My First Blue Ribbons!

It is a good day… really, really good.  I feel like a little kid again.  Two of my photos earned blue ribbons in our regional fair this year!  This is a first for me.

May I share them with you?

“Snow Dove”
Once again, my family and friends “pegged” this one for me early on at Flickr.  I actually took this one through our glass door to the backyard, too.  It was a beautiful scene that day, for sure, right after a nice snowfall.

“Snow Dove”
Snow Dove – Blue Ribbon in “Animals in Black and White”

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
After a long and lovely day of visiting two of the most beautiful canyon areas in the state and taking hundreds of scenic pictures, I snapped a random picture of my big standard poodle hanging his head out the window of the car…
… and I won a blue ribbon for it!  (Still laughing at the irony on this one.)

“Big Poodle’s Day Out”
“Big Poodle’s Day Out” – Blue Ribbon in “Cute in Color”

And just how did I celebrate my new milestone???

Homemade Apricot Fried Pie Awesomeness!
Not a ribbon winner, but it makes my heart sing nonetheless.
I also did two laps around the midway to mitigate the damage a bit.

My “blue ribbon” celebration treat – a homemade apricot fried pie!

If I had not won, this would have been a post on how I drowned my sorrows with apricot fried pie instead.  That pie was a given regardless of the outcome of the judging. 😉

Happy Friday Fair Day!

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Honeycrisp Apple Heaven

They’re baaaaack!

Fall has officially returned as of today, and Honeycrisp apples are back in our market once again!  If you have never tried a Honeycrisp apple, by all means, run… don’t walk… to your market to see if you can find one!

Honeycrisp Apple!

We tried our first Honeycrisp apple about three years ago, and despite the price (about $2 each in our market for a large apple), I faithfully buy them each fall.  I have no idea if they are good for baking because we eat them up before I could ever hope to do anything else with them.  They are, by far, the best “eating” apples we have ever tasted.  We typically split an apple between us with our dinner each evening when we have them on hand.

Our first batch of Honeycrisp Apples this year!

Be sure to treat yourself soon and buy a Honeycrisp… or two… or three… or more.  I think you will be glad that you did!  😉

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Supremes de Volaille a Blanc

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
Julia Child

Before the French title of this post scares you away, please let me just say that this is a great chicken recipe, and it is quite simple to prepare.  In fact, it is fabulous.  Really.  Please keep reading!

As a brief introduction, I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the Spring of 2009, including Julia Child’s kitchen that was moved there from her home in Massachusetts.  (This is just one of many great displays there, including the Star Spangled Banner.  That is just a “must see,” too!)

Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, 2009
Julia Child quote at the Smithsonian

Truth be told, though, I was afraid of this woman and her cooking.  I was afraid to even attempt any of her recipes.  I’m not exactly sure why, except that my mother never cooked any of her recipes either.  But after seeing this marvelous display at the Smithsonian, reading more about Julia and her cooking, and feeling that I might be missing something by not attempting to cook some recipes by such a beloved national icon, I finally decided to buy her first cookbook.  I am so glad that I did.  My goodness, I wish I had done it a long time ago.

This is now my favorite chicken recipe, compliments of Julia Child… “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc,” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream.”  (Yes, cream!)  The recipe is found in her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and over this past year, the book has become a favorite of mine.  I selected the variation with mushrooms, the “Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons,” or “Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream,” and I also added a few tiny carrots as well, with those being just a personal preference.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I have prepared this recipe so often that my book pretty much opens to this page now on its’ own… page 268.  I no longer worry about splatters on the pages because it’s just too late for that.  I guess that is the sign of a good cookbook.

Julia Child’s “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream”

What stands out for me in this recipe is the ease of preparation, the perfect moistness and tenderness of the chicken, and the unbelievable flavor of the sauce.  It is just a little piece of “heaven on earth!”

This recipe is among easiest main dish recipes I have ever cooked from scratch.  It is a classic, and I have not cooked it one single time over the past year that my family and friends have not just raved over it.  I think this is also the first recipe that Julia prepared on her cooking show in 1963, but I’m having trouble confirming that right now.

The selection of chicken breasts is very important, so be sure to look for large, good quality boneless and skinless breasts for best results.  I tried this recipe one time with smaller chicken breasts, and it just wasn’t as good.  So, please don’t skimp on the chicken.  I actually buy Tyson brand in the freezer section at our local Sam’s Club because they are consistently the best quality of any I have found in our area.  I also prefer a beaujolais wine for the sauce when I have it on hand, but that’s just me.  Julia states to thoroughly dry the chicken before proceeding with the rest of the steps, and paper towels will suffice for that task.  In fact, I now follow this step when cooking any meat now because I like the end result much better.  I also use a large enameled cast iron dutch oven when cooking this particular recipe, since it transfers from stove top to oven in the same dish.  The cast iron pot also works well for the sauce preparation.

Here is the final product!  Yes, that is two cups of cream in that sauce.  (I doubled the recipe because there would be a battle over the leftovers if I didn’t.)  I swear it is even better the next day, but who can wait that long to eat this amazing dish!

Supremes de Volialle A Blanc, variation with mushrooms and carrots (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

One of the wonderful things about Mastering The Art of French Cooking is simply the way it is written.  A basic recipe is given and variations are then listed immediately afterward, without having to repeat the “core” recipe.  Such is the case with this recipe, too.  There are two more variations that I need to try, but so far, I keep coming back to this one.  I will try the others soon, though, especially the variation with paprika and onions.

I always serve Julia’s Braised Rice with this chicken dish, and that recipe can be found on page 532 of the cookbook.  In fact, I have not used my trusty rice cooker once since I discovered this extremely simple, one-skillet method of preparation.  The rice cooks in the same amount of time as the rice cooker, with only about five minutes of preparation before the cooking time, and it comes out perfectly for me every time in my large, non-stick skillet with a clear, tight-fitting lid.   The final product is a distinctly more flavorful rice with a more pleasing consistency.

The chicken recipe can be found in the cookbook, as well as by searching for it online, and I highly encourage you to add this cookbook to your collection, if you do not already have it. I think you will be glad you did.  I actually ordered my copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking from Amazon and got a great price with free shipping when I added another item that I wanted or for free with an Amazon Prime membership.

Please make this wonderful dish for dinner sometime soon. You will be a hero… or heroine… or just plain loved for your efforts!  😉

“Learn from your mistakes, be fearless and have fun!” Julia gives good advice, doesn’t she?

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Labor Day Weekend

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.”
–Marc Chagall

A little birthday celebration…

a little wine tasting…

a walk down the monthly art trail…

a memorable drive around town…

a good college football game…

a couple of longtime friends visiting from out of town

= a great holiday weekend.

Hope yours was grand, too!


Someone turned the big, bad 5-0.  Thankfully it wasn’t me. Been there, done that.

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Llano Estacado Winery… My heart sang when I tasted their Viviana… 😉

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The first stop on the First Friday Art Trail, the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center.

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Our favorite work of the evening… brilliantly beautiful!

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We ate cowboy peach cobbler and drank cowboy coffee…

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Dirk West’s original cartoon drawings brought back memories!  I miss his humor.

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The gallery area at McPherson Winery was packed with people and great displays!

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Many others were walking the art trail at sunset with us…

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Will Rogers and “Soapsuds,” all wrapped in traditional red for game day on Sunday!

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I just adore Fall.  But then again, it does start with “F.”  🙂  Have a fabulous Fall day today!

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

Oh my, where do I start on the topic of  “Food?”   Well, perhaps a bit of honesty will suffice.

My mother set the bar very high in the cooking category. Her holiday meals are legendary in our family, and we are all quite sad that at age 89, she no longer opts to spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing her famous meals. Oh sure, she will come to one of our houses and cook up a batch of fudge or two, but she now opts to let us attempt to carry on the tradition. To date, we have not even come close. But, we do try.

Until the last few years, I can honestly say that cooking was often a chore for me. Most of my first two decades of marriage were consumed with holding down jobs in my profession, raising kids, running the “mama taxi” and doing housework. More often than not, I worked more than eight hours per day at my jobs, especially my first job right out of college. My husband frequently traveled during the week on business and was unavailable to help. By the time I picked up kids from daycare, I was tired and hungry, kids were tired and hungry, and all I wanted to do was get us something to eat and enjoy some family time before hitting the evening “to do” list.

Needless to say, cooking was not on my radar as often as I would have liked, except for preparing some traditional holiday dishes for our family gatherings and some weekend meals at home.  I did, however, take advantage of my crock pot, and often used it at least once a week.  My husband sometimes volunteered to cook on a weekend, which was so nice for all of us.  Experimenting with new recipes was fun, especially ones that I had sampled from friends or fellow church members. (Oh my, covered dish meals at church… what a fond memory! How I miss them now.) I never disliked cooking. I just didn’t have much time to cook.

Fast forward to the beginning of my “empty nest” period that began a few years ago. Combine that with my mother selling her house and moving to a place that will do all of her cooking for her, and the result was a desire in me to cook more and try to fill the void of my mother’s home cooking. I appreciate great food in restaurants, but there is just something about the satisfaction and flavor of a good home cooked meal that just warms the heart.

One of my first cooking tasks was to gather and preserve our most treasured family recipes. I will talk more about that project later because it is one of the most satisfying things I have ever worked on. I will even share a picture or two of the finished product. All I can say is that I am so glad that I completed the recipe collection while my mother was still around to help clarify some of her handwritten recipes. If you are considering such a project, take that bit of advice to heart and don’t delay another minute.  Treasured family recipes should never be lost.

Food posts here will not be solely devoted to home cooking. We have dined at some wonderful restaurants, and many have been quite affordable. Others have been more memorable events that I will always treasure… in some fabulous places. Who could overlook those special times in any decent food discussion?

Shredded chicken tostadas at La Margarita, our favorite San Antonio restaurant

Stayed tuned and bring your appetite. More to come… especially calories.


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