Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tortilla Soup

I love the way Rick  Bayless writes a recipe. He gives as much information about the people and the culture as he does the measurements of ingredients. Mexico One Plate At A Time can be devoured one page at a time even before you turn the burner on! His passion for the Mexican people and cuisine is evident in the way the cookbook is written. Try this Tortilla Soup and savor the soul satisfying, earthy flavors of Mexico.

Tortilla Soup (Sopa Azteca) Serves 4-6          Print Recipe
1 large dried pasilla chile, or ancho stemmed and seeded
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 medium white onion,
sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large epazote sprig, if you have one
4 (about 1 1/4 pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A generous 4 cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraƮche for garnish
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in
a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)
Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.
Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).
Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema.  Pass the lime separately.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starchy Goodness

Last night's birthday bash was a  lot of fun! Gavin's choice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese was delicious. He may have been born in Tex-Mex country but his tummy is Midwest through and through! We had the obligatory Jello salad with our meal so all bases were covered. I can't help but think of Daddy when I see how much Gavin enjoys the lowly potato. It's at the tippy top of his Favorites' List!

This is the time of year that my Dad would drop the potatoes in the ground, cover them up with soil and then dream of what he would fix from the bounty that was sure to come in July when we'd dig them. I say "we" because it was a family event, my brother and his family and mine would make the trip back to the farm to help harvest the potatoes. You had better come prepared with hat, gloves and work clothes on because it was hot, dirty work! My Dad loved to garden and he would grow enough for our families to share. For months those potatoes would grace our tables, a mixture of starchy goodness and family love.

From Special Olympics Celebrity Cookbook 1979

I always thought my Dad's potato sandwich was a little odd, it seems there are others who enjoy this simple treat! I imagine it's one of those things you don't know you like until you try it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



Blink, blink...

Eleven years ago today, our world changed forever when Gavin Parker came into the world! Much anticipated, prayed about and celebrated... we had no idea what this little present would mean to us. It's hard to explain why becoming Grandparents stikes the heartstrings like no other, but it does. It's almost like you birth them, you remember what you felt like when their Mom was born.

Gavin is so much like his Dad and his Grandpa's and his Great-Grandpa's! He loves cars and motors and boats, he loves meat and potatoes, but he hates green beans and salad! He's the best of us and the worst of us all rolled into one special package!

Glued to his Dad, he's soaking up everything he needs to become a strong man. Since he could walk, he's been watching and listening to everything his Dad has ever told him. Like a little computer, he can tell you all about what makes a car run or a computer work.

Sometimes the second kid gets lost in the shadow of your first, not so with Gavin. He may be the baby in the family but he's a strong force to contend with! His feet are firmly planted on the ground...

This year for his birthday, most of his gifts revolved around the lawn mower he's rebuilding. This lawn mower used to be his Great-Grandpa Risley's. When he gets finished with it, it's gonna be like no other 29 year old Lawn Chief ever made!

We're celebrating tonight with meatloaf and mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, cake and ice cream. I'm going to enjoy the moments and try not to think of what's just a blink.blink.blink ahead of us. Happy Birthday Gavin!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Caring Bridge

It seems we have had so many friends or loved ones with health crises recently. Last week an old friend of ours went out for a bike ride and experienced a heart arrhythmia that has been life threatening. He was unconscious for a period of time until someone came along and called 911. I just happened to be on Facebook when someone posted this. The next day the same person, Thank You Rick Watson, posted a free website that families can go to and make a page for their loved ones to follow along with progress reports. The "blog-like" home page has condition, diagnosis, any pertinent information that you want to share. Then there are other links, journal which shares updates on their progress, guestbook where friends and family can come and leave words of encouragement for the patient and family and even a photo page. Part of the service that Caring Bridge offers are email or text notifications of updates, so helpful to family when there is so much going on. If you know someone who is going through an illness or health emergency share this great website....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Low Battery Alert

My laptop battery is losing it's oomph, it shows only 30% charged now even after it's been plugged in overnight. I looked online for a replacement battery this morning cause I know it's coming...that day when it won't come on and I will be forced to use the desktop again. I had no idea that a laptop would be so convenient. When I set down to watch tv I can multi-task and I love that! My battery is a little low too. We've had our "chore boots" on all week with one disaster after another. Putting out fires mostly, I won't go into it all or it will drain my battery completely! I think everyone feels like this anymore, just too much in our lives. We are "spread thin" as Mom used to say. It's raining here today and maybe, just maybe we can have a quiet day with a nap thrown in. That's what I'm planning anyway! 

Friday, March 25, 2011


“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  ~Charles Dickens

That's what this week has been like, spring-like weather but still a chill in the air unless you are standing in the small patches of sun. I've been babysitting the flats of seedlings on the top deck that GRANDson Gavin and I planted two weeks ago. We transferred the marigolds, zinnias, beans and squash to little styrofoam cups last weekend and they are doing nicely. Our nights are still coolish so I cover them by draping a flannel sheet over the table, kind of like tucking in a child each night!

I think the project will not only yield plants for the garden... Gavin is actually enjoying the whole process! His big city ways are melting away from him slowly. Life is slower here, and we make time for doing nothing. He tells me often he likes just "hanging with you and Papa!" Isn't that the nicest compliment you could ever get from a 10 year old?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pecking Order

Birds of a feather flock together... ever heard that? Well, they do. If you've ever had chickens you will notice they are very regimented. They have a pecking order that determines who outranks who. We had a mixed flock years ago when we lived at Horseshoe Bend. The flock included white leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, a couple Domineckers and an old banty hen. We also had a few ducks just for fun. The hens got along, for the most part. The Rooster was a handsome fellow, he could stretch himself to appear very tall and important, and he would take that stance to put the ducks into line if they tried to get the hens worms. There was order on his watch! We hatched out another rooster one year and as you may have guessed, he didn't last long. About the time he reached the impetuous teen years he met with an untimely death after being rude once too often to our blue tick hound. I don't want to go any further with that story.

The girls were happiest when they had free range to hunt for bugs over the pasture, their days were nothing but sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. At bedtime, the lines were drawn in the coop. They would fly up to their roosting spots, always the same and predetermined by their status in the flock. The ones who set closest to Mr. Big were at the top rungs of the pecking order. They were his favorites (I'm not going to say WHY they were his favorites) and they derived a certain satisfaction by being his "Chosen!"

The whites would be together, the reds would line up side by side, my speckled Domineckers would face the opposite direction and lastly Ol' Lady Banty all by her lonesome on a separate lower roosting pole. I didn't say it was fair or just, it's just the way it was. Some of them were Democrats, some were Republicans and then there was that one lone Libertarian!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

He Passed!

I knew this day was coming, I knew I'd feel like this when it did. That "scared of the unknown" kind of feeling. GRANDson Jackson passed his drivers test today and he's going to be on the road very soon in that antique Volvo he bought {with his own money} very proud of that! It just came too soon, I'm not finished baking pancakes with him. When he was 5, he'd spend the night and we'd make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. He'd pull a chair up to the counter, measure the flour and crack the eggs. But somehow he's grown up despite the fact that I want him to stay little. Just this past year he's got a job, bought a car and next year he will graduate high school. Nothing I say or do is going to stop time. His parents have done a good job with him, and if you talked to them they would tell you they aren't finished yet! He's grown up a lot in the past year, I can see from a distance that he's learning from his mistakes and has a plan for the future. But for today, it's all about celebrating this big step toward adulthood...  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I spent the day yesterday with my in laws, my father in law had cataract surgery. This year he will be celebrating 89 years and even though a stroke took most of his vision from his right eye, he's not lost enthusiasm for the things he loves to do. Up until the stroke he volunteered weekly at the Veteran's Hospital in Fayetteville serving the men and women who serve our country.

My mother in law can't wait for him to have the patch removed this morning and see with "new eyes!" She had the surgery a couple years ago and it was amazing the difference it made in her vision. She said the first thing she noticed was how badly her windows needed cleaning!!! So today he's seeing the path clearly again... down the road he goes!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just Do It

My to~do list is a mile long, I honestly don't think I will ever get all of it done. Every year about this time I get a spurt of enthusiasm and have grand plans to clean the windows, straighten up the closets, wash down the baseboards, get every last cobweb, take all the rugs out and air them, go over every dusty surface and put out all the patio furniture.

Then that starts me on the outside stuff...clean and plant the flowerbeds, start the seedlings in trays, power wash the decks, blow off the patios, move the plants out of the garage, uncover the grills and then that starts me thinking about what to cook.

Then I spend the next two hours looking through all the great recipes I've been collecting all winter for grilling, so I never get anything finished.

I guess the best thing to do is...

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was Googling away yesterday, searching for how to get my garbage disposal to start again when it needs the "allen wrench trick," when I came across this natural product that will solve a daily problem... well, almost daily problem. Do I blog about this find or keep my trap shut? It's a delicate subject, most people would store the information and not share this tidbit. Me, I can't wait to tell someone else about this wonderful invention!!! What is it that everyone on this planet needs and doesn't even know about?  Let me set the stage, you are at work or a friend's house or in a restaurant when last night's bad choice of a King Burrito strikes. You visit the facilities, then frantically search for the air freshner and spritz a few times...maybe a few more times! Then reality sets in and you realize the smell isn't going anywhere. It's floral alright, but in a "barnyard/cows in the pasture" kind of way. At our house we announce, "You don't want to go in there for awhile!"

If you had only packed this little bottle of spray in your purse ladies or pocket gentlemen, you wouldn't be facing this dilemma. Poo~ Pourri is simply sprayed directly in the toilet bowl water before you go and it eliminates the odor, essential oils are the secret ingredient.

I clicked on the location tab and who woulda guessed, I can buy it locally at 3 different places! It's not expensive, you can order HERE  and for less than $10 never have to plan your "King Burrito Binges" again! They even have pet sprays for the worst odors...BEN this is just for you and for that hard to buy for person in your life, the one who loves joke gifts...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Big Shindig

Tis me McGregor, saying heallo agin to the bloggies out thaer in that inter net box. St. Paddies Day brot a little mischf to Grenny Mtn, us Gaboozies hed a shindig. We are akin to the Leprechans of Irish Descent, but we dnt imbib in the liker like they do.

mE mate Ian livs jst a hp skp nd a jmp dwn th path by th ol oak tre. hE is the wld one in our little gaggle of Gaboozies, u nvr cn ges whate he is up tu. hE's a bachler just lik mE... but hE's only 178 yrs old,  hE's stll lookin'.

Deeperrr intu th woods livs Ferguson o'Roarke, hE's a cuzin twce removed. hiS moTHer ws my Ant KathLeen's sistr. whn we wuz kds we usd tu ply hid n sk undr the leavs nd when wd get tird we wuld tak a nap in an acern top.

thE partee ws at the o'Reillys since they hav a bg hse.

thE gest of honor was Maureen o'Reilly's long lost cuzin' from Dublin. sHaun o'Reilly wasted no tim befor he brot out the bottl nd thn th partee rly got startd. iT wz th wEE hrs uf th mornin' bfore we all rolled home and reigt to bed!

iT sur wz fun but I cnt stand thate much excitmnt mor thn once a yaer!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blessings of the Irish

Dear Lord,
Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am, and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope... And though I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me to be thankful for life and for time's olden memories that are good and sweet. And may the evening's twilight find me gentle still.

May your day be touched by a bit of Irish luck, brightened by a song in your heart, and warmed by the smiles of the people you love.

May neighbours respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

Wishing you always...
Walls for the wind,
A roof for the rain
And tea beside the fire.
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire

May the frost never afflict your spuds.
May the leaves of your cabbage always be free from worms.
May the crows never pick your haystack.
If you inherit a donkey, may she be in foal.

If God sends you down a stony path, may he give you strong shoes.

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Blessings o' the Irish be on ye today!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More than you ever wanted to know...

JP over at Home in the Hollow sent me an award yesterday! It's been a long time since I got one of these and I have to say it felt pretty good, I walked around with a big smile on my face all day long! The way it works, I pass it along to five more bloggers and we each have to tell seven things that you might not know about us. That may be hard since I've practically spilled my guts about everything at this point. You know way too much and I shouldn't add gasoline to the fire, but here goes...

1. Let's see... did you know I like briefs instead of bikinis...

2. that I'm murder on a glass topped stove?

3.that all my lipsticks look like this?

4. that my exercise regimen includes lifting 100 pound potato sacks...go HERE to read about it!

5. that I don't like breakfast but birthday cake can be eaten as early as 8AM without any trouble?

6. that the voices in my head decide what I blog about?

7. that I love my mop? Please don't tell anyone!

And now, the fun part....I get to pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to five favorite bloggers. Not everyone accepts awards or has the time to participate in passing them along, so I will just give a shout out to these blogs that I love!

1. A Decision to Dance
2. The Poverty Diet
3. Living and Gardening in the Ozarks
4. An Oklahoma Granny
5. Family Trees May Contain Nuts
Grab your well-deserved Versatile Blogger Award, and if you have the time... tell us seven things about yourselves and keep the ball rolling on this one!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Million Dollar Friend

Dave Hastings isn't on the front page of the paper, he didn't win the Publisher's Clearinghouse Million Dollar Prize this year, but he's a rich man when it comes to friends. His easy going style and honesty makes him a good guy to have in your corner... my SISTER-in-law found this out a couple years ago when a fall left her stranded on her bathroom floor for 18 hours. Lifelong friends, Dave had been a friend to the both of them, but after my brother died he stepped up. Not many friends do that, the funeral comes and goes, the days spread out and life sets in. The daily-ness of life... bills to pay, groceries to get, appointments to meet. My sister faced it alone and as hard as it was, Dave had her back. He was there to fill in, to be that friend that she could count on.

Terry's story is at Roba Dolce's blog this week, go by and read the heartwarming words of true friendship. It's a good reminder that we need real friends in our lives. Facebook is great but they are just faces on a page, they won't call you to see how your day is going, they won't pick up a loaf of bread for you when you're getting low and when you really need them... it's the Dave's of the world that make a difference!

Monday, March 14, 2011

That four letter word...

Yes, it's being said at my house again. We are on a D.I.E.T. My earliest memories involve bread and butter. Mom would carefully butter the slice at the table for me, homemade bread that was still warm. When memories are that good, it's hard to leave them behind. They are a part of all that is good and holy. When you like to cook, I mean really like to cook, it's punishment not to prepare food. I love the whole process... searching for the recipe, shopping for the ingredients, chopping and simmering and stirring. It's not been too bad really, we are eating healthy again and so far no one has died. Low fat, low calorie, whole grains and plenty of veges and fruit... this is the best way for me. This time of year gives me the encouragement I need to stick to a diet. It's warmer and I'm thinking about summer and having to get on the boat with all my blubber showing. Sorry if I've ruined anyones' appetite with such a visual word, but blubber it is. Jiggly, white blubber. Have you ever noticed that Jello doesn't make a white Jello... just wouldn't sell.

We've been having salads for dinner and since it's been nice, Hubby has been grilling the meat. I found a great recipe from one of our favorite hangouts in Recipes From Historic Texas. It's chocked full of famous places like The Mansion on Turtle Creek at Dallas, The Menger Hotel in beautiful San Antonio and from Hill Country The Gristmill River Restaurant.

Friday nights we'd go out to Gruene, a short drive from our house. Down a curvy little road, over a low water "slab" and in no time we'd see the beautiful emerald green water of the Guadalupe River. A crowd would gather in the beer garden outside the 100 year old building that was once a cotton gin. No one was in a rush, the night air was beginning to cool and the breezes would rustle the leaves above us. Evenings in South Texas are pure Heaven with starry skies and a moon up above that you can almost reach up and touch! The Gristmill had such charm that whether you ate inside or out, it was a real treat. From bar food to gourmet, it was all delicious!

The Gristmill's Beef Tenderloin Salad



1 lb margarine
1/2 c Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c soy sauce
1 c fresh lime juice
1/2 T chopped garlic
1/4 c chopped cilantro, diced fine
1 T black pepper
salt to taste
(This makes 4 cups of marinade, only use 1/4 cup prepared for this recipe)
7 ounces beef tenderloin tips
leaf lettuce
Romaine lettuce
fresh spinach
4 slices avocado
2 wedges tomato
2 ounces vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Melt margarine over low flame. Add Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, diced cilantro, salt and pepper. Place garlic in blender with just enough water to cover blades. Blend until smooth and add to marinade. Cook over low flame for another 10 minutes. (Use only 1/4 cup for this recipe) Allow to cool, then dip beef tips in marinade. Grill or saute in hot pan to your preference. Add the tips to a 3 leaf mixture of leaf lettuce, Romaine and spinach. Add 2 ounces of Vinaigrette Dressing along with avocado and mix. Serve in a salad bowl with tomato wedges.

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 tablespoon sugar
1/16 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoons salad oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/16 teaspoon chopped basil

In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, buttermilk, white pepper, sugar and salt. Mix together with a wire whisk until smooth. Slowly add salad oil while whisking vigorously. In a food processor blend the garlic and onion, then add the red wine vinegar until the onions are in tiny pieces. Slowly add the onion, garlic and vinegar mixture and basil to the dressing while whisking. Refrigerate. Serves 2.
Printable Recipe
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