Sometimes Mother Knows Best

I haven’t written in a bit because I took time off to go visit my mother. She lives on a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains.

Growing up, I spent my summers in or on the water whenever the sun was out. It was a wonderful way to spend the days of my youth. However, when my mother would tell me to put on sunscreen, I would think “Why would I wear sunscreen when I want a tan?” and proceed to slather on my spf zero suntan oil. My grandmother would take more radical measures and try to cover me with newspapers when I was lying out on the dock – a habit that irked me as I wound up covered with newsprint. My mother will now confess, however, that when she was a girl, she didn’t heed her mother’s warnings to be careful of the sun either. In fact, at times she would grab a bottle of cooking oil from the kitchen, rub it on her skin and then head out to the beach. Kids did that in those days.

The reason for my visit back East this time around was to help my mother out. She has just endured her third surgery in four months for skin cancer on one of her hands. She has been very brave, but it has been a painful and frustrating time for her. She is healing well, thankfully! She now wears sunscreen spf 50 whenever she goes outside and I too have come to appreciate sun protection.  Sometimes we really should listen to our mothers.

My mother is a gardener. It runs in the family. While visiting Mom, I helped out in her garden – pruning trees, planting annuals, weeding, watering and so forth. Here are a few pictures of my lovely mother and her garden which is just starting to bloom for the season. She can’t wait to get back out and work in it. Soon, Mom : )

Miniature Roses: A Gift for the Garden

To many, it will come as no surprise that I love roses. However, I am not a rose snob.  I love large, elegant, fragrant blooms and can chat away about this and that variety. When I go to a garden center, I have to examine every rose bush and ask all sorts of questions about the growth habits of each variety before I can bring one home. But I also have a penchant for buying those little potted rose plants with the tiny, highly structured flowers  that sell in grocery stores for a few bucks around the holidays – a gift for my garden. When I buy them over the winter, I keep them alive inside until I can plant them outdoors in the Spring; and, they have turned out to be surprisingly winter hardy for Kansas. My oldest few have been in the garden for four years now. I have around a dozen grocery-store-bought miniature rose bushes in the garden, give or take, ranging from the most delicate pink to bright coral. I don’t know their names, but that doesn’t matter. What’s in a name?

Bacon-Spinach Snacks … For Dogs

Our “girls” love getting treats, especially homemade ones. It’s a good life here!

Bacon-Spinach Doggie Treats

Makes about 50

1 c. oat flour

1 c. brown rice flour or corn flour

1 1/2 c. clean spinach leaves

2 strips cooked bacon, chopped

1 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1 lg. egg

1/2 c. cold water

(1) Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

(2) Combine the ingredients in a food processor until a dough forms. Scoop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet.

(3) Bake for about 25 minutes or until cookies are cooked through and lightly browned on the bottom. Allow to cool before serving to your canine pals.

Abbey & Penny sitting prettily for treats. (Come on, Nicole!)

Forget Me Not Cookies

Yesterday I was looking at a post by Big Hungry Gnomes about a tempting-looking dessert, called Eaton Mess. That dessert is made with little meringues which reminded me of one of my favorite little cookies. Forget Me Nots are wonderful to make in warm weather because you just preheat the oven in the morning, pop the cookies in, turn the oven off and then the cookies are ready for a late afternoon snack … all cool, crisp, and sweet.  These chocolate and nut filled meringues are the first cookies that I learned to make …  thanks, Mom! … and I still make them.

Forget Me Nots

Makes about 32 cookies

2 lg. egg whites

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/8 t. salt

1/2 c. granulated white sugar

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips or 5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 c. finely chopped walnuts

Note: Sometimes I get carried away and add a whole bunch of butterscotch chips too, which makes the cookies really chunky.

  1. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes or until they have come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Add vanilla and salt to egg whites. Beat until stiff but not dry peaks form. Very gradually beat in sugar until shiny, stiff peaks form. (Peaks are shiny and tips stand up straight.)
  4. Fold in chocolate and walnuts.
  5. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets spacing cookies at least 2” apart. Place baking sheets in oven. Close the door and turn the oven off.  Without opening the door, let the cookies sit in the oven for 6 to 8 hours.
  6. Remove baking sheets from oven. Use a thin metal spatula to lift cookies off parchment paper.

Apricot Rhubarb Squares: A Seasonal Treat

Alas, I have no new stories … but I do have a yummy recipe to share. Serve these treats for breakfast or dessert.

Apricot Rhubarb Squares

2 c. diced rhubarb

1 c. granulated white sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

2 whole allspice

2 T. water

1/2 c. dried apricots, diced

1 c. rolled oats

1 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. unsalted butter

1/2 c. finely chopped pecans

1 T. cinnamon sugar

  1. Place rhubarb, white sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and water in a medium size non-stick pot over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft and the mixture resembles melted jam. When done cooking, the mixture should measure about 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice. (Count to make sure that you have them all.) Stir in apricots.
  2. While the mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8” square baking pan.
  3. In medium bowl whisk together oats, brown sugar, and flour.  Using your hands, cut in butter until the mixture forms pea-size crumbs. Mix in pecans. Evenly press 1 1/3 c. of the mixture into the bottom of the buttered baking pan. Spread the apricot rhubarb mixture over the oatmeal base. Top with the remaining crumb mixture. Sprinkle top evenly with cinnamon sugar.
  4. Bake for approximately 43 to 47 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares. If desired, chill before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Apricot Rhubarb Squares

You Can’t Give Away Kindness

Kindness is difficult to give away because it always keeps coming back

In recent weeks we have hosted a potpourri of events at the Bed & Breakfast. Afterward, several of our guests sent us flowers to thank us. We, of course, did not expect flowers; but it did make us feel appreciated and that’s a nice feeling. Moreover, it was a reminder of why we do our best to do more than just what is expected of us. It is rewarding to see that our work makes people happy. How lucky we are to have such gracious guests and so many guests that we can call friends!

Memorial Day Rose

Memorial Day will soon be here. Appropriately, we -meaning my helper Benjamin, with me looking over his shoulder, giving instructions, and taking photos – planted an eponymously named rose today. Originally called Decoration Day, a day to honor Union soldiers fallen during the Civil War, in the 20th century Memorial Day became a holiday to honor all American soldiers killed in war. Often, however, people use the day to pay respects to any loved ones who have passed away.

Memorial Day Rose, a 2004 Weeks Rose introduction and AARS winner, is a hybrid tea rose with a strong damask rose fragrance. It’s just heavenly. When I was looking for a rose to bring home to plant, I sniffed every single variety at the garden center. While there were several others – Mr. Lincoln and Fragrant Cloud –  to which my nose gave equally high scores, I thought that Memorial Day would look best in the spot that I had picked out. And as I thought about it, I realized that this rose was an excellent selection for more than aesthetic reasons.

My father-in-law, a highly decorated war veteran, recently passed away. So, I think that as members of our family pass by this rose in the garden, the sweet fragrance of Memorial Day may occasion pleasant memories of time spent with Bob.

Memorial Day Rose

Benjamin planting Memorial Day Rose

“Refreshing Minty Lemon Limeade” and “Baked Tomatoes with Mint Cream”

Having recently written in general terms about ways to use mint – see my post Mint: It Grows Like a Weed, but That’s Okay from 5/15/12 – I thought it appropriate to offer a few more mint recipes every now and then. Both of the recipes below contain mint ingredients employed to a subtle effect. Enjoy!

 Refreshing Minty Lemon Limeade

2 1/4 c. ice water

1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

1/2 c. fresh lime juice

3/4 c. mint simple syrup, or to taste

Stir ingredients together. Chill until serving. Serve over ice.  Garnish with mint leaves, or with lemon or lime slices.

Baked Tomatoes with Mint Cream

(based on a recipe from Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking, 2005, Lorenz Books of Anness Publishing, London)

5 large ripe tomatoes

1 c. heavy cream

2 mint leaves

1 T.  mint-infused vodka

1/3 c. crumbled cheese of a good melting variety, such as Monterey Jack

salt and pepper

1. Fill a large stock pot to about half full with water then add a dash of salt and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile wash and core tomatoes – a grapefruit knife works well for coring – and then cut an ‘x’ into the bottom of each tomato. Carefully drop tomatoes into boiling water. When the skins start to split, transfer tomatoes to a colander and give a quick rinse with cold water. Allow to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. While the oven is heating, place the heavy cream in a non-stick pot, add mint leaves and vodka, and allow to simmer over low to medium-low heat. Simmer until the heavy cream is reduced to about 3/4 of a  cup.

4. While the cream simmers, brush a baking dish with olive oil. Slice tomatoes and arrange them in baking dish, allowing them to overlap slightly. Strain the thickened cream over tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese and then with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve as a side dish or with a rustic bread for a small but rich meal.

Baked Tomatoes with Mint Cream