Friday, January 28, 2011


Many years ago...probably about mother entered a contest at her local Garden Club...and SHE WON! 

Or did she???

The prize was a pair of brightly painted, concrete, art for the yard, FLAMINGOS!!!
They came complete with iron rods (think rebar) for legs.

Now Mother has her silly side...sometimes...but THIS was not something she would deign to put into her beautiful gardens. So these "lovelies" were packed away, in the back of a closet and forgotten.

Years later, Mom and Dad moved to the lake house...and in the packing up of 15 years of memories (aka junk!), Mom found the FLAMINGOS.

Thus began a new Hill family tradition...
For the first Christmas in our new home, Mom gave my dad a beautifully wrapped present...with a FLAMINGO inside.

After much laughter, joking...and threats... the FLAMINGO was packed away once more until the next big event in our family's life...

Over the years, the FLAMINGO has made appearances to celebrate new homes, college graduations, weddings, babies, etc. It has traveled around the USA, decorated every room in a house (for photo purposed, only!!!), tagged along on a honeymoon, and been presented on a covered food tray, surrounded by garnishes at a wedding dinner. For the past 30 years, a booklet has traveled with it...telling the tales of where it has been...and immortalizing the "pomes" that often accompanied it.

move to the present day...

This past weekend, my family gathered to celebrate Mom's 92nd birthday. We had a fabulous brunch and even more fabulous time just being together. Mom was the queen of the day...with all her children, some of her grandchildren, and even one of the great-grands. She was PREENING!

And then it was time for the gifts...


Can you guess what she unwrapped?
*'re right! It was...


wrapped in a Tiffany's box.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Haven't Lost My Mind...Yet

For the past 2 weeks, I have been getting GRIEF from my family....
    I could not find my CAR KEYS!!! (and the clickers for both my car and MacDaddy's car)

I remember bringing them INTO THE HOUSE...but with all the confusion of dogs, Christmas boxes and tissue paper, chatting with DB and SC...I could not find where I put them.

For DAYS...I searched.  Several nights, I even got out of bed to search in new places.  I went through the Christmas boxes I had packed up...the ones that were around the area I had been sitting that fateful night. I searched the TRASH! And I endured the TEASING from my family.

FINALLY...I gave up and conceded that they were truly lost. I had a new key made...for $70+ !!! Ridiculous!!!  But necessary...

Last night...MacDaddy comes to my office with a very sheepish expression on his face. He tells me s_ _ _ happens...and he pulls my keys out of the pocket of  his  windbreaker...WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN RESIDING FOR WEEKS!!!!

For all my boys...and their friends...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Southern Praline Pecan Cake

It's been one of THOSE days...MacDaddy and I have been all over the place, looking at rugs and flooring, shopping for Bunco gifts, touring Home Depot and Lowes...and trying to get a few things done at home. Chick-fil-a on the fly was our lunch...and I think we forgot to eat breakfast. So tonight, I gave MD a treat...Porkchops stuffed with apple dressing, steamed spinach with toasted pecans and Southern Praline Pecan of his favorite desserts.

A charming stranger, in front of the cake mix display at Publix, gave this recipe to me. I first tried it out on "the band"...then on the family..and then on our small group. It's a delicious HIT! (good for me since it's so simple!).

The photo does not do this cake justice...and as usual, the guys got into it before I could take a picture. That should give you an idea how delicious this cake is.....The scent, while baking, wafts throughout the house...caramel...nuts...Mmmmmmm!

Give it a try....


1 Butter Pecan cake mix (Betty Crocker makes this...I usually find it at WalMart.)
1 container Coconut Pecan Frosting (16 ounce)
4 Eggs
1 cup oil
3/4 cup Water
1 cup Pecans, chopped (I use more...we LOVE pecans)

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray Bundt cake pan with non-stick cooking spray

2.      Combine the cake mix, frosting, eggs, water, oil and
½  of the pecans. Mix until combined

3.      Sprinkle the remaining pecans on the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan, then pour in the batter.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes or until a
     toothpick comes out clean.

5.    Cool in pan for 10-12 minutes then invert onto
serving plate.

This cake needs no glaze. It is very moist and can be frozen. Serves 16.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Last "Tailgate" of the Season

In honor of the National Championship Game (did you hear...Auburn won!) being played in Arizona, we chose a Southwestern Menu...

(The food had already been attacked before I was able to get a photo. was a hit with the guys!)

Southwestern Tailgate Menu

Grilled Chipotle Chicken (9/2/10 post)
Tortillas...and all the fixin's
Black Beans and Rice (1/8/11)
Jalapeno Dip with baguettes and tortilla chips (9/10/10 post)
Queso Dip
Salad (I cheated...Olive Garden)
Fresh Fruits
Chocolate Cupcakes with a hint of crushed red pepper

Usually I use thighs and bone-in breasts for this chicken, but boneless breasts were on a HUGE sale last week. So MacDaddy grilled them, then sliced them into strips. Many of the guests wrapped the chicken strips into a flour tortilla, with some of the spicy marinate, grated cheese, and a little of the salad. Mmmmm.

When I have a crowd, I often order a salad bowl from Olive feeds a large crowd and comes with everything...croutons, cheese, a dozen breadsticks, a bottle of their dressing, and even serving utensils. All for only $17 including tax.
We still have half a bottle of dressing left!

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) were served right from the pot.
(Hey, it was mostly guys eating...they preferred simplicity.)

Queso Dip - 1 small block of Velveeta and 1 can Hormel Chili with no beans. Melt the cheese, stir in the chili...add a little hot sauce, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.
(This is basically the recipe used by Chilis...)

Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes with Red Pepper & Marshmallow Frosting
1 Devil's Food cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 tsp. ground red pepper* (you can omit, or use less)

Make the cake according to the directions on the box, but add the pepper. Bake according to the directions.

*You can use cinnamon in place of the red pepper. Both give the cake a little southwestern flavor.

My favorite part is the frosting...EASY and YUMMY!!!
      Mix together 1 thawed container Cool Whip (small size) and 1 jar Marshmallow Cream (Fluff). Whip with a mixer until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Spread on cooled cupcakes.
We sprinkled the tops with orange honor of the AU orange and blue...

(This frosting is so GOOD that I could have just eaten it with a spoon...and I mean the WHOLE BOWL!)

Any of these recipes can be adapted for Super Bowl Sunday...or for any gathering.

Be sure to visit Foodie Friday at There are some really tasty recipes posted this week...  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blue Skies...Smiling at me....

I looked up at the sky and I began singing this song....
    (Oh no! I'm beginning to sound like my "I've got a song for that" Mother!!!)

Blue Skies...

Smiling at me....

Nothing but blue skies...

Do I see....

May your day be filled with beautiful blue skies...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Our beloved Auburn Tigers are the  NATIONAL 

What an incredible game!!! Auburn and Oregon banged heads (and shoulders, arms, legs, etc.) in one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen.

The celebrations in spite of the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures...centered around Toomer's Corner. Traditionally, when Auburn wins, crowds gather at the main intersection of downtown Auburn and the campus - across from Toomer's Drug Store - and roll the old live oak trees with thousands of rolls of toilet paper. Why? Who knows. But this tradition has been around forever... (Cherry pickers are permanently stationed nearby for the cleanup.)  As you can see in the photo, THOUSANDS of fans were on hand...and the trees are virtually hidden beneath the streamers of white tissue. It's a BEAUTIFUL sight...

Michael Dyer (DIL's "boyfriend) is a freshman...and the offensive player of the game. He had not only the run that set up the last second WINNING field goal, he had a "once-in-a-lifetime" run...tackled after a good run, but never touching the ground, he got off the Oregon player...and continued to run for a major 37 yd. gain. You gotta love this little guy...not very tall, but he has the most powerful legs which never quit. He's going to be a player to watch...

Nick Fairley...defensive player of the game.
This guy is incredible! All season, he has wreaked havoc
on the opposing teams...particularly the quarterbacks.
Be watching for him in the NFL...

Aubie, our mascot, and Mr. Penny showing their push-up style.
This is a neat story about the Auburn Family...
Mr. Penny is the school crossing guard and janitor at Auburn Elementary school. He has lived in Auburn/Opelika forever...and has attended every home game. At the games, Mr. Penny did push-ups with each score...with good plays...with first downs...You get the idea! He's a true fan!

He wanted to go to the BCS game, but of course, the cost was completely out of reach. So....the parents of Auburn Elementary began a campaign to raise the money for Mr. Penny to go to the game in Glendale, AZ. (after all, Mr. Penny is a BIG part of the Auburn Family) The results...his hotel was given by a fan, his airline ticket was donated by a fan, a ticket was given to him...and over $6000 was raised. Mr. Penny took his very first trip on an airplane...out of the state of AL...etc. And HE WAS THERE to watch his beloved team...That's FAMILY!

How did we watch the game?
    with friends, family, four dogs, and LOTS of food.

As much as we wanted to go to AZ for the game, ticket prices were untouchable for us...last price I saw was $4800 for ONE ticket!
The ticket brokers were even returning fans' money because tickets were unavailable. Stubhub said this was the hardest ticket to get since the opening ceremonies at the Olympics in China!

"Go Tigers",
Hurley cheered.

At the end of the game, MacDaddy and WG traipsed outside with the extension ladder and ceremoniously replaced the weather-beaten, faded Auburn flag, which has been waving over our home for the past football season, with a brand new, "United Auburn" flag.
Bring on the next season...

(Can't believe we have to wait 8 months for college football to return...)


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frijoles Negros (aka Black Beans)

Being from a Cuban/Sicilian/English (yeah...I'm really mixed up!) family, I grew up eating FRIJOLES NEGROS (black beans...for those non-Spanish speaking readers). My mom would buy dried black beans, soak them for hours, pick through them for stones, and cook them until tender for several more hours (and the house would stink!). Then she would start adding the magic...onions, green pepper, tomato, garlic, and tons of spices. was always so good. But it always took soooooooo long until we could eat them.
(photo from

10 years ago:
 Then she discovered Black Beans in a can...already precooked and ready to be seasoned. This was an huge improvement...and time-saver (and nose saver!). When she had to make the GALLONS of beans for our Christmas family reunion, she would use these canned beans to prepare small batches and freeze them, beginning at the first of December. That was so much easier and they tasted just as good.

7 years ago:
Then along comes, Jane...always looking for ways to streamline kitchen time. Because of a kitchen disaster when company was coming for a Cuban meal (I BURNED the beans), I ran to the local Italian/Spanish grocery and grabbed a few cans of El Ebro Black Beans / Cuban Style. These beans were a life-saver!!! All I did was open the cans and add a little onion, tomato, and green pepper, which had been sweat in olive oil. And no one but MacDaddy knew the difference. Now these are the beans of choice when I need to make them.

Mom, the provider of the Black Beans for our Christmas feast, is having trouble remembering things like "how much" is needed for a crowd (not to mention who her kids are), but she still wanted to make the beans. Big Brother helped her with this chore and made enough for about 30 servings. I brought the rest...El Ebro, of course, still in the cans, to add as needed to the pot. (The crowd ate another 10 cans worth.) Nobody noticed the difference.

5 days later:
My sister stopped at the Italian/Spanish grocery to get a few things to take back to Mt. Dora with her. Among her items were several cans of El Ebro Black Beans. The market owner's wife was at the check-out counter and told my sister that these cans were all she now used...she just added a little Sofrito (you can find this in the Ethnic food aisles or the freezer of many stores, at Caribbean markets, Hispanic markets, online or you can try the recipe below...

So...if you want some really good Frijoles Negros (black beans), you can make them from scratch using Mom's (before canned) "recipe":
 Grandma DelValle's Frijoles Negros
      Soak 1 bag of black beans, overnight. Rinse and drain them. Remove any gravel. Put in a large pot or salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until the beans are tender.  In a frying pan, pour a little olive oil and heat it. Add 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 bell (green) pepper, chopped; 3-4 Roma tomatoes, chopped; mince 3-4 garlic cloves and add to oil. Cook these until the onion is translucent, the pepper is soft, and the tomatoes are cooked. Add to the beans. Season the beans to taste with salt, pepper, (cilantro, if desired) and a little parsley. Add a little splash of apple cider vinegar. Stir and simmer until the beans are very tender. Mash some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon. Simmer until thickened. Serve with rice (white or yellow) and chopped onions.

Or you can try Bobby Flay's recipe:

Or, if you are like me...get a can or two of El Ebro Black Beans /Cuban Style, add Sofrito and your guests will never know...if you throw out the trash.

You can find the recipe for Chicken Salteado in my February 2010 archives. It's simple, quick and delicious!!!

Sofrito Recipe from Daisy Martinez:
    2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
Makes about 4 cups
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully.

If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, don’t sweat. Up the amount of cilantro to 1 1l2 bunches.

I am joining...albeit late...Foodie Friday at Visit all the other "foodies" for some great recipes...

Have a great weekend -

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And you thought I was joking...

Here is my "new" Christmas tree.

By the worked!  :-) It's now outside...

Monday, January 3, 2011


That's the number of storage boxes it takes to store our Christmas decorations!!! 

Today I begin to store away all the holiday decorations...and I am starting to hyperventilate!!! There is too much stuff!!!

Each year I keep planning to cut back on what I do...and I truly have...But there is a part of me that "sees" ideas and wants to implement them...hence, more stuff!!! (Actually, this year I only purchased a few ornaments, a pair of gloves, some ribbon and plain brown paper. Not too bad...)

Then, the GROWN boys (and girls) insist that I use their favorite decorations and stockings. ("It's tradition", they say.) And of course that means all the Santas, Nutcrackers, Snowpeople, special artwork, etc. have to be on display. 
(I have suggested they take some of the items to their homes, but they refuse..."It belongs in your house, Mom.")

And where are these boys (and girls) when it's time to dismantle the HUGE (12 ft) tree (another tradition they insist upon...well I do like it, too.). Even MacDaddy is usually traveling somewhere and unavailable to help. (I'm beginning to think he plans his trips so he doesn't have to help...)

Maybe this year, I'll just cut the branches off the tree and leave it in the the corner...and make it a sign...or a 


I bet the guys would help carry it out, then....

So off I go to gather all the storage boxes...and maybe purchase a couple more...