Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

So what does a "Mother of the Bride" do when it is approximately six months before her daughter's wedding and she is not happy with her appearance?  She joins a gym to workout a couple of hours every day and she goes on a low fat diet consisting primarily of vegetables.  At least that is what I am doing, and why I was happy to see this recipe for Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup in the December, 2011 issue of the Food Network Magazine. The ingredients of sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks, and red lentils, seasoned with fresh ginger and curry, sounded very appealing to me, and the approximate 257 calories a serving was a definite plus!

Best of all, it is a slow cooker recipe!

Perfect for this busy holiday season, when there is so much to do!

The most labor intensive part of making this soup is chopping all the vegetables into small pieces. I happen to enjoy chopping vegetables as I find it a meditative experience.  If I know I am going out for the day I will do this preperation the night before, so that all I have to do in the morning is add the ingredients into the slow cooker and turn it on.  Since this recipe is set to cook for eight hours on low heat, it's perfect for a very busy day.

How nice to come home to a bowl of wonderfully fragrant, hot soup!

  The recipe as it appears in the Food Network Magazine:

Slow-Cooker Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

Total Time: 8 hr 25 min.
Prep: 25 min.
Cook:  8 hr 0 min.

Yield:4 servings


1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 leeks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only)

3/4 cup dried yellow or red lentils

1 4-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 teaspoon curry powder

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving (optional)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Combine the sweet potato, carrots, celery, leeks, lentils, ginger, 3/4 teaspoon curry powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a 4-to-6-quart slow cooker. Add 6 cups water and stir, then cover and cook on low, undisturbed, 8 hours.

Stir the soup vigorously with a whisk to make a rough puree. Thin with hot water, if desired.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon curry powder and cook until the curry powder is slightly toasted, about 1 minute. Stir the curry mixture into the soup and add the lemon juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.

Per serving: Calories 257; Fat 4 g (Saturated 2 g); Cholesterol 8 mg; Sodium 580 mg; Carbohydrate 45 g; Fiber 10 g; Protein 12 g

Did you watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on TV last night? This photo is of  last year's beautiful tree (view more photos here)  I contemplated going to the ceremony but when I heard that President Obama was also in mid town Manhattan last evening, attending another event, I decided to wait another year.  I knew all the added security would make a very crowded event even more difficult to see.  I'll visit this year's tree as soon as I can -- I never miss seeing it!  Happy December 1st!
I'm adding this post to "Alphabe" Thursday on Jenny Matlock's blog -- the letter this week is "D" -- December's perfect soup! I'm also joining in on Foodie Friday on Designs By Gollum. Thanks to both blog hosts!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, California

When my husband and I drove into the town of San Luis Obispo, California, on our trip north along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco, we immediately headed over to the Mission San Luis Obsipo de TolosaWe had enjoyed seeing other historical Missions along the coast, and we wanted to also visit this Mission which is often called the "Prince of Missions."  The Mission is located in the middle of downtown San Luis Obispo, at the corner of Monterey and Chorro Streets.

As the fifth California Mission founded by Father Junipero Serra, on Sept. 1, 1772, it was named after Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France; a 14th century Franciscan. The Mission is located in a spacious valley along the central coast which the Spanish named "La Cañada de los Osos" (Valley of the Bears) when they discovered many grizzly bears living there. 

The Mission church is unusual in its design. it has a combination of belfry and vestibule and a long secondary nave to the right of the altar which forms an L-shaped church plan. It is a design not found in any of the other California Missions.

The interior of the Mission was restored back to it's original state in 1934, and it is still used as an active parish church.

The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission has a museum that features a rare collection of early California photographs, authentic Serra relics and specimens of Chumash Indian craftsmanship.

I found this collage of early 1900's photographs of all the 21 California Missions very interesting. Notice how many were in rural locations and now those same Missions have had cities grow up around them. 

The San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission grounds were beautiful.  Notice the red tile roofs and the long grape arbor. Under the three bells that were on display (upper left corner of the collage) was a commemorative plaque explaining that the Mission's original bells were lost to time, but these bells were two second and one third generation of bells, called "Joy," "Gloria" and "Sorrow." All of the Mission's bronze bells were usually made in Lima, Peru. Being a bell ringer at the Mission was an honor and it took up to two years to learn the bell ringing craft, as there were complicated bell patterns used to wake the mission inhabitants in the morning, call them to mass and announce the beginning of the siesta. The last two bell ringers at San Luis Obispo did this job for over 60 years each!

The photo on the left of Ah Louis (Wong On), 1840 -1936 - a prominent historical figure who helped to build the town of San Luis Obispo, was in the Mission's museum.  His store is now a historical landmark. The bell located next to the store was donated by Howard Wong Louis, his son, in memory of his father.  Ah Louis was a Chinese American pioneer who founded his store in 1874 to serve as a grocery and merchandise store, employment office, bank post office and pharmacy.  The store was used by the Chinese laborers that were living in the area and working to dig the eight tunnels through the mountains of Cuesta for the Southern Pacific Railroad, from 1884 to 1894.

Our next stop was the third largest wine growing region of California, beautiful Paso Robles, where I was surprised again to be greeted by a statue that I have been fortunate enough to see in Florence, Italy, in Sonoma, California and in Sydney, Australia. Can you guess what it is? If not, I'll be showing it in an upcoming post. It definitely seems to be an unusual "good luck" charm for me!

I'm linking this post to the "Outdoor Wednesday" event on Susan's blog A Southern Daydreamer. Thank you, Susan!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

The Madonna Inn--It's All About PINK!

When I am on the road on a vacation I bring my laptop along to stay in touch as much as possible with my favorite blogs and to answer comments. Sometimes my computer time is limited, or Internet connections are slow, so I fall a little behind.  Luckily, I decided to catch up with Susan's Branch's wonderful blog the evening before my husband and I were going to drive up to the San Luis Obsipo. While browsing a few back posts on her blog, I came upon her description of the Madonna Inn on her "We Love Pink" blog post.  What a exceptionally fun place this is for anyone that loves the color pink!

The Madonna Inn, located at 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, opened for business in 1958. It quickly became a landmark on US Highway 101 in the Central Coast of California.  The Inn was created by Alex Madonna, a successful construction magnate and entrepreneur, with and his wife Phyllis.

The pink begins outside the inn, but it can hardly prepare you....

 ...for all the pink inside!

According to Susan Branch, "Mr. Madonna made the whole thing pink because he thought Mrs. Madonna 'looked good in pink.' "

The banquets are pink....

...the tables and chairs are pink... of the bar are pink

...the carpet and decorations are pink!

Almost everything is pink!

As Susan said in her blog post: "the men’s room downstairs is so interesting, there’s always a line of women waiting to get in to see it!"  No photo here, as I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise, but it is one of the fun, quirky features of the inn you would want to see!

The fun does not end in the inn's lobby, men's room, Copper Cafe, Silver Bar, The Gold Rush Steak House Restaurant, or the attached bakery and pastry shop.  There are also 110 rooms, each decorated with a special theme.  If you go to this link you can see the whimsical names of the suites and a photo of how they are decorated. To continue the all pink theme, the room "Carin" was the one to choose, but there are many rooms in other colors available. One room, called "What's Left," is a patchwork of fabrics, carpet and wallpaper collected from other rooms.  If I had to chose, I thought Yosemite Rock was one of the nicest of the unusual rooms.  Which one would you chose?

Thanks, Susan, for letting us all know about the wonderful Madonna Inn!  I really enjoyed my visit!

I'm linking this post to:

Many thanks to all the blog hosts!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Most Americans will be home tomorrow,
 enjoying the feast of Thanksgiving with their family.

According to census figures, Americans originate from more than 125 countries.
This diversity has made us strong and multicultural, but we all
share this wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving.

Lovingly prepared foods will be made,
using traditional recipes handed down through the generations,
and maybe a new recipe, or two, from a favorite food blog!

Thanksgiving Grace will be said before the meal, and happy memories
of what each person is most thankful for will be shared.

Afterwards, while a football game or two is being watched on TV,
 there will big pots of turkey stock simmering on the stove,
 made from the leftover turkey carcass.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving,
I wish you a day filled with the
love of family and friends,
good food, laughter and sharing,
and most importantly of all, 
a day filled with gratitude for all the blessings
God has given to all of us and our country.

All of my photos above came from a recent visit to the historical "Strawberry Banke Museum,"
located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire--a most beautiful place to see!

This is a very special Thanksgiving for my family as our sweet daughter turns 30 years old! She has always had turkey picks on her cake since she was one year old, as we always celebrated her birthday at our family's Thanksgiving dinner, and this year will be no exception.

Happy birthday sweet girl, one of our life's most wonderful blessings...we love you!

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Solvang -- Danish Capital of California

Snuggled in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, is the charming town of Solvang, which translates a "Sunny Meadows," and is known as the 'Danish Capital of California."  One of my husband's co-workers told us to make an effort to take a detour east from Santa Barbara to visit this town on our trip north to San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway. She knew that we'd enjoy its friendly, fairy tale appearance.

Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the Midwestern winters. There is still a significant Danish population in Solvang, and a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark. The architecture of many of the facades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style.

There was so much to see and do there that I'm sorry we could only spend one afternoon walking around town.

On the top floor of this charming little book store called The Book Loft, located at 1680 Mission Drive, was the Hans Christian Anderson Museum.  Hans Christian Anderson was Denmark's most famous writer.  Although Andersen wrote travel journals, plays, novels, and poetry he is best know for his endearing children's Fairy Tales, which have been translated into more than 100 languages.

The Book Loft also contained a large collection of books about all the Scandinavian countries,  books in the various Scandinavian languages, as well as book in English, and a large selection of children's books.

The museum is devoted to presenting the author's life and works. Displays include models of Andersen's childhood home and of his The Princess and the Pea fairy tale.. The museum also contains hundreds of volumes of Andersen's works, including many illustrated first editions.

We also took some time to visit the Mission of Santa Ines located at 1760 Mission Drive in Solvang.  Santa Ines is the nineteenth of 21 missions established by Franciscan priests from 1769 to 1823.  It was founded on September 17, 1804 by Father Estévan Tapís. Santa Ines is the Spanish version of the name "Saint Agnes." Early English settlers changed the spelling to "Santa Inez" when naming the mountains surrounding the area. Saint Agnes was a Christian who was martyred for her faith in Rome in 304 AD. 

The interior of the church is beautiful and very decoratively painted. The statue of St. Agnes, dating from the 18th Century, is located in a niche above the main altar, and almost appeared to glow, as the soft afternoon light shone upon it.  The mission is still an active parish.

The historical museum at Santa Inés is one of the best in the mission chain. It contains an extensive display of Latin missals and handmade parchment music books, some far older than the mission and many magnificent works of art work, vestments, statuary, documents and mission  artifacts.

As with all the missions we visited on this trip, the gardens and cemetery of Santa Ines were lush and peaceful. We really enjoyed visiting this "Hidden Gem of the Missions," as it is also known.

Before we departed Solvang the next morning we stopped at Olsen's Danish Bakery for a Danish pastry and coffee.  There were so many delicious pastries to chose from that of course we had to have more than one!

We went back on the road, headed towards San Luis Obsipo.   I had to visit a fun location there that I read Susan Branch blog about ... I love Susan's cheerful  blog! I'll be sharing more about that in my blog post for Pink Saturday .. you won't want to miss it!

I'm linking this post to:

Mosaic Monday
Blue Monday
Ruby Tuesday
Our World Tuesday

Many thanks to all the blog hosts!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Old Mission Santa Barbara, California

During our recent visit to California, my husband and I were so captivated by the beauty of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, which you can read about on this link, that we decided to visit  a few more missions along the path of our Pacific Highway coastal trip to San Francisco. The Mission of Santa Barbara is located at 2201 Laguna Street, was founded in Founded  on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786, and is known as the "Queen of the Missions."   It was the first to be christened by Father Fermin Lasuen, and has continuously served as a parish church for the local population since its founding.

Santa Barbara was the tenth of twenty-one California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. The original church was destroyed in 1925 by earthquake, but restorations have returned it to its original grandeur, and its twin bell towers and Doric facade present an imposing impression of strength.

The interior of the church is impressive.  Its walls are full of beautiful religious themed paintings.

Some of the artwork and statues inside the Mission Santa Barbara Church.

A tribute statue to Father Junipero Serra, who had founded the first nine Missions, and had died 2 years before Mission Santa Barbara was founded. Notice the "El Camino Real, " or The Royal Highway, bell marker behind the statue.  The missions were placed a day's walk from each other, about thirty miles apart. The entire span of missions along the El Camino Real is 650 miles, mainly along the present Highway 101.  In the1920s bronze mission bells were placed along the highway to let motorists know they were traveling the historic El Camino Real, although almost all of them no longer contain signs that indicate the distance to the next Mission, as this one does.

The beautiful fountain in front of the Mission was built in 1808.

When the Mission period was over, the buildings were used for a number of purposes, such as a high school, a junior college, a seminary, and the Mission church today is used by the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Barbara.

The Mission occupies over 10 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, and also houses a museum.

Some of the beautiful pink roses in bloom in the Mission garden.

Just look at the size of this grape vine remnant from the year 1800!

Some of the interesting artifacts inside the Mission's museum.

The small carving above this door tell you that you are now entering the Mission cemetery.

Santa Barbara's culturally diverse early settlers are buried here as well as approximately 4,000 Indians, including Joana Maria, the abandoned woman of San Nicolas island. Her life is portrayed in the book "Island of the Blue Dolphins." She was buried here in 1853 but the exact location of her grave is not known.

Another interesting sight in the cemetery was a large  Moreton Bay Fig Tree that was planted around 1890.

After our visit to the Mission of Santa Barbara we headed back onto the road, but this time we were taking a slight detour inland off the Pacific Coast Highway towards the Saint Inez Mountains to stay in a town that recommended by one of my husband's co-workers. I'm sure you will want to return to my blog to see it in my next post,  as you will find it absolutely delightful!

I am linking this post to:

"Pink Saturday" on Beverly's blog How Sweet The Sound
"Spiritual Sunday" on the Spiritual Sunday blog
"Seasonal Sundays" on The Tablescaper blog

Many thanks to all the blog hosts!
Pam of the blog "Abiding in Love" is doing a My Memories Digital Scrapbook give away and asked me to spread the news! If you remember, I did a give away of this wonderful software a short time ago and I have been enjoying using it to make pages of my grandson's photos. Please visit Pam's blog and leave a comment to have another chance to win this wonderful software.

If you can't wait to win,  you can go to the My Memories web site and order this voted  #1 digital scrapbook software no.  If you enter this code STMMMS34516 at check out, you will receive $10 off the price! It's a wonderful opportunity to finally scrap all those wonderful photos you have in your computer files.

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