Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nigella Express comes through for a no fuss meal
{ #5 Cookbook Countdown }

Lazy me likes lazy toss-together dinners. Here is such a dinner. Super easy prep yet big return on the dinner table.

This is from Nigella Express, a treasured cookbook, and number #5 in my Cookbook Countdown.

See how easy it is to prepare? You need some gallon sized freezer bags, then toss all ingredients in one bag. Simple stuff, right?

Nigella's Maple Pork Ribs


A slab of pork ribs
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cinnamon stick broken in half
6 unpeeled cloves garlic


Put the ribs and chicken in large freezer bags or a dish you can cover. I use freezer bags as it's easier to mix the marinade and super easy for cleanup.

Add all the remaining ingredients and squelch and mix together. Seal the bags.
Leave to marinate in the fridge for up to two days.

Turn the bags every few hours or when I'm in the fridge for a drink or whatever. This will allow the meat to sit in the maple marinade if you turn the bags.

Next day.........

Take the meat out of the fridge. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour the contents of the freezer bags into a roasting pan. Place in the preheated oven for and hour and 15 minutes by which time everything should be sticky and glossy brown.

This is my fifth book in the Cookbook Countdown hosted at Kitchen Flavours.


Coming up will be Nigel Slater's new book Eat. I am enjoying that one already and I've only had it two days.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthday Kebabs and Creamy Asparagus Parmesan Risotto

My husband celebrated a birthday in the middle of the month. We are rather low key when it comes to holidays and birthdays. No gifts and usually no dinners out...that is, unless the birthday person would like to celebrate out somewhere.

With most birthdays, mine and his, we pick a good dinner plan and stay home. It's not just because it's inexpensive, it's because you can control the quality and quantity of the selected meal.

Creamy Asparagus Parmesan Risotto

Wine selection was a very nice St Emillion

Dessert was flourless chocolate cake a small amount of port. What a combo - port and chocolate are such a natural marriage. No photos of this one ...probably because we were in our cups by then!

Nice dinner, great company...another celebration with someone I love.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

♥ Apple Crumble – as easy as it gets ♥

Do you ever get in the mood for a dessert but you don’t want anything as heavy as cake or ice cream?

Here is a simple and quick recipe for dessert I scored from The Pie Patch. Apple Crumble – as easy as it gets.

Doug was outside grilling while I was monitoring the stovetop getting veggies and potatoes ready for the meal. It occurred to me we didn’t have any dessert which really wasn’t a huge surprise. We’d decided a week prior that we were ingesting too many calories with wine, desserts (mostly frozen yogurt) and good cheese courses. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be the wine.

We cut back. No desserts in the house and when the last of the goat cheese was gone, no replenishing.

One week later and I am seriously craving a dessert. I saw the apples on the counter – saved! This was tossed together in under 15 minutes. Well, the crumble part I made after dinner so I suppose I didn’t measure well. Tipsy measuring, LOL. Rather than crumble it looked more like pie dough but it was delish all the same.

We added a dollop of Cool Whip and it was heaven.

For the original version and nice photos check out The Pie Patch HERE.

Coming up I will update you on my new found obsession with crochet, a wine review and one more for the Cookbook Countdown!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nachos, books and random thoughts........

Recently I wrote up a short review of the cookbook The Homesick Texan: Family Table. One of the many cool recipes in there had a page on Nachos. I love to eat nachos and quesadillas...so we adapted a bit and had these ...look below.

Add sour cream, avocado and a quesadilla or two and you're in business!

You know we are going to have wine with dinner - nachos being no exception. As a matter of fact, nachos goes into the category of foods we like to have when we are doing a Friday evening chill-out night. That's when we pop in a movie, open some wine, eat a dinner like this on a tray and give the shibas a Kong.

The Kongs have a bit of peanut butter smeared inside and are frozen. That gives Kobe and Aja time to enjoy a treat while we begin our meal without the usual begging. It buys us maybe 5 minutes but I'll take it!

Last time we planned to have a chill-out dinner and watch Walking Dead we were deeply disappointed. Turned out we had seen the last episode from Netflicks and didn't realize it. Disk 5 arrived, we were expecting to see the season-ender but it was special features and interviews. Arrgghhhh! Now we have to wait for season 5 to come out on DVD.

Ok, enough whinging about my TV show............

I was fooling around on my other website, the bookish one Novel Meals, trying to change a few formatting issues, trying to pretty it up. Big mistake! I ended up with some of the widgets I like at the very bottom of the page and for the life of me I couldn't get them back where I wanted.

Wordpress has a help and support section but alas...they were down until 23 September. I just changed the theme and found one that works for me. I like Kobe's picture at the top so that was a requirement for me to find a design where I could insert his photo.

Recently I finished Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn, a classic which I heard was being made into 3 part series. Not sure if that's true, just heard it through the grapevine. Starting on several books here - Broadchurch by Erin Kelley and In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson. Need my DCI Banks fix.

That's about it from Squirrel Head Manor. Hope life is treating you well wherever you are now.

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wool Gathering

So, Doug and I are sitting at work today sipping coffee when a coworker comes by to ask a few work related questions. (I am fortunate enough to work in the same establishment with my wonderful husband)

The coworker, who has traveled extensively both in the states, UK and more, gets to talking about a recent trip she made. I asked if she planned to return to Devon England (near Barnstaple) as she’d gone a few times for birthday parties. Doug and I got to reminiscing about our vacation there and what fun we had.

This in turn got me thinking about a little shop in Dunster we contemplated purchasing. Sometimes, many times, I wish we had made the scary leap and bought that place. We were having a great time and stopped into this souvenir shop to buy balsa wood airplanes and post cards. The shop owner said it was for sale and the entire upstairs, same size as the large shop, was the living quarters. We looked at each other, you know the look – it says Could We?????

(The little shop is on the left side down the street)

Tristan was only 10 years old and I remember him saying “I don’t want to go to school on Saturdays!” The thought of leaving our home forever and starting over was very unappealing for him. But it wasn’t unappealing for me and Doug. We didn’t have established jobs/ careers at that time. We had good jobs but were still young enough that retirement investments or the benefits of staying with one employer forever hadn’t really cross our minds.

We could LIVE here! You could see Wales from the shoreline. It wasn’t horrifically hot there as it is in this swamp we live in now. While the appeal factor was very high, we wondered how difficult it would be for Americans to move and purchase a business in England. It would be a major upheaval to move across an ocean. We had dogs back home awaiting us to retrieve them from the kennel. How would that work to bring our pups? Not to mention, there is obviously a slow season with a souvenir shop so…would we have the financial savvy to make it through a slow season?

There are times we bring this up and wish we’d just made the leap and bought the place. Think how different things would have been for all three of us. Tristan’s entire life would have changed, as would ours, and I would like to think it would all be good changes for us.

As we move closer to retiring there are scores of places we want to visit here in the US as well as England (and maybe even Ireland one more time). We’ll just have to see what direction the wind blows us when that time comes.

End of wool gathering.........

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Welcome to a Three Two Blog Tour….

Good morning to you! Whether you are a regular reader or just popped by Squirrel Head Manor I would like to welcome you to a Three Two Blog Tour….

Debra, at Eliot’s Eats, kindly featured me on her Three-Blog-Tour last Sunday. Now it’s my turn to introduce you to sites I read on a regular basis.

As part of this tour I'm meant to answer 4 questions so you can get to know me a little better. I am using the pre-set questions (even though I was tempted to make new questions) so...here goes.

Here I am, still trying to decide if I like highlights in my hair!
You may as well see who you are talking to here :-)

What am I working on currently on the blog?

Debbie in Nevada (who writes at The Friday Friends) inspired me to start a project called Cookbook Countdown. I select one of my cookbooks, pick a recipe, prepare it and write about it. This is an effort to use all my books but has also been beneficial in cleaning out the house. Many of these books have made their way into bags which are destined for a charity shop.

Besides this pet project I write book reviews at Novel Meals. Sometimes, it's a cookbook review or if it's super foodie-centric, I cross post from Novel Meals to this site. Different readers at different blogs.

How does my work differ than others of its genre?

My site isn’t solely dedicated to food. Yes, I do write about food more often than not but I also write about books, wine, our shiba inus, our failed garden and life around this humid swamp we call home. I love to cook but I write about a variety of things.

Why do I write what I do?

I scribble observations, my goals, I vent, talk about wine we liked or a good meal. I just love to write. My first online journal focused on genealogy and some food posts slipped in there. Then book posts appeared. Obviously motivation is needed for me to post but I don’t stick to any one theme/subject.

How does my writing process work?
There isn’t a process. I don’t have plans or an outline. This site is a journal which happens to be in electronic format. I have kept a journal since I was in elementary school and when I started an online version I never in a hundred years thought anyone else would actually read it. My husband reads it but he loves me and is supportive of any ol’ venture I focus on. So, no process.

Now it’s my turn to pick a few sites I follow and introduce you to them.

All the way across the world from me is Sue who writes at Couscous and Consciousness. Sue lives in New Zealand, a place I would love to visit one day.

She is one of the hosts of I ♥ Cooking Club, a yoga instructor and a wonderful cook. I met Sue years ago through a cooking club and enjoy browsing her site for healthy recipes. I love that Sue uses free range, organic and mostly seasonal ingredients in her recipes.

You can peruse her site and find many good recipes but check out this Mocha, Date and Meringue ice cream she made!

Another of my favorite posts include Spiced Apple French Toast and her trip to Greece. If you like to cook with natural ingredients and prepare healthy fare for your family, this is a blog you will want to visit.

Across the ocean in the opposite direction is Lucy of The Pie Patch. She is in England.

I discovered Lucy’s site through my culinary twin Jo (Welsh cook exiled in England). Jo was raving about one of Lucy’s recipes – Chicken Tray Bake – and I just had to try it. We have had this recipe several times since. It’s on our meal planning rotation. Since checking out The Pie Patch I have become a regular reader.

Lucy writes about crochet and has inspired me to start a new hooking project. She writes up dynamite recipes, meal planning posts, budget conscious shopping and living posts, gardening as well as posting on women’s issues (delicate matters :- ). One feature she has is called Lucy's List. HERE is an example of one of her meal planning lists.

Check out this baked gammon she made last December. Makes me hungry.

For any of my UK readers please check out her giveaway for yarn and a nice crochet hook. I can’t enter but as I said, if you are in the UK do check it out if you like crocheting.

That does it for me. I hope you will check out Couscous and Consciousness and The Pie Patch and enjoy their writing style as much as I do. They will be featuring some of their regular blog visits next Sunday.

Thanks again, Debra for featuring my site last week!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Conundrum

You don't which grapes are blended, it's not on the label, but that makes it interesting to pick out particular flavors and aromas. It's a red blend from California, a little bit of chocolate notes and a great mouth feel. Pleasant aroma and silky smooth. Long legs too.

We picked this up at Wine Warehouse in Tallahassee and plan to grab a few more bottles. Under twenty bucks and goes remarkably well with a variety of roasted meats and chicken.



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