Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy! Happy!


I'm so happy I could blog! My hubby just fixed my coffee maker, the one I've lived without all summer, because I busted it on our Yosemite camping trip. He took the whole thing apart, put in a new $1.50 part, and put it all back together. I just brewed a pot of coffee and it works perfectly. I am so excited I could scream!

You are probably wondering why I am so excited over a coffee maker. Well, this isn't just any coffee maker you see. This is the now obsolete Starbucks Barista Aroma Grande that my husband snagged me right before Starbucks discontinued them. I had always had the best coffee whenever we went to bible study at the Brooks' house, and Diane had the Barista. I always dreamed of getting one, so I dropped some not-so-subtle hints around my birthday time. And since that day 3 or 4 years ago, I've been one happy girl. Prior to getting the Barista, I still had the Krups machine we got as a wedding gift (17 years old at that point) and believed I really didn't like coffee "that much." Well, the Barista changed all that! I've been brewing up my favorite coffee ever since - Starbucks decaf Verona. Not only does the Barista turn out great coffee, it is totally user friendly, easy to clean, and looks downright stylish! I love the fact that the thermal carafe keeps the coffee hot, what a taste difference from coffee makers that have a warming unit and produce that wicked burnt coffee flavor. I adore this machine and wouldn't want any other. I think I have actually hugged it before.

So, listen to the dumb thing I did to my beloved machine. We were camping in Yosemite in June, and I decided to make a pot of coffee after dinner. So, I put the coffee in and turned it on. The only problem was, I forgot to fill the water reservoir. It made a strange sound and went kaput. The funny thing was, the Brooks were camping with us, and Diane did the same exact thing to her machine just minutes before I did! Neither of us had ever made this mistake before. But, for some reason, her machine survived but mine was not as fortunate.

So, Rich disassembled the entire coffee maker, taking many pictures of the process, to make it easy for him to fix and put it back together again. Then, dummy me, I lost the memory card the photos were on. Isn't that just the lamest thing ever? (I also lost vacation photos- UGH) So, he not only repaired the machine, but had to put it back together with no guidance. My hero. I threw my arms around him when the machine turned on!

Starbucks Barista, it's good to have you back. I love you. But I love the man that fixed you more!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A day of Good Eats

Yesterday was one of those exceptional culinary days. First, I got to celebrate my dear friend Pam's birthday at my very favorite restaurant in Santa Clarita, Abbey Lane. You can check it out here: http://www.abbeylanecafe.net/about.html (Sorry, I can't figure out how to hyperlink on my new computer yet) I had one of the best salads ever. On the bottom of this pretty large white bowl were mixed greens tossed with this amazing creamy balsamic dressing, then there was a generous layer of goat cheese chunks and toasted pistachio nuts, then on top of that were the most gorgeous perfectly grilled warm veggies - halved carrots, zucchini, and these huge portobello mushroom slices. The warm veggies made the goat cheese ooze...I asked for chicken to be added since I went to give platelets yesterday afternoon. The chicken was warm and tender. YUM! I know I'll have to deconstruct this salad and make it at home very soon. It seems pretty easy, and the dressing seemed to be just a basic balsamic vinaigrette with either a little cream or mayo mixed in. For my prayer group ladies who are reading this, we MUST order this salad next time (and, naughty me -I brought home a slice of the chocolate windmill cake.)

But that's not all. Rich and I went out to the Pasadena area to give platelets for Dan Gallagher in the afternoon. Dan is an old acquaintance of ours from church, who has recently been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. You can check out his wife Pam's blog here:
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thegallagherfamily

Anyways, in spite of taking iron supplements all week, and eating meat, my iron was not still high enough to give platelets. I have been giving blood semi-regularly at the City of Hope since Brady died, and I'm definitely one of those hit and miss patients. It's rare that both my blood pressure and iron levels are high enough to give. Ugh - it's so frustrating. My routine check-up blood work is always fine, but I guess you really have to be a certain level to donate. A friend told me about the effectiveness (and gentleness) of a liquid iron supplement she gets at Whole Foods, so I'm going to try it. There is nothing worse than being turned away, particularly when you were directing your product towards someone specific. I also found out that tea and coffee deplete your iron.

So I wandered around the all-too-familiar City of Hope (it's actually a beautiful place) until Rich finished giving platelets and by then it was dinnertime. Lucky us -Pasadena area has a ton of great eateries. Among some of my favorites are Barney's LTD, Green Street,, Marston's, Pie 'n Burger, The Hat, and Julienne. Pretty much all of those are Pasadena landmarks. Then I remembered that there was a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles nearby and we have never been but always wanted to try. When I mentioned the idea, Rich heartily jumped on it so Roscoe's it was. Gotta love places like this, Roscoe's is definitely something you'd find on Guy's show, Triple D (for the culinarily challenged, that's the Food network show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"). The idea of fried chicken and waffles together is a curious one, and if you're wondering how that all works together let me wholeheartedly assure you - IT WORKS. It works just fine baby. We ordered the #3 which was just 1/2 fried chicken and 2 large 4-sectioned round waffles (that's it - no sides at all come with it). It was plenty of food for the two of us. It was an interesting 1/2 chicken: 1 breast, 2 leg, 1 thigh and 2 wings (Guess those 4-winged, 4-legged birds must be fast!) The chicken is pretty much fried chicken perfection in every way. Juicy, crispy, not too greasy but greasy enough. And the waffles were in a word...heavenly. They put two scoops of real whipped butter on top and serve it up with some really good fake maple syrup. And, if you dip the fried chicken into that syrup, it really sends you over the top. One funny thing about Roscoe's - KFC had the gumption to build one of their outlets RIGHT next door! What in the world were they thinking?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Way Delicious Wednesdays - Panini

I love anything Italian and anything with melted cheese on it. That's why I think Panini is a beautiful thing. My sister gave me a Panini maker awhile ago and it's always in good use in my kitchen. The best thing about Panini is you don't really need a recipe. You just grab some good bread and any filling ingredients that sound like they go good together. Panini is a great thing to make when it's 5:00 p.m. and you don't have any idea what you are going to make for dinner. Just scour your fridge for leftovers - grilled meats and veggies, cheeses, and you've got the makings for great panini!



Getting the sandwiches ready....

Last night I had my ladies prayer group over for dinner and decided to make Panini for them. I made two types - for the first I used Roast Beef, sharp white cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes, and horseradish-garlic mayo. The second one was fresh mozzarella, pesto, artichoke hearts, and roasted red bell peppers. They both turned out superb. I assembled the sandwiches earlier in the afternoon, wrapped them in foil and refrigerated them, so all I had to do was brush them with olive oil and grill them when the girls arrived. Incidentally, if you don't have a Panini maker, you can make do with a skillet. Just put a heavy object (like a cast iron skillet) on top of the sandwich while it cooks. You won't get the fancy little grill "wedges", but it will taste mighty good just the same.




I love you, Cabot extra sharp white cheddar.

The ingredients I used sound exotic, but I just got everything at Trader Joe's. If you haven't had the Cabot extra sharp white cheddar they sell at TJ's, well, I'm really sorry. Drop everything and go get some. It's kind of like a cross between cheddar and parmigiano reggiano, it has those little crystally things going on and it is a fine little cheese that my family is addicted to. (I'm not exactly sure crystally is really a word but you catch my drift.) The bell peppers, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts were all canned (and usually a staple in my pantry), and the pesto was storebought (the refrigerated kind). I made the horseradish mayo by whirling together some mayo, a large clove of garlic, a bit of horseradish to taste. (I just serve that on the side because not everyone likes mayo.)

So, as summer winds down, leave the oven off and make an easy dinner of Panini! A little fruit or veggie platter on the side, and you've fed your family very easily.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Way Delicious Wednesdays - Plum Crisp

Last week it was time to go remove the remaining plums and apples on the trees out front. My sister was here, so we grabbed the ladder and braved the strange green flying beetles to get the last fruit of summer.

We decided to make a plum crisp that night for dessert. I made the topping while Suzanne sliced 8 cups of plums. We had it assembled in under 10 minutes flat.

We baked it and served it warm with some good quality vanilla ice cream.

Little did we know it would be pretty much the best thing we've ever had for dessert.

I gave Suzanne a bag of plums to take home and she promptly made the crisp again. I sliced my remaining plums and froze them ready to be made into crisp. I also took my apples and prepared them for caramel apple pie and froze them. I made my kids the pie when they returned home from camp, and deep in my freezer lies the fruit of two more future pans of plum crisp. What a wonderful feeling.

By the way, for those of you wondering what the difference between cobblers and crisps is anyways, here you go. In fact, here are a few fruit desserts and their definitions, taken from my The Best Recipe cookbook:

Betty: Fruit is combined with buttered bread and cooked. Similar to a crisp, except the crumbs are layered with the fruit instead of placed all on top. Also called a Brown Betty.

Buckle: Fruit is mixed with simple yellow cake mix batter and baked.

Cobbler: Fruit is topped with a crust, which can be made from cookie dough, pie pastry, or biscuit topping, and baked.

Crisp: Fruit is topped with a "rubbed" mixture of butter, sugar, and flour, and baked. Topping often includes nuts or oats.

Crumble: An English term for a crisp, usually made with oats.

Plum Crisp

Filling:

4 cups plum slices (unpeeled)
1 T. flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t. cinnamon

Topping:

½ c. flour
½ c. oats
½ c. brown sugar
1/8 t. salt
¼ c. melted butter

Combine all filling ingredients and spread into a 1 ½ qt. baking dish. Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*May double recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 pan.

So, before summer fades away, do yourself right with this comforting and absolutely delicious dessert. By the way, it makes a great breakfast, too (don't ask me how I would know this). Hey, it's fruit and oats.



Friday, August 1, 2008

Update on the Sandersons

Two weeks ago, I mentioned to pray for the Sandersons, Kyle and Stephanie, as their baby, Suzie, was born premature at 28 weeks. Suzie is currently at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. She has several issues from just being a preemie, but she also still has some bleeding and swelling in her brain that is a big concern. Kyle and Steph have relocated to the Ronald McDonald house across the street from the hospital so they can be close by at all times. They have continued to send out faithful updates to everyone, as well as posting them on their blog. If you have time, go read the thoughts of this godly young couple - you will be encouraged!

Last night when we visited them, they invited us in to see Suzie in the NICU! We were so thrilled to go in and see her in person. It took my breath away to see her. I have never seen a baby so small in person. I expected her to be skinny and bony, but she isn't. While she isn't a fat baby by any means, she did have some good meat on her bones. She basically just looks like a perfect little miniature baby! She was awake and moving and even opened her eyes. She is absolutely darling- Kyle and Steph are so blessed! Going in to see her helped me put myself in Kyle and Steph's shoes - if I wanted to cuddle her, I can only imagine how heart wrenching it is for them to have limitations with their sweet little baby. I am thankful for their trust in God during this difficult time.