How Does Your Garden Grow

fullsizeoutput_55ba

This week’s walk around the garden featured a few lovely surprises like this Asiatic lily. Multiple blooms on hearty stems peppered across the backyard truly stand out. Orange is the new black for a reason and so worth the dirt under my nails.

fullsizeoutput_55bb

Aptly named “goat’s beard” this hearty shrub is a wonderful back drop to those colorful lillies. So worth my aching back.

fullsizeoutput_55bc

Low growing dianthus spreads an electric pink carpet along the border. It’s sweet fragrance is just a bonus. So worth me feeling my age.

 

A shady area allows these astilbe to thrive. These feathery flowers come in many gorgeous colors. So worth the sweat on my brow.

fullsizeoutput_55c2

I get pretty excited when the fruit and vegetables show themselves. Please local deer keep away!

fullsizeoutput_55c1

Like small jewels these French strawberries are something special. I love them for breakfast or floating in a glass of wine come evening. The best is letting my granddaughter pick them. She pops them right into her mouth. How fun is that?

fullsizeoutput_55c0

The rock garden features a bounty of succulents. Interesting shapes and colors and easy to care for “chicks and hens” are quite a contrast to the rest of the garden. They need no help from me to flourish.

IMG_1512

Like all good things in the garden the perennials need to restore their root systems. After a bounty of delicious asparagus I must let some stalks mature into ferns. As they replenish themselves the ferns create the most lush green screen along the fence. Those unpicked spears grow about 6 feet tall and later develop eye-popping red berries.

IMG_7127

Have a beautiful week. Plant some seeds. Stop and smell the roses. Tell someone you love them.

 

Garden Fresh Fig Coffee Cake

fullsizeoutput_4eff

I never dreamed that I would ever be able to grow fresh figs until this move to southeast Pennsylvania. The climate here is warmer and the growing season longer. With a little winter protection my fig trees have thrived. As grocery produce goes they are a pricey commodity, so it’s a great example of why tending a small backyard garden is worth it. Here we are on the edge of November and these fresh figs are ripening fast and furious.

fullsizeoutput_4ef9

Once picked figs don’t last long. They are quite perishable. We love them sliced and caramelized in butter with goat cheese and balsamic glaze, but we can only eat so many that way. Simmering a large pot of figs with honey and orange yielded two nice jars of jam. Still so many figs, so I baked a fresh fig cake recipe that I present today.

fullsizeoutput_4efb

This is a dense fruit cake filled with toasted pecans, chopped dates, dried cranberries and the fresh figs. It’s flavored with cardamom, citrus zest and a little orange liqueur. It is a moist cake that is delicious for breakfast topped with plain Greek yogurt or can be served as an elegant after dinner dessert topped with whipped cream.

fullsizeoutput_4efc

Garden Fresh Fig Cake

1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup pitted dates, quartered

2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups canola

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

3 eggs

1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

 

12 ripe figs, quartered

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a coffee cake pan with no-stick baking spray. In small bowl, toss cranberries, dates and orange liqueur or juice; reserve. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cardamom; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat sugar, oil and orange zest on high speed for 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. With mixer on low speed gradually add flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in pecans and reserved dried fruit mixture. Spread half the batter evenly over bottom of pan. Evenly space half the figs on the batter. Spread remaining batter over figs. Top with remaining figs. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate and then invert again on to a cooling rack. I prefer the fig side up.

fullsizeoutput_4efd

I prefer to flip this over and serve it fig side up

 

Spirited Butternut Pecan Cookies

IMG_8091Today’s recipe is brought to you by NOT the great pumpkin, but the butternut squash. It’s not that I am not tempted to share some great pumpkin idea, but if your inbox is anything like mine you have been completely inundated with pumpkin recipes. Besides that I did not plant sugar pumpkins this year. I like to rotate my crops and the butternut squash did not disappoint.

fullsizeoutput_4eda

There is nothing like a fresh picked butternut squash. The biggest difference from store bought? The tender skin! There is no battle slicing through it nor the fear of chopping off a finger. Most of the dozen or so I got from just 1 seed grew quite large, but my final pick was a wee 5-inches.

fullsizeoutput_4ed8

Chopped, cooked and smashed this little beauty yielded just 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree. It was more than enough for this cookie recipe that I wanted to test out.

fullsizeoutput_4ed4

Yes! It is a spirited cookie. I guess you could say a certain Sailor inspired this one. He has been around a lot lately. The recipe also calls for a few other complimentary flavors like vanilla bean paste, pumpkin pie spice, toasty pecans and demerera sugar. The cookie bakes up soft, but not cake-like, on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside from the sprinkle of sugar.

fullsizeoutput_4ed6

Here is a tip. If you are roasting or boiling up a butternut squash for dinner set aside 1/4 cupful for these cookies before adding any seasoning. You will be glad you did.

fullsizeoutput_4ecf

Spirited Butternut Pecan Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen cookies
  • Print

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

¼ cup mashed butternut squash

1 tablespoon Jack Daniel’s whiskey

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 tablespoons demerera or turbinado sugar

36 pecan halves

Heat oven to350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk flour, spice, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar for 5 minutes or until light and well mixed. Add egg yolk; blend well. Add squash, whiskey and vanilla bean paste; blend well. Add flour mixture; stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until well blended. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon drop cookie batter onto prepared baking sheet. Press 1 pecan into center of each cookie. Sprinkle each with a pinch of demera sugar. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around edges.

fullsizeoutput_4e6f

Have a great week from my real favorite pumpkin