Monday Morning Musings: Getting Ready For Spring Gardening

Gardening Get Ready for Spring

Is it Spring yet? According to the countdown calendar clock it’s 25 days and nine hours away and I’m sitting here in below freezing temperatures. All I can think about is planting my vegetable garden and a few of my favorite flowering plants. I love Spring gardening time! I can hardly wait to be cooking with fresh vegetables and herbs from my own garden again.  The flavor is so much better. Then there’s canning.

I wanted to have an indoor herb garden, but I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the kitties from sitting in the windows and snacking on the fresh herbs. The first time I tried it was a total disaster—soil everywhere and no plants. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how to keep your pets from munching on your plants.

We really can’t plant anything till after the latest Spring frost so you need to know the date from last year to plan your garden.  If you haven’t bought your 2015 Farmer’s Almanac but you want a good idea of frost dates then David’s Garden is where you go. There’s a treasure trove of gardening information there and you can certainly get lost in the research and advice.

This is a short and informative video by the Smiling Gardener on how to start your seeds indoor.

Have some fun planning the layout of your garden by using these online garden planners. Yes, they’re free.

You can order your rare seeds (non GMO) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They have a wonderful FREE Rare Seed catalog or you can read it online right now. They also have their Free Baker Creek Seed Book catalog. They produce a few other interesting gardening magazines that you can purchase relatively cheap with lots of great information, recipes and history.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds even has a vegan restaurant that serves a “donation only” lunch. According to their website they’re planning some interesting cooking lessons and festivals. I wish we didn’t live so far away–sigh.

If space is limited for a garden big enough for your needs then check out this book–Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell.  I love it!  We have a huge backyard but it can’t all be garden.

No backyard? Then you can get some great ideas for balcony gardening in this book —The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell. Even if you have a backyard some of the ideas are worth incorporating into your own backyard garden.

Of course when you’re gardening you need to be dressed appropriately so here’s a Master Gardener apron, a  cute vegetable apron or a funny gardening apron.

Mother Earth News has tons of information on Spring Gardening — which plants like to be grouped together and crop rotation for the home gardener.

This year I’d like to build some garden boxes so I don’t have to bend down so far.  They’re much easier on the back.  I’ve been looking at some plans and you might be interested in doing the same.  This garden box  shown on Stark Insider is my favorite so far. She built her’s out of redwood. It looks lovely, but I don’t think I’ll be building mine out of redwood.

We had a family of bunnies move in under our Gazebo for the winter so I’m assuming I might have to make a garden for them and garden boxes on legs for some of the garden should reduce the amount lost to the bunnies dining out. And did I mention the deer?

I’ve been saving my egg shells and coffee grinds for the garden. Have you?  Once the egg shells are dry just blitz them into powder in a blender and use it to feed and prepare your garden for planting.

Happy planning and preparation!

 

Monday Musings: Chocolate Dreaming

 

monday musings chocolate dreaming v2

What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Valentine’s Day?  CHOCOLATE! In my family of chocoholics you could mention socks and they’d think of chocolate. I bet they’re chocolate dreaming in their sleep too, but I digress.  I wanted to add some new recipes to my chocolate repertoire so I decided to scout out some new ones on the net and look at what I found:

Imagine feeding these to your Valentine – Chocolate Profiteroles. Don’t they look sensuous?

I love how this Chocolate Ganache & Salted Caramel Brittle looks so elegant and decadent but is quite easy to do.

How about a Chocolate Kiss Cocktail? Definitely on my list to try!

I wanna do a face plant into this Chocolate Chip Cookie Salted Rum Caramel Tart with Toasted Marshmallow.  With my mouth open of course!

I love the flavor combo of chocolate and orange. Here’s one in an ice cream — Chocolate and Orange Ice Cream.

Of all the things I’ve made with chocolate I’ve never yet made Chocolate Bread. Imagine this as French Toast! Mmmm

I really need to try these Hot Fudge Pretzel & Peanut Butter Macarons.

Chocolate Fried Chicken!  Yup you read that correctly — Chocolate Fried Chicken! I have to try this!

Enjoy and let me know which ones you’ve tried and how they turned out.

***To follow along with my favorite recipes and food photography adventures join me on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook

 

 

Brown Butter Pecan Almond Maple Trail Mix Granola

I love granola and could eat it by the handful! It’s hard to stop shoveling it into my mouth.

granola bowl 2 VF3

And this brown butter pecan, almond, maple granola is da bomb!

granola bowl n jar spilled VF4

It’s not overly sweet but it’s chocked full of flavors. Bits are crunchy and some are chewy with old fashion oats, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, pecans, cashews, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), brown butter, organic almond butter, organic maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla and local organic honey. Now that’s a mouthful–literally. I had a hard time staying away from the chocolate chips, but you could drop those in when your store it or as you use it.

granola tray VF3

It’s crunch-a-licious! And so much better for you than the store bought varieties.  I never was one for all those sugary cereals but a big bowl of oatmeal with raisins and tons of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar or honey— Mmmm. This is just the more easily transported gourmet version of that for me. It’s on my list of comfort foods!  Wholesome, healthy, chock full of good nutrition and so simple to make. It’s a great kid’s snack too!

granola ingredients VF2

Sometimes I don’t add the dried fruit until after it’s cooled down and I’m ready to store it. This time I baked the dried fruits into the granola . It all depends on the mood I’m in. Baking them in provides an extra chewiness to the fruit I think and I love that. It’s good either way.  The honey I use to add some extra sweetness and extra anti-oxidants. I drizzle it over the granola just before I put the pan in the oven.

As you know, all ovens cook differently and mine bakes this up in 30 minutes max for one large pan. Be careful you don’t burn it and adjust the cooking time to your oven.

Brown Butter Pecan Almond Maple Trail Mix Granola

Prep Time: 12 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 1 quart

Brown Butter Pecan Almond Maple Trail Mix Granola

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (do not use instant)
  • 1 cup of raw pecans
  • 1 cups of cashews ( I used salted for the salt and sweet flavor)
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 3 table tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cups real maple syrup ( I used organic)
  • 2 tablespoons of organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of organic almond butter
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons local organic honey

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 F.
  • In a large bowl combine the oats, pecans, cashews, pumpkin seed, cranberries and blueberries. Toss well.
  • In a small bowl pour the maple syrup, coconut oil and almond butter.
  • Use a skillet or small sauce pan to melt the butter over a medium heat until just browned. The butter will melt, foam then froth, and start browning at the bottom. Be careful not to burn the butter . Whisk all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, Once the butter is browned quickly remove from heat and slowly stir the hot butter into the maple syrup, coconut oil and almond butter. Stir until blended. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and vanilla then stir to blend.
  • Pour the warm mixture over the dry oat mixture a little at a time and stir to fully coat all the dry ingredients. Making sure all the ingredients are coated usually takes about 4-5 minutes of stirring. Make sure you mix in all the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet or use a Silpat baking mat if you have one.
  • Drizzle the honey over it and bake for 30 minutes more or less depending on your oven. You will need to check periodically so that it doesn't burn. I like clusters so I break up my granola after it's cooled but you could stir it around every 20 mins. or so for a crunchier and less clustered version.
  • Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. (I use a large 1/2 gallon mason jar and I bought the screw-on white plastic lids)
  • First thing I did was top my bowl of Greek Yogurt and Kefir with this yummy stuff. ENJOY!
http://darndelish.com/brown-butter-pecan-almond-maple-trail-mix-granola/