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Blogiversary #8

Yup, it’s that time of year! Another year older. It’s time to celebrate!

Before we get to the details of this year’s giveaway, let’s run down a few stats:

1904 posts (posting an average of 4.5 times a week)

5216 comments (granted, nearly 1/5 of those are me commenting back to you)

254,629 spam comments …. that I have scanned through before deleting (legitimate comments sometimes get tossed in the spam folder) to prevent your delicate eyes from seeing. Let me tell you, there is more graphic porn spam than anyone should have to see!  If only the spammers used their time to do something good for the world … you get where I’m going with that.

Also, I’m sorry to say that I have sad news to share.

My high school friend, loyal blog follower and frequent commenter, Nancy Bull, passed away suddenly on her birthday on May 31st.

Nancy was the grand prize winner in the 7th Blogiversary Contest last year. The prize was to come to my kitchen and cook your favorite recipe with me and then have that recipe posted here on the blog. Nancy and I had the best time making her family’s Chili Rellenos recipe together. When I snapped this beautiful photo of Nancy, I had no idea it would be the last time I’d see her radiant smile. Nancy used the photo as her Facebook profile photo. It is there on her page to this day. It is a reminder of how lucky and blessed I was to share that special time with her. Prayers and blessings to Nancy’s family. She is deeply missed.

I know Nancy would want me to turn this back around and get to the fun and happy stuff. She entered every contest I have ever had and she would want you to enter this one, because it’s a goodie!

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August 16, 2017   13 Comments

Anne is up to bat

We spent the day at the Del Mar Racetrack on Wednesday. The most that was bet by any one of us on any one race was $3. Big spenders or gamblers, we are not. But we had fun! Our seats were right in front of the finish line. If not for that pole in front of us, they would have been perfect. Darn structural engineering.

We arrived back too late to cook, so we had leftovers and watched a movie. The next morning, I woke up early and took a 5-mile walk up the beach, to the Oceanside Pier, while Peggy and Anne slept in.

I don’t generally find many shells along the beach in Carlsbad, but the tide was low and I filled my pockets. I wanted to go out again this morning, but with the internet getting busy in the late morning and constantly kicking me off, I decided to get this post up instead. I’ll go out again on Saturday and take a bag with me to collect more.

Since we hung around the resort all day yesterday, Anne had time to cook us up a delicious dinner! The recipe is one she found on allrecipes.com. But she switched it up and made it her own, in true Annie-style.

One great twist she made was switching out the regular pasta for a chickpea variety. It was fantastic!

She found the Banza brand pasta at Sprouts (in the Phoenix area you can also find it at Whole Foods and Target) and although we didn’t have wheat pasta available to do a side-by-side tasting, I’m certain I would not be able to taste the difference if we had.

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August 11, 2017   1 Comment

Peggy’s turn to cook

This deliciousness was Tuesday night’s dinner. Peggy not only manned the grill but was master of the kitchen as well.

Since it was my night off, it didn’t even cross my mind to take any preparation photos. Sorry, but I’m on vacay! I will try to do better when Anne takes over the duties tonight.

We spent Tuesday afternoon having lunch at Stone Brewery and wine tasting at Orfila Vineards & Winery, with a little T*J*Maxx on the side.

We were ultimate Maxxinistas. Peggy was looking for a swimsuit and I was looking for a barstool. The Carlsbad patio has only two stools. There are three of us. I had no choice but to find another stool!

I was successful, Peggy was not. I picked up this industrial style barstool for $29.99. I’m keeping the tag on it in case I decide to return it after the week is over, although I’m leaning towards keeping it for future visits. Decisions, decisions.

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August 9, 2017   1 Comment

Carlsbad and a brothy pasta situation

Peggy, Anne and I are at my timeshare in Carlsbad, CA for the week.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon.

Upon our arrival, I opened the hatch of my car … and this happened. We may have over-packed a tad.

My intention was to post daily. Turns out that the WiFi is easily overworked here at the resort. This is the first day I have not been kicked off before I could at least load the photos. I’ll post as often as the network will allow.

We had a planning session before we left town, each taking a night or two to cook dinner. I was up first with a ravioli dish that I was inspired to make from an Instagram photo my friend, Gwen, posted last week. Gwen has a gorgeous blog called Pen & Fork. You can always get to it over in the “Foodie Blogroll” on the right side of the page.

For the mushroom ravioli, I used the Trader Joe’s brand. It comes with truffle sauce, which you do not want to use in this recipe.

These are the truffle sauce frozen squares. They are easily picked out and removed from the ravioli squares. You can throw them back in the freezer and use for another pasta night or you can throw them in the trash. That’s what I do because I’m not a huge truffle fan. I’ll eat it if it’s served to me but I don’t go out of my way to put it in my mouth.

The spinach is cut into thin strips. When cutting leafy greens, the technique to do so is called chiffonade. It is easy to do, just stack the leaves, roll up tightly and slice. The word is French and translates to “little ribbons.”

“Brothy Situation” Mushroom Ravioli with Shredded Chicken

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms; cleaned, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 pound package frozen mushroom ravioli
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, garnish
  • Roughly chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and oregano)

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August 8, 2017   1 Comment

7 year old’s story

When I was in Chicago last month, I met up with two of my nieces, Megan and Amy, for dinner. Amy brought her son, my grand-nephew, Greyson. Grey, is seven years old and had just finished 1st grade.

(You may remember Greyson from THIS POST in October 2014)

The three of them were already seated when Lori and I arrived and Grey was sitting at the end of the table. I sat next to him and noticed that he had a paper and pen in hand and was working on something.

Lori was sweet enough to take a photo of the four of us. (Amy, Greyson, me and Megan.)

Anyhow, I asked Greyson what he was doing and he said, “I’m writing a story.”

As we all chatted and caught up, Grey continued to put pen to paper and write his story. A while later he announced that he was done and asked if I would like to read it.

“Yes!”

He handed me the paper and I proceeded to read it out loud.

“Once upon a time there was a man.

One day the man went to a castle, he went in the castle something punched him. Aaaaa!

It was an invisible guy. The invisible guy cut the man’s hand off. The man found a hook, he put the hook on his hand. He ran out of the castle.  

The invisible guy grabbed a bow and arrow and shot the man. AW! AW! AW! AW!

The man never went to the castle.”

By: Greyson Hopkins
Monday, June 26, 2017
7 years and 1 month old
Summer between 1st and 2nd grade

 

I have to say, I was impressed! He just turned seven a month before. Amy told us that he loved to write, so she had enrolled him in a summer creative writing class. What a fantastic and proactive mom she is!

I asked Greyson if I could keep it and he said that he wrote it for me. My heart melted. I asked if he would sign it for me. He said yes and asked if he could make all the letters in his name into pictures. I told him I’d love that, but asked if could he please sign his name on the front and sign it again on the back in pictures? He did and then he even wrote his name backwards for me too.

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July 28, 2017   4 Comments

not borscht

This bowl of soup might look like beet borscht, but I guarantee you that it is not. You can search this site from top to bottom and you won’t find a single recipe using beets.

Never! My least favorite food in the world is … beets!  So what is in this soup turning it purple if it’s not beets?

You may remember when I bought purple sweet potatoes at Whole Foods for THIS 4th of July dish.

I had extra purple sweet potatoes, along with a handful of baby potatoes, that were beginning to sprout. In the fridge, there were a few cobs of corn. It was logical that potato and corn chowder would be a good way to use it all up.

What I didn’t count on was just how deep purple those few sweet potatoes would color the chowder. It started out a light lavender color, which was rather unappealing. But as it continue to simmer, it turned a deeper and richer purple until it looked like borscht. Honestly, if it had stayed lavender colored, I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe, no matter how good it tasted.

Feel free to use whatever potatoes, sweet or otherwise, that you prefer for this recipe. Just know that if you do choose to use sweet potatoes, of any color, they need to be cooked first because they take longer to become tender. The regular potatoes are added later since they are not as hard.

You’ll also note that I add the cleaned corn cobs to the soup when the broth was added. Adding the kernel-free cobs, lends an extra rich corn flavor to the soup.

Oh and I wanted to tell you something I discovered. Remember how I was complaining about the electric stove in my last post?

Believe it or not, I found one great advantage to electric over gas! It’s been so hot and muggy with the monsoons in full swing, that I must have an oscillating fan in the kitchen while I’m cooking to make it bearable.

There is no fear of the fan blowing out the flame… since there is no flame! See, I can appreciate the little things. 🙂

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July 27, 2017   No Comments

my temporary home

I may as well begin the tour of the lovely house I am renting with a photo of the lovely wood floors in the master bedroom.

More honestly with of photo of my roommates, Bailey and Bombay, just because they’re so darn cute. As you look at the photos of the house, these two will be showing up in the background of a few. Feel free to play a kitty version of “Where’s Waldo” and see how many times you spot one or the other.

Here is the front view of the house. Some of the fabulous features are the huge pine tree in the front yard that provides great shade from the early and mid-morning sun. And take note of the high pitch above the garage. See those three beams poking out? This was the model home and sales office when the homes in the subdivision were built in the mid-80’s.  The garage served as the sales office and is finished with beautiful high-pitched wood-paneled ceilings and massive amounts of lighting.  More on that later.

The east and west sides of the garage have French doors with concrete paths leading up to them. These office doors are now bolted permanently closed from the inside.

Next up is the backyard. Another large mature tree provides wonderful shade.

The renters before me had a big dog who basically destroyed the sprinkler system, and the grass. I’m doing my best to bring it back to life.

This is the back west side of the house. I brought the lighter deck box from the other house. A week after I moved in, I picked up the two dark boxes from Costco and took the better part of an afternoon assembling and filling them with smaller garden items. I’ve given up on trying to revive the grass over here.

The back east side yard is crushed granite, so all my large patio furniture is being stored over here. I spent a Saturday morning covering the stacks of furniture with tarps to protect it from the sun and monsoons. The majority of it had been under covered patios in “Linda Land.”

Even though I’m living in less than half the square footage of the Equestrian Manor (from here out referred to as EQM) house, it’s not the inside space I miss… it’s the outside living space and that amazing backyard we created. My wish is to duplicate that on a smaller scale when I start the house-hunting for my next home.

Here is the cute little patio I’m living with for now.

It’s tight – but cozy.

And it has a really nice built-in grill. Loving that! OK, let’s go back to the front door and go inside.

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July 19, 2017   7 Comments

shishito

Shishito peppers are specialty peppers from Japan. They are high in vitamins A and C and are completely edible, including the seeds. Unlike other peppers, the skin is thin, so there’s no need to peel after blistering or roasting.

I like to serve blistered peppers as a nibble with drinks. Shishito peppers are also great in stir-fry and I even use them to garnish cocktails.

Shishitos have quickly become the new hot thing in the last year or so and are slowly showing up in the produce departments of grocery stores around the country. They are readily available in Japanese grocery stores.

I found 8-ounce packages of the peppers at Fry’s. They really are worth searching for. But if you can’t find them at your grocery store and are too lazy to go to a Japanese market, there is a substitute.

Use the sweet mini peppers that are readily available in produce departments and at Costco and Trader Joe’s

The peppers are sprinkled with flaky sea salt while still hot. My favorite salt is Maldon. It can be found at specialty food and kitchen stores. Or like everything else, on Amazon, which is where I get mine. I am obsessed with Maldon. I love it!

The other important ingredient for this recipe is shichimi togarashi. I first posted a recipe using shichimi togarashi, or Japanese seven spice, in the summer of 2014. I love this stuff and use it all the time.

Don’t be scared off by the long and complicated name of the recipe. It is the definition of easy-breezy and only has 6 ingredients, two of which are salt and olive oil.  See … EZ!

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July 12, 2017   2 Comments

caprese flag

Everyone loves caprese salad, or at least everyone I know love it!

There are many variations of Insalata Caprese, but the classic Italian salad consists of layers of ripe tomato slices, sliced mozzarella and basil leaves that are seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper and sometimes drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It is made to represent the colors of the Italian flag.

I have made it as an hors d’oeuvre before, but this time I assembled it to resemble our American flag for a 4th of July appetizer. I wish I could take credit for coming up with the easy idea on my own, instead I saw a video on the Food Network Instagram page on the morning of the 4th. I immediately jumped in my car and headed to Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients. This was too clever and yummy to NOT make!

 

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July 11, 2017   1 Comment

Patriotic Kabobs

Independence Day has come and gone, but there are plenty more patriot holidays between now and July 4, 2018. Labor Day is only eight weeks from today. Columbus Day is a month after that and before you know it, Veterans Day is upon us! The point is, don’t wait a year to make these fun and easy dessert kabobs.

I whipped a few of these up for the grilling tips segment I did last week and then made them again the next day for a 4th of July party I was invited to. Technically, I may have invited myself. But I tried to make the hosts feel it was worth it by bringing these kabobs along with an awesome flag appetizer, the recipe for which I will post tomorrow.

When I made the kabobs for television, I used pound cake. I quickly discovered that pound cake is not the best choice. Angel food cake works better, so that is what I used on the 4th. The pound cake is too dense and has a tendency to break apart when skewered. The angel food cake is light and fluffy and stays in place. Large marshmallows would be a great choice too.

I’m not providing you with any quantities here. I made as many as I could until I ran out of one of the ingredients. The first thing I ran out of was strawberries, then I was done.

After making four or five, it was getting tedious, so I decided to make three at once. I held three skewers in my left hand and added the ingredients with my right. I was done in no time.

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July 10, 2017   2 Comments