Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Ratatouille Ingredients

I need to share this recipe with you.  I’ve made a batch every week for the last three weeks and think it’s delicious but I can’t seem to get any good pictures of the finished dish.  But I can’t hold out any longer.

This came about because I bought some vegetables that I planned to cook on the grill. But it was so hot that weekend, I didn’t want to cook at all.  The next weekend rolled around and I still had the vegetables, a little worse for wear.  It was still hot so I wanted a recipe for the slow cooker.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but it was great!

My recipe is adapted from one I found by Geema at Food.com.  Each time I make it, I change it a bit based on what I have in the fridge.  It is pretty flexible, so if you don’t like mushrooms, by all means, leave them out.  If you have some fresh herbs to use up, put them in.

Third Batch Ratatouille ingredients

The first time I made it I didn’t take any pictures.  The top photo is from my second batch and I used 4 squash, Japanese eggplant and only one bell pepper.  The third time I made it with regular eggplant, big zucchini and bell peppers and small tomatoes.  It was delicious every time.

Here’s the recipe but don’t be too worried about measuring everything exactly.  Sprinkle in the herbs, drizzle in the oil and enjoy the way the dish melds into something greater than the individual ingredients.

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Adapted from Geema at Food.com

1 large eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplant, (about 1.5 lbs. total), cut in cubes

eggplant

3 or 4 zucchini or other summer squash, cut in chunks

Zucchini

2 onions, cut into quarters and sliced

2 red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips or squares

8 oz. mushrooms, cut in quarters  or if really large into 6ths or 8ths

2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges than chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

'shrooms, onions, bell pepper and garlic

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional:

1 teaspoon sugar (I used it twice and forgot it the third time and the difference was pretty minor)

pinch hot pepper flakes (use caution here, a little goes a long way)

Hot Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Put half the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Dot half the tomato paste over the vegetables and sprinkle half the seasonings on the vegetables.

Drizzle with half the olive oil.

Half of the recipe in slow cooker

Repeat with remaining vegetables, tomato paste, seasonings and olive oil.

Cover, set slow cooker to high and cook 3 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 9 hours.

Full Recipe in pot

I used some fresh herbs in this batch.

Covered and Cooking

The last time I made it, my zucchini and bell peppers were on the large side.  It was a very full pot and took longer to cook. Next time I’ll use smaller veggies.

The finished stew.

Ratatouille

This is good hot with some grated Parmesan.  It is also good cold on a hot day.  You can toss it with pasta or use it for a pizza topping or sandwich filling.

How about on an open-faced meatball sandwich with melted cheese over the top?

Meatball sandwich

Or add some beans to boost the protein. I like a piece of french bread (or two) on the side to sop up the juice.  I imagine you could use a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.  I like it chunky so I haven’t tried that yet.

With Beans

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fitbit Fitness

P & B Selfie on the GG Bridge

Yesterday I had achieved most of my 10,000 steps for the day but not quite.  I asked Rem if he would take a walk with me after dinner.  Because it has been kind of warm and humid, he suggested we drive down to the headlands.  Although it encompasses a larger area, for us that refers to the 5-mile stretch of Conzelman Road overlooking the Golden Gate Bride and the Pacific Ocean.  It is usually at least 10 degrees cooler than at our place in San Rafael.

The fog was rolling in and I decided to turn into the parking lot by the bridge and figured I’d get my steps walking around the north end of the bridge.  Rem surprised me and suggested we cross the bridge and back!  We hadn’t walked it in years and usually do it at a more leisurely pace, but the sidewalk is closed to pedestrians at 9:00 pm, so we had to keep moving.

In the picture at the top of the post, we’re at the San Francisco end and it is about 8:25.  We made it back at 9:02.  The pedestrian gate was closed but a bridge worker was “sweeping” the bridge and came up behind us in a little vehicle and opened the gate.  I added about 8,600 steps, well over the less-than-1,000 I was seeking.

Foggy Golden Gate

Fitbit rewards me with badges when I achieve different milestones and I’ve found that motivates me more than I would have expected. A few weeks ago when I was looking at my stats for the day I realized I was just short of 100 floors, with 10 feet of elevation gained counting as 1 floor.  I didn’t know how soon I would get in a hike with that much elevation, so I climbed some stairs at a parking garage to hit 100 floors.

This morning, I hiked to the same communication towers as I did that day but from a different starting point, going up the back of the hill.  I don’t get any new badges for achieving 103 floors (and didn’t get one for walking a landmark bridge last night either) but I’m still tickled with the big, green smiley face and “hooray” when I look at my Fitbit Dashboard and I’ve hit or exceeded my goals.

I was surprised by a little sprinkle of rain on my hike this morning but it didn’t really matter as I was already soaked with sweat.  This is a little ways before the top of the fire road.  Stopping to take a selfie gave me a chance to catch my breath.

Climbing

This is where I stopped for breakfast.

Swings

Yes, I did take a little swing before getting back on the trail and hiking onward and upward.

Swinging

Tam

Power Tower

Trail Marker

Back on the road in the neighborhood that I walked through to reach the trail head,  I took pictures of some of the gates I’d noticed.

Picket Fence with Arched Gateway

Wrought Iron with Acorn & Leaves

Gilded

Lion Entry

Perhaps some of these choices are a little over-the-top.

Last week, Molly was back home from Sea Ranch and joined me walking a loop starting in Deer Park, almost the same hike I enjoyed the previous week, but slightly longer and taken in the reverse direction.

Rock & Wildflowers

Molly on the trail

Deer Park to Five Corners

Trail Marker

More uphill

Fog over Tam

Sun on the hills

Walking with Molly

I realized that Molly doesn’t get the same views as I do.

IMG_0168

But she was a happy pup and didn’t seem to mind the reduced views.

I used one of my new bandanas and learned it is from the HAV-A-HANK Bandana Company.

Hav-A-Hank

The Fitbit continues to be a positive influence on my activity.   I wonder where I’ll hike next weekend.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?

Cherry Pie with Struesel Topping

This is a guest post by Rem O’Donnelley, my sweetheart and partner of 15 years.  We’re a great team and the other day we made pie together.  I asked him if he would write a post about it and this is what he wrote:

Who doesn’t like a good cherry pie? I didn’t see any hands raised in internet land.

I had a box of pie dough sitting in the fridge. Originally, it had two pie crusts but I used one for a pumpkin pie. I was about to do the same thing when Dianne suggested making a cherry pie. She heard on the radio that there was a one-day sale at Whole Foods so I bought a two pound bag of cherries.

Since there was only one crust that meant that there was no crust for the top. Dianne had the idea of a streusel topping. I found an oatmeal streusel recipe here which we adapted.

Cherries on hand and we began to work. I washed and stemmed the little red gems.

Cherries in Colander

Dianne pitted them.

Pitting Cherries

That done, next the cherries were put in a large bowl with sugar, tapioca granules and vanilla. We decided to stick with just cherries and omitted crystallized ginger and almond extract from the original recipe.

It didn’t look like it was enough cherries so we added the other half pound to the mix. (Note: adaptions have been included in recipe here)

Measure Cherries
Once this was mixed, I spread out the pie crust in a glass pie dish. Then the cherry mixture was poured in.
Finally came the topping.  Again, we made some changes to the recipe. It didn’t seem to have enough butter and sugar to balance the oats and flour, so we increased the amounts a bit.

Making Streusel
I mixed it with my hands until it was crumbly and then sprinkled it on the cherries.  Then it went in the oven.

Here is the recipe.

Cherry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel Topping

Adapted from Miri Rotkovitz at About.com

Baking time – 40 to 45 minutes

Yield: 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

1 9-inch unbaked pie shell, homemade or store-bought, thawed if frozen.  We used Pillsbury refrigerated pie dough

2 lbs. cherries, pitted (5 to 6 cups) If desired, cut cherries in half. This recipe called for “1 lb., (about 4 cups)” but we found it was more like 3 cups. Our pie had about 5 cups of cherries and it could have held 6 cups, no problem.

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons granulated (instant) tapioca or tapioca starch

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Butter and Cinnamon

For the Streusel Topping:

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

In a large bowl, toss together the cherries, sugar, tapioca, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix just until the cherries are evenly coated with the other ingredients.

Sugary Cherries

Pour the cherry mixture into the pie crust.

Wipe out the bowl (or use another, smaller one) and mix together the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Rub the butter pieces into the dry ingredients with your fingers,until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the top of the pie.

Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet to catch drips. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the crust and streusel are golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool the pie in its baking dish on a rack.

Just out of the oven!

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Store leftover pie, well covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Pie and Ice Cream

(Editors note: Rem made the vanilla ice cream too!)

It turned out great. The only thing I would change is cutting the cherries in half so the cherries are in smaller bites.

Thumbs up!

Thumbs Up Selfie

Thanks, Rem, for writing a post about our pie-baking and for the great selfie.

Thank you for stopping by.

 

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Everybody Needs Beauty

Everybody needs...

I was so happy to sit at my craft desk this weekend with time to work in my Art Journal.  However, I felt like I had so many ideas that I didn’t know where to start!

Solution: go to my Art Journal board on Pinterest and look at pictures that I’ve pinned for inspiration.  Once there I found this spread and put it with the John Muir quote, also pinned on the page.  I already had flower and garden pictures saved, so I just had to pull out pictures and start trimming and gluing them in place.

The quote took up a bit more room than I planned so I had less space for hearts, but in the end it all worked out.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

- John Muir

How do you get warmed up when you’re ready to craft but not sure what to do?

Thanks for reading my posts.

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Three-Hike Weekend

Tam from Gold Hill Grade

I got in three great hikes over the three-day weekend.  On Friday morning I went up Gold Hill Grade, behind Dominican University in San Rafael.

IMG_0002-001

This dirt fire road climbs up (and up) to two communication towers on San Pedro Mountain. Looking at the view of Mount Tam with the city of San Rafael (top photo) in the foreground gave me the opportunity to catch my breath as hiked upwards.

Stump in the trail

The first part of the trail is lined with eucalyptus trees and plenty of poison oak. Later I recognized oak, madrone and bay laurels.

Finally, a glimpse of the first tower.

Glimpse of Tower thru fog

I made it!  Time for breakfast.

Made it.

Yogurt, cereal and fruit

The fog is starting to burn off.  You can see the marina by Andy’s Local Market on Point San Pedro Road.

Marina by Andy's Market

More views…

McNears Brickyard

IMG_0028

Tower #2

Tower Two

Looking back at the first tower.

First Tower & Tam

Heading back down the hill I snapped a few pictures of poison oak.  It was all over the place.

Red and Green Poison Oak

And a selfie for the road.

Gold Hill Selfie

On Saturday I went to Fairfax and started a nice loop hike in Deer Park, parking by the Fairfax San Anselmo Children’s Center.  It was a good hike, not as strenuous as the one the day before.

Golden Hillside

Dry Grassy Hillside

Worn Springs Trail sign

The communication towers I hiked to on Friday are barely visible on the upper left in this picture (if you click on the picture, you can see an enlarged version which makes it a bit more clear)..

San Rafael Towers

The buildings in the lower left corner of the photo below, are the school where the Fairfax San Anselmo Children’s Center is located, the start of my hike.

View down to school

Purple Mountain Majesty

Old Oak Tree

Another (different kind of) selfie.

Me & My Shadow

Trail thru trees

Today, Sunday, I chose the easiest hike of the weekend.  I went out to Tennessee Valley Beach.  I haven’t taken this hike in years as dogs are not allowed and I usually hike with a dog.  But Molly is up at Sea Ranch with my mom.

Trail Sign to Tennessee Beach

When I left San Rafael it was in the upper 70’s.  When I got to the parking lot by the trail head, it was 58 and foggy.

Tennessee Beach Trail

The first view of the Pacific Ocean from the trail.

First View of Pacific

Lagoon before beach

Lagoon

Queen Ann's Lace

Sweet Peas

Just before going out on the beach, I climbed uphill to an overlook (I wanted to see some progress on my Fitbit).

View down to beach

Tennessee Valley Beach

My selfie for this hike.

Beach Selfie

Some critters I saw along the walk back up the trail.  I think this one is a Giant’s fan.

Black & Orange

Liz

windswept grasses

Interesting rock formation (just for Dayna).

Rock Formation

Fog Lifting

The fog was lifting a bit as I hiked back to my car and headed home.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

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Craft Catch Up

Kathleen's Card

Although I feel like I haven’t sat down at my craft desk for ages, it’s not the whole story. What I haven’t managed to do is carve out several hours to work on my art journal.  But I have made a few cards that I want to share here and I’ve also had some great crafting sessions with friends.

The birthday card, above, was one I made for my sister Kathleen, but when I sent it to her, I put the wrong street name on the envelope!  Her street is a “Court” and I put “Reach” which is what a lot of the streets are called at Sea Ranch.  I was really disappointed when she didn’t receive the card I’d made.

So…I made another.

IMG_0093

It was similar but not exactly the same.  This one I hand-delivered.

Needless to say, the first card eventually made it back to me. I had used the definition of sister in the first card but put “sisterly” in the second one.  The first had a picture of a peacock.  A peacock-feather-patterned paper was in the second.  She might not have received a card on her birthday, but in the end, she got two cards.

Retirement Card

Here’s another card I created recently when my boss retired.  I had the idea of a gold watch and a kind of somber, old-fashioned exterior.

Inside Retirement Card

The inside was more upbeat and cheerful with the greeting on little tags.  It was a card many people would be signing, and I wanted to leave lots of room, but still have the message stand out.  I think the tags did the trick.

Best Wishes Tag

I spent two afternoons with a friend who is recovering from a serious illness.  Although I didn’t work on any projects, I really enjoyed assisting her with a photo/scrap album.  It was real craft therapy.  We played around with layouts, photos, paper and colors.  On my second visit we shopped for some supplies at Joann’s and she completed the layout on the opening page of her album.

My “Craft and Flash” group had missed a few gatherings but got together on a recent Sunday afternoon.  We ended up working on several bead projects.

I showed the others how to make Beaded Braid Bracelets.  I had to look up my post from two summers ago to get the measurements.  If you haven’t tried one of these bracelets, you might consider it now.  It is a fun and easy project that can be completed in just a few hours at most.

I left my camera at home so a big thank you to Phoenicia for letting me use her cellphone for these pictures.

photo

Not only did she loan me her phone, but as usual for our Craft & Flash gatherings, Phoenicia cooked up a storm.  She made delicious refried beans (with star anise in the seasoning), chicken with onions and peppers, a watermelon and jicama salad with fresh mint, and both homemade guacamole and salsa.

We made little soft tacos and tostadas and sipped lemonade made from scratch, of course, with the faintest hint of lavender in the simple syrup.  It was a warm afternoon and I scooped some strawberries into a cup  with the lavender lemonade in the afternoon for an even more delicious combination.

Strawberry Lavender Lemonade

The next project was crocheted bead necklaces. I’ve tried knitting and did some weaving in high school, but generally I’ve stayed away from any kind of precision-type of crafting using hooks or knitting needles and yarn where you need to count and pay attention to the stitches.  I was skeptical when Phoenicia and her sister, and our hostess, Victoria, insisted this was an easy project.

Beads Threaded on Yarn

However, they were right and it was pretty easy.  My fingers still took some time getting used to the rhythm of the chain stitch every time I picked it up.  On the one hand it was a great first project because it was a very manageable size.  On the other hand it was a bit tricky because I kept having to stop the crocheting to move a bead over and I was using a fairly small crochet hook.  But I did it and had fun too.

First I took the skein of crewel yarn.  It looks similar to embroidery thread but it is a twisted 2-ply yarn – I’m going to try it with Perle thread this weekend, also a 2-ply yarn but made of cotton instead of wool.  Back to the necklace – I wrapped the yarn around a spool for easier handling.  A piece of cardboard would have also worked.

Then I threaded 220 beads – I think these are 8/0 seed beads – with a beading needle onto the yarn.  Once all the beads were on the yarn, I removed the needle and start the crocheting.  You crochet three chains then pull one bead into place and crochet one chain to hold it then three more chains and another bead.  After each bead you crochet a total of four chains; one to hold the bead and three more.  To finish it, I put a heart bead on which also served to hide the knot.  I crocheted the ends back into the necklace.

Crocheted Necklaces

These are necklaces that Victoria and Phoenicia made.  Look closely to see the Buddha head beads that they used at the end.

Me with Crocheted Necklace

I’m really pleased to have learned to crochet, albeit a very basic crochet stitch.  I love the necklace I made.  It was a great afternoon of crafting, talking, eating and relaxing with friends.

My goal before this weekend is done is to spend some time on my own with my art journal and practice some art.

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.  So do it.

Kurt Vonnegut

Thank you for the visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Little Fitbit

10,000 + Steps

My dad used to say “Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women glow.” If that’s true, I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of glowing in the last few days.

For a variety of reasons and after some unscientific research, I decided to get myself a Fitbit One activity tracker – a glorified pedometer to some people.  I’ve been unhappy with my current fitness and weight.  I decided that if I am brave enough to jump out of an airplane, then I am brave enough to face reality and start doing something about my health.  Like moving more and making better choices about what I eat.

Logging 10,000 steps a day is my goal.  First I thought I would wear it for a week and see how I was doing and what my average was. Typically I work out three mornings at the gym, attend one evening Jazzercise class during the work week and walk or hike with my sister Kathleen every Saturday.  In the last few months my activity level hasn’t been as high as I would like and I only have myself to blame.

I jumped right in on Saturday and that day logged 10, 586 steps.  On Sunday I managed 12, 670.  Yesterday was just my third day and I was feeling kind of tired.  Like maybe I should have started out a bit more moderately and increased the steps over a few weeks.  On the other hand, I also wanted to get some new workout clothing and figured that walking around some stores after dinner would increase my step total.  I didn’t find plus-sized gear but I got those 10,835 steps in!  I was tired but proud of myself.

It would be cool to look at my “dashboard” on a smart phone and click through the data but I enjoy doing it after work on my laptop. I can also click a button on my little Fitbit One and check my step total, distance, etc.  When I’m active, a little flower grows taller and when I open my dashboard at the end of the evening, I get a big happy face and “hooray” when I achieve my goals (which I can change, by the way).  I’m finding all of this motivating.  But I’m also a bit footsore and still needed more workout wear.  I guess I’ll do some online shopping..but I can’t count steps for that.

At work I’m getting up from my desk more often and walking the long way to use the restroom.  When I walk to the mail room, I go the longest way I can think of. Parking further from the library gained me some steps the other day.  It is like putting a little bit of change into a jar and then counting it up and putting it in the bank and seeing it grow over time.

A friend says she holds a “soft” goal in her head of 7,500 steps and feels ok if she hits that and doesn’t make it to 10,000 every day.  I believe balance is good in my life and though I know that walking every day will help me to feel healthier, reduce both my waist and stress level, boost my energy and mood and decrease my risk for heart disease, there is no magic that happens at 10,000 steps. If I’m neglecting other things to reach my step goal, that isn’t the best result.

But, yes, I admit I walked around the block after Jazzercise tonight. 10,369. Hooray!

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

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