Photography Challenge: Shadowed (Beauty Berries)

The garden was mostly in shadow the other morning, except for some warm sunlight on my Beauty Berries just after sunrise. From winter’s weather, the berries are a bit faded from how they looked a few months ago, but I am happy to still have even a little color in the garden.

BeautyBerriesInWinter

View my post on Shadowed Roses.

More on the Shadowed Photography Challenge.

Orange Carrot Soup

A light, but flavorful and warming soup to start your new year!

OrangeCarrotSoup

Orange Carrot Soup

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

3 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 c. diced yellow onion

salt

fresh ground pepper

2 T. semi-dry white wine, divided

4 c. diced, peeled carrots

2 t. smoked paprika

1 t. ground cinnamon

4 c. vegetable (or chicken) broth or bouillon*, divided

3 T. honey, divided

1 – 1 1/4 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice, to taste

zest from one of the oranges (use a course-textured zester)

croutons or Greek yogurt, optional

*I use 2 “Not-Chick’n” bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 c. boiling water. “Not-Chick’n” can be found in the organic foods section of many grocery stores.

Directions

  1. Place 1 T. of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, a dash of salt, a twist of fresh ground pepper, and about 1 T. of the wine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender and translucent. Transfer to a stock pot.
  2. Place remaining 2 T. of the olive oil in the large skillet. Add carrots, paprika and cinnamon. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to the stock pot containing the onions.
  3. Add enough of the broth to the stock pot to almost cover carrots. Stir. Cover and cook over medium heat until carrots are tender enough to purée but are not mushy, about 15 minutes. Stir in 2 T. of the honey.
  4. Purée mixture with a stick blender – or transfer mixture to a food processor or blender to purée until almost perfectly smooth, then transfer mixture back to stock pot.
  5. Stir orange juice and remaining 1 T. of wine into carrot mixture, then thin soup to desired consistency with the remaining broth. Stir in orange zest. Taste. If necessary adjust flavor using honey, wine, orange juice, or salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 10 more minutes before serving to blend flavors.
  6. Stir soup before serving. Serve in small cups as a starter or light lunch – or in soup bowls for a heavier meal. If desired, garnish with croutons or a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Enjoy! Happy New Year!

Sunflowers for A Winter Wedding

We hosted a warm and happy wedding at The Morning Star yesterday. Despite the gray skies, the couple’s choice of sunflowers for a wedding theme made everything glow, and with the fire burning it was cozy and warm inside.

SunflowerBouquet

More photos at Morning Star Weddings.

Congratulations to Alex and Emmalie!

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

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When shopping recently, I found these Snowman Marshmallows and could’t wait to make a special hot chocolate to go with them. For this recipe I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Candy Canes and Peeps Marshmallows. “Hmmm, yum!” My company and I enjoyed our hot chocolate and cookies.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Makes 3 servings

4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

1/4 c. candy cane pieces (about 3 candy canes broken into pieces)

12 oz. boiling water

4 oz. half and half

whipped cream for garnish

shaved chocolate for garnish

whole candy canes for garnish

marshmallows for garnish, optional

Place chocolate and candy cane pieces in a small non-stick pan. Pour boiling water over chocolate and candy canes. Stir. Turn low heat on under pan. Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Whisk in half-and-half and continue to heat mixture until hot, but not boiling. Meanwhile,  assemble ingredients for garnishing. Carefully ladle into serving cups and garnish. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

CandyCaneHotChocolate

Related Recipes:

Chocolat Chaud Recipe

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Have a great day!

Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

The combination of chopped onions, celery and carrots, sautéed in olive oil (to make what Italians call soffritto) or in butter (to make what the French call mirepoix) is wonderful for adding flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffings. Around the holidays, I keep soffrito or mirepoix in the refrigerator so that I have the aromatic vegetables already prepared to make holiday cooking easier.

I generally use about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil per cup of raw vegetables, adding a dash of salt and pepper. To the onions, I also add a splash of dry white wine. For this minestrone, I prefer olive oil to butter, but either will work. If you have soffritto already made, you can substitute 3 cups of it for the vegetables in this soup and reduce the olive oil to 1 to 2 tablespoons.

MinestroneFireRoasted

Fire Roasted Tomato Minestrone

This is a delicious, stew-like minestrone … flavorful and filling for the winter months. If you prefer a more brothy soup, you can thin this with a little vegetable or chicken stock.

Ingredients

• about 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided

• 1 c. diced onions

• 1 c. diced celery

• 1 c. diced carrots

• 1/3 c. dry white or red wine

• 2 28-oz. cans diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes – or 1 can diced, 1 can crushed (do not drain)

• 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans (white kidney beans) or great northern beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

• 1 T. dried oregano, crushed

• 1 T. paprika or smoked paprika

• 1 t. dried thyme, crushed

• 1/2 t. sea salt

• fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, optional garnish

Directions

(1) If you do not have soffritto already prepared, start by sautéing vegetables in olive oil, one type at a time, using about 1  – 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper, per cup of vegetables. I like to add a splash of dry white wine to the onions. Cook briefly until crisp-tender.

(2) Add prepared vegetables, wine, about 1 T. of the remaining olive oil, tomatoes, beans, and spices to a large pot (6-8 qt). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the minestrone comes to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a low simmer, continuing to stir occasionally, for about 15 minutes. (So that the vegetables remain crisp-tender, don’t overcook.) Taste.  Add more olive oil, wine, or seasonings if desired. Ladle into warm bowls to serve.

Serving suggestion: At the table, grate a little cheese over each bowl of minestrone – but not for vegans. Serve with warm bread and a glass of wine.

First Snow of the Season

Here are a few photos that I took in our front garden earlier today during our first snowfall of the season. I was glad that the snow did not amount to much, but it was fun to get out and get a few pictures before the colors in the garden had entirely faded. But, brrrr …. it was cold.

RosesMagentaInSnow

MumsGoldenInSnow

MoudryGrassInSnow

AstersInSnow

SedumsInSnow

Have a great weekend! Stay warm!

Faces of Early Winter

Winter arrived in the Midwest last night and for the time, at least, looks like it is going to stick around. Here are our girls’ reactions.

“Got my favorite old sweater on … am good to go, Mom.”

PennyRedWhiteStripeSweater

“Could someone turn the sun up, please?”

WillowInSunRedSweater

“Let’s go inside. I bet Mom has snacks ready for us!”

PennyWillowSweatersNoseToNose

Have a great day! Stay cozy warm!

Goodnight, Garden

Here today, gone tomorrow. That is probably what nature has in store for the last flowers from this season’s garden. Though it was 70 degrees here earlier today, the temperature has dropped almost 30 degrees in the past few hours with an additional drop of 20 more degrees predicted tonight… all thanks to the Bomb Cyclone headed our way. Brrrr …. winter comes tonight and looks like it is here to stay for a while. Goodnight, sweet garden. We’ll see you in the Spring!

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SingleHotPinkRose

RoseClustersMagentaAutumn

RoseMagentaInAutumn

PhloxNovember

MumsPurple2

PurpleEdgeWhiteMums

Roses&AstersNovember

Stay warm! Have a great week!

A Hard Winter’s Effect

Despite keeping it covered for the winter, our beautiful fountain is showing damage from the extreme weather this year. I am trying to convince myself to consider it “added charm,” yet I hate to see some of our lions heads crumbling. Oh, what to do? I guess, just wait for spring. Once the fountain is running and splendor has returned to the garden,  the old beasts will seem more at ease.

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Dried Marilyn

With a day so gorgeous, I decided it was worth a second post. This picture is of a Marilyn Monroe rose dried on the bush. I leave the flowers on my rose bushes at the end of the gardening season as a reminder that once winter passes, they shall bloom lushly once again.

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I hope that you, too, are getting to enjoy the weekend!