Sunday, April 9, 2017

Just about the best- April 9, 2017

Sunny and 75 degrees on April 8, 2017. I think this is about the best it can be in the garden.
How can I list these "bests" in some order? How about a top ten list?
There are flowers everywhere.
A lot of them are blue.
There are no bugs.
There are not many weeds.
There is so much to anticipate. (baby tree peonies)
There is plenty of time after work to play outside.
All the garden paths have been refreshed with new wood chips.
There is no frost in the forecast.
I can start taking plants outside.
The woods are coming alive with spring wildflowers.
My replacement double bloodroot is coming up, in all 3 locations.

I know. I know. That is more than 10. (Did you count?) That is how good it is.

In last week's team competition team yellow won. 

The full voting was
Yellow  17
Red        8
White     8
Pink       6

A little competition from the week of April 2.
I do not want to take anything away from the winter flower competition. That is over, and we got through the winter. I thought that some of you might like to continue to vote. And sometimes I have at least 3-4 nice pictures during the week. Actually I easily found 5 this week. So here you go.

#1 Purple wind flowers

#2 Yellow hellebore

#3 Star magnolia

I really like the white against the blue background. There are not many flowers where that is possible.

#4  Little white trillium
I just got this little guy this spring and here he is. He has 5-6 friends. I love trillium.

#5 Single Bloodroot
This bloomed in our front parkway yesterday. It does not last long.

Bonus pictures

Here I am, early on Friday morning. The early sun on such a crisp morning (32 degrees) was magical. It was so very bright with that early light, perhaps because it comes in at such an angle.

Here are the back yard paths all cleaned up.

Here are more squill or scilla. The squill have had a better spring than I can ever remember. Part of that is that it has been in a 45 degree stasis for the last ten days or so.
All over town there are lawns that are blue. The ravines by the law school, just west of Riverside Drive, are blue.
Squill spreads. It flows.

Early in the spring you can see many little sprouts which will be squill.
I actually just found this little feature I can use for my pictures.

Here is one of my favorites in the garden, all year. It is a lupine sprout. I have reached the critical mass with lupines in this one part of the yard. While I find the plants to last only a few years, they do self seed. I have to be very careful in the spring where I weed.

Here is a mature lupine. I love how the dew makes jewels in the center of the leaf group.

These windflowers did make a large clump over time. Since they will disappear by June you do have to remember where they are and not plant something in the very middle of the clump.

Here is a nice white hellebore. You could actually hear the bees when you are close to some of the hellebore clumps.

How warm was the winter? This kale was planted last July from seed. It made it through the winter. Unfortunately it is right in the middle of the the Louisiana Iris bed.

Here is another nice trillium.

We have had nice orchids at the office this last month since we brought some back from Chicago.

Another orchid from the office. Connie gets the thanks for taking the pictures with her phone.

Here is Julia's recipe this week. I did just post an index for all of her recipes.
One way you can get to that post is to just scroll down below this post.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies
by Julia Mears

Actually this recipe, as with other cookie and dessert recipes, starts with the vintage Betty Crocker cookbook I have, probably published in the later 1960s. Betty makes a fine peanut butter cookie, but I wanted to make them for folks who can't have wheat flour. It turns out it was pretty easy, with a few simple tools. The tools are not gluten-free specific, rather they help make any peanut butter cookie venture easier.

This is one of the tools. It is a measuring cup for sticky stuff. There are markings on the side in cups and metrics and ounces (but I just use cups). You scoot the bottom down until the black platform thing is at the measurement mark you want. Then you pack the sticky substance in, making sure that you are not so vigorous as to move the black platform thing down. When the substance reaches the top of the tube, you have your amount of sticky stuff. Then you aim the open top at your bowl and push up from the bottom. Voila. You can use a spatula if you wish, but you probably won't have to. This tool came into play in this recipe. You can find it at the hardware store or someplace like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Not expensive.

I started by cutting up one stick (that's 1/2 cup) of butter and dumping it into the bowl of my stand mixer (the other handy tool). Then I measured 1/2 cup of shortening in the tube and dumped it in. Then I measured 1 cup of peanut butter in the tube and added that. I mixed the butter, shortening and peanut butter until they were blended.

Then I added 1 cup of packed down brown sugar and 1 cup of regular white sugar to the bowl. I mixed that together, and then I added 2 eggs and more mixing.

Next I added about 3 to 3-1/2 cups of King Arthur gluten-free flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Somewhere in the middle of the flour additions, I added 1-1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of regular (not kosher) salt. I kept adding flour because I wanted the dough to be substantial. Robust even. I may have added about 3-1/4 cups. I was not being as precise as one would like.

Here is the finished dough. Substantial. Robust. Ready to get out of the bowl and walk across the room.

I took it off the paddle (the mixing attachment) and rolled out and cut 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Parchment paper or waxed paper or aluminum foil would be fine. I scooped about one-half of the dough onto each piece of wrap, patted the dough into a round shape, sealed each little packet up and put them in the refrigerator for about an hour, to firm up.

After an hour, I got out all of my cookie sheets and turned the oven to 375 degrees. The dough was firm but easy to work with (sometimes refrigerated doughs actually have to warm up, but not this one.) I used a little scoop to portion the dough. I got about 3 1/2 dozen cookies per lump of dough. I used the scoop but also my hands to shape the cookies. I did not roll them all into perfect balls, but I got similar roundish shapes which I laid out 12 per sheet, as at right.

Then in the time-honored way with peanut butter cookies, I put a little sugar in a shallow bowl, and made cross-hatch markings with a fork, dipping the fork in the sugar from time to time so the fork would not stick to the cookies.

Two pictures of me cross-hatching cookies.
I baked 2 pans of cookies at a time, setting the timer for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, I rotated the cookie sheets, front to back and top to bottom.

After 12 minutes, I took them out and let them cool for about 5 minutes on the pans so they would set completely. Then I moved them to cooling racks.
And here they are: 7 dozen in all. My sister gave me the stacking cooling racks some time ago. I like them. On the window sill is Philip's Barack Obama bobble-head doll, a present from our friend Ruth. We like him too.

I plan on mailing some cookies to a couple of gluten-phobic relatives. I certainly hope no one has peanut issues.

Speaking of peanuts, I used organic peanut butter. It worked but it was more work, because of course the oil had all floated to the top and had to be stirred back in. Stirring is not quite the right word. Less virtuous grocery store peanut butter is a good choice.

If you are not gluten-phobic, you can make these cookies with all purpose flour. You will use less flour. Probably something like 2-1/2 or 2-3/4 cups. Techniques are all the same. Product is a bit more tender. The gluten-free version is crisper than the AP flour version. And I would advise (especially for the gluten-free version) using both shortening and butter, although you may be tempted to use all butter. Butter makes cookies crisp; shortening makes cookies soft. (Try making batches of chocolate chip cookies with all butter and then with all shortening and you will see what I mean). Since gluten-free flour seems to have the effect of making these cookies crisper than usual, I would advise against all butter as I think it would make the cookies even flatter and crisper, which would be okay but not peanut butter cookies as we know them.

And by the way, if you are tempted to use almond butter instead of peanut butter, don't bother. Almond butter is not strongly flavored enough to carry the dough (or the day) and the resulting cookies are blah.  Take it from me; I tried it. Happy baking.

Odds and Ends

My caladium arrived on Saturday. Ron and I got 2/3 of the 75 potted by the end of the day. They will not break dormancy until the soil temperature is 70 degrees. Sometimes that can be in June in Iowa.
So they go in pots and come inside. Actually they might spend a few warm says outside.

Here is the first primrose to bloom. Primroses are in the group of "you can't have too many".
I will have to get some of those primroses with the vivid colors that appear at the grocery stores in January. I do not find the hardy but they last a few months.

Daffodils mostly are as not splashy as some other spring flowers.
They are cheerful.

Here is the clump of the little trillium, pusillium 'Roadrunner' developed by the people at Joe Pye Weed's garden. I got several really nice plants this spring from them. They are in Massachusetts. They specialize in Iris.

It has been a busy weekend. Spring just accelerated a bunch. I expect the flowering trees to be blooming almost immediately. I am glad that the stiffness at the end of the day mostly disappears the next morning.

Come by and see us some time.
Philip and Julia

1 comment:

Linzee said...

I do remember that you got the dog tooth violet from me-we moved to this house 18 years ago, so not quite as long ago as 25 years, but quite awhile nevertheless. We have redone the bed where ours grew and it didn't seem to bother them in the least, plus they have spread into another bed. Glad yours continue to do well. I have been known to lie flat on the grass trying to get a good photo of them. Not easy, as you say.