Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Savor the Moment

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

This is the third book in The Bridal Quartet by Nora Roberts. I've read books one, Vision in White, and two, Bed of Roses, and like them all because they are quick, easy reads about love and weddings. Mac and Emma found love in books #1 and #2, and now it's Laurel's turn...

Product description from

New Love takes the cake in the third novel in Nora Roberts's new Bride Quartet-in a stunning French flap edition

Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she's too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker's older brother Delaney, on whom she's had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel's quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del-she'll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Country Brunch

Country Brunch

Serves 6-8

Double this easily to serve a larger crowd.
Source: Ohio P.E.O. Cooks II cookbook

8 slices firm (or wheat) bread
1-1/4 c. cooked and crumbled bacon (about 1/2 lb.)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 t. dry mustard
1/8 t. onion powder

Trim crusts from bread; cut slices in halves. Grease a 8x8" baking pan and layer as follows: Cover bottom of pan with one-half of bread, one-half of bacon, and one-half of each of the cheeses. Repeat a second layer. Combine eggs, milk, and seasonings. Pour over layers; refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Buttermilk Scrambled Eggs

Buttermilk Scrambled Eggs

Serves 2.

Sometimes it's nice to switch things up a bit. The buttermilk in these eggs simply replaces the milk that is typically added.

6 eggs
1/6 c. buttermilk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with non-stick spray or a bit of melted butter.

Whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add salt and pepper. Pour eggs into prepared pan and scramble by flipping and tossing eggs with a spatula. Serve with bacon, sausage, or toast... or all three!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Higher Power of Lucky

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Every once in a while I enjoy reading young adult lit. Something about the simplicity of the writing, the ability to get through it fast, and the "younger" approach to adult topics is just a breath of fresh air. This wasn't one of the best I've read, but it did win a Newberry award, so it could be just what your grade-schooler is looking for!

School Library Journal review from

Grade 4-6–Ten-year-old Lucky is sure that if she finds her Higher Power she will gain special insight into her life, just like the people she eavesdrops on at the Anonymous meetings. Lucky knows about the uncertainty of life because she lost her mother in a sudden accident two years ago and her guardian, Brigitte, is homesick for France. Hard Pan, California, population 43, is a unique and sometimes harsh place, but Lucky loves life at the edge of the desert with people that she knows and loves. The youngster wants to be a scientist and has so many questions in the crevices of her brain. Her motto is to stay alert and to carry a survival kit at all times because things happen when you least expect them. When she thinks that Brigitte plans to leave, Lucky knows she has hit rock bottom and must run away, although things don't turn out the way she plans. Narrator Cassandra Campbell brings Susan Patron's Newbery Award-winning novel (Atheneum, 2006) to life, giving each character a slightly different, expressive voice. Brigitte's soft French accent and Lucky's earnest longing and unique view of life are especially captivating. The novel addresses difficult topics such as death, absent parents, and addiction with realism, humor, and wonder, making the overall message one of hope and love.–Teresa Wittmann, Westgate Elementary School, Edmonds, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Italian Chicken Sub Sandwiches

Italian Chicken Sub Sandwiches

Makes 2 sandwiches.

A hit with the mister!

2 hoagie rolls
Olive oil
1 chicken breast
1/4 c. Italian dressing
4 slices provolone cheese
4 slices Genoa salami
Creamy Italian dressing

Marinate chicken breast in Italian dressing for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Split open hoagie rolls and brush insides with olive oil. Set aside.

Cook chicken breast in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through, flipping halfway through. Thinly slice chicken breast and separate into two portions.

Assemble each sandwich by layering two slices of salami, chicken, Italian dressing, and topped with provolone cheese. Top with other side of bun and wrap sandwich in foil.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sandwich is warmed through.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bacon Crescent Appetizers

Bacon Crescent Appetizers

These must've been a hit, because they went fast!
Source: Kraft Food and Family magazine

Makes about 64 bite-size appetizers.

2 cans (8-oz. each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped onions
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except crescent roll dough.

Separate each can of dough into 4 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 8 triangles (you will have 64 triangles between the two cans of crescent roll dough). Spread each triangle with a small scoop of the cream cheese filling; fold over, as shown in picture.

Place on baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Other Woman

The Other Woman edited by Victoria Zackheim

An interesting read... a combination of viewpoints from women involved in situations with "the other woman." Some are written by the cheaters, some are written by the cheated-on. An interesting highlight is an entry by Mary Jo Eustace, the woman left behind when she was replaced by Tori Spelling with husband Dean.

Publishers Weekly review from

The Other Woman may be a topic of eternally prurient interest, but the main attraction of this strong collection of 21 personal essays is the top-drawer writers such as Diana Abu-Jaber, Laurie Stone and Susan Cheever. Narrated from the point of view of the marriage wrecker or that of the wife who suffers the anguish of triangulation in a trusting relationship, these tales drip with the bitterness of experience. In "Palm Springs," Mary Jo Eustace records the shattering moment when she was stranded on vacation with her small children, and her husband revealed he had fallen in love with his movie co-star. Jane Smiley's terrifically funny "Iowa Was Never Like This" describes the incorrigible but enchanting litany of love's fickle nature. Dani Shapiro's "The Mistress" recreates her several years' affair with the much older stepfather of her college friend—and the lies she finally uncovered by hiring a detective. And in her plainspoken "The Uterine Blues," Connie May Fowler wonders when women are going to smarten up and stop sabotaging one another by sleeping with each other's husbands. The anthology features tales from women of all ages, lesbians and women who have been abused physically: it is a candid and truly fascinating look at how men and women love and hurt.(June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Original Chex Party Mix

Original Chex Party Mix

Makes 12 cups, about 24 servings.

A long-time party favorite. The bagged stuff is addicting, but THIS is even better.

3 c. Rice Chex
3 c. Corn Chex
3 c. Wheat Chex
1 c. mini pretzels
1 c. peanuts or mixed nuts
1 c. bagel chips, broken in 1" pieces
6 T. butter (I round up to 8 and just use a whole stick)
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 t. seasoned salt
3/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder

Oven directions:
Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Microwave directions:
In a large microwaveable bowl, combine cereals, pretzels, nuts, and bagel chips; set aside.
In another microwaveable bowl, microwave butter on high for 40 seconds, or until melted. Add Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for 5-6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, or use my lazy-man's technique -- leave in the bowl and stir every 30 minutes or so until cool. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New York-Style Crumb Cake

New York-Style Crumb Cake

Makes one 13"x9" cake.
Serves 24+, depending on how you cut it.

It's my birthday today and I'm celebrating the big 2-7. Besides some traditional (and necessary) birthday cake, this coffee cake is a wonderful way to start my day.
Source: Martha Stewart Living magazine

For the crumb topping:
3-1/2 c. cake flour (not self-rising)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. packed dark-brown sugar
1-1/2 t. ground cinnamon
Coarse salt
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

For the cake:
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2-1/2 c. cake flour
1/2 t. baking soda
Coarse salt
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture, and mix using your hands until medium to large clumps form.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 13"x9" baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

Spoon batter into pan, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle crumb-topping mixture evenly over batter.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cake cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Makes 3 dozen.

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband! These cookies are one of his favorites!
Source: back of the can of The Farmer's Market Raisins

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 c. oats, uncooked
1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, shortening, and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Add the flour combination to the batter and mix well. Add the oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until light golden brown in color. Cool one minute on cookie sheets, then place on wire cooling racks. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Water For Elephants

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is a fantastic book, and here's more reason to read it: the movie for it will be in theaters this April. We all know most books are better than their movies, so quick! Read the book first, be amazed, and then go see the movie, and hopefully be equally impressed. review:

Jacob Jankowski says: "I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other." At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn't always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn't a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed in an auto accident one week before he was to sit for his veterinary medicine exams at Cornell. He buried his parents, learned that they left him nothing because they had mortgaged everything to pay his tuition, returned to school, went to the exams, and didn't write a single word. He walked out without completing the test and wound up on a circus train. The circus he joins, in Depression-era America, is second-rate at best. With Ringling Brothers as the standard, Benzini Brothers is far down the scale and pale by comparison.

Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob's life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the "menagerie" and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and... he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August's wife. Not his best idea.

The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena's and Rosie's pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it--and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. --Valerie Ryan

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unbearable Lightness

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Wow. What a read. This memoir is commendably honest, almost painfully so. Portia really bares her soul and past as she talks about her battle with anorexia, self-image, and being gay in a straight world. I had trouble putting this book down because I just wanted to keep reading more! You'll cringe, you might cry, and you'll be fascinated by the extremes Portia goes to.

Publishers Weekly review from

The author, an actor in movies and TV, (including Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted), model, and gay rights advocate, writes that "playing the role of heterosexual while fantasizing about being a homosexual had been my reality since I was a child." It's one she played into her 20s, when she was for three years married to a man. Now, she is married to Ellen DeGeneres, whom she met in 2001 after recovering from anorexia and bulimia. De Rossi nicely chronicles the years in between, during which she starved herself to 80 pounds. She artfully draws the reader into the tension of a life lived in secrecy: did anybody notice she lunges rather than walks, the better to burn calories? will anyone guess she is gay? when she nearly fainted, was anyone around? While some details could be viewed as anorexia how-tos, they make it possible to comprehend the twisted logic of de Rossi's frantic daily pursuits, and grasp the enormity of her achievement in overcoming her problems. The path de Rossi took to her happy ending is well worth reading about: her story is a cautionary tale, an inspiration, and a triumph. (Nov.)
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