Chocolate Chip & Pecan Bars

 

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Hello Cookie-loving Friends– To tell the truth, until now not a cookie has entered my oven this long hot summer.  Baking has been reduced to a few necessary cakes.  But there’s a tinge in the air– could baking season be far off?!  It’s down to the 80’s this week and I’m imagining fall around the corner with apple tarts and orange rolls and batches of brownies!

So when we had our Thursday night crew in last week, I cranked up the oven and made these chocolate-y cookie bars– all the better with pecans (because who doesn’t love pecans??).  They are easy and cut up into neat little squares.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP & PECAN BARS
4 tab. butter (1/2 stick)
2 tab. canola oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1  1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

With an electric mixer blend together the butter, canola oil, white sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until they are smooth and creamy.  Then beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally add in the chocolate chips and pecans (I keep a small handful of both aside to sprinkle on top to make it prettier)

With your fingers press the dough into a 9″ by 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are lightly browned and cooked through.

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Wisconsin Part #2- Off to the North Woods!

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Hey there– Here’s part #2 of our trip to Wisconsin.  Once the family all rolled into Madison, we touristed about a bit and then headed up to the North Woods–  lakes, trails and blue skies…  It was tons of fun!  (Warning: this post may contain excessive photos.  I’m trying to cut it down. I just can’t help myself!)

We started out our Madison tour at the grand Farmers Market nestled in the park around the State Capitol.  Veggies, flowers galore, and beautiful bread!  And people, lots of people!
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Photos above:  Four Farmers Market shoppers, zinnias and pretty squash

After a quick pizza lunch, we strolled back to the State Capitol building for docent tour, informative fun.
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Above photos:  Charlotte and the Forward (Wisconsin state motto!) Statue in front of the Capitol building, 2 girls on the mezzanine,  our docent in a legislative salon, looking up!

Then we shopped our way down State Street to the University of Wisconsin to sit on the lake terrace for brats, beer and their famous ice cream (made by the dairy science department!)  And after dinner, ambled down along the lake as the sun set.
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Above photos: Relaxing on the lake terrace at U of W, Micah and Jodi enjoying their ice cream, sailboats put up for the night,  sun setting on Lake Mendota.

Finally, we set forth North!  First stop was Wausau, Wisconsin to meet John’s family (he’s our Laurel’s finance). John’s mom Deb (5th from the left) cooked up a great backyard meal and the next day we explored (i.e. ate & shopped) our way through downtown Wausau.  Thanks for your warm & wonderful welcome Deb!!
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Above photos: Family portrait in Deb’s backyard, Jobay having great fun in the bookstore, Larry’s version of shopping (sitting in a coffee shop),  Shop street in Wausau. (thanks John for including a could shopping trips in the schedule.)

Next we were off to scale the peak of Rib Mountain, the tallest mountain in Wisconsin (but actually kind of hill-ish by California scale). The green, gorgeous deciduous forest was enchanting.  Simply beautiful.
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Above photos:  Trekking through the forest, rocking climbing girls, lichen encrusted stump.

Continuing “Up North,” we stopped at a farm to buy sweet corn for the week ahead in the cabin, and met up with some curious baby cows.
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Above photos:  meeting the calves, a friendly (cow) face

At last, we made our up to the cabin on Lake Minocqua, our home for the week.  And the next morning set out for a day on the lake, cruising, swimming, picnicking along the way.
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Above Photos:  Home Sweet Home for a few days, bringing in the boat, the grand-girls all suited up for our day on the water, local boathouse.

There was a morning visit to the Northwoods Historical Museum (featuring the world’s first snowmobile!)
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Above photos: Vintage old kitchen, local wildlife (Go Cal Bears!!),  snow mobile collection.

One day we passed a grand afternoon canoeing and splashing in Johnson Lake at John’s family cabin.  And let me say, canoeing is scarier than it looks!!
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Above photos:  Hanging out on the dock,  Brian in front of the cabin, Maryann the fisher-girl, canoe paddlers across the lake.

And here’s just a few more miscellaneous very favorite pics that I can’t possibly leave out!  (are you even still watching??   thanks for sticking with me!!)
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Above photos:  Hike around Star Lake (loved it!), Jobay enjoying sweet corn, 3 girls walking with John on our way to Lazy Jane’s Bakery Cafe for breakfast,  our “tour director” John pointing out the sights from Rib Mountain, Jodi & Jobay on Jobay’s #5 birthday in the cabin, boathouse and dock on Lake Minocqua.

So thankful for the days with the family in such a beautiful place– Thanks Laurel & John for inviting, planning, organizing, and herding us across the fine state of Wisconsin.  It was grand!

Citrus Chili Chicken

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Hello all– It’s been been fun to sit down to dinner this week.  My sis, Luanne and her husband are staying with us for a couple weeks, on their summer home from Kosovo.  Mostly we’ve been cooking together and working on a couple sewing projects and watching a whole lot of the Olympics.

So here was dinner a couple nights back.  Citrus flavor with a bit of spice glazing the chicken, and toasty roasted potatoes rounding out the plate.  Add a bright salad and a couple congenial houseguests.  Just great.

CITRUS CHILI CHICKEN
12 red potatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic salt
6 chicken thighs
1 lime
1 orange
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
25 good olives
1 cup chicken broth
1 tab. cornstarch

Cut the potatoes into wedges.  Put them in a glass bowl with an inch of water and cook for 5 minutes in the microwave.  Drain the water from the potatoes and spread them on a baking sheet.  Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle the garlic salt over the top.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs (You can leave it on if you don’t mind the fat).  Set them in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Juice the lime and pour the juice over the chicken thighs.

Grate the peel from the orange and save.  Juice the orange and then in a mixing bowl stir together the orange juice, orange peel, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.

Pop the chicken in the baking dish and the baking sheet of potatoes into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Take out the chicken and baste the chicken with the juices in the baking dish.  Cook the potatoes and chicken 20 minutes more.

When they are done, lift the chicken thighs  and potatoes onto a platter.  Sprinkle the olives over the top. Cover to keep warm.

Pour the juices from the chicken baking dish into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  In a container with a tight fitting lid shake together the chopped cilantro, chicken broth and cornstarch until it is all well blended.  Pour into the sauce pan with the juice and stir until the sauce thickens.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve it up warm with a crispy salad and a chunk of sturdy bread.  Enjoy!

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Orange Glazed Angel Food Cake

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Hi all– This is really not a recipe– just an easy idea.  And no cake is easier to make than Angel Food (from a mix!).  Just add water, mix, don’t even spray the pan, bake. Just follow the directions on the box.  And the pretty glaze on top just needs 2 ingredients.  Viola!

We made this for one of the cakes for Mom’s birthday–makes a nice alternative to heavier cakes.  And pretty much got eaten down to the last crumb.  It’s my Larry’s favorite.

ORANGE GLAZED ANGEL FOOD CAKE
Angel food cake mix
1 large orange
1  1/2 cup powdered sugar

Bake the cake according to the directions on the box in an angel food pan and cool upside down, perched on a bottle to keep the cake from shrinking.  When the cake is cooled, removed it from a pan onto a pretty plate.

Grate the zest from the orange and set aside.  Juice the orange.  Then whisk together the powdered sugar and the orange zest and 3 tablespoons of the orange juice.  If the mixture seems too thick, add a bit more juice just a few drops at a time until the glaze is the texture of honey.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake.  Done– and so pretty!

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Out and About in Madison

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Hello all– Back from a couple weeks in Wisconsin and it was really a 2 part trip (so more later…).  Here’s “Wisconsin– Part #1,”  This is the week with Laurel out and about in Madison.  I thought about calling this post “Mad About Madison”  –I liked it that much!  Here’s my faves from our days together:

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the state capitol building!!  Laurel’s co-op office is on a corner of the capital square, so she walks straight through the building on her way to work in the morning– a glorious commute!

One afternoon we took off across the countryside, past hilly farmland, stopping in Mt. Horeb  and rolling on the Cress Spring Bakery for Pizza on the farm.
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Photos:  Rolling farmland, Scandinavian shop in Mt. Horeb,  pizza picnickers out on the farm.

We spent a morning in the new Madison Public Library–being very fond of libraries (especially this one!), I went back and read through one afternoon there while Laurel was working…
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Photos above:  back half of the children’s floor, library exterior, Laurel looking over the kid’s book selection,  3rd floor event space looking across the city.

Just loved strolls through Laurel’s neighborhood on Lake Monona, all the stately older houses, lush trees, flowered yards– plus the lake and park along the canal.  So different than my little California suburb.
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Photos above:  Bridge across the canal, two of my favorite houses, morning crew out on the dock feeding ducks.

One day, I wandered across the street from Laurel’s work to stroll through the Wisconsin History Museum– four floors of Indian artifacts, immigrant settlers and things particular to Wisconsin–an afternoon well spent.
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Photos above: Indian utensils and satchels, immigrant clothing & religious artifacts

And Laurel and I took drizzly walk through her neighborhood along the lake to Olbrich Gardens to walk past fountains, flower beds, and wooded pathways.
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Thanks for your warm and wonderful hospitality Laurel & John–It couldn’t have been more fun!  Glad we finally got our picture up on the visitor wall!!  (We’ll be back!)

Polenta with Turkey Meatballs & Marinara

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Hey there– Home from our trip to Wisconsin (I’ll be sending along more travel pictures later.  I’m one of those moms who over-take photos, just ask my kids!).  I think I use this blog as a combination recipe file & family scrapbook.  So fun to look back at good fun & food memories. Anyway, so now we’re back to real food made in a kitchen, instead of fun nights out with the kids!

And this is a fine dinner (with more leftovers for other dinners!) that I found on Jasmine’s blog– at http://therichmondavenue.com  Her photos are beautiful, and it’s chock full of good practical recipes.  I think you’d like it.

POLENTA WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS & MARINARA

Meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tab. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
freshly ground pepper

Marina Sauce:
2 tab. olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. brown sugar (optional)
2/3 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper

Polenta:
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup polenta cornmeal
3 tab. butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

To make the meatballs, combine the turkey, 2 cloves minced garlic, egg, bread crumbs, 2 tab. parmesan cheese, dried basil. garlic salt and a few twists of pepper.  It works best to just mush it all together with your hands!

Then form balls and set them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  It makes about 20.  Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20minutes until they are nicely browned and cooked through.

While they are cooking, make the marinara sauce.  Heat the 2 tab. of olive oil in a pan and then add in the chopped onion  Cook it for 3 to 4 minutes until it’s golden and then add in the 6 (!) cloves of garlic and cook for a minute more.  Then add in the crushed tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Simmer for just 4 or 5 minutes while you start the polenta.

In a pan bring the 4 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil.  Then stir in the polenta and butter and cook, stirring for a few minutes until it thickens.  Then mix in the 1/2 cup parmesan.

To serve it all up, mix the cooked meatballs into the sauce.  On a platter, spread out the polenta and top it with the sauce and meatballs.  That’s it!  Supper on the table.

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Family Trek at Star Lake

 

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Hi friends– at the end of a wild and wonderful week in Wisconsin with the family.  Laurel’s John was our travel guide– and one morning he trundled us all up to Star Lake for a 2.5 mile trek through the forest, across a bog and around the lake.  It was gloriously green and one of my favorite parts of the trip…

Brian primed the pump for pre-hike drinks.
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And Grandpa Larry is always good for a horse-back ride when the going gets long…
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Aunt Laurel supplied Maryann with an install camera to snap prints along the way– and those two are always up for a dramatic pose along the way!
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John and his hiking buddies by the Black Lagoon (an actual place, not just a book!)
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I always have to include a “bottoms on the trail” picture (since I’m the last in line!)
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Along the pathways we found all kinds of mushrooms and moss and interesting things growing.
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There were a couple rest stops along the path–Ani by Star Lake…
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…and a bit of wading involved.
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Soaking up the tranquil beauty all along the way.
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Micah. Jodi and the 3 grand-girls took a family photo at the end of the trail.
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Larry snaps a shot of the group at a rest point.
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Thanks Laurel and John for planning a fun day out in such a gorgeous spot.  Loved loved it!