Thursday, October 25, 2012

Haunted Pumpkins at New York Botanical Garden

this is a REAL giant pumpkin btw!!!

Its nearing the end of October...time for beautiful fall colors, Halloween fun time...and for catching the last few days of sunshine before it becomes really cold and gloomy!
and of course its time for Pumpkins and pumpkins and pumpkins galore...
pumpkin spice in fragrances, candles, potpourri....pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and muffins, all kinds of pumpkins to decorate the home with...
I had written a very interesting post (click here ) last year that had some amazing pumpkin ideas...
and this year we do the "HAUNTED" PUMPKIN variety!!
what say you?  :-D
The day was Sunday and one of the brightest and sunniest Sunday in a long time-and we couldn't waste it indoors...
when I found out that there was a Haunted Pumpkin Festival going on at New York Botanical Garden with the master carver Ray Vilafane (more about him later in the post) giving a live demo...
we gathered our friends and some food and had a fantastic picnic....
here are some awesome pictures of the Haunted Pumpkin Garden!

the zombie pumpkin glowing at one of the windows

one of the carvers explaining his creation!

this is just an example of how huge these pumpkins really are!

Master carver Ray hard at work making a life size zombie pulling monster pumpkins out of the ground- it was amazing to watch him!

close up of the Zombie taken from yahoo images coz my picture sucked!

an awesome creation!

After being extremely impressed with the carved pumpkin zombies I looked up Ray Villafane on the internet and I was blown out of my mind! what staggering talent!!
the images on his website(click here) will give you a fair idea of what I am talking about!
He has been a champion twice on Food Network’s Challenge Show, Outrageous Pumpkins, and his out of the box artistic versions of the traditional jack-o-lantern has earned him invitations from across the globe!! 
He has even done pumpkin carvings at the President’s Quarters in the White House!
He has a facebook page where his fans have named themselves as Villa-fans... :-)
here is the awesome zombie sculpture that he did last year for the New York Botanical Garden.

the artist in front of his creation

what amazing details...look at the nails!

Ray Villafane and his partner in zombie crime Andy Bergholtz
 didnt he just blow your mind???
This place has some A. M. A. Z. I. N. G people who are soooooo dedicated and passionate to thier art and creative pursuits that I am just humbled...
Its a seriously creative world out there, man!!

Now after the the terrifying zombies we move on to the soothing and beautifully landscaped Monet Garden at the Haupt Conservatory in the Botanical garden...
here is a look at some paintings that Monet did while in his garden in Giverny, France

Monet's idyllic garden in Giverny, France is what inspired this design of the Monet Garden in New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx.
enjoy some pictures...

I hope you enjoyed the excursion and the beeeaaauuutiful day spent with me.....
now till the wandering bug bites me again-

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Monday Treat: Chicken and Mushroom,Sour Cream Enchiladas

Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

This is one of my favorite Mexican dishes to have when we eat out... yummy, creamy and absolutely  DE+LI+CIOUS!!
and I didnt know that it was so easy to make!
It is also one of the dishes that you can assemble beforehand, for a party and then just pour the sauce over it and bake for a few minutes before you lay the table!
Most of the ingredients are easily available in India and for my Indian friends-the flour tortillas can be substituted with home made soft rotis kneaded with some oil/ghee.
so here goes:

2 chicken breasts, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp oil
2 medium sized bell peppers (different colors- I used red and green)
1 cup frozen sweet corn (thawed)
6 flour tortillas or rotis, about 8 inches each
1 1/2 cups grated  preferably Mexican blend cheese, or any other grated cheese that is available to you (for my Indian friends)
4-6  medium sized button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 (15 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup light sour cream
4 tbsp preferably taco seasoning (but you can also use any other flavored seasoning that you would like to add to the chicken to give it some zest!)


1-In frying pan, fry the onions till they become transparent, in oil over medium-high heat, then add chicken and stir until chicken is just done.
Remove from fire and set the chicken aside.

2- Add a bit of oil to the frying pan and stir fry the bell peppers and sweet corn with a bit of salt and pepper for 5 minutes.

3- Remove from fire and add to the chicken and mix them together.

 4-Divide cooked chicken mixture evenly between 6 tortillas; add 2 tablespoons cheese to each tortilla.

5-Roll the enchiladas and place them seam-side down in a lightly greased baking dish.

6- Take a bit of oil in the sauce pan and lightly fry the mushrooms till they start sweating.
 Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside.

7- Melt some butter in the same saucepan; stir in flour and cook until lightly browned.
Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, smoothing out the lumps....then bring to a boil, stirring frequently-till it starts coating the spoon.

8- Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and mushrooms-mix well.
 pour sauce evenly over enchiladas.

6-Top with the remaining cheese.
And bake at 400F for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce near edges of baking dish is bubbly.

Serve with some fresh salad if you want- I love it on its own.

For more tried and tasted and slurrped over recipes, please click here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday Wanderings: Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn

In my last post (here) I had written about Bil Donovan, the awesome  fashion illustrator....
well, I went to his lecture as promised and was pleasantly surprised to see the day turn out to be full of amazing surprises!
The lecture venue was at Brooklyn Central Library and though I have been to Brooklyn so many times, I had never been to that particular area-the Grand Army Plaza
which is supposed to be the heart of Brooklyn.
Though the Grand Army Plaza does sound grand, I really didnt pay it much mind...
Till I came upon this fabulous fountain just as I came out of the Subway!!
 Its called the Bailey fountain and was built in 1932 by Frank Bailey as a memorial to his wife.
Its been renovated and restored over the years and is beautiful!
The mood, the ambiance and the slight spray from the fountain calls for sitting there in the sun with a nice juicy book-who knows you might just catch me there someday! :-)
as I turned my back on the fountain I came upon the imposing entrance to the Prospect Park..
This arch is one of the most imposing historic structures in Brooklyn and was inspired by the classical style of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and is meant to honor the soldiers and sailors.

It has beautiful relief sculptures inside the arch of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
The Quadriga, or simply "The Spirit of the Army and the Spirit of the Navy" is on the top of the Arch.
Its an amazing sculpture depicting Lady Columbia, a supposedly symbolic representation of the United States. She is seen riding in a chariot with two winged Victory figures, each leading a horse and with a trumpet announcing Columbia's arrival.
One side of the gate has intricate sculptures of the Spirit of the Army and the other side has the Spirit of the Navy...
this place is worth a visit just to see the imposing arch and the fountain.

Parked next to the Archway were these street food truck selling juices and smoothies to sandwiches and noodles and enchiladas!
and right at the entrance of the park was the usual New York sight...
a fantastic Farmer's Market!

 selling everything from fresh bread...

to divine smelling sprigs of fresh lavender...


 assorted mushrooms!

I have never seen so much variety in mushrooms.... 

amazing colors of drying hydrangea n corn...

to pumpkins galore.... remember its Fall (Autumn) here...

As I said its Autumn here, and that means lots and lots of pumpkins and apples in all its forms..
so seen above are fresh apples dipped in candy flavor and caramel.
A.B.SO.LU.TE.LY delicious!!

 and the fall color vibrancy of chrysanthemums.... and they are called just "mums" here by the way!

 For the health enthusiasts- wheat grass! (I love the tag)

and peppers from different places and of varying heat and color!

Fresh and yummy sandwiches with freshly grown herbs at hand...

and organic pizzas on whole wheat bead....

And after sating my appetite with flavors and colors and sounds and smells...
I moved on to the grand looking Brooklyn Central Library...

where there was a used book sale going on outside!
and you say "book" and I have to stop... and browse....and eventually shell out a few dollars for some fantastic finds!

After a lot of dollars and time well spent I finally went in for the Lecture of the fashion illustrator Bill Donovan and man was it an experience!
He works fast and seemingly without effort and was extremely patient with all the pesky questions...
Even I got to ask a couple of question!  :-D

so I came home heavily loaded with a few candy apples, sprigs of lavender, a delicious apple crumble cake, a piece of pumpkin pie,7-8 fantastic books ( where can you get them for a dollar?) and fired up to become the next BIG thing on the fashion illustration circuit!
hahaha...I know... I know... there is no harm in dreaming, is there?

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