Archive for May, 2009

Broccoli Just Right Every Time

May 19th, 2009 No comments

This isn’t a recipe per se— it’s a series of pronouncements that will produce al dente broccoli.  Decide how much broccoli you wish to prepare, wash it, and cut it into florets.  Select a saucepan large enough to hold the broccoli comfortably.  Fill the pan with enough water to cover the broccoli when the time comes.  Salt the water and bring it to a boil.  Toss the broccoli into the boiling water, and cook it on moderate-to-high heat for two minutes.  That’s it!  Remove the pan from the heat, and serve the broccoli immediately.

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A Prized Recipe for Egg-Free Orange Filling

May 18th, 2009 No comments

Here is our favorite recipe for orange filling.  You’ll use it often for cakes and tarts. because it is so simple and inexpensive.  And your vegan friends (or you, if you are one) will appreciate the fact that this recipe contains no eggs.  It’s important to use smallish, flavorful oranges for this one– not the big, watery kind with thick skins.  Navels are all right if the are small, or try Valencias.

Stir together in a heavy saucepan–

  • I cup sugar
  • 4 T. cornstarch
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 T.* grated orange rind (requires four or more small oranges)
  • 1 1/2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. butter or solid margarine
  • 1/2 t. salt

Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a good, solid boil (almost “rolling”) over medium heat, and continue boiling for one minute (continuing to stir as well).  Cool the mixture before using.

*  We suggest you experiment.  Use this amount the first time.  If you want to ramp up the orange flavor the next time, try using 3 T.

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Bakewell Tarts

May 18th, 2009 No comments

These British treats are delectable, complex in flavor, and easy to make.  If you are lucky, you already have a set of the individual tart pans that you’ll need (mine are fluted and a bit more than an inch in diameter at the base and a little less than three inches at the top).

Short pastry (enough for a standard two-crust pie– recipe given below)


  • 4 oz. butter or solid margarine
  • 4 oz. fine sugar (baker’s or “caster’)
  • 4 oz. ground almonds
  • 2 well-beaten eggs
  • 1 t. almond extract
  • Seedless raspberry jam
  • White powdered sugar icing

Prepare the pastry and allow it to “rest.” Then roll it out the pastry and divide it among about 20 tart pans.  (The pastry is baked inside the fluted pans.) Pre-bake the shells for five minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove the shells from the oven, but leave them in the pans.

Now prepare the filling. Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and almond extract and stir together.  Put one teaspoon of the jam in each tart shell and then add about two teaspoons of the filling.  Bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

After the tarts have cooled a bit, you should be able to remove them easily from the pans.

Make the icing according to the directions on the powdered sugar package and spread the icing on the cooled tarts.

Short pastry for a two-crust pie or for 20 tarts

  • 2 1/4 cups pre-sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup or less of water

Stir the flour and salt together and cut in the shortening until the lumps in the mixture are, on average, pea-size.  Lightly mix in enough of the water to make the dough easy to handle.  Form it together, lightly, into a ball; cover it, and allow it to rest for at least ten minutes at room temperatire before rolling it out on a floured pastry cloth or floured waxed paper.

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We have a winner

May 16th, 2009 No comments

The first few seedlings appeared today, twelve days after planting, three days after increasing the moisture level in the potting soil.

Swiss chard normally germinate in 4-10 days.

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A Shift in Watering

May 14th, 2009 No comments

Still keeping an eye on the garden as temperatures shift into high gear.  The lawn looked parched by yesterday, so I watered it in the afternoon.  I’ll move the next regular watering day for lawn, ornamentals and potted Christmas plants to Saturday– but remain ready to adjust that schedule if temperatures really take off. –MJH.

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Seed Drenching

May 13th, 2009 No comments

Although the radish seeds have swelled there has yet been no sign of green. They are several days late.

It turns out that although the top of the potting soil has been kept moist, half an inch down it is bone dry. I didn’t expect this in a plastic tray with no drain. Apparently the potting soil is not wicking – perhaps due to the baking we gave the compost to kill pathogens.

Today therefore I gave the seeds much more water than usual in hopes that some will penetrate farther.

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A Watering Schedule

May 13th, 2009 No comments

We are hoping to wean our lawn and ornamentals away from the excess of water that we’ve been raining on them.  We’d like to see if we can water everything just once a week, except for the potted Christmas plants (two blue spruce, two deodora cedars, an arbor vitae and a poinsettia) which will be watered twice a week.  I am edgy about the lawn, with the spring heat we have been having, so we are keeping careful watch on it.  The Christmas plants were watered yesterday, Tuesday.  If they can hold out, the lawn and other ornamentals won’t be watered until Friday.  –MJH.

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A New Week

May 12th, 2009 No comments

The sunshine this morning in our tiny valley bodes hot, and since 9:00 a.m. the front porch has been an oven.  Yesterday was another of those sweet days that sound so sugary in the writing– sunshine, breezes, lunch on the deck.  Mike working at his computer, myself doing domestic things.  I took one of the cars down to Blackberry Cottage to wash with the abundant well water.  Mike did some serious pruning.  We resumed our rigorous testing of homemade Jaffa cakes and tarts.  Late in the night I wrote for a while and read an old paperback about “Camelot.”  –MJH.

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A Delicious Day

May 10th, 2009 No comments

We spent a quiet day, with Mike doing updates and other work, and myself cooking and doing household and paper-work chores.  We completed another batch of our version of Jaffa cakes, which we diligently tested.  After an early dinner of pot roast and carrots, we attended “Grey Gardens,”  the documentary, at the cinema.  Late evening was devoted to the Times crossword and letter-writing. –MJH.

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A Lovely End of the Week

May 9th, 2009 No comments

Saturday– always my favorite day of the week.  Our neighborhood is quiet, except for a few scattered tourists…  I tackle some paperwork, but get no writing done.  Mike works professionally and then does some much-needed pruning and other garden work.  I continue cleaning the garden-room in our little netherworld.  At evening, with us at the dining table, the sky turns the color of lemon sherbet.  After dinner, we work, I make the bottom layers for Jaffa cakes, and we watch a marathon of an edgy movie, “Heat”  –MJH.

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