Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Oh my goodness. When one of my book groups met to discuss this book, we all talked about the crying we did at the end. Oh yes, me too. This is a novel with a point to make (somewhat like Jodi Piccoult’s books). In this case it’s the right to die issue and it’s cloaked in a fast-paced page turner. A young woman who is a bit at loose ends, accepts a new job as a caregiver, something she’s never done before, to a young man who had recently become a quadriplegic. There are numerous sub-stories (about her family, her relationship with her sister, her boyfriend and her relationship with him, the patient himself, who is grumpy, and his relationships with his mother and father and ex-girlfriend). And, it’s about his wish to end his life. During the last 100 pages I could hardly put it down. I don’t want to jinx the story. It’s a romance of sorts. It’s gritty in a way, but charming. Loved the book. Now I’m going to order the sequel, the book the author never really intended to write, but so many people wrote her asking for one. I’m right there too. This book is being made into a movie.

Also read A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. It’s a selection from one of my book clubs. An easy – very easy – read. Not a deep book by any means. It’s a story about 3 middle-aged women who decide to buy an old ram shackled house (maybe mansion) in the South and devote a year to fixing it up. There are many twists and turns with numerous people (a ghost, a vagrant, a handyman, and many neighbors) entering into the story. Much calamity ensues with house repairs and all 3 women questioning their sanity when they bought the place – Ladybug Farm. It’s cute. No swear words. No sex. Just a very pleasant story about friendship and an old house.

Probably the most in-depth book I’ve read recently is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. If you decide you want to read this, make sure you get THIS one by Weatherford – there are many books out there with “Genghis Khan” in the title. What I knew about Genghis Khan before I started reading this book could be put into a very small thimble. We’ve heard the descriptions of his viciousness and slaughter of thousands of people. Well, what you learn is that that kind of behavior was typical of the warring tribes of the time. His story was fascinating. Believe it or not, I found the book a page-turner. Weatherford has a gift for writing a good story – it reads more like a novel, but it’s a biography, an easily read one. The last third of the book is more about his son who took over the kingdom after his father’s death, and it’s every bit as interesting. A definite good read – and makes for interesting talk around the water cooler.

Oh, I can’t forget another monumental tome, The Accidental Empress: A Novel by Pataki. It’s about the Austro-Hungarian Empress and wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. From amazon: The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry. And he marries Sisi, a little known 15-year old. The book is her story. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a good one. Loved it.

Another good read: The High Divide: A Novel by Lin Enger. Takes place in the late 1800s in remote Minnesota. It tells the story of a young family, husband, wife, and 2 sons. The husband, without work, suddenly leaves his family with no explanation. The wife is left back at the homestead with her 2 sons with next to nothing to carry them through. The 2 young boys decide they have to go in search of their father, and very ill-equipped to do so. Then the mother also heads out to find her boys. She believes her husband left with good intentions, but she doesn’t know. You do learn a bit about the husband eventually. Made for a very riveting story if you enjoy that time in history, with a complex family relationship that is tested by the weather, the moral codes of the time, and by the meaning of family. Good story.

Another fascinating book I just finished is Three Daughters: A Novel by Baehr. It covers a part of the world and time that I’ve never encountered in my reading of fiction. From amazon: From the fertile hills of a tiny village near Jerusalem to the elegant townhouses of Georgetown, Three Daughters is a historical saga that chronicles the lives, loves, and secrets of three generations of Palestinian Christian women. It begins around 1900, near Jerusalem. There are a whole lot of family secrets that play parts in this book (adultery mostly) that certainly makes for an interesting read. If you overlook the immorality involved (which continues, in secret through the generations) you’ll find the story quite riveting. It’s a HUGE book, though, so don’t go further if that overwhelms you. It didn’t bother me a bit as I could hardly put it down.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Desserts, on December 1st, 2015.


Oh my yes! Will you please make this? Soon. Super chocolate flavor, but tempered by the coconut on it and the coconut oil in it. A fabulous and easy dessert.

It’s true. I do love baking, but you’ll see that I have all kinds of other things on my blog too – meats, veggies, appetizers. All manner of things. But I suppose if I had to say, baking is my favorite thing to do. And since Dave, my DH, passed away (it’s now been a year and 8 months), I don’t entertain as much, and my dinner menus are more simple. I eat lots of left overs. But my Bible study group comes to my house frequently, so that satisfies my need for baking. And that’s what happened a week or so ago when I decided to make this.

The recipe came from Bon Appetit, in 2014. It’s baked in an 8-inch loaf pan – recently I actually measured my bread pans and was surprised to choc_coconut_pound_cake_wholefind that my smallest one is actually closer to 9” instead of 8” so I bought a new one. This new one, though, is almost smaller than 8”. So this cake almost bubbled over the top. Just so you know. If you use a 9” pan, the baking time will be different, and it won’t be as high, obviously.

What’s different about this cake is the use of coconut oil – not the liquid type (is there a liquid type?) but the congealed type (that’s called virgin coconut oil) that almost has the consistency of shortening. It gets mixed with sugar, then with eggs and it whizzes up in the stand mixer until it has a very light, but thick consistency. Billowy almost, but not quite. Then you mix in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder) in additions along with buttermilk. Into the baking pan it goes – with waxed paper carefully placed inside so you can use it as a sling to remove the cake from the pan. You use a spatula to make a groove down the middle – an important step. Even so, my cake almost spilled over. You can’t quite see it in the photos, but one side had a big bulge – I cut it off and ate it, thank you. Yum.


There on the right you can see the groove I made. Since the pan was so full I had difficulty doing it, and the batter was wet enough that it kind of oozed back into the center as soon as I’d done it. But do try. Then you choc_coconut_batter_in_panadd on the toppings (granulated sugar and unsweetened coconut). Into the oven it went and it baked for 80 minutes (recipes says 70-80, but mine took the full 80) until a tester inserted in the middle came out clean.

Then it’s left out to rest and cool for at least 20 minutes (I think mine cooled for an hour or so – made for easier handling), then cooled completely on a rack for another hour or two. Picture at left is the batter with the toppings, ready to go into the oven.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate flavor is absolutely wonderful (I used Hershey’s Dark cocoa), and it’s super moist. Easy to slice too, with a serrated knife. The recipe indicated it serves 8, but I got about 11 slices from mine. I served it with sweetened whipped cream. Everybody loved it. I loved it. Can’t wait to have a slice after lunch or dinner today. Or, maybe I’ll have a slice with a cup of tea this afternoon. It’s also very easy to make. The recipe says it will keep for 5 days, wrapped well, at room temp. I guarantee you it won’t last that long.  The coconut flavor is enough that you DO taste it in the cake (from using the oil). I liked the flavor a lot.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. It’s a great dessert cake.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake

Recipe By: Bon Appetit, March, 2014
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil — room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut meat — to sprinkle on top (flake type)
1 tablespoon sugar — to sprinkle on top

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8×4” loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat oil, butter, and sugar until pale and fluffy, 5–7 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions; beat until mixture is very light and doubled in volume, 5–8 minutes. Add vanilla.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (do not overmix; it will cause cake to buckle and split). Scrape batter into prepared pan and run a spatula through the center, creating a canal. Sprinkle with coconut and remaining sugar.
4. Bake cake, tenting with foil if coconut browns too much before cake is done (it should be very dark and toasted), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 70–80 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cake cool in pan 20 minutes before turning out. Carefully remove paper, allow to cool completely, then slice using a serrated knife. It says it serves 8, but you can probably get about 10-11 slices if you try.
5. DO AHEAD: Cake can be baked 5 days ahead. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature. (But I doubt this would last 5 days – I’d eat it all!)
Per Serving: 471 Calories; 24g Fat (44.1% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 332mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on November 27th, 2015.


There’s something so extra special (to me) about chicken with lemon. Lots of lemon. This fits the bill!

Recently I drove up to Northern California to visit with my daughter and her family who live in Placerville (California Gold Country). One night we went out to dinner, another night Dana did a spaghetti dinner, and the 3rd night I made this lemon chicken. It was really wonderful. And easy. I loved the lemon flavor that permeated the chicken (I used thighs) and the sauce was really wonderful on the chicken and on the rice we made to go with it.

I didn’t have a recipe in mind when I decided to do chicken with lemon, but went online and this recipe came up within the first few. It’s from Southern Living, back in 2010. If you want to make it according to that recipe you certainly can, but it won’t be as lemony as the chicken doesn’t get cooked with the lemon sauce at all. I altered the recipe just a little bit because I bought chicken thighs, not breasts, as was called for in the recipe. And I like the chicken cooked in the lemon anyway, not just as a side flavor or sauce.

So first you dip the chicken in flour with some pepper mixed in. Then the boneless, skinless thighs are sautéed in a bit of olive oil and butter just until they get golden on both sides. They’re removed to a plate while you concoct the sauce. Lemon juice and chicken broth are added in and cooked just a bit, then the chicken is added back into the pan, a lid put on and you simmer the thighs for about 20 minutes or so until they’re done. In that time, the sauce has cooked down just a little, and it’s thickened some because of the flour mixture used on the chicken. You can make a few very thin slices of lemon to put on top of the chicken as it cooks, then add a few for garnish also. And a bit of Italian parsley is sprinkled in and also on top when it’s served. We served the sauce on the side so you could decide where you wanted it – only on the chicken, or also on the rice.

What’s GOOD: I loved-loved the lemony flavor, but I love lemon any way, shape or form, so it was a no-brainer for me. I think everybody else liked it too. It’s easy to make – easy enough for a weeknight dinner for sure. The butter added into the sauce at the last made it special.

What’s NOT: the only thing I’d mention is that the breading you put on at the beginning and is slightly browned, gets soggy when it cooks in the lemon sauce – so don’t expect crispy anything. It’s all soft food, so to speak. Delicious nevertheless.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Very Lemony Chicken Thighs

Recipe By: Adapted from
Serving Size: 8

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter — divided
2 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 lemon slices
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
Garnish: lemon slices

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.
2. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half of chicken in skillet 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with 1 Tbsp. butter and remaining olive oil and chicken.
3. Add broth and lemon juice to skillet, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Add chicken pieces back into the pan, coat with sauce by turning each piece over, cover with a lid, reduce heat and simmer for about 20+ minutes, until chicken is tender. You may add the thin lemon slices to the chicken during this cooking process if you’d like.
4. Remove skillet from heat and remove chicken from sauce onto a heated serving platter; to the sauce add parsley and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve immediately. Garnish, if desired with more lemon slices. Serve with rice, pasta or mashed potatoes to soak up some of the delicious lemony sauce.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 15g Fat (61.4% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 508mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on November 23rd, 2015.


You know you’ve been to a Phillis Carey class when the title of the recipe is almost as long as the recipe itself. Well, not really, but she does get teased about her titles sometimes. She doesn’t want you to be at all confused about what’s in the dish, so she puts all the important stuff in the title.

I think pork tenderloin is one of the new “darlings” of the foodie and entertaining circuit. It’s lean – and sometimes almost tasteless if you don’t do something to it. But it’s versatile. In this recipe the pork is kind of sliced to open it up a little bit and then pounded out flatter, so it’s big enough to enclose a filling. You will have made a bacon and crimini mushroom filling which gets rolled up inside the pork. Because the pork is lean and not strong on flavor, you want the filling to be bold (in this case with bacon, mushrooms, both umami flavors).

Phillis made a really flavorful sauce with shallots, vermouth, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme and crème fraîche. It’s a fairly thin sauce (as you can see on the plate in the picture). You can cook it down some, if desired, to make it a bit thicker. You could add a tiny bit of flour to the shallots and butter if you want to have the sauce thicken up a bit. I might do that next time. It would be wonderful with rice or mashed potatoes – to soak up that great sauce.

What’s really nice is this makes a pretty presentation – you can’t quite see the filling in the photo as the shallot sauce is covering it up. So this would make a great company meal. I usually can feed 3 people from a Costco pork tenderloin. If it’s smaller (as in regular grocery store types) then you may only feed 2 or 2 1/2 people. This recipe uses 2 pork tenderloins and it feeds 6 people. Because of the filling and the sauce (and the other sides) you may be able to stretch it a little bit. All depends on how hungry your family or guests happen to be.

The rolled up and tied pork is browned briefly in a skillet, then it finishes in the oven for just 15-20 minutes. This isn’t a 30-minute meal – sorry! You can make the sauce while the pork is baking, though, so it’s not much more than a 30-minute prep  and cooking time.

What’s GOOD: makes a really attractive company meal. If you’re into doing a filling for a weeknight family meal, it’s not all that hard or time consuming, and the pork cooks in no time flat (15-20 minutes in the oven plus browning time). It looks pretty and the mushroom and bacon filling is really, really good.

What’s NOT: only the time it takes to make the filling and the sauce. And fill and tie up the pork.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mushroom and Bacon Stuffed and Rolled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard, Thyme Creme Fraiche Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 10/15
Serving Size: 6

4 slices bacon — chopped
8 ounces crimini mushrooms — thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic — finely chopped
1 tablespoon bread crumbs — plain, dry
6 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped (divided use)
2 whole pork tenderloins — 1-1 1/4 pounds each
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots — chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine — or vermouth
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh thyme — chopped

1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet, until crisp, 8-10 minutes. Pour off all but 2 T. of bacon fat; add mushrooms, about 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste; cook until mushrooms are soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute. Remove from heat and stir in breadcrumbs and all but 2 T. of the parsley. Let cool. (Can be made ahead.)
2. Trim pork of all fat and silverskin. With rounded side of pork down, make a long slit lengthwise down the center to open it up like a book. Do not cut all the way through. Lay a piece of plastic wrap and pound pork with a meat pounder (flat side) until the meat is about 3/8″ thick, starting from the middle and working outward. Spread the cooled mushroom mixture over the pork. Fold the narrower ends in about an inch or so, then starting with a long side, tightly roll up each tenderloin. Tie with kitchen twine in about 5 places to hold the roll together.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork and brown well on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total time. Remove pork to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until internal meat temperature reaches 150°F. Remove pork to a carving board and let rest, tented with foil, for about 10 minutes. Remove strings and cut across (straight) in about 1-inch thick rounds.
4. While pork is roasting prepare the sauce. In the skillet used to brown the pork melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Whisk together the creme fraiche, mustard and thyme in a small bowl. Add to the broth and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer and reduce down until the sauce thickens and barely coats a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over the pork slices and garnish with the reserved parsley. Note: if you prefer a sauce that is thicker, add about 2 teaspoons of flour to the shallot and butter mixture, cook it for about a minute over low heat, then continue with the recipe.
Per Serving: 267 Calories; 17g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 75mg Cholesterol; 275mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on November 21st, 2015.


Well, so . . . . we had some cookies while we were in the safari camps. They put them out for our game drive stops, and sometimes they served them after lunch, or at the sundowner stops as well. They called them biscuits since that’s the British tradition to call them so. They were really wonderful, so I asked for the recipe. There begins the tale.

There at the camp, they called these Anzac biscuits, but since I knew all about ANZAC Biscuits (ANZAC – Australia New Zealand Air Corps – click on the link to read my post about it) from our trip to Australia some years ago, I knew these weren’t ANZAC. But, oh well, they called them such, so I just added on the “safari” part. The original ANZAC biscuits were developed when World War II caused lots of rationing, and the biscuits would keep well if they were shipped to soldiers abroad.

safari_anzac_biscuitsThere at left is the photo I took of the cookies at the camp where these were served first. Do note how completely different these look than mine – more cookie than anything else. Whereas my cookies (above) are nearly all seeds and oats and coconut and almost nothing to hold them together.

The cookies are healthier than some – they contain some good nutritional stuff in them, as I mentioned. Lots of seeds. That’s part of what intrigued me about them – they had pumpkin seeds and flax seeds (that’s mostly what you see at left).

So once I was home for awhile, I decided to tackle this recipe – I bought a big bag of flax seeds, and a big bag of pumpkin seeds too. I thought I had sesame seeds, but couldn’t find them, so maybe next time I’ll add them too.

The recipe is fairly straight forward, other than the butter and syrup (Golden syrup or Karo) is melted together, and you also dissolve baking soda in boiling water and combine the two before adding that to the cookie dough. I used my stand mixer because I suspected the dough would be a bit unwieldy. Yes, it was. But I certainly didn’t know how much unwieldy it would be.

When the camp director handed me the recipe she mentioned that they also added about 1 1/2 cups of seeds. She’s written it in on the side. She mentioned flax, pumpkin and sesame. Okay. No problem. So, I did a combo of two of those and after adding in the oats and coconut, I poured in the seeds. And the mixer laboriously tried to mix it all up. It succeeded, but only barely. I had to do some of it by hand because it was fairly stiff.

Because the dough didn’t look like the camp cookies, I baked just one cookie sheet of them. And once out of the oven I groaned – these didn’t look anything like theirs. Oh dear. I decided to try another tray. Then I added in some chocolate chips and just a tiny bit of flour. Oh dear me. That mixture became almost impossible to work with, but I went ahead and made more cookies out of it. I really thought that I was going to have a monumental failure on my hands. At that point, though, what else could I do but try to make it work.

I ended up giving nearly all of them away, keeping only about 3-4 of the seeded ones without chips. The ones without any chocolate chips were better (to me anyway), though I rarely turn down chocolate in anything. And I’ve enjoyed eating them – chewing and chewing – as those seeds get stuck in your teeth (particularly the flax).

My take-away from this is – I think – that they SUBSTITUTE seeds for the oats and coconut – not adding them IN ADDITION TO. I reduced the amount of seeds from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups only because I felt they had enough. But, for the sake of this recipe, I’m giving it to you exactly as I made them – with all the add-ins, which makes the cookies up top – mostly seeds, oats and coconut. And they’re really quite delicious. They just don’t look like the camp cookies. I took these to a friend who phoned me this morning to tell me she thought these were the BEST cookies she’d ever tasted and can’t wait to make them. And here I thought they were a failure! As I’ve had a cookie each day since I made these, I’m liking them even more. I may try them again with just seeds and try baking one tray first, to see how they turn out, then I may add in the oats and coconut anyway. If I make them again with changes, I’ll be sure to report all about it.

What’s GOOD: well, sometimes what you think is a failure turns out to be a great success. These aren’t quite like what I had on safari, but they’re really wonderful and worth making. They’re healthier than some, which is a bonus.

What’s NOT: they’re not a traditional cookie – they’re more add-ins than they are cookie. But I have no complaint!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Safari Anzac Biscuits (cookies)

Recipe By: From “And Beyond” safari camps, Africa
Serving Size: 20-24

1 cup cake flour — [I think you could use all-purpose]
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup desiccated coconut — (desiccated means unsweetened)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup — or Karo syrup
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups seeds — flax, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 180° C or 350° F. Grease baking sheets.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add oats, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Melt butter and syrup in a small saucepan over low heat.
4. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and set aside.
5. Add water to the melted butter mixture, then add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the seeds and mix well.
6. Roll 1 1/2 T sized balls and place on greased cookie sheets. The batter is a bit on the dry side, so it takes some elbow grease to get them to hold their shape. Allow room for the cookies to spread. Flatten the dough some with the palm of your hand.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not over bake.
8. Remove from oven, place biscuits on cooling racks. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. The note on the recipe says: “Serve as a wake-up biscuit or for morning game drives.” Yes, indeed!
Per Serving: 239 Calories; 17g Fat (61.3% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on November 19th, 2015.


Termite Mounds. That above is a live one.

Other than seeing termite mounds on TV, usually on National Geographic programs, I’d not paid much attention to them. They’re odd looking. Many are phallic-shaped, and some jesting was mentioned amongst our group about that. The one above is a fairly young mound, probably only about 4 feet tall. And when I tell you they “pepper” the African landscape is an understatement. They’re everywhere.

As days went by and we drove by hundreds of them (pictures below) I began to notice the differences between them, and could tell whether one was live or not. The answer to that has to do with the color and look of the stuff you see on the outside – this one is dark colored, meaning that the workers (the termites who take care of the mound, build it, clean it, excavate it) have been doing their jobs by removing detritus and dung, pushing it up and out, where it clings to the outside. There are vent holes in the mound, which are kept scrupulously clean by the workers.

The soldier termites defend the nest (mound) and have unique stuff they excrete onto attacking animals or insects that becomes a glue-like substance, in effect paralyzing the attacker.

termitemound1The surface of these things is hard. I never did go up to a fresh mound and push on the dark stuff (we were rarely out of the Land Rovers) – perhaps I could have budged it – but I wasn’t interested in touching termite dung. As the weather on the savanna changes the surface of the mound becomes hard, almost like rock.

Termite mounds have a king and queen (similar to a bee hive but without a king bee), worker termites and soldier termites, and believe it or not, a mound can live for about 20 years. Eventually the life span of the insects wane and the mound dies. When that happens other rodents move in – mostly mongoose. Or snakes (but not both).

At first, I thought the termites must choose a place near a tree (because so many of them were mounded next to one), but actually not. These termites aren’t exactly wood eating (like the type that live in the wood in my house) – they eat anything that contains cellulose, which they forage from the surrounding landscape. It’s in hay and other botanical stuff they find. The workers and soldier termites are both blind.

termite_mound_abandonedThere at left is an abandoned termite mound – note that there is no fresh (dark colored) stuff on or around the mound. And the mound has been cleaned out by rodents with plenty of escape holes.

As a termite mound rises in time, baboons use the tops of them as a sentry post, scanning the savanna for predators. And those baboons poop as they’re sitting there. Because baboons eat botanical stuff, their poop contains seeds, hence you can see behind this termite mound a tree that’s grown up beside it. So here I thought it was the egg and the chicken, but no it was the termite first, then the trees.

Utterly fascinating, this planet of ours and how it all works!

Posted in Fish, Miscellaneous, on November 17th, 2015.


You know when I tell you you have to make this. Yes. This. Soon. Fabulous.

Oh my goodness, this recipe is so good. I do love salmon, but it’s almost like chicken, in a way, since you can do so many different things with it – broil it, bake it, pan sauté it, or in this case it’s sautéed briefly, then baked for 6-8 minutes. And then served with this wonderful tangy, spicy apricot sauce/glaze. And with those pistachio nuts on top (with chives, parsley and a little oil to hold it together). Oh yes.

The sauce will keep several weeks. And, in fact, Phillis Carey talked about how good it is with chicken or halibut too. Phillis’ original recipe made half as much glaze, and my friend Cherrie and I, who attended Phillis’ class together, decided then and there that we’d make more of the sauce to use on other things, so I’ve increased the glaze part by 50% in the recipe below. We also thought a serving portion of the salmon could use just a bit more of the glaze than we had, so that’s another reason to make more.

So, the sauce can be made ahead by several weeks, as I mentioned, or the day before. Do give it some time to marry the flavors, though, if time permits. The salmon fillets are seared for a minute or so on each side, then placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Then you combine a tiny tetch of oil, the pistachios, parsley, chives and salt and pepper, and carefully pile it on top of the salmon. Into a 375° oven it goes and bakes for 6-8 minutes (depending on how thick the salmon is). Serve immediately! I promise – to raves! Easy. Good enough for a company meal, and not so hard that it couldn’t be made for a weeknight dinner. Especially if you made the glaze ahead of time.

What’s GOOD: everything about it – especially the glaze. It’s all good, and it’s also very easy.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Apricot Glaze

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 10/15
Serving Size: 4

12 dried apricot halves — quartered (use sulfured type)
1 cup apricot nectar — plus 2 tablespoons
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce — or other Asian chile sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — minced
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
20 ounces salmon fillets — 4 pieces, 1 inch thick, 5-6 ounces each
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil — divided use
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts — toasted & chopped (or you can use walnuts or pecans)

NOTE: You probably will have some of the sauce left over – that’s a good thing – use it on other fish or chicken since it keeps several weeks.
1. SAUCE: Place ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and simmer to thicken, if desired. (Will keep for several weeks, refrigerated.)
2. SALMON: Preheat oven to 375°. Season fish with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T. of oil in a large nonstick pan. Sear fish for one minute per side and then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
3. Toss remaining tablespoon of oil with parsley, chives and pistachios. Brush fish lightly with the apricot glaze. Spread pistachio mixture on top of the fish and bake 6-8 minutes, or until just cooked through. Serve drizzled with more apricot glaze and serve remaining sauce on the table.
Per Serving: 490 Calories; 23g Fat (41.6% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 125mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on November 15th, 2015.



I took a photo of this, just so I could show you the difference about 5 minutes can make in the life of one can of Coke Light in the summer African bush. First it was poured into the glass, with ice, and I’d sip it some, and within 5-7 minutes or so it would be like the left one, all the ice had melted and it was diluted and getting warm.

Those of us on this trip talked about our obsession with ice. Every one of us was asking for ice – ice in our water, ice in our cocktails, ice to take back to our cabin, and ice in our soft drinks. At one of the camps they ran out of ice. I’m tellin’ you, that was one very sad day. Of course, remember that it was hovering at about 100° every day, so except for lying on our beds under the light breeze from the A/C, we were in the heat elements. Our water bottles were at room temp. None of the tent cabins had a refrigerator. We did have one at our first camp, but it wasn’t a safari tent cabin – it was a tree house and a more permanent structure. We did keep water cold in that one.


At our last stop, Stanley’s Camp, we all did some shopping at their little boutique. They had a nice mixture of things and since I left behind most of my clothes, I was able to fit in a few trinkets. baskets_for_sale


At left is a banner – I’m not sure what it was made of. At right was a shelf full of baskets of all shapes and sizes. There was one I wanted, but it was a bit too big to get into my duffle.


More baskets of all shapes and sizes. bead_figures_4saleI bought one of those bush figures – the one at left with green trim. I loved the orange one, but I have no place in my house where an orange figure would fit very well.


morning_coffee_stanleys_campOne of our guides at Stanley’s Camp. He was a happy person and grinned all the time.

There at left is the lovely tray of coffee and cookies our room attendant brought to us both mornings. Very nice. We sat out on our spacious front deck, enjoying the view over the reed-filled savanna, listening to the morning birds. Did I mention that mostly we had French press coffee everywhere. They’d bring all the parts, with a thermos of hot water and we’d make it ourselves.


After I got home, I did some research about the many birds in Botswana, and I identified this guy as two different ones, so am not sure what he was. Pretty, though – kind of like a sandpiper with a similar running gait.


That’s our front porch. Too hot to sit there in the heat of the afternoon, but it was really nice in the early mornings. There were tarps on the sides, so we had some privacy, but the front just had screens, which was fine.

Posted in Travel, on November 13th, 2015.


This was the first grouping of elephants we saw, and this cute little baby (he was actually about 3-4 months old) was not far from his mother. Of course, it was a big thrill – that first elephant as we watched the breeding herd forage. They’re slow and soft-footed and their trunks are almost in constant movement. As the babies move about – usually quite close and almost dangerously (you’d think) under their mothers, but the moms are very aware of where the baby is. The baby usually has his trunk nuzzling some part of the mother, and occasionally reaching down to the grass, or pulling a small twig from a tree as this little guy was doing.


So many times this was the scene from our Land Rover, watching a herd of elephant crossing an open savanna, probably on a path that’s unseen to us. Sometimes the lead female would glance over at us – they have an acute sense of hearing – and she might pause – but unless she felt we were threatening her or her brood, she went back to foraging or walking. The herds were usually in groups of about 4-6.


Can you see why lion are almost invisible? If they’re lying down you absolutely can’t see them – only when they move does the shape become something. During the daytime the lions will walk some, but their goal is to find a comfortable shady spot to sleep away the intense heat. This female was with a young male (probably her brother) and another young female and they were just moving from place to place. They weren’t hunting, and they gave us no never-mind, as the saying goes. They didn’t even look at us. When the Land Rover got near (with the diesel engine running) sometimes they’d get up and move. Occasionally they’d lift their heads up and glance at us, but usually they’d fall back to a recline.


Warthogs, part of what’s called The Ugly Five (hyena, marabou stork, vulture, warthog and wildebeest). So named because they jokingly say they’re so ugly only a mother could love them. We saw wildebeest, but I didn’t get a photo. And I don’t think I took a picture of a vulture – we saw lots of them, but usually off in the distance, circling. Warthogs are elusive – once they spot a safari truck they usually make themselves scarce. We saw the backsides of many of them as they scooted off into the bush.


Before I go on with more animal pictures I want to paint a picture for you. And this, to me, is the most important paragraph I’m writing in this post, maybe in all of my posts about my safari experience. For the most part, the African savanna is peaceful. It’s amazing. Awesome in its beauty. Eerily silent sometimes, and wildly loud at others. A few times during our game drives the guide would stop, pause when we’d enter a big, wide savanna (I love that word, it’s so soft and descriptive). Once, and this is a time, at a place, that I’ll have indelibly imprinted on my mind . . . we were in a fairly round savanna, with a ring of trees off in the distance – maybe about 1/3 of a mile off. Much like the photo above, except it was that kind of a view, 360°. Off to the left, about a block away, was a small grouping of elephant. Gently walking and foraging. Further right was a big herd of impala, motionless for a second or two until they identified the Land Rover and went back to walking and foraging. Further on was a herd of kudu. So elegant in their stance, with the male horns protruding in the sky. Then there was another small herd of elephant, a bigger grouping with babies in tow. Further right was a small group of giraffe. They’re so graceful – the most graceful of all the animals we saw as they reach and stretch to find the most tender of new leaves on the trees, ever watchful, though. And yet they were almost intermingled with the kudu. Yet further to the right we saw a small group of warthogs that flitted off into the brush. And then there was a small grouping of Cape buffalo. None of the other animals want to be around them – they’re not king of the jungle by any means, but they’re feared by most. They too, were foraging. Walking slowly, feeding. And lastly, another small grouping of elephant.

That place was magical for me. To see these wild animals, all in one place, all living peacefully alongside one another. There were no predators (cats) anywhere. Time and time again we saw similar scenes, but not usually with so many animals visible.

I never saw a kill during my safari trip. Although I’m well aware of the way of life in the wild, I usually close my eyes when I see it on TV. And a kill happens all the time – somewhere. Yet for the most part, the animals graze in peace, their brains watchful for danger, but not dwelling on it. Not like we would if we walked into a drug- and gang-infested neighborhood at night, knowing our lives were in jeopardy.


Note how they blend into the background. Impala are identified by the dual vertical black stripes on their back end. They look much like deer.


There’s a kudu. A male. They’re noted for the vertical stripes on their sides, and by their darker color. They’re also big – about the size of elk. And, they’re known for their unusual curlicue horns. Did I mention that once a kudu has 3 full curls on his horns, he’s reaching the end of his life? They’re fast – very fast, and lion don’t generally go after kudu unless it’s a young one or an old one that’s weakened.


This gal didn’t like us. She turned just after I snapped that picture and stomped toward us with her ears full forward. But she stopped. Note the dust around her back feet – she was getting ready to move. They kind of run toward you and bluff you into moving on. There were other elephant back in the brush behind her. The guides are very attuned to when an elephant is going to do a bluff move, or if they’re really charging in earnest! We never saw the latter, when the elephant might have attacked the Land Rover with her tusks. Just let me tell you that when she charged us, the hair on the back of my neck was at full attention!

Note in the picture that the elephant’s far horn is stunted. Most of the elephants we saw were left-tusked and many had a stunted left tusk. Meaning that they used their left tusk for most of the work, scraping bark off trees, moving logs mostly to get at good vegetation to eat, and sometimes they jamb the tusk into a tree (they like to eat the interior of trees) and then can’t get it out, and it gets broken off extracting themselves from the tree. From that point, the elephant may still be able to use the left tusk (they learn to sharpen that tusk on trees so it’s still useful, albeit short), but not so well. Occasionally they will develop skills with the other tusk, but one guide said no, he’d never seen that. If a female loses both tusks, she becomes a breeding female only. If you’re interested in reading more about elephant characteristics, click this link.


We saw zebra several times, and what intrigued me about them was that off in the distance (let’s say a block away) they were completely invisible in the brush. You’d think those vertical strips would be a dead give-away, but no, when they’re still, they blend into the trees (the stripes looking much like short brush or trees).


That’s not such a great photo because I’m inside my tent cabin and this group of foraging females surrounded my cabin. The blurred effect is the screen. They stayed there for nearly 2 hours, moving around and around my cabin finding leaves and grasses to eat. They were almost silent except for the occasional foot-fall as they crunched some dry leaves.


That was the view near the lodge at one of the camps. Peaceful for sure. Birds of all variety noisily talking, maybe a hippo snorting out in the pond, and frogs chirping.


We saw baboons in lots of the camps, and they’re quite mischievous. They’re big, and also can be vicious. We were told that generally they wouldn’t attack us if they were outside our tent cabins, but that it would be best to wait until they moved on. At one of the camps they liked to sit on the edge of our private pool and take sips of water. They were quite docile if you observed them doing their thing, but if I’d opened a door they might have become aggressive.


We saw bats sometimes at night as they swooped down over the water. This little guy hung inside the roof of the lodge nearly all day. I was very close to him and he watched me quite carefully.

Our best sighting of lion was one day when we followed a trio – a brother and sister, and another young female. The mother was nearby, and the guides told us that when males get to be older adolescents, the dominant male wants them out of the pride and tries to run him off.


So, the females (the mother usually) leads a smaller group off to find food and share a meal, to protect the young male for one more season before he must leave the pride.

Once they do leave, young males form a bachelor pride and begin their search for a group of females, as one by one, they think they might be able to fight for, and win.  These two were searching for shade. They walked right up to the Land Rover and right in front of the front bumper as they walked leisurely on to find a place to nap.


The Cape Buffalo. The horns are so beautiful and such a unique shape. Usually the buffalo move off when we approached, but this group just stared at us for awhile before turning to wander away. As I think I mentioned, they can be very aggressive if provoked.


A young leopard female. They told us she was very hungry, but because she’s young, she was having lots of trouble catching anything. Unless they’ve made a kill (see below) they nap in the trees. This cat was so startlingly beautiful – the coat, and her piercing eyes. I’ll never forget the eyes – which you can’t see in that photo. She turned, opened her eyes wide (they’re quite big), looking at us. Her pupils were thin slits and the rest of her eyes were like molten gold. A few hundred yards away this female’s mother had killed an impala.


She dragged the impala several hundred yards, under the shade of a tree and began the meal – from behind the animal’s back legs. Once she’d feasted for awhile, she got up (see picture) and laid down to take a break, with her tail swishing around the head of the impala. She was just feet from us and totally ignored our presence. After awhile she moved back into position and began eating again. Others who visited this site the next morning found her still there, eating. By evening, though, another truck visited and she’d allowed her daughter to have some of the kill. The mother was sated. The next morning the entire animal was gone – with the hyena having eaten all of the bones and other scavengers having eaten the last of the meat. Sometimes the leopard will drag the kill up into a tree – away from the scavengers – and the lion – because the lion won’t (can’t) climb trees. The guide explained that all that was remaining were the insects who were carrying away the last of the kill.lions_resting

There is the threesome we saw earlier – as they checked things out before lying flat to snooze. As before, they totally ignored our presence, so close to them.


We followed a group of giraffe one day, as they were eating the new leaves from the trees.

The male is the darker one, with 2 females in tow. The females are young, lighter in color. They weren’t willing to mate yet, but obviously one was showing interest because he followed her around, never getting more than a few feet from her, nuzzling her neck now and then. Very sweet. All part of the mating dance.

Whenever we saw giraffe, they were gracefully walking. Only occasionally did we see them run. It takes them a few seconds to gain momentum, which is why a lion can catch a giraffe sometimes.


There’s a jackal. Beautiful coloring on them. She just trotted along a path near the Land Rover and crossed in front of the truck and went off on a mission, or a trail. She never even glanced up.

A second one, more tentative, came out of the bushes, following the same path, but much more wary of us, but she went along the same route and off into the bushes she disappeared.


And there, lastly is the hyena. We were approaching a watering hole that was completely invisible because of the tall grasses. A family of hyena lived in/around this watering hole, but the young adolescents were busy in the hundred yards or so around the water. There were two of them, and this one, a male, was quite curious about us in the Land Rover, so he approached and actually looked up at us from within about a foot or so. He hitched his front leg up on the tire so he could get a better sniff of us, then jumped down and wandered off. His sister approached but didn’t get as close.

I have photos of birds, which I guess I’ll do another post since this one has been way too long! I sure hope you’ve all enjoyed seeing the pictures and hearing my stories.

Posted in Chicken, Uncategorized, on November 11th, 2015.


Not exactly quick, but not hard, either. In any case it’s delicious and worth making.

My friend Cherrie and I were finally able to find another class we could take with our favorite cooking teacher, Phillis Carey. Since the cooking school in San Diego closed some months ago – the one we attended often, Phillis is trying to find new venues to teach. But she’s always taught classes in other places and one is in Orange County, about once a month. (The downside is that the class is in a very cramped little space, hard, folding chairs, with a tray on our laps – i.e., not ideal.) This class was about Italian cooking at home.

Phillis is the queen of chicken breast cooking. She’s written an entire cookbook about it (her website is the only way to purchase it). And she continues to develop new and better ways to eat chicken. I don’t know about you, but I eat a lot of chicken and I love new/better ideas of ways to cook it. This one is worthy of a company meal – I might not go to the trouble just for a meal on my own.

The idea behind the oven fried part is that you lay the chicken breast (coated in eggs and bread crumbs) into a very little pool of hot oil in a rimmed pan and it sort of “fries.” How? Well, first you make a long, deep cut in the center of the boneless, skinless chicken breast half and open it up like a book. You don’t cut all the way through. Anyway, you fill the chicken breast (more on that in the next paragraph) and fold it together. Kind of squeezing it so it sticks together. Meanwhile, you will have heated the oven to 425° F. That’s HOT. Then you use a older, less attractive rimmed baking sheet (one that you don’t care how it looks and how the oil will mark it) and you heat olive oil (a tablespoon of oil per chicken breast) in that pan in the oven. When Phillis demonstrated this, after she put the baking sheet of oil into the oven to heat – it took about 4 minutes. It was smoking. That’s what it’s supposed to do. If you used canola oil (with a higher flash point) it wouldn’t smoke, and you can do that. It’s just that olive oil will give you a bit more flavor (more Italian, obviously). In the interim you will have coated the chicken breasts (dipped in beaten eggs and then a breadcrumb mixture that contains some Parm) and once the oil is smoking hot, you pull the oven rack out and gently – very gently – lay the chicken breasts, smooth side down (first) – in the hot oil. It will sizzle. If it doesn’t sizzle, then the oil didn’t get hot enough. That’s what creates the crust – you can see how beautiful it is in the photo at top. The chicken is baked in that hot oven for 7 minutes, then the breasts are turned over and baked another 6-8 minutes and they’re done. When the cheese (she used Fontina – a good melting cheese) begins to ooze out of the edges of the chicken you know it’s done. And you can serve it immediately, while it’s still hot as a pistol.

The filling – well, you could improvise if you wanted to. If you don’t like basil, use a different herb (fresh, though). If you don’t like Fontina, use Provolone or what you have on hand. A soft cheese, though, but not Jack or cheddar (tasteless). If you don’t like sun-dried tomatoes (these are the oil packed ones, drained) use fresh, but oven dried roasted tomatoes. Don’t use regular dried tomatoes – they’d be too firm even if you reconstituted them. And don’t use fresh tomatoes as they would give off too much liquid (would steam the chicken and you’d lose the whole point of the oven frying technique). She used prosciutto. You could use pancetta, but it won’t have the smoky flavor of prosciutto. But do remember that both of those Italian deli meats are salty. Use it judiciously.

So, you lay on a nice big leaf of basil on the open chicken breast “book.” Stack the filling on one side. Then you add the prosciutto. I’ve added into the recipe to cut it up in bite-sized pieces before laying it in the chicken. Phillis just laid a slice on the breast, but prosciutto kind of shreds when you try to cut it, so I think cut into pieces makes it easier to cut and eat it. Then the well-drained sun-dried tomatoes are added. I’d cut those up in small pieces also. THEN, you divide up the cheese and kind of cup it in your palm and place it on top of the filling. The other chicken breast half is laid over, pulled slightly and you press down (to compress the cheese) and so the edges of the chicken stick together. If you really wanted to do it right, brush the outer edge of the chicken with a bit of the beaten egg (used in the coating) to seal the edges. But it’s not really necessary to do that step.

The nice thing is that you can stuff the chicken a day ahead (covered, in the refrigerator). And you can coat the chicken an hour ahead (and refrigerate). So if you’re having guests, everything is ready except heating the oil and baking them. See? Easy, really. And it makes a beautiful presentation. That top turns a perfect golden brown.

Now, just a note about the CHICKEN. I buy my chicken breasts at Costco, and they’re big honkin’ breasts. Those are just too big for this recipe. So either buy smaller breasts (ideally about 6 ounces per serving), or if you use the big, big breasts, cut off the tender (you’ll do that anyway) and cut off some of the outer edges so you do end up with about a 6-ounce portion. If you were to use a bigger breast it will take longer to cook through and unless you’re feeding football players, they won’t eat it all. The chicken is very rich and filling.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are wonderful – very Italian for sure. I loved the crispy crust. I loved the oozing Fontina cheese in it. The flavor boost from the sun dried tomatoes was lovely. When I make it I will be sprinkling on just a tiny little bit of salt ONLY on the outside edges (where the prosciutto isn’t), as whatever chicken doesn’t have any filling needs just a hint of salt. It’s a beautiful presentation – serve on a platter if you want to with a sprinkling of Italian parsley and a few whole stems for color. The chicken is very rich, and is high in calorie with all those goodies in it and the oil it’s cooked in, too.

What’s NOT: only that it does take a bit of prep. But it’s not hard to do. Just a bit of time. The chicken probably won’t be great as leftovers. You’ll not be able to get the crispy crust the 2nd time around, so plan to eat it at the first sitting, if possible!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oven-Fried Parm-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Cheese Filling

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 9/2015
Serving Size: 4

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 slices prosciutto — chopped
4 large basil leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups Fontina cheese — grated (or use Provolone)
3/4 cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (or Pecorino)
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley — minced
2 large eggs — lightly beaten with 1 T. water
1/4 cup olive oil — for the baking sheet
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

1. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing in half, horizontally, but not all the way through; just open it like a book. Lay on the prosciutto, a basil leaf and a tablespoon of the sun dried tomatoes on one side of the opened breast. Divide the cheese among the pieces, then fold top side over the filling. Press together firmly and try to seal the edges (chicken meat against chicken meat). May be refrigerated at this point up to a day ahead.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine the bread crumbs, Parm cheese and parsley on a shallow plate. Dip the chicken bundles in the egg mixture (keeping the edges together so they don’t open up) and then in the breadcrumbs, coating well. (At this point the chicken can be chilled for up to an hour.)
3. Once oven is at temperature, pour the olive oil (approx 1 T. per chicken breast) into a rimmed large baking sheet. Use an “old” one as the oil and the baking may discolor the pan. Place pan in the oven to heat – about 3-4 minutes. It will be VERY hot and the olive oil may be smoking slightly. Add the chicken, top side down and bake for 7 minutes. Turn the chicken over (very carefully) and continue baking another 6-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. The chicken is done when the cheesy mixture begins to ooze out of the seam. If you are baking more than 4 of these, use a separate oven and another baking sheet to roast the chicken. If you have a convection oven that has a convection/bake cycle, use that, same temp and same amount of time. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
4. It is best to use smaller chicken breasts for this – don’t include the chicken tender. If you buy very large breasts, trim some of the edges (and use for something else) to bring the size down to about 6-7 ounces per breast.
Per Serving: 983 Calories; 51g Fat (47.9% calories from fat); 107g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 380mg Cholesterol; 6745mg Sodium.

Posted in Travel, on November 9th, 2015.


For years, I’ve been enamored with baobab trees. They have a very unique shape and they are such a stately tree. The baobabs hadn’t yet begun to leaf out (they’re late bloomers in the spring) when I was in Africa. I took several pictures of them, but this one was my favorite.

There are 6 varieties of baobab (by the way, it’s technically pronounced bay-oh-bab, but the natives pronounced it bow-bob), yet only one variety grows in central Africa. It’s often referred to as the upside down tree because it looks like (some more than others) the tree got stuck into the ground with the roots on the top. The trunks (which can grow to a huge diameter) hold water (tens of thousands of gallons) which keep it alive during the hot, dry summers.

The elephants like to eat the inner bark of the baobab – it’s such a shame because they can, eventually, kill the tree. They rub up against it to remove the outer bark, then they get to the reddish interior bark that they enjoy eating. They just keep rubbing and rubbing to expose a big area of that inner layer. Then more elephants stop by and do the same thing, until they’ve badly damaged the tree. The tree can regenerate its bark and will usually recover.

xudum_tent_cabinWhen we arrived at Xudum (pronounced koo-doom), we had lunch, then were shown to our tent cabins. This one was on two levels (half levels) with the bedroom upper, and the bathroom (huge) was 5 steps down.

We had a relaxing afternoon, more of that 100° heat and so Gwenda and I stretched out on those beds with the little A/C blowing right on us. We read, relaxed, snoozed and it never took us more than about 3 minutes to unpack our duffle bags at any camp. We took dunks in the pool – because the A/C stopped working at this camp and we were so hot we could hardly stand it. The water in the pools was always cool, so it was refreshing.

All of the camps provided lovely toiletries for us. One brand, Africology, was popular at several of the camps. I didn’t care for it – the shampoo or the body lotion. The shampoo was really hard on my hair, and the scent in the body lotion was just odd. I can’t tell you why – it just didn’t smell like anything I really wanted to put on my body – but since it was all we had, obviously I did! I read the label, but it wasn’t definitive enough to tell me what kind of weed, bark or flower provided the scent. Whatever it was it wasn’t an aroma I liked. Gwenda didn’t like it either.

Speaking of odd scents – all over in Africa we encountered wild sage. It grows everywhere on the savannas. The Land Rover drove over it, around it and it popped right back up. It has small yellowish flower on it. We didn’t much care for the scent of it and were surprised to learn it was in the sage family. Finally I looked it up in a botany book at one of the camps. Under the description it said the scent was most closely aligned with perspiration. Well, no wonder we didn’t like it! Although all of us smelled of it – perspiration –for the entire trip!


There at left is the spacious bathroom. Most of the tent camps had slatted-floor showers. You can see it there behind the bathtub. Since it was so hot all the way through our safari stays, we rarely had to use much of the hot water, but it was plentiful. Just behind the tub is a tall screen (decorative and functional) and the shower head was on the far wall so we girls had some privacy. I have to laugh – Gwenda and I didn’t really know each other well before we went on this trip, but modesty played no part by about day 4 of our safari camps.

sausage_wheelThere at right was a spiral wheel of bush sausage – it was beef and was cooked on a propane cooker out on one of our sundowner evenings. It was delicious!

xudum_sundowner_ladderThere at left was an old ladder that they used for displaying all the liquor brought along for the sundowner boat cruise. It was just such fun. Not only the boat ride – pictures later – but at the end we stopped and they’d set up this lovely light repast – they’d put a very clean linen towel down the steps of the ladder and had the liquor varieties just so. On the nearby table were glasses and mixers and Amarula. At rightamarula_cocktail is the cocktail they made for most of us – it’s a pour of crème de menthe on the bottom, then they carefully poured Amarula on top. I’m not a fan of crème de menthe, so I opted to have a gin and tonic.

The wild game didn’t come into that clearing – maybe the staff at the camps use these places frequently enough that the animals don’t come near. It was just getting dark and we looked out at the water – just steps away – and there was a hippo who wanted to retake his territory. There’s a rule in the bush – no boats on the water after sunset because the night belongs to the animals. Sure enough, when we were done, the Land Rovers arrived to drive us back to our camp, which wasn’t far away.hugsOne morning we were offered the option of going on a nature walk. It’s something they are just introducing into the camp. In came two of our guides (who are hamming it up) with the 3 women who were going. Gwenda (my roomie) is on the left, in the middle is Carol, our leader (travel agent and fondly called Mother Hen – and that’s a compliment) and at right another Carol in our group. The guys were in native wear, obviously and the gals are all laughing because they were holding onto the guys – on bare skin and the rest of us were teasing them. I didn’t go on the walk – it was in the morning, but not really early morning, so it meant it was going to be very, very hot. They were told to wear very nondescript clothing (no color). The walk was about 2 1/2 hours long. Those who went said they learned a lot about the flora and fauna and the men demonstrated how to start a fire with sticks, etc. Very boy scout territory. They didn’t see any game, as I recall. These two guides were just so much fun – actually all of the guides in all the camps were well-spoken (meaning they spoke English well – they learn it in school) and they sincerely worked at engaging us and showing us a good time. And they worked hard – long hours.

xudum_sunsetIsn’t that just gorgeous? That was out on the boat cruise – we ended up in this rather large channel (felt like a lake, but it wasn’t) just as the sun was dipping behind the clouds. xudum_downed_tree

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...