Monday, December 28, 2009

Yummy Salad

I was required to bring a salad to one of the dinners we attended over the last week. I'm not good at salad -- I never know which ingredients work well together. But I have recently discovered craisins -- dried cranberries. I love them! I ventured over to the Ocean Spray site to see if, by chance, they had a recipe I could use. And they did! In fact, they have lots of recipes. I made the following salad and it was a huge hit. I actually heard people asking for seconds. It was a rare salad moment for me. I used Newman's Own for the vinaigrette, and I made half of it with spinach and half of it with Romaine lettuce, just to mix it up a bit.

Effortless Spinach Salad
8 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Craisins® Original Sweetened Dried Cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, optional

1/2 cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional

Wash and clean spinach. Tear into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add half of the feta or goat cheese and onion; toss to combine.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with sweetened dried cranberries and almonds. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Bread

Here's a picture of some chocolate peppermint bread I recently made. I found the recipe on another site that I can't find anymore -- if I do, I'll pass on the info. Anyway, really yummy but I suspect there's a way to make it better. It has a very subtle mint flavor but that's not the issue. I think the best way to explain it is to say I think the peppermint flavor could be more consistent. The recipe follows but if anyone has any suggestions about the best way to add the peppermint flavor, I'd love to know. I made this a couple nights ago and it is still moist and good -- I just think it could be better. Thanks.

1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (I forgot to lightly beat the eggs but I don't think was a problem).
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup crunched up peppermint candy -- candy canes.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease and flour one bread pan

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir to blend. No electric mixers needed for this recipe.

Add eggs, milk and melted butter. Stir until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and peppermint candies. Bake for about 55 minutes -- my oven seems to take a little longer than most. Bake it until the bread springs back when lightly touched.

Let cool in pan for ten minutes. Run knife around edge of pan and remove bread to wire rack to cool completely.

We've been eating it without any other spreads or toppings.

Again, really yummy, but I'd love suggestions on improvements. Thanks.

Monday, November 23, 2009


About this time of year, it begins to get dark waaay too early for my tastes. Fortunately, my office has two windows that let in wonderful sunshine during the day -- or at least light if it's cloudy or snowing. I usually don't finish working until early evening, and somewhere along the way I close the blinds to the darkness. But this year they might not be closed as much. Across the street and out one of my windows, some very festive neighbors have decorated their house. I can't bring myself to close the blinds to the bright holiday lights. I even played Christmas music this evening. I've included a picture, but it doesn't do the scene justice. You can't really make out the lights at the bottom and slightly to the right of the middle. Those lights that look like they're in a wolf shape actually create a polar bear and make me think of winter and Coca-Cola commercials. Yep, the blinds will definitely be open -- at least through December. I wonder if they'd be kind enough to do something in January and February to keep me entertained?

Happy Holidays and because I think it's gets forgotten way too often, a special Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reason #126 I Love Living in Utah

We took our annual leaves-changing-colors trip a little too early this year. We chose to drive up Millcreek Canyon this time, which though we used to cross-country ski up Millcreek (back before the blown out knee), we've never done a leaf trip that direction. Despite jumping the gun a bit, September 26 still proved to be a fine day to be outside, in Utah, in the mountains.

I often wonder if the light during fall reminds other people of my generation of the filmstrips (or films) that we watched in elementary school. There was something about the quality of the film that seemed to make the light somewhat softer and more shadowed.

Anyway, the light on September 26 in Millcreek Canyon reminded me of films from elementary school, and for some reason I found that very comforting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alfred and Betty

I love summer. I love spring, fall and parts of winter, too. The only season I'm not so fond of is January, if you know what I mean.

This summer has been particularly fun - all because of the addition of a hummingbird feeder to our back yard. Who knew?

I didn't put the feeder out until the middle of summer because, well, you know how it goes, busy stuff was happening. At the time I knew very little about hummingbirds but I'd heard that it can take some time for the birds to find a feeder, so I had no expectations. But within the week, we saw some birds flit to the feeder and then away quickly. We frequently heard the hum of wings but couldn't place where the birds were. And then they started to take a drink or two, and then a few drinks. Before we knew it, some began to sit on the feeder and eat for a long time.

The most agressive bird was the smallest and he had the loudest wings. You could hear him coming from a house or two away if you were listening. He would swoop in, claim his territory and flit his wings until the other birds flew away. For obvious reasons we named him Alpha. Soon we noticed that there was another bird he kind of hung out with when he wasn't chasing her away; we originally named her Beta. Those names transitioned into Alfred and Betty, and as crazy as it was we grew very fond of them. Really, it isn't smart to become attached to wild animals but we couldn't help ourselves. Via the Internet, we learned enough about the birds to think we were correct in designating Alfred as male and Betty as female. We also learned that they were Black-Chinned hummingbirds.

Other hummingbirds visited the feeder but it was mostly Alfred and Betty. Betty was the most curious and least jumpy of all of them. She was a chirper, too. She'd take a drink, chirp, take a drink, chirp, etc. She'd sit on a wire, turn her head to the right and chirp, left and chirp, etc. She'd also fly to about two feet in front of us and inspect us; she was particularly interested in our dog and spent a good amount of time chirping at her. The dog, who is small and fluffy, would just look at us with wide-eyed question.

About a week ago, we stopped seeing and hearing Alfred. The good news -- we read that males typically leave earlier than the females for their "winter vacation" in Mexico. We hope that's what happened to him. After Alfred left, Betty still fed but she was very quiet and not as curious. Another female (well, we think) was also feeding with Betty. They both sucked down lots of food and the new one seemed to start flying slower, as though she was gaining weight. In fact, in our studies we found that hummingbirds can gain up to 1/3 their body weight to prepare for the migration. If any other bird did that, they wouldn't be able to fly.

Anyway, as of yesterday, nothing. They seem to be gone. The food level in the feeder is not moving, when before I was probably re-filling it every third day or so. Since I know it is ridiculous to say how much I'm going to miss them, I'll just say that I hope their journies are safe and that they all come back next year, and bring lots of friends.



Thursday, September 3, 2009


Hello, first post.

Aren't farmer's markets wonderful? Fresh food, fresh flowers, original and creative ideas . . . so many fabulous local products. But, really, it's the people who work at the markets that make the entire experience delightful. I am fascinated by farmer's market vendors. They are hard-working, friendly, and are so connected to what they sell that it's difficult not to call them by what they do -- the tomato lady, the corn guy, the jewelry family.

Selling products that you grow or create is something that has been around forever. It is a way of life/business that has endured since the beginning of time. In this day and age of big corporations and technological advancement, I salute all of you who work the land, grow and harvest crops, or spend your creative energies to make your products. You are the connection to the earth -- the basics -- that many of us strive for. We find that connection in your passion. Thank you.

Bailey's Farmer's Market in South Carolina is only found in my books. Though I've been to plenty markets and spent some time in Myrtle Beach, I'm sure I've stretched reality so far that some market vendors and South Carolinians might wonder just where I get the stuff I write about. It's all in my head. I promise that all mistakes are mine only. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to continue to write about Bailey's vendors for a long time.