Friday, December 31, 2010

Rufous Hummingbird --Winter Arrival

Denny and I have a library of bird books--with over 800 species of birds known to wander North America, we need all the help we can get.  

And the library says our Texas Hill Country house is at the far eastern edge of this little guy's migratory path. 

 
But he took possession of our feeder one cool damp morning this week (12/29/10), driving away the juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who'd stopped here to top off his tank the last day or so

Our new customer is a Rufous Hummingbird, a species whose territory ranges from southern Alaska in summer to southern Mexico in winter, and is known as the feistiest hummingbird species in North America.  His coloration says he's male, the mottled plumage that he's young. A teen-aged traveler finding his way across thousands of miles

How does a tiny young bird completely alone know where and how to go?  And when and where and how to return? 

I've heard rumors of rufous hummingbirds staying 'til spring.  But I hope he moves on to tropical south Texas where it's warm and bugs fly all winter.  He'll need all the bulk he can build to make it back to the northern breeding grounds. Then maybe we'll see him again next December.  I'll have a feeder out just in case.

A flying rust-colored mystery.  Stranger things have happened here in the Texas Hill Country.

P.S.  A day later, another rufous showed up.

2011 omen?

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Travelers

 We returned home happy and tired from the holiday weekend.  It was good to be with family and good to be home.   

The firebush said it froze while we were gone.  

Somehow the pineapple sage missed the news.

I'm glad.  I hadn't refilled the feeder and a juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird stopped by for refreshments.  December 27th, he's late on his journey.  Probably born toward the end of summer and not strong enough to make the trip earlier.  

I fixed the feeder on the porch and he found it before I got back to the kitchen.  

I'm thinking of naming the porch Angels Rest.
  
Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

This is not leftover turkey.  Didn't we all collect those recipes after Thanksgiving?

And I know this is too simple to call a recipe.  But sometimes simple is what we need.  Healthy and tasty and done in 20 minutes.  Way better than fast food--great nutrition, no waiting in line, no post-prandial guilt.

It tastes so good your family will think you slaved over it.  The pecans form a toasty crunchy crust over the tart-sweet salmon, adding bite and texture and keeping the fish moist.  

Don't tell your family this is so easy and maybe they'll do the dishes.


Pecan-Crusted Salmon
Serves 2

3/4 lb. salmon fillet, I prefer wild salmon
coarse dijon mustard (or whatever coarse brown mustard you like)
honey
salt & pepper
~ 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Foil a small shallow pan and spray with olive oil.

*Wash & dry salmon.
*Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt & fresh-ground pepper.
*Put a few tablespoons of mustard in a cup & whisk in a dollop of honey, adjusting proportions until you like it.  Spread on salmon.
*Sprinkle pecans over mustard-honey, to cover.
*Roast salmon for 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness.  I prefer the flavor and texture when the salmon is still moist inside so we tend toward the lower end.
*Let salmon rest 5 minutes before serving.

Since the oven will be hot, I usually roast vegetables at the same time.  For the dinner pictured above, cauliflower and asparagus, tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt.  Roasted 10 minutes and turned over to brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more for the asparagus (depending on stalk thickness) and 10 minutes more for the cauliflower, depending on how big you cut it.

We enjoyed this with a Dr. Loosen Riesling from Mosel.  Lovely pear-apricot-floral flavors with a fine acidity spiking the off-dry sweetness.  Perfect match and budget-friendly to boot.

You're welcome.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Gold Wish


Hope your holidays are as happy as Ernest's.




Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Happy

Driving through Boerne this Christmas Season 
And what did my wondering ears come to hear...
But the locals in chorus, a Hill Country Goosemas, 
A lively honking of  cheer.




I give you permission for a half-minute smile, just click the link and let your lips go.
  
And we wish you a happy new deer.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

First, apologies to my friends fighting high cholesterol or embarking on diets.  Don't read, please.  

I promised my friends at our community Christmas Potluck that I'd post this perfect holiday pie recipe--an easy no-bake confection, tasty and fluffy.

Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Serves 6-8 
Prepare crust first:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup flour, less 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons wheat germ**
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt  
**wheat germ gives a nutty flavor but you can add 2 Tblsp. flour instead.

Directions:
*Grease 9 inch pie pan.
*In a skillet, melt butter over low heat.  
*Stir in remaining ingredients.  
*Turn heat up a bit and stir constantly until mixture is deep golden brown.  (You want the flour to cook and the mixture to toast.)
*Use a spoon to press the hot mixture into pie pan.  
*Set aside to cool.  Crust will firm as it cools.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided use
1 cup sugar, divided use
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups flaked coconut, divided use
1/4 tsp table salt

*Put  3/4 cup coconut in a dry skillet and toast until lightly browned, tossing frequently.  Set aside to cool.
*Whip cream, gradually adding 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar, whipping to stiff peaks. Set aside.
*Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and 1 tsp. vanilla until light and fluffy.
*Fold cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups coconut into the whipped cream.  Mound in cooled crust, swirling the top to a small center peak.
*Sprinkle toasted coconut on top. 
*Refrigerate at least two hours to set filling.

And last, follow my neighbors' lead and treat yourself to a few mouthfuls of sweet tangy coconutty celebration.
Thanks to my friend Linnea Schlobohm for her pictures!

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wherever You Can Find It



My Christmas sock collection, most of it.  Top row pairs.  Bottom row singles.  

It's a mystery.  Where did the mates go?  I know I wore three of the bottom-row residents not long ago--IN PAIRS.  Did my only-recently-former washing machine eat them?  And is that why the washer quit expelling water and we had to forge a new washer relationship only four years into what I'd thought was a life-long commitment?

I've worn holiday socks since looong before I turned silver.  A rebellion thing, probably.  Fourteen Decembers ago when I went to the hospital Monday-Friday every week to burn out wayward breast cancer cells, I wore a different pair every day.  Rebellion against cold halls and green paper gowns; pain and fear and fatigue.

It worked too. You have to smile at sparkly Christmas cats at your toes.  And remember life beyond fear and exhaustion.

I didn't think anyone else saw them.  Until the day I huddled on a hard plastic chair in a gray hall, trying to hold the flimsy gown closed while I waited for the radiologist.  

I kept my eyes on the floor until the wheels of a gurney rolled past and stopped beside me.  When I looked up, a young girl lay still under a blanket, her eyes slits in the white moon of her face.  

She glanced at me.  I smiled.  Her gaze shifted downward.  I didn't know what kind of cancer she had but I knew it was bad.  And her treatment as hard as the disease.  I understood why she looked away.  When life is the edge of death, you don't waste energy on small talk and questions from strangers.

She looked up into my eyes then and smiled.  "Nice socks."
Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bloom Day - December 15, 2010

We garden to the weather--and Texas is known for the unpredictable. Last year we froze early, often and deep.  This year, not even a frosty kiss.  

Most of our flowers have shined and gone but we planted for year-round bloom and a few still provide a table for warm-day flyers.

Purple lantana  --->

 
And queen butterfly.




The biggest stand of my Prostrate Rosemary hums with flutter when the sun shines.  Here a Common Checkered Skipper enjoys a sip.


An as-yet-unidentified butterfly nectared nearby. Does anyone know his name?   

Update:  Thanks to Dorothy Borders who writes Gardening with Nature for the identification:  Common mestra (Mestra amymone), a new species ID for our garden.

I'm not as enthusiastic about the bugs eating my Giant Turk's Cap.  

I wish I had the proper botanical name for this variety.  I was told it's native to Texas, grows along rivers in this area.  The leaves are much larger than the Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii.


The drooping leaves tell you there are no rivers in my backyard. 

















A late-migrant hummingbird--female Ruby-throated, I think--stopped by the Pineapple Sage on Thanksgiving Day.  

The sage has the Christmas spirit this year, still decorating the front beds in red and green.


 
For more bloomday treats, click on over to May Dreams. And whether you're gardening outdoors or in dreams now, I hope you're happy and your holidays are warm.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?


I'd been headswollen sick last week and was just getting better.  So Friday night I had to concentrate to get everything together--food, gift, clothes, toenail polish, tiara.

But it wasn't until I got to Jo Anne's house (15 minutes late) knowing the lane would be lined with cars, finding it dark and empty, that I remembered. Our monthly gathering is the second Tuesday.


Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deutsch Apple Bakery - Blanco, Texas


If you dream of sweets, the Deutsch Apple Bakery in Blanco is the place.  Apple-heaven, only half a mile from the courthouse square.

It starts before you even get in the door...the aroma of baking apples and sugary floury goodness in the oven, sweet-sharp and cinnamon-y.  Granny Smith apple pies baked fresh every morning. The Bakery makes apple pies daily, other flavors when they feel like it.  The day we were there they had pecan and buttermilk also.

The sign on the front door says:  

And regulars know it's true.  The Bakery often runs out of apple pie by 10:00am.  Get out of bed if you want pie for breakfast. 

But if you've been to the Deutsch Apple Bakery before, the Apple Pecan Cake is probably what drew you back--whether you're a Hill Country resident or hail from Austin, San Antonio or Houston.  Yes, I know Houston is more than 200 miles from Blanco.  But there are Houstonians who order an Apple Pecan Cake and make the drive and count themselves lucky they don't live further.  

I'll admit that before we went, I didn't understand the excitement about apple cake.  I've had apple cake before--kind of a spice cake.  Okay.

The Deutsch Apple Bakery's apple cake is OhBaby!  Moist like a spiced poundcake and layered with slices of melting tart apples spiked with a heavenly pecan glaze.  Let your tongue imagine a sweet marriage of browned butter-sugar-vanilla-dash of salt-caramel-pecan permeating the cake and krinkling over the surface. Owner Connie Endres says they take the cakes still hot from the ovens and dip them whole into a hot pan of glaze so that every inch is covered.

I'm convinced it's the best apple cake in the world. In a town of fewer than 10,000 souls.  In the Texas Hill Country, of course.  But you don't have to believe me, come try it for yourself.  Pick up a real estate brochure while you're there so you won't have to drive so far next time.

If You Go:

The Deutsch Apple Bakery, 602 Chandler St., Blanco
1-866-329-2253 tollfree, 830-833-2882 local
Hours:  Monday - Friday 8:00am-4:30pm, Saturday 8:00am-4:00pm -- or until they run out...

Update December 22, 2011: According to deutschapple.com, the bakery has closed.  Sad days for apple cake lovers.


Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.