Cooking, Travel and just Other Stuff

You have to understand. I come from a line of very crafty people. My sister paints, one niece can knit anything out of a ball of yarn...oh and she paints and wood carves and makes jewelery. The other niece designs things and then sews them and then my great niece...well we will just call her insanely crafty. They all have blogs where they show all of their wonderful things they do. So, that brings me here. I decided I wanted a blog too, but what to write about. I'm not insanely crafty, can't paint, don't wood carve, tried knitting-didn't work....hummm, what do I do? Well, I like to cook and travel and eat, so I thought maybe we can start there. My blog will be about recipes I've made, places I go and restaurants I eat at with a few other things thrown in along the way. I've also heard that writing is good for you brain, so I figure-as I'm getting older now-this could be a good thing. So anyway, if you find my rantings worth commenting over, I'd love to hear from you. If I post a recipe you like, please let me know, other wise you can keep your opinions to yourself. This, after all, is my blog to make myself feel better, to try and compete with my family, because I don't do anything crafty.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

These cookies are a snap to make...and they taste good too!

So I have a friend who loves cookies. He bowls on my husbands bowling team. I try out new cookies recipes on them and they tell me yes or no on whether to make them again. The first time I made these cookies he said they were only a nine because they didn't have any nuts in them. Tonight I made them for him and added the nuts. Tonight they were a "10". He had surgery on his shoulder yesterday, so I was wondering if it was just the drugs talking, so I tried them out on the rest of the bowling team and they agreed they were "really" good. So this weeks recipe is a "really" good "10" cookies recipe. I hope you enjoy them too.

Chocolate Snaps

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. water
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place balls 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 4 doz.

If you make them let me know what you think.

Friday, February 18, 2011

If it's raining it must be....Soup!

Okay, so I found this recipe the other day in our local newspaper. One of the best soup recipes I have ever eaten. Everybody that has tried it loves it. It makes a really big pot, so it would be great for company or you could freeze part of it to use later. The best thing is that it is so easy. Put it with a salad and sourdough for a fabulous dinner.

Lasagna Soup

2 pounds ground Italian sausage
4 cups diced onions (I put through the food processor)
2 cups diced carrots
4 Tblsps. minced garlic
8 cups chicken broth
2 large (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato paste
4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup campanelle pasta, uncooked
2 cups fresh spinach
shredded mozzarella cheese
shredded parmesan cheese

Brown meat, onions and carrots with garlic. Add broth and crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add tomato paste, mushrooms and cook until pasta is al dente. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Serve soup with mozzarella and parmesan on top.
(Rhonda's note: When I made this I was a half cup short of 4 cups of onions. I had some asparagus left over from the previous nights dinner. I put it in the food processor with the carrots and put that in the soup too. I think you could play with this recipe a little if you wanted to add different vegetables. Kids probably wouldn't even know.) Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Tea Party......with recipes.

Paula, Doris & Melody

Okay, so I have had several request to blog my Tea Party I had last week. My friend from church helped me give it and it was a wonderful time with some wonderful ladies. I felt like it was a tea party fit for the queen, unfortunately she didn't show up. She missed out. I did some research online to find out what to serve at a traditional tea. The following was our menu:

Spinach Salad with blackberries, feta and raspberry dressing

Tomato/Cucumber & Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

Blueberry Scones & Mandarin Orange Scones
with Lemon Curd and Devonshire Creme

Lavender Pound Cake
Mini Rum Pecan Tea Cakes
Chocolate Snaps

We had teas that I order from a company called Octavia Teas. I love their teas and they come packaged in little tins. We had a Red Tea- Hibiscus Peach, a Herbal Tea- Berry Cocktail, a White Tea- Raspberry Champagne, a Green Tea- Tropical Green and a Black Tea- Grand Earl Grey. These are all wonderful teas, but the favorites were the Raspberry Champagne and the Berry Cocktail. We had asked those that came to wear wonderful tea party hats with the best hat winning a prize.
Deenise helped me give the party

My sister , Norma and niece, Sherie
CeCe Byrd

Sara, Lisa & Mona
Deenise and I

The winning hat was made by my sister. We have dared her to wear it for Easter. We'll see. She won a heart bowl gift basket filled with tea, a tea mug, Godiva chocolates, candles and a heart dish towel. It was really a lot of fun. I am already thinking about the next Tea Party.
And the winner is....

I always thought scones were hard to make, so I had never made them until this party. They are actually quite easy and so yummy. Here are the two recipes I used for the scones.

Blueberry Scones
2 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbslp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
6 Tblsps. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 Tblsp. white vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp. orange peel
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg white & 2 Tblsps. sugar
  1. Heat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add butter; mix with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently stir vinegar-milk mixture into dough along with blueberries, orange peel and egg, just until combined.
  3. Using a standard ice cream scoop (about 1/2 cup), drop heaping scoopfuls of dough onto prepared sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Note: these kept for about 6 days in the frig.)

Mandarin Orange Scones
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
zest of one orange
1/2 cup mandarin oranges sliced very small (I used fresh mandarins cause their in season here)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup buttermilk
Mix together flour and sugar. Use pastry cutter to cut in butter. Mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal. Add zest and oranges. Fold in orange juice gently. Add enough buttermilk to make the mixture come together. If mixture is too dry add more buttermilk until it holds together. Turn out on a floured board. Pat out to 1 inch thick and cut with small biscuit cutter. Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-20 minutes until golden brown. (Note: Because I'm lazy, I didn't want to do the whole board-cookie cutter thing. So I used a medium cookie scoop and did them drop style. Worked for me.)

I served the above scones with the following recipes.

Devonshire Cream
1 8oz. pkg softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
In a small bowl with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Fold in sour cream. (Note: Will keep in frig and week.)

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
3 eggs
Melt butter in microwave for 1 minute. Beat eggs in a glass bowl with electric mixer until frothy. Mix in butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Beat again until smooth. Microwave on high for another 3 minutes. Beat mixture again until smooth. Refrigerate until set/cool. Lemon curd will keep up to 2 weeks in frig, if it lasts that long.

Enjoy these and if you saw another recipe from the menu you would like me to share, let me know and I will add it.I think it is now time for me to go have a cup of tea.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stepping Snowshoes!

For about two years Brent and I have been saying we wanted to go try snow shoeing. Neither one of us are skiers. We tried, but the pain wasn't worth the fun. The wonderful thing about snow shoeing is that if you can walk, you can snowshoe.
We decided to go on the spur of the moment, but we really felt like for our first time that we needed some instruction and guidance. I did some quick research and found a company called Tahoe Adventure Company. They do lots of different outdoor activities in the Tahoe area. I called them to see if they had availability for yesterday and after she made a couple of phone calls, called us back with a guide for our hike.
Kerry was our guide. He has been with the company for several years and is quite knowledgeable on the area. Kerry is friendly, easy to talk to and we found our day with him to be very pleasant. When we arrived at our meeting location, which was the base area for the hike, he had our snowshoes laid out and ready for us to put on. After some instruction on how to put them on, how to walk in them, how to use the poles and how not to walk backwards, we were off. Our hike was going to be a round trip of 4 miles to Pole Creek.
The weather yesterday up on the summit in Truckee was picture perfect as you can see. Temperature was about 50 degrees. When you snowshoe it is advisable to take a nice, sturdy backpack with you. You need to be able to carry water and snacks. You also need to have a place to put the clothes you start stripping off your body as the hike goes along, otherwise you are going to leave a trail of clothes. Dressing in layers is very important. Chili skins, wool socks, fleece pants, fleece over shirt, gloves and a fleece jacket are all on your body when you leave the base area. By the time we got back I had taken everything off of my upper body but the fleece over shirt. I'm sure if it had been colder that could have been different but at least if you dress in layers you have options.
Making sure you take plenty of water and snacks to eat along the way is important. You can get dehydrated if you don't drink enough water. Anyone can snowshoe, but if you are going for a very long hike it can be pretty strenuous.
One of the really nice things about going with the Tahoe Adventure Company was that when we got to our destination of Pole Creek, Kerry sat us up a wonderful picnic lunch. He had yummy sandwiches, chips, oranges, cookies, hot chocolate and hot apple cider. I don't know if lunch was really, really good or if I was just so hungry from the hike. Either way it was wonderful.

We sat and enjoyed our lunch for about 30 minutes and then started the trip back down. The trip took a little over 4 hours. Great exercise. The scenery was spectacular. Bluest sky I have seen in a long time. We definitely want to do this again before the season is over.
Pole Creek

Does the sky get any bluer?

If you would like to give snowshoeing a try I highly recommend it. It's a great way to enjoy the snow without the fear of falling while zooming down a mountain. It's also a great way to enjoy the the peacefulness of the the beauty God surrounds us with. The snow has it's own quiet that is amazing to sit and listen to. Happy Trekking.

If you would like to go a snowshoe adventure with Kerry, he can be booked through:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hike to Hidden Falls

 Yesterday it was so beautiful we decided we would go on a hike. I had heard about Hidden Falls but we had never been. Hidden Falls is located off Highway 65 between the towns of Lincoln and Auburn. You drive through some of the most beautiful countryside around the rolling hills to get to the park. There is no admission fee to use the park. The parking lot was almost full when we got there, so obviously others had the same thought for the day. There are 11 different hikes that could be done by themselves or combined with each other to make longer hikes. We choose to do Poppy Trail (1 mile), Hidden Falls access trail (.5 mile) and Pond Turtle Road (1.1 miles). They ranged from moderate to difficult. There are trails for all abilities. Yesterday was the perfect temperature, about 70 degrees. I wouldn't want to do this hike if it was to much hotter. Great for spring and fall. There are lots of places to stop and have a picnic and if you have horses, this park is horse friendly. We will definitely do this again this spring. If you would like more information and maps you can visit the website at:

Hidden Falls