Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lunch of Champions

My Dad has been a drag racer and engine builder since the early-60's.  His specialty is the 426 Hemi motor.  In 1968 Chrysler Corporation produced the Hemi Barracudas and Darts. The cars have never dropped in popularity and the Hemi Super Stock class is still the most coveted one in drag racing.

The most prestigious race of the year is held in Indianapolis, over Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Nationals.  At this race the Mopar Hemi Challenge is contested. For the Hemi racers that is the race to attend.  In 2004, with the quickest car in the nation, we found ourselves unable to get an entry to the race due to points (you must attend a certain number of events to earn points). To have THE car sit at home while THE race was being contested didn't sit well with us. At other races we attended we noticed that Pro Stock driver, Jeg Coughlin, was usually watching the Hemi's run. We approached him about driving our car for that event. As a former world champion the points rules are not applicable. He agreed, went on to be #1 qualifier and won the event.  It was a HUGE win for our team.
Jeg & I have stayed in touch over the years.  This past weekend the NHRA circuit raced in Sonoma (he is the reigning 2013 Pro Stock World Champion).  He was staying over to play golf and sightsee so we made arrangements to have him and his PR guy, Woody, over for lunch. Over a meal of grilled tri tip, tortellini salad, Caprese salad, baked beans and fresh melon we all caught up with each other and, of course, talked racing. For dessert I made a peach-raspberry crisp and homemade ice cream. The guys had to catch an afternoon plane to Seattle, and the next race on the tour, but I sent them away with full stomachs!

At 83 my Dad is retired from active engine building now, just does some small repair jobs to keep himself busy.  It was nice to see him smile while reminiscing about a great racing weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tomato Tart

The last few days we've had 100+ degree days. Hot, hot, hot!  Big dinners don't appeal to me on hot days.  Nor does standing over a hot stove or making my house warmer by turning the oven on.  I feel compassion for my Hubbers and don't plan grilled meals (he thinks he's cooked dinner if I give him something to grill). So, what's a girl to cook? This tomato tart was just the answer. My food board friend, Glynda, provided this recipe.  It came from a Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi cookbook.
Anytime I make pie dough I always make extra. Making one batch, or multiple batches of dough, is the same kitchen mess so why not think ahead! A round of pie dough will last in the fridge a day or two, in the freezer for a few months. I made a peach pie on Friday, the extra dough went in a tomato tart for Saturday night's dinner.  I baked it early in the day, while it was still cool.  Putting dinner on the table was a breeze; a slice of tart, a few slices of fresh melon and we were good to go. My Hubbers had the difficult task of opening our bottle of wine!

Tomato tarts are very popular in Europe. Europeans tend to cook with fresh ingredients that result in simple dishes.  The tarts are a great use of fresh tomatoes.  They are good warm or at room temperature. They make a great picnic food. This tart, with the mozzarella and basil, is like eating a caprese salad in a crust! I had never made anything like this but we really enjoyed our meal.  The bonus was we each had a slice for breakfast the next day!
The heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers' Market are so flavorful and pretty!

I used fresh mozzarella, which was too soft to shred, so I just tore off chunks of it!
Ready for the oven!
Fresh Tomato Tart

Pastry dough for 10" pie (homemade, frozen, or Pillsbury refrigerated)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Ripe tomatoes, cut in 1/2" slices
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin oil oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a removable-bottom tart pan with pastry dough. 

Spread bottom of dough with cheese and sprinkle with basil.  Cover with tomato slices, arranging to cover as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sour Cream Peach Pie

When I was in high school I joined one of the "cookbooks of the month" club.  Yes, I know, rather nerdy. Upon signing up you got something like 6 books for $1.  One of the books I got was this Farm Journal Pie cookbook.  It's been my go-to pie resource ever since.  My pie dough recipe is in  here.  Whenever I need a basic pie recipe, this is the book I turn to.
My Mom & I have probably been making this peach pie for over 35 years now.  It is my Hubber's favorite peach pie recipe. When he told me the other day that I hadn't made it in a while (peaches are only in season once a year, dear!) I took the hint and baked him one. I will confess that I enjoy this pie, too.  As it cooks, the sour cream-flour mixture becomes a creamy filling. It's like eating peaches and cream!
The peaches at the Farmers Market are so nice right now!

I always have a container of cinnamon sugar in my cupboards, it has so many uses, including sprinkling on top of pies!
 Sour Cream Peach Pie
Pastry for 2-crust pie
4 cups sliced, peeled peaches
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
Spread peaches in pastry-lined 9" pie pan.  In a bowl, combine sugar (reserving 2 tablespoons)*, flour, salt and sour cream.  Spread over peaches.  Add top crust, flute edges and cut vents.
Mix remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle over top. *
Bake in 400 degree oven, about 40 minutes or until peaches are tender and crust is browned.
* I keep a container of cinnamon sugar in my cupboard at all times, this is what I used for the top crust.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Be Yourself

This cross-stitch piece came together in no time, very easy project, unlike the hummingbird piece that I'm still trying to finish (almost done)! Once framed, this will go in my craft room. I fell in love with the simple sentiment on this as I think it says a lot.  In my opinion, so many people are unhappy with their lives because they are always striving to keep up with others' perceived successes or they compare themselves to others.  We are all unique, we all have our own set of talents, we all have worth, we all have our own set of struggles.
 Embrace who you are. If you are happy with yourself, life becomes easier. Like others, I've had my moments of insecurities.
My non-racing friends don't understand my drag racing addiction.  I'm very domesticated, even old-fashioned, which is getting less and less common these days. I'm most happy at home, rather than out and about. I worry am I a good enough wife? Mother? Daughter? Accountant?
I've learned to not worry as much and I'm very comfortable with who I am. We are all one-of-a-kind.  Celebrate that, just be yourself! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I go to Pilates, very early in the morning.  Upon returning home I head out to my backyard to water, weed, prune, etc. I love my morning garden time, it's cool outside, the birds are waking up from their nightly slumber, it's still quiet out.  This morning the sun's shadow on the sunflowers was so pretty, I just had to take some pics!

I leave my sunflowers out until the stalks are brown and the seeds are dry.  In the fall the birds flock to the flowers and the seeds.  It's quite entertaining to watch, they chatter, hang upside down, fight for position. A 69 cent pack of sunflower seeds gives me many months of enjoyment!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Racing & RV'ing!

My family drag races.  Since I was a baby I've been following in my Dad's footsteps at the track. I drove my own car for 20 years before turning it over to my son last year.  I still attend the races but my duties now are those of crew chief and cook.

In the "old" days we would be at the track all day, living out of the tow rig, usually a pickup truck. At night we would go out to eat and stay at a hotel. In the last 30 years  or so RV's have become a popular tow vehicle.  They get the race car there and also provide a home at the track.  My parents have had various motor homes over the years, we bought ours 10 years ago.  Having an RV at the track makes for a more enjoyable race experience. No more hotel rooms, fighting morning traffic to the track, waiting in line at restaurants.  We have an awning to protect us from sun & rain.  There is a lot of down time in drag racing. With the RV we can nap, watch a movie, play cards. I get a lot of stitching done during race trips.
Though my RV kitchen is small, there is nothing I can't do in here. I have a 2-burner stove and a combination convection/microwave oven. I can easily stock a week's worth of food in the refrigerator and freezer. 

Counter space is limited  which is the hardest thing for me to deal with. I'm used to a lot of counter space and my 8 foot island at home! We do have a small dining table that can be used for food prep. On race weekends the table usually becomes drag race central so I lose the ability to utilize this space for food preparation. (There is a lot of record keeping with drag racing, tracking the weather and track conditions, what opponents are running. The data collected becomes very important on race day).
During our most recent race weekend I made homemade ice cream, potato salad, spaghetti. We grilled burgers. For breakfasts we had eggs, bacon, ebelskivers, biscuits and sausage gravy. The refrigerator held fresh melon, yogurt, fruit, items for sandwiches, cold water and, yes, some beer for after-racing relaxation. We had well-balanced meals at the same cost as eating at home. We usually share our meals with some of our fellow racers so it's always a fun time with all the bantering going back and forth!
The only problem with cooking and eating at the track is this, the after-dinner mess and no dishwasher!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dahlia Days

The flowers in my garden seem to be at full peak right now, a perfect example being the dahlias. They have quickly grown to fill a spot in my flower bed, between the annual sunflower crop and the coneflowers.  A hummingbird feeder hangs nearby.  The flowers don't provide a good source of nectar for the birds, however, the bright colors attract them to the area. They do attract many butterflies and bees, so there is always a flurry of activity in this little spot. I love all the activity and color that a summer garden has!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Technology & Pregnancy

When I was having my babies in the early-80's, sonograms were a pretty new diagnostic tool.  A pregnant woman only had one if something unusual was happening.  I had easy pregnancies, never had a sonogram.  We didn't know our child's gender until birth. I had a few books that showed a fetus in various stages of development and always marveled at the progression.  But it was all a guess as to how my children were developing.

Now sonograms are a routine part of a woman's pre-natal care. My son and daughter-in-love are expecting a child in late December.  Yesterday her parents, sister and I joined the expectant couple for their first sonogram. This is the second time I've got to see a grandchild before birth, the first was with my youngest grandchild four years ago. It was an amazing experience then and it was amazing yesterday!  This physician has a sonogram room. There was no shortage of seating area in the room, the technician said it's quite common to have many family members observe this. The technician had a screen at the sonogram machine but there was also a big screen on the wall.  We were all able to watch as she went through the procedure. The baby was touching its face, moving all over the place (the technician said it was quite the dancer!) We heard a very strong heartbeat. It was very emotional,
we were all just overcome with how special this experience was, what a miracle we were witnessing.

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. Psalms 139-13

It was especially emotional when the technician announced the gender.  We are having a boy!  It will be our first grandson.  My son and daughter-in-love are thrilled as they wanted a boy!
Baby shower plans are running through my head. I'm off to the fabric store later today as my fabric stash is mostly pink.  I need some blue!  The next five months will be spent with a lot of crafting, sewing and celebrations. So much fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Whopper (Malted Milk Balls) Ice Cream

My husband is getting treated quite well this week.  First he got his favorite pie, pumpkin.  Now he gets his favorite ice cream. He thinks I'm being a loving wife.  Little does he know that I have a  huge project planned that I will need his assistance with!  he he
Whoppers are his favorite candy so when I incorporated them into a plain vanilla ice cream base many years ago he instantly declared this as his favorite ice cream.  It's so easy to make.  The ice cream base is adapted from a Ben & Jerry's recipe.  It has a creamy texture and a mild taste making it a good background for any kind of fruit or more substantial add-ins such as Whoppers.

Whopper Ice Cream

2 large eggs
3/4 sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla **
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup crushed Whoppers
Chopped Whoppers, in desired quantity

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.  Add vanilla, cream, milk and crushed Whoppers and whisk to blend. 

Process according to your ice cream maker's instructions. When done, stir in chopped Whoppers. Some people like a high candy to ice cream ratio, others not so much.  You be the judge of how much candy you want to add in!

Makes 1 quart

** I always have a canister of vanilla sugar in my kitchen so I used 3/4 cup of vanilla sugar, omitting the liquid vanilla.  To make vanilla sugar, add split vanilla beans to sugar in a canister or jar.  Stir every now and then, until the sugar has a vanilla scent.  Add more sugar and/or vanilla beans, as needed, to maintain a full container. It's wonderful stuff, great for baking, whipped cream, even in a cup of coffee!
Instead of just adding chopped Whoppers to the ice cream I like to crush some of the candy, too. This gives the ice cream more of a malted milk taste rather than tasting like vanilla ice cream with candy in it. Doing so also gives you little flecks of chocolate throughout the ice cream mixture.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pumpkin Pie in July?

You've heard of Christmas in July?  Well, at my house pumpkin pie in July sometimes happens.  My Hubbers' birthday is July 5.  Every year I ask him what kind of birthday dessert he wants, he always answers with pumpkin pie.  I love to bake but I like to bake things that are seasonal.  In July that means fruit pies, crisps, cobblers, ice cream.  Pumpkins are for the fall.  His response is that the pumpkin comes in the can, it's always seasonal!  This birthday he got his pumpkin pie. After 32 years of marriage there is at least one thing I've learned.  Happy husband = more things I can add to my "honey-do" list!  P.S.  It did taste pretty good, even in July!