Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trader Joe Treasure - Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels

My new weakness! Peanut butter, a little crunch of pretzel, salty, sweet, covered in milk chocolate. Here, have a bite:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vintage Books

A few weeks ago I stopped at the Salvation Army and they had a big box of books in front of the store with 3 books for a dollar. I pulled out these vintage books - all from the early 1900s.

Love the cover on this one! From the author of the Bobbsey Twins - my favorite first chapter book:

Such great old illustrations in them.

I love this picture from Mary Jane's Kindergarten:

I've never read Little Men. Pretty colored illustrations in this edition:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cat on the Window Sill

My cat has been enjoying the open windows during a spell of warm fall weather....

Apple Fig Grilled Cheese

This is my new favorite grilled cheese.

crusty whole grain bread (I used Seeded Harvest Boule artisan bread from Trader Joes)
Bonne Maman Fig Jam
apples, sliced thin
cheese (I used a low fat white cheddar from Trader Joes)
butter (I used a healthy spread, but really wanted to use real butter)

Assemble and grill!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Simply "Charming" Closeups 2

Here's a few more of my favorite travel charms:

Kiwi bird - New Zealand (they did not have very cute charms there)
Horse and Buggy - Shipshewana
Pineapple - Hawaii

Stein - Germany (I totally forgot to get a charm from the Netherlands and Belgium on the same trip!)
Man panning for Gold - Skagway, Alaska

Sydney Opera House - we saw a great play there
Bear - Yellowstone (but we actually saw the infamous bear in Grand Tetons!)

I hope you had as much fun looking at my charms as I had showing them and sharing the memories that they five!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Simply "Charming" Closeups 1

Here are some closeups of some of the travel charms. I really had fun taking these pictures on top of an old National Geographic map.

Platypus - Australia (we saw some in a zoo while there)
Eiffel Tower - Paris, of course, my favorite city
Sydney Harbor Bridge - Sydney, Australia (and no, I did not do the climb to the top!)
Lighthouse - Pemaquid Point, Maine
Big Ben - London

Streetcar - San Francisco
Lobster - Maine (my favorite food, I was in melted butter heaven there!)

Thatched Hut - Fiji (spent several lovely layover hours in the airport there!)
Dogsled - Alaska
Kangaroo (you can see its tail) - also Australia

I'll post a few more closeups soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Travel Charm Necklace

I realized this morning that I never added the charm I bought from Zion National Park to my travel charm necklace. So this afternoon I got out the pliers to make the addition, and while I was at it I thought you might enjoy a few pictures of my necklace!

I started collecting charms as I travel about 10 years ago. I'm not very dedicated at this - sometimes I totally forget to buy one, and then sometimes I find lots of cute ones and I buy a bunch. I put them on a bracelet, but I add a silver chain to both ends of the bracelet so I can wear it as a necklace. I find the necklace doesn't jangle and get in my way as much as the bracelet does. (Although I have had it get tangled in the hair of a few students when I lean over to help them!)

Over the next few days I will post some close up pictures of my favorite charms and tell you where they are from.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Apple Prosciutto Risotto

Risotto is my favorite comfort food. I guess with the stress of back to school I have needed a lot of comfort, because I made this recipe for the past two weekends! This recipe has a sweet/saltly flavor which I really like. I prefer to use apple cider to make this recipe, but I had some leftover apple juice which seemed to work fine. And this is another one of the those recipes that I usually just make without a recipe - the amounts are approximate.

Apple Prosciutto Risotto

2 cups apple cider (or juice)
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/8 cup chopped prosciutto
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the kind in the can!)
salt and pepper

1) Combine cider and broth in a small saucepan and heat until warm. (You want the liquid to be warm so it doesn't stop the cooking when you add it to your rice.) Keep it on your burner over low heat.
2) Heat another large pan (I use a Dutch oven) and add the tablespoon of butter and olive oil. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened. Then add the apple. rosemary, and prosciutto and stir for about one minute.
3) Ad the arborio rice. Stir for about a minute, or until the rice is nicely coated.
4) Add about a half cup of the broth/juice mixture and stir until absorbed. Keep slowly adding the broth (I usually use a soup ladle), stirring after each addition . The process takes about 15 minutes. You might not need all the broth. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but not mushy and there is a creamy sauce. I usually add a touch more broth when I remove it from the heat.
5) Add the parmesan cheese and stir into the risotto. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. If you want, you can also add a bit more butter or olive oil to give a richer taste.
6) Serve with a little more parmesan cheese and rosemary on top.

LAZY WAY TO COOK RISOTTO: Some days I just don't feel like sitting at the stove for 20 minutes stirring rice. So after adding and stirring the first ladle of broth, I add most of the remaining broth and I stick the pan in a 400 degree preheated oven. I have a nice heavy pan with metal handles that works perfect for this. Every 5 minutes I check the risotto and stir. It takes about 15 minutes to cook. The only danger with this is that the rice can go from perfectly cooked to mushy rather quickly, so you really have to watch it! I remove the pan when the rice is almost cooked and it still looks a bit soupy. I put it back on the heat and stir for another minute and add the remaining ingredients.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Extreme Ironing Board Makeover

When I was in Shipshewana last month, I got all excited when I saw an antique wooden ironing board for sale. I was already to buy it, when my friend Jenni said, "We have an old ironing board we're going to throw out." I think she thought I was crazy, but she brought it over for me. Here is the before shot:

I gave it a good cleaning and tossed the cover. The wood had a great rustic look and was pretty smooth, so it only needed a light sanding on a few rough edges. Then I took some Formby's tung oil and gave it a good coating with an old rag. (Note to self: remember to wear gloves next time or your hands will be sticky all day.)

Here is a picture showing the before and after on the wood. The tung oil is wonderful on wood that has no varnish - it leaves a natural finish with a slight gloss.

Over the next couple days I gave it several more coatings of the oil. That's it. The natural wood now looks rich and glowing.

And what am I planning to do with this new treasure? Well, I love the height of an ironing board when I am making jewelry because I don't have to bend over so far to work. And I think it would make a great buffet. And a cool surface to display things. Anyone else have a brilliant idea?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trader Joe - Oatmeal Cranberry Dunkers

This is my new weakness from Trader Joe's. A nice crisp oatmeal cookie with cranberries. Perfect for dunking in tea or coffee. Or not dunking, just eating plain.

The best part is the pretty white chocolate zigzaged over the top. Mmmmm. (Please, don't ask how long that big container lasted - I had to hurry and take a picture before they were all gone.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flaming Kabob - Southfield

I never crave vegetables. But there is one salad that I crave, that I would order over pizza or chocolate, the best salad in the entire world. That amazing salad is the Kaplan's Deluxe Salad from Flaming Kabob in Southfield, Michigan.

Flaming Kabob is a small clean diner style restaurant on Southfield Road north of 12 Mile that specializes in middle eastern food. It is a favorite place to go for our teachers to go for lunch (on the rare times during the school year that we can) or for take out on my way home. I don't think they have a website.

This restaurant features their own fresh salad dressings and sauces. The Moe's pink house dressing is made from, well, I have no idea what is in it, but it is tangy and perfect on a salad. If you eat in the restaurant they bring this zippy orange sauce for dipping with pita bread. But the masterpiece of Flaming Kabob is their garlic yogurt sauce. I have tried and tried to duplicate it, but never have quite gotten it right. I will eat this sauce slathered on bread, sandwiches, and salads - I always order an extra cup for my meal.

What to order? If you want a sandwich, I recommend the chicken shawarma or gallaba sandwiches. Both have tasty chunks of flavored charroasted chicken and the above mentioned garlic sauce. If you want a full meal, try the half order of the Moe's Special. It comes with a large side salad, pita bread, and a meal of rice topped with chicken shawarma, raisins, and almonds. There are 2 columns of salad selections on the menu - the fattoush salad, Greek salad, and spinach salads are all wonderful and come with interesting variations.

But the Kaplan's Deluxe is the queen of all salads. Romaine lettuce, crispy fried pita bread, tomatoes, almonds, chicken shawarma, and rice. Yes, rice! It sounds usual, but tastes wonderful. It is served with the Moe's dressing and the garlic sauce on the side. Mix it all together and it tastes amazing. And this salad is enough for two people to share - I usually can get 2 to 3 meals from it. (The picture above makes it look small, but this is a huge plate.) It is the best salad I've ever had anywhere in the world.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boiled Brown Rice

I have bad luck making brown rice. It takes forever, it boils over and is messy, and it gets gummy. A while back when I saw this blog post from Angry Chicken about boiling rice like pasta to cook it, I tucked it away in my bookmarks of recipes to try.

So last weekend I tested this process. I filled a big pot with water with a little salt and heated it until it started boiling. Then I added about 2 cups of brown rice. I boiled it for about 30 minutes until it was cooked but still slightly firm. Then I strained it in a colander. I didn't even do the final recommended step about heating it slightly after it was strained. So easy!

The rice turned out perfect! This will be my only way to make brown rice from now on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Light - recycled!

Remember the old ugly lamp that I replaced in the kitchen this summer?

Well, I thought there still might be a clever and cute use for it. So I cleaned it, removed the old wires and part of the metal shade, and then sprayed it with brown primer.

Then glued a glass votive where the light bulb used to sit.

And hung it in the garden under the ivy trellis. I twirled a few ivy vines around it.

The rusty brown color matches some of the other other rusty/terracotta colors of accessories in the garden, but it kind of blends in a bit too much. Maybe another color, what do you think?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Galia Melon

Have you ever had a Galia melon? It looks like a cantaloupe on the outside and a honeydew on the inside. The taste is a blend of the two flavors - if you get a good one it is soooo sweet! Has anyone else ever had one?

I first discovered Galia melons many years ago during a trip to Israel. But I have only seen them in the US maybe half a dozen times, usually by the other specialty melons, and usually in a gourmet fruit store, and usually pricey. But the other day I actually found one at Kroger! So I had melon for dessert for several days. Mmmmmm - if you ever find one, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Monday, September 8, 2008

No Longer Stuffed to the Top

Sorry, I haven't posted for several days. I've heard one complaint from a friend that she was tired of looking at that picture of the focaccia!  I've been so busy with the start of school that I've spending time on weekends to set up some items to autopost during the week.  But this weekend my laptop went away to get a new 320 GB hard drive installed. (For over a year I have been running my laptop hard drive dangerously filled to the top.)  So now I have more more room to download more pictures and install more applications.  Yippee!

I need to spend time tonight catching up on all the work that I couldn't get done without my laptop. But I do have some pictures of some new cleverness on my camera that hopefully I will get up within the next few days.  See you soon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Caramelized Onion Focaccia

I really wanted to make this recipe for Focaccia de Patate from the Wednesday Chef. But alas, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no fresh yeast, and I just was too lazy to go to the store! But the idea of using potato to make focaccia sounded like a good idea, and I had some delicious potato flakes in the pantry! Actually, I have used the instant potato flakes in other bread recipes, so I thought maybe I could substitute. Hmmmm.

Now, I make frequently make focaccia with another favorite recipe, but this bread had a totally different taste and texture, and it was amazing! I confess, I ate almost half the pan while it was warm, it was that good! It was quite soft and crusty and quite thick - next time I would make it a 9 x 13 pan to get it a bit thinner. The topping of caramelized onions with a touch of fig and a dotting of Boursin herb cheese was the perfect combination. I definitely will be experimenting with this recipe, so stay tuned for some more variations.

Caramelized Onion Focaccia

for the dough:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup instant potato flakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Heat the 1/2 cup water until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 cup potato flakes until combined. In your bread machine bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, olive oil, and 2/3 cup water along with the potato mixture. Put the yeast in the yeast dispenser and mix using the dough setting on your bread machine. (If you don't have a bread machine, you could knead by hand or in a food processor.) Let rise for a couple of hours.

For the topping:

1 yellow onion
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fig jam
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 ounces Boursin garlic and herb cheese
fresh rosemary
fresh cracked pepper

Cut the onions into slices and cut the slices into quarters. Heat a large shallow pan with the olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the onions are brown and caramelized, about 3o - 40 minutes. Add the brown sugar, fig jam, and balsamic vinegar and combine. (Note: I seldom measure these ingredients, just dump a bit in!) Remove from heat.

To make the focaccia:

Take a 9 x 13 pan and pour in about 2 tablespoons more of olive oil. Brush the pan with the oil until well coated. Dump the dough from the bread machine into the pan - it will be very soft and a bit sticky. Push it out with your fingers to fit the pan, then turn it over, and continue to stretch it until it almost fits the pan.

Top the focaccia with the onion mixture and dot with crumbled Boursin cheese. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and cracked pepper. Let it rise for about another hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the focaccia with a bit more olive oil before putting in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and removing from the pan with a spatula. You will want to eat it warm!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Listening for Lions

The best book that I read during the summer was Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan. (This was one of the wonderful children's books given to me by our school librarian for my summer enjoyment.)

This book reminded me of The Secret Garden (0ne of my favorites) with a bit of an Out of Africa setting in the beginning. The plot involves a young girl with missionary parents who is orphaned in the early 1900s during the influenza epidemic. In her attempt to get back to England she gets trapped in a lie by some greedy neighbors (I won't spoil it for you). The descriptions of both Africa and England are vivid and there are endearing characters (as well as ones you will love to hate). I couldn't put it down. A sweet story with a story with great twists!

I also read Angel on the Square by the same author, and I hope to check out more books by her!


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