Monday, November 30, 2009


We headed up to Mammoth... again... for Thanksgiving.

The drive home

Thanksgiving morning Greg took Chris duck hunting at Crowley...

Borrowed gear, borrowed gun, borrowed dog, and borrowed duck

McGee Creek

Successful hunt


There was working at Chris' dad's house...

Mac helping with the raking

There was a snowstorm, and playing in the snow...

Ayla zooming around; Mac being to dignified to zoom for the camera

And there was the long drive home...

My favorite little valley, north of Bridgeport

Icy trees after Coleville

And there were sleepy dogs after a busy long weekend...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Whatever you think might be a novel idea... isn't. I suddenly thought up "apple pumpkin muffins" the other day, but a quick Google search let me know that I'm far from the first person to put together apples and pumpkin puree in a muffin batter. Ah, well...

I went with this recipe over at All Recipes. With a 5-star rating and 150 reviews, how could I go wrong? I made a few changes, which are reflected in my recipe below: less sugar, more pumpkin, no liners. These muffins are very moist flavorful. Next time I think I'd cut back the sugar to 3/4 cup, and use Granny Smith apples, which are more tart. I took half of the batch in to work and my coworkers were searching me down to let me know how much they enjoyed these.

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
15 oz. (1 can) pumpkin puree
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 c. chopped peeled apples

Streusel Topping
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tsp. cold butter or margarine

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased muffin cups mostly to the top. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

I made a dozen muffins and 8 or 10 mini muffins. If you make mini muffins be sure to take them out of the oven earlier, around 15-20 minutes should do it. You can check the muffins with a cake tester, toothpick, or, in my case, metal skewer. You should only have a tiny bit of muffin sticking to your tester after you insert it in the middle of a muffin.

By the way, these make the house smell delicious...

* * * * *

The animals have all been very snuggly lately, probably due to the colder weather and the fact that we keep windows at least cracked open in our home most of the time since we like fresh air. All week the dogs have been hanging out on the couch with us of an evening, and the cat has taken to sleeping on top of Ayla.


Kitty no like flash photography!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and curl up with the one you love!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ooh, gourmet!

That's exactly what Chris said as I set a plate of this risotto and some baked chicken in front of him for dinner tonight. And it was quite good, too. Risotto can seem intimidating, what with all the stirring, but its definitely worth making. And there's something peaceful and zen about adding the stock, stirring, and watching it bubble away. The end result is creamy and warm and comforting.

Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic

1 small butternut squash
6 garlic cloves (less if you prefer)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

4-6 cups vegetable stock
4 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine (or water)
Parmesan cheese

Roast the squash:
Peel the squash, cut the neck off, and cut each half in halves. Scoop the seeds out of the bottom halves. Chop into 1" cubes. Roughly chop garlic. Put squash and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet (trust me, it really aids in clean-up later) and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Roast in a 375° oven, tossing occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until golden and roast-y.

Make the risotto:
Heat the veggie stock in a sauce pan over low. In a deep skillet melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. When melted, add the Arborio rice and stir. Let the rice toast in the butter until glossy, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine/water and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let the liquid bubble away.

Once the liquid is mostly gone start adding the warm veggie stock. Using a ladle, add about a half cup at a time and stir. Continue to stir every minute or so, and once the liquid is mostly gone, add another ladle-full. Continue in the manner. Start tasting after 20 minutes - like pasta, the rice should be soft on the outside with a slight bite in the center.

Once the rice is done add in the roasted squash and garlic, as well as the other 2 tbsp. butter. Top with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

* * * * *

I played a gig last night with the Hornet band, for a rather large crowd at a dinner event. Many people danced, which delights me to no end. One old woman wearing a forest green velour pants set had also penciled her eyebrows on in a matching green. Another old woman with a walker did slow, yet charming, spins around the floor, with a flourish at the end and obvious enjoyment. The youth group facilitating the dinner loudly danced to our big band music and drew in attendees to dance with them. It was wonderful fun.

After, a few band mates and I went for coffee and apple pie at a fast food place. The only other patron by that time of night was a truck driver, who chatted in line with us a bit. As we were fixing our coffee side by side the following conversation ensued:

Him: I've been working 29 years, 6 months, and 29 days.
Me: Not that you're counting or anything.
Him: I recently saw my hiring sheet. My date of hire was April 22, 19xx.
Me: Really? That happens to be the same day I was born.
Him: Well then, you are now 29 years, 6 months, and 29 days old.
Me: So I am.

We shared a laugh, and then went out separate ways. What an amusing and coincidental interaction with a complete stranger.

* * * * *

Here are the faces of today's successful trip to the dog park...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fried Dill Pickles

So, another Mammoth trip... unfortunately Tioga Pass closed the night before we drove up, so what had been a 4.5 hour trip is now 6 or so since we have to drive up to South Lake Tahoe and then down. That 1.5 hours really makes a difference too.

Its very, very cold in Mammoth now. So cold, in fact, that Ayla voluntarily cuddled up with Mac:

He totally snuggles with her in the car, and since she can't get away she puts up with it. Mac and I were sitting on the couch when Ayla climbed up and all but laid on Mac, the little personal heater. They stayed like this for about an hour, until someone came to the door and they had to jump up to greet/scare them away.

We were quite busy this trip, and ended up going out to eat most of the time:

- Mediterranean pizza from Nik-n-Willies... really good and spicy.
- Veggie wrap at Good Life Cafe... pretty good, a little dry.
- Veggie burrito at Amigo's in Bishop... had beef in it; they didn't charge for my dinner, but I lost
my appetite.
- Veggie pizza at Pizza Factory in Bishop... meh.
- Veggie burger at Angel's in Mammoth... decent

But Oh. My. God. Angel's fried dill pickles were sooo good! Chris is not a pickle fan, and even he liked them. I need to recreate these at home with some sliced pickles, for easier ranch-sauce dipping. I had some regular pickles today and they just weren't the same. If you have the chance, and even remotely like pickles, you must try them!

So the plan is to be back up for Thanksgiving. Its a lot of driving, but worth it to see my two favorite Willers together!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harvest Cookies


Not much to say about how these came about, other than I was craving cookies that were just a little different. These are soft and chewy, with tart dried berries and sweet chocolate chips. And oats make them breakfast-worthy!

Harvest Cookies

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 banana, mashed
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. backing powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dried berries*
1 cup chocolate chips **

Place racks in the upper third of the over and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add egg and mashed banana, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Add oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix with a spoon. Add berries and chocolate chips and mix again.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons 1-1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake for 10-13 minute, turning/switching sheets half way through, until golden brown. Cookies will be soft. Let stand on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

* I used Welch's Dried Berry Medley with cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and golden raisins.
** I used Nestle Mini Morsels so there would be little bits of chocolate throughout rather than big chocolate chips.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Autumn Mums

I didn't learn my lesson - I took both dogs for a walk again over the weekend, and I'm now declaring Mac officially a Bulldog. He just can't hang!

We went up on a hill and I let them run off-leash. Ayla had a fantastic time chasing ground squirrels and bunnies (which she resembles when she's running, by the way). Mac did his best to keep up and barreled through the bushes after her. Then we rested here for a while on the way down the hill.

And about ten yards further, Mac found another shady spot.

And then he found some pleasantly damp grass to chill on.

He looks seriously dead in that photo. When we finally got back on the road he made us wait at a stoplight for FIVE traffic cycles before he'd get up and cross. People pointed and laughed when they realized what was happening. He got up twice, only to lie down again just before the crosswalk signal came on. Eventually, I gave up and sat on the curb with him. And once we were across he tried to lay down in more grass, but I was able to keep him going all the way home.

I think Mac won't be accompanying Ayla and I on many walks in the future. He really, really wants to, and pouts at home when I don't take him. But its just too much for the little guy!