Can you believe summers almost over? Guess that explains the fact that we haven’t blogged in over a month. But somehow once summer comes, time fly’s by. With my endless projects (yes, I’m still working on the porch) and the usual guests one-month blends into the next and all of the sudden it’s September! In wonderful tinsel town, life goes into hyper drive in the summer. There’s the long list of must-see movies, and of course you need to make sure your spray on tan looks fabulous. Then there’s the mandatory pool parties and night’s out with friends. What’s a girl to do?
Life’s different here in the country. While the town park hosts some fun pool parties, the grownup farm community slaves away harvesting mostly winter food for those ever hungry cattle. Corn is chopped, soy beans beaned and multi piles of hay appear. The roads are constantly clogged with farm equipment going or coming from a job. And the veggie gardens are coming in. The neighbors individually ask, anxiously with pathetic looks, if we need tomatoes. No thanks. Our one beefsteak and two plums are supplying all we need. But they don’t take no for an answer. Today we went out for a while and came home to fifty pounds of ripe tomatoes on the front steps. We’ll freeze these, but the other neighbors are still tossing us wistful looks. We can’t leave home for fear of the ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES.
Believe it or not we city folk have vegetable gardens too. In fact they are all the rage. So you can bet the trendy set has taken it up big time. Little gardens have sprung up everywhere. They are amazed at how easy it is to grow your own tomatoes and herbs. You don’t need a lot of space. In fact we have a nice little garden going on our second story porch. Five varieties of tomatoes and a nice herb garden all growing in long containers. Once barren apartment balconies now have all kinds of veggies cascading over the railings. Here in drought-ridden Southern California the trend to grow your own vegetable gardens isn’t the best choice because they are such heavy drinkers. But several people on my block have torn out parts of their front lawns and put in gardens. The woman at the end of the block has some great looking corn. I just love it. Makes me think a little bit of country has snuck into the big city. Next I’ll see my city neighbors breaking out the Farmers Almanac. : )
We’ve had enough rain this season to satisfy those heavy drinkers. One nearby town has a tomato festival with the big event being a tomato fight. Get rid of those soft babies by pitching them at each other. And speaking of heavy drinkers how about that different breed of vegetables showing up on your doorstep at summer’s mid point? This attack comes from the overnight, out of town visitors, who we casually invited last winter while bragging on the glories of southern summers. Who knew they’d take us seriously? But here they are, waiting to be fed and how many things can you cook with tomatoes? Open up the wallet and bring on the country ham and free range chicken. Karen Anne, can you mail us a couple of your fabulous desserts? We have ice cream and store bought cookies but these mid summer wanderers expect more. HELP!!
Ah yes. The human type of heavy drinkers can really be a hand full. I’ve written before about my notorious aunt who never met a form of alcohol she didn’t love. One time when I knew she was coming to visit I cleaned the house of every imaginable liquor source. I wondered why she wasn’t complaining the first day when I told her I was implanting my tough love program. Then I caught her sneaking a sip from a flask she had hidden in her purse. But after two days she managed to drink every drop she brought with her. Since I refused to take her to “stock up” she sat around pouting and even changed her flight to leave the next day. Darn. : ) But that’s not the end of the story. That night I wondered what was making all the noise in the kitchen. I turned on the light and there she was downing my bottle of vanilla extract!! Here’s a much better way to enjoy vanilla. : )
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated Bakers sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or light cream
For the Cupcakes: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees, until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. If you want flat topped cupcakes then slice off the dome of each cupcake, with a sharp knife, before frosting.
For the Frosting: In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk or sugar, if needed.
Sounds wonderful. The recipe not your thirsty guest! How about mixing up a batch and calling overnight express? Or filling one of those PO if it fits we mail boxes? Recipe is way too complicated for me. Fortunately my guests request a much simpler recipe, and appetizer instead of desert. I love making (and eating) this time of year because we have three special ingredients. Tomatoes, of course, Vidalia onions, best sweet onions in the world special crop of our neighbors in Georgia, and herbs of every kind growing their little hearts out. So when the visiting kids ask for Tomatoes on Toast, this is what they get:
One large tomato, half sweet onion, clove garlic, Italian herbs, fresh better (basil, flat leaf parsley, oregano and thyme) but dried mix works too, garlic oil, 12 thin slices Italian bread, ½ lemon, extra virgin olive oil, lemon pepper.
Dice tomato, onion, and garlic. Add lemon pepper and Italian seasoning to taste. Squeeze lemon; add with 1 or 2 tbs. olive oil. Set aside to season. (Can’t keep olive oil dressings in refrigerator since they coagulate) Brush Italian bread with garlic oil (can be made by heating ¼ cup oil and 2tbs. Butter with chopped garlic for 45 seconds in microwave) and top with more Italian seasoning. Toast in hot oven (425) for about 15 minutes or until desired brown is achieved. Don’t need to be brown, just toasted.) Suggest serving separate because if tomato mix goes on toast too soon it gets soggy. Also some people like to munch on the toast alone. Roasted pepper or eggplant appetizer good on the toast.
No more recipes, please! I’m starving!!! Tell me what do you do to amuse your guests besides feed them?
Actually, most of my guest arrive with their own lists. I guess they figure not only should I provide lodging and gourmet meals I should be a chauffer too! I hate to admit it but once in awhile the guests come up with places I’ve never been. I’m used to request’s to visit Disneyland, Universal Studio’s, Hollywood walk of fame but the Neon Museum? It was actually very illuminating. : ) My recent guest came with a list of Taco trucks they wanted to check out. Yes, LA has a slew of them and in fact some are quite famous. Or infamous if after eating off one you end up spending way too much time in the bathroom. lol
I always try to show my guests the real Tennessee, beautiful vistas, scenic farmland, state and National parks, lots of TVA lakes surrounded by million dollar homes and interesting power supplies like coal chimneys and nuclear towers. But my next scheduled crew coming in a few weeks includes my niece, a lawyer from New York. She is a great Dolly Parton fan who insists on doing Dollywood with the biggest roller coaster in the world and other irresistible attractions. The other girls are delighted to be going to the theme park, telling me they always wanted to, but I wouldn’t take them. I got burned out on these places early when my kids were young and we’d visit our California relatives. We did Disneyland three times and I got a headache the minute I stepped into this Wonderland. By the time Disneyworld opened I stayed outside the golden gates. Why bother since it’s been years and years but “It’s a small, small world” refuses to leave my head.
The things we have to do for family! Not only is summer the time for guests, but here in my historic neighborhood, we are in the middle of planning our big summer barbeque. Yes, here in the good old LA metroplex we are going small town. Something about living in an historic landmark neighborhood makes us very close knit. We have big porches on our houses so we hang out and wave when people walk by just like I used to do in my small town in upstate NY. I guess it’s the common bond we have of loving old houses and working to preserve them that makes us feel a connection. It’s nice to know when I’m risking my life up on a 20-foot ladder painting my porch that there’s someone just as crazy just down the street! : )
Living in a beautiful neighborhood with friendly neighbors certainly does take some of the sting off city life such as noise, traffic jams, bad air and over population leading to waiting on lines everywhere. Enjoy your landmark house, but please go easy on those ladders. While we are enjoying a cooler than average summer tales of super hot weather out west has reached us. So keep cool and paint in the winter when the weather’s perfect and maybe I can escape from below zero temps and check your work out! Enjoy your summer parties. Here County Fair time approaches and the farm ladies get vicious. They’re after those blue ribbons for their home made, home grown goodies and they’ll do anything short of slipping vinegar into the competition’s apple pie. All in good fun, of course.
My grandmother was the queen of pies. She always won the best berry pie competition at the local fair. Here in the city, it’s more about who managed to score a reservation at the latest award-winning restaurant. : ) They do take their food pretty seriously here in tinsel town. As long as someone else cooks it. LOL That’s another thing I like about my historic neighborhood, the people here can really cook! Of course most of them are from good old tinsel town. Speaking of my neighbors, I better get back to my planning duties. Four households coordinating the food for the barbecue can be a bit of a headache. Top priority is to make sure we have no repeats. Last year we had four people bring exactly the same coleslaw. I’m a huge fan of the stuff but not when it’s the only side dish!!!!
Have fun at the barbecue which I know will turn out fabulous with you at the helm. And think of me tugging monstrous crabgrass out of my garden. This mutation only appears in midsummer along with the katydids who serenade us every night. Never mind four sides of coleslaw, never-ending paint jobs, weird plants and singing bugs, we’ll be missing the balmy days soon enough. So enjoy the rest of Summer!