Fig and Zucchini Bread

Fig and Zucchini Bread

ashland
What’s baking on Ashland besides our feet on the hot pavement?

This recipe for fig and zucchini bread may replace my family’s favorite quick bread of banana and chocolate chip.  This rustic flavored bread is the ultimate comfort food and is as easy and comfortable to make as it is to eat. The figs and zucchini are plentiful  and inexpensive in Texas in late August.  Here are the easy steps.

zuks and figs

Shred about four zucchini’s in your food processor with the fine shred disc.  If you have to grate by hand, think of this as a workout for your forearms. You can drain the zucchini’s in cheese cloth if you want less wetness.  Add about 6 diced figs (used fresh but you could substitute dried), 2 eggs, 1 tsp. of vanilla, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 3/4 cup Greek yogurt and combine in a bowl.  Then add 1 and 1/4 cups of flour, a dash of ginger powder, dash of sea salt, 1 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, and 1/3 cup of of walnuts or other nuts (I used some leftover muesli mix that I had in the freezer).  Mix it well so the wet and the dry come together in a lovely milieu (will be wet).

fig bread
All the wet ingredients go into the pool. Combine and add the dry. Love this glass bowl because of the nice rim to hold onto when mixing.

This amount makes one regular loaf but I divided my mixture into three smaller size loaf paper pans because there is just RM and I at home now plus it makes for nice gifts to share at work or with a neighbor. These polka dot pans come ready to fill and bake in your oven (promise, they don’t catch on fire).  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes (check for 180 degrees in the center with a quick read thermometer) before finishing the baking time.   I froze two of the loaves and left the third on the counter for breakfast tomorrow on Ashland. Be careful leaving this out on your counter too long.  The dog might steal it and eat it.  That’s what RM told me happened to part of the third loaf that was saved for our Sunday breakfast.  Wait a minute, we don’t have a dog!

bread done
Pretty pink polka dots are my favorite. RM’s too.
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Two Beautiful Days in the City of Fountains

Two Beautiful Days in the City of Fountains

If you can’t get to Rome, then get yourself to Kansas City.  The first fountains in Kansas City were for horses, birds and dogs. In 1904 the first fountain was built near the west end of the intercity viaduct, 3rd and Minnesota. It was a large square pedestal with 4 small pools for dogs to drink from at street level and a 4′ diameter granite basin at a height for horses to drink. The water came out of spigots in lions’ mouths into this taller bowl so people could get clean water in their cups. The overflow went into the street level basins for the dogs. The city began putting up drinking fountains for people around the turn of the century, mostly in the downtown area.  There are currently over 48 publically-operated fountains; many featured on this link.  http://kcfountains.com/COFFbrochure.pdf

On our two days of sight-seeing we witnessed a lot of Zeus and Neptune-inspired geysers but we also enjoyed the Link – an elevated, climate controlled walkway that took us from our hotel, Sheraton Crown Center, over the city streets to the Westin, to the Hallmark Crown Center shopping center and to Union Station.  I am sure this walkway is appreciated by both downtown workers and tourists alike when the Midwestern winter winds howl down the city streets and the temperatures begin to drop.  During our week-end, we didn’t break a sweat whether inside or out with temperatures a perfect 75 degree both days and no humidity.

On Sunday morning, we walked the deserted Link to Union Station and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the iconic Harvey House restaurant situated in an open-air setting in the heart of the Grand Hall in Union Station. The panoramic views allowed for great sight lines to the architectural features of the massive, limestone shrouded Amtrak Station including the great clock. We learned that in 1997, the station was renovated and the St. Louis Antique Lighting Co. provided 12 full-time experts to strip and restore all of Union Station’s sconces and giant chandeliers. Each chandelier weighs 3,500 pounds, measures 12 feet in diameter, and requires more than half a mile in wiring and 11,400 watts of electricity.

Kansas City
Kansas City freight yards (16 lines) remind me of the Fort!

Here is our list of K.C. bests:

  1. Best local breakfast – You Say Tomato at 2801 Homes Street, just a few blocks south from the Crown Center area.  This gem is a locally owned café/deli/grocery store and everything was in-house from scratch.  I scarfed on a vegetarian Bierock which included red lentils, potatoes, currents and feta baked into a bread pocket – can you say “Hot Pocket?” The pocket was served with a lemony cucumber sauce for dipping that took it to a new level. C3 testifies to their scratch biscuits and gravy.  They have whole quiches, cakes and pies for pick up.  Great vibe for hipsters old and young.
  2. Best farmer’s market – hands down it is City Market located on 5th Street just north of the downtown financial district. The Saturday we stopped by the market was hopping.  Everyone was buying huge, fragrant bouquets of fresh flowers at the low, low price of $5.  Bunches of sunflowers, native grasses, and perennials were sold at Dutch Flowers – my favorite assortment.  There were at least 140 vendor stalls – no joke and many featured multicultural options.  C3 and I each purchased a tiny can of condensed milk to support our Vietnamese coffee fetish from a tiny African shop.
  3. Favorite vendor – well beyond the flower stall, I loved Just Bee Soap which featured small batch crème made from honey and lemon in the shape of a sunflower. It kept my luggage from smelling funky all week-end.  If you love Burt’s Bee products, you’ll love Just Bee.
  4. Best antique store – well weirdest was Weird Stuff Antiques at 700 Woodswether Road but we only looked and giggled as we roamed the aisles in the massive barn-like structure located on the edge of the mighty Missouri River. This place has tons of vintage holiday decorations.  Yes, creepy Santa’s are their specialty.
  5. Best free activity — While in K.C. for the week-end, we enjoyed by chance the Kansas City Aviation Expo and Air Show happenings above us both days featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and the “Fat Albert”C130. The huge cargo plane created a menacing shadow above us on Saturday as it flew over the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool.  Best way, in our opinion, to take in an air show is “pool side.”
  6. Best shopping – C3 and I vote for the Plaza. We shopped for sales and found some deals at Madewell and Anthropologies.  Enjoyed shopping at Baldwin for the cool KC baseball cap made famous because Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle and Jason Sudeikis wear one. We stopped into Kaldi’s Coffee for a quick “pick me up” after several hours of shopping.  Take your brew and walk to the main plaza fountain and sit a while.
  7. Best view – definitely from the top of the hill where the Liberty Memorial Tower towers over the KC skyline. Take the elevator to the top, 217 feet, for some spectacular views.  Weirdest view was the Assyrian Sphinxes on the south entrance to the memorial.  They look like giant sphinxes with shrouds over their faces but they are actually “shielding their eyes from the horror of war.”  I get it now that I did some research. https://theworldwar.org/explore/museum-and-memorial/elements-museum-and-memorial
  8. Best meal – we dined late on Saturday at Novel located on west 17th in a refurbished Victorian mansion. The waiters get their exercise going up and down the old wooden staircase in the center of the restaurant. The chef serves New American Cuisine – our choices were heirloom tomato salad, pig head torchon, trout and ricotta gnocchi.  The dessert selection we shared was chocolate flourless cake with bourbon caramel and peanuts (lick, lick).  Sneak small flashlights in your purse as the place is kept pitch black with only mood candles for lighting.  Thank goodness I had my daughter with young eyes along to read the menu and wine list to me.

Kansas City, KC, City of Fountains, KCMO, Paris of the Plains, Soccer Capital of America (Kansas Citians) or the Heart of America, the city is an affordable week-end destination, only an hour flight from Fort Worth (my flight was less than $150 RT) and sure to delight the most savvy traveler.  We ran out of time to experience the famous Arthur Bryant’s BBQ or take in some local blues and jazz.  We will save these activities for next time and there will be a next!  In search of KC travel destinations, check out visitkc.com

loot
Some of our selections – bee soap, KC baseball cap, petite condensed milk, vintage pendant and tourism magazine came home in my overnight bag. My wants are small.
Lemons and clementines — preserved.

Lemons and clementines — preserved.

Last winter, I bought a jar of preserved lemons for about $5.00 at Central Market to add to my chicken tangine that was on my menu for a special dinner for friends.  The lemons really made the dish along with the fresh herbs and spices and really good green olives but I thought the price tag for the lemons outrageous.  This summer, I had a bowl of lemons and clementines just ripe for making preserved lemons and clementines.

Steps:

I first cut the fruit into quarters, plopped them into a dutch oven and boil in water until soft about 20 minutes.  It’s smells like heaven.

lemons boiling

Then, I let them cool and removed as many of the seeds as possible, drained the liquid and saved the juice for packing the fruit  in the jars.  I added a generous amount of kosher salt — rubbing it into the flesh of the fruit.  I gave the mixture a squirt of agave nectar just for a bit of sweet and packed the medley into well sterilized canning jars.  I lowered the jars into my pasta basket into boiling water and allowed it to “cook” for 45 minutes.  I removed them, allowed to cool, and put a cute tag on them to remind me when they were canned and to share with friends.   They make a really special hostess gift.  I love hostess gifts! The jars are now in my dark pantry percolating in wait for a cold winter night and another feast of chicken tangine or as a special home-made gift for a deserving friend.  Recipe for chicken tangine follows below.  I don’t own a tangine, I just use a big pot.

canning lemons
Aren’t they pretty? I even found tags with lemons on them on the sale shelf at World Market.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chicken-tagine-with-green-olives-and-preserved-lemon-recipe.html

It’s a privilege denied to many

It’s a privilege denied to many

While, the saying goes, “getting older isn’t for sissies”, if you have your health (and this is a huge factor in the happiness quotient), there are many advantages to getting older.

  • More confidence in just about everything
  • More freedom to make choices and fewer competing priorities
  • Time for friends
  • Appreciation of my family
  • Finances are better
  • Love where I live
  • Don’t crave things I don’t have
  • I’m better at enjoying the moment
  • At peace about my understanding of life and where I fit in
  • And, oh yeah, I get to live a little longer while others don’t have this opportunity.  Seize it!

older

Rattan Furniture and Childhood Play

Rattan Furniture and Childhood Play

Growing up in our rather isolated rural home in southwestern Kansas as a young girl with my brothers and neighborhood friends, we had tons of free time on our hands between school, chores, and scheduled activities.  There were only three channels on the television and it was in black and white until the 1972 Summer Olympics when our parental units broke down and bought a color T.V. so we could watch the games in color or, much more likely, so our athletically inclined Dad could watch the games on the Peacock Station.

Some of the silly games we played in our free time included:

  1. Cops and robbers on bikes all over the neighborhood
  2. Football in the backyard — watch out for Dad’s tomato plants!
  3. Basketball in our driveway — long games of HORSE and shirts and skins
  4. Kick the can in the front yard long past normal “lights out” time in summer
  5. Tetherball in the side yard
  6. Schoolhouse– since I was the youngest, I never got to play the teacher.  We actually made a dunce hat out of construction paper and tape.  That wouldn’t fly today.
  7. Tag (anywhere and everywhere) and all varieties and forms
  8. Wrestling (started inside on the dining room rug until we got kicked outside by before mentioned parental units)
  9. Suicide (mixing edible ingredients in a coffee can and daring each other to eat it or just to SMELL it)
  10. Gunsmoke (we made a makeshift saloon bar out of an old cot, then mixed watery concoctions with food coloring to make drinks like a “red-eye” or “snake eye” for our guests).  We usually got a belly ache after this game.
  11. And one of my personal favorites was Spaceship especially on a rainy Sunday afternoon upstairs in T.V. room.  We would take the rattan couch and side chair that my parents lovingly brought home from their stint in Japan.  They spent a couple of years there in the early 1950’s where my second brother, Ed, was born and our dad was in the Air Force. Many years later, we turned this same rattan furniture upside down, lined the underside with cushions that just previously sat on top and we would pretend we were astronauts inside a capsule headed to the moon or better yet, Mars.  Just like Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin.  This was before Sally Ride so these guys were our heroes along with most of the nation in the 1960’s.  We would make the roaring sounds of the blast off, shake the chairs like we were buffeting through space, we often crashed, or came too close to the sun, but we had a grand time with our imaginations. When we landed on the moon, we would crawl out from our rattan capsules and moonwalk around the room very slowly (this was before Michael Jackson)  before returning to the safety of the lunar module.  We would blast off again for home and hope Mom was making homemade chili and cinnamon rolls because using our imagination so vividly makes a kid hungry.
  12. Lastly, pretending to go to church, but sitting in the balcony, and sneaking out early to go home to play some more. Oh, wait, I didn’t do that but I know some brothers that did.    I was virtuous and sat in the downstairs section with our parents.  The cookies in the Fellowship Hall were not half bad either.  Turn off the TV and the video games and turn on your imagination.
scan0002
Do you see the potential for Apollo 11 in this picture? 1969 I was 8 with a big imagination. Weren’t you too?

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Albert Einstein

Cinnamon watermelon pickles

Cinnamon watermelon pickles

Memories from childhood include cinnamon watermelon pickles.  The square, sweet and tangy pickles tasted like nirvana to me when my mom made the first batch I remember from my childhood days growing up in Kansas.  This last week, I saved the rind from a small, seedless watermelon purchased at Fiesta grocery store on 8th Avenue in the Fort. Around the World takes 80 days? Not at Fiesta Mart. I can find fresh veggies and fruits, unique ingredients, hard to find sauces and condiments at a reasonable price and more from around the world. As I walk through the aisles, I will find items from all corners of the globe and you gotta love their mascot, Pepe the Parrot.  The store has joined the Blue Zone Movement in the Fort so another reason, your health, to stop in and check out their offerings.

http://fiestamart.com/fiesta-foodie/

Back to pickles…

watermelon with salt
How they look after spending the night with Mr. Salt in the refrigerator

First step is to cut off the green rind leaving behind the white and a little bit of the red flesh of the watermelon.  Place in a pot, add kosher salt and ice and place the mixture in refrigerator for one night (same step as making Bread and Butter Pickles). Remove in the morning from refrigerator and rinse and drain.  Next step is to place the pot on a burner on medium, add 2 cups of cool water and bring to a boil   Then add 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of cider vinegar and several cinnamon sticks (you can get these at Fiesta on the cheap).  Boil for 30 – 45 minutes.  Warn inhabitants that hate the smell of vinegar to vacate the premises.

jars ready for canning
Don’t you love all the colors offered now? In FW, we have purple ones in honor of the TCU frogs!

Prepare your canning jars by washing them in hot and soapy water, then drain and wipe dry.  Bring a large pasta pan full of H20 to boiling (I don’t own special canning equipment but this works for me as i only can a couple of jars at a time).

boiling
Boil for no more than an hour.

Fill the jars with the hot cinnamon pickle milieu, making sure the pickles are covered at the top with some of the vinegar mixture. Place the jars in the pasta basket and submerge into the boiling water for 30-45 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool. Place in a cool pantry for a couple of weeks before opening.  Cinnamon watermelon pickles are a great addition to pork dishes or with Thai food.  They are not spicy, just cool and sweet,  so they add a perfect accompaniment to any spicy main dish.  If you don’t want to make these from scratch, look for these pickles at local farmer’s markets and I think Whole Foods sells a variety from the Bryan Family.

When I eat Tracy’s pickles,
They make me scrunch my nose.
They make me flap my eyelids.
They make me curl my toes.

When I eat Tracy’s pickles,
My ears turn fiery red,
And drops of perspiration
Start dripping from my head.

When I eat Tracy’s  pickles,
I fall down on the floor,
And then I say through puckered lips,
“Cn I pls hv sm mr?”

(modified from poem written by Marileta Robinson).