Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, out-of-town family visits and I’m in the mood for something other than leftover turkey. This year, Vegetarian Chili and Red Lentil and Barely Soup took center stage with lots of “fixin’s” on the side. As a time-saver, I made the chili ahead and froze it. After defrosting at room temperature for a day, it simmered over a low flame for a few hours. It was a hit! This hearty, healthy chili is so delicious, I’ve already made it again.

Chili is perfect when it’s, ummm, chilly! Stay warm, hon.

Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and veins removed) (I omitted this since my family does’t like things too spicy.)
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
3 heaping tbsp tomato paste
3 soft plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup veggie stock or water
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.Heat the olive oil in a pan* and add onions and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add the jalapeno (keep some of the vein and/or seeds for more heat) and saute for another minute.

2.Add the chili, cumin and garlic and continue to saute until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and saute for another 1-2 minutes.

3.Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally so that the chili doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add additional veggie stock, if needed.

*Tip: The first time I made this recipe, I sautéed the onions and garlic in a saute pan, followed the directions, and then poured the mixture in a large pot to simmer. The second time, I sautéed the onions and garlic directly in the large pot, added the remaining ingredients, and simmered. It was less work and just as yummy.

Source: http://www.busyinbrooklyn.com/vegetarian-chili-cornbread/

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Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs

Lucy loves sniffing and tracking the different animals that appear in our backyard.

Growing up in suburban Baltimore, I saw my share of squirrels,

chipmunks,

deer,

moles,

and raccoons.

And although they weren’t seen much, skunks made their presence known.

I had no idea that suburban New Jersey–directly west of Manhattan–would be home to all those animals and more. Recently, we received a new “visitor” to our backyard. It wasn’t this cute raccoon resting in a tree,

I spotted this raccoon high up in a tree and ran to get my camera.

or the opossum that chatters at night, 

or the groundhog that tunnels under our yard,

or the wild turkey that displays its feathers for the ladies,

or the Box Turtle that gave me a kiss, 

This box turtle showed up in my garden.

or the Red Fox we see at dawn and dusk, 

but–drumroll please–

a COYOTE!

At first I thought it was a fox because it looked more like this, but redder.

I told my family, “It’s strange, I saw a Red Fox at ten in the morning.They’re usually asleep by then.”

The next day, Hubby said, “Come quick! There’s a coyote in our backyard!”

I said, “That’s the fox I saw!”

He said, “It’s a coyote!”

“A fox!”

“A coyote!”

“A fox!”

“It’s a coyote! I know from watching Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.”

Hon, do you see the resemblance? 

Knitted Cable Baby Blanket

OMG! Isn’t this the sweetest picture of big sisters with their baby brother?

Knitted Cable Baby Blanket

What to knit when a dear friend is expecting her third child and doesn’t know what she’s having?

I picked up 35 Knitted Baby Blankets for the Nursery, Stroller and Playtime by Laura Strutt at my favorite knitting store Wool & Grace, and chose a pattern for a cream blanket–the color of the crochet edge tbd (to be determined). I hadn’t cabled since college, but it came back quickly. I love how this blanket turned out. New mommy loves it also. Yay!

Darling Baby Boy with his new blanket.

Sources: 35 Knitted Baby Blankets by Laura Strutt, Wool & Grace

Thanksgiving Dinner–Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of the bakers, here’s another great recipe. Happy holiday, hon!

PUMPKIN PIE

Basic Pie Crust:  Single Crust

(to make two pies crusts, see Double Pie Crust measurements in Apple Pie recipe)

1 1/3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 cup ice water

Food Processor Directions:  Insert steel blade in food processor. Mix flour and salt, then place the mixture in the food processor. Add shortening and process until mixture resembles cornmeal (about 5 seconds). Slowly pour ice water through feed tube and process until dough forms a ball (about 5 to 10 seconds). Chill dough for easier handling.

Roll out ball of dough into a circle. Line a 9-inch pie dish with crust. Flute the edges.

Shortcut:  If you don’t have time to make your own crust, use store-bought pie crusts.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Filling (for one pie)

2 eggs

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 16 ounce can cooked pumpkin

1 13 ounce can evaporated milk–0R–3 ounces non-dairy creamer

1 egg, beaten (used to brush on top of crust before baking)

Beat 2 eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients except extra egg to be brushed on crust and blend thoroughly.  Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.  Brush egg on edges of crust.  Bake at 425 degrees F for  20 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees F and bake another 35 to 45 minutes.  Pie is done when middle of pie is set.  Tip:  If edges of pie crust are getting medium brown and middle of pie isn’t set yet, gently wrap tin foil around perimeter of crust until it’s done.

*This pie freezes well.  Let pie cool completely before wrapping in aluminum foil and freezing.  A day before you are going to serve it, defrost at room temperature (not in the fridge).

Serving options:

Serve warm–after removing from oven, let cool for 20 minutes.

Serve room temperature–cool completely.

Rewarm frozen pie– warm in a preheated 275 degrees F oven, uncovered.

Thanksgiving Dinner–Apple Pie

Basket Weave Crust on Apple Pie

Basket Weave Crust on Apple Pie

Hon, it’s that time of year, so here’s what I’m baking.

Thanksgiving’s at my house and I love the company and food. Every year, my family can’t eat another bite…and then out comes dessert. (Hon, there’s always room for dessert!) Sure, apple pie isn’t just for Thanksgiving, but here’s my take on a classic. It’s a mash-up of recipes from a very old cookbook and a newer one called Essentials of Baking put out by Williams-Sonoma. Happy baking!

APPLE PIE

Basic Pie Crust:  Double Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable shortening

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

Food Processor Directions:  Insert steel blade in food processor.  Mix flour and salt, then place the mixture in the food processor.  Add shortening and process until mixture resembles cornmeal (about 5 seconds).  Slowly pour ice water through feed tube and process until dough forms a ball (about 5 to 10 seconds).  Chill dough for easier handling.

Basket Weave:  If you want to form a basket woven crust, make extra dough ahead of time.  Shortcut:  If you don’t have time to make your own crust, use store-bought deep dish pie crusts.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Filling

6 cups apple slices (I use a combination of Granny Smith and other varieties)

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

approximately 1 Tablespoon flour

dash salt

1 egg, beaten (used to brush on top of crust before baking)

Combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, salt and spices.  This mixture will give off a lot of liquid so use a slotted spoon when spooning into pie crust, allowing you to spoon the apple mixture without the excess liquid.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Split dough in half, form two dough balls and roll out each half into a circle.  Line a 9-inch pie dish with the bottom crust.  Spoon apple filling into the crust and smooth apples into an even layer. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of flour on top of filling mixture.

Position top crust over the filling and trim and flute the edges.  (Photos and a short crust rolling video will be added to the blog soon.)

Basket Weave:  I was inspired Martha Stewart Living’s November 2012 magazine cover which features a basket woven pie crust.  To form the basket weave, cuts the dough into 8 strips.  First lay 4 strips across the filling.  Secondly, carefully weave remaining strips through the dough strips already laying across the filling.  Then press top and bottom crust edges together and flute edges.

Egg Wash:  Without brushing fluted edges, brush top of pie with beaten egg.  Cut steam vents in the top crust if needed.

Bake the pie at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F  and bake for another 40 – 45 minutes.  Pie is done when top crust is lightly browned, the apple filling is bubbling, and the apples are tender when tested through the slit in the crust with a toothpick.

*This pie freezes well.  Let pie cool completely before wrapping in aluminum foil and freezing.  A day before you are going to serve it, defrost at room temperature (not in the fridge).

Serving options:

Serve warm–after removing from oven, let cool for 20 minutes.

Serve room temperature–cool completely.

Rewarm frozen pie– warm in a preheated 275 degrees F oven, uncovered.

Toddler Time, Easy Holiday Craft

Got toddlers?

The two-year olds in my pre-school class loved this easy activity. At the end of class, they carried their pumpkins with proud expressions. I’m sure their artwork will be on display for Thanksgiving. So cute!

Glue pumpkin onto tagboard.

Punch holes in tagboard and attach pipe cleaner (or ribbon or yarn).

Supplies:

–tagboard, construction paper

–scissors, glue

–pipe cleaners, ribbon or yarn

–dot markers, magic markers

Instructions:

  1. Cut pumpkin shape out of orange construction paper. (Think green tree for Christmas, blue dreidel for Chanukah, red heart for Valentine’s day, etc.) Glue holiday shape onto white tagboard. I cut the tagboard to approximately 8”x11”. I drew the pumpkins free-style.
  2. Punch holes in top of tagboard and attach pipe cleaners (or ribbon or yarn).
  3. Decorate with dot markers and magic markers.

Tip: Place newspaper under craft for quick clean-up. Use a paper towel to sop up dot marker paint.

American Hero, Astronaut Scott Kelly

Captain Scott Kelly

Captain Kelly being interviewed by The New York Times journalist, Jonathan Schwartz, on 10/17 at West Orange High School.

I was on a high! 

It’s not what you think. Accompanying my youngest daughter’s Space Exploration class, I got to meet Astronaut Captain Scott Kelly! “I am so excited to meet you!” I said. “Two summers ago, we watched the International Space Station cross the night sky and you were on it! Did you see me waving?” Kelly responded, “Yes, and I waved back!” Guess what? Kelly is funny!

Kelly, promoting his book Endurance, filled a high school auditorium. According to Amazon, “it’s a stunning, personal memoir from the astronaut and modern-day hero who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station—a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come.”

Kelly talked about growing up, how he wasn’t the best student, and didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. In college, he read a book about flight pilots that changed the course of his life.

In October 2015, Kelly set the record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space by an American astronaut, 520. This record was broken in 2016 by astronaut Jeff Williams. For the so-called ISS year long mission, Kelly spent 340 consecutive days (11 months, 3 days) in space. Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, is a former astronaut. The Kelly brothers are the only siblings to have traveled in space. While Scott Kelly spent a year in space, Mark stayed on Earth as a control subject. Researchers are looking at the effects of space travel on the human body, as part of the NASA Twins Study.

Memorable quotes from a real American Hero.
“When I’m in space, I think of earth, and when I’m on earth, I think of space.”
“It would take over 200 days to get to Mars and over 200 days to get back.”
“Flying in space is a privilege.”
“If we can dream it, we can do it.”

Selfie that Captain Kelly took while he was on the ISS.

Want to learn more about Astronaut Kelly’s time in space?

Tonight, PBS is airing Part 2 of Beyond A Year In Space,an Emmy award winning documentary which “follows Scott Kelly’s record-breaking 12-month mission as the Twin Study as NASA charts the effects of long-duration spaceflight for the next generation of astronauts.”

Sources: Amazon, Space.com, Wikipedia, PBS

Heroes Proved and Patriot Dream

My son at White Sands National Monument, NM. Photo taken by his sister Morgan. Isn’t this photo is outstanding?!

Selfie: me and my son.

Me, my son, and his buddy.

Lucky me! My flexible schedule allowed me to plan a last minute trip to visit my son before he deployed. The last two stanzas of America the Beautiful bring tears to my eyes.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 

For more info: Soledad Canyon, White Sands National Monument

Amber Waves and Mountain Majesties

Soledad Canyon in the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

On a recent trip to El Paso, Texas, my son and I drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico to hike Soledad Canyon. The canyon sits in the western foothills of the Organ Mountains, which originated about 32 million years ago in the middle of the Tertiary Period. I immediately thought of America the Beautiful.

Here are the first two stanzas of America the Beautiful.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

If you’ve been to the Southwest, did you have a favorite place to hike?

Source: http://www.npshistory.com/publications/blm/organ-mountains-desert-peaks/geology.pdf

Amazon Rapids, “Turning Green on Halloween” is Published!

Headless horseman carved pumpkin c/o Hubby.

My youngest as Cinderella, age 4.

Cinderella carved pumpkin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Witch carved pumpkin.

My youngest as a witch, age 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mwahaha! My third story on Amazon Rapids has been published.

In “Turning Green on Halloween,” Carla wants her brother Pablo to help decorate her wheelchair so she can enter the Halloween Parade. Pablo wants no part of the first prize–a ride on the Screamin’ Skyscraper–because he has a secret. Pablo is afraid of heights. Once Carla finds out Pablo’s fear, and convinces him that he doesn’t have to go on the ride, he decides to help…on one condition. Carla has to overcome claustrophobia by dressing up as a vampire in a coffin. In the end, Carla and Pablo both face their fears…and plunge ten stories in broken elevator filled with zombies. Fun!

Happy Halloween, hon!

Short, illustrated stories on Amazon Rapids, an App for ages 7-12, “are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other. The app is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices, and offers hundreds of original stories, with dozens of new ones added monthly.”

Amazon Rapids Includes: 

Unique chat style — Stories are told through the lens of characters chatting with each other, letting stories come to life one message at a time.

Hundreds of original stories — Kids can explore a large and growing library that’s filled with original stories spanning adventure, fantasy, humor, mystery, science fiction and sports.

Age-appropriate content – All content is thoughtfully edited to be appropriate for kids ages 7-12.

Built-in glossary — Kids can easily look up the definition and pronunciation of words to help build their reading confidence. Each time they look up a word, it is automatically added to their personal glossary for easy reference. 

“Read to me” —Kids can have stories read aloud to them while they follow along with the text. “Having been a teacher for over a decade, I’ve learned to write stories in a way that compels kids to dive in and the Amazon Rapids format is a perfect way to make that happen,” said Raymond Bean, best-selling children’s author. “In my first Amazon Rapids story, Alien Invasion, a boy named Gordon and an alien connect via a misdirected text message and hilarity ensues as they discuss the aliens’ plans to land on earth.”

Parents can visit http://rapids.amazon.com to download Amazon Rapids today.

Related Posts: Amazon Rapids Press Release–My 1st Fiction Story is Published!, Amazon Rapids, “The Easter Beast” is Published!