A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Dragonfly Dreams

This is a little dragonfly warming up in the early morning sun.  They always look so magical and mystical.  Friends with the faeries and gnomes that live out in the woods or so my little five-year old neighbors like to tell me.  Makes me want to curl up and lay in the sun all Saturday as well.  What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday Dance Party – Shaggy’s Sugar Cane

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

Wow, it’s been a hectic week here at work.  There was a new system upgrade (which really didn’t work that well) and so it meant a lot of late hours for my team and lots of stress.  This week I was pondering on where we should go for summer vacation and although no final decisions have been made yet, after this week, I need a break.  Whenever you have an extremely hard week at work, do you every so often think about just throwing in the towel and starting over from scratch?  This was one of those weeks for me, but every time I think about what I’d do if I could pick a different job, I can’t figure out the answer.  I just can’t think what I want to do when I grow up.  That’s what made me think of this song for this week’s dancing.  Why not give up all of this and move to a sugar cane ranch somewhere on a far away island?  I could do that.  Could I do that?  Can you see me as a sugar cane farmer?  Anyway, this is a great song by Shaggy.  So get your reggae beat going and sway to the sounds.  It’s been a rough week, but we’ve made it through.  We deserve to dance and dance hard.  Oh Whoa…Oh Whoa…Oh.  Do you ever think of giving it all up and moving far away and starting over?

Comfort Food With A Twist – Meatloaf

This is some real comfort food if there ever was some.  It’s good old fashioned meatloaf with some creamy mashed potatoes.  But it’s not your ordinary diner-style meatloaf.  It’s not dense and dry and covered in brown gravy.  No, this meatloaf recipe is a twist on that old recipe and produces a light and juicy meatloaf topped with a sweet and sour glaze made from ketchup and brown sugar.  It also is pretty quick to prepare because all of your vegetables just need to be chopped in large chunks and then ground in the food processor.  You don’t need to stand for hours dicing celery, carrots and onions.  It also incorporates three kinds of ground meat to make the meatloaf light and full of flavor.  I also use Pepperidge Farms as my white bread of choice when I make this recipe.  Why only Pepperidge Farms?  When I was younger and used to go to the grocery store with my parents or my Grandma, I used to beg to buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farms bread.  I figured since it was so much more expensive than the other loaves than it had to be like a slice of heaven when you ate it.  I would explain to them the facts of how it was made with care by jolly looking bakers who kneaded the dough with their own hands with tender loving care.  I would tell them about the ovens where the bread was baked and how it was wrapped in paper and then placed in the plastic bag for extra freshness.  Not only that, but they wrapped it while it was still warm from the oven.  This is why too much television is bad for a small child to take part in every day!  My parents or my Grandma would stare at me in disbelief that here was this small child reciting facts he had learned from a bread commercial.  It must have been this scary little feeling inside of them that always made them tell me no.  My parents and Grandmother were tough because I remember begging (and many times probably crying and screaming) to buy a loaf of this special bread.  Why don’t they see what I see in this delicious loaf that is so much better than the other white breads out here on this rack?  Now that I have my own money, I always buy Pepperidge Farms white bread to use at home.  I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t necessarily taste any better, but it’s just the whole principle of the matter, if you get my drift.  Bread aside, if you are looking for a comfort food classic with a twist, give our meatloaf a try.  Your family will love it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices Pepperidge Farms white bread, crusts removed and torn into large pieces (I just know it is the best!!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into eighths
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped into quarters
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 12 ounces ground veal
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pulse bread in a food processor until finely ground (you should have about 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs).  Transfer to a medium bowl.

Pulse the large chunks of garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and parsley in food processor until finely chopped.  Remember to let the food processor do all the hard chopping work.  This is a huge time saver.

Add to breadcrumbs.  Add meats, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix together using your hands.

Transfer mixture to a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan.

Stir together remaining  1/2 cup ketchup and the brown sugar until smooth; brush onto meat.  I also poke six deep holes into the top of the meat with my finger before I brush on the ketchup mixture.  This enables the ketchup to penetrate farther down into the meatloaf and increase the flavor.

Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Always a family pleaser, this little meatloaf with a twist is great as your dinner’s main course and then equally as good the next day in a sandwich or two.  It is also easy to pair up with almost any side dish.  A potato dish, a vegetable dish…..it all works with meatloaf.  Hope you like this new twist on an old fashion main dish staple.  What old classics do you cook up with some modern twists to them?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Vacation Needed

This is where we might be spending our Summer vacation unless we decide on something to do as quickly as possible.  All of our friends are off to Europe, on cruises, at the shore.  Us….absolutely no plans.  While the hammock would be nice to lay in for a week, it’s not very exciting.  We need to make a plan and make it now.  What are your plans for Summer vacation this year?

Summer Update….Warts And All

This is a Summer update to some of the stories we have posted earlier this year on Acorns On Glen.  Can you believe it is the middle of July?  It doesn’t seem possible until you go outside and the hot sun beats down on you while you are gardening or messing around on the patio.  Time goes so fast.  I am remembering a saying that seems to hold some truth for us this year–the older you get, the faster time flies.  That sums up 2011 so far for us even though I am not admitting to getting any older.  On Sunday, we posted a virtual garden tour on what was blooming in our garden.  While we were walking around the garden, there were so many times we stopped and remembered that we had done a post on a certain flower or a certain plant earlier in the year.  So we came up with the idea of doing a post to show what has happened since we first posted the original garden or everyday life story all those months, weeks or days ago.  Some of the stories show progress and some show a different picture.  In the spirit of open and honest communication, we are going to share the good with the bad.  It’s what’s going on at Glen Road….warts and all!

In June, we posted an article entitled “Another Post About Legal Pot“.  We thought the title was funny as the post was about potting plants that we had purchased from White Flower Farm and not about the happy weed that most people would think about when they read the title.  Can you believe that it is one of our most visited posts?  We get it, it’s not the gripping story that unfolded, but the provocative title.  In our story, we show two collections of annuals that we received and planted in pots around our pool.  At the time we wrote the post, the pots looked pretty empty with the little plants placed in them.  Here are the pictures that showed the planting of the ‘Sunny Summer Annual Collection’ and the ‘King Tut Annual Collection’.  Pretty meager to say the least.

Well, we hoped in our post that our two collections would take root and grow and grow they did.  We have been lucky to have some long spells of sun interrupted by a few days of rain and this has been the perfect trick to grow our two collections into some impressive potted displays.  Here are the same two pots still sitting around the pool, but look at how well the plants have filled in.

Sometimes your best intentions in the garden turn out to be disappointments.  Take our story in April on Grace Kelly coming to see us on Glen Road in the post entitled ‘Grace Kelly Moves To Glen Road‘.  If Grace Kelly visited or moved in that would be news to us because we missed it.  Our post was about a tree rose where a Grace Kelly rose bush was fused to a tree trunk and the small tree would bloom with Grace Kelly roses all Summer.  Here are a few shots of the tree rose that we planted and placed on our patio.  So full of potential at the time!

So to be honest, things looked great at the beginning of Grace’s growth.  She pushed out a few leaves on the top branches and hopes were high.  Then she just stopped, dried up and died…or so we thought.  At about the time we were ready to give Grace and her soil a final resting place in our compost pile, we noticed that she decided to change her mind and grow from the bottom of the container and not from the top of the branch like she was supposed to do.  So we have left Grace in her same spot to see what she produces from the rose branch that is growing from the base of the pot.  Do you think we will get a pretty pink rose by the time Fall comes to visit?  Look hard at the base of the pot and you can see the spindly little rose branch growing.

Remember when we were ‘Hot For Horseradish‘ and ‘Raising Rhubarb‘ in April?  We planted some horseradish and rhubarb at about the same time and we were so excited for them to grow and then come back in 2012 for some harvesting.  Well, we will have some rhubarb, but the horseradish had other plans.  Here are our horseradish and rhubarb plants from back in April.

Needless to say our horseradish patch is now a nice little track of dirt and mud.  Did the plants just pack up and leave?  Maybe they didn’t want to live by the sweet and sour goodness of the rhubarb?  Whatever the reason, our horseradish struck out while our rhubarb hit a home run this season.

There are even updates from our post on Sunday ‘What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour‘.  In that post, we talked about our best garden buy ever, which were the long-blooming day lilies from QVC.  Well since that post where we showed two blooming varieties, a third one has opened its buds to display a brownish bloom that will last for a couple of months.  Maybe it’s the child of the original yellow variety and the coral variety that we showed you on Sunday.  Remember them?

We are not sure we remember this variety from previous years.  Can that be possible that it just came out of no where?  Doubtful, but stranger things have happened in our garden.  Again, notice the almost brown color of the petals.  As well, the dark purple middle is a killer.  So gorgeous and, best yet, long lasting.

Remember this little stunner from our trip to Christie’s auction house in June in our post ‘Lots Of Bling – Christie’s Important Jewels‘?

This little diamond ring set with an oval-cut diamond, weighing approximately 46.51 carats, flanked on either side by a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 1.01 carats, mounted in platinum was estimated to go for anywhere from $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 in auction.  Guess what the final bid price was when the dust settled at the auction?  $4,226,500!!  A steal (or to steal it is the only way we would ever be able to own such a gorgeous diamond!).

Lastly, we had made a smart little comment about our Asiatic lilliums being some of the first flowers we planted at Glen Road and, while we were excited that they came back year after year, they were not the most vivid colors we had ever seen.  We tried to get out of putting them down by saying we weren’t the most vivid color either after six years on Glen Road, but it didn’t work.  Here is what we snapped on Sunday in ‘What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour‘.

Well this morning on a little garden stroll, another Asiatic lillium had shown its face.  Guess what?  The blooms match our embarrassed faces.  How dare we make fun of our lillium tribe.  Our new bloomer is a dark red.  We may be less than vivid in our six years here on Glen Road, but don’t bring the lilliums down.  They are a diverse nation if we have ever seen one.

So we hope you enjoyed our little update of what’s been going on here at Glen Road.  The garden and everyday life are amazing and fun things.  With every great story, there is another one where things just didn’t go exactly as planned.  That’s life!  Well, for all our less than stellar performances, we guess there is always next year…or the year after….or the year after.  You get our drift.  What good or crazy things have been going on for you this Summer?

Chocolate Caramel Tart With Fleur De Sel

This is a little slice of heaven.  There is a thing with caramel and chocolate here on Glen Road.  Basically, we can’t get enough of them.  After I made the caramels with fleur de sel, I thought there must be a recipe that incorporates the same ingredients on a grander scale.  When I got my pies and tarts cookbook, I thought a tart would be the perfect way to put the same flavors to work.  After searching the internet, I finally found a recipe that would do the trick.  The recipe itself was one for 24 little tartlets, but I wanted to make the recipe and fit it into my 9 inch tart pan.  There was going to be some modification necessary to make enough to fit my pan.  The recipe I show below is my modification, but know that you will have about 2 cups of caramel left over and about 1 cup of chocolate.  Feel free to modify some more, but I was actually happy, because later in the week, I have some great toppings for an ice cream sundae or maybe spread on a graham cracker or two.  The recipe I found says it is from the pastry chef at the Gramercy Tavern restaurant in New York City and she actually served it at her wedding.  How could it be bad?  Give yourself some time to make this recipe.  It is not one of my easy and quick ones.  It took several chunks of one day to pull off.  The other thing worth noting is that getting the crust in the tart pan was challenging.  I literally slipped the bottom round under the chilled dough and lifted the round into the raised part of the pan.  There was some cracking, but the dough is pretty forgiving and you can mend it pretty easily with your hands.  Don’t make yourself crazy….the dough was delicious even after my mending it.  It is like a wonderful chocolate cookie.  So here is a wonderful dessert….our chocolate caramel tart with fleur de sel.

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Tart Dough:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

For the Caramel Filling (I made mine in 2 separate batches for ease.  I didn’t have a pan big enough to do it in one shot and it really bubbles up at the end–be careful):

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 2 pinches of coarse salt

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 7 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Fleur de sel for sprinkling

Directions:

Make the tart dough:  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until combined, about 1 minute.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Sift in flour and cocoa powder and beat on low-speed until just combined.  Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a disk; wrap well.  Chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325  degrees.  Between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper, roll the tart dough out to fit the 9 inch tart pan.  Place into the pan and trim away any excess dough.  Chill the tart shell in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Line the tart shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill with raw rice or dried lentils. Pull parchment paper together to form a small packet.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the packet and bake until the pastry looks dry and set, 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool (the tart shell can be made 8 hours ahead).

Make the filling:  Place 1 cup water in a large saucepan.  Add sugar and corn syrup and cook mixture over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it becomes a dark-amber caramel, about 10 minutes.  Carefully whisk in butter, cream, creme fraiche and a pinch of salt (the mixture will bubble up when you do this so be careful), whisking until smooth (the caramel can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated in a covered container).  Carefully transfer caramel to a glass measuring cup.

Pour caramel in the tart shell while still warm until the shell is about 3/4 full and let stand until the caramel is set, at least 45 minutes.

Make the ganache glaze:  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes.

Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Pour the glaze over the tart while still warm.

Let the glaze set at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

When dessert time rolls around, slice pieces of the tart and place on a plate.  Sprinkle some fleur de sel from the top to the bottom of the slice.  Trust me, there is something about the saltiness of the fleur de sel that plays off the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate that makes your tongue come alive with the flavor that hits it.  We hope you like our fleur de sel caramels blown out into a tart configuration.  If you have the time to work on this tart, you will be happy with the outcome.  The taste it unbelievable.  What do you think about mixing fleur de sel, caramel and chocolate altogether in a dessert?