January 28, 2009

The latest on Christian

Christian was in town for a few days with Claire, Jane, and Oliver. It was so good to see them. Mary and Jack were especially glad to play with their cousins.

Here is a news clip of an interview Christian did while he was here, and here is the entire uncut interview.

January 24, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

I really didn't mean for this to be a food blog, but I guess food is a big part of my life. I thought about starting a separate blog just for sharing recipes, but I think that's been done already. So, since food is part of who I am I will continue to share recipes here.

My sister made these yummy enchiladas for a family potluck. It's one of those non-recipes; she told me what she put in hers, and then I adapted it for our family. This is how I made it... adapt to what works for you.


18 corn tortillas*
2 (13 oz.) cans chicken breast**
1 (28 oz.) can Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce***
2 c. Jack cheese, grated (more or less depending on how much you like)
1/2-1/3 c. sour cream
fresh cilantro (I used about 1/2 c. leaves)

Combine the chicken with about 1/2 c. sauce, just to moisten it. Mix in sour cream and a little cheese... I think I used about 1/2 cup... and cilantro (however much you like... if you want, reserve some to put on top as a garnish just before serving). Cover the bottom of a large casserole dish with 6 tortillas. Top with half of the chicken mixture, sprinkle with a little cheese (whatever looks good to you). Top with 6 more tortillas, the remaining chicken mixture, and some more cheese. Finish with remaining tortillas, cover with remaining sauce, and more cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. (This fed my family of 5 and provided lots of leftovers.)

* This is what worked for the size pan I was using.

** This is what I happened to have on hand in my pantry. My sister made it with some leftover roasted chicken. You could use just about any leftover chicken, or just poach and cut up a couple of chicken breasts, or grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

*** This is the only brand I can recommend. If you have another brand you like, or make your own, go for it!

January 23, 2009

Inquisitive Minds Want to Know

I have lots of catching up to do, but for right now, here are some of the questions Jack asked me the other day while we were running errands. What is going on in his head? Some of these are not so easy to answer, but I did my best.

"How did the water get in the ocean?" (Jesus put it there.)

(follow-up question) "Why did Jesus make sharks?" (I wonder that myself.)

"Where does blood come from?" (From inside our bodies... duh.)

"How do they make cars?" (very carefully)

"Where do parrots live?" (wherever they want to)

I'm just kidding, of course, about some of those answers.

January 05, 2009

Two more recipes

Here are the last two recipes from our dinner party.

This is my favorite roll recipe. It's super yummy and easy. I use it for cinnamon rolls too (see below).

DINNER ROLLS (I triple this recipe for a big group)
1/4 c. butter, melted
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. water
2 c. flour
2 T. yeast
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 - 2 c. flour

Combine dry ingredients in Bosch (mix on low for a few seconds to combine), using wire whisks. Heat butter, milk & water to about 125 degrees (I just do it all together in the microwave... approximate temperature). Pour into Bosch and mix for 2 minutes on low. Add egg and mix until incorporated in. Switch to dough hook. Add enough flour to make a soft dough (should leave the sides of the bowl clean, but still sort of stick to the bottom of the bowl). Let knead 5 minutes. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. (If you are making a bigger batch you will want to transfer it to a larger bowl first, oiled.) Shape into rolls (see below). Let rise 20-30 minutes (or until about double in size). Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

NOTE: I often substitute canola oil for the melted butter, and powdered milk, and it turns out just as good. Just mix the powder with the dry ingredients and use additional water in the amount of the milk. Use about half as much oil as butter... it shrinks by about half when melted.

SHAPING: You can make balls, or whatever shape you like, but I find it easiest to make crescent shaped ones. Roll dough into a large circle, to 1/2 inch thick (I usually do thinner than that). (When I make a triple batch, I divide the dough into 4.) Spread with a small amount of room temperature butter (you don't want too much... just a thin layer). Use a pizza cutter to cut dough in a pinwheel like a pizza, but very skinny/long wedges. Roll up tightly beginning with the widest edge..... I pull it tight/stretch it a little before rolling to keep it tight.

Another yummy option is to shape them into regular balls, let rise until double. Then spread tops with soft (very soft or you'll squish the rolls) butter, and sprinkle with kosher (coarse) salt and rosemary and thyme before baking.

For cinnamon rolls, roll into a large rectangle... about 12" by however long. Spread with melted butter, a generous amount of brown sugar, and LOTS of cinnamon. Roll up from a long edge so that you have one very long roll. Use a length of dental floss to slice dough into 1 inch wide rolls by sliding the floss under one edge and crossing at the top and pulling.


1 yellow cake mix (preferably without pudding)
1/2 c. (1 cube) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten

Reserve 1 c. cake mix. Combine remaining cake mix with butter and egg. Press into ungreased 9x13" pan (I use a glass casserole dish that is a bit larger).

3 eggs, beaten
1 can (29 oz.) Libby's pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. evaporated milk (I think this is a small can)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and pour over crust.

1 c. reserved cake mix
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
1/4 c. (1/2 cube) butter, melted

Combine and sprinkle over the top (don't spread). Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, until toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm, topped with real whipped cream.

More Dinner Party Recipes

Here are the other things I made to go with the chicken recipe posted previously. Some of them aren't really recipes, but I will tell you what I did.

We had a salad first, and there are tons of great salad recipes out there. My favorites are posted here. I made the greek salad with creamy garlic vinegarette.

With the chicken, I served roasted potatoes and green beans. You can use any kind of potatoes... russets, red-skinned, yukon gold... whatever you like. I used russets this time because that is what I had. Red-skinned are my favorite.

1) Wash and scrub skins; quarter potatoes by slicing length-wise (or slice again if they are very large potatoes... finished wedges should be less than one inch at widest edge). Toss with olive oil and crushed garlic. To do this easily and coat them evenly, I put the potatoes in a plastic bag, add the oil and garlic, close the bag and shake until they are coated well. Or toss in a large bowl.

2) Spread potatoes evenly in a baking dish large enough that the potatoes won't be too crowded (I use a jelly roll pan... make clean-up easier by lining it with foil). Season with whatever you like; I usually just use seasoned salt and parsley. Bake at 450 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until they reach desired doneness... I like them tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.

I love the french green beans, but I have found that the frozen green beans from Trader Joe's are almost as good... and much cheaper and easier since you don't have to wash or trim them. I either saute them in some butter and toss with garlic salt, or steam them and then toss with butter and garlic salt.

Garlic Chicken with Mushrooms

I promised you some recipes from our dinner party in November. This is probably my favorite chicken recipe, from my sister. I seem to always make it for company, and everyone always loves it.

Diane Barazoto

1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I use more)
1 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1/2 c. melted butter
1 tsp. finely chopped parsley
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced**

Beat egg with salt and pepper and 2 cloves are garlic; put in shallow dish (pie pan works great). Combine bread crumbs and cheese in another shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then coast with crumb mixture. Place in a large baking dish. Mix melted butter with remaining garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. Drizzle half of the butter mixture over chicken. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Top chicken with mushrooms and remaining butter mixture and bake 10 minutes more.

* I don't use full breasts because they are too big. I've used chicken tenders before, but what I prefer is cutlets. Here is how to make: I'm not sure how to describe this, but if the chicken breast is laying flat on a surface, cut it through the center parallel to the surface. Now you have 2 flat chicken cutlets. I hope that makes sense. They cook faster too, so reduce the cooking time.

** Any kind will do. I usually use the plain old white mushrooms because they are the cheapest. But I prefer Baby Bellas, or Italian Brown mushrooms. Don't pay more for sliced. The easiest way to slice them is to use one of my favorite gadgets, an egg slicer... works like a charm!

January 04, 2009

The last week of Christmas Break

On Monday we took the kids to see "The Tale of Despereaux." Collin was the only one who had read the book, and he was upset at first when he realized it was very different. However, by the time he finished telling us all the things that were different, he concluded that the movie was better. Hmmm. Anyway, I thought it was cute.

My sister had a New Year's Eve Party/Sleepover for the cousins.... it's too bad Jay and I didn't have a party to go to. We are too old to go to the hip celebrations that the 20-somethings go to. And besides, Jay hates crowds.

Instead, we went to dinner at Carrabba's. It was busy and we didn't want to wait 45 minutes for a table (even though we had nothing better to do and no babysitter to pay... I guess we were hungry) so we grabbed a couple of seats at the counter overlooking the kitchen. What fun!

It was a blast to watch the action in the kitchen, and I enjoyed chatting for a bit with the couple sitting next to me.... "Snowbirds" from Minnesota who had just returned from a Panama canal cruise. It was quite fun.

Then we went to a late showing of "Valkyrie." It was quite good. It's always interesting to watch a movie based on a historical event and you know what will happen.... I still desperately want the characters to do something different, and find myself encouraging them to do so (only in my head, of course). This was one of those times. The movie has a sad ending (sorry, that wasn't really a spoiler, you know the assassination plot fails), so it was nice to know that eventually things work out... meaning Hitler is defeated.... even though it doesn't happen in the film.

The film isn't about Hitler though. It's about brave and honorable people who loved their country and were trying to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.... they were heroes even though their plan failed. There were others who knew what needed to be done, but were too cowardly to do it.

The kids had fun at their party, and they always enjoy playing with their cousins. Jay and I spent the rest of the week watching all three of "The Lord of the Rings" movies (extended versions!).... not all in one sitting, of course. Now, there is another story of courageous people! Fictional, yes, but a powerful story.

The Day After the Day-After-Christmas

On Saturday (the day after the day-after-Christmas), we went to the grand opening of the Metro Light Rail. Jay was helping greet people at one of the stations, so the kids and I took the train from Mesa over to meet him. It was super crowded!
We met up with Jay and then we all hopped back on the train and headed downtown. There were lots of fun things going on... booths, live music and entertainment, food samples, etc. We also took a quick tour of the newest wing of the expanded convention center.
I think it was the first time we did so much walking around downtown with the kids... we have always gone by car before! We were worn out! We stopped at District at the Sheraton for lunch. Oh yum!!!!! The kids were very well-behaved, even though they were exhausted.
Then we explored the hotel a bit. (Collin and Mary didn't get to go to the grand opening because they were in school.) Here they are in the lobby. And checking out the view from the 28th floor.It was a fun day.

The Day After Christmas

On the day after Christmas, Jay went into work for a couple of hours to check on things, and took Collin with him. Collin was hoping for some action, but there was absolutely nothing going on. (Check out the painting on the left.... an oil painting done by Jay of the Phoenix skyline. It used to hang in a conference room when he was at city hall, and now he has it in his office.)
Then they went to lunch and visited the state capitol building. Here Collin is pointing to a photo of Jay's great uncle, who was a state tax commissioner.
That evening Jay and I went to an event at the Sheraton. (It seems like we have been going there a lot lately, but I don't mind.) It was an appreciation dinner/program for the grand opening of the Metro Light Rail. It was a lovely dinner, and we brought home some nice goody bags. At the end of the program, they invited whoever had the closest birthday to take home the lovely floral center pieces. Our table mates had all tip-toed out by then, so we got the prize for staying through the entire program (it was kind of long.... they thanked EVERYONE). It is really nice.... still going strong on my kitchen table.

Christmas Day

The kids got up at about 7 o'clock on Christmas morning, which I thought was pretty good. They were very excited, of course. Mary got roller skates....
.... and a bike.
The boys got lots of Legos (among other things).
And I got a new kitchen sink and faucet! (I picked it out myself.) I love, love, love it!We went over to my parents' house again for my dad's yummy omelets, and Lizzy made waffles with her Christmas present. Mmmmm.

Then I spent the rest of the day playing Legos with the boys (I love Legos!) while Jay installed my presents. It's so nice to have a husband who is handy!

Christmas Eve

Well, the kids go back to school tomorrow. Christmas break went by too fast. Here is what we have been doing:

We spent Christmas Eve at my parents' house with all of my family. Dinner was fantastic and delicious, thanks to my lovely and talented sister, Lizzy.

Afterward we had our usual program with performances from each family, and the kids doing a nativity play. Jack was a shepherd.
Mary was an angel.Collin was a wise man, but he wouldn't let me take a picture. So, here he is in half of his costume, while the kids are singing their song for the program. (BTW, that's me accompanying them on the piano, lest you think I always turn my back when my kids perform.)One of our other fun traditions is the telling of the story "The Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke. If you haven't read it, you are missing out. You can read it here. (We do an abridged version for the kids.) I love Christmas Eve..... even more than Christmas morning.