Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Simple Woman's Day book . . .

FOR TODAY, January 31st, 2012...

Outside My Window...

All is calm, and dark, and very cold. No snow as of yet, but I heard that they got some down South yesterday. Our Camelia bush by the front door is filled with buds that have already turned pink. We've had quite a mild winter so far this year.

I am thinking...
I didn't do so well at the Dr's yesterday. I went for my knees again, hoping to be able to get another cortizone shot in each, but came away confused and more than a little miffed. The Doctors in our local surgery changed frequently for some reason. In any case yesterday the Dr I saw told me that I was only entitled to have two shots in each joint for my whole lifetime, and yet the time before I had been told I was entitled to 3 per year per joint. What is the truth? Also the previous Dr had given me a prescription to have filled for the shots and I ended up with a whole bag full to bring back to the surgery myself when I went for my shot. There had to be at least 20 vials in the bag if not more. He used one and kept the rest. This Dr yesterday gave me a prescription for ONE vial and the chemist themselves will be sending it to the surgery before Friday. Sounds a bit strange to me.

I am thankful for...
We were told yesterday that they won't have to turn off our gas again. THANK GOODNESS!!! It was pretty cold in here yesterday. The works are ongoing on the street and it will probably be about 8 weeks until we can park in the drive again, but at least our house is done! ☺

From the kitchen...
Not a heck of a lot. Sometimes that is a good thing.

I am wearing...
Pink and yellow jim jams and my robe and slippers.

I am creating...

I have nothing on the table at the moment, which is unsual for me. I am busy getting my lesson organized for Sunday. There were some very good suggestions given by you all last week and I am inspired. I think I've got a handle on it now!! Thanks!

I am going...
I have the daily reading lessons and then I have my Presidency Meeting on Wednesday Evening and then on Friday an appointment for one shot in one knee. ( I have only had one shot in my left knee so far so am allowed to have one more. *grumble *grumble)

I am reading...

Once Upon A Time There Was You, by Elizabeth Berg

Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old daughter. Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from John, Sadie is growing more and more attached to her new boyfriend, Ron. When tragedy strikes, Irene and John come together to support the daughter they love so dearly. What takes longer is to remember how they really feel about each other. Elizabeth Berg’s immense talent shines in this unforgettable novel about the power of love, the unshakeable bonds of family, and the beauty of second chances.

As you know I am a real fan of Elizabeth Berg. I just love all of her books and this one is no exception. I am loving this one too!! I only have about 2 more chapters left to read and guess what I have lined up next?? Yep, another one by Elizabeth Berg.

I am hoping...
That this shot works well on Friday and that my left knee improves at least. I am very disappointed by this all. (Can you tell??) It's not that I loooove having shots, but the last ones improved my situation so very much. I had about 6 great months in which I had a lot more mobility and now I am back to square one again . . .

I am hearing...
Nothing much. Mitzie is snoring away on the sofa. The keys are tapping. All is quiet outside . . . the birds are waking up so a bit of chirping and the odd car that drives by. A very normal, ordinary, everyday start to the day.

Around the house...

Don't you just love this????? It's like shabby chic, French country. I love the colours and I adore the lettering. I think it is just beautiful.

I am looking forward to ...
Giving my lesson on Sunday. I sure hope that the ladies get a lot out of it.

If I could change one thing it would be ...
I am going to be selfish today and say that I would make my knees all better again. I hate being selfish, but there you have it.

One of my favourite things...
Is being able to share my feelings and thoughts with you. Daft as it sounds, you are all so very real to me and I value your opinions and thoughts too. We may never have met in person for the most part, but you all feel like very close and valued friends to me.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
A bit of work . . . a bit of play . . . and everything in between!! Not a heck of a lot really.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

You meet a friend, your face brightens . . . you have struck gold.

a bit of a cheeky picture I know, but these gals just look like the best of friends. There is an easy camaraderie there. They just "get" each other. I have the feeling that they end each others sentences and know everything there is to know about the other . . . that they share everything . . . all their thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their sorrows, their joy. Such a friend is a treasure beyond measure. Truly.

As a closing thought I would like to leave you with this:

“You cannot kindle a fire in any other heart unless you have one burning in your own."
~Harold B. Lee

I just love this . . . it is so true. Enthusiasm is contageous.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!

Here is an oldie but a goodie from an old Pillsbury booklet that I purchased back in 1991. There's a lot of water under the bridge since then, I can tell you! This booklet is worn and tattered and torn, but remains one of my favourites. I have stolen the picture from the booklet too, because in all truth . . . Todd hates chocolate and there is no way I want to ever eat 20 servings of this all by myself. It makes a great dessert to bring to a potluck meal though, or for when you are having a large gathering at home.

*Chocolate Bread Pudding with a Raspberry Cherry Sauce*
Serves 20
Printable Recipe

Rich chocolate soufflee like bread pudding. Delicious!

For the pudding:
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup firmly packed soft light brown sugar
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups soft bread cubes

For the Sauce:
2 TBS sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
1 (16-oz) tin of pitted dark sweet cherries, drained and syrup reserved
1 (10-oz) packet of frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed, drained, and syrup reserved

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4. Butter a 12 by 8 inch baking dish.

Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a large saucepan. Heat over low heat until the chips are melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/3 cup of the brown sugar. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Continue to cook until slightly thickened. Add the butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. remove from the heat and stir in the bread.

Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining brown sugar, beating at the highest speed until stiff peaks form. Fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Set the baking dish into a pan of hot water which comes 1/2 way up the sides of the baking dish. (I put the pan in the oven and set the baking dish into it and then add the hot water, as it is difficult to move it once it is filled and the baking dish is in it.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the centre is set.

To make the sauce, combine the sugar and the cornstard. Gradually stir in the reserved liquids from the fruits. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Cool slightly, then stir in the fruit. Serve over the warm bread pudding.

Store any leftover pudding and sauce in the refrigerator.

Cooking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Oven Hash!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday thoughts . . .

"The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart."
~Helen Keller

Who knows what a blind person sees of cherry blossoms or songbirds . . . who knows what any of us sees from the privacy of our own personal blindness . . .

You may stand aghast and say to yourself . . . "I am not blind!" . . . but think about it. Each of us carries a blind perspective of certain things . . . just as each of us carries with us a unique seeing perspective of other things.

Fear can blind each of us.

Source: tumblr.com via Marie on Pinterest

The person who is afraid of heights will never see the beauty of a canyon floor from above, or the beauty of cotton boll clouds from the window of an airplane as it soars through the sky. A person who is afraid of spiders can never appreciate the beauty or splendor of the woven web. If you fear small places . . . you are blind to the secrets of sudden solitude. Fear of passion might make one blind to the comfort and joy of oneness. Fear of change blinds us to the abundance of life and all that it holds. Fear of death . . . might prevent us from embracing the unknown and the power of faith . . . the act of trusting an unknown future to an all-knowing God.

Being afraid is completely human . . . and so to be blinded in this way is a part of the human experience that we cannot hope to avoid. It is the one thing we must, each of us . . . struggle to overcome. In the course of our lives, we all stumble and struggle repeatedly. In and out of relationships . . . with being or not being . . . with peace and disquietude . . . with sorrow and with joy . . .

There is an opposition in all things. As we pass through life, stumbling in and out of the grace of the wholeness of our lives . . . would it not be better to reach out to one another and admit our fear . . . admit to our blindness?

Source: flickr.com via Marie on Pinterest

A blind child
guided by his mother,
admires the cherry blossoms . . .

I think one of the things in this life that we are most afraid of . . . is allowing ourselves the luxury of becoming close enough to another human being that our very heart can be held in their hands . . . experiencing a oneness with each other that can only come from complete and utter abandonment of self . . . and allowing another to guide us through our fear . . . and in turn guiding them through theirs . . . by taking turns being the blind child, the loving guide . . . and the blossoms that others can't see . . . never knowing that which we are called to be . . . until we have learned what we have been called to learn. The art of seeing with the heart.

Does this make sense??? Or is it only prattle . . . I don't know. I only know it's what's on my mind this morning. Of course . . . we could always just . . . Let Go . . . Let God . . .

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"
~Matthew 6:25-26

Gas works again today people. No heat all day, but we have kept the heat on all night so that the house is toasty warm and hopefully will hold some of that heat through the day. fingers crossed!

One thing that is good for when you are feeling cold is a nice heart warming soup! This is a quick and easy recipe. It makes rather a lot, but it also freezes beautifully, so no worries!

*Quick Beef, Vegetable and Barley Soup*LinkServes 8
Printable Recipe

Delicious and filling. The perfect warm me up for a cold winter's day!

1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup uncooked, quick cooking barley
1/2 pound of frozen mixed vegetables
5 cups of stewed tomatoes, undrained
8 cups beef broth
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves

Spray a non stick dutch oven with some cooking spray and then brown the beef in it, over medium high heat, until the beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain off any fat that may accumulate, however if you are using the extra lean beef, there should not be any.

Stir in the onions and celery and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the onion and celery are beginning to wilt, but have not coloured. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are all tender and the barley is cooked.

Serve, ladled out into heated bowls, along with some crusty bread. Delicious!

Cooking in The English Kitchen today, delicious Lemon and Poppy Seed Drop Scones!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Winter memories . . .

Source: flickr.com via Marie on Pinterest

One of the things I really loved to do as a child in the Winter time was to play out in the snow. We spent 6 years in Manitoba, living in a small town next to Lake Winnipeg, called Gimli, and it was very cold there in the Winter, with lots and lots of snow . . . but I can't remember ever feeling the cold. Perhaps children do not feel the cold like adults do . . . I am sure it was often -27*C or -30*C or even colder . . . with any wind chill added, that would have been very cold indeed. Our breath would puff around in the air about our heads like little chilly frozen winter clouds . . .

I do remember being bundled up within an inch of my life though, so much so that it was a wonder that I could move about with any freedom at all. There would be the ski pants, which were thick and insulated . . . the lining quilted and filled with stuffing of some sorts, probably wool . . . a thick wool coat, also lined with a quilted and stuffed lining. A thick wool cap with ear coverings would be on my head and a wool scarf would be wound about my neck and face . . . on really cold days only my eyes would be exposed, because . . . well, you needed to be able to see where you were going. I would have on my wool stockings (of course) and several pairs of socks and shoes and then my feet would be stuffed into these brown plastic winter boots, which were also lined and had wooley fur cuffs around the top of the insides . . . to keep snow from getting down into there I presume. On really cold days, two pairs of mittens were essentials to keep the hands from freezing. Thus attired, I would be set to go and could spend several hours outside playing with my friends.

And play we did . . . oh what fun we would have, making snowmen and building snow forts, slipping and sliding on the frozen smooth roads which were pounded down to a lovely slippery surface by the many cars that would pass over them during the week . . . just perfect for sliding on. I can remember running as quickly as I could and then sliding . . . seemingly gliding across that smooth surface for miles . . . but it was probably only inches. You know children's imaginations . . . I remember one of the neighbors building his children a real live igloo in the back garden one year. What a magnet that was for the neighborhood kids. I can remember sitting inside it's icy coolness and looking up at the sky through the hole in the centre of it's roof. It seemed just like a magical place . . . all cool . . . and eerily quiet inside . . . the light tinted mysteriously blue . . .

The snow seemed to sparkle back then . . . it's surface glinted like a million diamonds underneath the light of the sun. It would get very hard on the surface and you could walk along it's hard crust without falling down into it. You could punch down into it if you tried really hard . . . which was a game in and of itself . . . I can still remember the sound that my boots would make when they punched down into it. It was a magic world . . .

Often a neighbor would have built a snow slide in the back garden for all the neighborhood kids to use to slide down. This involved shoveling and stacking all the snow up into a huge mound. . .with one side angled at the perfect angle for a sled to slide down with some speed. That side would have been watered . . . along with a good length of snow in front of it, in order to get the most speed and length possible from such an endeavor . . . we lived on the prairies . . . there were no real hills to slide down. Improvisation was the order of the day. Once frozen solid it was like a huge icy slip and slide, that was just wonderful to slide down and across.

I can remember always envying the children who had what we called a flying saucer . . . a big metal disc sort of shaped like a flat bowl, with two leather or fabric handles at the sides to hold on to. Kind of like a big aluminium frisbee. These flew like the clappers and twirled you around at the same time! We had to make do with a flat piece of coloured plastic . . . I forget what they were called now . . . but I know that they were cheap and colourful. The exhilaration of sliding down was fabulous, and I can't remember there ever being any arguments. Everyone seemed to wait their turn and get along with each other.

Other days we would go skating at the outdoor rink. In those days you could have an outdoor rink. There was none of the freezing and thawing that makes it almost impossible nowadays. The ground froze in November and stayed frozen right through to the spring. I lived on an airbase and long about the end of October the base would put up a fenced in area just outside of the school. It seemed huge, but probably wasn't much larger than about 3 back gardens . . . once the snow began to fall and the ground began to freeze, they would flood it with water, which would then freeze and provide the perfect surface for ice skating. They even strung electric lights across so that you could see at night. There were several covered shacks erected nearby, with seats in them so that you could put your skates on right on site . . . nobody ever worried about anyone stealing their boots. It just didn't happen back then. I can remember skating for hours on Saturday afternoons. It was so much fun!! All my friends would be there too.

It is no wonder there were not many overweight kiddies in those days . . . we all spent our days outside, winter or summer . . . playing and running and just moving about. Hot or cold . . . it made no difference. We very seldom were indoors. I can still remember how in the wintertime everyone's cheeks would be so red and cold when we came back in from playing outside . . . how the inside of our scarves would smell like wet wool . . . and the line my mother always kept up which stretched from the furnace in the utility room to the wall . . . which is where all the mittens and scarves, caps and extra socks would be hung to dry until the next time. Our heads would be all sweaty from all the exertion of play and extra layers of wool. It always felt extra warm and cosy indoors after having been outside . . . looking back with my rose coloured glasses . . . it felt like family should feel . . . warm and safe and right. I have no other explanation for it . . .

Oh, I have enjoyed going back in my mind and thinking back on those days this morning . . . thanks so much for humouring me. I would love to hear about your childhood winter memories. Please do share!

We were not in town for very long yesterday. All of a sudden my knees which have been doing so very well for these past 6 months gave out and I was in agony. It was all I could do to hobble back to the bus. I will be calling the Doctor tomorrow to get an appointment for more shots. I was in serious pain and still am today. I'm ok sitting, but it's when I get up to move that it starts . . . it's quite difficult going up and down the stairs . . . I kept the wheat bag on it all evening and in bed, and am going to go and heat it up again so that I can apply it once more. I have had a good run of relatively painless movement these last few months so I mustn't complain . . . hopefully a couple more shots will knock it back for a few more months. I do so want to go to my daughter's wedding in July, but cannot imagine being able to manipulate the airports and sitting on an airplane for the 6 hours it requires with knees like they are right now. I will be going on my own so Todd will not be with me. I will be staying off my feet as much as possible today!

Here is a delicious and easy supper that even my pasta hating husband enjoys, from time to time that is . . . he grumbles a little bit . . . but he tucks in anyways, and often has seconds. It's very simple to make and very tasty! From the Big Blue Binder, of course! (Only the best recipes are in there!)

*Cheeseburger Spaghetti Pie*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

All the flavours of your favourite cheeseburger baked in a spaghetti crust.

For the Crust:
6 ounces uncooked vermicelli or spaghetti
1 large free range egg
1 TBS prepared mustard

For the filling:
1 pound extra lean minced beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 cup cooked real bacon pieces (about 4 slices)
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
9 burger slice pickles

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Spray a 9 1/2 inch glass pie dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain well. Beat the egg and mustard together in a large bowl. Toss in the cooked pasta. Toss together to coat evenly, then press the spaghetti mixture into the prepared pie dish, pushing the mixture up the sides to form a crust.

Crumble the meat into a large nonstick skillet. Add the onion and sprinkle with the seasoned salt. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink. Drain well. Stir in the bacon and tomato sauce. Spoon this mixture evenly into the spaghetti lined pie dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Bake for half an hour. Top with the pickle slices and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for an additonal 10 to 15 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.

I like to serve this with a nice tossed salad on the side and some crusty french bread.

Over in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Apricot Bread Pudding.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Poetry Saturday . . . Armchair Tourist

Source: google.com via Marie on Pinterest

He doesn't need a coach and four,
To call for him at his front door,
Or trains or buses or white wings,
To show him the amazing things,
Scattered abroad upon the earth,
Of every kind of creed and worth.

His magic is the printed word,
Whose wings are swifter than a bird,
And here within one golden line,
He visits ancient Palestine,
Follows a camel caravan,
O'er dusty roads as old as man.

He journeys up the sluggish Nile,
Visits the pyramids a while,
Hops with a glance to far Bombay,
Walks in the streets of old Cathay,
Buys silk and lace at the bazaars,
Dreams in the night beneath the stars.

He hears the hucksters call their wares,
The Arab priest recite his prayers,
Walks in a meadow bright with flowers,
So far away . . . yet much like ours,
With grass and rocks and grazing sheep,
And arching skies serene and deep.

The clock strikes ten . . . and with a start.
He sees the old log fall apart,
Scattering bright coals upon the hearth,
And he comes back to common earth,
The quiet room, the curtains drawn,
A table with bright dishes on . . .
~Edna Jaques

Oh how I love to read . . . the journies I take, the people I meet . . . and the places I see, are absolutely amazing to me. Todd is a reader as well. That is something we both have in common and our tastes in reading are somewhat similar as well.

Last night we were reading travel brochures and dreaming . . . oh, if only one had all the resources you could ever want to be able to travel and go wherever you wanted to go. How wonderful that would be! We had a set of Geography Books as an addition to our encyclopedia when I was a child and I used to love going through them and looking at the pictures of all the foreign and exotic places within their covers. I remember dreaming of being able to see some of those places for real one day. Holland springs to mind as does Italy.

Oh well . . . you got to have a dream to have a dream come true. I never dreamed way back then that I would ever be living in England, and look at me now! Life does take some amazing and interesting twists!

Had no gas in the house yesterday until almost 8pm, it will be the same on Monday, but blessedly we will have gas all weekend. It was getting rather cold in here last night before it got turned on, and I couldn't cook using our stove . . . so I made do with microwave and electric skillet! We got there in the end!

Happy Saturday everyone! We're off in to town today for a boo around, and I want to pick up some Hot Cross Buns at M&S. Theirs are fabulously fruity and soooo delicious!

*Tex Mex Taters*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

These please my meat and potatoes loving husband to no end. Baked potatoes topped with chili and cheese!

4 medium baking potatoes
1 lb extra lean minced beef
2 chipoltle chilies in adobe sauce, chopped (if desired)
1 can (8-oz) tomato sauce
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chilies
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups grated Mexican Cheese Blend
salt and pepper to taste

Prick the potatoes several times with a fork. Place on a microwavable paper towel in the microwave. Microwave on high for 11 to 14 minutes, or until tender, turning them over and rearranging halfway through the cooking time. Let stand for 3 minutes.

Brown the ground beef over medium high heat in a large skillet, until no pink remains. Stir in the chipoltle chilis, tomato sauce, green chiles, water and 1 cup of the cheese. Cook, uncovered for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Place on plates. Fork up the insides a bit with a fork. Spoon the beef mixture over top and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: You may serve with some sour cream and chopped spring onion and salsa if desired. A green salad goes very well on the side!

In The English Kitchen today, a round up of my favourite British Main Courses and my tweaks on them!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Now and then . . .

Source: flickr.com via Marie on Pinterest

Now and then . . . in between all the grim and grey days of winter . . . in between all the storms and gales . . . God sends us a golden beautiful day, with bright morning skies of blue which are so beautiful to behold. It is only because of the dull days they are sandwiched in between though that we really can appreciate them for the little gems that they are!

Source: pixdaus.com via Marie on Pinterest

Now and then . . . in life's darkest times . . . times of sorrow and distress . . . in between tears and dismay . . . there will come a flash of happiness . . . loving words from much beloved friends, tender smiles, gentle hugs and kisses . . . these too, making everthing seem worth while and oh so very appreciated. Joy felt amidst sorrow is double joy, I think . . .

Now and then . . . we're given glimpses of a perfect love . . . breaking through out hearts like shafts of sunlight from above. A sudden glory fills our sky and our hearts are filled with an unseen presence . . . we know who it is. His name is engraved upon our hearts . . . his presence fills our lives with joy and peace. His arms help to carry us when we are down . . . when we feel like we just can't move forward any further . . . He lifts us up and helps to shoulder our burdens. Oh, now very grateful I am . . . that He sees this little sparrow fall . . .

This was one of my favourite hymns when I was a child. You know . . . I was thinking last night in bed, as you do . . . and I cannot remember a time when I did not feel the Lord's presence in my life. I may not have always enjoyed the close relationship that I enjoy with Him now . . . but that was because of me. I have always known He was there though, and I am grateful for that.

I did another painting yesterday afternoon. I have always held a certain fondness for Alice in Wonderland. I know a few years ago when the movie came out lots of people were painting her. As usual . . . I am a bit behind the times . . .

What do you think? Todd really loved this. I am thinking that I may do a whole series of storybook girls. Sounds like a plan.

The gas people pushed a note through the door yesterday afternoon saying that they want in to our house by 8am this morning and then off and on all day. We have to go out this morning though as Miztie has an appointment with her groomer and so we won't be available for part of the day. They'll just have to work around our absence. We sure won't be letting them in without us being here. Another day where I will have to prepare our meals around the gas supply being interrupted. Such is life. These little interruptions are what makes it so exciting!

Here's one of our favourite meals. A delicious Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry. You don't have to use Beef if you don't want to. You could also use pork strips or chicken strips. All are equally delicious in my opinion!!

*Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry*
Serves 4-5
Printable Recipe

This is one of our favourite quick suppers. You can't beat a good stir fry. You can use any vegetables which you wish, or that you have on hand. I find also that you can often get a good stir fry vegetable mix at the supermarket already packaged up, which makes it even easier. (It's often cheaper as well to just buy a bag of the mix, rather than all of the vegetables on their own.)

For the sauce:
1/3 cup water
1 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS runny honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon

For the stir fry:
2 TBS oil
3/4 pound of less beef sirloin
(Freeze slightly, then cut into paper thin strips,
about 2 by 1 inch in size)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds (about 6 cups) assorted cut up fresh vegetables
(Snow peas, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc.)

Blend all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add 1 TBS of the oil and heat until it ripples. Add the beef and garlic. Cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Remove and reserve the beef and any liquid which has accumulated in the skillet.

Add the remaining 1 TBS of oil to the same skillet. Once again, heat until it ripples. Add any firm vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots) and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly limp. Add the less firm vegetables (onions, peppers) and cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add soft vegetables (mushrooms, bean sprouts, snow peas) and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until all vegetables are crispy tender. Return the beef and any juices to the skillet. Stir in the sauce mixture. Cook and stir until the sauce is bubbly and thickened. If you are using tomatoes, stir in and heat until warm.

Serve the stir fry with hot cooked rice or Chinese noodles if desired. Delicious!

Cooking in The English Kitchen today, Crunchy Tuna Wraps!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Thursday thoughts . . .

I think that there is a deep and penetrating lesson that we can learn from the ways of birds. Within a few weeks of their birth their wings grow and stretch and span patches of air. First with reservation . . . and then with the utmost confidence, they lift . . . they flap, they glide and they land . . . the act of flight seemingly their raison d'etre, or purpose in being.

Quite unlike birds . . . we seem to confuse our time on Earth, wandering here and wandering there with no real sense of purpose. We frequently stall our human ability to fly . . . and often forstall our need to love . . . to learn . . . to know the truth of our spirit, until we are absolutely positive that all our efforts are not going to be for naught. We set conditions. We hesitate. We make excuses . . . turning our human journey upside down, never letting our hearts truly unfold.

Birds are stirred to sing and lift merely through the presence of light. They cannot comprehend such concepts as holding back, or only investing if the return seems certain. We . . . are the only creatures on earth that want a warranty before we will begin . . . and, in doing so, I fear we smother the spark that is discovery, and bury our hopes and dreams.

Source: cuded.com via Marie on Pinterest

More often than not, we let our fear of the unknown, with all of it's risks . . . cripple us, and prevent us from learning how to really fly and to soar. How very often do our fearful hearts prevent us from stretching our wings and discovering the full passion of our hidden gifts and talents? How often do we search from without for the guidance that we need, guidance which can really only come from within??

When I look back over my years, I can clearly see where my fear of failure and lack of expectation has held me back, and kept me from going places where I really should have gone . . . from embracing the things I needed to embrace . . . from becoming the self that I really needed to become . . .

Wings can only fly if they first flap. They don't grow any differently to fly south, or east, or west, or north . . . Our lives, no matter how we would train ourselves . . . are more fundamental than any direction of worldly ambition. Like the birds, we were meant to fly and to soar and to sing. We cannot soar unless we discard the encumbrances of fear and hesitation that would keep us in the nest . . .

"If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves."
~Thomas Edison

We should not live our lives chained by "what-if's" or "might-have-been's" . . . . we should live our lives filled with all the promise that is ours to hold if only we will sing the songs we were meant to sing . . . and fly to the places that we were meant to discover . . . without fear or hesitation.

Just my thoughts this morning.

For the past few years that we have been back here in Chester they have been replacing all the old lead gas pipes with new plastic ones. Today it's our turn. They started digging outside our house yesterday and today we will have no gas all day as they replace the pipe from the road into our house and also give us a new meter. Then we will have to endure a few weeks of them replacing all the ones along the street. A bit of a pain . . . but once it's done, it's done . . . I expect it's a good thing. I do hope that they have the gas turned back on in plenty of time for me to be able to cook what I need to cook for our Relief Society Activity tonight! My fingers are crossed!

We eat a lot of chicken in this house. I don't know why that is. I expect that it's because it is one of the cheaper sources of protein and also because it is so adaptable. Chicken breasts are one of those things that you can dress up or down in a myriad of ways. This is one of my favourites here. Bacon always makes everything taste delicious don't you think??? I like to serve this with rice and a green vegetable.

*Bacon and Mushroom Sauced Chicken Breasts*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Deliciously moist chicken with a rich and lucious sauce. If you don't have any Brandy for the sauce you could use a fortified wine such as Marsala, Port or Sherry. Or do like I do and just use chicken broth.

4 slices streaky bacon, cut into pieces
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 TBS of brandy or chicken broth
1 (8-oz) container of sour cream
chopped fresh chives

Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Discard all but 2 TBS of the drippings from the skillet. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then brown them in the remaining drippings for 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning only once. Move the chicken to one side of the skillet. Add the mushrooms and onions. Cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Reduce the heat to low. Add the brandy (chicken broth). Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken to a heated platter and cover to keep warm.

Add the sour cream to the same skillet. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the bacon and chives. Serve and pass the remaining sauce at the table.

Over in The English Kitchen today, Stove Top Mac & Cheese.

“Never give up on anyone. And that includes not giving up on yourself.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Family togetherness

Source: google.com via Sarah on Pinterest

Laying in bed last night as I was waiting to fall asleep my mind went back to a particular memory that I have of a special time spent with my children. For a few minutes I was back there with them and it was just lovely.

We had recently moved to a small town in the Northern part of Southern Ontario and my husband had gone on a golfing trip to Myrtle Beach with his buddies. It was in the early Spring and we were having some really bad weather. Rain, rain and even more rain, accompanied by high winds. It was early in the evening and all of a sudden the power went off. I quickly gathered up all the candles in the house while we decided what to do.

We waited for a few minutes, thinking that the power would be coming back on shortly, but alas . . . it did not, and so we settled in for an evening without electricity. My eldest daughter was particularly upset as it meant she would not be able to watch her favourite show that night, and that was really important to her . . . but after a while even she settled in. We decided to play Monopoly.

Monopoly by candlelight. It was a lot of fun and I think everyone really enjoyed themselves. We sat around the table in the flickering light and without the distraction of television or telephone we had a really great time together as a family. I can't remember who won, if anyone . . . only that we were happy.

After the game, we decided we were going to camp out together in the living room that night instead of going off into our various rooms to sleep. We dragged a few mattresses into the living room and made up some beds for everyone. I think I slept on the couch. We spent another few hours chatting and singing and telling stories until one by one we all fell asleep. The wind was raging outside, the thunder was clapping loudly . . . but we were together and that somehow quelled any fears that any of us might have had.

It was only in the light of the next day that we learned that a tornado had passed by very closely to where we were living. Thankfully we had not been directly affected, other than having lost our power. We took a drive out into the countryside to see the damage done and I remember it looking as if a big giant hand had just reached down snapping off trees like they were twigs etc. One elderly man had actually been plucked from his yard and set down in another place, and lived to tell the tale. We saw a house with no roof . . . but thankfully most of the damage had been done only to trees and such.

I was very thankful that we had not known what was really going on . . . had we done so, I think we have spent a very different night together . . . but as they say . . . "Ignorance is Bliss," and in our bliss we instead built a lovely memory together. A memory that I treasure. I lay there thinking about it last night and I smiled into the dark with the warmth of my thoughts and I wondered if they remembered that evening with as much fondness as I do . . .

Far too often we allow the distractions of modern life take us away from the things that are truly important. We spend our evenings watching the television or on the computer . . . instead of communicating with each other or building family memories together. I think sometimes it is a good thing to turn it all off and to just be together. In the olden days people had to entertain themselves . . . and would often spend evenings together singing songs, telling stories, etc.

In our church we have a practice of having a Family Home Evening on one night each week. The normal night designated for this is Monday evenings, although it does vary from family to family as a result of working schedules etc. This is a night where we are encouraged to do something as a family, something that will help to bring us closer together, and to strengthen family ties and love for each other. It may have a spiritual theme at times and be an opportunity to learn something new, or to draw closer to our Heavenly Father . . . at others it may simply be an evening where we do something fun together.

All families . . . from the large to the very small, and everything in between, we are encouraged to set this special time aside. In my Ward there is a group of single adults who get together to do something as a group with each other, as they have no family at home to share it with. Todd and I are just two . . . but we are a family, and even we do something special together on Monday evenings. More often than not we will read the scriptures together or watch an uplifting film from our church. We talk and we pray and we just enjoy a few hours together without the distractions of the world. It's a pretty special time.

Family togetherness . . . it's a good thing.

This is an old favourite from my Big Blue Binder. I expect that it was copied out of a magazine once upon a time, although I can't remember which one anymore. It is delicious! The pear centre makes it quite unsual. Everyone loves it!


*Walnut-Pear Sour Cream Coffee Cake*
Makes 12 servings
Printable Recipe

A beautifully moist coffee cake with a tasty layer of pear running through it's centre.

1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup soft light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup plain flour
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and sliced (approx. 2 cups)
2 tsp lemon juice
1 3/4 cup of plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large free range eggs
1 (8-oz) carton sour cream

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan or a 9-inch square baking pan. Set aside.

Combine the walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. In another small bowl, rub the butter into the 1/3 cup of flour until crumbly. Stir in 3/4 cup of the nut mixture. Set this aside. (This will be the topping.) Reserve the remainder of the nut mixture.

Toss the pear slices with lemon juice and set aside.

Combine the 1 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Beat the 1/2 cup softened butter in a large bowl for about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, alternately, with the sour cream, beating on low after each addition until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the batter in the prepared pan. Lay the pear slices on top and then sprinkle them with the reserved nut mixture. Spread the remainder of the batter over top to cover pears. Sprinkle with the topping mixture over all.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides. Allow to cool for half an hour before serving. Serve warm.

Over in The English Kitchen today I am cooking a Chicken Taco Salad, (low fat).

“We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf