Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PAWPRINTS IN THE SNOW


I’m drifting away from travel talk today to tell you about my new children’s animal poetry book, Pawprints in the Snow. Written for kids ages 3-9, this Christian-based book combines rhyme with reason and faith with science, with poems and colorful wildlife photos on every page. 

At the end of each poem, kids will find researched fun facts about the featured animal. For example, polar bears have hollow hairs, to help keep them afloat while swimming. And a moose has long legs so it can wade through rivers and deep snow. Speaking of snow…did you know it won’t melt on a wolf’s fur? Kids will have fun learning how God keeps these animals and many others warm in winter or cold climates. 

Available athttps://www.amazon.com/Pawprints-Snow-Poems-Protects-Animals/dp/1542836336/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488994039&sr=1-1&keywords=pawprints+in+the+snow

Here are a couple of sample poems and photos:




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AMAZING IDAHO

Nature on Steroids


If you’re looking for an amazing, nature-filled vacation with dramatic scenery, incredible photo opportunities, and every outdoor activity you can conjure…think IDAHO. I know…everyone hears that name and thinks “potatoes.” But Idaho is sooo much more. With the majestic Rocky Mountains running through it from north to south, and a plethora of waterfalls, hot springs, forests, lakes and rivers, this state is like nature on steroids. It even has Hell’s Canyon, divided by the Snake River, which is the deepest gorge in the U.S. Along the Snake you’ll find Shoshone Falls (near Twin Falls, ID – southeast section of the state), which is higher than Niagara Falls. Head east a little ways to see Mesa Falls in Ashton, also a breathtaking sight.

Otherworldly

Possibly one of the most fascinating areas is Craters of the Moon National Monument – a sea of lava flows, dotted with cinder cones and sagebrush. You’ll definitely feel like you’ve left the planet. Idaho is definitely one of our country’s hidden treasures, so next time you’re planning a getaway, consider the potato state. 

And speaking of potatoes…here’s one of my family’s favorite cookie recipes:

POTATO CHIP COOKIES

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups crushed potato chips
Optional: 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla or almond extract. Gradually add flour to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in potato chips and nuts (if using). Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. If you want to make them pretty, add colored sugar or sprinkles and gently press on top. Bake 10-12 min. or until lightly browned. Cool 2 min. before removing from pans to wire racks. When cool, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ENGLISH TOFFEE


 
Normally I talk about places to visit before posting a recipe, but today I’m going straight to the English Toffee – a favorite of my fam and friends. Hope you enjoy it, too! (Makes a great hostess gift.)

ENGLISH TOFFEE

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
Semi-sweet or milk chocolate (Hershey bars, chocolate chips, etc.)
Chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)

  1. Set out cookie sheet with a piece of foil or parchment paper on top. Have chocolate open and ready to lay on top of toffee.

  1. Place butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in non-stick pot over medium-high heat and set timer to 10 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. The mixture will eventually turn from yellow to gold to almond and will bubble.

  1.  After 10 minutes, pour mixture onto cookie sheet, moving the pot back and forth so it doesn’t pour out in one big glob. Using a spatula or back of a spoon, press gently to make it spread. (It doesn’t have to spread to the edges.) You’ll only have about a minute before it’s no longer spreadable.

  1. Immediately lay chocolate on top – enough to cover toffee about 1/8 inch. Give it a moment to melt, then spread. Optional – sprinkle with chopped nuts. Note: I use a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate. Let cool on counter for 10 minutes, then finish cooling in refrigerator.

  1. Break into pieces and serve.









Friday, October 14, 2016

GREEK LEMON YOGURT CAKE



I'm highlighting Greece this week because I'll be giving a presentation on Athens and some of the Greek islands this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Arlington Heights Public Library. If you're interested in Athens, scroll down to my previous post. If you're just interested in making a moist, delicious, lemony Greek cake, here you go! 

Greek Lemon Yogurt Cake

3 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 10-inch tube pan. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set mixture aside.
Separate the eggs. In a large bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until stiff glossy peaks form. Set aside. 
Cream butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice together until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with the yogurt to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. Drizzle with lemon glaze. Serves 12.

Lemon Glaze

3/4 cup powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon

Blend well and drizzle over cake. 
 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

ATHENS




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I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't love Athens, with it's ancient history more captivating than anything Hollywood could conceive, food so rich in flavor you don't want the meal to end, people who welcome you with warm smiles, mind blowing art and architecture, and views of the Aegean Sea that wash your soul in peace. And one more thing...baklava so sweet and delicious, it will nearly make you cry. (In fact, I think I did.)

Of course, if you find yourself in Athens, you can’t miss a trip up to the Acropolis. The view overlooking the city is breathtaking, but more importantly, this is where you’ll find the famous Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, the city’s patron goddess. It's considered one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments, with sculptures and carvings considered among the high points of Greek art.

From atop the Acropolis, you can see the remains of the ancient Greek stadium – birthplace of the Olympics. It was here that athletes competed NAKED; their toned and muscled bodies considered as much a part of the experience as the athletic events. Maybe something for the International Olympic Committee to consider?

If you love shopping, check out the downtown Plaka District. Tourist shops and street merchants sell everything from colorful scarves to lace tablecloths to devices that hollow out a zucchini. Restaurants, cafes and tavernas abound. It’s truly an adventure, and you’ll want to set aside at least a few hours. But don’t try driving there. Trust me, don’t do it. Take a taxi, because you do not want to deal with the crazy, crowded, really scary traffic.
 
Of course, there’s soooo much more to Athens, so go and discover it for yourself. And if you can, take a ferry to one of the islands..or all of them. Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete and all the rest. Each has it’s own beauty, unique culture, fascinating history and incredible bakeries. (Pretty sure I sampled the baklava in every one of them!)

Monday, August 15, 2016

MELEKOUNI - Greek Candy Recipe


Sweet, crunchy MELEKOUNI is a wonderful Greek candy, popular on the island of Rhodes. (See Rhodes blog post below.) It is often served at Greek weddings, as a symbol of a sweet life with lots of kids. All you need is two ingredients – how easy is that?

MELEKOUNI

1 1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup thick honey

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the seeds into a shallow roasting pan, spreading them flat. Roast for approximately 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Boil the honey in a sauce pan over moderate heat. When it foams, remove it from the heat and add the roasted seeds. Cook for two or three minutes, stirring constantly. Place parchment paper on a large cookie sheet and pour the sesame/honey mixture onto it, patting down with a damp spatula to make the surface flat and even. Wet the edge of a sharp knife and cut into bars or diamond shapes, leaving them in place until cool. At this point, you can add a blanched almond to the middle of each bar (optional). Remove bars (you may have to cut through the knife marks again), peel off parchment, and store in a cool, dry place. These make a nice gift, too, especially if you wrap them in colored cellophane.

Monday, August 8, 2016

RHODES: LAND OF CASTLES, KNIGHTS & BEACHES




If you want the breathtaking beauty of a Greek Island combined with a medieval fantasy, Rhodes is the place. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also known as the Kastello, was built by the Knights of St. John during the crusades (about 600 years ago). You can walk through the streets of this magnificent example of Gothic architecture, and dine and shop in the surrounding area.

This gorgeous island is said to be the birthplace of Helios, the sun god. Back in 305 BC the people of Rhodes built a giant bronze statue of Helios at the entrance of the harbor. Known as the Colossus of Rhodes, it stood 88 feet tall, but was eventually destroyed by an earthquake. 

So...what to do on Rhodes? Shop and dine around the castle - you'll find beautiful jewelry with the ancient Greek sun (the Sun of Vergina), as well as high quality leather goods. Take a tour of a ceraminc workshop if you can - Rhodes is famous for it's ceramics artisans. Buy some olive oil, too. Each island claims to produce the best!
 
When you're hungry or thirsty, try the wines, for which the island is famous, or the chick pea fritters called pittaroudia. Parrotfish is another island specialty. And when you're in the mood for something sweet, pick up some melekouni, a sesame-honey brittle.

Of course, like many of the Greek islands, Rhodes has golden sand beaches that will wrap you in sunshine, warmth, and the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. So go, if you can, for an amazing journey that will overflow your senses and leave you with beautiful memories.