Love & Hugs

"Cloud Heart" photo courtesy of Brenda Downing

“Cloud Heart” photo courtesy of Brenda Downing

Mothers have the ability to hold children in their hearts no matter where they are.  For the first time in a decade, mine are within hugging distance and I’m loving every minute of it!  I know my Mom feels the same way about me.

I’m writing this from Minnesota again… made another spur of the moment trip after a decline in my father’s health.  Not only has it given me a chance to spend time with my Dad, I’ve been able to treat Mom to some of her favorites — Chicken Alfredo, strawberry shortcake, and popovers, to name a few.

Wishing you a Mother’s Day filled with love and hugs.  And favorites.

Enjoying precious time,

~ Kimby

Comfort Food II

Sometimes life throws you curve balls and after all of the scrambling around is done, the only thing you can do is sit down with a plate of comfort food and savor every bite. (Or at least that’s what I do!)

After some recent family health concerns (serious enough to make an unplanned trip to Minnesota), I was left with a feeling of wanting to connect with the familiar once I got back to Oklahoma. Since I grew up in the land of yah sure, you betcha, eh? :), it only seemed right to tap into my “hotdish” heritage.

Alternatively known as a casserole, covered dish, or the perfunctory “dish to pass,” hotdish is a comforting food indeed. Nary a potluck dinner or church supper goes by without someone exclaiming, “I MUST have your recipe!” (Some folks even come armed with recipe cards!) In a way, blogging is a bit like that — exchanging recipes “electronically” — and maybe that’s why I love it so. It’s comforting to share good food!

No matter what you call “hotdish” there are three requirements. It must be 1) hearty; 2) flavorful; and 3) big enough to feed a small army. (That’s where the sharing part comes in.)

Considering my repertoire of church cookbooks and recipes I’ve been blessed to receive, I could keep you supplied in hotdish for many years to come, but I decided to concoct one of my own. Let’s see… hmmmm… what are my favorite things?

Italian sausage. Sauteed mushrooms. Roasted red peppers. Olives (lots of ’em.) Mozzarella “pearls.” Onions, green and black. Pasta with some “tooth” to it.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah… the link to my first Comfort Food post.  :)

Melded together with a tomato sauce of your choosing and a liberal dose of Mozzarella on top, you’ve pretty much got it covered… literally!

“My Favorite Things” Hotdish

7 to 8 oz. of your favorite pasta — farfelle, shells, rigatoni, etc. (I used penne rigate, which is described as having a sharp, diagonal cut on the end, similar to a quill pen) :)

1 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste

1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild (I used Lovera’s Hot Italian Sausage from Krebs, Oklahoma)

Butter/olive oil/bacon grease (or a combination thereof…)

8 oz. whole mushrooms, quartered

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

4 to 5 green onions (including tops), sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 roasted red peppers (I used Mazzetta’s Roasted Bell Peppers, a gift from Mom, xo), drained & diced

1/2 jar Mazzetta Napa Valley Bistro Blend Olives, drained

8 oz. Mozzarella cheese “pearls” (or cubed Mozzarella cheese)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Paul Newman’s “Sockarooni” Sauce)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Grated Mozzarella cheese for the top — as much or as little as you desire

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring water to boil in a large kettle. Add salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.

Meanwhile, remove casings from sausage. Heat butter/olive oil/bacon grease (whatever combo tickles ya) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir occasionally to break into “bite-sized” chunks, until browned and cooked through. Remove sausage to paper-towel-lined plate; reserve drippings in skillet.

Add the mushrooms and sweet yellow onions to skillet; saute over medium-high heat until golden. Add green onions, garlic, and red peppers; heat through, taking care not to fricassee the garlic. (!!!) Mix in drained olives, sausage, and pasta.

In the same skillet (or a large casserole dish or Dutch oven), combine the above with Sockarooni Sauce (or your own) and Mozzarella pearls or cubes; stir to coat. Mix in the Parmesan cheese ’til blended.

Put everything in an oven-worthy vessel (if you haven’t already); cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove cover. Sprinkle the hotdish/casserole/whatever with grated Mozzarella cheese; heat until melted, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how “browned” you like it. Serve with warm bread and a salad.

Enjoying the comfort of sharing,

~ Kim

What’s your favorite “hotdish?”

A Little Bit of Love and Joy

There’s merriment in the air.  Can you feel it?!

My friend, Christy (from Critty Joy) offered a fun challenge this week for her final Christmas Party Friday“Complete the sentences…”

Like decorations tucked here and there around the house, they prompt joy!

My favorite part of December is… going outside on the first cold, clear night (with a gazillion stars in the sky so close you can touch them) and breathing in “winter.”  The seasons don’t change as drastically here in Oklahoma, so I make it a point every year to stand under a starry, sparkling sky and inhale a breath of pure, brisk air.  Ahhhh…

The Christmas song I can listen to over and over is… “Stille, Stille Nacht.”  There are many, many songs to celebrate the season — cherished old hymns, delightful holiday tunes, songs about love and family — but Stille, Stille Nacht reminds me to be still.  (Something I need to be reminded of more often!)

My favorite Christmas gift when I was a child was… a Slinky.  That “sound” — soft, shimmery, metallic — was like holding starlight in my hands.

If traveling anywhere in the world were an option, I would spend Christmas… in Iceland.  (Via Minnesota and New Hampshire first — my family is used to my galavanting by now, but we still miss each other, especially during the holidays.)  Iceland is a land of contrasts — volcanoes and glaciers, geothermic-heated swimming pools and eiderdown quilts, cold seafood buffets (that make me drool just thinking about them) served by warm-hearted people — invigorating!

Christmas movies are… sappy, syrupy, predictable… and I watch every one of them.

My “must have” Christmas treats include… Egg nog.  And Penuche.

Decorating for the season looks like… a chore when I start and a joy when I’m done!

When it comes to Christmas gifts I prefer to… use more Scotch tape than necessary.  (The element of suspense adds so much to opening gifts, don’t you think?) 

The Christmas season makes me feel… nostolgic, thankful, and hopeful.  In my heart, I carry memories of Christmas past, gratitude for this season, and anticipaton of Christmases to come.  (Sort of a Dickens-style complex, but I can’t help it.)

To me, Christmas means… an opportunity to dispense JOY!!!  I love looking for ways to give it and invite you to share your own.  (Use the links above or leave a comment below.)  JOY is something the world needs more of and I’m eager to hear how you celebrate love, faith, and family this special time of year.

Sometimes it comes in small bites…

Penuche is a “once-a-year-candy” that I look forward to indulging in — immediately followed by a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee.  (Contrast is my middle name.)  Also known as Brown Sugar Fudge, it’s nothing like it’s creamier, chocolate cousin — grainy, super sweet, like maple sugar candy (minus the maple.)

Grandma produced a plateful of it every Christmas and the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it.  Here’s her recipe:

This season — every day — I hope you’ll look for opportunities to share love and JOY!

Merry Christmas!

~ Kim

‘Tis The Season…

Around this time every year, a delightful transformation takes place within our home.

Welcome to our home...

Little touches of red and green begin to deck the halls…

A little red...

A little green...

fa-la-la-la-laaa....

… and sentimental favorites start to appear.

The tree from my Mom...

The tree from my Mom-in-law...

And my little tree (which stays up year-round, except for the lights and ornaments!)

Our “fish” even join in the merriment — we live on a lake, after all…

'Tis true... :)

And every year without fail, I simply must set these out… but before I do, I’d like to invite you to a party!  My friend, Christy at Critty Joy, is asking you to share your holiday traditions at her Christmas Party Fridays link-up.  (Sorry for the late notice, but this was the first chance I had to write this week.)

My favorite tradition?  Besides shutting off every light in the house for an entire evening while I listen to the beautiful music of the season by candlelight (with a mug of mulled cider or a glass of wine), my favorite holiday tradition is getting out the “Christmas deer.”

When my children were little, no matter where I set this darling pair (or how far apart), they’d mysteriously end up nose-to-nose.   It seems my kids liked to see them “kissing.” :)

Awwwww...

 So, break out the Nutcracker…

Hello!

Bring on the bling…

Bling, bling...

And tie a big, red bow on it!

All wrapped up...

But wait.  Have I forgotten something…?

Cause to celebrate!

This is why we celebrate Christmas and it’s delightful holiday traditions in our home.  Looking forward to hearing about yours!

Merry Christmas, with love and joy,

~ Kim

Cream or Sugar?

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” ~ T. S. Eliot

Every once in awhile, a quote will crop up that causes you to consider where you are in the mad dash to the end.

Statisticians will tell you that you’ve spent x amount of days standing in line or so many hours in front of the television, but I prefer to measure my time with coffee.

Looking back over the last half century, it seems I’ve spent a great deal of it with a mug in my hand.

Coffee helps me sort things out, or at least ponder the transitions that have brought me thus far.

Meet my companion, my confidante, and my cohort through it all.

How do you measure your time?  What stands out as being a significant part of it?

Enjoying my morning java,

~ Kim

P.S.  For more coffee-related ruminations (and a revolution), please click here.

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Good morning (or afternoon or evening), wherever you are.  Thought I’d start your week with a sunrise from my recent mini-vacation.  Take a moment to enjoy…….

Okay, back to business.  (I know you’re busy — I am, too.)

First, hearty thanks to Mike at The Culinary Lens for “tagging” me.  His website is a treasure — food, photos, travelogues, restaurant reviews, creative get-togethers, you name it!  (Do yourself a favor and click on his links.)  I feel honored to be among Mike’s “tag-ee’s” — thank you, friend!

Let the games begin…  Since I’ve only been blogging a few months, it was difficult to select The Magnificent Seven.  (Or at least that’s the idea behind this venture.)  I’ll cut to the chase.

Note:  For your viewing pleasure (and expediency), I’ve linked the photos to the respective posts, too.  Click away!

Most Beautiful Post.  Last Of The Magnolias (Flowergram III) ~ Fiction, flowers, and a few thoughts about aging gracefully.

Most Popular Post.  Granita ParfaitThe little champagne flute that could.

Most Controversial Post.  Alright.  I’ve posted everything from “Close Encounters” to “Cow Tipping,” so I had to think about this one for a moment.  In the end, it boiled down to “credibility,” which my last post surely jeopardized…  Who in their right mind would admit to eating __________?  (Click the link if you must know.)

In my defense, I’ll answer that question with a question.  Why do folks drool over Red Velvet Cake with more food coloring than my afore-hinted-at choice (not to mention 2 pounds of cream cheese and powdered sugar), or vinaigrette sweetened with sugar or honey liberally drizzled over a perfectly good plate of arugula?  Because sometimes ya just gotta.

Food is supposed to make you smile, yes?

Most Helpful Post.  I submit a recent post, with this summary:  Don’t hurry, be happy. 

Post Whose Success Surprised You.  My very first post, Almost…  (Thank you, friends, for your comments.)  Any post that generates comments is a success to a novice blogger.

The Post That Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved.  A Tribute To Trees.  “The Lightning Tree” is worth the look alone — probably the most dramatic photograph I’ve ever taken.  So far.

The Post You’re Most Proud Of.  Boy howdy, aren’t we proud of all of our posts?  It’s why we blog, right? — to give others a glimpse of our corner of the planet?  Or, at the very least, the inner workings of our __________minds?  (Feel free to insert your own adjectives…)

I’m downright proud of Encouragement: The Ripple Effect (thanks, Isabelle!) — not only for the encouragement, but because you meet some of the nicest folks in that post (tee hee) — and Gumby, too.

Tag, you’re it!

1)  Food Served With Love and Calories

2)  An Italian Cooking In The Midwest

3)  Cooking With Books

4)  Running With The Devil(ed) Eggs

5)  Welcome To Shirley’s Luxury Haven

Go!  Play!!!

NOTE:  Due to the length of this post, highlights from the mini-vacation will be coming soon to a blog near you.  As for the title of this post… please disregard.  I’m including the kitchen sink.

Kim’s Kitchen Sink Biscuits

2 c. flour

4 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cream of tartar

2 t. sugar

1/2 c. shortening (or butter, chilled and cut into small pieces)

2/3 c. whole milk

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

*4 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled

*1/4 c. green onions, sauteed in bacon drippings (drain on paper towels before adding)

*1/2 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Additional butter, melted

Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut in shortening (or butter) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Fold in garlic, bacon*, onions* and cheese* and stir gently to coat with flour.  (*Measurements are approximate — it’s a Southern thang — use your judgment.)  Add milk all at once; stir just until moistened.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  (I generally check them around 9 minutes; if the bottoms are browning too quickly, move them to the top rack to finish baking.)  Remove biscuits to a cooling rack; brush with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic salt to taste.  Serve warm.

Enjoying all things Southern, and tag, too!

~ Kim

What I Eat When Nobody’s Looking

I’m no slouch in the dietary department.  I’ve studied nutrition right down to the molecular level and I know what’s good for me.

Most of the time, I snack on healthy treats.

And eat balanced meals.

Or transform leftovers into meatless entrees now and then.

All good.

And good for me.

But…

I have a weakness.

Yup.  Froot Loops.  (Gasp.)  Sugar laden, full of dye, and absolutely delicious.  Sometimes, nothing else will satisfy.

Blame it on the kid in me.

What do you eat when nobody’s looking?  (Remember — nobody’s perfect, least of all moi.)

Enjoying life one covert bowl at a time,

~ Kim

P.S.  If you don’t want the world to know, just put “confidential” at the end of your comment — your secret’s safe with me. :)