Monday, August 31, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

He keeps trying, but Miss Thang still gives him the business when Leo tries to play with her. She is taking her own sweet time on being nice. She will tolerate him being around her, and will even let him eat out of her bowl, but if he tries to play, she is sure to give him a solid bop on the head with her paw and some choice words.

Also, I can't get over how long his tail is!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tempura Green Beans

Ruby Tuesday's makes a tempura green bean appetizer that hubby and I just love. So, after picking a "mess" of green beans yesterday, I pulled out our deep fryer and dug up a tempura batter recipe that I've had my eye on just for this purpose.

I normally do not like to fry food in the house, as I don't like the smell it leaves afterwards. In fact, the last time I used my deep fryer was for Super Bowl 2014 when I made chicken wings. But, boy was this worth it! This tempura batter would work on just about anything: green beans, cauliflower, shrimp, old shoe. It's THAT good!

I made a dipping sauce that is thinner than Ruby Tuesday's and a little less sweet, but spicier, and it was perfect. Hubby and I drank champagne and ate tempura green beans as our wedding anniversary dinner. Perfect!

Tempura Batter
Recipe source: Garden Guru from The Cooking Forum

1 cup flour*
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup club soda (as cold as possible)
Oil for deep frying

Mix flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add Soda water gradually, stirring with a fork, first to create a paste and then until mixture is like a thick pancake batter. More than 1 cup of club soda may be needed to achieve this consistency.

Heat oil for frying to 375°-400°. Dip prepared veggies/meats in batter, coating completely. Shake off excess. Fry vegetables/meats, a few pieces at a time, until light brown and crispy. Do not crowd fryer, or oil temperature will drop. No more than will cover 3/4 of the surface of the oil.

For the green beans, I fried mine for approximately 3-5 minutes a batch and turned them over with metal tongs halfway through. 

Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Note: Some people like to use 2 parts flour to 1 part rice flour. I used all flour and it was wonderful!

Soy Sesame Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tsps sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1 tsp chili paste (optional)

Heat soy sauce, vinegar, water, sugar, and oil in a microwave safe dish until hot enough to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a small dipping bowl and add scallions and chili paste, if desired.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pecan Pie Cobbler

A few nights ago, I wanted to make a quick dessert to have after dinner. My go-to fix for easy, after dinner desserts is the good-old, reliable dump cake. So, pulling up Pinterest, I found this Pecan Pie Cobbler recipe from Paula at her blog Call Me PMC.

Pecan Cobbler from Call Me PMC

Actually, she calls it Pecan Cobbler, but it is SO much like a rich, cakey pecan pie, that I had to change it to Pecan Pie Cobbler. Either way, it was dead-on amazing! The great thing about this recipe is you pretty much have all the ingredients on hand and you don't need a boxed cake mix. At first, I was convinced this thing was going to be a bomb after pouring on all the water called for in the recipe. It was a bomb alright....DA' BOMB!

Serve this warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and you're in heaven! This is a keeper recipe for sure!

Pecan (Pie) Cobbler
Recipe Source: Paula Jones, "Call Me PMC"


6 tablespoons of butter (no substitutions)
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut butter in large pieces and place in a 9" x 13" cake pan or casserole dish. Put dish in the oven and allow the butter to melt. When melted, remove pan from oven and sprinkle the pecans over the butter.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, milk, and extract together. Stir to combine, but don't over mix. Pour batter over pecans and butter without mixing. Sprinkle brown sugar over batter; do not stir, and carefully pour hot water over brown sugar; do not stir. This will look like a hot mess, but trust me!

Place pan in the oven and allow to bake 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. The cobbler will not be firm after 35 minutes, but will firm up after it cools. The longer it bakes, the thicker the sauce becomes. I baked mine a little longer, which made it more of a pecan pie filling...YUM!

Serve warm with ice-cream or whipped cream. Die happy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Chaz says, "Only 122 days until Christmas."

Apparently, he's thrilled.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Back At It

This past week we have had our painter, Bill, over at the house painting all the first floor baseboards, crown moulding, chair rails, and a good portion of the ceilings.

They really did need it. Our house is 10 years old and still had the original, contractor-grade paint job on all the trim and ceilings. Over the years, the trim work has settled and gapped in places, but my biggest pet-peeve has been the nail-pops in the ceilings. They are the equivalent to a crooked picture that you can never straighten.

We had nail-pops in almost every room. I never knew how bad things looked until Bill made everything better. Such a difference!

Next year, we will have him back to do the upstairs.

It's been stressful all week, as we've had to keep the kittehs locked up separately so they wouldn't get in the way or rub up against a wet door frame or jump up on a wet window sill. We let them out in the evenings and the mornings before Bill arrives, and they think all his tools and supplies are some sort of an awesome kitteh jungle gym.

Every night this week we've had to move furniture from one room to another, clean, and wipe down baseboards and crown moulding...WHEW! My house is a mess and I need a break.

Thanks goodness it's Friday!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August In The Garden

It's been so darn hot lately that I have all but abandoned the garden. I had thoughts of starting some fall spinach and maybe those Chinese Cabbage seeds I ordered, but I just don't have the motivation.

Like I mentioned earlier, everything is tired around here. BUT, the garden continues to bring me tomatoes, which I think my sweet spot for the number of plants to grow is 20.

From a distance, everything looks great.

Until.,,this summer's heat and rain has made blight an early, unwelcomed guest to my tomato plants. Poor things...even though I try to trim the disease out, it's a losing battle.

The spaghetti squash looked promising, but I have since pulled it out. The squash bugs and vine borers were too much. Next year, I will try them again with row covers.

The bush beans are always a true-blue trooper, but I didn't put in enough plants this year.

In the flower bed by the deck, the milkweed has reseeded over the years and has taken over. I don't mind and love the monarch butterflies it attracts.

Lastly, one lone gladiola is sending out the last flower stalk of the season.

The poplar trees are already changing their leaves and beginning to drop. They are always the first. Everyone and everything around here is eager to move on to cooler weather!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

There's still a stand-off between Miss Thang and Leo. She still growls at him and hisses on occasion when he gets too close. She was alpha before he arrived and if you come to think of it...she's never seen another cat besides Chaz, let alone a kitten.

But things are coming around slowly. She attempts to play with him, but gets pissy when he gets over zealous. I can't help but laugh when he does a drive-by kitten attack and then takes off. She apparently likes it to some extent because she doesn't leave the room to hide or be left alone.

This pic cracks me up...Leo looks like the "awwww, what a cute kitty" Puss in Boots trick.

Nice try Leo. Nice try.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato

It's August and everything in the garden is tired, including me. The kitchen upgrade took a lot of the starch out of my sails for gardening this spring/summer, but I did manage to grow some awesome tomatoes.

I stuck to my word and did not grow tomatoes for canning, but for eating. The irony is, I never had to buy tomatoes at the farmer's market anyway, as the amount of plants I grew this year was perfect for both (20 plants). I grew one bed of the reliable hybrid standby "Early Girl" and a bed-and-a-half of heirlooms, which included "Sudduth's Brandywine" (my favorite), "Kellogg's Breakfast," "Soldaki," "Black From Tula," "Druzba," and maybe an "Atkinson" thrown in and one hybrid "Supersauce".

"Kellogg's Breakfast" was a new one for me this year, and I have to say I have been very impressed at these canary yellow, huge, beefsteak beauties. They are great producers and their flavor is very mild compared to Brandywine, almost a meaty, steak tartar. And they sure are pretty, aren't they?

I love the contrast they give and I think will be a keeper for growing next year. "Soldacki" was new as well and I wasn't too impressed, as it tasted very much like "Early Girl" and wasn't that great of a producer. Hybrid "Supersauce" puts out HUGE, egg-shaped Roma tomatoes, but the flavor is very bland until you roast them. Then they are very sweet and dense flavored, much like the flavor of tomato paste. The others I had grown before and have been reliable troopers.

The tomato patch will most likely be put to rest this weekend and I will think about if I want to grow some spinach and Chinese cabbage for this fall. We have another heat wave coming in this week, so I'm over summer and ready for sweater weather!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Roasted Red Pepper Spread

There aren't many things that I can or preserve that I'm selfish about. I'm happy to share what I make with any one of my friends and family...EXCEPT this Roasted Red Pepper Spread. This baby is mine, mine, mine!

It's kind of involved to make it, and 6 lbs. of red bell peppers is A LOT to deal with for just 5-6 half pints, which is part of why I hoard it. Secondly, this stuff is gooooood! It's more of a bruschetta-type relish that just aches for some crusty bread, some goat cheese, and a bottle of red wine.

I particularly like to use it as a base for homemade pizza.

Last night, I spread it on some pizza dough and topped it with some crumbled goat cheese, a little garlic powder, some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and then baked it on a pizza stone at 425° for 25-30 minutes. After baking, it got a drizzle with some smoked olive oil. YUM!

Roasted Red Pepper Spread
Recipe Source: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes 5-6 half pints

6 lbs. large, red, sweet bell peppers
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, cored and sliced in half lengthwise
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced in half
2 tablespoon minced, fresh basil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Preheat oven broiler to high and set an oven rack 6 inches from broiler element. Prepare red bell peppers for roasting by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the peppers, removing the seeds and ribs, and slitting the peppers from top to bottom so they will unroll and lay flat on a cookie sheet. Place skin-side up on a cookie sheet.

Roast peppers for approximately 15 minutes, or until the skins are black and charred. Remove from oven and place a dish towel over the peppers to allow to steam and cool. This is important, as steaming will help the skins peel off easier.

On a separate (or the same sheet if you have room) cookie sheet, place tomatoes skin-side up, garlic cloves, and onion, and roast for approximately 15 minutes, or until tomato skins are black and charred. Remove from oven and place a dish towel over the tomatoes to allow to steam and cool.

Once peppers and tomatoes are cooled, peel and discard skins. Place peppers and tomatoes in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped, but not pureed. Finely mince roasted garlic and onion separately with a knife. Measure 1/4 cup of the onion and set aside.

Combine chopped peppers, tomatoes, 1/4 cup onion, minced garlic cloves and the remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, stir to prevent sticking. Reduce heat and simmer until spread thickens and will mound up on a spoon. Ladle hot spread into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Chaz is our official water kitteh around here.

He's fascinated by all things that contain water: showers, sinks, toilets. He doesn't drink out of the toilet, mind you, he just likes to watch the water. We tried to use one of those kitteh watering fountains once and he was so enamored with it that he kept knocking it over, spilling the water everywhere.

Silly kitteh, looks like he went on a bender and had a rough night, huh? Too much nip. :-)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Ugly Furniture Series: Blue Chair

Take a look at this blue, floral monster I picked up on Craigslist a few months ago for $50:

Ugly little beast, isn't it?

But I have to admit, I liked it's bones, and those extra wide arms are swoon-worthy. It's not a designer name, but for a moment I thought it was an Edward Wormley piece. It does kinda look like it would be one of his, doesn't it?

Anyway, besides desperately needing new reupholstery and cushions, it was very short...I mean get-low-and-squat short! The top of the arms are maybe 22"- 24" off the floor. Not to mention the old legs had seen better days:

The front legs do look like they have brass ferrules (that's what those caps are called), but I wasn't sure of the back legs. And surprisingly, it is hard to find replacement ferrules, plus there's the whole height thing, so I ordered brand new, custom made, black walnut legs from ThirteenColonies on Etsy. 

The old legs were only 5 1/2" long, so I ordered new legs at 7" and they are the perfect height. The new ones are solid genuine black walnut that were finished with a clear coat for natural color, then waxed and buffed to a beautiful finish. I mean, take a look at these sexy legs, will ya'?:

ThirteenColonies is an American-owned company in Vermont that makes custom-turned wood furniture legs and feet. From what I've seen so far, they do EXCEPTIONAL work. All I had to do was contact them and tell them what I wanted for my chair and they pulled through like true professionals. I wouldn't hesitate to do business with them in a heartbeat. 

Now, what to do with this little beast? I'm thinking of staying in the blue color scheme, but definitely a warm blue like one of the three examples below. Which one would you choose?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Canning Crushed Tomatoes

My friend Mary, who knows I like to can, sent me a link to a yummy looking tomato sauce recipe the other day. It's funny, because I was just looking at that recipe or a similar one a few days earlier and it got me thinking about how my canning preferences have changed over the years.

In the past, I would have jumped at any yummy sounding tomato sauce recipe and still even make my Chunky Basil Pasta Sauce and Annie's Salsa pretty regularly, but more and more I am finding that I'd rather have and use more plain, crushed tomatoes throughout the year.

I think I am finding that I like having the clean slate that crushed tomatoes can provide. Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience of having a ready-made seasoned sauce on hand as well, but some recipes, like Mexican dishes, don't always call for that.

So, for the most part, I've been focusing on plain, roasted tomatoes that I can add to chili, sauces, casseroles, soups, and even pot roasts. I always can in quarts, as I feel that I rarely use just a pint of roasted tomatoes, plus I feel it's more efficient.

Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
Recipe Source/Modified From: Ball Blue Book
Makes 6 quarts

*16-20 lbs of fresh tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice

Note: The amount of tomatoes needed for 6 quarts will vary depending on size of tomatoes

Preheat oven broiler to high and place oven rack 6 inches away from heat. Rinse tomatoes, slice in half and remove hard cores. Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet skin-side up. Roast tomatoes till the skins are charred, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with a dish towel to let the tomatoes steam and cool. When cool enough to handle, pull skin off and discard.

Place all the roasted tomatoes in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Prepare canning jars and lids. When jars and lids are ready, ladle tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into each jar. I usually fill halfway, add a tablespoon, then fill the remaining amount and add the second tablespoon. This way, the lemon juice is well distributed in the jar.

Process quarts in a BWB for 45 minutes. When finished, remove canning pot to a cool burner and leave the quarts in the water for 5-7 minutes more before removing (to prevent siphoning).

Monday, August 03, 2015

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

Whew, having a kitten is a lot of work. Right now, Leo is still secluded most of the time in his room, but I am letting him out to roam the house more and more.

Miss Thang is still being a grump. For the most part, she will let him be with her in a room, but will growl and give him a good swat if he comes too close. He is a smart one though, and has learned to stay clear of her. Still, it's cute when he tears through the house and forgets that she is such a grump-meister during one of his drive-by-kitten attacks.

For now, Leo has discovered the joy of bird and butterfly watching on the "catio":


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