Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

So, it's the beginning of our last long weekend of the summer.  Boo Hoo!  Where did the time go?

Just a couple of random photos for you:  a close-up of the blue spruce our oldest son gave my dearly beloved for Christmas about 10 years ago.  It gives new meaning to the term "Blue Spruce".

And a stone from our patio.  We're redoing it, having taken down a tree that's growing into our sewer line and wreaking havoc on the foyer roof.  This stone's been in place for probably 85 years.  That's the great thing about stone: it doesn't wear out.

We'll be home, with the kids coming and going during the weekend.  Lots of food is doubtless in store, after we get Ryan outfitted for school next week, that is!  Hope you all have a great 3 day weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thorsday Book Review - And Pie!

Let me say in advance that no chipmunks were harmed in the making of this post.

Remember a couple of weeks back, when I told you about the Wall Street Journal reviewing books about pie for me?  Oh, they reviewed them for their other readers, too, or so they claim, but it was really all for me.  And remember that my dearly beloved told me to buy them?  And remember that they were less expensive at Amazon than the WSJ said they'd be?  So, here's the first one.

by Adrienne Kane

The author is the wife of a professor at Yale.  When they moved to New Haven, she didn't know anyone, and so, noting that she was romping around cooking like a lunatic, or something similar, he suggested that she look in the Yale Library for cookbooks.  She was amazed to find a collection of cookbooks, and evidently proceeded to check out many of them.  From this came the idea for a cookbook filled with pie recipes, and this book was born.  The book is divided into 4 sections, one for each quadrant of the US, and has a selection of recipes from each region.  Some are obvious, such as apple pie from the Northeast, and pecan pie from the South.  Others are a little bit of a surprise, like Concord Grape Pie.  There is background for each pie, along with a short chapter about each region's pies, and stories of her visits to those regions. She also gives recipes for 6 different pie crusts, but, being pie-crust-phobic myself, I'm going to stick to the crust that my dearly beloved dubbed The Best Pie Crust Ever!  This book is good reading, even if you don't want to make these pies.

And, to make you want this cookbook, I even made an unusual pie from it.  Remember the boys and their purchase of  "a couple of boxes" of chicken crackers?  And how they had to get 2 apples at the same time?  Well, here's where one apple went.  Adrienne says this recipe originated in Delaware, found in a community cookbook.


1 pie crust, 9" recommended, but I used a 10" pie plate

2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and cut in small pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (or a mixture of both)

Beat the eggs with the sugars, salt and vanilla extract.  Add the flour and baking powder, and beat until combined.  Stir in the apple pieces and nuts, and pour into the unbaked crust.  Bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes, until nicely browned.  The pie will puff up while baking, but will deflate while cooling.  Cool to room temperature before serving.

Mark used my Pampered Chef apple peeler/corer/slicer on the apple, and quite enjoyed himself; too bad I didn't get a picture of him.  But with only one apple to peel, it went very quickly.  I then cut the slices of apple into eighths so they'd cook properly in the pie.  (Naturally, since Mark helped with the pie, he told his brothers that he hunted the chipmunk for the pie.)

Because of the flour, this pie had a somewhat cakelike texture; I served it topped with whipped cream.  Dan whined about the nuts, Ryan liked it, although not as much as apple pie, and my dearly beloved said it was quite good.  I'm thinking I'll have to make it when the girls are home for a variety of opinions.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Roast Chicken with Fennel and Rosemary

Right off, let me say that I borrowed this idea from Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe.  And it was really good!  Hers was probably better, but this worked for me.


1 large roasting chicken
1/4 cup margarine (1/2 stick)
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp fennel seed
1 onion
1/2 cup cold water
2 tbsp cornstarch

Bring the margarine to room temperature, and mash the rosemary and fennel into it.  Generously salt the cavity, quarter the onion, and stuff it in the cavity.  Carefully loosen the skin on the top of the chicken and along the legs, and mush the seasoning mix over the chicken, under the skin.  Roast at 350F until the chicken is done; remove it from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Pour the pan drippings into a sauce pan, and add a goodly handful of ice cubes to them.  Stir the ice around for a minute or 2, then scoop it out along with the fat from the drippings (which will have congealed on the ice cubes).  Put the saucepan on the stove and heat to a simmer.  Whisk the cornstarch into the cold water until smooth, then whisk that into the pan drippings.  Cook, stirring often, until the gravy thickens and becomes clearer. 

I didn't take a picture of my chicken until after Ryan had carved it.  That's the deal here: Ryan is over 6'4" tall, and so he needs to carve the chicken if I'm to roast a whole chicken.  I keep telling him it builds character.  He keeps telling me it's child labor.  Then everyone enjoys the chicken!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Garden Tuesday: New Camera

It's not my fault.  I couldn't help myself.  You see, I found a nifty Kodak 16mp camera with a 26x optical zoom on clearance for $130.  So I had to have it.

I needed, for instance, to show you this old apple tree in my orchard from about 700 feet away.  Pretty good, eh?

And remember my whale weather vane?

Well, now you can see him up close and personal.  You even get to see what a slate roof looks like, up close and personal.  Yes, I have a roof made of rocks.  I like it.

See?  I wasn't selfish about buying this camera.  I did it for you!

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Drive-By Posting

This is a drive-by posting, so you know I'm not lost, strayed or stolen.

Ryan got his driving learner's permit in late May, when he turned 16.  Since then, every time Dan goes to the supermarket for milk, cereal or whatever, Ryan drives.  Dan's a great driver; I have every faith that he's helping Ryan out.  Anyway, when they went yesterday, in addition to milk, I wanted 2 Granny Smith apple, ricotta cheese, and "a couple of boxes of chicken crackers for Dad."  This is what they bought:

Evidently, the young male definition of "a couple" is somewhat different than mine.  My dearly beloved was delighted.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cupcake Flower

Due to too much going on overwhelming my pea sized brain, I haven't even gotten to try out new pie recipes from my pie books found via the Wall Street Journal.  I hope to change that tonight, but I have to go back to analyzing our tax returns in a few minutes.  The IRS never ends...

Anyway, so this is the best I could do for an "original" dessert:  a Cupcake Flower.

Yellow cake batter (box mix or my favorite recipe, somewhere on this blog)
Chocolate Whipped Cream:
     1-1/2 cups whipping cream
     2 tbsp cocoa powder
     1/4 cup sugar
     1 tsp vanilla extract
Whip the cream until thick but not holding its shape.  Stir in the cocoa powder until fully combined, then add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until stiff.

Frost the cupcakes with a good thick layer of chocolate whipped cream, arrange in a flower shape, and sprinkle plenty of colored sugar atop each: pink for the petals, yellow for the center, and green for the stem and leaves.

And hope that your husband doesn't say the cupcakes feel gritty, as mine did; the boys assured him that there was no sand in the cupcakes!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Garden Tuesday: A Blast From the Past

Bet you thought I fell off the planet, right?  Not really.  But things have been hectic.  And I've been nostalgic.  So today's Garden Tuesday is a retrospective.
 This is my yard in the spring of 2005, when my little boys really were little.  Note the tree to the left of the boys in this picture; that's a Bradford Pear.

And at the extreme right in this picture you see the same Bradford Pear as it stands today.  The blue spruce behind it is not the same as in the older picture, but it is a twin to that tree, planted the same day.
Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Minimal Sewing

So, this summer my youngest son decided to teach himself to juggle.  He started with one tennis ball, worked up to 2 and then he had a request:  Bean bags for juggling.

So I picked out scraps of colorful fabrics and made 6 beanbags for my little juggler.  OK, on the sewing project scale, it's not even on the radar.  But it did make the little guy really happy.

And he's up to juggling 3 beanbags!  You can see all 3 of them in this picture if you look closely.  We're cheering him on to try 4, and maybe some day soon he'll be up to it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Garden Tuesday Indoors

Behold the Cub Scout Plant:

It came to us 12 years ago, from a Cub Scout dinner.  It's been used to propigate at least a dozen new plants.  But Kellie killed hers when she came back from college earlier in the summer.  So, last week, as we were packing her things so she could move to start her "big girl job", she suddenly demanded that I make her a new plant.

Well, these things take time.  But I cut 8 branches off the Cub Scout Plant, put them in a clear coffee cup, and now we wait for it to root (there are 3 tiny roots already).  She'll get her new plant at Thanksgiving.

And, no, I don't know what the Cub Scout Plant is.  I just know that it's perfectly fine without being watered for a week, and doesn't like too much sun.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Maple Syrup Pie

A couple of years ago, my oldest son's girlfriend gave me a cookbook she bought from her college.  I like this kind of cookbook; it's spiral bound inside a laminated hard cover.  You know the kind: they lay flat and are easy to wipe clean.  It's in this cookbook I found the recipes for Lemon  Chess Pie, Golden Vinegar Pie, and today's featured entry....


2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup walnut halves (I forgot these)
Pie Crust

Melt the butter in a sauce pan; whisk in the cornstarch and stir until smooth.  Add the syrup and water; cook until thickened, stirring periodically.  Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes or so (just the time needed to roll out the pie crust).  Stir in the nuts, pour the filling into the unbaked crust, top with the walnut halves (unless you're like me and forget).  Bake at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Cool to room temperature, and serve with whipped cream for a decadent sugar overload!

This recipe is written for a 9" pie crust, and all of my pie plates are 10" diameter, so I baked it for less time.  That's OK; at least my pie had no chance of spilling over and stinking up my oven, right?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Golden Vinegar Pie

OK, stop it.  I heard some of you read "Golden Vinegar Pie" and say, "Ewww!"  Let's leave that kind of reaction to my littlest fussbudget, shall we?

I was making a pie out of a cookbook my son's girlfriend got for me from her college a couple of weeks back, when I noticed two more pie recipes that intrigued me.  So I decided to be a big girl about it and just make a big batch of pie crusts, using my Best Ever Pie Crust recipe.  And then I tried the first of the intriguing recipes....


3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg beaters
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 stick melted margarine
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
unbaked 9" crust

Beat the eggs or egg beaters with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add all of the other ingredients, and beat until well combined.  Pour into the unbaked pie crust, and bake at 300F for about 50 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Of course, I only have 10" pie plates.  So I baked it about 40 minutes, on the strength that it would require less cooking time.  It was perfect.  Everyone liked it; I attribute that to the fact that I called it "Golden Pie" so no one would know about the vinegar.

And you might have spied the edge of another pie plate in the first picture.  That's right; I made 2 different pies in one day, but you'll have to wait to see the other!

Edited to add:  This tastes like a custard pie, but lighter, because there's no milk in it.  It's sweet, but not too much so, with a little tang from the vinegar.  I should have thought to say that in the first place!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In Memoriam: Lucy

My friend GMarie lost one of her bloodhound twins, Lucy, last week.  My heart breaks for her.  I know the loss she feels today.  (No, Lucy is not sitting in that chair.  G's dogs don't climb on the furniture.  She told us so.)

Lucy had many friends to greet her at the Rainbow Bridge, including her Bassett Hound brother Dudley, my Thor, Sue's Tsar and Chan's Fred.  Romp and play, dear Lucy!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thorsday Book Review (on Friday)

Another old book...also available for free on Kindle...also a winner!

by Mary Roberts Rhinehart
c. 1909

Lawrence Blakely was a lawyer in Washington, DC, traveling by train to Pittsburgh to obtain a deposition from an ill client.  For the return trip, he booked a sleeping berth in the seventh car: Lower Ten.  When he went to that berth to go to sleep, he found it occupied by someone, and therefore, at the porter's suggestion, took Lower Nine.  During the trip, the man in lower ten was murdered.  The murder was discovered when Lawrence reported to the porter that his valise and clothing were stolen, and he quickly became a suspect in the murder.  Heading into the next station, the train crashed, killing most occupants.  Lawrence escaped the crash, along with a young girl who turned out to be the granddaughter of his client.  Of course, the story takes a few twists and turns before reaching its conclusion.

Again, the hidden notes about life in 1909 are very interesting.  The train trip from DC to Pittsburgh must have been 12 to 14 hours long, whereas I'm certain I could drive it in 6 to 7 hours today.  Pittsburgh is described as shrouded in smoke, and it wouldn't be the same without the smoke.  Electricity still doesn't seem to run 24/7; instead, the book refers to oil lamps at night.  And amusingly (and today, illegally), Lawrence was very upset about losing his valise, because it was made from the hide of an alligator which he had shot himself in Florida.

This was another excellent book, and since it's available for free, you ought to try it!

No picture of the book, but how about a picture of the fabric I just got in today:

The top is a "cotton leopard burnout"; the second is a cotton voile, and the bottom is a cotton with velvet flowers.  I think I'd like to play with the red and white floral first; maybe it will be inspiration for this weekend!

Happy Weekending, everyone!