Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Snowy Wednesday

Yes, it's Garden Tuesday on Leap Day Wednesday. Sometimes strange things happen around here, and we just roll - or maybe leap - with it.

So, I sent Ryan out to the bus at 7:20 this morning, and went back to bed for a couple of hours. So at 9, this is what was going on outside my kitchen window!

It really was rather pretty this afternoon, but it's already melting. (And, yes, those trees down at the bottom of the hill are the same ones obscured by the snow in the picture ab
ove. Kinda cool, isn't it?) Pretty soon it will be gone again. I don't mind snow this way. The boys are disappointed, but they're young. They'll get over it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fast Cream of Spinach Soup

The wind here on Saturday was incredible (it even took down a utility pole across the street from the Scranton Fire Department, and I don't think that's easy). I don't know about you, but hearing the wind howl makes me cold, so, when Ryan demanded soup for dinner, I was in the proper mindset to comply (demands don't sit well with me).

Fair warning: this recipe uses bouillon cubes. I know most people prefer fresh or canned broth, but the cubes really are necessary in this case.


8 cups water
10 chicken bouillon cubes
1 large cooking onion
5 medium potatoes
4 cups frozen spinach
1 cup warm water
2/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
20 turns fresh ground pepper

Put the 8 cups of water in a large pot with the chicken bouillon cubes, and start to heat. Peel the onion, quarter it and process it in the food processor or blender until it's very finely chopped; pour it into the water. Wash the potatoes, but don't scrub them. Shred the potatoes and add them to the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes
. Add the spinach, return to a boil, then whisk the milk powder into the 1 cup of warm water, and stir it into the soup along with the cream. If desired, use an immersion blender to more finely cut the spinach and whatever remains of the potatoes, or it can be processed in batches in a blender. Return to the pan, return the soup just to a boil, add the ground pepper, and serve at once. (And when your picky eaters complain about being served green glop, just smack 'em with your ladle.)

The potatoes thicken the soup without adding flour or cornstarch, and add nutrients to it.. And, lest you think this is way too much soup for you to consume in a reasonable time frame, with just 5 of us at home, there was less than 1 quart left after a dinner of this soup and Oat Bread. There was none left after Dan and Ryan had lunch the next day. It was just that good.

Friday, February 24, 2012


When I staggered out of bed at 7AM to cook Ryan's breakfast, this is what greeted me at my kitchen window.
A quick check indicated that Ryan had a 2 hour delay from school! Oh, be still, my heart!

That is what my yard looked like at 9AM. It's melting pretty quickly, since it's been 39 degrees today. But I needed the 2 hours sleep, really, I did, and I'm pretty sure I deserved it. I'll think of a reason why, other than "Because," if given enough time.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thordsay Book Review

In memory of everyone's favorite quiet time buddy, I think book reviews are appropriate for Thorsday.

Where Eagles Dare
by Alistair MacLean
c. 1967; 312 pages

Winter of 1944, during a blizzard, and Major Smith is leading a team of 8 commandos to parachute into Germany and rescue Lieutenant General Carnaby. Unknown to all except Major Smith, a woman is along for the mission, hidden among equipment they're taking along. The team makes its way into a picturesque hamlet in Germany, meeting a pretty double agent who is to assist them in getting into the Schloss Adler, perched atop a cliff, to rescue Carnaby. Along the way, Smith must figure out who among his group is a traitor. While there were certainly implausible parts in this book, you can easily overlook them. There was plenty of action in this book, and I thought it would make a great movie. Well, when I looked on Amazon to see if it's still available for you (the book is being reissued in May of this year), it turns out that it was a movie, with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton in it. I guess someone else shared my opinion of this book 40 years ago.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oatmeal Apple Bars

This was another bar cookie I recently tried. It didn't last any time at all. Everyone who tried it loved it.



1 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine (or butter)


2 to 3 apples, shredded (2 cups shredded; they needn't be peeled)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tbsp water

In a large glass measuring cup or mixing bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients. Microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute, until bubbly. Meanwhile, at low speed, beat toge
ther the margarine and all of the dry ingredients for the crust, until the mixture is crumbly. Press all but about 1 cup of this mixture firmly into a greased 9" square or 7"x11" baking pan. Spread the filling over this base, and sprinkle the remainder of the crust mixture atop the filling. Bake in a 350F preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the crust and topping are nicely browned. Cool somewhat before serving.

My dearly beloved was very excited by these cookie bars; he said the filling tasted exactly like apple pie. Indeed, the poor dear got into them when I wasn't looking, and ate too many. They were just that good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sorta Garden Tuesday

Since there's no snow, and no gardening going on, how about a picture of one of the roses my boys gave me?
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Toy

How many of you have one of these?

It's a small cookie scoop, made by OXO. I now have 3: small, medium and large. Linda first suggested that I should get one when I was whining about hating making cookies because it takes so long, and eventually I ordered one.

I made a batch of these Addictive Oatmeal Cookies last night, using my new cookie scoop. It was much easier, with the caveat that I had to keep a cup of water to rinse the scoop every 5 or 6 cookies to keep them from sticking. They are beautiful.

Have you tried these cookies? If not, you should. And if anyone there is even slower than me in getting on the cookie scoop bandwagon, now's the time to order one. Trust me. It made me go from hating making cookies to only being irritated by the process.

Happy President's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Oatmeal Lemon Bars

My dearly beloved just adores Lemon Bars. Actually, he loves anything lemon, but I think Lemon Bars are especially wonderful because he can just grab a handful and walk away. So, since I'm on this new "eat less carbs and less cholesterol so the doctor shut up and stop haranguing both of us" kick, I decided to try a healthier twist on lemon bars. And they were pretty good.


3/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour (white whole wheat or just white)
5 tbsp margarine (or butter), softened

1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon peel
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Grease a 9" square or 11"x7" baking pan. Beat together the oats, brown sugar, flour and margarine until the mixture is crumbly; press into the baking pan. Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes. After about 9 minutes, beat together the remaining ingredients; afte
r they're combined, beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Pour over the hot crust mixture. Return to the 350F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lemon mixture is set. Let them cool, then cut into 1" squares and serve.
In the course of one evening, my dearly beloved (with little help from me) consumed nearly half the pan, until I hid the remainder. So, while they're a different texture from the originals, and a little different flavor, thanks to the oat crust, these are still good. They're worth a try, and I'll surely be making them again (or so I've been told).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tsar on Thorsday

Tsar over at the Portuguese Water Blog is the member of that very extensive pack who is most like our beloved Thor. He's a quiet, solitary kind of guy, referred to by his Mom as a "Cat-Dog." Isn't he a great looking fella?
Tsar has developed some unspecified neurological disorder very recently. Sue, you and Tsar are in my thoughts, and I'm hoping for some better news very soon.

Thor would have sent the same loving thoughts your way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Heart Cake, or Manly Pink Cake

I always buy the kids boxes of candy for Valentine's Day; it's my hope they'll always remember the day fondly, but without great expectations. I also always bake a cake, usually just decorated with red sprinkles, or pink frosting, or something. This year, I went just a little different, and extrapolated a white cake recipe from a recipe in the Good Housekeeping Cookbook (copyright 1990) that I bought at a used book sale in the last year or so. I needed to make the recipe smaller, and this really was terrific.


2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy; add 1/2 tsp vanilla and slowly add the 1/4 cup sugar, beating until very stiff. Set aside. In another bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar, powder and salt with a whisk until well combined and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients, and beat 2 minutes, until smooth. Beat in the egg whites at low speed, until just combined. T
urn into a greased heart shaped pan (I used the springform pan from Pampered Chef - see Chan if you want one), and place in a preheated 375F oven. Bake 22 to 26 minutes, until it's lightly browned and tests done with a thin knife or toothpick. Warning: If you open the oven too early, the center of the cake will sink. It will still taste great, but it won't be as pretty.

My eldest daughter was exhorting me to make a "Manly Pink" cake, so I whipped 1/2 cup cream with 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tsp strawberry extract, which is pink. So far, so good. But then I added 1/2 cup chopped strawberries and beat them it. Uh oh! The
whipped cream became rather thin. So I stuck it to the sides of the cake, where it barely stayed. Then I stirred 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries into the remainder of the whipped cream and piled it on top of the cake. It stayed there long enough for me to take a picture.

When I offered the boys some Manly Pink Cake for dessert, the little boys declined, but Dan declared, "I love pink cake of the Manly variety!" and helped himself to a big slice. He declared it quite good, and had more for breakfast. This from the guy who claims to only like chocolate cake. Testimony enough for me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Surprise

My second son, Patrick, moved to Arizona about 18 months ago. He wanted to "find himself," or maybe "find hot chicks." And he was probably more than a little tired of me telling him to pull his pants up, turn his hat around, and get a job.

I'd be lying if I told you anything other than that Patrick is my kindest son. He's very kindly to those he feels are weak and defenseless, and fierce beyond words if he perceives someone wronging such beings (persons or critters).

I'd also be lying if I didn't tell you that Patrick is exceedingly hot tempered, more so than any of my other children.

And it's absolutely true that Patrick was the hardest on me f
rom about age 11 to 20-something. If I was going to turn prematurely gray, Patrick would have been the guy for the job. Fortunately for me, I'm tougher than he is.

I have never wanted anyone to give me anything for Valentine's Day. It seemed wrong to me that my children should feel obligated to do something for me. It's enough that I love them, and they usually love me (except when I'm being "mean").

So, imagine my surprise this morning when this appeared on my table:

Patrick had contacted Dan, and they went in on flowers for me. Turns out
he was feeling bad about giving me a hard time for so many years. But remember my first statement about Patrick: he is my kindest son. And this proves it.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I hope you all get a surprise as happy as mine!

Friday, February 10, 2012

January Sewing

I might be just a little bit late with this summary. That's how January works around here; February, March and April aren't much better.

After I helped my daughter with her business attire during Christmas week, I felt inspired, so I hauled out the last pieces of stretch velour which I bought about 18 months ago
. First up was a sleeveless princess seamed dress with a matching jacket.
Sleeveless dresses for the dead of winter seem completely wrong on many levels. But, trust me, there is nothing better than removable sleeves when you're working in the kitchen. Your sleeves can never slide down into the dish water, they never end up covered in flour or oth
er get the idea.

Then I made a cami out of the remaining fabric. I have some skirts with exactly that shade of blue in them, so it will be great. Plus, I get two long sleeved looks out of the same jacket. I think it's brilliant.

Then the relative from Denver called. She needed a dress to wear to a dinner with her husband, and was counting on me to dig her out of her dilemma. *sigh* After a week of thinking, I decided that a V1250 (last summer's hot pattern) might just work in the stretch velour. So I took out the last of my sapphire blue to make one for myself as a test. It was perfect.

The gift dress was in maroon velour. I had bought her a pair of cordovan colored
shoes, so I sent those along with the dress, supplying her with a complete outfit in a box.

She was thrilled. Her hubby was thrilled. Several people wanted to know where she got her dress. She told some that she got it in Philadelphia at Thanksgiving time, others she told a relative had made it for her (one wanted to know if the relative sewed for hire: No!). I'm glad she was happy.

But that used up all of my sewing energy. Sewing for others is stressful, especially when they're requesting it, instead of it being a complete surprise. So, in the last 3 weeks, I managed to lay out a 3.5 yard piece of fabric. This is as far as I've gotten in 3 weeks:

Maybe by confessing, I'll actually make another sleeveless dress, top and jacket, instead of staring unhappily at the pieces.

Or maybe I'll just read a good book or 3.

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Buttermilk Wheaten Bread

Last night I decided to try a different kind of bread. I never have buttermilk in the house, but I do have the buttermilk powder, and I decided to change up a recipe in my Donna Rathmell German bread machine cookbook. This was the result.


1-1/2 cups warm water
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast (more for faster rising)
3 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
6 tbsp buttermilk powder
4 tsp gluten powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp margarine (or butter), cut in small pieces

Pour the water in your bread machine container or mixing bowl; sprinkle the yeast over it, and add the remainder of the ingredients. Mix according to my directions to the right. This is a very soft bread dough, so you may well have to add more flour (i needed about 1/2 cup more). After kneading, let the dough rise for 15 minutes, then punch it down, divide in half and put into two well greased 8"x4" loaf pans. Let it rise until doubled in size, then bake at 375F
for 20 to 25 minutes, or 350F in a convection oven for 16 to 20 minutes. Be sure to let it cool, wrapped in a clean towel, for 10 minutes before cutting, or it will fall apart.
This bread has a nice, tangy taste. It made good turkey sandwiches today, too! (And it's virtually cholesterol free, if that matters to you.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When Did It Get to be Wednesday?

You can see how hectic my week has been, since I wasn't really aware of what day it was. Or maybe I just didn't have time to care. It's been one picky thing after another, all requiring stupid amounts of attention, and mostly completely irrelevant. I've missed visiting you all, that's for certain.

Super Bowl was good, although we were sad that the Patriots lost. Ryan was aghast at a headline in the Wall Street Journal's back section stating that carrots are the second most popular Super Bowl snack, right behind chicken wings. So I made certain that there were ple
nty of carrots and other veggies available for the pre-game treat, along with Deviled Eggs. You can tell that the vultures had already attacked the eggs by the time the veggies hit the counter and the picture was taken.

Dinner was an array of finger food: chicken wings, taquitos, quesadillas, egg rolls, meatballs, mozzarella sticks, and no pictures. The day just went that way.

And today Dan has my kitchen in a shambles, replacing this stretch of counter. It came up 1/2" short when he replaced my stoves in December. Plus, the original installer did a terrible job of fitting it to the maple butcher block next to it, so it needed to go.
The cupboards in this corner are empty, contents strewn about, and grumbling about the measuring, cutting and fitting is abundant. Happily, Dan just grumbles, growls, and throws things out the door, but never bellows, so it's not too loud here. We're now waiting for the caulk at the top of the backsplash to dry, so I can reassemble my corner and get on with life.

And, hopefully, I'll have a little more time tomorrow to visit with all of you! But at least we're half way through the week, so Happy Wednesday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Orange Flavored Ham

My littlest fussbudget loves ham. It's actually one of the very few foods he will admit to actually liking. It's his fault that we celebrate George Washington's birthday every year with George Washington's dinner (starting with ham). So when I was making ham the other night, I changed it up just a little bit.


Ham (I used a 3 pound piece)
peel of one orange
maple syrup

Cut the orange peel into very narrow strips - about 1/8", and arrange half of them in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the ham on top of them, and pour water in to about 1/2" deep (this pulls some of the salt out of the ham). Lightly score the top of the ham, arrang
e the orange peel atop the ham, and put it in the oven. I used the convection oven at 325F, and it took about 45 minutes total (but read your ham package for their cooking time). About 10 minutes before the ham is done, pull it out and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top of it. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, then slice and stand back from the stampede.

To make gravy to go with this ham, I used 1-1/2 cups water with one each beef bouillon cube and chicken bouillon cube, heated until the cubes dissolved. Add 1 tsp orange powder (available from Spice Barn) to mimic the orange which is infused into the ham. Whisk 2 tbsp cornstarch into 1/2 cup cold water, then whisk this mixture into the hot bouillon. Cook until thickened, adding a little more water if needed to thin the gravy to your preferred consistency. Add about 1 tbsp maple syrup to complement the maple glaze on the ham, if desired.

This dinner, with ham, broccoli and applesauce, was on the table in an hour. That is what I call "Fast Food," and everyone loved it!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day!

My daughter gave me a page-a-day calendar for Christmas. This is today's page.

This about sums up today's so-called festivities, doesn't it?

I'm sure we couldn't get off with as easy a winter as we've had. But it's been fun.