Sunday, January 22, 2012

It may be January, but I am dreaming of Spring!

Here are some some random pictures from last summer. My husband and I had planned a week-long driving tour through Kentucky and Tennessee, but a bad weather forecast changed our plans and we headed east. Since it seemed like every road in Pennsylvania was under construction, we abandoned the whole trip idea and decided to visit places closer to home. We rented a motel room in a nearby city and went to visit some local attractions. That night we were escaping thunderstorms and watching the news in our room and saw our own town (and street) mentioned in a report of some possible tornado damage. Fortunately all damage was minor (and not in our yard!). We decided to take some inspiration from one of the places we visited and finish our week with a home project.

We visited the gardens at Kingwood Center in Mansfield Ohio. We chose the time of visit perfectly to see the remnants of what had been spring flowers and before the blooming of their famous rose garden. Everything was very green; a color our landscape is lacking this time of year.
A few flowering bushes lent just the right touch to set off all the green tones.
I am pretty sure this is the entrance that leads to my fairy tale castle.
I have had several herb gardens over the years. None can hold a candle to this lovely spot.
After admiring all the plantings and gardens, I asked my husband what he liked best in the garden. He liked the bricks. (What a guy!)
This is that space that is between the foundation of my house and the front sidewalk. Originally it had prickly bushes that would prick children and snag your hose. (This  was back when women wore hose). We ripped those out and I planted day lilies. It was the perfect spot. They grew very profusely and every year I would split them and decorate more of my yard. Visitors were not as fond of the lilies as I was, since they would grow very large and the weight would cause them to fall over the sidewalk, forcing visitors to walk in the garden on the opposite side. We dug out all the lilies, but left a clematis in the middle.
I had thought about continuing the sidewalk up to the foundation, but since my guy was all about brick work; I decided to take advantage of the moment!
We both measured and calculated how many bricks we would need. My total was twice his total. We actually needed about 10 more than even I imagined.  Luckily our store had plenty in stock.
Didn't it turn out nice?
I had talked him into constructing the front porch of my dreams a few years ago. Since then, we have gained a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and three and a half  grandchildren. I thought adding the brickwork would allow more seating when we are all watching the world go by. Do you like the tomato plant? My husband always wants a garden, but after planting looses interest. I thought this would be a compromise. We managed 5-6 tomatoes this year.

So there it is - a little sunshine on a deary winter day. And day dreams of projects for the coming year. Thanks for indulging me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miss O'Merry's Potato Soup

It is  a sunny 45 degree day here in Ohio, but that nasty weatherman is forecasting a high of 25 degrees by Thursday. This makes today a perfect day to make soup. My daughter-in-law mentioned she had a hankering for Cream of Potato soup the other day. And since those who carry precious cargo must be pampered; I really did not have a choice!

I have "published" this recipe before in our 4-H County Cookbook. I wrote it just like I make it; a bag of potatoes, as much onions, celery and carrots as you can fit in a pan, etc. Because some of my children are getting cranky about my recipes, I decided to actually measure how I made this batch. We will see how that works out!
I peeled about 1/2 a bag of potatoes which would equal five pounds. I would have cubed them, or at least cut them into equal chunks, but I had them on the stove before I thought of it. This picture taking while you cook is a little confusing. I have new respect for the food network!

As the potatoes come to a boil, I put two sticks of my favorite food group (Budda!) in a pan to melt.
I purchased one package of celery to dice.

I measured out the amout I would usually add to the pan and, lo and behold, it is almost exactly 2 cups.  Next I cut up baby carrots into tiny carrot coins and measured out two cups to match. Did you notice the celery is in a Lazarus Department Store measuring cup? My mother and I used to love to shop at Lazarus and eat at the lunch counter on the top floor. Chicken Pot Pie- yum!
I always chop all the celery and all the carrots I have. I put the extra in ziplocks and put them in the freezer. The pre-cut vegetables are great to just throw into a stew, soup or casserole. I don't even defrost - just break up with my fingers and toss them in. They will not be crunchy, but are perfect for these dishes. You could make sticks from the extra and eat them with some kind of healthy dips like humus.This is what my oldest daughter does with her preschoolers. She is such a good mother to provide these healthy snacks. On the other hand, this soup is not healthy at all (and that's why it tastes soooo good.)
From a stalk of celery and a bag of the baby carrots, I got 2 cups each for my soup and these bags which contain 3/4 - 1 cup each. Just for those inquiring minds who measure things.
I ran one large and one medium whole onion, peeled and quartered through my Sunbeam Oscar that I have had since the 1980's. I have bought several small food processors since then, but nothing chops like my Oscar. I am going to google to see if they still make these. Mine is looking worse for wear on my new countertop.  This made (I am not kidding) exactly 1 1/2 cup. See, I don't need to measure. I have an internal measuring cup!
I added all the vegetables to my skillet of budda.
And put one MORE stick of butter on top.
Cover and let simmer until vegetables are soft and translucent.
Meanwhile those potatoes should be done. Remove from heat and drain.
Since someone did not have equal size or equal cooked  potatoes, I diced the less done and mashed the more done! I would estimate (did not measure) that I mashed about 1 1/2 cups in the bottom of the pan with about 1 cup of chicken broth.

I then added in one whole container of half and half. I would like to have used all whipping cream, but that might just make my heart explode!!  In the end, the pot was too full to use the whipping cream, so I am saving it for next week.
Wisk the half and half and mashed potatoes together until smooth. Don't worry if there are a few potato pieces; it is potato soup!
It really does make a thick creamy base.  Next we are pouring in the entire skillet of onion, butter, carrots, butter, celery and butter. It will be very liquidy (liquidee?)
Back to measuring, I diced six cups of cooked potatoes and added them to the mixture.
And this is what you will get! A pot of buttery, potato goodness!
At this point, if you have room in the pot, you can add milk or cream to the soup. My dear husband likes little broth and more contents, so that is how my soup usually ends up.
And here it is, a warm cream soup for a winter's day.
If you all lived closer, I would invite you over for a dish! Instead, I am going to send out an email (I may soon graduate to texting . . .) to all of my family members to stop by with a tupperware container. Have a great day!

Miss Merry