Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Go To Coffee Cake

This is a ricotta coffee cake (batter shown in top photo)and it is meant to be prepared one day, chilled overnight and baked the next day.  I'm not sure why.  But it works out well to have it ready to bake for breakfast.  First I usually prepare the topping. 

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup pecans
2 tbsp toasted wheat germ 
2 tbsp ground flax seed

Now for the cake...

Mix the dry ingredients.

2 cups flour (or 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Then in a separate bowl mix 1 stick softened butter and 1/3 cup Splenda.  I use Splenda because you'll never notice it with the brown sugar topping.  And it reduces the sugar and calories.  I eat this for breakfast and not dessert after all.  Add 2 beaten eggs or egg beaters.  Then mix in one container of ricotta cheese.  Whatever fat percentage you want.  And 2 tsp vanilla.  Lastly mix in the flour mixture.  

Then spread the batter in a buttered glass 8 x 12 pan as shown in top photo.  It will be a thick batter.  

Now add the brown sugar topping and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350.  I love this recipe because it is just as healthy as it is delicious!

As you can see it's not a deep coffee cake.  But all the better ratio for cake vs. topping!  Add a cup of my favorite tea and breakfast is served.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Band Practice

We took a little Winter road trip over the weekend.  In Monticello, Minnesota there is an official Swan Park.  And all you have to do is drive up, park and open your car door to know there are swans there.  The sounds of geese honking and swans trumpeting fills the air.  
There is a viewing platform and 100's of swans.  Hit it Maestro!  It sounds like band practice on steroids!  

They are actually quite huge.  And an interesting fact is that they have more vertebrae in their graceful necks then any other mammal.  Including Giraffes!  Look at the size difference between the geese and the trumpeters.  When you see them swimming across the Mississippi River they look like boats.  In Boston they would be.  

A little quarreling.

 Twenty Five years ago the Swan Lady Sheila Lawrence started feeding the band.  Sheila passed away last year but her husband Jim continues her legacy. He feeds the swans every morning from November through March.

And there are even some treats for people.  You can donate some cash to buy corn for the whole band. All 1,000 of them!

Don't forget to stop back on Wednesday for my latest recipe. Giant Swan drumsticks with cornbread.  Kidding!!!!! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Capable of Chaos

Whenever people see this illustration based on real life events they always ask, "Just how many cats do you have?" Two to be exact.  And that is all we can handle.  My cat Akua shreds toilet paper just for the fun of it.  But my cat Hana shreds anything paper to get our attention at feeding time.  She is capable of creating chaos in every room of the house.

 In fact we have a running gag at our house.  When Hana starts her shenanigans we'll hold up some junk mail and say," Hmmm, I should read this important document"  And as soon as she sees us acting like we're reading something she rushes over to take a big bite out of the corner. She's the one in the sink with the devilish look on her face.  And boy, is it true. 

 She is so darn smart.  If we are watching T.V. and she wants to play she will claw her way up to the narrow ledge in front of the flat screen.  And since it is so narrow she'll walk ahead and then back up over and over.  Blocking our view!  My husband trys to run the shenanigans clear out of her now before T.V. time.  An exhausted cat is a behaved cat.  

But of course they are just as tenacious at getting affection and petting.  And they are not shy about demanding what they want. Akua will cry and head butt you if you stop petting him when he's in the mood.  Yes, day to day life with cats is full of meows, mayhem and of course a little magic.  Let the games begin...  

Capable is the word of the week over at Casual Fridays  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Classic Chicken and Dumplings

Well, this is a favorite at my house.  I always save my purchased rotisserie chicken bones and beer butt chickens we've grilled.  When I have a large freezer bag full of bones I make broth. (not pictured) All you do is add the bones to a big pot, then cover with water.  The more water you add, the more broth you'll get.  Simmer for one hour.  It will fill your house with the most down home and heavenly smell.  After an hour I strain the broth and then peel off any remaining chicken from the bones to add to my dumplings.  Discard the rest.  

You can reuse the same pot.  I fill it about a 1/3- 1/2 way full with broth and freeze the rest. (You can use purchased broth as well) Add chopped carrots, celery and pearl onions.  I'll add a few bay leaves, pepper to taste and a chicken soup base (to taste) for salt.  Cook this until the vegetables are soft.  Now, while the broth is simmering I'll whisk in Wondra until the broth starts to thicken.  Then I'll remove the bay leaves and add some diced rotisserie chicken meat.  I always have packages in the freezer at the ready.  Now for the dumplings...

Mix dry ingredients.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of your favorite herb mix

Then add 3 tbsp of butter and dice in with a pastry cutter.  Then stir in 3/4 cup milk until blended.  Drop the dough over the top of the simmering broth mixture. (shown in the photo) That is the uncooked dough pictured.  It puffs up nicely in the end.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  

This is a great meal.  I serve it twice and it is even better the next night! If you are looking for more savory recipes, check out my labels.  Enjoy! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Calendar Year Of Photos

I can't believe it is February already.  It seems like I just turned the last calendar page of 2011.  Every year I make a new calendar of our travel photos from the year before as a Christmas gift for my husband.  But strange events happened towards the end of 2011.  I abruptly stopped writing in my diary.  And I did not make a 2012 calendar.  The funny thing is that it was the first time in at least 10 years that I didn't make one.  But it just so happens that my friend Ivan gave me a copy of the photo calendar he made for 2012.  Including stunning views of his home in Washington. So I'm covered.  Whew! 

So please enjoy 2011... The top photo is January at Pacific Edge in Costa Rica. 

February takes us on a hiking adventure in the Cold (Cloud) forest at San Luis Waterfall.

 March takes a walk on the beach at Hacienda Baru.

April is all about Milky the cat.

 May (our anniversary month) brings a grand romantic gesture from my husband.  He left a token of our stay at Pacific Edge.  P.S.  He hid the sand dollar in the rafters.  We knew we'd be back someday.  Would it still be hidden there upon our return?  No!  We were just there this January.  Sniff.

Dragonflies in June.

 You need a great pool in July.  Just like this winner at Baru.

August brings more beach time in Dominical.  

 A Cloud forest Hummingbird in September.

 Whale watching in October.  We didn't see any.  Bummer.

 A visit to Whale's Tail beach in November.

A December stroll on Dominical beach.  My favorite place in the world!  Of course you know we weren't really there during those months.  But that is the beauty of photos.  You can relive your memories forever. 

I'll be back on track with my recipe posts on Wednesday.  So be sure to stop back!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A tour the whole family will love...

You may not know what this is, but you probably eat it every day.  It is probably one of your favorite foods. And you'll probably get some from your sweetheart today.

 It's ripe.  So let's dig in.  Well, not yet...

We're getting warmer.  The beans are harvested.

 The pulp around the beans has been removed and the beans fermented until just right.  Then they are removed from their watery bath, dried and roasted.

 Here the beans are ground..

 Tastes like chocolate! This is chocolate in its purest form.  It wasn't even bitter.  

It passed the taste test.  It was delightful to dip tree ripened and exotic fruits into  the fresh chocolate sauce. To learn more about Alex and his plantation Finca Kobo visit 

Here's this weeks recipe for Chocolate Sauce Kobo:

1 grated Finka Kobo chocolate heart
1/2 cup milk or water
1/4 cup sugar


Combine the grated chocolate, sugar and milk in a small sauce pan.  Stir for 8-10 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from heat and serve with fruit.  Feed to your hungry Monkeys.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Popular Pig

Popularity has a little something to do with fashion shows.  The fashion snooty snoots are hoping that their creations will be ready for (everyone) to wear.  Although I can't play  a banjo.  And I definitely refuse to wear one on my head.  Poor pig.  Popularity is the theme over at Casual Fridays  And it is kind of a dirty loaded word in my book.  We can't all be beautiful like Miss Piggy.  And as delicious as bacon.

I realized that when I did my year in review I forgot to mention my Project Pig illustration.  I did this last year for the fun blog Dueling Banjo Pigs  And I also added it to my side bar.  I realized that my sloth had warned people long enough about my copyright.  Now, please don't steal my pig.  Please!  But you do have permission to download any and all recipes with or without bacon.   

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

There's just something about this recipe that reminds me of Valentine's Day. Hmmm.  What could that be.  See title.  That being said, my photos might not be exactly sigh inducing.  But this really is a good recipe.  So be sure to make some for your sweetheart this year. 

 The pies...

Mix the dry ingredients.

1 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a new bowl mix 4 tbsp softened butter, 4 tbsp oil and 1 cup packed brown sugar.  Mix in 1 beaten egg.  Then add 1 1/4 cups milk and 1 tsp vanilla.  Now stir in the flour mixture.  Drop dollops of the batter onto two parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for around 10 minutes.  Now for the filling.  

Mix 1 8 oz. softened package of cream cheese, 1/4 cup softened butter and one 7 oz jar of marshmallow fluff.  I use a standing mixer for this.  (And for a special Valentine's addition.  You could add red food coloring to the fluff.)

Spread the fluff mixture and sandwich between your cooled cookies. My food photography leaves much to be desired.  You can't even see the fluff stuff.  oh well.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Flurry of Feathers

I don't think there are probably that many places in the world where it is common to see Scarlet Macaws.  But it is in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.  It is only a matter of time before a pair will show up at your door.  Of course your door would need to be attached to a tree house!  That is because they always land in the tallest of trees.  I wonder if they have a name for stiff, strained necks in Osa.  I guess they would simply call it Osa neck. The Macaws always announce their arrival with loud and rather annoying squawks.  But at least you know they are there.   

The Macaws always fly in mated pairs.  And we were lucky enough to spot 10-20 of them fighting over a prime nesting spot.  It was a ways from the road so we zoomed in as far as we could.  It was a very lucky sighting.  

 There would always be one pair inside the tree and several others swirling and fighting for a better position.  There were more pairs in the surrounding trees just waiting to swoop in.  It was a flurry of red feathers.  

  Hmmm.  I wonder who won?  The red, yellow and blue pair.  Or the red, blue and yellow pair. 

Friday, February 3, 2012


The story...

It had been exactly six
days, ten hours and forty-five
minutes since the two
toed sloth had answered
nature's call.  She needed a
jungle potty break.  The 
sloth had been grazing and
sleeping in the razor tipped
pochote tree for the whole
week.  But there was no 
way she could climb down
the tree's sharp skin.
So she pointed her head 
towards the sky and inched
through the nasty tree's upper  
branches.  Then she
s...l...o...w...l...y climbed 
over the top and onto a 
neighboring velvet tree.  
Now all she needed to do
was gingerly climb down to 
the forest floor.
The velvet tree sighed and
stated, "I could grow a new ring
in the time it takes her to reach 
the ground." 

Well, my illustration selection ends Costa Rica week. (for now!) It loosely fulfills the bill for illustration fried egg day or what ever it's called.  The suspense is wrapped up in the question of whether the sloth ever reaches the ground. I'm on pins and needles.  Actually, if I had to do this illustration over I would pick the cute faced three-toed sloth.  Oh well.  I know that this is a boring pick for my frequent blog visitors since it lives in my side bar eternally.  Beware the copyright!   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

That's just typical...

I don't have a recipe today.  But I do have food to share.  A "typical" meal.  Or Casado from Costa Rica.  We stopped at a lovely soda on our way back from San Isidro called Abiertode Martes A. Domingo. And as you can see from the photos below the room had a view.  But I'll give you a tour of the plate first.  Do you see the orange mystery mash on the bottom left?  Well, it is still a mystery.  But I think it might be yucca.  It tasted fine.  No yuck uttered.  Then no typical would be complete without beans whether they are mashed, refried or mixed with rice.  Then a fresh salad.  And the vegetables are always fresh and delicious.  There are fried plantains at the top. Super sweet.  Rice is in the middle and lastly chicken with salsa.  A fresh mix of sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes.  The onions and peppers are always so fabulous tasting in Central America.  So just a simple dish with them is always a treat. And they always season their meat with some savory seasoning.  Yum. The beverage in the back is a fresh papaya smoothie. I mourn the loss of fresh papaya when I'm in my Minnesota home. I feel like my real home is South of the border.  Way South.  Sigh.      

Well, we'll see if I can continue Costa Rica week on Friday with an art post.  Do you like my new header?  Last month's,"Frog In The Rain Forest" is one of my proudest moments illustration wise. And it seemed fitting for my travels.  But my "Ocean" illustration also fits the theme.

P.S.  I've added a few new gadgets and features recently.  I added a facebook share and new stat counter.  I'm over 22,000 hits.  Hooray!   And if you are a regular blog follower and haven't done so already, be sure to add yourself to my followers list with google connect.  My blog will thank you.  Well, not really.