Recipes and Veggies and other Tales

I’ve been thinking about the subject of cooking these days. I’ve known average, good, and excellent chefs in my travels through life’s meals but have often wondered what is it that determines their status. Is it presentation? Variety? The ability to follow a recipe? Creativity?

Some illuminating (or at least amusing) quotes:

“The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went.”

“The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker: an abiding passion for the task, courage to go out on a limb and an impeccable sense of balance.”
Bryan Miller

“A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation — he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment.”
Pearl Bailey, Pearl’s Kitchen (1973)

“HAM AND EGGS – A day’s work for a chicken; A lifetime commitment for a pig.”

“A clever cook, can make….good meat of a whetstone.”

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four; unless there are three other people.”
Orson Welles

Recently I’ve been enjoying two new cookbooks and sensing, in them, the possibility of becoming a better cook. Also I have been blessed by some creative chefs in my acquaintance. One of whom came to my home and prepared this amazing salad (Thanks Jennifer!!) that introduced me to several new wonderful green vegetables.

rainbow chard?

Name this vegetable!

Jen's salad

Jen’s delicious salad.

After enjoying the leftovers of this salad for several days, I went to the grocery store today and bought large bags of fresh fruits and vegetables. The kids were thrilled to have the fruit bowl stocked again and snacked on strawberries all day.


For dinner tonight I put these greens together to make a yummy salad. I’m afraid it was a bit stretching for my (“I would be fine with iceburg lettuce”) family but at least two of them ate a big plate full. Jen introduced me to bok choy and I am already a HUGE fan. It’s sweet and crispy and perfect in salads. I haven’t tried it cooked but I read at this organic greens site that it is also good in stir-frys.

I have been so bored and frustrated with vegetables lately. I eat a fairly healthy diet that includes a hearty serving of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. After almost two years of following this food plan, I’m a little tired of the vegetables I’ve been preparing. How lovely to discover some new things to add to my repertoire. Several of the greens are ones I’ve avoided, fearing they would be bitter in a salad. Instead, I was thrilled to discover swiss chard and kale have subtle, pleasant flavors; perfect for a green salad.

I’ve already mentioned this cookbook but I want to bring it up again in order to share a recipe or two. Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by Pam Anderson


I’ve made the cornbread muffins twice and they have been a huge hit each time. They are easy to prepare and cook beautifully.

Moist Savory Corn Muffins
1 can (14.75) creamed corn
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tbs butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Set 12 cup muffin tin in over to heat while you make batter.

Put creamed corn in microwaveable dish and heat until comes to a full boil. Stir in 1 cup of cornmeal to make a thick, pasty mush (if not stiff, microwave another 30 seconds). Whisk in buttermilk, eggs and butter.

Mix remaining 1 cup cornmeal with flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Pour wet ingredients into dry ones and stir until just combined.

Remove muffin tin, spray with cooking spray. Fill tins. Bake 15 minutes (until golden brown). Serve.

This evening I made the Yorkshire Pudding/Popovers recipe from the same book.

1 1/2 cups instant (quick mixing) flour, such as Wondra
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
4 large eggs
2 tbs butter, melted

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl. Mix milk, eggs, and butter in small bowl. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture; stir until smooth. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill 3/4 full.

Set oven to 425. Bake for 35 minutes (starting with cold oven and w/o opening oven door).

These puffed up so beautifully I had to call the children in to come and see the yummy sight.

kids looking

kids smiling

The pictures I took of the popovers while they were baking in the oven didn’t come out and I was too busy putting the rest of dinner together to capture the finished product on film. Unfortunately I thought they looked like they were browning too fast in the oven so I took them out before the 35 minutes were up – they rose beautifully and then fell just as beautifully. Thankfully they were absolutely delicious and no one seemed to mind their fallen state at all. I will try these again soon.

The other cookbook that is the focus of my attention these days is Sunday Suppers: Informal American Home Cooking by Melanie Barnard (who seems to have also written several cookbooks for William Sonoma). My aunt (one of those excellent chefs that I noted earlier) gave me this book for Christmas. I believe when someone whom you admire gives you a present regarding their talents and gifts you should give it some careful consideration. I spent a good portion of the day reading/devouring the recipes in this cookbook (at stop lights, while waiting for the children at the Y, when I should have been making dinner). This book, in particular, carries the unique distinction of personal, hand-written notations from my aunt in the margins of her favorite recipes. What a precious addition to an already yummy book.

I am eager to get into the kitchen and start mixing and stirring. I hardly ever cook with lamb or pork and there are several delicious looking recipes featured in these two in the cookbook. My family is in for a real treat.


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P365 – Day 31 (Wed w/DJ)

Today is Daniel’s (age 9) Special Day. The ‘special’ part of his Special Day (ie. where he gets to spend time with Tim) is moved to Saturday (again). Wednesdays are awfully crowded with school, PE, piano lessons, work, and then AWANA/ROCK at church. As Rachel says, “That’s a lot of things.” Rachel is sitting beside me, helping me blog. Oh wait, I think she just fell asleep. You can tell it’s not HER Special Day I’m writing about. Lol!

The day was foggy at the onset but the clouds eventually cleared and the sun came out. Hooray! The children all went outside after lunch to play and enjoy the (fleeting) sunshine. Daniel and Joshua have an elaborate game involving two large sticks and an Aerobie. Hmmm. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

in action

Daniel in action!

The game continues with David riding his scooter amidst the boys’ game.


joshua throwsin the streetdavid scooterjoshua stick

One joy of homeschooling is the children’s recess playmates are their siblings. Sweet.

At lunch time today we had the pleasure of seeing Tim’s parents. They are often in town on Wednesdays and come by to say hello or deliver mail/packages/etc. They are usually busy so we don’t get much of their time but today they brought their own lunches and ate with us. What a treat to have some time with them. I quickly grabbed my camera and got some pictures.

Daniel, David and g'pa

daniel and g'ma

All the children enjoy the occasional hot cocoa or hot apple cider break in the afternoon. Daniel and Rachel are also fond of tea. They fix their hot drinks in big travel mugs and bring them to our school/couch time. Daniel’s favorite tea is French Vanilla. Today he added some pumpkin spice creamer.

hot tea

Ah, living the good life. Happy Special Day, Daniel. We love you!

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Skype is Great!

I must admit I LOVE Skype!!! Go to to read more about this amazing internet phone service. This evening Tim and Joshua were lounging about in Cream Puff and her mother (the couch – needs a creative name) when Joshua suddenly jumped up, saying someone was trying to Skype us.

comfy and cozy

Don’t they look cozy!

Who could it be but my wonderful friend, Tina, calling from Thailand. What an astounding thing it is to be able to talk, over the computer, to someone who is halfway across the world. Not only that but to hear her clearly without hardly any delay in the transmission. I could even make out the dogs barking outside her house! Wow!!

It was school time so Rachel wasn’t able to talk to the girls. Zachary, however, was home, sick, so he and Daniel had a fun little chat.

keyboard in hand


It was 9:30 pm here and 12:30 pm there (but different days) which is mind boggling if you think too hard about it. Ha! I am so thankful for modern technology in times like this.


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P365 – Day 30 (Tues w/RJ)

The sun was out today – what a delight! The children took several short breaks throughout the day to go ride scooters and bikes or just run around outside.

Rachel (age 11) wants to grow her hair long but she struggles with tangles. I recommended she try braiding it or otherwise putting it up at night. She looked a bit ‘curly’ this morning.

curly Rj

The Sonlight Forum (we’re using Sonlight for much of our homeschooling studies this year) has a wonderful list of supplemental resources for each of the levels of study. We are working our way through SL5 Eastern Hemisphere and just finished up a big stack of books on Korea from the library. We finished Korea a week or two ago but I was late in requesting these books (or they were late in arriving) so our reading is a bit off from our schedule. Still, I think the books (some of them for the younger reader) add a wonderful richness to our study on Korea. Sarah and David love to read books so lately I’ve been including them in our Korean studies. One set of authors, sisters, Frances and Ginger Park, have written several books about their family’s experiences in Korea. Some of them are poignant and all the more moving knowing they are based on true stories.
book 2

As we continue our daily study of Proverbs – the three older children and I read one chapter of Proverbs aloud each day – I find our comprehension growing, along with our Bible collection. At the onset of this study I had each of the children find an NIV Bible – I found it MUCH easier if we were all reading out of the same translation. Well, today things expanded a bit. It all started when Daniel wanted to use his New King James and then Joshua wanted to read the study notes in his MacArthur Bible. I couldn’t resist – I had to get my Life Application study Bible. And so it went until I counted and realized we had seven Bibles opened on our laps. That seems a bit excessive between four people. Lol.

bible stackBible spread out

We also worked through a Bible quiz that I received from a friend, years ago. It was fun going through the questions and seeing how much the children could answer. I think we might work further on it and see if we can memorize the different scriptures and get all the way through the questions. We stopped at #106 and there were MANY still ahead of us.

Jodi C.- are you reading this blog??? Thanks for sending the Bible quiz to me. I think it’s an excellent teaching tool. Are you all still using it?

In the afternoon we met Tim at the Y for swim lessons and wallyball. I actually remembered to bring my camera this time so I have pictures to post. Hooray. I didn’t get any great ones of David but it’s not his special day so I have until the end of the week to do better.

Rachel often helps Tim and Joshua get the net set up.

getting up

almost there

I can reach it

Here she is, ready for the ball!

rachel is ready for the ball

Digression into dinner rambling:

My green salsa chicken dish (basically boneless chicken breasts baked with salsa on top) turned out a little spicier than I had intended (should have realized “medium” salsa would be a little much for my ‘like it rather mild’ family) so I used the leftover sauce from the baking pan to create a tortilla soup. I poured the chicken drippings and salsa into a saucepan, added two cans of stewed tomatoes, some pinto beans and a little lime juice and let it simmer. Yum! At the last minute I tossed in some frozen sweet corn.

I served it with taco shells (didn’t have any tortilla chips – had to improvise) and sour cream. Joshua loved it! He added his chicken to the stew and had at least two bowls. Tim said it was a little too spicy for him and the rest of the family stuck to the stir-fry veggies and chicken which looked safe and totally ‘unspicy’.

The children are doing a great job of taking care of the kitchen clean up after meals. Daniel is on dinner duty this week and he handled all the mess – put the leftovers into containers, wiped up counters and the table, washed pots and pans, and loaded all the dishes into the dishwasher. Such a huge help to their Mama!!

Back to Rachel’s Special Day:

Rachel chose to play Five Crowns and Wizards for her Special Day Game. It was our first time playing Wizards and we all enjoyed it. We didn’t have time to play very many rounds – we’ll have to play it again soon. It’s a version of my family’s favorite, 7 Ups and Downs.

joshua and wizards

Five Crowns has already become a favorite. It’s easy enough to teach new people (very important at our house where we like to grab the random visitor and include them in our game) and the rounds are fairly short/quick.

five crowns

coy girl

Tim started The Silver Chair after the games were over. I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised that the children are so excited to read the Narnia series again. It seems like the stories are VERY familiar to them – we have almost all of them on tape or cd (produced by Focus on the Family), we’ve read all the books, and they’ve seen various movie productions of the different books. Still, they are wonderful books and the entire group (with the exception, perhaps, of Sarah) are captivated by the story. How delightful that they have a father who is willing to sit down and read to them.

The children are fighting sore throats. Rachel had hot tea and Daniel requested some Tylenol this evening before bed.

Another busy, full day here.


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P365 – Day 29 (J’s Books)

Joshua 1:8

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Well, these books aren’t exactly the Book of Law – okay, none of them come anywhere close to being the Book of Law but they are ones that Joshua is reading day and night.

joshua books

He has quite a stack going of “current books” – some for school, others for pleasure. I should also note that, to his credit, Joshua reads 2 or 3 chapters of the Bible a day.

six books

As Rachel says, “Only six, Joshua? I’m disappointed in you.” What would (cousin) Rebecca say?? Let’s ask her. Rebecca, how many books are you in the middle of right now? Do post a comment and tell us.

Rachel and I had fun posing Joshua with his latest collection of books.


What book shall I pick?


Bwahahah – These books are mine, all mine!


And I’m going to read them all right now!

Joshua and Tim convinced me to join them in a game of Thurn and Taxis. We started it right before dinner and picked up the game after dinner was over. It is not a very complicated game and focuses more on individual building of mail lines rather than competing against the other players. As it so happens, I beat them both. I guess I managed to figure out the rules enough to come out victorious. Fun.

thurn and taxis

game board

Shall we play again, boys? Do you think you can beat me next time?

“Beginners luck, Mom!” Says Joshua. Hmmm. We’ll see. I happen to recall the winner from Saturday’s Puerto Rico game.

Oh yes, that would be me … again.

Side note: Check out Carl’s blog for an amazing sunset picture taken in Olympia near the airport. Truly spectacular.


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