Friday, November 30, 2007

Giving of Thanks

I couldn't let November slip by without a mention of Thanksgiving at our house. It was a lovely day. My Papa was in town, Mom and Dad C came down, and our fun friend Julius joined in the merriment of the day.

The adventures began with the turkey. It's really kind of funny. I look at my spice rack and pick whatever looks entertaining at the time and we rub the turkey down with that and some olive oil (and it always turns out yummy!) The trick this year was getting the turkey balanced correctly on the spit, as we rotisserie our beloved bird. We were getting a little worried and frustrated but finally all was well at the grill and dinner would only be served about an hour from when I thought it would be ready. Which was fine because there was flexibility in schedules (Mom and Dad were headed to the ASU game later that day) and we were more than able to adjust the side dishes to the new serving time. Plus, people were quite content with spinach and artichoke dip, with an assortment of veggies and homemade herb bread, that was set before them to nibble on for the time being.

After getting the turkey settled into the grill, we had breakfast. Some of you know that my little fish, Jazz, had been sick and was nearing the end of his life. I checked on him before breakfast and he was still hanging in there. I went back after breakfast and he was gone. A bit of a sad time, I must say. I had him since 2004. We buried him next to the orange tree as I cannot bear to flush them. Friday, we braved some of the stores (only to find nothing that we really wanted) and stopped by Petsmart on the way home where we got a new fish! He is a crowntail beta and quite beautiful. He's doesn't have as strong a personality as the other fish... maybe that will change. For those of you that knew my fish before you know I am not off my rocker in saying that a fish, especially my fish, had some sort of personality. ha ha!! Anyway, so we welcomed Stout to his little place on the piano the day after Thanksgiving.

All in all, it was a delightful holiday. Husband, Papa, and I worked on a "Beers of the World" puzzle with 1,000 little pieces and finished it sometime on Monday. We watched ASU lose a pretty tough game. I laughed as Nebraska fell to Colorado once again and snickered as Texas A&M beat out Texas (or TU for you Aggie fans - I learned a lot about that rivalry when I visited Texas A&M before I was assigned there... but found out I was getting married instead of reporting to that assignment) Time spent playing games with Mom and Dad C. Singing with the congregation as we prepare for the Advent season and the beginning of the church calendar. What fun!! Papa left on Tuesday but will be back in a couple of weeks to celebrate Chirstmas.

The tree is up... just a few more touches on it and it will be done. I love this time of year!

I think for now, I will go enjoy the rain.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rainy Day Read

It's a rare day indeed when it rains in the southern part of Arizona. Today, was one such day. At least in Maricopa. My Beloved informs me that it has yet to actually reach the Phoenix area, or at least the Tempe area in which he works.

Sometimes there are perks to living outside the city. The rain today would be one of them. I love cloudy days. After Husband left for work and I didn't have a whole lot on my "to do" list I seized the opportunity to climb back into bed with a book as it thundered and threatened to rain more.

Tuesday, I began to read Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson. It is for younger readers, maybe middle school on up. But it stirred up some celebrity in our church circles as the son of a pastor in our fellowship wrote this book that was picked up by Random House. It didn't come out with the fanfare as say Harry Potter but it is a different book entirely. The imagination and story so far have been quite fun to try and figure out and I think it most appropriate for the age group. And, like Harry Potter, it will find a fan base of all ages. I digress. When I put the book down on Tuesday I was merely into chapter three. I am a slow reader more often than not... and this was after only 35 minutes on the stationary bike.

However, today I am almost half way through the book with a high potential for actually finishing it today! It's a quick read... as it should be for the intended target audience and only about 230 pages. I found it fun that I was reading the book while it was raining as the main character, Tom, is stuck in a cave and it's storming. It helped to capture the scene in my imagination a little more vividly as a LOUD clap of thunder rattled my windows. However, have no fear, there is no spoiler here.

With all that to say in a very vague way... I would recommend this book to pretty much everyone if they are looking for something fun and easy to read. Especially if one has kiddos. I think most children of any age would enjoy it. I think the ones that would enjoy it most are boys, but I think the girls would think it fun and maybe even silly as Tom has some interesting adventures in the valley overlooked by Leepike Ridge.

On a side note... after one particular loud crash of thunder I heard the rain almost immediately follow. I popped up to look outside and much to my surprise there were little white balls bouncing off the grass... it was HAILING! Only pea-sized hail... and it didn't last very long. I was just expecting big, fatty drops of rain... not hail!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

DIVA of Dessert

A diva could be described as a "distinguished female singer" usually found in the arenas of opera and jazz. At least, that is where I am most familiar with the term being used. It is also can mean "goddess, fine lady, or divine one." It's synonym is "prima donna" which actually would have been a more accurate title for this post but I am pretty fond of the word diva. An accurate definition of prima donna would also be that of a lead female singer (usually in opera) and also that of a "vain, temperamental, or conceited" person.

I lay all this out for you so that there would be full understanding when I say that cheesecake is a diva among desserts... yea, even a prima donna. It is a fine dessert that is quite delectable and some may even call it divine. Temperamental and high maintenance could also be tagged right on the tail of it, too. Especially by those who opt to make them at home.

There are so many things to consider when making a cheesecake. Did I stir it too much? Should I add some starch? What kind of water bath will be the most effective? Did the springform pan make the right seal? Will the pan leak? Or maybe I should use a regular cake pan (which many people do, I guess). Is it done? Maybe it's already TOO done! Is the oven too hot according to some? Is it cooking too fast? Is it cooling too fast?

All this in the attempt to get the "perfect" cheesecake. You know... the one with no cracks. Although, people do tell me it's the cracks that say it's homemade and as long as it tastes good it doesn't really matter. While some of that is true the cracks, as I read more, can tell you answers to those questions asked above... just not which question in particular. Cracks can mean that the oven was too hot, that it cooked to fast, there wasn't enough humidity in the oven, that it could be over baked, and that it cooled too fast. Sigh.

I rant over this because a couple of weeks ago Husband made a pumpkin cheesecake for a Men's Cake Bake at church which was really fun and quite hilarious at times. The above photo was the first attempt at the cake and it got honorable mention at the cake bake which was fun! (The FV is somewhat of an inside "joke" at our church. It was an attempt to keep some things light and poke fun at ourselves... It worked.) :) Well, there were some cracks but as most people know, frosting (of any sorts or topping for that matter) will cover a multitude of sins. HA! The cake was such a hit with one family (who loves pumpkin) they asked us to make it for a Halloween party that we would be going to at their house on the 31st. So, we made the cake and took some extra precautions and we came back with some of the same results. I think we will try a different water bath this next time around.

Either way, we get yummy cheesecake!

**The reason I am fond of the word "diva" is that I was in an accountability group called the DIVAS and there were five of us, one for each letter, and it was quite fun. If you want to know more you can ask...I think that we would have been under the "fine lady" definition. As it was a group created to edify and grow in the Lord. So, if any of you ladies are reading this... HI!!! :) Love you and miss you, too!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Doing the Right Thing: An Update

A few days ago I mentioned a local grocery store in which I tried to rectify what I thought to be a significant accounting error. (About a $4 difference) We found out, indeed, that they did credit us the $15.66 instead of the original $11.56. Sigh.

Yesterday, the SAME store bestowed a free bag of ice upon us. An interesting story of telling the cashier I needed ice, we talked about how I was already buying my turkey for Thanksgiving, and then she told me the total for all of my purchases. I asked again if that included the ice. Friendly cashier then said, "No, but don't worry about it... just go grab a bag." I was a little bewildered... again. I asked, "Are you sure?" Because we could just run another transaction, right? But no, she insisted. I was tired and said, "Okay." I had to run back to the store later and grab a couple of things there and I thought to just pay for it then but it slipped my mind.

Maybe the next time....

Friday, November 2, 2007

Soup Day

Thursday's during the wonderful season of autumn will be "Soup Day." Well, with the exception of Thanksgiving, of course. I don't think a Turkey Chili or other soup variation would go over very well with family and guests. Ha!

(And, yes, I realize that this post is coming on a FRIDAY and not really on Soup Day)

Anyway, it has been my goal to try to find some new things to make along the soup genre of food as well as pull out some ol ' favorites. When I started this whole adventure (two weeks ago) we started off with chili which is a favorite around here. It's just yummy with its beef, two- or three- bean mixture, spices, and corn. Sometimes we will have it over Frito's which adds a really yummy crunch... but not always so good for us. I saw a friend have it over rice one time so we tried that. We liked it and will probably eat it that way again. However, we did miss the "crunch!"

Last week, I made a wonderfully delicious soup called Cadillo which I read was a Northern New Mexican meal. Maybe so. It represented some what of a stew to me but not quite a REAL stew. It had green chile in it and that was enough to get a two thumbs up from me and my husband. We made it with a beef base, ground beef, green chile, spices, and some potato. Yum.

This week was delectable! I decided to try something that I don't think I have done before. Sometimes I shy away from cream-type soups because I am always afraid of scorching the milk and having a disaster on my hands. My husband, being the encourager that he is, always says "Go ahead, try something new. If it all goes south we can go get some wings." So, knowing that, I went for it and I am so glad that I did!! On top of that I decided to get a little fancy and opted to make my own bread bowls. They were so good!! The soup was called Baked Potato Soup which was one of Cooking Light's all-time best recipes for soup. It requires, go figure, for the potatoes to be baked and then add things that would be on a baked potato like bacon bits, cheese, green onion or chives, and some sour cream. I found a wonderful recipe for a bread bowl. It was called Italian Herbed Bread. I modified it by adding some garlic powder to the already included Italian seasonings and then threw in some rosemary for sass. Then I adjusted the baking to my bread bowl needs. Wow. The house smelled great and our mouths rejoiced in the wonderment of such savory flavors. I think that this soup will be a yearly tradition. And I am sure that the bread will make appearances here and there with other meals. Maybe someday again as a soup bowl.

Next week, I think that I am going to try making my friend Amanda's new creation, Spicy Chicken Chickpea Soup. Intriguing, I know. Especially since one of the ingredients is peanut butter!

I look forward to Thursday's and my adventures in soup making. Fun times.

**It's becoming a fascination of taking photos of the culinary creations that come from the kitchen. I almost forgot to take a photo with the green onions but the top photo developed better, I thought... so, I had to add both.