Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homemade Lemon Meringue Pie - easy microwave version

Admittedly, this has nothing whatsoever to do with gardening, but since I just made 2 pies, I thought I would pass along this recipe.

I detest standing at the stove and having to constantly stir something until it thickens.  I now do all my pie fillings in the microwave and it works like a charm.

You do NOT  need to adjust your recipe in any way, except that you add all ingredients at the beginning.  Most lemon fillings instruct you to heat part of your ingredients and then gradually add the eggs, but there is no need for that when using the microwave.

This method works for any cooked pie filling that I have ever tried & I'll share my Coconut Cream recipe later.

Here is my recipe:

Carla's Lemon Meringue Pie:

1 9" lightly browned pie shell

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour (either gluten-free, all purpose flour or self-rising, it doesn't matter)
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 1/4 cups water
3 egg yolks (save egg whites for meringue)
6 Tablespoons lemon juice.  Fresh squeezed is best, but bottled lemon juice is OK in a pinch)

IMPORTANT:  Use a wire whisk instead of a spoon for stirring.

Add all ingredients (except egg whites) in a microwave-safe bowl and whisk thoroughly to blend.

I always set my microwave for 10 minutes so I don't have to keep resetting to 2 minute intervals, but total time will vary with different microwaves.

Microwave on HIGH and whisk thoroughly every 2 minutes.  The filling will start to look thick & set up around the edges, but don't worry.  Just whisk real good & continue to microwave in 2 minute intervals til it is thick & bubbly.  

Pour into your baked pie shell and top with meringue, sealing meringue completely to the crust on the edges.

Heat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar (optional)
1/2 cup white sugar

Mix egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, add cream of tartar & continue to whip, adding sugar gradually & continuing on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Immediately spread meringue over HOT filling & making sure to seal all the way to the edges of the crust.  (This helps prevent weeping.)   Swirl the meringue in a nice pattern, but I avoid peaks because they will brown too much before the rest of the meringue browns.

Place in a 350 degree oven & bake until meringue is browned.

Remove from oven and leave uncovered until cool.  Cool thoroughly before serving.


I took a chance on early planting and won!

Good grief!  I did it again (or actually I didn't do it) - I haven't posted since March 17.  I have come to the conclusion I am hopeless.

Just a little catching up on the garden events.  I took a big chance and planted my garden in March (our last frost date is April 15).  My thoughts were that I have plenty of seeds, the temps are in the 80's and if we have frost again (which I was sure we would have), I could cover my square foot beds.  If I lost everything anyway, I would just replant at the normal time.

I planted everything - Roma bush beans, corn, squash, my tomato plants that had been started from seed & were quite large, and cucumbers.  We had temps in the mid to low 30s for about a week and 2-3 nights of frost, but I used bed sheets & was able to cover everything & DIDN'T LOSE A SINGLE PLANT!

I harvested my first green beans on May 15 and first tomato on May 30th.  The corn is tassling & ears have formed, so we should be eating corn in a week or so.

I could easily have lost everything, but thankfully I didn't.

But there is something weird going on with my  tomato plants:  Out of the 72 plants I have out, only one tomato has turned & ripened.  I guess it got ripe so I could brag about my super-early ripe tomato!

As I have said many times, Square Foot Gardening has many, many advantages.  The Mix, which is 1/3 peat, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 blended compost, does not clump so you can plant in the rain if you want to, it doesn't need to dry out like soil, and the raised beds warm up quickly so you can plant earlier.

These pictures are from May 22:

Enjoy your harvest and give thanks to God.  Hopefully I will not be so long between posts (but don't count on it). 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When to start seeds?

I fixed my handy, dandy seed storage box last night.  It's a 30 minute drive to the nearest store that would have had the foam board, so I made do with what I had.  I had an over-sized shoe box with attached lid from hubby's New Balance sneakers & used it.   Mine only has 9 divisions in it instead of 12, but I am organizing mine a little differently since I wouldn't be planting something all 12 months of the year.   No pictures yet because I want to spruce it up a bit first.

But how do you decide when to start your seeds?  The first obvious step is to find your frost dates, which you can find by Zip Code here: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

There are several ways to figure out when you should start certain seeds, but I have been using Clyde's Garden Planner for a few seasons.

It is the handiest little gadget.  On one side is a sliding chart for Spring planting, on the other is for Fall Planting.   It lists indoor seeding dates, first outdoor planting, last outdoor planting and expected harvest for a variety of common vegetables.     You just slide the chart to your average frost date & everything is all lined up for you!   How cool is that?

Johnny's Seeds has several tools for planning your garden, including Fall planting calculator, target harvest date calculator and others.

Organic Gardening has a simple printable chart. 

And don't forget your local County Extension Office.  You can find your local office HERE.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seed storage idea

At the Square Foot Gardening Forum there has been an ongoing discussion about seed storage ideas with some great ideas.  This is one of the latest ones and it really caught my eye.

Wouldn't it be great if you could see a "snapshot" of the year, and organize your seed packets based on when you're needing them?  This one is made from Foamboard and the directions can be found here at Vegetable Gardener

Another very useful square foot gardening site is My Square Foot Garden.

This site has an easy-to-use garden planning tool and they have a free trial membership.  There is a wealth of information here, one of which is the plant spacing guide.  Although I have the All New Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew, this spacing guide is handy to print & keep in front of my 3-ring notebook journal and I have also printed a copy & sealed it in a clear sheet protector to take outside with me.   Another great thing is the Garden by Color, which is geared toward your planting zone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sugar snap peas planted

Just a quick note today.  Our winter has been rather mild this year, so I gambled and planted 4 squares of sugar snaps today.  If they grow, then I'll be way ahead of the game, but if not, then it was only a few seeds lost and I have more. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

DIY Seed Packets from Scrapbook Paper

It is still too early to actually do any seed starting and while I still had my seed stash out on the dining room table, I had a BRILLIANT idea.

Making your own seed packets is nothing new and there are many free templates out in cyber space, but I came up with something a little different. I have a collection of 12x12 inch scrapbook papers that are medium to heavy weight in gorgeous patterns and colors that are just taking up space on a shelf.  I thought they would make nice seed packets.

What you need:
  • Seed packet template.  You can even disassemble a seed packet and trace around it for your pattern. 
  • Your choice of papers (even catalog pages will do)
  • Elmer's repositionable glue stick for the flap
  • Regular craft glue stick
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
I had my wonderful husband draw out a template for the seed packets.  I wanted a little larger than normal seed packet, so I had a lot of paper waste, but you could size them smaller and fit more to a page.   This will also depend on what size paper your printer will accept.  My scrapbook papers were 12 x 12", but my printer only accepts an 8.5" width paper.  To adjust the pattern so I could print two packets on one 6 x 12 strip, the packet was too small for my taste, so I only got one envelope on a 6 x 12 strip.  The excess can be used for lots of crafty ideas so I'll save them.

Print your template on the WRONG side of your paper.  You will want to have your fold lines on the inside so everything will look nice & neat when completed.

Cut out each pattern.  Most seed packet templates don't show it, but be sure to bevel the fold flaps, bottom flaps, they will fold much neater.
Use your ruler to score the fold lines and fold them.
Next seal the side and bottom flaps with craft glue.
Use the Repositionable glue for your top flap.  That way it is resealable.   No more torn envelopes & seed spills!

Label your packets.  For my labels I used self-stick address labels.  My handwriting is not the best and some of my papers were darker & with lots of bold designs and handwriting wouldn't look good on them.    By using labels it's easy to see what each packet contains & everything is consistent.

Bevel the fold flaps

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delaware Chicks ordered

"...when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another Heaven and another Earth must pass before such a one can be again."
-William Beebe

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are asses, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys.  It is such a shame that so many breeds have already been lost and so many more on the endangered to critical lists.  Since I was ordering new chicks this year, I decided to check some of the endangered breeds.

The Delaware is on the Threatened list and since it has an above-average rate of lay and large to jumbo egg size, I decided to order them.  There were several breeds I was interested in, but I had to narrow it down to only one, so I chose the Delaware.  

Delaware chicken"Delawares, originally called “Indian Rivers,” were developed by George Ellis of Delaware in 1940 and were used for the production of broilers. The breed originated from crosses of Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens. "

The remainder of the article can be found HERE.

I have ordered 20 pullets and 1 rooster.
I realize this is a really small scale effort to help the breed survive, but it is something I want to do.  Besides, I just LOVE chickens. 

If you are interested in any endangered livestock breeds, be sure to go to the ALBC web site.  They have an extensive listing of breeds of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, hogs & others that are endangered. 

Seed Viability

I Googled & found a seed viability chart from Virginia Tech  that might be helpful.  I notice they list onions can be saved for one year, so maybe I'll have better germination that I expect.  I had read somewhere else that you had to have fresh seed each year.  We will see what happens.

 Average number of years seed can be saved
Brussels sprouts4
Chinese cabbage3
Corn, sweet2
Cress, water5

What did you do today?

I am SO ready for Spring!   I mentioned in the last post that I had ordered a lot of new seeds.  Well, today I got out my seed box to see what I still had.  I suppose most people would have reversed these steps, but I like to try new things.  I admit I went a bit overboard by ordering 30 packs of tomato seeds for a square foot garden, but I ordered several paste types since I can a lot.  I love the flavor of my Dixie's Sweet, but they are large & ripen slowly and I ordered varying day to maturity times. 

This is what I had left over.  (I am going to offer a lot of them for exchange on the SFG forum after I check the dates on them & recommended storage times.  I know the onions will have spotty germination because they don't store well.

Dragon tongue
Roma II


Early golden acre
Perfection Savoy
premium late flat Dutch

Early snowball
Long island brussels sprouts

Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs yellow
St. Valery
White Belgian


Ambrosia 3       
Chubby checkers
Early & often 3+
Obsession 2
Sugar pearl
boston pickler

Cilantro, slo bolt
Dill, elephant
Dill, long island
Parsley, italian
sage, perennial
Bibb summer
Paris Island Cos
Red sails mix
Rocky top mix

Burrell's jumbo
Kolb's gem
Lady Godiva
Sleeping beauty
Sugar Baby
TN melon

Louisiana long pod

Leek, American Flag
Leek, giant musselburgh
Riverside sweet
Tropeana Lunga long red

Banana sweet
California Wonder
Emerald Giant
Italian pepperoncini
sweet bell   
Yellow monster

Early Jalapeno
Hungarian Hot
Tam Jalapeno

Gil's green acorn           
honey boat delicata
Yellow crookneck

anna Russian
Dads sunset orange
Early Cascade
german pink
Isis candy
Red grape
Striped Roman

Purple top turnip
Wilhelmsburgh Rutabaga

I get to start my pepper seeds in a couple of weeks, then tomatoes & some other things 2 weeks after that. 

I'll tell you about my baby chick order tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dreary, rainy day

I still haven't gotten many catalogs, not even from the companies I have previously ordered from.  I did get a new one from Fedco.  I had never had one of their catalogs and although it did cause eyestrain because the print was so small, I enjoyed reading through it.  I found some varieties that I "needed" & placed an order.  I usually order from Baker Creek, but Fedco had a lot of different heirloom varieties. 

One I am particularly interested in is Laurentian Rutabaga, a Canadian variety.  It is supposed to be a larger and sweeter variety.  I also ordered:

Veggies & spuds:
  • Cascadia Snap pea
  • Tromboncino rampicante squash
  • Nutty Delicata.  I love Delicata squash, but hadn't tried this particular one.
  • Prisma Shallot seed
  • Blushed butter cos lettuce
  • Olga lettuce
  • Deluxe Lettuce mix
  • Freedom lettuce mix
  • Winter lettuce mix
  • Deadon Savoy cabbage
  • Tango celery
  • Yellow moon dutch shallots, 1 lb.
  • Picasso shallots, 1 lb.
  • Satina potato, 2.5 lb.
  • Romanze potato, 2.5 lb.
  • Alchemilla, Lady's Mantle
  • Double click mix Cosmos
  • Vintage mix stocks
  • April in Paris, a highly fragrant sweet pea
  • Coral gardens cockscomb
  • Southern Bells hibiscus
  • My castle red russell lupine
  • Sightseeing mix veronica
That is about all the damage I could afford.  

It's starting to storm, gotta go.

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