Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter Coconut Cake

Question: have you ever eaten coconut?  No, no. The bagged junk doesn't count. Who knows how long it's been there, or what kind of adulteration it's endured. So much flavor and texture is lost. That's why I prefer this recipe, which calls for the processing and use of your own fresh coconut. It's a bit of a hassle, but once you get the hang of it it's not hard at all, and believe me-

Believe me-

you'll be glad you did it.

I love making cakes in general, but coconut cake is among my favorites. It's a complicated procedure, sure, but to me that makes the successful final product that much more exciting. The recipe I use is directly from Good Eats, no alterations. We now refer to Alton Brown as "Uncle Alton" in my family  due to how many of his recipes and methods we have adopted, and his coconut cake is the best I've had. The only amendment I made was that I used two coconuts, just to be sure I would have enough.

Coconut Cake with Fresh Coconut and Seven Minute Frosting

Digger's Diary #6: Tomato/Pepper Panic, New Dirt

Latest updates:

1. EVERYTHING is up! Every seed I planted sprouted. Rather than planting more than one per pot, I just planted one seed per pot, and more than I needed. That way I don't have to thin them. I'll just keep the healthiest ones and give the others away (if anybody wants them). The tomatoes and peppers don't look so hot (I'll get to that in a minute), but the squash, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, marigolds, nasturtiums, and sunflowers are doing great. I didn't plant strawberries from seed, but the transplants I brought home from Lowe's are also doing well and have started to flower. Also one of my lavender plants is in bloom and the snapdragon looks great too.
  2. It's too cold for hardening off. Memo to self. Everything came back in. Christmas lights/kitty litter was reassembled. Le sigh.

3. After days of keeping an eye out, and sometimes actively searching for cinder blocks, I gave up over this weekend and just bought them at Lowe's. I have to say, though, that I'm not sorry. I set them in their spots around my planters and looking at the beds just makes my heart sing. Based on what I've seen from the strawberry pots, I'll definitely be lining the insides of the cinder blocks before I add the dirt. Cement is a thirsty animal.
 4. I bought a truckload of topsoil. It's not pictured here because it's truck. I know you think I'm crazy and/or stupid for buying dirt, and maybe you're right. But I don't trust the quality of the dirt around my house, and this stuff looks good. And I WILL be taking it with us when we move. Along with my compost.

5. I'm trying desperately to help my sad-looking tomato and pepper plants along. I can't decide what they need. They're in the same conditions that are making my watermelons, cantaloupes, cukes, and squash thrive. I'm watering them regularly enough. Here's a picture of one of my tomato seedlings. Maybe one of you out there can help diagnose the issue.

 6. Supplementary to #5, I am moving my tomatoes and peppers from the newspaper pots to "greenhouses" made from upcycled milk jugs, based on this tutorial. Two blogs I've read have used these, with excellent results. Particularly in the tomato department. So.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Digger's Diary #5: Plants Go Outside

Greetings and sorry for the long silence! It's been a busy month, getting ready for spring. I'm pleased to report that almost all of my seeds germinated! And several of them now have "true" leaves in addition to their seed leaves. To recap, the seedlings I have right now are

2x cucumber
4x watermelon
4x tomato
4x bell pepper
8x lettuce

Flowers, cantaloupe, and squash in "greenhouse." This rig, with the lid on, sits inside on top of a heating pad until everything has popped up.

On Saint Patrick's Day I planted marigolds, nasturtiums, two kinds of sunflower, cantaloupe (or muskmelon), and yellow summer squash. They're germinating in the makeshift greenhouse as we speak. Also I purchased 6 strawberry transplants and put them in 3 of the 4 cinder blocks I've used to start my raised bed border. We'll see how they do; mixed reviews on the web.

Now for the most exciting news: my germinated seedlings are OUTSIDE. About a week ago I turned off the grow lights, removed the Christmas lights and almost all of the kitty litter, and moved my babies out into the world. Since then, they have been under the filtered light of the oak tree in our backyard, protected by two old windows I have teepeed over them. And the last two nights they've stayed out all night. I know I am probably babying them too much, but Y'ALL. It really is like what I imagine the first day of kindergarten feels like for parents. Also I didn't plant much more than I need, so it would be pretty tragic at this point to have a major loss. See update on this here.