28 February 2015

A Little Piece of Sunshine

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I went to the Mail Center today in New Town.  I needed to grab a couple of things from Marsala's after we had breakfast at The Crossing and decided to stop by and check our mail.  Since the mail isn't delivered to our homes, it is easy to forget to check it.  Bob and I went to the Center and sure enough, there were keys in the mailbox, meaning that there was a package there for us!


As soon as I got to the house, I set the package down and since I knew who sent it and what was probably in it, I got out a pair of scissors and carefully cut across the taped edges.

Inside was this!



Lemons from sunny Arizona from our friend Cheryll.  Cheryll and her husband are friends that we met in Jefferson City.  Our mutual friend, Zoe introduced us.  Bob and I purchased some stained glass ceiling panels from her husband when they decided to move to Arizona for above the bar in our first home in JC.  Happy memories!

Sue sent two of her favorite lemon recipes with the lemons and they sound delicious, but I think the most appropriate thing to do is to make limoncello with these beauties!  Bob has a delicious recipe and I think it is time to pull it out!  I'll save those other two recipes for another time!

Thank you, Cheryll, for sending a box of Arizona sunshine to us on this wintery day!









24 February 2015

Tipsy Tuesday

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Grey is the New Black


Today I am linked up with Pam's Tipsy Tuesday linky party where you will find all things alcohol!  Pam and I share many of the same likes: we both are retired educators, we both like photography although she is much better than I am, we both like to cook/eat/drink and we both read!  I know you will like her blog, Gray is the New Black.  Go check it out!

First, I am linking back to my Tipsy Chocolate Cherry Cookies.  I posted these last week and our organizer told us about the Tipsy Tuesday party.   These are a spin off of my Tipsy Cherries that I make at Christmas.  This year they were (unhappily) forgotten, but to not waste the cherries, I made this recipe to utilize those delicious cherries.

I also wanted to do a Wine Review.  Yep, me.  Bob, Ashley and Eric are the ones who know a good wine in this family, but I had the opportunity to go to dinner with some friends to a quaint, family owned Sicilian restaurant.  This is the only bottled wine they carry, and it is so delicious.  I don't usually drink a red, or more than one glass of it.  I helped finish off this bottle and shared with two others.


Here's my take:

Sight:   Dark deep red.  Almost black in our glass.
Smell:  Dark cherries, and ripe blackberries.
Taste:  Very smooth.  The smoothness even smooths out to satin.  No bitterness.
Facts:  A blend of Syrah and a Nero d-Avola
Price:  Whole Foods sells it for $9 according to the internet.  I purchased the bottle at the restaurant for $18.

This table wine helped me understand how wine can enhance the food you eat.  The smooth velvet on the tongue, after a bit of spicy tomato sauce, was the perfect compliment.  I have never been to Sicily but a sip of this wine made me believe that I was sitting in the sun on the beach facing the Mediterranean Sea.

Now, off you go to buy some of this great wine!

22 February 2015

Oscar Night!

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Love my award shows!!

I watch all the award shows I can, Golden Globes, Country Music Association Awards, the SAG, The Grammys and tonight, the granddaddy of them all, the Academy Awards, affectionately known as "The Oscars." How did the Academy Awards get the nickname of The Oscars, you ask? Here's how, according to Google:

In 1929, a group called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to give awards for the best movie and acting performances of the year. The award trophy was a statuette of a man. When a secretary at the Academy first saw the statuette, she said it looked just like her uncle Oscar. In 2013, however, the Academy Awards were rebranded as The Oscars, so now the name is official!

 I'll have my TV on, Twitter loaded on my iPhone and Facebook opened on my iPad, commenting back and forth with friends who are also watching at home. Good times! In case you think I am ignoring my dear husband, he will be at band practice during this time!



Tonight I will be enjoying a special drink, one that does not ruin my weight watchers points for the whole week. It is called The Cinnamon Roll. Perfect for a chilly night, with the fireplace going, and The Oscars on the tube!  Only 1 point per serving!

The Cinnamon Roll

by Terri Steffes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (3 servings)
  • 1 c almond milk
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t honey
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • ice
Instructions
Blend all ingredients. Add more ice for a thicker product. Enjoy!
Powered by Recipage

My predictions for tonight's Oscars are:

Best Picture: The Theory of Everything
Best Director: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon for Wild
Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton for Birdman
Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern for Wild

If you are watching, I am on Twitter: @tsteffes!

Linking to Amaze Me Monday!

21 February 2015

Quick and Easy Hummus

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Have you heard this poem?



Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is fair and wise and good in every way.

I heard this poem from my Grandma Holt when I was little.  She used to sing it as a song to me, but I don't recall the tune.  I was born on a Monday and I remember Grandma telling me this. 

Well, today I was a Saturday's child, working on food items for the busy upcoming week.  I made two kinds of hummus and some turkey sausage for quick breakfasts.  The hummus recipes were easy and so much less expensive than buying premade hummus at the store.  My recipes made twice as much hummus for less than half of what I paid for it premade.  I made two kinds: Avocado Hummus and Sundried Tomato Hummus.

Top is Avocado Hummus, bottom is Sundried Tomato Hummus
Avocado Hummus



1 can chickpeas, drained
1 avocado, pitted and flesh scooped out
1 T tahini paste
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
parsley
paprika

Place all ingredients into the food processor and process until uniformly smooth.  Store in refrigerator.

Sundried Tomato Hummus



1 can chickpeas, drained
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (no oil)
1 T tahini paste
salt
pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 T olive oil
1 T garlic paste ( or 1 clove garlic, minced)
parsley

Place all ingredients into the food processor and process until uniformly smooth.  Store in refrig until served.

This amount of hummus will last me a couple of weeks.  These glass refrigerator boxes have lids and the product will keep nicely for this time.  I take about 1/3 c of hummus and a load of veggies for part of my lunch or for a mid morning snack. 

On a side note:  I have been having trouble with Blogger and comments on my blog.  Thanks to the marvelous Jenn at Munchkinland I believe those troubles are over.  If you need help with your blog, she is very good and very reasonable. 

18 February 2015

Snow Day Banana Bread

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On Presidents Day we had a lovely snowstorm that kept most of the Saint Louis area home from school, including me!  I took the opportunity to catch up on some blogging and to cook.  For me, that is a perfect way to spend a snow day!

I had two ripe bananas on hand, which led to the choice to make banana bread. I chose banana bread over muffins because I had used the muffin tin to make baked eggs, which is my new fast food breakfast.  Another recipe for another time.

This banana bread is moist, and fairly low in Weight Watcher points.  Only 4 per slice!  It is a one bowl process, which I like for clean up, too!

For the recipe, click this link:  Banana Bread






17 February 2015

Tipsy Chocolate Cherry Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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I am participating in a new to me adventure with a group of ladies who like to make cookies!  If you are a hashtag follower, check out #CreativeCookieExchange!

The theme this month is Drunken Cookies! Cookies made with booze and/or inspired by booze, we have them all! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.



This month's theme, Drunken Cookies, was actually quite a relief for me.  Many of you might remember that I made the Tipsy Cherries that my friends and family like so well but forgot to actually dip them in chocolate!  So I had two jars of maraschino cherries soaking in cherry vodka for nearly two months.  When this theme came about, I was sure I was going to find a way to incorporate these cherries into my cookie.

I did.

I based my recipe on a version of an oatmeal cookie, but I wanted it to be chocolate, too, to get that chocolate covered cherry taste.  So with a little experimentation, I made Tipsy Chocolate Cherry Cookies.  Here's how.

First, drain a small jar of maraschino cherries.  Replace the juice with cherry vodka.  Reseal and store in the refrig for a minimum of a week, but up to two months is fine too.  ;)

When the cherries have soaked long enough, drain the vodka off the cherries and pat dry.  Chop into fourths.  Set aside.



Combine the following:

1/2 c cocoa
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c oats
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 chocolate chips

Combine the following:
3/4 c oil (not olive oil)
2 eggs
1 T milk

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients with a mixer until combined.  Fold in chopped cherries.  Scoop 1 T batter onto cookie sheets.  Bake 14 minutes.  Let cool for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet and cool thoroughly.  Cookies will be light brown and chewy.





These cookies are moist and chewy and the cherries are the perfect addition to this chocolatey cookie. I hope you give them a try, and let me know if you do! 
You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

16 February 2015

Good-for-You Chocolate Mousse

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For Valentine's Day I made our dessert, as both Bob and I are counting either calories or WW points.  We had dinner out at White Castle (you can read about it by clicking the link) and then went to see The Beach Boys in concert!  What a great night!



This dessert caught my eye for the unusual ingredient: avocados.  I LOVE avocados but have never considered them a dessert item.  Until now.

Let me start off by saying that this dessert caused me a great deal of effort, all of it which was my own fault.  I admit this freely and without any arm twisting from Bob.

I got my blender out, halved my avocados and scooped out the flesh and put it in the blender.  I added the cocoa powder, the agave liquid and almond milk and proceed to pulse away as per recipe directions.  I even took this "before" shot to entice you to the goodness of this yummy dessert.


I began to blend it, but I noticed it wasn't blending like I thought it would...there were tiny flecks of avocado in the mixture and it was super thick.

I tasted it, and while it was very good, I could feel bits of avocado in it.  Not good.  I tried blending it some more, but it was so thick the motor was working really hard but the mixture wasn't moving.  Oh no.

So out came the food processor.  We have a large one with many gadgets that I don't use.  So after a learning curve of about fifteen minutes, I finally had the mixture scooped out and in the processor. I added a bit more milk and the consistency smoothed out and so did the grains of avocado.  

But my kitchen looked like this:


I am not known in my small family for being a neat cook, this was going well beyond what I normally do.  What a mess!  Bob was due home shortly, so I added in the cool whip, scooped it into the serving dish, covered it with plastic wrap and got it into the refrigerator.  I quickly cleaned up the mess, dried off the containers and get everything back to its proper place.

Whew.  Finished before Bob saw the mess.  However, I did leave the wet sponge on the cutting board which is a no-no here, and I was semi-busted. I had crashed in the Living Room and then it hit me, the avocados weren't ripe enough.  I tested them by pushing on the skin but it wasn't like when I cooked with them when I chopped them or spread them, these I dumped right into the blender.

We ended up with this lovely dessert:


Recipe

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

2 RIPE avocados
1/3 c almond milk
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/3 c agave nectar
1 small container of nonfat Cool Whip, completely thawed
1 t vanilla or almond extract

Place the VERY RIPE avocados into the food processor, add milk, cocoa powder, and agave nectar.  Plus until very smooth.  In another bowl, scoop Cool Whip into the bowl and add chocolate mixture.  Fold until all ingredients are incorporated.

Makes 4 servings.  This calculated out to 6 points per serving with only healthy fats in it!

15 February 2015

The Beach Boys and White Castle

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Our Valentine holiday went spectacularly well!  We had a fun time at White Castle.  The restaurant was closed to the general public, only those with reservations could come in, so we were greeted at the door, our reservation checked, then guided to our table, which was decorated with a white plastic tablecloth, a red Valentine's spray and a bowl of cute mints.  Our drink order was taken first. 


We ordered our food (from a table menu!) and it was brought out to our table pretty quickly.  Our serve wore a black suit and a red bow tie.  He was pretty dashing!



White Castle is the home of the slider, which you can see in these little boxes.  They are big enough to have one pickle slice cover the whole burger.  I love their crinkle fries.  The little nuggets are fried shrimp. Those were pretty tasty, too.

After dinner, we headed to the Lindenwood University's theater to hear the Beach Boys. Boy were they fantastic!  We sang our way through most of the program.  They did a four piece a cappella number by The Freshman which was lovely and two of the numbers were video pieces where members of the band who had passed on sang back in the day.  The band played along to their singing.  Very touching.


Funny moment:  The band asked everyone to get out their cells for an audience participation moment!  




After the concert we headed back to the house and after turning on the fireplace, I served up the dessert I made last night.  The recipe will be posted tomorrow, but here's a sneak peek:


Doesn't that dessert look amazing??  

11 February 2015

Valentine's Day Fun

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Love seeing the red hearts and pink lace floating around the internet. Red is my favorite color, with pink a very close second.  Pink roses are my favorite flower.  I don't really believe one needs a holiday for saying "I love you" to your honey, but I do like that we have one!

I made our Valentine's plans for Saturday.  I took a bit of a different twist on it:  we are doing some more casual type things.  First, I booked our dinner at....


White Castle.


Bob was stunned.  No, I mean the type of stunned that converts to being speechless.  Not a usual pattern for Bob, nope, not at all.  What might have made me book at White Castle?

I read a bunch of fun articles last year in the newspaper about how White Castle goes all out to decorate for Valentine's Day, including tablecloths and napkins, prints a menu and seats you at a table.  I also talked to a New Town friend who has actually gone to White Castle on Valentine's Day. That sound like FUN to me.  I do FUN.  And, we happen to have tickets to the Beach Boys afterwards...it sounded like a nice combination of events.  We might even wear jeans.

After the Beach Boys we'll have dessert at home.  Both Bob and I are watching our intake carefully (so we'll have to plan for our White Castle burgers!) so I thought I could make a dessert that would be less fattening than the ones at a restaurant and I did find the one I plan to make.

I'll share the recipe later, but I will hint that it has chocolate and avocados in it.  Intrigued??  Recipe and photo from As Easy As Apple Pie blog.



09 February 2015

Spring Garden Planning

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With those warm days we had last week, I got the itch to plant something.  Way too early in Missouri to plan anything but I started the conversation with Bob about what we are going to do in our vegetable garden.  He's obviously been thinking about it, too.  His answers came pretty quickly:  we'll try brussels sprouts again, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and asparagus.  The asparagus is in its own bed, the potatoes will go in the potato bags, and the tomatoes and bell peppers will go into our raised bed.  We will do the usual herbs as well, and plant a few new ones that we discover when it is time to shop for plants.

I found a fun and easy way to mark our plants:  with clothespins!  We used corks last year and I was going to have to remark them as they faded.  I saw this adorable idea and decided I would do them instead.

To find out how to make these, go to the link provided on the word clothespins above!  We will move the herb garden closer to the veggies as we think they got too hot where we had them.  The rosemary is going into its own pot as is the basil.

We are going to remove a section of grass on the outside of our fence to make a cutting garden. It is outside the garden for a couple of reasons, one, to distract the bunnies from our veggie garden and two, I think it will look really nice out there.
I worked with an expert to bring butterflies to the garden. Two of our friends, Sue and Andy Leahy are involved with Milkweeds for Monarchs, an organization that works with the Audubon Society to draw monarchs to the Saint Louis area.  We will be landscaping with many native plants that monarchs like plus a few non-natives to cut for bouquets.

So far our selections include Rough Blazing Star, Prairie Blazing Star and Eastern Blazing Star, Butterfly Milkweed, Yellow Coneflower, Glade Coneflower, Coreposis, Showy Goldenrod, Aster, Wild Bergamot, Zinnias, Salvia, Yarrow, and Bee Balm.  I am also working with a flower farm in Indiana for other cutting type flowers.


I will be so excited to share whatever butterflies are drawn to our garden this year and pictures of the bouquets we cut!  

04 February 2015

Crazy about Cookbooks

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I have always loved cookbooks.  As a little girl, my Grammy bought me my first cookbook, a Junior Better Homes cookbook that I loved.  I did every recipe in the book.  Maybe you had one, too?


I still have mine.  Ashley and I cooked a couple of things from it when she was little and I plan to use it again when I (hopefully) have a grandchild.

I have strayed from buying cookbooks in the last couple of years.  For one, we downsized and moved, so I really went through my books and only kept the ones I really loved.  For two, recipes and ideas are so readily accessible on the internet that I haven't felt the desire to purchase any.

Until now.

Look at these beautiful books.  I found them at one of my favorite stores in Columbia, Tallulahs.  Who could resist these covers?  These titles??


This one caught my eye.  Remember my homemade ketchup escapade?


This one just says "Ashley Hasty" all over it.  Ok, maybe it says "Mom" too!!


I love the Cake Doctor and this reminds me of it.  But maybe even better, since there won't be any cake mixes in it.

This one sounds perfect for the season.  The title is so cozy.


This sounds like Ashley, too.  She loves blue eggs.  I love yellow tomatoes.  We should share this cookbook.

This one references my dream trip. Who wouldn't want French food from a small kitchen?  Doesn't it sound dreamy?  

Cookbooks may start appearing on my wish list again.  These will top my list. 

02 February 2015

January Wrap Up (2015)

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One of the things I want to do more of is to keep track of the things I am doing that will grow me as a person. I hadn't planned to do my work events, but now I am thinking I should...



Below are the things that I plan to track.  I will possibly add in sports (participation and observation) when the spring seasons start.  Maybe I should track great bottles of wine, too?

Books Read: 

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes
Euphoria by Lily King
The Pecan Man by

Movies Seen:

The Wedding Ringer
Unbroken
Selma
We'll Never Have Paris
Boyhood

Shows:

Exhibition at the Foundry: Recycled Art
Vintage is the New Black: Dr. Ashley Hasty student work showcase
Russian Ballet:  Cinderella

Extension:

Cooking Class: Lemon Sponge Cake (hands on)
Book Club: discussing Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Saint Louis Auto Show

Fun Dining:

Great wings at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company (Kirkwood, MO)
Chirizo and eggs at The Uptown Cafe (Bloomington, IN)
Sushi at Japonee (Bloomington, IN)

Professional Learning:

Dr. Daggett on Data Decision Making
Dr. Wellman on Creating Cultures of Inquiry
Michael Auer on Student Learning Outcomes
Beth Houf on Technology for the Leader

Thinking about adding concerts, social outings, bible study and others as they come.  It is fun to recall the good time, great books, etc.