Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

While surfing around the internet last night I found a blog with some really delicious sounding recipes. It's called NancyCreative. This link will bring you directly to a very nummy recipe and photos of what I will be making later today, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread. Of course, first I'll have to go out and get a can of pumpkin and a block of cream cheese, but that's okay because I have to go out and get some Halloween candy, just in case. Usually there's only a handful of trick or treaters and I wind up giving the candy away to my neighbor across the street.

I've learned to put it in a plain brown bag before giving it to her so the 3 little boys don't go crazy. I discovered this covert action was needed two years ago when they were going away for the weekend and I walked over and handed her the candy in its original bag through the passenger side window and saw the terror on her face as she quickly buried it in the side pocket of the door. All three boys were strapped in the back seat and quite curious. Having them on a sugar high while driving wouldn't be the best experiences i imagine. Of course her husband was walking out to the car and saw the candy. As he got in he said "Oh good, Snickers!" and received a priceless glare for opening his mouth. It was pretty funny. Hence the plain brown wrapper.

Labels: , ,


Fall Comfort Food

Don't you just want to pull up a chair and dig in?

I wanted to comment on how hard it is to find certain foods, specifically smoked ham shank. And not the kind like beef or veal shanks where it's a horizontal slice but rather a whole shank. I asked the butcher at Vons/Pavillions and get this, they only had two ham products in at the moment, ham hocks and ham steak. He said they'll get more ham products for the holidays. Have you noticed also how pricey certain cuts of meat that used to be considered "peasant food" are? Beef short ribs are $5.99 a pound and they're mostly bone. A horizontal cut of beef shank weighs in at $4.99. And soup bones (i.e., dog bones) ring up at $3.99!

FYI - This is what a smoked ham shank looks like.

I've ventured out of the big chain groceries lately and tried smaller markets like Super A and Stater Brothers. Also found out by reading the Tuesday/Wednesday food ads that once a month Super A has beef shanks for $1.79 a pound and that their prices on short ribs are about half that of the big stores. Still no ham shanks. I "blame" my new interest in such cuts of meat on a recipe found on Cooking by the Seat of My Pants which is a really good food blog and the recipes are "kid tested" for any of you with picky eaters.  It was a recipe for "Braised Smoked Ham Shank with Beans and Rice", doesn't that sound delicious for a nice fall meal? It has a great pics of what a ham shank should look like and it's not a horizontal slice. So, my search will continue and I'll be armed with a photo print out from the recipe to help me.

P.S. I emailed Jerry Russell of Cooking by the Seat of My Pants for permission to use the photos above which he kindly granted. He also was very helpful, suggesting the two stores where I might find shanks. Unfortunately, we don't have them here. He did mention that he thought Wal-mart might have them. So I may be (cringe) venturing to a Wal-mart in the near future. Thanks for the help Jerry! Wish me luck!




I don't know if it's the recent failures in cooking, but lately I've become quite taken with food blogs and thought I'd share a few I found with you. Being brought up in the Midwest, I tend to like that style of food but with a few twists. Living in So Cal, I can get tons of spicy food which does me no good because peppery spices don't go down well. The odd thing I found is that spices not derived from the pepper family don't bother me. For example I have a lamb curry recipe that I love. Whenever I made it in my former life, I'd watch the face of the man who loved L.O.V.E.D. hot and spicy foods turn beet red and see sweat dripping down his face while I ate without incident. So, who knows, why that is but the food blogs I fav are usually not the kind that have chiles in every recipe.

The first blog is the Cookin' Canuck who has some really good looking recipes. They're down to earth and seem like they'd be easy to replicate. Next is The Perfect Pantry which has nummy recipes of course, but also a look at assorted pantries which is a kick. This is followed by Ezra Pound Cake where you'll find a ton of recipes in her index. She's heavy on the sweets having been formerly employed as a baker. I found a wonderful Corn Chowder recipe on Opera Girl Cooks which turned out great. And last we have a site called Guide to Culinary Schools on which you'll find "The 100 Top Culinary Blogs" at least in their opinion. So have a look, you never know what you'll find!

P.S. A wonderful food blog totally slipped my mind. It has fabulous photos, good recipes, garden info and lessons on food photography! It's called White on Rice Couple.

Labels: ,


I'll Dry

Not heretofore disclosed, is the fact that I love L.O.V.E. tea towels.  I don't know when this romance began, but it was somewhere in my late teens and twenties when I "discovered" old linens and tablecloths. Since then, I have collected tea towels (or dish towels to some) throughout my travels.  German classics with their designs of dark and light blue jacquard squares, Dutch stripes and French linens with monograms.  I've also collected unusual prints found right here at home through the years as well as the classic waffle weaves and old windowpane checks of my mother's time.  So it's not unusual for me to zero in on them in my internet travels.  Yesterday, I came upon a delightful blog called "Elle oh" and as I scrolled through the eye candy of interiors (well worth a look by the way) I found the author's entry called "You Wash, I'll dry" about a wonderful tea towel collection full of wit and whimsey.  It's called "To Dry For".  As a former collector of those kitschy snow globe souvenirs I was enchanted to see they even have a towel called Snow Globes!  There's a towel with a big lower case "t" on it, of course one with an Eiffel tower and "Drop Scones Not Bombs" among many more.  No affiliation, just a die-hard tea towel enthusiast!
And these are just the tip of the "towel-berg"! Do check it out! You won't be disappointed.

Labels: ,


The Soup Enigma

As I said two days ago there's nothing like gloomy weather with winter in the offing to put one in the mood for soup.  It seems that if you're not feeling quite right it can affect your ability to cook.  Seriously!  Having gone out yesterday to get the ingredients I was missing to make minestrone today, I was not going to let a little bit of feeling under the weather deter me.  I'd finally decided on two recipes as general guides.  They were different from what I normally do.  Now, I should preface this by saying I'm not a great cook but a reasonably good one however I make really good soups.  Until today.

Having spent 2-1/2 hours chopping and browning and simmering, I sat down to a bowl of minestrone sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  Totally disappointing.  I'd tasted as I went and somewhere along the line the taste went awry.  I don't know if it was the rind of Parmesan cheese that one recipe suggested adding or the 6" sprig of fresh rosemary from the other recipe.  But something was definitely off.  So I added a little chicken bullion crystals to perk the flavor up.  Nothing.  Added 3-4 t. of sundried tomatoes in a tube for some depth.  Nothing.  Some Trader Joe's Pasta Seasoning.  Nothing.  So I removed the wilted rind and rosemary and let it simmer.  Nothing.  Deciding it was just tasting it on a wooden spoon, I ladled up a bowl and sat down to eat.  Nothing.  It tasted blah.  Maybe it was the Napa cabbage or the frozen green beans and spinach.  I just couldn't eat it.  I was flabbergasted.  Soups just don't fail so blatantly!  But this one did, which is why I won't bother writing the final recipe up.

Feeling off, really goofed this soup up, or was it combining 2 recipes?



Soup Weather

With the gloom and rain comes the desire to make some nice, warm comfort food.  Can't find my normal minestrone recipe that I use as a base and then alter with seasonal veggies, so I've been online searching for what to make.  Found an interesting cassoulet recipe and a couple of interesting minestrone soup recipes.  I think the minestrone is going to win out.



Enough Already

It's been gloomy and drizzling for several days now and I'm ready for it to be done.  I want sunshine back!



Rhonda's Recipe Party

While surfing blogs today, I came upon Pure Style Home at http://purestylehome.blogspot.com/.  I like Leslie Liess design sensibility, she writes an interesting blog with great photos.  So that led me to Southern Hospitality's blog by Rhonda.  Another well designed blog with lots of links.  Leslie was posting about Rhonda's Recipe Party using Mr. Linky coming up on Oct. 22 (http://southernhospitalityblog.com/recipe-exchange-pasta-allamatriciana/).  I'm excited to get some new recipes that have been tried and perform consistently.  I have a special recipe to share for the project, so I'm very excited!  Please check out the links; no affiliation just like a good blog and group projects plus it sounds like a lot of fun!

Labels: ,


It Rains

Well, this is definitely a change...weather, specifically rain.  Actually having grown up in the Midwest, I really don't call this rain because it's just drizzle.  It's a nice change and actually makes it feel like fall.  This winter is supposed to be a La Nina winter.  Supposedly that's why the summer was so mild.  La Nina and El Nino are ocean currents that affect our climate.  La Nina winters are usually dry.  So this shouldn't be around long.



Court of Jesters

My friend and I left for the court date at 7:30 a.m. this morning.  I seriously question the justice system.  This was an MSC (Mandatory Settlement Conference) kind of court date which amounted to me talking to my lawyer (actually not my lawyer but a junior associate) and the respondent talking to his and then going in and telling the judge that nothing can be resolved.  A new court date was set for Feb. 4!  It's sole purpose is to set a trial date!!!  OMG!  How inane!  So "maybe" by April or May I'll go to trial!  Can you believe this?  No wonder the system is so clogged!  Grown people who can't address more than on item per day?



Moroccan Chicken

As I sit here with a cool little nose pressed to my ankle, I'm deciding how to improve a particular recipe.  It's one of my favorites because of the exquisite combination of flavors.  I can't remember the name of the cookbook where I found it so I can't credit the cookbook, but it's goooood!

I first had this dish made with duck in a little restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris a number of years ago.  The restaurant was started in the 1800’s.  When you entered you had to go through the kitchen to get to the dining room.  Everyone was ordering this signature dish, duck with green olives.  So of course that was what was ordered and I was delighted with it.  Now, finding a way to replicate it upon returning home was another story.  At least until I was in the sale section of a book store and came upon a cookbook all about olives!

The recipe I found which replicated the taste almost perfectly (right down to the lemony gravy)was called "Moroccan Chicken with Cracked Green Olives".  Problem is, it calls for a whole chicken (or duck) which you are then to brown all over in a Dutch oven.  Maybe it's just me, but I have no luck getting a whole chicken browned that way.  One of the grocery stores here had chicken leg quarters on sale for .99/lb. which I decided to try.  One catch, you had to buy the "value pak" which gave me 6 quarters.  I figured being all dark meat, it would more closely resemble duck than my previous attempt using chicken breasts.  Although it was still delicious with white meat.

Like the crazy woman I am, I decided to cook all 6!  Do you know how long it takes to brown that much in a 6 qt. Dutch oven?  Forever.  You can't just put all 6 in because they'll steam vs. browning.  So two by two they were browned.  It was at this juncture that I came to the conclusion that I need a new, bigger Dutch oven.  Despite the olive oil, the skin of the chicken stuck like glue to the pan, so browning didn't really occur since when lifted to turn the legs over, all the skin stuck to the bottom of the pan and I was left with a skinless un-brown leg.  But I continued, scraping the skin off the bottom and tossing it, and went on to the next pair.  About an hour and 20 minutes later, all the chicken was cooked and I went on with the next step.  Okay, well maybe chicken quarters isn't the way to go, but it turned out delicious despite the lengthy cooking time!

Moroccan Chicken with Cracked Green Olives
2 cups (about ¾ lb.) small pimento stuffed green olives or cracked and
   pitted green olives
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 ½ to 4-pound chicken or duck, whole
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, ground
1 large pinch saffron threads, crushed with your fingers
2 ½ cups light chicken stock
Lettuce, red leaf or curly endive (optional)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon, grated

Boil olives in water for 15 minutes.  Drain, cover with water again and boil the olives for 15 more  minutes (this process makes them less bitter and salty).  Set aside.

In a large casserole, with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, brown the chicken well on all sides.  Remove from the casserole and drain the fat from the pot.  Salt and pepper the chicken to taste.  In the same pot, sauté the ginger, garlic, cumin, and saffron in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil for 1 minute, and then add the chicken stock and stir.  Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and cook for 12 minutes on one side.  Then turn the chicken and cook, covered, for 12 minutes on the other side.  The chicken should be just done.  If it is not, cook for a few more minutes, and test again.  Remove the chicken from the liquid and put it in a serving dish on a bed of lettuce (or not).  Add the lemon juice to the liquid in the casserole and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened (you might need to add 1 T. cornstarch or arrowroot, in a little cold water to thicken).  Add the olives just long enough to heat them.  With a slotted spoon, distribute the olives over the chicken.  Serve the gravy along side at the table.  Garnish the chicken with the grated lemon zest.
I usually serve this with Basmati rice to soak up the delicious gravy.

Labels: ,


The Pink Cloud

With the next court date looming in the following week, I find, as always, a crippling depression setting in. Which says a lot since I'm on an anti-depressant. What do you do to escape or deal with depression.  I can't say this gloomy, drizzly weather is of any help.  I've experienced depression all my life I just didn't know what it was when I was in my 20's and 30's.  I remember describing it as a heavy, gray cloud that would periodically descend over me.  A friend suggested I talk to a therapist, who told me to make the cloud pink.  The understanding of depression has come a long way since then thankfully.  I find that often I can "write" my way through it.  Somehow putting the words down on paper that describe what I'm feeling takes some of the energy out of them.

I think depression is linked to feelings of lack of control which gives way to a certain hopelessness.  Being in year 5 of this hideous divorce is taking it's toll.



Fair Days Ahead

"But mom, if I go out, I'll get wet and I might melt!  You never know!!!"

Well, the heavenly rains we've had the last few days have flown and sunshine is welcomed back.  I think people who opt to live in Southern California really like to see the sun.  Some of us may long for rainy days to save on garden watering, enjoy the sound of rain hitting house and trees and look at tumultuous clouds and pale gray skies.   But after a few days, sun is such a welcome sight.  It makes the heart sing...especially in spring and fall!  Scorching summer days are another story entirely.  But for this moment in time, the weather, sun are just perfect.

It certainly makes it easier to get Mr. Blue out the door to do his business!  The last few days have been an ordeal for him (well, and me too).  They've consisted of treats being tossed about 2 feet outside the door.  He caught on to that really quickly.  Then there was the ruse of "I'm going into the garage, want to come along?" that worked only once.  It pretty much boiled down to me leashing him up to get him to the door and then trying to unleash, scoop and shove him out the door.  He was not a happy little camper.  But once outside he did what he needed and so all is well.  He survived.

Having a longish body does make scooping his butt up tough because he turns and while you've got both hands on his tusche, his front end is making a run for it in the opposite direction.  So essentially you're shoving him, not out the door, but in the opposite direction and then the rear end escapes your clutches while you try to contain the front end!  So, yeah, glad the sun's back!

Okay, spell check doesn't know "tusche" nor does the paperback dictionary on my desk, but I swear it's a word!  Anyone?

Labels: ,


Going Public

Well, I've decided to take this blog public.  I hope my little blog will be enjoyed and taken for what it is...a blog, nothing more.  It's basically a bit of my life put down in one cohesive piece of work consisting of thoughts, pictures, wishes, worries and a little Corgi who makes life so worthwhile.  If I post a recipe, please keep in mind, I'm not a chef, I made something from a recipe, it tasted good and I want to share it with you.  I make no promises how it will turn out for you.  With gardening, I have more experience.  Isn't that the way it is for everyone?  You're just better at some things than another.

I hope you'll take a little time and go back and view some of my past "secret" entries and get to know me a little.  Feel free to comment constructively.  I occasionally swear so for the faint of heart, be advised.  And remember that if I write something you don't like, it's merely my opinion or observation based on "my" experience and nothing more.



Rescuing a Human

 When I wrote yesterday's post, I'd forgotten about an email a friend sent to me.  I have no idea who the author or photographer are but wanted to share what she sent with you.  If anyone knows the origins I'd love to know who the creators are.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and always remember if you're going to get a dog, cat, bunny or bird, give someone a chance to "rescue" you by adopting from a shelter!


Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.  I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.  I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.

As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage.  I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today.  Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past.  I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life.

She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me.  I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.

A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well  Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.  

I would promise to keep her safe.  I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.  

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor.  So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors.  So many more to be saved.  At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Labels: ,


Head in the Sand...

I posted yesterday's quote in hopes of inspiring myself to get through the next week and the court date.  The constant waiting for this to end strains one's nerves to the maximum and tests one's sanity.  Waiting to start my life.  Doltoid got almost 2 years of "safe" practice in getting started with his potential new life.  Then, when he felt comfortable, he could dump his safety net, our marriage.  On the other hand I had/have no such choice.  He has had the upper hand in this, the whole time.  It gets hard to believe I will ever get to start a new life.  He's essentially had almost 6 years of a safe new life, while I wait, hands tied.

I keep trying not to think about it but with these land mines called court dates that may or may not actually occur (note, the last 5 did not)!  Their constant presence on the horizon of my life makes me feel like I'm under "life arrest" as it were.  Pre-planned time bombs...and you never know the results.  How can one expect to live proactively when there is the constant potential for reactivity to unexpected events.  I know life is like that, this is just to focused and needs to be defused.  Thanks for letting me blow off some steam!

On another note, after Frost died, I think I kind of died in a way too.  My potted plants didn't get watered...I no longer had any reason to look out the back door much less go out into the yard and water plants.  Most died.  All my herbs croaked.  So I purchased a few basic ones to plant in hopes of them getting a fair start before it gets too cool for any growth.  Having to buy fresh herbs in those little plastic containers at $2-3 a pop is very annoying when you know how easy it is to grow them!  

I have Blue, my new dog to thank for getting me back out in the yard.  Whatever happens, I'm very glad I got him, he rescued me!



A thought...

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.




Well, we've had our second day of thunderstorms and I'm finding that Blue does not want anything to do with thunder.  So I stepped outside in order to get Blue out to do his business and discovered that the water in his cup had turned the color of tea.  This happened a few weeks ago when we had overnight showers.  Only that time it looked like coffee!  Really dark!  I thought, "is this what we're breathing?" and then figured, being the first rain in quite a while, it just washed the dust and dirt off everything.  Well, maybe not.  As I poured the water on the gardenias, I noticed what looked like soot in the dregs of the cup.  Could the air be holding that much soot?

If you didn't live in the midwest or east in the 50's I don't imagine you've ever seen real soot caused by heating with coal.  The house my grandma lived in had a coal burning furnace like most everyone else at the time, at least till about 1960.  When we went to visit, we were not allowed to touch, much less sit on the steps or railings or window ledges of the grand, covered, front porch.  Despite almost daily attention and cleaning, the soot was ever-present and tough to get out of clothes.

It's funny how you can get sucked down memory lane by something so simple as soot.

Getting back to the air, do you really think that we're breathing what I saw in the cup?  About 6 or so years ago after fires in the foothills, I noticed (after the ash was gone) we still had quite a bit of super fine soot in the hills.  California houses aren't built to be airtight.  In fact concept of weather stripping on doors and window is pretty much lost here.  So even months and months after the fires, whenever the wind would whip up the blackened hills, you could see a noticeable layer of soot.  It's so fine, that it easily filters into any and all crevices.  I've gotten used to it over time and think of the extra dusting as just part of life, but after a look at that photo, I'm really wondering....

Labels: ,