Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book clubs

I've mentioned on this blog that I belong to a few book clubs, but there are two that I attend regularly and that I really love.  Those would be  "The Totally Lit" book club and "Lit Wits" book club. 
We take turns hosting for these two book clubs and every once in a while, it happens that my turn hosting for each falls on the same month.  Totally Lit meets on the LAST Wednesday of the month and Lit Wits meets on the 4th Thursday of the month.  It just so happens that this month, when I am  hosting, they fall back to back.
Last night I hosted the Totally Lit Girls, where we discussed  "The Paris Wife" and enjoyed some radish sandwiches (Ernest Hemingway loved them) and some little bit sized cream puffs. (and of course wine).   

Tonight for Lit Wits, I have to make a dinner---because this is the cook and book club---and as of now,  9:18am, I don't have that planned really.  But our book is  "Sing You Home", and I'm looking forward to some great discussion.

So, the radish sandwiches weren't bad.  I wonder if I can get away with them for tonight too?
A crusty french bread, real butter, salt and pepper, and....sliced radishes.
It was the weirdest best thing I've had in awhile.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Classic American Hamburger

Before I could even sit down to my dinner last night  (I was busy trying to get a good picture in the fading sunlight),  the Handyman said he loved my buns!   
Man...after all these years,  I can still excite him.

Of course, the buns he was talking about were the homemade hamburger buns he had stuffed in his mouth.
So,  the phrase didnt' come out seductive or anything.  It was more like  "Mmph, mann yer bbunnzz (chomp chomp) er ghraate"
His mouth was full AND he was talking at the same time.  (sigh)
But I was thankful for the compliment all the same.  My buns were great! I made them from scratch. They were so much better than store bought buns. 

I'll return to the bun recipe in a moment...
but first let me say--I like hamburgers.   And lately it seems there has been a lot of great burgers being posted in the food blogger world, some of them very fancy, some of them not.  (I wish I could try them all)

This burger is not. Fancy, that is.

I was going thru some old cooking magazines, deciding what to toss and what to keep  (one can't keep them all, can one?) and I came across Cooks Illustrated, special publication "American Classics"  display until October 19, 2009.
And in it there is a recipe/article  for bringing back the "Original Drive-In Burger."  As I said, I like hamburgers and I had been wanting to make my own buns for quite some time now, and this looked like an easy burger to do.....sort of.
They have you  grinding your own burger mixture.
I just didn't want to do that, but I was intrigued by the  'classic burger sauce' and the simplicity of the burger.  Onions only.  And  cheese.  It said to use American cheese, but I didn't have any, so I substituted some Colby-jack slices and we loved  them like that.

I went ahead and decided to use store bought hamburger meat, seasoned it with season salt and a bit of garlic salt and pepper.  And we grilled them instead of pan-frying.
But the sauce and the buns?   Completely homemade AND they made this burger--so dang good I can't even tell you.  Words can't describe it.
It did indeed remind me of the old Drive-In's of the 60's.    WHICH I only remember going to with my parents.   In the 70's, when my teenage friends and  I where hopping around to burger joints, it was  the beginning of the fast food craze.  McDonalds was new,  (to us anyway--it was expanding west)  Burger King and Wendys were just barely creeping to the west coast. So we were very excited about those.  But they don't really bring back the great food memories of the past.  We had one local place that we loved.   We had Zips! (see original Zips post here )
This Cooks Illustrated recipe is more similar to Zips than to any fast food mega-drive in of today, but as I said, it really reminds me of those old highway joints of the 1960's.

I used this recipe for my homemade hamburger buns.    (okay, I got it from Brenda at BCK, but I am feeling like a stalker, or someone who has a blogger crush, because I  use  her name in every other post I do.  She makes good stuff tho, so what can I say?)

I had never made homemade buns before, but I definitely will again.  One, because they were endorsed so highly by the Handyman  (mphmmfly  grrraate bunzzz) and two, they were REALLY GOOD BUNS.  Processed white buns?  Never again.  These were soft and tasted fresh and all  homemadey  (words like homemadey are why I'll never make it as a food writer)  And they went so well with the  classic sauce and burgers!
I might even make all the hot dog buns for our annual  "Weiner-Fest" bbq at the end of the summer.   Maybe.  That's a lot of buns to make.

I really feel like anyone who actually wants to grind their own hamburger mixture is working too hard....but it probably tastes great!
Here is what you do if you want to work: (me?  I just used store bought)

10 oz sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 oz boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
kosher salt and  pepper

Place beef chunks on baking sheet in single layer--freeze meat  until very firm and starting to harden around edges, but still pliable,  15-25 minutes.
Place half of meat into a food processor and pulse until meat is coarsely ground, 10-15 one-second pules, stopping and redistributing meat around bowl as necessary to ensure meat is evenly ground.  Transfer to baking sheet, repeat with other half.
Spread meat over baking sheet and inspect for gristle or fat.
Gently separate ground meat into 4 equal parts and without picking meat up, gently shape into a loose patty.  Season top of patty with salt and pepper.  Using spatula turn and season the other side. Refrigerate.

Pan fry when ready, cook without turning for  3 minutes one side,  1 minute the other side.  Top with American Cheese and cook for another minute.  Transfer to buns,  top with onion and spread on sauce. 

Now for the rest of us.... season your burger meat however you want.  I used season salt and a bit of garlic and pepper and the Handyman grilled them on the grill, he topped them with the Colby cheese and let it melt till it bubbled.

We took our homemade buns and melted some butter in a pan and toasted the buns, which I highly recommend to get that old timey  drive-in taste,  slathered the buns with the classic sauce and added onion.  Walla Walla Sweet Onions.

The Classic Burger Sauce
I doubled this, so that we had enough.  You never know!

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

When Friends loan you books

I have a quick question before I go to bed....
when a friend loans you a book, and when I say this, I mean gives you a book that she wants you to read--you didn't ask to borrow, but she liked it and wants you to read it right away--- what do you do?

This seems like a silly question, because I love to read and I will 'eventually' read all my books.  (I have to live to be 120 and buy no more books ever, but...)

I have 2-3 book clubs and I have to read those, and then my own TBR pile...

....if you follow me on  Goodreads.  I mean if you are my friend on Goodreads, you know I've been putting all my books on there, and so far I have 92 in the 'to be read'  section.  And I haven't even made it upstairs to the 'library' yet.

I have a list in my mind of what I want to read next.  And next.  And next.   But last week a good friend gave me 2 books and a few days later asked me if I had read them yet.  Um....I wasn't planning on reading them real soon.   I'm sure I'd like them, but, I just have others I wanted to and had planned on reading in the next few weeks.

I told you it was a silly question, but how do you handle that? Does it annoy you?   Do you drop what you had planned on and read what was given to you?  Or do you just put them in your pile, at the bottom and say you haven't been able to get to them yet?

It's important stuff like this that runs thru my mind as I lay in bed trying to get to sleep.
Tomorrow, I'm going to post about my homemade hamburger buns.
The  Handyman loved my buns.... he told me so with much enthusiasm.


Snapshot Saturday

It's Snapshot Saturday!  I have been away for  a lot of Saturdays it seems and I've missed participating in Snapshot Saturday both by showing off a picture of mine and being able to visit other blogs and see their photos.
Snapshot Saturday is hosted by Alyce @  At Home With Books.  Stop by today and check out some great photos.....OR considering sharing one of your own!

I love poppies!  I have a huge painting of poppies right above my computer desk.  Yes, sadly I am  one of those who doesn't have a laptop yet.  The Handyman does, so in a pinch I use his.  BUT,  I get to enjoy looking at my poppy paintings while I blog, so I'm happy.

I took these pictures of poppies in a little town in Oregon. Joseph, Oregon.  We have a family cabin in Wallowa Lake, which is just a few miles away.    Joseph is the cutest little town with all kinds of shops and restaurants and museums.  It's only about a mile long (if that) with bronze statues on every corner and flower beds loaded with poppies (among other flowers).
I focused on the poppies.
With the Wallowa Mountains in the background.

Next month we will be meeting friends at the cabin.  We've invited friends from all over, but I'm most excited for my Pennsylvania friend to see the mountains, because while Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful and greenest states ever, they don't have high mountains in the East.

(**to be fair, I live in  Nevada and Nevada is the most mountainous state in the U.S.  --I work at the Chamber of Commerce, I have to know these things--but they are not covered in pine trees and fir trees and cottonwoods.   I love our sagebrush and cactus covered mountains, but I REALLY really love pine tree covered mountains)

Besides the mountains..... maybe my friends will love these poppies too.
I did.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guacamole salad and a BBQ sauce

You know how when sometimes you read a book and the character cooks or eats something special?  Like in  the Stephanie Plumb book series, Pot Roast or meat loaf is always on the table?  And you get hungry for pot roast or meat loaf all of the sudden?  And you MUST HAVE pot roast or meat loaf right now (or at least in the next few days)?  Because you read about it and you can't get it out of your mind?

Well this  Guacamole salad is kind of like that.  I was reading  "Dying For Chocolate" by Diane Mott Davidson, #2 in the Culinary Mystery Series, a few weeks ago and a character at a dinner party made this salad.  I had to have it.

I assume that Davidson likes to cook, since she writes a 'culinary' mystery series. Not only does she write about food tho, she puts actual recipes in the back of her chapters and this is where I got the recipe for this salad.
It's a very simple what intrigued me you ask?  The Chili Cheese Frito's.  Yep.  Chili-Cheese Corn Chips.  Junk food on top of healthy food.  It intrigued me.
And you know what? It is a simple salad, but it's a good salad.  Kind of like a simple taco salad without the meat.  It tasted all taco-ee because of the Chili Cheese Frito's Corn Chips, I'm sure.
We all liked it very much.

At the same time I  had the Handyman bbq'd  up some chicken with a new sauce.

My goal this summer was to  test new and different  BBQ sauces, but at first, we had no summer (weather wise) and now, it's going faster than I can blink my eye.  I'll never get thru all the bbq sauces I wanted to try!

Motor Oil Chicken was my 2nd sauce this summer  My first was  Palm Beach Honey Glazed Chicken.  

When I first saw the name,  "Motor Oil Chicken"  I was not enthusiastic about it.  Neither was the Handyman.  The name sounded funny (kind of gross) and there is nothing remotely BBQ sauce sounding about it.

Let me remind you tho, that we up north and in the west are kind of dumb when it comes to BBQ sauce.  We think  'grilling' is BBQing (and it's not) and that bottled sauce all tomatoey and mesquite flavored is what it's all about.
I understand tho that there is a region in the south which is all about vinegar based bbq sauces, and let me tell you....I can't wait to go to that region and do some tasting myself, because this vinegar based bbq sauce was SO GOOD.

Who would have thought?  Not any westerner, let me tell ya.  But you know, our palettes are not as sophisticated in the BBQ realm.

It was really good.  Don't let the name fool you.  I would definitely make this bbq sauce again.

Schulz's Guacamole Salad
Dying for Chocolate
Diane Mott Davidson

1 head iceberg lettuce
1/4  cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped scallions
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crushed chili cheese Frito's Corn Chips

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and mashed
1 Tbls fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbls picante sauce

Tear lettuce into small pieces and combine with cheeses, scallions and tomatoes.  Cover and refrigerate in salad bowl until serving time. 
Combine all ingredients for dressing and mix well.
Toss salad with dressing and sprinkle the top with crushed chips.

This is BBQ Sauce/marinade #2

Motor Oil Chicken

3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
4 cloves garlic--crushed
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
salt to taste
1-2 lbs chicken

Combine all ingredients, except chicken.  Mix well and set aside.
Grill chicken until juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
Remove chicken from grill and coat each piece with prepared sauce.
Return to grill and cook for an additional 3 minutes on each side.
Serve chicken with remaining sauce on the side for dipping.

A year ago, I blogged about chicken too!  But a casserole, King Ranch Chicken--Southern Style.
It's funny, because while it was very good, I haven't made it since.  As food  bloggers, I think we do that a lot;  make dishes and then never return to them again.   We have other recipes to ingredients to find--new tastes to experience.

As book bloggers, making something from a book doesn't always work out....remember my Baltimore Style Sour Beef experience from  Laura Lippman's  Tess Monaghan series?
Not good.  Not good at all. (my experience, that is.  I'm sure there is a good sour beef out there somewhere)

With this book it did work out...I was lucky.
We really liked this salad and this bbq sauce.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


I'm back!  I've been away for a bit.  My dad had some surgery and I went up north to help out for a few days. 

I have no food post to put up, since I've been gone, BUT I have discovered  (read previous post now if you haven't)  that 3 out of 3 daughters-in-law would have pedicures with me!  And 2 out of four son has even had a couple of pedicures and likes them, but I'm not supposed to tell who.  You have a one in four chance of guessing correctly tho.

My dad has had a few pedicures and loves them too.... my husband, the Handyman would rather stick a pencil in his ear.  That sounds rather dramatic, but he is still from the school of thought that real men don't get pedicures.  Which is actually very funny (odd) because he is a very accepting of others kinda guy.

I could post about books....I've read a few  in the past week.  One of them being  "Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evonovich.  I listened to it on audio on my 8 hour drive home. 

Right off the top of my head, I can't recall who the narrator/reader was, but she was terrific!  It put a whole new level of enjoyment about the books for me....and I've read them all.  I'm a big fan.

You know how sometimes you can picture the character in your mind?    Like sometimes you pick an actor who might best bring to life the character in the book?   Well, I could never decide before who might play  Stephanie Plumb, but after listening to the book yesterday, I am thinking  Marissa Tomei.

I know she might not be everybody's  picture of Stephanie Plumb, but she is mine.  I think.
It's really interesting what goes thru a person's mind when they are traveling alone for almost 10 hours.  I had to keep my mind on something.

Have you ever read any of Janet Evonvich's  Stephane Plumb books?  Can you think of a better actor?

I'm going to go cook something...I'll be back soon with  a food post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


(I thought I had hit 'publish' before going to bed last night---I didn't.  That's how tired I was, so I really have no idea what I was talking about)

For the record, I am alive and well, just very busy right now and have not been able to blog much.  (I do have a couple of recipes that I've tried and they turned out good--by that I mean, looked good and tasted good.  I took pictures and I just haven't been  able to post them.  I'll get to that soon, I hope)

But tonight, as I am getting ready for bed---it's late and I'm tired--- I am pondering the pedicure.

Let me tell you why--
but first, I have to state:  I love a pedicure.  I usually do a spa pedicure when I can.  Awww....a whole hour of foot rubs/massages and hot wax and oils and soothing water and dim lights and soft music.  
You get the picture.  I do love them.

But it seems that in the past few weeks, I've had  3 friends, mention getting pedicures with their daughters.
I have 4 sons.  The are all grown now, but  of course I have never and will never get pedicures with them.  Maybe their wives?  I don't know.  Why does one get a pedicure with their daughter?  My mom never got one with me.
I am confused and out of the loop.  Of course, I am not a girly-girl either.  I know that.  I'm not a tom-boy,  but,  give me a good pair of jeans and book, a garden, friends to have dinner with, a nice bottle of wine, I am  happy.   Even happier when I have grand babies to play with and read to.
I guess a better way to say it is that I am not high maintenance.  Until I order a meal at a restaurant, according to my husband --but that's another story.

My boys have left me with a sophomoric sense of humor that I cannot get rid of, no matter what.
A little old lady--from church nonetheless--who is also on the library board with me, told me the other day that her husband was cooking up some "balls" for supper.
Yep...some good old balls.  She actually said this.
Living in Northern Nevada this is not unusual, but most of the time we say "Rocky Mountain Oysters".   (I have never had them by the way.   I'm game for most things, but I don't know about these.)
Anyway, I about bit my tongue off,  trying not to laugh when she said they were having balls for supper.
I credit my boys with that legacy---laughing at stupid stuff at inappropriate times.  (I told you, it's late, so forgive me)

Back to pedicures tho--why is it a social experience for some and a solitary experience for others?   I am feeling a bit left out, since I don't have a daughter to ask to go with me.   But what does one talk about during a pedicure?  Corns?  Bunions?  Ingrown toenails? 
I'M KIDDING, I'M KIDDING.   I don't have those things.   Yet.   
I'm thinking of inviting my daughters-in-law to get pedicures with me next time we're together.  Do you think they will---out of obligation?  Because who really wants to have a pedicure with your mother-in-law?

Maybe it's the thing tho!  I'm missing out on this whole social experience of group pedicures!
(sigh)  I think I'd rather stick with the spa pedicure.  I am a more meditative personality.  Alone, seclusion, relaxation.
I think I'd feel obligated to keep up a running conversation with someone if they were with me---doesn't that ruin the whole experience?
I think I'm jealous, that's it.  Sadie?  Mara? Tara?  Pedicures at the next family get-together?

Do you do group pedicures?  Beauty experiences?  Spa's?
Not that you'd remember, but I have coffee every Tuesday morning with my friend Debbie E.  She puts on her make-up while we visit.  Just sits on the couch and puts it on. I watch.    I don't like putting on make-up in front of people.  While Debbie E, has a routine with brushes and pots with powder and blushes and eye stuff and creams--I do a 3-minute rush as I'm walking out the door to work.

I need my beauty sleep....

Night All!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Outdoor Wednesday

Over the weekend of the 4th of July, the Handyman and I  did a river raft trip in Northeast Oregon.  I plan on posting more about that in the next few days, but for today's "Outdoor Wednesday" I thought I'd share a few pictures of our trip.

We rafted down the Grande Ronde River and at one point the Wenaha River flows into the Grande Ronde and I took this picture at that point.   You can really tell that there are two different rivers coming together.  I thought it was really striking.

I am linking up to Outdoor Wednesday.
Outdoor Wednesday is hosted by A Southern Daydreamer.

Friday friend recipe number 274 and 275-Grapefurit Shrimp Salad and Crispy Potato Chicken

  My Friday Friend Cookbook Countdown #274 and 275 My Mother-in-law's Grapefruit Shrimp Salad and Crispy potatoes . and you know all th...