The Garden: From Seeds to Starter Plants

This year we started getting our 2010 garden ready back in mid-February.  We decided to start some of the plants from the seed stage and grow them large enough to be planted in our garden a couple of months later.  By following a chart that lists the planting dates for our area, we were able to plant several types of vegetables as early as February.  There are several types of plants that we can still start from the seed stage now and have them ready to plant when we get our garden planted by the end of May.

Although there are several ways you could organize your planting process, I will share what has worked well for us.  We call it our Planting Map.

For each box we planted, we labeled the box with a letter [Box A] and then used small tags with numbers on them.  Then we listed the name of each plant by the corresponding number on the chart and also showed where the row started and ended for that particular plant.  If you look at the picture below, you can see where I used dots to show the seeds and arrows to show where they started and what direction they are planted.  Also, we put the corresponding number on the packet of seeds.  This turned out to be very helpful, because we had one tray that we had moved to the greenhouse and during a couple of days that we were gone, we had very warm weather and the plants died.  We re-planted them in the same numbered area according to the planting map and since the packets were also numbered, the process went quickly.

When we got all of the seeds started that could be planted at that time, we then set up an area in our garage on a workbench fitted with a Jump Start Grow Light System, which has a fluorescent light that hangs above the plants.  We also had a Seedling Heat Mat under the plant boxes to help with the growing process.  We then watered it with a spray bottle a few times a day and had the lights on about 12 hours a day and turned them off at night.  After a few weeks, we began to see some growth!

Once the plants are grown big enough, we transplanted them into another container with separate areas, where they continued to grow until they were large enough to transplant outdoors [see picture below].  Also, in this picture, you can see the fluorescent light fixture at the very top.

Some close-ups of the lettuce and some onions.

When we transplanted them to the second containers, we also moved the numbered tags with them.  This is important, so when you plant them outdoors, you will know exactly what each plant is and you can plant them where they grow best.

As you can see from the above pictures, it was time to transplant these again and move them outdoors.  We moved all the tomato varieties into our cold frame.  A cold frame is basically a wood frame/box that is filled with a dirt, manure, and potting soil mixture that is ready for planting.  We had an old sliding glass door that we had kept from our remodel years ago and we lay it over the frame at night, to help keep the plants insulated and warm--which protects them from the cold and helps keep them growing.  In the morning, we remove the glass, water the plants (or if it's raining, then mother nature takes care of that) and let them grow by the natural sunlight.

We transplanted 65 tomatoes and 27 hot pepper plants into this cold frame, to give you a perspective of how many plants this frame holds. *I've listed the varieties at the end of this post.

We then moved  38 broccoli spring raab plants to one of the raised beds.  We didn't realize how many we had planted or how well they would we do!

In another raised bed, we planted 33 lettuce plants.  This may seem like a lot, but we love those summer salads fresh from the garden.

And a close-up of the Lettuce [Parris Island Romaine] plants.

We also had good luck with these Melons [French Orange Hybrid] and transplanted 14 of these to larger containers, where they will continue to grow in the greenhouse for the next few weeks.

With a little planning and work, you can save money by starting part of your garden from the seed stage, rather than buying everything in the plant stage.  The important thing to remember is to watch them carefully, water them regularly and keep them in warm conditions.

Here are the boxes of vegetables and flowers that we've started from seeds (so far):

1)   Tomatoes [Currant]
2)   Tomatoes [Fresh Salsa Hybrid]
3)   Tomatoes [Oregon Spring]
4)   Tomatoes [San Marzano]
5)   Tomatoes [Roma VF Heirloom]
6)   Tomatoes [Pruden's Purple Organic]
7)   Tomatoes [Red Brandywine]
8)   Lettuce [Parris Island Cos-Organic]
9)   Lettuce [Parris Island Romaine]
10) Lettuce [Spinach Tyee Hybrid]
11) Pepper [California Wonder]

*This next section contains seeds from several varieties of peppers that we grew in 2009.  I don't have the exact name for some of them; instead I described them.

12)  Peppers [2009 Jalapeno]
13)  Peppers [2009 Long, green, HOT]
14)  Peppers [2009 Small, red, HOT]
15)  Peppers [2009 Little, HOT]
16)  Peppers [2009 Medium size, HOT]
17)  Broccoli Spring Raab
18)  Melons [French Orange Hybrid]

19)  Lettuce [Butter Crunch]
20)  Lettuce [Green Salad Bowl]
21)  Lettuce [Carmona Organic]
22)  Summer Squash [Aristocrat Zucchini Hybrid]
23)  Oregano [True Greek Organic]
24)  Money Plant
25)  Red Poppy

26)  Asters
27)  Marigolds [Lemon Drop]
28)  Marigolds [Cracker Jack]

29)  Marigolds [Star Fire]
30)  Marigolds [Frances Hoffman]
31)  Marigolds [Dwarf]
32)  Snapdragons
33)  Hollyhocks
34)  Parsley [Curly]

I'll continue to post our garden's progress throughout the spring/summer/fall seasons and also share some delicious recipes of the meals we will create from our garden fresh foods!

Daring Bakers: Traditional British Pudding

When I first read what this month's challenge was going to be, I thought hmmmmm...well, ok, this is a new one and something I've never made before and in some varieties, I've actually eaten. But hey, I have a soft spot in my heart for certain British folks and hey, give me that cool British accent on the right guy and it's over! You know the saying, "the way to a man's heart, is through his stomach" and if this type of guy or this type of guy could be the end result, then I say bring it on!

First let me introduce our hostess this month:

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

After reading that description, you may be wondering, what is suet and how do you even pronounce it?

suet [SOO-iht] "Found in beef, sheep and other animals, suet is the solid white fat found around the kidneys and loins. Many British recipes call for it to lend richness to pastries, puddings, stuffings and mincemeats. Suet was once widely used to make tallow candles". ~ Food Lover's Companion, pg. 602

*For more information regarding suet and some examples, be sure to check here at the Daring Kitchen.

The decision between a savory dish or a dessert, was quickly made, as all things in my life at the moment revolve around desserts and so began the hunt for a new recipe. In this challenge we were told that we needed to make a traditional British pudding using one of the techniques and then we could use any type of recipe to incorporate our creative ideas. As interesting as the suet ingredient sounded, I went with the ingredients I had on hand, which of course was anything dessert related.

Our hostess Esther of The Lilac Kitchen explained what is meant by "pudding":

"Some of you will know about the British and the word pudding but for those that don't we use the word for many things:
1) Black pudding and white pudding a sort of meat and grain sausage. Black pudding uses blood as well as meat.
2) Pudding — a generic word for desert
3) Pudding — any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked.
4) An endearment i.e., "How are you today my pudding?"

For this challenge we are using the third meaning a dish cooked in a pudding bowl or cloth, though many of you may opt to do a sweet version in which case version two also applies!"

Now that you have all the necessary British terms defined, let me explain and show you how easy this dessert really is to make.

I found a recipe from a cookbook I had in my collection and decided to give it go and I also found a pudding container with a lid that my mom has had for years and apparently has made a pumpkin steamed pudding for Thanksgiving many years ago. And it must have been years and YEARS ago, because this was news to me and apparently I've had steamed pudding before. But this will be the first time that I can recall in my adult life.

I found a few choices, but decided to go with the container that had a lid, which seemed like a secure choice. But now that I know how to make a steamed pudding, I'll have cool design choices to pick from later.

*My notes are in this color.

From Classic Stars Desserts: Favorite Recipes by Emily Luchetti, pgs. 54-55

1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
pinch + 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. lemon zest


1) Butter the underside of the top and the inside of a 2-quart steamed-pudding mold.
2) Put the blueberries in a bowl; add the sugar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and toss to mix. *I used frozen blueberries and they worked great. You could probably use fresh or frozen blueberries.

3) Place blueberry mixture in the bottom of the prepared pudding mold.

4) Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger and salt and set aside.

5) In a large bowl, whisk together the molasses, milk, egg, melted butter, and lemon zest. Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the mold over the blueberries and cover the mold with a lid.

6) Place the pudding mold in a pot large enough to accommodate the mold with at least 1 1/2 inches of clearance on the top and sides. Fill the pot with hot water to reach one-third of the way up the sides of the mold. *I used a stock pot which gave the pudding mold enough room and it held the steam/heat very nicely.

7) Cover the pot and bring the water to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Steam the pudding for about 1 hour, checking the water periodically to make sure that it is just simmering. (Rapidly boiling water will cause the pudding to rise prematurely and then sink). The pudding is ready when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. *I took it out of the stock pot after about 55 minutes and the skewer came out clean.

8) Let the pudding cool for 10 minutes. To unmold, invert a platter on top of the mold and then invert the plate and mold together. Lift off the mold. Let cool to room temperature and then slice pudding and serve.

*The recipe suggested to serve the pudding with a Chantilly cream, but I decided to add more of a lemon flavor by making a light lemon sauce. The lemon sauce recipe was written on a recipe card from our long time family friend Jan way back in 1976--which was on the back of the pumpkin pudding recipe that my Mom used to make at Thanksgiving (the dessert that I can't seem to remember, but apparently I ate it and loved it).


1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. lemon juice


1) Combine sugar, cornstarch and boiling water in saucepan. Cook over medium heat; stirring till thickened and clear.

2) Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. *I added 2 extra Tbsp. of lemon juice, because I like it a bit more tart.

3) Serve not over steamed pudding.

My overall opinion of this traditional British dessert is that it was surprisingly easy and tasted better than I thought it would. The molasses was a bit strong, but by adding the lemon sauce it helped to tone it down.

I think next time, I would like to make a chocolate & caramel sticky pudding, because I don't think you can go wrong with that flavor combination. But I'm glad I tried something new and I can add this steaming technique to my list of culinary skills, which is always a good thing.

And who knows, maybe someday soon, I'll meet some fantastic British guy and I'll be prepared to make him a dish that will remind him of home.

Monday Must Have & My One-Year Blog Anniversary

It is Monday.

And being that it is Monday, it's time to feature a new Monday Must Have, since it has been a bit too long since I've had one. AND it just also happens to be the exactly one year ago today, I started Jillicious Discoveries, and I still can't believe how fast the year went. But more on that a little later.

Today's Monday Must Have is one of my personal kitchen gadget favorites: The Fluted Pastry Wheel. Ahhhh, this little kitchen gadget is so fun to use and frankly, I wish I could use it everyday on every dessert. Anything you use a knife on to cut or trim edges on, you can use this cute, little pastry wheel on instead.

For example, remember this post? It was during this challenge when I was introduced to the homemade graham cracker and since then I've turned a blind eye to the boxes of graham crackers in the store and have made more batches of these tasty little goodies and every time I get to use this fun little tool.

Just look at these edges. So much more exciting than cutting with a regular knife.

More pastry wheel uses include; edging for pasta, ravioli, cookies, crackers, lattice work on pie dough, crimping on dough edges and anything else you can think of in your culinary adventures.

WOW--it's been one-year of blogging here on the Jillicious Discoveries blog and I just wanted to say...

First, a big shout out to all of you who I've gotten to know in this fun world of blogging and to those of you who have visited and commented and then even came back again! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I've learned much from your ideas and comments and experiences and from following your wonderful blogs, I've been truly inspired to learn more in this vast culinary field we are a part of.

Second, I will continue into this second year of blogging by sharing my experiences, and insights and all that I continue to learn and figure out along the way. I hoping to make a few changes in the next few months and I'm excited to share them with you here.

And finally, no anniversary is complete without a gift of some kind, so in keeping with the traditon of celebrating...

I'm giving you the chance to WIN your own Fluted Pastry Wheel and a package of these fun little "shower caps" (another favorite from a Monday Must Have during the year) and yes, it is open to ANYONE no matter where you live!

Just leave a comment with your email or a link for me to contact you and answer the following questions:

1) What would you or do you use the fluted pastry wheel for in your baking experiences?
2) What would you like to see or read more about on this blog?

I will be accepting your comments/entries from now until next Monday, May 3rd at 8:00 pm (PST). The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010. *One comment/entry per person.

Happy Monday!!

Heavenly Cake Bakers: Whoopie Pies & Banana Cupcakes

Do you ever have the best of intentions to follow a PLAN that you've carefully thought out and scheduled accordingly? And once the PLAN is in place, have you ever had that PLAN completely fall apart or rather be replaced with a new PLAN, because LIFE happened? This is what has happened to me over the last month (some really BIG decisions regarding Jillicious Desserts moving in a new direction) and I'm in the process of finalizing these plans and will share when I know more. But more about that later and in case you noticed (or not) it's been a month since my last post, so today I'm getting back on track, at least in the blogging world.

Today's Heavenly Cake Bakers recipe is: Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pies, named after the Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, Maine.

These were quite easy to make and very quick, both in mixing and baking. The whoopies are made with dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but aren't overly chocolatey (as if there is such a thing as TOO much chocolate--well, at least not in my book).

The filling was actually the part that took the longest, but again, not too difficult. Rose points out that this "marshmallow cream" is actually a type of mousseline-buttercream; having more butter and sugar than a classic mousseline. And if you would like to know exactly what a mousseline is, see the definition below.

mousseline [moos-LEEN] "Any sauce to which whipped cream or beaten egg whites have been added just prior to serving to give it a light, airy consistency." ~ Food Lover's Companion, pg. 400

The filling is fairly sweet, so the dark chocolate whoopies are a nice contrast to the sweetness and help to balance it out. I actually liked them better after they had chilled for an hour in the refrigerator. I felt like the sweetness of the "marshmallow cream" filling relaxed and it worked well with the dark chocolate whoopies.

Now, I would like to review last week's Heavenly Cake Baker's pick: Banana Refrigerator Cake w/Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting. The recipe yield was a 9 x 2-inch round, single layer cake, but I decided to make mini-cupcakes instead.

This was a fairly straight forward recipe and was quick and easy to make. It called for either creme fraiche or sour cream and since I had sour cream on hand, the choice was made. Instead of granulated sugar, Rose uses turbinado sugar (raw cane sugar) which added a nice flavor, to these cupcakes.

I was looking forward to trying this Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting, since so many of the Heavenly Cake Bakers had great things to say about it. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised and I too, agree that this is a wonderful frosting.

I think that refrigeration is the KEY to making this recipe a success. I tried these right after I frosted them and was kind of disappointed with the overall taste--it seemed to be missing something.  After they had been chilled in the refrigerator for at least an hour, I decided to taste them again and I was happy to discover that they tasted MUCH better. The frosting is a wonderful, slightly tangy, creamy flavor and paired with the chilled cake, the flavors really melded and came together in the perfect ratio of subtle banana flavor and white chocolate.  I stand corrected from my first reaction.

I garnished these cute mini cupcakes with a white chocolate curl and I was very pleased that this cake recipe worked well portioned as cupcakes.  If you have this book, try this recipe and don't forget to keep it chilled.

Happy Monday!