Monday, October 29, 2012

My Rant About Gardening Magazines

So with gardening season behind me, I actually have some time to catch up on reading gardening magazines.  I love seeing gardening ideas.  I will probably never give up on gardening magazines.  However, there is something that really annoys me about gardening magazines.  There is usually some kind of feature in the magazine where they list the top 10 plants for something, like the top 10 plants for shade.  However they always, and I mean always, list some plant that is extremely hard to grow or they don't list all the details about a plant.  They don't list details such as it takes 8 years to establish into the plant you see in the picture or this is an extremely close up picture of this plant it's really very small.  It always makes me worry about the inexperienced gardener who gives that plant a try based on that recommendation. Gardening is all about successes and failures, you learn as you grow.  I had a lot of failures in my own garden, but a lot of times I knew I was pushing limits such as hardiness zones.  When you are putting something out there for gardeners of every level you should disclose all the details about the plant.  It makes me wonder if they are making money off of nurseries by pushing some of these plants?  What is there reasoning for putting these hard to grow plants on their top 10 lists?  What are your thoughts?  I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Late Bloomers

While I was out planting the last of my bulbs today I noticed that there were still some plants that were flowering in the garden.
Fall Blooming Crocus



Anemone 'Party Dress'



Not a flower, but Japanese Maple leaves are a beautiful red.

Hosta 'Wily Willy'




Martian Moonflower


Cold Hardy Pansy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Poppy Seed Torte - A Family Tradition

We are finally receiving the rain we've been waiting for since this summer.  So what better to do on a rainy weekend but bake something!  Growing up I spent a lot of time at family get togethers. My grandparents on my mother's side of the family had very large families and both were of German descent (although recently we've discovered one side of our family was really from Liechtenstein).  It wouldn't be a Guenther or Buechel family get together without a few food staples: German Potato Salad, someone's homemade pickles (sweet and dill), maybe some Pickled Beets, Brick cheese, and at least two kinds of Poppy Seed Torte.  Two kinds of Poppy Seed Torte you say?  Yes, two kinds!  One variety which my grandma was a master of was the one pictured above with the graham cracker crust, custard poppy seed filling, and a meringue topping.  There was also the variety one of my great aunts made with white cake and poppy seeds topped with a custard frosting.  Both were delicious, but my favorite was always my grandma's version.  So I finally decided I would give it a try.  I will admit I am no master of the meringue, but the torte turned out as delicious as I remembered it.

Here was the recipe I followed (not my grandma's recipe, but very close):
Poppy Seed Torte
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 melted butter
1 1/4 cups plus 8 TBSP divided
4 cups whole milk
4 TBSP cornstarch
4 TBSP flour (Next time I might leave this out completely and see what results I get)
1/3 cup poppy seeds
4 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat over to 325
Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1/4 cup of the sugar.  Reserve at least 1/2 cup of mixture for top of torte later.   Press remaining mixture into a 9x13 pan.

To make the custard filling: Mix 1/2 cup of milk in bowl with the cornstarch and flour until smooth and set aside.  

Carefully heat 3 1/2 cups of milk in a pan (or a double boiler, if you have one).  Add 1 cup sugar and the poppy seeds to the heated milk.  The slowly whisk in the cornstarch/flour/milk mixture and mix until smooth.  Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cook until this mixture begins to thicken.  Whisk in the 4 eggs yolks and boil, stirring constantly, another 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour onto graham cracker crust.

For the meringue: Beat eggs whites until they form stiff peaks.  Then add remaining 8 TBSP of sugar.  Spread mixture over the custard and sprinkle with remaining graham cracker mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done.  Cool and refrigerate before eating (unless you really like warm custard).  Makes about 20 servings.