Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

I made this for the first time on Saturday and it is a definite keeper.  It is from Pioneer Woman's Dinnertime cookbook. So far everything I have made from it has been very good. 

2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling 
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces 
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste 
1 large onion, finely diced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
One 25-ounce jar good-quality marinara sauce 
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced parsley 
1 pound penne, cooked to al dente and kept hot 
¼ cup Parmesan shavings, plus more for serving 
8 ounces (½ pound) fresh mozzarella, cubed 
12 basil leaves, cut into chiffon

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
Add the chicken, season it with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes on the first side, until golden brown, then flip and cook for 2 minutes more, until totally done. Remove the chicken to a plate. 
2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. 
3. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. 
4. Reduce the heat to low and add the marinara sauce, red pepper flakes, and ½ cup 
water.  Add the cooked chicken bites. 
5. Stir the sauce, then add the parsley and stir it through. Let the sauce simmer for 7 to 8
minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
6. Place the pasta on a large platter, drizzle on a little olive oil, and sprinkle on some Parmesan shavings. 
7. And now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Throw the mozzarella into the piping-hot sauce . . . 
8. And stir it through, allowing the cheese to begin to soften and melt. 
9. Before the cheese fully melts, ladle the sauce onto the pasta. It’ll keep softening and melting as you go and will pretty much look like a miracle. 
10. Sprinkle on a bunch of basil at the end, then dig in! It’s a cheesy wonderland in there.

This is simple to make, very tasty, and makes wonderful leftovers. Enjoy!

January Meditation

The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they are organized for.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fabric for New Quilt

I ordered fabric for my next quilt from Craftsy and it came yesterday.  I still need to buy backing and batting but I am ready to get started on the cutting and piecing. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows. 

As I listen to NPR's reporting on the election campaigning, I keep hearing that Americans are angry, voters are angry, the candidates are angry. But I'm not angry, not even a little bit. I'm pretty much happy most of the time.  It isn't because I'm not interested in politics because I certainly am. I am supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary because I have read his policy platform and agree with the majority of his policies from supporting Social Security and Medicare, to Universal Healthcare, to stopping never ending wars here, there, and everywhere.  If he does not get the nomination, I'll vote for Hillary Clinton.  That's it. What's to be 
upset or angry about? You don't agree with me? That's fine with me, go 
right ahead and support your candidate. I'll tell you what I like about my candidate and you can tell me what you like about your candidate and then we can go eat dinner, or out to a movie, or just go birding. 

The Sandhill Cranes are here in the hundreds. The rice fields are full of them all over the county.  They are such lovely birds. I don't have photos because there is no place to park on Hwy. 762 which is a 2 lane road with deep irrigation ditches on either side. 
We are still overrun with goldfinches. We have never in the 12 years we have lived here had anywhere near the number of goldfinches. 

Finally finished the baby quilt. Now I am waiting for the fabric for my next quilt to arrive.  This next quilt will be for my DD & DSIL.  After that I am doing a scrap quilt to try to use up some of my stash. 

JMM and I are reading Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts aloud to each other each evening and it is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time.  We all know about the Founding Fathers but who has ever given thought to their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters.  While the men were busy fomenting revolution, it was the women who held the home 
together, ran the farm or business, reared the numerous children, and ran with their children from the British when the invaders for too close.  Excellent!

Lots of good cooking this week. I'm trying a new recipe from Pioneer Woman's Dinnertime cookbook, Chicken Mozzarella Pasta.  It sounds promising anyway. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

The house painter is coming tomorrow to give me an estimate for painting the interior of the house. I was always enjoyed being the painter of the interior but I am not able to do it anymore. 

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. She died in 1975 and I still miss her. What a strong woman she was.

That's all the news from OakMeadows where the goldfinches eat their fill and the humans get a hernia from hauling around 40 pound sacks of sunflower seeds. 

Monday, January 25, 2016


All I can say is that it's a good thing I wasn't racing the stork on this one!

Now I am waiting on the fabric for the quilt for my DD and DSIL. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

February Menu

February Menu

1. Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Cabbage
2. Chicken-Rice Bake, Salad
3. Steak, GMP, GB
4. Leftovers 
5. Out
6. Stuffed Wieners, Corn
7. Pancakes, Sausage
8. Shrimp Jambalaya
9. Chicken tenders, GMP, GB
10. Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry
11. Leftovers
12. Out
13. Corned Beef Hash, Cream Style Corn, Veggie Tray
14. Slow Cooker Chicken
15. Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Veggie Tray
16. Chicken Parmigiana 
17. Pizza
18. Leftovers
19. Out
20. Macaroni and Cheese
21. Schlotzsky's 
22. Seafood Pasta
23. Oven BBQ Chicken, Beans, Cole Slaw 
24. Spaghetti and Meatballs 
25. Leftovers
26. Out
27. Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Toast
28. Slow Cooker Beef
29. Veggie Soup

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

January Poetry

Lovely tree,
wild winds of winter combed
your black and twining hair.
When dawn blinked
You emerged 
softly capped in ermine,
star-kissed with diamonds. 
Wind's sharp breath caught in his throat 
and sun, stricken sun, 
can't turn his eye from you.

By Rita Reed

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible reading
     Sayings of the Desert Fathers

     Healthy Breakfast 
     Exercise DVD

Quilting - still waiting for fabric but if it comes, cut out next quilt. 

     Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts
     The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux
     James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketcham

     Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
     Spaghetti and Meatballs 
     Pork tenderloins, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach 

     Clean out closet in back bedroom 

     Birding trip to Brazos Bend State Park

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Birds on Galveston Island

Black Skimmers

Ring-Billed Gulls and a Brown Pelican

Herring Gull

Great blue Heron

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichel

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichel

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is about the year following the closing down of Gourmet magazine where she had been editor.  She was totally unprepared for the closure of the magazine and was shocked by its demise.  What to do next? What started out as a tragedy slowly turned into a new the kitchen, of course. 
As she gradually comes to terms with what has happened, she cooks and shares the recipes that helped her recover.  It is an interesting and sympathetic treatment of a situation many of us have faced.  The illustrations and photographs are lovely and well chosen.  

But. It is not a good cookbook. From the binding that will not allow the book to lie anywhere close to flat to the scanty recipes which are little more than ingredient lists and minimal instruction to the useless index, it is not useful as a cookbook. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Couscous Salad

2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed 
2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and minced 
1 tablespoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon turmeric 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
¼ teaspoon ground cumin 
1 10-ounce box quick-cooking couscous 
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) 
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes 
1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced 
1 cup thinly sliced sugar snap peas 
1 can (about 16 ounces) chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry 
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, or as needed 
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or as needed 
Freshly ground pepper 
¾ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped 
½ cup toasted chopped almonds (optional) 

Bring the broth, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, the 
ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin to a boil in a medium saucepan. 
Whisk the broth just to make sure the spices have dissolved, then stir in the 
couscous and turn off the heat. 
Scatter the raisins over the couscous, cover the pan, and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork (if there are lumps, you may have to break them up with your fingers) and turn it into a large bowl. 
Stir in the vegetables, chickpeas, and lemon zest. 
Put the lemon juice, another teaspoon of salt, and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small jar, cover, and shake to blend; or use a small bowl and a whisk. Pour over the couscous and toss well. 
Taste for salt, and season with pepper; set aside to cool. (The couscous can be lightly covered and left at room temperature for about 3 hours or covered tightly and refrigerated overnight;bring to room temperature before serving.) 
At serving time, taste again for seasoning—it's almost certain you'll need more 
salt, and you might want more lemon juice, zest, and olive oil too—and stir in the cilantro and toasted almonds, if you're using them. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January Meditation

It is ak good thing sometimes to think of the importance and dignity of our everyday duties.  It keeps them from being tiresome; besides, others are apt to take us at our own valuation.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, January 15, 2016

January Poetry

Blow, blow, thou winter wind 
Thou art not so unkind 
As man's ingratitude; 
Thy tooth is not so keen, 
Because thou art not seen, 
Although thy breath be rude. 

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly: 
Then heigh-ho, the holly! 
This life is most jolly. 

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky, 
That does not bite so nigh 
As benefits forgot: 
Though thou the waters warp, 
Thy sting is not so sharp 
As a friend remembered not. 
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly: 
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly: 
Then heigh-ho, the holly! 
This life is most jolly. 

William Shakespeare

Goals for Week of January 17-23, 2016

     Daily Bible Reading
     Sayings of the Desert Fathers

     Healthy Breakfast
     Exercise DVD✔️

     Finish binding baby quilt✔️
     Order fabric for next quilt✔️

     Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts✔️
     The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux✔️
     My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichel✔️

     Macaroni and Cheese✔️
     Slow Cooker Beef and Noodle Soup✔️
     Tuna Salad Sandwiches✔️
     Chicken Tenders, GMP, GB

     Get second estimate for interior painting
     Order new door wreath✔️

     Birding trip to Galveston

Monday, January 11, 2016

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

We had a lovely late lunch/early supper with DD and DSIL to celebrate JMM's 69th birthday.  For his birthday we bought him a really good rolling carry-on bag which he can take with him on the April trip to Amsterdam and Paris. Next we have to get his passport upgraded to Global Entry so passing through customs won't be so difficult. 

I've probably mentioned this in a previous post but we are overrun with goldfinches this year.  We usually have a flock of around 30 goldfinches arriving the end of December or the first of January but this year they arrived the middle of December and have just kept coming. We currently have a minimum of 60-75 goldfinches. The grove of oaks behind the house is just alive with goldfinches, sparrows, and cardinals. We are going through about 40 pounds of sunflower seeds each week and 1 pound of thistle each week.  I am delighted.  

You know you are reading a really good book when about half way through, you start slowing down because you don't want it to end.  Such are my thoughts about Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. This is about his year in Rome as a Fellow at the American Academy of Arts.  He is awarded the Fellowship just after his wife has given birth to twin boys. They pack up when the boys are six months old and move to Rome. There are two aspects to the book that I just love. First, their new parent adventures with the two babies is both hilarious and heart-warming. Second, as he describes Rome and their explorations, I keep remembering our much shorter time in Rome, seeing the sights they are seeing and feeling the overwhelmingness of Rome.  I don't want it to end!

I finally got around to buying 8 new kitchen towels. My old towels were 10 years old, ratty, holey, and threadbare.  I looked online and either they were too expensive or weren't terry cloth, or they were in the wrong color.  So yesterday we had to stop at Walmart for some odds and ends and I took a minute to see what they had in the way of kitchen towels. Sure enough they had terry cloth dish towels 4 for under $5 so I bought 8.  They look so much better and brighten up the kitchen. 

I had quite a surprise at the pharmacy when I picked up a prescription for a topical cream for my rosacea, what had been a $15 co-pay was now $85. It's a good thing that one tube will last me a year or more.  Surely there has to be a more rational system of healthcare than we currently have. My mantra is "Don't get sick!"

Michelle, on her wonderful site, has suggested a year long tree watch. You pick out a tree and watch it for a year, learning all about when it leafs out, what birds and insects live or feed on it, etc.  I am going to follow our lovely Sugar Berry tree for a year.  It has finally stopped raining so I can take some photos of the beautiful bark and the lovely shape of the branches without the leaves.  To be continued!

Well, that's all the news from OakMeadows where the cats nap in the sunshine and the people prefer the blinds closed. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Slow Cooker Stroganoff

Dinner tonight will be Beef Stroganoff over Noodles.  I have made this many times and it is so good. Even makes good leftovers. 

1 1/2 lb. stew meat, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 tablespoon oil

2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/3 cup sherry

1 8 ounce carton sour cream
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water

Hot cooked noodles

1. In a large skillet, brown beef in hot oil.  Drain off fat and place in slow cooker. 

2. Place beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, salt, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf in the slow cooker.  Pour beef broth and sherry over all. 

3. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or high setting for 4-5 hours.  Discard bay leaf. 

4. If using low heat, turn setting up to high. Mix together sour cream, flour, and water.  Stir about 1 cup of the hot liquid into the sour cream mixture.  Return all to the slow cooker; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high heat setting for 30 minutes or until thickened. 

5. Serve over hot cooked noodles. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

January Meditation

The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

January Poetry

The Lord is my shepherd 

The Lord is my shepherd; 
I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
 he leadeth me beside the still waters. 
He restoreth my soul: 
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil: 
for thou art with me; 
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: 
thou anointest my head with oil; 
my cup runneth over. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. 

The King James Bible, 1611 
Psalm 23

Goals for Next Week

Sunday: JMM's birthday at House of Pies with DD & DSIL

Monday: Call to make an appointment for interior house painting estimate  

Tuesday: Walmart-sheets and pillows

Wednesday: Cut out new quilt

Thursday: Start piecing new quilt

Friday: Birding trip to either Galveston or Rockport



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Insects from the Lower Rio Grande Valley

January Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

Winter has finally arrived here on the Texas Gulf Coast. Lows about 35-40 and highs around 55. The lovely thing is that we have had sunshine and low humidity.  Just near perfect! 

I had my follow-up visit with the surgeon and all is well. My hernia was repaired using a laparoscopic robot. It took me about two weeks to fully recuperate. I'm glad to have it over. 

We went to see The Big Short and it was excellent. I was worried that JMM and TSMR wouldn't find it as interesting as I would but they really enjoyed it too.  It is about how the Wall Street bankers nearly brought down the economy which led to the financial meltdown in 2008. 

I finished two really good books last week. Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakins. The best parts were his travels through Australia and then through Kyrgyzstan.  The second book was Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War which followed the lives of 5 men and women who survived the atomic bomb in Nagasaki. It was horrible/fascinating/interesting. 

We are overrun by goldfinches these days.  There are about 50 in the ravenous flock that keeps me busy filling feeders.  We also have a pair of noisy bluejays who seem to think that all the peanuts are theirs.  Cardinals and sparrows. We still have one hummingbird who is evidently going to stay here for the winter.  We still have some salvia and a bottlebrush bush blooming in a protected southern corner and of course I keep the feeder filled for him. 

I am trying my best to get the binding on the baby quilt because I have the fabric and pattern all ready for the next quilt.  I won't let myself touch the next quilt until this one is finished.  

Well, that's about all the news from OakMeadows where the cats sleep on their own electric blanket and the people do too. 

January Cooking -- Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions, and Rosemary

Pan Roasted Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions, and Rosemary

8-10 chicken thighs with bone in, skinless
salt/pepper to season chicken
2 tsp. olive oil (more or less, depending on your pan)
1 red onion, cut into sliver
8-12 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. dried rosemary, ground in a mortar and pestle or 10 fresh rosemary springs

Preheat oven to 350F. Trim chicken thighs very well, removing as much of the fat as you can, including the pocket of hidden fat on the back side of each thigh.  Season thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper. 

Heat large frying pan, add a little olive oil, and brown chicken very well on both sides. Don't rush this step, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from frying pan and place in glass casserole dish. Pour out most of the fat from the pan if it seems like a lot, then put onions in and saute 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes more. Mix in ground or fresh rosemary.

Put partly-cooked mushrooms and onions over chicken pieces. Roast 35-45 minutes, until chicken and veggies are done and your house is smelling delightfully of rosemary. Serve hot, with any juice from the dish spooned over the chicken.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

January Meditation

Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, January 1, 2016

January Poetry

The Peace of Wild Things 

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down 
where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds.
 I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. 
I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
 For a time I rest in the grace of the world, 
and am free. 

Wendell Berry, 1968