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bzzzbzzzz

With the onset of spring comes quite a few bugs, and in my case, three different swarms of honeybees on three different days. They seem to love my yard, which has me stumped since the only things that are blooming in my yard are two small blueberry bushes and two flowers (pretty little things) on one of our snowpea plants. We had one swarm make itself content on a small, bare, crepe myrtle in the front yard. Actually, they were on almost the same branch another swarm had landed the year before. The other two swarms were happily hiving on the bradford pear tree (yes, the same one I was supposed to cut back and haven’t yet) in our backyard.  One of the swarms had moved on before our local bee keeper could get to it.  Luckily they were able to get to the second backyard swarm and safely cart it away.  With this being the second year we’ve had swarms, I think a hive or two may be in my future.  I’m not sure if  I should take on another new hobby though. I will be doing a a lot of research before I decide.  Hmmmmm…    I really like bees. I liked the sound of  the hive buzzing happily away.

Darn.

I think I’m hooked.

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This is my favorite go to salad.  It’s easy to make in a pinch, but I think the key is a good quality balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of lettuce (romaine is pictured)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup prepared quinoa
  • 1/2 chicken breast, cut any way you like it!
  • 1/4  avocado, cut into cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp of shredded hard cheese ( parmesan, asiago, I go for the blend!)

This is going to go pretty fast, so keep up!

Chop salad

and it into a bowl.

sprinkle salad with garlic salt

I like the kind that has parsley flakes in it. Who knows why. My brain is convinced it tastes better I guess. Now spoon in the quinoa. Or just drop it on the top. Whatever works for you. I’m using some of the leftover herbed quinoa I had made.

Now,throw in chicken and avocado… well maybe not throw. Toss in the chicken and avocado. Eh, you get the point.

Drizzle in olive oil (I like to use garlic infused olive oil. FANCY!) and balsamic vinegar.

and sprinkle over the CHEESE!!!

You don’t have to use olive oil and vinegar as your dressing… but try it at least once.  It’s worth it!

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Herbed Quinoa

This is a great side dish which flavor is reminiscent of rice pilaf and couscous mixed. High in protein, it is a great alternative to pasta or grain, and it tastes really good! It’s also super simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Put all ingredients into a pot,

and bring to a boil.

Cover and bring heat to low to simmer ingredients. Simmer for about 10 -15 minutes.  Turn off heat but keep covered for 5 more minutes.

Then just stir and serve!

Quinoa is so versatile, that almost anything can be added to it.  After cooked, you can stir in sauteed sherried mushrooms, fresh spinach, green onion,  parmesan or romano cheese, pine nuts, or pears and walnuts.  Or you can add any veggie while bringing to a boil to cook with the quinoa. So many choices…!

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These rolls remind me of grade school.  One sniff send you back to the days when the net-haired women of the cafeteria would plop one on your tray.  Add any fresh herb,  and you have a new monster. Raisins and cinnamon, or slightly sautéed garlic… this is a great basic roll dough.  Once again I make the dough in the bread machine on the dough setting. It really makes everything easier. I LOVE my machine, and I can’t emphasize that enough. Lets get to mixing since I can’t wait until the smell of warm baking bread fills the house!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 packet or 2-1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3-1/3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 -1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp butter flavored shortening
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/3 cup wheat bran (optional)

Start by dissolving the sugar into the cup of warm water.  Once it is dissolved, stir in your yeast and let it sit until it’s frothy, approximately 3-5 minutes. Could be more, could be less so keep an eye out! This is what frothy should look like.

Pour yeast mixture into the bread machine, add eggs, milk, flour, salt, and shortening. Add in wheat bran at this time, if you chose too. I do, because it makes me feel better about myself. Or at least better about my rear.

Use the dough setting on your machine. Press start and walk away.  Most machines have a dough setting of an hour and a half for a 1.5 pound dough ball.

Once your machine beeps to tell you that your dough is done, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface.

This is a semi sticky dough,  as you can see by my fingers… but this changes really quickly.  Pour your melted butter over the dough, and knead it in for 2 minutes. I end up folding the dough in half over itself about 8 times. The dough will look a little shiny like so:

Grease or spray down a 9×9 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  Cut the dough ball into 9 or 10 equal pieces and form each piece into a small ball. Arrange in the pan (the dough balls will be touching) and brush with any excess melted butter.  MMMMMMmmmmm…  butter.  Food of the gods. I am a dairy girl at heart.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size. Depending on how cold your house is, this could take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  They should look like this.

These are going to rise even more in the oven!!
See I told you. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown, then open your oven door to warm bread heaven.

I’ve brushed these with some more butter, of course!!!




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I went to the eye doctor today, and I swear she put crack in my eyes.  I have never had my eyes dilate that badly before. My vision was a blurry mess for what seemed like for-ever. She then took me into the back room and further rendered me sightless by blinding me with the brightest light I have ever “seen”.  Doctor, I think you may be burning the back of my brain. What do you mean by telling me to keep my eyes wide open?  I’m not closing them on purpose.  My eyelids are acting on their own accord. It’s a survival reflex to them.  You’re lucky they haven’t flown off and tried to shake you silly yet.   Needless to say, I was getting nervous about driving home at this point. And of course that’s exactly when she wanted me to pick out a new pair of frames. At one point, I had something purple and big enough to touch my hairline handed to me to try on.  I could actually feel my head warming up. Could have been a pair of eyeglass frames.  Could have been a hat. Only she will know. Dear Ms. Doctor, you will take full responsibility for how dorky I look in my new glasses, and you will be fully blamed. You will hear about it if someone calls me “Buddy Holly”, because even though I  like his glasses, I don’t want to wear them. You will also be the brunt of future conversations about strange doctor experiences.  PS- I will be seeing my regular eye doctor from now on, even if it takes months to get an appointment.

Though weather being has been gray this week, (and having been on the receiving end of an intentional blinding) I’m still feeling optimistic. I’ve been working on the corset that I’m determined to finish in the next few days, and I’ve started on a new commission. The birds seem to hate the tinfoil spinners that I’ve put in the garden. BIG  BIG plus. That is except for one particular robin who seems to have no fear. Also my blueberry bushes are starting to bloom which means… blueberries this year!!!! How can I not be excited about that?

So I end this tiny chapter of my tiny blog on a good note.

Big Smiles,

Me

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Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty good at making crab cakes.  At least I’ve come up with what I think is a darn fine recipe.  Moist and crabby on the inside, and crunchy on the outside…  Mmmmm.  So when we went to a crab feed the other night, I couldn’t get these off my mind.  I cracked and picked out the meat of a bunch of extra legs, then quietly smuggled my booty (as in pirate…  well both actually) out of the door before the crab police would take it away.  Oh yeah! It’s on!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of lump crabmeat picked over to remove shell and cartilage
  • 25 butter crackers, crushed
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tbsp chopped parsley or 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 tbsps mayonnaise
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp spicy brown or stoneground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • canola or olive oil for frying (I use a little of each!)

Have I told you how much I adore crabmeat?? I have to take a moment…

My mouth

is watering!!

Ok, I’m finished now. Let’s make some cakes!

Get a medium size bowl and dump in the butter cracker crumb, green onion, red bell pepper and parsley.

Mix together until it looks like this-

Looks purty already, and smells good to boot! Now add in the egg, mayonnaise, hot sauce, lemon juice, mustard, horseradish, Old Bay seasoning, onion and garlic powder.

Stir until completely combined.

It may look a little drier than this and that’s fine!

Now gently, oh so gently stir in your crabmeat.

Wrap a sheet pan with parchment paper, and using a heaping 1/4 cupful at

a time (an ice cream scoop will work wonders!), scoop out and form patties directly onto the parchment paper.

You should get anywhere from 6-8 regular sized patties. Once patties are formed, put the entire tray in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.  The wait is hard, but it is a really important step.

Heat up your oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan) until shimmering, but not smoking about 5 minutes. Using a spatula and pick up each patty and place in the panko bread crumbs.  Individually bread the top and bottom of each patty

and place into the pan gently with flat spatula. Brown over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and center is cooked.

Put the cooked crab cakes on a paper towel to drain for a minute or two, and serve!

Yum mmmmmmmmmm, I can’t resist…

Look at that crab!

Serve with lemon and tartar sauce, or a roasted red pepper aioli. Gotta go finish this up!

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So the war has begun between the neighborhood finches and myself.  And the pill bugs, and the slugs. I’ve got the slugs beat, no problem. It’s those freakin’ roley polies and the finches  that are knocking me back a few steps.  My celery seedlings are just about kaput due to the sow bugs, and I’ve lost chard, and almost both of my zucchinis to the finches, as well as a few lettuce.  I have researched what I might be able to do to battle these pests, that is also safe around vegetables, which is harder than it sounds.  The few organic pesticides that I have found for the pill bugs are safe around the plants, but will be bad for my beneficial. I have also read that diatomaceous earth, helps to dry out the pill bugs, since technically they are a crustacean and need moisture to breathe through their “gills”, but it will dissipate after a few waterings, and isn’t the greatest thing for your soil. ARGH!  As for the finches, I put out some tin foil pin wheels to start with, and if it doesn’t work, I may need to invest in some bird netting. UGLY. But it could possibly double for keeping the dog out of the garden… which is a big plus. I think.

HELP! I need some friendly suggestions people.  Listen to my sad cries and share your wisdom!

Whew!

Stupid birds. I don’t even care if they are pretty and sound great. Yes, I’m pouting. Humph.

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You’ll go weak in the knees from the smell of this bread baking.  Well, any baking bread really.  I’m lazy, so this is a half bread machine-half oven recipe, though it can be done completely by hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon  white sugar
  • 2-1/4  teaspoons or 1 packet of dry active yeast
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup of pack brown sugar or raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups crushed bran cereal with raisins
  • 2-1/4 cups bread flour and some for dusting
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (optional)

Stir 1 teaspoon of white sugar into lukewarm water until it’s dissolved. Stir in yeast until it’s partially combined with the sugar water or looks like this:

Let it activate approximately 4-7 minutes or until it’s frothy. It should look something like this:

Neat huh!

Now here’s where you should follow your bread machine manufacturer instructions and pour in your ingredient accordingly, but I just follow the liquid (starting with the yeast mixture), to dry goods, to fats rule.  That is, I pour in everything wet first, then everything dry, and finally the butter.  In the end it should look something like this:

Put the machine on the dough cycle, and walk away for about an hour and a half.  If you want to add more raisins (or orange zest or anything else) you can do so when the machine beeps or in the last 5 minutes of the final kneading cycle.

Here’s the finished dough.  I know, nothing to write home about… unless you get fantastically excited about dough.

I’m warning you that this is a sticky dough.  A really sticky dough. “I’m not gonna come off your fingers” kind of sticky.

So be prepared.

Grease your loaf pan that the bread will be baked in, dust it with flour and set aside.  I tend to spray it down with a butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkle flour over that, not because I’m trying to be healthy. I told you, I’m lazy and it’s a great shortcut.  Once it’s floured, set it aside.

Scrape your dough out onto a floured surface and flip it over to lightly flour the entire dough ball. Viola, no more stickiness!  Press the dough into an approximately 3/4 inch thick rectangularish shape,  like so

It doesn’t have to be perfect, notice the hand prints?

Roll the dough into a long tube and put it into the pan, seam side down. Then cover with piece of plastic wrap

and put in a warm place to rise. After 35  minutes, turn on your oven to 350 degrees.  Let your dough finish rising while the oven heats up for another 10-15 minutes.  Take off the plastic, and hopefully it will look something like this

You can slash the top if you’d like at this point (I don’t=lazy). Pop that bad boy into the oven and bake for 50 minutes.   Cool the bread for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  Finish cooling on a rack or an upside down muffin tin (the rack was dirty) if you can resist cutting into it while it’s still warm.

I understand if you can’t.  I’ve been there, believe me.

If you want to, you could just cook this bread directly in your bread machine under the wheat bread cycle. Now how’s that for a shortcut!

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What do you see?? It’s so amazing what nature can show us, and amazes me on how much we miss when we don’t take the time and look.

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Lack of sleep

I love the idea of being the type of person that wakes up before the sun is out, get’s a cup of coffee and reads the newspaper as the sun rises and shines upon my face.  I called it an idea,  since it is fiction, and I am not that person. I’m usually up at all hours of the night, trying to finish things that I have started during the day, or need to finish before the next morning. Or I’m up all night with insomnia worrying about about stuff I need to do the next day. And if and when I finally fall asleep, it is inevitable that one of the kiddos will wake up and need me to rock them back to sleep.  I do in fact get up early, I pack the Hub’s breakfast and lunch, and I get his coffee ready. He works hard. He totally deserves this little offering every morning. I kiss that man o’ mine goodbye, then in my zombie state I get the kid’s breakfast going. Not that it take a lot to put together a bowl of cereal.  And I am known to whip up a mean batch of pancakes, eggs, or french toast on occasion. Even now it’s almost midnight and I still have a sink full of dishes that will not get done tonight and a loaf of bread baking in the oven.  When it comes down to it, I’m just horrible at managing my time.  I don’t feel bad about not completing all daily tasks. I just keep myself awake thinking about it!

Bread in the oven:  Raisin Bran Loaf Bread

Recipe to come!!!

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Older, and Taking It

So, this is the day that marks another full year in my life.  I’m one year older, and I know that I get older everyday, every second, but at this point I’m starting to feel it. I’ve never really thought about getting older before, as it was never an issue that crossed my mind.  But now, besides time telling me that I’m older, by body is giving me clues.  My back aches in the morning, which no amount of core exercises seems to take away.  I have 3 gray hairs,  I get heartburn.   My hands are starting to look like they’ve seen a lot of use.  They have.  My knees, ankles or something cracks when I stand up most of the time.  Yep, bring me the walker. And actually, the more I think about it, the more I wanna say, “Bring it on!”. I have earned my age, and I feel I have earned it pretty well.

Today, I got up, fed the kids breakfast, let the dog out, took the garbage out and down to the curb, did three loads of laundry, swept, vacuumed, dusted,  gave the dog a bath, washed the dog bed, vacuumed again after the dog re-shed all over everything, watered the garden bed, harvested broccoli, pulled rogue mint, turned the compost, fed the kids lunch, broke up 141 fights between the kids, cleaned out the pool (we have the world’s smallest built in), made the beds, went to the store, washed the dishes, put away the dishes, crushed aluminum cans, made dinner, got the kids ready for bed, and now I’m writing.  A normal day in the life of countless people.  I’m so happy it’s mine!

Dinner tonight was:  Roast chicken, roast garlic veggies, and home-made hot rolls

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Sour starter

How lovely. As almost a start to one of my greatest, most outstanding friend’s weekend, someone decided to walk into her backyard, kicked down the back door and steal anything of value that she and her girlfriend had owned. Which isn’t much.  They had just moved from North Carolina to Oregon in the last year, and have kept it simple.  They don’t even own a TV set.  The crooks stole a power drill, jewelry, an old laptop, and a guitar which happened to be a Christmas/birthday present. It kills me that someone (I’m using this word lightly, since that implies they are human) can cause anyone to feel such violation as well as wreak havoc on the feelings of security in their little household. What’s worse is that someone will more than likely get away with it. Whoever you are, you’re a JERK! Those ladies are such troopers.  They’ve been keeping positive and are trying to move on, planning their future. I told you she was outstanding.  So is her lady.  I’m completely opposite.  I would stew in my anger, and then futilely plot my revenge. Oh yeah, I WILL crush you!

Yep, I’m pathetic.

Continuing on…

I’ve been wanting to begin to grow(?) my own sourdough starter for quite some time, and finally felt like I had the patience and time to nurture one through the seven to fourteen day process. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I killed the first sponge on the third day.  It was bubbling happily away, I fed it before I went to sleep and when I woke up 6 hours later, it had over-proofed, leaving nothing but a SMELLY mess. The closest I could describe the smell would be 7 day old sour socks. Try to picture that one!!!  Attempted to bring it back over a two-day period which just worsened the smell. And since I’m a glutton for punishment, I started another one. Two days later and it’s no longer bubbling after I feed it, but it actually smells like a sourdough. Hmmm.  Dead?  Alive?  This is going to take a lot of experimenting. I think I may have to try another method.

Dinner tonight : Italian Sausages,  Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce, and Homemade (NON-sourdough) bread.

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I’m feeling the pressure to wrap-up a couple pending projects I’ve been working on. The first is a corset for a customer of mine. I’ve been working on it for a while not only because it is detailed but also because it took me close to two months to get a replacement part for my machine.  I’ve completely lost the momentum I had when I started the project, and I need to get back on track. The second is pruning back a Bradford pear tree that has gotten out of control in my backyard. The thing is close to 50 feet tall, which is ridiculous in my tiny backyard. The good thing is that both projects have been started and are midway to being finished. The bad is that both need to be finished by the end of this weekend. That’s TWO days people!!!! And of course, there are other obligations for this weekend. I see a big “NOT going to happen” in my future.

More stuff has emerged in the garden, and that is AWESOME!!!! I now have those zucchini, carrots and bunching onions I had previously wrote about popping up.  And even my rhubarb, the one I thought had rotted away and died, has managed to survive even after I had tilled up that area.  A stalk came up today!! Go figure. Nature is wonderful.

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Day is Done

My feet hurt.  It feels like there are bruises under each of my toenails. It could be from the totally wicked red patent leather platform peeptoe slingbacks I wore last night, or a freak accident involving vice grips while I was sleeping.  I vote vice grips, because I am not getting rid of the hooker heels.

The St. Patrick’s dinner date was a blast, although the first restaurant we went to had a two and a half hour wait for a table.  As we walked to the bar area to try a micro brew before we left, my Hubs wondered out loud if it was appropriate for the hostess to laugh at us while informing our small party of the wait time.  I think not…  but what do I know? My “cool pass” was revoked years ago.

I silently suffered the day through, quietly catching up on some reading on the couch.  Well, maybe not quietly. I have two young kiddos. Young loud fighting kiddos, and they get louder when I’m trying to read or I’m on the phone.  How do they know to do that at the worst times? EVERY SINGLE TIME. The little turds. Anywho, I was able to get through a few chapters of  “The Road” by Cormack McCarthy(very bleak and it gets worse!), and I finished “The Vegetable Gardener’s BIBLE” by Edward C. Smith. So informative! One of the better books on the subject. Easy to read and follow- I would really recommend it to anyone who needs a book to reference on all aspects of gardening.

I’m taking my sore feet to sleep now.

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Ok, so nothing really productive happened today, but it is my anniversary and the Hubs and I will be going out for dinner tonight with my sister and her husband.  The Grams (my mom) has the kids for tonight, and I’m  starting to relax just thinking about it. Not really, I’m clenching my teeth I’m so excited!  No kids and grown up dinner with another couple???  How did that happen again? I’m turning cartwheels!

“Married on St. Patricks day?”, you may ask.  There is a reason. The Hubs and I met on St. Patricks about twelve or so years ago. An acquaintance brought him to the local dive bar where everyone was meeting up for a glorious night of debauchery. He was quiet and had dyed his hair bright green for the occasion (“Green hair?!!?”. I KNOW!!!).  At first, not really knowing anyone in our group He didn’t seem to have much to say.  I thought, “Cute but boring. But that green hair… I likey!”  I told you it was the 90’s right? Off to another bar where He bought me my first shot of Irish whiskey (BLEECH, whiskey is NOT my friend).  A hop skip and a jump to another bar where my friends who play bagpipes and Scottish drums were live on the patio most of the night.  Then he ripped his pants from ankle to almost crotch jumping over a short fence and the rest is history.

It had to be the green hair and the ripped pants that did it.  Ahhhh, the 90’s.

I’ll have to report back after dinner about tonight, if I’m still able to type by then…

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