Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Apple A Day...

We're overrun with apples here. Don't get me wrong, I love apple harvest time. But let's just say I can get pretty creative when faced with a couple of bushels of apples.

One of our favorites? Frosted apple cookies. The recipe makes a lot of cookies, but they freeze really well. Plus, while they're baking the house smells heavenly!

Guess what we're doing this afternoon?

Hmm... I wonder...

Do you think a gallon is enough milk? Maybe I should make a milk run before I begin baking...

Frosted Apple Cookies

2 sticks butter
2 3/4 brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cloves
2 t. cinnamon
½ cup apple juice
4 cups flour
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
½ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 T. butter

In a large bowl cream full sticks of butter, brown sugar and eggs. When mixture is fluffy, add baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ½ cup apple juice. Mix until well blended. Add flour in small increments, mixing well to thoroughly combine. When batter is smooth and all ingredients are mixed in, add the apples, raisins and nuts and mix to combine.

Grease a cookie sheet. Drop batter by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet and place in a pre-heated 375-degree oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly browned.

In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar, remaining apple juice, remaining salt, vanilla and remaining butter. Beat until well-mixed and smooth. Use frosting to ice warm cookies.

Makes 4 dozen large cookies.

Friday, October 23, 2009


She ignores the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

It does no good. He's found her.


"Hmm?" Her fingers fly as she tries to block out the familiar voice.

"I know you're writing but I wondered if you'd like to... Are you listening to me?"

"Mmm hmm..."

One paragraph left. That's all.

"I know that sound." Now he's right behind her, leaning over her shoulder. She doesn't need to see his face to know he is reading the words as they appear on the laptop screen. He's not wearing his reading glasses. She can feel his squint. "It's the sound of--hey, is this the new book?"

"Uh huh."

Down to the last sentence. It has to be perfect, to complete the chapter and draw the reader back again. The words are in her head. Getting them to her fingers; now that's the rub.

"Interesting. Is that--hey, is that what I think it is? Is she really going to--"

She presses save. Done for the day.

Flashing a satisfied grin, she turns to face him. "You betcha. Now, what did you come to ask? Did I want to...?"

He looks from the computer, its screen now dark, to her. Confusion is stamped so clearly on his handsome face she has to stifle a giggle.

"Well?" She pokes his shoulder with an fingertip. "What was it that brought you up here? Did I want to what?"

His fingers plow through his curly black hair. He shrugs. "I forgot. But...what happens next? In the book, I mean?"

She stands, takes his hand and heads for the stairs.

"I'll tell you tomorrow. Maybe. And only if you tell me you came to ask if I wanted a slice--a big slice--of that apple pie I smell baking."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Small Things

You just never know what you'll find when you take a post-freeze ramble on the farm.
I took a stroll yesterday afternoon, just hoping to clear my head. It worked (the head-clearing, I mean) and the added bonus was these wild daisies.
I picked some to put in a vase for our kitchen table but I left the majority of them right there. I figured they were tenacious enough to survive the cold, they deserved to be left alone.
Don't you just love small, unexpected pleasures?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Light the Night

It's fall, one of my favorite times of year. Leaves crunch beneath our toes. Chilly breezes kiss our cheeks. The night sky seems so bright and clear. Life is good.

Across the country people are taking full advantage of the brisk fall weather to come together in love, hope and with a common bond and purpose. They are walking to Light the Night.

What is Light the Night? It's an event designed to bring help and hope to people battling blood cancers. Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are monsters, and those who fight them need all the support we can muster. Information on these cancers can be found at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Won't you consider taking part in your local walk? The event will inspire and enrich. And I promise, you'll feel so much better for having helped out.

Wouldn't it be great if we could wipe out blood cancers? Who knows? With enough funding for research we may just be able to do step at a time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Confession

Looking for something juicy, aren't you? Yeah, I know. You're poking in, hoping to find something out of "True Confessions", something that'll make you shake your head and grin all day long. A tidbit to liven up an otherwise-ordinary Monday, right?

Sorry to disappoint. Nothing salacious here at Casa Leone. All perfectly normal...well, as far as "normal" goes here!

But I do have a confession to make. It's got to do with the upcoming Period of Writing Madness, also known as National Novel Writing Month. I've signed on to do the November challenge. It's the fifth time I'll do it, and I'm kind of looking forward to it, in a hands-over-eyes, dropping-rollercoaster kind of way.

Yeah, my stomach has butterflies the size of zebras in it. And the zebras? They're carrying signs in their mouths. I won't tell you what those signs say exactly, but they all question my sanity.

The confession? I'm beginning to question it, too. Whatever possessed me to think I could write 50,000 new words in November? With all that's going on here, it's going to be sheer madness to even attempt this thing.

I must be out of my mind!

Huh. Somehow I don't believe you're shocked by mind out-of-mind confession, are you?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Friday

Got a Nor'easter threatening? Annoyed by the way winter seems to be pushing fall to the wayside? Overwhelmed by a to-do list that must become an all-done list before Sunday morning? Hmm?

In a situation like this, I've only got one suggestion. I'm going to share it with you, just in case any of the above apply to you or to someone you, ahem, know.

The suggestion?

Soup. That's right, soup.

Soup always seems to calm frayed nerves. While it's simmering, one could tackle the neverending list. Or, if one were so inclined, simmering soup time also could be spent glowering at the blackening sky. Your choice. Either way, soup's on and no one's going to refuse a bowl of hot soup on a miserably cold afernoon.

And the silver lining? There's ususally enough leftover to freeze for another day. See? All good.

Here's the soup that'll be simmering in our house this afternoon while I tick things off my to-do list...or maybe glower at the sky. I haven't decided which one it'll be yet.

Black Bean Soup

2 12-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika

Melt butter in stockpot. Saute onions and bell pepper. Pour water into the pot, then add beans and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 - 45 minutes. May be served as a soup or over white rice.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

He Said It, He Really Said It...

I knew the day had to come. There was no help for it, really. No amount of denial, refusal or wishing could forestall the inevitable. Believe me, I tried all three.

No, this morning when I crept downstairs in the darkness to add a couple of pieces of firewood to the stove, I made my first mistake of the day. You see, the family room was so warm and cozyI had to linger just a bit. So--and don’t tell anyone I did this, hear?--I sat on the coffee table, picked up the remote and flicked the television on. You know what station I chose, don’t you? That’s right. The weather channel.

He said it. With all the bubbly enthusiasm we’ve come to know and love, Al Roker said the s word. That’s right, he said snow.

Can you believe it?


In October.

Up to a foot of it.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Mango a Day...

Blustery fall weather makes me want to bake.

I love to bake any time of year, but these first chilly days really draw me to the kitchen. Today's adventure includes one of my very favorite simple recipes.

And lest you think I'm running out to the grocery store for anything, let me clear things up. The mango? It's from the freezer. During the summer mango glut I sliced and froze a bunch, so all I've got to do is thaw out one small package for the recipe.

I hope you have a great day. Me? I'm going to be up to my elbows in flour--and loving every minute of it!

Mango Bread

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped ripe mango
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and oil until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl in small amounts, mixing well after each addition to incorporate flour mixture. Add mangoes and lemon juice.

Pour batter into two lightly-greased loaf pans and place in preheated, 350-degree oven. Loaves bake in 40-45 minutes. Cool on racks before serving.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lunacy...Sheer Lunacy

Good Monday morning! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. Here at Casa Leone, we took full advantage of the gorgeous weather. We strolled through the meadow, flew a kite on the hill and roasted marshmallows. All low-key, relaxing and good.

Oh! Before I forget, Dru asked what kind of funny movies we watched Friday night. There were two: "Young Frankenstein" and "While You Were Sleeping". Both old favorites, and they went well with our pizza and cookies.

So, life sounds fairly normal here, doesn't it? I'll bet you're wondering what the lunacy title is about, aren't you? Well, it's like this...

November is just a few weeks away. And if it's November, it's got to be National Novel Writing Month.

If you have an inkling about what's going on in our lives right now, you'll know that the last thing I need is to participate in NaNo this year. But I've successfully completed the November challenge for the last four years. It would be a shame not to at least give it a go this year, don't you think?

Lunacy. It's madness, I tell you.

But I'm going to do it. What's the worst that can happen, NaNo-wise? I don't make the 50,000 words?


It's hard to scare me at this point, so I'm going for it. Who knows? Maybe the diversion will be good for us, and watching the nutty November novel grow might be just exactly what we need right now. We'll see...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday Night?

Friday night? What did I do on Friday night?

Oh, things were jumping around here. We had a real loud party, followed by some dancing in the streets, and then we bungee jumped off the... What? Oh, really? You don't believe we're wild, raucous types?

Hmm... So you know us well, don't you?

Last night we baked cookies. Really. It was pouring rain. We had a fire roaring, homemade pizza in the oven and a stack of comedy DVDs. The only thing missing? You guessed it. Cookies! So, being the wild woman I am, I pulled a batch of chocolate sugar cookies together in no time flat. Thought you might sometime, on a Friday night even, need the recipe so here it is. I hope you enjoy them.

Hmm? Leftovers? HA! We're wilder than you thought, aren't we? There are no leftovers!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the butter, then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together.

Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly. Bake for ten minutes. Then, stand back. These won't last long!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Walking Away the Cobwebs

I've been doing some serious mulling lately. Really. Just one of those times where I've got a lot on my mind. We've all had those times, haven't we?

Anyhow, when the sun came out yesterday, I took my mulling outdoors. Sometimes it's easier to think with the breeze blowing and birds chirping, don't you think?

So I took a small handful (okay, it wasn't such a small handful) of cookies and went for a short walk.

The cookies, walk and breeze cleared my mind--for now at least.

And look at what I found! A huge tree stump, one with a hollow in it. All sorts of interesting stuff on the top of the stump. Think there are any cookie-making elves living inside it?

Yoo hoo...Elves...Send out your cookies!...Yoo hoo...

Have a nice day!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Maple Magic

Magic inside a maple leaf.
It doesn't get much better, does it?
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


My dad went back home last week after a lovely visit. We miss him terribly, but thanks to his marvelous sense of proper travel packing, yesterday we had a yummy reminder of his visit.

You see, when Dad got off the plane his carry-on bag felt like it contained six or seven bricks. He had something much better than bricks in his bag. He had vegetables! Yucca, malanga and a few others. And--drum roll, please!--he had about a dozen of the most beautiful plantains I've seen in a long time.

Last night we had the last of the plantains. A fabulous meal, and one I wanted to share with you. Hubby had grilled chicken with his soup, but I was content with soup and a chunk of warm bread.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Thanks, Dad!

Sopa de Platano (Plantain Soup)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 carrot
3 cloves garlic
3 plantains
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Chop the onion, carrot and garlic. Set aside. Peel plantains and cut into small chunks.

Heat oil in heavy stockpot. Saute onion, carrot and garlic until tender.

Add stock and bring to a boil. When soup is boiling, add plantains and bay leaf. Lightly salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 60 minutes, or until plantains are very soft.

Remove bay leaf. Puree soup and return to heat. Serve warm, garnished with chopped cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Loud and Clear

I asked for something Saturday morning.

This was my answer. Isn't it fabulous?

Hope you had a great weekend!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Three Kids and a Kite

Oh, I know the title says three "kids" and a kite but I've got to come clean.

The truth is...

It was three adults and a kite.

And a blustery day.

At the top of a hill.

Get it?

Oh, how I wish you could've heard us laugh! Especially when we dropped the kite string...

and had to tumble down the hill,

across the meadow,

through the brushy, brambly berry patch...

giggling like children.

Luckily, the string got caught on a branch!



three kids and a kite kind of fits, doesn't it?

When was the last time you had so much fun doing something so silly? Hmm?

Well? What are you waiting for?

Find the breeze! Get your kite a tail!

But remember...

Hold onto the kite string!

Friday, October 02, 2009

If Wheels Could Talk

This morning when I pulled into a parking spot, I saw this car parked right beside ours. I've got to admit, I was completely bowled over by the vintage auto. I sat and stared for as long as I dared. I had an appointment so I cut my pondering short but I did have fun imagining the stories this car might tell...