karen's story

A woman once said to me, “The minute you have a child, it is like you grow a foot taller.” We become stronger, bolder and will do just about anything for our children.

(L-R)Karen, Carol and Ashley at Women of Faith.
While Christmas time is the most joyous time of the year for many, it is the hardest time for others. Reflection calls to those who are not with you anymore and dwelling rings in on all the hardships, tragedies and challenges you may face.

As mothers, even in the hardest of times, we still need to stand tall. We need to give forth an example to our children that even when we are weak and feel that we can’t move forward, we know that faith, hope and love will carry us through.

While she is not my mother, Karen Alexander of Crescent City, California, impacted me and the mother I want to be with her story.

She exemplifies a true mother’s strength and woman of faith through tragedy and then a miracle. She and her husband, Steve, have been married 39-years and have three children and five grandchildren.
-          -
In January of 2010, my husband and I left on a three-week trip visiting family throughout the east and southern states. During a conference in New York, Jim Cymbala from the Brooklyn Tabernacle spoke about the power of prayer and then asked God to do something special in our lives and ministries. 
As Steve and I prayed at the altar, I experienced the headache that could kill you.

We continued on with our planned trip until February 6 when it became more evident that something serious was wrong with me. My husband and relatives decided to take me to the hospital. 

After a CAT scan, the doctors told my family that I had suffered two brain hemorrhages and my pupil had already blown out. They continued to tell them that people with such a condition usually don’t live to talk about it and then proceeded to say that most likely, “She’s not going to make it.” 

My doctor then asked for prayer as he had a very narrow window to save my life.

Our children arrived the next day from around the country and surrounded my bed along with my husband.  The ICU waiting room filled up like a prayer meeting.

After the initial surgery, I had to have a second surgery the next night for swelling.  My family was then told that doctors found a blood clot and tumor. The only memory of my time in ICU is the vision of our three children surrounding me with love.

With that love and by the power of prayer, I would survive to fight the bigger fight of cancer. 

Within two-weeks, I was in rehab relearning what I use to do without thought.  Doctors expected brain damage and vision loss. I was confused, restless and had a hard time understanding what had happened to me.

As I continued in therapy and people continued keeping me in their prayers, my pathology report came back negative for cancer.  The word spread through the hospital staff and all of the people praying for me of the amazing miracle of my progress.
 I went from having to learn how to walk again to preparing a lunch for my therapists on my graduation day within two-weeks. 

On a Sunday morning church service for the patients in therapy, I Peter 4:12-13 was shared: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake in Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 

That remains the desire of my heart. God’s plan is always good and I know that.  
Karen’s incredible hope and joy that has shined through even in the hardest of times should be a reminder to everyone – especially us mothers. Because she instilled those values of faith, hope and love into her children, when she was weak – they were her strength.

While Karen still faces daily physical and mental challenges, she continues to improve and maintains fairly normal lifestyle.

Give a real gift this Christmas by praying for someone, showing love to someone or giving someone hope. Those little gifts could lead to a miracle.

Merry Christmas. 

This was published at www.nrtoday.com


serving of humble pie and then some...

Recently I got to spend an afternoon with a man Roseburg only knows as a custodian and bird enthusiast. Unbeknownst to them, he is a world-reknown chef with a very big A-list of friends and customers. Now retired, he is such an example of humility, and not to mention - an amazing chef. Here is his story and some great recipes.

. . .

Serge Queant loves birds. On a good spring morning, Queant will open his kitchen window like turning over the “open” sign of a café. A variety of birds will come in, sit on the butcher block and eat. “They want breakfast,” he laughed. “It is like they know I am a chef!” 

Before the birds, Queant catered to a much tougher crowd. Born in Paris, Queant moved to San Francisco in 1980 in search of a “new horizon.” After spending more than twenty years in the kitchen, specializing in fine-dining menu-planning and presentation, Queant and his family moved to Roseburg for a less stressful lifestyle and to start enjoying the little things – like birds. 

“But today, the bird is on the table,” said Queant in a thick, French accent as he prepared an exquisite, four-course holiday meal featuring quail. 

While the kitchen bubbled and steamed, Queant bounced back and forth, opening cupboards and asking his wife for a bowl, an egg or where something is. “Mommi, I am not very good with your kitchen I tell you,” said the chef in a tall hat and clean, white uniform embroidered, World Trade Club of S-F Executive Chef Serge Queant.

After retiring from what Queant defined as a “very unhealthy and stressful” career, he now leaves the cooking to his wife of twenty-years, Marta, but will occasionally create a menu or cook for friends. “Chef was my job before; it was a job not a hobby, but now I do as a hobby,” he said. 

Grabbing one spice after another and naturally adding them to his Brandied Pumpkin Coconut Soup, Queant smelled and then tasted a spoonful. “To be a good cook, you have to like food first. If you like French fry from McDonald’s, then I wouldn’t advise cooking,” laughed Queant, nodding in approval to the taste of his soup. 

Once the soup is complete, Queant pours it into a miniature pumpkin. “People pay $1.50 for soup in a bowl, but $4 for the same soup in the pumpkin,” he said. 

Like the soup, Queant turned his pocket change into a lot more. After studying the social behavior of primates for nine years in France, Queant moved to San Francisco with basic, French cooking skills. He then began apprenticing under a top chef from the once famed French restaurant, Lutèce, in New York. 

After several years of training, Queant’s European culinary background and innovative cooking style in California Nouvelle cuisine, Asian Fusion and Fine Dining graduated him quickly from the second course as a chef to the third course as executive chef. 

He started working at the San Francisco’s Banker’s Club then moved to the Metropolitan Club, followed by the The Squire Room of the Fairmont Hotel. 

For the last 11- years of his career, Queant was the executive chef at the prestigious World Trade Club of San Francisco, catering to the rich and famous – international, industrial or politician. Queant defined it as a place where the Beluga caviar, foie gras and Don Perignon had to be a la carte. 

“MommÍ! Prawns?” asked Queant whisking a Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce, causing it to splash over the sides. “Of course it spill all over the place – that is the style of a chef, no?” said Queant.  

Before methodically scooping his Sea Scallop Quenelle and placing it in each split prawn, Queant quickly chopped a bundle of chives. “I tell them, ‘I will teach you how to cut twice as fast,’” said Queant referring to his occasional volunteered community cooking demonstrations he enjoys doing. Queant then takes out a second knife and begins chopping with two. “See? Cutting twice as fast,” he laughed. 

Queant gracefully pours the sauce over the prawns and then sprinkles the chives on top, making sure the prawn tail is up and the overall look of the dish is up to his high standards. 

“People want it to look nice,” said Queant. “It is the way you can be successful in cooking, too – is to be creative; I’ve been blessed in creation skills.” 

As an executive chef, Queant spent his time designing the meals, putting together the menu and making sure the presentation of each plate made his guests gasp in approval. “If it looks good, it will taste good,” said Queant explaining how diners eat with their eyes. 

Not only did Queant’s plates look good, they tasted good too. Guests such as Tony Bennett, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Neil Armstrong, George Bush, the Kennedy family, Nancy Pelosi, James Brown and many others not only gave rave reviews, but enjoyed Queant so much that they typically extended their relationship. 

Examples include Queant being invited to the White House to head-up Hilary Clinton’s birthday party, a surprise party for him thrown by James Brown and not only being asked to cook for Tony Bennett late on New Year’s Eve, but then being asked to eat with him. 

Taking out the quail and laying them on a baking sheet, Queant’s professional chef side fought with his new love of birds. “Oh, poor little bird; I hate to kill the bird,” he said softly. 

Then, it was back to cooking as Queant took each quail and tossed them away from him on the sizzling frying pan. “People are always wondering why they get burnt,” he said. “[Cooking] is based on common sense…good taste and common sense.” 

After searing the quail, an essential step in cooking meat in order to lock the juices in, Queant placed it in the oven and set the timer. 

Queant also mentions his strong opinion against using lots of salt. I will say, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and they will reply, ‘Because my grandmother or mother did it,’ I say, ‘It isn’t because grandma was doing it 50-years-ago that she was right!’” he laughed. 

When the September 11 attacks took place, it took down the World Trade Club of New York, leaving many attendees of the clubs too scared to continue to go. 

The downslide of the economy also began rolling, causing Queant to be even more stressed out in his career.
“The life of a chef is not healthy,” he said. Not only did he mention how the job is physically unhealthy due to constantly tasting all the food, but emotionally as well due to the high expectations and no breaks. 

The timer buzzed and Queant pulled out the quail, putting them gently on a plate, drizzling a fragrant cabernet reduction sauce over the top and then with a pastry bag, artistically decorating the plate with pureed sweet peas and mashed potatoes creating a festive plate of reds and greens. 

“I am just playing with food – that is what I do,” said Queant putting the finishing touches of a beautiful vegetable bouquet on the dinner plate.  

“Even people who don’t like vegetable will like the vegetable on their plate,” he said. “In fine dining, you have to make a potato look like a million dollar.” 

In 2005, Queant resigned from the culinary profession and moved his family to Roseburg, which along with his wife included their two sons, Jimmy, 17, a student at Roseburg High School and John, 18, a student at UCC who is a member of the local band, Hemlock Lane.  

The 60-year-old former chef now works for Roseburg High School as a site operator/custodian. He said he loves not having stress, being around the kids and sleeping well at night. “At my age now, it is time for me to relax in life,” said Queant. The extra time allows him to pursue his passion of bird watching. 

“Mommi, the wine!” he said as he finished the fourth course, dessert, and placed it next to three other stunning plates of food, warming the soul with their smell and stimulating the eyes with their colors. 

Queant looked over his creation and picked at it gently, moving the quail leg a bit and then changing the order of stemware. “I’m a picky chef,” he said. 

A smiling Queant in a professional, intimidating chef’s uniform reveals the laid-back, tropical button up shirt underneath. While he has an incredible knowledge of cooking and a fascinating mouthful of stories, Queant is “living the good life” and now concentrates on his new customers: the birds. 

. . .

Brandied Pumpkin Coconut Soup
4 servings

Chicken broth (15 fl oz)
Pumpkin puree (15 oz)
Coconut milk, unsweetened (14. fl oz)
Curry powder (1 teaspoon)
Salt (to taste)
White ground pepper (pinch)
Mixed herb seasoning (pinch)
Diced carrots (10 oz)
Diced celery (10 oz)
Diced onion (1/2 onion)
Bourbon (2 tablespoons)
4 small pumpkins (5 inch diameter)
Canola oil (2 fl oz)

Preparation for the soup
  • Peel and dice celery, onion, and carrot. Sweat them in oil on medium heat, until soft.
  • Add chicken broth, pumpkin puree, coconut milk. Bring to boil. Stir occasionally to avoid bottom burning.
  • Add curry powder and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Let it cool down and add brandy.
  • Transfer the soup into a food blender and puree for about 15 seconds, until smooth.

Preparation for the pumpkin and serving
  • Cut the top and hollow out the mini pumpkin, make sure the inside is free of seed and flesh. Use a soup spoon to scrape the inside wall until smooth.
  • Pour some boiling water into the pumpkin, and keep in a warm oven for a few minutes before serving time.
  • Empty the hot water, taste your soup for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the soup into the pumpkin and serve on a plate under liner, with some green leaves as garnish.

Sea Scallop Quenelle on Jumbo Prawns

8 jumbo prawns, headless (16-20 size)
Sea scallops (8 oz)
White sole fillet (8 oz)
1 egg white
Heavy whipping cream (½ pint)
Panko bread crumbs (3-4 oz)
Cognac (1 teaspoon)
White pepper (pinch)
White wine (8 oz)
Salt (pinch, to taste)

Preparation of quenelle
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Rinse your scallops under cold water, then chop into pieces. If you see a piece of tendon attached to the outer part of the scallop, it has to be removed (This tiny piece is very tough and shrinks during cooking, making it tougher).
  • Rinse the white fillet of sole under cold water. Remove any possible remnant of skin or bone. Then chop in to pieces.
  • Remove the prawn shell, except for the tail end. Slit open the inside flesh until you reach the vein, then pull it out. (Do not cut any deeper. You want the prawn to be intact, not in two halves).
  • Flatten the prawns and put back in refrigerator.
  • Put the chopped scallops, sole, egg white, Panko bread crumbs, cognac, white pepper, and salt together in a food processor and start pouring the heavy cream slowly as the machine is turning to create a fluffy mousse-like texture for about 10 seconds.
  • Stop and scrape the edge of the bowl with a spatula, incorporate the scraping into the mix, then run the processor again for another 10 to 15 seconds to ensure a very smooth blend. (Repeat another 10 seconds if necessary).
  • When scallop mousse has reached a pasty consistency (not runny; if so add more Panko crumbs) reserve in refrigerator for a few hours to set.
  • When mousse (quenelle) has hardened, lay prawn on the cutting board and use a table spoon to scoop out the quenelle and place it on top of the prawn.
  •  Then fold the tail end over the quenelle, with it opened up “butterfly-like.”
  • The prawn quenelles are now ready to be transferred over to a 2 inch baking pan.
  • Add about 8 oz of white wine in the pan, cover with aluminum foil (tight around the edges) and bake at 400º for 12- 15 minutes.
Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce

1 Chopped shallot
Chablis wine (6 fl oz)
Half a lemon (squeezed)
Heavy whipping cream (½ pint)
Unsalted butter, diced, cold (4 oz)
1 chive sprig
White pepper (pinch)
Salt (pinch, to taste)

Preparation for sauce
  • In a sauce pan, pour Chablis wine with shallots. Bring to boil and reduce to almost dry.
  • Add ½ pint of heavy cream. Reduce again to half volume, then turn down heat, incorporate diced cold butter, piece by piece and whisk continuously to emulsify, (Try to avoid boiling. Always keep sauce on double boiler for later use or it will brake, a butter sauce can not be reheated).
  • When finished (approximately 2 minutes) add fresh squeeze of lemon juice, white pepper and salt to taste and serve immediately.

Serving for Sea scallop Quenelle and Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce
  • Place the quenelles on a plate.
  • Glaze the top with the Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce and chopped chives.
  • An elegant garnish of tomato peel, rolled into a rose and a couple of parsley leaves will enhance your plate presentation.

Roasted Stuffed Quail with Cabernet Reduction and Bouquetiere

Ingredients for Quail and stuffing:
4 boneless quail (4 oz)
Ground veal meat (8 oz)
Ground sausage meat (4 oz)
Chanterelle mushroom (sautéed in butter)
Dried cranberry, rehydrated (2 oz)
Walnut pieces, blanched (2 oz)
Pistachio nuts, blanched (2 oz)
1 small apple, peeled, diced
Herb de Provence (pinch)
Black pepper (pinch)
Salt (pinch, to taste)

Preparation and cooking of stuffed quail
·         Preheat the oven to 425º.
·         Mix veal, pork, chanterelle, apple, cranberry, walnut, pistachio, herb de Provence, black pepper together in a food processor for about 20 seconds.
·         Fill the quail with the stuffing, brush some cooking oil over the bird, and sprinkle some more herbs and pepper before placing in the preheated oven.
·         Roast for 20-25 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160º.

Ingredients for Cabernet reduction:
½ bottle Cabernet sauvignon
Madeira wine (6 fl oz)
Brown gravy mix (2 Tbsp)
Unsalted cold butter (2 oz)
20 pieces of boiling onion

Preparation of Cabernet reduction
·         Pour cabernet in a sauce pan, bring to boil, and reduce 2/3 of its volume.
·         Add Madeira wine, brown gravy mix, boiling onion and reduce about 1/3 of remaining volume (stir occasionally to avoid clumping).
·         The last minute of cooking add cold butter and whisk continuously until melted, and salt to taste.

Ingredients for vegetable Bouquetiere (bouquet of vegetable)
2 green zucchinis
1 bunch of pencil asparagus
1 bunch of green beans
1 bunch of baby carrots
1 yellow squash
1 head of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 small red bell pepper
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Butter (8 oz)
Diced potato (12 oz)
Split pea (6 oz)
1 can chicken broth
3 large potatoes, boiled

Preparation of Bouquetiere
  • Form a vase with the zucchini. Cut into cylinder of about 4 inches long, then with a scooper dig into zucchini and scoop out flesh to make it hollow (Leave thick walls and bottom).
  • Gently flatten the bottom, so it will not roll on plate when filled.
  • Cut the different color vegetables, so they can all fit in the hollow zucchini.
  • When the bouquet is ready, steam all the vegetables together, “All dente” (meaning slightly under cooked) and cool them down quickly in iced water, so they will not mush and lose color.
  • Put them back in arrangement on a tray, to go in warm oven with the quails.
  • Boil split peas in chicken broth until soft and puree them in a blender.
  • Make mashed potatoes, and put in blender with 3oz. butter. Puree until smooth and creamy. Salt to taste.
  • You can add split pea puree to it or serve separately.

Serving of Roasted Stuffed Quail with Cabernet Reduction and Bouquetiere
  • With a pastry bag, pipe the potatoes and split pea puree on a warm plate.
  • Place the bouquetiere drizzled over with melted butter and fresh garlic (done the last minute before serving) on a plate.
  • Next, place the quail on the plate and glaze it with the onion Cabernet Reduction.
  • Use your creativity for the plate presentation; some sprig of fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary) will add appeal to your vegetable bouquet.

Strawberry with Champagne Sabayon

1 basket of fresh strawberries
1 basket of fresh raspberries
4 egg yolks
Grand Marnier or other orange liquor (8 fl oz)
Champagne or sparkling white wine (8 fl oz)
Optional sherry wine (4 fl oz)
Granulated sugar (4 oz, to taste)
Salt (pinch)
1 sprig of fresh mint (chopped)
Dark chocolate shavings (2 oz or more)

Preparation for Strawberry with Champagne Sabayon
  •  Clean strawberries and cut in half.
  • Put them in a glass bowl with chopped mint and Grand Marnier to macerate in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  • Boil water in a large pot to create steam.
  • Put the champagne, Sherry, sugar, egg yolk and salt together and whisk in a stainless steel bowl and place over the steaming pot.
  • Whisk vigorously until you obtain a foamy mixture (approximately 3-4 minutes).
  • Make sure that the yolk does not coagulate in the bowl (to avoid coagulation by overheating, remove the bowl from the steam pot and keep whisking).
  • If the mix is too thin, you can add some sugar to thicken it.
  • The Sabayon is ready when it reaches a thick runny consistency.

Serving of Strawberry with Champagne Sabayon
  • Place the cold macerated strawberries in a large sorbet glass and smother with the warm champagne Sabayon.
  • Top with fresh raspberries and dark chocolate shavings.
  • A cigar wafer and a fresh mint leaf will compliment the display.
Chef safety tips:

  1. When working in kitchen, remember that,  A knife with a sharp blade is safer than a knife with a dull blade
  2. When using a cutting board, make sure that the board is secure on a flat non-sliding surface.
  3. Before starting a food processor, make sure you hold down the lid with your hand and a kitchen towel to avoid splashing.

Bon Appetit – Chef Serge


all lit up

Late nights, early mornings and not enough time: Yep, 'tis the season!

Sorry blog for abandoning you a bit, but there is so much to do and so little time. 

However, this has been so much fun with Audrey. Last Christmas she was only 6-months-old. This Christmas, being 18-months-old, she is a blast! I have never had so much fun opening my Christmas decor tubs. Her face just lit up! 

Every night she points and gets excited to open her chocolate advent calendar, she plays with the nativity scene and window sticker, says "ahh" to the Christmas lights and will spend time just looking at the tree and pointing out ornaments. 

Shopping for her has been a little too much fun as well. This is the perfect age because she gets so happy over everything. I can't wait for her to open her presents! 

Hopefully I can blog a bit more later, but off to more Christmas shopping!


hatefully grumbling or gratefully humbling?

The Thanksgiving turkey hasn't even been fully gobbled up yet and it is full on Christmas mode at the ABC home. I'm actually feeling quite behind being that the decorations won't be up until tonight. 

I need some Christmas right now. Maybe it was the really fun, but energy-sucking Thanksgiving weekend that made me and Audrey, just bla this week. Or maybe it was my fabulous time of the month. Or maybe it is all that salt considering we have been eating leftovers since last Thursday. Hmph. 

However, I've gotten most of my shopping done which makes me feel a bit cheery inside. On top of that, I scored awesome deals because I'm learning how-to coupon.

Someone could major in couponing. There are so many tricks and ways to do things. I would honestly hire someone (like, take 3 percent of my savings, eh?) to coupon for me. It can really make you obsessive and crazy, but I LOVE when I watch that total go down and down. 

Onto the next thing that has been making me crazy: the ants. I swear. One ant here, one ant there, one crawling on me in bed, one crawling over the ceiling when I wake up. It is making me all Grinch like. 

We had a million on the window ledge behind the couch that were not going away. Terro works like a charm when you find out where they are coming from. We must have been feeding half the ants in Roseburg. 

So, silly me, prayed about it and asked for the ants to go away for Thanksgiving. Well, they went away for the Thanksgiving weekend alright and Monday morning, THEY WERE BACK. And on the floor too! I am constantly being reminded to watch the wording in my prayer. Now, those ones are finally gone, but they are appearing simultaneously in the kitchen. I seriously feel like I am just the crazy ant lady sitting on the floor waiting for one, DARE IT COME OUT AND BE ANT SMASH SOUP! 

I wonder what it would be like to lift up our house. How many ants are living under there because I've killed millions but there are always more and more. Death to the ants. Sorry, Disney.
But the Christmas shopping and little tiny ants are just the tip-off of what is really going on. I've heard and been praying about a lot of hardships and crushed spirits, bad news and other tragedies that have happened this week. While feeling so blessed in my life, my heart aches for these close friends or family members and I always feel like, "When is it my turn?" 

This reminds me of a good saying I heard at small group: "Are you hatefully grumbling or gratefully humbling?"

I don't want to hatefully grumble. I need to lean on God and remember that while happiness ebbs and flows, real joy and peace are through faith and His love. Trust, pray and be content in all things. And while it is Christmas time, I need to remember what it is about and not focus on the gifting and worldly things. Be humble, give love. And if you can gift anything, open your Bible and see what happens. Then share it. Here are some ones I just came across- just a few words, but they will change your life and attitude.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13:13

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Mt. 17:20

"The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against the house and yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock." Mt. 7:25
"Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments..." 2 Tim. 2:22-23

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." Pr. 15:17

"The Lord will fight for you; You need only to be still." Ex. 14:14

"Do everything without complaining or arguing." Php 2:14

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Php 4:13


a festive backyard feast

Well, after much planning, cleaning and cooking- Thanksgiving was a success. Or, everyone is REALLY good at lying. 

Since we have a little cottage and had 9 guests for Thanksgiving, we had a rather authentic Thanksgiving in our wall tent. I have to say, it was lovely! 

I set up a long table to dine accompanied by a buffet table and a crackling wood stove, warming the apple pie. Candles were lit and Christmas lights were hung. 

On the menu was: roasted sage, parsley, thyme and rosemary turkey; cornbread stuffing in the slow cooker; creamy mashed potatoes in the slow cooker; a green bean casserole with pimentos, bacon and fresh garlic; butternut squash casserole (tastier than sweet potatoes!); rolls; salads, and much dessert. 

To top it off, Chris had his batch of Pumpkin Beer bottled and cold. Mmmm.... 

I loved having all the family together and boy was it smart pre-cooking some dishes the days before and doing slow cooker dishes. I actually had peace in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. 

Here are some photos. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. 

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