Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I haven't been here for awhile. That's because I've been deeply engrossed with a project--completing my thesis to meet the final requirements for my Master's Degree! A little over a year and a half ago I began a program at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon. I had been researching several different programs for quite sometime, including online programs, and hadn't seen a program that I felt met my needs. The program I chose was part of Warner's ADP (Adult Degree Program), was accelerated, met one evening a week, and followed a cohort model. Most importantly, the program was called, Master's in Management and Organizational Leadership. This was a less specific degree than the Educational Leadership programs I had considered, but not as broad as my earlier attempt at a masters in Public Affairs. Perfect! So in February 2008, I met with a group of 18 people at Warner's East Campus. A few of that group didn't finish with us, but 13 of us will receive our degrees at a ceremony in December! And what a smart, wonderful group of people that I have had the privilege of knowing!
My family and friends have been right by my side throughout this journey and I couldn't have done it without their support. For the last 18 months, my schooling has taken precendent over vacations, dinners out, family events, shopping trips, and just about everything! Thank you for your patience, Dwain, Sara, Brynn, and Debbie most of all! Yesterday, the final group of 5 of us presented our theses for approval and all 5 were approved. A little celebration happened at a neat little Mexican restaurant called Dingo's. Its at 46th and Hawthorne in SE PDX. Thanks guys, it's been quite a ride!
Below is the dedication and acknowledgment from my thesis as one way of saying "Thanks" to everyone who supported me through this journey. Each and every one of you has a piece of my heart

This thesis is dedicated to my husband, Dwain, my daughters, Sara, Cara, & Brynn, and the countless friends and other family members who made it possible for me to enroll in, attend and persevere through the intense months of my master’s program. Without their love and support, all I have accomplished here would not have been possible.


To my awe-inspiring team, the ‘Couv Crew—I thank you for being there without fail every step of the way.
Jamie, your constant calm, cool, and collected demeanor kept me grounded and on track through a great many rough moments. Your talents as the class party organizer, costume maker, and provider of food made our time together more enjoyable.
Michelle, your sense of humor, willingness to open your heart and your warmth and friendship have inspired me to do my best work. Thank you for leaning on me and letting me lean on you, too.
Christine, your ability to get to the heart of the matter and keep the group on track when we’d rather be doing other things has kept me focused during many group meetings. Your work habits and single-mindedness have kept me motivated and your drive for excellence created a higher standard for me.
To my instructors, most especially Dr. Roger Martin and Dr. Toni Pauls—thank you for believing in me when I was having a hard time believing in myself. Thank you for your patience, flexibility and sense of humor. You certainly needed it with this group.
To my friends—thanks for being available when I had a sliver of time to spend with you, and not being upset when I did not.
To my husband—thanks for your patience with my need for privacy, quiet, and for never complaining about what I was feeding you.
And finally, to my classmates, Brad, Jamie, Michelle, Christine, Joslyn, Sue, Jon, Scott, Jennifer, Andrea, Simone, Emily, and Donelle—thank you for your passion, dedication, humor, curiosity, sense of fun, and friendship—it has made this journey joyful, unique, and downright remarkable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chili Cook Off

I had heard about a chili cook-off that an organization I belong to has every year and told my friend Debbie that I might like to do that. So of course, when it comes up, she called me and told me she had signed me up for it! So on Sunday I went to the grocery store for all the fixin's and yesterday spent the better part of the day cooking and tasting. Usually I make vegetarian chili, not because I'm a vegetarian, but because it is really, really good chili that has evolved over the years. My better half advised me that I probably shouldn't make the vegetarian version for anyone outside the household. I'm not sure whether I should be insulted or not ;) I was instructed to bring 5 or 6 quarts and I don't normally make that large of a quantity, so I will give you ingredients only, not amounts.

Not-Quite Vegetarian Chili
Turkey sausage (the kind that looks like keilbasa)
Kidney beans (for the large pot, I used dry, but for a normal batch I used canned)
Canned whole tomatoes
Canned chipotles in adobo sauce
Canned tomato sauce
Garbanzo beans
Sweet onions, sauteed
Red, yellow & orange bell peppers
Dried rosemary

Place the beans in a large pot and set aside.
Chop and saute the turkey sausage, remove it from the pan and add the onion, chopped, and saute until soft and clear. Add sausage & onion to the pot of beans. Chop and saute the bell peppers, also add these to the beans. Process the canned tomatoes with the chipotles and add to beans. Add tomato sauce and water until consistency is good. Season with a bit of rosemary, cinnamon and sugar. These will balance the heat of the chipotles, especially if you get it a little too hot! That's it! Easy--if you want to make it vegetarian, just leave out the sausage. The sausage gives it a rather smoky flavor that is nice.
To serve the two of us, with plenty of leftovers I use: 1/2 turkey sausage,2 cans of kidney beans, 1/2 can garbanzos, 1 smallish onion and one bell pepper. Adjust spices to taste.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bread Salad

Bread salad is a nice accompaniment for a light,

easy, weeknight dinner. I STILL have patio tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse, and fresh basil in my kitchen garden, so last night I made this simple little salad to go along with oven-roasted halibut with cheese sauce. The bread salad didn't sound very appealing, but is very tasty. Begin with a few small tomatoes and an english cucumber--cut them into bite-size chunks, add a handful of fresh mozzarella pearls, or cut similarly sized chunks of fresh mozzarella. Add some fresh basil

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lack of planning

Sometimes I go to the idea cupboard and it is bare. Last night was a good example. With a hungry husband at my elbow, I rooted around and found a few staples in the freezer and pantry and came up with a meal that sated our hunger but would inspire no one. Frozen chicken breasts, frozen baby brussel sprouts and baby yukon gold potatoes. On another day I might have found a new chicken recipe or grilled the chicken, and added some fresh herbs to the potatoes, but on this day, I had little left to give, so I breaded the chicken with my old stand-by, Krusteaz, and threw it in the oven, added a little butter and balsamic and zapped the sprouts, and dropped the potatoes in a pot of boiling water. The outcome certainly wasn't a particularly pretty meal, or one that left us making sounds of pleasure, but the meal was a good example of what happens in many households at the end of a long day. It is likely that different circumstances of the day might have led to a different result, but I had a long, full day working on my thesis, and didn't have much brain power left to come up with something more interesting. There are a few hardy herbs still growing in my backdoor garden, along with a few tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse, so I will attempt to make good use of them over the next few days. My lovely eldest daughter and I were discussing the problem of "meal inspiration" today and agreed that sometimes meals get thrown together in the "5 o'clock" panic! She had the good idea of setting up a meal plan for a week or a month, thereby making life a bit easier when 5 o'clock rolls around, like it just keeps doing. Of course, with a new baby in the house, she has all the more reason to stay organized and on top of things.

Monday, September 28, 2009


A good day, in my book, is any day that I get to have sushi, and today was one of those days. We drove to Vancouver late this afternoon to drop some things off with our accountant and to purchase a kitty carrier at PetSmart. Before we left, I looked for a couple of the restaurants on Yelp that I have been wanting to try. One of them was a "conveyor belt" style sushi place in Hazel Dell called Sushi Tsunami. The reviews were good and it turned out that it was right on our way. The sushi gods were smiling upon me. My dear husband, though, is not such a fan of sushi as I. He goes along because he sees how much I really love it--thank you, honey! The concept behind the conveyor belt sushi restaurant is that instead of a sushi chef who makes your sushi to order, a wide variety of sushi rolls around the room and each person is free to pluck what they want from the belt. Each plate is a different color and each color is a different price. Dwain ordered a bento dinner that had a salad, veggie tempura, teriyaki chicken & rice, and two pieces of what looked like California roll. We shared a plate of edamame and some sort of tempura appetizer that was very light & tasty. Then I rolled my sleeves up and got busy choosing: I had tuna, shrimp, octopus and yellowtail, and they were all very, very good. Curiously, at both of the conveyor belt sushi places I've visited I was surprised to see plates of sesame balls, which I thought were a Chinese dish and had previously had only at dim sum restaurants. Sushi and sesame balls at the same meal! How did I get this lucky? Oh, and Dwain's favorite part of the meal? Our whole meal was around $30, beverages and tip included. I'll be going back to Sushi Tsunami, and if you want to go, you'll find it at 7415 NE Highway 99, Vancouver, WA.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes

Not only one of my favorite movies of all time, preparing and eating Fried Green Tomatoes is a fall ritual for me. Somehow, preparing and eating the last of the tomato harvest in this way marks a transition from the warm summer months to a cooler fall. My kids will tell you that I am a bit nuts about this dish. They didn't like tomatoes at all as children, and to eat the dastardly fruit before it was ripe must have seemed like lunacy. Yesterday at the Farmer's Market, Brynn was quick to remind me how I used to "make" my daughters eat them. I remember it a little differently, of course. My mother-in-law introduced me to fried green tomatoes when I was young and newly married and I've prepared them nearly every fall since. I played around with the recipe a bit this year and it turned out quite good. Tonight I served them with large scallops, fried, using the same coating mixture and mashed baby red potatoes.

Fried Green Tomatoes

4 or 5 large green tomatoes

Slice about 1/4" thick and set aside

Mix together:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 T. panko bread crumbs

1 t. sugar

1/2 t. each: chipotle chile powder, mesquite seasoning, & Johnny's seasoning salt

Cover bottom of heavy skillet with peanut oil and heat

Dredge tomato slices in flour mixture and fry, being careful not to burn.

Drain on paper towels before serving.

Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Sour cream

Chipotle Chile Powder

Mix as mild or as spicy as you like and serve with tomatoes

Hugo's Big Adventure

Hugo the cat is about to have a big adventure. Hugo is a cat that Cara, my darling step-daughter adopted in Morocco shortly after she started her stint there two years ago. Cara has always seen herself as more of a "dog person," she tells me, but the tiny bundle of fur that was Hugo stole her heart and she soon found that she was unwilling to leave him when her Peace Corps service ended. People do not typically keep pets in Morocco. Cats and dogs roam the streets wild and are seen by most as a menace. Cara's Moroccan family was most surprised to see that the cat was tame, as most animals that they see are feral . So, soft-hearted cat-lover that I am, said "bring him home, he can live here." Now that her Peace Corps service is almost over, there have been many emails, instant messages, Skype sessions, and phone conversations concerning Hugo's Big Adventure. We weren't sure at first just how difficult it might be to bring a cat into the U.S. from Africa. There are rules, you know. But it hasn't proven to be as difficult as we thought--the normal (in the U.S. anyway) vaccinations, a health certificate, some kitty sedatives and we were set. Then we started thinking about the logistics of travelling such a distance with an animal whose species typically despises even a ride in an automobile. So today we are in search of the supplies that Cara will need to make sure Hugo can complete his great adventure: an airline approved carrier that will fit under the airline seat (Hugo's mom had quite a few specifications about this), a fold-up litter pan, ziploc bags of kitty litter, and "absorbent pads" for the bottom of the carrier. Kind of like shopping for all the stuff you need to send your kid off to camp. Or college. Hugo will probably be more comfortable in coach than the rest of the passengers on his flight from Northern Africa to his new home in Southwest Washington!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tuscan Inspired Dinner

What to do with all that beautiful food I brought home earlier from the Farmer's Market? A glance inside my refrigerator at the already defrosted chicken breasts gave me the appropriate shove in the right direction. Another look around and I spotted a half a dozen Bartlett pears that needed eating sooner rather than later. A chunk of Asagio cheese aced it. An Italian theme it would be. A no-brainer for the chicken. A quick marinade made from balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary and garlic flavored sea salt and it would be ready to grill. The pears? A salad, made from baby greens, heart of romaine, slivered red bell pepper, diced pear, and grated asagio. A dressing for this salad was a bit of a problem, but here's what I came up with. Sweet Moscato wine and EVOO, garlic sea salt, a pinch of sugar and a bit of lemon peel. Nope, I don't usually measure--I've learned over the years though, that dressings should be heavy on the acidic ingredient (vinegar, wine, etc.) and light on the oil. If I were measuring I might start with a quarter cup to one tablespoon. Two ears of yellow corn that I scored from the market went into a pot of water on the stove, and I found some Red Pepper/Artichoke Tapenade for the chicken in my pantry. Oh, and not to forget those beautiful red Anaheims that get grilled as well. Now, if Dwain would just get home, we could fire up the grill! I think I'll go down to the wine cellar and look for a bottle of Sangiovese. Sangiovese is the primary grape in Chianti, a wine from the Tuscany area of Italy, and a nice compliment to the meal I have planned. Cheers!

Farmer's Market

I had the best of intentions to work on my thesis this morning, until my lovely daughter, Brynn called and asked if I'd like to go to the Farmer's Market with her. I go to the market quite often in the spring, for plant starts and during the summer, but it usually isn't something that I think of in the Fall. There was quite a variety of inspiration: corn, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and of course, pumpkins and gourds. I bought some Anaheim Chiles that had been allowed to turn red (they are a little warmer than the green ones) that will be good on the grill, some fresh corn, and some green tomatoes. Brynn bought some basil, corn, an aloe plant and some Greek Focaccia Bread that looked very good. Snide comments were made about the times that I "made" my children eat fried green tomatoes. I like them dredged in a 50/50 mix of flour and cornmeal, along with whatever spices sound good at the moment, then pan fried in a bit of olive oil. Seems that they might be good dipped in a chipotle-sour cream sauce, but I will also do a little research on dipping sauces before I make them.

Saturday Breakfast

Have you ever tried Greek Yogurt? I picked up some plain, Greek-style yogurt at Trader Joe's last week. The first time I had tried it was at a retreat at The Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth, Washington(http://www.sleepinglady.com/). The Sleeping Lady is a really cool retreat center and famous for their breakfast "buffet." It is quite good and they make good use of their on-site organic garden. At The Sleeping Lady, a bowl of greek-style yogurt was served with reconstituted dried apricots. It appeared that they soaked the apricots in water and perhaps added some honey or agave to thicken the resulting sauce. I doubt that it needed sweetening though. So, this morning I was going to have a bowl of lovely northwest blueberries and spied the greek yogurt container sitting there in the refrigerator. Put a couple of dollops in a bowl and added the previously mentioned blueberries. I can tolerate and occasionally even enjoy regular yogurt, but this stuff is great! I am also going to try it with some of the blackberry jam I made last month mixed in, and it might be good where we might typically use sour cream.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grilled Pizza--the Experiment

I bought some fresh pizza dough the other day at TJ's, thinking that a grilled pizza would be a great way to use some of my end-of-the season garden bounty. I found several recipes and this helpful video on Allrecipes : http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Grilling-Pizza-Video/Detail.aspx

It makes it look easy, and even though I had my doubts, I proceeded to put things together for a grilled pizza tonight. Grilling pizza sounded like a great idea. A crisp, smoky, charred-just-a-bit crust. Mmmmm. But, let's get one thing clear. I'm a good cook, but I suck at most baking. Including bread. I even screwed up bread with the bread machine. So I was nervous going in, but watching the video made me confident that I could do it. The pizza dough was way too soft to attempt putting it on the grill, so I punted and put it on two baking trays in the oven. Made the kitchen very hot, since it was around 80 today. I made a fresh tomato sauce with oregano, marjoram and rosemary, a dash of sugar, and some mesquite grilling spice for a smoky flavor. I heated it a bit to give it a nice consistency before putting it on the dough. Then I added fresh mozzarella. I had a container of mozzarella "pearls," and used those. Then another addition from my garden, a bit of fresh basil. Toppings I used were shrimp, fresh mushrooms, sweet onion, and red bell pepper, but as you know, you can use most anything on pizza. Use your imagination. The final product was not what I had hoped for, but it was a passable homemade pizza. I think next time I will try grilling an already cooked Boboli crust.

Gorgeous Cupcakes!

Since I seem to be focusing on food, here's a picture of the cupcakes that Gabe's mom, Norma made for the wedding. They had a small cake for the cutting ceremony, but these were for the guests. The pansies on top were sugared and terribly yummy. Everyone was impresssed and the caterer even asked me who made them. So pretty!

Lots and lots of jalepeno ideas!

I did a little research today about what to do with all my jalepenos. I could: freeze them, can them, pickle them, dry them, make them into jelly, or any number of interesting and tasty alternatives. This website: http://www.pepperfool.com/recipe_home.html has enough pepper recipes to boggle your mind. Me? I'm either going to make jalepeno jelly or a fun sounding recipe I found for Green Apple-Jalepeno Chutney. Here it is:

Green Apple- Jalapeno Chutney
1 1/2 pounds ripe green or yellow apples (about 4)
1 large papaya, seeded -- peeled and chopped
2 medium onion -- cut up
1 medium sweet red pepper -- cut up
8 jalapeno (about 1/2 cup) -- cut up
1 1/4 cups white or cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash, core & cut up apples. Use a food processor to chop the apples, papaya, onions, red pepper & jalapenos, processing the ingredients in about 5 batches. Or, finely chop with sharp knife. You should have about 6 cups total mixture.
In a 4-qt pot, combine the chopped fruits & vegetables, vinegar, sugar, raisins, mustard & salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
NOTES : Makes about 7 half-pint jars.


I made a comment on Facebook today that I needed ideas for things to do with all the jalepenos I have in the greenhouse, and it occured to me how often I make posts on FB about food. In this case, I have an abundant amount of jalepenos growing in my greenhouse, and wasn't quite sure what to do with them. I got some great suggestions: oven-roasting, freezing, jalepeno jelly, drying them into chipotle... I think that I will follow up on those ideas and post what I learn, and any recipes I find here.

The Wedding

The wedding is over, my youngest daughter had the day of her dreams and is beginning her life with her new husband, Gabe. It's been an eventful few weeks. Brynn and Gabe got married at Hoffstadt Bluffs, which is a visitors center near Mt. St. Helens that the county owns and rents out for weddings. The weather here in SW Washington is usually pretty nice in September, but we had an exquisite day. Friends and family came together to celebrate and it really was a perfect day. Dwain and I even headed to the "after party" with the kids for awhile--that was fun.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Costco, Company and New Computer

I was going to make a "quick" run to Costco with Debbie this morning, but she wasn't feeling well and I dinked around for a couple of hours deciding if I wanted to go by myself. Then I found out that Sara and Cameron (my lovely eldest daughter and grand-daughter) were coming this evening rather than tomorrow as I expected. So I threw a pork loin in the crock pot with onions, green chilies and a few spices and headed out. Of course a Costco trip is NEVER quick and I ended up buying a dock for my IPhone that I have been thinking about. When I got back to town I stopped and picked up my new desktop computer that a Jim Gray at Team Electronics built for me. I'm looking forward to getting it set up. He had the coolest thing in his shop--a computer built inside one of those red tool boxes--not the really huge ones, but the kind that you can carry around. He built it for a guy who has a red tool box in his business logo. Pretty cool. He was talking about building computers in other unique boxes like one of those old floor standing wooden radios. It seems that we have integrated computers in our lives to such an extent that customizing them in this way to fit our interests and lifestyles makes a lot of sense.
Sara and Cameron will be here soon, so I think it will be tomorrow before I set the computer up. I'm going to toast some Ciabatta rolls to serve the pork on and cook some corn on the cob. Yum.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let's Begin!

I've been thinking about blogging for a while now, and was even more intrigued after watching Julie and Julia a couple of weeks ago. What a great movie! I was young when Julia Child was on television, but I remember seeing her occasionally. She was really "bigger than life" and I enjoyed learning more about her. My own life is all about change right now, so I thought that it might be interesting and helpful to try and chronicle it here.

I recently became unemployed after working at a community college for over eight years. Finding a new job here is the same as it is most anywhere right now--difficult at best. So finding a new job is part of the agenda. I'm also trying to complete my thesis for graduate school and finding it difficult to get moving on it. It has to be ready by mid-October and I am still dragging my feet.

Sunday was my 50th birthday. My best attempts at letting it slip by quietly were quashed by the people who love me and thought that I should have a celebration. The party was terrific and I got to spend a lovely evening with people who love me--well, at least like me enough to come by and drink wine with me! We barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs and everyone brought some kind of food--there wasn't a bare space on any counter in my kitchen! I opened and shared the last bottle of 2002 Maryhill Reserve Zinfandel that we have been saving for a special occasion. It was yummy and I got to share it with my favorite winos!