NOTE: I belong to the Sweet Romance Reads author group, which is starting a quarterly newsletter. Anyone who subscribes or begins following our Sweet Romance Reads Blog in the coming days is eligible to win a $10 gift certificate. We also invite you to join us in the Sweet Romance Reads Cafe. If you love sweet, clean and wholesome love stories, this is a great place to find them. 😉
Spring continues lovely here in NorCal. I have a red dogwood which has finally come into its own. Long after other pink and white dogwoods have bloomed and then leafed out, my pretty little tree grows a full coat of green and then studs it with beautiful white blossoms. The result is a tiny slice of heaven, right in my own front yard. Bonus: it sits a few feet from my office window, so I can admire it all day long.
In this past week, we’ve also been blessed with rain–a rare occurrence for mid-May, but welcome. We need the water. It’s also lovely to see the fields around us still dressed in green, despite a few days of heat the week before. We will have our golden hills soon, but for now, temperatures are pleasant, everything is verdant, and we’re getting the water we need so badly. Even as I write, our sky is dark with pregnant clouds, heavy with rain. Our blessing may well continue. I’m grateful.
Lockdown continues here as elsewhere, but we are in one of the first two counties in California to begin reopening. Our numbers have been so low, and our county’s plan for reopening so good, that our state government gave us the go-ahead. Many businesses opened their doors last Monday. Tonight, Roger and I ate out–actually sat down in a cafe–for the first time in weeks. The staff all wore masks, our table and our seating were washed down with disinfectants while we watched, and the menus we received were a short-form version of the former menu, all printed on one piece of paper that was binned for recycling as soon as we ordered. (We had touched it, after all.) This may be a preview of what our “new normal” will look like, but what a pleasure to see a bit of our old normal returned!
Most of our meals are still prepped in our own kitchen. Given our cooler weather this week, we have enjoyed hot soup again, likely some of the last I will want to cook as the temperatures rise. This is a favorite and can be made so thick that it might be either a soup or a casserole. I call it a can-opener soup, for reasons that will become obvious. If you like southwestern flavors (we do!), you may want to try this easy, filling recipe.
Southwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup
Brown: 1 to 1 ½ pounds beef stew meat or lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
Add: 2 cups beef broth
Simmer 2-3 minutes
Add: 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can corn, drained
1 can red kidney beans, with fluid
1 small can green chili
Simmer 20 minutes + or –
Add: 2-3 tsp. finely minced garlic
1-2 tsp. Italian herbs (or your own mix of oregano, thyme, and basil)
1 tsp. ground chili powder (or to taste)
Salt to your taste (about 1 tsp.)
Simmer 5-15 more minutes (adjust to fit your schedule; just let it cook together)
Add: ½ cup dried corn
½ cup white rice
Simmer until rice is done, about 20 minutes. Watch the soup to make certain it doesn’t boil dry and stick to the pan. Add small amounts of water if necessary to prevent sticking. Just before serving, add ¼-1/2 cup fresh salsa.
Serve with cheese and sour cream, cornbread or other bread. Avocado and green salad go well.
Note: As you may guess, this is a highly adaptable recipe. Throw in some leftover mixed veggies from last night’s dinner or add a handful of celery or carrots together with the canned ingredients. Change it up by using black beans, cannellini or garbanzos instead of kidney beans or in addition. It’s hearty, tasty, and filling. If you don’t have dried corn, add more rice or maybe some quinoa, or leave more liquid in the soup. Add or delete spices to suit your taste. Enjoy!
What a lovely Mother’s Day! Here in NorCal, the weather heated up, but still brought beauty all around. On Sunday morning, we traveled through some of that beauty to visit a son in a neighboring town. Despite COVID restrictions, we have stayed in touch with family who live nearby.
For Mother’s Day brunch, Roger and I spent the day with our three sons, together with their wives and children, for a scene of beautiful chaos, delicious food, and even better grandkid hugs.
My boys know I love flowers. They remembered that fact in various ways. The hydrangea will eventually find a place in my yard. I will enjoy the other arrangements as long as I can make them last.
My sons were also the brunch cooks, treating me and their wives with a lovely meal none of us were involved in preparing. I should mention here that all of these fine men are good cooks and frequently take a turn in the kitchen. They outdid themselves for this celebration, making sure the recipes stayed lactose-free (since I have to be). We loved the food and the company even more.
I hope that all of you who are mothers, all of you who have mothers, and all of you who celebrate mothers enjoyed Mother’s Day 2020 even half as much as I did. In anticipation of next year, I share this recipe, which you may be able to make right now.
Image courtesy: Martin Dessert (martindessert.com)
Queen’s Cake (Lactose-Free Coffee Cake)
1/3 cup baking mix, such as Bisquick®
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. unsalted margarine
2 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick®
2/3 cups almond milk
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1 beaten egg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and set aside.
To make the streusel, combine 1/3 cup pancake mix, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Cut in the margarine with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until mixture is crumbly.
Stir together the 2 cups of pancake mix, soy milk, sugar, and egg just until combined. Spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon streusel.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool before serving.
Are you up for a party? Yay! I thought so! Me, too, and given that our nation is celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, this seems like a great time to party hardy–virtually, of course.
This party will meet comfortably in the Sweet Romance Reads Cafe on Facebook: ((https://www.facebook.com/groups/SRRCafe1). If you have already joined our group aka the Cafe, all you have to do is show up; if not, join before Thursday so you can easily participate.
The fun begins this Thursday, May 7, at 3:00 p.m. and runs ’til 7:30 p.m., EDT. I get to open the party at 3 and I hope you’ll join me then. If you can’t, drop in any time over the next 4 1/2 hours. My contest will remain open until midnight Friday (EDT).
For my contest, I will be giving away up to five ebook copies of Paris in the Springtime, Book 1 in the new Seasons of Destiny series.
Sixteen other authors will take turns hosting as the party progresses, and almost all of them are running contests of their own.
Wouldn’t this be a good time to win? Or even just to feel like a winner? I wish you the best as you join us this Thursday. Stay safe and well, my friends!
Spring has sprung! Or so goes the old saying. It’s certainly true here at Casa Aylworth in beautiful Nor-Cal where the temperatures could not be more pleasant, the skies more forget-me-not blue, or the blossoms more lovely. The quarantine we’ve all been experiencing has not daunted the flowers. It seems our whole world is suddenly in bloom.
During my permitted morning walks, I have enjoyed all these lovely reminders that after every winter comes a spring. This time of renewal gives me power to keep going. Here I’m sharing some of the loveliest blossoms of the new season, part from my own yard and part from my neighbors.
Most of the time, quarantine means staying in. That has led to some indulgence, and in some cases, over-indulgence. (You may know the meme that encourages social distancing from one’s refrigerator.)
In keeping with that norm, one of our indulgences during this stay-at-home time has been binge-watching TV cooking shows. I’m showing off my interpretation of one Christmas fruit cake. Not bad! though I hope to improve with practice.
Since I don’t have most of the fancy ingredients the TV bakers use, and we’re all discouraged from going shopping just to buy those specialty items, I’ve been looking up recipes I can create from the items in my pantry. Today, I’m sharing two of those with you. These are scones (great for breakfast, dessert, or a treat) made from Bisquick or another baking mix. If you don’t have the mix, use a basic biscuit recipe and then doctor it. Here you go. Happy baking!
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Mix together all ingredients well.
- Take large rounded tablespoons of mixture and drop onto a non-greased pan. (Alternative: roll into a round about ½” thick and cut into wedges, like a pie. Place on non-greased pan.)
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- If you wish, drizzle with simple icing (powdered sugar softened with a tsp. of water) while cookies are still hot.
CHOCOLATE BREAKFAST SCONES
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Mix together all ingredients well.
- Take large rounded tablespoons of mixture and drop onto a non-greased pan. (Alternative: roll into a round about ½” thick and cut into wedges, like a pie. Place on the non-greased cookie sheet or pan.)
- Bake for 10-12 minutes.
- If you wish, you can drizzle with chocolate frosting or melted white or dark chocolate.
As the quarantine lets up, I hope to enjoy, and perhaps share, some of the great recipes I’ve gathered from bingeing the cooking shows. I’ll let you know how that turns out. If you have some good ideas for using common pamtry items, you are welcome to share with us as well.
Master Shakespeare wrote that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” He put those words into Juliet’s lovely mouth and, as usually happens, he caught a great truth–not just about roses–in the statement.
Whether they’re grandifloras or hybrid tea roses, Tropicana or Queen Elizabeth, roses are among my favorite flowers. We didn’t have them when I was growing up because of the allergies (they called it “hay fever”) experienced by both my parents. When I had a home of my own, I promised myself roses.
Now I’m blessed to have an entire rose garden right in my front yard. I put them in front so everyone around me can enjoy them, too. Occasionally, neighbors stop to tell me they walk past the our home on purpose, just to see and smell the roses.
The first bloom of the year is always the most magnificent. Each spring, I await it impatiently. A few roses began the process last week. This week, here at Casa Aylworth in beautiful Nor-Cal, it happened. All at once, everything burst into blossom. I’m thrilled with this year’s rose harvest, so I’m sharing it with you.
Please, enjoy! See if you can even smell them through the airwaves, or at least, in your imagination. And if you’re in one of the northern climes that is still under snow, please feel free to enjoy these flowers until you have some of your own. Happy spring!