Autumn Burst Salad

pink long-headed coneflowerSome of you have asked why I have a food blog filled mostly with flower photos instead of food photos.  I guess my reasoning is that there are thousands of food blogs out there filled with photos and facts on or about food and I wanted to do something a little different for us nature and especially flower- lovers out there who love looking at floral photographs but also enjoy a good recipe too…

So I decided to start this blog. It never has been (nor do I ever want it to be) a serious food blog filled with hardcore facts. It’s just a little “light read”… that includes a recipe along the way and is filled with some floral photography to help brighten your day. ( Does looking at flowers brighten your day? It does mine… :)   ) 

dew drops

I will be releasing my first DVD in a couple of weeks! In this DVD, I will be demonstrating how to make some very unique cookie bouquets. When I talk about this a little more in depth in the upcoming weeks, the reason why I have filled my food blog with floral/nature photos will become more clear. Until then, here are some photos I took while on a drive through a prairie preserve in central Minnesota this summer.

 While driving through the preserve,  I came across a field filled with pink ball-shaped flowers. Upon getting out of the car to get a closer look, I noticed the the air was thick with perfume! I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until I realized it was coming from the milkweed! I didn’t think milkweed had a fragrance…

milkweed

milkweed

I’m glad I got out of the car for a closer look that day or I would have never known these flowers had such a heavenly scent…

Here are a few more of my photos…

prairie grass

 

long-headed coneflower

 Autumn wildlflowersAutumn

prairie flowers

 

I think my favorite flower that day was the butterfly-weed! I would find them clustered together in giant orange masses. I loved it! Talk about an explosion of color…

butterfly-weed

 

butterfly-weed

 

I love the color orange in the Fall. Here is a recipe filled with the quinessential  colors and flavors of Fall.  Years ago, there was a photo of this particular pepper recipe in a magazine and it caught my eye because of its beautiful colors but as I read the ingredients, it sounded wonderfully delicious too! It’s a great recipe for the gardener this time of year, who may have some sweet bell peppers to use…

Autumn Burst Salad

Whisk together in a small bowl:

      6 Tablespoons cider vinegar

      6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

      6 Tablespoons honey

      2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

      1/2 teas salt

      1/2 teas garlic powder

       1/2 teas teas celery seed

      1/2 teas pepper

      1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Into a large bowl, put:

      3 green sweet peppers, thinly sliced

      2 orange sweet peppers, thinly sliced

      2 yellow sweet peppers, thinly sliced

      2 red  sweet peppers, thinly sliced

      2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

      1 cup pepperoni, thinly sliced and cut into strips

Pour the dressing over the ingredients, toss and serve.

*The first time I made this salad, I thought I’d let the peppers marinate overnight in the dressing. It turned out to be a bad idea because the vinegar softened the peppers and dulled the colors. So when I serve this salad now, I prepare all the ingredients, toss them together and place them into the refrigerator. I also prepare the dressing, cover it and place it into the refrigerator as well. When it comes time to serve the salad, it’s just a quick toss-together and the result is a beautiful vibrant and delicious salad, perfect for this time of year!  

Happy Autumn! :)    

 

 

 

Hickory Dijon Dressing

meadow

On the news the other day, they had a piece about  how Minnesotans love to talk about the weather. I laughed but then paused…you know, I think they must be right because many of my blogs start out talking about the weather! I’m orginally from Nebraska but I must’ve blossomed into a true Minnesotan now because my thoughts do gravitate towards the conditions outside quite often.

A few weeks ago, we woke up to just an absolute beautiful morning! A brilliant blue sky, big puffy clouds and a gentle breeze with just a little nip in the air.  That kind of weather beckons  me to go outside and I think the kids heard that beckoning too because they wanted to go for a walk in the worst way. So the kids and I got ourselves together and we headed for the meadow because out there, we could enjoy the morning in the height of all its glory…

When we reached the meadow, little A. wanted to run and explore while E. was just content  to sit in the grass and pick wildlflowers…

meadow We found a wild honeysuckle bush, filled with blossoms…

 

honeysuckleAnd we laughed when we saw this one, as it looked like it was filled with tiny little  stick pins!…

purple wildflowers
But A. wasn’t interested in flowers, he had found a stick…

meadow

 I could’ve spent hours in the meadow that morning and I think the kids felt the same way. But when we got to the bottom of the hill and came to the woods, we thought we’d save the forest for another adventure…

moss

So after searching for little animal tracks and seeing who could spy the most dragonflies, we climbed the hill to head back home…

meadow

 

 

meadow

But not before picking a few more flowers…

Here is a recipe for Hickory Dijon Dressing. It was born from my love of hickory-smoked anything so why not try to make a dressing out of it to go with a spinach and bacon salad? ( It is also excellent as a dip with chicken nuggets or onion rings)

Hickory Dijon Dressing

Into a blender place:

      3 Tablespoons white vinegar

      1 Tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

      1 teas dry mustard

      1/2 teas onion salt

      1/2 teas hickory liquid smoke flavoring

      2 Tablespoons sugar

      1/2 cup honey

      1/2 cup vegetable oil

Blend on high speed for 3 minutes. This can be served as a dip or as a dressing for the following salad:

Into a large bowl place:

      9 oz. bag of spinach (thoroughly washed and spun dry)

      1 medium red onion (finely chopped or sliced)

      1 lb. bacon fried until crispy then crumbled

      2 cups shredded mozarella cheese

Toss everything together and then drizzle desired amount of dressing over the salad and toss again. Enjoy!

Another blanket of freshly fallen snow…

We had another snowstorm up here in Minneapolis and once again, I am looking out into a winterwonderland! I love when everything is covered with that brilliant white blanket of freshly fallen snow…

I’ve just been waiting to share one of my favorite recipes with you! It is for a cheese spread and I thought Christmas would be the perfect time to share it to you because of all the parties and celebrations going on this time of year!

Cheese spreads make such a wonderful appetizer because they can be made days ahead of your party, cutting down on prep-time the day of  your party. Actually, I have  found that most spreads should be made a couple of days ahead of your event because it gives the ingredients time to marry in flavor and you will be left with a much more flavor-filled spread/dip.

This spread is a creamy combination of sweet red grapes, salty feta cheese, onion, cream cheese and walnuts, and looks very pretty on any holiday table…

I hope that you are all having a wonderful Christmas season!…  :)

Creamy Grape and Feta Cheese Spread

Into a medium-sized mixing bowl place:

      8 oz softened cream cheese

      4 oz. container Garlic and Herb Crumbled feta cheese

      1/4 t salt

      1/4 t pepper

Mix until thoroughly combined. Then add:

      1  1/2  c diced red seedless grapes

      1 c  finely chopped walnuts

      1/2 c finely chopped onion

Mix until combined. Place in a small serving bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

If you would like to serve this as a cheeseball:

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and spoon the mixture into the bowl. Smooth down the top. Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the mixture and place in the refrigerator until firm. Then remove from bowl, unwrap, and then press on finely chopped walnuts, if you wish…

 I recommend letting it sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to let the flavors come together. Enjoy!

Let’s go to the fair…

 

For most of my adult life I have lived in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  I love the city life and most everything the city offers. But I am from a small rural town in the Midwest, and small hometowns can tug at your heart. 

This past week was my hometown’s county fair. Every year about this time, I feel like I turn into a little kid again and get excited at the thought of the fair! So, the kids and I got into the van and we headed south for the fair ( the hubby was to join us later).

I think some of that excitement comes from anticipating the drive home…

One of my favorite sites of the Midwest are the vast cornfields. And when a person is headed for home, even the common roadside weeds can look beautiful…

Then after the long journey, finally there it is…home.

Quiet, peaceful, no sirens…just the sound of birds singing and the warbling of the locusts in the trees…

                                               ~ * ~

After we arrived, the kids and I rested for awhile then we were off to the fair! First, there was the parade…

Cute little fuzzy chicks…

And then of course, the fair rides!…

But after all the festivities, it was time for my favorite part, the food!  Not the food from the little vendor huts, but the delights coming out of the kitchens! The hot roastbeef and meatloaf sandwiches from the Methodist kitchen and  the beefburgers from the 4-H kitchen are unsurpassed. I’ve heard the 4-H kitchen also has one of the best taco salads in the state, but I haven’t broken away from my traditional beef burger to try one…

I’m hooked on the beefburgers ( or sloppy joes) that are served at the fair, especially at the Methodist kitchen because they are served with refrigerator pickles! Yum Yum! I love the combination of the spicy taste of the burger along with the sweet taste of the pickles. It is tradition to serve the pickles sliced but I think I like them better when the “pickles” are shredded.  It  turns into sort of a coleslaw-like condiment for the burger…

beef burgers with cucumber relish

My good friend Myrna gave me her recipe for her delicious pickles and I changed it just a little bit to turn it into a cucumber relish by adding onion and fresh cilantro. Thanks Myrna for sharing your recipe!

cucumber relish

Cucumber Relish

Into a large bowl put:

      2 c  shredded cucumber (peeled and seeds removed)

      2 c  onions, finely chopped

      1 t celery seed

      3/4 t salt

      1/4 c  chopped fresh cilantro

      1/2 c sugar

      1/2 c white vinegar

Stir well and store in the refrigerator. When serving, serve with a slotted spoon. As I mentioned before, this makes an absolutely wonderful combination with beefburgers (sloppy joes)!

Next Tuesday in my blog, I will share my version of a dessert I first tasted at the fair…Strawberry White Chocolate Cream pie! See you then!