The Windy City

Sears Tower Sky deck!

Sears Tower Sky deck!

A few weeks ago, I had to fly to Chicago for client meetings and since our oldest is in college there, we decided that we should all go and make a weekend out of it. Chicago is one of my favorite American cities – the museums, the architecture, the location of some of my favorite moves ever LOL

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

My youngest and I arrived at the Palmer House Hilton on Tuesday night – what a beautiful hotel? It is the longest continually operating hotel in the nation and the brownie was invented here during the Worlds Fair in 1893. It has been beautifully restored and well worth a visit if only to marvel at the ceiling in the lobby or the stunning art deco Tiffany Peacock Doors– these doors originally came from the House of Peacock – an historic Chicago jewelry store.

Peacock Doors

Peacock Doors

We went for Chicago deep dish at Lou Malnati’s on Thursday night which was a big hit with everyone – lots of cheese! My husband arrived that night and even he couldn’t finish it LOL

View from Sears Tower

View from Sears Tower

Friday morning I had client meetings in the Sears Tower ( I know it is officially called the Willis Tower now – but no-one calls it that) so my guys met me at lunchtime and we went up to the Skydeck. They installed glass boxes on the side of the building on the 103rd floor so you could look down to the street without pressing your nose up against the glass (Thanks to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

103 stories straight down - Skydeck

103 stories straight down – Skydeck

It is a little unnerving – your brain keeps telling you you are hanging in mid air but the views are spectacular and it really is an experience not to be missed. I think it is better than the Hancock Tower, although I have not been there since they added Tilt to the observation deck – so probably worth seeing both 🙂

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

We had a fantastic lunch at Berghoffs another Chicago classic restaurant started in the 1870s and the historic location is unchanged from the 50’s  – Chicago is such a great foodie town.

River Tour - Sears Tower

River Tour – Sears Tower

We headed up the Magnificent Mile where everyone goes to shop, took an architectural boat tour on the river before another great meal in Rosebud on Rush – a fantastic Italian restaurant.

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy's

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy’s

Sat the sun came out so fueled up by a great breakfast at Beef & Brandy’s diner, we visited the bean again or Cloud Gate if you want the real name…

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

This sculpture really is something else –  I am not sure what it is about it that makes it so compelling – the Chicago skyline reflecting in the curved surface? The odd reflections when walking under it? Or just the ability to take crazy selfies… Whatever it is, it is impossible to resist. (If you ever saw Source Code it is featured at the end)

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Every time I go to Chicago, I go to the Art Institute – it is an amazing museum filled with many famous works of art – things I studied in books when I was at school – plan to spend at least 4 hours if you really want to see it all.  I was delighted to see the Chagall windows again, since the last time I was there, they were in storage during the museum remodel. I confess I don’t love the new location –  the old one was much better (see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off again) They are sort of tucked away in a dark corner, unlike before where you could sit on a bench and see all three at once while the light flooded through them bathing you in blue…..

We had lunch in Millers Pub  – another Chicago classic right under the L on Wabash. Great food – unpretentious and friendly.

Biograph Theater - where Dillinger was shot

Biograph Theater – where Dillinger was shot

After making the guys sit through so much culture I agreed to go on the Untouchables Bus tour (yet another movie reference) This tour took you around some of the famous gangster crime locations in the city the most memorable being the Biograph Theater where Dillinger was shot (watch Johnny Depp in Public Enemies)

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

That night we took the L and went to Kingston Mines – a live blues club that will allow minors in with their parents – the music, the food and the atmosphere were great – it was hard to tear ourselves away but we had an early flight the next day…

Sinful dessert

Sinful dessert at the Palmer House

Maybe because I didn’t have the chance to visit Daley plaza this time (location of the final chase scene in the movie where the amazing Picasso public art is) we felt compelled to watch the Blues Brothers when we got home 🙂

Till next time…

 

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A little calm amidst the chaos

My moment of Zen

My moment of Zen

It has been a busy couple months  – a couple of my oldest friends have to come to visit with their kids, family have been houseguests and between the theme park visits, dinners and entertaining everyone, I have also been traveling a lot for work… So I am especially happy to have carved out a little time for myself this weekend.

potato mix with chives and cheese

potato mix with chives and cheese

Yesterday, I had a great lesson with my horse, riding around the obstacle course of the back wooded pasture. She was calm and connected and I was more focused than I have been of late. Now the nights are brighter I need to try to ride a couple times a week! I think we need to get out on the trails soon.

little nests of the potato mix

little nests of the potato mix

This morning the house is empty – all the current houseguests are with my guys at Universal – I stayed home to do laundry, run errands and clear my head before the work week starts again on Monday. However since it is Easter I decided to try a new egg recipe

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

Baked Eggs in Hashbrown Nests

  • Take a packet of thawed Simply Potatoes hash brown potatoes and add some chives, cheese and seasoning.
  • After tossing that together in a bowl, spray Pam on a muffin pan and make little nests of the potato mixture
  • Put that in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes, then let cool a little.
  • Crack an egg into each nest and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning.
  • Bake for about 10 -15 minutes (you need to keep an eye on it since everyone’s ovens vary)
  • Sprinkle a little cheese and some shredded prosciutto on top and serve.
eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

It was pretty good even if I do say so myself LOL

yolks are little too firm - but still tasted good :)

yolks are little too firm – but still tasted good

Unfortunately I was a little distracted and left them in closer to the 15 minute mark which meant the yolks were quite firm when I had actually wanted them to be soft – the 10 minute mark might have been the right time to take them out since they continue to cook in the pan – Oh well, next time….

Laundry is done, belly is full – I think it may be mani pedi time 🙂

Israel Trip

Jerusalem - Old City next to new

Jerusalem – Old City next to new

I travel a lot for work and so don’t normally get too excited about it – in fact it gets pretty old most of the time. Every once in a while however,  I get a chance to go somewhere completely new to me and that gets rid of that blasé attitude in a hurry!

Jerusalem - Old City street

Jerusalem – Old City street

Last week I went to Israel – yes it was for work, but I was really looking forward to the trip – I love to experience the culture of new places and Israel has such a storied history.

Jerusalem - Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

Jerusalem – Dome of the Rock and Western Wall

I stayed in Tel Aviv, which is a lively modern city on the Mediterranean sea – sadly the hotel was not on the beach – next time LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background - fries clearly not authentic LOL

Bucket of hummus with falafels in background – fries clearly not authentic LOL

I managed to get some sight seeing done in the evenings after work The team I was visiting took me out for a traditional hummus and falafel lunch on the first day Yum! A bit more hummus than I am used to eating in one sitting but it was really good.

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

Stark modern architecture on this synagogue near Rothchild st

That evening my traveling companion/co worker and I took a cab to Rothchild street to walk around and see some of the Bauhaus architecture that part of the city is famous for. This was a fun street to people watch on – lots of people out for a stroll, taking their dogs for a walk or sitting in cafes and restaurants. We ate at a lovely restaurant called Shulchan which is Hebrew for table. The food was absolutely delicious!

Bauhaus architecture

Bauhaus architecture

Monday night the Israeli team took us to dinner at Jaffa Port – Jaffa is an old fishing town that has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv – however it is a completely different vibe – old buildings with winding streets and stone plazas – I loved it and wished I had been able to spend the day strolling around and being a tourist. Again, we had a fantastic dinner at Kalamata with many shared courses sitting outside in the mild evening air.

Fruit shop near Rothchild St - it glowed against the other darker buildings

Fruit shop near Rothchild St – it glowed against the other darker buildings

Israeli food is a bit of a mix between a few different influences, Mediterranean, Arabic and of course Jewish. There are a lot of fresh vegetable dishes – I even ate beets for the first time in many years and actually liked them!!! I also was told to try a fantastic arabic dessert called kanafeh that has cheese , hair fine pasta (or perhaps pastry), pistachios and sweet syrup – it was as amazing as promised – I will have to see if it is possible to make it myself.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

The next night I took the design team out for dinner and they recommended Kitchen Market in Tel Aviv port – completely different. Much more modern boardwalk along the sea and a lovely little restaurant above a farmer’s market. We watched the sun set over the Mediterranean and again had a dinner with many courses and some amazing desserts!

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

We saw the minister of Justice –Tzipi Livni – strolling along with her husband which was quite a surprise for everyone – she has been instrumental in the recent, but sadly stalled, peace talks that Secretary of State Kerry has been involved in.

Kanufeh - best dessert of the trip!

Kanufeh – best dessert of the trip!

On our last day, a couple of the Israeli team drove us into Jerusalem for a bit of sightseeing before leaving the next morning. It is about an hour away but traffic before the upcoming Passover holiday made it slow going. We drove through some of the ultra orthodox areas on our way which was a little rundown.

Jaffa Port

Jaffa Port

This is a topic of much debate and tension recently – my description of it is likely simplistic since I am no expert but the problem as I understand it, is this –  For religious reasons these families do not believe in working in the secular world and want to practice their life of prayer in peace without any interference. However the challenge is they have little income, the government apparently has to subsidize them and they do not participate in Israel’s draft, citing the same religious reasons. There is a new law that is being passed to say that they must participate in the draft like everyone else. As you can imagine this is causing heated debate. I can see both sides points – on the one hand wanting to live according to your own beliefs, but on the other hand not wanting to subsidize people who do not have to make the same contribution to society as you must.

Tel Aviv Port

Tel Aviv Port

Once we arrived in the old city I was amazed to see so much history crammed into one relatively small place – this is the the most sacred place in a number of different religions and its often violent history makes it a truly fascinating place to be. It is a magnet for tourists and religious pilgrims from around the world. I could have spent a week there alone but I did my best to take advantage of the few hours that we had.

Farmer's Market Tel Aviv Port

Farmer’s Market Tel Aviv Port

We took the underground tour that brings you down to the original street level of the Western Wall – we are talking built in Herod’s time!!! I can’t begin to describe how it felt to be walking on 2000 year old stones and touching the 2000 year old wall. We saw the old cisterns that provided water for the temple and the city above and heard about the history of the holiest place on earth. I am no stranger to history – growing up in Ireland it is common to see castles built in 1100AD etc but we are talking built in 70 BC – anyway you look at it that is really freaking old LOL

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Mediterranean Splash over sea wall

Once back out in the sunshine we visited the more visible part Western Wall – men and women are separated and traditionally you write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and roll it up and cram it into the crevices in the wall.

Jerusalem - Old City Market

Jerusalem – Old City Market

We wandered around the market where I picked up souvenirs and gifts – you need to be willing to haggle big time here – fortunately I had some no nonsense locals to help me out with this LOL.  I bought a beautiful necklace made from silver and 2000 year old Roman glass for myself. Not being religious, this was the perfect souvenir for me and I got it for less than half what he asked originally.  Mind you, this elaborate, theatrical haggling session involved flinging arms in the air and walking out of the store because the price was so terrible, only to be chased after by the shopkeeper begging us to come back for a new and special deal that was putting him in the poor house – this happened three times – I kid you not! I was having a hard time keeping a straight face and would never have done that on my own.

The Underground Tour

The Underground Tour

On a high after my complete bargain, I picked up some beautiful hand painted Armenian pottery, some intricate mother of pearl inlaid boxes, hand carved olive wood boxes and a few other trinkets to give to friends and family.

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod's time!

These stones with the frame around them are from Herod’s time!

We wandered around the streets and saw he Tower of David and a beautiful park with lighted fountain that the local kids where playing in, before having dinner at Eucalyptus in the Artist Colony. Again this was a tasting menu, comprised of approximately eleventy billion courses that went on for hours LOL. It was  all fantastic but I could barely manage the desserts at the end. We had Maqluba as one of the courses which is apparently a special dish that you have to circle your hand above 7 times and make a wish before turing it out on a plate – it is mostly rice and chicken and quite good. The chef came out to chat with us and it was a great evening.

Artist Colony

Artist Colony

Finally we headed back to the hotel and a 4am start for the 28 hours trip back to the US. Next time I go I will tack a few days on so I can spend more time wandering around and absorbing all the history and, of course, eating at many more restaurants 🙂

Tower of David

Tower of David

 

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

Old City at night with fountain plaza in foreground

 

 

Getting creative with the egg recipes

Eggstravaganza - every day....

Eggstravaganza – every day….

Since our chickens are now in full laying mode we get on average of 9 to 12 fresh eggs a day and although I give away many to friends and neighbors I am determined to make the most of the delicious product of our hen’s labor LOL

If you have never eaten truly fresh eggs you don’t know what you are missing – the taste is so much better than what you get in the store. Even if they say cage free or farm fresh that is generally not what you think it is – the chickens’ living conditions are still not much better than the poor battery hens. Pastured is the correct term, apparently, for what we all probably have in our heads when we think of farm fresh.

Our chickens roam around all day eating bugs and weeds and scratching in the yard to their hearts content. They are more like pampered feather pets since my husband like to give them sunflower seeds and sprout lentils for them LOL

Happy hens lay the best eggs – the taste is richer and firmer than any store bought egg and I won’t waste a single one

Fortunately we are an egg loving family but lets face it there are only so many scrambled or fried egg breakfasts you can fit in to a week so here are some of my favorite recipes that use plenty of eggs.

Of course we do all the basics like omelets and hard boiled eggs chopped up in salads etc but I also make a mean fritatta LOL

Fritatta

Fritatta - Yum

Fritatta – Yum

Years ago in Boise Idaho I had an awesome fritatta with spaghetti noodles that I had to reverse engineer. It varies depending on whats in the fridge but here are the basics.

  • Cook up some thick cut diced pancetta or regular bacon in a large cast iron pan
  • Add in your favorite veggies – I usually saute up some mushrooms, onions and spinach
  • Boil a handful of angel hair pasta and toss into the pan
  • Season to taste
  • In a mixing bowl crack at least 6 – 8 eggs
  • Add about a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you really must)
  • Add a couple cups of your favorite shredded cheese and whisk
  • Pour your egg mixture into the pan and mix thoroughly
  • Transfer the whole pan to the oven set to 350 and cook for about 35 – 40 minutes
  • Slice into wedges and serve from the skillet

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza - only 4 eggs on this one - I usually do 6 these days

Breakfast Pizza – only 4 eggs on this one – I usually do 6 these days – Thanks Alicia!

This was inspired by a friend on Facebook and turned out to be a family fav. It is quick and so very easy.

  • Spread out pizza dough on a large baking pan sprayed with PAM (I totally cheat and use the Pillsbury store bought stuff in a tube)
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little garlic and parsley salt on it
  • Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Layer with finely cut red onion, thin slices of pancetta, sauteed mushrooms and uncooked spinach (Don’t go too thick with the toppings or the dough wont cook properly)
  • Crack 4 – 6 eggs on top and sprinkle with some seasoning to taste – I use a Johnny’s seasoning salt, which is unfortunately hard to get here in Florida – I just have a stockpile)
  • Pop in the oven at 400 and keep an eye on it – it should be ready in 15 – 20 minutes however ovens vary and I just jiggle it to make sure the eggs are set but not to hard
  • Slice with a pizza cutter and serve

Quiche

Yum Quiche - before my fancy fluted pans

Yum Quiche – before my fancy fluted pans

I love quiche and have been making it for years – again it is one of those recipes that you can switch up to your heart’s content but this is my favorite version and will yield a couple decent sized quiches depending on your dish sizes. I have a couple of 9 in cake pans but recently switched to some great fluted pans with removable bottoms that way I can pop it right out and the fluted pastry edge looks perfect – easier to cut too. If you make too much or don’t want crust you can just cook it in the baking pan for a crust-less quiche – still delicious and cooks up a little faster – presentation is not quite as nice however…

  • In a large pan cut up and cook about  1lb of your fav bacon till crispy
  • Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon and let drain on some paper towels – DO NOT waste all that bacon grease
  • Toss some minced garlic and one large or two small finely sliced white onions into the pan (you may need to add more butter depending on how much bacon grease you have left)
  • Saute for a good three or four minutes till soft and golden
  • Toss in a container of sliced mushrooms and keep sauteeing – season to taste
  • Toss in a couple handfuls of baby spinach near the end and cook till it softens – set aside
  • After pressing your pastry into your pans (see below for that recipe)
  • Crack 7 or 8 eggs in a large mixing bowl and add one and a half cups of heavy cream
  • Add two cups of your favorite shredded cheese and season to taste – I usually add garlic, parsley, black pepper and Johnny’s seasoning salt
  • Whisk thoroughly and then pour in all your other ingredients
  • Divide the mixture between your two pans and pop in the oven at 400 for approx 35 – 55 minutes – the reason the range is so wide it will depend on how deep your quiche pans are…I basically check in after 30 minutes and you want the top to be getting lightly golden and the center to be just about set – a little jiggle is good – you don’t want the egg mix to be rock hard – but it does need to be firm enough to slice.
  • Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving

Homemade Pastry
I learned to make pastry from my grandmother and she didn’t use recipes – it was all by eye – basically twice as much flour as butter, a pinch of salt, dash of vinegar and a couple spoonfuls of water as needed… Chill for an hour and use…. I recognize that most people are not comfortable with recipes that are quite that free form LOL so Pioneer Woman has one that is as close to my grandmothers as I can find, but with actual measurements and directions 🙂 She also turned me on to the fluted quiche pans.

Deviled Eggs

Love the sign - love the eggs

Love the sign – love the eggs – this was a small batch we usually make way more…

We love deviled eggs in this house – as proven by the cool hand lettered sign I got for my husband for Christmas and now hangs proudly in the kitchen. There are million recipes out there and I know everyone has their favorites but I am not a fan of the sweet pickle that many people put in theirs, so I make mine with Parmesan cheese instead and they are usually a big hit

  • Boil a dozen eggs – make sure they are at least a week to ten days old – very fresh eggs do not peel well – the membrane is too tight and you end up peeling little chunks of the white off and they look cratered –  like the surface of the moon – delicious but not so pretty. If you are using store bought eggs this is not a problem you will face – I just have to plan in advance and set some aside to “age” LOL
  • Peel and slice in half – remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl – get yourself a deviled egg plate – makes things so much easier…
  • Add mayo and seasoning to taste – I prefer garlic salt, black pepper and a couple heaping tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Use a food processor if you have one – I use a little hand held one that makes sure the mixture has no lumps
  • Place in a piping bag and fill the egg halves (I use a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off  because piping bags are too annoying to clean – this way I toss the bag and only have to clean the tip)
  • Sprinkle with paprika and add garnish of bacon crumbles, chives or caviar, depends on your tastes

Homemade Pasta

Rolling the pasta

Rolling the pasta

I got a Kitchenaid mixer finally about two years ago and treated myself to the pasta set to go with it. It is a little tricky to do, but lots of fun and you definitely feel like a fancy chef when you make your own homemade pasta. Last time I made too much and so have frozen some in Ziplock bags.

Making spahgetti

Making spahgetti

I am told it keeps really well in the freezer but I have yet to boil up any of the frozen batches yet so can’t confirm that. Also there is a special Italian pasta flour very fine called 00 that I plan to try soon – supposed to make the best pasta

Pasta ready to cook or freeze...

Pasta ready to cook or freeze…

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups of semolina flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together then make a well in the middle
  • Add eggs and olive oil and whisk together
  • My mixer makes it easy to knead the dough but if you do it by hand it takes about 12 minutes and some muscle
  • Wrap in plastic and allow to rest for about 30 minutes
  • Either roll out by hand using lots of flour or use a handy dandy pasta roller to get it to the desired thickness – remember I said lots of flour or it will stick to itself
  • My pasta cutter does fettuccine and spaghetti shapes so I just feed it through the blades and make little floury piles of pasta – some I froze, the rest I cooked
  • Boil your pasta for a few minutes in salted water with a splash of olive oil (to prevent sticking) Toss in your favorite pasta sauce and serve

IMG_8491I like Alfredo sauces so I make my own with heavy whipping cream, Parmesan cheese, chicken, mushrooms, peas and pancetta  – Yum!

Strawberry Cake

worlds best strawberry cake - thanks Wendy!

World’s best strawberry cake – thanks Wendy!

I got this recipe from my blogging friend Wendy – I loved the look of it an filed it away for future use – took me a year to get around to it but now I make it all the time – it is soooo good and I am not actually much of a cake fan – usually too sweet for me. But this is light and fresh and tastes like summer on a plate. Not to mention how impressed everyone is at the sight of it. I made the first time over a year ago for my teenager’s birthday and everyone loved it – plus it uses 8 eggs LOL
Check out Wendy’s recipe and instructions she is so much more detailed than I would ever be and her photos are amazing 🙂 (BTW save the left over egg whites from this recipe to make the meringue below)

Pavlova

Mmmmm - Pavlova

Mmmmm – Pavlova

This was one of my favorite desserts growing up – I love meringue! But you just don’t see it in the US very often. So given my abundance of eggs I thought I would try it. Everyone loved it and I was impresssed  that my first time effort at meringue went so well

Goes fast LOL

Goes fast LOL

Here’s the recipe I used, only I used strawberries, blackberries and raspberries – since that is my fav version. Also I put a a couple tabsp of sugar and a tspn of vanilla in the whipped cream…

French toast
My teen has a sweet tooth so loves french toast – this has been a great way to use up eggs and have the family clean their plates. I have not picture of this – it goes fast…

  • Crack 6 eggs in a bowl
  • Add a dash of vanilla essence
  • Add a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you must)
  • Add a couple tablespoons of cinnamon
  • Add about a quarter cup of maple sugar if you have it (brown sugar if you don’t)  and whisk
  • Dip your bread of choice and toss onto a medium hot skillet
  • Flip and serve with maple syrup and or other favorite fixings

Crepes

Crepes

Crepes

This was a new one for me – I had never made them myself before and they could have been a little thinner to be honest but they were a big hit – I served mine with a ricotta cheese filling, sliced fresh strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. They didn’t use that many eggs unfortunately, but I owed my guys a sweet, rather than savory weekend breakfast LOL

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest or 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 pint strawberries sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 to 6 tsp. unsalted butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • In a blender, combine the milk, egg, flour, salt, oil and zest and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours.
  • In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of the granulated sugar, or to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta and the remaining 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a small pan over medium heat, melt 1 tsp. of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Pour in little of the batter and spread with a spatula. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat to make 4 to 6 crepes.
  • Cover half of each crepe with the ricotta mixture and fold in half. Place 2 crepes on each plate. Top with the berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

Dutch Apple Pancake

Dutch Apple Pancake - start to deflate as soon as you take it out

Dutch Apple Pancake – starts to deflate as soon as you take it out of the oven

Another experiment – I had never made before and it looked so cool but my guys were honestly not that impressed. It is a good recipe and looks amazing as it expands up over the sides of the skillet – but I think they would have preferred more sugar LOL
here is the recipe I used

Creme Brulee

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish – need to caramelize sugar more

This is hands down my favorite dessert of all time – I love it! I had to replace my creme brulee torch this year since the old one was appropriated by my guys a long time ago to light fireworks, create mini flamethrowers, you name it – they got up to it! So I bought a new little set form Amazon that has the water bath and ramekins etc. My men have been informed that they are not to touch it- not even look in it’s general direction or there will be hell to pay – Lets see how long it lasts…
This is the recipe that I like to use – although I just put vanilla essence in not the actual bean – I am lazy…

Key Lime Pie

Teen's first Key Lime Pie - it was delicious

Teen’s first Key Lime Pie – it was delicious

Honestly, both my guys normally like to make this one for us – Yay – Make the men cook pie! We are now growing our own key limes and hopefully there will be enough soon for a pie 🙂 You can also put some meringue on top (as pictured above) if you like – uses a few egg whites too 🙂
Here’s a good recipe

Ceasar salad dressing
One of my favorite salads of all time – I could eat it anytime – Toss some grilled chicken or shrimp on it and you are good to go
Here is a great recipe

I am open to other suggestions if you have them – what are some of your favorite egg heavy recipes?

Rainy Saturday Projects & Escape from Montreal

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Earlier I was bemoaning my inability to make a semi regular blog post, when my friend Wendy made me realize I didn’t have to write a book every time LOL

Just about enough fabric...

Just about enough fabric…

So here is the brief version of what I have been up to recently. A recent wet and dreary Saturday prevented me from riding my horse, so instead I took care of a few indoor projects…

Bah - hand sewing to close them all in

Bah – hand sewing to close the cushions up

First up, finally finishing the cushion covers for the kitchen chairs – I bought fabric a year ago and covered one then never got around to the other three LOL I made it harder on myself than I should of with the first one – go figure  – so perhaps that’s why I kept putting it off.

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Since I had the sewing machine out, I covered another couple cushions for the family room that had likewise been waiting a year…. I am nothing if not consistent

Some quick family room cushions

Some quick family room cushions

Inspired by all the fun with fabric – I decided to recover the bench in the bedroom too. It was supposed to be grey but it looked very greenish next to all the more blue grays in the room and it bothered me every time I looked at it.

Time for the staple gun

Time for the staple gun

Recently, I had finally found the perfect, inexpensive rug for the bedroom – the floors in there are badly scuffed up and I toyed with the idea of one rug on either side of the bed since I hate paying an arm and a leg for something that the majority of which would be covered up by the bed LOL.  However it just wouldn’t look right – you have to get a rug big enough to anchor he bed properly – the designer in me couldn’t live with two tiny rugs.  I found a great one on Amazon which is actually an indoor/outdoor rug – so a synthetic flat weave, not a fluffy wool rug  – hence the bargain price. But given that here in sunny Florida you don’t need a warm cozy rug and this was the perfect pattern and the right size (9 x 11.5 – you need it big enough to come out to the edge of the nightstands and about the same distance from the foot of the bed – design rules to live by) – it was a no brainer.

Once it was down, the green bench bothered me even more – something had to be done!

Love the new rug!

Love the new rug!

At some point I will have to summarize the entire bedroom project – but lets face it, it is coming together bit by bit and may be another year before I am done LOL

Bench recovered - no more green velvet

Bench recovered – no more green velvet

Back to the bench – I found a shower curtain at Target that I liked and went to town with my staple gun. Big improvement for less than $20

Umm - hoping the plane will leave on schedule

Still coming down – hoping my plane will leave on schedule or at all…

I have been traveling a lot for work recently –  one week ago in San Francisco, followed by a trip to Montreal last week – I nearly didn’t make it back from that one – what with the winter storms making their way up the east coast. My flights there were rerouted and the after the client meeting I spent hours in the airport – delays pushing my flight out over and over until finally it was cancelled 😦

My view from the plane

My view from the plane

They told me I would be stuck there for three days, missing Valentine’s Day with my family -WTF? – not content with that, I found another flight out the next morning. It was touch and go whether it would take off or not – the storms and snowfall meant getting to the airport was a nail biter and then we sat on the runway for over an hour and had to be de-iced before we finally got in the air….

Welcome home to the Florida sunshine

Gatsby welcoming me home to the Florida sunshine

I  was very happy to be home – coming from the grey icy streets of Montreal to the sunshine of Florida in just three and half hours was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz for the first time – suddenly the world was in glorious technicolor 🙂

Poutine - chips with gravy and cheese curds

Poutine – chips with gravy and cheese curds

I did manage to have some poutine in Montreal and maple crepes, unfortunately the only souvenir I brought back was a wretched cold. When I feel better I will finish the post about all the egg recipes I have been making – the ladies are laying big time – we got a record of 11 just yesterday… We are drowning in fresh eggs LOL

Chicken Update – Eggs! – or at least one

First Egg!!!!!!

First Egg!!!!!!

Today was the big day after a week or so of thinking about it our Leghorn laid our first egg!

Foghorn - our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

Foghorn – our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

For the past week or so my husband has been obsessively checking in on the chickens – we knew it could be any day now. This morning Foghorn the leghorn started sing the egg song  (seriously look it up –  its a thing LOL) and scratching around in the nest boxes so we were very hopeful and sure enough when we went out to check on her – there it was – our first fresh egg from our own hens 🙂

First egg in the nest box  - I am so excited to have been home to see this

First egg in the nest box – I am so excited to have been home to see this

Still warm and actually larger than I expected. The proud mom is doing fine and got some yummy treats for her hard work

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

I have been home sick all weekend but I am actually almost glad I caught this wretched cold from my last business trip – since that was the only reason I was at home today to witness this momentous occasion LOL

More pics 🙂

Lily - our Barred Rock

Lily – our Barred Rock

"Not Legorn" - we think she is a Delaware

“Not Legorn” – we think she is a Delaware

One of the two Black Sex Links

One of the two Black Sex Links

Cleo - Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix

Cleo – Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix

Chicken Adventures

Chicken TV

Chicken TV

So I had planned to be all organized blogging about how the house and land projects in order etc – but to hell with that – Chicks happened! LOL

We had planned on getting a couple chickens for the eggs and after doing some research I wisely decided that 4 was all we needed and that we were not going to raise baby chicks because of the amount of effort and observation they needed – I would just buy 4 pullets (for the uninitiated that means female chickens that had not quite started laying yet)

This was clearly a smart plan since we are busy and this would be the first time keeping chickens. I ordered and nice smaller coop kit online – a chicken tractor to be precise – one that you can move around the yard so they can have fresh grass to forage on. My teenager built it for me and now all I needed were some chickens to put in it.

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Tractor

I quickly discovered that getting small numbers of pullets was not as easy as I had hoped – scarce as hens teeth, if you will. Larger minimum orders or people just selling straight run chicks (unsexed – you don’t know what flavor they are till they grow up) which doesn’t work for me because I do not have the heart to kill the roosters for meat

Then a couple things happened – first the house we just purchased has a fairly large chain link enclosure – might have been a dog run or something and I had the genius idea that I could turn that into a nice chicken run if I just built a coop onto the side of it…. I also found a lady online close to me that has a small chicken farm that was willing to let me pick out as many female chicks as I wanted and on top of that we visited a feed store that just got a bunch of young pullets in stock…..

All my sensible plans of only getting 4 older pullets went straight out the window when faced with the undeniable cuteness of the week old chicks. I bought eight of them! 4 buff orpintons, 2 black sex links, 2 other hybrids that I have forgotten the names off.

Chicks!

Chicks!

So I brought my chirping cargo back to the house and installed them in the small coop inside the garage with a lamp as a makeshift brooder for now – It’s florida so I don’t need to worry too much about them getting too cold but the first week they need to be at 90, going down 5 degrees a week till they are ready to live outside at about 5 weeks old when all their proper feathers come in.

So we have less than a month to build the larger coop in the yard….. more on that project later.  For now we are enjoying watching the chicken TV – the chicks have their wing feathers and their tail feathers are just starting to sprout.

We have been getting up at dawn to make sure they are warm enough and I have even had to wipe tiny chicken butt to save it from getting “pasted up” – a condition which can kill them – so we need to keep an eye on that runty little one. Six months from now I will have to get creative with egg recipes as we may be drowning in them LOL

Baby chicks trying to roost

Baby chicks trying to roost