Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Picnic Fare

It's hard to believe Sunday was warm enough to picnic on a little Lake Norman island near our house. All around us, snow has been falling all afternoon. We haven't seen any so far, but I know Charlotte got quite a lot, thanks to pictures Jerry sent from his office. The forecast calls for as much as 11 inches tomorrow, so we're waiting to see what happens. We are supposed to head up to the mountains this weekend. As much as I love snow, I don't want to miss our trip!

Picnics are hard when you can't eat bread or any other grains. I wanted a menu small enough to carry on the boat, no small feat when you're feeding five, and which would appeal to children as well as adults. Pinterest came to the rescue as usual. I roasted two ducks on Saturday and had leftovers, and I found a ton of great duck recipes on the site. I pinned the winner, Candied Duck Bites, to my Carb Control board. I did have to adapt this to make it fit my diet and because I was using cooked duck. Here's my adaptation:

Candied Duck Bites with cucumbers and blackberries

Candied Duck Bites
Makes 6 hors d'oeurves sized servings or 4 main dish servings
2 cups cooked duck, cut into bite-sized pieces
6-8 slices bacon, cut into thirds
Monk Fruit sweetener, such as Monk Fruit in the Raw or Nectresse
Cook bacon on one side only until about halfway done. Set aside to cool. Chop duck into bite-sized pieces. When bacon is cool, cut each slice into thirds and wrap each third around a piece of duck, with the uncooked side of the bacon facing out. Secure with a toothpick. Place duck bites on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with monk fruit sweetener. Bake at 350 degrees about 8 minutes or until bacon is cooked and sweetener has melted into a candy glaze.

The original recipe calls for brown sugar instead of monk fruit, and uses uncooked duck, so you don't pre-cook the bacon and you bake the duck bites longer. I read an article about Rocco DiSpirito's new diet book in which he recommended the monk fruit sweetener, since it's calorie-free, all-natural, and has no aftertaste. I was worried about using it as a glaze, but it melted easily and tasted great. I served the duck bites with blackberries and cucumbers dipped in hummus and we didn't have a single crumb of food left over!

After our picnic we enjoyed exploring the island and touring the lake. I'm glad we had a chance to get out in the fine weather before it turned. This is the best thing about North Carolina winters; you often get a taste of real winter but then you get a little spring break!

Valentine's Day tomato hearts

Besides our picnic food, we found a great Valentine's treat on Pinterest. I showed my daughter little hearts made of tomatoes and she was hot to try to make them herself. I pinned the original recipe, which has much more professional photography than ours, onto my Kids board, I think. It's easy, though. You just cut each grape tomato in half diagonally and rearrange them so they make a heart shape. Then you poke a toothpick through each one and attach a little piece of paper, like a bit of napkin, to the end to make a fletching so the toothpick resembles an arrow. The fletching is the feather on the end of the arrow that helps it spin and land more accurately. Thanks to Jerry, who looked it up for me because I didn't know the word. You learn something new every day! The result are healthy little treats that look like hearts pierced by Cupid's arrows. The children made and ate a ton of these this weekend. Our five-year-old wanted to take a picture himself for my "blob", so here it is!

My five-year-old's photographic contribution.

Jerry kindly gave me new Ott lights and a Dremel tool to help me with my doll painting and the light in my office is so good I'm inspired to get to work on all the ideas for fine art pieces I've been thinking about for the past year. I took a photo of the beautiful view from the island, and I have a new goal to start sketching more regularly. I hope to produce lots of great new work this year.

Beautiful Lake Norman, NC


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