Friday, November 19, 2010

Odds and Ends

Last week Hubby had a bad cold that became bronchitis. Being the tightly knit couple that we are, he shared it with me and I have spent the last week bravely fighting the same damn cold and yucky cough. Ugh. So if this post makes no sense whatsoever or there are missing words or really bad grammar, I blame my fuzzy head and achy body.

First, some rather exciting news about my book... I finally have a title!! It is:

Discovering Me

Tired of hearing "you can't", one woman sets out with a pan of brownies 
and a skinny pink pig to prove that she can - and then some. 

I like it, my family likes it, it received the seal of approval from my editor and, most importantly, it's not a favorite of ten other authors who've already published books, so I think it's a done deal. Yippee! I've also completed the re-write of the Epilogue and sent it off to the copy editor. With these critical pieces in place, the end feels like it may actually be in sight. Now it's on to cover design and getting the manuscript formatted. It won't be done by Christmas but hopefully soon thereafter. I'm trying hard to be patient because I want to do this right. Although I'm self-publishing, I want this book to be as polished and professional as if it had come right from Scribner or Little Brown. 

I did promise a family Thanksgiving recipe, but due to flu fuzziness, I totally zipped right past the part that, since I only make this dish once a year, I have no photos to share. I will pass on the recipe anyway, just in case anyone is eager for a great, yet decadent Sweet Potato Pudding (which isn't really a pudding...) to serve at their Thanksgiving feast.

One last thing - I'm tossing in a few random photos that I took a week ago. It had been a gray day and as so often happens, the sky began to clear just as the sun was low in the sky, leaving our lower field in shadow. All the leaves left on the trees were a dull brown, but the reflection of the sunset turned them flame red. Took my breathe away... Recipe follows pictures.  :-)

As promised...
Sweet Potato Pudding
Serves 8 or more depending on how much food you load your table up with!

You can put this dish together a day or two in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator early enough for it to come to room temp before baking as directed.

½ cup raisins
3 15-ounce cans yams, drained and mashed
2/3 cup (10 2/3 tablespoons) melted butter
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup evaporated milk
mini marshmallows

1.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
2.     If raisins are dry, soak in hot tap water to plump
3.     Mix rest of ingredients, except the marshmallows. Drain the raisins and mix in.
4.     Pour into greased casserole or soufflĂ© dish and bake, uncovered, until hot – about 30 minutes. If you are cooking other things in the same oven, which often happens at the Holidays, feel free to adjust temp and time accordingly.
5.     Remove from oven and cover top with marshmallows. Return to oven until marshmallows are puffed and slightly browned – about 3-5 minutes.

 Happy Thanksgiving!!!



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Uncle 'Pot Belly' Billy's Foolproof Pecan Pie

Have you begun to notice how the words quick, easy and foolproof keep popping up in my recipes and titles? Are you beginning to figure out what kind of cook I am? Don't get me wrong - occasionally I like nothing better than making a long grocery list, shopping for unusual ingredients and then hunkering down in my kitchen for hours to prepare something really amazing. But most of the time I want... you got it - quick, easy and foolproof. And this Pecan Pie is all of those. 

Uncle Billy was a spinner of long yarns and the creator of this wonderful pie. So, wherever you are Uncle Billy, we say "Thank you!!"

Uncle 'Pot Belly' Billy's Foolproof Pecan Pie
Serves 6-8

1 cup corn syrup (either light or dark)
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, beaten well
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust  I use the Pillsbury pre-made ones. People often compliment me on my flaky pie crust. I simply say "Thank you". :-)

1.    Preheat oven to 350.
2. Follow package directions for rolling out and lightly flouring pie crust.

2.   In large bowl, whisk together 1st 3 ingredients.  Add eggs and blend well. 

3.  Then add pecans.

4.   Pour mixture into pie crust 

5.  Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

 Tomorrow I'm sharing an old family recipe that gets hauled out only once a year - the third Thursday of November. Which is a good thing since it's incredibly unhealthy! But hey - it's the holidays!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick & Easy Guacamole

This guacamole recipe entails a bit of "cheating" - using store-bought, fresh salsa - but because of that, it takes less than five minutes to throw together.  There are no measurements in this recipe - this one is make-by-taste.

Quick & Easy Guacamole
4 servings per avocado

1 fresh, ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, or to taste, minced fine
Fresh cilantro, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Ground cumin, to taste
Fresh, tomato salsa  I use medium heat. Choose whatever heat suits your tastes.
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Put avocado into bowl and rough mash with a fork.  I make criss-crosses in the pulp with a sharp knife before scooping it out - it makes it easier to mash.

2. Using a fork or slotted spoon, add some salsa to the mashed avocado. Mix. Add the rest of the ingredients.

 3. Taste, adjust seasonings. Refrigerate 30 minutes to let flavors blend. Before serving, taste and adjust seasonings again if necessary.

A bit blurry... but you get the idea.  :-)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hearty Black Bean Soup

I was going to share my recipe for easy, foolproof and awesome guacamole today, but it is so cold and rainy and miserable, that I decided it was a Hearty Black Bean Soup day!  This is a recipe I created by combining the best parts of other recipes I'd tried.  Enjoy!!

Hearty Black Bean Soup
4 servings
Soup freezes beautifully.  I always double!

1 tsp olive oil
1 small red or yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp each ground coriander and ground cumin
1 ¾ cups chicken broth - this is an estimate. Add more or less to make it the consistency you want. I don't measure, I just pour. :-)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 19-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup minced cilantro - or one good handful. I add more because I love the taste of cilantro.

1 pd boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces, sprinkled with salt and pepper and sautéed in olive oil.

Optional garnishes: sour cream, chopped avocado

1.  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
2.  Add garlic, cumin & coriander and cook for one minute.

3.  Add tomatoes.

4.  While onions are cooking, drain and rinse 1 can of the beans and transfer them to the bowl of a small food processor or blender (when doubling the recipe, I use my full-sized food processor).  Add enough of the broth to the processor so that when you puree the beans they become nice and creamy (it doesn’t matter how much as it all gets added back to the soup anyway).   

Add to the soup.   

5.  Drain and rinse the 2nd can and add all the whole beans to the soup.

6.  Add rest of broth (or enough to make the soup the consistency you like).
7.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken and simmer for an additional 5 minutes to heat the chicken through.

8.  Remove from the heat and add the cilantro.  

9.  Stir and ladle into warmed bowls. Top with sour cream and chopped avocado, if desired.

Yes, these last two photos are a bit out of focus. Not sure how it happened, but if you squint just a bit...

Stay warm and have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This morning's sunrise - plus a book update

This morning's sunrise wasn't spectacular - just simple and beautiful. This may be one of those "had to be there" scenarios - but I'll try to set the stage as best I can. The newly mown field below the house was white with frost, the air was crisp and crystal clear, yet the lake was almost invisible beneath a layer of fog. And then the sun just peeked over the clouds...

Had to stop there as my camera isn't happy when I shoot directly into the sun...

Now that the sun is up and my day is underway, I thought it was time to give you a quick update on where I am with my hopefully soon-to-be-published book.

A few weeks ago, I sent the manuscript to a copy editor - this is the guy who checks it over for grammar and clarity, then hands it back with all his changes. I'm now in the process of doing ONE MORE read-through (hopefully the last one - I'm getting really sick of myself...) and determining whether I'm okay with the changes (all minor as it turns out) he made. I have recently re-written the epilogue to reflect the changes in our lives this past year and that section is now with my original editor for feedback.

So the process is moving forward - except for one MAJOR hiccup. A title... They say that when the title for your book comes to you, you will know instantly that it's right. leap was taken from "leap and the net will appear" - a quote that I thought fit my No Pudge! journey perfectly. It was my working title from Day One. Then I read an article on self-publishing that said it was "key" your title be unique. I went onto Amazon, searched on "leap" in the book section and... Yikes!!! There are about ten books with "leap" for a title. Ugh. I am now struggling to come up with a new title and, until I decide on one, I can't move forward with cover design and the process is going to come to a grinding stall.

This process has taken far longer than I ever imagined it would. I'm learning that, like anything else in life really, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right - and doing it right is rarely the shortest route...