Thursday, June 25, 2009

Emma is 16!

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Sixteen years ago today, something happened that turned our all-male offspring home upside- down.

A girl was born.

Yes, at 12:09 a.m., on June 25th, we found out that we had a little girl. The delivery nurse, upon seeing her gender, asked me again, "What did you say you had at home? All boys? Well, now you've got a GIRL!" We were thrilled!

It was kind of a funny labor. I had gone to the hospital around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. on the evening of June 24th. I had never had any pain medication before during delivery, and boy was I intent on it this time. With Brady, they kept saying I didn't need it (like they know) and with Drew I got to the hospital too late. This time, I was prepared to insist on having an epidural. So, anyways, I got one with little persuasion, and cruised through hard labor, sleeping most of it. Late in the evening, the nurse woke me up and checked me and said it was time to deliver. OK - I have this lovely epidural and don't feel like I have to deliver, but if you say so... Then, I looked at the clock and saw it was around 11:30 p.m. My parents' wedding anniversary is on the 25th, and I so wanted to deliver on that day. So, I asked the nurse if we could hold off until midnight - she thought I was crazy, but she agreed. At midnight, we started and she was born at 12:09! Easy.

And today, as I think back on the 16 years we have watched her grow, it is so wonderful to see that she has gone from a little girl who could really hold her own with her brothers to a feminine young woman. I am pleased that she is caring and loving, and I admire her sunny disposition and tender heart. I thank God for His work in her life and her desire to be a godly woman. I think she's absolutely beautiful inside and out (well, I may be a little biased). And, besides, she is just a lot of fun to be with! She is one of the greatest gifts and blessings in my life (and her daddy's, too).

I love you, Emms. Have a great birthday and a great year!

P.S....A little shoutout to my nephew Austin...it's his birthday today, too. Yes, my sister and I both had a baby on the SAME day (4 years apart)! HAPPY 12th BIRTHDAY FREAKY PETE!!!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WDW - Cheesecake part 1

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Do you have a good cheesecake recipe? I have two very different ones - one is more of a cake, and the other more of a pie. Today, I will share the recipe for the more traditional, cake one. This cheesecake is tall, looks rich and beautiful on the plate, and is super easy to make. You will need a 9" springform pan for this recipe. And, plan ahead: this cake takes about 7 hours from start to finish, plus it is best refrigerated for 2 days before serving.

I am kind of a purist when it comes to cheesecakes. I don't really like flavored cheesecakes all that much (well, I might be persuaded by some of the flavors at The Cheesecake Factory). I don't really even like to put fruit topping on cheesecake. I like mine plain- simple and creamy, with nothing to clutter the texture and flavor. Truth be known, I actually stay away from cheesecake most of the time (let's face it: it's pure fat). But, every once in awhile, a good piece of cheesecake is truly divine. It's a classic dessert, good to have in the repertoire.

So, this is a traditional New York style cheesecake. In America, there are basically two types of cheesecake: New York and Philadelphia style. And yes, you can make a New York style cheesecake using Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. (I know, it's a bit confusing. I'll explain later.) I'm not really sure what the major difference is between the two cheesecake types, though Philadelphia style is supposed to be lighter in texture than New York style. I would guess that New York style is probably denser and creamier, which is what I like.

But, before I begin, here are some interesting facts about cheesecake, just for your reading pleasure:

~Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece. Historians believe that cheesecake was served to the athletes during the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. (Just what I want to eat after completing rigorous athletic activity.)

~The first cream cheese was made in New York in 1872 by an American dairyman William Lawrence. In 1880, ‘Philadelphia’ was adopted as the brand name, after the city that was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food. In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Company of New York bought the business and with it the Philadelphia trademark. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese was bought by the Kraft Cheese Company in 1928. Kraft Foods still owns and produces Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese today. James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese in 1912, and that lead to the development of pasteurized Philadelphia Brand cream cheese, it is now the most popular cheese used for making cheesecake today.

~Almost all modern cheesecakes in the United States use cream cheese; in Italy, cheesecakes use ricotta and Germany uses quark cheese. (Quark cheese? Sounds appetizing.)

~Despite their name, cheesecakes are technically tarts, that is, open-topped pies; the word 'cake' was formerly applied to a much broader category of foods than it is today.

~A common difficulty with baking cheesecakes is its tendency to "crack" when cooled. This is due to the coagulation of the beaten eggs in its batter. There are various methods to prevent this. One method is to bake the cheesecake in a hot water bath to ensure even heating.

Well, you can tell someone's been on Wikipedia. Ahem.

I will post my other recipe in a couple weeks. Trust me, you'll need a break.

New York Style Cheesecake

15 graham cracker halves, finely crushed
2-3 Tbsp. melted butter
4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups white sugar
¾ cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
¼ cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” springform pan.

In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Start with 2 Tbsp. butter, and add the extra 1 Tbsp. if mixture seems too dry. Press mixture into bottom of springform pan.

In KitchenAid bowl, combine cream cheese with sugar and beat until smooth. Slowly beat in milk, then add eggs one at a time and beat just until combined. Mix in sour cream, vanilla, and flour, and beat just until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off, and leave cheesecake in oven 6 hours, leaving door closed. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1-2 days before serving.


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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Ahwahnee Hotel

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Seated, left to right: me, Rich, Diane & Todd Brooks, Kari & Rick Dempsey.
Standing, left to right: Tom & Sabrina Jensen, Robert & Luci Tubbs.

So, a week or so before our Yosemite trip in early June, my friend Diane and I were chatting and she threw out a crazy idea. One evening during our camping trip, she suggested, the adults should leave the children at the campground, dress up and go have dinner at the upscale dining room at the The Ahwahnee Hotel.

HA! I teased her that was pretty much insane... but also added that Rich and I were game!

So, I sent out an email to the other 3 couples, to see if they were interested, and within seconds affirmative responses came pouring in!

And before you knew it, we had a reservation for 10, Sunday night at 8pm at the Ahwahnee hotel.

Wow.

So, Sunday came, we all dressed up (in our RV's of course-that felt a little funny), the women even put on make-up (something that doesn't usually happen at camp), and we all piled into the Brookses' enormous 10 passenger van. For some reason, the whole thing was just very humorous, and we had a lot of laughs as Todd drove us all to our fancy destination.

We all ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we were seated in a spectacular room with vaulted ceilings, gorgeous windows, and a live piano player. We ate and talked for hours.

And you know what, the evening to me, was just one of those memorable experiences that you don't soon forget.

Just being with longtime, cherished friends, nestled in breathtaking Yosemite, enjoying exquisite food (and dessert, too, of course) was such a delight and treat. It was one of those moments in life when you feel so very blessed by your friendships. I found myself just looking around our large round dinner table and smiling at such sweet, faithful friends that I have deep affection for. And, not merely just faithful friends, but faithful children of God as well - true mentors and examples of Christ honoring people. What a privilege it was to have such a night to bask in God's goodness!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Soaking in God's goodness

I love to soak in the sun. Did you know that it is actually good to sit in the sun, unprotected, for 10 -15 minutes each day to soak in necessary Vitamin D? Well, it's true! Each day I try to find 15 minutes or so to sit and read in the sun, or just lay back in a lounge chair, close my eyes, and enjoy the feeling. It's amazing how theraputic it feels! I am a sun lover, warmth lover, and admit that I love to get a little sun-kissed (or more freckly, in my case).

But, I also love to soak in the SON.

Every day I am struck by the reality that it is amazing that God would choose ME, an undeserving sinner, to be His child. He called me, showed me the way of truth through His Word, forgave my sin, and filled my heart with hope and enduring peace and joy. Jesus Christ died for ME. That is not something a Christian can take lightly, so I do strive to keep the reality of this in the forefront of my mind at all times. And, as if that alone isn't enough, God also showers me daily with grace and mercy that is also undeserved. I want to be KEENLY AWARE of His amazing grace in my life at every moment- the grace that saved me and continues to bless me and cause my cup to overflow. I echo the psalmist:

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
~Psalm 23:6

In other words, He is good and kind to me every day, and then I will be with Him in heaven.

What a thought!

Do you soak that in often enough?

I am planning to have a low key summer- by choice. Emma has some school to finish, that will take her through the end of July, and I will gladly use that as an excuse to stay home and say no to excessive activity. We will be home a lot, hopefully enjoying a slow pace that yields plenty of time to read and produce new spiritual fruitfulness and growth. I want to lead a simple, quiet life, enjoying all of God's blessings to me, instead of hurrying out the door and missing them in the busyness. It's been a busy, hectic year, and I desperately crave time to think and reflect on God's goodness and really soak it in.

And, since no post is complete without pictures, here are some of the ways the Lord has been fruitful to me through His creation. Yes, all these beautiful things are growing right here at my home. I plant as many things as I can to enjoy being surrounded by His amazing handiwork. I am thoroughly enchanted by the beauty of His creation, and that He allows even just a little of it to grow around me. Everything is especially healthy and abundant right now, which reminds me in turn of His abundant grace and mercy. Just look around and see all the ways God is blessing you, and offer Him highest praise!


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Fresh picked sweet and juicy plums, apricots, and nectarines.

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Sweet cherry tomatoes starting to turn red, ready to pick and just pop in your mouth.

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Clusters of breathtaking 'Moonstone' roses on the tree...

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...and clusters of juicy, sweet Meyer lemons, ready to squeeze into ice-cold drinks.

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One perfectly ripe, warm-from-the-sun strawberry to eat as I walk by.

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Big, plump tomatoes will be ripe soon....there is nothing like a juicy home-grown tomato.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WDW - Spicy Thai Pasta Salad with chicken

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I've been in love with a salad at Trader Joe's called "Spicy Thai Pasta Salad with Chicken" for quite some time. And, doggone it, nobody out there on the whole stinkin' world wide web has the knock off recipe posted. So, I've been researching (online and reading TJ's package!) and experimenting in the kitchen. I think I have arrived at something that is pretty close to TJ's. And, the good news is, KJ (me) can make a huge amount of this for the same price TJ's sells a little lunch size one for! Ha!

I used thin spaghetti when I made mine, which worked well, but you could also use Angel Hair (which is what TJ's uses), linguine or even regular spaghetti. I also didn't have any red bell pepper or purple cabbage on hand when I made it and will definitely add those next time. It could use a little crunch and a little red and purple color would be nice. This would be a great salad to serve for a light summer dinner, or to take to the beach for lunch. Think of it next time you have some leftover pasta. The only exotic ingredient is fresh ginger - and it's pretty much a must (don't substitute dried). If you don't want it spicy, just omit the cayenne pepper.

KJ's Spicy Thai Pasta Salad with Chicken

8 cups cooked noodles (spaghetti, angel hair, or linguine)
1 cup diced cooked chicken (I used TJ's "just chicken")
large handful of cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped or julienned
1/2 cup finely chopped purple cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrot

Spicy Peanut Dressing

2/3 c. smooth peanut butter
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp. extra light olive oil or vegetable oil
4 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Whirl all together in mini food processor or blender. Add as much dressing as you desire (there may be extra) and toss with salad. Garnish with some chopped peanuts, if desired.


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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WDW - Grandma Ople's Apple Pie

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I have no idea who Grandma Ople is, but I want to bow at the woman's feet. She's probably dead for all I know...but I still have nothing but mad love for her.

You may remember a few weeks ago, when I posted my four berry pie, that I was lamenting about my failures with apple pie . I complained of runny pies with rubbery apples. Well, I decided the time was NOW that I landed myself a killer apple pie recipe. So I went to allrecipes.com and saw a recipe, called Grandma Ople's Apple Pie, with over 2000 rave reviews. I knew I had to try it. And immediately. But, at the time, I was plumb out of Crisco (I hate it when that happens) and my apples on the tree weren't quite ripe. So, after obtaining the LARGE can of Crisco (oh yeah, baby) and 8 lovely organic apples from the store, I was armed and ready. I was a little puzzled by the method and the lack of cinnamon in the recipe (what?) but I decided to try the recipe as is.

The method is very interesting. Instead of a full crust for the top, you use a lattice, and you pour a special cooked butter-sugar mixture over and in through the lattice crevices. It was easy enough. I even had fun making my very first lattice. I watched this video and was right on my way. It turned out pretty close to perfect.

Let me tell you, the time that the pie was in the oven cooking was sheer torture. It didn't help that it was dinnertime, and since my entire family had different dinner plans, I planned on having a BIG piece of this pie for my dinner. As soon as it came out, I couldn't wait to dive in. Rich and Emma were hovering over it with me, and when I cut a nice big piece, they dove in along with me. "That works," was Rich's simple reply, and I was literally jumping for joy! I mean, what a moment. This was the pie I had been waiting all my life for! It really was absolutely perfect. However, I did discover that the pie will be a bit runny if you cut in right away. I should have waited to cut it, but just had no self-control at all was pressed for time. The juices did set up nicely as it cooled. Serving the pie at almost room temperature is actually best.

And as for the cinnamon, forgetaboutit. As much as I adore that spice, I think the clean and sweet apple taste that this pie has is absolutely perfect.

Thank you, Grandma Ople!

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Remember, I shared the piece that is missing here with Rich and Emma. And I didn't have dinner, OK? (a calorie is a calorie!)

Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie

1 double pie crust
½ cup unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ cup water
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
8 apples – 4 Granny Smith, 4 Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour and form a paste. Add water, and both sugars. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature and let simmer.

Place the bottom crust of your pie in a deep dish pie plate. Fill with apples. Cover with a lattice crust. Place pie on a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Gently pour the butter liquid over the crust, pouring slowly so it does not run off.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 50 more minutes.

Cool for 1 hour before serving.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Something other than WDW

It just dawned on me that all I do is talk about food around here. The last few weeks, I've just gone from one WDW (Way Delicious Wednesday) to the next. I've been too busy for anything else! But, I'd really like you to think my life consists of more than just food, so I decided I'd better try to think of something to write about to convince you of such.

So, how about some spiritual food, instead?

I wanted to share a great resource with all of you, if you haven't already discovered it. I am a big fan of Carolyn Mahaney (C.J.'s wife) and highly recommend you download these free MP3 messages from her. She speaks on the subject of Titus 2, and I tell you, it is good stuff. I love listening to Carolyn when I'm driving, working in the kitchen, or at the gym on some boring machine. I have been greatly blessed by Carolyn's teaching, and I know you will be, too. She and her daughters also have a great blog, called Girl Talk - you can click on it under "blog stalking" on the right of my blog. And, this series on Mothers and Daughters from Carolyn (and her girls)is also spot on.

And, not to just promote the Mahaney fam, but I am also a big fan of C.J. Mahaney's books. I just finished reading Humility: True Greatness and as soon as I closed the last page I wanted to start back again on page 1 (unfortunately, since I kept telling my sister how great the book was, she was waiting for it so I couldn't.) Upon sharing with another friend my appreciation for the book and how much the Lord was teaching me about the area of humility and it's opposite -pride, she sent me this great document called The 50 Fruits of Pride. I have read through it several times, and feel very convicted that I need to spend time this summer carefully examining my own life. I want to learn so I can recognize areas of sin in my life, and work to glorify God more by cultivating humility.

Well, on a not-so-important note (and to address this for Suzi), I am no longer on Facebook. One day recently, I went to reply to a wall post and when I went to sign in, I received a message that my account had been "suspended." Emma then looked on Facebook and realized I was gone. Non-existent. I was most likely hacked. I contacted Facebook, and they have yet to reply. So, I don't know if or when I'll be back. To be honest, I haven't missed it. I'd be reading it and just feel nosy. I guess it makes me culturally irrelevant to actually be able to live without Facebook. When I told my kids about it, they actually felt sorry for me. I told them "I'm totally fine." Really, I am. They looked at me like, yeah right.

Besides who needs Facebook? I'm the e-wife. I had to laugh when a friend emailed me tonight with this:

"Hi!! I think my friend saw you at Disneyland – did you go this week? She called me and said, “I think I saw the E-Wife!!”

Yes, I did go to Disneyland with my sister this week. That is too funny.



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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WDW - Kalamata Olive Aioli Dip

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Here's a fun one for those of you in Santa Clarita who have an affinity for the Olive Tapenade at Wolf Creek Restaurant. They call it Olive Tapenade but I think it's kind of a misnomer, as tapenade is merely chopped olives, with sometimes a little garlic, herbs, and olive oil mixed in. This is more than that - it's basically tapenade made into a creamy, tangy, dip, adding mayonniase and some other ingredients. I'm going to call it Kalamata Olive Aoili Dip - how's that for a name. It's really tasty, and I guarantee you'll like it if you think you don't like olives.

You may be wondering what the word Aoili means. You may just be wondering how in the world to pronounce it! It is pronounced A-Oh-Lee. The word has French roots, and is very similar to mayonnaise. It is traditionally made of olive oil and garlic, sometimes with the addition of egg yolk. The garlic is crushed, then olive oil and egg yolk are briskly whisked in to form a creamy emulsion. In this case, we cheat and use prepared mayonnaise, and add garlic, because raw egg yolks are a no-no. And, you will use Best Foods brand mayonnaise, of course. If you do not agree with me on that, please find another blog to read. Seriously. We differ too much.

Now, a bit about Kalamata olives...they are little purple Greek olives and they are heavenly. Trader Joe's has 'em. I LOVE olives, and eat them pretty much every day. And these tender, flavorful babies are one of my favorites. Incidentally, have you ever seen the "Olive Bar" at Whole Foods? WOW. All kinds of olives you can buy by the pound. Who says you can't buy happiness? It's right there, for sale.

A thinly sliced baguette goes very nicely with this dip. And, assorted veggies would be quite nice, too. Or, just a spoon works for me.

Kalamata Olive Aioli Dip

4 ounces (about 1 cup) pitted Kalamata olives
1 pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled

3 to 4 leaves fresh basil
1 cup mayonnaise

Rinse olives well and drain; check for and remove any remaining pits. Combine olives, pepper, cheese, lemon juice, garlic and basil leaves in a food processor. Process until well blended. Add mayonnaise; pulse just until combined.


Makes 8 servings.

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