my favorite cooking utensil

this is it. my favorite utensil for cooking that usually lives in or very near my kitchen. if i can't find it, and jay asks what i'm looking for and i say my cookbook... he knows it's this one. i received this cookbook from my dear friend ashley many years ago.

(this picture was 4 years ago... time sure does fly)

she started me out with a few of her favorite recipes and since then, i have continued to add to it with favorites i have discovered along my way. i have new recipes, old recipes, family recipes, cut-outs from magazines. some of them i have made and love, some of them have sounded delicious but i have never made them (one day). this is my trusty kitchen companion- better than anything i could ever get from the pampered chef or bed, bath, and beyond.

speaking of kitchens and cooking... weight watchers continues to make a difference in our lives and home. i'm not sure of jay's weight loss total to date, but in 2 months, i have lost 6.4 lbs. i can see and feel the difference and am thankful that the weight is coming off slowly. i feel that i am taking the time to lose it and by doing so, i am learning new, healthy habits that will remain long after tracking every single thing i eat ends.

what is that, you ask? well, yesterday we had some very ripe bananas and not enough yogurt (or room in our stomachs) for 3 smoothies. so, i was determined to find a delicious recipe from weight watchers for those bananas. and i did! i had every ingredient in the house already, too. so, i made some delicious banana oatmeal bread. yummy. at 4 points per slice (10 slices per loaf), it is a yummy treat for breakfast. it has made it into my little companion, too.


1 c. uncooked old-fashioned oats
3 large bananas
2 med. egg whites
1 lg. egg
3 tsp. canola oil
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unpacked brown sugar
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients (except oats). Add oil and eggs; mix thoroughly.
2. In a small bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add bananas and oats to batter.
3. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake until top of loaf is firm to touch, 45-55 minutes. Remove from oven to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Flip out and cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes.

and voila! tasty banana oatmeal bread. and it smells wonderful while it is baking, too. enjoy!

sweet new creations

i found a new pattern for sweet baby hats. they are baby bear hats and are a quick, sweet project. i need some help, though. i can't decide if they look better with or without the face. i'll take all comments and suggestions.


a trip on the parkway

last saturday was an absolutely beautiful day here and jay and i took the dogs up for a drive on the brp (blue ridge parkway). we decided to drive up to mt. mitchell, now that the road is repaired (it had previously washed out, and down, the mountain) and now that they have finished rebuilding the observation tower on mt. mitchell. wecouldn't have chosen a more perfect day, as there were so few clouds in the sky. the leaves are already changing a bit, too. i took lots of pictures, so sit back and relax and enjoy the views.

View from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

the leaves were beginning to change (this was oct. 3)

Glassmine Falls

the falls don't run very often, but with all the rain we've had, they were definitely flowing

more lovely, changing leaves

views from Mt. Mitchell
jay with the (cooperative) girls

me with a cooperative barley and a distracted cotton

it was a rare, clear day on top of mt. mitchell

you could see all the way to clingmans dome in the gsm's (great smoky mtns)

there are some funny signs on the parkway... for instance, one of the most popular hiking trails has this name...

and this is a purchased "copy" of a sign that is no longer on the parkway, but was so popular (and frequently stolen) that they now sell them at the craggy visitors center...

... it warns of a decreasing radius turn. but, of course, i'm sure you knew that.
so come on over for a visit and see the views for yourselves.


heaven (on earth)

monday was a day of pure joy and relaxation. my only wish was that i'd spent the entire day there. (and i could have. next time i will. well, after i save up some more money!)

i spent monday afternoon at the grove park spa. jay got me a gift certificate almost 2 Christmas's ago and i finally used it. i needed it now, too, so i guess waiting was worth it. and when i say worth it, i mean worth it. every single precious little penny. if you visit their website and read their description, it goes something like this...

And so it begins.Guests of The Spa start with a short journey down to the entrance, located within The Grove Park Inn’s stately façade. Is it an underwater cavern, or a rock outcropping surrounded by lush nature? Taking aesthetic inspiration from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, The Spa’s appearance seems at once familiar and foreign, intriguingly so.

As you approach, tranquil sounds of running water fill your ears. Palpable energy, healing and positive, flows through the air, perhaps in your own anticipation of what’s to come. You may notice your breathing naturally relaxing. This, unsurprisingly, is all by design.

An entire day of indulgence is yours for the taking.An entire day, just for you. Your Spa experience is not limited to the length of a specific treatment. Instead, it is our desire to immerse you in exceptional rejuvenation and tranquility... all day long.

The Spa is more than 43,000 square feet in size, 20,000 of which are amenities for you to enjoy before and after your treatment. Consider yourself cordially invited to use our mineral pools with their soothing underwater music and nearby waterfall pools. Enjoy exhilarating contrast pools, a lap pool, an inhalation room, sauna and a eucalyptus-infused steam room. Sip herbal teas and savor refreshments in our separate Men’s and Women’s Relaxation Lounges. And remember to pause and drink in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains with their own ethereal, soothing effect.

The entirety of your Spa experience will be superbly catered to by our Spa Concierge. One note of warning: prepare to be pampered beyond your wildest imagination.

okay, so i copy and pasted. (but you'll still want to go check out the website.) and everything they describe, is exactly how it is. don't believe me? check out some of their pictures.

the famous inn

the spa- outside looking in

the indoor pools

the outside hot tub/pool (stone fireplace just to the left)

iced "peppermint" towels for cooling off after visiting the steam or dry saunas or hot tub

hot stone treatments

the beauty and tranquility of the stone rooms

the recipe post

i spent much of yesterday afternoon in my kitchen. i made all sorts of good, yummy treats... so many that now i really need to clean out my fridge. many of the recipes came from weight watchers, so hopefully they don't mind me sharing their recipes. well, i'm sure they do, but i am giving them all the credit for them. i also modified the recipes just a bit, and adjusted the points as necessary, so technically i made the recipe my own.

yeah, yeah, i know... justifications.

but, just in case i haven't posted it, i have a great salsa recipe that i got from my friend ashley that i would love to share with you, too. as you know, salsa is 0 points, so with some baked tostitos, you can really enjoy it. (i made this first yesterday.)


1 can rotel brand tomatoes with green chiles (or if you like it hot, use the habanero version)
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 cans stewed tomatoes
2 green onions, chopped
1 lime- juice and pulp
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking)
fresh cilantro (30ish leaves)
1/2 - 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. tabasco (or more if you like)

tortilla chips

Trim onions, coarsely chop onions; pick off 30 cilantro leaves. Juice lime and get pulp! Add all ingredients EXCEPT stewed tomatoes to food processor with chopping blade attachment. Chop well until onion and cilantro are reduced to small fragments. Add stewed tomatoes but leave them fairly chunky. Serve cool or at room temp.

*i have a small food processor- so i do everything and the rotel first, as the recipe guides, and then put it in a bowl. then i do each can of stewed tomatoes separately and then mix it all together.

after making the salsa, i tried out a WW recipe. they taste a bit like they're missing something... maybe the fat! ha! but they are decent for 2 points each.


1 spray cooking spray
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
2/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 c. canned pumpkin
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. fat-free egg substitute
2/3 c. fat-free skim milk

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat muffin tin with cooking spray. Line with cupcake wrappers if desired.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Combine applesauce, pumpkin, sugar, egg substitute and milk in a medium bowl; mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Add applesauce mixture to flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Pour batter into muffin tins so each hole is about 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Yields one muffin per serving.

*the recipe states it makes 12 muffins- i got 18 out of it, and that drops the points from 3 to 2 per muffin. i also used 2 1/2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice mixture instead of the separate spices. oh, and the muffins stuck to the wrappers, so... good luck!

after that, i was inspired to make something yummy to take to work. i really miss chicken salad, so i thought i would try WW's recipe. it's no maggie's cafe/sweet pea's recipe, but it'll do for now. i may continue to try to tweak it a bit.


3/4 lbs. cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. celery, finely diced
1/3 c. dill pickle, finely diced
1/4 c. reduced-calorie mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. reduced-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp. parsley, fresh, chopped
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place all ingredients in a large bowl; mix until blended. Yields about 2/3 c. per serving. 3 points per serving.

*i did not add the pickles to my recipe and i also used low-fat miracle whip in place of mayo. i also used canned chicken. i may try mayo and fresh chicken next go around. it did satisfy the craving, though.

so, when i bought my pumpkin the other day, the only can left was a ginormous one... so needless to say, i had some pumpkin left over. so, i found my handy dog treat cookbook, remembering they had one with pumpkin in it, too. so, the next course in my cooking extravaganza yesterday was for the dogs. (they were anxiously waiting...)


1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp. applesauce
2 egg whites
1/2 c. solid-pack pumpkin
1 Tbsp. molasses
1/2 c. water

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together to a cookie-dough-like consistency. Drop by the teaspoonful onto a greased baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookies should be firm when done. Turn off oven and let cookies cool in the oven to harden somewhat, 1-2 hours or overnight.

*the girls gobble them up!

then i still had a little time, so i made some delicious soup to take to work, too. it is also a WW recipe, but i modified it just a bit, so i will be posting my modified recipe, with modified point value, too. it turned out better than i thought it would.


2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 c. onion, minced
20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli
29 oz. canned chicken broth
8 oz. light velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 c. fat-free skim milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 c. (cold) water
1/4 c. cornstarch

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, until soft. Add broccoli and broth and bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes, until broccoli is tender.

Reduce heat to low, add cheese and stir until cheese melts; stir in milk and garlic powder.

Whisk together water and cornstarch. Add mixture to pan and simmer 2 minutes, until thick. Serve hot. Yields about 1 1/2 c. per serving. 5 points per serving.

i still have one more recipe to try out for oatmeal cookies (sans raisins for this girl). i will add it to the list if they're good. have fun trying out these recipes. let me know what you try, if any of them! happy cooking!