Monday, February 28, 2011

Cooking at Ingredients: Quick Soups

Time for another cooking class at Ingredients!  This last class we did quick soups.  Lana had 3 soups for us and homemade saltine crackers. 

The first (and my favorite) was Taco Soup.  Outside of the ground meat, it is from cans and envelopes.  What a great recipe to feed an unexpected crowd (you can keep browned meat frozen for quick use). 

The second recipe was for Corned Beef Stew.  Hmmmm…  The recipe calls for canned corned beef.  No thank you!  But I think it would be wonderful with REAL corned beef.  I’ll give it a try around St Patrick’s Day when I can easily get the real deal.

The third recipe was for Polish Cabbage Soup.  My only change would be to have the cabbage cut chunky rather than finely chopped.  While the flavor was good I did not care for the texture of the fine chop.

To accompany the soups Lana made homemade saltine crackers. These are much heartier than store bought crackers. Suggestions were made that it would be tasty to add herbs to the mix.

(All the recipes can be found on the Ingredients blog site at  Just make sure to give her time to post them.)

Taco Soup

1 pound ground round (or other ground meat such as turkey)

1 onion finely chopped

1 package taco seasoning

1 package original ranch dressing

1 Tablespoon chili powder

2 – 16 oz cans hominy

3 – 16 oz cans stewed tomatoes

2 small cans green chilies

1-1/2 cups water.

Brown the ground meat and onion. Then add all the other ingredients.

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Notes: It was suggested to add beans. It was also suggested that a thicker batch would be good over rice.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: E

Enter here for the next Exciting Episode of the Eclectic Encyclopedia of Moi!

E*:  (aka Dad) Himself says Dad and I are a lot alike. From our appearance to what he calls “the look”… which is apparently what one gets when one is being annoying or when we are thinking hard about something. From Dad I have gotten my love of history, my ability to figure out a problem, my stubbornness (we like to call it being firm in our opinion), and my love for ‘cool tools’… just to name a few traits!

 Etouffe:  Crayfish etouffe. That stuff just makes my mouth happy. I would love to find a good recipe and learn how to make it.

Eagles:  One of my memories of my trip to the Aleutian Islands, Alaska is all the Bald Eagles. They were everywhere! One afternoon I sat on the jetty at Kuluk Bay and watched the 30+ eagles all around me. Some landed with 20 feet of me. This beauty was one of them.

 Emeralds:  My great grandparents had a summer home in Burnsville, NC. We had visited them a few times when I was a small child. My great grandmother made jewelry from gemstones she and Grand Dad found in the various area mines. She gave me a small uncut emerald still in the matrix. It was treasure indeed! I still have that emerald.

Ethiopian food:  Himself discovered Ethiopian cuisine on military trips to Ethiopia and introduced it to me on a trip to Washington DC. I was immediately hooked! Thru circumstances we became friends with two guys who had an Ethiopian restaurant in Nashville. There have been a lot of good meals at their restaurant “Horn of Africa”. We later discovered another Ethiopian restaurant “Gojo” – in the building that was housed the guys’ first restaurant – and enjoy it too. Hmmmm… I feel a run for some Lega Tibs might happen this week…

 Eclipse:  I’m talking the incredible natural phenomenon… not the nasty movie (I find anything of the occult nasty… just saying). Sun or moon, if they are happening where I am at you can be sure I will be watching. I’m excitedly awaiting not one but TWO total solar eclipses that will be visible from here – the first on 21 August 2017 and the second on 8 April 2024. How’s that for some advance planning?

Elephants:  In the late 70s, the circus came to town. And I cut classes to “run away to the circus”. It is one of those life experiences that doesn’t come very often and I wasn’t about to let it get past me. Regretfully I wasn’t into photography at that time. The shots I could have gotten! My “job” was to help with the elephants… and a large part of that was watering them. Later I was able to help with their baths. It was then I was struck with the intelligence of these animals. Much later in life while planning a trip to Kenya, I discovered the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust . It is an organization in Kenya who takes in orphaned baby elephants. To raise funds they have set up a sponsorship program where one can foster a baby elephant. We fostered Zurura and even got a chance to spend one-on-one time with him during our visit (Zurura is now living free in the Tsavo National Park). And now I see there is going to be a movie released this spring that shows the work of the Sheldrick Trust 

 Editor:  In college I was part of the school’s newspaper staff as one of the editors… not THE Editor, but one of the scut monkey proof reading editors. And I loved it. Now I edit the articles Himself writes before he sends them in for publication.

Eggs:  One of my favorite foods and ingredients, tho it wasn’t always true. As a small child I hated eggs and for years would not eat them in any recognizable form. But by golly, I still wanted my Easter Eggs to hunt! The photo is of a wild ostrich nest in Kenya. 

Elderly:  As a child you would more often find me in the company the elderly rather than children my own age. One time when I was around 4 years old I went missing for several hours. I was finally found next door visiting with the old folks who lived there. Even now I enjoy visiting with the “senior delegation” and look forward to our yearly ‘pilgrimage’ to visit Himself’s aunts & uncles.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Travel Bird

After some hard physical work I’ve been doing, I was really feeling the need to do something creative.  Just in time I saw my favorite art teacher ( )was offering another mixed media class.  I wasted no time in getting signed up!

I was especially happy to see she was doing another bird design. 

It was a fun surprise to find out that three of my friends had also signed up (the two with their back to the camera and the one in the white shirt). 

Before long everyone was working on their art piece… the room became kind of quiet!  There was a whole lot of thinking going on.  And cutting.  And gluing. 

I changed mine from the pattern (imagine that!).  Instead of using paper for the “berries” I pulled a couple foreign coins from my stash of supplies.  They fit better with my travel theme. 

It was only after I had attached them I realized both coins had something to do with birds! The top coin is from Mexico and has an eagle on it. The bottom coin is from Saudi (I think) and has a feather on the bottom of the crest.

I’m very pleased at how it turned out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little Hoss Gets a Hair Cut

Did you notice I had gone MIA? I was up visiting the babies! And while I was there, Little Hoss got his first hair cut.

He didn’t need it cut because it was long… well, that’s not quite true. The problem was it was long in some places and not so long in others. So Sis decided to get it ‘evened up’ a bit.

The afternoon turned to a family event! My mom and sister had stuff done and in-between Kita trimmed up Little Bird’s wild curls. Then it was Little Hoss’ turn. (I had visited last time I was up so my job was baby entertainment).

He was so good sitting up there in his little booster chair.  (Sorry about the mirror glare!  I couldn’t move around much or he would twist around to see what Auntie was doing.)

The sound of the clippers didn’t bother him at all.

But the cord to them held his attention! 

It’s hard to describe his hair color. It’s blonde (obviously) but it has a beautiful metallic tone. It glows. And it is so soft you want to stroke it all the time.

We gathered up the clippings to save in his baby book to remember that incredible color and his first hair cut.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cooking At Ingredients: A Romantic Dinner

Lana has started her cooking classes for 2011 at Ingredients in Clarksville.  I signed up right away.

This class was called “Romantic Dinner”. The recipes were: Shrimp de Jonghe, Bracioli (a rolled steak dish), Fanned Garlicky Potatoes, Pancetta Asparagus Bundles and “Outrageous Dessert”.

As usual, not only did Lana demonstrate the cooking for us she had lots of tips we could use.

For the Bracioli she showed us how to securely tie our meat roll so it would not come apart on us.


Shrimp de Jonghe. 
It was SO good!  Personally I would probably add more breadcrumbs.

Pancetta Asparagus Bundles. 
An easy way to make your presentation a bit more special.

A tip if you are making a fanned potato.  Use a large serving spoon to hold the potato while you are cutting.  It will protect your hand and keep you from cutting all the way thru the potato.

Garlicky Fanned Potatoes

Outrageous Dessert.

This is a recipe that Lana created. After baking there is that molten chocolate at the bottom of the pan that becomes your topping when you scoop it out.

I’ve decided to share the Outrageous Dessert recipe with you. It is so good!

Outrageous Dessert

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 T cocoa

1/2 t salt

1/2 cup milk

1 t vanilla

1/4 cup cocoa

1 3/4 cups hot water

2 T oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix first 5 ingredients together. Add milk, oil and vanilla. Mix until smooth, stir in nuts. Pour mixture in an 8X8 inch greased pan. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Sprinkle this over batter. Carefully pour the boiling water over the top.

Bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve almost immediately. When removing servings from pan, scoop out a portion and turn spoon over so molten sauce in on top. Great with a side of ice cream.

Monica at Ingredients post all the recipes on her blog site. You just have to give her a bit of time to put the post up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: D

 Wow!  We are already at the letter "D".  This one is easy!

D*:  (aka Himself) My hubby of 29 years. Handsome. Funny. Cooks and cleans! A beautiful pianist. Love to travel. Writes. Thinks everything I do is wonderful. Aren’t I a blessed lady?

DeSoto:  The little town in Missouri where I grew up. I think it’s only claim to fame is for a while it was the geographical center of the US population. The hub of town is the train repair shops. Main Street parallels the tracks. There used to be a lovely depot but some genius decided it would be better to widen the road instead of having a lovely and unique historic building. When I was young there was a REAL “five and dime”, an ice plant, a drive-in theater, an A&W with car hops, a swimming pool and German bakery. Sadly they are all gone now and the stores are homogenized, common, and boring.

 Dragons:  I guess I started liking dragons as a little girl when Dad’s “football boys” (he was the high school head football coach) gave me a little rubber dragon (our school mascot). In high school I discovered the “Dragon Riders of Pern” series and happily read every one. And I still ‘adopt’ dragons… I am very particular of how they look. No evil or dorky dragons live here! The photo is a dragon that if I could bring him home, I would in a heartbeat! He lives at “Jur-rustic Park” in Wisconsin. Wouldn’t he be wonderful at the end of the driveway… all ready to eat solicitors?

Dragonflies:  It’s a logical progression from loving dragons to loving dragonflies. Ferocious little beauties. I was thrilled when we bought our home to discover the land is home to a ga-zillion dragonflies of many varieties.

Daffodils:  My favorite flower. There’s nothing I don’t like about them. For my September wedding I had silk (cause you sure couldn’t get them fresh) daffodils in my bouquet.

Dachshunds:  Before there was me, there was Schotsie. He was a stern standard red dachsie who absolutely knew he was the “first born” in the family. When I was married, Brandy joined our new family. She was a miniature black and red who seemed to think if she ate enough she would become a standard dachshund! And finally there was Tsion, our last dog. Another black and red mini. A 90 second (seriously!) illicit affair with the neighbor’s sneaky mini poodle resulted in NINE “doodles” (all who were placed in loving homes – and mama made a little visit to the vet…).

Dolphins:  I admired dolphin before dolphins were considered ‘cool’. An opportunity to do a ‘swim with the dolphins’ cemented that fascination. To be in the water with them, you start to realize these animals are scary smart. Smarter than some neighbors I’ve had…

Drama:  Theater is THE thing! Comedy, drama, musical… I’ll watch them all. I was in drama club in high school, college and did community theater … but all as a tech, usually the stage master. Even won a few awards.

Doves:  The call of the mourning dove takes me straight back to my great grandmother’s house. You’d always hear them calling from first light until the evening. So my mourning doves are very welcome at my feeders.

Donuts:  “Hot Donuts NOW”   Be still my heart! If the Krispy Kreme sign is on… I must have my two HOT donuts. Must have. No option. I NEED my hot donuts! It was a day of mourning when the Krispy Kreme closed in Clarksville…

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Splash of Red

With February here it was time to change out the decorations. No offense met to our Presidents, who have a holiday in this month, but decorating for Valentines is a whole lot more fun!

Since I have just started with my seasonal decorating, I only have a few things for Valentines… so far. I will be buying and making more for next year. I’m not into the cupid or goofy stuff. I prefer “romance” for my decorations.

And chocolate…

I have this simple tabletop decoration on the sofa table.  The scattered petals are some of the tulips I messed up in taking the tulip ‘bush’ apart. 

Found this little heart tree at Joann’s Crafts.  Isn’t it the cutest thing?  The rose votive holder is from Home Goods.  It’s not really working for me in that space… too red on red.  But for the time, that is where it’s going to be!

I added some silk roses to the fir branches in the guest bathroom.  I like how the roses pop off the dark green. 

A cute tea towel over the bath towels perked up that area.

Pretty simple for this year but I’ve gotten some great ideas for some things to make by next year!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baby, It's COLD Outside!

I’m not a person who gripes a whole lot about winter. In my opinion, it’s a lot better than summer! But it does tend to get on my nerves a bit when it dares to snow on a scheduled “chick day”!   

This last Monday Best Friend and I planned a shopping trip to Nashville. She has a fancy Valentines Gala she’s going to with her Sweetie and Clarksville is pitiful on its selection of classy dresses. As she said, “It is either ‘prom’ or ‘hoochie mama’.” 

With a wink I told her she just didn’t know where to shop… and we headed to Macys at Green Hills mall.

What I really like about Macys is the rate they change out their clothing selections (keeps it fresh and keeps customers coming in to look). And when they change out, they know how to have a sale. The norm is 65% off and it goes up from there. I am so tired of stores who act like 15% off is a wonderful clearance sale.

As we were getting ready to leave it started doing that snow/sleet thing and the temperatures were getting COLD.

So we took Little Red… after all, he has 4 Wheel drive!

By the time we got to Nashville it was only raining. Good deal! Didn’t matter it was a COLD rain.

To get into the shopping mood we had a nice lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.

Then on to my beloved Macys.

I am quite pleased to say I wasn’t let down. Within 20 minutes we had found a great ‘little black dress’ that looked wonderful on her. Since we had done so well with time, we could poke about the mall a bit.

On the way out (stopping by The Cheesecake Factory one more time for dessert) we saw the rain had changed over to snow. And a lot of it. Drat it! So we ordered out cheesecake to go (key lime, thank you very much) and off we went.

What a difference a few COLD hours make…

There were quite a few cars off the road, one on its roof! And you know what? They were ALL sports type cars. We who stayed over in the ‘slow’ lane doing 30 mph did just fine.  You can see the slush on the road.

Nope, a little COLD and snow isn’t going to slow me down!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Mansion Tour and Good Eats Too!

 Recently I visited Fontanel Mansion ( ) with a group of ladies from the Extension Homemaker’s association of Todd Co, KY for a tour of the mansion and lunch afterwards at the attractions restaurant.

You are probably asking, “And what is Fontanel Mansion?” I didn’t know either… I was just up for a fun day out with friends. Fontanel Mansion is the former home of Barbara Mandrell located just NW of Nashville in the tiny town of Whites Creek. It is the world’s largest log cabin. 27,000 square feet.

Apparently her husband got into the log cabin home business and they decided they would build their dream home. It was designed by the same man who did the Country Music Hall of Fame building (and you can see similarities in the design). It was started around 1988 (we had 2 guides on our tour and their information rarely matched). It took about a year and a half to complete. Barbara made a trip to North Carolina and in three days bought ALL of the furnishings for the house. That kinda of blew my mind… it would take me months of careful selection to furnish my home from scratch.

The family lived in it only 14 years. They then sold it and ‘downsized’ to a 6000 square foot home in the very nice Belle Meade section of Nashville.

The house was bought by country music managing company partners. They have turned it into a tourist attraction (these tours, a restaurant, gift shop and dinner theater), a concert venue and they rent the house out for music video productions, movies and reality series (apparently there was a ‘country’ version of “Big Brother”).

There is very little of Barbara Mandrell’s tenure in the home. The master bedroom and bath, and two guest rooms are the only ones as they were. There are some pieces of furniture that have either been donated or bought back to go in the house (when Barbara quit the music business and moved out of Fontanel, she burned her bridges by having a huge yard sale on the front lawn of the mansion. Many things were sold, including most of her musical instruments. She has made NO public appearances in the music sector since then and now spends her time gardening. Seriously!)

(I apologize for the photography. The house is many lighted with the huge skylight and windows and it was a bright but hazy day. This resulted in very harsh photographic lighting. I’ve played with them a bit to improve the shots…)

The house is staged with furniture that has been used in and left from the productions filmed in it, plus the few pieces of original furniture brought back.

You enter the house on the second floor or ground level. After you enter the house, there are about 4 different directions you can go. Turning to the far right you enter the Great Room that takes up the end of the house.

This photo shows about 2/3 of the room. The ceiling is 37’ high. Apparently the logs weren’t properly dried and for several years (according to one of the guides) were shrinking at the rate of up to 4” a year. The metal turnbuckle system was installed to keep the roof from falling apart.

The management team who bought the house managed the group “Alabama”, so besides Barbara Mandrell memorabilia there is also a lot of “Alabama” stuff. It’s a combination of those in the built-in bookshelves. The conversation areas on the right and left of the photo were Barbara’s as was the bull bone table in the center of the sofa area. The ‘sofa pit’ (there is matching sofa/chair combo opposite of what you can see) is left over from that country “Big Brother” show. The double helix spiral stair is made from mahogany.

And this is the other 1/3 of the room.  To the left you can see the foyer entrance.

A close up of the fireplace.

The Steinway piano was a leftover from a shoot.  The room is decorated with guitars from various country music stars. 

Now back in the foyer, if you go to the far left you enter the formal dining room.  Only the built-ins, rug and chandelier are original.  That chandy has 8000 crystals.  The flokati rug came from Greece.
I thought this idea in the butler’s pantry was so cute!  To measure the kids’ growth, the ‘yard stick’ marked feet rather than inches.  I just can NOT imagine leaving this behind, can you? 

This is the master bedroom.  We were told it was original furnishings.  The fireplace is marble.

The sitting area.

And the master bathroom.  Barbara’s side.

You can see it’s a large room.  The wall behind the vanity is also mirrored.

The guide called this the ‘family room’.  Apparently this is where the family really hung out.  There is a TV tucked up in the right corner (forever playing “The Barbara Mandrell Show”).

Besides the sitting area, there is also a full size kitchen and a dining table.  (There is another kitchen that serviced the large guest dining room.  TWO full kitchen in the house!)  Don’t you just love the 2 deep fryer baskets?  That’s ‘country’… gotta have fried stuff!
The balcony you can see in the picture two above overlooks this… their indoor swimming pool.  (To the right of the pool is a room that is a 22’ shooting gallery set up for use by two shooters at once.  It now houses yet more memorabilia.)

And if you don’t want to look at the pool, on the other side of the room you can gaze at the 300 gallon salt water fish tank. 

Barbara and her husband called their children “the three little bears” and there are bear items all over.  A huge carved sculpture in the driveway at the front of house is the first you’ll see.  This one (detail of one bear) is carved from one log… both the pole and bear are from one log.
Up on the third floor are the soda fountain/game room and the rest of the bedrooms.  If you were a guest in the home, you could have stayed in one of these two guest rooms…

The “Dream Catcher Room”.

I don’t know what sort of dreams I’d have with a bison skull, complete with sharp horns, hanging over my bed!

Or you could stay in the “Frontier Room”.

There were cow hides on the wall and floor!

So, would you be a cowboy or an Indian for the night?

On down the hallway were the rooms the children had plus a few more bedrooms. Two rooms are now set up for the two partners and their wives. And at the very end of the hallway was this lovely balcony. That was my favorite thing about the home… all the balconies. There were a lot.

I believe one of the guides said there were 9 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms in the house.

The first floor had the pool, shooting gallery, mechanical works and storage. This last photo shows the area of the pool.

After the tour our group had lunch at the Farmhouse Restaurant at the entrance of the attraction. I would call it “upscale Southern” menu. I had an appetizer of Butter Bean Hummus (shared with the group), and for my meal I had the catfish with Creole seasoning and the sides of smoked tomato grits and corn & butter bean succotash. Everything was great except the succotash, which wasn’t the traditional casserole type, but rather the colloquial Southern type that is just boiled mix vegetables…and nothing special at that. If I’d known I would have gotten the skillet greens instead.

I will definitely be making return visits to the restaurant. Very good!