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Archive for July, 2009

Bookworm Alert

I post a lot about cooking and gardening, but today I wanted to tell you about an author that I really like.  I think I have read all of her books and enjoyed every one of them.  Her name is Adriana Trigiani.  The first book of hers that I read (and I think it is the first she wrote) is Big Stone Gap.  The name of the book is the name of the small Virginia mountain community in the book.  The main character is Ave Maria Mulligan, “the 35-year-old self-proclaimed spinster” of the town.  Needless to say, she eventually finds love and happiness.  The two sequels are Big Cherry Holler and Milk Glass Moon

I have just finished the latest installment of this series, Home To Big Stone Gap.  I think I like these books because I can relate to the “small town” feel of the setting.  It reminds me a lot of the small town in which C & I live, love, and work. 

Ms. Trigiani’s characters are human.  They have flaws and have to make tough choices (not always the right ones) like we do.  Even her characters that are based in New York City, like Valentine Roncalli in her latest book Very Valentine, (yes, I have read that one, too!) feel like real people, not just beautiful, talented, perfect people in some other books. 

So, if you are looking for a good summer read, choose one of Ms. Trigiani’s books whose story stands alone, like Very Valentine or Queen Of the Big Time, but if you have some time to invest, read the Big Stone Gap series.  I hope you like it as well as I do!

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I REALLY want to see this!

I know where I want to be the night of March 5, 2010!  At the movie theater, watching “Alice In Wonderland”!!!  It is directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helen Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen.  I happened upon the movie trailer yesterday on a random blog that I picked and I have already watched it several times.

Here’s the link to the trailer on YouTube.  Take a look.  I think it is AWESOME!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiPR6kA4_iU

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Day Trip

C & I aren’t big travelers, but every once in a while, we will take off for a day trip.  My birthday is around this time, and C asked what I wanted for my birthday.  There really wasn’t anyTHING in particular that I wanted, but there was someplace that I wanted to go. 

I had learned about Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of years ago and had wanted to go.  Well, we finally went yesterday.  It is in a beautiful area of south Nashville called Belle Meade.  Belle Meade is named after a big plantation of the same name that is located there.  The plantation is also open to the public, but we did not make it there on this trip.

I was not as impressed with the woodland areas of Cheekwood as I was the more manicured gardens near the house itself.  The Japanese gardens and water gardens are worth the $10.00 price of admission.  I think the woodland gardens would have been more colorful in the springtime as opposed to July.  The house on the grounds contains a museum with rotating art exhibits.  Currently, there is an exhibit of Faberge items there.  I know very little about art, so I enjoyed the gardens more.  There are also several art pieces exhibited in the gardens themselves.  They were very interesting!  Here are a few photos to whet your appetite…if you are looking for a day trip and you live close to Nashville, I would recommend checking out Cheekwood, especially if you love gardens.

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Mississippi Mud Cookies

I think I have found my new favorite cookie since I have made these twice in the last week and I am eating one right now!  My mother-in-law, J, found this recipe and gave it to me to try.  It is a rousing success!  Southern Living Magazine published this in their new Christmas cookbook, and have used it in their advertising.  Try it, I know you will love it!!!

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (original recipe called for milk)

1 cup plus 2 tbsp mini marshmallows

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Microwave 1 cup semisweet chips in a small microwave-safe glass bowl at HIGH power for 1 minute or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

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Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each.  Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate.

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Sift together flour, baking powder, & salt.  Gradually add to the chocolate mixture, beating until well-blended.  Stir in chopped pecans and remaining chocolate chips.

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Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Press 3 mini marshmallows onto the center of each cookie.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set.

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One note of caution.  Make sure you put the marshmallows in the center of the cookie more than the above photo shows or you will end up with a “cookie monster” as my husband called it!!

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This is what they are supposed to look like…

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Mmm, mmmm!  Yummy!

 

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

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Cucumber Salad

Well, folks, here’s what you have been waiting for and what I keep yakking about…Cucumber Salad.  The original recipe that this is based on is Kansas Cucumber Salad in the September 1995 edition of Taste of Home magazine.  I have had request after request for this recipe and I have taken it to many potlucks over the years.  It is cool and refreshing and makes great use of all the cucumbers growing in the garden this time of year.

 

Cucumber Salad

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

1/2 tsp salt

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced

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In a large bowl, combine mayo, sugar, vinegar, dill and salt.  Add cucumbers and toss to coat.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.

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See, wasn’t that easy?  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have in the last 14 years!

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Homemade Lemonade

There is nothing like a tall, icy cold glass of freshly made lemonade.  I’m not talking about the stuff frozen in a tube or the yellow powder you dissolve in water.  Uh, huh!  I am talking about homemade sugar syrup and freshly squeezed lemons! I have had this recipe for 12 years and have never found a better one.  It was on the television show Main Ingredient with Bobby Flay on Lifetime TV in 1997.   Come join me on the porch for a glass.

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

6 lemons

4 additional cups water

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Dissolve sugar in 1 cup of water over medium heat.  Zest 2 lemons with a grater and add the zest to the water.

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Cook for 10 minutes or until liquid is a clear yellow.  It might bubble a little, but that’s okay.  If you don’t want the zest to end up in the final product, strain your syrup before putting it in the refrigerator to chill.

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Juice the 6 lemons and strain out the pulp and seeds.  Pour juice in a pitcher and add 4 cups of water.  When it has cooled, pour the sugar syrup mixture in the lemon juice/water mixture.  Chill and enjoy!  This recipe is easily doubled, and if you are serving more than 2, I highly recommend it. 

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