Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkey Leftovers

While most people are looking ahead to Christmas, I am still stuck at Thanksgiving.  Specifically, with the Thanksgiving bird.  It's actually mostly gone, but last night I used the remainder in turkey noodle soup.  It was perfect for a chilly evening and only took a half hour.  I diced up both white and dark meat and combined it with chicken broth, egg noodles, frozen peas, a couple of bay leaves, some dried rosemary powder, dried sage, and cracked pepper.  Let it simmer until the noodles were done, and voila!  Soup!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who Needs Green Bean Casserole?

Whew!  Thanksgiving is over.  We had such a great holiday with both kids home.  The weather was warm on black Friday, so we spent some time hanging outdoor Christmas lights.  Our son came up with a crazy notion to wrap tree trunks, so we did.  It looks a little unusual, but we had a lot of fun, working until well after dark.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was a real feast.  The local farm-raised turkey turned out juicy and tasty.  At our house, there are the usual dishes that we always have at Thanksgiving -- stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and pumpkin pie -- but the vegetable dish is always up for grabs.  I will confess that I have never made nor eaten green bean casserole.  I like green beans, but the casserole just doesn't appeal to me.  This year, I made a kind of different vegetable dish, one that went perfectly with the sage and rosemary flavoring of the turkey and dressing.  I have also served this at Christmas because of the beautiful colors.  We got this recipe from our daughter's high school French teacher several years ago for a French Club dinner.  This picture is before the dish was baked.  Was too busy afterward to snap a picture of the finished product.

Zucchini and Tomato Bake

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (I used 3)
1 pound tomatoes
1 pound zucchini
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan or skillet over low heat and cook the onion and garlic for about 20 minutes until soft and golden.  Spread over the base of a 12-inch shallow baking dish.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.  (If the tomatoes are ver large, cut the slices in half.)  Cut the zucchini into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices.

Arrange alternating rows of zucchini and tomatoes over the onion mixture.  Sprinkle with the herbs, cheese, and salt and pepper.  (I omit the salt.)  Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Serve hot or warm.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pecan Pie Bites

It's a busy Thanksgiving cooking day here.  Pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, and pecan tarts.  I love these tarts.  It's like a wee little pecan pie.  I got this recipe from my mom, who probably got it from Southern Living magazine sometime in the 1970s.  This is a great recipe for parties and potlucks.  The tarts look impressive but are really easy to make.  You will need two mini muffin pans.

Pecan Tarts

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup margarine, softened plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup sifted flour
1 egg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Blend cream cheese and 1/2 cup margarine.  Mix in flour.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill about one hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 24 balls (approximately 1-inch each).  Place in ungreased mini muffin tins.  Press dough up the sides to form little cups.  Make sure you get up to the edge so the filling doesn’t cook out and cause the tarts to stick.

I didn't get my dough up quite high enough.  I had a little sticking around the edges, too!

For filling:
Beat egg; add brown sugar and beat until well blended.  Add 1 tablespoon margarine, salt, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in pecans.

Fill shells 3/4 full.  Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  Let cool in pans.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Talkin' Turkey

I guess that Williams-Sonoma turkey techniques class was pretty inspiring after all.  This morning we headed out of town to a local turkey farm.  As we drove along a small rural road on this windy, cloudy, cold day through the flat Midwestern terrain, someone in the car remarked that it seemed a little like Siberia, it was so desolate.  Before long, however, we spotted a number of long, low metal sheds.  As we got closer, we could see turkeys in the sheds.  We had arrived!  We admired the turkeys still hanging about in the outdoor pens, marveled at the number of white turkey feathers scattered everywhere, then pushed our way into the crowded sales office where we purchased an 18.75 pound turkey and a package of turkey Italian sausages.  An older couple next to us carried out two 20-pound turkeys and a 12-pound turkey.  I wonder how many people they are feeding on Thanksgiving?  I'm satisfied with only one local, farm-raised, free-range turkey. Can't wait until Thursday!

There was plenty of room in this pen.  The turkeys crowded together by choice.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Black Walnut Cake

Remember the black walnuts I harvested from our yard?  Today I finally got around to baking a black walnut cake.  I used a recipe my mother had clipped out of the Nashville Tennessean years ago.  The kids rolled in from college this afternoon, just in time to try it.  So far, the cake has gotten a mixed reaction.  One thumbs up (me!), one thumbs down, one thumb kinda sideways.

We decided to forego the butter cream cheese frosting, which might make a big difference in the whole experience, but at our house we tend to like naked cakes.  When a cake is left unfrosted, it offers more options.  You can eat it for breakfast, dessert, with ice cream, or, as my husband sometimes does, in a bowl with milk poured on it (that is just wrong!).

I remember the first time I had cake for breakfast.  I was ten years old.  My father was about to retire from the army and we were staying in transit billets in Germany, waiting for our flight back to the U.S. after a year in Ludwigsburg.  I guess there wasn't much in the way of kitchen facilities, but there was a kind of vending machine that sold chocolate and yellow marble cake slices.  My mother let us eat the cake for breakfast.  A new tradition was born!

Black Walnut Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups butter or shortening or half of each
3 eggs, separated
2 cups flour (I replaced about 1/3 cup with whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk (recipe calls for whole, but I used 2%)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped black walnuts
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream sugar and butter/shortening until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks to mixture and beat until well blended.
In separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Add alternately with milk to the sugar mixture.  Mix in vanilla and chopped black walnuts.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold into the batter with a rubber spatula.
batter ready for egg whites to be incorporated and batter ready to go into the oven
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean and center of cake springs back when touched lightly with your finger. 
Cool in pan on cooling rack 10 minutes.  Loosen edges with knife.  Remove from pan.

Black walnuts have a strong flavor, so this cake wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's something different and a good use for those walnuts that litter my yard every autumn!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I'm Working On

Things have been quiet this week, but still, seemingly, not much time for creative projects.  Lately I've been working on some longer term projects.

Project one is an afghan which I'm crocheting from a baby blanket pattern.  I'm just making it much larger.  It's very thick and heavy.  Still a loooong way to go on this.

Project two is pom poms for a Christmas garland.  Clearly a lot more needed.

I'm using various sizes of Clover pom pom makers.  I was so excited the day I bought these.  I mean, stupidly excited.  Alas, they have been kind of a disappointment.  They are sturdy and don't bend up like the old-fashioned cardboard method, but I was expecting more from a pom pom maker.  It has maker in the name, after all.  I expected it to have a built-in cutting method or something.  I wanted fast, easy and fun!  Maybe it takes a glass of wine for the fun part.

untrimmed pom pom
The ad on Amazon says: "It is as easy as 1-2-3: wind, cut, tie, and remove!" They don't mention the last step: trim, trim, trim.   Maybe I overload my makers, but my pom poms come out sort of oval with wonky pieces sticking out.  Is this normal?  I don't want a premade look, but this porcupine thing is ridiculous.

Still, I love pom poms.  When I was a kid, we went to the Rainbow Skating Rink.  The older girls, the ones with their own white leather skates, tied big fluffy pom poms on their skates.  I coveted those.  Then there were the streamer pom poms that other girls attached to the handlebars of their bikes.  I coveted those, too.  In high school, the cheerleaders had huge blue and white pom poms.  There were only cheerleaders then, no separate squad of poms.  And the pom poms were BIG; they seemed at least a foot wide, not these little hand-warmer poms of today.  Need I say it?  Coveted. So now I'm a grown-up girl who can have as many pom poms as I want.  I don't know why it's taken me so long to decide to make some, but part of me is a little kid jumping up and down in excitement just waiting for that pom pom garland.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Birthday Weekend

I had a wonderful birthday on Sunday.  Our daughter came home for the weekend.  We ate lots of great food and had a good time all around.

My birthday dinner was a crock pot chicken cacciatore (an Emeril Lagasse recipe) over brown rice, mixed greens salad with tomato and cucumber, a glass of Asti Spumante, and a fabulous dessert of creme brulee!  Heaven!

The recipe for the creme brulee is so easy.  It's from Paul Deen.  The first time I made this was in a very large batch for a traveling French dinner when the kids were in high school French Club.  One year we hosted appetizers, but the last year, I pleaded to be the dessert house.  Other people provided desserts, too, and there just happened to be enough for a host parent or two to try them!  Yum!

Creme Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan, heat cream and vanilla over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring to ensure it does not scorch.  Do not let it boil.  Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes, then do the remaining steps.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon sugar.  Add about half the cream mixture, a little at a time, to the egg mixture, mixing until well blended.  Then pour the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture.  Stir until completely blended.

Pour the custard into 4 (9-ounce) ramekins or custard cups.  Place the dishes into a large baking pan.  Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and set in the center (it should still wiggle when shaken).  Carefully remove the dishes from the baking pan.  Let cool to about room temperature; then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  Let creme brulee stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving (I skip this warm-up period and go straight to the next step after removing from the fridge.)

Sprinkle one tablespoon brown sugar on each custard in a thin, even layer, covering it completely.  To caramelize the sugar, light a propane torch and hold it so the flame just touches the surface.  Start at the center and spiral out toward the edges of the ramekins.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Constant Cravings -- Solution!

The microwave brownies didn't stop the chocolate cravings.  Even a few Dove dark chocolates didn't do it.  Let's face it, when a girl wants brownies, a girl wants BROWNIES.  Thursday afternoon I broke down and made the real McCoy -- the ultimate, luscious, deep dish brownies that I was craving.

I've had this recipe for years, and I have no idea where I got it.  It's so perfect, I hardly tinker with it at all.  My only addition to this recipe is the chopped nuts.  The original recipe calls for margarine.  I have used butter, but I really can't tell any difference in the finished product.  And three sticks is a lot, so I generally use margarine as it's less expensive. You can halve the recipe, but I never do because I prefer middle pieces to edges, and there aren't enough middles with a square pan.  I tried to offset this decadence by also making homemade vegetable soup.  I figure all the vegetables sorta balance out all the sugar.  The main thing, though, is that the chocolate craving has been satisfied.  Ahhh.

Deep Dish Brownies

1 1/2 cups margarine, melted
3 cups sugar (1 cup of this can be brown sugar)
3 teaspoons vanilla
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate or peanut butter chips (I always use chocolate!)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 pan.
In medium mixing bowl, blend melted margarine, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs; beat well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.
Stir in chips and nuts.
Spread in pan.
Bake 40-45 minutes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Trout in the Pot

There is an Irish saying, a trout in the pot is better than a salmon in the sea.  Last night, I had a large trout fillet wrapped in butcher paper and a fast-dropping temperature outside going down into the 20s.  Brrr!  Not a good night to grill.  I found a super easy recipe from the Food Network that I could cook under the broiler.  Herbed Trout Fillets by Emeril Lagasse. Paired it with a simple salad and the last of the garden tomatoes.  Oh my goodness!  So fast, so tasty!

I decided to use this recipe about 10 minutes before I started preparing it, and wasn't going back to the grocery, so I had to improvise a little.  I already had the Essence mixed up because I keep it on hand for chicken cacciatore.  I had some fresh parsley still alive outside, huddled against the garage.  I didn't have any fresh oregano, so I used about 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano. I didn't have any chives either, so I just left those out.  I don't know if it was because my trout was thicker than Emeril's, or if it was my broiler, but I had to cook my trout about 10 minutes.  Still turned out fabulous. My husband loved it, too.

Herbed Trout Fillets  

Emeril Lagasse


  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6 to 8-ounce) sea trout fillets, with skin
  • Lemon wedges, as accompaniment


Preheat broiler, or grill.
In a medium mixing bowl combine lemon juice, Essence, garlic, parsley, chives and oregano. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange fillets skin sides down in an oiled shallow baking dish. Brush fish with vinaigrette.
Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chocolate Cravings

I have two addictions.  Diet Coke -- a serious addiction for me and many other women -- and chocolate -- ditto.  For the past two weeks or so I have been craving some rich, dark, chocolaty goodness.  I keep planning to make my favorite deep dish brownies, but I've been too busy.  Okay, I've been too lazy.

Very few ingredients needed!
Last night, after two days spent without even any Dove dark chocolate Promises to beat back the chocolate monkey on my back, I broke down and made brownies.  Well, sort of.  As I said, I've been lazy, but I was desperate, so I made microwave mug brownies from a Chicago Tribune recipe I found several years back.   I know, I know, all you serious cooks are hissing, but I was desperate!

I always half the recipe, omit the salt, and double the vanilla.  I can't seem to leave a recipe alone!  Last night, I threw some chocolate chips in.  I don't recommend that as they don't have time to melt.  I would show you the photos of the actual brownies, but they just look too unappetizing.  My husband tosses a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on his.  I suspect it's just to hide the ugly brownie.  I admit, these brownies are not terribly rewarding, but they are extremely easy, quick and quiet the monkey.  Temporarily anyway.

I'm a Featured Blogger!

smiley large simple clip art

Wow, so exciting!  I'm the featured blogger today on Melissa Blake's fabulous blog, "About what I said . . . ." in her "Behind the Blog" series.   Melissa and I first "met" over cheese muffins.  She had seen my recipe and posted a link to it on her blog.

Melissa didn't know it at the time, but we live in the same town, and I used to read her columns in the local paper.  She's a prolific blogger, great writer, and very nice person!  I hope you'll check out her blog.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Metaphysical Musings on Dust

Dust collectors

Do your thoughts ever hijack your brain when you are doing some menial task?  This happens to me sometimes when I am cleaning or driving or painting (walls, not masterpieces!).  My mind gets stuck on things I would rather not think about.  Here are some of the ideas that ran loose in my brain last time I cleaned my house.

A while ago, I read on someone’s blog, “I choose the misery presented to me.”  The day I read that post, I had recently learned that a friend’s 23-year-old son is not expected to recover from leukemia.  I had recently learned that a member of my own family has stage 4 cancer.  I couldn’t comprehend the blogger's statement.  Maybe she did not mean it the way it came across to me – it was part of a post justifying her own life choices – but it struck me as horribly insensitive and has bothered me ever since.  There were lots of comments on her post, most of which supported her point of view – you choose to accept the yoke of hardship God has placed on you, blah, blah, blah.  I agree that we all choose how we respond to events, we are responsible for our attitudes, but to say a mother watching her son die is choosing her misery, to say a man who loses his job and can’t find another chooses his misery, to say a person who died in the fire of the World Trade Center chose his misery, I just can’t comprehend that.

It reminded me of another nonsensical statement.  When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a third floor walk-up condo in a Chicago six flat.  Our across-the-hall neighbors had been married longer than we had and were parents to an adorable little girl named Anne.  I’ve forgotten the general conversation topic, but one day the wife said to my husband, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”  My husband had the same reaction to this that I had to the misery statement.  Disbelief.  I only wish I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to go out in the rain today, but I did.  I never want to clean toilets, but unfortunately I have to.  But since we’re choosing our misery, I guess you could say I choose the misery of cleaning toilets over the misery of dirty toilets.  After all, I want a clean toilet, so I want to do the cleaning, right?  No.  I think most of us feel we do lots of things we don’t really want to do, but they have to be done.  I should point out that the couple across the hall got divorced less than a year later.

Whenever someone states one of these out-in-space worldviews, it reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines of all time: “I don’t believe in gravity.” – Chrissie, played by Hollis McLaren, in “Atlantic City” (1980).
Shed? Who, me?
This brings me to dust.  So as I was cleaning, I was thinking about misery, doing what you want, and gravity.  You can see how these three ideas relate to dust.  And I wondered, why does dust exist?  We dust our furniture, our light fixtures, only to have the dust reappear, as if by magic, in a week or so.  Where does that dust come from?  We clean our sinks, then people spit toothpaste in them or rinse a plate covered in tomato sauce.  That dirt makes sense.  We vacuum our floors, then people walk on them with dirty shoes and pets shed (copiously in Alfie’s case) on them.  That dirt makes sense.  We wash our clothes, then we kneel in the garden or work up a sweat.  That dirt makes sense.  Dust makes no sense.  Repetitively cleaning something we haven’t used or often even touched.  Yet it must be done, at least occasionally.  Before holidays or visits from mothers-in-law, for example.  Dusting – I choose the misery of dusting because I want to do it, and I have to do it because of gravity.  That is my deep revelation for today.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Photos from the Attic

As you know, I've been thinking about favorite pets lately.  Well, when I was poking around in our attic this morning, I stumbled across a box of old photo albums.  One album is just pet photos.  I found this old Polaroid picture of Herman and Tina taken when Herman was nine months old.  I had stuck up the Beware of Dog sign as a joke.

I also found this photo, which shows the doghouse my father built.  Pretty palatial, huh?  Tina actually had her own doghouse, a smaller red one with a gray roof, but she preferred to share this one with Herman.  You can barely see her sitting at Herman's feet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turkey and Bubbles

our 2010 Thanksgiving turkey
Today I went with a friend to a Williams-Sonoma Technique Class, The Perfect Turkey.  It was fun and, what's more, I learned a few things even though I've been roasting turkeys for more than twenty years.  We even got to taste a turkey prepared with their dry brine.  It was really juicy, but maybe a little too flavorful for me, and too salty for my friend.  I like my turkey mild so that the stuffing can carry the flavor.  My parents like to joke that I dump a whole container of rubbed sage into my cornbread stuffing.  This is not exactly accurate, but I do like sage.  A lot.

Being Williams-Sonoma, of course, the instructor was a little snooty and gave disapproving glances to a woman who confessed to using a grocery-store aluminum pan to roast her turkeys.  The store's roasting pans are very nice and were even on sale, but really? who wants to spend $199 on a roasting pan to use once or twice a year?  They have an even bigger model for $279.  What?  And these are sale prices, kids.  After lunch we stopped in Home Goods, and they had an equally fabulous Cuisinart roasting pan for around $59.  Personally, I use my grandmother's old enamel roasting pan.  Anyway, the class was fun and we got to save 10% on our Williams-Sonoma purchases.  I managed to control myself and only got a couple of whisks that I really needed.

Are you wondering about the "bubbles" in my title?  Since my friend signed us up for the class and was doing the driving, I wanted to give her a little thank you. So I crocheted a dishcloth/hot pad for her.  You know that I only learned to crochet very recently, but I think the cloth turned out well.  I made a similar one for my daughter last month.  I found the pattern, Bubble Dishcloth, on Ravelry; it's easy and pretty quick to make.

Two and a half weeks until Thanksgiving.  I'm already feeling thankful today -- for my old pan, my new whisks, crochet thread, and mostly my family and friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Old Friend

After my father retired from the army, we lived in the country outside Nashville.  We had a big yard, a big garden, and I had a big dog, a Saint Bernard named Herman.  For my birthday one year, my gift was a 3x5 index card on which my dad had written, “This card is good for one puppy dog.”  We always had dogs, and had one then, a taffy blonde cocker spaniel named Tina.  But I had been wanting a dog of my own.  I was torn between an Old English Sheepdog and a Saint Bernard.  We went to look at a litter of Saint Bernards.  My decision was made.  The breeder pointed out Herman’s markings and other good points, but I picked him because he seemed sweet.  He was the one who came over quietly and was friendly but not pushy.

Herman and me in 1983
My dad built Herman a dog house that was the best one I’ve ever seen.  It was wood, painted white, with a black-shingled, pitched roof.  It had a covered front porch for lounging and a rear window for cross ventilation.  Herman and Tina shared the house and a large fenced area, partially wooded, at the back of our yard.  Tina was the boss of the pair.  She snapped at Herman if he tried to eat from her bowl, and he always backed down.  He was a big softie.  Once my dad found him carrying a tiny kitten around in his mouth.  When he put it down, it was covered with dog slobber, but perfectly fine.  Herman was  very gentle and loving.  When I was in high school, I would race back and forth across our front yard with Herman in hot pursuit.  I would pretend to fall down and lie flat on the grass, face cradled in my arms.  Herman would immediately stop and “worry” over me.  He would sniff and gently prod me until I got up to race again.  I’ve had other dogs who ran right over me when I did the pretend-hurt act.  Maybe they were just smarter and could see through the charade, but I prefer to think Herm was caring, not dumb.  

I was quite a tomboy in those days, too, and loved to climb trees.  There was a perfect climbing tree right beside Herman’s doghouse.  Its first main branch was a long, strong, straight one maybe eight feet off the ground.  I would walk out on that branch as far as I could while holding on to the next branches up.  Herman hated that.  He would stand under the branch and bark and “fuss.”  I think he knew people didn’t really belong in trees.  Or maybe he wanted to join me.  When I climbed higher, into a tree crotch that was perfect for sitting, he would give up and lie down to wait.

He was a funny dog.  One of his favorite games was to try to bite the stream of water from the hose when we filled up his water bucket.   This was especially fun in the summertime.  He also liked to carry around a punctured football.  He wasn’t nearly as gentle with a football as he was with a kitten!

Herman lived his whole life there at my parents’ place.  I was away in graduate school when my dad called to tell me that Herman was failing.  He couldn’t stand up.  I had to make the decision.  The veterinarian was a good friend to my parents and their menagerie.  She came to the house and put Herman to sleep there in his yard.  My dad buried him in the shade of my climbing tree.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chicken Paprika for a Blustery Day

It was cool, windy and damp all day here.  The weather put me in the mood for some old-fashioned comfort food, so for dinner I made chicken paprika.  I still make my chicken paprika the way I did when my children were young -- with bite-sized pieces and served over pasta rather than spaetzle.  My recipe is adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cook Book by Zoe Coulson (1980).  It doesn't photograph well, plus I used too much pasta tonight, so the finished product is drier than it should be.  But it still tasted good!

Chicken Paprika

3 chicken breasts (halves), cut in bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup flour
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
Pepper to taste
1 ½ cups water
1 chicken-flavor bouillon cube
½ cup sour cream

Coat chicken with flour; reserve remaining flour.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken and cook until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove chicken.

Add remaining flour and onions to skillet.  Cook, stirring frequently about 2 minutes.  Stir in salt, paprika, pepper, bouillon and water.  Mix well.  Return chicken to skillet; cover and reduce heat to medium or low.  It should bubble, but not be a rolling boil.  Simmer for 25 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Stir in sour cream until blended and heat through.

Serve over spaghetti or linguine.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maybe I Should Be a Bookseller!

I started my Etsy vintage shop in September as a way to handle the wealth of "stuff" from years of collecting, donations from family members who were downsizing, and inheritance.  Based on my sales, I don't think I have to worry about running out of inventory any time soon.

In addition to knick-knacks, housewares, and home decor, though, we inherited a lot of books this year.  Don't get me wrong, we are a bookish family.  We love books.  We have books in my office, in the den, in the attic, by the beds.  But I'm talking a lot of books.  Maybe as many books as we already owned over again.  My husband's uncle was a retired drama professor.  I'm guessing we now have some 200 books just of plays, theater techniques, actor autobiographies, and so on.  And come Friday, all those drama books will be heading to their new home.

drama collection
The theater department at our local university has agreed to send a few strong, young students over in a van to collect the books for their department library.  This is a win-win all around.  The books leave our dining room before Thanksgiving (!), the theater department gets a lot of free books, and I believe our uncle would be happy to know that his books will be available to students who will appreciate and use them.

Now about the rest of these . . .

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

On our recent trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul, we stopped by the fabulous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  It was a glorious, cool day, perfect for strolling around this wonderful, free park.  Here are a few of the sculptures which we particularly admired.

Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is the most famous and most photographed sculpture in the park.  It is impressive.  And large! According to the park literature, the spoon is 52 feet long, and the cherry weighs 1,200 pounds!  That's a heck of a cherry!  In the background of my photo, you can see the dome of the Basilica of St. Mary.  I think that makes an interesting composition -- the old and the new.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

I think my favorite sculpture was this one by Henry Moore, Reclining Mother and Child, made in 1960-1961.  I love the simplicity of it.

Reclining Mother and Child

We always enjoy seeing the Barry Flanagan hare sculptures.  I had never seen this one, Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers from 1983, but there is another at the Toledo Museum of Art, which we have visited a number of times.

Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers

Without Words by Judith Shea (1988) was intriguing.  I love the empty coat.  I'm not sure I "get" the connection to the broken marble head, but still found the sculpture a fascinating one.

Without Words

Finally,  Molecule by Mark di Suvero, completed in 1983.  My husband thought it was too much of a Alexander Calder knock-off, but I liked it.  I especially liked seeing the red-painted steel against the bright blue fall sky.