Saturday, January 25, 2014

Comfort Food

A chilly day + snow + lazy attitude = GLOP!

This is a throw-together recipe with endless variations.  My mother used to make her version.  One night when I was about 11 or 12, I asked her what we were having. She answered, "Oh, just some hamburger glop I'm throwing together."  So it's been called Glop ever since.  It's EASY.  It's QUICK.  It's yummy!


1 lb hamburg
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves minced garlic (or lots of garlic powder!)
basil or oregano or both to taste  (I often use about a tbs of fresh basil)
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup cooked rice

Brown hamburg in a skillet with chopped onion and garlic.  Drain fat. (I dump it into a colander and let the fat drain, and then plop the meat back into the pan.) Add herbs, chopped pepper, and tomatoes. Cook a few minutes until peppers are slightly soft.  Add rice and mix.  Continue cooking until rice is thoroughly heated.
Serves about 4, with a salad.

This recipe has endless variations.  I've used big cans of tomatoes as well as small cans, depending on the amount of meat I started with.  I've added a can of corn to it at times.   I sometimes make a "Mexican" version --- instead of sweet peppers, I'll use some chilis and add some chili powder.   I've made a Cuban version -picadillo- same basic glop without the rice but with the addition of some halved olives and about 1/2 cup of raisins.  I've usually served that version with rice and black beans on the side.

This picture is what's left over tonight.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brr .... Again!

It's been a cold winter - and we're back in the freezer.  Yesterday we actually managed to reach low double digits: 12°  Today it will be colder.  We've had to keep the kids in at recess because it's too cold to go out.  And for some reason, middle schoolers think it's really dorky to wear winter coats, hats, and mittens/gloves!  We still have the real "cool" kids (literally and figuratively) who wear shorts in January.  The temp this morning - right now is -4°.

Meals this week have included left overs of the meat loaf from Sunday, panbroiled steaks, and last night . . . a Pinterest recipe that was exactly as advertised.  Super easy and super delicious!    Definitely NOT healthy!

There isn't really a printed recipe -- just a photo with a caption.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt 1/2 to 3/4 stick of butter in an oven safe pan. (I do this in the oven as it's preheating.)
Layer 1 lb deveined shrimp over the butter.  (I pulled the tails off first.)
Sprinkle the shrimp with 1 packet of Italian dressing mix.
Bake for 15 min. at 350°F.

I served this with rotini.  I just cooked the pasta and tossed it into the pan with the cooked shrimp.  I also dusted it with some grated parmesan.

My husband said this was a keeper!

Wow! Steak and shrimp back to back!  My husband does the shopping and buys either what's on sale or what's been marked down. Into the freezer it goes.  A bag of frozen shrimp is a staple in our larder.  Tonight it's chicken, but I haven't decided how I'm cooking yet!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tick, Tick, Tick . . .

My lovely 3 day weekend is just about 2/3 over and I just haven't been able to sit and get much knitting done.  Lots of chores have been accomplished, but where is my ME time going??

Yesterday we had a bunch of errands to run, three loads of laundry, and a bunch of phone calls to make.  Today was supposed to be sleep late, go to church, and spend the day relaxing.   Instead I'm awake at 6 am, up at 6:30 am, finishing the grocery list so DH can go to the store, and taking over an hour to book a rental car for our trip to Florida.  It takes so long to compare rates and coupons and rental agencies --- AAA, NEA, AARP, and then all the hotel membership/partner cards.  And then throw in  Needless to say, AAA has the best rates, at least for this trip.

Speaking of good deals, if you haven't joined, you are missing out on a chance to get real cash back from purchases you're planning to make anyway.  It's NOT a scam.  I've been a member now for almost two years, and have gotten rebate checks totaling just under $200.  All you do is go to, search for the store you're planning to shop on line at,  and click on the cash back coupon.  Ebates creates a ticket and sends you to the store's website.  You shop as usual, and once your order is placed, your ebates account is credited.  The site has a multitude of retailers:  LL Bean, Lands End, Sears, JC Penny, Nordstroms, QVC, Amazon (but not the books division), Williams-Sonoma, Stonewall Kitchen, Catherines/Lane Bryant, just about any place I like to shop.  Even car rental agencies!  If you're interested, click here.  In the interest of full disclosure, if anyone joins by using this link, I get $5 added to my check, and maybe more if that person spends a lot of money.  But I'm mostly posting this because it IS a good way to get a little something.

So, by the time I got the car booked, and dealt with 2 unexpected phone calls, and the snow, I didn't get to church.  Instead, I spent a couple hours on the business bookkeeping.  I always think it will only take me about 1/2 hour but it always takes longer.  Mostly because a certain somebody doesn't cross his T's or dot his I's and I have to piece things together that shouldn't have to be pieced together.   Like if you make a deposit, staple the deposit receipt to the customer's check stub so that I can easily identify which customer to credit when I enter the check.  And maybe if you'd put the credit card receipts in the credit card receipt file and the cash receipts in the petty cash box, I could match statements more quickly?   Just a few little things like that.

My husband did the grocery shopping while I was busy doing this, and just as he arrived home, I got a phone call from an association member with a problem.  (I'm the grievance chair of our local teacher's association.)  I had to spend about 1/2 hour helping her figure out what she needs to do, to get a potential issue solved.  So at least I didn't have to put the groceries away.

I did get about 40 minutes of "knitting" accomplished.  I put that in quotations, because I was actually stringing  260 beads on my yarn.  I'm participating in a mystery knitalong - Laura Nelkins Magpie.  I'm just starting Clue #2.  Eventually I'll get a picture or 2 posted.   It's fascinating --- I joined the M Club which means I will get a total of 4 kits for 4 mystery KALs.  Not a cheap thing, but it was my gift to myself this past fall.  This is the first of the projects.  It's a fun knit -- not too hard, and I'm also learning a few new skills -like using a provisional cast on. 

Added a pic of clue one at the halfway point.

Today we are eating meatloaf.  I don't really follow a recipe, but here's what I did.

1 lb ground beef
3/4 cup regular oats
1 medium-large diced onion
2 celery stalks diced
2 cloves garlic sliced
2 eggs
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp Tsardust (spice blend from
1/2 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix lightly with your hands.  Put into a baking dish that's been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake at 350° F for about 1 1/4 hr or until the interior temp of the meat is 165°F.  I sometimes add some tomato paste to the meat mix but I didn't have any today--- a couple of tablespoons.

I served this with mashed potatoes and green beans.

I also made rice pudding - again, a no recipe followed - just what my mom taught me.  I made it today because we had  rice,a lot of milk and eggs that needed using up!

Mom's Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked rice (or less, or more!)

4 eggs
3 1/2 to 4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on milk and your sweet preference
1/2 cup raisins (or more - or none!)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional!)
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
nutmeg (optional)

Beat the eggs, and then add the milk.  Add the sugar and vanilla. Mix well.  Sprinkle the rice with the cinnamon.  Mix with the milk and eggs.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Bake at 350° F for about 1 1/2 hrs stirring a couple of times to keep the rice from settling.  (I usually stir it about 25 minutes into cooking time, and then again about 40 min into process.)
Serve warm or cold.

You can be very flexible with the ingredients.   Don't want it too sweet? Add less sugar.  Raisins aren't necessary, and the cranberries are a "modern" addition.  Mom taught me to use 1:1 ratio of eggs to milk, though you can adjust a bit.  If you want a more custardy use one more egg than cup of milk.  Also if you use less rice, you'll have more custard.

So now, my kitchen needs some major attention, but there's always tomorrow.  I am going to spend the rest of the evening knitting!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Snowy-ish Saturday

The longer-than-usual January thaw is now giving way to more seasonable weather.  The temps are dropping and it's been spitting snow most of the day.  There's about an inch of wet snow on the ground after about 6 hrs of precipitation.  It's chilly and dreary outside.

I decided to make soup today, based on this recipe for Creamy Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup:

I tweaked it just because  . . . .
  • Instead of water and vegetable broth, I used 6 cups of chicken stock. 
  • I skipped the white sauce mix since I didn't have any and instead dissolved a couple of tablespoons of corn starch in the liquid.
  • I added about 1/2 cup of white wine.
  • I added 1 can of cream of chicken soup because I wanted a more chicken-y flavor and I didn't have any chicken in the freezer.
  • I added an extra dash of cayenne
  • I added a cheese rind as it simmered.
  • I used a package of fresh cheese tortellini instead of dried.

Verdict?   It's yummy!  And although at first my husband kind of turned up his nose when I announced that was the main meal, I noticed he ate 3 bowls! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One of Those Days

Where nothing goes particularly wrong, but nothing goes particularly right. . .

1.  Kids were very unfocused today, very chatty, not a lot of work accomplished.

2.  Miserably rainy and chilly meant an indoor recess -- not particularly helpful.

3.  Everyone is feeling discouraged about work loads.

4.  I was able to get home early today as did my husband which lead to

5.  An early dinner -- simple, if not exactly high on the list of healthy

6.  A plan to spend the evening knitting . . . which happened, kind of.

7.  Took almost 2 hours to remove a provisional cast-on and put live stitches on stitch holders.  Apparently I didn't crochet through the correct loop so made a task that should have been easy, quite difficult.

8.  Numerous interruptions didn't help ---- 5 phone calls, a DVR problem, and a cat throwing up.

9.  It's still raining too!  Lots of mud and pooled water on top of frozen ground.

10.  I may be catching the head cold my husband is enduring.

Dinner tonight:

Pan-fried cube steaks (sprayed the skillet with Pam with a teeny pat of butter, really!!)
Homemade fried potatoes  (Pam spray, followed by good olive oil)
Steamed broccoli (the nod to healthy eating!)

Monday Night's Dinner

No picture, again!  Can't remember to take a photo.

Tonight was a  crockpot meal called Honey Sesame Chicken.  This recipe is another Pinterest find.

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours, 10 minutes
Yield6 servings
Simply throw everything in the crockpot and you're set for a family-friendly meal - it doesn't get easier than that!
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • In a large bowl, combine onion, garlic, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, vegetable oil and red pepper.
  • Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken thighs into a slow cooker. Add honey mixture and gently toss to combine. Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours and 30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken thighs from the slow cooker and shred the chicken before returning to the pot with the juices. Cover and keep warm for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.
Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking
  My only tweaks:

I didn't have any ketchup so I used tomato paste.  Because I know ketchup has vinegar in it, I added a couple of splashes of rice vinegar -- maybe about a tablespoon.   I also upped the amount of red pepper flakes.  I also cooked it on high for about 2 hours since I didn't get home as early as I'd expected.

We really liked this, although there was a lot more sauce than I expected.  Not that that's a problem. I served it over rice, accompanied by peas.  This made enough for generous portions for us, plus at least 2 lunches.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Sunday Evening and I'm Pooped!

I think weekends are supposed to be for unwinding and relaxing, but this one . . . well very little of that occurred!

Friday night we headed out to do some errands --- pickup some office supplies at Staples and some items at Home Depot, so we decided to try a new restaurant featuring Latin American food.  We did our errands first and then headed to the eatery.  Unfortunately, apparently so did half the population of the area because we couldn't even find a parking place!  So we reluctantly re-set our taste buds away from some Cuban specialties,  and headed to a neighboring Chinese restaurant.  The food there is always good, it was packed too, but we did get a parking place and a table.

Saturday my best friend and I headed out dress shopping.  Since Younger Son is getting married in May, the situation is getting a tad desperate.  I had found something that would work locally, but I just didn't love it.  I was not eager to spend over $300 for something I was just settling for.  I'd been told about a bridal shop about an hour away (NOT a chain!), so we headed there on a miserable cold foggy rainy day.  It had been icy earlier in the morning so we almost didn't go.  I am so very happy that we did!  Not only did the shop have many dresses in my plus size that I could try on, but the service was wonderful.  I found a gorgeous dress, one that I would never have considered in my wildest dreams, and I tried it on.  It was perfect!  The best part of it was that although the ticket on it said it was $448, it also said it was on sale.   The sale price was $348  --- at least at first.  It turned out that there was a further discount because it was a discontinued style, and it was "off the rack."  By the time I checked out the total price for the dress AND all the alterations was $229!  Over a $100 less than the dress I'd almost settled for!

As you can see, it need major shortening in both length and sleeves, and the shoulders need taking in.  But I'm in love with it!

After that we visited the companion lingerie store and I found appropriate undergarments to wear with it!  Of course this shopping expedition consumed the greater part of the day, especially when it included a very late lunch.  I wasn't hungry when I got home, so DH happily heated up fish sticks and french fries for himself!

Today was equally busy.  Two loads of laundry, taking down the Christmas tree, packaging up the 3 of the 4 pair of shoes I ordered for the wedding to send back to Zappos, and cleaning up the hard drive of my laptop which will become a laptop for the business.  My husband hired an operations manager who needs a computer, and rather than buying a new one, I offered him my personal laptop which in not being used.  I just needed to remove a few files but that took longer than I'd expected.

And the big doing of the day was my return to church.  I have not attended services at my church since last Lent due to some major issues.   Those particular issues have been resolved, so I finally felt willing to return.  It was fairly stressful on my part, and in many ways quite unsettling.  I'm working through those feelings now, but it's just another reason why I'm feeling pooped!

Today's cooking was easy!  I just made a huge pot of beef-based refrigerator soup which we dipped into as the mood struck.

I browned about 3/4 lb of hamburg in a large pot with 1 large diced onion and 2 diced cloves of garlic.  I drained off the fat, and then added a 32 oz box of beef broth, a large can of diced tomatoes, about 3/4 c red wine, and 1/2 jar of leftover jarred spaghetti sauce.  I also added 1/4 head of chopped cabbage, about 5 small chopped parsnips, 3 small turnips, about 4 stalks of celery, some oregano and basil, and a couple of splashes of fish sauce.  If I'd had carrots I would have added those too.  It just simmered away for about an hour and a half, and then we started sampling it!  It was yummy, and there's enough for some lunches this week.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday's Friday Five: Last Couple of Days

The Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals is this:
1.  What is the best thing you have had to eat in the last couple of days?
2.  What is the topic/subject of the best thing you have read in the last couple of days?
3.  Who would you like to give a shout out to that has been in your life the last couple of days?
4.  How have you practiced self-care in the last couple of days?
5.   Use the following words in a sentence:    couple, shutter, smile, pillow, groan, skip, baby elephant, red shoes.

Here's my response:
The best thing I've eaten in the past few days:  I'm going with the absolutely perfect grapefruit I ate.  I love to eat them like an orange, peeling the skin off, then picking off all the pith. Then I gently tear off the membrane to get to the juicy fruit itself.  I love the sweet tang of both the juice and its scent.
Topic of the best thing I've read:  I just finished a book called "Soy Sauce for Beginners."  I learned a great deal about how soy sauce is made, although the topic was really the protagonist's journey of self discovery.
Shout out:  This has to be my 6th graders!  They've had an awesome week, coming back after the 2 week holiday.  We started a new novel on Monday that they are loving, and they are making vocabulary connections like there's no tomorrow!  They have reminded me why teaching can still be fun and rewarding - a feeling that's been really hard to sustain against the flood of anti-teacher/anti-public school invective we've been experiencing.
Self-care:  Not so much.  I did come home from school yesterday afternoon, however, and I took a 40 minute nap.
Sentence In my dream I smiled as the baby elephant in red shoes skipped between a couple of fig trees, and as the shutter groaned in the breeze, I shifted my head on the pillow.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dining with Deb!

Let's see, what's been on the menu since the last time I posted!

Tuesday night was another leftover night, this time the rest of Sunday's stuffed peppers.

Wednesday was pizza night.  I used a whole wheat Boboli crust and about 1/2 a jar of Prego mushroom spaghetti sauce.  Next some low-fat shredded mozzarella and some sliced pepperoni, diced garlic, sliced red onion, some fresh rosemary and some canned sliced mushrooms.  Another sprinkle of cheese on top, and there was dinner.  (And lunch for the husband today!)  We had some tossed salad with it too.

Tonight I used a Christmas present.  My husband gave me this "as seen on TV" gag gift for Christmas-- a plastic contraption that cuts potatoes into french fry pieces.  I tried it out.  Let's just say that while it did create lovely french fry shaped pieces, it took a great deal of brute strength to actually push the cutter through the potato!    Not sure we'll do a repeat.  I drizzled some olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkled some kosher salt and pepper on them, and baked them for about 15 minutes in a 425° oven.  Meanwhile I pan broiled 2 very small boneless chuck steaks and nuked a bag of frozen vegetable medley. Not exactly 4 star cooking, but we had dinner on the table in about 25 minutes.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Leftovers for Dinner!

We ate the leftover Coconut Ginger Chicken for dinner tonight.  It was just as yummy as the first night.  And just as warming to the tummy and spirits.

Our first day back at school started with a two-hour delay.  We'd received freezing rain overnight, and the roads were hazardous.  The temperature was also rising, and there was really thick fog.  By 10 am the temp had gone from about 12° to 45 °.  We had torrential rain and wind, and then about 3 pm the drizzle changed to snow and the temp started dropping.  It's now about 25° and it's going into single digits again tonight.  Just love winter in New Hampshire!

2014 Movies

We don't go to the movies very often.  While I enjoy it, it's not something that's high on my husband's list.  So I have to really want to see something, or it has to pique his interest before we end up going.  But I decided that I really wanted to see more first run movies this year. We did go on the last weekend of the year to see "Desolation of Smaug", the 2nd Hobbit movie, which is not a movie my husband particularly wanted to see, but Elder Son had invited us down to go see in in high resolution 3D at a super fancy theater.  I really enjoyed it, while my husband was somewhat confused.  He is not familiar with the saga!

Anyway, I persuaded him to go see "Saving Mr. Banks" yesterday at our local cinema.  This is the story (somewhat fictionalized, of course!  It IS a Disney film after all) of how Disney persuaded P.L. Travers to release the film rights to her Mary Poppins book.  What a fantastic movie!  Emma Thompson's performance was terrific, and Tom Hanks' scene with her at the end, when he visits her in London was another outstanding performance.  It's one of the few times I've been to a movie where nobody moved when the credits started rolling.  People stayed glued in their seats until the final credits rolled up.  There were few dry eyes during the premiere scene too.  This is definitely very high on my list of great movies.

So, since I've promised myself that we'd go to the movies more often, I've decided to keep track of them.  I'm really tired of watching the movies everyone talks about two or three years later on DVD.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stuffed . . . with Peppers!

(Leftover peppers ---- forgot to take the picture earlier! And the thin sauce hasn't been poured in yet!)

Today's main meal is stuffed peppers - a favorite dish in these parts, but one I don't make too often.  I don't really follow a recipe, but here's what I did today.

1 1/4 lbs hamburg
1 cup diced onion
1 TBS dried oregano
4 minced cloves of garlic
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp "Tsardust"  (a spice blend from Penzey'
1 cup cooked jasmine rice (leftover from Friday)
1 large can diced tomatoes****
4 large Bell peppers, tops sliced off and cored

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray Pam or other cooking spray on sides and bottom of a baking dish.  I use a vintage Corning square casserole (the one with the blue flower).
Combine all the ingredients except the tomatoes.  (I use my hands for this.)  Pour a small amount of the tomatoes**** into the bottom of the casserole, and then fit the peppers in the dish.  Stuff each pepper with meat and rice mixture and top with the pepper top.  If there's any leftover meat mixture, just add to casserole along the sides.  Add the rest of the can of tomatoes.****  Bake for about 90 minutes,covered or until a meat thermometer registers at least 165°F when inserted into the middle of the largest pepper.  Serves 4-6, depending on size of peppers and appetites.

****All I had on hand was the big size can of diced tomatoes.  I sometimes use a small can and about 1/2 a jar of spaghetti sauce.  If I'd realized how thin( but tasty!) the sauce would end up, I would have mixed the tomatoes with a can of tomato paste.

Jan 4 Menu

Today's main meal was Thursday redux  . . . leftover spaghetti.  And it wasn't really dinner.  We ate it about 2 pm.  We'd had a big omelette breakfast (no toast!), so had a late lunch.  We finished off the day with a bowl of real popcorn.  We don't do microwave or airpopped corn.  I have an old Westbend popper where you put the kernels in the bottom of the popper and a metal stirring rod spins around slowly.  I add about a tsp of olive or canola oil in the bottom before adding the kernels.  Then you put a big plastic dome over it and wait . .. not very long!  If you're feeling decadent, you can add melted butter through the top of the dome, but we do that only about once a year.  We didn't do it last night.  Add in snacks throughout the day of a couple of clementines and a grapefruit, and that was it for meals on January 4th!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jan 3 Dinner: A Little Spice on a Cold Winter's Night

This is Slow Cooker Coconut Ginger Chicken from here.  The photo is from that site too..  I'm serving it over brown rice tonight.  I added frozen mixed vegetables and some water chestnuts.  It would be lovely with sugar snap peas and carrots, neither of which I have!

Since it's currently 4°F outside, and my husband's been working outside a good deal of the day clearing snow from the school bus fleet, he will appreciate the warmth of the spices.
And since I didn't have to go to school today, I had time to find a yummy looking recipe from my Pinterest collection of chicken recipes.  This is the first time we're trying it!
I will report back.  Wednesday's new recipe (Citrus and mustard glazed pork) was a hit, so I'm hoping for another one!

Friday Five: Turn the Page

I haven't had time to do a Friday Five in a long time.  This is an easy and fun one for the start of the year.

For today’s FF, tell us about five calendar themes that you like to see hanging on your walls or going with you to appointments, or that you WISH existed to adorn and accompany your life.

11.  I usually choose the kitchen calendar, and I usually like to get the type with gorgeous natural scenes, sometimes with Psalms, but the key is natural beauty.  This year however, I indulged my husband's preference and bought a sailing themed calendar which reflects his dream of sailing.  Any of the kitchen calendars has to have large spaces to write appointments on.  My 2013 calendar was Wonders of the World which I picked because one of the units in my students' reading text concerns the ancient and modern wonders of the world.  I keep the pics for a research unit they do.

2.  Next to my computer is "my" calendar - a mini calendar, also with beautiful scenery and definitely inspirational quotes.  Unfortunately I haven't gotten a new 2014 calendar yet.

3.  I carry a  checkbook type calendar which I get at the beginning of the school year from NEA-NH.  It follows the academic year, with the first month being August!  This is where I record drs appts.  It takes me way too long to enter meetings and appts in my phone.

4.  My school calendars are boring.  One is a paper computer generated calendar which tracks our "A", "B" rotating schedule.  I also have a calendar app as part of our school email program which I use to record parent meetings, staff meetings, and special ed meetings.  The program also tracks the computer lab availability so I use that to schedule time in the computer lab.  And my plan book is calendar-based also --- A weekly spread sheet divided into class periods.  Here is where I keep my lesson plan schedule.  I keep these from year to year and I refer to the previous year's plan book frequently to keep me on track, and because I often jot down reminders for "next time I teach this."

5.  My ideal calendar would be beautiful, inspirational, follow me around everywhere, and be flexible so that I could have everything in one place. I know that I can do something like this with Google or other apps, but electronic calendars require internet or cell phone access, something that not all places I am have.  And I'm not a cell phone junkie; I use it to make calls or to check email when I'm on vacation.  I don't text or play games or make videos, and only occasionally use it as a camera.  Besides, the electronic ones aren't beautiful!

Bonus:  I also love the natural calendar of the lunar cycle and the seasons.  I notice the position of the sun rise (or lack of it!) on my way to work each morning.   At the turn of the season in spring and fall there are a few days where I am blinded by the solar glare as I crest a hill going eastward at sunrise.  And then I watch the sun move northward or southward.  And the full moon shines directly into the bedroom, sometimes from the south window and 6 months later from the northern side.  And finally the quality of light changes with the seasons, and I look forward to the morning when all of a sudden, the light is warmer and  softer, and I know spring is arriving.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Good Way to Start 2014

Today teachers had to go back to school, although the kids are off till Monday.  Today was "OUR" day.  We were given the opportunity to work on a project of our own choosing.  We just had to submit a proposal describing how we were going to "professionally develop" ourselves, and then spend the day doing it.  What  a lovely gift!  I spent the entire day with our grade level special ed teacher.   We took a unit that I've often done with my reading classes, and we reviewed my existing activities, checking to see where they aligned with the Common Core State Standards and where things needed to be beefed up.  Then we went through it and turned it into a unit that we will be team teaching to a combined class of regular ed students and her pull-out reading class.  We also explored some new resources we found on line, created some writing activities following the 6 Traits +1 writing process, and developed some extensions for those who need more of a challenge. It made the fact that we are at the beginning of a blizzard much more bearable!  Had the kids been in school, it would have been a snow day.  It was tricky driving in and back but I was lucky that my husband was free and could do the driving for me!  They've cancelled tomorrow's workshop day already, so we have a 3-day weekend!

Today's dinner menu:

Spaghetti with Italian sausage and tossed salad.

Here's how I make my sauce:

1 jar good spaghetti sauce (Classico is my favorite, but I often use the cheaper Prego)
1 can of tomato paste
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
1-2 TBS "fresh" basil  (I freeze excess basil from my CSA share in the summer in recipe size packets, and then just unwrap the packet,and snip the whole frozen leaves into the sauce)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf

I started by cutting Italian sausage links into 1 inch pieces, and browning them in a heavy skillet with a little olive oil.  Then I add the jarred sauce and the tomato paste.  I rinse the sauce jar with the wine and put that into the pan, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Then I just let the sauce simmer.  I cook the spaghetti and when it's drained I just plop it into the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan for me, and the shaker of oregano for my husband!

I prefer to use hamburger instead of the sausage, but my husband prefers the sausage, so I rotate!  When I use the hamburger, I just brown it with about a 1/2 cup of diced onion and the garlic, drain off the fat, and then add the sauce ingredients.

I usually make the whole package of spaghetti which gives us leftovers for lunch or supper later on in the week.  

So that was tonight's dinner.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Something New

We were talking at dinner this past weekend about many different topics.    As I do periodically, I had been complaining about being tired of trying to come up with different ideas for meals and that I was bored with my cooking.  My always supportive husband tried to assure me that I always came up with something good, we could eat out more often, and that he was always happy with my meal planning.  A second conversation revolved around reading.  I've kept track of everything I've read for many years now via  It's always interesting to review what I've read and discover patterns in authors or genres.  (Not too hard to do -- I tend to read too many (?) detective series.)  Anyway.  These 2 conversations led to a comment from my husband "You should keep track of what you cook for dinner the way you track your books."  We laughed and moved on.  But that comment stuck with me.  So I am going to try something a little different.  I'm going to try to record our main meal menus for a while. . . at least until I get too busy to do so.  I have no idea what I will discover about my cooking or our diets!  But it should be fun for a while at least.

So on this first day of the new year:

I actually made a brand new recipe from the newest Cooking Light:

Orange Mustard Glazed Pork Chops
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges.) (I used a premium store bought oj)
2 TBS orange marmalade
1 TBS whole grain mustard
1 TBS canola oil   (I used olive oil)
4 (6 oz) bone-in pork loin chops, 1 inch thick  (I used 2 center-cut chops,  3/4 inches)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 rosemary springs
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
2 TBS fresh lime juice  ( I used bottled)

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine juice, marmalade, and mustard in a sauce-pan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until syrupy.
3.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Add to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned.  Turn pork; add rosemary and onion to pan.  Pour juice mixture over pork; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 140°.  Place onion and rosemary on a platter.  Return pan to medium-high heat; add lime juice.  Cook 4 minutes or until liquid is syrupy.  Add pork to platter; drizzle with sauce.

Serves 4.  Calories 303; FAT 99g (sat 2.2 g, mono 4.5g ply 1.7g), PROTEIN 38g CARB 14g, FIBER 0.7 g CHOL 117 mg; IRON 1.3 mg; SODIUM 316 mg, CALC 47 mg

I served this with steamed garlic potatoes and a tossed salad.

I meant to take a picture of the finished dish but it got eaten too fast!  I think the sauce would be good with chicken breasts too.

So, maybe there will be more meals shared here this year!