Friday, July 30, 2010


I've heard of fennel, but never used it. My life has been so limited. On the other hand, I grew up in a house where garlic powder was considered an exotic spice, so my learning curve was pretty steep.

Fennel jar in hand, I went to several cookbooks, trying to learn of a purpose for fennel. I learned that it's great with tomatoes and chicken, and used in Italian cooking. So here's what I dreamed up!


2 pounds white fish fillets
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, minced
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tomatoes, coarse diced
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup coarsely chopped chives

Melt the butter in a skillet, add the onion and fennel seed, and saute a minute or 2. Add the tomato and carrot, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. At this point, this becomes a flexible recipe: don't you just love flexibility?

Option 1: Add the fish to the skillet, cover, and cook over medium heat until done.
Option 2: Place the fish in a small baking pan, pour the vegetable/seasoning mix over it, and bake at 400F until done.
Option 3: Place portions of the fish on individual 12" squares of foil, pour the vegetable/seasoning mix over the portions, seal tightly, and grill (you know I don't know the procedures for grilling, but I know that you do).

See? Easy peasy. This was really good. There was only rice left for Thor. But that's OK, because Thor likes rice.

So, thank you, Debbie, for the spices. I will be finding other ways to use fennel seed (suggestions are welcome), and I think next week will bring experiments with saffron. We shall see.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dogs Don't Like Bats...

...But they do like making friends with the Bat Men who come to give people outrageous prices to remove bats from houses.

Thor made about 7 new friends this week. He led them on tours of the outside, and baked in the sun while they studied our roof.

Then Thor moved to the lawn on the other side of the house.

Wonder why this is so difficult? Slate roof.

Yes. Those are rocks on Thor's roof. It's the 200 year, leakproof roofing system, but it's horrible at keeping out little creepy crawly thingies. So, no bat removal, but I am going to have the paper wasps and carpenter ants and spiders removed from my attic.

Thor approves.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vanilla Bean!

I was really excited about all of the spices sent by Debbie, but the vanilla bean was the most exciting of all. I've seen plenty of people writing about using vanilla bean, but haven't ever purchased any. After this fun adventure, I'll be changing that!

Just in case any of you had a notion that I might be a fun and exciting person, I'm here to dispel that thought. My favorite ice cream is French Vanilla. You can keep your pricy, fancy Ben & Jerry's flavors; I want the plain, boring, solid, reliable French Vanilla. Breyer's was always just fine with me.

But this is even better. Try this; you will simply adore it.


1 cup whole milk

4 egg yolks
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2" vanilla bean

1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream

In the microwave heat the milk until very warm. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the cornstarch and sugar until thick and light colored. Slice the vanilla bean open, and scrape all the black powdery substance out of it. Lay the bark aside. Pour some of the warm milk into the yolk mixture, then scrape all of it into the milk container. Microwave again, stirring with a whisk every 15 seconds, until the mixture puffs up in your container. Whisk the 1/2 cup cold cream into the milk/egg yolk mixture, and place in the freezer about 2 hours, until it just begins to freeze around the edges. See the little black vanilla speckles in here? Yum. About 15 minutes before the milk mixture is cold, whip the remaining 1-1/2 cups of cream until it's soft, and place that in the freezer also. After 15 minutes, remove both the milk mixture and the cream, stir together with a whisk, and process according to your ice cream maker's directions. If you don't have an ice cream maker, return them to the freezer, and stir with the whisk to break up ice crystals every 30 minutes or so, until it's "soft serve" consistency.

This ice cream is creamy. It's sinfully delicious. Did I tell you that vanilla is my favorite flavor?

And having seen this suggestion many times, I stuck my vanilla bean bark in a small jar, with 3/4 cup of sugar. It smelled like vanilla after only a few hours. I'm looking forward to trying it in tea, and maybe cooking, too! Any other suggestions?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A present for Me!

This couldn't have come at a better time. Having discovered last week that I have bats in my belfry (I said it so you all don't have to), I spent a good deal of time Friday and today being disturbed by said bats, and meeting with Bat Men. I've been receiving estimates around $11,000 to clean the bats out of my belfry, and now I'm depressed. So when my little guy came in dragging a box handed to him by Lou the mailman, I needed it.

I won a box of spices from the marvelous Debbie of Stitches and Seams! Befo
re I show them to you, I want you all to enjoy the opening instructions as much as I did.

The lids tell an intriguing story....
And the jars themselves are a work of art! (And for us sewing people,
isn't her note card adorable?)

Vanilla bean and Saffron! I've never had those before! Peppercorns, fennel seed, poppy seed, curry! Basil, sage, oregano, ginger, chives and paprika! What a splendid assortment. Thank you Debbie.
But, wait, there was more. She included a present for Thor: Two cow tails, tied with a pretty red ribbon, in a baggie. Yes, you can only count one in this picture.

Thor must have been able to smell the cow tails through the bag, because when I put the baggie on the table, he sniffed at the table and took up dancing. I gave him one immediately, and he danced around the breakfast room table to show it to his Great Red Protector. Believe me, getting him to stand still for a picture was not easy.

At last, he sat down to munch, but Thor's head is so big that you can only see the end of the cow tail hanging out of his mouth.

So, Debbie, you have another admirer here in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania! Many thanks for the spices; now I'm off to make something wonderful!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thor Went to a Birthday

OK, so he didn't have to go far; the birthday party was in his own kitchen. But his youngest girl turned 20, and Thor was at the party You can't see him behind the people here.
But he sat right beside Kellie for most of the night.

Until Jeff got his cake, and Thor moved to Jeff for a little sharing.

Happy Thorsday, everyone! Hope it's sunny and warm wherever you are!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moo Goo Gai Pan

Sometimes the names of Chinese food are just plain fun to say. Really, doesn't this sound like something a 2 year old would say if you asked him how his day was? But I digress.

I found this in my It's All American Food cookbook, under ethnic recipes. You may recall that this is the same place I found Kung Pao Chicken, which was another delight
fully fun name - something sure to excite the 6 year old boy in everyone, right? it wasn't that hard to make, despite the absurdly long ingredient list and seemingly complex directions. And you can do it under the broiler, as I always do, or in a classic stir-fry method. Remember, this is only half of what I cooked, so I really can't do the skillet or wok routine, from a practical standpoint.


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut in 1/4" wide strips
2 egg whites, beaten until foamy

1 tbsp sesame or corn oil
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp sherry
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup cold water

1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp grated ginger
6 chopped garlic cloves
1 pound snow peas
1 can bamboo shoots

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in the oil, 1 Tbsp cornstarch and salt. Drop the chicken strips in this mixture, stir around until they're well coated, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (When the 30 minutes is nearly over, start your white rice, so it will be ready when your chicken is done.)

Pour a small amount of oil in the bottom of a skillet, (not needed if you're using the bottom of your broiler pan), and heat it. Add the chicken strips, being careful that they don't stick together. Cook on both sides until done - probably 4 to 5 minutes for normal people, although it's hard to judge with 6 pounds of chicken. If you're using frozen snow peas, cook in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water for 2 to 3 minutes while the chicken cooks. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the skillet, and stir fry the ginger, cloves, snow peas, mushrooms and bamboo for a couple of minutes, until they're hot. and pour in the chicken broth, sherry and sugar, and heat to a boil. Whisk together the cold water and remaining cornstarch, whisk into the broth mixture, and heat until thic
kened. Add the chicken and vegetables back to the broth mixture, and cook about 2 minutes, until everything's heated through. Serve over a bed of white rice.
Or, if you don't like your food touching, serve beside your white rice.

Either way, while it may not be exactly what they serve in the Chinese restaurant, it's a pretty good approximation!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Growth and Camoflage

My tomatoes were growing splendidly as of Saturday. 18" high plants, really nice! Sunday I found all of them looking like this:
Stinkin' deer! My dentist Kevin is going to come snag a few in season, or that's the plan. I think that's a better option than the suggestion of my dearly beloved, which is that I should garden with an AK-47 to thin the herd. I think people might notice, don't you?

But my cantaloupes are doing well, as are the zucchini and summer s
quash. But I really wanted tomatoes!
Does this fabric look like camoflage to you?
It was part of my green fabric sewing spree (which immediately followed my red sewing era), and Ryan and Cass thought it did. Jeff wasn't sure, until he took a picture of me next to a poplar tree. Can you see me now?

How about now? Good.

Move over, Verizon. We're rewriting your commercials.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Big Fat Yeast Rolls

That was the actual title of this recipe in the cookbook, It's All American Food, which I got at one of my marvelous used book sales last year. This came from the Southern Regional America section, and he says these have no formal name, thus, he called them what they are:


1/3 cup warm water

1-1/2 cup warm whole milk
4-1/2 or 9 tsp yeast
5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

In your mixer or bread machine container, mix the dough according to my directions, although if using the bread machine, you'll have to start with 4 cups flour in the mixing cont
ainer and add the fifth cup after 3 to 4 minutes. Let the dough stand for about 15 minutes, until it's approximately doubled in size, then knead to remove the gasses, divide into 12 pieces, roll on the floured counter to form round balls, and place on an oiled baking sheet. Let them rise until doubled in size, about 20 minutes if using the greater amount of yeast, then bake in a 425F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
Note that mine are really dark; that's because I outsmarted myself and brushed the tops with milk. It's not necessary; they'll be a lovely color all by themselves. Dark color notwithstanding, these were immensely soft, and had no real crust on them. The cookbook suggests eating all of them the day they're made, because they're not as good the next day, but I had no complaints the second day (I made 2 batches, for the record). I should have taken a picture of one in someone's hand for size reference, but everyone was too busy eating them!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Peach Ice Cream Day!

Actually, Peach Ice Cream Day is tomorrow, so you all have time to join in the celebration. Louise, thanks for that joyous little tidbit. I never find myself celebrating things at the right time, so this was a lucky break!

In my farmer's shipment, I received a good dozen of the most glorious, sweet smelling, tender peaches you can imagine, and I knew they needed to be something special. I hadn't even found Louise's post about Peach Ice Cream Day (although I knew that July was Ice Cream Month, quite appropriately, I might add), but I thought this was something I could dig my spoon into. So, with minimal fuss, try....


6 peaches, about 2 pounds, cut into chunks, stones removed

1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups cream

Place the peach chunks into the food processor and whirl until they're very finely chopped. Technically, I think you might be required to take the skin off, but I thought that since I'd washed them, I saw no reason not to add some healthful fiber to my ice cream. No one noticed.
Sorry, I digress. After you've pulverized the peaches for a while, sprinkle on the 1/4 cup sugar, whirl a little longer to get the sugar and peaches blended, and let the mix sit for about an hour. (While the hour passes, eat a couple of the extra peaches you bought. You know you want to. I did.) After the time has elapsed, whisk the remaining sugar into the milk, combining well. Whisk in the vanilla and cream, then gently stir in the peach mixture, and process in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, put the mixture in a nice round bowl, put it in the freezer for about an hour, take out and stir with a whisk to break up the ice crystals, and return to the freezer. Do this again about an hour thereafter, then reduce the time between stirrings to 30 minutes. It will take about 4 hours, but you will get to sample your ice cream as it freezes to be certain it's behaving properly. I've been told cooking calories (which would include freezing calories) don't count against your diet. Honest.

My daughter's friend came for dinner last night, and was amazed to find the homemade ice cream in the freezer. Of course, I fed her some, since she said she'd never had any. She loved this. So did everyone else, including my infamous picky eaters.

So, you need to get yourself some Peach Ice Cream ingredients, so you can join in the celebration tomorrow! Have a Peachy weekend!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thor and the "Beauty Saloon"

Thor here.

Last week, my sisters decided that I smelled like a dog - well, what should a dog smell like, a pizza? - and so I needed to go have a visit to the beauty parlor. Naturally, the brothers objected to this parlance, and concluded I should at least be able to call it what they did when they were little - a "beauty saloon".

But first, I walked down to Main Street, to stop by the building with the old barber pole on the front.

turns out it's now just a house.

So Ryan and the girls took me to the place "where the pets go." They took me from my people, into a dungeon, and tried to stuff me in a too-small cage to be sure I could get in there. They said it was a blow-dryer, but it looked like a cage to me. I howled. Ryan howled, "You're hurting my dog!!!" So they brought me home.

Then they took me to the back yard and played "beauty saloon," just like the girls did when they were little. I'll tell you what, that VO-5 volumizing shampoo smells mighty nice, and makes even us short haired dudes look pretty fluffy. And I am thankful to Momma that she respected my privacy, and didn't take pictures of me bathing. That would be embarrassing. I have, however, enjoyed several good brushings after my shampooing.

But for a while, I'm hiding next to Mark. HE won't be a traitor and let them try to wash me again real soon.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sauteed Squash

My farmer brought me a wonderful assortment in my "half bushel" of veggies. His mixed greens are outstanding, but I think everyone probably knows how to dump stuff in a bowl for a salad. To us, the star of the week was this beauty:
We never expected to find that as part of the "half bushel"! It was the best watermelon we've had in several years. I won't be letting anyone snag a watermelon from the supe
rmarket again real soon.

So, from the farmer's bounty, I bring you a 5 minute veggie side. Boring, but necessary, since these babies will be arriving in everyone's gardens in droves soon!


1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
20 turns of pepper
2 medium squash - zucchini or summer

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Slice the squash thin, add to the melted butter, and add the salt and pepper. Stir constantly for the first minute, to get all pieces of squash coated with butter, then cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring about once a minute, until tender-crisp.This is a delicately flavored side, excellent with poultry!

Later in the week, you'll see what happened with the peaches; you're going to love it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Light Chicken Stir Fry

With much of my hungry horde at a friend's lake cottage for part of the holiday week, I decided last night that a light dinner which wouldn't heat up the kitchen was in order. This really didn't take much time, and while not as easy a cleanup as the packets, it didn't generate much heat - a bonus during this nasty heat wave.


3 pounds boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
1 onion, minced

small amount of salt (about 1/2 tsp)
2 cups broccoli florets, cut small
2 cups tomatoes, cut in 1/2" pieces
2 cups fresh or canned pineapple, cut in 1" chunks
1/2 cup cold water whisked with 1 tbsp cornstarch

1 cup chicken broth
Brush your pan with a small amount of oil, if desired. Over medium-high heat, cook the chicken with the onion and salt, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Start your rice while the chicken is cooking) Add the broccoli, and cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and cornstarch, and cook 1 minute. Lower the heat, add the tomatoes, pineapple and chives, and cook about 2 minutes, until the pineapple is heated through, and the sauce thickens slightly. Serve with white rice. Serves 6 or so (hey, my guys are always hungry).
Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thor Hates This Holiday

Thor wants you all to know that Independence Day is greatly overrated.

There's a lot of booming, and you have to spend a lot of time near the Great Red Protector.

It's hot, too.
Did I mention the noise? Thor wants silent fireworks instituted at once. Who cares if stupid humans like the loud booming. Pam's kitty cats and most doggies agree. Thor will be sending his petition around to all of you for paw printing.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Packets For Grilling - or Not!

Last week, my milkman/farmer started offering half bushel boxes of mixed produce for $18. Being the nut I am, I thought, "Well, why not take a chance that he won't send me a box full of peppers, which I will have to abandon on some unsuspecting neighbor's porch?" I wasn't disappointed

Look at those beautiful tomatoes, peaches, green beans, summer squash and lettuce. But that odd green thing had me most intrigued. I concluded it must be a pattypan squash, having never seen one. (I think I got the name right, feel free to tell me if I muffed it up).
I decided it simply had to be part of dinner that night. So what interesting thing could I do?

Packets. You're going to love these.


1 square of foil or parchment for each person, brushed with cooking oil

boneless turkey or chicken, cut in medium sized (1"x1") chunks
1 Carrot per person, cut in half and quartered lengthwise

1 pattypan or zucchini squash, cut in small pieces
1/2 tsp salt per packet

fresh ground pepper
minced onion

Tear off an 18" long piece of foil if grilling or parchment paper for the oven. Brush the foil with oil, then layer the squash, turkey, minced onion and carrots in the foil. Use an amount appropriate for each person, and label if possible for easy identification. Sprinkle with salt, grind on the amount of pepper each person would enjoy, scatter chives over the top, and seal up well. Cook on the grill or in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with plain white rice; each sealed packet will create plenty of juices to season up the rice. Best of all: No pans to scrub! And it will keep your kitchen cool if you're stuck in this East Coast heat wave this week! (Note that I don't grill, but I've found a way for you to indulge, if you're so inclined.)