Sunday, August 31, 2008

Special Goodies for Justin - Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip

We will be seeing the grandchildren tomorrow (yay!) so I baked cookies for Justin. He likes that I bake cookies especially for him. His very favorites are the Triple Peanut Bars with Chocolate that I bake. I baked something new for him this time; Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I recieved the recipe from an Internet Foodie friend Risa and they are really good!

You'll need to make them:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (out of the can works just fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12 cups pecans, chopped

Sift together the flour, baking soda and spices, then mix in the oatmeal. Set aside. (I sift by whisking, works great and saves time and clean up)

In a large bowl of an electric mixere fitted with the paddle, cream the butter; then beat in the sugars, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and egg. Add the flour-oats mixture.

Place batter in a large bowl and add the chips and pecans. Mix well. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

Drop the dough in rounded tablespoons on well-greased sheets (I did not grease my sheets and had no trouble at all removing them), spacing them 2" apart. Bake each sheet in the middle level of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and set. (14 minutes in my oven.) Note: Keep batter in frisge between scoopings.

Remove immediately and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight conatainer at room temperature. Then try to eat just one........

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Views From My Kitchen

Beautiful pencil thin asparagus I picked up at Costco for a steal. In the baking pan and ready to roast.

Tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and pepper. Then roasted in a 500 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Plated and served with the last of the ripe Meyer lemons from our garden. Even Scruffy, one of our cats ate them up.

Raspberry Liqueur I put up last year, stored in the wine room, and I promtly forgot all about it! As you can see the color has turned very dark and no longer a beautiful shade of red. I went ahead and strained it well, but haven't added the simple syrup. I am not going to be able to use this bacth after all. I was hoping it would be part of our Christmas giving this year.

The lastest handful of heirloom yellow grape tomatoes from the garden. Delicious in a tossed salad, or cut in half and simply tossed with fresh basil from the garden, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I have mentioned before I have been trying to use what is in our freezer in the garage. I found one last container of meat sauce I had made a while back so we had that for dinner last night.

Topping spaghetti with a bit of Percorino Romano cheese and fresh basil.

Craft - Dried Gourd 'Fruit'

I like working with dried gourds, especially the little ones that have shapes like fruit and even eggs. I love the pear shape ones.

They start out dirty and looking like this. Use a stainless steel scrubber and water to get the grime and gunk off of them.

After they are cleaned and left to dry, they now look like this and are ready to work with.

Use leather stain to color them. Apply with a sponge brush. Be sure to do this outside. It needs to be well ventilated!

When the stain dries they look like stained carved wood pieces of fruit and eggs!

Place them in a bowl and you have a beautiful Fall or any time of the year decoration or centerpiece for a table. I love that you can make something pretty and useable from something most people would throw away.

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Afternoon at the Theater - Hairspray

Yesterday was the last of the musicals in our summer theater season which was Hairspray.

Neither David or I seem to remember the movie that came out in 1988. Nor did we see the remake starring John Travolta last year was it? Though we now want to rent it. We had the best afternoon laughing and enjoying fun music and dancing.

They did an excellent job with the production and the acting was fantastic. Paul Vogt who plays Edna Turnblad (recreating the role he played touring in a Boradway production in 2004) nailed the part and played it to the hilt. Totally hysterical.

Before the show we always sit in the outdoor member lounge, reading our programs. They also offer free iced tea, ice water or lemonade to members.

That's David on the way to the outdoor lounge, which is graced by fans and misters as well. Good thing too since we were in the triple digets yesterday.

We always enjoy a local favorite, Merlino's Freezes; fresh juice and ice. As their motto says, When It's Hot, We're Freezing. David enjoyed a lemon and I an orange. They are always so delicious and refreshing on a hot day.

On the drive home from the theater we decided to stop in at Celia's for a Mexican dinner. That's their famous sangria I recreat at home. However tonight it tasted like there was cherry in it as well. They keep playing with me; sometimes it has this cherry flavor and sometimes not. I am going to try using Cherry 7-Up next time and see how it turns out.

That's me sitting across the table from David who had the camera. I do look a little heat worn.

The Arroz con Pollo I had been craving for a week since friend Kelli mentioned making her mother's recipe. Filled with chunks of chicken breast, mushrooms, peas, rice and a little cheese, it was not disappointing, though the chef was chile happy last night and it had some good heat to it.

David enjoyed the shrimp salad. It depends on who is in the kicthen on what the salad is like. Last night there was absiolutel;y no lettuce and the tortilla bowl was filled with fresh shrimp and topped with tomato and avocado. David was in his glory. BTW, don;t you just love the mini tortilla bowls that are holding the dressing? These would be great to use for bean dip, guac, salsa....they made them extra crispy to stand up to the wetness of the dressing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Okay, An Invite Inside My Head

Note, I started this on the evening of the 27th and finished the morning of the 28th.

When I first started this blog a few months ago my intent was to share with family and friends what is happening in my life. Grandkids, crafts, family, entertaining, outings, smelling the roses (literally). Using pictures, brief explanations...... Not long after I was up and running a friend told me she loved my blog, but she felt I needed to talk more. You know she said, what are you thinking.........THINKING?? You mean like a DIARY???? In my head this was the dialogue -- 'you want to hear what is really rattling around inside my head each day? Are you crazy?' Breath Diane, breath. This is why I do t'ai chi chih I suppose. Centered. So why does this make me feel slightly paniced?

Okay, I will step out into this arena not to do battle but to do something I am not always comfortable doing. That's growing right?.........step out there 56 year old Girl............

I am at my monthly hair appointment at Robbie's this morning. A walk-in enters from out of town, we talk and she asks me my favorite local restaurant. One sure way to make an Italian fall in love with you is ask her about food. Whether it is the name of her favorite restaurant, which cheese to buy at what market, or where the best farmers market is, her eyes will light up, she'll take a deep breath, and she'll begin a detailed and passionate oratory. Now that this out-of-towner is armed with my best local knowledge, not only of the best places to eat but of their best dishes, I am pleased knowing that this woman will have at least one of the most remarkable meals of her life.

The second sure way to make an Italian fall in love with you is know some of her immediate family members and share their love for them. -- I wandered into Jolie's Nail Salon two doors down from Robbie's. Getting back to my hippie natural soul I gave up fiberglass on my nails after 16 years the end of March to go back to being oh so naturale. Yesterday was the day to treat myself to a manicure. -- what is it about shaping nails that makes me suck at it? -- I knew Jolies was the place my mother had her nails done and both my parents had their pedicures when they were living In a place that is still relatively new to me and was definitely new to my parents while they were here, having people remember them so lovingly and share them with me with such happiness brought me incredible joy and peace. Rosalie and I bonded in one of those ways Italians don't forget. Famiglia. BTW, my nails look pretty too.

Here's something I can't figure out -- why is it that when we face a serious medical situation with our children, being our sons or daughters, nieces or nephews, grandchildren or greatchildren, we lose sight of our #1 ground rule to take each day at a time and focus on the positive? Why do we allow the negative, the what-ifs to creep in, even when we know to keep that door closed because it does no good for anyone?

I always have loved the Olympics, both summer and winter. However when will free-spirit dancing become a regarded sport and be honored in the Olympics? Really, I swim, walk, bike, but my real passion in getting my heart rate up, working up a good sweat, staying focused and disciplined is dancing. It also keeps me feeling sensual, I smile and have fun the entire time; from my heart, my soul. Just dancing to my all-time favorite songs. Okay, so I have never fallen freely into strictly defined areas.

I have also always watched both the Democratic and Republican conventions. I am not prejudice when it comes to politics or political parties. In fact I have been an Independant now for 8 years. I tell you, I am not willing to put my name to either main party. I have always voted for the candidate. The older I become the less I feel tied to either party. I am all for getting rid of extra baggage weight. Freeing. No party affilation is freeing. However, I will also note that it is interesting to look at the history of both parties; at the start of our country the Democrat's were conservative, the Republican's liberals. It continues to bounce back and forth over time. I did enjoy the Democratic convention. Seeing history being made in my time is always exciting. I look forward to watching the Republican convention as well.

Now what is it with the pro-gun people you meet? They always bring up the right to own guns and relate it to deer. You all know it; too many deer in some areas, they are dangerous, cause accidents, they need to be gunned down. So there is a reason those people choose to pick up a gun and kill a living, breathing thing. Okay, in some areas deer need to be controlled for safety reasons to humans and to themselves, well you kill them my friends. Someone has to do it so it might as well be you, because it sure isn't going to be me. Ever. Not from the hippy lady at heart whole rasied her children in a gun-free environment, including toy guns. Please keep guns away from the children in my life. That's all I ask of you.

That is enough of what is rattling inside my head for one morning. Goodness, no wonder I feel so scattered at times. There's a lot rolling around in there.

It is time to get ready for the theater. This is the last play of the season which is Hairspray. Should be big fun. Inside my head -- 'What should I wear? Oh dear, bad hair day! Where did I put the leg rest for David's wheel chair? OH dang, have to stop at the bank on the way out, I forgot about that! Where did I put the tickets? Does my car need gas, I can't rememeber!........'

Over and out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cherry Cola Glazed Pork Ribs

I tried a new recipe last night that a foodie friend had actaully shared with me a few years ago. The glaze is very good though time consuming. Mind you not labor intensive at all. It's very simple actually. It's one of those things to make though when you have a relatively quiet day at home. You can store the glaze in the fridge up to a week and it can be frozen. I actually cut the glaze recipe in half and still have enough left to use on grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts this week. I did change the recipe a bit, see notes.

Before using the cherry cola, pour it into a bowl and allow it to stand at room temperature until no longer effervescent, about four hours.

4 12-ounce cans cherry cola (flat) (I used regular Coke because it is what I had on hand)
2 cups cherry jam or preserves
2/3 cup Dijon mustard with horseradish (I used Maille tradtional Dijon and added 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (did not use)
7-1/4 to 7-1/2 pounds well-trimmed pork spareribs (I used boneless country pork ribs instead, and a smaller amount since there was just David and me)

Boil cherry cola in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 45 minutes.

Stir in next 5 ingredients.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is reduced to 2-1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Transfer glaze to large bowl. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room emperature before using.)

Position racks in top and bottom thirds of oven and preheat to 325F. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Wrap each rib rack tightly in foil, enclosing completely. Divide foil packets between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until ribs are very tender, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through baking, about 2 hours total. Cool ribs slightly in foil. Pour off any fat from foil packets. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep covered in foil packets and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.) Note: The ribs come out very tender and moist.

Prepare barbecue (medium-low heat). Cut each rib rack between bones into individual ribs. Set aside 1 cup glaze. Add ribs to bowl with remaining glaze and toss to coat. Grill ribs until brown and glazed, turning to prevent burning, about 5 minutes total.

I baked the country ribs in the oven, wrapped in foil as the spareribs would be. Then I cut them into fairly large pieces, put them in the glaze, and then broiled theminstead of grilling. They are on the grill such a short time it didn't really make a difference.

Tablescape Dream

All of you who know me well know that I absolutley love dishes, glasses and table linens. I came across this table setting, the colors geared to match paintings of Santa Monica artist Pip Bloomfield in the May issue of Traditional Home magazine. When I first saw the table I found my heart racing and I had gasped in the air excitedly. I adore it! The colors of this are so warm yet vibrant and they go with what I have in my home already. This is my tablescape challenge for the next year. I don't need the exact things on this table, but the colors, feel and look is what I will be trying to acheive. Heart be still.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fun in the Kitchen

I don't bake much for David and I because we don;t need to eat it. However I do enjoy baking every now and then. I wanted to try a couple of new muffin recipes I came across.

I hadn't baked to share with the neighbors in quite a while so I decided to go for it.

I started with Pineapple, Coconut with Rum Essence Muffins. Here they are just popped into the oven. BTW, I just love the silicone muffin cups. I have been using them for a few years now and am always delighted with the results.

These muffins were a big disappointment. They are dry and the flavor doesn't come through as you would expect them too. This recipe got tossed out. Not sure what I will do with the muffins. MAke bread pudding or something to give to a neighbor.

Next I tried Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins since I had ripe bananas building up in the freezer. These smell so heavenly when baking.

They are a moist muffin and taste as good as they smell. The flavor of the banana is good and the chocolate chips stand their own and compliment the banana flavor. I used this recipe:

Book Ends

Since the last Booke Ends post I have done some reading and also worked on some book projects. I have made headway with the memory book I am putting together covering Jacob's first year.

It starts with Jen's baby shower.

Next comes Jacob's birth and then will go through his first birthday. I have enjoyed this, but am way behind in printing pictures to put in it. I stopped printing big batches at home because the ink is so expensive for my Photosmart printer and it eats it when when doing a large project. I need to get what I want on a CD and take them to be printed.

This is my parents Bible. I noticed today that it was printed in the very early 1950's. I inherited it. My parents never filled in the family tree pages, or the baptisms, first communions, confirmations, marriages, deaths, etc. I have slowly been doing this. I do not know why it feels so daunting every time I go to write in it. Perhaps I do not want there to be any mistakes when I write the information in stone.

I came across this dried red rose inside the pages of The Bible today as well. I have been through it many times before but never saw it until now. I am not sure what it is from. Nana or Nono's funeral I would guess. Ron and/or Deb maybe you can help me out. What do yout think? It had to be special for Mom to decide to keep it in the first place, press it and save it all these years.

These are the books I have read since the last Book Ends Post:

1) Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich - Jen loaned the hard bound copy to me and I have sent it on to her freind Dyan to read next. This is my all-time favorite of the series so far! There isn't much about Grandma Mozur in this book, but there are a lot of new characters related to Joe Morelli that are deliciously dysfunctional. The Lula and Tank storyline is fall off your chair hysterical! Four Measuring Spoons.

2) Bungalow 2 by Danielle Steel. What can I say? I have been reading Danielle Steel since the 1970's. I love the lady's novels and I like the woman herself. It never ceases to amaze me what a schedule she puts on herself to get so many books written and published each year. The time she isn't writing she is devoted to her large family. She never has seeken the limelight which made me respect her years ago. ANYway, back to the book. This is a story of a woman's journey from suburban housewife to award-winning screenwriter and all the joy, heartbreak and challenges along the way. As usual Ms Steel didn't disappoint me. Three Measuring Spoons.

3) Full House by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes. This is a new series that JE is writing with Ms. Hughes to please her Stepahnie Plum fans. I know first hand waiting for the next Stephanie Plum book to come out can seem like eternity. (Yes, I enjoy them that much.) This series is intended to come out between the SP books and are written in the Plum tradition. Full House is a lightly off center love story about a devious man, an uncooperative woman and a misguided genious. It has the same face-paced action, dysfunctional loveable characters, sex, suspense and lots of laughs as the Plum books. Not Stephanie Plum and her world, but fun and enjoyable. Three Measuring Spoons.

4) A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Mate. This is a delightful, intimate and hilarious memoir. We travel with with the Mates - Candace a painter and Fernec a writer through Tuscany to the ancient hill-town of Montalcino. They buy a 13th century friary on a hill surrounded by 60 acres of forest, olives and potential vineayrds. We experience their ups and downs of converting an abandoned ruin into a fairy-tale home and world acclaimed wine estate. The excitement of the first harvest followed by the thrill of wine making. The Mate wines received instant international aclaim. I found this book thoroughly entertaining, brimming with mouth-watering meals and memorbale characters that enriched my life, especially as a wine lover and Italy enthusiast. Four Measuring Spoons.

5) Funny, You Don't Look Like A Grandmother by Lois Wyse. This is a fun and delightful book that lets you know how to recognize todays active and interesting women who also find themselves at the age to be grandmother's. This is a collection of wit and wisdom and perfect for every woman who is a grandmother. Three Measuring Spoons.

6) Soapsuds by Finola Hughes and Digby Diehl. A friend gave me this book autograped. I did enjoy the read. The award winning actress wrote a novel about the world she knows well, the soaps. The book has passion, power, sex, betrayal and seduction-- all the things that make a soap a soap. I have to admit I was surprised I liked the book. I give it Two Measuring Spoons.

Look Mama I'm Human Too!

Shortcakes has always acted on the human side I have to admit and is always so loving and brings such joy. Lately he has taken to sitting at one of the stools at the kitchen island and "talking" to me when I am working in the kiktchen. Or sometimes when I am upstaors he sits there and calls to me. This morning I was in the kitchen preparing to bake and he sat at the stool and was talking. I know him so well and his different sounds. He wanted a treat. So I put a few of his treats in his bowl and placed it in front of him on island. I was curious what he would do. Put his paws on the island?

No, he sat there as poltie as can be with his paws off the eating space and ate every last one of his treats. The other cats were quite fascinated watching him.

A sign of a happily full little one.

This Morning In The Garden

It was a morning stroll and a little t'ai chi chih in the garden for me today. A lovely early morning outdoors. Not a lot is happening in the garden at this late date in August, but here are a few things that I found myself breathing in this morning.

There are constantly yellow heirloom grape tomatoes on the vine. They are little bites of sunshine.

The patio container tomatp plant is doing well. There have been quite afew tomatoes but always small. None of the tomatoes so far on any plant have been big. These are very tasty though. Just wish the yiled was more so I could cook with them.

One ripe patio tomato ready for picking today. There is always enough to have in salad which has been very nice. There is nothing like the bursting taste of a fresh tomato in your mouth!

One last canna lily at this time. A pretty pastel peach color.

There are a few roses blooming, but small this time around. I forgot to feed them this summer, so they have not been as good to me as they usually are this time of year. Can't blame them.

I liked the way the sun was playiong on this one. Tried to ctach it.

The dahlia bulbs got planted very late. They grew but only have two flowers. They are very pretty though.

This speading bush grows like crazy and the tiny blue flowers fill the bush all summer. It really outgrows the space it is in. Each year we prune it back to a small plant and by summer this is what we have again. It is beautiful though.