Easter Buns

Easter is almost here.

Time to make Easter Buns to have with dinner. Or maybe Cinna-bunnies to have with breakfast? They are both cute in an Easter basket nestled in some grass.

??????????????????????I think this year I will add a vanilla glaze over them.  It will help preserve freshness. (Yeah, sure.)

 

They both use the same dough. Only one you use plain and the other you brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Or you could roll the dough in butter and cinnamon sugar before shaping, that works too. I don’t remember which way I made them last year.

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“Hippity-hoppity Easters on its wayyyyyyyy”

Around here it may not be so much about bunnies as it is about Resurrection Sunday but that doesn’t stop me from making baskets of edible bunnies. They make a cute centerpiece. See the recipe below. (If it doesn’t show up, click on the title above and voila! You will see it.)

 

Sweet Dough for Bunnies

  • Yield: about 12-16. bunnies

Whether they are bunnies to have with dinner or cinna-bunnies to have with breakfast, these are easy and cute to have for Easter Sunday. You can make the dough the night before and hold it in the fridge until you are ready to shape, raise and bake. You could even bake the night before if you want. If you drizzle a glaze on them, they should keep relatively fresh for morning.

(What if you roll the dough in cinnamon sugar with finely chopped nuts and call them “Nutty-bunnies”?)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. If you are using a bread machine with the dough only cycle, follow the directions for your machine.Usually this means you put in the liquids, then the dry ingredients into the bucket. Then set it for the dough only cycle. After the cycle has been running a few minutes, check the dough. If it looks cracked and dry, add a tbsp. of flour. If it looks too sticky and wet, add a little flour, then let it mix a little longer before checking again. It should be tacky, not too sticky, not too dry.
  2. If you are doing this by hand, mix the water or milk with the egg and butter in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until the dough sticks together, then pull out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and tacky. (or use standing mixer). Add flour only as needed to prevent too much stickiness.
  3. If you are saving this for the next day, put the dough in a large bag, such as a bread bag, twist tie the top and place in the fridge to raise until you need it.
  4. If you are using it the same day, cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the dough raise for about 45 minutes or until about doubled in size.
  5. After the first rise or the overnight rest in the fridge, deflate the dough and press out onto a floured surface. I use a bench scraper to cut off pieces of dough. Or use a knife.
  6. If you have a kitchen scale, you might want to weigh your dough out to get them the same size or you can eyeball it. Cut the dough into 12-16 pieces, depending on how big you want them.
  7. Roll each piece of dough into a ‘snake’. Cut off a tiny piece from one end for the tail. Hold the top of the ‘bunny ears’ (each end of the dough) in one hand and using the other hand, twist the bottom end twice. Lay it down and put the reserved tiny piece of dough near the bottom, where the tail should be. Point the ears up and out or as you like them.Lay then on the baking sheet.
  8. Optional for Cinna-bunnies: After you have shaped the dough and laid it out on the pan, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a mix of cinnamon sugar. (about 1/2 cup sugar to 3 Tbsp. cinnamon). Sprinkle on some more right before putting in the oven. Proceed as with the dinner buns. I have had better luck with white sugar and cinnamon rather than brown. Also, when I dipped the dough in the butter first, then rolled in the sugar it coated it better, but made a huge mess on the pan. Your call.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let them rise for about 45 minutes again.
  10. Set the oven for 350 degrees.
  11. For the dinner buns, just before baking, brush with an egg wash made with an egg mixed with a splash of butter. Or just use some egg whites that you beat a little with a fork. Brush it on the dough to give it more shine. Bake until lightly browned, barely golden, about 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye. The brownie it is, the crustier it gets and who wants that?

My Peruvian Spy Apron

Once upon a time, my older son went to Peru.

He was invited by a professor from UCSC who went down most summers to study pottery. Ancient pottery. So down he flew. He saw some very unusual things, like:

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He tried to describe them, but words could not do them justice.”Dancing soda cans”?

They tried making pottery at high altitudes like the little Peruvians might have been done in ancient times gone by:

At least they got a good fire going.

At least they got a good fire going. The pottery tended to crumble.

Here is his pot he made,  before firing.

Here is his pot he made, before firing.

And everywhere he went he would notice the chicks:

and the swirling ladies:

Peru nd home 121 (800x600)He liked buying food at the small local market:

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And at the bigger bazaars:

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One thing he noticed was the lovely all-encompassing aprons that would envelop the women working their stands. So he brought one home to his mummy, who always wears aprons. (Ever since she discovered how well they kept her clothes clean, provided nice pockets for things like eggs and cell phones and another excuse to  ‘accessorize”.)

 

IMG_2930 (555x1024)                                                              This came all the way from Peru!

Now these aprons tell me something about the women down there:

They trust no one!

Notice the front 3 pockets? One in the middle and the 2 side ones for your hands? What you dont see is the multitude of inside zippered pockets. The one inside above the waistband, to hold change? It keeps it close to your heart. And what you cannot see is the pockets inside the pockets inside the pockets!

Here is the inside bodice pocket

Here is the inside bodice pocket

 

Here is the "inner" pocket inside the middle front pocket....

Here is the “inner” pocket inside the middle front pocket….

And what you cannot see, what I did not shoot a picture of, is the inner pocket inside of this one! Also zippered. So by the time a thief  grabbed aunt Jimena’s apron off its hook, went through all the pockets, unzipping them all, to steal her precious hard earned Sol, someone would have found out their villainous deed and whacked them upside the head with a gourd! Or a clay pot.

Let us not forget the hidden pocket tucked up under the waistband!

In total I have found 7 pockets in this apron. The waistband one I just found this morning, while writing this post! (And I have had it over a year now!)

These Peruvians know their pockets! Their aprons can beat the heck out of any American aprons for secure pockets. Next time I go flying somewhere I can skip the carry on case and just stick everything I need somewhere in this apron. Toothbrush and paste here, magazines and pens there, emergency lipstick and underwear, a deck of cards, Ipad, phone, a box of pizza, popcorn,  baby chicks…

I suspect the little Peruvian women at these bazaars are not as chubby as they may initially seem, but are simply bulging with paraphernalia in all their multitudinous pockets.

Here are a few more of the more interesting photos he took while there:

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What color skirt would his girlfriend want?

What color skirt would his girlfriend want?

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The pictures Phillip took with his simple point and shoot of the Andes and Machu Pichu were stunning. Unfortunately I do not have them on my computer. I looked at the blog he started in 2012 as part of this whole Peruvian assignment, but there are only a couple of photos included and I think a total of 3 posts. Sheesh!

His biggest story was the one about the dead body found on the plane on their way back so they had to make an emergency landing in Guadalajara. He had made it from Lima to Mexico City with no one dying. (I may have posted on that one before.)

In a nutshell:

This is why he was not at the airport when we went to LAX to pick him up that night. Instead, just as we had the big glowing letters of the airport in our sights, we get a phone call from someone I never heard of saying she was calling on behalf of Phillip and that they had been delayed.  Seems some old fossil died on the plane, or was brought on dead, I guess that was the whole conundrum, was he dead before or after? Who can we blame this on? In the meantime, by the time the authorities cleared them to go it was just after midnight and “Signor, we do not allow planes to leave after midnight”. So they stuck them all in a hotel with no bottled water, flew them back to Mexico City the next day and then put them on a flight back to LAX.

That is one story he will never forget. A great one for the grandkids some day. “Tell us the one about the dead body on the plane grandpa!”

Thank you Phil, for the apron. I will cherish it always.

Love

L

ps, want to watch them march along? (Turn the sound down, it’s awful.)

Oh wait, the tin can guys:

 

Spaghetti Carbonara

(I noticed that this recipe is 4 years old and needs to be taken out for a dusting. We had some tonight and so I am updating the pics and the recipe just a little.) (I also added a wonderful discovery at the end, unrelated to this dish.)

If you have never heard of this, you would not believe it. Spaghetti with bacon and eggs. Ewww! I pictured a plate of spaghetti with a fried egg on top and maybe some boingy bacon in it.

Then one day I was having dinner out with hubby and friends at a nice Italian place. He ordered Fettuccine Carbonera. hmm, looked good. Creamy with bits of pancetta. He graciously let me have a bite, then two, then…he started body blocking me with his arm and shoulder. I turned to bribery and blatant flirting. Turns out this Roman dish is quite wonderful and so easy to make, it’s just silly. Here are the list of main characters:

Bacon, my pancetta substitute

You need some pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine.

You need some eggs, lets say 2, cracked into a bowl and beat until mixed.

You need about 4-6 slices of good bacon. I use thick sliced. Or Pancetta if you can get it. It’ s the Italian equivalent to our bacon.

2 cloves of garlic, whole.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, or just buy a bend of the 2, like at Trader Joes. Sometimes I use the block of cheese and grate myself. Just not this time.

This dish does not take long to make.

You do not need cream. Some versions use cream, but that makes it a different dish.Good maybe, but different.

Here is what you do:

Boil the water for the pasta. Add salt when it is boiling.

Put a little olive oil in a skillet, maybe brushing it around with a basting brush, and heat on medium heat.

Dice the bacon or pancetta and put into the pan with the oil.

Put the garlic cloves in too.

When the bacon is just crisp, not overdone, take a slotted spoon and lift it out onto a paper towel lined plate. Take out the garlic too and set aside or discard. Leave the bacon fat in the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, I hope you started boiling your pasta. (I actually made 2 pots of pasta, one regular and one corn pasta which is gluten free. Hubby prefers it.)  Read the directions on the package and don’t  over cook. Probably not more that 8 minutes or so. You don’t want mushy noodles for this. One of the things Roman dishes are noted for is their almost crunch pasta. I’m  not saying to make it like that, but time it and taste it. You want it just done, not over. Save some of the pasta water in a mug before you drain it.

Mix half the cheese in with the eggs. Stir it up good. You are about to undertake the only  tricky part…

 

And that is mixing the raw eggs with the hot pasta. You do NOT want to cook the eggs and end up with scrambled eggs in your pasta. That’s what I got when I ordered this dish in Venice. I could not believe it!  I would have thought in Italy of all places you would get good Carbonara. But it is a Roman dish, not a, um, Vesuvian?

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First, I put the drained pasta in the skillet that I cooked the bacon in and mix it around. The pasta picks up the bacon fat. This gives it a silky texture. If the pan is cool,  you can work right from there. If it is still hot, pour the pasta into a mixing bowl at this point. (Remember, we don’t want the eggs to set and became scrambled.

Add the cheesy egg mixture to it and stir it up quick!  Toss-toss-toss.Add the rest of the cheese and the bacon. If it looks too dry add some of the pasta water to it. You want it a creamy sauce. Mix it all up. Taste. Mmmm. Need a little salt? Probably not. Both the bacon and the cheese are pretty salty already.

What you will not see in this old picture is peas. I thawed out some frozen peas this time and added them in at the end, both for color and because it’s a veg. Now see a new picture with our new pasta bowls:

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That’s it! Once you get the hang of it you will start making it regular like. Impress your friends. Add a Cesar salad and bread sticks. A side of Parmesan Asparagus maybe? Enjoy!

I was at a Pampered Chef meeting (fun stuff, really.) and the guy from Chicago (used to be a policeman, got injured and was strong armed by sister to sell Pampered Chef. Now he loves it and does great!) showed us how he uses the apple wedger to cut his onions for fajitas!

Wow, just never occurred to me to use it for anything other than apples. I am so an ‘in-the-box’ thinking girl.

So, trying to break out of my box, I thought of what else you could cut with the apple wedger. I was making beef stew that night. I got out the little red potatoes and…

Voila!

Voila!

So now we know they work for apples, onions and little red potatoes. Anything else you can think of?

Love L

2 Super Easy-Breezy desserts (So easy, it’s almost embarrassing)

Okay, so this is the easiest things ever-ever-ever.

My mom brought over the first one. She pretty much invented it! Thanks mom!

you need 3 ingredients.

IMG_3469 (800x598)Oops, this is not one of them. This is a teenager waiting for his food ship of dreams to arrive.

IMG_3382 (800x598) (800x598) A Girl Scout shortbread cookie, a blob of  Tiramisu flavored Mascarpone and a raspberry.

Thats it. Well,  if you can find Tiramisu flavored mascarpone. I suppose another flavor might work too. But these come together in seconds and are way too good to eat just one.

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Enough is enough for zooming in, huh?

Then there is dessert #2, for those times when you want to turn on the oven and pull out a warm and wonderful dessert with no fuss whatsoever.

(I figured since these dessert posts would be so small, we would lump them together.)

First, let me entice you with a photo. I know I am not a prime photographer and this was probably taken with my phone, but still…

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You could say this one beats the first one because it really only has 2 ingredients. In that you only have to buy 2 things. But actually there are different components.

1 can of cherry pie filling

1 can of cinnamon rolls in refrigerator section with cream cheese icing.

In the bottom of your Rockcrok, melt about 1 Tbsp of butter. (Not essential, but I do it, or melt in a prep bowl and pour in). You don’t have a Rockcrok? Good grief, get one! Host a Pampered Chef party and get one on the cheap.

But okay, you can use other kinds of baking dishes, preferably stoneware ones. Something you can invert. Metal baking pans would be my last choice. Any ceramic baking dishes? Glass ones? Metal pans get so hot, too hot. They burn things. Like the cherry syrup or your fingers.

Pour the pie filling over the melted butter.

Break out the cinnamon rolls and cut each one into fourths. Drop those over the cherry pie filling and put into a 350 degree oven.

Bake until the tops are golden brown, about 20 minutes give or take.

Let sit 5 minutes. Put a large plate or platter over the top and CAREFULLY invert. Then CAREFULLY remove the pan. Watch that the escaping steam does not burn your delicate arms, leaving red scald marks. (Ask me how I know.)

Melt the cream cheese icing in a prep bowl or measuring cup and pour over the cherries.

Thats it. Serve it up. Someone in the Pampered Chef circles started making this with regular canned dinner rolls, but I figured if we are doing dessert, lets DO dessert and go for cinnamon rolls!

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There, I only took 3 pictures, now they are all in here. I have trouble lately thinking to take photos until everything is dug into and half gone.

There, I only took 3 pictures, now they are all in here. I have trouble lately thinking to take photos until everything is dug into and half gone.

So, cinnamon rolls, cherry pie filling, icing.

You could always buy cream cheese frosting and melt that. Or configure your own cream cheese icing, with homemade sweet dough, like monkey bread dough….

Hmmm. How would that work? Cherry pie filling (made with Trader Joes jar of cherries, thickened with sugar and corn starch), sweet dough pieces dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar, layered over the pie filling. Bake…hmmm. Would it work? Sure, if I really feel like going to all that trouble. It would be missing the ‘easy’ factor though. What would that be called? Cherry monkey bread? Monkey cherry cobbler? It would need a cool name. Help me here.

Have a wonderful day or evening, whichever applies. You can’t have both;)

The Lenton Loaf, or Fasting Bread

I’m so sorry. Lent is almost over and I am just getting around to posting this recipe. It is a new favorite bread, hearty and wholesome enough to eat, especially if you are fasting and not eating much during Lent. This and water would keep you going quite well.

With a side of yogurt with fruit.

And maybe some sausage, cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs…wait, oh Lent.

Water.

The fun part of this recipe is the symbolism each ingredient has. I did not invent this of course. I found it on a site that got it from a site that got it….

No idea where it started but kudos to whoever thought this up.

This recipe makes 3 beautiful loaves.

This recipe makes 3 beautiful loaves. (I see peanut butter cookies photo bombing the bread shot).

Here is the symbolism part:

Stone Ground Wheat and Oats: Symbol of the pain of being crushed by the wheels of God’s Justice – which “grind slowly but exceedingly fine.”(Okay, a little heavy there). “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jn 12: 24
White Flour – a reminder of the manna given by God to the Hebrews during their forty years in the desert as Moses led them to the promised land. Manna foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist, also the called “Bread from Heaven”. Exodus 16:35 Jn 6:41
Yeast – unifying many parts into one; a symbol of the kingdom of heaven and of the Church. Mt 13:33
Salt – Christ said to his Apostles: “You are the salt of the earth.” Mt 5:13
Water – Giving life to all things; a symbol of baptism; cleansing. Lenten penances aid the washing away our sins. “He who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” Jn 4: 14
Olive Oil – Acclaimed throughout history as a source of strength, olive oil was used by the athletes of ancient Greece to prepare for them for the contests. Mixed with wine it was found useful in healing the wounds of those injured on the battlefields of medieval Europe. Olive oil is used by the Church in the Holy Oils applied in sacramental anointing.
Pure Maple Syrup – Collected in pure form flowing from a tree; symbolic of the cross and of the sweetness of the Blood of Christ which flowed freely from the tree of his cross, the tree of life; shed so that “sins may be forgiven.” A symbol of God’s love by making this sweet nutrient a gift to be discovered.
Holy Water – A sacramental used in blessings and bringing new life in Baptism. Holy water carries a blessing just by its use and when introduced with the sign of the cross how could this not be a must an key ingredient of fasting bread for lent?
Walnuts and Pecans and Cherries – These pleasant gifts found in abundance from prolific trees are reminders of Christ’s command to go forth and “produce good fruit;” They are reminders of our own call to perform works of charity, prayer, fasting and almsgiving; the fruit of good works to be undertaken during Lent. Jn 15:16
Raisins – Made from pure grapes, raisins are the fruit of the vine; a reminder of the miracle of water changed into wine at the wedding feast in Cana; of the wine changed into the Blood of Christ at the Last Supper and at the Consecration during Mass. These serve as reminders of that mystery where wine is described as the “fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our Spiritual Drink.”

 

Now here is the recipe. While it calls for golden raisins, which I used the first time, then ran out of. I also have used cherries, raisins and a mix of them.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups Stone Ground Wheat
2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Sugar
3 Tbsp. Active dry yeast (two packages)
2 cups Luke warm water
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Virgin Olive oil
1 tsp. Holy water (How could you not add this for a fasting bread?)
1 cup Oats – soaked in 1/2 cup hot water for 2 minutes
1 cup Pecan pieces – broken and skillet toasted 2 min (or Walnuts)
1 cup Dried Montmorency cherries or Golden raisins soaked 5 min in 1/4 cup hot water
Directions:
1. Combine first three dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a whisk.
2. Clear a small area in the center of the dry blend.
3. Add sugar, dry yeast, and the 2 cups of warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes until yeast proofs and forms bubbles. Combine with flour mixture and liquid. This will be thick but more liquid comes later.
4. Add maple syrup, olive oil and holy water. Stir mixture until well blended.
5. Add walnuts and raisins with their liquid.
6. Add soaked oats to the flour mixture.
7. Blend everything together in one bowl.
8. Turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 10-12 minutes adding more flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead the dough by flattening somewhat and fold-in from the outside towards the center. Press down hard on the center. Rotate the bowl and repeat the process until smooth and elastic and forma “ball”
9. Return the “ball” to the mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, cover and let rise 1 hour.
10. Remove to a floured board and knead several more times as above. Cut into three equal pieces.
11. Place each piece into a loaf pan coated on all sides with olive oil. Drizzle loaf again with olive oil, cover and let rise for another hour. Olive oil produces a tasty crust.
12. Slash loaf tops and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until brown on top and bottom. Loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
13. Remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

I hope you enjoy this bread all year. Enjoy the spring as it emerges from the cold soil. Enjoy the warm sun. Enjoy planting the little tomato plants and scallion seeds. Enjoy watching fruit as it grows and ripens on the tree. And come on by for tea and scones.

Cortinas of Anaheim

Don’t you think every neighborhood deserves at least one good Italian deli/restaurant/store? Somewhere that feels like you stepped through a magic doorway to another country? Somewhere where you want to plaster your face against the shiny glass cases like a kid in a candy shop of old. Where you inhale deeply the spicy saucey smells, the meats, the breads and the pastry smells.

Cortinas is such a place.

Maybe in New York you have these places around every corner, but here in SoCal, they are few and far between. We have been visiting this little place located off of Brookhurst and Orange for years now. With a little store on one side and a casual restaurant on the other and  a little window in between to pass orders back and forth, you get great food with old world quality goods.

IMG_3392 (598x800)For a while we had an office about a mile or two down the road from them and were frequent visitors. But we knew, if we were craving Cortinas lasagna, it must be Tuesday. They used to be closed on Tuesdays. I guess it just wasn’t busy enough on Tuesdays and they had to take some day off. This is a family owned and operated place and they thought, I can’t imagine why, that they had a right to take a day off, once every week!

Then, tragically, there was a fire, I think early last year. They were closed for months while reconstruction was going on. Apparently they had just opened up a second smaller restaurant somewhere in Orange for weekday lunches for the working crowd.

The months slid by.

Eventually the sons, who now owned and operated the place,  had their grand re-opening.

And suddenly, a few weeks ago, we decided it was time to show the place to our dear friend Joe and see what he thought of their lasagna and pizza. We got the ‘Cortina’s cravings”.

IMG_3385 (800x598)But wait, was it a Tuesday? I looked online to see if they were open. I think it was a Wednesday, so we were probably safe, but lets check anyway…

Egads! My mind is blown. (No, it doesn’t take much these days). Now they are only closed on Sundays! So now if we are craving their meatball sandwich or pizza on a Tuesday, we can feel free to go. Just not Sundays. I can live with that.

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Now THATS some Parmesan!

Now THATS some Parmesan!

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It was beautiful, all new! The new floors, the new wine racks, the new counters, everything was shiny new and efficient.

You can get semolina flour there for homemade pastas and breads. Sometimes they have sheets of pasta you can buy and take home to make your own ravioli’s or lasagna. The glass cases are full of everything from a variety of olives (including the little black wrinkled ones my dad loved) to assorted cheeses, pastries and deli meats.

They sell their special spaghetti sauce  in the fresh and frozen sections as well as their salad dressing, their other pasta sauces and even a decadent single serve Tiramisu. (Ask me how I know just how decadent it was.) Cookies, cheesecakes, cannoli’s, tarts. I want to live there! Please, adopt me!

They have a large variety of deli meats. For example there are  several kinds of prosciutto from Italy and Spain, from as little as a few dollars a pound to over $100 per pound. We bought some of the extravagant one once, just a few thin slices just to see what the big deal was. Those little slices, sliced so thin you could read a book through them, cost us about $25. (You only live once, right? Despite what video games will tell you.) .So, unless you live in Italy, the land of gourmet pigs, where great prosciutto is everywhere and whole towns take pride in their prosciutto, made from pigs who only ate acorns their whole lives or listened to Brahms or something, stores like this are our only chance.

We still picked up some fresh bread, that they will slice for you if you like, some cookies, olive oil, olives, mortadella (yum!) and so on, then next door for lasagna and pizza.

As usual, hubby over ordered so we had plenty to take home for snacks later for the boys. We waddled to the car, toting out bulging bags over our bulging stomachs and feeling very satisfied with ourselves that we had finally gotten back to Cortinas.

You know it’s a good spot when there are always police cars parked there at lunch time. If you are in the area, swing by, just stick your head in the door and take a deep whiff. I dare you to just walk away.

In fact, I think its time to head back.

Blueberry Muffins with a side of earthquakes

Wellll, I have to admit, these muffins did not turn out quite like I planned. But they are mighty good. Why write about muffins that did not turn out quite like I planned? So you can learn from my mistakes of course!

I should have called this post “Blueberry muffins before the big one hits”.

I rarely make muffins around here because I have a tendency to eat them. And eat them. And eat them. But after the exhilarating earthquake Friday night and about a hundred tiny tremors since then, I have had a change of thought. If I am going to go down, I’m going down full of muffins.

The very yellow look is, I think, from the very yellow yolks from our very fresh chicken eggs. They turn everything yellow when I use them.

The very yellow look is, I think, from the very yellow yolks from our very fresh chicken eggs. They turn everything yellow when I use them.

I imagined these muffins with lots of streusel topping actually on top. But once they started rising, the streusel shifted, like soil moving aside for a sprout to pop out of the ground. (Ahh yes, its spring, when a young persons mind becomes twitterpated and a middle-aged mind thinks about gardening. Or muffins.)

Where was I? Earthquakes. No, muffins, wait, sprouts.

Okay, lets talk earthquakes for a minute. I tell my kids, if you are in bed when an earthquake hits, just stay there and cover your head with a pillow, in case things go flying off the walls or dressers. I hear of more people getting hurt running through the house during a quake than holding still. Unless you are next to a large bookcase or china cabinet or plate-glass window, then dive under a table.

One time we had a quake when I was not home and I hear my older son, who was taking  a geology class in college, and had heard a professor talk about quakes, went diving out his bedroom window. Just ‘boom’ kicked out the screen and jumped out. He claimed it was safer than staying inside. Wish I had seen it.

I, on the other hand, had just finished an inspection of a vacant home south of here somewhere, like Lake Forest or some such place. It was a 2 story home, nice. I measured, took my pictures, wrote the notes and headed out the front door, making sure to lock it and replace the key. Suddenly I heard a rumble. Thats strange, it was coming from the ground. Everything, including me, starting shaking.

I heard a couple of screams from down the street and looked around quickly to assess my chances of survival, in case this turned out to be ‘the big one’. It was just me and a little sapling tree. So we hugged each other, to stay upright and rode out the rocking. Nothing really exciting happened though. No wires coming down, no cars jumping around, thankfully. No big cracks with magma appearing in the middle of the rode. Guess I watch too many movies. (Of course I do.)

That was several years ago. I haven’t felt a big quake since then, not that it was that big even then. This one we felt the other night wasn’t big either. But you can’t really tell when you are close to the epicenter. It feels big enough. You just kind of sit there, holding real still and alert, like a prairie dog, waiting to see if you should jump into action. Things rattled and rocked. Would they come crashing to the floor? Would we lose electricity? Would we, God forbid, have to turn off the gas?(That means knowing where the tool is to turn it off with.) Are we in fact, earthquake prepared?

Not so much.

We occasionally go through and make our plans. Put food and water in the trunks of the cars. Make sure there are flashlights under all the beds. The good kids get ones with batteries in them.

Umm, thats about it really. I guess we figure if ‘the big one’ hits, there’s not much we can do for it anyway. Either the house will crash down around our ears or it wont. Its been around for 60 odd years so far, so my bet is its going to hang around a bit longer.

Now, when I say we sit still and alert, I realize not everyone treats quakes this way. Loads of people go running outside, go running for doorways (which I am still not convinced will do any darn bit of good.) Or just go running.

Afterward its nice to either try to call our relatives to share in the excitement, or if that fails, actually go out and make human contact with the neighbors and rehash the experience.

Which brings me back to muffins. Finally.

Lets get this recipe rolling. Only do not use the dinky frozen wild blueberries I used. Use either fresh ones or frozen larger ones that will have a blueberry impact. The dinky ones just didn’t.

Other than that, I am not really complaining. I didn’t complain much through my first muffin. Only complained a bit through the second muffin. And tried to look inconspicuous while I picked at a third muffin. But that is only between you and me.

I didn’t use muffin cups, but just sprayed the muffin tins. You often loose part of the muffin with the paper cups. Besides, then people can count how many you have eaten. (People meaning myself)

I will also give you the streusel recipe. I just sprinkled some sliced almonds on top, almost as an afterthought, to make it prettier and give it a crunch.

Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, or vegetable oil or a combination of the two
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream, plain yogurt (or maybe blueberry?) or a combination of the two.Or half buttermilk and half yogurt…
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, rinsed and waiting in the strainer in the sink, turning your sink purple.

Streusel topping

  • 3 Tablespoons each brown and white sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Cooking Directions

  1. First, mix the sugars and cinnamon for the streusel. Add the flour, whisk with a fork and then pour in the melted butter, stirring with the fork until it is crumbly. Too wet? Add a teaspoon more flour. Too dry? Add a bit of melted butter. Set aside
  2. Preheat the oven to 375.
  3. Oil a muffin pan or two. This recipe that should have made 12, actually for me made 15 muffins.
  4. In one large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. This means the flour, baking powder and soda and the cinnamon. (Not the sugar).
  5. In another bowl, put the fats (oil and/or butter) the sugar (also considered a liquid) the egg and yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk. (Todays was a matter of finishing off the yogurt and topping it off with a little buttermilk. I had the sour cream on stand-by but didn’t need it.)
  6. At this time, I, using frozen blueberries, mixed them in with the dry flour mixture.This way the flour helped absorb some of the wet from the thawing blueberries. I did not want to add them to the wet bowl because it would turn the batter grey.
  7. Now mix the wet and dry together. Mix just until the dry does not show and the batter comes together. There will be lumps, thats okay. Of course the lumps could be blueberries. Either way, lumps are okay, while over mixing is not okay. Mixing too much toughens up the muffins.
  8. I use a Pampered Chef scoop to dish them into the muffin cups. Fill the cups up.
  9. Then put the streusel topping on top with a small spoon. Pat it a bit.
  10. Top with a sprinkle of sliced almonds.
  11. Pop into the oven and wait about 18-20 minutes. When you can poke a toothpick in and it comes out fairly clean, they are done.
  12. Remove them from the oven and remove as soon as possible from the pan. Best served warm. Then great when cold. Wonderful the next day.

Now that I am thinking on it, why didn’t the dog bark or the chickens act weird? So much for animal intuition.

Breakfast Kabobs

Really, sometimes I wonder why I try.

Don’t you feel like that sometimes?

Someone, who shall remain nameless, says maybe we should go off bread for a while, to lose some weight. So I go out of my way to find breadless meals. And what does he do? Makes himself toast to go with it!

Guess he hasn’t figured out toast is bread. Or does toasting take the carbs out of it?

Anyhow, I wanted to share this easy and yummy little breakfast that can be adapted to whatever is in your fridge or what sounds good. I used my grill pan to heat it up. I happened to have breakfast sausage, but ham or smoked sausage would work too. How about peaches instead of pineapple? Or cantaloupe? We also had some pricy, fancy, sliced-so-thin-it-was-almost-invisible prosciutto. But I thought this a cute idea, whoever came up with it. I found a picture of it somewhere and used it. You don’t think I thought of this myself do you? HA, course not silly.

IMG_3422 (800x598)

I just rummaged through our fridge and found zuchinni, onions, tomatoes, sausage and, in a bowl on the table, a big ol’ pineapple waiting to be (gulp) chopped up. Oh, and I added some of that almost invisible prosciutto. I precooked by sauteing, the zucchini and onion. Just a little. Too much and it would not hold up to being speared.

I just cooked the sausage, speared it all together and grilled it on the grill pan to warm it.

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There, a gluten free breakfast. Made some home fries to go with it all, to fill him up. No toast this time around!

Not like this breakfast…

 

Good morning!!!

Good morning!!!

 

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TMI!

TMI!

Domestic Engineer

I was browsing my site this evening, changing this and that while listening to Pandora. I clicked on my ‘About’ page trying to remember what I had written, it had been so long. So I reacquainted myself with it. Had I really written that? It made me think of all those moms I spent yesterday afternoon with, new  moms with babies, moms-to-be and moms knee deep in little people, I felt I wanted to share again what I had written 4 years ago when I had first started my blogging hobby. This is for all those domestic engineers out there. (Thats what hubby used to put on our tax returns as my occupation.)

I am a Domestic Engineer.

With a few simple tools like hugs, hands, wooden spoons and an apron,  I can make a home out of a house. I carry on some traditions of our foremothers, while keeping in touch with the world outside our door. It means I work to mold decent citizens from wild children and keep the family cogs running smoothly and timely.

We domestic engineers are the very foundation of civilization. It all starts in the cradle and on the hearth. Being a mother does not make one a domestic engineer.  But many D.E. are mothers. She carries a heart for each of her children in her bosom, growing a new one with each addition.  She keeps in her heart a vault for her husbands dreams, visions, hopes and secrets whispers.

She is often the heart of the home, bridging the gap of understanding between her children and their father. She reaches out with her hands to help her community, whether it’s with scouting, PTA, volunteering with the blind, visiting shut-ins, etc. Your community would be much less without her. You may not appreciate that she is there, until she is not.

She gets her strength from her family, but also from her friends. She must continue to grow, to learn, to adapt and to know when to rest, refresh and renew herself.

I am a Domestic Engineer. I am not perfect, do not keep a perfect house, can lose my temper, make bad judgements. But with Gods grace, I pick myself up, dust myself off and, for love of family and my job, keep going.

24 hours a day.

365 days a year.

Forever. Or until the good Lord says to lay it down now.

It’s not a job for everyone but it’s exactly where I want to be.

I am a Domestic Engineer that blogs, cooks, bakes, sews, gardens, fixes leaks, organizes incoming groceries, after shopping for them, finds bargains, glues things, tapes things, nails things, hides things, paints things; who trys to make ordinary things fun, washes things, feeds things, cuddles things, quilts, teaches, reads, learns, chauffeurs, and can drop everything when a family member or a friend is in need. It might be that I have  just the shoulder you need to lean on today. Or I may be the one calling for a shoulder the next time.

IMG_3380 (800x598) (2)

Mocha braised ribs n shanks

“Oh mummy, what arrrr we havin for supper tonight? Sumpin special for Saint Patricks day?”

“Ah ya wee lass ya, weel be havin ar traditional mocha braised beef with brown rice don’t ya know”.

Hm, alright, there is so many things wrong with this I could not even begin. But t’is true. We had a fine potluck yesterday with corned beef, potatoes, carrots and cabbage, (and lets not forget the Irish soda bread), the traditional American way of celebrating Saint Patrick’s day and being Irish, or wishing we were Irish, or just thinking briefly about the Irish. I did mean to make Shepherds  pie with lamb, but wouldn’t you know, out of the two stores I went in to, neither one had any lamb left that wasn’t a bone in affair, not suitable for Shepherds pie.

So fine, we did the corned beef yesterday, my duty was done, why not go a little wild? I was thinking of some spaghetti and meatballs, when suddenly I remembered this amazingly wonderful dish I made at one of my Pampered Chef parties, a recipe that came with my Rockcrok! (Pampered Chef recipes never steer you wrong.) And since I was there, in front of the lambless meat display, why not pick up some short ribs?
Because they are so freakishly expensive, that’s why!

I bought one pound of short ribs and it only came to 3 ribs! So right next to it and at a considerable savings, were beef shanks. Large round beef thingys with a nice marrow bone in the middle.

My inner gears went to spinning. This recipe lets the meat cook for several hours, surely long enough for shanks as well. The bone marrow will give a wonderful texture and vitamins to the stewy kind of meal it is. I know this recipe tastes wonderful because I made it once before.

I sold myself on the idea and bought the meat before I had time to back out and rethink it. 1 lb. of ribs and 2 beef shanks. Mix and match. (Such is the way  many of my plans come to fruition. A kind of jump-in-and-hope-for-the-best mentality.)

Lucky for you, I have a few minutes to share this recipe. It took no longer than starting any kind of stew. You braise the meat, saute the veggies, add the liquids, put it all together and let it bake away in the oven while you forgetaboutit and sit down to blog, or find some other interesting thing to do, like folding laundry. Or go catch a movie. Or walk the dog who keeps digging holes because he is bored. Or collect eggs, then spy on the hens to see if you can guess which one ate one of the eggs. Or make homemade play-do for the kids and have them model their names with it.

This recipe is a wonderful rich stew to be served over rice, in my opinion. It is a bit spicy, with mocha overtones from the coffee and chocolate. (Yes, you read right, chocolate) I used half the called for chipotle and just over half the amount of chocolate. (Don’t hate me, but I am not a huge chocolate fan.) So do as your conscience allows. Oh and by the way, the beef shanks were even more tender than the ribs as it turns out! Next time I would just use shanks. It looks like Oso bucco, a fab Italian dish. Just make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go as it is a little unusual. Such as a dish with coffee AND chipotle AND chocolate AND tomatoes…

Here is the beef, the sauce, the brown rice all mingling indecently together next to some discreet salad.

Here is the beef, the sauce, the brown rice all mingling indecently together next to some discreet salad.

Mocha Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 4 pounds short ribs (or ?)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped plus 3 Tbsp sauce (I used 1 large Tbsp. of the blended chipotle mixture.)
  • 3 Tbsp. each brown sugar and flour
  • 1 tsp.  ground cumin
  • 1 can (14.5) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups coffee (2 cups hot water mixed with 2 1/2 Tbsp instant coffee granules or your own coffee)
  • 1 cup  beef stock
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I only had dark chocolate, which worked fine, but I used 2.5 oz. Having a kitchen scale is priceless!)
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven Crockpot (Or other dutch oven) and heat for 3-4 minutes or until shimmering. Season ribs or other beef with salt and pepper. Brown half the ribs, uncovered 6-8 minutes, turning once. Remove from Dutch Oven and repeat with remaining ribs. Drain the pan if the drippings are more than 2 Tbsp.
  2. Into the hot drippings add the diced onions, garlic, *chipotle peppers with sauce, brown sugar, flour and cumin. Saute for about 2 minutes (add the mushrooms if using).
  3. Dissolve the coffee in the hot water (if needed). Stir in the coffee, tomatoes and beef broth into the Dutch Oven. Cook uncovered until simmering. Remove from heat and add the meat.
  4. Put the lid on it and put in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.
  5. Remove ribs.Skim fat from top of the sauce. Stir in chocolate until melted. Divide ribs and sauce among the serving plates, serving over rice.

*A good tip from a friend of mine, she takes the can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and blends the whole thing up then stores it. When she wants it for a recipe, she just  spoons out what she needs. It has been working for me beautifully as well. So I did not worry about the chili and the sauce as though they were two separate things.

Here is the browned meat just starting its incarceration with all the other felons into the Rockcrok and into the oven to think about its life choices.

Here is the browned meat just starting its incarceration with all the other felons into the Rockcrok and into the oven to think about its life choices. (I love this pot, goes on the stovetop, into the oven or microwave and under the broiler, no worries!)

Seems I forgot to braise the mushrooms with the other vegies, so I gave them a quick shake in the skillet and stirred them into the 'stew'.

Seems I forgot to braise the mushrooms with the other veggies, so I gave them a quick shake in the skillet and stirred them into the ‘stew’.

About 3 hours later, give or take, I removed it from the oven and lifted the lid. Oooh..Transformation! Rebirth! Alchemy! Well, no...

About 3 hours later, give or take, I removed it from the oven and lifted the lid. Oooh..Transformation! Rebirth! Alchemy! Well, no…

Here are the bones I removed from the stewiness. They were not attached to anything anymore. Bones-no-more!

Here are the bones I removed from the stewiness. They were not attached to anything anymore. Bones-no-more!

This was a big hit. Just a hint of spiciness, but not too much for my light-weights. All the other flavors mixed together to make it warm and complex. Just wonderful. I started it around 3 pm and we ate at 7. It was done by 6:30, but then there is pulling everything else together. (Like family members from their rooms and getting them to set the table and so on…)

Sorry we didn’t get any pictures of the fab cake we had as a stand by dessert! I would like to share that one. Butter cake with cream cheese icing. So easy too. Darn shame. Well, maybe tomorrow I can get a picture of a little leftover piece. That might do. Because if you like butter cakes, you will want to try this one.

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