Friday, May 31, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Corn Dip

One of my favorite food blogs is "the south in my mouth", and I have posted a recipe from this blog before.  Recently another recipe was shared that I had never heard of before, and I just had to try it.  Corn Dip is extremely easy to make and tastes delicious, another comforting dish recommended as funeral food (funeral food seems to play a big role in life here in the South).  I also was tickled by the fact that corn dip is served with corn chips -- there just seems to be a certain symmetry to that, and I do love symmetry!  I am a little concerned that I am so drawn to funeral food, but as the site's blogger says, the whole point of funeral food is comfort.  She also mentions that Southern recipes specialize in taking a relatively healthy food and turning it into something that most definitely is not, and who wouldn't want to eat something like that (even though we know we shouldn't)?  Just don't eat it too often, since I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be another reason it is called funeral food!

Corn Dip

2 C. corn*
1 bunch of green onions (4-6), thinly sliced
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/2 C. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 C. shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, adding more mayonnaise if the dip looks dry.  Serve with corn chips (specifically, Frito's Scoops).  Try not to polish off the whole bowlful in one sitting!

*I used frozen white corn, but use fresh corn if you can get it, or a 15-ounce can of white shoe peg corn, drained, if necessary.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Trail Riding and Killer Rabbits!

Just about everyone knows the scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) featuring the Killer Rabbit, "the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!" (although rabbits are actually lagomorphs, not rodents).  Some may even remember the incident of President Jimmy Carter and the crazed aquatic "killer" rabbit.  Well, last week some friends and I got to witness one of these fearsome critters in action!

I have a handsome Tennessee Walking Horse and like to take him trail riding at least once a week at a State Park with horseback riding trails not far from where we live.  I always go with a riding buddy, and last Friday we were accompanied by her daughter as well, who has been competing in endurance trials and is conditioning a new horse for its first competition.

My sweet Tennessee Walking Horse
(photos taken a couple of month ago)

My riding buddy's cute Paso Fino horse

Her daughter on her new Arabian endurance horse

Since they were leaving the next morning for an endurance ride, they wanted to do an easy walk at the park that day, so we were just ambling along enjoying the beautiful and unusually cool weather that had moved in overnight.  Up ahead of us on the trail a rabbit hopped out of the brush.  It was a little larger than most, but otherwise just a typical-looking Eastern cottontail bunny.  And then all of a sudden, it seemed to go berserk, running in short bursts of speed, jumping in and out of the brush, and zigzagging erratically all over the place!  We finally realized that it was chasing something, but we could not see what that something was -- until my friend shouted out that it was chasing a snake!

Sure enough, a few seconds later we all saw a big black rat snake, at least four feet long, leap over a log with the rabbit in hot pursuit.  Then they sped away and we could no longer see them.  We decided that the snake must have been threatening the rabbit's babies in its burrow, and the rabbit attacked to keep its young ones safe.  None of us had ever seen anything like this before, and it was quite exciting!  All I know is I'm glad I wasn't that hapless snake.  I will never take a fuzzy little bunny for granted again!

Watch out -- he could be coming for you next!
(from Animal Mad)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Turtle Crossing Percale Bedding

I adore turtles!  One of our dogs found a box turtle in our horse pasture last week.  When I was young, my siblings and I would often find box turtles in the woods behind our house in the summer.  We would bring them home and keep them in an outdoor pen, feeding them raw ground beef and fresh fruits and vegetables, until they invariably escaped and returned to the woods where they belonged.  These days I prefer to leave box turtles alone, but I still enjoy having turtles around the house in decorative form.  The Turtle Crossing Percale Bedding from The Company Store is just my style -- colorful turtles lined up on 100% cotton percale sheets who don't mind being kept indoors!  They are reasonably priced for good quality bedding ($49 for king size flat or fitted sheet, $29 for a pair of king size pillowcases), so if you too have a fondness for turtles you may just want to order a set!

Monday, May 27, 2013

On the Homefront: Memorial Day Table

A Dalmatian named Blue has his napkin tied on,
and is ready for his Memorial Day dinner
(the green and yellow Skittles are merely an appetizer)!

Memorial Day makes me think of the wars this nation has fought, and that brings to mind Pearl Harbor.  Naturally this leads to thoughts of Hawaii, which is why the theme of my Memorial Day table is rather tropical (I know, my mind works in mysterious ways, as my dear husband often likes to point out).  Blue, green, yellow, and white are some of the colors of summer to me, and since this holiday is often considered the unofficial start of summer I decided they were appropriate for the day.

Blue floral print tablecloth from HomeGoods (Capri by Benson Mills); once again the dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); yellow dessert plate (Block Basics by Cerind of Portugal); yellow napkin from HomeGoods (Hotel Provence by Windham Home); can't remember where I got the bamboo flatware or the water glass.

My favorite sea turtle votive candleholders return to the table
to enhance the subtly tropical theme.

Barbecue seemed like the ideal food to serve on the beautiful and sunny mild day we had here, but to keep things simple I used an easy crock pot recipe for the chicken.  Macaroni salad and coleslaw from the supermarket deli completed the meal.  For dessert I made the lemon coconut bars from Friday's recipe post, and served them with fresh berries.  This was a tasty, casual, and almost effortless meal for a holiday that kicks off the summer season.

Memorial Day Menu:

Iced Tea or Lemonade
Easy Crock Pot Pulled Chicken Barbecue* on Hamburger Buns
Macaroni Salad
Sweetened Mixed Fresh Berries

*Easy Crock Pot Pulled Chicken Barbecue

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bottle (18 oz.) barbecue sauce
2 T. hoisin sauce (see Note)

Spray the inside of the crock pot container with cooking spray.  Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the pot.  Spinkle the sliced onions over the chicken.  Cover with the barbecue sauce (you may not need the whole bottle, but I did).  Set the crock pot temperature on LOW and cook for about 8 hours until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  (Mine was done in about 7 hours -- I could tell by the aroma of the chicken, which changes as the cooking progresses.)  Shred the chicken with two forks.  Taste for seasoning and stir in the hoisin sauce if necessary.  Serve on hamburger buns.  Serves 4 to 6 depending on appetites.

Note:  The barbecue sauce I used was a rather mild Vidalia onion variety we had in the pantry.  When I tasted the cooked chicken it seemed a bit bland, so I stirred in the hoisin sauce, which made all the difference in terms of flavor.  You may or may not need the hoisin sauce, depending on what type of barbecue sauce you use, so be sure to taste first before adding it.

Lindt Lindor Truffles are back on the table, this time in coconut and dark chocolate flavors for a hint of the tropics.


Enjoy the holiday with family and friends, but spare a few moments to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation of ours.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Coconut Bars

From My Baking Addiction

The design on the tablecloth I am using for our Memorial Day table setting is called "Capri", which made me think of the Giada de Laurentiis special I saw a few months ago about this beautiful island off the coast of Italy. The isle of Capri is known for its lemons, so naturally I got to thinking about lemon-flavored desserts (citrus-flavored sweets are my favorites!).  And what could be more lemony than lemon bars?  Searching for the perfect recipe to prepare for our holiday dinner, I found one for Lemon Coconut Bars, which I modified to make half the amount since there are only two of us.  These bars are  quick and easy, and packed with a citrus punch.  I did have to try just one before Memorial Day to make sure they were satisfactory (they are that and then some!), but I am determined to save the rest.  Of course, we are celebrating the holiday a couple of days early because my husband is going out of town on Sunday, so I think I will be able to manage!

Lemon Coconut Bars

3/4 C. flour
1/4 C. confectioner's sugar
6 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs
3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. lemon juice*
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 C. shredded coconut**

Combine the flour and confectioner's sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter until crumbly.  You can do this in a food processor, but I like to use my hands and rub the ingredients together because the warmth of your fingers will soften the butter enough to get the dough to blend more quickly (just be sure to do this fast or the butter will get too soft, especially if the day is warm).  Press the dough into the bottom of a lightly greased 8x8-inch baking pan which has been lined with foil (or do what I did and use a disposable aluminum one, lightly greased).  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine all of the remaining ingredients except the coconut in a bowl and beat until well mixed.  Pour onto the baked crust and sprinkle the coconut evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden with just a hint of brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars.

*The lemon juice is the only ingredient amount I did not cut in half because I prefer a very tart flavor.  I used four smallish lemons and zested them before juicing.  I put half of the zest into the crust mixture and half into the lemon filling.  Four lemons only gave me 1/4 C. juice, so I topped it off with some good quality bottled Meyer lemon juice I happened to have.  You can juice additional lemons if you do not want to use the bottled stuff, or just use less if you do not want a really tart lemon bar.

**I used organic unsweetened finely shredded coconut because that is what I had, but as you can see from the photo above, sweetened flaked coconut is fine, and actually much prettier.


I hope you have a beautiful Memorial Day, and don't forget to honor the memory of those who gave their lives for our nation.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: The Colorful Home

From Apartment Therapy

Sometimes I wish I lived in a bright and colorful home.  Of course, I have a sneaking suspicion that after a while I might tire of so much stimulating color, but when I see photos of such homes they just make me happy.  Take a look at some of these examples:

A bright and colorful front exterior (from My Green Lake)

A cheerful front porch (by Josh Friedman on Etsy)

An eye-popping living room (from airbnb)

Bold colors in a dining room (from Decoholic)

An exuberant master bedroom (from The Waffler)

Intensely multi-colored bathroom (from Tréndir)

A vivid multi-hued kitchen (from Home Room Designs)

While I might not be able to take it to the color extreme like these homeowners, I am fascinated by the idea of at least having dining room chairs in multiple colors:

From Furniture Arcade

I would also love to have one of these Maria SC test tube chandeliers by Pani Jurek hanging above the dining table -- that way, I could change the water and/or flower colors depending upon my mood (and it would also complement the iron test tube vase I described in yesterday's post!):

From Pani Jurek (also available as a double tier)

My husband is not a fan of so much color, but at least one of our dogs seems to be attracted to color the way I am.  I recently purchased a small and colorful rug for our side entry foyer, and laid it out temporarily in our main hallway so that the creases could relax.  Our terrier mix, Miss R, promptly placed her colorful toy artfully in one corner:

Here she is taking a well-deserved rest after the strenuous exertions of her creative interior design efforts:

It looks like from now on I may have to seek the approval of my canine interior design expert before making any changes to our home décor!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Iron Test Tube Vase

I love finding new ways to display flowers in my home, and this Iron Test Tube Vase from Olive & Cocoa is certainly unique!  Since I often have a hard time making multiple stems look good in a vase, inserting each stem into the individual test tube holders could eliminate this problem for me.  I like the rather wispy effect created when using this vase -- it would be perfect in the middle of a dining table, as it is less likely to obstruct anyone's view of the other diners the way that large arrangements often do.  It is a little expensive at $74, but if you are looking for that perfect centerpiece then this could be the vase for you!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On the Homefront: Nature-Inspired Table

Dozer the Dalmatian naps peacefully while awaiting luncheon.

Warm weather has certainly arrived, and the rain just keeps on coming.  Everything is very green and lush outdoors right now, and with the recent acquisition of some new butterfly plates I thought this would be the perfect time to set a simple, nature-inspired table:

My usual dark brown wooden bead placemat; butterfly design small dinner plate (Nature's Journey Collection by Marjolein Bastin for DEMDACO) from Signals; white bread plate is actually a teacup saucer (Tivoli by Studio Nova); white-handled flatware from Target years ago; beige napkin with tan trim from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO; can't remember where I got the silver turtle napkin ring or the water glass.

Each dinner plate has a different butterfly design:

White hydrangeas in a tall green vase from HomeGoods.

Our overabundance of invasive ivy has once again
been put to good use on the table.

I just love these sea turtle votive candleholders (from
Pier 1 many years ago).  I was delighted to discover
that Pier 1 still sells these, and had to buy a few more!

Better view of the southwestern-style turtle napkin ring,

Such a simple table requires an equally simple meal.  Since the dinner plates are a bit small, I decided they would be best for a luncheon rather than dinner.  A hearty pasta salad on a bed of lettuce made the perfect meal, and the only accompaniments needed were a dinner roll and a glass of iced tea (unsweetened for me, please!).  For dessert I served some store-bought madeleines, which are great with tea whether it is hot or iced.

Simple Luncheon Menu:

Iced Tea
Bed of Heirloom Baby Lettuces
Dinner Roll

Naturally, there were Lindt Lindor Truffles on the table as well, this time in Caramel and Peanut Butter flavors:

(Honestly, I do not work for Lindt -- their truffles just happen to be an obsession of mine!)

This was an ideal meal for a warm but rainy Sunday afternoon, which was also a great time for a postprandial nap!

Keep snoozing, Dozer (she's just so cute)!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Sautéed Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

We are lucky to have several really good food markets in nearby Athens.  One of these is a Trader Joe's, but it is the farthest away from our town so I rarely get there.  Last week, since I was in the area anyway, I stopped by Trader Joe's and was glad I did.  They had bags of shaved Brussels sprouts in the produce section, and I was eager to try them as I am quite fond of these tiny cabbage relatives.  I also found a bag of toasted unsalted chopped pecans, and I knew exactly what I was going to do with both items.  A simple side dish of Sautéed Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecans was the result, and it is fantastic!  Of course, you could shave the sprouts and toast pecans yourself, but I am always on the lookout for even easier ways to cook, so I was perfectly happy that someone else had done most of the prep work for me.  I served this with thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts seasoned with a little salt, lemon juice, and oregano, then cooked my favorite way.  I also bought some packaged naan bread at Trader Joe's, so I placed one piece on my plate, spooned some of the chicken juices over, and topped it with the Brussels sprouts.  This was an excellent meal -- I have leftovers, and I can't wait to serve it again!

Sautéed Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 bags (10 oz. each) shaved Brussels sprouts
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 C. toasted chopped pecans

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the lemon juice and Brussels sprouts and sauté until the sprouts soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and sauté another minute.  Add the pecans and heat through.  Taste for seasonings and add more lemon juice and/or salt as needed.  Serves 8 (or at least it should if the cook can show a little restraint!).

Note: Try to resist the urge to over-season this dish, or you will overpower the sweet, nutty flavor of the pecans.

Update: Stir in 12 oz. of cooked and drained farfalle (bow tie) pasta for a hearty and delicious side dish.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Has My Flying Car Finally Arrived?

Vertical liftoff of Terrafugia's TF-X

I think I may have complained a couple of times here that I am still waiting for the oft-promised flying car.  Well, could it be that my long and presumed fruitless wait is soon to be over?  A recent news article stated that the Boston aerospace company Terrafugia has already succeeded in producing an airplane-like flying car and is looking into the feasibility of creating one that is more like a helicopter, able to take off and land vertically.  Believe it or not, their Transition flying car can actually be reserved for purchase.

Terrafugia's Transition switching from driving to flying mode

It can convert from flying to driving, and is street-legal in the latter mode, but it can only take off and land from airports when in flying mode.  Hence the need to design a flying vehicle that can perform these important functions vertically, which would greatly expand its utility.  Terrafugia is developing the TF-X flying car with this capacity, and the company would love to have your help!  If you are interested in the idea of a flying car in your future, check out their suggestions for aiding in the advancement of this technology.  If qualified, you can also invest in the project or even apply for a career with the company!

Of course, before a flying car can ever become a standard mode of transportation, many changes in laws and regulations will be needed to accommodate this new technology.  A few pessimists may object to change, and some have predicted that chaos and catastrophe will reign should the flying car become a reality.  Personally, I think that if people are competent enough to drive cars and/or fly aircraft, then they should be able to come up with a way to make flying cars a safe and practical reality.  After all, we figured out how to adjust to horseless carriages, despite the problems and inconveniences these primitive vehicles created initially, and equine transportation is now pretty much a thing of the past.  Some day flightless cars may be on the way to extinction like land line phones and paper books.  We will always find the old ways nostalgic, but for humans change is inevitable, and if done responsibly could even be for the better!

"Back to the Future" flying DeLorean time machine (from PopSci)

(Since there are those who are convinced that flying cars will be catastrophic, the above photo brings to mind another interesting question to ponder -- is time travel a good idea?  If it is even possible, should we pursue the technology?  What do you think?)