New Year's Eve Dinner

All year long, we save up our greasy food tokens and cash them in all at once on New Year's Eve. This is the night we eat a meal that we have cleverly called "GREASY DINNER." It started out as homemade hamburgers and french fries, but our expanding menu has blossomed. As in onion blossom :) Oh yum.

Our rationale for this is completely sound. If we eat so unhealthily at the end of the year, then no matter what we eat at the beginning of the year will be an improvement! It is a brilliant strategy barring any chest pain.

Oh...my little taste buds are getting all watered greased up. To help with that I am posting pictures of the onion blossom that will take center stage tonight! It is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I would post our whole menu, but someone might report me to the Surgeon General as being a health hazard.

Have a safe and wonderful New Year! Bon Appetit!

Maybe I'll see you in the cath lab!

              Photos from Pioneer Woman


A Simple Meal

Tradition holds that we always dress up for our Christmas Eve feast....to celebrate a humble occasion, we eat a simple meal: turkey, potatoes and gravy, rolls, beans with bacon and almond slivers, carrot souffle and salad. This year, after eating, we cleaned up the dishes and went to our traditional Christmas movie matinee. This year we saw The Blind Side.

Our holiday just wasn't the same without our oldest missionary son, although we got to talk to him for over an hour on Christmas day and it was wonderful. And thank heavens, we still had three awesome kids home for Christmas.


Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

Abigail and John did it. The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society did it. And now Library Lover has done it.

And I'm still reveling in joy. Every year, her gifts are true treasures. But this year....this year her gift takes the cake, the frosting, and the marzipan silver bells. Oh.....how I love it!!

The gift is a small, square book designed and published by mi madre, representing hours and hours of labor. The book is a collection of family letters written in the 1970-80's to my grandparents by my parents, siblings and me over a 10-15 year span. Some of the letters are handwritten. Some are typed. Some are drawn. But each provides a big picture glass window into our home and family life during our awkward formative years. The letters are sweet and funny. And clearly show a family in dire need of a spellchecker.


Here are a few excerpts:

Aug. 13, 1983
Dear Grandpa and Grandma,
It was so much fun at the Merrill reunion. I wish you were here. We had so much fun but only 30% was fun because 50% was boring cause you weren't there and 20% was boring cause I got hurt real bad. It still hurts.  Love, Kristi

Dear Grandma,
We all think you are a great grandma. Remember who you are. Love, Justin

Dear Grandpa and Grandma,
Sorry for not writing sooner, but I couldn't find a pencil. Love, Jeremy

Feb. 1984
Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
How are you doing? Our church basketball season is over and we had a perfect record. We never won a game! Love, Justin

Dear Grandma,
Thank you for the money. Keep up the good work. Love, Jeremy

Dear Gma and Gpa,
I just came in from playing softball for the first time. Really I was just tossing the ball back and forth, but I like to tease. Love, Kristi

Thank you dear mother for the gift that won't get eaten or broken or long forgotten. This gift will be enjoyed by generations to come.

It is definitely the best. Christmas. present. ever.


There are SOOO many stories to choose from. But today, I've narrowed it down to two. Two oldies, but goodies.

I'm thinking of stories because yesterday was my dad's birthday.

I like birthdays. It gives us the opportunity to give the birthday boy / girl the praise and attention they deserve. But this year was different. This year, I didn't want my dad to have a birthday. And I really don't want him to have another birthday ever again. I simply want him to come to a screeching halt with the aging thing.

If you know my dad, you will understand why I long for his earthly immortality. These two stories illustrate my point.

The Camper

The year was....uh...... not sure, really. Sometime in the 1970's. We were heading west on highway 33 in Rexburg. My brothers and I were bouncing along in the back of dad's red Toyota pickup, sheltered from the wind and cold by Dad's homemade camper shell. It was a beauty: complete with windows and carpeted walls. Dad loved to work with his hands. And tools. Coupled with his industrial and conservative nature, and capped off by his love of all things beautiful, there wasn't anything dad couldn't build or beautify. In fact, dad was such a quintessential handyman that he built himself into something of a masterpiece. And on this day...into a hero.

We had not been driving long when we felt the vehicle slow down and come to a stop on the shoulder of the road. We heard dad get out and walk around to the back of the truck. Lifting the back door, dad poked his head in the camper and told us that he had a 'feeling' that we needed to get out of the camper and ride with him in the cab of the truck. Although we were disappointed, we didn't question Dad. We simply did as he asked and climbed into the cab. We were cramped. There were five of us in there.

We drove off down the road and not five minutes later, without warning, we heard a loud whoooooossssshhhhh followed by a loud bonk. And then dad saw it. The camper shell had flown right off the truck and was sitting smack dab in the middle of the road... looking as out of place as a sloth on a race-track. In disbelief, dad pulled off the road again and immediately worked to get the camper out of harm's way. Then he gave us each a hug...a hug worth a thousand sermons. Nestled safely in his arms, I felt a surge of something beyond his love I had not felt before. The seed of sensitivity to spiritual things began to sprout. My father may have saved my life that day: in more ways than one.

The Wolf

Dad loved to camp. And fish. And the best of times was when he combined the two. For most of our growing up years, these outings involved a large orange tent. It wasn't like the fancy tents of today with three or four bedrooms and a covered front porch. It was simply a one-room tent with all the modern conveniences of an 1820 pioneer. We slept in heavy green or brown canvas sleeping bags lined with flannel flying geese.

One night I was perfectly content among the geese in a campground near Island Park Reservoir. After eating our dirt-seasoned, blackened tinfoil dinners, we stamped out the fire and my family bedded down for the night. Soon, however, my dreams were interrupted by my dad who was shaking me awake. "Kids, I want you to get up and go sleep in the car. I have been listening for some time now and I hear a pack of wolves. They are getting closer and closer to our camp. I will feel better knowing you are safe in the car." Climbing out of the tent into the bright night of the full moon, I heard the ominously eerie howls my dad was talking about. They curled my toenails.

That was a long night. We all slept cramped and cold and safe in our red station wagon. Kinked and shivering, the morning didn't come soon enough. Driving home the next day, my dad spotted a ranger station. "Let's go in and ask them about the wolves," he said. I, too, wanted to know if the dangerous man-eating wolves had a predilection for little kids. So we stopped.

The conversation went like this:
Dad: Are there wolves in this area?
Ranger: Oh no. There are no wolves around these parts.
Dad: Well, I could have sworn I heard a wolf howl last night.
Ranger: Oh that was a loon. It sounds just like a wolf. Scares a lot of folks. But it's harmless.

Following dad's lead, we all just burst out laughing. He had saved us from a sweet beautiful bird.

Dad: thanks for your love, wisdom, advice, time and protecting care. 
I love you one million loons.


In My Cookie Jar

I have been on the hunt. Not for animal meat. Or surprisingly not even for a great pair of shoes. No m'Lord. My quest has been in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. That is not easy when blog after food blog tantalizes me with headings such as the Ultimate, Hands Down, No Doubt, Unrivaled, Best, Kick-Butt, Perfect, Champion, Most Amazing Blue-Ribbon, Better Than Rhubarb Chocolate Chip Cookie!

But guess what? The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie does NOT exist. I know, I know. I just made enemies with Debbie Fields. The fact is that everyone has a different idea of what makes a perfect cookie. There is no way one recipe could satisfy everyone's preferences.

Do you like the Pamela Anderson: blonde and full? Or the Kate Moss: flat and crispy? What about the Sandra Bullock: flat (except in the Blind Side) and chewy? Or the Amy Winehouse: slightly full and crispy. Or.......the Katie Holmes: somewhat full, chewy and soft.

Whatever your druthers, it all has to do with chemistry. Mr. Bates, my 9th grade science teacher, would be proud that I found a practical use for chemistry!

I have been experimenting with batch after batch of cookies trying different variations on the theme. I thank my family for putting up with having to eat so many cookies. It has been "rough" on them. Finally, I came up with a cookie that is pretty darn close to perfection. For my taste!

If you are interested, here is what I learned. I will list each ingredient along with the intended outcome:

Cake flour: less protein / less gluten, soaks up less moisture. Steam will lift the batter. Higher raise, fuller cookie.
Bread flour: can absorb much more liquid than all purpose flour, more moisture will stay in the cookie. More moisture = moist, chewy cookie.


Baking soda: flatter cookie, increasing the soda will flatten the cookie.
Baking powder: fuller cookie
**Side note about these two ingredients: You can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda but if a recipe calls for baking powder, do NOT substitute with baking soda. Did you get that or are you as confused as I am?

Brown sugar: made with molasses which attracts water from the air. Increases chewiness = increased tenderness
White sugar: less chew
The higher the ratio of white to brown sugar, the greater the crunch

Eggs: Cause puff.
Egg whites: dry out the batter.
Milk: cause more spread

Butter: has sharp melting point. Butter batters spread. Melting butter=more chew.
Shortening: melts at a higher temperature. Remains solid longer giving the batter time to rise and set before it spreads. Fuller cookie.

Sifting the flour gives better leavening.

Cream fat and sugar. This adds air.

Creaming cold butter together with the sugar allows the the tiny sharp sugar crystals when incorporated into the butter to create tiny bubbles. These make it easier for other ingredients to integrate into the batter.

Melting the butter: The water from the melted butter will combine during agitation with the protein of the flour and produce gluten ... which is chewy. Melted butter works well with bread flour to maximize the chewiness.

Add dry ingredients in three installments. Why? Because I said so. And I'm the mom. And because flour absorbs moisture poorly. Adding it in three batches will allow time for the batter to actually form.

Chilling the dough: cold dough spreads slowly giving the cookie time to climb before setting. Flat cookie: don't chill. Fuller cookie: chill

Scooping the dough high and small: increase puffiness.


* 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
* 1 whole large egg
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 cups all-purpose flour (cake flour if fuller cookie, bread flour if chewier cookie)
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp table salt
* 2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325° degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat or microwave until just melted then allow to cool to room temperature.

Using a large bowl cream together the butter and brown and white sugar on high speed. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together. Then stir in the salt. Add the dry ingredients in three installments to the sugar mixture and mix on low just until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate for a minimum of fifteen minutes before baking.

Shape dough into golf ball sized balls and place on the ungreased cookie sheet leaving space in between for the dough to spread.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes or until the edges turn a light golden color. Once done, cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Makes enough cookies to satisfy your craving for the time being. Or enough to make a nice gift to someone.

Happy Experimenting!

Shown are the Pamela Anderson (blonde & full) and the Sandra Bullock (flat & chewy). (Pardon the poor photography).
Here are the differences:

PA: shortening, cake flour, baking powder, chilled dough
SB: melted butter, brown sugar, bread flour, soda, chilled dough

The Katie Holmes (recipe above) is a cross between the above two cookies...semi-full, chewy and soft.

Now if I die tomorrow....at least it can be said at my funeral that I channeled Katie Holmes into a cookie! And it was good.

Another fish food to be fond of!
So savor!



I just finished a stinkin' LONG genetics exam. Took me over 10 hours of researching, studying, crying, and trying to pull stuff out of my brain that was hardly there in the first place. It was like squeezing juice out of a dehydrated banana.

PAX6, HOX, Drosophilia, splotch mice, Meiosis I, chromosomal nondisjunctions, Robertsonian translocations....go on your merry way. You've worn out your welcome (and made me eat a bag of potato chips).

Taken the day after Thanksgiving at Kolob. Photo courtesy of Justin Hackworth

Here I am with my sisters. Notice the girls on the ends have genes for fly-away hair. And blue eyes. Is that dominant or recessive? Oh....sheesh...listen to me. I'm back to genetics.

Ok...the answer is recessive. Although cross-overs could account for some allelic variation. Or is it mosaicism? I can't really say. There are so many genetic terms swirling around in my head and bouncing off the empty spaces that are normally there. The reverberation is loud. Right now I just want to think about my cute sisters and the great time we had at Thanksgiving. One thing I know: they got the fun, nice, wise gene. Now that is the genetics I know and love!!  Yo canton mi familia.

Photo courtesy of my papa


Cooking for Too Many People?

Pumpkin Scones

Photo from Pinch My Salt

Need a winning recipe for the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving...when you are tuckered and want something quick, and easy, yet still crave the fallish thanksgivingy flavor? I have the perfect thing: Pumpkin Scones. I found the recipe at Pinch My Salt. I made the scone recipe exactly as is, and loved the mild, yet noticeable pumpkin flavor and moist dense texture. I did alter the frosting recipe....sort of combined both ideas into one cinnamon molasses frosting. Oh...it was delicious. It is perfect for a brunch alongside an herbal tea or spiced cider, and fried left-over mashed potato patties.

Pumpkin Spice Scones
         1 C. all purpose flour
         1 C. cake flour
         1 1/2 t. baking powder
         1/2 t. salt
         1/2 t. ground cinnamon
         1/2 t. ground nutmeg
         1/4 t. ground allspice
         1/4 t. ground ginger
         6 T. unsalted butter
         1/2 C. raisins (optional)
         1/3 C. pumpkin puree
         1/3 C. heavy cream
         6 T. brown sugar
         1 t. vanilla
         1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper (not required but makes cleanup easy!). Cut the butter into small pieces, put it in a small bowl and put it back in the refridgerator. In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, salt, and all spices. Whisk together well. Place bowl in freezer (refrigerator is fine if you have no room in freezer).
         2. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, heavy cream, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk together well. Put this bowl in freezer (or refrigerator) and take the other bowl back out. Get the butter pieces out of the fridge and dump them into the bowl with the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins if you are using them.
         3. Get the liquid mixture out of the freezer and pour into the flour mixture all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is just moistened. The dough will be very crumbly, this is the way it should be. Turn the mixture out onto the counter and push the pile together with your hands. It should stick together fairly well. Knead it just a couple of times until everything is together. Don’t knead it too much or the dough will get too sticky.
         4. Pat the dough out into a rough circle, 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut it like a pie into 8 pieces. Place pieces on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. Bake scones for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees. They should be light brown on the bottom, the tops will darken as they cool.
Icing: For ginger molasses icing, stir together 1 T. molasses, 1-2 T. milk, and 1/4 – 1/2 t. ground ginger (to taste). Adjust the amount of sugar or milk to make the icing the consistency you want. It should be pretty thick. For cinnamon icing, mix together 1 C. powdered sugar, 2 T. milk, 1/4 – 1/2 t. cinnamon (to taste). Again, adjust amounts to change consistency. Icing can be brushed on or drizzled.

Another fish food to love. So savor!

Too Busy to Cook?

Remember, all it takes is one undercooked turkey, and you will be the rolls and soda person for life!


A Vegas Thanksgiving

Did you see the Pioneer Woman's Thanksgiving cooking schedule? She outlined how to spread the work over four days. Holy Pumpkin Pie! Thanksgiving is a lot of work for ONE meal consumed in the amount of time it takes to update your Facebook status.

This makes me appreciate my mom. She makes the best Thanksgiving meal EVER! And she never seems flustered or exhausted by the time the meal is ready to eat. Plus she somehow manages to avoid being dusted in flour and coated in giblet grease.

Perhaps mom was trying to give us a hint the year my parents paid for the whole family to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Las Vegas. Since we were in a hotel, there was no way mom could cook Thanksgiving dinner. We would HAVE to eat out. So, in the early afternoon on Thanksgiving day we began wandering along the strip looking for a restaurant that was a) open, b) affordable c) served traditional Thanksgiving food and d) could serve the entire Hackworth clan which was about the same number of people that voted for Ralph Nader.

It's Vegas afterall: the buffet lover's Shangri-la. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Au contrair, mon frere!

By the time we found a place that met all of our criteria we were exhausted, irritable, famished and ready to eat anything that didn't move. Even Justin's ever-present humor slowed to a sloth-like hypoglycemic halt.

Near the end of the meal, I glanced over and noticed my mom perkily slopping up the last of the gravy with her roll. Then she cheerfully thanked the waiter for whisking away the dishes she didn't have to clean. In that moment, I didn't fully comprehend mom's tickled look of contentment in her eyes...until a few years later when I keeled over after making my first Thanksgiving meal for a crowd.

Something else happened during that fateful meal. Each of the kids (though grateful for the vacation) moaned and muttered....something about....wanting mom to cook....much better....just not the same...real mashed potatoes.....home sweet home....gravy that pours not plops.....

Alas, my mother's carefree Thanksgiving days were short-lived!

Now, in a few days, our family will gather and mom will work....her magic. She'll set a stunningly classy and classic table. She'll have an activity for the grandkids. She'll be cheerful and funny and make each person feel important. And you can bet that just like Ree Drummond, she will be busily preparing days in advance.

 Mom always claims that her mother made the best meals. With due respect to my grandmother, my mom is tied for first place.

Thank you mom...for
planning and shopping
cleaning and chopping
cooking and baking
giving and taking.

And for letting us gather and feast in your comfortable, welcoming home.

I am grateful for my mother. And I suspect that even though there won't be a chef and a waiter and she may collapse from exhaustion after we leave on Sunday, her eyes will be twinkling with contentment. That's just the kind of wonderful she is.

Postscript: My dad is a great help in the kitchen and a great cook in his own right. I am thankful for you too dad!

What are you thankful for?


Thanksgiving Favors

Here is a cute idea if kids are part of your Thanksgiving equation. Either make a large bouquet and set them out on the counter in a vase, or place one on each plate. Or better yet, let the kids make them while you put the finishing touches on the big feast. Or even better than that, you make these turkey oreo candy corn pretzel thingies and get the kids to finish making T-dinner.

Instructions at Cookies and Cups


The Garbage I Found in Bolivia: Part One

Over the next three blog entries, I will share through pictures and words what
Daisy and I experienced in our Bolivian adventures.

daisy and me in downtown santa cruz, bolivia

What I found in Bolivia and what I write may surprise you.
I know it surprised me.
Although I am proud as punch to be an American and I love America,
I admit that we do not always have the monopoly on good people
or the right way to do things.

Our story begins with some comparisons.

In South America, there are some things smaller than in my area of North America....
such as:


(these darling boys are the exact same age: one from St. George, Utah, 
the other from Montero, Bolivia)


professional sound systems

and dogs.

notice the skin and prominent bones of this skinny, sickly dog....and it was typical of many of the dogs....

But there are things that are  bigger (as in size and/or quantity) such as....


Mighty Amazon from the air


National flower of Bolivia- Patuju


pigs in the street


fungus balls on the telephone wires



Largest lake in the world: Titicaca. Photo courtesy of cheap-o-air

piles of dirt covered in clay tiles

my ankles

teen-agers practicing cultural dancing on a Thursday night

massive amounts of chickens roaming freely in streets

sloth sightings in the trees right in the center of town

sloth in downtown plaza of Santa Cruz. photo courtesy of about.com

boys excited about getting their fingernails painted by an American gringo

and beads of sweat..... (notice the glistening at the pre-auricular area on Dr. Barnett.)

Ahh….the sweat. Without air-conditioning, the saline drips from the skin of tourists faster than water from a hose. This oppressive humid heat of summer not only steals moisture but robs the afternoon. Around 11:30 am, activities screech to a hot humid halt. As temperatures climb and sweat saturation reaches its zenith, the streets and shops grow quiet as people go home to take respite from the heat, eat lunch, take a cold shower and a siesta before returning to work at 2 pm.

In the morning hours, however, the heat hasn’t yet won the battle.  The city is alive with productivity. People rise early to take advantage of the cooler part of the day.
Already at 7 am, the honks and rumble of motorcycle taxis and cars


drown out the bird’s pleasant chatter

and fill the dusty or uneven cobblestone streets with organized chaos.

 The air is saturated with the acrid aroma of burning sugar cane, choking those
unaccustomed to such a miserable sensory assault.

truckload of sugar cane

Street vendors uncover their carts teeming with chorizo, chicken and beef empanadas,
jewelry and hand-stamped leather items.
Shop owners put out colorful varieties of fruit, vegetables and meat for sale, and
 anxiously await customers while absent-mindedly batting away the flies happy
with the bonanza of available raw meat.

Women begin the daily chore of washing laundry outside in a large tub filled with murky yellow water.


At the District 3 Centro de Salud, women begin lining up with their
babies and children
to see the doctor and get free immunizations.

The clinic is ready for them.
Nurses competently and compassionately screen patient after patient,

educating each mother about five cuidados básicos (basic cautions): nutrition, adequate hydration, hygiene, temperature control and descanso (rest). Referrals to the clinic physician or dentist are made if necessary. These offices are in back of the health clinic.

Dental patients sit outside in a white plastic chair next to a rusting sink for dental care. Teeth are pulled with minimal anesthesia. Some children display tantrums by throwing themselves on the ground in defiance to see the doctor. Some things are universal no matter what country we are in.

Clinic 3 was where I spent nearly two weeks, trying to learn as much as I could
about their public health program and their health care delivery.

Each day, the kids and teens in our travel group put on a puppet show for the local schoolchildren
teaching them about nutrition and germs.

Most of the kids laughed...

Except one...

continued on Part Two.....


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