Thursday, March 24, 2011


Wednesday evening was an occasion I have been planning and looking forward to for a very long time. It was my "Appreciation Dinner" for the wonderful women who make up the Leadership Team for our Mom2Mom (M2M) program at church. Simply put, M2M is a program to encourage and support the moms of our church and the community. We have over 130 women registered! And almost 50 children registered for Wednesday AM!

So here we are! Sitting around the table from left are: Janice, Mary Ellen, Jenn, Marilyn, Caryn, Helen. Standing from left: Me, Ellen, Chele, Debby, Kathy, Deb, Dorla, Rosemary. Angela was missing. We look rather pleasant, maybe somewhat (HAHA!) sedate, but we can quickly be distracted ... hence the photo below. Who know's what it was, but it doesn't take much!

These women are my friends and I love them so much! They have played a huge part in transitioning me into this new home and culture!

One of my favorite things to do is to cook for a group. I love every aspect of it, the menu planning, food prep, and especially setting the table. For this occasion I was so excited to use two tableclothes that were my Mother's. I grew up with the green one with dogwoods since the very early 1950s. I loved it as a child and love it even more now. I think Mom picked up the pink one at an auction on one of her visits to Iowa. She used it for family dinners until she no longer felt up to washing/ironing it plus all the cooking. For a little party favor I picked up little magnetic notepads in various colors all with a different word, love, peace, grace, salvation, Jesus, wisdom, etc. with an appropriate scripture verse. Nice to tuck into a purse.

Dinner was Creamy Chicken Rice Casserole, Merry Berry Salad, green beans with garlic and red pepper olive oil, rolls, and for dessert Strawberry Refrigerator Cake. Can't believe I didn't take a photo of our food. Oh well! Just take my word for it, everyone loved it all. Recipes are at the end of this blog.

After dinner, we gathered in our basement family room to play a little game and have a "fairly" short M2M meeting before dessert.

These are creative, inventive, make-something-out-of-nothing women, so for the game, I gathered a clothes basket full of various items from around the house, such as gardening fork, bath brush, a costume beard, cookie press, embrodiery hoop, shaker, cherry pitter, hand towel bar, etc. Everyone was to choose an item and tell a story about it, describing it other than it's original purpose and design. Here Kathy is describing a box grater as a holder for her cross-stitch threads. She would keep threads separate by stringing them through the holes and then would just tear off the thread. Actually, not a bad idea!

Mary Ellen holds what is originally designed as a plate holder but she would use it (upside down) as a post for miniature hanging pots. Janice is holding a tech vac (who but Rich would give me a little vacuum to clean my keyboard!). She would give it to an audiologist to clean out someone's ears and then test their hearing by depressing the button for a "whirring" sound.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."
Titus 2:11

"A friend loves at all times."
Proverbs 17:17

My life is enriched by the friendship of these dear, fun, wise, joyful, women who love their Lord!

Creamy Chicken Rice Casserole
1 3-4 lb. whole chicken or equivalent amount of chicken breasts
1 14-ounce can of low sodium chicken broth
3-4 whole carrots
3-4 celery stalks
1 medium onion, quartered
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Put above ingredients in pot (if broth doesn't cover, add more broth or water to cover.) Cook until chicken is fork tender. Save the broth. Drain off solids so broth is clear. Cool chicken and dice into bite-sized chunks. Can freeze chicken and broth (separately) at this point, if desired.

2-3 cups cooked white rice
1/4 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 7-ounce can/jar sliced mushrooms, drained, save liquid
1-1/2 cups half and half (I use fat-free, not sure what can make half-and-half fat-free, but it relieves some of the guilt! HA!
1/4 cups diced pimento (small jar)
2 tablespoons dry parsley - use fresh if you have it
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup slivered, lightly toasted almonds
Cook rice separately according to package directions. (I use 2 cups water to one cup of uncooked rice.) Allow at least an hour for wild rice to cook. It needs to soften and begin to burst open. Set aside. Drain mushrooms and add mushroom liquid to reserved chicken broth to measure 1-1/2 cups. Cook onion in butter until tender but not brown. Remove from heat, stir in flour. Gradually stir broth into flour mixture. Cook a couple of minutes to mellow out flour taste. Add half and half. Cook and stir until thick and smooth. Add rice, mushrooms, chicken, pimento, parsley, salt, pepper. If more liquid is needed, add additional half and half or broth. Spray a 2 quart casserole with non-stick cooking spray. Place chicken and rice mixture in casserole. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. If making a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking. May require a little more baking time.

This recipe came from a colleague in the 1970s. I submitted it to the 2010 Wichita Eagle Holiday Cookbook contest and it came in the top 20 for main dishes. Not bad out of 500 recipes!

Merry Berry Salad
1 10-ounce package mixed salad greens
1 medium red apple, diced
1 medium Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 cup craisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 apple juice concentrate (I have used local apple cider)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil

To make dressing:
Put all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until a viniagrette forms and craisins are finely minced. It will be a lovely deep rosy color. Pour into a jar and refrigerate. Can be made a day ahead. Shake well before serving. Unless I'm serving over 8 people, I make just half a recipe of dressing. It goes a long way.

Toss first six ingredients with dressing. To avoid last minute chopping of apples you can chop up to 30 minutes before serving and cover with dressing. This will keep them from turning brown. I'm not a big fan of bagged greens so I use a mixture of iceberg, romaine, and red curly leaf lettuce, washed, dried and broken into bite-size pieces.

Strawberry Refrigerator Cake
1 package strawberry cake mix
10 ounces frozen sliced, sweetened strawberries
1 4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
2 cups Cool Whip, defrosted

Bake cake according to package direction. Bake in 9x13 pan. Cool. Puree strawberries in blender. Poke holes in cooled cake with handle of wooden spoon. (Wooden spoon handle is important. I used a large fork and it didn't leave large enough holes for berries to "ribbon" through cake.) Spoon berries over all and into holes. Mix pudding with the milk and blend until thick. Fold in Cool Whip and spread over all. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Overnight is best.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Food Fest Weekend!

We began our "food fest weekend" last Friday with Brett, Esther and girls for a "day after St. Patrick's Day" dinner of corn beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots as well as soda bread. Isabel was ready to "dig in"! We topped off dinner with cookies for dessert - unfrosted CHRISTMAS cookies I found in the freezer that I frosted green for St. Paddy's. We had a great time!

On to Saturday....
Rich is a coach for three Community Life groups at church (another way to define small groups.) We planned a progressive dinner for the three leader couples and ourselves that was very fun.

We started off at Eric and Elizabeth's home for appetizers. They had a lovely array of appetizers, hot peach salsa cheese ball and crackers, skewers of fruit, cheese, olives and pickles, plus a veggie pizza. We ate like there was no other course to follow. Would you believe I had my camera in my purse but totally forgot about photos until we were nearly done at OUR house. " (I know, YES, you would believe it!) Anyway, here's Eric and Elizabeth.

Next it was on to our house for salad. We had Pretzel Jello Salad and Mandarin Salad, served with Zwiebach from Bread Basket (a local bakery/restaurant). For our non-local readers, Zwiebach is NOT a teething biscuit. It is a German/Mennonite sweet dinner roll. "Zwie" means two and so it's one roll shaped with another smaller one on top. When you remove the top "knot" it leaves a lovely vessel in the bottom roll for butter and/or jelly.

For the main course we went to Roger and Leslie's. It was great fun to see how each home set their table! There we had pork chops with potatoes and carrots. We were all beginning to moan and groan about how "full" we were feeling!

For dessert we went to David and Tayna's. David made his version of creme brulee. Their table was so dramatic!

What a great time we had with everyone.

Sunday we had the Senior Adult lunch after church so guess what ... more food. I prepared my version of Southwestern Chicken Salad. We got home about 2:30 pm and promptly "vegged" out. Talk about pooped - and not EVEN wanting to think about food!

Tomorrow evening I'm hosting the Mom2Mom Leadership Team for dinner. This is something I've been thinking about for a VERY LONG time. So when you hear from me next it will be all about that evening of food, fun, fellowship! :)

Here are the recipes from our progressive dinner salad course.

Pretzel Jello Salad
2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoon sugar
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (I use Neufachtel)
3/4 cup sugar
4.5 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
1 6-ounce package strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
2 10-ounce packages frozen strawberries (I use 1 15-oz pkg and 5 oz. from another pgk.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix crushed pretzels with butter and sugar. Press into bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake in preheated oven 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool thoroughly.

Blend cream cheese and sugar. Fold in Cool Whip and spread evenly over cooled pretzel crust. In medium bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Mix in strawberries and set aside to cool and thicken for about 15 minutes. When strawberries are defrosted and gelatin thickened, pour over cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Mandarin Salad
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablesppons vinegar (I use half rice wine vinegar and half white wine vinegar)
1/4 cup salad oil
dash Tabasco
1 tablespoon snipped parsley
Mix all in a jar and shake. I make it a day ahead and refrigerate.

1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar (I usually use more)
1/4 head iceberg lettuce
1/4 head romaine
1/4 head red leaf curly lettuce
1 cup chopped celery
1 green onions (with tops), thinly sliced
1 11-ounce can Mandarin oranges, well drained

Tear off 12" or so of waxed paper and lightly butter.
In small sauce pan cook almonds and sugar over low heat, stirring constantly, until carmelized and coated with browned sugar. Watch carefully - they can burn quickly. Turn out onto waxed paper and break up as soon as you can handle. I always make extra for munching! Can do a day ahead.

Tear lettuces in bite-sized pieces.(I don't measure, just fill the bowl with as much as I need.) Toss with celery and green onions. If serving immediateley add oranges and almonds. Shake dressing and toss together. Sometimes I don't use all of the dressing - don't want to "drown" it. If making ahead, I do lettuces, celery, onions and store in frig, then add oranges and almonds just before tossing with dressing. This serves 4-6. I doubled it for a salad course for 8 people.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Katelyn!

Today is our granddaughter, Katelyn's 11th birthday. I had the great privilege of seeing this precious girl come into the world - AMAZING! Her middle name is Joy and it fits her to a "T"! She's rarely without a smile on her face.

This brown-eyed beauty loves soccer, gymnastics and track. Her track season begins next weekend and her favorite events are the mile and 800. Makes me breathless just to think about it! :) She's also getting ready to try out for two club soccer teams. Pretty athletic little girl! She does well in school (she's home schooled) and her favorite subjects are art and history. Right now she's studying about inventions. Sounds interesting to me.

She and sister, Allie, (who I think is her best friend!) share a bedroom with three guinea pigs. Here they are with Nutmeg and April.

I was able to celebrate Kate's birthday with her last year. She had such a cute Hawaiian-themed party with her very sweet friends. Wish I could be there this year, Sweetie!

Happy birthday Kate! Papa and I love you very much! I pray these scriptures for you:

"Show Katelyn that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that your works are wonderful. Teach her that she is precious in your sight, and that you love her."
Psalm 139:14
Isaiah 43:4

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Father-Daughter Dance

This was one of several photos that just "flew" to my inbox! Jordyn and Jeff going to the Father-Daughter Dance at their school. Oh my goodness! He had to be one proud (handsome) Dad - and Jordyn one proud (beautiful) daughter!! She's wearing such a cute dress (and as a Grandma I must say, very appropriate!), and I can't believe she's wearing those cute "heels". And just look at that gorgeous "mane" of hair!! Oh, my little Jordyn, all grown up! {Sniff, sniff, G'ma's feeling very melancholy!}

They went to dinner first with some of Jordyn's friends and their dads, some of whom also teach with Jeff. I can only imagine what a fun evening it was.

Thanks Jordyn for sending me your photos!

Loving BOTH of you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

I'm back on the road to eating less and healthier (and REALLY stepping up the exercise)! Yesterday I had the idea of creating a fat-free pumpkin muffin. With a little help from the Weight Watchers website I created the muffins you see above. They are REALLY yummy - and SOOO easy! My (unofficial) Weight Watcher point calculation is 1 point per muffin!

Here's my recipe....

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
2 egg whites
1/2 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon water
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
splash vanilla
healthy dash pumpkin pie spice
1 box spice cake mix (Duncan Hines was what I had on hand)

Beat egg whites and water until foamy. Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Beat again. Add canned pumpkin. Beat well. Add dry cake mix - as is. Beat well. Batter will be VERY heavy. Spray 24 muffin cups  with non-stick food spray and fill each with batter until all batter is used. Top with chopped pecans (optional). Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they test done with a pick.

I took some to neighbor friends and they really enjoyed them, as did Rich and I for dinner last night and breakfast this morning. This morning they were VERY moist. Really YUMMY. Actually more flavorful than the pumpkin muffin I had yesterday morning at a local restaurant/bakery - and I'll bet a lot less fat!

Think I'll try modifiying my banana muffin recipe. What do you think about using a yellow cake mix - even a reduced sugar one?  I'll be back with results at a later date! :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy Anniversary to US!

Today is our 46th wedding anniversary! Wow! Where have the years gone? In four years we will celebrate 50! It U.S.E.D. to seem that anyone celebrating 50 years of marriage was REALLY old. Certainly doesn't seem so anymore! :))

We were married at Valley Park Baptist Church in Sepulveda, CA, which is in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles. The church had recently built a new sanctuary and we were the first couple married in it.

Our wedding party consisted of:
Best Man: Rich's brother, Bob
Groomsmen: Westmont College friends - Dale, roommate; John, Greg, Bob, three of Westmont Quartet that Rich accompanied on piano (other Quartet member Steve, was our soloist). John, Greg, Bob, Steve went on to sing on Lawrence Welk and were known as The Blenders.
Candlelighters: My brothers, Steve and Joel - before their growth spurts
Maid of Honor: My sister, Cheryl
Bridesmaids: My sister Kathy, high school friend Sharon, cousin Suzanne, sister-in-law Carolyn

In "those days" the girls wore little hats. I loved these, but "one of the girls" said they looked like oatmeal box lids. Actually they were very cute, round, same fabric as dress with a little veil in back and bow on top. Sort of Jackie Kennedy-like.  The girls carried roses and sweet peas, as did I along with butterfly orchids. It was really quite beautiful. The orchids were removable for the corsage I wore with my "going-away outfit". Oh, my how times have changed!!

Oh, I should also say that the guys were very handsome in their "tails"!

After a cake and punch reception at church we went back to my parents' home for more food and we opened wedding gifts. We spent the weekend at Disneyland. We were to be away a week but were anxious to set up our new home in our new apartment before Rich went back to class at San Fernando Valley State (now California State University Northridge) and teaching piano students, and before I returned to my job as a clerk-typist at North American.

Life has been good. Oh, we've had our ups and downs, who doesn't! But our blessings are like the stars - too numerous to count.

And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

I love you Rich Dewey!
Thank you for loving me!
You are the #1 blessing in my life!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Esther!

Today is our daughter-in-love, Esther's, birthday! She shares it with Dr. Seuss and always wears her Dr. Seuss hat to school on this day.

Here she is celebrating last year. And, yes, I'll make a German chocolate cake for her. Her favorite!

You know her by now as Brett's wife and mother to Moira, Audrey, Isabel, and Maeve. Pastor's wife, second grade teacher, sister, daughter, aunt and friend are her other roles. We love her for her quiet strength, devotion to her family and her love and devotion to God. She's as dependable as the day is long and such a hard worker. After our 17 inches of snow a few weeks ago, we heard a scritch, scritch, scritch out our door and there she was shoveling off our driveway. What a Gal! Brett was doing their driveway and she was tackling ours so Rich went out to join her. Soon after she was playing with her girls in the snow.

We love you, Esther and are proud to call you "Daughter"!

"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
Proverbs 31:27, 31