Thursday, April 29, 2010


So sorry for the "blog-cation." It's been a busy time and I just haven't been in the kitchen very much. Until I get back up to speed, I'll treat you to a photo of the clematis blooming in my yard right now. It's the only one that has survived hubby's "Round-Up" sprees. (It seems that poison ivy has the nasty tendency to climb, uninvited, on any vertical surface in my yard, and I have the nasty tendency to catch poison ivy practically by looking at it.) The variety? Who knows. The tag disintegrated years ago.

I do love the deep purple color with just a streak of pink through the center of each petal.

Of course, I also have lots of these as well. They do make lovely yellow flowers, don't they? Some say that weeds are just flowers growing in the wrong place. Dandelions, anyone? I'm sure I'll have enough to share.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feather Pancakes with Spiced Maple Cream Syrup

     Pancakes. We had them all the time when we were growing up. My dad, a regular pancake artist, used to make them in different shapes for us. We could ask for any shape we wanted, but I remember that our favorites were snakes, cats and cows (complete with udders). I always ate the appendages first, with homemade butter and King Syrup

     Unfortunately, I did not inherit my dad's ability to make pancakes. When I make pancakes, I usually have enough trouble with just the round ones. I can hardly ever get them to cook just right, so most of the time I don't even try. But this morning was cold. Maybe it was because I'd been spoiled by the ninety degree weather on Friday, but I really needed something hot for breakfast. And that something hot just had to be pancakes.

     I found this recipe in a Virginia Hospitality cookbook that I've had for years. Feather Pancakes?  How could they not be fantastic? They did live up to their name, and even I had no trouble making these up light and fluffy. I sprinkled some chopped pecans on the last few I cooked, and with the Spiced Maple Cream Syrup they tasted like Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls-Yum!

Feather Pancakes
Recipe from Virginia Hospitality: A Book of Recipes From 200 Years of Gracious Entertaining
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons light flavored olive oil (or other light tasting oil)
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder (Yep, 2 Tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.
  • Whisk together the egg, milk and oil. Gradually add dry ingredients until combined. A few lumps are fine, (actually preferred.) Bake on hot griddle. (My griddle was non-stick, but I found that the pancakes were easier to turn if I brushed the surface before cooking with a thin layer of oil.) Makes about 8 five-inch pancakes.
Variation: Add a few chopped pecans to the mixture or sprinkle some on top of the finished pancakes. With the Spiced Maple Cream Syrup, they taste like Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls!

Spiced Maple Cream Syrup
Inspired by a recipe found in Virginia Hospitality

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4Tablespoons water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or baking spice (recipe here)
1/4 cup evaporated milk or half and half
  • In a small saucepan heat sugar, syrup, water and spice. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, heat to boiling.  Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Take off of heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Stir in evaporated milk or half and half. Serve warm on pancakes or waffles. Keep left over syrup in the refrigerator up to one week. Reheat before serving.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Dreamy Orange Cream Cookies

     "Orange" you glad it's spring?  I am. Who can resist the orange creamy goodness of a Dreamsicle? I can't. When I saw these cookies (baked by The Girl Who Ate Everything) on Tastespotting, there was a batch of them in the oven within the hour. Little bits of tart orange zest surrounded by a soft cookie and creamy white chocolate? This cookie took me right back to my younger years when a Dreamsicle on a hot summer day was a real treat.

     Halfway through dropping these cookies on the baking sheet though, some mini chocolate chips magically hopped into the dough, and voila!...Orange Cream Cookies. If you're fond of Orange Creams, and get tired of pinching the chocolates in the box until you find the right ones, these cookies are definitely for you. One dough- two cookies. Who can lose?

Dreamy Orange Cream Cookies
adapted from Baked Perfection
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest (about 2 oranges)
2 cups white chocolate chips- (If you're making the Orange Cream version, reduce the white chocolate chips to 1 cup, and add 1 cup of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips.)
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl (or your mixer bowl) cream butter and both sugars until light. Beat in the egg, vanilla and orange zest until completely incorporated.
  • Add flour mixture a little at a time until combined.
  • Stir in chips until they are distributed evenly throughout the mixture.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment covered (or greased) cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until there's a touch of brown around the edges. (Don't flatten your balls of dough or overcook them.) 
  • Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Asparagus Dilemma

   It's finally asparagus season, and along with the delectable springtime treat comes the inevitable dilemma of how to select the most tender spears. What it usually boils down to is "What's best? Skinny or fat?" Being a farmer's daughter familiar with the growing habits of asparagus, I thought I'd put in my two cents worth.

   (Please pardon me while I climb up on my culinary soapbox.) Fat asparagus has been greatly maligned. Asparagus grows up, not out. Fat asparagus spears are fat when they emerge from the ground. Skinny ones are skinny when they emerge from the ground. "Skinny" does not equal young and tender, just as "fat" does not equal old and tough. Who'd a thunk it? If freshness is equal, the fat spears are actually going to be more tender than the skinny ones! If you're still not convinced, check out this site that has a wealth of  information about asparagus. Or better yet, try some for yourself.

Here's proof.

Whatever size you choose, look for crisp firm spears. Choose a bunch with spears that are close to the same size so they'll cook uniformly. For the best flavor and nutrient content, cook your fresh asparagus as soon as possible after it is purchased.

And if you like to play with your food, take a closer look at the beautiful Fibonacci spiral pattern the buds make on each spear. I love math. Especially when it's as delicious as asparagus. Speaking of delicious, here's one of my new favorite simple ways to prepare it.

Roast Asparagus Spears
Heat your oven to 425 degrees
Wash asparagus spears in cool water. Break off the tough ends.
Blot your asparagus dry and place in a single layer in a shallow baking dish.
Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast for about 10-15 minutes or until it's as tender as you like it. (I know there are a lot of different opinions about that too, but we'll save that discussion for another day!)
Enjoy your springtime treat!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shrimp Fried Rice with Asparagus

     Not a totally traditional shrimp fried rice...more of a shrimp fried rice stir fry born from a new goal of mine. I'm trying to use ingredients that I already have in my freezer in an attempt to get a little more control over my grocery spending. Freezer ingredients? 1 pound of raw easy peel shrimp and 1 quart size bag of frozen asparagus pieces. Everything else was in my cupboard or freezer, so I'm happy to say I didn't have to buy anything extra! 

     I usually put frozen peas in my stir fried rice, but with asparagus beginning to come in and several bags of asparagus I froze last season still in my freezer, I thought it would be a delicious (if not traditional) alternative. Use whatever vegetables you have handy. It's a good way to use up the bits and pieces of things you have in your vegetable bin.

Shrimp Fried Rice with Asparagus
2-3 cups cooked brown rice 
1 Tblsp. peanut or olive oil
dash of sesame oil (optional)
1 lb. raw shrimp (I used frozen "easy peel.")
1 red pepper, diced
5- green onions, sliced (use part of the green along with the white part)
2 carrots, chopped (or a handful of shredded carrots)
1/2 lb. asparagus cut into pieces, (fresh or frozen)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons Soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Oyster sauce (optional)
2 eggs, beaten

  • If your shrimp is frozen, thaw under cold running water. Peel.
  • Heat the oils in a large nonstick skillet or wok. Stir fry shrimp until cooked through. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
  • Add carrots, garlic, red pepper and onions to the pan and stir fry until crisp-tender. (4-5 minutes) If you are using fresh asparagus, add it with the rest of the vegetables to stir fry.
  • Remove vegetables (or push them aside) and add the eggs to the center of the skillet. Cook eggs until set. Break into small pieces.
  • To the eggs add the rice, the vegetables (if you removed them), the soy sauce and the oyster sauce, and mix until the rice is hot.
  • Add the reserved shrimp (and semi-thawed asparagus pieces if you're using frozen)
  • Stir for a minute or so until everything is heated through.
  • Depending on your taste, you may want to add more soy sauce before serving.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Strawberry Pecan Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

This is definitely salad weather. It almost seems as if we've skipped spring altogether, and gone straight to summer! While I know that there are more chilly spring-like days ahead, the hot weather we've been having is perfect for salads. Salads like this one.

I begged this recipe after the salad was served at a teacher appreciation luncheon many years ago. This salad made me feel very appreciated. With the cool strawberries, tart mandarin oranges and crunchy pecans it was a perfect addition to a light lunch. Try it yourself this strawberry season!

Strawberry Pecan Salad with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette 
1 head red leaf lettuce (or your favorite mixed greens) washed and torn into pieces
1/2 lb. fresh sliced strawberries
1 can mandarin oranges (or blueberries or any other fruit you prefer)
1/2 cup toasted pecans
Toss together and serve with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
In a small saucepan, warm vinegar and dissolve sugar in it. 
Let cool to room temperature.
Add the rest of the ingredients and shake together until thoroughly mixed.
Serve with Strawberry Pecan Salad

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekend Wanderings...Happy Easter!

What a beautiful day! Our family got together today to go to church and then partake of way too much really good food. These chicks showed up for the occasion...

as did my very methodical grandson.

I love how he carefully placed his eggs in his basket according to color. I have no idea where he got his "organization gene." Not from me, I'm afraid.

 Everything is getting greener and there are weeds flowers blooming everywhere. I found this bee and needed to take its picture.

I don't think it minded.

It was very intent on its work. Speaking of work, Spring break is this week...Hurray! Time for spring cleaning and maybe catching up on some reading. I'll let you know how that works out. :P

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heavenly Pineapple Cake

Heavenly Pineapple Cake

     The thing that makes this cake so heavenly isn't the fact that it's lightly sweet and full of crushed pineapple. It's not because it's deliciously cool and refreshing, especially if you keep it in the refrigerator. It's not even heavenly because it's quick and easy and fat free. Are you ready? This cake is heavenly because it calls for only two ingredients. Yep, you read that right. Two ingredients. All you need is one box of Angel Food cake mix and one 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple. Mix the two together (don't drain the pineapple) and pour them into a 9x13 pan. You don't even have to grease it if you don't want to. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool and serve with strawberries or just plain. Isn't that a perfect recipe for a perfect warm weather dessert? Thanks, Rita, for the yummy recipe!


Heavenly Pineapple Cake
recipe from Rita
1 box Angel Food Cake mix
1 (20 oz.) can of crushed pineapple (in juice)
Mix together the dry cake mix and the whole can of pineapple with it's juice. Pour into a 9x13 pan or a tube pan. (If you're using a tube pan, you should probably spray some Pam in it. I didn't grease my 9x13 glass pan and it came out ok.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. (The 9x13 I used was ready after about 30 minutes, but a tube pan might take a bit longer.)
Cool and serve by itself or with strawberries.
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