Saturday, December 16, 2017

Santa Claus Came to Town......

Santa Claus comes to visit us each year.  We gather all of the Dubrul Clan together during December so that we can spend time during the holidays.  Our parents had 6 children all of whom had children of our own.  We have grown quite large as you might imagine.

My brother, Larry, is the eldest.  He and his two sons, Scott and Chad,  live in California.  His grandchildren, Quinn, Jack and Molly were with us in our hearts.  We hope, one year to have them all here in person for our Santa party.

Next born was my brother, Gary.  He had two daughters, Stephanie and Denise.  Each of whom gave him a grandchild.

This is Gary's grandson, Gavin.  He belongs to Denise.

This is Sterling.  She belongs to Gary's daughter, Stephanie.

The third son is my brother, Dick.  He had 2 sons, Kevin and Jim. He and his wife also adopted their nephew and niece, Jack and Jennifer, when they were young and lost their Mom.  Jack recently married Maranda, who has 3 fine sons, unfortunately they were unable to join us today.

But we had Dylan, the eldest of my parent's great grandchildren, being a good sport about having his photo taken with Santa.

And our Abby-Girl who is becoming our Abby-Woman before our very eyes. 
She and Dylan belong to my niece, Jen.

Kevin's daughter, Breanna, is growing up fast as well.

Breanna's brother, Devin, was able to work up a smile for Santa even though he wasn't feeling very well for the party.

Jim's son, Carter, completes the family photos of Dick and Jackie's grand-kids.

My brother, Dan, was next in line.  Dan had 4 children.  His eldest, Dan Jr. is in heaven with his Dad. His second son, Doug, was able to attend the party.  His daughter, Amanda, is living in Texas and his son, David, was not able to attend.

This is Dan's granddaughter, MacKenzie, she belongs to my nephew, Doug.  She makes my heart sing each time I see her.

I am next in line in my family.  The second daughter of my parents.  The first child, a girl, born before my brother Larnzy, died shortly after birth.  I gave my parents Amy and Chuck.  Then I married Frank and gave them Anthony and Nicole.  Then we gave them Marina from Russia, Dian from Denmark, Tingting from China, Zoey from Denmark and Max from Germany.  I have been blessed with two grandchildren.  My Little Miss Melody whose Mama is Tingting and Jordan whose Daddy is Dian.  Jordan lives in Denmark.  Chuck is in Virginia.  Amy had another obligation today. Anthony and Nicole both had to work but........

My little Angel Face was here in all her glory.

The baby of the family, Dawn, has three boys, Jim, Jake and Ryan.  Jim has blessed her with 2 granddaughters.   Teaghyn was unable to spend the day with us and we missed her terribly.

Aurora wasn't sure about getting on Santa's lap but she was sure interested in the package he had for her.

It was a wonderful party.  It always is and it is always my favorite party of the Christmas season.  There is nothing I love more than a house full of kids.  It is what Christmas is all about and I am grateful that all of my nieces, nephews and children find time in their busy schedules to give me this day with their children.

They are all getting so big so fast. 
 I hope they never outgrow the magic of the Christmas spirit and that I am always blessed enough to spend one day with all of them each year.

Thank you Santa and Mrs. Claus.  May God bless and keep you.

Mom's Old Fashioned Split Pea Soup made in an Instant Pot #SoupSaturdaySwappers

I'm hosting our Soup Swappers group this month. As we approach the end of this first year of sharing soup and stew recipes, I have asked my friends to share a soup that holds special memories for them.

I thought it would be a good ending for this year as we get ready to start a New Year and the second year of this group.

The holidays are often bittersweet for many of us.  We are inundated with memories, both good and bad, happy and sad.  We reflect on all of our blessings and we renew our resolutions to change the things that bring us down and interfere with our living our lives to the fullest.

As I count my blessings, I am always sure to include the friends I have made in the blogging community and especially those who have supported me in this endeavor and in my Fish Friday Foodies blogging group.

Creating and administering a group such as these can be difficult and intimidating.  You never know if you will attract bloggers and readers with the topics you have chosen.  When I announced that I wanted to start this Soup Swapper community the response was immediate and overwhelming.  I just want my friends who helped me to make this successful to know how much I appreciate them.

Food is chock full of memories for most of us.  The smell or sight of a certain dish can create joy or sadness.  It can make our tummies rumble with anticipation or dread.  It is the first need that we recognize as infants and it creates an unbreakable bond with the person (normally Mom) who meets that need.

My Mom had 6 children and a husband that came home each evening requiring that their need to eat be met.  My parents were not poor nor were they rich.  My Mom learned to feed a large number of people with minimal expense.  This meant that we ate a lot of Soup and Stews.  I think this is why I love these dishes so much and why I decided to start this group.

My favorite soup that my Mom made was Split Pea with Ham.  Mom could feed us all for several nights with one ham.  We would have Roasted Ham with Sweet Potatoes and Baked Beans for dinner the first night.  Then we would have Scalloped Potatoes with Ham on the following night.  Then the ham bone would go into a pot in the morning and when we walked into the house after dinner the aroma of Split Pea or Bean Soup would have us drooling.

Now, I love bean soup too, but split pea was my very favorite. My Mom made her pea soup on the stove top.  I have always made mine in the slow cooker but I recently got an Instant Pot and have been having a blast with it.

When I chose this topic, I went into the freezer and pulled out a ham bone that I had been saving for soup.  It went into the Instant Pot along with the dried peas and the rest of the ingredients that I always use in my soup.  In less than 1 hour we were eating dinner.  Less than one hour folks....and it was homemade....not a can was opened!

Split Pea Soup in an Instant Pot

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, scraped and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 lb. pkg split peas
1 meaty hambone
1 qt. chicken stock
2 c. water
pepper to taste
1 bay leaf

Set the Instant Pot to saute and pour in the olive oil.  When heated, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the pot.  Cook and stir until onion is translucent. Press the cancel button and add the peas and ham bone.  Pour in the chicken stock and water.  Season with cracked pepper and add the bay leaf.  

Place the lid onto the Instant Pot making sure the vent is closed.  Manually set to pressure and cook for 15 minutes.  Allow pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes.  Then use quick release of steam and when pressure valve is seated, carefully remove the lid.  

Remove the ham bone, cut off any meat still clinging to the bone and return to the pot.  Stir, add more chicken stock or water, if desired, to thin the soup if too thick. Print Recipe

More Memorable Soups

Friday, December 15, 2017

Kung Pao Shrimp #FishFridayFoodies

Our friend, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, is hosting this month's Fish Friday Foodies.  Karen has chosen the theme Asian Flavors.

It's like Karen looked into my pantry and fridge before making her choice.  I love making stir fry and more often than not that stir fry contains seafood of some sort.

Fish Friday Foodies is a neat group that I started in January of last year.  That means next month we will be celebrating our two year anniversary.  I never dreamed, that when I asked if some of my blogging friends would be interested in a group like this, it would get such an immediate and positive response.

I couldn't have asked for a better group of participants.  They all jumped in with both feet, volunteering to host, making our group logo, inviting friends, setting up files.

They are all very talented chefs and come up with amazing, creative recipes each and every month.  You can find all those recipes by searching #FishFridayFoodies on social media.  Fair warning though, once you start reading their blogs, you are going to be caught....hook, line and sinker.  See what I did there?  Fish Friday Foodies......Hook, Line and Sinker?  Sorry, I sometimes get carried away.

I found this recipe, for Kung Pao Shrimp,  in a Cuisine at Home issue.  Each issue contains a section called Cuisine for Two.  I am having a difficult time learning to cook for just the two of us so I really appreciate this section each month. 

I took it easy on the amount of crushed red pepper that I added, as Frank is spice sensitive, feel free to add a full teaspoon if that is more to your liking.  This recipe would be easily doubled to feed a family.

Kung Pao Shrimp
slightly adapted from Cuisine at Home

12 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T. dry sherry, divided
2 T. soy sauce, divided
1/3 c. chicken stock
1 t. rice wine vinegar
1 t. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1 T. olive oil
1/3 c. dry roasted peanuts
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 scallions, white and light green sections, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. minced ginger root

Toss shrimp, with 1 tablespoon of the sherry and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce.  Set aside to marinate for about 10 minutes.

Combine the chicken stock with the remaining sherry and soy sauce.  Add the vinegar, sugar and cornstarch, whisk to combine.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Add the shrimp (discard marinade) peanuts and crushed red pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes until shrimp is nearly opaque.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another minute or two.  Add the scallion, garlic and ginger.  Cook and stir for a few seconds, until fragrant, then add the chicken stock mixture.  Cook for another half a minute or so until sauce is thickened.

Serve with steamed rice.  Print Recipe

More Asian Fish/Seafood Recipes

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Shark; An Audible Book Review and an Early Weekly Menu

Image result for the shark novel

This is the first of a new series, The Forgotten Files, by Mary Burton.  It is a police drama mystery series dealing with long past unsolved cases.

In this first novel, Riley Tatum, a Virginia State Trooper, finds herself eerily caught up in a murder that is somehow related to her past.

As a teenager, Riley, had fled a dysfunctional home and found herself vulnerable and on the streets of New Orleans. She awakes, drugged, on a bus in Virginia and is saved by a couple who have put their sordid past behind them and now spend their lives saving young girls who are looking for a safe haven.

Many of these girls find themselves drug addicted and forced into prostitution.  Riley, realizing that there but by the grace of God, is where she would have been, works with the couple, Duke and Maria, to save as many of these lost souls as possible.

Now, someone is killing these girls and leaving playing cards in their pockets.....the same as Riley had found in her pocket when she awoke in that bus station.

It is a disturbing story as it strikes on such truth and sadness in this world where, unfortunately, young girls find themselves in situations where they don't see a way out.  Society is quick to write off these victims as the criminals, instead of recognizing that they are just trying to survive in a cold, cruel world.

I have ordered up the next novel in the series.

I am posting my Weekly Menu today because I don't know that I will get an opportunity to spend time with it over the weekend.  Our weekend is pretty full already and it isn't even here yet.

Tomorrow, we are helping Lily move from her dorm into an apartment.  She and her Mom, Jen, will be spending the night at our house before heading back north where Lil will enjoy her winter break and the holidays with her family.  The whole family will be back down after the New Year and that is when we will have our Christmas celebration with them.

Saturday, we have a very special guest coming for lunch.  Santa will be popping in to see all the greats.  There are 14 great grandkids in this family and 10 of them will be coming to the party.   We will miss our Quinn, Jack and Molly who live in California and our little Teaghyn Lou who is not going to be attending.

Sunday we are having our family Christmas Dinner.  Chuck won't be home this year as he is heading to Amsterdam right after Christmas.  Anthony's gal, Jamie, is  unable to attend and Tingting isn't sure if she can make it both Saturday and Sunday as it's a crazy time of year for her too and she has things that she needs to finish up for the holidays as well.  Keeping our fingers crossed that she gets her errands done in time to join us for a short while.  

Monday, Kurt and Kim are coming over for dinner.  Wednesday is the Christmas Basket Distribution for the Food Pantry.  Thursday, we are hosting the Choir Christmas Party.  

Then we are at the weekend and will have Friday and Saturday to run any last minute errands and finish up any shopping before the Christ child arrives.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.  The Weekly Menu not only helps us to eat each day, it helps me, during this busy time, to retain some semblance of control.  Planning and writing it down, calms me and quiets my mind.

I will be posting each day and sharing recipes and photos.  I hope you find some down time for yourself to stop by and say hello.

Saturday-Santa Party
Baked Pasta
Salad Bar
Asst. Bread and Rolls
Birthday Cake for Jesus (Provided by Steph)
Christmas Cookies

Sunday- Family Dinner
Mom Klik's Mushroom Soup
White Bean Salad
Orecchiette with Butternut Squash
Roast Pork Loin
Roasted Root Vegetables
Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Monday-Friends for Dinner
Mushroom Soup (I will make extra on Sunday)
Tossed Salad (with ingredients bought for salad bar)
Pan Seared Filet Mignon 
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Christmas Cookies

Toddler Tuesday
Leftover Pasta

Dinner out after Basket Distribution

Thursday-Choir Pot Luck
Cocktails, Beer and Wine-Frank
Chicken Marsala-Wendy
Everything else-Everyone else

Who knows.....I'm tired......

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Handmaid and The Carpenter: A Book Review and the Recipe it Inspired

I love immersing myself in everything Christmas this time of year.  I watch Christmas movies.  I listen to Christmas music.  I wear my Christmas socks and earrings.  I read Christmas books.

I recently shared my review of The Christmas Cookie Club.  It was a fun way to start off the season.  And it gave me some great cookie recipes too!

Image result for the handmaid and the carpenter

Then, I came across this novel by Elizabeth Berg, The Handmaid and the Carpenter.  It is fictional account of the birth of Christ and how Ms. Berg imagines that these events must have appeared and felt to those who were experiencing them.  It is told as seen through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. 

It was a quick, easy, enjoyable read at a mere 100 pages.  I read it in between batches of cookies that were in the oven.  

I was surprised at the vast amount of food mentioned in this novel.  From the very beginning, when Mary first meets Joseph at a wedding feast, the food descriptions had me salivating.  Of course, the fact that I LOVE Middle-Eastern food might have played a part.  There was skewered meats, olives, cheese, flatbread, grapes, figs, oranges, almonds, roasted meats, stews.

One of these stews caught my attention.  "Mary was at the stove, stirring the chickpea and eggplant stew she had made." (pg 61)

I did a google search of Eggplant and Chickpea stew and found a whole slew of recipes.  Who knew?  This version, adapted from Woman's Day, became our dinner for a Meatless Monday.  It is fragrant and flavorful and will be making another appearance soon, perhaps with some homemade flatbread to soak up the sauce....YUM.

This meal is perfect for a busy weeknight.  It takes 45 minutes from the time you start until you are sitting down to a hot, healthy meal.  I will make some changes for next time.  I will add garlic and increase the amount of onion.  

I will be sharing this recipe and book review over at Foodies Read.  Foodies Read is a wonderful link up hosted by Heather of Based on a True Story.  You will also find all the info that you need to join us as we link up our favorite food related fiction, nonfiction, biographies and cookbooks.

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
adapted from Woman's Day

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

Combine tomato sauce, cumin, curry, salt and pepper in a large sauce pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes, onion and eggplant.  Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, until eggplant is tender.  Stir in chickpeas.  Heat through and serve over couscous or rice. Print Recipe.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Whole Wheat Grissini #BreadBakers

This month's Bread Bakers is hosted by Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds.  Kalyani asked us to share a bread from around the world made with whole grains.

I decided to make the thin Italian bread sticks known as Grissini using white whole wheat flour. I served them as part of the soup course at our first Christmas gathering with friends.

This was my first attempt at Grissini.  I did my best to roll them as thinly as I could but they were still a little thicker than would have been ideal.  I also think that the next time I make them I will add a sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt over them.

They were still crisp and delicious.  Make sure you make these a day before you want to serve them so that they have a chance to cool completely and develop that snap and crunch you are seeking.

I don't know if they would have been easier to roll out had I used all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour instead of the white whole wheat flour.  I will have to experiment and let you know.  The nice thing is that this is a relatively simple and quick recipe, requiring only one rise, so it is easily replicated using different types of flours.

Whole Wheat Grissini

1 packet active dry yeast
2/3 c. warm water (105-110*)
1/2 t. sugar
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1 t. salt
8 or 9 turns of fresh ground pepper
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
3 T. olive oil

Place water, yeast and sugar into bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook,  and let set for about 5 minutes until foamy.

Add 1 cup of the flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary and mix until combined.  Stir in the olive oil and remaining cup of flour.  Knead at med speed for 8-10 minutes.  Cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with hot water and let dough rest and rise for an hour.

Roll small amounts of the dough into thin sticks (about 1/4" in diameter) and place onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.  

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely before serving.  Print Recipe

More Whole Grain Breads

BreadBakers#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Jelly Roll #BakingBloggers

This is month 2 of Baking Bloggers, a new group hosted by my friend Sue of Palatable Pastime.  We kicked off the group last month with the theme of pies.  I shared a Concord Grape Pie.  It was a great event and we had a lot of fun not too mention a ton of great pie recipes, both sweet and savory.

Each month, Sue posts a poll and we vote for the theme we would like for the following month.  This month the winner was Filled Cakes.  I was excited.  I had planned to do a Buche de Noel.

Then life got in the way and there was no way that I was going to find time to spend learning how to make a new cake.  I guess the Buche de Noel will have to wait until next year. 

I decided to make my life a little easier and make a simple jelly roll.  Our son, Anthony, loves making jellies and jams.  I love that he makes jellies and jams too because that means I always have a great selection in my pantry.

I used his Strawberry Margarita jam to make a Bundt cake.  His Raspberry/Mango jam made a great glaze for a ham steak.

I went into the pantry to see what flavors I had left and spotted a jar of Chocolate Cherry jam.  SCORE!!

I used the same sponge cake recipe that I use for my Strawberry Roll during the summer months, omitting the almond flavoring and doubling up on the vanilla.  Instead of folding strawberries into whipped cream, I added the jam to the cream before whipping.  It is to DIE FOR!!

It is like fluffy Cella Cherries wrapped up in tender, light cake.  I had to force myself not to eat this cream with a spoon.  

I managed to save some so I could add an extra dollop to each plate as I served this to my guests.  Yes, those are actual chunks of cherries in that cream.  No, I don't have the recipe for this am but I will see if he will share it.  In the meanwhile you can use your favorite flavor jam in this recipe.

Should you happen to have a jar of hot fudge sauce in your refrigerator, you can drizzle some onto the plate before adding your cake and an extra dollop of cream.

Chocolate Cherry Jelly Roll

4 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar, divided
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
Powdered sugar
1/2 c. chocolate cherry jam (or your favorite jam)
1 c. heavy cream

Spray a cookie sheet with sides with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites on high speed until frothy.  Gradually add 1/2 c. of the sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks with remaining 1/2 c. of sugar until thick and lemon colored.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt over egg yolk mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.

Gently fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites just until blended.  Spread onto the parchment lined pan.  Bake at 375* for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

While cake is baking, place a clean linen towel on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  When cake is baked, remove from oven, turn onto the linen towel and remove the parchment paper.

Place the towel over the edge of the cake lengthwise and begin rolling the cake and the towel together until it becomes one long roll.  Let cool completely.

Whip together the jam and heavy cream until light and fluffy.  Unroll the cooled cake.  Spread the whipped cream mixture over the cake.  You will not use all of the whipped cream.  Roll the cake back into a roll and place, seam side down, onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.  

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Slice and add an extra dollop of whipped cream  to each serving. Print Recipe

More Filled Cake Recipes