Sunday, January 31, 2010

Can I Make You Think?

Last week's vacation question was interesting. Lots of you were willing to go to the Arctic, not as many to the desert. But I may be going with Mickle to visit the penguins. I hadn't even considered them!

In keeping with last week's vacation theme, here's another conversation starter for you.

Where would you rather stay during your vacation:
Camping or hotel?
Castle or convent?

As for me, my parents were big on camping. On the good trips, I got bronchitis. On the bad trips, I got pneumonia. Thus, my statement, "My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service."

Castle or convent? No doubt: a castle. I've been to the convent to visit my dearly beloved's late aunt plenty of times. I once went to Gilette's Castle in Connecticut (Gilette was an actor who played an early version of Sherlock Holmes), and would love to visit other castles. They are in short supply here in the states, however.

How about you?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thor's Bone

Another dreary winter day. Those stooopid boys are using those stooopid books and learning things again. What's the point? And, more importantly, what's a dog to do when no one will play?

Bones. The Christmas present that will keep a guy amused for a long time.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Worcestershire Rice

All those wonderful seasonings, and not enough time to use them! Of course, I'm referring to my haul from Spice Barn again.

As a side dish to some of those wonderful filet mignons, I decided to make a nice rice dish. Yes, some of my dining companions would have preferred pasta. But they have permission to decide what we're eating when they become competent cooks. Not likely soon! Anyway, this was easy and good. Again, I'm cutting it down to "normal family size." I recognize that not everyone starts with 5 pound of meat and 3 cups of rice and goes from there.
(This picture is a little dull because the steam from the pot clouded my camera lens; sorry!)


1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 beef boullion cube
1 tbsp worcestershire powder
1 tsp paprika
4 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup dried vegetables

In the appropriate sized pan, place your rice, bouillion cube, worcestershire powder and paprika; add the water. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the dried vegetables; cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and let it cook until done. Serve with roast beef or steak. Very flavorful!
Yes, this is a typical weeknight dinner for us: meat, starch, two veggies, one of which must be green. There's almost always bread, too, but that goes to the table in its basket.

Thor will see you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mango Minster

As some of you doubtless know, Thor is entered in Mango Minster, a most prestigious event, in the hard working category.

Go ahead, click on the "Dogs on Thursday" tag to the side, and see just how hard working poor Thor is! With all of these people and a huge yard to take care of, the poor guy barely has a moment's rest. Or something like that.

For the official stats, Thor is an English Mastiff. He's 8 years and 8 months old (which is as rare as 100 in people). Thor's birthday is May 5, 2001; his back is the same height as the dining room table (so he could swipe food were he not a true gentleman), and the vet says he's a tubby 240. Ahem, the vet is not so scrawny himself. Thor's parents were AKC registered, but Thor is a free spirit and prefers not to be registered, so his legal name is just THOR. He is, of course a male, and this picture proves Thor is a hard working guy.

I understand there will be reader voting available for each category, so Thor hopes you will all follow the early 20th century tradition and vote for him early and often.

Garden Tuesday: Color

Looking out my front door at sunset one night, the sky was an incredible shade.

(The blur is the price we pay for the color.)

And, no, I didn't photoshop this. I'm not that smart.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lemon Chess Pie

I'm sure you're all tired of me whining that pie is not in my DNA. I'm still not all that good at the whole crust thing. But at least I've found a crust recipe that my dearly beloved adores, and his opinion matters the most, and I've learned that at least with one crust pies, it doesn't matter quite as much how the crust looks. Which is a good thing, because mine look clumsy, inept and downright stupid.

But I digress. The Blond Duck, a talented purveyor of whimsy, pointed out last week that Saturday was National Pie Day. After Chan wrote about Peppermint Pie and Louise gave us an entire day devoted to pie, I had no real choice except to make pie on Saturday. But what kind?

The cookbook my eldest son's girlfriend gave me for Thanksgiving yielded an answer: Lemon Chess Pie. I'd seen a couple of other recipes, which looked rather complex to me, but this one had fewer ingredients, so I gave it a whirl. My husband declared this the very best pie ever, and ordered me to produce it again SOON. There you have it: Make This Pie Soon!


1 Pie crust, unbaked
4 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp cornmeal
3 tbsp flour

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon or orange zest

Lightly beat the eggs, then add the butter and buttermilk. Stir together the dry ingredients, and beat them into the egg mixture with the lemon juice and vanilla. Stir in the orange zest, pour into the unbaked pie shell, and bake at 375F for 40 to 50 minutes. Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

I don't know why this is called a chess pie. I do know that it's very filling. I also believe that you could substitute cornstarch for the flour, put in a ground nut crust (similar to a crumb crust), and it would be gluten free for people like my friend Paula's baby. And, as I said, this is really easy!

I hope you all had a wonderful National Pie Day, with or without pie.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can I Make You Think?

Yep, I want you to think again. Again, not too hard. It's another Conversation Card question from the Omaha Steaks folks. Here goes!

If you had to choose between vacationing in the Arctic or the Sahara Desert, which would you choose? Why?

Maybe the Arctic, because I think polar bears are cute. (Who doesn't?) But if I went to the Sahara, I could make a side trip to Egypt. Who wouldn't want to see 4000 years of history?

(Yes, I know that Arctic doesn't look like this. It lacks trees. But my snow will have to do for a representation of the Arctic.)

What do you all say?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cool Dog

Thor was hanging around with Patrick. Patrick decided Thor needed shades to prove he's the coolest guy on the block. Personally, Thor believes everyone already knows this.

Happy Thorsday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicken Primavera

I don't know if there really is such a thing as Chicken Primavera. But last night I decided there should be. Last night I was cooking boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and, even as I started them, I had no idea what they'd end up being. I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but I often start out to make something and change my mind midstream. This is a recent phenomonemon, so who knows how long it will last? After all, I do like order in my little corner of the world.

Anyway, last night I decided that I wanted something colorful and bright coming out of my oven, so this is what those chicken thighs became. And since poor Thor only got a bit of angel hair and some veggies (but NOT broccoli or cauliflower), it must have been as good as I hoped.


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
garlic powder
1/2 pound frozen broccoli spears
1/2 pound frozen cauliflower florets
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

2 cups frozen corn
2 cups milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup parmesan
1 pound angel hair
1 stick margarine or butter

Spread the chicken pieces out in a baking pan, sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper, and bake at 375F for about 30 minutes, until almost done. A few minutes before the chicken is ready, put all of the veggies in a saucepan with 1 tsp salt and about 1/2 cup water; cover and cook about half way. Remove the chicken from the oven, pour the vegetables with their cooking water over the chicken, then pour the liquid out of the baking pan back into the saucepan. Stir together the chicken and veggies, and put the pan back in the oven for a few minutes. Turn the liquid on to medium high and add 1 cup of milk. Whisk 2 tbsp cornstarch into the other cup of milk, and stir into the hot liquid. When it starts to thicken, add the parmesan, stir in well, and pour over the chicken and vegetable mix. Return the baking pan to the oven for about 10 minutes. Cook the angel hair (or the pasta of your choice), drain, cut the stick of margarine or butter into pieces, and stir it into the pasta. Serve immediately with the chicken mixture over the pasta, or, if you simply can't mix your foods, like me, put the chicken beside the pasta.
Ryan was pleased to have "interesting chicken"; my dearly beloved enjoyed this, Mark grumbled that it was "decent", and my picky eater, Patrick said nothing. Overall, that's a win for me! Plus, there was a little left for my lunch today, so double win!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Inside Garden Tuesday: Poinsettia

Remember when my girls bought me this poinsettia?

Well, I haven't managed to kill it yet. What? Don't look at me like that. These suckers just get up one morning and decide to keel over!

Anyway, I was delighted to note that the new petals on my blue plant are coming in white! Actually, I'm relieved to note that some smart person figured out how to dye the leaves, and no one is yet genetically engineering the plants to have an unnatural leaf color.

The red parts are regenerating, too, although they're sporting a much paler shade of red. My dearly beloved is grumbling that this fool thing is going to live on our counter forever. No, sweetie, it will just get up one morning soon and decide to keel over. I promise.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wonder Chicken

OK, to be perfectly honest, I stole this name from a local supermarket. They sell pre-cooked chickens under this name, but this was so good that I saw no reason why I couldn't swipe the nomenclature. As you can see, I cooked this last week, before everyone left for college. With 10 or 11 of us at home, two chickens is barely enough. Anyway...


(Sized down, again, for normal folks)

1 Oven stuffer roaster
1 carrot, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tbsp finely minced onion

Clean out the chicken, salt inside the cavity lightly, and put the carrot and onion inside the cavity. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, onion and seasonings. Rub liberally over all of the surfaces of the chicken, paying special attention to the area between the bird and the legs and wings. Roast at 325F, uncovered, for the time directed on the package, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Let the chicken sit for 15 to 20 minutes before carving it. Serve with my unnamed rice from Friday, or whatever starch takes your fancy, and watch it disappear. Then the name will become obvious: "I wonder why chicken isn't always this good!"

You can save the carcass, complete with the carrot and onion stuffed inside it, to boil up for chicken broth. After all, there's little better than hot chicken soup on a cold winter day!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Can I Make You Think?

No, not deep thought here. I just wondered how many people will talk back to me.

My dearly beloved received a box of Omaha Steaks Filet Mignons for his birthday. No, not from me. I don't spend that kind of money on meat; it came from a business associate. Anyway, in the box was a little packet of "Conversation Cards" with a few fun questions. So, since the lemon meringue birthday pie is long gone, I thought I'd see if any of you will converse with me!

It's a rainy weekend day. Do you....sleep, read, clean house, work or look out the window all day?
For me, the answer is sleep until the crack of noon, read, maybe sew, look out the window a little bit. If I'm behind on my work, I might do a little filing. On weekdays, of course, we all have to do what we have to do, and, personally, I hope for the sunshine on my weekends!

The other fun surprise in the box of steaks was a tiny bit of dry ice surviving. The little boys poked it with a fork, which made the fork hum, and watched it evaporate. They enjoyed their little present, too!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I-Didn't-Think-Up-A-Cute-Name Rice

My brain's a little addled today, so I didn't think up a name for this rice. But it was good.

I think you're all pretty well aware that I rarely venture out; thus, the restaurant supply house and Amazon com delivering so many things to my house. Well, recently I stumbled across a lovely website called Spice Barn, which sells spices in containers from small to Marjie's-family-sized at very reasonable prices. They even have some truly strange and wonderful items, too, such as soy sauce powder, Worcestershire sauce powder, spearmint extract, and tomato powder. Yes, tomato powder. I believe it was created for people like me who hate to open a can for one lousy tablespoon, put it in the fridge and forget all about it until it turns green. Or, more precisely, scrape it into a bowl to turn green, because I don't put cans in the fridge.

So, with several new and exciting things to try, I present to you....


(Sized down for you normal people)

1 cup rice

2 cups water
2 tsp tomato powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried veggie flakes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine

Put the rice, water, tomato powder and salt in your pan; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Add the veggie flakes and butter; cook another 5 minutes and serve. Use brown rice or substitute wild rice for some of the white rice for even more flavor excitement!
And, yes, we are still using our Christmas plates; I'll probably get them put away this weekend.

Have a great weekend, everyone; I hope you all warm up some.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Thorsday!

When the boys go near the china cabinet in our breakfast room, Thor knows he needs to sit up and wait for a cookie.

He never fails to catch it. The cookie on its way to his mouth is the tan blob at the top edge of the picture, to the left of center.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frozen Garden Tuesday

Looking out my bathroom window early this morning.

At least there's sun on the other side of the icicles.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chicken Stew

Saturday night, the mercury fell, and fell, and fell, until we were left with just 4 degree temperatures. Of course, I had been warned about this, and had decided upon a nice, warming meal of some kind of soup. I really wanted stew, but had two chicken carcasses in my fridge, so they were the basis of the meal. The kids laugh at Mom for saving "scrap", but it's my kitchen, my refrigerator, and if you don't like it and are out of high school, go buy your own food. (If you're under 18, eat what I give you and at least pretend to like it.) Yes, I'm mean like that.


2 Chicken carcasses
Water to cover (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon salt
2 carrots, quartered
2 onions, one quartered, one minced
2 potatoes, shredded
2 cups cooked chicken, cut up
3 sweet potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced thin

2 cups frozen spinach
1 cup uncooked rice

Cook the chicken carcasses in the water with the salt, quartered onion and quartered carrots for 3 hours or so, until they fall apart. When the carcasses start to fall apart, pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a clean pot. Add the shredded potatoes and minced onion, return to a boil, and simmer for an hour. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and cooke
d chicken, along with any chicken picked from the bones, and cook until the veggies are tender. Add the rice, cook for 10 minutes, add the spinach and cook another 10 minutes. You may want to add more water or salt at this point, because the chicken stew will be very thick. Serve with fresh ground black pepper.
Ryan was very enthusiastic about this stew, my dearly beloved and Mark didn't complain (which means they liked it well enough), and Patrick griped (no surprise). Served with a nice crusty French or Italian bread, it was a nice meal on a cold night.

Hope you all get some sunshine and relief from the cold today!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chocolate Dessert #13

For Sue and other fans of my chocolate dessert cookbook, here's another installment for you. This isn't actually completely chocolate, but it all disappeared pretty much instantly. Even though all 9 kids were home, that's still some accomplishment. I'll let you be the judge.


1 stick butter
1-1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream the butter with sugar and eggs until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Sift together the flour, powder, soda and salt, and beat them into the mixture at low speed until combined, then at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips, turn into a greased Bundt pan, and bake at 350F for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool, then frost with vanilla frosting. Sprinkle with more chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, if desired.

Yes, this was just as moist and rich as this picture implies!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy Thorsday!

Mark says every small boy should have a big dog.

Thor says every big dog should have a small boy.

I think they're both right.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Zealand Oat Bread

Some of you may know Zebbycat and his person, Michelle. Knowing that I make bread every night, when Michelle visited her parents for Christmas, she asked her Dad for a couple of his bread recipes. I have made this one several times, and never had leftovers. I urge you to try this; it's got a nice flavor, and with the oats, it's healthy, too. Best of all, none of the kids ever noticed that it's good for them. And since I have some of the pickiest eaters on the planet, that's high praise indeed.


3 & 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole oats
2 tablespoons milk powder
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons margarine or olive oil
1 & 1/2 cups water
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons yeast.

Mix in your bread machine, or follow my link on the side for directions ---->

Michelle's Dad recently came up with an alternative, which I found hilarious, but don't recommend unless you need something hard:


Follow the directions above, omitting the yeast, and let it bake in the bread machine.

Jeepers, I would have been infuriated!

Michelle, Thanks ever so much to you and your Dad both for this wonderful bread. And, of course, thanks to Zebbycat for letting you leave home to visit your parents for Christmas!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Not

No, there is no garden here. It's the driveway, next to where my garden should be.
And in the driveway, 3 guys clearing the driveway, to get their cars out of the way so I could get out for an appointment. They were less than amused, at 15 degrees.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

My eldest daughter wanted red velvet cake for her birthday. I have no idea where she came up with this notion; after all, I've never made nor even had such a thing. A great deal of research led me to the conclusion that it's a rather mild chocolate cake with a peculiar means of rising. Armed with that information, I created a cake recipe that they all enjoyed.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs

2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined, then beat in the red coloring, salt and vanilla; beat well. Stir together the cocoa powder and flour. Add half the dry mixture, followed by half the buttermilk, then the balance of each. Beat until well combined, and don't use the mixer beyond this point! Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup, then add the baking soda. Quickly pour this into the cake batter, and stir it in with a rubber scraper. Pour into either two 9" layer pans, or a 9x12 sheet cake pan. Bake approx. 30 minutes for the layers (I think) or 35 to 38 for the sheet cake. Frost with white frosting after the cake has completely cooled.
I know that red velvet cake is "supposed to be" a layer cake, but here in my little corner of the world, birthday cakes are sheet cakes. It's the law. So, here you have it: a nonconformist red velvet cake.

There is a lot of color in this cake, and it's rather shocking when it comes out of the oven. Every recipe I found called for at least twice the red coloring I put in, but this worked out fine for me. It's not a hard cake to make, once you realize that the leavening is a little unconventional. Try it the next time you want a cake people will remember!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Years Eve

Around 4 on New Year's Eve, I announced that I just didn't feel up to standing and cooking. So, Jeff, Dan and Cass set off to find things they could cook for dinner.

I had hardboiled 18 eggs, so their list started with Deviled Eggs. They brought home meatballs, breaded chicken, egg rolls and cheesecake. Evidently, it's much harder to cook premade frozen foods than I knew. Either that, or I've sabotaged my kids by making cooking look to
o easy.

I did instruct them in making Polynesian sauce for their meatballs. They used most of a restaurant sized can of pineapple. The meatballs were quite popular, needless to say.
I made a batch of Focaccia dough, and told them how to bake it after it rose. Thor was instrumental in seeing to it that this happened properly.

Then, Thor supervised Dan carefully as food was arranged on the table.

And look how pleased my cooks are with themselves! Granted, Jeff brandishing the bread knife can be a bit off-putting. But we all have trials and tribulations in our lives, right?

Happy New Year, one and all!