Sunday, April 23, 2017

Instant Pot Madness

Here's my Instant Pot wisdom of the day and my chicken cacciatore recipe.

If you're thinking about getting one, join the Instant Pot Community on Facebook.  Be ready to be inundated with a million posts, thereby missing some of your REAL friends posts.  I stayed connected just long enough to gather some information, then UNFOLLOWED.    I discovered the best place for recipes is ThisOldGal.com.  Pinterest, not so much.  Lots of recipes, but lots of fails.

Most of the posts are from people without brains.  I apologize in advance, but really ... how many times have you put ingredients in your crock pot WITHOUT the insert, then turned it on and left the building.  Not many, I'm willing to guess.  If you are looking for a recipe, scroll back through the posts, or better yet, go to the Instant Pot Community page and use the search function.  Please don't ask how to boil eggs ... it has been asked literally a million times!!   I'm happy to answer any questions I can .. just send me a message.
The pot you see here is a 5 quart size, more than enough for me or a family of four.  The next size up is a 6 quart ... no bigger around, just taller.  If you are cooking for an army that lives in your neighborhood or you want soup for the next year, buy the 8 quart.

There are basically TWO models, or types of Instant Pots.  The DUO 50 (5 qt) or 60 (6 qt) and the LUX.  Don't buy the Lux.  It has a lid that is much harder to handle and put in place.  It has less buttons to play with and will only cook some things with a complicated recipe of pushing said buttons.  The DUO is the Nikon of pots ..... the LUX is that old brownie camera your mother had.  Trust me on this one because I have BOTH.  I don't recommend any other brand (there are many) and they have MANY problems.  Customer service on the IP has been terrific so I have read.

When you cook in the Instant Pot, you must ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS (emphasis on always) have at least one cup of water or liquid in the pot.  Otherwise, there won't be enough steam to get to pressure.  If you are following an Instant Pot recipe, you should be okay.  You're grandmothers chicken recipe may not work so well.

Just like the old fashioned pressure cooker I have in the cupboard, these new ones have silicon rings in the lid.  A weird trait of silicon is it sucks up the smell of whatever you are cooking.  I personally don't mind since I like smelling the chicken I cooked as I walk by the stove two days later.  The problem comes when you bake cheesecake in the same pot and it comes out tasting like chicken and garlic.  For that reason, order the colored silicon rings (Amazon.com) so you can switch them out when you cook something sweet.    Blue for sweets, red for meats.
The questions always arise ... what accessories should I get?  Besides the rings (and the trivet that comes with the pot), I suggest a wire basket.  This one HAD metal handles that easily break off, making it a perfect fit for the pot.  Okay, not as easy as they made it sound ... it took me fifteen minutes of twisting and pulling.  It's plenty big for a crowd of green beans or cut up potatoes for salad.  The little feet are not tall enough .... place the trivet inside the pot and put this on the trivet to keep the water AWAY from your potatoes.
The Push Pan (like the old fashioned cheesecake pans) is a must.  Springform pans work too, but a smaller size is required due to the spring sticking out a little too far.  This pan is good for any number of things, like cakes, cheesecakes, lasagne, tamale pie, quiche, egg casserole ... just about anything you can imagine.  No one said lasagne had to be in a square pan.  Just a note here ... if the recipe calls for foil to be put over the top ... like cheesecake or chocolate cake ... be sure and not miss that step.  Otherwise you will have a soggy water-logged cake from all the water dripping from the lid onto your cake.  In fact, I have covered everything I cooked in this pan.
So here's the chicken cacciatore recipe.  You can also cook it in your crock pot, it will just take all day versus 30 minutes.

2 pounds boneless chicken thighs 
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste (rest goes in freezer for next time)
1 red bell pepper
8 oz sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 sm can black olives (add after cooking is complete)

Select SAUTE function on your instant pot and wait for it to say HOT.  Add in the oil and brown the chicken for a minute or two.  Remove from pot.  Add a tiny bit more oil if needed and toss in the onion.   Keep stirring (I use a wooden spoon) until all the good bits are off the bottom of the pot.  If you don't get all the bits off the bottom, they will burn, giving a lovely inedible taste to your chicken.  Add in the garlic.  Hit the CANCEL button which turns the pot off.

Add in the tomatoes, vinegar and spices, giving it a quick stir.  Top with chicken and remaining vegetables with broth going in last.  Secure the lid and select the manual button.  It will automatically cook on HIGH but you have to adjust the time.  The default on mine is 30 minutes, so after hitting the manual button, I keep hitting the minus sign ( - ) until it gets down to EIGHT minutes.  Be sure the valve on top is set to SEALING and walk away.  For this recipe NPR for 5 minutes, then QPR, both described below.  Stir in the olives before serving.

That's it ... just let it go.  You may or may not hear a little steam escaping ... you may or may not hear the valve closing.  Once the pot reaches pressure, it will automatically start counting down the time you set.  Be patient ... full pots (never more than 2/3 full) take longer to reach pressure.

Once done, it beeps at you and begins the count UP for the NPR ... natural pressure release.  In other words, it will release the inside pressure naturally and the pin will drop, allowing you to remove the lid ..... OR ..... you can quick release the pressure QPR by lifting the valve, whereupon the steam will come screaming out until the pin drops.  Don't do this with your fingers, for obvious reasons.  I use the same wooden spoon to GENTLY lift the valve releasing the pressure.   Once the pin drops,  dinner is served, after you stir in the olives!! 

As with all cookware, it takes a little getting used to.  Sometimes that steak my mother cremated took 30 minutes to burn to a crisp, sometimes 40.  It's the same with the Instant Pot.   If the contents aren't done to your satisfaction, replace the lid and start it again for maybe an additional 5 minutes.  There's a little bit of trial and error the first several times you BAKE in it ... although my cheesecake, chocolate cake and flan came out perfectly every time.    Beginner's luck!!!

Another tip .... never Quick Release meat, even if the recipe tells you to.  The meat is sitting in your pot, all relaxed and happy until you release the pressure quickly, in which case it tightens up like the charlie horse in your calf at midnight ... and it will stay that way, TOUGH as nails.  Let the pot count up to at least 10 minutes before releasing the pressure for your meat to remain happy and tender.  Not so much for chicken, but definitely for any other kind of meat.

The book that comes with the unit is basically worthless.  I haven't found an Instant Pot cookbook yet, but I'm on the hunt.  In the meantime, I use PAPRIKA (iPhone app) to capture recipes from Facebook and the internet on my phone.  Works like a charm.  

Tomorrow ... critters you can sleep with!!!








Saturday, April 22, 2017

In The Interest of Fair Advertising

I don't frequent fast food joints.  Although I love LOVE their food, I gain weight just looking at it.  I haven't had a craving for hamburgers in years when I stopped in at In-N-Out in Gilroy.  You already know how disappointing the french fries were.

So on my way home yesterday from purchasing material in Turlock, I had to drive by not one, but TWO Mickey D's.  Barbara Westerfield suggested I try THEIR fries.  Well why not???  Life's short.  So in the interest of fair advertising, here's my report.

I gobbled down the first one right out of the nice brown bag before I even left the parking lot.  WHAT A DIFFERENCE!  They were hot, crispy on the edges with just a hint of salt and completely cooked through like a french fry should be.  I could even tell they had been in a boiling bath of oil, giving them just the right texture.  They were half gone by the time I got home (it's about a mile away).
Here's why you get your french fries at McDonald's, but your burger at In-N-Out.  McDonald's has changed up their menu.  They used to have a large selection of delicious things, but alas, I only saw one chicken sandwich and about six burgers.  Chicken nuggets don't count.  Eating chicken parts I can't recognize is a dangerous health risk.  

Not wanting another burger, since they post all the calories on each and every one, I settled for the Artisan Chicken Sandwich.  Trust me folks, there is nothing "artisan" about it.  Maybe it's the bun that meets their criteria.  Yes, there really is a bun smashed to death under that tough piece of chicken.  The top bun didn't fair well either.  The best part was the not-quite-ripe tomatoe covered with a limp piece of lettuce.  

An Artisan is a skilled crafts worker who makes things by hand.  I suppose I have to admit it was thrown together by hand, including the teaspoon of something resembling sauce underneath the chicken.  I honestly couldn't taste it at all ... I tried .... before dumping two tablespoons of honey mustard into the middle.  It didn't help.

I'm on a quest now ... something like the bread pudding of the year award we were trying to drop on someone as the Westerfields and I crossed the United States to Maine.  I HAVE to find the best french fries.  I'll skip anything with the name Artisan.
My trip out of town yesterday was to pick up fabric to make a baby quilt.  I know ... there are no babies in my life, but it's the cutest thing EVER!!  My embroidery machine that I picked up in Tucson is the bees knees!!!    So sad for me, I didn't get QUITE enough material, so I'll have to return today, driving right by Carls Junior!!
Obviously the diet has gone out the window the last week or so, so I'm trying to get back on track with another Instant Pot wonder.  There are a million recipes out there ... many of which do NOT turn out well for others, so I decided to stick with a known formula.  Here's the first chicken cacciatore recipe I made.  It's a keeper, so I made it again last night.  Gosh darn ... this stuff is GOOD!!
I served it over a little bit of rice, in an actual ceramic BOWL.  I did learn a lesson here ... cut up chicken breast takes longer to cook than thighs, even though it's all the same size.  I'm sticking that piece of information in my brain in the hopes it will reappear the next time I cook chicken.
It's time to get organized and start packing for a rally in Sacramento coming up this week.  Not sure I'm going to use it, but the Instant Pot will go with me everywhere from now on, so I need to procure a place for it to ride.  Reorganization ... not my forte!!  Maybe I can find a Taco Bell in Old Town Sacramento to further my quest ... oh wait ... they don't have french fries!!




Friday, April 21, 2017

Robbers Pass

I haven't been taking my camera with me lately ... shame on me!!  I did remember it on my trip over the hill to Gilroy and Morgan Hill, but only after driving five miles down the road.  That's usually enough for me to say forget it ... but this time I went back.  California is gorgeous in the springtime.

As you drive up over the Diablo Mountains between the Santa Clara Valley and our Central Valley, you can see nothing but green.  In the olden days, back when I was a kid (not really), it was the site of a stage station on the Butterfield Overland stagecoach mail route.  It connected St. Louis Missouri with San Francisco and quickly became known as Robbers Pass.
On this particular day, the clouds looked like they were playing tic tac toe.  The Yokut Indians were the first to use this trail to traverse the mountains and trade with the coastal tribes.  It's a beautiful area, but unfortunately there aren't many turnouts where you can stop and enjoy the view.  In fact, there are none.  I stopped in a big driveway with no parking signs every ten feet.
It's more well known name of Pacheco Pass was for Francisco Pacheco who owned 35,000 acres of Mexican Land Grants, but people knew it as Robbers Pass because of all the holdups that took place there.   There was only one route over the hills in central California, so it was the perfect setup for bad guys looking to garner a few bucks without working for it.

Seems kind of weird, but on the Eastern side of the Diablo mountains there is a huge dam creating the San Luis Reservoir.  It's an artificial lake and stores water taken from the Sacramento River Delta.  Water comes from the California Aqueduct system, is pumped UPHILL into the lake, then is released back DOWN into the forebay where it continues on south for irrigation and "other purposes" meaning water for the Los Angeles area.  This is the first time it has been full in many years.
Although it is a recreation area for boaters and fishermen, it is notoriously windy and has caused many deaths from overturned boats.  I caught my biggest fish ever at this location.  
At any rate, on the way back I didn't see any robbers, but I did see lots of water in the San Luis Wildlife area.  Water from the San Joaquin River spreads out on this flood plain (that is when there IS water) as far as the eye can see, making it a perfect habitat for ducks and all water critters.
There's no place to stop along this highway either.  You would think they could widen the road a little, but apparently they don't want visitors.  I stopped by a bridge in a spot barely wide enough for my truck and left my flashers on just long enough to get this pictures of the ducks scurrying away.
As you get closer to the river proper, there is a large parking area, completely flooded.  If you're brave, you can tempt fate and try to cross over to it.  I didn't stay too long ... there were a couple of fishermen just a little too close for comfort. 
It really is a beautiful area, whether in the spring when everything is green, or in the summer when the hills look like velvet from the brown summer grass.  Take someone with you for pictures because you're going to want to keep your eyes on the road.  

This is a major truck corridor to the Bay Area, along with tons of people who are in a BIG hurry on a  narrow and steep highway, making it a rather dangerous ride.  I can't believe we rode Pacheco Pass on our motorcycles back in the old days and lived to tell the story.    Someone was definitely looking out for us on Robbers Pass.





Thursday, April 20, 2017

French Fry FAIL

In the world of french fries, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  I was in a state of shock yesterday as I lost BIG TIME!!

In spite of my grogginess from the usual late night Magic Kingdom, I was determined to make the drive to Morgan Hill to see the Madonna Needlepoint store.  I've had these two canvases for quite some time, but no yarn to complete them.  Don't ask me why they are Japanese Kimonos ... I must have been going through an Oriental phase.

At any rate, the drive wasn't bad at all in spite of the terrible road over Pacheco Pass.  It's narrow with lots of concrete barriers and REALLY bumpy for a 3/4 ton truck since it's California and we haven't fixed our highways in ages.  Once over the hill, it reverts to a two lane narrow blood alley (lots of accidents there) until finally hitting Gilroy and Hwy 101.  A short five miles later, I was in Morgan Hill at a WONDERFUL store.

Why didn't I hear about this before?  The shop is HUGE with tons of canvases and even more thread of every color under the sun!!  I was so awestruck I forgot to take pictures.  The people were very nice and invited me to stay the day.  Instead, I purchased yarn to finish these two projects and signed up for a free Help Class on a Sunday morning.
Reason being ... this spectacular canvas I've had for maybe ten years and never completed.  She deserves some pretty crazy needle and bead work, not to mention that hair.  This instructor is the creative one who will help me make something fabulous.    And did I say her talents were FREE?
When it was finally time to head home, I stopped off in Gilroy at In-N-Out burger.  I rarely stop at fast food places ... now I know why.  At 1:00 the line was 15 cars long.  At least they had a guy out front taking orders, with the line moving along nicely.  I waited because I just KNEW how good those burgers and fries were.  
Finally at the window, I deposited my $6 and grabbed the food.  I parked under a nice shade tree in the parking lot to eat.  Hmmm the fries aren't as good as I remember.  I tasted another.  I must have been in dreamland four years ago when I ate my last In-N-Out fries because I distinctly remember loving them.  I tasted another.  Maybe some ketchup ... maybe LOTS of ketchup.  It didn't matter one whit!!  These fries were the worst I've ever eaten, and that's saying a LOT because occasionally I eat the ones at the Magic Kingdom!!

Totally inedible.  They were so dry even six bags of ketchup didn't help.  Mealy, tasteless, horrible french fries.  They went in the trash.  I don't know if they have changed their way of prep or maybe they were undercooked due to the number of customers, but I seriously don't think these fries ever hit hot oil or ANY oil.  They totally looked like they were air fried.  No wonder the guy gave me so many bags of ketchup.
As I tried to figure out where the nearest garbage can was, I ran across this guy.  What in the world?  The front tires are almost off the ground.  I didn't see any tie-downs at all.  It looked like the camper was just sitting on the back part of the bed.  That can't be good!!  Notice the propane tank strapped down right in the back so when hit by a car, it will explode nicely into flames.  I can't believe they haven't been stopped.  It just doesn't look safe to me!!
As I wandered around the parking lot trying to find a way out, I saw the OTHER side of this rig.  This caused me more distress than the french fries!!  The bed of the pickup is separating from the cab ... about six inches worth, which means the tires are rubbing against the fender.  Definitely the truck frame is bent.  YIKES!!!  As he crossed over the driveway, the front wheels came off the ground.  I stayed WAY far away from this wreck waiting to happen!!!
It was a nice day until I got home and discovered Miss Jessie had been sick.  It's a good thing I had both dogs locked in the bathroom with the tile floor.  Good heavens!!  There's nothing that can ruin your day like cleaning up nine  ..... okay, I won't go into the details.  I let her out and made a mad rush to get the back door open, but wasn't in time.  Two more spots to clean.  Poor baby girl -- I have no idea what caused all that!!  Thank goodness she was fine the rest of the night and appears to be back to normal this morning.  Oh the joys of PET OWNERSHIP!!

Now to start on my latest needlework project.





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You KNOW Where I Was

Once again, the Magic Kingdom arose out of the shadows, played all the games and disappeared into the night.  That's a good thing.
I spent the better part of the morning looking for Cooper's toys in my closet.   I think I said before, he's fanatic about his toy balls.  There are so many around the house in various stages of disintegration that I picked up a wicker basket just for them.

He knows where he "stores" them, usually under something where he can't reach.  My antique armoir, the kitchen stove and my bedroom closet are his favorite places.  When he decides he wants one, he barks ... loud enough to make your ears ring ... until I finally get up and go get it for him.  He has me well trained.

Yesterday he was barking at the closet door.  I found nothing.  He continued to bark until I returned to the scene of the crime, got down on my hands and knees and looked some more ... to no avail.  Thirty minutes later, he was STILL barking.  Cooper is never wrong.  If he says there's a ball there, believe me, he is ALWAYS right.  It just takes the HUMAN longer to find it than it takes the DOG.

Can you find the ball?  I'm not sure if Cooper was weird before I got him or if "I" made him that way.  Yup .... he hid his fabulous stinky, wet, chewed-up, half-the-cover-missing ball in my good running shoes.  His second favorite place is in my cowboy boots.  He got the ball, I closed the closet door.
I waited as late as possible to head to the Magic Kingdom, as I had fair warning most of the castle guards would not be present.  I put it off until the very last minute.  The group meeting in the bar before heading downstairs to the masses was a short one with only three of us present.  I fortified myself with a round of popcorn.

It's not a problem really .... I've handled the entire sales table by myself in the past, counting AND collecting tribute presented by the peasants.  Luckily at the last minute, not one but TWO gals came to help out.

Lots of new people showed up since one of the other big games in the County is shut down for the summer.  To make it even MORE fun, this is the third Tuesday, meaning there is no money in the peasants leather purses.  Alas, they have cracked the piggy banks of their children and grandchildren in order to play extra speed coverall games.  When you're trying to rush 120 people through the sales table and they've got handfuls of change, it can be a challenge.

In the past, I never counted it until they left the table.  No more gambling on the correct amount friends ... I've been shorted too many times, even with your guarantee it was absolutely, positively correct!!  Hope springs eternal that the embarrassment of holding up the line will keep them from the piggy banks, but so far that's not happening!!

The good news .... everyone yelled BINGO really loud so no one missed out ... there were no knock down drag out cat fights on the floor (yes, it's happened before) and everyone went home happy, especially me since I balanced the infernal machine.  Next week is payday for most, so the remaining intact piggy banks should be safe.

Here's an interesting piece of sculpture for you.  Sorry for the blurry picture.  I was trying to be surreptitious.   Not that it mattered, because my friend would have gladly let me capture this interesting piece.  Isn't it cool?  Maybe not if you aren't a fixit-gadget-machine type of person, but I LOVE it.  I think I would rather put some kind of clock in the middle, or maybe even make a lamp out of it.  Tom Westerfield can do this in a heartbeat!!  He can probably even tell you what every single gauge did in it's prior life.  If you have a bunch of gauges you want to get rid of, give me a shout out!!
Today I hope to be off for Morgan Hill.  I know .... UGH, freeways!!  It's over-the-hill so to speak and probably an hour or two drive away, but it's the closest needlepoint store I can find for supplies to complete the four canvases I have.  Least that's my plan.  After a late night of bingo and an early morning of puppy, I may lose my momentum.  It is a beautiful sunny day ... so hopefully that will keep me motivated.






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

That Was A Close Call

Believe it or not, it's STILL raining in California.  Not that I mind because I like the sound of rain hitting the roof.  My ground has been pretty saturated for some time now, so I hope that means the water tables are up.  It sprinkled most of the day, making my mind run circles around the 75 cookbooks I have in my kitchen collection.

Trust me, a cookbook does not a Chef make.  I wanted to do something with all that leftover ham besides eat it straight out of the fridge because it tastes WONDERFUL.  The only thing I could come up with was Mac 'n Cheese.  I'd like to say I'm good at this one easy recipe, but I'm not.  

My mom made the best Mac 'n Cheese ever.  I don't know if it's the cheese ... a difference in the butter and flour for the roux ... or maybe whole milk versus the 2% in my fridge.  I guess I just have to keep trying.

I cut up the ham with no visible signs of blood on my fingers, before starting the water for the pasta.  I discovered this day that all pasta is not the same.  Your macaroni and MY macaroni are different in many respects.  Who knew???

I dumped half a box of Kroger elbow macaroni in the water and gave it a stir.  Once is usually sufficient.  Three minutes later I stirred it again to discover it was all stuck together.  Weird.  Another ten minutes went by and it was STILL stuck together in a big lump on the bottom and hard as a rock, in spite of the boiling water.  I stirred it again and again.

In the meantime, I made the roux and dumped in three different types of cheese.  Maybe that's the problem .... my mom only used cheddar.  I tested the pasta again.  It needed a couple more minutes, so I busied myself cleaning up the mess.  That should do it.  I grabbed the pot of pasta and dumped it in the strainer!   PLOP!!  What????  It all came out stuck together in one huge lump.  

I'm serious here .... one solid man-sized lump of macaroni.  I started laughing so hard I almost dumped the whole thing in the sink.  I can already see the shovel in my mind's eye as I dig a hole in the rain.

Since I had no other pasta in the house, I dumped it into the sauce and gave it a stir.  It's got cheese and ham, so it can't taste TOO bad!!!  Finally the macaroni separated ... sort of ... as it was drenched in ooey gooey sauce.  STILL not as good as my mom's, but it was at least edible.  That was a close call!!!!  I almost ruined my record of no burials this month.
Since I was already blowing my diet, I took some leftover hamburger and ground turkey to make a small meatloaf.  No instant pot this time, although you can use it, so they say.  I'm pretty sure it would not come out with crispy bacon if you did.  Dinner was served!!
I spent the rest of the day sewing in between constantly checking my phone messages for word on the house.  They have an offer in for their new house and are waiting to see if THAT seller will fix some problems.  Once that is agreed to, I will get the contract to sign for MY house and send along a deposit.  I have ten days for inspections, which are already set up.  It's a waiting game.

I tried hard not to just sit on the couch.  I cut and sewed the borders for this Halloween quilt, watched lots of television and played with the puppies.  Waiting stinks!!
I think for the next few days I will take my house one room at a time and make a LARGE donation pile.  I might as well get ahead of the game since I saw California legislators have drawn up some sort of law that will make them their own country.  As an accountant, one who knows what it costs since I worked in the County Offices for 21 years, I just can't believe it!  How in the world do they expect to pay for anything without all the Federal Aid they get??  Once people figure out they are going to donate 50-70% of their income to the State, they'll be leaving in droves.   

Take your foot off the soapbox Nancy ........ let's not go there until it happens!!!



Monday, April 17, 2017

The Smell Of Pork

There's nothing like the luscious smell of roasting ham wafting on the breezes in the kitchen.  It permeates the entire house.  GOSH that smells good!!!  I don't know why I double checked the label, but it's a good thing I did.  My plan for the 8 pound hunk of ham was to cook it for 20 minutes per pound.  Come to find out it was only 7 pounds and the directions said 15 minutes per pound.

I will admit up front that this is NOT my ham.  Mine was cooked in a very old roasting pan ... remember the blue one your grandmother had?  Once the bell rang, I covered it in the glaze (which I've never used before) and put it back in for ten minutes.  

My next plan was to cut it in half for transport to the dinner table of my long time friend Diane and her daughter Shelby, accompanied by her son Braden ("B") and Diane's husband.  I started cutting it apart and taste testing, which made me totally forget about taking pictures.  I was in ham heaven!!!  I have to say mine looked better.  
With one success in the books I started on the cowboy green beans.  I've never made good green beans in my life.  They are always cooked unevenly, and generally are either soft as mush or raw.  These were perfect!  The secret of course is the Instant Pot.  Fry up some bacon, take it out and fry half an onion, add the bacon back in.   Didn't I already give you this recipe??

Cut the green beans and place them in the strainer in the Instant Pot with one cup of water on the bottom.  Set it to manual pressure for 2 and ONLY TWO minutes.  Quick release the pressure.  In less than six minutes total, they were ready to be smothered in bacon and onions with a little salt and pepper.  The best part ... they are still GREEN instead of Army Mud color.  I'm so proud of these!!!!!
Off to the party I went, not suspecting mimosas along with a couple of huge strawberries Diane grew in her yard.  Little did we know while we were trying to take THIS pictures, Diane's husband was taking a picture of our BUTTS!!!!!  No, I'm not going to show you that one!!
They do it up right at their house ... B had to follow the bunny trail around and around the house to find his Easter basket.  They cut out a circle with three small circles above it as a template and sprinkled baking soda over it, making bunny footprints.  Cutest thing ever if you have young grandchildren.

Brunch included ham, a delicious green chili and ham quiche, Diane's cheesy potatoes, green beans and fruit.  In no time, we were stuffed to the brim, which is exactly when B wanted to play "fight the magic dragon" down the hallway.   I even got my own sword!
It was a beautiful morning with lots of sunshine that didn't last long, so when I returned home, I whipped up a batch of cheesy potatoes for myself.  This one is a keeper folks, especially if you need something easy for those RV rally pot lucks.  

One cube of melted butter mixed with 16 ounces of sour cream and 3/4 pound of grated sharp cheddar.  Add that to a 30 oz bag of thawed hash brown potatoes.  Stir well and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.  I cut that recipe in half (using even less butter) and actually used leftover (already cooked) potatoes I cut into small chunks.  I threw in the ham because it was SO good.  I know this is how I usually end up with cemetery material, but this time it was WONDERFUL!!!
There's nothing like being focused on food all day!!  It didn't help that the rain started coming down around 2:00 and hasn't stopped.  In case you were wondering what Jonathan had for Easter dinner, it was his usual.  He's pretty finicky when it comes to his dinner plate.  

There is sunflower mix with a couple of peanuts in the shell, cut up apple and carrots, peanuts OUT of the shell, extra sunflower seeds (no shell), half a Ritz cracker to keep some weight on him and his bird biscuit full of sweet potato that he refuses to eat otherwise.  Yes, birds are a pain in the patoodie.  Occasionally I give him bananas, pieces of peanut butter cookie (his all time favorite) and chopped eggs.  Yes that is a dried hot pepper in the middle, which occasionally he picks at, but mostly that ends up in the trash.   My advice .... never get a bird!!
It's looking good for the Arizona house ... it may even close as early as May 15 if I can get my act together as far as the required paperwork.  That's where I'm heading today ... to the bank for a letter of credit.