baking

Third Time’s A Charm

My daughter and I have been playing around in our test kitchen again and have come up with a delicious new cookie!  Test kitchen is just a fancy way of saying we’ve been cooking and concocting and this time, our mouths watered at the results. Oatmeal-Carrot Cookies that literally melt in your mouth with sweet delicious flavors that will have you tossing carrot seeds in the ground so fast your head will spin!

Oatmeal Carrot Cookies

Sure, you can buy carrots from your local market but where’s the fun in that?  I love to go to my supermarket and wander the aisles (I’m particularly excited by the weekly buy-one-get-one deals), but I really love harvesting vegetables from my organic garden, then proceeding directly to the kitchen for consumption of the same. Awesome feeling.

Anyway, with a bounty of freshly harvested carrots, I thought, “I need a new way to eat these babies.” My Fluffiest Carrot Cake is divine but way too fattening to eat on a regular basis. I mean, it’s too easy to eat three slices in a sitting. Too easy and bad for the hips. Very bad. So I decided to make a healthy cookie, instead. Unfortunately, healthy cookies are kinda hard to make, hence the title of this blog post. Our first two attempts failed. We sweetened the dough with honey which made the final cookies too “liquidy.” For the next batch we cut down on the honey but the cookies still didn’t have enough substance to them. Answer? More

Pulling Sweet Babies from the Ground

In my kids’ garden world, there’s nothing better than harvest time–unless, of course, we’re tilling.  My son loves tilling and tearing through the dirt.  (Doesn’t every boy? :)) And we’ve waited so long for the sweet onions to mature, it’s time we get digging. 

Planted back in the fall, these sweet delicacies take time to fill out and ripen to perfection, about six months or so.  You’ll know when they’re ready when their tops brown over.  As you can see, we didn’t wait that long.  Besides, we could clearly see the rounded tops poking up through the soil surface, these onions were calling our name…

“Hey, you–come and get me!”

Pulling onions

Didn’t take much to distract my daughter from her chore of weeding carrots.  With the recent cold snap, she’s been craving French onion soup, so we pulled a little early. Simply wedge the onion back and forth from its position and gently pull. Voila!

pull it easy...

Your very own fresh sweet onion!  Hmmm…can you smell it?  VERY fragrant and oh-so-sweet when freshly harvested.  While not quite round in shape, this one is plenty fine to eat.  Again, we can be impatient gardeners and this is the fruit of our labor. My son prefers them raw, but my daughter likes them baked, broiled and caramelized. 

If you’ve never tried growing onions yourself, give them a whirl, if only for the fact that they taste like “butta” when eaten FRESH from the ground.  Try the Baked Sweet Onion recipe or perhaps the Onions Au Gratin.  Both are divine

Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop

Welcome to my corner of the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop where you can win TONS of prizes.  Check these out!

And it doesn’t stop there.  Here at BloominThyme we LOVE the holidays and of course with us, it’s all about growing and cooking and getting creative.  So in addition to your chance for one of the three grand prizes, you can also win this gorgeous gift box, filled with Organic Sweet Pepper and Herbs (Basil & Cilantro) Mix. More

Ten Cool Things To Know About Potatoes

As my potatoes grow and flourish and my mouth waters over these buttery delicacies, it occurred to me that many folks don’t know much about these gems, other than the fact they LOVE to eat them.  But potatoes don’t have to be an enigma.  How much do you know about potatoes?

1 — Most everyone has heard that the skins are where the nutrients hide.  For example, the flesh contains less than 20% of the potassium, a third of the vitamin C and about 10% of the niacin.  Where’s the rest?  In the skin!  So for your healthiest meal, be sure to keep it include it during consumption.

2 — While there are tons of different varieties, potatoes come in five basic types:  russets, yellow-skinned, white, red, blue/purple.

3 — What makes a “new” potato new?  Think of them as the baby crop, the first potatoes harvested in spring when you simply cannot wait to get them into the kitchen.  The potato vines are still alive at harvest and the skins are near papery thin.  It’s the main way we eat ours!  But if you allow the vine to die back and the potatoes to cure  underground, this gives their skins a chance to toughen up.  Older potatoes store better.  Another difference is in the starch.  “New” potatoes are sweeter and less starchy than their more “mature” counterparts.

4 — When it comes to food prep, all potatoes are not treated equally.  Russet potatoes are fluffier when cooked due mostly to the fact that their densely packed starch molecules expand and separate during cooking.  Wonderful when serving mashed potatoes.  Idaho potatoes work well for this purpose, too.  But if you’re in the market for a sturdy gratin-style potato, opt for “waxy” potatoes like Red Pontiac and Reddale.  Some middle-grounders are Yukon Gold and Kennebec.  These are tend to be more moist than “starchy” varieties yet fluff relatively well and hold together, too.

5 — For best storage, these guys like it dark and preferably around 45° – 55°.  If you don’t have a root cellar (ideal conditions) then try a dark corner of your pantry or garage, depending on your climate.  Warmth and light can cause potatoes to sprout.  I found a basket to place inside my pantry that allows them air flow, but keeps them in the dark when the door opens and closes.  Don’t refrigerate:  this converts some of the potato’s starch to sugar.

6 — Sweet potatoes are not true potatoes.  They ‘re root vegetables; an enlarged part of the root used by the plant to store energy.  Potatoes are tubers that form from the stem of the plant, only underground.  Who knew!

7 — Green potatoes are not green because they’re young or old, they’re green because they’ve been exposed to sunlight.  This is one of the primary reasons we “hill” potatoes.  Due to their upward growth habit, potatoes can break the soil surface and will then turn green.  And green potatoes = green face (as in sick :()  The culprit? Solanine; a mildly toxic compound that occurs naturally in the night shade family (Solanaceae) of plants.  The exposure to sunlight increases toxicity.  Don’t eat potatoes raw, either.  (Your belly will thank you!)

8 — Move over rye and wheat, potatoes can make some pretty tasty Vodka.  Did you know that you can mash the potatoes, heat them in a pressure cooker until the starches turn to sugar and then using a distillery kit, run the potato juice through (to remove any impurities) and voila —  potato vodka!  Blind taste tests tend to rate it distinctively delicious! 

9 — Potatoes are excellent producers IF you know how to coax them into continual production.  Ever heard of the Lutovsky box?  Designed by Greg Lutovsky a system whereby you can grow 100 potatoes with one plant in the space of 4 square feet.  How?  Basically you build a raised planter bed, 2 X 2 and plant your potato seed as normal.  As the potato plant grows, you build up the sides of your box, adding dirt as you do so (mimics hilling effect) and the plant will continue to grow, upward, upward, upward, increasing production. 

**You’ll need to choose late-season potatoes, those that mature 90 days or more as they will continually produce tubers.  Short-season varieties won’t work because they produce a limited number of potatoes and then the plant dies.

10 — Some varieties of potatoes produce fruit after they flower that look like green cherry tomatoes and can confuse a garden gal like me.  How did a tomato plant make its way into my potato bed?  That’s bad—very bad!  While these two are part of the same plant family, they are NOT good companions.  But my fears were for not.  This little fella was normal (simply a first for me!).

So there you have it.  And if you needed one more reason to try your hand at growing these wonderful plants, homemade potato chips may be just the thing to change your mind.  Forget deep fryers, we eat healthy around these parts.  How about slicing them paper-thin, coating them with a fine layer of extra-virgin olive oil (or safflower), bake them at 375°F for about 45 minutes, or until desire crispness has been reached and then dig in.  Kids adore them and you’ll feel better knowing they are good for them. I do love win-win. 🙂

 My weekend harvest yielded a wagon load of buttery sweet and delicious potatoes.  Mmmmm…..

Time to Harvest the Carrots!

Talk about exciting days in the garden, the kids have been waiting a LONG time for this day.  It’s time to harvest the carrots! Not only are there plenty of carrots to go around–one for you, one for you, one for you–but these kids remember the carrot cake we made from our last batch and their tongues are wagging.  Mm…  Fluffy and oh-so-yummy!

Yep.  These guys and gals would like nothing more than to feast on some more carrot cake and cream cheese frosting, but this time how about we try something different?  WHAT?  No carrot cake? 

Ah, c’mon. Now that would be just plain crazy talk.  How about a little bit of both?  Carrot juice to go with that cake, anyone?

Start grabbing carrots!  But hey–what happened to the rest of mine?

And why is my carrot so funky looking?

Hm.  Interesting.  As experienced gardeners, we know that carrots like soft beds of dirt.  All plants prefer soft dirt!  It allows their roots to grow nice and deep.  Since carrots are actually the “roots,” they try to grow nice and deep, which gives them the pretty cone-shaped appearance we’ve come to know and love. 

If the dirt is too packed?  It’s hard.  And hard dirt is “hard” for a carrot to push through as they grow.  Ah-ha!  No wonder they couldn’t grow deep.  True.  Could have been a rock or something.  But our carrots are strong-willed (like many of us children) and are determined to continue growing.  If they can’t go down?  They’ll go sideways.  Yep.  Or they’ll pour all their energy into growing wider.

But with spring break bouncing in our way this month, the kids will have a lesson in “delayed gratification.”  No fun, I know.  But definitely a fact of life.  So how will we store them until our return?

I’m glad you asked.  One of the easiest ways to store carrots (without losing half your refrigerator space) is to layer them in damp sand–sawdust will work, too!  Find a bin, box or even plastic bucket and gather (aka: purchase) your sand. 

Choosing only your best carrots, clip the greens about an inch away from the carrot end and layer them  within the damp sand/sawdust. 

Couple of things to keep in mind:  if you plan to store these long-term, choose a dark space where it remains somewhat cool.   For many of my Arctic Amigos, this will be a root cellar.  But warm region folks like us will need to find a dark corner in our garage or garden shed.  One of the keys to this storage system is to keep the “filler” sand damp throughout the length of your storage.  Now we’ll only need to store ours for a couple of weeks, but it sure was fun to learn how to keep them longer if we needed! 🙂  Knowledge = fun

Also, standing your carrots upright and sifting the sand/sawdust over and around them will help when it comes time to use them.  Simply pluck and pull! 

Wunderbar.  Now start dreaming of that carrot cake!  It’s not so very far away…

Sharing is Caring–Tastier with Food!

Now I don’t grow cranberries, but I do have a few orange trees in my yard and this time of year I need them–and NOT for fresh orange juice but for a delightful baked bread!  Cranberry Orange Bread to be exact which happens to be a staple around our house this time of year.  Not only do we devour several loaves ourselves, but we deliver them to friends and families as gifts.

Not a cranberry fan?  Don’t worry.  These babies turn tart cranberries into sweet delicacies (probably something to do with the rich bread that surrounds them).  In fact, people look forward to these loaves every year they’re THAT good.  Now I must confess I didn’t create this recipe–simply not that talented in the kitchen–but I can tell you it’s easy to make. 

I discovered it on a trip to Kennebunkport, Maine years ago (so many, I don’t think they  make it anymore!) during a stay at the Captain Lord Mansion Bed & Breakfast.  They served it fresh from the oven, accompanied by a warm bowl of oatmeal and it was memorable.  Even better with butter melted on top, though entirely unnecessary.  It’s quite delicious on its own. 🙂

They say to make it exactly as written though if you’ve read any of my posts, you know I don’t do ANYTHING exactly as instructed.  It’s a curse!  Or gift, depending on how you choose to look at it.  But either way, don’t hesitate to give this one a go.  You’ll be glad you did!

Cranberry Orange Bread

Preheat oven to  350°F.

Sift together in large bowl:

2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

5 cups flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 tsp baking powder

In small bowl using a hand mixer, place the following ingredients one at a time. Beat vigorously after each addition.

2 eggs

8 TBSP melted butter

2 cups orange juice

1 cup water

Make well in dry ingredients and pour at once wet into well. Stir until moist.

Fold in

2 cups whole cranberries (can be frozen)

Pour into 3 greased and floured pans and bake for 1 hour — careful NOT to over bake.  Check with knife — should come out clean.  Serve warm and enjoy.  Freezes well.

Butterscotch Cookies, Anyone?

Now that the brownies have vanished (okay vanished isn’t quite true — I mean, we know where they went), my daughter has moved on to cookies.   Sweet of her, isn’t it?  She’s actually baking in preparation for a family get together this weekend.   No special occasion, no particular reason, we’re simply getting together because we haven’t seen each other in a while.

Odd, when you live in a small town.   But it happens, doesn’t it?   We get so busy with our own lives, doing our thing, we forget to make the time for those we care about the most.   It’s almost as though we “assume” their presence in our lives until next thing you know, it’s been three months since you’ve seen one another! 

One of my best girlfriends pointed out this sad fact to me years ago.  Living only 30 minutes apart, we barely had time to visit, what between her three kids and my two.  Add a couple of husbands, a few jobs…next thing you know, months have passed without so much as a lunch date!   When she moved to Tallahassee, I was heartbroken.   “Now I’ll never see you.”   

She looked at me and stated quite bluntly, “You never see me now.”

While my first reaction was hurt, I couldn’t argue.   She was right. 

Thankfully, our family has a resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Family-Gatherings who coordinates such events — my beautiful stepmother.  Realizing it had been a while since our last gathering, considering the fact that my international pilot brother was in town, my cross roads trucker brother was on hand, my sister and I both without events, she scheduled dinner.  Casual, easy, a let’s-just-hang-out-together kind of evening.  The resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Everything-Else (my illustrious mom) will be there, too.  Odder still, what goes on in small towns!  

It’s actually very nice to be able to include everyone at the dinner table, and we do so, blending adult children and offspring, grandparents and friends, the new traditions continues;  my daughter is baking for said event.   Which means I’m tasting.  Well, I am Resident-Chief-Taste-Officer-of-all-Things-She-Bakes!  Where do you think her sweet tooth came from–the tooth fairy?  

Nope.   She inherited it from me, and I inherited mine from my dad (her second favorite person to bake for — after her daddy, of course).   Nibbling into the first morsel, the cookie melted in my mouth, drenching my palate with sheer glory.  The girl has outdone herself.   Using a recipe she found in Cuisine at home cooking magazine, she made butterscotch cookies and I’m here to tell you, these cookies are fantastic!   Who knew you could pack so much flavor into a simple cookie? 

I’m talking real flavor;  a mix of ginger and brown sugar, butterscotch and confectioner’s.  If you like cookies, you need to try these.  You’ll find the recipe on my blog as it’s not available online.  Plopping the remainder of the sample in my mouth, I gazed up at my girl from my spot on the couch, my shirt shamelessly covered with sweet white powder and swallowed.   “May I have another?”

She grinned.   “You like them?”

“Like them?  I love them.”

Rule number one:  if you want seconds, you’d better compliment the chef.  Cooking may be her passion, but positive reinforcement is her natural desire.   And you don’t want to be dropped from the invite list when it comes to her dessert table

Rule number two:   try to keep your cookie consumption to a minimum.   There are others waiting for the cookie dish so please move aside.   Chagrin.   Snag.  Thank you, come again!

The good news is we can always make more.   And with Valentine’s Day drawing near, you may find yourself wanting to ply your way into the heart of someone special — and these cookies will certainly do the trick!   Unless your sweetheart is allergic to butterscotch whereby I’d try a different course.   Chocolate does make for a handy backup plan, though, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Just a friendly reminder.   Family, friends and love…isn’t that what living is all about?

Sunshine and Carrots

Nothing like a beautiful golden bounty of carrots to lift your spirits — especially after losing most everything else.   Aren’t they divine?

Perfect for stuffing.  I think.  Never tried it but certainly willing!  As with everyone, Christmas is a busy time of year for us.  Between cooking and kids, family and entertaining…  It’s a wonder I know which direction I’m running!

Which reminds me, I have NO time for blogging.   Besides, I hear Santa’s already begun his journey — saw him sailing over Australia, in fact (thank you, Norad Santa Tracker).  I don’t know about you, but we here in Florida can’t wait for our turn!  Is it bedtime, yet?

Merry Christmas everyone!