Wednesday in the Garden: 05/17/2017

Today our second oldest child turned 10 years old. Having two kids in double digits makes me start to feel old.

We have had great weather the last week here in San Diego county. Traditionally the month of May is cool and has many overcast days. It is often called May gray, and that is followed by June gloom. The last few years we have not had May gray, but instead very hot weather. In fact, last year there was even some large wildfires in May. This year we are experiencing May gray, and even have had rain this month.

This is great weather for my plants. There is a perfect blend of low 70s temperatures, sun, and some natural dampness.

The pomegranate tree continues to flower.  Many of the older flowers have started to turn into fruit.  I think we are going to have many more pomegranates then we did last year.

I am finally getting somewhere with my tomatoes.  I lost many plants to pill bugs and had to start over.  In one of the pictures there is a clear plastic cup.  I had to put those over some of my seedlings to protect them from the bugs.  Eventually, I had to resort to using a little bug spray to thin their numbers.  In large numbers, pill bugs are seriously destructive to young plants.

I have a large artichoke plant growing in my yard.  It is a volunteer from my neighbors garden.  I have had many of the plants grow in the last few years, but didn’t know what they are so I pulled them up.  I really wish I had know what they were before.

The plants in my 8 year old’s garden bed are growing well.  He had one cauliflower plant get eaten by tiny green caterpillars, so I replaced those with some store bought chard.

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Somehow I got my thumb in the picture of my 13 year old’s garden.  His is also growing well, even the petunias are looking healthy.

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My newly minted 10 year old’s garden is starting to make a comeback.  His has been the bad luck garden bed.  First we had the miscommunication where he cut back most of the plants.  Then he had bug issues requiring more replanting.  I also put some chard and store bought flowers in his bed.

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My own garden beds are finally planted.  I am starting to see seedlings poking through the ground.  Since I got a late start, I planted mostly things that can deal with the heat that could show up at any time.  As the plants take on their individual characteristics I will put pictures of them up.

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I had to trim a few branches off my lemon tree so I could have a shed put in the driveway.  Since it is lemon season for this tree we now have many lemons.  Soon we will have many times this number ripe and needing to be used.  I think we need to do some lemon themed recipes.

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I also was able to harvest a few Pok Choy, strawberries and chives.  I am thinking a stirfry using the Pok Choy and chives would be good.  The strawberries are already gone.

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Happy growing to all my fellow gardeners.

-Joshua

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Wednesday In the Garden: 05/10/2017

May is a crazy month for us. Three of our children were born in May so there is always a lot going on. 

I guess that is why I missed the last two weeks with the Wednesday pictures. I also had a gopher and pill bugs eat some of my plants, so I had less to show anyway. 

Today I only have pictures of the three apples on my Anna Apple tree. I am really surprised by this tree. I just planted it this fall, and it is the only apple tree around. I didn’t expect any fruit at all any time soon, so having three apples is amazing. 

The next group of pictures are not garden related, but they did keep me from taking garden pictures. I spent much of the last two evenings building model rockets with the kids. We are driving 1.5 hours to the desert on Saturday to launch rockets and fly remote control helicopters. If all goes well we will have some videos of the rockets to talk about later. 

-Joshua

May the Birthday Month!

This will be a very short post, but I just wanted to let you all know why I might not be able to post very much for the next few weeks. 

We have five children: four boys and one girl (she’s the youngest :). And the oldest three boys have birthdays all in May! So May is always a busy month for us.

I attempt to be really, really supermom this month because they each get their own cake and we do something special together on the days of their birthdays. Yesterday, we went to Legoland!

Ian also requested a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. 🙂


I didn’t really get a good picture of the cake when it wasn’t sliced. But boy, was this cake good! Which surprised me because the layers didn’t rise very much. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Devil’s Food Whiteout Cake. I used a plain vanilla butter cream instead of the meringue frosting though. 

I think I’d need to double the recipe to get the height I would want in a layer cake, but this cake did turn out better than I expected!

The next cake is a chocolate chip cookie pizza. I’m tempted to try making a deep dish version!

Using a Bread Maker to Start Challah Bread

Our bread maker is an old Toastmaster that we have had a long time, and it has been through A LOT. It’s a little bit beat up with a lid that doesn’t fit on quite right, from when it fell off the kitchen counter a few times. Fortunately, it still works… mostly. We are kind of in the market for a new bread maker, but in the meantime, I use our old faithful Toastmaster. I might be a little bit sad when it has to go.

Bread makers don’t seem to like me very much, so I don’t use them very often. The bread I make in them always falls! So lately, I’ve been using our bread maker just to start doughs for me. It’s been great for starting cinnamon roll dough and challah bread dough!

I don’t think the recipe I use is really authentic. I made challah rolls for Easter lunch and that dough had honey in it. (By the way, those rolls were amazing. I was practically dropping a few on the floor by accident, just so I could eat them.) This one does not. The recipe is just from the manual that came with our Toastmaster. Somehow, that manual has survived up until now, though its cover is falling off and it’s getting a little tattered on the edges.

Challah Bread Dough

  • Servings: 1 large loaf
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, room temperature, plus enough water at 80 degrees F/27 degrees C to equal 1½ cups
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Glaze:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp water

Topping:

  • 1½ Tbsp poppy seeds, optional

Directions

Place eggs, water, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt in the bread pan. Then, place bread flour into the bread pan and spread it out to the edges of the pan. Make a little well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast into it.

Use the dough cycle on your bread maker.

When dough cycle is finished, place the bread dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into thirds, making three 13-inch-long ropes with tapered edges. Pinch ropes together at one end and braid together. Pinch together at the other end and secure braid.

Transfer braided dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine glaze ingredients and brush onto braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake at 350 degrees F/177 degrees C for 25 minutes, or until done.

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I can’t describe how much I love this bread… This recipe makes a HUGE loaf. It’s enough to feed my family and then some. After making the bread topped with poppy seeds once, I usually leave them off now. I make sure to do the egg glaze though. It just gives the bread a really beautiful color.

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Sometimes I succeed at making a pretty braid, and sometimes I don’t. I’ve also overproofed the dough. It doesn’t seem to matter though. My family eats this bread up no matter what it looks like.

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Challah loaf with poppy seeds as a topping

My kids will request this bread. If we have it around, they ask for me to use it for grilled cheese.

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This is a second loaf I made that I sprinkled flake salt on.

So if you have a large family who loves homemade bread, this is a really simple one to do! It looks pretty and it tastes great and leftovers will get eaten up as soon as possible!

-Lynn

Strawberry Limeade Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I have mentioned before that cake, specifically layer cakes, is not my forte. Just because it is not my forte though does not mean that I should not make one once in a while.

For our Easter lunch a few weeks ago, I wanted to make a cake. At first, it was just going to be a lime bundt cake. I had some homemade strawberry jam though in the fridge that I needed to use for something, so then I came up with the bright idea of a lime layer cake with strawberry jam and white chocolate frosting in the middle.

I had been itching to make a lime cake recipe I found on the internet for quite a while, so I was glad to finally have the chance to make it!

Find the recipe for key lime cake here: Key Lime Cake From Scratch

The above link also includes the recipe for a white chocolate buttercream frosting.

Find the recipe for homemade strawberry jam here: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

I didn’t get to take any pictures of the actual process of making this cake, but I can talk a little bit about some of my mistakes (which always seem to be many when I am baking a cake!).

Mistake number one: I didn’t use enough lime zest! I think I used the 6 key limes as stated in the recipe, but I don’t think I ended up with enough lime zest.  I probably also should have used a little bit more lime juice. The cake itself definitely needed more oomph to it.

Mistake number two: Sprinkling day-old lime zest on the frosted cake. The lime zest lost its bright green color overnight. I don’t think I need to say what it looked like after sitting in the fridge overnight. I really should have used fresh zest on the cake.

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Mistake number three: I thought the cake layers were flat enough after baking and that I didn’t need to level them. I was wrong. I really should have sliced off  just a little bit. Because the top of the bottom layer wasn’t flat, the strawberry jam in the middle of the cake kept trying to slide out and down the side of the cake.

Mistake number four: Not doing a crumb coat when frosting. I was in a hurry. I guess I really shouldn’t make cakes when I am in a hurry. Or maybe I should just stick to bundt cakes!

Mistake number five: Using white chocolate buttercream frosting. Because the cake needed more lime flavor and thus wasn’t tart enough, the whole cake was too sweet and just didn’t have enough variances in flavor for me. A cream cheese frosting might have worked better in this case.

Mistake number six: Inferior chocolate candy eggs for the decoration. Those candy eggs in the picture were quite literally only for decoration. I bought them in bulk from a nearby grocery store and they just didn’t taste very good! Even Josh didn’t like them and that is saying something right there!

There weren’t any complaints from the kids about the cake itself, and none from Josh, so that is a good thing. I have to admit though; I think the key lime-mint bundt cake I posted about more than a month ago is still my favorite cake I’ve made so far.

Maybe I will try this recipe again when I am making a cake only for my family. And when I can taste more than one slice!

-Lynn

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry-Orange Scones

The past three weeks have been a lot busier than I expected them to be! I posted about the macarons I tried to make for the refreshments after my son’s concert on April 8th. Those all ended up being eaten up by my family. Instead, I made chocolate chip cookies, Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle traybake, and sugar cookie custard fruit mini-tarts for the refreshments, all with the help of my mother-in-law. I really could not have made all of those desserts without her help.

And then, just to make things more crazy for myself, we had an early Easter lunch at our house on April 15th. So most of the week before that, I spent prepping the house and the food for Saturday. I’m glad I didn’t have to make all the food for Easter lunch! I did make a strawberry limeade cake with white chocolate buttercream frosting for one of our Easter desserts; I’m not sure if it tasted good or not because I only got one slice! I will try to post about that bake soon.

This past week was spring break for my kids from homeschooling. We drove to a nearby resort and it was so much fun! I had the chance to play with my kids, which is something I don’t always get to do. It was actually pretty nice to take a break from baking. But now, I am ready to get back to baking again.

In February, I made white chocolate chip cranberry-orange scones for the ladies’ tea room at our church’s Leadership Conference and never wrote down the recipe, so today, I decided to make it again. This time, I kept track of all my ingredients. If you would like to go straight to the recipe, scroll all the way down.

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I was making smaller scones (but not quite mini-size) so I chopped my white chocolate chips and using a pair of scissors, I snipped my dried cranberries into smaller pieces. I also soaked my dried cranberries in a little bit of water and an 1/8 tsp of orange extract before mixing them into the dough, just to make sure they weren’t too dry after baking in the scones. I never fully mix my dough in the bowl because I am afraid of overmixing.

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I dumped the dough out onto a floured surface and worked the rest of the flour into the dough using my hands.

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It doesn’t take too long for the dough to come together like this. Maybe 5 to 10 minutes.

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I doubled my usual scone recipe and patted the dough out into a rectangle that was around 16 inches by 9 inches. I wanted it to be 24 inches by 6 inches, but I didn’t want to pat the dough out too thin. The 16 x 9 rectangle was probably easier to work with anyway.

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I used a bench cutter and a ruler to divide the rectangle as evenly as possible. My cuts along the longer side were 2 inches apart, while the shorter side had 3 inch cuts. As shown above, there were 41 scones. I did end up with some scones that were larger than others or were an odd shape.

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When will I learn not to bake two cookie sheets at once? This was my second bake of the day and I was ready to be done, but I should have been more patient and baked only one sheet at a time. Because of my impatience, most of the scones in this batch ended up almost burned on the bottom. They weren’t so burned we couldn’t eat them though, so I was glad of that.

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I did like the golden brown color on top of the overbaked scones though! Maybe next time, I will use the convection feature on my oven when I bake these.

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I made my usual powdered sugar glaze to drizzle over the scones and added about an 1/8 tsp of orange extract to the glaze just to give it more orange flavor.

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I was afraid that the orange flavor would be too subtle, but my oldest son said he was able to taste the orange. Twelve of these scones (the nicest ones I could pick out that weren’t burnt) went to our church bookstore, but the rest stayed with us for breakfast. They were gone by this morning, and I have to confess that I was the one who probably ate most of them because they tasted so good!

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry-Orange Scones

  • Servings: 21 to 42 depending on how you cut the dough
  • Print

Halve the recipe if you do not need 42 scones.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cups heavy cream (note: if desired, add the juice of the orange used for zest to a measuring cup then add the heavy cream to the measuring cup until you have 2 cups total of liquid)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, soaked in water or orange juice, snipped into smaller pieces
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, chopped
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-5 tsp heavy cream
  • 3-5 tsp water
  • 1/8 tsp orange extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and orange zest. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream, orange extract, and vanilla extract. Fold everything together just to incorporate as much of the flour as possible; do not overwork. Fold the cranberries (make sure to drain off any extra liquid from the cranberries) and chopped white chocolate into the dough.

Dump the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Knead the dough lightly until it comes together and there are no more streaks of flour in the dough.

Pat the dough out into a 16 in. x 9 in. rectangle. Using a bench cutter, make cuts along the longer side at every 2 inches, and along the shorter side at every 3 inches.  You will end up with around 42 scones.

Use the bench cutter to transfer each scone to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of each scone with heavy cream and bake the scones one sheet at a time on the center rack of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes (15-20 minutes if making the larger scones), until golden brown.

Let scones cool on a wire rack before drizzling glaze over them.

To make the icing, mix together 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 tsp of heavy cream, and orange extract. Add 1 tsp of water at a time and mix until the icing is your desired consistency.

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Wednesday in the Garden: 04/19/2017

Today I have a few garden pictures. The plants are growing well since the weather has been warm with a lot of sun. 

The strawberry plants haven’t died and are actually producing fruit. I think I picked this berry a day or two early because it was a bit sour. 

The almonds are big and fuzzy right now. As they mature they will shrink and turn brown. 

I think it will be time to eat this broccoli soon. 

Our pomegranate tree has so many flowers. I can’t wait for fall when we will have ripe pomegranates. 


We had more rain this year then any year in over a decade. Due to that we many flowers and green plants still. I tried to take some pictures while working this week. 

We have recently bought a new larger fish tank. We got guppies among other fish. One of our guppies had babies a few days ago. They are tiny and like to hide under a chunk of driftwood so they are not eaten.  I tried to get pictures but it was difficult because they move often and quickly. 

Can you see the baby fish? It is orange. 


-Joshua