Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Floral Appetizer

Inspiration seems to be found everywhere this spring. I found some dried Asian hibiscus flowers at Trader Joe's last week and bought them without even knowing what they tasted like. They just looked so exotic as they appeared to be dancing in the bag. I also grabbed some dried apricots and dried candied ginger. I opened the bag in the car out of curiosity and was surprised that they tasted really good...kind of tart, sweet and fruity. With their outreaching arms, it was like eating a fruity calamari. When I got home, I experimented and added a dried apricot in the bottom of the hibiscus flower. It was good, but a little bare. I chopped some of the candied ginger and added some on top. Not leaving well enough alone, I then mixed equal parts of cream cheese and goat cheese together and tossed in some of the sweet and peppery chopped ginger. It looked so good as I piped it onto the apricot in the center of the hibiscus flower. A green Pepita on top added the perfect was a visual and tasty delight. As they reach toward the sun, these floral buds can enliven a cheese board, salad or stand on their own as an appetizer as they transition us into the glory of summer. Bon appetit!

Some gentle thoughts on spring.....

The sea of spring,
Rising and falling,
All the day long.


In the intervals
Of rough wind and rain,
The first cherry-blossoms.


Silent flowers
Speak also
To that obedient ear within.


Written and photographed by Diane.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April Showers Bring May Flowers...Gum Paste Flowers, That Is

I think my favorite flowers are roses. My daughter's middle name is even Rose. The colors and varieties of roses offer choices of the newly named and developed to the old fashioned and heady scented ones. There are climbing and shrub roses and ever blooming roses...and there are gum paste roses. Yes, gum paste. When April showers haven't yet brought May flowers, I had my first attempt at making gum paste roses. I had wanted to try it for years. I bought the cutters and instruction book a few years ago, but put it off. You can make your own gum paste, but I bought some ready to use, just to take away a step. They were so very easy to make and came out well. This is something you can make ahead of time to decorate a cake or cupcakes at the last minute. You can also customize the colors and type of flower you want. Give it a try, you'll be pleased. And oh, Happy Earth Day!

Gum Paste Roses

To Start:
You'll need a 2 inch ball of prepared gum paste wrapped in plastic wrap, gum paste flower cutters (small, medium and large rose cutters and 1 leaf cutter) and a rolling pin. Have a damp towel, clean dry towel and small bowl of water handy. You'll use the damp towel to keep the gum paste covered, since it drys out quickly. The clean towel and bowl of water are for your hands and for adding moisture to "glue" the petals onto the base. You'll also need food coloring in the color of your choice. A toothpick can be used to put a small hole in the top of the bud and to help with the shaping. Use a knife to lift flowers from rolling surface.

Begin on a smooth dry work surface. Start with1 1/2 inch ball uncolored gum paste and slowly work in the color of your choice or mix your own custom color.
Reserve the remaining piece to be colored green for the leaves. For the flower, I used a rose color with a tiny amount of peach coloring. Leaving some color that isn't totally worked into the gum paste gives a natural looking color that isn't flat. You can even experiment with gradual shading after some practice. Shape a 1/2 inch ball of gum paste into a teardrop shape. Make a small hole in the top part with a toothpick. Roll remaining gum paste on a smooth surface to 1/16 inch thickness. Cut out 5 petals with the smallest cutter, 7 with the medium cutter and 9 with the large cutter. Remove uncut portion and lift petals up one at a time with a knife. Start with the smallest petals and gently flatten the petal with your fingers, with the outer part being the thinnest. With the end of the toothpick, slightly dampen the small end of the petal and place on the upper part of the teardrop shaped base. Press, to help it adhere. Curl the petals in a natural shape as you place them on. Continue adding petals, smallest to the largest, going around the base. Be mindful not to get your fingers too wet or damp as the gum paste will become sticky and gooey. Dip your fingers in water and wipe with a clean towel, if they become too wet or sticky. Make sure to keep a damp towel covering unused pieces as you work, and remaining unused gum paste wrapped in plastic. After adding all petals, (add more or less to make it look complete and natural), put finished flower aside. Color remaining gum paste green, roll out and cut into leaf shapes. Add leaves to the base of the flower and finish with a small teardrop shaped ball of green gum paste to the bottom of flower. Let dry on a surface that won't allow the leaves and petals to bend. Gum paste flowers last for 2 weeks at room temperature. If storing longer, refrigerate and then bring to room temperature before using. Have fun and top any confection of your choice with your beautiful creations!

Written and photographed by Diane.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Chicken In Every Pot

Ah, April 15th....the day taxes are due to be filed here in the US of A. I filed my taxes asap since I would be opening up my wallet to receive and not give. But this is a day we are reminded of just how much we're turning over to the government and just where it's going. Back in 1928 during the campaign for Herbert Hoover, "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" was promised by the Republican Party. Oh my, how times have changed, or not! The Great Depression of 1929 soon followed. Being optimistic, we want comfort food. I made my chicken and felt lucky to have it as this tax day came. The spring weather has brightened up my herbs growing outside, so I added some fresh thyme, purple sage, and rosemary to my chicken. I tuck these underneath the skin along with some lemon slices and garlic, so that they slowly flavor the chicken as it roasts. Adding potatoes, carrots and onions to the roasting pan just brings it all back home. What I need now is a really rich and dark chocolaty dessert. I do have some restraint....I'll have that tomorrow!

Take a 4 pound free range, organic chicken and rub 2 large cloves of garlic that have been put through a garlic press, under the breast skin. Then stuff a small handful of fresh thyme, sage, rosemary, and 2 lemon slices under the skin.
Add some cut up vegetables of your choice alongside the chicken. A fresh grinding of pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt make it ready to roast at 350 degrees, for about 1 and a half hours, or until the legs jiggle freely (no jokes here!). Stir the vegetables often while roasting so they don't get too crisp on one side. Serve a lemon slice and some fresh herbs with each portion and enjoy your 2009 Chicken in Every Pot....The Car in Your Garage is on you!

Written and photographed by Diane.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Virtual Egg Hunt And Bunny Sighting

Come join me as I take a walk through town for an egg hunt and bunny sighting. The crocus' have popped up as they reach to drink in the sunshine.

Birds are sunbathing as well.......

Eggs are hiding everywhere. I'll give you a hint.......
This bunny found a happy spot.

The whole family is joining the hunt.
I walk by a camouflage door,
and by the painting studio, where I can add another egg to my basket.
The bunny has even been hiding eggs at the harbor,
and at the old fort where revolutionaries hid during the war.
Finding my way to a friend's
to stop for coffee
before arriving back home, with 10 eggs in my many did you find? Happy Easter!
Remember, not all good things are hidden and the best things in life are still sweet and gooey!

Written and photographed by Diane.

Stumble Upon Toolbar