Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

It's coming!!  There's no stopping it now.   Autumn!  Fall!
It IS my favorite season, but at the same time,  we got such a late start on summer, I will miss summer. 
We leave our window open on summer nights  (small town, two story house) and I will miss the crickets and the katydids, the sound of the train whistle late at night, the rustle of the wind in the trees. 

But.... let's bring it on!!!    Falling leaves, the crisp air, being able to wear a sweatshirt while walking, football, apples, pumpkins....WOO HOO!!!!

We live in the high desert, which means, not many fall colors, because we don't have a lot of trees.  Well, let me rephrase that...we don't get the same type of fall color as the rest of you.   Last year, we took a walk up the canyon above our house  (about 5 miles out of town) and we got to walk thru this fall wonderland.   So far this year, the trees have not started to turn.  Maybe soon.... for now I leave you with the pictures I took last fall of "Water Canyon".

We have pretty falls in the High Desert.   Just different.

I am linking this to   Snapshot Saturday.
Snapshot Saturday is hosted by Alyce from At Home with Books.  It's a fun weekly meme/blog hop, that just lets us all show off something fun to us.   The rule is tho, that the photo has to be taken by you or a friend/family member and  appropriate for all ages.  No photos off the Internet.















I love to see the carvings in the Aspen Trees.  I've never actually done it....I worry about what it does to the trees, although, it doesn't seem to phase them, as there are groves of trees all over in the canyons...with carvings.  Some very old.

You can click here to see the trees in my backyard.   

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rocky Road Pie


It rained last night.  We had thunder and lightning and rain-- lots of rain...in a  short time. A 'beware of flash floods' kind of rain.  That's how it rolls in the desert. 
  
I sat out on my patio on the swing, wrapped in a blanket loving every minute of it.  Nothing smells as good, sounds as good,  or feels as good as a rainstorm in the desert.  
The only thing that would have made my pleasure complete would have been to have a piece of this  Rocky Road Pie and a hot cup of coffee.  BUT, there was none left as we ate it all (with a little help from friends) the other night.
I just might have to make it again!



I served this when we had company for dinner--it was an 'ooooo' kind of dessert as it looks so pretty when you bring it out.  I should have taken a picture of the whole pie, but I didn't.  Even my friend Theresa said,  "do you want to take a picture? It looks so pretty."    They know me so well. And the good thing is?  They put up with me.
Anyway, I should have listened to her.

When you make this, you will get  a lot  "oooohhss and aaahhhs" from the table.  Besides being  show stopping pretty,  (as a whole pie that is--it looks kind of messy when you try to cut it)   this was one of the  easiest desserts I've ever made.  The most time consuming part was the 20 minutes it took to bake the  cake base.  It was super simple and super good.    A  chocolate cake base with a  mousse-like topping filled with marshmallows and nuts, drizzled with a chocolate glaze.  It is very much like a Rocky Road Candy bar.
  
The top layer was--ambrosial.    (yes, ambrosial--don't laugh too much) Ambrosial.  Tasted heavenly.  Pretty darn good.  Great. Marvelous.
It was really, really, really good.  Who knew that  dry cake mix and whipping cream would make a mousse-like texture?   I'm thinking what a great way to just make a faux-mousse and serve it just plain.  It was that good.
The Handyman did not like the nuts in the mousse layer, so that again, is personal preference.

We both agreed that we would have preferred a more brownie like base, a denser and chewier base.  That's just us tho...it was great as is and I would definitely make this again for company...it's too dangerous to have in the house if you are by yourself.
It's a perfect, easy, no-stress, never fail, kind of dessert. 




Rocky Road Pie Recipe

source:  Lady Behind the Curtain

Ingredients
1 package chocolate fudge cake mix
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 - 3/4 cups chilled whipping cream
2/3 cup miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
chocolate glaze (below)


Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and dust a 9-in pie plate with sugar. Reserve 1 - 2/3 cups lightly packed cake mix (dry). Beat remaining cake mix, the water, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Spread in pie plate. Bake until cake springs back when touched lightly in center, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely.


Beat whipping cream and reserved cake mix (dry) until stiff. Fold in marshmallows, walnuts and chocolate chips. Spread over cooled cake. Prepare Chocolate Glaze, immediately drizzle over top. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Refrigerate any remaining dessert.


Chocolate Glaze Ingredients and Directions
Heat 1 tablespoon whipping cream, 1 teaspoon butter and 1 ounce coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate in a microwave until melted and smooth.






Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Bloggers I appreciate You! And my mother-in-law too.

It is BBAW  (Book Blogger Appreciation Week), and while I don't qualify as a real Book Blogger, I have to get my 2cents in anyway.

I love Book Bloggers.  I love to read their posts and get new ideas,  I love to read about their lives, their likes, their blog hops.  I just don't always  have time to do them justice---in community.   That is their topic for today.  How do we (they) stay connected to others in the book blogging community.
One thing they all say is "comment".   Comment on other blog posts.

I suck at commenting.  I read them---a few everyday.  Every single day.  Book Journey, Bermuda Onion, Beth Fish Reads,  Booking Mama, At Home with Books, to name a few,   but do I comment?  (yikes!), no, not as often as I would like to. 

WOULD SOMEBODY PAY ME TO BE A PROFESSIONAL BLOG READER/COMMENTER/WRITER? 
Please?

I read them every day! And I love them.  So this is just a shout out to ALL  the Book Bloggers who keep me up to date on books, and the book/publishing/literary  world.  And also because I look forward every morning to sitting with my cup of coffee and check out your blogs.  It makes my morning special.  (and I hate it when you go a few days without posting, darn it!)

Yay Book Bloggers!!

*****************************************************************

Margaret Maron, (I am a HUGE fan)  wrote a post today on the blog,
 "the Lipstick Chronicles"  about  mothers-in-law.

I have to say:  I have a GREAT mother-in-law!!   And I AM a GREAT mother-in-law.  (yes, I'm laughing, but it's true!!)  I think.

A story about my mother in law.
When the Handyman and I were newly married, I was a young bride of 19.  We were at his mother's house one night for dinner.  The Handyman, thinking he was being funny, told everyone I only cooked macaroni and cheese out of a box....and that was all I knew how to cook.
I could have killed him!!  I was so young and kind of shy around his family still.  I was horribly embarrassed.
After dinner, his mother took me aside and handed me $5 and said,  "I want you to go to the store and buy 14 boxes of mac and cheese and fix it for him every night for 2 weeks--he thinks he's such a smarty pants!!

I FELL IN LOVE WITH HER RIGHT THEN!!

Another time, at my son's wedding  (we all know how stressful those times can be)---the day of the wedding rehearsal,  I had all kinds of relatives in my house, chopping fruit, making salads, cleaning my house, etc etc etc.
My middle son  (one of the groomsmen) and the Handyman (my husband, his father)  had an argument at work (he worked for us then)...and I saw my middle son driving out of town.  I called him and he was GROUCHY and snippy and, well.... I  then called the Handyman on my cell phone-- a short argument ensued and then I went home to  20 people in my house all chopping and sweeping....and I burst into tears!!  I blubbered out  how my middle son was going to RUIN the wedding by being an ass,  and then I looked at my mother in law and said,  "and it's all YOUR SON'S FAULT!!"
The room went silent, all chopping and sweeping stopped, you could have heard a pin drop--I had insulted an Italian woman's oldest son.
She looked at me and said,  "I'm sure it was."
All chopping resumed.
I just love her!!
And of course,  the wedding was beautiful and all my sons were there doing their job.  
The Handyman said...."what was the big deal?  We just had an Orange County Chopper moment."  (if you've ever seen that show, you'll understand)

Moving on.....
I think I'm a good mother in law.  I honestly like my daughters-in-law.  I LOVE them, but I think "liking" is more important. That way we can be friends too.   My sons love their wives.  And my sons are happy.    A friend and I, long ago, when our boys were little, made a pact to truly appreciate whoever our sons married.  It worked out well for me--My daughters-in-law are really interesting people.  I find them fun to talk to and I like what they do, who they are, what they read, how they raise their kids.

They are all DIFFERENT, but that's  what makes them unique....they read different books, have different opinions, raise their kids different.  But that's really okay with me. 

I'm sure I annoy them sometimes.....after all....that kinda goes with the territory.  But I hope they have some funny stories about me when I'm old.
Like 'that's the moment I fell in love with her!'

Of course my daughter-in-law Sadie, will not love me if I don't hurry up and finish this book she suggested to me....

Looking for Alaska  by John Greene.



I am in the middle of it and it's REALLY GOOD.  This brings me back to the start of my blog post.   REALLY GOOD is not a book review. And that is why I'm not a 'real'  Book Blogger.
But that is the best I can do.  (and hopefully they will still let me live vicariously thru them--YAY book bloggers!!)

pssst.....the book is really good!  Young Adult, controversial subjects... I am loving it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roasted Shrimp with Feta



The aroma in my house on Sunday afternoon was---heavenly.  I wish YOU could have been there.  We could have shared a glass of wine, sopped up some of these great juices in the pan with some rustic country bread.

STOP.  I just realized what I wrote.   "Shared" a glass of wine?   Shared? 
Hell no!  I get my own glass and you get yours.  None of this 'sharing" stuff.   Maybe I meant we could share a BOTTLE of wine.   Yeah, that was it.   A Bottle of wine, not a glass--silly me.

Back to the matter at hand:  this is a great dish.  I came across it in Ina Garten's  Barefoot Contessa-How Easy is That cookbook.
It's not a new recipe, it's been around the blogosphere  (??) before  (and perhaps even in the next day or two  my friend Brenda   will be posting her experience with making the dish), but I think it's a recipe worth repeating....again and again.  And then again and again!
I could go on about the complexities of the fennel and tomatoes,  the  creaminess and saltiness of the feta and crunch of the breadcrumbs, but I really don't know what I'm talking about there.  All I know is that this was REALLY GOOD.  And we ate it right up.



There was one thing tho, that didn't fit in with what Ina  said and my friend Brenda told me.

The juices to sop up with crusty bread.
1)I didn't have as much juice as I thought I should.  I used Panko bread crumbs, which I love, but I think 1 cup of those was a bit too much for the dish.

2) the problem could also have been that I am over 4000 feet above sea level.  I never used to think it made a difference in my baking and cooking...but it does.
So, I am thinking higher elevation?  Use less bread crumbs... they soak up too much of the good juices.

Having said that tho,  the mixture of tomatoes and feta with garlic and fennel, is a GREAT topping for  crostini.  We would spoon it atop our slices of crusty french baguette and eat it like that...it was great!!  I would serve that at a party!  And if you came to that party   I would be sure to do more than just share a glass of wine with you.

So --the only problem with this dish was the fact that I didn't have as  much juice as I thought I would have?  Next time, I'm just going to double the wine in the recipe.  Then...perfection!



It has been a long time, but I am finally  using a new cookbook--so I can continue with my cookbook countdown.  (It's my own personal countdown, so I feel no guilt when I am a lazy sloth and neglect my personal challenge for months on end)
(although I would like to coincide with Cookbook Sundays again, because it kept me on track--going thru  209,  make the 210+ cookbooks)



My Cookbook Countdown will continue with this:   Barefoot Contessa How Easy is that?  by Ina Garten.   It's  #46 in my countdown.
Her Roasted Shrimp with Feta is worth making.




Roasted Shrimp   With Feta
Serves 4



4 tbs good olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups medium diced fennel
1 tbs minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs Pernod (I didn't use)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb (16-20) peeled and cleaned shrimp, tails on
5 oz good Feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I had Panko, so  used it)
3 tbs minced fresh parsley
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 lemons


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Heat 2 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 or 12 inch heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8-10 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and bring it to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod (if you have it), salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 - 15 minutes.


Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato mixture in the skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tbs olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.


Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp and serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.



Monday, September 12, 2011

The Secret Recipe Club--Vickie's Tortilla Soup


Amber and I could easily be friends.    We could be friends because, well, I love her blog. And her enthusiasm-- for cooking, for her blog, for her family and for her home.

Amber is the blogger from Bluebonnets & Brownies, the blog I was assigned for the secret recipe club.    I love the secret recipe club, because it introduces me to blogs I haven't seen before. It's such a great way to be introduced to new blogs and bloggers.  Some are extra special like this one.

I LOVE food with a Mexican flair--a Tex-Mex flavor--as well, as the occasional chocolate treat. Bluebonnets & Brownies--A Perfect Fit!!


Although, there were many great recipes to choose from, I decided on this Tortilla Soup .    I love Tortilla Soup.    I have made a good Tortilla Soup in my time, but I'm kind of always on the lookout for a better one now.     (It's all because of Heather from Girlichef and her Tortilla Soup round-up).   My favorite has lots of cheese and cream and some other really unhealthy ingredients in it, (it's sooo good!)   so when I read this  recipe, I thought,  "well it sounds really good, but  where is the cream?"

We Loved It!!!
It's like  apples and oranges. They are two completely different soups.   No one really  need compare.
It  felt like a fall day here in Winnemucca (in fact, it rained a bit)  and this soup smelled so good simmering in the crock pot all day.  It was just perfect.  The weather, the soup, the football on TV.
The soup was so good....it had a lot of flavor and the veggies simmered in the broth were just perfect.  It was a great soup to bring in the fall for me.
I love to chop vegetables for some reason and this soup was chalk full of them...carrots, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes.  It's soothing to me to chop.  
Our taste buds were very satisfied and we felt like this was a soup that was actually good for us!

I would make this soup again, even if I didn't have tortilla strips on top. It was just a really good soup. I'm not sure why it's called Vickie's Tortilla soup--maybe you should read the blog to find out. What a great idea. That way you can see what other great recipes Amber has.







In the Secret Recipe club, we are assigned a blog and we choose any recipe from that blog to make and post about. We keep our assigned blogger a secret until posting day. It's a lot of fun getting to know another blogger by actually 'stalker' (or visiting) their blog.
It's such a fun blog hop to take part in.   I can't wait to go visit all the other Secret Recipe bloggers!











Vickie’s Tortilla Soup

Directions
1 onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 regular carrots, peeled and diced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, diced
6 cups of chicken broth
1-1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 bunch of cilantro


Directions
I started by chopping all the vegetables except the cilantro and tossing them into the crock pot. Then I added the chicken broth and spices, and allowed this to cook on low for about 2 hours. Then I added the raw chicken pieces (I used tenderloins) directly to the crock pot, and put it on high.


About 4 hours later, I removed the chicken pieces from the soup, and pulled them using two forks. This makes for very tender chicken throughout the soup, and guaranteed chicken in pretty much every bite. I added the chicken back to the soup, and just let it cook for another 3 hours on low.


The soup gets its name from what goes on top of it at the very end.


Preheat your oven to 350F. Take 1 corn tortilla per person eating, and cut the tortilla into strips. Place the strips on a baking tray, and spray them with cooking spray. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake the strips for about 8-10 minutes until crisp.


When you ladle up the soup, sprinkle it with some sharp cheddar cheese and the tortilla strips, and garnish
with some  cilantro.







Thursday, September 8, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins



I give up!   I had made these muffins a while ago, took pictures and saved them for a post.   That was in July...but this morning when we woke up, the Handyman and I went for a walk  (it has been a long time--we used to walk every morning--we are so out of the routine now, we are trying to get back into it) and it felt like fall.
 While I was walking and feeling the  teeniest of fall in the air,  (it's coming, there is no getting out of it)  I thought of these muffins and how good they would taste with a cup of coffee.
Sitting on my patio.  With a book, of course.  Always with a book.

I didn't have any  of these muffins made, so I thought the next best thing would be for me to finally post about them.     

I knew they were  a 'King Arthur' recipe.  I looked thru my  pile of printed out recipes and came across it, and that's when I noticed  little notes in parenthesis in the directions.



WHAT?  I was thinking to myself. Why in the world would  King Arthur put notes in there.   Then it dawned on me.  Even tho they are technically  a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website,  I printed it off of  "Brenda's Canadian Kitchen".
And that's why  "I give up!"  I tired hard not to stalk her site, but she just makes good stuff.   Enough said.

We liked these muffins a lot...how can you not like muffins that taste like banana bread and chocolate chips?  They  were moist like banana bread and even tho I couldn't find the  cinnamon chips or cinnamon flav-r-bites in rural Nevada  (I went to three stores!),  we didn't miss them.  The chocolate chips made up for them.
I make a banana chocolate chip cookie and these muffins were reminiscent of those...they tasted just like a cookie.  Only better for you!  (Because of the whole wheat flour of course---let me have my delusions, okay?)
Well and maybe the butter is not so good for you... and don't get freaked out...The Handyman wanted butter, and since his wish is my command (laughing) I gave it to him.



I will be honest and tell you....this is the first time I've used  Whole wheat flour.  I like whole wheat bread, so I don't know why I've never considered baking with whole wheat before... but I guess I will now, as I have 4 more lbs of whole wheat to use. 
Maybe I'll make them this coming weekend.  As I said in my last post,  I am more of a muffin and fruit for breakfast person, than a greasy bacon and eggs person,  and these muffins hit the spot.
I used  mini-chocolate chips in the recipe--I like them better in muffins than the regular size, but that's just my preference.



King Arthur Flour's Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins



1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup mashed banana, about 2 medium or 1 1/2 large bananas (I had to use 2 1/2 bananas)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. butter rum or coconut flavor, optional
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup traditional whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour (I used traditional)
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, pre-toasted in a 350°F oven for 8 minutes, if desired
1 cup cinnamon chips or cinnamon Flav-R-Bites, optional (I couldn't find these in Rural NV, but I bet they would be a great addition)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12 to 14 standard muffin cups. You'll use the larger number of cups if you include the full amount of all three add-ins: chocolate chips, walnuts, and cinnamon chips.


In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar till smooth.


Beat in the mashed banana, then the egg, flavorings, and milk.


Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flours, stirring till smooth; if the mixture has a lot of lumps, beat at a higher speed until they've nearly disappeared.


Stir in the chocolate chips, walnuts, and cinnamon chips.


If you've used cinnamon Flav-R-Bites, allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature; this will soften the bites up. While the batter's resting, preheat the oven to 350°F.


Heap the thick batter into the prepared muffin cups, mounding them quite full; a muffin scoop works well here. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.


Bake the muffins for 20 to 23 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of one of the middle muffins in the pan comes out clean.


Remove the muffins from the oven, and tilt them in the pan to cool a bit; this will prevent their bottoms from becoming soggy. As soon as you can safely handle them, transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.


Makes 12 to 14 muffins.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Breakfast Sandwich



Like her or not...The Pioneer Woman has a new show on the Food Network Channel.  And, yes, I watched it.   She shared some dishes that I knew the Handyman would like...one being this breakfast sandwich.  It was quick and easy and really not messy.

For some reason cooking breakfast is not my favorite thing--the kind of breakfasts the Handyman likes anyway.  It's all greasy  (bacon or sausage )  and messy  (batter for waffles and pancakes)  and you use so many bowls  (eggs and cheese and hash browns), the toaster, the butter, the syrup......  it usually looks like a hurricane came thru my kitchen by the time I am done.
I am more of a muffin and fruit kind of breakfast person on a lazy Sunday morning, but the Handyman?  No, he likes all of the above--in the same breakfast.  And to me...it's messy and I don't want to start my day with all those greasy dishes.
(does that sound odd coming from someone who likes to cook?)



In this breakfast sandwich, you put all these things together and  it worked!  I only used one pan too.  Woo Hoo!   And it was really tasty.   And really big.  I ended up eating only  half of my sandwich.  
The recipe says to use Texas Toast and I had some leftover from  my Southwest Burgers of the other night that I needed to use  (but I'm sure you could use any bread and it would be just as good)  and,  I had eggs and cheese.  The only extras I had to pick up were the sausage and jalapenos.
The jalapenos are  'to taste' of course--you can use as many or as few as you would like.   We  liked the little bite of spice these chilies gave.
I might make them again--soon!





Cowboy Breakfast Sandwiches
16 slices Texas toast
Butter
1 pound breakfast sausage, cut into 8 patties
12 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup jarred jalapeno slices
Sandwich spread of your choice, such as mayo, spicy sandwich spread or spicy mustard   (I did not use this, I just used butter)
8 slices cheese, such as American, Cheddar or Cheddar-Jack


Cook the Texas toast on a griddle over medium heat, using lots of butter. Set aside.


Fry the sausage patties in a skillet over medium heat, flattening with the spatula as they cook. Set aside.


Mix the eggs, half-and-half and some salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Pour the eggs onto the griddle in a rectangular shape. Flip to cook on both sides. Cut the rectangle of eggs into 8 squares and set aside on a plate.


Increase the heat, then dump the jalapeno slices onto the hot griddle. Let them sizzle for a couple of minutes, chopping them with the side of the spatula as they cook. Drop on a tablespoon of butter for flavor. Cook until the jalapenos have some brown and black bits. Remove from the griddle, then set aside.


Spread whatever sandwich spread you'd like to use onto the Texas toast. Top with a sausage patty, eggs, a slice of cheese and some jalapenos. Top with another slice of Texas toast, then wrap in foil for serving.

*****************************************************

I snapped a picture of the Handyman....eating the  half of my sandwich I couldn't eat.
We ate outside on the patio. 
I will really miss the Sunday mornings on the patio.... this morning I can feel  'fall' in the air.  It's not here yet, and is supposed to be in the 90's today, but....it's coming.
Truth be told....it's my favorite season.




Bookclubs and more Bookclubs!

On Monday, I said this about this book: This one was---just okay.  I read it for book club and tomorrow night I have to go defend my opi...