Garden Update

April 20, 2012

The sun is shining and it’s already been over 80 degrees here in lovely, sunny Denver. While that is bad for our water supply, it’s been great for the garden so far. We’ve been spending a lot of time outside, trying to get the garden spruced up and ready for spring. We cleaned out the weeds from the veggie garden and we have lots of sprouts going in the garage, waiting to make sure there’s not going to be one more freak snowstorm.

Our decorative gardens don’t want to wait, and they’re already having a heyday. We had almost everything come back from last year, and we went in and did a little early-season intervention for the things that didn’t. One of those things in particular were the yews that are supposed to grow along the front of the house. Now, we had put these in once before, and they hung on for maybe a month or two before they all turned brown and died. Come to find out that our sprinklers don’t reach that part of the garden. Couple that with the extra heat that part of the garden gets reflecting off of the house, and it’s a recipe for disaster. The old bushes have now been ripped up and replaced, and we have been watering religiously, and looking into getting a soaker hose in that part of the garden.

We also filled in at least a few of the more barren spaces with a few coleus, and we got some ornamental thyme and a couple other kinds of ground cover to give us more overall green, and hopefully keep down some of the weeds.

 

 

So, definitely a few bare spots still, but it’s coming along!

Oh Figs!

April 6, 2012

Tee-hee. Polite swearing is so cute.

*ahem*

Today we’re going to talk about the awesomeness known as figs. I LOVE figs. Fresh figs are floral and juicy, dried figs are sticky and sweet. As a kid I loved Fig Newtons, something we didn’t have much. So flipping through a cookbook, I wondered if we could make our own. Turns out…you can!

Start by cutting up two packages of figs. I diced ours, but after making a batch I’d be inclined to mince them. I’d also be inclined to increase the amount of figs for a thicker layer. Ours wound up kind of cakey.

So, take your figs, put them in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup honey and a teaspoon or so of lemon juice. Cook it gently over low heat for approximately ten minutes, or until the figs soften up. Stir occasionally.

While the figs are rehydrating, go ahead and make your “cookie” dough. We made it with 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup honey, 1 egg, 1/2t lemon zest, 1T lemon juice, 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda, 1/4t salt.

Ours was a crumbly texture; however, similar to a graham cracker crust texture, when squeezed it held its shape.

We took the crumbs and pressed them in to the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 glass pan. In hindsight, I think our layer was a little thick.

By this time, the filling should be about set, so dump that in to the pan and spread it out. I left an edge of about a half inch so that we’d get a good cookie seal instead of being leaky.

Then place the remaining cookie crumb on top and press it down.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until starting to look toasty.

You can see that ours are slightly crumbly, but they tasted delicious. I’d add a touch more liquid, a little less crumb, and a little more filling. Best served warm!

Chip On Your Shoulder

April 5, 2012

While we had the fry oil out for our corn dogs, we also decided to try making some sweet chips out of some leftover dumpling wrappers from our pot sticker adventure.

We basically fried them at about 360 degrees, threw some cinnamon sugar on them and called it good! They cook for about 90 seconds, and be sure to flip them halfway. \

Ours had a tendency to fold over, and they also spit quite a bit so wear an apron or similar to protect yourself from spatter.

Dog Days

April 4, 2012

I don’t think I’ve had a corn dog since I was like, ten. They’re super fair food on a stick attitude, and for some reason I decided they’d be a good idea. Turns out they were.

The first step is to put your oil on. It will take a while to get that much oil hot, and you’re looking for between 345 and 360 degrees.

Next you’ll make your batter, which includes 1/2 cup of corn flour and the same of regular flour, salt, pepper, and 3/4 of a cup of milk. You’ll want to give this some time to rest and thicken.

Then take your dogs and put them on a skewer. Ours were kinda frozen so that part wasn’t fun. Be careful not to poke your hand, or clip the skewers. Conversely, wooden chopsticks from a fast-food place would also work.

Once they are stuck (ha), you’ll want to rub them liberally with flour.  This basically acts as your first coat and allows the batter to better stick. To prep the dogs for the flour, pat them as dry as possible with a paper towel.

When your oil is ready (use a thermometer…we use our candy thermometer because it goes to fry), you will see it shimmering and your thermometer will read your temperature at 345 or so.

You can then batter your dogs – cover liberally, and fry for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes.

(Our batter is grey because we used blue corn flour)

You can see that they are somewhat browned. Let them drip off while you crank the heat. Bring the oil up to about 390 and dip your dogs in for another 30 seconds or until perfectly chicken brown. Salt lightly and enjoy with your choice of toppings. We went for plain ketchup and mustard and it was divine.

Yardening

April 3, 2012

This weekend Katie and I put a lot of backbreaking work in to our gardens, to get them up to speed for the new seasons. Of particular pleasure is the fact that we planted two trees end of season and they both survived and are starting to leaf out. That’s a big deal.

So we weeded, we raked, we picked up sticks, we trimmed and primped and planted. We started our seedlings the other week for our veggies. All in all it was a good weekend.

Katie and I are currently discussing our goals for this season. We definitely have a garden we’d like to finish, as well as the veggies, and we’ve even started talking about a chicken coop. At 18 eggs a week, we could use the help.

So my question to you is, what are you doing to get ready for the new season? Cleaning? Gardening? Mowing? Cooking? Tell us in the comments!

Cracker Redux

April 2, 2012

Okay so we all saw what happened with the last cracker challenge and ultimately we were not super satisfied with the end result. They were too puffy and doughy. Katie and I both like super crispy crackers, so we tried something new.

Our basic recipe was flour, salt, and enough warm water to bring it together in to a dough. Like other doughs (think biscuits), you need a soft hand with it – work it too hard and it will get gluten-y and tough. Instead work it gently until it just pulls together. It should be springy to the touch and look about like this:

As you can see, I have some flour left over, but it came together with the right consistency without being too sticky. I let it be at this point. If it is still sticky and you’re out of flour, sprinkle in a tablespoon at a time and work it until it feels good. If it’s dry, do the same but with water instead of flour. Also for fun, we added sesame seeds to the dough, which added a nice toasty flavor.

Once your dough is ready, roll it out to whatever thickness you want. Because this has no leavening in it, they will be about as thick as you roll them with a very very slight increase in size maybe.  So roll roll roll.

You can see in the top corner I have a small bowl of flour for sprinkling, and a square-shaped cookie cutter. We did our crackers two ways: One was to cut out individual squares. The other was to roll a large slab and throw it on the pizza stone. Both ways worked equally well, although the pizza stone was faster.

Each cracker or cracker-slab was docked (poked with a fork – this lets the steam out), brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with crushed rosemary and a little salt.

Also because we had more space on the big slab cracker, we added cheese to see how that would work. Turns out it’s flippin DELICIOUS. Once the slab cracker is done, break it up in to shards. A pizza cutter worked okay too if you want more uniform pieces, but I’m impatient so ripping them up worked as well for me.

These crackers turned out to be delicious, crisp, salty, and amazing. I’m NEVER paying $4 a box of crackers again.