11/24/2020

Great and unusual side dish.....



 This is a picture similar to a dish I had in a health food deli last month  and fell in love with it.... pumpkin (or squash) ravioli with kale, blue cheese and walnuts  It was sold as a cold salad at the deli but I thought it tasted much better heated. I made it  yesterday without the mushrooms.  

I sautéed about a cup of each of onions and red bell peppers and 2 cups of chopped kale and then added a bit of capers and garlic.  Then I cooked the squash ravioli , drained it and added it and 1/2 cup each of chunks of blue cheese and chopped walnuts to the onion/pepper mix.  I served it with baked salmon.

It was delicious and would be lovely as a vegetarian main course.  I bought squash raviolis at both Trader Joes and Costco.  The ones from Costco were prettier but we thought the ones from Trader Joes tasted better.


 

Chocolate Hazelnut Ricotta Scones

About this time of year in 2018  I had a bakeoff of 6 scone recipes and this one was by far the best.  Since I had some ricotta cheese on hand I made them again..  

 I believe part of the success in baking scones is due to a few extra tips   I found as I was researching recipes.  All recipes cautioned about overworking the dough and I did find specific instructions on handling the dough with a bench scraper and gently folding it.  The second tip was freezing the butter and grating it into the flour mixture which I did with every recipe.  And the final tip was once the dough was cut and on a baking sheet to stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking to achieve a better rise which I also did.

Chocolate Hazelnut Ricotta Scones

And the winner was a recipe I chose on a whim for a really  unrelated reason.  Every so often I cook an Italian recipe which calls for ricotta cheese so I buy a carton and then only use half of it.  And there is never a second recipe imminent to use before the rest of  it spoils.  So when I was searching scone recipes and found one that actually called for ricotta cheese I immediately printed it out.  And lo and behold it turned out to be the winning 5 star recipe.  I did recently see a recipe for orange-ricotta scones which I will try also..

 This did make a double recipe but could easily be halved.  I did make one change though....I reduced the sugar to 1 cup as DH does not like his scones too sweet...  
Chocolate Hazelnut Ricotta Scones  
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 16 scones
Ingredients
    Scones:
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or organic shortening, ice cold
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 100g (about 2/3 cup) semi-sweet dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
  •  
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  2. -If using food processor (steps 2-3):
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of a food processor
  4. Add cold butter to dry mixture and pulse until it is fine and powdery. Add ricotta, egg, and vanilla extract to mixture and pulse to combine until it comes together into a dough.
  5. -If doing by hand (steps 4-5):
  6. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well. Grate butter with a cheese grater then use a pastry cutter or pair of knives to cut it into the dry mix until you have a course, crumbly mixture.
  7. Add the ricotta, egg, and vanilla extract to a small bowl and stir to combine, then pour into dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula until it comes together.
  8. Fold in chocolate and hazelnuts then scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and, with well floured hands because the dough will be a bit wet, flatten each half into a circular disc shape, about an inch high. Do your best to handle the dough as little as possible in order to keep it cold. (If you're having trouble with handling it you can chill it for about 30 minutes in the fridge or even the freezer to make it easier to work with.)
  9. Make 4 cuts, straight, across, and diagonally, in the circle so that you have 8 equal triangles (see photos) Repeat with other half of dough. Separate them and place each triangle about 2 inches apart to allow spreading room on prepared pan.
  10. Bake for 12 - 16 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  11.  Store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.


 

 

11/23/2020

A garden of my very own

 I was working most of the summer on a  small side garden... well not so small as it is almost 200 square feet now.  It started out small  as it was going to be just a narrow bed along the west side of the house.  But I kept removing sod and removing sod until I had planted the whole area.

This area is barely visible from the street and when the roses grow  on the fence it will not be visible at all.  You can't see it from any main living area in the house.  You can't see it from the deck and you   can't even see it when you are in the back garden unless you walk over to that area.  I added a large piece of wrought iron and a clematis on one side to hide it even further.


There is only one area with an excellent view of this garden and it is my bedroom window.  I look out at it  every morning as it is sleeping under frost and envision what it will be like in the spring,  Right now it is planted with peonies, daisies, perovskia, lavender, iris,  geraniums, and over 200 bulbs of tulips, daffodils, alliums and misc.  In addition there are two climbing roses and my favorite clematis Princess Diana And there is a bench just for me.  My special garden...my retreat.


Hopefully it will all grow even though the soil is mucky clay and river rock.  I amended it with compost and perlite with high hopes that  all the peonies I brought from the farm will survive.  It consumed my summer and seemed an endless task but even now without a green leaf in sight I can look at it out my bedroom window each morning and it fills me with delight, anticipation and a wonderful since of accomplishment.  It was a huge back-breaking endeavor...but I enjoyed every minute.  Starting an entirely new garden has been so healing.  Is this what I really want to do in my mid 80s....... YES!!!


 

11/20/2020

Painting again and light info!


I have started painting on my little birds and I am going to fuss with them as long as I can because it is such a treat to be painting anything.  Since I hadn't painted since last February a good many bottles of paint had dried up.  And once I settled in at the painting table Morris snuggled in his favorite spot at my feet.  What a happy pair we are!!!When I am actually sitting there he rests his head on my feet and keeps them toasty warm.

  As I am still ordering lights of all types I was wondering if I had shared what I have learned and can't see that I have and it is worth knowing.  Not only is my sight blurry and distorted, it is very dim so I am continually searching for stronger and more useable light sources.  At the farm I had found wonderful lights with magnifiers and I brought them with me but the new house had only inadequate covered ceiling fixtures which really only provided  ambient light....  On doing a little research I found that ideally a room should have four sources of light plus a mirror. 

 The living room has  a high ceiling and light just disappears so the ad for the first light I ordered read  "Super bright lighting -150 W equivalent LED Torch lamp lights up a whole room!!!!"  When it arrived it didn't do any good in my living room and when I read the fine print it was only 2190 lumens. Knowing the wattage equivalent was really useless information when buying LEDs.  You need  to know the lumens.  So when I replaced the kitchen fixture I found one that was 6600 lumens and it was great.

The other term you need to know is "kelvin."  Kelvin is used in lighting to measure the color temperature of a particular light  . And in short, the higher the Kelvin rating (expressed in K), the whiter the light will be.  The lower the K number the warmer the light.  Personally I prefer a warmer light.  When the term "daylight" is used it designates a very white light and I find that harsh.

11/15/2020

Color and "shtuff"




My dear late mother-in law had a slight German accent and stuff was "shtuff".  To  her soup was broth and she always admonished me for putting too much shtuff in my soups.  I love stuff... not just any stuff...my stuff...my memories and now at this time of my life I want it all around me.  I'm  took more stuff than the new house could hold and   I am gradually finding a spot for everything. It may very well end up looking like this room... 


I also find color energizing and uplifting which I must need more than soothing.  For years I had always bought all my tableware at thrift stores..... tablecloths, napkins, dishes, placemats, glassware etc. But I have never ever seen a nice set of flatware there.  I have two special sets of stainless flatware that I just use for special settings and wash them by hand.  







But  I 've had  them for years and years and haven't been able
 to justify another set until I saw this set.  It took me about two seconds to hit the "buy it now!" button. 
Of course we rarely entertain now but when this passes I will be ready. These are from Wayfair.  In the meantime I will use then for special dinners for just us two... like our 44th anniversary next week,

And to tell you that I am an optimist about this, I bought a beautiful suitcase   at the thrift store today.  They had a mountain of them with no one traveling.

And speaking of "shtuff" I made risotto for dinner today and I love to fill my risotto with lots of "shtuff".  Today I added diced squash, caramelized onions, minced baby kale and roasted red sweet peppers.  It was so good.

11/10/2020

Oh no! and another YES!

The weather held until I got the stained glass up.  It was NEVER part of the plan but it was unexpectedly given to me in a box of glass pieces and I was able to make it useable and it is gorgeous.  It is on the west side of the deck so gets the afternoon sun through  it,  

The deck continues to morph into a bigger and bigger project and  more expense. After I finish each addition I think it needs just one more thing...then one more thing and then even one more thing,  I can't just stop/  I loved the running trim but it needs more.  I bought the running trim from Wayfair and, even though it took ages to get here, it was affordable and had free shipping.  And now oh no! Now they have discontinued it and when I finally found another source...it was more expensive, I have to pay shipping and it won't be here until January 10...  This is definitely the last I swear. 

But on a positive note I had another unexpected surprise.  We moved in here in February and I wasn't ready to make a decision about the living room windows so I just put up the quilts that were on windows at the farm.  Several times as fall approached I searched the internet for something that would work.  I wanted something heavy to help hold the heat....velvet or quilted fabric.  But I have had such abysmal luck ordering anything fabric on line.  It was always the wrong color, the wrong scale or inferior fabric.  So I was skeptical when I ordered two of these quilted bedspreads from eBay.  But if the color was true they would be perfect.

So this huge box came last week and DH asked it I wanted to open it.  I said no I was afraid I would be disappointed.  So the big box sat in the living room for 4 days and each day he asked me if I was ready to open it.  Finally I relented and to my surprise the color was perfect, the fabric wonderful and they were the right size and weight. YES!!!

10/26/2020

Letting my hair down ---literally!

In the summer of  2018 I posted a blog about my  hair. But actually it was more than the hair.... I was mostly discouraged with the rising cost of the   taxes, insurance, and  maintenance on the farm.  Inflation was eroding our savings and pension.  I wanted to sell the farm and move but DH was  absolutely dead set against it.  He felt leaving our home of 40 years was equivalent going into assisted living. He was about to turn 85 and most all of our dear friends had passed.  Selling everything and moving was  scary at best.

 I was always exhausted and just overwhelmed with what needed to be done. I was watching the farm was deteriorated all around me.  At the very bottom of my list of anxieties was my hair.. DH liked it short and I hated it.  It looked nice for a couple days after it was cut but quickly turned to shaggy dog ,,,,, and I resented the cost of cutting it, which also kept increasing.

Frustrated I just had to do something,,, just anything.... to feel I had control of something in my life and the easiest thing to take a stand on was my hair....and I did,  For months during the awkward stage of growing out DH kept offering  to take me to the hair dresser but I stood my ground.  He eventually gave in. Meanwhile I began a relentless campaign to convince him to move and at first it seemed hopeless.  I contacted a realtor and  began searching for houses by myself  and he eventually gave came around,   Then  I had open heart surgery which has made a radical difference in my energy level. 


Now two years later between the sale of the farm and the lower cost of maintenance on the new house our budget is much happier.  Thanks to the new bypasses in my heart I have much more energy to work in my new garden ..  DH is so happy with the new house that our marriage is once again harmonious...  in short life is good but he still prefers my hair short.  I am standing firm on that issue and it continues to grow and like Samson I gather strength from it.


 



10/23/2020

Doesn't this look like a fun project?


We had our first snow of the season and I am   ready for it... The only outside task unfinished is the stained glass on the veranda and as soon as I finish the leading it will be a quick fix to set it in place....the first warmish day We did the big move in March and as soon as the weather turned nice in April I abandoned all necessary work in the house to submerse myself in transforming my new garden.  And  now as I suspected all the inside work is still there waiting for me and I'm glad.

Since I can't stitch I have been trying to imagine what I am going to do for fun this winter.  One can only spend so much time unpacking and sorting.  But I do know what the first fun project will be.....doing my bird tassels for the velvet valance in the entry area.  These  are the tassels that were my inspiration.  I just  love the mixture of materials.  I sold most of my trims etc. but think I have enough for this.  It will give me impetus to unpack the stuff in my workroom.

I not only want to use thread for the tassels, I want to use silk ribbons, antiqued chains , beads and charms as well.







 
I bought these wooden birds on etsy last spring so I am all ready to go on this.  First the birds need some reshaping and I can carve and sand them to give them  individual personalities.  It is mostly the head and beak that need a little fine tuning.  They are a soft balsam wood and I may even add more wooden tail and wing feathers to give them more dimension.











And I don't want whimsical or generic birds. I want some of my favorite birds that visited the farm... so that means I have to unpack my paints as well.  This bird composite is most of my favorite and most colorful birds.  It will not be easy narrowing it down to eight.








10/18/2020

YES,YES, YES, and a big BUT

 Running trim is the term used for the narrow strip running around the top of a Victorian porch.  It is available  two ways..... affordable (faux and synthetic) and outrageous (real wood spindles) and I went for the affordable.  But all sites listed it as not available until Nov.  I ordered it anyway but had just about decided to cancel the order when it showed up on my porch. 

 
It was pretty tacky looking out of the box and very difficult to paint.  


But much to my surprise I loved it when I got the first piece up. and it is just the finishing touch my project  needed.  It is slow going putting it up and took most of the day doing this one piece doing the routing on the saw as I sold my router when we moved.









Here is a piece temporarily perched on the largest "frame " which just yesterday I was planning to disassemble and make smaller... but the running trim is bold enough to bring it together.  I had ordered three sections of the trim and one was intended for the spot the new stained glass will occupy and now I have adjusted my plan once again to use that piece of trim elsewhere... 

The big BUT is that I will need another set of cast iron shelf supports.  I started out ordering a set of 4 and keep ordering just one more set and blindly refuse to add up the cost..... Luckily our deck is covered and I can work out on even cool misty days like today.


10/17/2020

Veranda of iron and glass

All the larger items were taken to the new house by the movers in a big truck and we moved the rest in smaller pickup loads and just when DH thought we were done I'd find another truck load from the barn or garden.  Even in the final days of the sale I was hauling used lumber and  more plants.  

If it had gone on any longer I was ready to start hauling my favorite rocks.  I did take the majority of my wrought iron and stained glass I had collected over the years without the slightest notion where I was going to use it.  But I am gradually finding a place for it.  This was a piece  which hung over the stove in the kitchen at the farm and is now part of the new "veranda..."

The iron piece on the right in this shot used to hang over the mantel of the fireplace in the living room... All the corner pieces are shelf supports from Amazon and I kept ordering more and more of them.  This whole project is in flux and just today I decided to needed to undo and redo sections...

There are three large frame areas that have a fancy hummingbird feeder in each and the "frames" vary in size and somehow the ratio niggles at me and I won't be happy until I change it. This end has the two trellises hanging  and there are honeysuckle vines just barely started up them.  The trellises are actually baby gates from the thrift store.

The stained glass below will be above the "frame" on the right.  The glass just appeared recently as a gift from a friend.  This beautiful piece was damaged and she realized she would probably never use it again and was looking for a home for it.  I am ecstatic to use it somehow in this project.  I am just about done repairing it.  Luckily all my stained glass tools were in one of the last truck loads before the farm sale.  
























Yesterday DH took me to Walmart and my cart literally transported me into the nearly deserted garden dept and lo and behold all the bulbs were $1 a bag.  For $10 I got another 100 bulbs.




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