SW Sweet Potato Hors d’oeuvres

First of all, my apologies for not updating my blog in over a month, I have really missed it! My February calendar was packed and then my oven broke, also breaking my heart a little. I had to make stove-top dinners for two weeks! Good thing my hubby and I love stir-fry.

I am excited to share this week’s recipe because I’m not just sharing one recipe; I am sharing three recipes that when put together, make one delicious appetizer. You can take one of the recipes and try it alone if you wish too.

I feel like I am constantly saying, “Oh that food is my favorite!”; I say it so often and about so many different kinds of food that I honestly don’t even know what my true favorite is anymore. I bring this confession up because I love southwestern food! I always have, when I was a kid I tried to put salsa and ranch on everything! Then I discovered guacamole and a whole new love affair was born. This recipe is a southwestern style hors d’oeuvre with all of those wonderful flavors I’ve loved since I was a child.

*Keep scrolling to read about my visit to The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.

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Southwestern Sweet Potato Hors d’oeuvres

Prep time: 30 – 35 minutes (unless you have a chopper or food slicer, that’ll cut your time in half.)

Makes 30 – 40 (a rough estimate because it depends on the size of the sweet potato)
Hors d’oeuvres Ingredients:

  • 3 log shaped sweet potatoes (This is my recommendation if you want all your hors d’oeuvres to resemble the same size.)
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil or cooking spray

Guacamole Ingredients:

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 vine ripe tomato seeded and chopped
  • half a red onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and loosely chopped
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tsp. of minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. of finely chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste

Pico de gallo Ingredients:

  • 3 vine tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • half a red onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
  • juice from half a lime
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt and garlic to taste

Directions:

  1. Set the oven heat to 450º and grease 1-2 baking sheets in olive oil or cooking spray
  2. Slice the sweet potatoes 1/8 inch thick and place them flat on the baking sheets
  3. When the oven is ready, place the baking sheets in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, after 10 minutes pull out the baking sheets and flip the potato slices. Then, place back into the oven and bake for another 5 – 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you want them to get tender, but not crispy or burned.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the guacamole and pico de gallo (instructions below).
  5. Assembling: Place the sweet potato slices on your serving platter. Add a dollop of guacamole to each slice, then top the guacamole with a teaspoon of Pico de gallo. If you’re entertaining and want the hors d’oeuvres to look even fancier, garnish with fresh cilantro.

*Always be prepared. You may just find you have left over guacamole and/or pico de gallo, imagine the possibilities! Tacos, burritos or southwest salad!!! Or maybe a yummy snack with tortilla chips. Enjoy!
Guacamole Directions:

  1. Prepare the ingredients (i.e. chopping)
  2. In a food processor add minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Blend on high for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the avocados. The best way to do this is to slice vertically (avoid slicing through the seed), then squeeze the avocado into the processor (when you squeeze a ripe avocado the seed should pop right out.). Also add the lime juice squeezed from a whole lime and a pinch of salt. Blend in the processor until it is creamy and smooth.
  4. Transfer the avocado mixture to a bowl ( can be a serving bowl or a storage container).
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped red onion. Fold them into the avocado mixture. Adjust the taste with a little more salt or lime juice.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator or serve immediately.

*Even with the lime juice, guacamole does not last long. You’ll want to eat this within one to two days.
Directions for the Pico de gallo:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and toss until the tomatoes and onions are coated evenly. Adjust taste to your liking.

*We love spicy food in our house, which is why I use Jalapeño. But if you are sensitive to spicy foods you can still make these recipes delicious and to your liking. Leave out the Jalapeño. Leave as is or add whatever you want.I recommend adding some cubed mango to the Pico de gallo. Mango is such a good complement to southwestern foods.

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The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

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The Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a real treasure that can be found in one of the most unexpected places; In the middle of nowhere, tucked between the valley of the surrounding mountains of western Montana. I had come across gorgeous pictures of this place a few years ago and knew it was going to be one of those places I just had to visit and see with my own eyes. My hubby and I recently made the decision to leave Montana within the year, so I honestly never thought I’d get the chance to visit the garden.

My friend and I had an engagement that took us to western Montana, to a town only 20 minutes away from the Ewan Garden of One Thousand Buddhas. When we were done with our engagement, I convinced her that this was a place she would not regret visiting.

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Here is an excerpt from their website http://www.ewambuddhagarden.org/on the purpose of this special place.

“Dedicated as an International Peace Center, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas supports people in cultivating inner peace and in preserving the ancient culture of Tibet. The mission of the Garden is to provide visitors of all faiths with an opportunity to generate profound merit, to reduce global negativities, and to bring about lasting peace. Through the use of the ancient symbols of Buddhism, the Garden awakens one’s natural inner qualities of joy, wisdom, and compassion.” – the Ewam Buddha Garden website.

I am not a Buddhist, but I have studied Buddhism a bit and I have so much respect for their culture and beliefs. Most of my favorite quotes come from the Dalai Lama himself.

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.” – Dalai Lama

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When we pulled up, they hadn’t yet opened their gates. So we sat and patiently waited while one of the kind workers came to open the gate and welcome us. I am already completely in love with the mountains and the mountains surround the garden were breath taking. It is the perfect place to find peace.

It was a chilly day with lots of snow and ice on the ground. The meditation pond was frozen over. There was a thick fog rolling in over the mountains and yet it was stunning. I didn’t care that my fingers and toes were starting to freeze, I just drank in the sights. I can’t imagine the kind of beauty inside and out of the garden during late spring and summer.

Here are some more sights from the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas.

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Heirloom brown bread and a winter wonderland

Thanksgiving is over. Now the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations begins. I am sad to say that my hubby and I will have to spend our holidays in Montana this season. It’s never an easy decision to make, but when you live 1700 miles away from family these hard choices will often present themselves.

I was blessed with a lovely childhood, I do not take that for granted and I have tried to carry that with me into adulthood and marriage (My journey hasn’t been as effortless as my parents made it look. Though I know there were sacrifices of their own that I did not see.). My family has so many traditions, some classic like watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” the same night we decorate the tree; and some silly ones as well, like always having to stop at the same gas station for coffee and cocoa on our way to grandmas house Christmas day. It’s a cherished lifetime of invaluable memories and instilled in me what really happens when you have traditions. What happens is consistency and quality time, which produces fond memories, which creates hope and excitement for the next time around. I can remember a few of my favorite presents from my childhood, but my fondest memories, the ones I’ve tried to recreate in my own home are the ones that involve my family being together.

A tradition my mom and I have together is baking. She would make several pounds of gingerbread dough and we would decorate dozens of little gingerbread men to share with friends and family. Dad was banned from cookie decorating… I don’t think I need to explain why.

One of our favorite baked goods that’s always on our table during the holiday season is brown bread. It’s basically a loaf of ginger bread. My mom got the recipe from my great grandma Tiffany (One of the most amazing women I have ever met.). I have managed to successfully carry this tradition on into my own household. My husband loves brown bread! I recently looked up the origin of this recipe and was surprised to find that it was created in Boston Massachusetts and in that part of the U.S. it is known as “Boston Brown Bread”. However, the most surprising fact about it’s origin, is that it was originally made in a tin can! It can even still be found sold in a tin can in Boston markets.

I am sharing this delicious recipe with you. It’s very sweet. A slice could be eaten on it’s own with some Earth Balance butter spread on top. It can be served with nice cream. Or served during dinner, which is the way we’ve always served it. It’s origin story said it was always served with baked beans.

Here is my family recipe for Holiday Brown Bread. Read on to hear about our long weekend in the beautiful mountains of Alberta and British Columbia Canada.

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Brown Bread

1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 C of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 C of sugar
  • 1/2 C of molasses
  • 1 Flax egg (1tbs of ground flax seed and 2 1/2 tbs of water)
  • 1 tbs of vegetable shortening
  • 1 C of boiling water

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven at 325º F
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan
  3. In a large mixing bowl mix together dry ingredients then stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
  5. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.
  6. Take out and let cool.
  7. Serve with dinner, with baked beans, or with your favorite nice cream. *Or you can sneak a slice every couple of hours until you’ve devoured the whole thing like my husband does.

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A winter wonderland

Our adventures in a wintery Canada

Happy snow bunnies

The mountains have a mystical way of drawing us to them. Last weekend my hubby and I venture north to Calgary, Alberta in Canada. We stayed the night in the beautiful city, I miss city life. We had a great place right in the heart of it. What a treasure to look outside and see the skyline all lit up at night.

The next morning we met up with our good Canadian friend and ventured out to the mountains of Banff National Park.

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Banff upper springs

Our first day we walked along a trail just taking the majestic view. We also visited a protected hot spring with an endangered specie of snail only known to Banff Canada. Later in the evening we went swimming in Upper natural hot springs. It was about 30 degrees outside, but the hot spring was about 110 degrees. It was so relaxing.

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The next morning was very cloudy and snowy. We could barely see the mountains anymore. We ventured to the stunning Lake Louis. We couldn’t see the mountains and the lake was frozen and covered with snow. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. The foliage and graceful snow fall  was creating a fairytale beauty all it’s own. We walked along a trail (That I can only assume went around the lake) just admiring the splendor.

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After enjoying the snow for a little while we headed to Emerald Lake in British Columbia. It was still snowing pretty hard there as well, another winter wonderland

We stayed at Emerald Lake Lodge, which I found out later on, that the whole lodge is basically an island in the middle of the lake. I didn’t realize at the time because the lake was frozen over and covered with snow.  At night Emerald Lake transformed into a real life Thomas Kinkaid painting. It was absolutely stunning. Hubby and I spent some time just wandering the little village in awe.

Emerald lake lodge, British Columbia

We Went to bed with no real knowledge that when we woke up the next morning the giant mountains would be smiling down on us. It was like waking up in a new place, with a new kind of beauty.

I felt so humble staring at the vastness of this magnificent mountain. I need to find out it’s true name, but in my mind I keep referring to it as “Grandfather Mountain” because of the respect its presence commands. A stroll through the woods

 

Did I mention I love mountains? Before breakfast, even before coffee, hubby and I eagerly got dressed and headed back out into the snow like a couple of kids.

I don’t know how long we were out there walking around, but its a walk in the snow with my love that I’ll never forget.

Now that the mountains were back out and the sky was blue again, we decided to go back to Lake Louis and she did not disappoint.

Lake Louis

We headed back to Banff’s downtown village for brunch and then said goodbye to the mountains and in Calgary we said goodbye to our good Canadian friend. Then we ventured homeward and reunited with our cherished furbabies.

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The mountains are always calling. They have taken a piece of me and they know it. Now that I love them, they will never let me go. Something happens to me when I am standing in the presence of a mountain. Peace washes over me like a warm bath. I want to run away into the mountains and live in peace.

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