Oatmeal and Tea at Brew

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We took a quick trip up North last week to enjoy the cool fresh air and the lake views of Northern Michigan.  The beautiful blue water captivates me every time we drive into Traverse City, and it is nothing less than spectacular.

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While there, we stopped at Brew, which is a local coffee-house featuring bakery items, breakfast, sandwiches, appetizers, soups and a variety of amazing beverages including beer and wine.  I could stay there all day, just sipping on almond oolong tea and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere.Brick and harvested barn wood covers the walls and is a perfect rustic contrast to the upscale beverage bar with shiny espresso machines and steamed milk frothers working overtime. The building has been refurbished from days gone by as the old Opera House.

We had a quiet breakfast one morning and although it was mid-week, the establishment was filled to capacity.  Every table, sofa, high-top and even the beverage bar was occupied with locals or guests.  Not even the high season for the resort community, Brew seems to be offering just what this community desires.

As an oatmeal aficionado, I had to order mine with chopped pecans.  It was served with a hot-pot of water, so I was able to make my own bowl, adjusting for the optimum consistency of the mixture.  I loved this and asked for the brown sugar on the side. Nothing was more perfect or simple for a delicious breakfast.

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Others were enjoying a variety of offerings and everyone seemed to be totally enjoying their choices.  If in Traverse City, be sure to check out Brew, I highly recommend it for any time of day.

For more information, please follow this link: http://www.brewtc.com/

 

A new botanical garden

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This past week we visited a new and developing botanical garden located in Traverse City Michigan.  On the grounds of the old Traverse City State Hospital farmland, the garden areas are coming together after century old buildings are being re-purposed and refurbished. On the site are plans for a variety of healing gardens, educational gardens, historical gardens, and space for a summer picnic after strolling the wooden paths.

Sustainability is used as a framework for the renovations for the property.  Our guide shared with us how recycled materials from the barn are being used as outdoor lighting. Even rainwater is being captured for gardening irrigation. The visitor center exterior has been designed to accommodate bees and butterflies.IMG_6822

I especially loved the renovations for the large barn which is used for events, as well as the walled garden in progress.  This garden is being built from the foundation of an old horse barn, and has the look and feel of an old English formal garden.

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The Traverse City community garden is also located at the Historic Barnes Park, and has grown to capacity this year with every garden plot taken by community residents. Members of the non-profit organization come together to garden and share knowledge and skill for growing produce, some of which is donated to the local food banks.

An interest in community gardening has grown in past years, as individuals have embraced the idea of increased fresh local vegetable consumption combined with the desire to increase exercise.  Gardening a plot of land to grow delicious food for a family certainly contributes to a healthy lifestyle.  And, sharing a common area in a community builds a bond with others which could last a lifetime.IMG_6817

If taking a trip to Traverse City this summer, be sure to include a visit to the Historic Barnes Park to see how this community is building and growing their resources to make something very special for all to enjoy.

For more information, please follow these links:    http://thebotanicgarden.org/

http://www.tccommunitygardens.org/

 

 

Roasted pork chops with vegetables

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Are you looking for an easy way to make pork chops?  I found that roasting them with vegetables is a delicious way to serve them, as well as speedy, because the dish comes together in about 30 minutes.

For this sheet pan recipe, I used baby carrots, one Gala apple, Brussels sprouts and fresh mushrooms. Bone-in pork chops would be tasty in this format. I had boneless on hand and seasoned them with salt, ground pepper and rosemary.

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Place the chops and sliced apples and vegetables on a sheet pan prepared with cooking spray.  Bake in a preheated oven set at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the ingredients over and bake until the chops are done, around 13-15 more minutes. Monitor and adjust the oven temperature as necessary. Some ovens may need to be decreased to 400 degrees during the roasting process.

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This dish could be served with a starch if desired, such as potatoes or wild rice.

 

Pizza soup with Pepperoni

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With weather reports this past week coming in for our area, I was questioning if Spring was ever really going to take hold in Michigan.  I am still wearing a sweater, and yes, still eating soup.  My husband has learned over the years that I only offer certain foods, menus or dishes during appropriate months of the year.  He knows not to ask for mashed potatoes in July.  But, it took a few years for him to fully understand how I classify foods by season. Mostly, I focus on fresh vegetables of the season and look for the protein that best matches with those offerings.

However, that being said, and heading into May, I am still serving soup. In other years, with warmer temperatures, hot soup would be off the menu in March, and only replaced with a chilled soup offering until September.

I found this recipe for pizza soup prepared in a slow cooker from Taste of Home.  It is another recipe that calls for assembling the ingredients, and walking away for 7 1/2 hours. I modified the recipe to include frozen tortellini, instead of cheese ravioli, and feel that my version is super tasty. Try this recipe year round and  let it become one of your favorites. It freezes well, and makes about 6-8 servings from this recipe.

Assemble these ingredients:  2 cans of stewed tomatoes/14.5 ounces, 3 1/2 cups beef broth, 1 white medium onion, 1 small green pepper, 1 small package sliced mushrooms, 1/2 package sliced pepperoni, dried oregano, 3/4 package of frozen cheese tortellini, shredded Parmesan cheese and sliced black olives

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Add the first seven ingredients to a slow cooker and place on low for 7 1/2 hours. Add the tortellini and increase to high, cooking for another 1/2 hour. Serve with shredded cheese and sliced olives as desired. A great offering with a side salad and crusty bread.

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Lenten Rose

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Well worth the wait is the Lenten Rose or Helleborus.  It has taken around three years for my plants to really take hold and offer up beautiful flowers.  I love my three plants, and this Spring they have produced a lovely effect in my shade border.

Michigan is a great location for these plantings, as sometimes warm, wet or humid conditions that are present in other States, would lead to disease.

I especially love their speckled flowers and the shape of the leaves.  The colors are muted in each of these cultivars, although I believe that adds to their charm.  Somehow this plant reminds me of days gone by, and old friend, or gardens of the past.

I wish my whole border was filled with Lenten Rose, as I have come to really love their beautiful blossoms when Spring is just emerging in Michigan.

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Bistro onion soup

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French onion soup is one of my all-time favorites.  I have tried several recipes over the years and have three other onion soup recipes already posted on this blog. However, this recipe is made in a slow cooker. I prepared the onions at the start of the day, turned on my Cuisinart slow cooker and never looked back. Eight hours later, I had an amazing soup that was delicious and authentic.

Broiled cheese toasts can be added to the top or the soup could be ladled into crocks and broiled the old fashioned way for the cheesy crusty topping admired by most aficionados. Even broiling some cheese and placing on top of the soup will work for a quick alternative.

Easy and classic, I recommend this recipe for your romantic bistro night at home. Served with a side salad or crusty bread and wine will make the evening complete.

Assemble these ingredients: 2 tablespoons margarine, 2 tablespoons olive oil, dried thyme, 1 1/2 large yellow onions,  2 medium red onions, fresh garlic cloves, salt, pepper, 4 cups beef broth, 1/2 cup red wine

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Cut the margarine into bits and place in the slow cooker.  Add 4-5 fresh garlic cloves, oil, thyme and then the sliced onions. I slice the onions in medium to large strips.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

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If nearby, it will be fine if you give the mixture a stir every couple of hours. Around 7 1/2 hours into cooking, place the beef broth and wine in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Add to the slow cooker and continue to cook for 15 minutes on high.

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If serving with cheese toast, prepare them under the broiler and place on the soup before serving. I used Swiss and Gruyere cheese broiled on top. Save this recipe, as it is a real keeper. I used inspiration for this recipe from Eating Well magazine, Jan-Feb 2016 issue.

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Gourmet food shopping

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On a recent trip through Charlotte, North Carolina, we shopped at our favorite gourmet store — Dean and Deluca. The entire store has expanded into a lovely restaurant, enlarged store from our last trip, and a wine shop. Although I often order from their mail order, actually visiting one of their few shops is really a treat.

If I lived nearby, I am sure you could find me there on a regular basis as the shop includes everything from bakery items, chocolate, gourmet pastas, deli items, cheeses, an amazing selection of chocolate and tea. Those are some of my favorites, but the list goes on.

I love the look of this shop, as well as the attention to keeping the shelves fully stocked. Although we have also visited their Georgetown shop in D.C. and one of their NYC locations, I think this Charlotte store is my favorite.

I stocked up on spices and other products that I usually am not able to find in Michigan. They have both an indoor and outdoor cafe which were busy and added to the great atmosphere of this location. If in Charlotte, don’t miss this one. And plan to spend a bit of time to see everything.

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