Friday, October 31, 2008

Getting out of a "Jam"

Do you notice anything unusual about the view out my back door? Is something missing?

A few days ago it was my birthday. I was trying to keep this fact a secret, but I am sharing it now because it adds to the pathos of the story I am sharing. I spent a nice evening with a friend who treated me to dinner and a movie.

I arrived home around 9:15 pm. I opened the back door and brought my purse and the leftovers from my dinner into the house. Then I remembered that my laptop was still in the trunk of my car. As I headed back to the garage, the back door slammed very hard behind me. I got the laptop, returned to the door, and pulled on the handle. The door wouldn't budge. Nada, nothing. It was jammed shut. With my purse, and keys, and cell phone inside.

My cat sat on the rug meowing at me in an irritated fashion. I hadn't fed her yet. She was quite annoyed that I wasn't getting her dinner.

I thought that maybe it was the latch that was stuck. Fortunately I had not put the winter storm door in yet, so I finally used the screw driver to rip a hole in the screen so I could get at the latch. But the latch worked fine. Somehow the door had gotten jammed in the frame. I would have just ripped or removed the screen, but the screen is covered by this metal lattice. And my screwdriver didn't fit into the tiny screws that held the lattice in place.

I was too embarrassed to bother my neighbors again (I had gotten locked out in the summer, too, when I replaced the main door). Finally I remembered where a spare car key was hidden. I drove to my friend's house, she came back with her tool box and a flashlight, and we finally unscrewed the metal lattice and removed the screen. So I could climb through the opening in and out of the house.

So that is how I am entering my house - through the opening in the screen door. The door is totally jammed tight, and I won't have time until the weekend to try to figure out how to fix it.

Not the way I wanted to end my birthday, but it makes for an entertaining story at least!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Leaves and Light

(I hope you don't mind one more day
of yellow, orange, and red images)
with the afternoon light
shining and glowing

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Leaves - Looking Down

I'm always amazed by God's autumn artistry when I look at fall leaves!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Leaves - Looking Up

Ok, when I posted some autumn photos a couple of days ago, I confess that I cheated a little. Those were pictures I took last year. The weather had been so gloomy that I didn't think I'd get a chance to take some new fall pictures.

But late Sunday afternoon, the sky cleared and there was blue sky and golden afternoon light. I left all the house and school work behind and took a walk in my neighborhood. I had great fun with my Nikon D-40, experimenting with the lenses and focusing to take a variety of shots. So for the next few days I'll share a few leaf collectons.

This group is called "Looking Up."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brunch at Tribute - Farmington Hills

Tribute, a wonderful gourmet restaurant, has started offering a lovely brunch on Sundays. My friend Jenni and I had been here for lunch last Christmas and had so enjoyed the meal. When she heard about their new brunch, she knew this would be a perfect treat to celebrate my upcoming birthday.

I love having tea served on a silver tray, with a cute lemon squeezer, a strainer for the loose tea, and honey in a little jar. A nice way to start while preparing for our 3 course meal.

Here is the menu - it was really hard to decide on a main course!

First course was a lovely buffet - homemade pastries and breads, fruit, salads, cheeses, olives, smoked salmon, vegetables - it was a wonderful spread and my pictures don't do it justice. I could have easily made an entire meal out of it!

My friend's main course - a Duo of Eggs Benedict. One was a crab cake and one was a southwestern smoked chicken, both very good!

I had the Mediterranean Sweet and Sour Chicken. Isn't it pretty? The asparagus was cooked perfectly, the apricot sauce was delicious, and it was topped by crunchy toasted pine nuts. But I was amazed by the couscous - pistachio scented. It had a very unique taste with just a sweet slight flavor of pistachio. Hmmmm, I wonder how they did that???? Sounds like something to research!

Finally, a tray of four desserts from which to pick. Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Jenni went for this chocolate tower with a flourless cake topped nuts and chocolate sorbet.

I went for the black pepper cheesecake on roasted pineapple with mango sorbet and crunchy cookies on top and a trio of sauces including a basil cream. Now, I missed the "black pepper" part when our server was describing the desserts, but actually I couldn't taste the pepper. Every bite of this was wonderful!

This was a wonderful meal and each course looked like a work of art. This is a wonderful brunch for a very special occasion!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Honey Pecan Crusted Salmon

Salmon from Costco is the best! Here is another way I like to prepare it - with a slightly sweet pecan crust:

Honey Pecan Crusted Salmon

4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
4 tablespoons honey (I used a special lavender honey, but any honey will work)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set the salmon fillets on the paper. Sprinkle each fillet with salt and then spread with 1 tablespoon honey.

Combine pecans, panko, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper with 2 tablespoons butter. Press the crumb mixture onto the top of the salmon. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top of the salmon.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the salmon is cooked and the crust starts to slightly brown.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mini Pearls

(Did you catch the pun in the title, teehee??)

Made this over the weekend. A shorter version of this necklace.

Perfect under a blouse. Or to clip the two necklaces together to make a long loopy version.

Soon to be hanging around Clever Karen's neck.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apricot Anzac Cookies

One of the things that I enjoy about reading foodie blogs is discovering new ingredients. A while back I came across a post from 1o1 Cookbooks about Anzac Cookies that were made using golden syrup. ( " Anzac " comes from Australian and New Zealand Army Corps - these cookies were made by women from Australia and New Zealand for their soldiers during WWII.) I had never heard of golden syrup before, but I was able to find some at Holiday Market (in the maple syrup section).

This recipe interested me because they baked the cookies in a cast iron pan. Well, I have this antique cast iron pan that I seldom use because everything sticks in it. I thought maybe this recipe would work better - wrong!! When the cookies were warm they fell apart when I tried to remove it (oh, better eat the poor deformed cookie) and then when they were totally cool they stuck as I tried to pry them out (better eat the pieces of that one, too). I was able to successfully get a few out of the pan after they had cooled for about a half hour - they were still warm but had started to firm a bit, so I was able to use a knife to gently go around the edges and lift them out. They look oh so cute, but way to0 much work! I did bake a few just on parchment paper like regular cookies, which worked fine, but it didn't quite get the same chewy interior.

Nevertheless, this is recipe is a keeper! Crunchy outside, chewy, and sweet. The golden syrup and the lack of eggs in the recipe adds a sightly different taste and texture than typical oatmeal cookies (and no eggs means that the buttery raw dough is safe to eat - haha). I added same apricots and walnuts to the mix -mmmm. This is my new favorite cookie recipe and I plan to experiment with it a little more to figure out a good easy way to bake them.

Apricot Anzac Cookies

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut
1/3 cup chopped apricots
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoon golden syrup (or honey)
zest of one orange
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugars, coconut, apricots, walnuts, and salt. Set aside.

Over low heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the golden syrup and orange zest. In a small bowl stir the boiling water and baking soda together and add to the butter mixture. Then pour the butter mixture into into the dry ingredients and combine. (Your hands work best to mix it together.) Form into balls and either press into a well buttered pan or bake on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. It will take about 12 minutes on the cookie sheet or about 20 minutes for the cast iron pan. (I will post any updated information about baking next time I try this recipe.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trader Joe's Cioppino

The other day I was at Trader Joe's looking for something for a quick and easy meal and saw this cioppino seafood stew in the frozen food section. It sounded like a good meal on a damp cool day. It was very easy to prepare - just a few minutes in a saucepan to melt the sauce and then throw in the mixture of frozen shrimp, scallops, fish, and even a few mussels.

I was surprised that the fish didn't get mushy and the flavor was nice. I served it over brown rice and fresh parsley and with some crusty bread. It was a very easy meal to make. BUT it was way too expensive - I think it was over 6 dollars for the package. Supposedly it had 2 servings. You can see my bowl below with about 3/4 of the entire package over rice - it was a very small serving. So even though I liked it, there just wasn't enough value to buy it again. Sorry, Trader Joe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blue Plate Special

Oh, I know flowered wallpaper and plates on the wall are considered a bit "granny" now in the decorating world, but I still like them, especially because most of my plates come from my various travels.

This hand painted bunny and bird plate came from Portugal.

An antique blue willow plate purchased in Stratford, Ontario.

The bottom plate is from Windsor Castle in England.
The top one from Chinatown in San Francisco.

Yes, the kitty plate from Chinatown was WAAAAY overpriced! I know it probably cost pennies! But it was sooo cute and just made me smile, so I had to have it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roasted Tomato, Pepper, and Garlic Plate

Next time I have guests, I think I will serve an appetizer plate like the one above. I was inspired by several recent blogs to make this delicious collection of roasted vegetables.

I frequently make roasted tomatoes, but I tried a slightly different technique based on this blog post from Orangette and this one from the Amateur Gourmet. The tomatoes were literally swimming in olive oil, much more than I typically use, and I followed the suggestion to sprinkle them with a bit of salt and sugar, some oregano, and roast them at a low heat. I threw a couple of whole heads of garlic into the mix as well.

I also made a roasted red pepper dip inspired by this blog posting from Cream Puffs in Venice. I roasted 2 red bell peppers on the grill until charred. After they had cooled, I pulled off as much skin as possible and cut them into chunks. I combined the peppers with 5 or 6 cloves of roasted garlic, juice of half a lemon, salt, and some fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, basil, and rosemary) and blitzed it for a minute or so in the food processor. It made a fresh and tangy dip.

There was a lot of oil left from the tomatoes and it was wonderfully flavored from the tomatoes and garlic. I brushed slices of baggette with the oil and toasted it. Ooooh, it was sooo good, I could have eaten just the bread alone! I put it all on a plate with a bit of goat cheese. I mixed and matched flavors on the bread and I enjoyed it so much that I made 2 meals of it. (Or it would be a perfect appetizer!)

When the baggette was gone, I took the remaining red pepper sauce, tomatoes, and roasted garlic and ran that through the food processor, too. I ended up with some of the best pasta sauce which I had for lunch over some penne the next day!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

All summer I had fun trying some of the ice cream recipes from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. This recipe was quite easy. The taste was tangy from the raspberries but with a distinct rich flavor of chocolate. The color reminded me of red velvet cake. Here's the version I made using a little less heavy cream.

Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (I used one bag of frozen raspberries)

Combine the cream, milk, cocoa, and sugar in a bowl and blend with a whisk. Heat this liquid in a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Then blend the mixture in a food processor until smooth. Press the mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds, then chill the mixture completely.

Freeze the ice cream according to manufacturer's directions.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 13

Fun Black and White Lampwork Beads


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