Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spoonful's Summer Faves

Hello readers, followers, and fans of ALL THINGS  FARMER. This is Sarah Barry from Spoonful. Since James is swamped with work, book promoting, and garden living, he asked me to do a "guest post" to navigate you kind people through some of last summer's recipes and garden goodness!
Here are few of my faves...

summer veggie salsa

the Farmer's tea

 peach tart



Thanks for having me, James! Hope to be back soon with a little Q&A about knockout roses, tomatoes, and the technicalities of full sun!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feeling Blue, How About You?

The colors of spring are vibrant against the newness of green that abounds about the landscape. As all the newly purposed, revived, and flushed plants, trees and grasses reflect their chartreuses, kellies, jades, and emerald hues onto the garden scene, the florally cascade of the pinks and reds, pastels and bolds, yellows and whites, salmons and corals all make for an orchestral delight of color.

As these colors and blossoms fade, a color takes shape in the garden that will lead us into summer and accent the garden and home in a way few others do so – blue. Azure, aqua, cobalt, indigo, baby, cerulean, and turquoise find their way onto petals, foliages, skies and seas, pots, and garden accessories. These shades are visually cooling against the heat now creeping in for a long haul, and douse the garden with a pop of that coolness only blue can boast.

I use blue in my garden and interior design as my “go to” accent. From pottery, to china, lamps, garden stools, and urns, I trust in blue for that “something something”  the room or garden needs. A sucker for blue and white porcelain, I rely on its traditional and always fabulous nature for collections and boasting trappings from the garden.

As an architectural accent, blue shutters, doors, and even mullions can splash some luscious shades, hints, and hues of this color range. A buff, mild honey hued home with aqua/gray/ blue green shutters is fabo! Pennsylvania blue stone carries the hue onto the ground plane and what a delightful combination it is!

One feeling I have with blue is the color’s ability to pair striking well with just about every over color – including itself! When it comes to fashion, a sharp shirt, top, jacket or sweater always comes across sharp with dark denim jeans. Mr. Levi Strauss knew what he was doing! From boots to loafers, plaids to solids, checks, stripes, and piqué, blue jeans may certainly suit the ensemble. Same is true in the garden and interior!

A bouquet of blue hued blossoms in a blue and white vase, jardinière, cachepot, or urn is strikingly lovely, serene, and fresh. Blue and white mixed with books, silver, or other china such as majolica or Imari, is classically at home in many homes. Sparking off fantastically with magenta, coral, red, white and chartreuse, cobalt and azure glazed pots allow this marvelous color to become a garden feature and worthy accent to said colors. Yet, in the horticultural realm, true blue is actually a rarity for flower color, thus maybe why I cherish it so.

Thus, as the hydrangeas are starting to color up and bloom here in Dixie, mounds and mounds of the rare shade florets are popping onto the garden stage and can be carried through the garden with blue pots, garden stools, and other blue flowers. Besides hydrangea, this Farmer relies on salvias such as ‘Victoria Blue,’ ‘May Knight,’ ‘Sapphire,’ ‘Black and Blue’ and the lavender hued Mexican and Russian sages for spring, summer and fall blues. Plumbago, euvolvus, ageratum, and agapanthus spike shades of blue into the garden beds and pots alike throughout the spring and summer - and what lovely spikes they are!

So this Farmer is feeling blue, et tu? I sure hope so! From my garden to yours, all the best for a blue filled season.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A rose is a rose is a rose…

Climbing, rambling, twining and regally displaying their blossoms red, white, pink, yellow, apricot, lavender, and shades of every hue in between, roses are delighting our eyes and our noses this glorious spring. 

From wild natives and state flowers such as the Cherokee to elegantly perfumed French florets, I spied a few roses on a walk through Charleston not long ago. Even this Farmer’s own garden has a few ramblers here and there, touting sprays of divinely scented blossoms into the sweet spring air – air already laden with magnolia, gardenia, honeysuckle and privet mind you!

Of course, the resistance of not cutting a few of these delicate blooms to bring inside was quickly subsided. After stopping and smelling the roses, literally, I had to snip a few shoots to arrange in my favorite silver rose bowl. Aromatically positioned near my desk, a few tucked into sink side vessels and the remainder not far from the sunroom door, I relish to be surrounded with the trappings of the garden. Truly, this is garden living at its finest.

If you’re new to growing roses, then knock yourself out with ‘Knock Out’ roses. Their name and their nature and perfectly congruent and I’ve been floored by their outrageous riots of blooms in medians, parking lots, cutting gardens, and perennial beds alike. From apricot to yellow to pink and double red, these dynamic plants are truly worth a spot in your plot.

For cutting and absolutely unreal fragrance, hybrid tea roses are your ticket. ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ ‘Queen Elizabeth,’  and ‘Peace’ are stalwarts in the hybrid tea family. Classically red, pink, and soft ivory yellow respectively, these roses and many other varieties are must haves in the cutting garden. Arrange some ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ which smells like a rose is supposed to, with some sprigs of mint, and your little bouquet will be the sensation of the season with a sweet, minty, floral perfume able to transform any moment into the most delightful flora experience.

That particular combo is a direct memory to my childhood, for ‘Mr. Lincoln’ has always been a mainstay in Granddaddy’s rose beds and on my childhood farm. Mint usually on hand made for convenient greenery for my rose bouquets and to this day these two scents are instant links to childhood springtime. Besides, aromatic appeal, visually this combo is stunning.

Life is too short to bypass smelling the roses. Stop and smell them, maybe clip a couple, and may your garden and home be enlivened and enriched by the glories of roses. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy spring!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Carrot Cake

This is an old  post {from Feb. 8th, 2010} with new pictures.

So, we had this awesome carrot cake down on Cumberland Island last November for our father’s birthday…the cake was baked and smuggled onto the island by Julie, Daddy’s wife and our new personal gourmet chef! This cake is unbelievably good and it is one of those dishes that lingers in your mind long after the last crumbs have been eaten. Obviously so, since I had the cake back in November and I was still reeling about it come February. I had to make the cake…I had to make the cake Julie’s way, so, I did. I followed her tweaks and tips for a successful cake and boy oh boy was it!

One of her tweaks on the traditional carrot cake recipe is to soak the carrots in cinnamon for three days…THREE DAYS!!! I thought this was crazy, but I wasn’t going to improve upon such a phenomenal dessert. Four cups of shredded, cinnamon soaked carrots, along with oil, flour, sugar, soda, eggs, additional cinnamon and salt constitute this cake. It is easy breezy to make, but takes some thoughtful culinary twists to enhance this dish to the next level.

Another tweak is the garnish…toasted and salted pecans. Now I could eat my weight in pecans, but toasting these and any nut for that matter brings out the flavor and enhances anything they complement. Butter and salt…good butter and sea salt mind you. No skimping there. The sweetness of the cake matched with the salty pecans is delectable. Yet, the cake’s sweetness isn’t so much of a sugary sweet, but an earthy sweet brought on by the carrot and cinnamon love fest created three days prior! What else could this cake need…well, the perfect icing…a frosting of cream cheese lightly sweetened and buttery to perfection.

I am not a huge icing or frosting person…more of a purist when it comes to cake. I like cake. Pound cake, angel food, chocolate…plain, UNLESS the icing or frosting is something so good that it ENHANCES the cake, not fighting it. Cream cheese icing takes the cake here…pun intended.

Good butter (I have a whole post on butter coming up soon), cream cheese and just enough confectioners’ sugar, to make it slightly sweet, make up this frosting. Vanilla – enough for slight color and flavor – melds perfectly with the aforementioned trio. From first bite to last, this cake hits the pallet in all the right spots…sweet, salty, moist, crunchy, smooth, and creamy…all at the same time. It invites to the other senses to play as well, since it smells lovely and is quite beautiful to look at too!

From one Farmer’s kitchen to another Farmer’s kitchen, Julie’s carrot cake was a hit all around. I’ve had it for breakfast, for dessert, and for a snack…sadly watching it dwindle down to a few measly crumbs on the cake plate. Don’t worry; they’ll be eaten too…

Carrot Cake
2 cups sugar
4 eggs…I use extra large eggs…always at room temperature for baking.
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups plain flour…White Lily…stay tuned as for a post on flour and as to why White Lily…
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups grated carrots

· Beat eggs and add sugar until blended…add oil and continue to beat.
· Mix flour, cinnamon, salt and soda with a fork in a separate bowl then add to the wet ingredients.
· Fold in grated carrots.
· Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F…I did for 27 minutes since I feel my oven cooks fast…use the clean toothpick in the center method for best results after 25 minutes to gage doneness.
· Cool for a few minutes and remove from the pans and allow the cakes to totally adjust and be brought to room temperature.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ box of confectioners’ sugar
2 blocks of 8 oz cream cheese…room temperature cream cheese.
¾ to 1 stick buttergo on and use the whole stick and use GOOD butter!
2 tsp vanilla…good vanilla
Toasted Pecans…coated in melted butter and used for garnish…I used halves.

The tweaks that make this DIVINE:
Four cups of carrots. Grate and stir in cinnamon three days prior to baking the cake. Use enough cinnamon to be able to smell it, and give it a brownish color.

Toasted pecans… I used an Irish (Kerry Gold) unsalted butter that I melted then adding coarse salt. Plus, the coarse salt is pretty too! Single layer the nuts on an oven pan or baking sheet and toast on 350. Keep watch as they will burn…once they have begun to smell they’re bout ready! They should be slightly darker than their original color. Nothing better than the smell of toasted pecans!

One stick (or equal) of quality butter – Julie likes the Italian one best, that comes from the Reggiano region. Kerry Gold, Land o Lakes, and Publix brand work well too. Don't forget to add a little salt when using unsalted.

Two boxes of cream cheeseAnd powdered sugar to taste. A whole box is way too sweet. Vanilla, just enough to smell and color should be don't want it too runny. I made the frosting the day before I frosted the cake so it would stiffen up a little, refrigerating it over night. The next day, I placed it on the counter for an hour or so before frosting the cake…just so everything and everyone is at room temperature. It will work fine too if your mix it and then frost the cake…just don’t frost a warm cake!

I made extra frosting with the increased butter and cream cheese for a three layer. If you are making the cake in a 13 X 9 pan, you won't need this much, so just use what is listed....unless of course, you just want to eat it on the side!

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