Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lazy days

 The weekdays are really long for J in this new job. The drive is nasty, I am not talking bumper to bumper traffic but miles. The nature of the job puts him in the middle of no where. They drive is 40 miles into the desert. He is now in a van pool that saves him some on gas and is just one less car making the huge drive with only one person. Glorious, just what makes him a happy camper. It is the last thing I would picture J doing. It won't be forever. He is really shinning through for us and like one of very good friends told me when he left, "he really wants to take care of you." Awww...... my heart melts.
So these last couple of weekends have better complete relaxation. For two days we have lounged around the apartment, I have gotten use to this for most of my days are like this right now. I am good at it. Reading here, surfing the web there, small errands to town, breakfast, lunch and dinner, a little play time, and a little animal time, just enjoying being.

With J home, we make coffee then hop right back in bed and watch movies. It is a treat. The best part of this new move is him cooking. He makes us breakfast every morning he is home. Yesterday perfect egg sandwiches, today the pictured oatmeal (S.W. yes those are still organic blueberries from WC, we are on our last bag. Booo). Yes, this is the life and I love it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I could not have been more blessed with great in-laws. I am just saying - this picture explains it all...

Mama B was here for a long weekend and her other half - Bill - held down the farm back in Texas - and had a birthday!

I have been so welcomed and loved by this family that it brings me to tears just thinking about it. They are so generous, kind, Southern, and a hoot with a witty sense of humor that has been magnified in J.

Things have worked out for me. I am blessed.

Bill and the family has a tradition of big October bashes - family - friends - co workers - food - fires..... to celebrate everything in general and of course the said birthday. I have made it out a couple of times and been shown true hospitality.

This year has been busy, we relocated, J is working a big new project and the timing didn't work out. The fall is the perfect time to be in Texas because it is on the cusp of a gnarly winter and just mellowing out from a scorching summer.

Instead of a barn burner - Texas style, I made cup cakes - mini style.



Here is a birthday cup cake to a great father - in - law! Cheers!



As for the cup cakes.... yeah I admit - they do the trick, it is the whole peanut butter/chocolate combo that puts them over the top.


They really are just perfect - I recommend mini cupcakes, because they are trendy and if you are like me, I always think that having more than one is way more satisfying. When they are mini - you can have four and it is totally okay.





CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES
Recipe adapted from Dejour
makes 24
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups cane sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar.
  4. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.  The mixture will be quite wet.
  5. Pour the batter until the cups are two thirds full and place in the oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cup comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack until completely cool before frosting.
For the frosting:
enough for 24 cupcakes
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy. Refrigerate for about an hour. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Motherly Loving

I have a few things for you to wrap up the weekend and greet us in the beginning of a new week. 
Our weekend has been blessed by company here in the desert.
Company in the form of mama - yes mama Betsy! It was Mama B's first time flying solo for the visit. She has been on a whirlwind tour de kiddos. Ohhhh mama and her little boy.....
 

This is on the shores of the mighty Columbia River. We are on the Pasco side. There is about 150 yards on each bank for public use through out town. This is a great use of space, allowing everyone to enjoy the shorelines. 
We took B up Badger Mountain, well we took her close to the top, looming thunderstorms and high winds had all three ladies pointed back to the car.

She was a wonderful warm soul to have gracing our presence needless to say keeping us entertained and well loved. She did anything that we came across - and had to hold her back after some heavenly pork tacos, beer and half a glass of wine from singing "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" at the wine bar. That is Mama B!

We took her to our favorite Mexican food joints in Pasco, my favorite tasting room, Bookwalter's, up the street, for fondue, wine and live music, we took her hiking, shopping, touring Walla Walla, wine tasting at El Nicole, we played noisy games at a quiet little cheese shop, and I forget to mention that J made us great food like a delish eggplant parmesan.
It was treat to have company AND have J home for a couple of days - and he is a delight to have in the kitchen! 

 Snack time!
The Marcus Whitman - a must see hotel in Walla Walla



Oh yeah - and we went to the roller derby! How about them manzanas?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time for a little comfort smothered in gravy & a few tips

I guess that I can take my pleasant little life a little for granted at times, can't we all.

What I have learned: Never stop trying - ever. Even if you are trying - yep, most likely it isn't good enough and we can always do better. Always do your best. Our best is the greatest gift we have.

Feeling like a needed something more for both J and I, some time in the house, and a home cooked meal, I open the fridge, turned on the oven, pulled out the mixer and went to town (actually didn't got to town for a change....sorry...). I even turned down a bike ride in hopes that a good home cooked meal will have healing properties of its own.

One of the fondest dishes that my Grandma ever made was a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions in the drippings, then smothered in pan gravy.  It is one of those country staples - meat and potatoes. It warms and satisfies from the inside out.
When I was still in school, my parents would often send me to spend a few days with Grandma. I would park it at her house, eating, sewing, doing anything new that she saw while watching Martha Stewart, drinking coffee, watching Golden Girls, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and playing in the gardens. If only I could go back..... snapping my fingers...... clicking my heals.... still here... instead of trying other means of time travel, I decided to roast my own chicken, make some gravy and then bake some scones with both cheese and apple speckles.

These are all things that would tickle Carol and in turn this meal is already healing my heart and I can just hope that it works on J. The say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
Today's cooking lesson(s)! To be honest.... there are a few!

So in order to "get to a man's heart" he need not be poisoned! So if you are advert to cooking meat as much as I am you probably need a refresher on when meat is done. Do a little research before you start cooking. I would rather not eat meat that is dry and chewy but I kind of want to puke at the sight of raw chicken on the table.
When is a chicken fully cooked you might ask......

OK, you have gone through roasting the darn bird, basting, making sure it is up to the proper temperature, and the whole nine yards, it is on the table.... how the heck do you cut into the limp bird? Yeah - I really don't eat a lot of meat.... 

Gravy......hmmm..... I know I like it if it is done well. This will take practice.

I plan on sticking to things I understand better such as vegetable dishes and.....

On to something that I know a little better - BAKING!

Over at my favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen, she just let the cat out of the bag about apple cheddar scones. Since I live in the midst of apple heaven and it is harvest season, I found myself with a box of apples. I can eat nearly my weight in fresh apples every couple of days, the box I got were not that inspiring for eating. I made a batch of ginger apple sauce and saved a few for scones.



At the time I made these I had a block of chili cheddar cheese and finely grated it. I think it worked out just fine, although white cheddar is more pleasing to the eyes and the palate. I also suggest cutting the apples into smaller pieces than what I have show, possibly the size of dice.


Since I am on a roll thinking that I know how to tweak recipes, I would make one final change! I would skip the scone wedge idea and go for a round biscuit shape instead. Next time I will once again plop the dough onto a very well floured surface pat the dough to about an inch and a half thick then tearing off three inch or so diameter pieces and form into disks.



There you have it! Take it or leave it. I will take baked goods, savory or sweet, over meat any day of the week!


Apple and Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Barely tweaked from The Perfect Finish

Makes 6 generous scones

2 firm tart apples (1 pound or 2 454 grams)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces or 195 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling (total of 2.2 ounces or 63 grams)
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams) plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams)unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes plus additional for baking sheet if not lining it with parchment
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) sharp cheddar, shredded (white is recommended, I assume for aesthetics)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (chunks, not slivers.) Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge, as I did.) Leave oven on.

overmix.

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Before you eat one, make sure you realize how addictive they might be. Once you’ve got that down, go for it anyway.

Do ahead: Scones are best the day they are baked. However, they can be made ahead of time and stored unbaked in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them still frozen for just a couple extra minutes. This way they are always freshly baked when you want them. These scones were passable on day two and terrible on day three.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greened Corn



Change has been good for me. I must admit that it has also been just as challenging. In order to succeed at this new step, not drive my man nuts or throw the animals off the balcony I have decided make some goals and use what extra time I have to take care of projects that I have been longing to have time for.

Today is a simple goal: make sure we eat well.

I am saying good bye to meat raised on big farms, produce from far away countries, and "fast food." Since I do have the time and energy to explore providing healthy and intentional food - I best be following through! We do live in a very bountiful area and the harvest season is only now winding down.

I have found a great online resource for local information for the Tri Cities area including farm stands, local markets and general community. Today, I plan on hitting a couple farm stands, meeting new people, and gathering some late season items such as eggplant, peppers and a squash or two.

As you may know, J is not a picky eater and will eat almost anything that is laden with spinach. Here is my best attempt to take my love for creamed corn to the next level and have help eating it.
Greened corn.... enjoy!






Greened Corn

I served this along side some spicy enchiladas but next time I envision eating over toast or with a fried egg.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups kenneled corn
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, combine the corn, cream, salt, sugar, pepper and butter.
  2. Whisk together the milk and flour, and stir into the corn mixture.
  3. Cook stirring over medium heat until the mixture is thickened, and corn is cooked through.
  4. Add chopped spinach. Continue stirring until the spinach is just slightly wilted and warm.
  5. Remove from heat, and stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted. Serve hot.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A new dawn






Good for the body is the work of the body, and good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other.  
~Henry David Thoreau
A step out my door in the morning - as I rise early to greet the day.
Just another walk in the park.
Make it a great day.
M.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Pasco Market

I was increadibly skeptical to move to the Tri Cities. People referred to it as the arm pit of Washington and much to my dismay the "Dry Shitties." I hesitate to admit, I lost sleep over the idea of moving to a place that had such a reputation. I should have known better than to judge a place before I experienced it for myself. 
The first week has been a delight getting our new apartment all settled, exploring the town, trying new restaurants, a few wine tastings, learning a little more about Hanford and the clean-up project, and even a visit to the mid-week farmers market in Pasco.

Pasco's farmers market is the largest open air farmers market in the state and occurs on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9am to noon May through October. 

I am blessed with an abundance of time right now and I jumped on the opportunity to explore the smaller, mid-week market. I spent some time getting to know a few of the vendors. The shinning star of the morning was an organic orchard, who graciously knew my fondness for fruit and let me eat each one of the plumbs and apples before I bought them. Needless to say I left there with my totes full of fruity goodness. 

  With the weather in the mid 70's I decided to walk through some of the sunny streets of Pasco. 


 My senses were overwhelmed by bright colors, smells of roasting meat, and a refreshing bit of multiculturalism.
 Pasco is a little Mexico that reminds of some of the border towns of the Texas region. I was instantly transported to our many trips into Mexico and found it to be a very welcoming and familiar atmosphere. 

Of course I had to stop in on the the largest bakery in town I had walked by. The cases were filled with brightly colored pastries - covered in sugar, colored sugar... a perfect way to end the afternoon.



Here is to many more great adventures because as I see for myself, the Tri Cities are not that bad in my book.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A good bye of sorts



I truly feel speechless, almost breathless at times, thinking of how fortunate I am. I have a winning hand of cards and everything is falling into place.

You know the age old saying that you don’t know what you have until it is gone. Yeah, I get it. I honestly didn’t know what I had until I was faced to let it go.

I love Bellingham - this place is extremely special. I like the self proclaimed "subdudeness"of the small city. Subduded excitement - that is Bellingham for you. The small town nestled in the corner of the pacific northwest is green, lush, progressive, intelligent, surrounded by bays, mountains, and every thing in between.

I have lived here all my life, by choice, or by ignorance, but I don't think that there are many places in the United States that can hold a flame to the PNW. Yet, it is finally time for me to let Bellingham go for the time being (?). In my last few weeks in this cozy little town -  I want it to be filled with friends, friends and more friends, bike rides (in the rain and mud), my favorite restaurants and bars, run/walks in my favorite parks (in the trees) and whatever else my little sense of adventure takes me.

Where ever this fine life may take me I will always be a child of my environment. I was raised in the trees and will forever feel very comforted by a low fog as it nestles into the tall trees. The ferns and moss will always pad my landing of far fetched dreams.

I will miss you Bellingham, you were very good to me.
I will miss good laughs from friends like these - I don't know of anyone who can hold a flame to BD's whit and character.

I will miss dinner parties, bike rides, and climbing trips with these great friends. I will really miss you AZ!

This simple little house will provide enduring memories...

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