Monday, March 30, 2015

Shrimp Jambalaya

This recipe is taken from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I have made a few modifications (such as less salt and more thyme).  I make this about once a month. It makes awesome leftover lunches. 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, chopped fine
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, untrained
1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice
1 can (2 cups) chicken broth
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the Andouille sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot. 

Add the onion, celery, garlic, and red bell pepper to the fat in the pot.  Cook, scrapping up any browned bits, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. 

Add everything else to the pot: rice, salt, tomatoes, clam juice, broth, sausage, and shrimp. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Stir in parsley just before serving. 

Makes about 6 servings. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Meditation

What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.  Mother Teresa

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there,
  of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there,
  a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade. 

And I shall have some peace there,
  for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning,
  to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer,
  and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings. 

I will arise and go now,
  for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping
  with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway,
  or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core. 

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

      Sit and Be Fit
      Cut way back on sugar

Quilting: Block #17

     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
     Eat Sleep Move by Tom Rath
     The Gift of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

     Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Cabbage
     Macaroni and Cheese, Corn
     Beef Noodle Soup

     Buy new towels and washcloths
     Clean out and organize video cassettes and DVDs

     Start looking for spring clothes. 
     Class Reunion project

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blooming Spring

Here on the Texas Gulf Coast spring is bursting out all over. Here are some of the things that are blooming at OakMeadows. 

Bridal Wreath Bush with Redbud Tree in the background

Mexican Plum Tree 

Mexican Plum Tree

JMM sorting stamps with his trusty lapcaf

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

OK, I am the only person in America who has never read a book by Anne Tyler.  But I happened to hear Diane Rehm interview Anne Tyler about her new book, The Blue Spool. Now I don't generally like multi-generational family sagas because they are usually too long and I get lost in the complicated genealogy. But I decided to give it a try and I was not disappointed. 

The book is about three generations of the Whitshank family of Baltimore.  The really strong point of the book is how well drawn each character is.  They are people you know or might meet at the grocery. The down side is that the story is not well defined. You sort of walk into the family, move backward and forward in time, and then just walk out. 

It was a good read and I will probably try another of her books. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Around OakMeadows

Around Oak Meadows

I am finally over my head cold. It is so nice to get my head out of the Kleenex box and not spend my nights in the recliner. 

There is a feral tabby cat in our neighborhood and on one of the few times my Misty got outside, the tabby must have been lying in wait for her and bit her back left leg. When she fled back inside, she looked ok and we didn't realize she had been injured. Well, the bite formed an abscess and by the
time we noticed, she was one sick little cat.  I took her to the vet who cleaned it out and put in a drain, gave her a long acting antibiotic injection, and 5 oral syringes with analgesics for pain.  $475. I told my daughter that if I had it to do over again, I'd send her to vet school. Anyway, cat is much improved and I hope she has learned her lesson about how going outside is not all it's cracked up to be. 

We are dog sitting our daughter's dog, Daisy, this weekend. So between Daisy's 3 meds and the cat, I am running an animal hospital. 

I am on block #15 of the monster quilt....41 blocks to go....ack!

Spring has arrived around OakMeadows.  The Bridal Wreath bush is blooming.  The Mexican plum tree is blooming. And the azaleas are just beginning to bloom. Lots of bees on the Mexican plum, the salvia, and Mexican heather. The trees are all leafing out and the weeds are taking over the flower beds. The down side to all this Spring beauty is the oak pollen. It is so thick some years that I literally
sweep it into piles. I am not very sensitive to it but a lot of people are. 

I heard Diane Rhem interview Anne Tyler about her new book, A Spool of Blue Thread, and it sounded interesting. So I bought it for my Kindle.  And it is excellent! I'm not finished but so far so good. I am still reading Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith with the GoodReads History Group; just excellent!  And I have started Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.  Yes, I am a biblioholic. 

Lots of good cooking this week too. I baked an Applesauce Raisin Spice a Cake with a vanilla cream cheese frosting. So good. I had some sausage that needed to be used up so I just baked it and made garlic mashed potatoes and green beans to go with it. And I made cutlets and cream gravy with the leftover potatoes and green beans.  Nothing fancy but all good. 

The swallows have returned. We saw the first scout about a week ago but this morning I noticed that
the whole boisterous crowd of them were back.  It looks like about 30 of them made it back.  I
wonder how many baby swallows we will have this year?  Last year we had a record 15 babies survived to fly from the nest.  So far I've only seen one hummingbird. I have the feeder filled and out but so far only one.

Slow Cooker Cassoulet

Slow Cooker Cassoulet

2 onions, minced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans cannelini beans drained & rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes 
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced in 1 inch chunks

Microwave onions, oil, garlic, thyme, and tomato paste in a bowl, stirring occasionally until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer into slow cooker.

Stir broth, beans, sausage, tomatoes, wine, and bay leaves into slow cooker.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.

Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March Meditation

Walk as though you are kissing the earth with your feet.  Thich Nhat Hahn

Friday, March 20, 2015

March Poetry

The sun at noon to higher air,
Unharnessing the silver Pair
That late before his chariot swam,
Rides on the gold wool of the Ram.
So braver notes the storm-cock sings
To start the rusted wheel of things,
And brutes in field and brutes in pen
Leap that the world goes round again.
The boys are up the woods with day
To fetch the daffodils away,
And home at noonday from the hills
They bring no dearth of daffodils.
Afield for palms the girls repair,
And sure enough the palms are there,
And each will find by hedge or pond
Her waving silver-tufted wand.
In farm and field through all the shire
The eye beholds the heart’s desire;
Ah, let not only mine be vain,
For lovers should be loved again.

A.E. Housman 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Goals

      Daily Bible Reading

     Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy Breakfast and snack

Quilting: Blocks #15 and 16

     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
     Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
     A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
     Shrimp Jambalay 
     Slow Cooker Chicken Stew
     Spaghetti and meat sauce
     Oatmeal cookies

     Clean out back flower beds

     Class of 1965 Reunion--make 10 calls

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Cooking Dessert

I have made these annually for at least 30 years. So good.
Lemon Sours

3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

Mix flour and butter to a fine crumb.  Sprinkle evenly in an 11 by 7 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Beat eggs, mix in brown sugar, coconut, chopped nuts, baking powder, and vanilla.  Spread on first mixture as you take it from the oven. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Mix lemon juice, rind, and powdered sugar to make a creamy smooth mixture.  Spread over top as soon as it is removed from the oven.

Cool, cut into squares, and serve.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –          
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;          
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush          
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring          
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush          
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush          
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.          

What is all this juice and all this joy?          
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,          
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,          
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,          
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.          

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Friday, March 13, 2015

March Goals

     Daily Bible Reading

     Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy lunch

Quilting: Block #14

     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
     Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich 
     A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
     Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
     Shrimp Jambalaya
     Sausage, GMP, Corn
     Cutlets, GMP, GB

     Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers clean-out


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March Around Oak Meadows

Around OakMeadows

Rain, rain, and more rain. The ditches are full, the creek is high, and all the grass, trees, shrubs, and windflowers are thoroughly watered.  This is such good timing for the wild flowers which should start blooming within a couple of weeks. We have a few Indian Paint Brushes on our property that are blooming now. But the explosion of color around the Texas Hill Country is a couple of weeks from now. I hope we can take a nice weekday drive to see them. 

I have had a head cold for a week.  This is the first cold I have had since before I retired 4 years ago so I can't really complain. I think I am beginning to get over it. The most annoying thing is that I can't lie down; I have to sleep in the recliner or I start coughing. Anyway, I was able to sleep propped up on pillows in bed for about half the night last night. We didn't get to go to the Houston Symphony Thursday because I didn't want to spread my misery around. I hope to be well enough by Friday to go to our monthly lunch with the relatives.  We shall see.

I am working on Block #13 of the monster quilt. 43 more to go.

I finished Wartime Britain by Juliette Gardiner and it was excellent. I will try to get a review up about it this week. If you are interested in WW II and especially the home front in Great Britain, this is a must read.  On the other end of the scale is Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. I decided to listen to it on audio because her last book The Nightingale was fantastic. This one is not. Shallow, stereotypes, and dated. I doubt if I finish it. I am reading Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith with the History Group on GoodReads. It is excellent and I am very much enjoying the group discussion. 

Cooking has been a bit sketchy since I've had this cold. I didn't feel like cooking for one thing and another is that when I'm all stobbed ub, nothing tastes right...except Blue Bell Chocolate ice cream. I did make a pot of Beef & Barley soup and that was good. And today I'm going to make an old stand-by, Chicken-Rice Bake, which is easy and filling and we get at least two meals from it. 

Haven't been out because of rain and my head cold.  JMM has take over the bird feeders. We still have a few goldfinches but they will probably leave by the end of the month.  Mockingbirds are aggressively defending their territories.

That's about all from OakMeadows.  I will be very glad when I can take my head out of the Kleenex box. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

New England Fish Chowder

New England Fish Chowder

2 lb halibut fillets
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 cups cut up potatoes 
6 slices bacon, chopped (I like the thick sliced bacon.)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups milk
2 cups light cream
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place halibut with 2 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to boiling.

Reduce heat, simmer, covered for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish; set aside.

To fish broth, add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes; boil covered about 8 minutes, or until potatoes are almost tender.

Meanwhile, sauté bacon until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels.

Saute onion in bacon fat until tender, about 5 minutes.

Flake fish.  Add along with bacon, onion, remaining salt, and rest of the ingredients to potatoes.  Slowly bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March Poetry The Wind by Amy Lowell

He shouts in the sails of the ships at sea, 
He steals the down from the honeybee, 
He makes the forest trees rustle and sing, 
He twirls my kite till it breaks its string. 
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind, 
Whistling, howling, rainy wind, 
North, South, East and West, 
Each is the wind I like the best. 
He calls up the fog and hides the hills, 
He whirls the wings of the great windmills, 
The weathercocks love him and turn to discover 
His whereabouts -- but he's gone, the rover! 
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind, 
Whistling, howling, rainy wind, 
North, South, East and West, 
Each is the wind I like the best. 

The pine trees toss him their cones with glee, 
The flowers bend low in courtesy, 
Each wave flings up a shower of pearls, 
The flag in front of the school unfurls. 
Laughing, dancing, sunny wind, 

Friday, March 6, 2015

March Goals

    Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy Soup or Salad

     Block #13

     Wartime Britain by Juliette Gardiner
     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
     Emerald Planet by David Beerling
     Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

     Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Braised Cabbage
     Chicken-Rice Bake, Salad
     Beef and Barley Soup

     Clean out kitchen cabinets and drawers
     Sort through and organize DVDs and Videos

     Get over this #€%¥ head cold!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Signs of Spring!

I don't know about you but I am so ready for Spring! And this morning I see this shrub in the salvia bed just covered in white blooms.  What you can't see are all the bees working on it. It has a strong sweet scent. I have no idea what it is but I know the bees love it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I have read several books by Kristin Hannah and on the whole they were pretty good. But, let me tell you, this one knocks it out of the ball park. There is bound to be a movie out of this one.  You may have guessed by now that I really liked this book. 

The story is built around how two sisters, Viann and Isabelle Rosingal, live through the Nazi occupied France.  The sisters have quite different dispositions, Isabelle who is younger is the rebel while the older Viann is more cautious.  They have been estranged from each other and from their emotionally distant father.  As the novel moves through the Vichy government and its demise, the young women each find ways to resist and subvert the Nazi occupation.  It was so interesting to see the character development as Isabelle becomes more reflective and Viann becomes bolder and more determined. 

The last quarter of the book is emotionally gripping. I could not put it down. The end is joyful, triumphant, and guaranteed to leave you with tears in your eyes.

A really good read. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

We are dog sitting dear Daisy while daughter and son-in-law are eating their way through Louisiana over the weekend.  She is an ancient cocker spaniel and is completely deaf, doesn't see well because of cataracts, but she enjoys a ride in the car, eating people food, sleeping in her soft bed, and a gentle game of go-get-the-ball. So this morning we took her with us to McDonald's and while I had my Egg McMuffin, she had Hash Browns.  Then we went to HEB for grocery shopping and last filled up the van with gas and went through the car wash, which was probably a waste since it is supposed to rain the next few days. 

I finished the baby quilt I made for my not yet born great-nephew.  I'm pleased that for once, I'm not racing to finish before the due date.  Thirty years ago I made a baby quilt for this baby's father. 

I finished reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It was excellent. I hope to get a review written soon. It is set in Nazi occupied France and tells how 2 sisters survived. Well written and holds you so that you just can't put it down. 

It has been too cold and rainy to do anything outside but I am itching to clean out the flower beds.  In the meanwhile, I am cleaning out drawers and cabinets and closets. Where did all this stuff come from and how did it get into my house???  Mysteries of the universe.  

Lots of birds at the feeders. Goldfinches scarfing down thistle as fast as we put it out. Sunflower seed for the cardinals, chickadees, and Titmouses.  Peanuts for the squirrels and the bluejays.  Mockingbirds are beginning to act territorial.  

The workmen started installing the irrigation system and are supposed to finish Tuesday but I don't know if they will or not because the forecast is for rain, rain, and more rain.  

Life is good at OakMeadows. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Menu

1.  Schlotzsky's
2.  Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn or Cabbage
3.  Chicken-Rice Bake
4.  Beef and Barley Soup
5.  Leftovers
6.  Out
7.  Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
8.  Schlotzsky's
9.  Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Veggie tray
10. Chicken and Veg
11. Cutlets, GMP, GB
12. Leftovers
13. Out
14. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
15. Schlotzsky's 
16.  Shrimp Jambalaya 
17. KFC
18. Steak, GMP, GB
19. Leftovers
20. Out
21. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
22. Schlotzsky's 
23.  Cod Chowder
24. Chicken Stew
25. Spaghetti and Meat-sauce 
26. Leftovers
27. Out
28. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
29. Schlotzsky's 
30. Fried Shrimp
31. Chinese Take Out