Jeff’s Favorite Cake – Recipe

Time: 20 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake, 10 minutes finish
Difficulty: Easy2014-11-27 09.17.44 (Small)Step 1:

100 g butter
100 g sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
4 Egg yolk (large)
200 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix butter, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar and beat till fluffy, add in flour and baking powder and stir till smooth.  Spread across TWO springform bottoms, this is a very thin base!

Step 2:

4 egg whites
200 g sugar
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
Make meringue and
spread onto both dough bases.80 g sliced almonds – sprinkle on top of meringue then bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let cool.

Step 3:

1 pint whipping cream
2014-11-27 09.11.08 (Small) 2 packages whip-it
 1-2 package vanilla sugar
Mix together and whip cream until stiff peaks form, fold in fruit (mandarin oranges, gooseberries, currants, blueberries, etc) and spread on bottom layer of the cake.  Cut the second layer into desired number of slices and put on top. Use a sharp knife and cut the cake all the way through.
 

 

 

Bringing In the Trees

I like to have a few houseplants. They cheer me up in the winter, and a few potted plants scattered through the garden in the summer add interest. Plus, it brings back childhood memories. My mom had a schefflera that she bought in a small pot — maybe a one gallon size — that grew into an enormous plant that she loved. I remember her washing each leaf individually with soapy water when it got infested with aphids.

But things can get out of control…Right now, I have a red rubber tree, an orange tree, a orange treelime tree, a palm tree, a hibiscus, a corn plant (that would become a tree if I put it in a bigger pot), a peace lily, and a cactus — and a house with a few, small windows. Each one of my houseplants has a story, and I love them all, but it may be time to let go of a couple.

The palm and peace lily were part of a dish garden that someone sent when my mother-in-law passed away. In my mind, they are reminders of her. I don’t think I could part with them unless they were going to stay with one of her other children.

Similarly, the orange tree belonged to my father-in-law, aka Pap or Pappy. He took care of it for 30 years! He kept it on a table and supported the branches with strings attached to hooks in the ceiling. He didn’t take it out for the summer; it stayed on a table on a little sun porch where his washer, dryer, and deep freezer were. Several times when we visited for Christmas, it had tiny oranges all over it. They never got quite as big as golf balls, but they did exist!

When Pappy’s loved ones noticed what meticulous care he took of the orange tree, they added to his citrus collection: he also had a lime tree and a lemon tree. My brother-in-law took home the lemon tree, but we ended up with both the lime and the orange. They are not doing as well under my care. They are living, but in the last three years we haven’t seen an orange. (Probably because I’m not a faithful with the fertilizer. I understand they are heavy nitrogen feeders.)

My children gave me the cactus. It is one of the toughest plants I’ve ever seen. When they gave it to me, it was very small, and had one of those colored balls from another plant grafted on top. The ball on top collapsed and seemed to rot away. I gave it up for dead and put the pot in a window sill in my laundry room and forgot about it. At some point, the pot got knocked off and it landed on its side between the wall and the dryer. Unbelievably, when I found it, it was still alive. I repotted it and it started growing. A year or two later, it developed black spots all over one side (it may have gotten too cold next to the window). Again, I figured it was a goner, but it recovered again. That thing will probably outlive me and my kids!

The red rubber tree came from Aldi — the grocery store. It was $2 and in a one-gallon pot. It was cute. The red rubber tree LOVES living at my house. It’s huge. Giant. Behemoth. It’s five feet or so tall, and at least three or four feet around. I think that I love it simply because it appears to love me so much. Alas, it’s the one that really needs to go — partly because it’s so giant, and partly because it doesn’t honor anyone’s memory.

But the point of this post is that things can get out of hand if you have too many houseplants. We brought the citrus trees in last week when the temperature threatened to dip near freezing. The orange tree is in the middle of the kitchen and pokes me every time I open the oven or the fridge. I have no idea where the rubber tree will go. Every window will have as many pots crammed around it as possible. At least we’ll have good indoor air quality, right?

 

The Apple Jelly Saga – Part 1

Last winter, I planted several apple trees — two in my yard, and four at the family farm. Of the two in my yard, one is doing spectacularly. It needs to be pruned, but is healthy and growing well. The other was the victim of a small accident — my husband cut down a small mimosa growing on our fence line and it fell directly onto the apple tree, breaking most of its tender branches and splitting the trunk all the way down to about a foot off the ground. But it came back! I couldn’t believe it when I found new growth all around where it had been split. We’ll see what it does next year.

Of the trees at the farm, one appears to be dead, another is living but suffering, and two others are doing well. I’ve tried to identify the pests and/or disease that killed the first one, but apples are susceptible to so many different things. We are lucky to also have two fully mature, producing trees at the farm! They are old — they’ve been there as long as I can

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

remember — and no one is sure what variety they are. The fruit is small, splotchy red, and very slightly tart.

This year, they both produced heavily so I decided to try my hand at making apple jelly. Then I read some recipes and decided to try apple preserves instead! What I actually ended up with could be more accurately described as apple flavored syrup with pieces of apple…Here’s the recipe I (sort of) followed: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-apple-jam.

I say “sort of” because I did things out of order, which, no doubt, was the downfall of my preserves. I put everything in the pot together and simmered it until the apples were tender, then brought it to a boil and then put it in sterilized jars. It didn’t gel. Live and learn,

The jars look nice, anyway!

The jars look nice, anyway!

my friends.

On a positive note, that apple syrup will be perfect for sweetening oatmeal and for eating with pancakes. AND — there are plenty of apples left to try again. This time, I’m going to go with a traditional jelly recipe, and follow the instructions much more closely. I’ll let you guys know how it works out!

 

Playing Favorites

Each year, I try to choose a favorite in my garden. I’ve been thinking about this post for a few weeks now, trying to decide which flower would be named my 2014 favorite. I wanted it to be a new plant, but instead, it’s one that has matured and become even more beautiful: my pond lily:

pond lilyA friend bought a new house and it had a small pond, but the liner leaked. It just held a small, icky puddle — and a pond lily. She asked if I’d like to have the lily in my pond, and since I have trouble saying no to any plant, I took it home.

It was sitting on the edge of the pond and  one of my dogs ran past and knocked it over. The pot floated to the top and I thought it might not survive. But it did, and this year, there are two or three blooms each day.

They are a glorious pale pink with beautiful yellow centers. The leaves are beautiful too, with shades of green and red. The frogs love them and hide among them all the time. Even though it’s a tad invasive, and I’ll probably have to pull some of it up, for now, the pond lily is the favorite flower in my garden.

What is your 2014 favorite?

Violas, Violas Everywhere

Weeding.  There no other garden chore that is so destructive and satisfying at the same time. With elbow grease, plastic, paper and heavy mulching, we’ve managed to remove many undesirable plants from our garden.  One of the plants that has been defying all our efforts to this time has been violas.  Not African Violets but those little, pesky, violet spring blooming flowers that pop up in lawns and shady areas.

This year, I am sparing them from the sharp edge of the weeding tool.
Why?  Sweet Violet Sirup.
On our walking trip along the Le Puy Way of the Camino de Santiago this summer, one of the most refreshing drinks we encountered was chilled violet water made from home-made violet (viola) sirup. It’s the French answer to Iced Tea and much tastier.

Here’s the recipe:
1 cup viola flowers, remove stems and rinse. Put into a glass (Mason) jar.
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the flowers and let mixture sit covered for 24 hours.
Put mixture in saucepan, add 1 cup sugar and bring to a low boil, stir until all the sugar has dissolved.  Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, label bottle and store in a cool place for up to 12 month.

A little of the sirup goes a long way; add to plain or sparkling water, ice cream, etc.

Viola Plant

Viola Plant