Friday, August 28, 2009


So one week down on the new adventure of working at The Mental Health Center. No comments, please on hiring from the "customer" pool. Actually that is increasing the view, hire from within.

When you think about mental health or recovery it makes sense if you believe in what you are doing to "main stream" your clients.

It so reminds me of my friend Melinda. She and her husband Tim pioneered many programs and processes to help not only their daughter, Miller, but all people with "special" needs. EVERYONE has a place. Sometimes you need to make some accommodation but all are welcome, needed.

Under the category of: One of the funny things about work. Since I began my adult "working" career as a wife/mother of the stay-at-home variety where I did not work outside the home, it continues to be difficult for me to easily adapt to the "we are friendly, not friends" mentality of the work environment. In the past, my work was entirely relationship focused. I did not have to work with people I did not like--I was a volunteer. I picked the team I worked with--I was a volunteer. I was in charge--this was MY ministry. Hmmm. It was a good life but did not prepare me for the real world. Now, I work for others, do their bidding with others I'm not personally connected to.

I used to think I did not like working with women. Not true. Women as a groupof people are lovely. I no longer have a need to compete or compare. I have a man that loves me, cherishes me. My children despite all their attempts otherwise, respect me. Friends, true friends surrounds me. The kind you can call at 2 a.m. and their response would be, "I'm there for you; how can I help." What else in life really matters.

Under the category of musing: Women are allowed to be more expressive emotionally which I did not like in my youth. This was probably due to the women's movement -- we thought we had to be more like men to be seriously considered in the marketplace. With the hindsight as the guide we might better have considered changing the standard to include the feminine perspective which would include a more compassionate, personal, tenderness. How different the world might be if we (women) wanted to be more womanly. Hmmm.

You’re a good cooker …

Many years ago Andrew complimented me on the dinner meal with the words, “Mama, you’re a good cooker.” Before you think I’m bragging it is noteworthy to mention the menu, Chef Boyardee Ravioli (it was with meat—I think),
canned green beans,
and generic white bread.
It was a seminal moment. I reconsidered my audience at that moment and returned to considering the menus preferences only of Mark and myself. Translation: onions and mushrooms returned as ingredients.

Earlier this week we had a chicken stir-fry for dinner. This is really fast food. Andrew asked me where I got this recipe. I shrugged because it was more or less “invented” with leftovers. It rated an 8+ so here you go with the proportions—substitute with what you have on hand and FYI, I buy the rice at Fan’s for $1.

Stir Fry Chicken and Vegetable

3 tablespoons canola oil

½ pound cooked chicken breast, cut diagonally in to ¼” thick slices

Frozen vegetables (I used peppers)

Fresh vegetables (I used mushrooms, onion, zucchini, etc.)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat a large, heavy skillet or work over high heat until water sizzles when dropped on to the skillet. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil and tilt the pan gently in all directions until the oil has coated the surface. When the oil is hot (not to the point of smoking), add the chicken breast slices and stir fry for 2 minutes. Remove the chicken to a bowl.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet. When hot, add the fresh vegetables and stir-fry for about 4 minutes, until the larger pieces are cooked through, but still crunchy. Then add the frozen vegetables and stir-fry for 2-4 minutes (I put the frozen peppers in a colander and ran some cool water over them to remove the “ice” and then towel dried them before I put them in the skillet). Return the chicken to the skillet, add the water and soy sauce (I used low sodium since you get all the flavor and reduced sodium), and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes. Cover the pan and steam over medium heat for 4 minutes.

You can use chicken broth as a substitute for the water. It is more flavorful and adds dimension. You may need more than 2 tablespoons for water/broth.

Remove the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Spoon the liquid into small bowls and serve as gravy.

The Chef

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is a photo of the White Tiger that is in my living room, like Coco's car, not Meme's. She drives El Diablo Caliente.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meals and Memories

Lest you think all the meals are a hit (8 and above). We had Lemon Couscous Chicken this week and it only rated a 7.5 so no-go for posting.

This week’s picture is an actual shot right before consumption (it appears there is some doubt that my meals are turning out like the magazine photos—and I was so proud of myself for downloading).

So here’s the modification of The South Beach Diet’s Chicken-Pistachio Salad transformed into …

Chicken Pistachio

½ cup shelled pistachio nuts, finely chopped (this really does need to be done a rough chop will not cut it)

½ + ¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon + 1 pinch freshly ground pepper (okay, to taste. I like more pepper)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

½ cup sliced sweet white onion

Preheat the oven to 375°. Mix the nuts in a medium to large size plate with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Press the chicken into the nuts. Heat the oil in a skillet (1-2 minutes) and cook the coated breasts 2 minutes per side (use a medium hot skillet). Place the breasts in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes (I sprayed a little canola oil on the pan for quick release).

Increase the heat to medium high and add the sliced onion into the skillet with the “crumbs” and little bit of remaining oil already in the skillet. Cook until the onion is browned about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Dressing (for the accompanying salad)

1 teaspoon grated sweet onion (don’t use a micro-planer—it won’t work)

½ large ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

2 tablespoons water

I served a salad of mixed greens, the other half of the avocado sliced and a few of our “yellow pear” tomatoes. Dress the greens (this means add the salad dressing just to the lettuce and toss) and then place the avocado and tomato on top.

Additionally we had a crusty whole-wheat bread that had been warmed in the oven.

About a 45 minute prep and cook time.

Rating: 8.5, Coco – “this was very good.” We all agreed the salad needed something. After discussion agreed asaigo cheese added to the greens, maybe 3 tablespoons would add the missing punch that was needed. I think using an entire avocado and slicing an additional avocado would have been helpful, too. (The original recipe calls for 1 avocado—go figure.)

There is some dressing left over and it will serve as a sandwich spread for during the week.

Note: we also served olive oil (with herbs) for the bread. Tonight we added some balsamic vinegar—yum. Special was remembering that Andrew had purchased this vinegar in the airport in Madrid hoping to have a small bottle of wine. There might have been 2 bottles of vinegar for me but alas, the opened one minus a swallow was discarded before boarding the plane home. J

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Contender

Well, tonight’s dinner is the leading contender for the overall winner. It was DELICIOUS.

Beef Tenderloin with Mustard and Herbs


  • 1 (2 ½ pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed (ask the butcher s/he will do this)
  • Olive oil (as needed, approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard


  1. Prepare grill. You want a HOT grill, 450° or so.
  2. Lightly coat beef with olive oil; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Place beef on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Reduce heat to medium, about 350°. Grill 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers 145° or until desired degree of doneness, turning to brown on all sides. Let beef stand 10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle parsley, thyme, and rosemary in an even layer on an 18 x 15–inch sheet of plastic wrap. Brush mustard evenly over beef. Place beef in herb mixture on plastic wrap; roll beef over herbs, pressing gently. Slice beef.

Ravioli with Spinach


1 pound cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (heat a skillet to hot, stir nuts quickly for 1 minute or less)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced

2 bunches fresh spinach, thick stems removed (about 8 cups)

kosher salt and black pepper


Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Drain and divide among bowls.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, tossing, until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the mixture over the ravioli.

And dessert, easy, delicious, sweet ..

Lemonade IcedTea Sorbet


2 cups boiling water

4 regular-sized English Breakfast tea bags

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1 cup ice water

Mint sprigs (optional)


1. Combine 2 cups boiling water and tea bags in a large bowl; steep 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add sugar to tea mixture, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Stir in juice and 1 cup ice water; chill 1 hour.

2. Pour tea mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Rating: This rated a 9.7. Flavors danced lightly on the tongue. The tenderloin was tender and PERFECTLY seasoned—no one added salt or pepper to their plate. The ravioli dish was garlicky, crunchy (pine nuts) and creamy (cheese in the pasta). This dish could be a main dish with some crumbled bacon or left-over grilled chicken. The sorbet, what can I say. The addition of this 78 calorie dessert was GENIUS. Sweet and tart, light and satisfying. Brilliant

Note: Timing in the preparation can be tricky. Don’t be tempted to cook the ravioli before the meat is cooked. The water can be boiling, but put the pasta in when the meat comes off the grill.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

You’ve Been Holding Out On Us …

Fruit and Walnut-Stuffed Pork Loin


1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup dried sour cherries

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup chopped dried plums (I used fresh)

1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

2 (1-ounce) slices French bread

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless center-cut pork loin roast, trimmed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Cooking spray

Parsley sprigs (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes or until fruit is plump. Drain mixture through a sieve, reserving fruit mixture. Combine fruit mixture, walnuts, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and rind.

3. Combine 3/4 teaspoon salt, French bread, and next 3 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; process until fine crumbs form.

4. Cut pork in half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side; open halves, laying the pork flat. Starting from center, cut each half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side; open halves, laying pork flat. Cover with plastic wrap; pound to an even thickness. Discard plastic wrap. Spread fruit mixture over pork, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Roll up pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting with one long side. Secure with wooden picks. Sprinkle outside of pork evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; brush evenly with mustard. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pork; press gently to adhere. Place pork on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 155°. Let pork stand 10 minutes. Remove wooden picks. Cut into 16 (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Unlike the above photograph, I served with roasted vegetables (eggplant, summer squash, mushrooms, onion). French bread with olive oil (special spread that includes olives—yum) and a beet, goat cheese spinach salad.

The variety of flavors complimented one another, creating an explosion on the palate (Andrew waxing poetic).

Rating: This is a 9.5. However, it is not a beginner recipe and somewhat time consuming—lots of prep for a week night dinner. There were lots of “hmmm.” “This is delicious.” “If this is what we get when we finish projects we are going to finish a lot more.”

This meal has spurred us to designate categories, beef, chicken, pork, and vegetarian with an overall “grand” prize winner. So right now, this is the pork winner. Too early to tell if it’s the grand champion.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

10 Days

Work at the Mental Health Center begins in 10 days. I am very much looking forward to this work.

My new boss, Kitty deKieffer is a strong, gentle woman with a varied life experience—both work and personal.

I am very much looking forward to getting to know her even the more.

The mission of the Mental Health Center, “In partnership with others, we improve quality of life and reduce the burden of illness by providing comprehensive, community-based mental health services for those with the greatest need” is a purpose I can wrap my heart around.

There is so much to like about this statement. “In partnership with others,” ALL recovery, healing happens in community. It truly does take a village and not just for raising children.

“Improve quality of life and reduce the burden of illness” ... my own life and the lives of so many around me are affected by both mental and physical illness. This statement beautifully encompasses the hope and the weight of the work that seeks improvement, hope.

“Providing comprehensive, community-based … services” there is no one answer, no one way to meet the myriad of need that our community faces. My faith is NOT the answer to the practical problems that illness reveals. BECAUSE of my faith I want to be part of the force that provides the hands, the effort, and the work that creates solutions to problems, both individual and community-based.

“for those with greatest need.” What a beautiful statement. Weak, hurting, smelly, odd, these are adjectives that we spend hours of effort to make sure do NOT describe us. To serve those among us that are unlovely is an effort that requires me to tap into reservoirs that do not originate in myself.

This is going to be a fun job.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Aroma Makes My Mouth Water

This is a beautiful meal, very "company" in presentation.

Sauteed Spinach with Pecans and Goat Cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved, and thinly sliced (I used less)
1 1/4 pound baby spinach
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup soft goat cheese (about 2 ounces), crumbled (I used feta)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook, tossing, until spinach has started
to wilt, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.

Add vinegar to skillet and heat 5 seconds. Drizzle over spinach and onion. Sprinkle with pecans and goat cheese. Gently toss. Serve immediately.

Hummm. This is DELICIOUS.

Unboring chicken -- Lemon and Rosemary Golden Chicken
Grill (or saute in 1 tsp. olive oil) a boneless chicken breast until cooked through, 5 minutes per side; set aside. In the same skillet, combine 2 tsp. olive oil, a small chopped clove garlic, 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves (I used more) and the juice of one lemon. (Use less, it was a smidge too lemony). Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle over chicken. Serve with slices of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

THIS was a superb meal. Easy -- 45-60 minutes from start to "dinner is ready!" And that includes the chicken being frozen (microwave defrost).

Wine: Stella Italia, Pinot Grigio 2007

RATING: Mark says, "you can cook this again." Andrew rates it an 8.5 (only because there was the too- much-lemon) and I give it a 9.5 -- easy, delicious, aromatic, pretty.

Stellar meal. It's simplicity, complexity and over-lapping flavors, we WILL have this meal again. And again. And again.

And again.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fast Food

This is DELICIOUS. Mark says he has 3 ratings, don’t cook this again, it’s okay and we can have this again.

Poached with capers and chives

¾ cup dry white wine

1 pound sole (or other white fish)fillets, cut into spatula-size pieces

Sea salt and pepper

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons chives

Heat the wine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fish, drizzle with the oil, and season with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle the capers over the top and cook, covered, until just cooked through, opaque, and beginning to flake, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives. Divide among individual plates, spooning the wine and caper sauce over the top.

Rating: 9.5

We will have this again.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I went to a birthday party last week. A friend of mine turned one. Yes, she’s a friend of mine, but her parents are the ones that are most familiar with me.

She had the BEST birthday cake. I almost (almost) cannot wait to have another birthday so I can have the same kind.

A few birthday celebrations standout in my mind. Under 10 years old I had a Barbie cake.

My mother and Mamaw made a cake skirt for the doll. I really don’t remember, just saw the pictures.

For my twenty first birthday my dad took me out for my first “legal” drink at the El Presidente restaurant on the corner of Devonshire and Reseda Blvd.

The rest of the birthday was not so memorable—I just don’t remember it (and not because I drank too much). I think you should remember your 21st birthday, friends, partying, being the center of attention, something should stand out. But, alas the memory is shared with my dad. Upon reflection, not so bad I guess.

There was the birthday when I got a romance novel from my children and husband.

Being a book snob I was surprised they thought I would like a book covered with a Fabio impersonator in a bend-her-back embrace with a busty wench, but the things a mother thanks her children for …

Well, the kiddos insisted I look through the book and so I did. The pages were cut out to hold a ring box which held a pearl anniversary ring—a vintage ring I had lovingly admired at a darling little Niwot jewelry store. Mark had told me the ring had been purchased. I remember glaring at him as if to say, “You said the ring was sold.” As if reading my mind he said, “It did sell. I bought it.”

I love that ring, but I think I really, really love the memory of the delight on my children’s faces as they truly surprised me. Even Andrew kept the secret.