Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sidewalk Chalk Art

Using the sidewalk as a canvas, the best Mother's Day card was drawn on the path for all to enjoy.  It was perfect for a photo op as walkers passed by.  I wonder how many did partake in having their Mother's Day photo shoot standing beside this piece of art, I know I did.  

Malia the artist💓

My Mother's Day card.


She met this cute little guy while we were on a garden tour.  I thought she was going to bring him home.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Bacon Jam

Tonight is bookclub and the publication that was selected to read was, "The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry."   It takes place mainly in a bookstore called Island Books and is located on a small peninsula called Alice Island.  Once in a while a book comes along that captures your heart and soul and part of you wants to pack a bag and journey to that magical place. 

 It's our time to host and burgers have been on my mind for weeks and what would be better than Bacon Jam to spread on it.  Sweet and spicy, just like I like it.  A perfect meal while we discuss A.J. Fikry, Maya, Amelia and the people of Alice Island.

Bacon Jam
Ingredients:
1 pound thick cut bacon
2 cups large yellow onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400'.  Put baking sheet on middle rack in oven and cook for 20-30 minutes until desired crispiness.   You'll want the bacon fairly crispy for the bacon jam.
2.  When the bacon is cooked to your liking, carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Pat dry with a paper-towel to remove the bacon fat.  Reserve the bacon fat left in the baking sheet.
3.  Heat 2 Tablespoons bacon fat over medium heat in a skillet.  Add the onions and stir.  Allow the onions to cook for about 10 minutes.
4.  While the onions are cooking, chop the bacon and set aside.  After about 10 minutes, you'll notice the onion are starting to turn a light golden color.  Sprinkle on a pinch of salt and stir in 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar, 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Stir to combine.
5.  Add the chopped bacon and stir 1/2 cup water into bacon mixture.  Cook until the overall color is a dark brown bacon color and has a jam consistency, about 15 minutes.  Give the Bacon Jam a taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
6.  Allow the bacon jam to cool slightly and transfer to a serving dish.  Store bacon jam in a airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

One word to describe this book, heartwarming.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tres Leches Cake

While talking to my mama recently, I was telling her that we had friends coming for dinner to celebrate Cinco De Mayo, not that I needed an excuse to have Mexican food, my f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e cuisine.   Our friends that joined us for our feast are Indian, so my mama say's "why are they celebrating Cinco De Mayo their not Mexican?"  Hmmm I then had to point out to my sweet mama,  neither am I.  😏

With our nationality taken care of it was time to focus on food, most importantly the dessert.  Tres Leches Cake or as some call it Three Milk Cake has been on my list to make for a long time.   This cake is soooo good!!!  Easy to make. Best made the day before, which is nice if you are having a dinner and you can make it and mark it off your list.  This dessert is perfect for summer or anytime.  

Spongy

Moist

Tres Leches Cake
Best Made The Day Before
Serves: 12
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 whole large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Maraschino Cherries, optional.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Dry really well on paper towels to keep from bleeding on your Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting.
Preparation:
1.  Preheat oven to 350'.  Spray a 9X13" pan with baking spray.
2.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Separate eggs.
3.  Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup granulated sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow.  Stir in whole milk and vanilla.  Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
4.  Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.  With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
5.  Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined.  Pour into pan that has been sprayed with baking spray and spread to even out the surface.
6.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter or leave in pan as I did and allow to cool.
7.  Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream in a small pitcher.  When cake is cool, pierce the surface of cake with a fork several times all over the top.  Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture, try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.  Do this very slowly or the liquid will go straight to the bottom of the pan instead of soaking into the cake.
8.  Allow the cake to absorb the mixture for 30 minutes or so.  I actually covered it and put it in the refrigerator to get cold.   You want the cake to be cold before you put the frosting on.
9.  Make frosting using Stabilized Whipped Cream recipe below.  Frost cake.  Cover and Refrigerate!!!
Recipe adapted from: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/tres-leches-cake/

Stabilized Whipped Cream
Ingredients:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix (dry)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (or to taste)

Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, preferably one that has been chilled.
Mix on low speed until ingredients are combined.
Mix on high speed until soft peaks form, scraping sides of bowl often.
Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

After spending the early part of the day in the Garden District we made our way over to Louis Armstrong Park to hear a little jazz.  Carla greeted us as we entered and convinced us we needed some hats for protection, especially since we were attending the Jazz Festival.  

Karen-Carla-Me-Greg

Second Line Parade starts off the concert at Louis Armstrong Park.

Greg and Karen

Me and Stone


Goofing off in the French Quarter while waiting to get into Preservation Hall.

 The French Quarter
Bourbon Street

Stone and I ready for Jazz Fest

Thousands gather while waiting for Harry Connick, Jr  to perform.


 Me-Stone-Karen-Greg

Members of the Second Line Parade

 After 10 years Harry Connick, Jr. returned to his home town to perform at Jazz Fest.

"Scrap House"  A memorial to hurricane Katrina

Stone and I along the Mighty Mississippi

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stuffed Mushrooms

I usually talk to my mama on the weekdays as I'm getting in my exercise on the treadmill.  Just recently I was telling her that the Georgia Peaches were coming home for Easter.  She knows that I would be cooking up a feast so she started asking about the menu for the days that they would be in.  She immediately said you have to make these stuffed mushrooms that her favorite TV cook Lidia makes.  The fact that my mama doesn't like mushrooms yet she was telling me I had to make these because they looked so good, well I had to make them.  OMG I am sooooooo glad I listened to my mama.  These are very tasty.  The only thing I would have done differently would have been to have to bread on the side to soak up the yummy sauce.  

Lidia's Stuffed Mushrooms
Serves:6
Ingredients:
24 white or cremini mushrooms, each about 1 1/2" in diameter
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup coarse bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated grana padano
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh italian parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tablespoons Land O Lakes unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken stock 
1/4 cup dry white wine
Instructions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 425'.  Remove the stems from the mushrooms and finely chop the stems.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat.  Add the scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.  Stir in the red pepper and chopped mushroom stems and cook, stirring until tender, about 3 minutes.  Remove to a bowl and let cool.

2.  Toss the bread crumbs, grated cheese, 2 Tablespoons of the parsley and the cooled sautéed vegetables until thoroughly blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stuff the cavity of each mushroom with the filling, pressing it in with a teaspoon until even with the sides of the mushroom.

3.  Using 2 Tablespoons of the butter grease a baking pan.  Arrange the mushrooms side by side in the pan and using the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter, dot the top of each mushroom with about 1/4 teaspoon butter.  Add the stock, wine and remaining parsley to the pan. Drizzle the tops of the mushrooms with olive oil.  Bake until the mushrooms are cooked through and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve the mushrooms on a warmed platter or divide them among warmed plates.  Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove.  Reduce until lightly thickened, to the consistency of gravy, 1-2 minutes.  Spoon the juices over the mushrooms and serve.  Recipe from: http://lidiasitaly.com/recipes/stuffed-mushrooms-3/

Carrot Patch Cupcakes
For over a year I've been making sweets and taking to them local fire department monthly.  By doing so they enjoy something sweet and I get to bake, which everyone who knows me knows thats what I love to do.   I remember the first time I dropped by I introduced myself and told them although they had never been to my house and I wanted to keep it that way,  but that I do appreciate everything they do.  This month I made the above cupcakes using a chocolate cake recipe that I have.  Then topping them to look like dirt I crunched up some Chocolate Mint Girl Scout Cookies, you know that really made these extra special.  For the carrots I dipped the strawberries into Wiltons orange tinted chocolate.  

Chalk Art by Lora Beth and Malia
Nine years ago Stone and I got married on a beautiful spring day.  This year with our anniversary falling the day before Easter, two of our daughters were home for the holiday.  Their gift to us was this chalk art on our driveway of two love birds in a tree.  We couldn't have ask for a better gift!

The girls hard at work...


Ready for refreshments after a long day of driveway art we gathered on the porch for  Orange Dream Cycle Martini's and Roasted Shrimp Cocktails.

And of course your never to old to dye Easter eggs which we ate for Easter breakfast.

Lemon Velvet Cake
Our Easter dessert was this Lemon Velvet Cake.  I have made it several times and it never disappoints.  A perfect cake for a beautiful spring day.


Many years ago when my children were small we lived in McAllen Texas.  McAllen is about 10 miles are so from the border of Mexico.  In weeks leading up to Easter you would see hispanic women selling confetti eggs outside of supermarkets.  One day I stopped and looked at them and thought to myself what a fun Easter tradition, one that I could do.  From that moment on, every year for Easter I make confetti eggs or as the Spanish call them cascarones.  I even sent a really large box of them to Australia one year for Malia to share with her friends when she was studying abroad.  




Stone is such a good sport.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pink Lemonade Pie

A sweet, tangy, creamy pink pie...

 Pink Lemonade Pie
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
Graham cracker crust (home-made or store-bought)
1 (6-ounce) can frozen pink lemonade, thawed
1 (8 ounce) frozen cool whip, thawed
1 can eagle brand milk
red food coloring
strawberries (optional)
Instructions:
In a mixing bowl stir together pink lemonade and eagle brand milk until mixed.  Fold in cool whip until combined.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to get the desired coloring.  Pour into graham cracker crust.   Refrigerate or place in freezer for a couple of hours prior to cutting so it can set up.  Serve with a dollop of cool whip and strawberries.

Cheers to Ms. Betty's cup, step by step in the tradition of diet coke.

Lora Beth rolling into spring in Tennessee.




Heading to the house...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Serengeti National Park-Africa

Our final days in Africa were spent in the Serengeti.  The Serengeti, meaning endless plains host the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world which help secure it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders Of Africa and one of the Ten Natural Travel Wonder Of The World.  It is also renowned for its large lion population.

The guides call him MGM, I call him The King!



Other than the lionesses sleeping under the tree, there is also one sleeping on the bottom left branch in the tree.

Cheetah

Lioness with her cubs.

Flamingos




Cheetahs

Warthogs


Serengeti Serena Lodge

Our accommodations at the Serengeti Serena Lodge for our remaining nights in Africa.

Our guide Ricky.

Impala


Alligator

Hippo Pond





Baboons








 Food truck in Serengeti National Park.



Hyena






No matter where I go I will always find a Coca'Cola.


Impalas


Young male lion.




We stopped at a very r-o-m-a-n-t-i-c coffee plantation for lunch.


Day rooms were provided in Arusha since our flight didn't leave until 9pm.





Brenda-Ricky-Stone
This is where we said goodbye to Ricky.  There wasn't a question he couldn't answer.  He showed Stone and I the Big Five and so much more.  I told Ricky that I had wanted to come to Africa since I was a little girl and now that I am here I'm not ready to leave.  He said the reason is, "you've finally come home."  Well, I'll say that got me a little teary eyed.