Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

My contribution today is a series of photos my husband took while we were out for a walk.  The buzzards had gathered in a dead tree near our house.  Now THAT says Halloween.

Happy safe Halloween to all!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Favorite Cookbook

Today I have a book review for you.  I know, strange.  The book I want to tell you about is a cookbook that I have had for 19 years and is my favorite although I forgot it was my favorite.  It doesn't have big color pictures and large pretty fonts.  It's a cookbook and it is all about soup (and bread).

It's pages are stained (I'll spare you the photo of THAT) and some are bent back, but I love this book.  I had actually forgotten about it for the last few years as I am embarrassed to say I find most of my recipes on the internet these days.  A friend at work was talking about Black Bean Soup and I remembered my recipe and where it came from, though I have not made it since 1993!  It's on page 194 if you are wondering.  I love the fact that I have found it again just in time for fall.  If you, my reader, have learned nothing else about me (aside for my passion for quilting and sewing) you know I love soup, and the cooler air of fall is perfect for cooking a pot of hearty soup on the stove all day.  It is a wonderful torture to smell the aroma drifting in every corner of the house for hours.

Just this week while I was cooking my Roasted Tomato Soup I posted my Facebook status as  "Sitting on the porch while my soup is cooking, enjoying a cool evening, listening to the geese fly over head and the coyotes howling at them.  Life is pretty darn great right now."  Yep, I love fall.  Now I am waiting for the first time the heater turns on and the smell of the dust that made it past the air filters all year long and settled begins to heat, and puts out a smell that you only smell once a year.  It doesn't last long and only happens on that one day a year. How special.  Yes, my nostalgia can be odd.  I love the details.

But back to the book.  It is wonderful and available in print still.  I saw it on Amazon new and used.  I also found Crescent has since written many new cookbooks.  There is one that has my daughter-in-law's name written all over it.  Shhhh.  Don't tell her.  Christmas is coming you know (insert wink).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup and a Ghoulish Feast

I mentioned earlier this week, it is my classroom's turn to make Friday luncheon.  Since it is almost Halloween (and we all LOVE Halloween)  we got in a groove.  Love the decorations done by our student teacher Marah.

Treats made by Linda.

The food was wonderful as well.  Look at Amanda's chocolate pretzels and Karen's mummies!

I also made small sammies with Munster and apple jelly on pumpernickel, rye, and oat bread and more with yellow cheddar and mustard.

I made Roasted Tomato Basil Soup from the Barefoot Contessa with a small amount of tweeking on my part.  Keep in mind I was serving about 20 ladies.

6 lbs. tomatoes (luckily they were on sale this week for $1 a pound)
1/2 C olive oil
2 TBSP Kosher salt
2 tsp pepper
4 Cups yellow onion, chopped  (yes, this number is correct)
12 cloves of garlic  (and yes, so is this one)
4 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2-28 ounce cans plum tomatoes
5 Cups fresh basil leaves
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 quarts chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss together the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in butter and 4 TBSP olive oil and red pepper for 10 minutes.  I know it seems like a lot of garlic and onion and you may be tempted to cut back.  Don't.  Trust me.  Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock (more about the stock later).

Add roasted tomatoes including the liquid on the baking sheet.

Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Run soup in batches through a blender or food mill to smooth, but not TOO smooth.  Serve and enjoy.

Now a few words about Chicken Stock.  This is by far the best I have used.  Just one look at the rich color tells you its good.

It in no way compared to Swanson Chicken Broth which is much thinner.  LOVE this stock.  Try it and you will be hooked, I promise.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where is my Camera Cable?

You might have noticed that of my last 2 posts that one was a guest post (I bet you didn't know, Cheryl, how perfect your timing was) and the other a photo from an earlier post with the recipe (Ellen's fabulous Biscotti).  There is a reason for this.  At some point last weekend I gave my camera cable to my son. At the time it did not look familiar and I really thought it was his.  Trust me, I have some great shots of my Inhibitors, work jobs I have been gathering, and a wonderful Walking Stick (the bug) on my camera just waiting to be downloaded and used.  I have ideas I can't wait to record and pass on to you.  I just need to be patient until I can get my cable back.

But wait!  I have an idea.  I can use the fact that I am missing a USB cord for my camera to buy a new one, right?  I have been wanting to take better shots; get those deer in focus when they come through the yard and may be even the woodpeckers and seasonal birds that pass through our area in the winter.  How much can it be to upgrade to fabulous?


Nikon D5100 16.2MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera


Hmmmm.  May be I will put off buying my Big Girl camera and just wait for my so-easy-a-child-could-do-it-camera  $5.95 cable.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ellen's Pumpkin Bittersweet Biscotti

In an earlier post I told you about some Pumpkin Biscotti that Ellen brought me a couple weeks back.  I must say I was a bit dubious of pumpkin dipped into warm coffee, but .  .  . wow .  .  . it was wonderful.  She has shared the recipe with me and I am happy to pass it on to you.

4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate
4 tbsp of turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In another bowl , beat egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks.  Beat in about half the sugar until the egg whites are glossy.

In yet another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the remaining half of the sugar on high speed until the eggs are pale and frothy and the sugar dissolves. Stir in pumpkin puree and vanilla to blend.

Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture and stir in the melted (and cooled) butter.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until the dough comes together into a sticky ball. Form into two logs about 3" x 10".   Sprinkle each log with about two tablespoons of turbinado sugar, if using.  Bake for about 50 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch.  Cool on wire racks for at 30 minutes.  

Cut into 1/2 inch slices with a long and sharp serrated knife.   Line the slices on the baking sheet and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until they are crisp and golden brown throughout.  Cool on wire racks.  Store in an air tight container.

Dried cranberries can be added in place of the chocolate (why you would do this I don't know.  Chocolate is awesome) or raisins and nuts.  Thanks, Ellen.

If you like biscotti you may also like the Almond Biscotti I made during my Italian week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Swedish Weaving Complete

You may recall that Cheryl Mathias did a guest post for me on a Swedish Weaving project she was working on (see Guest Post: Swedish Weaving).  She has completed her work and is back to let us know how it went.  Thanks, Cheryl.

Finally, I’ve finished my first Swedish Weaving project. It was a large project for my first but I love the finished product.

After finishing the pattern using the yarn I had to finish the ends & the side. First I had to decide how much fringe to leave at the end of the afghan. Next I pulled the thread out of the Monks cloth to mark where the fringe would start. All the threads from there to the end had to go.

Once that was marked I had to zig zag the rows above the fringe to prevent it from fraying. Since this is my first project & I am worked about that I sewed it four times. That’s probably overkill but I’d rather be on the safe side. Next I had to remove all those threads to create the fringe.
Then it was time to finish the sides. I had made a mistake when stitch the pattern. When you get to the side you should end with the yarn on the back side of the garment. This is very important so you can catch all the yarn into the seam you create. Since I hadn’t done this I had to pull all the ends from the front to the back. Much easier to do while making the pattern! Once that was complete I was able to sew the sides, catching the yarn in the seam. Any yarn ends outside the seam needed to be trimmed.

And there you have it – the finished product.

It was fun to make. I’m looking forward to my next project – a 20 inch pillow using ribbon to make the pattern. Now, there’s a challenge.

I've Missed You

It has been a long time, friends.  All is well, but I have been busy.  Lots of weekend company has kept me on my toes and many of my recent tasks have not been blog worthy.  It's time to get back on track.

Last weekend we had a house full.   Lots of horseshoes, boccie ball  in the front yard and some cooking squeezed in.  We had Lasagna Soup which was really good and we made some cookies that were a bit of a hit and miss.  I did make a grilled cheese sandwich on Ciabatta bread with avocado, tomato, provolone, parmigiana, and my homemade pesto.  I drizzled a bit of olive oil on the bread and cooked it on the stove.  My daughter-in-law took a photo and sent it to me, but I can't find it.  She said it was great.

I also went to a workshop on Friday to learn more about making and using work jobs with children with disabilities.  It was a great use of my time and I am sure you will see a post on it in the coming day.

This Friday is my classroom's turn to do our Friday luncheon at work.  We have a Halloween theme this week so you will see a post on that as well.

It is the end of the line for my Earth Box 2011 cucumbers.  I'll do a post on that later and let you know how things went.

Sorry for no photos, and my lack of attention, and thank you for following me even in these dry times.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Means Soup Around Here

With  a bit of a cold front pushing through, I knew it was time to make soup.  I love making soup when the air is cold.  I have a Baked Potato Soup that I make a lot (husband loves it), and decided to go that route.  After using baked potatoes instead of boiled earlier this week I wanted to try them in my soup that way.  I can say I will NEVER boil again.  The soup was lighter with the fluffy baked potato.  When they are boiled they get dense.

I started out by chopping up some onion, carrot and celery (including the leaves) and cooking up some bacon.  Yummy bacon.

Using the bacon grease I sauteed up the veggies.

I had baked a couple potatoes and peeled off the skins when they had cooled a bit.

Threw it all in a pot with some milk and sour cream and let it cook slowly for about 30 minutes.  The starch from the potato thickens it up.  Of course you need to add salt and pepper, but no other spices are really necessary for flavor.  Served it will some grated cheddar.

I also did some more work on my potholder.  Not perfect, but it is a prototype.  What do you think?

You can see I still have some sewing to do, but you get the idea.

I'll get some more done tonight.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Christmas Potholders: The Beginning

As you know I HAD to buy a new sewing machine.  As you may or may not know they are VERY expensive.  In an effort to make back some of my cost I have been making items to sell at my job.  It started out with lanyards, and I will be making more Christmas ones once Halloween is over, but now I am working on holiday potholders.  I think they will make perfect hostess gifts.

I began by getting out some of my Christmas stash.

Several pieces would be perfect, but I narrowed it down and cut my selections.  I cut them into 8 x 8 squares.  I plan to make the potholders in pairs using the same backing on both.

I've cut for 6 and will probably make a few more but not many.  I don't want any duplicates so each one will be unique.  I also don't want to make more than I know I can sell.

This is a small post, but it took some time to narrow down what I wanted to do. Tomorrow I will start to put a few together.  My plan is to make some with presents, wreaths, Christmas trees, and may be a snowflakes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Weekend of Food

What a wonderful weekend.  The temperature was perfect, the blue sky amazing, the company fantastic, and the food . . . well . . . there was a lot of it.

Friday we had a Cream Cheese Chicken Soup served with french bread.  Good flavor, but next time I'll add more garlic and may be try goat cheese in place of the cream cheese to give it some real punch.  I will also stir the flour into the sauteing veggies instead of mixing it in with the milk.  Here is the recipe as it was made.  Crumbles bacon would be nice also.

Saturday morning we had my mother's scones and Ellen's pumpkin biscotti to go with the bacon, eggs, and potatoes.

Lunch was just some impromptu goat cheese, french bread, sliced pears, and pistachios on the back porch while the guys finished up the horseshoe pit.  Had a lot of fun with that this weekend.  Next project is putting in a deck for chairs.

For dinner it was pork roast with roasted potatoes, carrots, and fresh brussel sprouts from the local farmer's market.  I didn't make dessert, but we headed over to the diner Hullabaloo for some chocolate banana pie and key lime pie.  Interesting place, wonderful history.  We listened to some good live music, watch the chickens and kittens wander around and witnessed a man and his pig coming out of the bar.  Gotta love small town Texas.

By Sunday I think we were still full and had a relatively light breakfast of warm, fresh biscuits, sausage, sauteed apples and bananas, and left over scones and biscotti.  We were lucky to see a family of deer wander through the backyard which made my friend Diane extremely happy.  It happened too fast to get a photo.  Next time, may be.

It wasn't ALL about food.  After hitting up the farmer's market on Saturday, we popped into Hobby Lobby and I picked up a fall wreath for 40% off and a glass vase for 50% off.  Together they make a great centerpiece for my dinning room table.

It all goes great with the salt and pepper shakers I got at Cracker Barrel restaurant last month.  Yes, I shopped at Cracker Barrel.  The shakers were only .99 cents so why not.  I got two sets.

Now it's time for some football and left overs.  Lots of left overs.  May not cook for the next 2 days!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cookies With Caramel and Cider Mix!!!

After grocery shopping for the weekend, putting clean sheets and towels out, and prepping some of the food I will cook tomorrow, I baked some cookies.  My friend Allie from work pinned a recipe on Pinterest that I thought sounded like fall and I wanted to give it a try.

Carmel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies from blogger Scrambled Henfruit

1 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 box (7.4 oz) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink mix 
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups all purpose flour
1 bag Kraft Caramels (14 oz)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.   In a separate bowl cream together butter, sugar, salt and 10 packages of apple cider mix until fluffy. 

Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and mix well.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Refrigerate for about an hour.  

Unwrap the caramels.  Scoop out cookie dough  into Tbsp balls.   Have I mentioned I love my ice cream scoop for making cookies?

Flatten slightly and press unwrapped caramel into the center of the dough.  

Seal dough around and place on parchment covered cookie sheets 2" apart.  Bake 12-14 minutes.  When cookies are done, slide parchment off the baking sheet onto counter.  Allow to partially cool, then flip over and cool.  Makes about 4 dozen.

These are good cookies.  Though I confess I cut my caramels in half for some of them.  I'll test both on my guests and see what they think.  I am leaning toward whole caramel, but only 8 of the 10 packs of cider mix.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Black Cat Pillow

With guests coming this weekend and my pumpkin pillow nowhere to be found I needed to switch gears and get to work on some new Halloween pillows.  I got the first of the two I need done after work today.  I made a Black Cat pillow with 2 - 8" squares of black fabric, 2 - 5" squares of black, 2 yellow buttons, 1 pink one, and white, pink and yellow embroidery thread.

I admit this is a simple pillow, but I don't have a lot of time and simple was perfect.  The only tricky part was the ears.  I folded the 5" square on the diagonal, then folded down the two points to make a square with a little fold down the center.  Once I sewed it in there were no raw edges to unravel.

I still need one more pillow, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.  In the mean time, I'm off to the kitchen to make a Spinach, Swiss, and Ham Quiche.  Yum.  I've made Quiche for the blog before.  That recipe can be found at Vodka Makes Everything Better.

Let me pass on one BIG tip for you blog searchers. It is is worth it.  Go to my labels and click on Cooking, for example, to search for quiche.

Now you can press Ctrl then F and a search box will pop up in the upper right corner.  Type in the word quiche.

This shows you I have used the word quiche 3 times.   Press the arrow button to fast forward to the words in the posts.

This works for other things as well.  Try it when you are searching on other websites, news articles, and email.  I think you will find it very helpful for a lot of things.