Sunday, January 31, 2010


Orzo, is sometimes called Italian rice and its translation means barley, from which orzo was originally made. However, in common usage in North America, orzo is understood to mean pasta.  Orzo has a rice shape and is made from hard wheat.  I don’t cook often with orzo and after making a great dish with it for supper tonight, I plan to use it more often.  In some ways I would prefer using it in pasta salads or other dishes that require a small pasta shape than the usual small pasta shells, macaroni or rotini.     

You can use either feta cheese or parmesan in this recipe and I used a ¼ cup of parmesan.  You could go to ½ a cup if you wanted a stronger cheese flavor.   This recipe is definitely a keeper and I plan to make it often.  There are lots of vegetable variations you can do including adding artichokes, hearts of palms or broccoli.  This dish can be served warm or cold.



1 cup orzo
1 small bag of spinach, chopped
¼ cup feta crumbled or parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


Cook orzo and during the last two to three of minutes of cooking, add the chopped spinach to the pot.  Drain the pasta and spinach well.  Place into a serving bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.  Serves 3 to 4.  

Friday, January 29, 2010


Several weeks ago there was an article in our local paper about Suzanna, an almost two year old yellow labrador retriever, who has royal lineage and comes from Britain.  She was a gift to the RCMP from the Queen of England and was born on one of her estates, at the Sandringham Kennels.

The picture in the paper has Suzanna seated quietly beside the acting commander of the RCMP Academy Depot Division.  She has a light leash attached to her collar and is sitting very regal and looks very pretty.  Well, I have never had the opportunity to have my 4 1/2 year old yellow lab sit quietly beside me with only a light leash holding him.  To walk Shane, I use a haltie and a strong leather leash with two knots in the leash that provide more traction in my hands in case he starts to go and I have to hang on to him.  He is my 70 pound linebacker.  To have him sit quietly beside me would require constant dog treats being waved in front of his nose and commands being given or a clicker being used to make sure he was listening to me.   Furthermore, the picture of Suzanna was taken at a school where she was being introduced to the children and the media.  If Shane was there, I would be dragged across the room so he could check out the children, see if they had cookies, he would sniff the media and then see if there was any post that required him to leave his calling card.

Suzanna serves as the mascot at the RCMP training academy.  She lives with the commanding officer and during the day she goes to work!  At work, she interacts with employees and troops and participates in events on the base.  The commander noted in the article that she is well trained and won't go far from his side.  Furthermore, she works out with the cadets.  I think she is in dog heaven.   Where I work we don't bring our pets for a number of good reasons.  I did bring Shane to the office on several occasions when I had to pop into the office on a weekend to pick up or leave some paperwork.  When let loose in our office, he would check out what he could find under people's desk or if there was anything interesting on top.  Several things stand out for me.  Some women have a collection of shoes under their desk.  He would retrieve some of them, prance around and begin showing off what he had in his mouth and then drop them somewhere in the office.  I would be searching for these shoes and making sure that the right shoes were put back under the right desk.  One person in my office had a small collection of little stuffed animals on her desk.  Well, he would put his paws on the top of the desk and grab these toys.  He would run around and I would being trying to retrieve these toys out of his mouth before he destroyed them.  I did have one memorable event where I had to do about 15 minutes work at my desk.  I closed the door in my office so that he had to remain with me.  He was bored and agitated and I did not have any of his chew toys with me.  For the sake of world peace, I gave him one of my old running shoes that I had in the office for these infrequent lunch time walks.   He laid on the carpet floor and literally destroyed one of my shoes.  I now know what goes into making a running shoe.  I had to clean up ripped canvas, foam and other unnamed parts of a shoe from the floor.   I still keep the other half of the shoe in my office in case an emergency arises and I need one running shoe.   It is actually a conversation piece as I have it displayed on top of my bookcase.  I can't image Suzanna, the RCMP dog, ever behaving like this in an office.  I imagine she has her spot in the office, lies peacefully there and watches and waits for her master to get up from his desk and then see if he asks her to walk with him by his side. Only in my dreams!!  Actually Shane is not that bad, but he is not in the same league as this Suzanna.  Should I be envious?  Maybe a smidgen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Chicken is a very popular recipe in cookbooks and on-line sites.  Just about every ethnic nationality has got specialty chicken dishes.  Sometimes the biggest decision is what ingredients do I have in the house in order to make the one of many available dishes.   The following recipe is easy and quick to make.  The recipe calls for peppers but if you don’t have any peppers in your fridge you can substitute mushrooms or use carrots and celery.  Along with the photo of the chicken in the skillet with the peppers and onions, I have also included a photo of the couscous that I made to accompany the chicken.



2 tsp olive oil
1 medium sized onion, sliced
1 pepper (green, red or yellow), sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp thyme

2 skinless chicken breasts
ground pepper
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp flour
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup white wine or cooking wine
½ tsp Dijon mustard


Vegetables: Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok.   Add onions, peppers and garlic and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.  If vegetables stick to pan, add a  little bit of water.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and thyme.  Remove vegetables from the skillet.

Chicken: Cut chicken breasts into strips, sprinkle with pepper.  Heat olive oil in the skillet.  Stir fry chicken over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over the chicken.  Cook about a minute longer to lightly brown the flour and scrap up any browned bits.  Add wine, broth and mustard.  Increase heat until the mixture comes to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 4 minutes.  Stir in vegetables.  Cook for another few more minutes. 

Makes 2 servings.  Serve with rice or couscous.  Adapted from MealLeaniYumm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


With a snowstorm going on outside, it was the type of morning to make muffins.  Walking the dog with a strong wind and snow in your face did not seem inviting this morning.  The walk will have to wait.  My sister-in-law sent me a recipe yesterday for whole wheat orange muffins.  They are fibre rich muffins and therefore are a denser muffin.   In making these muffins, I used splenda instead of brown sugar, used regular milk and soured it with 2 teaspoons of vinegar as I did not have buttermilk, and also added a bit more than half cup of milk as the batter was stiff to mix.  I also used the juice from the two zested oranges.  The oranges were large.  If you don't have oranges in the house you could substitute lemon juice and zest from a lemon.  I don't think I would add half a cup of lemon juice as a straight substitute for orange juice and would likely add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of lemon juice.   The muffins are very good according to my DH.  I like them because they have body, have an assortment of peel, raisins, nuts and flax and don't taste like cake.  One of my pet peeves are muffins that taste like cake which if so, should really be called a cupcake.   My sister-in-law took the photo of the muffins that she made. 



2 ½ cup whole wheat flour        
½ cup ground flax
2 tsp baking powder        
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt        
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs        
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup orange juice
zest of two oranges
1/3 cup canola oil        
¾ cup brown sugar or splenda
1 tsp vanilla        
¾ cup chopped nuts
¾ cup raisins

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon.
In another bowl beat together eggs, orange juice, zest, buttermilk, oil, brown sugar & vanilla
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stir with wooden spoon to mix.  Gently fold in the chopped nuts and raisins.
Spoon into muffin cups until almost full, bake at 375°F about 20 minutes.  Makes 22 to 24 muffins.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park

On my recent travels, I had the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park for several hours.  This national park is in California and is noted for the many different rock formations, abundance of Joshua Trees, cacti, desert plants, birds and animals.  The park is close to 793,000 acres in size.  The Joshua tree is an important part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem.  The oldest tree in the park is estimated to be 300 hundred years old.  This picture is of a Joshua tree situated by a pullout section in the road that allows for cars to stop.

This park has a range of different rock formations with some fantastic shapes.  We saw a number of rock climbers at various locations in the park.  The following picture has some rock climbers scaling one particular formation but you likely won't be able to pick them out in the photo as this was the best close-up I could take.

We saw some wildlife while walking a nature trail, the Hidden Valley and while stopped at pullouts on the park road.  We saw a roadrunner, hawk, jay, lizard, a ground squirrel, raven, and a coyote.  The coyote was in scrub brush close to where you parked your car to start the Hidden Valley nature trail.  He/she may have been hanging around looking for food scraps.  As soon as I saw the coyote I started to stalk it.  He/she was slowly sauntering off in the brush and I was determined to get closer and take a picture.  The irony of this is that at home, there are coyotes in the area where I walk the dog and I try to avoid them.  I am not anxious to meet up with one while out with the dog.  Yet here I was slowly walking in the brush and trying to get closer to see the animal and take a picture.  The picture is not great as the sun was in my eyes, I wasn't sure if the photo was focussed and I knew that I had to keep a reasonable distance away.   The coyote was in good shape.  In the photo, you see the back side of the coyote and it is standing beside an old tree stump.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


The DH and I have been away on a little holiday visiting family.  People take holidays for different reasons and some holidays are for relaxing, sports, sightseeing, shopping, culture, cooking, visiting, and/or gambling.  My holidays will cover a variety of activities but you can be assured that shopping is always included.  I have never been on a holiday where no purchases were made.  We all love finding a good bargain whether it is a food item, clothes or beauty product.  I actually will look for bargains that cover a wide gamat.  I will take the time browsing for things while on holidays that I would never do while at home and running the usual weekend errands.  You need to have patience to browse and be in the mood to try clothes on if you are in a clothing store.  I have found much patience during this holiday and have done a lot of browsing.  I did find a number of bargains and was pleased with all of my 'finds'.  Of course you cross compare the prices to what you would have paid at home and whether this item is something that you can't find at home or is such a deal that it is worth stuffing into your heavy suitcase.  I have fulfilled my tee-shirt fetish on this trip.

Starbucks, Trader Joe's and Target is a 14 minute walk from where I am staying and after walking for an hour or so in the morning, the route home usually involved going to Starbucks and then maybe dropping into Trader Joe's or Target.  For those of you that haven't been to a Trader Joe's, it is a great grocery store.  Both of these stores open at 8 am each day so it is quite convenient to involve them in the Starbuck's route.  One morning I went into Target with my skinny vanilla latte in hand.  How good does this get - Life is Good.  A big store with many bargains.  I decided that I needed to find some shower gel and spent time studying the various shower gels on the shelves.  I settled on rainbath shower gel from Neutrogena.  It was a great price and I like the Neutrogena product line.  The bottle I bought is enough for at least a month or two's worth of daily showers.  What do I do with the shower gel after a week's worth of washing as we would be going home??  I hadn't made much of a dent in the amount of shower gel used.  No one else would use it if I left it so I decided to take it home.  As it has a pump handle, packing it in the same bottle with the pump made me nervous as my luck and murphy's law would dictate that somehow in travel transit, the pump would get depressed or turned and I would end up with soap all over the suitcase.  So I had to find a travel container to transfer the shower gel into. Of course this required browsing through stores and looking for travel containers for my $5.99 shower gel.  Some effort went into finding a container including lots of gas.  I looked at Glad containers, travel bottles and other modes of storage.  During my investigation, I never thought of the size of travel bottle I really needed to find, this was a minor detail.  I was consumed with the type of closure the bottle needed to have.  I ended up buying a solid water bottle for $1 at the 99 cent store which by the way is a great store.  My rainbath shower gel bottle is 250 ml and the bottle I bought is a litre.  Such minor details.   The liquid left in the Neutrogena bottle is some water I put in to wash the remnants of soap left before putting the bottle in the recycle bin.  God love me. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I have made these pancakes several times now and each time they turn out wonderful and always taste great.  I have made them for friends and the DH and they all rave about the texture and taste.  The recipe calls for fruit and I have used a variety of fruit each time.  I have made the pancakes using frozen saskatoons, fresh strawberries and bananas chopped, or diced apples.  As this recipe makes 16 to 18 pancakes, I have made a full recipe and I have also halved it depending on the number of people at the table.  You can put the leftovers in the fridge for the next day.  I think what makes this recipe different than others I have made is the yogurt.  These pancakes are light.  The picture I have taken of my plate has peanut butter and a little bit of syrup smeared on my pancakes and a few pieces of crispy bacon.


1 3/4 cups of flour - white or a mixture of white and whole wheat
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 egg whites or 1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup berries or other fruit chopped or diced


Combine all of the ingredients except the fruit in a bowl and blend until smooth.  Stir in the fruit.  Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and drop the batter by large tablespooons onto the pan.  Cook each side until brown (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Serve with maple syup, applesauce, peanut butter, syrup or your other favorite toppings.

Friday, January 15, 2010


While on my little holiday travels I have come across some interesting things.  Last night while strolling along a street market, we came upon a store called 'Life Is Good".  Can you imagine that?  Of course I had to go in and inspect the premise.  They sold clothes including tee shirts with the logo 'life is good'.  After serious contemplation I decided to NOT buy a long or short sleeve tee shirt.  The prices were $25/$30/$35 depending on the tee shirt.  I thought about how many tee shirts do you need?  Even though it had the logo on it, I resisted buying a tee shirt.

While out today, I was in two stores inspecting the active ware tee shirts.  The stores are similar to Winner's.  Can you imagine at both stores I found 'life is good' tee shirts for $14.99.  I ended up buying two of these. I just couldn't resist.  A bargain is hard to resist.

After feeding the ducklings this past summer, I have thought about if they made it to a warmer climate this winter and survived.  While out walking on my daily sojourns on my holiday, I have come across some mallard ducks. There is a whole group on a golf course that I walk by everyday and maybe the ducklings are here too.  The picture of these two ducks were taken at another location.  All of these ducks that I have seen are well fed as people are feeding them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


A friend sent me this joke about buffet tables at Christmas time and words of advice on how to work a buffet table and what food to eat to your advantage.  Christmas was less than a month ago but it seems longer than that. 

Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare ... you cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnogoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a ten-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.
3. PIES 
Same for pies. Apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?
Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOOHOO! What a ride!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Sometimes on holidays you come across things that make you pause, laugh or shake your head.  As you know, we have a male yellow lab retriever.  Being a male, it is always important for him to leave his business card or calling card at certain landmark locations.  While out walking him, he has his favorite spots that require a sniff and then a lifting of his leg and a squirt or two of his calling card.  As there are a number of favorite spots for advertising that he has been there, I often wonder where he finds all of this volume of liquid; at times it seems like an endless supply. 

I came across a fountain today that made me laugh and think about our dog. This  fountain looks like a lab.

I would have liked to have seen a real dog viewing this fountain to see the reaction.  The other fountains and statues at this restaurant were interesting but not as funny as this dog.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


About a year and a half ago or so I came across a blog site called the Pioneer Woman (www.the  This award living website belongs to Ree Drummond and she shares recipes, her photographs, home and garden ideas, homeschooling ideas and hilarious stories about her transition from being a city girl and growing up in a house that backed a golf course to being married to an Oklahoma rancher and living on an isolated cattle ranch with four children.  Her stories are funny, real and she loves to make fun of herself.  She wasn't looking to get involved with a rancher but a chance meeting changed her life.   Her blog started off because she wanted to share photos of her kids with her mom who lived in another state.

Within a week of starting her blog, Dee went from posting photos to sharing other things going on in her life.  About a few months after starting her blog, she posted photos in a step-by-step fashion on how to cook a steak.  That was her first foray into creating a whole section on her website devoted to cooking.   What her readers and I enjoy is that her recipes include photos of what the dish looks like before, during and the finished food product.  All the photography is done by her and it doesn't require a food stylist.   Dee started working on a cookbook awhile ago and this past Fall it was published.  It is entitled 'The Pioneer Woman Cooks'.  This cookbook was on my Christmas wish list and good friends bought it for me.  It is a wonderful cookbook and for me, it is more than just a cookbook, it is a book with wonderful photos of her ranch, her kids, cattle, horses and dogs.   This is a type of book that you keep on the coffee table or on a counter all the time.  It is not a cookbook to hide on a shelf.  The recipes with the step-by-step procedures are fantastic.   When Dee married her cowboy whom she calls the Marlboro Man she had to learn to cook food that cowboys would eat.  She had been at one point been a vegetarian and food snob living in Los Angeles so this lifestyle was a drastic change as these cowboys don't eat sushi.   For all these years on her website, she calls her husband the Marlboro Man and never uses his real name.  I finally found out his real name as she provided it on the back inside cover of her book.  His name is Ladd.  It is very fitting name for an Oklahoma cowboy.

Another Cookbook on my Christmas list was 'The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook'  by Jaden Hair.  The recipes are all asian and don't appear to be complicated.  I came upon this cookbook because I found her website '' awhile ago.  This cookbook is of course different than the Pioneer Woman Cooks.  Jaden Hair uses the chinese recipes that her mother cooked plus incorporates thai, korean, japanese and vietnamese recipes into the book.  Jaden teaches cooking classes in Tampa and Los Angeles, writes columns in newspapers, is a regular guest on some US television programs and regularly blogs.  All the photographs taken in the cookbook were shot by Jaden.   Because I really like Asian food, I was attracted to this cookbook.   Each recipe includes a photograph and in a number of cases, detailed tips or notes and options.   I have made one recipe called coconut shrimp which it was very simple to make and tasty.  There are many recipes from this cookbook that I plan to make.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I like using maple syrup in cooking,  eg glazing salmon with maple syrup before baking and adding to foods such as cooked oatmeal or plain yogurt.  I usually buy a big jug from Costco which has a grade of Canada number 1 light.  I couldn't explain to you the differences in grades and the effect of timing of tapping maple trees to darkness of syrup.  I have read that a syrup collected later in the season will be  darker and richer and have a more mapley taste.

I came across this recipe on the food site 'simply recipes' and thought that it would be a great cookie to make.   Cookies along with ice cream is at the top of my food list.  I haven't made these cookies yet but plan to do so in the near future.



1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (Grade B preferably)
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts


Cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed for three minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and egg and mix until well incorporated.  Add the maple syrup and mix well. 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Fold in the walnuts.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for thirty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Drop spoonfuls of the cookie, about 1 inch balls, onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 3 dozen.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Eating black-eyed peas at the start of the New Year is suppose to give you good luck according to those in the know who live in the southern U.S. states.   I am all for more good luck so I decided to make a dish with black-eyed peas this weekend.  Black-eyed peas is not a bean that I gravitate to on a routine basis.  I tend to cook more with chick peas, lentils, romano, black beans, kidney beans, yellow and green peas and northern beans.  Black-eyed peas is a bean popular in the southern U.S.  Why I have black-eyed peas in my pantry is due to a shopping spree several years ago at a local health food store.  I had the urge to buy 12 different kinds of beans in order to make a mixture up for soups.   I now have a collection of many kinds of beans.   The recipe I am providing below was interesting to me as it requires ham and I still have rosemary ham left-over from using some for the turkey stuffing for Christmas.  I did not make this recipe spicy as I didn't think cumin and cayenne pepper would go with rosemary.

What I probably enjoyed even more with this meal is the cornbread.  This cornbread tastes wonderful and the recipe is a keeper.  I even had a slice this morning for breakfast with melted cheddar cheese and tomato on top.


4 ½ cups water
2 cubes chicken bouillon or 2 tsp of powder
2 cups of dried black-eyed peas
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 ounces diced ham
4 slices bacon
salt and pepper to taste

Pour the water into a slow cooker, add the bouillon cubes, and stir to dissolve.  In a frying pan, fry the bacon until crisp and chop into small pieces.  Add to the slow cooker.  Leave some of the bacon fat in the frying pan and sauté the onions, celery and garlic until golden brown.  Add to the slow cooker.  Add the remaining ingredients - black-eyed peas, bell pepper, ham, salt, and pepper to the slow cooker; stir to blend. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until the beans are tender.  Serves 8.  The black-eyed peas do not require pre-soaking.


1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp cumin



2 cups flour
1 ½ cups cornmeal
2 tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar or splenda
2 eggs
¼ cup oil or melted butter
2 ½ cups buttermilk or sour milk (directions below)
1 cup corn kernals, optional
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped, optional


In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, oil and buttermilk.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine.  Add the corn and jalapeno if using.  Stir until all of the ingredients are moistened.  Transfer the batter to an oiled 13 X 9 inch baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into wedges or squares.  Makes one large cornbread.


For each cup of milk, add 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar to the measuring cup.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before adding to the recipe.

Recipe from Bonnie Stern “Friday Night Dinners”