Friday, May 27, 2011

(Mis) Adventures in Gardening

I'll be honest, I don't have a green thumb. I like to think I do though. I like to buy plants. Whenever I see them at a store, let's say, Whole Foods, I always stop and look at them and think, "Why yes, I could use an ivy plant in my house." Most of the time I make the right choice and keep walking. But sometimes I take a plant home.

And wouldn't you know, the very first plants I ever bought are still alive and kickin'. I was so excited to get them I even named them. Spike & Fuzz. I got them both at Trader Joe's when I was living in Tucson. These babies are more than 5 years old now. Granted they are succulents, aka hard to kill, but I still take pride in the fact that they have lasted that long. And have outlasted some of their fellow plant-mates. RIP bamboo1, bamboo2, bamboo3, indoor tree, cilantro1, cilantro2, oregano plant & pepper plant.

Spike & Fuzz are to the far left and far right.
That cilantro plant in the front died within a week.
Basil is now a beast.

Part of my failure as an indoor gardener is that my plants don't get enough sunlight. Enter: the OUTDOORS! For the first time in years I have a bit of a backyard, and a sunny one at that. So I decided that this summer was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at container gardening. I opted for relatively easy plants (I think? I hope?) that love sunlight. All of them are also edible so I can enjoy the rewards of my gardening in the kitchen.

If you couldn't tell from the above picture, the garden lineup includes:
  • Hungarian spicy wax peppers (which are supposed to be way spicy!)
  • Tiny Tim tomatoes (the perks of this plant is that it produces cute little tomatoes and doesn't need a stake/grate/cage/etc.)
  • Globe basil (smells delish!)
  • Spicy oregano (it's not spicy like the peppers are, spicy like flavorful)
  • Chives
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate mint (seriously, omg! I can't wait for this to grow to be a beast so I can eat chocolate mint every day.)
  • French lavender (lavender is supposed to be a migraine cure, so we'll see how this does to aid my aching head.)
I'll be keeping you posted on how the garden grows. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pistachio-Chai Muffins

Mmmmm I love a good muffin. When I saw the list of “Healthy Muffins” from Cooking Lite I knew I was in heaven. A few years ago I used to buy a blueberry or corn muffin each morning from Wegmans until I learned that each muffin had approximately 60 grams of fat and 300,000 calories (yes, an exaggeration, but it was still a lot!). Unreal. FOR A MUFFIN! I was disgusted. If you’re getting all those fat and calories you might as well be shoveling in like ten donuts and a chocolate-filled croissant.

Anyway, I was so pleased to see these healthy muffins, and one’s that don’t seem to skimp on flavor. With my mom and sister coming into town, I decided to try out the first one that jumped out at me: Pistachio-Chai.

It gets the chai flavor from real tea bags which seemed cool to me because you can adjust the flavor based on which tea you select. All was going well in the cooking process… I even managed to work around the fact that my oven fills my kitchen with an awful gas smell so cooked my muffins with the broiler (turning it on and off at intervals to heat up the oven just enough without searing the tops of the muffins… somehow the broiler doesn’t make my kitchen stink of gas. Anyone have an answer for this?)

And then, the final reveal. I pulled the muffins out of the oven and let them cool and got ready to drizzle on the icing. And what? I FORGOT THE PISTACHIOS! In all my cleaning, stressing about the gas smell, etc. I forgot to add the crushed pistachios to the tops of the muffins before baking. *sigh* BUT they were still good. They were just Chai Muffins. Or Pistachio-Chai Muffins Sans Pistachios, if you want to think of it that way.

They were easy to make so I’ll probably whip up a new batch for myself later this week WITH pistachios. Mmmmm. Recipe is below. Enjoy!

Pistachio-Chai Muffins (Makes 12 muffins)

• 7 9/10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 chai blend tea bags, opened
• 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• Cooking spray
• 1/3 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon water


1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut open tea bags; add tea to flour mixture, stirring well. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle nuts evenly over batter. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.
4. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon water, stirring until smooth. Drizzle evenly over muffins.

Source: Cooking Lite. See the rest of the muffin recipes HERE.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Farm Market / Spring Market

Oh, I am so totally craving Farm Market Season already. I love me some fresh/local/organic produce but golly Whole Foods is just so darn expensive. And I like supporting local, and browsing the crazy selection of things offered at Farm Markets that even Whole Foods doesn't stock. Can it be Farm Market Season yet, pleeeeease?

After some intense internet searching I found a mini-solution, it looks like Newton has a spring market! Huzzah! Here's the deets found on the Newton Farmers Market website

American Legion Post 440,
295 California St., Parking Lot
May 24 - June 28
12:00PM - 5:00PM

Picture compliments of the Newton Farmer's Market website...
look how pretty!

I still have to wait three weeks, but it's better than waiting until mid-June which is went my local markets, Brookline and Alston, open. If you're looking for info about Boston area markets once they open, check out my post from last year featuring area markets by the day of the week: FARM MARKET TIME!

Anyone else know of area spring markets? Please share!
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