Orchid Extravaganza at Longwood Gardens

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The fabled Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania attracts visitors from around the world.  I am lucky to live less than an hour away and visit often.  The founder, Pierre S du Pont and his wife Alice, had a passion for orchids.  Orchids were one of the first plant collections established in 1922 and the permanent collection is on display year round.  Come February however, Longwood Gardens celebrates the beauty, variety and art form of orchids in a spectacular Orchid Extravaganza show.  Ongoing until March 27th this year, the entire conservatory showcases breath taking displays of thousands of orchids.  From a 12 foot tall archway at the entrance of the conservatory made entirely of orchids, this special show will stamp out any winter blues.  It is enchanting, enthralling and uplifting all at once.  If you can’t make it to Longwood Gardens, please join me in a virtual tour. Continue reading

Decadent 3-Ingredient Flourless Chocolate Cake

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This rich chocolate cake is almost too good to believe.  With just 3 ingredients which come together in a few minutes, it is decadent and very satisfying with a texture reminiscent of a dense chocolate mousse.  Baking the cake in a water bath helps keep it moist.  Recently made for a friend’s birthday, it elicited moans of delight around the table. The type of chocolate used can change the flavor if desired as I predict this will become your go-to recipe for a special occasion chocolate cake.  Who knew [Chocolate + butter + eggs] = BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER?  I served mine with a dusting of powdered sugar and fresh raspberries but you could substitute strawberries, or other fruit. Continue reading

Chocolate-Orange Dates

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Did you know dates are one of the world’s most ancient fruit?  Date palms are known to have been cultivated  for over 6,000 years in the Middle East and North Africa and appear in ancient art.

 The Garden, fresco from Nebamun tomb, originally in Thebes, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, U.K. Painting on plaster, 1380 BC


The Garden, fresco from Nebamun tomb, originally in Thebes, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, U.K. Painting on plaster, 1380 BC

A date palm tree, laden with fruit. Photo: met museum.org

A date palm tree, laden with fruit. Photo:
met museum.org

Dates are rich in minerals and a good source of fiber.  Turning the fruit into a sweet little guilt-free morsel could not be easier. When a friend dropped in unexpectedly and joined us for dinner recently, I made these dark chocolate-dipped dates with orange zest for a impromptu dessert. The chocolate envelops the date with a velvety decadence and the zest makes it pop. It is a perfect trifecta of  flavor.  Use any variety of dates you have on hand.

To make 8-10 dates, melt 1.5 oz of chocolate. I used a 1.44 oz bar of Dove Dark Chocolate for a yield of 8 coated Medjool dates. Dip half of each date in the melted chocolate then place it on a piece of wax paper.  Sprinkle finely grated orange zest on the warm chocolate and let set undisturbed until the chocolate loses its shine, about 30 minutes.  These would also be great with some chopped pistachios.  A healthy sweet little morsel with a lot of flavor!

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From Supermarket to Wow: A Modern Rose Arrangement

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Shopping for flowers the week after Valentine’s Day might not have been the best decision.  I set out to find a big bunch of tulips to fill the Alice Goldsmith ceramic pitcher I had coveted and which my own true love had surprised me with.  The tulips were picked over.  The roses too.  Then I spotted them~these dusty lavender and green roses that everyone else had left behind.  “Perfect for Halloween,” said one woman.  “Could I use them for funeral luncheon arrangements?” queried another.  “Weird,” pronounced another. I had never entertained so much conversation in front of supermarket flowers.  But those roses made my heart skip a beat.  They were modern in a charming old fashioned way with their faded coloration. They reminded me of roses ones sees in fashionable Paris florists’ ateliers.  Of course I brought 2 dozen home. Continue reading

Chili-Rubbed Winter Squash Salad with Feta and Pomegranate

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This hearty roasted squash salad is a delicious winter dish, eaten warm from the oven.  The squash offers a big dose of carotenoids which helps protect against heart disease.  The pomegranate seeds are a nutrient-dense superfood with anti-oxidant and immune-boosting benefits and may help lower bad cholesterol.  The hazelnuts bring a nice crunch to the salad as well as provide good fats, making this a heart healthy dish.  A whole squash is sliced and brushed with a marinade of olive oil, maple syrup and spices to give it a bit of kick then oven roasted until caramelized.  The warm wedges are then topped with feta,  pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts for a colorful salad with great texture and flavor. Blue cheese, chèvre or queso blanco can be substituted for the feta.

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Southwestern Shepherd Pie with Mashed Cauliflower Top

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When winter storms are in the forecast, crowds make bee lines to the supermarkets to stock up on provisions.  Instead I like to go pantry and freezer diving  and get creative in the kitchen while cleaning out the cupboards.  This Southwestern Shepherd’s pie was one of those delicious creations when our area was recently hit with a blizzard dumping 28 inches of snow on us.  It was so good I made it a second time a week later.  I used lean ground pork but you could use ground turkey.  The cauliflower mash was a revelation:  creamy with a fabulous texture that allowed me to pile it up as high as the snow banks!  So good it would convert any mashed potato lover to this healthier alternative.  Mine was mashed with sweet potato to bring out  Southwestern flavors but it could be made entirely with cauliflower. Being stranded in a blizzard never tasted so good!

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Snickers Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

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When my sons were still at home, I would break out all things pink and set syrupy-sweet Valentine’s Day tables complete homemade cards and heart-shaped foods.  Being the only female in this household(even the cat is male!), I had to have one day a year of pink feminine touches! You can read about one of those pretty-in-pink-breakfast tables here. The boys have grown into men and have all flown the coop now but I still had to send them some Valentine love, wrapped in, you guessed it, pink.  Snickers is one of America’s most popular candy bar and a favorite of my sons.    How good would cookies chock full of melted Snickers be? Really good!  To fancy them up, I finished the cookies with a drizzle of melted chocolate.  They were soft with just the right crumbly texture.  And in every bite, the sheer deliciousness of caramel, chocolate and peanut combination that makes Snickers so famous and beloved.

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