Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Hazards of Photographing Black Poodles

Morgan and Abrial, watching TV on this cold, dreary, rainy day. Abrial really does have eyes! Really!

Who said Standard Poodles couldn't be lap dogs?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

This morning, I popped my turkey (brined the night before with Williams-Sonoma turkey brining spices a la Pioneer Woman) in the oven at 6:30. It was a big 24# turkey (purchased by my mother-in-law). They eat at high noon (obscene, isn't it?) and I wanted to make sure it was done in time.

Next, I started my Oyster Dressing. My memorable dressing tale is from when we lived in New Jersey. I was pregnant with Joshua at the time. I waddled down to the seafood market and asked for a pint of oysters. The guy behind the counter gave me a blank stare and just blinked at me for a few moments. Then he asks, "How many oysters are in a pint?" I don't know - they're sold that way in Louisiana. I tell him to get a pint container and start putting them in and I'd count. Well, I can't remember how many were in the pint, but I paid $35 for that pint of oysters. Yikes!!! That has to be the most expensive oyster dressing I've ever made. My oysters for this one cost less than $13 and that was 20 years later!!!

My second memorable oyster dressing story was trying to make it while in my first trimester of pregnancy with Morgan. Eww.....the smell of the oysters really got to me...and the sight of them....and the thought of them.....after they were cooked into the dressing, I got over it and could eat it.

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
6 cups seasoned, dry, bread stuffing mix (I use the Pepperidge Farm Herb kind)
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (1 pint) chopped raw oysters and liquid (I run mine through the food processor)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish and set aside. Melt butter in a saute' pan; add onion and celery and saute' until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Gently stir in bread stuffing, blending well. Add eggs and seasonings. Mix in oysters and milk. Toss lightly, adding more milk if mixture is too dry. Turn into prepared dish. cover and bake, basting several times with turkey drippings, about 50-60 minutes. Baste frequently during the last 10 minutes to insure a crisp top. Serve immediately.

A match made in heaven - brined turkey and oyster dressing

Brooke made her Butternut Squash Crab Bisque again this year. It is SO good. We add extra red pepper to spice it up. Click here for the recipe. I got no pictures of her bisque. It was GONE.

Drunken Carrots (so named, the first time I made these years ago, by Steve's late Granny)

2 pounds carrots, sliced thin or cut julienne

2 tbsp butter or olive oil

1/4 cup sweet vermouth OR white wine - both are delicious

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tbsp chopped parsley for garnish

Heat a frying pan and add carrots and butter or oil. Saute' until they just begin to brown. Add the vermouth and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir them often. Check for salt and pepper. Little should be needed. Garnish with parsley.

Okay, so I didn't add the parsley. Sue me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Recipes

I started my cooking today, so I wouldn't be overwhelmed and have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Okay, so I really DO have to get up at the crack of dawn to put the turkey in the oven, but I don't have to STAY up!

First off, in order to be admitted in the door by my mother-in-law, I must bring TWO cranberry dishes. I've made them for years. First, Brooke's favorite:

Cranberry Relish

1 package fresh cranberries (but stick them in the freezer at least the day before making this dish)

1 medium naval orange

1/2 - 2/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp brandy (optional - brandy is not something I have on hand and it's too expensive to buy for a tablespoon)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (also optional - we don't like it with nuts - we're nutty enough)

Coarsely chop cranberries in a food processor. Remove to a bowl. Take ends off the orange, cut into eighths, remove seeds, and process until chopped fine. Add to cranberries. Stir in remaining ingredients. This tastes better if made at least one day before serving.

Cranberry Chutney

4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups sugar (or less)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

1 cup water

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

Place cranberries, raisins, sugar, spices, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce and simmer, 15 minutes or until berries pop. Add onion, apple, and celery; simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. SO good and very different.

Chutney on the left, Relish on the right

Spinach Madeline

from River Roads Recipes Volume 1

2 10-oz packages chopped frozen spinach

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp finely chopped onion

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup reserved vegetable liquor (this is a Southern way of saying the water left over when you drain the spinach)

1/2 tsp black pepper

3/4 tsp celery salt

3/4 tsp garlic salt

6 oz jalapeno cheese, grated or cut into cubes (I use pepper Jack)

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

red pepper to taste

Cook spinach and drain, reserving liquor. Melt butter in a large, nonstick skillet. Add flour and stir until blended and smooth. Do not allow to brown. Add onion and cook until soft, but not browned. Slowly add vegetable liquid and milk, stirring over low heat until smooth and thickened. Add seasonings and cheese. Stir until melted. Combine with spinach. Taste and add salt and red pepper as needed.

You may serve immediately or turn into a buttered casserole dish and top with plain breadcrumbs. Heat in the oven until bubbly and hot.

Mama's Sweet Potato Casserole

This is one of those "to taste" recipes. I'll try to approximate.

4 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft, then removed from the skins

2 eggs

about a cup of brown sugar (I start with 1/2 cup and add more if I need it)

1/2 - 3/4 cup of light cream

1/2 cup softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tsp (or more) of cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg - you should taste a hit of nutmeg, but it shouldn't be overpowering

a dash of cloves

Mash the whole bunch together until (kinda sorta) smooth. If you want it to be perfectly smooth, toss it in the food processor. I used to process, but this year I simply used my trusty ol' potato masher and it was perfect. Taste it and adjust sugar and spices if necessary.

For topping, either marshmallows or a brown sugar/pecan topping. I prefer the brown sugar/pecan, DH prefers the marshmallows. We alternate for marital peace.

If you're doing marshmallows, bake at 350° for 30 minutes, THEN top with marshmallows and pop it back into the oven until the marshmallows are puffed and golden brown on top.

If you want brown sugar/pecan topping, with a pastry blender (or a fork or your fingers) mix 1 cup roughly chopped pecans, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 6 tbsp softened butter. Sprinkle over the top of the unbaked sweet potato casserole and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

You can make this ahead and just not bake it until the day you're serving it.

What Would I Do...

....without such wonderful friends? My friend, Janet, heard about KitKat and, being a kitty lover herself, brought over a basket of flowers. What a sweet thing to do. Thank you, Janet!

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Memory

Today was a sad day for our family. We had to have Joshua's sweet cat, KitKat, put to sleep today. She followed Joshua home when he was just nine years old. She has been such a great cat - never misbehaving - always a proper old lady.
(Okay, in her last year she did become the inveterate beggar cat.)
Even though she was Joshua's cat, for the years we lived in this house (since Josh was 13 and Morgan 5), KitKat slept on Morgan's bed until earlier this year when she could no longer jump.
She really wasn't a snuggly cat, but every once in a while, she'd jump on your lap for about five minutes of love. Then she was done, thank you very much.
Everyone who came to my house for scrapbook classes knew KitKat. She was a chair stealer. She loved a warm place. So whatever chair was recently vacated, there she'd move. :^)
Brooke's friend, C., loved KitKat best of all our cats. She will miss her, too.
At the beginning of this year, KitKat lost a lot of weight very rapidly, going from a robust 13 pounds to a very small 6. I brought her to the vet and she was diagnosed with diabetes. You can read my post about it here if you'd like. After this incident and the prolonged seizures (rendering her with impaired balance, which is why she no longer jumped on the chairs and beds - she was never a counter jumper), we just brought her home to be with us for as long as God decided.
The past few weeks, we could tell she was definitely declining. Her walk was increasingly wobbly and it would take her a few attempts to get up from lying down. But Sunday when Brooke woke up at 6 to feed the cats, KitKat couldn't get up at all. We spent the evening holding her on a soft pallet on our laps. I really didn't think she'd survive the night. But she was still with us this morning when we awoke. But not *really* with us. Joshua and I brought her to the vet's office and we both cried. We knew there was no other alternative, but still we grieved for our sweet kitty with whom we've shared so many years.
She might have been the smallest of our kitties, but she was definitely the head of the feline pack until her illness. Here she is guarding the litter box, making sure the younger kitties, I mean scratch.
We loved you, our Kitty Kitty KitKat, and we'll miss you forever.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Horsin' Around for Finals

Today was our horse club's final show. The 15 highest pointed riders in each age group and event advance to finals. At the final show, everyone rides twice. Points are given for both "go-rounds," then the times for each go-round are averaged and pointed again. So it is completely feasible for someone coming into finals in first place to be knocked out. Or someone to be pretty far down to come up into the top five. And, as usual, that happened today. To a number of riders, in fact.

Brooke came into the finals placing second in pole bending. This happens to be Brooke's and Honeybee's favorite event. They had a solid second place and, even though Brooke got the top time in the second go-round, she maintained her second place position. Hurray, Brooke!

For barrels, Brooke was fourth going into finals, but because of one run where she went wide, she dropped out of the top five. :^( Tough luck, Cowgirl!

We're proud of your riding accomplishments this year, baby! Keep up the good work!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Name that Bug

Today I had a good friend from church come by with her 2-year-old grandson. Morgan spent the day going in and out with the toddler while we grown-ups got to visit. Brooke fixed us a nice lunch.

Once when Morgan and K. came inside, I noticed he had an insect on the collar of his shirt. I scooped it off, then looked at it to identify it.

It's a species of praying mantis called the Grass-like Mantid, Thesprotia graminis.

He really was a small little guy, probably less than two inches long. We released him outside on Brooke's lantana.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Birthday Club

Today was our fall Birthday Club party. We usually have a theme - we've done tea parties, Greek, a Hawaiian luau, but today, in honor of LSU's Homecoming Game, we had a Girly Tailgating Party. Everyone dressed in LSU attire (I had to buy something to wear) and we had Louisiana tailgating food. (I'm sure most northerners wouldn't consider Gumbo to be football food).

Here's what I made to bring. Morgan made Connie's Famous Guacamole.

I made Rachel Ray's Buffalo Chicken Meatballs. I discovered the recipe on Sweetnicks' blog. I couldn't find Frank's hot sauce, so I used Louisiana Crystal Hot Sauce.

I also made Wilted Spinach Salad with Candied Pepper Bacon. YUM!!! I doubled this recipe. It's from a Pampered Chef cookbook, Spin on Salads.

Bacon and Salad

4 slices thick-cut bacon

1 tbsp packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1 6-oz package fresh baby spinach

1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges (I used my handy-dandy Apple Corer Peeler Slicer with the peeler disengaged - worked wonderfully!)

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion wedges

salt and coarsely ground pepper

2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut into wedges

For Dressing:

1 tbsp reserved bacon drippings

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

For bacon, line a small bar pan with parchment paper. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar and pepper. Microwave on HIGH 3-5 minutes or until crisp; drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tbsp bacon drippings. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.

Wash spinach and drain well. Combine spinach, apple, and onion. For dressing, whisk bacon, brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard in a microwave-safe bowl until well-blended. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes or until bubbly. Right before serving, pour dressing over spinach mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Top salad with egg wedges and bacon pieces. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

I also made Brown Sugar Shortbread. This was quick, easy, and delicious. I think I will need to make another batch next week for the family. It was just a little sweet and would be delicious with a steaming mug of something hot, like tea or cocoa. It's also a Pampered Chef recipe from the book Delightful Desserts.

1 cup pecan halves, chopped, toasted, and divided

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coarsely chop pecans. Heat a small saute' pan over medium high heat until hot. Add pecans and toast 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until nuts are golden brown. Remove pecans from pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well. In another bowl (or in your KitchenAid mixer), beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Add flour mixture and half of the pecans. Mix well. Dough will be crumbly. (Well, it will be unless you use your KitchenAid mixer. I also let mine knead the dough for me and took it out when it was smooth.)

Turn dough out onto floured cutting board; knead gently just until dough holds together. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk and place on a round pizza stone. Using a floured roller, roll dough out into a 10-inch circle, about 3/8 inch thick. Sprinkle remaining pecans over dough and gently press nuts into dough.

With pizza cutter, lightly score dough (cut about 1/8 inch deep) into 16 equal wedges. This will make cutting baked shortbread easier. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a deep golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes on baking stone. Using pizza cutter, cut into wedges; remove to cooling rack and cool completely. If you have any left, you may store them in a tightly covered container. But shame on you if you have any left. :^D

Here's our gumbo and salad. Yum! We had SO MUCH delicious food!

I love birthday parties where the guests receive gifts as well as give them!

Here are the birthday girls! Hope you had a great day, ladies!

And.....LSU won their game!

Friday, November 9, 2007

November Hostess Club

Tonight was Hostess Club. I wanted a layout that brought in thankfulness, but didn't want to do a "turkey-day specific" page. *I* don't have a ton of Thanksgiving Day pictures, so I wanted something adaptable. I decided to do a simple page entitled "Thankful 4 U." I went WAY back when grabbing pictures - this adorable little baby is Joshua!!!

Scrappin' Supplies: Cardstock - Really Rust, Purely Pomegranet, Old Olive, Whisper White, and Fall Flowers Designer Series Paper. Ink - Old Olive and Chocolate Chip Craft Inks. Accessories - Clear embossing powder, Prima flowers, and copper brads.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


My girls will frequently nab the camera to take pictures of themselves posing. They can be so silly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Little Luna

The horses have not liked the time change. At 4 p.m., they line up at the gate, ready to come in for their suppers. They don't like having to wait the extra hour. You can set your clock back, but resetting a horse's stomach is a different matter altogether.

On our way out of the barn today, we passed the small barn and paddocks for the mare and her two babies and this year's baby, Luna, was looking through the fence at us.
We had to stop and give her a pat.
She just looked too sweet.

She was whispering secrets in Brooke's ear. I don't know what Luna was saying, but Brooke probably can tell you!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Boys Everywhere!

My stepmom and brother came for an overnight visit. When we awoke this morning, there was a boy on the couch (Joshua), a boy on the loveseat (Freddie), and a boy on the floor (Brandon). Boys, boys everywhere!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Stewart Not-So-Little

Stewart has been with our family for almost a year. He's such a sweet cat. Most of the time. He does have his naughty moments, though. Of the three cats, he is definitely Steve's favorite. Before Steve goes to sleep, he and Stewart play "fighty-cat" in the bed and Steve gets him all riled up.

When we got him, he looked so mouse-like with his snowy coat and pink pigmentation - thus his name was a nod to Stuart Little. But at 12.5 pounds, Stewart is not so little anymore!

Morgan is so glad to have a cat of her very own.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cats and Dogs

We've been working to try to finish the remodel job, so not much time to do anything else. So here are a few pics of our fuzzy menagerie.
Libby, being loved by her Mother Brooke.

Libby in the middle of our messy living room.

Umm, Cosette, have you seen the brush lately?