Summer has officially arrived in Anchorage…and it’s making up for lost time or something because it is HOT. I know 80* to other folks doesn’t seem bad, but to us, it’s a bit like Hell and the surface of the sun all rolled into one, sad, sweaty, ball. However, while we slowly die in a pool of something gross, the plants couldn’t be happier.
The plants at the shop are loving life and throwing fruit like no other. According to the thermostat, it’s getting into the 90’s in there at night and they are thinking it’s great. This was my first year with the minibel tomatoes and I’m already quite pleased with their production. The plant will grow no bigger than a small bush and doesn’t require support. Of course we have yet to see how these taste, but so far it’s a winner.
The filius pepper was also another first for this year. Another small bush plant great for small spaces and urban gardens it will produce crazy hot peppers for over a year. When the peppers first form they are out of this world hot, but cool down when they turn from purple to red. Several of these plants are growing and all of them are loaded.
Remember Audrey the giant tomato from last year? I think the title has been taken by this cabbage. Though I have 6 growing, this is by far the largest and happiest. Can’t wait to see how big it gets!
The first french radish harvest happened in the garden just before the heat hit. I had never been a fan of radishes – admittedly I hadn’t put one in my mouth in probably 20 years – but gave these a try and they are awesome!! The husband now has to fight me for his share as I initially grew them for him… The first zucchini is finally showing itself and the cayenne peppers should be ripening to red any day now. Loving all the green!
Garden containers are expensive! And I’m not even talking about the nice Ming dynasty rip off ceramic pots. All of them! Why not scour your local thrift stores for cheap household items that not only become functional food and plant producers, but also become a stylish conversation starter?
Sure, fresh basil in your kitchen is awesome. But basil in a coffee pot is super cute as well as functional.
Many fruit producing plants can be grown in containers and most don’t need to be as big as you think. This Filius Pepper plant is going to do just fine in this blender carafe. And it cost .33c. I’m not even kidding.
Every time I go to a thrift store I see matching canisters for flour, sugar, etc and I finally grabbed a coffee canister last week. Again, .33c. And with $1 worth of seeds we will be in cilantro for months.
Save the giant cans from tomatoes (people love it when you grow tomatoes in a tomato can) and coffee. Add some pebbles for drainage and bam! You’re ready to get your garden on.
I wanted to make some pumpkin cupcakes for an event my little store had last weekend. But somehow I was out of pumpkin – the horror!! As I was totally fixated on the idea of these cupcakes, I decided to modify the recipe a bit and came up with applesauce cupcakes instead. And they were pretty mind blowing.
- Cream 4 eggs and 1 & 2/3 cup sugar in a mixing bowl
- Add 1 1/2 cups chunky applesauce (I used the stuff I canned from local apples last year – I know. I hate myself for being such a hipster too) and 1/2 cup oil and mix
- Add 2 cups flour, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking soda and stir
- Add to lined baking tin and bake for 12-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
- Beat 3 ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup soft butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 cups confectioner’s sugar until smooth. I prefer to mix until whipped and fluffy
- Add to ziplock bag, seal, clip corner and pipe like a professional
- Eat remaining frosting directly from the piping bag
They turned out super moist and delicious. I almost like them better than the pumpkin muffins! Almost…
I am quite pleased with how well this blanket turned out. Despite a slow start and some panicked text messages to my friend Steph in Japan (who kindly talked me off the crafty ledge), it ended up being an easy, fun and fast pattern. You can find the pattern on Ravelry here, but I definitely recommend skipping the chart and investing in a stitch counter that won’t self destruct as soon as it comes out of the package.
- Cast on 161 stitches, and slipping the first stitch of each row (for the entire blanket) knit 8 rows
- Row 1: (K5 – border) P1, K4, P5 repeated until the end with another K5 for the border at the end
- Row 2: (K5 – border) K1, P4, K1 repeated until the end…..K5 border
- Rows 3,5,7,11,13,15: (K5) P1, K4 (K5 border at end)
- Rows 4,6,8,12,14,16: (K6) P4, K1 (K5 border at end)
- Row 9: (K5) P6, K4 …(K5)
- Row 10: (K6) P4, K6 …(K5)
Basically, when you are knitting the right side, your first stitch after the border will be a purl, and the wrong side is a knit the ensure the variations in weave. And don’t panic that the pattern looks terrible until you hit row 11 or 12 – the little cross hatches will finally start to pull it all together. Work to the desired length, then knit 8 rows and bind off. Hooray! This is the last of the baby blankets as gifts for a bit (thank you all for finding a new hobby for the moment), but begins my state fair entry making. I plan to double this pattern and make a couch sized blanket as an entry this year….because clearly I am insane.
I made some homemade butter last week, and the by product is always buttermilk. So of course that means I get to treat myself to some fabulous toast this week in the form of Irish Soda Bread. It’s one of the easiest recipes for bread and bakes up into a fabulously wonky peasant loaf.
- Mix 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda & 3/4 tsp salt* in a bowl (*note: if you are using the buttermilk remaining from your homemade butter, skip the salt as your milk will already be salted)
- Add 1 cup buttermilk to the mixture and stir to form a soft dough
- Either knead on a floured surface or in the bowl for 2-3 minutes
- Form the dough into a round loaf about 8 inches across – cross hatch with a knife to spiff it up
- Bake for 40 minutes at 350*
- The bread is done when it sounds hollow after a light thump
For a softer crust, wrap in a clean tea towel and set the bread on it’s side to cool.
I did a little research into the history of soda bread while the bread was baking and it’s pretty interesting stuff! Did you know that the cross hatch on the bread is considered “blessing the bread” and is meant to let the fairies out and keep the household safe? The cross also allows the bread to be broken easily in the hand in the event that an unexpected guest arrived – breaking bread to share. It is a bread based in poverty as it is made with the simplest of ingredients – the baking powder replaces yeast – and is formed in different shapes based on region? Interesting!
It has taken me a really (really) long time to process the photos from our trip to Peru. This one seemed to really take a lot out of us. There is a difference between vacation and travel, and travel can be tough. This is not to say that we didn’t have an amazing time – it’s just that it was a lot of work.
However, I have finally gone through the photos and it was so awesome to relive the trip one picture at a time.
More can be found in a flickr album here. It seems I shot a lot on my cell phone, but I definitely made better use of the hard body camera this trip vs. Japan. I win. Now give me a cookie.
We only go to the store once a week. So when I realized this morning that I had used the last of the butter on the Victoria Sponge on Monday, I was bummed. But wait! I still had some cream left from the whip, so viola! Butter was about to happen. It’s super easy and happened while I was making coffee.
- Add heavy cream and salt to stand mixer
- Turn on medium high and wait until the cream begins to separate into butter and buttermilk (5-10 minutes depending on quantity and temperature – colder takes longer)
And just like that, you have butter. Yay!