Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cream Cheese Tarts, Creamy Potato Salad and Cascades of Butterflies

The car hummed quietly as we wound our way down roads and weaved through highway traffic. With the sunroof open, and a portable 'car' fridge in the backseat, we were on our way to spend a day in Niagara Falls.  If we could have, we would possibly have opted to celebrate our anniversary in Europe, or Australia, or on a cruise ship, but since none of these options are economically possible at the present time, we decided that it would be at least worthwhile to 'get away' and go somewhere relatively local but nice all the same.
Despite a short torrential downpour of rain, it was a wonderful day, filled with butterflies, gardens, quaint streets, horse-drawn carriages and, of course, the famed falls for which Niagara Falls is named. Descriptions and tons of pictures are below the recipes in this post.
Financial constraints dictates a limited amount of spending money, and so, as in all of our excursions (whether it be a week in Florida or a day in New York State), I prepared food to bring with us. In addition to chicken and ham sandwiches and egg salad with cucumber and ham sandwiches, I threw together a creamy potato salad and some cream cheese tarts:
CREAMY POTATO SALAD
Ingredients
5 large Yukon Gold potatoes
9 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/8 cup three cheese creamy salad dressing
1/8 cup blue cheese creamy salad dressing

Directions
Peel the potatoes and chop into cubes. Cook in boiling water for approximately 8 to 15 minutes, or until desired tenderness. Drain and place in a bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine both salad dressings, crumbled bacon and chives. Mix together.
Pour mixture over potatoes and toss. Serves 4.

CREAM CHEESE TARTS
Ingredients
15 tart shells, baked
1 block of cream cheese (8 oz)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipped topping
4 tbsp plain yogurt

Directions
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add the yogurt, and beat until well combined and creamy. Beat in sugar and mix well. Fold in the whipped topping.
Fill the baked tart shells with the cream cheese mixture. Add topping, or leave plain. Chill until ready to serve.

These little tarts can be finished with a variety of toppings. Here are some ideas:
Garnish with a small sprig of mint.
Drizzle with melted chocolate.
Top with fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, chopped canned peaches or blackberries. Melt some jam and spoon over the fruit.

Now back to the day trip.
We arrived in Niagara Falls at about one in the afternoon. A desire to sleep in made us leave the house a little later than originally planned, and our car needed an oil change that morning.
We stopped at a little tourist information building once there. To our delight, we discovered that a certain little ice cream shop that is based in Prince Edward Island, and with which we had fallen in love with when we were there, had now expanded and landed a store in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We determined to make a stop there, but first we wanted to go to the butterfly conservatory.
We accidentally drove in the wrong direction on route, which I thought was a good thing, because it meant that we were able to meander a little through Cliffton Hill.
The Conservatory is near Niagara-on-the-Lake. Surrounded by beautiful grounds, it is a peaceful place to be, or at least it would have been if we hadn't arrived at the same time as busloads of jabbering school children.

Inside the Conservatory is a 'rainforest', complete with stream and waterfall. Butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colors flitted through the air, hung on the windows, clung to the flora, fluttered past our knees, and landed on arms, shirts and heads.
In a glass observational area were pinned row upon row of cocoons, with some of their occupants free and beating against the glass.
Butterflies sat feasting on plates of citrus fruit and sugar, making a strange tableau.

Although both my husband and I had butterflies land on us to make our acquaintance, one bold fellow clung to my husband's elbow all the way to the exit, where we informed the workers that one of their tenants was trying to hitch a ride out.
Next to the Conservatory is a large and sprawling botanical garden, which we were going to explore before being washed out by the aforesaid mentioned torrential rain. Undaunted, we drove instead to  Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit Cows, the little ice cream store so dear to our hearts.
Of course, once we got there, it had stopped raining, which was great, because we were then able to walk around the quaint little streets. Cows is known for their fabulous ice cream and wacky t-shirts that currently parodies everything from Indiana Jones to Star Trek to Hannah Montana.

After our walk, we headed back to the botanical gardens, passing the flower clock on the way.
Some of the garden walkways were flooded, but we braved them anyway.
Only after the gardens did we head out to the falls, leaning on the railing and listening to the incessant thunder of the water pouring into the chasm and looking at the rainbows that glimmered in the spray.
It was a wonderful day.

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