Friday, July 11, 2014

Greeted by Golden Trumpets

Trumpet lilies, that is.  If you stop by our house at the right time in the summer, you are greeted by fragrant yellow lilies by the front steps.
A hand-me-down from my mother's garden many years ago,
these lilies reach more than four feet tall, so they do require staking.

We have been repainting the porch this summer, and I have enjoyed the occasional bursts of scent wafting from the lilies when a breeze blows.  It makes the arduous task of scraping and painting a little bit sweeter. 

I wish you could smell them!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dog Walking Beanie Hats

Don't be fooled.  This is his mid-day look.
At 5:30 a.m., he's jumping on the bed.
Here at the Posy house, we are an early rising bunch, and Alfie, that sly dog, is the earliest of all.  Most mornings, he's up and at 'em by 5:30 and ready for his walk.  We actually like to walk early.  It's a bit quieter -- fewer cars on the street -- and we are more likely to spot wildlife as we walk along the river.  There are others who walk or jog around the same time, so we are often able to greet one or two "regulars" and share news of deer or fox sightings or remark on the weather or what have you.

The only trouble with walking first thing, before breakfast and showers, is that my hair often looks like I just rolled out of bed which, of course, I did, but one doesn't want to go out in public like that, even if it is 5:45 a.m.  I have lots of hats for winter walks and that works great as hair camouflage.  Summer is a little tougher.  I've never been a girl to wear a baseball cap.  This summer, I did swipe one from our son's room -- a jazzy plaid number -- and have worn it a few times, but it's really not me.

acrylic version

So I found this little hat pattern, available from DROPS Design.  I have crocheted two of them so far, both in self-striping sock yarn.  The first I made in acrylic, which is really perfect for a summer morning as it's not too hot.  The most recent one I made with wool sock yarn which I had left over from a scarf I made last winter.  They're goofy looking but I like them, and I don't have to worry if my hair is sticking up weird or anything.

Little granny squares with simple double crochet for the body of the cap and as a border below.
I'm afraid, though, that this latest hat will be my last crochet project for a while.  I have developed what I believe is tendinitis in my elbow.  I am going to lay off the needlework and heavy lifting to see if it improves.  I've been doing a lot of outside work lately too (carrying those concrete stepping stones yesterday didn't help), so I'll ease up and see if the pain eases up too.  Any of you crocheters ever have similar trouble?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crazy Granny Stashghan

If you Google granny stripe afghan, you can find photos of beautiful, color-coordinated crocheted afghans, many in rainbow hues, and some with elaborate borders.  And then there's this:

What I call my crazy granny stashghan.  I admit, calling it "crazy granny" is a little bit politically incorrect.  After all, most grandmothers are not crazy.  My own grandmothers were both hardworking women.  

My paternal grandmother married a Pennsylvania coal miner and raised ten children.  They never had much money, and she never had much free time until she was older.  She was a talented lady though.  She designed and cut her own patterns and sewed clothes for her kids.  She could draw and paint; I'm told she drew beautiful horses. When she was older, she loved Avon and always colored her hair and painted her nails.

My maternal grandmother married a bit later in life.  She married a widower with six children, one of whom wasn't quite two yet, I believe.  She then had two children of her own.  She was a farm wife who cooked three hearty meals a day, every day because farm work was hard work with a mule to plow with and tobacco worms to pick off the plants by hand.  She killed the chickens herself, churned the butter, and made quilts out of flour sacks.  My father, her son-in-law, said she made the best biscuits he ever tasted.  In later years, she lived with her oldest daughter, my aunt, and was the quietest, calmest person I have ever known.

I look back now and wish I'd taken more time to talk to my grandmothers, to hear the stories of their lives.  There are so many things I'll never know.

Perfect for lounging on the hammock.

This is the second granny stripe afghan I have made, both using up excess, leftover yarn from my yarn stash.  Honest, the only yarn I bought was some extra pink and teal to finish the border.  This crazy afghan is a mix of acrylic, wool, and even some cotton.  I love making these because they are so easy to do.  The only pain is weaving in all the ends.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Like Magic: Mushrooms on a Monday

Parasol mushrooms in the park around the corner, taken with a phone.

Mushrooms seem to appear magically overnight with all the rain we've been having here.  The rain is keeping everything very lush and green, and the river is high on our morning walks.  Getting the outdoor painting done is a challenge, but I just snatch opportunities when I can.

In our lawn.

Sad news from our walk.  One of the neighborhood foxes was hit by a car, probably last night or early this morning.  We saw the body about 6:00 this morning, just a few feet from the street.  Poor fox.  Watching for it in the mornings has been a highlight of my walks the past month.  I hope its mate stays safe and away from the street.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Empty Nest

This is my last robin post, I promise!  After three of its siblings had left the nest yesterday, this one final fledgling was left alone.  What to do?

Here is the lone fledgling.  "Oh so lonely."  "Maybe I can do it!"  "No, I can't, but what's all that chirping I hear?"
As I watched this little bird think about leaving the nest, I could hear robins cheeping and chirping all around.  Finally a parent bird flew up and landed close to the nest on an electric wire.  Loud chirping ensued.  I think his mama was telling him to get off his duff!  Then the next thing I knew, he had flown the nest!

He was too quick for me, but you can see him flying away on the far left side.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Robin Fledgling!

Picture taken through a window and storm window, so forgive the quality.

I have been anxiously watching the robin nest the  last few days.  (Earlier posts here and here.)  I knew it couldn't be long until the baby robins were ready to fly on their own.  There seemed to still be one or two in the nest this morning, but then I also saw this fledgling on the bird feeder.  It was first perched on top but then lost his footing and slid down. It managed to land on the ledge and perched there for half an hour or so, cheeping, and no doubt wondering where its parent/food service had gone.  It's exciting to see "my" birds grow up.  I feel quite protective of them.  I'm going to have to keep one eye on my work today and one eye on the yard watching for feral cats.  (You can read my feral cat story here.  Don't get me started on that topic.)

Taken with a phone in early morning light.

It's been quite a week for wildlife here in the neighborhood.  Monday's walk brought us about twelve feet from a very calm doe, who seemed as likely to walk up the riverbank and join us as to run away.

On Tuesday's walk, a dashing red fox ran across the road in front of us and then along the river.  Later, it was sitting quietly, peeping over some tall grass between the river and the woods, watching us walk by.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the fox, but camera phones do have their limits!

It's amazing how much wildlife lives right here in town.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Keen for Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the current darlings of healthy eating.  While quinoa has been grown in the Andes for centuries, most Americans didn't discover it until the latter twentieth century or even the twenty-first century. It's a fun change of pace from rice, even if it isn't actually a grain. (It's a seed, did you know that?  I used to think it was a grain.)

Quinoa has become popular in my family, especially with our son.  He discovered that a local grocery store sells bulk quinoa, so he stocks up when he visits and uses it with chicken several times a week.  Because, you know, this family eats a LOT of chicken.

I often marinate chicken in some variation of a soy sauce marinade before grilling.  It's fast and I always have ingredients on hand.  Recently, I came up with my own version of a common quinoa recipe using soy sauce and garlic to pair with the grilled chicken.  This is a simple weeknight kind of meal.  It comes together quickly and is tasty and healthy.  Pair it with a salad, and dinner is ready in half an hour, tops!

I call it Fusion Quinoa Chicken because it has South American quinoa; olive oil and garlic, often associated with Mediterranean diets; and Asian-inspired soy sauce.  (I always use Kikkoman soy sauce because it is made in Walworth, Wisconsin, less than ten miles from the Illinois border, near a town we used to live in.  I was so surprised the first time, years ago, when I saw the factory sitting in a Wisconsin field.)

Fusion Quinoa Chicken

Chicken :
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large chicken breasts, well trimmed

Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally to make thinner pieces.  Set these aside in a shallow dish.  Combine olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and mix well with fork.  Pour marinade over chicken and allow to marinate for about 15 minutes at room temperature.  Turn chicken occasionally.  While chicken marinates, prepare ingredients for quinoa.  After quinoa has reached the simmer stage, grill chicken, turning occasionally, until cooked through.   Baste with remaining marinade whenever turning the chicken.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup mixed red and white quinoa (you can use a single color if desired)
1 cup water
1 cup reduced sodium, fat free chicken broth
3 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon salted butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Add quinoa and cook about one minute, stirring constantly.  Add water, chicken broth and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and add butter, stirring until it is melted.  Stir in parsley and transfer quinoa to serving bowl.   Top quinoa with cooked chicken breasts and serve.  

Printable recipe

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What Happened While We Were Away or A Full House

The bat house has tilted from the weight of the birds.

We got home late last night after two weeks away.  I was so pleased to see that the robins hatched (and grew!) while we were gone.  There are four nestlings, which makes for a crowded nest and two very busy parents.  The day was quite overcast, and I wish I had a longer lens, but at least you can see the little robins in these pictures.

Lunch is served.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nesting Instinct

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of Mother's Day, I want to share this photo of someone with real parenting instinct.

A pair of robins have been busy building a nest atop our bat house for the last few days.  It's been fun to watch all the carrying and arranging going on.  I was especially tickled to see one of last year's hydrangea blooms, which I cut off the bushes just last weekend, has been selected as building material.  The bat house is on the front of our two-story garage, just under the eaves.  I was able to get this photo with a telephoto lens from the upstairs porch of the house.

Mother's Day hat update:  My mother seems pleased with the hat I made her.  She said it fit perfectly!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Off the Hook for Mother's Day

I decided to make my mother a hat for Mother's Day this year.  I started out knitting one from a pattern that I like quite a lot.  I used that pattern for what has become my go-to winter hat, a slightly slouchy brown tweed.  Here's a picture of it from a 2011 blog post. For my mother's hat, I was using Lion Brand Homespun in a really pretty purple. Unfortunately, I gave up after getting only a few rows in past the ribbing because it was turning out huge.  The bulky Homespun yarn is obviously too thick for this hat.

Undaunted, I decided to begin a new hat.  I scoured Ravelry, looking for something with a bit of a brim.  I found a Patons pattern for a crocheted Women's Peaked Hat that many Ravelry users said ran small.  My mother has a small head, so I figured this would work out well.  I switched to Vanna's Choice yarn in dusty purple.  I like how it turned out, though it seems a trifle long.  I can't really judge the fit because it is a little too small for me.  I tacked up the brim with two coconut husk buttons in a coordinating purple from Dritz Belle Buttons.  Here's hoping it will fit my mother and be a hit on Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mmmmm, Monterey Chicken

If you've read my blog very much, you know I cook a lot of chicken.  Grilled, baked, fried, slow cooked -- if it's chicken, we'll eat it.  Yesterday, I browsed my Pinterest food board looking for something new to prepare for dinner.  And what do you suppose appealed to me?  Yep, chicken.  I came across a Monterey Chicken photo I had pinned a year ago and never tried.  I clicked through to the blog where it originally appeared, All Things Simple: Inspiration for a Simple Life, for the recipe.

Grilled and ready to pop in the oven to melt the cheese.  I used KC Masterpiece Original barbecue sauce.  I think next time I'd like to try a more smoky flavored sauce.
A hit!  It's marinated and grilled, then topped and baked.  It's easy to prepare and makes a nice presentation (once it's taken off the cookie sheet!).  Click here for the link to the original recipe on All Things Simple by Kim McCrary.  I followed her recipe pretty closely.  As Kim suggests, I marinated the chicken for about a half hour prior to grilling.  The only changes I made were:  She used Montreal Steak Seasoning in her marinade, which I replaced with Montreal Chicken Seasoning.  I also used a smaller can (10 oz.) of Rotel tomatoes and I had one additional chicken breast. Somehow, my chicken turned out just as tomato-y as hers appear in her photo.   I probably also upped the amount of cheese because, well, I just love cheese and it's hard to overdo yummy melted cheese.  I used sharp cheddar instead of colby with the monterey jack just because I didn't have any colby on hand.  The final change I made was to cook and crumble a nice smoky bacon rather than use bacon bits.  One piece of bacon per chicken breast seemed adequate.

After baking, the cheese is all melty goodness.  

We completed the meal with a mixed greens salad and some corn on the cob.  The final flourish was the white wine we got on our trip to Cedarburg, Settlement Gold.  It was delicious.  Sweet with a slight apple flavor.  A very good, inexpensive wine. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Now We're Cooking (with Gas)

Ever hear that expression, "cooking with gas"?  I've been cooking with gas in a literal sense all my adult life. Figuratively, of course, my "cooking with gas" (being efficient or enthusiastic) waxes and wanes.  Lately, more waning than waxing, I'm afraid.  Nevertheless, here in the Sweet Posy kitchen, we've been cooking with gas in a new stove the last week or so.

Shiny and new
One recent morning, I opened the oven to put in a sheet of biscuits, and the oven was stone cold.  Had I forgotten to turn it on?  Nope.  The burners still worked, but the oven ignitor or some such thing had gone out.  Since the stove was just a couple months shy of twenty years old, we decided it made more sense to get a new one than repair it.  We went online and found a Kenmore on sale that was well reviewed by Consumer Reports and that could be delivered in a mere four days.  So in no time at all, two nice men showed up with a new stove, brought it in, hooked it up, and hauled away our old GE Profile.  

Here's where things get tricky.  The new stove has a luxurious self-cleaning convection oven -- a first for me, both the self-cleaning and the convection.  I am excited to try both, but first, I have to figure out how to use the gosh-darned digital timer!  I have baked three things in the new stove so far, and I have only gotten the timer to work once.  Each time, I look carefully in the manual, then I somehow freak out and press Cook Time in addition to Timer. Or I hit Stop and turn off the whole oven when I only want to stop the timer. Or I think I know what I'm doing (famous last words) and I advance the timer past nine minutes and then it goes back to one instead of up to ten.  I have resorted to using my microwave timer, which is also digital, but despite that, somehow I can make it work.  I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually.

The tricky control panel:  How can it be so confusing?  I guess I'm just better with knobs.

What I like about the new stove is that, first of all, it's so clean!  That's always a plus.  Second, baked goods are turning out really well so far.  Today, for example, I made almond poppy seed bread (earlier post about that recipe is here) to take to a friend as a housewarming gift.  I have occasionally had trouble with the bottoms and sides of the almond breads/cakes turning out a bit overcooked.  But today's loaves turned out with gorgeous golden sides.  

Perfect! No overbrowning.

All in all, I'm pleased with the stove.  If I ever figure out that timer, I'll really be cooking with gas.

*UPDATE:  Whoo hoo! I just set the timer!  Writing this post and publicly shaming myself was obviously the trick!
*Further Update:  I think I might have turned off the whole oven when I set that timer.  Went back and my meatballs were still cold.  Hmmm.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Interurban Bridge
With the beginning of some warmer weather, it's nice to get out and about.  Last Saturday, we took a little day trip up to Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  We've passed through the area (about twenty miles north of Milwaukee) a number of times, but had never stopped in Cedarburg before.  What a charming little town!  It is filled with nineteenth century limestone and fieldstone buildings that now house shops and restaurants.  It is very pedestrian friendly.  There were lots of people milling about, many of them tourists like us, but also locals with their dogs who had walked into town for a cup of coffee or lunch.  We found a place to park out of the hubbub by the fire station on the non-shopping side of Cedar Creek.  We were able to cross the creek on the Interurban Bridge, a former train bridge, now open only to pedestrians and bikes.

Looking up Cedar Creek toward one of the dams.  Cedarburg Mill is on the left.
Cedarburg Mill
The creek is a natural centerpiece of the town, and it served as its economic engine in the 1800s.  At one time, five dams and five mills operated on the creek.  The largest of these, Cedarburg Mill, is five stories tall.  A plaque near the mill said it produced 120 barrels of flour during its heyday.  It currently serves as home to a feed and seed store, a design or architecture business, and a craft brewery. There was also at least one other grist mill and a woolen mill.  The woolen mill is part of what is called the Cedar Creek Settlement, now home to Cedar Creek Winery (where we bought a bottle of Settlement Gold, which we're told is a sweet wine with pineapple and golden apple flavors--haven't tried it yet) and lots of little shops and galleries.

Cedar Creek Settlement.  Amish-made plastic (!) furniture to the right, sold in one of the shops.  We wanted to eat at Anvil but couldn't find it before I dropped dead of starvation, so we ate at a very good place called Stilt House, where I had a Stiltburger which came on a pretzel roll with ale-braised onions.  Yummy!
After lunch and shopping (mostly looking), we nabbed some candy at one of the numerous chocolate shops -- dark chocolate almond bark for me. Then we headed just north of town to see the last remaining covered bridge in Wisconsin.  It was built in 1876 and was used until 1962.

One last scenic view before heading home.  The bridge trusses are held together with two-inch wooden pins, no nails or bolts.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tax Time Pick-Me-Up

A very good friend is an accountant.  When tax season rolls around, she and her partner and their staff are always swamped with work.  They barely can come up for air.  When I stopped by recently to turn in my signed e-forms, I also dropped off a little pick-me-up snack to keep them going through the afternoon.

Sausage cheese balls: tax free but not guilt free
Sausage cheese balls are a staple at parties and breakfasts in the South.  They are definitely not a health food, but -- yum!

Sausage cheese balls have been a favorite of mine for many years.  I don't make them very often because of health concerns, but they are popular at our house around the holidays or other times people want a treat.  Our son, for example, recently requested them as part of his birthday breakfast.  A dear friend of mine from my Tennessee teenage years also now lives in northern Illinois.  She always makes sausage cheese balls for parties.  I remember her mother-in-law once sniffing, "You Southern girls certainly like your sausage cheese balls."  Why, yes, Mrs. Irish Chicago, we certainly do!  And you better not get in between us and our sausage balls or we might knock you over!  While I don't actually advocate violence, I do advocate these savory snacks.

They are a little bit of work to make, but worth it.  The recipe I use comes from Tennessee Pride, which is the only kind of bulk sausage I buy, but you can use any brand.  Sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese is also a must.  The mixing takes time, especially depending how much biscuit mix you try to work in.  My daughter uses two cups when she makes these, but I think it is worth the trouble to mix in three full cups, but it does involve using your hands and pulling the meat and cheese mix apart to get more dry ingredients to adhere.  Here you can see the sausage/cheese combination before and after the biscuit mix is incorporated.

After baking, your sausage balls should be golden and crispy, round bite-sized balls like this:

But if they turn out like this,

flat or misshapen blobs, don't worry.  Eat them anyway, they'll taste just as good!

Sausage Cheese Balls

1 pound bulk (or roll) sausage, mild or hot
2 cups shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
2-3 cups biscuit mix (like Bisquick)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Using fork or hands, combine sausage and cheese in large mixing bowl .  Blend in biscuit mix a little bit at a time, using hands, until well mixed.  Roll into 1-inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  You can flip the balls over halfway through baking if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes approximately 75.

Printable recipe

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If It's April First, I Must Be Back

A year passes so quickly.  Here I am, back to blogging after a full year away.  I left on April 1 and thought a return on the same date would be appropriate.  The joke, however, may well be on me that no one will even notice my return after my very definite quitting announcement and being so long away.

Hello? Is anyone out there? Or am I shouting into an empty canyon?
Why am I blogging again?  Oddly enough, a number of people have encouraged me to come back (and I'm not even related to all of them!).  I miss the connection to fellow bloggers.  Being a blogger sometimes pushed me to try new things.  I like having a record of things I've done and places I've gone.

What will be different this time?  Very little on the surface.  The biggest difference will be in my own view of my blog. I'm going to try not to get caught back up in stats and trying to increase my readership, worrying about how often I post. Blogging is not a job, after all; it's for fun.  I'm going to keep it fun.

What have I been up to?  When I look back over the past year, I'm not sure I've done all that much.  I
crocheted three afghans, none of which I have pictures of -- a yo-yo design, a large single granny square, and a granny stripe which used up stash yarn.  I made a couple of hats using a Ravelry pattern, The Journey Hat by Reenie Hanlin.

I cooked a lot of food, including roasting a duck for the first time and some new recipes for brussels sprouts, asparagus, and some extremely lime-y cookies.

Ready for adventure with my Outback.
Cue "Born to be Wild" music.

I also watched the oldest obtain her master's degree, helped said kid move -- twice, took a few minor trips, bought a car and a digital camera, lost twenty pounds, made several glitter house decorations and an awesome glitter Merry Christmas banner (stole the idea from a Pottery Barn catalog).

A graduating kid and her new small town.  Off our payroll and practically off the map!

Kayaking in alligator and manatee infested waters.  Okay, we didn't see any alligators that day, but we did see a couple of manatees.  We also saw a tour boat on the wide part of the river, which was heading straight for us.  In our hasty paddling to get out of the way, my camera fell into the river.  The photos were salvageable, but the camera was not, hence the new camera mentioned above.
I lightened the exposure here so you can see my fabulous banner.  Made it with stencils on heavy card stock and lots of cheap silver glitter.  Hole punched the tops, added ribbon and voila!  Saved serious cash.  I really loved it.
I'm so happy to be back in the blogging world.  I hope you'll join me again from time to time.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Good Night and Good Luck

“I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.”  -- J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Not wanting to leave without knowing it, I am taking a cue from Holden Caulfield: I know I am leaving.  I think my blog has run its course, so I am saying good-bye.  Thank you to everyone who has read my blog.  It has been so much fun getting to know all of you.  I hope to still stop in and read others' blogs when I can, but my own blog will disappear shortly.  It's time for me to discover what is next around the bend.

“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”  -- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Not Too Sweet Chocolate Treat

Starbucks.  I have to admit, I don't get it.  Not being a coffee drinker, I have no real way to understand the whole phenomenon.  Not that I begrudge people their addictions.  I have a well established problem with Diet Coke.  It started in the early 1980s with Tab and progressed from there.  The difference is: on a car trip, I am perfectly happy with a $1.00 medium Diet Coke from McDonald's.  I don't need to find a Starbucks and invest in a grande dolce latte whatever.  

On a recent trip to Tennessee, I stopped to pick up my daughter from her apartment about three hours south of where I live.  Like many young people, she discovered coffee drinks in high school and college.  "Can we stop for coffee and breakfast?" she asked.  My bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with almonds was wearing off by then, so I said sure.  She directed me to the Starbucks around the corner.  Since I had no idea what kind of breakfast I would find there, we had to go in.  She knew exactly what she wanted -- a slice of banana bread and some drink name that made no sense to me.  I couldn't decide what to get.  The lemon cake looked good -- except for the icing.  The chocolate bread looked good -- except for the cinnamon.  I finally chose a cookie, which was okay, but not something that would induce me to return.  The look of that chocolate bread, though, stuck with me.

When I got home last week, I must have still had the vision of Starbucks' chocolate bread lingering in my brain because when I looked in the pantry at the cookbooks, my hand went to the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook (which is actually a 1993 updated and expanded version of the cookbook), where I found a recipe for Chocolate Tea Bread.  It's a simple recipe that results in a nice chocolate loaf that is nutty, a little chewy, and not very sweet.  Mmmm.  I'm not sure how well my cake would go with a caramel macchiato, since Starbucks' chocolate cinnamon bread has 40 grams of sugar in a single slice whereas mine has about 134 grams in the whole loaf and no cinnamon, but it goes perfectly with milk or even Diet Coke!

Chocolate Tea Bread
slightly adapted from Hershey's 1934 Cookbook

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 4 x 2 inch loaf pan.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended.  Add egg; beat well.  Sift together flour, baking soda and salt; add cocoa to dry ingredients and whisk together.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three parts, alternately with buttermilk.  Stir in sour cream.  Add nuts and mix just until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake approximately 1 hour and 15-20 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove to wire rack.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Luna Shawl aka The Eyepopper

Another shawl, ya'll!  I'm on a shawl kick lately.  The Southernism "ya'll" is because I just returned from a visit to Tennessee where a waitress at O'Charley's about darlin'-ed us to death.  I definitely said "ya'll" when I was growing up in the South, but I never called anybody "darlin'" or "sugar."  Still, I think it beats having a waiter or waitress address your group as "you guys" when at least half the group is female!

In February I wrote about my first shawl, made with the "Ruby" pattern by Anastasia Roberts, which you can purchase on Ravelry.  I liked it so much, I made another.  This time, however, I used three skeins of Cascade Luna Paints yarn in Solar Flare.  It is a wonderfully soft and cozy worsted weight Peruvian cotton, much thicker than the microfiber I used in the first shawl.  I thought three skeins, which I already had on hand, would be enough, but I had to cut short the ruffle. It's really, really bright, but I think it will be fun with a simple t-shirt and plain cardigan.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Something Fishy

I am back among the living, having come out of the weeds and the zombie state of an imminent deadline.  After a weekend spent celebrating the baby's twenty-first birthday, I have now settled back into my usual routine.

It is still winter here, despite the occasional robin sighting, so last night I decided on a warming meal of seafood chowder.  I had eaten clam chowder lots of times, but didn't discover seafood chowder until a trip to Ireland in 2009.  Our daughter went to the University of Limerick for a semester, and she and I spent about ten days driving along the west coast of Ireland before school started.  Being cheap, I soon learned that a bowl of chowder, served with that wonderful Irish brown bread, made a fabulous, inexpensive meal.  It was available almost everywhere, and I never had a bad bowl.

I recently watched Ina Garten make seafood chowder on Food Network, so when I saw wild-caught shrimp at the grocery store, I decided to try it.  I followed her recipe as closely as I could, only substituting cod for monkfish, which was not available.  This is a hearty, fishy soup, loaded with fish, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.

A pound of shrimp, half pound of scallops, a little more
than a half pound of cod, and  six ounces of crab meat

There are vegetables, too: carrots, potatoes, celery, corn, and onion, but seafood is definitely the star of this chowder. The husband actually said he would like more potatoes, and I think I agree with him.

The vegetables simmering before the stock and seafood are added.

I would also add more flavoring I think.  Some recipe reviewers said they added a touch of cayenne.  That might help.  It was very good overall, but a little mild.  The stock was flavored with thyme, onion, and garlic, but it just needed more ooomph.  Maybe I didn't add enough salt and pepper.  For the recipe, you can click the Food Network link, here.