• Growing up we had this side dish at many holidays.  It's one of those dishes that is so easy you start to wonder why you only have it on special occasions!*  I love it with ham because I think ham and Swiss cheese are MFEO.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 cups drained cooked and well drained frozen green beans, French cut
  • 1/2 lb Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups corn flakes
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Melt the two tablespoons of butter over low heat and saute' the grated onion until fragrant.  Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Gradually add the sour cream, mixing until smooth.  Add in the drained green beans and the Swiss cheese.  Combine all well and pour into a buttered casserole.  Mix cornflakes with the melted butter and sprinkle over the top.  I am the first to experiment with alternate toppings, and I'm sure Durkee fried onions would be lovely on this, but I have to say that the crispy, buttery corn flakes are it for me.  Anyway, cover and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, uncovering for the last five.
  • *I've never added meat to this casserole, but I think it would be an interesting way to use up leftover chicken or ham.  It would be like a variation on Chicken Divan.  

    I first had this side dish at the house of Anthony's Aunt Anna Rodgers, in Richmond, British Columbia.  She is a terrific cook and I can't wait to steal more recipes from her.

    This casserole was a wonderful mix of sweet carrots, savory sauce, and crunchy topping (my favorite part).  I made it for our Thanksgiving.  It was the only dish Anthony requested!  

    Carrot Casserole
    4 cups carrots (1 inch pieces)
    1 tsp salt

    2 tbsp flour
    1 finely chopped onion (I grated mine because I'm a wimp about pieces of onion)
    2 tbsp butter
    1 tsp sugar

    4 tsp pepper
    1 cup light sour cream

    2 tbsp melted butter
    3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I had to substitute Goldfish cracker crumbs, but next time I'll try panko breadcrumbs.  
    1/2 lb grated cheese

    Saute the carrots and onion until nearly cooked.  Melt the butter and stir in salt, sugar, flour, pepper and onion (I added a small grating of nutmeg). Add sour cream and mix well. Add to the warm carrots and onions and stir to heat through. Put into a buttered casserole dish.  

    Mix the crumbs, cheese and melted butter and sprinkle over mixture. Bake at 400 F for 20 mins until the sauce is bubbly and the top is crispy.  
    In my family we talk about highs and lows.  At dinnertime we often go around the table, giving everyone a chance to tell us the best thing that happened to them all day as well as the pits.  It's a roses and thorns sort of thing.  And I love it because all too often we coast through life, sometimes knowing whether we are happy or sad, but often not knowing what events in our lives are shaping our mood.

    So in that spirit I have decided to take a look at my personal highs and lows of 2011, the roses and thorns, the peaks and the valleys, in more or less chronologic order.  Hold my hand, dear reader.  This has not been a year for the faint of heart.

    On a cold and dark February morning, David and I decided to separate.  Things had become so unbearable in our relationship that options we used to consider unthinkable remained the only cure for a very sick marriage.  Once I had decided that I was really and truly done...I was...done.  I never looked back.

    This low was so low it was basso profundo.  Less than a week after realizing that my marriage was over I came home sick from work, temperature high, body aching, lungs burning.  A few days later I was diagnosed with pneumonia.  I missed a week of work and ran out of sick days.  Happy Valentine's Day!

    LOW (Trust me, things do get better.  There will be highs shortly.)
    Over a few weeks' time I noticed my estranged husband acting...um....especially estrangely (I had to).  We were getting along well, still communicating, taking care of the boys, but his mood and behavior were like nothing I'd ever seen before.  Loud music, facial hair, spending binges.  Mid-life crisis?  Drugs?  All of these thoughts crossed my mind.  A diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder was a blow to us all.  

    But this low had a secret silver lining for both of us.  Suddenly, we knew  what was wrong with our marriage.  It wasn't me, it wasn't him, it was a disease.  Knowing this provided such a sweet release of anger for us both.  No more finger pointing and bitterness.  Neither of us could imagine reconciliation, but a weight was lifted from the shoulders of our relationship and we knew that we could move forward as parents and friends.  We have ever since.     

    No matter what lies in our future, meeting my sweet Anthony (@cunningpike to my Twitter friends) was the highest high I've had since the birth of my children. For those who are unfamiliar with our story, Ant and I were "introduced" by a mutual friend on Twitter.  We were friends on Twitter for several months, never sharing details of our lives or personal struggles.  But slowly, slowly we opened up, shared the things one dares not speak of on Twitter, and we became close friends and more.  Months of talking on the phone and chatting online led to us finally meeting on neutral ground:  Las Vegas.  Our July trip was amazing.  We've seen each other three times since then and along the way I've met Thing 1 and Thing 2, Ant's Aunt Anna (I love to say that), and Uncle Jim.  Ant, bless him, has met my entire family, including my ex-husband.  This is good old-fashioned meant-to-be-type stuff. *blissful sigh*

    I lost two close friends as a result of my divorce.  You know, some people just can not sit by and watch a marriage fail, God bless them.  They have to swoop in, give their two cents worth, and hand over their judgment of the situation by saying things like, "I'm disappointed in you," and "This is not the Gail that I knew."  All I could say to that was, "Good bye."

    Across the last week of July and the beginning of August I took my boys on a 10 day camping trip through Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula.  We headed out alone in our 30' 1997 Yellowstone motor home.  It.  Was.  Perfect.  For those of you who have never been to the UP...words fail.  Water falls, hiking, Lake Superior, beaches, mines, scenic drives, forts and beautifully maintained state and national parks.  We had the time of our lives, and I know it is a trip that none of us will forget.

    I may have lost a few friends due to my divorce, but wouldn't you know I gained some even better ones?  Ian and Jai have become part of our family.  "Guncles" to my sons, they even watched two of them overnight while I was out of town visiting Ant.  The boys love them so much that they are begging, BEGGING them to spend the night at our house Christmas Eve.  *nudge, nudge*

    I've become close friends with Kari, a parent/volunteer/aide at our school, mother to three amazing kids, and wife to a political dynamo.  She just happens to be a former student of mine, but let's not get into that.  We knew each other when and we know each other still, and I hope we always will.

    Fell down some slippery steps at my dad's house and broke my tailbone.  It stinks to get old.  Still hurts.

    I started coming out of the dark this fall.  Over time I felt interested in cooking, knitting, and reading again.  This week I've felt the blog-beast stir in my breast.  I had developed a rhythm in my new life, and though it was still new I realized that I could not go on taking care of everyone else at the expense of my own leisure time (read: mental health).  I'm so glad to be back.

    HIGH (If saying it makes it so.)
    The holidays. 
    I am blessed with four beautiful sons.  With that comes Christmas shopping for said beautiful sons, gifts for their teachers, former in-laws with which to deal (still?), meal planning, and on, and on, and on.  I can not lose sight of what is important this holiday season:  Time with my sweet boys.  Peace in my house.  Healing for us all.  Hope for the new year.  The next few days will be an exercise in letting go, making peace with new traditions, and forgiving those who may not be ready to accept that our family has changed forever, and for the better. Patience.  Patience.  And Ativan.