28 February 2017

Color My World~Pink #PBColorMyWorld

The Project Beautiful bloggers chose the color PINK for this month's featured color.  Pink is a pale red which gets its name from the flower pink (dianthus.)  The color pink can be innocent, seductive or feminine, just depending on what colors are associated with it.  Pink was used mostly for flesh colors in painting but became popular in the 18th century for clothing.  One of my favorite paintings, Pinkie, hung in my daughter's bedroom when she was a girl (Sir Thomas Lawrence.)

This month our post are mostly from the garden, and one from the sea!  You will love these beautiful pink posts.  Click on the links to read each more fully.

1.  From Lee at A Guide to Northeast Gardening wrote a gorgeous piece on Hellebores in the winter garden.  You will learn a lot about this gorgeous flower.

2.  Lynne from Sensible Gardening wrote about pink perennials (these are the flowers that come back every year.)  She has a lot of different options and I am in love with them all.  Pink is my favorite color of flower!

3.  Shoshi from Blooming Secrets has a lovely post on the color pink throughout the year.  I chose this set of pink spring flowers because I love each and every one of them.  So gorgeous!

4.  And then there is my pink post, from the sea, which you will remember is the Panfried Salmon recipe I shared earlier this month!  If you've tried it, let me know! (my pink fish looks rather orange!)

If you visit any of the Project Beautiful bloggers, please tell them I sent you by leaving a comment. We always love to hear from our readers!

27 February 2017

A Note Yet Unsung #ourgoodlifebooklist

A review of the book A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander.  The book was provided to me 
no charge, but the opinions expressed are my own!

I am a historical fiction nut and this book was full of wonderful details that we historical fiction people love.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Let's talk book, shall we?

From the editor:  A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the new maestro at the Nashville Philharmonic. But women are "far too fragile and frail" for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah's hopes are swiftly dashed when the conductor--determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music--bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah's new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville's youngest orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head, he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city's new symphony hall. Even more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music--his dying father. As Tate's ailment worsens, he knows Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he's robbed her of her dream?

What I truly loved was the mountain setting, where Tate is from.  The scenes described in the book are lovely and breathtaking.  A beautifully written account of a misunderstood people and the work was done brilliantly.

What I didn't like was the way the author mistreated the writing of the final part of the symphony. We spent a lot of time working through the first three pieces of music with the characters, and instantaneously the fourth is written.  I didn't buy it and was a little put off that we weren't more involved in Tate's creative process for finishing the piece.  I was also put out that the audience at the Grand Opening of the Symphony couldn't see past the gender to revere the music.  True music lovers, and I believe people at that time as well, would have been stunned to see a woman playing such masterfully, but then would have appreciated the work.  I'm not buying the condemnation.

Other than that, I truly loved the book.  The characters are beautiful and well developed, the loose ends are tied up nicely, and I would love to see a second book, leading us through Tate's hearing loss and Rebekah's pursuit of a position in New York.

If you read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts!  Come back and leave a comment and let's talk books!

24 February 2017

Jello with Pistachios and Chia Seeds #FoodnFlix

I love watching movies but I am pretty stuck in my favorite genres, and fantasy is not one of them. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself eagerly watching Pan's Labyrinth, a 2006 film that has been dubbed the best fantasy film of all time for our February Food and Flix filmKatharina at Pretty Cake Machine chose this movie for us.  This film is set in 1944 in Spain, during the war. Captain Vidal, a soldier of Franco's, is sent to flush out the anti-Franco rebels hiding in the mountains.  Here is where we learn of Captain Vidal's completely sadistic mind, as he kills two farmer's who were hunting rabbit in cold blood.  Captain Vidal is married to Carmen, who is pregnant with his child but very ill.

While the movie's disturbingly graphic on the horror's of war, it is juxaposed with the story of Olfelia, who is actually a princess from another time.  A faun comes to help her rejoin with her family from the past, by doing a few tasks.  During these tasks, Olfelia has to defy her mother, whom she loves very much.  The fantasy portion of the movie is intense, with creatures that are horrifying but helpful. Olfelia trusts them, perhaps too much.

So how does this movie fit with cooking?  There were a couple of food scenes that show lavish food spreads of food, vegetables and meats, the rabbits that were found in the farmer's knapsacks after they were killed, and of course, the food scene where Olfelia is warned NOT to eat a thing, no matter how tempted she might be. In this scene, the Pale Man, whose eyes are embedded in the palm of his hand, is surrounded by luscious looking foods, all mostly reds and purples (maybe looking like blood?) and this is where I took my inspiration.

My mother in law had a wonderful jello mold that I took when we were cleaning out her home.  The glistening jello salad by the Pale Man caught my eye and I decided to create something around that.

Jello with Pistachios and Chia Seeds

by Our Good Life
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 4 pkgs unflavored gelatin
  • 8 pkgs stevia
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1/2 c chopped pistachios
  • 1 c cold water
  • 3 c hot water
Soak chia seeds in 1/4 c water. In one cup of cold water in an 8 cup heat resistant bowl, pour gelatin on top and let soak for ten minutes. Heat 3 cups of water to boiling. Pour hot water into gelatin. Stir well. Add food coloring to desired color. Add in almond extract. Pour 1 cup of the gelatin mixture into your jello mold or 8 by 8 inch metal pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place the remaining jello in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, stir the chia seeds and pistachio into the 3 cups of jello. Chill for an additional 30 minutes. Pour the 3 cups of jello into the mold. Refrigerate another two hours.

To unmold, dip the metal bottom and up to the jello line into a basin of hot water. Rest for about 10 sections. Check to see if the mold is loose enough to come out. Check in 10 second increments. Place plate on the bottom of the mold and invert.

Serve with whipped cream.
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22 February 2017

Roasted Chicken in a Paper Bag #CooktheBooks

Our February/March book selection for Cook the Books club was sensational.  Let me introduce you to Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent.  This month’s book selection was chosen by Claudia from Honey From Rock.  You can read Claudia's invitation: here.

From the Publisher's summary:  "Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflé will end up changing her life. As Edward and Isabel meet weekly for the glorious dinners that Edward prepares, he shares so much more than his recipes for apple galette or the perfect martini, or even his tips for deboning poultry. Edward is teaching Isabel the luxury of slowing down and taking the time to think through everything she does, to deconstruct her own life, cutting it back to the bone and examining the guts, no matter how messy that proves to be."

Even though the book was a memoir of the author and the strife she was going through when she met Edward, it was truly about the remarkable Edward, with whom I fell in love.  He's a gentleman, a foodie, a purveyor of all that is lovely and wonderful in life, including a good bourbon and roast chicken.  He can shop and enjoys picking out his food from specialized markets.  Things I dream about.  His undying love for his deceased wife is the stuff romance movies are made of. I even started wearing my red lipstick again. 

Although each chapter started with the menu that Edward cooked, the book contained no recipes. There was a lot of good description of cooking methods and one of those was paper bag chicken, which I coaxed my husband into trying. Here's what we did:

We started with a good chicken.  A free range, 3 pound bird, never frozen.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Rinse the chicken, pull off any visible fat, pat dry (important for a crispy skin) and salt and pepper inside and out.  We also seasoned with Trader Joe's 21 Spice seasoning on the outside.  Bob stuffed the cavity with a peeled onion and sprigs of rosemary.  He put the brown paper bag we got from the store on its side, on top of a cookie sheet.  The chicken went inside the bag, then the bag was tied with kitchen string.  Bob had put the upper rack on the next to lowest setting inside the oven, giving the bag a lot of room on top.  The chicken cooked an hour and a half.  The bag was removed and the chicken put back into the oven to crisp up the skin and to bring to 165 degrees.  The chicken was then removed and let rest for about ten minutes.

Out of the oven and opened.

See the chicken in the bag?

A resting chicken.
This is an incredible chicken.  We love roast chicken and like to try different recipes, but this one has our attention.  So incredibly moist and the flavors are throughout the meat.  We will be doing this again, as our go-to way of doing roast chicken.  It's too incredible not to do it this way.

If you are a food blogger or a food Instagrammer, you can join us by clicking the link above, finding our current book, reading the book and cooking from it.  Write a post and follow the directions about submitting it to the hostess for the round up. We'd love to have you!

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!

Participating in Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen!

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.