Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quilt Block of Life

It Runs In the Family
Our mother was an avid quilter. She spent many hours sitting and hand-stitching minute stitches on a vast sea of materials.
I did not inherit that gene.
I have a brother who is a collector of interesting stuff.
Well actually, I have a couple of brothers who collect interesting stuff. I did inherit the particular gene.
Today's story is based on the brother who tore down an old barn and then built a new barn, which looks like an old barn.
Over the years, he decorated the outside with a fine assortment of hubcaps. Mom helped with the decorating by picking up the strays that lay abandoned in the ditches.
Another item that he liked to collect was an assortment of expired license plates.
Which brings me to the reason for the posting on this week's blog.
The county in which we reside has a vast collection of painted quilt blocks, quite large in size, that decorate the sides and ends of various shapes and sizes of barns.
So my brother decided to design his own quilt block in order to decorate his barn.

I don't know the name of the design, but I think it's obvious that quilting runs in the family.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Fruit Salad with Citrus Dressing
Today I'm sharing a recipe for a lovely fruit salad, filled with so many enticing flavors.
This recipe can be increased. 
This recipe can include any kind of fruit that tempts the taste buds.
This recipe reminds me of the fruit salad that my mother used  to make for our family reunions every summer.

Here's the hardest part of the whole recipe. It starts with orange zest,

 and fresh squeezed orange juice.

They're added to sugar and water,

along with a dribble of lemon extract. 

My secret flavor that really enhances the experience:
Vanilla Bean Paste, which comes with tiny flecks of vanilla bean. It makes me cry just thinking about it, it's so good.

The mixture is heated to a boil, and then cooks over medium heat until a fragrant, luscious, orangy, lemony syrup is produced, meaning that the ingredients reduce to a thick consistency.

While the syrup is a cookin', I'm getting the fruit ready. A can of mandarin oranges, a small can of pineapple chunks, both drained; and the pineapple chunks cut in half,

then some blueberries and grapes, followed by a banana and an apple. Sorry, I forgot to take of picture of the banana and apple, but I think you all know what they look like.
After the syrup is cooled, I combine all, and then refrigerate for an hour or so.

And then, it's time to eat it all up. (Note the apples and bananas, which did not get in a picture of their own) It's a salad, it's a dessert, it's both. But most of all:
Is it ever good. And easy.
Happy Saturday

Fruit Salad with Citrus Dressing

1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C water
Zest from half of one large orange
Juice from half of one large orange
1/2 Tsp vanilla paste or extract
1/2 Tsp lemon extract
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 small can pineapple chunks, drained and cut in half
1 banana
1/2 C fresh blueberries
1 small Granny Smith apple, chopped

Place sugar, water, orange zest, orange juice, and extracts in small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, continue cooking for 20-30 minutes, until contents cooks down and is syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool. Place fruit in bowl, pour syrup over the top and stir gently. Place in refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. 4-5 servings

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review

What I'm Reading

Darlene Franklin is a fellow member of ACFW. She's active in reaching out to other members, answering their inquiries, asking for help with her own writing.
Quite some time ago I visited Darlene's blog, and low and behold, I was picked to receive a copy of her book.
Now I will be honest in saying that this book was set aside while I made my way through stacks of other books first. When I finally picked it up and began reading, I was drawn in.
I've visited the Mississippi River, where paddle boats once traveled. The river is mighty and impressive.
Darlene created her story around the setting of the Rio Grande. I picture an equally mighty river, a force to be reckoned with. I could feel the movement of the boat beneath my feet, and smell the tang of the water.
The story was truly enjoyable. Darlene has a wonderful gift in her writing, and I'll be looking for more of her books.
'A Bride's Rogue' is a good Christian fiction read.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Herbed Beef Roast
I'm not a big fan of beef roast, but I've found a good recipe that makes a tasty entree. Even the leftovers are good.

I start with a nice chunk of beef, like a eye of round or bottom round roast. 

I assemble the wet ingredients,

then the dry.

I use my 6-cup crock pot, where I add water and the broth bases.

After pouring the wet mixture over the meat and sprinkling on the herb mixture, I place the meat in the crock pot and pour the run-off into the bottom. I don't want to waste any.
Very tasty.

 In my small crock pot, it takes about 4-5 hours on low, and then it's done. The house smells delicious.
Slice the meat, top with gravy, eat it all gone.
Even the toughest cuts will turn out nice and tender. And tasty.
Is it ever good.
Happy Saturday

Herbed Beef Roast
1 (2 pound) beef roast
1/4 Tsp garlic powder
3/4 Tsp dried parsley flakes
1/4 Tsp dried basil
1/4 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
1/8 Tsp dried tarragon
1/8 Tsp dried thyme
1-1/2 Tsp Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tsp lemon juice
1-1/2 Tsp olive oil
1-1/2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 Tsp minced garlic
3/4 C water, divided
1/2 Tsp beef broth and soup base
1/2 Tsp vegetable broth and soup base
1-1/2 Tsp corn starch

Place roast on pan or plate. Combine garlic powder, parsley flakes, dried basil, salt, pepper, tarragon, and thyme in a small bowl, set aside. In another small bowl combine Dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and garlic, pour over roast. Sprinkle dry ingredients over and pat onto meat. Pour 1/2 C water into bottom of 6 cup crock pot, add broth bases. Place meat in crock pot, pour any mustard mixture that ran off the meat into the crock pot. Cover and cook on low heat 4-5 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160°. Remove from crock pot and place on a plate or pan, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Stir corn starch into remaining 1/4 C water, add to liquid in crock pot. Turn on high and cover. Heat for 15 minutes. Slice beef and cover with gravy. 4-6 servings

Saturday, April 12, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside the Nest

Spinach Feta Pizza
aka Veggie Pizza
This is a hot, healthy, good for your pizza, not to be confused with the crescent crust, ranch cream cheese type.

I start with a whole wheat prebaked pizza crust. I make mine in my bread machine, pat it out on a sheet pan, cut it into thirds, and bake about 7-8 minutes. Then I let it cool, wrap it up nicely, and freeze it, er, them. That way I can take out one at a time, make a pizza of my choice, and not have leftovers. Which explains the weird non-circular shape of my pizza crust.
So, start with a prebaked crust.

Next I chop those tasty veggies. Yes, that is fungus, aka chopped baby bellas, that you see lurking on the cutting board. I find that if I chop them and then hide them beneath the cheese, I can eat them.

I toss the chopped veggies in a skillet on top of the olive oil, and I add chopped garlic.

When the onion and peppers are tender, and the air is filled with delectable wafting smells, I chop some fresh spinach leaves,

and toss them in the skillet. A minute or two, and a quick stir or two, and the spinach begins to wilt. Time for assembling and baking.

I pile the veggies on the crust and add some crumbled feta.

Then I top it all with shredded mozzarella and a sprinkle of crushed dried basil.

Pop it in the oven until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Cut, eat, swoon in blissful splendor.
No sausage, no pepperoni, no tomato.
Just healthy veggies atop healthy crust.
Is it ever good. Even the mushrooms.
Happy Saturday

Spinach Feta Pizza

1 12-inch pizza crust, prebaked
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 C sliced fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 C chopped fresh spinach
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 c (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 C crumbled feta cheese
1/2 Tsp dried basil

Preheat oven to 425°. Place baked crust on pizza pan. Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil to skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic, pepper, onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes, until tender, add chopped spinach, continue to heat about 1 minute, until spinach begins to wilt. Sprinkle crust with garlic powder, top with veggies. Sprinkle on feta, mozzarella, and basil, bake 10 minutes, or until cheeses are melted.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

From the Kitchen - Outside The Nest

Cashew Chicken

These are my favorite nuts. Well, besides the nuts in my family. They're my all-time faves.
So, I had this bag in my cupboard, and just the thought of the crunchy goodness waiting inside lured me to sneak a few every now and then.
Which is why I needed to make this recipe, before they were all gone.

I start with chopping the celery and onion, using a very fancy knife. I find that a serrated steak knife works wonders on chopping veggies. I add celery and onion to the recipe because I like a little crunch besides the cashews.
Actually, I started with making the rice. Here's my fool-proof recipe for fluffy instant rice.
Measure rice and water into a casserole. Add soup/broth base, such as chicken, beef, or vegetable, according to your preference. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven 25-30 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Done. Easy. Tasty. While that's baking, commence to cooking the following.

Stir-fry the onion and celery in a bit of oil, and then
add the chicken, continue to stir-fry until chicken is done.

Pour on the sauce. This sauce is rich, and ever, ever so very tasty. No need for salt, unless you use the low-sodium soy sauce.

Cover, turn the heat down, let it cook a bit.

Uncover, add the cashews, heat a bit more.

Put the rice on the plate, right next  to your favorite vegetable. Top with the chicken mixture.

You can almost smell the savory aroma, wafting from the plate.
Is it ever good.
Happy Saturday, and may all of your cooking be a delight.

Cashew Chicken

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 skinless, boneless chicken thigh
1 stalk celery, chopped into ¼ inch slices
1/4 C chopped onion
1 Tbsp canola Oil
1/4 C soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tsp minced garlic
1/2 Tsp ground ginger
1/8 Tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 C cashews

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high heat, add onion and celery, stir-fry 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Push aside and add chicken. Stir-fry chicken until cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 5 minutes . Combine remaining ingredients except cashews, pour over chicken. Turn temperature down to medium low, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add cashews, simmer uncovered additional 5 minutes. Serve over rice. 2-3 servings.