And that, my friends, is how you start seeds.  I’m super duper excited about this since this is my first time starting my own plants.  It was very easy, and seems to be working well – I planted these on Wednesday and I already have sprouts.  The boxes I’m using are by Jiffy – I got them at Home Depot for a very good price, and I would definitely recommend them.  After planting my seeds I left them overnight with the lids on, per the instructions, and when I went back the next day to check on them, they were nice and steamy under the lid.  I know they’re staying warm at night, and not drying out, although I expect I’ll have to add water in a day or two.  I got two sizes – several with the smaller pellets like you see above, and then two that had larger pellets for my tomatoes.   It took mine 30-45 minutes to absorb all the water and fluff up completely, so be prepared for a little wait if you use these, but I quite like them and will probably buy the pellet refills and continue using them.

I’m having Easter house guests this weekend, so I’ll be cooking something wonderful (I hope!) and visiting with my family.  I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter, as well, and a beautiful weekend!

Garden of the Future?

forlorn winter garden

The lovely folks who previously owned our home were serious gardeners.  Serious.  In our front yard there are herbs of all kinds, greens (arugula, spinach, kale, and several as yet unidentified varieties), strawberries (!!!), eucalyptus, azaleas, hydrangeas, etc.  There are concord grapevines in our side yard, and in our backyard almost a quarter acre of garden.  Of course it’s pretty forlorn looking now; I mean it is the dead of winter (if by dead of winter I mean 62° and sunny).  Anyway…I have a lot of planning to do if I want to live up to the expectations of my new abode.  I have big plans for peppers, tomatoes, corn, okra, squash, and melons.  Problem is I don’t know all that much about it.  I did pretty well with my tomatoes last year – I did grow a 14 ft tall cherry tomato plant (for real!), and a 1 lb 9.2 oz tomato, but I didn’t have to plan anything to do it.  I mean I stuck those suckers in the ground, watered them regularly, fertilized them semi-regularly, and picked them when they were ripe.  It’s probably not as complicated as I think, but I’m still a little intimidated by the thought of a garden with so many different plants.  And grapes??  How in the world do you take care of them?  Apparently it’s kind of complicated and you have to prune them back just so in order for them to grace you with a crop.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.  It’s going to be a lot of work, for sure, but the rewards will be Awesome.  With a capital “A”.  I’m hoping to can, freeze, pickle, or otherwise preserve a significant part of my crop so that I can cut down on my grocery bill and enjoy the fruits of my labors through next winter.  Wish me luck!

Look what I did!

Check this out:

I grew that stuff! All by myself!  Those thin peppers are cayennes, the light green one is a cubanelle, and there is one little bell pepper that got picked a little too soon.  And thousands of tomatoes!  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!  This year is my first attempt at growing my own produce, and I can’t tell you how cool it is to cook with ingredients that came from my own backyard.  I started off very modestly – I’ve got 6 tomato plants, 1 cherry tomato, 2 bell peppers, 1 cayenne pepper, and 1 cubanelle pepper (I had never heard of the cubanelles before, but they are a mild, somewhat sweet, pepper similar to the bells but with thinner skin.  I’ve been using them in omelettes and in place of bells in some recipes).  I actually have 4 tomatoes and the peppers in large pots on my back deck, which is very convenient to my kitchen, but I definitely have to keep an eye on them – they need water every day or they will absolutely wilt, and they also need fertilizer more frequently than my “in-ground” plants.  Next year I plan to have a much larger garden with more variety, but even with just the small scale gardening I did this year, I get such a wonderful feeling every time I walk out to my porch and pick my own produce…It’s indescribable. I took these tiny little plants and helped them to grow and provide all this bounty for my kitchen.  Absolutely amazing.

In other news:

I finally got a Silpat!  I’m so excited to try it out, but the day I got it I had already planned to make these cupcakes and a silpat is pretty useless for that.  Happily, I found this artice/recipe about chocolate chip cookies that I plan to make very soon…maybe tomorrow.  I’ve been yearning for a silpat since I first encountered one on one of my favorite blogs (the Wednesday Chef) sometime last year.  I’ll let you know what I think, but really, who wouldn’t love a nonstick baking mat that keeps your baking sheets clean and helps your lovely baked good come away with perfectly intact bottoms?

Oh, and I bought these a few days ago and still can’t figure out what to do with them.  I’ve been eating them out of hand, but sometimes I don’t even want to do that, because they are infusing my kitchen with the most wonderful sweet, fruity, summery fragrance.

I may make a cobbler with them…or a crisp (yes, I know crisps are for fall/winter, but they make such a good (and actually healthy!) breakfast that I’m seriously considering it).  I’ll let you know how it turns out.