Friday, September 30, 2011

Blueberry Cake

Every Wednesday, my local newspaper runs a food section. And for the last year or two, they've been featuring a recipe submitted by a reader from this area; the winners get their picture in the paper and a $75 gift certificate to a local supermarket. No, I've never entered, and, no, I don't intend to. But sometimes I get some inspiration from the articles.

This recipe was featured in August or so. While it called for fresh blueberries, I took frozen berries, thawed them partially in cool water, then drained them while I made the cake batter. I also changed several ingredients in the cake to suit me. Everyone loved it, although Dan commented, "Mom, you made a mistake. When you make something with blueberries, you are s
upposed to double the amount of blueberries the recipe calls for. Then there will be enough." I'm afraid the boy may subscribe to my school of cooking, poor dear.


1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3-1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk (not skim milk)
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries
1 to 2 tbsp flour

Beat together the shortening and butter. Add the salt and eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugars until smooth, then add the flour, powder, milk and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes. Rinse and drain the blueberries, and stir together with the 1 to 2 tbsp of flour to coat the berries (this will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake). Turn the batter into a greased tube pan, and bake at 350F for 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert onto a serving plate and let it cool completely. Sprinkle the top with confectioner's sugar.

This was sort of a cross between a giant blueberry muffin and pound cake, and really good. Take a hint from me, however. If you don't want to worry about it spilling out of your bundt pan, use the bigger, 10" tube pan.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Been One Month

...and still I listen for the thump of the tail when I come downstairs.

And I'm sad when there's no one beside my chair while I'm reading.

But I'm happy that we had 10 wonderful years with our boy.

On another note, I was surprised at how many of you have multiple refrigerators! I was also amused by your comments on the arrangement of my fridges. But everything has to be just so around here. Oh, I don't care too much about dust, and I'd rather chat with my family than vacuum, but when I put things away, they must be where they must be. All boxes are turned the same way, all items of like kind together, spaces left when something is used, etc. Even the flatware in the dishwasher has a required order.

(These are my old refrigerators, the day after a food delivery).
I've been told I'm 2 or 3 degrees off plumb because of this.

So, I'd like you all to tell me something about your household. Tell me anything. How or even if you have things organized, what your "must do" and "must avoid" things are, anything! All of this because of a nice anonymous commenter who told me about her daughter and life in her house! You all are helping cheer me up on bad days, and I thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Green Beans Provencal

Jeff bought me this cookbook for my birthday last year. He's a great son, isn't he? This is another cookbook with a lot of verbiage and not as many recipes as one might think, but it's pretty.

Anyway, in searching for a new way to cook boring old veggies, I stumbled upon this recipe. It was easy, and gave a while lot more flavor to green beans.


1 pound whole green beans
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
2 tbsp butter

Add the salt to boiling water, add the green beans, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender-crisp. Pour into a colander to drain and cover with the pot lid to retain the heat. In the same pan, heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the parsley and cook until it wilts. Return the beans to the pan, stir to coat and heat through. Turn off the heat, add the butter and cover the pan for a minute, until the butter melts. Stir again and serve.

And since I have no pictures of this side dish, you can instead see what my refrigerators look like the day after I get a medium sized food delivery. Of course, there's a separate, small refrigerator which holds 8 gallons of milk, and two freezers for meats and frozen veggies.
I just thought you might like a glance at some of the lunacy which is my life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

My oldest daughter considers herself the Master Gardener hereabouts. So, after we took down a large poplar tree out front, which left a barren spot in the shrub bed, she consulted with her Daddy, and decided she needed to find something to fill the void.

Off she went to the local garden center, and returned with a spirea, and a hydrangea. She promptly recruited Ryan to help with the hauling.

Then it was time to position the plants, by which she meant Ryan was to dig holes while she supervised.

It did seem like a good plan.

Ultimately, Dan and Mark came out to join the planting party, but by then the photographer had wandered back indoors to work.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

V1250: 2 Dresses!

Last weekend, after finishing the gift outfit for the "Friday Night Sew In," I decided to give my new pattern a whirl. The Vogue 1250 pattern has been out there this spring and summer, and I've seen lots of versions of it. What attracts me is that it looks good on everyone: tall, short, plump, bony, inbetween, whatever. So when my friend G Marie offered to pick me up a copy of the pattern, since she was attending the pattern sale, I jumped at the offer. It came in on a Monday, and I spent the week periodically puzzling over the directions and oddly shaped pattern pieces (there are only 3).

Then I chose my fabrics. For the first test, I chose a turquoise poly knit, lightweight and soft. I cut right on the size lines as per the envelope sizing, and it worked perfe
ctly: the drape in the neck eliminates the need for any fiddling to fit the upper torso.
Then, on to the fabric I really wanted to use. I picked this out because it looked like a watercolor to me, but the fabric was much thicker than I thought it would be. (Note: it was a poly-lycra blend, so I was just a dumbass in not realizing what it would feel like. But I'd likely have bought it anyway.) Sewing went faster the second time, and the dress was just what I wanted!

My dearly beloved opined that the fabric is so loud that I make noise without saying a thing. I told him that's just great.

And, with temperatures in the upper 60s this week, I was able to wear both of these dresses!

Now, using things I learned from these dresses, I think I'm going to revamp my long sleeved top with the draped neck, and see if I can make it better. My guys are watching football, so it's probably time for me to get those sewing machines making noise!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Drive By Post

It's been another hectic day, and things haven't been improved any by the monsoon rains. Poor Ryan came in soaked.

Mark told me last night's dinner was "the best ever." This is high praise coming from that child. So, you ask, what was so wonderful?

Ham with roasted roots and broccoli.
And corn bears. Lots of corn bears.
G Marie sent me this pattern almost 2 weeks ago. I'll be writing about my results some time this weekend!

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Butter Crackers on Thorsday

Do you know Deana? She writes historical posts and ties them to the food of the time. Her pictures are wonderful, and her food is remarkable.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Deana included a fish chowder and butter crackers The crackers looked like a great project for my boys, so we gave it a whirl.

1/4 cup warm water
3/4 tsp yeast
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp + 2 tsp butter, softened

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Sift together the flour and salt,
cut in the butter until crumbly, then stir in the water and yeast. Knead until smooth, let it rise about 10 minutes, then divide the dough in half. Roll out each half to about 1/8" thickness, cut into small squares or shapes (my boys used Halloween cookie cutters), and place on parchment paper on baking trays. Bake at 350F for 12 to 14 minutes (Deana's suggested 10 minutes was too light for me), cool and serve. Deana says these can be stored in an airtight container, but since they lasted about 9 minutes, I wouldn't know about that.

Of course, our beloved supervisor was missing. Oh, he was not allowed in the kitchen, but when I left the room to get my camera, he'd always sneak in to see what was going on. He never got too close, but he was always there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Almost Instant Chicken Soup

It's been chilly here for about a week, so I'm spending lots of time using leftovers to make almost instant soups. Remember, you can make these to eat at home, or put them in your Superman or Star Wars Thermos and take them with you.

So, how many of you have leftover chicken wings at the end of a nice roast chicken meal? I do. That.'s because no one else will eat the wings, so I select a nice drumstick or second joint, and leave the wings to become leftovers. Two chicken wings were the inspiration for this lunch; the picture depicts the makings of lunch for two, double this recipe.

1 chicken wing
1 tsp chicken base
10 oz boiling water
1 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tbsp wild rice blend (or plain white rice, if you prefer)

Put the chicken base and dried onion in your cup or thermos, and add the boiling water. Let it sit for a minute. Remove the meat from the chicken wing, and cut into bite sized bits; microwave for 20 seconds. Microwave the rice for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the chicken and rice to the cup or thermos, and let it sit for at least a minute. Excellent with a nice, fluffy roll or a handful of crackers (more on those tomorrow).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Holly

It doesn't seem to me that holly usually has berries this early.

I could just be confused.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pasta with Tomatoes

Have you tried this pasta?

I decided to try it out recently - you know, the whole eat better and healthier foods, blah, blah, blah - and was surprised by it. It doesn't taste noticeably different from regular pasta, but it contains a whole lot more protein and other nutritional stuff. The biggest surprise, however, was that it doesn't sit as heavy in the ol' tummy after eating. To me, that's a huge plus. I'll be buying this on a regular basis from now on.

Anyway, I used this in a side dish based upon the suggestion on the side of the box. It was pretty good, or so I would conclude, since there were no leftovers.


1 pound angel hair (I used the "Plus" angel hair)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
1 good handful of parsley leaves
1 tsp dried basil (or some fresh basil, if you prefer)
6 turns fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Cook the angel hair according to the box directions - 6 minutes for this variety. Pour 1 cup of the cooking water into a measuring cup and reserve; then drain the pasta and cover the colander with the pot lid. Return the pot to the heat, add the olive oil, heat, and stir in the garlic. Cook for a minute or 2, then add the parsley leaves and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and heat through, then add the basil and pepper. Turn off the burner, return the angel hair to the pot and stir to combine with the tomato mixture. Stir in the parmesan, and add some of the reserved cooking water if needed to moisten it up.
This was a great side dish with our ham, but would also make a fine lunch. Since my guys don't think it's dinner without meat, it wouldn't work as an evening meal in our little corner of the world, but others might have a different opinion!

Hope you all had a nice weekend!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday Night Sew In

Well, at the last minute I found out about the "Friday Night Sew In" (thanks, Claire), and so used it to finish something I started in August.

This outfit is a present for the relative in Denver. It's the same green I used for a top in Faye's sewing challenge in April. The fabric is incredibly soft. To be fair, this was finished except for the straps, top and bottom. The jacket wasn't finished; it was just a bunch of pieces
. I have one myself, and realized that a sleeveless dress in Denver in September isn't the best idea, so added the jacket to the gift.
Then, I realized that I had about 1/4 yard left from something I made in early August (and have never even photographed), and that it would make a good scarf for this outfit, since the greens are the same. So here it is.
The UPS man will take this away on Monday, and I feel like I accomplished something!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Instant Roasted Root Soup

Have you seen these products? I found them in the "big box pay-to-get-in" store a while back.

I know a "real" cook isn't supposed to use anything like this or bouillon cubes. So maybe I'm not a real cook. I can live with that. Nonetheless, when I saw these, I was intrigued, and bought one in each flavor. They are actually better tasting than bouillon cubes or powder (although ju
st as high in sodium).

So, on to instant soup. When I'm in the middle of my day, doing whatever I do, I don't want to make elaborate preparations to eat. And without Thor, I'm finding myself with little bits of leftover food that I won't throw away, because I'm too "frugal" (or just plain cheap. Whatever). So I thought I'd try a really fast food on this fine, sunny, 49 degree day.


1/4 cup roasted roots
2 tbsp canned mushrooms
10 ounces boiling water
1 tsp beef base
2 tbsp diced beef, optional

Dice the veggies into small pieces, spread on a microwavable plate with the mushrooms, and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, until hot. Put the beef base in a cup (preferably a fun cup like my Pooh cup), add the water and stir, then add the veggies. If you have a little leftover beef, microwave it for about 10 seconds, and add it. Let the soup stand for a minute for the flavors to blend, and enjoy with some crackers or a slice of bread.

To take this to work, just follow the directions, putting your soup in your Superman Thermos. You can do it while you wait for your coffee to brew, and you'll thank me around noon.

What do you mean, you don't have a Superman Thermos? Don't you want everyone to know just how wonderful you are?

Happy weekending, everyone.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roasted Roots

It was cold and rainy last night, and I wanted something cooked in the oven to keep me warmer. I had tried this back when we had a couple of cold days in late August, and it was a big hit, so last night this joined roast beef on our plates.


2 redskin potatoes per person, plus 1 or 2 for the pot
1 to 2 carrots per person
2 medium onions
4 stalks celery
minced garlic
olive oil
kosher salt

Wash all veggies. Chop the potatoes into bite sized chunks. Peel the carrots, if desired, or just cut them into bite sized pieces, also. Coarsely dice the onions, cut the cel
ery, mince the garlic, put them all in a roasting pan and mix together. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture, then sprinkle with a small amount of kosher salt and a liberal helping of paprika. Roast at 350F for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until the potatoes are tender.
The idea for these potatoes came from this cookbook (I changed it to suit me), which was a gift from the relative in Denver. She just adored this cookbook, and she thought I would, too; I wondered just how anyone could take seriously a 240 page cookbook that contains "Over 60 Recipes!" But it was nice of her to think of me.

And, in honor of Thorsday, I might point out that I made these in August, before our boy took ill, and he loved them. So you have the Canine Seal of Approval, too!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Purple Flowers

These are the first flowers which have bloomed in our yard since we lost Thor. I'm so glad I spotted them this morning!

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Toy

Somehow, I ended up on the email list for Woot. They sell lots of great stuff, just not generally stuff I want. But about 10 days ago, they had something really weird: A Singer sewing machine and serger for $350. I let it go by, but I mentioned it to my dearly beloved as an oddity.

He immediately said that I should have bought the set, so I could have a second serger, thus having one loaded in white and another in black thread. He was insistent, so I ultimately ordered just a serger from a different web site. It arrived Friday.

I set the new serger up over the weekend, and took up looking for a project I wanted to take on. We got flu shots at the end of last weekend, so I spent the weekend feeling like whipped crap. I thought about sewing, and I have some ideas, but nothing concrete. But I'm blown away buy the fact that my dearly beloved wanted me to not have to fuss with the threading circus which is a serger.

Actually, I think it was his way of mourning Thor. He's trying to buy all of us more stuff to show how much he loves us. I do adore my man.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001: I will never forget

They never understood that they could not destroy us by attacking. America is our spirit, our perseverance, and, most of all, our love of freedom. We have the freedom to do whatever we wish, to rise from poverty to greatness, to work as much or little as we please. They can never destroy our freedom.

God Bless America. God Bless our military and first responders. And today, shed an extra tear for the families and friends of those who died on September 11, 2001. I will never forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Day of School

I ordered Mark's 7th grade course last spring, when Calvert School was having a big sale on their curriculum. I love their curriculum, which includes detailed teaching manuals (so I feel competent)! In any event, we don't open the box until the start of the school year. I want the books to be as fresh and exciting as possible. So, here's the student, inspecting his books.

He arranged his books on the table for me to take pictures. The Science course has 5 individual books, three of which concentrate on Biology. The first book deals with plants and animals, and they go on from there. Geography this year covers the Western world, which dovetails with the History course, covering the time frame from 150 AD to 1789, including the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the rise of Christianity and Islam, and China and India. Grammar, Composition and Spelling are what they are, but I love the fact that the Reading course uses great novels instead of the stereotypical Reading books.
I'm not quite sure why Mark took up residence in the box, but he was hollering for me to UPS him to some place more "interesting" than home.

And we can't forget Ryan's first day of school. He hollered at me for taking a picture of him in front of the growth chart: "I'm too tall for this!" So it only goes to 72". So what?
Mark still fits on the chart at 5'4".

One funny note from Ryan's first day of school. The school handbook was modified this year to ban another dangerous thing from being brought to school. No, not guns. Not knives. They were already banned. (Barbecues are banned, too, after my oldest son's best friend brought a small grill to hold a cookout before school on the first day in 2000.) Nope. They have banned Hacky Sacks. Yes, the small beanbags that kids toss around. Can't have those pesky kids having fun between classes, now, can we?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Not Flooded

Just a drive-by post to tell you all I'm not flooded here on top of my hill. We've had at least 6" of rain in the last 3 days, but, as you can see, it's rolling right out of my little corner of the world.

There are places within 10 miles west, 20 miles south and 30 miles north that are under vast amounts of water, but I'm in the hillier section.

School started yesterday, and I'll be back later or tomorrow to tell you about it. It's just not the same without the hairy student.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review

What's wrong with this picture?
It's a great chair. I curl up in in to read, and to watch TV with my dearly beloved. This weekend was cold and rainy, so the girls were doing papers for college, while Ryan read the last of his summer reading list - Don Quixote (the others being The Life of Pi, The Count of Monte Cristo, Le Morte D'Artur and The Good Earth). Mark's friend next door was assigned to read Blood on the Moon: The Story of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and Mark wanted to read it, too, so I bought it. (This was a terrible book to assign to 7th graders. It's rather dry even for an adult, and very long. What was that teacher thinking?). So, while I had company for my reading, I mi
ssed the furry fellow who's been curled up beside or in front of this chair for a decade now.

I read, anyway.

by Raymond Chandler
copyright 1939

Philip Marlowe is a detective in Los Angeles in the 1930s. Hired by the very wealthy General Sternwood to investigate a blackmail letter regarding one of the General's daughters, Marlowe finds himself looking into a book dealer whose real business is renting "dirty" books, which leads to murder, gambling and speakeasies, ultimately tied to a mobster. At only about 200 pages, this book was a quick and entertaining read. Adding to the entertainment value, at least for me, is that the book did have characters making a few politically incorrect characterizations regarding hypothetical people. This is another from my set of red and blue mystery books, which were a wonderful find from one of my library book sales.

Last, but certainly not least, I really want to thank all of you for your expressions of sympathy regarding our loss of Thor. I am touched that so many of you loved him from afar. And a special thanks goes to those of you who checked in with me afterward to see how we're faring. It hasn't been easy, and, truthfully, I'm glad the weekend was a washout. I think we'd all have been too sad roasting marshmallows without our giant friend looking for his share.