Optimistic Foliage

Well readers, I finally have my garden down on paper.  I’ve got a neat little diagram with all my notes about sowing dates, planting dates, last frosts, first frosts, proper spacing, light requirements, etc. scribbled in the margins.  Actually it’s not “neat” at all, it’s quite messy, but I feel OK about that seeing as how it’s a garden and they’re supposed to be inherently messy anyway, aren’t they?  My only problem now is that it’s still to early to do anything…too early to plant, and too early to channel my burst of enthusiasm into tangible results.  I took the dog out for his romp around the yard, and as my productivity-induced high disappated in the face of a winter brown landscape, I saw this:

Lovely Eucalyptus

Lovely Eucalyptus

Lovely isn’t it?   From that view you’d never know it wasn’t spring or summer time.  Amazing how something so simple as brightly-hued foliage can lift my spirits.   Enjoy!

The “dog days” of winter

Maybe you haven’t heard, but winter is pretty much over.  Oh, you haven’t heard that?  Because it’s 14° in North Dakota right now, you may argue that is, in fact, still winter.  But here in Winston, Georgia it’s 72°.  Seventy-two degrees people.  And that does not constitute winter weather in my book.  I’ve actually missed winter this year – I mean I have like 3 pairs of tall boots and I can hardly justify wearing them when it’s too warm for socks.   I’m pretty much the only one in my house who’s upset though.  My husband has been waiting impatiently for warm weather (and motorcycle riding/track day season) since September, and the dog is happiest when the weather is conducive to his people being out of doors with him.   And with weather this lovely, we’re happy to oblige him.  These photos are from a day last week when my husband returned from being out of town – Tucker much prefers for Jacob to play with since he’s a little more enthusiastic about it than I am.  It may have something to do with the fact that I’m usually trying to get him to sit! stay! pose for the camera! while Jacob encourages his short attention span and high energy antics by throwing things for him.

playtime

 

after it!

 

I got it!

 

How’s the weather where you are?

 

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!

Blood Orange Cake

This cake is awesome.  Awesome I tell you.  It’s perfectly moist, the oranges and olive oil work exceedingly well together giving it a fruity, just-the-tiniest-bit bitter flavor, and I didn’t take a single photo of it.  You’ll just have to settle for my glowing recommendations, because I was literally standing by the oven waiting to snatch it out and dash to my car (running in the driveway) to be on my way.  I was bringing this to a lunch date (Hi Mama!) I had  last week and as per usual I was just on the edge of being late. I did take some lovely action shots while I was baking though, so hopefully you can all forgive me for not showing you the finished product.


Actually, as seems to happen to me so often, I came upon this cake because I was trying to use up some random fruit I had laying around.  My husband bought a bag of blood oranges and then ate only two of them before going out of town and leaving me with like 47 of them to find something to do with. Well, maybe not 47, but several anyway. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which is one of my favorite sites, and I must say, for being a combination of ingredients that I wouldn’t have put together it has turned out to be a really good cake.  And versatile, too, since I imagine that it would quite easy to substitute the blood oranges for any other fruit you have laying around for much the same result.

It came together pretty easily, and I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about the olive oil, being an all-butter advocate myself, but I really enjoyed the flavor in the finished product – it is pretty mild with just a hint of fruitiness, but it really makes for a moist cake that holds up well for a couple of days.  So run along and make your own.  You know you want to.

In other news, it’s only February and I already have daffodils.  I’m not sure, but I think winter is having an identity crisis.  Happy Spring!  Or whatever!

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 blood oranges
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar (My sugar was all pretty and pale orange!).

Supreme an orange: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; hopefully you’ll have about 1/4 cup but however much it is, don’t sweat it because you’re going to  add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.  My batter was a lovely shade of pink at this point, which gave me high hopes for a pink cake, but alas.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.