Friday, February 25, 2011

Foodie Friday: New Orleans Style Pralines

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A recipe guaranteed to get you into the carnival spirit! 

New Orleans Style Pralines

Prep Time: 25 minutes


1 quart heavy cream
3 cups sugar
1-1/2 pounds chopped pecans (approx 6 cups)
juice of 1 lemon


In a heavy saucepan slowly simmer cream and sugar over low heat until the mixture becomes golden brown in color and reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees F. on candy thermometer).

Add pecans and lemon juice and continue to cook until the soft-ball stage is reached again. Drop from a large kitchen spoon onto an oiled baking sheet.

Spread each mound out with the back of a spoon until they're about 4 to 5 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. (Adjust to taste. Some people like them thin and some people like them thicker.)

Let candy harden, then lift from plate or slab with a spatula and transfer into covered tin.

Pralines will keep in airtight container for for 2 weeks at room temperature -- that is, if they last that long.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday's Top Ten: Top Ten Favorite Quotes

Thursday's Top Ten - 
What are your Top Ten favorite quotes?

1. "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right." Henry Ford
This is so true, and I've seen it in action many, many times. I've watched talented writers fall off the grid because they believe they can't write. I've seen less talented writers rise to the top because they believe they can. I've seen it happen time and again in other aspects of life, too. We are all too often our own worst enemies.
2. "Change your thoughts and you change your world." Norman Vincent Peale
This one goes hand-in-hand with the first quote. Our minds are amazingly powerful. Our thoughts and beliefs create our reality.
3. "Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. " Voltaire
4. "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." Nelson Mandela
5. "You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. " Marianne Williamson
How often I see people--especially women--downplaying their successes in order to come across as non-threatening. How often I do it myself.
6. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams
Truth is truth, no matter how we may feel about it. We cannot make a thing untrue simply by wanting it to be false. Neither can we make a thing true simply by force of will.
7. "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read. " Mark Twain
8. "Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." George Edward Woodberry
9. "Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other." Erma Bombeck
And finally, because it just cracks me up ....
10. "All right, then, I'll go to hell." Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The 30-Day Book Meme: Day 17

Day 17 - Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)

I'm really not a short-story reader. Not a novella reader either. I don't even like really short novels. You won't find a book that's only 50,000 words long on my bookshelf unless someone has given it to me for free. Whether or not I'll read it is kind of a crapshoot, depending on my mood.

So the only possible collection of stories I can list here are the Childcraft books that my parents bought when I was a kid. The set consisted of 15 volumes, and I loved them all, especially Volume 3, "Folk and Fairy Tales," which was filled with great stories that led me into a lifelong love of stories and the written word. My favorite story of all from that book was called "Tom Tit Tot," a retelling of the classic Rumplestilskin. To this day, if open one of the books I can hear my mother's voice as she read the stories to me.

I read them to my granddaughters now, and I love sharing these beloved stories from my childhood with them -- but even though I do my best, I have to admit I don't do the stories justice. Nobody read these stories better than my mother did.

For all those reasons, these books will always have a special place in my heart.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Raspberry Chocolate Heart Tart

A special treat for fans of the Candy Shop Mysteries on Valentine's Day. Candy may be Abby Shaw's first love, but nothing beats this quick and easy tart for making a good impression after a special meal. Enjoy!
Valentine's Day Raspberry Chocolate Heart Tart

1 purchased refrigerated pie pastry for 9-inch pie
1 cup (6 ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups raspberries, rinsed and dried
Sifted powdered sugar

Place the pastry circle (plastic removed) on a lightly floured surface and roll out slightly. Trim small amount of pastry away to form heart shape.

Place the pastry heart on ungreased baking sheet. Turn edges under 1/2 inch; flute. Prick pastry with tines of fork.

Bake in preheated 425 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheet on wire rack.

Microwave chocolate morsels and sweetened condensed milk in a medium, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10-second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Stir in vanilla extract.

Spread mixture over crust and refrigerate for a few minutes or until chocolate is set.

Before serving, arrange raspberries over chocolate; sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Discovering Parks & Recreation

Let me begin by saying that I've never been a fan of Amy Poehler, so when my daughter encouraged me to give Poehler's new series, Parks and Recreation, a try, I was hesitant. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I prefer intelligent humor to slapstick or physical comedy. Not that I don't find the occasional pratfall humorous. I'm not a comedy snob. But the universal appeal of fart jokes is lost on me.

Still, my kid's a pretty smart cookie, so if she liked it, I figured maybe I should give it a try. I don't like voicing my opinion about something when I know absolutely nothing about it. You'll never catch me marching on the library in an effort to ban a book just because somebody's mom got offended by it. So if I'm gonna tell my kid that I don't like her show, I have to watch it first.

The other day, while sitting with a couple of sick grand-kids, I queued up Season One on Daughter's Netflix account and dove in.

Have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Poehler's character is actually pretty endearing, and the ensemble cast is great. I'll even admit to some laugh-out-loud moments in almost every episode. Having wound my way through the six episodes in season one, I queued up season two the next time I watched the kids.

Too many comedy series start off with a bang and then fizzle out. Some of my favorites have lost me after half a dozen episodes. I'll admit that I'm a little surprised that Parks and Recreation is getting better with age. The character development is extremely well done, changing my opinion of this character or that with something as subtle as a look. The humor is intelligent --most of the time -- but there are plenty of just plain silly moments, too.

I've seen about half of the second season, so if you're a fan of the show, please don't post any spoilers, but do share if there's a show you like that you thought you wouldn't!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The 30-Day Book Meme: Day 16

Day 16 of the 30-Day Book Meme asks me to list my favorite poem or collection of poetry. I'll confess that I don't read a lot of poetry. Not because I don't like it. I do. But because I don't have a lot of poetry collections lying around the house, I tend to forget about it until someone mentions it. Then I wonder why I don't read more poetry and vow to rectify that, and wander around full of good intentions for a few days.

So this question is actually pretty each for me to answer because only one poem came to mind when I read the question. 

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. It is, hands down, the most powerful piece of poetry I've read in decades. Every word of it speaks directly to my heart. It's about a strong woman who knows exactly who she is. And she dares every woman on the planet to recognize just how incredible she is. 

And it is a dare. For many of us, it's far too easy to make ourselves small. To hide what makes us great and apologize for who we are. It's much easier to do that than to lift your chin and stride forward in boldness. 

As Marianne Williamson said in Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles," 1992:
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  
 And that's exactly what Maya Angelou challenges us--inspires us--to avoid in Phenomenal Woman. Writing this has inspired me to dig out my copy and place it beside my bed. This is a poem every woman should read on a regular basis. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Your Favorite Comfort Book

The 30-Day Book Meme, Day 15: Your "Comfort" Book. 

Do you have one? Just one? If you had to pick one Comfort Book, what would it be? 

I think I'm going to have to say So Big by Edna Ferber because (a) it's a book I've read more than once, and (b) it's a book I think about frequently, and (c) every time I think about it or read it, I think about my mother. 

Not because she resembles any of the characters in the book, but because this is one of the books she helped me pick out on my very first grown up trip to the library all those years ago. Which gives this book a special place in my heart. 

I'd tack on Edna Ferber's Giant for the same reasons. Good memories. The comfort of Mom on one of our best days together.

You can't get much better than that. 

So what about you? What's your favorite comfort book? I'd love to hear what's tops on your own list.