Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a Fairy Village, and Heirloom Tomatoes

Missy inspired me with her post last week from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

When we were in Maine in early July, we took a day trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is very different from what Missy showed and from what I'm used to in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. For starters, it's only been open for ten years. (Compare that to the for BBG which just celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Children's Garden.)

The CMBG is also a total grassroots organization. A group of local people got together in 1991 and decided Maine should have a botanical garden. They spent 16 years planning, fundraising, and building before opening in 2007. When we were there, they were under construction again as a huge expansion is in the works because it's been so successful.

The most noticeable difference, in my opinion, was in the types of plants. This is a garden devoted to the flora and fauna native to the area. You'll see from my photos that it's much more rustic.

There is a formal garden at the entrance, and a meditation garden near the water. You can take boat rides, or get a tour. We did it on foot.

Meditation Garden

They also had a section that completely enchanted me. It's called the Fairy House Village and children come and build their own fairy houses out of the natural materials. I took a ton of photos.

So, I've been on deadline and not cooking anything interesting. But the heirloom tomatoes have begun to appear at the farmer's market. There have been a lot of meals involving cheese, tomatoes and zucchini.

Simple but so good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seasonings for the Win

Mindy here and guess what hubby found at the grocery store last week?
I could tell by the look in his eyes when I rounded the corner that these were going into the cart.

They did and we could hardly wait to give them a try. You know what? They were pretty good. Of course, we’re used to cheese flavor on chips, and it was definitely there, but you could taste a hint of heat from the jalapenos and then it ended with a slight bacon flavor. I wouldn’t want them all the time, but I’d still give them a thumbs-up.

Here at the café, we love flavor and seasonings, yet our choices will change with our regions. In Texas, we tend to add a little more heat, while Ruthy the Yank keeps things tasty without anything chipotle or jalapeno.

So needless to say, when I was at the grocery one day and saw the McCormick Grill Mates seasonings on sale for a dollar, I was ready to try something new.
As soon as I got home, I popped the tops off of those babies and took a whiff.

Yep, each smelled just like their name, although I’m not a hundred percent certain what bourbon smells like.

When it came time to fix dinner, we were off to the races. Grilled pork chops with the Bacon Chipotle seasoning received high marks from my guys. Both the Smokehouse Maple and the Brown Sugar Bourbon were tasty on grilled chicken thighs, though the Smokehouse Maple had a slightly stronger flavor.

In the end, they were all good enough that I picked up another jar of each one on my next trip to the market. I mean, how can you go wrong with bacon flavor?

Things are still creeping along with renovations at the big house. Last week was filled with exciting things like digging out and replacing a bad sewer pipe and finalizing the last bit of electrical. However, there was one change I could see.

Our new front door was finally installed.
Now all it needs is some paint.

This week, sheetrock will be delivered and it looks like the new back doors might be installed. Assuming they arrive on time.

 Whatever the case, I'll just keep enjoying the sunsets.

Now it’s your turn. Are you adventurous when it comes to seasonings or do you tend take a more conservative approach? What are some of your favorites?

Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband and the last of her five children. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Coconut Custard Pie - the story of a failed recipe

Jan here, facing what all writers love...and yet, dread.

It isn't the pie! Definitely not the pie!

It's the Looming Deadline.

Deadlines need to be met because writers don't work alone. We have agents, editors, cover artists, marketing folks (etc. etc.) counting on us to keep to the schedule!

(And don't we love deadlines, because that means another book is coming out!)

But the downside of deadlines is that our families get the short end of the stick - at least temporarily.

We end up serving box macaroni and cheese, or pizza, or even the dreaded "you guys are on your own tonight!"

I'm on some tight deadlines right now (yes, multiple deadlines = multiple books), and I started feeling bad for my poor husband. So I looked up a recipe I had made several years ago when I was on one of my first deadlines...

Coconut Custard Pie!

My mistake was that I tried to adjust it (with some help from a couple recipes I found on-line) to make single serving Coconut Custard Pie.

Oh, they looked good! I even made one with no sugar and low-carb, and the other one with regular ingredients.

But you'll thank me for NOT sharing the recipe! Once we took a few bites...well... We'll just say that the dogs enjoyed their share. :)

So I decided to share the original recipe again, AND make it for my husband once today's deadline has been met.

After all, I owe him, don't I?

So enjoy this recipe from 2013 -

Coconut Custard Pie

Over the weekend, with my new story down to the proof-reading stage (and not due until tomorrow!), I decided to treat my family to pie. Delicious, scrumptious...and EASY pie. I'm not kidding. It took longer to take the pictures for this recipe that it did to put it together.

Here it is: Coconut Custard Pie


2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour (or bisquick)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened

Now, here's the hard part (just kidding).

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a 9 inch greased pie plate.

Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350°, or until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

This is one of those pies that makes its own crust, kind of like a clafouti, or those "impossible Bisquick" pies that were so popular years ago.

Here we are, back in 2017 :) Doesn't that pie look delicious? And super easy!

Like I said, I have multiple deadlines looming, but Sunday is still Sunday, and I do try to make it a day of rest. So we went out of town yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a trip to the Badlands.

If you've never been to Badlands National Park, it's worth a visit. We go a couple times a year, and while I love our winter visits, summer days are pretty nice, too.

And even though we love to look at the beautiful vistas and craggy peaks, what do the Badlands look like up close?

The Badlands have many faces. Sharp needle-like points in one area, and soft mounds in another. Mountains soaring above you, and then a few miles later vast canyons open at your feet.

But when you go to the Badlands, don't stay in your car for the whole visit. Stop at one of the overlooks to take a closer look.

When you get out of your car, this is what greets you. Steep sided gullies and a labyrinth of mounds and steep cliffs.

And when you take a close look at the surface of the hills...

Even though it looks spongy, the surface is rough and hard. It's similar to the popcorn ceilings you find in houses that were built during the early 1980's. Fascinating, isn't it?

Which National Park is your favorite one to visit?

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books: