We’re taking a little break from recipes so I can share my latest obsession with you…

Today we’re talking about How To Raise Butterflies!

This summer when I was in Minneapolis for the opera, my friend Jen called to ask me if I wanted to help her release monarch butterflies that she had raised from caterpillars.

Heck yeah, I did! So off I went and less than 2 minutes later, a new obsession was born.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the photos I’ve posted on Facebook so I decided to bring them all here and share what I’ve learned so far.

You’ve probably heard that pollinators, bees and butterflies, are struggling these days. Loss of habitat and especially pesticide spraying has wreaked havoc with their populations. This year a big freeze in Mexico where the monarch butterflies over-winter, caused a huge die off.

So, other than the fun and educational aspects of this, why should we help raise butterflies when they’ve been doing it out in the garden on their own all these years?

Well, butterflies raised in a controlled habitat have over a 90% success rate from hatching, through the caterpillar and chrysalis (what we used to call a cocoon) stages, and into a butterfly.

Out in the garden, that rate drops to about 20%. YIKES! Besides humans, think of all the birds, wasps, mites, and other critters that can interfere with this amazing process and you quickly realize that we can lend the monarchs a helping hand.

Or paw…you see Henry quickly became the Chief Butterfly Inspector.

So, right off the top…I’m no expert. I’m a flute player who cooks and blogs, but I’ve learned from friends (thanks to Jen, Rolf & Carrie, and Sandy), googled a lot, and just jumped on in.

Here’s what you need:

Some kind of butterfly enclosure. I have a net one that is collapsable and tall (Henry for scale) and a plastic bin with a ventilated lid that is originally made for reptiles that I picked up at the local pet big box store.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Mango Chicken Stir Fry!

Holy Cats! I love this dish!!!!

A perfectly ripe mango is a beautiful thing. They’re in season right now and I just happened to have 2 sitting on my counter smelling divine.

I also happened to have boneless, skinless chicken thighs thawing in the fridge so with the power of The Google, I went to work trying to find something to cook for dinner that would use both.

Happily I ran across this recipe from food.com – the post said that the original recipe came from Canadian Living Magazine. Apparently it’s from the more tropical part of Canada. I’m all for eating locally and seasonally, but I’d hate to think that my Canadian friends had to miss out on juicy mangoes just because they’re up north!

Here’s what you need:  (Please pardon the messy photos…I wasn’t really planning to post this today but it was JUST TOO GOOD to wait for neater photos!)

Chicken, Bell Peppers, Green Onions, Mangoes, Ginger, Olive Oil, Chicken Broth, Soy Sauce/Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Chili Garlic Sauce, Brown Sugar, Corn Starch, and Curry Paste. Plus rice for serving (not shown)

Click here for a Mango Chicken Stir Fry Shopping List

A couple of notes:  I used about 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs but you can certainly use good old boneless, skinless chicken breasts too. Also, I had a whole bag of those tiny bell peppers in the fridge so that’s what I used. You can substitute a small regular red and a small yellow or orange bell pepper and save yourself a lot of prep work. You need about 2 cups of peppers total.

RICE! Before you start cooking anything else, prepare 1½ cups of dry rice (basmati, brown, long grain, or even jasmine would be fine) in 3 cups of water. Use a rice cooker or the trusty old pan method. Rice takes about 20 minutes which will give you ample time to prepare the Mango Chicken Stir Fry.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Summer Zucchini Season is in full swing so Pasta with Zucchini & Ricotta is the answer to that age old question…

“Hey, would you take some zucchini? I have a ton in my garden!”

That answer should always be, YES!

Quickly sautéed zucchini meets creamy ricotta cheese in a dinner that cooks in just about the time it takes you to boil the pasta.

Here’s what you need:

Zucchini, Onion, Garlic, Lemon, Fresh Basil, Pasta (GF or Regular), Ricotta Cheese, Olive Oil, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Pasta with Zucchini & Ricotta Shopping List

I really like to load up this pasta with zucchini. I have 4 medium zucchini…a little over 2 pounds for ¾ pound of pasta. If you are using a full pound of pasta, add at least one more zucchini.

If you wind up with one of those giant zucchinis, you could probably use it for this dish, however I would definitely cut it open and scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Zucchini seeds, unless they are really small and tender, will separate from the flesh of the zucchini and float around weirdly in your dish.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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TGIF, Friends! I’ve made you a fancy cocktail. A Gin & Ginger Gimlet!

Wow, what a busy summer this has turned out to be. Sorry for the light posting but life has been crazier than expected.

I’ve made my usual summer migration up to Minnesota to play the opera and we’re opening Sweeney Todd tonight! The singers are ridiculously good and this production is perfect for our outdoor space at the antique flour mill ruins. (Pictures to come.)

So maybe we need a cocktail to celebrate. Or maybe we need a cocktail just because it’s Friday. 

Or maybe just because a Gin & Ginger Gimlet is so dang tasty!

I’ve come up with a couple of variations on this drink since originally making it but here are the basics…

Here’s what you need:

Hendrick’s Gin, Ginger Liqueur (Domaine de Canton or other), Club Soda or Tonic Water, Lime, and Cucumber.

Other garnish options which are highly recommended include fresh mint or basil (not pictured).

Click here for a Gin & Ginger Gimlet Shopping List

I had similar drink recently that was made with gin, ginger ale, and basil and that got me thinking that this would be a great use for the ginger liqueur that has been sitting up in our cabinet. We bought it last summer and made some really tasty bourbon & ginger cocktails that both Jim and I have forgotten how to make. Good grief!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Hawaiian Glazed Chicken is sort of a happy new recipe accident.

My favorite restaurant near my house is actually a food truck called the The South Pacific Grill (greater Tampa/Brandon area) that serves amazing Hawaiian/Asian influenced food. Their Huli Huli Chicken is TO DIE FOR and since I can’t always get out to their truck for a fix, I thought I’d try to recreate it at home.


Well, after scouring the google, combining a lot of ideas, and a couple of experiments, I’m still not very close to making proper Huli Huli Chicken but this last attempt was so good, I figured it deserved to be a featured recipe all on its own.

The chicken cooks quickly so it stays super tender and moist and the sauce has quite a nice tang. I made this on the grill but you could also use a grill pan indoors or even a broiler.

For best flavor, this needs to marinate for several hours – at least 2…4 or 6 is even better, so plan ahead!

Here’s what you need:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, Pineapple Juice, Ketchup, Lime, Ginger, Garlic, Brown Sugar, and Soy Sauce or Tamari

Click here for an Hawaiian Glazed Chicken Shopping List

Click HERE there’s more!

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First a disclaimer about Tarragon Fingerling Potatoes…

This is not a real recipe. 

We can call it a method, but I don’t want anyone to think….oh geez, now she’s boiling potatoes and calling it magical, or anything like that.

I happen to have a friend who texts me with great angst whenever a certain someone on the food network is making something like a BLT or a club sandwich and acting like it’s the first, great sandwich idea anyone’s ever had. Don’t want to make that mistake.

I wasn’t even going to post this but since I’ve had 3 different people email or call me this week asking, “What should I do with these weird little potatoes in my CSA box?” I thought I’d put this up.

Also, I feel like fresh tarragon, one of my favorites, is an herb that is often overlooked.

Here’s what you need:

Fingerling Potatoes (or other small potatoes), Butter, and Fresh Tarragon. Salt & Pepper not pictured.

Fingerlings are just what they sound like…small fresh potatoes that are the shape and size of a thumb or finger.

They’re an early summer favorite at farmer’s markets and as I mentioned have started appearing in farm subscription boxes or CSAs.

If you don’t have a market handy, sometimes my grocery store has them or I buy them at Trader Joe’s. They almost always have them in some form or color.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Lemon Butter Shrimp Pasta!

This is the latest recipe in our new section of Weeknight Wonders and is a dish I would happily (and easily) make for guests.

Who doesn’t love a recipe with only a few ingredients that cooks in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta?

I know I do. And yes, the title pretty much says it all….BUTTER! Lemon & Garlic Butter!

Here’s what you need:

Shrimp, Pasta (I have GF), Butter, Lemons, Garlic, Olive Oil (optional), Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Salt & Pepper.

Also chives or parsley for garnish and goat cheese crumbles for decadence. (not pictured but highly recommended.)

Click here for a Lemon Butter Shrimp Pasta Shopping List


This is a recipe I stole from my lovely sister. She took a Williams Sonoma recipe for grilled shrimp, tweaked it, and turned it into a glorious pasta dish.

I tweaked it a little more with the addition of goat cheese and also by cooking the shrimp and sauce together in one pot. Having fewer pots and pans to wash is always fine with me. (You only need the olive oil if you decide to cook the shrimp separately from the butter sauce.)

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Cheesy Chipotle Mashed Potatoes is the companion recipe to yesterday’s Crockpot Shredded Chicken with Chipotles.

But let me assure you that you might soon be making these potatoes to go with EVERYTHING!

These potatoes are sooooo good. Nice big chunks of potatoes with just a smoky hint of chipotle for a little zip.

If you didn’t advertise the chipotles, I’m betting that people would wonder what that wonderful, warm flavor was.

Here’s what you need:

Red Potatoes, Butter, Green Onions, Chipotles in Adobo, Milk, Cheddar Cheese, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Cheesy Chipotle Mashed Potatoes Shopping List

I have 3 pounds of small, red potatoes that I’ve rinsed and cut in quarters.

Place them in a large pot and fill with water to cover the potatoes by an inch.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and cook until the potatoes are fork tender and soft, about 12-15 minutes.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Crockpot Shredded Chicken with Chipotles.

Oooh…this is a good one!

Super easy because the crockpot or slow cooker does all the work for you. Super simple because it has just a few ingredients that are readily available at any grocery store or that you probably already have at home. SUPER tasty because chipotles, chicken, and slow cooking are a match made in taste heaven.

Even though the cooking time is long, since the crockpot does all the work, I think this definitely qualifies as a Weeknight Wonder! 

Make this as spicy or as mild as you’d like. Stuff it in burritos, tacos, on a salad, or put it on a plate with the worlds most amazing Smoky Chipotle Mashed Potatoes (recipe coming tomorrow.)

Here’s what you need:

Chicken, Onion, Garlic, Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, Brown Sugar, Ketchup, Red Wine Vinegar, Paprika, Smoked Paprika, Chili Powder (not pictured), Cinnamon, Cumin, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Crockpot Shredded Chicken with Chipotles Shopping List

I got this fantastic recipe from my friend Larry in Minneapolis. I stay at his house when I’m playing in the orchestra up north. On my first day there he brought me into the kitchen, opened a bunch of containers from the fridge, and had an impromptu tasting of spicy, smoky, shredded chicken and REALLY good mashed potatoes.

I immediately pumped him for information and the recipes and made both when I got back home.

The only thing I did differently than Larry was to change the quantities just a bit. Any time I’m doing something in the slow cooker/crockpot, I want to fill it up so we will have leftovers. So this recipe is sort of a double batch of chicken…at least 6 servings.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Thai Beef Rice Bowls!

Rice, savory beef, tons of veggies, and fresh green herbs are having a bowl party and you’re invited.

We had these last night and then I ate the leftovers as a salad for lunch today so I think a big thumbs up is appropriate.

These are easy to make and extremely versatile. Leave out something if you have a picky eater (or forget to buy an ingredient like green onions) and feel free to add other veggies like peppers (my addition), edamame, or sprouts.

Here’s what you need:

Ground Beef, Rice, Garlic, Jalapeño Pepper, Bell Pepper, Carrots, Chicken Broth, Tamari/Soy Sauce, Asian Fish Sauce, Olive Oil, Limes, Fresh Basil, Fresh Cilantro, Fresh Mint, Sugar, Sriracha Sauce (optional), Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Thai Beef Rice Bowls Shopping List

This recipe comes from a couple of places and I made my own additions/substitutions so I’m not really sure who should get the credit. I first saw it in Bon Appétit  and then saw a version on Shutterbean and then again at my local Publix. As I mentioned, I added more veggies and more herbs so at least I can take credit for the greenery.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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