Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tea Cozy

I decided I wanted a tea cozy. This is a quilted cover that goes over a full pot of tea to keep it from cooling off too quickly. You want the second cup of tea to be as warm and the first! I looked online for a pattern, but didn't find what I wanted. So, I decided to try to figure it out on my own. This is what I came up with.

First I talked my friend Rose into going with me to the fabric store. She has been taking quilting classes for a while and I wanted her input. Plus, it's always more fun with a friend. I decided to get some quilted fabric. But even that was not thick enough, so I decided to double it, with a stiffener in between. I didn't want it to sag over the teapot, but to stand up over it.

There were some nice fabrics, but I picked one with chickens. My mother loves chickens and we always had a few. Plus, she is the one that used to have tea parties with me after school. So this is for Mom. Except that she can't have it. It's mine.

I got out a few teapots and some of the advertising inserts from the Sunday paper for the pattern. I figured those wouldn't transfer ink to the fabric. I measured height and circumference and came up with a size of 10 X 16 inches. I marked it on the paper, drew an arc and then folded the paper over so it would be symmetrical.

After I cut out the pattern I tested it on the teapot and then took it to my craft room. I cut two pieces for the out side and two for the inside. The inside had a pretty daisy pattern that I wanted to keep.

The outside had stripes of chickens so I placed a long quilting pin on top of the stripes on the outside of the first piece I cut and then turned it over to cut the next one. In this way I hoped to line up the stripes with the quilting pins. You may not be able to see the pins as the heads are yellow. It worked pretty good for an amateur. I didn't worry about the inside as it looked like random daisies and won't show much. I also cut two pieces of a fabric inner facing that has glue on one side so that when you iron it, it sticks to the inside of the fabric and gives it some support.

Next it was time to assemble. My first thought was to place the wrong sides together, stitch the seam, then turn and restitch. This gives the inside a finished look and a little ridge of stiffness on the outside. But this project was getting VERY thick and I wasn't sure the machine could handle all that, so I assembled it as follows. One inside piece facing down, inner facing, then outside piece facing up. Next the second outside piece facing down, the inner facing and the inside piece facing up. This way the two chicken sides were facing each other and the two daisy sides were on the outside.

Now I wanted a little handle to lift it off and on, so I used some quilting binding that I stitched to stay together. This had to be placed with the loop in between the two right sides and the tail end hanging out the top. I pinned everything together and started stitching.

I won't bore you with the stops and starts. Suffice it to say that I finished the seam and then turned it right side out. (There was one small part where the stitching didn't catch. So I restitched it.)

To finish it off, I used more of the binding to cover the bottom edge. I could have turned it under and stitched it, but I liked the yellow border. So, I pinned that to the bottom and stitched it on. It was hard to catch the outside and the inside over the two seams, but I was able to go back and do some top stitching. I used a zig-zag stitch.

So now I have a tea cozy that I like. It is not something that I think I can sell at craft shows or anything, but it was a fun project to get me ready for my quilting class next week and it serves a function. Plus it is CHICKENS and kind of cute!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Explosive Eighteen

I recently checked out Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich from the library. I was reading it while Lee was driving. I had been giggling at some of the things Stephanie Plum was doing and decided Lee should have the pleasure of hearing what it was that struck my funny bone. So I read him a couple of paragraphs.

If you read this series, you will know that Stephanie's Grandmother LOVES to go to funerals. She always causes a problem and this time was no exception.

'It was close to nine o'clock when Grandma found her way to the cookie table. She ate three cookies, wrapped four more in a napkin, put them in her purse, and she was ready to head for home.
"It got better after you left, " she said. "Melvin Shupe came through the line and cut the cheese right when he got up to the casket. He said he was sorry, but the widow made a big fuss over it. And then the funeral director came with air freshener, and when he sprayed it around, Louisa Belman got an asthma attack and they had to cart her out the back door to get some air. Earl Krizinski was sitting behind me, and he said he saw Louisa's underpants when they picked her up, and he said he got a stiffy."
"Louisa Belman is ninety-three years old."
"Well, I guess to Earl, underpants are underpants." '

Lee didn't laugh. He sat there driving for a minute and then said, "That is why I hate going to funerals."

And that is why he strikes MY funny bone.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Peanut Butter -Vegetable Chicken Soup

Years ago a friend gave me a wonderful cookbook, Jane Brody's Good Food Book. It is my go-to book for wonderful, healthy soups and breads. This is one of our favorite soups. Don't be put off by the peanut butter. It makes it creamy and with a wonderful peanutty taste. One of the best things is you can put in any variety of vegetables and it is still good. So it is a little bit different every time. And, with the peanut butter, it is a little bit the same. When our daughter Tara is here we make a vegetarian version and it is equally good. Just substitute Vegetable Broth for the Chicken Broth and leave out the chicken! Easy!

Peanut Butter-Vegetable Chicken Soup

8 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup broccoli or cauliflower flowerettes
1 cup tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup green pepper, if you insist, I don't like green pepper and leave them out!
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot combine the broth, chicken, if using, potatoes and carrots. I like the mini carrots, so be careful when chopping. I also use the precooked frozen chicken strips, or I get a large 1 - 2 inch slice from the deli. Bring the soup to a boil and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes

While this is cooking, chop the rest of the vegetables. This is where you can get creative. Sometimes I add BOTH broccoli and cauliflower. If the zucchini is big, I add all of it because I leave out the green pepper. I usually use fresh tomatoes, but if I used a can and it was more than 1 cup, I would use the whole thing. Have fun and use up what you have. Then simmer for 8 minutes

Add the peanut butter. It seems like a lot but it melts in the soup and isn't overwhelming. I like to use the chunky kind because I like to find the little bits every once in awhile. But smooth is good, too. Add the parsley and the salt and pepper and stir until you don't find any more lumps of peanut butter. Simmer for a few more minutes.

I served it with a bit of whole wheat harvest bread with olive oil for dipping. We had strawberries for dessert.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oliveto in Roanoke

I wrote previously about finding some wonderful olive oil while visiting in California. I quickly used up one of the bottles, even with trying to avoid high carbohydrate foods. Because it is flavored I used it for dipping and wanted to find some recipes to use with this wonderful oil. I am going to California soon and planned to buy more and hope it didn't break in my suitcase.

While driving in Roanoke today I saw a sign on a storefront. It was called Oliveto, Artisan Oils and Vinegars. I pointed it out to Lee and he kindly drove in so I could see what it was about.

The showroom was spotless and had many different flavors of oil and vinegar. Even better, there were lists of pairings of oil and vinegar and recipe cards scattered around near the different oils with suggestions. You could taste whatever you wanted and the prices were reasonable.

If you have only had olive oil from the supermarket, you really need to try some. You might not want to use it for everyday sauteing, although it would add some wonderful flavor. But you definitely should have some in your home. I am thinking of getting some for hostess gifts.

We ended up with the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and the Blackberry Ginger Vinegar. I can't wait to try them. And now that's one less thing I have to do on my trip!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Barnes and Noble Disappoints

I got a Nook Color last February. I love it. I love it so much that I used to take it to work with me at the library and make people see what it could do. I probably convinced 30 people to buy the Nook Color over the Kindle or any other e-reader. I buy a book now and again, but mostly I use the Nook for Internet use at the other end of the house from the computer and I check out books for trips. I read a LOT and it is nice to carry a lot of books on trips with just one slim e-reader . The games are fun, too.

A few weeks ago one of my daughters mentioned wanting to read Hunger Games. It had been reduced in price last time I was browsing the Steals and Deals section of the Barnes and Noble site. I thought it would be fun to buy for my daughters to read over Christmas and maybe I would get to it one day. When I went back to the site, the price had gone up and so I thought I just would check it out from the library sometime.

Last week I went to Barnes and Noble. THIS time I remembered to bring my Nook. Lots of times I forget and I know that I am supposed to get an occasional good deal when in the store if you bring the Nook. So I powered it up and was glancing through it. I decided to look again at the Hunger Games. To my surprise, it was back to the lower price. Now we're not talking a lot of money here. The low price was something like $4.69 and the high price was $7.49. Not a huge difference, but I was going to see the girls again in a few weeks, so I decided to buy it, right there in the store.

The next day when I checked my email, there was one from Barnes and Noble and they had charged me the higher price. I immediately contacted them and mentioned the different price I had seen in the store. They said I was wrong and there would be no correction.

Now I understand why they cannot "return" an ebook. Obviously a person could copy it to another location and so there is no "returning" of a book. What I don't understand is why a customer service department wouldn't make it right.

I used to work for FedEx, back in the days when it was Federal Express. At one point I worked in customer service. We prided ourselves on fixing whatever the problem was the customer had. I remember one time Lee and I went to the LAX station after it had closed on a Saturday. He was the manager at the time. The package had not been sent for Saturday service and was not to be delivered until Monday, but the customer had called and was desperate. We looked through thousands of pounds of freight to find the package and then drove about a 50 mile round trip to deliver it to the customer who needed it that day. We did what it took to make the customer happy if it was at all possible. That is the mind set of a company that wants to be known as the best at what they do.

It is not the less than three dollar difference. It is the fact that I no longer trust Barnes and Noble. Did I see it wrong? Maybe, but I remember looking closely at it because I was surprised. Did it pull up a previous search somehow? I don't see how, but maybe. Would it hurt Barnes and Noble to credit me the small amount to keep a customer happy? One that convinced others to buy this e-reader? No. I don't think it would.

It is only a small amount of money lost but a huge amount of trust. How can I prove what the price was when I clicked the button to purchase something? I used a gift card so I can't dispute it with my credit card company. Will it happen again? If so, THEN what do I do?

A Good Mole Is A Dead Mole

That is a statement to live by. At least when you have horses. Moles dig holes and horses can step in holes and then you have a ruined horse.

I was down at the barn today and saw RJ rolling about happily in the grass. He squirmed around with his tongue hanging out. And then I saw him sniffing intently and rolling some more. Now if you have a dog, you know what this means. I don't mean a prissy little house dog. Or one that lives on a concrete patio a few minutes a day. I mean a run around the farm, chase a deer or maybe a skunk kind of dog. An RJ kind of dog.

So I went over to take a look at what disgusting thing he had found. Fortunately it wasn't animal parts. Unfortunately it was a dead animal, albeit all in one piece. Fortunately it was completely dead and I didn't have to do any of the dispatching myself. It was also very wet. I assumed this was from the attentions of the aforementioned dog.

I contemplated leaving it where it was and hoping it would disappear by morning. We have a lot of buzzards around here. I thought about burying it in the compost pile. But I USE the compost pile for the garden. So I decided to put it in an old feed bag and throw it out in the trash. The dump is a good place for dead animals.

Just a reminder. If you come to my house and the dog runs up and tries to kiss you, and he will, Do. Not Let Him. I can't stress this enough. This means YOU, Aunt Suzy. Dog's mouths are not cleaner than human mouths and you would know this is true if you ever helped me to clean stalls in the morning. RJ helps, if you know what I mean.

My First Quilt

Quilts are big in the south. I suppose they are popular elsewhere, but here they are huge. My first hint was the very large section in the library stacks devoted to quilts. And the magazines. I grew up with quilts from my mother's family and I love all that they represent.

So I decided to learn to make a quilt. Now I learn better by doing and I prefer to have someone show me how to do something, rather than try to figure it out from a book. So I knew I would need to take a class. There is the cutest, old wooden building on the top of a hill in Troutville. It is the Old Trinity Schoolhouse Quilt Shop. It used to be...wait for it....a schoolhouse and now it is a....quilt shop! They have bolt after bolt of fabrics to make quilts and they give classes. I recently took a wool applique class there with my friend Doris and I convinced her to take a quilt class with me.

Doris has made a number of quilts already, but she was willing to take a beginners class on the assumption that you can always learn something new. I hope she does as I am afraid my ignorance will hold her back. It turns out, we are the only two in the class, so we should get all the individual attention we need!

The first day was devoted to leaning about the different types of quilts and to pick out the fabric for our quilt project. Doris already had hers, so she kindly helped me with mine. I'll write about the class and how I'm doing as I go and then show you the finished quilt. depending on how hard it is and how well it turns out, I will do more. I like the fiber arts and hope this is something I can learn. Not too sure about the machine I have. I'm also not willing to buy a new one until I see if this is something I will continue.

The first thing I have to do is wash the fabric so that any shrinking or bleeding of colors will be done before it is finished and needs cleaning. Then I have to iron it and buy the proper foot for my machine. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Oh, I also have to keep the cats off it. Right. Like that'll happen.

It's not like they are curious or want to get in the plastic bags...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Leftover Turkey

I wanted to do something with the left over turkey. Once again I need to keep away from carbohydrates as much as possible. I wondered if I could make a turkey melt, sort of like a tuna melt, but without the bread? Here is what we had.

First I made a salad.

1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 stalk celery, divided use
1 thick slice onion, divided use
Romaine Blend, Bag o' Salad (my term!)
chopped pecans
Light Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing

Slice the strawberries and sprinkle with your favorite no calorie sweetener. I used Splenda. This was mostly important because it is winter and the strawberries are not the best right now. But I buy them year round and "dose them up" when needed.

Slice half the celery and put it in one bowl. Finely chop the other half and put it in another bowl. Coarsely chop half of the onion and put it in the first bowl and finely chop the rest and put it in the second bowl. Add the pecans and the strawberries and mix in a little dressing. Set aside.

Breadless Turkey Melt

1 1/2 to 2 cups finely chopped Turkey
3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon celery, finely chopped (Oh, so THIS is where it goes!)
1 Tablespoon onion. finely chopped (This, too!)
2 teaspoons pickle relish, but use a fork to drain them a bit
1/2 teaspoon mustard (a small squirt)
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg (I should have used one and now I'm telling YOU to use one!)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mix together everything except the cheese. I didn't use an egg and so my patties didn't hold together too well. So use an egg!

Put a small amount of oil in a large fry pan and use medium heat. Form 4 patties out of the mixture and fry until brown.

Turn over carefully. Place the grated cheese on top of each turkey patty. When these are brown and the cheese is melty, remove to a plate and serve warm with the salad. If you have left over pineapple, (OOH! I do. I have leftover pineapple!) use that. It always goes good with strawberries!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Low Carb Experiment

We still have lots of blueberries from this summer. They make great toppings for crepes, pancakes and any baked goods, actually. But I had one left over pie crust from making a quiche and I wanted to try a pie.

So I did.

Low Carb Blueberry Pie

Don't ask me how low carb. I have no idea.

6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup Splenda
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon, optional
1 pie crust, room temperature

Pre-heat oven to 350.
I had no idea how many blueberries I would need. I though my self very clever to fill a pie plate up with water and measure it in a large measuring cup. Then I doubled that as I knew it would cook down. It measured out at 2 cups. So I used 5cups of blueberries. It was enough, but not perfect, so I added one more cup for YOU to use on my list of ingredients. So try 6 cups. I used 1 cup of Spelenda. My friend Dreama recommends Stevia, so I was going to try it, but went with the Splenda this time. Next time I will try the Stevia.

Heat the berries in a large saucepan with the 1 cup of sweetener. While you are waiting for it to boil, carefully unroll the pie crust and place it in a pie dish.

Cut off the excess. You can also use the frozen pie crusts.

Stir the blueberries and when they are boiling gently, mix the corn starch in a small bowl with the water and add to the mixture. Boil for one minute while stirring, until thickened. I didn't add the lemon, but afterwards, thought it would have been a good addition. So do so if you wish.

Scrape the blueberries into the pie crust and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool. Serve with Cool Whip. Or low carb ice cream. Enjoy!

The pie was OK and low on carbs. It was NOT, however the best pie I ever ate. It had a slight aftertaste. That is why I thought the addition of lemon would be good. There was a slight "skin" on the surface of the pie. You couldn't taste it and there was no mouth feel of skin. I guess that was because of no top crust. I am curious to see how Stevia will change the flavor. I'll let you know.

I made the pie because I had the crust, but also because I was cooking a turkey breast. Surely turkey breast calls for a dessert! I am in "training" for a wedding, (daughter, in England, SOON)so I am watching the food intake. So we had turkey and a salad. Now salads can get boring, but this one was pretty good. Romaine blend, feta cheese, sunflower seeds and tomatoes with a small amount of Ranch dressing.

The best part (naturally the most carbohydrates!) was the pineapple. After living in the South Pacific for many years, I love pineapple. This was a particularly sweet one. And in Virginia of all places! Of course, there are no better pineapples than those in Tonga. You can even eat the cores. One day I'll give you the recipe for Inu Meleni that we learned from Ngalu'afe Tupou with pineapples and watermelon.

Did you notice I put the dessert first? You can tell where my mind is. I'll keep working on the pie. I hope it will be better next time. I TOLD you it was an experiment!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Winterizing" The Garden

I know that you are supposed to trim back your garden for winter. Knowing and doing are the problem! So, this morning it was on my list to go cut back the plants. I was also going to spray the Round Up. This is my version of weeding. The garden is too big and when I let the weeds go to this extent, I just can't face hand weeding! So I spray and then weed that which doesn't die or those plants too close to a "good" plant to risk spraying!

Right after breakfast I went out with the best intentions. The Round Up container said to spray on a warm sunny day. It was 24 degrees when I got up this morning! It was sunny but only in the low 40s, now, so I put aside the Round Up for later in the afternoon.

It was time to spray the peach trees for peach leaf curl. This is terrible peach disease that manifests itself in curled up leaves and not many peaches. A few years ago it killed a young peach tree. I had never seen it kill a tree before, so I try to spray in the winter like I'm supposed to. We have looked at many stores to find the fungicide to mix and put in our sprayer, but have had to settle for the kind premixed in a spray bottle. It takes a lot of finger squeezing and a wet finger to try to coat our two trees. They are getting tall, so I have to spray up in the air and hope the whole tree is saturated.

Then I got out the Black and Decker trimmer. We use this a lot and have two batteries to switch them out and keep going. I also got the loppers for the branches too big for the trimmer.

In addition to the regular winter trimming, I have to trim where the bushes have started to encroach on the garden "art". I love little garden art pieces to place around and surprise you. I would love to have a huge garden with benches and large sculptures and a maze, but I settle for a few pieces here and there. I don't have any garden gnomes, but I am open for just about anything else.

After I trimmed a few of the larger bushes, I noticed that the warm winter really has them confused. Some of them are already starting to bud out. I hope this does not bode ill for our fruit crop this year. I am hoping for quite a few apples and want to make blackberry jam for the first time in three years. It is sure to freeze again and that can destroy a crop.

An hour later my arms are aching and I have no more grip in my hands. When did I get so old and weak? I used to be able to work for hours and now I want to go in and fix a cup of tea. Fortunately Lee came out and pulled out the plants I couldn't get out. Then he raked up the cuttings and took them to start a new burn pile. Neverending.

I tried to get the battery out to recharge it. No can do. I will have to get Lee to do that, too. I used to be adamant about being able to do everything myself. I blame Women's Lib for this attitude. Now I want Lee to do the heavy, hard or unpleasant things. And I am glad he is willing and able to help me! Where is that tea?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Three Bean Chili and Cornbread

Chili is an American favorite and each region and even each family has a different way of making it. I know I've got to have beans and some people think beans ruins it. I don't like it too hot and spicy and some people like to burn off their taste buds and burn all the way through. I prefer mine with chunks of meat and I like beef but you can find everything from ground beef to ratttlesnake and alligator.

Now that I live in Virginia, I can't always find the variety of chilis I find in every market in California, without making a trip in to Roanoke for a specialty grocery store. So here is one of my favorite recipes using that which is easily found and also that which I remembered to buy when I was at the store and decided to make some chili.

Three Bean Chili

1- 1 1/2 pounds of eye of round or top sirloin
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 scant Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper
1-2 onions chopped
1 4 oz can diced green chilis or jalapenos, drained or fresh to taste, divided use
2 Tablespoons garlic chopped or minced
12 oz dark beer (didn't have any dark, used wheat beer)
1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
(I would have used 2 and skipped the tomato sauce but that is what I had!) so...
1 can 15 oz tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate, grated (about 1/4 of a square)
2 bay leaves
1 14.5 oz beef broth
1 15 oz. can kidney bean
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can white beans
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro if desired

garnish with sour cream, chopped scallions or grated cheese as desired

If you have a Le Creuset pot, this is a good time to use it. I was too cheap and got the same type of pot by Martha Stewart on sale and it works great so that is what I use for stews and soups.

Slice the meat in a 1/2 inch dice. If the meat is thin enough just make long strips and then cut it crosswise. I always trim every bit off fat off that I can. If you cut away a lot of the meat you may want to buy a bit more so you have enough for the recipe. If you put the fat on the tray your meat came on, you can just pick it up and dispose of it when you are finished cutting. Remember to clean your knife and use a different cutting board for the onions.

Brown it in batches in a bit of oil, about 3 minutes. Set it aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. If you brown it all at once the top bits steam instead of brown and who wants steamed meat?

While it is browning I measure out the spices (cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano and cayenne) into a small bowl. Some chili powder is stronger than others. Plus I don't like really hot food so when I measure it out I sometimes panic and make small adjustments in the amount. That is why I put in 2 scant Tablespoons. I didn't quite fill the spoon. Crazy, right??

Chop up the onions. It should be a couple of cups depending on the size of the onions. If you like green peppers, put them in. I don't, so I didn't.

Then put the spices into the now empty cook pot. Stir them around until you can really smell the spices. Then add a bit more oil and the onions. Saute until the onions soften and turn nice and brown from the spices. Open a small can of diced green chilis and chop them even more to make them very fine. Add half of them them to the onions, saving the rest for later. Then add 2 Tablespoons of chopped or minced garlic. If you have the time to crush your own, that's fine, too! Add them to the dish.

Stir and cook a few more minutes and add the beer. No you can't save some for yourself. You have to go get another one. But don't worry. You've already chopped everything that needs chopping and the rest is pretty safe to do while having a beer. Clean up, open the cans of tomato, grate the chocolate and put the spice bottles away while the mixture simmers about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chocolate and bay leaves and beef broth or 2 cups water if you don't have any. Bring to a simmer and cover for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Drain and rinse the beans and add to the pot. Stir them and cover. Go feed the horses. Well, that's what I did. Then make the corn bread. Recipe below.

Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Chop 1/4 cup of cilantro and add, if you wish. Add the lime juice. Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve with the garnishes you like.


Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh or canned corn
1/2 cup grated cheese
reserved green chilis
3 Tablespoons butter, divided use

Blend all the ingredients, except the butter. Use as much or as little green chilis as you like. I like about 1 Tablespoon. Don't over stir. Lumps are OK. Let the mixture rest while you put a small cast iron pan (I used a #5) in the 400 degree oven with one Tablespoon butter to melt. If you have a bigger pan, double the recipe. Or use a 8X8 pan sprayed with Pam. Melt the remaining butter in a small dish in the microwave.

Remove the cast iron pan from the oven. Gently scrape the batter into the cast iron pan and pour the melted butter on top. Return it to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. If you double the recipe it will take longer!

Lee came in from working outside and I told him I was blogging dinner. He said, "I thought you would blog about my fire." I hadn't even thought about it. Usually I look around and see if we are doing anything interesting. If we are, I take my camera and try to remember to take pictures and to think about what I am doing rather than mindlessly work.

Sometimes I have no pictures and it didn't turn out to be interesting, so I have nothing to write. Today I wanted to add a recipe, so I didn't even think to see what Lee was doing. He came in covered with soot and scratches from burning the brush he has cut over the last month. That and the flames shooting skyward would have been a pretty good story. Too bad I missed it. Next time, for sure. Cutting brush is a never ending activity around here, replete with danger. Blood, chainsaws, locust thorns, fire and the possibility of disaster! Can you imagine it?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Gadget

I just added a new gadget to my blog. It counts the number of page views I have. I LOVE checking my stats. It is fun to see that people from all over the world have found my blog. I have lived in many places and traveled extensively it makes me feel connected to others. Even people I don't know and will never meet.

So if you pop onto my site from anywhere in the world, please leave a comment! I love comments and I will write back to you if you allow that.

I wish I knew if my thoughts about living in the country and what it takes to learn while doing or if my recipes were the most popular. So tell me what you like and I'll try to do more of it.

I have cut way back on recipes (dieting!), but I'll try to do more. I'll sacrifice my body for my art. Don't try to stop me. It is the least I can do.

Back To Work

Well, it was a lovely holiday, but it is time to get back to work. The last two days the temperature never got out of the 20s and that is darn cold. The best thing about that is it is too cold to work and it is not in the teens. I can't find gloves warm enough to keep my fingers from burning when it gets that low.

This winter is the first that we have not had any snow. And it is January already. We had a slight dusting, but nothing more than that. The last few years have been so cold that it had my Aunt Suzy threatening violence to the next person who mentioned global warming to her. So this is a little unusual. I hope it doesn't mean we will have a real doozy (that's a real word, I looked it up. Wait a minute. I was lying....OK, now I looked it up. Yep. Real word.) of a storm in store for us. Maybe it will just be a mild winter.

It was in the middle 30s when we got up, so that was warm. The sun is out and it isn't too windy. Time to try out our new weedeater. We found it at a garage sale for only $5. It had a broken part and Lee fixed it. It is lightweight and on wheels and I hoped to use it on the slopes on either side of the driveway. The other weedeater hangs off my shoulder and gets very heavy.

I like keeping the sides of the drive cut back and after spending all the time and effort to clear them, it pays to keep them up each winter. There are a few volunteer pine trees coming in. They should get big and drop lots of pine needles and make my job much easier.

If you want a review of the equipment, I've got to say that I remain unimpressed. When the slope is steep it runs out of gas heading up or down. So I tried to run it sideways and that made the footing tricky. It didn't like anything bigger than my pinky and I would have to replace the string fairly often. On the plus side, it was easy to replace the string and worked pretty good on areas that were not too steep. I think it will best be used around the posts in the field and the barn. We can't get the mower in there and once again the other weedeater gets heavy.

All in all I worked an hour or so and had to use the machete for the medium size stuff and the loppers for the big stuff.

We learned about machetes when we lived in Tonga. They use them a lot there and we got used to them. Well, we also saw them in old Tarzan movies! They work great until your hands get too tired to hold them firmly and then they are dangerous! When you whack away at the blackberries, the canes sometimes whip around and grab your face. This is unpleasant and I recommend you avoid it. It helps to chop the tops off the long canes and then go for the base. I still got some good slices in my face. The ones on the lips hurt the worst. So don't do that.

Then Lee wanted to take the old mower that currently doesn't work to the graveyard. It's not REALLY a graveyard. It's the place on the top of one of our hills where we store things we just know we are going to use later. Really. One great advantage is that it is mostly rock and shale and vegetation doesn't grow well here. That way it won't grow up around the stuff and hide it so that we forget it is there. Plus, it isn't in our front yard so that people could drive by and think we are starting a junkyard. Or we're hoarders. You can't throw anything away that you might use. Just don't put it in the house. Or where people can see it.

We store old lumber and metal siding. It is also a good place to put the tractor equipment that is not in use. For example, we have the scraper on the back of the tractor to scrape the dirt road when it rains or plow the drive when it snows. When spring comes we will switch back to the bush hog for mowing. All the other places we put these things ended up all overgrown with grass and didn't look tidy. Can't have that.

So we towed the mower to the graveyard. I am tired because I have gotten out of the habit of a lot of physical work. Maybe tomorrow I will make chili. That will make me productive, but give my arms a rest. Gotta start slow;).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Leftover Creativity

We love it when people come to visit. So the two girls spending Christmas with us was great. The only downside is the constant eating. Now in a perfect world constant eating would be a good thing. In the world where I live, stomach distress and weight gain happens when constant eating occurs! So when guests leave we try to get back on track before the fat globules attach roots and decide to stay. The bad part of this is the leftovers from all the meals that must be eaten first. So last night while I was on the phone with my cousin in Orange County (Hi Chacho!), the girls had an inspiration.

We had eaten tortilla soup, tacos and roasted vegetable. Thus we had corn tortillas, cheese and a lot of roasted vegetables (onions, red potatoes, carrots, garlic and butternut squash, which we call Gubbernut for some long forgotten slip of the tongue). So here is what we had. And the title I just made up.

Vegetarian Deconstructed Enchilada

Leftover roasted Veg.
grated cheese, a mix of what you have in the fridge, we used some cheddar and some jack and Havarti

chopped onions 1/2 cup divided use

enchilada sauce of your choice or use what we did.
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 Tablespoon Chili powder
2 Tablespoon chopped onion
2 Tablespoon flour
2 teaspoon cumin
chopped garlic (which we had used up so we went with garlic powder and garlic salt)
salt to taste and pepper
water to thin

The great thing about this is you can use what you've got in the fridge. Tara is a vegetarian, so we didn't have any meat meals and so no meat leftovers, but this would be good with chicken, too.

First we made our own version of enchilada sauce. It was kind of thick, but you can thin it with water to the consistency you like. You can also change the spices to suit your tastes. Here is what we did.

Heat some vegetable oil in a large fry pan. Add 2 Tbl onion and the spices. Saute until the onion is soft. Add the flour and cook a minute or so. Add the tomato sauce. After mixing well, thin it to taste.

We only had 6 tortillas left so we couldn't roll them up and so we made things in layers, tearing the tortillas to fit the 8X8 pan we used. I liked the way it turned out and it lowered the carbs, so I may do it this way no matter how many tortillas I had available.

I poured a bit of oil in another fry pan. While it was heating I chopped all the leftover veg much smaller, sort of a hash dice.

Then I added this to the oil and heated it. When it was warm through, we mashed it a bit to make sure you got a mix in each bite. The we started layering.

Put a small amount of the sauce in the casserole dish and then dip each tortilla in the sauce and tear to fit. This is not an exact science, so don't stress about covering everything on each layer. Then add half the vegetables and a layer of cheese and some chopped onions. Repeat once more and then top with a last layer of dipped tortillas. If there is any sauce leftover pour that on top and cover everything with cheese.

Bake for 20 or 30 minutes at 350 until everything is warm and bubbly. Serve with avocado, tomato and cilantro or not. We had some and so used it.

The rest of the avo and tomato went into the salad we had with the enchiladas. It was an experiment, so we weren't sure what we were making, but it was good! The carrots and the butternut (gubbernut!) added a sweetness, so the onions were nice to offset that. Some chicken sauteed with a little cumin and chili powder would have been good also, but we like to go vegetarian quite a bit and always do so when Tara is here. Try it and let me know if you liked it.