Nature Walks – The Ducklings Are Growing

Yesterday was such a fabulous day for a walk. There was so much life all around my ponds. Life was flourishing and it came in many different forms. I saw so much. Everyone was out enjoying the day.

The ducklings were out and about too. They are growing up so quickly. They were having so much fun playing around. Here, they are getting some swimming lessons. They are still just tiny babies here.

That was just last week. Now, one week later, look at how much they have already grown. They have progressed from swimming to diving lessons.

It’s hard to believe what a difference one week makes. Soon they will be all grown up.

Gail’s Lilac Sugar

All the lilacs are still in bloom and the air smells so fragrant and sweet. The other day when I posted about the blooming lilacs Nature Walks – Lilacs in Bloom my friend and our very own Gail, from https://snapshotsincursive.com/ sent me this delicious recipe for lilac sugar, to capture the essence of the lilacs a bit longer. I had never heard of lilac sugar before. But thanks to Gail and her fabulous idea, I have now made some and am anxiously waiting to use it. I already have a scrumptious idea in mind for it too.

This is Gail’s picture of her lilac sugar. Gail is a bit shy, but I am still featuring her as a “Guest Chef” for this delicious idea. Gail has many, many great recipes. If you are not already familiar with Gail and snapshotsincursive, you should definitely stop by and say hi. You will be in for a whole world of fabulous treats.

Gail sent me the recipe, and it is just 2 ingredients. Yes, that’s right, just 2. Fresh lilac flowers and sugar.

I picked a whole bunch of lilacs from my front yard so, I made a whole bunch of this fragrant, sugary treat. Gail’s recipe calls for 2/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of fresh lilac flowers, but I just kept going. I wanted to use all the lilacs I picked and didn’t want any of them to go to waste. So I just kept adding layer after layer of lilacs and sugar and filled my jar.

Rinse the lilacs and let them dry, then remove the blossoms from the stems. Add a layer of sugar, then a layer of blossoms, and repeat until all the lilacs and sugar are used, or in my case, until the jar is filled. Seal the jar tightly and gently shake the jar, then place in a dark cabinet and store for 1 week. Make sure to gently shake the sugar jar once a day while it is in storage.

After one week of storage in a dark cabinet, sift the sugar and spread it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Store it in a safe place for another week, and then use it creatively. Gail says it goes very well with anything lemony. I hate to admit it, but I am so anxious to try it, that I am NOT going to wait that long before using it. Soon you will see what I create with my lilac sugar. 🙂 Thank you so much Gail for this wonderful idea.

Keep an open mind and an open heart, and we will all learn new things everyday. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Turtles in the Sun

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was just perfect weather. Not to hot, not to cold, and everyone was out enjoying the day. I took so many great pictures. Today I am sharing my turtle pics. I had both Red-Eared Sliders and Snapping turtles out sunning themselves.

The Red-Eared Slider

The Snapping Turtles

And then there is a our resident turtle who always dresses for the season.

Have a great day Everyone.

Jalapeno Cheese Bread

Bread! It is one of the most delicious creations ever made, at least in my view. I love all kinds of breads. Back in my younger days, many moons ago, there were many days that breads of some sort made a meal for me.

When I lived in the San Francisco area, many, many years ago, I was poor, and I did whatever I needed to do to make ends meet. So I would take the bus into work and walk from the bus station into work. Along the way there was Beaudoin’s Bakery. I would stop in every morning and buy a mini baguette and that would be breakfast (and sometimes lunch) for the day. I had it timed just perfectly and would finish the last bite just as I walked into the doors of my job. I still love my breads to this day too.

My latest bread making adventure was a delicious cheesy jalapeno loaf. Though not the soupiest of weather, Larry wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want a big meal, so we pulled some creamy chicken soup out of the freezer and it paired perfectly with the cheesy jalapeno loaf.

Cheesy Jalapeno Loaf

Even though I have been cooking all my life, and as a professional too for many, many years, it never ceases to amaze me how you can create such beautiful and tasty foods with just a few simple and basic ingredients.

3-4 cups flour

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (or 1 package)

1/4 cup lukewarm water

3/4 cup milk

2 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced fine

1 cup shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese

1 TBSP sugar

Combine about 3-3 1/2 cups of flour with the salt, peppers, jalapenos and cheese and set aside.

Add the yeast to the water and mix together then add the sugar. Let set for about 5-10 minutes or until it becomes frothy.

Add the melted butter to the milk.

Add the milk and butter to the flour mixture and fold it all together.

Then add the yeast mixture and start working it in and kneading it all together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead for about 8-10 minutes or until the dough forms into a soft stretchy ball. Place the dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl and cover to let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Once the dough is ready and has doubled in size, turn it onto a lightly floured surface once again and pound it into an 8×12 rectangle that is about 1 1/2 inches thick.

Starting from the smaller side, roll into a thick log and pinch the seams together.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and place the dough, seam side down, into the pan. Cover and let rise again for an hour, or until doubled in size once again.

Preheat the oven to 375* F or about 200* C, then bake the loaf for about 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown and the center is hollow when tapped. I rubbed a little olive oil on top of the bread to help with the browning and crusting.

Allow the bread to cool slightly before slicing and enjoy.

Bread, no matter how you slice it, will always be good.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Lilacs in Bloom

I just love lilacs. They are so beautiful and fragrant. They perfume the whole area with their sweet fragrance. The only downside is they are not in bloom for very long. One day they are are showing off their bright pinks and purples and then, poof, they are gone and we have to wait for the next season for them to return. But they are in bloom now, and I am thoroughly enjoying it too. We have them in all shades of pinks and purples this year.

These are in my own front yard. They just smell Heavenly.

Always take time to smell the roses, or in this case the lilacs. It will always put you in a happy mood.

Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

I think by now you all know about my love affair with good Mexican food. !Me gusto! So I am always looking for new recipes and new ideas to add to my ever growing repertoire. The other day when I made my enchiladas with mole sauce Enchiladas Con Pollo y Mole I also made a Mexican salad with a creamy avocado dressing to go with it. I took both dishes to our potluck party and both were loved by all.

The Salad

For the salad I just tossed together a few ingredients that are often used in a variety of Mexican dishes such as, corn, black beans, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers and lettuce. Then I topped it all with some avocado slices, roasted pepitas and crumbled cotija cheese.

The dressing was a recipe I saw, once again, from our very own “My Meals Are On Wheels” at https://beatcancer2010.wordpress.com/. But of course, I added my own personal touches to it, as I always do.

It is once again lemon verbena season and it is growing wild all over my backyard. I just love lemon verbena, also known as lemon balm, and I try to use it as much as I can when it is in season. But every year I get more and more and there is NO WAY I can ever use it all. Anyone who wants some is more than welcome to it. It makes everything taste and smell lemony fresh. That being said, of course I added some to my dressing.

Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing

2 avocados

1/2 white onion

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup white wine or Proseco vinegar

3 TBSP olive oil and/or lime olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup buttermilk (I make mine with powdered buttermilk and milk)

1/2 TBSP garlic

2 TBSP lime juice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh lemon verbena, optional

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until it is smooth and creamy. Then chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I used this salad two different ways. The first day I used it as a side salad. But I had quite a bit of my chicken filling leftover from the enchiladas, so I made the salad into a dinner salad by topping it with the chicken. Both ways, it was muy delicioso.

Life is short. Eat well and be happy, healthy and safe. ‘Til next time.

Enchiladas Con Pollo y Mole

We were invited to a last minute going away potluck party for a friend of ours who is moving out of state. I whipped up a batch of chicken enchiladas with my mole sauce or enchiladas con pollo y mole for our contribution to the event. Pollo con Mole de Manzana con Pasilla They were a big hit. None of us coordinated on who was bringing what, but everything came together beautifully, as it usually does.

I do not have a picture of the finished enchiladas, since once again, I took them directly out of the oven and off we went. But I think you will get the general idea. I have confidence in all of you.

The enchiladas were smoky sweet, with a bit of heat. !Estoviste delicioso!

For the chicken filling, I used some leftover Costco rotisserie chicken, along with corn, red and green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, onions, cumin, oregano, salt & pepper, olive oil and lime olive oil, cilantro and a bit of my mole mixed in.

I diced up the vegetables and sauteed them in the oil for about 5 minutes and then added the shredded chicken just to heat it up and mix everything together.

Preheat the oven to 350-375* F.

Spray cooking spray into a 9×13 baking pan.

Once everything was cooked, it was time to roll up the enchiladas. I debated on whether to roll them or to layer them. I do both, and it really just depends on my mood at the time. This time, I rolled them.

I heated up the corn tortillas so they were pliable and spread a little of the mole on the bottom of the prepared baking dish first. Then I filled them with the filling and rolled them up and placed them side by side.

Once the enchiladas were all ready, I added more sauce on top and then a layer of Mexican cheese blend. Then I covered them in aluminum foil and popped them into the oven for about 45 minutes. They are done when the center reaches an internal temperature of about 165* F and the cheese on top is all melted.

We had a lot of food and we all brought foods that complimented everything else very nicely. We had a few salads (I also brought a Mexican salad with a creamy lime and avocado dressing, but more on that later), soup, chili con carne y frijoles, chips and a chocolate cake for dessert. Everything was delicious. Our friend Brent was very touched as we all wished him well with his new adventures and journeys in life. Vios con Dio mi Amigo.

Life is good, and it is even better when shared with good friends and good food.

Stay happy, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Catching Up

I’m back. Our niece’s wedding was beautiful, but it was touch and go with the weather. This IS LATE MAY, right? I thought so too, but you would have never known it this past weekend. Where I live, we got about 5-6 inches of snow, but it was even worse down in Colorado Springs, where our niece got married. There was over 16+ inches of snow. We left Thursday afternoon, and we broke a record high, at 91* F. By that night, the temperature dropped dramatically and on Friday, we got hit with a HUGE winter storm that lasted for two days.

The warm before the storm.

The storm

It snowed up until just about an hour or two before the wedding, but our niece still insisted on it being an outside wedding. Fortunately, there was a little bit of a break, and Colorado being what it is, the snow started melting not long after it stopped. But, it wasn’t done yet. There was still more snow the day after too.

I was only gone for a few short days, but I literally came home to 1000’s of emails. I have been busy catching up all morning. As much as I love all the emails and posts, I have to admit that sometimes it can also be very overwhelming. I am just about done with catching up, and things will soon be back to normal. Rest assured though, I will be back in the kitchen again later on today, with more goodies for you to enjoy.

Stay tuned. Don’t touch that dial. Stay happy, healthy and safe Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks -The Goslings Are Moving About

I saw my goslings again, and just since the last time I saw them, they have already grown quite a bit. I just can’t believe how quickly they are growing up. Soon they will be teenagers. But I am enjoying every little of their baby cuteness while I can.

Life is short. Make the most of it while you can.

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