Friday, July 31, 2015

A Book Review and the Weekly Menu

I just finished the second in the O'Dwyer cousins trilogy by Nora Roberts.  This second book continues the fight began in the first book of good vs evil, however, this book concentrates more on the relationship and lives of Connor, a male witch, and his friend turned lover, Meara, a human.

Image result for shadow spell nora roberts

While this second of the trilogy did not capture and hold my attention as well as the first, Dark Witch, it was still an enjoyable summer read that I would recommend if you, like me, are a Nora Roberts fan.  Or a fan of handsome, charming Irishmen.

Things have quieted down around here and we spent this morning planning our 5 day get away next month.  Then Frank went to pick up the last sack of chicken feed and I canned a batch of pickles. Now we are taking the car in for a quick fix, stopping to see Mom and then getting ready to go out tonight with John and Kirsten to celebrate the fact that John is older than I for a few short weeks.

Tomorrow we get to keep Little Miss for a while.  Sunday we are taking the chickens in to be processed so that means that next week I will have to spend a few hours cleaning out the coop and getting it ready for the turkeys to arrive.

The rest of the week I am just going to enjoy having Chuck home until he leaves Thursday morning and getting ready for Sr. Mary Ann's second party on Friday.

So here is my Weekly Menu.  Please check back each day for photos and recipes.

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Strawberry Butter
Zucchini and Summer Squash Saute

Meatless Monday
Misr Wat

Rustic Chicken Stew

Taking Chuck out for Dinner

BLT on Toast
Sweet Corn on the Cob

Sister's Party at the Banquet Center

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A winning Lemonade recipe from Artisan Drinks that I won from Quarry Books

During this past, whirlwind, busy few weeks I took delivery of a wonderful recipe book that I won called Artisan Drinks.  I won this cookbook in a contest that was posted in a group that I belong to called the Cookbook Junkies. The contest was sponsored by Quarry Books, the same company who carries the Book Club Cookbook that we are using in our #BookClubCookbookCC. Take a look at my first post for this fun cooking club.

I didn't even get a chance to browse through it at all until this past Wednesday when I found myself in an empty and surprisingly quiet house.  I am really going to miss my family from California. Hopefully it will not be a year before I get to see them again.  Maybe a trip to sunny CA will be in the cards for me this winter.

When I finally got the chance to look at this wonderful collection of Artisan Drinks, I was disappointed that I hadn't pulled it out earlier so that I could have treated my family to some of the fabulous recipes contained within, like this one for Sparkling Lemonade.

Sparkling Lemonade
from Artisan Drinks

1 c. cold water
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 pints sparkling water

Put the cold water in a medium sized pan with 3/4 c. of the sugar.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and reheat briefly.  Taste and add the remaining sugar, if desired.
Allow to cool.

When cold, pour the syrup into a pitcher and add the sparkling water. Chill before serving.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I've Been Nominated for a Liebster Award

Liebster Award badge

What is a Liebster award? you ask.  It is an award for small bloggers, like me, with less than a thousand followers.  We share our blog and other small blogs that we love with our readers in the hopes that you, too, will take a look at the blogs we nominate and love and enjoy them as much as we.

I was nominated by Linda of 2 Cookin' Mamas.  As the title of her blog suggests, Linda, is one of a team of moms (the other being her daughter, Christine) who blog about recipes and nutrition.  Of course, they also allow for some goodies as well just to "sweeten life up a bit".  They have even published a cookbook. Very impressive.  You are going to want to check them out for sure.

Let me tell you 11 random facts about me to get you started:
  1. I used to dream of owning a B&B but now that it is a possibility I am not sure I want to work that hard.
  2. My first career was as a police officer for a large city.  I retired about 10 years ago as a detective assigned to sex crimes and crimes involving children.
  3. This is my second marriage and have been happily attached with my partner in crime and sous chef for the past 23 years.  I can't imagine life without him.
  4. We live on 12 acres and do our best to live healthfully, organically and sustainably. We raise much of our own meat, allowing them to live humanely and hormone free.  What meat we do not raise we buy from fellow farmers who have the same values as we.  I belong to the only organic CSA in the area.
  5. I brought a daughter and a son into our marriage.  My husband, Frank, brought in a son and a daughter. They are now all great adults of whom we couldn't be prouder.
  6. After my retirement we began taking in exchange students and have been blessed with 3 more daughters and 2 more sons over the years.  One of our daughters, Tingting, has remained with us in the USA for the past 8 years and has given us our first granddaughter, Melody Elizabeth.
  7. We are huge animal lovers and the proud owners of 3 rescue mutts.  
  8. We love to scuba dive and most of our vacations are for this purpose.
  9. I also love to read, hike, cook and entertain and will share these things with you on my blog.
  10. I belong to a lot of blogging clubs that are tons of fun.
  11. I could not do all of the things I love to do...farming, cooking, entertaining, traveling....without my husband who is my greatest gift.
Those who are nominated for this award must also follow a few simple rules.  These are as follows:
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog
  • Display the Liebster Award badge on your blog.
  • Answer 11 questions about yourself.  These are provided by the person who nominated you.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself  if you wish.  This is optional but fun.
  • Nominate 5 or more bloggers with less than a thousand followers who you believe deserve this reward.
  • Create a new list of 11 questions for your nominees.
  • Notify your nominees.
Here are the questions that I am required to answer:
  1. What inspired you to start a blog?  At the time I started my blog, I was caregiving for my parents and as such was spending a lot of time at home on the computer.  I would post my recipes and menus on facebook and friends kept telling me I should start a blog.
  2. How did you come up with the name for your blog?  My blog has turned into a foodie blog but that wasn't my intent when it first started.  My intent was to share my days on the farm which just happen to include a lot of cooking because that is one of my loves.
  3. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to your blog?  My biggest challenge is finding the time that it takes.  Blogs, especially foodie blogs, take a lot of time.  Time for creating and researching recipes, time for preparing the food and taking the photos, time for writing and critiquing.
  4. What is the best and worst meal you have ever made?  Actually it is easier for me to come up with my worst because, thankfully, this happens infrequently.  One of my worst, as my son is always anxious to remind me of, was a dinner I made while he was young and I was distracted. Leathery pork chops and runny mashed potatoes, it was very sad.  The next worst was a turkey curry that I made using leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  It went in the trash and we ordered pizza.  I think one of my best or at least my husband's favorite is Chicken Marsala.
  5. Where do you find the inspiration for your posts?  Lately most of my inspiration comes from cooking clubs I have joined SRC, Cook the Books, Food n Flix, The Book Club Cookbook CC. Blogger's CLUE, Foodie Extravaganza, Sunday Supper, The French Winophiles, Wine Pairing Weekend and special events held by other bloggers.  
  6. What do you do when you try a new recipe and it doesn't work out?  If at first you don't succeed try try again.  Most of the time I can tell by the recipe ingredients and procedure how the recipe will turn out so I do most of my tweaking before the first attempt to adapt it to our tastes and pantry. 
  7. What regional food do you enjoy cooking the most?  It is a tie between Mexican and Italian with Asian following closely behind.
  8. What 3 words describe you best?  Blessed, Happy, Loyal
  9. When you dine at a restaurant do you order something you would like to make or an old favorite?  When I dine out I normally order lamb or shellfish as these are things my husband does not enjoy so I rarely make them at home.
  10. When you have a bad day what normally makes you feel better?  Stepping into the kitchen always brings a song to my lips.  I hum or sing the entire time I am in there.  A glass of wine and a hug always helps too.
  11. Other than blogging, what is your favorite hobby?  Without a doubt, Scuba and Travel.
Here are my nominees. I hope you enjoy visiting their blogs as much as I do.

  • Rebekah of Making Miracles.  I have been following Rebekah for a while now.  She shares snippets of her life as a wife and mom as well as of a surrogate for those who cannot have children of their own.  Rebekah belongs to several of the same cooking clubs as I and posts some great recipes.
  • Judy from Knotty Needle is my newest blog friend.  We just met through Chaotic Goddesses Local Flavors Swap and I am really enjoying her posts about quilting, reading and family.
  • If you are interested in finding some great recipes you need to check out Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes.  Sarah and I also belong to several of the same cooking clubs and she always impresses me with her posts.
  • One of my best friends here in this world of blogging is Paula of Smidgens, Snippets and Bits.  I have never met Paula personally, (I hope to remedy that someday soon) but I consider her a good friend all the same. 
  • My very first blogging friend is Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures.  I would not be part of this wonderful world of blogging if not for Amy. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Local Flavors of Montana

Way back at the beginning of the month, I had told you that I joined up with the Chaotic Goddesses for this years Local Flavors Swap.  I was assigned a wonderful partner, Judy of Knotty Needle, who lives in Montana.

Judy and I have quite a bit in common.  Besides both being bloggers, we both love to read, quilt, hike and cook.  I have enjoyed getting to know her through her blog and I had fun shopping for her to give her a little taste of life here in Michigan.  I think she liked my package, you can read about what I sent her and her and her cutie patootie grand daughter's reaction to it at her post here.

Judy and I are really in sync with each other.  We both shipped our packages on the same day.  I received hers on Saturday but have been way to busy to tell you about it until today.  Look at all the wonderful goodies Judy sent to me!

Judy really took heed of my blog.  I got lots of food products that are native to Montana. Wild Huckleberry Pancake mix, syrup and jam and a jar of locally made mustard.  She also sent me several gorgeous postcards that are just calling to me to make sure I follow through on my bucket list wish of a trip to Montana.  Is that gorgeous scenery or what?!!

Today is the last morning that I will have Mary and Jack with me.  Larry left yesterday.  My son, having suffered the death of a woman very close to him, flew in from Virginia last night to attend the funeral.  I decided this would be a good time for me to crack open these goodies from Judy and share them with those whom I love and don't get to see as often as I would like.

I decided to turn the pancake mix into muffins and serve them with the huckleberry jam.  I decided to take Judy's advice and use the huckleberry syrup for a grilling glaze later on.

Wild Huckleberry Muffins

1 pkg Montana Wild Huckleberry Pancake Mix
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. canola oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Spray a cupcake tin with baking spray and fill with the huckleberry batter divided evenly between the 12 cups.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rhubarb Blueberry Custard Pie for Secret Recipe Club

Hello!  It is hard to believe the month of July is nearly over.  It just flew by.  That happens when you are as busy as we have been.  We've had my brother and his wife staying here from California along with their 5 year old grandson, Jack.  How much fun is that?!

Well, not enough fun for us, apparently so I also had my 13 year old grand nephew come and stay for 2 weeks as well.  And then his folks and sister came for a few days.  And my sister in law's sister came for a couple of days.  And we threw 2 huge parties and entertained or went out nearly every night.

Thank goodness for all my cooking clubs that filled me with inspiration for what I should serve during this crazy month.

One of the clubs that I can always count on, is the first that I joined, The Secret Recipe Club.  In this club you are each assigned a blogger and are given a month to sneak around in their blog, get to know them and choose a recipe from them that you would like to make.  Then we all meet back here on an appointed day (Our day is the 4th Monday of each month) and reveal who you were assigned and what you chose to make from their recipe files.  Interested in joining us?  You can find out all about it right here.

This month I was lucky enough to be assigned, Emily of Life on Food.  You should really run over and check out her amazing blog, she has tons and I mean TONS of great recipes.  She was born and raised in the midwest, went to college in Maine with a stint in France (lucky duck) and now is happily married and settled in Connecticut with frequent trips to Florida for Disney World.  Our daughter, Nicole, who is right around Emily's age is also a Disney World nut and she and her husband go at least once a year and often two or three times a year, 

We were invited over to Frank's sister's house for dinner so that they would get a chance to visit with Larry, Mary and Jack.  I was to bring dessert so when I went to Emily's blog I went right to the dessert section.  Lo and behold, the first dessert to show up was a rhubarb custard pie made with her grandmother's recipe.  I still had rhubarb available and am always looking for new recipes so my decision was extremely easy this month.

I made a couple of slight changes to Emily's recipe.  I added a little cream to the eggs for the custard, I grated a little fresh nutmeg into the custard mixture as well because I just love nutmeg with my custard.  When I filled up my deep dish pie pan with the rhubarb custard mixture, it didn't quite make it to the top.  I was out of rhubarb but I had a pint of blueberries in my refrigerator so I poured them into the custard/rhubarb mixture and the pie pan was filled.

Emily said that this pie is her father's favorite and I can see why.  It is absolutely delicious and a great way for you to use up some of that rhubarb that you have coming out of your ears garden or CSA.

Rhubarb/Blueberry Custard Pie
adapted from Life on Food

1 pie crust
4 c. rhubarb, chopped into 1/4" pieces
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/4 t)
1/3 c. half and half
1 pint blueberries

Line a deep dish pie pan with the crust.  Whisk together the eggs and cream.  Add the sugar and nutmeg and whisk until incorporated and sugar is dissolved.  Add the rhubarb and blueberries and stir to combine.  Pour into pie shell and bake in a preheated 350* oven for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie removes cleanly.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Here is a look at what the others are revealing today.  YUM!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Weekly Menu for the Last Week in July

I cannot believe that July is nearly over.  It flew by like a whirlwind.  This week is starting off crazy and then midweek everything stops!

Today we will be setting up the hall and getting ready for the dinner I am catering celebrating Sr. MaryAnn Ankoviak's retirement from religious life after 58 years.  I am so honored to be a part of this celebration.

Tomorrow is the party so most of the day will be spent at the hall, preparing and then serving a spaghetti dinner for approximately 200 people.  Mary's sister, Pat, is also coming over sometime tomorrow to spend a couple of days with Mary before she returns home.

Larry is leaving Monday sometime to start heading back to California on his Harley.  He estimates it will take him a week.  He has his route all written out with stops at friends and family homes along the way.

Mary and Jack leave on the train bright and early on Wednesday morning.  Their trip takes 3 days.  I also have food pantry on Wednesday since it is the 5th Wednesday of the month.

And then....our house will be empty.  It will just be me, Frank and the dogs.  What will we find to do to pass the time??

So here is our menu for this week.  I might even have time to get back and post recipes and photos for you with all my spare time LOL.

Grilled Ham Steaks
Sweet Potatoes
Baked Beans
Broccoli Salad

Pot Roast
Steamed Green Beans

Meatless Monday
Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms

Pasta Salad

Frank's in charge of dinner

Grilled Steaks
Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash
Roasted Red Skin Potatoes

Date Night

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cheesie Wienies for National Hot Dog Day

Did you know that today is National Hot Dog Day?  Isn't that exciting?  I personally love hot dogs. Not just any old hot dogs...I love natural casing franks and my favorite natural casing franks come from a Michigan company called Kowalski.

Image result for national hotdog day

To celebrate this National Holiday I decided to reach  back into my childhood and my children's childhood and make up some Cheesie Wienies.  I am sure that you have a version that you remember from your childhood as well and I would bet money that the recipe was developed by Pillsbury to help market their crescent rolls.  This is my version.  I hope  you enjoy it.

Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Lay out the crescent triangles.
Lay a piece of bacon across each.

Cut a slit in your hot dogs.
Stuff em with cheese.
Lay em on the crescent roll that is topped with bacon.

Roll em up.

Bake em for 12 minutes.
Dinner is served.
Happy National Hot Dog Day.

Cheesie Wienies
adapted from Pillsbury

1 pkg. of your favorite hot dogs
1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls
8 slices bacon, cooked completely but still soft
8 slices of your favorite cheese (I used Colby Jack)

Preheat your oven to 375*.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Separate the crescent rolls and lay them on the baking sheet.  Lay a slice of bacon along the center of each crescent triangle, lengthwise.  Cut a slit in each hot dog and stuff the slit with a slice of cheese.  Lay the hot dog on the bacon lined crescents and roll the dough up around them.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman inspires Joy, Luck, Dragon, Phoenix #FoodnFlix

This month's Food n Flix selection, chosen by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen was Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, a Chinese film with English subtitles.  This movie was filled, and I mean FILLED with food.  It was a feast for the eyes.  The movie is about a master chef and boy is his food gorgeous!!  Having raised a Chinese daughter for the past 8 years, I have learned that this culture definitely eats with their eyes first and this movie attested to that.


What is Food n Flix, you ask?  Well it is just the coolest little group in the blogging world.  We all watch the same movie each month and then create a dish inspired by the movie we watched.  We blog about our recipe and our thoughts about the movie and then whoever is hosting rounds up all of our blogs at the end of the month and shares them with the group.  It is a lot of fun.  It is casual and non demanding.  Anyone can play along, just watch the movie, create a dish and email it to the host. You can learn all about it at Deb's announcement post  or you can follow the Food n Flix blog posts each month and choose to step in when you have the time and/or inclination.

So, as I was saying, our movie this month was Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.  It was not a movie about food per se, but it contained food in nearly every scene.  It was a movie about relationships.  Relationships between a father and his daughters, relationships between siblings, relationships in the workplace, relationships between friends and lovers, relationships that are ending and beginning. And all of these relationships developed and grew, as relationships often do, over the dinner table and over food.

I wasn't sure that I was going to like this movie but I ended up really liking it.  I could relate to all the daughters as they struggled with their relationships with their father and each other.  I could relate to the father who only wanted his daughters to be happy but was unable to communicate in any way other than food.  It was the story of how we often assume to know what others are thinking/feeling/wanting/wishing without taking the time to really talk with them and find out.  

There were several dishes that appealed to me in this movie....almost all of them in fact.  If I could I would have embraced some time with the master chef and learned every trick and skill that he would offer to share.  The dish that I decided to make was what Mr. Chu called Joy, Luck, Dragon, Phoenix.
In the movie it was made to take the place of a dish that had used shark fins but the fins were fake and the dish was ruined.  Mr. Chu was called to save the day and he did so by throwing out the bad dish and making this dish that contained lobster and prawns among other things.  This dish is traditionally served at weddings or celebrations.

Image result for my grandmother's chinese kitchen

When looking for this recipe, I went to my go to cookbook for anything Chinese.  My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.  I have shared several other recipes from this cookbook in prior posts including an entire Chinese Lunar New Years feast, Steamed Buns, and Clams with Black Bean Sauce.  I found this recipe for Dragon and Phoenix Soup.  Eileen's write up says that this soup "is symbolic as well, the lobster or "dragon shrimp" representing the emperor, the chicken or the phoenix, a representation of the empress.  It is also a symbol of a happy marriage, and was served as part of a wedding day banquet."  Perfect....I couldn't wait to make it.

I served this soup up as a first course, followed by a chicken stir fry.  This meal was originally scheduled for Wednesday this week but then we ended up having company tonight so I switched my Meatless Monday menu for this one which was much better suited for guests.  Mary's sister Pat was here for a couple of days and her husband, Ken, was joining us for dinner when he came to take her home.  Pat asked how she could help and I handed her a bag of peas and asked her to shell them for me.  She had never shelled peas before.  I often forget that not everyone is as food oriented as I so I showed her how to shell the peas and she went to town on them.

This soup was so very delicious and so very easy to throw together.  I can see why it is considered a wonderful celebratory soup in China.  I will be serving this again and again when I get hungry for Chinese food.

Dragon and Phoenix Soup
very slightly adapted from My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen

(Mix 2 identical marinades as below, one for chicken and one for shrimp)

1 T. rice wine
1/2 T. ginger paste
1 t. light soy sauce
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. sugar
1 t. dark sesame oil
pinch white pepper
1/2 t. rice vinegar
2 t. cornstarch
12 oz. chicken breast, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
2 lobster tails, shelled, deveined, washed, dried and cut into bite size pieces.

Place ingredients into 2 sealable plastic bags, large enough to hold the chicken and shrimp, shake to combine.  Add the chicken to one bag and the shrimp to the other.  Let marinade for 30 minutes.

3 c. peanut oil
1 oz. bean threads
5 c. chicken stock
1 T. ginger paste
1 T. garlic paste
1/2 c. asst. mushrooms, cut into 1/2" dice
1/2 c. canned, sliced bamboo shoots, drained
3/4 c. fresh peas, shelled
3 egg whites, beaten
5 scallions, whites and light green, thinly sliced

Heat wok over high heat.  Add peanut oil and allow to heat.  Add bean threads.  Be prepared with a kitchen spider to remove the bean threads almost immediately as they cook in only a few seconds. Remove and place on a paper lined plate to drain.  Set aside.

Place chicken stock, garlic and ginger into a large soup pot.  Heat to a boil over high heat. Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots, cover, return to a boil and allow to cook 2 minutes.  Add peas, return to a boil and cook 2 minutes longer.  Add chicken and it's marinade, bring back to a boil and allow to cook for another couple of minutes until chicken turns white.  Add the lobster and it's marinade, stir and then add the beaten eggs, stirring to permit eggs to blend.  Add the bean threads and scallions. Stir to blend and remove from heat.   Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.