Friday, May 22, 2015

Chicken and Pasta Salad

You know those recipe books that are at the checkout line at the grocery store?  I love them.  They have big pictures and just the right amount of recipes, so they don't intimidate you.  This recipe is originally from one of those, with some minor changes.  It is really good and a family favorite.  It is easy to make it vegetarian by just leaving out the chicken.


Chicken and Pasta salad

12 oz. uncooked rotini.  Just use about 4 1/2 cups or about 3/4 of the box
2 cups cubed cooked chicken.  Buy it from the deli, get 3/4 to 1lb. of chicken breast in 1 in. slices
1 1/2 to 2 cups seedless red grapes, cut in half. More is just fine.
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 or 3 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 cup cashew halves, save until serving


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons orange juice
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon curry
1/4 teaspoon salt


Cook the rotini according to the package directions.  Don't get them too mushy.


Take a bite of one to make sure it is cooked, then drain and rinse with cold water.  Allow to cool.


Use a large bowl.  Cut off the brown edges from the thick deli chicken slices.  I usually get two 1 inch slices and don't worry about how much it weighs.  Cut the grapes in half and add to the bowl.  If you have one of those orange peeler thingies you got from a Tupperware party back in the 80s, use that to peel.   Take off any of the white pith and separate the sections.  Cut them up into 3/4 inch chunks, or thereabouts. 


Slice the onions, including the green part and add everything to the big bowl.  Add the cooled rotini.


Place all the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. If you are going to serve this right away, use the amount in the recipe.  If you are going to serve this hours from now, as I did, then add some more of each ingredient.


Mix until smooth and then take out some for later.  The pasta absorbs a lot of the dressing and it is nicer to freshen it up a bit just before serving.


Mix in the dressing, cover and place in the refrigerator until serving.  If you reserved the dressing, add it to the bowl with the cashews and mix well.  The cashews will get soggy if you leave them in for several hours or overnight.  This makes a big salad, so I save some cashews for the next day.  The ones in the salad become soft, but taste just fine.  But add the fresh cashews to get the salty crunch back.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Birds At Church

Did you know that birds go to church?  Even on Wednesday?


Well, they do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mustard and Ginger Cookies

One of our guilty pleasures is watching Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel.  It is usually on late at night and it makes us so hungry.  And sad that the bakery that was supposed to go in the empty building in town never did.

Recently they were discussing mustard cookies.  Naturally, I had to do some recipe cruising on the internet and I found a recipe to try.  It is basically a ginger and spice cookie recipe with the addition of the mustard.  There was also a chocolate and mustard cookie recipe and I may try that another time.


Mustard and Ginger cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 cup sugar


Don't pre heat the oven.  This recipe has to sit in the refrigerator for one hour before baking.

Beat the butter until very light and fluffy.  This is best done in a stand mixer.  I used my Kitchen Aid.  When it is very light, and you will have to scrape the bowl down a few times, add the brown sugar and resume beating.  Beat until it is light brown and fluffy.  Once again you will have to scrape the bowl.


Next add the molasses and the egg.  Beat until incorporated.


Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard, pepper, salt and cloves.  Add them to the creamed mixture in three mostly equal batches.


When the flour is all mixed in, place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for one hour.


Heat the oven to 375°.  Place the 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl.  Use a medium cookie scoop and drop about four scoops of cookie dough in the sugar.  Roll them until covered in sugar and place on a cookie sheet.   I used a Silpat to keep them from sticking.


Bake for the surface cracks, about 11 to 14 minutes.  Let cool for about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.


These cookies were very good.  But I was unable to taste any mustard.  Next time I make them, and I will, I will increase the amount of mustard used. I may even go up to 1 teaspoon and see what happens. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Great Day

Once, when our daughter Tara was very young, I  told her I was proud of her.  She became embarrassed and instructed me to never tell her I was proud of her.  I told her that I couldn't stop telling her I was proud when she did something wonderful, but that from now on I would tell her I was "P" of her, so no one else would know.

This last Friday we went up to Washington, D.C. to see her graduate from George Washington University.  She did her undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech ( Biology and Psychology) and then worked as an Embryologist for over a year while she decided which direction to follow for her Master's.


She chose to become a Physician's Assistant.  In fact, after going through the program, she wonders why anyone decides to be a Doctor.  The school loans are horrific, the hours terrible and they have the headache of managing the medical practice.  Her two year program flew by, from our perspective. 



The day was beautiful and not humid.  That is always a plus this time of year.  We drove in early to get parking and then walked to the World War II monument, which I had never seen. 


We walked past the reflecting ponds filled with ducks and took a brief visit to the Lincoln Memorial on our way back to GW.


The graduating class was 67 students.  They are rated number three in the United States for their Physician's Assistant program.  Getting accepted was a huge honor.


The class was small and they took classes together and went on rotations together.  They became very close and I expect they will stay life long friends and colleagues.  I'm not sure why most of the class was female, but it was.


Now she has to take the National Boards and then wait for the paperwork to go through that system and then she can start looking for work.  She has decided to start her career in Women's Health.  Tara did two rotations in OB/GYN and that is where her current interest lies.


I am "P" of you, Tara.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tortilla Soup

I have had a recipe for Tortilla Soup for years.  I cut it out of the Orange County Register back when we lived in California.  If I remember correctly, it was the recipe for the tortilla soup served at one of my favorite restaurants, El Torito.  That is a chain on the West Coast.  I really miss it and go at least once on every visit back to California.

I made it recently and it was delicious.  As good as I remembered.  I make it a bit differently than the recipe, so here is how I like it. 

Tortilla Soup

8 cups chicken broth ( I use 4 cans or two of the cardboard thingies.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced.  I use a handful of  mini carrots.
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cloves minced garlic, I buy the kind in the jar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded.  Or buy the rotisserie chicken and shred that.
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 medium tomatoes seeded and diced

4 or 5 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Jack cheese

1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Combine the broth, onion, carrots, celery, potato, tomato paste, garlic, oregano. 


You can salt and pepper it now or wait until you are done and taste it to see.  Bring everything to a boil over medium high heat.  Then lower to simmer for 25 minutes.


I use this time to poach my chicken and cook the tortillas.  Just bring a medium pan of water to a boil and add the chicken breasts.  They only take a few minutes to cook.  Cut one open and if it is pink, keep cooking until they are white clear through.  Remove from the water and let cool.  Pull them apart with a fork in each hand.  Set aside.


You can cook the tortillas by cutting them into strips and then cooking them in hot oil. I prefer to place the strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet and spray them with Pam.  I sprinkle with salt and cook for about 10-15 minutes in a 400° oven. 


Keep a close eye after 10 minutes.  They go from not brown to too brown very quickly!


Take them out of the oven and dump on some paper towels until you are ready to use them.


After 25 minutes of the soup cooking, add the zucchini, tomatoes and shredded chicken .  Bring up the heat and bring it to a boil.  Then reduce the heat again to a simmer for about 10 more minutes.


Place a few of the tortillas strips in the bottom of a bowl.  Sprinkle some of the cheese on top and ladle in the soup.  Garnish with avocados and cilantro.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Our 36th anniversary was last night.  We went out to dinner at the Regency Room in the Hotel Roanoke. 


We have tried to go on several occasions, but they were always booked.   Of course, we always called on a holiday, when we had family visiting.  Our waitress suggested we book two months before any big holiday, like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day.

Speaking of our waitress, she was also from Buchanan.   It's not every day you meet a fellow Buchananite.  Is that the correct term?  Bacchanalia?  OK, I know that isn't the right term!  Or this town would be way more fun.  She was friendly, outgoing and accommodating.  Great service.

My filet mignon was tender, perfectly cooked to order and the wine reduction was sweet and just the right amount.  Lee said the crab cakes were the best he's ever eaten.  I mentioned that it was our anniversary and they gave us a lovely dessert, complete with Champagne!


The dinner was superb and I can highly recommend the Regency Room.  We have eaten several times in the Pine Room Pub and it was great.   But the Regency was exceptional.  We are already making plans to go back and try some of the other entrees that we didn't choose.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clothesline Baskets

This winter we went to visit Elkins, West Virginia.  I found some clothesline baskets in an artist's cooperative.  I decided to try making my own.  I went on line to the library and ordered some books that I thought might help.  One I liked so well I bought a copy from Amazon, to keep around for reference.

I bought some clothesline from Walmart.   Then I cut some strips from fabric left over from other projects. 


The book said to cut strips 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide.  I found the smaller size worked better.

Put some glue on the wrong side of the end of a fabric strip and glue it around the end of the rope.  Place the rope in the middle of the strip so that you can fold the fabric over and cover the raw end.  I also cut the hard melted bit at the end, so use lots of glue to hold everything together.  Then wrap, on a diagonal, around the rope for about 5 inches and glue it again.  Keep wrapping for about 2 feet, gluing every 5 inches.  Make sure you always wrap in one direction.  Changing directions causes lumps. 


Sew straight down the middle of the first five inches of wrapped clothesline.  It helps to have something to hold or push the covered clothesline through the machine.  I used a large seam ripper.  Don't sew your fingers. 


Now you can start to sew.  You will need a zigzag foot and thread to match or contrast with the fabric.  Make a coil about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and using a straight stitch, sew an X to hold it in place.  Use the bit of tail to fill the center and fold it as you coil it so the wrong side does not show.  Don't allow any gaps or holes.  Then sew a zigzag stitch all around the circle.  Keep the clothesline end on the right hand side of the project.

I found it hard to go all around the center.  I did as much as I could and then sewed the rest when I was all done with the basket and didn't have to deal with the huge hunk of clothesline going around in circles.


Then just wrap and sew until you have a base you want.  I chose to do about 4 inches.  Mark this spot with a piece of tape. 


Keep stitching, but hold the left side of the flat bowl base up about 1 finger width off the surface of the base of the sewing machine.  Sew one complete circle and when you get back to the tape, do another circle holding the left side up four fingers worth.

As you sew, you will need to grab another strip of fabric as you will have run out.  Glue the end and wrap it around the rope.  Then pin in place.  Glue the beginning of the next strip and wrap it to cover the cut end of the last strip.  Re-pin to hold the two strips in place and keep going.  When you get to the pin, remove it and sew.


All this gluing of fabric with a raw edge will get glue and bits of fabric on your fingers and fabric on the glue stick.  Stop every once in a while and wash your hands and wipe the top of the glue stick.


When you finish the second circle, hold the base up against the left side of the machine as you sew.  You have the beginnings of a basket. 


Make it as high as you like and then cut the  clothesline about 1 1/4 inches longer than you want. 


Cut that section of clothesline lengthwise on a diagonal so that it gets narrower as it reaches the end.  I had a lot of fluff from the weave around the cord, but just discard that.  Glue enough fabric to wrap that section and then another 1/2 inch. 


Cut the fabric and wrap it tightly around the cord and tuck in the end of the fabric.  Sew it with the zigzag stitch. 


Go once around the top of the basket and you are done.


I chose to put a stripe on mine, by changing colors at the tape and then stopping when I reached the tape, after a few times around.  And I played around with handles.  Next time I may do all one fabric or scraps that go together.  Or I may go crazy and mix and match it all up.  The book has a lot of ideas and I also want to try a purse.


I just went to Walmart and bought 4 more rolls of clothesline!!! I have a lot of scraps to use up.