Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Grape Vines

Do you believe that in mid May I cut this back to no more than 8" off the fence in any direction? I wanted to save my lilac and dogwood trees from being eaten by the grape vines.

So, instead it's eating my Suburban.
Seriously. It's latched onto the back door hinges. Time to get out the cutters again.

On the plus side, looks like the boys will have plenty of grapes in September!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Refrigerator Soup

No, it's not quite "throw household appliances in a stockpot with water and there you are!" But it's close.

Friday night I wanted soup and grinders for dinner, and so I went rummaging through the refrigerator. Because some of the kids had been missing during the week, I had some extra meat tucked away - that never happens! And so you get this great little concoction...


about 3/4 pound beef, diced
8 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dried vegetables
2 carrots, grated
1 large onion, minced

about 1/4 pound spaghetti or angel hair, broken in bits
a good handful of chives

In a large pan, dissolve the bouillon cubes in the water. Add the chopped up meat, carrots and onion; simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the dried veggies and diced tomatoes; simmer another 15 minutes. Add the broken pasta pieces and chives; cook 5 minutes and serve.

I had mine with a nice piece of French bread; others made their bread into ham and turkey grinders. This was easy and delicious on a lazy Friday night - and good lunch for a day or 2 thereafter!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Almond Joy Pie for a Picnic

Every year, Louise sponsors a "Virtual Picnic", in which people post recipes for things they'd bring on a picnic. I snagged the letter A this year, but didn't want to bring the tried, true and much loved apple pie. So I came up with something a little different.

I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing....Almond Joy Pie!


1 pie crust (premade or my best pie crust ever)
4 eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
3 tsp almond extract
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

slivered almonds to top

Preheat the oven to 450F and bake the pie crust for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Beat together the eggs and milk, then add the extracts and sugar. Beat 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined. Stir together the coconut and chopped almonds, and spread in the pie crust. Pour the egg mixture over the coconut mixture, and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds. Place in the oven, reduce the heat to 350F, and bake for
45 to 55 minutes, until the custard is set.

I was going to melt some chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the pie, but (a) I didn't feel like waiting for the pie to cool, and (b) I'm just not that big a fan of chocolate mixed in my food.
My daughters want this pie again, with the chocolate on top, but the boys are not fans of coconut. Bonus! They won't pig it all down! Good thing I made them a cake, right?

Actually, family lore has it that an Armenian immigrant was sponsored to enter this country by my grandmother's father, and he invented the Mounds bar. Because my grandmother was very allergic to eggs, he made a special batch of his candy for his sponsor's little girl without eggs. Decades later, my grandmother told me that she had been frightened by this man's appearance, because his face was heavily pockmarked, and given his kindness to her, she'd always felt badly about her fear. No one is left alive to verify this story, but the name of the founder of that candy company would lead me to believe that this is a legend that's probably true. In any event, it's a nice story, and this was the inspiration for my pie.

For more Virtual Picnic foods, be sure to visit Louise! She'll have a complete listing next week.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy Thorsday!

Thor went to the vet on Tuesday, because he had a cyst between 2 of his toes, and his girl the nurse was very concerned. There are no pictures at the vet's office, however, you'll all be pleased to know that Thor was the best behaved dog at the vet's office. He sat with Ryan, didn't pull his leash and paid little attention to any of the other dogs.
The other dogs' mommas all hid their yapping little brats from big, bad Thor. All except a little shepherd of some kind, whose momma let him come say Hi to Thor.

The vet said Thor is in excellent health, especially for a 9 year old mastiff. She broke several little cysts under his skin, and prescribed fish oil to help prevent new ones from forming. This is evidently quite common in aging mastiffs, and there's no reason for medication.

So, aside from flinging drool around the exam room, the vet was very happy with Thor. And he was very happy to come home, and romp outside with his boys.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Honey Wheat Bread

Cass was complaining that my bread was boring, and she likes whole wheat bread. Of course, being the sometimes accomodating mother that I am, I had to find something just a little different for her. This bread has a nice flavor, and makes great toast the next day. Bonus: Thor likes it with his peanut butter and vitamin sandwiches. Wait, that's not special. Thor likes any bread with his peanut butter and vitamin sandwiches. Ah, Thor. So easy to please.


3/4 cup warm milk

1/2 cup warm water
1 egg, at room temperature
6 tsp or 3 tsp yeast
2-1/2 cups white flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp gluten powder
4 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces

2 tbsp honey
2 tsp salt

Combine the milk, water and egg in your mixing bowl or bread machine maker; sprinkle the yeast over them. Add the flour and other ingredients in the order listed. Proceed according to my bread making tutorial instructions. Either let the bread go through its entire cycle in your bread maker, or remove from your mixing container, and form into two loaves in 8"x4" well greased loaf pans. Let them rise until they reach the top of the pan, then bake at 375F (350F for glass pans) for about 25 minutes.

And this weekend is the cyber-picnic over at Louise's delightful blog. I'm "bringing" something from the letter A. Will it be Thor's favorite, Applesauce Meringue Cake? Applesauce bread? maybe. Apple Pie? Probably not; that would be a common idea. I'll let you all know on Friday!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Visiting Baby

Last Thursday, Mark spotted a little guy wandering around near our woods, barely able to walk yet, with his momma.

Here he was on Saturday.

Can you see him better now?

Oh, wait, he ran away.

They sure are cute when they're little, but they wreak havoc on our yard when they grow up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Turkey Tetrazinni Quiche

With some of the big kids leaving to go participate in a National Guard disaster drill near their college last week (they pay $100 per day - it's a good deal), I goofed and cooked too big a chunk of turkey breast on Thursday. So, since Friday was rainy, I thought I'd make Turkey Tetrazinni from the leftovers (which I almost never see). But that just wasn't appealing to me, so I turned the idea into a quiche, instead.


Leftover cooked turkey - about 1-1/2 pounds
1 pound broccoli florets, cut in small pieces

1 large tomato, diced
1 small onion, minced
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded
24 eggs
1 cup cream
2 cups milk

20 turns fresh ground pepper
Crust, if desired

Grease, and then, if desired, line your 10"x15" baking dish with crust (my oil crust made in the pan is an excellent choice, and when using it, greasing is unnecessary). Cut the turkey in small bits, and mix with the onion. Arrange the turkey mixture in the bottom of the pan, add half the cheese, then layer in the broccoli and tomato, and the rest of the cheese. Top with the pepper. In a bowl, break the yolks of the eggs, then beat in the cream and milk. Mix well, then pour over the ingredients in your pan. Stir gently with a fork to mix the egg mixture with the other ingredients, and break up the layers, then bake at 350F for about an hour, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Served with a salad, this fed 8 people very nicely.

Of course, you'll doubtless want to scale this back to feed a smaller number of people; I have a larger than normal hungry horde roaming through my kitchen, periodically bellowing for food. Ah, well, they're often entertaining!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Western Chicken

I don't know why this is Western Chicken. I do know that when it was cold and raining last night, again, I remembered that a restaurant we used to frequent made this. I don't recall which it was, but it was either one from Connecticut in the early 1980s, or one from the late 1980s. Either way, there were no leftovers except some rice. Good think Thor believes rice is food.


Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Barbecue sauce
Chopped Chives
Sliced mozzarella

Open the chicken thighs out flat, and place in the bottom of the broiler pan. Broil for 5 minutes, flip over and broil the other side for 5 minutes. Drain the fat off, and reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Pour the barbecue sauce over the chicken, and return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is done. Sprinkle the top with chopped chives and cover with thick slices of mozzarella. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts.
I served this with long grain and wild rice. I used the packaged mix, but threw out the seasoning packet. I cooked 3 cups of rice with 6 cups of water, 1 stick butter, 1 minced onion, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup minced parsley. Let's face it, the seasoning packets are nothing but a buttload of salt anyway, so I just create my own flavorings. The rice was great. Peas simmered up with a few mint leaves and a touch each of salt and sugar rounded out the meal.

Thor gets whatever's left in the pans after dinner, usually some starch and meat scraps. He hasn't been fed in his mind if he doesn't get human food. So it's a good thing he believes rice is real food, because that's all that was left for him (other than some stray peas, which he spits all over the floor).

Hope you all have a good weekend planned. I'm planning some quality time with my sewing machine, after I enjoy the sunshine this afternoon. There may be some strawberry picking in the works, along with a trip to Toy Story 3. It's good to have little kids; the big kids get a chance to see all the "fun" movies!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thor's Summer

Did you wonder what Thor's doing now that school is out and his time is his own?
Watching his boys, of course! Someone has to be sure they play nicely and don't stray from their own yard!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spatchcocked Chicken and Chives

I am showing solidarity with Pam at Sidewalk Shoes. Last summer, she introduced us to the wonderful world of spatchcocking your chicken. Get your minds out of the gutter, kids; it's a real word, and it means cutting the chicken open for more even cooking, particularly on a grill. Well, Pam reminded us last week that she's grilling a chicken a week, and on a cold (really - 46 degrees in June?!?) and rainy night (Sunday), I roasted mine. Here's how.


1 Oven stuffer roaster
1 lemon
1 big handful chives
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine or butter, at room temperature
miniscule amounts of salt.

Cut your chicken open along the backbone with a good, sturdy pair of kitchen shears, like this:
Sprinkle the inside with just a wee bit of salt - remember, you don't want to ruin your kidneys, and I promise you'll never miss it with the flavor this baby packs. If you're roasting in a pan, sprinkle generous amounts of chopped chives in the bottom of the pan (obviously you can't if you're grilling your chicken), and plop it in the pan, inside down. In a small bowl, mash the margarine with a fork. Add the pulp and juices from the lemon (take off the zest and save it for something else) and the chopped chives, and mash them all together well. Stick your fingers gently under the chicken skin and loosen it. Take small clumps of the margarine/chive/lemon mix, and stuff them under the skin. Pat back in place, and roast at 325F for as long as you need based on your chicken size, or cook it on your grill however you might do it.

You can use butter, but I was feeling "healthy" and decided that margarine would be the "low fat" choice for this. The truth is that the flavor is fine either way, and I was quite happy using the alternative that costs 1/4 as much.
The other truth is that I cooked 2 chickens for one dinner, as is my custom with a house full of people, but felt you'd all like this recipe so much better if I cut it down to "normal family" size! Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Chives

Well, one thing I've learned is that 2 square feet of chives gives you bucket loads of the suckers. And I do mean bucket loads. This is what Ryan cut for me on Saturday (our second clear cutting this year, so far):
Notice my canister behind the chives, with a pictu
re of chives on it. Weird, right?

I chopped them all, and dried some in the oven at a low temperature. They come out kind of ugly, but you can refill that fancy, expensive little jar that you bought at the superma
rket. Then you have dried chives if you really want them.
Or, you can freeze them. I tried some on a cookie sheet, and some just shoveled into the plastic freezer bag. The ones on the sheet froze faster, but
the ones frozen in the bag kept more chive fragrance.

See? They look and smell like fresh chives. Oh, wait, you don't have the smell-o-rama feature installed in Blogger yet. Neither do I. My error.
Just a word of caution: when you chop that many chives, the onion smell does eventually overcome you, and you'll end up crying. Just a little bit. Then those of us with white eyelashes end up with black streaked faces, and wonder what happened!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake for a Birthday

My second daughter's 21st birthday was Thursday. Some of her friends decided to take her out on Thursday to buy a cute new outfit and go to a nightclub; what a birthday present!

So, of course we celebrated her birthday on Friday. The little brothers made her a birthday ba
When they had gone to the fabric store for the tiny pieces of red for Thor, Ryan (at my request) went hunting for some fabric with pigs or some amusing design for me. He found this Arctic Splash fabric, and hounded Cass that he and Mark wanted it because it was amusing.

She was shocked that it became a new apron and pot holders for her college apartment (her first move out of a dorm).

And Cass wanted chocolate cake for her birthday, instead of the traditional marble cake. I tried this recipe.


1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp melted butter
1-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs

Beat together the sour cream, sugar, vanilla and butter. Stir in the dry ingredients, then beat in the eggs. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth. Pour into a greased 13x9 baking pan, and bake at 350F for 30 to 34 minutes.

This cake has a shiny, smooth surface when it's baked. It's very dense and moist, really, more reminiscent of a pound cake than anything else. So if you don't like the texture of pound cake, this one's not for you. If you do, hooray! Pound cake in chocolate flavor!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Here, we had huge amounts of rain on Sunday. I'm glad I live on top of a hill; there was some flooding of lower areas and some intersections. But, of course, the biggest problem was that poor Thor spent the day hiding with the boys, seeking protection from the booming sky outside. Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Does the Internet Make People Dumber or Smarter?

This was a question posed in my Wall Street Journal weekend edition, which I finally got around to reading yesterday. Yes, it's been just that kind of week, where I finally get time to read my Saturday paper on Thursday.
Anyway, the WSJ presented two arguments: One for the internet making you smarter, and one for it making you dumber. The guy claiming the internet makes everyone smarter starts out by saying that in the beginning, scholars, including Martin Luther, bemoaned the invention of the printing press, saying that the ability to print more books meant that the books would be of lower quality, and humans would be less intelligent. But following the ability to give the written word to more people, better quality written words began to arrive: Shakespeare, to name one. He also points to open source programming as helping many people, and cites Wikipedia as a prime example.

(Vaguely funny Wikipedia story: A few weeks back, one of my sons called me to ask if one of his siblings had written an article for Wikipedia about our little town. I responded that I had, at the urging of some of his brothers. My son's response? "Good. If you hadn't, I'd be telling you to search the house for gypsies, because there's a fact in that article that only someone in our house could know.")

The guy claiming the internet makes people dumber argues that people are distracted by links, and therefore have a tendency to skip around the internet and not read anything thoroughly and comprehend it. Gee, would you really leave me to see bloodhounds or June's food holidays? I'm hurt, really I am. He states that a book invites contemplation and thinking about what you're reading, instead of skimming.

I tend to believe that the internet makes people dumber, by reducing attention spans among other things. I also think it's too easy to fall into the trap of believing misinformation (dogs in China are becoming tigers!) or not seeking enough information to understand something
and form your own conclusion.

Just in case you might get bored, I've included random pictures to keep your interest.

So, tell me what you think: are we smarter or dumber - or simply more distracted - thanks to the internet?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Red Bandana Day!

At long last, Red Bandana Day is here over at the Portuguese Water Blog!

Thor was most eager to participate, so he sent Ryan, Mark and Cass to get him a yard of red bandana fabric. Sadly, they don't realize that a "fat quarter" is nowhere near sufficient for a full sized bandana, suitable for a full sized dog.

See? Looks like a babushka.
It makes a good drool mat. We'll see about turning it into a Thor placemat,
because every household needs more laundry to do, not less.
Sue has a different picture: Thor as fire chief!

Visit her to see all of her friends celebrating Red Bandana Day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chocolate Dessert #111

This is yet another from my book of 365 Chocolate Desserts, which come conveniently numbered. I suppose that in theory one could go through the entire book in a year, numerically, but wouldn't that be an awful lot of calories to consume in one year? In any event, Sue just had eye surgery, and I felt the need to make this and post about it, so she'll have some inspiration for baking this weekend!

Chocolate Dessert #111:


1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup hot water

2 tsp vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a mixing bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, buttermilk, sugar and cocoa powder until well combined, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the hot water and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth. Stir together the flour, baking soda and baking powder, and stir into the liquid mixture. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Pour into 2 layer pans, and bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This is the frosting recipe the cookbook gave:


1 cup milk

1 cup cream
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups coconut
1-1/2 cups chopped pecan pieces

Cook all but the coconut and pecan pieces until the mixture thickens. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool the frosting before use.

Note that I made 1/4 this amount, and used it only as a filling between layers, because my gents are not huge fans of either coconut or nuts - indeed, most scoff at both said items! Foolish guys! Anyway, I used buttercream frosting for the top and sides of the assembled cake, and it was delightful. I actually had a small bit of this, and it was great.

Note that the cookbook points out that this is not the cake recipe found on the German Chocolate box, in case any of you use that brand of baking chocolate.

Note that tomorrow is Red Bandana Day over at the Portuguese Water Blog. Check here tomorrow for Thor sporting red, and over there to see all of Fudge and the pack's friends. Last year, there were 75 participants; I can't wait to see all of their friends decked out in their red finery this year!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Dogwood

We have several dogwood trees in our yard, but this one is closest to my back door. I never took note of dogwoods before we lived in Tennessee, and it always seems odd to me that they bloom so much later here than there. Then again, we do have a pink one that blooms in April, so maybe it's just this subspecies.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Claire Dress

Remember last weekend, when I had yellow gauze dresses in pieces because some dope forgot to order yellow zippers?
Well, this one came from a pattern Claire sent to me, McCall's M5466. I thought it was a really pretty design, so I decided my first attempt at it, to make sure the sizing was right, would be out of my 14 yard piece of yellow gauze. That way, if I muffed it all up, I'd ha
ve a chance for a re-do.

The sizing was perfect, and it was really cute, except for one small problem. The pattern was drawn with pleats on the back of the bodice, the effect of which was to cause me to look hunchbacked. Seriously, it had like 6" of extra fabric between the shoulder blades! What kind of idiot drew up that? So, Claire, if you're making view B, as I did, use the back from view A, which doesn't have back pleats. Then Bob won't tell you to stand up straight, like my dearly beloved did.

I also finished the princess seamed summer dress, and wore it today. Believe me, it was the right choice for 80 degrees and thunderstorms.

Now, I have to dream up my next project - which I'm thinking might be a red version of the Claire dress!

Friday, June 4, 2010

S'mores Parfait

Well, the little boys have been disappointed for a couple of days because evening rain has prevented another fire for marshmallows and s'mores. So I decided in my own, inimitable way that I'd create the next best thing: Smore's Pie. Except that I didn't think I had time for the pie to set properly. What to do? Easy. Put it in a fancy glass, call it a parfait, and no one will think twice about it being messy after they've taken the first bit. Genius, right?


1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs*
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 box chocolate pudding mix - not instant!
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
mini marshmallows

In a 4 cup measuring cup, whisk together half the milk and the egg yolks. Whisk in the pudding mix and the rest of the mix, and stir until smooth. Microwave until it thickens, 2 to 5 minutes, stopping every minute or less to stir. Set aside.

In a small bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs (*for my gluten free friend Paula, use ground almonds instead - the kiddos won't know the difference) and sugar; stir until it holds together. Press into the bottom of 3 or 4 parfait glasses. Fill the glasses 2/3 full with mini marshmallows, then pour most of the hot pudding over them. Warning: Mini marshmallows float! So if you want the top of this dessert to be smooth, wait 5 to 10 minutes, then smooth part of the balance of the pudding over the top of each glass. Put in the fridge to cool.
I couldn't find a recipe for "real" chocolate custard, and I was too lazy to create one of my own. So I used the "cook and serve" pudding, with egg yolks to add flavor. When I get around to making a real s'mores pie (maybe), then I'll make a real filling.

Everyone have a great weekend! It looks like nice weather may be here to stay!