lazy w pumpkin bread

Okay, to be fair, calling this “Lazy W Pumpkin Bread” is a bit of a cheat, for a couple of reasons. First, our little tribe has been enjoying this recipe for many years, since the girls were in Kindergarten and preschool, long before we lived at the farm and identified ourselves as “The Lazy W.” More importantly, this is just an easy variation on another classic from Martha Stewart’s 1995 turquoise cook book. Totally her recipe, made simple for us.

Anyway, it’s a keeper, simple to throw together, and totally open to variations. I hope you try it. Everyone I share it with seems to really love it!

pumpkin bread PLATED

Ingredients:

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 Tablespoons molasses (if I am out I just use really good maple syrup)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup orange juice
1 can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling, that’s totally different)
3 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Extras, totally optional: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, flaked coconut, raisins, pumpkin seeds…

pumpkin bread raw

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare either cupcake tins or loaf pans. I like to butter my loaf pans a little bit then sprinkle them with both flour and cinnamon. Shake out the extra.

With an electric mixer, cream together the room temperature butter, the sugar, and the molasses (or syrup). Beat in the eggs one at a time until the whole mixture is brightly colored and smooth. Now with a wooden spoon stir in the orange juice and pumpkin puree. 

Sift together the dry ingredients, including spices, and add this gradually to the pumpkin mixture. Mix by hand really well then add whatever fancy additions you crave. Handsome likes it plain or with chocolate chips. Jocelyn and I like it with chopped nuts (pecans are great) and flaked raw coconut. I think it would be fantastic with pumpkin seeds on top, too, though we haven’t tried that yet. Seems like a classy Starbuck’s move, right? Also, I have to be really honest here and say that no one at the W votes for raisins. But that is a legitimate option, so I included it. (eww)

Spoon the mixture into loaf pans or cupcake tins, maybe no more than 2/3 full either way, and bake at 350 degrees for between 20 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the thickness of your pan. I know that is a crazy wide margin, but it just depends. Muffins cook quickly; deep bread loaves do not. No worries; you’ll smell the heavenly aroma just before baking time is finished. The outer crust will harden, crack, and become darker. And when the bread is totally done its center will not be so wet (knife test).

pumpkin bread recipe

That’s it! Quick prep, no rise time like with yeasted breads, and fast clean up too. I like to think of this as a fairly healthy but still indulgent treat. It tastes great with coffee, milk, or orange juice. It is excellent fresh and hot and slathered with butter but also cold and three days out, packed in your lunch box. A pumpkin muffin topped with pecans and coconut is super energizing.

pumpkin bread PLATED

I highly recommend you try this recipe. And thank Martha, not me.

Over and out.

XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

trusting changes

Lots of life changes around here lately. Again. But I don’t want to talk about that exactly.

Today I came up for air just long enough to see that everyone around me is going through big changes right now too. Lots of them are happy changes; most people close to me are anticipating big, exciting life events, onward and upward type stuff. Brittany is packing and preparing for a solo trip to Paris. Nicole is expecting another baby. My nephew is turning eighteen. Stephanie is on her way to a much needed San Diego retreat to start her fresh new year of health and rebuilding. Tracy’s college career is just amazing to watch. Allison is a new bride whose heart is just overflowing with the most brilliant Love ever.

Among my friends there are some heavy and truly difficult gravity issues at work too, grieving left and right, and such is life, but both are trying. Whether happy or sad, significant changes test us. They boil up our stomach acids and tense up our muscles. They cause us to take too-shallow breaths and maniacally write lists of things to do. No matter how good and right the Big Event may be, for me sometimes the anticipation can be paralyzing.

One of these days I want to write to you about the pregnancy metaphor.

Anyway.

This life turbulence can be dangerously taxing if we look at it the wrong way, if we are worrying instead of taking courage. And what I’ve learned about worry is that it’s a waste, a huge mistake. Like sawing through sawdust, there’s no use in it but it is in fact dangerous. So if a Big Event is churning up a tide of energy beyond our control, let’s reject worry and instead harness that tide and put it to excellent use.

  • When you lie wake at night thinking about “It,” consciously stop yourself, very gently, and pray instead. Turn it over to God in excruciating detail. He already knows anyway; just choose silently in your deepest thoughts to give Him control. Ask for His help in ways you can scarcely fathom He might help. (Spoiler alert: He totally will.)
  • Give thanks for the opportunity, whatever it looks like. Give thanks for how well things are going so far and give thanks in advance for all the amazing outcomes you trust are coming. See? You’re already breathing better. So am I.
  • Discipline your imagination to only see the best possible results and surprises along the way (for there will be plenty). You have to do practical things to prepare for certain unknowns of course, but something else I have learned these past few years is that your imagination is a crazy powerful conductor! You can literally shape the future with your thoughts, so make them good. Make them amazing.
  • Then in the daylight hours when action is called for, act. Trust the inspiration granted you, invest in your own intuition, and do one thing at a time toward whatever is on the horizon. Even when it feels like everything is on your shoulders alone, it’s really not. You’re not nearly so alone as you feel sometimes. Just take a deep breath, do what you can to the best of your ability, then exhale, knowing that you’re only one element of the masterpiece being worked. Unseen progress is being made that you will see and celebrate at the right time.

you are not alone

So I pretty much wrote this to remind myself of the things I sometimes forget. But I hope it encourages you, too, for whatever Big Event is on your horizon. I’m sure there are plenty coming.

I trust, for myself and for you, that no matter how it feels in those weak or worried moments, the ultimate gift of life is Love. And Love is more powerful than anything. The weird way circumstances braid together do seem to be good for us, over and over again. We look back and see again that worry was a silly mistake. We were destined for happiness and celebration all along.

Take heart, you are not alone.
Love is so powerful.

XOXOXO

 

friday 5 at the farm: photos of soft sudden snow

I started chores early this morning then cleaned up the house and got dressed in “real clothes.” No running miles for me today, per the arctic temperatures, only running errands. After an hour or so in town doing miscellaneous things, I stopped at the grocery store for weekend essentials. When I parked my Jeep it was cold out, of course, but dry. Not so much as a sheen of moisture on anything. I really thought the weather forecasters, who all morning had been warning us of a blizzard, had done it to us again with the false alarms. So I gathered what we needed, then some more stuff, and maybe a few things too many for baking. When it’s bitter cold out, I really need to bake. You too, right?

There was basically a run on certain foods like ground beef and canned tomatoes. It was kind of hilarious. And exciting. So I joined the madness, wheeling my cart around at a nervous pace and collecting stuffs for one recipe after another. I didn’t give the weather another thought until I was standing in line to pay and heard an announcement about parking lot assistance.

Then suddenly the cashiers were all backed up and we fifty or sixty customers in line were all creening our necks up and out like meerkats to see through the pane glass store front. Yep, snow! It was snowing hard and fast, swirling past in angry swishes and hurrying the shivering, coat-less workers in and out of the automatic doors.

By the time I reached my Jeep and had the first half of our groceries loaded in the back, an open paper sack filled with kale was white! Snow had accumulated in tiny little drifts between the craggy dark green leaves, and it was beautiful! Unfortunately my fingers were too cold and slow to snap that photo, but I did get the Jeep windshield:

 

soft snow jeep

My drive back to the farm was slow but uneventful. Because, JEEP. xoxo

Once home, I was happy to see all the usual beautiful sights a snow day offers us.

soft snow bachelors

soft snow geese prints

soft snow turquoise chair

soft snow azalea milk can

So I am home now, warm and dry, safe and sound. Our pantry and refrigerator are both well supplied with our favorite edibles and then some. The animals are hunkered down. The heater is working, and for now so is the Internet. I’m wearing comfy jeans and fuzzy socks, and we have nowhere to go this weekend.

Now if my people could just get here already.

Every window a snow globe
XOXOXOXO

every day magic

I am not a fan of top hat magic, the kind that disappears women or reappears bunnies and doves. I really could not care less about from whence silk scarves come or whether you can guess which card I picked. I do know one weird illusion that claims to rub a quarter into my forearm. Unfortunately I laugh so hard from nervousness that every attempt gets ruined anyway.

But real magic? The kind of magic that lights up your eyes and adds sparkle and heat to the air? I love that. I am a sucker for real, pulsing, powerful magic. And it’s all around me.

sugar skull

I sense magic at dawn when the sky above the bachelors’ field changes from inky black with diamond stars to fiery, ridiculous shades of orange and purple. So much color some days it seizes up my throat and tightens my chest. A pleasure-pain. The roosters crowing can be magical, heralding another day I get to live on these strange and beautiful nine acres. Feeding the buffalo with his square, wet leathery nose and his poofy Afro and horns, cuddling and scruffing him as he reaches high for that bucket of sweet grain, yep, that’s magic. Releasing the frantic chickens to go roam free and then collecting their eggs, up to eleven per day lately, with those hard shells of greens and blues, rich mahogany brown and white, this is a gift and a bit of nutritional magic for me. Kissing Meh with his sweet, fuzzy little motherless lips, trading butterfly eyelashes with him, pure magic.

??????????

Every single time a seed germinates and sprouts, and then again when it grows tall and bursts out with one pair of tiny leaves after another, each of these stages is its own magic. When that seed becomes food that we eat, and then bolts and flowers and produces new seeds all over again, magic.

small crops

 

We’re about to be drenched in this, you know. Winter doesn’t stand a chance. Actually winter is magical, too. It draws us close, quiets us, urges us to shun lists and busyness and just be. Winter’s magic is togetherness and affection, inner warmth despite the cold outside.

xoxo

xoxo

Spending time with the horses and learning to speak their language has been an unexpected dose of magic lately. Feeling such a massive animal respond to the smallest squeeze of my thighs or the gentlest tug of reins is like nothing else. And the fact that I am on this adventure with my firstborn, this doe eyed young woman who was so recently my doe eyed baby, this is a magic for which I barely have words.

Maybe you frown on using the word magic in the realm of prayer, and that’s understandable because the connotation is historically so different, but to me it’s all the same. The amazing power of an intimate communication with my Creator, the results-getting influence of just talking to Him and asking for help and inspiration, guidance and then outright miracles, this is a magic without which I would really hate to live. This is a magic that has charmed my life and cracked open my imagination.

always face the light

always face the light

Magic can be found in the gleam of wood floors when the afternoon sun pours through that window and also in the sparkle of disco ball reflections on that ceiling. Magic is in the carpet on our stairs that we chose after the house fire, the same stairs the parrot sings in and climbs when he misses us. Magic is in the upright piano in our dining room that, although it is rarely played now, reminds me of my grandparents and how good childhood was. The piano also reminds me of Handsome’s Mom and the ache he must constantly feel without her. This remembrance is painful but important magic. I see magic in the estate sale black and white toille curtains I nailed up clumsily to flank our kitchen door, which leads to the south yard, where so many friends have gathered with us over these seven years.

lights

Magic is in the smell of chicken roasting in the oven together with lemon, garlic, and fresh sage. Everyone likes the magic of chocolate chip cookies, soft and steaming, crispy on the edges, begging for cold milk. Magic is pasta night once every week when each of us gets exactly the sauce he or she likes best. Magic is perfect coffee together every single morning, even if it means a special drive to the truck stop late at night after a long road trip. Magic is homemade pizza when we feel like it and Little Caesar’s when we don’t. Magic is cooking twice as much food as we need and freezing the extras so our girl always has homemade meals to take with her. Even bigger, bolder magic is cooking with her and having her sit with us to eat.

crabmeat alfredo valentines day 2015

Magic is watching a scary movie, knowing full well that Handsome will be in covert attack mode for the next three days, seeking after and relishing every blood curdling scream I offer. And me loving every second of it. Then it’s nothing short of magic when he gets up and goes to work day after day, week after week, all these years, despite the opposition, despite the imbalances in government, despite the lies and deceit and people who would be so thrilled for him to throw in the towel. Magic is in how much he loves and protects me, no matter how depleted he is.

I absolutely love the hours between chores and housework and then the evening, that little slice of afternoon when I am free to play in the garden or write or, most often, go for a long run. It’s a magical time of day for me. Running itself is a dose of magic for my mind as well as my body. I had to experience this for myself to believe it, but something bizarre really does happen to you in each stage of a long run, and it’s a gift. It’s worth exploring.

running, pile on the miles, lazy w, marathon training, run eat repeat

Magic is in the comfort of routine and the excitement of adventure. It’s in every part of our calendar, our friends and family, my book club, the thrumming life building up for the next generation. Magic is in legacy and tradition, dreams and departures.

Magic is the feel of paper and the smell of fresh laundry. The grumble of a strong car engine and the relief of not running out of gas when you’re late. Magic is found when your husband fixes your washing machine himself and also does the taxes.

Magic is in the sunset, too, brilliant over the llama field and the valley below it but somehow glowing against the hilltop bachelors’ field where we saw the sun rise this morning. More jaw-dropping color, more pleasure-pain from the kind of beauty we could never duplicate. Magic is in every wild heron that visits our pond and in the love we have found for Duck Duck, the wild goose who is now part of our farm-ily. Magic is in the way Duck Duck insists on being touched once on the back before allowing us to usher him to bed.

But he's so grown up now!

But he’s so grown up now!

And then magic is in wrapping up the farm at the end of a long day, setting coffee to brew at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, clicking off the lights, locking the doors, kissing the parrot, ascending those carpeted stairs. Some of my very favorite magic is sliding between our silky soft, clean sheets and collapsing on our best pillows, braiding together physically to reinforce our silent unions. Magic is how we feel stronger instead of weaker, better instead of worse, night after night.

And then the impossibly beautiful, magical sunrise again.

Now tell me something about your magic.

XOXOXOXO

Mama Kat invited us to write about magic this week. Please visit some of the other writers too! And thank you so much for stopping here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

marathon monday: snow at the halfway point

Monday has rolled around once more, this time bringing along a thick, swirling snowstorm and frigid temperatures. Oklahoma is so beautiful beneath a blanket of new snow, and I am crazy for the muffled quiet. It’s rare and deeply calming. And yes, we know that much of the country, not to mention our neighbors to the Canadian north (Hi Heather!), have been dealing with weather worse than this for a long time, but the Midwest has behaved so springlike since the holidays that this true snowstorm is a surprise. A troublesome but magical surprise.

Romulus, King of the Snow. Emperor of Ice. Purveyor of the Cold.

Romulus, King of the Snow. Emperor of Ice. Purveyor of the Cold.

Also because it’s Monday, my mind is on the upcoming marathon and how training is going. Today begins the tenth week of the program I’ve been (mostly) following, which is just past the halfway point. Wait, what? Already we are halfway there? Life has been so busy otherwise that I’m kind of shocked.

Surprised by snow. Shocked to see that we are halfway to the race. These are good feelings.

Except…

Except that the snow and bitter cold make running impossible, which is frustrating because I’ve really hit an endurance stride here lately. The long runs feel amazing both mentally and physically. I’m to that familiar point where the long run endorphins (they are unique) put me in an amazing mood! Afterwards I feel refreshed, depleted in the best way, and strong. There’s a 17 mile run on the planner for this coming week, and just thinking about it makes me giddy. Nervous, but happy. My legs get bouncy. Of course there’s no telling yet how the weather will cooperate, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

The elliptical machine is great but it doesn’t feel at all the same as running; nor does it really prepare me for the long runs. It’s better than nothing for staying warm and active, though, so I grab time there anytime temperatures or wind chills are below 29 degrees or when my trail is iced or snowed over, which was certainly the case today! Probably tomorrow too. We’ll see after that.

The guineas drop black and white dotted feathers all over the farm. This morning in the snowy gloom, these errant feathers are all I could see on the ground. An hour later they were deeply buried in cold drifts. Now as I type, the sun is out and reflecting brilliantly on all the snow, blinding and gorgeous.

The guineas drop black and white dotted feathers all over the farm. This morning in the snowy gloom, these errant feathers are all I could see on the ground. An hour later they were deeply buried in cold drifts. Now as I type, the sun is out and reflecting brilliantly on all the snow, blinding and gorgeous.

Everything will work out great, of course. Far more serious runners than me are navigating much steeper challenges than this and getting ready. Having fun, running faster all the time, logging miles no matter what. Plus, a super sweet rumor is floating around that Handsome might be shopping for a treadmill.

So I’ve got that going for me. (wink)

‘CAUSE EVERYTHING IS AWESOOOOOOME!!!*
XOXOXO

*Raise your hand if you watched the Oscars Sunday night and the Lego song has been stuck in your head ever since. Yay! That’s not even sarcastic. I kind of love it. The End.

 

interstellar love

Handsome and I recently watched the 2014 movie Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey and were floored. It was a well made science fiction blockbuster with an intricately written story that spans decades (my favorite), and the acting was really great on all fronts, especially from Mackenzie Foy, the young girl playing the daughter. Purely on entertainment value, the movie was fantastic. When it ended we were both stunned into silence and breathless. But it has stuck with me for greater reasons than entertainment.

The story asks the viewer to consider the elasticity of time, the swell and tautness of relativity, the mystery of gravity. It asks the viewer to weigh the value of the future without the people most precious to you, to stretch your concern beyond your own world to encompass the human race as a whole. Then, through one convoluted scientific obstacle after another, you are confronted with all these possibilities that, well, I don’t know how else to say it, but science ultimately takes a deep, reverent bow to faith, and it was thrilling.

insterstellar quote with joc dusty photo

By now we all know how powerful Love can be if we set it loose. We may doubt it here and there, in moments of agonizing pain or when we are too surrounded by darkness to see (although remember that a dark room is the best place to see points of light). Life constantly tempts us to forget the far-reaching, logic-smashing glory and weight of Love. Then when it is the only thing left, when no other solution is working, or when we are so dazzled by the magic of Love that we can’t take out eyes off of it, everything else falls away and the right things fall into place. Again and again. Love wins.

In my own life I have seen the power of Love return precious people to my days and nights. Despite lies and bizarre circumstances, despite my own mistakes and shortcomings, despite everything. Love trumps it all. In this realm, time doesn’t even matter, and my heart has learned to stretch and breath without worry for it.

I hope you give a few hours of your life soon to Interstellar. It’s sad in parts, and it’s tricky to follow in parts if you’re not a strong science buff. But anyone with a warm heart will be able to appreciate the human story here, the spiritual lessons and tantalizing theory that time is truly relative. That Love spans time and space and is the source of the miracles we so desperately need. Love will save us all in ways we could never predict.

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer
to the problem of human existence.”
~Erich Fromm
XOXOXO

 

 

 

literary saturday: ten great things I read this week

Hello, welcome to Saturday again! This past week I have enjoyed some delicious, thought-provoking online reading material, taking a short break from books. After reviewing these saved links, it became obvious that I have been:

  • hungry
  • feeling very romantic and reflective
  • craving miles
  • still hungry

Then I realized it haaaas been Valentine season, so that might be why I am finding so many lovey-dovey treasures scattered about. And as for the non-romance-related posts? See for yourself:

  1. How Real People Really Make Love Ann Voskamp nails it again.
  2. 14 Signs You’re in the Right Relationship Not to brag, but… We totally got 14 /14. (brushes off shoulder and smooches spouse)
  3. Ten Big Truths for Every Committed Couple My friend Kelly wrote this series over a period of time and has been sharing it piecemeal on Facebook, to the delight of her online community. Rumor has it the whole series could soon be destined for the public 3-D bookshelf. (Yay!!) In the mean time, read this. It’s smart, practical, beautiful, inspiring. Just like Kelly. Who, by the way, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and marital researcher. She not only knows what she’s talking about; she cares deeply. Read and share these Ten Big Truths with other special couples.
  4. Being Fed I don’t visit Not Without Salt often enough, but when I do I am delighted by her voice, story, and clear, colorful, truly stunning photos. Read this short piece about being fed. It’s a food blog, but this is about more than a meal. Gorgeous.
  5. How to Make the Long Run a Good One Hungry Runner Girl shared this just when I needed it. She talks about fueling, which I am tweaking lately. But the most useful bit? Imagining and determining the long run to be good even before you lace up. Also, break up your distance into smaller chunks. This make the long stretch much more doable! With each increment your body is warmer and warmer, more pliable, more able to run another increment. Then all of a sudden you’re done! I love this advice and have put it into practice plenty since reading it.
  6. Sausage and Mushroom Risotto Even if you don’t want to prepare this recipe (why wouldn’t you?), please read Joy’s words for the sheer pleasure. I swear she could make cold, stale leftovers sound appealing. For the record, I definitely want to try this recipe, as my belly cannot seem to get enough mushrooms or starch.
  7. Grub Street Diet And this is a fun little food diary Joy kept for a popular website feature. Super cool. It almost made me want to translate a few days’ worth of My Fitness Pal entries into something more like a story. I love food.
  8. Colds are Caused by Conflict Okay, yes. Yes yes yes. Call me crazy (again), but I believe this and agree wholeheartedly. I also believe in straight-up old-fashioned germs of course, and I take medicine when I need to, but here is yet another expression of how our mental or psychic selves influence our physical bodies. Oh man.
  9. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough I love the OKC Thunder!!!
  10. Why Readers are the Best People to Fall in Love With Hubba hubba. xoxo
In addition to great reading, this week has served up some incredible skies. Of course. Thank you so much, Oklahoma. xoxo

In addition to great reading, this week has served up some incredible skies. Of course. Thank you so much, Oklahoma. xoxo

What have you been discovering to soak up with your smart little eyeballs? Have you signed up for Feedly yet? Tell me everything.

Happy Saturday friends!! Read your heart out.

XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

garden update: strategy & winter’s final tantrum

Well, gardening friends, it’s late February. Only a few weeks stand between us and the official start of spring. Despite the recent ice, despite the inevitable frosts that will still surprise us here and there, winter is throwing her final tantrum. The time to rest is over. Plenty of outside chores can be done immediately, not to mention all the true planning, ordering, and seed starting we should be doing, now that we’ve daydreamed ourselves into the perennial stupor.

I’ve decided that all of my 2015 gardens will be more intentional than in years past.

One of the most vivid overarching lessons I learned in the Master Gardener class last autumn was how to choose suitable plants for each very different spot in my little corner of Eden. Previously, and I so hate to admit this, my strategy was more like this: Drive in a fevered haze to my favorite nurseries and scoop up every colorful thing I could afford.

Ha! Then maybe I’d get it in the ground that afternoon, or maybe I’d find a desperate earthy spot for it a week later, but that wasn’t always the most ideal site. And I always just hoped that with enough water and manure, the poor things would survive. It’s a miracle I ever grew anything, really. I was just having so much fun.

Well, gardening is nothing but fun and miracles! But you know what I mean.

Anyway.

Survival and excited playtime are no longer enough. Thriving and design is where it’s at now. I want to begin in earnest to build a perennial masterpiece that will be here for my grandchildren should we choose to stay at the farm that long. And I want to feed us here beyond what I’ve done in the past.

And in the short term? Rumor has it a young lady in our extended family is considering the farm for her upcoming wedding! So smarter gardening, more beautiful native gardening, is on my mind. This bride will have a flowering landscape for her memories if I have anything to do with it.

As for the edibles, I have decided to grow more of what we actually eat and waste a little less money and energy on seed catalog experiments.

Check out this of resources for Oklahoma gardeners! xoxo

Check out this of resources for Oklahoma gardeners! xoxo

One excellent resource for finding plants that will perform well here is the Master Gardener website, specifically the tab for Oklahoma Proven Selections. Check it out! Every year a distinguished panel of gardeners tests, proves, and selects a handful of plants ranging from annuals to trees and everything in between. What a beautiful collection it is, too! I’ll definitely be comparing my flowering daydreams to this list a lot in 2015.

Lamb's Ear just waking up. This was a gift from our friend Kevin before he left Oklahoma. He had one of the most beloved and most varied Midwestern gardens I've ever seen!

Lamb’s Ear just waking up. This was a gift from our friend Kevin before he left Oklahoma. He had one of the most beloved and most varied Midwestern gardens I’ve ever seen!

Stalwart daffodil.

Stalwart daffodil.

My Valentine bouquet this year was a small flat of really vibrant pansies. I love them. xoxo

My Valentine bouquet this year was a small flat of really vibrant pansies. I love them. xoxo

Happy late February, friends. Don’t let winter’s final tantrum get you down. She will soon be escorted out the door and all your flowering, fragrant, delicious garden daydreams will come to Technicolor life. You’ll be free to forget all about the ice and snow and get to the work you love so much.

O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?
~Percy Bysshe Shelley
XOXOXOXO

 

better boxed brownies & other kitchen ideas

It’s Tuesday! Let’s talk about food. I have lots of things to say because we’ve been feasting like kings and queens around here, finding personal little twists along the way. What follows is just a quick list of ideas for you to try.

Crab Meat Fettuccine Alfredo: This sounds so much fancier and more complicated than it is to make. I served it to Handsome for our Valentine’s dinner here at the farm, and I suspect it will become a staple rotation in our “special occasion” menu. The only two differences between this dish and our standard baked Alfredo are: 1) using some Old Bay seasoning along with the nutmeg, garlic, salt and pepper and 2) adding to the finished but still simmering sauce a can of sweet crab claw meat which you have first drained and steamed with lemon juice. Once the noodles, sauce, and crab meat are all combined, just pour it into a buttered casserole dish, grate some extra cheese on top, and bake till the tips and edges of that cheese are golden.
Oh man. So good. Handsome loved it as much as I did, and although we filled our bellies I was able to freeze a half a ton more for Jocelyn. The seafood and Old Bay seasoning made us remember New Orleans. So, double win! This is my contribution to your Mardi Gras, by the way. Give it a shot.
Last note on this recipe, I owe big thanks to Kelly and Katie for answering my crabby questions while grocery shopping! They steered me firmly but gently away from both imitation crab meat and canned something else. LOL The $6 can of claw meat was definitely worth the tiny splurge!

crab meat fettuccine alfredo

crab meat fettuccine alfredo

Kale-Mushroom-Swiss Salad: Okay, this could have been better had I used true olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of plain ol’ bottled Italian dressing, but I was out of balsamic that day. I took this to book club a couple of weeks ago and one of the ladies said the kale was a bit “pokey.”  haha Kale gets more tender with an olive oil massage. Such is life.
The basics are: De-stemmed and torn up kale, raw mushrooms, and grated Swiss cheese, plus simple dressing. If you use true olive oil, start by massaging the kale shreds with that then add the rest of the food. Dress with balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done. It tastes lots better after marinating in the fridge for a while. The kale obsession continues.

Better Boxed Brownies: While most dishes seem to be much better prepared from scratch, and that’s definitely the way we usually roll around here, brownies seem to be better from the box. Or at least simpler and just as good, as long as you tweak the box instructions just a little.
I swap out the 1/4 cup of water for the same amount of heavy cream. Then brown and cool butter in the same amount as the box asks for oil. Do not add an extra egg, as this will make the finished product fluffier and more cake-like. Shouldn’t great brownies be fudgy? Then of course add you own special touch! Like candy or chopped nuts or anything you want.
For Valentine’s Day I topped the raw brownie batter with nine evenly spaced Ferrero Rocher candies. Do you love these as much as we do? All alone they are so delicate and crispy, so much subtle hazelnut flavor, I just… I just can’t. It’s almost too much with the brownies. So to make it even better I ate my fancy Valentine brownie with a scoop of frozen Cool Whip. Tones it down, you know?

better boxed brownies

Try these little changes. They make a world of difference with your boxed brownies! xoxo

Buttermilk Biscuits: When you make biscuits from scratch, what fat do you use? My favorite recipe calls for shortening, but I like the taste of butter, then I remembered how well pie crust turns out when I divide the fat need between the two.
So on Monday I made an icy-day cozy hibernation breakfast of pork chops, fried eggs, gravy, and homemade buttermilk biscuits made with half cold butter and half shortening. They were amazing! Light-years better than any other biscuit I have ever put in my mouth. Soft yet crispy. Tender, fluffy, buttery tasting, and sky high (though that property is owed to the baking powder).
So that’s my last kitchen tip today: when making buttermilk biscuits from scratch, use half butter and half shortening. Bam.

Okay, those are the kitcheny things on my mind today. What little culinary experiments have you tried recently? As a side note, these delicious adventures are why no matter how much I run I don’t seem to be slimming down much. LOL More on that in a couple of weeks on an upcoming Marathon Monday.

Happy cooking! And even happier eating.
Laissez les bon temps roulez

XOXOXOXO

 

friday 5 at the farm: valentine preview

Hello, happy Friday! And Happy Valentine’s weekend to you too!

Handsome and I slept downstairs last night just for fun and both woke up around 4:30 this morning to some strange noises in the house. I’ll spare you the details in case you are easily frightened, but suffice it to say that we firmly believe this house to be haunted and this morning’s noises weren’t NOT footsteps. In our bedroom. Where neither of us were.

Anyway.

We couldn’t go back to sleep so we watched some reruns of Love Boat and snuggled. Then as we were stretching awake to tiptoe outside for Hot Tub Summit I realized I’d forgotten to fill my precious coffee machine with water last night. So the grounds were there, hot and fragrant, but dry. So no coffee yet. Womp womp.

Then the sky outside was so beautiful but also kind of thick and murky, like a werewolf sky, with the moon barely pressing through the darkness. Just an hour later, though, and it is hot pink and brilliant purple. Big, layered poofs of clouds and sunburst, another thrilling Oklahoma sunrise.

Anyway.

Happy Friday the 13th! Let’s hope the rest of the day’s weirdness is purely fun, like this. And let’s hope all of it morphs into beauty like the sky did, too. I have a 15 mile run scheduled then plenty of time to get ready for weekend #1 of our Valentine festivity. This year we agreed to split the holiday between two weekends: I arrange our meals and celebration this first go round and he does the same next weekend. I love this plan! It should keep up from overlapping or interfering with little surprise details, you know?

Fingers crossed that the ghost or whatever is upstairs gives us some privacy.

For Friday 5 this week, how about just a handful of photos of how I’m prepping for the weekend? Okay.

red tulips and a sparkly clean house (soon)

red tulips and a sparkly clean house (soon)

heart-shaped rib eye, cooked rare

heart-shaped rib eye, cooked rare

a carb-heavy New Orleans-inspired side dish involving this little treasure

A carb-heavy New Orleans-inspired side dish involving this little treasure. Oooh and apparently some fresh nail polish.

decadent dessert involving this, but not this alone

decadent dessert involving this, but not this alone

Our romantic plans this weekend do not include this feathery little guy. Can you babysit? Please? Pretty please?

Our romantic plans this weekend do not include this feathery little guy. Can you babysit? Please? Pretty please?

As I wrap this up and drink my last cup of Friday the 13th coffee, I can smell fresh sweet strawberries waiting to be slurped and enjoyed with my husband. I see a frilly three-dimensional card waiting to be sent to my youngest daughter, loaded with words that I pray (and trust) will soak into her heart. And I am thinking of the overwhelming power of Love, in all its manifestations, that keeps up moving and striving and then resting together day after day, no matter what happens to us or around us.

This snapshot was taken in the French Quarter at a very cool little artists' walk we both love. He was refusing to let me smooch him like I wanted to. Then he grabbed me and held me up in the air. xoxo

This snapshot was taken in the French Quarter at a very cool little artists’ walk we both love. He was refusing to let me smooch him like I wanted to. Then he grabbed me and held me up in the air. Then I got the smooch I wanted. xoxo

Come What May.

Happy Friday the 13th, sweet friends, And happy Valentine’s Day too. Much love to you always.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing
Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong
XOXOXO