October 10, 2014

Fall Garden

New mulch (left) makes the shrubs stand out.  Beds on right aren't mulched yet.

My favorite time of year in Fort Wayne was fall. Around the first of September the St. Vincent boy scouts would start setting up for their annual Haunted Castle, and as I watched them progress with their fence-building and other chores, the huge old maple tree behind the old church would start turning color. By mid-October when the Castle was open for business, the nights were cool and crisp and the days were glowing red, yellow and orange.  For 20 years, I treasured each day, not wanting fall to end, and when Halloween came and went, and they broke down the fences and cleaned up the barricades until next year, our beautiful colors were nearly gone. Driving up and down that section of Auburn Road in November amid swirling drifts of brown leaves, the only comfort was the anticipation of the first beautiful blanket of new snow.

We gave up four seasons when we moved to Florida, but in the course of a year there have been so many days that have just blown me away with their tropical perfection, that I'd say it's a fair trade. Plus, fall comes to the beach in subtle ways. Most of the year the crotons which are so commonly used in tropical landscapes don't appeal to me, but this time of year I tend to seek out the hot colors of the spectrum, and darned if those crotons don't look absolutely gorgeous!  I'm glad I put off mulching until now. Against a fresh layer of dark brown mulch, my schefflera and crotons really pop!

We only got half the yard mulched though.  Down here you can't have dyed mulch delivered by the truckload; you have to buy it bagged at a place like Lowe's.  So I ordered 50 bags, which they fork-lifted onto my driveway on a pallet, and Robyn and Mark, my gardeners, worked nearly 2 hours spreading it out.  Only half the front beds got covered!  I'm afraid I'm going to need about 200 bags total by the time we're done mulching the entire front and back yard.

I yanked out the dying geraniums and overgrown lavender from the porch pot and found some amazing fall-inspired plants at Sun Harbor Nursery to replace them.  Their mums were just about to open.  I got there in the nick of time too!  There were about six plants left, so I bought two, but now I wish I'd bought them all.  I put one plant in the pot with a sweet potato vine and a coleus, and the other plant in the bed right off the porch.  I'm interested to see how a chrysanthemum does in the ground here.

Fall colors in the porch pot.

Today I'm going to the U-Haul storage room to pull out my Halloween bins.  I've decided to let Captain Morgan and Princess go through and choose what they want, if anything, from my decorations, and then I'll give away the rest.  The kids throw an annual Halloween party so they might find some of the decorations fun or useful.  On the other hand, with a baby on the way, they are trying to get rid of stuff to make room.  I almost hate to push more stuff on them.

Any Floridians reading this?  I'd love to know how you bring fall into your yard.  Please share your ideas or tips!

August 20, 2014

A New Blog!

Chicken Fannie Biryani
Beaver and I do love to cook.  We love researching recipes and shopping for ingredients.  We'd rather spend the evening in the kitchen making something amazing than going to a restaurant.  Since we're apart some of the time due to Beave's work, when we talk on the phone, guess what we always talk about?  You got it -- COOKING!

Because of our shared interest and because I don't want to overrun this blog with recipes -- I want to encourage myself to cover more subjects so I can practice my writing -- I've started a new blog that will be co-authored by both me (Bonnie) and Beaver.  Here's our (my) first post:  Chicken Fannie Biryani.  If you're a Google+ friend you'll see the posts from Cooking With Beaver and Bonnie automatically on your timeline, just like you see these No Foot posts.  Otherwise please bookmark our cooking site and visit often!

August 17, 2014

Recipe - Cheese Crisps

Vintage appetizer recipe, Cheese Crisps, ready to bake.

Before the days when appetizers were called "munchies," most holidays, parties and gatherings called for some planning ahead, locating recipes, cooking or baking, creating something special to serve with cocktails or as a pre-dinner snack. For example, back in the 60s and 70s, my mother made Cheese Crisps to keep on hand and serve anyone who might drop by during the Christmas season.  They were standard fare at parties during that time too.  I haven't thought of them in over 30 years, not until the May 2014 issue of Southern Living featured a very similar recipe.  It took some digging but I found my mom's version, hand written on a piece of notepaper (with the words, "When the going gets Tough, the Tough go SHOPPING" printed on top). When I made these wafers the other day I followed her recipe for sentimental reasons, and they came out great, just like I remembered.

Curious about the history of the recipe I went through my cookbook collection and found many variations, the earliest being in renowned Texas cook Helen Corbitt's Cookbook (1957). Her "Cheese Pastries" had many variations but the basic recipe consisted of shredded cheese, shortening, flour, salt and cayenne pepper.  I found "Cheese Wafers" in the General Foods Kitchens Cookbook (1959):  Perfect for a mother-daughter graduation tea party, these delicate wafers called for "snappy cheese" and "butter or other shortening" in addition to the common other ingredients.  I also found "Cheese Crisps" in my grandmother's late-sixties cookbook produced by VEPCO (Virginia Electric & Power Company) which featured pecans in the dough and called for shaping the dough into rolls which were refrigerated and then sliced thin to form the wafers.  In 1972, Southern Living's Party Cookbook included "Crunchy Cheese Biscuits."  It is nearly identical to my mother's recipe, though hers is doubled; and finally there's a recipe from D.S. Freeman (Richmond, VA) High School's Faculty Favorites, probably published in the early 70s, which was submitted courtesy the Home Economics Department.  It featured the addition of an egg white to the otherwise standard mixture.

Since this recipe is so easy (you can buy your cheese already shredded) why not give it a try next time you need an appetizer?  We're all tired of tortilla chips and salsa, potato chips and onion dip, and even though we haven't seen corn chips and bean dip in a while that would be a yawner too.  Here's my mom's version of a very old favorite (she used grated Velveeta), but it's so adaptable I urge you to tweak it to your liking and make it a tradition in your home.

Patricia Axtell's Cheese Crisps

Makes about 80 wafers

Ingredients

2 cups grated yellow cheese
2 sticks softened margarine
2 cups flour
2 cups Rice Krispies
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350

1.  Mix cheese and margarine; add flour and mix well.

2.  Mix in Rice Krispies and seasonings.

Well mixed and ready to shape into balls.

3.  Shape into small balls (shooter marble size) and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Mash with fork crisscross.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.

"If you wish you may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper for the Tabasco, onion salt and Worcestershire sauce.  Both ways are good."

Cheese Crisps ready for baking.

August 14, 2014

Recipe - Home-style Chicken Curry

Chicken curry ingredients.
I make my favorite meals over and over again, but sometimes suppertime rolls around and I want to try something different and feel up to spending a little more time on preparation.  Because it's normally a spur of the moment thing, the challenge is always finding a recipe that matches stuff I have in my refrigerator, freezer and pantry.  Last night I had a craving for Chicken Pub Curry, an English favorite that my son Captain Morgan made for us a while ago.  I was shocked to discover that I had only one onion, and not at all shocked to confirm that I had no curry paste, so that recipe was out.  Lucky for me and my taste buds I found an online recipe which was very similar to the Pub curry; and I had all the ingredients on the list, or reasonable substitutions.  It came out great!  And today my house smells rather exotic, making me hungry for another bowl of this glorious stew.  Thank goodness for leftovers!

Home-style Chicken Curry

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 large onion (Note: I had to use a red one but I recommend a yellow or white onion)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon ginger paste
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon hot Madras curry powder or garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sugar
14 ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8 oz hot chicken bouillon or stock
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Procedure

1.  Peel the onion and place in a food processor.  Add a tablespoon or two of water and process into a thin paste.  Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

2.  Put the garlic and ginger paste into the food processor and process until pureed.  Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.

Mmmmm...The fragrance of the cumin, fennel and cinnamon  is incredible.

3.  Heat the oil in a heavy pan over medium heat.  In a small bowl combine the cumin and fennel seeds with the cinnamon and red pepper flakes and add to the pan once the oil is hot.  Swirl everything around for about 30 seconds until the spices release a fragrant aroma.

4.  Add the onion paste -- it will sputter a bit at first.  Fry until the water evaporates and the onions turn dark golden (about 7 - 8 minutes).  Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  You will end up with a thick, dark roux.

5.  Stir in the curry powder, turmeric, and sugar and continue cooking for 20 seconds before adding the can of tomatoes.  Continue cooking on medium heat for about 10 minutes without a lid until the tomatoes reduce and darken.  Stir occasionally and adjust the heat if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom.

Coat the chicken in the masala to seal in the juices.
6.  Meanwhile cut the chicken thighs into chunks.  Once the tomatoes have thickened, add the thighs to the pan and cook for 5 minutes to coat the chicken in the masala and seal in the juices.  Add the hot chicken stock and simmer without a lid 8 - 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  You can add an extra spoonful or two of stock or broth if the curry needs it.

7.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with Indian flatbreads or fluffy basmati rice.

Delicious home-style chicken curry with a spoonful of brown basmati rice.

(This recipe was adapted from the BBC GoodFood "Home-style Chicken Curry" recipe.)

August 12, 2014

Recipe - Peach Oatmeal Muffins

One of these beauties yields over a cup of chopped peach.
My dog bit my nose.  It's a really shocking, sad thing, and I'm confused about how or why it happened. Right now I'm recuperating. I look horrible, not feeling so hot either (it feels like I hit a wall with my nose), so  I decided muffins were in order.  I had just the recipe to use on one of these fine looking peaches, too.

Peach muffins ready to pop into the oven.

Peach Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup chopped peaches

Note:  To make cinnamon sugar, mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Procedure

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with papers liners (I needed 16 muffin liners).  Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Set all aside.

2.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.

3.  In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, butter and yogurt.  Add to dry ingredients and stir until moist.

4.  Fold in the peaches.

5.  Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, dividing evenly between 12 - 16 liners.  It's okay to fill to the top as these don't rise all that much.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

6.  Check muffins at 16 minutes.  I baked mine for 18 minutes 30 seconds in an electric oven.

7.  When muffins are done and a tester comes out clean, remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Time for tea!

(Adapted from Damn Delicious)