Herbs for 2016

I bit the bullet and sowed some of my herbs. I felt a little guilty having a big hoard of herb seeds and never dedicating any honest effort in growing them. So I did it. I stuck some of the hoard into dirt.

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As I mentioned, on January 23, I sowed Lavender, Lemon Balm and Spearmint. And I recently potted them up from the little peat pellets they were started in. I recommend planting some Lavender, just for the aroma therapy of it. You just have to disturb the leaves a little and the air is filled with a wonderful lavender scent. Do it, you won’t be disappointed. And do the same with the Lemon Balm. Its citrus-y scent is delightful (And you can make a little tea from the leaves).

On March 11, I filled up some little seed cells that I have, and sowed the following:

  • 3x Thyme
  • 2x Summer Savory
  • 2x Sweet Marjoram
  • 2x Russian Tarragon
  • 2x Oregano
  • 2x ‘Red Rubin’ Basil
  • 2x ‘Genovese o Comune’ Basil
  • 2x Flat Leaf Parsley
  • 2x ‘Champion Moss Curled’ Parsley
  • 2x Chamomile
  • 2x Catnip
  • 1x Rosemary
  • 1x ‘Cinnamon’ Basil
  • 1x ‘Lemon’ Basil
  • 1x ‘Lime’ Basil

I also started some Sage and some Garlic Chives in larger seed cells. There is 2 cells of each of those. Also, I will be growing Dill, but I’ll wait until its closer to putting them outside to try and start some inside. I usually forget about the Dill until its too late, and then it doesn’t mature in time to harvest anything more than a few sprigs. I am hopeful that starting the Dill a little early, I can actually get enough to both use fresh, and have some to dry to use throughout the winter.

I am also keeping my fingers crossed that I will find some Stevia seed. I really really want to grow my own sweetener.

Looking at that list seems a little daunting, and I hope that I can keep these surviving until its safe for them to go outside. Ultimately, like last year, if they don’t make it, I will replace them from plants from the garden centre… but lets hope that doesn’t have to happen this time around.

Do you start any herbs from seed? Leave a comment below with any tips or tricks or questions.

 

UPDATE: My wonderful future Mother-in-Law sent me some Stevia seeds! I started 3 peat pellets of them as soon as I opened the envelope on March 14th!! Fingers crossed they germinate!!

UPDATE #2: The Tarragon germinated in 2 days!!!! Not even kidding. 

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Mexican Purple Garlic

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I mentioned that back in January, I picked up some Mexican Purple Garlic that was 40% off. I thought I might be able to just plant them outside since our winter has been pretty non-existent this year. However, the ground where they will be going is still frozen solid. If I tired to put them out now, they would probably just rot, (or my squirrel nemesis would steal them) and I wouldn’t get any garlic at all.

So I made some paper pots, and started my garlic inside.

I didn’t find a ton of information about Mexican Purple Garlic online other than confirming it is a hardneck variety; it belongs to the “Purple Stripe sub-group” of the hardnecks; its a little hot, but becomes milder with baking; its skin is silvery with purple stripes; and it is a popular variety in Mexico and Peru.

Apparently, the amount of purple in the garlic, is dependant on the weather. So one year you could have a really deep purple, and the next there would be hardly any. Its all in the hands of Mother Nature.

Since garlic requires a bit of chilly weather in order for it to split into separate cloves and form a bulb of garlic rather than just one large clove (which is what has happened to me in the past when I’ve babied my garlic and started it inside), I stuck these into my fridge. The coolness in my fridge will hopefully be enough to help them form an actual bulb, until I can work the ground enough to get them outside. They should be forming some roots and starting to grow in this time, so that when they do go outside, they can get off to a flying start. Or at least that is my hope.

I made a little video when I sowed these and forgot to take any pictures. But I put the video up on my YouTube Channel. I’m still playing around with my iPhone and editing, and we are still saving up for our dream camera. Hopefully we’ll have it before things really kick off in the garden, so my videos can start getting better.

And maybe this will finally be the year I sow garlic in the Fall like I am supposed to.

 

 

Lettuces for 2016

I was going to make this lettuce post another “How to Start Gardening” post, but I wanted to write more about the varieties I am excited to try, rather than give tips on which varieties are great for beginners. Lettuce is typically easy to begin with, so any of these could be good to try.

This year, I picked up a few different lettuce mixes to try. I think I will be putting them in containers by our front deck area near our front door, which is also straight into the kitchen. So it should be easy to grab some easy salads for dinner.

When I mentioned keeping an eye out for “cut and come again” lettuces in my first How to Start Gardening post, these 3 mixes (especially the 3rd one) is ideal for that. You snip the young leaves, leaving about 1 inch of plant left for it to re-grow for another crop in a few weeks.

Continue reading “Lettuces for 2016”

Sourdough – DAY 7 & 8

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We are finally ready to start using the starter! See that liquid and those frothy bubbles on the surface (maybe?)… And that sour smell your yeast colony is emitting… That means we are ready.

Dump your starter into a bowl, and feed it… 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water… Let it double in size. This is going to take anywhere from a couple hours to overnight. (I know, hold onto the edge of your seat, the excitement is too much). You’ll know its ready when it has doubled, and is really bubbly… It looks like a sponge… We call it the sponge… (same goes if you are using your starter from the fridge… stir it to combine all the things – dump half if you feel you need to, and then follow above)

I’m sorry this post took so long to finally make public… I still haven’t found a sourdough bread recipe to call my very own. Something simple that I love… So I still mostly use Chef Johns. And you can watch his videos and follow his recipe too, now that you have your very own starter. I will keep testing and come back to this when I find one I absolutely love. I had intended to test some different recipes all week, but this week kind of punched us in the face at work.

Here is Chef John’s Day 7 instructions

Here is Chef John’s Day 8 instructions.  You will need to knead this recipe A LOT! I made it once and it took 40 minutes before I could do a good window pane test… Which is why I am on the hunt for something slightly easier. But try the recipe, It is delicious and makes a great loaf of bread.

I really wanted to post this to say this: Don’t listen to chef john when he says that your sourdough probably wont turn out… because mine has worked EVERY TIME I have used this method. Its simple, not rocket science. So Try it. It is soooooooooooooooo worth it!

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after kneading…
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after rising..
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after “punching” (and then slicing)
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after baking

Coffee Cupcakes with Whipped Coffee Buttercream

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A couple years ago, I bought The Pioneer Woman’s second cookbook. It quickly became well used and well loved. My most favourite recipe in it HAS to be her Coffee Cake (Literally). I made it as my birthday cake that year. I’ve made it a couple times since, and I will be making it many more times in the future. The cake bakes up so light and fluffy.

The best part? The recipe is on her website as well. (Well a few things are different, but the recipe for the cake doesn’t change. How could it? It is amazing as it is!)

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Coffee Cake (or cupcakes) – Literally 

2 cups Flour

2 cups Sugar

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 cup Unsalted Butter

1 cup Boiling Water

3 Tbsp Instant Coffee Granules

1/2 cup Buttermilk (or add 1/2tsp lemon juice to 1/2 cup regular milk a couple minutes before adding it to the batter)

2 eggs

1 tsp. Baking Soda

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat Oven to 350F

Prepare your pans. For cakes- butter the pan well, then flour it. You don’t want anything sticking. For cupcakes – place paper liners in, and you are ready to go. This recipe should make 24 cupcakes, BUT full disclosure, I made 12 cupcakes and a small cake instead. (I wanted to try out my new Dala Horse cake pan I got for Christmas)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan on the stove.

Once melted, add in the coffee granules, and then the boiling water. Stir until this comes together.

In a seperate, large bowl, Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.

Once the butter/coffee mixture is ALMOST boiling, Add it to the sifted flour and sugar, Stirring until it starts to resemble a batter.

In another seperate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and baking soda. Then add to the other large bowl. Mixing until everything is a pretty liquid batter.

Measure evenly sized amounts into your prepared cupcake pan. Make sure to only fill them to 3/4. You don’t want them to dome over at the top. Flat topped cupcakes are easier to decorate.

Bake for 10-20 minutes (more or less even… just stay close to your oven and keep your eye on them). They will be done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Because I was using a couple different sized pans, they were all different cooking times, and I forgot to note how long the cupcakes took.

Let these cool completely before trying to frost them.

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Since I was making this into cupcakes this time around, I wanted a lighter and fluffier frosting for them. So I went and scoured my favourite cake blogs, and then adapted them to something coffee flavoured. The secret is in the whipping of the butter… You beat it for 8-10 minutes until it gets all shiny and pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on the whipping time – That is what makes this frosting so amazing. Recipe is mostly adapted from Sweetapolita

Whipped Coffee Buttercream

1 1/2 cups Unsalted Butter

3 cups Icing Sugar

2 Tbsp Cream (more if it seems to dry… but give it a chance to really mix in before adding too much)

1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

2-3 Tbsp Instant Coffee Granules. (Depending on your love of coffee)

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for a good 8-10 minutes

Add the Icing Sugar, then turn the speed up very  slowly, or every surface in your kitchen will be covered in a fine dusting of powdered sugar.

Once the sugar and butter come together, add in the vanilla and cream, beating until everything is a consistent consistency. Then add in the coffee granules, mixing until it is combined.

Then place into a piping bag, and pipe swirls onto your cooled cupcakes.

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