Weekly Photo Challenge: Purple

Manhattan is home to Kansas State University. Since the school colors are royal purple and white, there is no shortage of purple around town. (For more photos see my post Putting on the Purple.) Thank you to Varney’s Bookstore for letting me take the bottom two photos inside the shop.

I’ve Been Inspired By … Donuts

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in my “Let the Inspiration In” series; but I just had to try Frugal Feeding‘s Cinnamon Dipped Doughnuts recipe. Since I am gluten-sensitive, and couldn’t imagine making donuts and not having one, I used white rice flour instead of wheat flour in the recipe. (My batter looked a little thicker than Frugal Feeding’s appears in his photos.) The only other change that I made was that I needed to double the amount of butter used for dipping the donuts. I served these for breakfast this morning – with roasted turkey and fresh tomato omelettes and dishes of fresh berries – and everyone, including me, agreed that they are delicious. Thank you, Frugal Feeding for the recipe!

Cinnamon Dipped Donuts

1 3/4 c. + 2 T.  (250 g.) sifted all-purpose flour or  1 3/4 c. (250 g.) sifted white rice flour for gluten-free

1/3 c. (80 g.) granulated white sugar + 3 T

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

3/4 c. (180 ml.) buttermilk

2 lg. eggs, beaten

4 – 6 T. unsalted butter

1 T. ground cinnamon

(1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a six-mold donut baking pan with oil.

(2) Melt 2 T. of the butter. In a small bowl, beat together butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Set aside.

(3) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 c. sugar, baking powder and nutmeg. Whisk in buttermilk mixture until smooth.

(4) Divide batter between molds. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until they spring back when pressed or until they are firm to the touch (if using rice flour). (I baked my rice flour donuts for 10 minutes.)  Let pan cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before turning the donuts out. Meanwhile combine the remaining 3 T. sugar and the cinnamon.

(5) Melt the remaining 2 – 4 T. butter. Dip both sides of donuts in melted butter then in cinnamon sugar. Serve right away.

Thank Goodness for Rudbeckia

Thank goodness for Rudbeckia fulgida “Golsturm”, commonly known as Black-eyed Susans. Rudbeckia is one of the few plantings in my garden that doesn’t seem to be struggling with the weather. Despite the fact that we’ve been watering every day, a number of our plants are showing severe signs of heat stress. I suspect that some of them will need to be replaced next Spring. We lost a tree and several shrubs after last summer’s heat. Every now and then I toy with the idea taking the Rudbeckia out of my garden because it is an odd companion for my roses and Asiatic lilies; but then when midsummer heat sets in – and it is extreme again this year – I am so glad that better judgement prevailed and that the sunny faces of  my Black-eyed Susans are still out there to cheer everyone who walks by. As I write this at almost 5 pm, our official temperature in Manhattan, Kansas is 109 degrees F. The thermometer in our yard is reading 112. In the last month, we’ve had 24 days with a high of 100 or over and we’re about 8″ behind in rain for the months of June and July. There is a 40% chance of precipitation for tonight, however, so everyone has their fingers crossed for rain this evening and a cooler day tomorrow. It would surely make the garden happy if that were to happen.

Two Little Chefettes Monthly Cooking Challenge: Strawberries

Thank you to Bebe and Ridha from Two Little Chefettes for suggesting this month’s cooking challenge. My entry is a Strawberry Watermelon Soup with Blueberries swirled with Blueberry Honey Sauce. (These recipes are from my first cookbook A Taste of Morning after which I named this blog). I serve the soup as a fruit course for special occasions or as a light summer dessert paired with a sweet wine. It is easy to make and very refreshing.

Strawberry Watermelon Soup with Blueberries

Serves 4

Except for the sugar, use chilled ingredients.

3 c. sliced fresh strawberries

2 c. seedless watermelon chunks

1/2 c. fresh orange juice

1/3 c. granulated white sugar

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1/2 c. fresh blueberries

Blueberry Honey Sauce for garnish (recipe below)

Place strawberries, watermelon, orange juice, sugar, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until fruits are puréed. Divide blueberries between four dessert bowls. Top with soup.  Swirl 1 T. Blueberry Honey Sauce through each bowl of soup, being careful not to blend it in.

Blueberry Honey Sauce

2 c. frozen blueberries

1/4 c. cold water

1/3 c. honey

1 t. fresh lemon juice

In a medium non-stick pan, bring blueberries, water and honey to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries begin to pop. Stir in lemon juice. Push berries and liquid through a sieve to remove skins. Use right away or pour into a glass jar, cover and refrigerate. (Yields about 1 cup.)

So You Think Kansas Is Flat?

So you think Kansas is flat? Okay … most of the state is. But not the Konza Prairie which is located in the northern Flint Hills of eastern-central Kansas.  This narrow chain of hills counts as its own ecoregion because it is home to the densest remaining tall grass prairie in North America. Early European settlers, unable to plow the area due to its rocky soil composition, used the region for grazing livestock thus leaving the grasslands intact. Due to dry conditions this summer, the grasses probably will not reach their full height. Nevertheless, this expanse of prairie with its soft, rolling hills is still something to see … and it proves that Kansas isn’t all flat!

The Konza Prairie is co-owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. While much of the area is dedicated for use as a biological research station, fortunately there are several trails open to the public. The trails are frequently used by hikers and joggers, birders, and photographers and other artists out to capture the beauty of this land. If you have been following my blog this week, you’ve probably figured out how much I enjoy photographing this area. (I’ve also done a few paintings of the prairie.) However, my next post will be back to food.

Compass Plants on the Konza

Compass Plant (Silphilium Laciniatum) is a wild flower native to the prairies of the midwestern US. It also grows in parts of northeast to central US and southeastern Canada. It derives its name from the fact that its leaves align themselves north-south to avoid over-exposure to the parching sun. Despite the abnormally hot, dry conditions that we have been experiencing in Kansas* – the driest in over 50 years, when I photographed them a few days ago these Compass Plants gave all appearances of thriving on the Konza Prairie. I find them to be a fascinating combination of beauty and ruggedness.

*Our official high yesterday was 107 degrees F., though the thermometer in our yard registered a high of 113.2 degrees F. at 4:20 pm. A thunderstorm last night brought only 0.07 inches of rain.