Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Growing Beans

We've been experimenting in the garden again this year. The little boy helped plant beans and other things and likes to look and see how they're doing. The beans and flower mix seem to be doing the best of all. Water is not a cause for lack of growth since we've had more than enough of that. I still wish a little more sun would peak through in the backyard plot. We'll see how the herbs and other seeds we've planted in pots along the driveway turn out. That may be where we have our garden from now on.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chai Tea

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Regina and Sudheer for dinner. Our church partners with them in their ministry in India. After dinner, they offered to make the group chai tea, and of course we accepted! Here's the recipe for a group of eight (one serving each).

Regina and Sudheer's Chai Tea

4 mugs of water
4 mugs of milk (whole milk preferred)
8 tea bags (caffeinated tea preferred)
8+ TBSP sugar
about 3/4 TBSP finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp of cinnamon


  1. Add milk, water, tea bags, sugar, ginger, and cinnamon to pot.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for several minutes.
  3. Taste, and add additional sugar if desired.
  4. When you like how it tastes, turn the heat off. Remove the tea bags, and strain the liquid to remove the ginger solids.
  5. Pour, serve, and enjoy!

Yield: about 8 servings

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Last week we enjoyed these chicken fajitas, and especially loved the homemade guacamole. I've had a hard time getting a good avocado in the past, but this time it was perfectly ripe. I do laugh when I read the directions and it says preparation time takes 20 minutes. I suppose I could buy pre-cut onion, peppers, tomatoes, chicken, and crushed garlic, but I try to make dinner inexpensively. So, it took me a bit longer to get the ingredients list prepped, and then perhaps it was 20 minutes to cook but definitely not 20 minutes total. This recipe got top ratings from my critics, so it will be returning to our menu.

Chicken Fajitas modified from "Allegry-free Cookbook"

3 TBSP olive oil
1 red onion, halved and sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 large green peppers, cut into strips
4 tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 large ripe avocado
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 TBSP chopped fresh chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper
few drops Tabasco (optional)
8 tortillas


  1. To make the guacamole, scoop the flesh of the avocado into a small bowl and mash with the chives. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Add a few drops of Tabasco, if desired.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the onion, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes, and stir-fry until nearly tender, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the spices and herbs and season to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas on a covered plate over a pan of simmering water or wrapped in a damp towel and warmed briefly in the microwave.
  4. To serve, divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas, top each with a spoonful of guacamole, and roll up. You can also add a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt, grated cheddar cheese, or shredded lettuce, if desired.

Yield: about 4 servings

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm working on a gift for a special baby boy born last Saturday. I'll post pictures after he receives it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Latest Pizza Recipe

We like to test out new pizza crust recipes, but I realized I haven't shared our latest go-to recipe. We've been using this one for over a year. It's the recipe we reach for when we just want to get it done right the first time and know we'll like the result. Also, I'll generally do two batches, leaving one to rise for dinner. I'll put the second batch into sealed containers after I divide it up and place it directly into the freezer. Then when I can't take time to make dough (though it doesn't feel like it takes very long now), I just have to remember to take it out of the freezer the morning of the day I want to use it.

Pizza Crust Recipe

1 3/4 C warm water (100-110 F)
1 1/2 TBSP honey
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
22 1/2 oz. bread flour
2 tsp salt


  1. Mix honey into water, then add yeast, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix bread flour and salt in bowl of mixer.
  3. Add yeast mixture to the flour and knead with the dough hook. Dough should pull away from sides of the bowl and still stick to the bottom slightly. If the dough is too sticky, add a small amount of flour.
  4. Check the dough periodically, and do a windowpane test. When the dough stretches without breaking, stop kneading.
  5. Divide dough into three equal portions, and gently work them into a ball. Spray three bowls with cooking spray, and add dough.
  6. Cover each dough ball with a thin layer of cooking spray, then cover the bowl with a towel. Allow dough to rest in a warm place at least until double in size (about 45 minutes to an hour), but feel free to leave it on the counter all day.
  7. Preheat oven to 550 F or as high as your oven will allow.
  8. Gently work dough into a 14-15" circle.
  9. Cover pizza with desired toppings, and brush crust with olive oil. Bake on stone until crust is golden brown (about 7 minutes).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Play Ball!

Last weekend we picked up a couple items to make the little boy a new bat. He was given this great bat for his birthday, but he's still a bit too small to swing it well. We've been intending to find or make a lighter and smaller version for him for some time and finally did it.

We picked up a wooden dowel and some pipe insulation for a couple dollars. After tightly wrapping one layer of insulation around the dowel and securing it with duct tape, we put a second layer on the upper portion of the bat to leave a handle on the lower end and then wrapped the whole thing in duct tape. Even when we were just picking up the materials, the little boy was yelling, “Bat! Bat! Bat!” I'm not sure how he knew, but luckily our concerns that he wouldn't want to use the new, lighter bat were relieved. Now he's happily and comfortably playing ball...ALL DAY LONG!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rainbow of Peppers

We've enjoyed all colors of peppers the last couple weeks, either eating them raw as a snack before meals, on our pizza, or in other dishes (delicious fajitas recipe coming up soon). The little boy also enjoys requesting the peppers by color, usually asking for the orange or yellow ones but eating all that are on his plate. If only there were blue and purple peppers available, too. Just after I took this picture, he said a very happy, "Yum."

He got so excited about decorating the pizza that he placed his final pepper strips on it after it came out of the oven. Peppers must be a good pizza topping both cooked or raw.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Operation Rainy Day Entertainment

In the middle of the winter when we kept getting snowstorms, I decided to brighten up the view in our kitchen with some kid crafts. We used some finger painted projects to make a mobile, and since the little boy likes to count, I used his paintings to make a counting wall with red and white circles. I had intended to add to the wall with more colors and shapes, but then things started to warm up, and we were outside most of the time. Last week we had a rainy day that required a full day of indoor entertainment. We started with some finger painting, then origami, before several long reads, and a long nap. Now the mobile has a mama made and a baby made butterfly joining the previously hanging ladybug and fish, and the counting wall has more colors and even a little frog hopping around. Looks like we'll need new windows to count beyond nine.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Egg Free Baking: Orange Cupcakes

I wish I had a group of people to consult about egg free recipes. I always put so much trust in published recipes and get disappointed when they fail me. This recipe was half failure and half success. The original recipe calls for putting the batter in a 12 cup bundt pan. I was wanting to serve a small dessert to four people, so I followed all the directions except I put the batter in 4 mini bundt pans plus (luckily) five mini muffin pans. Based on my experience with "normal" recipes, this shouldn't have made a difference.

The mini bundt cakes never set. I cooked them for the suggested time and longer and longer until I gave up. The tops browned nicely, but the insides were a gooey mess. Thankfully, the five mini muffins came out beautifully, so I had the needed dessert.

The icing was my addition since the original recipe calls for putting an orange glaze over the cake, but I wanted them to be more festive with icing.

Mouthwatering Orange Cake modified from "Bakin' Without Eggs"

1/2 C butter or margarine, room temperature
1 C sugar
1/2 C no-fat sour cream or yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP grated orange peel
1/4 C orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 C vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter mini muffin pans and dust with flour. Tap out excess flour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter or margarine and sugar. Cream with a hand held mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes, until fluffy.
  3. With mixer at same speed, beat sour cream or yogurt, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange peel, orange juice concentrate, and oil. Mix for another 3 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean and tops are golden. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 20 servings

Icing Recipe

Combine 4 oz. cream cheese (softened), 2 TBSP butter, 1 tsp orange juice, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 2 C powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth, adding a little bit of extra orange juice until reaching the desired consistency.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Seven Last Words of Christ

On Good Friday my church performed The Seven Last Words of Christ by Théodore Dubois. It was a joy to perform with so many great musicians, including soloists Susan Hagler, Bill Johnson, and Jose Sacin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (It starts around the fourteen minute mark, so scroll ahead.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pieced Potholders

Here's a set of potholders I made for my friend's bridal shower. I received several wonderful boxes of fabric scraps from my husband's grandmother a couple years ago and always love to find a good use for them. First you see all the pieces of one of the potholders laid out (pattern, backing piece, two inside pieces from towels, and the three front pieces).

Here are the two smaller potholders complete on the top, the larger one to the left pinned with the front pieces and inside towel layers sewn together, and the larger one to the right with a basting stitch ready to attach the bias tape.

Finally, here are the fronts and backs of all four completed potholders.