Thursday, January 30, 2020

Comfort Food...

I asked my sweetie for comfort food on this cold night. He made Shepard's Pie for dinner.  It was so delicious, I want to share it with you...

Shepherd’s pie is one of the most loved meals in Ireland. The truth is that shepherd’s pie came about from sheer genius and the need to preserve rather than waste food. It was derived from the need to make something cohesive from the little bits of food that was seen to be not worth much. It was so revered in that time that it became something like a specialty dish in some homes. 

Try this recipe from Alton Browns cookbook:

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1 large egg yolk


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots (peeled and finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground shepherd (in a pinch, substitute mutton or lamb stew meat)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup English peas (fresh or frozen)
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set said pan over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, drop the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, toss to coat, and continue to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary and thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly for 10 to 12 minutes, until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the half-and-half and butter in a microwave-safe container and nuke till warmed through, about 35 seconds.
  6. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes (a masher is an excellent tool for this, though a hand mixer will also do), then add the hot half-and-half mixture, as well as the salt and pepper. Mash to smoothness, then stir in the egg yolk.
  7. Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly in a 7-by-11-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling over, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. 
  8. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Lori in Blue Ridge, GA

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tuesday 4....

Hobbies and Interests Tuesday 4 Questions....

1. Do you have a hobby or a special interest?  Do you quilt, crochet, cook, sew, collect things, sing, play an instrument, love dolls , politics, learning, reading, biking, hiking, camping, swimming, flower arranging, watching TV? Do you love to entertain, set a beautiful table or just take a walk? Share it with us won't you? Why do you enjoy it? Can you tell us how you became interested or what particularly interests you about your hobby.

I love camping; it has been my favorite hobby for about 35 years. I started with a very small pup tent camping on the Hawaiian Islands while in college. I upgraded to larger tents several times over the years, and camped all over the USA with friends and family. My husband and I made the decision to trade in our tent for a travel trailer about two years ago. It allows us to pick up and go on the spur of the moment...Love it!

We also coordinate and lead "Glamping Trips" to state and national parks. We provide a comfortable camping event for friends and guests. Some favorite locations are Cloudland Canyon in North GA. Big Creek in North Carolina, and Kings Canyon in CA.

2.  Gardening is a hobby for some. Do you garden or grow house plants? What do you like about it? What are your favorite plants inside or out? Pictures? We'd love to see  photos of you house or garden plants or hear about ideas you have for growing things or creating beauty with plants around the house.
I love digging in the dirt. Flowers in the yard make me smile and give me great joy. I also enjoy the textures and colors of Hostas in the shady spots on our property. My favorite plants are the magnificent varieties of hydrangeas. 

Various hydrangeas growing near picket fence

3. If you could design a dream garden or park , how would you do it? What would it contain.? Maybe include a picture from the net of one you think closely fits your dream garden.
It would be filled with hostas and hydrangeas, many rocks for texture, a rock lined stream, and seating for relaxing in the garden. Something like this....

4. Do you like being outdoors? If so, what attracts you to the great outdoors and if not, what keeps you inside? Do you walk in the rain? Are there parks near you that you like to visit?
The outdoors is my happy place. Walking in the woods, sitting on the beach, watching the river rush past, or strolling through the park are some of the ways that I relax, reflect, and recharge. I do not walk in the rain, I walk in the sun. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is only a few hours away; it is a wonderful park filled with magical places to explore.

Lori in Blue Ridge, GA

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

My Jewelry Making Class ...

Jewelry. Humans have been adorning themselves with it for thousands of years. In fact, jewelry is one of the oldest types of archaeological artifacts, with 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewelry. But the first signs of established jewelry making didn’t happen until around 3,000-5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt.

Since then, much has changed, yet much has stayed the same. Whether you call it jewelry in the States, jewellery in the UK or jewelery elsewhere, these accessories make a statement,  and showcase our personal style.

Forget items being cranked out by the thousands (or millions) at a factory. There’s something much more satisfying in creating your own jewelry designs. Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces forge style and sentiment into a single, unique DIY accessory that has a story to tell.

Just like any good story, we must start at the beginning: The Fundamentals. My jewelry making for beginners class will show you how to make jewelry that is functionally sound, aesthetically pleasing and professional looking so that you can wear it proudly or happily give it to friends and family.

I give jewelry making classes at Blue Haven Studio in Blue Ridge, GA. I have a wide selection of beads, chain and pendants to create custom, handmade jewelry. Students can choose to make a necklace, earrings or bracelet.  Browse my selection and samples when you arrive, and I’ll be there to help you create something you’ll be proud to wear. We also enjoy adult beverages and bring snacks to share. 

The students from my last class showing off their creations.... Each gal picked the materials and length of the necklace.  They did a wonderful job.

Check-out upcoming classes at: 

Lori in Blue Ridge

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Four questions weekly....

1. Where have you traveled and what is the furthest you've been from home
My career allowed me to travel coast to coast in the United States and Canada. I've also traveled outside of North America: Europe, The Caribbean, Central America, and The Pacific Islands. I think Istanbul Turkey is the furthest that I've been from home.

Image result for istanbul turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

2. Is there a location other than where you are, that you think would be a nice place to live?
If cost was not a factor I would have several homes. A summer home in Camden, Maine, a winter home on the coast in Florida (possibly Key West), and a vacation home in Santorini, Greece.  

3. Do you have a photo or story from a favorite place to visit?
I love Architecture; Key West, Florida is home to one of the largest collections of intact 18th century homes. The Key West historic district, with quaint tree lined lanes and stately mansions, is a national treasure to be savored.
There are many other reasons why I love Key West; the tropical setting, the gardens, the locals, the artsy feel of the community, the seafood, etc...etc...! Too many to list.  I Love Key West!

Key West, Florida

4. What dream destination do you have tucked away in  your heart? Do you think you'll be able to visit them one day or are plans in the making?
I've always wanted to visit the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island in Michigan.  When I was young I lived outside of Chicago and the Grand Hotel was a vacation destination within driving distance.  But we never traveled there as a family and after College I never returned to the Midwest. Someday I will get there.....

Image result for the grand hotel mackinac island
The Grand Hotel

Lori in Blue Ridge, GA

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

It's National Bagel Day!

What is National Bagel Day?
National Bagel Day is January 15.  The yummy rounds of dough can be found just about anywhere: breakfast joints, coffee shops, supermarkets, or your favorite deli. In fact, 2018 saw more than 354 million bagels sold. What is your favorite? Mine is the Everything Bagel.
National Bagel Day History
Bagels have a long and highly documented history that travels from the Jewish families of Poland in the 1600s to wrapped up in parchment paper in your hands today. And, unlike many things created nearly five-hundred years ago, bagels are remarkably unchanged. Sure, cream cheeses, butters, flavors, and toppings may have evolved over time but the bagel is still the same basic recipe
Bagels made the jump to America with a massive Polish-Jewish immigration in the 1800s that firmly entrenched itself in New York City where it thrived. In fact, an entire union was created in the early 1900s called Bagel Bakers Local 338 to support the growing, immigrant-led industry. That also begat the “bagel brunch,” that we still enjoy to this day with little to no changes: lox, cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, and red onions. 
While bagels were hugely popular in New York City almost immediately, they didn’t make their way to the national scale until the mid 20th-century where automation and bread slicing made mass manufacturing much more efficient. Since then, bagels have taken off to include a variety of flours, toppings, dips and smears but still remain – by and large – exactly as they were in the 1600s...yummy!

How to Make Bagels
Not all bagels are created equal; in fact, truly great bagels are so hard to find, I decided to learn how to make bagels at home. This recipe for the classic bagel is easy to follow; once you get the basics down, switch up the toppings and flavors to delight every bagel lover in the house. 

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water 110°F
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup divided
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Everything Bagel Seasoning or poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or coarse salt (see notes)1.) Soften (bloom) the yeast in the warm water for 5 minutes.
2.) In an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine flour, 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup, sugar, and salt. With the motor running on low, slowly drizzle in the yeast mixture.
3.) Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. If the dough becomes stuck to the dough hook, scrape the dough off the hook and return to the bottom of the mixer bowl.
4.) Turn out the dough onto a dry surface and shape into a ball. Place in a greased bowl and brush with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees, see notes) for 20 minutes (it will double in volume).
5.) Turn out the dough onto a dry surface and divide into 12 equal portions of dough.

6.) Working with 1 portion of a dough at a time, roll the dough into a 9-inch rope. Moisten the ends of each rope and wrap the dough around to form a circle. There should be  a hole approximately the size of a quarter in the middle and the ends of the dough should overlap by at least 1 inch. Repeat with remaining portions.
7.) Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees) for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
8.) Bring a large, shallow pan of water and remaining 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup to a simmer. Boil the bagels in batches, 3 to 4 at a time, for 30 seconds on each side, adjusting the heat of the stove to maintain a simmer. Remove to the cooling rack set over a baking sheet and repeat with remaining bagels. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
9.) While the top of the bagels are still damp, sprinkle with Everything Bagel Seasoning, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or coarse salt. Transfer the bagels to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
10.) Bake until the bagels are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Switch the positions and rotate the orientation of the sheets halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Recipe NotesTo create a warm environment ideal for yeast-rising, preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (170 degrees, 200 degrees), but shut it off once the temperature reaches 110 degrees. Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven. The oven temperature will drop when you open the oven door, but enough residual heat will remain that your dough should steadily rise.

To make Everything Bagel Seasoning, combine:
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt or flaked salt

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Accomplishing Your Goals....

Everyone’s discussing goal-setting this time of year, but I think most people miss a key part of making goals ... following-through, meaning taking the necessary steps and doing specific things to help you achieve those goals.
In setting my goals for the year, I came across a great set of tips and wanted to share:

1. Write it down....
Most of us do write down our goals in January, but we only think about them on occasion. A goal setting study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychologist and professor, says we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals if we simply write them down. Instead of thinking about them or only writing them once, write them down frequently so your focus is fresh and your goals are top of mind. I have a journal to do this, and look at it daily.

2. Work on it...
This is a big one for me, I pride myself on being organized and following a plan. Along with daily chores, making jewelry and teaching classes, scheduling time to work on a specific goal the is key. According to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a psychologist who studies goal-setting, scheduling time to work on your goals doubles and sometimes triples your chances for success.

3. Be Accountable...
According to the American Society of Training & Development, you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you have someone to help keep you accountable. If you set a standing accountability appointment for coffee, a text or email to report status, your odds go up to 95%! 

Lori in Blue Ridge

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