Sunday, December 30, 2012


My friend, Jennifer, directed me to Aesthetic Nest a while ago, and although I don't knit, sew, or crochet, I can appreciate the talent of this lovely blogger.  Yesterday morning, I popped over to see what Aesthetic Nest was doing and found this soup recipe.  It has been cold here in the low desert, and I had most of the ingredients including spinach fresh from the garden.  With a slight tweak, I've adapted the recipe to suit what I had in my pantry.  I am so glad that I doubled the recipe--it is delicious!

Minestrone with Spinach - adapted from Aesthetic Nest

  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 5 cups (40 oz) chicken stock
  • 1 lb diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large carrot sliced about ¼” thick
  • 4-5 large handfuls of spinach leaves 
  • 1 14.5 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 T Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 c. macaroni or shells (I used wheat shells)
  • 2T balsamic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • Grated parmesan

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, herbs, sugar and bay leaf.
Cover partially and simmer until the carrots are tender, at least 20 minutes. Add the pasta and cook, uncovered, until al dente, 8-10 minutes more. Add the spinach and stir it until it is wilted.
Add the beans and simmer until they are warmed through. Add the balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with freshly ground salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley and parmesan.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seven Layer Bars - Again (Improved, if possible)

I've posted about similar bars before but I made them again this time tweaking a different recipe--the classic recipe from Eagle Brand (makers of the delicious sweetened condensed milk).

I made slight changes including doubling the portion of the crust--oh, my.


2 sticks of butter, melted (this is twice the amount in the original recipe)
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs (also twice the amount in the original recipe)
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (6 oz) butterscotch chips
1 cup (6 oz) chocolate chips (I used the 60% cacao chips)
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, flaked coconut)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by lining it with foil (leave a bit hanging over the ends) and spraying the foil lightly with non-stick spray (I use Baker's Joy).

Combine the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs, mixing well.  Press the crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumb mixture.  Layer evenly the remaining ingredients; press down firmly with a fork.

Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.  After bars are cooled, lift the foil edges and remove bars from pan. Cut into individual bars.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Sezincote House and Garden was another Oxford class field trip.  Have you ever heard of Sezincote?  I hadn't.  I didn't particularly love the house (it's the inspiration for Brighton Pavilion), but there were a few interesting water features that I would love to replicate.

This is the pretty side of the house.  It is done in an Indian-style which looks a little odd in the Cotswolds (in my opinion).

 The Orangery is gorgeous and curves around this beautiful grassy area.  It is now serving as a    lunch/tea room.

                            The best part of the garden is away from the house and down a slope.

          I immediately thought better of the owners for having two swings in such a perfect spot.

                      After a bit of swinging you can walk down the lawn and over the bridge to

this delightful running spring that will bring a smile to your face--it did mine and it still does as I type this.

                Honestly, I don't know if that is a gravel pathway or a stream of water--any guesses?

 This was my favorite water feature.  After our group traipsed through, I came back to take a few photos and to sit a bit and just think.

You can hop along these limestone steps and either go straight on through to the wooded area or

turn left and hop on over to this bench for a quiet spot to think.  It was hard to get a really good photo but I did my best.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Tours of Hidcote and Sezincote were part of my Paradise in an English Garden class at Oxford. This was my second visit to Hidcote famous for its design of garden rooms.  Also famous for this gray-blue paint color seen on gates and benches.

   Hidcote should brand this paint color, don't you think? Buckets of "Hidcote Blue" would be sold.

                           Someday I'm going to post pics of fabulous weather vanes I've seen.

                                                                  Hydrangeas in abundance.

                       Archways and paths lead to various garden rooms throughout the property.

                                               A long, wide hallway between rooms.

                  Someday I will post pics of all the fabulous benches I've seen.  More Hidcote blue.

If you look closely at the sky portion of this pic you will see a swarm of bees.  I was the last visitor to see this area before it was closed off.  The buzzing was a little unnerving.

                                      The benches are more comfortable than they look.

                           Trellis patterns are always interesting.  Just the word "trellis" is pretty.

                                                        A gorgeous zinc planter.

       After touring Hidcote, I walked out the front gate, turned right, and walked down the lane to see what was nearby.

               "To Let" looked tempting.  Who wouldn't want to spend a bit of time here?

                                                  Pretty cottages just steps from the road.

                Admired the horses grazing behind a stone wall and then as I rounded the lane came to a screeching halt....                        

roosters, chickens, and ferocious looking swans roaming around as if they owned the place.  Farm animals freak me out. Well, farm animals on the loose freak me out. If I had a stick I would have kept walking but since I only had my bag and camera I retreated. Sad since I would have like to know what was around the bend....

But as I walked back up this pretty little lane I forgot all about what I didn't see and reveled in the view.

                            And looking at a thatched roof cottage makes for a nice ending.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Another perfect autumn recipe from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso.  And that gorgeous pumpkin pot by Staub sits atop my stove from mid-September through November 30.

Makes 6 cups

1 pound sweet potatoes (445 g) peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound (227 g) baby-cut carrots
1 large apple (about 8 ounces) any apple, although sweet is ideal--unpeeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 tablespoons (75 ml) olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 to 2 inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into medium chunks
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups (945 ml) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh apple cider

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, toss the potato, carrots, and apple with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.  Arrange on a foil-lined sheet pan (I used a silpat) and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pot and set over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic, bay leaf, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until the onions just begin to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the roasted vegetables, broth, and cider, stir, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf from the pot and use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the soup until smooth.  If using a regular blender, process the soup in three batches to avoid splattering hot liquid.  Return the pureed soup to the pot, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


How did I miss this cookbook? This was published a year ago and I love apples!  The Apple Lover's Cookbook  by Amy Traverso is a gem.  And this recipe is one of the best ever--if you like apples, cinnamon, and walnuts, and of course you do. Thanks to Sunday of Ciao Domenica for mentioning this gorgeous book.

1 cup (145 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) salted butter, melted and coole, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup (210 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (60 g) chopped walnuts
2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total) --I used Honey Crisp--peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Preheat ove to 350 degrees and set a rack to the middle position.  Generously butter the baking dish (11 x 7) and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a standing mixer at high speed or using a hand-held mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and egg until pale, about 2 minutes.  Add the walnuts and apples and stir by hand until evenly combined.  Add the flour mixture and stir until combined, another 30 seconds.

3.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and lightly firm to the touch, 40 to 50 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then cut into 12 bars and transfer to serving platter.

Note:  Instead of chopping apples into 1/2 cubes, I chopped them into 1 inch.  So, this turned out to be apple cake instead of apple brownies.  Next time, I will cut into the 1/2 inch pieces which should make it more brownie-like.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


            Cannot believe I had the good fortune to attend The Oxford Experience for the fourth time.

                             It rained almost every day we were there--a treat for Arizona girls.

        We checked in, got the keys, threw our stuff in each of our rooms (my room pictured),

took a quick look around

                                                                   snapped a few pics

        opened the windows and then took off for a long walk along the Isis River to find some lunch.

I had been reading Deborah Crombie's book, Water Like a Stone, which featured canal boats so it was fun to see a few home-sweet-homes docked along the path.

Leslie had remembered this place having the best fish and chips, sadly they no longer serve that treat.

                                Whatever we ate was good and we would definitely return.                                    

I know I've taken you on a tour of Oxford before (click here, here, or here) but let's have another go.  First, this little pizza truck was new and was parked right outside of Christ Church College.  Wood-fired pizza--excellent.

                       Look at those doors!  Some lucky students get to enter these every day.          

                                                     Another beautiful college.

                               Back to Tom Quad at Christ Church College--my alma mater!