Thanksgiving Sides

Since we will have two sets of our kids here for Thanksgiving, I thought I would ask each of them what dish would they want that says, “Thanksgiving” to them. I won’t do that again. Some of the reply’s were fried chicken tenders, mac & cheese, Coke Salad and stuffed jalapeños. Since macaroni and cheese was requested, I began to look for a good recipe and find it I did…In Cook’s Country magazine. So instead of just having a box of Kraft mac & cheese, I think I will treat them to a special dish of gourmet mac! Maybe it will make them want to come back again soon.

8 oz (2 cups) elbow macaroni
salt and pepper
8 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
2 teas cornstarch
4 tables unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 tables all purpose flour
2 teas dry mustard
1/8 teas cayenne pepper
2 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (slightly beaten)
2 teas Worcestershire sauce
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)

Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat to 375
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large saucepan. Add macaroni and 1 teas salt and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Toss milk cheddar with cornstarch in a bowl and set aside.
In now empty saucepan, melt 1 tables butter over medium low heat. Add panko crumbs and stir, cooking until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl and reserve.
Return saucepan to heat and melt remaining 3 tables butter. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 mins.
Stir in flour, mustard, 1/2 teas salt, 3/4 teas pepper and cayenne and cook stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Whisk in water and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove cream sauce from heat and whisk in mid cheddar-cornstarch mixture until melted. Whisk in eggs, yolk, Worcestershire. Stir in precooked macaroni. Transfer macaroni mixture to 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle with sharp cheddar cheese, then panko crumbs. Bake until well browned and set, 20-25 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Thanksgiving Memories

It seems unreal that Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday. As I was sitting here looking through different magazines to see if there was a recipe which caught my eye to post, each recipe I read found made me remembering different Thanksgivings along with the pictures in my mind which kept coming with each one.
On FaceBook, there is Throw Back Thursday where people will post a picture from their past that has special meaning. Next Thursday, I’m certain that there will be many pictures posted on FB that shows family and friends sitting around the table with all types of delectable dishes. Sometimes, these pictures make me sit back and think, “my table never looks as good as those I see posted” or “that family looks like they have no problems sitting there with everyone smiling and laughing” We begin to compare our lives with theirs, even though we know nothing except what we see in the pictures.
This week, we will be going to California to see friends and celebrate a dear friends 80th birthday. This precious lady and her husband invited Randy and I to their home, when they barely knew us, when we moved to California back in 2010. She didn’t want us spending Thanksgiving alone our first year there. The memories I have of being in their home conjure up thoughts of being made to feel like a part of their family, even when we just met some of them that day. We sat around the table and ate foods that were not our traditional Thanksgiving foods, but it was the best dinner because of their hospitality. They taught us to play Hand & Foot after dinner, which is still one of our favorite card games.
Looking back over my pictures on my phone the other day, I found a picture of our last Thanksgiving in Dallas when Randy’s mom and dad were still with us. Thinking back about that has made me more aware of trying to make every meal with friends or family special as we never know what is around the bend.

Years ago, memories of Thanksgivings when the kids sat at the “kid” table putting black olives on the end of each finger and sticking peas up their nose to see if they could “blow” them out brings so many smiles to my heart. The laughter that came from the kids,when together with their cousins, was now, thinking back, a true Hallmark memory. Isn’t it funny how, at the time, we are so concerned if the kids are behaving and not really enjoying the things that bring so much laughter in later years.
Some years seem to be more about the food. The years when like Randy says are great, “the kids are all married, everyone has jobs and nobody is in jail.” That is his description of when people ask about our family. He thinks he is so funny.
One year Randy and I were cleaning up the kitchen after everyone left. We had had a houses full that year and there were people eating in the living room and the dining room. After we finished cleaning up, Randy told me that he would go and begin to turn out the lights in the living room and turn off the fireplace. In seconds, he comes around the corner and says, “Eric forgot his brother, Craig is in the living room, sound asleep in the lazy boy”. We quickly called the kids to turn around and come get the “left over guest”. Eric had parked in back and left through the garage so had forgot that he had also brought his brother. I can handle only one loud snorer in the house at one time! Hope they remember that they have 3 kids now and don’t leave them anywhere!
Then there are the years when there is a new family member or a new baby. Those years seem to be the ones which stick out in our minds. There may be years which a pinkie ring ended up inside the turkey or I forgot to thaw out the Sister Schubert Rolls.
When we hear the word Thanksgiving, we automatically think of turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.
This year, when we are gathered around the table I want to have different thoughts come to me. I hope that the words, grateful, blessed and contentment come to mind. Not just blessed to have family around us, but blessed to be a child of God. Blessed to have hope because of Jesus Christ who came to give us eternal life, if only we believe. Blessed to be a part of the family of God with friends who walk with us in this season of life. Blessed to have my own copy of a Bible, when so many in other parts of the world would give anything to have one. Blessed with joy and peace, because He gives a peace that the world cannot take away, no matter the circumstances going on all around us.
We are a blessed people and we owe God, the creator of all, to give Him our best and the first fruits of our lives. So in between telling the kids or grandkids to quit putting peas up their nose, or hurrying to take out the rolls from the oven before they burn, may we remember to turn our thoughts to the One who is the Giver of life and blessings.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Chocolate Magic Pumpkin Cake

Yesterday was the magic day of discovering this delicious cake. I stood at the dessert table at church and ate 3 pieces. As I was standing there trying to figure out how to put another piece of this on my plate without anyone seeing me, I looked behind me to see 3 ladies asking if I had made it and if so they wanted the recipe. We could not find the lady who made it,so a friend of mine(one of the friends who stood there with me dissecting each bite to see if we could figure out what was in it) finally found the recipe on Pinterest and sent it to me (Thanks Debbie for finding it)We all ended up standing there and using our plastic forks, finished off the plate of this amazing dessert. Never had I thought about combining chocolate and pumpkin other than adding chocolate chips to pumpkin cake, but wow, this cake seriously “takes the cake”. Am making it Monday to take to a luncheon, praying that there will be some left for me to “snack” on all afternoon. If not, I guess I will be forced to make another one! Bless My Heart!

Cake
1 box of devils food cake mix baked according to directions on box for making the 9×13″ cake

For the Pumpkin Layer
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teas pumpkin pie spice

Frosting
1 (4 serving size box french vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
8 oz container Cool Whip
4-5 gingersnap cookies, crushed for top, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare box of cake mix (Duncan Hines is a great chocolate cake mix)according to directions on box and pour into a greased 9×13″ pan. Set aside and do not bake yet.

In another bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the pumpkin layer and stir until smooth. Slowly pour the pumpkin mixture over the chocolate cake batter.

Carefully place cake pan into preheated oven and bake for 50-60 min or until center is no longer jiggly and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely to room temperature.

Frosting
Place the vanilla pudding mix into a large bowl and pour in the cold milk. whisk until combined and starting to thicken. Gently fold in the Cool Whip until completely combined. Spread on top of cooled cake. Sprinkle crushed ginger cookies on top if desired.
Store in Fridge, covered.
*taken from Pinterest I Wash You Dry

Almond & Apricot Biscotti

Have made this twice and each time, it gets great reviews from folks I share it with. Makes great hostess gifts or place in a decorated vase at each end of the dessert table. Great little dessert especially for people who don’t like a lot of sweets, but like just a little something to go with hot tea or coffee.

2 cups flour
4 tables butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teas salt
2 eggs
2 teas baking powder
1 1/2 teas almond extract
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup sliced (very thin) almonds

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add softened butter,mixing until coarse crumbs form. With mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition; add in almond extract; Stir in apricots and almonds; continue to stir until dough is in ball form, about 1 minute.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape dough into two 2″x12″ logs. Bake in preheated oven until dry and set, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks. Let cool completely.
Transfer to a cutting board and with a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/4″ slices. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets until golden, 15-20 minutes, (turn each slice over halfway through baking) and rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool completely on sheets on racks.
Store in air tight container up to 1 week.

I melted vanilla candy melts and drizzled it over each cooled slice.

Toilet Talk

Names of the guilty are not being used as I promised that no mention of their names would be used in this post.
There we were, minding our own business at the grocery store when all of a sudden we looked up from the little while powdered donuts that Peter was throwing into the cart. Since company arrives from California tomorrow for the weekend, we were loading up on good quality toilet paper instead of the awful stuff that he makes us use and splurging on Name Brand green beans instead of the store brand. After all, we don’t want to be known as tightwads. We looked up with pride in our eyes that we actually went for all the top notch brands, when there right in front of us are friends we know from our neighborhood. We exchanged pleasantries about what we were all doing for the weekend, when the wife says, (and I quote) “what kind of toilet do ya’ll have?” I answered, “a white one”. She looks at Randy and says, “no, I mean, is it round or oblong?” All I know is I’m the one who cleans it, I never payed attention to what shape it is. She then proceeds to tell us that they are getting ready to buy a new toilet and the salesman at Home Depot told her that men don’t like the round ones because (sorry for the potty talk) it is harder to aim. So he recommends a oblong shape. They, and I mean, Randy and the other two, as I have walked off pretending to look over the type of roast I want to buy, began discussing how hard it is to sit down on the round ones because it doesn’t fit guys butts as well as the oblong. Then the wife begins to tell us that her leg gets a pain in it when she sits on theirs, to which my darling husband says to her, “well, maybe you shouldn’t sit so long on it.” Maybe that is why we don’t have many friends. He always has such cute little remarks that come out before I have the chance to monitor them.
As they continue having this discussion, here comes another friend from our community. Thank goodness, I guess they didn’t want him to know about how they all sit for how long on the potty, so we all said our goodbyes after customers began to glare at us blocking the bread aisle. We walked off and I told Randy, “and that’s why I never go to the store without make up or earrings.” You never know when you are going to run into friends who might need some counseling, even if it’s just about their bathroom habits. Wasn’t it just yesterday that when we ran into friends in the store, we spent the time talking about the latest vacation or showing pictures of our precious grandkids? Now, we run into people and the talk turns to toilets and what brand of heartburn medicine do we buy.

A new season has dawned. We left worried that we might be nearing the end of our ability to use a normal 13″ high toilet. Is the need for the high 18″ toilet in our near future because we can’t bend down that far? If so, I guess pictures on the new toilet will replace the pics of grandkids so we will have something to talk about. You never know when you might run into friends at the grocery store.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

A sweet friend who lives across the street brought some of this amazing coffee cake over Monday night. I wish I would not have scarfed it down before taking a picture, but as soon as we ate one bite…well, lets just say that we didn’t wait until after dinner to eat the whole plate she brought over. Thank you Patty for a new dessert which has put our cholesterol levels in a brand new category.
This coffee cake is almost a cross between a bread pudding and a cake. Peter Pumpkin just stood at the counter and between bites, kept asking me if I would make us a whole pan. It is that good.

Makes 16 servings, yeah right! more like 4 the way we eat.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1 teas vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teas baking powder
1 cup sour cream

Pumpkin Filling
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 teas salat
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup half & half or 1/4 cup heavy cream plus 1/4 cup milk

Topping
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teas ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans (very finely chopped)

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9×13″ pan and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir the sour cream and then pour half the batter into the prepared pan.
Stir together the pumpkin, sugar and the spices. Add the eggs and then the cream and stir to combine. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the cake batter and spread across the pan with the back of a spoon. Drop the remaining cake batter over the pumpkin in small spoonfuls and then smooth it across the pumpkin layer. Don’t worry about making it look perfect.
Stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle the topping mixture across the top of the cake.
Bake for 50-55 min until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.

Let Go & Grow

Isa 43:19 I (the Lord) will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Yesterday a sweet lady who is much younger than myself called me out of the blue. We had met when she took a Bible class which I taught when we lived in Texas. Through the years there have been changes of jobs, a baby, and now, a possible move to a different state. She called to just visit with me about the possibility and ask if I would be praying that she and her husband would know what God was wanting for them. As she explained to me some of the reasons she felt that it would be a good thing, she also began to voice some concerns. As I listened (and yes, sometimes I do listen and keep quiet) to her, I began to try and think of the times when Randy and I were in the midst of a change and needed God’s guidance. After the phone call ended, I thought about the last 25 years of our lives and all the times which we felt afraid that we would make the wrong decision. As I sat there and wondered what words of wisdom I might pass on to her, I reflected on past happenings. Texting her some thoughts I ended one of the text with….let go & grow! After pushing “send”, I began to wonder where those words came from. I had never said that before. Continuing to think about that, memories came crashing through to me about the times, I had had to let go and the growth that ensued. There were times when letting go was the hardest thing I had done. I remember driving through the desert, moving to California, crying the whole way because we had left our kids and grandkids. What had we done? Why had we said yes to a job that would take us 1500 miles away from our precious family, friends and church? I didn’t want to let go and I didn’t care about growing. But 3 years later, as I looked back I could see that not only had I grown in my dependance on God, but some of our kids had grown in their faith and in their marriage. Since I wasn’t there, they grew more depending upon their spouse, and the Lord to provide some of the things I always tried to step in and do for them. God was getting me out of the way!
Looking back over those times when I really had to let go, there were signs there that let me know that there had been growth, not only in my spiritual life, but in my personal life. Why is letting go so hard, when in our hearts, we know that sometimes that is what God is convicting us to do, in order to get a bigger blessing down the road.
When talking to the sweet friend on the phone that day, of course I told her that I would be praying for peace about the decision they would make, but also that God would grow her heart and if they decided to go with the job offer, that her heart would be softened to allow herself to let go of the years in Texas. It is amazing how, when we are called to a new place, all of a sudden, just like the Israelites, when leaving Egypt, all they remembered was the “good” that they had left. The slavery, the hardships that God was rescuing them from, didn’t cross their minds. Fear of the unknown and not trusting, kept them from the blessing of letting God grant them His promises.
As we encounter new surroundings, we tend to fall back on the old familiar comfort of what we had. It is easier to do that than step into a new adventure with God sometimes. But oh when we do, that adventure can open doors of blessings. Blessings to meet new friends who will shower us with friendship. A new church in which we find ourselves with a new desire of serving, possibly in a new way that we had never thought. Now in my 60’s, it is getting a little easier to trust God for His plan, not mine. There are still times, that I fall back to the past of what I had, but then the Lord reminds me how He was always faithful to me in the new places. That each time I had let go, there was something special that happened in my life. Things that cannot be bought. Spiritual blessings. Hum….maybe after all these years, I am learning a little (quicker) to let go….and grow! Can we look back 10 years ago and see that our faith has grown? Do we have greater peace when those “bends in the road” come? Is our natural response now to pray, instead of panic or phone all our friends when circumstances throw us for a loop?
Let’s determine in our hearts to always trust His heart, even when we can’t see His Hand. We will, most assuredly, be blessed beyond anything we can imagine.

John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”

Whistle While You Work

Written a couple of years ago, while living in Texas, I was reminded of how I felt this past week when upon going into a Walgreens, the clerk, (without asking my age) gave me the Senior Discount.

Chocolate Castles

This is probably one of the saddest days of my life. After going to the Texas State Fair yesterday, which happened to be “Seniors Get in Free Day”, it just went downhill from there. As we walked in the gates of the Fair, some young whipper snapper handed both Randy and I a “get in free” ticket, without even asking if we were seniors! How dare he! How does he know that maybe I just wasn’t able to get in all my beauty rest, which would account for the bags under my eyes? Maybe, just maybe, I am prematurely gray and maybe, I might still be carrying some of the baby fat that accumulated while pregnant. Just because we walked in with a camera around our necks, wearing our matching Hawaiian shirts, does not mean that we should automatically be considered “seniors”. I could just not leave this alone. After…

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Slow-Cooker Green Been Casserole

This is a wonderful side dish to add to the Thanksgiving table. Taken from Cooking with Paula Deen, November 2017 magazine, it is one of the recipes that will be at our Thanksgiving dinner. This whole magazine is full of great recipes. Get out and buy it…you won’t be sorry.

3 tables butter
1 (8 oz) package sliced fresh baby portobellos mushrooms
2 large shallots,sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
5 tables flour
1 cup half & half
2 teas kosher salt
1 teas Italian seasoning
1/2 teas black pepper
2 pounds fresh green beans, cute into 2″ pieces
1 cup fresh french-fried onions

Spray a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker wit cooking spray.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender out 5 minutes.
Stir in garlic, cook for 1 minute.
Stir in flour, cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in half and half, salt, Italian seasoning and pepper. Cook until mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes. Stir in green beans and spread mixture into the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low until beans are nearly tender ,4 to 5 hours. Stir mixture and increase heat to high.Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened and beans are tender, about 30 minutes more Transfer to a serving dish and top with french fried onions Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Fall In Flagstaff

We just returned from Flagstaff where we spend several days with some of our kids and grandkids. They invited us along to join in the fun of Fall Break. We aren’t sure if they invited us so we would possibly bring a Handicap Parking sticker with us so that they could park close to all the places they intended to visit, or if they really desired us to be a part of making new memories. When we showed up and reminded them that we did not have a Handicap Parking tag, they let us know that we did indeed need to get one before next years trip, as we were getting old and would be needing one. They are just so caring and thoughtful.

We checked into our room and took a quick little nap, knowing that we would need the extra energy for going to Bearzonia the next morning. That first evening, we enjoyed going to eat at a local eatery, where we enjoyed a meal with the kids, before heading back to their room. Thinking that this would be such a fun night of sitting and playing cards as a family, we were quickly brought back to reality of looking around the room, seeing the kids, each in their own corners with iPads, iPhones or books, when our daughter begins to tell the kids, “get over here and put away the devices. We are going to play cards with Nana and Pawpaw. We don’t know how long they will live and this might be the last time you get to enjoy a vacation with them before they have to go to a nursing home.”

We felt so loved. But play cards we did. I like to think that I’m still pretty alert and have most of my mind, but when the score was added up at the end of the evening, we all just looked at each other after the scores were read aloud. Our 8 year old grandson, Caleb, had beat all of us playing 5 Crown. Now, feeling not only old and defeated, we left to go back to our room. Randy and I talked that evening about Caleb winning. That was his first time to play the game. We play it all the time. What had happened? Maybe we weren’t as alert and smart as we like to think.

Both Randy and I told each other that the next day at Bearzonia, we would show them just how spiffy we still are. We will NOT complain about being tired or how much our feet hurt after walking around for hours. We would not fall behind walking through the petting zoo. We would not complain of heat or cold. We would be the perfect Bearzonia companions. All those resolutions disappeared after about 4 hours. I never made it through the petting zoo. I told them to just take pictures of them petting all those little darling lambs so we could look at them, as i was soaking my feet later that night. After having an owl soar so close to my head that my hair-sprayed stiff hair stuck to one of his wings at the birds of prey show, Randy and I decided that we would just sit at the front gate and snack on the $6 mini bag of popcorn while the rest of the family went off to find the jaguar to take a picture.

As I am sitting here posting about our trip, the news is on. One of the news stories is about a man that was shot and killed in the Walmart parking lot in Flagstaff. We were just there on Wednesday. We had taken Noah to let him pick out some Halloween things to keep him busy while the others were experiencing Flagstaff Extreme Adventure, aka, zip lining and obstacle courses. Do we know how to entertain kids or what?
Looking back over the week, we came home after having made some really good memories. We loved our evening of just sitting with all of us laughing so hard at Family Feud. Watching Caleb beat all of us at cards, was a great reminder of how smart this new generation is and that still, the best times are spent with family. We just hope that we have a few years left to remember all the new memories before we loose our mind. Think we will be getting a handicap permit, if I can remember to apply for one. Maybe that will assure us an invitation to tag along next year.