19 July 2011

Flower Power

It occurred to me that I've hardly taken any garden photos this year, which is a shame since I ended up missing a truly spectacular display of roses. Luckily there are still lots of pretties left to photograph and share. Click to enlarge and enjoy!

The morning glories are just starting and once again I'm reminded of why they're among my favourite flowers:

This morning glory was just starting to wilt (which they do when the sun gets hot) and I thought it looked lovely:

These ones were enthusiastically visited by a bumblebee before I watered and left them covered with droplets:

Their flowers are similar to morning glories but these are plain old petunias (in desperate need of some deadheading, I'm afraid):

When my mom was in the hospital she was given a potted mini rose. I ended up bringing it home with me and once the weather warmed up a bit I planted it outside in a large pot on our deck (mini roses are hardy and now that it's established I'll leave it outside permanently). The plant is thriving and the flowers are so pretty. Every time I look at it I think of my mom:

I don't know why people think geraniums are boring. I always get a couple for the deck but I should get more:

After years without them I decided to plant nasturtiums again. They're finally starting to flower (for a while there I thought I was going to get nothing but leaves)! Once I have a few to spare I need to remember to throw some into salads:

At last I have achieved a blue hydrangea! It only took two years to acidify the soil enough to get this colour and I'm thrilled with the result. You can get aluminum sulphate at any garden centre and use it to change the colour of your hydrangeas as well (a little for purple, a little more for blue but don't overdo it):

These photos were a happy surprise. I intended to take a couple of shots of one of my onions gone to flower when I noticed the white spider and its lunch ant on the left-hand side. Not only that but I never realized how beautiful these seemingly simple flowers are:

These last two shots were taken in full sun:

My other hydrangea (along with more morning glories). I've been adding aluminum sulphate here too but because the plant is in the ground it's taking more effort to acidify the soil enough, so these flowers are a mix of pinks, purples, and blues. Very pretty:

My jackmanii clematis and a cluster of 'William Baffin' roses. The rose + the clematis are proving to be too much for the supports holding them up. I'm not sure what I'm going to do but I may have to resort to cutting the rose all the way down and starting over with it:

My poor 'The Fairy' rose is overwhelmed by the William Baffin. At least it managed to find an open spot and put out some blooms:

Still pretty as they fade:

Photos by Domicile

11 July 2011

Land of Frozen Milk & Honey

We're in the midst of the dog days now, my least favourite time of year, and man are we feeling it. The cats lie listlessly from sunup to sundown; the neighbourhood joggers have all but disappeared; plants droop pathetically; the fans in the house run 24/7 (still no AC for us); drinks sweat more than a chef competing in a Food Network challenge...you get the idea. The good thing is it's the perfect time for ice cream! And what's more satisfying than making your own? Click photos to enlarge.

There's something strangely wholesome about the ingredients for this recipe (except the cookies, which I only resorted to buying because there's no way I'm turning on the oven in this weather!)

Steeping the lavender in milk and honey. The kitchen smelled amazing:

You don't have to strain out the flowers but dried lavender blooms can look a little disconcerting (read: not unlike bugs) in food:

Getting ready to mix the egg yolks and sugar (hint: you can freeze excess egg whites in ice cube trays for use in other recipes later):

Action shot as the mixer does its thing:

Mixed until pale and thickened:

The lavender milk and the egg yolk mixture get simmered until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. But I didn't see much of a difference between the beginning of the process...

...and when I finally took it off the heat. The liquid on the spoon was slightly less watery and more clingy. I don't know if I took it off the heat too soon but the recipe was vague and I didn't want to accidentally make pudding.

I tried to get some shots of the ice cream being made. This is still the liquid stage:

And here it is thickened and looking a lot more like ice cream. I let the machine work for about 40 minutes:

Ready at last, served with a couple of lemon cookies and a sprig of lavender from my garden! It was amazing how fast it melted, though--makes you wonder what they do to the commercial stuff...

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

[My notes/changes in brackets]
  • 2 cups whole [homogenized, in Canada] milk
  • 1/4 cup dried [organic] lavender
  • 1/3 cup honey [get the good stuff]
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy [aka whipping] cream
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, lavender, and honey. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 5 minutes. Strain mixture, reserving milk and discarding lavender.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, return milk to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Add half the milk to egg-yolk mixture, and whisk until blended. Stir mixture into remaining milk, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat, and immediately stir in cream. Strain mixture into a medium mixing bowl set in an ice-water bath, and let stand until chilled [skip the ice water bath and just stick the bowl in the fridge], stirring from time to time. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight plastic container up to 2 weeks.

Original recipe here [and no, I didn't see their photo until after I'd taken my own!]

My Verdict

The ice cream is sweet and delicately flavoured (although it's a little too sweet for me and not quite delicate enough for my SO, who found the lavender too strong--although he also added that it wouldn't stop him from eating it). You can work with the recipe so try experimenting (more/less sugar/honey, shorter/longer steeping time, replacing lavender with another flavour...) to get it exactly the way you want it. That said, this was a lot of work, expense (cream isn't cheap) and dirty dishes. And you need an ice cream maker. While I would make this again I have come to the conclusion that I'll only be making ice cream that I can't find commercially (in other words, unusual flavours and combinations). It's just not worth the effort to make my own vanilla (for example) when I can just run down the street and buy high-quality ice cream for less than it would cost to make. It is satisfying and fun to make your own...but only to a point.

Want to see what else I've made for my 2011 baking project?

January: Double-Chocolate Brownies
February: Angel Food Cake with Raspberry Sauce
March: Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies
April: Raspberry-Swirl Cheesecake
June: Cake Doughnuts
June: Espresso Yourself

Photos by Domicile