Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dandelions are my delight!

 Happy weekend, everyone!

Yes - you were wondering where last week's post was. Recuperating from a dental procedure, I was, and extra choir rehearsals prevented me from publishing a post. The Charlottetown Legion Choir (of which I am pianist) is having two spring concerts this weekend - Sunday evening, the 28th, and Tuesday evening, the 30th! Then we'll be done for the year until September rolls around.

I spent this past week gathering lovely photos for you to feast your eyes on!
Which means that today we'll be having a picturesque post! All about dandelions! YES! But first, a little review before the the rest of the photos are revealed.

I absolutely LOVE dandelions! I know you're saying - ugh! they are just yellow weeds! Actually....they are not! Did you know they are flowers? I did a little research just for this post. They belong to the large genus Taraxacum and are native to Europe and North America. The French translation means "lion's tooth." But, you say, I can't stand them in my yard!! But, why, I ask? Don't you think they are beautiful? They are such a brilliant yellow and spread and spread and spread all over your beautiful green yard! Yes, they spread, you say. That's why you revile them. But your yard has suddenly turned into a garden. Isn't that great?  Hmmm.....I guess it's not great for many people. That's really too bad. I think it's time that people enjoy them and incorporate their goodness into their everyday lives. Yes?

I do not understand the pain that people have when dandelions take up residence in their yard of perfectly manicured slivers of green vegetation. Maybe those who despise these delightful little dainties will have second thoughts about this flower when you view the following photos. 

Oh, my lovelies, you need to visit Prince Edward Island in May, or if you are in the rural countryside in your neck of the woods where there are fields and fields, the sight of yellow against green is just mesmerizing! Don't you think?

Did you know that all parts of the dandelion can be eaten? And that they are very nutritious? And that they help a body in all sorts of ways to combat disease and illness? They detoxify the body, help in urination, keep the liver working correctly, promote weight loss and stimulate the immune system, to name a few! They contain a pile of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Amazing, isn't it?  A box of dandelion tea is sitting in my cupboard waiting for yours truly to boil some water, let it steep, and sip its deliciousness for benefits beyond belief. Actually, I haven't done that in a long time. I really should etch that memo reminder into my brain and drink a cuppa once a day or at least several times a week.

Blood pressure, anemia, acne, constipation, diabetes, jaundice, cancer, bone strengthening, digestion, etc. etc. and the list goes on. And here I have fields screaming with yellowness all over the place! I could make salads galore - YET - I DO NOT! Not because I don't want to. This brain of mine lacks in this regard.  I only admire the beauty. I could fry up yellow flower fritters in my frying pan. What am I waiting for??? A bounty of beautiful flowering buds and all I do is admire from afar - or at least close up in my own backyard! Hmmm......and I wasted money on yet another container of leafy greens from the grocery store today.

Enjoy the photos!

Our backyard before it was mowed last week.

And a few days later, those dandelions came back to life.
That little clump of yellow towards the back is our fire pit. The dandelions are marking their territory. And two fields beyond our yard you can see that large patch of bright yellow. Isn't it wonderful?
Here's another close up of our yard and the field beyond.

The photo below was taken a couple miles from our home.
Here's another view of the same field.

How about those "tire tracks" of yellow?

And more yellow.....
I couldn't pass up taking photos of these beautiful horses. I bet they love to eat dandelions! This farm is about 10 minutes from our home.

Saturated with yellow! Can you imagine how much food there is in that field?
Salad and fritters!

After taking in all this beauty, haven't I cultivated a love in your heart for this delightful dandy of a flower? This is God's creation. It's simply stunning! And to think many people pass them by, think of them as weeds, and forget they exude a beauty all their own. Not to mention all the health benefits we are missing by not indulging in this wonderful  plant.

And then, as the days and weeks go by, their little yellow heads turn into white fairies that float gracefully through the air, searching for new places to spread their beauty!

"And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after its kind: and God saw that it was good."
Genesis 1:11-12

Embrace the beauty of God's creation. He has given us so much to enjoy. This little yellow flower can be your friend, not your enemy. Have a blessed weekend, dear ones!

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Red and White Dessert and My Favorite Restaurant

A Happy Friday to All!

As promised last week, I'm providing a special dessert you can make for Mother's Day that is actually offered on the menu at my most favorite restaurant in the world. This restaurant publishes several of their recipes online, but this one - they do not! And for good reason - I believe it's one of their most popular items on the menu. They also sell it in whole form from their bakery. I would imagine that's why they don't publish the recipe. Even though their Potato Pie is very popular - and I love that one, too - they publish that recipe. The Potato Pie is always a winner when I've made it for guests.

Okay, back to this delightful dessert saga. There was a great need to make this dessert in order to indulge in it at home when the fancy struck me - and especially when raspberry season was in full swing! And if you can't wait for summer to come and dine here, or you live far away, then this is why this recipe is needed.

The hunt began a few years ago - maybe three? I started in the restaurant's shop. The clue had to be there. The kitchen staff had to have gotten it locally. I perused the cookbooks for sale, and what did I find? YES! I found it! I couldn't believe it!  It had a similar name, and the ingredients corresponded to its makeup and how it should taste. I purchased the cookbook - just for this recipe! (I have found a few other recipes in this cookbook that are also very good! HA!)

I suppose you want to know what this restaurant looks like, yes? Oh, do they ever serve the most delicious food in the world and have the most incredible view to dine by! AND, most importantly, they serve tea in real china tea pots and cups! A quantity of loose teas are listed on their menu. Served up fresh with your own strainer. Pure pleasure - delightful dining by the river....ah.....Beautiful quilts hanging from the rafters. It's hard to make out, but in the background hanging from the ceiling are teacup lights. I do so want to have teacup lights in my house one day!

Below is a view taken from a slightly different angle - outdoors and a bit further away from the building - but this is essentially what you are looking at 
while dining on delicious delights inside.

The photo above is taken on the other side of the river on the road from our house to The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company. The yellow buildings with the red roofs. Now you know the name of my favorite restaurant! The dining room windows are seen on the building in the center of the photo. The building to the right is used for ceilidhs and special musical programs during the summer tourist season. Trust me - the river is there though it doesn't show up in this photo.

I found this photo of us when our friends, Jane and Lowell, came to stay a few years ago and we had breakfast by the river. Jane and I have a penchant for tea, you know. And chocolate desserts. But today's dessert is not about chocolate unless you want to drizzle some on.

The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company makes all their own preserves, jams and jellies! In their gift shop, you can look through the window into the basement area and watch them being prepared. Although their restaurant is only open during tourist season, up until Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October, their gift shop is open year round during business hours, so if you are in need of tea and jam, you are in luck, even in the middle of winter!
Back to the business at hand! You need to hear the rest of the story about this special recipe. It's called Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie! Served with a dollop of whipped cream and yes, drizzled with chocolate!

I was excited to recreate this fantastic tasting pie. Got some fresh raspberries and all the ingredients and put it together. Well, what do you know?!  How mortified and deeply disappointed was I when I made this divine dessert!  Oh dear! What kind of a recipe was this?

It did not look like the dessert from the PEI Preserve Co. - no siree bob! It had a very thin layer of cream cheese filling and a very thin, and VERY pinky white layer of cooked raspberries on top! NOT the thick, red layer of berries I was expecting. I am sorry to say that this recipe was indeed, very poor. I hope the person responsible for adding it to this regional cookbook had never made it. Maybe she shared it without realizing how much it lacked. No blue ribbons or any ribbon bestowed here.

What to do now? I studied the recipe and decided to double most of the ingredients. Way too much corn starch for the little bit of berries it called for. No pinky pasty layer was to be had in my next pie. Instead of four heaping tablespoons, I changed it out to four level tablespoons to thicken up four cups of berries instead of two.

We were getting somewhere now! The cream cheese layer was doubled - a full block of it. Four cups of beautiful berries. Upped the sugar, of course, and the lemon juice. And almost doubled the light cream for the cream cheese layer. The PEI Preserve Co. must have doctored up this recipe, if indeed, they did use it.

Trepidation set in when I cooked the raspberries with the sugar and lemon. Dribbling in the corn starch and water mixture just when the berries were about to boil, I held my breath. Please - no pink - no pink berries, please! And......AHA!  I had the recipe under control now. Just the right amount of corn starch. The berries boiled and thickened and stayed red! YES!

I was SO happy! It came out awesome - just like the one in the restaurant! YAY! Though I do think my berry layer "may" be slightly higher - all the better for me!

Here are photos of my version that I made yesterday and finished up this morning. I made my pie crust with whole wheat pastry flour and had an awful time with it, though you can't tell after it's baked. It wouldn't roll out well and fell apart so I had to just piece it and schmoosh it together in the pie pan. If you use whole wheat in your pie crust recipe, I would love to hear how yours comes out and what your secret is. (I did manage to cut the third piece for the photo without the crust falling apart.) I followed a recipe that used butter and shortening, but substituted coconut oil for the shortening. The coconut oil may have been the problem and I didn't use white flour. Using healthier ingredients doesn't always work well, does it?

 The raspberry mixture is cooling in the bowl (and was chilled in the fridge). 
Below is the finished pie all chilled in the refrigerator overnight. I highly suggest you make this pie the day ahead unless you get up real early in the morning to serve it late in the day. The raspberry filling needs to cool down and chill for further thickening. You don't want to top the cream cheese layer with warm raspberries! Chill the pie for several hours after it's put together.

Here's the recipe you've been waiting for!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie
1 baked pie shell - cooled!
8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
4 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. light cream

4 cups fresh raspberries (or frozen - not sweetened)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. corn starch* mixed with 1/2 cup cold water
      (*use 5 tbsp. if using frozen berries - as they contain more water) 

Optional:  whipped cream and chocolate sauce of your choice

Prepare pie shell of your choice and let it cool before adding fillings. Beat cream cheese, 4 tbsp. sugar and light cream together until smooth. Spread into cooled pie shell. Combine raspberries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lemon juice in medium sized sauce pan. On medium heat, stir and cook raspberries until just about to boil. Slowly drizzle in the corn starch mixture while stirring constantly. You may need to turn the heat down as it will bubble and sputter. Cook for one minute. Cool and chill raspberry mixture. Spread on top of cream cheese layer and chill pie for several hours before serving. Store leftovers in fridge.
Share and Enjoy!

Have a great weekend and a very happy Mother's Day! Just a reminder that my Etsy Shop is having a sale all the way through the end of Sunday, May 14th. 15% off any purchase - coupon code: MUMSDAY15.

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."

Proverbs 31:10,28-31

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Coffee and Tea with Chocolate Chip Scones

Good day to all you lovely creatures.....

"I think that I shall never budge
From this cake of frosted fudge;
O, chocolate taste I love so true,
Nothing else will ever do."

poetry & illustration by Susan Wheeler/Holly Pond Hill
Isn't that a delightful poem? I cherish this birthday card for several reasons. One - my dear friend, Janie, gave it to me some years ago - Two - I absolutely adore the watercolor illustration by Susan Wheeler - Three - I love all things chocolate! - Four - I love quaint and cozy, fairy-tale forest settings where woodland creatures chitter and chat with each other (speaking in English, I mean!), cook delicious meals of fresh food garnered and gathered amidst their surroundings, and experience life with their families and foes - both vicious and, in the end, victorious.

Perhaps some of you have never had the penchant to read animal stories where pint-sized creatures - and larger - conversed in a language you understood? It's been some years now since I've read any, but I have four books in my front porch library from the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. They are simply fantastic reading! A lot of medieval adventure, and a lot of misadventure and sorrow, unfortunately, but that is what life brings us, doesn't it? Even to the creatures that our LORD created. And you can't have a great story without conflict. 

One thing I distinctly love remembering about these books were the delicious meals the animals prepared! The descriptions of their meal preparations made me hunger for a bite! Oh, how I wanted to join these delightful creatures in their celebrations and family gatherings! Food was an integral part of these stories. Right now I can't remember if there was any chocolate involved. Hmmm.....guess I will have to read these books again!

But I digress, and know that you are wondering where the scones are, yes? They're baking in the oven, don't you know??? 😃 I had to preface this post with that beautiful birthday card, and then I led you down the path, through the forest, up the hill, and now down in the valley (actually, my kitchen) to where we can see something delicious. 
Can you smell the coffee brewing? 

Since we're back on track, let's find out how these famous scones materialize. I say they are famous, because anyone who has eaten one has loved them and wanted more!

I will give you two options - the healthier version which I made here - and the regular version I started with many years ago - which was taken from a Country Living magazine. You can choose which way you want to go. The regular version of ingredients that I substituted for is in parentheses.

Chocolate Chip Scones 

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  [all-purpose flour]
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt  [regular salt]
3 tbsp. organic cane sugar or erythritol  [white sugar]
1/2 cup coconut oil (solid) [Crisco shortening]
1/2 cup milk or light cream
1 large egg
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Cut in coconut oil till mixture resembles small crumbs. Add chocolate chips. Mix together milk (or cream), egg, and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients. Mix with fork until forms soft dough. Don't over mix. Knead on lightly floured surface five or six times. Form into a ball. Roll into seven-inch round. Cut into eight wedges.  Pierce tops with tines of fork.  Place on greased cookie sheet or use parchment paper on cookie sheet and don’t grease (if using nonstick, don’t grease) and bake 13-16 minutes or until light golden brown.  Serve warm.

Whole wheat pastry flour will look slightly darker than regular all-purpose flour, as you can see in this photo after I have cut in the coconut oil with my pastry blender. You can see the jar of coconut oil in the photo along with the mini chips I used. Please note - I always use more than 1/2 cup of chocolate chips! Probably about 3/4 cup, as you can see below! I made a well in the middle for the cream and egg mixture as it's easier to mix together with a fork that way.

Only knead a few times! Too much kneading and you won't get a tender flaky scone. The coconut oil makes a better tasting and lighter texture scone than the shortening. I didn't measure the width of the circle of dough. It was a little wider than seven inches, so they came out a little thinner than they should but still tasted wonderful! But it should be approximately seven inches across. 
You don't want pancakes! 

Sometimes I want to make tiny scones so they go a little further (with one batch). After forming the ball of dough, cut it in half, roll out each half (smaller than seven inches this time) and cut each in eight wedges. Keep an eye on the time in the oven as they will bake a little quicker. 
Now you'll have 16 appetizer size scones to share!

 And here they are all baked!

These scones made with the whole wheat pastry flour were light and fluffy in texture and were a perfect partner alongside a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon this morning! Coffee is my usual breakfast beverage, but after photographing the scones, I thought that the tea lovers should have fair share in this, as well! I happen to love both beverages. 
Since I made a cup of Earl Grey for the photo shoot, I drank that, too!

Coffee? or Tea? What will it be?

Now you are all ready for the weekend with a batch of freshly made flaky chocolate chip scones! I suspect that a double batch is in order as they go fast. When I make more than one batch at a time, I don't double the ingredients - I make the batches separately in different bowls - just to make sure they come out right. That's the way I prefer to do it.

Don't forget that Mother's Day is coming up soon! My Etsy Shop (here) is having a sale right now through Mother's Day, May 14th. 15% off any purchase. Please remember to use the coupon code MUMSDAY15.
I hope to share another special recipe by the end of next week - on Friday. Stay tuned for a scrumptious, delicious, red and white dessert especially for Mother's Day celebrations. 

Until next time....
"I have set the LORD always before me: 
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: 
my flesh also shall rest in hope.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; 
neither wilt thou permit thine Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt show me the path of life: 
in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Psalm 16:8-11