Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas confusion.


I believe I have previously documented here that Rudolph is a year-round attraction at our house thanks to Vivian's great fondness of him and his red nose.

Hockey Boy had a tournament this weekend, and we spent much of our long weekend at the rink. The venue's employees had zealously decorated for Christmas, and the festive Santa pictured above was in the lobby.

Vivian spotted him immediately as we entered the rink and said indignantly, "Hey! Santa have to get off that tractor! Where is Rudolph? Rudolph have to pull Santa's sleigh!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks.


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cooking Club, November 2009.


My Cooking Club met last week. Once again we enjoyed delightful company and delicious dishes from our current cookbook, Peace Meals., by the Junior League of Houston. The surprising highlight for me was the Cauliflower Gratin. I have NEVER liked cauliflower - thought it smelled awful when it cooked and tasted bitter when eaten. This preparation, however, had a wonderful flavor. I'm planning to make it for my own family soon.

My assignment this month was salad. I chose to make a Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad. It was a nice mix of flavors and received favorable comments

Our main course was Autumn Braised Brisket. The meat was incredibly tender and very tasty

Susan's table looked so pretty - perfect for fall

For our dessert Ellen made this Apple Cranberry Galette. It was delicious - just the right amount of sweetness blended with the tart apples and the tangy cranberries

She topped each slice of the galette with fresh whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon - heavenly!

Sweet Potato Fries with Asian Dipping Sauce
Brie, Serrano and Fig Panini
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
Autumn Braised Brisket
Cauliflower Gratin
French Onion Bread Pudding
Apple Cranberry Galette

Thursday, November 19, 2009



As most of you know, I have wonderful neighbors, but certainly heading the list is my friend Karey.

Karey and I share a love of needlepoint, cooking and family. Her daughter, Allison, and Dots have been best friends since they were two, and Karey and I started our Cooking Club together four years ago.

Vivian loves to go over to Karey's and play with Allison's brother, Mark, and their family's delightful, smart and well-behaved dog, Ladybug. Vivian refers to Karey as "Mark's mom."

Today when Vivian got off the bus, she immediately opened her backpack and pulled out a piece of paper.

"I color this for Mark's mom," she told me, as she headed down the block toward Karey's house and not ours.

I caught up to Vivian and asked her if she knew Mark's mom's real name.

"Allison's mom," she answered without missing a beat.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread.


The first year that I taught school, one of my second grade students brought me a loaf of homemade Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread. I thought it was so fabulous that I begged her to ask her mother for the recipe. I think that I have made this every fall in the 23 years since Kelley's mom so generously shared her recipe with me.

Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread

2 eggs
2 c sugar
½ c vegetable oil
1 c pumpkin
2¼ c flour
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
1 c chopped fresh cranberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin and mix well. Sift together flour, spice, soda and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in pumpkin mixture. Stir just until ingredients are moistened. Stir in cranberries. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans (2 large or 4 small). Bake at 350° for an hour (large pans) or 40-45 minutes (small pans). Turn out onto wire rack and allow to cool.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Snapshot from New York City: 1976.


My dad sent me this picture yesterday. Our family had driven to the northeast for my brother and sister and me to stay with our aunt and uncle in Connecticut while our parents went to the Olympics in Montreal. We were at the Statue of Liberty. I believe my sister and I have matching Famolares with white socks - quite stylin'!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vivian shares her banana bread.


I baked banana bread yesterday and sent some loaves to school with Vivian. Her sweet teacher sent me the picture above with this note: "Vivian sliced and toasted the banana bread to share with her friends. Thank you so much!"

For my banana bread recipe, see this post.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's for dinner: Pasta Fagioli.


In March of 2001, while visiting Florence, Italy, Robert and I took a day trip to the Tuscan town of Siena. Our guide parked her car in a lot outside the city walls, and we wound our way through a warren of narrow cobblestone streets toward the piazza in the center of the town. About halfway there, rain began to pour. We had one tiny travel umbrella between the three of us which was pretty much useless. When we arrived at the trattoria where we planned to have lunch, we were completely drenched and very cold.

As we entered the little trattoria, the owner told our guide that she was out of pasta dishes and most everything else. (I noticed a large rowdy group of men at the back of the restaurant drinking grappa and wondered if perhaps they had eaten all of the food!)

Perhaps because of our bedraggled appearance and desperate expressions, the owner took pity on us and offered to go back to the kitchen and prepare a pot of Tuscan bean soup for us. We gladly accepted her offer.

When our large steaming bowls of soup arrived, the kind lady drizzled some olive oil and grated fresh parmesan cheese over the top. Robert and I devoured every drop! We both thought it was about the most delicious thing we'd ever tasted.

Sadly this was before I had a digital camera, so I have very few pictures from that day. How I wish I had a picture of that delicious bowl of soup!

I have attempted to recreate the dish we so enjoyed in Siena. This version is likely not even close to the real thing, but at any rate it is probably Robert's favorite dinner that I make. It is incredibly easy and fast to prepare and tastes great the next day too.


Pasta Fagioli

1 grocery store roasted chicken chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots or 8-10 baby carrots, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 box chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can white beans, drained
a couple of generous pinches of Italian seasonings (I used basil and oregano this time)
1 box penne pasta, cooked al dente and drained
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
Parmesan cheese, to grate over top

Saute chopped vegetables in a little bit of olive oil under tender. Add chicken, broth, beans, tomatoes and Italian seasonings. Let simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir in pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls. Grate fresh Parmesan over top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Snapshots from New York City: Race Day!

Note: Robert and I were in NYC last weekend with for him to run the NYC Marathon. Robert's twin brother, Charles, ran with him.

Charles and Robert had to catch a bus for the starting line at 5:30 so I very generously got up and took their picture before going back to bed

Charles took pictures of the marathon staging area. An estimated 43,000 runners participated in this year's NYC Marathon!

This was Robert and Charles's 13th Marathon

It was Robert's second time to run NYC, which he cites as his favorite, and Charles's first

Meanwhile, Patti and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then walked to Mile 17 (at 2nd and 64th) to try and spot our runners. Here we are passing Central Park. Aren't the leaves beautiful?

I am very blessed to have Patti for my sister-in-law. We get along very well which is handy because our husbands are extremely close

We arrived at our watching spot about 15 minutes early and edged our way to the front. Right on schedule Robert and Charles ran by! (Robert is in orange and Charles in white on the right-hand side)

"Good luck, guys! See you at the finish!"

What would be the opposite of running 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning? Perhaps sitting in a cafe near Carnegie Hall and sharing an eclair?

The Family Reunion area on Central Park West was a bit of a zoo, but we finally located Robert and Charles

The Finishers!

Charles and Robert posed with their medals as we made our back to our hotel

I'm so proud of Robert!

We enjoyed the evening wine reception at our hotel before heading out for our victory dinner (sadly this dark grainy picture taken with Charles's cell phone is the only one I got of the four of us in NY)

For dinner we met an SMU friend who'd also run in the Marathon. Lisa lives in NY and had made reservations for us at a fabulous Upper East Side Italian restaurant called Nino's

After dinner we walked around Times Square. We saw a lot of runners sporting their medals

Monday morning we did a little souvenir shopping before stopping for a slice of NY pizza and heading to the airport

Goodbye, New York! Hope to be back soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Snapshots from New York City: Day 2 (Halloween).

Saturday morning after breakfast we took a taxi to the Metropolitan Museum

The Museum is one of my favorite places in New York

Vermeer's painting
The Milkmaid is on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in this area. I am a huge fan of Vermeer. Robert had seen this painting in Amsterdam several years ago and brought me a copy that hangs in our kitchen. It is breathtaking in real life

We also briefly explored a little more of the museum before heading back to the hotel to meet Robert's brother

I loved this fall display in the lobby

The Temple of Dandur fascinates me

While Robert's brother went to the Marathon Expo, Robert relaxed in our room and I went shopping

The flats I had brought were hurting my feet so I sought some more comfortable shoes - critical in New York with all the walking I do there!

My sister-in-law Patti arrived late in the afternoon. On our way to dinner we passed the Empire State Building which was lit for Halloween

It was pouring down rain when we arrived and left, so this was the only picture I got of our restaurant (Giorgio's of Gramercy) inside or out

We seemed to be the only people in NY not wearing costumes Halloween night, but I wasn't able to get a decent picture depicting that!

Coming tomorrow: Marathon Day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Snapshots from New York City: Day 1.

Note: I did not tote along my big camera so these pictures were either taken with my little point-and-shoot or my iPhone.

I took this just after I stepped out of the taxi. I love the city!

We stayed in a wonderful little boutique hotel just off Times Square

Our room was lovely and very quiet

I got to the airport early (THAT never happens) and was able to get on an earlier flight. I arrived before Robert was done with work so I stopped for a manicure and then walked around Times Square before meeting him at his office

Robert and I walked to Rockefeller Center and watched the skaters for a bit

We stopped and bought some souvenirs for the kids at the NBC Store (a
Heroes poster for Dots and a shirt from The Office for Hockey Boy)

We enjoyed a good dinner at a restaurant called Gonzo on a beautiful little street in Greenwich Village. My lowlight pictures of the street and the interior of the restaurant were awful

Coming tomorrow: We visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Robert's twin brother and his wife arrive...