Friday, July 31, 2015

♥ ♥ Penne Alla Betsy from the Pioneer Woman ♥ ♥

Lately I have been enjoying reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog and going through her cookbooks. So many tasty recipes but wait….that’s not all. There are great stories about living on a cattle ranch, cowboys…real cowboys, and loads of gorgeous photos.

It’s a life I love reading about but I know I couldn’t hack it. Living so remotely would be a piece of cake – both Doug and I would love that – having acres and acres of nothing between our little home and city life.

But I was not born into that lifestyle which translates to ….I am seriously too lazy to take all that on. You should see our house…….I ought to name it Dust Bunny Colony instead of Squirrel Head Manor.

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Laziness is also one of the reasons we don’t have livestock even though we have 7 little acres zoned for chickens, horses, pigs and goats. I’d love fresh eggs but I couldn’t kill a chicken destined for a roasting pan. Goats are one of my favorites (have you seen our Christmas tree ornaments) but there is the care and feeding which = zero vacations.

So, this brings me to the part of The Pioneer Woman life where I will participate – food!

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Here is a recipe we are adding in our rotation of meal plans. It's delicious.

Shrimp with Penne Pasta


1 pound penne pasta (I used ¾ of a box so just under 1 pound)
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
One 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 leaves fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper


Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the penne until al dente (firm yet tender). Drain and set aside.

My husband peeled the shrimp and placed them in a bowl so I wouldn’t touch the raw shrimp. It gives me a horrible rash if I touch them raw or get the juice on me.

Now heat up a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. After this melts add the shrimp. Cook on both sides until the buggers turn opaque. Remove them from skillet and set aside to cool. You’ll need to chop them up later. Cooking the shrimp only takes about 3 minutes.

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In that same skillet add the remaining tablespoon butter and tablespoon of olive oil. Once the butter softens (don’t let it burn), add the garlic and onion. Stir occasionally until the onion is limp and translucent. Maybe 3 or 4 minutes, depending on your stove.


Now add the wine. Stir it up well before tipping in the tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the half-and-half, trying to keep the temperature low so it simmers.

While that sauce is simmering gently, pull the tails off the shrimp, if they have any, and chop shrimp into pieces, tossing them into the sauce as you go. Now add parsley and basil and give it a good but gentle stir.

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Is the pasta done and drained? Add it to the sauce and stir to coat the noodles. Season with salt and pepper per your taste.

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Read more at Foodnetwork

We loved this dish. Usually I don't add tomatoes or tomatoes sauce to any sort of shrimp dish but this one rocked. And yes, as lazy as I am this one was easy enough to toss together on a work night. Perfect, try it - you will thank me. I'm sure you'll be seeing more recipes here from Pioneer Woman. If you have a favorite please share with me ♥ ♥

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Just a little ride

It wasn’t an exciting ride but it was fun. Seems the weather is conspiring against us to take a very long ride, as in a 5 hour trip to Eufala Alabama for Phil’s BBQ. Yes, it’s that good that it’s worth a trip on the bike just to eat one of their sandwiches. As I have mentioned before, and I’m sure ad nauseam, the heat index has been too high for a long ride and exposure to the sun.


For now we will content ourselves with shorter jaunts. These are photos I took on an early morning ride from our place through Cairo Georgia and back home via the road through Climax and Havana. I had no idea what the photos would look like as I snapped away since I was sitting behind Doug, going down the highway at 65 mph or so.



Cairo isn’t much of a town with very little to see, so no photos there. We like to eat at local places but alas, nothing to be found in Cairo except Hardees, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen. DQ wasn’t open and I doubt we could have gotten pizza even if we wanted it….ewwww…so early for that.

We settled for McDonalds because we were ravenous. All I wanted was the meal deal for an egg McMuffin. The server states, “We’re out of hash browns” and stares at me.

I asked if there was a substitution because I sure wasn’t going to pay for a meal when all I’d get was an English muffin. No. Unless I wanted French fries. Why not.

It wasn’t good but I wasn’t holding out high hopes anyway. It took care of the hunger and stomach growling.


Off we went towards home down Highway 84. Only cut off once and no danger of falling so…..that’s typical. Very pretty rural roads though once you get off 84.


Sometimes when we ride by these little country houses, so far from any grocery store or Starbucks or other houses, I wonder what it would be like to live there. It’s quieter, I’ll bet the skies are darker from lack of buildings and lights, it’s very isolated but has a certain appeal.


Buying this trike was a good decision…..we are already planning some trips and looking forward to better weather.


Ride to eat.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rustic Apple Pie

Recently I have been thumbing through my Pioneer Woman cookbooks and saw this easy apple pie recipe. Yeah.... I immediately know I need to make this one. What is going ON with this sweet tooth lately?

Almost out of control. Almost. I had to adapt the recipe a bit as I didn’t need two pies in the house. Some good sense prevailed. Oh, and this is more like a tart….not the traditional looking pie.

So, besides the pie making and complaining about the summer heat we have managed to take a shorter ride on the trike. We made the back road trip to Cairo Georgia, just to ride and enjoy the wind and rural scenery. I took some photos while on the bike and will post very soon. Next post, for sure. Now let me share this pie.

Ingredients and easy instructions

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly chunked or sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt
1 Recipe Perfect Pie Crust found HERE

Now, I was feeling exceptionally lazy and took the easy way by buying a Pillsbury premade pie crust.

Roll out the crust on a baking sheet after it’s been out at room temperature long enough to roll out without tearing.

In a large bowl combine all the other ingredients and mix well. I like to let it sit a bit so the apple pieces macerate in the juices.

Place the apple mixture in the center of the pie crust and start folding up the leftover dough. The dough should cover about 2 or 3 inches of the apples.

See doesn't cover the entire mess of apples............

Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. Let it cool a little first or the slices won’t be neat. Plus you’ll burn your mouth. I may have burnt my mouth a little, totally worth it.

This is an easy go-to dessert if you have the apples in the house. Usually I have lots of sugars and a lemon or two hanging about so this was a last minute easy decision. You can make this spur of the moment! Not sure if that's a good thing or not. :-)

Next I will post photos taken from the back of the trike. I'm not always sure how good a shot it is, I just snap and look later. But it's fun.

Hope you are well. And in cool temperatures. That's a current fantasy of mine, cooler temperatures. Please write and tell me what that's like.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reader's Workout #12


Good day and welcome to my 12th link up with Joy at Joy's Book Blog for her Reader's Workouts series!

So, I decided that combining my book blog with this one wasn’t a great idea. The Reader’s Workout linkup will remain here. I had been cross-posting but for anyone used to seeing this at Novel Meals, this is the new home. Last time I didn’t post here so I have pasted #11 at the end of this post.

I am over a cold (or very wicked allergies) which kept me inside 1 morning. In spite of diminished lung capacity from my illness and the thick-as-snot humidity – we walked every morning! Getting in almost 7,000 steps before noon is pretty good. For us. Our spoiled female shiba inu Aja has joined us several mornings. That’s a slower walk but it’s also a great warm up.

Since I sit so much at work I am trying to be more conscientious about getting up and stretching more. I take the stairs when I need to go to legal to drop anything off, avoiding elevators as much as possible. I hate them anyway and worry about getting stuck inside so it benefits me to climb stairs for that reason alone!

Currently reading Ian Rankin’s mystery Witch and just finishing up Craig Johnson’s Wait for Signs.

All my future participation in Joy’s Reader’s Workout will be right here. Hope your weekly exercise and reading experiences are good.

( #11 was posted July 1st on my other site:
Good day and welcome to my 11th link up with Joy at Joy’s Book Blog for her Reader’s Workouts series.

Boring old report from me this week. We are still walking daily with the exception of one horrible day after we’d had to put our beloved dog to sleep. Still heartbroken but knowing we will move on, we have resumed our daily walking routine. I’d like to incorporate something else into our exercise routine but I don’t know what.
I tried yoga and am still getting an occasional twinge from tearing fibers I my left leg. That’s supposed to be relaxing! I don’t like running so that’s out. Maybe some sit-ups.
Currently reading a Jane Green novel, just finished The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Ride to St. Marks

Last Saturday we decided to ride to St. Mark's and get a seafood lunch. It takes about 40 minutes to get there, depending on traffic. Another excuse to ride the trike.

Here I am sitting at the Riverside Cafe, patiently awaiting my grilled shrimp sandwich.

Looks good, doesn't it?

Some folks sit at the long bar to watch the boats go by. Strictly no feeding of the many gulls who swoop by begging food. We should do that next time,

After lunch we rode about 3 minutes to walk around the old Spanish fort.

The saw grass is so thick you wonder how on earth the Spaniards walked through the meadows. Smooth on one side and jagged edges on the other. It will tear your clothes and skin. This must be how wild it looked in the 1680’s.

After eating and walking around the old fort we decided to soak our t-shirts in cold water before donning our jackets. It was too hot to be out riding long distances and we didn’t think that through before taking the long way home, another 100 miles. It was great at first! Then the oppressive heat got to be too much………it was so good to get home. We took a cool shower immediately.

Since the heat index has been high for over a week we will be limiting our trips on the trike. Maybe just get lunch and head back home or take an evening ride after dinner.

Hope all is well in your world!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Light Side for I ♥ Cooking Club

Hello to my friends at I ♥ Cooking Club. It’s been a while since I participated but the theme this week hooked me. Who doesn’t love a dish you can prepare in under 30 minutes!

The dish I am sharing took me about 15 minutes to toss together but the entire meal was on the table in under 25 minutes. Winner for a work day, I can tell you. I am just recovering from a nasty head cold so if I can get this prepped and on the table without being a baby, anyone can do it!

I prepared Jacques’ Tomato, Cucumber and Mozzarella salad. It was a breeze. While all those flavors mingled in the fridge I started a rice dish and prepared a frying pan for sea scallops. The rice dish I can take no credit for – it’s actually Zatarains Caribbean Rice mix with bits of coconut and pineapple. Tonight’s theme was tropical and cool so, this worked well for me.

My lovely Pepin salad was a great accompaniment to the rice and butter pan-seared sea scallops. The Rose was a nice touch too.

The recipe as it appears in Essential Pepin follows as it appears in the book. Since there are only two of us I cut waaaayyyy back on the quantities. This is so easy to make I would rather have it fresh than return to soggy leftovers.

Tomato, Cucumber & Mozzarella Salad

· 1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (regular or plum)
· 1 cucumber (about 1/2 pound), peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
· 1 to 2 onions (about 8 ounces total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
· ½ pound mozzarella cheese, cut into sticks about 1/2 inch thick by 1 1/2 inches long
· ½ cup shredded basil
· ¼ cup chopped chives or parsley
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 1 teaspoon salt
· ½ jalapeno pepper (optional), seeded and chopped fine (about 1 teaspoon)
· 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
· ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze out seeds. Cut seeded tomatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place chopped onion in a sieve and wash under cold water to remove some of the sulfuric acid compound, which tends to make the onions discolor and is strong-smelling and irritating to the eyes. Drain thoroughly.

2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, stirring well. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed. An hour or so before serving, remove from the refrigerator so the salad is cool, not cold, when eaten. Serve with a crunchy French bread.

Surf over to I ♥ Cooking Club and see some other fast but delicious dishes. I am also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's been going on around these parts.........

Ok, in a snapshot here's the scoop from our place. Today we are planning a ride to St Marks for a seafood lunch. Then we'll take the long way home through the Apalachicola National forest. It ought to be good and steamy by then so we'll be ready to get home. Photos later...........


We finished season two of Broadchurch and I am hoping they’ll do another season. This season wrapped up two different investigations so it could rest there but the acting was so good, I am hoping for more starring David Tenent and Oliva Coleman. All of the actors were superb. You are swept up with the raw emotion and story line. The music was perfect, as it was in season one.


Looking forward to the final season of Justified. Netflicks finally has it. I am too cheap to buy it.

We were a bit disappointed in Chappie and also in a series new to us, Banshee. We turned Banshee back in to our library after being bored with one episode.

Yummy meals

Shrimp and feta on pasta with cool glass of Rose.  Perfect for these hot evenings and fairly low calorie too.


I received my first box from Stitch Fix and am looking forward to the next one. If you haven’t heard of it it’s an amazing little program for those of us who hate to go clothes shopping. Sometimes I feel like I am in the minority of women who hate shopping but I am finding more who agree with me. It’s confusing when I walk into a department store and see all the sections with varying sizes. There is Petite, Women’s, Juniors, Active wear and more. Each section will have different sizes. See….I get lost in all that right from the start.

This is one top that I was thinking would go back. As soon as I saw it I thought, this is just not me. But it's great and I have gotten many compliments on it when I wear it to work. OK, not the best photo but I wanted to share.

Stitch Fix has a questionnaire where you must be very honest about your weight, measurements, color preferences, etc and they select 5 articles of clothing per your profile. It comes in the mail and you can send it back, all of it or just some of it, postage paid. Just try everything on first. You even set your price. There is a drop down menu where you can cap the price of particular items such as blouses, dresses, accessories, and all that.

If you check it out I would love it if you’d use my referral link here. StitchFix referral

Books and Reading

Lately I have been getting into reading the Pioneer Woman cookbooks. They are filled with recipes but I love the storylines.

For fiction I have read The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt.

Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore.  This one has Ireland as a backdrop, it leans toward the chick-lit genre but there is mystery as well.  Also The Beekeeper’s Daughter, also by Santa Montefiore. This one is based in Devon England pre-WW II (and just after) and Massachusetts.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Disturbing relationships and dysfunctional society. Dark indeed.

That was a longer update that I planned are up to date. This next week I am looking forward to participating in a Reader's Workout, I Heart Cooking Club and uploading some new photos. Hope all is well in your world!


Saturday, July 04, 2015

A ride to Dothan AL and other ramblings

Yesterday we took a ride to Dothan Alabama but for some reason, I completely forgot about taking photos. It was the longest ride we have taken with the Tri-Glide. Tristan and his wife were able to join us and I'm glad they could. It's been a long time since we took a ride with them.

We ate at Smokey Joe's BBQ and it was just run of the mill. The food was good, just nothing special to make you want to ride there for that particular restaurant. Plenty of other places we still want to try in Dothan. The day started off with cooler than normal temperatures so that was nice. By the afternoon when we headed back to Florida it was scorching hot. So glad I didn't look at my phone app where it gives the heat indexes. When we got home I looked - 102 F....ouch!

So. A few posts back I mentioned I wanted to combine my two blogs and just update one. I had a little poll on the side for a bit so I could see if anyone had interest in one spot over the other. I had three votes on this site preferring Squirrel Head Manor. I had three votes on Novel Meals preferring...Novel Meals. Folks that visit me are interested in either the bookish theme or this food-and-life-events. The paths do not cross. Well...mostly they don't cross.

Since I have joined in on several book challenges tied to Novel Meals I will continue to do my book reviews there for the remainder of the year. Squirrel Head Manor has been my blogesphere home for over 8 years, since 2007.

I will remain here. Possibly when my book challenges are done I'll start posting them here. I like Wordpress very much but I am tied sentimentally to this old site. Until the time Blogger abandons the platform (and yes I have heard rumors of them doing that) I'll hang out here and hope you continue to join me.

Happy 4th of July to my American buddies!


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