Monday, March 29, 2010

First Crocus Blooms

The last fling of winter is over ... The earth, the soil itself, has a dreaming quality about it. It is warm
now to the touch; it has come alive; it hides secrets that in a moment, in a little while, it will tell.

Donald Culross Peattie

Enjoying TAPAS

I attended a great Spring Gardening Conference this weekend. One of the topics was growing TAPAS in your midwest garden. You could make any of the recipes using ingredients purchased from the grocery store. They are perfect appetizers for enjoying in the summer with Wine. I tried a two of the recipes when I got home.

"TAPAS are small, bite-size morsels of tasty food which are uniquely Spanish. Casas de picar means " little things to nibble" - These are the simplest. Pinchos are more substantial. And are usually speared with toothpicks called banderillas( resembling the darts used in bull fighting. Cazuelas are served with a sauce and are served hot. "

Sweet Mini Chilies:

You can buy the seeds to grow these sweet mini peppers in red, yellow, green and orange. Pick them when they are about 2 inches long. There are few seeds in these peppers and they are at the top of the pepper, which makes them wonderful easy appetizers. Wash well and dry the peppers, leave the stems intact. Make a small slit at the bottom end of the pepper with a sharp knife. I then stuffed MANCHEGO cheese chunks in the peppers. In a deep kettle, add about 3 T of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the peppers all at once, coating with the olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. The peppers should be intact but soft. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Transfer to a serving platter and generously grind course salt over the peppers. Serve immediately. You may need to show your guests how to eat them. Pick them up by the stem and bite from the bottom.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss 2 pints or more of grape tomatoes with 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and or oregano, 2-3 T olive oil and 2-3 Garlic cloves, minced. Season with Course salt and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are very soft. Serve with Ciabatta bread, toasted with olive oil or soft to soak up more of the tomato juices.

We enjoyed both of these recipes with red wine.

Making: Paper Heart Easter Baskets

These were fun to make and will make great little Easter gifts filled with Chocolate eggs and Easter candy. I made these with the 4-H kids last week. I started with a pattern for the very traditional woven paper heart basket. Check out this site for the directions and the pattern to make these.

Easter Decorations

Friday, March 26, 2010

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” - Marcus Aurelius

Signs of Spring are finally showing. Daffodils and tulips are coming out of the ground, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining, woodland moss is the brightest green.... I even saw a frog at the edge of the pond yesterday. I enjoyed a great blue bird workshop this weekend full of spirit and was even lucky enough to see a pair of blue birds while volunteering in a garden this week. I think we can say that it is SPRING!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Boys and Fort TOCLOW

The boys spent yesterday afternoon working together building a fort in the woods. They even made a metal flag for it, stating the name of the fort= TOCLOW Can you guess what where the name came from??. They say it Talk Low. There are many grand plans for this secret spot under the dense cedars in the backyard. As a parent, I loved watching them play and create something together in the beautiful outdoors.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Cake


* 1 large bag Mint Oreos
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 1/2 cups thick chocolate sauce
* 1 quart chocolate ice cream
* 1 quart mint-chocolate-chip ice cream
* whipped cream, chocolate chips, extra chocolate sauce, or chocolate mint candies for garnish (optional)


1. Place about 40 of the mint chocolate cookies in a zippered plastic bag. Press out any air in the bag and seal. Crush the cookies with a rolling pin, creating cookie crumbs.
2. Remove half of the cookie crumbs and place in a small mixing bowl. Combine crumbs with melted butter or margarine and mix well. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Line the inside rim of the pan with whole cookies, pressing the bottoms into the crumb mixture to keep them standing upright. Spread crumb crust with 3/4 cup of the chocolate sauce, warming the sauce in the microwave if necessary to make it easier to spread. Freeze crust for 15-30 minutes.
3. Soften the chocolate ice cream by leaving it out for 10-15 minutes. Spread the ice cream over the crust. Top with remaining 3/4 cup chocolate sauce and the rest of the cookie crumbs. Freeze for one hour.
4. Soften the mint chocolate chip ice cream. Spread the ice cream evenly over the chocolate sauce/cookie crumb layer. Freeze cake for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
5. Before serving, decorate ice cream cake with whipped cream, mint chocolate chips, and/or chocolate sauce. Remove outer ring of the spring form pan and slice. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 servings.

Spring Cookies with Fondant Flowers

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts for Today

"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear

what you say."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

How you treat your spouse.

How you take care of yourself.

How you speak to others.

What's important to you.

How you handle stress.

How you cope with hardship.

Who you spend time with.

What you spend your time on.

Your order of priorities.

How you speak of others.

What you value.

What you don't value.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baking: Banana Bread in a Flower Pot

This recipe makes 2 very moist loaves of banana bread.

This recipe makes 2 loaves baked in Medium sized Terra Cotta pots sold at Walmart for $1.00 each.
After purchasing the pots, make sure to take off any stickers and wash well. Stuff a small ball of wax paper into the drain hole in the bottom of the pot. I also cut circles of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pots. I greased the pots generously with crisco.

Banana Bread

2 cups sugar
1cup butter
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. broken walnuts

Mash bananas in separate bowl. Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs. Add bananas and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix only until smooth. Stir in chopped nuts. SEPARATE INTO 2 WELL GREASED MEDIUM SIZED FLOWER POTS). Put flower pots on a cookie sheet and bake @ 350 degrees for about 70 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when poked in.

-Let cool on a cooling rack

Cut squares of waxed paper of fabric to Place over the top of the bread, and tie with pretty ribbon.

recipe from Coterie

Baking: Guinness Cupcakes

Yes, Guinness the Beer in Cupcakes, these cupcakes were not bitter nor tasted like beer; instead, the beer adds richness and moisture, and balances the sweetness of the sugar. These were very easy to make and great for St.Patty's Day.


* 1 cup Guinness
* 1 stick, plus 1 tb, unsalted butter
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
* 2 cups dark brown sugar
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 2 eggs
* 1 tb vanilla extract
* 2 cups flour
* 2 1/2 tsp baking soda


* 8 oz cream cheese
* 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350; Grease a muffin tin or use paper liners.

Combine the Guinness and the butter, chopped into 1-inch chunks, in a large sauce pan, and heat to melt the butter. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. In a bowl, whisk the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then add to the beer mixture. Sift together the flour and baking soda, and fold into the batter. Pour into muffin molds and bake for 25 minutes, or until inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes, remove from muffin tin, and cool completely on a rack.

Using a mixer, whip cream cheese until smooth, sift in sugar, and beat. Add milk, and beat until smooth. Spread glaze over cooled cupcakes.

*To create a thinner glaze, use a tablespoon or two more milk; for a topping more akin to icing, use less milk, and perhaps more sugar. In either case, add a little sugar or milk at a time, mix, and check for desired consistency.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Forcing Branches if you can not wait for Spring

I clipped a few Forsythia branches about a week ago and brought them indoors to force into bloom. I just soaked them right away in a sink filled with warm water and then placed them in a vase of water. They cheerful yellow flowers just started to open yesterday.

Fine gardening had this great list of branches that will work for forcing.

Top choices for forcing

Branches won’t flower until they’ve had a proper cold period, usually about six weeks. If you try to force a particular plant into bloom and it doesn’t work, it may be too early. Try it again in a couple of weeks.

Earliest cutting time
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)
Filberts – for catkins (Corylus spp. and cvs.)
Forsythias (Forsythia spp. and cvs.)
Fothergillas (Fothergilla spp. and cvs.)
Witch hazels (Hamamelis spp. and cvs.)

Late January/early February
Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’)
Cherries (Prunus spp. and cvs.)

Mid- to late February
Beeches – for catkins (Fagus spp. and cvs.)
Birches – for catkins (Betula spp. and cvs.)
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Lilacs (Syringa spp. and cvs.)
Magnolias (Magnolia spp. and cvs.)
PJM rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘PJM’)
Quinces (Chaenomeles spp. and cvs.)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Serviceberries (Amelanchier spp. and cvs.)
Willows – for catkins (Salix spp. and cvs.)

Baking: Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies

After the boys consumed two boxes of the famous Girl Scout thin mint cookies in two days, I found this recipe to try. It is not quite the same but they are good with coffee and very easy to make.

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 eggs
2 Tbl. water
2 Tbl. Cooking oil
1/2 cup cocoa
1 pkg. Chocolate chips- 2 cups
3 drops mint extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, water, oil, and cocoa. You will need to blend this together well. This will be a very sticky mess. Let this stand for 20 minutes, and then shape into very small 1/2 inch balls. Place these balls on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart, and smash down flat. you will need to spray a large spoon of a flat bottom glass with Pam to keep the dough from sticking and to make them flat. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool until they reach room temperature.
Heat the chocolate chips in either a microwave or in a double boiler. When completely melted add a couple drops of the mint extract.
You can either spread the melted chocolate on the cookies, or you can dip the cookies into the chocolate.

Monday, March 01, 2010

It is March- Spring Cant be far away

"Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees."

- Robert Frost, A Prayer in Spring

Girls Basketball Cookies

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