Pasta in Garlic Gravy for this Fantastic Friday

If you've got a glut of tomatoes, this delish dish is a tasty way to get rid of them. And it's dairy-free.The summer of 2015 will got down as a great tomato year for the farmers who run our CSA. Week after week, our share is packed with tomatoes, so many tomatoes we’re hard-pressed to eat them all. If you’re dealing with a glut of tomatoes, this Fantastic Friday recipe uses oodles of them. And it’s delicious. Enjoy!

Pasta in Garlic Gravy with Lemon and Herb Chicken

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast sliced into 1 inch chunks
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped (if using dried, use half of the amount)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt (not table salt)
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight.

About 1/2 hour before serving time, prepare 1/2 pound spaghetti pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta water is boiling, saute the marinated chicken in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until cooked (about 4-5 minutes) then set aside. Then prepare the gravy, following the directions below.

½ stick (1/4 cup) margarine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups whole cherry tomatoes

Heat margarine and olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant and soft. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add chicken stock, whisking constantly. Simmer gravy until thickened. Add the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper.

Add the sauteed chicken and cooked pasta to the gravy. Toss until gravy coats the chicken and pasta. Add the cherry tomatoes and serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Makes 5-6 servings.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of thin gravy. For those who like a thicker gravy (like us), use 4 tablespoons of flour. If you like less gravy, cut the amount of olive oil, margarine, and chicken stock by half, but leave the flour at 2 tablespoons. Hiram says the leftovers for this dish taste better than when originally served.

Three Thoughts for Thursday



  1. I find the plethora of  before and after body wrap pictures on Facebook quite disconcerting. TMI!
  2. Because Facebook ads are age group targeted, the plethora of sponsored posts about wrinkle cream, sagging skin cream, and adult incontinence products on my Facebook feed is equally disconcerting.
  3. On the other hand, the Viking Cruise Line ads featuring older couples drinking wine as the breeze ruffles their silver hair don’t bother me at all. Because my hair hasn’t turned silver. Yet.

Your thoughts about Facebook ads? Leave a comment.

Dairy-Free Pineapple Cream Pops

Pineapple cream pops are a healthy after school snack for warm August and September days. They are also dairy-free and gluten-free with no processed sugar.Today’s recipe is a great after school snack. It’s perfect for kids who come home hot and hungry the first few weeks of school. The original recipe comes from one of those annoying websites with lots of confusing arrows and pop up ads. The kind of websites I usually hate. But the ingredients were healthy and the recipe was easy to make dairy-free.

So I gave it a try. The frozen pops were tasty and satisfied my sweet tooth. The original recipe suggested freezing them in popsicle molds. Since I don’t have them and don’t want to reclutter my cabinets, I used 3 ounce. Dixie cups and plastic straws cut in half instead. The cups worked beautifully. The straws not so much. Next time–and I will make them again– I’ll use wooden craft sticks instead.

Dairy-Free Pineapple Cream Pops

1 large, ripe, fresh pineapple cut into cubes
2 cans coconut cream (not coconut milk)
1 lime
Stevia to taste

Open the cans of coconut cream (DO NOT SHAKE THEM) and skim off the heavy cream on top. Put it in a small, deep bowl. (Refrigerate the rest of the coconut liquid and use it in smoothies or baking.) Whip the coconut cream with an electric mixer until it is frothy and thick.

Put the pineapple cubes in the blender. Process until you have a smooth, frothy mixture. Add the juice of 1 lime and process for another minute. Add the coconut cream to the blender and process until all ingredients are mixed well. Taste the mixture and add Stevia if it needs sweetening.

Pour the liquid into 3 ounce. Dixie cups.

IMG_5085Put a wooden stick or plastic straw in each cup.

IMG_5086Cover with foil. Put in freezer for several hours. Before serving, peel off the paper. Enjoy!


Top Ten Things to Love about Growing Up in the 1960s

Parade-Hoey-StrattonI am a child of the 1960s. Not the hippie, flowerchild variety. But an actual my-elementary-school-years-spanned-the-decade variety. Thinking back on those years, here are 10 things that made those great years to be a kid.

10. Year after year, food manufacturers created amazing, space-age convenience foods like Tang, Pringles, Tab, and Dream Whip.

9.  Walt Disney on Sunday nights. American kids sure Uncle Walt was talking directly to them when he introduced The Walt Disney Show on Sunday nights.

8. NASA’s space program was a wonder to behold. I was in kindergarten or first grade when John Glenn orbited. By junior high, men were walking on the moon.

7. In the 1960s, the whole town showed up for high school basketball and football games, music concerts, and school plays. Without the distraction of cell phones, iPods, and tablets, the audience’s entire attention was focused on the kids.

6. A nickel bought a big candy bar. A quarter bought a bagful.

5. All the kids in the neighborhood gathered on summer evenings to pay Kick the Can until porch lights came on–the signal that it was time to go home.

4. Summer slumber parties in the backyard. The thought of child abductions or other dangers never crossed our minds. Or our parents’.

3. Weddings. The most glamorous wedding was my ballet teacher’s because her bridesmaids wore gold lame gowns. But the most fun weddings were when my older cousins got married and our parents were so busy talking that we younger cousins could gorge on cake, mints, and nuts to our hearts’ content.

2. Real letters from friends and family in the mail. Long ones. Several times a week.

1. Living within 90 miles of all of Mom’s family and within 150 miles of Dad’s and knowing I belonged to something bigger than me, bigger than the people who lived in our house, something big enough to keep all of us safe.

Did you grow up in the 1960s? What did you love about being a kid in that decade? And be sure to stop by next week for a look at what wasn’t so great about growing up during those years.

Write, Jane, Write!

Harding County milesProgress has continued on my mystery novel set in the wilds of northwest South Dakota since the last Gravel Road update about Jane and her excellent adventures. Of course, every good mystery novel is replete with twists and turns, and this one is no exception. What are the latest twists and turns?

The first is this.

My agent, a wonderful woman and mom to 3 lovely little girls, had planned to read it on vacation. But because that vacation included entertaining 3 lovely little girls, so she didn’t have time to read anything. Which turned out to be a good thing.

Because of the second twist.

My daughter did read the book and returned it with the most marvelous feedback. Feedback that, if implemented, will improve the novel immensely. Feedback that shows she could be a professional editor…and as a literature major she has the credentials. So if you’re looking to hire someone to shape up your manuscript, just let me know. But I digress.

Back to the second twist.

The feedback was so good, I emailed my agent and said, “If you haven’t read the book yet, don’t. Wait for the next draft which will incorporate the feedback from my daughter.”

On to the third twist.

My daughter’s feedback is as unique as she is, consisting as it does of items like the following:

  • Beef up the scene at the dump
  • Start the butterfly thing earlier
  • Get out of Jane’s head and into dialogue more often
  • Make the bad guy seem gooder (yes, I know that’s not a word) early on

And so on. My goal is to have this revision done by the last week of August when my daughter and her family come for a visit. So I can entertain the baby while she reads through it. Obviously a doubly self-serving goal, but worthwhile none the less.

Which leads to the fourth and final twist.

When I am deep into revision zone, my little inner voice pipes up every now and then with its favorite public service announcement:

Stop playing around and get back to work.

I stop and feel guilty for a moment until the realization dawns on me.

This is my work.

And I keep writing.

Walking Beside a Rainbow this Fantastic Friday

The legacy of hope Uncle Marvin left his family and the hope his descendants carry into the future remain a source of hope on this Fantastic Friday.This Fantastic Friday remembers my Uncle Marvin who died four years ago this week. The legacy of hope he left his family and the hope his descendants carry into the future remain a source of hope today.

Sadness kept me company on this morning’s walk. No matter how hard I tried to steer my thoughts to smoother ground, they continually strayed to the uneven place where we stood and buried Uncle Marvin yesterday.

All I could think about were his grandchildren, the honorary pallbearers, gathered from Minnesota and Iowa, North Dakota and Illinois, and one recently returned from Egypt. They stood tall and straight and lovely, in the tiny country cemetery where their grandfather joined his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, only a few miles from where he’d been born and lived all his years.

These sweet carriers of our family’s future stood guard over the coffin, grave and composed during the pastor’s committal service, through the military gun salute, the folding of the flag, and it’s presentation to their grandmother. But when haunting notes of Taps filled the air, they began to cry, realizing for perhaps the first time in their young lives, that there is an end to every good thing.

Will this be the end of their connection to the family farm? I wondered, as they placed flowers on their grandpa’s coffin and said good-by. Will they return to their homes far away and forget their family’s long history in this place, the connection to the land that binds their parents together?

Sadness weighed heavy on me, and my head drooped lower. It’s over, I thought, and tears came to my eyes. For a moment, the sky wept, too, and raindrops wet my shoulders and hair. Maybe I should just give up and go home, I thought, too sad to fight life’s changes or the weather anymore. I looked up to check the sky.

And there against the grey clouds in the east was the beginning of a rainbow. A small, faded streak at first, it grew brighter and brighter the longer I looked up. Slowly, my sad weight lifted, and when I turned the corner I walked beside the rainbow. The further I went, the brighter the rainbow grew, until finally it stretched across the sky, bold against the grey clouds.

When those sweet grandchildren and their far-flung adventures came to mind again, the rainbow whispered to me.

Hope, it said so softly I had to strain to hear the word.


Three Thoughts for Thursday

Yellow watermelon, red sweet corn, and colorblind tomatoes in this week's three thoughts.

Last week’s CSA share included a yellow watermelon. (It was a whole one, but I forgot to take a picture of it so what you see above is a supermarket shot.) It’s presence led to these three thoughts.

  1. Our yellow watermelon smelled wonderful, but it was disconcerting to look at. So I had to close my eyes and pretend it was red for the first bite. It was so indescribably delicious, I ate the rest with eyes wide open.
  2. In the interest of full disclosure, please know that if served an ear of red sweet corn, closing my eyes for the first bite would become necessary again.
  3. The same rules do not apply to yellow tomatoes in place of red ones. They are completely interchangeable. Don’t ask me why.

What horse-of-a-different-color foods are hard for you to eat? Leave a comment.

Slow-Roasted Grape and Cherry Tomatoes

Do you have more cherry and grape tomatoes than you can eat? Oven roast them to shrink them to more manageable proportions.

Tomato season is here. Every week since mid-July our CSA share has been packed with delicious slicing tomatoes and pint boxes of cherry and grape tomatoes. I’ve kept on top of the slicers, but the smaller ones were piling up faster than we could eat them. So last week, I took a recipe for oven-roasted Roma tomatoes and adapted it for cherry and grape tomatoes. About two-thirds of the roasted tomatoes found their way onto pesto pizza (just leave off the cheese to make it dairy-free) and the rest are in the fridge waiting to be used as one of many ingredients in pesto pasta. I liked the roasted tomatoes on the pizza. The Man of Steel wasn’t quite so sure.

The recipe is very easy, though the tomatoes have to roast a long time, so be sure to start them early or prepare them a day or two in advance.

Slow Roasted Cherry and Grape Tomatoes

3 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes, or a combination of the two
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Wash tomatoes. Remove stems. Slice tomatoes in half and put in a large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients together in a smaller bowl. Pour mixture over halved tomatoes and toss until all are coated.

Spray 2 large cookie sheets with cooking spray. Pour half of tomatoes into each cookie sheet. Turn tomatoes so cut side is facing up. Like this:


Put in oven and roast for 5 hours. Take trays out and remove tomato halves that are well-dried. Continue roasting the others for an hour to hour and a half, checking them every 30 minutes. Use immediately in other recipes or store in the refrigerator.

Top Ten Reasons to Watch the 1962 Music Man Movie

The Man of Steel and I recently watched the Music Man movie. Here are 10 reasons why it's worth watching 53 years after it was first released.Over the weekend, The Man of Steel and I finally finished washing the windows. To celebrate, he suggest we sit down and watch The Music Man, the 1962 classic movie musical staring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. So we did. It was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon together, and here are 10 reasons why.

10. Hearing the Man of Steel exclaim, during the early part of the movie when Marion Paroo (Shirley Jones) was in her severe phase, “You know who she reminds me of? Hillary Clinton!”

9. The movie is set in a fictional town in my home state, Iowa. And it was written by Meredith Wilson, who hailed from Mason City, Iowa.

8. Because these lyrics from Iowa Stubborn are absolutely true:

And we’re so by God stubborn
We can stand touchin’ noses
For a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye.
But we’ll give you our shirt
And a back to go with it
If your crops should happen to die.

7. B-a-a-a-a-a-a-l-zac.

6. The library dumbwaiter. I want one.

5. There’s nothing like listening to and watching a marching band to get the blood pumping. Except for being in a marching band…and the movie brought back great memories of being in one in high school.

4. Buddy Hackett’s plaid suit in Shipoopi. And Buddy Hackett in general. What a goofball.

3. The little girl in the white sailor suit with blue trim dancing her heart out in Seventy-Six Trombones.

2. Winthrom Paroo (a.k.a. Opie Taylor, also known as Ron Howard)

1. Robert Preston. He is the definition of the word “prance.”

Do you love The Music Man movie? Tell us why in the comment box.

Does My Child Have PTSD?, a Bouncing Baby Book Is Here!

My latest book Does My Child Have PTSD? has arrived, & here's why its not getting as much attention as its older siblings did when they appeared.The advance copies of my newest baby book, Does My Child Have PTSD? What to Do When Your Child Is Hurting from the Inside Out have arrived. As you can tell from the picture, meeting this 9″ X 6″, 186 page, soft-covered beauty made me very, very happy.

But I feel a little guilty about its arrival, too. Since it’s the third baby book to arrive in less than a year, the poor little tyke didn’t receive the undivided attention my firstborn book did. Truth be told, the box sat on the dining room table for three days before I got around to opening it. Then it received only a cursory once over and didn’t have an in-the-box picture taken for two more days.

IMG_5073I keep meaning to do a happy dance, but taking care of the other four kids blogging about and marketing my other four books keeps distracting me. And to add insult to injury, this baby can’t go out in public for two more months the official release date won’t arrive for two more months, though it can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.

In addition to feeling guilty about the lack of attention the new baby book has received, I’m consumed by worry. Because, as the book makes clear, neglect can be very traumatic for children. So I’m not even practicing what I preach to other parents.

Therefore, I am taking steps to rectify the situation. Step one is to make regular eye contact with the baby book, so it learns to trust its mother author.

IMG_5082Step two will be to sit down with the baby book on my lap and read it from cover to cover as soon as time allows. Because as I also learned during my pregnancy during my researching and writing, babies and very young children who have experienced trauma can experience great healing when they have a loving and consistent primary caregiver to provide security and reassurance.

Which means that in the next few months, given a choice between spending time with our three grandchildren, all under the age of three, and reading or marketing my latest bouncing baby book, I’ll choose the grandkids every single time.