Monday, February 25, 2013

Amazing Grace

My uncle Charles passed away this past weekend. He was a really good guy. I have thirty years of memories of time spent with him and my Aunt Doris, and cousins Kim and John, and then Kim's daughter Ashley, at Sun Valley Lake in Southwestern Iowa. Every Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend (with a few "skips" because of moving to Japan, or other commitments) was spent at the lake...sometimes just "us", and other times with additional family and lots of friends.

I credit him COMPLETELY with my love of riding around in the front of a speedboat...the wind whipping my face...the spray of the water occasionally drenching me...and the absolute feeling of freedom as we sped around and around and around that AWESOME lake!

I've been asked to sing at the visitation. I swore that I'd never sing again after the "breakdown" I had ATTEMPTING to sing at my Grandma Reynolds funeral. But...he specifically asked me to sing, and he specifically chose this song, so I've recorded it on a site called "The Karaoke Channel Online".

Here's the finished product... 

Here's hoping you have loved ones to hug, memories to cherish, and amazing people in your life too!!!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Connie and Sol's Wedding

Sunday night my friend Connie married her fiancee Sol in a GORGEOUS restored Victorian house on the bluffs overlooking downtown St. Paul.  Let me START by saying that Sunday night is an AWFUL, CRUEL time to get married (since WORK looms large and ugly for MOST of us the next morning), and let me continue by saying that this was the SHORTEST ceremony I have ever attended.  In total, with vows, and the exchange of rings, it lasted A TOTAL of NINETY SEVEN SECONDS!!!  Seriously.

LUCKILY, the rest of the evening was spent at a LAVISH dinner, prepared by the bride and groom, in the tent-draped attic of the house...TOTALLY cool!

Here are some photos of the adventure...

ready for the big event!!!

my buddy Lynn and me!!!
Lynn and her husband Rick
the ninety seven second ceremony (yes...he's wearing a kilt)!
the happy couple at the dinner in the attic!
me and Laura (one of my reading intervention counterparts at Lincoln Center) at dinner
Lynn and her VEGETARIAN lasagna!!
the chandelier in the attic!
one of the many GORGEOUS fireplaces in the house!
the cake
Connie and Sol cutting the cake
pouring the champage
me and the LOVELY bride!!!
Here's hoping YOU were able to help dear friends celebrate something lovely too!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Did Not Win...

We held our SIXTH annual "Taste Off" at school a few weeks ago.  If you've been following my blog, you will remember that it's a yearly cooking competition, whose genesis was in a "discussion" at lunch a few years back as to WHO made the best tater tot casserole (or, here in the freezing northland, hotdish).

I didn't win that first contest, nor did I win it the next three years (which is REALLY stupid...since I was the one who tallied the votes, and could TOTALLY have rigged the contest EVERY year....stupid honesty...).

Anyway, each year a "special" ingredient is chosen as the "key ingredient" of the dish.  The year I DID win, not surprisingly, that ingredient was BACON!!!!

This year's ingredient was POTATOES.  I thought I had it in the bag with my "Hachis Parmentier" (French Shepherd's Pie), but, alas, is was not meant to be.  Perhaps, it was the fact that I converted an oven recipe to a crock pot recipe, and it just didn't have the KICK that it does when the mashed potatoes brown on the top, and the layer of cheese over that gets golden and crispy.

Whatever the reason, my co-worker Ryan's "Sausage Kale Potato Soup" won, and I got stuck putting someone else's photo in the frame that I Mod-Podged for the occasion, yet again.

No worries!  Next year's ingredient is PEANUT BUTTER, and I'm QUITE adept at using it as a cooking/baking/frying staple.  So...who knows,  maybe NEXT year's post and accompanying photo WILL be of "yours truly"...

Until's the frame I created (with Ryan's photo)...

...and here's the recipe for "Hachis Parmentier"...which really is QUITE good!!!!!

Hachis Parmentier

Yields: 8-10 servings


2lb. ground beef
3T. parsley
1Vidalia onion, chopped
½c. sliced carrots
3T. fatty bacon, crumbled
½c. shiraz (or other sweet red wine)
2T. breadcrumbs
¾c. beef stock
tsp. nutmeg
1c. bechamel sauce (see recipe within THIS recipe)(mix remaining 1 c. bechamel with pasta for another meal!)
1tsp. garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1c. grated Gruyere cheese
2pkgs. Bob Evans Original Mashed Potatoes


Mix and mince the beef, parsley, garlic, nutmeg, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper.

Soften the onion and carrot slices in a little bit of butter. Add wine. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add the meat mixture, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

After removing from oven, fold in the bechamel sauce (TO MAKE BECHAMEL SAUCE: Melt 3 T. butter. Add 3 T. flour and whisk until bubbly. Add 2 cups Half & Half. Stir until thickened and bubbly).

Place a layer of mashed potatoes in a glass baking dish. Alternate with layers of the meat mixture until you finish with a layer of mashed potatoes. Cover with breadcrumbs, and sprinkle with several bits of butter. Finish with layer of Gruyere cheese.

Cook at 425 degrees until the top of the Hachis Parmentier becomes golden brown.

Serve with a crisp salad, and dinner rolls.
Here's hoping YOU created something yummy recently too (and, if you entered it in a contest, you actually WON!!!)!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Standby Travel...

...makes me crazy...I'll freely admit that.  I like to plan, and organize, and anticipate, and the "spur of the moment" frantic-ness of last minute standby travel is unsettling and frustrating.

Today, however, was a "game changer"!  Duane mentioned last weekend, as we were watching Lidia Bastianich cook another MOUTH WATERING Italian dish on "Lidia's Italy", that she has a restaurant in Kansas City.

We've been to Kansas City a couple of times, and we LOVE it's a city, but kind of laid back, with a Southern/Midwestern vibe...good antiquing, great art museums, and a really cool World War I monument and museum.  Every time we go, we find great things to occupy our time.

Sooo....while watching the show, he suggested that we go to Lidia's restaurant for brunch, we did!  We got up, checked seat availability, got ready, headed to the airport, caught a morning flight, went to the restaurant...and the restored train depot (gorgeous!)...and the antique mall...and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art...and even had a few minutes to walk around the grounds of the monument!  (We have learned to cover A LOT of ground in a very short amount of time!)

After "power sightseeing", we headed back to the airport (we were even able to get first class seats on the way back), and made it home by 6:30...a full day, but REALLY, REALLY fun, and spontaneous,!!

Here are some photos from our day...

Here's hoping YOU were able to enjoy a spontaneous journey recently too!!!!