Archive | May, 2012

Turkey Lettuce Wraps and Cold Rice Salad

29 May

This dish is one of my husband and my favorites.  When we’re out at P.F. Chang’s, we both love the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, so when I came across this recipe from Melissa D’Arabian, I knew it was something I had to try.  If you’re not familiar with Melissa, she has a great show on Food Network called Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa D’Arabian.  Her promise is… “4 people, ten bucks, infinite possibilities”.  I’m a huge fan of Melissa’s and many of the meals I cook at home come courtesy of her on-air kitchen.  If you’ve never seen her show or cooked her recipes, this one will make you a fan for sure.

Start with the Cold Rice Salad since it’s best served chilled.

Turkey Lettuce Wraps and Cold Rice Salad



Cold Rice Salad


1 ½ cups long grain white rice, rinsed


2 cups +/- peas, blanched

1 red bell pepper, chopped


Place the rice in a pot or rice cooker with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt.  Cook as you normally would.  Once done, spread the rice out on a sheet tray and let it cool completely.  Next, combine the rice, peas and red bell pepper.  Toss gently




3 Tbl rice wine vinegar

8 Tbl vegetable oil

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Salt & Pepper to taste


In a small bowl add the rice wine vinegar, a small pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.  Mix together and slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil and then the sesame oil.

Pour the dressing over the rice mix until thinly coated.  Taste and re-season if necessary.  Put in fridge until ready to serve.

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes



12 oz ground turkey

2 tsp vegetable oil

8 oz white mushrooms, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (16 oz) can water chestnuts, chopped

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbl brown sugar

1 Tbl rice wine vinegar

Iceberg lettuce


Brown the turkey in the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  Add the mushrooms, garlic and water chestnuts and cook until the mushrooms soften.  In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar and vinegar, pour over the turkey mixture and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.


Drizzling Sauce for Wraps


3 Tbl soy sauce

2 Tbl rice wine vinegar

1 Tbl honey

1 Tbl Dijon or other spicy mustard

1 Tbl Sriracha sauce

½ tsp sesame oil

½ cup water


In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients

You must have…

25 May

“You must have long range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short range failures.”

  ~ Charles C. Noble

Yummy Chicken Tortilla Soup

25 May

This dish is really easy to make but it tastes so good, you’d think it came out of your local Mexican dive.   I’ve been making it for a while and I tweak it a little each time, experimenting with the spice level, etc.  I think I’ve finally come up with the perfect way to make it for us.  Of course the beauty of most recipes is that you can tweak it to suit your own family’s taste buds.

I’m writing this out in a little different format because I’ve found it just works better for me for this particular dish.

Yummy Chicken Tortilla Soup



½ stick butter

1 large finely diced onion

1 seeded and diced jalapeno

2 diced garlic cloves

½ bag baby carrots, cut into thin coins



½ cup flour



4 cans chicken broth

1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes

1½ tsp ground cumin

1½ tsp red chili powder

1½ tsp salt

1½ tsp lemon pepper

3 Tbl hot pepper sauce

2 (14.5oz) cans hominy



1 lb chicken breast (either uncooked and cut into bite-size pieces, or cooked ahead of time in a crock pot and then fork shredded, that’s my personal preference)



In a stock pot over medium heat, melt butter and add all ingredients from (A) until onions are translucent.  Add (B) and stir until completely absorbed (you may need to add a little water).  Add all (C) ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.  Then turn heat up to a low boil.  Add (D) and cook for another 15 minutes*.  Keep on low to maintain heat.

*Instruction is the same whether chicken is cubed and raw or cooked and shredded.

Put broken up tortilla chips on top and sprinkle with a little Mexican cheese.   And finally… dig in and enjoy!


People who admit…

23 May

“People who admit they’re wrong get a lot farther than people who prove they’re right.”

  ~ Beryl Pfizer

The Third Angel, by Alice Hoffman

23 May

This was the first book I’ve read from novelist   Alice Hoffman.  Initially I came across her books on Amazon and they sounded interesting so I added them.  I have several of her books on my “books to read” list, but since this was the one my local library had, this is what I got.  To be honest, I’d never heard of her before, but that’s okay, she’s probably never heard of me either.

The Third Angel follows three women’s lives as they flow together and apart, linked by the same tragic love story and mysterious ghost ~ The Third Angel.

The story is told in reverse order, which I have to say was a little confusing for me.  In my defense, I didn’t read the book every day.  And like most books I’m reading, I’m lucky if I get a few minutes on my lunch hour to read and then a few more right before bed.  I usually have to re-read a few pages just to remember what’s going on in the story.  Such is my life and the reason I get lost in the stories sometimes.  And not that I’m calling Ms. Hoffman out, but I think some authors write as though we’re going to open the front cover and not close it again until we’ve finished every last page.  Not my case, and I doubt it’s your case either.  Having said that, I enjoyed this book.  I won’t say I loved it, but it was good.

Each woman is at a crossroad in her life.  The first, New York attorney Madeline arrives in London in 1999 after having had an affair with her sister Allie’s fiancé, Paul.  Maddy is faced with coping with the impending marriage, and with Paul’s terminal illness – which echoes the girls’ mother’s cancer during their childhood.

Part II focuses on 1966 London and to Frieda, Paul’s future mother, who falls for a drug-addicted songwriter on the rise knowing he will break her heart.

And finally, Part III takes us back to 1952 to Maddy and Allie’s future mother.  Lucy is 12-year-old well wise beyond her years.  She spends her time with her nose in a book and doing her best to tolerate her father’s new wife.  They sail from New York to London for a wedding and while there, Lucy becomes innocently involved in a love triangle that can only have a devastating end.

Each woman faces up to her challenges in her own way, proving that everyone in the end is responsible for his or her own destiny.  What Ms. Hoffman does is remind us we are all hurt and broken, stumbling through life and fumbling for love, but sometimes we can still find the way to where we want to go.

The only rock I know…

21 May

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

  ~ Lee Iacocca

Vegetables and more vegetables…

20 May

To say I’m exhausted right now would be the understatement of, well I don’t know…let’s just say I’m bushed.  Ha ha ha.  Intentional pun there for those of you who are just as tired as me and may have missed it.

I went out this morning and picked up my good friend Monique to do a little plant shopping.  What a great way to begin my Sunday.  I wanted to return a raspberry I had purchased yesterday and pick up a few things that I needed for my front vegetable garden.  Monique also gave me cuttings from her gorgeous yard (a few more strawberries to put in my crate and some fern for my front yard).

Along the fence we have Ace Tomatoes and Corn and then Zucchini Squash next to the rose bush.  I planted 6 different kinds of peppers… Better Belles, Golden California Wonder, California Wonder, Sweet Banana, Jalapeno and Red Bell.  There’s a Straight-neck Squash and finally a Lemon Cucumber to round things out.  Again, I planted Marigolds.  Aren’t they cute?

Front Vegetable Garden, May 2012

I tried to model this year’s garden a little after last year’s.  Re-plant those that worked well and didn’t take up too much of my time, and say farewell to those that just didn’t work out.  Even thought I didn’t have much luck with my corn last year, Greg really wanted it so of course I’m going to give it another go.  Wish me luck.  Most of the peppers are new so I’m excited to see what happens with those and especially looking forward to the Lemon Cucumber.  My seedlings didn’t make it so when I saw the plant this morning I had to plunk down the $1.48.

This garden is on the side-yard along the driveway, so I don’t have to worry about the dog trampling the plants or the cat laying down sunning himself.  The new garden is in the backyard and I’m going to have to watch it a bit closer.  Our yard is full of squirrels and birds and I’m curious to see how much time they’ll spend in there.  I keep having to shoo the dog out of there, but I know she’s really curious because it’s all so new.  When the cat goes out he either finds a sunny spot to plop down or he naps under the arch of Blooming Night Jasmine, so I don’t think he’ll be a problem.

Front Vegetable Garden

You might be wondering if I just have vegetables and no fruit.  Well, when I first purchased the house almost 23 years ago, there was a small lemon tree in the back yard.  Growing right in the grass area.  Not the ideal spot for any kind of tree, it was really in the way.  Anyway, after a few years I yanked it out.  Since then, we’ve planted 2 apple trees and 2 pluots along the back fence.  In addition, we also have one very, very large, very, very old Avocado tree that is probably as old as the house (circa 1920).

Here’s a close-up of one of my Angels.  He watches over my garden but is a bit camera shy…

Shy Angel

Time to rest now.  Maybe I’ll just sit back and watch the fruits (or vegetables in this case) of my labor bloom.  May your day bloom as well.

How does your Vegetable Garden Grow?

20 May

Today I finally got some much needed work done in my garden.  I worked on a specific area of my back yard that I’ve been trying to transform into a vegetable garden.  For the first time I thought I’d try and grow vegetables from seed.  For the most part, I just don’t have the patience for seeds.  I end up pulling up whatever’s growing because I’m convinced it’s a weed, when it fact it was the little plant just trying to do his thing.  I prefer to buy my plants once they’ve been established a little and I already know what it’s going to look like.  No surprises.  No sudden deaths.  No blood on my hands.  Well, some deaths, I don’t have that much of a green thumb, but I’m getting better.

Anyway, I bit the bullet this year and I started with about 21 different vegetable/herb varieties and grew them in a makeshift greenhouse.  I just used a plastic tote, lined the bottom with clothespins to keep the seedlings from sitting in standing water, and then filled in with rocks to make it all nice and snug.  I made little cups from torn strips of newspaper and filled them with potting mix and then dropped the seeds in.  My hubby wrote out the names of the seed on a label and I stuck them on plastic toothpicks.  Easy peasy.  Once I was done, I used a water bottle to spray all the plants, put the lid on and put them in my laundry room.  Each day I check on them and watered when necessary.

Cauliflower March 19, 2012

Seedlings March 19, 2012

Seedlings March 25, 2012

They were doing really well and I thought I might just have the hang of this.  Before long they had outgrown the greenhouse and it was time to transplant them into pots.  All the while I was preparing my garden for the final transplant.  I’ve been working on this patch of my yard that we used to call the wheelbarrow garden.  I have another vegetable garden in a different area of my yard but I really wanted to utilize this space and grow some different things.  It was a LOT of work.  Removing the furniture was the easy part.  Removing the Black-eyed Susan that had taken over the entire section of the fence was pretty tough.  Once the area was clear, I was faced with preparing the ground.  It was covered in pavers and rocks that I had lovingly placed about 8 or 9 years ago.  For the past 2 months or so I’ve been painstakingly trying to get as many of the rocks out as I can, but I finally gave up and just decided I needed to just move forward.  Rocks are my friend.  Hopefully they’ll be my veggies’ friend too.

While I had the back-breaking job of removing rocks and transferring them to another planter, my hubby had the back-breaking job of trenching and irrigating the planter for me.

Trenching and Irrigating

Today I finally got the plants in the ground – those that survived anyway.  I wasn’t left with much from my early successful seedlings.  I purchased a few things from Wal-Mart and still have more to get for my other planter.  More about that planter in another post.

I found this great fishing crate at the Rose Bowl flea market on Mother’s Day.  My original plan was to use it to grow lettuce, and I specifically wanted the crate right where I put it.  However, my great friend Monique came by today and convinced me it would be a better home for my strawberries because of the amount of sun it would get each day.  Thankfully, I also bought a really cool smaller crate that would do well for the lettuce.  More about that planter later too.

Independent Fish Co., San Pedro, Ca.

Greg added a plywood bottom as a protective layer from the soil and I lined it with thick roofing paper and then weed barrier before filling it with soil and compost and then finally my strawberry plant.

Wheelbarrow Garden, April 2006

This is what the garden looked like about 6 years ago…needless to say the Black-eyed Susan had taken over the fence and everything else in its path.

Vegetable Garden, May 2012


I still have quite a bit to do but I’m happy with what we accomplished today.  Greg was digging holes and shoveling compost while I did the easy job; deciding what would go where and then placing them in the ground.  4 kinds of beans along the back fence, 2 kinds of peas along the right (not shown), 2 kinds of eggplant, cauliflower and strawberries in the crate.  I lined the edges of the garden with Marigolds not only because they’re friends to a vegetable garden (aphids don’t like them – which suits me fine because I don’t like aphids), but also because they’re so bright and cheerful.  While I type this, my back is aching and I’m tired, but it’s all good because we got so much done today.  Stuff I’ve been trying to do for over a month.  It was like the little engine that could.  I knew we’d get there eventually, but the pace was killing me.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of my Man and my friend, Monique.  And as a thank you, here’s where I plug both their blogs… and

Thanks for indulging me today.  My day was all I hoped it would be – I hope your day was as well.  Happy planting.

If your actions inspire…

18 May

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

  ~ John Quincy Adams

Dim all the lights sweet darlin…

18 May

One of my regrets is not keeping every ticket stub from every concert I’ve ever been to.  I have a lot of great stuff in my box of mementos (miscellaneous stubs from concerts, plays, baseball games, etc.) but how I wish the set were complete.  In 1978 my dad presented my sister Julie and I with concert tickets ~ Dolly Parton for her and Donna Summer for me.  I was so excited to be attending my first concert.  In late ’78 Julie and I experienced the Dolly Parton show with Eddie Rabbitt as her opening act.  Dolly was a huge star at the time and Eddie’s star was just on the rise. While Dolly’s music was more Julie’s thing than mine, I was just thrilled to be able to tag along and be part of such a cool show.  I’ll never forget when she spoke of her very poor upbringing and then sang Coat of Many Colors.  A lasting impact to say the least.  She put on a great show, not only displaying her obvious talent and well-known humor, but she made the show a party.  She so enjoys being on stage performing, you can’t help but love her too.  You may not know it from all the big hair, long nails and straight from Nashville costumes, but that gal is 100% genuine.  Shortly thereafter, in early ’79 we caught the Donna Summer / Brooklyn Dreams show.  Now this was the concert I was waiting for.  To say I was a huge Donna Summer fan was, well let’s just say it’s an understatement.  Her voice was so strong and amazing. Everything you heard on stage was just as clear and powerful (!) as you knew from the record (no, not a CD yet) or the radio.  That girl had some pipes!  The stage was set like a Broadway show and she worked every part of it.  I was out of my seat singing along to Bad Girls, Dim all the Lights and Heaven Knows.  I was having the time of my life.  Dolly’s show was great, but this was just something else altogether.

In 1978 Donna was in a little movie called Thank God It’s Friday.  My guess is that most of you have never heard of it, and for the handful that have, only a few have actually seen it.  That’s okay, I more than made up for it.  I’ve seen this movie too many times to count.  It’s set in a disco in the 70s and Donna plays a singer just trying to get her song played by the DJ.  Spoiler alert… she gets her tape in the deck and begins singing along.  She brings down the house!  The song?  Last Dance.  Yea, you’ve heard of it.  It became a big hit.  And won her a Grammy.

Earlier this week I heard MacArthur Park on my way home from work.  As with all other Donna Summer songs, I immediately cranked the volume and began singing along.  I have to say that when I first heard this song in the 70s I couldn’t believe she was singing about a cake in the rain, but for the past 34 years, including Tuesday evening I gladly belted out…

“Someone left the cake out in the rain

I don’t think that I can take it, ‘cause it took so long to bake it

And I’ll never have that recipe again…”

Hey, give her a break ~ she didn’t write it, she just sang the hell out of it.   So much so, it became her first #1 hit.  Not too bad.

On this day, I’m filled with many different emotions.  Sad of course, for the loved ones she left behind.  Happy that she was such an inspiration for so many contemporary artists.  Glad I was able to really experience her music when her star shone the brightest and see her do her thing live!  I’m sad for me too, though.  I know when her songs come on the radio now, I’ll still crank up the volume to sing along as best I can, but I know at times I’ll get a little choked up because she’s gone.  RIP to the Queen of Disco.

“Dim all the lights sweet darlin’…”

~ Donna Summer

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