Friday, August 30, 2019

What's For Dinner?

Bestselling author and Food Network personality Ree Drummond at last answers that age-old question—“What's for Dinner?”—bringing together more than 125 simple, scrumptious, step-by-step recipes for delicious dinners the whole family will love. The book is well organized and filled with recipes for a wide variety of tastes. The book is suitable for cooks at any level  with comfort classics, 16-minute meals, freezer-friendly food, as well as soups, main dish salads, and a favorite of her own family: breakfast for dinner.

The book is gorgeous with a stunning visual layout that's filled with colorful and informative photos.
There's a picture for every recipe including step by step instructions. The cookbook is organized by type of meal with categories and suggested side pairings for each recipe. Along the way reading the cookbook, readers get a glimpse of Drummond's family life on the ranch, Marlboro Man (her husband), four children and of course all the animals. 
Drummond's witty folksy type style begins each recipe with a bit of background on the recipe, how she personalizes the recipe for her family and touches you can add in as the reader.  

I was fortunate to be gifted with this cookbook. Thank you Becky!  A favorite of Drummnod since high school Cashew Chicken quickly became a favorite for us. The recipe has been adapted.
Cook's Notes:The recipe has been adapted with add ins of cherry tomatoes, broccoli and snap peas.  Recipe makes 6 servings.
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 TB. rice vinegar
  • 1 TB. packed brown sugar
  • 2 TB. oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 3 TB. vegetable oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small cubes or 4 skinless chicken breasts 
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 TB. chopped garlic
  • 1 TB. chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 whole diced green or red pepper
  • 1/4 cup sherry or chicken broth
  • 2 TB. cornstarch
  • 1 cup each, diced broccoli florets, tomatoes and sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • 2 whole green onions, thinly sliced 
  • Cooked rice or noodles, for serving 

  • In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the chicken in a single layer. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt, then leave it alone for at least a couple of minutes to give the chicken a chance to brown. When the chicken has turned golden, stir it around so that it can brown on all sides. Throw in the garlic and ginger and stir to combine. Stir in the bell pepper and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • While the pan is still hot, pour in the sherry or chicken broth. Stir it around, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the flavorful bits. Turn the heat to medium-low and pour in the sauce mixture, then mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water to make a slurry and pour it in. Stir the sauce for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken, then add the veggies and cashews. Stir to coat everything with the sauce, adding a splash of water if the sauce is too thick.
  • Finally, sprinkle on the green onions. Serve with cooked rice or noodles.
Remember the trip my daughter and I made over a year ago to Waco, Texas to visit the HGTV empire the Gaines' have developed? 
Well did you know? On select dates during the summer, you can visit The Lodge on the Pioneer Woman's ranch for free. Ree and Ladd Drummond invite visitors to tour The Lodge on the Drummond Ranch. The Lodge is the family's guest house and it also serves as the production location for Ree's Food Network show.
Maybe this might became a summer visit for us. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Crispy Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Think outside the box of your basic Nestles Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. Consider the following Crispy Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies and may just become your new favorite.

Cook's Notes: I'm a devoted fan of crispy cookies so this recipe was perfect for me especially adding in toasted coconut and nuts. The recipe makes 24 cookies and was adapted from Food Network May 2018.
It's important to chill the batter so 45 minutes in the freezer works well.

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups semi- sweet or bittersweet chips (I used semi- sweet) 
  • 3/4 cup toasted coconut 
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Chill batter until firm so easier to roll into dough balls.  
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad. In a small bowl whisk flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • Cream butter, sugars and oil until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Beat in water and vanilla until smooth.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. 
  • Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the parchment paper. Bake 11-12 minutes. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheet and transfer to wire rack.
Adaptations to Crispy Coconut Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies
Replace 1/4 cup vegetable oil with 1/4 cup melted coconut oil.
Add 1/4 tsp, coconut extract to vanilla extract.
If you follow Minnesota State Fair news you no doubt have heard about Martha Rossini Olson. She originally wanted to open a yogurt shop at the Minnesota State Fair, but the fair needed a cookie stand. Thirty years later, Sweet Martha's Cookies is the fair's biggest-grossing vendor. This year she has surpassed her 2018 record with over 5 million in sales in under 12 days! AND to think there are still 4 remaining days left at the fair. 
Goes to show you there are a lot of people out there that love chocolate chip cookies. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Peach Rescue Mission

I'm on a rescue mission to use up all my Colorado Peaches.  They are getting quite soft. I have already diced, bagged and put several in the freezer for later use. The following recipes pretty much wiped out my peach supply.  
another year to wait for their reappearance.

Peach Salsa
Cook's notes: What a delicious sauce that can be served with grilled chicken or pork chops. I had some extra fruit so added in blueberries, strawberries and chopped fresh basil from the garden. The salsa is enough for 4 pork chops or 2-3 large pieces of chicken
Adapted from Southern Living July 2012

  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup peach preserves
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 of a yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 large peaches, cut in chunks
  • 2 TB. balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 TB. chopped basil
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional, adding in blueberries and strawberries and 1 TB peach schnapps
  • Heat 1 TB. butter and saute onions, peppers and minced garlic until onions and garlic are limp.
  • Whisk in ketchup, peach preserves, basil, brown sugar and ginger.
  • Cook on low heat until thickened about 15 minutes.
  • Add in fruit and vinegar cook 1-2 minutes more adding in salt to taste.
  • Remove from heat and add in schnapps if using.
  • Divide sauce in half and use half to baste meat while grilling. The rest of the sauce can be served with the meal.
Peach Margarita
Cook's notes:This fresh peach margarita recipe is sweet, simple to make, and so satisfying!
Recipe makes 1 serving but with 2 large peaches I was able to make 3 drinks.
Recipe comes from and a perfect way to close out summer on a holiday weekend.

  • 1/3 cup fresh peach puree (*see instructions below*)
  • 2 oz. silver tequila
  • 1.5 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 TB. agave or honey
  • Optional garnish: rim salt and fresh peach slice
  • Add all ingredients together in a shaker. Shake for 15 seconds until combined. Serve over ice in a glass that has been rimmed with salt and garnished with a fresh peach slice.
  • *To make fresh peach puree, simply peel and pit a fresh peach and puree it in a blender until smooth. 1 medium peach = approximately 1/2 cup puree (but measure to be sure).
  • Oh, and don't forget to add a paper umbrella. It makes the drink so much better:)
Mission Accomplished

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Butternut Squash Stew with Sausage, Beans and Rice

Here in Up North country maple trees have begun to put on their autumn finery. Yikes! It does seem a bit early doesn't it? 
Cook's Notes: Butternut Squash Stew with Sausage, Beans and Rice is just that comfort food to usher in cooler evenings. It's hearty with a host of health benefits. Butternut squash is high in nutrients, low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin A and a rich source of antioxidants. Black beans and kidney beans are a good source of fiber and protein. Make the stew a day ahead and will taste better because all the flavors will have time to meld. Pair the meal with artisan bread and a fresh fruit compote. DEElicious! 

Recipe adapted from October 2017 and serves 4-6 depending on the size of the bowl.

  • 3 cups cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
  • 1 cup each diced, red or green peppers and sweet onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups diced butternut squash
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. each chili powder, Saigon cinnamon. ground cumin and oregano
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 box 32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (garlic and oregano)
  • 1 can red kidney beans light or dark, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 TB. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry Arborio (Italian) rice or any other short grain white rice
  • Optional: garnish fresh cilantro
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  • In a large bowl add peppers, onion, minced garlic, squash and spices.
  • Toss with 1 TB olive oil and spread out evenly on baking sheet.
  • Roast 15 minutes just until squash is al dente.
  • In a large soup pot add roasted mixture, cooked sausage, chicken broth, rinsed beans, tomato paste and sugar. On low bring to a boil and simmer for an hour uncovered.
  • Add in rice last 10 minutes of cooking time, cover and cook 10 minutes more.
  • Since rice absorbs the liquid to reheat next day may need to add more chicken broth.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Weekend Round-Up

Chocolate Mousse
Cook's Notes: You don't need a special occasion to serve this decadent chocolate mousse sprinkled with cookie crumbs. Each chocolaty bite is rich, creamy and sooooo good. Serve it in a parfait or wine glass or splurge and use your best china. 
Recipe serves 4 and was adapted from
  • 4 large eggs, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 oz. bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 TB. Kahlua 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 TB. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder    
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • 1 TB. butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream plus more if adding a whipped cream topping for serving
  • 1 tsp. confectioners sugar
  • Oreo cookie crumbs    
  • Whisk together in a heatproof bowl or small saucepan, 2 eggs and sugar. Set bowl or pan over a larger pan of simmering water. Whisk until doubled in volume about 6-8 minutes. 
  • Remove small pan add in chopped chocolate, vanilla, Kahlua, cocoa powder, espresso, salt, butter to egg/sugar mixture. Whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture thoroughly mixed.  Set aside.  
  • In a small bowl whip cream with 1 tsp. confectioners sugar. 
  • In another bowl beat 2 large egg whites with  a dash of creme of tartar.
  • Fold beaten egg whites into whipped cream and then into chocolate mixture. 
  • Sprinkle with cookie crumbs or a dollop of whip cream.
  • Refrigerate until serving, cover loosely with a sheet of wax paper. 

Revisiting Puff Pastry Tomato Tarts

I made another round of puff pastry tomato tarts because they are so good and makes a great light summer meal. For this go around I added in crumbled Italian sausage to bottom of pastry rounds. I reworked directions to include this addition. Note that when working with dried basil the spice darkens as it cooks. Bu this does not impact the delicious taste. Check the recipe link above.   

Best quotable quote of the week
"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

One More Craft Idea
Unfortunately when our crafter group came last week we did not get to Kathy's ceramic photo tile project. But it's an easy inexpensive project that doesn't require much crafty know how. These Coasters make great Christmas gifts, Mother's Day gifts, Shower Gifts.

Watch this DIY Tutorial on how to make photo coasters. Ceramic tiles can be purchased at Home Depot or any other builder supply store. If printing photos from your printer be sure to use photo paper.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sissy Goes Tiny

Sissy Goes Tiny is co-authored by Rebecca Flansburg (left), BA Norrgard (right)
and illustrated by Penny Weber (photo below).
The book is published by Audrey Press.
 For first time children's authors debut book has scored a home run based on a novel concept of tiny living from a child's perspective with heartfelt messages of stewardship and defining what is a home.   

The tiny house movement is a social movement that advocates living more simply in a small house under 400 square feet. It's a lifestyle concept that led the authors to create an innovative picture book for ages 4-8.         

Sissy’s name was chosen for the main character to pay homage to co-author  Norrgard’s Tiny House,  named "Sisu". “Sisu" is a Finnish word meaning having grit, determination, and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Tiny House Living for the children's picture book market is a fairly new concept especially when written from the perspective of a child.  The main character Sissy has to learn a different type of living which means she will be able to keep only those things which have a necessary purpose or are very special. For some children paring down possessions may be  scary and even make them feel  a bit sad. But with the promise of new places to explore. people to meet, scary and sad feelings will give way to exciting times ahead with many new possibilities.     

Sissy Goes Tiny is  an ideal vehicle for young children to ponder and discuss how to live tiny with fewer things and have new experiences. The authors have chosen to emphasize size concepts throughout the text capitalizing words such as BIG, SMALL LIFE, HOUSE to make them standout for the reader. Repetition of words is an intentional device to ensure ideas will stick with readers plus it adds rhythm to the story. With diverse characters presented in the book it will appeal to a wide range of readers. Since the book has a lot of text for the intended age group 4-8 it prompts parents and teachers to use the book as a discussion tool.  It encourages adults to have conversations  with children on how to be better stewards of the environment by looking at the reduce, reuse, recycle concepts: What do I value? What can I do without? What can I repurpose?

The story unfolds with Sissy quite content with her life in a BIG  house surrounded by BIG oaks and SMALL chirping birds. She loves her BIG bedroom and comfy BIG bed.  Her  comfortable world is interrupted when her parents decide the family is going to learn  how to live tiny with a new smaller house.  They will have fewer things but more experiences. While Sissy feels sad and scared and worries about missing her friends the promise of new places where she can have new adventures and find BIG trees to climb sounds exciting.  As Sissy and her family get ready for their new tiny house adventure they realize they have some hard work to do as a family to give them a fresh start. Each family member  needs to pare down their possessions. This meant looking  at donating or selling items they really don't use often or need.  Some of Sissy friends who live in tiny houses showed her to repurpose some of her favorite items. They also encouraged her to take pictures of all her favorite things to create a keepsake Memory Book that would save her special memories forever.

Sissy Goes Tiny has the potential to be a series for readers following Sissy and her family traveling on the road and experiencing new adventures. At the back of the book readers can find fun Tiny house facts and  information about the authors and illustrator.     

Rebecca “Becky” Flansburg is an author, freelance writer, and blogger from Minnesota who writes about parenthood topics and being a mompreneur.

She is mom to two humans and critter mom to way too many pets. Flansburg credits her quick wit and positive outlook on life for keeping her sane and successful. Her non-fiction books FREEdom: Creating the Work-From-Home Life You Crave and MOM BOSSING: The Freedom to Create the Business You Love can be found on Amazon. She is a proud member of the Lakes Area Writers Alliance and readers can connect with her on Instagram,  Facebook and Twitter.

BA Norrgard is an author, public speaker and a passionate advocate for being free to live a larger life in a smaller space. She is from the Dallas Texas area and had been in the paralegal profession for over 20 years. Norrgard teaches tiny house  workshops and is curator of DIY tiny house village exhibits. In March 2014, she launched DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts.  The group is the largest tiny house oriented Meetup in the nation! Currently, there are over 2,400 members. Norrgard and her husband live in a 78 sq. ft. house. 
Norrgard is pictured in front of her house "Sisu".  Readers can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
  Sissy Goes Tiny official book launch will be in Brainerd, MN in October. Check Flansburg's social media for exact date, place and time.  An online blog book tour begins September 15th.  
 This project was supported by Five Wings Arts Council with funds from the McKnight Foundation. Sissy Goes Tiny can be purchased at IndieBound, and Amazon.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

And So the Crafting Continues...

Part Two Wine Bottles with Fairy Lights
Gift bags offered limitless possibilities with paper choices, ribbon handles, tags and a variety of embellishments. Decorating wine bottles also inspires creativity with a variety of choices. All you need is imagination and some help from Pinterest for ideas. It did help that Bernie and Linda seem to have an endless supply of materials. 
What I liked about this project is it encourages you to repurpose and make use of materials you can find around your house. 
Tips for cleaning wine bottles
  • Let bottle soak in dawn dishwashing soap for 1 hour. 
  • Use a razor blade to peel off labels.
  • Use Goo Gone Spray to remove residue.

  • Dry inside of bottle using long wooden handle part of the spoon wrapped in a paper towel. 

I found these LED lights on Amazon that come wrapped on a thin copper wire attached to a cork with a switch. Each wrapped light takes three batteries.What impressed me was 11 out of 12 worked and the box came with extra batteries.  

This wine bottle had an embellishment glued on so no decoupage application was used. The neck of the bottle was wrapped with strips of  glitter with adhesive backing. 
A different technique was used to decorate this bottle. Bernie's directions are as follows: 
The purple fabric was leftover from a costume. It was just sheer fabric with stars and sparkles on it. I then just cut that fabric into small squares, triangles and rectangles. I decoupaged the purple fabric pieces on to half of the wine bottle with a small brush and Mod Podge, overlapping the pieces as I went along. I let the bottle dry in the sun for an hour or more so I could hold on to the dry half and decoupage the other half of the bottle. When it was all covered I let it dry overnight as it takes a awhile for it to get completely dry. I then added a sheet of Halloween stickers randomly on the purple bottle and added the orange lights inside. 

The following link is to a DIY tutorial: how to make napkin cards a project from 2013. We used the same procedure taking a napkin, separating the plys,  ironing the napkin to freezer paper, cutting out design and decoupaging napkin to the bottle.
Once the napkin was decoupaged to the bottle I decoupaged over the entire design. Glitter glue was added around the edges. The neck was wrapped with strips of glitter with adhesive backing.  The roll of glitter tape just says Trim Border. It's in the bins just before the checkouts at Michael’s for $1.50 each with colors  red, green, gold, silver, purple.
Have you seen these glass jars of yogurt in the store?  There are a multitude of uses for these jars for serious crafters. We found them the perfect size to make a decorative votive light container. 
A 1 ply napkin was decoupaged on to the glass jar. 

A lake setting-the perfect backdrop for good friends sharing laughs and learning some new ideas.

A GOOGLE search on how to decoupage wine bottles using Mod Podge may inspire you to try a new project.  

Friday, August 23, 2019

And Let the Crafting Begin...

For 10 summers a group of my teacher friends come to the lake for relaxation, good eats, fine conversations and making crafts. We rotate taking turns coming up with a craft and making sure everyone has the right supplies. Thrift stores are one of our most valuable resources as well as Bernie and Linda who seem to have an endless supply of crafts for us to use. They are serious Pinterest users so we never run out of ideas. Some of our past endeavors include: 

left to right
cake plates stands with a martini glass base, wine glass lamp shades, starched bowls, paper boxes, wire wrapped wine glasses, framed original poems, wire wrapped spoons, note paper made from napkins, wine bags made from jeans pant legs or khaki pants,  
decorated styrofoam pumpkins, 
and marbleized paper just to name a few.
We spread out all over the first floor of the house and out into the yard with another work station. 
The family room became the supply base.
The dining room became the production room.
And the kitchen counter held a variety of munchies to keep the crafters nourished throughout the day. These crafters take their work seriously! 

This year we took on two crafts: gift bags made from scrapbooking paper and decoupaged lighted wine bottles.
Part One: Gift Bags
Follow this YouTube video for easy step by step directions  to create your own gift bag. It is made with only 2 pieces of scrapbooking paper and sprinkled with a healthy dose of imagination adding embellishments. 

Part Two: Decorated wine bottles with fairy lights

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 ...