Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day and What's New in the Yard

Hello there. Happy Memorial Day! I hope you're enjoying (or have enjoyed) a nice three-day weekend. It feels great to have an extra day off. This weekend we enjoyed homemade guacamole and chips with a wonderful rum cocktail on the front porch. I made the cocktail using Williams Sonoma's pineapple-passion fruit daiquiri mixer. I just checked their website but I don't see this product listed. Bummer ... it's really good!

I used two small avocados, one small Roma tomato, a small amount of minced red onion, some fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice to make the guacamole. I seasoned it with salt and  bottled Tobasco jalapeno sauce, since I didn't have fresh jalapeno on hand. You can find the recipe here.

These cute "Cheers!" coasters are ones I "swiped" from a Bonefish Grill restaurant several years ago, I think. I just came across them in the drawer where I keep the paper cocktail napkins. The linen-looking cocktail napkins in these photos are from Ambiente Luxury Paper Products. I have a bit of an obsession with cute cocktail napkins. Whenever I see a unique pattern, I want to buy more, even though I have plenty of them. Caspari brand are some of my favorites. Do you have a favorite brand of pretty cocktail napkins to recommend?

This cute, yellow bubble glass candle holder is one of three I bought at my favorite local gift shop. I bought two small ones (this size) and one large one. They were inexpensive and add a nice touch to our outdoor dining space.

Changing topics, let me show you some of the developments in our back yard. The stones were an addition last year. My husband used to put pine needles down in the spaces between the path and the fence and the path and the house, but each year when the leaves fell from the trees, it was a real pain to get them up. He had the idea to use these stones, which look nice and also are easy to blow the leaves off of using an electric blower. They are placed all along the side of the house, too. I love them!

My husband also put in a brick path, extending from the concrete sidewalk into the backyard. This space was hard to grow grass in, and had been covered by pine needles for a while, but when it rained it was a mess, and the dogs would track in tiny pieces of deteriorating pine needles. The brick path is a great solution. I can walk out there to pick herbs without getting my feet dirty, and the dogs come in the house cleaner too.

Our miniature irises, above, bloomed this year. I think this variety blooms every other year, because don't recall any flowers last year. They are so beautiful. The gentleman who was born in our house in 1922 told me that his father had an iris garden in the yard of this house back then. I've always wanted to put in more of these pretty flowers, especially after hearing that story.

Purple flowers are my favorite in the garden. The color is so cheerful and makes me smile. We added some annuals this year called Angelface Blue, below. They're doing very well and seem to tolerate rain and cooler temperatures as well as hot sun. The flowers are lasting a long time, and the plant is supposed to bloom all summer. At $5 each, they were a good buy. I only wish they were perennials!

Here is my herb garden. It was my husband's idea to plant them in an unused galvanized tub that was behind our tool shed. From the top and going clockwise: cherry tomato, celery herb (which I bought thinking it was parsley), flat leaf parsley (which I bought once I learned the celery herb wasn't parsley), thyme and lavender. The small plant in the middle is rosemary, which got off to a bad start, but is sort of perking up now. The blank space between the lavender and the tomato is where a basil plant was. It deteriorated pretty quickly, so I bought a new one, which I will plant it in its own pot.

Finally, here's the first dahlia bloom of the season. Isn't she a beauty?! Our dahlia garden is very happy this year with all the cool, wet weather we've been having. But once the temperatures climb, these plants show their displeasure. They do require a bit of care in terms of watering and staking. But the flowers are such a great reward for all the hard work. Enjoy the rest of your week! Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry picking is one of my favorite activities because strawberries are one of my favorite fruits. We went picking the day before Mother's Day, and I wasn't sure how the berry patch would be. Our weather this spring has been unusually cool and wet. Typically in May we're complaining of the heat and make a point to hit the strawberry fields early in the morning before it gets too hot. But this year, we actually waited until late morning because it was so cool -- the temperature was only in the upper 50s! But I'm not complaining. I've been loving our weather this spring. It's nice to have more typical spring weather instead of jumping right into summer.

Due to all the rain we've been getting, we found that quite a few strawberries were sitting in water on the black plastic the farmers use to minimize weeds. So many berries were going bad before they could be picked. Fortunately, there are still many berries perfectly ripe and ready for picking. Together, Paul and I picked three gallons and we purchased one gallon of pre-picked, which is $12 compared to $10 for pick-your-own. 

Once home, I had to get busy cleaning and hulling all the berries. I freeze the majority of them for use in smoothies year-round. We're just now on our last bag of strawberries from last year's crop.

Some strawberries I'm not freezing so we can enjoy them fresh, like in this strawberry shortcake recipe. I've made these several times over the years using regular flour, prior to learning that I'm wheat-intolerant. So this weekend I made the shortcakes using Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour.  The results were excellent! I was so happy with the texture of the shortcakes and the flavor. They were perfect!

Strawberry Shortcake

1-3/4 lbs (6 cups) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (or Cup 4 Cup or other gluten-free flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss strawberries with 3/4 cup sugar; set aside.

2) In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse about 10 to 12 times until mixture resembles coarse meal, but with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cream and the eggs. Pour over the flour mixture in the food processor and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, about 25 to 30 times.

4) Using a half-cup dry-measure cup, gently pack dough, turn over and tap dough out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 --or in my case, 9 -- biscuits.

5) Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. 

6) In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

7) To serve, slice biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon some of the strawberries and their juices over the bottom halves of biscuits. Dollop some whipped cream over the berries and place the top halves of biscuits at an angle over the top of the shortcakes.

Here's my little helper, Ella, who was pretty tuckered out from a long walk she had been on that morning. She loves to stay in the kitchen with me as I'm cooking, hoping for a little morsel. But she's not a big fan of strawberries, so she decided to take a nap instead.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New McCoy Pieces

I went shopping recently at a local antiques mall in search of a vintage planter for a coworker's birthday. I wanted to fill it with little succulent plants. I knew she likes vintage things, but I wasn't sure if she would like colored planters (like the green and yellow ones I collect), so I chose a simple white one from the 1970s (not shown here).

While on the hunt for a gift, I found a couple of items for myself that I just couldn't resist! This white McCoy planter was marked $12, but I received a nice surprise at the cash register. It was on sale for $9.60! I filled it with some of the same succulents I purchased for my coworker. Aren't they precious? If you like succulents, check out my Pinterest board!

I also found a white McCoy vase that is 7.25" tall. It was marked $10 but was on sale for $8.00. What a find! I can't wait until our dahlias bloom so I can cut some for this cute vase.

What new bargains have you found for your home?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Horchata Pops

Paging through old magazines I haven't looked at in a year or more is like opening up a new issue. It's fun to rediscover the content. In an old summer issue of Living that I dug out from the bottom of a basket, I spied a recipe for horchata pops that sounded good and easy to make. It uses only three ingredients and takes just minutes to prepare. 

I wasn't familiar with horchata, so I looked it up online. Horchata is a beverage popular in Spain and Latin America. Ingredients vary based on the location. In Mexico and Guatemala, for example, horchata is made of ice milk, sometimes with vanilla and always with cinnamon. In Puerto Rico, it's called horchata de ajonjolí and is made with ground sesame seeds. In Spain, it is referred to as horchata de chufa and is made from tigernuts, water and sugar.

What intrigued me about this recipe is its simplicity, and the use of sweetened condensed milk. Anything with sweetened condensed milk is going to be awesome, right? Ever had Vietnamese iced coffee? If so, you know what I mean. Heavenly!

I made this recipe for horchata pops on Easter Sunday and froze them overnight. I couldn't wait to try one the next day. They're really good! The flavor is subtle -- sweet, but not too sweet. The cinnamon is delightful. I'll definitely make these pops again. Give them a try!

Frozen Horchata Pops

32 ounces (4 cups) rice milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used Trader Joe's organic)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend together all ingredients until combined. Skim off any foam from the top. Pour the liquid into molds and freeze until solid, about 8 hours. Makes 16 pops.

Thanks to my husband for the photo of me holding a popsicle.
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