Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hope for the Winter Weary & A Challenge

This winter has seemed long and I know its not over yet. And I know we have had it pretty easy in the Pacific Northwest compared to many other parts of the country. But's seemed extra cold and rainy this year. But even as dreary as its been there are bright spots and signs of warmer times to come! This recent sunrise over Mount Rainier, which I photographed on my way to work was one of those bright spots. The sky was on fire! Angels baking cookies :-)

In between raindrops this weekend I ventured outside to see if I could find signs of life in my garden. The primroses always come through. They bloom here several times a year.

Not exactly a flower, but the viburnum is looking colorful

The little snowdrops are about to bloom!

This sedum always reminds me of a flower during winter

This euphorbia's foliage reminds me of a flower too.

The hellebores seem slow this year, but they will be open soon!

The camellia still has a ways to go

I have other mini irises that are getting close to blooming, but I couldn't resist these at the grocery store! They make me smile when I leave for work in the morning.

The heather looks extra nice right about now

And doot do do dooooo (trumpet sound) : A crocus or two have popped up and are ready to bloom! Now if that doesn't give hope to the winter weary I don't know what will!

Hopefully the sun won't be crying for much longer - I think sunshine is predicted around here this week. Nevermind the 20s at night that go along with that!

I got a little nudge this weekend from a fellow blogger (Lynn at Happier Than a Pig in Mud) to throw out the Great Cooking Magazine Challenge again to get us all out of our winter doldrums. Lynn...the challenge is on. For all of you that have stacks of cooking magazines sitting around with all of those great recipes waiting to be tried this challenge is for you too!

I've done this before but this time I'm going to handle it a little different. I am giving you one week to gather those mags and start cooking. Show up back here in one Sunday, February 6th and I will have a post up for you to share your reviews of the recipes you've tried. It doesn't matter how old the magazines are. Magazine clippings you've held on to are okay too. Just try something new!

I'll give you a little inspiration. I dug WAY back in my magazine archive for this recipe for Beef Paprika. It's from the October/November 2002 issue of Taste of Home! I had a chuck roast I wasn't sure what to do with and pulled a few older mags off the shelf and came on this one. We enjoyed it over rice with some cute little broccoletti (tastes like very tender broccoli) and a green salad. Great comfort food dish!

Beef Paprika
Serves 2 - easily doubled for a larger family

  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper (my addition)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Dash cayenne pepper (or my stand by Tony Chachere's seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • In a large saucepan, brown beef in oil on all sides. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add 1/2 cup of water, ketchup, brown sugar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, salt, mustard and cayenne; mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours or until beef is tender. Combine flour and remaining water until smooth; gradually stir into stew. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over noodles or rice. Yield: 2 servings.
I also tried a recipe out of the Penzey's Spices catalog. They always have great looking recipes and its hard for me to throw them out. But they have all of the same recipes online I discovered, so I threw a stack of them away this week. This Banana Blueberry cake from the Spring 2010 catalog is a winner. Its got a similar taste to banana bread, but a lighter texture and the blueberries are a nice touch. The original recipe called for an icing but I thought it was good with out it. I sprinkled some powdered sugar on for a little *something* extra.

Banana Blueberry Cake


1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature

2 eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed fine

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Frosting (optional):

2 sticks butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

6 tablespoons milk, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan and set aside. In a roomy bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and blend until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to the batter and mix well. Stir in the mashed bananas. Fold in the blueberries, if using. Pour into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Frost, if desired. Now its your turn!!! I'll be making something else for the challenge too. See you back Sunday :-)

I'm joining in for Mosaic Monday over at Little Red House. Go check out all of the other great mosaics HERE.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flashback Friday ~

LinkThis week for Flashback Friday we are going back to 2006. Especially for my friend Marsha over at Marsha's Garden. She's in Minnesota and very tired of snow! So let's give her a flowery sunny flashback.

The hospital where I used to work has a beautiful rose garden on the grounds. There are a lot of perennials mixed in too. I loved walking through there on my way to a meeting or maybe for an afternoon break. It was a great place for families with sick loved ones to come and sit for a while too. This is a little sunken court yard with some teddy bear topiaries in the center as you enter the garden.

There are so many varieties planted in a relatively small are that it can be mind boggling

I don't know the names of most of them, but I am pretty sure this is Veteran's Honor

This garden introduced me to rose forms that I had never really seen before except in catalogs.

Like these very double english style roses

I love this beautiful yellow one. The color of sunshine!

They say you aren't supposed to crowd roses, but they do it pretty successfully!

This is the sweetest shade of pink EVER~

The cabbage style roses remind me of linens I had when I was in college...cabbage roses and lilac blooms. Two things we didn't have a lot (or any) of in Louisiana where I grew up. They seemed so exotic to me.

The Dale Chihuly rose planted en masse.

And my very favorite photo I snapped that day and maybe one of my favorite of all times. And all because of the subject. I think it might be Leander just opening up. Anybody know?

Hope you enjoyed the Flashback! If you have a flashback of any kind that you'd like to share, please add your link here.

I'm joining in at Tootsie Time for her Flaunt your Flowers weekly event. Check it out HERE.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Burrito in a Bowl

With most of the country frozen, I figure soup weather is still going strong. In the Pacific Northwest we have had a break from the freezing temps but not from our famous rain, so soups have been sounding good to us here too. Here's one I made last week that was super satisfying and I swear it really does taste just like a burrito!

Beef and Bean Burrito Soup

Inspired by Quick Black Bean Soup in Holly Clegg's Gulf Coast Favorites - a gift from my sister!

½-1 pound ground beef (If you use the lesser amount increase black beans)

1 small onion, chopped (for when I’m lazy I buy the frozen chopped onions and bell peppers and use those)

1 bell pepper, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (I buy the minced in the jar and just about a tablespoon)

1 can refried black beans

1-2 cans black beans (use more beans if you use less beef)

15 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth or water with enough chicken bouillon for 4 cups

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Season to taste ( I used about ¼ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp garlic salt and ½ tsp creole seasoning – put salt and pepper would be okay too!)

Brown the ground meat & drain & rinse. Add to drained meat - onions, garlic and bell peppers and sautĂ© til begins to get soft. Then add all other ingredients and cook for about 20 mins. Sprinkle each bowl with shredded cheese and cut up pieces of flour tortillas & green onions if you’re feeling fancy.

It won't be long before soup weather will be behind us. I'm looking forward to nursery shopping for some cool annuals like these spoon shaped african daisies I found last year.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flashback Friday ~ Spring Forward and Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I've been loving me some fruit lately. Following the new Weight Watchers program is easier knowing you have "free" crunchy apples that won't eat up your daily allowance.

But even with all of those sweet freebies, I still feel the need to bake up some goodies. One of my co-workers had a hunk of white chocolate left over from Christmas baking, so she generously offered it up to me. Maybe she knew I would return the favor and bring something in to work...and she was right! :-)

I found the perfect recipe to use the white chocolate. I didn't have quite enough to make up the total chocolate called for in the recipe, so I added in some semi sweet chocolate chunks and pecans. They taste kind of like brownies. The Barefoot Contessa helped me out...

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Ina Garten - 2001 Barefoot Contessa Parties
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or half white chocolate, half semi sweet)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate and nuts if you're using.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Flashback...let's look forward to Spring~ These are from April 2007.

These little daisies never seem to last in my garden for some reason although I've heard they can become weeds. I'd like to have the problem!

Everything is so fresh and clean in the spring!

And cheery and sunshiny!

I can't wait to see my front yard look this happy again!

Hang in there my winter weary friends....spring will be here soon!

If you have a flashback you'd like to share add your link here

I'm joining in over at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Check it out HERE.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flashback and Look Forward!

I'm a little late with this post in a variety of different ways. I normally post my Flashback on Thursday night, but here it is Friday its a true Flashback on Friday! My topic is also a little late...I'd meant to show my New Years Day meal a bit closer to the New Year! Oh well..we are only half way through with January :-) But you know, being late with a Flashback Friday post is really kind of staying with the theme. Wait long enough to post something and it becomes a flashback! And you get a lot of mileage out of a meal that way too. Take for instance these Blackeyed Peas we had to ring in the new year.

For those of you that aren't aware, Blackeyed Peas are supposed to bring you luck for the coming year and when accompanied by greens..which they were, you are supposed to have plenty of money as well. Lets hope that one rings true. But even if its not, it was a yummy way to start 2011. I did something a little different this time with my black eyed peas. I didn't have any ham or smoked meat other than bacon, so used that and it was awesome. Great smoky flavor!

Black Eyed Peas

1 pound dry black eyed peas
1/2 pound bacon, chopped in small pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbls minced garlic
1 small can green chiles
Garlic Salt, Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning, onion powder to taste

Put peas on a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, turn off fire and let soak for an hour. Drain peas in colander. In same pot cook bacon until just getting crisp. Remove bacon and drain all but a tablespoon of bacon fat. Cook onions, peppers and garlic in fat until begins to soften. Add beans, bacon and chiles back into pot and add water to cover by an inch or two. Season to taste and simmer for a couple of hours keeping an eye on water level. I like my beans to be thick..not watery so I cook mine for a long time and let the water absorb. Check seasoning before serving and adjust to taste. Serve over rice. Also VERY good eaten with crumbled fritos...but thats just me.

Next stop for this meal....I used the left over rice from our meal to make rice pudding. Love it :-) I was running low on raisins, so used dried cherries instead. Good substitute!

Last stop for the New Years blackeyed peas...Soup! I took what was left of the peas - after a couple of days of leftovers and turned it into another full meal, part of which went into the freezer to live yet another maybe I should say this was the second to last stop!

Blackeyed Pea and Greens Soup

2 1/2 cups cooked or canned blackeyed peas (I would imagine 2 cans would do it)
1 bunch of greens (I used Kale), trimmed and torn into bite size pieces
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
Seasoning to taste

Combine all and heat for about 30 minutes. If your beans were in a lot of liquid you may want to puree some of the soup to make more creamy. Mine was already creamy so I didn't need to. I really didn't have to add anything else since it was already well seasoned and had onions, bell peppers and garlic in the beans but if you start with canned you may want to add these.

How about a July bloom to roundout the flashback?

If you have a Flashback of any kind to share add your link here

I'm joining in with Foodie Friday this week over at Designs by Gollum. Check out the other posts HERE

And over at Tidy Mom's for I'm Lovin' it Fridays. Click on the icon below to go there.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy 2011!

Check out more mosaics at Little Red House's Mosaic Monday!
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