“Counting Flowers on the Wall” and FOODIE FIGHT! (the game)

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I have spent much more time at home these days.  It isn’t fun to go out when you look like a drunk man walking.

I’m still not convinced the entire problem is with my vestibular nerve–even though the medical tests prove otherwise.  I am, however, convinced that God is punishing me for being hyperactive.

I have a million and one interests–not one that I am able to dive into without going full-bore like an obsessed lunatic.   My occupational therapist tells me I am overdoing it–whatever the hell that means.

What does the average person do in one day?  One week?  I don’t know what to measure myself against.  Most people work outside of the home.  I don’t.  I assumed that meant I have more free time.  The OT asked me what I do to relax?  I told her I blog, read, garden, socialize, and cook.   She tilted her head to one side and gave me a funny look.  She then asked me the same question, only more slowly–as if I hadn’t understood the question the first time she asked,

No, I mean what do you do to relax?”

Apparently, my idea of relaxing did not match her idea.  I asked her what one does to relax–stare at a wall?

“Well, no,” she said , “they might use meditation or yoga.”

Then, I got it!   She was asking me what I do for ten minutes out of my day.  You know, the things I have to force myself to do while watching the clock and thinking about the things I’d much rather be doing–like cooking or cleaning.

Hmm.  Well, this is going to take a total life change.  Maybe the Universe is sitting on me and demanding I  “Be still!”  I feel it, I really do.

Today I have the added bonus of lower back pain.  I bent to lift the toilet lid (good Feng Shui to keep that sucker closed!), and I felt a pain shoot up my spine that knocked me down on the floor.  Great!  I suppose all of the imbalance  and hobbling around has taken a toll on my back muscles.

Mark came home, cooked dinner, and massaged my lower back.  Now he is making oatmeal cookies–he has all the fun.

Oh, and my OT told me not to be online for more than thirty minutes at a time.  The same goes for reading, television, cooking, shopping, etc.   Apparently, these things really work the brain and stimulate the vestibular.  I guess I’d better get back to staring at my wall–which, by the way, could use a good scrubbing.   Just sayin’.

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IN OTHER , More Interesting, NEWS!

I bought a great game after Christmas.  Yeah, I know it requires brain stimulation, but I love it!

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Check it out here.

People who love food and cooking will really enjoy this game.  It’s also very educational.

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My Christmas Story

This Christmas Eve I made homemade pizzas…

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I served it with, the usual, Halibut Stew ( due to my vestibular problem, Mark made the stew–and he overcooked it.  We forgave him and moved on) .   I usually make foccacia bread to go with, but this year I was craving fresh pizza.  Everybody seemed to enjoy it.

UPDATED WITH RECIPES HERE:

PIZZA DOUGH

½ c warm water (110 degrees)

1 envelope or 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast

1 ¼ c water room temperature

2 Tbsp x tra virgin olive oil

4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour plus more for dusting work surface and hands NOTE: I prefer to weigh the flour

1 ½ tsp salt

Olive oil or non stick cooking spray

Cornmeal

Pizza stone –preheat in oven

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast and let stand until dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few Tbsps.) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic about 30 seconds longer.

3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto your lightly floured work surface.. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough in a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate. It is now ready to use.

Divide ball into 3 pieces and Flatten pieces into a disk.

This should make enough dough for approx. 3- 12″ pizza crusts

NOTES: when working your dough, do not stretch. Use your fingertips to press it out from the center into the shape of your pan or stone. Press it out until its about ½” thick.

Place pizza stone in lower third of oven. Heat oven and stone to 500 degrees for about 30 minutes. Then dust stone with cornmeal.

Lightly brush your prepared crust with olive oil.

Layer on pizza sauce and toppings as you like.

Bake 8-12 minutes Cut and serve immediately.

Angelnina’s Tomato Sauce (Adapted from New best Recipe)

1 -28 ounce can whole tomatoes, Italian preferable san marzano

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

½ tsp or more crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon greek oregano, dried and crushed between your palms

½ tsp sweet basil, dried and crushed between your palms

Process tomatoes in food processor pulse 1 second pulses about 8 times or more till smooth.

Heat oil add chopped garlic and crushed red pepper, don’t let it burn or turn color! Just give it a good 30 seconds or less to release the aroma of garlic. Immediately stir in tomatoes, add all seasonings and cook uncovered until thickens a bit to cover a wooden spoon.

NOTE: I use dried herbs because they better suit this sauce. You may add your fresh basil to the pizza and it will taste even better!


I made Ina Garten’s Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake for dessert.  MAN OH MAN, Ina got it right with this recipe!

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It tastes just like Christmas Eve.

For the cake:
Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup grated orange zest (4 large oranges)
3 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup  freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup   buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups   good semisweet chocolate chunks

For the syrup

1/4 cup   sugar
1/4 cup  freshly squeezed orange juice

For the ganache

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup   heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the orange zest.
3. Sift together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 2 tablespoons flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pan, set it on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.
5. For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cake.
Christmas was lovely this year.   My son, Sean,  and his girlfriend, Olivia, stayed the night at our home.   Sean hasn’t spent the night at home since he moved out, more three years ago.

To read and see more food, family, and recipes, CLICK BELOW….

Continue reading

It’s a Snow Day! Let’s bake Italian cookies and visit the chickens.

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We’re snowed in here in the great Pacific Northwest.   Since the Oldsmobile didn’t want to leave the house, I decided I’d tuck myself away and bake some Italian “Christmas” Cookies.  i found the recipe at All Recipes, and if you click here on Ravioli Dolci, you will be taken to the recipe.

I used my very own homemade Bing Cherry Almond Preserves.  I like the taste of the cherry and almond flavors together in this very buttery and tender cookie dough.

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My vintage Frosty looks right at home on a blanket of snow furnished by, none other than, Mother Nature herself.

Although, I might add, since the photo was taken, she has gifted us with a few inches (and counting) more.

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I’ve been worried about the chickens.   The weather has dipped down to 15 degrees here.   The girls just seem to shake it off and look up at the sky with an, “Is that all ya got?” look on their faces.  They are tough old birds!

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I took this photo, the other day, while I was out checking for eggs.  Four and five eggs a day and they just keep’em comin’.

Pearl is the Golden Comet here in the front.  I told her that if she and her girlfriends needed to take a break from laying, I’d understand.    She didn’t say anything, but I knew from the look of disgust on her face that I had insulted her.

Two hours later I heard her announcing the eggs.   Sure enough, five eggs were sitting in the nest when I went out to check on them.

As I walked away from the coop,  I could have swore I heard her mumbling, under her breath—  something to do with the size of my backside and just how many breaks one woman needs to take in a day.

Pearl has a good heart, but she has no patience with women who don’t work as hard as she does.

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My new table centerpiece because, as usual, it’s all about the chickens.

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Goodnight Girls.

If We Make it Through December ~Happy Holidays~

Christmas will be here in just ten more days.  Due to the struggling economy, Mark and I have tightened our belts.  No huge ticket items this year.  We’re giving one another a book.  Simple.  Practical.

I won’t be having  my usual Christmas Eve gathering.  I will make a light dinner, and the kids will join us for the evening.  I want to keep the holidays stress free and affordable.

I have, however, decorated my home.

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..and I’ve made the cuccidatis!

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I know people have lost their jobs.  Times are more than tough.  Work has slowed down for us too.

Eckhart Tolle’s,  “A New Earth” is the book I most recommend to people who are anxious right now.   “This too shall pass” has become my mantra.

During these difficult times, our ego tends to take hold of the reins and lead us straight into fear.  The ego would like us to make enemies out of our mates, friends, and relatives.

When I catch myself going into fear, I pull a journal or scrap piece of paper, and I start a gratitude list.  A sample of what I’ve written:

-I can breathe.

-I am surrounded by the people I love and the people who love me.

-I laugh.

-I have shelter, food, and all of my basic necessities.

-I am not suffering.

I’ve lived quite an unusual life.  I have survived situations most people assume are impossible to survive.   One of the cool things about growing up poor and having moved all over the country–in true hillbilly style– is that you learn how little people really need in order to survive.  You realize that story telling, music, and laughter are the true necessities of life.  Simple things make you happy.

Speaking of music, this song brings back memories of one of many Decembers in my childhood.

Wishing you a peace in the moment, and a life filled with stories, music, and laughter.

Happy Holidays.

Snow Geese

It snowed here in the Seattle and surrounding areas.  I’m excited, but I’m also a bit worried about my hens getting too cold.  I can hear them outside announcing their eggs as I write this.  It’s 25 degrees right now, but the lows are expected to drop into the teens again this evening.  The girls have been regularly laying daily.  Five hens, five eggs a day.  I feel blessed to have them, and I’d like them to be as comfortable as possible–without getting too warm–as we go through our blustery weather.

In other news, I have started occupational therapy (OT) for my vestibular disorder.   I got sick after the first one.  OT says it is normal.  I have two more this week.  I just want to be on land soon.   All this motion has me feeling like I’ve been out at sea on a raft for the past six weeks.

I took a drive last month and found these beautiful snow geese on the side of the road.  They are just beautiful, and the pictures do not do them justice.  The white blanket of snow geese to go on and on as far as the eye can see.

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GI Joe, decided he was above the rules and shimmied out to take a closer shot.  He actually helped to create the following shots for me when he scared them into flight.

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They filled the sky.  It was amazing.

Wolfgang Puck’s Pan-Roasted Chicken w/ Port and Whole Grain Mustard

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"Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port and Whole Grain Mustard"

Oh my , this is my new favorite recipe!

Wolfgang’s original recipe is titled: “Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port and Whole Grain Mustard”.

I’ve made this chicken three times.  The first time I made the port/mustard sauce.  The second time I made it with a lemon sauce.  I prefer my lemon sauce, but Mark loves the Port Mustard Sauce.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port and Whole Grain Mustard

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole frying chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, butterflied
1/2 cup port wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Meaux (whole grain) mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.Heat an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the chicken over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl it in the skillet. As soon as you begin to see slight wisps of smoke, carefully place the chicken skin side down in the skillet. Sear the chicken, undisturbed, while reducing the heat little by little to medium, until its skin has turned golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully turn the chicken skin side up.

Put the skillet into the oven and cook until the chicken is deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a skewer, about 10 to 15 minutes(NOTE: I don’t agree with this time, check it after 30 minutes and use a meat thermometer), depending on its size. When the chicken is done, transfer it to the plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the port, put the skillet over high heat, and reduce until half remains. Add the chicken stock and reduce again. (If using BBQ sauce, you don’t have to reduce.) Add the cream, bring it to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the Dijon and Meaux mustards and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the skillet and sprinkle with parsley and tarragon.

Now that I’ve roasted a whole butterflied chicken, I’ll probably use this method all of the time.  Why?  It cooks faster, more evenly, and the initial pan frying makes the skin unbelievably crispy, and the meat stays very moist.

Don’t be intimidated by the method of butterflying the chicken–with the right tool, it’s easy!

Use a quality pair of kitchen shears to cut out the backbone.   Here is a video showing how to butterfly a chicken, BUT this man cuts his in half at the end–DO NOT cut chicken in two halves for this particular recipe–we want to keep it whole.

To peek at the steps, just click below… Continue reading

UPDATED w/ RECIPES~Molded Chocolate Candy Making~

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ABOVE: Olivia left with a box of goodies.   The cookies in the cupcake papers are made from Ritz crackers dipped in peppermint oil flavored chocolate.  These taste very similar to Mint Girl Scout Cookies–the salt makes them even better.  The peppermint patties are wrapped in the green tin foil.  The little hollies are made from colored white chocolates.

My sister, Karla, was always the craft queen in my family.   She knew where all of the best classes were offered.   As  a young mother, I was always looking for ways to save money on Christmas gifts.   Baking cookies was usually the answer.  When my sister asked if I’d like to take a chocolate candy making class, I couldn’t throw my coat on and run out the door fast enough.  I mean, who says no to chocolate?  I knew cookies with chocolates would make a more special gift.

I was amazed at how easy, yet admittedly time consuming, it is to make these little filled chocolates.

I started packing up cookies and molded filled chocolates to send to all of Mark’s siblings and his parents.  No small feat, considering Mark comes from a family of nine.

It was always fun to experiment with various molds for different holidays.  My all time favorites are chocolate liqueur cups filled with Peppermint Schnapps.  I’m hoping to make those for Christmas Eve.

When Olivia asked if I’d teach her how to make these chocolates, it reignited the fond memories of spending hours at the table melting, mixing, and molding chocolates.

Olivia and I decided to make cherry cordials, peanut butter cups, Almond Joys, coconut filled bars (Mounds), peppermint patties, raspberry creams, butter nut cream, dipped pretzels, and chocolate mint cookies.

Our list of supplies included:
4 lbs Guittard chocolate (for melting)–3 milk chocolate and 1 dark

3 lb Guittard white chocolate–white, red, and green

2 lbs fondant to make peanut butter filling and peppermint patty filling.

coconut, almonds, pecans, maraschino cherries, powdered sugar, karo syrup, mini pretzels, Ritz crackers (make an excellent salty cookie base),peanut butter, butter

candy molds- we bought two.  I already had an assortment

foil wrappers, candy holders, wax paper, paint brushes, plastic squeeze bottles

We shopped for the supplies and started our chocolates on Saturday, and then we made a second batch on Sunday.

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Olivia making cherry cordials.

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Placing peanut butter cups in their tin papers.

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ABOVE: Almond Joys–my favorite.

I like to make little wreaths out of the white chocolate dipped pretzels.  As soon as I can find some red string licorice,  I’ll post a few photos.

These candies, placed in lovely tins or candy boxes, make a beautiful and affordable gift for family, co-workers, and friends.

I really enjoyed doing this project with Olivia.  It was a wonderful gal bonding time.   For many years, I did projects  like this alone.  It was fun to have another female in the kitchen!

NOTE TO OLIVIA:  Are you ready for Valentine’s Day chocolates?

UPDATED:

Peppermint patties

Mix approx. 1/3 c fondant (sifted powdered sugar might work) with 1 1/2 tsp water to form a thick paste.  ADd 3-4 drops of peppermint oil (I add more).  Spoon into coated patty mold and seal with chocolate.  Makes about 8 patties.

Coconut Filling (Almond Joy)

3/4 cup light cornsyrup

2 1/2 cups coconut

Heat corn syrup in small pan until quite hot, but not boiling.  Pour into a bowl containing coconut and stir thoroughly with a spoon.  Cover with wax paper and set aside for about an hour so the coconut will become well saturated with the syrup.

A Quiet Thanksgiving

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ABOVE: Everett Marina–Thanksgiving in the Northwest.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated.

I finally found out what has been causing my blurred vision and dizziness.   My ENG results shows I have a vestibular  disorder.   My doctor tells me there is an 85% chance it can be treated with physical therapy!  I start PT next Wednesday. I’m very happy.    As some of you know, the red flag was waving toward multiple sclerosis, so I’m quite relieved that the mystery of the disequalibrium has been solved.

Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch.  I served the same foods I’ve served for many years.

Thanksgiving was nice and quiet here at my home.  Mark, Sean, Olivia, and I shared a great dinner together.   Step-Dad dropped by for dinner–it was nice to see him too.

After dinner, the four of us played, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.  Sean won the million.

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Cornbread stuffing is our favorite.

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Olivia is always very helpful.

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Sean was miserable with a cold.   😦

Oddly enough, the men in my house often look like this after they stuff themselves with Thanksgiving Dinner.

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Egg noodles in turkey giblet broth is a tradition.   Grandma Vi always made them.  I love the noodles on the plate with turkey, gravy, and cornbread dressing.

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I changed my apple pie crust this year.  I used “The Pie and Pastry Bible”  Basic Flaky Pie Crust recipe.

Sean missed my regular crust.  The one I normally use calls for shortening.  I think I’ll go back to it for special occasion pies.  You can find the “Old Fashioned Pie Crust Recipe” here.

Of course I also served the usual: roasted brussels sprouts, cornmeal fried okra, lime jello salad, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes (thanks kids!), sweet potato pecan apple yam casserole, pumpkin pie, and butter rolls.

Normally I bake many more pies and serve a few more veggies, but this year I didn’t have a lot of energy.

I haven’t started my Christmas cookies yet.  I’m excited to start baking!

Over the holiday weekend, I taught Olivia how to make molded chocolate candies.  It was a lot of fun.

I’ll share our candies in my next post.

Mother Teresa Mother Theresa hung this in her office:

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.”
—  Kent M Keith

A few past Thanksgiving Posts:

Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving 2007