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Archive for May, 2011

With the gloom of winter behind us bright, soothing, refreshing desserts are always welcome.  This past week my mother was down for a visit from Michigan, she wasn’t feeling well due to a cold and a case of pink eye so I wished to have a simple yet tasty treat for her to enjoy.  The filling in these little tarts is lemon curd. If you have never made or used lemon curd before you are so missing out.  It is perhaps the most versatile dessert ingredient there is.  Anything from lemon pie to lemon bars, mini tarts to even parfaits.  Course, if you are like me, you can also sit down and just eat it by the bowl full.

To make your own lemon curd you will need:

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon zest

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup unsalted butter

Using a saucepan, combine your lemon juice, zest, sugar, eggs and butter.  Cook the curd over LOW heat, stirring frequently to keep from burning.  You want this process to be SLOW to heating and thickening.  It should take 10-15 minutes to thicken and may take upwards of 20 minutes.  When the curd is thick enough to hold marks from the whisk, and bubbles that form on surface, it is ready to be removed from heat and let to cool and set for several minutes.

**If your eggs scramble, you are cooking at to high a heat and not whisking frequently enough.**

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Well, ok…maybe a little bit.  But who doesn’t have containers of peat pellets or piles of potting soil in various containers sitting around everywhere this time of year?  Now I admit, I do have a tendency to fill up the kitchen, both children’s rooms, the laundry room, top of freezer and refrigerator with vegetables, herbs and flowers this year.  I even found use for a old outside barbeque to hold a few pans.  But today I might have crossed the line when I attempted to sneak a few flower trays onto my daughters rarely used old slide set.  She looked, looked again, walked over and looked me straight in the eye as she said ever so calmly.  “Mommy…you can put dirt on your things, that’s mine!” .  I guess the only dirt allowed on her slide is if placed there by herself, as a hour later she had it covered , along with herself, in mud from a mud fight with her brother and a friend.

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I should be in bed, it’s late and I am definitely more then a little tired, but situation of a strange house and a sick visitor is not allowing for it.  So I figure I will do a couple posts to the blog and hopefully by time I finish things will have settled down again to let me sleep.

This is actually a “oops” recipe which turned out wonderful and which I will certainly be making many times again in future.  I had planned to add chopped walnuts, and at time was getting my daughter a bowl of raisins while trying to whip this quick bread together and deal with a bit more then chaotic house.  Thinking I had grabbed the walnuts, I instead dumped the raisins in the cake and gave her the nuts for a snack. Not that she minded, she was thrilled and certainly not going to spoil the treat by telling me of my error. Not that in end it made difference, everyone was happy with results. I’m not certain if I should classify this as a bread, or a cake honestly.  It holds elements of both, and can be served both ways.  In this picture I accompanied it with vanilla pudding as it was dessert for our dinner, but earlier that morning we had it with butter which worked out just fine as well.

Banana-Golden Raisin Spice Bread/Cake

2 cups MYO Bisquick  (recipe follows)

4 banana’s overripe and mashed

1 cup wheat flour

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4  cup milk or buttermilk

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Combine ingredients, I know many recipes say this first or that first with this I won’t, because often I end up inserting whatever I get my hands on next with quick breads.  The only definite to hit the bowl first, is the banana’s as I mash them before anything else in bottom.  Once you have everything combined, pour into a greased bread loaf pan, square cake pan (I used the cake pan for this), or individual muffin tins.  Preheat your oven to 425 and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden at edges and toothpick test comes out clean.

I sprinkled the top with a mixture of  sugar/cinnamon 5 minutes prior to pulling from oven.

MYO Bisquick Mix

4 cups flour

3 tbsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup shortening  (or vegetable/canola/olive oil)

In large bowl or food processor combine, cutting in shorting until texture resembles fine crumbs.  Store in airtight container or baggy.

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Some Of My Babies.

I know, I desperately need a 12-step program.  This time of year just does it to me.  The excitement builds with the first small green buds on the trees, continues with the pushing of small leaves through fresh plowed and planted soil, and seeing one plant I’ve hovered over become two, or more…well it’s like expanding a family.

While clearing a patch of lawn last year I ran across a beautiful flowering shrub hidden under a canapy of cottonwoods.  I had a hint of what it was, but did some research to be certain.  My suspicions confirmed, I was looking at a rough leaf dogwood.  This year I was more then overjoyed to see my one flowering shrub had grown into a little tree, and not only that, it had spread as the ground around it was littered with little plants.  I’ve dug a couple up and moved them into my main yard where they will fill out into dense shrubs with white flowery shows.  Now…just to figure out what complimentary plants to put around them.

There are others through the years I’ve found, transplanted, or left to grow where they are.

This is a farkleberry bush. It’s similar to a huckleberry.  I have several of these native bushes that have sprouted up under established trees in the yard through the last couple years. If you never had farkleberry jam you are really missing out.

The beautiful vine covering the back of what use to be the dog kennel before the oak tree took it out, is a wild trumpet vine that began growing a couple years ago.  Now it’s expanded to cover the entire back and side of the fencing and offers a beautiful display of the most amazing red trumpet flowers every year.  I can not go past it without seeing one or more hummingbirds flitting around between the flowers.

This is just a few of my “salvages”, I’ll post more as they come into bloom or fruit throughout the season.  As well as how many tears I shed as I have to sacrifice a few for the greater good of finding the back of my house again.

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When we bought this acreage of land I had fallen in love with it instantly.  Hearing the birds singing, the sight of the large hawk, owl and eagle that have made homes in the woods, watching the squirrels scampering, the morning sight of the doe with her spring fawn grazing at the woods line, a lush array of greens as if painted by artists brushes, what wasn’t to love?  The added element of a large woods that encloses the back, wrapping around the property as if giving it a hug just sealed the deal.  It was a lot of work from day one, a poorly planned road being installed which sealed water into my back property like a dam didn’t aid. There is still a lot of work to do, each hurricane we have had offering more as they down trees.  There are patches where nature is reclaiming the far back yard bit by bit each year around where hurricanes have toppled large trees in mist of the underbrush.  I like many of these areas and plan to leave them grow up natural, expanding the woods.  There is also my nightmare area right behind the house where a huge old oak ripped up and fell into a dog kennel when Rita hit, followed by a large willow that toppled atop it with Ike.  That is my goal this year to work through that area and after clearing replant it with some fruit trees and a second raised garden area.

With this clearing work, I’ve been uncovering many diamonds in the rough growing.  Native trees, shrubs and plants which attract the birds and bees and allow the yard to have that “rugged” feel I deeply enjoy, and the wildlife to feel comfortable in the surroundings.  I’ve been blessed in that some of them produce edible foods that I can harvest and use to supplement the food supply of the family.  Farkleberry bushes, wild plums, persimmons, quinces, blackberries, wild grapes and wild strawberries dot the wooded area and woods edge.  Others such as rough leaf dogwood, beautybush, and wild holly make wonderful colorful shrub to weave flower and herb beds around.  Vines such as honeysuckle, wild wisteria, trumpet vines and jasmine climb wild through bramble at the woods edges, some have been harvested, propagated or dug up and moved to cover arbors, fence lines, or make “gateways” to secret gardens.  Even the wild flowers have not been spared from my hunting and harvesting.  Keeping faithful watch on what grows in the yard, forest or ditch bank that year, I have and will harvest their seeds or dig up their roots after they finished their flower show to move into my own flower beds.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still fill my garden beds with old faithful flowers, but I have learned to use them as accents to the natural elements that nature provides for free.  So next time you look to do some landscaping, rather then visit your local nursery, take a moment to look around your own yard, a woods or field, and see what nature has provided in your area to enjoy.

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This really was a quick dress, it took all of a hour plus a coffee break from start to finish.   My daughter loves to wear dresses, I wanted something simple that she could wear outside.  Finding the fabric on sale for under a dollar a yard, I couldn’t resist and this is the end result.   I think I will whip up a couple more this week to give her a variety to choose from.  When I do that I will try to post the pattern as well.

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I never have room for all the tomatoes in the ground, but these paste tomatoes planted in simple baskets didn’t mind not being in a traditional garden.  They are literally flopping over with how many tomatoes are on their stems. Next year, bigger baskets.   Next up, the cherry tomatoes I just put in using the same method.

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A Long Road

I’ve shied away from touching on this subject for a long time, perhaps now, having my weight goal in sight it is time.  Those who know me know I struggled heavily with weight for several years. I can’t say I’m comfortable yet, but …a few months ago I slipped into a size I had been aiming for, and thinking impossible for first time.  The pictures in this post is the results of that effort.  I have a ways yet to go, but I am proud of how much I have accomplished.  Forgive my “diva” pose, there is actually a series of them much to the humor of my son (who had the camera) and daughter who was imitating me dancercising.

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For a mother’s Day gathering tomorrow I was asked to make some spring theme dishes.  With strawberries in season it seemed the perfect main ingredient to base the theme from.  These little tea cookies make for a wonderful end to a meal.  Even better, if you freeze some fresh strawberries in spring, you can defrost, puree and enjoy a taste of spring during the cold, dark winter months.

Fresh Strawberry-Pecan Cookies (4 dozen)

Cream together:

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup shortening

Fold in :

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1 pint strawberries, pureed

Stir in:

3 cups flour

3/4 cups fine chopped pecans

Mix well and drop by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until bottoms golden brown.

Decorate.

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Spring never seems to be fully here until the first strawberry jam session of the season.  Today I put up 23 jelly jars worth.  I could have easily done another dozen but have some plans to make strawberry cookies and chocolate dipped strawberries this weekend.

I would post the recipe, but I stick to the traditional found in the Sure-gel box and alter between the freezer jam and shelf stable.  This year I made shelf stable to help preserve some freezer room.

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