Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Day After Chrismas

I want to wish all my friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year. We had a wonderful Christmas this year. Money wise and gift wise we scaled back a lot but it didn't matter because we had family here to share our day. Sometimes I think we get carried away with the gift giving and forget the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope everybody had a wonderful day yesterday with their family and friends.
Now just a few pics from Christmas dinner. You won't see any family pics except maybe my hubby and daughter because the rest of the family is a bit shy and I am respecting their privacy. We had a great time with them anyway.

Lucky, the biggest ham in the family.

My turkey reminds me of a resting sunbather, with his wing behind what would have been his head.

Who cares what else you have for dinner as long as you have Turkey and Apple Pie.

Oh, and a little fudge!

My darling hubby showing off the Christmas table.

Now that the feasting is over, it's back on Weight Watchers today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FFWD: Potato Leek Soup

Here is another French Fridays with Dorie recipe. Go to the site to see how about 1000 other cooks did this recipe. I loved this recipe and it was a hit with my hubby as well. It was simple, quick and delicious. I added sliced fennel with my leeks and onions and then topped it with some smoked Gruyere cheese and homemade croutons with rosemary. This is a keeper.

This is what the soup looked like at the start of the cooking time. I also used 1% milk in mine because we are trying to lose weight around here. It was just fine and  I think rich enough with the chicken broth I also used.

The finished soup. I used my immersion blender to blend it up. We will definitely have this again.

FFWD: My Go-To Beef Daube

It's been a while since I've posted here. It's just the busy season. I'm off work for two weeks so I'm trying to catch up on house work, Christmas decorating, addressing my Christmas cards, shopping and cooking. I'm afraid I haven't really made my dishes on Friday but I have managed to make two of them which I will post in the next couple of days.

My Go-To Beef Daube took a lot of time prepping and cooking but it was well worth it. My pictures don't do it justice but it was really yummy and my hubby loved it.

The ingredients for this dish were homey and straight-forward. There was a lot of slicing and chopping to do but it helped me hone my knife skills.

This was the delicious result. I will be making this again. Check out how about 1000 other cooks are doing it at French Fridays with Dorie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

FFWD: Potato Gratin

This week I decided to do the Potato Gratin from "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan. Check out my French Fridays with Dorie link to see what everybody else has been cooking this week. I was looking forward to this recipe with a little dread. I knew the recipe would be delicious but it meant I had to struggle with my demons about using a mandolin. I consider this the most dangerous piece of equipment in my kitchen and if I was threatened by an intruder, I'm sure I could slice and dice them with this thing. All my apprehension is because a few years ago, the first time I used it, I cut myself severely. The potato I was slicing got caught in the blade and I removed the guard to try and pull it out. When I couldn't pull it out, I had a major brain fart and tried to push it through with my bare fingers. Not a smart idea. I ended up cutting my thumb pretty bad. It was very traumatic. My advice: DON'T EVER REMOVE THE GUARD, NO MATTER WHAT!

After following my own advice, I sliced the potatoes just fine with my handy mandolin and the resulting dish was wonderful cheesy deliciousness. I served it with steamed green beans and pork chops glazed with a combination of orange marmalade, honey mustard, and crushed fennel seeds. Definitely a keeper recipe and meal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apple Hill

My darling hubby and I have very little time together during the school year because we just can't get our days off coordinated. When we have a day off together we love to get out of the house for a little road trip. Today we went to Apple Hill near Placerville, Ca. It's a wonderful area with lots of orchards, wineries, and craft items to browse through. I couldn't wait to go on this trip and have been planning on what photos I would take. I wanted to get some of the fall colors in the vineyards because it's really beautiful up there this time of year. We were about 40 minutes from home when I remembered I didn't bring my camera. Boo Hoo!  Here's a couple of photos I grabbed off the Apple Hill web site.

We visited Boeger Winery and tasted some of their excellent wines. I bought a Saviongn Blanc for Thanksgiving dinner. We also visited my favorite orchard, High Hill Ranch and had a wonderful piece of Caramel Apple pie. We visited the craft booths and I bought darling hubby a new coffee mug that looks like a little person holding a Giants baseball. Go Giants!!! I had to have some pumpkin butter, apple butter, some pickled cauliflower, and a cinnamon apple cider donut.  We also stopped at Denver Dan's for chicken
pasties. Needless to say the diet went out the window today.


Friday, November 12, 2010

FFWD: Roast Chicken for les paresseux

Translated: Roast Chicken for Lazy People. That's me. This is the latest recipe that I made with my French Fridays with Dorie friends. Check out the web site and buy Dorie Greenspans new book, "Around My French Table" and then come join us in our cooking fest.

This roast chicken couldn't have been any easier. A month or so ago, my darling husband bought me a porcelain covered cast iron dutch oven from Paula Deen's line of cookware. I love this dutch oven almost as much as I love my husband. It cooks the food great and is easy to clean up. But back to the roast chicken.  I followed the directions to a t in this recipe and you can see, it came out great. It didn't take long to prep and I cooked it 90 minutes. The only thing I would do different is put the vegetables in a little sooner. My carrots were still a little under done only cooking for 45 minutes. For all you people who are afraid to try the bread in the bottom of the pot, I say go for it. I used a thick slice of Rustic Tuscan bread. I also cooked the chicken liver like Dorie suggested and mashed it up to put on the bread. It was so good. The bread reminded me of something my grandfather always made for us after he fried chicken. He would fry the bread in the chicken drippings and then sprinkled it with sugar for us. Probably not the healthiest snack but boy, was it good!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

FFWD: Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans

This month at French Fridays with Dorie we could decide what order we wanted to make our dishes. I decided on the Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans. This time of year I just crave anything with pumpkin. It is a real comfort food for me and I don't really know why. This recipe was a breeze to fix and it tasted wonderful. I loved it. Darling Daughter complained about the cheese and hubby hasn't tasted it yet. I don't know if he will because he doesn't care for anything pumpkin. I used a little creme fraiche and a drizzle of honey on the top and it was crazy good.

Head on over French Fridays with Dorie to check out how other people did this recipe. Better yet buy Dorie Greenspan's book "Around My French Table" and cook along with us.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It Happened Again!

This morning at Costco the person checking my receipt said, "How are you doing SIR." I happen to be a 58 year old white woman with a 44 DDD bra size! How does this happen? Not only how does this happen but why does it keep happening to me. Is it because I'm tall? I'm 5'9". Is it because I have a short hair cut? (That's woman short not a buzz cut.) This happens about twice a month to me. Always when I'm shopping and no matter what kind of store I'm in. I don't have a deep voice and I just don't get it. It makes me mad and it's very demoralizing.

I think it's because we don't really look at people anymore. People need to look people in the eye. Look at me. I'm not invisible. I know that when you're  in a store the people helping you are busy, but when this happens, I just want to leave what ever I'm purchasing on the counter and walk out. Maybe that's exactly what I will do next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

FFWD: Marie-Helene's Apple Cake

So it's time for French Fridays with Dorie once again. About 900 people are all cooking on Fridays from Dorie Greenspan's new book, "Around My French Table." We post on our blogs about it and it's really a lot of fun. Any one interested in joining can check out the link on my web page.

This week we baked Marie-Helene's Apple Cake. This was the simplest recipe which I can't post here. Buy the book, it's worth it and beautiful. This cake was a slice of heaven. I adapted it so I could use my 9 inch spring form pan. I didn't have an 8" pan. I think this may replace my apple pie at Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFWD: Hachis Parmentier

I was really looking forward to this recipe from "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan. It lived up to my expectations. Check out my link to French Fridays with Dorie and buy the book and start cooking. This recipe did take a long time and I think the next time I make it, I will break it up over a couple of days. I added the carrots from the broth to the meat, basically to add some color. I also used more garlic than suggested. I thought the broth was tasty, but I did add the boullion cube. I also used smoked Gruyere and the parmesan cheese.

Step one

Step two

Step three

The Finished French Shepard's Pie

This was just plain old comfort food on a rainy Friday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tickled Pink 2010

I am still recovering from my really fun all-night quilting binge called, Tickled Pink. Tickled Pink is an event to support Breast Cancer Research and put on by our local quilt shop, A Quilted Heart. Michelle and Connie are the owners and they do an incredible job with this event because it is dear to their heart. Michelle is a breast cancer survivor and she knows the how much women need support for this time in their lives.
The event started at 5pm on Friday night and went until 5am on Saturday morning. There were at least 60 women there with their sewing machines and equipment to help craft a quilt that will be raffled off to benefit the Susan G. Komen fund. We also made a smaller quilt to be donated to the Kaiser-Vacaville oncology unit and we helped make Bosom Buddie cushions for women that have had cancer surgery. Not only did we do this but we had a catered dinner, courteous Outback Steakhouse, snacks throughout the night, raffle prizes, bingo and a silent auction. A continental breakfast was served courteous Panera Bread.

The Quilting Room

I didn't win this Bike!

Sorry Karen, I didn't win the pink KitchenAid mixer for you either!

These were the blocks we were making. They won't be sewn together in this order. We just put them on the board when we were finished . It's going to make a lovely quilt.

Friday, October 15, 2010

FFWD: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Check out the French Fridays with Dorie link in my blog list. There are about 700 members of this blog, cooking these wonderful recipes from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, "Around My French Table."
Tonight was this pot of deliciousness. I was worried that this would be really spicy and I knew my husband wouldn't eat it if it was, so I didn't put in the dried chillies. Also, necessity is the mother of invention. I didn't buy cheese cloth or twine because I knew I had some. Ha! I couldn't find either one, so I used my tea ball for the spices and tied a bundle of cilantro stems with mint dental floss and tossed it into the pot. I used a whole star of anise and at the end I added the juice of two limes. We could taste the subtle licorice taste of the anise and the cilantro and the lime really added some good flavor. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts but next time I will use the bone in chicken for added flavor. My husband loved this soup, my daughter gave it a so-so and I think it was very good. I wasn't feeling very good when I came home from work but a bowl of this soup worked wonders settling my stomach and putting me to rights. I will make it again. Thanks Dorie for the recipe and Laurie for the blog.

Friday, October 08, 2010

FFWD: Gerard's Mustard Tart

Today's selection for the French Fridays with Dorie blog is Gerard's Mustard Tart. I really liked this tart but next time I will cook the vegetables a little longer. The tart dough came out nice and crispy and the custard was great. I thought 4 tbs. of mustard would be too much but it wasn't and I probably could have put in more. Thanks Dorie for the great recipe and Thanks to Laurie for the great blog. Links to the blog are in my blog list.
Pre-baked Tart Shell

The finished product!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

In Memoriam: Frankie Valli Brown October 3, 2010

I just got home from the UC Davis Small Animal Clinic where we took Frankie to help him over the Rainbow Bridge. We got Frankie almost 3 years ago from NorCal Boxer Rescue after our female boxer, Gigi, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Frankie was the male version of Gigi. They were both really sweet dogs, that loved children and were a source of joy every day of their lives.

Frankie started having seizures yesterday and they continued through the night. Since he was about 13 years old we knew the time had come to help him on his way. The vet said that probably his heart was not pumping enough blood to his brain and we were doing the right thing. He died peacefully in my arms and he will be remembered forever.

Friday, October 01, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie

Today is the start of French Fridays with Dorie. This is a cooking blog inspired by the same people that brought you Tuesdays with Dorie. About 700 people are signed up to cook all together on Fridays from Dorie Greenspans new cookbook, "Around My French Table." It's a beautiful cookbook and I highly recommend it. Dorie picked the first month's recipes herself starting out with "Gougeres." These are delicate little cheese puffs and are supposed to turn out like cream puff dough without the cream. I made mine tonight after I got home from work. I think I probably did not beat them enough because although they puffed up in the oven the deflated when I took them out to cool. They still tasted great and I will try the recipe again.

Check out my blog list to find the link to French Fridays with Dorie as well as Tuesdays with Dorie.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

School Buses with Red Flashing Lights

It always amazes me that most of the general population of California does not know what to do when they encounter a school bus stopped on the road with their red lights flashing. STOP for crying out loud and stay stopped until the bus driver turns off the red lights. It would also be nice and courteous if you would let me pull back into traffic.

Most of our newer buses have an eight light system at the top of our bus. That means that we have two amber warning lights and two red warning lights mounted on the front and back of our bus. It also says in 8 inch letters on the back of the bus, STOP WHEN RED LIGHTS ARE FLASHING. With our eight light system we are supposed to activate our amber warning lights 200 feet before our stop and then as soon as we stop, activate our red lights. Some people actually take our amber light system to mean, GO AS FAST AS I CAN AROUND THIS BUS!

This afternoon some people got educated the hard way. I have two stops on a certain road in Vacaville that is very heavily traveled. They are actually about 200 feet apart. When I stop for the first one as soon as I have unloaded that student, I turn off my red lights and pull into traffic and immediately activate my amber light system again. When I get to the second stop I immediately turn on my red lights. This afternoon I did that very thing and as my student was getting off the bus, I glanced in my left mirror just in time to see the second car behind me, plow into the car directly behind me. Thank heavens the person behind me was following the law and had stopped with some distance between us and he didn't hit me. I called in to base to see if I had to stay there and was informed that if I was not hit , I was not involved and  to move on. I gave all the information to the dispatcher so if the Vacaville PD called they would know what happened. I felt so bad for the driver that was hit because they were following the law and didn't do anything wrong.

By the way, when you run my red lights, the first offence is $250.00. If you run my red lights multiple times you could be looking at a $1000.00 fine. So think about it and make the safety of the children I drive your priority. You may save a few minutes by running my red lights or you could get someone killed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who is Visiting My Blog?

I would love to know who is visiting my blog. I put up the Map Loco and I see that someone has visited from Canada and London, Croyden and Loughborough, England. Is that you Ray in Loughborough? If you have visited please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

National Alpaca Farm Day

I had a very interesting day today. Lots of miscommunication, but lots of fun. I started the day by taking lovely daughter #4 to work at 8am and driving to Nugget Market to get some things for my first French Fridays with Dorie recipe. As I started to get out of the car, my cell phone rang. It was lovely daughter #4 asking me to pick her up because she was not supposed to start work until 10 am. I drove back to her work place, picked her up and drove back to Nugget. I quickly finished my shopping and went home to take in the groceries. I was supposed to meet my friend at the quilt store at 10 am but first I had to drop lovely daughter #4 back at her job. I got her there at 9:55 and proceeded to drive to the quilt store when I noticed that I needed gas. (I WONDER WHY!) I stopped for gas and drove to the quilt store. I arrived 20 minutes late and my friend had already made her purchases. I picked up a grab bag of cloth and got in line. While we were there my friend got a phone call and it was her son needing rescue because his truck broke down. She went to help him and I was confused about when we would meet again to go to the Alpaca Farm.

I decided to see if my hairdresser could work me in for a haircut but she wasn't in her shop and I didn't want to wait. I drove to the factory outlets in our town so I could look for a 9 1/2 inch tart pan that I needed. I ended up at Kitchen Collectibles and quickly found just what I wanted. I paid for my purchase and drove back home. I had left my cell phone in the charger and when I picked it up, there was a message from my friend that she was in the neighborhood and did I still want to go to the Alpaca Farm. I called her back and we were soon on the road, along with her little grandson, to visit the Alpacas.

I love this hairstyle!

This is a mother and week old baby.

Pretty week old baby.

I thought this one had a very pretty face.

This one was less than an hour old. It had just started to take some very wobbly steps.

Even though it was a confusing day, it turned out all right and I had a great time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yippee, It's the Weekend!

I'm starting to live for my weekends. It was a long week at work. Friday nights I feel the life seeping back into my body. Tomorrow I'm meeting one of my friends at  "A Quilted Heart" to partake of their annual sidewalk sale. After that bit of delight, we are going to visit a couple of Alpaca Farms for National Alpaca Farm Days.

I'm also going to be on the hunt for a 9 1/2 inch tart pan and a growing list of supplies for my first two French Fridays with Dorie recipes. I've got a few ideas for a special dinner I'm going to cook up for hubby tomorrow night, using my new Paula Deen cast iron, porcelain 7 qt. casserole. It involves chicken, fennel, onion, potatoes, carrots, olive oil, lots of garlic and I think some herbs de provence.

If I get time from all this running around, I might try to start quilting a quilt I put together last year and there is always the book I'm reading by Marlena de Blais, "That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie

Dorie Greenspan has just come out with a new cookbook called, "Around My French Table." Her last cookbook, "Baking From My House to Yours" spawned a cooking group online called, "Tuesdays with Dorie." This wonderful group of people have started a new cooking group called, "French Fridays with Dorie." The premise is that you cook the same recipe as the group every Friday and post your comments and pictures on your blog. I just got my book and I must say that I am very impressed with the recipes and am excited to be a member of the group. I posted a link to French Fridays with Dorie in my blog list so check it out. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cooking, Sewing, Exercise

This past weekend I had an attack of domestic bliss. When I get into one of these moods, I want to cook, bake, sew and clean house. Not necessarily in that order. I got busy on Saturday and made homemade oatmeal bread, pumpkin crunch for dessert and honey ginger chicken. Yesterday I spent with my friend sewing and I finished my new La Borsa Bag.

Front view

Side view

Close-up of my quilting and the button I picked for this project.
The button was made in Spain and I really like the extra flair it provides.

I really had a lot of fun this weekend doing these projects. I also discovered this weekend that it is very important for me to exercise everyday to bring down my stress levels. I know it will help me with my weight loss efforts too, but right now I think it's more important to help me deal with every day stress. I feel energized after I exercise and more at peace.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What can you say about 9/11?

It was a horrible day, a horrible, hateful act. People lost their lives for no reason other than hate. It was also a day of heroes and heroic acts. People coming together to mourn, to pick up the pieces, to go on. May God be with all the friends and families of the people we lost that day. May God be with all of our wonderful men and women in uniform, whether in the military or police and fire departments. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice to keep us safe.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Zumba Part 2

Well, I went to the zumba class tonight and even though I had fun, I was a little disappointed. The name of the class was Zumba Basics. Now with a name like that, wouldn't you think that it was a beginners class and they would be teaching you the steps? Not! The instructor introduced herself, asked if anyone was new ( I was the only one brave enough to admit it) and told me to have fun, march in place if I got lost and remember to get the feet down first and then the arms. What kind of instruction is that! She didn't even have us warm up first. We started right out very fast paced and after 10 minutes I thought this is great, I'm going to have a heart attack on the first lesson. I decided that was enough for the first time and took myself out of there and did 20 minutes on a stationary bike. I'm still proud of myself because I showed up, I tried something new and I'm going to go back. If I only make it 15 minutes the next time so be it!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Zumba - Dance Dance Dance

What have I got myself into??? I'm supposed to take a Zumba class tomorrow night with my youngest daughter. This looks like fun but I'm afraid I'm gonna break something for sure!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hitting the Gym

I got a call the other day informing me that I had won a 1 month membership to Gold's Gym for myself and my immediate family members. I decided I would give it a try with my husband and youngest daughter. We signed up on Friday and I started on Saturday. First I did thirteen minutes on an elliptical machine that kicked my butt! This machine starts out with a stepping motion and then you get into your stride. It was really hard and I did work up a sweat. After that I did 15 minutes on a stationary bike and then I was just done. I felt proud of myself that I had worked up enough nerve to walk in there on my own and do anything. We didn't go yesterday but this morning we got there about 7:45am because darling hubby had a 1 hour appointment with a trainer. While he worked out, I did the 20 minutes on a stationary bike and another 15 on the treadmill. I tried the elliptical again but gave up after about 2 minutes. I have an appointment tomorrow with a trainer for a 1 hour session. Gulp! I hope that goes okay.

The one good thing about Gold's Gym is that I saw a lot of people my age or older there. Your membership also includes use of the pool, which has free swim as well as water aerobics and other water classes. You also have spin classes, yoga, tai chi, kickboxing and a lot of other classes included in your membership.

Hubby and I have made a commitment to lose 5 lbs during this free month and go to the gym at least 4 days a week. If we keep up that commitment, we will evaluate at the end of the month whether to join or not. Wish us luck.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wineries and Cemeteries

Last weekend my darling friend, Donna and I decided to take a road trip. We decided to go up to Amador County and their wine country. We had been up there once before, about 4 years ago to attend a Red Hat Queen's luncheon at Villa Toscano Winery. We fell in love with the place because it reminded both of us of Italy. The wine was really good, too. This time we started at Bella Piazza, the sister winery of Villa Toscano. Here's a picture.
Bella Piazza

We tried about 9 of their wines. Just little sips, but on an empty stomach, we found ourselves getting very happy.  After we walked around for a little while we drove down the road to Bray Vineyards. They have a wine called Brazen Hussy Red. It was pretty good. We ended up buying a half case to share of Black Muscat. It was really good. When we went out to the car, Donna unlocked the car and the trunk and we put the wine in the trunk and she closed the trunk. Suddenly she gasped, "I locked the keys in the trunk!" I was laughing so hard that it was about to become a pee in your pants moment. We went over to sit on some chairs so I could pull out my AAA card when she suddenly remembered that she had unlocked the car door first. She ran over to the car and was able to get the door open before the car locked itself back up. She got the keys out of the trunk and was very happy.

We went on to Villa Toscano and ordered a pizza from their cafe and sat on the terrace to eat it. We drank plenty of water with it and sat for about an hour so we would be able to drive. Here's some more pictures.


After we left the wineries behind we visited three different cemeteries. One was in Plymouth, one near Fiddletown and a pioneer cemetery out in the middle of no where.Here's the cemetery near Fiddletown.

We found Fiddletown to be very interesting.

This bench was sitting on...

...the porch of this building. It was their community center.

We had to take a picture of this. Church was held in the saloon and they were having a tea party meeting and potluck that afternoon.

We loved this old barn next to the Cowboy Church.

We really had a good time and we hope to go back soon.