Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Friday, July 27, 2012

Foodie Friday: Rhubarb Crumb Cake Bars

Here we are a week later and I do indeed have another interesting recipe to share!
If your garden is anything like mine it's looking a bit over run with an abundance of rhubarb! Going out to the garden and picking some this afternoon I plucked away several dead and rotting bits that have perished in the extreme heat of the last few weeks and began puling fresh stems and trimming them as I went.

I guess I tugged a bit too much on this one because the whole cluster came away!

The recipe I picked to try this week is a recipe I originally found from Martha Stewart  but it looked like it needed a bit tweaking and there's nothing I love better than a good recipe mystery! The original is here and my rewritten version is below!

Rhubarb Crumb Cake Bars

6 T. butter, melted
1 c. AP flour
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

1# rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 T. light brown sugar
1/4 AP flour

3/4 c. AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 butter, room temperature
1 c. powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan and set it aside.

Make the streusel by mixing the melted butter, flour, salt and brown sugar together with a fork until it is thoroughly blended. Set it aside for later.

Next, mix the rhubarb together with the 1T. of brown sugar and the 1/4 c. flour until all the pieces are coated in flour.

Tip: Coating fruit with flour before putting it into a cake or muffin batter does two things: it helps keep it suspended in the batter as it bakes so the fruit doesn't fall to the bottom of the batter and it helps to keep juicier fruit from bleeding all through the batter.

In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set it aside for later.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer combine the butter and powdered sugar and beat until it becomes light in color and texture. Add the eggs, one at a time and vanilla and beat thoroughly. (In the first picture you will see the eggs may look a little funny- that is because when baking almost always the eggs and vanilla get added at the same point in the recipe so I just mix them together for expediencies sake!)  Add the prepared flour mixture and mix in.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan, this will take some patience as it will look like there is not enough batter but if you start with dollops in the corners and work to the center it should spread evenly. 

Sprinkle the batter with the prepared rhubarb.

Sprinkle the rhubarb with the prepared streusel. 

Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out just about clean. 

Allow the cake to cool and cut it into squares. Cutting the pan 4 x 5 gives you 20 2 inch squares. 

Eat Well!    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Meme: Question Three

Question #3

"What Movie Soundtrack Would You Like to Have Playing During Key Moments of Your Life?"

This is such an easy question that I don't even need to think about it! ;) Without a doubt the greatest track and the one that I would have play during epic moments of my life is from the 2003 version of Peter Pan. The track is the theme track and is filled with the epic soaring, weightlessness, and happiness that I would hope would reflect 'key' moments of my life.

Here is a clip:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Meme: Question Two

Question # 2

Name Ten of Your Favorite Movies (so far!)

Well, after last week's indecision this question is a much easier one to answer! Especially since this list will not contain any period movies- a genre that I think deserves it's own list since there is so many fine ones out there! Having ten spots to fill gives me a bunch of room to flail around in movie epicness! ;)
In no particular order because we all know I have so much trouble ranking things....

  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954 Howard Keel & Jane Powel
  • Peter Pan 1960 Mary Martin/ Peter Pan 2003/ Finding Neverland 2004 Johnny Depp & Kate Winslet  (Yes, I'm counting this all as one)
  • My Favorite Wife 1940 Cary Grant & Irene Dunne
  • Singin' in the Rain 1952 Gene Kelly & Debbie Reynolds
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1968 Dick VanDyke & Sally Ann Howes
  • Yours, Mine and Ours 1968 Lucille Ball & Henry Fonda
  • The Phantom of the Opera 2004 Gerard Butler & Emmy Rossum
  • You've Got Mail 1998 Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan
  • While You Were Sleeping 1995 Sandra Bullock & Bill Pullman 
  • The Glass Bottom Boat 1966 Doris Day & Rod Taylor 

So there they are! The 'regular' movies I could watch over and over again! The 'period' ones will follow in another question!

What are your favorites?!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Foodie Friday's: Fusion Chicken Pitas

This week as I started to gather ingredients together to make one of my favorite marinades I had a thought. This thought poked me in the brain and asked me: Why don't you do a tutorial on this recipe for the blog?
Good question!
And so, I give you Foodie Friday's! Well, I give you Foodie Friday. If I am able to come up with something interesting and worthy of the world's approval and your tummies eating than I will, each week put one of these up! If I don't, I won't. :) But it should be interesting to see if I can make one interesting thing each week!

This week I would like to introduce you to Fusion Chicken Pita's. I am calling this recipe fusion because I simply can't decide if this leans more to the Mediterranean or to the Middle Eastern- and trust me I've been puzzling this over for quite a while now! If you are not familiar with the term fusion is a culinary term that is used to describe a blending of two cultures, or sometimes region's, cooking styles and ingredients. The result can be quite delish! The marinade for this chicken is yogurt based and has lemon, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes which are all the flavors of Greece. However, this recipe also has a healthy helping of cumin- which along with the yogurt and garlic and lemon place its flavor profile firmly back in the Middle Eastern category! 

And thus you see my dilemma. 
And thus, Fusion Chicken was born.   

Now, enough of my talking- let's get down to the recipe!

Fusion Chicken Pitas

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 lemon, juiced (1 1/2 T. bottled will do if you don't have fresh)
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 T. cumin
1/4 cup fresh oregano (or 1/2 T. dried)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt (I use Kosher)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 to 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts

romaine or leaf lettuce
tomatoes, diced/sliced/wedged as you please (opt.)
cheese- feta would be good but any hard cheese grated- like brick or Jack would be fine too (I used colby as I had it on hand)
red onion, thin sliced (opt.)

1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup shredded English cucumber, pealed

Measure yogurt into a medium bowl.
Prep the fresh garlic.

Tip: The easiest way to do this is to place the clove on your cutting board and place your chef's knife over the clove and with a flat palm press your weight into it crushing it. This will allow you to easily remove the skin to discard it.
Repeat the same crushing action again a couple of times to break down the garlic; sprinkle a pinch or two of salt (Kosher) over the garlic and use its coarseness to grind the garlic into a paste scraping against the board and piling it up again as needed, at this point you can also run your blade through the paste several times slicing down any larger bits you find.

This should be the result:

Add the garlic and remaining ingredients to the yogurt and stir mixing everything thoroughly.

(I had to use dried oregano as the heat outside has fried my fresh garden stuff.)

Remove 1/4 cup and set aside in a larger sealable container for later. This will be the base for our dressing.

Split the chicken breasts lengthwise and add it to the marinade making sure to coat each piece well. Cover tightly or transfer to a ziplock bag and seal refrigerating 6 hours or overnight.

To make the dressing: Add the sour cream and cucumber to the reserved marinade and stir well before refrigerating. It is best to allow this to sit for an hour to combine the flavors before serving.

Grill the chicken to an internal temp of 165 degrees. If the chicken isn't quite done but the marinade is starting to burn take the chicken off and give it a quick minute in the microwave to bring it up to temp the rest of the way. Cool the chicken partially and place in the refrigerator to chill completely.

Cut the chicken in strips and set aside. Take the pitas and warm them on a low temp in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes. (If you are using 'real' pitas you will want to cut the pitas in half to open up the pockets.) Stuff the pitas with lettuce and put a little of the dressing on top, add the cheese, tomatoes and onions (if you are using) and top with chicken strips and a little more dressing. 

Eat Well!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Meme: Question One

Well there has been an awful lot of blogging about books around here lately so I thought I would break it up by doing a meme to make things interesting!

So, many of you are likely sitting there scratching your head and wondering "What on earth is she talking about?", "What is a meme?".

I'm glad you asked.

A meme is essentially an idea or behavior that spreads from one person to another; it is something that repeats. In the terms of the internet (or this post) a meme is generally a series of questions that is repeated from blog to blog and answered with the poster's own thoughts. The subject matter of a meme can vary wildly and can include questions on one topic or a multitude of topics and have as many or as few questions as the blogger desires.

This meme will have about 8 or 9 questions and I'll be posting one question a week. If you would like to 'steal' this meme and use it on your own site steal away- just comment back here and let me know because I'd sure like to read your answers too!

Question #1

"What is your favorite line from your favorite movie and why?" 

So, here's the thing, This is the impossible question for me- unfortunately I really am that indecisive that I can't pick my favorite movie! And ya know what?

I'm ok with that.

Here's something you likely don't know about me- I'm really choosy about my movies and I never buy or ask for a movie that isn't my favorite in some way. I don't have to have a favorite movie and I don't have to love one of my 'movie children' better than another.
When I look a my movie cubbie I see and hear all the best of the best lines...
There is:

Persuasion Where Anne Elliot argues the virtue of women and the longevity of a woman's love.
"If I may, so long as the woman you love lives, and lives for you, all the privilege I claim for my own sex, and it is not a very enviable one - you need not covet it, is that of loving longest when all hope is gone."
Love this because how truly it resonates... Jane as always knows what she is talking about!

Amazing Grace Where Barbara and Wilbur are really talking in depth for the first time and she is making him tell her all about his quest to end slavery in England when all he wants to do is forget it she tells him...
Barbara Wilberforce: It seems to me, that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you spit it out. You don't constantly swallow it back.
This is only one of the many gems in this movie! But I love the spunk and determination with which Barbara has to help Wilbur see his mission in life through to the end. She is a great match for him!

And yes, I'll be a bit cliched here-  Pride and Prejudice:
Lady Catherine: "Upon my word, you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. -- Pray, what is your age?''
Lizzy: "With three younger sisters grown up, your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.''
Lady Catherine: "You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, -- therefore you need not conceal your age.''
Lizzy: "I am not one and twenty.''
This one make me you know how often I've been tempted to use it myself?

Aah, so many great movies and quotes- how can I help but love them all?!

Although it is not one that you may be familiar with I have to say that my favorite line of all time has to come from the old Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda classic:
Yours Mine and Ours:
[Helen is about to have a baby]
Colleen:  I know this is a terrible time to talk about it, but Larry says...
Frank: I've got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what it's all about. This is the real happening. If you want to know what love really is, take a look around you.
Helen: What are you two talking about?
Frank: Take a good look at your mother.
Helen: Not now!
Frank: Yes, now.
[to Colleen]
Frank: It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won't keep it turning. Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.
[Leaving the house, they say good-bye to the little kids]
Frank: I suppose having 19 kids is carrying it a bit too far, but if we had it to do over who would we skip... you?
Helen: [getting into the car] Thank you, Frank. I never quite knew how to explain it to her.
Frank: If we don't get you to the hospital fast, the rest of it's going to be explained right here!
It's the perfect ultra romantic statement about what real romance is all about!

So there is is...not one but several of my favorite movie quotes from several of my favorite movies! No, I didn't reeeealy follow the meme prompt exactly but I had fun doing what I did and that's what it's all about!!

So are you in the mood to meme with me? Stay tuned for next weeks question!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Starting..... now!

Oooh, ooh, ooh! Lookie here I just found the coolest gadget that tests how fast you read! My score was 301 words per minute- what's yours? Post it back to me in the comments- I'm dying to know!!

Test here...

Book Review: "My Stubborn Heart"

This review may contain some spoilers. Read with caution!

"My Stubborn Heart" by: Becky Wade

As most of you will have guessed by now I love a good light-hearted romantic-comedy in my films and I love it when a book is able to pull off that same depth of warm fuzzies that a (good) rom-com can! When "My Stubborn Heart" popped up in my review selection I knew that from the cheerful cover to the warm description that this book promised a good light-hearted romantic read!

The story is about Kate Donovan, a thirty-one year old single young woman who is completely burned out on every aspect of her life. Feeling the need to break the ruts he has lived too long in she has agreed to take a sabbatical from her job as a social worker and pack up and move from Dallas to rural Pennsylvania to help her Gran refurbish and restore the house she grew up in.  Kate and Gran dig into the project with gusto purging the home of its 1955 redecorated interior and uncovering long forgotten treasures while breathing life back into the grand old house. With a project so large it's hard to get by without a little help from your friends and Kate and Gran are no different- Gran's hometown buddies, a quirky mix of ageing retirees lend a hand and humor to this book.
Also lending a hand is handy man Matt Jarreau a local young man that Gran has known since he was 'this big' who is now living with a tragic past that he can't outrun. Matt, once a professional hockey player and mega celebrity has quite simply quit hockey and quit life after the death of his wife to cancer several years before. Matt is a hard, closed case for social worker Kate who likes to be open and bring people out of their shells- and Kate begins to wonder if this is what she was really brought to Chapel Bluff for even as she fights her growing attraction to Matt. Matt in the meantime has no doubt as to the attraction he is feeling for Kate- and the guilt that it brings with it...the only problem for Matt is that his heart is still in tatters from his wife's death- what happens if he lets Kate get a hold of it- and worse, what happens if he lets God get a hold of his heart too?

I really loved about the first six chapters of this book, from there the plot went a bit sideways. The prologue is sweet and charming pulling the reader in with a 'once upon a time' style set up that quickly jumps into the heart of the story. From there- and throughout the book- the dialog is quick, natural and snappy breathing a lifelike, 3-D quality to each character and situation and moves the plot along rapidly. And that is where things get sticky. By the time the reader hits chapter seven Matt is insatiably 'in love' with Kate going into a complete 'abort-mission-eject-now' tailspin that sees him crashing and burning simply because Kate has gone away for the weekend! From there Matt's passion and desire for Kate is not logically and thoughtfully cultivated but brought to and left in top gear for the duration of the story up to its stormy, passionate resolution at the end of the book. While Matt does get his life together as a result of Kate's help and Kate does reach a point of 'surrender to a higher purpose' in helping him, the thing that drove the book- and drove me crazy in the process- was that the characters stop- or in some cases, never start- talking to each other in an honest and direct way about the way they feel or the way they feel God moving in their lives! It's a fault that leads them both to further heartbreak and disillusionment  before it ever leads them together. It's a fault that leaves, this reader at least, disillusioned with the direction of the plot.

No good romantic-comedy revvs its viewers up full throttle only to hold them there for the remainder of the film. Instead, every great romance involves a secret well hidden and gently cultivated until the time of revelation and redemption comes. While I really love this new author's writing style and way with words (her observations on church singles groups and on taking out the trash chores had me rolling with laughter) I can't help but wish and think that a more steady pace with more open conversations would have produced a story that would have had more power and less theatrics.

Having said that, I will look forward to giving this author a second chance with her next publication and hope that with time her writing matures and gives readers that depth of warm fuzzes that every rom-com reader is looking for.

For this book I say 3.5 stars!

 I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: "The Messenger"

"The Messenger" by: Siri Mitchell

I chose to review this book because I had confused the author with Syrie James whose book "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen" I had read, and I wanted to see what that author could do with more original material. Unfortunately, I only realized my mistake after I had finished reading "The Messenger"! Oh well!

This book is the story of Hannah Sutherland a Quaker in the midst of the American War for Independence. The story takes place in Philadelphia over the winter of 1778- the winter of Valley Forge's almost starvation... Hannah and her family are forced to quarter British troops in their home and live side by side with men who they want nothing to do with. These circumstances quickly force Hannah and her family out of their home and they take refuge in the home of her affluent aunt and uncle. In the midst of the upheaval in her life Hannah and her family has learned that their son, Hannah's twin brother, who fights for General Washington has been captured and thrown in jail but as part of the Quaker mandate they choose to let him rot in jail as part of the 'consequences' and 'just punishment' for the action he has chosen in going to war.  Hannah, having a deep connection to her twin begins feeling the specter of her brother and the deplorable conditions he is living in and is determined to do something to help him even though she knows it is forbidden by her 'Meeting'.

Enter Jeremiah Jones, a former British soldier in Pontiac's War. Jeremiah lost his hand in a skirmish during that war and now runs a tavern and lives in bitter resignation that he will never lead the life that he thought he would, the life that he desires to live with a wife and family. Jeremiah is a mercenary with no true loyalties and uses his tavern, as a bustling center of activity and gossip, to pass that information on. At the moment he is working to pass information to Washington through an intermediary- but finds himself on his own as the man feels the risk is becoming too great for him to continue. This leaves Jeremiah the recipient of a message planning a jail break to liberate Washington's captured soldiers with no one to work with and no means to deliver it...

So begins an unlikely partnership of convenience. Through a series of events Jeremiah is able to get Hannah into the prison to visit her brother- and pass messages and materials- in the hopes of making the jail break possible and in the process save Hannah's brother from certain death. Hannah and Jeremiah constantly butt heads and fight over the things he asks of her and what she is willing to do for him. In the midst of this Jeremiah falls in love with Hannah, but although he feels the effects of her kindness and self-sacrifice that warms his hardened heart and causes him to become a better man he continues to believe that no woman will ever want him. Hannah, in seeing the effects of war up close and personal, begins a tortured journey of conscience that eventually separates her from her 'Meeting' and her family as she can no longer stand by and remain neutral.

I really wanted to like this book as I have always enjoyed 'Revolutionary War' fiction but I kept putting the book down in disappointment... I did feel that the book is well researched but try as I might I just couldn't connect with the story. The storyline itself could have been workable and good but the narrative throughout feels really off as it is told in a really odd first person voice which also switches back and forth between the two main characters perspectives.
Much of what Hannah struggles with throughout the book stems from philosophies and theologies that I know are integral to the Quakers but are so opposite of what I myself believe that it was difficult to see that played out without wanting to throttle a few people! I was glad to see her reach a point of decision and action that allowed her to move forward with her life in a direction that she knew to be right.
Something that really grated on me was the actions of Hannah's parents, particularly her father. As they are living as guests in the aunt's home they repeatedly make a nuisance of themselves by refusing the help of the household servants/slaves or by trying to do their work. This action does nothing but make life more difficult for the servants as it brings attention and hardship to their usually unnoticed lives/work. This is always done in the name of abolition with the reasoning that 'these people are made in God's image and should not be owned by any one' (which is true) but the sentiment is curiously laughable in the face of their refusal to take sides and help those- like their own son- who are dying in the prison or are fighting to free the country from being under the tyrannnical rule of the British!!  
The thing that was extremely frustrating was the book's abrupt ending! After more than 350 pages we finally get to the big event and the reader feels that the wrap up is about to begin- then you turn the page and find you are at the end without even an epilogue! So many things are left up in the air and without answers that it really cheats the reader out of a truly happy ending! With good resolution this book could have had a strong ending that would have left the reader more satisfied.

So, in the end this is a story with good potential that never lives up to what it could be and leaves readers wanting what they should have gotten after so many long pages!

This book gets a disappointed 2 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Review: "The Rose of Winslow Street"

"The Rose of Winslow Street" by: Elizabeth Camden

The Rose of Winslow Street is a tale set in 1879 Massachusetts and revolves around Libby Sawyer a 28 year old spinster who lives a solitary life with her father in a well-appointed, quiet neighborhood home. Libby is a talented young woman who delights in painting botanical illustrations, nurturing her deceased mother's rose garden, and loving on her five year old niece. She is a woman of character, strength, and infinite patience with her elderly, absent minded, inventing professor father.
She is also a woman who has lived an unnoticed life.

However, this book opens not with Libby but with a mysterious stranger shepherding a lady, two small children and several men into Libby's vacated-for-the-summer home under the cover of darkness. The man is Michael Dobrescu who has recently arrived from Romania and is now laying legal claim to Libby's father's house! Michael is a physically imposing man who fiercely protects his family even as he tries the best way he knows how to provide for them. But just like Libby, Michael is a multifaceted character who holds secrets and proves surprising at every turn!

As Professor Sawyer and Michael tumble into a fiercely contested legal battle for the house Libby finds herself torn between her father's outraged demands for fealty and the shunning of the interlopers and the surprising kindness, acceptance, inspiration and purpose she finds amongst Michael and his family. Despite the inward and outward turmoil it causes Libby finds herself reaching out in Christian charity to the people who occupy her home and quickly finds Michael himself occupying her heart. But why should anyone love a forgotten woman like her? And who will find themselves the true owner of the house on Winslow Street?  These questions and more are answered with such satisfaction and storytelling skill that the reader will be amazed at where this tale ends!

One of the surprising things about this book is that the supporting characters are just as well crafted and important to the story as the main characters! From Michael's sister the quiet and broken Lady Mirela to Libby's sister-in-law the ingratiating and conniving Regina, these characters add so much to the story that they help to bring to life and further highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters. One supporting character that I had a great deal of trouble putting up with though, much less liking, was Libby's father Professor Sawyer. The Professor is an ill-tempered, off balance, and even at times unhinged old man who has used Libby's artistic talents to have technical drawings of his inventions made while all the time looking at and treating her as a burden and a "mental deficient" because of her illiteracy and her singleness. His verbally harsh treatment of her in a number of scenes broke my heart but throughout it all Libby amazingly honors her father and never retaliates in any way and continues to care for her father's wellbeing until her long awaited exit comes.

This book is driven by the conflict and resolution of the issue of the house but is graced with the gentle love story of Libby and Michael. It is a love that slowly develops and is uncontrived and unforced- something that is refreshing to see in any current piece of fiction!

This is the first book I've read by Elizabeth Camden and after this it cerainly won't be the last! From the very beginning to the final pages the author grows a story that is, just like a rose, deeply layered and revealing it's true beauty as time goes on to finally be fully mature and produce the sweetest of fragrances. It is a true pleasure to read and I hope you do!

My rating is 5 out of 5 stars!

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.