Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mom's Bran Muffins


The All Bran box that set on our kitchen table when I was a kid in the 1950's never tempted me. For one thing, I knew what natural laxative meant! Once a week, just like clockwork the box of ExLax would come out of the medicine chest and I'd be offered that little chocolate "treat." Saturday morning meant two things, cartoons and many trips to the bathroom! Mom was a bit of a health nut, she shopped according to food value... i.e. nutrition so we didn't have Ko-Ko Pops. Sad, I don't even know how to spell it correctly! Even though I stayed away from the cereal, you couldn't keep me from eating these muffins that Mom made often. The recipe used to be on the back of Kellogg's All-Bran box, but it's not there anymore. A quick Google Search will bring you all the variations on this delicious recipe. Perfect for a healthy snack or breakfast, they are only 163 calories each! 


Apple Walnut Bran Muffins
makes 24 muffins
2 large golden apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup butter
3 cups All-Bran
1 cup boiling water
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a skillet, saute apples in butter until tender, about 10 minutes. Combine cereal and water in a large bowl, then stir in buttermilk, eggs, sugar, raisins/walnuts and apples with butter. Combine dry ingredients; stir into apple mixture just until moistened. Bake as many as desired, then just refrigerate the remaining dough in a tightly covered container for up to 2 weeks (batter will be very thick). Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Makes about 24 standard-size muffins. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Out of the blue, in the most unlikely of all places, yet another school shooting has happened in America. Yesterday I was on Facebook when I saw some disturbing posts from Chardon. My daughter's friend Kim was frantic, the idyllic little town her family calls home was upside down with helicopters circling, police barricades and tv cameras everywhere.



Every parent in every town in America can feel the pain and fear that that these families now know first hand. We can't fathom that it would happen here, but neither could Chardon.


Over the next few days they will dissect the possible reasons, already they are saying the shooter was bullied. Some students said they knew he had a bad home life. Even with all the pressures that teens face, none of this makes any sense.



It was sunny and the wind was making the flags over town fly proudly Monday. It felt like just another normal day in our little town and I was thinking how Chardon felt just like this, until yesterday.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I do windows!


I have a big job ahead of me this week, window washing. Never mind that we have 28 windows in this house, the biggest problem is that our upper levels are 3 stories up. Don't be thinkin' we live in NYC, Granny Mountain is in the woods on the side of a mountain, that's the reason it's so steep you get a nosebleed in our bedroom! I watched a YouTube video with professional window washer tips, I'll be using their secret cleaner... it's HERE. There's a reason they get paid the big bucks, it's  a little like plumbing, you can read all you want how to put in a little rubber washer but fixing that drip never is as easy as it sounds. So, be praying for me as I tackle the top windows. They actually "tip out" so I'm not going to standing on a ledge like the granny in the picture!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Raised Bed Gardening


I think about it a lot, the farm that sets in Boone County... just an hour and a half away from me. It was home to my Mom and Dad, her parents, their parents and so on going back to 1860. It's where I ran barefoot in the summer, fed chickens and rode in the International pickup with Grandpa as he fed the cows. Heartstrings, definitely.



There's hardly a day goes by that a pleasant memory of that place doesn't pop into my head. I came away from there imprinted with a love of the land; the smell of hay and grain, the pleasures of gathering eggs, the desire to get up early so I don't miss sunrises and a love of everything country.



I'm not the only one who dreams of a simpler time. We have a resurgence of self sufficiency going in America right now. It's one of the few things that you can call "positive" that has come with the recession. We all want to feel more in control of our food and resources. Saving money and being healthy are important to each and everyone of us.


A starting point is planning a garden. Even if you've never grew so much as a house plant, it's not complicated or hard to do! The good news is, there is information and help out there just for the asking. The local Farmers Co-Op has everything you need to get started, from seeds to soil... and the people to guide you every step of the way! Right now they have a new raised bed garden kit called the GeoPlanter. Easy to assemble, it's made of a geo-textile fabric that promotes healthy root growth. Everyone knows that in hard container gardening, once the roots reach the walls they circle and eventually strangle the plant. With GeoPlanters, the roots are air puned once they reach the fabric container walls. This pruning forces the branching of the fibrous root tips throughout the plant container. The end result is healthy, vigorous plants that grow faster and produce more.


Made in the USA, reusable for many growing seasons, easy to store when not in use ... it's on my want list!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cake for Breakfast


'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what's the first thing you say to yourself?’
‘What's for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’
‘I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.'It's the same thing,' he said!

Good news last week, you may have missed it since it was on the news Valentine's Day. It seems eating chocolate cake for breakfast may just make you lose weight! If that's not your favorite you can substitute a cookie or some chocolate mousse or even ice cream. Sounds a little crazy doesn't it, but Honest to Pete it's the latest study from a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University. They've stumbled onto some Earthshaking evidence that says adding dessert to a balanced 600-calorie breakfast that includes proteins and carbohydrates can help dieters shed weight and keep it off in the long run. I know, this is too good to be true. You might as well tell me chocolate and wine will make me live longer.... uh, that's true too!

Researchers put 193 obese, nondiabetic adults into two groups. They ate low-carb diets of 1,400 calories a day for women and 1,600 calories a day for men. But one group was given a low-carb 300-calorie breakfast and the other was given a 600-calorie breakfast that was high in protein and carbohydrates, and always included a dessert. Weight loss was about equal for the two groups at 16 weeks. But after 32 weeks, those who added a cookie or cake or ice cream to breakfast had lost an average of 40 pounds more than those who ate the lighter, low-carb breakfast.

 Maybe that's where I've failed, I should have been eating my cake for breakfast!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ozark Trail Bars


I'm on a mission to find a recipe after having Stone Mill's Ozark Blueberry Trail Bars yesterday. My Mother-in-law and I had a 10 o'clock appointment with AARP's free tax preparers at the Boys and Girl's Club in South Fayetteville. She was anxious to have her taxes done, we always worry we're going to have to pay... don't we? She got good news/bad news, the good news is she didn't have to pay and the bad... she didn't get any money back! Oh well, we felt rich somehow when we left there so we headed for a quick lunch at Stone Mill's Bakery and Cafe down on Gregg Street.


They are famous for their whole grain breads and have a delicious menu of homemade soups and sandwiches. It was a cold, blustery day so we both chose a bowl of Chicken and Dumpling soup. It came with two chunks of their crusty French Bread and butter, YUM! The soup was so good, little pinches of dumplings in a thick golden broth. I just know there's a Grandma back there in the kitchen making this one!
Since we were good and just had soup, well kinda good since we both scrarfed down the buttered bread... we decided we'd try the delicious looking Ozark Trail Bars that we saw in the bakery case as we ordered our soup. It was a little hard to look away from the giant iced cinnamon rolls, but they were the size of my hand and I can only eat so much! I went back up to the counter and ordered a mixed berry bar for me and a blueberry bar for Mom. They menu says they are made with whole wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt flours. In fact most of their breads are made without any fat, eggs or dairy. Now I'm on an Internet search for a recipe and it's not easy. Anyone have an idea how they did this magic trick... they were out of the this world delicious!

I didn't take my camera, but a quick Google search and I'm finding pictures that "look like" the bars, just not the healthy ingredients. Then I had the bright idea to see if anyone had posted a recipe to Pinterest. Guess what I'm making today? Go HERE for the recipe...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Street Tacos

One of my favorite places to eat when we are in Texas is Taco Cabana. Once you get to the Dallas area, or anywhere south of Dallas... they are everywhere. It's a chain like Taco Bell, but the food is far superior. The difference? Well, they have real cooks in real kitchens making real Mexican food--by hand. That means they are chopping the cilantro, roasting the peppers, stirring the beans and making the tortillas everyday.

My love affair with Taco Cabana started on a balmy March day in 1996 when we had just moved to South Texas. It was icy in NW Arkansas when the movers came to pack us up, but a pleasant 80 degrees as we enjoyed our meal that night on the patio. Over the next 5 years we ate at nearly all of the famous Mexican restaurants in the San Antonio area. As memorable as they were, Taco Cabana is etched in my heart as a favorite!

They have street tacos on the menu now, and while we were in Texas I had them 3 times... they are THAT GOOD!  Little corn tortilla treats filled with seasoned chicken, brisket or pork and topped with a variety of fresh sauces, they are the perfect lunch, dinner or snack.  

I bought this great magazine at Sam's Club in Dallas while we were there and spent the trip home planning the recipes I'm going to make. Better Homes and Gardens publication Mexican is the real deal, authentic dishes from the many regions of Mexico. Inside the covers are the treasured recipes that are so hard to duplicate on your own. This weekend we tried the Beer Braised Chicken Verde, I took a shortcut and made the recipe with rotisserie chicken. The filling was delish, very much like the ones at Taco Cabana♥♥♥

Beer Braised Chicken Verde
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 12 ounce bottle Mexican beer (such as Modelo Especial or Pacifico)
1 11 - 12 ounce can tomatillos, drained
2 4 - 4 1/2 ounce can diced green chile peppers
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins
1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add butter, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until butter melts.
2. Add beer, tomatillos, and chile peppers. Bring to boiling. Add chicken. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, stirring every 5 minutes to break up the tomatillos. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. Gently boil the cooking liquid, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, using two forks, pull chicken apart into shreds.
3. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the reduced cooking juices; stir to moisten. Use chicken mixture as filling for quesadillas or tacos; pass the remaining cooking juices.

Tacos el Pastor
1 medium peeled and cored fresh pineapple
8 dried pasilla and/or guajillo chile peppers
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
16 6 inch corn tortillas
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
Snipped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Bottled hot pepper sauce
1.Cut pineapple into 1/2-inch-thick slices, reserving juice; cover and refrigerate pineapple and reserved juice separately.
2. Remove stems and seeds from chile peppers. Place peppers in a medium bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Allow peppers to stand about 30 minutes or until soft; drain, discarding water.
3. In a food processor or blender combine chile peppers, any juice from the pineapple, the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, and cloves. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth.
4. In a 3-quart baking dish arrange pork slices in a single layer, overlapping slices as necessary. Pour chile pepper mixture over pork slices, spreading evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil.
5. For a charcoal grill, place tortilla packet on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Place pork slices and pineapple slices on the grill rack alongside the foil packet directly over medium coals. Grill pork and pineapple slices for 6 to 7 minutes or until pork slices are slightly pink in the center and juices run clear (160 degrees F), turning once. Grill tortilla packet for 10 minutes, turning once. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Grill tortilla packet, pork slices, and pineapple as directed above.)
6. Coarsely chop pork and pineapple and combine in a large bowl. Fill warm tortillas with pork and pineapple mixture. Sprinkle each taco with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and, if desired, hot pepper sauce.
Print Recipe

Roasted Tomato Salsa ~Yes, this IS that great restaurant salsa recipe!
2 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes (about 15)
3 fresh jalapeno peppers
1 medium head garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
2/3cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, snipped (1/4 cup)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
Tortilla chips
1. Core the tomatoes. Place in one side of a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Halve the jalapeno peppers. Remove stems and seeds. Place, cut side down, in the other side of baking pan with tomatoes. Peel away outer skin from garlic. Cut off the pointed top portion with a knife, leaving the bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves. Add to pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 450 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and pepper skins are charred. Cool.
2. Remove tomato skins. Press to remove garlic paste from individual cloves of garlic. Place garlic, jalapeno peppers, and salt in a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend with a few pulses until finely chopped. Add half of the tomatoes; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining tomatoes to food processor bowl or blender container; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Stir into tomato mixture in bowl.
3. Stir onions, cilantro, and vinegar into tomato mixture until combined. Cover and chill several hours to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes about 4 cups.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Speed-Spoiling"

We had so much fun on our trip to Dallas last weekend to visit our daughter Amy and her family! When you are long distance grandparents, you make up for lost time spoiling.... we call it "Speed-Spoiling!" It's an art, you don't want to scare them with too many kisses and hugs but we did have that time constraint of 5 days so we didn't waste anytime! We shopped, we bought, we played. Ewan is 5 now and understands the whole Nana/Papa thing!


 A fun game of checkers proved Ewan has inherited his jumping skills from his Great Grandpa Keeling, who was Master of the game! See the big stack of Papa's orange checkers on Ewan's side? Piece of cake!!!




While it was snowing on Granny Mountain in Arkansas, it was rainy and cool in Texas so we decided a trip to Cabela's was a better idea than the zoo.

  You wouldn't believe the animals on display... we spent a big chunk of Saturday afternoon here!






 Ewan did a little boat shopping...

Papa and Ewan both have fishing fever, guess it was catching!

Amy and Derek with a rare moment alone... look at her face, she was giddy with excitement!




 It was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. Ewan starts Kindergarten this fall, he makes friends easily and plays well with others, two things that are key to having a successful life!



It's amazing what they learn in a short 5 years. He can read about anything and knows how to count dangerously well. Amy said he knows his "point system" for rewards at home and keeps a total in his head! I'm not ready for him to go to school this fall, how can he be old enough to start Kindergarten? He'll be riding the bus (yikes) carrying his lunchbox and making friends left and right. All we can do is stand back and watch, cause putting a brick on their head doesn't work... didn't work with his Mom either!

Have a great weekend...



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spring Fever

I went by the Farmer's Co-Op last week and thumbed through the seed packets. Just in planning mode at this point, but it won't be long until Old Man Winter packs his bags and leaves our part of the country. Spring Time is just around the corner in all her green glory. I can't wait!

I have lots of plans this year, I keep seeing great ideas in magazines and on Pinterest. I love the idea of re-purposing something old and it seems I'm not the only one. It just brings a smile to your face to see something like this old chair, painted and pretty again, filled with
petunias and sweet potato vine.

I'd love to have a little potting shed at the edge of our woods, haven't mentioned it to Jerry yet... finding just the right time!

The best thing worst thing about having country property is that you have the resources available to you to "make" whatever you want, i.e. rocks, timber, even some plants. The reality of how much hard work making your own Shangri La is the only thing stopping us most of the time.

That, and flat land. When we lived in town I longed for a mountain, now that we live on a mountainside, I look at pictures like this and sigh... it's that
"Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side" thing!


I do want a Bottle Tree like Aunt B.'s
I need to ask her where she found her blue bottles...

For now this will have to satisfy me! Maybe I could help Old Man Winter pack his bags...



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't Cry over Spoiled Milk, use it!

You don't normally come to my blog for beauty tips, but since it's Valentine's Day I want to share one of my favorites. After all, we want to look our best as we set across the table tonight in that romantic restaurant!

One thing I can count on every winter is dry skin, it happens when I don't bathe myself in lotion on a regular basis. Oh I have the lotions, it's just putting them on where I fail miserably! Every room has an arsenal of creams, lotions or oils. So why don't I use them, well... when I get out of the shower I'm in a hurry to get my clothes on and rush cause I'm already late for something. Is that your life too?

When I wash my hands I give myself a quick pump. Invariably, in less than 2 minutes my hands are back in water. ugh!

Bedtime is perfect, time to pull out the products that really moisturize. We are currently using Vaseline Intensive Care's Gel Body Oil. It's industrial strength, it made my dry heels smooth as a baby's bottom in a couple of nights. The bad thing about it is that it doesn't absorb easily. As long as you're putting socks on it's ok to climb right into bed, but slathering it all over is a little like I've been to one of those baby oil wrestling matches that they charge to get into!

Cleopatra's "Milk Bath" has been around for awhile, the Queen of Egypt has been credited as the founder of milk based skin care. There are many variations on the recipe, but it's as simple as adding milk to your bath. It needs to be the full fat whole milk version, after all we want our skin to be plump and round even if we don't want our backside to look like that! Just add up to 5 cups of milk to your hot bath, then soak for about 30 minutes, using a washcloth or loofah to gently exfoliate. Add a few drops of Neutrogena's Body Oil with Sesame to the water and you will get out of the tub a new woman!

The reason this works is that milk contains Lactic Acid. Just like the beauty products I love so much, my Hope in a Jar by Philosophy uses lactic acid to penetrate the skin's deepest layers and exfoliate. I found this recipe online and haven't tried it out yet.... I'm waiting for my milk to spoil!

Fermented Milk Bath
One of the best home treatments is - bathing in extremely fermented whole milk. The milk must be allowed to curdle.
1/2 gallon of this added to a warm bath and soaking in this for at least 20 minutes will give the smoothest and silkiest skin imaginable. Far superior to a mere milk bath. This solution softens the skin more effectively than loofah scrubbing or dry brushing.




Monday, February 13, 2012

Extreme Shoveling

Arkansas may be having it's mildest winter ever, but Europe is suffering one of the worst winters ever.
Schools have closed, public transportation has all but stalled and people are struggling to keep their homes warm. Climate change is affecting us all, from the hottest summers on record to the wettest springs and the coldest winters. This time last year we were recovering from 24" of freshly fallen snow. Jerry was home, simply because he couldn't get out of the driveway until he shoveled it, and it wouldn't stop snowing long enough for him to make a dent in the job!



We had several snows last winter, one after the other for about 6 weeks. It was like Mother Nature was mad at us. Shoveling became a weekly chore, boots remained at the door and coats, hats and gloves never got put away.
Sometime around snow #4 or 5, Jerry decided he was going to buy a snow plow for next winter. Up till then, he had said we live too far South to own a snow plow. Something about us not getting enough snow. We have one now setting in the garage... waiting!

You have time to do some deep thinking when you're going back and forth, shoveling. Things like where you'd like to retire.

Chicago's not on the list, or Minneapolis either. He's not a snow person, I blame it on his early years spent in Puerto Rico and Florida. Deprived of the white stuff, he grew up to HATE IT. From the first cold day in the fall to the last cool day in the spring he mentions how much he dislikes the cold.


I'm thinking it's probably too late to change him!

*We're in Dallas this morning visiting our kids and it's snowing at our house on Granny Mountain!!! Maybe he'll get to use that snow blower after all!
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