Summer Reading

Hello reading friends– When it’s a hot summer day, I’m really just looking for a glass of cold fizzy water and a good story.  These two books fill the bill– an unbelievable tale of a 100 year old man gone awry and the story of a young girl from a different world rural China.  Here they are:

 

The title of this book, The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, is an indication of the wacky flavor of this Swedish book.   To avoid his 100th birthday party at the old folks home, Allan Karlsson climbs out his window and seemingly disappears.  In actuality, he steals a suitcase stuffed with money, meets up with some colorful accomplices including at elephant,  and is pursued by bumbling criminals.  Alternating chapters go into Allans long life–as an explosives expert who eventually meets up with the likes of Stalin, Chairman Mao, Harry Truman and Winston Churchill, not to mention his trek across the Himalayas on a camel, his stint in an Iranian prison or his participation in the Manhattan Project!!  The whole book is so far-fetched as to be crazily entertaining.  Jonas Jonasson gives us a rollicking tale of sympathetic characters just right for a read on a hot summer’s day.

 

One of Lisa See’s book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, is one of her best.  Li-yan grows up in a rural village of Yumman, China, harvesting tea with her family.  The village is ruled by prescribed mores and customs and when unwed Li-tan has a baby, the tradition is for that baby to be killed.  Instead, she takes it away to an orphanage and her daughter Haley is adopted by an American couple and grows up in a happy California home.  Li-yan goes on to an education and a vocation in the tea trade, but always longs for her daughter, while Haley hopes and searches for the mother of her homeland.  Fascinating look at a culture so far removed from our own and the two parallel lives that are connected by birth.

 

P.S. Illustration by Helen Oxenbury–love her children’s books.

 

 

Zucchini & Tomato Pasta

 

Hi all– Still “tomato time” around here.  So many tomatoes!  We are eating them twice a day–lunch and dinner (so far no tomatoes have slipped into our breakfast cereal!)  And this is my favorite use of our “crop” so far.

The little cherry tomatoes burst and shed their juices.  And this mixed with parmesan and garlic makes a lovely rich sauce.  Throw in some pasta and its a pretty perfect summer supper.  I was excited that we had leftovers to enjoy it all over again!

ZUCCHINI & TOMATO PASTA
8 oz. of your favorite pasta
6 oz. pancetta (or 6 slices of bacon), chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped to bits
garlic salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup parmesan romano
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut to shreds

While you are making the tomato topping, put the pasta on to cook.

Cut the pancetta to small bits and cook it in a large nonstick skillet.  When it’s cooked crispy, remove the bacon from the skillet, leaving the fat in the pan.

Put the chopped zucchini in the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt & freshly ground pepper.  Cook 4 or 5 minutes until the zucchini starts to brown, but is still crispy (not soggy!).  Take out the zucchini and set aside.

Then add the tomatoes to the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper and cook on high heat, 7 or 8 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and release their juices.  Add the minced garlic to the skillet the last couple minutes the tomatoes are cooking.  Stir in the parmesan romano, stirring to melt it a bit.

Finally add the zucchini & bacon back to the skillet. Stir in the shredded basil.   Spread the drained pasta on a platter and then top it with the tomato mixture.  Enjoy!

Banana Pecan Waffles

Good morning Breakfast Eaters–  We’re still experimenting with our new waffle iron.  There’s been some hits and misses.  But this has been a favorite so far (and I’m pretty sure you may see more waffles float by on these pages in the future!).

The sweetness from the bananas, a little pecan crunchiness and a light texture from beating the egg whites, make it a winner!

BANANA PECAN WAFFLES
2 ripe bananas
3 eggs, divided
1 1/2 stick butter (3/4 cup) melted, cooled for a few minutes
1 1/4 cup milk
1  1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tab. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
garnish: maple syrup & fruit

Smash the bananas to a paste with a fork in a mixing bowl.  Separate the eggs.  Put the whites in a new mixing bowl (set it aside) and the yolks in with the bananas. The mix in the milk and butter with the bananas.

Then add in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt to the banana mixture.  Stir it all together. Fold in the pecans

Next take the egg whites, and beat them with an electric mixer until they are foamy.  Then add in the sugar and continue to beat on high speed until they are glossy and stiff peaks form.  Be patient.  This takes 4 or 5 minutes.  (Best done with the whisk attachment of your mixer).

Then gently fold the egg whites into the banana batter, mixing until there are no white streaks.

Pour about one cup of batter into a hot waffle iron that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook according to the directions on your waffle iron (mine takes 7 or 8 minutes for each waffle and made 6 medium waffles).

Serve them up with syrup and fruit and big mugs of tea.  Delish!

A Big Day!

Hi friends!  Yesterday was a big day around here– Larry went off to his last day of work!!  He’s retiring so we’ll be two old folks rattling around the house together. Kind of.  Actually, we’re leaving in a few days for our daughter’s wedding in in the woods in Wisconsin.  And will come home to trek up to San Francisco to meet a brand new grand-baby!!

After that, we’re making plans.  Larry’s immediate priority is to “drink coffee and read books.”  But with both of us retired, there are so many doors open.   It’s wonderful to be looking to what God has ahead  for us…   Who knows?!

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you guide them.      — Exodus 15:13

Chocolate Cherry Cake

Hi friends– Last weekend was a cake-o-rama around here.  My sis and I made cakes for a big family baby shower– anticipating baby Wyatt’s coming to the big wide world soon!  And our dear younger friends Travis & Bekah were married in this most hopeful happy wedding– simply beautiful.  More cake baking!

So here’s my favorite of the bunch.  Fresh cherries in the cake and in the frosting– with rich ganache and cherries on top!

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

Cake:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
water
canola oil
3 eggs
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted & chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
6 oz. butter (1 1/3 stick)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. amaretto (or vanilla)
2/3 cup cherries, pitted & chopped very fine

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tab. butter
1 cup chocolate chips

Garnish:
stemmed fresh cherries

Make the cake according to the directions on the box–mine used 1 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup oil and 3 eggs.  Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.  Then fold in the cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into 3 –9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes–until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely before adding the frosting!

To make the chocolate ganache, bring the cream and 2 tab. butter to a low simmer in a pan on the stove top.  Take it off the heat and beat in the chocolate chips for 2 or 3 minutes until they are melted and the ganache is glossy.  Let this cool completely before your pour it over the frosting (so you won’t melt the frosting!!)

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and amaretto (start on the lowest setting so you won’t have powdered sugar flying out of the mixing bowl!).  When that is blended, stir in the cherries with a wooden spoon until they are thoroughly mixed in and the frosting is colored a light pink from the cherries.

Frost the 3 layers of the cooled cake, stacking as you go.  When the ganache is thoroughly cooled drizzle it over the cake letting little streams pour down the sides.  Top with a mound of fresh cherries– Done! and so pretty!

Chicken & Summer Veggie Tostadas

Hello all– If you go into our back yard and peek through the fence, you can see our neighbor, Mr. Wicks’ garden!  Really more of a mini-farm.  Fruit trees and all kinds of squash,  green beans and loaded tomato bushes eight feet tall!  And he’s generous.  Giving out fruit and his famous roses to neighbors who pass by.  And we are the often happy beneficiaries of his bounty– this week zucchini and yellow squash!

And of course, the best way to use any lovely food is to roll it into a taco, in this case a tostada.  Thanks Mr. Wicks.  They were delicious!

 

CHICKEN & SUMMER VEGGIE TOSTADAS
1 tab. olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound boneless chicken breast
1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
1 medium zucchini, chopped to small bits
1 cup fresh (or frozen, defrosted) corn kernels
1/2 cup sales verde
3 tab. chopped cilantro
6 standard corn tortillas
1 tab. olive oil
1/2 cup colby jack, grated
garnish: cilantro, avocado slices

 

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet.  Mix the cumin, salt & pepper in a bowl.  Cut the chicken into flat filets and dredge it in the cumin mixture.  Set it in the hot pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Take the chicken out of the pan to a cutting board and cut it into small bite size pieces.

In the same skillet, add the chopped red onion, zucchini and corn.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the salsa verde and cilantro.  Mix. Take it off the heat.

Set the tortillas onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush the tablespoon of olive oil onto the tortillas.  Set them under the broiler on a medium heat setting for 1 or 2 minutes until they are crispy and lightly browned.

Then stir the chicken into the zucchini mixture and heap it onto the tortillas.  Sprinkle the cheese over the tops and set them back under the broiler for just a minute until the cheese melts.  Garnish with cilantro & avocado.  Add a crispy salad and dinner is ready!!

The Peace of God

Hi friends– I feel like instead of posting another cake or picture of grand-kids, I should tell you these are trying days here at our house.  I can’t really go in to details here, but we are in the most difficult times we’ve faced– and it’s likely to last a while.  We are asking God’s help day by day and remembering the enormity of his merciful, faithful love and his peace in the center of the storm.

“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  –Philippians 4:5-7

P.S.  photo looking from Sausalito across the bay on from a couple weeks ago in SF.