Maybe Minestrone

I am not a huge TV watcher. I can take it or leave it and I would say 98% of the time I leave it.  However there is one exception. I do DVR Pioneer Woman, Barefoot Contessa, and Trisha Yearwood. There is one more but I haven’t watched any of the shows yet, so I can’t even remember the name.  Oh well, these are my big three. Everyone in my house knows that if Mom sits down and turns TV on, it is going to cooking shows.  Well it is what I do.

This morning started much the same as usual, take the kids to the bus stop and come back here for my breakfast before I begin cleaning or tackling any other to do items.  I have been eating the Pioneer Woman’s Spinach Artichoke dip for breakfast. I made it a couple of days ago. Look that one up on her blog. It is amazing!!!

Well I decided to catch up with Mrs. Ina.  She was making a great soup called Minestrone. Never made it before. However lots of chopping, lots of cooking. The longer I watched the more I thought I can make this. I have NEARLY all the ingredients. Well Decision made. The end of the show Ina and her husband were in front of the cozy fire and that topped it for me. I want to be warm and cozy enjoying this soup.

As I looked at Ina’s recipe, it immediately became apparent that I was going to have to improvise. I did not have a lot of the ingredients and since I live 33 miles from civilization, I would not be getting them anytime soon.  However I was already invested so here we go. Check hers out at www.foodnetwork.com. Hopefully next time I will have all the stuff to make it her way. When living on the ranch the main lesson I have learned is flexibility in all things. You gotta make things work.

Here we go. Her recipe uses pancetta. I don’t have any, never have. So I am going for bacon. Is that the same. I hope so. Maybe they are close and it will give a similar taste. I chopped it up with my handy-dandy kitchen shears and cooked it until almost crumbly, but not crunchy. I have a high hate for crunchy bacon. EWWW!

The next couple of items goes extremely well. I have carrots, onions, celery, but no squash. I figure potatoes will do. So I chop up a couple of those and throw them in. I let them cook with garlic, thyme. I do not have any canned tomatoes. But what I do have is a can of tomato sauce and some fresh tomatoes. I throw that in with about half a can of water. I add the 4 cups of chicken stock from my freezer. (Darn if I had thought ahead. I just made it and put in the freezer yesterday.) I let it all cook for about 30 minutes until the veggies were tender.

I then added 2 cups of dry elbow noodles. That was all I had besides rainbow spirals. I do not have any beans what so ever. I have never been out of beans. I am not sure what has happened to my cabinets. I am usually overly stocked on everything. I am thinking a major shopping endeavor is going to happen soon in my future.

I add 1 block of frozen chopped spinach and let it melt in the pot. I add some more chicken stock. Yep the rest of what I made. At this point my pot is almost to the spilling point. However I add just another handful of noodles. I figure they will soak up some extra moisture.  My chicken stock also has some chicken that came off the bones. So I do have some of that floating in my pot. Not sure how this is going to turn out.

It begins to thicken. The noodles are done. I add just a little more salt and pepper. Ladle myself a bowl and top with grated parmesan cheese. Not bad. Not bad at all. Wow, I can only imagine if I had made it properly as in her recipe, but this is pretty good.

Here is my recipe. If you make it let me know it I need to adjust something. Sometimes I forget my exact substitutions.

IMG_00000508

How many utensils can I fit in that pot? I know crazy.

Connie's Substitution Minestrone

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 5-7 pieces of bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, washed and diced with skins on
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 can of water
  • 4 tomatoes, washed, and diced
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups dry pasta
  • 1 pkg frozen chopped spinach
  • Shredded parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon over medium heat until brown, but not crunchy. (unless you like crunchy)  Add the onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, tomato sauce, water, tomatoes, and 4-5 cups of the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce and cook uncovered at a simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the dry pasta and spinach.  Cook at a simmer until the pasta is done. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve in large bowls, with parmesan sprinkled over the top.

IMG_00000506

Oh, it’s yummy. Hopefully the hubby will agree when he arrives home off the mountain.

Advertisements

That One Magical Place. SCOTLAND!!!

I don’t know about you, but most people I talk to have one place  in their heart and mind that is their magical place. Maybe it was a place they used to live, a place that the celebrated a great memory, maybe a place their family lived at one point, or just a place they have visited or want to visit.  It is that one place that when we think of it, our worlds fade. Our hearts begin to slow their beating, and we can feel it. We can smell the scent of the air. AHHHH! It is purely magical. Is it not?

For me it is a place that I had always wanted to visit. I had dreamed for years, lets say decades. I can date myself. Yes decades. I just imagined how lovely it would be. And then we went. In 2010, I was able to convince my ranching husband that the cattle would be fine. We had grass that summer. The weather was great, so hopefully no fires. Things were good to go to the place of my dreams. I booked our vacation and in August we boarded a plane for SCOTLAND!! Oh, I threw in a visit to a cattle ranch so that he would be getting his rancher needs met. It was going to be glorious.

I am an avid romance novel reader. I have always been a reader, but highland romance novels as corny as they sound are just fabulous. I can read it in one night and enjoy a little mind vacation to the place of my dreams.

When we arrived it was just as I had imagined only better. It was the most glorious place my eyes have every witnessed. It was so green, with sheep grazing on the hillsides. The coast was amazing. In our 8 days of driving, we only had rain once. It was just awesome.  I took over 700 pictures, and not a one does the country justice. I hope one day to return to take my kids, when they are grown.

The people, although hard to understand at first, were downright the nicest ever. I felt right at home even though I was a silly tourist. There is not one bad thing I have to say from our experience, except that we weren’t there long enough.

Scotland is definitely one place that has never left me and I find myself going their in my mind as often as I can. I have told my husband that when he dies, which will surely be before me, that I am going to move there and live out my days.

Do you  have a place like that? A place that pulls to you. A place that you can never full shake out of your system. It seems to creep up in one too many conversations, until you know you begin to annoy people with your fascination with it.

Oh, even now. I can see it, I can feel the damp air, smell that aroma of stone and history. I don’t have family from Scotland. So sad for me. Irish yes and Wales, but no Scottish. Lots of German and some English, but no Scottish. Oh to be a proud clan from Scotland. Don’t get me wrong I am very proud of where my ancestors have come. But they are different there. To be a member of a clan and to have that heritage on your shoulders. Oh, Heaven would be mine. I dare say it would.

I think I am going to have to settle for a romance novel tonight and dream of my Magical Place!!!

First Time Potato and Ham Soup!

IMG_00000439

When it’s cold out I want soup. When I am stressed I want soup. (Well I want to chop stuff up and soup lets me do that.)Last week was just cold, damp and gloomy. So I was in the soup making mood.

When our last week of hunters drive away. That is my cue to begin cleaning out the hunting house and bringing all the food back to my house. With the power outage, I had more than my usual amount of food to bring home and some needed cooked. I had two bags of the diced ham. I use it for a ham, egg, cheese, and hash brown breakfast casserole. My kids won’t eat it, and I hate eggs. (Yes, long story, but I detest them.)  So I needed to use it up.

Searching online I found several ham and potato soup recipes. I am notorious for reading 10 recipes and then using parts of all of them. It usually works out okay, until I go to make it again and have no idea what I did. This is one of those instances, but I think I remember pretty good.

Well I pulled out the pot and away we went.  I actually turned out delicious. My overly picky son, devoured it. He even took it to school in his lunch the next day and wanted it for supper. So it is a make again recipe.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Ham and Potato Soup

  • 3-4 large potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 6 cups water, or enough to cover the potatoes
  • 1-2 pkgs diced ham,
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Watkins Chicken flavoring or bullion granules
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp flour to thicken
  • 3 cups, milk or more to thin

1. Combine the potatoes, onion, ham, and water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, cook over medium heat until tender.  Stir in the chicken flavoring, salt, and pepper.

2. Stir together butter and flour until combined. Add to the soup mixture.  Stir until dissolved. Add the milk. Stir over medium low heat until thick and soup is heated through.

3. Adjust with more thickening or thinning until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste.

This is a great soup because you can add to it with more ham, maybe cheese. Serve it as thick or as thin as you desire.

John’s Pajama Project

How many times do I need to start a new project? Who knows? But it is often. I have baskets of yarn that I was crocheting and knitting last fall. However quilting has been my latest craze. It is time consuming, mind boggling, extremely tedious, and absolutely fun!

My dear son, who has the sweetest soul, has been saving all the pajamas his Grandmother Tennessee has made him over his ten years of life. (I am originally from Tennessee and the kids started calling my parents Pop Tennessee and Grandmother Tennessee when they were little. It has just stuck) All for his mother to make into a quilt someday.  He has worn all of these. Some are thread bare in areas, while others were only on his little body for one short lived slumber.  They are all sorts of patterns from Christmas, to western with horses,  to pink with skunks for Valentine’s Day and everything in between.IMG_00000504

Look at that pile of pajamas! And the Mess! I should have cleaned that up. But sewing is messy right?

After I finished my mom’s Christmas present of the Carpenter’s Star quilt. John set me up to begin his quilt.  Oh dear I have dreaded this. We went through pattern after pattern on the internet and he finally decided on what he wanted.  I gathered up all the pajamas and took them down stairs to the table.

Oh Dear!! The kids were upstairs and I must say I was a sight to behold.  I unfolded those little pants and tops. I can remember him wearing each one and how adorable he looked.  The more I looked I found smaller and smaller ones and the tears just flowed and flowed. Is he really almost 10! Has he really outgrown these. Surely not!

IMG_00000498

See this little shirt. I mean could you cut that up.

I look at that and I can see that little boy wearing it. I’m crying again.

I laid the spiderman pants down on the cutting board. Your kidding me! I have to cut these up!! I really have to cut these up.  I can’t. I couldn’t. They are perfect. They are not even worn out. Someone could wear these. John can surely wear these. It was a hideous battle in my head.  Then I took the cutter and Zip. Away went the elastic and it started. I cut up the pants into as many six inch squares as I could.

Then I looked at the top. I don’t think that I need that much. So the tops were spared. Yes I know it is silly. But I just couldn’t do it. What is it about being a mother and keeping these baby clothes.

Pajama Squares

I made progress. I cut up three different ones.

It’s amazing I got that far with all the crying and holding and crying. Did I mention I was crying.

As I began to sew them into half squares. I realized that the little pajamas would be made into something that would last much  longer than his ability to wear them. Once the quilt is finished, he will be able to take Grandmomma Tennessee with him always and see all that she made for him. He will look at those squares and remember that outfit. (and if he forgets, I can show him the pictures). He will snuggle under the warmth that is provided by all those years of winter night garments.  How could I not see that it is even better than storing them just to take out of the box and cry over. I will be giving new life to his little clothes.

I admit progress is slow on this one. I will keep you updated, but for now I am at least cutting!

It will be interesting to see if he sticks with the pinwheel design. I think I will keep all the squares free before I sew them together. Just in case he changes his mind.

IMG_00000496

Poor Joe with his cast January 2013

Poor Joe with his cast January 2013

Joe was jumping off a 4- wheeler to gather cattle, when his front leg snapped in half. He yelped once and that was it, he never made another sound. He spent months being locked up and becoming a house buddy. ( which by the way be loved.) He has healed and although he can’t go as long out trailing he does go, but catches a ride from someone on the 4-wheelers when he needs it.

Here we go.

Image

Can I rant a little? Well of course it’s my little blog, in my little world. We live on miles, I mean Miles of dirt roads. It’s awesome. Who doesn’t love a good dirt road. No one comes down our road unless it’s the UPS driver or oilfield traffic. Basically we are in our own little civilization here. What could be better? What could be bad about it right? Wrong.

Dirt roads bring dust. Not really an issue until there are 30 or more semi trucks delivering water to the wells. Let’s just say going slow is not one of their finer skills. I will say dust I can handle. It could be worse.

Oh wait it is. Next comes mud. That’s right when the snow melts as it has this last few days, it seeps into our tired deprived ground and creates a wonderful layer of slippery goo. If mud bogging was a skill, let me say I am up there. I can rooster tail with the best of them. Well mine is not on purpose, but I can do it. Mud also creates ruts. Deep truck rocking ruts. When the road is driven on over and over and then the mud dries the ruts are deep. They pull your tires in and keep you in the tracks. It can rattle your teeth at times let me just say. I could slow down a little more, but I am also racing something. Usually it’s beating the clock to get somewhere on time.

Well yesterday our road had basically dried up. You could walk outside with out the need for muck boots. But that tricky mother nature, she loves me. I can tell she does. Last might it started raining and it rained, and it rained. So that it was a muddy, sticky, gooey mess outside.

Today was vet day. Yes I scheduled all four dogs to go in and see my amazing Dr. Root. (aka best vet ever). I let the dogs in at about 4:30 am when the rain got bad. Of course my Jipsey was already in, snuggled up on our bed. It’s awful I know.

When the kids were ready, I went out in my trusty Muck boots and started the truck and spread out a sheet on the back seat. I could not have my dogs getting the truck muddy. I then realized that one of the kids would have to sit on back with the dogs. So I devised a plan. Yes, it’s possible. I decided to carry each dog individually out to the truck, so that they would not have muddy feet. Oh my gosh. The three females were no problem. Our big red and white border was different. Since breaking his leg in half. Yes completely compound fractured and completely disgusting. He has healed, but in his confinement of about 10 months, he has gained some weight.  Now he is a large dog anyway.

Let me say I am small. Yes, I will admit I am vertically challenged. At 5 foot 2 inches, this dog is about as long as me. So you can just picture me trying to carry this dog in slippery gooey mud to the truck and once there I had to open the door. My goodness that was a task. I am surprised we didn’t fall and both of us roll in that muck.

We made it to the vet. The kids made it to school. They even remember to switch shoes before they got out of the truck. Oh the life!

It’s Time!

Image

There is something about the giving away of summer and the entrance of fall. Yes, fall. Not the abrupt jumping of seasons that winter tried to do last week, but the gradual entrance of fall. I look forward to this every year. I for one detest summer. The hot long days of cow work or just the blinding heat that keeps you trapped inside an overly hot house. Ugh! You can’t cook because nothing sounds good, plus who wants to heat up the house even more. I for one am a cooker. I cook for fun, when I am stressed, or depressed, or when I have nothing to do. Okay I always have something to do, so if I am avoiding doing something I should be doing, I cook instead.   It is what I do. A terrible habit I must admit!

Well fall brings with it my inability to stop myself from cooking everything. It’s time again for cookies, pies, and soups. Oh, how I love to cook a good soup. Plus it is almost time for the holidays and the cooking gets even more intense. Oh I just love this time of year.

We have an outfitting business and I do all the cooking. It is so much fun and I cook until I am tired of standing in the kitchen.   My poor hands crack from the constant dishes, but it is so darn fun. Well I have leftover supplies that I being back over to my house. This year one of the things I just never used was a two pound bag of pecans. I mean what was I thinking to buy that big of a bag. I hate nuts in anything. They are just odd. Well this morning as I was putting away all the supplies this bag of pecans just kept pulling me. I couldn’t help myself. I usually wait till closer to the holidays, but I couldn’t I had to make the most fabulous thing possible with pecans and in my world quite possible the only thing I make with pecans, Candied sugared holiday pecans.  These are so good. Oh I could eat them all. I really could. Over time of course. You must try these. They will be a hit with everyone. Even non nut eaters like myself will be begging you to make more. Trust me do this, do it soon.

Sugared Candied Holiday Pecans

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 1 lb pecans whole
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar

1. In a large bowl combine the egg white and water. Whisk until frothy. Add the  pecans to the bowl and mix until coated well. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to moisten well.

2. In a small bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over the pecans. Mix thoroughly until all the pecans are coated with the sugar mixture. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 200 degrees for 1.5 hours. Stir once. Let cool on cookie sheet. Break apart and store in an airtight container.