Wednesday, November 14, 2012

October in the Garden: Cleaned Up and Headed for Fall Sleep

A few quick reviews of what happened in October. 

Near the beginning of the month I picked the last of the peppers.

By the second week some parts of Wisconsin had snow. We didn't, but I knew freezing temps were on the way so I picked all my green tomatoes and tomatillos. 

And a big bunch of basil.

I brought my Meyer lemon tree inside. It had 3 lemons on it. 

But the sudden light change was bad for it and it lost all its leaves. Right now the lemons are off and I'm watering lightly and waiting for it to develop new winter leaves. (I hope, I hope.) Next year I will be much more careful about acclimating this tree...if it survives. The mint and rosemary seem happy to be back inside. 

And the giant piles of leaves (of course). October weather was extremely variable. Sometimes we thought we were getting the early winter we deserve from such a light winter/spring last year. Other times it felt balmy. 

Ah Wisconsin, you changeable vixen. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A State Treasure on 94--the Norske Nook

If you're ever on the road to Minneapolis, you must stop in Osseo, Wisconsin for a piece of pie at the Norske Nook. They also sell lefse. Since Dean's Norwegian we have to stop for some cultural enrichment. Mouth-watering cultural enrichment. 

We agreed right away to share so we could all try different kinds. 


Pecan Cream Cheese. 

He ate his fast....Grasshopper. 

And a bite of Apple Cranberry. 

I had Blueberry Sour Cream if you must know. There was no such thing as a bad slice. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

We're Back, We're Okay, and Have Some S'mores on a Cone.

Sorry about leaving you all for 6+ months. Its been a tough year with L's illness and I just needed some time off. I can't promise its all over, but it is a bit better for now. 

Sometimes you just have to take what you've got, smile, and make the best of it. 

We did make something fun the other day which I wanted to share with you. 

Cone S'mores!

L. loved helping with this, even though he couldn't eat one. 

Cone s'mores have all the tastiness of a regular s'more, but without all the mess. Plus you can make them in bulk over a campfire the same way they make dinner packets. 

Random ingredients: 

sugar cones
chocolate chips
mint chips
candy bars
dried fruit

You don't need all those things. Just use what you have or what sounds good. I made pecan marshmallow cone s'mores myself. One of my kids used Andes candies and marshmallows. 

Fill cones.  

 Roll in tin foil. I would also recommend you spray the tin foil with an oil spray because it can get really sticky. 

Heat on the element of your choice. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Early June Beauty

Cranesbill geranium. Low, bushy, pretty much indestructible.

Not sure what this is, I think a tall breed of marigold. Its definitely in the aster family, but it doesn't have lots of spiky petals. I haven't planted any annuals so I don't think its a reseeded cosmos. Whatever it is its pretty and its come up by itself for 2 years behind a strong black-eyed susan.

Anenome. They seem to look better in a group. I've been hoping it would reproduce into a bigger clump but it hasn't in the 3 years I've had it. 

Yarrow. Usually says 'sun' on label, but these do well in part shade. They spread like crazy. I have a huge patch after 2 years. I transplanted some to sunnier locations. 

Foam flower. Tiny. Does fine at the base of an oak tree. 

 Sweet Woodruff. Excellent groundcover. Great in shade. It will fight with massively aggressive plants like bishop's weed.  

Columbine. One of my favorites.

Bachelors Buttons. Getting a bit blowsy. 

Coral Bells..delicate and long lasting in the sun.

Tiny little bulbs. Not glory of the snow, snowdrops, or some kind of squill. Some kind of tiny member of the lily family? I got it in a pack of bulbs last year. 

Can't remember what this is...not spurge (although its next to the spurge). Hmm...

Chives is bloom. I got a little grass in there. Hard to tell the difference. 

Strawberries on the way. 

These iris each had 4-5 blooms. 

My new Meyer lemon bush is outside and blooming again!

These are the things that make me happy to look out the window every day. I love that no matter what is going on in your life perennials are happy to live their lives despite your benign neglect. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Catching Up: Pi Day (March 16th)

Life goes on. Just thought I would update on some old pictures.

I was never a fan of pie as a kid. Too sweet. Too gelatinous. Too...something.

But now is the dawn of a new era, an era of pie for all. In celebration of Pi Day (3.16...) Dean and I decided to bake pies. He had a contest at work. I have kids that love pie. Plus it fits in with my current custard-making challenge. I need to refine that skill. 

This is the one we made for Dean's work. It is an apple strudel pie. I made a crust and some cream anglaise (pretty much vanilla pudding enriched by eggs). Then Dean took some filo (thin, thin crust material that comes in sheets in your freezer section), brushed it with butter, and wrapped it around finely diced apples with light sugar. He baked it until light brown . They made an interesting custard pie sculpture. 

He did not win. 

I then made chocolate pudding (another type of custard and so easy and good) to put in another pie shell. 
L. decorated. 

And of course the apple pie. Can't forget that. 

The boys decided whoever memorized the most digits of pi would have the biggest piece. The winner ate 1/4 of the chocolate pie by himself. 

Now about this chocolate pudding. You really, really should have this skill. You need this skill. 

You see pudding is very easy to make. In fact, while standing at the stove for the 15 minutes I made this I wondered why people bothered with the box kind you cook (its just as fast and smoother because of the fresh milk) and after I made it I wondered how we could ever go back to the instant version. I don't think Dean will let me. 

It started out with this recipe from Bakers Royale. She also makes these salted caramel and chocolate pudding pops which pretty much clinched the deal for me. 

Pudding is a lot like a custard. It has a sweetener (sugar, honey, agave). It has something to thicken it (cornstarch, tapioca, potato starch). It's made with a creamy dairy (milk, cream, even butter). It can be flavored (chocolate, vanilla, caramel, nutella, lemon, etc.). The main difference between a custard and a standard pudding is that custards contain eggs or egg yolks. So Lemon Curd is pretty much a rich, eggy lemon pudding. Pastry Cream is a rich, eggy vanilla pudding. 

Chocolate Pudding: 
1/3c cornstarch
1/2c sugar (feel free to tweak)
pinch salt
3c cold milk, more fat (whole/2%) is best but the others will work
1/2c-1c semi-sweet or dark chocolate (choc chips are fine, how much you use depends on how chocolaty you like things)
squirt of vanilla 

Mix the dry ingredients (except chocolate) together in a saucepan. 

Whisking vigorously, add milk. You can also mix these ingredients in a blender or with a hand mixer before adding to the pan if you're not confident about your whisking skills or you're not planning to strain afterwards. The point is to get that starch blended with few lumps.

Cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Keep at those corners. Scrape the bottom. 

*About stirring constantly: there is always some confusion when one writes or reads this. The job is not to stand there with an always moving spoon whipping the mixture. By writing this most people just mean that you can't wander off. You can't go do something for a minute. You could put the milk away for 20 seconds and come back and stir, scraping sides and bottom thoroughly. You should spend at least one or two times at the stove watching how the pudding thickens and where the little trouble spots develop in your pan. After you have a feel for it you can spend a few moments putting things away. Always stay in the kitchen though, its very easy to scorch the bottom. If this worries you, cook the pudding in a water bath (in a bowl over a pan of lightly boiling water). 

When the mixture thickens to the point that you can draw a line on the back of the spoon and the mixture doesn't 'bleed' back onto the path its ready or very close to ready. Often I like to give it a minute or two after that to firm up a bit more. A lot of recipes target 180*F as a good endpoint, but warn about going over 185*. 

At this point remove the pudding from heat and add the chocolate, vanilla or other flavoring. Stir. 

Strain through a fine mesh strainer, or be adventurous. I would recommend straining if you have kids, company, or until you better understand the whole process. 

Cool. Refrigerate with plastic wrap pressed right against the surface (no skin then). 

This will keep for a few days in the fridge. I've never needed to keep it longer.

Happy eating.