Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Buttercream Almond Bonbons: A new family favorite

Sweet and a little salty. Creamy and a little crunchy.
These melt-in-your-mouth bonbons are unbelievably tasty treats.

I come from a family of frosting lovers. You know those people who scrape the frosting off their cake and leave it on the plate? Well, that wasn’t anyone in my family.

I love frosting, too. But I like frosting that’s not overly sweet and has a little flavor. So I was always trying new frosting recipes, in search of a perfectly balanced frosting.

I finally found that frosting: French buttercream. Well, my version of French buttercream, anyways.

I don’t have a stand mixer and I don’t want to mess around with hot sugar syrup, so I use a different method of preparing this egg yolk-based buttercream. And then I add a little powdered sugar – a sin in the eyes of true buttercream fans, maybe, but it greatly improves the texture. The resulting buttercream always gets fabulous reviews.

Paired with basic yellow cake, the kids think it is so good that Dan told me I should enter it in a baking contest.

I had a different idea for the frosting: making buttercream candies for the holidays. The idea evolved a little more after I dipped an almond in some leftover frosting. I chopped up some almonds, added them to the leftover frosting, and created a candy filling fit for a frosting-lover’s dream.

I made the filling into centers, dipped them in chocolate, and had my family test the result. Everyone loved them. What’s not to love about a bite-sized dollop of buttercream frosting enrobed in chocolate?

And they love that they’re served on a frilled toothpick like a treat at a fancy party.

Dan and Monika have already asked me to make these for their birthday parties. All Daphne said after trying one was, “More, please.” I think I’m raising a new generation of frosting lovers.

Buttercream Almond Bonbons

time: 1 hour (prep time, divided); 2 ½ hours (chill time, divided)
yield: 3 dozen bonbons


2 tablespoons milk (I use whole milk)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
60 grams powdered sugar (½ to ¾ cup, depending upon how you measure)
¾ cup whole, lightly salted, oven roasted almonds (100 grams), finely chopped

6 ounces white chocolate baking squares
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon shortening


medium (3-quart) stainless steel bowl
medium (3-quart) pot
food thermometer
rubber spatula
small shallow bowl, large enough to hold 3-quart bowl
electric mixer
baking sheets
waxed paper
small cookie scoop (#100)
36 toothpicks (frilled, if desired)
small (2-quart) stainless steel bowl
small (2-quart) pot
long handled spoon


To make filling:
In medium (3-quart) stainless steel bowl, thoroughly whisk together milk, sugar, and salt. Then whisk in egg yolks. Add 1 inch water to medium (3-quart) pot and heat on low setting. When water starts to barely steam, set bowl of egg yolk mixture on pot. Using rubber spatula, stir constantly, but slowly – sweeping bottom and sides of bowl – until egg yolk mixture reaches a temperature of 160°F. This will take about 8 minutes.

Immediately remove bowl from pot. Fill a shallow bowl with ice and set bowl of egg yolk mixture on top of ice. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolk mixture until lightened in color and cooled to room temperature, about 1 minute. (You can also beat mixture without ice bath; without ice bath, this will take about 5 minutes.)

Once mixture is cool, add vanilla and two tablespoons of butter. Beat until butter is completely incorporated. Continue, adding two tablespoons of butter at a time and mixing completely, until all butter is added. Add powdered sugar, in two parts, mixing well after each addition. Fold in finely chopped almonds. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes (or refrigerate overnight).

Once filling is chilled, scoop onto waxed paper lined baking sheets using small (#100) cookie scoop, dividing the centers between two baking sheets. Place one frilled toothpick in each scoop of filling. Freeze scoops of filling for several hours (or overnight).

To dip bonbons:
Break white chocolate into squares. Place chocolate and shortening in small (2-quart) stainless steel bowl. Add 1 inch of water to small (2-quart) pot and bring to a boil. Remove pot from heat, set bowl of chocolate on pot, and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir to finish melting chocolate. Place pot of water and bowl of chocolate back on burner set at lowest possible heat.

Working with half of the bonbon centers at a time (leaving the other half in freezer), dip bonbon centers in chocolate. Holding a bonbon center by the toothpick, use a spoon to pour melted chocolate over center. Make sure chocolate covers center all the way to the toothpick. Dip the bottom in chocolate, if necessary. Once covered, tap the toothpick against the handle of the spoon to shake off excess chocolate. The goal is to cover the centers with the thinnest coating of chocolate possible – too much chocolate will overpower the flavor of the centers. Place covered center on baking sheet lined with waxed paper.

Once first half of centers are dipped, place sheet of bonbons in refrigerator to cool. Repeat with second half of centers.

Store bonbons in airtight container in freezer or refrigerator.

Serve frozen, chilled, or allow to sit at room temperature for several minutes before serving. Leave the toothpicks in the centers; once these bonbons warm to room temperature, they will be very soft, but they can still be moved by grasping by the toothpick.

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P.S. Please join me and the Land O'Lakes Kitchen Conversations bloggers – Becky from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen, Ree from The Pioneer Woman, Sommer from A Spicy Perspective, Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod, Brenda from A Farmgirl's Dabbles, Julie from The Little Kitchen, Bridget from Bake at 350, Jessica from The Novice Chef, Joanne from Fifteen Spatulas, and Jenny from Picky Palate – for the Land O' Lakes #CookieChatter Twitter Party on Thursday, December 4 from  7 - 8 PM CST.

Follow the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen (@LandOLakesKtchn) and Ree (@ThePioneerWoman) on Twitter, search for the #CookieChatter hashtag to follow along, and be sure to use the #CookieChatter hashtag in your tweets, and you'll be entered to win a holiday baking prize package from Land O'Lakes.

Here's a peek at the holiday recipes the Kitchen Conversations bloggers will be sharing during the Twitter party:

2014 Holiday Collection (12 recipes) from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen
Christmas Cashew Crackle from The Pioneer Woman
Pomegranate Coconut Thumbprint Cookies from A Spicy Perspective
Almond Roca Bark from The Novice Chef
Cinnamon Sugar Cut Out Cookies from Bake at 350
Cream Wafer Sandwich Cookies with Winter Spiced Buttercream from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Gooey Chocolate Peppermint Bread Pudding from Picky Palate
Salted Caramel Brownie Trifles from The Little Kitchen
Candied Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod
Florentine Cookie Bars from Fifteen Spatulas

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Grace, the Thanksgiving kitten

There's been a kitten living in our bathroom right since the night before Thanksgiving. The kids named her Grace.

Here is the story of Grace, the Thanksgiving kitten:

Boxcar Kitty
Grace's mama – Boxcar Kitty

Grace and her brother are late-season kittens born to Boxcar Kitty. Boxcar Kitty had kept her kittens well hidden until two weeks ago, when I spotted Grace by the cats' food dish. I knew Boxcar Kitty was a good hunter who was capable of providing for her kittens, but I started putting out extra cat food and milk for the cats in the machine shed.

Since the arrival of our early winter, the rest of our farm cats have been hanging out in the barn, where it's warmer. I caught Grace's brother a week or so ago and moved him into the barn, but I couldn't catch Grace.

Last Wednesday, Glen found Grace meowing nonstop in the machine shed and brought her into the barn warm up. But she didn't know her way around the barn and ended up falling in the gutter. We moved her into our milk house to warm up. But that wasn't enough to warm up her cold, wet little body. When I checked on her during chores, I could tell that hypothermia was overcoming her.

So, I cradled her in a small pail of warm water until she started shivering again. That was a good sign, but I knew she had a long way to go, and I had a lot of chores yet to finish. So I carried her (in the pail of water) to the house and turned her care over to the kids. I helped them towel her off, set her in a box, and gave the kids the blow dryer with instructions to keep drying her until she was completely dry and fluffy. I crossed my fingers and went back outside.

kids with kitten

When I came back in later, there was a black-and-white ball of fluff looking up at me from inside the box. I told the kids they did a good job and that she might make it. They responded by asking if she could be our new house cat.

The next morning the little kitten felt considerably warmer, so I offered her some food, which she promptly ate. I told the kids that was another good sign. Monika decided then that her name should be Grace.

Grace's appetite has continued to improve since Thursday. But she has a lot of weight to gain. I'm guessing that she just couldn't eat enough to both grow and maintain her body temperature in this brutally cold weather we've had.

Monika with Grace, the kitten

Up until last Wednesday, Grace was an un-catchable, spit-fire. Now she starts purring non-stop whenever someone walks into the bathroom. The kids adore Grace and have volunteered to feed her and clean her litter box.

I'm warming up to the idea of a new house cat, but I'm not 100% sure. Even if Grace doesn't become a permanent house cat, she's going to stay inside at least until she's strong enough to go back outside.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder Steaks

+ Clara-style Braised Carrots

Impossibly tender. Overflowing with flavor. The best pork we've ever eaten. 
Paired with equally fantastic braised carrots.

I consider this simple pork shoulder steak recipe one of my greatest culinary achievements. Eighteen months ago, I didn't know what pork shoulder steaks were and I didn't know the first thing about braising.

I wrote an entire column about my experience with braising and these steaks. Here's one of the best excerpts:

I opened the package of steaks, took one look at the vast network of connective tissue, and thought, "Oh, gosh, I can't broil these."

So, I pulled out my trusty cookbook and tried to figure out how in the heck pork shoulder steaks are supposed to be cooked. My cookbook did a very nice job explaining what pork shoulder steaks were and said they are best when braised, but didn't include a recipe for braising them.

Where my cookbook failed me, the internet saved me. A search for braised pork shoulder steaks returned a handful of recipes. None of them looked very appealing, but they at least gave me an idea of how to attempt braising and some guidelines for cooking times.
Note: The second half of that column is about what happened when I tried to make these steaks with an herbed rub. And the reason why this recipe is now very simple.

Several packages of pork shoulder steaks later, I now have an amazing recipe for preparing these steaks. I'm guessing that most people don't go out and buy pork shoulder steaks from their meat counter. I probably wouldn't have – they look intimidating. Our steaks came from the pigs we raised, so I felt obliged to find a way to prepare them. And I had an abundant supply of steaks to practice with.

It's really too bad that pork shoulder steaks don't get as much attention as, say, pork chops or loin roasts, because, in my opinion, they are the best cut of pork. The secret, of course, is how they're prepared. For these steaks, braising is the key. By slow cooking, half submerged in seasoned liquid, these steaks become melt-in-your-mouth tender and immensely flavorful. The connective tissue melts away during cooking and contributes greatly to the flavor of the steaks and the braising liquid.

As Dan said after my first attempt at braising pork shoulder steaks, "This is the best meat ever."

Lots of recipes for braising pork include vegetables and complicated sauces, but I don't add anything to the roasting pan besides the steaks and the braising liquid. The braising liquid for this recipe is apple juice, cider vinegar, and tiny bit of seasoned salt.

One of the keys to braising is first browning the meat. I brown these steaks in butter, for two reasons. First, butter adds a savory flavor that pairs well with the apple and cider. Second, I always have butter on hand.

Melt the butter over medium heat until it's nice and bubbly.

Then, add the steaks. I brown them for three minutes on each side.

Just until they're lightly browned.

I used to make this recipe with two steaks, but that isn't enough to feed all of us anymore. So now I make this dish with three steaks. If you're using three steaks, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan before browning the third steak.

Once the steaks are all browned and transferred to the roasting pan, add a little apple juice to the pan, and stir with a rubber spatula to dissolve all the browned bits. Then scrape/pour this pan juice over the steaks.

Cover the roasting pan. If your pan has a tight fitting lid, use that. Or, use aluminum foil. I poke a couple holes in the foil with a meat thermometer. I've found that the steaks braise best when a little steam can escape.

Place the roasting pan in a 325°F oven and set your timer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, work quickly to flip the steaks over, reseal the pan, and return the pan to the oven. Then cook for another 45 minutes.

When the steaks are done, they'll be fork-tender and well browned. The braising liquid will be reduced and full of flavor.

To serve pork, remove bones, trim fat, and break meat into small chunks. Pour braising liquid over meat before serving.

*     *     *     *     *

I (almost) always make these pork shoulder steaks with stove-top braised carrots. When there's about a half-hour left on the timer for the steaks, I start the carrots.

This recipe for braised carrots is a combination of two recipes. The inspiration for the seasoning came from a cooked carrot recipe our friend Clara made for us one time when we were visiting. The cooking method comes from Joy of Cooking.

I use peeled, ready-to-eat petite baby carrots from the grocery store for convenience. Feel free to use regular carrots that have been peeled, quartered, and cut into 2½ inch sticks.

Add water, butter, brown sugar, lemon juice and salt to a large sauté pan set over medium heat. The pan needs to have a tight-fitting lid and be big enough to hold the carrots in a single layer.

Once the butter has melted, stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the carrots in a single layer and cover the pan.

When the braising liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to low. The liquid should just barely simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and then check for tenderness. If you can press through the carrots with the side of spoon, they are done. If not, cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

When the carrots are done, there should be only a little liquid left in the pan. If there is more than a little, continue cooking, uncovered, until the liquid reduces.

I like these carrots with sesame seeds, but my kids don't, so I sprinkle the seeds on after I've plated my carrots. Otherwise, toss the sesame seeds with the carrots before serving.

Both the carrots and the pork make great leftovers. Just be sure to package the pork with the braising liquid.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder Steak

yield: 4-6 servings
time: 15 minutes prep + 90 minutes cook

2 - 3 pork shoulder steaks (1½ to 2¼ pounds)
2 - 3 tablespoons butter
1¼ cups apple juice (10 fl. oz.), divided
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon seasoned salt

Large sauté pan
Roasting pan with lid (or use aluminum foil), large enough to hold steaks in single layer
Rubber spatula

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Combine 1 cup of apple juice (you'll use remaining ¼ cup later), cider vinegar, and seasoned salt in roasting pan. Stir to dissolve salt. Set roasting pan near stove.

In sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once butter starts to bubble, place two steaks in pan and brown for 6 minutes, turning half way with tongs. Transfer browned steaks to roasting pan.

If making three steaks, add remaining tablespoon of butter to pan, brown third steak, and transfer steak to roasting pan.

Remove sauté pan from heat, add remaining ¼ cup of apple juice, and stir with spatula to dissolve browned bits. Pour pan juice over steaks in roasting pan.

Cover roasting pan. If using aluminum foil, poke 3 small holes in foil.

Place roasting pan in oven and cook for 90 minutes, turning steaks after 45 minutes. When steaks are done, they should be well browned and extremely tender.

Remove bones, trim fat, and break steaks into chunks (don't shred). Pour braising liquid over meat before serving.

Clara-style Braised Carrots
yield: 4-5 servings
time: 30 minutes

1 12 - 16 oz bag of petite baby carrots
½ cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
sesame seeds (optional)

Combine water, butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a sauté pan over medium heat. The pan needs to have a lid and be large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Once butter has melted, stir to dissolve sugar and combine ingredients.

Add carrots to pan in a single layer and cover pan with lid. As soon as braising liquid starts to boil, reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Check carrots for tenderness. If you can slice through them easily with a spoon, they are done. If not, continue cooking. As soon as carrots are tender, depending upon how tightly the lid fits on the pan, the braising liquid may be partly or significantly reduced. If carrots are tender and braising liquid remains in pan, remove cover and simmer until liquid is reduced to almost none.

Sprinkle braised carrots with sesame seeds, if using.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Monarchs, milkweed, and more

What started with the excitement of finding a monarch caterpillar on some milkweed buds  (below) turned into a summer-long learning project for our entire family.

At Bruce the Bug Guy's bug show, Bruce said that rearing monarch caterpillars was pretty easy to do. So when we found this one, we brought it back to the house with us, along with a couple milkweed leaves.

While trying to figure out how best to take care of this caterpillar, I read that rearing can increase a caterpillar’s chances of making it to adulthood by nearly 90%. So we brought a few more caterpillars in and then a few more. I accidentally brought a monarch egg in on a milkweed leaf, so we raised that caterpillar after it hatched, too.

Rearing the monarchs gave us a chance to observe the caterpillars up close and provided an opportunity to learn about the monarch life cycle.

It was also inspiring to think that maybe we were helping the monarch population increase, just a little. I've since learned that the best thing we can do to increase the monarch population is provide more milkweed and other flowering plants for monarchs to feed on.

Monarch caterpillars, chrysalides and butterflies

We hatched out several monarch eggs after I brought that first one in. It's almost unbelievable that such tiny eggs are where monarchs get their start.

We watched as the newly hatched caterpillars ate their eggshells (called chorions) and then the tiny hairs on the bottom sides of the milkweed leaves. Then they graduated to eating actual leaves. They molted and grew like crazy. Then they repeated the process – molt and grow – three more times. We got to watch the caterpillars shimmy out of their old skin and emerge all wrinkly and ready to grow.

After the last molt, the caterpillars' appetite and rate of growth would really increase. They filled out their velvety, wrinkly skin to become the plump caterpillars everyone thinks of when they think of monarch caterpillars.

One thing we learned is that monarch caterpillars' color patterns vary. Most have more black, but some have more white.

When it seemed like they possibly couldn't eat anymore, the really cool part started. The caterpillars left the milkweed and started climbing. Most selected a spot on the covers of the containers we kept them in. The caterpillar below chose a branch. Some would crawl around for hours, I assume trying to pick the perfect spot; others climbed up, picked a spot within minutes and started building their silk buttons.

Once their silk buttons were formed, the caterpillars inched forward until they could grab the button with their back feet. Hanging on tight, they would slowly let go with the rest of their feet and dangle down into a J shape.

After 12-24 hours hanging in J, the caterpillars transformed into chyrsalides. This is the part that prompted lots of questions from Dan and Monika, like, "How do they know when to make their chrysalis?"

Ten days later, the chrysalides darkened and the wing patterns of the butterfly inside became visible.

Like the forming of the chrysalis, the butterflies' emergence from the chrysalides happens very quickly. We still haven't watched a butterfly emerge from the very start.

Dan and Monika were really surprised that the shell of the chrysalis was clear. They thought it was tinted green, because for most of the pupal phase, the chrysalis looked green.

When the butterflies emerge, their wings are soft, small, and wrinkled from being tucked inside the chrysalides. Their abdomens are full of fluid. The butterflies contract their abdomens, pumping the fluid into their wings to expand them.

Once their wings reach full size, the butterflies hang with their wings pointing down for hours to let their wings harden.

The first time we watched a caterpillar pupate, I didn't take any pictures or videos. I just wanted to watch without watching through a lens. Dan, Monika, and I sat together and just watched. Before the transformation started, I had the kids hypothesize about how they thought the caterpillar would form its chrysalis. (I had seen pictures of the process, but never watched it happen in real life.) Neither child guessed that it would happen the way it did.

This caterpillar was only the second of the dozens we reared that I happened to witness pupating from start to finish. The container interfered with the pictures a little, but it also made it possible to see the pupa inserting its cremaster into the silk button, which was incredibly cool. (The cremaster is the black stem the holds the pupa to the white silk button.)

Once the pupa has emerged, its soft body contracts and then its skin hardens into a protective shell. A couple hours later, the gold markings appear. The word chrysalis comes from the Greek word for gold.

After emerging, it is imperative that the butterfly hangs onto its pupal case or something else, so that its wings can expand. If it falls before that and fails to crawl back up, its wings will harden with permanent wrinkles or bends.

We released all of the monarchs we reared in our yard. As summer progressed, it seemed like we saw more and more monarch butterflies flitting around. I even saw them resting near manure in the cow yard; at first I was concerned, but I learned later that they meet their mineral needs by drinking from puddles in mud and manure.

One day in late August, I went out to check for calves in our dry cow pen. I saw a butterfly zip around the corner of our windbreak. I thought it was the Tiger Swallowtail I had watched in that same spot a few days earlier. I followed, hoping to get a better picture of it. It wasn't the swallowtail; it was a monarch. As I followed it a bit further, I saw that there were too many monarchs to count resting in the trees and flying out over our alfalfa field (which was once again blooming due to a rain-related harvest delay).

It was so cool to see so many monarchs. I've heard others say, too, that they've seen lots of monarch caterpillars and butterflies this summer.

Hopefully that means the monarchs have had a good summer and maybe we'll see population numbers rebound. We won't know until they complete their migration to Mexico and the monarch watchers there can determine how many made it.


We spent so much time watching milkweed this summer that Dan and Monika can now spot a milkweed plant, like these ones in our fenceline, from an acre away. Even Glen started noticing the milkweed around the farm and checking it for caterpillars.

Did you know that the many species of milkweed are the only plants monarch caterpillars can eat? That's just one of the facts Dan and Monika learned about milkweed.

One of the reasons monarch numbers are declining is due to a decline in the amount of milkweed across the nation.

Milkweed blossoms are both beautiful and very fragrant. I think they smell even better than lilac blossoms. The blossoms also provide food (nectar) for monarch butterflies.

Milkweed gets its name from its sticky, white sap. Milkweed plants and sap are toxic to species which are not adapted to consume them. Our cows will occasionally take a bite of a milkweed plant, but you can always see where they spit the leaves back out.

Milkweed's large seedpods are one of the traits I remember vividly from my childhood. Like the area where I live now, milkweed grew abundantly along the roadsides. At that point in my life, I didn't know that milkweed and monarchs went together. I just thought sticky, white sap and the seedpods were cool.

We have a number of small stands of milkweed, like the one pictured below, growing in our roadside ditches. We have even more growing in the fenceline between the pasture and cropland. We found eggs and caterpillars on milkweed in both locations this summer, but there were many more caterpillars and eggs on the fenceline milkweed.

I also found some Swamp Milkweed growing by one of the ponds in the pasture. There are a couple dozen different species of milkweed. I can't tell most of them apart, but I can differentiate Swamp Milkweed. First, because it grows in wet soils. Second, because it has long narrow leaves and brighter pink flowers. It smells just as good as upland milkweed species. Third, Swamp Milkweed has long, slender seedpods.

One thing I decided during our monarch project this summer is that, next summer, I will rear fewer caterpillars and make more of an effort to increase monarch habitat around our farm. There are several areas near the pond and in the grassed waterways that I'm planning to convert to milkweed and the other native flowers butterflies need for feeding and reproducing.

Other milkweed critters

While we were busy looking for monarch eggs and caterpillars, we discovered that milkweed provides food and habitat for several other critters, like these Red Milkweed Beetles.

And this bug, which looks a lot like a Large Milkweed Bug, but not enough for me to make a positive identification. It might just be some other sort of beetle/bug who stopped for a rest.

We found lots of other pollinators, namely bees and butterflies, like this bee collecting nectar from milkweed blossoms.

And this Pink-Edged Sulphur butterfly, who appeared to be resting there for the night.

Lots of more commonly known insects inhabited the milkweed stands – grasshoppers, aphids, ants, and ladybugs. I presume the ants and ladybugs were there to feast on the aphids.

Monarch caterpillars weren't the only caterpillars, either. We saw several tussock moth caterpillars, like this newly hatched cluster.

And these older tussock moth caterpillars, which will eat milkweed leaves right down to the ribs.

This caterpillar looks like a leopard or tiger moth caterpillar, but I'm not sure which. It was pretty cool, but I was even more excited to spot the treefrog next to him. I absolutely love frogs – after cows, they're my next favorite creature.

That treefrog wasn't the only one. We saw treefrogs almost daily, hanging out on milkweed leaves, I assume waiting for their next meal. With all the insects that milkweed attracts, the eating must have been good.

The treefrogs made our monarch project extra special for me.

We did most of our milkweed watching while we were getting the cows in from pasture, so I got to watch cows, frogs and monarchs all within minutes of each other. And I got to do all that while hanging out with my kids and helping them understand more about the natural world around us.

I'm definitely adding monarchs to the list of my favorite creatures.