Do you enjoy hiking amongst wild flowers?

I’m learning the names of wild flowers and became aware that many are so vigorous, they are considered weeds.  A short list include bachelor buttons and alyssum.  Notice all the bachelor buttons in this meadow!  I wanted some of these.

wild flowers.jpeg

I still think they are lovely and don’t mind that they’re mixed into the packets I planted in our yard because they’re strong growers.  A packet or two of different wildflowers will often work better than pounds of seed. Birds love wildflowers, will line up to observe them and eat until every seed is gone. If planting in the wilds, be real philosophical about the seed, the birds, other wildlife, and be prepared to share (a lot). In town or in areas where there is no cover for the birds and the wildflower seed is planted late there is usually a great wildflower show.

 

 

Irish Soda bread is easy to make and worth the carbs!

Buttermilk is the key for good Irish Soda Bread.

Irish soda bread

Ingredients:

  •  1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk1
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 and 1/4 cups (515g) all-purpose flour (plus more for your hands and work it)
  • 3 Tablespoons (38g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 and 1/2 Tablespoons (65g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 cup (150g) raisins (I use half golden, half regular)2

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Lightly grease a 8-10 inch oven safe skillet or cake pan with butter or nonstick spray. A baking sheet will also do, though the bread may spread out a bit more.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together in a small bowl. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, two forks/knives, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs, then fold in the raisins with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough is too stiff to stir. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. Dough will be sticky, but if it is absolutely too sticky add a little more flour as needed. Do not overknead.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a lightly buttered serrated knife, score an X on the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top about halfway through bake time.
  4. Remove skillet/pan from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads.

Kathleen’s Lemon Chicken– made easy

Aren’t we busy? And yet we want to fill our homes with happiness. A good dinner is one way to create a warm atmosphere. I put chicken thighs to use in this Lemon Chicken recipe. It’s easy but requires an hour of marinating before baking. 

lemon-chicken

Here are ingredients for four servings:

  • 3-4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and legs recommended), skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest (about zest from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • Lemon slices for garnish

 

Lemon Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time:10 minutes
  • Cook time:45 minutes
  • Marinating time:1 hour
  • Yield:Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and legs recommended), skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest (about zest from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • Lemon slices for garnish

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1 Marinate chicken: Place lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large, non-reactive bowl, whisk to combine.

With the tip of a sharp knife, cut into the underside (skinless) of each chicken piece one or two times by about 1/2 an inch. (This will help the marinade penetrate.)

Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and turn to coat with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

2 Place chicken in baking dish, brush with butter: Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking dish, skin side up. Reserve the marinade. Use a pastry brush to brush melted butter on each piece of chicken.

3 Bake, baste with marinade: Bake for a total of 35 to 45 minutes, until the skins are crispy brown, and the chicken is cooked through, juices running clear (internal temperature of 165°F for breast pieces, 170°F for thighs and legs). Half-way through the baking, at about the 20 minute mark, baste the chicken pieces generously with the reserved marinade.

Depending on the size of the breasts, they may be ready before the thighs, so if you are cooking a mix of chicken parts, keep that in mind, you may have to take them out of the oven before the thighs.

Let rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving.

4 Save meat juices to serve with chicken: Pour the juices from the pan into a serving bowl. Use a tablespoon to skim the fat off the top (save the fat for cooking with later, or discard, but do not discard down the drain or it will solidify and clog your drain).

Serve the chicken with the juices on the side or a little poured over the top of the chicken. Serve with steamed brown rice.W

 

 

Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday!

Here are some fun facts about Mardi Gras 2017.  It takes place on Tuesday, February 28 (TODAY!), and marks 47 days until Easter. Many people make their own masks for the celebration, starting with a blank form.

mask-poppies-field-red

It takes place the day before the start of Lent, meaning its date is different each year due to the time of Easter.

However, Mardi Gras also refers to the carnival of events that take place beginning on Epiphany (Three Kings Day) until the start of Lent.

The French phrase Mardi Gras translates into English as Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras is known as Fat Tuesday as many countries traditions see people eat rich, fatty foods the day before entering into Lent.

In the UK, many people eat pancakes made from fatty flour, eggs and butter, which used to be banned during lent.

Meanwhile fried bread and pastries made with the same ingredients are often made and eaten on Fat Tuesday in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

As well as eating fatty foods, many people take the opportunity of Mardi Gras to hold parties and carnivals.

One of the most famous is the Brazilian Carnival in Rio where two million people pack on to the streets to sing and dance.

The tradition dates back to 1723 and Brazil welcomes 70 per cent of its tourists during the event.

As well as singing and dancing, revellers wear brightly coloured colours as well as perform the traditional samba.

Another well-known Mardi Gras parade is in New Orleans, which also sees tourists stream into the city.

Starting early on Mardi Gras day, several parades make their way through the French Quarter, where participants where special costumes and masks. Here

Tried and true: sausage-egg-cheese casserole after church

At our small Episcopal church we take turns bringing food for after the service.  Usually two people sign up. On Sunday I will make three trays of Sausage-egg-cheese casserole, bundt cakes (sliced) and a tossed field greens salad.

sausage-egg-casserole

Here’s the recipe for the casserole:

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 6 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. In a skillet, brown and crumble sausage; drain and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs; add milk, salt and mustard. Stir in bread cubes, cheese and sausage.
  2. Pour into a greased 11×7-in. baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 10 servings.

My BBQ ribs secret– boil before baking

Do you love BBQ ribs with potato salad, corn bread, and a field greens salad? This delicious dinner can be prepared lighter by boiling the ribs first.

bbq-ribs

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds country style pork ribs
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup barbeque sauce

Directions:

  1. Place ribs in a large pot with enough water to cover. Season with garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Bring water to a boil, and cook ribs until tender.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  3. Remove ribs from pot, and place them in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pour barbeque sauce over ribs. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature of pork has reached 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).

What is it about bundt cakes that bring up home-baked nostalgia?

Irish Cream Bundt Cake– this is a perfect addition to the egg casserole I’ll make. irish-cream-bundt-cake

Bundts (or, at least, the confections that inspired them) may be generations-old Eastern European cakes, but the signature aluminum pan they’re baked in is a modern innovation. A Bundt cake /bʌnt/ is a cake that is baked in a Bundt pan, shaping it into a distinctive ring shape. The shape is inspired by a traditional European cake known as Gugelhupf, but Bundt cakes are not generally associated with any single recipe. Publicity from Pillsbury saw the cakes gain widespread popularity, and now we are seeing the franchise bakeries, Nothing Bundt Cakes, popping up all over.

Ingredients for Irish Cream Bundt Cake

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Mix in eggs, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil and 3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto the serving dish. Prick top and sides of cake. Spoon glaze over top and brush onto sides of cake. Allow to absorb glaze repeat until all glaze is used up.
  4. To make the glaze: In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup Irish cream.

Baked Potato Soup–low calorie

Our daughter, Marla, gave me this recipe for Baked Potato Soup, and it is courtesy of Lizzie Fuhr of Popsugar Fitness. The reason it’s low calorie is that cauliflower replaces the usual amount of potatoes. 

baked-potato-soup

Ingredients

1.    1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets

2.    2 russet potatoes, diced

3.    1 cup low-fat milk (one percent)

4.    2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

5.    1 teaspoon salt

6.    1/2 teaspoon pepper

7.    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8.    1 white onion, diced

9.    3 cloves garlic, minced

10. 4 slices turkey bacon, diced

11. 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

12. Scallions, chopped, to garnish

13. Greek yogurt or sour cream, to garnish

Directions

1.    Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the cauliflower florets until tender when tested with a fork (about 10 minutes).

2.    Remove the cooked cauliflower from the pot, and boil the diced potatoes in the same pot until tender. Remove from the water, and set aside.

3.    Combine the cauliflower, milk, 1 cup of chicken broth, salt, and pepper in a large blender, and blend until smooth.

4.    In a large soup pot or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook for an additional minute.

5.    Pour the cauliflower mixture and the additional cup of chicken broth into your soup pot with the garlic and onions. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, feel free to add equals parts of milk and broth to thin things out. Turn down to simmer, add the turkey bacon and chives, and cook for at least 15 minutes.

6.    Serve in bowls, and top with the classic toppings of your choice.

Stay at your happy weight.

You like what the scale says and have plenty of company if you don’t need to slim down. Forty-one percent of women are content with their present weight according to a recent Gallup poll.  Nutritionalist Keri Gans, R.D.N. suggests these strategies to maintain weight:

  1. Put your go-to foods on repeat. Lauren Slayton, R.D.N. writes you will be more likely to practice portion control with foods you eat often. Eat smartly and rotate the foods that are good for you.
  2. Understand the math. Even if you’re loading your grocery cart with apples, carrots, and kale, it doesn’t mean you are consuming less calories if you consume chips and dip.
  3. Think like a chef. People who cook rather than eat out consume fewer calories. At a restaurant a rich tomato bisque is loaded with cream and butter. Order chicken noodle instead.
  4. Consistent workouts help you stay slim, but switch things up every so often to keep your calorie burn high.

How is this for a snack— chocolate kiwi pops. 1 cup Chopped dark chocolate and 1/2 cup Coconut oil – melted over a double boiler, then cooled to room temp.  Transfer (on the foil) to refrigerator until chocolate hardens.

kiwipops0002

Looking up at the constellation Orion

Tonight – or any January evening – look for the constellation Orion the Hunter. It’s probably the easiest to pick out of all the constellations in the winter sky. It’s identifiable by Orion’s Belt, three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row at the mid-section of the Hunter. See these stars? They are easy to spot on the sky’s dome. As seen from mid-northern latitudes, you’ll find Orion in the southeast at early evening and shining high in the south by late evening (around 10 to 11 p.m. local time). If you live at temperate latitudes to the south of the equator, you’ll see Orion high in your northern sky at this hour. Pick out Orion’s Belt and the nearby bright stars in that part of the sky, and you’ve probably found Orion.

orion-sky

Stars in distinct constellations like Orion look connected, perhaps even gravitationally bound, but usually they aren’t. Certainly Orion’s stars aren’t bound to each other by anything but their general location near one another along a single line of sight from Earth. The stars of Orion just happen to make an easy visual pattern on our sky’s dome.

Meanwhile, the stars in Orion and most other constellations are located at vastly different distances from each other. For example, notice the two brightest stars in Orion—Betelgeuse and Rigel.  Betelgeuse is estimated to be located 522 light-years away, while Rigel’s distance is 773 light-years.