Happy Stuff

Spring is in full-swing here. The Man Of Few Words planted his flower garden and I smile every time I look at it. (The neighbor’s daffodils, too, when they were in bloom.) Lawn-mowing has also commenced.

Freshly-cut grass is one of my favorite fragrances.

The hummingbirds returned and they’ve been entertaining us with their aerial antics. Four eagles soared over our house this morning, too. Wow! We’ve also seen Woody Woodchuck in our front yard and a road runner in the back. (No Wiley Coyote though…) Talk about all creatures great and small. Thank you, Lord God, for making them all.

Besides the posies pictured above and the ones on our decks, the iris bed is going wild. Russ counted 67 stems with two to five buds each.

Another favorite fragrance… ahhhh.

It was too windy to take their photo today, so I brought a few inside.

Hope you’re finding Happy Stuff in your neck o’ the woods too, xo.

Enjoying sharing Springtime at the lake,

~ Kim

Annual Recipe Auditions

Every March I’m on the lookout for recipes to make “the best birthday meal ever” (hoping there’ll be many more birthdays and meals to come.) Generally, I search for dinner first. Okay, desserts, too. ;)

Surprisingly, this year’s first winner was breakfast.

Chef Mimi recently shared a recipe for Monte Cristo Crepes and my “flavor memory” was immediately transported back to the Monte Cristo’s of my youth — thick French-Toast-style ham and cheese sandwiches with jam, sprinkled with powdered sugar. (The Minnesota version came with warm maple syrup, too.) I loved Mimi’s crepe rendition, but obviously didn’t feel very ambitious come birthday morning. I also forgot the powdered sugar and maple syrup. Oh well! Just another excuse to make them again with the aforementioned. Her Monte Cristo crepes are still on my must-make list, too.

Then my thoughts turned to dinner. Frankly, I was too full after breakfast to even think about lunch! But first, I had to make dessert. Many recipes were up for consideration — some from as far away as Australia — but I decided it didn’t necessarily have to be “cake.” Incredibly, another one of Chef Mimi’s recipes showed up on my table later.

Chocolate Mousse. (Click on the bold links for her wonderful recipes.)

What swayed me most besides her life-long experience eating chocolate mousse made by her French mother (need I say more?) was a statement she made in her post: “I mean, if you’re going to eat chocolate, eat chocolate!” Yes, ma’am. That night it was just The Man Of Few Words ‘n’ me for dinner so I halved the recipe to make two generous servings. (Her original recipe serves eight, ahem…) Judging by the way Russ polished off his “serving” it was a total success! I savored the rest o’ mine the next day and it was just as wonderful.

Dinner turned out to be a simple affair — broiled steaks with baked potatoes (preceded by salads), accompanied by a great glass of Cabernet. What a delightful day from beginning to end, especially THE END. But wait… there’s more!

Many thanks for your kind birthday wishes on FB. Greatly appreciated and very uplifting! More “audition results” coming soon too, bearing in mind…

I can only cook (and eat) so many new recipes a day “at my age.” :)

Enjoying friends and flavor at the lake,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ March 2021

In My Kitchen… the only new thing I’ve acquired lately is a potholder. I liked it’s cheerful colors — and more importantly, its message. Hope it brings joy to you, too!

Gratitude is up to us. Blessings, not so much. Wherever and however they’re dispensed is beyond our control, but I’m thankful for each and every one of them — even something as unexpected as a potholder at the Dollar General store in their clearance aisle section. Kitchen “cheerleaders” are welcome anytime. Bonus points for the bargain price.

If you’re in need of a lil’ cheering up too, please visit my friend Sherry MacKay at http://sherryspickings.blogspot.com/2021/03/in-my-kitchen-march-2021.html for more blessings from around the world. Her In My Kitchen posts and those from her participants (via easy access links) continue to tickle my fancy, even when I don’t participate regularly. Plus, they’re just plain fun! Lots of good ideas, great writing, photos, recipes, and more. Just click on her link above. Thanks, Sherry and all y’all!

In My Kitchen… I haven’t been very “vocal” lately — not because I don’t have anything to say, but because my simple lifestyle seems almost too good to believe mid-pandemic. (That, or it’s incredibly boring!) Still, I’m grateful for blessings like the ones above — Jammy Eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Apparently, they were a foodie phenomenon a few years back, but I only recently discovered them. Faster than poached eggs with less clean up, they live up to their name in ten minutes or less. The recipe? Bring an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan, carefully add eggs in the shell, cover, and simmer for seven minutes. (More or less, depending on your yolk preference.) Cool under cold running water, peel, and eat. Easy, peasy.

And then there’s this…

In My Kitchen… is Pasta with Broccoli and Goat Cheese. (Pine nuts, too — oh my!) During the past few months (year?!) of my pandemic hibernation, I’ve been reading through my cookbook collection again. What a blessing to see how many recipes I’d tagged, flagged, or Post-It noted for future reference, intending to make them “some day.” Why not now? Here ’tis…

Pasta with Broccoli and Goat Cheese (adapted from Wolfgang Puck’s recipe)

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. pine nuts

1-1/2 cups good quality chicken stock, store-bought or homemade (I used homemade)

1/2 lb. tiny broccoli florets, cut from the crowns (frozen “steamer” style works in a pinch)

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish (dried ground thyme works, too)

Freshly ground black pepper (always in stock…)

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (which I left it out due to dairy allergies… but have at it!)

4 oz. goat cheese such as Chevre’, crumbled (all our grocery store had was crumbled)

Kosher salt

12 oz. spaghetinni, angel hair, or other thin dried pasta strands (I used rice noodles)

  1. Fill a large pot with water and add 1 tsp. EVOO. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a skillet over low heat, stirring constantly until light golden (2-3 minutes); transfer to a bowl to cool.
  2. Bring stock to a boil. Reduce by half (12-15 minutes); set aside.
  3. Heat a large saute’ pan or skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining Tbsp. of EVOO, and broccoli florets. (If using the “steamable” kind, nuke as directed, cool, and drain before adding to skillet — I’ve used both with equal success.) Saute’ for a minute until bright green and crispy. Add reduced stock and bring to a boil. Add thyme, pepper to taste, butter, and goat cheese. Whisk or stir until cheese melts. Taste and salt to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.
  4. Add a Tbsp. of Kosher salt to the boiling water before adding the pasta. Cook until al dente per package directions. Drain and add to the pan of sauce. Toss with a pair of tongs to distribute sauce and broccoli evenly. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Plate, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, garnish with fresh thyme (if using), and ENJOY!

Seriously, it was soooo good I’ve made it three times so far...

In My Kitchen… or just outside, we had an ice storm — typical of Oklahoma this time of year — followed by 10-inches of snow. (NOT typical for Oklahoma.) While I enjoyed the winter wonderland, it meant not being able to drive up “The Hill” for another two weeks. Thank goodness for the blessings of being prepared and being content to be stuck at the bottom once again. I really didn’t mind — especially with such good food.

Make the most of your pantry when life presents obstacles. Re-read a cookbook or two, and/or get creative in your kitchen. Above all, be grateful for your many blessings. They’re everywhere you look.

Even on clearance sale racks.

In My Kitchen… is another potholder I couldn’t resist buying. (It matched my kitchen.) But, ’nuff said. Have a good day — no, a GREAT day! Praying you’re safe and well, xo.

Enjoying unexpected blessings,

~ Kim

Orange You Glad It’s Almost 2021?

(Re-edited to include a recipe…)

Orange isn’t a holiday hue, but it’s my favorite color. (Not that you could tell from my wardrobe or our house — there isn’t a speck of it to be seen.) No offense to red and green, but I love orange’s vibrant cheerfulness!

Above and below are a few favorite holiday foods a L’Orange

First up are/were these sweet potatoes that graced our Thanksgiving table. They made a repeat performance on Christmas Day, too. Easy, peasy — and orange.

Maple & Pecan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 Tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ rounds

1/3 – 1/2 cup pecan halves and/or pieces (the more, the merrier!)

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or oil a baking dish and layer with sweet potato slices. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces sweet potato slices. Remove from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle pecans over the top, drizzle with maple syrup, and return to oven uncovered. Bake 15 minutes more. Enjoy!

Then, these beautiful citrus fruits from Texas arrived — a gift from a beloved Aunt in Minnesota. (Thank you!) Originally there were more oranges, but I juiced and zested a few to make her Apricot Nut Bread pictured at the top, plus a batch of my favorite Southern pecans below. Sorry, no photo… but, here’s the recipe:

Orange-Glazed Pecans (courtesy of former pecan grower and fab cook, Linda Lamb)

1 Tbsp. grated orange rind

1/4 cup orange juice

1 cup granulated sugar

4 cups pecan pieces or halves

Combine first three ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Add pecans. Stir until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir until pecans separate and glaze. Pour onto waxed paper to cool. (Ditto on easy peasy!)

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As for the Apricot Nut Bread, see below. The Man Of Few Words gave it a rave review :

“Now THAT’s some good bread!”

Sometimes he actually speaks. :)

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Apricot Nutbread

(recipe adapted from “The Snyder Family Cookbook” submitted by Mariah Snyder)

1 c. dried apricots, cut fine

1/4 c. hot water (soak apricots for 30 minutes)

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

3/4 c. sugar, more or less (I punted)

2 eggs

1/2 c. orange juice

2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8″ x 5″ loaf pan and set aside.

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Add orange juice alternately with dry ingredients. Fold in walnuts. (I coated them with some of the dry ingredients beforehand so they wouldn’t “sink”.) Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

NOTE: I made a half-batch in a small loaf pan. (Check for doneness around 40-45 minutes.) If you wish, brush 1 tsp. sugar mixed with orange juice over top of the loaf before baking. (I didn’t — TMOFW isn’t much for “sweets” — but he was thrilled with the way this one turned out.) Additionally, glaze or drizzle it with a mixture of OJ & confectioners’ sugar.

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Last but not least is a book I ordered from Marc Ensign, whose skill with words (and the bass guitar) I’ve admired for a long time. Please don’t judge his book by its cover! It may sound rather bawdy, but “Dick” refers to Marc’s neighbor who inspired him and many others (including me) to brighten the world with kindness, humility, forgiveness, and much more.

Plus, it’s my favorite color!

In just over 100 pages, Marc’s succint writing, storytelling, and humor touched my heart. Everybody needs to read this in 2021! You can order it by clicking here. But with shipping delays, sell-out stock, and hardcover copies hard to come by, you may have to wait awhile for delivery. (Be patient!) It’s well worth waiting for — and reading. “Be A Dick” is a treasure — even if it sounds “naughty.”

I don’t often recemmend things on my blog, but the subtitle on Marc’s book says it all: “How One Person Can Change The World In The Most Unexpected Way.” As I said, don’t judge this book by its cover! I received a number of “questioning” comments after my original post, but it was fun to clarify why I did. :) Also, please check out the recipe update above and have a Happier New Year and a happier outlook on life. We all need that in 2021.

Enjoying orange at The Lake,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ December 2020

In My Kitchen… this fish trio ended up on top of our freezer to make room for the Christmas tree. (I couldn’t help but dress them up a bit to include them in the festivity.) Although the freezer isn’t located In My Kitchen per se, it’s an integral part of our daily meals, faithfully storing stock, vegetables, meat, and more at sub-freezing temperatures. I’m so grateful for its silent, stalwart convenience.

The hostess of In My Kitchen (Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings) encouraged us to include curveballs now and then — things beyond the usual cooking goodies and gadgets. My contribution is “O Fish-mas Tree…” :) For more holiday kitchen fun around the world, please click on her link (in bold) above.

Merry is as merry does.

In My Kitchen… it’s out with the old and in with the new… coffee-maker, that is. Our “modern” one quit on Thanksgiving Day, and my ol’ stovetop percolater came to the rescue until a replacement could be acquired. (It also comes in handy when the power goes out.) Yay for coffee-making alternatives!

In My Kitchen (or nearby)… is my lil’ Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This year I added lights and set it in a window to brighten up the world. Hope it did yours.

We could all do with a lil’ more merry!

Enjoying holidays at The Lake,

~ Kim