Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Alice's Tea Cup Lemon Blueberry Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Though I turned 30 at the beginning of the month, we had to put off the actual celebration until slightly after the real date of my birth, due to a general state of busy, not to mention the fact that the actual date fell on a Tuesday. Who has time to celebrate on a tuesday anyway? Besides, I really had no idea what sort of cake I wanted.

A trip to the library sorted that dilemma out in short order. After perusing a lovely cookbook entitled "Alice's Tea Cup," named after the restaurant owned by the writers of said cookbook, I quickly settled on a lemon blueberry cake with buttercream frosting.

However, that was far from an easy decision. I have since gone through this cookbook and post-it noted every recipe I wanted to try. The aftermath was a devastation of post-it notes. And if the cake recipe is any indication of how awesome the scones will be, I need to set aside some serious baking time, because this cake was, in a word, heaven.

I won't be providing the recipe here, because 1. if you want the recipe you should really buy the book and 2. the New York Daily news has already provided it on their website (click on the link above).

My husband gathered all the ingredients, including the less familiar but happily inexpensive buttermilk (it was my birthday cake after all, so why should I have to make it?). He then mixed it all together.

He poured a third of the batter into a parchment paper-lined 9-in round baking pan. Then, he did the same for the remaining two-thirds. Since we only have two 9-in round baking pans, this did require a little down time  before the third one could go in the oven, but in the end, it worked out fine.

Then, it was time for the frosting. If you've been reading my blog for any duration of time, you probably know that, in my house, I am the sole maker of the frosting. I just do it better. I followed the directions mostly but subbed in the skim milk we had for the whole milk the frosting called for. I also cut the sweetness with a small handful of flour.

The actual frosting of the cake was quite the affair. Worried that we would run low, I skimped on the frosting between each layer of the cake, which was a smart move. By the end, I had used every scrap of that frosting to get the cake fully covered, so if you want a nice heaping of frosting between layers, make a double batch of the frosting.

It turned out just decadent. The cake was crumby but moist and very lemony with the blueberries adding just the right amount of sweetness. The frosting was sweet but not too sweet (thanks to the added flour) and the buttercream flavor paired well with the lemon. I've seem recipes for lemon blueberry cake that uses cream cheese frosting, but the cake was rich enough on it's own without adding cream cheese into the picture. I think that would have been too much. 

Within a week, we'd eaten every bite of this cake and we plan on making it again. It's lemony and sweet and polka-dot pretty. What more could you want in a cake?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Vegetable Garden and the Need for Fishing Line

Last year, our garden attempts had two big problems. One, the bed we used did not get enough sun and so, the harvest suffered. And two, the tomato plants were eaten by deer. When I say that, I don't mean that the deer ate the fruit off of the plants. No, I mean they ate the whole plant, stems and leaves and all.

There are thick, marshy woods behind our house and they aren't quite expansive and rural enough for hunting. The deer have fairly free reign. Thus, the big fix for this year is designating a sunny section of the backyard for a new, dedicated vegetable garden and finding the appropriate way to fence it to protect the harvest from deer.

At first, we had plans for a wooden fence with a wire mesh blocking any spacing, but the expense of a fence like that was just to great this year, with all the work to the house that needs done before the baby comes. Then, the husband decided to take the posts to the old tall (and now useless and falling down) fence out back and use those as posts to a deer netting fence. He dug out one fence post hole before that idea got tossed. You see, within a few feet, he hit water. Apparently, setting fence posts becomes all sorts of complicated when there is a marshy woodland area behind your house, as it means your water table may be a tad higher than you might think.

Then, the husband discovered a youtube video that described one man's method for garden fencing that keeps the deer out. It, essentially, entails using tall metal garden posts every so-many feet. Then, wrap 30-gauge clear fishing line around the perimeter every two feet. The fishing line is strong enough at that gauge that the deer won't break it if they run into it, but is small enough that it's invisible to the deer. They can't see it so they won't try jumping it and tend to give it a wide berth (or so the video claims).

We got the posts and line up and the plants in this past weekend and as far as I'm concerned, the fishing line is pretty well invisible unless you are really looking for it. In an hour or so time period, the ten-year-old must have ran into it a good five times. I hit my head on the lower rungs a couple times while planting the tomatoes.

As far as the deer are concerned, so far no plant damage.

Thus, the garden is planted. Two hills each of butternut and scallop summer squash, four hills of zucchini, two rows of root vegetables (beets, parsnips, daikon radish, and carrots), one row of half cucumer and half edamame, two rows of lettuce, one row of assorted bell peppers, one row of broccoli, one row of kohlrabi and okra, one row of eggplant, two rows of tomatoes, and one row of tomatillos (with a few stray tomato plants at the end).

We are hoping the fence holds and that the high water table works to our advantage in the plant-growing department. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Girl Pending: Let the Knitting Commence. Or not.

We have known for a few weeks what the sex of the baby is, and yes, she’s a girl, which really set up my knitting plan for the next several years probably. Now, I just need to decide on a nursery theme, because really? I have an aunt who is very impatient about our indecision in the matter.

Though I have yet to sew the sleeves on my unisex baby sweater, I immediately cast on Daphne’s Baby Cape in a red merino blend yarn from my stash. According to the pattern, there should have been just enough yarn between the three skeins I had to get the job done for a nice little red riding hooded cape.

Inevitable last words: I have just enough yarn.

Because it will never end up being enough yarn.

By the third decrease row it was pretty clear I did not have just enough yarn. In fact, I didn’t have nearly enough yarn. I had only a skein left and probably half of the cape still left to knit. Also, the yarn? Discontinued. I hopped online and sure enough, one of the issues people have with this pattern is its tendency to use up more yarn than indicated. By a hundred yards or more.

In desperation, for the first time ever, I used the function on Ravelry that searches other people’s stashes for yarn. There were six people willing to sell or trade the yarn I need in the colorway I needed it in (that would be Country Caron in the Claret colorway). Two of them had multiple skeins: a lady in Texas that happened to even have my same dye lot and a woman in Australia. I sent messages out to both and hoped for the best. That same night, I heard back from the Australian. Shipping over $10 but the yarn was mine if I wanted it. I held out a day, waiting for the Texan, who never messaged back. Then, I sent word to the Australian. I was in. The yarn arrived in the mail yesterday and it’s just what I need to get this cape finished.

I turned 30 on Tuesday, so I guess you could call this 30 some odd dollar purchase my present to myself. Even though it goes against my whole attempt at destashing.

And at some point soon, I promise to sew those sweater sleeves on. Really, I have until October. There's still plenty of time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Malt-o-Meal Magic Muffins

Well, I'm slightly over 21 weeks pregnant and sometimes, I just want to eat certain foods RIGHT NOW. This has, I will admit, led to a situation once now, where, upon watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown and viewing Bourdain partaking of a coney dog, I convinced my husband to go out past 9 p.m. in search of vegetarian hotdogs (no small feat in semi-rural Ohio).

The hotdogs he brought home, by the way, were Yves brand and I was not impressed. They had funny white pebble things in them that perturbed me slightly. However, they can be grilled, which is not always the case with veggie dogs.

Yesterday, a craving hit me and all I wanted, right then, was some Malt-o-Meal magic muffins with jam on them. Malt-o-Meal, for the unaware, is a wet cereal mix in the same vein as Coco Wheats and oatmeal. I couldn't tell you how tasty or bland Malt-o-Meal is in this form, however, because, in my family, Malt-o-Meal is strictly purchased for the muffin recipe on the side of the box.

They aren't fancy and they aren't hard to make, not being a from-scratch recipe per say. However, they are tasty sliced in half and microwaved for a few seconds with a dab of butter stuffed between the halves. Or with a spread of good jam.

Much to my husband's happiness, we actually already had all the ingredients necessary to make these muffins, so I got to baking. Within the half hour, I had muffins in hand, ready to eat. They have a slightly sweet and light taste, but are surprisingly filling despite that, and best of all, they remind me of many a childhood breakfast, waiting for my mom to pull the muffins out of the oven. So really, they taste just a little bit like home too.