Friday, March 20, 2015

Pin A Meal, Give A Meal


If you Pin (and c'mon - who doesn't these days?) then here is something you can do to add to what I'm sure is a fabulous collection of recipes AND help others at the same time!

Between March 2nd and April 30th, the Land O'Lakes people will donate $1 to Feeding America for every recipe pinned or repinned from the Land O'Lakes Pinterest Board (or select one of your own).  $1 helps provide TEN MEALS secured by Feeding America on behalf of local member food banks.  Land O'Lakes GUARANTEES a maximum of 3.5 million meals!!!

So check out these fabulous recipes and help others with your selections!
 
 
~later, tw




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top the the morning to you!

...and the rest of the day to yourself!

I hear the Emerald Isles a-calling me - can't wait to go back!!!


Gerry kissing the Blarney Stone


Ashford Castle (near Cong and The Quiet Man)




Enjoy a pint of Ireland's finest!





~later, getting me green on, tw










Saturday, March 14, 2015

If the Shoe Fits...

Today is my birthday.

Not that it, of itself, is necessarily a cause for celebration - other than, you know, considering the alternative.  I've never been one of those to shy away from marking another successful year on this planet.  I've pretty much enjoyed every one of my birthdays - all 56 of them to date (which makes me 57 this year because you can't really consider the actual date of one's birth.  I don't recall anyone having a party that day - certainly not my mom.  It's kind of like which year was the first of the new century - 2000 or 2001?)

But today, because it's my birthday (or more likely because the movie came out and we had nothing more urgent on our calendar this morning), my Prince Charming took me to see Cinderella.  (Which is actually saying more than you might think since I don't think he's ever quite fully recovered from when I suggested seeing Angela's Ashes.)  We figured since we try to hit the very first showing on a Saturday or Sunday morning we would beat the rush and while there were more people than usual for a 9:50 am showing, the theatre was no where near full (how do they keep these things open anyway?)

It didn't take me too long to realize though how woefully under-dressed I was.  There were many princesses (of all Disney varieties - the most popular, of course, was the Elsa costume from Frozen and I have to admit if I had forked over the money that those things cost my little princess would be wearing it until she outgrew it...and probably then some!)  One dad, with his bevy of beautiful little girls even wore his tux!  Now THAT'S fatherly love!!!

If you see this movie (and I really recommend that you do - even the hubby liked it!) be sure to stay until the very end...the very end of the credits, that is.  I don't really know why Disney, when they've already paid for the talent to perform in the movie insists on getting some lesser quality to sing the main theme (ala Frozen - I mean, seriously, they got one of the best talents of Broadway today - Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta is calling her these days) to voice Elsa and then they get DEMI LOVATO to re-hash the song over the credits?  That's like getting Celion Dion to voice Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast and THEN asking Angela Lansbury if she'd do the single for the credits!)

Anyway, Disney has some new song for the soundtrack but if you wait until after that muzak gets done, you'll get to hear a very sweet rendition of A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes sung by Lily James (Cinderella herself), which is followed by a fun version of Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo by the fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter).  It's fun...and much, MUCH better than whatever/whoever sings the incredibly non-memorable song over the initial credits.

If that weren't enough of a birthday celebration, I also got to Skype with both daughters and their boys and even had a phone call from my calendar-challenged son, Chris.  Lunch out with the hubby, dinner out with friends.  Birthdays, as Martha would say, are a good thing!

~later, another year older (and still looking for some pie to celebrate the 14th in style), tw

PS - I did manage to find some pie on the 14th (National Pie Day) after all - key lime pie for my birthday.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Eureka!

I've found it!!!

I suppose this would be way more exciting if it were a cure for cancer or the solution to the US monetary crisis but you should realize that finding the perfect hummus recipe is, to me, roughly the equivalent to finding the secret of life.

Huggos on the Beach - with Hummus, of course!
I really love hummus.  Considering that I practically avoided the dreaded garbanzo (aka chickpea) for the first nearly five decades of my life, you wouldn't think it would be possible for me to learn to really LOVE hummus.  In a former life I used to scan the dessert portion of the menu first but now I find myself seeking the appetizer section instead to see if maybe, just maybe, they've got a hummus platter for me to try.  Seriously folks - I've had it on the beach in Hawaii, at the Hit It Here Caf√© at Safeco, and even our local Red Robin (served with tortilla chips - so wrong!).  I've had it everywhere man!

And given that it's only got a few ingredients, I knew I should/could be able to make it at home.  After some research, some questionable starts, the perfect blender (a Vitamix) and more than a few pitas (you've got to have pitas!), I can safely say without reservation (and very little bragging!) that I have discovered the perfect *BASE* Hummus Recipe:

Terri's Most Excellent Hummus Recipe
 
  • 2 - 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. (heaping) tahini (peanut butter is NOT a substitute here!  My daughter, Jenny, subs some sesame oil since her family doesn't really groove on tahini.  I did try that as well - in one of the many versions - but I prefer the tahini version)
  • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed but you use what you gotta use)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
 
I put all of this into my fabulous Vitamix blender - it really is a thing of wonder.  I originally got it intending to make incredible smoothies from all my produce.  Thing is I don't really like drinking green sludge and couldn't get the hubby too interested in it either.  But this blender, only 18" tall so it fits on the counter under the cupboard (well it does now that we've remodeled the kitchen and made things a bit more "standard" rather than the random 16" height they were before!") is the only appliance that sits out permanently in the new kitchen (even my beloved KitchenAid mixer sits in a cupboard - it's own, very special cupboard to be sure, but still out of sight unless in use).  It is amazing (indeed essential!) for making hummus.
 
But even the powerful and mighty Vitamix has some trouble managing two cans of chickpeas so I add about one can of water as well (little by little thru the cap) until the blender will...you know...blend!  I like my hummus fairly smooth so adding the water really is a personal thing.  I've tried the suggestion of removing the "skins" from the chickpeas but that is really a boring task and with the Vitamix totally unnecessary.  If you've got some other blender, then I would suggest: a) putting some water into your blender first (because the weight of the chickpeas will stall your blender and might burn up the motor - not a good thing); b) try removing the skins of the chickpeas but get a friend to help because it takes forever!: and c) start saving your pennies for a Vitamix.

 
I like to serve my hummus with a drizzle of most excellent olive oil (not the stuff I cook with - the stuff that is actually meant to be eaten as is) and just a few red pepper flakes (doesn't add any heat but sure does make it look "presentacious").  There are many things to accompany this hummus but my personal favorites are pretty much what you see here: wedges of fresh pitas, cubed feta cheese, Kalamata olives, sliced carrots and sliced cucumbers (celery or jicama is lovely too - I just didn't have any on hand). 
 
Something else to try are "add ins."  This recipe is really just a *BASE* so you can add other things to increase the yumminess.  I've tried it with sun-dried tomatoes with success and next time I make it I going to add some marinated artichokes I've got lurking in the refrigerator.  I don't know if I'm brave enough to try one person's suggestion of replacing one of the cans of chickpeas with a can of black beans, but you never know!
 
Pitas are an absolute must and everyone I know swears by this recipe:
 
by Sandy at allrecipes.com
 
I did make a batch of these to accompany my hummus.  You can only imagine my surprise when these turned out exactly as they were supposed to - pocket and all!
 
~later, totally enjoying my Mediterranean meal nirvana, tw
 
 



Sunday, March 8, 2015

March is...

...many things.  It is the birthday month of many celebrities such as daughter Sarah on March 1st, Albert Einstein, my niece Beth and yours truly all born on March 14th, S-I-L Travis on March 19th, B-I-L Roger on March 23rd, a couple of "granddaughters" - Elizabeth on the 15th and Brinley on the 25th and while I'm at it one anniversary - my sister Margo and her husband Lyle on the 19th.  It is also a celebration of all things Pi(e) - especially this year when March 14, 2015 will be 3.1415 (be sure to sample your favorite pie on that day!)

But March is also National Reading Month and in honor of that I'd like to share with you some of the places where I find deals and steals on e-books:

Sign up for BookBub and you can specify your category preferences.  They will email you a daily list with deals found in those particular categories.
 

Bookperk is a promotion service of HarperCollins Publishers.  Sign up is free and they email me a daily listing of a few books (usually 3-4).  I think everything is under $5, most are ~$2 and some are free.
 

I like Pixel of Ink.  They email me a listing every day (it's a combination of their morning list plus their evening list of deals and steals).  Their website has even more to choose from (like free kindle books and hot deals) and you can browse their lists by genre.
 
Kindle Buffet
Offering "Free and Bargain books, all you can eat!" this site has three pages of books for Kindle.  The first book listed on each page is offered for free so you'll want to cruise thru the entire site to find all the deals available.  Sign up and subscribe to get a daily list emailed to you.
 
And of course you should be subscribing to the Amazon Kindle Daily deals.  I receive a daily email highlighting at least five books (the daily deal, a romance deal, a science fiction & fantasy deal, and then another two - bio/memoirs, kids', military, history, etc.)
 
For those of you with Amazon Prime, you can also sign up for Kindle First Program.  (Tricky to find - once you've logged into your Amazon account, under "Your Account" go to "Your Prime Membership" and under Kindle Books you will see that you can choose one featured early release book for FREE every month with Kindle First)  You can choose from four different, about-to-be-published books each month from a variety of genre (this month I selected the historical fiction Helen of Sparta).
 
 
And finally, for those of you with Nooks (and yes, I've actually got/read both), you should check out The Nook Blog on Fridays (I check mine on Fridays ~ 7:00 PT) to a weekly free book as well as a week free app/game for your Nook (I think they only run on the Nook Color or higher).  There is an ongoing list (so you can see what's been featured on past Fridays) so be sure to check that you are "purchasing" this week's FREE book/app/game but there have been some really great finds to be downloaded here.
 
Okay these are where I find my next read - how about you?  If you've discovered some gem for finding reading material cheaply (or even better FREE) let me know.  (I would have included your local library as well but I've found that borrowing books from the library can be a tricky thing that usually involves taking your particular Kindle or Nook to the library and having someone there walk you thru their specific instructions but yes, it is also a great place for getting free, temporary, reads.)
 

~later, going to get my read on, tw
 
 






Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Thinking Outside the Box

Growing up Catholic in a pretty much entirely post-Vatican II world meant as a family we only did the "non-meat Friday" thing during Lent.  I'm fairly certain it wasn't the Church's intent for this to be a period of "treat" (in fact I think I read once that it was supposed to have exactly the opposite effect) but that's exactly how it worked out for me.  When I was younger, my mom worked and so frequently came home at the end of the week to a teenager, two small girls (one of which was yours truly) and husband - all wanting dinner.  Challenging enough during the rest of the year, trying to remember to do something meatless during Lent clearly taxed mom's cooking creativity beyond the max.  Didn't matter to me that we alternated between pancakes (for dinner!  What kid doesn't like having sugary syrup for dinner????) and, ... wait for it ... (because it remained one of my most wicked indulgences well into adulthood) ... Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

Yeah, that orangey goodness from the blue box.  I loved it!  It was truly my favorite part of the Lenten season.  Pancakes were good but couldn't hold a candle to that deliciousness of creamy, orange sauce and (usually overdone) elbow noodles of Kraft M and C.  (In later years due to some unforeseen "downsizing" of our incomes I was forced to learn how to make M and C from scratch as at that time it was far cheaper to buy Velveeta than the boxed version and my love affair with the box was pretty much doomed.)

Wanting to expand my repertoire of recipes (not only soup ones), I went to the definitive source for everything M and C - my daughter Jenny.  She quickly fired off a half-dozen wonderful sounding recipes but the one that most intrigued me (and maybe because cremini mushrooms had just arrived in my vegetable box), was this:

from Michelle at the Brown Eyed Baker
 

This turned out to be the most incredible M and C I've ever had!  The hubby LOVED it.  I only made a couple of changes to her recipe - some from necessity (no chives on hand), some from choice (not really a huge tarragon fan).  I did happen to have shallots in my bin and I would seriously recommend using them versus onions.   If onions is all you got, it's all you got, but since you'll probably have to run to the store to get some gruyere (it absolutely must be gruyere!!!) anyway you might as well pick up a shallot and give it a try.  I did use whole milk (because I had it on hand but I'm sure it would be nearly as delicious but obviously not as decadent with 2%) I opted for the "non-white Cheddar cheese" (aka the stuff I had on hand which I find I love better than the white version).  Note: resist the urge to bump up the cheese.  I agree it's tempting because how could more cheese be anything but more delicious?  But if you use gruyere you'll get plenty of flavor from the 6 oz. (and save some $$ - that stuff ain't the cheapest cheese from the block) and using any more cheddar (regardless of color) will result in a grainier texture initially and a greasier product when you reheat leftovers.  Instead of plain bread crumbs, I turned to my bread crumb of choice - panko (which gives a much nicer golden crust finish to the end product.  You should definitely find some panko in your store - often on the Asian/International Food aisle - and give them a try.  They make the absolute best crunchy topping on whatever you make!).
 
As I was adding the white wine vinegar I kept checking and rechecking the recipe - didn't she really mean just white wine?  I was dubious but I went ahead and added it as instructed and it gave just a hint of tang to the dish.  My only "disappointment" with the "ta da" moment was that I just used plain old elbow mac.  Next time I make it (and believe me there will be a next time!) I'm going to use a fancier short-cut pasta that will make the presentation as special as the taste.
 
~later, tw