Green Lentils Three Ways!

Lentil burger

Hey, all! Hope you are surviving this snowy, cold snap that is hitting across so much of the country. We got about 14 inches of snow at the beginning of the week, and last night’s low was -6 degrees. We are in northeast Ohio, so this is not that unusual for us. I watch the weather on television and see many of you in other parts of the country are getting slammed with similar weather that is not the norm for your areas. Take care out there!

Today, it’s time for another recipe and cooking post. This one features green lentils. I never used to be a fan of lentils. Since I discovered various types of lentils besides the standard brown ones, and I am learning better ways to cook them, I have a new appreciation. So, here is a recipe I invented to incorporate some healthy lentils into our diets.

Chopped garlic, onion, and red pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 of a red pepper
  • handful of baby carrots, finely diced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (any flavor, fire roasted is especially good)
  • 2 cups any flavor of broth (or water with a bouillon cube)
  • 1 cup green lentils

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a 12 inch skillet. Add garlic, onion, red pepper, and carrots.
  2. Sauté all until tender. Covering with a lid helps keep the veggies from burning before they are ready. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove lid when veggies are tender. Add black pepper, garlic and onion powders, basil, and thyme. Sauté 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Add broth, or water and bouillon, and bring to boil while stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the lentils and canned tomatoes. Simmer, covered until lentils are tender. Approximately 30 minutes. You may need to add more liquid as the lentils cook. Water is fine for this.
  6. Voila! Dinner is served.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve on rice. Basmati is a good choice, but any rice will work.
  • Melt cheese on top for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  • Stir in a little barbeque sauce or soy sauce for added flavor.

This made more than I anticipated, so after having it for a couple meals, I made the rest into veggie patties.

To do this:

  • Put leftover lentil mixture into a food processor or chopper and run until smooth. Pulse at first and then run for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Add an egg, a bit of Parmesan cheese, and about 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs. Process long enough to mix.
  • Form mixture into patties and fry in enough oil to coat pan.
  • You can melt the cheese of your choice on top.
  • Serve.

And after this, I still had a large lentil patty left, so I crumbled it up and used it as a topping for homemade pizza!

This recipe made a few meals for two people. And it lived on as incarnations in more meal ideas as well. The recipe was frugal and tasty. I’d count it as a winner. Let me know what you think. Don’t forget to follow my blog. I intend to include at least one recipe per month as part of my country living lifestyle page.

Quarry Trail Hike: Thoughts Along the Trail

Quarry at West Branch State Park

We did a new hike yesterday! We went on the Quarry Trail at West Branch State Park (Ohio). We tried to go on this hike once before but ended up on some other trail and never saw the quarry. I hesitate to say we got lost because in my book, not knowing exactly where you are and being lost are too different things. If you can find the car, you are not really lost. And sometimes, not ending up where you expected to be can turn into a really fun time.

Rock wall that crosses the Quarry Trail.

But yesterday we saw the quarry. It was not nearly as big or impressive as I anticipated, but it was still a great hike. The whole area is scattered with beautiful stones and even at this time of year many of them are covered with velvety green moss. There is a wonderful old stone fence that cuts through the middle of this trail. It was so well made that it is still very sturdy. A couple rocks were moved where the trail crosses so you can pass through. This is also a mountain bike trail so be warned. The footing is challenging in places from the rock surfaces. I recommend a stiff-soled hiking boot. If you wear tennis shoes, your feet will not thank you.

Rock outcropping on the back half of the trail.

In addition to all the smaller rocks, there are also some massive rocks still visible in the hillside. The coppery green color you see above is due to moss and lichens that grow in the area. This photo was taken from the trail below the rock. Later in the hike we crossed at the top of the rock and got the view from that side too. The trail does crisscross back and forth because it is intended for mountain bikes too. That also explains why so many rocks are actually in the trail. This is apparently desirable to mountain bikers. They like to ride over things.

Hubby with Cassius and Baxter ahead on the trail.

My husband usually takes the lead with our largest two dogs, Cassius and Baxter. I follow with the other three dogs, Shelby, Zekie, and Claire. Not many trails are wide enough for us all to walk side by side. In fact, there are often times when I have Zekie and Claire in front of me and Shelby follows behind. We lost our 14 year old dog Nikki this past fall (Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute), so now all the dogs are with us when we hike. I miss being able to tell other hikers that we encounter along the way that we have one more dog at home.

We have fared better than much of the country with the winter weather we have had so far. Knock on wood! We have had very little snow and mild temperatures thus far. Nearly perfect for hiking. We actually take our break from hiking in the summer months when it is hot. The warm temperatures are too hard on the dog and me too. My husband is fine with heat, but I tend to whine and complain. I am not a hot weather type of girl.

Power alley for the gas pipeline that crosses the trails.

The view above is not part of the Quarry Trail. It is a path that the utility company maintains, and it happens to cut through the park trail on several loops. We have used this on both our trips to the Quarry Trail, however. It is a direct route back to the parking lot if you become disoriented or are tired. This is the view taken from the top. It is a long, steep climb, but you know exactly where you will come out when you take this path.

I know that we will soon be on this trail again. It was fun to look at all the different rock formations. And my mind tends to wander when I am hiking. Each time that long, stacked rock wall crosses my path, or should I say I cross its path, I think of the farmers trying to make a living and grow food out on the Western Reserve of Ohio in earlier times. How long and how much time and sweat it must have taken to lay a wall so massive. Trying each rock to see which was the best fit. Putting one down and picking up another. They were true craftsman to assemble something that is still in place. Most of this area of the park was once farms. You often come across flowers that are not natural. You know they framed a homestead at some point in time. Occasionally, we come across old foundations from basements, or sometimes a circle of stones that was once the base of a silo. I find that many aspects of hiking these areas hold different types of magic for me. Sometimes, it is the beauty of nature. Other times, it is the history that lies buried if you care to look.

We were on this particular hike for 2.2 miles. It seemed more like four. Don’t get me wrong, I will gladly do it again soon. Just don’t underestimate the extra effort a rough trail can add.

The Famine of Togetherness

One of my nieces getting her groove on!

The Covid pandemic has changed me in ways I never thought possible. So far, I have remained healthy and disease-free. I have gone to great lengths to make sure this is the case. I am vaccinated, boosted, and hubby and I have spent a lot of time in isolation.

One of the biggest blessings of 2020 was being able to spend time with family again after the vaccines became available. I will never look at spending time with family in the same way. I always enjoyed it and looked forward to those times. Now, these gatherings bring me great joy. It is like a miracle every time one of my nieces’ crawls into my lap or we run around the house doing goofy activities. Hugging brothers, daughters, and other extended family is a treat. I feel like I am the survivor of a Great Depression. It was the Great Depression of solitude.

I know I am not the only person to feel this way. We watched a newsclip this morning showing people reuniting after being separated from loved ones for months and others for more than a year. The ones that reunited where one party was surprised are priceless. Watching so much joy literally brought goosebumps up on my arms.

Silly times with my other niece.

Early 2020 was the famine of togetherness, the drought of connectedness, the desert of social gatherings, but also taught us the importance of camaraderie and community.

Let us not soon forget this lesson. Time together is what makes our lives whole. Relationships with others help to fulfill us. Even encounters with strangers can be a precious thing. It is our chance to make a difference for someone else. Make it a good one. So, as we get back to a new normal, remember the great gift that the people in our lives are.

If we become annoyed or impatient with that person in front of us in the check-out line don’t take that for granted. We are in a store, in a check-out line, not reduced to using curbside pickup to avoid contact with others. (Although what a blessing curbside pickup was when we needed it. Thank you, workers!)

And we are all adjusting to a new normal. So, remember to be kind. Always.

Books I Read in December 2021

1. Once Upon a Wardrobe-Patti Callahan

Megs Devonshire’s gift lies with mathematics. And with bringing her dying brother’s love of Narnia and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to life. Megs loves her brother more than anything. In trying to fulfill her brother’s dreams she meets the two Mr. Lewis’, C.S. and his brother, and has life changing experiences. It is a magical story about the forms of love.

2. I Heart Cheese, a Cookbook-Mihaela Metaxa-Albu (Non-fiction)

Wonderful pictures and creative recipes. It got me to try some cheeses that I had heard of but hadn’t tried such as Halloumi.

3. The Book of Hope- Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams (Non-fiction)

All of Jane’s books strike a chord in me and this one is no exception. Jane is able to see all of us in herself while making us see a bit of Jane in ourselves. She is truly a master of communication and hope for this world.

4. West With Giraffes-Lynda Rutledge

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, reminisces about a journey he made across the country with two giraffes after the east coast hurricane of 1938. The plot premise sounded adventurous, but the story did not hold my interest. I stopped reading after 59 pages.

5. Sleigh Bells Ring-RaeAnne Thayne

Annie is watching her six year twin niece and nephew while their father serves a one month jail sentence. He is dealing with the death of his wife and unborn child. Annie is also the ranch manager for Angel’s View Ranch owned by the Sheridan clan. The clan comes to the ranch unannounced for a memorial for the patriarch of the family. Annie must handle accommodations for the entire clan plus take care of her niece and nephew and the volunteer projects she has committed to for Christmas. She must also deal with growing feelings for the grandson of the family. A nice holiday story.

6. The Speckled Beauty-Rick Bragg (Non-fiction)

Speck was a dog running at large and the author took him in. Speck is a farm dog in Alabama and quite a handful. The book gives a bit of a look into rural life in the south.

7. The Christmas Promise-Richard Paul Evans

Growing up, Michelle and Richelle are close, as only identical twins can be. They are identical in appearance but not personalities. As young adults a lone event comes between them forever. As years pass Richelle is alone and living her life as best she can, letting her career absorb time. Meeting and coming to love a stranger changes her life in ways she never expected.

Magazines-Good Housekeeping, Yankee, Country Living (2 issues), Writers Digest, Farmhouse Living, American Favorite Pumpkin Recipes, Best Friends (2 issues), Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Ideas, Country Living Christmas-UK edition, Oprah Magazine-the Gratitude Issue, the Cottage Journal Holiday Home, Southern Living Christmas at Home, Better Homes and Gardens Farmhouse Christmas

It is hard for me to pick one book to recommend as my favorite because this is such a varied list. I think I would have to go with Once Upon a Wardrobe. It is a little different from my usual read, but the story got in my mind and made me think. Happy reading!

Strawberry Trifle Recipe (Dessert for Kara)

Strawberry Trifle

This blog post is for my niece Kara. It is her very favorite dessert, except for possibly cassata cake. Come to think of it, the desserts have essentially the same ingredients. She always requests this dessert and even asked for us to make it together when she spent the day here. She can eat more trifle than should be able to fit into a 50 lb. body! Must run in the family. This recipe is an original concocted by me.

Ingredients:

1 boxed white cake mix, prepared

1 lb. fresh strawberries, save a large one for garnish

1 1/2 tubs Cool Whip, regular or light, thawed

2 boxes instant vanilla pudding, 1.85 oz. each (4 serving size)

3 cups milk

chocolate for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Make boxed cake mix as per package directions. Bake it in a 9″ x 13″ pan. Allow to cool. Cut the cake into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes.
  • Prepare the pudding. Empty both boxes of the pudding into mixer bowl. Add 3 cups of milk and mix. The pudding will be a little thicker than usual. Chill for a few minutes.
  • Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut them into bite size pieces.
  • The trifle should be assembled in a clear glass trifle bowl for visual effect. I use the plastic bowl from my salad spinner since my trifle bowl cracked. The bowl is clear so works fine. It is used in the pictures here.
  • Spread a thin layer of Cool Whip to cover the bottom of the bowl.
  • Place a layer of cake cubes over the Cool Whip spread in the bowl.
  • Add a layer of the strawberries.
  • Spoon a layer of pudding over the strawberries.
  • Add a layer of Cool Whip.
  • Repeat until all ingredients are used up, making sure your top layer is Cool Whip. I always do the layers in this order. This allows any strawberry juice to soak into the cake and the pudding to run in the strawberry crannies.
  • I take the large, reserved strawberry and make slices, leaving it attached to the hull. Push the attached sliced so they spiral and place in the middle of the top dessert layer for garnish. (See photo above.)
  • Optional: Take a fine grater and grate chocolate directly on to the top of the dessert. You can use a Hershey bar or other chocolate. I used a Malley’s chocolate Santa left over from Christmas on this one. Use good quality chocolate.
  • Refrigerate until serving. I would say this serves about 10-12 people. Unless one of them is a trifle-loving niece, then it serves about 4!

Feel free to make substitutions! You can use any flavor cake. I like strawberry as pictured below. I have also used chocolate or brownies. Use different fruits as well. It will work with raspberries, blueberries, or peaches. I would avoid bananas because they might turn brown. You can also use different flavors of pudding. Mix and match ingredients as per your taste.

Enjoy!

The Christmas Gift

Baby Zekie

I received an unexpected Christmas present this week. I was contacted a few days ago by the woman who owned Zekie before I did. And a day later I was contacted by the woman who owned him before that. Now I know what Zekie’s former life was like. And I was sent this picture of him as a puppy. How special is that? We always wondered what he looked like as a pup. He was just as cute as we thought he would be.

Some people say it doesn’t matter what happened to a dog in his earlier life. That dogs live in the moment, and you can deal with their current behavior and move on. I don’t agree with this. If you don’t know what happened to them before, you have no choice but to proceed this way. If you are fortunate enough to know their history, then you know why they do certain behaviors and can better deal with them. Especially in the case of highly intelligent dogs like Zekie. He understands the English language to a frightening degree.

Zekie’s former owner found him, and me, by reading my blog! She recognized pictures of him and put it together from some of the stories, I’m sure. I checked my phone one morning and had a message from her! She was so glad to know what had happened to him and that he was ok. She had been his third home. She had a change in living circumstances and had only a few days to find accommodations for her two dogs. She was able to find a friend to keep her other dog for a bit. I can imagine how challenging it would be to locate someone who would be able to deal with Zeke and his shenanigans even if only for a few days. She did the best she could and found a shelter to take him.

I learned that in Zekie’s first home, he was kept in a crate nearly all the time. I’m sure this accounts for his dislike of the crate and his chewing out of wire and plastic crates here. His second owner took him to get him out of this situation. She was a little older and soon discovered that Zekie was more than she was up to. He got jealous and growled when she gave her other dog attention. She cared about him enough to get him to his third owner, the one who had him before me. This owner was younger, and Zeke did well with her. She took him on lots of hikes and they had lots of fun times.

These last two owners were still in contact and that’s how I heard from the lady who got him out of the crated situation. Zekie has traveled quite a journey in his life that brought him to us. We have had him for four years now which is half his life. He is home to stay.

I am thankful to now know his back story. I am also thankful that he encountered people who cared about him enough to get him to where he is today. After talking to his last owner, I have no doubt that he was deeply loved. Maybe one day he will get to see her again for a visit.

And that is the gift I was blessed with this Christmas. To each of you, my readers, I wish blessings of your own this Christmas that extend throughout the coming year. Merry Christmas.

Zekie as he looks today.

Not a Boy Scout

Today’s hike route.

What an afternoon! We did our hike with the dogs as mapped above. Three miles. It seemed farther with the rugged terrain. Rocks, tree roots, mud, standing water, and slippery, wet leaves. Still, a fun outing. Until we got back to the car and I couldn’t find my keys. My husband had his so we went home to look for mine. No luck.

I was almost certain that I felt them in my coat pocket when I locked the back door. But that could have been yesterday I was remembering. I couldn’t be certain. Did I mention that I have had a small hole in that pocket for the past two months? It has never been a problem. A good Boy Scout probably knows that a small hole can become a larger hole. I was not a good Boy Scout. I wasn’t even a Girl Scout.

So, we put the dogs away in the house, and hubby and I went back to re-hike the trail and search for the missing keys. We found them in the middle of the trail about a mile into the woods. Once we found the keys, we took a shortcut and shaved about half a mile off the second hike, making for a total of 5 1/2 miles for the afternoon. Taking a shortcut brought us out to a muddy ditch to cross before getting back on the main trail. Of course it was steep and I fell down crossing the muddy ditch. At least mud is soft.

All’s well that ends well. We were very glad to have the keys back because electronic car keys are expensive. This is an opportunity to learn from my mistake. No hole is too small!

December Birthdays

Morty hanging out under the Christmas tree.

People with December birthdays feel like they belong to a different club. Some may get shortchanged because everybody is focused on Christmas. I even had one Aunt tell me that she couldn’t get me much for my birthday because it was almost Christmas and she had to buy me something for that too. I was nine. I understand the financial pinch, I really do. What would I have preferred? To be given whatever gift was affordable with happiness and sincere wishes for a happy birthday.

So, you can imagine that I wasn’t a big fan of having a December birthday as a child. Also, my mom always made me take candy canes to school to pass out to the class for my birthday treat. She said it was festive. I have nothing against candy canes. I just wanted to take cupcakes like all the other kids. On the bright side, I was always allowed to put up the Christmas tree on my birthday which made me exceedingly happy!

My little brother was born the day after my sixteenth birthday. My birthday is December 9th and his is the 10th. Thereafter, we always shared a birthday cake. For my eighteenth birthday we had a Cookie Monster cake. I was not delighted.

But then you grow up and things change. You can make your birthday into whatever you want it to be. These days I enjoy the fact that my brother and I have such close birthdays. In fact, now I refer to it as our birthday and I think it’s awesome. Having a celebration for two people seems almost like a holiday! And it ensures that I see my brother which is always a wonderful thing. It will be especially appreciated this year. Last year we met outdoors at a park and maintained social distance because of Covid. It was better than nothing. This year we are gathering at my brother’s place, and you better believe there will be hugging!

I also think it is pretty cool that so many people put up lights and decorations for our birthdays! You can see them all over town as you drive around. Just kidding. But it is a blessing to be able to see so many pretty displays as you are celebrating your birthday. Over the years I have grown to think that maybe the children of December have the best birthdays of all.

Jasper Is Growing!

Jasper

Jasper has been with us nearly three months now. And how he has grown! When he arrived, he weighed just three pounds and now he weighs 9 lbs. No wonder kitten chow is 40% protein. It takes a lot of nutrients to grow that fast. Apparently, how much they eat is related more to how much they grow rather than just what size they are. The first two weeks Jasper ate an entire bag of kitten chow each week. Now the same size bag lasts for two weeks. Thank goodness. That was a lot of kitten food. Although I noticed long ago that I spend more money on cat litter than on cat food.

Orange Kitty and Jasper

Jasper is still sweet and affectionate. He loves to snuggle. He especially likes to sleep on us when we are wearing bathrobes. Apparently, all that fuzziness is nap inducing. He is sleeping in my husband’s lap right now. We hope he maintains his nice disposition as he grows older. Jasper is scheduled for neutering next week. This is one way to keep a cat from growing into a more distant and aggressive tom cat. It also prevents unwanted kittens, as well as spraying and marking in the house. Spaying and neutering is the way to go for many reasons. Most cats (and dogs) that are spayed and neutered enjoy better health. They don’t develop infections or cancers of the reproductive organs. If your cat is an outdoor cat, he will also fight less with other cats which prevents battle wounds. Our cats all live indoors because we live on a road that has lots of traffic.

Jasper continues to amuse us with his antics. He plays all day (when he’s not sleeping) and can have more fun with a stray piece of stuffing from the dog bed or a wadded up piece of paper than you can imagine. We are very glad we kept him!

Books I Read in October 2021

Better late than never. I can’t believe it’s mid-November and I’m just getting around to sharing the books I read in October. Insulating and dry walling the upstairs of our workshop seems to be taking up all of our time. Between that and raking leaves, I haven’t even had time to dig up my gladioli bulbs yet. I did manage to dig up the dahlias. I don’t have as many of them.

Without further ado, here is my list of books from last month.

  1. 101 Best Businesses for Pet Lovers-Nigro and Nigro

This book covers some new ideas I hadn’t thought of, as well as the old standbys. Gives a bit of very general information on how to get started. It was fun to browse for new ideas.

2. The Darkest Evening-Ann Cleeves

British Policewoman Vera Stanhope is on another murder investigation. The case may involve her wealthy and estranged family. A young mother is murdered. Vera finds the mother’s young son stranded and alone in a car during a blizzard. I loved this book and will definitely read the others in this series. I was not familiar with the author, but apparently these books are the basis for the television series Vera. I will also be searching out the show to stream and see how I like it. I have high hopes after reading this book.

3. The Hill We Climb-Amanda Gorman

This is the inaugural poem read on January 20, 2021. Everyone should hear or read it. In fact, if you have, read it again. It is a work of beauty.

4. Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle-Sarah Graves

Another saga in the Jake Tiptree series that is centered around her bakery The Chocolate Moose in Eastport, Maine. This one kept me guessing who the murderer was until the end and is filled with lots of references to life in an oceanside town. The murder victim was despised by all and there are lots of suspects.

5. The Italian Slow Cooker-Michele Scicolone

I didn’t find any recipes here that I wanted to try. I felt that most of these would be better, and nearly as easily, cooked by traditional methods. That’s just me.

6. The Best of Us-Robyn Carr

I got this book because I have become a fan of the author, who writes the Virgin River series. This book takes place in Sullivan’s Crossing. Dr. Leigh Culver has moved to the area and is figuring out her life as settles in and forges relationships with the locals. I enjoyed it.

7. Fix It and Forget It Slow Cooker Comfort Foods-Hope Comerford

This is a cookbook for the beginning cook. Most of the recipes are, put all ingredients in crockpot and turn it on. This book also has meat in most recipes, so didn’t suit me.

8. Platters and Boards-Shelly Westerhausen

This book discusses all aspects of charcuterie boards. There are some recipes, but mostly it suggests types of boards (dessert, breakfast, teatime, etc.) and things to put on them. It was fun to look at.

9. The Ultimate Guide to Hiking-Len McDougall

I checked this book out of the library, thinking it would have generic info that everyone already knew but I would give it a read. What a wealth of information. Most of it applies to longer hikes than the 1-2 hours that we usually take, but you just never know when a bit of info might help you out on the trail. The most important and simple thing I learned is to have a compass with you at all times. I have had occasion to use the one on my phone, but as the book points out, phones fail, especially in cold weather when is especially crucial not to get lost. I ordered a carabiner style compass/thermometer duo today!

10. Christmas at Holiday House-RaeAnne Thayne

Nurse Abby Powell agrees to go to Silver Bells, Colorado with her young son to care for her friend’s grandmother who has had a fall. They end up decorating the huge house for a large Christmas event. Of course, they fall in love with the town and the people in it. The story was predictable but still fun.

From this list, I would have to pick the Ann Cleeves book as my favorite. Now that I have discovered the Vera Stanhope series, I will definitely be reading more of it.

Magazines:  Akron Life, Cottages and Bungalows, Southern Lady, Ohio Magazine, Real Simple, Farmhouse Style