Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beans, gardening and seed saving

A new twist on the blog - gardening.

This year I actually managed to get a garden going, although weeks past the date that I should have started. I purchased organic non-gmo seeds from I also needed to buy a small indoor greenhouse, which I happily did - at Wegmans. It looks kind of like this, except there is also shelving across the back.
I put it in my garage, went out and purchased lighting to hook up underneath each shelf. Then I had to buy organic soil. I went to Amazon for that task and picked up 4 bags of this stuff.

Once I had seed trays started (late), I went to work, checking, nurturing, etc. I lost a lot of seeds after they came up because my lighting was too far away - they got leggy. Some got the mildew rot. But I still ended up with tons of tomatoes, beans, sunflowers, peppers and more tomatoes. Did I mention tomatoes? Anyway, as said, I got a really late start on the seeds.

This led to late crops, no crops, half crops and bumper crops. My beans are fantastic, I will definitely do them again next year. Every tomato seed I planted came up and since I did not have the heart to throw any away I planted them all. Big mistake since they took up most of my garden. But it was actually good since I didn't have much time to be in there weeding and tending, and they are very low maintenance anyway.

This year I built a trellis in my garden, at the entry way, to accommodate the pole beans and the chinese yard long noodle beans. Now those were interesting!

I loved my trellis most out of the entire garden this year. It added interest and it also provided a place for the morning glories to climb as well.

The first part of the crops to bloom were the purple pole beans. Little purple flowers burst forth  at once and soon I found myself with my first harvest by May.

These beans are super sweet and very easy to let go to seed. They are fantastic raw in dips and on salad.

Once the trellis was in full bloom it looked AMAZING. And then the beans just started coming, and coming, and coming and holy cow what was I supposed to do with all of them?

I had noodle beans.......

chinese reg long noodle beans

I had purple pole beans....

and I had green beans, which I later found out matured into shelly beans...

What happens when you forget to, or don't quite see all the beans you should be picking? Well, you get overripe green beans that at first glance appear as though they are meant for trash. But guess what? You can actually save those, take the seeds out of the pods not quite dry, boil them for 30 minutes in salted water. Then cook them for about 5 minutes in a saute pan with onions and garlic and you got yourself a protein packed, and bean rescued harvest for dinner.

shelly beans with garlic and onion

 OH MY! This was sooo yummy and I am sorry I didn't keep more of them for cooking. I had my last bumper crop tonight and picked all the beans I had left. Some were completely dry which I will save for seed and the rest for soup. The purple pole beans and green beans went to freezing. I blanced them in boiling water for 4 minutes after I washed and chopped them, and now they are happily in my freezer for later use. 

Some of my early crops,  I dried on string hung in a sunny dry place and they are ready for later use in a soup or stew (picked that up in Williamsburg while on vacation this year).

As for the rest of my crop, I am about to have a gazillion green tomatoes that I need to bring in and place in a box with newspaper to see if they will ripen up for me. If not, I will can them and save them for something else. They make a great refrito.

Overall, I was totally thrilled with my garden this year. Next year, I will plan better, move things around and will get it in the ground earlier. Right now I have lots of basil and oregano still growing, and my scallions are also doing great. Basil will be cut to dry soon.  Oh now the planning begins for next spring!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lego Cake

Lego cake - what was I thinking? OK well I was not originally planning on doing the entire cake out of fondant Legos, it was supposed to be a simpler cake. But when requested - "do you think you can do this??" Well, I was up for the challenge. I had 5 days to cut out 226 pieces for the top and I lost count on the sides. But I had to somehow make those Lego pieces. When I said yes, in my head I thought I had the great idea of "just get a Lego plate" from my son's massive collection and I can put the fondant on and mold it around and pull it off. Not so easy. It turned out that the fondant would not come off the plate easily no matter how much I dusted with sugar. So I had to find a plan B. Turned out that plan was food grade silicone. Michaels carries a product called Amazing Mold Putty. The price is about $20 but with a coupon for 50% off made it an even greater find for me and did just the trick. This stuff sets up super quick, and even though it does not look like a whole lot in the box, it will mold many many many items. I still have not run out after all the shells and other items with which I chose to make molds.

Anyway, the cake was a project far more intensive than I first thought. I of course went right to Excel to design the product, figured out I needed around 270 pieces cut out for the top and who knows how many for the sides. I just did them as I went for that.

Some things I learned:
1) next time the top of the cake needs to be super super flat and smooth. A ganache underlay would have been a much better choice than butter cream. BUT, butter cream is more enjoyable on a cake in my opinion so I am still not sure about the ganache thing yet.
2) 266 Lego pieces takes a long time to set on top of a cake. Just sayin'. 7 hours later and I had the whole thing covered.
3) Definitely need to let the top pieces not dry so much that they were not flexible, I had a lot that broke and cracked.
4) 266 pieces is way too

The cake turned out way better than I expected and the birthday boy was thrilled.

Several months later I did another Lego cake, much simpler, with Lego themed cupcakes. The Lego pieces were a mold I purchased on Amazon that had large blocks. I used chocolate for those to place on top of the cupcakes.

Just some fun stuff I have done over the summer.