Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy May Day!!

The magnolias are blooming!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Kippy, the model

Kippy, the Bichon, went to the groomer today, and Karen always does a beautiful job. One thing about our dog, she has always loved to be groomed, combed, bathed because she has this attitude that she knows she is going to look beautiful when done. She then can strut her stuff. Okay now, I am not boasting, but after a grooming, people stop on our walks and comment how cute she looks. What I am finding out though is that she is not very photogenic, at least with me using the camera.

Our groomer today asked if Kippy could be her model at a grooming contest in Orlando the end of October. So, we have instructions to let her hair grow quite long so that Karen can work with it. I hope Kippy will be able to bring Karen good luck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A blast from the past

A very strange thing happened to me today. While waiting in two different doctors offices, and reading two different magazines, I ran across the same subject in each magazine. Do you know what a Quonset hut is?

Both articles talked about elaborate remodeling of Quonset huts to make into beautiful homes. I know what a Quonset hut is and, in fact, I have slept in one.

Quonset huts were built during World War II of corrugated galvanized iron, in a semi-circular cross section. They were used for military storage during the war. After the war, these huts were sold for $1000.

When The Trout was attending Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, we were friends with a married couple who lived in a Quonset. Since The Trout and I were engaged, I would drive up weekends to see him and would stay with our friends Francis and Rita in this Quonset hut. It was actually very cute. A kitchen-living room (great room kind of), bathroom and two bedrooms. All this was pretty tight quarters, but there was a street very near the university that was all Quonset huts for married student housing.

After The Trout and I were married and he had 6 months left before graduation, we looked for a Quonset hut to live in, but they were all taken. Married students really liked this housing. It was cute, cheap and it worked out just fine. So instead, we found a rather nice upstairs apartment near the university for the 6 months we were there. Happy memories.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The City of Pots

Last Friday, when we were at the Great American Pie contest, we met a lovely young woman who is the national marketing manager for Emile Henry, Mauviel, Cuisipro, and Rosle. Tara has a wonderful job that I would have loved at a younger age. I would rather step into kitchen shops and get involved in pots and pans and gadgets and dishes, rather than any clothes or shoe shopping.

Tara represents Mauviel which is made in Villedieu-les-Poeles, France, in the Normandy area of France. The name of the town means city of pots. We traveled to this town in 2006. This is the cutest town and every other building seems to be a shop selling copper pans and pots with the factory being right there in town. We knew we wanted one pan to take back home, so it had to fit safely into our suitcase. That, of course, eliminated a lots of the pots, but we also wanted a pan that we could use frequently.

Finally, we bought a saute pan that is simply beautiful. It is great for sauces. The pan is made of stainless steel with copper on the outside.

I love polishing copper. The reward is immediate and the pot is very mirror-like, with an almost pink-cast to it. Mauviel makes beautiful copper pots and pans and we are enjoying ours.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Buyer beware

The Trout has been on the Internet and phone making hotel, motel and B&B reservations for our trip to New England next month. Everything has gone quite well until we were trying to set up our last two nights in a town in Maine which shall remain nameless. This B&B is beautiful, near the ocean, but the only thing that was different from every other place we have ever stayed in the US, is that when we made the reservation, their policy is to immediately charge your credit card, even though we are several weeks from arriving there. And then, if we do need to cancel, they will charge $50 for inconvenience.

Through e-mail and phone calls with the Mr., the Trout found out that he suggested two different rooms, quoted a price plus tax and we should get back to him when we picked our choice. We called back and picked one of his suggestions and the Mrs. took credit card information. She knew we were asking for a two night stay. We understood the cancellation fee and agreed to it. An hour later, an e-mail confirmation arrived and the price had gone up 50%. The Trout called immediately and the "Mr." of the house answered the phone. Trout told him we had the e-mail prices quoted us and the price had gone up 50%. He said we were charged the correct price. Trout told him to cancel the reservation, because that is not what we agreed to. Trout also told him he understood that he would charge us the $50 for cancellation. Kind "Mr." said not this time because he had not put the charge through yet. Trout also mentioned that this place is the only one we have ever come across that submitted the credit card charge before we even got there. Mr. came back with "then you don't travel much!" Oh, no, that started the burners!! Trout told him he had traveled the world and had never found such a situation as this.

To end this sad tale, we are not going there nor ever will. If anyone reading is planning on going there, please e-mail me and I will let you in on this bad situation in the northeast.

He could have changed this situation into such a satisfying ending. We could have agreed on a price, he could have apologized, etc. After all, this is not a hotel chain--this man owns his own B&B.

Be careful and get everything in writing and if something sounds fishy, get out of there.

Every time something like this happens, I just lose a little more faith in mankind. I made a pact with myself a long time ago, that if I complain about someone or something, I will find someone to praise next. I am on the search, because this one was a doozy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Great American Pie Festival 2009

Where to begin! The Trout and I just came back from Orlando and the Crisco Great American Pie Festival where, together, we tasted and judged a total of 50 pies!! We each tasted 25 pies. How much did we eat? Too much! You would take a piece of pie that had crust, filling and topping and take a small bite of each and then all three parts together. I suppose in total, we probably ate one very large piece of pie.

There were 20 tables with 6 judges at each table. The Trout tasted raisin and new products and I tasted banana cream and coconut cream. These were commercial pies produced by Schwan's, Baker's Square, Lake Geneva Pie Company, Target, Kroger's, etc. Since I sat at a different table than the Trout, I will speak on my experience.

This was great fun!! We tasted about half the pies before lunch. We were really ready for a salty-type lunch which was salad, cold cuts and fruit. What, no dessert?!! Then after lunch we started in again, this time with a little less enthusiasm.We judged the pie on appearance before and after slicing. Then tasted and judged crust, filling, overall appearance and commented on whether we would buy this. The six of us decided that the banana pies were not very good. Several of the pies were a little short on bananas and some just lacked banana flavor. One pie that looked very nice, a banana chocolate brownie pie turned out to have a flavor that was not very appealing. The coconut cream pies were a little more appealing.

After all the judging which took about 4 1/2 hours, we could go into a room and see where the pies came from.

I talked to a contestant from Miami with a Cuban background. She is in the amateur contest which starts tomorrow. In this picture you can see how the cooking sections are set up. One of her entries is a guava cream cheese pie which looked very good. Last year she had 3 honorable mentions so she is ready for this year.

The Trout had an interesting gentleman at his table. On the right is Jim, who is a former chef and owner of a restaurant. It's people like this that really make the day a lot of fun.

Overall, we had a wonderful time. I hope we can do this again next year, but the next time we hope to judge the amateur contestants. They go all out with some wonderful pies. We met, Valerie, who two years ago won top prize with her cherry pie. This year she has 7 pies entered. The two that got my attention were black forest cherry pie and lingonberry pie.

We left the convention center, very FULL, but before I headed home, I just had to squeeze the Pillsbury Doughboy and the California Raisin. Want to join us next year? Come on down. Please pass the Alka-Seltzer!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just a thought or two

Not much to say today, but just a couple of thoughts. Today was laundry day. Believe me, I appreciate my in-home washer and dryer more than any other appliances in the house. But can anyone explain to me why dirty laundry weighs more than clean laundry?

I have gone to laundromats in the past, and I just don't like that kind of job. When we were living in Germany in 1968-69, I went to the Army base laundromat. That I enjoyed, because it was the only time I could meet some other military wives and we could talk about places to eat, shop, etc. That was enjoyable. Any other time in the laundromat has been just short of highly unpleasant.

I said that a washer, especially, is my most needed in-house appliance. One time, when we moved to a rental home waiting to buy a new home, the house did not have a range/stove for cooking. Instead of buying one and then in 6 months buying a home with one, I opted to make it work. We had a microwave that was used daily and an electric frypan. With these two small appliances and an outdoor grill, we lived very comfortably for 6 months, December-June in Wisconsin. My mother took pity on the grandchildren and sent Easter eggs that year by UPS. Boiling was something I could not do very easily.

The Bichon, Kippy, has been a little difficult the last few days. The Vet said she needed some antibiotics because of a tooth that will probably need to be removed in June. She is over 13 years old. So, this antibiotic is a capsule like any human would take. It has turned out to be a 2 man job to get her to take it. One holding her and keeping her jaws spread, and the other one tossing the capsule down the throat. Twice a day, mind you, for 10 days. I thought we were doing pretty good until this noon I found one of the capsules stuck in her beard. She thinks she is so clever. I had some difficulty getting my two young daughters to take medicine as children, but nothing like this.

Big day tomorrow. All day we will be Orlando judging the Crisco pie contest. Did anyone say pie? I will let you know what flavors we tasted and judged and how it all turned out late tomorrow. I am very excited.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I feel a Nor'eastern coming on!

The planning has started. Back in October, I talked about my 'Bucket List.' We are now in the process of planning a trip that has been on that list for many years. Three of the states we have not seen are New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The more we study these states, the more excited I have become about seeing them. We will be there next month.

One day, while The Trout is fly fishing for trout on the Connecticut River, I will be spending the day at the King Arthur Flour Mill, just outside of Norwich, Vermont. Can't imagine leaving that place without added weight. If you check out the website by clicking on King Arthur Flour Mill, you will see that most anything is available there. It seems the test kitchens are going all the time.

A quaint B & B in Kennebunk, Maine, will be a treat. Hoping to get my fill of lobster. I don't think it is lobster season, but will be searching for them anyway. If any of you readers know anything about the southern part of these 3 states, I would love to learn more.

Of course, we are both anxious to see L. L. Bean and Orvis. We have been getting these catalogues for years. We will be close to having every state covered by the end of this trip. The Trout has me beat though, as he has been in Alaska several times and I have yet to make that trip.

Monday, April 20, 2009

All the pretty horses

Right near where we live, there are stables where people can board their horses and take riding lessons. I pass this way several times a week when I am going out our back gate. The horses are beautiful and the other day I saw something I had never seen before.

This horse looked so beautiful, but I loved his tail. It has got to be the best fly swatter a horse could ever own.
I wish I was fonder of horses. I think it has to do something with my unreasonable fear of heights. When you sit on a horse, you are really so high that falling might be a dangerous situation. I remember as a Camp Fire Girl back in the 50's. I would go to Camp Hitaga in Iowa for a week or two for several summers in a row. These are some of my happiest memories and I still remember most of the camp songs we learned. Horseback riding was the one thing that I wasn't sure of. I remember being on a horse that wouldn't move for me. That is almost worse than one going too fast; almost. My brother-in-law has raised horses for a long time and I always thought they were so beautiful, but never had a desire to ride one again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sewing Memories

I've spent all of today so far with my sewing machine. I will admit, I have not used it in over 3 years. It is a computerized embroidery machine. In fact, the better part of the day was reading the instruction manual as I had forgotten just how to program it. I really should use it more often. I love the ease with which it sews and it really is quite simple if you remember how.

Daughter #1 asked for bags for the grandkids with their names on them for taking to the pool, sports events, etc. I love the embroidery part, but the sewing is something I don't like much anymore.

Back in the 70's, I sewed all of the girls' dresses. Made pinafores and the cutest matching red and white checked dresses with green frogs. For the life of me, I can't understand why they still bring up those dresses with an "Oh, Mommmm". I also sewed coats and jackets. For a while there, I was ordering down kits from a company that would go as far as to cut the material for your order, send the cut pattern pieces, the most complete instructions I have ever seen and the down. The down was compressed into plastic bags. You would sew the channels into the jacket or coat and then put a plastic bag of down into the channel and slowly open it, pinch shut the end and sew it closed. It worked beautifully and the jacket and down vest I made for The Trout were used for many, many years. I also sewed a beautiful teal, lined with black down coat, full length with a belt for myself. I loved that coat and it was so warm for the northern winters. It was only when we moved to Florida that I gave it to Goodwill. I know someone is very warm wearing it.

So, the down arrived in these compressed plastic bags and the whole kit was mailed in a cardboard box. In the 70's we had a breezeway connecting our A-frame home with the garage. We used to keep our beagle, Schatzie, in the breezeway because it was cool for her and she couldn't get out. People could get in though.

The UPS man left a package one day for the jacket for The Trout. Mr. UPS decided to open the breezeway door and put it in next to the beagle. Well, if this wasn't just about the best entertainment that dog could ever want! I guess she smelled the down feathers and since she had such a sensitive nose anyway, it got the best of her.

By the time we came home, the entire breezeway was filled with down floating all over and the beagle is just sitting there with her tongue hanging out as if to say, "I smelled it and I finally got it!"

This was not a cheap kit and I was not very happy. I finally decided the next day, after a tremendous job of cleaning up the down, that I needed to call this company. I explained what happened and the lady on the phone said that she knew I could never make up a story like that, so she resent all the down packages at no cost.

I also was not very good at sewing the binding onto placemats when I took Home Ec. in high school. I could do it so much easier by hand. Anyone been there?

Well, anyway, the grandkids almost have their bags. The embroidery is done and just have to finish the bags. All day it took and I am not done yet. I think I'll get back to knitting as I have a felted purse than needs finishing in the next 2 weeks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A New Zealand wine started it all

A favorite wine of ours, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand was just asking to be opened. So, a grilled salmon filet and a salad with the Trout 'Easy Caesar Salad' dressing was on the menu for tonight.

We found this salad dressing in Bon Appetit many years ago, and it is taped inside a kitchen cabinet. That is how often it is used.

Easy Caesar Salad
1 tablespoon squeeze of anchovy paste
2 chopped garlic cloves
5-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Mix in a small food processor and add to a bowl of Romaine lettuce. Top with extra Parmesan cheese.

We had this lovely dinner with a bottle of Kim Crawford 2008 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I have never been very fond of white wine. Red Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon are my favorites for enjoying with a meal. However, Kim Crawford puts out an excellent Sauvignon that has a bouquet of grapefruit and the first taste on the tongue is also of grapefruit. It is excellent with a fish, such as the salmon we had this evening. When I asked The Trout what the bouquet was as he sniffed it in perfect manner, he said 'grapefruit and quince.' Well, that started a whole new conversation. Like, "when did you ever taste quince?" We always have fun!


The velvety touch of the petals, the brilliant green of the leaves and the fragrance...that unbelievable fragrance. My gardenias are blooming and I am enjoying every moment of it.
This beautiful flower is being displayed in one of a pair of champagne glasses given to us for our wedding in 1966.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Teach Your Children Well"

I keep rehashing a column I read in our paper this morning. John Rosemond is a family psychologist and has a weekly parenting column in our newspaper. The title of his column today was "Teaching Self-Esteem Not Best Method."

He states, "In the 1960's, American parents stopped going to their elders for advice and began going instead to mental health professionals--people like me." To sum this up, he is saying that professionals came up with something new; that high self-esteem is a good thing and all parents should make sure their children acquire it. It sounded good and was easy to market.

The evidence is now in that says people with high self-regard possess low regard for others. People with high self-esteem want to be served and paid attention to. The comment that caught my attention was "So to the question, 'Isn't it possible for a child to have high self-esteem and a high level of respect for others?' the answer is an unequivocal no."

Parents say they want their children to be confident. There is no evidence that people who are humble, modest, and possess high regard for others lack the belief they are capable of dealing with life's challenges. "The Amish do not value or promote high self-esteem. They call it being prideful."

And then there is the commonsense test. "Would you rather be employed by, work along-side, be close friends with, be married to a person with high self-esteem or a person who is humble and modest?" He finishes his column by saying that high self-esteem "has damaged children, families, schools and culture and we should begin the invigorating, rejuvenating process of finding our way back home."

I can remember when I was a young mother, all this self-esteem gobbledygook was coming out in books, etc. I am the first to admit that being a parent is a tough job. You do as your common sense guides you. You do as you saw your parents do, if it was right or not. This was your guide. You just do what you can, pray about it and keep your fingers crossed that your children will become caring and successful adults and parents themselves.

I do feel that too many books are being written and too many people are reading them. If a child can learn common sense by observing, a love for mankind and all that we are given in this world and a love of God, they can become parents and teach their own children that humility, modesty and love for one another is what can keep our world at peace.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Epoisses Cheese

The Trout and I love cheese. We have always enjoyed our trips to Europe to find new cheeses to try. We also enjoy going to Whole Foods here in the states, because they have a very large selection of cheese.

One we missed when we were in the Burgundy area of France, is Epoisses, pronounced (ay-PWAHSS). Unfortunately, it has also been hard to find here at home, because it is very popular and sells out quickly. That is, until last week. We found it!

Epoisses is an artisan French raw cow's milk cheese with a strong odor and runny interior. It is made in the town of Epoisses, a town in Burgundy, a region of France. It does have a strong smell and I have read that the French actually do not want you to carry it home on the Metro because of the smell. I find that hard to believe.

I recognized the smell immediately, but that certainly did not stop me. We so thoroughly enjoyed it. What I found funny, is that the dishwasher was not totally loaded, so I put off running it until after breakfast dishes were added. Well, when I opened the dishwasher the next morning, I SMELLED THE CHEESE! Wow, was it strong and pungent.

If you love cheese and are willing to try new foods with an open mind, you should try Epoisses. With a baguette or a simple cracker, it will be delightful.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This was our Easter dinner

Though it was just the two of us, after church on Sunday, the Trout and I cooked a lovely dinner for ourselves.

We had lamb chops, which we love, marinated in olive oil, garlic and our own rosemary. Along with this I made Ina Garten's Zucchini Gratin. This was a wonderful side dish and the recipe can be found here. It is a lovely way to eat zucchini. I did substitute Emmentaler cheese for the Gruyere as that is what I had, but even Parmesan would be good in this casserole.

A favorite salad is Mediterranean Salad from Giada de Laurentiis. We make this quite often because it is such a different salad and so good. You can see her recipe here.

Along with a bottle of 2006 Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz, rated a 91 by Wine Spectator Magazine which we bought for $13 at Costco. It was a perfect wine to accompany our Easter dinner.

We both said no dessert even though we missed it, but trying to hold back on calories and would rather have the calories in the dinner than dessert. I am still trying to convince myself of this...

Happy Easter 2009

I am wishing each and every one of you a blessed Easter day. I hope that you will have a memorable day sharing with family or friends or just being by yourself. I am sharing with you two of my postcards from my Opa and Oma. They are both over 100 years old. I find that amazing.

It is spring, there is hope and the Lord has risen. Have faith.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dandelion Salad

Yesterday, as I was reading my blog list, I came across Ken's comments of the day at his blog "Living the Life in Saint-Aignan," (see his blog listed on the right). He was talking about dandelions in the form of wine and eating them. I have experienced them both in this way.

What he did remind me of was a spring ritual that used to take place in our home as I was growing up. Always near Easter, the dandelions would be foraged by my mother. With paring knife in hand, many women in the Amana's would go out into the yards and meadows looking for newly sprouted dandelions. They always searched for these dandelions where no dog has gone! Some ladies in the village were better at foraging than others, and they were often kind enough to share their finds.

It had to be done early before they bloomed, because then the leaves would be too bitter. The tender leaves would be separated from the outer leaves which would be discarded. Constant washing, over and over to remove all sand and dirt was necessary. And then, chopped into tiny little pieces, very tiny bits. Then placed in a colander and rinsed again and drained.

Dandelion Salad

4 cups prepared dandelion greens
1 tablespoon diced onions
2 tablespoons bacon fat
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 cups hard-cooked eggs, chilled and sliced
1/3 cup cream or half and half
Dash salt and pepper

In a medium-size skillet saute onions in fat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Combine water and vinegar and pour both into skillet. Stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Placed sliced eggs in empty salad bowl. Add cooked dressing and cream. Stir and add salt and pepper. Allow dressing to cool and then toss in prepared greens.

I remember my mother always thought eating this once or twice in the spring was important as she called it an elixir after a long cold winter in Iowa.

I remember this as tasting wonderful, but it does tend to have a bitter flavor. It's always what you grew up with that makes such good memories.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Passion Flower

Last weekend we stopped at the local flea market and visited the 'plant guy'. Standing there in a pot was a very tall Passion Flower vine with lots of buds. I knew I had to have it. I remember as a child that my mother always had one in the east dining room window. It was so beautiful and she had it trained to vine around the large double window with large sill. We had a trellis at home ready for it, so this beautiful plant went home.

If you are not familiar with the story behind the Passion Flower, I searched the information so that I would not tell it wrong.

"Early explorers and missionaries to this hemisphere, specifically to South America, named these dramatic vines Passiflora or passion flower to help in their conversion of the native Americans to Christianity. They saw and used the beautiful intricate flower parts to tell the story of the death of Jesus, making the story more memorable to listeners. The legend they told is that the passion flower's ten petals and sepals represent the ten apostles present at the crucifixion. The filaments portrayed the crown of thorns, or the halo about Jesus' head.

The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance. The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ. The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or Holy Grail. The stigmata represents 3 nails and 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (4 by nails, 1 by lance). The blue and white colors of many species' flowers represent heaven and purity. The hybrid plants no longer produce the passion fruit, which is edible."

It is such a thrill for me to have my new Passion Flower bloom during Easter Week.

The French Village

Thanks for all the comments. I am still tweaking the header, but it only allows me to do so much.

I have been asked about the village picture (lower middle). It was taken last May in France. Carennac, in the Midi-Pyrenees/Lot region of SW France is one of the most beautiful villages of France. (I often wonder who is judging this and making these comments.) It is almost impossible to say one French village is more beautiful than another. They all have their own beauty. Carennac has had human habitation since Neolithic times and the town is mentioned in records from the 10th century.

For Americans, this time period is very hard to wrap our minds around. I think that is one of the reasons I love traveling to Europe so very much. I get such a thrill walking these old streets and touching these old stone walls. It is simply breathtaking.

The picture above it was taken in the Loire Valley of the Trout and me during our 40th anniversary year.

Update on our sandhill friends. Baby took off again between the houses this morning and Mom and Dad were frantically searching for him/her. The Trout said it reminds him of a belligerent 2-year-old in a supermarket.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My new header

I played with the blog header today. I am not sure yet if I like it. There are so many new things to learn on this blog, and I am finally gaining some courage to try. What do you think?

The Sandhills

We watched the sandhill cranes this morning walking on the golf course. I honestly believe that they walk the 18 holes every day. This year we finally saw the baby up close. They took a real brisk walk right by our home and I was able to get this picture.
Earlier we watched them on the golf course. The baby took off in his/her own direction. Mom and Dad had to hurry up behind to catch up and you could almost hear the scolding. Baby hurried behind a hedge and was almost playing peek-a-boo with the parents. After they, baby followed close behind. The Trout, on his walk later, saw them looking into the side of the car and seeing their reflection, were pecking at the car.
When the grandchildren were here over Christmas, we watched Mom and Dad tossing a pine cone back and forth; playing catch just like kids. It was such fun to see. I understand their beaks can be very dangerous if they decide to attack you with them. The golfers usually let them pass by and stay out of their way.
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kofta meatballs

Last week, The Trout and I visited a blog and found a recipe that spoke to us. You can find the recipe here at Chez Loulou.

We played 9 holes of golf on Sunday afternoon with two other couples and then came home and whipped this meal together in 20 minutes. The other two couples went out to eat, but we like to eat at home. And I really could not invite them because I doubt they would have enjoyed it as much as we did.

I also made carrots sauteed with olive oil, brown sugar, ginger and tarragon. Basmati rice for the Kofta meatballs for which we made a tzatziki sauce made with cucumbers, Greek yogurt, mint and garlic. We made the meatballs as LouLou did with ground beef, but I think next time we will use ground lamb since we like it so much. I will admit that the meatballs were made yesterday because we knew we would be short on time this afternoon. They warmed up nicely.

One more dinner that really tasted great.

3 inches of wasted paper

I couldn't believe the Sunday newspaper. There were 3 inches of ads and coupons. Such a waste of paper. It just irks me. Do you clip and use coupons? I rarely do. If we had a grocer that would double the coupons like some do, I might reconsider.

We must shop differently than most of the population. There rarely is a coupon I can use. We generally shop the perimeter where you find produce, meats and dairy. The coupons seem to be for things I have never bought, though, today I did look through them. I found one for a soap product. I like those because I can save a $1 on something that isn't eaten. We don't buy frozen foods or vegetables so can't use those. I never see any for cheese or milk or eggs. Luckily our Publix does mark those down occasionally and you can buy without the coupon.

Seriously, isn't it a waste of time and money to produce this paper coupon stuff? I know, there are those who will argue with me, but I will not buy what I don't need just because there is a coupon. And, I have lived long enough to know if there is a brand I like, I will stick to it. But, on the other hand, I have changed to a lot of store brands on foods and find most of them comparable. Not all, but most. I feel if you go to the work to cook a nice meal, it does not pay to go cheaper with products. In fact, we occasionally drive to Tampa or Orlando to a Whole Foods Store because they carry wonderful organic foods and things that we like to use a lot. It is worth the trip and it is fun. I love Whole Foods.

Now, let's see if I find that soap coupon in my purse the next time I need it?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Choucroute garnie

Last night we had Choucroute for dinner. It is a favorite. Traditionally, it is a German and East European dish, but the French annexation of Alsace and Lorraine in 1648, brought this dish to the attention of French chefs.

Choucroute garnie means dressed sauerkraut. The original recipes required hours of simmering for this wonderful dish. I have found a 'quick' method which we really like. This recipe is out of Bon Appetit, December 2001. This way, it is also easier to eat it more often because it comes together rather quickly.

I served it in a casserole dish I bought in the Alsace region of France in 1991 when we visited there. Did you know the word casserole is French for sauce pan?

Quick Choucroute Garnie

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

  • 1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage cut into 3 inch lengths, and halved (Tonight I simply used smoked pork chops and that makes it a much leaner meal)

  • 2 cups chopped onions

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 pound purchased sauerkraut, drained

  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, more if fresh

  • 2/3 cup dry white wine

Heat oil in large skillet and add sausages, meats, and cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn over, add onions and saute until onions are beginning to soften. (Now it really starts smelling good.) Cook about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with boiled red potatoes. We also had a lovely German Riesling from the Mosel that made the meal.

One hint I have is to throw out your old bottle or tin of caraway seed and buy a new one. It makes such a difference. I know you don't use it often and it does lose it's wonderful taste. And that goes for all spices. I have been dating them and you will be amazed how old they get quickly. Toss the old stuff and buy new. Food is too important to use flavorless spices.

Speaking of spices and herbs, we now are growing more than ever and they do so well here in Florida. We have a wonderful large rosemary shrub, oregano, thyme, basil, mint, chives, tarragon, and lavender. It is so wonderful to just open the door and go out and harvest what we need for dinner.

Oh yes, one more thing. You say you don't like sauerkraut? You really need to try this because cooking it this way with the caraway and the wine, just mellows it so much. It really is very, very good. Sehr gut, mein Freund!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Delivering the meals

The Trout and I finished our second run of Meals on Wheels a little while ago. We were needed to help out on an extra day. We definitely have a mixture of people to deliver to. Some are touching to the heart, some are just strange, but there is one sweet woman I actually worry about during the week.

It looks like she has been through chemo as she is obviously wearing a wig. She is frail and does not look well at all. But she is so kind. Today she grabbed my heart when after I had placed the meal in her kitchen, she told me that I was very kind to do this for her and then she said, "God is very pleased with you." Wow! That about blew my socks off.

We are both very surprised how fulfilling this little job has become. We actually did our route today without the map. Are we getting good, or what?

Tonight we are pretending to be in Alsace and having Choucroute for dinner. I plan on posting tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Special Easter eggs

This is a repost from last year. I just wanted to share the Easter eggs that were part of my childhood tradition.

When I lived in Amana, Iowa, Easter was always a special time. It was the community effort to dye Easter eggs as I was growing up, and this carried on in tradition from many years prior.

As I have mentioned before, I am from the Amana Colonies in Iowa and I have posted about this previously in November 2008. The Amana's had the woolen mills and furniture shops. These two combined businesses gave the ladies of Amana what they needed to dye Easter eggs. Vivid dye from the woolen mill's dye works were mixed with glue from the woodworking shop. The dye and glue were cooked in a double boiler until bubbly, poured into cups, and then allowed to cool to a rubber-like consistency. The hot hard-boiled eggs were rolled on the jellied dye and the results were a wonder. It is not known who or how this method came about, but the eggs are so brilliantly colored that they defy description.

Because the dye was toxic, it is no longer used except in demonstrations this time of year in the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The modern ladies found a new method for dying the eggs. As I understand it, the new recipe is a secret, shared only among the Colony women. So, therefore, I am not at liberty to say how I dyed these eggs, but I think you can see they are very bright and almost marble-like in appearance.

I have wonderful memories of my mother and grandmother dying these eggs. The boiled glue/dye mixture was always poured into coffee cups that had been chipped or had the handle broken off . It was very difficult to clean this type of dye, so every year the same color was put into the same cups. I wish I had pictures of my mother and grandmother making Easter eggs. It is very vivid in my memory, but my grandchildren will never know this. My way is much too modern, but my daughters remember well how I made them every year when they were children. The rabbit in the picture has no markings on the bottom, but I know it must be 80-90 years old. It was always special to me at Easter time.