Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cooking with Mary - Fruit Cobbler Recipe


Not only is this a recipe, but it is short trip into the working of my mind. Just keep reminding yourself that logic has left the building and we are going to cook with dimension bending measurements and accurate taste buds influenced heavily by not so accurate memories. If lacking taste buds or a little common sense you should just stop here and go buy a cobbler. In the long run you will be better off - 'trust me' says the mouse in my pocket. It is best to read through the recipe to get an idea of the amount of ingredients you might use. Use your best judgement. So let's get started.

What you need (Ingredients and such):

A large amount of apples given to you by a wonderful friend. If you cannot, or do not have friends who bless you with apples... then I guess it okay to stop by the local grocery store and pick up some tart cooking apples. The amount is up to you depending on a guesstimate of the amount of cobbler fruit you want. I figure 8-10 large granny smith or 15-20 small orchard apples. (This is about how much I used and I was making two 9" x 13" pans worth.)

One container of Strawberries (You know the clear plastic clam shell type you can find at almost every super market-I think they are 1 lb boxes but not sure)

4-5 Great smelling but mealy fleshed Peaches. (Bought these to eat but they had little flavor and the ugh flesh so in the pot they went. I guess they could be optional- Welcome to my reality of interior Alaskan fruit)

Cinnamon Ground
Cloves Ground
Allspice Ground
Ginger Ground (optional)
Tapioca (optional)
Orange Marmalade
Orange Juice
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum

Cobbler Topping:
(I mixed up 4 times this amount for the two 9" x 13" pans I made - the below recipe amounts are for a 2 quart size baking dish. Really how much to make is based on how much topping you want, use your best judgement. This is a biscuit type topping. My husband said it was too much so I am thinking maybe 3 times for two pans...just go with your gut and make how much you want.)

1 Cup Flour
1/4 cup White Sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Milk 
Dash Cinnamon Ground

A couple of bowls for mixing
Measuring cups/spoons for the topping recipe
Cutting boards and a sharp knife
Oven to cook it in -always helpful

And of course LOVE. All recipes need this. There is no exact amount needed; just know that items cooked with love always taste better. Science proven fact I am sure. Of course not even love could have saved the first few years of burnt items I served my husband; sometimes you just have to have a frozen pizza waiting in the wings, but that is a whole other topic.

Whatever else you think you might need to cook- a good tall glass of wine or sense altering beverage might be called for before, during, or after this adventure of cooking with me.


Let's BEGIN!

Wash the fruit. This is a given but figure if I don't say it someone might not have the common sense to do it. So here it is - wash the dang fruit.

Slice up the apples into whatever size you prefer, but do not leave them just quartered. Turn it into pie sized slices or chunks. Leave the skins on, just make sure to core em. No need to cook the cores, stems, or that little bottom thing (yuck). Do the same to the peaches (toss the pits), and strawberries- half or quarter each berry (snip and toss the green top).

Toss the fruit into a large mixing bowl. Here is where to make the decision of how much fruit you need. When in doubt add more apples.

Now macerate it! I can hear you now asking, "What is this 'macerate' thing?" Simple, it is when you mix sugar with the fruit and then let it sit to make its own wonderful juice sauce. Make sure to add enough sugar to lightly coat the fruit, not drown it. Other recipes recommend 2 tablespoons sugar per 1 lb container of strawberries (this little tidbit might give you an idea of the amount needed or it might just be an odd fact -your choice). 

While I was at it I added about 1 part cinnamon, 1/2 part allspice, 1/4 part cloves, and a dash of ginger. These are all based on taste; so of course I have no idea exactly how much I used but this is approximately the ratio I used in parts. I would figure a good start is one, or better yet a half teaspoon per part. Remember this is based on taste and your personal preferences. If you like more cloves and less cinnamon great; play with it and have fun. Keep in mind you can always add more but it is hard to fix it if you over-spice the mixture. A little spice goes a long ways. I would have also added 1/2 part nutmeg but found I was out. This is a common theme if you keep reading.

Add 2 tablespoons of Tapioca. Why, because a previous recipe I tried for strawberry rhubarb pie called for it and I have a lot left over and needed to use it some where.

Let the fruit macerate for at least 1/2 hour (mine sat around 45 minutes to an hour till I was happy with the amount of juices). You want it be a syrupy sauce, some recipes say you can leave it overnight in the fridge - others say if left too long strawberries will turn to mush. Stir every once in while to mix it up and taste it occasionally. The flavor will change as it sits and you might need more cinnamon or other spice.

At this point I realized I forgot to add lemon juice (which I usually add to fruit mixes-just a squirt or two). This accounts for the odd things listed above. No lemon juice was to be found, I forgot I was out and a month later I am still out. I really need to write that on the list. No lime juice either. Anywho, I noticed the orange juice and remembered my mother in-law using it in fruit salads. I figure it is a citrus like a lemon, so I added a splash. Hmmm, it was okay but could be better (based on taste test). Then I remembered the orange rum marmalade sauce I made for coconut breaded halibut I had left over. Great idea but a no go. One sniff reminded me I put horseradish in it and figured it would not taste so good in cobbler. The horseradish that is. But I had left over marmalade and rum... so I mixed in 3 tablespoons or so marmalade, and approximately 2 tablespoons of spiced rum. 

ALWAYS taste it, no not the rum (but a sip won't hurt and might make this process make more sense). I mean the fruit juices, you need to be brave here and adjust it to what you like. If you do not like something I used, fine leave it out. In fact if you have lemon or lime juice you can skip the whole orange/rum section and keep it simple. But I will tell you it turned out great as is.

While the fruit is doing its macerate thing, (toward the end of the time you think it needs) mix up the cobbler topping.

Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and spice in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. You can use a knife, food processor, or fingers if you do not have a pastry cutter. Work it till the butter is pea or smaller sized chunks just like you would do when making biscuits, a pastry, or pie crust. Now add the milk slowly while mixing. The mixture should be the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough. You might need to add water to reach the correct consistency (I did). Do this a small amount at a time. You do not want to make it runny or like cake batter. If this happens add a bit of flour and slap the hand that was adding the water. It got carried away and needs a reminder that when you add a 'small amount' it is more like a tablespoon, not a 1/4 cup which is closer to 3 tablespoons.



Ready to Bake!

Preheat the  oven to 425'
Place fruit mixture in lightly greased baking dish.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and add the cobbler topping. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture over the hot fruit. Leave as is or smooth out it is your choice. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and sugar.

Return it to the oven and cook another 30 minutes (this is debatable), better yet cook it until the topping is golden brown and cooked all the way through. My oven is very temperamental and I had to cook it for close to an hour.

You did it!

That is it you are done and have reached the end of this adventure. Cobbler is best enjoyed with family, friends, and ice cream. Be blessed and if you have any questions I suggest just following your instincts or listening to the mouse in your pocket. The mouse is almost never wrong.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A lot can happen in a year...

I know I have been absent from 'My Whimsical Life' blog for over a year and I am sorry for that. I have also been absent from my normal life for most of that time as well. Here is what took me away and what brought me back...I write this blog for myself but share it with you all because maybe it can let us sit down and share a piece of life together ~ the good times and the bad. We all have a story to share and this one is mine.

  • May 2014 saw my family moving to Alaska for my husband's new job. No big deal but my health was again in turmoil and steadily getting worse.
  • December of 2014 started with two surgeries a week apart; which where in Texas. Gotta love that abdominal scar tissue and my ability to grow it. I should win a medal for it or at least get a gold star.
  • December also gave me a HUGE blessing though at the time I did not know it...(tears are running down my face as I try to type this ~but I need to share so you can understand) my Mom flew in from Nevada to help me through the second surgery since my husband had to get back to work up north. She almost cancelled and I had to guilt trip and beg her; I am so glad I won. Everyone was back home by Christmas.
  • December also brought the news that my mother was in the ER for abdominal pain the day after Christmas.  She was sent home but they found a mass in her abdomen and was to follow up with a specialist in two weeks.
  • January 2015 Mom was back to the ER and submitted to the hospital. I was in Alaska and going crazy with worry. Needless to say I have the greatest husband in the world - he got me on a flight to as soon as he could. My two boys held down the fort and fended for themselves while I took off to help my family in Nevada.
  • January 21st saw me touching down in Reno. It was a Wednesday and I got there in the evening. My brother picked me up and we went right to the hospital.  They planned a surgery to remove the abdominal mass for the next day. Mom was so happy to see me and so out of it on pain meds. That night I drove back to the ranch with my dad (which is 60 miles away in Fallon). There is always chores that need doing.
  • January 22nd Dad and I got up early feed the livestock and raced back to Reno to be with Mom. My sister brought Whitey, my mom's dog into the hospital for a visit.  Mom seemed to enjoy seeing him. Whitey sat on her bed and she petted his paw for several hours.  The meds kept her pretty loopy; that afternoon they took her in for surgery thinking it was cervical cancer, her kidneys had already started to fail so it was risky but they figured removing the mass would give her a fighting chance. What the doc found instead was cancer everywhere and a type he did not recognize. He was the top cancer specialist in northern Nevada it was a shock to him what he found. He said he did what he could, but it did not look good, and they needed to figure out what type of cancer it was before they could treat it. Mom was placed in the ICU, on a ventilator and numerous other machines. She never woke up, or regained consciousness after the surgery. Another hidden blessing. Dad and I stayed late and got up early to spend every day at her side. My brother, sister, and my brother's best friend who lived with my parents since high school drove up most days as well. Mom's brother and a few other relatives also stopped in over the next week. We took turns reading to Mom. I read Anne McCaffery's Pern books and a few others; my sister brought up poetry we had all enjoyed growing up. Sometime in this week they told us it was BLUE CELL Cancer, normally a childhood cancer and very rare. She maybe had it 6 weeks.
  • January 29th Dad and I stayed the night at the hospital while the others went back to the ranch to take care of things. The staff brought a trundle bed into Mom's room and we each got a few hours sleep in shifts.  It was a long night.
  •  Morning of the 30th Dad and I stepped out to the hospital cafe for a quick bite to eat. He paid the bill and I made use of the restroom - that is when I got the call to hurry back from Mom's doctor. I grabbed Dad and we ran back to her room. Mom's heart was failing. They gave us enough time that I was able to call my brother, sister, and uncle so that they could say goodbye to mom over the phone. I held the phone steady to her ear and let each take as long as they wanted. Together with Dad we had to make the hardest decision. It was unanimous; we agreed turn off the machines and let her go. Dad and I each stood there and held her hands; within ten minuets she was gone. I have no idea how long we stayed there, I was going to let dad take as long as he wanted. I started making the calls to family and friends. My Mom was always impressed in traumatic situations or emergencies that I could put myself aside and take charge. I was the calm one, till it was over and this was no exception. I dreaded each call, the retelling, but knew no one else was strong enough to handle it. I drove Dad back to the ranch that day, I don't remember the drive just that we got there.
  • January 31st my parents 30th wedding anniversary. She missed it by a day which at the time I thought it was a blessing, now I am not so sure. One year will have passed in a few more days and there is still not a day I do not grieve.
  • February 2015 saw me back home in Alaska with a nasty cold. I was given Levaquin and on day six I noticed joint pain but was too far gone in grief to really think on it. I finished the pills and then the warning hit me...rare chance Levaquin might cause tendinitis. Sure enough I got it in my right hand and left ankle. My doctor said to say off the foot and don't use the hand and it should fix itself as long as I do not tear anything. 
  • September 2015 found me no better and still couch bound. I found a new doctor at the urging of my husband. In fact I got 3. I had not realized how far I had left my life for those few months. I separated myself from everyone and withdrew deep inside my own world. I cried all the time. Normally I would take a walk and get my head back on straight or go talk to my horse. I couldn't walk without pain and my horse was in Nevada, I had no way to cope as I did in the past. I couldn't paint, color, or draw because the hand was no better than the foot. The new doctor started me on additional supplements, acupuncture, and cold laser therapy.
  • Fast Forward to January 2016.  I am still here and amazingly better. My hand and foot are healing finally. Both still get muscle sore and do not feel 100% but after 8 or so months of doing nothing it will take time.  I started painting again in November and had a lot of Christmas orders for ornaments. Life is moving forward.
 I know I am not the same person I was in the last blog post. My slide down the rabbit hole changed me, but the same thing happened to Alice I think. No one is ever the same when they loose a piece of their heart. I have woken from a dream and am ready to challenge the world again.

I love you Mom, I know you are home, RIP you will always be my Momma Hippo.
Pamela Miller (my Mom) and Whitey at a field trial.

Monday, July 28, 2014

FEAR ~ between you and sucess

What do you fear? 
How does it change your life? 
Where does it come from? 
Who decided it was scary?
Who gave it the power to control your life?

Simple and answer is 'You DID, I did, we each manufactured our fear.'  From learning as a child to experiencing as an adult we developed our FEAR.

I have often said to myself that if I fail to try I have already failed.  By not asking, the answer is already a NO.  I have found how surprising and comforting a known NO is to the option of a possible YES.  I am an artist and I find getting my art out in the world hard.  I find I let the fear hold me back from painting and marketing my work.

I fear life.  I fear living.  I fear success. I fear being me.  I know I am not alone in my fears.  I have confronted some and left others alone.  I have found how to love myself but I still have fear.  Life is not just black and white, right or wrong.  Life is a force of its own.  Some let it drag them along, while others take control.

I want that that control.  I want that courage.  Fear has held me back to long.  It is my time to shine.  My time to take the first step.  The hardest step.  The step to conquer fear and seek the YES instead of settling for the no.

I know I am not alone.  So together lets face our fear and see through the falsity of it.  Be blessed and be courageous.  We can all win, we can all find our YES!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Name One thing you can't live without...

The other day a friend posted a meme that said 'in one word tell me what you could not live without'...


I was amazed how many people picked God, Jesus, Faith, Hope, and other religious words as the One thing they could not live without.  I said Paint!    Looking back I can see why some could have thought my answer was materialistic.  But after several more people added their own words I started to wonder if they actually believed what they listed or if they all just drank the Kool-Aid.

I was the only person who wrote something not religious/spiritual.  But once I thought more about my answer I should have said ART!  

Art is a part of who I am.  I could not live without art.  It is how I express myself and connect to creation.  Art is what keeps me sane and expresses my deepest thoughts.  Whether it is drawing, painting, or gathering inspiration from looking at nature or artist's works; art is a large part of me. Art is what connects me to God and to I guess by listing paint I was saying the same thing as the rest =) Maybe I drank the kool-aid too.

So what can you not live without?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Glad Game...we all should play!

I have noticed that when we age we forget how to play.  As children we make games full of imagination, but as adults we are so serious - WHY?  I think if we remember how to play then the world would be a kinder place.  So as of today lets play the Glad Game!

What is the Glad Game, you might ask.  It is the game of finding something to be glad for no matter what the situation.  Some might remember it featured in the Disney movie 'Pollyanna'.  Sort of like counting your blessings or finding the silver lining.

My son was having some very angry days so I would ask him to list all the things he enjoyed or was thankful for when he was boiling mad.  At first he would start out grumpy then it would ease and by the time he had listed about ten things he would relax.  The more he thought about things he was GLAD for the better he felt.  Concentrating on the good changed his whole day and how he treated others. 

In my own life I have seen magical changes just by playing.  I was in a rut, depressed, over weight, and a huge lack of caring about anything.  It affected everything in my life.  Then I remembered how to play.  I started looking for the good.  I started listing the good in my life and being thankful.  Of course it did not fix everything but it did change how I look at things.  Playing gave me HOPE, AMBITION, and HAPPINESS.

When you are happy then the world is a different place; it is magical!  Open your eyes, heart, and mind and you too can find the magic in your world.  No matter who you are there is always some thing to be GLAD for. 

Start a revolution in your life, family, and town.  Spread the GLAD GAME!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Death in the family

Recently a family member passed away.  It has brought up many a question for me.

1.  Why is this person now considered 'PERFECT'?

 I mean the person in question was a decent human for many years.  She had faults but some how death erased all of them. It boggles my mind that events are now changed in how they happened to fit this new idea that she never did wrong. She became greedy and bitter toward the end but no one remembers it now that she is gone. Death should not change facts of how you treated family at any given time in ones life. 

2.  Why do people get bitter later in life?

This has happened to several people I know.  They seem happy then one day BOOM they hate the world and want to screw everyone who is still happy.  I guess when you tell so many lies (as the person in question) it is hard to remember the truth.  It must all get so mixed up - so maybe that is why they are bitter, no one really got to meet the true person and now time is running out.  They made their own choices and decided how to handle their own life so why be so bitter.  Life is what we choose to make it and our attitudes toward events in it.  So there it is.

3.  Why do others choose to pick up past quarrels and continue to attack family for wrongs that should have been gone once one of the parties where gone?

Can't we all just get along?!  I mean really why be so pig headed.  Point in fact the remaining person in this particular situation has dropped it.  They just want to grieve the loss of a family member and go on with life...but they have been shunned instead.  Mean things said on both sides...I just don't get why others are now involved and continuing a fight which has nothing to do with them.  It was nothing personal just business transactions gone wrong so it should not include family not involved with the business.

4.  Will this happen when I die?

Will I become a saint in the eyes of the family?  I sure as heck hope NOT!  I live my life as I choose and am happy being brutally honest.  It might not make me friends in the family, but the truth has to be spoken or it is forgotten. I want people to remember me as I was, not what they want me to be or just for the good.  It is the whole of my life that made me not just the sunny days. 

Oh there are so many more questions but these are the top ones. When I pass on hopefully some one has the guts to say the truth.  Having a PhD in bitchology (the art of pissing people off by telling the truth) may not be my greatest life achievement but is still part of what makes me, ME; so why not remember it and celebrate my life after I am gone with the good and the bad!  Because that is what will make up my whimsical life.  BLESSINGS!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Paint a stripe he said....

Here is the tale of an idea gone astray.   'Why don't you paint a stripe' my husband said.  Being and artist who can not draw let alone paint a straight line it seemed to be a doomed project from the start.  But here was the plan and how it turned out:

So to re cap....NEVER ask an artist to paint a 'stripe' especially when you know she tends to doodle on walls =) 

Be Blessed!