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Just finished a stunning book, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Cookies, on February 20th, 2018.

cornflake_cc_meringue_cookies

If you have to eat GF, then these may float your boat. Or if you like meringue cookies in general, they might float your boat as well.

As you’ve read here many times, my cousin Gary is wheat intolerant, so I always try to make him a batch of cookies when he comes to visit over the holidays. I gave him several choices, and these were the ones he chose. I’m not altogether sure he loved them (maybe he’ll leave a comment here?) – he ate most of them, at least, but he forgot to take the remainder home with him (though I think it was an oversight). They weren’t my favorites – meringues generally are too sweet for me, but that’s just my preference. You know meringue cookies will be sweet in any case since they always are. I have changed the recipe below from 1 cup sugar to 7/8 cup of sugar to make them a bit less sweet.

I’m including the post here because some of my readers are GF, and they may want an opinion about them if they haven’t ever made them. The original recipe came from a Saveur magazine one in 2014 and came from Iceland.

They’re very easy to make – egg whites are whipped up well, sugar added in slowly, then you fold in the chopped chocolate, cornflakes and vanilla. That’s it. Scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1” apart, and bake for 20 minutes.

What’s good: well, they’re GF. That’s a good thing for some. They’re a bit different because of the crunchy cornflake addition (liked that). Like the chocolate (I almost never turn down chocolate). They’re really sweet, as I mentioned (though I reduced the sugar in the recipe below to make them less so). They’re also lower in calorie (though not sugar carbs) than some cookies.

What’s NOT: if you need to eat GF, then you’ll definitely like them, I would guess! GF cookies in general, are not the easiest thing to make. Meringue cookies aren’t one of my favorite kind of cookies, but don’t take that as a true-negative about these – I’m just not partial to meringue cookies.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chocolate-Cornflake Meringue Cookies GF

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Saveur magazine, 12/2014
Serving Size: 24

4 large egg whites
7/8 cup sugar
4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate — roughly chopped
3 cups corn flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: do not use chocolate chips as they’re too heavy – they’ll sink to the bottom. Instead use chocolate squares chopped finely with a knife.
1. Heat oven to 300°. Using an electric hand mixer, beat whites while slowly adding sugar until stiff peaks form.
2. Fold in chocolate, cornflakes, and vanilla. Space tablespoon-size amounts of batter 1″ apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets; bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight tin or ziploc bag. Will keep for about a week; otherwise, freeze and defrost as needed.
Per Serving: 70 Calories; 2g Fat (19.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on February 16th, 2018.

almond_anise_biscotti

Over Christmas I visited my good friend Linda, who lives in Carlsbad, a very sweet town north of San Diego. My cousin Gary was with me, and we couldn’t stay long. But, she served coffee and these gems. (Isn’t her mug the cutest thing? As you might guess, she’s a Scrabble fan.)

There are a number of recipes here on my blog from my friend Linda. Like her Bombay Chicken, Neva Tee’s Carrot Cake and  Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup. Oh, and a great lower-calorie dish (though you’d not know it), Chicken Madeira. OH, forgot her Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo, too. She’s a terrific cook, and loves to entertain and serve not one but two or three things for us. We were only there for about 30 minutes, I think. I gobbled these down like there was no tomorrow. I think I had two (both dunked into my cup of coffee), but I wanted another one (I didn’t – but I think she gave me two to take home – yea). She’d also baked a loaf cake, but she wasn’t thrilled with it, so that won’t get posted here. But these cookies – oh  yes. I’ll be making them. Linda even gave me a little bitty container of Sambuca, that anise flavored liqueur which is an addition to these cookies since I don’t have any in my liquor pantry. I offered to let Linda write the blog post, but she just didn’t think she had the writing skill (she does!) to write as I do. . . oh well. She thinks I have some special writing skill. I don’t think I do – though I like to write, but I write like I’m talking to each and every one of you. It’s just a conversation we’re having, right? The other day I clicked a link to someone’s blog and it was just a recipe. That was it. Not a word of comment, yea or nay. Nothing. Why do that? What’s the use if you don’t have the person’s perspective on the recipe – was it good or not?

Image result for sambuca

I don’t suppose you would HAVE to use Sambuca, but it does add good flavor to these biscotti. There are many brands out there – the photo at left is just one example. I had a friend, Doreen (who actually introduced me to my DH, Dave, back in 1981) who was Italian and her mother made anise biscotti – this would have been the mid-70s. I fell in love with biscotti way back then, and have made her recipe many times over the years. Guess I haven’t made them since I started writing this blog in 2007, as I’ve not posted that recipe.

This original recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and is an alteration from it, slightly. After making them once, Linda decided that the flavor needed to be amped up, so she added more anise and Sambuca. Normally the biscotti would be just almond, or anise, not both, but she decided to try it this way. I liked the combo.

There are more steps than the usual biscotti – you may want to read the recipe through before doing it. This is no last-minute quick cookie to make. But no steps are difficult or all that time consuming – well, other than having to draw a specific sized rectangle on the parchment paper so you get exact-sized finished biscotti. Thank you, Linda, for a great recipe. (And no, Linda, don’t buy me a Scrabble coffee mug – much as you might want to – I drink my coffee, always, out of smaller cups.)

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost! Loved the combination of anise AND almond, and the anise flavor is subtle – even though you use both anise seed and Sambuca. If you’re used to more-traditional anise biscotti, this won’t qualify, as the anise flavor is light, but noticeable.

What’s NOT: maybe the extra steps required, but not all that difficult in the big scheme of things for biscotti. These types of cookie always require double baking.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Almond Anise Biscotti

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook
Serving Size: 30

1 1/4 cups whole almonds — lightly toasted
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 tablespoon Sambuca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
vegetable spray
1 large egg white — whisked with a little bit of water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F. Using ruler and pencil, draw two 8×3″ rectangles, spaced 4″ apart on a piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it.
2. Pulse 1 cup of the almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 8-10 pulses; transfer to bowl and set aside. Process remaining 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, anise seed and salt, process to combine, about 15 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to second bowl. Process eggs in now empty food processor until lightened in color and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. With processor running, slowly add sugar until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Add melted butter, Sambuca and vanilla and process about 10 seconds. Transfer egg mixture to medium bowl. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over egg mixture and using spatula, gently fold until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and chopped almonds and gently fold until just combined.
3. Divide batter in half. Using floured hands, form each half into 8×3″ rectangles, using lines on parchment as a guide. Spray each loaf lightly with oil spray. Using rubber spatula lightly coated with oil spray, smooth tops and sides of rectangles. Gently brush tops of loaves with egg white wash.
4. Bake loaves until golden and just beginning to crack on top, 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
5. Let loaves cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes. Transfer loaves to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on slight bias into 1/2″ thick slices. Lay slices, cut side down about 1/4″ apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 35 minutes. flipping slices halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving. Biscotti can be stored in airtight container for up to a month.
Per Serving: 130 Calories; 7g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 58mg Sodium.

Posted in Brunch, IP, pressure cooker, on February 12th, 2018.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach

Goodness, me. This was so easy to make. I could even make this for myself for dinner, and then have leftovers.

Christmas morning I usually make something special for breakfast. My cousin Gary was visiting, and although he wasn’t feeling very good, still he knew he should eat, so I whipped this up in the IP. It was my first IP recipe I tried, and it turned out really well. My cousin has to eat GF, so going crustless was the way to go anyway. I was perfectly happy with the results.

I did research using the IP for quiche, but found several recipes, so I knew it was a successful thing to try. I had some baby spinach in the refrigerator that needed eating anyway, so I kind of combined two recipes and made it a quiche Lorraine style but with added spinach. Daughter Sara gave me an IP cookbook called Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast. This recipe, with my modifications, came from that book.

The quiche ingredients were standard, starting with some thick sliced bacon that I sautéed for awhile to get it rendered out and crispy. There was hardly any fat in the pan anyway since the bacon I used was so meaty. The onion was cooked through, then I cooled and cleaned the IP pot. Meanwhile I mixed up the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cream, S & P, Emmental cheese, spinach) and the bacon and onion, of course. The rack is inserted into the IP, then the quiche, loosely covered with foil (you don’t want steam to get in there – it would ruin the chemistry of the quiche). It was pressure cooked for 10 minutes, rested for 10, then quick released.

IP_crustless_quiche_lorraine_spinach_wedgeI’d shredded a bit of extra Emmental and sprinkled more of it on top and stuck it under the oven broiler, just so it would have a bit of color. One thing about pressure cooking . . . you can’t get good color unless  you brown things before, or broil them after. It took no time at all to broil it for a few minutes. I let it rest for a couple of minutes because it was so hot, then cut into 4 portions and served it along with some yogurt and fruit.

What’s GOOD: it was basically a 2-dish prep (IP pot plus the ceramic baking dish) so there was easy cleanup. Loved the quiche. It may not have had the same consistency as a traditional oven-baked quiche – almost like eggs done in the microwave – but it was good and hit the spot. I liked the addition of spinach, even though it’s not traditional for a Lorraine type quiche.

What’s NOT: nothing really, unless you really miss the crust.

printer-friendly PDF and Master Cook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

IP Crustless Quiche Lorraine with Spinach

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Instant Pot Obsession
Serving Size: 4

1 teaspoon butter — (for coating baking dish)
3 slices bacon — chopped
1 small onion — sliced thin and chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh spinach — coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper — or black
1 1/4 cups Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type
1 cup water — for steaming
TOPPING:
1/3 cup Emmental cheese — or Gruyere, or other Swiss type

1. Prepare a 1-quart round baking dish (that fits in the IP) and coat the bottom and sides with the room temp butter.
2. Using the IP saute function render the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove and set aside. Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is fully translucent and soft. Remove and set aside. Pour out any extra grease from the pot, cool, then clean the pot and replace into the IP.
3. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk and cream, then add pepper and remaining salt. Add half the cheese to the mixture along with the spinach, bacon and onion, and pour it all into the prepared, buttered baking dish. Add remaining cheese on top. Cover with foil – not tight – but enough so steam won’t get into the dish. Install rack in the pot and gently place quiche dish on top of the rack. Add water to the bottom. Use manual pressure for 10 minutes, then let sit for 10 minutes as a natural release, then quick release.
4. Open IP, remove quiche, using the rack handles and set on countertop. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
5. Add extra cheese to the top of the quiche and place under broiler just long enough to get some nice golden brown color to the top (watch carefully), remove, allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes. Cut in wedges and serve.
Per Serving: 386 Calories; 31g Fat (71.9% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 250mg Cholesterol; 519mg Sodium.

Posted in IP, Pork, pressure cooker, on February 8th, 2018.

IP_spareribs_bbq

Oh yes, mouth watering happening as I look at that photo. So quick and easy.

The other day I discovered an ancient package of pork spare ribs (not baby backs) in my freezer, back when my DH and I bought a part of a Berkshire pig. It had unique wrapping, so I knew – and it had a date on it. 2011. Wow. It’s been in my freezer for nearly 8 years! I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be all that good, but guess what? It was wonderful. Maybe because it was packaged well to begin with!

With my new instant pot sitting on my kitchen counter, I scanned websites to find a recipe that would work. Sure enough, found one at the blog called iwashyoudry. Shawna had used baby backs, but I presumed the cooking time would be similar. First I removed the thin tissue along the back of the ribs. It’s a bit of a nuisance to have to do that, but I did it anyway, knowing the dry rub would reach all the inner meat if I took the time. Then I combined the dry rub – a little bit of brown sugar and a bunch of spices. A very good mixture, I think! Into the IP they went, to rest on top of the IP rack, leaning up against the sides of the pot.

Once the meat was in, you add some water, apple cider vinegar AND a tiny jot of liquid smoke to the bottom of the pot, making sure you don’t wash off any of the spices sticking to the ribs. Having used liquid smoke in the past I wasn’t altogether sure I’d like it – but  using just 1/4 tsp gave the ribs just a hint of smoke. The meat cooked under high pressure for 23 minutes (Shawna cooked her for 25, but spareribs have less meat on them, so I chose 23). It rested for 10 minutes, then quick release.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler during the last couple minutes of resting time and prepare a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and have at the ready your favorite bottled BBQ sauce. Lay them on the baking sheet and brush that on. Broil just until beginning to get crispy brown. Remove and dig in! For mine, the ribs were nearly falling off of the meat, so I just took the bones out and had a nice little plate of just meat. And sauce. And spices. All good tasty stuff! My thanks to Shawna for a great recipe that works!

What’s GOOD: you can have ribs on the table in a little over 35 minutes or so, that taste like you’ve spent hours smoking and tending to them. When you haven’t!! Loved the combo of spices in the dry rub and with using just a little bit of BBQ sauce to finish them off; these were perfect! A keeper.

What’s NOT: really nothing, other than ribs have a lot of fat, so for me, they’re a real treat. Not something I’d fix on a regular basis.

printer-friendly PDF or MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot BBQ Spareribs

Recipe By: adapted slightly from I wash you dry (blog)
Serving Size: 4

3 pounds pork spareribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke — optional
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1. Remove the thin lining from the bottom side of the ribs by running a butter knife under the skin and then using a paper towel to grip and remove completely. (This allows the dry rub to reach the meat underneath.)
2. Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a small dish and rub all over the ribs.
3. Place the rack in your IP/pressure cooker and place the ribs inside the pot, standing on their ends, wrapping around the inside of the pot. It’s okay if it leans against the pan. Pour in the water, apple cider and liquid smoke (if using), being careful to not wash off any of the seasonings.
4. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Pressure cook on high for 23 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then quick release the rest of the way.
5. Carefully remove the ribs from the pressure cooker and set on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, and broil for 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
Per Serving: 686 Calories; 51g Fat (67.4% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 165mg Cholesterol; 994mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on February 4th, 2018.

chix_sausage_sheetpan_dinner_w_aged_balsamic

I’m really enjoying these sheetpan dinners. So EASY and tasty. This one is no exception.

It’s been awhile (at least 6 weeks ago) that I made this, but it was so good, and worth it, that I didn’t want to NOT post it. I had a recipe to start from, but I was a bit creative with it, adding a few extras, just because.

The original recipe was in Sunset Magazine in the December/January issue, but because my cousin Gary doesn’t like brussels sprouts, and because I had a sweet potato on hand, I changed up some of the ingredients, but kept to the main idea of the Sunset recipe. I added broccoli, more onion and I had multicolored small bell peppers. I bought some really good quality chicken sausages at a butcher shop first, then embellished with all the other ingredients. EVOO (or avocado oil) is used at the beginning and then tossed with all the raw veggies and into the oven it goes for about 30 minutes. The Fuji apple is a game-changer – it adds a lovely bit of sweetness to it all. Loved that part.

chix_sausage_sheetpan_raw_ingredI think the original recipe started with pre-cooked sausages. Not me – mine were raw, and I just made sure they were cooked through before serving (they were). The vegetables were perfectly cooked and the sweet potatoes slightly crispy on a few edges, and the onions were certainly cooked through too. I served it right from the pan, with aged balsamic drizzled over the top. I think I probably used more than a tablespoon – probably 1 1/2 T at least so that nearly every item had a bit of the vinegar. I like aged balsamic (you do NOT want to use regular grocery shelf quality balsamic on this as it’s way too acidic – you need the syrupy style of aged balsamic to do this justice). My cousin who was visiting doesn’t much like balsamic (I didn’t know that or I’d have drizzled it on half of the pan) so he was a bit put off by it, but me? Loved it. Would have been happy to drizzle a bit more over it, except for the fact that aged balsamic is quite dear and not something to lavish on one sheet pan dinner! If you don’t have aged balsamic, might I suggest you use a fruit balsamic (I have several – – pomegranate, strawberry that I recall) because the ordinary/cheap stuff wouldn’t be good.

What’s GOOD: overall healthy, tasty and EASY. Love that last part. I ate the left overs about 5 days later and enjoyed it almost as much as the first time around. If you want to make it more original, use Brussels sprouts and no yellow squash or sweet potato. I loved the apple in the mix.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. So easy!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Sausage and Vegetables Sheet Pan Supper with Aged Balsamic

Recipe By: adapted from Sunset Mag, Dec/Jan, 2017/18
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons EVOO — or avocado oil
1 medium red onion — cut into 1/2″ rounds
8 chicken sausages
10 ounces brussels sprouts — halved (quartered if large) or broccoli
1 large sweet potato — peeled, sliced 3/4″ thick
1 large yellow bell pepper — cored and sliced
2 yellow squash — ends removed, cut in thick slices
2 medium Fuji apples — cored and cut into wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar — syrupy balsamic vinegar
chopped Italian parsley to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spread a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tbsp. oil. Separate onion into rings of 2 to 3 layers. Set onion, sausages, brussels sprouts (or broccoli), yellow squash, bell pepper and apples in pan. Liberally salt and pepper everything. Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp. oil, toss to coat, and arrange evenly.
2. Bake until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle vinegar on top and sprinkle with parsley.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 16g Fat (38.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 35mg Sodium.

Posted in Veggies/sides, on January 31st, 2018.

yukon_gold_parsnip_mash

 This recipe should have been posted before the holidays – in case you wanted to serve such a side dish when you had guests. The combo of parsnips and potatoes is really a good match.

It’s been some months ago I went to a cooking class where these were served, and I loved them. But then, I like parsnips in any way, shape or form. I forget about them, however, as they’re not a common produce item at my markets. Are they at yours? Over the holidays I saw them, but didn’t buy any – should have, because I’d like to make these now.

These aren’t anything unusual in the making of them – other than the addition of mascarpone and crème fraiche to them. A lot, actually, but the recipe makes a lot. Fresh sage adds just a lovely, subtle hint of the herb, and the freshly grated nutmeg is just perfect in them – some in the potatoes and a bit sprinkled on top when it’s served. IF you like these ingredients, save this recipe for next winter, perhaps, or for Easter dinner maybe?

What’s GOOD: the parsnip flavor is just so yummy-good. The cream products add a lovely lushness to the mixture. Altogether delicious and a keeper of a recipe.

What’s NOT: maybe only finding parsnips?

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to  open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Yukon Gold and Parsnip Mash

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Susan V, 2017
Serving Size: 9

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes — or Russett
1 pound parsnips — peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut in 2″ pieces
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces creme fraiche
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg — divided use

1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot. Cover with water. Add a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes and parsnips are tender. Drain. Put them back in the pot with butter and coarsely mash. Add creme fraiche, mascarpone, HALF the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining nutmeg on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 372 Calories; 18g Fat (44.6% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 87mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on January 27th, 2018.

baked_chix_rice_mushrooms

A stellar recipe – with the mushrooms playing a star role, but all the comforts, too, of a simple, home cooked kind of casserole with chicken and rice.

This recipe has legs. Well, maybe I should qualify that – this recipe, which makes a lot – can be made into 3 different meals if you’re not feeding 8-10 people at the beginning: (1) the first, a casserole; (2) with more mushrooms as a 2nd serving (microwaved); and (3) mixed with broth, more mushrooms and peas, as SOUP.

The original, which supposedly feeds 8, makes a bunch. The pan above in the photo is a 5” high sided nonstick pan I use a lot. Since I’m a family of one, it was probably more than I needed. But my cousin Gary was visiting over Christmas, and before he got sick and only wanted soup, I made this. I’m glad I did, as he ate lunch from it twice when I was off with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then, a couple of days later I took a bunch from it and gave it to my dear friend Gloria and her husband for a dinner. She had enough for a dinner AND a lunch portion. Once Gary flew home, I re-invented it once again. I bought another 8 ounces of fresh brown mushrooms and made another batch of the mushroom topping and ate it as a reheated plate (microwaved) with more hot-water-rinsed peas on top. When there was STILL a small amount left, I made it into soup with more of that mushroom broth concentrate stuff. Oh, was that good, too.

baked_chix_rice_closeupI think this dish would feed 10 (unless they’re hungry teen-agers). The recipe came from the New York Times, and was designated as one of the top 10 for 2017. It may not look like anything special, but it was really, really good. For me – since I added more mushrooms to it (because I like them) – it was comfort food, for sure. It was filling and it was pretty. The making of it is easy enough – most of it is done in the one big pot (chicken, mushrooms and rice with lots of added flavors like wine, thyme, onion). Then it’s baked for a brief time and while that’s happening, you sauté some additional mushrooms (the more varied the mixture, the better). I didn’t go shopping to different stores to find oddball mushrooms (I used brown and shiitake), and when I re-made it with the leftovers, I used only brown crimini mushrooms.

Thinking about this . . . if I make this again I think I’ll use some of the riced cauliflower as the “rice” in this dish. I’d need to adapt the cooking times, but it would be a whole lot less carbs. Just food for thought.

What’s GOOD: the overall flavor is marvelous. One might not think such simple ingredients could yield such umami flavor (must be the mushrooms?) but it did. If serving to guests, I’d double the amount of mushroom topping too (it gives it a really pretty “look”). Read recipe for how to use the left overs. Just know that this dish is very rice-centric.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether good recipe, worth making.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Baked Rice With Chicken and Mushrooms

Recipe By: adapted slightly from New York Times, one of the best recipes of 2017, by David Tanis
Serving Size: 9

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion — diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large sprig thyme — plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped leaves or use half the amount of dried thyme, pressed firmly in your palms
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine — vermouth would work here
2 cups basmati rice — soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained
16 ounces mushrooms — use a mixture of mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup dried mushrooms — reconstituted in water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — heated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas — rinsed in hot tap water for 30 seconds
2 small garlic cloves — smashed to a paste with a little salt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley — with extra for garnish, if desired

1. Place chicken pieces on a baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Pour olive oil into a 4-quart enamelware Dutch oven or similar heavy pot and set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes, then season with salt. Add chicken, thyme sprig and bay leaf, and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
3. Add wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
4. Add reconstituted mushrooms, the rice and a large handful of the fresh mushrooms and stir to combine. (Reserve most of the raw mushrooms for garnish.) Add broth and bring to a simmer. Check broth for seasoning and adjust.
5. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Transfer pot to oven and bake, checking after 10 minutes to see if the rice is cooked through, but may take up to 15 minutes. Finally, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
6. While rice is baking, sauté remaining mushrooms: Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper (add more garlic if you’d like) and cook, rapidly stirring, until they have softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add peas, if using, and heat through. Turn off heat, then add reserved chopped thyme, the garlic and the parsley. Toss to coat well.
7. Fluff rice (and remove the bay leaf if you can find it), then top with sautéed mushrooms and serve with more parsley on top.
CAROLYN’S NOTES: I prepared this with double the mushrooms (original recipe called for 8 ounces but I’ve upped it in the recipe here). For the 2nd serving a few days later, I bought another 8 ounces of mushrooms and created the mushroom topping again and was lazy, heating the chicken/rice part in the microwave, topping with the extra mushrooms then adding the rinsed-in-hot-water peas to make it pretty. Then with what was left, I made it into soup by adding yet more mushrooms and some mushroom concentrate (broth), then sprinkling the top with some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley. If you’ve had enough of it by then, you could make the soup and freeze it for a few weeks later.
Per Serving: 414 Calories; 16g Fat (34.6% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 246mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on January 24th, 2018.

cheese_ball_horseradish

A lovely tasting cheese ball, suitable for anytime. The little bit of horseradish in it gives it a different and subtle hint of it – not at all overpowering.

Cheese balls are so appropriate for the holidays. I made this a few days before Christmas and took it to daughter Sara’s house. We were spending the afternoon making tamales, but we ended up eating this and a big pan full of nachos (with the leftover pork and red chile tamale filling and a bunch of jack cheese sprinkled on top) as dinner. After the tamale fest, everyone was fatigued with the process, and the last thing Sara wanted to do was prepare a sit-down dinner. So out came the cheese ball and we just noshed.

For the last several months I’ve subscribed to the New York Times’ daily food section email. And of course, they want me to subscribe (the pay type, and no, I’m not doing that), and every day they remind me that I’m not subscribed, but yet I am able to access the recipes they include in those emails. Most of the time there isn’t anything all that noteworthy, but occasionally they rave about something. And the last week of December they mailed out links (and photos) of the favorites of 2017. This is one of them. And they particularly mentioned the hint of horseradish gave it really great flavor.

There are two steps to making this: (1) the nut coating; and (2) the cheese ball. You use a stand mixer for the cheese – maybe it could be done with a hand-held mixer (try it and see) but the stand mixer made it easy to combine the ingredients. The nut coating (walnuts, maple syrup, butter and salt) is roasted in the oven until just golden brown, then you chop up the nuts and set those aside. The cheese  ball needs to be refrigerated for a few hours (I did mine overnight) and just before serving you roll the ball in the nut mixture and onto a serving platter it goes. Very simple, and nice to make ahead if you’re having a group over and want minimal fuss at the last minute.

The recipe calls for cream cheese, cheddar and Gruyere. I didn’t have the last one, and Trader Joe’s was out of Gruyere (darn) but I found another Swiss type cheese that was similar. I do not recommend you use a domestic Swiss cheese in this – whatever it is American cheese producers do to our Swiss cheese, well, let’s just say I don’t want that flavor profile in the cheese ball. I used Emmental and it was perfect. The herbs add a nice little green hint throughout, and of course, the horseradish, to me, is the subtle star of the show. Also liked the nut coating.

What’s GOOD: loved the horseradish hint in the mixture, and enjoyed the cheese combo too. Very tasty. Easy to make, really, and I like that it all can be made ahead except for rolling the ball in the nuts. A keeper. I see why it made the best of 2017 at the N.Y. Times. I will say, that there is another cheese ball in my life, Bombay Cheese Ball, and I may just like it the best but if you’re not into Indian-style spices (i.e., curry), then this one would be a better choice.

What’s NOT: nothing!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

The Perfect Cheese Ball

Recipe By: The New York Times, 2017
Serving Size: 10

NUT COATING:
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter — melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups walnuts — coarsely chopped
CHEESE BALL:
12 ounces cream cheese — softened
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar — or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper — fine grind
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese — finely shredded
1 cup Gruyere cheese — shredded (or other Swiss type, but NOT American Swiss)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — finely grated
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh dill — chopped (or use 2 tsp dried dill)

Crackers and fresh vegetables for serving

1. NUT COATING: Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together maple syrup, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Pour the nuts onto the parchment lined sheet tray and roast for 8 minutes or until nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Once cool, roughly chop the nuts to a finer grind.
3. CHEESE BALL: In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese, vinegar, and horseradish until smooth. Season with pepper and salt. Then, add in all the cheese and herbs and mix until just combined. Place the mixture, in a big mound, onto a big sheet of plastic wrap. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the mound and form into a ball. Chill until firm, at least an hour, but a few hours would be better. [Will keep several days.]
4. When you’re ready to serve, remove the cheese ball from the fridge for 20 minutes to soften a bit. Roll the cheese ball in the nuts to coat. Serve with crackers and fresh veggies.
Per Serving: 345 Calories; 31g Fat (78.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 65mg Cholesterol; 435mg Sodium.

Posted in Desserts, on January 20th, 2018.

instant_pot_7-in_1

So, maybe many of YOU asked for this little gem for Christmas. No, it’s a big sized kitchen gem.  Or maybe you already have one. I was late to the parade because I already have a pressure cooker (2, actually); a slow cooker (1); and rice cooker (1); and a Breville multi-cooker (1). But the idea of doing more one-dish meals interested me, plus I particularly liked the suggestion that I could get rid of all of those other kitchen appliances. The only thing this new I.P doesn’t have is a risotto function. I did see a recipe for risotto, so will have to try it and see if it does it as well as the Breville. If so, I’ll get rid of that also.

Daughter Sara wants my pressure cookers, so I’ll be happy to give them to her. Don’t know if she has a rice cooker, but I’ll take that along too, when I see her next. I may keep my slow cooker only because it’s a really big one and perhaps I’ll be sorry to not have that for some large function in the future.

Image result for sunbeam electric skilletSome years ago I bought a new electric skillet. Those of us of a certain age will remember the old 1960s era electric skillet as a kind of a one-dish frying pan, but it plugged into the wall, had 4 legs on it, was square shaped. Anyway, my original one died (photo at right, from ebay), so bought a new fangled one, but found that I almost never used it. And it was a good one – Cuisinart, I believe. Anyway, I gave that to my granddaughter Sabrina (the one attending Clemson Univ.) and she’s already used it in her dorm room to make chicken tortilla soup. She was so proud to tell me that she was really happy with the results. Being a Southern California girl, she really misses Mexican food, a regular staple for almost anyone who lives in this neck of the woods.

Out of the box, the IP suggests running it through a test pressure cooker run. I did that. No problem. I’ve also subscribed on FB to the IP page, and have been reading recipes from there. And it was there that I saw the link to an IP rice pudding at PressureCookingToday.  Also in amongst my received Christmas gifts was a cookbook for the I.P. (Henceforth I’ll just call it the IP).

My cousin Gary (who lives in Santa Clara and has been spending Christmas with me for decades) was here over the holidays, and on day 3 of his visit he came down with a very bad cold. And he was sick with it for the entire remainder of his 8-day visit. Poor guy! He didn’t get to participate in any of the usual family Christmas festivities. We drove to San Diego to have a get-together with daughter Sara and her family on December 23rd, and it was while he was there that he realized he was coming down with the cold. He went into their guest room and slept the rest of that day’s visit. Sara and the family (and me) all made home made tamales that afternoon (my job was to spread masa onto the damp corn husks). We made 124, and I have 6 tamales in my freezer, waiting for an occasion to steam them. The tamale recipe belongs to my daughter’s mother-in-law, Jean, and I don’t know that she would share the recipe, but there are plenty of them out there on the ‘net if you’re interested. Sara’s family always makes (1) pork in a mild red sauce and (2) cheese and jalapeno.

IP_arborio_rice_puddingAnyway, all that to say that Gary has been sick enough to not even feel up to preparing any food for himself, so I’ve been feeding him meals throughout his illness. And I asked him how he felt about rice pudding. He said “yum.” So, that was my first dish in my new IP.

As I’ve learned with the brief amount of time I’ve had my IP, there’s a special lingo to IP cooking. If you’re really preparing and providing a recipe (as below) you start off with the quick list of cooking. In this case it’s the following:

  • Total time – 20 minutes
  • 2-4 minutes prep
  • 3 minutes pressure cook high
  • 10 minutes slow release, then quick release
  • About 7-8 minutes sauté

IP_arborio_rice_pudding_top_viewThat how you inform a reader how much time is required and what functions you’ll be using on the IP. Adding rice (Arborio, the kind you use for risotto), water and salt to the IP, it’s pressure cooked on high for 3 minutes. Then you turn off the IP and let it just sit – it’s not on, but still under pressure. This allows the rice (I’m guessing) to continue to cook very slowly – and to develop that extra special creaminess that accompanies anything with Arborio rice. Then you release the pressure (and remove lid, of course), stir in sugar and milk, stir, turn IP to the sauté function, then mix up 2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk and whisk well. Pour it through a sieve into the IP and allow the pudding to just come to a boil (that took about 5-7 minutes I’m guessing) and it’s done. Add raisins if desired. And vanilla. Stir and pour into individual ramekins or into a large storage bowl. Allow to cool to room temp and serve. It’s best warm, but it’s also yummy once chilled.

Now, I’ll grant you, making rice pudding isn’t exactly gourmet cooking!! BUT, in this case, the use of Arborio rice makes for a really creamy consistency. I think more creamy than regular rice.

What’s GOOD: the overall flavor – I think the amount of sugar – rice – milk ratio is absolutely spot-on. And the texture is so smooth and creamy. Loved it. This will be my new go-to rice pudding. Rich tasting. I did use whole milk – no cream.

What’s NOT: not a single thing. A keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot Arborio Rice Pudding

Recipe By: Pressure Cooking Today
Serving Size: 8 (1/2 cup servings)

1 cup Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk — divided use
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins

IP Instructions:
* Total time – about 20 minutes
* Prep time – about 5 minutes or less
* Pressure cook high – 3 minutes
* Slow release 10 minutes, then quick release
* 8-10 minutes saute
1. In instant pot, combine rice, water, and salt. Lock the lid in place and select High Pressure and 3 minutes cook time.
2. When beep sounds, turn off pressure cooker and use a natural pressure release for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure with a quick pressure release.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and sugar to rice in pressure cooking pot; stir to combine.
4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs with remaining 1/2 cup milk and vanilla. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into pot. Select sauté and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Turn off pot. Remove pan and set on counter to cool. Stir in raisins.
5. Pudding will thicken as it cools. Serve warm or pour into serving dishes and chill. Serve topped with whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. Makes eight 1/2-cup servings.
Per Serving: 230 Calories; 3g Fat (13.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 61mg Cholesterol; 121mg Sodium.

Posted in Essays, on January 18th, 2018.

There’s nothing to it, but to laugh. Me? Power tools? Or tools. I mean – – – I’m in my 70s, and do I really need power tools? Well, yes and no. If you’re looking for a recipe, today’s not the day – – – you can skip this one. But if you want to enjoy my once-in-awhile humor, a little widow-humor, perhaps you’ll have a laugh too.

First thing was a few months ago when my car gave me a warning that my tires were low. This was something I’d have had my DH do for me – I’d have told him about it and he would have taken it somewhere and fixed the problem. So, he’s not here to help me; I need to solve the problem myself. I’m not much of one to get down on my knees anymore (it hurts), so to go to a gas station that HAS a tire and water source, well, it’s not much fun for me – bending over to read the darn gauge, etc. is awkward. I could have taken the car to the dealer, but it’s 15 miles away, so I said no – I did do it myself. A few days later I got another warning, and my friend Cherrie said, well, come to our house and Bud will do it – we’ve got a home one, tire pressure gadget. Okay. Did that. Bud filled them all up. Two days later I got another warning – even though it SAID the tires were low, they were actually high. But, this made it obvious that I needed a new solution to this problem. My daughter Sara suggested I take my car to any tire place and they’d likely check the tires for me. BUT, she said . . . maybe there is a Christmas present in your future. So, I let it go then since Christmas was but a month or so away.

tire_inflator

My son-in-law John did a bunch of research about these things, and finally settled on this one, a solution to my problem. It’s a battery-operated one that I can use by sitting on a garden bench thing that Dave used to use. I haven’t used it yet, although my car is presently giving me a warning (still says they’re low, but I know they’re too high because the warning came minutes after I left the dealer after having had a check-up and they did fill all 4 tires). So there’s one power tool. Haven’t used it yet . . . and I’m still getting that darned warning every time I start the car. Need to do this, though.

Then, in December, when my cousin was visiting, I had a list of honey-do items for him. He started on them when he was still well, before he came down with a monster cold. One job was to install a speaker sound bar underneath my TV in my study. I didn’t want a big speaker system in the room (you know, surround sound) because the room isn’t that big. Anyway, Gary started on the project and went out to the garage to gather tools. He came back in and said where’s the power drill. Oh. I knew I didn’t have one because after my DH passed away, John had gone to our sailboat and took off all the tools. I have some of them, but he also gave them to some of our other guy family members. Both power drills (battery type) were on the boat and John threw them out, saying they were “shot.” Okay. Dave had still been using them, but oh well. So, Gary and I had to make a trip to a big hardware store to scope out power drills. We settled on this one:

power_drill

Fortunately, a sales person was able to guide us to an inexpensive one that would be suitable. It’s not battery type, but a real, corded drill. I suppose I might be able to use it myself if I tried. It wasn’t all that much money (about $35 I think), and if I don’t use it there’s no battery loss with a corded drill.

In the meantime, though, I’d done a bit of research myself (during the last year) about toolkit tools for women – with a smaller shape, etc., but still they’re regular tools, not toy ones. I’d researched brands and colors (pink, red and lavender are popular). What I really needed was a second hammer – to live in the upstairs of my house so I wouldn’t have to trek down a flight of stairs, then up a half flight to get to the garage, then back up in reverse to use a hammer. Anyway, after reading reviews online (mostly at Amazon) I came away without buying any of them. None seemed like a good deal or there were complaints about some of the tools – made in China and not well designed. But I asked, when we were at Lowe’s for the power drill, about toolkits for women – he led us right to it. Sure enough, there were two – pink and lavender. Pink just didn’t seem like “me,” so I bought the lavender one. And it wasn’t all that much money. But, I assumed the tools were going to be slightly smaller for a woman’s hand. Uh, no. It was all packaged up, so I really couldn’t hold or see the size and shape of the tools. Darn. Regular sized,  just fancy colored handles. I should have bought just a new hammer. Oh well, now I have a fancy toolkit, which I will put upstairs in my house for whenever the tools are needed.

womens_toolkit

Lavender toolkit What do you think? Are you laughing yet?

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