Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spinach Almond Rice with Artichokes

Wacky Weather here in Green Valley
January and February are a bit confused. It seems one day they must have decided to take each other's place. So now it is winter January here when it should be February. The temperature mid morning was 45 degrees and in Longville, MN (up north) it was 43 degrees. There was snow on the Santa Rita mountains (pictured here) and in Tucson on Mt. Lemmon they had 6 inches. I liked the contrasting elements of this photo with a palm tree and a snowy background. 
Spinach Almond Rice with Artichokes
Cook's Notes: A delicious side packed with flavorful and healthy ingredients. It's a rice dish that can be paired with any main meat entree. Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth for a vegetarian pilaf. 
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine September 2017.
Recently I discovered this great seasoning that's full of flavor, no MSG or salt and can be used on almost everything. 
  • 1-1/2 cups dry basmati rice
  • pinch of salt 
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves torn with stems removed 
  • 3/4 cup marinated artichokes, drained and patted dry with a paper towel 
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill or 1 TB. dried dill
  • 1 TB. lemon zest
  • 1 TB. lemon juice 
  • 2 TB. olive oil or lemon olive oil 
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Herb Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • Garnish with fresh dill or mint
  • In a large saucepan bring water, salt and broth to a boil. Add in rice, cover and simmer over low heat until tender, about 20 minutes. 
  • Fluff rice with a fork and add in rest of ingredients. Taste test before adding in salt and pepper. Serve immediately.   
This rice side dish was served with Hoisin Glazed Salmon with Veggies, a recently posted recipe.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

One Pan Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

It's no secret that I still believe in a world full of magic. So when I came across fairy bread in the recent issue of Food Network magazine I knew it was a treat to share.   

The concept is simple with four ingredients: sprinkles, bread, butter and creativity. I'll be the first to declare it's not too healthy of a snack but who doesn't need a few sprinkles in their life once in awhile.  

Fairy Bread
Butter bread and sprinkle away.

One Pan Moroccan Chicken with Couscous 
Cook's Notes: It's a healthy dinner with a delicious blend of spiced Moroccan flavors and  textures served with couscous, a Mediterranean staple. One cup of cooked Moroccan couscous has 176 calories, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. It's sugar- and fat-free and contains about 66% of the recommended daily dose of selenium. Whole wheat couscous is more nutritious than the regular variety. 
Meal prep is essential for this dish for faster assembly.  All this prep can be done early in the day. A one pan meal is always a winner.
Recipe adapted from and serves 4.
Cooking Tips:
Spices-measure as directed, mix in a small bowl, set aside
Chicken-cut in small pieces, set aside
Veggies-measure and dice
  • 2 large chicken breasts, diced 
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. each tarragon, dill, parsley, turmeric or 3/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 cup each red onion, diced, matchstick carrots,  red pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth, low sodium 
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 1/3 cup almonds
  • Garnish fresh cilantro or mint
  • Measure spices, mix in  small bowl and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet with deep sides.
  • Add in chicken and sprinkle with half of the spice mixture. Cook until no longer pink.
  • Transfer chicken to a sheet of foil, wrap to keep warm.
  • Add remaining oil to pan and saute onions, peppers, garlic and carrots. Sprinkle veggies with remaining spice mixture and cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add in chicken broth, apricots and bring to boil. Add in cooked chicken, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add in couscous and lemon juice, mix well. Cover and remove heat. Let rest 6 minutes and stir well before adding almonds to serve.  

The World According to Bella

Nothing bad so far has happened to me on this trip. I've been lucky and have managed to dodge rattlesnakes, scorpions, and javelina so far but it was a near miss when two coyotes ran in front of Mr. C and I a half a block away. Of course I got real excited. Lucky for Mr. C that he had a tight grip on my leash as I was ready for a chase. The coyotes paid no attention to me. 

Not one, not two but three field trips I've been on in 8 days. Finally things are looking up. Just when I thought it seemed like forever being what I think is under house arrest. I only get out for walks and then I'm on a leash and sunning out on the patio. I miss the lake and running free.  
Hiking in Madera  Canyon was  a real workout, especially for my paws.  

Check out all these rocks on the trail.
The trail went up and up. Climbing up over the rocks was a lot of work.  When we got to the stream  I just had to stop for a drink. 
I looked back to make sure Mrs. S wasn't going to slip when we had to jump the rocks to get to the other side. She made it and didn't get her shoes too wet.  
Even though it wasn't too hot of a day I still worked up a thirst after an hour or two. I was glad they remembered to bring my portable water dish and a bottle of water. Hiking uphill is work!

I only got a day's rest when we went on another hike to look at some rocks that had some  pictures on them but they were so high up we could hardly see them. And the sign said No Climbing on the Rocks. Lucky Mrs. S could zoom in for a photo. 

Then there was this easy path called The Way that went around in a circle. Lots of cactuses but I didn't understand why there were so many crosses with signs until Mrs. S said they were called Stations of the Cross. 
It was not too hot out so I didn't work up much of thirst on this trip. 
Look how big these cactuses are compared to us. 

Mr. C and Mrs S wanted to go on a road trip to some towns far away to check out what they called wineries. I got  to go because they were going to be gone  for many hours. Maybe they were worried I'd miss my dinner and a few walks. It was kinda a boring ride with not much to see along the way just mountains, desert, cattle and horses.

I did like that a few of the places they stopped at to check out wines were dog friendly. 

One place I got to sit out on the patio, enjoy the view with a bowl of water and a treat. 
I've heard about all the snow back home. I miss playing in it, climbing the snowbanks and taking walks with Mr. C. 

And I miss Sadie and Luna's visits even though they always want to play with my orange ball.

Love, Bella

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Sprinkle of Fancy

Meet Nancy-she loves a sprinkle of fancy and is always a bit fancy as the main character in Fancy Nancy series. She believes that more is always better when it comes to being fancy from the top of her tiara down to her sparkly shoes.  
She made her debut in 2005 with the book "Fancy Nancy" by Jane O' Connor. 
Since its debut besides being on the NY Times bestseller list for over 100 weeks there are now a total of 80 books. It's a great addition to the I Can Read collection aimed for K-3 readers. It challenges the readers vocabulary with Nancy's 'fancy words.'
I can assure you these books are classroom favorites even for the boys. You can't help but love her boldness, zest for life and confident manner. 

So when crafting this post I couldn't help but think this would be a 'Nancy'approved dessert.  
Molten Chocolate Cake was adapted from  for this recipe and best served warm. You will need 4 ramekins to make this recipe. Use premium chocolate e.g. Ghirardelli.
It's a chocolate cake that oozes a decadent warm melted chocolaty center. It's a day brightener to perk up a long winter-no need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy.
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate bar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. creme of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar+1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1-2 TB. Kahlua or Amaretto
  • Garnish with raspberries and powdered sugar
  • Lightly grease each ramekin and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a small saucepan on low heat melt chocolate and butter. Remove pan to a cool burner.  
  • In a bowl beat egg yolks with sugar and  whisk mixture into chocolate. Mix well and stir in liqueur.  
  • In a separate bowl beat egg whites  with creme of tartar. Fold chocolate mixture into egg white mixture, Divide among 4 ramekins.
  • Bake for 9 minutes. The outside will be set and possibly crack but the inside will still be liquid. 
  • Garnish and serve immediately .

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Weekend Round-Up

"Winter had lasted so long that it seemed it would never really end."
Laura Ingalls Wilder from "The Long Winter."

Remember the Laura Ingalls Wilder's series? "The Long Winter" is the sixth book in the collection. The book has a lot of drama in it. It is a tale of a family near starvation, of a town crippled by lack of food when blizzards keep the supply train from reaching the settlers. The story is told through the eyes of 13 year old Laura which takes place in the fall of 1880 and continues through May 1891 in De Smet SD. This turned out to be one of the worst winters in US history. At one point the snow depth was 12 feet and trains could not get through. By Christmas time the grocery store no longer had food and Laura's family runs out of coal and kerosene. Just remembering details from the story puts our winter woes in perspective. We are able to handle the snow and lucky we don't have to wait for supply trains. Grocery stores remain open and only close once a year on Christmas Day. 

The focus on food in "The Little House" books also becomes a celebration for the Wilder family. They are grateful for what little food they have to help them survive the long winter.

Some of the information above comes from an article that appeared in the Star Tribune paper The Long Winter February 9, 2014 by Lee Svitak Dean.

This article was a creative approach to what I would call literary food for the soul. It also affirms how food can bring us together to share and celebrate common life experiences. 
It's a cold morning by Arizona standards 33 degrees and in Minnesota the weather is beginning to seem endless and a bit LONG  with several more inches of snow.
Cook's notes: I imagine soup would be a part of the Wilder family meal using vegetables that would have been stored in the root cellar.

Minestrone Soup
Advance planning adds to the ease of putting this soup together by cooking the Italian sausage and dicing carrots, celery, onion and mincing the garlic the day before. Place sausage, minced garlic and veggies in a covered container and refrigerate. 
Squash appears in many different shapes and colors. Three favorites include scallop or patty pan, and zucchini (green) and yellow zucchini.
This soup can be a vegetarian meal by omitting the sausage and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth.

There are wineries in Arizona? Came as a surprise to me. Up in the high desert with an elevation of 5,000 feet the climate and soil conditions in the southern villages of Sonoita, Elgin and the Willcox area are perfect for growing grapes.  It's a day trip from Tuscon. All the wineries with tasting rooms are in close proximity with each other. But it would be several day trips to take them all in and still drive back :) As you see from the photos since it's winter time the land is barren and past the harvesting season. But you do get the idea of the landscape.

I almost forgot to mention many places were dog friendly and one even served up a bowl of water with a patio view. 
A Sprinkle of Fancy
One Pan Moroccan Chicken and Couscous
Spinach Almond Rice with Artichokes
Breakfast Taco Scramble

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Favorites

Lemon Poppy Seed Blueberry Muffins
Cook's Notes: When does a muffin become a cupcake? Some say cupcakes are frosted and muffins are not so that's the biggest difference. Read on...

One similarity between cupcakes and muffins is the ingredients. Both usually contain flour, eggs, butter, sugar and milk. However, muffins sometimes replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, oat flour or even various nut flours. Muffins can also be filled with a variety of tasty mix-ins, such as dried fruits, nuts or chocolate chips. In addition, muffins may replace butter with a liquid form of fat, such as vegetable oil. The amount of butter and sugar is higher in cupcakes than in muffins.

The mixing process and the consistency of the batter differentiates cupcakes and muffins. Cupcakes are made by creaming the butter and sugar together to create a smooth, fluffy batter. Cupcake batter is beaten significantly longer than muffin batter; this creates a uniformness of air bubbles throughout the cupcake. Muffin batter, on the other hand, is beaten briefly and remains relatively lumpy. This makes for a more dense baked good.

Being from the Midwest and it's February I just can't get over all these fruit trees here that are brimming with lemons just begging to be picked.  I remember two years ago on an afternoon walk I came across this pail and sign 
So recently having been gifted with several lemons, I decided they'd be perfect for making Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. But that did pose a problem since I did not have a bread pan. So I shifted gears and turned the recipe into muffins as I had brought that pan with me. I added some leftover blueberries and yogurt for a healthy addition. A drizzle of lemon icing with toasted coconut and almonds and voila!
Now you have Lemon Poppy Seed Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Icing
Recipe adapted from and makes 12-14.
2 cups flour
2 TB. poppy seeds
1 TB. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs slightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt-plain
1/4 cup milk( I used 2 %) 
1 tsp, vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract 
1 TB. lemon zest
4 TB. lemon juice
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup each toasted coconut and almonds

Lemon Icing
1/4 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
1-2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 cups powdered sugar
Milk as needed

Muffin Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place paper liners in muffin tin.
In a bowl whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt together.
In another bowl whisk together eggs, sugar. oil, yogurt, milk, extracts, zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir only until fully incorporated.  Avoid over mixing. Fold in blueberries.
Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Icing Directions:
Combine ingredients and mix well. Drizzle over muffins and sprinkle with toasted coconut and almonds. 

Two interesting recipes to add to your file
Layered Greek Dip

Spicy Italian Slab Pie

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 ...