Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chili Beef Soup

I have been making a lot of soup this winter.  The most recent one was for Chili Beef Soup.  I told my daughter Tara what I was making and she asked a good question.  "What is the difference between chili and chili soup?"  I thought for awhile and said, "the soup is more liquid."  All I know is, this soup was soupy and perfect for a winter evening.  If I liked it and Lee liked it then maybe you will, too.

Chili Beef Soup

I like to use top round for the beef in this soup instead of ground beef.  I cook it a long time to make the cubes of beef nice and tender.  So plan on starting about 2 hours before you want to eat this soup.

1/2-1 pound top or round sirloin
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 cups beef broth
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon beef base, optional
1 can kidney beans
1/2 cup corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste


Trim and dice the beef.  I am on a diet so I used the smaller amount of the beef.  Dice the onions. 


Sauté the onions and the cubes of beef in about 2 Tablespoons of oil until the onions are  translucent and you can't see any pink on the meat.  Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin.  Cook until well blended.


Add the beef broth, beef base (if using, but it adds a lot of richness to the soup) and the diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the kidney beans and the corn.  Bring up the heat to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how hungry you are.  Salt and pepper to taste.


I was a good girl and didn't make any cornbread to go with this soup.  But I did add a dollop of sour cream.  That brought some creaminess to the soup.  The beef was so tender!

If you like spicy hot chili, you can add hot sauce or hot, diced chilies and jalapenos.  I don't like spicy hot food, so I leave them out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I have sold a few baskets.  I am taking advantage of the winter lull in the B&B to make a lot more baskets  I am also trying different shapes and ways of finishing the baskets.

For the basket on the left, I cut some of the ducks from the fabric and fused them onto the outside of the basket.


The basket on the right has a pronounced V shape that I like.


I liked the shape so much that I made this one, also.  This basket it a mix of reds with silver accents.  To finish it I added silver thread around the top and used a silver bead and attached an  inspirational dangle.  You can't get more inspirational than tell one to inspire!.  I think it is striking.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chocolate Orange Cake

Sometimes I watch/listen to TV while I am making baskets.  It is solitary work and I listen to blogs or music or TV.  This time I was watching the Food Network and Trisha Yearwood was cooking.  She was making a chocolate cake and Valentine's Day is coming up, so I watched more than I sewed. 

Then I printed out her recipe and I made it.  My self control is no longer under control.  I hope I find it again soon.

I debated whether I should put the recipe here.  After all, I used her exact recipe with no changes, except for substituting some reconstituted orange juice for the fresh squeezed.  I decided to put it on my blog, as you are already a visitor.  If you want to check her site, and it has lots of delicious recipes, go here .


Trisha Yearwood's Chocolate Orange Cake

2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice plus 2 Tablespoons finely grated zest (about 4 large oranges for the juice)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons balsamic
1 teaspoon vanilla


You will need a Bundt pan for this recipe.

Set the oven to 350°. 


Mix the softened butter and 1 Tablespoon of the cocoa powder.  Smear and paint the inside of the Bundt pan with the mixture. 


This will prevent sticking and will not leave a white flour residue on the outside of your cake.  Set aside.


Use an electric mixer.  I used my Kitchen Aid.  Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and the remaining 1/2 cup cocoa powder and then place the bowl on the stand.  Mix on SLOW until well blended. Don't go too much or you will have a powdery mess all over.


Wash and zest two oranges.  This should give you the 2 Tablespoons you need.  I only had two oranges.  I squeezed them and only got 1 cup of juice.  I keep frozen orange juice on hand for emergencies, so I made a pitcher and then I had my two cups, but not all fresh squeezed. 


Add the juice, mayo, vinegar and vanilla and mix just until combined.  Remove the bowl and fold in the orange zest.  Evenly distribute the batter into the Bundt pan.  Tap it gently a few times on the counter to eliminate bubbles, or voids, in the batter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan or a cooling rack for ten minutes.  Not much longer.  This allows the cake to firm up a bit.


Place the rack on top of the cake and flip the cake over.  Shake gently to loosen, and lift off the Bundt pan.  Cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 Tablespoons and a bit more freshly squeezed orange juice (or not)


Mix the sugar and cocoa.  Add the juice one Tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is the right consistency to drizzle over the cake. 


There will be more glaze than you need. 


Save the remainder to drizzle over the cake as you serve it.


The oranges gave a nice flavor to the cake.  Have you ever had one of the chocolate oranges they make around Christmas time?  Kind of like that.  Chocolate cake is a fabulous flavor all by itself, but it is nice to have something different every now and then.


Ice cream is also not a necessary addition to a cake, but really, it ought to be!

Monday, February 13, 2017


We got a puzzle for Christmas.  I have been trying to finish it, but every time I sit down, one cat or the other sits on top of the puzzle.  Or bats stray pieces off the table. 


There is cat hair interspersed with puzzle pieces.  This is not as much fun as it used to be.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I haven't written anything here in a long time.  Mostly because it is winter, the B&B is closed, I am on a diet and nothing tasty is being prepared.  Also, we went out to California to visit our granddaughter.  We made it a late Christmas and all our grown children and their spouses came for the "holidays". 

It was like being in a tunnel.  The snow was piled higher than our heads!

Our daughter that lives in England was able to come so it was a family reunion, a bit of Christmas and lots of fun.


The California drought has gone out with a bang.  This means scads of snow in the mountain areas.  We rented a house in Truckee from Airbnb and planned on lots of snowy fun.  It started off strange as our GPS said we were at our destination, but all we could see was brief gaps in the snow carved out for a garage. 


The adventurists went snowboarding and skiing. 


The baby went sledding for the first time and was lots of fun

Of course, this was the highlight.  Sorry to everyone else that took long flights to get here.  Rachel trumps all. 


Wait.  Are we allowed to use Trump as a positive?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Patriotic Heart

I wanted to try one more basket pattern before I went back to making my favorite ones to sell.  This one is heart shaped.  I found the pattern in It's A Wrap II, by Susan Breier. 


The hardest part of this basket is keeping the heart shape and then sewing in the tight corners.  I won't bore you with the techniques to make it more triangular, as they are in the book, but it took a lot more time than my favorite baskets and this would make selling it a bit more problematic as the price would have to be higher. I may take the different baskets with me when I go to a craft fair, but I don't have any idea of how to price them.


I still have a few bags of fabric all ready to use on my baskets, so what did I do?  You guessed it.  I went to a quilt shop!


I like Jo Ann's and Michaels for things I need for my hobby/retirement fund.  (Just kidding.  I am not making big money.)  But I really love some of the fabulous fabric you can get in quilt stores but  The Old Trinity Schoolhouse quilt shop closed and I hadn't been to another in Roanoke.  We were bored and so we went on an excursion.


I got some beautiful fabrics.  Some of these will be the only fabric in the basket and some will be used together to make a basket.  Then I needed to get some thread.  They had thread at the quilt shop, but I had a coupon for 50% off at JoAnn's, so that's where we went.  I like the larger sizes of thread I can get at JoAnn's.  It is awful to run out of thread in the middle of a project and have to go out to the store.  It is an hour and a half round trip in the car for a $5.00 purchase.  So I hope I have enough.

One of these days I will buy one of those boards with slanted pegs for holding thread and mount it on the wall in front of my sewing machine.  Oh, wait.  Cats.  Hmmm.  I may rethink that.


Look at the fabric and then look at the thread.  The thread cost almost as much as the fabric, before I used the coupon.  Does this make sense?  Fabric is made from thread.  A LOT of thread.  How can this be?

I am getting excited to see how these baskets turn out!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Yarn baskets

My cousin Saja lives in Tennessee and gave me a commission before Christmas.  She wanted a couple of baskets that she could use for her knitting.  They had to be bigger than my usual baskets and have a loop to pull the yarn through.  The loop was to prevent the yarn from tangling.  I have done other loops before, as a decorative swoosh, and I liked the idea of doing some for a specific purpose.

Even though Saja had specific design elements, she left the colors and other details up to me.


I started by cutting some fabric that I thought went together well in strips.  I stirred a pile of strips with my fingers until I could see that I would like the final outcome. 


Then I started assembling the first basket.  I chose blues and greens that reminded me of the ocean on a sunny day.  We both grew up in California and spent many happy days running along sandy beaches and playing in the surf.


To finish off the first basket and provide a loop for yarn, I made an "S" with the tail of the basket. I just happened to have a silver "J" and included that in the center of the final swirl to represent her name.  Saja is named after my grandmother and SHE was named after her aunts. Two of her aunts were Sarah and Jane.  The first two letters of their names became Saja.


The second basket is in shades of pink.  This is in honor of Saja and my sister (her cousin) Rosalind and their battle with breast cancer.  Happily, Saja beat her cancer and sadly, Roz did not.  I left a bigger loop in case she uses some fat, nubby yarn.  Then I added some BLING , cause Saja likes her some shiny!


I sent her a picture of the finished products of her commissions  She says she likes them and wondered if I would mail them or hold them hostage for her to come and get them.  I like that idea.

Come for a visit, Saja and get these baskets!  We'll visit a local yarn shop and an acquaintance that is raising llamas for wool.  Sounds like spring break is covered!