Sunday, November 30, 2008

I got tagged -- 7 things

Wayne John tagged me earlier today. I love these memes, so I will gladly play along and tell seven things you may not know about me. Here goes:

Okay, being the computer guru I am (NOT!), I can't copy the doggone rules from Wayne John's blog. Maybe that could be number one ... I am not savvy at all in computer-ese.

1. See above.

2. I majored in vocal music in college and used to sing a lot in public. The biggest crowd I sang in front of was probably 20,000 ... but that's been a hundred years ago, or so. I still enjoy singing, but now it's for smaller groups at church and that's pretty much it.

3. I get very impatient driving in traffic, and my worst self emerges. Potty mouth and all.

4. My husband is very much a "gadget guy" but I hate technology. I miss having one remote control that did everything. I can't figure out how to use our DVR...

5. I pray every day.

6. I am addicted to carbohydrates. (Okay, so that's not a secret, is it??)

7. I was editor of my high school paper and seriously considered a major in journalism. I still want to write a novel ... someday!

Okay, that was painless. I won't tag anyone else, but if you want to play along, feel free!

Zucchini casserole - my way

Living in Memphis, it's practically a requirement to make casseroles (sort of a "Southern thing," I guess). Here's one that I’ve made for years. It’s great to take to church suppers, family get-togethers, and that sort of thing, because you can bake it the day before, heat it up right before serving, and I think it’s even better the second day. There’s a million versions of this recipe floating around (take a look in any church cookbook you find), but here’s mine:

Zucchini Casserole

2 pounds zucchini, cut into ½ inch slices, then halved (so you have bite-sized chunks)
2 large carrots, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8-ounce container of sour cream
small jar pimentos, drained well
1 box stuffing mix (I buy whatever’s on sale – this last time I used Stovetop Corn Bread Stuffing)
1 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, barely cover the zucchini, carrots, and onion with water. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until crisp-tender, but not too soft (about 6-8 minutes, give or take). Drain well. Mix zucchini mixture with soup, sour cream, and pimentos.

Mix box of stuffing with butter. Add half of stuffing to the zucchini mixture, and place in a 2-quart baking dish. Evenly spread the remaining stuffing on top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Let set at least 10 minutes before serving. Longer is better.

Now, I’ve made this while doing a much lower carb diet. The changes I made were to decrease the carrot to only one and increase the amount of zucchini. And, instead of stuffing mix, I've used GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbread crackers, or even Wasa Bread (pulsed in a food processor) – they both work great and save a TON of carbs (especially the crispbread).

Here's a link to the GG Bran Crispbread, in case you're not familiar with it:

Anyway, this makes a great casserole and is well worth the time and effort.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving plans

First of all, let me wish everyone a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving. I’ve got to say, it’s my favorite holiday, because it’s all about family, and it’s not so commercialized, like Christmas.

Anyway, having said that, this is going to be a very different Thanksgiving for us. Traditionally, my family has always tried our best to get together at Thanksgiving – all of us grown siblings/spouses and our mom. But last year brought big changes to our family. I lost my older sister, Barbara, and my oldest brother, Larry, within four months of each other. So our family was basically halved in size. Our mom has dementia and has had a hard year; she’s really gone downhill, both physically and mentally, in the last year.

Mom doesn’t do well these days leaving the nursing home. Within five minutes she’s asking to go home, and she’s miserable (and we’re miserable). So I am going to see my sister and my mom, and we’re going to have Thanksgiving lunch in the nursing home. Mom will be more comfortable and happy and most importantly, we can be together. I’m leaving my sweet husband home, and he will have Thanksgiving dinner with his family who live nearby.

It will be odd, because Steve and I have never been apart for Thanksgiving. But I really feel the need to see my mom. I don’t know how much longer she’ll “know” me, so I want to go. Plus, I don’t want my sister to be alone at Thanksgiving.

You know, it’s hard getting older and having siblings and parents with aging issues. Life can be tough, but I want to make the best of it.

Again, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’re spending it with family and that you have a great day. I’ll be back in town Saturday evening, so I’ll check in after that time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My birthday!

I had a great birthday. Most of it was spent puttering around the house, which makes me happy. I made us breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Then I cleaned the bathroom (okay, not very “celebratory,” but hey…it needed to be done).

Steve gave me a beautiful card (it made me cry, I am such a sap). He also gave me an enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven that I’ve been wishing for for the longest. And a DVD set of “Two Fat Ladies” (a British cooking show that used to be on and I loved it). I also got several cards from friends and Steve’s aunt (I’m such a sucker for cards…)

I had a lot of cooking to do to get ready for our Sunday School class and family Thanksgiving lunch today after church. I made a zucchini squash casserole, 40 deviled eggs, and a cookie bar recipe called “Hello Dolly Bars.”

Then, we went to dinner at Bonefish Grill. First of all, we went early (around 5 pm) because we like to avoid the crowds and be home early (I know, we’re sort of “old fogey” that way, but it works for us). Anyway, the atmosphere in the restaurant was beautiful. Dim lights, candles, soft music. It wasn’t loud and clanking and booming like so many places are now. So that made me happy right from the beginning.

We ordered the “Mussels Josephine” as an appetizer, which were “Prince Edward Island mussels sautéed with lemon, garlic, onions, basil, and lemon wine sauce." Oh my gosh – they were incredible. It was a huge pile of them and they served them with crusty bread and a pesto/olive oil mixture on a plate for dipping. We were in heaven!

Then, we both ordered the Gulf Grouper for our entrée. I had Mango Salsa as my sauce for the fish, and Steve had lemon butter sauce. I had garlic mashed potatoes and Hericot Vert (French baby green beans) with mine, and Steve had the au gratin potatoes and succotash with his. We both had leftovers, so we’ve got dinner tonight covered.

The food was absolutely delicious and was a thing of beauty in its presentation. I highly recommend Bonefish Grill if you ever have the chance to go. Here's their website so you can see what they have:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A good report

My sweet husband went back to the surgeon yesterday for his follow-up visit and got a good report. Basically, the surgeon released him to eat any food he wants and to return to normal activities. Steve was very happy, needless to say. He said he stopped on the way home and ate part of a cheeseburger!

This weekend is my birthday, and I get to choose any restaurant for us to go to. My favorite place is called Paulette’s – it’s a beautiful dining experience. But I think I want to try something new… There are a couple of places I’ve been wanting to try – Texas de Brazil and Bonefish Grill. Right now I’m leaning toward Bonefish Grill, but it’s still to be decided for sure. What fun! We haven’t been out in soooooo long, and I hope it will be a special – and very fun – night.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the menu for tomorrow: crockpot taco soup

So, I've got all the fixins for taco soup, and will be making a big pot of it in the crockpot tomorrow. My version is pretty the same as everyone else's (depending on what I have in the pantry), but here's what is going in the soup pot tomorrow:

1 lb. ground beef, browned (I'll cook this up tonight and pop into the frig)
1 large (29 oz.) can of tomatoes (I have diced on hand)
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans (you can use whatever kind of beans you like best)
1 can corn
1 small can green chilies
1 small jar diced pimentoes
1 package Ranch dressing mix
2-3 Tbsp. taco seasoning (you can use 1 packet of "store-bought" taco seasoning, but I bought it in bulk and just take out what I need)

Throw everything in the crockpot (don't drain any of the canned goods) and simmer on low for 4-6 hours (or all day, in my case ... since I'll be at work).

Easy-peasy, and oh so good on a cold November day...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A shameful product endorsement

Now that the holidays are upon us (WHAT??? The HOLIDAYS! I'm not ready!!), I'm getting in this sort of "nesting" groove ... wanting to make fresh-baked goodies and home-cooked stews and soups and such.

And so I wanted to share an invaluable little gem I have found for use in baking. It's Dr. Fife's Non-Stick Cooking Oil. I buy mine here.

This stuff is worth its weight in gold! It positively, absolutely, without-a-doubt will keep your food from sticking to the pan. I've used it on a number of different pans, including a loaf pan that I'd been ready to pitch, because everything was sticking to it. But this cooking oil is wonderful. It's the best cooking oil I have ever used.

It comes in a little 8-oz. jar, and I usually use a small baggie as a "glove", dip my hand into the jar, and smear a very thin layer on the pan. It works like a dream. And this little jar is going to last me a long, long time, so it's well worth the $4.99 I paid for it!

You know ... it's sad to say, but in the times we live in, it's rare to find a product that actually lives up to its claims. This one does. It just does.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is it Friday yet?

It’s only Monday, and I’m exhausted.

I feel like I’m working two full-time jobs these days. I worked at home all weekend, cleaning the house and ridding us of a flea problem we discovered. It consisted of getting an exterminator to treat the back yard, Chem Dry to come clean the carpets, and me washing all the washable fabric in the whole house and scrubbing everything that could be scrubbed.

Additionally, I worked a couple hours overtime tonight. So I just feel plain old worn out.

More later…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Update on Hubby and other stuff ...

Okay, Vikki … this is for you.

Steve is doing really well. He’s getting around amazingly well and is eating more. Tonight for dinner we had green beans with potatoes, creamed corn, and black-eyed peas. Not low-carb at all, but oh well. After working all day, I’m not up to making two different dinners. So I’m taking a break from the low-carb eating for awhile until life gets back on track.

Speaking of work, I’m back this week, and it’s been good. I work with such great people and I really enjoy my job. I’m blessed, I know. I left work a few minutes early today and voted on my way home. It wasn’t bad at all; I was in and out in under 25 minutes.

I’m starting to think about Christmas gifts. I usually have a lot more gifts bought by this time of the year, so I need to get in gear! I’ve decided I’m going to make my Cashew Brittle for co-worker and neighbor gifts. I didn’t make any last year, but everyone asks for it, so I’m going to do it this year. I’ll post that recipe soon – maybe tomorrow night. It’s super fast and easy, totally goof-proof, and delicious.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Remembering Larry ...

Tomorrow is November 4th. Besides being Election Day, it’s also my oldest brother’s birthday. Last year on November 4th, Larry was fighting for his life in a hospice. He lost that fight on November 6, 2007. So naturally, my thoughts are on him especially this week.

My big brother was quite a man. He was a wonderful family man – father to two sons and grandfather to five. He loved his family so much and was a great dad and grandpa, and he left a beautiful legacy behind in his family. He had had a successful career with Magnavox (later Phillips) and had been able to retire early.

Larry took an annual fishing trip to Canada with his buddies – they could only get to the cabin by seaplane and it was very remote and beautiful. He always said it was his favorite place.

He was an Elder at his church and very respected by all who knew him. He loved to travel and he and his wife were able to do quite a bit of traveling the last few years of his life. He was a wise and thoughtful man. I never heard him raise his voice to anyone and I don’t remember ever hearing him speak in anger. He was the person I went to for advice when it came to finances and investments; he was so good at that sort of thing.

Larry was also a great son. Our mom has dementia and is in a nursing home, and Larry visited her as much as he could – usually for about a week every other month.

He was wonderful big brother, and I miss him very, very much.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Deep breath -- it's almost over ...

Can I just say that this election season has exhausted me? I am so tired of automated calls, junk mailings, negative TV ads, and non-stop media coverage that I could scream!

As a conservative, I will vote for McCain and Palin, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that they can make good on all the promises they’ve made. I don’t agree with them 100% on all issues, but I believe John McCain will help keep our country safe and I believe that he is a man of integrity and principle. And for me, that’s a vital ingredient for a leader.

Barack Obama may be that type of man, but I am not convinced. I just feel like I don’t know enough about him to make that judgment call. Too much of his history is a mystery. One thing I do know: as the most liberal member of Congress, his votes have been basically opposite of what mine would have been, so I disagree with him in many areas. However, if the Obama/Biden ticket wins, I will support him as my President and will keep him in my prayers, just as I would McCain.

I hate the way our election process has evolved (or should I say “devolved”?) I hate the negative campaigning and the incredible waste of money that make up elections now. Without millions of dollars to spend, a person doesn’t have a chance to win a major election in this country, regardless of how qualified he or she might be.

Underlying the weariness I feel over this election is a deep concern that, no matter who wins, we are a nation deeply divided. I’ve heard and seen hate-filled words and actions directed to Palin and Obama that I can scarcely believe my ears and eyes. I worry for the safety of our next President and Vice President – whoever they might be.

But for now, I just feel an impending sense of relief that it’s about to be over … at least I hope it is.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Soft Foods 101

Steve has been limited to a soft-foods diet (no bread or meat), which has been a bit of a challenge to me, in terms of keeping it interesting and varied.

His favorite breakfast is two scrambled eggs, so I haven’t tried to change that. I made him oatmeal one morning, but he didn’t eat much of it, and, even though it didn't seem thick to me, I think maybe the consistency wasn’t thin enough for him. [Note to self: make oatmeal thinner next time!] Anyway, I feel good about him getting the protein, so I haven’t pushed him to try anything else as long as he’s happy with eggs. I did buy him a small box of Cream of Wheat, though, just in case he wants something different.

I bought convenience foods he could easily make for lunches and dinners, especially when I go back to work. For example, a meal might consist of Veg-All, very soft-cooked macaroni and cheese, and some Dole pears. Or, creamed spinach (Stouffer’s), creamed corn, and applesauce. Or, mashed potatoes, LeSeur peas, and tropical fruit cocktail. I bought a veggie lasagna and cooked it until it was falling apart-soft, and he and I both have enjoyed that. He also requested Blue Bunny Banana Split ice cream, so I got that, and he’ll have a very small dish of that once every day or two. He’s still drinking the Gatorade, and I’m glad for that because I think he can use all the nutrients he can get. I want to try beans and rice, but I think I'll give him another week or so more before we go there -- I'm so afraid to stress his stomach, and beans might do that ... although they would be such a good source of protein, and I know he really needs that...

I worry that when I go back to work Monday that he’ll just putter around and not really fix himself anything. I’ve got the frig stocked with all sorts of things, as well as practically every kind of Campbell Soup they make, and I want him to eat as balanced a diet as possible. But I know he’ll have what he wants – whatever looks good to him at the time. But it’s just so good to see him eat, I can’t even tell you…

Overall, he’s making good progress and seems to be getting a little stronger every day.
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