Thursday, February 28, 2013

Memphis Antiques

Our work took us to Memphis Tennessee. Because of the work that I do, we get a lot of windshield time. So as to make the trips easier and more enjoyable, we often try to stop at antique shops along the way when we can squeeze one or two in.  Every once in a while we find a shop that has items we like and  prices that are not too ridiculous.  This trip we stopped at a shop in Collierville Tennessee. It's a large antique mall that boasts 360 dealers. It is a mall that is worth stopping and taking a look. 

Yet like many of the shops we have stopped at this one has many of the same characteristics. Some booths are priced like you are at a museum, others have items that should have stayed at the garage sale. Then you have the booths scattered around that make you slow down and wonder, "Can I live without this vintage what-not?"  Of course you can, but when you are in that setting it does make you think twice. So, here are a few pictures taken while we were inside.

We came upon this beautiful chair that if redone would be gorgeous. That is, until we saw the price. I'm sure it may have been a good price according to someone, but for us, meh- we'll wait.

Yep-museum piece, and very uncomfortable looking!  Yikes on the price!

Oh Deer!
Now one of the strange things that I come upon are deer heads. How they end up in an antique shop puzzles me. If this was someone's trophy, why do they end up here? If I were to buy one of these, would I have to make up some "mighty hunter" story?....I just think it's strange. 

And here are some more relatives...

We did come across a couple of old Victrola players. These were really nice.

Then we saw this cabinet. It is actually a child's size. Very nice. Don't need it. Onward.

As we made our way around the mall we had some tag-alongs.

They were thrilled.

When it was all said and done, Pickles was just worn out.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So close but yet so far away!

Wouldn't you like to know what is going through Pickles' and Stella's and the squirrel's mind?  Perhaps they would like to get together and play a game of cards, or take a quiet walk around the yard?  Hmmm, probably not....

What do you think?

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Easy Chicken Dinner "Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette"

Here is an easy recipe that makes a tasty chicken dinner.  It is a Giada recipe from FoodNetwork that we tweaked just a bit.

Gather your ingredients (recipe below) and mix up the marinade at least two hours before baking. 

Whisk sauce together:

Pour over chicken that has been placed in a large ziploc bag.  Seal and put in refrigerator.  Massage it a few times during the two hours in the fridge.

Place into a baking dish or casserole, and bake until done and juices are clear,  about 45 minutes to an hour.

This is going to be good!  Remove the chicken to a platter, and put the juices into a saucepan.

If there is not enough drippings for a sauce, add some chicken broth or white wine (or half of each) and a teaspoon balsamic vinegar.  Reduce over medium high heat until desired sauce consistency.

Plate chicken, spoon over sauce,  and sprinkle lemon zest and chopped parsley over the top.  

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2    tablespoons Dijon mustard
2    tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2    garlic cloves, chopped
2    tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces (giblets, neck and backbone reserved for another use)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions: (At least 2 hours ahead)

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large greased baking dish. Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Tweaks: Check your chicken after about 45 minutes, as it is easy to overcook.  When the chicken is done, remove it to a platter and just reduce the drippings along with an additional teaspoon of balsamic vinegar down to a sauce.  If there is not much in the way of juices after cooking, just add a little broth or white wine and reduce. 
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Mighty Nice Chocolate Pastry Cake.

It has been almost 18 years ago since Mamie first made a cake for me that instantly became one of my favorites. It is one that is a bit time consuming, but wow! The end results are well worth it. The recipe comes from a cookbook themed from the movie "Forrest Gump". Over the years she has made it a few times and it has always been at the top of my list. Now I have to admit that I do have a weakness for chocolate, and usually it is for almost any kind. M & M's (with peanuts of course), Snickers, Fudge, Chocolate Ice cream, Chocolate Mousse, Heath bars.......Oh, I could go on and on.  One chocolate lesson I learned as a kid was that the large candy bar in the kitchen baking drawer was never meant to be eaten as a candy. Not that I ever tried a piece....(IT WASN'T ME!...) but I'm sure some kid may have tried it once.

Well, on to the cake. I have begged Mamie many times to make this for me, and today I was able to pull it off. As you can see, we have not posted for a while. This is because we have been so busy with baby showers and lots of visiting with company. So today after our company left, we decided to spend some time in the kitchen. Here is the cake and the recipe. Let us know if you try it. I know you'll love it (how could you not- it's chocolate!!!)

So here it is...

First we made the chocolate sauce

While that was cooling we started the cake sections.

Next the filling...

Finally putting the cake together 

The final out-come. Rustic but Wonderful Chocolate Taste.  This is like other stack cakes, in that you refrigerate for several hours, (overnight is best) and the moist filling seeps into the crispy cake layers and makes them soft and delicious!

Of course we had our audience who thought that if they sat still and minded their manners, they might get a piece. Cute, but no chocolate for dogs (even though they think they are human)!

Mighty Nice Chocolate Pastry Cake

2        (4 ounce) packages sweet baking chocolate
1/2     cup sugar
1/2     cup water
1 1/2  teaspoons instant coffee granules
2        teaspoons vanilla extract
1        (11 ounce) package pie-crust mix
2        cups whipping cream
Garnish: chocolate curls

Combine first 4 ingredients in a heavy saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Cool mixture to room temperature.

Combine pie-crust mix and 3/4 cup chocolate mixture in a small bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Divide pastry into 6 equal portions. Press each portion onto bottom of an inverted ungreased 8-inch cake-pan to within 1/2 inch of sides (we found that it is helpful to dip your fingers into cocoa powder to press it out).  Bake layers, two at a time, at 425 for 5 minutes. Trim uneven edges of circles (we did not trim ours), if necessary; run a knife under pastry to loosen it from cake-pans. Invert layers onto wax paper to cool.

Beat whipping cream until thickened but just before soft peaks form; fold in remaining chocolate mixture. Stack pastry cream layers on a serving plate, spreading about 2/3 cup whipped cream mixture between each layer. Spoon remaining whipped cream mixture on top of cake; garnish, if desired.

Cover and chill at least 8 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator. Yield; one 8-inch stack cake.

I wonder what happened to the small piece that is missing? Not that I would try a piece....(IT WASN'T ME!...)
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Friday, February 15, 2013

An unexpected surprise!!!

On the way in from work Poppy stopped at the mailbox. This is the normal routine to get all the unwanted bills, ads and catalogs. We do get excited when we get a spring seed catalog. But today we had a package.

What is this? Did we order something we forgot about? Did Mamie order something and not tell Poppy? (not that she would ever do such a thing)! But wait-it is addressed to both of us. So, off Poppy went to the house to show Mamie and see what was inside...???...

In the package was a wonderful gift. Something we can really use. If you haven't been able to discern by now, cooking is one of our loves, and of course we also love the labors from our chickens... Eggs! Here is what we found inside the package... 

Woot! A really nice cook book!  As we thumbed through the many recipes, we earmarked many we would love to try.  One of the titles made us smile because we get many green eggs.

We wanted to share this surprise with you and a great big hug and thanks to Barb who is very close to our hearts.  What a nice spot of sunshine to a rainy day- THANKS!!! from Mamie and Poppy :-)
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rainy Night Chops and Sweet Tater Pie

Oh, we don't think our life will be quiet and serene till the new world order...however, preparing a lovely dinner and trying new recipes can have an amazing, calming effect on one's soul.  Tonight, despite the many trials and travails we could choose to focus on, we instead get in the kitchen, and stir up some tranquility.

Off to the garden to grab a succulent head of cabbage- it is actually past time to plant some spring cabbage-this is some from our fall planting...just thankful we have it, and a few more heads to come!

We are going to use this for an old favorite-Cabbage Salad.  We could do a whole post on just this salad.  Our dear friend, whom we just happened to see this weekend, is famous for this recipe.  She is in her eighties and still keeps on trucking to you Mrs. Gill!  You can make this an entree with sauteed chicken, but we often serve it without chicken as a side dish, as we did tonight.

Oh, and if you want the recipe, you HAVE to let us know...we have seen our friends from Germany, Italy and other places lurking around....we would love to share, but it is a labor of love when you feel that people are really interested, not just a let us know who you are...ok?

Pork Chops with Onions

We are not total food snobs here.  When we try a recipe, we pretty much go straight at the recipe as we found it.  Then we either revel in it's perfectness, or tweak to our liking, and we will share the results- or else we chalk it up to practice for the chopping board and the arm muscles, and move on.  This recipe was okay in that it probably kept us alive for a couple of days, but we were happy that we didn't fall asleep during the meal.  Yeah, kinda boring.  Thank goodness we had a delicious cabbage salad (thanks Helen!) and sweet potato pie, plus our old  stand-by the artisan bread.  Tonight the bread was just simple and plain, but, like an old trustworthy friend, it delivered.

All that said, the chops were just a means to an end.  We didn't starve tonight, and for that we are truly grateful.  But the recipe will not be repeated in the Pickles Farmhouse.  However, the pie was delightful.  If you would like the "receipt" come out of hiding and say hello...

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