Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Literary Obsession Fuels Some Easy Recipes

A good book should leave you...slightly exhausted at the end.
You live several lives while reading it.
by William Styron

A book cover proclaiming a true story about a thief, a detective, a world of literary obsessions with a cover picture right out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie certainly caught my attention. 

Allison Hoover Bartlett's novel The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a unique narrative set within a strange world of rare book collecting. The author is a journalist who delves into the life of a real person John Charles Gilkey. He is a book thief that steals purely for the love of books. Gilkey is not just a thief, but an intelligent one who seems to have his own set of rules of fairness and rights. He is obsessed with collecting hundreds and thousands of rare books from fairs, schools and libraries. His elaborate schemes of using fraudulent credit cards and some checks is intriguing. Along the way I learned a new word: bibliodick, which means a book dealer who has a definite liking for detective work. Ken Saunders enters the narrative story as the book dealer driven to detective work to find Gilkey and bring him to justice.
I thought this book had some similarities to the book Orchid Thief  by Susan Orlean. Her book is also written in a semi-journalistic narration about addiction but focuses on plant obsession; namely  orchids. Another new word for your vocabulary: orchidelirium,people obsessed with orchids   Both books I found quite informative exploring the new worlds of rare books and plants. 
Looking for an an easy meal idea this should fit the bill. It is meatball subs served with chips and a broccoli salad.
 Broccoli Salad
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 small red onion
  • 12 strips of bacon-fried crisp and diced
  • ½ cup raisins or craisins
  • 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 small package of shredded cabbage mix
  • 1-cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TB. vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar (may want to use less sugar so taste first starting with 1/3 cup)
  • Mix salad ingredients
  • Chill salad ingredients while making dressing mixture
  • Pour dressing over salad ingredients 1/2 hour before serving and return bowl to refrigerator
  • If need more dressing make ½ mixture more: ½ cup mayo, 1 TB. vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar
Meatball Subs
  • 1 package of prepared meatballs (Sam's Club sells them)
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 package of shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of hoagie buns or brat buns
  • Preheat oven @ 425
  • Heat sauce in a saucepan on stove
  • Warm meatballs in oven-add some water to keep them moist
  • Assemble on a cookie sheet with opened buns
  • Place 3-4 meatballs down the center
  • Ladle warmed sauce over meatballs-about 1/4 cup per bun
  • Sprinkle with cheese
  • Bake in oven at 4-5 minutes and then serve

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Visual Feast

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day
by Vincent van Gogh
Starry Night Over The Rhone 
Today March 30 is the birthday of Dutch impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh.  In just over a decade he painted 860 oil paintings, 1300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints despite leading a troubled life. Years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness plagued him.  
His works include self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. This is one of his best known works of art. 
During his brief career he sold only one painting and was not really recognized as an artist. His finest works were produced in a three year period before he committed suicide. His technique before his death seemed to grow more symbolic.  Van Gogh's works were powerful, imaginative, rhythmic and emotional. It appeared he used his art work to explain his struggle against madness and trying to make sense of the co-existence of man and nature.
I liked the simplistic outlook of this following quote by van Gogh
To do good work one must eat well,
be well housed,
 have one's fling from time to time,
smoke one's pipe, 
and drink one's coffee in peace.

Jon Hassler. Minnesota author  
March 30, 1933-March 20, 2008
Today also marks the birthday of Jon Hassler. He was born in Minnesota and grew up in the small towns of the Twin Cities area. His career path took him from schoolteacher, to author and to Regent Professor at St. John's University in Collegville. His first published book was Staggerford in 1977 when he was 42. It was in this book readers were introduced to the quirky character, Agatha McGee who later appeared in two more of his novels. Hassler went on to write over 20 books and finished his last book right before his death in 2008. He died from a Parkinson's like disease. His writing is best known for exploring small town life in Minnesota and how it shaped or limited one's human potential. Many of his major characters were Catholic or lapsed Catholics. There is a theater named after him in Plainville, Minnesota. His novels North of Hope and Green Journey were adapted for television. 
There's worse ways to get old,
than rummaging around in your memories.
by Jon Hassler

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Going Overboard

So does taking over 90 pictures at a Spring flower show qualify as going overboard? Perhaps, but I just could not help myself :) I am starved for color this time of the year. The stunning displays of flowers with a Brazilian tropical theme sent me over the top. It all began with this toucan made of flowers
then this floral display
and on to your spring blooms...

some others will be posted on the right side bar-enjoy
A Very Small Guinness Dilemma
I had 1-14 oz  can left ,1 husband who wanted it, 2 cake recipes and 1 sauce recipe I wanted to try. So I picked a cake recipe that called for 1-1/4 cups of Guinness still leaving a wee bit to keep my husband happy.
This cake is dense and very moist. It got really high marks from us on flavor. So put it on your list.   Only adaptions were using equal parts of butter and margarine rather than using all butter and Guinness Draught which is less bitter.  
recipe from The Best of Fine Cooking Chocolate Winter 2006 
Chocolate Stout Cake
  • 1-1/4 cups Draught Guinness (don't include foam when measuring)
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1-2/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch -processed)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/4cup softened butter (I used equal parts margarine and butter) 
  • 1-1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet squares chopped in a food processor

  • Grease a bundt pan
  • In a small saucepan bring stout and molasses to a simmer
  • Remove from heat and set aside
  • Sift flour,cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt 
  • In another bowl cream butter/margarine and beat in brown sugar
  • Beat till light and fluffy about 3 minutes 
  • Beat in eggs one at a time
  • To the egg mixture on low speed alternate adding flour mixture and stout mixture 
  • Beat in chopped chocolate
  • Bake @ 350  45-50 but check at 45 minutes
  • Cool in pan no more than 15 minutes and then invert 
  • When cake is cooled frost with your favorite chocolate frosting or the chocolate glaze recipe below

Chocolate Glaze
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chopped
  • 2 TB. confectioners sugar

  • Bring the cream to a boil 
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate and confectioners sugar
  • Whisk till smooth could add 2 TB. Kahlua and a little cream if needed
  • Let sit 5 minutes before pouring on the cake

    the other recipe I really wanted to try but saving for another time when I barbecue next 
    Sticky Stout Barbecue Sauce
    Southern Living October 2011
    • 1 small onion finely chopped
    • 1 TB. vegetable oil
    • 2 garlic cloves minced
    • 1 (11.2 oz) stout beer
    • 1 cup spicy barbecue sauce
    • 1/4 cup fig preserves
    • 2 TB. apple cider vinegar
    • Saute onion in oil heat 4-5 minutes and add minced garlic and saute 1 minute longer
    • Gradually stir in beer and cook 8 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half
    • Stir in barbecue sauce and preserves and vinegar
    • Cook 4 minutes till heated through
    • Make three days ahead cover and chill-reheat when ready to add to pork or chicken
    Cook's note:

    they tested with Guinness and Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet'n Spicy Barbecue Sauce

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Robert Frost

    Robert Frost
    March 26, 1874-January 29, 1963
    "A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom"

    Blue-Butterfly Day
    by Robert Frost 
    It was a blue-butterfly day here in spring.
    And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry 
    There is more unmixed color on the wing
    Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

    But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
    And now from having ridden out desire
    They lie closed over in the wind and cling
    Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

    Robert Frost is a four time Pulitzer Prize winning poet. He spent most of his life in New England where he created poems about nature and seasons. He performed his poem The Gift of Outright at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy January 20, 1961. On his 86th birthday March 26, 1962 ,he was awarded the Congressional Medal at the White House by John Kennedy.  His epitaph quotes a line from one of his poems "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Stuffed with Literary Food

    "E. B. White said, 'All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world,' " 
    and Kate DiCamillo stated in an interview in 2006 "That's the way I feel too." 
    This is a picture of the author at the world premiere of her book Tale of Despereaux. Not only was this book adapted into a movie but previously the book had won the prestigious Newberry  Medal Award. 
    Today is Kate DiCamillo's birthday. Her impressive prolific list of books begins in 2000 with Because of Winn Dixie, a sweet story about a girl and her dog. This book was a Newberry Honor winner.
    I am sure all her fans have their favorite and mine just happens to be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. No matter how many times I read the book the last two pages bring me to tears. It is a very touching story of Edward, a toy china head rabbit, who begins the story belonging to a young girl named Abilene.  After a series of misfortunes starting being lost at sea, Edward's incredible journey begins with a succession of owners who rescue him and a surprise ending. I was excited to read that this book will be adapted into a film as well as another book of DiCamillo, Magician's Elephant .  
    DiCamillo spent most of her childhood in Florida. But lucky for us here in Minnesota she came to this area after college. DiCamillo had several part time jobs; working in a book warehouse, a used bookstore and then her writing career took off. Today she is a very successful writer of picture books, middle level chapter books and a recent series of early chapter books on Mercy Watson, the pig.  
    Be sure to check her work out at the library and local bookstores.
    Some noteworthy adult books you might think about reading include:
    March by Geraldine Brooks 
    This is a story crafted from a character in Little Women, the absent father. March is a man  who leaves his family behind to aid the Union cause during the Civil War and returns home a haunted man. 
    Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
    I consider Brooks a master of historical fiction. Since I really enjoyed her previous book March  I was anxious to read this one.
    Brooks had limited information on Caleb, a young man from Martha's Vineyard, who was the first native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665.  She skillfully wove a story of his life using Bethia Mayfield as the narrator. Bethia, a strong female character is ahead of her times in thinking. She is a daughter of a Calvinist minister who finds it hard to accept that girls are denied access to education something she really wants for herself. 
    She encounters Caleb, a young son of a chiefton near her settlement and forms a friendship with him. The title refers to Caleb crossing from native tribal culture to English white culture. There has been some criticism of the title. Some think the story is more about Bethia crossing from girlhood to womanhood. It is a point well taken but read the story and judge for yourself.

    Breaking Night by Liz Murray
    This book takes your breath away with the chaos and heartbreaking memoir story of Liz Murray. She is a neglected daughter of two drug addicts who eventually die of Aids. Murray leaves home at 15 and is homeless. At 17 she decides to turn her life around. She enrolls in high school and graduates within two years. Focusing on her parent's bad example (what not to do) she sets her goals even higher and wins a New York Times Scholarship for Needy Students. Murray then goes on to graduate and later forms her own company Manifest Living.  It is an organization that provides a series of workshops that empower adults to create extra ordinary things out of their lives. I was surprised when reading Murray's story that she does not write with self pity nor show anger towards her parents on their lack of parenting. Her determination to turn her life around is quite extraordinary story. 

    Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock.
    This is a true story but it often it reads like historical fiction. The author who is a poet and memorist, tells the story of Mary Delany. She is an 18th century woman who created 985 (scissors cut) botanically accurate representation of flowers after the age of 72. The book is a combination of Mary Delany's life and the author Molly Peacock's life is woven in the story. The authors shows Delany's life to be a work of art. She was an artistic talented woman who showed courage and diligence to improve her family's place in society.  Delany invented paper collage. She called it mosaick. The book is stunning with the photos of these mosaicks. 
    I was at a book talk awhile back and found out that many of these flower mosaick designs have been copied onto bowls and plates. One of the speakers had some actual dishes to show.  Many of Delany's original mosaick designs are stored in England at the British Museum where they are displayed from time to time. One thing to take away from the book is it is never too late to reinvent yourself :)

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Recipe Ideas for Spring Brunch

    Chicken/Turkey Wild Rice Salad
    Cook’s note: this salad tastes better when made ahead one day to meld the flavors
    More plain Miracle Whip or mayonnaise might be needed at the end to moisten the salad
    Serves 6-8

    Basic Salad Ingredients:
    • 6-8 large pieces of cooked chicken or turkey-cut into small chunks
    • 3-4 cups cooked wild rice
    • 2-3 cups small red grapes or 1 package of dried cherries
    • 2 cups pea pods
    • 1 small package of walnuts or cashews
    • ½ box pasta shells cooked al dente, rinsed and drained
    • ¾ cup green onions
    Sauce ingredients:
    Cook’s note:
    The following recipe makes one cup. How many cups of sauce added depends on the amount of basic salad ingredients used. Remember the salad just needs to be moistened not drenched with miracle whip or mayonnaise sauce.
    • 1-cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
    • 2 tsp. sherry
    • ¼ tsp. ginger
    • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
     Salad Directions:
    • Blanch pea pods by bringing water to boil-add pea pods and boil just 1 minute-rinse under cold water-drain
    • Add rest of salad ingredients except nuts-mix well in a large bowl
    • Add sauce one cup at a time to salad ingredients
    • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours
    • Add nuts at the end
     Wild Rice with Mushrooms
    adapted from Southern Living November 2011
    • 2- (6oz.) packages long-grain and wild rice mi
    • 3 TB. butter
    • 1 sweet onion diced
    • 1 large box of white mushrooms
    • 2 garlic cloves minced
    • 1/2 cup Marsala
    • 2 TB. dried parsley or 1/2 cup fresh parsley
    • 1 package of dried cherries
    • cashews or slivered almonds  

    • Prepare rice mix according to package directions
    • Melt butter in skillet add onions and garlic and saute till golden brown
    • Add mushrooms, cherries and saute 4-5 minutes longer
    • Add Marsala and saute 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed
    • Stir in mushroom mixture and parsley into wild rice rice mixture-serve warm

    "Having more joy does not necessarily require a life overhaul-
     you may just need to create more space 
    in your life for moments of joy."
     Debrena Jackson Gandy 

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    A Different Kind Of Food

    Food for the literary soul served up on March 22

    Billy Collin's celebrates a birthday today. He is America's 11th poet laureate from 2001- 2003. He has an impressive resume winning numerous awards and honors of distinction throughout his career. He is a professor, author and poet. His most recent poem publication in 2011 is called Horoscopes of the Dead.  Collin's poems cover a wide range of themes from love, loss, youth, aging and solitude. Perhaps some of the reasons why Collin's works are so successful is that he writes in a conversational tone. His poems are easy to read, meaningful, simple and not overloaded with metaphors and similes. I am posting a poem he wrote that I particularly liked because of the last few lines. I can relate to it since in grade school and high school dissecting poems used to be the teaching norm.  
    Introduction to Poetry
    by Billy Collins

    I ask them to take a poem
    and hold it up to the light
    like a color slide

    or press an ear against its hive.

    I say drop a mouse into your poem
    And watch him probe his way out,

    or walk inside the poem’s room
    and feel the walls for  light switch.

    I want them to waterski
    across the surface of the poem
    waving at the author’s name on the shore.

    But all they want to do
    is tie the poem to a chair with rope
    and torture a confession out of it.

    They began beating it with a hose
    to find out what it really means.

    James Patterson, best selling novelist, joins Billy Collins on the birthday roll today.  He retired in 1985 as an executive for an ad agency to follow his passion for writing. He also has an impressive resume authoring more than 71 novels in 33 years. He is primarily known for his thriller novels with Alex Cross, a psychologist, as the main character.

    A lesser known fact, but really an amazing one, is that in recent years Patterson's novels have sold more copies that those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined.  Of course with success always comes criticism. In recent years Patterson moved in the direction of collaboration. His prolific output is owed to his many co-authors who do share authorship credit. But for some there has been concern how much in each of the books are really his words. 
    In 2008 Patterson has began focusing a lot of his energies into the initiative . This organization helps teachers, parents, librarians find the best books for their children. 
    Randolph Caldecott March 22, 1846-February 12, 1889 joins the birthday list. He is an English artist who illustrated picture books, fiction, verse and fables for children as well as novels, poetry and non-fiction for adults. Caldecott is often called the "Father of Picture Books". He transformed the world of children's books during the Victorian Era. The distinguished Caldecott Medal Award in children's literature is named after him.
    He is best known for creating 16 picture books that feature nursery rhymes and songs. His illustration style shows rollicking activity and a celebratory approach to life.(Hey...just my kind of guy:)  
    A lesser known fact about Caldecott, due to poor health he and his wife often traveled to warmer climates. He was in America on a book/speaking tour and died in St. Augustine, Florida before the age of 40. A headstone still marks his grave there.  
    Of course there are more notable March 22 birthdays out there but I did not want to overfeed you with more:)
    Enjoy your day!

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Jump Start

    Jump start Easter with some inspired spring brunch side menu ideas. 

    Cucumbers with Yogurt Dill Sauce
    • 1-cup plain yogurt
    • 2 TB. salad dressing or mayo
    • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
    • 1-2 cloves garlic minced
    • 2 cucumbers thinly sliced about 3 cups
    • ¼- 1/2 cup red onion
    • Mix all ingredients except cucumbers and onion in large bowl
    • Stir in cucumbers and onion
    • Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors
    • To serve garnish with fresh sprig of dill
    Green Bean Salad with Red Onions
    Recipe adapted from Country Living November 2011
    • 2 lbs. green beans with ends trimmed
    • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 4 garlic cloves
    • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
    • ½ cup total of chopped fresh dill, basil; parsley-if using dried 1 tsp. of each
    • 2 tsp. lemon zest about 1 lemon
    • 1/3 –1/2 cup lemon juice
    • glazed walnuts
    • feta crumbles
    • Cook green beans till crisp in boiling salted water about 3 minutes
    • Drain in colander and rinse with cold water-set aside
    • In a blender add herbs and all other ingredients except onion and lemon juice
    • Toss blender mixture with green beans and refrigerate at least two hours  
    • To serve toss with lemon juice, onion and glazed/candied walnuts

     Spinach Orange Salad

    Adapted from Cuisine December 2011
     Salad Ingredients;
    • 1 bag of baby spinach-remove stems
    • 2 large oranges peeled and sliced thinly
    • ½ cup red onion cut in rings
    • crumbled Gorgonzola
    • 1-pint blueberries
    • 1 cucumber sliced
    • candied / glazed almonds or walnuts (package choices found in produce section)
    Vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients:
    • 4 TB. each white or blush balsamic vinegar and olive oil
    • 2 TB. minced shallots
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 TB. poppy seeds
    • Mix dressing ingredients with whisk or in a blender-set aside
    • Combine greens, spinach, orange, blueberries, cucumber, onion slices, nuts
    • Refrigerate till serving
    • Add dressing and crumble cheese on top 

      Tuesday, March 20, 2012


      "No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn"
      Hal Borland
      Happy First Day of Spring
      Well this year in my area it appeared spring practically skipped a turn and jumped head first into summer. Between the early arrival of birds, trees budding, crocuses pushing their way up and out and above normal temperatures many  of us have been left dazed and confused. Just what season is it?? But I say we all have gotten a wee bit of Irish luck!"   
      Anyway you look at it today is a day worth celebrating. So I decided to bake shamrock cookies. After all it is safe to think Irish since we are still in March.  Plus it gives me an excuse to use my new shamrock cookie cutter again. This favorite cookie recipe is well over 15 years old. It  came with a Tupperware product. I might add is a very easy recipe and works well with any type of cookie cutter:) And no, I did not make up this recipe name.
      Granny’s Sugar Cookies
      makes about 22
      Cook’s note: be sure to occasionally dredge cookie cutter in flour so dough does not stick to it
      Cookie Ingredients:
      • ½ cup butter softened
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1 large egg
      • 1/8 cup water
      • ½ tsp. salt
      • 2 tsp. baking powder
      • 2 cups flour
      • ½ tsp. vanilla
       Cookie Directions:
      • Sift dry ingredients and set aside
      • Cream butter and sugar
      • Add egg and water eat
      • Add sifted ingredients and vanilla
      • Mix well and refrigerate at least an hour or until chilled
      • On a floured surface work with one cup of batter at a time
      • Roll out and use cookie cutter
      • Transfer cookies to baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes (but start checking at 8 minutes)
      • Keep dough in refrigerate till needed for next batch
      Frosting Ingredients:
      • 2 cups of powdered sugar
      • Start with 1/8 cup of milk add more as needed for right consistency
      • 2 TB. softened butter
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • optional 2 drops of food coloring
      Frosting Directions:
      Beat all ingredients

      "In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours." 
      Mark Twain

      Sunday, March 18, 2012

      Douglas Florian

      Douglas Florian is a poet, author and illustrator of over 30 books. March 18th is his birthday. Just in time for opening baseball season is his Poem Runs, a children's book of baseball poems. It will be available in early April. Some of his previous books include; Winter Eyes, Beast Feast, Dinothesaurus, Handsprings, and Insectopedia.
      Florian's playful and witty approach to poetry really engages the young reader. He is a master of word play, rhyme and humor. Next time you are at the library or bookstore check out some of his books.  His illustrations are indeed quite noteworthy in his books. Florian often incorporates collage, watercolor and gouache (yikes! had to look this one up...a method of painting with opaque watercolors mixed with a preparation of gum) into his illustrations.
      His books are such a fun read that really encourages children to try writing their own verses and look at nature with a different set of eyes.
      The following recipe was in a Sunday paper supplement and really caught my eye. Looks perfect for Easter brunch. It is a new twist on the standard scrambled egg recipe. Looked quite interesting serving the egg dish in baked tortilla cups.
      This recipe is from the link
      check it out for other Easter/Spring recipe ideas

      Tortilla Cups Ingredients:

      Eggs Ingredients:

      • 10 Land O Lakes® All-Natural Eggs
      • 1/3 cup milk
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
      • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 2 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Butter
      • 1/3 cup chopped onion
      • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
      • 1/3 cup chopped broccoli florets
      • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
      • Heat oven to 425°F. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder in small bowl. Place 6 (10-ounce) custard cups onto 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. 

      • Brush both sides of each tortilla with melted garlic butter. Carefully fit tortillas into custard cups. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned. 

      • Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder in medium bowl; beat with wire whisk until well mixed. 

      • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet until sizzling; add onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until crisply tender (3 to 4 minutes). Stir in broccoli florets. 
      • Pour egg mixture over vegetables in skillet. Continue cooking, gently lifting and stirring slightly with spatula to allow uncooked portion to flow underneath, until almost set (4 to 6 minutes). Stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese; continue cooking until cheese is melted (1 to 2 minutes). 
      •  Fill each baked tortilla cup with 2/3 cup egg mixture; sprinkle each with remaining shredded cheese.

      Note: Tortilla cups can be baked a day in advance and stored in container with tight-fitting lid. To reheat, heat oven to 350°F. Place wire cooling rack over baking sheet; place tortilla cups onto rack. Bake until warm and crisp (5 to 6 minutes).

      Saturday, March 17, 2012

      Grand Finale

      "May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the
      foresight to know where you're going, and the insight to know

      when you're going too far."
       Irish Blessing  
      A little know fact that St. Patrick was not really Irish but of English descent. He was born into an aristocratic family, kidnapped at an early age and taken to Ireland.  After escaping he returned  home and later became a priest. He went back to Ireland to convert natives to Christianity. There are many legends about the shamrock and his driving the snakes out of Ireland. 
      Parades remain a large part of the celebrations today. New York has the largest one in the world. The first St. Patrick's parade was held in Dublin in 1995 to boost tourism. Today it has become a five day event. In America we have parades, rivers are dyed green and lots of  celebrations to mark the occasion. I recently was part of  gathering for seniors who had fun wearing their best greenery. In my daughter's  classroom I got a chance to make a new dish called green eggs and ham. Green bread and milk rounded out the meal. 
      Photos from both gatherings are posted on the right.  
      Hope you enjoy the day. I know I will since we are having another summer day again with predicted temperatures in high 70's.  
      Bailey’s Irish Cream Cake
      Cake Ingredients:
      • 2 cups cake flour
      • 2 tsp. baking powder
      • ½ tsp. salt
      • ½ cup butter
      • 3 large eggs
      • 5 ounces (5 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted (I used bittersweet chocolate but  semi-sweet would work )
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • ¾ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
      • ½ cup milk
      • 1 cup chopped walnuts
      Frosting Ingredients:
      From the book Chocolate Cookery by Mable Hoffman
      Cook’s Note: this is by far the best homemade frosting I have ever tried and I even have it memorized! It makes a generous amount and leftover frosting can be wrapped well and placed in freezer for another use. To thaw put in microwave. I have used this frosting on other cakes and on brownies. Often I add 2 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto to frosting mixture.
      • ¼ cup butter or margarine
      • 1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
      • 1 cup sugar
      • ½ cup milk
      • 1/4 tsp. salt
      • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
      • 1 tsp. vanilla
      • milk as needed added by the tablespoons
      Cake Directions:
      • Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt set aside
      • In a large bowl cream butter and sugar adding eggs in one at a time
      • Beat till fluffy
      • Mix in melted chocolate (can do in microwave) and vanilla
      • Add to flour mixture and add Baileys to this and beat
      • Add milk and nuts last-beat till smooth
      • Grease either 13 x 9 pan or 2 round cake pans (9 inch) too much batter for 8 inch
      • Bake 30 minutes BUT check at 25 minutes
      • Cool cakes in pan 10 minutes is using cake pans and then invert onto 2 dinner plates that are covered with wax paper-reverse after 30 minutes to cool other side of cake
      • If using a 13 x 9 pan leave cake in pan 
      Frosting Directions:
      • In medium saucepan on low heat combine chocolate pieces with butter or margarine, sugar, milk and salt
      • Bring to a boil stirring constantly
      • Simmer 3 minutes
      • Remove from heat and add 2 TB. Bailey’s Irish cream, vanilla and powdered sugar.
      • Add milk by tablespoons as needed. Ingredients can be beat right in saucepan using a hand mixer
      • Frost one 13 x pan or 2-8 or 9 cake pans

      Friday, March 16, 2012

      The Main Attraction

      Cook's Note:please note that on the potato soup recipe recently posted I went back and made a few changes. I wrote the changes in the original recipe. I added another carrot and celery stalk and then added two spices lightly:curry and dry mustard. It really improved the flavor. Adding 1 cup cheddar cheese at the end really made the texture nice and creamy.
      On the previous blog posting: Appetizer I added under shamrock cut outs a Friday Lenten luncheon menu idea for girls' afternoon out. 
      I suppose with all the Irish food conversations the past two weeks in the blog postings you might be wondering when or if I was going to get to the main attraction...corned beef brisket. Well worry no more here it is just in time for the 17th.
      The package pictures was just the right size 2.36 lbs. And even comes with its own spice package. There are several options for cooking the brisket one the oven method and the other using a crock pot. I was up for the challenge trying a different cooking method the crock pot. It was cooked on low 7 hours. I used Guinness Draught beer rather than Stout because it has a less bitter taste.
      • corned beef brisket
      • spice pack supplied in brisket packet
      • potatoes peeled and diced in chunks
      • carrots and celery diced
      • head cabbage cut in three wedges
      • I can beer 14. oz.
      • 8 black peppercorns
      • 2   bay leaves
      • 2 garlic cloves minced
      • optional add ins: 1/4 tsp. each of allspice, cloves, thyme
      • Spray crock pot with PAM
      • Place meat fat side down in pot
      • Rub meat with spices in seasoning pack
      • Pour beer around brisket and on top
      • Place bay leaves, minced garlic, peppercorns in beer mixture
      • Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours
      • The last three hours add carrots, potatoes, celery
      • The last hour add cabbage
      • Be sure to remove bay leaves
      • Let meat rest 10-15 minutes before cutting 

      Thursday, March 15, 2012


      May good fortune be yours,
      May your joys never end
      Irish Blessing
      Appetizer Ideas
      Shamrock cut outs
      Cook's notes:Use whole wheat bread since it is a bit more sturdy and more healthy
      Egg Salad
      Some ideas for making egg salad are adding dill, parsley flakes, mustard, pickle relish, onion, miracle whip to chopped eggs
      Tuns Salad
      Some ideas for making tuna salad are adding parsley flakes, finely chopped walnuts, pickle relish, onion, miracle whip to white tuna that has been drained and patted dry with paper towels
      Another sandwich idea
      Corned beef filing
      use pumpernickel or rye bread for this filling 
      1- 3 oz. package cream cheese softened
      1/2 cup mayonnaise
      spicy brown mustard or Dijon
      chopped finely deli corned beef

      Friday Lenten Lunch Idea for Girls' Afternoon Out

      This platter has two kinds of sandwich fillings-egg salad and tuna salad. I used an ice cream scooper  and put a dollop of each on a romaine lettuce leaf -topped  with half a cherry tomato. The sandwich fillings were served with a plate of assorted  breads to make open face sandwiches. Be sure to include Irish Soda Bread. Fresh fruit, pickles and chips rounded the meal out.

      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 ...