Friday, July 29, 2016

Apricot-Pineapple Thumbprint Cookies

Last month I was gifted a box of local just-picked apricots.  For days I made pies, crisps, and multiple batches of apricot and apricot-pineapple jam. By the time I had gone through that box we were pretty much over apricots! Of course, now I'm missing them!

I give a lot of jam away to friends and family.  In my household, jam isn't just used for toast or PBJ's.  I use jam a lot in baking and in cooking. It's a great addition to most baked items and is easily incorporated into marinades and sauces for meat. I probably use apricot jam the most.

One of my favorite baked treats that include jam are thumbprint cookies.  It's basically a shortbread, rolled into a ball, with an indention made on top to hold some jam. Obviously, any flavor of jam will work. They are easy to make and very delicious.  My favorite thumbprint cookie recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa.
On this evening I decided to use some of the apricot-pineapple jam I had made.  The recipe calls for the dough balls to be rolled in an egg wash followed by coconut. I was doing a million other things at the same time that night, so decided to make the process a little easier by incorporating the coconut into the dough. It worked out wonderfully and, to be honest, was a lot easier and less messy! The combination of the pineapple in the jam, and the coconut, gave the cookies a little tropical flair.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Stir in coconut. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (I used a small ice cream scoop). Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut (see note below). Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bottoms are a golden brown. Remove to cooling rack.

My notes:

Finally chopped nuts can be substituted for the coconut.  I omitted the coconut-rolling step and stirred in 1 cup coconut into the dough.
I had a helper for one of my jam-making sessions!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Would Grandma Do?

I first began sewing when I was a young girl, starting with Barbie doll outfits (why I started with them is beyond me, all those teeny, tiny pieces of fabric!) Mom & Grandma led the way in teaching me but Grandma was the taskmaster. Mom & I would practically quake in our shoes any time we gave her an item to inspect.  Grandma was an excellent seamstress and a sewing perfectionist. What I thought was a decent job wasn't to her and she would tell me to rip it out and start over. It was a happy day when I didn't have to rip anything out, that was praise enough! Of course, over the years, Grandma's lessons have stuck with me.  Now when I sew I look at my piece and question if Grandma would approve.  If not, I usually end up ripping it out and starting over!
I'm working on a quilt, my second pieced quilt.  I have all 12 blocks done and sewn together, along with sashing.  Now I'm working on the outer border.  Twice I've messed up in measuring.  I ripped it out once and started over. I sewed it again and it's not quite right.  The impatient part of me says to leave it, no one would know but me.  But Grandma lives in my sewing conscience.  I'm ripping again! And I know she's proud.

Those of you that sew, know a seam ripper is one of the most used sewing tools! I always have mine close by!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Bicycle (Dinner) Built For Two!

My Hubbers is an avid bicycle rider.  He has ridden across the U.S.A., up and down the west coast, along the Pacific Northwest, Iowa, and along the Mississippi River, just to name of few of his jaunts.  Each summer, he and his small group head out on a 2-week bike trip.  This year it was to southern Idaho/Northern Oregon.  They were gone 12 days. He was home one day before I headed to Disneyland with my granddaughters and their moms. By the time I got home we were both missing each other and longing to catch up on all our events. It was time for a nice quiet dinner!

I bought these napkin rings a few years ago at Sur La Table.  Using them was especially fitting for this evening, I thought! They more resemble the beach cruiser bike I ride than his touring bikes (he has 9 bikes, including 2 tandems!) but I knew he would appreciate the sentiment.

 Again, I just mix 'n match pieces I have until I come up with a table setting that pleases me and matches my theme for the evening.  Tonight's table setting was especially festive and colorful! I used some yellow Fiesta Ware as well as the red Pioneer Woman salad plates. The red in the napkins picked up the red in the napkin rings. The placemats are reversible, a two-for-one purchase I think! The yellow flatware was purchased at Target, many years ago.  I only paid $12.99 for the four place settings, the tag is still on the box!

We had a nice filet mignon dinner, some good wine.  He told me all about his trip and we talked about my trip with the girls and how fast they are growing up.  We had a decadent dessert, too.  We probably should have gotten on a real bike afterwards and burned some calories!

Today I'm linking up to Tablescape Thursday.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Old-Fashioned Peach Pie

I love to try new recipes, mostly because I get bored making the same thing.  But, every now and then, I pull out the "tried and true" recipe file.  The peaches are in season here, a peach pie or two is always part of our summer.  Usually, I will make this pie as it is my Hubber's favorite.  But today I wanted just an old-fashioned peach pie, nothing fancy, just fruit, sugar, some thickener.  I think almond flavoring complements peaches very nicely so always throw in some almond extract. Vanilla extract can be substituted or no flavoring added. The peaches are the star of this show! 

This was to be our dessert after dinner. It was coming out of the oven as I was preparing our lunch. Warm pie? Yes, please! Neither of us are real big fans of ice cream with our pie; those of you that are, this is the perfect pie for a big scoop of vanilla ice cream! 

I've been making pies since I was young girl.  Today was the first time I ever made a lattice top, I've always been too lazy to do so. I got a little creative with the pie dough today and it elevated an old-fashioned pie into something with a little more pizazz. Surprisingly, it didn't take that long to do. Something to be learned every day!

¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter

Pastry for 2-crust pie

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add  peaches and stir; stir in lemon juice and almond extract. Let sit for 5 minutes for juices to develop.

Pour into a pastry-lined 9” pie pan.  Dot with butter.

Add top crust, flute edges and cut steam vents (or make lattice top).

Bake in 425ยบ oven 40 to 45 minutes, or until peaches are tender and crust is browned (cover edge with foil if it starts to brown too much).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mid-Summer Garden

Even though the temperatures are usually scorching, I enjoy summertime in my garden.  During the spring I'm doing a lot of winter clean-up, pruning, planting, and seeding. That's a lot of hours worked with little visible results.  But by mid-summer everything is growing and my maintenance mainly involves pruning roses, some weeding, and keeping up with the watering.  These are tasks that I can easily get done in the cool mornings before heading to work!

My summer garden is full of blooms and color!  Bees, butterflies, and dragonflies are everywhere, there is plenty for them to feed on.  The hummingbirds zip all over the place and the sparrows, doves, and finches find a cool drink in the water fountain or bird baths. All that work done in the spring has been rewarded!  I love to sit out in the yard, in the early morning, and watch all the activity. I've said it before, but I am easily entertained, and enjoying my garden is one of my favorite pastimes.

The zinnias are putting on quite the show this year!


I have a small patch of milkweed, soon it will be blooming.  I've seen some monarch butterflies but no eggs or caterpillars yet!

The flower heads on the sunflowers are just starting to form.

Bees are so endangered, I'm happy to provide a nice environment for them!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Cherry (& Cheery!) Tablesetting

I like to set a nice table and to play with dishes. Perhaps I never outgrew that from when I was a child? It's a creative endeavor for me and I like making my guests feel special, that I went the extra mile for them. Doing so doesn't take too much effort, I'm already setting the table anyway, so I look for ways to make the table settings a little more festive.

My husband thinks I have a vast reserve of dishes somewhere because he will swear he's never seen a certain one before.  I have about four sets of complete dishes or china, the rest are mix 'n match pieces.  I like to buy solid-colored plates and then accent them with decorated and color-coordinated salad plates.  I buy them at garage sales, thrift shops, Pier 1, close-outs at Macy's. He teases me about my obsession but he also enables me.  Recently I saw these salad plates at Pottery Barn.  I sent him an e-mail link along with a big hint.  Low and behold, they showed up on my doorstep not long after!

On this night, I paired the plates with these red dishes I bought at Wal Mart.  They are from the Pioneer Woman's collection. They look so much more expensive than they actually were.  I love the raised detailing on the rim.
I made the table runner a few years ago, as well as the embroidered napkins. I originally made them for a cherry-themed luncheon I hosted.  I use the table runner a lot around the 4th of July as the colors are very patriotic.  The red silverware was purchased, on closeout, at Target.

This jar carrier sits on my dining table the majority of the time.  About every 10 days I head to the flower market and buy some fresh blooms. When I win the Lottery the florist is going to be added to my speed dial list, I love fresh flowers around the house!

Today I am linking up with Tablescape Thursday.  You will find a lot of inspiration there!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

The long holiday weekend is over.  It was both relaxing and tiring! I hosted a busy gathering on Sunday so the Fourth was very quiet until all the illegal fireworks started up that evening. My 4th of July gatherings are very low-key.  We hang in and around the pool, eat and drink.  Everyone contributes a dish or two, we always have homemade ice cream, I buy plastic plates and utensils, toss everything in the garbage when done, and hose down the mess!  It sure is easier than hosting Thanksgiving!

I like to have some munchies on hand as we burn off a lot of energy playing in the pool.  This salsa never fails to be devoured! I got the recipe many years ago from a food message board I belong to.  We call it Betsy's Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa as she is the one who originally posted it. Thank you, Betsy!  It's full of good-for-you foods though I'm sure using tortilla chips negates some of the nutritional value. You can serve it with slices of hearty romaine lettuce instead.  It's also a great topping on chicken and fish.  My 18-month old grandson couldn't get enough of it!

I have some jalapeno olive oil and used a few tablespoons of it, in place of plain olive oil.  It added a little extra spice!

The salsa is very flexible.  You can add more tomatoes or avocados, depending on your taste.  I like it just the way it is!
The little tortilla "scoopers" are the perfect chip for this salsa!

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

1 pound package frozen niblet corn, thawed
3 tablespoons oil (olive or canola)
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 tablespoons oil (olive or canola)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 large avocados, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss corn with 3 tablespoons oil on a baking sheet. Bake for 18- 22 minutes until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Combine salt, cumin, lime juice, oil and vinegar; shake well in a jar. 

In a large bowl, combine rest of chopped ingredients. Add beans and corn. Add avocado, and dressing last and toss gently.

Refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Serve same day you make it.
Serves 16 easily!

I always feel so self-sufficient when I can walk out to my garden and pick fresh produce, like these jalapenos!

Ready for company!