Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Say Cheese

My brother and his wife asked me to take their portrait. We went to Starrs Mill in Fayetteville which was flooded. I wasn't prepared for that but I got a few shots that I liked. This was my first time taking someone elses portrait, so while they may not be perfect, it was wonderful practice.

Crock Pot Wednesdays

Italian seasoned chicken with potatoes, cooked in the slow cooker.
Cook Time: 7 hours

* 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
* 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
* 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or mix basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder to equal same)
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
* 4 to 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or thick slices

Place chicken in bottom of Crock Pot. Sprinkle with half of the Italian dressing, spices, and the grated cheese. Put the potatoes on top or around the chicken. Sprinkle with the rest of the dressing, spices, and cheese.

Cook on low for about 6-8 hours, or until the chicken is done and potatoes are tender.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Not much time for a post, but plenty of pictures!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

So Very Tired

Whew, I am shopped out. I've been going since 7:30 this morning! It's 9:20 and I just got back from Best Buy. I only have 2 more gifts to by. Yay! I am so ready to be done. I just want to sit by the fire, wrap presents, and watch Christmas movies!

I have The Pioneer Woman's chocolate sheet cake in the oven. It's for my husbands party at work tomorrow. The whole house smells like chocolate. And to think that they told him he could just bring in beets. Hmph!

I'm hoping to take pictures of the house tomorrow so that I can get in on the home tours. If I'm too late, I'll post them anyway!

The picture is not that great, but this is what we will be doing tonight. If I can keep my eyes open..............

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crazy Busy

I've been so busy, there is still so much to get done. Baking, shopping, wrapping, photos, the list goes on. I'm hoping that I'm not too late to participate in at least one Christmas home tour. :(

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Well, with Thanksgiving over everything is kicked into high gear. It seems like the days just go by so fast because there is so much to do. Gifts to buy, goodies to bake, parties to plan.
We kicked off our holiday season by going to a play. We saw a production of " A Christmas Story." The Henry Players did a great job!

Complete with the leg lamp!

I look forward to all the Christmas home tours and hope that I can participate. All of my decorating is finished. I usually have it completed before Thanksgiving, but this year I decided no to let the holidays run together.

I have a couple of recipes from Thanksgiving to share but for some reason the photos wouldn't upload. I'll try again tomorrow!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Make Your Own Take Out

We had Chinese tonight. It was so good. The pictures aren't so great because of the lighting, oh well.

  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks
  • 2 cups green onions sliced
  • 8 small dried chilies seeds removed (bird pepper or thai chilies are good)

Cornstarch slurry

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce low sodium preferred
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup cornstarch


  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 14 1/2 ounces chicken broth (a can)
  1. Place sauce ingredients in a quart jar with a lid and shake to mix. If you make this ahead of time just refrigerate until needed, shaking it again when you are ready to use it. This also keeps your dirty dishes down.
  2. Mix cornstarch slurry in a large bowl- the mixture will be strange but trust me it works. It will be VERY thick almost paste like. Add chicken pieces to coat. Using a fork remove ONE chicken piece at a time and let the excess mixture drip off. YES even though the mixture has a weird consistency it will not stick like paste and the excess will drip off. Add chicken to the hot (350 degree) oil and fry until crispy. Only cook 7 or 8 chicken pieces at a time. You do not want to raise the temp of the oil by cooking too many at a time. You can use a simple cooking or candy thermometer to judge the temp of the oil.
  3. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm- I just put them in the oven with the oven off. Repeating until all chicken is fried.
  4. In a separate wok or large skillet add a small amount of oil and heat to 400 degrees. Again, a candy thermometer works great. You can fry all the chicken, drain the oil to the desired amount and use the same pan if you like.
  5. Add green onions and hot peppers and stir fry about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir sauce mixture, and then add to pan with onions and peppers, cook until thick. If it gets too thick, add a little water. The thickness of the sauce should be similar to what you get when ordering this at a restaurant.
  7. Add chicken to sauce in wok, and cook until all is hot and bubbly. The quicker this is done the crispier the chicken stays.
  8. Serve over rice.

MANDARIN CHICKEN (Tastes just like Panda Express)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tspn vegetable oil
  • 1 tspn minced fresh garlic
  • ½ tspn minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 skinless chicken thigh fillets
Preparation & Cooking Instructions :
  1. Combine sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice, oil, garlic and ginger in a small saucepan.
  2. Combine water with cornstarch in a small bowl and stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add to saucepan and turn heat to high. Stir often while bringing mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 6 minutes or until sauce is thick.
  3. Preheat your grill on high for the chicken.
  4. When the grill is hot, rub each chicken piece with oil and cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until done. Chicken should have browned in spots. When chicken is done, chop it into bite-size pieces.
  5. Pour the chicken pieces into a large frying pan over medium heat. Heat until chicken sizzles then reduce heat and cover chicken until ready to serve.
  6. Spoon chicken into a medium bowl, then pour all the sauce over the chicken and stir until well-coated. Serve with steamed white rice.
If anyone wants the recipe for the egg rolls just let me know!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holla If You Like Challah!

This is fun to make! It's great for French Toast with freshly grated nutmeg!!

This is the recipe I followed. I don't put the sesame seeds on it though. You may want to use a longer pan than I did.

1-1/2 packages active dry yeast (1-1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1-3/8 cups vegetable oil, and more for greasing bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups all-purpose flour (8 to 8-1/2)
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1-3/8 cups lukewarm water.

Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. (You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150°F then turned off.

Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.

To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12" long and 1-1/2" wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with what is now the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2" in between.

Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour in refrigerator if preferred.

To bake, preheat oven to 375°F and brush loaves again. (If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.) Then dip your index finger in the egg wash, then into poppy or sesame seeds and then onto a mound of bread. Continue until bread is decorated with seeds.

Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a rack.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Love Story

I love this story and I love the music. Hope you enjoy!

The “Lenny” story is a love story. Love for a woman and love for a guitar.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was not yet a star on his 26th birthday, Oct. 3, 1980, when his wife, Lenora “Lenny” Vaughan, gave him a used Stratocaster guitar that had recently caught his eye in an Austin, Texas, pawnshop. Though already a phenomenal guitarist, many still viewed him as “Jimmie Vaughan’s little brother,” which was perfectly OK with the easygoing young musician.

The story begins a few years earlier, when Stevie and Lenora first met at a Halloween party at east Austin nightspot La Cucaracha, where he was playing (“Where else are you gonna meet a musician?” Lenora is fond of saying). When she saw him again a couple years later at the Rome Inn with his band, Triple Threat, she was moved by his musical power onstage and his charmingly unassuming demeanor offstage.

“I kind of fell for him that day,” she said. “It was tear jerking, the guy was so good. He’s so sweet when you meet him, and then he plays, and he is so fierce. You can’t help but feel what he feels. That was what I saw when he played.”

The next time they met, at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Austin, that was it. “We looked at each other and we just went “Uh-huh,” Lenora said.

About a year after they were married, Lenora remembers, “The guys went to a pawnshop and saw this guitar. One guy wanted it, and Stevie said, ‘I want it more.’” It was a 1965 maple-neck Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fingerboard and the original pickups that, from the look of it, had seen better days. Although it began life as a three-color sunburst model, it had obviously been refinished none too expertly at some point, and now it had a dark natural finish bearing an elaborately arty inlay behind the bridge. Nonetheless, there was something about it that clearly and immediately resonated deeply with Vaughan. That guitar really grabbed him.

Unfortunately it cost $350. Money was tight in those pre-stardom days, and neither Stevie nor Lenora had enough. His birthday was coming up, though, and she devised a way of getting the guitar for him.

“I went out and found seven people with $50, and they all put their money in and we got the guitar, and we gave it to him for his birthday at (Austin nightclub) Steamboat Springs on 6th St.,” she said.

Vaughan was thrilled. They took the guitar home and sometime that night, as Lenora slept, her husband wrote a new song on it. In the morning, Lenora remembers, “He was sitting on the edge of the bed with the guitar and said, ‘Listen to this.’” He played her the song he had written that night, “Lenny,” and she cried.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “How can you stop loving anything like that? I’ve never once in my life listened to that song without crying.”

* * * * *

Soon after, Vaughan received a new Charvel® guitar neck as a gift from his friend and ZZ Top guitarist Billy F Gibbons. Vaughan installed the neck (with a maple fingerboard) on “Lenny”, at which time he also etched his name into the guitar’s neck plate as a point of pride.

Fame began knocking loudly on Vaughan’s door. He first drew worldwide recognition by playing with David Bowie on his chart-topping 1983 comeback Let’s Dance; then by not playing with David Bowie. Vaughan famously declined to tour with Bowie in favor of releasing the debut album he’d recorded in Los Angeles in 1982 with his powerful trio, Double Trouble.

His 1983 breakthrough album, Texas Flood, made Vaughan an even bigger star, and Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984) only fanned the flames. Blues had never before hit the charts so hard. It was as though Vaughan had taken everything powerful and true about the blues and infused it with the ferocious intensity of rock ‘n’ roll, creating something explosive and dynamic – simultaneously familiar and revolutionary. The song “Lenny” appeared on Texas Flood and was featured regularly in Vaughan’s live set. Whenever he played it in concert, Vaughan would set aside his beloved “Number One” Stratocaster and pick up “Lenny” (the guitar).

“It tore me up,” Lenora said. “It’s so emotional for me. Overwhelming. That’s a lot of love.”

Fame had its ups and downs, but Vaughan by all accounts never succumbed to excesses of ego or vanity. He was still Stevie, and he just kept playing.

“It was like a roller coaster; like a snowball,” Lenora said. “It just got bigger and bigger and bigger. And the guy maintained—he just played. That’s all he did—he played guitar.”

Fame also brought a great many guitars, but only Number One and “Lenny” truly meant something important to Vaughan.

“He was a pretty simple person,” said Chris Layton, Double Trouble drummer. “The fact that he had it meant everything. Some people have lots of drum kits; lots of guitars, and they say, “Oh, this is what this means …” and “This is why I bought this …” and “This is what this is for …”

“He had a lot of guitars, but most of them were stored away and he never played them because they didn’t mean anything. But that guitar, and Number One, by the fact that they were always with him, spoke volumes about what they meant to him. He wasn’t the kind of person who would extrapolate on what the meaning of all of it was. He probably had the least amount of ego of anybody I’ve ever played with. He was just a strong, certain person about who he was as a player. He wanted to give himself to the music, and wanted people to get that.”

* * * * *

Lenora remembers a particularly special “Lenny” story from the mid-1980s, when Stevie was in Dallas recording Soul to Soul.

Vaughan was invited to play the national anthem at the Houston Astros season opener, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Houston Astrodome on Wednesday, April 10, 1985. The Vaughans were hastily flown to Houston, where Stevie confessed to his wife that he didn’t know how to play the Star Spangled Banner.

Watching her husband play the national anthem there to a packed house in the cavernous Astrodome, Lenora turned to the guy standing next to her and said, “You know, he didn’t know how that went—I had to hum it to him on the way here.”

The man replied, “Yeah, it’s a hard song.”

When Lenora asked the man if he knew her husband, he nodded and said, “No, this is the first time I’ve ever heard him. My name’s Mickey Mantle.”

Mantle was at the game to throw the first pitch; it was pure chance that Lenora found herself standing next to one of the greatest baseball players in history. When Stevie joined her minutes later, she introduced the two men.

“I don’t know how to play that song,” Vaughan confided to Mantle, to which the Yankees great replied reassuringly, “Nobody can play that song.”

Lenora then sheepishly asked for Mantle’s autograph, upon which Mantle asked where her baseball bat was. “Oh … oh … am I supposed to have a bat?” she stammered. Mantle explained that most autograph seekers bring a bat.

Lenora remembers that “I was looking around for a piece of paper or something, and Stevie said, ‘Well I’ve got this bat right here—her name’s Lenny.’ And he took it out and said, ‘Why don’t you sign this?’ And Mickey said, ‘It’d be my pleasure,’” adding even more magic to the journeyed pawnshop instrument.

* * * * *

Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn’t a complicated guy, even when fame made his life crazy.

By all accounts, he was, from beginning to tragic end, friendly, warm, genuine, relaxed, considerate, compassionate and comfortably self-assured, with no hint of the ego or arrogance often seen in stars of his stature. For all his utter ferocity onstage, offstage he couldn’t be any sweeter. That’s what everybody whose life he touched even a little says. Everybody liked him. Most loved him.

It’s no surprise to hear Lenora say that sometimes Vaughan slept at night with one arm around her and another around the guitar he named for her. Vaughan played “Lenny” selectively and with great passion. He featured it on the namesake song, of course, and was later fond of playing it on “Riviera Paradise” from 1989’s In Step – a testament to its meaning to him.

Years after Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death in an August 1990 helicopter crash, and at older brother Jimmie Vaughan’s behest, “Lenny” became the only guitar from his estate to be made available to the public. At the historic June 24, 2004, Christie’s auction in New York to benefit Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre rehabilitation facility, Lenny was purchased by Guitar Center, for $623,500.

A hefty figure, to be sure. That said, however, does quantifying “Lenny’s” value and assigning a dollar figure really matter? Could you assign such value to the effect that Stevie Ray Vaughan and his music had on the people in his life and on the world?

Not really. After all, the story of Stevie Ray and Lenora Vaughan; of his music and of the guitar he most affectionately nicknamed for her is, first and foremost, a love story.

Lookin For Some Hot Stuff?

Buffalo Chicken Dip


8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing

1/2 cup any flavor FRANK'S® REDHOT® Sauce

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese

2 cans (9.75 oz. each) SWANSON® White Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained


HEAT oven to 350°F. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth.

MIX in salad dressing, Frank's RedHot Sauce and cheese. Stir in chicken.

BAKE 20 min. or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers or vegetables.

Tex Mex Potato Skins


3 hot baked potatoes, split lengthwise (see tip)

3/4 cup shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese

1 1/3 cups FRENCH'S® Cheddar French Fried Onions or FRENCH'S® French Fried Onions, divided

1/4 cup diced green chilies

1/4 cup cooked crumbled bacon

6 tablespoons each salsa and sour cream

FRANK'S® REDHOT® Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Heat oven to 350°F. Scoop out inside of potatoes leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Reserve inside of potatoes for another use.

Arrange potato halves on baking sheet. Top with cheese, 2/3 cup French Fried Onions, chilies and bacon.

Bake 15 minutes until heated through and cheese melts. Cut each potato half crosswise into thirds. Serve topped with salsa, sour cream and remaining onions. For extra zing, splash on Frank's RedHot Sauce to taste.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Please Santa

I've been good I'll be good!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Agenda

We're having a nice night in. Ginger steak salad for dinner, with a bottle of Merlot. Yum!

Then I think we are going to watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. After that, I'm tackling these roots!
Have a great weekend!

P.S. Funny Story, you know the deer from the previous post? My son went and and got his hooves to make a gun rack! He cut his head off and got his hide to dry out too! Ha!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Shots

I've finally gotten into the habit of taking my camera with me whenever I head out. You never know what you'll see. Today we found this deer that someone obviously killed for his rack beacause that's all they took.

This makes me sick. What a waste!

Gross, I know!

His legs were laying all over the place.

On a lighter note, we went to see A Christmas Carol. It was pretty good, we are most excited for Toy Story 3 though!

I'm thinking this would be the perfect gift for my parents. They don't want the mess of a wood burning fireplace, this one is electric and their tv would go right on top. Pretty cool.

I love these cool trunks from Sam's Club.

How redneck is this Trans Am? Ha!

So funny!