Archive for April, 2009

Ready or not…

According to the weather forecasters, we expected today to be a washout.  Instead, we just had a few showers this morning and this afternoon was beautiful.  Since it wasn’t too wet and C’s dad had some time to spare, we moved dirt!  I now have a full raised bed and lots of dirt around the retaining walls and in front of the garage.  Let the planting begin!!!  I can’t wait to see green things growing in all that beautiful brown.  I hope to plant the garden bed later this week or this weekend.  I have ordered 25 strawberry plants to set out along the back retaining wall as an experiment.  We will landscape the front wall toward the road, but the back will hopefully be full of bright red berries!  By the way, with just the small amount of rain today, our 45 gallon rain barrel was completely full!!!


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Overdue Recipe

I just realized it has been two weeks since I posted a recipe on this “cooking” blog.  Not a lot of cooking has been going on since we have been feverishly working outside while the weather is so perfect, but I did make banana bread for a Relay for Life bake sale last week.


I had never found a banana bread recipe that I was really satisfied with until recently.  All the others that I had tried would turn out too dry or too heavy.  This is just right!  It is light, fluffy, and most importantly, moist.  It is also really, really easy.


Easy Banana Nut Bread

1 package yellow cake mix

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

3 medium-large bananas

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 tsp cinnamon or apple pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2 8×4 loaf pans with non-stick spray.  Combine cake mix, egg, and milk.  Mash bananas and add them to the cake mixture.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in pecans and cinnamon/apple pie spice.  Divide batter evenly into the loaf pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the pans.

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It’s a DIRTY job, but…

“Ask, and ye shall receive.”  C & I plan on finishing up some overdue landscaping projects in the front yard this spring.  We were low on topsoil and my father in law had planned on bringing some from another farm a few miles away.  Yesterday, as he & C were mowing the yards, our friendly neighborhood dump truck driver drove by with a load of DIRT!!!  He flagged him down and asked if he would sell us some.  It turns out that he was moving the dirt for one of our neighbor’s farm who had dug a pond about 5 years ago.  His plan was to move the dirt down to his place and then sell it.  We cut out the “middle-man” by having him drop 3 loads here at our house, so now we have lots of dirt!!!

We would have probably started working with it yesterday, but we had a wedding shower to attend.  C’s step-cousin is getting married in June, and he and his fiancé’s shower was last night.  We took a fruit platter and a gift of course.  Big fun was had by all, and the happy couple ended up with lots of good gifts. 





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Over a Barrel

Since we plan on having a small garden this year, the thought of collecting rainwater to take care of it was very appealing.  Our “city” water is very chlorinated and hard on vegetation.  We found a deal on 2 rain barrels online and took the plunge.  Thursday evening, we went to work.  I started by leveling out the area where the barrels would go.  C finished that and moved 2 cement blocks on which to set the first barrel.  We are planning on getting a few pretty wall-building blocks from Lowe’s to finish.  Our plan is to lay landscape fabric underneath and then the wall blocks and then the barrels, but this will do for now because we wanted to test it.



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Wordless Wednesday


Dreaming of summer and fresh food…


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Raised Bed Building 101

Ok, Class, today’s lesson is “How to Build A Seriously Strong Raised Garden Bed In Just 5 Hours”.  I wanted a raised bed for strawberry and vegetable plants really, really, REALLY bad!  My extremely patient husband agreed to build one for me with my help.  In my mind, this would be so simple.  Bring up some leftover house-building wood from the basement (untreated, of course).  Cut it into the lengths we would need, screw them together, fill it with dirt, and VOILA, instant garden! 


Of course, I should have know that nothing is every quite as simple as you think it would be.  I rounded up not quite all the tools together near our building site.  I had to make several return trips to the tool closet.


I had used the watering can in a earlier task of moving a couple of hostas.  We got the wood out of the basement.


Patches decided that we had lost our minds and took a nap.  Oh, and right where he is laying is where we are going to put 2 rain barrels.  Right now, they are decorating my dining room. 🙂


We put the basic box together which measured 9’ 11 1/2” long and 5’4” wide.


You know, even if the ground looks fairly level, that doesn’t mean it is.  On one corner we had to put an extra 2×6 to level it out, but that’s ok.  I am going to plant potatoes in the deep end.  I was thrilled with the finished product.  I can just see it…a couple of rows of strawberries, a couple of rows of lettuce & carrots.  Several cucumber plants.  A few sweet pepper plants and maybe some herbs if there is enough room.  Yum!


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Did you ever wonder…

Did you ever wonder what a $26 cake looks like?  Well, here it is…




My co-worker, K, had the winning bid in our Relay for Life Silent Auction.  I have heard from several different people at her Easter lunch and they said they enjoyed it very much!  K let her husband pick from the 4 flavors that I had listed and he picked the strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream frosting.  He told me Tuesday that it was really good, but he may have to try the lemon to see which one he likes better!

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Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Frosting

Happy Easter, everyone!  For this special occasion, I wanted a special recipe.  What better flavor and color for this time of year than lemon!  The pretty pastel color fits perfectly with the season and the flavor is extra-special.  This recipe was originally made for a 2 layer 8” cake, but makes 20 cupcakes just as easy.  There are a few extra steps in this one, but the finished product is worth it.  The flavor of these are great for people who want dessert, but don’t like extra-sweet flavors.  The frosting is like a sweet-tart.


Lemon Cupcakes

2 cups sifted cake flour (sift flour before measuring)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk (just pretend that you see milk in the photo below)

2 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (Yes, I guess you could use the bottled, but why????)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.  Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle). 

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Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until pale & fluffy.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

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Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing on low speed until just combined.


Fill each cupcake cavity about 1/2 full and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Frost with Lemon Cream Frosting.  (Oops, I didn’t get any photos of the baked cupcakes before they were frosted.  Oh, well!)


Lemon Cream Frosting

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

To begin this recipe, we must make what is called “lemon curd”.  It is kind of like a lemon custard that is the base of the recipe.  This next photo is for the ingredients in the curd only.


Whisk together juice, sugar, and eggs in a 2 quart heavy saucepan.  Stir in butter and cook over low-medium heat, whisking frequently to keep the eggs from scrambling.

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Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk and the first bubbles appear on the surface.  Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.  I made my curd the day before so it would be ready to use.

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To make the frosting you will need the curd plus the rest of the original ingredients list.


Beat cream and confectioner’s sugar until it holds stiff peaks.  Fold 1/3 of whipped cream into chilled lemon curd to lighten.  Fold in remaining whipped cream.  Then frost your cupcakes and enjoy!  I used a decorator’s tip to frost mine, just to make them extra-special.

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Fine Feathered Friend

Here is an update for my Wordless Wednesday post.  Our visitor was a Chinese or Red Golden Pheasant.  This beautiful bird is definitely NOT a native to our area, so we figure someone close by must be raising them.  The information that we found read that they do not fly well and prefer to run.  I am so glad I was able to photograph this sight because I almost thought I was seeing things!  Happy Easter, everyone!  Check back soon for a Easter Lemon Cupcake recipe!!

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Wordless Wednesday

This was perched on our gutter this morning.  Any idea as to what it is?


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