Nature Walks – House Finches and Chipping Sparrows

After the snows, it was so beautiful outside. We are in between snows, so i took advantage the break. There was a little crispness to the air, but the sun was shining brightly and the skies were vibrantly blue. The birds were out enjoying it too. I could hear a lot more than I saw, but I did get to see some House Finches and Chipping Sparrows who were out enjoying their day.

The House Finches

Chipping Sparrows

Make the most of your days. There is always something new to see and do.

Soup for a Snowy Day

I love making soups of all kinds. There is something very comforting about soups, especially on a cold, blustery, snowy day. Yesterday was a perfect day for soup too. The winds were blowing, the snow was falling and the outside temperature was frigid. So I stayed in and made a big pot of soup. It just hit the spot.

We are getting ready to leave for another diving trip so I threw in a bit of everything to help clear out the fridge too. This soup is full of stuff; chicken, sausage, onions, carrots, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, and white beans. YUM! it was a very hearty soup that was a meal. It definitely warmed us up from the inside out too.

My mis-en-place is all set, ready to go.

First step was to par cook the sausage so I could chop it for later.

I added the olive oil, carrots, onions and garlic to a hot soup pot and cooked them up for about 7 minutes, or until the onions and carrots were tender.

Next came the meats and seasonings. This took about 15 minutes. I needed to make sure both the chicken and sausage were completely cooked.

Then came about 8 cups of chicken broth.

I brought everything to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer and added the spinach, white beans and tomatoes. I simmered it all for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then it was time for soup.

It was a simple meal of soup, bread and wine. I used the last of my cheesy-mushroom pull apart bread, which was a perfect companion to the soup. Cheesy Mushroom Pull Apart Monkey Bread Sometimes simple meals are all we need. When we eat sim[le meals I can save more room for my favorite snack and dessert – POPCORN! And popcorn we ate too. AWWWW! My kind of meal.

Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

It’s Perfect Weather Mom

The snow has arrived. It has been snowing all morning, and it’s still coming down now. So far, we have about 3-4 inches. We are expected to get between 3-6 inches today.

Both Vinnie and Juneau were made for this kind of weather. This is their favorite type of weather. They both think this is the perfect kind of weather. As they were out enjoying themselves, I was freezing! It’s FRIGID out there. But I was able to capture a few good pictures of them having fun before I had to call them in. Boy did I ever get some dirty looks too when I did too. 🙂

Stay warm, stay well and stay safe Everyone. ‘Til next time.

And Indian Feast – Part 5 – Dessert

This is the last post of my Indian Feast series. When having a feast or celebrating a special occasion you have to have sweets and desserts, right? So this one is about the dessert, although we had so much food, we didn’t really need dessert, but it always appreciated and makes any occasion a special occasion.

My Indian dessert was banana, coconut and cardamom samosas. Usually when I make samosas I make them as a savory dish. I had never thought about making them sweet before. But apparently sweet samosas are very popular in India too, especially for special events and holidays.

Samosas are fried or baked pastries filled with either a savory or sweet filling. They take shape in many different forms, but most commonly as either triangles or half moon shapes, depending on the region they are from. They are popular all over South East Asia, The Middle East, Central Asia, East Africa as well as other parts of the world. They have been around for centuries, and most likely traveled to India from the Ancient Spice or Silk routes. It is believed they originated in the Middle East. The word samosa is a Hindu word, with Persian roots. The word samosa means triangular pastry.

Normally when I make samosas, I fry them, but this time, I actually followed the recipe (a rarity, I know), and it said to bake them, although to be fair, it did also suggest you could fry them, but their preferred method was to bake them. I decided I prefer them fried to baked, but hey I am always up for trying new things. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time for these delicious sweet treats, I will fry them instead of baking them.

Banana, Coconut & Cardamom Samosas

The Pastry

2 large very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

2/3 cup toasted coconut

2 tsp cardamom

2 TBSP light brown sugar

phyllo or filo pastry sheets, cut into strips to make about 20

4-5 oz melted butter

powdered sugar for dusting

The Sauce

1 4-oz bar of chocolate – You can use either dark or white. I chose white chocolate with coconut

1 tsp butter

1 tsp chai tea leaves

If you want to bake these, preheat the oven to 400* F or 200* C. If you prefer to fry them, get a deep skillet or pan and add about 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil. Get the oil to 350* F or 180*C before adding the samosas.

I just toasted the coconut in a dry skillet on the stove. It browns very quickly, so watch it. You do not want to burn it. This is optional, but I prefer toasted coconut to plain. If toasting it, you just want it lightly golden.

Mash the bananas completely, then add the toasted coconut, brown sugar and the cardamom and combine thoroughly.

Working with phyllo or filo dough can be very tricky. It is a very delicate dough that needs to be kept moist. As you are working with the dough, keep the rest covered with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. If it dries, it is close to impossible to work with. I actually used two towels. One dry, and then I added the damp towel on top of the dry towel so the dough did not get wet or mushy.

Get two sheets of the dough and carefully spread it out and brush the melted butter all over the top.

Cut the dough into strips about 2 inches wide. Add a dollop of the banana mixture at the top then carefully fold it over until you have a triangle. Keep folding until you have used the whole strip. Fold it like you are folding a flag. Carefully fold the end pieces into the seam to seal the pastry. Continue until the filling is done.

Once all the triangle pastries are made, brush them with more melted butter. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate them for a awhile until you are ready to cook them, either by pan frying or by baking them.

Either way you prepare them, it won’t take long to cook them. If you are baking them, bake them at 400* F or 200* C for about 4 minutes. If you are frying them, fry them until they are lightly golden. Allow them to cool completely then dust with the powdered sugar.

The sauce is easy to make too. I used white chocolate with coconut, mixed with the chai tea and a little butter, but dark chocolate is great too. Just melt it all down until it becomes a liquid, then drizzle it over the samosas.

I topped them with the sauce and then served them with ice cream and added a sprinkle of chai leaves on top.

They were delicious. They were so light and airy. You could also add some golden sultanas or golden raisins too, both inside the filling and to top them.

These are the books I used for my recipes and my inspirations for this fabulous feast. It was a feast enjoyed by all.

Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – On Frozen Ponds

Today is a beautiful day with clear blue skies. There is only a slight crispness and coolness to the air. But tomorrow … We are supposed to have more snow. I took advantage of the better weather today. So did the ducks and geese.

Our ponds are all in various stages of being frozen over. Some are completely frozen while others are only partially frozen, while others still are frozen only on the ends and are liquid in the middle. Either way, the ducks and geese were having fun.

The tracks. You know they have been here. They have left their marks.

Found … Ducks and geese.

Is this the polar bear swim club?

The geese were mostly our Canadians, but if you look closely, you will also see one lone snow goose hiding.

I’ve got to get away from these crazy boys.

I’m so handsome, she’ll come back to me. I just know it.

BRRRRRR! It’s cold.

My ducks today were mostly Mallards, but I did have a couple of Common Goldeneyes enjoying themselves too.

Stay warm, stay well and stay safe Everyone, but still make sure to always make the best of your days.

An Indian Feast – Part 4 – Tomato and Onion Salad

I am coming to a close on my recent Indian Feast series. Only a couple more recipes to go. This is the last of the main meal recipes and dishes. It is a very simple, very delicious recipe that was a big hit, and helped turn our meal into a feast.

This simple recipe only require a few basic ingredients that we all have in our kitchens and pantries.

Indian Tomato and Onion Salad

1/2 cup white vinegar

1-2 tsp green chilies, diced fine – you can use either jalapeno, serrano or Thai chilies. I use jalapenos for just about everything

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup onion, sliced very thin

4-5 tomatoes, cut into wedges

Cut the onions and peppers first and let them marinate in the vinegar for about 10 or so minutes to mellow and soften their pungent flavors.

Add the tomatoes and chill in the refrigerator until ready to eat. This is both simple and is simply delicious. Enjoy. We all did.

Stay well and stay safe Everyone. ‘Til next time.

An Indian Feast – Part 3 – Green Beans Thoren

I still have a couple more recipes to share with you from our delicious Indian feast I prepared for Elizabeth’s birthday. An Indian Feast – Part 1 – The Shrimp Vindaloo, An Indian Feast – Part 2 – Potatoes and Peppers. This time I am sharing the recipe for green beans thoren.

A thoren or thoran is a vegetable dish prepared with a dried curried spice mixture, coconut, chilies and onions. These vegetables are often eaten with other curried dishes and rice. It is a very popular way of eating vegetables of all kinds in Southern India, though green beans are most commonly used.

Green Beans Thoren

1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed, and cut into pieces about 1 inch in size

3/4 cup shredded coconut

1 jalapeno, or serrano or Thai chili – I like to dice mine nice and fine, but you can keep them in larger pieces if you want more “direct heat” with each bite.

1 TBSP garlic

1/2 red pepper, diced

2 bay leaves or 10 curry leaves

2 TBSP oil – either olive, vegetable or coconut oil

1 TBSP rice

1/2 cup water or more as needed

Spice Mixture

1/2 tsp either ground dry mustard or mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt or to taste

Get a skillet nice and hot at high heat and add the oil. Add the green beans, coconut and spices and mix together well. Add the water and reduce the heat to a medium high, and stir-fry until the green beans are bright green and tender for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. You can use frozen green beans as well, but I LOVE fresh vegetables, so I almost always use fresh over frozen.

When the vegetables are ready serve alongside your favorite Indian dishes and enjoy. We all did. 🙂

Have a great day. Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

A Night At the Rodeo

Tis the season of the National Western Stock Show here in Denver. This is an annual tradition that has been a part of Denver’s and Colorado’s history since 1906.

Every year, roughly 700,000 visit people from all over come to town to watch the Rodeos and to buy and sell their livestock. The Stock Show offers a rare window into Western tradition and the incredible importance that agriculture and ranching industries have made to revolutionize our daily lives. For many other visitors, the National Western Stock Show is a pilgrimage, a gathering of the extended family that sustains and defines the West. Since the first Stock Show in 1906, it has been a place where generations of farmers and ranchers – people whose hard work feeds the rest of us – spend time reuniting with old friends, learning about new approaches and techniques in agriculture and ranching, and doing some business, year after year. The Stock Show goes on for two weeks, with different events all throughout, so unless we are going every night of those two weeks, there is only so much we can see in one evening.

Last night Larry and I paid homage to the Denver tradition and we went to the Pro Rodeo.

I had my camera as always, but this was most definitely an action packed event and I ended up taking mostly videos (which I normally don’t do. I much prefer photos to videos). The videos all came out great but because everything happened so fast, they did not translate well into photos. So I have to confess, most of the photos today are from the pros, and not me, though quite a few are mine.

These are the events we watched.

The Opening

The Bucking Broncos

Mutton Busting. Two of our nephews are farmers from Kansas (where Larry is from) and when they were little, they used to do this too.

Calf Roping

Jacob Edler competes in the steer wrestling during the National Western Stock Show PRCA Finals on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 at the Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Chet Strange/Special to the Denver Post)

The Wagon Trails

The Cossacks

The Cossacks[a] are a group of predominantly East Slavic Orthodox Christian people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities originating in the steppes of Eastern Europe (in particular the Dnieper, in the Wild Fields. Originally they were highly trained horse soldiers. A lot of the moves they did at the rodeo are skills that were needed on the fields of battle in the military to aid soldiers during war. Fortunately today, they are mostly for show, and what a show the put on too. All of the stunts they did were done while the horses were moving at a very fast pace.

There was Women’s Barrel Racing. These horses were so fast and so precise.

And the final event for the evening was the Bull Riding. They move truly love what they do, for every time they do this, they are putting their lives on the line. These big bulls are over 1800+ lbs.

We had a great time at the Stock Show. All of these “cowboys and cowgirls” are incredibly strong and amazing athletes. Hats off to all these phenomenal athletes and cowpokes. Thanks for sharing the cowboy way of life with us. We’ll be back again. Stay safe and ride hard.

An Indian Feast – Part 2 – Potatoes and Peppers

There were many layers and elements that composed our Indian Feast An Indian Feast – Part 1 – The Shrimp Vindaloo. The Shrimp Vindaloo was the main entre, of course, but there were other dishes that helped turn the meal into a feast. Potatoes and peppers were one other part of the whole or piece of the puzzle.

India and the Middle East in general are known for having a wide array of spices used in their recipes. This whole meal used a lot of spices too, although all the recipes used a lot of the same spices. They all worked very well together, as suggested. We were all very happy with the results. For the potatoes and peppers, I used a dry curry or rub made of the curried spices rather than making it into a sauce.

Indian Potatoes and Bell Peppers

Spice Mixture

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground mustard or mustard seeds

2 TBSP yellow split peas

Mix all the spices together and set aside.

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

3 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

1 TBSP garlic

1 large or 2 medium jalapenos or peppers, diced fine

2 tsp lime juice

Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Once the potatoes are done, drain the water and transfer to a hot skillet with the oil. Add the bell peppers, garlic, onions and spices and saute for about 15 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are tender, stirring frequently. I actually wanted my potatoes a little bit browned around the edges and a little crispy, so I cooked them a bit longer. Add the lime juice during the last minute or two of cooking and combine well. You are deglazing the pan and getting all the remaining remnants of the potatoes and spices.

Enjoy these delicious, flavorful potatoes on their own are as part of a meal. Either way, I promise, you are going to love them.

Make cooking fun. Make it an exotic adventure. Travel the world one bite at a time. 🙂

Have fun, stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Pop, Pop, Popcorn

There is absolutely NO doubt about it. Popcorn is my favorite snack. I eat large bowls full of it all the time.

118,225 Popcorn Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

I bring all this up because yesterday, January 19, was National Popcorn Day. I apologize for being a day late on this national day of celebrations. Corn that has been popped has been around for at least about 5600 years. Popped corn has been a favorite of the Native Americans, both in South and North America for thousands of years . It was of course popular for eating, but was also used for decorations, jewelry and ceremonies as well.

I know there are plenty of people who like other kinds of flavors mixed in with their popcorn, and that’s OK … for them. Some people like it with chocolate or caramel or sugar. Others like it with cheese or garlic or even BBQ flavorings. The possibilities are endless, and that’s OK for some, but not for me. Some people like it fancy or gourmet style while others like it colored.

The Best 7 Varieties of Popcorn to Grow Your Own | Gardener's Path
Caramel Popcorn (Caramel Corn) | RecipeTin Eats

I am a popcorn purist though. For me, I stick to the basics. Nothing but oil, butter and salt for me. To me, this is the best way to enjoy my popcorn, eating it one popped kernel at a time.

Popcorn became a popular snack to the American population as a whole around the mid 1800’s. It really became popular at theatres during the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s when the theatres started selling it to help make money to help them stay open.

It is estimated that today, Americans consume about 15 billion quarts of popcorn annually, which breaks down to an average of about 45 quarts per person. I know I certainly eat my share, and then some on a regular basis. 🙂 Some of the reasons for its popularity are because it’s one of the most wholesome and economical foods available to Americans and considered a healthy snack to indulge in. Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is extremely low in calories. Air-popped popcorn only has 31 calories per cup, while oil-popped popcorn has only 55 calories per cup, not counting the butter of course. Popcorn is the perfect go to snack for trying to meet those weight loss (or gain) goals healthily while keeping your body nourished and your tummy happy! It is also good comfort food that is easy to eat and easy to enjoy, whether at home or away.

So pop away and celebrate national popcorn day, even if a day or two late. It’s always time for popcorn.

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