Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Dick" and Hello Dollies

Ok, this should be Dick and (insert cupcake here) but these gooey bars are such a part of this movie, I had to include a recipe. Dick (1999) is a spoof movie about the Nixon administration. Kirsten Dunst, Will Ferrell (as Bob Woodward), Dan Hedaya (as Nixon) and Michelle Williams work this over-the-top farce into a hilarious explanation of Watergate and Deep Throat.

It's goofy - goofier than many Will Ferrell movies - but there is something satisfying in taking a dismal time in American politics and making it into a joke. Like to see Nixon riding on a stallion down a sandy beach toward the girl who idolizes him? What about cold war relations melted over Hello Dollies spiked with pot? Yeah, me too. Fix up a batch of Hello Dollies and hit the video store.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into the bottom of an 9x9 inch baking pan. Layer the chocolate chips, coconut and pecans over the crumbs. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the top.
Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.
Recipe found at

Friday, May 30, 2008

Froggie went a courtin'...

In my house, some things become obsessions. Things like George of the Jungle cartoons, fudgsicles, alien action figures...are you sensing a theme here? NR finds things that he likes and he really likes them. Unfortunately for me, his newest passion is frogs. Yes, real ribbety ribbety frogs. He reads "Life Cycle of the Frog" and knows all about frog spawn, frog jelly (bleh) and froglets. He can wax poetic on why he perfers the term "tadpole" to "polliwog" and he knows exactly what poison dart frogs should look like.

So around our place, frog is the word of the day. Now, this would be fine if I could stand frogs. I'm fine with fake frogs - the WB dancing frog kind of fake frog - or frogs as jewelry, plant holders or candlesticks, but I'm a little squeamish about the jumping, slimy kind.

Anyfrog, we're having daily conversations about getting a frog as a pet. We've finally settled on the swimming, live in a closed up aquarium type of frog (African dwarf frogs?) but the deal is he can't get it until we move to the new house. Which, given how long everything is taking, might be longer than this current obsession. Oh darn. But in the meanwhile, not to be a total square, I will be making him a loaf of Frog shaped bread. I'd show you the adorable picture but it is a copyright image, so you'll just have to click the link or take my word for it. I'm a sucker for shaped bread, so this will be something we can both enjoy - me the making and him the eating.

And trust me, no frog jelly will be used in this little dish. Ribbet

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jammie Dodgers - cookies with an accent

There are two things (of many) in this world that I really enjoy anytime. One is a cookie and the other is Eddie Izzard. The British comedian is hilarious, smart, witty and has one of the best voices around (check out the mouse in the new Chronicles of Narnia if you don't believe me - and yes, I have a thing for voices.)

So this week, feeling (still) ill - what is it with this particular bug? - I was holed up on the sofa watching BBC America and wishing I was someone and somewhere else. Lucky for me, there were some reruns of Eddie's great concerts - Glorious and Dressed to Kill. Now Dressed is one of my all time favorites - anything that references Englebert Humperdink is tops in my book - but I wasn't really familiar with Glorious. So, drinking tea, ensconced under a blankie, I watched it.

And it was Glorious. Not Dressed to Kill perhaps, but Glorious nonetheless. At the tail end of the concert, he referenced Jammie Dodgers cookies. Now, I knew that name from the movie Flushed Away, but that was the sum total of my knowledge. Luckily my laptop was at hand, as always, and Google ready to serve. Turns out Jammy Dodgers are quite popular cookies in the UK. They are mass produced, but some enterprising soul has posted a homemade version that gets high marks from the Jammie Dodger set.

So, for those looking for a jammy cookie, a nod to Eddie Izzard or just a Brit treat, gives these a try.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In a pickle - a pickling primer

Ever wonder how many pickled peppers are in a peck a la Peter Piper? Eight quarts of peppers. That's a lot of pickles. Peter must have been a fan and he's not alone. All over the world, a variety of foods are pickled; onions, okra, eggs, turnips, tomatoes, cauliflower - and yes, even peppers.

Making your own pickles gives you the chance to really tweak the flavors you like best. Want more garlic or jalapeno? More sweet or more sour? I had (and lost unfortunately) a great recipe for dill cucumbers that featured mustard seeds. It made tremendous pickles; far better than anything at the grocery store.

If you are like me, you might be a bit hesitant to pickle for fear of food contamination. We can fear not, however, because pickling and some basic precautions really does make it easy to prepare foods that are well preserved and safe. Here is a link to some basics on the art of pickling. There is also some good info on using old pickling recipes versus modern standards here.

As for the recipes, there is no shortage of pickling recipes to try. Here are few basic ones to get you started:
Dill Cucumbers, Bread and Butter Pickles, Green Tomato Pickles, and of course, peppers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Random Recipe Monday - Rootbeer Cookies

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Sure, today is the kickoff to BBQ season, but it is also about remembering those who have sacrificed for our country. And nothing says "thank you" like rootbeer cookies, right? Well, maybe not, but rootbeer says summer and good old-fashioned fun; heck, can potato salad and sack races be far behind the creamy goodness of a mug of rootbeer? Maybe only lemonade says summer to more people than rootbeer, so these cookies sound like a great way to add a little summery flavor at your next cookout.

To all those who have served, sacrificed and supported our country, from 1776 on, thank you. It is because of you that we can celebrate with our families, making cookies and sharing good times.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Veggie Garden Diary - Initial planting

NR and I have an ambitious goal this year for gardening; we are going to begin and tend a large veggie garden - all in containers. The containers are necessary because eventually, if the moving gods smile on us, we'll be moving and need our veggies to be portable. I also have read about container gardening and I'm eager to see if it works as it is touted.

Our goal is also ambitious because neither me nor my young son are proven to have green thumbs. At least NR has the excuse of never having planted a garden before; I've done it in the past and had mediocre results. But this is a new year and our soil is a new mix, so we're going to take our chances and see if we can grow some veggie love for the hot days of summer. I'm half-way convinced that food prices are going to skyrocket with the price of gas, so this is my foray into self-sufficiency.

Our first planting consisted of:

Six sweet corn seedlings in a cedar planting box

Four yellow tomato seedlings, one brandywine tomato seedling and four Big Boy tomato seedlings in a cedar planting box (I can see already that I need tomato cages for the stalks.)

One Lemon Cucumber plant in a ceramic pot

Four Banana Sweet Peppers plants in a ceramic pot

Four Pimento Sweet Peppers plants in a ceramic pot

Our second planting will likely include some zucchini, cauliflower and at some point pumpkins. All of these containers are in the middle of my front yard, soaking up some sun and hopefully growing. I might try playing some ABBA for them to make them vigorous; nothing makes you feel as peppy as ABBA, right?

Photos of our success (or failure, let's hope not) will be posted. Wish the novice growers luck!

Pinochle and Cheddar Olives

There is something great about partner card games. Bridge, Rook, Pinochle; games that require people to work together, to pit friends against friends in good natured battle, munching on tasty treats while they deal hands.

If you haven't played in such a quartet, I suggest you give it a try. Half the fun, at least in our family, is the good-natured ribbing that goes hand in hand with the playing. If you aren't familiar with pinochle, our favorite game, here is a primer:

A good snack to serve with your cards and chips is Cheddar Olives. Quite popular in days past, these salty snackers will keep the players fortified for an evening of amusement. Perhaps a few martinis would go well with these olives...


2 cup grated Sharp cheddar
1 cup flour
1/4 t cayenne
4 T softened butter
40 small pimento-stuffed olives, drained and patted dry

- Preheat Oven to 400
- Stir 1st three ingredients together
- Work in softened butter to form dough
- Drop dollop of dough on wax paper and place olive in middle
- Flour hands and roll olive in between your palms to cover olive
- Place all olives on a cookie sheet
- Bake 15 minutes
- Serve warm

Note: prepared olives can be kept in the fridge 2-3 hours before serving. Bring them to room temp. before baking. Recipe found at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book Review: Alabama Stitch Book

I've found a lovely book by Natalie Chanin that I thought I would share with you. It's called the Alabama Stitch Book and it really is a treat to read. The bulk of the book is how to take simple cotton jersey, from recycled T-shirts, and "upcycle" them into new garments, using basic hand stitches and stenciling/applique techniques.

Sprinkled throughout the book are stories of the impact of outsourcing, NAFTA, cotton growing, and shrinking employment for textile workers. Sounds like a downer? It isn't. It is fascinating and written with warmth and understanding. Ms Chanin sprinkles in recollections from those who lived through the Great Depression, favorite local recipes and tips for making the projects. The projects themselves are comfortable, stylish and accessible for people with basic hand stitching skills. Never learned to sew by hand? No problem - the stitches are broken down and illustrated. The projects are well explained and templates are provided for all the stencils and appliques suggested.

If you are more into reading than doing, you can check out her website and see the new 2008-2009 Fall Collection. Spendy, but lovely. The book is available from the author or at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drunk on honey? Pass the bottle

Did you know there is such a thing as "honey intoxication"? Don't believe it? Well, look no further than that venerable institution of learning, wikipedia:

"Honey produced from the flowers of rhododendrons, mountain laurels, sheep laurel, and azaleas may cause honey intoxication. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, excessive perspiration, nausea, and vomiting. Less commonly, low blood pressure, shock, heart rhythm irregularities, and convulsions may occur, with rare cases resulting in death. Honey intoxication is more likely when using "natural" unprocessed honey and honey from farmers who may have a small number of hives."

Now, I've heard of honey beer, ale, mead, what have you, but actually getting drunk off the honey itself? Better limit your honey on those biscuits or the cornbread this summer if you are going to be driving.

Since I've been on a bee kick lately (I'm in good company; Martha Stewart just devoted an article in the latest Living to the disappearing bees, as well as collecting honeybee housewares), I thought I'd pass along a few lesser known uses for the yellow stuff. Please note: Babies shouldn't have honey; it can cause botulism in the young. So keep the sticky stuff off any little sticky fingers.

Honey is believed to have antiseptic properties and might help wounds stay free of germs or help heal burns - I think I'll go with neosporin myself

Is it a laxative? Is it a facial polish? Folks claim that it is both. Honey can be added to oatmeal as a gentle facial exfoliant or eaten as a way to help nature along (perhaps bran muffins with honey?).

Those who follow Ayurvedic teachings might recommend one of eight different types of honey for specific ailments (Honey is classified by the type of bee that created it; small ones, fat ones, etc. Feel free to google for specifics.)

Honey and lemon juice mixed together can help out a sore throat (probably with a little whiskey mixed in too, no doubt).

Any other unusual uses for the stuff? Feel free to pass them along. Honey on peanut butter toast is about as good as it gets, in my book, but I'm sure there are other novel ways to enjoy some honey goodness.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Random Recipe Monday - Mocha Ice Cream Pie

This weekend was hot. H.O.T. Like 95 degrees hot. For that kind of heat, I need to be mentally prepared. Since it isn't August and I had no batch of sun ice tea made up, I wasn't prepared. At least I had some popsicles in the freezer, which always help cool things a bit.

The mini heatwave inspired me to search for a good recipe using ice cream. I think I found it with this Mocha Ice Cream Pie. The crust is formed from chocolate and coconut, the filling from chocolate ice cream, pecans and coffee. Sounds refreshing to me.

Sun ice tea? Check. Mocha Ice Cream Pie? Check. Who needs August. Bring on summer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Christmas in May and other insane ideas

Actually, there is nothing insane about planning ahead. It just sounds insane, when the heat of May just starts unfolding, flowers starting to make a show in the yard and fans coming out of the closet, to be thinking about December. And yet, it isn't going to be that long before weather starts turning colder, leaves and temperatures falling, and the gift giving season will be upon us. Is that depressing? Where's my old "live in the moment, savor the season" stylings, you might ask. Actually, they are still here. I'm thrilled with Spring right now and looking happily toward Summer. But I'm still thinking ahead to Christmas and starting already to plan my gifts. Why? Well, becaue money is tight (tighter than usual) and I can't do my usual last minute shopping spree to make it work. Last year, I started making gifts in October and I found that by December I was a wreck, finishing up the last of the gifts on time.

This year is going to be different. This year is going to be methodical and smooth. No, really, stop laughing. For that to happen, it needs to begin in May, slowly, cautiously, with thought and planning. I'm not going to make some jumbo list and weigh myself down. No Ma'am, I am going to write down things that I accomplish, rather than some enormous "to do" list. (Many thanks to Olde Prairie Register for sharing thoughts on this subject.)

This year I am not only looking forward, toward Christmas, Halloween, heck even the Fourth of July, but I'm also looking toward the seasons. Pots now for herbs that I can dry, local sources for fruits and veggies to turn into jam and salsa, yard sales and thrifty buys for things I can transform into birthday gifts and anniversary presents.

The spark for this came when I spent the whole day yesterday thinking it was Friday. I was ready for the weekend, told my son there was no school (always something he loves to hear) and thought about my plans for Saturday. It wasn't until Thursday PM that my sister broke the news to me. I couldn't believe that I spent an entire day, reading news, answering mail, watching television, and didn't know what day it was. Talk about being in a fog. Well, if the fog can shroud one day from the next, it can cover up the months as they speed by, leaving me unpleasantly surprised when special days creep around the corner.

So, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice or Kwanza, whatever holidays that come for you in the colder months, perhaps a little time spent in the sunshine of May, planning and preparing will make for a merry time in the dark of December. Forget the "to do" and focus on the "done". Forget multitasking and think about monotasking. Live in the moment, with an eye on the future - and keep a calendar nearby!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chocolate chips and Pack Rats - rejoice

There are plenty of holidays throughout the year; card companies do a brisk enough business. But while perusing the card racks, you probably won't find a Happy Dance Like a Chicken Day card or the right gift for a Pack Rat (would any gift be right if someone is a Pack Rat?). Every once in awhile, I take a gander at sites like ThinkQuest to get my calendar marked for the next special day. Today is National Chocolate Chip Day, so why not bake up a batch and share the chocolate love.

May 14 is . . . . National Dance Like A Chicken Day

May 15 is . . . . National Chocolate Chip Day

May 16 is . . . . Wear Purple For Peace Day

May 17 is . . . . Pack Rat Day

May 18 is . . . . International Museum Day and Visit Your Relatives Day

May 19 is . . . . Frog Jumping Jubilee Day

May 20 is . . . . Eliza Doolittle Day

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

AWOL - sorry

Sorry for being gone the last couple of days. I've been feeling under the (humid) weather (what the heck does that phrase mean anyway?).

I'll be back to posting on Friday (predicted to be eighty degrees here in Seattle) so I'll see you then.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Random Recipe Monday - Porcupine Meatballs

After last week's avocado ice cream, you might think that the meatballs are made from real porcupine. But thankfully, nothing as drastic as that is called for to make this really easy and inexpensive dish. Next time I make it, I might try tomato bisque soup instead of plain old tomato, just for a creamier version. Feel free to jazz up your seasonings; salt and pepper worked fine but I can imagine italian seasonings would give a nice variety.

Porcupine Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp kosher salt, pepper to taste
1 can condensed tomato soup, divided
1/2 water
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix beef, onion, rice, egg, salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup of the soup in a bowl until combined. Scoop mixture into meatballs (approximately 18) and place them in a skillet over medium high heat. In a small bowl, mix together remaining soup, water and Worcestershire sauce; pour sauce over the meatballs. Cook at temperature until the sauce begins to boil; Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 40 minutes, stirring gently and occasionally. Serve meatballs and thickened sauce with a crusty hunk of bread and some veggies.

Friday, May 9, 2008

And so it was...1970

Interesting and important things happened in 1970:

The Beatles released "Let it Be"; it would be their last album
The first Earth Day was celebrated
The first female jockey ran in the Kentucky Derby
The floppy disk was invented
The EPA was created
Midnight Cowboy was the Oscar winning movie
Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Cracklin' Rose both hit Number One that year.

But most importantly, two special people got married on May 9th, in a candlelit ceremony, pledging to love each other forever. And so they have. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Many thanks to
InThe70s for some of the tidbits.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Busy as a Bee, huh?

It's fascinating how once you start thinking about something, you notice other things around you that you never saw before. Ever bought a car and suddenly that car is everywhere you go? Well, for me, bees are like that right now. A few days ago, I ran across a statistic that claimed 30% of all the bees in the world have disappeared in the last two years. Yep, the last two years. Poof. Now, I don't know that statistic to be true, but I do know there was a rash of news articles in 2007 all claiming that the bees were in decline, mysteriously so. Some authors feared that cellular phones are to blame (they aren't) or the rise of genetically altered crops, nicotine based pesticides (gee, tobacco could even be bad for bugs) or just a weakness in the genes of honeybees. Nobody knows for sure just why they are disappearing, abandoning their hives and their Queens, but everyone who has a stake in bees is concerned about it.

Ok, so I was reading about bees, then I happened to watch Bee Movie (with Jerry Seinfeld and Renee Zellweiger), which again stressed how important bees are for pollinating our lives. I've been painting some old furniture, trying to give it a new lease on life, and the pattern that I finally decided on for stenciling on a table top turns out to be a honey bee quilt block. My planned garden at the new house will be featuring sunflowers and lavender - two bee favorites, it turns out.

So, what does all this mean? Well, besides the obvious fact that I am easily obsessed with things, I think it means that bees have had an impact on humans for a long time. We eat their honey, we rely on them to pollinate crops, we take their likeness and incorporate it into our culture. In short, we dig Bees. Maybe not one-on-one, maybe not getting stung, but as a group, we think they are pretty nifty.

And so we should. Any critter that communicates through dancing can't be all bad. Maybe a little Bee-In, a little Bee appreciation would convince these important insects to hang around. We could throw them a garden party, flowers served on our best china, with a seat reserved for their Queen.

Bee links for the curious:
Adopt a Hive in Maryland.
Bee friendly plants for your garden.
Handmade gifts and housewares celebrating Bees.
Recipes featuring Honey.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Salt of the Earth (or Sea)

Vinegar gets all the press for those interested in natural cleaning products. I myself have touted its use, primarily in its usefulness in cleaning carpet stains. Vinegar aside, there are other common ingredients that can be put to work for green cleaning; baking soda does a great job, as does salt.

Yep, common salt can clean up messes, even get that red wine out of your carpet. The SaltInstitute (not surprisingly) has many unusual uses for salt in the home. Cleaning up burned food in the oven, freshening thermoses, cleaning out stained coffee cups, freshening coffee makers, getting rid of mildew, even removing water rings on furniture are all within this mineral's power, so they say. I haven't tried all these methods (yet) but I can certainly vouch for salt's ability to clean cast iron pans. Supposedly, you can also get rid of your pet's fleas by cleaning her bed with salt water; salt repels those nasty bugs. (I find a bowl of water under a night light really does the trick.)

Salt started out as such a precious commodity; heck, Roman soldiers may have been paid in the stuff. (The word "salary" comes from the Latin salarium, paid in salt. Thank you wikipedia.) Now, we can get a carton at the dollar store and use it for all sorts of purposes. So give old salt a try and see if it can do the job for you. It might give Vinegar a run for its money.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Random Recipe Monday - Avocado Ice Cream

I wasn't going to do it, honest. Yes, today is Cinco de Mayo and yes, today is Random Recipe Monday, but really, how random would it be to post about mole or enchiladas? It's too easy. Too obvious. Too...expected. (Assuming anyone gives this blog more than a passing thought, let alone expects anything.)

But I digress. I really wasn't going to post anything even remotely related to south-of-the-border cuisine (though I do love it). And to that end, I really haven't. Though avocados are often paired with spicy and savory dishes from Mexico, this recipe was developed in California in the 1930s to extoll the virtue of Cali Avocados. Interesting isn't it that the idea of avocado ice cream was a way to get people excited about this food (of the Gods). When I think ice cream, I don't tend to think about green - unless it is mint chocolate chip. But some enterprising cook developed this recipe to win over Mrs Jane Doe America and to get her to buy the product. I would say that despite this attempt, avocados have flourished. They are popular all over the country and show up in a variety of tasty dishes, or just on their own.

I suppose I shouldn't pre-judge this dessert, but having sampled garlic ice cream before (yes, I really did), I can say that some foods just don't belong in dessert.

But you be the judge. Next time you feel a hankering to try something green and frozen, instead of those baby peas, give Avocado Ice Cream a try.

Oh - and Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

High Society and Blossom-Topped Cupcakes

No one is going to mistake Bing Crosby for Cary Grant. Not ever. Similarly, Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra are not exactly twins either. But Katharine Hepburn and Grace Kelly, now there are some girls that are pretty darn similar. Don't believe me? Well, I wouldn't have thought so either until I saw High Society, the 1955 remake of The Philadelphia Story. Hepburn and Kelly both played the roll of Tracy Lord, the rich society divorcee getting married again amidst a family crisis with her philandering father. You wouldn't think these two were alike but watching Grace Kelly play the roll years after Katharine Hepburn, I was struck with how similar they really were.

I was also struck with how absolutely gorgeous Grace Kelly was; a living Venus de Milo, with arms of course. Which is perfect for this role because she is accused of being too perfect, too much like a goddess and not enough like a human.

High Society is a musical, which isn't surprising since Bing and Frank are on screen. Louis Armstrong makes an appearance, though the song with Bing trying to explain jazz to the Newport swells is fairly embarrassing. Frank is cute and I think I actually prefer him to Jimmy Stewart, believe it or not. But Bing is terrible in the Cary Grant roll. He's too old, he's too frumpy, he's just impossible to believe as the love of Tracy's life.

So, I guess I'm saying, watch High Society if you like musicals or The Philadelphia Story if you don't - or better yet, watch them both to compare and contrast. Either way, some blossom-topped cupcakes would be snooty enough to enjoy while watching Grace/Katharine explain what "yar" means.

Blossom-topped cupcakes can be found at Epicurious.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hooray for May


Winter is many months of the year
But now at last Maytime is here;
And birds sing from a leafy screen
In the trees and hedgerow freshly green;
And the wood-anemone is out in the shade,
With its blushing petals which too soon fade;
Once more the bracken is unfurling there,
And bluebells gently perfume the damp air.
- Veronica Ann Twells, Maytime

* Make this basket