Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

Weekly Photo Challenge:  From Above

My first granddaughter, Liza. I took this on a special outing I had with only Liza. We were at Jamestown VA in the Pocahontas village. Liza was grounding her own cornmeal just like Pocahontas would have done. I had so much fun with her, pretending to be Indians… although SHE got to be Pocahontas!

This was taken “from above”… in August, 2011, when she was only 2. I miss our time together.

Coq Au Vin (My version)

You all know that Coq au vin is just a fancy French way of saying “Chicken Stew”, right?  IDK… many of my friends don’t know that so forgive me when I seem like I need to be “Captain Obvious” ;-)

I’ve mentioned before that my Mom’s family is French.  NOT the sophisticated eloquent French that you might be picturing… more like the poor kind.  I’m proud of that though because along with being poor comes the need to be inventive.  We’re ALL inventive when it comes to food.  My grandmother had 10 children and that’s a LOT of mouths to feed when you only have 1 chicken!  Grandma used to go out to her yard and choose a chicken, chop it’s head off and take the feathers off.  Yummy huh?  Thank GOD I never had to SEE it, much less do it.  I’d probably never eat meat if I had to witness something like that.  Coq au vin is one of those recipes that you can make your own and it’s inexpensive.  It just takes a little bit of time.

Here’s my way… which, BTW, has been SO simplified but SO tasty!  This is what we had tonight.  I have to be in the right mood to want to go through a little trouble and tonight, while it’s cold and rainy, I’m in the right mood!

Coq Au Vin (Michelle’s Way)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (breasts, thighs or drumsticks) OR a whole chicken, skinned and cut up (I used 3.5 lbs chicken breasts, boneless)

2 TBSP cooking oil

salt and pepper

2 large vidalia or sweet onions, cut into 8 pieces each

1 1/4 cups Burgundy

4 medium, thinly sliced carrots

1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 TBSP dried parsley

1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp dried marjoram

2 tsp dried crushed thyme

1 bay leaf

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb smoked bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, bacon grease reserved

5 TBSP flour

2 TBSP butter

16 oz cooked Penne pasta for serving

Directions:

Cook bacon until crisp.  It’s easier if you chop the bacon while it’s still a little frozen.  Set aside.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown chicken pieces on all sides in hot oil, about 15 minutes.  Drain fat.  Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Add onions, mushrooms, bacon, carrots, Burgundy, chicken broth, dried parsley, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer and cover.  Cook for around 50 minutes or until chicken is fork tender.

Take chicken and vegetables out of pot and set aside.  Discard bay leaf.

Heat reserved bacon grease and the 2 TBSP butter until hot.  Add flour and stir.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Once roux (bacon grease and flour) is made, add mixture to the juices from chicken.  Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.  Once thickened, cook for 1 minute more.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and serve over pasta.

*This recipe makes very generous servings for 6 people.  The bacon makes this even more tasty than the other recipes I’ve tried.  Enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta & Broiled Shrimp

And in the midst of ALL this chaos… I’ve still had time to cook!  Sometimes take out just is NOT satisfying and Lord knows we’ve been doing way too much take out lately!  

Last night I made the most amazing dinner.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve always steered away from this roasted red pepper sauce because it seems like anything you have to use a food processor with or a blender… well, it’s too complicated and creates too many dishes to wash later.  Yeah, I’m lazy.. so what?  lol  This is WELL worth the extra step of pureeing the roasted red peppers and if you decide to make this, you’ll be SO thankful!  Or maybe you’ve already tried it.  Either way, it was new to me so I have to share :-)

Oh and as a side note, teenage munchkin had one of her bff’s over (another daughter to me) last night who is SO hard to please with food.  Usually I have to end up making her a grilled cheese or throw in a frozen pizza because she won’t eat anything new.  HOWEVER and Thank you JESUS, she LOVED this dish and asked me to keep it handy to make it for her again.  Anything Shelby approved is a hit in OUR house ;-)

 

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta and Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 lb large shrimp, raw and in the shell

16 oz pasta (I used Penne)

12 oz jar of roasted red peppers with juice

1 TBSP Olive oil

5 cloves minced garlic

2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese

1 3 to 4 oz jar of Peproncinis  (Optional for garnish)

Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

1.  Shell and devein the shrimp.  Spray a broiling or grilling pan with Pam and place shrimp (separated well) on pan.  Cook in oven on BROIL just until shrimp turns pink.  Immediately take off of pan (to stop cooking process) an place on a plate to cool.

2.  Cook and drain pasta.

3.  While pasta is cooking, remove about 1 roasted red pepper from jar.  Chop and set aside.  Place remaining red peppers with their juice into blender and puree.

4.  Heat olive oil in large non stick skillet.  Saute garlic.  Cook and stir on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Be sure not to get too brown or it will taste burnt and bitter.

5.  Add the pepper puree, cream, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium heat, stirring until hot bubbly and thick.  About 6 minutes.

6.  Stir in cheese and parsley.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Add shrimp for a second until it’s warm again.  

7.  Add sauce to the pasta and mix.  Top with Peproncinis if you want and extra cheese.

*Tip:  Always boil pasta in salted water so that the pasta has flavor.  When I drain the pasta, I immediately add back into the pan and toss with a little olive oil.  I then add a little Parmesan Cheese to the pasta BEFORE the sauce is added so that the cheese sticks to the pasta.  

 

 

Born Blue by Han Nolan (A book Review)

Sorry about overloading the blogosphere with posts from ME but I haven’t been able to get on for a while and I’m OCD so I feel like I can’t put these books away until I blog about them!  lol  I really need professional help, I know!

Born Blue

Published by:  Harcourt Inc.

I purchased this book at St. Louis’s largest book fair just the other day.  I usually don’t get around to reading new books for a very long time because I have a list of books I need to finish in my lifetime.  HOWEVER, I’ve spent the last 2 days in the hot sun, at a baseball field, just waiting for news that a good friends son was chosen for the minor leagues.  I needed a quick read.  At first, I didn’t notice that this was a young adult genre book.  Apparently, this is the genre for me because I’m LOVING the stray YA books I’ve chosen!  I can tell you too that Han Nolan is going to be one of my new favorite writers  :-)  Can you tell that this was a favorite?

From the back cover:

“She has no last name.  She has no real home.  But she has a dream…

Janie… Leshaya… whatever she’s called… she’s a survivor.  Rescued from the brink of death, this child of a heroin addict has seen it all:  revolving foster homes, physical abuse, and unwanted pregnancy.  Now her childhood is coming to an end, and she is determined to make a life for herself by doing the only thing that makes her feel whole… singing.

Can this girl, born to a life of hardship, find the strength and courage to break away from her past and become the legend that she is meant to be?”

I guess I’d have to say that this book resonates with me so much because The lead character feels NOTHING and has something diagnosed as “Attachment Disorder”, which basically means she’s got no conscience.  I recognized my stepdaughter throughout this book.  This was a personal journey to me.  I have a hard time understanding people who can’t FEEL and this took me deep into the mind of an abused child and explained WHY this happens.  It made me sad, and so mad at times that I wanted to reach in and shake this girl.  It’s written in “first person” and in a language better known as “wigga” – basically a white girl who wants to be black.  At first, being the white girl that I am, it was hard for me to understand the language but I quickly caught on.  lol

I finished this one in a day and a half and I want to know more about what happened to Leshaya…  it’s THAT good.

The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson (A book review)

The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty

Published by:  Howard Books  – A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Okay guys… I knew I loved these redneck people from Louisiana because I’m a Duck Dynasty fanatic BUT I really didn’t expect to love this book so much.  I figured the Robertson’s were maybe a little illiterate?  I’m pleasantly surprised to be wrong.  This might be a secret but I think you should all know that the Robertson sons appear to really be “Yuppies” disguised as rednecks.  Although Phil (the dad) is a true redneck. AND a lovable one, at that! They’re spiritual, yet REAL and very intelligent!  I could NOT put this book down.  There’s a reason it made the New York Times Best Sellers List!  I laughed and fell in love with this family even more than I already was.  Now I need to figure out how to get them to adopt me into their family!  lol

Here’s the scoop from back cover:

“What do faith, family, ducks and money have in common?  The well-known stars of A&E’s hit show DUCK DYNASTY – Korie and Willie Robertson!  From Louisiana’s Bayou comes the story of how he Robertson family went from eating fried bologna sandwiches to consuming fine filet mignon.

Ask anyone from Louisiana, and they’ll tell you that the bayou state’s favorite family doesn’t live in the governor’s mansion but in the backwoods, where the Robertson’s Duck Commander has become a sporting empire by making top-of-the-line duck calls.

Part redneck logic, part humorous family stories, combined with family business tips and faith, this book is the inside sneak peek for everything you wanted to know about being a Robertson.

In the pages of this book, you’ll find out things about this lovable family that you won’t see on the popular TV show – such as how the family survived while Miss Kay worked days and left the boys in the care of 8 year old older brother Alan.  You’ll get to know the beautiful Korie Robertson – how she met Willie, what their dating days were like, and how she juggles being a mom to their children, a wife to Willie, and an active partner in the family business.

You’ll get a taste of the Robertson clan’s famous food, through recipes included in each chapter, and you’ll see childhood photos of Willie and Korie, photos of Willie before the beard, and photos of their children and all of the Robertson clan.”

So to recap….  READ this book!  I don’t see how you’d be sorry!  :-)

Blue Screen of Death

I just want to let you guys know that I haven’t forgotten about any of you and I’m trying to catch up with all of you!  The blue screen of death has visited me several times.  I’ve had several posts interrupted and wiped out.  Comments have been lost.  We’ve done everything we know to do and it’s looking like maybe we need to get another laptop.  Yuk.  Luckily, I was able to save the million or so pictures and back them up last night.  I’ve been reading that some of you are having the same problems?  It’s not showing up as a virus on my laptop so I wonder what it is?  Shaun, my computer expert friend, any ideas?

Anyway, Just didn’t want you all to think I didn’t love you anymore ;-)  Oh and be sure and remember to back up all your important stuff cause this can happen to anyone no matter how new your computer is.  Mine isn’t a little bit old.

Meet Me In St. Louis Part 3 (and finally the LAST of Julia’s Birthday)

I’ll bet you all were hangin’ on the edge of your seats in anticipation of our last day in St. Louis, weren’t you?  So to recap – we had day #1 on the Delmar Loop and then day #2 on Laclede’s Landing.

So sad to leave our Hilton Hotel room!  We naturally, pushed it to the very last second and left a little AFTER check out time.  None of us wanted to get up and only ONE of us (guess who?) was responsible enough to pack.  Here’s a hint, it wasn’t ANY of the 15 year olds!  Oh and FORGET about the 28 year old.

Julia wanted to have a REAL tea party, just like in “Alice in Wonderland”!  lol  We reserved a table at the London Tea Room on Washington Ave. downtown.  It was strange to be on Washington Ave. because only a few years ago, when I was still working, this place was a slum!  Known for the prostitution and drugs.  BOY have they cleaned up!  Now, there’s a booming loft district and SO pretty.  Birthday Girl wants to live there one day.  I sincerely hope she makes enough money to live comfortably in a loft apartment :-)

Image

(They decided on the “Cream Tea”, which I guess in London consists of a scone and a pot of tea?  That’s what a Cream Tea means at St. Louis’s London Tea Room, anyway)

Image

(Julia said she felt so sophisticated and grown up just like the REAL English people!  lol  She’d never had a scone before.  We ordered blueberry scones with “Devonshire Cream” which was TO DIE FOR!  Devonshire cream is like butter, only better.  I seriously need to figure out how to make this stuff!  Anyway, the scones were light and fluffy… NOT like the scones we’re used to.  I’d give this place 2 thumbs up for the tea and their scones :-)

Image

(Julia feeling all grown up and elegant drinking her Chai Latte.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they didn’t drink Chai Latte’s in London.  She liked the idea of the foamy milk.)

Image

(So Katie tells me AFTER ordering that the taste of tea makes her sick.  Here she is looking DEEP into her tea cup.  I’m not sure what she thinks is going to jump out and hurt her.  For my friends in the UK…  in our defense,  we’re REAL bonafide rednecks AND we’re coffee drinkers.  We really had no business in a London Tea Room.  lol)

Image

(In keeping with tradition, Hannah wouldn’t be Hannah if not causing trouble somehow!  lol  All through our little tea party, the girls spoke in their very best British accents.  Yeah, it was annoying so I kept my head down so as to not make eye contact with any of the other patrons.  When I looked up, this is what I saw staring back at me (Hannah with a fake “stache”).

Image

(I’m LOVING this pic of the girls walking down Washington Ave.!  They look like models to me :-)

Image

(and so when it came time for the girls to take MY picture, I didn’t notice Julia walking like Derek Zoolander)

Image

(This is Windows On Washington, where the presidents always come to hold their campaign fundraisers while in St. Louis.  I used to deliver specialty foods here when I was working.  How’s THAT for a fun fact?)

Image

(The Loft Apartments where Julia swears she’ll live one day)

From Washington Ave., we drove around, stopping to take pictures of the awesome old city architecture.

Image

(I literally parked in the middle of the street to get this one!  lol  This is a view of the city from Market Street.  It’s a good thing it was Sunday and everyone who WAS out in the city happened to be at the Cardinals game!  Go CARDS!)

Image

(I’m not sure what this building is but it’s old and it’s beautiful!)

Image

(Just more lovely buildings :-)

We ended up at Kiener Plaza where all St. Louisans gather before a Cardinal’s game.  Here’s where it got weird.  I began taking pictures of the girls and a lady walks up to me and asks if I want to be in the picture.  She offered to take my picture and being me, and being naive and being from the “country”, I said, “Sure!”.  Well, I discovered this woman was homeless.  Now, I love all people and the girls and I work hard to help stamp out hunger and homelessness.  We hold fundraisers and work with area churches to help these people.  BUT… I wouldn’t want one of them to hold my fancy new expensive camera!  She could have run with it.  Thank GOD she didn’t.  The girls and I took this opportunity to talk with her and learn about what’s going on in St. Louis with the homeless.  This opened the door for other homeless people to come up to us and tell their story.  It broke my heart, really.  However, it was good for the girls to learn what it was like to be homeless, straight from the horses mouth, so to speak.  I’ll tell you their stories in another blog.

Image

(Here’s the pic that the homeless woman took.  Notice the Gateway Arch behind the old Old Courthouse?  I love this scenery.)

Image

(And here’s the homeless woman who DIDN’T run off with my camera.  God Bless her!  Do you know that NONE of them asked for money?  They only wanted to tell their story to someone who would listen.  She asked me to tell her story to whoever would listen… so I certainly will do that!)

Image

(Homeless men sleeping in Kiener Plaza.  They weren’t bothering anyone.  They just needed a place to sleep and the shelters were completely full.  This breaks my heart but it was an opportunity to show the girls how very blessed we really are.)

Next stop:  City Garden!  Guess what?  It’s another FREE experience!  I’m so proud of the way they’re beautifying our city!  There was a time that I was ashamed to say I was from St. Louis.  NOW is not that time :-)

Image

Image

(Hannah the Ham inside the eyeball of the creepy head sculpture)

Image

(Julia BEFORE she fell)

Image

(volunteers take care of this garden)

Image

 The girls and Pinoccio.

(The girls and Pinocchio)

City and gardenGirls and the bunny rabbitsJulia the Birthday Girl Me at the city Garden

DSC_0253

And this will conclude our tour of the beautiful metropolis of St. Louis Mo :-)  We truly had a blast.  Lot’s of bonding, fighting, posing and eating…  Ah but it’s good to be home!