Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Month of Letters recap, Spiced Pavlova and FRIENDS!

Warning: This is a very random post.
I am still reading It.
The Handyman is making his world famous burritos for supper.
We have another basketball game to go to.

This is my friend Theda.
(  She's going to kill me, I know.

But look at this great picture, circa 1975.  That's my bedroom by the way. Very blue, with Holly Hobby Posters on my wall.  I don't  know what phase I was going thru, the year before it was plastered with pictures of David  Cassidy and Bobby Sherman. The year before that,  flower power baby!!)

We've been friends since we were 15 or 16, but we've known each other since we were in Jr. High--about  12 years old.
I  have always liked to say  that we've been friends since we were in Jr. High, but she corrects me and says  we "knew" each other, but we weren't friends in Jr. High.

It's true.

We weren't friends until the end of our freshman year of high school, when she walked across the library and said sat at my table and said,  'lets be friends."
I SWEAR she said that.  In my mind I think it goes like this:  "you're a nerd, you need a friend, I'm here for you."
I know she didn't say those words, but I SWEAR she said 'lets be friends.' 
And here we are today,  39 years later.
Still friends.

Here is a picture of Theda at her daugther's wedding a few years ago:

and here is a picture of Theda and I at a cooking class we took in Reno about a year before that.  We met there  and did things we love to do.
Had lunch at a tea parlor
Gambled  (she likes to play the penny machines.  I just would sit and talk to her)
went to a lecture by the author of the Kite Flyer
took a cooking class
had chocolate souffle` at the El Dorado

She sends me stuff sometimes... Lots of letters over the years...she is a letter writer, one of the best.    Once in a while tho, she'll just send me something random.
Like this:

Star anise
a cinnamon stick
a vanilla bean
and a recipe for Pavlova.

So I made the Pavlova. 
I need to try it again.   I think I will love it.  Theda loved it with the spiced blackberries and pears and apples, poached in Marsala wine.  And those lovely spices she sent me.
I need to work on the Pavlova.  I think it was dry on the edges  (as you can tell) but chewy on the inside.  I'm not sure how it's supposed to turn out. The meringue  part I mean.  (so  you only get one picture)

The Pavlova was from the Cooking Channel, recipe here. The Simply Baking Show with Lorraine Pascale.  I should probably watch it and see exactly how to make it.

I love her for things like that. I wish I could be as spontaneous and thoughtful. I aways think of things like that 'after' the fact.   I'm always saying I 'should' have gotten that  for so and so.
I love her for thinking of me so often.  (one time it was a jar of salsa that she likes...and the chips to go with.  A big old box with a bag of chips and a jar of salsa arrived at my door.  I promptly sat down and at them)

You know who else will do stuff like that?  My friend Karen.   She'll just think of something that reminds her of me.  Or I'll mention something she's made that I would love to try, and the next thing you know,  I find it in my mail box!
And the funny/great/ awesome part is?  We've never met in person! 
It's a blog thing.

We've been friends for a few years.   I have no pictures to share---YET.  I say yet,  because someday I'm sure we'll meet in person.
One day,  she'll be driving thru town and she'll come to the Visitors Center where I work and that day I'll be cranky and have no make up on (I try very hard not to do this.. ~ Grins~)  but that will be the day... she might take one look at me being cranky and sneak out! 
HA---the very thought of that makes me  be nice to EVERYONE who comes thru the door of  my office.... Just for Karen's sake.

And since I'm speaking of friends---old and new--let me tell    you about Suey at  It's All About Books.   We met because of  of  the Month of Letters  (her post here is how I heard about it. )  I am a letter writer, so it just seemed like a cool thing to take part in.
I am a letter writer.  I do it all the time, so I thought this would be easy for me.  i mean, I have been known to mail  10 letters in one day.
Let me just say that I made my goal of  24 letters sent, BUT I didn't do a letter a day.  So I don't know if that counts or not.      I feel badly that I didn't interact with the Month of Letters People like I should have.  It was just a real hectic and quick month  (didn't you notice how it sped by?).

A couple of weeks ago, I got a postcard in the mail.  One of my favorite things---I collect them  (recall the line from above when my friend Theda calls me a nerd ), so I was very excited to see the postcard.  Only I couldn't figure out who it was from.  At first glance it looked like "shelly', but Shelly hadn't gone anywhere....and the only people I know from that neck of the woods (where the postcard came from)  are named Tomi and Megan...but the signature   started with an S.
Then it dawned on me!  Suey!  From  It's all about Books!  (it wasn't her handwriting, believe me--it was my fast glance )
She  had promised to send people, who commented on her post about a Month of Letters, a  note....and she kept her promise. 

Thanks Suey!   Thanks Karen!  Thanks Theda!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


The Handyman and I just got back from our grandson's basketball game.  It's the CHAMPIONSHIP  TOURNAMENT for  9 year old's  (city league)

As grandparents, we feel the referee's, are pretty decent.  They are local high school kids, who volunteer their time.   They make enough calls, but not too many calls  on the kids.  And they always try to explain to the  young boy what he was doing wrong when the whistle was blown.  Not in a negative way, but in a teaching way.

It's  9-year old basketball.  It's fun.  Or it's supposed to be fun....  until.... until, you get 'THAT' parent. That parent who is screaming at his kid  "get in there, don't back down, make him run into you, hands up,  don't back down, get the ball."
Wait a minute---I wrote  'his' kid.  I was trying to remain gender neutral.  But let's face it,  it's usually the father.  The one yelling.
When he is not getting thru to his own kid, he then begins to yell at the ref.

Remember--it is  9 year old, city league basketball.

This could just be me, but I don't think we should be yelling at our kids, OR the high school ref who is volunteering his time for a community youth program.
But, that's just me.

Tonight, during the game,  (and it was a close game) one of those high school ref's who is volunteering his time for a community sports program,  walked up to the yelling parent and  took off his whistle and handed it to the yelling parent and said calmly,  "Would you  like to do this?"


Yelling parent said,  "sorry dude.  I know it's tuff, I've been there."
And then he was quiet for the rest of the game.

Good call Ref!

Cam is number 47.

I guess as a grandparent, you realize it really is just a game.
It's not a matter of life and death.
Just a game.

Either that, or the Handyman and I are just not competitive people.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seafood Sushi Wraps

I sometimes wonder if I could do a themed blog around making everything on Brenda's Canadian Kitchen's Blog?
You know, like the Taking on  Magazines one?  Or the I Heart Cooking Clubs one, where they have a theme?
I could just count down how many recipes I've made from Brenda's blog.
Hey! It's an idea...  since I seem to do a lot of it.

Once again, she comes up with a winner with  Seafood Sushi Wraps. 

There was just little problem for me:  When a recipe says  "low-sodium"  (as in soy sauce used for a dipping sauce), there is usally a reason.  PAY ATTENTION to that piece of the directions.
Everything was great about these little sushi appetizers, except I didn't use 'low-sodium' and my dipping sauce, while still good, was just very, very salty.

To be honest, we are not sushi lovers around here.  I've only ever had the ones you buy at Costco and while I do enjoy those, I don't think that is probably 'real ' sushi that one would get at a restaurant.  (correct me if I'm wrong).
But that is a good thing, BECAUSE this isn't real sushi either.  (Brenda will agree because she wrote the same thing)
We loved this little wrap.  Loved them enough to take them to  a friends house to share (and take all the credit for)
I am going to leave it to  Brenda to apptly describe how great it tasted, go here for that.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to help myself to another one and read a book.
( gosh I love this themed blog thing---I don't have to worry about the description and all the work writing it--SHE already did it for me.  And copying and pasting the directions--pffpht!   She did that too!  HA!  She's doing all the work here.  Shhhh...don't tell. )

Seafood Sushi Wraps

(recipe taken directly from Brenda's Canandian Kitchen--even her substitutions)

3/4 cup uncooked sushi (medium-grain) rice
1 cup water
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
3 large whole wheat flour tortillas (10-inch)
6 tablespoons garden vegetable cream cheese spread
1/2 cup shredded carrot (I finely chopped my carrot instead of shredding)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
6 to 8 (about 1 oz/28 g each) refrigerated imitation crabmeat sticks
3 green onions, trimmed to 8-inch length, halved lengthwise

Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger root
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons roasted red chili paste*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

*I happened to have some chili-garlic sauce in my fridge so used that instead.

In 1 1/2-quart nonstick saucepan, heat rice and water to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until all water is absorbed and rice is tender. (I needed to add a bit more water). Meanwhile, place 15x10-inch pan with sides in freezer to chill.

Drizzle rice vinegar over rice while lifting and fluffing rice; spread rice in chilled pan. Place in freezer for 5 minutes to cool completely.

Trim 1 1/2-inches from top and bottom of tortillas to form rectangles. On work surface, place 1 tortilla rectangle with short sides at top and bottom. Spread 2 tablespoons cream cheese over entire surface of roll-up. Spread 3/4 cup cooled rice over cream cheese, leaving 1 1/2 inches of top short edge free of rice. Starting 1 inch from bottom short edge, arrange narrow row of carrot, row of bell pepper and row of crabmeat crosswise over rice. Above crabmeat, place 2 onion halves, alternating ends so there is one green end and one white end on each side. Press all layers into rice.

Bring bottom edge of tortilla over fillings to top edge of rice; pull bottom edge of tortilla back toward bottom, scraping rice into roll and fillings to make a firm roll (be sure there are no air spaces). Roll up, letting cream cheese seal the roll. Wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining ingredients, making 2 more rolls. Refrigerate rolls 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix dipping sauce ingredients. To serve, trim ends of each roll; cut each roll into 8 slices. Serve with dipping sauce.

Kitchen Tips: To prevent the cooked sushi rice from becoming sticky, lift and fluff it while adding the rice vinegar. Spreading the rice on a cold pan helps cool it quickly.

Makes 24 sushi wraps.

It's Monday, What are you Reading? (and I just joined the Stephen King Project)

It is Monday, What are you Reading is hosted by Sheila from Book Journey.

I haven't participated for a few weeks or more, so here goes:

I am reading It.  By Stephen King.

I really want to read 11/22/63, because I've heard such goog things about it from a variety of different people,   but while visiting my daughter-in-law over the holiday weekend, she mentioned that in  11/22/63, Kind alludes  to the setting (or story)  in the book  'It'.
So, now I have to read It first.  Because I'm like that.  I want to catch the references and say to myself...'ahhhh,  I get that'.
Of course, if you haven't read It, you'll  be fine and still think  11/22/63 is a great read. 
If I didn't know otherwise, I would too.  It's just that now I know that so I have to go back and read It.

Sadie and I kind of had a  "Who's on First"  conversation when discussing this.
The Handyman was on hand for said conversation, that went like this  (and he was very confused)

Sadie:  Do you have It?
me:  yes, I  have It.
Sadie:  Have you read It?
me:  no, I haven't read It, but I own It.
Sadie;  Well, you should go home and read It.
me:  Dang, now I have to find It.  It is in the "soon to be, someday" library room and it is a mess--the room, not the book.

Like I said--The Handyman was very baffled by us.

And so,  my daughter-in-law loaned me her copy of  11/22/63.  I went home and located It. 
And then I texted her: Holy crap!  It is 1090 pages long.
and she texted back:  LOL,  yes It is.

I am now on page 84.  It doesn't look like I'm making a dent in It.  (hey that sentence began and ended with the same word.  Is there a name for that?)
I am really enjoying  It.
I should have joined the Stephen King reading challenge, since I am going to be reading  a few of his books this year.  I wonder if it's too late?

**I just joined the Stephen King Project for 2012.  Check out all the info here.  I'm very excited,because as I said,  I am really enjoying It!

Last week both of my bookclubs met. On Wednesday,  Totally Lit met to talk about  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

In a note I wrote to  the Totally Lit girls the next day, I say:
We had a great time last night at Kay's house. Besides the great book discussion, we found out she is a gourmet cook. She'll say no, but she has a 'club' or a group of friends who get together once a month. Last month was her 'theme' and the theme was salt. We ended our discussion with a homemade cantaloupe and (?) sorbet with red sea salt. It was sooo good.

I am getting off course---but you know things I like: books, food, friends. I was in heaven!!
Now, while I LOVED the Book Thief very much  (and highly recommend it) the cantaloupe sorbet with red sea salt?  OH MY WORD.   It was really  tasty.
On Friday night my  Lit Wits group met at my friend April's house.   The Lit Wits do a dinner also, so April had a theme going on....
Greek Orzo Salad
Chicken Gyro Pita sandwiches
Devil's Food cake go along with our book,  "Everneath" by Brodi Ashton.
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
This book was just okay for me, but there were some members who absolutely loved it.  (I think part of it could have been my mood, as I had been sick all week and read the book on the day of bookclub, drugged up on Sudefed and Advil)  It was a  different spin on the story of Persephonie and Hades.   A young adult, very different spin.  
My most favorite part of  Friday night at the Lit Wits gathering was when we went around and everyone told about their favorite genre of books to read, and books they have loved.    I could do that forever. 

For fun I read  Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb.  (because it was recommended by  Sheila from Book Journey )  and really enjoyed it.  I chose it as the March read for the Lit Wits. 
I read it while driving  (I mean riding, of course) to California and back over President's Day  Weekend.  I loved that it took place in my neck of the woods--my growing up neck of the woods- The Pacific Northwest.

And before that I read Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner.  A good book.  I am so intrigued by the  Jewish traditions and religion.  I have a lot of appreciation for it and love to read novels and stories which lead me to a better understanding.

That about covers it as to what  I'm reading , or have read  lately.

Up for next week---probably just  It.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

Exposure Compensation.
Yes mam, that's what I'm talkin' about!

It would just be nice if I knew what it was.

Okay, I'm kidding (just a little bit) there..... I do understand it now.  I think.

For our photography class this past Thursday we had to turn in a picture.  Any picture that we had taken in the last week.  Anything at all.
We were going to talk about "tonealities"  (lights, darks, colors)  and how the camera wants to make everything gray, BUT  we can fix that with  "exposure compensation"

Take for instance this picture of cookies with a glass of milk.  I took this for my blog.  A lot of times I'll when I'm taking pictures of food, I'll use a white poster board so just the food will stand out.  I thought I was so smart.'s gray.  Look at that background!!!  It's GRAY!
And I thought I was so cool.   SOOOO cool, using my white background.  Of course, many of you food bloggers are way more savvy than I and already change your exposure compensation so you had white in the background and not gray.  I applaud you!!!

By the way,  my camera does have scene modes, but we are not allowed to use them during the semester.  He says that scene modes are useless anyway and we need to do it manually to get the best quality.

I know you didn't want a  photography lesson here....let me just say that we are really having a great time, the Handyman and I.   We go out to eat with our friends before class  (2 other couples and 2 women sans their husbands who didn't want to do the class).  Sometimes we have a glass of wine.  Just one. 
Funny that my son once got in big trouble for doing the exact same thing in high school!  (man, and they do say we regress as we age.  ~grins~)

This is the photo I turned in  (and yes, he put everyone's photo up on the screen so we could talk about the tonality.
This was a practically perfect picture.  Tonality wise--not composition wise.
The sky is blue, the whites are white, the darks are dark and the yellow is yellow.

Hmmm.... don't tell the teacher, but  that happened all by accident as I just did a  'point and shoot" without checking any of my settings.
He said that will happen  15% of the time.

I was one lucky duck.

I am linking this to Saturday Snapshot at  "At Home With Books".
It's a fun meme/roundup of ---well, of snapshots.

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then link up.   Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see.
You should go check it out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cookbook Sundays--Chocolate Drop Cookies

I think everyone has probably made, or tasted a version of Chocolate Drop Cookies in their life.  My Grandmother used to make them at Christmas time, but I had forgotten about them until this past holiday season when I tasted some at my daughter-in-law's aunt's house.
That was a mouthful to say...I should just say 'my friend's house'.
Any way you put it tho--I was reminded how good they are and decided to make some for Valentines Day.

My grandmother always put chocolate frosting on her's, but  my daughter-in-law's family frosts with a white frosting  (and their cookie was a bit more flat than mine. They were good.  I loved them.)
They're just a simple chocolate cake cookie with a frosting.  The Handyman LOVES them--I am trying to stay away from them.

I do not have my grandmother's original recipe, but I called my mom and got the facts.   YES my grandmother did make them. YES it was around the holiday time. NO my mom didn't have the recipe she used either.  But she did remind me of a  notebook that my aunt had given me for a  wedding shower gift 34 years ago..and in that notebook was the exact recipe for my grandmother's chocolate drop cookies.

The notebook was a collection of recipes from the Dorothy Dean Homemaker's Service, sponsored by the Spokesman Review Newspaper of Spokane, WA.
The newspaper launched its home economics department in 1935 with a test kitchen and cooking school for homemakers. Home economists also sent out recipe leaflets and hosted a phone line to answer questions before closing in 1983.

The Dorothy Dean Homemakers service distributed leaflets (three each month for 11 months, with an index to the recipes on the 12th month) which subscribers collected in a green binder.

As you can see, I have my green binder.
My aunt had given me a very small collection (considering.... that they began in 1935) of the leaflets, from the early 1970's.

Here is what  the pages look like (there were about 5 or 6 recipes on each page, front and back):

 I used this recipe as my very first potato salad recipe.  I've switched things up since then, but this really was  a "Patio Pleaser"

 The leaflets would be different colors sometimes--close to holidays.

I used to go thru the notebook and make notes to myself:  "good"  or "try this".
I think 34 years later, I still do that in cookbooks sometimes.
Icky splatters on an old recipe mean it's good, right?

I am really not sure how my aunt chose to give me what she did. Maybe it was her collection that she had been subscribing to.    I treasure it, because she is no longer with us, and I'm also interested in checking out  eBay to see if I can find any others from the series.
I have  all the leaflets from 1973, 74, 75, 76 and 77.

I found this article which says:

Born in the mid-1930s when housewifery was serious business for brides, the newspaper promised in a front page story that Miss Estelle Calkins, the first head of the Dorothy Dean service would, “teach Spokane housewives how to ‘housewife’ in the latest scientific manner.”

“Husbands should smile. Life should be pleasanter because of Miss Calkins – if wives will listen to Miss Calkins and do all the things she tells them to do.”

The recipes produced by the department span 45 years and were tested in the Dorothy Dean test kitchen. The recipes were updated year after year and new recipes added. The leaflets were always reflective of the popular dishes and trends of the day and the current science on food safety was always included.

But it's really difficult to find out  a whole lot of information about the Dorothy Dean Homemaker's service online. There are a couple of blogs out there that popped up, when I Googled, but they say the same thing.  I find it's a mystery to most of us.  The biggest mystery of all is:  Was Dorothy Dean a real person?   Or was she just a  logo?  A Brand?  Who thought of using that name?
Her name is copyrighted, but it says that the Homemakers service was started by the Spokesman Review in 1935.   Hmmmm....???
These are the things I cannot find out.  Of course I could call the Spokesman Review, but I probably won't. 
Baking and Boys says:
I have a two sided sheet of paper with a bunch of no-bake cookie recipes on it, it looks older, like it was from years ago (70’s/80’s?) and says “Dorothy Dean’s No-Bake Cookies”, recipes from Dorothy Dean’s Taste Testing Kitchen, from The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington). I have no idea where I got this sheet of paper. I looked online for information about Dorothy Dean and found an obituary (just from this past April) for someone who was dubbed “Dorothy Dean” as she was the head of the Homemaker’s Services for the Spokesman-Review. The thing that sort of baffles me about this paper full of recipes is that I really have no idea where it came from and even why it just showed up here. Did my mother give it to me years ago? Hmmm. Whatever the case, it’s got a number of fun recipes on it and I do like that it is a good no-bake go-to page. Some of the recipes are Chinese Ting-a-lings, Skillet Date Cookies, No-bake Brownies, Porcupine Cookies and the Caramel Chews were among them and some others as well.

One day that could be the exact words of my daughter-in-laws or my granddaughters!   (that's kind of the reason I started researching today)
I will link this to Cookbook Sundays and also count it as Cookbook #51 in my own cookbook countdown.

Oh...and don't forget the whole point of this post--Chocolate Drop Cookies. 

Chocolate Drop Cookies
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine softened  (or shortening)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Heat oven to 400f.  Grease cookie sheet with butter.

2.  In large bowl, beat sugar, butter, buttermilk, vanilla, egg and melted chocolate with an electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in flour, soda and salt.

3.  On cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about  2 inches apart.

4.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.  Cool completely-about 30 minutes.

 Chocolate Frosting
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3+ tablespoons of hot water

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt chocolate with butter over low heat. Remove.  Stir in powdered sugar and hot water until smooth.
Spread over cookies.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

is brought to you by

For all the rules, details and to check out all the other awesome photos, check out her blog.

I was driving home from work the other day and down at the end of my street, was this:
A desert sunset.
And some ugly old power lines.

I thought they were kind of interesting tho, so am including there here.
Rest assured--I hope to get better as the semester goes on.

(had a great one-on-one session with the instructor this week.  My camera is AMAZING!  If I understood it.   That's my goal.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding... a Superbowl hit?  You bet!   Who would have thought that it would be?  In the land of chicken wings, pizza, garlic dip, nachos and salami--it was the rice pudding that made the  'ooooh'  and  'ah man, this is good'  list.

It was an extra satisfying feeling for me because as I was making the rice pudding, The Handyman said...isn't rice pudding kind of bland and for old people?

I replied NO.  But the truth is,  I didn't really know,  neither of us had ever had rice pudding before.  I'm sure our mothers or grandmothers must have made it, but I don't remember ever eating it.
What I do remember is, after supper, if there was left over rice,  pouring cream and cinnamon and sugar on it.  (like a poor man's rice pudding )  
 I knew I liked that.   Even now, once in while, if we have some rice left over and I feel like something sweet, I'll make it like that, but the Handyman never eats it.

So it was with trepidation that I began the  'not difficult, but kind of time consuming'  journey,  of making rice pudding.    On Superbowl Sunday of all things.
I trust my friend Karen from Karen Cooks,  (I mean, just look at her blog!  Her photos make me want to eat everything she posts.  Just gorgeous)  so her Portuguese Rice Pudding was what I chose to make. 

HOLY COW!  (or insert any expletive you want here)  It was really good.   Really good.   It even won over the Handyman--- but not until the Superbowl party.  Because he wouldn't taste any when I was finished making it---it was for old people.
(I think he thought people without teeth  heh heh)

I took it to the Superbowl party, along with sausages and  hoagie rolls  (my homemade hotdog buns were shaped funny, so we just ate them at home the next day.  They looked like ice-cream cone shaped rolls.  I'll try again tho), and assorted mustards.  I didn't want a whole bowl full of this great rice pudding  left at my house, because I knew I'd eat it ALL, so I figured what the heck, someone might eat it (know if they just tasted it they too, would be rice pudding lovers).

These were the comments I heard:
I LOVE rice pudding!

My mom used to make it for me.
Hey, this is really good--want some?
Sweet Rice!!  Debbie made sweet rice boys, want some?
Man, this is so creamy.
It tastes great.'s so creamy.

And you know what?  It was.  It was very creamy, and sweet and cinnamony and YUMMY!!  The Handyman couldn't resist trying some after hearing every exclaim how good it was... and he was hooked.
Please visit Karen's page here to get all  yummy details.  As she said, it was a bit time consuming to make, but not difficult at all and  well worth it.  I will be making this again.  We are rice pudding converts, The Handyman and I.


1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup water
5-1/2 cups milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup sugar


Put rice and water in large saucepan and boil until water is absorbed. Add 2 cups milk and bring to a boil. After mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly to prevent burning until all milk has been absorbed. Add another 2 cups milk and bring to a boil, then stir constantly until all milk has been absorbed. Add 1-1/2 cups milk and bring to a boil, then stir constantly until all milk has been absorbed. Beat egg in a small bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot rice mixture and stir. Add egg to the saucepan and stir until well blended. Add sugar, stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour into individual bowls or into a 1-quart serving bowl; sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and let cool.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Booking Thru Thursday

 This week's Booking Through Thursday question is:
If you had to pick only 5 books to read ever again, what would they be and why?’

(Such a cruel question!)

Really?  I have to choose five?  This is very hard.  But here goes...
First of all, I looked at some other answers and they chose more intellectual or classic books than I am going to.   Mine are pretty simple.   Its funny how different our choices are.

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly.
I bought it at a book fair when I was in the 8th grade.  My first love story--written in 1942.   The description in it is beautiful.  It makes me want to be there in that kitchen, that house, falling in love with a teenage boy all over again.

A summer to remember...

Angie always thought high school romances were just silly infatuations that come and go. She certainly never thought she would fall in love over one short summer. But when she meets Jack, their connection is more than a crush. Suddenly, Angie and Jack were filling their summer with stolen moments and romantic nights. But as fall grows closer, they must figure out of their love is forever, or just a summer they'll never forget.

The Stand by Stephen King.
How can one not include Stephen King if one has to read it over and over again?   The ultimate story of good vs evil.

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides -- or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail -- and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

The Guernsey Literary  Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Because---I like books written in  epistal form and, it's just the sweetest book ever.

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

The Mother Tongue by Bill  Bryson.
It's just one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson--the acclaimed author of "The Lost Continent"--brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can't), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries

and last but  not least
Every single  one of the Deborah Knott Mystery Series by Margaret Maron.
Of course, all 18 of them need to be in a collection--a very HUGE book--to be counted as one.

This first novel in Maron's Imperfect series, which won the Edgar Award for best mystery novel in 1993, introduces heroine Deborah Knott, an attorney and the daughter of an infamous North Carolina bootlegger. Known for her knowledge of the region's past and popular with the locals, Deb is asked by 18-year-old Gayle Whitehead to investigate the unsolved murder of her mother Janie, who died when Gayle was an infant. While visiting the owner of the property where Janie's body was found, Deb learns of Janie's more-than-promiscuous past. Piecing together lost clues and buried secrets Deb is introduced to Janie's darker side, but it's not until another murder occurs that she uncovers the truth.

I think is my list---for now.  It's subject to change depending on my whims.

PS  my whim is thinking of switching  one of the above books for the Godfather by Mario Puzo.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

My first paragraph......

Ester's hand raced over the paper as if the colored pencils might be snatched from her, the quivering inside  her, wild, foreign, thrilling.   All this time she hadn't known that 'blue' was actually seven distinct shades, each with its own name--azure, Prussian, cobalt, cerulean, sapphire, indigo, lapis.  She pressed the waxy pencils on the paper, amazed by the emerging hues: the ornaments curving on the Armenian vase were lapis, the purplish contours of the Jerusalem mountains were shrouded by indigo evening clouds.  In this stolen hour at Mademoiselle Thibaux's dining-room table, she could draw without being scolded for committing the sin of idleness, God forbid.

Would you read it?  That is the question.   This is the book.

I am joining Diane from Bibliophile by the Sea and her

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beer Steamed Mussels with Chorizo (and my first attempt at French Bread)

I hope by the end of the semester, I can take better pictures than this:

I almost thought of not posting this recipe because of the photos, but this was so, SO good,  I just had to.    The broth is--and may I us a cliche`--to die for!!

To be honest I was apprehensive, I'm not a huge beer lover (I like it under the right circumstances tho)  and I didn't want the mussels to just have a beer taste (if you know what I mean), there is no stock other than the beer.  Given the fact that this recipe called for a 'dark' beer made me extra apprehensive, as dark beer is so strong!    But I followed the recipe to a tea  (except for making my own chorizo--I purchased it--as it is readily available here) and I would suggest you do the same.   It's so good, as I said--TO DIE FOR.  I can't wait to make it again.

I found the recipe in the Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain.  There has been some buzz about it going around the blogging world over the past 6 months or so.  I think there was even a cook-along, which is what made my interest peak about this cookbook and I thought I'd check it out.  I'm so glad I did---as of right now it's my favorite cookbook.  That's saying a lot when it joins over  200 other cookbooks in my house.

I am a seafood lover as well as a Mexican food lover, so this recipe jumped right out at me when I was going thru the book.  I don't live anywhere near the sea, and fresh seafood is--questionable when you are land-locked, so I used frozen mussels.  A plus is that they had already been cleaned.
This recipe had a little bit of spice to it.  It's funny because the Handyman, is not a 'foodie'.  He loved the dish, but go a little tired of me saying "man, can you taste the chili?  Wow, this is SO GOOD.  The chorizo adds so much flavor, doesn't it?"   Anyway, I liked the spice that the chilies and the chorizo gave.  It
calls for  2 serrano chilies, but I used jalapenos instead. The heat factor scared me a little bit to tell you the truth. We like hot, but not so hot you can't eat it.  I already knew we loved the jalapeno flavor, so I went with that.  You can do want works for you of course.

If you like shellfish at all--you MUST try this!  I can't say enough about it--and--you must make your own bread to sop up the broth.  

I made French Bread from my friend Karen @ Karen Cooks.  Her bread is beautiful!  Mine is not.  BUT, it smelled heavenly while baking and it tasted great.   And it was my first attempt,so you have to forgive me it it doesn't look pretty.  I will be making it again with more finesse...after all, practice makes perfect, right?  (it was really, really good tho)  
 *bread recipe after the mussels*

Beer Steamed Mussels with Mexican Chorizo
from the Homesick Texan

2 lbs mussels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, diced or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (I used the canned tomatoes)
2 serrano chilies, stems and seeds removed, diced  (I used jalapenos)
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 pound Mexican Red Chorizo  (I used more), drained and crumbled
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 12oz bottle of dark Mexican beer, such and Negro Modelo (which I used)
Bread for serving 

1. Clean mussels in cold water, removing the beard (the hairy patch that will be poking thru the shell's opening) by pulling on it if it hasn't already been removed.

2. In a large pot or Dutch oven heated on medium-low melt the butter and add the onions. Cooke while stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.  Add to the pot the tomatoes, serrano chilies, cilantro, cooked chorizo, lime juice, lime zest, salt, mussels and beer.

3.  Cover the pot and turn the heat up to high and cook until the shells open, about 10 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer steamed mussels into either a large bowl or individual bowls (discard any mussels that did not open)  Pour some of the broth over the mussels and serve with bread for sopping up the liquid and and extra bowl to collect the shells.

and now...
...the bread

Crusty French Bread -
from Karen Cooks (original recipe here)

2 ¼ tsp dry yeast
2 cups warm water
6 cups flour
2 T sugar
2 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting the pans
1 egg white
1 T cold water

Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment. Pour water into mixer bowl and add yeast. Stir to dissolve. Add sugar, oil and salt. Mix on low for 30 seconds.

Mix in 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix on medium until all flour has been incorporated. Add an additional 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix until all flour has been incorporated. Change to dough hook and knead on medium until dough is smooth and elastic, or about 8 minutes. Dough will be sticky.

Place dough in a large greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.

When dough has doubled, punch it down, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Punch dough down again and knead for 1 minute on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12x9 rectangle. Roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch the seam together. Tuck ends underneath.

Line baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place bread on parchment, cover and rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Make evenly spaced diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Beat egg white and water together and brush over each loaf of bread with a pastry brush.

Place a pan of hot water on bottom shelf of the oven. Place baking sheet with loaves on shelf above water.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from baking pans and cool on wire racks.

I am linking this to  Cookbook Sundays, My own Cookbook Countdown,  (where it just so happens to be cookbook  #50!!)  Weekend Cooking and  See You in the Gumbo.

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