Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear - regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how junky it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.

JEWELS OF MY SOUL

JEWELS OF MY SOUL
My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

February 28, 2010

Fruit Butters

I know, I know - usually people make fruit butters near the end of the summer, but by now you should know - I bake to a different oven.

Fruit butter is a delicious down home delicacy. It is a rich, creamy fruit spread served at breakfast, lunch, dinner and any time you have a hankering for that fresh fruit taste.


Actually, fruit butter is not a butter at all; but a tasty topping similar to jam or jelly, spread on top of toast, biscuits, crackers, muffins, thick, rustic bread, and even as a condiment for meats.

Typically, the process of making fruit butter is merely cooking the fruit, pureeing it, and then re-cooking with or without the skin on until you have a smooth paste. Fruit butters are lightly sweetened, giving the fruit itself a more concentrated flavor.

The most common fruit butter is Apple Butter, which can be a show stopper when served with fried chicken, biscuits and honey, and all the trimmings. No longer just a country specialty from Grandma’s pantry, Apple Butter is now served in some of the most sophisticated kitchens everywhere. Other scrumptious varieties include Pear Butter, Prune Butter, Peach Butter, Apricot Butter, Orange Butter and Mango Butter.

One of fruit butter’s best traits is that it is a healthy alternative to syrups and other heavy toppings, being virtually fat free and contains very little processed sugars.

Easy Breezy Plum Butter

3 cans plums in juice (not syrup)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ cup sugar

Toss all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3 to 5 hours. Check it to see when it is thick enough and transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Lite Banana Butter

5 ripe bananas, peeled

3 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 ½ cup sugar or Splenda®

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Chop the bananas and put in food processor. Process with lemon juice until creamy. Place the banana puree in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring in Splenda® and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Place in an airtight jar and refrigerate.

Lite Apple Butter

3 lbs. ripe apples (tart or sweet), cored and peeled

2 cups apple cider

½ cup Splenda®

2 tsp. apple pie spice

½ tsp. lemon juice

Slice the apples and place in a large saucepan with the apple cider. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer until apples are soft. Drain, reserving cider, and place in food processor. Add Splenda®, lemon juice, vinegar, and apple pie spice. Process until smooth, adding the reserved cider gradually for a smooth paste. Fill an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator.

The following recipe for Peach Butter comes from Barbara Rolek, about.com. http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/fruits/r/peachbutter.htm. I have tried this recipe and it using her stovetop method, and it is absolutely perfect.


Peach Butter


5 large peaches washed and pitted (no need to peel)


1/2 cup water


1 cup sugar


Preparation:


In a large saucepan, place peaches and water. Bring to a boil. Return to a simmer and cook until peaches are soft, about 20 minutes. Run the peaches through a food mill or a sieve and discard the skins. Add sugar to pulp and mix well. Now reduce the pulp by one of the following methods.


Slow Cooker: Place sweetened pulp in a slow cooker with lid partially off to let steam escape. Set at low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-12 hours or overnight, or until thick enough so the butter doesn't run off a spoon when turned upside down.


Microwave: Place sweetened pulp in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 20 minutes at a time, stirring frequently until thick enough so the butter doesn't run off a spoon when turned upside down.


Stovetop: Place sweetened pulp in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 1-2 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn't run off a spoon when turned upside down.


Oven: Heat oven to 250 degrees. Place sweetened pulp in a heatproof casserole dish or roaster. Bake, stirring only occasionally, for 1-3 hours or until thick enough so the butter doesn't run off a spoon when turned upside down.


Place hot butter in hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Cover with hot sterilized lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to counter and allow to cool before storing in a cool, dry, dark place.


If you don't process in a water bath, the butter can be kept refrigerated for up to three weeks or frozen for up to one year.


Note: Before attempting a home canning project, read what the Ball canning jars company has to say about it.

February 21, 2010

White Potato Pie

Our local newspaper has an annual cooking contest in the spring. The three times I have entered it I have won first place in my category, but never the grand prize or reserve grand prize. I did not enter it the last two years because I was employed by said paper during contest time, but did get to taste all of the final entries (well worth the exile).

This year, however, I intend to win, all in the spirit of fun, of course. Well, yeah, I could use the money too.

I'm entering in two categories; desserts and main dishes. While browsing through my data base of recipes and all of my old cookbooks, I tried to find something out of the ordinary, but still simple and delicious. One requirement of the contest is to make a dish that the average cook can prepare in her own kitchen without having to buy too many exotic ingredients. Pooh! I really was up for a challenge. However, I did find a recipe for White Potato Pie in one of my cookbooks, Sweety Pies, by Patty Pinner.

At first I thought, well that sounds pale and stale. But the recipe is quite nice, easy to make, and actually turned out to be just as good, if not more interesting, than her sister,
Sweet Potato Pie. Let me know your thoughts!

WHITE POTATO PIE

One 9-inch single pie crust (fitted into a plate, edged and crimped)
2 medium-sized white potatoes (I chose Yukon Gold)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs, beaten
Makes one 9-inch pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the crust and set aside.

Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks, and cook in boiling water until tender; drain. In a medium-size bowl, mash the potatoes and combine with the butter, sugar, baking powder and salt until well mixed. Stir in the milk and cream, stirring until well blended.
Stir in the extracts, then the nutmeg. Add the eggs and mix well. Pour the filling into the pie crust, place in the oven, and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Top each slice with a scoop of lemon-flavored ice cream for added flair and extra flavor. The illustration in the cookbook showed the pie garnished with thin lemon slices.

February 15, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe | Taste of Home Recipes

Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe Taste of Home Recipes

THE ROSE

Raw Materials Rose

02/14/10 17:03:39By: Olga Ikebanova

No rose could ever rue
The exquisite embroidery
Of sparkling drops of dew.
Riumin

Roses are dusk sisters.
They start blooming when sun is rising,
And, opening, they are laughing and crying …
Rose – one of the most beautiful and praised flowers, have been valued for centuries in many cultures, and have been cultivated and hybridized worldwide. Rose plants range in size from compact, miniature roses, to climbers that can reach 7 meters in height. Species from different parts of the world easily hybridize, which has given rise to the many types of garden roses.


The name rose comes from French, itself from Latin, rosa, which was borrowed from Greek and old Persian from the beginning.

Rose absolute is the steam-extracted (or solvent-extracted) essential oil from rose flowers (mostly from Rosa damascene and Rosa centifolia) that has been used in perfumes and skin care for centuries. Rose water, made from the rose oil, is widely used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

The French are known for their rose syrup, most commonly made from an extract of rose petals. Also tea made of rose petals is extremely delicious! I brew it for 5-10 minutes and drink in the morning without anything.

Rose hips (from Rosa canina) in country kitchens are traditionally used to make wine, vinegar, jams, syrup, and tea. They are also pressed and filtered to make rosehip syrup witch is used as a nutritional supplement. Rose hips are also used to produce rosehip seed oil, which is used in skin products and some medicinal purpose. I drop the oil in my baby’s stuffed nose.

Unfortunately most of the hybrid roses bred for exotic colours lost their scent. The species R.damascena, centifolia, sempervirens, moschata known for aromatherapy use are grown in Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia, France, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Iran and Crimea.

Flowers are hand picked either in early morning or before the dusk and extracted the same day. Rose oil contains citronellol, phenil ethil alcohol, geraniol, nerol and stearopten waxes.

Images: Olga Ikebanova, FotoDawg, Itineranttrader
Author: Olga Ikebanova
Biologist, aromatherapist, photographer, floral designer and passionate believer in Power of Nature.
This article was published in Fragantica.com News on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

February 6, 2010

Nana's Soups

My grandparents emigrated from the island of Barbados to Toronto, Canada around 1920. Nana recalled the night of her first snow fall in Canada. Her downstairs neighbor ran upstairs excitedly and announced, “Nez, Nez, it’s snowing! Look, it’s snowing!” Thinking it was just a joke; Nana was reluctant to leave her sewing machine, muttering to herself, “How can it be snowing? I don’t hear anything?”


That first winter in Canada was brutally cold, particularly to my grandparents and their small daughter. They had never experienced anything so fierce and bitter. Nothing anyone had told them could prepare them for the frosty reality of their future in North America.

Nana quickly took charge, determined to beat this beast at its game, and she began to listen and learn, speaking with new friends and neighbors all of the tricks, tips and recipes they used to survive the cold winters and help their young families to thrive.

As much as I love stews, my family is not really big on stewed and simmered meat dishes. However, soup was an economical way to create delicious aromatic meals that were stretched from meal to meal. No one could beat my grandmother at the pleasant, mouth-watering soups she lovingly created throughout the frigid season. She raised her family on these hearty soups, and by the time I came along, she nurtured me with the same magical soups throughout the long winter months during my early childhood.

The walk home from P.S. 140 in Jamaica, Queens, was a long one back then. At least it was when you were hungry and cold, as the bitter winds, sleet and snow whipped our legs and faces with a fury. By my friends and I rounded the corner at the head of our block we literally raced to our houses without even saying goodbye. I was always assured of what awaited me. I could smell it two – even three houses away.

The wholesome, spicy smell warmed me before I even touched our gate and ran into the house only to be welcomed with swirls of fragrant steam swirling around my head. A big bowl of Nana’s soup, with some Crown Pilot Crackers was a good hot lunch that stuck with me until I returned home at the end of my school day. But more often than not, it was the supper that secured warmth and security in my little belly well into my slumber.

Nana had two special soups that have really stuck with me. Both of these were usually made after one holiday or another, because the stock was often created from leftovers. My favorite (I make it to this day) was a simple, rustic chicken soup that had consisted of a large whole stewing hen, herbs de Province tied in a little satchel, celery, and big chunks of fresh carrots, peas and potatoes. These root vegetables (she called them “ground food”) were big, thick and flavorful. You don’t see carrots as big as a baby’s arm today. The entire chicken was cooked, and it was done when the meat fell from the bones, which were left in the broth to continue to flavor and nourish the pungent soup.

The other soup was a thick, rich split pea soup simmered for hours and hours with a large ham bone, a variety of spices, and the same ground food as the chicken soup. We had no dog at the time, but I know the neighbor’s dog had many a great feast himself days later when the bone was finally presented to him as a gift.

The memories of Nana’s kitchen in Queens and her kitchen in Toronto, which I’d never been in – I just know somehow – have carried over into my own now. My family has found soothing comfort and peace slurping – yes, slurping – my chicken soup; secretly sucking the bones when I’m not looking. It has eased many a stomach ache, taken the chill off of countless frost bitten fingers, while held in a large mug; and cured dozens of flu episodes and dreary days.

There is nothing like homemade soup. Forget the canned varieties now and then. Soup is nothing to make; it’s just water, meat, vegetables and seasoning. Make it however you wish, with whatever you have on the next bitter cold winter night. You’ll find peace and comfort just from making it before you taste the hot, velvety potage.

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips