Saturday, February 28, 2015

The World According to Bella and Creamy Coconut Poke Cake

It's About Time
Check out  this very large bag of treats. 
These past few weeks I've watched all these people from Minnesota stop by for a visit and bring stuff for Mr. C and Mrs.S. Finally someone remembered me something to eat. Mrs. S was real happy since these treats are low fat though she doesn't seem as worried about my weight lately. I am now going on more walks a day. This weather really agrees with me with no snow and walking is easy as I am not slipping.   
When I am not working on my tan, or keeping a watchful eye on desert critters I get to go on lots of field trips and even out to lunch.  
At one lady's house we visited she gave me filtered water.  
I had fun exploring her yard though but I never could find any grass. 
I liked the al fresco dining where I got even a bigger bowl of water and a dog bone. Now this is what I call a dog friendly place! 
Check out this view
Life is good.
Love, Bella 
Creamy Coconut Poke Cake
Cook's notes: A heavenly bite of white cake soaked in sweet creamy coconut milk and smothered in whip cream with toasted coconut. Cake tastes better made a day ahead. 
A real sweet treat provided by Sheila for our enjoyment.

  • 1 box super moist white cake mix
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cream of coconut
  • 1 8 oz. tub of cool whip- or homemade whipping cream
  • 2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
  • Make cake mix, following the directions on the box for an 9 x 13 baking pan but use egg whites only and not egg yolks.
  • While the cake is baking, mix together a can of sweetened condensed milk and a can of cream of coconut. Cream of coconut is not to be confused with coconut milk. You can find it in the drink mix section - (like for cocktails) at most stores.
  • When you pull the cake out of the oven cool 5 minutes before poking holes all over the cake about 2 inches a part. Don't poke holes all the way to the bottom or the liquid will all be at the bottom of the cake. Try to poke holes at different depths, some shallow and some deeper.
  • Slowly pour the coconut cream mix all over the cake, and try to make sure it doesn't go over the edges, because then the liquid will seep to the bottom of the cake.
  • Refrigerate cake for at least 4 hours and then ice with homemade whipped cream or a small tub of cool whip.
  • Toast coconut and sprinkle on top.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Asian Cobb Salad

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( February 27, 1807-March 4, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets.
Longfellow became a national literary figure by the 1850s, and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.
He had three daughters, one son and married twice. After his second wife died in a tragic fire he raised his children by himself and valued his time spent with them. This poem reflects his love of his children.
Look up his biography which gives an explanation as to why he grew a beard. It was a sad but interesting story. 

The Children's Hour
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
recipe adapted from site serves 4
Cook's notes: This salad serves as the perfect light meal, full of protein and veggies with a simple sesame vinaigrette! Buy a rotisserie chicken as a time saver. The rest of the chicken can be used for another meal. 
Salad Ingredients:
  • 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained or 4 clementines peeled and segmented
  • 1 cup shredded or diced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
Sesame Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar plus 1 TB.
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 TB. sesame oil
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 TB. toasted sesame seeds

  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together rice wine vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, sesame seeds and soy sauce in a blender, mix well and set aside.
  • To assemble the salad, place baby greens in a large bowl; top with arranged rows of mandarin oranges, chicken, carrots, avocado, eggs and green onions.
  • Serve immediately with sesame vinaigrette.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Enjoying a Poem with an Egg Salad Open Face Sandwich

I posted this Saguaro picture on February 16th. It can be found at the Ritz Carlton in Tucson. Since my last visit there I found out this interesting information. The cactus is between 250-300 years old, weighs 10 tons equivalent to the weight of 6 cars and is 60 feet high. Last summer there were 2 of these monstrous cacti beside each other. With no warning one toppled over. I am told it sounded like an explosion leaving a small crater in the ground. Now that must have been a sight to behold. The size of this cactus is impressive. 
To the Desert
by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, “To the Desert” from Dark and Perfect (El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Used with the permission of the author.
Egg Salad Open Face Sandwich
Cook's note: Depending on the sliced bread size it can be served as a sandwich or as an appetizer. 
  • egg salad made with pickle relish, Miracle Whip, mustard, dried dill and parsley flakes
  • sliced firm artisan bread 
  • olive oil
  • deli ham
  • grape tomatoes
  • romaine lettuce
  • Make egg salad and refrigerate several hours to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut bread and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Toast 3 minutes per side. 
  • Cut ham pieces in long strips 2 inches wide and roll spiral fashion.
  • Assemble each toast piece in the following manner: Romaine, egg salad , spiral piece of ham and tomato. Secure with a toothpick.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tucson Botanical Gardens

The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Tucson. It strives to be one of the best small public gardens in America. It consists of 17 specialty gardens within 5-1/2 acres. The gardens represent a variety of gardening traditions and botanical themes. It originally was the home of Bernice and Rutger Porter, dating to the 1920's. The Gardens certainly were a place of beauty, inspiration and educational learning about plants and flowers of the desert environment. With warmer temperatures than usual and rain the desert plants are starting to bloom.  
Step into the Gardens and enjoy the tour. My favorite area was the tropical greenhouse with an exotic butterfly adventure. I was able to get up close and personal with butterflies from the tropics, tree frogs from the Amazon and tropical plants. It was amazing!



A slow close dance with a Saguaro

Red Spike Ice Plant
The fence is made with Ocotillo cactus spines. Ocotillo has many uses.The roots and flowers have several medicinal uses. The branches can be snipped off and used to create houses, walls. roofs and fences.  
Orange trees

Grapefruit trees

One of the most unusual cactus called Creeping Devil grows along the ground.
A variety of colorful mosaic tile benches were scattered about the gardens. 
Soaptree Yucca

well said!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lemon Herb Roasted Potatoes and Souvlaki

Lemon Herb Roasted Potatoes
These Lemon Herb Roasted Potato Nuggets are a terrific side dish with many meals like any roast chicken or lamb dinner or to serve with Greek Souvlaki.
by Barry C. Parsons, serves 4-6

  • 6- 8 large sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • juice of one lemon
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil or Lemon Fused Olive Oil
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 1½ TB. dried herbs, oregano, thyme and rosemary are good choices
  • 1 whole garlic bulb broken into about 4 pieces (optional)
  • Parboil the potatoes in salted water for about 3-4 minutes, no longer.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • After parboiling, drain the potatoes and let them stand for 5 minutes. Then toss the potatoes with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs, garlic cloves and olive oil.
  • Transfer the seasoned potatoes to baking pan. Roast the potatoes for about 45 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown all over, turning them every 20 minutes or so. After the first 10 minutes, give the pan a shake to make sure the potatoes are not stuck to it. The roasted garlic may have to be removed before the potatoes are finished as it generally cooks faster.

Cook's notes: Perhaps the dead of winter its not the ideal time to grill so thread chicken on metal skewers, place on a broiler pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cook meat in oven at 425 degrees turning several times.  
  • 3 TB. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1-1/2 tsp.chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces 
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into (1/2-inch-thick) slices 
  • Cooking spray

Tzatziki Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt 
  • 1 TB. lemon juice 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • To prepare souvlaki, combine the first 5 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; seal and shake to combine. Add chicken to bag; seal and shake to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.
  • Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Thread the chicken and zucchini, alternately onto each of 4 (8-inch) skewers.
  • Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add skewers; cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once.
  • To prepare tzatziki sauce, combine cucumber, yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 garlic clove, stirring well. Serve the tzatziki sauce with souvlaki.

Break Up
use a pastry blender to help break up ground meat as it browns. The blades make quick work of cutting through the large clumps. Just be sure to use a stainless steel pan, as the pastry blender could scratch nonstick skillets. Try browning meat in an oven using a glass pan at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Asian Hot Sauces-Prickly Pear Jelly and The Desert

Some of the previously published recipes have called for chili paste. What to use when you can't find it at your local store.

Read below.  

FYI: Cooks can substitute hot sauce like Sriracha (pictured below) or crushed red pepper flakes for chili paste. Chili paste is seasoned with salt and made up of hot peppers, oil and garlic. Cooks sometimes use dried peppers instead of paste.
Sriracha is a type of hot sauce or chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. It is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand, where it was possibly first produced for dishes served at local seafood restaurants.

A Southwest Food Item 
Prickly pears are the fruit of the prickly pear cactus.. These tasty, oval fruits sprout from the tops of prickly cactus leaves and range in color from yellow-green to deep red or purple. Grown on sun-drenched deserts and watered naturally by our generous monsoon rains, the succulent Prickly Pear Cactus fruit produces a rich, fruity flavor with distinct clarity, and a delicate aroma. 

These neon fruits provide delicious juice that tastes like a cross between all-natural bubblegum (if indeed there is such a thing) and watermelon. Prickly pear juice is often used to make jam or candy, but works wonders in cocktails and used in vinaigrettes for salads.
Prickly pears are not only a diet staple but also a medicinal treatment for swelling and rheumatism among many indigenous peoples of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Whether eaten raw or dried, these prickly little fruits provide your body with several health benefits.  I couldn't resist purchasing a jar of Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly. It does have a flavor that can't quite be defined.  

The Sonoran Desert
by Tara Trewinnard-Boyle

How lucky am I? I have found my home!
In the place of dust and rock where the lizards run,
Where hot winds whip and the sun sears through a lapis colored sky.
Where Saguaros march uninhibited across the arid land.
Miles and miles of emptiness: freedom.

This is the place where Mother Nature still shows her true beauty.
Wild and uncompromising, she cuts me down to my rightful size.
Teaching me to live without; demand less; appreciate more.
Silently reminding me that the race is of my own making.
I can be free.

I have found my home. Not the home I was born to but where I belong.
The ache of leaving weighs heavy in my heart.
But today I can carry with me a gift, humbly offered to all who seek.
The desert is more than a place; it is a state of mind.
It is life and death, land and sky, struggle and freedom.

Slow! Your frantic pace does not matter here.
Breathe and be grounded in your humanness.
Be still and find your small place in this vast world.
You belong, just as you are. In the silence you can find peace.
This is the gift of the desert; for which I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Edna St. Vincent Millay and Broccoli Peanut Crunch

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an American lyrical poet, and playwright. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923, the third woman to win the award for poetry. She was also a feminist known for her activism. She used the pseudonym Nancy Boyd for her prose work.
In the dead of winter how lovely to think about the solitude of a summer day on a hill. 
Afternoon on a Hill
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!

Crunchy Broccoli Peanut Crunch
Cook's notes: recipe inspired by and serves 2-3

  • 3-4 cups small broccoli florets 
  • 1/2 cup sesame sticks,broken in halves 
  • 1/4 cup red onions, diced 
  • 1/2 cup raisins 
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts or honey roasted cashews 
  • 2 TB. rice vinegar 
  • 2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 tsp. chili garlic paste 
  • 1 tsp.sesame oil 
  • Blanch broccoli florets in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, 2 minutes and drain. Transfer briefly to a bowl of ice water, then drain again. Pat dry and transfer to a bowl. 
  • Add in onions, raisins and sesame sticks. 
  • Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic paste and oil. Pour over salad mixture, toss and top with peanuts just before serving. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chicken in Orange Sauce

Poetry On The Wall 
I do not know how I fared at this event today but here is the poem I entered.

by Sue Ready

What if our words were strung on a line

                                                                        hung to dry

                                                                                             for all to see.

Would pinned words

                                      make us proud


                                                                                          or even feel some regret

wishing we had said

                                     so much less.

A gust of wind

                          ripped those words

                                                             right off the line

                                                                                           forever gone and can’t get back.

Another load

                        a second chance

                                                     pin new words

                                                                                quick to listen

                                                                                                          slow to speak.

Chicken in Orange Sauce 
Cook's notes: Since I come from the Midwest it's hard for me to even fathom picking oranges, grapefruits and lemons off trees whenever I would want some for cooking and eating.Recently we were gifted a bunch from some friends visiting. The size of the lemons almost equaled the size of grapefruit. And I've never seen a stem on a lemon.  Perhaps I've been in Minnesota too long!
With all this yummy citrus fruit available I knew Chicken in Orange Sauce would be the perfect recipe for another Chinese meal to celebrate the New Year. Oranges are considered a symbol for wealth and luck. Oranges are often given as gifts during the New Year. 
The recent recipes posted have similar ingredients so once you purchase some staples such as rice vinegar, chili paste, chicken broth and fresh ginger you will find there are a variety of recipes that use those same ingredients. 
This recipe below was adapted from
Chicken In Orange Sauce  
  • 1 LB. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 TB. olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 TB. honey
  • 2 TB. soy sauce
  • 2 TB. rice vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. chili paste a.k.a sambal oelek
  • 1 TB. orange zest
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1-1/2 TB cornstarch
  • 3 TB. chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup diced green onions
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • Mix 3 TB. chicken broth with cornstarch.   
  • In a blender mix juice, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, orange zest, minced garlic, minced ginger and cornstarch/chicken broth.
  • Heat oil in pan over medium high heat, add chicken pieces and cook until chicken is cooked through about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently so pieces do not stick to the pan. 
  • Lower heat and slowly add in orange sauce and cook until sauce is thickened. Do not cover.
  • Remove from heat and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice or noodles.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crunchy Asian Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing

Crunchy Asian Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing
Cook's notes:
This salad was refreshingly, crunchy, creamy and spicy all at the same time. The dressing was amazing. It was a nice balance of sweetness, saltiness, sourness and heat. Adding shredded chicken or pork turns the salad into a main meal. Recipe adapted from and serves four. 

  • 5 cups shredded coleslaw mix or Napa cabbage 
  • 1 cup snow peas (sliced thinly)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 red pepper (seeded and sliced thinly)
  • optional diced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup diced cucumbers
  • handful of peanuts
Thai Peanut Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 TB. rice vinegar
  • 2 TB. fresh lime juice, from one lime
  • 3 TB. vegetable oil
  • 1 TB. soy sauce
  • 2 TB. honey
  • 2-tsp. sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled, minced about 1 TB.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • optional 2 TB. fresh cilantro leaves
  • Mix the coleslaw or Napa cabbage with snow peas, bean sprouts, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, cucumbers and green onions. 
  • Mix the dressing ingredients in a blender, pour the dressing on the salad and toss. Garnish with peanuts.


The World According to Bella

The 2014 'List' has just been released. I made #1 , Mr.C #9 and Sadie even placed #10. compiled their database of over 100,000 registered dogs to give us the Top Dog Names of 2014. Here is what they said...
#1 – Bella
We are not sure if this is because Twilight remains popular, or people just like the name, but Bella has been on top when it comes to dog names for a few years now. Meaning “beautiful” in Italian, It is a good name for your best friend.
#9 – Charlie
Charlie is a “good ‘ol boy.” He’s the dog you take hunting, defends the home, and plays with the kids. It’s the perfect name for the all-American dog.
#10 – Sadie
Very popular the last several years, the name Sadie is starting to taper to off. It’s still a good choice though, if you are looking for a girlie name that isn’t “too sweet.” Sadie’s have a bit of spunk in them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sesame Beef with Broccoli and The World According to Bella

Sesame Beef with Broccoli or Mongolian Beef

Today marks the beginning of the new Chinese or Lunar year. I thought I'd start the celebration with making this classic American-Chinese dish Mongolian Beef. I know it has no origins in Mongolia, but its tasty none the less. It's a dish served in a lot of American-Chinese restaurants and much better for you than takeout! Have all ingredients prepped ahead as cooking is easy and quick. It's a great family meal. The recipe serves 3-4.

Cook's notes: I used tenderloin for this recipe, but sirloin or other good quality steak would work as well. Since the meat cooks quickly, remains tender and doesn't curl, thinly slice the meat against the grain. Chili paste featured below can be found in the Asian section of the store. It adds a little kick to the sauce. Start out with 1 tsp. first before increasing to 2 teaspoons. For me 1 was perfect.
This dish is delicious served with noodles or rice. Garnish with cashew pieces and green onions.
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced, or 1 tsp. dried ginger
  • 2 TB. soy sauce low-sodium
  • 2 Tb. dry sherry
  • 2 TB. rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB. hoisin sauce
  • 1 -2 tsp chili garlic paste also known as sambal oelek
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 1 TB.  cornstarch
  • 1 LB. sirloin or flank steak, cut in strips and then recut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil, divided 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth 
  • 2 tsp.sesame seeds
  • 1 cup diced grape tomatoes

  • Combine soy sauce, sherry, vinegar. hoisin, chili garlic paste, brown sugar, ginger and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Add flour to a zip lock bag and dredge meat cubes in flour.
  • Heat 1 tsp. sesame oil in a large skillet with deep sides or use a wok. Add in beef cubes, cook until brown but still slightly pink. Remove and set aside.
  • Wipe skillet clean add in 1 tsp. sesame oil, saute carrots, garlic, onions and mushrooms until tender about 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add meat and sauce to the skillet with sauteed vegetables. Cook until sauce thickens, add in broccoli and chicken broth. Turn heat to low, cover and cook 5 minutes. 
  • Remove top, add in chopped tomatoes and sesame seeds, serve immediately.   
The World According to Bella
Catching Up
When I'm not out on some field trip, going to the dog park, taking walks around the neighborhood I spend much of my time out back working on my tan and keeping track of morning doves, roadrunners and bunnies running by. It's my entertainment. I have yet to figure out how to get over the fence. I've tried several things and nothing has worked.  

Today Mr. C and Mrs. S got mail and I did not. I was so envious watching them open a whole box filled with their mail and being so happy. You'd think someone could have sent me at least one thing.  
Mrs. S tried to cheer me up. She said I could go with them tomorrow on a car trip to another town far away to visit some Minnesota friends. At least I won't be left behind like the other day. I hate missing out on fun stuff. 
Love, Bella       

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

NAC 2020 AUTHOR VIRTUAL TOUR MEET MINNESOTA AUTHOR BARBARA SAEFKE Barbara E. Saefke author Mystery and Romance Barbara...