I love recipes like this for this time of year. Super easy, quick and a crowd-pleaser. Every year my book club (of 9 years) does a cookie exchange and one of the girls made this popcorn. With these ingredients I can't imagine there are very many people out there who wouldn't like it. 


18-20 cups popcorn
1 6oz box candy canes
1 package of almond bark
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Place popcorn in a large bowl. Crush candy canes in a food processor and pour over popcorn. Melt almond bark and mix in peppermint extract. Pour almond bark over popcorn and stir until well coated. Spread onto wax paper to harden.

I love making homemade ornaments for our Christmas tree. This year my daughter and I stayed up late two weekend nights watching movies and stringing popcorn. I actually had to go out and buy non organic popcorn just for that purpose because the organic popcorn we actually eat is about half the size of the non organic...go figure. 

Citrus ornaments are beautiful and easy to make. They remind me of stained glass when the tree is all lit up and shines through the fruit segments. 

All you need is some citrus fruit...the larger the better. Lemons really are too small if you are decorating a large tree. My two favorites are pomelos and grapefruit. 

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F, slice the fruit as thin as you can. Having a sharp knife really can help this you can see knives are on my Christmas list. And bake the fruit for a few hours, flipping every 30 minutes. My fruit slices were a little on the thick side so it took about 4 hours to dry them out completely. Some pieces took as long as 5 hours. 
Tie a ribbon or twine through one of the dried segments and you have a beautiful natural ornament. 

We also decorated the tree with pheasant feathers...well we are trying to. My husband comes home from hunting weekly and brings me a new supply of feathers to replenish the tree because of my puppy. You see, his life is consumed with hunting and pheasants and he simply cannot resist those feathers sticking out of the tree. He has to have one in his mouth at all times.


This tomato sauce is light, quick and easy. 

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Food Network
Makes 3 Cups

2 to 2 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (4 large beef tomatoes or 10 to 12 plum tomatoes)

3 tablesppons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped (about 6 small cloves)
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly chopped parsley leaves

Peel tomatoes by scoring the skin of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep). 
Then, place scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. 

Remove tomatoes and plunge into cold water. Peel and dice tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until garlic turns slightly golden, about 45 seconds. Add chopped onion and saute an additional 2 1/2 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil if desired, just before using.

I love this time of year, not for the weather (we are reaching some negative numbers tonight) but for Christmas programs. My daughter had hers tonight...
she loved playing an angel!




The cookie jar and buttery, soft centers with crispy edges...this is the perfect cookie! I love to make these cookies bite size and then I freeze them. This is my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine (May/June 2009) via
Makes 16 large cookies or about 45 small cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( 8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar ( 3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar ( 5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended) or 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips ( Ghirardelli recommended)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional) or 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Note: I use dark chocolate chips and I like to make my cookies smaller so I use a small Pampered Chef cookie scoop (about 1 tablespoon) and bake each cookie sheet with cookies for about 7 minutes, better to under-bake than over-bake. I also usually add M&M's right after the cookies are pulled out of the oven.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12- inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons or (1 tablespoon if making small cookies). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Make sure you set some dough aside and store in the refrigerator for your husband.  :) 
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, (or about 7 minutes for small cookies) rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; add M&M's if you are using...
and cool cookies completely before serving.

Rufus at 8 months and Buddy at 8 years...



This is a simple recipe for homemade taco seasoning which is always nice to have on hand, especially when you have had a busy day and it calls for taco night. I always add black beans to taco meat because it adds protein and stretches the meal so it leaves me with leftovers for tomorrow. 

Adapted slightly from Alton Brown
Serves 4

1 lb Ground Sirloin or Ground Buffalo (organic & grass-fed)
2/3 cup beef broth or water
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
corn on the cob, cooked and cut off
cheddar cheese, shredded
avocado, cubed
mixed greens
tomato, chopped
onion, chopped
cilantro, chopped
salsa (optional)

Taco Seasoning:
1 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Note: Make sure you use kosher salt, if you use regular table salt use less. If you want more flavor double the taco seasoning mix.

Mix your dry spice taco seasoning ingredients.

Saute the meat in a pan over medium high, break up the meat into small pieces and cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain the meat in a colander and rinse with water. Put back into the pan and add the beef broth or water and the taco seasoning. Stir and bring to a simmer over low heat. Keep skillet uncovered and stir frequently to break up the meat completely. Simmer until the liquid has reduced and thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the black beans to the meat.

Assemble your salad and enjoy! 

"A generation which ignores history has no past and no future" – Robert Heinlein

We had an excellent historical learning experience thanks to the Commemorative Air Force.

P-51D Mustang- One of the best and well-known fighters during WWII....

B-24 Liberator "Diamond Lil" - The B-24 Liberator was a heavy bomber. They were used extensively in WWII and were retired in 1945.

Inside the cockpit...

The machine gun in the nose turret...

Inside the B-24...looking back towards where the Tail Gunner would be...

B-29A Superfortress "FiFi"- one of the few surviving in existence and the the only one flying today. A lucky and rare sighting of this B-29 was discovered in the 70's at the US Navy Proving Ground in California; being used as a missile target. She was rescued and restored for $3 million.
Inside the Bomb Bay. Four bombs on each side. There is a tunnel overhead that runs from the forward compartment to back.
The Communication Tunnel above the Bomb Bay...
Forward Pressurized Compartment...Bombardier's seat is all the way up front, Pilot on left, Co-Pilot on right and Navigator's seat on back left.

Flare gun next to the Navigator's seat...different colors were used to communicate so Japanese couldn't decipher radio transmissions...

Outside and inside the ground tents...

 Such a cool experience...




When I was a kid my dad's drink of choice was gin and tonic with green olives. If I was especially lucky or when he wasn't looking I would get those green olives at the bottom of the glass. I can still remember that piney, salty, bitter bite of those olives and I have loved them as long as I can remember. If you have a taste for olives you will love tapenade. It is so easy to make and has such a unique flavor that will have you going back for more. 

Artichoke-Olive Tapenade On Crostini
Adapted from smittenkitchen and keepinitkind
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and rinsed
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and rinsed
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
8 large slices of crusty bread

Note: I use 1-2 teaspoons of chopped roasted garlic instead of raw

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a food processor, process the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts to a coarse paste. Add a little olive oil if it is too dry to form a paste. Note: I did not need it.

Toast the bread on the oven rack for 6 minutes, or until crisp and toasted. Spread the olive paste thickly over the toasts and serve.

Do ahead: The olive paste can be refrigerated for 2 days. Let it return to room temperature before using.

Tapenade is excellent on fresh bread, toasted pita triangles, crackers, tossed with pasta, on a sandwich or pizza, with carrot sticks, added to a wrap, or just plain on a spoon!

My dad's land...

Surrounded by Alfalfa...

Monarch Butterfly on Alfalfa...

 Bumble bee on Alfalfa...

Vegetable garden...
 Prairie Cone Flowers...
 Wild Flowers...



I did something bad...very bad. I bought an ice cream maker. As many of you know ice cream is my kryptonite. I completely justified the purchase after reading the ingredients in what I thought was "healthy" ice cream. I was wrong. So I figured if I am going to indulge in ice cream, I at least want to know what the ingredients are.

Last month strawberries were ripe for the picking everywhere. We found a favorite patch about a thirty minute beautiful drive away...
Corn fields with storm clouds rolling in...

In the patch...I think my fingers were stained red for about two weeks!

Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 pound strawberries trimmed, halved if large

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream

* Ice Cream Maker

Coarsely mash strawberries with sugar and salt using a potato masher in a large bowl. Let stand, stirring and mashing occasionally, 10 minutes.

Transfer half of strawberry mixture to a blender and purée with cream until smooth. Return strawberry cream to bowl with remaining strawberries and chill, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up. Fresh mint tastes delicious when served on the ice cream.

Did you see the Super Moon last month? Absolutely beautiful.


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