Today the sun was out, it was almost 60 degrees and for the first time it really started to feel like spring. To take advantage of the beautiful weather my friend and I decided to get out and continue our journey on the Broome County Hiking Challenge. We decided to head up to Dorchester Lake and tackle challenge #4 on the list, which was hike #8 for us.
The hike starts out near the swimming area in Dorchester Park. The trail is entirely paved making it a great choice for those looking for easy terrain or bringing young kids or dogs. It was nice to see that there were many people out today. When we arrived there were only a few folks, but by the time our hike was over the park was filling up pretty quickly. I was glad to see so many people using this county park gem this early in the season. I suppose we are all feeling a little cooped up.
The trail continues for a while, then turns and goes around the south end of the lake near the dam. The dam was constructed between 1936 and 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers. The lake has a surface area of 1,200 acres.
The trail takes you along the edge of the lake at the base of the flood wall. The trail connects all the way to Whitney Point High School, at which point you can continue to the lower fishing access behind the school, or turn back. On the way back we decided to walk along the top of the flood wall to take advantage of the beautiful view. The southern end of the lake was still almost entirely covered by ice.
Once we got back to the parking area and completed the challenge (the loop for the challenge is 4 miles total) we decided it was too nice out to end here. So we continued on, crossed the park and took one of the woods trails. It meanders for a short while through the woods terminating in a point. We stopped to take some photos and we could hear the ice melting on the lake. It was making all sorts of soft crackles and pops.
We headed back to the car and decided to take a short drive up to the north end of the lake. In Upper Lisle there is a steel bridge that crosses where the Otselic River enters the lake. It is here that we usually pull our kayaks out after floating down the Otselic. We wanted to see if the ice was all the way up to the north end.
When we got up there we were surprised to find that the ice was completely melted at the northern end. I took a photo where you can see the ice shelf further out in the lake. We walked around a little bit and took some shots of the Otselic meandering towards the lake. There have been many birds returning the past few weeks and it was nice to hear their chatter. It confirms spring is on the way.
We headed up the river a little further to Landers Corners just south of Willet, where we usually put the kayacks in to begin the float. There is another steel bridge here and the water for most of the summer is only a few feet deep. This makes it easy to get the kayaks in and get going. The water today was at least three feet deep and moving pretty quick.
Seeing the river and lake thaw out, feeling the warm sun and getting some much needed fresh air gave us the itch to get in those kayaks as soon as we can! Although it could have been done today….not quote yet. I sure don’t want to tip it!
Today I am sharing my recipe for homemade peanut butter swirl brownies. I recently made them for a friend and was reminded how good they are. These are so much better than any box brownie mix and the peanut butter swirl really kicks them up a notch.
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
350 degrees; 20-25 mins.
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9” x 9” pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a bowl mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer combine oil, vanilla and sugar. Blend well. Add eggs. Blend again.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix well. Add the second half. Mix well.
Pour brownie mix into the lined/greased pan. Melt the peanut butter in a microwave safe glass dish. Pour over brownie batter.
Using a knife swirl peanut butter into brownies making sure to get peanut butter at least half way down into brownie batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow brownies to cool, then lift foil from the pan. Remove foil from brownies, cut and serve.
Today’s “botanical bright” is Daffodils! Now I’m really longing for spring.
Daffodils (Narcissus) really are true signs of spring. I get so excited once the snow melts and you can see the tips of their leaves sticking up out of the ground. Once that happens you know that spring has finally arrived.
I love to cut them and make arrangements. They last at least a week in vase. Here is a bouquet from a few years ago of daffodils and pussy willows.
In my garden I have about a dozen different varieties. Some are “doubles” with frilly flowers and some are “trumpets” with long centers (coronas). Each fall I purchase some new bulbs and spend a few golden afternoons popping them in the ground here and there like a squirrel.
I made these container arrangements for my business for a home show we were in. I loved these and we enjoyed them for awhile in our office after the show. These were potted so they lasted quite awhile. I added some curly willow and burlap. The bucket is an old maple syrup bucket. I think I may just make these again this year….
Yup, were wrapping stuff in bacon again. Can you really ever have enough bacon? I think not.
This simple party appetizer came from one of my best girl friends years ago. She was looking for a quick and easy dish to bring to a party we were having. We all loved them and history was made.
I have continued to make these for parties and events throughout the year. They do take a little time to prep, but they are so yummy that they are completely worth it.
Bacon Wrapped Cocktail Weenies
makes approx. 60
2 14oz. packages of smoked cocktail sausages
3 medium jalapeno peppers
1 ½ pounds of bacon
Note – I prefer to use smoked sausages because I think they give a little more flavor, but unsmoked work as well. There are also cocktail sausages available that have cheese in them. They too are delicious.
I start by getting all the prep done and out of the way so assembly is easier.
Cut up the jalapeno peppers into thin strips. Cut 1 and ½ packages of bacon into thirds. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wrap bacon and jalapeno strips around little sausage and secure with a toothpick.
Space wrapped sausages evenly on parchment lined baking sheets.
Sprinkle sausages with brown sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until bacon is crispy.
Bring them to a party or serve them at your own. Enjoy!
Today I have a third piece for what I’m dubbing the “Botanical Brights” collection. I must have spring on my mind because today’s piece is Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).
I love Dogwood trees because of their open, airy canopy. They are a perfect mid-sized tree in the landscape. Dogwoods grow fairly well here in the northeast if they are in a protected location. They do not tolerate windy or exposed sites. I have always enjoyed seeing them bloom on my travels to the south.
This is one of my favorite Dogwood photos. I snapped this on a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the spring of 2015. I love the split rail fence. The cabin in the background was a historical reproduction, but the scene looks like something out of the Civil War.
There are many different cultivars of native Dogwood, some featuring the pink flowers I featured in this piece. They grow natively from mid Pennsylvania down to Florida, and west to the Mississippi River. In the summer Dogwood trees create a cluster of berries, called drupes, that are a favorite for many birds. The bark of the tree is very “corky” and pretty unique. The bark and branch structure make them a nice choice for winter gardens.
I had a lot of fun creating the Lily of the Valley piece I shared the other day, so I decided to make another piece of that type. I am thinking I might make a series out of these. Today I created a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) study. I love how bright the colored pencil is when I push down hard on them. The softness of these particular pencils blend well which makes them extra fun.
I sketched this out lightly in pencil, then traced the pencil with a permanent marker. I used a fine tip waterproof pen to add some detail. Lastly, I colored it in with colored pencil.
Coneflowers are a late blooming perennial native to the east and midwest. They are a favorite of pollinators in late summer and early fall. They get their name from the large orange “cone” in the center of each flower. Once the flowers dry these cones provide seeds that propagate the species and provide a food source for some bird species.
Echinacea are also popular as a remedy for colds and flu, as all parts of the plant can be used to stimulate the immune system.
When growing in the garden they prefer full sun and well drained soil. With the right conditions they bloom up to two months.
I decided to whip up a batch of Bruschetta since I had a few ripe tomatoes on hand. This simple version is quick and easy to make. I like to serve it with toasted sliced Baguettes, or as a topping for chicken. It also makes a great dip option for a party. See some of my favorite uses below.
I think it tastes like a little bit of summer!
Each year I grow quite a few tomatoes. I am always looking for different ways to use them up since it seems like they all are ready at the same time! This recipe came out of necessity. This past summer the deer robbed me of my tomatoes (and the plants) just as they turned ripe. They pulled my fence down and ate the whole patch in one night! They even bedded down and slept in my raised bed after they finished eating the plants. (I have plans for a MUCH better fence this year…) But USUALLY I make this Bruschetta recipe a few times during the late summer…
3 tomatoes, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Dice up tomatoes and place them in a bowl.
Mince garlic and basil and add to the tomatoes.
Add oil and vinegar.
Stir well. That’s it!
Slice a baguette thin and brush slices with olive oil. Toast at 350 for 10 minutes. Top with Bruschetta.
Serve with scoopable tortilla chips.
Bake or grill chicken or pork chops. Top with Bruschetta and shredded mozzarella cheese. Broil for a few minutes to melt cheese.
Use it as a pizza sauce – Roll out fresh pizza dough. Add a layer of Brushchetta. Top with additional veggies if desired. Top with cheese and bake until melted.
Add it to a calzone.
Add to a wrap or sub as a sauce – pairs well with turkey.
Let me know if you come up with more ideas! I would love to hear them.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) has always been one of my favorite spring perennials. The sweet scent of it in the garden is especially fragrant in the early morning or evening. They spread pretty quickly via rhizomes in the soil and make a great groundcover for shady spots.
Fun fact – they are in the same plant family as Asparagus, which is evident in their rhizomes and also in the red berries that are formed after the flowering period. If you have ever grown Asparagus you will notice similar berries. Unlike Asparagus, Lily of the Valley is very toxic.
There was always a large patch of it at my grandmother’s house. She would pick little bouquets of them and bring them in the house to enjoy. She put them in little tiny bottles on the kitchen window sill. I used to love the way the scent of just a few sprigs would fill the whole house. After her passing I lived there for a time when I returned home from college. Along with taking care of the house I was blessed with the task of rejuvenating her long neglected perennial beds. A task that took me a few summers to tame. The patch of Lily of the Valley thrived.
When I moved a few years later I took many of the plants from her garden to my new garden across town. Because Lily of the Valley loves shade, I chose to leave it behind as all my garden space is full sun. The spring of the second year in my new garden I was doing a little cleanup and low and behold…pips. (Pips are what the budding shoots are called.) They came with me. They tagged along with some Lady’s Mantle and within two years established themselves in a nice little patch. Despite the fact that I have no shade whatsoever they continue to grow. It may be the rhizomes were in the soil… but I think it was grandma.