Monday, July 31, 2017

Mini Blueberry Galatte

These little galettes are free form tarts-the perfect single serving summer pie. 
They're crisp, flaky and delicious. A great way to take advantage of a summer berry bounty.


Galette is a French name and refers to a free-form pie or pastry. Instead of being baked in a pie or tart pan, the edges of the dough are simply folded over the sweet or savory filling. Galettes have a more rustic presentation, can vary greatly in size, and are typically easier to prepare. Also known as a crostata (Italy).
Mini Blueberry Galette
Cook's Notes: There are other ways to shape the crust. Some include:
Cook's Notes: Recipe adapted from jocooks.com and serves six.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pint blueberries or 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup sugar granulated
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 TB. cornstarch 
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (2 TB.) 
  • One box that has 2 rolled pie crusts

  • 1 egg beaten for egg wash
  • 2 TB. sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish, optional
  • Ice cream or whip cream optional but highly recommended
Directions;
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a medium size bowl combine the blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, zest and juice of one lemon. Set aside.
  • Sprinkle your work surface with a bit of flour then roll out one of the pie crusts so that it's flat. Using a bowl that's about 6 inches in diameter, cut 3 rounds from the pie crust, by pressing down on the bowl or running a pizza wheel around it. 

  • Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of the blueberry mixture into the center of a pie crust round, then fold the dough up over the filling. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  • Place the galettes onto the prepared baking sheet using a spatula. Brush each galette with beaten egg then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • Bake the galettes for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Use a spatula to remove galettes from baking sheet to a wire cooling rack until serving . 
  • Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Cooking Tips:
  • If your pie crust has come down to room temperature, place the baking sheets with the unbaked galettes in the fridge for about half an hour so that the dough gets cold again, otherwise your galettes might open up during baking and you'll end up with a mess.
  • Be sure to press corners firmly to seal galettes or may unfold during when baking. 
  • Turbinado sugar is obtained from pure sugar cane, less processed than brown sugar. It has a light caramel flavor.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dear Homefolks

Candace Simar, award winning author of the Abercrombie series and the novel Shelterbelts,

has penned another winner with her latest book Dear Homefolks. Candace's readers wanted more of her stories, and she had a lot of material complied over the years from her novel projects that was too good to discard. 

Dear Homefolks is a collection which includes frontier stories, memoir pieces, poetry, several pieces set in modern times, and,  for all those fans who have been waiting for a sequel to Shelterbelts, a story about Tolga Township.


The engaging title of the book is a nod to Candace’s Scandinavian background and a greeting used by many Norwegian immigrants when writing their letters home to the Old Country.

Candace’s gift of storytelling excels with her frontier stories that transport readers back to another time period using precise words that create sharp images building tension along the way. Candace’s meticulous research gives authentic voices to her immigrant characters facing adversity in a new land. I found the character Olava Wick, the cornerstone for "Dear Homefolksand "Joy of Lifestories, to be a fascinating character. She was a midwife, herbalist and almost doctor for the early settlers. She brought healing to more than one kind of misery.

Two memoir pieces included in the book expose raw emotions with the challenges Candace and her husband faced as foster care parents while raising their own family and the joy reaped by providing some stability to their lives. 

"Golden Noresam," a story set in modern times was developed by Candace and her mother who was in a care facility at that time. It is an imaginative piece written with a wicked sense of humor about a group of wild seniors with gold colored rags cruising around the senior center on their scooters.

Of course I did feel Candace saved the best for last with the ending story “Tolga Township.” I enjoyed catching up with the characters I had come to care so much about in Shelterbelts plus a glimpse into the developing relationship between Tia and Russell.

Dear Homefolks is available in August and can be ordered at  https://candacesimar.com/dear-homefolks/
To learn more about Candace Simar and her previously published books as well as upcoming events go to candacesimar.com.
Candace's books are available in audio, e-book, and large print.

Upcoming Book Launch Dear Homefolks Brainerd, Minnesota  

Brainerd Library 12:00 PM to 2 PM Monday Aug 28, 2017
Brown Bag Lunch Series sponsored by Friends of the Library

Friday, July 28, 2017

Healthy Friday

Avocado Caprese Chicken Wraps
Cook's Notes: This is one amazing wrap sandwich filled with an explosion of healthy flavors and complex textures. It's loaded with slices of creamy avocado, milky mozzarella cheese, crunchy romaine, balsamic marinated tomatoes and chicken topped with fresh basil all wrapped up in a low carb flatbread called Flatout Foldit.  
Fresh fruit makes a good side. 

Disclaimer: I am not a rep for this product but I am totally won over by the taste and possibilities for use with Flatout Flatbread. And the best part is actually good for you! I used Flatout Multi-Grain with Flax made from 100% stone ground whole wheat and  and high in fiber, with half the calories and half the carbs of two slices of 100% whole wheat bread! Flatout also boasts a gluten free flatbread and many other flavor variations (their Italian Herb would also be amazing in these wraps). I was sold on their new product Flatout Foldit. 
For easier preparation the chicken can be marinated and grilled the day before or earlier in the day before serving. Recipe inspiration carlsbadcravings.com 
The photo shows the sandwich assembled ready to be folded and then sandwich ready to be served. Ingredients listed are for four Flatout Foldit wrap sandwiches.
Sandwich Ingredients:
  • 4 Flatout Foldit
  • 3 TB. each low fat plain Greek Yogurt and Miracle Whip
  • 2 chicken breasts, each one halved 
  • 4 pieces of Romaine lettuce
  • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced, pat dry on a paper towel   
  • 1 large avocado, sliced 
  • Mozzarella slices
  • Torn fresh basil leaves 
Balsamic Marinade Ingredients:
  • 3 TB. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB. olive oil or lemon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. each garlic and onion powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Directions:
  • Mix marinade in a blender, taste test to adjust seasonings, reserve 2 teaspoons, set aside.  In a plastic bag add remaining marinade and chicken. Marinate for 2 hours. Grill or bake chicken. Cool and thinly slice. 
  • Drizzle tomatoes with reserved 2 teaspoons of marinade.  
  • Mix yogurt and Miracle Whip. Divide and spread sauce among 4 Foldits.
  • Add rest of ingredients in the following order:Romaine, chicken, tomatoes, avocado slices, cheese slices and basil.    

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The World According to Bella

A Milestone 
I am ten this weekend and in people years that makes me past  middle age. Mrs. S is also celebrating a birthday but I don't think she's ten.  I was hanging out in my hole when Mrs. S surprised me with an early gift, one of my favorite treats sugar snap peas. It even came attached with a balloon. 
I overheard Mr. C and Mrs. S discussing a party and guests. I do hope Sadie and Luna can come but Mrs. S will need to buy more rawhide bones as our supply is running low. I saw a picture of the doggie party cake Chunk got and wonder if I'll get one too. I wish we all could go on a boat ride but the motor does not work.  

Last week we all had a rather scary ride. The motor stopped working and we were very far from home. Mr. C only had one paddle and it was real windy. He kept paddling but we were going nowhere and being blown away from shore. But leave it to Mrs. S to save the day. She stood up in the boat and kept yelling at our neighbors to come and rescue us. They were having a party and did not hear us for what seemed like a longtime. FINALLY they came with their boat and we got a tow home. 
I was a little nervous so I kept a close eye on our neighbors as we were pulled along. 
Everyday we go to the mailbox I keep hoping for a card or two. Chunk is always good about remembering my special day.   

Hope your summer is going good. Mine has been great with lots  of fun stuff. And Mrs S thinks I've been doing a fantastic job on yard patrol. No critters have eaten her flowers and plants. Even the hydrangeas are still blooming! 

Love, Bella  

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Peach Trio

Cook's Notes: Well now that you've had a slice of Peach Blueberry Pie 
how about the rest of the peach trio? 
Peach and Tomato Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Cook’s Notes: An unusual but winning combination that showcases some of the summer’s  best. Add a light vinaigrette dressing to the salad just before serving. Recipe serves 2-4 and is adapted from BHG.
Ingredients:

  • 3 peaches, skins removed and cut into chunks 
  • 2 cups Roma or cherry tomatoes, red and yellow 
  • ½ cup red onions, diced
  • ½ cup Feta crumbles
  • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • Torn basil leaves
Directions:
Mix all salad ingredients together.
Vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients and Directions: 
  • In a screw top jar with a lid add the following: 
  • 2 TB. good quality white balsamic vinegar, Honey Ginger Balsamic, Peach Balsamic or Cara Cara Orange Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 2 TB. minced shallots
  • 1 tsp. each Dijon mustard and honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Shake ingredients well and refrigerate until serving 
Peach, Ham and Brie Flatbread Sandwich
Cook’s Notes: Recipe serves four and adapted from Magnolia Magazine Summer 2017
Ingredients:

  • 4 Flatouts called Foldit or Flatbreads
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup peach preserves
  • 2 peaches, skins removed and thinly sliced
  •  8 large pieces of deli ham 
  • 4 -6 oz. of sliced brie
  • 1-2 TB. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • Optional 4 pieces of romaine lettuce 
Directions:
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly brush Flatbreads or Foldits with olive oil. 
  • Bake flatbreads or Foldits for 3 minutes. 
  • Spread mustard on each baked flatbread or Foldit adding peach preserves over the mustard. Then layer brie, onions, 2 peach slices and 2 slices of ham over mustard/peach preserves. 
  • Place flatbread or Foldit back into oven for 10 minutes. Add a piece of romaine to each flatbread or Foldit before serving.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Peach Blueberry Pie

I was on a mission to find Colorado peaches. Since I did not have time to drive to another state lucky for me Bob's Produce in the Twin Cities area (Fridley) came through and was within a reasonable driving distance. 
There were boxes for $39.95 which seemed like a good price. 
One bite of a juicy ripe Colorado peach is pure bliss only matched by the taste of a Georgia peach. 
I did not waste anytime and purchased peaches to bake a pie for a friend's birthday. 
Cook's Notes: 
Since peaches in general (fresh or frozen) are juicy, this pie won’t be as sturdy as apple pie for example. Frozen fruit will be fine, but just make sure it is thawed, completely drained. 

One of the secrets to a sturdy pie filling is waiting until pie is completely cool about 2 hours before cutting a slice.  
Ingredients:
  • Prepared pie crust mix (need a top and bottom crust) or homemade crusts 
  • 7 large ripe peaches
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, drained and patted dry on a paper towel
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB. Saigon cinnamon
  • dash of allspice 
  • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. butter 
  • 2 TB. sugar mixed with a 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 
Directions:
  • Blanch peaches for 30 seconds in boiling water, then submerge immediately in an ice water bath and remove skins.
  • In a large bowl mix sugars, tapioca, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice.
  • Cut peaches into chunks, add to sugar mixture with blueberries and coat both fruits. 
  • Let peach mixture stand for 15 minutes (stir occasionally) while rolling out dough for bottom crust.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • The peach mixture will be liquidy so use a slotted spoon to drain each spoonful of peach/blueberry mixture as you place in bottom crust.
  • Dot with butter.
  • Place top crust over filling and flute edges. 
  • Add foil strips around top crust which will prevent over browning.
  • Using a pastry brush moisten the top crust with a little milk and then sprinkle a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon over crust. 
  • Cut 5 vents about 2-1/2 inches long in top crust.   
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes then reduce heat to 400 and bake 20-25 minutes longer.
A Fresh Peach
There is nothing in the world
That is as juicy or as sweet
As a freshly picked peach
Oh, what a luscious treat

Picked right from the tree
Soft but still quite firm
Pristine fresh it is
Free from scars or worms

Fuzzy on the surface
But very succulent inside
Oh, how delicious the taste
Such a moist flavorful ride

To find the perfect fruit
Is not beyond your reach
One of Mother Nature’s best
The delicious fresh peach!

Marilyn Lott

Monday, July 24, 2017

Weekend Round-Up Part Two

There just are some milestones in life one needs to celebrate. Sunday my husband and I threw ourselves a party to mark the occasion of our 50th anniversary.  Once upon a time it started out as a small party but grew as my daughter and sisters joined in.
My daughter added many creative DIY Pinterest ideas and we went with an outdoors Mexican themed party.
Anniversary Wishing Tree
Framed instructions encouraged guests to write an anniversary wish on a tag to hang on the Anniversary Wising Tree. 

My sister purchased an authentic Mexican wedding pinata. It took many hits by the guests with the golf club to finally bring it down-this is my husband working hard on one of the final whacks.    
It was a family collaborative effort on Tex-Mex food and a special cake. 
One of the biggest conversation pieces which unfortunately I did not get a photo of was my wedding dress with its train hung from the ceiling. It was in great condition considering how many years have gone by. 
Keeping with the Mexican theme I bought a very large can of tomatoes, emptied it out (for a later recipe) and my landscaping sister (her business- Blooming Gardens) created many table floral centerpieces including this one.   
This photo has particular significance. It's rare to get all seven of us together for a picture. Secondly, there used to be eight of us but sadly my other brother died a few years ago. He was always silly when we took family photos giving bunny ears to those standing near him . So we all did it one more time to remember Donny.  
Last but not least, my brother Peter made this awesome DIY window picture frame with a collage of family photos. His inspiration -Nicole Curtis HGTV Rehab Show.  
http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-create-a-window-frame-photo-collage
Indeed we were filled with love and gratitude sharing the day with friends and family. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekend Round-Up- Part One

Skinny Taco Dip
Cook's notes:
This dip comes together so quickly and easily in just 10 minutes, making it perfect as a party appetizer or even for game day! And with the lightened up ingredients, you can eat this guilt-free.  YUM !YUM! Serve with your favorite chips. Recipe inspiration-dammdelicious.com and yellowbliss.com
Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 -1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sliced olives
Directions:
  • Combine softened cream cheese, Greek yogurt, salsa and taco seasoning until smooth and well combined. Spread into a rectangle baking dish or pie plate (I used an 11"x 7" baking pan) 
  • Refrigerate for an hour to let flavors combine (optional). Top with remaining ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips or tortilla strips.

Interested in history with a Minnesota connection? This could be just the book you were looking for "Alice in France."

In March 1918, twenty-six-year-old Alice O'Brien and three close friends set off from New York harbor, bound for wartime France. Unlike the soldiers aboard their ship, they were unpaid volunteers. As the daughter of a wealthy family in St. Paul, Alice had no need to work no need to go to war. But she also drove her own car, was trained as an auto mechanic, spoke French, and had the passion and determination to contribute selflessly to the war effort.

Alice and her friends joined hundreds of American women serving as nurses, clerks, drivers, and canteen workers for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other organizations. Her letters home, full of breezy gossip and telling detail, describe living conditions, attitudes and actions of French soldiers and civilians, and her own remarkable efforts near the front.

The letters dated from the time she boarded a ship bound for France in April of 1918 to December of that year, have been gathered and edited by her grandniece, Nancy O’Brien Wagner, daughter of the late St. Paul entrepreneur Thomond O’Brien and his wife, Alvina.

A side note:
In 1945, 20 years after William O'Brien's death, his daughter Alice offered 180 acres along the St. Croix riverfront to the state. The donation was eagerly accepted, as Minnesota did not yet have a state park near the Twin Cities, and the park was ratified by the legislature two years later. The proximity to the metro area was a mixed blessing. Land was added to the park at every opportunity, to reduce crowding and to prevent housing developments from being built right up to the boundary. In 1958‚ S. David Greenberg donated Greenberg Island in memory of his parents. Accessible only by canoe‚ the island has become a haven for wildlife and wildflowers. The park was expanded into the bluffs west of Highway 95 and a second campground added. A large tract was added in 1973, leapfrogging a rail line, and another 120 acres came in 1986. William O'Brien remains one of the top five most-visited state parks in Minnesota.
Information from Wikipedia

Friday, July 21, 2017

Beat the Heat

GO GREEK this week with Greek Pita Chip Salad
This light satisfying salad is loaded with flavor not only from veggies and herbs but a vinaigrette made of red wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to the  vinaigrette which takes the edge off acidity from tomatoes and peppers.  Store bought fat free Greek vinaigrette can be substituted for homemade vinaigrette. It's all ready under 15 minutes. Lots of flexibility with the ingredients and so perfect when your garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The recipe called for red peppers but I found using yellow peppers were more of a contrast and provided same great taste. Pita chips add extra crunch and texture to the salad. 
Recipe adapted from averiecooks.com and serves four. 
Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes, seeded if desired
  • 1-1/2 cups diced English cucumber
  • 1-1/2 cups diced mini red peppers, seeded or mini yellow peppers
  • 4 cups green salad mixture (I used a combination of romaine and spinach)
  • 1/2-1/3 cup crumbled feta (I used a garlic and herb variety) 
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives
  • 1/3 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley or regular parsley, finely minced
  • crumbled store bought pita chips
  • Optional 2-3 TB. fresh mint, finely minced
Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 TB. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp, Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. each Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
Salad Directions:
  • Place all salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine.  Add in crumbled pita chips right before drizzling vinaigrette.
Vinaigrette:
To a glass jar with a lid add all ingredients. and shake to combine. Taste and make necessary flavor tweaks. Drizzle over salad and toss to combine.

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY
-Ernest Hemingway (July 21,1899-July 2,1961)
American novelist, short story writer, journalist
"You see, I am trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across - not to just depict life - or criticize it - but to actually make it alive. So that when you have read something by me, you actually experience the thing. You can't do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Discoveries





A recent canoe ride from one lake to another lake under the bridge was a photographer's dream. Here I discovered an abundance of water lilies in full bloom. The sea of lily pads reminded me of the French Impressionist Claude Monet's Water Lilies. 










Depending on the light and angle the color contrasts were amazing with the ever changing hues of greens and blues.
Though water lilies look as if they are sprouting from the water, they are actually floating on top of the water, with their roots tethered deep into the water-logged soil at the bottom of the lake or pond. The lily pad beneath the flowers is the leaf of the water lily plant.

The water lily is repeatedly used in the oil paintings of French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926). His water lily series of 250 oil paintings are some of his most masterful works.
The water lily paintings were inspired by Monet's flower garden at Giverny. 


This photo below I took is one of Monet's massive murals Nympheas (Water Lilies) displayed in Paris at the Musee de l'Orangerie.

Water Lilies 1916

"I had planted them for the pleasure of it; 
I grew them without ever thinking of painting them. ”
 -Claude Monet


A popular treat that screams summer are Mini-S'more Pies.
Recipe inspiration iowagirleats.com 
This dessert merits attention for your summer entertaining. Here is why the recipe works.
1. It's easy to put together with only three ingredients: Hershey candy bars, graham cracker shells and mini marshmallows. 

2. It's a summer crowd pleaser and good alternative to a having a campfire.
3. It's not messy as you eat from the foil container.
4. And it has the same great taste as a campfire S'more

5. They are the perfect treat for kids and kids at heart. 

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 and bake graham cracker pie shells for 4 minutes.
  • While shells are still warm and on cookie sheet place 4 pieces of chocolate in each shell. Let chocolate set a few minutes to melt.
  • Adjust rack one level above middle rack and set oven to broil.
  • Place 3 regular size marshmallows or a handful of mini marshmallows on top of the chocolate.
  • Brown marshmallows on broil-about 1 minute 
  • In microwave melt one whole chocolate bar, stir to blend and drizzle over top of broiled marshmallows.
  • Serve foil S'more Pies immediately.