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Archive for July, 2013

Zeppole plated

In the midst of writing a historical romance about an Italian girl who loves to cook, I decided to try out a few Italian recipes, trying to stick to selections she would have made in 1900.

Lucky enough to stumble across a cookbook, Italian Cooking, written by Dorothy Daly in 1900, it really helped me know the types of ingredients Caterina would have used and had available as well as cooking methods.

Of my experiments, so far, Captain Cavedweller has liked Zeppole the most.  Zeppole are Italian pastries, deep-fried of various sizes (especially if I’m the one making them!). Typically, they are about four inches in diameter.

I almost had to beat CC away with my spatula when I was finishing making these the other day because he was eating them about as fast as I was cooking them.

Rich and yeasty, they were really simple to make and amazingly tasty.

Start with some very basic ingredients.

Start with some very basic ingredients.

 

Mix the flour and salt together and set aside.

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together and set aside.

 

Mix yeast with warm water and let set about five minutes.

Mix yeast with warm water and let set about five minutes.

 

Lightly whip eggs into yeast.

Lightly whip eggs into yeast.

 

Then add the flour mixture. The dough will be really sticky - not like bread dough.

Then add the flour mixture. The dough will be really sticky – not like bread dough.

 

Set in a warm spot, cover with a dish towel and let rise for about 20 minutes. Stir it back down and repeat the process. Can't you almost smell the yest with those delicious looking bubbles in the dough?

Set in a warm spot, cover with a dish towel and let rise for about 20 minutes. Stir it back down and repeat the process. Can’t you almost smell the yest with those delicious looking bubbles in the dough?

 

Heat about four cups of oil in a heavy saucepan (you want a couple inches of oil in there) and heat over medium-high heat until a bit of dough dropped in sizzles. Drop a heaping spoon of dough (carefully!) into the oil and fry until golden brown. These sweet little babies turn themselves over so you don't have to, unless you want to, then by all means-  go right ahead!

Heat about four cups of oil in a heavy saucepan (you want a couple inches of oil in there) and heat over medium-high heat until a bit of dough dropped in sizzles. Drop a heaping spoon of dough (carefully!) into the oil and fry until golden brown. These sweet little babies turn themselves over so you don’t have to, unless you want to, then by all means- go right ahead!

 

While the Zeppole cool enough to be handled, scoop some powdered sugar into a lunch bag. Drop in a piece of the fried dough and give it a good shake then be prepared to fight people off.

While the Zeppole cool enough to be handled, scoop some powdered sugar into a lunch bag. Drop in a piece of the fried dough and give it a good shake then be prepared to fight people off.

 

You can also mix up some cinnamon and sugar...

You can also mix up some cinnamon and sugar…

And roll them around in it.

And roll them around in it.

See wasn’t that easy?

Zeppole

2/3 cup sugar

3 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 pkg. instant yeast

1 cup warm water

3 eggs

Mix flour, sugar and salt then set aside.

Empty yeast into a large bowl with warm water. Stir until dissolved then let rest about five minutes.

Add in eggs and whip lightly then add flour and stir until well mixed.

Cover bowl with a dish towel and set in a warm place for 20 minutes. Stir down the dough and let rise again before frying.

Heat a heavy-duty pan of oil on medium-high heat until a drop of dough sizzles in the pan.

Drop a tablespoon full of the dough (think in terms of the size of a plum) into the oil, being carefully not to burn yourself on any splatters and cook until golden brown. The Zeppole turn themselves over when they are cooking, which is fun to watch.

Drain on paper towels or paper bags (to soak up the grease) then drench in sugar. I liked powdered sugar best and CC preferred cinnamon and sugar. Either is delicious.

You can also serve these with fruit or whipped cream, if you so desire. (Or stand over the bag with powdered sugar devouring these like a ravenous beast.)

She Who Loves Italian Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In our travels on our vacation, one stop took us to an heirloom garden where flowers and veggies popular a century or so ago were featured at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, WA.

garden arch

It was quite lovely.

purple poppy

There were plants that looked familiar and then some that we’d never seen before, like this gorgeous purple poppy. I want some of these!

artichoke

The artichokes grew in spiky splendor along with staples like corn and potatoes.

hollyhocks

They had the loveliest hollyhocks, growing contained where they were supposed to. While I gazed on in admiration, I saw Captain Cavedweller shudder. One year his mom and I both planted hollyhocks… apparently about three times as many as we should have and both of our yards were quickly overtaken with the towering blooms. I’ve been banned from ever again in this lifetime planting hollyhocks (I my mother-in-law was, too) so we have to admire them from afar.

flowers bright

I fell in love with this bright flower. I just loved the color and, of course, realized later I forgot to right down the name of the plant.

flowers against sky

Anyone have any ideas? The way they bloomed against the summer sky was absolutely gorgeous!

She Who Loves Seeing New Things

 

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wheat lr

Last week, Captain Cavedweller and I took some time off and escaped to a big city where I can shop to my heart’s content and he can eat things like fall-off-the bone delicious ribs and the best french fries known to man.

Driving to our destination, we enjoyed the scenery and I may have asked (okay, more like yelled “stop the car!”) to pull over a few times to snap photos.

This is one of a beautiful wheat field set against the gorgeous summer sky.

I’ll be sharing more vacation photos and stories this week, just as soon as I get my head back on straight and our laundry done!

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The Christmas Bargain

The Christmas Bargain Cover lr

Forgive my shameless self-promotion today… but The Christmas Bargain is featured on StoryFinds as part of their Christmas in July theme this week.Hope you”ll check it out!

If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s a little blurb:

***

Luke Granger is about to get more than he bargained for… As owner and manager of the Hardman Bank, Luke Granger is a man of responsibility and integrity in the small 1890s Eastern Oregon town. Calling in a long overdue loan, Luke finds himself reluctantly accepting a bargain in lieu of payment from the shiftless farmer who barters his daughter to settle his debt.

Philamena Booth is both mortified and relieved when her father sends her off with the banker as payment of his debt. Held captive on the farm by her father since the death of her mother more than a decade earlier, Philamena is grateful to leave. If only it had been someone other than the handsome and charismatic Luke Granger riding in to rescue her. Ready to uphold her end of the bargain as Luke’s cook and housekeeper, Philamena is prepared for the hard work ahead. What she isn’t prepared for is being forced to marry Luke as part of this crazy Christmas bargain.

***

And an excerpt:

***

Participating in more of Luke’s kissing lessons scrambled Filly’s thoughts the next morning as she turned on the kitchen lights and started setting out the items she needed to make cinnamon muffins, fried heham and eggs for breakfast.

Although he’d teased her about it plenty the previous evening, a neighbor in need of a hand kept Luke out late and Filly had gone to bed with thoughts of his kisses lingering in her dreams.

Humming a rousing rendition of  Deck the Halls, Filly acknowledged she was both anticipating and dreading her next kissing lesson with Luke. Whenever he touched her, she tingled all over and felt strange fluttering sensations in her midsection. Just looking at his inviting lips made her feel flushed and light headed.

Retrieving eggs from the ice box, she turned to witness the biggest spider she’d ever seen in her life crawling across the counter.

Dropping the eggs, she let out a blood curdling scream that sounded throughout the house.

Just finishing his morning shave after taking a bath, Luke nearly sliced through his jaw with the razor when Filly’s scream echoed down the hallway. Dropping the razor in the sink, Luke tore out of the bathroom and ran down the hall, skidding into the kitchen to find a wide-eyed Filly staring transfixed at the counter.

Casting his glance that direction, he was surprised to see a huge spider scurrying across the end of the counter and vaulting itself to the floor. Luke hurried to the pantry, retrieved the broom and killed the spider. Sweeping it out the door, he went to Filly and folded her into his arms.

Putting her arms around him and resting her head on his chest, he felt her take in a huge gulp of air. He rubbed her back and murmured soft words until he felt her relax. Pushing her back, he cupped her cheek and looked into her eyes.

“Okay, now?” he asked, realizing the jokes he’d heard about women needing men to kill spiders for them was true.

Filly was anything but okay. Luke was standing before her in nothing but a towel knotted around his waist. Trying not to stare, but helpless not to notice, she took in his broad shoulders, tight muscles and fine matting of golden hair on his chest. His hair was still damp and fell in waves around his forehead, and a dollop of shaving cream still clung to one cheek. Her mouth suddenly went dry and she felt dizzy.

Luke had as fine a physique as any man should be allowed to have and the majority of it was on display right there in the kitchen.

“Filly, are you okay?” Luke asked, putting his hands on her upper arms and giving her a worried look when she didn’t respond.

Nodding her head, she attempted to regain her composure.

“I would never have pictured you as an afraid-of-spiders kind of girl,” Luke said, trying to lighten the mood with his teasing.  “Granted it was a big one, but I thought you’d been nearly killed by your screaming.”

“Sorry,” Filly said, stepping back so she could lean against the counter until her knees felt capable of holding her upright without assistance. Seeing the spider brought back unpleasant memories she’d rather have kept buried. She knew it was silly to have such a reaction, but she couldn’t help it.

“What is it?” Luke asked, genuinely concerned at her white face and shaking hands. “Come on, Filly, tell me what’s wrong.”

Shuddering, Filly wrapped her arms around herself and looked off in the distance, lost in the past. “My father sometimes locked me in the cellar when he got really angry with me. It was dark and there were spiders. So many spiders. I couldn’t see them and they’d crawl on me and… I don’t like spiders.”

“Filly,” Luke’s voice came out in a ragged whisper. “I’m so sorry, darlin’. So sorry.” Pulling her to him again, he held her close, furious once again at the suffering she had needlessly endured. “Everything is fine now. No one will ever put you in the cellar. And you scream all you want anytime you see a spider. I promise to come slay it for you.”

“Thank you,” Filly whispered, once again stepping back from Luke. Knowing they were married, a part of her still felt wicked for seeing Luke in his current state of undress. Unable to resist the temptation, though, she reached out a hand and rested it on his muscled chest, right above his heart. “Thank you for being such a good man.”

Filly’s hand on his chest was about to burn right through Luke. He had completely forgotten all he wore was a towel until he felt her hand warm against his skin. He would like nothing better than to sweep her into his arms and continue their kissing lesson, skipping right past hugging and moving directly on to marital bliss.

Now was not the time to give in to his growing desire for his wife. Instead, he took a moment to tamp down his need and let Filly gather herself together.

“I’ll finish getting dressed and help you clean up the mess,” he said, as she stood holding the edge of the counter in a death grip.

“That won’t be necessary,” she said, grabbing a kitchen towel and bending down to clean up the broken eggs. When she turned to see if Luke had left the kitchen, he was standing watching her. Her vision was suddenly filled with Luke’s muscled legs and she felt her cheeks flame once again as her eyes traveled up to where his thighs disappeared behind the white towel.

Watching Filly blush, Luke bent over and grasped her arm, pulling her to her feet. “See something you like, Mrs. Granger?”

“Good gracious, Luke, don’t be…” Filly was so rattled, she couldn’t even think of a word to describe him.

“Dashing, charming, your knight devoid of his armor?” Luke teased, quite pleased at his wife’s flustered state.

“No, so…so…” Filly spluttered, completely flustered.

“Appealing, enchanting, handsome?” Luke added, kissing her cheek.

“Conceited!” Filly managed to say, trying to keep from smiling.

Luke slapped a hand to his chest and took a step back. “You wound me, wife, deeply and profoundly.” Luke would have continued his theatrics, but the towel started to slip. Grabbing it with both hands, he shot Filly a devilish grin then sauntered back to the bathroom to finish getting ready.

Following Luke’s exit from the kitchen from the corner of her eye, Filly let out the breath she’d been holding.

Merciful stars, she had no idea what men looked like beneath their clothes. No wonder girls became so distracted thinking about boys. Picturing Luke’s muscled arms and chest made heat rush through her from head to toe. Thoughts of those muscled legs made her stomach flutter.

How was she supposed to keep her focus on anything with her growing attraction to Luke? She had admired, respected and liked him from the first day he rescued her. Immediately, she was infatuated with him. The past few weeks she knew she loved him, truly loved him, and now she realized she wanted him.

Desperately.

***

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choc icebox platdWhen the weather is hot and I’m feeling lazy, I like to focus as little attention as possible on spending time in the kitchen.

That’s one reason I love good old-fashioned ice-box desserts. They come together in a snap, can be made the night before, and taste wonderful

My latest version involves chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!

Ingredients ... and out of the 396 packages of Oreos at the store, of course I grab the one with birthday sprinkles in the filling!

Ingredients … and out of the 396 packages of Oreos at the store, of course I grab the one with birthday sprinkles in the filling!

 

Start by crushing the cookies into small, obliterated chunks. You can do this in the food processor, with a meat tenderizer, or have your husband beat them to death. Captain Cavedweller happened to wander into the kitchen at just the right time and got put into service as the cookie pounder.

Start by crushing the cookies into small, obliterated chunks. You can do this in the food processor, with a meat tenderizer, or have your husband beat them to death. Captain Cavedweller happened to wander into the kitchen at just the right time and got put into service as the cookie pounder.

 

While the cookies are being pulverized, whip the cream until thick and luscious. I added about a half-cup of powdered sugar, to give it a little sweetness. Just stir in gently once the whipping cream is thoroughly whipped.

While the cookies are being pulverized, whip the cream until thick and luscious. I added about a half-cup of powdered sugar, to give it a little sweetness. Just stir in gently once the whipping cream is thoroughly whipped.

 

Spread the cookies into the bottom of a 9x13 pan and press down.

Spread the cookies into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and press down.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy.

Then add in pudding and milk, blending well.

Then add in pudding and milk, blending well.

 

Pour half the mixture over the top of the cookie crumbs. Work with some sense of urgency at this point because it won't take long for the pudding to begin to set.

Pour half the mixture over the top of the cookie crumbs. Work with some sense of urgency at this point because it won’t take long for the pudding to begin to set.

 

Fold half the whipping cream into the remainder of the pudding mixture.

Fold half the whipping cream into the remainder of the pudding mixture.

 

Spoon on top of pudding mixture already in the pan, then top with remaining whipping cream.

Spoon on top of pudding mixture already in the pan, then top with remaining whipping cream.

 

Spread whipping cream evenly over the top. You can get all fancy and make designs... or not.

Spread whipping cream evenly over the top. You can get all fancy and make designs… or not.

 

I sprinkled mini chocolate chips all over the top of mine. You can add shaved chocolate, toasted coconut, drizzle it with caramel sauce. Whatever strikes your fancy.

I sprinkled mini chocolate chips all over the top of mine. You can add shaved chocolate, toasted coconut, drizzle it with caramel sauce. Whatever strikes your fancy.

The end result is a delicious layered dessert that tastes divine and only takes about 15-20 minutes to whip up.

The end result is a delicious layered dessert that tastes divine and only takes about 15-20 minutes to whip up.

 

Chocolate Icebox Dessert

2 small boxes of instant chocolate pudding

3 1/2 cups milk

1 8oz. package of cream cheese

1 15.5oz. package of Oreo cookies

1 pint of heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Optional toppings (mini chocolate chips, shaved chocolate, coconut, caramel sauce)

Crush cookies until cookies and filling and blended into a crumbly mass (or mess, depending on who you ask).  Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.

Whip cream until peaks form. I like mine sweet, so I add about 1/2 cup of powered sugar and stir in gently.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth then add in pudding mixes and milk. Beat until well blended.

Immediately pour of the pudding mixture over the cookie crumbs in pan. Add half whipping cream to the remaining pudding mixture and stir until blended. Spoon over top of crust and filling in pan.

Top with remaining whipped cream.

Add whatever toppings you like then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit over night in fridge. You can serve immediately, but it tastes so much better the next day. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

She Who Needs to Not Make This Again for Self-Preservation Purposes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What seems like a lifetime ago,  I had a very nice backyard.

tulips-1It was a green oasis, filled with colorful blooms.

cosmos and blue skyThey made my heart happy.

melon blossom

We also had a small garden space where I could grow the veggies and melons that whispered to my heart, calling out “It’s summertime, enjoy!”

Then one cold winter day, our septic system decided it had done it’s duty for enough years and completely died.

Lucky homeowners that we are, we had to put in an extensive system that encompassed our entire backyard.

That translated into nearly every inch of the backyard being dug up and destroyed.  A few rose bushes, a butterfly bush and a hydrangea survived.

Barely.

septic grass before destructionThis shows the beginning of the destruction.

septic right side done

And what it looked like once the system was installed.

What it still looks like, much to my dismay.

Captain Cavedweller and I, due to a series of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket proud, have not yet restored order in the wasteland that has become our backyard.

Since we are still in a state of dirt and destruction, I thought I’d ask for any ideas and opinions on how you would landscape the area. We’ve got a completely clean slate to work with.

Would you add a dining area?

Fire pit?

Terraced flower beds?

We can’t put down anything too heavy or that will sink deep roots.

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to see your ideas. Just post a comment below.

She Who Is Tired of Seeing the Sahara out the Kitchen Window

 

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It’s summer.

It’s hot.

Seems like the perfect time to skip a meal and have a banana split instead.

While you’re at it, might as well invite a few friends over to join in the rebellion and have a great evening!

Here are a few ideas I pilfered from Pinterest.

bana split bites

Banana Split Bites  – It would be easy to have these prepared and ready to go.

giant banana split

Giant Banana Split that will feed everyone all at once. This is really fun from The Red Thread.

banana splits grilled

Grilled Banana Splits from Tasting Table.

banana split br

A traditional banana split, like this one from Baskin-Robbins (that you can easily recreate at home).

banana split party

And some fun and colorful ideas for a Banana Split Party from Kara’s Party Ideas.
She Who May Plan Banana Splits for Dinner Tonight

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