Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February's Literary Birthdays

Langston Hughes
Who would have guessed February could be so rich with notable birthdays of literary giants, scientists, politicians, musicians and sport stars.  The month begins with a bang celebrating the birth date of Langston Hughes, poet, author, social activist, columnist and playwright February 1.  
Hughes published his first poem, "The Negro Speaks of River" in 1921. He was proud of his African American heritage and that voice is present in all his works. Many of his writing pieces deal with blues, race and segregation. Hughes became a major voice calling for equal treatment of African  Americans in the armed forces entering World War II.  His poetry earned him the title of America'a Black Poet Laureate. In 2002 on the 100th celebration of his birth date, the United States issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor.  
This poem is one of his most famous
My People
The night is beautiful 
So the faces of my people.
The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.
beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. 
Good news to share..Two articles I wrote were recently published:) 
In the Minnesota Writer's Alliance February newsletter there was a feature story on the challenges facing cookbook writers. My blog was included in the story. The second piece of good news was an article I submitted on How To Maximize Your Writer's Notebook to the Lake Region Writers. To read it go to  http://www.lakeregionwriters.net/.  The article is located directly below Ruth Solie's blog.

Pasta San Antonio
Serves 8
  • 1-LB. dried pasta-corkscrew or fuselli
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup red onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ cup black olives
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup black beans drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes-halved
  • Cook pasta till al dente, drain and rinse and cool
  • Toss with olive oil to prevent sticking, add onions, celery, pepper, cherry tomatoes, black beans, corn and olives

Combine the following

  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 3 TB.olive oil
  • 2-3 TB. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped fine
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Pour dressing over pasta mixture and chill several hours
Serve on mixed greens
Cook’s note: recipe from The San Antonio Tex-Mex Cookbook by Elizabeth Blakeley

Monday, January 30, 2012

The World According to Bella

On The Road
They call me Stellar Bella after two days on the road. I am told my behavior was A++ for all the very long hours I was forced to endure in the van.  As we burned up the miles through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and into Texas I mostly napped.  Once in awhile I found it necessary to make my presence known by speaking my language... a bark or a low growl to let them know I had enough resting and needed to get out. I loved all the rest stops with its many good smells. They make my nose  twitch and I am super quick to snarf up a lot of tasty morsels before I am reined in.  Besides the  rest stops I got to walk through a famous covered bridge in Madison County, Iowa that really went nowhere. What I couldn't understand is why there was a bridge but not a drop of water around it??

We only stopped at what Mr. C called dog friendly hotels. I thought he seemed a bit stressed out on night number one when as he checked in the clerk said you must have a small dog with you. He said nothing about my size but then gets this stupid idea to hide how really big I am as we went into the hotel. I am not telling what he did.  All I will say is you all have seen my photo and I ain't easy to hide. But fortunately we did not get busted and got to stay the whole night. Though not sure I really cared for the place. The room had lots of scary noises, a loud heater, floors creaking and doors slamming. Needless to say I tossed and turned all night and felt trapped! Boy was I  happy when morning came to leave.
On day two I paid more attention to the outside.  Besides a lot of trucks I couldn't believe all the eating places. Maybe its cuz food is always on my mind. What I did notice were a lot of places called Waffle Houses. Did you know they are a southern cultural icon? In fact we checked the Internet and found there are over 1,600 of them in 25 states. To think I saw at least 20 of them so far and I am still counting.  Hope we stop at one soon. Heard they are well known for their hash browns, sausage and good coffee. Mrs. S keeps looking for a Starbucks to stop at.  She seems really into their coffee.  
A fun waffle fact: If you could stack all of the sausage patties on top of each other that Waffle House serves in one day total for all locations it would be twice the size of the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai and 4 times the size of the Empire State building. Now that's a tall order!
Check out these fun gifts to make as Valentine treats from the February BHG issue. And some are quite healthy
some examples


Saturday, January 28, 2012

The World According to Bella

Getting Serious
I am worried! Looks like they are really getting serious around here about leaving on this thing they call "road trip".  It has been an exhausting day watching them clean, pack, load that I just had to lay down in my doggie den and think about it all. 
As you can see I am less than enthused to have my regular routine interrupted. Some 1,300 miles to get to this place called Texas sounds like a LOT of car riding but heck... its an adventure ! And way  better than being left behind. Remember my Florida escapades last year running free on the beaches, chasing  birds and eating lots of nasty stuff?  Well  I have been warned I might not be so lucky this year. For one thing dogs can not run free on these beaches. But I did perk up when I heard something about having a nice big fenced in yard to play in.
So today was my last day at the doggie park for quite awhile. My doggie friends seemed sad. One really nice lady even had an extra treat bag for me.
Now for the good news. I finally can get back to the cyber world. Besides blogging which I have missed doing I now know how to tweet (can follow @ sockfairies).  So will do my best to keep you all up with my Texas adventures. One of my owners is really geared up for this trip. She wants to explore this kind of food called Tex-Mex. She plans on trying lots of new recipes and is prepared with a brand new large spice bottle of cumin, a staple for Tex-Mex food.
Yikes! my chestnut colored eyes turned green for this photo. Maybe because I cringed wearing this ridiculous outfit again.    

 Wish me luck!

Lemon Chicken Stir Fry

Lemon Chicken Stir Fry with Snow Peas
serves 4

Can be served over rice noodles or steamed rice

Adapted recipe from article: Stir crazy for a kid-friendly meal by Meredith Deeds
Star Tribune January 26, 2012
  • noodles/rice
  • 2 TB. sesame oil
  • 1 LB. chicken tenders cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small box white mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 TB. Hoisin sauce
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup diced cherry tomatoes and drained on a paper towel
  • 1-cup baby carrots sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1-cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 TB. dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 orange slices
  • optional cashews or almonds
  • In a bowl combine 2 TB. lemon juice and cornstarch, add sherry and brown sugar-set aside
  • To wok add sesame oil and heat on high
  • Add minced garlic, chicken and onions and cook about 5 minutes
  • Add mushrooms, 2 TB. Hoisin sauce and carrots and sauté for 2 minutes on a medium heat
  • Add lemon juice mixture, orange slices and snow peas cook on low heat till mixture thickened and chicken cooked
  • Serve over rice or noodles add almonds or cashews for topping
"In reality, the most important things happen when you don't
look for them."

by Phil Donahue  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And the winners are...

In case you missed the announcement of the prestigious Newberry Children's Awards on January 25th it went to Jack Gantos for his chapter book Dead End in Norvelt and to Chris Raschka for picture book A Ball for Daisy.
Dead End in Norvelt is a book about a shy, Gothic boy who is grounded by his parents and sent to type obituaries for a neighbor which then leads to a string of comic adventures.  A Ball for Daisy is a wordless picture book that tells the story of an excitable dog who loses his cherished toy, a red ball that it takes to the park. Worth checking them out.
I recently discovered another noteworthy children's book The Sandman by Ralph Fletcher. Since I have read all of his books I was happy to find this latest one. 
It is a fantastical tale about a tiny man named Thor that grinds down a dragon's scale and then takes the magical dust and sprinkles into the eyes of children to help them get to sleep. The illustrations are just the perfect accompaniment to the story. What a great read aloud for the 4-7 year old age group.

The following poem was posted on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac website today. Since I talk so much about food I loved the prose imagery in each line describing a sandwich. 

The Beautiful Sandwich  by Brad Ricca
She could always make
the most beautiful sandwich.
Laced swiss cheese: sliced
crossways, folded once.
Ham in rolls like sleeping bags.
Turkey piled like shirts.
Tarragon. Oregano. Pepper.
Herb dill mayonnaise the color of 
skin. On top: the thin, wandering line of
like a contour on a map
in a thin, flat drawer.
Or a single, lost vein.
The poppyseeds hold on,
for now.

Placed on a plate like isolated
or a large, solemn head.
The spilled chips in yellow piles
are like the strange coins
of tall, awkward islanders.
The thin dill pickle: their boat
slides into
the green-sour sea.

"The Beautiful Sandwich" by Brad Ricca, from American Mastodon. (c) Black Lawrence Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cleaning House

The real beauty of the conservatory decked out in poinsettias did not show well in recent photo so I am posting one taken last year during daylight hours for a clearer picture.
The pictures of recipes on the right of this blog will be taken down over the weekend and replaced.  If you are looking for any of the recipes please go to left side of blog posting and click on 2011. The pictures are from recipes posted in the time period February, March and April 2011.
After several blog postings on recipes for Casseroles it was suggested that I might consider posting casserole/hot dish  recipes sent by readers. I would not be able to try out at this time with an upcoming Texas trip but certainly would consider posting your favorite for others to try. Just copy your recipe in the comment box at the end of the posting and it will go to my email.
Today will post a recipe that I had not thought about for years. It was sent to me by my cousin whose adult children still request this recipe. Chicken-Broccoli hot dish was typical of the 60's and 70's when canned soups began to change the way women cooked. Since both of us came from large families our mothers looked for ways to incorporate veggies into the meal to make it more nutritious. But mostly I remember my mother serving this meal frequently for her bridge groups.
Serves 6
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts            
  •  2 boxes broccoli spears or florets (cuts)
  • ½ cup real mayonnaise
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • ½ Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 can french-fried onions
  • ·         Bake chicken breasts until done.  Cube meat into bite-size pieces.
  • ·         Defrost broccoli and drain until dry.  Arrange broccoli on bottom of 8x8” buttered pan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • ·         In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, soup and lemon juice.  Add chicken to mixture.  Pour and   spread over broccoli. *
  • ·         Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • ·         Uncover, sprinkle with french-fried onions, and bake for 5 minutes more.
  • ·         Nice served with cranberry sauce.
 *May be frozen at this point.  Thaw overnight in refrigerator before baking.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Zen Moment

Nobody sees a flower-really-
it is so small it takes time-
we haven't time-
and to see takes time
like to have a friend takes time.  
by Georgia O' Keefe
Recently I experienced some Zen moments at a indoor concert at a local conservatory. Moments of calmness prevailed while enjoying the beauty of huge array of poinsettias and soothing music. The punches of coral, pink. red and white poinsettias were warm and inviting despite the frigid temperatures outside. This concert was an after hours event at the conservatory. People seem to enjoy strolling among the flowers, listening to music and chatting with their friends. Since it was dark outside the indoor photo is not as bright as I had hoped for. 
Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of a middle Chinese word Dzyen. Zen emphasizes experimental wisdom in the attainment of enlightenment through meditation. It strives to help you achieve inner peace. Perhaps we all need to seek out some places where we can find our own Zen moments. Follow this link http://www.zenmoments.org/ to watch and hear some very short music videos of some Zen moments covering topics such as awareness, nature, creativity, happiness, courage and fun. 

On blog posting Cooking The Italian Way Dec 8, 2011 I wrote about Carmela Tursi Hobbins who has authored two cookbooks. She grew up in a large Italian family and often hosts culinary tours to Italy and Savannah Georgia. I was fortunate to be at luncheon where several of her recipes from the cookbook were served. The following recipe is a real winner. 
Tomato Vegetable Soup

Recipe from Celebrations with Carmela’s Cucina by Carmela Tursi Hobbins with a few adaptations.
This soup tastes even better on day two after the flavors have had a chance to meld

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 large potato shredded or finely chopped (not cooked0
  • 1 large carrot shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini shredded or finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery finely chopped
  • 1 can of chunky tomatoes-basil, garlic, oregano
  • 2 TB. flour
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • ¼ tsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese
  • In a large soup pot melt butter and then add garlic, onion. potato, carrot, zucchini and celery
  • Sauté till vegetables are slightly wilted
  • In food processor chop tomatoes with juices
  • Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and blend on medium heat about 2 minutes
  • Add processed tomatoes, brown sugar, chicken broth, basil, marjoram and bay leaf.
  • Cover and simmer on low heat about 25 minutes
  • Remove from heat and take out bay leaf, add milk, paprika, salt, pepper and curry powder
  • Simmer covered for 5-10 minutes longer
  • To serve grate Parmesan cheese over bowl serving

Friday, January 20, 2012

Little Free Library

A recent article in magazine called Northwoods Woman Take A Book, Leave A Book certainly peaked my interest. Imagine a small free library right in your own neighborhood with no cards, due dates or late fees! This little library looks somewhat like a birdhouse positioned on top of a post placed in a front yard, or on some other non-public land near a bike path or park. 30-40 books of all genre are found inside. Each library does need a steward/contact person to watch over it. This novel small free library project encourages neighbors to exchange books.
The idea for this type of lending library began with social entrepreneur Todd Bol. He built the first one in his yard in Hudson, Wisconsin. Then he teamed up with friend Rick Brooks in Madison, Wisconsin to form the non-profit group called Little Free Libraries.  
The mission statement of this non-profit organization is to promote literacy, foster love of reading and hopefully build a sense of community. 
The above link gives detailed information about the non-profit organization and how to implement a Little Free Library. 
This link http://shareable.net/blog/free-little-libraries-are-popping-up-all-over has an article with additional  information on what states and countries currently have established Little Free Libraries. Also good information on how to implement this project yourself. 
I thought both links were so informative. Perhaps after reading all of this you might talk to you neighbors and consider starting one in your own area. 

After following the recent controversy over a Food Network Star I thought it might be more judicious of me to post a recipe that focuses on fresh and healthful ingredients from the BHG Ultimate Casserole publication.
Zesty Vegetable Enchiladas
recipe had been adapted
  • 1 can black beans-rinsed and drained
  • 8 -8 inch flour tortillas
  • 2 finely diced carrots about 1 cup
  • 2 small zucchini sliced about 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup green onion diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin-(note it has a kick use in moderation)
  • 1 cup chunky salsa or 1-8oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded reduced fat Monterey Jack cheese or Mexican 4 cheeses
  • 1- 14.5 can Mexican style stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 can refried beans
  • optional other items to consider diced peppers or chile peppers and corn

  • Stack tortillas and wrap tightly in foil bake 350 for 10 minutes set aside- keep in foil
  • In a large greased pan saute carrots, zucchini, cumin and onions about 5 minutes
  • Stir in black beans, refried beans, stewed tomatoes, 1 cup salsa or tomato sauce and hot pepper sauce if desired
  • Cook till smooth about 3 minutes
  • Grease a 13 x 9 pan
  • Divide sauce among the flour tortillas and roll each one
  • Place in pan (note there may be extra sauce)
  • Sprinkle the tortillas with cheese and a few tablespoons of sauce-could top with diced tomatoes
  • fresh cilantro sprigs optional 
  • Bake uncovered 350 for 20 minutes   

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hot Dish Versus Casserole

and the winner is...well no winner since both are one in the same according to Wikipedia and online Merriam Dictionary.
According to Wikipedia hot dish is a baked casserole typically containing starch, a meat or other protein, a canned and or frozen vegetable mixed together with canned soup. Now get this and I quote...The dish is popular in Minnesota and it commonly appears at family reunions and church suppers. 
So as you know me being from this mid western state only confirms what I knew all along we reign as the queen of the hot dish/casserole.

Baked Beef Ravioli
Recipe adapted from BHG Ultimate Casserole
8 servings

I added cook’s notes for different ways to look at this recipe. If omit beef and just do cheese ravioli can have a meatless meal. A very simple recipe to put together in 25 minutes

  • 2 packages refrigerated cheese filled ravioli (could use ravioli that has sausage and beef as filling and then omit the ground beef from recipe)
  • 1 LB. ground beef
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes-basil/oregano
  • 1- 10.75 can condensed tomato soup (or use 2 cups prepared basil/tomato sauce)
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Prepare ravioli according to directions
  • Drain and set aside
  • Brown ground beef with chopped onion and garlic, drain
  • Add meat in pan, soup or pasta sauce, seasonings, and then fold in ravioli
  • Grease baking/casserole pan add ravioli mixture, add Parmesan cheese then add mozzarella cheese
  • Bake uncovered 30 minutes
I am always drawn to books that evoke strong women characters who overcome adversity and challenges . This book Bold Spirit by Linda Lawrence Hunt did not disappoint me. 
In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of 8 children, Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage. At this time she learned a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who would walk across America to New York. Hoping to win the wager and save her farm Helga  and her teenage daughter Clara set out on foot from Seattle to New York with only $5.00 and few personal belongings. They past through 14 states. Their treacherous and inspirational journey challenged contemporary notions of what women should do and captured public attention. As the story progresses we learn of the devastating consequences. 
What is so intriguing about this story is how the family years later united together silencing this chapter in their mother's lives. All personal papers/manuscripts and diaries were destroyed.
It was quite amazing that the author nearly a century later after encountering this extraordinary story sets out on a journey to recreate what actually occurred to Helga and her daughter. She was able to piece this chapter of their lives back together through  newspaper stories and conversations with relatives. I would like to add that Helga Estby's marriage began in a small town in Canby, MN. It was from a friend who grew up in this town I first learned of this unusual story.    

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vegetarian Meal:Cheese and Vegetable Rice Casserole

"Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But
other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure
that your most important decision in the day simply consists
of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow."

-- Douglas Pagels 

Side Dish: Meatless Cheese and Vegetable Rice Casserole
Serves 6-8
Adapted from BHG Ultimate Casseroles available only for purchase till March 20th at bookstore magazine section and grocery stores
The notations in bold are my changes from original recipe. The reasons for so many changes is I tried to use what ingredients that were on hand rather then another grocery store run. I prefer to use fresh ingredients when I can over frozen. White rice seemed too bland since I felt recipe had a bit of a Mexican style. Chicken would be a great addition.

My adapted recipe follows this one for easier following of directions

  • 1-16oz. package frozen mixed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots thawed (I used 2 cups fresh broccoli diced, 1 cup fresh diced carrots, 1 cup frozen corn thawed)
  • 4 cups cooked rice (I used 1 package of Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice and when cooked equals 2 cups)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 jar 12 oz. roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped (I used ½ red pepper diced)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup Mozzarella cheese mixed together)
  • 1-1/4 cup chicken broth use low salt
  • 1/3 cup diced green onions
  • 1 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs (I used two pieces of whole wheat bread finely ground mixed with 1-1/2 TB. melted butter and 1 TB. parsley flakes)
  • 2- 4 oz. cans diced green chile peppers, drained (I added the followings seasoning ¼ tsp. cumin and ½ tsp. chili powder to kick it up a bit instead of chile peppers)
  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease a casserole dish
  • Cook rice as directed on package and set aside
  • In a large bowl add vegetables, beans, onions, red peppers, chile peppers or spices, cooked rice, 1 cup of the mixed cheeses and broth
  • Mix well and place in casserole dish
  • Add rest of mixed cheeses and sprinkle with bread crumbs mixed with melted butter and 1 TB parsley flakes
  • Bake uncovered 35 minutes or until mixture is heated through and crumbs are golden
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving
  Adapted Recipe Cheese and Vegetable Rice Casserole
  • 2 cups diced fresh broccoli
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn thawed
  • 1 package Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice cooked following package directions
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 jar of roasted sweet red pepper drained, and chopped or use ½ diced red pepper
  • 1- 4 oz. can diced green chile pepper drained
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1-1/4 cup low salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with 1-1/2 TB melted butter
  • optional spices ¼ tsp. cumin and ½ tsp. chili powder
  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease a casserole dish
  • Cook rice as directed on package and set aside
  • In a large bowl add vegetables, beans, onions, red peppers, chile peppers or spices, cooked rice, 1 cup of the mixed cheeses and broth
  • Mix well and place in casserole dish
  • Add rest of mixed cheeses and sprinkle with bread crumbs mixed with melted butter and 1 TB parsley flakes
  • Bake uncovered 35 minutes or until mixture is heated through and crumbs are golden
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Notable Birthday And Revisiting A Classic

He that is of opinion money will do everything
may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

A slip of the foot you may soon recover,
but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.
by Benjamin Franklin
Today is the birth date of Benjamin Franklin born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17,1706. Numerous quotes on liberty, freedom. religion, government, security and fools have been associated to him. Franklin  used the pseudonym Richard Saunders when he published Poor Richard's Almanack. This book included weather forecasts and many of his witty sayings and quotes which are still used today. 
Franklin was a self educated man, printer, author, scientist, philosopher and statesman. He is one of the Founding Fathers of America. Among his many inventions were the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and a clock with three wheels to show hours, minutes and seconds. But my one of my personal favorites is that he has been credited with the idea of Daylight Savings Time. Thank heavens he thought that one up! What a resume Franklin has for someone who never had any formal education.

A recent trip to local chain bookstore provided me with some reading inspiration. They are selling these book bags that have picture of the book cover  A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. One of my New Year's reading resolutions is to reread some classics. This compelling story is set in the early 20th century about immigrants and their family survival struggles dealing with poverty issues. This story certainly deserves a second reading and I am really enjoying it. The main metaphor of the book is the hardy Tree of Heaven, native to China and Taiwan now considered invasive to vacant lots.  The novel is split into 5 books each covering a different period in the characters' lives. Francie Nolan is the protagonist.

One last word on books (at least for today). BHG has a new special interest publication out called Ultimate Casseroles. It can be found at bookstores and grocery stores in the magazine section. There are over 157 dishes of home-baked comfort foods. Should keep me busy trying recipes :) I have tried three and will post them in next three days. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The World According To Bella

A Vanishing Act
My owners got a new set of wheels so we headed Up North to try them out. Ordinarily I'd be jumping up and down, wagging my tail knowing I could finally escape the city condo for lake life but let me tell you  what I was forced to endure for many, many hours. My owners seem to be on some type of safety kick and I am the victim. I was stuffed into this harness thingie which was attached to van seat belt. Now I ask you how comfy can that be? I was only able to sit up, look out the window or rest lying down on the seat. I have been banned from moving about towards the front. My last van trip sent them over the edge with my antics moving about the van, hanging over the front console and leaning on their arms while they were trying to drive. Gosh, all I really wanted was a front seat invitation! Was I ever glad when we finally arrived and my harness belt was unbuckled. I practically flew out the door to escape. 
Finally, my excellent adventure could begin.  I wore myself out exploring the land and looking for new stuff. One of my owners was so grossed out when I proudly brought home a prize: a large fish head. Ice fishing is in full swing on the lake. But all in all I was happy with the trade:fish head for milkbone. 
After napping and resting much of the evening I had this urge to go outside. Never mind the fact it was 4:00 AM I just had to pee. Well my owner was really not too alert and missed snapping the tether line to my collar. Oops...I could not believe my good fortune. I was free. Off I vanished... into the night. The sounds and smells made my nose and ears twitch. I knew they would never catch up with me. But the thrill of the chase wore off after awhile and I returned home. Lucky they left the porch light on and the door unlocked. Despite all their fuss about my absence I resumed my napping position and good dreams about catching rabbits.
When daybreak came I knew my punishment forthcoming. Despite being so sleepy my owner insisted and dressing me up in this really ridiculous pink cowgirl outfit to show you.  Next thing I know she will be getting me pink boots. Seems I have this new set of duds for an upcoming road trip to somewhere I had never heard of called Texas. Another road trip does not excite me one bit. The only good part so far is I have been promised that I can do all the blogging for this trip just like last year. So will keep you posted on departure date.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cookie Makeover

In October I posted a cookie recipe for Halloween called Eyes-Wide-Open. The cookie name is derived  from espresso coffee and chocolate as two of the ingredients which might keep your eyes wide open for the day but only if you eat too many of the cookies:) The particular recipe posted in October did not work for me so I decided to give it a makeover and re-post. Since I am a huge fan of coffee and chocolate it was well worth the effort and I am more than satisfied with the results. And so after nibbling these cookies with my usual morning cups of coffee I can now say I am fully charged for the day!!
Eyes-Wide Open Cookies
makes about 2 dozen
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 4 TB. unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1-1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder (found in coffee or baking aisle I used a brand called Medaglia D' Oro)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup mini or regular chocolate chips
  • chocolate espresso coffee beans (found at your local coffee shop-small package near the registers)

  • In a large bowl cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
  • Beat in eggs
  • Combine flour, salt, cocoa, espresso powder and baking soda
  • Add to butter mixture and mix well
  • Stir in chips 
  • Put bowl in freezer for 30 minutes to chill dough
  • Roll dough into balls (about 1-1/2 inches) and place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper
  • Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes
  • Remove tray and gently press one coffee bean on top of each cookie
  • Place cookies on a wire rack to cool 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Asian Chicken Honey-Ginger Lettuce Wraps

"Until you make peace with who you are,
you'll never be content
with what you have."
 Doris Mortman 

The chicken lettuce wraps at PF Changs restaurant are just the best. A must order for me!  So when I saw this recipe in the paper that seemed  much like the real deal I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed and it was well worth the effort. Do not be daunted by the list of ingredients the actual recipe making did not take that long. 
Asian Honey-Ginger Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 6
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce (personal preference)
  • 1 LB. chicken breasts sliced
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 can water chestnuts, rinsed in warm water and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 small box of mushrooms, diced and sliced  (optional)
  • 3 tsp. peanut oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 TB. fresh minced ginger
  • 1 TB. sesame seeds
  • optional 1 cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 cup of salted cashews
  • 1 TB. cornstarch
  • 3 TB. water
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1TB. rice vinegar
  • 1 TB. hoisin sauce
  • 1 TB. soy sauce
  • 1 TB. sherry
  • 1 TB. honey
  • 2 TB. oyster sauce
  • Make sauce: water, cornstarch, sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce oyster sauce, honey, vinegar, sherry and set aside 
  • In a wok or large non-stick pan heat 2 tsp. peanut oil over medium heat
  • Add chicken cook about 5 minutes or until no longer pink
  • Remove chicken and set aside-wipe pan
  • Add other tsp. peanut oil with ginger, garlic, onion, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, carrots and celery
  • Cook about 4 minutes
  • Return chicken to this mixture
  • Add sauce and cook for about 4-5 minutes till sauce is thick and glossy
  • Serve with lettuce wraps fold in cashews right before serving

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Asian Beef Stir Fry

This week will feature some meal ideas that are stir fried and easy to put together-especially if you buy pre-cut vegetables in the produce meant for stir fried meals or use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.
Be creative serving the meat dish over you favorite noodles rather than rice.

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry

  • 1 LB. thinly sliced flank steak or boneless sirloin steak
  • 1 cloves of garlic minced
  • 8 green onion cut into 1inch pieces
  • 2 TB. sesame seeds
  • Option 1: buy a bag of cut veggies to stir fry in wok found in produce   
  • Option 2: use the following vegetables
3 medium carrots-thinly bias sliced
8 oz. pea pods
4 cup of broccoli
4 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup cream sherry
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB. hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • ¾ tsp. chili paste
  • ¾ tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
  • 3 TB. cooking oil or use sesame oil for more flavor
  • ½ cup water mixed with 2 TB. cornstarch
  • Partially freeze beef and then thinly bias slice across the grain
  • In a bowl combine soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce, sugar, chili paste, ¾ tsp. sesame oil, and ginger
  • Add beef and sesame seeds to this mixture to coat beef
  • Cover and chill 2 hrs. Stir once or twice
  • Stir water and cornstarch
  • Drain beef reserving marinade
  • Add 2 TB. oil to wok and stir fry carrots, pea pods, broccoli flowerets, onions, garlic
  • Remove the veggies from wok, add beef and other TB. of oil stir fry beef about 3 minutes till strips cooked
  • To meat mixture add cornstarch/water mixture, veggies, bagged spinach and marinade cook on med low till thickened about  2 minutes
  • Serve over rice or noddles
  • Could add cashews
An Added Book Note: The book on Gratitude (previous blog posting) reminds me of another book I read called How Starbucks Saved My Life. Both of these books are inspiring stories of men who were well educated, had a lot of success in the corporate world, then lost it all through a series of bad luck but managed to turn their life around and become successful again. Along the way each of these men realized  how important writing really was to them and the need to tell their stories.


    Saturday, January 7, 2012


    "It Depends on Us... Another year lies before us like an unwritten page, an unspent coin, an unwalked road, the pages will read, what treasures will be gained in exchange for time, or what we find along the way, will largely depend on us."
    -- Esther Baldwin York

    John Kralik, author of the book A Simple Act of Gratitude, was at mid-life crisis stage when he decided he could not spend another year in the self destruction mode he had been heading towards. On New Year's Day in 2008 he reflected on the fact his personal and professional life were in shambles and it was time to make some new resolutions. He had always wanted to be a writer but had set that career aside to be a lawyer. He yearned to do something more meaningful with his life. When his ex-girlfriend sends him a simple thank you note for a gift it was the inspiration he needed to feel grateful for what he had and re-look at a postponed writing career. On that  New Year's Day he made a resolution to embark on a journey writing a thank you note each day for 365 days. He wrote notes to family members, friends, co-workers, service people and many others who had touched his life. During  his year long writing campaign Kralik began to notice that he was rewarded with unexpected kindness, love, respect and even a repayment on an outstanding loan. During his year long quest of note writing it reinforced his conviction that handwritng is important, even in business a handwritten note plays an important part, it is an exercise in good manners, each of us has more in our lives to be grateful for than we think and it is never too late to turn your life around.   
    What impressed me about John Kralik's story was his commitment to writing a thank you note a day for a total of 365 days. Which leads me to comment how few written notes we even receive in the mail today. Twitter, email and other social networking systems keep us all so connected in ways people do not feel the need to write notes and put them in the mail. One important idea I did take away from this book is finding one person a day in our lives to show gratitude and say thank you. Check out this inspiring story. I even found out it can be downloaded to a Kindle or NOOK:) 
    Oh, and I do want to stop here and say thank you to those who have kept up reading Ever Ready blog postings. I just recently realized since 9/3/09 I have written 412 blogs. Wow... think of all the food consumed along the way testing recipes.
    A comment about white sauce called bechamel used in the Sausage-Chicken Manicotti. I did list ingredients but not directions. The sauce is easy.
    Melt 1/4 cup butter and whisk in 1/4 cup flour 
    Cook on low heat for 1 minute
    Whisk in 2-1/2 cups 2% milk, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg bring to simmer stirring constantly till thickens
    Add 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and stir in
    Remove from heat   

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Sausage-Chicken Manicotti

    "Resolve to make at least one person happy every day, and then in ten years you may have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or brightened a small town by your contribution to the fund of general enjoyment."
    -- Sydney Smith

    The past few week I seem to be in the Italian mode for cooking. When I found this recipe tucked away for a later date I thought I would tackle it for company who love Italian food as much as we do. I served the manicotti with Blueberry-Orange Salad. The recipe was posted December 3 and for dessert made the Tiramisu recipe which was posted January 1. The flavors of manicotti filling and two sauces were quite good and the dish was well worth the effort to make it!

    Chicken and Sausage Manicotti

    This recipe had a complete makeover! But I did start with one from Cuisine At Home December 2005 I will give cook’s notes along the wayJ
    • 3 large chicken breasts cooked and diced (I used food processor)
    • ¾ LB. Italian sausage cooked and crumbled (I used food processor)
    • note formula: using equal parts of meat-original recipe called for 4 oz. each of chicken and sausage 
    • 1 small box of white button mushroom diced
    • ½ diced red pepper
    • 1 TB. minced garlic
    • 1 TB. Italian seasonings
    • 1 TB. parsley flakes
    • ½ diced large onion
    • ¾ cup grated fontina cheese (I used food processor)
    • 1 cup skim Ricotta cheese
    • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1 egg
    • fresh slices of mozzarella cheese
    • 1 container (dairy section) prepared Marina sauce
    • 1 container Alfredo sauce prepared (or make your own white béchamel sauce with flour, butter, milk, a little white wine, and grated Parmesan cheese)
    • 1 box of pasta sheets –cooked 4 minutes in boiling salted water (what a great discovery for me and time saver since these sheets make manicotti filling so much easier than try to stuff mixture in long shells and they always tear for me)
    • This dish will be cooked in a 13 x 9 pan @ 350 lightly grease it and drizzle red sauce on bottom of dish
    • Cook both meats and crumble in food processor set aside in a large bowl
    • In another bowl add fontina grated cheese, ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese
    • Add to meat mixture
    • In a pan sauté in 3 TB. olive oil the garlic, onion, red pepper and mushrooms for about 6-8 minutes
    • Add this to meat mixture and blend well by hand
    • Lay a long strip of paper towel on the counter
    • Cook pasta sheets 4 minutes drain and lay each one out on paper towel
    • Put ¼ cup meat mixture at end of pasta sheet shaping into a cylinder shape
    • Roll manicotti like a rug, snugly but not too tight so the pasta sheet does not tear and place seam side down in pan
    • Places fresh slices of mozzarella over manicotti -one slice for every two pasta rolls
    • First drizzle red sauce over manicotti, then white sauce
    • Bake covered 30 minutes
    • Let set 10 minutes before serving
    And...this was for the cook!

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    A New Beginning

    We will open the book. The pages are blank.
    We are going to put words on them ourselves.
    The book is called Opportunity.
    And it's first chapter is New Year's Day.
    Edith Lovejoy Pierce
    American poet and author
    My new journal (a Christmas gift) begs to be written on with its clean, uncluttered page. The possibilities of what to write are endless much like all the recipes I keep finding and wish I could try but know I should limit myself. I am sure today January 1 some are even taking out a fresh clean page and making their New Year's resolutions. I thought this cartoon was funny. And don't you just love that saying on the journal cover:)  
    Tiramisu means "pick-me-up" in Italian named for the high energy content (eggs-sugar) and caffeine of strong espresso coffee. This layered sponge cake was created in the early 1970's by chef Robert Linguanotto in the city of Treviso, Italy. 
    A recent New Year's gathering was the perfect time to try this new spin on Tiramisu. Instead on serving it in an over-sized coffee cup as suggested  I thought a martini glass would make it look more elegant. If you love coffee and Kahlua then this is the recipe for you. It was so easy to put together and  looks like you spent a lot of time when it was under 30 minutes.

    serves 4
    adapted from Southern Living December 2007
    • 4 oz. cream cheese-softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 pint of whipping cream-whipped
    • 1/2 cup hot water
    • 1 TB. instant espresso coffee powder
    • 1/4-1/3 cup Kahlua 
    • 2 packages ladyfingers

    • Arrange lady slipper halves around the glass overlapping each and use one half for middle
    • In a small bowl mix hot water and espresso powder stir till granules dissolved-set aside
    • Add Kahlua to coffee mixture
    • In a bowl beat whipping cream and set aside
    • In another bowl beat softened cream cheese and sugar and then add 2 TB. of whipping cream and mix well
    • Fold cream cheese mixture into whipped cream and blend
    • With a teaspoon soak/dribble each ladyfinger slice with coffee mixture
    • In center of Martini glass place 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture
    • Grate semi- sweet chocolate over top
    • Refrigerate several hours uncovered   

    Cinnamon Apple Muffins

    GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...