Friday, December 31, 2010

For New Year's Day: Marinated Black-eyed Peas.


Southern tradition holds that one should eat black-eyed peas on January 1st to ensure good luck for the New Year. I've made this recipe for Marinated Black-eyed Peas for about 15 years and have given them as neighbor gifts many times. I think they are fabulous, and other people seem to enjoy them as well.

Happy New Year!

Marinated Black-eyed Peas
can be halved or doubled easily

6 cans black-eyed peas (without bacon), rinsed and drained
½ large onion, sliced very thin
1½ cups olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar (the woman who gave me the recipe emphasized that she used good quality balsamic; she told me to add a pinch of sugar for lesser-grade balsamic - I think I use good balsamic so I've never added sugar!)
3 garlic cloves, smashed or bruised
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 teaspoons Cavendar's Greek Seasoning

Combine oils, vinegar and seasonings in a saucepan. Bring just to a boil. Pour over black-eyed peas and onions. Refrigerate for several days before serving, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic and bay leaves. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sweet sisters.


Dots has served as a peer tutor in Vivian's classroom this year. It has been a great experience for both of them. Vivian's teacher sent me this darling picture of the two of them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Frog on wheels.


Will is playing for TCU club roller hockey team. He seems to enjoy it and has met some nice friends that way. We've gone to see him play once, which was a lot of fun. I've really missed all of the ice hockey that dominated our lives the past seven years!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My amazing dad, part II.

I have bragged on my dad's amazing athletic skills here before.

This is a video clip of my dad climbing a rope as a freshman gymnast at Georgia Tech in 1955 and earlier this month at age 74!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas visitor.


Look who was asleep in my parents backyard here in Jackson Hole this morning!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A rosy frog.


Guess who's going to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day?!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas baking.

Cheese Drops, Cookie Press Christmas Trees and Gingerbread Boys

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

Last weekend the girls and I did some Christmas baking and prepared gifts for our neighbors.

Dots doesn't like red hots and preferred to decorate her gingerbread boys with French dragees

Dots was indignant that I didn't have a gingerbread girl cookie cutter. She improvised by making some pearl necklaces out of dragees and using extra dough to form ponytails for a few of the cookies

Vivian got in on the action and helped to decorate a few of the gingerbread boys

Vivian was very proud of the ones she did but wasn't happy that she had to wait until they were baked to eat one!

For my birthday a friend gave me this darling ribbon that I used to wrap our neighbor gifts

Ready for delivery!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Great gadgets: Harold Pie Crust Maker and Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peelers.

As I mentioned in my report on Thanksgiving dinner, I have never had any success with making my own pie crusts. The main problem that I've run into is sticky dough. I've ended up having to add so much flour in order to prevent the dough from sticking to my hands and to the rolling pin, that the dough became tough and not at all a desirable texture.

A year or two ago I read a review of the Harold Pie Crust Maker in Cook's Illustrated magazine. The author praised the pie crust tool, telling of much easier it was to roll out crust using it. The story sounded too good to be true, but the gadget was pretty inexpensive so I decided to order one for myself. It sat in my cupboard until a month or two ago when I made an apple pie for my Cooking Club.

The gadget essentially looks like a flat zippered sweater bag. You toss a tablespoon or so of flour inside, seal the bag and shake so that the flour dusts interior of the plastic disk. You then insert your refrigerated pie dough into the bag and seal it again. Taking your rolling pin, you now roll out the dough while it is inside the plastic. When you've reached your desired diameter, you unzip the bag and peel back one side. Then you invert the crust into your pie plate and peel off the second side. Voila! Perfect pie crust that requires very little handling.

The second gadget that came in handy at Thanksgiving was the Kuhn Rikon Swiss peeler. I recently took a cooking class at Sur la Table, and our instructor recommended these inexpensive little vegetable peelers. I bought one and can't believe how much easier it is to use than my old peeler. The Kuhn Rikon also removes a much thinner depth of peel, leaving more of the inside fruit or vegetable intact. At Thanksgiving I used the peeler for my apple pie, but I've also used it with potatoes and been equally pleased.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I hosted all of my family here for Thanksgiving - sixteen people (eight children and eight adults)! Everyone came in from out of town Thanksgiving Day so I did all of the food myself. I was very happy with everything turned out, and my family was most appreciative and complimentary.

On Monday I made my lists and timetable and did my grocery shopping. I made a couple of things Monday afternoon, and then spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday cooking the rest. Thursday morning I got up early to make the rolls and to get the turkey ready to go in the oven. My mom and sister did all of the cleaning up for me. That was a wonderful treat!

Grown-up Table (my sister, Marian, made the precious placecards - she's very creative with stamping and crafts; my mom gave me the fabulous Spode turkey plates as a Thanksgiving/Birthday present)

Kids Table

My brother, son and nephew ensconced in technology before dinner

Dinner is served!

Here was my menu:

Crab Bisque, served in mugs while I was getting the rest of the meal ready

Port Gravy
Southern Cornbread-Pecan Dressing
Bourbon Cranberry Sauce
Sweet Potatoes with Praline Topping
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans (Haricots Verts)
Squash Casserole
Homemade Rolls

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

I was most pleased with the dressing and the rolls. They turned out even better than I'd expected!

The ambrosia was a sentimental addition to the menu. I distinctly remember my grandmother sitting on the porch at our cabin sectioning and removing all of the pith from oranges and grating fresh coconut. I can hear my grandmother admonishing me, "Don't ever learn to make this! You'll be a slave to it forever!" Well, foolishly, I dug the recipe out of my great-grandmother's tattered copy of the aptly titled Southern Cooking by Mrs. S.R. Dull (copyright 1928). The ingredient list was simple: fresh oranges, freshly grated coconut, a little sugar and a few tablespoons of sherry - how hard could that be? Well... the oranges weren't terribly difficult once I sharpened my paring knife, but they yielded so little! I peeled and sectioned twelve juice oranges (you can't have any membrane or pith on the orange pieces) and ended up with a measly cup or two. Then I attempted to grate the coconut - what a stringy mess! I don't think I had anywhere close to the amount of coconut I was supposed to use, but I tired so quickly of grating it that I quit pretty early on in that process. I think the ambrosia tasted okay, but I'm not sure that anyone other than my mom and sister and me even tried it. I should have listened to my grandmother on that one!

I have never had good luck with homemade pie crust, but I have a new tool that is fabulous, and I was delighted with how my pie crusts turned out! I will write about that gadget tomorrow.

Will with my twin nephews Jed and Matt. I gave Will the choice of sitting at the kids table or with the grown-ups; he chose the former. Good thing, too, as I think the little boys would have been devastated had Will not sat with them! They love their big cousin

Dots with her cousins Guinn and Mary Grace

Vivian did not want to sit at the kids table (and she insisted on a
Madeline plate rather than a turkey one), but she ate a GREAT dinner and really seemed to enjoy herself

My mom, sister and brother-in-law

My brother, sister-in-law and dad

Me with my brother

Me relaxing with Tucker after dinner - we were both exhausted!

I am now busily preparing for Christmas. We took family pictures the day after Thanksgiving that I am using for my cards this year. I have never been so late starting my Christmas cards! I still don't even have my cards back yet, though I have ordered them and expect them to be ready any day. In the meantime you'd think I'd at least have my labels and Christmas letter set to go, but sadly, that is not the case either {sigh}.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A joyful noise. Or not.

Dots and I manned a Salvation Army kettle outside a nearby mall last Saturday as part of our National Charity League chapter's Philanthropy Day.

Vivian sat us with but complained often, "That bell hurts my ears!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vivian dines out.

Vivian with her classmates, peer tutors and teachers

Vivian's class took a walking field trip to a neighborhood Italian restaurant today. They had been practicing ordering and using their best table manners at school before the big outing.

I received these pictures and texts from Vivian's wonderful teacher this afternoon. It sounds like a successful experience!

We had a wonderful time today. Vivian walked to the restaurant and back, used her manners, ordered spaghetti for herself and helped me eat my pizza. She asked to take my leftover pizza home for dinner. Coach Cunningham (Eloise's note: a big PE teacher with a voracious appetite!) drove over to meet us. He offered to carry the to-go box back to school for Vivian. She politely but firmly told him, "I will carry it myself." I'm not sure she trusted him!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Dots was a "Greek Goddess" for Halloween this year. Vivian did not want to dress up or go to the block party so I have no pictures of her on Halloween!

Some neighborhood children dressed up at our block party

Robert and Tucker visited with neighbors briefly before Robert and I left for the World Series. Notice the neighbor dressed as a Dallas Cowboy. He said that was about the scariest costume he could think of this year - LOL.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall gathering.


Last night I hosted Robert's direct reports from work here for dinner. I set my table using some fall linens that my mother sent me, and I was thrilled with how pretty everything looked. Aren't the flowers gorgeous? Expect to see this table again as I am hosting Cooking Club next week and having all of my family for Thanksgiving!



For the hors d'oeuvres I served Sue's Cajun Shrimp and some Blue Cheese Appetizers (isn't that an exciting name?) that I found on Epicurious. The shrimp is a favorite standby that is always a hit, but this was the first time I'd made the blue cheese appetizers. They were quite good and extremely easy, though I might experiment with using Stilton cheese next time to see if the color looks better on the toast.


For dinner I served Beef Tenderloin, Yam and Potato Gratin, Carrot Soufflé, Haricots Verts with Feta and Pecans, and rolls. Dessert was White Chocolate Bread Pudding, also from Epicurious. I was pleased with how everything turned out. Many of the dishes were favorites of mine from past Cooking Club gatherings.

At one point during dinner I commented that I hoped our guests didn't mind that Robert had elected to have them to our home rather than taking them to a restaurant where they could have chosen what they would eat. One man responded, "Oh, no, I never choose this well in a restaurant!" I thought that was one of the nicest compliments I've ever received!


Sue’s Cajun Shrimp

4 slices bacon -- cooked and chopped (I use microwave bacon)
4 oz butter
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp thyme
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
½ tsp oregano
2 cloves garlic -- crushed
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
1½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small pan add the butter and all other ingredients except the shrimp. Simmer for 5 minutes. Place shrimp in an open baking dish, and pour sauce over the top. Stir once to coat all of the shrimp. Bake in an uncovered dish for 20 minutes.

Serve with toothpicks. You can double the amount of shrimp without increasing the amount of sauce.

Beef Tenderloin
Serves 8.

Marinate a 3½ lb. whole beef tenderloin for several hours in:
1 c red wine
¼ c salad oil
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c Worcestershire sauce
2 t parsley flakes
2 t black pepper
1 t seasoned salt
1 t sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

Let tenderloin marinate at room temperature for one hour prior to baking.

Preheat oven to 500° F. Place tenderloin on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle to taste with lemon pepper and seasoned salt. Bake at 500° for 15 minutes. Turn off oven but leave tenderloin in the oven for 45 more minutes. Do not open oven door. At the end of 45 minutes remove tenderloin from oven and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving.

Haricots Verts with Feta and Pecans
Serves 6.

1½ lb. fresh haricots verts (or green beans), trimmed and snapped into 1" pieces
⅔ c olive oil
2 T fresh dill weed, chopped
⅓ c white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 c chopped pecans, lightly toasted
½ c diced red onion
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Blanche green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes. While draining them, run cold water over to stop cooking. Whisk together oil, dill, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and onions. Place beans in serving dish and toss with pecans and feta. Just before serving, pour vinaigrette over top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Yam and Potato Gratin
Serves 8.

¾ c whipping cream
¾ t salt
¾ t ground white pepper
dash freshly ground nutmeg
1½ lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1½ lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
⅓ c snipped fresh chives
½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Butter baking dish. In a small bowl combine cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover bottom of pan with a single layer of Russet potatoes, slightly overlapping slices. Drizzle lightly with cream mixture. Cover with a single layer of sweet potatoes, arranged similarly. Drizzle lightly with cream mixture. Sprinkle with chives and Parmesan. Repeat layers, ending with Parmesan. Cover with foil, dull side out. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 30-45 minutes longer, until cheese is browned and potatoes are tender.

Carrot Soufflé

2 pounds baby carrots, cut in half
¾ cup butter, melted
6 eggs
1 c sugar
6 T flour
2 t baking powder
2 t vanilla

Cover carrots with water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, add butter and purée with a stick blender. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 2-quart soufflé dish and bake at 350° for an hour.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vivian's Summer Story.

I apologize that I have been neglectful of my blog since my wild summer.

I feel like I have been suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder: I cannot hold a thought or complete a task; I have been unable to concentrate well enough to read (until I picked up The Hunger Games for my Book Club and read it in a day last week!); I just generally don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.

When I reflect on Vivian's stay in the ICU, much of it is a blur. Every now and then I will remember something thoughtful that someone did for us while Vivian was in the hospital, and I fear that I never thanked that person properly. (I apologize if that was you! Please know that we appreciated, indeed thrived on, each and every email, note, card, meal, gift and prayer.)

Now that we're on the other side of the whole ordeal and Vivian has miraculously returned to her old self (Praise Jesus!), sometimes I find myself thinking that perhaps I exaggerated how bad things were. I've only recently been able to revisit my posts from July, and then the worry and fear come flooding back as I read my accounts of those dark days and I remember, "Oh, yes, we thought our Vivian might be severely brain damaged and we wondered if we'd ever be able to bring her home again." {sigh}

I believe that I am emerging from my haze. I hope to be cooking, entertaining, having fun adventures and blogging about them soon!

In the meantime I thought I'd share this little photo journal that I made and sent to the wonderful staff who cared for Vivian in the PICU. When we visited there after Vivian's minor surgery last month, the nurses told me how much they'd enjoyed receiving it and that they'd taped the pages up in their break room.

I printed a copy for Vivian that she likes to look at, though she gets very disturbed by the tubes and wires (especially the feeding tube in her nose, which you may recall was not real popular with her in the hospital either). She'll tell me, "The nurse needs to take that yucky string out of my nose!" Given where Vivian was this summer, what a delight and privilege it is to hear her say that!

With thanks to our Heavenly Father and the wonderful doctors and nurses in the Pediatric ICU at Medical City Children's Hospital, I present:

Vivian's Story

June 25, 2010. When I arrived at Medical City Children's Hospital, I was a very sick little girl. I had a fever of 107° and was having a lot of trouble breathing.

The nice doctors and nurses in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit hooked me up to all sorts of machines to help me get better.

For 12 days I slept while a machine helped me breathe.

When the doctors were sure I could breathe by myself, they let me start to wake up. But I was very sleepy and grumpy.

Not long after I woke up, my arm needed more surgery and I got a nice new pink cast.

I wasn't very happy about the tubes and wires that were helping me get better. The nurses ordered a new bed for me to keep me from hurting myself when I kicked and fussed. I also got to wear a funny hat and lots of ribbons on my head while the doctors did a test on my brain.

I was awake for more than a week before I said much. My first sentence was, "I don't like this place." The doctors and nurses did not take offense and instead thought that was a good sign.

Gradually I got out of bed more and took rides around the PICU in my stroller. I was too weak and wobbly to walk.

It took a while for me to get used to not being on a lot of medicine, but I became more alert each day.

I even started to laugh again!

I smiled more often.

I enjoyed spending time in my stroller with my baby Sarah, a book and a banana milkshake. I wouldn't eat real food, though, so I had to be fed through a new button on my tummy.

Finally, after 32 days in the PICU, I was well enough to go home! My mama and daddy were so grateful to all the nurses and doctors who cared for me. It was hard to say goodbye!

But it was so nice to be home!

At first I was happy just to be in my own bed with my beloved cat, Percy.

It didn't take long for me to start enjoying some of my favorite activities like coloring again.

My teacher, Mrs. Kemp, came over to work a puzzle with me. She was so impressed with how well I did!

My dog, Tucker, was glad to see me!

In no time at all I could walk by myself, though my big brother, Will, assisted me with carrying Percy.

Some nice nurses helped my mommy and daddyman take care of me at home, but after two weeks I was doing so well that I didn't need them. I didn't have to wear a cast or take IV antibiotics anymore either!

Now I eat regular food, so my family enjoys going to our favorite Mexican restaurant on Friday nights again.

I like eating my old special foods like ice cream too.

August 18, 2010. I am my happy, funny, (mostly) sweet self again!

"I prayed for this child and the Lord granted me what I asked of Him."
I Samuel 1:27

Vivian's nurses
Some of Vivian's nurses