Thursday, August 21, 2008

Toothpicks at Sweetie Pies

When you make close to 500 pies per week, in 30 varieties, keeping track of which is which can be a real challenge. So Sweetie Pies, a shop in Door County, Wisconsin devised a 'toothpick code' that helps them remember what they've made. A strawberry pie gets two, red-topped toothpicks, while strawberry-rhubarb gets one red and one green toothpick. Two yellow-topped toothpicks plus one green equals an apple-blackberry combination and two yellow + two red equals a peach-cherry pie.

Opened in 1995, Sweetie Pies uses cane sugar, unbleached and un-bromated flour, and a combination of butter and shortening. They also make no-sugar-added and Splenda pies. A crew of seven or eight creates every pie from scratch, except for an occasional whirl in a food processor. But sometimes the crew expands when visitors make a reservation to help with production for a day.

After they return home, guest bakers can still enjoy Sweetie Pies. The shop ships frozen/raw pies anywhere in the U.S., from Florida or Texas to Alaska. Imagine - freshly baked pie directly from your oven - without any of the work!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad

With our girls grown and gone I sometimes try to create a meal out of whatever we have on hand. Yesterday I looked at a thawed chicken breast and wanted chicken salad - but not the same old chicken plus mayo plus celery. What I came up with included all of these ingredients, plus some special additions. Serve this chicken salad on whole wheat bread, add some chips and raw vegies, and you've got a great summertime supper.

Grilled Balsamic Chicken salad
Serves 2

1 chicken breast
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/3 cup mayonnaise + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

Marinate chicken breast in 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette for two hours, turning after one hour. Grill chicken over medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes. While it cools to room temperature stir together mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, and chop celery and red onion. When chicken is cool, cut into bite-sized pieces and combine all ingredients.

Tip: for a little extra crunch, add 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Powell Gardens' Butterflies

Hundreds of multicolored tropical butterflies flitted from flower to flower inside screened pavilions where volunteers held caterpillars on their hands and small branches. Jessa and James Huebing-Reitinger shared their traveling art and science education exhibit, Project InSECT, for which Jessa paints luminous gigantic portraits of insects and James teaches visitors about the insects portrayed on each canvas. Children made butterfly wings and antennae headbands and painted pots to take home as adults purchased butterfly bushes.

It has been 12 years since Powell Gardens, Kingsville, Mo., began holding it's Festival of Butterflies during each August. Brilliant blue skies and an unusually comfortable temperature in the mid-80s brought people out by the hundreds on August 16.

But there's more to the 20-year-old Powell Gardens than butterfly festivals. It includes approximately 900 acres of rural countryside with a massive perennial garden, a waterfall and rock garden, a two-acre Island Garden, and a fountain garden. The stunning Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel was designed by architect Fay Jones - who took inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright's designs. Next up is a 12-acre Heartland Harvest Garden which will help visitors follow food 'from seed to plate,' beginning in spring 2009.