Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Pecan tarts

I’m a child of the south and IMO there is not a better desert in the world, especially around the holiday season, than a pecan pie. And not only is it a delicious and elegant dessert, its darned easy to make. And that ranks high on the list in my book of recipes.

I have a llama trek scheduled for tomorrow, and so today I am preparing the picnic lunch. I cook a 4 course lunch that I call “trail gourmet”; starting with an appetizer, followed by a soup, then a sandwich buffet with a side salad, and finishing with a home cooked dessert. It’s now the first of October and the leaves are starting to turn. It’s a great time to serve some of my favorite fall recipes.

I have adapted the traditional pecan pie into an individual tart. I always have to be careful in choosing and preparing my trek lunches so that they can survive being carried 4 miles on the back of a llama. Mostly I have been successful. I have had the occasional batch of cupcakes get turned on their heads, but I still continue to whip them up from time to time.

These pecans tarts never fail to impress. They do look really amazing, but they are so, so easy to make. The ingredient list is short:

2/3 Cups chopped pecans
1 Cup packed brown sugar
2/3 Cups light colored corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs and 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 9” inch pastry crusts

ingredients

I must confess. I have never made pie crust from scratch in my life. I think Pillsbury does just fine with their refrigerated rolled crusts. But if you are a traditionalist, by all means, make your own crusts.

You can make these in any tart tins that you may have on hand, but since I want these to be ruggedly transportable, I use 3” aluminum disposable tart tins. They also fit perfectly in a standard muffin tin. You need to experiment with dough cutters you have on hand to find just the perfect size for your tart tin. My goldfish glass works perfectly with its 3 ¾” rim.

cutting dough

Place the crusts in the tins and ease them into place.

Next—divide the pecans evenly among the tart cups.

nuts in shells

Lightly whip the 2 eggs and 2 egg whites with a wire whisk and then add the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Stir well with the whisk until it is well mixed and the sugar is dissolved. Spoon about ¼ cup of filling into each tart. You don’t want the filling to overflow the pie crust.

To make these little pies look really special, I like to decorate them with little pastry cut outs.

Here, I am using a maple leaf design. You can find these wonderful pie press cutters online. The ones I have are made by Paula Deen. William Sonoma has them as well. They generally come in sets of 4 with different holiday designs.

Look for ones with the spring plunger. It makes a world of difference when you are trying to pop the little pieces of dough out of the cutters without mangling the designs.

It also helps to dip the cutter into flour first.

SONY DSC

dough leaves

I place one leaf on each little pie. Here they are ready for baking.

ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pastry is lightly brown and the filling is puffy.

Don’t be alarmed if the tarts come out of the oven looking like erupting volcanoes. As the lava cools, the tops level back out and the major earthquakes disappear.

Remove the tarts from the muffin tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Once prepared these tarts can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Pecan tarts

Now just wait for the compliments. Yum.

Read Full Post »

Do you have a special place from your childhood, a place that you long to revisit in hopes of recapturing that perfect, carefree happiness of youth? For us it is the Grand Stand of coastal South Carolina. For as many years as we can remember, we have been making an annual pilgrimage to the beach. Autumn is our favorite time of the year. The weather is cooler and the kids are back in school. And if you roust yourself out of bed early enough, you can have the whole beach to yourself. Miles of white sand, interrupted only by the scurrying clusters of sandpipers.

Last week was our annual trek to the beach. It is as much a vacation for the doggies as it is for us. There is just something about splashing in the surf and dashing in the sand that turns all dogs into puppies. Bayley, the golden doodle, is very tentative about anything new. It took her a while to warm up to the breakers. Water in our pond isn’t nearly as aggressive!

wave jumping

There are several stores and restaurants in the area that allow dogs. One of our favorite stores is Orvis. Bayley wanted to try out the dog beds. It turns out she is a princess. Who knew? We had to stack three mattresses before she couldn’t feel the offending pea.

princess and the pea

Bayley wasn’t keen about making the acquaintance of the concrete cow in front of the ice-cream shop….

meeting cow

But the scary cow was soon forgotten…

ice cream lick

And there’s always time for a little horse’n’ around

horse'n around

The dogs loved doodling around the neighborhood in the rented golf cart. Here is a photo of Bayley “Driving Miss Mayzie”.

SONY DSC

But nothing topped the joy of a romp on the sand.

Beach Romp

splash

Ah, the beach…. Perfect serenity… An early morning stroll and the world is your oyster.

Dune

Hmmmm… An isolated set of steps… It must the the “Stairway to Heaven”

stairway to heaven

Read Full Post »

Hobcaw Barony, Georgetown County, SC

Hobcaw Barony, Georgetown County, SC

Read Full Post »

In my opinion, you are never too old to enjoy a day at the county fair. A day on the midway just brings out the kid in you. All the splendid smells battle for your attention; the greasy smell of fries and funnel cakes, the cloyingly sweet smell of spun cotton candy and spiced almonds, the earthy smells wafting from the livestock barns….

But, according to my Road Warrior, the smell of burning diesel fuel is something akin to perfume.

Tractor Pull

Every year, like a rite of summer’s passing, we always go to the Shenandoah County Fair. And the highlight of the day is the tractor pull. Farmers from all across the land bring their iron work horses, many still plugging away after half a century of hard work, and compete to see who can drag a heavy weight the furthest down the track. Amidst belching smoke, spewing dust, and ear splitting unmuffler-ed engine roar, we sit in the bleachers, eating corndogs, and cheering them on. It’s loud, it’s smelly, it’s dirty, and it’s FUN.

A visit to the animal barns is my favorite part of the fair. There’s guaranteed to be a stall of baby piglets

Photo by Kent Corley

Photo by Kent Corley

And some snuggly baby goats

snuggley goats

Then for a tour around the midway, we toss all dietary concerns to the wind, and sample our way through the mélange of greasy foods.

I learned last year that there is an age at which one must gracefully withdraw from the stomach churning, gravity defying carnival rides, but I did enjoy a spin on the broncing bull.

photo by Kent Corley

photo by Kent Corley

And we tried our hands at a couple of the midway games. Some games you just know that the odds of winning are astronomical, but there is one game where there is a guaranteed winner every time. This is the one where you aim a water pistol at a target and the first person to get their horse to the finish line first wins. I WON. First time. So I got my pick of prizes. I chose the giant snake for Bayley.

Here she is wrestling the enormous boa constrictor, fighting to the death

Snake wrestling

But apparently they worked it all out. I think they are even French kissing

kissing snake

All in all, it was a FAIRLY good day.

Read Full Post »

Orange 'Shrooms

Orange ‘Shrooms

The photos don’t do these mushrooms justice. They are blaze orange. I’ve never seen any others like them.

closeup

Read Full Post »

I know people who detest barn swallows and will go to great lengths to discourage them from nesting in their barns. I guess if you have a swarm of them they could be a nuisance because they do, after all, poop. But we had our first nest of barn swallows this summer, and they were absolutely hysterical to watch.

We’ve had phoebes build nests over our light fixtures for many years, but we were surprised this year to discover that one of the nests was inhabited by swallows. When the chicks hatched we could see small heads poking just above the nest and initially thought there were four. But as they matured and were old enough to peek outside the nest, we discovered there were actually five. It’s hard to believe that they all fit in there, especially as they got big enough to fledge.

Barn Swallows 5 in nest

We checked on the nest each day as we were feeding the llamas. As the llamas would exit the barn, they would parade single file under the nest. All five chicks would be perched on the edge of the nest, their little heads swinging from left to right as they watched each llama pass in review.

I did some research on wiki and learned some interesting facts. The pairs mate for life and both are actively involved in the nest building and child care. However, apparently the females have a reputation for having a little fun on the side. Wiki says that “Males guard females actively to avoid being cuckolded. Males may use deceptive alarm calls to disrupt extrapair copulation attempts toward their mates.” Tsk tsk ladies.

Both the male and female defend the nest and hunt for insects. They work incredibly hard, each one dashing out for a bug and returning in less than a minute with the spoils. They are constantly on the go. Each time a parent returns to the nest, the chicks start screaming to compete for the parent’s attention. I have no idea how the parents keep up with who they have already fed, but it seems to all work out. All five appeared healthy and well fed.

The parents not only work from dawn to dusk catching dinner for the kids, but they are meticulous housekeepers as well. We’d see an adult return with a bug, stuff it in the beak of one of the chicks, then reach into the nest, and pick up a glob of poo and spit it out on the barn floor. Once the chicks got a little more mobile, they would stand on the edge of the nest, and turn around so that they were pooping outside the nest.

Watch this short video showing the chicks getting fed. Particularly watch out for the extremely rude chick that stands on the head of its sibling to take a dump and then shoves him out of the way to primp and preen. This one just has to be a girl.

I hate to anthropomorphize, but they behave so much like people that they could almost star in their own sitcom, like “Empty Nest” or “Fowl Play”.

Read Full Post »

soup

Ever just have the TV on for background noise? Our TV is on anytime one of us is in the house, but we rarely actually sit down to watch anything. Such was the case last week when my attention was captured by a chef showing us how to make gazpacho. So what’s so exciting about that? Gazpacho is gazpacho. But there, my friend, you are wrong. This was Watermelon Gazpacho, and it was weird enough that I stopped what I was doing to watch him toss the garden into a blender.

I was in the market for a new and refreshing lunch recipe, as a good friend of mine was coming over to give me a hand with doggie hygiene…..dental hygiene…..for dogs……

My friend is a retired dental hygienist (for people) who has been scaling her own dogs’ teeth for years. She offered to drive an hour and a half out to the farm to clean my two dogs’ choppers. She does this without anesthesia. Mayzie, the bearded collie, behaved like an angel. But I didn’t expect anything less of her. She is a perfect lady. Bayley, the year and an half golden doodle, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so easy. But with Bayley on her side, and me laying fully stretched out on top of her, we were able to keep her still enough to finish the job. Both dogs were over and done with in less than half an hour and it saved me at least $600 over having the vet do it.

Bayley and Mayzie

So the least I could do was to make lunch. I served the Watermelon Gazpacho and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches. And the soup was DELICIOUS!

I checked out a dozen or more recipes online and combined bits and pieces of several recipes to come up with my own signature dish. I’m going to show you how I made it. It’s super easy.

Ingredients
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 English cucumber (about 1 pound) peeled, seeded and chunked
4 stalks of parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Extra basil leaves for garnish
3 cups of watermelon, cubed (I used a small, round, seedless melon)
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt and dash of pepper
Feta cheese for garnish

You can use a food processor, or a heavy duty blender. I used my Vitamix that we bought at a state fair back in the 80’s. It’s a work of art, don’t you think?

vitamix

First, assemble all of your ingredients. Remember, there is no substitute for the freshest and ripest veggies and fruits.

ingredients

Peel and seed the tomatoes. No cutting corners here. Peeling and seeding is not an option.

tomatoes

tomatoes

Peel and seed the cucumber. I like to use the long English cukes, because the seeds are really tiny. But particularly if you are using a regular cucumber, you need to remove the seeds. It’s easy. Just quarter the cucumber lengthwise, and cut the ridge off along with the seeds.

cucumber

Chop the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

chopped ingredients

melon

Throw the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, basil and parsley into the blender and blend until smooth.

in blender

Continue to blend and add the peaches.

Now toss in the watermelon. You have a choice here. Do you want it slightly chunky, or smooth? I wanted a little texture of the watermelon, so I only pulsed the machine a few times.

Then I stirred in the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper so as not to further mash the watermelon. Check it for seasoning according to your taste.

Place the soup in the fridge for at least 3 hours until it is chilled.

One of the recipes I found suggested sprinkling Feta cheese on top. Initially I was a little conflicted about the addition of the Feta, but I had some on hand, so I did a taste test with and without, and “with” won hands down. If fact, it totally “made” the soup.

soup

So take my word for it and give it a try. Just be sure to crumble the cheese up really fine and just sprinkle on a light dusting.

This is a recipe that begs for summer fresh ingredients, so try it now and enjoy before the season ends.

Read Full Post »

Imagine my glee when I looked out the window this morning and caught Farina snoozing…

peacock sawing logs

snorking peacock

waking peacock

peeping peacock

Read Full Post »

For those of you that have been following the story of my vagabond peacock, you know that one of my males, Farina, flew the coop in January, was given up for dead, replaced with a peahen, Darla, and then miraculously returned after a 6 month winter wonderland adventure.

But this story is not about Farina, but about a wooden egg that I placed in a nest box that we fashioned for Darla.

Darla and Buckwheat

She is our first peahen and we were told by the breeder, that she would not be a year old until this summer, and it was rare that one year olds produced any eggs. But we wanted to be prepared just in case.

So we made this nest box and placed it in the corner of the ‘pea pod’ where we had seen her resting. And to give her a clue that this was her nest, I placed a wooden egg in it.

nest box

She liked the box, and snuggled up in it all winter. Every day that I would go in the ‘pea pod’ I would see the wooden egg right where I had put it. Last week, I glanced at the box, and the egg was not there. I thought to myself that it had probably gotten buried in the straw, and I would look for it later.

When I started to clean the aviary, I noticed the egg was under the perch.

egg under perch

That really threw me for a loop. How it the world did it get there. The peas couldn’t pick it up in their beaks. I didn’t think a mouse could get it out of the nest box and roll it outside. Road Warrior thought that one of the birds had kicked it out of the nest. But to what purpose? Is Darla like the “Princess and the Pea”, (no pun intended) and is too sensitive to sleep with a hard lump in her bed?

I was in a hurry, so I left the wooden egg where it lay under the perch. Then yesterday, I noticed that the egg had been moved yet again. It was now all the way on the other side of the aviary in a corner. What the heck. Are they in there playing soccer?

corner

I proceeded to clean under the perches, and lo and behold, there is the egg right where I saw it last week, and in the corner……another just like it!! Mystery solved. Darla had laid two eggs. She obviously wasn’t interested in sitting on them, and we’re not interested in hatching any little peachicks, so I collected the two eggs for examination.

They are not as big as I expected. The white ones on the left are the 2 pea eggs, and the brown one came from one of our chickens.

egg comparison

The big difference is in the size of the yolk.

Yolk comparison

I scrambled them up and fed them to the dogs with their dinner. Two paws up from the pups!!

Read Full Post »

Farina on coop

“Hey, guys. I just stopped by for a visit. Where’d everybody go?”

scared chickens

“Hmmm. They were here just a minute ago”

there you are

“Oh, there you are!”

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 195 other followers