Green Goddess Veggie Dip

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Hi all– I think I’ve already told you about the group of 20 somethings who drop in every Monday night to meet up, talk, laugh, plan, pray.  The don’t knock–just drift in 2 or 3 at a time, stop in the kitchen to say they’re here, to catch up.  It’s great. And I get to feed them– just a little snack to get us going.   I love our Monday nights.

So this week (too hot to bake!) we had the coffee table full of veggies, dip and some crackers on the side.  Here it is:

GREEN GODDESS VEGGIE DIP
2 ripe avocados
2 tab. tarragon vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
salt (about 1/2 tsp.) and freshly ground pepper to taste.
garnish: chopped green onion

Just drop all the ingredients into a blender or use a stick blender until it’s smooth and creamy.  Set it out with a board of veggies and maybe a few crackers.  Done.

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P.S.  I know this recipe is nothing like the traditional Green Goddess dressing– I think the name was just stolen because it’s green!

Ten Tips for Reading with Kids!

 

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Hey friends who know kids (that should be about everyone)–  Saturday we had a baby shower here for smart, articulate, beautiful Emily.  For part of the morning, the 5 hostesses (all her mom’s age) decided to give a little “Mom Advice” to Emily, just starting out on this mothering thing.  It felt a little bit like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty hovering around to bestow blessings on the new baby!!  It really was a sweet time together– and here’s my advice on reading:

TEN TIPS FOR READING WITH KIDS

#1. Start early.  One friend told me her mom read to her as an infant and since the baby wasn’t tracking stories quite yet, the mother read what she enjoyed– Shakespeare!  Awesome.  It’s never to soon to ladle all those sweet words and sounds into your baby’s head…

#2. For tiny readers, it’s all about rhythm, rhyme and repetition.  That’s why most every 3 year old is content to to read Brown Bear Brown Bear or Hop On Pop over and over.

#3.  Sing along books are great!  Even my 3rd graders loved to chime in on The Lady with the Alligator Purse!
Nadine Wescott has a whole series of sing-along books that are whimsical fun.

#4. Work reading into your schedule– the obvious before bed slot or during lunch or a wake up story…  The year Aaron was in kindergarten, we read every day while his sisters napped after lunch.  A sweet memorable time together.

#5.  Never be booklets!  Always have a stash in your diaper bag or in the car or tucked in a backpack–so waiting for appointments or in line or in traffic, you can pull out a story!

#6.  Some books are boring– Skip those!!  Look for books with color and lively language and humor, lots of humor–  Our favorite funny books include– I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (naughty baby with a paintbrush) and Never Mail an Elephant (obvious foibles) and the Monster at the end of the Book (better read with the Grover voice!).

#7.  Wear out your Library Card!  Keep a fresh stack of books rotating through your house.  Last summer for Grammy Camp, we had a Library Scavenger Hunt.  We made an illustrated  list — a book about a cat, a Dr. Seuss book, an ABC book…   and rounded them up for a bagful of books to tote home.

#8.  Talk about the books you read together–  anticipate what will happen next.  Ask which character is the most interesting, why?  Imagine a different ending to the story.

#9.  Bribing children to read is totally acceptable!  We had summer reading charts that looked like large Candyland games with a family outing at the end for all who finished.  And when we lived in Spain, someone mailed us a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I paid my boys 25 cents a page to read entries.  When the kids were older, I would check out colorful library books on topics they enjoyed and leave them on the coffee table, pretty sure they would pick them up.

#10.  Just keep on reading!  As they get older and schedules get full, you have to be creative.  On vacations, pick up a book that relates to your trip and read together.  Jim Trelease (author of the amazing Read Aloud Handbook) would make his high school kids wash the dishes for their chores and then sit at the kitchen table and read to them!  One year we had a 30 minute ride to school and read through The Hiding Place, Brother Andres, Tom Sawyer…  to pass the commute.

So much joy in reading with kids– Hope your lap is fun of books and little “readers!”  And one last picture– our little grand-girl Mae, a book lover.
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Thank you to albinfo.ch for the illustration.

 

 

Chicken Stroganoff

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Hello there– I’ve got a BIG project on my plate right now… I’m going through our 10,000 slides/photos of the years when our kids were growing up so we can send of 2,000 of them to be digitized.  Whew!  It’s taking forever and these days I’m away in nostalgia– so many photos of kids blowing out birthday candles or building villages from legos.  Photos of days in the countryside with dear old  friends and vacations across Spain (our home then) and point beyond…  It’s been grand.

So here’s a nostalgic dish– the kind my mom used to make– chicken in a rich gravy over creamy noodles.  Good (and delicious!) old fashioned food.

CHICKEN STROGANOFF
10 oz. medium egg noodles
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tab. olive oil
1 boneless chicken breasts, cut in 1″ bits
2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms (about 8 oz.)
1 small onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tab. butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup sour cream
tab. fresh thyme leaves for garnish

Cook the egg noodles according to the directions on the package in salted water.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the garlic powder, dried thyme, paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper.  Cut up the chicken and drop the small pieces into the mixing bowl with the spices.  Turn them with a spoon until they are thoroughly coated.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet and drop in the chicken.  Cook 5 to 6 minutes until the pieces are toasty brown and cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

In the same skillet cook the sliced mushrooms for 4 or 5 minutes until they are tender and savory.  You may need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan. Take out the mushrooms and set them aside with the chicken.

In the skillet, now drop in the chopped onion and cook until they bits are al tender and slightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Put in the butter.  When it’s melted, add the 1/4 cup flour and stir to make a paste in the skillet.  Then add in the white wine and cook one minute.  Add the chicken broth and stir until the sauce thickens.  It will take a couple minutes.

Taste the sauce in the skillet.  Add salt & freshly ground pepper until it’s perfectly seasoned (about 1/4 tsp. each).   Then stir in the chicken, mushrooms and sour cream.

Layer the noodles on a large platter.  Spoon the stroganoff over the top.  Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. So delish. Serve it up hot from the stove top with a crisp salad– dinner!

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Cinnamon Roll Muffins

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Hi friends– It’s September and the oven has been put back to good use around.  I’ve been baking up a storm.  And nothing smells so good coming out of the oven as something laced with cinnamon.  This little muffins are kind of second cousin to cinnamon rolls, lots of the same flavor and the crunchy nuts, but a whole lot less time and effort is involved.

I made them for our lovable group of 20 & 30 something’s who come in on Thursday nights– and the muffins all disappeared!  I love baking for those guys– such an appreciative group of eaters.  And just all around fun to spend an evening with them.

CINNAMON ROLL MUFFINS

Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 tab. cinnamon
1  1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 tab. melted butter

Muffins:
2 cups flour
1 tab. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 cup milk

Frosting:
2 oz. cream cheese (1/4 of a block), softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tab. milk
few drops of vanilla

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First make the topping.  Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts.  Then completely fold in the melted butter.  Set this aside for later.

For the muffins, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Then mix in the oil, egg and milk.  (The batter will be stiff.)  Take 1/2 cup of the brown sugar topping mixture and stir it into the batter.

Use muffin papers or spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray– then scoop the batter into the muffin tin.  Put of spoonful of the brown sugar topping on top of each muffin, patting it down a bit with the spoon to make it stick well to the batter.

Bake them up at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until firm to the touch.

While they are baking, make the frosting.  I softened the cream cheese in the microwave for a few seconds.  Then with a whisk, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk and the vanilla.  If the frosting seems runny enough to drizzle over the muffins from a spoon, that’s great!  If it is too thick, add the second spoon of milk and blend it completely.

Drizzle that luscious frosting over the muffins, hot from the oven and enjoy that cinnamon smell while you do it!  Scrumptious eaten with friends and mugs of tea.

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Books for a Special Baby

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“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall. 
— Roald Dahl (British novelist & children’s writer 1916-1990)

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Hi all– In a couple weeks we’re heading up to San Francisco to a baby shower for our daughter Ani and her Brian.  I can’t wait!  And all the friends are bringing books to start that baby girl’s library.  I’m of a mind that a baby can’t have too many books!  So here’s my dilemma– which books should I wrap up for the newest grand-girl??  There are so many stories I look forward to reading to that little girl!  Here’s a few possibilities:

The Jolly Postman by Alan and Janet Ahlberg
A British postman delivers letters to storybook characters across the countryside– and the actual letters pull out from pockets on the pages to be read.  Charming.

Noah’s Ark by Peter Speier
Dutch artist. Peter Speier,  tells the story of Noah and his ark in the this detailed wordless book with plenty  of humor ad warmth. A Caldecott winner.

No Jumping on the Bed! by Tedd Arnold
Despite warnings about jumping on the bed, Walter jumps until he crashes down through several floors of his apartment building, taking the other occupants along with him.  Clever rhyme and illustration.

My Crayons Talk by G. Brian Karas
A lively lovely first book of colors– set the to a staccato rhythm that carries the story along.  “Talk talk, my crayons talk, Clickety Clackety Talk talk talk!”

Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
Naughty Nora just wants attention and she’ll do just about anything to get it– until she disappears!

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
A toddler goes wild with his set of paints, starting with his body and ending up pretty much splashing paint in all directions– to the tune of “It Ain’t Going to Rain No More.”  Wacky rhyme and whimsical illustrations make this loads of fun!

The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Wescott
Sing along story of a baby who drinks the bath water and eats the soap and ends up with the arrival of the slightly crazy doctor and nurse.  But the hero of the story is the lady with the alligator purse– and her pizza!
Wacky fun.

Lunch by Denise Flemming
Colorfully crafted illustrations tell the story of a little mouse with a big appetite who eats his way through the kitchen.  Delightful.

There you have it.  So many fantastic books (and there are more!!)  We’ll be reading stories galore to our new little baby Heung in the year to come…

 

Kahlua Chocolate Poke Cake

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Hi Cake Eaters– When I was taking pictures of this yummy cake, Larry walked by and said, “You’ve already done this cake, haven’t you?!”  Well, I have to admit, it does look like a lot of the other cakes I’ve posted.  I know.   But I can’t resist topping a cake with whipped cream and sugared almonds–my favorites…

But truly this is a new cake recipe– moist and rich and packed with a little chocolatey Kahlua flavor poured over the cake after it’s baked.  It’s a areal party cake!

KAHLUA CHOCOLATE POKE CAKE

Cake:
1 Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Cake Mix
3.9 oz. package chocolate instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 tab. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Glaze:
12 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup Kahlua

Topping:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp. powdered sugar

Almond garnish:
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sugar

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With an electric mixer beat together the cake ingredients– cake mix, chocolate instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, sour cream, canola oil, 1/2 cup Kahlua, vanilla, salt and mini chocolate chips.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes.

Spoon the mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish that had been sprayed with cooking spray (I divided the batter into two 9″ spring form pans instead).  Bake at 30 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until it is firm to the touch.  Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool.

Ue the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes all over the cake.  Then mix together the condensed milk and the 1/4 cup Kahlua.  Pour the mixture slowly over the cake trying the fill the holes with the milk glaze.

Beat together the whipping cream, vanilla instant pudding mix and the powdered sugar with an electric mixture until it’s stiff.  Spread over the top of the cooled cake.

To make the sugared almonds, put the almonds and 1/2 cup sugar into a skillet.  Cook them over medium heat, stirring the whole time, until the sugar melts and turns to a golden brown and coats the almonds.  Be careful, too hot and they will burn!  Spread the nuts from the pan onto a piece of foil and let them sit a few minutes until they cool completely.  Then sprinkle them over the top of the cake!

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Fluffy Bran Pancakes

 

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Good morning– I would pretty much be happy to eat pancakes every morning of the week– instead of my routine yogurt or oatmeal.  And, happily, these little pancakes are pretty much guilt free (until I slather them with maple syrup!).  They’re tender and fluffy and I’d say a great way to start out the day…

FLUFFY BRAN PANCAKES
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2/3 cup bran
1/4 cup sugar
1 tab. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
1/4 cup canola oil
toppings:  fruit, maple syrup, jam, honey, butter, powdered sugar, yogurt, granola… (take your pick!)

In a mixing bowl stir together the wheat flour, white flour, bran, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix in the egg, buttermilk and oil,  Cook the pancakes on a medium high grill, sprayed with cooking spray until they are perfectly browned on each side.

Serve with your favorite toppings.  Makes about 16 pancakes.

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (like I don’t)– pour a couple tablespoons of cider vinegar into your measuring up and fill up with milk to make 1 1/2 cups.

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