Sunday, 24 August 2008


I'm a semi-finalist in the recipe contest over at SAUCY EATS .

This is really exciting, as I don't think I've ever been a semi-finalist before :-)

Anyway, I really could do with a new digital camera as mine has been acting up a little lately and that $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma would also come in really handy.

So, if you wouldn't mind popping over to Saucy Eats and voting for my Potato Bake recipe , here I'd be ever so grateful !!!!

Spread the word your family, friends, neighbours, the little old lady down the street,the milkman, postman, butcher,baker and the candlestick maker. In fact the more the merrier, because it will increase my chances of winning!!!

Did I also mention I'd be ever so grateful ?

A special shout out to all my Kiwi friends to help a fellow Kiwi out :-)

Wow ... don't know if I've done this much shameless begging for ages. feel a bit like a Politician !!!!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Karen's Ground Turkey Lasagna

I love me a hearty lasagna. One that has vegetables and cheeses and meat and is nice and thick. Problem is that one like that is also super high in calories.

With this one, I've tried to lighten it a bit by using fat-free cottage cheese, low-fat ricotta, low-fat mozzarella cheese and ground turkey breast.

Served it for dinner the other night and it got high praise from the hubby, who usually looks sideways at me when I mention ground turkey, low fat or fat free...

Karen's Ground Turkey Lasagna

12 oz box of oven ready lasagna noodles
1.25 packet of ground turkey breast
Jar of pasta sauce (I used Ragu's sun dried tomato and sweet basil)
15 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 or 16 oz tub of small curd fat free cottage cheese
15 or 16 oz tub of low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup of shredded Italian blend cheese ( I used GV ready shredded from Wal-Mart)
1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat Mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
2 tsps freshly grated whole nutmeg (you can adjust this to your personal taste)
1 Red bell pepper, chopped into chunks
2 cups of mushrooms, chopped into chunks (I used baby 'bellas)
6 cups of chopped fresh spinach
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp of fresh chopped basil (adjust according to taste)
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
Sheet of aluminium foil, large enough to cover lasagna pan

Preheat oven to 400 deg F . Spray a 9 x 13" lasagna pan with olive oil cooking spray.

Mix the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, cup of Italian blend cheese and freshly ground nutmeg together. Cover and put in fridge until ready to use.

Spray a large frying pan with olive oil. Add the mushrooms and red pepper to the pan. Saute over a low heat until just tender.

Add spinach to pan and saute over a low heat until spinach has wilted. This should not take too long. Tip vege mixture into a colander and let drain while you make the meat sauce mixture.

Spray a large frying pan with olive oil. Saute the onions and garlic, over a low heat, until almost translucent. Be careful not to let them brown.

Add ground turkey to onion and garlic mix and stir until turkey is cooked through, breaking up any large lumps of meat as you go.

Add pasta sauce, undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and basil, to the meat mixture. Mix in well.

Now it's time to assemble the lasagna !!

Pour half the meat sauce into the bottom of the dish. Lay the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. I used five noodles sheets. You may have to break them to fit.

Spread the drained spinach mixture over the noodles. You don't need to squeeze all the moisture out of the spinach. A little juice is fine. Add a little sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.

Put another layer of noodles on top of the spinach mixture.Spread the ricotta/nutmeg/cheese mixture over the noodles. Grind some fresh pepper on top.

Put another layer of noodles on top of the cheese mixture, then spread the rest of the meat sauce over the noodles.

View of the layers of the assembled lasagna.

Tightly cover lasagna pan with sheet of aluminium foil. Place dish in preheated oven. You might like to put the dish on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake for about an hour or until noodles are fork tender.

About 10 minutes before the end on the cooking time, mix the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese together and spread over top of lasagna. At this point, I usually leave the dish uncovered, so that the cheese can brown slightly.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes or so. this gives the lasagna time to 'set'. That way, when you cut it, it should hold together.

Serve with a side salad and garlic bread.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Friday Foto Finish Fiesta - Meet The Kids..

It's Friday and it's a Fiesta !! At least it is, thanks to Candid Carrie ! :-)

On with the parade of old photos and happy memories.

This time, meet my four kids. Unfortunately, I have few photos left of their childhood, due to a house fire. Many of the photos that did survive, were damaged,
so I'm slowly getting them restored. The photos that remain are doubly precious..

Kyle and I taken 34 years ago. I was a 22 yr old, new Mum and he was my chubby cheeked 9 month old. I can't believe he is now 35. Five more years and I'll be the Mum of a 40 yr old. EEEEEEKKKKK !!!

I'd completely forgotten that school photos were due, so hadn't taken him in for the usual pre-photo day haircut. These days his hair looks great as he is an award winning hairdresser and by all reports, a computer geek. :-)

Shaun, aged 3 months, with his Godmother. He was such a cuddly baby.

Shaun was my accident prone child. We were very well known at our local hospital's Accident & Emergency room. He is now married and he and my daughter-in-law recently welcomed their first child into the world.

The twins, Stephen and Christina. They were about 4 weeks old here. The only way I could get them to sleep was to put them in together..

Exploring at the beach. Christina is now married with four children. Stephen is my *interesting* child. He hasn't quite figured out his place in the world yet. However I'm sure he will find his slot, sooner or later. I have faith !!!

One question that I am often asked is 'Is there a MacDonald's in New Zealand?' Now why on earth that would be the thing you would need most to know about another country, is something that I've never really figured out.

However, for those that are wondering, the above is evidence, that indeed, there are MacDonald's restaurants in NZ. This photo was taken about 25 years ago, so we have had a fairly long relationship with Ronald MacDonald and his various friends...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Foot ..... The past Week .... And Awards...

Was a bit shocked to realise that I hadn't posted for about a week. Life has been a little busy lately.

School is back in full swing. This year I'm volunteering in three classes, Kindergarten, 1st Grade and 2nd Grade. The last two groups are not too bad. They're all mainly kids that were in the 1st and Kindergarten classes I was with last year. It's been pretty cool to watch them grow both physically and in knowledge, over the couple of years.

This years Kindergarten class is a different story. We now have 30 kids with a number of them having behavioural problems and language difficulties. Add the current heat wave that we have been experiencing, by the end of the day I'm exhausted and wondering why the heck I'm putting myself through all this!!! Then I go into the 1st and 2nd Grade classes and realise that eventually you do get results and it is worth it. :-)

To add to the general mayhem, that seems to be my life right now, my neighbour seriously broke her leg just over a week ago. She's only 3 years older than me, but she thinks and acts like somebody alot older. She's pretty much alone as far as family and that goes, so I and another neighbour have been taking care of her since she got out of the hospital. Her Dr wanted to put her into a nursing home, but she is stubbornly refusing to go. She's being a really good incentitive to me right now as far as exercising and staying active and in a young frame of mind goes!!!!

Now to the open mouth, insert foot. For once, my mouth and my foot were not involved .. which is rather a relief, to me, at least.

I was on the bus this morning, heading off to one of my favourite stores. Sitting across from me were two Hispanic women and in the sideways seat in front of me were an Asian man and a Hispanic boy. There were a couple of Hispanics sitting behind me as well. In fact, other than the driver and me, there was only one other European on the whole bus.

This passenger, a male, looked over at me and said 'F****ing foreigners, they keep letting them in and they're going to outnumber us soon!!'

Now, he obviously thought that I was an American and would be sympathetic. So I smiled sweetly at him and said in my best Kiwi accent 'You're so right and we really are trying our best to make that happen.'

I really wish I'd had my camera with me. His open mouth and the look on his face, would have made a perfect photo for Candid Carrie's Foto Friday Fiesta !! :-)

And on to awards. I've received this award from three people recently.

My apologies in not acknowledging it before. Thankyou so much to Therese , Lori and that lovely Mrs444 . Thankyou again, one and all. I'm so touched that you thought of me. I now have to choose 7 people to forward it on to. That I will do in the next few days, I promise.

Also. Mrs444 gave me this lovely shout out on Sunday. I really appreciate these words from this lovely lady who has a son with the same name as one of mine. :-) Hop over to her blog and give her some comment love!!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Friday Foto Finish Fiesta - Five Generations Of Women...

It's Friday and it's a Fiesta !! At least it is, thanks to Candid Carrie ! :-)

This is my history. This is me, standing in the middle. Behind me are two of the women that came before me. In front are the woman and the soon to be woman that came after me.

There is power in these photos. The power of continuance. The power of an unbroken thread, that came down through history, passes through me and then continues on into the future...

The woman on the left is my Grandmother. She was an incredible woman. She was loving and strong. I owe her my life. I lived with her and my Granddad, for the first seven years of my life. The unconditional love and security that she gave me during those years, gave me the strength to survive the bad years. I will always be grateful to her for those gifts.

The woman on the right is my Mother. Until I was 7 years old, I thought she was my Aunt. My relationship with her is and has always been, very difficult. I have a number of half written posts on my blog, about our relationship, that I will post one day.

This is me, at 17 months old, taken in the front garden of my Grandparent's home in Wanganui, NZ. I love this photo, for so many different reasons. Don't I just look so happy and mischievous !!! :-)

My daughter Christina at 5 years old. I can see the same glint in her eyes as I see in my own. She also is an incredibly strong woman and a mother of four wonderful children. Once the youngest starts school this year, she's hoping to go back to school herself and get her Midwifery degree. I am extremely proud of her.

Then there is Sacha, my Granddaughter. She's about to turn 12 and on the verge of those teenage years and young womanhood. I'm looking forward to the excitement of seeing her grow into a woman who will be, in her own way, just as strong as that line of women that came before her...

Does anybody else also get that chill (in a nice sense) when you look behind you and see the generations of women that have helped make you who you are today ? Then you look in front of you and see the beginnings of the generations that will stretch ahead and know that you, along with those behind, will play your part in forming who they will be.

Awesome, isn't it? :-)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

THE 80'S

Okay, apparently it is now my turn for anonymous persons to contact me. I just got an email suggesting that I was a terribly ungrateful person, who did not appreciate what Heather had done re SITS and I needed to be ignored for dissing her in this way.

Anonymous Person ... I am not dissing (who uses that word anyway) Heather. I actually respect her and what she has accomplished. What I wrote is in no way intended to put Heather down and I'm pretty sure, if she reads my post, she will not take it that way and I'm sure if she was upset, she would let me know. Sheeesh ... people, lighten up!!!

Now, back to the program...

Heather at Mindless Junque recently wrote a post where she suggested that 80's music was gag provoking .

Now don't get me wrong ... I absolutely LOVE Heather. We have things in common, like being mothers of twins and having four kids ..... but, in this case, she is soooooo wrong about music from the 80's and I just couldn't let it go. :-)

In all fairness, 60's music tends to promote the same gag reflex in me. Probably because those were my High School years and there was all that Teenage Angst thing going on.

The 80's were one of my calmer decades. My kids were young. I was relatively happy and I thought I'd reached peace after years of turmoil.

So may I present some of my favourites from the 80's.

' Don't Dream It's Over ' - Crowded House

'Crowded House' was formed in Melbourne, Australia by a New Zealander, Neil Finn. They recently reformed and are touring again. YAAAYYY !! ' Don't Dream It's Over ' was written by Neil after a fight with his wife Sharon.

' I Come From The Land Down Under ' - Men At Work

' Men At Work ' is an Australian group and this song is probably one of their best known. The video is really cheesy, but they look as though they had a lot of fun making it.

' Six Months In A Leaky Boat ' - Split Enz

'Split Enz ' was a New Zealand group, formed by brothers Tim and Neil Finn . I like the intro into this video and the outro at the end. This is not played when they sing it live. Neil Finn went on to form 'Crowded House'. His brother Tim joined him on a part-time basis. Presently they are performing as the 'Finn Brothers' and they have just announced that 'Split Enz' is reforming .

'Beds Are Burning' - Midnight Oil

And Australian Rock Band. ' One of my favourite from that era. 'Beds Are Burning' was one of their songs that made it on to the Billboard charts, here in the US.

When it comes down to it ... all decades had songs that were best forgotten and those that will live on through the years.....

Monday, 11 August 2008

Mother Nature, I Have A Bone To Pick With You !!!

Dear Mother Nature,

I've had one of your children, Auntie Flo, living with me since I was 12 years old.

She hasn't been too bad a roommate. She's had her moments over the years and she took a few extended holidays, where she was away for 9 months at a time, give or take a couple of weeks.

Over the last couple of years she's gotten a bit cranky and unreliable, so I started suggesting that it was about time she left.

About a year ago, she finally took the hint and departed for greener pastures. I was very happy, even excited. It was time for a whole new, Aunty Floless stage of my life. The world was my oyster !

However, she appears to have left some of her baggage behind.

Like 'Hot Flashes' and her twin sister 'Cold Flashes'.

It's in the high 90's here at the moment. So why would you or Aunty Flo think that I still needed the company of 'Hot Flashes' ? I'm hot enough already, thankyou very much!

As to 'Cold Flashes'. She's no help around the house. I find myself having to go and have a hot bath, because she's made me so cold that my fingers have turned white and I haven't been able to stop shivering. Did I mention that we're having 90+ degree weather! 'Cold Flashes' would be so more appreciated if she was like a cooling gentle breeze and not a freakin' ARTIC BLAST !!

Did you know that 'PMS' also seems to have been left behind. She's currently sleeping in my spare bedroom. However, she still wakes up once a month and has a playdate with 'Cramps', 'Bloating', 'Headache' and 'Mood Swings'. It really is all a bit too much!

And what's with this hair thing??

How come the hair on top of my head seems to be thinning a bit, but I have hair appearing in places that I never had hair before? Like my chin, my upper lip, up my nostril and other places that I won't mention.

Plus I appear to be developing my Great Uncle Stanley's and Grandfather's eyebrows. Do you, Mother Nature, realise how much serious plucking that those suckers require?

Now, I know you're a really busy lady, what with Global Warming and all that. But if you wouldn't mind stopping by on your way to Fall, or the latest Glacier Melting party or whatever it is you're doing these days and pick up my worn out their welcome house guests, I'd be ever so grateful. I really do think I've done more than my fair share in keeping them entertained !

Yours sincerely,

A disgruntled subject.

Afraid of her own shadow....

Poor kid, but you have to giggle. Hopefully she won't grow up with too much of a complex!!!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Layered Potato Bake on the BBQ ... And Saucy Eats Recipe Contest

This is exciting!!! I'm a semi-finalist in the contest that SAUCY EATS is holding. If you like my recipe, I would really appreciate you popping over there and voting for me !!

SAUCY EATS is having a wonderful contest, with great prizes ... like $100 Williams Sonoma gift card and a Digital Camera. I've decided to enter this recipe in the contest.

So if you try it and like it, then think about voting for it, when the time comes ... pretty please :-)

Years ago, when I was a Girl Guide in NZ (Girl Scout in the US), we would often make a version of this when we had a cook out.

In those days it usually consisted of layers of potatoes, bacon, onion and cheese, all wrapped up in tin foil (aluminum foil) and thrown on the hot coals of the campfire.

Nowadays I usually make it on the BBQ and add a few more ingredients. If you have a hankering for it on non-BBQ days, you can also make it in the oven.

Use a good cheese as well. Believe me, you'll be glad you did...:-)

Layered Potato Bake

6 potatoes (I use reds or golds, because they tend to come out creamier)
1 onion
1 bell pepper
4 rashers of bacon (slightly cooked) (rasher = kiwispeak for slice)
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 stick of butter
Salt & Pepper
Large square of aluminum foil (big enough to fold in half)
Cooking spray
Bottle of Shiraz plus wine glass

Bake potatoes in microwave until cooked but still firm. Pour a glass of wine. Told you I added a few more ingredients than those in my GG days!

Cut potatoes into slices that are about 1/8 " thick. Have a sip of wine. Cut onion in half and then into slices the same thickness as the potatoes. You can take another sip of wine here, if you like.

Cut bell pepper and bacon into chunks. Dice up the garlic. Sip the wine.

Liberally spray the foil with the cooking spray, then dot with half the butter. At this point your wine glass should be half empty, so top it up.

Layer half the potatoes over the butter. Then layer on the bacon, onions, bell pepper, garlic and cheese. In between layers, sip the wine.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and then layer on the other half of the potatoes. Dot with remaining butter.

Take a sip of wine to celebrate getting all that accomplished!!

Enclose potato mixture in the foil, so that you have something that resembles a packet.

Put foil packet on grill and then sit back and enjoy the rest of your wine while everything sizzles, melts and browns. I'm going to finish reading my copy of 'Twilight' that I finally unearthed from the box that I accidentally packed it in.

You can also vary this recipe by using other cheeses, mushrooms, chillies and so on ..

I sometimes make it using potatoes, fresh herbs, tomatoes, garlic, onion, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Goes great with grilled beef and sausages.

Or ... potatoes, Swiss cheese, mushrooms, peppers, garlic and onion. Goes great with chicken and fish, especially grilled shrimp or salmon.

Update - As I mentioned, this dish can be cooked in the oven. If you do, cover the dish with tinfoil, during the first part of the cooking, otherwise it will be dry. The steam created by keeping the potatoes sealed in the tinfoil is what keeps them moist. If I'm cooking them in the oven, I usually just use the tinfoil. Saves on cleanup!!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Friday Foto Finish Fiesta

It's Friday and it's a Fiesta !! At least it is, thanks to Candid Carrie ! :-)

I love taking photos of pretty scenes, flowers, people I love and so on. However, sometimes also like taking photos of life as it really is. Photos that may not appeal to everyone, because they show a side of life that we may not always want to see.

I like the history and stories behind these types of photos. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to find the real story. Other times you can glean enough, by talking to people that have been around for a time, to imagine a bit of the history.

This wishing well has always appealed to me. As has the decaying statue of a deer, in the photo below. They both stand in the grounds of a brick, single storey, apartment complex that has seen better times. The style of the buildings and these garden decorations, give the impression that it would have once been an elegant place to live in. That these buildings once belonged to someone who cared.

I spied this elderly Asian lady, pushing her shopping trolley along the street. She was having a lot of difficulty, getting over many of the icy spots on the footpath. As I caught up with her, I heard her ask a young man if he could help her get the cart over the curb. His reply was less than polite, as he walked off.

As I walked up the street with her, helping her over the ruts of frozen snow, etc, she told me a little of her story.

She had been a 'mail order bride'. Her American husband had abandoned her and their son for a newer model. She was very proud of the fact that she had raised her son by herself and that he was now at a good college, studying to be a doctor. She told me that 'He's a good boy'. Much of the credit for that, I think, should go to this woman, his Mum.

Another house, that has seen better times.

I've been told by some of the old timers, in the area, that these were once really nice homes in an area that was semi rural. Now they have been absorbed into the city and are home to drug dealers, gang members, sex offenders and others of that ilk.

The above two photos are of an old abandoned motel, that sits just across from the Peppermill Casino.

Towards the end of 2007, two homeless, Vietnam Veterans were squatting at the motel. It was an extremely cold night and they lit a fire to try to keep warm. The room they were in caught fire and both men died.

Veterans make up a large proportion of America's homeless population. So for me, these last two photos show a contrast.

On one hand you have a squalid, decaying motel and a burnt out room where two of, what President Bush calls 'America's Heroes', died.

On the other hand, directly across the street is a Casino, with all it's glittering lights, cheap food, scantily clad cocktail waitresses, money and opulence.

It gives you pause for thought....

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Jib Jab and 'The Big Box Store'

Now ... why does this remind me of Walmart ???

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Cheese On Toast

This is one of my favourite comfort foods. I prefer it to grilled cheese sandwiches.

You do need a good quality cheese, though. I bought this Australian import from Whole Foods. It was a reasonable price as well, US$4.99 a pound.

American cheese, like Tillamook or whatever, will work. However it does NOT give the same result.

Really good Cheese On Toast, has a creamy, non-oily texture to it. The bog standard American cheese that you buy at the supermarket, doesn't give you that result. In my experience anyway.

There is no set amount for the cheese and onion. I made six pieces of toast, so I measured what I used, so I could give you an idea of what amounts you need to use. If you use large amounts of cheese, etc, you may need to use a bit more egg. You want enough egg to bind the mixture together, but not have it sloppy.

Cheese On Toast

Cheese ( I used 6 oz of Tasty Cheddar)
Finely chopped onion (I used 4 tbsp)
1 beaten egg. (you could also use eggbeaters)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
6 slices of medium toasted bread

Preheat broiler or toaster oven

Grate cheese into a bowl.

Mix in beaten egg, finely chopped onion to the cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper. Add some salt if you want, but I never do.

Evenly distribute tomato slices on toast. Divide the cheese mixture between the six slice. My mixture evened out to about a dessertspoon and a bit for every piece of toast.

Place cheese covered toast under broiler or in toaster oven. Cook until topping is melted, puffy and golden brown.

Serve while hot.

You can vary this recipe in many ways. Add in ideas include chopped peppers, chopped tomatoes, canned tuna and so on. I didn't put any spread on the toast before adding the cheese mixture, but you can spread mayo, mustard, * Vegemite, etc. You could also add a small amount of Worcestershire sauce to the cheese mixture, which would give you something that tastes similar to Welsh Rarebit.

Experiment with different types of bread as well. I used Whole Wheat. Small rounds of French bread topped with the cheese mixture, makes a nice savoury dish for a party.

I serve this with soup for a quick lunch or tea (dinner).

It also makes a nice breakfast with bacon and egg. :-)

* Vegemite - This link gives you an explanation as to what Vegemite is. The link only mentions Australia, however it should also include New Zealand as it is eaten there and is a bit of a national icon and part of Kiwi culture. It is definitely an acquired taste. If you happen to want to try some, then I would suggest you start off by spreading it thinly and tasting it with cheese on a cracker or something. it is good, once you get used to the taste :-)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Friday Foto Finish Fiesta

It's Friday and it's a Fiesta !! At least it is, thanks to Candid Carrie ! :-)

I've always loved Peacocks. They are such a majestic bird.

My friend Lori's Mum, has a flock of them at her house. They wander all over and make very effective watch birds!

Wandering around the yard...

Keeping guard on the roof...

When I first walked into the family room, I thought, at first glance, that this was a real live peacock in full display. It's actually one that she made herself, from feathers the live birds and dropped. This woman is extremely talented!!

This one stands in the corner of her lounge.Unfortunately had to crop the end of the peacocks tail out of this photo, as my camera lens obviously had spots on it. A wonderful piece of artwork. Again, at first glance, you think you're looking at the real thing.