Random bulbs for spring

20 Oct

So this last weekend while out shopping the farmers markets, we dropped into Carpinito Brothers, got squash and celery… And two packages of bulbs, lol

  

And for once, I got them planted the very next day! Grin
A couple are in the pot on the step, a couple in with the mints and raspberry on the deck, 15 of each didn’t go too far. I just hope they mostly come up in the spring!

‘Thalia’ is an old favorite of mine, with its cheerful white fragrant flowers. The crocus ‘Spring Beauty’ is a new one for me, but I love the look of it in the pick, so we will see.
Also took the time to plant some other random bulbs we had picked up in the spring on mark down, mostly hyacinths and one I think was a ‘Tete te’ daffodil. Still need to get things cleaned up and plant some of the fuchsias lying around…

Experiment- Hubbard Squash and Apple Bread

6 Oct

Fall is here, and the pumpkin delights are starting to show up in grocery stores, coffe shops and of course, the farmer’s markets. The other day we got and incredible Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf from the bakery, and it inspired this little bit of experimentation. I’m running off the old standbys Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, which on page 81 has a nice recipe I usually use as my key for Banana Bread, but the Fruit Loaf recipe actually calls for grated Apple. This time I will be using a half and half mix of grated Apple and Hubbard squash (cause I had a heap of it that needs to be eaten soon, and an apple all bruised and already mushy). 
First, set the oven to 350 degrees to get it hot as ready. I almost always forget to do this and hen have to wait for it to warm up, so do it first, lol.

Sooo, to start with the sugar and shortening mix, I am creaming together;

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup shortening

2 eggs
  
Stir into the above creamed sugar-

5 Tbsp sour or butter milk (regular milk works fine too, but this is a good way to use up a little milk gone sour if you have it)

2 cups grated Apple and Squash (I am using Hubbard, but pumpkin or any similar winter squash should work the same)
Then in a separate bowl, sift together (or use a fork like I do, or dump in in the cuisinart and mix them in that to fluff them up)-

3 cups bread flour

1 cup chia seeds (or other kind of nut flour, or just another cup of flour)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (for this I ground my own- cardamom, cassia cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Please note- I like it spivey, you may want to reduce it by half, lol.)

  

Next fold the dry by thirds into the wet mix, blending thoroughly as you go.

Hmmm, the batter ended up being stiffer than I expected. Banana bread batter is usually almost runny, this holds it shape. Hopefully there is enough liquid in it to keep it moist once baked.

This was a double batch, so at this point I’m dividing it in half. One half will be named as is, the other gets some add ons 😉

For the second half, I’m adding-

1/2 cup crushed hazelnuts

1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

3 bars Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, chunked up (we keep these in the freezer to take camping for s’mores, I just crushed them in the pachage while still frozen. Works like a charm!)

  

Pour each half batch into a 9x5x3 standard bread pan, “well greased”. I use a spray oil, it’s easy, lol.

You did get the oven on earlier right? Lol… Now bake the little buggers at 350 for 50-60 minutes. Yeah, takes a while. Poke em with a toothpick or a knife through the thickest part of the center, to make sure the center is cooked through. If it’s still funny or doughy in the center, leave it in for another ten minutes and check it again till the toothpick comes out clean. Let it rest for at LEAST 15 minutes once you pull it out before flipping the pan over, or cutting it in the pan. 
If you have your own variation on this, please let me know! I love pumpkin bread, and squash in general.

Double batch Banana Bread with Chia Seeds

8 Jul

this is the second time I’ve made banana bread with Chia seeds. The first time worked out so well I thought I’d try it again when I noticed I had four over ripe bananas that needed to be eaten. This time since there were four, I made a double batch, and split half “plain” chia seeds, the second I folded in extra fruits and nuts the way I like it, lol.
So for the base recipe, I again used the Betty Crocker a Picture Cook Book in the binder. The recipe is the “Fruit Bread” key recipe on page 81. I pretty much followed the recipe, just doubled it and used the chia seeds in place of nuts. The only other thing I switched out was instead of 4 tablespoons of buttermilk, I added 3 tablespoons of skim milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. And I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract, just cause, lol.
So here are the ingredients;

Blend:

2/3 cup sugar (half what the original called for, but plenty)

2/3 cup shortening
Add:

4 eggs
Stir in:

5 Tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 cups mashed banana (I used four medium sized ones)
In a separate bowl, sift together:

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon*

1 teaspoon salt (I actually probably added about half this)
Blend together and fold in:

1 cup Chia Seeds
Divide in half and pour into two well greased 9x5x3 inch bread pans. Bake at 350• for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Honestly I divided the batter a little heavy on the “plain” side, and added around a cupful of chopped mixed nuts and fruit (candied ginger, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries, plus almonds and hazelnuts). I like the fruits and nuts better myself, so the second loaf is kind of mostly for me, lol.
The Chia seeds act a little like poppy seeds in the bread, giving it a really nice sweet crunchy texture. This would be just as good like w traditional poppy seed bread with either lemon or almond extract rather than the vanilla.
*a few notes on my “cinnamon”… Really this is a mix of fresh ground cinnamon, allspice berries, clove and nutmeg. I love this mix of spices, and usually use it anywhere it calls for cinnamon, which truthfully the key recipe doesn’t, lol. I just like banana bread with a little spice. Omit if you want a cleaner more banana flavored bread.

So yeah, I guess I made a couple of changes to the key recipe, lol.

Fruity Shortcake Breakfast

30 Jun

no pics… Didn’t think to take one till we were half done and by then I was too busy eating! Yummmm!
Ok, so my sister’s Ideal Protein diet basically says she can only have fruit and bread at breakfast. With all the fruit in the house, she really, REALLY wanted strawberry shortcake. We have fond memories of when we were kids, going out and picking a boatload of berries, coming home and after processing them, having a HUGE strawberry shortcake dinner! And I don’t mean for desert, I mean we had the mother of all strawberry short cakes, and that was dinner! It was fun, silly, made friends look at us funny but smiling the whole time, it was great!
So, with two boxes of raspberries, a box of strawberries, peaches, nectarines etc in the house, and she just recently passed to this new phase of the diet when she can have fruit again after a year of no fruit, bread, or anything sugar related…. Yeah, she wanted to celebrate with strawberry shortcake! But it has to be for breakfast, lol.

Well, what I made was a bit of a twist on the classic shortcake we remembered as kids. I did make my own biscuits, and we did use Cool Whip, sort of… Lol, but there was more fruit than just raspberries, and the biscuit recipe had to be modified a bit too.
So, mom used the basic biscuit recipe in the old Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, the one that’s published in a three ring binder. It’s a classic, and along with the old Joy of Cooking, our standby, especially for baking. The biscuit recipe in there calls for;

2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Sift these together, then cut in-

1/4 cup shortening

Then stir in-

3/4 cup buttermilk

Bake 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree oven. 
Now this makes wonderful biscuits, but we didn’t have milk, not even sweet milk (which I am pretty sure is what mom used to use, we almost never had buttermilk in the house. I think she used regular milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice maybe?) What I did have was one of the Yogurt, Vanilla and Almond drinks from the Ideal Protein line. So since I have used almond milk in the past, I thought I would try it, if nothing else it would add a little protein to the biscuit, right? It seems to have worked! 

One note though, I misread the recipe and baked them at 400 rather than 450. They did take longer than the ten minutes, I didn’t time it properly, but I think it was closer to 15. This may need some experimenting, since many of these Ideal Protein things seem to curdle at higher temps, so dunno if that was a happy accident or what. The one thing I would do different is add a little bit more baking soda. If anything, the biscuits were a little dense. 

And a bit big, lol. I just divided the dough into quarters, rolled them into a ball and pressed them flat to 1/2 inch, for a rough round biscuit. Rustic, but with two of them in the bowl more than we really needed. Half that size would have been plenty. Oddly enough, the shake didn’t overly flavor the biscuit as much as I thought it would. It did give them a nice sweetness perfect for shortcake, but surprisingly little of the flavor of the shake, or maybe the berries and all just masked it. At any rate, these made a great base for the shortcake!
Next is the “Cool Whip”. Again in a bid to add a little protein to an otherwise rather sweet meal, I decided to fold a small 5.3 ounce tub of Tillamook Farmstyle Greek Yogurt- Key Lime into half of the 8 ounce tub of sugar free Cool Whip. Careful not to stir too much, just gently fold them together to keep it as light as you can. This gave the whipped topping a little more body, and a pleasant subtle lime bite that was perfect with the fruit. I will definitely do this again! I’ll bet any flavor will do, and the plain yogurt would be just as good.
Then for the berries… Well, I like raspberries better than strawberries, so I used both. Then when piling the berries on the biscuit, the berries kept sliding off… So I used a little of the raspberry jam I made yesterday to paint the biscuit and keep the berries from sliding off. Worked like a charm! I also used some partly mashed peaches for the same reason. The mix of peach, raspberry and strawberry was really good!
So basically, once I got the biscuits out of the oven, I placed one in the bottom of the bowl, a dollop of jam over the biscuit and a handful of berries. Top that with a big spoonful of whipped topping, a second biscuit, more jam and fruit, another big spoonful of whipped topping and top it off with some whole berries!

Whicked, decadent, and a surprisingly good breakfast, I must say! We will definitely be doing this again! The fruit may vary with the seasons (blueberries should be ripening now, later some blackberries and huckleberries would be spectacular, or canned peaches or apple pie filling in winter? Or maybe a cranberry compote…) but this may become our favorite breakfast for a special occasion, or at least when the fruit is freshest!

A Jammin good time…

29 Jun

so this last weekend we did our usual Farmer’s Market shopping, and ended up getting a whole bunch of fruit- two flats of raspberries, another of strawberries, a couple of mangoes, nectarines, peaches… Lots of fruit. And since I need more freezer jam… This is the result!
   

Oh, and after the mini disaster with the freezer last week (emergency defrost of the freezer downstairs, don’t ask), we also had two huge bags of re-frozen cranberries, chopped apples and a bag of rhubarb that had to be used. Through em all in a pot and made a kind of Apple Cranberry conserve kind of thing, properly canned and everything! Lol. No pectin necessary for this one, it gelled on its own just find.

 
Anyway, back to the jam… For me I made a batch of Mango Pineapple Banana jam, sweetly tropical flavored, and some Peach Melba (peach/nectarine and raspberry). My sister is on the diet where sugar is a no-no, so for here we made enough of the Melba for a batch for her but used stevia to sweeten. As it turns out, with the Ball brand RealFruit Insant Pectin we use, the Stevia sets up to a very firm gel, better than the sugar does. 

Then we also did a “mixed berry” spread for her, starting with one of the jars of Apple cranberry, and adding strawberry and raspberries. Turned out really good! Hope she likes it, as there are three jars of it for her 😉 We got the blue kids and screw caps to easily distinguish her Stevia sweetened jams from my more traditional sugared ones.

In the interest of saving the info for later reference, here is what we used;
Peach Melba-

For the fruit mash, it was about two thirds peaches and nectarines, and a little over a third of raspberries. I think the actual ratio is less important than how much of each fruit you have and what needs to be used first, lol. Even a small amount of berries seems to flavor the peaches nicely, but I prefer more berries in mine. 

One note- we used a couple of peaches that were still rather hard. My old fashioned heavy wire potato mashed didn’t so much as crush these as kinda rough chop them. I might resort to the cuisinart food processor if I did that again. The fully ripe ones mash well though, so ideally I would use the squish owe ripe ones. But you use what you have… Lol

For the sugared version, I used the following ratio;

5 cups fruit

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons pectin
For the Stevia sweetened version, a small batch-

1 2/3 cup fruit

1/4 cup Stevia

2 tablespoons pectin
Actually, I mixed them both and portioned them out so we could compare side by side the two jams. Oddly, I kinda like the stevia better. It highlights the fruit more without being too sweet. And there is no aftertaste like stevia often imparts.

Anyway, for both, I mix and mash the fruit in one bowl, adding the lime juice (usually use lemon, but we got a bag of seconds limes that were really good and sweet, perfect for this!). In a separate bowl I scoop in the sugar/stevia first, then add the pectin on top, and mix with a fork, being sure to break up any lumps. This is important, because any lumps in the sugar and especially in the pectin are hard to stir out later.

Then I dump the auger mix into the fruit and give it a quick stir to incorporate, then set the timer for three minutes. Stir, stir, stir, scraping down the sides occassionally for those full three minutes to makes sure it all dissolves!

Once that is done, pack it in your jars, wait at least an hour (I usually leave em on the counter over night), check to make sure they gelled the way you wanted them to, and freeze!
Believe it or not, this is about ones year’s supply of jam for an my pb&j sammiches 😉

  

Around 20 jars of summer fruit goodness 🙂 I’ve got strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, , raspberry, peach Melba, mango pineapple banana, and some mixed fruit from the old fruit in the freezer… May still do some blackberry when that comes into season, and am picking black-cap raspberries now that might end up in a jar, but all in all a good start for the year!

Hanging Basket Project

19 Apr

This year we decided to try a little project with some plain black plastic nursery pots, to add some ‘bling’ and make them look like more than they are, lol. Last year we got fuchsias already blooming, but that wasn’t in the budget for this year, so instead I’ve been plotting how to take a slightly larger 12 inch across, short regular nursery pot from the freebie like at a local nursery, and turn them into nice looking hanging baskets.
To do this, we are gonna try using spray paint to make some designs on the side. We will use blue painter’s tape and contact paper to make the designs, spray paint for the actual paint, and maybe a little detail work with finger nail polish and flat glass marbles. We’ll see about the latter… Lol
Ok, so first step is to scrub down the pots!

  

Who’s you are scrubbing, inspect the pots for cracks, especially the rims if like me you want to hang them, and scuff marks that will mess up your painted design. I had to reject a couple because of big scuffs in the design feild, and one that had a cracked rim.

Rather than paint the whole pot the base color, we decided to make a stripe around the pot. This will save a lot on paint, and will look cool. The simple way to do this is to use a wide painter’s blue tape around the edges-

  
Smooth down the edges good so paint can’t ‘leak’ under the tape.
Paint the base coat next. The way we are doing it, the base coat will be the deign part, as we are cutting the designs on a Criket cutter from the contact paper as a resist. We will then spray the background color over the top. That means the color we are using now is what we want in the design, not the background. We decided on purple, for this part.

  
I actually used two colors of pLet this dry thoroughly before you mess with it. 

Now I need to mark the baselines on the side. We are doing a repeating symmetrical pattern, so I need to mark where my four baselines are to make them even. I’m not gonna be too overly picky about this… But do want to make them roughly equal around the pot, divided into quarters.

I didn’t want to mark up the paint, so put arrows to insicate my lines on the tape-

 
One arrow on the top, one on the bottom. I can eyeball it from there.
Touch up any scrapes or scuff marks (doh!)

  

Once the first coat is thoroughly dry, the you can apply the docorative cut outs. We are using contact paper cut on a Cricut. Cutting contact paper is kinda fussy apparently, but if we can get it on nice and flat it should give us a nice image.

  

I’ll let these dry overnight, and see if I can remove the stencils in the morning.

April 29th re-visit:

Ok, so it’s been more than overnight, lol… So shoot me. It’s been busy around here, and the weather turned cold and raining. Soooo, been a while since I had both time and decent enough weather to go outside and paint.

Plus, the first one didn’t work as I expected- the purple came up with the stencil quite a bit-

  
I still like the way it looks, so I’ll still use this one, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. So, now the rest of them got a quick primer coat, in black, under the base turquoise coat. Yeah, I flipped the colors, lol. Hopefully these don’t come up the way the purple did. So, base coat done for now!

  
I’m hoping it doesn’t rain again before these have time to dry off, and I can get them inside again. Man, the smell is giving me a horrible headache, out here in the sun! Hope they don’t stink up the house too much tonight. Still need to cut the designs for the rest of the pots, so this is as far as I can go for today. 
Oh, and I used a glitter spray paint over the top for the first one, but half way through the can got stuck open! I had to quickly paint another pot, this little oops may cost us the sparkle if we can’t replace it, but it did make for a cool all over kinda hippy drippy pot I’m kinda liking! *grin*
  

This one and the other I’ve already finished got a clear coat to hopefully keep em from scratching too much or shedding all their glitter in the first wind storm. I used my trusty little hand drill to drill holes

  
Is it weird I prefer little hand tools like this to a power tool? Plastic is easy to drill anyway, took me longer to find the drill bits than drill the four holes on the first one, lol. 

At least now I can plant something! Grin

Nursery hop- Earthworks Fuchsias

6 Apr

So Saturday the 4th of April, we went down to Covington to Earthworks Fuchsias. It’s still early, even this year, for the baskets to all be in full bloom, but there were already several varieties blooming some. We went mostly for the little 2 inch starts, so I figured getting them early was probably a good thing, both for availability and for getting things started here.

So, we mostly got a ton of starts, but also “splurged” on two gallon sized ones (for just 6 bucks each! Great deal, especially since the ‘San Carlos’ is already starting to bloom!)

So these are the varieties we got, in no particular order, and some notes where appropriate-

‘San Carlos’- a dwarf floriferous type, already fully budded out, in a decorative little 6 inch “gallon”, small classic red and purple flowers. Still mostly buds, but the hummers are checking it out!

‘Strawberry Delight’- a semi double upright, but it has the most amazingly textured foliage with a really interesting red vein on it. The plant is beautiful even if it’s not in flower yet. I just hope the flowers are as nice as the leaves, and not so double the hummers won’t use it! This one is also in a gallon sized pot, as the little starts didn’t look near as nice.

And in two inch starts we got these;

‘Alice Hoffman’- pinkish tinge to the new growth with pinkish purple veins on new leaves too… Suppose. To be one of the hardier ones we got

‘Eden Rock’

‘Drame’- pink red ballerina like flowers

‘Queen Elizabeth’- one of the stars of what we got in the mixed baskets last year, and Beth insisted we replace it, since those I have no idea if they are going to come back or not?

‘Golden Marinka’- Beth loves the gold cused foliage, and they said this was one of the more sun/heat tolerant types, so it may end up in a basket in the front courtyard.

‘Mistress Birdie’- loved the name, and appears to have small, quirky little flowers. We will see

‘Marcia’- another small one

Fuchsia denticata- species, not hardy, but love the tricolor narrow flowers, and the narrower leaves are nice too. More tropical looking than the typical hanging basket types.

‘Doc’- got this one for Herb, who is a doctor. He has to have this one, lol

‘Grumpy’- cause well, half the time I am, lol

‘Janice Ann’- three of them, for the tipsy lots this year (instead of the Cupheas)

‘Old Sommerset’- interesting variable variegation, speckled now but may end up zoned on some leaves, and pretty flowers

‘Red Warrior’- red and dark purple flowers

‘Phyllis’- beautiful puckered foliage

‘Dying Embers’- red and black purple flowers

‘Balkonigan’- beautiful flamed purple petals

‘Hermiena’- white and “deep wine red”, hopefully it lives up to the picture, lol

‘Tom West’- classic pink and white and green variegated foliage basket type, again for the courtyard possibly

‘Machu Picchu’- beautiful pale orange pink flowers, a bit longer than typical ones, probably not hardy here, lol… But pretty

‘Grandma Mac’- a local heirloom variety, apparently it was on an old homestead, and the family kept propagating and moving it as they moved it along, calling it by this name. Supposed to stay fairly short, so gonna use several for Herb over on his mound for summer color.

‘Dancing Flame’- one of the basket types, no idea if it’s hardy, lol, but incredible flamed pink and purple petals. 

Also got a heliotrope, cause I liked the one they had in the center of the basket last year so well, and 6 Nonstop Begonias, lol. Beth likes them, I think they remind her of Dad. Oh, and a sixpack of pansies, lol. 

 Now what to do with them all,  lol… Some will definitely go in baskets in the back deck and hopefully in the entryway. Still have the triphylla types inside (‘Gartenmeister’, ‘Billy Green’, ‘Mary’ and ‘Fireworks’). Hopefully I find good spots for them all…