Garden Veggies

Garden Veggies
Made into tile for my stove backsplash

Portland Rose Garden

Portland Rose Garden
Mike and my 2 youngest sons Ian and Leif

Grandson Michael's Birthday 2014 throwing water balloons

Grandson Michael's Birthday 2014 throwing water balloons
With son Beau, Grandson Luke and his mom Jennifer


I cut this out of a wedding line. I must take more pictures of her.

Monday, April 13, 2015

TOMATO SOUP - lightened

This is a tomato soup recipe from Pioneer Woman that I make often for my lunch.   I love cream and butter but sometimes a little is even better than a lot.  I halved the butter and cream but the soup was rich and creamy  and I didn't miss the added fat.  The cooking sherry is optional but it really adds sparkle to this soup.  It is sold on the market condiment shelves so I feel fine using it.

1 small onion chopped or 3 T. dry onion flakes
2 T. butter
2 -  14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
4 cups of water and 1 can of tomato sauce or 1- 46 oz. bottle of tomato juice.
2 T. chicken base without MSG (I like Costcos 'better than bullion') or just add salt to taste. 
1 C. cooking sherry, optional but delicious
¼ C. chopped basil or 2 T. dried or more to taste
2 T. of sugar to taste.  (2 was plenty for me but PW used 6)

3/4-1 C. whipping cream with ½ C. water or milk and 3 T. Flour, mixed
Fresh ground pepper 

Cook the onion in the butter until it starts to barely brown (even the dry flakes).  Add the diced tomatoes and chop with an immersion blender a little.  Add everything else except the cream mixture and simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1/3 cup orzo or broken spaghetti if desired and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the Cream and simmer 5 minutes more.  Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese and serve.  Makes 4 generous bowls.

Friday, March 20, 2015


I named this Chicken Surprise because I was surprised at how good it is.  The recipe is said to come from a New Orleans restaurant and called Chicken Lazone.  I used less chicken because I always like lots of sauce and I know from experience that I can use half the cream and and add water or milk and a little flour or use half and half.  We didn't miss the extra fat.  The chili powder was a surprise.  I thought it might have a little Mexican flare but not so.  The chili powder is not recognizable.  My picky husband liked it and I know this will be a quick go to for even dinner guests.

1.  2 large chicken breasts cut up into about 4 pieces each and pounded a little until an even thickness. 

2.  Sprinkle each piece on both sides with seasoned salt, (preferably no MSG),  onion powder, garlic powder and chili powder.  Cover thoroughly with the spices. 

3.  Melt 1 T. butter with 1 T. olive oil in a large  non-stick frying pan.   Turn and brown completely. 

4.  Mix 1 C. whipping cream with 1 C. water (or use 2 C. half and half) and 2 T flour with ½ tsp. salt.  Pour over the chicken,  stir until bubbly and simmer for 15 minutes.   Serve over, rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.   Serves 4

Browning - These were very large breasts so you might use 3 if not.

I added 4 T. of flour but thought it was too much.


Saturday, February 28, 2015


I have vegetarian children who like hummus so I created this one with cashews instead of tahini because I usually have them on hand and never have tahini.  I always make a double batch when they come because they love it and so do I.   It has just a touch of curry and thus a very creamy mellow taste.  It is super simple.

1.  Grate 1 clove of garlic in a little frying pan with 1 T. olive oil until it starts to brown just a little. 

2.  Drain about half the water from a can of garbanzo beans.  Put it into a food processor  or blender.   You might need more of the liquid depending on the brand.  Walmart's brand has lots of beans and I use all but about 1 T. of the liquid.  

3.  Add the garlic with the oil, 1/4-1/2 tsp. curry powder to taste and 1/2 C. of salted cashews and some generous grates of black pepper.   Blend until smooth.

4.  Put into a bowl with some drizzles of olive oil and some celery leaves chopped fine if desired.   Serve with chips, crackers or veggies.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I took this cake to a Sunday dinner party yesterday and it was a hit.  The host hid the last two pieces so he could eat them later.  The basic cake came from here.  I took the advice from one of the comments and reduced the sugar by 1/2 C. and added 2 T. of coconut oil.  I think you could also add 2 T. of vegetable oil.  Reducing the sugar might affect the moistness of the cake so I was good with a little oil and it was perfect...a sturdy moist cake. 

The frosting reminds me of the broiled frosting I make for the oatmeal cake.  I made the cake on Saturday afternoon and by the next morning the top was hard and crystalized.  I am not sure if I cooked the syrup too long or if this is inevitable so before I served it I broiled it until it browned a little and the frosting revived in a different form.  I thought broiling it was the perfect topping.   This is a special cake and I know I will make often. 

Cake:  Hand stir the ingredients in a bowl and pour into a sprayed 9x13 Pan and bake 350 for 30 minutes or until the center is solid.

1 ½ C. white sugar mixed with 2 T. melted Coconut oil or vegetable oil
2 C. crushed pineapple (not quite a 20 oz. can)
2 eggs
2 C. flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting:  Mix the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and boil on medium heat for 4 minutes until it starts to thicken
½ C. butter
1 C. sugar
¾ C. evaporated milk

Add:  1 C. sweetened shredded coconut
           1 C. chopped pecans or walnuts
            1 teaspoon vanilla

When the cake is baked poke holes in the top with a wooden spoon handle and spread the coconut frosting.  It can be eaten like this now but if you serve it later some crystallization may take place and harden the frosting.  Put the cake under a broiler for a few minutes and it will melt the frosting and brown the coconut.  Or you can do this right off.  I liked it broiled.  

Before broiling

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles many years ago, which was my only experience with Thomas Hardy.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to read more, but since I am on a 19th century English literature craze and a friend on Good Reads gave it 5 stars I decided to wade in.  

The story grabs you from the beginning as a poor farmer, traveling on a country road with his wife and baby girl, stops at a fair and drinks himself into a drunken fit of insanity and sells his wife and child to a sailor for $5.  The multi-layered consequences of this action create a very intriguing story.

This man, Henchard, may be the most narcissistic, jealous character in all literature.  His desire to control the people in his life caused immense needless suffering, but much of it was to himself.  The desire to control was the first great sin of Satan in the pre-existence, and I am not sure it is not the worst one of our mortal sojourn. 

Henchard was sympathetic at times, because he saw what he was doing and sometimes tried to repent but didn’t ever really learn from the chaos he perpetually created.  He wanted to be forgiven and loved again after his change of heart and frankly, I thought he was given another chance too many times.   He seemed to make the same mistakes over and over.  Because I grew up with an alcoholic father I understood this trait in someone with a drinking problem.  I wondered if Hardy understood it also.   

Henchard frightened me and so does Hardy’s writing.  I like happyish endings and I feared the worst in some of Henchford’s actions. The story has many interesting turns that kept me constantly captivated and I felt at peace with the ending.  I highly recommend this book.

A&E did an excellent production of this movie available on Netflix.  It follows the story line very nicely.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


This is easy and delicious

Pop 1/3 cup popcorn in a hot air popper.  You will need about 14 cups of popped corn. 

In a 2 quart saucepan mix together:

2/3 Cup white sugar
2/3 Cup honey
1/4 tsp. salt
Bring to a slow boil stirring constantly.  When it is bubbling good, start counting 3 minutes.  At 3 minutes add and stir until mixed well:
3/4 Cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour over the popcorn with 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts if desired.  Stir until evenly coated and pour onto a sheet of wax paper.  You can eat as is or drizzle with melted chocolate. (The peanut butter flavor is more prominent without the chocolate)

To melt the chocolate bring 2 inches of water to boil in a saucepan and find a glass bowl that will fit over.  I used 1 large package of milk chocolate chips (11 oz.) Turn off the heat to the pan and pour the chips into the bowl.  Stir until the chips are melted and drizzle over the popcorn and let cool until set. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


 I love Cracker Toffee but when we were in the Canaries I started making Pretzel Toffee for the missionaries and young adults.  They loved it.  It has been loved anywhere I have taken it or served it. It is very quick to make when you need a fast treat.  This makes a large batch (it could be easily halved to a smaller cookie sheet or you can use 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of brown sugar and 5 cups of pretzels).  If any are left I usually keep them in the freezer.

1.  Line a large sided cookie sheet with foil lapping the ends and spray well with Pam.
2.  Measure 6 cups of pretzels and arrange in the bottom of the pan.
3.  In a medium sauce pan melt 1 1/4 Cup real butter
4.  Add 1 1/4 Cup of brown sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes stirring constantly.
5.  Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla.  Stir well.
6.  Pour the cooked syrup carefully over the pretzels covering as even as possible.
7.  Put into a 350 degree oven and bake for 7-8 minutes.  It should be very bubbly on top and not starting to brown.
8 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a large package of milk chocolate chips or semisweet if you prefer.  If I want them extra good I will put another 1/2 package of chips but 1 will do. 
9.  Let sit until the chips melt and spread around to cover the top.
10.  I like to use some sliced or chopped toasted almonds on half since I have the nuts and no nuts in my family.

11.  When cool cut down the sides with foil and lift out of the pan and remove the foil.  I like to use a knife to cut it up to get more even pieces. 

Pretzels with the cooked syrup
After 7-8 minutes in the oven
With the chocolate and nuts
Cut up

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The palm trees did sway but we weren’t dreaming of a white Christmas, not in our lovely desert island of Tenerife.  We were living in the North part of the island and the winters are jacket cool. There were masses of red poinsettias planted on the edge of the Ramblas, a walkway running through the middle of the main part of Santa Cruz.  Some parts of the island had wild blooming poinsettias growing taller than a man.  No we weren’t missing winter and snow.

Mike bought a potted Poinsettia at the African market that we used as a centerpiece for our Thanksgiving dinner with the missionaries.  It was my only Christmas decoration.  I enjoyed the simplicity of not decorating.  It was interesting to see the way the Christmas spirit manifest itself in our missionary group.  The elders seemed to be more sentimental than the sisters.  They took their precious stipend and bought decorations at the nearby “Chino” store for their apartments.  Some of them actually bought a tree with lights and decorations for it.  The sisters didn’t seem to care.  When two Elders moved to open a new area the President sent 2 new sisters to live in their apartment.  When we helped them move in a month or so after Christmas there was still a little tree on a table with some decorations taped to the wall, but they didn’t last long.

We made paper snowflakes with our young adult group and hung them in the JAS room.   One  activity night the JAS made a nativity with popsicle sticks, a little paint and glitter.  We made these again at our Sunday night Family Home Evening with the Santa Cruz ward.  There is nothing quite as enjoyable as constructing a third grade craft.   Another night we all took the tranvia to downtown Santa Cruz and sang Christmas Carols on the street.   Large glowing musical notes were suspended across the streets with other festive sparkles and lights in the shop windows.  It was a nice evening with some people on the walkway joining us for a song or two. 

I wanted to make a little gift for all the missionaries and decided upon an idea to paint each of them a zentangle rock with baby Jesus on it.  The inscription:  “Jesus, the best gift,” a gift these wonderful missionaries gave every day in their service.   We were looking forward to Christmas morning when all the missionaries from Los Cristianos and Santa Cruz would come to our piso for breakfast.  I would share our gift then.   

Mike and I drove to Orotava one Saturday evening to see the life size representation of life in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.  I made a you-tube video with the pictures (you can find it there along with other videos of Tenerife and missionaries by searching my name).  It was fun to see this ambitious display, as it filled up the entire city plaza with the culture of the time.   We had dinner on the beach with the British tourists escaping the cold and fog in England.    We also enjoyed walking the streets of La laguna during the season enjoying the lights, shoppers and shop windows.  

On Christmas Eve the sisters and elders from Los Cristianos came to Santa Cruz for a Christmas Eve devotional together.  I made something for dinner but can't remember what.  Perhaps taco soup.  The missionaries asked Mike to give the key note address.  He worked very hard to be able to present it in Spanish without reading it and did a great job.  We sang and had a few testimonies.  That night the 4 sisters had a sleepover at our apartment and the Los Cristianos elders bunked somewhere with the Elders in our area.  It was always a delight for us to have all the sisters sleeping over in our piso, which happened a few times.  They chatted and laughed later than they should have and were a little crazy, especially if Sister Christian was there, but it was all uplifting for a group of homesick young women.    

On Christmas morning the missionaries arrived with Santa and elf hats for some fun photo ops.  I made my crusty bread into a cinnamon version, which I cut into strips to be dipped in thick European hot chocolate.  We also had orange segments and scrambled eggs.   I passed out my little gift, we took pictures (which was always important to them), some stayed to play cards for a while and some left for appointments.  I actually don’t remember what we did the rest of the day but this is for sure: Nothing is more exciting than being with a group of awesome, full of life missionaries.  We loved them dearly and were delighted and honored to spend this time with them and make their Christmas a little homier.   Christmas can be hard for these young people and it means a lot to them to have a sense of family and tradition. 

Because I had forgotten my camera on the night we sang carols in downtown Santa Cruz, Mike and I decided that we would have dinner in the city on New Year’s Eve and take photos of the lights.  We were shocked to find very few people on the streets and all of the restaurants closed.   It turns out that in the Spanish culture this evening is a night to stay home with friends and family, what a difference from America.  We managed to find our neighborhood Chinese restaurant open (the best capitalists in Spain) and had a quiet dinner.

Christmas memories often run together in one continuous whole, but not this one.  It will always stand out as a unique experience, in a wonderful place, with people that we will never forget and always cherish.