Saturday, January 25, 2020

Chinese New Year 2020 - The Year of the Rat

2020 is the Year of the Rat for Chinese New Year.

There's a free coloring page by Teachers Pay Teachers with a fun design to color, decorate, or embellish. The pin on Pinterest leads to the website where you can get the free download.

Another pin that leads to the Kitchn has some ideas for lucky foods to eat on Chinese New Year:

“Jiao Zi” or Chinese Dumplings
Because they are shaped like ancient gold or silver ingots, dumplings are believed to symbolize wealth and prosperity. They are typically served right at midnight and for breakfast the following morning. A coin is sometimes hidden in one of the dumplings, and the person who finds or bites the coin will be the luckiest one in the upcoming year.

Rice in and of itself is considered to be a lucky food, as it is associated with fertility and prosperity, but “nian gao” (or glutinous rice) is especially fortuitous.

Literally translating as “high cake,” this dessert symbolizes achieving new heights in the coming year.

Whole Foods 

To ensure a good start and finish in the New Year, it’s important to indulge in “whole” foods. For example, “yu” or whole fish, ensures wholeness in the coming year, while long, uncut noodles bode a life of longevity.


Displaying and eating tangerines and oranges is said to bring wealth and luck. This belief stems not only from the bright, gold-like color, but also due to the words themselves. The word for tangerines in Chinese sounds similar to the word for “luck,” while the word for orange sounds similar to that of the word for “wealth.”


A simple coloring page for the refrigerator has the image of a rat as well as the English and Chinese words for Happy Chinese New Year. The pin on Pinterest leads to a Google Drive with a variety of images to choose from for coloring.


This year for Chinese New Year, Olivia got her ears pierced. Originally she was going to have them pierced on her birthday (on the 18th), but when we went to the tattoo/piercing shop we were told that youth under 18 years old need a birth certificate and then one of the parents needs to present a driver's license that matches the name on the birth certificate. This was no where on the shop's website, so we had to do the piercings another day.

Sophia also got her ears pierced. She wanted to have a second earring (double piercing) in each ear for a long time.

We thought that it would be good to have both the girls share an experience like this on a special holiday - Chinese New Year. It's something they can look back upon and have a good memory about.


We went out to eat after that at a restaurant on the University of Minnesota campus.

The egg rolls were super hot - right out of the oil for deep frying.

Olivia ordered cheese wontons - something she enjoys having whenever we go to a Chinese restaurant.

The portions were very generous and we had several days worth of meals in the days following Chinese New Year.

All the food we ordered was delicious and we would go back again to try some more of the food.

It was a fun Chinese New Year this year!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Stories in Faith - Book Review

This past week I read Stories in Faith - Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources through Wisdom Tales by Gail Forsyth-Vail.

This book focuses on sharing 19 stories from various cultures and traditions to help people develop their faith and create meaning in their lives. The stories illustrate the UU's seven Principles and six Sources as framework for the reader to reflect upon and then act on in their congregations and/or at home.

Some of the stories I was familiar with already - like The Brementown Musicians that illustrated the first Principle: the inherent worth and dignity of every person; the creation story (from the Bible) for the second Principle: justice, equity, and compassion.

There were other stories that I had not heard that I enjoyed reading like The Lion's Whisker which illustrated the fourth Principle: a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; and We Are All One which showed the seventh Principle: respect for the interdependent web of all existence.

What I learned from reading this book is that there are six sources that Unitarian Universalists draw upon:
- Direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men
- Wisdom from the world's religions
- Jewish and Christian teachings
- Humanist teachings and the guidance of reason and science
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions

I particularly enjoyed reading the following stories:
- The Christmas Truce
- Rosa Park's life
- The Mustard Seed Medicine
- Abu Kassim's Shoes
- Sand
- The Green Man

Stories in Faith chose to use stories because "we are collectors and tellers of stories - about our own lives, our world, and those who came before. We find new meaning in creating and sharing stories."

What I liked about this book is that were reflections at the end of each story to think about. For example, at the end of The Brementown Musicians, the author writes, "This story is a wonderful, fun reminder of our first Principle, which affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Four animal characters are discarded for having outlived their usefulness, but they find new life with companions who value them and celebrate their uniqueness. Each is able to make a contribution to the group. And the song they sing together is just the right one to sing."

In the story "The Lion's Whisker," the author writes, " We do not always take the time necessary to nurture and support our family relationships. We can be quick to blame those we love for not responding to us as we would like them to. This story calls us to look inside ourselves for qualities that heal and nurture relationships: patience, kindness, and a willingness to truly notice and appreciate others. It affirms these qualities are present in all of us."

Another story I liked, "The Mustard Seed," shares about how "one of the bonds that unite us as human beings is the experience of mourning....The story reminds us to be intentional about learning how to respond with compassion to the grief of others."

"Abu Kassim's Shoes" shows that "when we are weighted down with self-centered behavior, not engaged with our families, communities, and the world, we suffer."

The story about Charles Darwin shared about his calling "to make his contribution to the world through his gift for the natural sciences and his love for observation and experimentation." It went on to say that the "Unitarian Universalist faith calls upon each of us to figure out how our own gifts and skills can help make the world a better place."

In the story called "Sand," the author said that "it invites us to a renewed commitment to care for our shared home on this planet and deepens our respect for that which we often take for granted. It calls us to gratitude for the independent web to which we belong."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Aromatherapy Diffuser Blends

One of the goals I have for the upcoming year is to try a variety of aromatherapy blends that I pinned on Pinterest.

The first pin is for a blend called Winter Blues Diffuser Blend. It combines 3 essential oils:

2 drops bergamot
2 drops wild orange (I used sweet orange)
2 drops peppermint

The second pin is for a blend called New Year Ritual. It combines 4 essential oils:

5 drops orange (I used sweet orange)
3 drops cedarwood
3 drops frankincense
3 drops ylang ylang

Both of these blends are very pleasant and I would make them again.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mongolian Beef - Keto, Whole30, and Gluten-Free

On Sunday, I made Paleo Mongolian Beef which is a Whole30, Keto, Gluten-Free recipe. It was a pin on Pinterest that led to I Heart Umami.

The recipe sounded easy enough to prepare with minimal ingredients. I was really looking forward to making and trying this recipe. Although the prep time was supposed to be about 15 minutes, it took longer than that. The cook time, also, was a bit longer than the 10 minutes that the recipe said.

We felt like it was a rather salty recipe. I don't know if it was the soy sauce and fish sauce - maybe half the amount or eliminating the fish sauce would have been better. It also wasn't as spicy as I thought - even with the garlic, ginger, and hot peppers.

At any rate, I won't be making this recipe again. It's still worthwhile to try new recipes and expand what we eat, though


Beef Marinade:

• 2 lb skirt steak, beef flap, or sirloin, thinly sliced against the grain
• 4 tbsp coconut aminos (I used soy sauce because I couldn't find coconut aminos in the store)
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
• 2 tsp arrowroot starch (I used corn starch since there was such a small amount and I'm not doing a strict Whole30 program at this point)
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 6-8 tbsp avocado or olive oil


• 6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
• 6-inch length thinly sliced ginger from index through ring finger quantity
• 4 whole red chili peppers (fresno or serrano), remove seeds, slice to thin strips
• 6 bulbs scallions, cut into 3-inch length. Separate white and green parts.


1. Thin slice beef against the grain. Add ingredients from coconut aminos to baking soda. Mix well and set aside in the fridge.
2. In the meantime, prepare garlic, ginger, scallions, separate white and green parts, and remove the chili pepper seeds and slice them to thin strips
3. In a well-heated stainless steel skillet or cast iron, add 2 tbsp cooking fat. Pan fry the beef in one layer without disturbing over medium-high heat until crisp brown, about 2 minutes then quickly sear the flip side, about 30 seconds. Set the beef and the pan juice aside.
4. Start the skillet dry and add 1 more tbsp cooking oil, saute aromatics with a pinch of salt until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Add beef back to the skillet and green scallion parts. Quickly toss to coat the flavor for another 30 seconds. Serve hot and immediately.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Carmelized Ham Swiss Cheese Buns

One of the girls' favorite meals is Carmelized Ham Swiss Cheese Buns. Every once in a while, for a special occasion, I'll make these. This time it was for a pre-birthday dinner for Olivia who was turning 17 years old the following day. Sophia came home from college, so it was a doubly-special occasion.

The recipe comes from a pin on Pinterest that leads to Taste of Home. The mini-sandwiches are easy to make and can be customized to what people like. For example, Olivia doesn't like horseradish sauce, so her sandwiches don't have the sauce in them.

Carmelized Ham Swiss Cheese Buns

1 package (18 ounces) Hawaiian sweet rolls (I used 20 rolls)
1/2 cup horseradish sauce
3/4 pound sliced deli ham (I use 1 slice of ham per sandwich)
6 slices Swiss cheese, halved (I use 1/2 slice of cheese per sandwich)
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Spread cut side of roll bottoms with horseradish sauce. Layer with ham and cheese; replace tops. Arrange in a single layer in a greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

In a small skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over rolls. Refrigerate, covered, several hours or overnight. (Note: these also can be baked right away. However, the sauce doesn't sink into the bread as much.)

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake, covered, 25 minutes. Bake, uncovered, 5-10 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Taste of Home Test Kitchen Tips

Make it the day before and then bake it the following day.

Turn this sandwich into a Reuben. Swap in corned beef or pastrami for the ham, add a layer of sauerkraut, and substitute caraway seeds for poppy.

Vegetarians coming for dinner? These buns can easily go meat-free by omitting the ham and doubling the cheese. We like Swiss and cheddar.

Nutrition Facts

1 sandwich: 315 calories, 17g fat (9g saturated fat), 61mg cholesterol, 555mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 2g fiber), 13g protein.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Sheet Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thigh Dinner

This year I'm trying to incorporate make more Whole30 meals on a regular basis rather than just doing the Whole30 for a month. I found a pin on Pinterest that led to The Clean Eating Couple for Sheet Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thigh Dinner.

It is quick to prepare and the cooking time is only 20 minutes. The most time-consuming part was cutting the Brussels sprouts and potatoes in half.

The recipe, as printed below, serves two people according to the website. However, three of us had dinner and there were leftovers for about one more meal and a side dish.

The flavor was amazing! It reminded me of lemon rosemary roasted chicken I had in San Francisco back in 1991. I have not been able to find a similar tasting until now.

I will definitely be making this again. Easy to make and flavorful. A great combination!

Sheet Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thigh Dinner


1.25 lbs chicken thighs (I used about 3/4 pound skinless chicken breast and 3/4 pound skinless chicken thighs)
3 cups Brussels sprouts (16 ounce bag, halved)
2 cups fingerling potatoes (10 ounces, halved)

For the marinade:

⅓ cup olive oil
1.5 tablespoon lemon zest (I used the zest from two lemons. It wasn't 1.5 tablespoon, but it was plenty for this recipe)
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (worked out to be the juice from the two lemons)
½ tablespoon rosemary, chopped (I used fresh rosemary)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with olive oil.

In a bowl, whisk together marinade. Place marinade and chicken in a dish or large ziploc bag to marinate for at least 5 minutes. (You can marinate overnight ahead of time for more flavor.)

While the chicken is marinating, cut the brussels sprouts and the potatoes.

Place the chicken on a lined baking sheet, reserving the marinade in the dish.

Toss the Brussels sprouts and potatoes in the remaining marinade until coated.

Fill in the remainder of the sheet pain with the Brussels sprouts and potatoes until the sheet is covered.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. (I baked the dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes...and then left it in the oven for a bit longer since we were cleaning the barn and had to finish that before the -20 to -30 weather moves in overnight.)

Substitutions for this recipe

If you don't like rosemary, you can substitute thyme or basil.

You can substitute Brussels sprouts with broccoli or butternut squash.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Stock Your Pantry in 52 Weeks

One of the many things that my parents did well was stocking their pantry. They had multiple pantries depending on what they were storing. By the kitchen, there was a hallway closet that held an overflow of canned goods. On the other side of the hallway was another closet that held our coats and boots. There were two overhead shelves that held toiletries.

In the basement, we had a storage room where there stored canned goods, onions that were tied in pantyhose (this kept the onions good for the winter), and sometimes carrots packed in sand in bushel baskets. They didn't do the latter often because eventually the carrots would get soft and we no longer would want to eat them.

At any rate, I saw on Pinterest some plans to stocking your pantry - little by little - throughout a year. Some plans said that you could do this on $5 a week, others said $10 a week. The goal isn't just to amass these items, but use them when you run out of them. Then you would replenish what you use as needed.

It is so convenient to have items on hand when you need them, when there's an emergency (especially when there is no water, which has happened to us multiple times thanks to issues with our well), or when you run out and don't want to make a special trip to the store.

There wasn't one list on Pinterest that seemed to fit our needs, so I looked at a variety of lists and created one just for our family. I may modify it as I go along. When the week's item is purchased, the cost will be added to that line and the week number changed to bold-face and italics.

The items on the list are just the non-perishable ones. I did not do a plan for the freezer (which my parents also did exceptionally well at stocking and keeping track of the items).

Stock Your Pantry in 52 Weeks Plan

Week 1 – 10 gallons of water ($7.80)
Week 2 – 5 cans cream of chicken and/or mushroom soup (I did a combination of both types of soup and chose Campbell's Healthy brand since the sodium level was about 300 mg less than regular soup) ($6.65)
Week 3 – 8 pounds of sugar ($2.84)
Week 4 – 8 cans tomato soup (I already had four cans on hand, so I only purchased 4 more cans of soup) ($2.00)
Week 56 pounds macaroni ($5.88)
Week 6 – 10 pounds all-purpose flour ($2.36)
Week 7 – 1 pound regular salt; 1 grinder salt; 1 ice cream salt ($3.32)
Week 8 – 7 cans tuna ($10.01)
Week 91 can vegetable spray and 2 packages taco seasoning mix ($3.46)
Week 10 – 9 packages yeast (the jars of yeast were out because of people stocking up in preparation for Corona virus spreading in the U.S.). Because supplies were also getting low, I got items that we use and didn't want to be without: Dayquil, BC Powder, 4 containers of hot chocolate mix, 3 packages Kleenex, 4 rolls paper towels, 2 boxes cat litter, 1 box dishwasher soap, 12 rolls toilet paper (1 container), 1 bottle vitamins, 1 bottle Vitamin C, 2 bottles aloe vera gel (since anti-bacterial cleanser is out-of-stock now and it recommended to make your own), 2 packages Wet Ones, 3 packages anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning, 32 quarts powdered milk (this was more expensive because powdered milk was out at Walmart due to people stocking up for a potential Corona Virus outbreak in Minnesota), 3 packages of coffee, cleansers with bleach for handles and toilets ($159.21)
Week 11 –  6 jars spaghetti sauce (different varieties) ($11.04)
Week 12 – 1 box rice, 1 package Lysol wipes, 3 packages paper towels, 15 pounds cat litter, 1 container ketchup, 1 soy sauce, and 1 can wasabi peas, 2 Pho bowls, Bisquick, Nestle chocolate drink mix, hand soap, 2 molasses, 1 peanut sauce, 2 cooking oil, 2 drink/punch mix, panko, 2 jars of peanuts, 1 dish soap, 1 plastic wrap, 3 boxes of BC powder, trash bags, pop, 2 bags dog food, 2 Lysol sprays, 1 Clorax toilet bowl cleaner, 1 bottle Vitamin C, beef jerky, Clorax clean ups, 20 quarts of dry milk, 40 pounds of BBQ pellets, baby wipes, facial wipes, toilet paper ($257.48)
Week 13 – 2 bottles Vitamin C, 1 jar Miracle Whip, 1 container cashews, 1 jar dill pickles, creamer,  and 2 packages toilet paper ($76.28)
Week 14 – Peanuts, big bag flour, hot chocolate mix, mini marshmallows ($14.69)
Week 15 –  Toiletries (toothpaste, floss, shampoo, conditioner, razors) ($16.49)
Week 16 – 10 cans of beans (variety) ($10.84)
Week 17 – 1 bottle of vitamins ($8.03)
Week 18 – 1 container of oats and 2 containers shortening (free - through food program) 
Week 19 – 5 pounds of rice (variety of types) ($4.92)
Week 20 – 2 containers cooking oil (free - through food program) 
Week 21 – 5 cans of vegetables (e.g., mushrooms) ($7.01)
Week 22 – 2 jars peanut butter (free) and wasabi peas, ($4.43)
Week 23 – 2 jars peanuts, 5 jars spaghetti sauce, and hot chocolate mix ($23.70)
Week 24 – 5 containers of dry soup mix ($5.24)
Week 25 – 5 pounds corn flour (free - we have plenty on hand from a recipe that Olivia made in
Week 26 – 2 boxes trash bags (2022 - we have two boxes of trash bags that we acquired in 2021)
Week 27 – 4 pounds sugar (2 each of powdered and brown)
Week 28 – 1 box baking soda and 1 container baking powder
Week 29 – 2 jars salad dressing
Week 30 – 10 jars of homemade canned tomatoes (will do in 2022)
Week 31 – 10 jars homemade pickles (will do in 2022)
Week 32 – 2 jars vinegar  
Week 33 – 2 boxes crackers
Week 34 – 5 jars of honey and 2 jars molasses
Week 35 – 3 bottles of hand sanitizer ($8.91), 2 bags of white sugar ($3.20), chocolate drink mix ($6.98), 2 boxes of cat litter ($16.74)
Week 36 (1st week of September) – 5 cans of soup and 2 jars Miracle Whip
Week 37 – 1 box of laundry detergent and 1 container of water freshener  + 1 box of laundry dryer sheets 2 boxes cereal
Week 38 – Natural cleansers (Thieves, hand soap, dish soap)
Week 39 – 5 cans fruit
Week 40 – 5 cans vegetables
Week 41 – 2 containers pancake syrup
Week 42 – 2 pounds dried fruit (e.g., raisins)
Week 43 - 1 jar each of rose water and orange water
Week 44 – 5 jars of spaghetti sauce
Week 45 – Juices (lemon, lime, apple, grape)
Week 46 – 2 cans cooking spray
Week 47 – 2 boxes stuffing mix and 2 boxes dry potatoes
Week 48 – 5 cans vegetables and 2 containers hot cocoa mix
Week 49 – Condiments (mustard, BBQ sauce, ketchup)
Week 50 – Condiments (soy sauce, parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce)
Week 51 – Snacks (popcorn, granola bars)
Week 52 – Toiletries (toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Last week I made Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos after seeing a pin on Pinterest that led to The Real Food Dieticians.

The recipe is easy to make. However, the spiciness and flavor was less than I anticipated. I would double the spices the next time I make this recipe.

For a Whole 30 meal, the meat can be served in a lettuce wrap or on a bed of greens and top with a variety of toppings.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 hours
Yield: 8 servings


2 pounds chicken breast or thighs (I used 1 pound chicken breasts and 1 pound of chicken drumsticks)
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more for more heat)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Salad greens or butter leaf lettuce
Toppings: Fresh chopped veggies of choice, fresh cilantro, olives, avocado, fresh salsa, lime wedge etc.
Optional: gluten-free tortilla


Place all ingredients except salad greens/lettuce and toppings in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours.

Remove chicken and shred with 2 forks. Return to slow cooker and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve chicken taco meat in a lettuce wrap, gluten-free tortilla or on a bed of greens, top with cilantro and add desired toppings.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Natural Bath Soak with Lavender

One of my goals each month this year is to try two new personal homemade bath products that I've pinned on my Homemade Bath Products board on Pinterest.

The "recipe" for the homemade bath product for this week was a natural bath soak. The pin said that for 20 minutes once a week, put a handful of Epsom or sea salt, ten drops of lavender essential oil, and 1/2 cup of baking soda in a hot bath.

This combination supposedly draws out toxins, lowers stress-related hormones, and balances your pH levels. Did it do that? I don't know. It did smell relaxing and peaceful, and I stayed much longer than 20 minutes in the bathtub.

So, even if it didn't do what it says it would do, for me it was worthwhile to try something new and take some self-care time. That's always a good thing to do.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Peanut Butter-Coconut Dog Treats

One of my friends has made homemade dog treats for our dogs. Needless to say, they've been enjoying the variety of treats. Seeing how much they like these treats, I thought it would be good to try to make some new dog treat recipes for them.

So, I took a look on a couple of my Pinterest boards that I had pinned dog treat recipes. The first pin led to a website that was featuring several treats. The peanut butter dog biscuits led to Pink Pistachio.

The recipe has eight basic ingredients - no chemicals which the majority of store-bought dog treats contain. They treats are easy to make and the dogs love them! They were excited watching me mix the ingredients together and putting them in the oven...and were eager to have their first treat hot out of the oven.


1 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon applesauce


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Knead into a well incorporated ball.

Roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick on wax paper.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out dog treats and place on an unlined baking sheet (I did a quick spray of cooking oil on the baking sheet). 

You can see the little bits of shredded coconut sticking out from the dog treats.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Store in an air-tight container.

Gumdrop Cookies

I've been wanting to make gumdrop cookies for a while now after seeing a pin on Pinterest that led to In Katrina's Kitchen.

The description says, "These soft, buttery Gumdrop Cookies studded with sugar-coated candies are perfect for any holiday dessert table and are sure to stand out from the rest!"

I'm not sure I would agree with that statement completely. They are soft when they come out of the oven. However, they turn hard upon cooling which was disappointing. The recipe says to bake the cookies until the edges turn brown. Thankfully, I didn't do that or they would have been even harder.

I think to best enjoy these cookies, they'll need to be microwaved for a few seconds so they soften a bit.

Gumdrop Cookies


• 16 ounces fruit-flavored gumdrops
• 1/3 cup sugar to coat gumdrops
• 1 cup margarine, softened (I used butter)
• 1 3/4 cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 1/2 cups flour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut gumdrops into small pieces, drop into a bowl of sugar, toss to coat. Remove from sugar, allowing excess sugar to fall back into the bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream margarine and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir dry ingredients into the wet mixture just until blended.

Stir in half of the gumdrop pieces. (Note: the dough is crumbly and doesn't stick together on it own. At this point, I hand-squeezed the dough so it would stick together.)

Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten cookies. Top with more gumdrop pieces.

Bake 8-12 minutes until tops of cookies look dry, but edges are not yet browned. Cool on cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days or wrap and freeze for up to a month.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas

During 2020, one of my goals is to make a vegetarian dinner each week. So, I searched on Pinterest for some new recipes and found one that led to So Fab Food for Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas.

The enchiladas are easy to make, with of the ingredients coming from cans or spice jars. The appearance may not be the most appealing when it is served since the sauce and cheese are soft. Nonetheless, the flavor is delicious and had a nice spiciness to it.

Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


• 2 cans lows-sodium black beans, drained (I used no-salt black beans)
• 1 cup yellow sweet corn
• 1 can Ro*Tel, drained
• 2 limes
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1.5 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp red pepper flakes
• 2 cups chile verde enchilada sauce
• 4 oz cream cheese
• 20 corn tortillas
• 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese (I only used this type of cheese and did 2 cups)
• 1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I did not use this type of cheese)
• ¼ cup sliced olives (I did not add olives)
• 1 green onion, chopped (I did not use green onions)
• ½ tsp chopped cilantro
• 1 avocado, sliced (I did not use the avocado)


1. Begin by roughly mashing up the first can of drained black beans.
2. Add them to a large skillet, and add the corn, Ro*Tel, and other can of unmashed drained black beans.
3. Simmer on low, heating the bean mixture with the juice from half a lime.
4. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Heat until garlic is fragrant, then add about 1 cup of sauce to bean mixture with the cream cheese. Simmer on low for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until cream cheese is softened and mixed well into the sauce.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees as you assemble the enchiladas.
6. Spray a large 9"x13" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, then set aside.
7. Lightly warm the tortillas, just a few at a time.
8. Add about 1 tablespoon of the bean mixture to the center of each tortilla, then sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the combined cheese on top. Roll tortilla tightly, then place on sprayed baking pan with the seam side down. (Some of these broke apart when I rolled them. I don't have much luck with corn tortillas, but I liked the flavor of them in this recipe.)
9. Continue to assemble enchiladas and place in baking sheet, then cover enchiladas with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
10. Cover with foil tightly, then bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven.
11. Remove foil from top of enchiladas, add olives, green onions, and cilantro, then bake another 5-7 minutes until cheese is well melted and mixture is bubbling.

12. Remove enchiladas and let cool at least 30 minutes. Cut and serve with avocado slices, with a few squeezes of lime and sour cream. Add a bit of hot sauce if you like.
13. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Maple Nut Coffee Twist

This recipe was one that my mom used to make when I was growing up for special occasions. It came from family friends, the Suttons, and I'm happy they shared it with us. It brings back memories of times that our families spent together; and of holidays that our family celebrated throughout the years.

It does take some time to prepare and bake, so it's important to plan accordingly. It reheats very well - especially in the microwave. It is best, though, right out of the oven. Nothing can compare to freshly-baked Maple Nut Coffee Twist that's straight from the oven.

Maple Nut Coffee Twist


3 ¼ to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast (I used 3 teaspoons of yeast from a jar)
¾ cup milk
¼ cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon maple flavoring


½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/3 cup nuts (I did not include these)

6 tablespoons margarine, melted


1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon maple flavoring
2-3 tablespoons milk


In a mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In a saucepan, heat milk and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add eggs; beat on medium for 2 minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon maple flavoring. (NOTE: I forgot to do this, so I put 1/3 teaspoon of the maple flavoring on top of the melted butter between each layer of dough and spread it around during the assembly part.)

Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 70 minutes.

(NOTE: The original recipe uses an alternative recipe for the dough. I did not do this since I didn’t have a box of hot roll mix on hand. If you prefer to do this, you’ll need to dissolve a package of yeast in warm water. Stir in 1 egg, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon maple flavoring. Add 1 package of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix and blend well. Knead on a floured surface 2-3 minutes until smooth and satiny. Place in a greased bowl. Cover, let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size – about 30-45 minutes.)

Divide the dough equally into 3 balls. On lightly-floured surface, roll out one ball of dough to a 12” circle. Fit it onto the bottom of a greased 12” pizza pan. Brush dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the filling. Continue in the same manner forming 2 more ending with filling.

Use a glass to mark a 2” circle in the center of the dough. Cut from the outside edge just to the circle forming 16 pieces.

Twist each of the 3 layered wedges 5 times. Let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size – about 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Drizzle while warm with glaze. (NOTE: I let it cool completely and then put the glaze on since we were eating it the next day.)

This is best hot out of the oven. However, the twists can be heated in the microwave as well. It lasts for several days and reheats well.

Two New Window Stars

One of my goals this year is to try two new window star patterns each month. I have quite a few patterns on my Pinterest origami board. The two I picked this month are below.

The first pin is of a yellow window star with the instructions in a different language. (The pin doesn't lead to a website.) I was able to see that the paper is cut to 7.5 cm x 8 cm. At least that gave the size which is important. To make the window star, I just followed the pictures.

I made the window star using blue kite paper, and it turned out like this:

The second pattern I did was of an eight-pointed star that led to Origami Maniacs:

I did the window star in purple and it turned out like this:

It was fun to try some new patterns. What I found out, though, was that my ability to do window stars for any prolonged period of time is no longer possible which essentially ends what I can sell in my Etsy shop.

Even after spinal surgery in October 2019 due to being rear-ended by another driver in November 2018 (it was his fault - he wasn't paying attention), the ability to keep my neck in the position it needs to be still hurts and limits what I can do. At least I can make a couple stars here and there for my family or gifts.

Friday, January 10, 2020

My Favorite Photo - December 2019

December is a fun and celebratory month for us - we celebrate St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Sophia's birthday, and New Year's Eve.

In the past, when the girls were younger, I did more for each of those days. As they've gotten older and Sophia is now at college, the holidays were less packed with things to do. Nonetheless, it was a great month to go through and look back upon. There are quite a few photos, so I won't go into detail with each one.

The girls made gingerbread houses together on December 1st.

Later that day, we went to a nearby Christmas tree a blizzard! Olivia loves the cold weather.

Sophia pulled the tree back to the check-out area.

I'm realizing that the cold weather is more challenging for me as I get older. I'm in the middle with the face mask and clunky winter boots.

We've been having some spectacular sunsets.

I like seeing the bright moon high in the sky. This is looking south from the house towards the barn and back of our farm.

We got the tree up and I put the lights on it. At the time I didn't realize how many strings of lights I put on it. When Olivia took them off at the end of December she told me there were nine strings of lights...significantly more than we've used in the past.

All the stockings wee up by the woodstove. I finally got Danny's and Scooby's names on their stockings.

On the 7th of December, we went to see Sophia at college. She was in a major Christmas performance and played the pedal harp in several pieces.

This was the annual performance that we watched last year when she was a high school senior. It was the major deciding factor in choosing this college. 

This is Sophia by the harp she played. It belongs to the college and she is able to practice and perform on it.

After the concert, the girls said goodbye to one another.

Olivia has been taking Tang Soo Do - a type of karate. She has been doing very well. She tested for the next level of belt and received it during a special ceremony on the day after this photo was taken.

Olivia helped at the Lions annual Christmas breakfast for the community. She and two other teens helped make buttons for people who sat or stood with Santa. I took the photos of the children and families.

The day after Sophia came home from college, she played the harp at the nursing home. The gentleman who is listening to her is 99 years old! He was alert, engaging, and had many stories to share with us. It was a joy to listen to him. 

A few days before Christmas, we took Paige's stepfather to Green Mill near the nursing home he's in. We had a great meal together.

We looked at Christmas lights before bringing him back to the nursing home.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the church service. We had a ham dinner that evening.

On Christmas, the pets wanted to be part of the action.

I made a maple twist coffee cake that my mom used to make for special occasions. It is a recipe that came from family friends of ours.

Olivia made cupcakes for Christmas dinner at my sister's home.

Sophia made a gingerbread tree for Christmas dinner.

When we came home, we opened more of our Christmas gifts. Aspen wanted to watch.

Scooby did too.

Danny and Eenie sat right by Sophia. They've missed her while she's been away.

We put a trail cam up that I got for Christmas. On the day after Christmas, there was a fox in the front west pasture.

We spotted a coyote two days later in the same pasture. This was a surprise. We didn't realize they were so close to the horses or our home.

Olivia has been doing gymnastics and her skills have been continuing to grow this year.

A couple of days after Christmas, Olivia and I walked to the back of our property. We saw lots of evidence of deer in the nature trail area.

For Sophia's birthday, we went to Momo Sushi for lunch. We had to go a day early because it wasn't open on Mondays (her birthday). This was one of the best Japanese and Tibetan restaurant I've ever been to! It was fun trying a new restaurant and tasting some food we've never had before as well as food we enjoy eating, but prepared in a new, fresh way.

I made my grandma's cinnamon rolls on Sophia's birthday. We had a late breakfast and Sophia opened her presents. The presents are all in separate boxes of graduating sizes within the big box. She had fun open a box within a box...within a box...within a box...and so on.

Danny wanted to be involved in the action.

On New Year's Eve during the day it was beautiful with a new snowfall. There were few clouds and bright sunlight. The snow sparkled.

The horses were curious as to what I was doing when I went back and forth to take the disc out of the trail cam and then replaced it later.

On New Year's Eve during the night, a deer walked near the new location where I put the trail cam. She used the same path that Olivia and I saw out in the nature trail area.

And that wraps up December...2019...and the decade.