Monday, October 24, 2016

Delicious Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

I could never be a total vegetarian.  But there are so many vegetarian recipes that I love.  This is one of them.  Here it is, just out of the oven.  The top and bottom layers are thinly sliced sweet potatoes.  In between is a delicious layer of swiss chard combined with garlic, shallots, and fresh thyme.  Covered with a sauce of heavy cream, white wine and a topping of parmesan, this one is a real winner!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A delicious fall soup

Making my pear and parsnip soup recipe is quick and easy and tastes great on cool evenings.

2 boxes (32 oz.) Wegmans organic chicken broth (or use your own)
4 fresh parsnips, peeled and sliced
4 fresh pears, peeled and chopped

Prepare the parsnips and pears and combine in a large pot with the chicken broth.  Cook until tender.  Using a blender or hand held blender, puree until the pieces are well blended.

That's it!  It is now ready to enjoy.  You can add salt and pepper as desired.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A wonderful getaway afternoon

My friend, Nancy, and I decided to spend a few hours taking in
the beauty of Mendon Ponds Park this afternoon.  Mendon Ponds Park, often called the "Jewel of Monroe County Parks" is a great place to get away from
the rat race, whether you choose to hike the trails, paddle a canoe, cross country ski, or, in our case, we just sat and enjoyed the view today.

The fall colors aren't as brilliant this year as usual.  Some say it is because of the very hot summer with little rain.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The new snowblower

Ouch!  I was expecting a call from the shop to let me know the cost to tune up my 30 year old snowblower.  It was an Ariens and I had been told over the years, "they last forever."

That's not what I got!  "Quite honestly, Sherry, with the needed repairs, above the normal tune up, it is going to cost $500 for parts and labor for your snowblower and that is more than it is worth."  

"I need time to think this over," I told him.  "I'll be in in a day or two."

My choices were less than desirable. There have been numerous problems with people contracting with truck plows.  In fact, just in the last year, a contractor is now in jail for collecting money at the beginning of the season to plow driveways and then "forgetting" to plow them.  The plows often don't show up in time in the morning for you to get out.  Given that my driveway is long (my house sits back off the road), shoveling is not an option.

The shop I sent it to, actually, where it was bought back in the mid 80's, is reputable so I knew they weren't handing me a line.

There were a couple of 2015 models with a reduced price.  He wanted me to handle both of them "to see if you can operate them."  

WHAT???  Sometimes I can keep my mouth shut when offended.  This was one of those times!  I've been operating that old model Ariens for decades and you question whether I can deal with a new one???

Uhhmmm, actually the Ariens model was a bit heavy, BUT I COULD STILL OPERATE IT!!!  The Toro was lighter.

I am from the old school that Ariens is the best brand.  Not so anymore.  The shop has been carrying Toro blowers since the 90's and other than routine maintenance on them, they have had no problems or customer complaints.

The new one has a lot of improvements in the operating of it.  There are levers to make it turn automatically, left or right.  The intake area, that carries the snow up into the chute, is bigger and that function is guaranteed for life.  All you need is a deep, heavy snow to clog the chute and ruin your day!

Then I noticed there are 6 forward gears.  "Don't even think of using 5 or 6!" I was instructed.

It was delivered with oil and a full tank of gas.  Hopefully, in the coming weeks (or months?) when we get our first snowfall, it will do its job!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It finally died. . .

The snowblower I own, an Ariens 8 horsepower, was bought sometime in the mid to late 80's.

I've kept it maintained with routine maintenance.  Recently, the man came to pick it up to take to the shop.  Today I got a call.  I'm told the needed repairs on it will cost more than it is worth.  UGH!

NOT what I wanted to hear.

The shop I sent it to is reputable so I don't believe they are trying to deceive me.

"I'm going to have to give this some thought," I told the owner of the shop.  I told him I'd come in to the shop soon.  He has a couple new ones that are 2015 models that I can get a price break on.

I have a long driveway so shoveling is out of the question for me.  There are contractors you can hire for the season, some with a flat rate, others with a per-use rate.  I've learned that these guys are not always reliable.  They may not show up in time for you to get out on time in the morning.  In fact, in the last year, a contractor was sent to jail in Rochester for collecting up front money from unsuspecting clients and then "forgetting" to plow their driveway.

Never a dull moment. . .

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Football and Salsa

Has it really been this long since I last posted to my blog?  It must be true what they say about old age slowing you down!

I am all set to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide make mincemeat out of the Kent State team. . . I didn't even know Kent State had a team!

I've mixed up a really good salsa recipe, Blueberry and Pineapple Salsa, to munch on during the game.  When you live alone, you don't always eat three meals like other people.  But this salsa has fruits and vegetables, so that counts!  And the chips I use with it are whole grain!

I've accumulated quite a few really good salsa recipes.  Homemade is much better than the kind you buy at the grocery store.  Try this one:

2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalepeno
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

I leave out the jalepeno - never been excited about them!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Making Ham and Bean Soup. . . so good!

Above are the beans I just put in the bowl to soak this morning and into the afternoon.  These are beans from Bob's Red Mill.  I am a huge fan of their products.  There are mung beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, cranberry beans, and lots more.  

This is a smoked ham hock that I get from my farmer.  This is no ordinary soup bone!  No!  It is covered with lots of meat that will go into the soup.  I usually get about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of chopped meat to put back into the soup.

I begin by making the stock.  This includes a LOT of water (probably 3 or 4 quarts),  chunks of onion, celery, and carrots, along with the ham hock.  Let this simmer for 2 or 3 hours.  Remove the ham hock and vegetables.  Discard the vegetables, but let the ham hock cool enough to touch.  Cut off the meat.

Place the soaked beans, the chopped meat, and whatever spices you choose (cloves, ginger, and of course salt!) into the stock pot.  Add a can of chopped tomatoes with the juice.

Simmer another couple of hours.  Enjoy the divine aroma coming from your kitchen!

I have to admit, the only thing I dislike about making this is packaging it into serving sizes for freezing.  That's a pain and the pot seems to have a never ending bottom.  But taking it out of the freezer to eat makes up for that. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Neighbors coming together

For about the last two weeks, a beagle was missing.  I first heard about it when my neighbor posted on Facebook mentioning seeing a stray dog roaming around.  You rarely see a dog walking unleashed where I live.

Our neighborhood has a Facebook page which has been very effective in alerting people to things relevant to us.  Posts began showing up of people seeing the dog but no one was able to catch it.  It was all around my house, but I never saw it.

I posted my phone number and asked anyone who saw the dog to call me as I seem to have a talent for getting dogs to come to me.  If I could get close enough to reach for his collar and tag, then most likely we could contact the owner.

Finally, yesterday word went out the dog had been caught and the owner notified.  She was very grateful to all of us who helped bring a happy ending to this ordeal.

I live on a quiet street.  Most of the people in this neighborhood work at the University of Rochester.  When the call goes out for help, as in this case, people join together to do what they can.

Occasionally, there are comical incidents that occur. . . as in the time I backed out of my garage and onto the street and saw a small group of people all staring at my house.  "Is there a problem?" I asked.

"Yes, that rabid fox is in your yard!"  I had heard there was one running around.

I went to run my errand and then came home.  A few minutes later, I noticed two police cars on the street directly in front of my home.  A police officer was walking up my driveway with a shotgun in his hands!

"Is this about the rabid fox?"  I asked.  I could think of no other reason an officer would be walking up my driveway with a gun!

I didn't realize it at the moment, but the rabid fox was about 20 feet away from me and the officer asked me to go back in my house.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Love my Vitamix!

I've had my Vitamix now for a couple of years or more and wonder how I ever got along without it.  While it is a versatile appliance, I use it for making smoothies.

Yes, you can use an ordinary blender to make smoothies, but the blender doesn't do a good job with hard fruits and vegetables, like carrots or beets.  The Vitamix is much more powerful.

Smoothies are a great way to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet.  When I first got my Vitamix, I searched the internet for smoothie recipes.  Then I found that no matter what I placed in it, it came out good tasting.  So now, I go through the refrigerator and the basket of fruit on my kitchen table and take whatever is there.

I don't care for the taste of kale.  But put it in the Vitamix with other foods and you've got a delicious drink packed with nutrition.  Including things like apples or oranges makes for a sweeter drink.

Here are some typical combinations I like.  What you choose is limited by your own imagination.

2 fresh beets, peeled and sliced
1 orange, peeled
2 kiwi, peeled and chopped
1 banana

about 2 cups of kale (or spinach)
1/2 to 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 banana

And the best part is the clean up!  Simply rinse out the lid and jar with cold water.  Then put hot water and a splash of dishwashing liquid in it and put it back on the motor unit.  It cleans itself!

Maybe some day I will get around to trying the other options for a Vitamix such as soups, salads, appetizers, and sauces!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Knitting a poncho

Many years ago, I knitted and crocheted a lot.  Over the years, I made sweaters, both cardigans and pullovers, mittens, and afghans of all kinds.  Somehow life got cluttered and I got away from it.

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to get back into it because I always loved creating  things with yarn.  Except that about a year ago is when Bailey entered my life and with a new puppy in the house, there is no time for much else!

Now I'm back into something that brings me a lot of pleasure and softens the blows of the every day world.

I just started the poncho above.  I wanted something that I like and that wouldn't be too difficult for someone that hasn't picked up knitting needles in awhile.  I probably won't put fringe on it.  I'm not a "fringe" person!  But that decision can come when I finish working on it.

It was a surprise that I hadn't lost my skills!  I bought two books, one for crochet and one for knitting, that I use as a refresher.

I'll post pictures as I progress on this project.