Great Plants for Spring Color

Lilacs getting ready to bloom at a local park and Lady's Mantle in our yard after the morning rain.

Lilacs getting ready to bloom at a local park and Lady’s Mantle in our yard after the morning rain.

Ah, spring has officially sprung and all of the lovely plants are blooming and the buds on the trees are popping open. I love seeing all of the new growth this time of year (even if it makes my allergies kick in a bit). Seeing those pale greens and yellows at first…then all of a sudden some happy little daffodils & tulips start popping up and it’s so nice to get outside and start exploring.

Late last week we had two mornings of overcast skies & a light drizzle — perfect for capturing some of these early spring plants — so I threw on my rain jacket & went on a couple of rainy morning strolls with my camera.

Love the different colors when planted in a large group.

Love the different colors when planted in a large group.

Yellow Tulips | theinspiredparent.com

We live near a pretty park that is known for growing many varieties of lilacs. A few lilacs like the ones in the cover photo were just starting to show signs of deep purple blossoms getting ready to pop. Masses of daffodils were blooming and some of the tulips were just starting to say hi. :) I will definitely head back there over the next couple of weeks as more tulips & lilacs begin to bloom.

Found these little treasures at the park - so pretty!

Found these little treasures at the park – so pretty!

Love the ruffles on these daffodils!

Love the ruffles on these daffodils!

Last fall we planted some daffodil bulbs in our backyard — two pretty varieties to add some cheerful color to the areas where our purple coneflower and shasta daisies will bloom later this summer. We’ve really enjoyed having the early-season color from the daffodils in that bed this year.

One of the varieties that we planted in our backyard. It's a long wait when you plant the bulbs in autumn, but such an exciting treat once they bloom in spring!

One of the varieties that we planted in our backyard. It’s a long wait when you plant the bulbs in autumn, but such an exciting treat once they bloom in spring!

A little early for the wonderful lilac scent, but that will be happening very soon by the looks of these!

A little early for the wonderful lilac scent, but that will be happening very soon by the looks of these!

Lady's Mantle - one of my favorites! | theinspiredparent.com

Lady’s Mantle – one of my favorites!

The photo above is of one of my favorite perennials — Lady’s Mantle. I shot this image last week during our morning rainstorm. I first noticed this little gem many years ago in Toronto at Casa Loma where they have a huge bed of it — the sprinklers had just gone off and I was intrigued by the water droplets on the leaves. When we moved into our house, Lady’s Mantle was at the top of my list of plants I wanted to add to our yard. I still love the way the leaves look after it rains — especially on the baby leaves that are just starting to sprout.

These are just a few of the happy plants I saw the other day. I also adore magnolias, but the timing wasn’t quite right to capture those the other morning since it was quite windy. Hoping to get some new shots of those very soon and will definitely keep shooting more of our plants as they start to bloom so I can post more of those throughout the season.

What are some of your favorite spring plants?

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Happy Earth Day!

There always seems to be a bit of debate regarding the origins of this quote but it still remains one of my favorites & is such a simple but important message: “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors…we borrow it from our children.”

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend & are able to do something great for this third rock from the sun that we call home. We’ll be doing some gardening this weekend. :)

Every day is Earth Day!

Top Photo: Sand Beach at Acadia National Park in Maine. Bottom Photo: Lilacs ready to sprout at a local park this a.m.

Top Photo: Sand Beach at Acadia National Park in Maine. Bottom Photo: Magnolias on my nature walk this morning.

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Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

We love quinoa. This gluten-free, ancient superfood has been a staple in our home for several years — it’s a great substitute for pasta, rice or couscous. Mild in flavor, this extremely versatile grain pairs beautifully with all sorts of flavor combinations.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole | theinspiredparent.com

We’ve made quinoa bowls for quite some time (black beans, quinoa, veggies, etc.) and decided to give it a try using enchilada sauce to change things up a bit. Added some of our favorite cheese sprinkled on top & baked it & our Quinoa Enchilada Casserole was born! We’ve cooked it at least once a month ever since. It’s a great dish if you’re feeling like comfort foods — keeps you filled up, reheats beautifully and is just as tasty at room temperature as it is piping hot out of the oven, so it’s great for a party if you’re serving buffet-style.

Best part is that you could easily change things up…maybe try a different bean combination, add some other veggies, make it spicy or keep it mild. The options are only as limited as your culinary imagination. Any which way, this is just one tiny sample of how scrumptious quinoa can be. Happy eating!

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole | theinspiredparent.com

Enjoy!

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

We often make this with an additional 1/2 c. finely chopped red bell pepper as well (added in with the casserole ingredients). We also love making this with a combination of 1 c. red quinoa and 1 c. white quinoa…makes for a very pretty dish with the different colors. Our favorite cheese for this dish is Kerrygold Dubliner. We are not affiliated with the brand, we just happen to love that particular cheese.

Ingredients

    For the Quinoa Prep:
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. quinoa
  • olive oil
  • 4 c. water
  • For the Casserole:
  • 28 oz. enchilada sauce (canned or homemade)
  • 2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chiles
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed & well-drained
  • 3/4 c. frozen corn kernels
  • 2 c. shredded cheese (we use Kerrygold Dubliner, but you could use cheddar, muenster, or monterey jack or a combination of your favorites)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil 'til translucent. Add the salt & garlic and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the quinoa and continue stirring for another minute. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover the saucepan & simmer for 14 minutes. Uncover & remove from heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl place the cooked quinoa, enchilada sauce, green chiles, beans and corn - stir well. Add 1 c. of shredded cheese and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture in a 9" x 13" baking pan (or similarly sized casserole dish). Sprinkle the remaining 1 c. of shredded cheese on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned & bubbly.
http://www.theinspiredparent.com/quinoa-enchilada-casserole/

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Taffy Apple Salad

Taffy Apple Salad | theinspiredparent.com

Continuing our salad week, we’re hitting the sweet side with today’s recipe.

We’ve tried many versions of Taffy Apple Salad over the years as we searched for one with a great punch of caramel flavor, a nice mix of sweet & salty, one that travels well and is people-pleaser.

After tweaking things a bit, the ratios in this recipe gave us what we’re looking for & this delightful Taffy Apple Salad is the one we’ve stuck with for a few years now.

We love using Spanish peanuts — they’re pretty & we prefer the larger pieces of peanutty goodness — but if you prefer smaller bits, using salted, chopped peanuts would work, too.

Regarding the apples, we like adding tart & sweet in the mix to keep things balanced. It’s fun to change-up the varieties to see what you prefer the most.

Enjoy!

Taffy Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP. lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP. cornstarch
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits in juice (not syrup), reserve the juice
  • 1 (8 oz.) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 3 medium Golden Delicious apples, cored & diced
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored & diced
  • 3 c. miniature marshmallows
  • 2 c. salted Spanish peanuts

Instructions

  1. Drain the pineapple over a bowl, lightly pressing the pineapple pieces to remove any extra liquid, reserving the juice. Cover the drained pineapple and place in the refrigerator.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, egg & pineapple juice. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 'til thickened - approximately 10 minutes. Pour into a small bowl & refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until completely cooled.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, fold together the cooled lemon/sugar/egg mixture with the whipped topping until combined. Add the pineapple pieces, diced apple, marshmallows & peanuts and lightly stir to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into a pretty serving bowl & refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Notes

Another favorite apple combination of ours: use 3 Honeycrisp apples + 2 McIntosh apples, if in season. Honeycrisp & Granny Smith pair well together, too. Enjoy!

http://www.theinspiredparent.com/taffy-apple-salad/

 

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