Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garden Tuesday ~ The Mary Edition

Sidewalk Shoes The Virgin Mary

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a Mary statue in my yard.  My mom, found me one, and on a trip home to St. Louis, we scooped her up and brought her back to Tennessee.   I remember my mom saying, that we could freshly paint her because she was in sad shape.  No way.  I love her worn beauty.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tortellini With Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Fontina

Sidewalk Shoes Pasta

As a rule, I do not buy prepackaged or processed foods very often.  There is one exception.  Not that I buy it that often, but when I want it, I don’t hesitate to buy it.  That is…frozen tortellini.  Yes, some of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, may remember me lamenting my lack of the Kitchen Aid Pasta Attachment.  I just HAD to have it.  So, I got it.  I think that was 3 years ago.  How many times have I made pasta?  zero.

I have the feeling that even if I ever do make pasta, I will not be making cute little filled tortellini.  It will be nice and easy flat pasta, cut a little unevenly, and only slightly recognizable.

So, back to buying frozen tortellini.  It is the very best thing to have in your freezer.  You can cover it with a jarred red sauce, you can make a quick garlic butter sauce, or you can take a few extra steps and make, Tortellini with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, and Fontina from Real Simple.

This was really a perfect fall dish (yes I know it’s no longer fall), but our grocery store is still carrying plenty of winter squash.  I did feel it was a little dry and perhaps needed some kind of sauce. 

I’m not going to type it all in, since all you have to do is click on the link above, zip on over to real simple and see if it floats your boat.

I’m curious though, if you were going to put a little saucey sauce on it, what would you use.  Because honestly…butternut squash, mushrooms, cheese…I can’t let it go.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Wine Reviews #93 ~ Alto Agrelo, Sweet White

Sidewalk Shoes Alto Agrelo

Alto Agrelo, Sweet White, Argentina, 2010, $5.99, Total Wine and More.  They say:  nose-green apple, pineapple, and citrus.  Taste – fresh and lovely, sweet.  We say:  very sweet, fruity, creamy.  We gave it an 86, because it is pretty much what they say.  Buy again – if we need a dessert wine or are in the mood for a sweet wine.

Coco said, “ahhh, the focus is much better on this photo.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Cat Blogging #347 and Saturday Pet Blog Hop

Smudge

Smudge is glad he grew all his hair back in time for winter.

 

 

This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by nobody.  I’m not sure what is happened to the person in charge of this, but I emailed in December saying that I would be willing to host, and nothing has happened to the schedule.  I’ll post my kitties on Saturdays no matter what, but I wish we could get this organized. EDITED to ADD that a host has been assigned for this weekend: Paulchen's Food Blog.

This will be my entry for The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Risotto and Cranberry Beans with Pancetta

Risotto with Cranberry Beans

Yesterday I promised you my first recipe with my oh-so-beautiful Rancho Gordo beans.  With my shipment of beans, they included Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo.  After pouring through the recipes I settled on Risotto and Cranberry Beans with Pancetta.

Prep at Sidewalk Shoes

The first thing I discovered when making this recipe was that my sweet little grocery store, Greenlife Grocery, which later was bought and became a Whole Foods had gotten rid of their deli meat counter.  I loved that counter.  Pancetta, prosciutto, chorizo, it was all there.  But now, no more.  So instead I had to go to the packaged meats section, where there was no pancetta.  Now, I know that you can sub bacon or ham for prosciutto or pancetta, but I can never remember which is which.  So, I got Coppa.  I have no idea what it was, other than it ended in an “a'” and pancetta ended in an “a” – yes that is how I make substitutions.  Whatever.  It was good.  This whole recipe was wonderful!

Risotto and Cranberry Beans with Pancetta

  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta (or whatever “a” meat you can find), diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups drained cooked cranberry beans, with reserved broth
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a simmer.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and the onion and saute for about 10 minutes, or until golden.  Add the celery and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Increase the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and stir until most of the wine has been absorbed.  Add the broth, 1/2 cup at time, stirring.  As each addition is absorbed, add another.

Total cooking time is about 40 minutes.  The rice should be creamy with a bit of bite in the middle, but not chalky.  If you need extra broth, dilute it with a bit of water.

When the rice is just short of being done, and there are only about 1 or two additions of broth left, add the beans and 1/2 cup of their broth, and stir until warmed through.  When the rice is done, turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6

 

 

This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Year of Beans ~ Rancho Gordo Style

Rancho Gordo Beans

Last year, I made two resolutions:  win the lottery and be joyful.  I succeeded in being as joyful as I could without actually winning the lottery.  So, I have carried those two over to this year, added my word of the year “create” and included one more to the list.  Eat more beans.

As a special education teacher, I can tell you that a goal that simply includes the word “more” is not a good goal.  “More” can not be measured.  So, I knew I had to do something to make “more” happen, without actually clarifying it in a poundage amount.  Enter Rancho Gordo’s Year of Beans.   For a short while last year, they offered a year of beans, where you signed up to receive a shipment of beans every few months.  In that shipment would be beans (of course), and a special treat.  This would guarantee “more”. 

Above is my first shipment.  Isn’t it beautiful. 

Rancho Gordo Beans at Sidewalk Shoes

Tune in tomorrow, same time, same bat channel to find out what I do with these.  It’s good, I promise.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Was it Wednesday?

Sidewalk Shoes

You’re looking at December 15, 2009.  I don’t know.  Chicken?  Boneless pork chop?  Looks like sweet potatoes and red onions on top of something yellowy.  I really have no clue

***What Was it Wednesday – my attempt to work my way through my backlog of cooking photos.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Garden Tuesday ~ Frosty

Frosty

See this?  This doesn’t amuse me.  Oh sure, it may be pretty, but all it does is put a layer of this on my windshield and make me stand outside in early morning darkness, scraping my windshield.  If it is going to be this cold, I would like snow please.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  I live in Tennessee, a couple of inches will accomplish the snow day that I oh-so-desperately could use now.  If it is not going to snow, I am going to be forced to begin counting the days till spring break.

Please join me for Garden Tuesday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante for TLC Book Tours

Prime Suspect

I have been really lucky in the books that I have chosen for review, I have pretty much liked them all. Well, my lucky streak has come to an end. Prime Suspect had all the elements that I should have loved: woman detective trying to prove herself in a man's world and gruesome murders. However, it did not work for me.

The story: Jane Tennison takes over a Scotland Yard investigation of grisly murder of Della Mornay. She is hampered by the old boy's club mentality of the Yard. She immediately discovers and error that the previous, much-loved investigator had made, which only makes her fellow officers like her even less.

The mystery part of the novel is fairly solid, with some twists and turns that kept me guessing.

What ruined it for me were the characters. I did not like a single character. They were all the same: mean, nasty, temperamental, with fits of sudden mood changes. They would be in the middle of some rant, and then shrug their shoulders and giggle or laugh. Everything they said was shouted in anger or excitement; on one page I counted 11 exclamation marks.

I found myself questioning so much that the characters did or said.

This is from a police officer at the location where the murders took place: "This is caked in blood, we'll need swabs of it all. Ugh, the drain's clogged with it and this looks like skin…Jesus, the stench!"

Ugh?! I can not imagine a male police officer saying ugh.

In another setting, Tennison is in an interrogation room questioning someone. Suddenly another police officer bursts in and leans over and whispers in her ear that they have found another body, Tennison has this response: "Feeling a bit perkier, Tennison turned back to Reg."

Feeling a bit perkier?! Seriously? They have just discovered another body, and the investigating officer is "feeling a bit parker"?? At this point I can't tell what I don't like…the author's choice of words (perkier) or the type of character who would feel perkier at this news. It all runs together.

In another chapter, Tennison is at the morgue. There is a brutally murdered girl on the table, the medical examiner is there, and the stench is so bad that Tennison is wearing a mask. They discuss the body, at the end: "She smiled and winked at Norman as she removed her mask. "You'll call me with anything I can quote? And…thanks for coming out to Sunningdale. Bye!"

Smiled and winked?! Someone is always smiling and winking, and half the time I can't even figure out why. The whole "thanks for coming out…bye" sounds like something you'd say to a guest at a party, not to the medical examiner at the morgue.

I could go on, but I will stop here. As I said, the mystery itself was solid, I just wish the characters had been more diverse with believable dialogue.

Now, I had already been lined up to review Prime Suspect 2: A Face in the Crowdand just from glancing through it, it looks better, or at least I don’t see all the exclamation marks. 

You can find other reviews here.  Usual disclaimer – I received no compensation for this review, other than a copy of the book.  My opinions are entirely my own (obviously!).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Wine Reviews ~ Eye Candy Cabernet Sauvignon

Sidewalk Shoes Eye Candy Cabernet Sauvignon

Eye Candy, 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon, $7.99, Total Wine and More.  We say:  light, but complex.  Berry flavors, medium body.  Buy again:  Yes!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekend Cat Blogging #346 and Saturday Pet Blog Hop

Sidewalk Shoes Cat and Vintage Quilt

My two favorite things.  A kitty cat and a vintage quilt.

 

 

This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Samantha, Clementine & Maverick

This will be my entry for The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beef, Mushroom, and Broccoli Stir-fry

Sidewalk Shoes Beef, Mushroom, and Broccoli Stir-fry

I don’t stir-fry nearly enough.  I go through phases.  Right now I’m in a big roasting phase (of course, it being winter and freezing, the benefits of hot oven heating up your kitchen can not be ignored).  The other day, I was craving a stir-fry.  Nothing fancy, just your basic, a little bit of meat, a little bit of veg, a little bit of sauce, over some fluffy white steamed rice.

So, I found Beef, Mushroom, and Broccoli Stir-fry in The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Freshmy favorite place to turn for recipes that are…well…Fast, Easy and Fresh!  This was perfect for a weeknight dinner. 

Since it is Friday, and since I have things to do, I found it online for you Beef, Mushroom, and Broccoli Stir-fry.  Saves me from having to retype it all in and it reminds you to visit Epicurious. 

 

 

This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Joy!!

Sidewalk Shoes Chicken Tortilla Soup

What does a bowl of chicken tortilla soup have to do with my friend’s birthday?  Nothing.  Except that today, I was planning on posting this picture of my chicken tortilla soup and explaining that yes, sometimes even foodie blog people have to eat the same thing twice.  Sometimes more than twice, or in the case of chicken tortilla soup, usually about once a month.

But then I remembered it was Joy’s birthday.  And really I should post a pretty picture of flowers or something, or the hilarious picture of her at my wedding, reaching across a gaggle of unmarried woman, to snag the bouquet.   But once on a course, I can not be sidetracked.

So, chicken tortilla soup picture it is.

Happy Birthday Joy!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Was it Wednesday?

Sidewalk Shoes

You’re looking at December 13, 2009. 

Pot roast.  Obviously.  Wouldn’t that taste good right now?

****What was it Wednesday???  - my attempt to work my way through my backlog of cooking photos, one Wednesday at a time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Garden Tuesday ~ Nandina Again

Sidewalk Shoes Nandina

I probably have more pictures of nandina on my garden Tuesday’s than any other plant (well, except maybe oakleaf hydrandgea), that’s because it truly is the hardest working plant in my garden.  It provides year round interest.  Bright red berries help keep a dull winter cheery.

Please join me for Garden Tuesday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Penne Pasta

Sidewalk Shoes Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

Seasonal eating.  I am really trying hard this year to do this.  So, I know that there is not that much in the dead of winter, and I am not taking it to the extremes.  I am not above buying a hothouse cucumber because I am in the mood for some Thai fried rice and I love a little cucumber on top.  However, I am eating a lot of squash and kale and cabbage right now. 

I bought oodles of squash this fall when it was on sale and have it safely stored away in my cool garage.  One of my favorite winter squashes is butternut and one of my favorite ways to eat it is roasted, so this recipe from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350 Recipeswas high on my list.

It did not disappoint.  Totally easy and perfect for a weeknight dinner (especially good for meatless Mondays!)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Penne Pasta

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 (I think I did mine a little warmer – more like 400 or 425).

Peel and seed the squash.  Dice into 1 inch cubes.  Place the squash, onions, garlic, red chili flakes, and olive oil in a bowl and toss to combine.

Place on a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta as directed.  Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl.  Toss with the squash mixture, parsley, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  (I added a little bit of spinach at this time because I had some and it added a little more color to it.

Serves 4

 

This will be my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Alisha of Cook. Craft. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend Wine Reviews #91 ~ Pinot Evil Pinot Noir

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir

Yes, I bought a wine simply because it was called Pinot Evil.  Are you surprised?

Pinot Evil, Pinot Noir, France. $7.99, Cost Plus World Market.  They say:  Pinot Evil dances with a lovely ripe cherry nose that cascades into a smooth, velvet finish.  We say:  cherry, light, not very complex.  Pleasant.  Buy again:  maybe.  Nothing special, but not offensive.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekend Cat Blogging #345 and Saturday Pet Blog Hop

Coco

I tried to come up with a witty caption for this.  Like “Excuse me, I just burped” but then decided that wasn’t really all that clever. 

Let’s make it interactive today.  How would you caption this? 

 

 

This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by No one at this time!.

This will be my entry for The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slow-Roasted Grapes

Roasted Grapes

Did you know about roasted grapes?  Does everyone know about roasted grapes?  Am I the last to find out? 

The last to find out how amazing they are. 

Roasted Grapes

So, you know last year, one of my very favorite new cookbooks was All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Artby Molly Stevens.  I loved that book so much that I even gave away a copy as penance for my bad blogging and reviewed it here.

As I said she covers everything from meat, to seafood, to fruits and vegetables.  I was immediately intrigued by roasted grapes.  Primarily because it quite possibly is the easiest recipe in the book.  Seriously, heat your oven, toss some grapes in either olive oil or butter, roast.  Eat.  Enjoy.

And enjoy I did.  These are wonderful.  Little bite sized bits of sweet goodness.  I can’t explain their taste.  They don’t taste like grapes any more, they are sweeter, almost pear or apple like, but not quite.  Really, if you had your eyes closed, you would be hard pressed to identify them. 

She suggests stirring a little honey into some Greek yogurt and topping with these grapes, topping rice puddings, or really any sort of pudding.  For savory uses, they go great with poultry, in green salads, on a cheese plate. Possibilities are endless.

Slow-Roasted Grapes

  • 3/4 pound red grapes – preferably seedless, rinsed and stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter melted

Heat the oven to 250 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Arrange the grapes in a single layer on the baking sheet and toss with butter or olive oil.  Roast, stirring once or twice for 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours, or until shriveled and lightly caramelized. 

You can refrigerate them, but bring them to room temperature before serving.

 

 

This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Seared Scallops on Lemon and Spinach Risotto

Seared Scallops on Lemon and Spinach Risotto

Okay, some dishes taste wonderful, but they don’t look all that impressive.  Some dishes look all fancy, but don’t taste all that great.  Then there are those dishes that look impressive and taste fantastic.  Those are the ones that I look for.  This, my dear bloggy friends, is one of the later.  Look at it.  Isn’t it pretty? 

If all that prettiness wasn’t enough, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.  AND, the kicker…it was so easy.  Easy.  My favorite word in the English language (when it comes to cooking). 

I found this gem in New Food Fastby Donna Hay.  Donna Hay rarely disappoints me, and once again, she is the queen. 

Seared Scallops on Lemon and Spinach Risotto

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • cracked black pepper and sea salt

  • 16scallops, removed from the shell (or how ever much was in the bag I had!)

  • Lemon and Spinach Risotto:

  • 5 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken)

  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 2 cups arborio rice

  • 2 teaspoons lemon rind, grated

  • 6 /2 oz baby English spinach leaves

  • cracked black pepper and sea salt

  • parmesan shavings

  1. To cook the lemon and spinach risotto, place the stock in a saucepan over medium-high heat and allow to come to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

  2. Heat the oil in another saucepan over medium high heat. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, 2 cups at a time, stirring frequently and cooking until all the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding cups of stock until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Season with pepper and sea salt and keep risotto warm.

  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. Sprinkle pepper and sea salt over the scallops. Place scallops in the pan and cook for 20-30 seconds on each side or until seared.

  4. To serve, stir the lemon rind and the spinach through the risotto and spoon onto serving plates. Top with the scallops and serve with lemon wedges and parmesan on the side.

Serves 4

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Was it Wednesday?

You are looking at December 11, 2009.  Some sort of acorn squash salad, with goat cheese.  I want.   Now.

***What Was it Wednesday – my attempt to work my way through my backlog of cooking photos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our Man in the Dark TLC Book Tour Review

Our Man in the Dark

I have to preface this review by admitting that I failed history in school. It was one of my least favorite subjects.

But as of late, I have discovered historical fiction. Historical fiction, when it is good, makes me want to learn more. Find out what is true and what is not true.

Our Man in the Dark is good historical fiction. It is a historical noir novel about a worker in the civil right's movement who becomes involved with the FBI.

John Estem is an accountant working for Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After he steals $10,000 from the organization, he is approached by the FBI. They want him to act as informant; they are concerned with communism infiltrating the organization. If he refuses, they remind him that they know about the money.

The rest of the story unfolds, exposing all of the bad qualities that human beings possess.

I have no idea what facts in the story are true. I do not know if the FBI had tapes on Martin Luther King. I do not know if they infiltrated the SCLC. What I do know is that book makes me want to learn more.

What elevated this book from a standard historical fiction was the writing. I love a good noir, and Rashad Harrison did not disappoint.

"The allure of money and it's hold are undeniable. I would love to strut for her and let her have a glimpse of the man I've been hiding away. I have tried persistence, but never money. I've never tried it because I've never had any. This is tragic considering that every day I track its movements. I know money's habits. I know where it breeds, where it rests, and where it feeds, but it remains elusive. Like a frustrated hunter, I lose its scent somewhere."

See?!  It’s all good.  I look forward to reading more from this author!

More reviews of Our Man in the Dark, and the author’s website:  RashadHarrison.com.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Garden Tuesday–Foggy Morning

Like my cooking photos, I have a backlog of garden photos (big surprise, huh?).  So rather than venture out into the cold last week (I know, I said I was going to) (but this week is warm so I will) (I am a master of parenthetical thought), I decided to hit the archives.  To make my selection easier, I just picked the oldest garden photo waiting to be published.  This is is.  March 17, 2009.  I love fog.

Book review coming tomorrow, that’s why Garden Tuesday is today.

Please join me for Garden Tuesday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Wine Reviews #90 Chardonnay

Grand Sud Chardonnay

Grand Sud, Vin de Pays d’OC, 2009, Chardonnay.  $7.99, Total Wine.  We say:  light and refreshing, apple, hint of citrus.  Not a buttery chardonnay.  Nothing special, but nothing offensive.  Buy again:  maybe.