spicy party poppers

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Using a few jalapeno chilies from the garden, I put together this recipe for a party offering. I used some cooked chicken breast from a dinner the previous evening, and had a great easy appetizer or dinner side to spice up that Mexican meal. This recipe was adapted from Southern Living magazine, May 2016.

Assemble these ingredients to make the poppers:  12 jalapeno halves, 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, 1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon lime juice, black pepper to taste, 5 slices of fresh bacon, and some toothpicks.

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice open the chilies. Place on a half sheet pan with a rack.  Mix together the other ingredients and place inside the jalapenos.  Slice the bacon and half and secure with a toothpick.

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Bake in the oven until the bacon is crispy.  It will take about 25 minutes.  Broil to really crisp the bacon if desired, at the end of cook time, for about 2 minutes.  These poppers refrigerate well, and can be re-heated for a party.  So, this is a great make ahead dish that can be ready for a game day the next afternoon. Remove the toothpicks for serving on an attractive plate or a bed of arugula.

rosemary potatoes

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I love the taste of fresh rosemary and decided to use some from my garden for these potatoes.  They were delicious.  If you have fresh parsley from the garden as well, that would also compliment the taste of this dish.

To make these potatoes, I used my electric skillet, but they can also be prepared on the stovetop.  I used seven small red potatoes, olive oil, black pepper, about 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, and some chopped prosciutto.

First, I parboiled the potatoes for about 20 minutes.  I chilled the potatoes earlier in the day and then diced the potatoes.  Then, I browned the chopped prosciutto in the skillet with a tablespoon of oil and the flavors.  Then, I added the potatoes.

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I cooked them until they lightly browned, and then added some diced red pepper, grated Parmesan to taste and some fresh or dried parsley to taste.

These potatoes could be used to accompany eggs for breakfast or any meat or fish dish for dinner.  Excellent taste and flavor.

 

Summer garden flowers

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So as the Summer is ending, my garden is winding down as well.  Many of my favorite flowers are faded or have ceased blooming.  I still enjoy photos of them and just had to post some of my new favorites for this season. Every year is a different experience and a chance to try a new variety or two.  My herb garden with a few vegetables continues into the Fall and will supply enough herbs for my cooking until Thanksgiving again this year.

I planted my garden in 2008 and have added new shrubs and plantings every year since that year.  It is ever evolving.

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Japanese Tea Ceremony

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Just a few miles away from Midland, we were able to experience an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony.  The tea house was constructed in 1985 and is used for a variety of functions.

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We were served green tea and Japanese sweets in the traditional mIMG_9196anner.  The tea house has 8 reed mats and was constructed from Japanese architectural designs and with transplanted construction workers for the project.  There were no nails used on this building. The wood is natural and not treated with paint or stains.

The gardens surrounding the tea house are decorated with some elements traditionally found in Japanese gardens including a red bridge near the Saginaw River.  The area is peaceful and compliments the tea house. This experience was both relaxing and intersting.

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http://www.japaneseculturalcenter.org/index.html

 

drying summer flowers

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Not only do I enjoy my summer garden while it is in bloom, but I usually try to save some of the flowers of the season.  I simply use my garage greenhouse and old sheet pans.  I put out flowers from summer floral arrangements and also from my garden throughout the season. I allow them to dry on their own without using any products.

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I seem to have better success with certain types of flowers, but even those that don’t seem to look as good as the others, still have significance to me.  I use them in my fall arrangements on wreaths or outdoors in baskets on my porch or deck. Every year I have a new supply and don’t worry about keeping them longer than that.  Such fun for me to have flowers of the summer throughout the Fall and sometimes for Spring arrangements too.

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French crepes

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Over the years I have experimented with crepes and found that using a crepe pan had the best results for me.  I have used one crepe recipe for years and found it to work perfectly.  I do chill the batter in the refrigerator and allow it to rest some before preparing each crepe. Crepes do store well, so they can be made in advance and just assembled with fruit or other ingredients just prior to serving.  I keep them covered in a warming oven until ready to use for a breakfast.

Here is my crepe recipe and a couple of photos from a crepe restaurant I visited recently where I totally enjoyed my crepe.  I loved the ideas for other savory and sweet crepes on their menu.

Assemble these ingredients— 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 cups milk, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar.

Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer in a bowl. Heat a lightly greased crepe pan. Use about 5 tablespoons batter per crepe.  Tilt to cover the pan.  Heat one side, then flip to the other side.  Add ingredients and serve. Finish with powdered sugar or syrup if a sweet crepe, or finish with parsley if a savory crepe.  This recipe will make 7 crepes.

 

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Sugarfina: gourmet candy

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Now expanding their range of stores and sales locations, Sugarfina is easier to come by these days.  Sold now at many Nordstrom stores, the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels among many other boutiques, their stand-alone stores are not the only place to find this delicious sugar candy.  Imported from France, Germany, Holland, and Greece with many flavors made in the USA as well, these treats are super tasty.  The packaging is also upscale and really perfect for gifts.  The wall of candy we found in Chicago was so beautiful and perfectly displayed. Advertised as candy for adults, some of their flavors have alcohol based treats with cocktails as a sub-category of selection. They also have licorice, chocolate, gummys and marshmallows.

Sugarfina has been in the public eye for at least four years, but it was the first time I had been to a shop where there was more than a few boxes.  The Chicago Nordstrom’s has a large lower level space devoted to the shop with the ability of choosing almost every flavor of the brand.

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With flavors of champagne bubbles, baby champagne bears, and peach Bellini, the store has been more than successful. Some flavors are wait-listed and others are so popular, it is difficult to keep them in stock.  We found that many types of candy and chocolate were celebrated in Chicago with a variety of stand alone shops filled with customers every day we visited. I will feature some others in the coming days on this blog.

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This brand by far was my favorite. And, one that I recommend to try when you see it.