Warm Figs with Mascarpone

I was skittering on the edge with this recipe, working from a hazy idea involving dried figs and wondering if I could cook them up into something wonderful, along with the observation that mascarpone, sometimes called “Italian cream cheese” is becoming more and more commonly available at local grocery stores. I wondered if I couldn’t simmer the dried figs in orange juice, rendering them warm and juicy. Then I envisioned slathering them with the mascarpone. Thing was, I had never had mascarpone, so I really was skittering on the edge! I went to work, and have to say, this easy little dessert is unbelievably, almost celestially good, so the food gods were on my side.

Warm Figs with Mascarpone

Here is what I used, though you might find different quantities at your grocery store:

dried figs (I had a 9-oz. package)
mascarpone ( I used Vermont Creamery brand, 8 oz.)
3/4 cup orange juice (from a small 12-oz. bottle of Tropicana)
1 tablespoon brown sugar or grated Mexican piloncillo
1 teaspoon vanilla

A slightly haphazard look at the ingredients. And I got a new set of little bowls at the resale shop. Happiness is the small things!
These figs are from California, but you can use any kind available.
I grated some Mexican piloncillo, enough for the cooking juice, and a little extra to sprinkle on the dessert. You can use brown sugar instead, but the piloncillo has extra flavor depth.
Mix the orange juice, the brown sugar or grated piloncillo and the vanilla in a small pan. Bring to a simmer, and add the figs. I used 10 figs, but you could use more. (I have found that in a recipe like this the commercial orange juice works perfectly. You could squeeze fresh orange juice, but the freshness gets a bit lost in the cooking.) Cook the figs for about seven to eight minutes–but it depends on the softness of the figs. Some imported figs are firm, and you may need to cook longer. They should become soft and juicy. Take off the heat and set aside. The juice will have become a bit syrupy.
At this point, we meet the mascarpone, which is so good. It’s not like cream cheese at all, but more like English clotted cream. Stir it a bit before using to loosen it up.
For each serving, spoon a generous tablespoon into a small bowl. The mascarpone is rich, and you won’t need more.
Spoon four figs on top of the mascarpone, and spoon a little of the syrupy cooking juices around the edge. Sprinkle with the grated piloncillo. Serve it forth!
You could cook the figs ahead of time. Have your bowls ready, and your mascarpone stirred. When ready for dessert, heat up the figs, and top the mascarpone with them. Easy, and so delicious.

Making notes: The figs are the variable here. They come in different quantities and some may be almost hard, and some soft. The brand I used here, called “Nutra-Figs,” were soft and moist, and I recommend them. Also, before you put the figs into the simmering orange juice, pull their stems out a bit–they will look more like figs like that, and not lumpish.

As per usual, in the midst of cooking the above, a bird landed outside the window at the feeder, and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. It’s a female cardinal, a bit worse for the wear at this time of year,  but full of spirit and quite adorable!

We are still raising Monarch butterflies. Last week we released four! Here they are, emerged from the chrysalis, wings drying out.

The net prevented them from climbing out of the jar when they were caterpillars.
Another beautiful butterfly! This one is female.

Peace to you. Fran

Jalapeno-Lime Slaw

This recipe kind of snuck up on me. I’m not a big fan of the usual sugary mayonnaise-based coleslaw, and this slaw, made with fresh lime juice, cilantro and jalapeños sounded interesting. So I made it once, then again, and then again. The fourth time, I realized that I really liked it!  It’s the perfect foil for the richer, heavier parts of a meal–the grilled hamburger, the casserole, whatever. It’s light, tart, fresh, crunchy, and juicy with spangles of hotness. (How hot is up to you!) And, you can make it with a pre-shredded slaw mix. Here is the recipe:

Jalapeño-Lime Slaw

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (3 limes)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 (16-ounce) package cabbage and carrot coleslaw
1 jalapeño pepper

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the onion, cilantro and coleslaw mix. Thinly slice the jalapeño (crosswise), removing the seeds first to lessen hotness, if you wish. Add to the coleslaw mixture and toss thoroughly with two big spoons. Store in the refrigerator, and taste before serving.

I use a citrus squeezer to juice to limes. This metal one came from a Hispanic grocery store.
Olive oil whisked into the lime juice mixture.
I used about a half of a medium red onion, slicing it as thinly as possible.
The sliced onion half was about a 1/2 cup, but you don’t have to be super precise.
A handful of fresh cilantro.
Coarsely chopped cilantro.
This jalapeno was home grown, and was on the small side.
Much of the heat is in the seeds, so you can take them out if you wish. There are variables in cooking with jalapeños–they some in varying sizes and degree of heat. So proceed with caution.
Tossing the mixture with two big spoons. Do this thoroughly–it will take a few minutes.
Served in a Japanese ceramic bowl, it can look quite exotic!

Making notes: My bag of coleslaw mix was 14 ounces. It was fine. The original recipe had four jalapeños! I’m going to work my way up to that. The thing about this coleslaw is its fresh crunchiness. It will last in the fridge for a number of days, but will get limper.

While I was mixing the coleslaw, this little house finch appeared at the feeder. I put down the spoons and ran for the camera!

On Thursday, Jim and I visited Horlock Prairie. It was alive with birds and butterflies.

Lastly, here’s another page from my Nature Journal notebook, all about Monarch butterflies. Jim and I have been raising them, and released four a few days ago. One landed on my shoulder before fluttering off! It was like being blessed by a butterfly, and was a wonderful experience. Peace to you. Fran

 

Lotsa Melons

I was watching television the other evening when an image of a melon baller suddenly appeared in my mind. This was unsettling, but I know why it appeared. Lately I’ve been thinking about small desserts–little sweet somethings at the end of a meal that taste delish but are low or no sugar. And then, we are entering melon season. So my brain, such as it is, dangled the melon baller before my eyes. Try this, Fran! I’m so glad my brain thinks of these things, because left to my own devices, I would be still sitting there watching television.

Thing is, I had given my melon baller away. They were popular in the ’70s, a time when nothing was safe from melon ballers. But after years of not using it, I gave mine away to Goodwill. So on a quick trip to the grocery store, I picked up a melon baller, and also stopped by the melon department. To my surprise, there have been big advances in melons. First up was a huge bright yellow melon (DEWlicious!) called a golden honeydew. Then a Sugar Kiss cantaloupe looked good in its blue mesh bag. I already had a small watermelon at home. I was ready to start to work. (Word to the wise: Wear an apron when doing this–these melons are juicy!)

Ingredients: Melons, limes, fresh mint, vanilla and cardamom. Mint includes, from back to front: apple mint, Middle Eastern spearmint, juicy fruit mint, and lemon balm.
First up: I started with the little watermelon. There is a technique to using the melon baller: Press its open side down into the melon. Juice will shoot out of the hole on the back, probably into your face. Then, twist the melon baller around, and remove the melon ball.
Place about 8 to 10 melon balls into a little bowl. Squeeze some fresh lime juice onto the fruit. Garnish with a little wedge of lime, and a sprig of mint, if you have it. The combination of watermelon and lime is so refreshing.
This is the golden honeydew. The flesh of this melon is a lovely, arctic pale green, and the flavor is beyond good–sweet with a touch of vanilla.
If a melon is really good, you don’t have to add anything to it. But I did add some orange liqueur (Triple Sec), and it was also good. Eat the melon, then slurp the little bit of juice in the bottom of the bowl. I also tried this variety topped with a little vanilla mixed with wildflower honey. Again, so good.
A Sugar Kiss cantaloupe. In the words of the label: “The soft meat melts in your mouth, dissolving like sugar on the tongue.” It really did this! I topped it with a splash of maraschino liqueur.
A jaunty sprig of lemon balm adorns the cantaloupe balls. So refreshing. I also did a cantaloupe version topped with lime juice and cardamom. See below.
I ground a little bit (1/4 teaspoon) of cardamom and mixed it with the juice of half a small lime. Poured this over the Sugar Kiss cantaloupe balls. Your taste buds will thank you. Cardamom is a good spice to buy whole in its husk. It will last (almost) forever, until husked and ground.
These little bowls of melons could be served with a meal–one bowl at each plate. The cantaloupe balls at the lower left are topped with fresh lime juice and ground cardamom.
A beautiful assortment of little bowls of melon. Love the soft colors! You can also drop some melon balls into a glass of Prosecco wine for a cooling drink.

Melon notes: Keep a clean towel at hand to mop up when doing this–these melons are juicy! Try other liqueurs–an anise-flavored liqueur would work well. Or, sprinkle the melon balls with little blueberries. Or mix three colors of melons balls together, for a melon lalapalooza!

 

Monarchs Rule!

We are still raising Monarch butterflies–today we released the fifth. Watching her flutter up and away, as usual, brought a lump to my throat. For one thing, we have learned that summer generations of Monarchs only live for a matter of weeks, to reproduce. The last generation is called the Methuselah generation, because they live for months, migrating to the south. We have had a lot of Monarchs fluttering around our yard recently–don’t know if they are “ours,” but they are so beautiful!

This is a male–you can tell by the spot on its lower wing.
In all its glory.

Peace to you. Fran

Little Dessert Bowls and a Butterfly

I found these little bowls a few days ago at a resale shop. From Crate and Barrel, they were only $1.97 for four. Had to buy! For about a day I wasn’t sure what I could do with them and they sat on the kitchen counter, but then it hit me: use them for little desserts. Just a few months ago, Jim was diagnosed as being diabetic. This wasn’t a surprise, as he had been pre-diabetic for years, and his dad had been a diabetic. And now that he has been exercising and watching carbs, he is falling back into the borderline area. Good news!

Meanwhile, we attended a class for learning about diabetes. It was enlightening. I learned that eating carbs such as sweets is not totally forbidden–it’s all about portion control. That’s where these little dessert bowls come in! Then at the library I found a book called “No-fuss Diabetes Desserts,” by Linda Gassenheimer, and was inspired. This afternoon, I brain-stormed small portion, no-sugar desserts. Each recipe is for one serving, but you can multiple the quantity. Some are real simple, some a bit more complex. Hope you enjoy!

(If you are diabetic, be sure to count your carbs per meal to see if these desserts are appropriate for you. The servings shown are approximate. Also, you might wonder why we just don’t skip desserts entirely, but Jim and I enjoy a little something sweet at the end of dinner. Makes life fun. Our main meal contains few carbs–usually meat or poultry and a vegetable side dish–so we can indulge in one of these little, no-sugar desserts. And at the diabetes class, I learned from fellow students how fiercely attached we all are to food, especially our little treats.)

Little Orange Bowl

To start simply: a little bowl of clementine orange slices, about one small orange per bowl. You could also serve this with a square of dark chocolate.

Goat Cheese with Honey

Ingredients. This is a wonderful dessert for trying different flavors of honey.
Goat cheese is rich and creamy, and you will only need a small amount–about two tablespoons.
Drizzle with about a teaspoon of honey.
The original recipe called for walnut halves, but I had a chopped walnut/almond mixture on hand, and used that. This dessert seems small, but it’s rich, and would work well after a light meal.
The season for these dark red bing cherries is brief–take advantage as it goes by. One serving is about ten cherries.

Cherry Vanilla Pudding

Mix 1/3 cup ricotta cheese with a teaspoon of vanilla. Scoop into a little bowl.
Pit and coarsely chop eight bing cherries (wear an apron–cherry juice stains big time!). Microwave in a measuring cup for about one minute, or until the cherries give off juice. This will make enough cherry topping for two servings. Spoon half the warm cherry mixture over the ricotta, and sprinkle with sliced almonds. It will taste like warm vanilla cherry pudding. (The original for this recipe came from “No-fuss Diabetes Desserts,” but I modified it to use fresh cherries.)

Frozen Chocolate-dipped Bananas

Slice one ripe but firm banana into 1/4″ slices. Melt about 1/2 cup semi-sweet pieces in a little custard cup (use microwave). This will be enough for about four servings.
Banana slices are slippery little things, and I found that placing them in the melted chocolate, and twirling them around on a small fork worked. Then place on a piece of waxed paper on a tray, and put into freezer. They will be ready in about an hour.
A little bowl of frozen chocolate-dipped banana slices. A good hot weather treat. (Bananas are pretty high in carbs. We will be having only about 4 of these slices–about 13 carbs–after our main meal of chicken breasts and salad.)
Extras ready for the freezer.

Fresh Peach Jello

Ingredients for fresh peach jello. For the jello I used a small package (.30 oz.) sugar free orange jello. Then I chopped half a fresh, washed peach into chunks. I’m not crazy about using sugar-free products, because the jury is still out on their long-term safety. But I don’t see any problem with them on an occasional basis.
I had hoped to use slices, but they were too big for the bowls, so I chopped them up.
Make jello according to package directions. Place chopped peaches into the bowls, and pour in the jello. (You will actually need another small bowl for this quantity of jello.) I put a few blueberries into each bowl, for pretty. I can see endless variations on this: strawberry jello with fresh chopped strawberries, lemon jello with nectarines. Jim loved this dessert. It’s cool and festive. People may laugh at jello–but I think it’s about to have a moment!

So, six little no-sugar desserts. I am already thinking of more, and hope you will note that these are perfect for anyone, diabetic or not. Again, hope you enjoy!

 

Butterfly Time

For the past two weeks or so Jim and I have been raising Monarch butterflies. They start out as tiny eggs on milkweed leaves, hatch into little caterpillars, and then start munching milkweed. It’s unbelievable how much they eat. Then they form a chrysalis. When the butterfly emerges, it’s a moment of wonder. Here is our first graduate.

Hello, world!
A glorious moment when he first spreads his wings. (The spots on his lower wings indicate that he is a male.) Then he takes to the air and begins flying. How does he know how to fly?

Two more Monarchs have emerged, and we have seven more in chrysalis stage. In nature, the odds of an egg hatching and developing into a butterfly are very low, as it makes a delicious snack for other insects. Raised by hand, though, most eggs will make it to adulthood. These summer Monarchs will only live for two to six weeks. The last summer generation is different–they will live for months, long enough to migrate south. So many miracles! Peace to you. Fran

 

Four Harmony Veggies

This post is coming from two directions: 1) cooking can be an art, and 2) Jim and I need to eat more vegetables. So the sublime and the mundane will come together here. At least, that’s my aim. I ran across this recipe, which is called “Sichuan Four Harmonies,” in an Asian cookbook. Carrots, yellow sweet peppers, a red onion, and snow peas are stir-fried together with garlic and fresh ginger and other seasonings. It’s delicious!

Also, this is a useful recipe because its ingredients are ordinary vegetables that you may already have on hand. As to whether it’s Chinese or Japanese is a little hazy to me.  “Sichuan” would indicate it’s Chinese, but the treatment of the vegetables seemed more Japanese to me. Either way, it’s good, pretty, and made the pork chops I served along with look way more glamorous than they actually were. Here is the recipe.

Four Harmonies Vegetables

Slice a large carrot diagonally and blanch it in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cut a yellow bell pepper into pieces the same size as the carrot. Quarter a large red onion, and pull the layers apart. Prepare 16 sugar snap peas (see photo below.) In a wok or large frying pan, fry 1 tablespoon crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon crushed ginger in 2 tablespoons oil for one minute. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and the onion and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the carrot, pepper, the 16 snow peas, plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and stir fry for 3 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables are just cooked. Mix 1/3 cup water with 2 teaspoons cornstarch and add to the pan along with 2 tablespoons rice wine. Bring to a boil and serve.

Ingredients. You certainly can substitute other vegetables, but to be honest, the colors here work beautifully together. The brightness of the yellow pepper, the vivid red purple of the onion–all makes a difference in the final dish.
I purchased the carrots at a Japanese supermarket. They were chubbier than regular carrots, and were crisp. Fresh carrots from a farmer’s market would also be good.
I peeled the carrot, cut off the ends, then cut it crosswise into two halves. Then I cut each half lengthwise, then sliced them into moons. Quicker to do than to say! To blanch, bring a saucepan of water (a few inches deep) to a boil, and add the carrots. The idea is to take the raw edge off of them. This will take about two minutes. Then, drain.
My Japanese cookbook showed a mind-boggling number of ways to slice a carrot! I guess the lesson is that everything can be done beautifully.
Starting to cut the yellow sweet peppers.
Take a moment to appreciate the translucent beauty of the red onions.
Do you have to process the sugar snap peas? If they come directly from your garden, they may be tender enough to use as is. But these needed help. Hold the pod with the inner curved edge to you. The right end is the stem end. Pinch it with your thumb, and pull the string towards the other end. Hope the picture helps!
The rice wine added a beautiful mellow, sweet note to this dish. But you can use sake or sherry, or, more water.

Cut off a nob of ginger and peel it. It’s easiest to grate on a porcelain grater, but you can also use a metal grater.

Ready to go!
Using a wok. I put the heat way up, so everything cooks quickly. Here, the garlic and ginger briefly fry.
Stir the onions and the sesame oil over the high heat until the onions are a bit translucent and browned. The sesame oil will smell wonderful!
Adding the other vegetables. (This is why we blanched the carrots, so that everything will cook in about the same time.) Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until all the vegetables are just done–“crisp tender.”
Adding the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat. It will come together very quickly!
I served the vegetables in a ceramic bowl from Japan, and drizzled them with chili oil, just to finish off.

Cooking notes: We are often in a hurry when we cook, but sometimes it pays to slow down. It took time to prepare the vegetables, but I enjoyed the process, and the resulting dish tasted so good, and was special. If you don’t have the sugar snap peas, you could use a zucchini, sliced in moon shapes.

I sautéed some pork chops to serve along with, and for dessert, cooked three sliced and pared pears in a little bit of water. The warm cooked pears, topped with cream and a shake of cinnamon were so good! No sugar needed.

 

Seen high up in the pear tree in our garden– a yellow-legged meadowhawk dragonfly. (I had to look it up!) It’s a small dragonfly, and looks like its smiling. It sparkled like gold up in the tree. Amazing.

 

I am still Nature Journaling and post on the Facebook Nature Journal page. This time, a robin and some roses. Peace to you.

 

z

z

 

Cobb Salad and Butterfly Season

Finally, temperatures have dropped! Instead of 95 degrees, today it’s 85, and it feels better. Everything is relative. I’ve been in a salad mode lately, and last week I made a Cobb Salad with shrimp. I loved it, but Jim is not a fan of shrimp so yesterday I made it with chicken, and it got a big thumbs up. All I know about a Cobb Salad is that it was invented by a California restauranteur named Mr. Cobb, and that it always includes bacon, hard-boiled eggs and avocados. The rest is up to you. This is a delicious main dish salad, a lot of which can be made ahead and thrown together at the last moment. Here are the how to’s.

Cobb Salad with Chicken

pre-cooked bacon bits
1 to 2 seasoned boneless chicken breasts, sautéed until golden
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, put through garlic press
1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small washed heads of Romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded carrots
2 small tomatoes, sliced
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
freshly cracked pepper

Line a big salad bowl with leaves of the lettuce. Spoon the shredded carrots, sliced tomatoes, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and sliced avocado in mounds on top of the lettuce. Evenly slice the cooked chicken breast, and arrange it on the salad. Mix together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, pressed garlic, salt and olive oil. Pour over salad. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the whole salad, and strew with the freshly cracked pepper. Garnish with fresh basil, if you have it. Serves two to three.

The original recipe called for four strips of bacon, cooked until crisp. Every cook has their line in the sand, things they just don’t want to do, and, for me, it’s cooking bacon. So I bought a small package of bacon pieces, and it worked fine.
Not a real interesting photo, I know, but it gives an idea of how much chicken I used in this salad, for two people. I dredged it in a mixture of salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder, and sautéed it for about five minutes on each side. Set it aside to cool.
I hard boil eggs by covering them with water in a small saucepan, and bringing it to a boil. I turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. Drain them, and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Then peel. (The caption for the lettuce photos below got lost! The lettuce was purchased at Aldi, and I used two of the four heads.)
Mixing the salad dressing. You can estimate the amounts, and taste a bit on a lettuce leaf before adjusting to your tastebuds.
I can’t resist showing off my beautiful new salad bowl. I got it at a thrift store for $3.92, and it’s perfect! The shallowness makes it easy to arrange a pretty salad.

An average carrot will yield about 3/4 to 1 cup grated carrot. Exact amount not crucial!

Slicing the tomatoes and avocado. Use the best tomatoes you can find. Grape tomatoes, sliced in half, would also work. For a good avocado, look for one that is firm (but not hard as a rock) with no soft spots.
Arrange your lettuce leaves around the bowl. This is why having a shallow bowl works so well.
Mound your prepared ingredients on top of the lettuce, leaving a space for the chicken.
Evenly slice the cooled chicken and arrange it with the other ingredients. If you wanted this salad for 3 to 4 people, you could add another chicken breast and another avocado.
Spoon the dressing evenly over the salad, and sprinkle with bacon pieces and freshly cracked pepper. You can also top with some sliced fresh basil.

Making notes: I served this with Wasa whole grain crackers, Irish butter, and some freshly sliced watermelon. And a chilled white wine. Provide two large spoons, and everyone spoons up what they want. You may already be able to think of variations: shrimp instead of the chicken was delicious.

 

Butterfly Season

And now for something completely different! It’s Monarch butterfly season and I am taking care of some caterpillars. We raised and released two Monarchs last summer; this year we have twelve! There’s something incredibly fun about it–watching the eggs hatch, and then the caterpillars buzz sawing their way through mounds of fresh milkweed leaves. We can’t help naming them, which is ridiculous, I know. Here are the three biggest: Chomper, Muncher and Nibbler.

They live in a terrarium. The rest are in individual canning jars.
Puff “protecting” the rest of the butterflies. The jars contain butterfly eggs and tiny caterpillars along with fresh milkweed leaves. They will be moved to larger quarters as they get bigger.

Below: A black swallowtail butterfly visiting the coneflowers. These brightly-colored coneflowers are some of the new varieties, and they are gorgeous. I will plant more! Peace to you. Fran

Ancho Lime Butter and a Scary Robin

I’m not going to lie–I had another, more ambitious, recipe lined up for today’s post, but then looked at the thermometer. It’s ninety, but feels like more. The air feels like a big friendly, but furry, animal clinging to me, and breezes from our dining room air conditioner barely make it to the kitchen. We live primitively. Yes, I was going to make some double chocolate biscotti, but then thought of my oven, which gives off heat like a blast furnace. Time for Plan B.

And so my thoughts wandered to what, food wise, has really been helping me through these hot days. The answer? The herb-flavored butters I posted about on June 3. They have been fantastic. Yesterday I melted pats of the Rosemary Orange Butter on some steamed broccoli, and it was so good and so easy.

So today I made another flavored butter, this time with ancho chile powder. Ancho chiles are dried ripe poblanos. They have a deep chile flavor with a touch of raisin sweetness and are just slightly hot. Mixed with butter, grated lime zest and a dash of salt, this is so delicious. The raisin flavor tails off into the butter and then is given a kick by the lime. Here’s how to make.

Ancho Chile Lime Butter

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 stick butter, softened
grated rind of one small lime
juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Mash the softened butter until smooth, and add the ancho chile powder, grated lime rind, lime juice and salt. Mix until everything is evenly amalgamated. Form into a roughly-shaped roll and wrap in a piece of plastic, and store in freezer until needed.

Ingredients, plus, please mentally add a lime. The ancho powder can be purchased at a local hispanic grocery store. The bagged chiles show what whole ancho chiles look like., plus, see top photo.
Easy so far! Mash the softened butter until smooth.
The lime should be small, but not as small as the tiny limes used for margaritas.
With all the ingredients mixed, form a roughly-shaped roll of the butter using a spatula.
I placed some fresh oregano leaves on the plastic before rolling up the butter–just for pretty and a bit of flavor.
Rolling up the butter. The kitchen was warm, so I worked fast!
In the freezer and ready to go. I store the butter in the freezer because it can pick up off flavors in the refrigerator.

Making Notes: If you check out your local hispanic grocery store, you will find that they have a wall of chile products–dried whole and powdered. I will definitely be using this ancho chile powder in other recipes, including my chicken wing recipe. Also, some recipes I’ve seen are more complicated, adding garlic and other spices. But this is so good and so simple.

 

Scary Robin

Well, not scary exactly, but if you use your imagination, you might wonder what he’s thinking about. He does seem to be expressing his inner vulture. (He was caught in a rain shower and is shaking his tail feathers to dry them, so that’s a more likely explanation of his expression!)

 

Nature Journal

A young house finch and a blooming stem of blue wild indigo are the subjects for this nature journal spread. I learned that it takes at least four different shades of blue watercolor to even come close to what nature creates in the blue wild indigo flower! Peace to you. Fran