Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Brownie Battle

I'm a ba-a-d girl (whined like Lou Costello for pathetic-like effect).

My husband called me on the carpet today for always carrying on about wanting to lose weight and then the next second making something to sink my ship.  Today, it was brownies.  I couldn't help it.  I issued an open invitation to some visiting friends to come over and barbecue, so what was I to do....I needed a dessert!  If they came, problem solved, everyone would partake and I would be free of temptation, if's a sad but familiar story.

I took the easy way out and used one of our Trader Joe's Brownie Truffle baking mixes, which I argued eliminated another potential problem from the cupboard.  He argued back that I'd probably go out and replace it on the next shopping trip.  My quick retort?....Nuh-uh....  Okay.  I think I lost the war on that one, forget the battle.

Why is it I can't get my act together?  I try and try and try and try and crash and burn every time.  It's like I'm self defeating.  Really, I like myself pretty well.  I have good self esteem.  I love my God, family, friends and country.  I'm nice to small animals and properly fear the big ones.  Honestly, I'm not generally crazy about kids, 'cept my own (don't judge), but I don't make rotten faces at them or steal their suckers!  So WHY am I not able to pull together this one small aspect of my life!  Ugh.

Our friends have yet to confirm a date for tonight.  I hope they come....I need ammunition...and extra mouths to feed.  The brownies cannot be allowed to win.  Neither can my husband...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bliss and the Back Yard

It finally happened today!! After years of begging, whining and general nagging, we purchased our first patio set! Yippee!

(hubby constructing a dream)
We spent much of the last two and half decades moving around the country. Military life has it's rewards, constantly leaving dear friends behind isn't one of them. Another downer is never staying anywhere long enough to make it yours. You figure 'why bother, I'm moving in X number of years anyway, and so you do just enough to make it comfortable, usually keeping it scaled down to just the necessities. I can't say I ever owned a coffee or even an end table, I still don't, though now it's a matter of what I've become accustomed to. Which brings me, in an awkward way, to the patio furniture. I always wanted a set, but it was the same ol' 7/6 (what does that mean anyway?)...Do we really need it?...The temperature isn't right here for it...How will it effect our weight allowance?...Will we have a place to put it at the next house? Ugh. Well, now we're retired and there are no longer any reasons/excuses. We wrote it into the budget this year and !!shazam!!...I have magic in my back yard! It may seem small to the reader, but to me, it signals future stability.

While I'm in the back yard I'll show you some of the garden. We are farm kids. Well, I am and my husband fancies himself one. He really grew up in town. His grandparents owned a strawberry farm which he spent quite a lot of time on, I guess that qualifies...sort of. Either way, he has a way with a garden and can squeeze loads of produce out of a little patch, which in this day and age is a good thing.

This is our garden, our very small garden. The strawberries are producing right now and having quite a year! I'm running out of ways to use them up and tomorrow plan to put up some strawberry jam. At the far end is asparagus, which we were actually able to harvest with abandon this year. Another one of those 'we finally stayed somewhere long enough' things.
In between is a little of everything, broccoli, carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce, onions, etc...
He'll rotate stuff in and out of there all season. Yummy!

This is our multiplier onion patch. The original start came from hubby's grandfather years ago. When moving to CA we weren't allowed to bring our plants with us into the state (CA law), so I boxed up our 'family plants' and shipped them to a good friend to babysit for us. When we were ready to assume custody again all that was left of the onions was one shoot. We thought it was a chive, it was so small and feeble. Luckily it was a survivor and the last one in the entire family. It has since been planted, lived up to it's name and replenished the gardens of others.

My meager herb patch

Rhubarb-a-licious! Should be ready soon!
(one of our homemade water barrels to the left)

This light, and one other, are left overs from the previous owners. They had a crazy idea about turning the backyard into an English garden. It was a nightmare (sorry folks). We had a cement sidewalk to nowhere running down the center of the yard from end to end, lined with probably 3+ dozen small boxwood shrubs, 8-10 poplar trees that lined the fence and another dozen or so trees dotted all over. It took us a full summer to pull it all out. Mowing is a much more pleasant task for hubby now and doesn't feel like playing life-sized pinball, and you can play volleyball if you want!

Here, at last, is the finished product! I went out and bought two recliner chairs and a fire pit to finish the ensemble. I am now at peace. Life is good and summer may now ensue. Have a wonderful, warm season and if you have a moment, share with me what's growing in your yard!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grey Skies and Grilled Cheese

I come from a very wet state, Oregon. It's pretty much grey skies nine months out of the year. Now that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You get used to it and it's what makes Oregon so darn beautiful.

Once, in my late teens (or early twenties), one of my best friends and I went to Knott's Berry Farm and it started raining during the evening. Being used to clear skies, the bronzed southern Californians ran for the shelters while my friend and I stayed out, uncovered and unfazed by the wet weather. We were able to run from ride to lines! We were proud Oregonians, or at least I was, she was a very patient, transplanted, military brat. I had a great time! What wasn't great was the pneumonia that followed a short while later. No worries though...I consider it a small price to pay.

Now here I sit in Ohio watching the rain, and savoring yet another memory. So what goes well with rainy days? Grilled cheese sandwiches! This version is one I came up with after my husband and I bought a half a pound of a lovely Horseradish Cheddar at a country store. It was lucious. After devouring it, I thought why not try throwing some horseradish in a plain cheddar sandwich and the thought evolved into...

Grilled Horseradish-Cheddar Sandwiches
(makes 1...multiply at will)

2 slices hearty, caraway seeded, light rye bread
1/8 c. mayonnaise
1/4-1/2 t. grated horseradish (not the sauce type)
extra sharp cheddar cheese
butter (we're not messing around here!)

Mix the mayo and horseradish together in a small dish and then spread on the insides of intended sandwich. Use as much or little as you like, it's up to you! Add the cheddar cheese, sliced, assembling "sandwich-style" and butter the outsides of the bread. Grill in a medium-hot pan on both sides until golden.

I honestly feel a little goofy telling you how to make a simple grilled cheese sandwich. But you never know what a person's been exposed to! This is pretty good and a little different....with a wee bit of a kick. I have another grilled cheese type sandwich my grandma and mom used to make that I'll post on it's own later, but I first need to work it out. Hope you enjoy this moment of madness.

The web-footed...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Comfort Food - Ground Beef Stroganoff

Though I've been told that food shouldn't become a crutch, there are days when my soul is limping badly and nothing will do but comfort food. The kinda days you just need a little pick-me-up, or something that is warming inside--a "food hug" if you will. Sometimes I don't need comforting at all and just want to taste a memory. It's funny how powerful a sense can be.

While I can't say this recipe is the "food-hugging" kind for me, it's quick and warms you up inside...although...that could be the sherry....

Ground Beef Stroganoff
(10 minutes to assemble and 20 minutes to cook)

12 oz. wide egg noodles (I used whole wheat)
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used fresh--yum)
2 T. unbleached flour
1/2 c. dry sherry
1 c. beef broth (I used 1 t. beef bouillon granules + 1 c. warm water)
2 T. chopped fresh dill, optional
1/2 c. sour cream (you'll need more!)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook egg noodles according to directions. Al dente, or a little better is fine.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and saute until browned and broken up, about 5 minutes. Drain grease.

Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Add the sherry and bring to boil . Add the broth and dill; simmer and stir until slightly thickened, (you guessed it...) about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the sour cream and stir until heated through. Do not boil!
Season with salt.

Drain noodles, transfer to a large bowl, add stroganoff mixture, season with pepper and toss thoroughly.

Serves 4 (these must be giant servings, I could get at least 6)

(Looks can be deceiving....this is a ton of food!)

My Notes: ~This is one of those recipes where it's good to have everything prepped. You're doing something every 5 minutes.
~While 1/2 c. sour cream is fine as mentioned in the recipe...I think it could use a little more! And the next day after you've warmed it up again....throw some on top, you'll need it. The sour cream gets 'absorbed' into the noodles and this will give it back that creamy texture.

Now, I have no idea where I found this recipe...well, that isn't exactly came from somewhere on the internet years ago. I spent a whole evening doing searches to credit the original poster and came up empty, so hope you enjoy this recipe's new life!