Monday, April 14, 2014

The Birthday Tree.

Do you plant birthday trees? I hope you'll join me over at the new Garden Delights blog site, where we're celebrating the beauty of birthday trees. Come on over and join the garden party!



Monday, March 17, 2014

Sowing Seeds Successfully.

Are you ready to kick winter out of the garden and celebrate spring? I am! I hope you'll join the garden party at my new site, Garden Delights. Today, we're talking about the best seed starting set-ups, when to start seeds, and how to get your seedlings garden-ready to ensure a great harvest. Hope you'll join us! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Floral Friday: Countdown to Spring!

Hi, gardening friends! Have you found my new site yet? I hope you'll join the garden party at Garden Delights:

Today, we're playing a fun game called "Floral Friday." The rules are simple: gather some items from your garden, and make something beautiful to enjoy. Stop by my new site to see what I found in the garden today, then share your own creations on the Garden Delights Facebook page

I hope you'll visit my new home. It feels lonely without you!

Happy Gardening!



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Feed the Monarchs!

Can gardeners save a species? Why yes. I think we can. To find out how, please come over to the new blog site, Garden Delights:

I hope you'll join the garden party at my new home!



Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Site, New Garden Party!

In case you missed the announcement last week, Growing Days is now Garden Delights. I have a new home, too, after too many Blogger glitches. I hope you'll join 
the garden party at my new place:

While it might seem like there are lots of changes--new name, new location, a few new party games like "Floral Friday" and a bigger emphasis on enjoying the DELIGHTS of our gardens--the heart of the blog remains the same: 

  • Growing Gardens
  • Growing Green
  • Growing Locavores
  • Growing Kids
  • Growing One Day at a Time

It's scary making changes, and my new home feels a little lonely. I hope you'll come join the garden party! 



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Emerging from Hibernation...with a New Baby.

Bears do it. Bees do it. Even our beloved gardens do it. So, if it seems that a certain garden writer also crawled into a den to hibernate for the winter, there's a hint of truth there.

In reality, though, I've been locked in my office, preparing to introduce you to my new baby: a brand new (and, hopefully, improved) blog!

Gone are the days of combatting Blogger's technical glitches. Gone are the funky formatting issues, disappearing posts, and garden writer angst.

Gone, too, is confusion between my business and blog names in social media outlets. Am I Growing Days? Am I Garden Delights?

Who am I?

Instead of debating great existential questions, I finally bit the proverbial bullet:

Welcome to Garden Delights!

I hope you'll make the journey and join the garden party at my new site! (If you'd be so kind to update your bookmarks and follow along over there, I'd be grateful! Change always makes me nervous, but this is a GOOD change. I promise.)

While technically things changed, the content will remain primarily the same:
  • Growing Gardens
  • Growing Green
  • Growing Locavores
  • Growing Kids
  • Growing One Day at a Time
Lately, though, as I've sat by the fire with a pile of seed catalogs, dreaming of spring, I realized that there's more. I want to showcase the pleasure of the garden, to chat about how we can benefit from the delights our gardens provide. So, look for:
  • More delicious (I hope!) recipes, featuring ingredients from CSA baskets, farmers' markets, or your own garden.
  • Floral Fridays, where we'll bring seasonal beauty indoors, creating bouquets from the garden to enjoy or to share with a friend.
  • Nature nuts, focusing on getting kids out in the forest, splashing in rivers, playing with chickens, or digging in dirt.
  • Garden tours, where we visit gardens around the world...and never need to pull a single weed.
  • Resource reviews, including the most delightful new books and products I've read or personally tested.
We all know gardening is work--I'm not too Pollyannaish to pretend otherwise. But at the end of the day, when we're sweaty, tired, and have mulch in unmentionable places, isn't the point of it all to savor our Garden Delights?

The snow and ice disappeared from the garden, and the early spring bulbs are bursting into bloom. It seems serendipitous to launch a new gardening site as the daffodils and crocuses awaken, don't you think?

So, thank you, friends, for joining me on the new site. I really hope you do. And welcome new friends. I hope we'll all have great fun together at this little ongoing garden party!



P.S. Did I mention there's a new site? :-) Here's the new address for you to copy and paste: (And, if I happen to be on your blogroll, I'd be SO grateful if you would update the URL. Thank you so much!)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Sweet New Year's Treat for You.

Here we go. Tomorrow is New Year's Day, the day we all resolve to be better, smarter, thinner, more organized, more energetic, more compassionate, kinder. 

But what if we started the New Year by being kinder to ourselves?

What if, instead of forcing ourselves to eat an apple for breakfast tomorrow--even though we're dying to carb-load due to our foggy, champagne-laden brains--what if we treated ourselves, celebrating the New Year with a bit of decadence, with a sugar-load of happiness?

Would we spontaneously combust?

Would we ruin the rest of 2014 by enjoying one sinful, delicious, happy breakfast? Or would we savor it, licking our fingers, lounging in our PJs, sipping a great cappuccino (if that's your thing), and spending a restful, lazy New Year's morning with those we love?

I vote for the latter, minus the cappuccino, since I'm not a coffee girl.

So for you, my wonderful friends, I'm giving you a gift. It's a recipe, yes, but it's also permission to ignore the date, to realize that one more seasonal overindulgence will not ruin your goals for 2014.

But it might make the start of your New Year a little sweeter.

cinnamon rolls,
Now, this isn't my recipe. In fact, it's a pretty famous recipe. When I posted photos of my holiday baking extravaganza, several friends knew right away where this recipe originated.

The Pioneer Woman.

Yep, I was a huge fan of her blog when I first started my own, and of course I bought her first cookbook as soon as it hit Barnes and Noble. Her cinnamon rolls are a holiday tradition in our house now. Actually, they've surpassed just the holidays. They're not only great for sharing with neighbors and friends during the festive season, but they're fabulous for bake sales, school functions, teacher breakfasts, whatever requires a decadent dish for many people.

It's such a happy recipe.

However, I've found that I need to tweak it a bit. Granted, I'm not a master baker, but somehow the dough always ends up too moist for me to work with it, so my version uses a little more flour. And I'm definitely not a fan of coffee and maple, so I've changed the icing to strictly vanilla flavor, plus I've increased the amount of icing. I find that I have a heavy hand when pouring icing, and I end up without enough for all of the rolls using the original recipe. If you like a light glaze of icing, then cut back--but I think yummy, thick icing makes them even more heavenly. If you'd like to see the original recipe, though, here it is. Obviously, The Pioneer Woman is brilliant. I'm just sharing what works best for me.

I can guarantee one thing, though--she's right. You'll become incredibly popular when you deliver these during the holidays, or anytime of the year. (I've actually had two people ask if I would make them if they paid me. This is strictly a labor of love.)

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls (with a few adaptations by yours truly)
1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast (4-1/2 teaspoons)
10 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. salt

3 cups melted butter
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar

3 lbs. powdered sugar
12  tbsp. melted butter (1-1/2 stick)
1-1/2 cups whole milk, depending on the consistency you prefer
dash of salt
2 tbsp. vanilla extract (note: use the good stuff. I also like to scrape a vanilla bean for extra flavor)

1. Heat the milk, oil, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat--don't boil. Cool to lukewarm.
2. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk mixture. Let it rest for a minute to activate. 
3. Add 8 cups of the flour, a few cups at a time (unless you want your kitchen to look like a winter wonderland. Not that I've ever done that.) I love my KitchenAid mixer so much. Although, it's really not mine. I bought it for my bread-making husband many years ago. Selfish present, wasn't it?! Oh, sorry, back to the recipe!
4. Take a look at the dough after you mix it. Does it look really sticky? If so, then add another cup of flour, mix, and cover with a kitchen towel.  Mine always is a little too sticky, but check your dough before you blindly throw in the extra cup of  flour. Let the dough rise for an hour.
Note: My last batch of dough REALLY rose...over the side of the bowl and onto the counter. So, take a look periodically at your dough during that hour. (I waited a little too long.)
5.  Remove the towel, add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and another cup of flour. Mix to ensure everything is well combined. Now, check your consistency once again. Does it stick to your hands in a gloppy glue? Add that extra flour and mix.
The Pioneer Woman says you can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days, but I always use mine right away. If you store it, just check to make sure it doesn't rise all over your refrigerator--punch it down when it starts growing toward the top of the bowl.
6. Flour your work space and rolling pin. Remove half of the dough and roll into a long rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Now, you're ready to add the yumminess.
7. For the filling, melt the butter and pour at least 1 cup of it onto the dough, spreading it evenly. I use a pastry brush, but The Pioneer Woman uses her fingers. 
8. Now, sprinkle 1/4 cup cinnamon over the buttery dough. Honestly, I adore cinnamon, so I really just take the container and generously sprinkle the divine spice all over the dough. Adjust to your taste, of course. (My kids are not big cinnamon fans. Silly kids.)
9. So, we have butter. We have cinnamon. Now, it's time to add the sugar. I use about 1-1/2 cups of sugar, distributed evenly over the dough. The goal is a delicious, gooey filling, and I've found that this ratio of butter and sugar does the trick. 
10. Ready? It's time to test your dexterity. Honestly, I find this next step to be the most challenging. It's time to roll. Start on the long side farthest from you, and tightly roll the dough toward you. It's not that this step is necessarily difficult--it's just messy. If you're like me, you'll wind up with a nice flour-butter-sugar-coated sweater during this process. Try to keep the roll tight and even. If the dough is sticking to your work surface, I find that I can lift the dough slightly with one hand and slide a bit of flour underneath, which seems to help. As you near the end of rolling, take the side nearest you, lift it slightly over the roll and pinch it closed. Now, you have a beautiful roll of sugary deliciousness-to-be.
11. Make certain your surface is safe for cutting (or transfer dough to a cutting board), and slice the rolled dough into 1-1/2 inch segments using a sharp knife.
12. Drizzle a bit of butter into your pans, coating the bottom and sides. Place the sliced rolls into the pans, spacing evenly without overlapping. (For events with large crowds, like a school function, I use 9 x 12 pans, but for individual gifts, I use round 9" cake pans.)
13. Cover the pans/rolls with a kitchen towel and allow them to rise for about 20 minutes--which gives you enough time to roll out and fill the remaining dough. Preheat your oven now, too--375 degrees.
14. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 13 to 17 minutes, depending on your oven. The goal is a lovely, light golden brown roll. Keep you eyes on them, because they just aren't as tasty when they're too brown. (Not that I would know, of course.) ;-)
15. And now, while those babies are baking in the toasty oven, it's time for more's time to make the icing. Mmmm! (Do this when your kids aren't around, otherwise they'll want to lick the bowl--and you deserve to lick it yourself after all of this work!) Combine the powdered sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Of course, you need to sample it a few times and add whatever makes you happy--a little more milk to smooth the consistency? Sure. A splash more vanilla? Why not? Adjust to make the icing just as you like it. I don't like it too thin, but I do like it to pour easily over the rolls. It makes icing a cinch.
16. After the rolls are removed from the oven and still warm, pour the icing over the top, allowing it to drizzle all over the rolls. My personal goal with icing the cinnamon rolls is that no portion of the roll should be naked. But that's just me. You can use a lighter hand if you prefer.

And that, my friends, is my New Year's gift to you...a big, scrumptious, delicious smelling and tasting cinnamon roll for New Year's Day breakfast. No Slim Fast. No grapefruit. Be kind to yourself and go make them, right now, before your begin your celebration tonight.

Better yet, if you're having guests over--have them help you bake while you drink champagne, and send them home with a pan of cinnamon rolls. 

You will be happy tomorrow morning. I promise.

Happy, happy New Year's to you! May all of your wishes come true!

(And be safe tonight.)