Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fabulous Tomato Soup!

My oldest son, Scott, is a fabulous cook.  He and his wife live about an hour away, so I love it when he comes down and cooks for us!!  It's not only a night out of the kitchen, but a chance to eat some delicious food.

Not that long ago he treated me to some of his tomato gorgonzola soup.  Since I am a cheese junkie, that just sounded like pure heaven - and trust me - it was!!!

His recipe is very simple but it is sheer rich, savory goodness. And the star of the recipe is fresh roma tomatoes!!  You chop them up, add some canned tomatoes, seasonings, half and half or evaporated milk, blend it up and then you add as much gorgonzola cheese as your taste buds will allow.  Trust me- you will never EVER eat canned tomato soup again. This is SO easy and SO good (but I have to admit it's better when Scott makes it!)

I was craving a grilled cheese sandwich while this was simmering.  The pairing of the grilled cheese and the soup just transports me back to childhood.  But I was tired and just didn't feel like going to the work (can you spell l-a-z-y??!!??)  Then I remembered I had some of those big biscuits in a can that really needed to be used, so I made baked cheese biscuits.  They were really good fresh out of the oven.  Not sure they were as good as a steamy buttery grilled cheese, but they tasted great at the time!  It was an easy dinner  and the soup and biscuits were enjoyed for many nights!

Scott's Fabulous Tomato Soup

  6-8 Roma tomatoes
·        2 cans of stewed tomatoes (Preferably with Italian seasoning)
·        2 small cans of tomato paste
·        Salt, pepper, additional Italian seasonings to taste
·        Garlic, if you feel like it 
·        Blue cheese or gorgonzola
·        Small container of heavy whipping cream

In a large pot heat up the three different tomatoes and seasoning. Once the fresh romas start to break down and get real soft, use the emulsion blender to pulse it all together into whatever consistency you prefer. Taste the soup at this point to make sure the seasoning is correct. Add seasoning as needed.

Add in heavy cream (probably about half to two-thirds) and a good handful or two of the cheese and stir in with a spoon. Once the cheese is melted, serve with one more small pinch of cheese on top.


**  Really Scott?  How can you  NOT feel like garlic? It makes everything better!!

***  I have substituted the heavy cream using fat free evaporated milk or fat free half and half with equally excellent results.  I think the FF half and half is my favorite.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Special Friend (part 2)

The card is now in the mail for my friend's Mom and it was time to finish her birthday card.

I have to say - there are so many wonderful designers out there and I am so glad as my cards would be nothing without them.  Some of my most favorite designers of cutting files are: Ducky's Designs, Penny Duncan Creations, Scrappy Dew, and SVG Cuts.

 And there is one more that I chose for this card - a beautiful doily from Monica.  Her files are incredible and she has over 90 doilies now along with a wide variety of other files.

I love how delicate that is....... and what a great job the Silver Bullet Professional does cutting it.

And I am really happy with these colors together.

A closeup of the center flower with the handmade perfect pearl mist.

I am having fun making cards again!  YIPPEE!!!!!!!!  I have a long list of things I want to try so I better stay motivated!!

And the final result........ simple for me but I didn't want to clutter up the beautiful design of the file!
 (I did decide, at the last minute, to add Glossy Accents to the center flower to give it a little more shine and substance).
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Monday, February 25, 2013

A Special Friend - times two! (part 1)

I am lucky enough to live in the town where I was born.  I doubt everyone would feel that way, but I love this part of Southern California.  I had to leave and live in Arizona for 12 years to fully appreciate how wonderful it was.

And in living in the same city, I have been fortunate to have retained some amazing friendships - both with those who were friends of my parents, and my own friends.  One such friend was in and out of my life through most of my growing up years. We went to different schools, but her grandparents lived across the street from my parents, so we had a great time whenever she would visit. My parents cared for her grandparents as they aged, and many years later her parents lived in that same home and cared for my parents.  It was beautiful.  So when I returned to the area in the early 2000s, I rekindled a friendship with both the daughter, who is my age, and the mother.

And both need cards this week. The daughter has a birthday on Thursday, and the mother is failing in health and I was long overdue to make a special card for her.

So the "thinking of you" card is first on my list.  She loves the ocean and lives not far from it, so I turned to the wonderful shell files of Dominic. If you have not seen his files yet, you have to check them out.  They cut beautifully on my Silver Bullet and the detail is incredible.

And as usual, I turned to my papers from The Paper Temptress.  I absolutely adore her papers, especially the mica papers.  I have every color in the text and card weight.  Yes I collect them!

I wanted a little texture on the shell so used a marble stamp cube that I turn to often from Stampendous. And here are the results using the cube, Versamark and Ranger's Perfect Pearls.

I really like the textured feel that this stamp gives to the paper.  And here it is fresh off the Silver Bullet Professional -

A different view

I love the pairing of Dominic's detailed files and the intricacy of the Silver Bullet.  It makes me feel like I can create anything!

And here is the finished product with three layers of Paper Temptress papers - Incandescent Blanco (White) for the card base, Mica Cappuccinio text for the shell and Mica Bronze behind it.   The stamp is from Verve; yes I collect those too!

I hope this brings some cheer to her day.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where does the time go??

Not sure what has kept me from posting other than a lack of inspiration and time  I know you can relate to that.  I have been doing a lot of cooking and will share some photos in the coming week. But I have been really frustrated that the card making has taken a back seat to everything lately. That is about to change!!  (if I say it, will that make it so??!!??)  Fingers are crossed!

I have been working hard to reorganize (or want to reorganize)  my office/craft room, and that seems to be a never-ending, ongoing project. I am one of those people who is obsessive about organizing.  Let me give you an example.  I make lists for EVERYTHING.  Consider, if you will,  my "to do" list.  If I finish a task that is NOT on my list - I will write it down just so I can cross it off.  Oh the sheer joy of drawing a line through a chore!!  Please tell me I am not the only one who does that!  It's a sickness I know, but I admit it!!  And I really do love to organize. Every few months I will redo an area of my craft room and then the snowball starts.  Why is it that one simple cleaning project turns into TEN???   It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  I get a few pieces in place and then nothing else works together so I have to undo and restart again. It's exhausting, but gratifying once I get to the end!  So my hour project usually becomes a day, but I am always happier with the end result, so that's a good thing!!

And this was my "redo the craft room" day..... errrrrrrr..... weekend!!  I believed then, and I still do (although now it's more of a faint glimmer of hope) that if I organized and redid a few things my creative  mojo would return.  At this point I am hoping it is still hiding under that last stack of papers I never got to!!

So here it is as clean as it will ever be.  There is a reason all of the drawers are closed!!  As you can see, my Silver Bullet Professional is the star of the room.  I love it!!

I have been playing with PicMonkey and I am really liking it - so much to learn. But at least it enabled me to share a lot of photos in a hopefully painless way for you.

LATE UPDATE:  Guess what???  I found a little mojo along the way - will be sharing a couple of cards soon and I hope that the more I do the more I will want to do!  And am still cooking so stay tuned for a variety of "Crafting Crumbs in the coming weeks."

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Remembering a GREAT weekend...

It's so quiet here. My daughter and granddaughters left yesterday morning at 5 AM (yes there is life at that hour, but just barely!) and started their long drive home. They arrived safely which is always a blessing, but I miss them so. I don't think, as a parent, you ever get over having your children visit and leave, no matter what the age. But as sad as I was to say goodbye, my mind and heart are full of fun, warm, loving memories. We had one of the best times ever - and it was non-stop! I am happily exhausted.

One of the main things promised to the girls was a walk out on the Oceanside Pier for lunch at Ruby's that sits right at the end of the pier. Early reports predicted rain on Sunday so we were a bit concerned about the plans, but the rain was gone by Saturday morning. What came instead of the rain was incredibly cold weather. For anyone reading this on the east coast, forgive my description of cold. I realize that weather in the low 50s is short and t-shirt season for you!! But for those of us in southern CA, when it hits 33 at night and 55 in the day for a high, that is truly COLD for us!!

The skies were cloudy and it is always windier at the ocean, so we were bundled up for our mile walk out. Usually there are a lot of people fishing, but there were just a few. The day had a bit of a treacherous look about it.

And people were surfing!...
BRRRRR!  It's cold in there!!!

And then there were the winged visitors.... not sure who was checking whom out!!

A pelican stare down!
Someone said this was an egret - I thought they were larger!!

And always seagulls abound - keeping guard over the fishing poles and bait!!
What you cannot see is how hazardous it is. Yes the pier planks are old and uneven - but I am referring more to the danger overhead!!  LOL  Those birds are everywhere swooping for any fish or bait that they can quickly steal - and trust me, they do!!

And there is always the one who wants to entertain the crowd.

Needless to say, there is plenty of entertainment walking back and forth. But getting to the end is the reward!  Behind the girls is the ocean and there were schools of dolphins diving in the surf - it was very cool. This is one time I longed for a telephoto camera instead of my Windows phone!

Lunch was great fun with burgers and milkshakes (the girls indulged  - Haley had a double vanilla milkshake and Kendra had a Shirley Temple milkshake (imagine cherry vanilla).  SO much fun.

The walk back was uneventful - more dodging of birds and the sun was beginning to creep out from behind the clouds.....
And this pelican was a riot standing guard over a little kiosk (off to the right)...

Here is a closeup of the sign...
And they do!!!  LOL

It was a glorious day, yummy food and the  most wonderful memories ever. Hope you enjoyed a bit of not so sunny California!

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marshmallow Mania

For some reason the girls and I were on a sugar rush today.  So it was just natural that later in the afternoon it seemed the perfect time to indulge in sugar decadence - homemade marshmallows!  I really had wanted to try these for the FIRST time before the girls got here so I would feel a bit more adept, but it was humid and rainy and that is not good marshmallow making weather, according to those who are much more experienced than I.  So I was not about to tempt fate and have my first batch be an almost guaranteed sticky mess!

So I got my courage together, gathered all of the ingredients (very few really) and decided to overcome my fear. I have NEVER used a candy thermometer.  I know that is hard to believe, but there was just never a compelling reason, until today.  I wanted to see if I could duplicate the white billowy fluffiness that various authors spoke of.  I used the Marshmallow Madness recipe By Shauna Sever for vanilla marshmallows to keep it simple.

Even though there are not many ingredients, there is a bit of prep.  You have to be sure you have a bag of coating which is simply sifted powdered sugar and cornstarch.

The rest was a blur as you had to move fast. I was so afraid I was going to make a mistake that I forgot to take pictures of the process - darn it all. Suffice to say, it was not bad.  Well, except that I had to bring a mixture of ingredients to a boil and keep it going until the temperature reached 240 degrees.  Easy , right?  I thought so too!  And I had two thermometers at my side, a candy and a digital that both went up to well over 300 degrees.  Well the digital stopped COLD at 230. No matter what I did, it would NOT move.  No problem - I had my backup non techie standard candy thermometer.  It barely moved after a minute.  I was NOT going to give up at this point, so I boiled a bit longer and continued with the process.  (NOTE TO SELF - invest in a quality candy thermometer!!)

Too panicked to take enough photos, I poured it into a running mixer that was slowly whipping gelatin and corn syrup.  

It was a LONG beating process but toward the end, this unattractive liquid transformed before my eyes into a beautiful glossy white bowl of fluff that had tripled in size!  It was quickly poured into the prepared square pan and liberally dusted with the coating.

It looked amazingly interesting - but how would it taste?  There was more work to be done before the sampling could begin. And this was painful for my granddaughters who were anticipating trying Grammy's yummy creation!  The pan of fluff had to sit a MINIMUM of SIX hours - sheer torture.

So we made a pact to get up in the morning and make hot chocolate and sample the marshmallows.  Even then, I heard for the next FIVE hours preceding their bed time.... "is it time yet??"

The next morning we dumped them out of the pan (I held my breath on this one hoping they would be set and look close to what I thought they should....

Then we dusted more, cut into squared and dusted again so there was no icky stickiness!!
And rolled them into even more coating!  Look at those precious helping hands!

But were they good?  You will have to decide from these pictures!!
Haley and Kendra with first tentative bites!!
Haley is not at all sure!  LOL
Melting in hot cocoa goodness - that was the best!!
Kendra was happier by the sip - SUCCESS!!
And yes - we would do it again!!

But it may be awhile before the white dusting disappears from all over the looked a little like it snowed INSIDE this weekend!!  Ahhhhh the memories........!!! Pin It Now!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not always successful....

My granddaughters LOVE Nutella.  I don't mean just LIKE it......... they LOVE it as in they would happily eat it at every meal, especially the younger one! When she (Haley) was little, she loved peanut butter - well as long as you didn't call it that!!  LOL..  If you said ," Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"  she would quickly respond, " Peanut and jelly - no butter!!"  I know  - I still laugh thinking about that cute little two year old looking so seriously at me!  She is now almost SEVEN!  And NOW, she will have NOTHING to do with peanut no butter, unless you hide it well.

So this was my attempt to hide it, but I totally forgot about the miniature Reese's peanut butter cups!  Oh well.......  I was too committed to make this wonderful recipe for Nutella Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread!  I am a fan of Sally's Baking Addiction and am in awe of her photos.  

So I armed myself with the ingredients intent on success.  I am ever grateful for one of the first things my Mother taught me when I began cooking - to take all of your ingredients out first and put them away as you use them.  Then you won't wonder if you forgot to put something in the recipe.  It has saved me on many occasions when I have been interrupted.  So here are the main players (minus a few ingredients that are on the other counter  - oops!)
I am not a gourmet cook or professional baker by any means, but I do have more successes than failures in the kitchen and I really do enjoy it, especially when I have someone around to enjoy it!

How scrumptious does this look now??
Look at those mini peanut butter cups!! OMG!  Yes I few just accidentally slipped into my mouth while I was peeling off  the papers - quality control check of course!

And then the star of the recipe for Haley............NUTELLA!
The recipe said heaping so I took it literally!!  In retrospect, that may have been my downfall - but it looked good at the  time!  And it swirled in beautifully!

 Fifty minutes later I checked it several times with my cake tester and it came out clean.  I thought  I was good to go.  Looks and smells fabulous
 Well all went well until I took it out of the pan.  Even though I tested it, the center caved in - kind of how my heart felt as I watched it happen.  This picture is painful......
See the crack in the middle??  Yes I was hoping the mini peanut butter cups would soften the structural blemish and you wouldn't mind as much!

The recipe is fabulous - it was the cook who blew it this time!
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Friday, February 8, 2013

Goodies for the Girls!

There really is NO point to being a "Grammy" if you cannot spoil your grandchildren.  And I am so blessed to have two gorgeous and adorable granddaughters.  (Don't get me wrong - I have three grown children that I dearly love, but there is absolutely nothing quite like grandchildren!)

So...... I have been baking.  First on the list was chocolate chip cookies, but not just ANY chocolate chip cookies!  I used the recipe from "Two Peas and Their Pod" for their yummy salted caramel chocolate chip cookies!

Just look at this YUMMY cookie dough...
See the SEA SALT sprinkled on top???

OMG -  salty sweet goodness mixed with the Kraft Caramel Bits!!!

I have to make myself forget that these are sitting in the kitchen!!!    They are for the GIRLS - oh yeah - right!!                         There they are..........waiting.......patiently...........

And a view from the top!

Can't you just smell the chocolate chips and caramel???  Oops.......... I think one managed to escape.........  OMG........ it was ooey gooey deliciousness!!
This is make me hungry.......  Will share the swirled nutella bread tomorrow!!  Hope you have a great weekend and as much fun as I am going to have with my girls!! :)

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My granddaughters are coming!!!

I am SO excited !  As I write this, my daughter and granddaughters are driving down from Fresno (about six hours away) to spend the weekend with me!!

I have been busy baking cookies and other goodies (stay tuned!) and making Valentine cards for them so we can celebrate early!  They are 12 and 6 and such fun. The oldest one has been wanting to learn latch hook, so I got her a panda bear rug and we will have  lessons this weekend!  Pandas are her favorite thing this week! Actually that love has lasted the past six months – so hopefully she will love the rug. And the youngest will get a smaller sun and rainbow latch hook to do.  Of course they both have to have similar gifts!

For their Valentine cards, I put my Silver Bullet Professional to work cutting a Scrappy Dew file called “Be Mine”.  And I used one of Penny Duncan’s amazing shapelie files for the background.  I thought these bears were so cute, so just accented them in different shades of pink and added dimension with foam tape.

In the closeup, you can see the shining eyes – they are accented with Glossy Accents, and the nose has black Sparkle Fluff to stand out!  The paws and ears are accented with Distress Inks.  And I double cut the paws so they would pop up a little.  

I also used the Stardust pen to accent the letters and bow to give them some sparkle!  I love bling!

My papers of choice are almost always from Paper Temptress – she has the BEST papers  and service!  And it was a perfect pairing with the Scrappy Dew file.

Here are the wrapped gifts with the cards, all ready for the girls to tear them open!!

We are ready for a fun weekend.

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