Saturday, February 22, 2014

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

The Canadian Olympic men's hockey team is in the final gold-medal game in Sochi (go Team Canada!)  Given that the game is an early morning one to watch, I decided to make homemade blueberry muffins to enjoy with our coffee.  The recipe is super easy and they taste great!





Ingredients:


  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup apple butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 & ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup of frozen wild blueberries
  • ½ cup of honey lavender blueberry jam
 
Frozen wild blueberries- perfect for smoothies, desserts or baking!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients together, ensuring everything is well incorporated into a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre of the bowl.  In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together eggs, apple butter, vanilla, coconut oil and water.  Pour liquid mixture into the middle of the well in the dry ingredients.  Lightly mix everything together with a spatula. 

Then, gently fold in the jam- make sure it is folded and not stirred or mixed, otherwise your batter will turn blue. The last step is to pour in the blueberries, and again fold it gently into the mixture. 
Scoop the batter into a greased muffin tin, filling each one about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with a light dusting of brown sugar.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes- test each one by sticking a toothpick in it to make sure they're done.  If the toothpick comes out clean, they're finished.


Enjoy!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's Finally Here: Seed Starting Time!

As soon as November rolls around, I get a little sad that the gardening season is nearing the end. It gets worse once my garlic has been planted- then I really feel like it's over until the following year.  The holiday craziness ramps up, takes my mind off of gardening, and next thing you know- it's January and I'm looking forward to seeing seed catalogues.  My favourite catalogues include Veseys, Halifax Seed, and Annapolis Seeds

It's now mid-February and time to take the plunge and start my seeds for the tomatoes that I want to grow. I'm excited because I found quite a few unique varieties this year like Black Krim, Paul Robeson, Tasmanian Chocolate, German Stripe, San Marzano, Pruden Purple and Brandywine (I love these!).

To get started, a few supplies are needed: seeds, seed starting mix (not soil, it's usually a mixture of peat, compost and vermiculite), plastic containers to use, a plastic cover (plastic wrap can work), a marker and painters tape or masking tape, a shelf in a warm spot, and preferably a heat mat used for starting seed (or you can make your own heat mat like this one).  You don't have to run out and spend a lot of money on containers.  Lots of people have success using old margarine or yogurt containers. Just make sure to sterilize them well and drill some drainage holes.  

Before I start plopping seeds into the seed starting mix, I soak them in water for a bit to help them "wake up".  To germinate, seeds will need warmth, water, and to be cozy in the seed starting mix. They don't need light at this point.  Some people soak them for a while, I find just an hour or so is sufficient. I then prepare my trays- I make sure to scrub them clean if I'm reusing them and soak them with a water/bleach combo to sterilize them.  I then give them a good rinse and let them air dry.

This year, I decided to use old toilet paper rolls cut in half to hold the mixture and seeds.  I laid them out in the plastic trays, filled them 3/4 of the way to the top then dropped a seed or two on top.


I then watered the tray from the bottom, gave the tops a sprinkle of water and then topped each roll with a dusting of more soil-like mixture (about 1/4").  I labelled them so I knew which seeds were growing wear then covered them up and put it on the shelf on top of the heating mat.

In previous years, I have seen growth after a week or so.  Little tiny seedlings pop up and it's one of the most rewarding sights ever! Once they've all sprouted, I remove the plastic lid to let air get at them and then re-position the shelf so it's near a sunny, south-facing window. I secure a fluorescent light about 3" above and keep it moderately moist.  As it grows, I make sure to haul out any multiples that are growing so there is one seedling per plant.  I also fertilize with compost tea or a seaweed emulsion mixed with water every couple of weeks.  Once they've grown a bit, I set up a little fan to blow air on them to help strengthen the seedlings and make them stronger.

Stay tuned for more updates as I track their progress! Happy 2014 gardening season!

Disclaimer: I am not a gardening expert, just outlining what has worked best for me when seed starting. There are lots of great resources online if you're looking for expert advice.  I suggest:
yougrowgirl.com
canadiangardening.com
vegetablegardener.com
finegardening.com

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