to use it this weekend!)



(4) I'm thankful that Gustav didn't cause more damage.



(5) I'm thankful that fall is FINALLY here! (I don't care what the calendar says. Around this house, fall starts Sept. 1.)



(6) I'm thankful for our family, whom we've been blessed to see a lot of this summer.



(7) I'm thankful for this blog, which gives me a way to keep in touch with family, old friends and new friends!



(8) Of course, I'm thankful for all of YOU who read my nonsensical ramblings (and I'm especially thankful to those of you who comment)!



(9) I'm thankful that my Dad's prostate cancer is currently kept at bay.



(10) I'm thankful for Facebook, where I've recently been able to reconnect with a lot of old friends.



(11) I'm thankful for all the wonderful new recipes I'm picking up from so many of you.



(12) I'm thankful for the week we got to spend visiting with my Dad last week.



(13) And I'm so thankful to be saved by Christ's grace.



Hope everyone has a blessed day!

Love, Dahrlin'
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