Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Reflections of 2014

Another year has gone by, seemingly in a blink of any eye.
I'd like to reflect on the memories that stick in my mind.
I've moved to a new nest. I've been here for 2 months, and I have yet to miss anything that I didn't bring with me.
This is a clear indicator that stuff is simply that; stuff. We can get along without it.
I no longer have worries about maintenance, filling the lp tank, clearing the snow, upkeep. It's all gone, a weight off of my shoulders.

This year has provided good memories as well as sad. 
I've published two books. That makes 4 of the 13 that I want to publish. Two clicks on the bucket list. That's a good thing.
My next book was written, but thanks to a Microsoft glitch, I lost all except the first 46 pages. That's a bad thing. I can never rewrite the book word for word. It's once again a work in progress. This book was one that I struggled with from the beginning.

I've stayed in my first bed and breakfast, another of my bucket list to-do items. I have plans to visit another in 2015.

I've lost relatives, friends, neighbors; some who lived to a ripe old age, others that were gone way too young. I keep reminding myself that life is like that. The older I get, the more it happens.

I've watched as others struggled with serious illness. My prayer list continues to grow, even as names drop off. 
As I watch the news, my troubles and worries are few compared to others.
I don't know what 2015 holds. It's best that I don't know the future. I vow to push my worries away, to live one day at a time, to take each challenge and live with it to the best of my ability.
Above all else, I wish my family, relatives, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, a blessed New Year. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Pork Loin with Cranberry Compote

Just in time for that special stay-at-home New Years Eve dinner.
And, if you have leftover whole-berry cranberry sauce, here's a great way to use it up.

I start with chopped vidalia onion. Yes, onion goes with cranberry.

Then I add the chicken stock. I use the powdered base with water, but purchased stock will work as well.

Then the cranberries, and the spices. Yes, the spices work well with the onion, and the pork. 

And then, the balsamic. Yes, the balsamic goes with the onions, cranberries and spices. Trust me on this.Let it simmer away while preparing the pork loin.

I like to purchase a loin and slice it into 1/2" slices. During the winter I put them on George.
In the summer, they sizzle outside on the grill.

To serve, ladle compote over the pork.
Just that simple.
It looks fancy, but it's not.
Is it ever good.
I'm sharing two recipes here, because I make my own cranberry sauce using frozen cranberries.
Twice the  bang for your buck this week on the blog.
Happy Saturday and Happy New Year.

Pork Loin with Cranberry Compote

1 (10-12 ounce) pork loin
1/2 C chopped sweet onion
2/3 C whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2 C chicken stock
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 Tsp cinnamon
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves

Saute onion in a small non-stick skillet. Add remaining ingredients except pork loin, and simmer until liquid is reduced. While simmering, prepare pork loin by either roasting or slicing into 5-6 slices and grilling, seasoning according to your taste. If pork loin is roasted whole, slice into 2 ounce servings. Spoon hot cranberry compote over the top of each slice. 5-6 servings

Cranberry Sauce
6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C cranberry juice
1/8 Tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of each: ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until cranberries pop and mixture thickens.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest


One more memory of Christmas when I was a child. When we went to visit Grampa B's during the holidays, he would go into his walk-in closet and bring out the container of Pepper Nuts.
Little, hard, tasty cookies.
I tried making them once. Way to much work to make and bake those tiny little nubbins.
Fast forward to a more recent time when Archway cookies could be found in the supermarket.
They had these larger sized, powdered  sugar coated, soft, tasty, spicy cookies called Pfeffernuesse, which roughly translates to Pepper Nuts. I loved them. Easy on the teeth and jaw. Not so much crunching and chewing.
I have found the recipe. I will share with you. This is one of those recipes that I might just have to make throughout the year.

We'll start with the wet ingredients. I love glass measuring cups and the microwave. It makes life so much simpler. On a side note, I use liquid egg product in place of the actual egg, as I made a half batch.

Now for the good stuff. This is quite the assembly, but every single item is needed. Note the bottle of cardamom seed. That's enough to make cookies for the whole city. But, it needs to be ground.

Here's my secret weapon, a gizmo that I keep handy. It's an electric coffee grinder which I use only for spices that need to be ground, pummeled, pulverized.

Next combine all the dry ingredients.

I like to whisk it all together so that everything is mixed.

Mix the wet and dry together and let it chill.

I use a cookie scoop, because I like my gadgets. It makes fairly round balls of dough which I roll a little bit more by hand before I bake them.

After they're done baking, and they cool a half minute or so, I roll them in powdered sugar and let them cool completely.

Then they go into my favorite cookie tin, where they sit for a day or so to flavor through.

The final product, the best little spiced molasses cookie on the planet. So, easy to make, and
are they ever good. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy one or two, or well, three. Irresistible.
Happy Saturday and Happy Holidays.


1/4 C molasses
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 C butter
1 egg
3/4 Tsp anise extract
2 C all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp sugar
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp ground ginger
1/2 Tsp ground cardamom
1/2 Tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 Tsp ground cloves
1/4 Tsp salt
1/2 C confectioner’s sugar

Combine molasses, honey and butter in a microwave safe measuring cup, heat until butter is melted. Stir to combine, let cool to room temperature. Add egg and anise extract, stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Gradually stir in wet ingredients, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, until dough if chilled and firm. Preheat oven to 325°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool slightly, and roll in confectioner’s sugar. Cool completely on racks. Store in tightly covered container. Best if cookies are allowed to flavor for several days before eating.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Hazelnut Fudge

During the holiday season there are so many recipes to share, and yet, so little time. So, I'm sharing another great recipe on a Tuesday, in addition to my Saturday offerings.
Memories of Christmas' past bring to mind my mom, cooking cream and sugar and chocolate, and then adding a dollop of butter on top.
Then she would sit and stir, and stir, and stir, until that mixture turned into the most delectable fudge.
But then something changed. Perhaps it was the cream, or maybe the sugar. Unable to figure it out, Mom's fudge just didn't get good anymore. It was always sugary, grainy and not smooth.
So, here's to you, Mom, as you look down upon us.
This isn't your recipe, but oh boy, you and Dad would really like this.

It's so simple. First line a pan with foil, because you need to be able to lift it out to cut it. Trust me on that.

 Start with a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Add some hazelnut spread. I buy mine at Aldi's.*

Heat it until it's all melted and you can stir it together.

Add extra chocolate. There's never too much of that.

Stir it up, quickly now. Even though it's hot enough to melt the chocolate chips, it set's up pretty quickly.

Pour it in the pan, quickly, and spread it out.

The mixture needs to chill, before cutting.
Once chilled, cut into pieces, quickly. It's soft and get's all melty if you you don't this quickly.
Are you sensing a theme here?

Snag a piece, and pop it in your mouth,quickly.
Savor that silky smooth delicacy that only needed 3 ingredients. How easy was that?

It presents nicely if you have tiny butter plates, which I happened to have on a shelf, just hanging around waiting.
Any way you present it, is it ever good.
Happy holidays.

* Aldi does not in any way support this blog.

Hazelnut Fudge
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
3/4 C Hazelnut Spread
1 C milk chocolate chips

Line a 8x8 inch pan with aluminum foil. Set aside. Pour sweetened condense milk into a medium saucepan. Add the hazelnut spread. Heat over medium-low heat until hot and mixture can be combined. Stir in baking chips and stir just until melted and combined. Quickly pour into prepared pan(mixture will start to set up). Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Lift candy from the pan and cut into 8 rows each way. Store in refrigerator. 64 pieces 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Double Chocolate Mocha Crinkles

Week 2 of the holiday baking, featuring what else:

I started with the wet ingredients.
Egg, oil, sour cream. I used olive oil and reduced fat sour cream. It's all to one's taste. I also use liquid egg product, such as Egg Beaters, because, then I can reduce the size of the recipe. 1/4 C egg product=1 large egg.

Then the dry ingredients. Here's where the mocha comes in. I add decaf coffee crystals, as in, instant decaf coffee. When the cookies are baked, it enhances the flavor of the cocoa, bringing to mind dark chocolate. For non-coffee drinkers, the cookies do not taste like coffee. They have a deep, dark richness that begs for more and more. 

Then for the second dose of chocolate. Semi-sweet baking chips. I used the minis. I think you get more chocolate in the cup that way. There's never too much chocolate, is there?

Mix it all together and let it chill out for a while, on account of because the dough is soft and sticky, and you need to be able to roll it into balls.

I use a cookie scoop to form the balls of dough. A teaspoon will work as well. Give them a roll in the powdered sugar and slide them in the oven.

I wish we had smell-a-blog. Or, taste-a-blog. Wouldn't that be great? You could just reach in a nab a cookie. I would share with you, I really would. Except, I made a half-batch, and ate them all myself. The outsides are firm and almost a little crisp. The insides are oh so soft, and chocolaty, and yummy.
They're hard to resist,
and, are they ever good.
Happy Saturday

Double Chocolate Mocha Crinkles

1-1/3 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil*
1/4 C low-fat sour cream
1/4 C liquid egg product, or 1 egg
1 Tsp vanilla
1-3/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tsp instant coffee granules
1 Tsp baking soda
1/4 Tsp salt
1/2 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and oil, mix well. Add sour cream, egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda and salt, whisk together. Add sugar mixture and mix well. Stir in mini chocolate chips. Chill in refrigerator 2-3 hours, or until firm and easy to work with. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone sheets. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls. Roll each ball in your hands to shape it, and roll in powdered sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops of cookies are firm to the touch. Do not over-bake. Cool on wire racks. 4 dozen cookies
*Olive oil can be used in place of vegetable oil

Saturday, December 6, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Saltine Toffee

Cooking and baking during the holiday season means memories from years gone by. I often think about my mom, baking cookies and cooking candy; always going back to what we liked the best.
This isn't one of those recipes.
The first time I had this was at Aunt Elfrieda's house. She was my mom's sister.
Aunt Elf could cook and bake with the best of them.
I'm probably the only person in the entire state who has never made this candy.
Until now.
So here goes.

4 ingredients, all basic in the kitchen.
Start by laying saltine crackers in a sheet pan lined with foil.
Yes, I made a small batch for myself.
It only lasted a few days. I have no shame.

Then I cooked the butter and brown sugar.
 This recipe can go bad in a blink, so be very careful.

Pour it over the crackers,
and bake it. No, it isn't burned. There are just craters among the hills of bubbles of caramel.

Sprinkle on the chocolate chips,

spread, chill, enjoy.

I've never attempted to make real English toffee, but I'll certainly make this again. So easy. I even added some slivered almonds on one end, and some chopped peanuts on the other.

Thin, crisp, salty, buttery,caramelly goodness to the utmost.

If you dare, make a tin of it to share. I didn't dare.
I ate it all myself.
Was it ever good.
Happy Saturday.

Saltine Toffee

40 saltine crackers
1 C butter
1 C light brown sugar
1 C semi-sweet chocolate baking  chips
Slivered almonds or chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 400°. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Combine brown sugar and butter in saucepan, heat until butter is melted and mixture is boiling. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Boil 5 minutes, do not stir. Remove from heat and pour mixture over top of crackers. Bake 2-4 minutes, or just until bubbling. Watch carefully again to avoid burning. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate baking chips. Wait a couple of minutes, then spread melted chocolate. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Place pan in refrigerator 1-2 hours, so that chocolate firms up. Break into pieces and store in a covered container in a cool place, or in the refrigerator. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Parmesan Chicken Bake

I am about to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Last week I shared a recipe using butternut squash.

This week I'm sharing a recipe using a dinosaur egg.
Ok, not really. This is a spaghetti squash.
I've never tried one before, because I always felt that all squash tasted the same.
I was wrong. Yes, I'll admit it.

I whacked it in half and scooped out the stuff.

Then I flipped the halves over and baked them.

At the same time, I sprinkled some seasoning on a skinless, boneless chicken breast, and baked it as well.

While the chicken finished baking, I pulled apart the strands of spaghetti. 

Then the magic began. I used my favorite chicken soup base, 

added onion and garlic powders, and stirred them into some water. After heating it a tad,

I added sour cream.
Low fat sour cream.
Are you still with me?

Shaved Parmesan cheese. Ooo, la la.

I chopped the chicken into bite size pieces,

added it to the spaghetti, poured on the sauce.
Heat and serve.

It doesn't taste like squash.
It tastes like more, much, much more.
And it's healthy.
Leftovers taste good as well.
This doggy likes.

So you see, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
At least you can teach this Chickadee to try new food.
Give it a whirl.
Is it ever good.
Happy Saturday.

Parmesan Chicken Bake

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp water, divided
1 small spaghetti squash
1/2 Tsp chicken broth and soup powdered base
1/2 Tsp onion powder
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/4 C reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 C shaved Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray small glass casserole with cooking spray, add 2 Tbsp water. Season chicken breast according to taste, place in casserole. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place face down on parchment paper. Place squash and chicken in oven. Cook squash 45 minutes, remove from oven. Leave chicken in oven additional 15 minutes, or until done. Using a fork, pull strands of squash apart and place in a 6 cup casserole. Place 1/2 C water in glass measure, add broth and soup base, onion powder and garlic powder. Heat in microwave 20 seconds. Stir to dissolve, add sour cream and Parmesan Cheese. Remove chicken from oven and cut into bite-size pieces. Add chicken to squash, pour sauce over and stir. Heat in oven 20-30 minutes, until heated through and bubbling. 3 servings