Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Snow, of course!

Last Wednesday, we had at least 2 feet of snow on the ground.  At least 24".  That's over just about everyone's knees.

Then, Friday, Saturday and Sunday it warmed up to between 40 and 50 degrees.  The snow started melting.  And we were down to a picturesque 6" or so, with clear, dry driveways and walks.

And then this happened this morning:

Those were some big, fat snowflakes!  No real accumulations; that is supposed to occur tonight.  Well, maybe we'll get to 30" of snow in February, which is supposed to be some kind of record for February snowfall.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, February 24, 2014

A New Cookbook

You probably know that I don't buy many new cookbooks; the vast majority of mine were purchased from used book sales, although I have bought maybe 8 new ones over the past 35+ years.

You might also remember that a couple of years back I bought two low cholesterol cookbooks at a used book sale; one of them was put out by the American Heart Association.  But since it was written in 1989, it was before the invention of "trans fats".  So I decided to spring for another.

I didn't want the Kindle version for $9, nor the paperback for $13.  I went all out and bought the hard covered book for $26.  If I'm going to use it much, the paperback will have a hard time surviving 5 years, and I find it hard to just flip through e-books and read them, especially cookbooks, where I want to flip back and forth.  Just give me a real book and a pad of post-its, thank you.

So I got this last Wednesday, and spent about 6 hours reading it.  Don't worry; I remembered to feed the family.  They would have gotten very noisy and reminded me that they were hungry if I had forgotten.  You've seen them; do they look quiet and timid to you?  Anyway...

This is a huge cookbook, at around 700 pages.  Maybe 450 to 500 pages are recipes, and the rest is verbiage about healthy eating and so forth.  It's nearly twice the size of the earlier version which I have, with many more recipes, but it does lack some very vital information which was in the earlier version, such as how saturated fats translate into cholesterol in the body, and recipes for things like lowfat mayonnaise, and how to replace staples of life with healthier alternatives.  This book, instead of telling you that you can beat nonfat evaporated milk for a good whipped cream substitute, tells you to use the nonfat whipped topping from the freezer case at the supermarket (which tastes like vaseline to me).  These are some serious fatal flaws.

The recipes seem to rely upon really amping up the spices to make up for the missing salt; also, many, many, many of their recipes call for bell peppers, to which I am allergic.  If lots of peppers are vital for flavor, I'm kind of sunk.  However, I have tried a couple of their recipes, and those were pretty good.  Sadly, I just plain have not gotten back into the picture taking mode; there is too much else around here occupying my pea sized brain.

Long and short of this cookbook: Lots of good recipes, which mostly are not even recognizable as "heart healthy".  Good information, although not as thorough as a previous edition.  I think I'll live through this "learn to cook for a triple bypass survivor" thing, after all.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Royal Raspberry White Cake

Quite a name, right?  I dreamed it up all by myself (small accomplishment, I know, but still....)

This is my Valentine's Day cake.  It was beautiful.  It was delicious.  It was lower in calories than your average cake.  It was heart friendly.  I need to make another.  Maybe tonight.



2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup Stevia*
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1-1/3 cups sour milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Pour 2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar into a 2-cup measuring cup, and add nonfat milk to make the 1-1/3 cup; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, Stevia, baking powder and baking soda with a whisk (this has the same effect as sifting, but with less work).  Add the egg whites, oil, sour milk and extracts, beat on low until combined, then on high for 2 minutes.  Turn into 2 layer cake pans, and bake 27 to 35 minutes, or until they test done.  Let them cool 10 minutes in the pan, and then to room temperature on a rack.  While it's baking, make the Raspberry Filling so it can properly cool.

Raspberry Filling:

1 cup frozen raspberries, not thawed
1/4 cup Stevia*
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water

In a small saucepan, stir the raspberries with the sugar, Stevia and cornstarch until the berries are coated.  Add the water, and cook at medium heat until the berries start to fall apart and the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature.  (This is more than enough for the cake; store the leftovers in the fridge, because it's seriously great on rolls for breakfast.)

Royal Frosting:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Beat the egg whites until they are somewhat fluffy.  In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar and water; cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the sugar is entirely dissolved and the mixture simmers (it will be clear with no visible grains).  Stir the extracts into the sugar, and then, with the mixer running at low speed, drizzle the melted sugar into the egg whites.  Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for 7 minutes.  It has to be the full 7 minutes, or the frosting will be too soft, and start to slide off your cake the next day, instead of looking pretty.


Pretty obvious, really,  Put one layer of the cake on a plate.  Top with Raspberry Filling.  Put the other layer on top of the filling.  Frost with your Royal Frosting.  Be prepared for everyone to admire your beautiful cake.  And then be prepared for everyone to eat it all, if not that night, then for breakfast the next day.

*Note: Stevia reduces the sugar in the cake. You can replace this with sugar, if you're not watching your caloric intake, or if you don't happen to have it in the house.  No one can taste the difference, believe me.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

White Garden Tuesday

Oh, I'm dreaming of a white....February?

This was last week, before the snow Thursday, Saturday and today.

This was 2AM Sunday, after the plow guy finished with the nearly 2 feet we gathered between Thursday and Saturday.  (I brought him a cup of soup.)

The same tree from last week is a little harder to see now.

And backing into my garage next to this snow drift is positively daunting; it doesn't help to know that if the car slips, it's slamming right into my masonry garage, and I'll be driving it right over to the body shop, where I would then have the privilege of leaving them a young fortune to fix it.

Of course, there are probably quite a few of you with yards which look like mine!  After all, there's a reason it's February.

Happy Snowy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

35 years ago, when we'd been dating less than a month, my dearly beloved bought me this ring.  It's a 1/4 carat ruby in a 6 prong, plain setting.  I was stunned.

Two of the prongs are gone.  I sent it to my jeweler to be repaired, and he refused.  The stone's scratched up, he said.  The stone's chipped, he said.  It's not worth the $180 I will charge to fix it, he said.  But to me, the sentiment was worth far more than that, especially since he was telling me this 3 days after my dearly beloved returned from the hospital, one short week after I could have lost him forever.

My beloved could tell I was unhappy, although he didn't hear this conversation.  When I told him of the conversation, he told me to show him that jewelry site I like, so he could see ruby rings in yellow gold.

And he chose this one for me.  How lucky I am that he thinks of me, even when he's suffering.  How lucky I am to have not lost him one month ago today.

I hope your special someone made your Valentine's Day just as happy as mine!

(The cake I made for my dearly beloved is coming in a day or 2, I promise.  It was as pretty as my ring!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

This is the archway over the opening to my driveway.

I wonder how badly that light bulb is going to be buried tomorrow.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Stay warm, and keep your shovels at hand!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Guess What?

You guessed it.  Snow.  In plentitude.

One of my favorite blue spruce trees in the back yard.  The house in the background is over 1000 feet away, and we can't see it in the summertime.

 Mark shoveled a crazy maze path out the front door.  This is taken through a window: No, I did not open a window after 10" of snow fell and it was 12 degrees!
 This is how deep the snow was last week, after the first snowfall.  We've had two smaller snows since then.
 And, of course, the trees in the front yard.  These are the ones right at the top of the staircase in the picture 2 up from here (Mark's Maze).
Happy snowy Garden Tuesday, everyone!  Stay warm!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Birthday and Turkey

I've been a low salt cooker for years; actually, since I have a low tolerance for salt, I've been a low salt cooker all my life.  And it turns out that the limited amount of salt that I use is fine for my dearly beloved!  Hooray!  I Can Do This!

But meanwhile, I tried something different with my turkey breast, and the boys thought it was pretty good.


1 Turkey Breast
1 onion, cut in eighths
about 1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp. Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb seasoning
2 tbsp. corn oil or olive oil

Stir together the Mrs. Dash and oil, and set aside for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.  Put the turkey on a rack in your roasting pan, remove the skin, tuck the onion pieces under and around it, and pour the vinegar over it.  Spread the top and sides with the oil/seasoning mix, add a little water to the bottom of the pan to keep it from scorching, and cook at 325F convection or 350F conventional oven until it registers 165F on a meat thermometer (juices will run clear).  Let the turkey sit for about 15 minutes.  It smells like you're roasting your salad while it's cooking, but the boys all really liked it.


2 cups water
1 tsp Chicken Base
2 tsp Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb seasoning
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbsp cornstarch

Heat the 2 cups water, chicken base and Mrs. Dash to a simmer; cook for a couple of minutes for the flavors to meld.  Whisk the cornstarch into the 1/4 cup cold water, and whisk into the gravy pan.  Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Yes, I know chicken base has sodium in it.  But it's substantially less than the sodium in a bouillon cube.  The whole 2 cups of gravy has about 800mg of sodium in it, and, really, is anyone using 2 cups of gravy?  4 tablespoons of gravy has about 100mg of sodium, and that's quite enough for anyone, really.

One thing I've learned is that Mrs. Dash uses potassium instead of sodium, and you have to watch your levels of that, too, so it's pretty hard to use this seasoning.  Life is so complex.

And, no, there's no picture of the turkey.  I find myself so busy with the necessities of life that I forget niceties like pictures of food.  So, instead, here's a couple of pictures from Jeffrey's birthday, which was also Superbowl Sunday.  As I recall, the Broncos forgot to play that game.

My beloved was 15 days post-surgery, and looked damn good, don't you think?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thorsday Book Review and Visitor

I did a lot of reading in the hospital.  Let's face it, even when I was able to use my recovering cardiac surgery patient's recliner for sleeping, it just isn't all that great.  But it beats the tarnation out of sleeping in a regular chair.

Anyway, this is one of the books I read, and it was a lot of fun.

by Robert Warr

"'The name's Snuffles, Snuffles of The Yard,' said my uncle's Spaniel with a growl in his voice.  'I will not tolerate an ill-mannered pup calling me a good  doggie.'

"I must admit that this statement shocked me and I wondered, for an instant, if I had gone mad.  My training as an engineer, however, has taught me to examine facts.  I was sitting in my uncle's study; his dog, was standing with his paws on my knees and his teeth an inch from my nose.  I had called him a good doggie."

So begins this delightful book.  Snuffles is a Springer Spaniel of the best breeding, whose master is a detective at Scotland Yard in the 1890s.  Naturally, Snuffles assists him in solving cases.  Normally, he doesn't talk to humans.  During the course of the book, he explains that all dogs can speak English, but they are warned by their mothers not to do so, because it causes great complications with their humans.  Of course, my favorite story was the one in which Henry, the mastiff, assists Snuffles in physically capturing the perp.  Clearly, the author knows mastiffs.  "The cook's lad was lying flat on his back with Henry standing on his chest barking gleefully....'Be still, lad,' Henry cautioned him clearly and in English. 'I am not going to let you up.  Lie quietly and I won't be forced to hurt you.  I am a gentle soul and not inclined to violent behaviour...'"

Of course, there is the saga of James (the nephew) trying to get his life set straight after a dynamiting accident left him lame.  And there is the matter of the cousin sent from America as punishment by her father.  All in all, a most entertaining book.  And with plenty of dogs, cats, and even a fox and a bird or 2.  5/5!

One of our best friends, who lives an hour north of here, came to visit my dearly beloved twice in the hospital - 3 hours worth of driving time for a 15 minute visit, and another 3 hours for a half hour visit.  I was touched, truly.  But then, the day after we came home, he stopped by with his dog, Dakota.

 Of course, I fed Dakota treats.

Dogs make everyone happy.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Garden Tuesday: The View from Up High

This is the view from two of my dearly beloved's 3 hospital rooms.  Both were on the top floor.

This first one shows Scranton beyond the roof of the parking garage.  See the line of cars going away from you on the left of the picture?  Almost to the end of the line is a little red car, with my bigger blue winter beater sticking out from behind it.  And there it stayed for 5 days.

 Some of the houses and buildings beyond the top of the parking garage, in early morning sun, while my beloved was still asleep.  I didn't sleep much.  It was better that he did.
 At night, looking out at the city, the lights were very pretty.  My car is there at the right edge of the picture.
 See?  There it was, all alone, as the snow began to fly.  It was the only car up there for like 2 days.  The maintenance staff plowed around it, but it was torture climbing through the foot deep snowbank left 18" all around it.  Still, they didn't bury it, and for that I'm grateful.
 Three days later, post-ICU, from a different room.  I had finally left, gone home and changed, and did NOT park on the roof again.  At least the car was clean after the next snowstorm.

Cities are always prettier after snowstorms, aren't they?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  Things are slowly improving around here, so it truly is a Happy Tuesday!