20 February 2017

Missouri Botanical Gardens Orchid Show

The 2017 orchid show is in St. Louis and it is a beautiful one.  The Missouri Botanical Gardens has had orchids since 1876 when they were gifted to Henry Shaw.  Today there are over 6,000 orchid plants and some are over 100 years old.  The oldest orchid species still in the collection dates from the 1890s.

This year the show featured 19 vanilla species and 4 cultivated vanilla varieties. None of the vanilla orchids were in bloom. Vanilla is used for flavoring and aroma and is found in ice cream, soda, syrup, chocolate and cereal.  You can even find vanilla in detergent, shaving cream, cleaners, soaps and lotions, shampoos and candles.  The natural vanilla scent comes from the fruit of vanilla orchids. The Vanilla plaifolia is the primary source for vanilla.  Thomas Jefferson helped introduce vanilla to the United States and developed a recipe for vanilla ice cream!

Earlier, I made my own vanilla using vanilla pods from Mexico.  Most vanilla pods come from Madagascar and Indonesia.  You can find the how-to here.





Check out these gorgeous orchids from the show.  If you are in St. Louis, be sure and stop by the show.

18 February 2017

Indian Style Carrot and Tomato Soup #SoupSwappers

Welcome to the second edition of #SoupSwappers!  This month we take on an International Feel as we explore soup from around the world.  A big thank you to our hostess, Wendy, from A Spoonful of Thyme.

Recently I learned I needed to reduce the acidity of my stomach, and my doctor recommended that I use tomato powder instead of fresh tomatoes.  Here is a version of tomato soup using tomato powder. I love fresh tomatoes and while this soup was good, it would be best with fresh tomatoes.  Still, in a pinch, I would not hesitate to use the tomato powder!

Indian Style Carrot and Tomato Soup

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 c tomato powder (or 2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 c water
  • 1/2 c whole milk, half and half or heavy cream
In your sauce pan, heat up the olive oil. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and salt. Cook vegetables until soft and translucent.
In the saucepan, add water and bring to a boil. Add carrots (and fresh tomatoes) and pepper. Cook until carrots are soft and easily break apart with a fork. Add tomato powder (if you aren't using fresh tomatoes) and stir well.
Pour hot soup carefully into a blender and puree until all vegetables are smooth. You may use an immersion blender instead. Pour back into pot, add cream slowly and stir as you pour.
Garnish with cilantro and a dab of sour cream, if desired.
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Be sure and check out the delicious soups being featured today!  There are enough soups to last you through winter and a few to save for the fall!  Enjoy!

16 February 2017

Panfried Salmon

We love salmon at our house and try to eat it weekly for all the good benefits.  Our favorite way to eat it is panfried, which is simple and easy, and so delicious.

People ask us about whether to buy wild caught or farm raised salmon.  We are big believers in wild caught salmon.  Typically wild caught salmon has less fat than farmed and therefore fewer calories.  Plus we like the idea of our fish having a happy, swimming life!

This isn't a recipe as it is a process.  You will need a 5 oz filet per person.  You'll need a skillet, 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter, salt and pepper, and steak seasoning.   Bring your filets to room temperature.  Salt and pepper the fish on both sides.  Set aside.  Heat your skillet, then add the oil and butter.  Add filets, skin side up.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Turn with a spatula.  Sprinkle the non skin side with steak seasoning.  Cook until the fish feels firm, another 3 minutes.  Remove with spatula and let rest a minute or two before eating.

That's all there is to this folks.  The salmon should be flaky but inside should be a soft pink.  It shouldn't be dry.  I like mine on the medium side of done.  We do all kinds of things for side dishes, but our favorites are pasta alfredo and asparagus.   Enjoy!

13 February 2017

Mexican Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies #FoodBloggerLove

I have the most fun thing to do right now, introduce you to a food blogger that I have just swooned over.  She is a gal after my own heart, Strawberry Blondie Love.  She likes to entertain and serve up a delicious cocktail or two for her friends.  I'm going to share with you some of my own favorites, but I want you to go see for yourselves.  You will not be disappointed.  How did I meet this blogger?  She is a participant, along with me, with a fun event called #FoodBloggerLove that pairs up food bloggers so we can network and meet up.  It's been a lot of fun!

I am so sure you will fall in love with her that I am including her social media accounts right here, so you can follow her yummy goodness, too, like me!

There.  Now you can always be in the know.  On to my favorites.  I went crazy for this beautiful cocktail, Grapefruit Ginger Vanilla Margarita. Wow.  It stirs up all kinds of wonderfulness in my head.  As described on Facebook:

A little sour, a little sweet with a hint of spice, this Grapefruit Ginger Vanilla Margarita will satisfy all taste buds. It's refreshing and beautiful and will "whisk" you away to warmer climates... or at least help you paint a picture.

I am so crazy about this Chicago Style Hoagie Dip, too.  This looks like a perfect Game Night dish to take to my neighbors' house.  I have to try this.

To celebrate my blogger buddy even more, I made her something that she will love, as it combines her love of chocolate and Mexican foods,  the Mexican Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie!
This cookie was adapted from the recipe of Renee Dobbs.

Mexican Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 25 minutes plus 2 hours
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Ingredients (24 cookies)
  • 1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons masa harina (corn flour)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
In a large bowl, cream coconut oil, peanut butter, and 6 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla one at a time and beating well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, masa harina, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and beat until combined and dry ingredients are moistened.
Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.
Roll dough in parchment paper. Chill dough at least 2 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick liners.
Place remaining sugar on a small plate.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of dough. Form into a ball. Roll ball in sugar to coat. Place ball on baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough and placing balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
Use the bottom of a 1-cup measure or glass to flatten balls to 2-inch rounds.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until middle of cookie is set.
Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
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Consider joining us next year on this fun activity.  The best way to keep in touch is to join the Facebook page at this link:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/foodbloggerlove/

12 February 2017

Lime Shrimp Cups #SundaySupper

One fun aspect of the winter season is all the events that we have that can take an elegant touch.  The Golden Globes, the Oscars, Valentine's Day... all lend themselves to using a little extra "wow" when entertaining.  I love these shrimp cups for this very reason.  They are "fancy" but you could take them to a tailgate, too!

What is it about lime and shrimp that is so tantalizing?  It is truly one of my favorite combinations, from way back to my Columbia days when we were eating lime shrimp at Glenn's, one of my favorite restaurants. They served it up in a quesadilla style, with black beans and red rice and peppers. Delish.

There are a lot of steps to this dish but they are all easy.  You do have to keep your eye on them as they can burn quickly.  I'll give you the step by step and tell you when you need to take some extra care!

Lime Shrimp Cups

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (12 apps)
  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 12 large shrimp (15-20 size)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T (or less) ancho powder
  • 3 T sour cream
  • 1 t lime juice
  • the zest from one lime
  • salt
  • a few leaves of spinach, arugula, or watercress
Preheat oven to 350.
On a large cookie sheet, separate wonton wrappers and lay them individually on the cookie sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle one side with salt.
Using a 12 cup muffin tin, place a wonton wrapper into a cup, pressing the wrapper on the bottom to create a flat bottom. Fold flaps down onto tin, making sure the opening stays wide.
Place in oven. (Watch carefully!) Bake 5 minutes or until wrappers turn a golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
Zest the lime. In a bowl place shrimp, zest and ancho powder and a teaspoon of olive oil. Stir, coating shrimp entirely. Spread shrimp on cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in oven 5 minutes. When shrimp are pink, flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from oven.
In a small bowl, stir mayo, ancho and lime juice together.
Assemble by putting a few leaves of spinach into the cup. Add a dollop of mayo to each cup. Add a shrimp to each cup. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

10 February 2017

Truman and Wilson January #ChewyInfluencer

                                                                                      Chewy.com gave us our treats, but the opinions expressed are our own!

February is National Dental Month for our pets, too, and Truman and Wilson would like to make sure that you are taking card of your pets' teeth.  Truman and Wilson get dental exams every time they do a scheduled visit with their vet and both have had to have some dental work.  It is important to look after their teeth.

In addition to daily brushing, you can help your dog's dental hygiene by giving them these treats. Merrick Brush Bones come in multiple sizes.  The shape and texture helps remove the stuff that causes bad breath, plus freshens breath and whitens teeth.

Our two guys ate them up!  I like that it took a little longer for them to devour these treats, too.  They concentrated longer and were busy with the bones for a good long while!  As you can, it wore Truman out!  That's a good thing, though, as he needs the workout on his gums.

We will definitely keep a supply of these bones for our dogs.  The medium sized bone seemed appropriate for both the 30 pound Westie and the 10 pound Cavachon.

08 February 2017

A Valentine's Card for You

I made you a Valentine card.  

I don't think there are sweeter words to be spoken on Valentine's Day!  My husband once made me a Valentine card and I responded very poorly, never to receive a handmade card ever again.  Don't make my mistake, if you are presented with a handmade card!

This card had a little help from an app called Waterlogue and my daughter, although she doesn't know it yet.  I was checking out her Instagram feed and saw this picture of a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I snapped a quick picture of it with my phone, downloaded and cropped it with my picture app, then uploaded it to Waterlogue, which made a watercolor painting of it.  To get your printable copy of the card go to Valentine Card.  It will look like what you see below.

With a little tech magic from a friend, we turned it into this lovely card, which, you can have for free. If you choose to use it, you will need to get a 4" by 6" envelope to put it in.  It is so simple to make.

Print it off.  1. Fold it like a hamburger bun (teacher talk for a fold that is wider than it is longer) and then fold again, with the "I love you" in the inside.  Sign it, address the outside, then put the card on the inside.  Wa-La! you are done!

There you go!

06 February 2017

Red Wine Chocolate Trifle #TasteCreations

Our February Taste Creations ingredient is chocolate!  We know our readers like chocolate for Valentine's Day so we did not want to fail you.  Last year, our Taste Creation ingredient was leeks and while I love them, this seems much more festive!

The red wine/chocolate sensations that were hitting the internet last fall were the inspiration for this dessert.  Red wine brownies, red wine cupcakes and red wine hot chocolate are some of the hits that are making the rounds.  This trifle came about in one of those "mistakes spark a thousand ideas" kind of way.

Originally I intended to make a bundt cake.  I made the cake, poured it into the bundt pan.  It baked beautifully but when I tried to take it out, the cake was too tender and literally fell apart.  So I removed what I could, spread it around to cool, then cut into bite sized pieces, and then assembled these mini trifles.

I still think the bundt would be awesome and I plan to try again, but I did love these trifles so much that I wanted to share them with you first!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Trifle

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (8 individual desserts)
  • 1 chocolate cake mix of your choosing
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 1 c red wine (replaces the liquid for the cake mix)
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • For the ganache
  • 5 oz chopped chocolate
  • 3 T red wine
  • For the whipped cream
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray. Chill a mixing bowl.

In a mixing bowl, add cake mix, sour cream, eggs, wine, and vegetable oil. Mix for three minutes until well incorporated. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes, checking for doneness after 20. Remove cake when tester comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan.

Make ganache by boiling water in a double boiler. Place chocolate in top pan and melt chocolate. While still over the double boiler, add red wine. The mixture may begin to seize, use a whisk and whisk it until smooth again. Remove from double boiler and set aside.

Make whipped cream by pouring heavy cream into a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Add sugar and whip until sugar is dissolved.

To assemble, cut cake into one inch cubes. Place 4 cubes into an individual dish. Drizzle on the ganache. Layer more cubes, more ganache and then top with whipped cream. Garnish with mint, strawberry, or a truffle.

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Please go and check out the other chocolate goodness to be found on these blogs today!  You will swoon at the creativity and lusciousness of these treats!

Rosemary at An Italian in My Kitchen has this lovely Thin Chocolate Cookie Layered Dessert:

and Nikki from Tikkido has Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies.  Yum.

03 February 2017

A Sentence A Day~ January

It is always wonderful to start a new year and think, I've lived to see another new year in!  As a cancer survivor you learn to take every day as a blessing.  I have loved doing these A Sentence A Day journals.  It is easy for me to summarize my day into one sentence now, and I hope for the future, some grandchild or niece or nephew might find the words interesting.

For past editions of the A Sentence A Day journaling, check out these links: MayJuneJuly,  AugustSeptember,  October November, and December

January 1.  A beautiful day spent reminiscing of the past year, mostly centering on highlights and with some vacation planning for the future!

January 2.  No school, so we went to a new friend's Open House and met some of her friends, which means our own circle of friendship got even wider!

January 3.  We sold our silver trunk that has been used as our coffee table for the last two years, to make room for the new one coming on Saturday.

January 4.  The first class for my Columbia College class, full of eager new faces for the teacher education program.

January 5.  Working hard on scheduling summer trainings for my principals and thinking how hard it is to imagine summer!

January 6.  A drive into Columbia today to talk to my colleagues about how we can be more supportive to our first year teachers.

January 7.   Our DAR Executive meeting was so much fun, being around women who are happy to live in this beautiful country!

January 8.  A wonderful day eating Cheeseburger Stew, socializing with others on Instagram and making a new friend or two who like to cook as much as I do.

January 9.  I drove to a lovely little school in Cadet (Missouri) to talk about how to make good units of instruction for their staff.

January 10.  Book Club with our New Town friends at the Wine Bar is always so much fun, especially when the book was as good as this one was! 

January 11.  Bob had hernia surgery today and had a great surgeon and staff who were reassuring and kind.

January 12.  I had a lovely breakfast with two of my PEO sisters and one potential member, part of my duties as PEO President of the year.

January 13.  We holed up for the wintery weather that never appeared but it didn't stop us from cuddling on the couch and watching The Crown!

January 14.  We received about 1/4 inch of ice, so I took some photos and took the dogs out to play in it.

January 15.  Bob is still recovering but doing a good job of following my directions!

January 16.  We made a small grocery store run, but I carried all the groceries into the house so Bob would not pull hard on his incision.

January 17.  Both of us are back to work, after our 4 day holiday and Bob's surgery recovery.

January 18.  Spent the evening with one of my idols, Ina Garten, with 1500 of her other fans and loved every minute of it!

January 19.  Talking to a new doctor about a new way of looking at my thyroid health and hoping that what he can do for me will be different that what I have experienced for the last 40 years.

January 20.  Our country is so divided about President Trump, so much so, that I fear that those of us who are family, friends and colleagues will divide amongst each other and then all will be lost.

January 21.  Fantastic evening with friends on a 70 degree day in January, in Missouri, sitting outside by a bonfire, talking about life, loving our friendship.

January 22.  Watched my Green Bay Packers lose mightily today, so no Super Bowl for us.

January 23.  So excited to initiate a new PEO sister into our chapter tonight!

January 24.  Love my quiet Tuesdays at home with my husband, no plans, simple but delicious dinner of roast chicken and time with the TV.

January 25.  I went to a doctor to day to discuss my unhealthy body and decided to learn more about what is going on inside that is keeping me from losing weight and all the other symptoms that I experience.

January 26.  Fasting overnight, giving blood to the tune of five vials plus a urine sample and I do hope this gives the answers to all my issues. 

January 27.  Spent two hours on a machine that can detect different infections in your body, and while I was being tested, I got to take a nice nap!

January 28.  A wonderful date DAY, as planned by husband, included a lovely breakfast at a chocolate bar, lunch at the Curtain Call at The Fox Theater, An American in Paris show, then dinner at the wonderful French restaurant called Brasserie by Niche which was A M A Z I N G.

January 29.  A day to relax after our wonderful Saturday, then preparation for our convention on Monday and Tuesday.

January 30.  First day of our Powerful Learning Conference and wow, it has been a long while since we were both together at a educational conference!

January 31.  We were so fortunate to see such wonderful educators such as Luis Cruz, Beth Houf, Todd Whitaker, and Mike Rutherford, who motivated us to share information with our pre service teachers!

What a month!  Personally and professionally, we have had a lot of wonderful events and moments this January.  If you would like to do a sentence a day journal, let me know!  I would love to read yours!

01 February 2017

Color Our World~White

White.  Pure as the driven snow.  A sign of purity.  It is also one of the most common colors in nature, did you know that?

The bloggers from Project Beautiful chose White as their January color.  White is an achromatic color, a color without hue. White is a color closely associated with all world religions.  White was most likely the first color used in prehistoric times, as chalk was available and didn't have to be mixed.  

White is beautiful and found in so many forms.  Let's take a look at what each of our bloggers did this month.

Lynne at Sensible Gardening discusses white gardening.  She says white flowers are her favorites and she gives us some examples to highlight her point.  They are gorgeous!

Karen from GardeningChick shares the white flower called Obedient Flower with us.  She says it gets its name from, well, go and read the post to find out!

Renee from The Gardening Frog tells us about the Formosa Lily.  She says it has an incredible fragrance and is from Formosa, Taiwan.  My dad served over there for awhile.  Another story! 

Shoshi at Blooming Secrets tells us about a year of color using white flowers.  I am in love with the white astilbe. That flower is so delicate and long lasting.  So pretty.

Teri at The Freshman Cook takes us a new direction with this delicious Chicken Marinara Panini.  The creamy texture of the chicken and cheese make me so hungry.  Better head on over and see the yummy goodness of this recipe!

These white flowers are popular in the northeast as Lee from A Guide to Northeastern Gardening tells us.  She has a lot of beautiful ideas for white flowers and some garden shots to share in her post.  I am in love with these while allium.

And for me, I made this Warm Vanilla Milk that has been so popular on Facebook.  It is delicious and perfect for something warm but not overly rich.

Thank you for joining us for #PBColorOurWorld White.  Next month we will be featuring PINK and I know our gardener friends will have something wonderful for us!