Monday, August 29, 2011

A Wish Come True

I've dreamed about it for more than twenty years. I've hoped and longed for it, wished for it, and planned for it... and it's finally happening! Tomorrow is the day I'm flying off to Ireland!!

Ring of Kerry

It seems like I've spent at least half of my life yearning to see those deep green fields and spectacular seaside cliffs ...
The Dingle Peninsula (Photo courtesy of )

the quaint towns and medieval castles ...
(Photo courtesy of )

and the endless rock walls ...
(Photo courtesy of

For two weeks, my mother and I will be traveling the length and breadth of the country, from Dublin to Northern Ireland, and then on over to the western coast. And, yes, I'm going to have to learn to drive on the left side of the road, something I'm not looking forward to!

 Giants' Causeway, Northern Ireland (Photo courtesy of We'll be staying just a 5-minute walk from here!

I'll take lots of pictures (and paint lots of sketches), and I'll share it all with you when we return. But you won't have a chance to miss me too much - I've written up a couple of posts to tide you over. Stop back by in a few days for a glimpse of one of my most ambitious and all-time favorite projects.

And the next time you drive down the road, on the right side, say a little prayer for me! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fresh Corn and Basil Tart

Isn't fresh corn on the cob just one of the best things in life? When you bite into those sweet yellow kernels, dripping with butter, you just can't help smiling. Well, here's another idea for enjoying summer corn, fresh from the field: a delicious Corn and Basil Tart.

The cornmeal in the crust gives it an interesting crunchy texture and adds to the corn-y flavor of the dish. Prebaking it guarantees you won't have a soggy middle. The quiche-like filling is yummy with just the corn and basil, but be sure to try some of the variations that I've suggested in the recipe notes. Adding other ingredients just makes it all the more tasty!

Fresh Corn and Basil Tart

Crust ingredients:
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 T. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 egg
2/3 c. cornmeal
2/3 c. flour

Filling ingredients:
2 eggs
1 c. half-and-half or light cream
1-1/2 c. fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
¾ c. cheddar cheese
½ c. coarsely snipped fresh basil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper

Chopped tomato and basil

1. Make the cornmeal crust: In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and ½ tsp. salt. Beat until combined. Beat in 1 egg until combined. Add in cornmeal and flour. Mix until ingredients form moist clumps or a ball.
2. Preheat oven to 350º. Pat the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Line the pastry with a double thickness of foil and bake 10 minutes; remove foil. Bake 5-6 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and half-and-half. Stir in the corn, cheese, basil, ½ tsp. salt, and pepper. Add any additional optional ingredients. (See recipe notes, below.)
4. Pour into prebaked pastry shell. Bake 35-40 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan to serve.
5. Sprinkle with tomato and additional basil.

Recipe Notes:
- There are so many delicious variations to this recipe.  Optional ingredients might include green chiles (1/4-1/3 cup), black olives (1 small can), zucchini, pimento, or chopped artichokes (1/2 cup). My favorite is to add black olives and green chiles to the basic recipe. A topping of salsa is a nice complement to the southwestern flavors.
-  Frozen corn may be used in place of fresh.
- When pressing the dough into the tart pan, it’s helpful to use a small glass as a rolling pin. Using the side of the glass, roll the crust smooth on the bottom. Holding the glass upright, gently press dough to the sides of the pan for a uniform edge.
- To make the crust gluten-free, I recommend using Jules' gluten-free flour, along with the cornmeal, which is naturally gluten-free.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Down-Home Barbecue Meatloaf & Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

My husband, Fred, was out doing the manly thing all afternoon, brush-hogging the weeds along our driveway, and I thought he deserved a good, hearty dinner after all his hard work. I decided to make him a real meat-and-potatoes meal, so I pulled out my favorite meatloaf recipe, one that I got years ago from an old church cookbook. Although I'm not a big meat eater, this always tastes really good when I make it. The hint of barbecue flavor makes it a lot tastier than plain old meatloaf. A side of roasted sweet potato (and white potato) fries, marinated cucumbers, and tomatoes, fresh from the garden, rounded out the meal nicely.

 Down-Home Barbecue Meatloaf

1-1/2 pounds ground beef
¾ c. tomato juice
¼ c. barbecue sauce
¾ c. uncooked rolled oats
1 egg, beaten
¼ c. chopped onion
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
3. Press firmly into an 8” x 4” x 2-1/2” loaf pan.
4. Bake about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Recipe Notes:
- Ketchup or barbecue sauce may be spread on top of the meatloaf before baking.
- Tomato sauce may be substituted for the tomato juice.
- I like to form the meatloaf mixture into two mini meatloaves. Place them on a foil-covered rack in a roasting pan. Poke a few holes in the foil to allow the juices to drain through. Adjust the baking time – they don’t take quite as long to bake as a large single meatloaf. I overbaked mine a little this evening - they should be moist in the center.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

Sweet potatoes and/or white potatoes
Fresh rosemary
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450º.
2. Slice potatoes into pieces about 1/4" -3/8" wide and 3"-4" long. Place the pieces in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag.
3. Add a generous amount of chopped fresh rosemary and enough olive oil to coat all the potatoes with a light layer of oil.
4. Close the bag and shake well to distribute the oil and rosemary. Spread the fries on a cookie sheet or any baking sheet with low sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Roast fries in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, then every 5 minutes until they are cooked through and lightly browned.

Recipe Notes:
- This recipe works well with sweet potatoes or white potatoes, and it's nice to use a combination of the two. They take about the same time to cook, so it isn't a problem roasting them together. 
- These fries are slightly crispy when they first come out of the oven, but soften upon sitting. Don't expect the same texture as deep-fried French fries. They're much healthier though, and they taste wonderful.
- Try sprinkling the potatoes with other flavorings before roasting, such as seasoned salt, Italian herbs, paprika, hot peppers, or Old Bay seasoning. Cinnamon is a great choice for sprinkling on sweet potatoes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Holding Onto Summer

It was a perfect summer morning when I stepped outside onto the patio to give our little grey kitty, Genevieve, a scratch behind the ears. The temperature was just right and a gentle breeze ruffled the leaves on the trees. The deep blue sky was dotted with puffy white clouds. Birds were chirping and flitting around the yard. Butterflies fluttered among the flowers. I almost expected to see Bambi come frolicking across the yard - it was that perfect! I decided right then and there to take some time to capture the day on the pages of my sketchbook...

A morning like that is something to hold onto. In the depths of winter, I like to remember a summer day like this one -- the happiness and contentment I felt, the warm sunshine on my back as a sat drawing the roses, Buckley lying patiently in the lush green grass at my feet as I drew the hydrangea, and our cat, Hoover, snoozing under the daylilies as I added them to my page. It lifts my heart a little and reminds me that those cold winter days will soon come to an end, and flowers will bloom again.

This sunflower was a "volunteer" that grew from the remains of last
winter's birdseed, under the bird feeder outside my kitchen window.

 Potentilla blossoms are just plain cute! The bushes are a mass of pink
flowers in the spring and early summer, but even this late
in the season the flowers keep coming.

These daylilies were given to me 25 years ago by a dear friend,
and every summer when they bloom, I think of her.

Coreopsis is hardy and reliable, and adds a cheery splash
of sunshine-y yellow to the plantings by my front porch
and the back patio.

I enjoy these groundcover roses all summer long - they're right outside
the kitchen window. They grow like crazy and would probably
take over the house if I didn't chop them back every once in awhile!

 Campanula (balloon flowers) are one of my favorites.
That periwinkle blue color just couldn't be any prettier.

Hosta flowers don't last long, do they? It seems like
I notice them one day and think, "Oh, don't they look nice!"
Then the next time I look, they're over!

We added a fountain to our backyard this spring, and I surrounded
it with thrift, a perennial that was new to me. The compact mounds
of dark green send up stems with single flowers on them,
and they bloom all summer long.

Butterfly bushes have added a lot of color to my landscape.
The two I planted last year are both prolific bloomers,
and they're a haven for butterflies.
This lace-cap hydrangea must have liked all the rainy weather we had
this spring, because it was amazing this summer - huge, and
covered with hundreds of blooms!

It's already starting to feel like fall around here this week, with cooler temperatures and the first fall flowers showing up along the roadsides. So, let's all vow to take some time and enjoy these last few weeks of summer - they'll be gone too soon!

This painting is available as a 9" x 12" giclee print,
double matted, for $30.00 plus shipping.
To order, drop me an email using the
"Contact Me" button, to the right.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sketches Along the Way

We made our annual trek to Oak Island, North Carolina, two weeks ago, and the day we drove down there just happened to be the date of the 32nd Worldwide Sketchcrawl. Artists from all over the globe were holding sketching marathons in their hometowns, getting together in groups to draw and paint their local scene. Since I didn't have anything better to do on our 11-hour drive from Pennsylvania to the beach, I decided to join the party, and draw what I saw along the way.

I did line drawings with pen and ink, then added color with water-soluble colored pencils. To blend the colors and lines, I washed over them with my waterbrush filled with clear water. It was a simple way to sketch in the van.

We watched the sun rise over the hills just south of our hometown ...

By 9:30 am, we were in the mountains of southern West Virginia ... 

The scenery in Virginia is so beautiful!

We finally made it to North Carolina...

The temperature kept climbing all day, up to 104! Thank goodness for air conditioning!

I had planned to do lots of sketching while I was at the beach, but it just didn't happen this year. I spent all week playing with my grandchildren, which was so much more fun! This was Lilly's first time at the beach, and she loved every minute of it. In and out of the water, up and down the beach, picking up shells, watching birds and crabs, building sand castles - the fun never ends with a five year old!

Nicholas is 3-1/2 months old now and was a joy to have along on the trip. He's a great little traveler and really enjoyed the wind, water, and sunshine. Every evening we took a walk on the beach at sunset, and he would fall asleep in his carrier to the sound of the waves.

I mean really, how irresistible is this little guy? I had withdrawal symptoms when I got home after spending a whole week with him! He's the sweetest baby.

Until next year ...

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