Thursday, October 31, 2013

TREATS! tricks.

Happy Halloween!

~later, looking forward to tonight's sugar rush, tw

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

National Candy Corn Day

Picture of Candy Corn Cordials Recipe
Celebrating that it's fat-free and only 140 calories per handful (making it one of the "healthier" choices for Halloween), October 30th (the day BEFORE Halloween) is National Candy Corn Day.  I don't know who actually got that one approved (because candy corn is consistently voted Least Loved Halloween Candy) but here is a way you grownups might enjoy it:

 Candy Corn Cordial (from the FoodNetwork)

~later, tw

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Christmas? Already??

This past Saturday we had a family/friends gathering with a purpose.  Our son-in-law (Travis) is currently deployed and his unit will not be home for the holidays.  Because we need to allow (LOTS of) time for shipping, we got together a group to work on making Christmas stockings for stuffing in the not-too-distant future.

The project was a simple one (I kept telling everyone that I started doing this project 20 years ago with first graders so I was pretty sure they could handle it!).  Stockings were traced and cut from felt:

A bit of typecasting here - John is tracing the pattern
with chalk (appropriate for a brand new teacher!)

Michael cuts out stockings (and is in charge of keeping the troops
"hydrated" - which must explain why he's working at the bar!

Marah cuts out the green stockings

Even Jax was put to work getting
the proper pieces together for
me to sew.
Yours truly assembling
the stockings.

To assemble, the stockings were then sewn together. 

Jeff gives a final "pink"
to the stockings.

Last step before heading to the decorators:  the edges were trimmed with pinking shears.  Then the stockings were decorated with puffy paints, glitter pens and felt scraps.  We had quite a group - 15 adults, one 4-year-old, 2 toddlers, one infant.  At one time or another I saw every single adult either with scissors in hand or decorating stockings (who knew some of these guys were so crafty!)  Though they tried to "mass produce" some elements for the stockings, they actually turned out quite unique and wonderful. 

Shh!  Don't tell Travis!

Aunt Marne helped Jax decorate a Christmas stocking for his dad.


Elizabeth helped keep Milo entertained.
Mark goes "old school" - keeping
the baby asleep while watching
the game!

People took turns minding the little ones as well (I saw several of the "grandpas" holding Milo at some point during the afternoon/evening). 

Gerry & Pete (in the background) start dinner prep.
Pete & Jeff "stirrin' &; saucin'"

While some were still working on stockings, others turned to the dinner portion of our event: a potluck stir fry.  Everyone brought things to contribute and we filled the new 10 ft. island with all sorts of veggies (bok choy, edamame, shredded cabbages, water chestnuts, mushrooms and more) and goodies (like chicken, shrimp, crabmeat and yakisoba noodles).  We handed out large bowls and people could toss in their selections and head to the cooktop to make their sauce selection and where Pete, Jeff and yours truly took turns doing the actual stir frying.  Even the kids loved it!

An having dinner with Elizabeth and Jax.
Shay digging in!


Jenny, Gerry & I owe a HUGE thank you to:
Carol, Mark, Jeff, An, Marne, Pete, Marah, Adra,
Sam, Cindy, John, and Michael! 
I know that Travis and his unit are going to have a
much merrier Christmas because of your efforts!!!!

The finished results:


~later, counting...days 'til Christmas, days 'til Travis comes home, but most of all my many, MANY blessings, tw

Monday, October 28, 2013

No Delivery???

No problem!

We live pretty much out in the country.  Okay, truth be told my favorite grocery store is only four miles away (or a "good stretch of the legs") and there's another one that's only 1 1/2 miles away so it's not like we're in outer Mongolia or anything (though the kids did refer to it as "Wyoming" when we first moved here...and not in a good way either!)

But we are (or at least were until recently) in the middle of a "Bermuda Triangle" when it came to pizza delivery.  We were just far enough away from at least three different communities to put us out of reach as far as getting a pie delivered.  (I suppose that was actually a good thing - being able to phone in an order for dinner delivery is not something one should really get used to.)

And it's not like I can't make my own.  I've taken a class and I've got a KILLER dough recipe - it's simple, it can make A LOT and it's from Wolfgang Puck so you know it's good.  All prerequisites for our large group "bring a topping, make your own but share with everyone" pizza parties!  They are definitely a lot of fun and while I don't mind the work for those party occasions, it's a bit of overkill for just the two of us and I find that two risings are not conducive to last minute planning.

Unfortunately, that does not diminish my love for the pie.

Recently I came across two fabulous notions that will allow me to get a pizza in the oven and whip up a salad to accompany it in less time that you-know-who's-30-minutes-or-less-promise:

    Sausage and Spinach Skillet Pizza
  • Dough.  Commercially prepared pizza dough.  Did you know you can buy this already made up?  I mean, I know I had heard you can often buy it right from your favorite pizza place but I'd just never seen it before.  I've used those Boboli ones and even the one in the tube from the tubby doughboy.  They are okay...but not really the same thing (and considering their shelf life are you really surprised?)  My amazing "here she goes again about Full Circle Farm" produce company now carries organic prepared pizza dough from The Essential Baking Company.  All of their Artisan at Home products are incredible and many of them area available from Full Circle Farm (some can even be found at Seattle areas Costco as well).  For ~$4, I can order their Artisan at Home Pizza Dough which is exactly enough to make...

I printed the recipe originally because I actually had everything in my house...without making a special trip to the store and that in itself it often cause for celebration around here. The great thing about this recipe is that you don't have to cook the sauce - just mix up the ingredients.  I find the sauce recipe makes enough for at least two pizzas so I just put half in the fridge for next week's pizza.  But I have learned a couple of tricks as well...

Terri's tips:
  • Of course now that I've discovered how much we love it, my Costco is no longer carrying it...but if you happen to come across some of their bulk chicken Italian sausage - try it!  It's incredibly delicious (and reduces a lot of the fat...and some of the guilt...of eating sausage in the first place!)
  • If you're going to use fresh mozzarella, you're going to have to slice it thin.  In order to shred the really good fresh stuff, you've got to unwrap it and let it set (preferably overnight) in your fridge (otherwise your pizza will be "watery" - a little "wet" when it comes out of the oven but if there are any leftovers you won't notice it on the re-heat.)
  • Use any vegetables you like - great "clean out the veggie bin meal" (I never make it the same way twice) but a) don't overload; and b) don't be afraid of the spinach.  (I've even used Swiss chard and it's delicious!)
  • When working with the store-bought dough,
    • Let is set out 1/2 hour before you need it (so it can come back to room temp),
    • Roll it out and then (AND THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!) LET IT REST FOR 10 MINUTES.  I seriously cannot stress this enough.  The gluten in the flour has a "memory" - but it's pretty short-term.  If you don't let it "REST" for the 10 minutes, it will try to resume it's previous NOT ROLLED out shape and this will cause serious "shrinking" - not a good thing!
    • To keep the "crust" from rolling back into the pizza, I put a little cheese in it making a "stuffed" crust.  Works like a charm (and tastes delicious!)
  • Skillet - I use my 10" LeCreuset skillet for this - basically a cast iron skillet.  I don't know that I would have tried it in anything else (but if you do and it works, let me know!)
So check out your grocery store or favorite pizza parlor and see if you too can buy your own ready made dough and you can have pizza any night of the week - exactly the way you like it!

~later, tw

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Halloween!

In honor of next week's official kickoff to the holidaze (aka HALLOWEEN) I'm sending a few "treats" your way...

By October I've brought out the candles and decorated the house (something that just doesn't happen around here from March thru August) and while the hint of the other upcoming holidays is definitely in the air, of course for October Halloween is the main event. 

You can find really adorable Halloween candles and holders at PartyLite.  If you don't already have a consultant (and you really do want one because then you get to see the special online "sale" page!), use mine - Stacy Masters, Kirkland, WA.  She's fabulous!  (And don't worry - PartyLite mails directly to you!)

Christmas Blend Tea Fall TeasSomething else I'm enjoying this fall, TEA!  One of my favorite vendors (Murchie's of Canada) has some really wonderful fall blends perfect for these crisp mornings or to enjoy by the fire in the evening:  Canadian Breakfast (a marvelous breakfast tea with a hint of maple - perfect when you're having pancakes!) and Pumpkin Spice (warm and cozy!)  Murchies does ship to the U.S. so while you're at it, check out their Christmas blend and make sure you have this specialty to enjoy Christmas morning (it's really wonderful - I start enjoying mine the day after Thanksgiving)!

My new Halloween bag (with two
PartyLite holders in the background!
Make your own Halloween bag with this free Lickety Split pattern by Rae.  It takes only two yards of fabric (one yard of each of two coordinating fabrics and the Halloween fabric is on sale - and probably clearance priced - at JoAnn's!) and only one hour to make for even the most novice seamstress!  Here's the latest for my collection (I figure I'll hit JoAnn's up for the clearance fabrics after each holiday until I have an entire year's worth!)  Note: Once you figure out how easy it is to make these, you'll discover they are the perfect gift (diaper bags for new moms...or grandmas, book bags for kids and grandkids, even as reusable grocery bags!) and you'll be mass producing them in no time!

They aren't in the store for too long so here's a couple of ideas of what to do with those "fall" candies:

Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

Banana Ghost and Orange Pumpkins - kids party treat alternative
Banana Ghosts & Satsuma Pumpkins

from Sarah
Clever costume for someone's
first Halloween!
and though there are lots of recipes for holiday chex mix, here's one I cobbled together from some of the best:

Terri's HALLOWEEN Snack Mix


  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (which I love but you could just use cinnamon)
  • 1 - 12 Crispix (or Rice Chex or Corn Chex)
  • 1 package Chow Mein Noodles (I used the 12 oz. bag of La Choy)
  • 2 Cups Cashews (or any other nut - or combination of nuts - you like)
  • 1 - 16 oz. container Planters' Honey Roasted Peanuts
  • 1 - 12.60 oz. bag Harvest Mix M&Ms (or M&M peanuts.  I used regular but I'm thinking the peanut ones would have been more fun!)
  • 1 - 15 oz. bag Reeses Pieces


Melt butter and stir in spices.  In a large pan (one that has sides - I used my roaster), mix together anything that needs a bit of "toasting" (the cereal, the nuts - but not the honey roasted ones...that sugar will just melt or worse burn - and the "noodles"). Pour butter/spice mixture over this and gently toss to get everything evenly coated.

Bake at 300 F. for 15 minutes.

Let cool COMPLETELY! before stirring in honey-roasted nuts and candies.

Hope you have a frighteningly fun HALLOWEEN!

~later, getting my costume ready, tw

Friday, October 25, 2013

If It Fits, It Ships...

and so much more.

I mean, seriously, how much do we love the US Post Office?  Especially this time of year!

If you hate standing in line (I generally do not find it to be the worst thing in the world  but my "other-not-always-better-and-certainly-not-when-it-comes-to-waiting-for-anything-half" is absolutely horrible at it!) then I hope you know all about USPS.COM

Holy FamilyIt's the most fabulous place - you can order stamps (including holiday stamps) and all kinds of packaging supplies (like those fabulous Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes - "If It Fits, It Ships!") and they'll even send you a supply of those plastic sleeves for customs forms for mailing internationally!Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes Variety Pack

(I frequently use those to send things to Sarah in Sweden and Travis while deployed.)  Most packaging supplies they will ship to you for free but there is a slight shipping fee to mail stamps (go figure?)  I even pay for the priority box postage online (which is sometimes offered at a slight savings and hey, every little bit counts!) AND....even more miraculous...I can arrange for the postman to pick it up RIGHT FROM MY DOORSTEP!  What a great country!

New England Coastal LighthousesPostal rates are scheduled to go up soon so you might want to stock up on those FOREVER stamps at $.46 while you can because these are going to cost you $.49 come January 26, 2014.

So with the holidays right around the corner (and I'm hoping I get lots of newsy/cheery cards and letters from each of you!), I know you'll want to be checking out USPS.COM!

~later, ordering my holiday supplies now, tw

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In The Bag

Today's tip comes from my son-in-law (Travis).  Even though he's currently deployed, Travis is always on the look out for things that make my daughter's life easier, better, enjoyable (which naturally earns him a rank much higher than "Captain" on my list!).  Amazon is great for this - you can shop from wherever you are and things appear half-a-world away as if by magic.

As I've mentioned before, I like getting my produce delivered.  I look forward to my weekly box and when it arrives I take the time to get it all perfectly situated in the fridge, ready to use.

The only real drawback is that it a box.  Unless things are small and need to be corralled in a bag of some sort, it pretty much just is in the box.  This is not the way I typically like to store things in the fridge so I've been trying to carefully save and reuse the plastic bags from my increasingly rare trips to the produce aisle of the grocery store.

Now I use these little wonders that I happened to see when visiting Jenny:  Flip and Tumble Reusable Produce Bags.  Travis had seen them on Amazon and thought they would be useful for Jenny.  I totally agree!  They are a lightweight mess material that can be easily tossed in the washer to refresh.  They are a nice size (12" x 14") and are "color-coded" (though I haven't figured out what that would be useful for - I mean, I'm pretty good at figuring out what's in each of them so far).

Another great idea from Travis was this set of Reusable Shopping Tote/Grocery Bags.  These come in a four-pack and in lots of bright colors (I got an assortment of four).  They fold up into themselves and have a carabiner that can easily hook onto purse, backpack or belt loop.  When stuffed into their pocket, it easily fits into YOUR pocket (or purse, backpack, etc.) meaning I always have it with me in my bag instead of stuck out in the car where I'm most likely not going to run out and get it.  It holds a ton (okay not exactly one ton but it does hold at least 25 lbs. which is more than I could easily carry anyway).

Both of these items are fun, inexpensive and incredibly useful.  Thanks, Travis, for these GREAT IDEAS!

~later, loving my new bags, tw

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Art of Negotiations

If you've ever had your retail clerks' union go out on strike, you probably know it's no fun.  The dilemma of whether or not to cross that picket line is a difficult one.  And the union that represents retail clerks typically represents others in your community as well (I remember once when we lived in Missoula discovering that librarians at our public library would also be out.  Who knew?)

Twenty-five years ago was a very different time for us...certainly financially...and to make our budget work I needed to make use of the deep (REALLY DEEP) discounts that Safeway was offering to entice customers into their store.  Though represented by the very same union that was striking, the union had elected to NOT picket at Safeway that year.  So "technically" I wasn't crossing a picket line to shop there.

We were recently faced with the prospect of a strike here and this time my choice was not so hard to make.  Yes, the union had decided that if they went out they would be picketing my local grocer (QFC).

I no longer have to trail blaze a path all over town(s) to shop the best deal.  Instead, I have developed a relationship with my local store which I highly recommend.  While I don't know each employee by name (I should...hmm...maybe time to put that on my resolution list), we do know each other by sight and it's a wonderful relationship.

For instance, last November I was in search of ten turkeys so we could make up boxes for some military families.  The store manager happened to be there that day taking some VIPs through the store.  Seeing and recognizing me he interrupted his meeting with these people in order to ask if I was finding everything I needed.  When I explained what I was looking for, he excused himself from the others, took me directly to the meat section and made sure that the employee arranged for me to pick up the turkeys and sold them to me at cost.  All of which happened because we have frequently seen each other in the store.

There are so many stories like this I could share - each department seems to have employees that have gone out of their way to assist me!  There is absolutely no way I would be able to cross a picket line that affects these people!

Fortunately I don't have to because at the 11th hour, after a lot of serious negotiations, an agreement was reached and my favorite store (nor any others) will be "shut down" due to a strike.  I happy for all involved that a strike was avoided (because it always seems that nobody wins) and particularly pleased that the notices recently posted on store windows indicating the hiring of temporary workers to keep the stores open during a strike are now being taken down.  We're all back to business as normal!

Wow!  Serious negotiations by both parties to avoid a shut down.  Hmm...if only our elected congressmen and senators could have done the same we would have saved something like $24 BILLION!  (Yeah, you read that right.  That's what the estimate is for how much the government shutdown cost us, the taxpayers, because as we all know those "representatives" got paid regardless!  And remember, the "fix" was only a temporary one - we'll be doing this song and dance again in a few months.)

So the lesson to take away from this is simple - negotiating can and does work.  Something we should keep in mind next election.

~later, making my grocery list now, tw

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thick As Pea Soup!

Picture of Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup with Chorizo RecipeAs a kid I'm pretty sure I hate split pea soup.  What kid doesn't?  No particular reason (certainly not any logical one but maybe it had something to do with that "in the pot nine days old" thing?).  It's not that I had some horrible, life-altering experience with it.  I only remember it as something my dad would order at a restaurant (on the extremely rare occasion that it was the soup of the day).  Which was  a good thing because otherwise he would never have gotten it.  It was certainly never something my mom ever made (I think maybe she knew what our reaction would be).

So I grew up without ever knowing the wonders of split pea soup. 

Which made absolutely no sense now that I think of it.  I like peas.  I LOVE soup.  What's to hate?  And on a Sunday evening after a day of successfully completing chores, nothing is better than knowing you've got a great bowl of soup ahead of you.

Fortunately, in my exploration of Food Network and the various cooks and their shows, I found a recipe that combined my loves: finding/trying new recipes, making things from scratch (particular healthier things), another crockpot "fix and forget it" recipe for the repertoire, and a furtherance of my "space justification" (a reason to justify the large package of Andouille sausage I bought and stuffed into my freezer).

This recipe comes from Robin Miller who hosted Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller on FoodNetwork sometime ago. 

Terri's tips & changes:
  • I usually opt for Andouille (I actually buy both Andouille and chorizo in larger packages and have the hubby freeze them in 2 link packages).  I've made the soup using chorizo (pretty spicy but delicious) and even ham (pretty boring after using either of the other two  but still delicious).
  • Violating my "one pot fix and forget it" theme, I actually sauté the Andouille with the veggies before tossing it into the crockpot.  Works either way but we really love the extra "flavor" enhancement of the sautéed onions and slightly browned meat, etc.
  • I start with only 8 cups of stock/broth and actually use the broth "packets" which I get on "subscribe & save" through Amazon.  Today I was thinking that maybe using 1/2-1 cup of white wine might also be a good idea.  Will have to try that next time.
  • Best served with cornbread:

Perfect Cornbread


1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup cornmeal
2 eggs
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup Shortening


Mix dry ingredients.  Combine eggs, milk and shortening.  Stir into dry ingredients just until mixed.  (Do not overbeat.)  Pour into greased 9" x 9" x 2" pan.  Bake at 425 F. for 15-20 minutes.

Terri's tips:
  • You can substitute 1 Cup Buttermilk for the milk (reduce baking powder to 3 teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon baking soda).  YUM!
  • Shortening:  I use canola oil (makes a more "cake" like cornbread).  You can cut in butter to the dry ingredients instead (will yield a "crumblier" consistency).  I would use butter but I've usually decided at the last minute to make cornbread and using oil is just a whole lot faster.
Try pea soup - it's definitely one of the easier soups you'll ever make!  (And decidedly delicious!)

~later, savoring all foods green, tw