Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thor's Christmas

Patrick gave Thor a big Christmas present. It smelled intriguing!
Hurry up, Patrick! Let Me See!

Awww, Yeah! A 20 pound bag of cookies! Let me in there!

Happy Thorsday, and Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Birthday...

22 years ago today, this baby turned one year old, and her companion was 6 months old. They were inseperable all of his life.
Today, she's a 2nd year law student. When did she get that old?

Happy 23rd birthday to my oldest daughter. Now, all I need to do is figure out how to make a red velvet cake!

Monday, December 28, 2009


I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Ours typically stretches out for two days, and everyone enjoys every minute of it. Personally, while I enjoy it, I'm only too happy to collapse in bed for about 12 hours around midnight on Christmas. I guess that's the price of making sure everyone has a wonderful holiday. Would you like a glimpse of the grandest celebration in our little corner of the world?

Christmas Eve the little boys made a gingerbread train. We bake our own, using Pampered Chef molds. The last time I knew, these were no longer in production; I bought the train and house molds from a sister of a Pampered Chef consultant I knew in New Jersey. My boys have gotten immense enjoyment from them.

Also on Christmas Eve, the kids exchange their presents with each other. My little guy's favorite present was his Tom Brady jersey and Patriots cap. I am thankful to say that he hasn't exactly LIVED in them; he's only worn them while watching football games on TV. This gives me the opportunity to wander through the room and bother the boys by asking where Long Hair #11 and that Troy dude are. I know they aren't on the same team, and their teams are never on TV when I ask the question. I just like to be obtuse.

Even though they're all pretty old, I still play the Santa game. I have some pretty big elves help me set up on Christmas Eve.
If Paula's reading, she can note that the beautiful stocking she sent me last year is right up there with those belonging to the kids. The Pampered Chef
was good for stocking stuffers!

Everyone sits for Christmas morning brunch. My special Christmas punch is added in the morning.

Thor sits in the middle of the present opening, of course. After a while, he gets tired of the wrapping paper and leaves the room.
Even little Cinnamon came to play in the paper after most of the feet had left the room.

20 pounds of standing rib roast looks like this when carved, and, of course, artfully arranged with spinach leaves around the perimeter of the platter.

Mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, green beans, spinach and punch rounded out dinner.

And now you see why I collapse at the end of the two days!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Outside My Window

Yes, last week you were right. It was a live deer nearly licking my window. Really, this terrace is only 15 feet wide. What is this joker doing between my kitchen and my garage anyway?

I was not amused. After I took the photo, I banged on the window until the fool sashayed away.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thor's Shopping Trip

It's that time of year again. You know, the time when they open the tree farm and dogs can take their humans on a grand adventure!

Let's go, Patrick! What are you waiting for?

Oh, wait. Mom says you're not as good a driver as Dan or Jeff. Maybe I'd better take over.
Thor took Patrick on his leash, and led him around the farm.
They visited sheep (who raced into their pen to hide), goats (who organized themselves in a circle for defense against this fierce predator), llamas (who came out of their pen to see what this peculiar pair was all about), and reindeer (who ignored them). Of course, there are no pictures of this, because Thor was moving much faster than any photographer could possibly go.

After the tree was selected, Thor was not sure he was ready to leave.

But we got him to pose with two brothers and the truck, then lured him into the truck with one of Dan's cookies. A fun shopping trip was had by all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Girls Went Shopping

and they brought me a present.

I've never seen a live plant wearing glitter, and I've never seen a blue poinsettia. I have such nice daughters!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red Devil's Food Cake

This is my final entry in "The Week of Rotten Milk!" OK, I know the milk wasn't rotten, because I can smell it going bad 2 days before anyone else can, but it's so much more fun to call it "rotten" than "sour", isn't it?

I made this cake Sunday night, and it was gone as soon as Dan got here Monday. Yep, that's right, he ate 1/4 of the cake as soon as he found it. That was BEFORE he sa
t down to his roast chicken dinner. Yes, it was that good.

McCalls Red Devils Food Cake

1-3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup sour milk
2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat in the margarine and milk until combined; beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat another 2 minutes. Bake in eith
er 2 layer pans, or, as I chose to do, in a 9x13" pan at 350F. 35 minutes for the sheet pan (sorry, I can't help with the time for layer cakes). Frost and serve.

This is what was left of the cake by the time Dan had been here half an hour. It's hard to tell, but the cake is the color of the patent leather on these adorable new shoes Thor made me order from Target. (It's absurdly hard to take a decent picture of your own foot, too).

Patrick is an enormous fan of chocolate cakes, so this is his birthday cake for tonight. Hard to believe my second son is 25 today! How did they get so old, when I'm pretty sure I'm not that old yet?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Supervisor Thor

My son Dan came home last weekend. He brought painter's putty to fill in some shrinkage on new baseboard he put up last January, when he put down the new hardwood floor. Of course, when he was doing this, Thor had to check out what was going on.
Not content just to look, Thor nosed Dan's arm up to get a closer sniff.

At last, hearing Patrick rattling the cookie box, Thor backed off, looking for the real food!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sour Milk Baguettes

Yes, I'm getting all fancy in my terminology, here. Baguettes, indeed.

After my milk had truly gone sour, as opposed to Patrick simply announcing it would be "rotten tomorrow", I used it in a variety of wonderful ways. One of those was this bread. It has a sour overtone reminiscent of sourdough bread, but without the waiting for the starter. That's a plus in my book. And while the dough was very stiff, and the crust very dark, the bread was absurdly soft. It was so soft, in fact, that I couldn't cut it while it was hot, because the knife crushed it. But here we are, two batches later, and it gets entirely consumed every time!


1-1/2 cups sour milk, heated to about 110F
6 tsp yeast
4 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

4 tsp gluten

Add the yeast to the milk, add the remainder of the ingredients, and mix according to your bread machine's directions, or using my directions to the right. After the dough has been thoroughly mixed, let it rise 15 to 20 minutes, punch it down, and form 2 long or 3 short baguettes. Let it rise again until doubled in size, bake at 375F for 17 to 18 minutes, and let the loaves cool for a while before you cut them.

This bread also makes an excellent sandwich or toast!

Still to come: Red Devils Food Cake. Great stuff. But, tomorrow's Thorsday! You'll have to wait till Friday for cake.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Indoor Garden Tuesday

All of my garden color is indoors these days.

The miniature rose bush Jeffrey gave me for Mother's Day is a blazing orange color, although it doesn't show much in this photo. You can, however, see the snow between my kitchen and garage.

This is Dan's begonia. It's blooming again.

Mark planted this impatiens in kindergarten. It's still going strong!
And, my Christmas cactus decided for once to bloom around the appropriate time. Only one flower, but, hey, it's a start, right?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Week of Rotten Milk

Yes, it does sound disgusting, doesn't it? Since he was about 5 and learned to read, Patrick has been announcing that everything is "rotten" 2 or 3 days before its expiration date. It drives me up a wall. So, on the 7th (last Tuesday), he announced that 3 cartons of milk were rotten and he was throwing them out, because the little boys are too afraid of me to do so. I ordered him to cease and desist immediately, and took the milk to the regular refrigerator (as opposde to the bar sized "milk locker" under the pass through on which I place dinner every night). The next day, I made Candy Cane Ice Cream with this "rotten" milk. It's gone. Somehow, no one noticed that the ice cream was rotten. Maybe it was because no one can resist pretty pink food?
By Saturday, the milk was going sour. Perfect! I left it on the counter for a little while, and made a Cinnabun Coffee Cake with sour milk instead of fresh.
It was wonderful - better than the original. My little guy spent the whole weekend grazing at it. And for that little weasel to keep coming back for something is a virtually unknown phenomenom!

One thing they all really enjoyed was my newest creation, Sour Milk Waffles. Of course, I didn't tell them these were made with the "rotten" milk, or no one would have tried them.


3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
2-1/4 cups sour milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Beat all ingredients together, and bake in a waffle iron. This batter can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. (Sorry, but I couldn't get a picture before the little guys just dug into their waffles.)

I'm thinking bread and cake are next on the horizon for my "rotten" milk. What a week!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beef for Dinner and Lunch

It was cold here last night. Not Alberta cold, but we don't generally see 15 degrees until January, and I'm seriously annoyed by this. So, I decided last night to make one of my "stir fry under the broiler" dinners to make the kitchen feel warmer. You can do this in a skillet, of course, but with the quantity of food I cook around here, a skillet is a stupid cooking tool.


3 pounds steak, cut into strips
1 onion, minced

1-1/2 pounds frozen broccoli florets
1 can bamboo shoots
fresh or canned mushrooms
1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup cold water whisked with 3 tbsp cornstarch

Arrange the steak in a single layer in the broiler pan, and sprinkle with half of the spices. Sprinkle half the minced onion around it, and cook under the broiler for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, microwave the broccoli for 3 to 4 minutes to cook. Turn the steak, sprinkle with the remaining spices, and broil another 3 minutes. Arrange the broccoli, bamboo shoots and mushrooms over the steak, pour the water/cornstarch mix and beef broth over it, and broil another 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the veggies are hot. Serve over rice - I prepared a long grain and wild rice mix with 2 tbsp tomato paste, chopped parsley, 1/2 minced onion and 1/2 tsp sea salt.
There was a little bit of steak left over, and I hid it in the back of the fridge. This afternoon, I chopped the beef into small bits, I put it between slices of buttermilk bread with cheese and tomato slices, and grilled it in the George Foreman. We had those with pickles for lunch, and they were good. Tomorrow I'll probably wish I had more, but this was wonderful on a 19 degree afternoon with the wind howling outside my windows.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Geology Dog

OK, so he wasn't really out there playing with rocks. But Ryan and Thor were learning about relative ages of rocks, using sections of sandwich to clarify the issue. (Calvert School has such great suggestions for fun in learning that even dogs want to join in!)

Mom made a triple decker sandwich with 2 fillings, and used a small biscuit cutter to make 3 cross sections of our "rock wall".

Thor didn't inspect his for long....

Before he just snagged it.
Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Fish and Christmas Rice

No need to get excited here. This is not named for the holiday, but for the color.

I was looking for a way to dress up a monotone, nutritious but visibly boring dinner. This is the result.

1 pound white fish
1 cup rice
1 tsp salt

2 cups water
1 pound fresh or frozen spinach
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp butter

Start the rice with the water and 1 tsp salt. About 5 minutes before the rice is done, add half the spinach and half the tomatoes; stir in 2 tbsp of the butter when it's done. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp butter in a skillet, and cook the fish over medium heat with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When the fish is finished, remove it to a plate and cover with the pan's lid. Add the cream to the skillet, whisk the milk with the cornstarch, and whisk into the skillet. Cook until it starts to thicken, then add half the spinach and half the tomatoes. Add the fish back to the pan and heat briefly. Serve immediately, topping with grated parmesan if desired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snowy Garden Tuesday

It snowed Saturday, although we did only get about 2" of snow, and it's been cloudy most of the time since. But around 8 this morning, we did get a peek of sunshine.

It was gone by 10, and more snow is forecast for tomorrow, but I can look at my picture of sunshine and hope for the best, now can't I?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sloppy Joes and Kaiser Rolls

Some things are guaranteed in my little corner of the world. For example, every Sunday night I will cook part of a boneless turkey breast. Sunday through Thursday, a large chunk of meat (3 to 6 pounds, depending upon that day's population), a starch, two veggies (one of which must be green), bread and dessert will leave my kitchen and head for the table. Friday and Saturday night are supposed to be my nights off. Honestly, it was part of our marraige vows that I didn't have to cook on weekends. Now, that hasn't held true consistently since 1993, and not at all in this decade, but I still consider those my "nights off", and will only grudgingly cook pasta or stew or something similar.

So, Saturday night, in the midst of the snow irritating me, I decided I wanted Sloppy Joes. I have never cooked these since the day we were married. Ryan recognized them, having seen them in school lunches that other children ate before we took up homeschooling, but Patrick was dubious. Nonetheless, everyone declared these wonderful.

First, for the rolls...


1-1/2 cups water
6 tsp yeast
4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 tsp gluten

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Sprinkle the yeast on the water, and add the other ingredients according to my earlier posted directions, OR just mix it up in your bread machine and shut it off after the first kneading. Let the dough rise 15 minutes, then dump it on a liberally floured surface (but not a granite countertop - it's too cold for bread dough). Form into 8 circles, squished down pretty hard, on a greased baking tray. Let them rise until doubled in size, then bake at 375F for 18 to 20 minutes, until the desired degree of brown is reached on the outside surface. Dust the flour off the tops and they're ready for Sloppy Joes or any other magnificent sandwich

2 pounds ground beef
2 minced onions
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
4 chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup quick cooking oats

Brown up the ground beef with the onions until cooked through, and drain. Add the spices and stir well, then stir in the tomatoes and paste. Let it simmer about 5 minutes, to let the tomatoes soften, then stir in the oats to thicken the sauce. Cook a couple of minutes longer, and serve on big, soft rolls with plenty of napkins.

Patrick explained that it's a good thing he had seen chili dogs while at college, and the first time he saw one, he asked the guy why someone had barfed on his hot dog. His reaction to this might have been the same had he not had these experiences. I guess the fact that he had never seen a chili dog prior to college also tells you something about my cooking style.

And, for the record, I ate my Sloppy Joe open faced, with a fork and knife, and saved half of my roll for Thor. He was grateful to eat something other than Bites & Bones.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Snow

I've had the studded snow sneakers on my Winter beater since early October. I've had salt and new snow shovels nearly as long. I did this on the strength that Murphy's Law would dictate that if I'm prepared, it's not going to snow. Sorry, folks, it's finally happened.

My front yard.

My back yard.

Out my kitchen window. No, I don't usually see this view; I held the camera as high as I could to take the picture for "artistic reasons".

Mango and Nichole, it's coming your way. Sorry; I tried to protect you. Thor advises you all to stay inside where it's warm, because dogs don't belong in the freezing white stuff.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Goofy Thor

So many of you laughed at Thor's picture from Dan's birthday that I thought I'd show you the whole goofy act.

He has to roll over against a wall, or else he's just too heavy to stay on his back.

And here's the supervisor I left in the kitchen while the girls were cooking the potatoes. He dares not stay in the kitchen when I'm there. The kids say it's something about "Mommy's Mean!"

Happy Thorsday, everyone!